Chapter Twenty-One: A Fresh Start
It was March of 1896. It was cold, and rainstorms were frequent. Today was one of those rainy days; the showers were inconsistent and the sky had been dark since dawn.
It was some after tea and Holmes sat puffing his pipe and reading over one of his monographs. Watson had left right after tea to see a patient and didn't expect to be back for another hour or so.
It was just as well, Holmes reflected. The month of March had brought rather melancholy thoughts to mind, and the weather was doing nothing to improve his mood. He heard the front door close below him, and Mrs. Hudson's voice.
Holmes glanced at the clock – Watson was back earlier than expected. Perhaps they could see if something was playing at the theatre and take dinner. Perhaps. He went back to his monograph, vaguely wondering what else he might add to it.
He heard the consulting room door open a few minutes later. "Back so soon? Was it not as serious as you –"It was then that he looked toward the doorway, and his voice caught in his throat.
It was her.
Holmes could scarcely believe his eyes. Was this a dream? A trick, surely!
But he slowly rose form his chair. "Miss Andrews?" he asked softly.
She smiled, though her lips trembled. "Mr. Holmes."
To hear her voice again – not the ghost of her voice, but her actual one – caused his heart to beat faster. "Please," Holmes said suddenly, gesturing to the sofa.
"Thank you." She moved closer, into the firelight. She walked as gracefully as ever, looked even more beautiful than he remembered. She was wearing a light blue dress with a faint pinstripe pattern; he didn't recognize the outfit. She sat down, clutching an equally unrecognizable purse in her lap.
Holmes slowly returned to his chair, never taking his eyes off her lest she vanish. "What brings you here? Is everything all right?"
She nodded vigorously. "Oh yes. Everything's fine."
"No trouble with Lanaghan?"
She shook her head. "No. He's been in prison for a long time now."
"Ah." He nodded, and they were quiet for a few moments until his desperate curiosity caused him to repeat softly, "What has brought you here?"
"I…um…." She lowered her eyes and shifted uncomfortably. "I…I came to see you." She bit her lip momentarily. "How are you?" she asked suddenly, peering into his face. "Have…have you been ill? You don't look well, if you'll excuse my saying so."
Holmes didn't respond right away. Him? She'd come back to see him? Why? "…Yes, I've been ill. But I'm feeling better." Now that he thought about it, she didn't look particularly healthy either. She looked as if she'd lost weight.
"Good." She smiled, nodding.
"You came to see me?" he echoed. He looked intensely into her face. "Where is the time machine?"
She gestured to the floor. "Downstairs with my things." She cut the sentence off abruptly.
"Your things?" What things? Does she mean luggage?
"Yes." She swallowed and fiddled with her purse, then pt it down beside her and stood.
Holmes also got to his feet and watched her as she knotted her fingers together. "Mr. Holmes," she began, but couldn't seem to face him, so she turned.
I can't look at his eyes or I'm not going to be able to get this out without crying. "I came back to see you," she repeated. "I brought all my things and the time machine, but I was going to destroy it if—" she cut off her sentence and bit her lip. This wasn't how she'd planned on saying it. Her words were tumbling out; her prepared speech seemed to have vanished without a trace from her mind.
Holmes hung on her every word. Her words tumbled around his brain. 'but I was going to destroy it if…' If what? She was going to destroy the machine if what? If she were to destroy it, she would be stranded here in the—
Everything within him seemed to stop. Even his heart seemed to still itself for a moment. If the time machine was destroyed, she would have to stay here.
Was that what she wanted? Did she have feelings for him? She must! What other reason would she have for staying?
"You…Do you plan on destroying the machine because you… hold some affection for me?" he asked slowly.
Affection? Christine thought. That's putting it lightly. "Yes," she said quietly.
"But only if I return your affections."
Her mouth seemed to have stopped working, and she nodded.
After what seemed like an eternity but was only a moment later, she felt his hand brush against her shoulder. "Then you may destroy it." His voice came quietly, close to her ear.
