A/N: I guess you guys didn't really like the last chapter, since it didn't get many reviews, but, OH MY GOSH! THE LAST CHAPTER! I just want to take a moment and thank everyone who's ever read this, especially those who are loyal readers and reviewers. This is far from the end, though, don't worry. Just think of it as the end of phase one. I hope this one doesn't disappoint!
Clara nervously stood outside the door of her former home. It was strange, knocking on the door that she had so often passed through. Holmes and Watson stood on either side of her, mildly worried about what to expect. As soon as she opened the door, Clara's mother clamped her hand to her mouth in shock – for a moment, it seemed as if she was going to faint.
"Clara?!" she asked, afraid she was seeing a ghost, "What are you doing here? Why didn't you warn me you were coming?"
"Well, I just happened to be in the area…" she began, before her mother embraced her tightly, almost lifting her off the ground. Clara inhaled sharply.
"Mum, you're hurting me," she said.
"Oh, sorry!" her mother exclaimed, letting go of her quickly and wiping a few stray tears from her eyes.
"What's happened to your wrist? And your hair?" she asked in shock.
Clara opened her mouth to respond, but Holmes cleared his throat; he and Watson were still standing awkwardly on the doorstep.
"Oh, yes, of course! How silly of me!" Clara exclaimed. "These are my – er – friends, Detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson," she explained to her mother.
"Friends?" Mrs. Barker repeated in disbelief.
"Yes, mother, friends," Clara said shortly.
"And this," she began, turning to Holmes and Watson, "is my mother, Mrs. Annabel Barker."
"Delighted to meet you," her mother said cheerfully, stepping forth and offering her hand to the two men. Both Holmes and Watson greeted the elder woman politely. Clara resisted the urge to roll her eyes at her mother's flirtatious tone – what opposites they were.
"Please, come in," her mother continued, ushering the small group into the house. As Holmes and Watson walked in front of the two women, out of earshot, Mrs. Barker said to her daughter, "I sent you away to find a man and you come back with two!"
Clara blushed furiously, hoping neither of the men had heard her. "It's not like that, mother!" she insisted, lightly elbowing her mother in the arm. Mrs. Barker smirked back at her snidely, but didn't say anything else.
She walked to the foot of the stairs and called, "John, George, come down, we have company!" Then, she walked into the kitchen to fix some refreshments.
Clara led her companions to the sitting room and motioned for them to sit down. Holmes grinned at her mockingly.
"Oh, shut up," she said to him, lightly smacking him on the shoulder. Watson, too, smirked at her amusedly from the comfort of his armchair. Yes, they'd clearly heard her mother's comment. Clara took a seat on the settee, across from the two men. All of a sudden, a boy of about ten or eleven came barreling into the room. His hair was the same color as his sister's, and his face shone with youthful exuberance.
"Clara?!" he cried excitedly.
"Johnny!" Clara called back, standing up and opening her arms; her little brother ran over and hugged her happily.
"I've missed you," she said, kissing the top of his head. Suddenly, she remembered Holmes and Watson.
"Who are they?" her brother asked, somewhat rudely.
"John, remember your manners," Clara scolded. "This is Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson," she explained.
Watson briskly shook the young boy's hand. "Always a pleasure to meet another John," he said, smiling. John grinned back at him toothily – Watson would be a wonderful father one day, Clara noted.
"Oh, I hadn't even realized! You two are both Johns," Clara remarked.
Holmes was a little more apprehensive than his friend – he didn't particularly enjoy such formalities. But, he was still kind to the child. "Nice to meet you, old chap," he said, shaking John's small hand.
A few minutes later, Clara's father meandered into the room. Clara went over to him and he embraced his daughter joyfully.
"How is my sister?" he asked.
"She's wonderful, I'll give her your regards when we return," Clara replied.
She turned to Holmes and Watson and said, "John, Sherlock, this is my father, Mr. George Barker." "Father, this is Dr. John Watson and Mr. Sherlock Holmes," she said to her father.
Mr. Barker had always been a friendly man, and he shook the other two men's hands warmly. "Pleased to meet you," he began, "Now, if you don't mind me asking, how do you know my daughter?"
