This was it. The moment that he had been waiting over a year for.
"Yes, yes, take the bait, you bloody bastards," Scotland Yard's Inspector Gregory Lestrade muttered as he watched the Waters gang load piles of cash into black duffel bags over the security feed.
"I can't believe it. We've finally cornered them," Donovan said, shaking her head in disbelief. "Good show, boss."
Lestrade ignored the praise and effusive backslapping that the rest of his colleagues followed up with; his eyes watched the screens hungrily as the gang leader, carrying several bags stuffed to the brim with cash, walked towards the door of the safe room.
"Got you now," he said with a smirk. Turning around, he eyed the weedy technician and gave a single nod, upon which the technician entered a slew of commands on his laptop and pressed "Enter."
Inside the thick, gunmetal safe room door, green lights blinked to life on a series of Raspberry PIs, all of which were directly connected to actuators that controlled the motion of the door. In this case, the door promptly began retracting with astonishing alacrity.
Lestrade flat-out guffawed as the gang leader rushed towards the closing door, and the rest of the startled gang followed mindlessly, abandoning the bags that they had been so diligently filling up. "Not this time, you don't."
Spinning around, he stalked out of the room, his fog coat billowing about him like Severus Snape's robes (not that the latter would have appreciated the comparison). Donovan followed closely behind him, the smirk on her face a mirror of that on her boss's.
"You know, the look on their faces right now was totally worth the last year of seeing those smug arseholes skip off in court."
Lestrade snorted as he turned a corner. "Oh, you're telling me. I still don't know whether it was worth antagonizing the new Chief Superintendent though. And I was really holding out for a promotion since the girlfriend isn't super-impressed with my current posting."
"Oh, lighten up, boss. Pretty sure that this is the upward push you need."
"Sorry about that; my phone's been a bit twitchy lately. Hang on, let me shut it up," Lestrade declaimed, brows furrowing in annoyance as he dug his cell out of his pockets.
His joviality vanished swiftly.
"Go on ahead without me."
"What, what's going on?"
"The freak? But this is it - you were just telling me that this is the break that you've been waiting for. You can't go now."
Lestrade merely shook his head, mumbling apologies as he turned around and raced towards the parking lot.
"All right, men, I need a squad to follow my car to Baker Street. If you can, Davies, alert Mycroft and direct Special Forces there ASAP. The rest of you lot, secure the prisoners in the vault. I expect that we'll only need about 10 officers for that," he rattled off into his mic as he threw open the door of his BMW 5 Series.
'Oh god, I hope I'm not too late. Don't worry, Sherlock, I'm on my way...'
A record-breaking ten minutes later (never had Lestrade been gladder about his high-ranking position in the Scotland Yard, which exempted him from ordinary folk's concerns about parking tickets), a silver BMW 5 Series skidded to a halt in front of 221B Baker Street; Lestrade stumbled out of the car, threw open the front door of 221B (startling poor Ms. Hudson into dropping something white in the process), and dashed up the stairs.
"Shhh-Sherlock, I'm here. What's going on? Is everything all right?" Lestrade asked, gasping and swiveling his head wildly. Reflexively wrinkling his nose, he couldn't help but ask, "And what in God's name is that smell?"
"Ah, Gatiss, I am most pleased by your alacrity; given that it is rush-hour and that you are normally a relatively conservative driver, I fully expected you to be here ten minutes later. No matter - I need your help in this task, the biggest challenge that I have ever undertaken in my life."
Through long practice, Inspector Gregory Lestrade ignored Sherlock's inability (or refusal) to recall his first name. "Well, what is it?" Whatever it was, it had to be big. The last time that Sherlock had summoned him for help with the "biggest challenge of his life," he had ended up faking his death and disappearing for two years in order to dismantle Moriarty's criminal networks.
Sherlock stared straight into Lestrade's eyes with his piercing blue orbs, fingers steepled and body pivoting away from the laptop towards Lestrade.
"Will you help me write a best man's speech?"
