Disclaimers: See Part 1.

*****

::Sherlock Holmes::

Our train compartment was remarkably silent on our way back to London. Emily sat across from me, absorbed in her physics text (which I might have sworn still had the imprint of young Alexander's face in it, were I the sort to entertain such silly notions). I, of course, was lost in my own thoughts. Many of the lesser events (at least those not directly related to the identification and arrest of, if not the Ghost himself, at least the cause of his haunting ways) had escaped ready analysis. Many of them even escaped proof or disproof by any observable evidence. One notable item which had not been so slippery was the obvious surprise of the other players in this drama upon discovering that Emily and I were not in fact the newly-wed couple we had advertised ourselves to be. Perhaps we had simply played our roles very well. Or perhaps…

No. The idea was stupid… or was it? I was beginning to have doubts, an understandably uncomfortable state in which to find myself. I, whose very livelihood is built upon the foundations of evidence, certainty, and above all logic, was treading into a foreign realm, where logic held no sway, evidence was ambiguous at best, and intuition held sway over a carefully structured analysis of the elements. Clearly I was not worthy of her. I was scarcely able to protect her from near-violation – not just once, but twice! To think that I could have failed to realise the most expedient administration of a sleep drug in the after-dinner coffee, or realise the significance of the odd smell and taste of same! I glanced at Emily, who studiously failed to notice my ambivalence. Finally, I felt I had to say something – and evidently so did she, in that very moment.

"Emily, I wish to apologise for—"

"Holmes, thank you for a delightful—"

We stopped and looked at each other awkwardly, with the same air as one who has just received a letter from someone whom one has earlier expressed a desire to contact after a long absence.

"Go ahead," she offered.

"After you," I replied.

"All right," she said, "I just wanted to thank you for a delightful weekend in Sussex."

"Delightful?" I echoed in disbelief, "What on earth was delightful about it?"

"Well," she said patiently, "There's that fact that you thought highly enough to invite me along."

"You were attacked twice in as many days," I countered.

"Considering the subject of our investigation, that was a risk I was prepared to take," she returned, "And you of all people know that I'm not some defenceless damsel who needs rescuing all the time. I beat five kinds of hell out of my first attacker, and seventeen out of the second."

"That isn't the point," I said peevishly, "You trusted me to stay awake and watch over you last night, and I failed in that simple task. I failed you, and I failed myself."

I wanted this conversation to be over so I could brood in peace, but Emily had other ideas. As I tried to return my attention to the passing scenery out the window, she reached across and guided my face back towards her.

"Are you still caught on that?" she asked, not unkindly.

"And if that happens to be the case?" I growled.

"You didn't fail anyone. You solved the case, you caught the culprit, and everyone goes home feeling safer for it."

"It isn't that simple!" I erupted, having lost my patience.

"Then tell me!" she shouted back.

"I don't wish to discuss it any further. When we reach Victoria Station, I shall see you home. After that, you need never see me again." She opened her mouth to protest, but I held up my hand to forestall her. "Please, don't argue. Nothing you could say will make me change my mind on this."

To her credit, she followed my advice to the letter, in that she offered no argument to my decision. Instead, she half-stood, leant across the compartment, cupped my face between her gloved hands, and pressed her lips to mine.

How shall I describe the chain reaction this set off inside me? It felt as though a handful of flash-powder had been ignited behind my eyes, or like a bolt of lightning originating at my lips had arced down my spine like a Jacob's ladder, sending sparks throughout my nervous system and making the fine hairs on my arms and at the back of my neck stand up. It was a silent cacophony of sensations, a Rube Goldberg chain reaction that left me breathless, the sensation of an irresistible force colliding with an immovable object – to what end? Looking at it subjectively, the gesture likely only lasted only a second or two – but in that space between one breath and the next…

"Emily," I said when I could speak again, "What on earth precipitated that?"

"I've been wanting to for some time now," she confessed soberly, "and the moment seemed right. I don't expect it to change your mind, though. If you're determined to leave, consider it your goodbye kiss. You know where to find me if you do change your mind."

Either she was blind to the fact that I did not wish to abandon her (rather that I expected her to reject me, until approximately seventeen seconds ago) or I had become too adept over the years at keeping my thoughts from showing even as I learned to read those of others from half-conscious gestures. How could I explain it to her? The words would not come.

While I hesitated, the train shuddered and jerked as it pulled into the station and slowed to a halt. Emily stood wordlessly and left the compartment, leaving me to consider the rubble that had until recently been my granite resolve.

I pounded my fist against the seat in frustration. Damn her! Damn her, and damn this whole chain of events, and damn the way she always seemed to get under my skin! Most of all – damn me if I'm going to pile another catastrophe atop the shoddily handled case in Sussex! I was not about to let her walk away thinking that I hated her, nor did I relish the idea that she might come to hate me.

To hell with it, I resolved.

My eye fell upon the book she had left on the seat when she departed – her beloved physics book. I snatched it up and hurried off the train, pausing only briefly to collect my luggage, and waded through a sea of humanity to look for her. I saw her at a distance, picking out the robin's egg blue of her dress as she supervised a cabby loading her luggage onto his hansom. It was too far to see her expression, though the mind's eye offered some viable possibilities. The crowd pressed in on all sides, so that I would not be able to get to her before the hansom drove off.

