(A/N): This is the English version of the story I uploaded in Danish called "August 1920". I have edited the text slightly, so they are not completely alike. Thanks for reading.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything... neither Holmes, Russell nor snout beetles. I do own Johnson, but I don't really want him, now do I? ^^,
Dating, Despair and Detectives
I found myself caught between Scylla and Charybdis, when mr. Johnson asked me out to dinner. He happens to posses certain papers, that I desperately need for my next theological thesis, but he said that I could only borrow them on the condition, that I would go out with him. So there I was – against my will, but my better judgement won – sitting at a table in an excellent Italian restaurant in London opposite the most boring man, that I yet had encountered. I fidgeted with my napkin in my lap, as I came up with fifteen different escape plans (of which the one involve my hidden throwing knife and a smoke bomb!) but none of them works.
I discreetly eyed the entrance. It was located behind Johnson, too far away for me to simply run without getting caught. Getting help was not an option either, because no-one knew of this... date. No, I would prefer bullet assassinations, even bombs, to people knowing about my date with Johnson!
Gregory Johnson was busy talking animatedly about snout beetles and their natural habitat, as my lifeline flowed into sight: Holmes.
He walked in through the restaurant's door as were it perfectly normal. And I was taken quite aback, I was convinced he was at home in Sussex, minding his bees!
I tried to make eye contact with him, as discreetly as possible. Johnson was not allowed to notice because if Holmes were to save me from insufferable boredom, then Johnson wasn't to hear or see us fraternize.
I laughed falsely at one of mr. Johnson's unfunny jokes, and looed imploringly at Holmes, as he got nearer to our table.
I cursed Holmes, under my breath, when I saw him smirking at my discomfort . At least one of us were enjoying ourselves.
I quickly scribbled down a few lines in Arabic on my napkin, raised it to my eye, and dapped it gently as to avoid ruining my make-up, while Holmes was approaching our table.
"What is it, Mary?" asked Johnson, half-interested. Mary? Who gave him permission to call me by first name? Not I!
"Oh, nothing, Gregory," I replied with as much venom laced in my voice, as I could muster. "Your joke was just so incredibly funny, that I cried from laughing so hard. Oops! How clumsy of me!" I exclaimed, as I happened to drop my napkin to the floor right in front of Holmes' feet.
Holmes bend down to retrieve it and rose again quickly. Had he read the message? No answer was readable on his face.
"Here you are, Miss. You dropped this," he said politely, and handed me the napkin. "Thank you, sir." I replied with a brief smile. My eyes drilled into his, conveying the message of: "help me, you insufferable man, or you will never live to see your precious hives again!". I sensed a small tug at the corner of his mouth.
He bowed slightly to me, nodded once in the general direction of Johnson and moved on. He continued walking on and disappeared behind me, thus made it impossible for me to continue my surveillance of him.
"... You understand, Mary, that thyme is a much older spice than the average man could ever imagine. It was actually used during the embalming process in the Ancient Egypt and again later in the Roman Empire when they ... "
I covered my mouth to hide a yawn. Holmes ...save me!
"Signorita? Are you Miss Russell?" I nodded confirmingly to the "Italian" waiter, that had approached our table (His accent placed him no farther off from London than East End!) "There is a 'phone call for Miss Russell. If you would be kind enough to follow me... "
"Excuse me, Gregory, I have to answer it," he nodded and shouted: "Hurry back, Mary," loud enough for it to be heard over the entire restaurant. I refrained from burying my face in my hands, and uttered a small displeased sigh instead .
I was led into a very small, dimly-lit room, that was only furnished with a telephone. The waiter closed the door behind me as he left.
"Your beau seems like a very ...special kind of person, don't you think, Russ?" Holmes breathed into my ear.
I made an involuntary jump out of sheer surprise and bumped my head into the ceiling. "Ouch! Holmes, you gave me a fright!" I rubbed my aching head. "And he is not my beau. I hope." He must have sensed the anxiety on my face, for he laughed.
"What are you doing here, Holmes? I thought you were in Sussex?"
"I was, but I received a very interesting telephone call from Mycroft, and therefore went to London. But what about you, Russell? Tell me, what you're doing here in London, in a small Italian restaurant with a peculiar man, you do not even like?"
I sighed deeply and answered Holmes.
"Blackmail, my dear Holmes. Blackmail. I was forced to a "date" with this blighter, because he owns some important papers that I need for my next thesis. We had only been here half an hour, when you showed up, and I had already begun to yawn. Holmes, please, help me out here! What can I say to him, that will be able to dismiss him, but still make him want to hand over the papers?" I found myself asking the famous consulting detective.
Holmes thoroughly enjoyed watching me being out of my depth, for once, and I could plainly see that he was weighing his options in his mind: whether or not he should help me.
"How bad are things?"