"Oh, don't start the story just yet," Mrs. Barker said while trying to balance a heaping tray of food and drinks. Clara stood to help her mother. When the tray was securely on the coffee table, Mr. and Mrs. Barker took a seat on either side of their daughter, while John sat on the floor between Holmes and Watson – clearly, he had taken a liking to the two strangers.
"Aunt Martha is their landlady," Clara began, "and that is how we first met. The rest is rather complicated, I'm sure you don't want to hear…" However, almost in unison, the three other Barkers said "We want to hear!"
And so, Clara, Holmes, and Watson explained their adventures from the past few months (leaving out the more unpleasant details, of course). While Mrs. Barker looked mildly horrified at the end of the tale, John and his father were both in complete awe. John, particularly, could barely contain his excitement.
"You threw a knife and it hit him from that far away?! You must have wicked aim!" he said to Watson who smiled kindly at the boy's enthusiasm. "And Clara," he said, turning to his sister, "I never would have thought you of all people would be involved in all this."
"Yes, well," Clara began timidly, "things have changed, I suppose…"
Mrs. Barker snorted in a rather un-ladylike manner. "Changed is right. Clara, I think later we may need to have a little chat. Not in front of the company, though, of course," she said.
"Whatever you say, mother," Clara muttered coolly. She was so tired of people telling her how to act – it was beyond the point of being intolerable.
"Mrs. Barker, I would just really like to say, you've raised an absolutely wonderful daughter, you should be very proud," Watson said. What a sycophant, Holmes thought sardonically, smirking.
Mrs. Barker beamed at him. "Why, I don't know about that, dear. You're too kind," she said, giggling girlishly. "Now, Doctor Watson, are you married?" she asked. At least try not to be so transparent, mother, Clara thought to herself.
Watson cleared his throat – this was quite the sensitive subject. "Yes, I am, Mrs. Barker. My wife is a lovely woman named Mary," he replied.
"Pity," Mrs. Barker said lightly. Clara shook her head dolefully at her mother's lack of tact.
"What about you, Mr. Holmes?" she asked, turning to Holmes.
Holmes loosened his collar awkwardly. "Why, no, I'm not, ma'am," he said. Mrs. Barker's eyes lit up.
"Annabel, dear, I think you're making the poor man uncomfortable," Mr. Barker interjected. He was usually very passive, but things were beginning to get out of hand.
"Nonsense, George. You're fine, aren't you dear?" she asked. Cutting Holmes off before he had the chance to respond, she continued, "Yes, of course he is." Clara locked eyes with Holmes apologetically.
"Aw, mum, for goodness sakes, lay off 'im," John said defensively. The boy has his sister's vivacity… Holmes noted fondly.
"Fine," Mrs. Barker said, sniffing haughtily, "have it your way."
"How are Harry and George?" Clara asked, changing the subject.
"They're both fine. Harry's doing quite well at Cambridge and George's studies are going splendidly," Mr. Barker replied.
"George, my oldest, is studying to be a doctor as well," Mrs. Barker proudly said to Watson.
"How wonderful," Watson said politely. Clara could tell that he was starting to get a tad annoyed with her mother, so she decided to step in.
"Well, mother, we really must be going. I just thought we should stop by to say hello," she said, helping her mother clear the dishes.
"Oh, so soon? Darling, you've just arrived!" her mother protested once inside the kitchen.
"Yes, but we really need to get back to London. Mr. Watson has to return to his wife, you know," she countered. Together, they began to wash the dishes.
"I suppose you're right…" Mrs. Barker began. In a hushed tone, so that the men in the other room wouldn't hear, she added, "What about that Holmes man, dear. Sure, he's a bit eccentric, but, at your age, beggars can't be choosers…"
"Mother!" Clara hissed in outrage, throwing down her dish towel. "I will marry if I am in love, and that's that. Under no other circumstances will I consider it. You must just let it go, I'm not you – I don't want to start a family," she said.
"Clara," Mrs. Barker soothed, "don't be cross with me, it's just, as women, we must be practical. This is a man's world, darling. I don't know where you're getting these fantasies of love – perhaps we've indulged you with too many books. Maybe the city is more liberal in its tendencies, but you will never be able to be self sufficient. What you're doing now is all fine and well, but it cannot last. What will you do when you're my age?"