She raised a trembling hand to her mouth in disbelief, turning to face him. "Mr. Holmes…" she said softly, tears forming in her eyes.
"Miss Andrews…" he whispered in return, and gently took hold of her shoulders. He slowly bent towards her until their lips touched. Her lips were just as sweet and warm as he remembered. He embraced her tentatively, but when she began to return his kiss, he leaned into her, drawing her closer against him. She shyly slid her arms around his neck, which only resulted in a more passionate kiss on his part.
She engulfed his senses. The smell of her, the feel of her body, her hands…. He twined his fingers in her hair, slid his opposite arm around her waist, drawing her closer still. He could feel her heart pattering against his own, which was beating so rapidly he was quite sure it would leave his chest.
Suddenly the door swung fully open. "Oh! I beg your pardon!"The embarrassed, apologetic voice of Watson reached their ears, and they swiftly parted.
All Christine saw of the doctor was his hand as he promptly retreated from the room. "Dr. Watson!" she called.
There were quick footsteps, and the door once again opened. "Miss Andrews?" he exclaimed, wide-eyed. His face was flushed a deep red from his awkward entry, but the color began to fade fast.
She laughed, nodding.
He laughed also, coming forward and crying, "Good Lord! Whatever are you doing here?"
"I…um, well…" She glanced at Mr. Holmes and blushed slightly.
Watson noted this and looked at Holmes, but the detective's gaze was averted. He nodded knowingly. "Well I'm very glad to see you!" he said, trying to relieve some of the uncomfortable atmosphere. He came forward and grasped her hands. "Are – do you plan on staying?"
"Yes," Christine said, looking back at Mr. Holmes, who caught her eye. "Yes, I do."
- - -
On August 6 of 2008, Walter Birmingham received a package in the mail. It was small, rectangular and flat. He opened it to find a video tape.
He enjoyed a movie as much as the next man, but what rushed him to the player was the fact that he recognized the writing upon the tape to be his goddaughter's, who had been missing since March.
He pushed in the tape and hurriedly sat down on the edge of his footstool.
There was some static, and then the face of Christine greeted him.
"Hi, Walter," she said, smiling. "I hope you're sitting down." She spoke slowly, carefully and clearly, as if she wanted every word to count. "By the time you receive this, hype over my disappearance will have calmed down considerably." She folded her hands. "Now, I don't want you to worry. I'm just fine – I haven't been kidnapped or anything like that – I told you the same thing on my video will, which I'm sure you've watched. Now. The fact that you saw the will and are watching this video confirms the fact that I am gone. And," she added, pausing, "I'm afraid I won't be coming back." She held up her hands. "Don't think for one minute that it's anything you did or anything related to the company. It's not even about Dad's death, like I told you in the will. That was a false statement.
But Jason Lanaghan did have something to do with it. The night he broke in something happened that I haven't told anyone…."
An hour later, Walter sat staring at Christine's face, paused on the television screen. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson? Victorian London? The machine actually worked? It was a bit much for him to think about, but he unpaused the tape and continued to watch.
"When I took off work, my feelings for Mr. Holmes only grew stronger. So I made up my mind to do research on the Victorian era so I could go back. I attended classes at Oxford, talked to historians; I had duplicate trunks and bags made, not to mention clothing. I had some photographs of mum and dad antiqued so I could take them with me…." She trailed off and folded her hand sin her lap again. "Please don't dismiss this as a rash decision. I thought very long and hard about it." She looked at him sadly. "I'm really going to miss you, Walter. You've been like a second father to me." She began to say something else, but her voice cracked and she held up one finger as if to say 'one minute' and disappeared off camera.
She returned a few moments later holding a tissue. "This…isn't an easy decision for me to make." She sniffed and looked down at her hands. "But if I don't go back to him and tell him how I feel, I'll never be able to be happy again. And if you're watching this, it means that he loves me too and has wanted me to stay." She smiled through her tears, squeezing the tissue in her hands. "I wish I could keep talking to you forever. But the tape's probably going to run out soon." She laughed shakily. "I'm going to miss you, Walter," she repeated. "I hop you know that I love you. I always will." She paused to wipe at her eyes, then took a deep breath and looked at him squarely.
