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03 November 2010 @ 11:44 pm
Frozen 1/3  
Title:  Frozen
Author:  sprl1199 
Setting:  BBC Sherlock
Rating:   PG-13
Characters/Pairings:  Pre-slash of the John/Sherlock variety.  Bits of Sally and Lestrade.
Genre/Warnings:  Rated for references to violence, vague references to adult content, and ghosts.
Summary:  Requested to help on a case involving a young, murdered maid in a wealthy household, Sherlock finds himself investigating in the midst of secrets, ghosts, an inconvenient illness, and John.
Notes:  Written for the Primary Challenge over at sherlockfest where the challenge was to create something autumn or Halloween themed.  This story is a modern redux of "The Adventure of the Reigate Squire" with a re-imagining of the ghost from the XXXHolic anime episodes "Temptation" and "Choice" mixed in.  AND, to show how very good I am at plagiarism, there's also a shout-out to Poe.

I am four days late in posting, but that's okay, because I'm also slightly over the word limit (*cough* almost 14k).  When I break the rules, I go for broke.

Thanks as always to finangler and baseblack for beta!  Any mistakes and American-isms that remain are entirely my own.

ETA: I fixed a few typos I didn't manage to note last night in my exhaustion (no more posting at midnight for me)!

Frozen

Loneliness is the first thing which God’s eye named, not good. - John Milton

**

Sherlock’s throat tickled.

He tried unobtrusively to clear it, but the smallest vocalization must have escaped, because Sally stopped mid-sentence and frowned at him fiercely.

“I’m sorry, is something about a girl dead at twenty-four funny to you?”

“Of course not,” Sherlock responded calmly, glad that his typical rumbling baritone didn’t easily betray the slight hoarseness of voice that had been irritatingly present for the past couple of days. Though that she interpreted it as a stifled laugh was unfortunate. Typical, but unfortunate.

“I’m simply wondering when you’re going to get to the point of this little rendezvous.”

Under the table, John kicked him unobtrusively in the shin. At Sherlock’s glare, he took a sip of his coffee to hide what was almost certainly the small smile he would adopt whenever he was afforded the opportunity to provide feedback on Sherlock’s issues with diplomacy.

Bastard.

Refusing to be disciplined, Sherlock ignored him and leaned back in the café’s booth to regard Sergeant Donovan coolly. Her mouth had twisted at his caustic response, and she closed her eyes as she took an obvious moment to master herself. When she opened them again, she was as professional and detached as Sherlock had ever seen her.

He wondered if she’d been taking lessons from Lestrade.

“The point,” the Sergeant continued, “is that Lestrade wants you on the Hampstead murder.”

Sherlock made an impatient noise. “Well that was obvious, or else you wouldn’t have called us here. But what about this case makes DI Lestrade think I need to be involved? Nothing you’ve related thus far has sounded remotely interesting.”

Sally glared. "Interesting? You’re a sick bast--”

“Given the affluent neighborhood the murder took place in,” Sherlock overrode her, speaking blandly in order to annoy, “I’d imagine there’s political pressure to get this crime solved quickly and quietly.”

Sally didn’t answer, but the clench of her fingers around her chai tea was confirmation enough. Sherlock leaned forward to allow himself to loom over her slightly while he made his point, though he imagined the effect was somewhat ruined by the nauseatingly cheerful setting of Java the Hut.

“I don’t concern myself with politics,” he said lowly and precisely, narrowing his eyes menacingly. “I have no interest in being a puppet of the British government.”

“You just don’t want to do anything that your brother might potentially approve of,” John piped up genially. Sherlock snapped his glare to him, but it clearly had no effect if the calm blue eyes and leisurely sip of coffee were to be believed. If anything he looked amused, and Sherlock spared a brief, longing thought to the days where he was able to intimidate everyone he came into contact with.

Sally made a disgusted sound. “There are two of you? God help us.”

Sherlock ignored her. “What is interesting is that Lestrade sent you,” he said, smirking inwardly as Sally went stone faced. “Especially given what he knows about our interactions. Interactions which--I’d like to point out--are entirely the result of your insipid attempts to discredit both myself and my methods.” He gracefully moved his leg before John could kick it again.

“Clearly Lestrade is under the impression that having you personally come to me for assistance would engage my hubris enough to agree to assist on this case.”

