It had been in the pocket of his coat, although he hadn't put it there. Holmes turns the little ivory box over and over in his hands, tracing each face with his fingertips, burning the memory of it and all it represents into his mind as indelibly as if it had been carved into his skull like the kanji scored into the ivory.
His own voice, ragged and harsh, forming words used only by the lowest thieves to the worst of whores. The blue eyes before him turning glacial: frost on the surface and a wealth of trouble out of sight. 'When you ain't glock an' coopered, I'll tell you what you said. It'll kick your hykey rotten.'
A sardonic smile tugs his mouth and he bows his head. A ream downy twist, that one. She knew there was no insult she could spit back at him that would smart as sharply as the memory of his own behaviour. The list of ten names had been her handiwork too, an extra little stab at his conscience to make sure he was paying attention – Emmy was good at that, she never played fair. No wonder her family didn't know what to do with her. The question still remained though, how she had the information in the first place. One of Moriarty's old kill-lists was not an easy item to come across – oh there was a puzzle worth solving. But it was a puzzle that could wait. He sighs, his shoulders slumping a little, the opium box pressed between his palms like a Catholic's relic at prayer. He places it with a certain reverence in the middle of the mantelpiece, widening his hands to either side, carelessly sweeping a space around it amidst the clutter of oddments already there.
From his chair, Watson watches all this surreptitiously over the top of his newspaper, but says nothing.
He finds himself in the unenviable position of not just owing an apology (that in itself wasn't novel) but wishing to give one. It was not often that he was sorry for anything, if only because there was a vast gulf between when society considered incorrect behaviour and what he himself thought of as lacking. But just once or twice, he acknowledged his conduct had been unworthy. This was one such instance, and he realises he may need help in the matter. "Watson. How does one make an apology?"
The doctor is used to Holmes' often singular lines of enquiry, but that one takes him by surprise. He lowers his paper and raises an eyebrow. "To whom?"
"A young lady."
The eyebrow remains tilted. "D'you wish this to be a conventional display of contrition, or one styled in your own particular idiom?"
"Let us begin with convention and proceed as appropriate."
Watson couldn't recall the last time – if ever – that Holmes had wished to make formal recompense. He made amends from time to time in his way, dinner at Simpsons, a particular piece played on the violin, that sort of thing... but the actual word 'sorry' did not appear to be in his vocabulary – not even after a three year hiatus and return from the dead. "Do you care?" he asks bluntly. He tries very hard not to feel a stab of bitterness towards this female who is being bestowed such an honour when he is not. Watson reminds himself that Sherlock Holmes will work his way back into his good graces; it will be in his own time and on his own terms, but it will be undeniably thoroughly done. "Really?"
"Yes," he says truthfully.
"Then it rather depends what you did." He waits for further detail but none save a guilty look is forthcoming. "Well. A confession of regret, verbal or written is the usual way. Often coupled with a gift to show sincerity." He expects a sharp rejoinder about the illogical and frankly base idea of equating sincerity with a monetary purchase. To his surprise his friend simply nods, his gaze vague as his mind calculates.
"I believe I shall require your assistance. I must procure certain items."
He strives to keep all curiosity from his voice. "Since you're asking, I assume they're not shag tobacco, chemistry equipment, cocaine, or horse-hair for a violin bow."
"Tobacco may well be an excellent start – I knew I could count on your expertise."
The newspaper is cast aside so he can give Holmes a searching look. "Very well. Are you up to whatever excursion these 'procurements' require?"
A weary smile. "With your aid, yes."
He nods, an off-kilter tip of the chin which speaks loudly of all the questions he isn't asking, a sporting gesture of patience on his behalf that had damn well better be repaid.
The smile softens into something more genuine. "I believe this will be worth your while, and I could use the company old boy."
"Fetch your coat then."
They stand in Jermyn Street, Holmes muffled in a scarf many cubits in length, folding several bills of sale into his pocket.