"At the Sherlock Holmes museum, there is a somewhat loose floorboard. It is the fifth board in from the front door. I will place a key under that floorboard; I understand that the floor has never been replaced, only reinforced."
Walter paused the tape and scrambled in his briefcase for a pen and a piece of paper, then unpaused the tape again.
"At Charing Cross," Christine continued, "there is an old building that used to be the bank of Cox and Company. The company is now known as Cox and Kings, and is located down the street at 30 Millbank. I've talked to the staff there, and they've informed me that they saved everything they could from the vaults after they were bombed in World War II. The key underneath the floorboards of the museum goes to a box owned by Cox and Kings. I will place further proof for you to find there." She paused again and clenched the tissue in her hands.
Walter could tell that she was doing her utmost not to cry, and found his own throat tightening.
"I love you, Walter," she whispered. As tears began to run down her face, she leaned forward and the tape went black.
"I love you too, Christine."
- - -
"Well," Watson said, glancing at the clock on the mantle which read 10:00, "It's late, and I've had a rather long day." He yawned.
Watson could lie beautifully when he wanted to, Holmes reflected. Now wasn't one of those times. That yawn was the falsest one he'd ever seen. He raised his eyebrow and cocked his head slightly at Watson.
The doctor seemed to pick up on his doubt, and stood to take Miss Andrews' hand. "Good night, Miss Andrews."
"Good night, doctor."
"Good night, Holmes."
The doctor took his leave, shutting the door behind him.
Christine turned to Mr. Holmes, who after a moment of staring at her, took her hands and held them in his. She pulled at them slightly, causing him to get out of his chair to sit next to her.
It had finally settled in his mind that she truly intended to stay, and now he was wondering why. She has feelings for me, but to give up her life? "What about the future?" he asked quietly. "You gave up everything to come back here?"
She lowered her eyes and nodded. "I made all the necessary arrangements. Walter is president of the company, and he has a lot of good men and women working for him. I left my house to Walter and my cousin, and split the money I had between the company, my family and charity. I took some of my things with me – they're in my suitcases – but left everything else to my family."
"What did you tell them?"
"On my video will I – it's a will that you can record onto a film – I told them that I had left because of my father's death, and the Lanaghan ordeal had pushed me to a point where I had to start over fresh."
"They don't know anything about the machine?"
"No…but I've made arrangements for a package to be mailed to Walter in August. By that time, all the commotion over my disappearance will have died down. The contents of the package will tell him the truth."
"You've thought through everything."
"Yes I have. Many, many times." She paused and stared into his face in such a way that it made his heart pound. "I had to come back. I couldn't bear being separated from you any longer."
Holmes suddenly got up from his seat and went to his desk.
Christine watched him curiously, straining to see what he was getting from his desk drawer. He soon closed the drawer and returned holding a neatly folded handkerchief, which he handed to her.
"It's yours," He answered.
She gave him a quizzical look, but began to unwrap the handkerchief. A dull shine greeted her eyes as she pulled back a corner, and her mouth parted in disbelief. "My locket! Where did you—"
"I found it the night you left, under the sofa."
"And you kept it."
She smiled at him and clasped the locket around her neck, glad to feel its familiar weight against her throat once more. "Thank you," she said, placing her hand over his.
All of a sudden he pulled her against him, securing her in his arms. "You've no idea how I've missed you," he whispered in her ear.
"Yes I have," she whispered back, and tilting her head, kissed him.
- - -
The next day, Walter went into the city, straight for Baker Street. The museum wasn't open today, but as the Andrews and Birmingham families were great monetary supporters of the historic sites around London, the caretaker made an exception.
The caretaker, whose name was Doyle (a descendant of Dr. Watson's editor) retired to his office and allowed Walter free roam of the place.
As quietly as he could, Walter took a flathead screwdriver from his coat pocket and counted five floorboards from the front door and pried it up.