I tightened my grip on the book and set my jaw. I had told her that I would see her home, and even if I could not proceed along my original plan, I was determined to see her again, on the chance that she would speak with me after my disastrous parting words. Out of the tail of my eye I saw a gap open in the crowd. I dodged in that direction, hunting down another hansom in which to overtake her.

*****

::Emily Cartwright::

What a baffling man he was! His behaviour was so odd on the train – I couldn't even begin to imagine why he would suddenly push me away, after what we'd been through in Sussex. Yes, I was hurt. I had thought that he had grown as fond of me as I had of him – but that just goes to prove how unfathomable and utterly contrary he could be. It was like his insistence that he'd failed me somehow. He knew me, and must have known that I appreciated the risks, and that there was really no earthly way he could have forced me to do something I was not truly willing to do (as my dear father could attest), and that if I wanted to leave after the nocturnal attack, I bloody well would have insisted upon it or walked home. Well, I had given him something to think about, to be sure – that particular gesture of my affection was more of an impulse than anything else, and regret was starting to creep in around the edges – and if he changed his mind he knew where I lived.

I sat back in the hansom as it trundled homewards, and only then did I realise that I'd left my book on the train with Holmes. I briefly debated asking the driver to circle back so I could look for it, but the train had probably pulled away by now, with my book aboard it.

The hansom slowed to a halt in front of the boarding-house, and I was puzzled to find another hansom already parked there. From the winded condition of the horse in its traces, the passenger must have been in a dreadful hurry. I reached out for the door handle, but the door was opened for me from without. I leaned out to see who it was (for the driver certainly could not yet have dismounted) and saw…

"I told you I would see you home," Holmes said quietly, his hand still on the door, and a look on his face as though he had narrowly avoided being hit by a falling piano, "And I have, in spirit at least, kept my word. You are home, and I am seeing you." He glanced back at the recovering horse. "It was, as you have probably surmised, not easy."

"Holmes," I said, more than a bit annoyed, as I stepped down to the pavement, "What do you want?"

He shut the cab door. "Several things, if you will allow me to speak my piece. The first – and arguably most trivial – is to return the book you left on the train when you departed in such haste." I glanced down and was surprised to see that he was indeed holding my book out to me. "Secondly, I wish to apologise if I left you with the wrong impression on the train." His jaw clenched briefly. "I am no judge of women, but I could hardly have mistaken your expression when we parted company as relief that I was relieving you of any obligation on my behalf."

Relieving me of an obligation?! Is that what he thought I'd hear?

"It was your gift to me shortly before we parted that showed me how badly I'd misread you."

A gift? Ah yes… that.

"As per your advice," he said, "I have considered your arguments – particularly that last one. I believe I have come up with a suitable rebuttal for that one, if you wish to receive it."

He wanted to talk. I felt vaguely relieved and slightly disappointed all at once.

"Go ahead," I said. He paused, and then glanced pointedly over his shoulder at each of the cabbies, who abruptly took very great interest in the harnesses of their horses. He turned back and, as if hesitation would make him lose his nerve, abruptly cradled my face in those slender, sensitive hands of his and kissed me on the mouth, carefully as if in experimentation but ultimately quite heartfelt. I felt my knees weaken and I clasped his shoulders for support. So, the logical bit of my brain said, that's how he feels about you. Now what?

Now what, indeed?

He drew himself away and watched me carefully with his grey eyes, as though I was some impending chemical reaction.

"You're trembling," he observed quietly.

"So are you," I replied.

"Fools rush in, Emily, where angels fear to tread."

"Holmes, what on earth…"

"I've been fighting like hell, and I've only managed to exhaust my resources," he replied, "I got into a corner and shored up my defences… and then you had to go and annihilate them on the train. Now, tell me honestly… do you wish to continue along this path? It could get very… complicated."

"Who says complicated is a bad thing?" I asked.

He paused introspectively. "You realise that this is a new twist for me," he said finally, "I shall need time to think more on it." He steeled himself, and then asked, with utmost care, "Would you be available to meet me again Thursday evening, at the café where I first made your acquaintance?"

I said I was, and he looked so immensely relieved that it was all I could do not to laugh. We embraced again briefly, and then he climbed into the cab and was gone.

I smiled. What a baffling man, I thought again, but with more warmth than before.

*****

::And now, a few words from Watson…::

It was nearly seven when Holmes arrived back at Baker Street after his trip to Sussex with Miss Cartwright, balancing a curious potted plant on the palm of one hand.

"Welcome back," I greeted him, "How was Sussex? I heard there was supposed to be an ice storm around there."

"There was a bit of a blow," he replied temperately as he unwound his muffler and hung it and his greatcoat by the door, "Nothing out of the ordinary for mid-November. You may be pleased to know that the investigation was a complete success, though out of respect for the families involved I fear I cannot divulge any of the details at this time. However," he added, turning from rummaging in his coat pocket, "I have brought you back a gift."

"Oh?" I asked. He seldom brought back for me keepsakes of cases in which I did not participate.

He detoured over to the window, where he deposited the plant on the sill, then returned and held out a curious silver case to me. I took it, and he retired at once to his rooms.

To my great confusion, the case held not cigarettes – as I had thought from the general size and shape – but a set of five steel darts, of the sort used by English dart-players. I resolved to ask him about his gift in the morning, but I doubted I would get a sufficient explanation.

*****

[A/N: If you're wondering about the darts, Holmes referenced something relevant very early in the fic.]

Finis.