Lestrade stared at him in bemusement, chest still heaving from his recent exertions. "What?!"
"Best man's speech? For John's upcoming nuptials? Come now, Gavin, surely that hasn't slipped your perfectly average mind?"
Gaping slightly, Lestrade merely shook his head. "Sorry, I thought...I thought that you were in trouble."
Sherlock's keen gaze grew sharper, and Lestrade suddenly felt as though he were a schoolboy being reprimanded for his hastiness by his father. "Ah, I see. I assume that we will shortly be joined -"
The pair ducked and jumped near the windows as an explosion went off in Sherlock's bedroom, and the bedroom door was ripped clear off its hinges and flung into the back of John's chair.
"Harriet! I thought that I told you to wait for another half-hour before adding the crushed liverwort! Felix Felicis is an extraordinarily time-sensitive potion!"
Smoke poured through the kitchen and into the living room. Lestrade squinted and made out a thin, coughing figure coming out of the bedroom.
"No, you specifically told me to add it right now! At 4:30!"
Sherlock blinked and looked at the IPhone on his table. "Oh. It's 4:30."
Before any more banter could be bandied about, a flood of water crashed through windows, utterly drenching Lestrade, Sherlock, and Harriet. Concurrently, the loud noise of a helicopter's spinning blades filled the room, even as the accompanying gusts of air threw the loose papers and various small knicknacks in the flat into disarray.
"SHERLOCK! You've got a client!" Mrs. Hudson's voice echoed up the stairs, somehow managing to remain audible despite the ongoing chaos.
It was yet another ordinary day in the extraordinary life of Sherlock Holmes and Harriet Potter.
CHAPTER 4: JOHN'S WEDDING - PART 1
The clock's red LEDs shifted and flashed "6:30." Despite the early hour and London's typically dreary weather, the first rays of sunlight danced through the window, promising a glorious day of light and laughter.
It perfectly fit John Watson's mood. Even though he hadn't been able to get a wink of sleep the previous night, and his chest was clenched with nerves, a larger part of him was filled with excitement and anticipation.
Today was the day - the day when he finally married the woman of his dreams, Mary Morstan.
He and Mary had met shortly after Sherlock's "death." Since he hadn't known at the time that Sherlock had faked his suicide in order to secretly eliminate the remainder of Moriarty's network, John had been understandably devastated. For weeks on end, he hadn't been able to eat or sleep properly as images of Sherlock's bleeding, cooling corpse on the sidewalk kept flashing past his eyes; Mrs. Hudson had been so worried about him that she had practically maintained a one-woman suicide watch over him, going so far as accompanying him to work.
Fortunately, around a month later, he had hired Mary as his new receptionist, and being the astute woman that she was, she had instantly recognized his intense trauma and PTSD. Things progressed from there as Mary fast became his friend, confidante, and eventually fiance. She helped him straighten out his life and regain focus and clarity. Of course, life wasn't quite as...exciting...without Sherlock (not that he would ever admit it to the detective, given his already bloated ego), but it was good enough.
Then, Sherlock returned. In the middle of a date with Mary. Right when he was about to propose to her.
The bloody, arrogant arse.
Several days of silent feuding, a kidnapping, and a defused bomb later, the duo had made up and resumed their friendship. Granted, given John's own increasingly lucrative practice and his courtship with Mary, they hadn't been able to spend as much time together as before. Still, it was only a few weeks, right? John hadn't expected the detective to change anything drastically in his own life.
Oh, how wrong he was. Two weeks after they had made, John returned to 221B Baker Street after a long day at his office; he was eager to unwind with Sherlock and sync up on the latest cases, if only to erase the mind-numbing nature of dealing with a stream of patients with an assortment of problems.
Climbing up the familiar steps, John froze at the open doorstep upon seeing a black-haired waif mixing together various murky-looking chemicals.
Taken aback, he looked down bemusedly at the girl, "Errr..."
"SHERLOCK!" she hollered without even looking up from her work. "YOU'VE GOT A CLIENT!"