"Why did you get them all sent to Baker Street?" Watson muses aloud. "I thought you'd decided contrition via post was the best option so you could – how did you put it? – steer clear of the lady's propensity for violence." A thought occurs. "This apology of yours – it isn't to Mrs Hudson is it?" Another name comes to mind, one more readily linked with the threat of violence – Adler – but he'd rather leave her out of it entirely unless forced.
Holmes gives him a look over the rims of his dark spectacles, one which clearly says, don't be dull-witted – why on earth would I ever go to Fortnums for Nanny?
He doesn't point out Christmases past when Holmes had indeed gifted Mrs Hudson with dry-cured Wiltsure ham and quince jelly from the aforementioned fine establishment.
The detective sighs, choosing to answer the original question if only to forestall an argument on other issues. "They are going to Baker Street because, industrious as the postal system of London is, even the Postmaster General's accomplishments stretch only so far."
Watson knows better than to enquire where this mysterious and unreachable address might be. "We've been to Fox and Lewis, Lock's, Fortnum's and Turnbull & Asser. Where now? Floris?" The suggestion had a slight barb in it since (even excluding Holmes' acquisition of a new hat and coat which were obviously for himself) none of his purchases have been especially feminine. "Would she care for a touch of rosewater, this woman of yours?"
Another look over his dark glasses like a disgruntled maiden aunt. They had strolled to Jermyn Street and traversed its length once and Holmes felt as if he had scaled twelve mountains. He is tired, too tired for banter, but he wouldn't have Waston cease for the world; the bickering is comforting, familiar. "No."
"No? What then?"
Holmes tells him.
"I beg your pardon, you want a what?"
Holmes repeats himself, his expression bland which could be hiding a wealth of amusement and devilry or nothing at all – it is always so hard to tell.
"What on earth for?"
A different sort of stare this time of the do keep up variety.
Watson shakes his head in bafflement. And then shoots Holmes a worried look. "You do know those can't be sent by post, don't you? Hm. Good, good."
She is pressed hard into the corner of the cupboard, legs skewed against each wall, the rough wood at her back a comfort of sorts; darkness a boon and a curse in equal measure.
The door opens, blasting light into her world.
Objects are lain in arrayment before her, tribute for a queen: shapes that bisect the light but there are too many lines, too many angles for her to calculate and she's never cared for mathematics anyhow and... She closes her eyes, her breath rasping rapidly in and out of her lungs.
"Emmy, you got a present."
The words chime strangely in her ears. Her mind is reeling. "Present," she says. "Present – here – present and accounted for, present and correct, presently by an' by..."
"Emmy," the tone is fond but sharp, trying to snag her flailing attention. "Look."
She knows the voice, trusts it. She opens her eyes, blinking and smarting against the information that wants to drown her. Figures – one thin and male, the other skirted and brash. The brash one with the brassy gold hair to match is knelt at two large baskets, pulling them apart and cooing over the contents. Holding up the shapes one by one, turning their angles in the light and puzzling out their purpose. When the pictures on the labels prove no help, Brash opens them if she is able or if not, thrusts them under Trusted's nose. Trusted is trying to ignore her.
"Gotta skrim o'shag, good stuff too. Fortnum an' Masion – highly class – there's a pie! Oh, my eye, cheese, honey – oh tell me that's honey! An' – wot's that? Smells right gamey..."
"Is a Frog thing. Potted meat," growls a lower voice from across the room, the owner of which she can't see.
"A toke o' bread – fresh!" gabbles Brash in glee. "Cask o'beer, pail o'milk, sugared almonds! Oh, Emmy give us a peck o'the sugared jewjaws, go on, say you will! Gin – oi, why's it red – wot's wrong with it?"
"Wot's slow about it?"
Between the spilling baskets is cloth cut to clothes in a dark hue, a round shape of black felt lined in red...
"Emmy," Trusted coaxes, the figure resolving itself into Charlie. "Cool 'ere."
Her ears register a high-pitched and pathetic cry in search of attention. She obliges because no one in their right mind or wrong could possibly ignore such a pitiful demand.
