A/n: I have no clue what madness made me write this. And I'm sweating to think what in the world people will think--well, what of it? I shall post my madness!
James Usher is the creation of AmatorLinguae. Now that I read her story, "Deceased Pugilist," I think of James as Holmes' chemist. ^^
Holmes closed the bedroom door carefully behind him, hurrying to the fireplace--and not only to seek warmth from the winter cold: he was constantly worrying a ring on his left hand, and as soon as he neared the ember's glow, he held the hand up for inspection. The band of gold shone dully in the burnished light.
The ring seemed very tight.
Supposing it wouldn't come off?
He gave a tug, but it didn't move. Breathing faster he began to scrabble at it, pulling until it hurt, but to no avail. He turned it and twisted it but it had a death grip on him. The skin was beginning to be worn raw but he did not give up, though it was becoming difficult indeed to breathe.
"No, I…I must be rational about this. Perhaps it only wants a little water, to come off. It will be quite all right, I am…certain…" He stared in front of him, making no move to the water pitcher on the table. "Everything is fine…my mind is only playing tricks."
He glanced in the direction of his chemicals, but dismissed the thought. A gold ring was an expensive thing to replace, and his finger would be eaten off in the process anyway.
"And the ring finger is quite useful," he mused, looking at the finger on his right hand—strong, unfettered. "Life would be quite difficult without it, in fact. What is this nonsense in my mind…I should distract myself, and perhaps I can do something useful as well. I'll…I'll conduct an experiment, of course—that one with carbonic acid that I've had to put off for ages."
More than ages, he mused, striding to the deal-top table. With parties he couldn't escape and so much talk about fittings and guest lists and then the wedding today…
He paused, a beaker in his hand.
"Am I now…in fact…a married man?"
He tried to catch his breath, tried to understand…his ring clinked against the beaker, and it seemed like a sour note of music. He set it down hurriedly and began to pace. "She said 'I do,' I remember…and so did I, though it seemed the words came of their own will. And now?" He paused before the fire, looking at the raging inferno. "Now…it is quite settled, it is the end. Watson told me…he couldn't believe it, so did Lestrade…no one thought…I would marry, neither did I."
He looked up at the mantle, something catching his eye. "I told her we would begin to unpack her things tomorrow," he mused, picking up the little wooden-framed picture set beside his pipe. He laughed softly as her gentle eyes looked back at him. "That girl, Watson, acted like a demure kitten all that morning—and during the photography…and so it was I never suspected—though I should have—that she'd set a practical joke for me; her way of making up for the whole session, I suppose. I've never been much for ph…" he trailed off, as he looked slowly round to the armchair and found it empty. He looked away, carefully replacing the picture.
He found himself walking slowly to a rug spread on the floor, and he circled it, hands behind his back. I stand on the very spot where immortal words were penned. How's that for a bit of florid romanticism, Watson?
He sighed, worrying at the gold ring again. It seemed to be growing tighter and sharper. "Perhaps I could heat it, hold my hand to the fire…if I can only make the metal expand…"
Five minutes later he had his hand in the water pitcher up to his wrist, brows knit and bottom lip clamped between his teeth.
In the same manner a ticking clock, when focused on, seems to grow louder and louder until it scrapes against a person's very nerves, the ring felt more bulky, uncomfortable and worrisome by the moment. Yet every remedy seemed doomed to failure.
"Not even butter will move this bloody thing," he growled, sitting at the table and looking in disgust at his now-greasy hand. "By Jove, I think this finger is going to fall off if I keep this up all night."
He closed his eyes tightly. Just count to ten…you'll forget the whole thing.
She blinking drowsily awake, to find her husband shaking her by the shoulders. "What is it, Sherlock? What's wrong?"
"Will you help me take this ring off? It's…stuck."
She rubbed sleep from her eyes. "Well, rings are meant to stay on."
"But I need it to come off," he insisted. "If you won't help, I'll just find another way. Ah—careful, woman. It's…"
"What have you been doing to your finger? There's butter and…Sherlock, I don't suppose I'll ever understand you," she laughed kindly, and taking a handkerchief she wrapped it around the ring and tried a delicate touch. "Hmm…it is stuck. It happens sometimes, in the morning it may be different."
"May be different?"
"What's wrong? Tell me, please."
He shook his head.
"Perhaps a good night's sleep will make things brighter in the morning. Think about something altogether different. Your most challenging case, or—"
"Well, but there's still a problem: where will I sleep?"
She blinked. "In bed, of course."
"I can't do that, you're already in it. Why didn't I think of solving this problem earlier?" He paced in the moonlight, a soft groan tearing itself from him. "I don't really want to sleep on the couch tonight…but I'll not force you to sleep there either…What am I going to do?"