"Mother…" she started, putting her face in her hands, "If. I. Fall. In. Love, maybe then I'll get married."
"What about Mr. Holmes, though? You two seem to have a fine relationship. What's the harm?" Mrs. Barker pressed.
"Mother, please, just stop," she pleaded. She looked up at the ceiling to stop the tears from falling from her eyes.
"Fine," her mother said shortly, frustrated with her daughter's stubbornness. They finished cleaning in silence.
When Clara left the kitchen, Holmes and Watson could tell that something was wrong.
"Are you alright?" Watson asked, gently touching Clara's shoulder.
"I'm fine," she said resolvedly. "Let's just go," she added. She bid her family goodbye and hugged her parents tightly. She would miss all of them – even her mother, despite their fight.
"G'bye, Clara," John said sadly.
"Good bye, Johnny. I'll write you soon," Clara said.
"Bye Mr. Holmes, Mr. Watson," he said, shaking their hands vigorously. Clara chuckled at her little brother as Watson ruffled his hair.
"So long," Clara called, waving back at her family as Holmes helped her into the coach.
"That certainly wasn't what I expected," Watson laughed as they neared London. The first part of the journey had been passed in near silence, on account of Clara's foul mood. However, she cheered up as soon as they got closer to the city.
"Yes, my mother is a bit overbearing…" Clara said embarrassedly. "They certainly loved the both of you," she said laughing.
"It must run in the family," Holmes said dryly.
"Oh, hush!" Clara said playfully, somewhat shocked at his boldness (although, one should never be shocked by anything that comes out of Holmes' mouth).
She looked over at Watson to notice him staring at her and Holmes strangely, but he broke her gaze immediately. Her smile dropped, as she looked out the window and told herself, It can never be. It can never be.
First, they dropped off Watson. When he exited the coach, Mary was waiting for him on the doorstep. She hugged him tightly and he spun her around a couple times before she whispered something in his ear. He looked surprised at first, but then he kissed her and they both laughed happily. Holmes had been watching them too, and Clara made eye contact with him. He gave her a quick insincere smile – almost a twitch – before looking away.
A wave of relief passed over Clara as they reached 221b Baker Street. The moment they walked in the door, they were assaulted by Mrs. Hudson.
"Where in God's name have you been?! It's one thing for you to run off on your own, Mr. Holmes, but it's a completely different story when my niece is involved!" she cried.
"Calm yourself, Madam. You lovely niece and I just went on a little trip. We visited your relatives, by the way," he said evenly.
"You did?" she asked in disbelief. Clara nodded in confirmation. "They send their regards," she said shortly.
"Now, if you don't mind, I think I need to wash up after that trip," Holmes said, turning sharply on his heel and starting up the staircase.
"That sounds like a lovely idea," Clara added, "Will you please excuse me?"
"Alright," Mrs. Hudson said belligerently. "But, be sure to tell me next time you run off like that. I was worried sick!" she added.
As Clara washed her face, she thought over ever thing that had happened. She tied her hair up and put a bonnet over it to hide her horrid hair color.
She would never be with Watson. Ever. It wasn't possible. She had Holmes, though. Maybe. She didn't have his heart, but she at least had his respect. Perhaps her mother was on to something? What would she do when she was old and gray? Did she want to die alone? No, she didn't. And she did feel something for Holmes, but he was incapable of romantic love. Simply incapable – it wasn't his fault; it was just how he was made. There is that woman in the picture… a little voice in the back of her head said.
But, she truly did care about Holmes. More than she ever thought she would when she first met the strange, arrogant detective. She couldn't believe how things had turned out. Did she love him? Honestly, she didn't know. She felt something for him that she didn't feel for just anyone – she felt it with Watson, too (Do NOT think about him, she told herself). She was happy with Holmes, that, she knew. What more did she want out of life? She could have a chance at happiness, why not take it? It was time for her to grow up – she wasn't some blushing teenager waiting for her charming prince to come. As her mother had said, be practical. If Marianne Dashwood could love Colonel Brandon, why couldn't she love Holmes? Time – that's what they needed. Time.
