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Recipient: guinevere_81
Title: Venting the Spleen
Characters: James Hathaway and Robbie Lewis
Rating: gen--PG
Word count: 3248
Warnings: none
Summary: Hathaway discovers that his resemblance to the Crown Prince of Vordinia is a pain in the guts.



Listening with one ear to the speaker’s long-winded rhetoric, James Hathaway kept an eye out on the crowd. Typical Oxford mix of students, a few senior academics and the fringe element intent on stirring up dissent. Nothing he hadn’t expected.

Not that before yesterday, he’d actually expected to tag along after the current crown prince of Vordinia, a miniscule country tucked into the Alps between Switzerland and Lichtenstein. Who would have thought there was a country even smaller than Lichtenstein in the EU? Of course, there were other tiny countries in Europe such as Monaco and San Marino. None, however, had an actual reigning royal family receiving death threats.

Prince Davvit von Slaussen had read Languages and Global Business at Oxford six years before, and had returned to give a lecture series coinciding with the release of his book Our World, a Global Conglomerate.

Whatever that meant. After hearing two of the Prince’s speeches, James was of the opinion that Davvit was a pompous arse. He’d read the book last night and found it a rehash of ideas from Malthus, Keynes and many other important economic and political theorists of the twentieth century. Yet, Davvit hadn’t gelled his hypothesis into a cohesive statement to pull the diverse arguments together.

James would have given anything for a call on his mobile from Lewis; that there was a dead body to investigate and, “Bonny lad, you’re to leg it over to Cornmarket Street forthwith.”

Robbie Lewis undoubtedly would not say forthwith, that embellishment was James amusing himself. Catching the now familiar summation of von Slaussen’s speech, he glanced at the Prince standing at an improvised podium in the middle of the Quad. Right on time. James ducked into the quarters reserved for the prince, to await the exchange. Then, James was to get into the car that was waiting out front with the Prince’s real body guards, whilst Davvit was escorted to the rear of Merton College, out of sight of the rabble-rousers on Oriel Street.

Which was the actual reason James had been chosen to accompany the entourage from Vordonia—his uncanny resemblance to Davvit. There were definite differences, to be sure. Davvit was slightly shorter than James’ lanky six foot, three inches. He was near-sighted, and wore contacts. The most egregious difference was his sartorial sense, which left something to be desired. Under normal circumstances, James Hathaway would not be caught dead in the green satin waistcoat, tartan jacket and black velvet trousers the Prince was sporting today. Possibly as a nod to those of Scottish persuasion? It was a mystery none of the Vordinian party had attempted to explain.

James wore the same outfit underneath his usual overcoat. He was supposed to remove the covering once the Prince left the stage and sent into his rooms. From then on, James was Prince Davvit, and with a slight alteration of a dark wig, woolly cap and puffy ski jacket, Davvit was a student from the college.

Shifting from one foot to the other, James hovered beside the door. Apparently, the Prince was fielding questions from his fans. The chanting from the Vordinians for Democracy Brigade, a group dedicated to opposing the royal family’s autocratic rule and tendency to jail innocent citizens on apparently trumped up charges, had died down.

With any luck, that meant the Oxfordshire police had dispersed that lot and there wouldn’t be any difficulties leaving the college. Once James was in the official Vordinian state vehicle, Davvit would go back to his hotel. The hotel had set aside an entire floor for his extended entourage.

Which was not to say that James approved of any coddling of Davvit or his inane wife Chloris, a woman who epitomised the image of a dumb blonde. Between the two of them, he expected life in Vordinia to devolve into anarchy once that couple came to power.

Finally! The doorknob turned and James stepped back to admit his doppelganger. It continued to be disconcerting to look into Davvit’s face and see his own. Since he did not have a brother, nor did he resemble his father’s side of the family, James was unaccustomed to seeing someone who looked so much like he did. He suspected the entire thing would be much easier if he’d actually liked Davvit as a person.

“The climate of this city has changed much since I was here as a student!” Davvit groused. “There are so few who listen to me with an open mind. I expected better.”

His minders, two muscle bound men in expertly tailored suits that hid the holsters they wore underneath, flanked him at all times.

“Can’t force them to like you as in Vordinia?” James said mildly, removing his coat in preparation for leaving.

“You don’t enjoy this assignment, do you?” Davvit asked, upper lip curled.

“You mean, do I enjoy being a target?” James replied. “No, but I understand that—as a visitor to our country—you should be protected. As I would any person in Oxford. My views on anything else you… expound in your talks have no bearing on the case.”