The Sergeant was clenching her teeth, nostrils flaring slightly. Beside him, John was at last looking vaguely concerned.

Sherlock leaned back in the booth and allowed a triumphant grin to skirt his lips.

“So go ahead,” he said mockingly. “Ask.”

Sally’s eyes went poisonous with rage as she opened her mouth to respond.

**

“It serves you right, you know,” John said back at the flat, as Sherlock was bemoaning the chai stain on his shirt. He was only grateful she had missed his coat.

“So, are you going to help then?” John continued.

Sherlock looked up from where he had been wiping futilely at his shirt front. “Of course I’m going to help. Lestrade asked for me personally, and far be it for me to refuse to lend the police my skills when they‘re clearly out of their depth.”

The look John shot him was so blatantly incredulous that he felt his lips trying to twitch up in a smile.

“Additionally, it is my understanding that the heating bill is due next week, and if we don’t want it cut off entirely, we’ll need to pay it in full.”

They had been using the heat very sparingly over the last few weeks, electing instead to huddle under mounds of blankets, but the bill was still climbing. The flat was typically only a few degrees warmer than the chill autumn temperatures outside. It drove Mrs. Hudson to distraction.

“And finally,” Sherlock went on, “we are almost out of tea and HobNobs. Such a situation must be remedied immediately.”

The HobNobs were John’s favorite, and the smile Sherlock got in response to his casual statement was blinding.

He turned away before John could see what was no doubt a horribly besotted expression on his face, and--to make doubly sure it wasn’t visible--began to pull his shirt off over his head, muttering about the nauseating scent of cardamom and cloves.

Behind him, he heard John make a choked noise before excusing himself and leaving the room abruptly, the door slamming behind him.

Sherlock paused in surprise at the unexpected departure, head still inside the folds of blue fabric. He had rather been looking forward to discussing the particulars of the case with John over boxes of Chinese or take away from whichever restaurant had taken their fancy for the week. To have him retire so suddenly was…disappointing.

The spicy blend of the chai again assaulted his nostrils, and he sneezed. Twice.

Bother.

**

The particulars of the case were thus:

Billie Kirwan, age 24, was a maid at the Hampstead estate of the Cunninghams, a long-lived, wealthy family whose fortunes had been tied to trade and shipping since the nineteenth century. Employed in the household for two years, she had been found two days before at the bottom of the stately staircase that descended to the foyer: neck broken and head bludgeoned by a currently unidentified heavy object. Per the inquest, it was a fall from a height consistent with the stairs that led to her death.

She had no lovers of which her employers were aware, and her only living relative was an ailing mother who lived outside of Ipswich. She had been an average student and had made no attempt to pursue further education. She had come with good references from similar positions held in her adolescence, and her only known hobby was a very regular attendance at the nearby cinema, presumably to view romantic comedies.

All of this was contained in the file Sergeant Donovan had provided to Sherlock, details meticulously noted and facts of interest liberally underlined and circled with a purple pen.

It was rubbish of course, though there were points of interest in the crime scene photos: something almost striking in the tableaux of the body sprawled across the Persian rug, the heavy framed portraits standing as sentinels and the golden panes of light from the Tiffany lamps casting a sense of melodrama over the scene. It looked, rather, like the cover of a luridly romantic thriller novel.

The body had been found by the elderly Mrs. Edith Cunningham when she had descended to the kitchens for a cup of milk to combat insomnia at approximately 1:30 a.m. The male family members--Edith’s son Edgar and her grandson Alec--reported working extremely late at the office of the Cunningham shipping business that night and didn‘t return home until notified of the incident.

The final member of the household, Edgar’s wife Delia, had presumably been sleeping. From several notations made in the transcripts of the interviews taken at the scene--including one in that same purple pen stating “Loony!!!”--Sherlock gathered that Delia Cunningham was potentially suffering from either psychosis or early onset dementia.

There were no signs of forced entry and no unidentified footprints, fingerprints, fibers, or compounds on or around the body. A nearby traffic camera that covered the front gate showed no one entering or leaving the property from the direction of the street after sunset.

