Each private room at the Diogenes has its own set of teacups, and each set of teacups has its own human.
The humans don't talk much here, though they sometimes speak in the private rooms. Never in the main room. It isn't proper.
But someone is talking out there now, they can hear it through the door. An agitated Londoner vying for attention in a sea of silence. "Mr Holmes? I'm looking for Mr Holmes. Hello? ... What? Don't look so scared for pete's sake, I'm a police officer not a mugger! Hello? What's wrong with you people?!" Who is this stranger? What so they want with this "Mr Holmes" character? The teacups titter amongst themselves, throwing about wild speculation and theories in the tink of one fine china rim against another.
They are silenced after a moment by the sigh of their human. This man is tired, they can tell. He is always tired. Not in that way some of the older ones are, who like to take afternoon naps. This one never naps, and never seems to sleep. He is tired right down to his bones. He speaks the language of knotted muscles, sighs over files and twitching eye bags. It's the language of a man with back-breaking burdens beyond what anyone should be allowed to bear.
The tea cups start up their tittering again, only to be silenced a second time by the slow turning of the door knob.
A man half stumbles into the room, looking over his shoulder with a frown over his dark brown eyes before turning to take in the room's human. His eyes flicker over the man, who is standing with his back ramrod straight and his face carefully schooled into an expression of mild disinterest. No wonder he gets no visitors. Who treats guests like that?
"Mr Holmes, I presume." The police officer says stiffly. "You don't look much like Sherlock."
Mr Holmes smiles, or at least his mouth turns up at the sides. "I'm afraid that while my dearest brother got his genes from our mother's side, I seem to have inherited mine from my aunt Mildred." Oh! But the teacups think he is so very handsome, with his cupid bow lips and gentle, long fingers that hold them so delicately! And now they have a voice to match those features. A melodious, flowing voice clipped by that posh English accent.
Some tension seems to leave the police officer, who gives a quiet chuckle. "Yes, well. You didn't get the cheekbones it seems, but your aunt Mildred must have been a handsome woman none the less."
The teacups vibrate their agreement, but Mr Holmes frowns in reply. "Please sit, Detective Inspector" he says, indicating with a graceful gesture to the seat opposite his heavy wooden desk.
It is the first time this chair has been used so far as the teacups know. Mr Holmes takes his usual chair, opposite, as the policeman sits in the edge of his. "I must warn you that I do not respond well to any type of flirtation, though I understand it is at worst a poor emotional response to your wife's ongoing affair. How many times have you taken her back now, Inspector?" Ah, yes. This is definitely why he doesn't get any visitors.
"How did you-? No, doesn't matter. Probably the colour of my socks or the distribution of bolognaise speckles on my tie or something daft like that." The detective rolls his eyes and settles into the armchair, without a word to the intentional insult.
He doesn't deny the flirtation.
Mr Holmes smirks. "Actually, I have a file."
"Of course you do. You're the British Government, right? That's what Sherlock says."
"I occupy a minor role only... In traffic." Mr Holmes replies smoothly, a line he is evidently used to saying. He stands, walks to the sideboard where the teacups sit, and selects two. "How do you take your tea, Inspector?"
The inspector sits up straighter in the armchair. "Er, however you like is fine. I'm not fussy."
Mr Holmes' fingers fall still on the teapot lid. "In that case you may have it scalding hot and poured into your lap. Would that be satisfactory?" This is said without turning around.
The detective doesn't miss a beat in replying. "That sounds great, thanks."
Mr Holmes frowns again, then arranges a tray so that the detective can prepare his own tea, and places this on the small table between their armchairs. It's only when he is safely tucked into his own chair, teacup in hand, that he looks at the detective again. His guest has raised his cup to the light, looking at it through the thin china with a look of awe. "They're beautiful." He murmurs, then his eyes widen as if surprised he said it out loud. The teacup in his hand puffs a little, angling itself so that the light catches flatteringly on it gold-gilded rim.
"Indeed," Mr Holmes replies, "perhaps in that case you would care to drink your tea from it, rather than sucking it out of the cloth of your trousers."
The detective laughs, a short bark, and carefully pours himself a measure of tea, then milk. No sugar. The teacup nestles into his hand, taking in the rough calluses and dry patches across his palm, and the way he holds it so gently in spite of them.
The two humans sit in silence for some minutes, and the teacups almost forget that they have spoken at all. It is Mr Holmes who breaks the silence. "As pleasant as this is, detective inspector, I am a busy man, as I am certain are you. If you would be so kind as to tell me the purpose of your visit?" He is still agitated, shaken by the intrusion.
Wouldn't it be lovely if the detective could come by more often? It's so nice to be used by someone new, and to see their human talking. Sometimes, the teacups think he must get awfully lonely, and there have been signs. A short sigh here, a wistful look there... All he needs is a friend. If only they can make it happen.
"Oh yeah, sorry. Good tea. I mean, not the good tea, I mean, it is good tea, but I didn't come here for good tea, because I couldn't have known there would be good tea... Oh! Not saying you seem like the kind of guy who wouldn't have good tea, or anything, because you do and- ah, I'm babbling." The detective looks down at his 'good tea' and caresses the handle with his thumb. "It's about Sherlock."
Mr Holmes shifts uncomfortably in his chair. "What about him? I assure you that if he was in any kind of trouble, I would be the first to know about it."
"No, it's not anything he's done. It's just..." The detective sighs into his cup, which makes an effort not to squirm from the tickly air. "I'm worried about him. And John. Since John got married and moved out with Mary, he's been- I don't know. Jittery. Unstable. Like way back."
Mr Holmes fixes him with a knowing stare. "You are concerned that he might relapse." The words are cold.
"Look, I'm not saying I know him better than you because I can't, he's your brother and I'm just, you know. Lestrade. He doesn't even remember my first name, for god's sake. But I was there when he was using, I was there all the way through every relapse, pulling him out of the nick, cleaning up vomit from my living room carpet. I know Sherlock." He stops to look at Mr Holmes here, searching for something in that impassive face. Whatever it is, he doesn't find it. "Well, that's it then. That's what I came to say. I know Sherlock, so when I tell you he's in a bad place, you should believe me. If you're even halfway as clever as he is, then you will."
He stands, places his teacup back in its saucer, and hovers for a few seconds. Waiting again for some sign from Mr Holmes. He is disappointed again.
"Good day, detective inspector."
"It could have been, Mr Holmes." And then he is gone, out the door with a slam that makes Mr Holmes wince.
The teacups sag. This is not good, not good at all. How is the detective ever going to return after that?
They expect a return to normality now. Back to the sideboard, for another few years of quiet. This will come, but not yet. First there is a sigh and a hand – shaking – raising a cup to the light.
"Yes, you are beautiful. I had forgotten how much so," Mr Holmes murmurs. And then he looks across to the tray, to the second, abandoned, teacup. He wraps warm fingers around the handle and holds it up next to its twin. A small smile twists the corner of his mouth as he brings it down and touches his lips to the trace of warmth left behind by the detective's breath.