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New Year's Day Mood Fic: Indifferent (Forever fic)


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As usual, I end the holiday moodfics by posting a fic set in a Ioan-centric canon. I've done plenty of Hornblower and a few Fantastic Four stories, and it's high time that one of my other favorite things Ioan did got some moodfic love.


Jo Martinez pushed open the door of the morgue, glancing around for the resident M.E. As she did so, she noticed that she didn’t notice the usual morgue smells—chemicals, metal, and decay—as much as she had before. Apparently she was starting to get used to the smell, and she didn’t know if she should consider that a good thing or not.


“Heya, Detective!” Lucas, Doctor Morgan’s overenthusiastic assistant, said as he spotted her, immediately hurrying over, “Got something new?”


Jo nodded, still looking for the doctor. “We just got a call that a Zaman Gocha was found dead in his house. Given the circumstances, I thought it might be wise to have Doctor Morgan come along.”


The door to the M.E.’s office swung fully open, and Morgan emerged, having already traded his lab coat for a jacket and adjusting both it and one of those scarves of his. “Then we’d better not waste any time, should we?” he said, giving her a polite smile.


“I’m ready if you are.” Jo responded.


Morgan nodded and stepped back into his office long enough to grab his autopsy kit. Then he gave a few instructions to Lucas before following Jo out of the room. “What do we know so far?” he asked.


“The body was found half-an-hour ago by Gocha’s cleaning lady, and he most likely died by being stabbed.” She paused for a moment before adding “With a sword.”


Morgan immediately looked at her intently. “Really.”


“Really,” Jo said, unable to repress a grin, “We don’t know much more than that, except that the sword is probably Gocha’s. Apparently he was a bit of a collector.”


“I’m not sure why you thought it was essential I see the body at the scene,” Morgan said as they entered the elevator, “It sounds like things are relatively straightforward, at least when it comes to the basics. He was killed by one of his own weapons.”


“Yeah, but since you seem to be our resident expert on everything old as well as medical matters, you can tell us if the sword was used in the intended fashion or just used as a really big knife. And for all we know, there’s some sort of meaning in the sword that was chosen. I know there’s a good chance this was a crime of passion and the killer just grabbed the closest weapon, but if there’s the slightest possibility that there’s more to this than meets the eye, you’re the most likely one who can see the connection.”


“Fair enough,” Morgan said, “Lead on, then.”


On their way to Gocha’s house, Hanson radioed in to Jo with more details. It seemed that Gocha was an aficionado for anything to do with the 18th century, particularly the weaponry. He had an extensive collection of swords, guns, papers, and other random items, and was kind enough to allow people to come and examine them, as long as they gave him twenty-four hours’ notice that they wanted to visit. Jo noticed Morgan listening to Hanson’s report with interest, and gave him a sideways smile as she signed off. “I’m kind of surprised you didn’t know this guy already. Sounds like you two would have hit it off.”


“Perhaps,” Morgan said, “But there’s always a chance we would have had…differences of opinion over how and why some of those items were used.”


Jo gave him a curious look, but he seemed to have gone off into a reverie, so she left him to it and focused on getting to the crime scene. They’d have plenty of time to talk about it later. Assuming, of course, that Morgan was inclined to do so. He’d opened up a bit during the last few cases, but he still didn’t seem to like talking much about his personal life, much less explain how he knew all the stuff that he did. She sometimes felt a little sorry for Lucas having to put up with someone so reticent for most of the day. Then again, Morgan clearly was exasperated by his assistant more often than not, so perhaps they were equally annoyed by each other.


After about twenty minutes, they arrived at Gocha’s house, one of the more opulent houses in the neighborhood but not quite crossing over into gaudy. It had clearly had a few extra decorative elements added onto the façade, no doubt to emulate the time period Gocha preferred, but he’d had the good sense not to go overboard with it. Jo glanced over at Morgan as they exited the car and saw him looking over the building critically, his free hand fiddling with something in his pocket, before giving a slight nod. “Glad it meets with your approval.” Jo teased, ducking under the police tape.


“Well, he seemed to be basing some of his design choices off of popular Hollywood interpretations of the period rather than genuine Georgian architecture, but at least he got the basic forms and colors right,” Morgan said, “We’ll have to see if he used similar restraint inside.”