"Wait a second, I'm not -"
Sherlock came running out of the bedroom, wild-eyed and with a gun in his hand. "Really?! Oh finally, I was wondering what it would take for criminals and murderers to come back out - it's almost as if they were on an extended vacation!"
John cocked his eyebrow. 'Only Sherlock.'
"Oh, it's just you - good to see you again, John," Sherlock said airily.
"You too, Sherlock," John responded, moving towards the raggedy armchair betwixt the living room and kitchen. His armchair. "Still haven't gotten rid of it, I see?"
"Definitely not. I find it useful to speak to it from time to time when the stupidity around me gets to be too much."
The girl snorted at that.
"Yes, I'm talking about you! How could you mix bitterwort with mandaroga root?" he directed at her heatedly.
"You told me to try categorizing them like chemicals in the periodic table! The only way to do that is to actually experiment; if we're lucky, we get useful results, and if we're not, then we get magic smoke. Thank God for Mycroft."
"Never utter that blasphemy again," he said flatly, shuddering.
John coughed and interjected before the argument could resume, "Um, Sherlock, who is this?"
"Oh yes, introductions. John, this is Harriet. Harriet, this is John Watson."
Harriet's head shot up when Sherlock finished saying his full name, her green eyes turning round behind her glasses. Suddenly letting out a squeal of delight, she dropped the chemicals and dashed off to what was once John's room. In the span of a blink, she was back before John with a notebook and a pen.
"Oh my god, it's such a pleasure to meet you! I love your blog and the way that you wrote about all of your adventures with Sherlock. It's so amazing, especially given everything that he gets up to, like the Baskerville case and -"
"Yes, yes, Harriet," Sherlock cut her off irritably (and since John knew him so well, he could also see the traces of amusement). "If only you could spare the same level of enthusiasm for my blog."
Harriet rolled her eyes. "Sherlock, nobody wants to read about the 40 different kinds of mold that could grow on bricks and concrete for more than a paragraph at most. You go on about it for 20 pages! It's more interesting to consider that information in a practical context."
"Underappreciated as always," Sherlock sniffed.
Harriet, however, had turned back to John. "Could I please have your autograph?" Suddenly turning shy, she coughed and shifted her feet. "I mean, if you would like to, that is. Sorry about that, it's just your blog is so well-written, and Sherlock always goes on about how invaluable your presence was in all those cases."
John couldn't help smirking at Sherlock, who was pointedly glaring at the apartment ceiling now. "Of course, Harriet. It's a pleasure to meet you, and I would be delighted to give you my autograph," he said magnanimously, accepting the proffered notebook and signing right below Sherlock's scrawl on the first page.
"Before your head explodes with excitement," Sherlock drawled, "you might want to check in on your concoction again. The flies' wings you added in just as John walked in should be kicking in now, and you only have a minute more to execute the next step."
Squeaking, Harriet rushed off to her project - Did Sherlock just say flies' wings? And was that a cauldron? - all the while clutching her precious notebook close to her chest.
"So," John started with a raised eyebrow, "I never saw you as the child-rearing type."
He glanced again at the cauldron and the humming girl who was stirring it like an old-fashioned butter-maid, or dare-he-say-it, a witch. Then again, this was far from the oddest scene that he had ever encountered in these hallowed rooms. Naked Sherlock, stoned Sherlock, impatient but coping Sherlock shooting walls, eager Sherlock rushing out of the flat to solve a case even as he forgot the severed head and assorted bones on his table - no, this was positively domestic for Baker Street.
Come to think of it...
"Gathering from the gun in your hand, I deduce that you haven't had any cases recently," John remarked dryly. Turning more serious, he continued, "Please don't tell me that you decided to adopt Harriet because you were bored."
"Harriet's parents decided to go on an extended vacation, and they needed someone to look after her. Mycroft insisted that I get involved and threatened to set Mummy upon me otherwise."
"She's not the prime-minister's long-lost daughter, is she?" John half-joked. Given that Mycroft was virtually the British government, one could never be certain whether his assignments and requests were as innocuous as they appeared superficially.
