A/N: In introduction, this will be a series of fics of assorted lengths, dealing with what I view as popular misconceptions from the Canon. It will include several arcs, perhaps mere oneshots and perhaps multi-chaptered, and has been bouncing around in my plot bunny cage for a long while; I've just been prey to a bad case of writer's block of late.
By very definition, these stories will of course be based upon the Canon as I interpret it; no offense is meant to anyone who believes or interprets differently any of the issues discussed. Merely my chance to address different issues as I see fit; I hope you can enjoy them despite a possible difference in opinion.
First up: Mary-Holmes-Watson arc (beginning from my Situations drabble #20)
Being a single lady, and an orphan, in a bustling, sociable city such as London is not necessarily a bad thing. I am not in the least inclined to frivolous chatter as so many of those silly gossiping housewives and young women of my acquaintance are, and as such I have no real desire to expand the small and intimate circle that enfolds my social life.
Being at such a difficult age, not a girl and (thank heaven) not a spinster, but somewhere in-between – therein lies the true difficulty in finding one's place in the world. However, I am perfectly content to love and be loved by the kindest and most unselfish man in London, and I am in want of nothing more than that infinite boon.
It was, therefore, with some surprise that I heard the bell ring one wet and chilly evening last late November, at an hour when all of Mrs. Forrester's friends and neighbours knew she was out and about doing her charity work. I had no friends to speak of, and John had told me that he had been working twelve-hour shifts in Paddington to cover a bad influenza epidemic that had swept that entire area. The caller had better not be he, not when he should be spending every free moment of his time in resting himself; I had told him so in no uncertain terms only last week and he should know better than to call in such a exhausted state.
Consequently thinking it to be the postman or some such mundane domestic errand-boy, I made my way to the door and answered it, while carefully keeping well within the vestibule to prevent water from deluging the wallpaper.
I admit to a bit of well-hidden amusement upon seeing the dolefully dripping figure huddled under the tiny bit of shelter the eaves gave upon the grey stone stoop. Mr. Sherlock Holmes favoured me with a mournful look, and then scuttled wordlessly into the hall like a wet black spider when I opened the door wide enough to admit him, about three gallons of dirty rain-water, and a dead bird the neighbour's cat had left as an offering to the goddess of Milk and/or Cream (Mrs. Forrester is the soft-hearted type when it comes to animals' pampering).
My fiance's friend shivered briefly, his stark black overcoat glistening silver with damp; mechanically kicked the bird back out into the walk; and then, as if in a frantic afterthought, doffed his soaking top hat to me with a murmured apology that I accepted graciously.
"Could I get you a cup of hot tea, Mr. Holmes?" I inquired after he had awkwardly and painfully destroyed the initial pleasantries about being delighted to see him again, etc., etc.
"No, thank you," he replied instantly, finally straightening up and peering at me in a businesslike manner. What business that was, I would soon see.
I glanced once in as unobtrusive a way as a lady properly can over his dripping person, and then frowned and rang for the maid, telling her to fetch my cloak.
Mr. Holmes blinked, two great grey eyes fixing upon my person as if hypnotical. The man really does have an odd practice of staring at people, a habit that John says he has not been able to break the man of in so many years. I suppose there are less pleasant sensations than to be regarded with a mixture of wary admiration and a good bit of healthy fear...specially from an intelligent and rather attractive man.
Not that he is in the least comparable to my John. No one is, naturally.
"I take it you had the cab wait, Mr. Holmes?" I asked, taking my hat from the rack in the hall. Honestly, I do wish the ladies' clothing manufacturers would find some sort of headwear that needn't be fastened down by a dozen or more straight pins that are as much lethal weapons as fashion accessories. I wonder if ladies will ever regard practicality as an asset to be balanced and considered as much as fashion is?
Mr. Holmes blinked again, this time starting in a cold shiver as if I had said something unexpected. "I beg your pardon, Miss Morstan?"
"You want me to come back with you to see to John, correct?" I returned, somewhat mystified. Was the man not supposed to be the most perceptive observer in London, if John's fascinating praise-singing was at all accurate?
"I – well, yes," Mr. Holmes admitted slowly, his eyes suddenly sharpening into two steel needle-points, ready to stitch together the pieces of some pretty puzzle. "Might I be impertinent if I were to ask how you were able to find that out?"
"I am well aware of your abhorrence of social visits, Mr. Holmes," I said in a streak of very unladylike mischief, to which I had the satisfaction of seeing him splutter slightly. "And especially you seem to avoid being left in my company whenever I visit in your and John's home. To see you here is nothing short of a small miracle, or else a small emergency. Thank you, Elsa," I added to our maid, who curtseyed and helped me on with my cloak.
Mr. Holmes raised an eyebrow, requesting (or more likely well-bredly demanding) my continuance.
"I prefer the logical explanation before that of a miraculous change of heart, all things considered," I added dryly, positioning my hat and checking my appearance in the wall mirror – which needed cleaning, as it put a halo over my hair, making it look even more gold than it truly was. "Your landlady is obviously abroad, as there is both fresh and old mud caked upon your overcoat. You have buttoned said coat wrong, if you will pardon me, and your eyes are worried…but not frantic," I added upon another inspection of that piercing stare. "Is my fiancé ill, then – not injured? And you do not want to call another physician?"
"Yes," the man opted for the simple answer, evidently, though he was regarding me with a cautious air reminiscent of a tiger-tamer I had seen in India as a girl. Am I so intimidating? Or just to him? "He gave me express instructions that I was not to bother any of his medico friends over a simple influenza, as half the populace is currently down with the ailment. And may I ask how you deduced, Miss Morstan, that I was going to appeal for you to accompany me back to Baker Street?"
"Simply that I should like to see you endeavour to prevent me," I retorted, archly matching his wary, almost half-mocking skepticism in feminine perfection.
This elicited a short bark of laughter from him, and I saw the hard lines around his eyes – he really was worried about his friend – suddenly smooth out slightly, making him look quite a bit kinder, less harsh.
"After you then, my lady," said he with a rather over-exaggerated bow.
Mr. Holmes opened the door, and promptly soaked the entire hall, including both of us, with rain. A small vase teetered in the rush of misty wind, and I hastily snatched it before it hit the floor and shattered both itself and the detective's horrified pocketbook.
I refrained from a fit of girlish giggles with an effort, as I saw an exclamation form upon his lips that probably would not be considered proper in mixed company (though I had certainly heard it and worse) and just as quickly be bitten back as he skulked out of the door and into the deluge, scowling at the rain as if it were all Nature's fault that his orderly mind had been disrupted by the cosmos spinning out of his sole control.
I followed, locking the door behind me and praying that Elsa would have the sense to clean the hall before Mrs. Forrester returned. Even a trusted friend might be treading on thin ice where water damage is concerned in an old and lovely house.
To be continued, as my writer's block (hopefully) will start to fade.