“What do you mean?” Davvit exploded, balling his fists.

Having seen his infantile behaviour before, James didn’t push any further. He’d already allowed his pique more than he should. He could only imagine Robbie Lewis’ fond, exasperated smile and the roll of his eyes. That alone did a lot to sooth his ire.

“I will escort you to the car,” one of the bodyguards said.

James hadn’t managed to remember which one was Ernst and which was Leo. A long drag on a cig would really help him concentrate, but that was not going to happen soon. He flashed on Lewis giving him another look, and nodded without speaking. This was the second to last stop in Davvit’s itinerary in Oxford. He’d leave for three days in London tomorrow, before flying back to Vordinia in time for Christmas Eve. James would be glad to be shut of him.

“Leo stays with the Prince,” the guard called Ernst continued, clearing up who was whom.

“I’m famished,” Davvit complained. “This is taking far too long, I will not wait any longer for lunch.”

“You won’t have to,” Ernst said. “The Crown Princess should have returned from shopping by now and a meal will be served at the hotel.”

James’ stomach rumbled at the thought of food, sending a hopeful image of curry or even Korean barbecue. He grasped the doorknob but Ernst knocked his hand away with a frown and walked out in front of him.

Quite a few members of the audience remained in the open quad, and they surged forward, peppering James with questions and requests for comments. He kept his head down and followed behind Ernst, surprised at how intimidating even a friendly group of people were when they were pushing in so closely. A member of the police, an officer James recognised, came in from behind.

Officer Weller protected his flank, pressing some of the throng back. For a moment, James had a bit of sympathy for not just Davvit, but any celebrity who had to endure this kind of scrutiny on a daily basis. He was glad of his vanguard, and tried to walk as quickly as possible.

Traversing the narrow opening past the porter’s office onto the street forced some of the well-wishers back. Ernst again went over the threshold first. There was a phalanx of the Vordinian Democracy Brigade clustered around the waiting car, waving signs.

“Down with King Marcus and Prince Davvit,” was the most commonly repeated slogan, along with, “Free the innocent!”

James could see the consternation on the chauffeur’s face from several feet away. Driving out of that mob would be dicey.

As he stepped onto the pavement, bodies swarmed in, separating him from Ernst in front and cutting him off from Weller at the back. Resisting a sudden wave of fear, James tried to spread his arms, to keep the horde at bay. Dressed as the prince, he wasn’t carrying anything that could be used as a weapon.

Screaming their slogans and demands, the protesters closed in, preventing him from escape.

Taller than most of them, James could see Ernst struggling to turn and force his way back through the increasingly angry crowd. It would be like rowing upstream against a strong current.

Armed police in full riot gear came in from either end of the street, but were too far away to rescue James from being sucked into the vortex. Taking a step of his own volition became impossible as bodies on either side of him shoved him to the left and then to the right, all the while shouting and cursing the Vordinian ruling family. There was no use arguing that he wasn’t really Prince Davvit; no-one could have heard him.

Truly afraid for his own safety, James attempted to break free of the clutch around him. Anonymous feet stepped on his toes, jostled him, and shoved him forward. Something cold and oddly wet sent pain along his left side, slowing his momentum, but he honestly wasn’t sure what had happened. No longer giving a damn about anyone else, James elbowed a man on his right and achieved a modicum of space.

He tried to push past the bloke in front of him, suddenly aware that his left shoulder ached horribly. What was that about? Yelling in frustrated rage, his breath locked in his chest and he stumbled. All around him, the crowd seemed to flicker and distort, obstructions abruptly moving away like the parting of the Red Sea.

For a split second, James was sure he could see Lewis just past the Vordinian car, but it couldn’t be. He was meant to be back at headquarters, hip deep in neglected paperwork. Even so, the vision had calmed his racing heart. He could make it to the barricade, escape this mob. He had to keep moving.

Sinking to his knees, James heard angry shouts, both from the riot police and the protesters, but he had been abandoned. The protesters were fleeing. There were two gunshots, and a command from a loud-hailer that he didn’t comprehend.

The pavement rushed up to meet him as he fell.

~~**~~

Coming awake, James groaned. He felt like crap—every part of him ached miserably. His mouth was parched and the tape on his belly itched. He stretched his arm to pull up the tape and found himself tethered to plastic tubing: an IV drip.

“Don’t do yourself more harm,” Lewis tsked, laying a gentling hand on Hathaway’s.

He’d recognise that voice anywhere, even with his eyes shut and clearly addled wits. “What’s happened, sir?” James croaked, his throat scratchy. He coughed, but that only made everything else hurt worse.