The theory had been put forth--by Alec Cunningham, Sherlock noted--that the death of Billie Kirwan was an unfortunate accident resulting from the maid surprising a pair or more of burglars. There had been a rash of such burglaries in the area recently. All had been in stately, historic homes such as the one belonging to the Cunninghams, and the youngest Cunningham had adamantly insisted that this was yet another offense attributable to these same criminals, albeit one with a more heinous outcome.

Sally appeared to agree with this assessment, and much of the file was made up of copies of the case reports of these other incidents: five in total within the last four months, all perpetrated when the home owners were absent.

Sherlock glanced briefly at the reports, and then promptly threw the file folder aside, using an underhand throw with considerable torque in the wrist of which he was fairly proud. The folder skidded across the floor and slipped out of view beneath the couch.

“Sherlock!” John chastised, bending to rescue the file. “That’s not how you’d want someone treating your evidence, now is it?”

“Bah,” Sherlock dismissed the notion. “Those files are useless until we’ve seen the crime scene and questioned the residents ourselves. It would surprise me utterly if there weren’t something the initial investigation missed. And attributing this to the ring of burglars that is supposedly flitting about shows a thoroughly uncreative mind, which--I suppose--is no surprise, given that Sally is the lead investigator.”

John ignored him as he flipped through the crime reports. “What makes you think they’re unrelated? Five burglaries in wealthy neighborhoods seems like a pattern you should take into account.”

“In the previous incidents, the burglars ensured no one was present before entering.”

“Perhaps they thought the house was empty and simply made a mistake.”

“In this case they managed to miss the presence of three individuals. That’s rather more than a ’simple mistake,’ wouldn’t you agree?”

John looked at him, brow furrowed in that way that never failed to make Sherlock want to smooth it with his thumb. He refrained.

“Perhaps the burglars were desperate for something at the house and couldn’t afford to wait,” John responded, somewhat obstinately in Sherlock’s opinion. “Shouldn’t you consider every piece of available evidence?”

“Very well,” Sherlock said begrudgingly, waving his hand toward the files. “Was there any pattern in the items taken in the burglaries?”

John squinted at the reports. “Well, paintings mostly. Some heirloom jewelry. Whatever cash was handy. A man named Pirie lost his antique bust of Nefertiti from his library and a large ruby that was hidden in his bedroom safe.”

He flipped to another report. “In the case of the Actons’, only the study was ransacked, and the thieves came away with a volume of Homer, two plated candlesticks, a letter weight, an oak barometer, and a ball of twine.”

“How remarkable,” Sherlock said absently, mind already jumping ahead. He echoed it by jumping to his feet with alacrity, ready to join the hunt.

Unfortunately, springing to his feet resulted in the tickle in his throat at last escaping its confines in the form of a short, dry cough. He did his best to play it off as though he were merely clearing his throat, but he could see John wasn‘t taken in.

The doctor peered at him suspiciously, brow once again furrowed. “How long has that been going on?”

“A day or two,” Sherlock said airily. “It’s nothing to bother about. We have a crime scene to investigate. Come!”

John didn’t move except to cross his arms and raise his eyebrow as he considered the situation. “Cough syrup,” he said at last. “You’ll take cough syrup before we go just to be safe. You won’t astound anyone with your deductive monologues if you cough up a lung in the middle of one.”

“I do not monologue,” Sherlock said in offended tones. “And I’m hardly to the point of ‘coughing up a lung,’ as you put it.”

John hummed noncommittally. “You would keep working even if you were in the final throes of acute tuberculosis.”

“Now you’re simply being dramatic.”

Seeing John wasn’t going to relent, he gave a theatrical sigh of surrender and turned to climb the stairs to John‘s room. “Fine,” he said mulishly. “But I’m using your stock.”

He smiled as John snorted behind his back. “Like you have any of your own.”

**

Cough syrup taken and promise to disclose any additional symptoms extracted, they arrived at the front of the Cunningham estate.

It was a huge, dark structure--Baroque in appearance--that was set well back from the road. A wall of the same dark stone ran the length of the property and reinforced the air of intense privacy. Even the sound from the bustle on the busy street the house was situated on seemed to stop at the property line.

Which, Sherlock thought, was excellent, in that it would hopefully also stop the tortured sounds of a violin being played by a fiddler standing just a bit down the road.