"No, she's my third-cousin, twice-removed," Sherlock said, waving his hands dismissively. "Or second-cousin, thrice-removed? Meh, at that distance, it all blurs."
Well, there was certainly a faint resemblance between the duo - copious black hair (unruly curls in Sherlock's case though in contrast to Harriet's own straight lines pulled back into a ponytail), a gleam of keen intelligence in the eyes, and a lean physique. While Harriet was somewhat short for her age - 12 or 13 at most - John was highly certain that she would eventually tower over her peers given her own long legs and Sherlock and Mycroft's own above-average heights.
Of course, it was still entirely possible that Sherlock had just taken in a homeless girl to better integrate her into his "network" or to simply piss off Mycroft. Still, it was the second trait that convinced John that Harriet was a Holmes - that piercing, blade-like shine in her eyes was so similar to that in the Holmes brothers', slicing and dicing through everything around her in a bid to understand it all.
"Do you need help getting things set up for Harriet?" John inquired leadingly. Never mind - the fact that Harriet hadn't run out of here screaming for Child-Protective-Services upon seeing the severed body parts and various other oddities was the biggest indicator that she was a Holmes.
"No, we're good," Harriet piped up without looking up from the bubbling mixture. "I hope that you don't mind that I've taken your old room, Dr. Watson?"
"Not at all. Feel free to decorate it however you want."
"Oh, that's all right. I spend most of time with my experiments in the living room anyway," she replied cheerfully.
"I never understood why you spent so much time tidying up your room, John," Sherlock said dismissively.
"Because I wanted to be able to reach my bed and get back out quickly without having to wade through a trash pile, Sherlock. I mean, I'm not a neat-freak -"
"I never said you were. You are a bit insistent on proper placement and organization though - possibly a relic of your military days?"
John chuckled. Definitely from his stint in Afghanistan, where he and his comrades might have to pack up and move out at a moment's notice. Still, he was never quite as much of a slob as Sherlock though.
"He kind of has a point, Sherlock," Harriet said with a tinge of amusement coloring her voice. "I mean, if you're trying to make it impossible for Mycroft or Mrs. Hudson to search the place for your stash, then you're underestimating their resolve, especially since Mycroft will just get his lackies to do it for him."
"Oh, grow up," she fired back. "Dr. Watson," she inclined her head at John, "would've done the same. Heavens, he's been at you to quit your smoking and cocaine habits almost since you first met!"
"But I'm so boooored!" Sherlock whined (not that he would ever admit to doing so, even under the pain of death). "We haven't had any cases since those two during your first week here! I need stimulation, Harriet! John, back me up here."
"Sorry, Sherlock, I'm with her on this one."
Sherlock scowled. "She helped Mrs. Hudson confiscate my bullets too! I've had to settle for futile pumping the trigger of this thing-" he raised and shook the gun in his left hand irritably - "as though it were one of those stupid stress balls."
"She offered me freshly baked treacle tart. I couldn't possibly let her largesse go unrewarded," Harriet stated serenely. "Quid quo pro, Sherlock."
Sherlock growled and stomped over to the kitchen table, which was currently playing host to two Erlenmeyer flasks connected by a complex web of tubes; the flask on the left contained solid blue cubes floating in a reddish mixture, and the tubes seemed to be funneling the greenish vapors into the other flask.
John was pretty sure that chemistry was not supposed to work that way, but then again, this was more Sherlock's sort of thing. At least as long as the blue cubes weren't meth - in that event, there would have to be an intervention...
Clearing his throat and shaking himself free from his thoughts, John got straight down to the purpose of his visit, "So, best man?"
Harriet stopped her stirring and looked up at the pair with wide-eyes.
"Best man?" Sherlock queried bemusedly. "That is a toss-up between Billy Kincaid and Joseph Kincade."