“Vented your spleen,” Lewis answered succinctly and held a straw to his lips.

James sucked obediently, finally able to crack open his lids. A blurry Robbie Lewis swam into view, his face out of focus. Maybe James had morphed into Davvit and now required corrective lenses to see? There was a terrifying idea—far more appalling that Lewis’ confusing statement.

“Not at my best,” James apologised, disconcerted to have DI Lewis catering to his needs. He’d belatedly sussed that he was in hospital, assumedly because he’d been injured in the riot. “The Crown Prince left unaccosted?” he surmised after thinking over the bits that were fitting themselves into place. A jigsaw puzzle that still had
several pieces missing.

“On that end,” Lewis said, setting aside the cup, “The plan was flawless.”

“The protesters were a different story.” James flashed on his ordeal, the terror—something he irrationally thought he should have been more prepared for. He was a copper, after all, trained to deal with all sorts of possibly dangerous and unpredictable situations. Yet, in the crush of the moment, he’d been unable to think—to use his usually reliable brain to extricate himself from harm.

“I think, on the whole,” he said, feeling both defensive, and laid bare in front of Lewis, “that I should have vented far louder. I choked. If I’d been able to reason with one of the mob, perhaps got their attention and—“

“No need to heap aggro on yourself, lad. When has that ever turned a pack intent on mayhem?” Lewis sat back with that shrewd but fond look in his eyes. “Our lot nicked nearly all of them—most were local rabble-rousers paid to show up and shout loudly.”

“A calculated ploy by the Vordinians for Democracy Brigade to disrupt Davvit’s lecture tour.” James nodded. “We knew they had something brewing, but they’ve never caused such violence previously.” He could almost see the irregular shaped pieces dropping into the gaps in his puzzle, but the picture was not complete. “The royal family’s investigators had already worked out that the death threats didn’t come from the VDB.”

“All a smoke screen to cover an assassination attempt.” Lewis tapped the blanket over James’ belly.

Even that small pressure sent waves of cramps up his abdomen. “What’d they do?” James pushed back the bed linens and was about to flip up his hospital gown when he realised he was starkers underneath. Better to preserve a bit of dignity, particularly in front of his governor. He inhaled slowly to relieve the cramps and felt gingerly around the gown covered bandages.

“As I said earlier,” Lewis folded his hands in his lap, “vented your spleen.”

“You meant that literally,” James accused. He didn’t generally have such difficulty working things out. Felt like his brain was on a ten second delay.

“Precisely, not that you don’t do it at least once in every investigation over some such faff or another,” he continued with the hint of a smile.

“I was stabbed?” Well, that explained all sorts of things, especially his foggy thinking processes. He should have recognised the blunting sensation of quality narcotics right off.

He snuck his right arm—the one without a drip-- under the sheet to touch the gauze and tape affixed to the left side. The location of the spleen. Took longer than seemed necessary to recall the its functions. “Filters blood, helps produce red blood cells, augments the immune system,” he recited. “I shall say you’re all in all spleen, and nothing of a man.

“Trust you to quote both Wikipedia and Shakespeare.” Lewis chuckled.

“I’ve never consulted Wiki!” James chided virtuously, well aware he was being teased. The longer he was awake, the more he hurt, but talking with Lewis was always time well spent.

“It’s your Shakespeare that’s got it wrong,” Lewis paused, looking far more serious. “You’re all a man and nothing of a spleen. Mr Gardner, your surgeon, removed it. Apparently haemorrhaging so badly, you were in critical condition.”

He had nothing to say to that. How did one respond to news of one’s own near demise? Shaken—but not stirred, his inner black humour provided the quote—he twitched the covers back over his legs. His mouth had gone dry again.

Lewis quietly picked up the cup with the straw and handed it over, apparently assured that James could hold it by himself. He could.

After drinking, he took another breath, wondering if he could actually feel the empty space where the spleen ought to be. Hard to tell, his side—and curiously—his left shoulder, hurt too badly now. “CCTV show who did it?”

“There were too many bloody protesters close around you--,”

Lewis seemed to suppress a shudder, and James felt the emotion as strongly as if it were his own. Robbie Lewis had lost a wife; he wasn’t about to lose another person in his life, thank you very much indeed.

“That great blond head of yours is visible above the crowd, then you falter, but it’s not evident why,” he reported, as if seeing the video in his mind’s eye. “As the police move in, the group scatters and you’re on the ground—“ he paused and continued on slowly. “I got there moments later.”