The man saw his (pained) glance and misconstrued it as an invitation to walk closer. He was dressed in layered, rather dated clothing, all in various shades of brown and a wide brimmed hat pulled low over his eyes. Sherlock was prepared to pass him by entirely when he noted the area around the fiddler’s violin case gave indications of the man’s frequent presence on that particular stretch of pavement.

The fiddler skipped a little in time to the melody he was playing as he approached and brought the tune to a merciful finish as he stopped in front of them, bowing theatrically as he did so.

“Good afternoon, gents,” he said, accent plied on thickly and grin rakish. “Fancy a tune? Perhaps something to lift your spirits on such a frigid day?”

“Hmm,” Sherlock said noncommittally. “What would lift our spirits is any information you could provide us about that residence there.”

The man looked nonplussed for a moment until John helpfully gestured toward the Cunningham’s property.

He grinned when he realized the residence in question. “Ahh, fancy a ghost story do you?”

“Ghost story?” John echoed.

"The estate is haunted, see?" He leaned closer to the duo, breath fetid and tattered coat smelling of mold. Sherlock stepped back immediately, and noted--with amusement--that John stood his ground, locking his knees out of a no doubt rigorously entrenched sense of manners.

The fiddler went on: "Back in 1840, it was. A woman and her little girl were found brutally murdered in that house. They was alone in a small room on the top floor that was locked from the inside with only a single key, but somehow the woman, a maid herself if I recall, had her head torn nearly off. And her poor little girl was strangled and then stuffed in the chimney."

"That's terrible," John said, clearly meaning it. Then because it was obviously expected he asked, "Was the murderer ever caught?"

The fiddler grinned fiercely, a bard caught up in weaving a tale for his audience of one. "That he was not, sirs, which is the most tragic piece of all. The police at the time could no more figure out how the murderer got in and out of the locked room than they could deduce who the devil it was."

He leaned closer still and dropped his voice. "And the devil it may very well have been."

Drama finished, he stepped back and resumed a more conversational tone. "There's those that say the entire place is haunted. It was haunted then, and it's more haunted now, what with the ghosts of those two tragic victims and now this third lass floating about. If I was you gentlemen, I'd stay well clear of the house and the family what lives there."

Sherlock at last found something of interest in the man's tale. "Oh? What do you know about the Cunninghams?"

The fiddler wrinkled his face with distaste. "Nasty pieces of work, the lot of them. Particularly the old man. I've heard stories from servants in that house--former ones, mind you--that make my teeth curl."

"I doubt the accuracy of that statement, but I comprehend your implied meaning," Sherlock responded dryly. "What specifically did you hear?"

For the first time since accosting them, the man fell quiet. Giving them a long, considering look, he smiled slyly and averted his eyes, as though embarrassed.

"Well, now, I'm just a lowly musician, aren't I? All I have to my name is the clothes on my back, my fiddle, and the words in my mouth, as it were."

Sherlock raised his eyebrow. "You have a flat in Barking, a woman who lives with you, and at least two children," he said bluntly. The man gaped at him, completely shocked. "Nonetheless, we'll give you 20 pounds if your information proves useful as well as entertaining."

"Err, yes," the man said, clearly thrown for a loop. He rallied quickly, all trace of the entertainer gone in the face of potential profit. "I heard from a friend of mine--he used to work there doing deliveries and such before they sacked him--that Old Man Cunningham is a bit free with the female employees of the household, if you take my meaning. Not that it’s an uncommon situation, mind, but Cunningham is worse than most. Won’t take no for an answer and has no qualms about threatening anyone who would potentially bring charges.”

“Threaten how?” Sherlock demanded.

The fiddler shrugged, attention caught by a group of tourists ambling in their direction. “Eh, through the use of money. He implies that he has influential friends in influential places, all of whom would be happy to ruin a body’s life on his say-so. Says he has the police in his pocket.”

He looked back at them and put his hand out expectantly. Sherlock handed him the promised amount but did not immediately release it.

“Anything else?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.

“The son, Alec. He’s as ill-tempered as his father, from what I’ve heard. But get a few drinks in ‘im, and he’ll bend your ear. Rumor is that business isn’t going as well for the company as they’d like you to believe. Course,” here he smiled again, “I’m just a lowly fiddler, now, aren’t I?”

Sherlock released the bill, and the man slid it into his coat pocket. He resumed his jaunty playing as he zeroed in on the tourists.