Surprisingly, the main hall looked relatively normal. The walls were covered with patterned wallpaper that was no doubt period appropriate (or at least close enough) and there were one or two older looking pieces of furniture against the walls, but it didn’t immediately look like the home of a guy who was a little too into recreating the past. Hanson led them through a living room that was also pretty tame (it even had a lot of modern elements, like a TV and a lamp with the latest energy saving bulbs) before arriving at the crime scene proper. As soon as she stepped into it, Jo could tell that this was where Gocha concentrated the bulk of his obsession. It was a huge room, lit by electric lights made to resemble candles, and full of glass cases. Just at a glance, she could see swords, pistols, small metal tins, books, and two tall cases that contained a dress with a huge skirt and a suit with an elaborate jacket. “Wow,” she said, “Bet someone’s going to have a field day dealing with all this. Either some museum’s about to get a huge windfall, or Gocha’s beneficiaries are going to get some nice items to bulk up their retirement funds.”


She glanced over to see what Morgan made of all this, and saw him taking in the room with an odd expression on his face. It didn’t seem to be disapproving, but nor did he seem impressed. If anything, he almost looked nostalgic. “Doctor?” she said.


Morgan blinked and shook his head. “Sorry. I think I got caught up in the moment.” He chuckled slightly and then looked down at the floor. “Let’s see what we’re working with.”


It was only then that Jo actually registered the body on the ground, and hurried to kneel beside Morgan to look things over. Gocha was a handsome man, probably in his early to mid-40’s, dressed in clothes that were both surprisingly modern and casual; a pair of black slacks and a white button up shirt. But of course, the real talking point was the sword sticking out of his chest.


Morgan was looking between the entry point and the sword, thinking things over. Jo gave him a minute to take it all in, then said “Anything?”


“Perhaps,” Morgan answered, “The sword’s a rapier, common in the 18th century and meant to be a stabbing rather than a slashing weapon, as opposed to a saber. Based on the wear on the blade and the guard, I’d say it’s genuine. As for the injury…”


He trailed off, and Jo assumed he was giving the wound another look. But instead, he lifted a handkerchief to his face and turned his head to the side. “Yishh!


“Bless you.” Jo said, a little startled. Morgan nodded in acknowledgement before rubbing at his nose and returning to his statement as if there had been no interruption. “As for the injury, Gocha was stabbed directly in the heart; there’s no evidence of any other rips in his clothes. Meaning the killer either got lucky, or knew just where t-to…sichh!


Once again, he turned his head away and covered his face as he sneezed, and Jo realized he’d kept the handkerchief in his hand, apparently in preparation for quick use. “Bless you,” she said again, “You okay?”


“I’m fine,” Morgan said, rubbing his nose again and turning back to the body, “My guess is that we’re either dealing with someone who has a decent knowledge of anatomy, or someone with fencing training.”


Jo nodded. “What do you think the odds are that we’ll find fingerprints when we dust the hilt?”


“Hard to say,” Morgan said, peering at said hilt, “A lot depends on if this crime was premeditated or not. And for that, we need to…to figure out where this c…” he pulled back and turned his head to the side, cupping the handkerchief over his nose with both hands this time. “Kshh!


“Bless you,” Jo said, now starting to grow concerned, “Doctor, are you all right?”


“I assure you, I’m fine.” Morgan said, standing up and starting to look around the room more closely.


“I want to be sure of that,” Jo responded, making her voice a little sharper, “You’ve sneezed once a minute since you started looking at the body. You’re either getting sick or you’re allergic to something in here, but either way, you may be endangering your health and risking contamination of the crime scene. The least you can do is tell me what’s going on.”


Morgan glanced over at her, then shrugged. “Fair enough, I suppose. Back in the 1700’s, wealthy men used to polish their swords with an oil that was a combination of olive oil and paraffin. Given Mr. Gocha’s love of history, it stands to reason that he’d use the same thing, or at least a modern equivalent, to care for his collection. However, even if you wipe down the blade thoroughly, some of the scent gets left behind, especially if it isn’t driven away by use or exposure to the outdoors. And I know from experience that the scent doesn’t much agree with me.”