"You know, Billy Kincaid the Camden Garroter. Made substantial, anonymous donations to charity that remain untraced to this day. Yes, he garroted quite a few people every once in a while, but on the balance, his philanthropy saved far more lives. As for Joseph Kincade, he raised one of my more benighted relatives, who favored womanizing and explosions over proper scientific endeavors. Poor man - having raised several generations of Holmes, I'm not how he put up with that one."
"He's talking about you being the best man for his wedding, Sherlock," Harriet piped up, recovering quickly from her surprise and rolling her eyes. "Congratulations, Dr. Watson," she followed up warmly.
"Thank you," he replied automatically. He continued to look intently though at the consulting detective.
The detective was completely frozen. His blue eyes were far wider than normal and remained fixed on Watson; had he been a lesser man, his mouth would have been hanging wide-open as well.
"Oh dear, I think you've broken him," Harriet smirked. "Could you please wait a moment?"
She scrambled over to the kitchen with a permanent marker in hand, climbed on top of a chair, and began drawing a cartoonish, twirly mustache on Sherlock's clean-shaven face.
"Hmmm, still not out of it yet? Eh, more time for me to practice my artistic skills."
And Harriet went on to add a pointy, triangular beard. Unfortunately, this is when Sherlock recovered from his Blue-Screen-of-Death.
"Best man," he echoed, "for your wedding." Just in time too - Harriet had just finished adding the beard a second ago and was seriously considering including cat whiskers in her collection as well.
"Yes. Sherlock Holmes, I want you as the best man for my wedding."
"What about, what's his name, Geoffrey Lestrade?"
"You mean, Greg," John said wearily. "Sure, we have a cuppa every now and then, but YOU'RE my best friend. Sherlock, I can think of no one better to serve as the best man in my wedding, and Mary agrees whole-heartedly."
"John, I...I would be honored," Sherlock responded immediately.
"Wonderful! Mary and I will drop by a bit frequently in the coming weeks since we could really use your input on the wedding plans."
"Of course, of course," Sherlock waved off customarily, having regained his sangroid and turning his attentions back to his experiment.
"Do you want some tea, by any chance, Dr. Watson?" Harriet inquired politely.
"Oh, yes, totally forgot! Tea, John?" Sherlock said, raising his own cup. While he did not possess even a fraction of Sherlock's deductive skills, John could swear that he had seen an eyeball floating in that cup.
"No, I'm good, thank you."
"If it's the eyeball, don't worry - I was going to make you a fresh cup now anyway, not force you to drink the swill that's been out for hours," Harriet said with amusement.
Sherlock turned to Harriet puzzled. "You make the tea?"
"Well, Mrs. Hudson used to, but she got tired of having to clean up afterwards, especially when you just left it willy-nilly, half-drunk. Said something about how she's your landlady and not your housekeeper? So I make it now."
"Hm," Sherlock said thoughtfully. "And I suppose -"
"Yes, Mrs. Hudson was kind enough to inform me of how Dr. Watson enjoys his tea as well. I'll be right back, Dr. Watson."
With that, Harriet gracefully scurried off.
Sherlock took another sip from his cup and grimaced. "This isn't tea! This is just water with food-coloring!"
Harriet laughed even as her hands flew while preparing the tea. "I wondered when you'd notice. I've been giving you that for the past two days now, and it took Dr. Watson's visit for you to finally observe that."
Dr. John Watson was a good, kind man, but he couldn't help but wish that she had dosed the detective with a hallucinogen - just for old time's sake. See how he liked it when the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak.
"So, are you planning on inviting Harry then?"
"No, God, no."
At that, he saw Harriet's back stiffen and her movements become a bit jerky. "I mean, my sister Harry," the good doctor rushed to clarify. "We're not exactly on the best of terms."
"Oh," Harriet said softly, her body relaxing once again. She subtly looked to Sherlock, but the detective remained as oblivious as ever.
Sighing, John added, "In case I did not make it clear, you are invited as well, Harriet."
"Of course, she is," Sherlock said bemusedly. "She's with me, John. I don't see why you need to repeat yourself - Harriet's not like other dull little children."