Holmes poured water over his head as steam rose from the tub. They were back to where they were. Watson was gone, yet again. He wasn't coming back – he loved Mary. It was over. It was just him and Clara.
Curious. Holmes wasn't one to dwell on the fairer sex, but Clara, somehow, had earned his notice. She had conflicted feelings for him, he could tell. She was hung up on Watson – it would pass. Then, she would turn her attention to him. How did he feel about that? He didn't know. How did he feel about her? He didn't know. He hated emotions – they muddled things unnecessarily. This is why he shut them out. But, there was a nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach – she wasn't ordinary. Of course she wasn't ordinary – she was extraordinary.
She was still a little naïve, true, but she was not like any of the other women of their time. Well, not like most of the other women of their time. There was one other, that he knew of. Irene Adler. If he had to say he ever loved a woman, it would be her. Irene was good-hearted, deep down. Very deep down. Astonishingly deep down. That is to say, quite deep down, in case you didn't get the message. And so was he – and it took less digging to get there, to boot. And so was Clara – no digging involved. She had a pure heart, and he admired that in a person. With all the corruption and overall vileness in human nature, general goodness was a rarity. Which is also why he so admired Watson.
And he would miss Watson's companionship – as much as he disliked admitting it. He would miss it dearly. Clara, theoretically, could provide a similar companionship, if he so wished.
Clara entered Holmes' room without knocking. She didn't know what had led her there, but she'd gone on an impulse she couldn't ignore. He was sitting on the sofa, smoking his pipe and reading a book. He seemed to be deep in thought, and did not even look up when she opened the door. Wordlessly, she sat beside him, her hands on her lap. Looking straight ahead, she laid her head down on her shoulder, causing him to finally acknowledge her. He set his book down on the table and looked at her. She smiled gently at him, and he could tell from the look in her eyes that she'd let go of Watson, just as he suspected she would.
She took his pipe out of his mouth and set it on the table, beside his book. He looked down at her in a semi-trance-like state – her face was coming closer to his, and he felt his eyelids automatically droop slightly.
"Miss Barker, are you trying to seduce me?" he asked in a low, playful voice.
Clara smiled slyly at him. "Maybe," she whispered.
And then, she kissed him. At first, it was chaste, calm, proper. But, that didn't last long. Quickly, it became more passionate and frenzied before either of them realized what was happening. Clara's entire body felt as if it was on fire, and she was becoming dizzy due to lack of air. The passion in the moment was entirely unlike Clara had ever felt before, or expected. When she had decided to kiss Holmes, she'd thought it would be quick, comforting - in other words, nothing like it had become.
Now, it was almost as if their bodies were acting on their own accord. Holmes' hand wound itself in her hair (her bonnet had been quickly discarded) and she gently placed her good hand on the side of his face, bringing him closer to her (which wasn't exactly possible...). Her hand fluttered from his cheek to the top of his collar, where she subconsciously began to loosen his cravat...
All of a sudden, there was a brisk rap on the door, causing them to shoot apart, surprised. Clara groaned softly and Holmes' walked over to the door, straightening his cravat and trying to regulate his breathing.
It was Watson – the only time Clara had seen him so distraught was when Holmes almost died. His eyes were red and his face was blotchy, but he was not currently crying. The previous fog of sensuality that had hung in the room dissipated in a flash, as Holmes was clearly alarmed by his friends state of disarray. He helped Watson into a chair and knelt in front of him.
"What happened?" he asked gruffly, fearing the worst.
Watson took a moment to collect himself. His voice cracked as he said, "It's Mary."
To be continued...
A/N: D-D-Dayum Holmes and Clara, you crazy kids! And, I'm sorry! What a cruel way to end it, I know. But you all are quite intelligent, and I'm sure you must have some sense of what's going on. Plus, the sequel is coming soon! I didn't think it would be so sad for me to actually finish this first part, but oh well.
Oh yeah, and in case any of you didn't know, Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon are from Jane Austen's novel, Sense and Sensibility. (Although, I'm sure many of you already knew that).
Please please pretty please review! :) Especially now, since it's the end of the story. I'd really love to have feedback, ideas, anything, so I can write the next one to the best of my ability. THANK YOU ALL, AND GOOD BYE FOR NOW!