“Inside, immediately,” Sherlock grated out. “That man is a menace to the musically inclined.”

John laughed but hurried after him down the drive all the same. “Really? I thought his playing sounded a bit like yours.”

He received a withering glare in return.

**

Sally had beaten them to the house, which Sherlock found fairly impressive, given that he hadn’t notified anyone that he was coming.

She was in the study perched primly on an over stuffed settee, a delicate tea cup--already gone cold judging by the lack of steam--held carefully steady in her hand. She looked unusually nervous.

Across from her sat a pair of women. The first, whom Sherlock took to be Edith Cunningham, was large-boned and harsh looking, with gray hair pulled back into a tight, intricate bun. Her thin lips were pressed down even further in disapproval, either from her conversation with Sally or from the situation in general.  Sherlock was betting on the latter.

The second woman was middle-aged and very frail, with watery blue eyes that darted vacantly about the room as she sipped from what appeared to be an empty tea cup. Presumably Delia, addled wife of Edgar and mother to Alec. She started when Sherlock entered the room and fled through a second door into what was presumably the parlor. No one made any move to stop her.

“Mm, these must be your colleagues, Sergeant Donovan,” Edith Cunningham said. Her gaze was cool and assessing.

“Yes, ma’am,” Sally replied with a forced smile that came nowhere close to meeting her eyes. “This is one of our consultants, Sherlock Holmes, and his colleague, Dr. John Watson.”

As John exchanged the requisite polite greetings, Sherlock explored the room, taking no notice of Sally’s pointed glare. He had elected to keep his coat upon entering the house, as there was a chill that caused a shiver to rove up and down his spine, and he jammed his hands deep into its pockets as he perused the bookshelves. He gathered from the conversation that Alec and Edgar Cunningham were out at the office, though Alec was planning on arriving home shortly to answer any outstanding questions about the night in question.

“Sherlock,” Sally gritted out, voice choking slightly over the use of his first name. “Won’t you join us? I was just updating Mrs. Cunningham about the investigation to date.”

Sherlock took another half a minute to pull down a book and examine it (to make it clear to Sally that she should in no way get into the habit of directing him) before seating himself in a musty smelling, upholstered chair with flourish.

The dust billowed up by his movements made his nose twitch, but Sally’s presence compelled him to hold in the sneeze this time.

Before Sally could begin the chit-chat anew, he jumped in.

“You found the body, correct?” he asked Mrs. Cunningham abruptly.

She raised an imperious eyebrow. “Correct.”

“At what time?”

“Shortly after 1:30 in the morning.” She paused meaningfully. “I believe I have already told the police anything of relevance that I know.”

“I’m certain you told the police everything they deemed relevant, though if they managed to extract every fact of substance, I would be most surprised.”

John jumped in. “It would help us to hear it from you directly, madam,” he said soothingly, shooting Sherlock a quelling glance that he immediately chose to ignore.

Mrs. Cunningham appeared mollified, though Sherlock could see that Sally was scowling into her tea cup.

“Very well,” Mrs. Cunningham said with dignity. “Ask your questions.”

“You told the police that you had come downstairs at that time for a glass of milk to help you sleep. Had you been awake for much time prior to discovering the body?”

“I was in my bedroom reading,” she stated as though he had implied something offensive.

“All night?”

“From approximately 9:00 when I retired to my room until I discovered Miss Kirwan.”

“Was your light on?” Sherlock asked.

“Certainly,” she said with a raised eyebrow. “It would have been difficult to read otherwise.”

“And what room is yours?”

“I fail to see the point of these questions, detective,” she said impatiently.

“I was simply wondering, madam, if the light from your bedroom would have been visible to any burglars attempting to make entry. Any light, even a reading lamp, should have alerted them to the fact that there were people in residence.”

Mrs. Cunningham paused. “There were periods during the night when I turned off my lamp in an attempt to fall asleep.”

“And were you successful?”

“No,” she said narrowing her eyes. “That was why I felt compelled to seek a warm beverage.”

“Did you hear anything during the night? Any unusual sounds?”

“Certainly not. I would have alerted the police had I any idea that something was amiss.”

“Did you, then, hear the sounds of Miss Kirwan moving about the house? Given that she was fully dressed and found in the foyer, she had most likely been up and about the entire night.”