"He has quite exhausted the topic of snout beetles and thyme, and he had even begun to describe the components of Scottish haggis in a very thorough manner. Believe me, Holmes, a sudden escape route at this point, would be very welcome."
"That bad, eh?" He chuckled. "It's actually quite embarrassing, Russell, that you have not made an excuse for yourself yet. Tut tut. So many years of intellectual training – completely wasted!"
"All-right, Holmes, I understand a hint. I'll think of something. Shall we go somewhere else to eat? For that, I assume, is surely why you came here," I smiled. Holmes didn't answer. I got a bad feeling, and I groaned as realization dawned. "Holmes, please don't tell me, that Mycroft sent you here on a case! Oh I see, and now you are going to drag me, (albeit perhaps not entirely reluctantly) along with you,expect me to join forces and hunt down criminals with you like we did in the good old days!" I rambled at him in shock.
I waited for Holmes to deny my accusations, but I already knew that no denial would come.
He shrugged his shoulders instead. "You surely don't think that it has been that long since our last case together, Russ?" he smiled. "To my knowledge, the last was in your spring break."
I relaxed as I realized how much I had missed our cases in these past months. How much I had missed Holmes, really.
He nodded as he read from my expression, that I had talked myself into it, and he smiled a crooked smile. "I'll leave by the back entrance. I'll see you out in front in 10 minutes," he said and moved like he was about to leave.
I stopped him quickly, by placing a hand on his shoulder. He turned back to face me, and suddenly it dawned on me how alone we were and how close we stood. "I ...," I began, and swallowed the lump that suddenly formed in my throat.
It felt nice to be so close to him, that I could feel his body heat, and smell the scent of pipe tobacco and aftershave, although it at the same time also felt slightly disarming. "It's nice to see you again, Holmes. I've missed you. "
Holmes flashed his crooked smile once more, and I suddenly dreaded that he could read all my thoughts and feelings with a mere glance by his gray, all-seeing eyes, whose gaze were directed at my lips, my chin, anywhere but my eyes, hesitating for just a moment but then turned to my blue eyes and locked. His gaze created an electrical connection between us. If I had not possessed an incredible willpower, I would without a doubt felt compelled to surrender myself to his sudden magnetism, that was trying to draw me in. He took a step forward, and thus closed the gap between us. I found it hard to breathe all of a sudden. Holmes heard, and held my face with his long, sensitive, thin fingers. He tucked a strand of loosened hair behind my ear. I looked up at him a bit surprised by his sudden display of affection. He seemed like he was in a sort of trance, but woke up by my startled face. He then patted me on the shoulder, and left without another word.
I leant against the door, my breathing shallow, as I tried to beat the (unwelcome?) thoughts about Holmes out of my head. It must have been my imagination, that played me a cruel trick, I decided. Holmes could not ... I had probably just exaggerated what happened. But I could not deny the tension between us. Holmes, my friend, my teacher, my confidant.
I pulled myself together and went back to my boring table companion.
"What ever is the matter, Mary? You look very pale," asked me. "I'm sorry, but I have to leave, Gregory. My aunt has suddenly become very ill and has asked me to visit her. I dislike her because she has always treated me badly, but I can not ignore her wish. Sorry, Gregory." I put on a pained expression, as if it suddenly dawned on me: "The papers! Oh no, what ever am I now to do with the thesis ...-"
"Don't think about it. You are welcome to fetch the papers whenever you need them," he says reasonably.
Internally I was filled with glee, but outwards I was merely immensely grateful.
I deliberately let a relieved smile spread on my face."Thank you very much, Gregory. I unfortunately will have to go now. "
"We'll just do this another time, Mary!" He shouts. But I'm already half-way out of the restaurant.
I felt very cruel.
Cruel, my mind agreed with my feelings, but not dead of boredom. Thankfully.
Holmes leant against the adjoining building, enveloped in a shadow. I could see that he was so eagerly surveying something on the side of the street, that he did not notice me. I thanked silently my foresight to my choice of dark, discreet clothes and made the decision to participate in the surveillance. "What are you looking at, Holmes?" I ask in a whisper.
"That man who wobbles out of the pub on the other side of the street. He was the reason for Mycroft's call. I was not expecting him to leave so early. "
He looked me straight in the eye for an intense moment. The excitement of the thought of an impending chase was evident on his face. "The game is afoot, Russell!"
I had realized a long time ago, that I will never have a quiet moment together with Holmes.
On the other hand, I will never get bored.
I hadn't hunted criminals with Holmes for months and a big part of me missed the secret trill of the Game and the odd sense of power, that surges through your veins when you most need it. I could already feel Holmes' excitement rub off on me. My fingers tingled from inactivity.
I felt a predatory smile spread on my face and unconsciously I bared my teeth ever so slightly.
The game was indeed afoot!