"Yes, well, I -" John blinked as a cup of tea appeared in front of the duo at the table. Harriet had quietly taken a seat at the tea and was looking at Sherlock with shining eyes.
He would have continued, but the tea's aroma was too enticing. John took a sip and was astonished to find that it was prepared to his specifications - a bit of cream, no sugar, and just a little warm from a touch of cinnamon. There was also a hint of lemon balm that, surprisingly, blended well with the overall mix.
"This is very good, Harriet, very good. Thank you," he said, sipping thoughtfully.
Harriet blushed and looked off to the side.
Perhaps it was because she was just a child, but Harriet had still not acquired the Holmes brothers' impassivity and supreme contempt for the rest of the world yet. Although it was John's personal opinion that the latter was more a mask and protective shield than anything else.
'I'm...I'm looking at a younger Sherlock here," he marveled. Sherlock may have been his best friend and an incredible detective, but John was not blind to his faults. "Well, I suppose that Mary and I will have to step in, visit every once in a while, and teach her about dealing with norms like myself, if only so that she won't have to put up with half of the shit that Sherlock must have dealt with."
And maybe it was just the quality of the tea or her overall warmth and cheer or her humility - but Harriet was still innocent in a way that the Holmes brothers seemed to have long ago shed off, and John, given his own abysmal childhood, wanted to preserve that to the best of his abilities.
"The lemon balm was a capital idea," he praised Harriet.
"Well, from what I could discern from the ingredients that Mrs. Hudson supplied me with," Harriet admitted with a shy smile and ducked head, "it seemed to mesh well with the overall mix of sweetness and spice - you've really got a balancing theme going on."
"I never understood why you had such rigorous expectations for your tea, John. It's just tea," Sherlock said, rolling his eyes.
"And that's why you got water with food-coloring," Harriet smirked, regaining her earlier jocular attitude.
"Hmph. You do know that this means war?"
"And that's my cue to leave," John said quickly, gathering the tea cup and moving towards the door.
'Mrs. Hudson would understand, right? I'll just return the cup during my next visit,' he thought to himself. 'Well, no matter - I'm NOT giving up this tea.'
Clean, well-moisturized hands; the intense scent of men's deodorant counterbalanced by the floral whiff of aftershave; coiffed hair; well-pressed, freshly-laundered clothes - all indicate a high-degree of self-consciousness and a generally well-to-do professional status. Constant flexing of fingers and rotating of wrists suggest early stages of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, usually seen in jobs involving heavy typing. Consider tapping foot in conjunction with above, indicative of highly impatient personality - so, programmer and aggressive social climber, looking to make inroads in the financial centres of London.
Sherlock quickly glanced away from the man sitting across from him and down at Harriet's own notes, gathered from the information that she'd pulled from various online sources. Given that it was a specialization that he was lacking in (mostly since he could always badger Mycroft to spare one of his techies whenever there was a pressing need), he had encouraged Harriet to look into Python and the fundamentals of programming. Judging by the succinct yet informative section on this man's tweets, he was pleased to see that her early forays had yielded already yielded such bountiful results.
At that moment, Harriet interjected by passing him a slip of paper. Sherlock furrowed his brows as he considered her observations. She correctly deduced that he is extremely concerned about his appearance but missed the onset of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; also managed to surmise that he was well-to-do but got no further. Interesting hypothesis that meticulous appearance is part of active social life - gets part of the way to the "aggressive-social-climber." Hmm, will have to introduce her to some of the tells that various professionals show.
Having collected his thoughts (all within half-a-minute, during which David looked aimlessly around the room - easily distracted), Sherlock began, "David Weatherby, let us cut to the chase."
"What? Oh, pardon me - I was merely, er, admiring your flat." It was obvious that David had been...discomfited by the half-vivisected carcass on the dining table a room over and the overall disordered nature of the flat. "So, I presume that you wanted to review my role as the usher?"
"No, I want to discuss your relationship with Mary Morstan, whom you dated for a period of six months. Not too long before she met John Watson, in fact. What is the current nature of your relations with her?"