“You were there?” James asked in shock. So he had seen Lewis standing by the car, giving him strength. “I thought—“

“The paperwork never ends,” Lewis answered wryly, having regained his composure. “I went out for a bite, a walk in the sunshine.”

“Past Merton College, at that exact time.” James felt oddly protected. What a peculiar guardian angel he had in Robbie Lewis. He would have done no less.

“The knife, by the way, was still stuck in your—spleen.” Lewis swallowed fiercely and went on, “complete with dabs on the handle, once the casualty doctors delivered it to me in an evidence bag.”

“You’re enjoying drawing this out far too much.” James was fading. He’d been enjoying the conversation, as well. But his belly hurt, he was tired and in need of a kip.

“Long story short.” Lewis gave in. “Heinrich von Slaussen, a distant cousin on the King’s side was making a bid for his own coronation, from all accounts. Nicked trying to check out of the hotel. The VDB are up in arms because he’s caused them to look bad. The Crown Prince flew home without his farewell tour of London.”

“Good riddance,” James murmured, wanting nothing more than to burrow into his pillow. Surely a nurse would come by sooner or later with more narcotics?

“I’ll let you sleep now.” Lewis stood, as if reluctant to leave. “Bring you grapes when I visit next, shall I?”

“Prefer satsumas,” James suggested. After all, if he was sick, perhaps he could have his favourites. “And a packet of cigarettes.”

“Spoke to your surgeon, he’s prohibited smoking. Delays healing.”

“He would.” James grimaced. Where was that nurse with the painkillers? “How long am I in for, warden?”

“Monitoring for complications,” Lewis raised his chin, mimicking Gardner’s posh accent. “Forthwith.”

Apparently Robbie Lewis did use forthwith, under the right circumstances. Good to know.

“Back to work in a fortnight,” he finished, smiling tiredly.

Made James wonder how long Lewis had been waiting for word of his bagman’s recovery. For that matter, what day was it? Still December 20th? “As long as I’m out by Christmas,” he said. “Can’t get good turkey and Brussels sprouts in hospital.”

“About that—“ Lewis turned back at the door, “I’ll fetch you home to my place when you’re released.”

“Sir!” James cried, beginning to sit up before he remembered that was not a good idea. In the least.

The world tilted sideways for a long while. Thankfully, a vision in blue, with a morphine filled syringe, arrived to inject the drug into James’ drip.

He quite appreciated her efforts. Very much so.

And hadn’t expected Lewis to stay through the nurse’s duties.

“You’ll need caring for,” Lewis said, stroking a hand across the crown of James’ head. Just once. “It’s not good to be alone at the holiday.”

He said it like someone who knew exactly what he was talking about.

“Or I could ring someone in your family?” Lewis added, sounding less certain.

No wonder, James reflected grimly. He’d rarely mentioned that lot. Lewis had read his file, though. He had access to their names and phone numbers.

“No.” James tested his speaking abilities. Seemed all in working order once more. “I’ll ring them—“ In a fortnight. When he was recovered.

Until then, he would spend Christmas with a good friend.

FIN



Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
guinevere_81
26th Dec, 2016 22:39 (UTC)
Thank you
Thank you so much. I feel very undeserving of such a treat after having failed to finish my own story.
dawnebeth
15th Jan, 2017 20:50 (UTC)
Re: Thank you
Now that the master list is up and authors revealed, I can say--you're very welcome. I was excited to write my first full story in this fandom.
wendymr
27th Dec, 2016 23:42 (UTC)
Loved everything in this: James's contempt for the Crown Prince's derivative opinions and taste in clothing, the vividly-depicted mobbing and stabbing scene (with James not quite able to believe that he's seen Lewis), and of course James waking up to discover Lewis with him and realising that he's clearly been there for some time. The invitation for Christmas and Lewis's uncertainty about contacting James's family were perfect. Great job, Santa!
dawnebeth
15th Jan, 2017 20:52 (UTC)
Aw, thank you so much. I was nervous to write my first full story in Lewis (I'd put them in a crossover once before), so hearing what worked for you makes me very happy.
complexlight
6th Jan, 2017 21:57 (UTC)
This is so great!

I love that Robbie just happened to be passing Merton College at that exact time!

I love James' vehement denial of ever having consulted Wikipedia :-)

And I love how much of their relationship you've captured, as they talk about nothing of import:

“Bring you grapes when I visit next, shall I?”

“Prefer satsumas,” James suggested.

Excellent!

dawnebeth
15th Jan, 2017 20:53 (UTC)
Well, of course James would never use Wikipedia. snort. Thank you for saying that I got their relationship right, that's always what I strive for.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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