Amidst the bundle of coat and hat (corduroy, male cut; battered; both familiar and smelling faintly of opium,) is a scrap of fur that wriggles and meeps and is being lifted and placed in her arms. A small bundle of skinny and frenetic warmth with sharp claws is latched onto the corsetry at her chest. Her fragmented thoughts coalesce to a single point of focus: a small muzzle and a pair of lambent golden eyes. Her cold fingers clasp it carefully, seeking to gentle its cries.
"Blind me – wot's that?" demands Brash. "An' wassit doin' in some toff's hat?"
"Shuttup, Jen," Charlie orders.
An angelic smile uncurls across Emmy's lips. "Ello, Jack," she whispers to the kitten. "Ain't you handsome? Real bone and benneh, you."
"It's a twist, Emmy," Charlie corrects absently, realising - lord help them all - the St Giles Witch now has a familiar and the gin millers something more to talk about around the pot.
"Jack," she says happily, petting the purring scrap of warmth.
In amidst the cheerful chaos Jen's causing, Charlie spies a note on a crisp leaf of cream paper. He swoops in a hand and snatches it up with all the deftness of a gull spearing fish – larceny via legerdemain was once his stock in trade. It isn't sealed, so he unfolds it. He knows this spread of largess is from the Marylebone Split - no one else who'd send Emmy anything had that unique combination of money, humour and taste – but he is curious what message he saw fit to commit to paper.
Charlie follows the loops of the script with his eyes as if he was writing them himself; Emmy spent many a long night teaching him his letters but it's not a skill that sits naturally with him. The three words above the wry flourish of 'S.H' mean little to him. He scowls at them as if by squinting he can castigate them into making sense. "Emmy?" he prompts. "Emmy – what's 'me max inna cullper' mean? It code?"
"Mea maxima culpa," she corrects absently with only a fraction of the attention she is lavishing on the diminutive feline.
"What's it mean?"
A hazy smile as she scratches the kitten under the chin and is rewarded with a purr that would make a lion jealous. "Means he thinks he owes me a favour." Her words are distracted, disinterested. London has the Don Jack back, she has a head that is no longer spinning, a toff's hat to put on it, and a small purring creature to hold. All is right with her world.
Charlie rolls his eyes, but finds himself grinning anyhow.
Sherlock Holmes deserved a kicking for all the trouble he'd caused; if it had fixed Emmy, Charlie would cheerfully have shivved him. But for that smile, that look of calm and contentment his gift had put on her face, Charlie feels unaccountably magnanimous. He could forgive the bloody Jack after all.
"Bone and benneh – what say we open up that gin?"
A ream downy twist – a brilliantly clever girl
Jermyn Street – a street in Piccadilly, London, that contains a lot of historically established gentleman's tailors and was very fashionable in the late 1800s.
Fox and Lewis – a tobacconists on St James' St (still open today) frequented by Oscar Wilde.
Lock's – Lock & Co, a hatshop on St James' St founded in 1676 and, incidentally, where Holmes' fedora in the '09 film was purchased.
Fortnum's – Fortnum and Mason, a high-class grocers on the corner of Jermyn St, founded in 1707 (and a glorious place to shop!)
Turnbull & Asser – gentleman's clothier on Jermyn St, established in 1885.
Floris – a perfume shop in Jermyn St, founded in 1730.
Skrim o'shag – a packet of tobacco
Toke – a loaf
Marylebone Split - Baker Street detective, Holmes
Mea maxima culpa - Latin: My most grievous mistake
There we are my darlings, all finished. Please leave me a note to say what you thought - it's only fair after all the hours I spent looking up thieves cant, old maps of Limehouse, opiate misuse and a hundred other foolish details =)
PS - should anyone wish to see a drawing of Emmy (since I apparently fail at drawing SH), one can be found here - take the spaces out of the following address - http:/ /pics. livejournal. com/ wraithwitch/ pic/000yz7t9