He saw nothing. But he bent down further and felt around. Just when he was going to give up, his fingertips brushed against what felt like a cloth. He closed his hand around it and pulled it into view. It was a very old, very dusty lace handkerchief. There was something small and hard inside. A key.
After replacing the floorboard and with a quick thank you to the caretaker, Walter raced to his car, heading for 30 Millbank.
It was a very new, classy looking building. He went inside, and asked for some assistance from a Cox and Kings employee.
"Hello, sir, may I help you?"
"Yes. I'm looking for the box that this key belongs to." He handed the man the key, who studied it.
"Let me get the vice president," he said. "He deals with all matters concerning those old boxes."
After waiting for what seemed like an uncomfortably long time, the vice president came down to meet him. "Hello, Mr. Birmingham, I'm Mr. Kay."
"Nice to meet you."
"Likewise. So what's this I hear about a key?"
Walter handed it to him.
After a moment, he looked up at Walter strangely.
"Where did you get this?" he asked.
"I found it in my house," Walter lied, "In an old trunk."
"It's a very old key indeed. Antique, I should think. But I do believe we still have the box. This way."
Walter was led down some stairs, into a series of hallways and past many rooms whose only function appeared to be storage. The man seemed to know where he was going, and Walter obediently followed. At last, at the end of one poorly lit corridor, the man unlocked a closet with and after rummaging around, took out a battered and worn tin box. It looked as if it had had a name painted on it at one time, but it was beyond recognition now.
"You can take it with you," Mr. Kay said, looking at the box in curiosity. "Since you had the key, I guess it belongs to you. We were just going to get rid of these things anyway."
When Walter reached his house, he could barely wait to look inside the box. He took the key and opened the tin box, glad and amazed that the lock hadn't rusted over.
The box was crammed with yellowed, curled papers, most tied neatly with string. He took some of these out; he did not recognize the hand writing on them, but caught the word "Dr. John Watson" on more than one of them.
At the bottom of the box was a sheaf of papers, neatly stacked and tied with a pink ribbon. The top paperread Walter Birmingham.
He recognized Christine's writing at once, though she rarely wrote in cursive. The paper was old and smelled musty, and looked as though it had been written with a fountain pen or something similar.
He untied the string, and discovered that the sheaf of papers consisted of a series of short letters and timelines, illustrating the life Christine had led. They were all dated, ranging from 1895 through the early 1900s. He gingerly took up the first letter, but something fluttered down the floor from further down the pile, and he stooped to pick it up.
It was a photograph.
Walter's breath caught and tears welled in his eyes as he recognized Christine. She was older in the photograph, though not much, her hair up in a loose style, wearing a high-necked dress. A slight smile played on her features as she leaned against a chair. In the chair, a tall dark haired man with an aquiline nose sat that Walter could only assume was Sherlock Holmes.
Precious few photos of the detective existed, but from this photo, Walter gathered that he was a strong willed man. But underneath that apparent strong will, in the way he was shifted slightly in Christine's direction, he could tell that he would be good to her.
He would love her, and that was all that mattered.
Cox and Co.: This is where Watson reportedly stored all of his unpublished cases and what not, as recorded in the beginning of The Problem of Thor Bridge. The original Cox and Co. building at Charing Cross was bombed during the Blitz.
*dances* Yay!! It is completed!!
Sorry the ended rambled on for a bit, I couldn't think of how to end it properly. Also sorry for how delayed this was. Work and school have been very crazy and demanding lately, but finals are over now so it's better.
I would like to thank you all for reading and reviewing this story; it was a blast to write and I'm rather proud that I finished a fan fiction.
If any one would like to see A Study in Time related art, please go to my DeviantArt site at silvreDOTdeviantartDOTcom. And if anyone would like to do fanart, I would be very excited and flattered :P
Now that ASIT is finished, I have to go back and finish another fanfiction project, World Warriors. But after that is complete, I have plans for several more adventures of Christine and Holmes, so stay tuned!