David blinked in surprise and chuckled uncomfortably. He stammered, "Well, that is...we're friends, good friends, that's it."
"Hmph. Pardon me for being a bit skeptical. Regardless of time or location, you respond to her tweets within five minutes on average, so you have her on high text alert. In all of your tagged Facebook photos of happy couple, Mary always takes centre frame while John is partially or entirely excluded. Both your Tweets and Facebook replies have offered her a shoulder to cry on on no less than three occasions."
"Don't forget the Tweet-storm after she announced her nuptials," Harriet interjected with a hint of a smirk. "The ones with links to Picasa photos of various professional parties, where he was all dressed up in a suit and had multiple women hanging off his arms."
"Yes, quite true, Harriet. Do you have anything to say in your defense, sir?"
"What the -?!"
"It seems not," Sherlock overrode David's protests smoothly. "Well, then, going forward, we'll downgrade you to casual acquaintance with no more than three annual planned social encounters, all in John's presence of course." Having finished his spiel, he looked at David faux-solicitously. "I trust that was sufficiently clear."
"Dear God, they were right about you," David muttered wide-eyed. "You are a bloody psychopath."
"Well, that's just rude. I'm pretty sure that LinkedIn recruiter you've been chatting up wouldn't appreciate being called that, given that she's going to do pretty much the same thing if they decide to hire you - minus Sherlock's awesomeness of course," Harriet retorted irritably. "Ditto for someone in GCHQ." 'Thank Mycroft for laughing out the notion of privacy within a week of my arrival here.'
Hmm, it appears that she didn't miss a step with her deductions then, thanks to her research.
"It's quite all right, Harriet," Sherlock waved her off. "As long as David here keeps our conversation in mind - and remembers that I am a high-functioning sociopath."
He accentuated the final bit with a maniacal, beaver-like grin. "We have your number, and we will be in touch."
"Whenever the camera points at you, smile. Besides that, keep track of the rings. That's it," Sherlock summed up.
"No," the curly-haired boy, Archie, responded mulishly.
"Fine. Harriet, do you mind?"
"Not at all, Sherlock."
Having hammered out the details, the three sat back in satisfied silence. Archie was soon struck by a thought, however, "Mum expects me to be the page-boy. She's not going to be happy if she hears that I just gave it up."
"Then, say nothing for now, and pretend to be sick on the day of. I'll step in at that point," Harriet suggested. That's what Dudley would have done at any rate, once he realized that being page boy meant that he had to stick by the adults and couldn't run off with his friends. Then again, ickle-Duddikins would have shamelessly thrown a tantrum at that point, and his parents would have just as shamelessly acquiesced.
"How do I do that?" the ten-year old boy inquired curiously.
Harriet handed him a small, purple-wrapped object in the shape of a lollipop.
Sherlock's eyelid twitched upon seeing the "candy." "Ah, yes, I can attest to its effectiveness. Just be sure to sit next to the bathroom for the half-hour that the symptoms last." He would know, thanks to the prank war that had erupted after John's visit.
Once again, the three relapsed into silence. Within mere moments though, Archie began fidgeting restlessly, and his attention was quickly caught by the cadaver on the dining table.
"Huh. Is that a dead body?"
"And you're cutting it open? What is it that you do?"
"I'm a consulting detective." Here, Sherlock paused. "Do you want to watch me cut up the rest of it?"
In response, Archie scampered over to the table. "Cool, maggots!"
'As long as Archie understands that what happens in 221B stays in 221B,' Harriet thought to herself wryly, 'we should be fine, lest his mother kill us for corrupting his impressionable mind. But honestly, of all the things to focus on during a dissection, he picks the maggots?'
The black-haired pair stared at their reflections in the mirror.
Sherlock broke the silence. "Unto the breach, Harriet." Somewhat unusually for the detective, the declaration was almost tentative and inquisitive in nature rather than bold and imperative.
"Right behind you, Sherlock."