Jo looked at him skeptically, then leaned in and sniffed at the sword, feeling ridiculous. But sure enough, she smelled something odd, an combination of an earthy, woody smell and melted wax. It was actually kind of pleasant to her, but she could understand how someone might have a reaction to it. “I see,” she said, standing up herself, “And you obviously knew this was coming, since you got a handkerchief ready.”


Morgan nodded. “I wouldn’t call this an allergy so much as a sensitivity. All it does is make me sneeze the more of it I breathe in. I suppose it may cause more severe symptoms if I kept inhaling it for an hour or more, but I don’t think it’ll pose a problem here, since we won’t be here that long and I won’t be standing too close to the swords, besides.”


“Well…all right. But if it starts getting too much for you, let me know and go out to get some fresh air, okay? No one should endanger their health for the sake of a case.”


“I appreciate that, Detective,” Morgan said, “And I’ll do as you ask. In the meantime, let’s try to figure out where exactly this sword came from.”


Holding the handkerchief in his hand, he began to move around the room, peering into the cases. Jo started to do the same, moving away quickly when they didn’t contain swords. A few unusual items caught her eye, but while she was curious (and no doubt Morgan could tell her what everything was if she asked), she had a job to do. Maybe she’d find out what these things were in the course of the investigation.


“Uh, guys?” Hanson called out, “I think you may have been missing the obvious…”


Both Jo and Morgan turned towards him, and saw him gesturing to a set of swords displayed on the wall, close to a fancy but comfortable looking chair. As Jo approached, she saw that there were small hooks on the wall to support the swords, and that one set was empty. “Good eye, Hanson,” she said, giving her partner a smile, “I guess we subconsciously just wanted an excuse to look at everything in here.”


As Hanson motioned for one of the forensics guys to take a photo of the swords, Morgan came over, eyes sweeping over the sword display, frowning pensively. “What is it?” Jo asked, recognizing that look as a sign that this case was about to become more complicated.


“Give me a moment.” Morgan said. Returning to the body, he knelt down and fiddled with his autopsy kit, withdrawing a tape measure. Then he leaned in close, doing his best to measure the sword without disturbing the scene. At last, he nodded in satisfaction, put down the tape measure, then immediately turned to the side and pressed the handkerchief to his face. “Hitchh! Chh!


“Bless you,” Jo said, folding her arms, “So?”


Morgan got to his feet and brought the tape measure over to the hooks on the wall, measuring them as well. “As I thought,” he said, “The sword that killed Mr. Gocha wasn’t hanging on the wall.”


“How can you possibly know that?” Hanson demanded, shaking his head in disbelief.


“The basket-hilt,” Morgan responded, “The design of the sword’s guard would make it very difficult to display on these hooks. Look at the other blades on display and you’ll see that their guards are much less elaborate. Besides, there appears to be a genuine ruby embedded in the pommel. Not the sort of thing you’d leave on the wall without at least a little protection.”


“Okay…” Jo said, looking from the body to the hooks, “So if the sword didn’t come from there, it probably came from one of the cases. And then the question is, what happened to the sword that’s supposed to be on those hooks?”


“I suppose it’s too much to hope for that the killer stole it?” Hanson chimed in.


“Doubtful,” Morgan said, gesturing around the room, “There’s no obvious signs that this was a robbery gone bad. Everything appears to be in its proper place. It’s possible that the thief had enough time to close the various cases, but based on what I’ve seen so far, nothing seems to be missing or askew. No, I think the killer tried to make it look like the murder weapon came from the wall, and put the sword that’s meant to be there inside the case that this one,” he inclined his head towards Gocha, “came from.”


“And how do we tell which one that is?” Jo asked.


“Leave it to me.” Morgan answered, before calling out to the photographer. “Have you taken pictures of all the display cases?”


“Just finished.” Came the response.


“Good.” Morgan said, and then moved over to the cases, looking at them a little more intently this time. He passed over four cases, then bent down and squinted at the swords in the fifth one. Finally, he raised a hand. “Do we know where the keys for the cases are? I think I’ve got something.”