Mrs. Cunningham did not answer immediately, and for the first time since he had entered the room, she looked at Sherlock with something besides lightly concealed disdain.

“I did doze occasionally,” she said at last. “It is possible I may have missed the sounds of Miss Kirwan with the burglars during one such occasion. I am regretful that I am unable to be of more help.”

Sally spoke up for the first time during the interview, leaning forward on the settee as she realized Mrs. Cunningham’s implication. “You believe Billie Kirwan may have been in league with them?”

“I would not be surprised,” Mrs. Cunningham answered stiffly. “She was a furtive girl, always to be found skulking around corners. Edgar hired her against my better judgment.”

“Yes,” Sherlock took over again. “I understand that Mr. Cunningham was responsible for most of the hiring. Of the female staff, at least.”

Mrs. Cunningham’s face froze in sudden, cold anger. “What exactly are you implying, sir?”

“Shut up, Sherlock,” John said quietly out of the corner of his mouth.

“I am implying that your son was known to carry on inappropriate relationships with the female staff in the household, potentially non-consensual ones,” he said evenly, eyes trained on Mrs. Cunningham’s face for any sign of guilt or shame.

There were none. Or if there were, they were covered by that same stony rage that had appeared when he first mentioned her son.

She stood. “Sergeant Donovan, I would speak with your supervisor immediately. This interview is over.” And with that she stalked from the room, her back rigidly straight and her cane giving her more the appearance of a queen than an invalid.

“Argh!” Sally’s sound of disgust and frustration was loud in the study. “I am going to kill you! Do you realize how much you just jeopardized this case?! I know you get off on uncovering dirty, sordid little secrets, but I had hoped you’d keep it in check if Lestrade asked you to!”

“Rumors of sexual impropriety toward household staff are important to the investigation,” Sherlock argued, his voice clipped and precise. “If you didn’t want me to investigate, then you shouldn’t have asked for my help.”

Sally’s fingers clenched and relaxed spasmodically, no doubt itching to wring his neck. She reached for her mobile instead, face set in disgust as she cycled through her contacts. “Get out of my sight before I do something you’ll regret with a fireplace poker.”

As Sherlock strode toward the door she called after him. “Better yet, get out of the house completely. I don’t need you annoying anyone else while I clean up the mess you made.”

“Fine,” he said through clenched teeth, propelling himself toward and then through the front door at a rapid pace.

John had followed him, though he stopped on the front stoop looking uncertainly back inside.

“I think I should be on hand to defend you, if it comes to that,” he said wryly.

Sherlock bristled. “I am perfectly capable of defending myself,” he said irritably.

“Hmmm,” John hummed noncommittally, pulling out his own mobile, no doubt in a bid to reach Lestrade himself. Then he looked up at Sherlock, frowning. “Go sit in a café or something to cool off for a bit. Someplace warm. You don’t need to be walking about in this weather.”

Without waiting on Sherlock’s response he turned and walked back indoors, closing the door behind him properly.

“What I don’t need, is a nursemaid,” he said to the door.

There was a café down the street that he had noticed as they came into the neighborhood. Flipping his collar up against the wind, he resolutely turned and started walking the opposite direction.

**

It was on his third pass up and down the pavement that he noticed the small, walled park with the rusted gate. On a whim, he pushed it open and walked inside.

Inside it was completely empty of people and even lonelier for the deserted playground equipment and benches scattered among bare trees and browned grass. The wind blew harder for a moment, an icy finger down the back of his neck, and he hunched himself deeper into his coat, ferociously ordering himself not to shiver.

The sky was the color of steel. The solid cover of clouds should have felt suffocating in its closeness, but the overall impression of the scene was one of intense loneliness.

Dried vines of long-dead ivy clung tenaciously to the fence around the small park: boxing out the signs of life and habitation that tried to press in around it. Though there were houses and shops only a few metres away, it felt removed.

He walked slowly along the path, carelessly kicking at piles of leaves that his feet came into contact with. He briefly entertained the idea of a spin about the merry-go-round when he was suddenly and wholly startled.

"Whatever are you doing there?" came a voice from behind him. He spun rapidly, heart jumping into his throat at the completely unexpected utterance, to see a woman sitting calmly on one of the park benches.

