Stave V

Holmes A Visiting

The knock upon the door roused Mycroft Holmes from his reading. It was not that interesting anyway; another Home Office report done on a typewriter with a dipping J and a lowercase A that had been scarred in the casting. At least the ribbon was well inked. Walters came into the study a moment later with a slightly bemused look upon his face.

"Your brother, sir," said Walters.

In his haste to stand, Mycroft struggled and floundered until he raised his hand for Walters to help him up. With a great effort, Walters did and they succeeded in getting Mycroft on his feet without catastrophe.

"There!" Mycroft said with pretensions of dignity. "Thank you, Walters. Show my brother in."

A moment later Sherlock Holmes entered the small study to find his elder brother standing coolly awaiting him. Holmes smiled and crossed the room to throw his arms about the broad form of his brother who, startled, did not know what to do at first, but then hesitantly returned the embrace.

"Merry Christmas, Mycroft!" Holmes cried stepping back from his clearly bewildered brother.

"Mer... Merry Christmas, Sherlock," Mycroft finally stammered. "It is quite good to see you."

"I come to ask your forgiveness, brother," Sherlock told him.

"For what?" Mycroft's head was spinning. What was this all about. "Have you been drinking, Sherlock?"

"No such spirits are involved," Sherlock said with a chuckle at some joke that Mycroft did not catch. "It is only that I have realized that on Christmas Day, of all days, families should be together. And in the past I have not been with you. I wish to beg your pardon for that."

"Oh? Well, granted, Sherlock," said Mycroft with a broadening smile. "Granted! Will you be joining me for dinner then?"

"I am afraid not," said Sherlock.

"Oh," Mycroft's smile vanished.

"I will not be joining you for you will be joining me, brother," Sherlock said with a rare twinkle in his eye. "You shall be my guest at a dinner I have been invited to."

"Oh?" Mycroft's smile flickered on and off like a guttering lamp light. "Not a public dinner, is it?"

"No," said Sherlock. "There will be at least three other people there, but I should think it will be fairly private."

"Good. Yes, good." Mycroft looked towards his doorway apprehensively.

"Something the matter?" Sherlock asked.

"It's just that Walters has already begun to cook."

"Tell him to invite his bachelor friends to dine with him," Sherlock said.

"Walters's friends?" Mycroft scratched his chin. "I don't know if he has any."

"All men of sense have friends, Mycroft," Sherlock assured his brother. "All men."

"Well, I'll do it!" the elder Holmes said with a genuine smile. "Will you join me for coffee? I was going to have some with a few buns or toast. Say you will, Sherlock."

The brothers did settle in for coffee and they spoke of their childhood and the things they had enjoyed together. Eventually Sherlock convinced Mycroft that they were going to attend a showing of A Midsummer Night's Dream on the following Friday and soon thereafter Sherlock left with a promise to return with a cab that afternoon to take his brother to dinner. Not knowing what to do with himself, Mycroft went to the kitchen and spoke for a time with Walters who did indeed have several bachelor friends and took it very kindly that his employer wished him to invite them for Christmas dinner.

Sherlock, in the mean time, made his way across the city to the home of his old friend Dr. John Watson. He descended from the cab and, stepping to the front door, knocked. Examining the brass knocker he noted that it was in need of a shine but was otherwise unremarkable. The maid opened the door and accepted Holmes's card before letting him enter and taking his hat and cane. A moment after the maid left him standing in the foyer Holmes heard the familiar tread of Watson rushing down the stairs.

"Holmes!" Watson cried with suppressed delight. "You solved the case?"

"I have not," Homes said with half a smile.

"Then why are you here?" Watson asked, confused.

"To inquire if I might bring my brother to dinner this evening," Holmes replied.

"I suppose it would be alright, Holmes," Watson said frowning in thought. "I don't see why not. But, you accept the invitation?"

"If it is still offered." Holmes's smile was wan and almost bashful. "Watson, I have done you a great wrong, my old friend."

"What?" Watson waved a hand dismissively. "I caught you in the middle of a case, Holmes. Think no more of it."

"That is not what I mean, Watson," Holmes sighed and stepped closer to his friend. "You above all people have been at my side through the worst life has thrown at me. You have saved my life more than once and never thought of yourself or your own safety. And I was not there when you lost your dear wife. On too many occasions I have been elsewhere when you were in need. I have been very selfish. Please, Watson, forgive me."

Watson looked upon Holmes with brimming eyes. He swallowed hard and coughed to clear his throat before he could speak.

"Of course I forgive you, Holmes," Watson said softly. "How could I do otherwise? You are the best of friends. The best of all my friends."

They were silent a moment and then Holmes spoke again.

"I have deduced the reason that I have not been able to solve this latest case, Watson."