Abigail turned away, her shoulders quivering in muffled laughter, and looked back with a straight and serious face. "What if…I sleep under the blankets, and you sleep on top? Only with a different blanket to cover you." She patted the bed beside her. "And…we could each sleep fairly close to the edges, so there is space in between, a little anyway."
Holmes paused, hand on chin. "It's…possible. Let me fetch a few afghans from the sitting room and think on the matter."
When he returned, his face was composed. "I will try. It may not be pleasant, but—what does not kill me, only makes me stronger."
Abigail sighed, moving over. "Sherlock dear, I promise you I don't have a dagger under my pillow. You've no need to worry about death tonight."
Holmes merely grunted in reply, carefully easing himself onto the edge of the bed, quite close to the edge. He flung the blanket over himself—he was still wearing his clothes—and sank his head into the pillow, relaxing at the familiar scent. The room was dark and silent, and peaceful…
"Don't be angry, I was only wondering something."
"Did you have to wonder it out loud?" He fumbled at the ring again.
"Weren't you—well--Sherlock, didn't you know married people share a bed?"
"Theoretically. Things seem different in practice, and I suppose I sort of glossed that part over. That's to say—I only imagined things in day time."
"I only imagined things in daytime..."
"That's what I said, yes."
"It has a sort of…poetry to it, somehow."
Holmes turned restlessly. "Abigail, please don't go and make that sentence into a poem."
"You knew I was a poet when you married me."
"I sort of…"
"Glossed that part over too."
"Yes. To be sure, your poems aren't badly written…"
"When have you read my poems? Have you looked in my book—you have! Sherlock!" She laughed. "Then you must have found the poem about you! Dear me, I would have liked to see your face when you read it."
"I don't think I had ever made a face quite like it before."
"Why do you keep fidgeting like that?"
"Because I can't get this ring off!" He sat up, dousing his face in the moonbeams and attacking his finger overtly.
"Please don't, you'll do yourself an injury…and the more you chafe it the more it will become inflamed and then there'll be no getting the ring off for some time. So please just try to think about something else? Dear?"
Holmes fell back, panting and exhausted. When he opened his eyes he frowned. "You're on my side."
"I just wanted to be sure you were all right."
"Please stop touching my hair, Abigail. I don't like it."
Abigail returned to her side with a deep sigh. "Has anyone ever told you that you're a little trying, Sherlock?"
"Whether they have or whether they haven't does not change who I am, so as far as I can see it makes no difference."
A cab passed by in the dark.
"John looked so happy for you today…"
"Abigail, I'm trying to sleep!" Holmes flung the blanket over his head.
"But I know you can't, because you won't stop that fidgeting. I'm only trying to take your mind onto something else."
"It can't be done, so you may as well give it—"
"Are you all right?"
"Yes, quite." Holmes rubbed his head and looked up at her sheepishly. "It's not very far to the floor, I assure you Abby. Perhaps…I could move just a little closer to the middle."
"Certainly, if you like," she yawned, pulling the blankets up to her shoulders.
"I was just thinking…I have to go to the chemist's tomorrow, purchase some nitric acid and a base or two…would you like to come? I don't think you've ever been to James Usher's, and it's a lovely place. Anything you could imagine for any experiment…and James is a good man, very friendly. And…well, you might get inspiration for some poems. The sun twinkling on the glass flasks and all…"
"I don't think I could pass up the chance."
"Ah, good. We'll go after lunch then." Holmes settled into the blankets, smiling up at the darkened ceiling. "And when we get back I'll start the experiment…and you can write, perhaps--what are you moving away from me for?"
"Oh--I was just making sure you had enough space."
"But now you'll fall off the edge! Come back to the middle."
She moved closer; he eyed her uneasily before turning his gaze back to the ceiling.
"What's that noise, Sherlock?"
"Only the house, creaking in the cold…and look, I can see my breath. I suppose I'm glad to have you next to me, Abby—you're rather like a hot waterbottle."
She laughed softly. "Glad to help. This winter has really been vile…my friends couldn't understand why I was having a winter wedding."
"Hm. I should think their main bafflement would be why you were marrying me at all, not the season of the ceremony."
"Well—that too. I never had any explanations for that question…except for that day, you know, and no one ever understands when I…"
"Yes…when I tell my—er—acquaintances about it, they don't—well, what of it. It's just…"
"One of those things."
They lay in the dark quietly.
"You're touching my hair again," he observed.
"It's so soft…"
"So are drapes, but I don't go about all day petting them. This isn't going to become a habit, is it?"
"Not if you don't like it. Shall I stop?"
"Hm, well…" he closed his eyes in thought, as her fingers ran softly through his hair. "I suppose I can get used to it."
The moonlight shone now on his ring, and the frosty light circling the band of gold was silent music.