"Thinking," he replied belatedly in a brusque voice, heartbeat slowing as his body processed that he was in no danger here.

"Well, perhaps you should sit down. It wouldn't do for over stimulation of your thinking processes to drive you to injury," the woman said, sounding amused.

She looked to be in her fifties but had aged extremely well, with only the smallest of wrinkles around her eyes and mouth betraying her. Her eyes were a cloudy grey reminiscent of storm clouds, her hair a similar shade. Against her pale skin the effect was striking. She gave an impression of something washed out, wan and delicate, like an old photograph. But for all that, she was beautiful.

Without consciously thinking about it, Sherlock found himself sitting down beside her on the park bench.

Her hair was pulled up in an elegant bun and held in place with a hair pin topped with a deep blue marble. It stood out vividly in the gray scene, and Sherlock’s eye couldn’t help but be drawn to it. It tugged at his memory, though he was unable to pinpoint exactly why.

She looked so profoundly sad, and it tugged something inside of him.

“What are you doing here?” Sherlock asked. “This is hardly the type of weather to be enjoying a park in.”

Her small smile at his statement telegraphed her recognition of its irony, but she did not call him on it.

“I enjoy this time of year,” she said quietly.

“I see very little about it that can be categorized as enjoyable.”

“I find it peaceful,” she responded, smiling slightly.

The wind again cut through Sherlock’s coat, and he shivered slightly. His companion did not appear to notice the cold.

“I don’t want to intrude on your solitude,” he said, preparing to rise.

Her hand, as delicate and fine boned as his own, settled on his wrist, gentle as a mother’s. Her fingers were shockingly chilled, and he automatically cupped his hands around hers to warm them. For a moment, a sense of something electric seemed to pass between them.

“Stay with me awhile,” she said, peering up at him with her sad eyes. “I find my time here peaceful, but it is also so lonely. I would welcome your company.”

Something about the shape of her eyes pulled something in Sherlock‘s memory much as her hair ornament did, and he found himself settling once again on the bench.

“I can only stay for a short time,” he said. His voice came out apologetic though he had been aiming for severe.

She only smiled at him once before turning to stare out at the empty park and removing her hand, leaving the area she had touched even colder: a small point of intense chill that seemed to diffuse itself throughout his body. Sherlock resisted the urge to chafe his hands together as the warmth seemed to suddenly leech out of him.

They sat together in peaceful silence.


Part 2
 
 
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
 
 
 
Abri: Allons-yabridgedgirly on November 10th, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC)
I have to say I love this. It's witty, IC, a fast read and very enjoyable. I'm off to the second part now :)
the_tire_swingthe_tire_swing on January 11th, 2011 12:46 am (UTC)
asjdklfjsdlk;fjsdk
*bows down to the internet gods for letting me find this*

Your writing is absolutely stunning. The park scene with the old woman is rich and evocative. I cannot wait to see where this is going.

Also, you've written one of the best/most in-character Sherlock and John I've read in quite some time.

This whole scene had me howling:

“I do not monologue,” Sherlock said in offended tones. “And I’m hardly to the point of ‘coughing up a lung,’ as you put it.”

John hummed noncommittally. “You would keep working even if you were in the final throes of acute tuberculosis.”

“Now you’re simply being dramatic.”

Seeing John wasn’t going to relent, he gave a theatrical sigh of surrender and turned to climb the stairs to John‘s room. “Fine,” he said mulishly. “But I’m using your stock.”

He smiled as John snorted behind his back. “Like you have any of your own.”

karadin on February 5th, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
I am interested in the fic and will keep going, a few things jumped me out of the narrative, - Sherlock thinking of 'Java the Hut' a reference to pop culture which he might not know of - in the series he does not know who James Bond really is, though he did say 'Houston we have a problem'

And the phrase 'make your teeth curl - I think the saying is 'toes curl' as teeth cannot.

I do think it is out of character for John to say 'shut up Sherlock' during an interrogation, he knows that Sherlock never says anything without reason.
Mariolemariole on February 14th, 2011 03:35 am (UTC)
"The Reigate Squires" is one of my favorite Holmes stories! I'm really enjoying this.
Dessie Octavia: Sherlock: Naked Geniusesdessieoctavia on April 19th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
I loved this. Well done!