Relieved at the change of subject Watson raised an inquiring brow and asked, "Why is that?"

"Because I have been denied my chief asset." Holmes strightened and then went on. "It is really my fault, too. I was foolish not to see it sooner."

"Your chief asset? I don't understand, Holmes."

"You, Watson," Holmes said clapping him on the shoulder. "In every one of my greatest cases you were at my side, if not in front of me. It has been you, as much as anything else, that gave me what I needed to ferret out the truth. To expose what is hidden. You, Watson, are essential to my success, and I have neglected you. Will you please return to our old lodgings on Baker Street? I know it would be a great inconvenience to you, but will you consider it?"

"I would be delighted, Holmes!" Watson beamed up at him.

"Thank you, John."

"Not at all, Sherlock."

That afternoon, before setting out to pick up his brother, Holmes went to the door to answer the knock that had just announced a caller. Standing on the landing was the constable of that morning and a very submissive looking Wiggins with his cap in his hand. Holmes thanked the constable again and wished him once more a very merry Christmas before closing the door and conducting Wiggins into the sitting room.

"You have been in some trouble lately, Wiggins," Holmes said without preamble.

"Trouble? Me, sir? No!" Wiggins denied.

Holmes raised an eyebrow at the young lad.

"Jus' a li'tle," Wiggins faltered. "Not wot I can't 'andle it, Mr. 'Olmes."

"You have been quite valuable to me in the past, young man," Holmes said gravely. "It would be more than a shame for you to throw that away."

"I... I wouldn't want to do nuffin' wot dis'ppointed you Mr. 'Olmes."

"Good." Holmes lit his pipe. "What would you like to do with yourself, Wiggins? You can't remain on the streets your whole life."

Wiggins was puzzled by this. He said, "Neva thought o' it, sir. S'pose yer right, though."

"I am." Holmes sounded confident. "I have arranged for your release provided that you enter school and attend regularly. I have also arranged for a private tutor to help you with your studies. You will meet with this tutor down stairs in the visitor's parlor every day after your regular classes."

"Mr. 'Olmes," Wiggins began to whine.

"That's enough of that!" Holmes rose to his full height and the lad cowered back. He had never seen Holmes so adamant about anything. "You will have plenty of time to fritter away with your friends as you like, but in order for you to remain in my service and out of New Gate you will study and study hard. Now what is it that you would like to do with yourself?"

Wiggins sat a very long time thinking. He glanced furtively at Holmes but remained silent.

"You've thought of something," Holmes said. "Tell me."

"Don' laugh, sir," Wiggins said quietly. "I've always thought I might make a good copper, sir."

Stunned, Holmes resumed his seat to consider the ramifications of this. Finally he nodded.

"You, I think, would be quite formidable as an officer of the law, Wiggins," Holmes said seriously. "Your talents would be wasted as a mere constable. With you as an inspector the Metropolitan or even the Yard would become very effective in bringing down criminals. I might even be able to retire one day."

Wiggins smiled with relief. Then he frowned when he thought of all the hours he would have to spend studying. Holmes smiled and placed a hand on the lad's shoulder to reassure him.

After that Christmas Eve Holmes knew well how to keep Christmas. Though he did not greatly change his habits he did visit his brother at least three times a week and often they dined together, sometimes in the company of Dr. Watson. They attended plays and operas in each other's company and it was noted by some members of the Diogenes Club that Mycroft Holmes had lost considerable weight.

To Watson's surprise, Holmes from that year onward insisted that they string a garland from their window and Holmes himself would purchase a small Christmas tree to adorn their sitting room. It was noted at the Yard that Sherlock Holmes began to spend an increased amount of time in the company of Inspectors Lestrade and Gregson and the two young inspector's skills in detecting clues and solving crimes increased markedly.

Holmes did not pursue Alice Howel, though. It was not in his nature to do so. Through inquiries, however, he learned that she had met and married a successful engineer and they had three children together. Holmes made a point of sending her a card every year at Christmas time. She responded in kind.

Only Holmes's closest associates ever noted the subtle change in the Great Detective. Those that knew him well were pleased by it and would privately remark how relieved they were. Holmes did not end his days strapped to a bed alone. Watson did not give in to the temptation of the drug. And as I have noted above, Mycroft lost weight and consequently lived many more years.

The End

Author's Notes: I wish to thank MrsPencil for helping me to edit my American English to British English. She is a talented poet and a true Holmesian.

Originally I had this idea and had planned to take my time with the project. However, I was broke the particular Christmas I wrote this and was unable to send a present to a good friend of mine. Instead, I wrote this story for her to enjoy. My editing was rushed and slapdash, at best. To all those who read this and reviewed with very kind compliments I can only say thank you for overlooking so many typos, dropped words and run on sentences. Hopefully they have been attended to with this draft.