It took a few minutes, but the keys were eventually located in Gocha’s pocket. Morgan took them and quickly located the correct key. Jo and Hanson came over to watch, curious to see if the M.E. would pull off another of his correct deductions. Morgan got the key in the lock and twisted, but just before he opened the lid, he put his handkerchief back to his face. “What are you…” Jo began, but understood as Morgan lifted the glass. Even standing a little off to the side, she was able to smell the sword polish. She could see Morgan’s eyes narrow slightly, but he gamely grabbed onto the closest sword and lifted it up before finally being forced to sneeze. “Hekshh! Hikishh!!


“Bless you.” Jo said.


Morgan nodded his thanks and squinted briefly at the place where the sword had been before backing away. “We’re going to need a photo of this.” He called out to the forensics team.


Jo stepped forward to take a look for herself, and immediately spotted what Morgan had; the imprint in the satin cloth was clearly meant to fit something with a hilt similar to the murder weapon, while the sword in Morgan’s hand had a much plainer grip. Looking over at Morgan, she saw him slip his handkerchief into his coat pocket, then gingerly curl his fingers around the grip and slowly, almost reverently, withdraw the sword from the scabbard. He must have gotten another whiff of the polish, because Jo could see his nose wrinkle and eyes narrow again. Nevertheless, he managed to examine both sides of the blade before turning and pressing his nose to his shoulder, body shaking slightly as he stifled the sneezes. When he was finished, he gingerly set the sword and scabbard on top of another case and withdrew his handkerchief again. After a quiet blow, he nodded over at the sword. “We’ll need to bring that in as evidence. I still don’t think we’re going to get any prints, but I’m pretty sure I saw traces of blood on the hilt.”


Jo nodded and signaled for someone to bag it. “So what does this all mean?” she asked.


Morgan chuckled slightly. “It means that Gocha and his killer had a duel, and Gocha managed to injure the killer before his death.”


Jo raised her eyebrows. “A duel. In here?”


“Clearly, it wasn’t a planned duel. Whoever killed Gocha was someone he knew and trusted well enough to have access to his display cases. My guess is that the killer chose the murder weapon deliberately, though I don’t know the reason for the choice as of yet, and tried to surprise Gocha. Gocha realized what was going on and grabbed the nearest sword off the wall to defend himself. The two sparred, but eventually the killer got in the fatal blow, though not before getting nicked in the process. Why the killer didn’t try to make this look like a robbery gone wrong, I have no idea—perhaps a lack of time—but they hid the evidence of Gocha’s self-defense, probably in the hope of covering up the fact that they were injured. I’d say our first line of inquiry should be anyone who was close to Gocha, particularly those who shared his interests and even more particularly anyone with fencing experience.”


Jo nodded. “Let’s go question the cleaning lady, then. Seems as good a lead as any.”


As they left the room, Jo gave Morgan a sideways look. “Do you think we’ll be visiting any fencing schools in the course of this investigation?”


“There’s a strong possibility of it. Why?”


Jo grinned. “Will whatever they use to polish the swords nowadays set you off too?”


Morgan chuckled again and shook his head. “They don’t smell as pleasant, but modern cleaners generally don’t make me sneeze.”


“Good,” Jo responded, “You did a good job keeping it under control back there, but I don’t think either of us wants to deal with you sneezing throughout this entire investigation.”


“Agreed,” Morgan said, as they approached the kitchen, “Now then, en garde. We have to make sure the cleaning lady isn’t covering up for someone.”

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How wonderful to see another Forever fic! And sword polish? That's definitely an allergy I wouldn't have expected. Love the creativity there.

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@2SHY222: I'm glad you loved it enough to want a sequel! I currently plan to leave this as a one-shot--in my head, the mystery doesn't involve any more sneezing from Henry--but I will definitely continue to write Forever fics when the mood or inspiration strikes.

@Shay: I have to admit, I don't think the sword polish I described actually exists, but I researched how to clean swords and combined two things that I figured would do the job, especially if you headcanon that Henry's got a sensitive nose (which is semi-canon anyway). Besides, what's the point of having a 200 year old character if you can't come up with unique ways to make him sneeze?

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Eh... who cares if that specific polish actually exists or not. It still makes for a fun story.

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