A new mystery/adventure from me! I was beginning to suspect I'd never write another one. If you've followed the rest of my canon (if so, thank you), this fits somewhere between What People Do and The Six Phantoms.
Sherlock was lying on the sofa with his eyes closed as John typed. He registered, without commenting, when John had finished his blog post and moved on to lighter issues. He knew that he'd go to Facebook next, and possibly, if thought Sherlock was still awake, he'd share the inanities of his friends lives.
He was not disappointed.
"Oh! Kate had her baby!"
Sherlock sighed. "That's nice."
"It's a boy!"
"Good for him."
"There are pictures..."
"I'm sure there are."
He heard John sigh and pictured, accurately, him shaking his head too. He allowed himself a small smile and continued to listen. By now John should be typing comments and possibly playing some ridiculous communal game, and the complete silence he opened his eyes and looked across. John was staring at the screen, completely absorbed.
"Problem?" Sherlock asked and John jumped as if he had forgotten Sherlock was present.
"No, no problem!" he started to type, excitedly. He finished, hit 'enter' with a flourish, and closed his laptop. After a moment, he noticed that Sherlock was still staring at him.
"What?" he asked.
"Good news. Clearly, that's evident from your face, but something you're not willing to share with me..."
"Oh for God's sake, don't do that!"
"Well, you could just tell me."
John sighed again. "An old friend is in London and has asked to meet up. That's all, no mystery, nothing sinister. Just, an old friend."
"An old girl-friend."
"Yes, actually. Otherwise you wouldn't have taken quite so much care to ensure no personal pronouns crept into your explanation."
"Well, you're wrong. Yes, she happens to be female, but she's an old friend of the family. She was in Harry's year at school and my parents were close to hers."
"Nope, no buts at all. She's an old friend I haven't seen since she moved to France years ago, and I'm happy that I'm going to see her again. Right, I'm starving, do you want something to eat?"
"Fine." John wandered through to the kitchen and opened several cupboards. "Sherlock! What the hell happened? We had food when I went out this morning!"
"I finished a case! I was hungry!"
"You ate everything?"
"I was hungry. You tell me to eat more, I ate, now you're unhappy with me again." Sherlock sniffed.
John rolled his eyes and reached for his coat. "I'm going to the shops again. Do you need anything?"
"No, thank you. Take my wallet though, your pension won't hit the bank until Tuesday."
When John turned back to the room, Sherlock was holding the wallet aloft. John stifled a curse in an effort to take it with good grace.
As soon as he heard the front door slam, Sherlock leapt up and headed for John's computer.
John looked up at the large, imposing, wooden doors of the church. He paused a moment to enjoy the slight feeling of excitement, then pulled the door and stepped into the building.
The church was neither dark, nor quiet. There was, in fact, a bustle of activity going on at the front, with people moving lights and candelabra around and trailing wires. The noise was coming from a group of about thirty children singing in the midst of all of this activity, and it was beautiful. They were stood in two lines, those on the rear line were raised on a low bench. They were singing. John appreciated music on some level, but he'd be the first to admit it wasn't his first love, but even he found the voices of the children quite chilling. Behind them there were a small amount of musicians around which the electricians were winding cables for lights, trying hard not to disturb them.
John's senses recovered slightly and he noticed the conductor and smiled. He'd known Emma since she was four and she'd enchanted him by visiting his house and instantly hopping onto the piano stool to play London's Burning. She'd had something of a turbulent time since then, but he'd been genuinely happy for her when she'd visited to tell him about her new teaching job at a music school in Lyon. He watched her now and she'd clearly taken to it like a duck to water.
He had never had any sort of relationship with her other than that of a friend. She was young and sweet and in his opinion, horribly bullied by Harry, and he hadn't been surprised when she'd thrown her hands up in despair and quite neatly removed Harry from her life. They had never been a couple, as far as he knew Emma was straight, but they'd had the kind of best-friendship that was almost as close as a physical relationship, and she'd pulled Harry out of more black holes than he'd ever managed too.
Initially, he'd felt selfishly angry as it left the Harry situation entirely to him. But if he was forced into a corner, he might admit that there had been times he'd wished Emma had abandoned Harry and rushed to his arms for comfort. Several years on and it was clear that she was thriving in France and he was pleased that she'd stayed in contact with him, sending letters and postcards and keeping in touch on Facebook.
And now, seeing her again, doing the job that she loved, he admitted to himself that he may not have been entirely honest with Sherlock about his lack of interest.
The song came to an end and John looked down the church, intending to go and sit down and listen to the end of the rehearsal. His eyes lit upon a familiar, curly-haired head sitting a few pews from the back. He frowned and went to sit down next to Sherlock.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he whispered.
Sherlock glanced at him. "I came to get a ticket for tomorrow night, of course. I was told I could sit in on the rehearsal if I wanted."
"No, really, what are you doing here?"
"I like this choir! I hadn't know they were coming to London and when I found out I had to come down here and get tickets."
"You hacked onto my Facebook page, didn't you!"
"No, I didn't need to. You'd left yourself logged in. I'm pleased though, otherwise I'd have quite missed the concert tomorrow."
"Don't go on my Facebook!" John snapped. It was technically still a whisper but it was loud and terse and most of the children's eyes flickered over to them. The soloist at the front missed his cue entirely and stammered to get back in time. Emma stopped the choir.
"Attention! Attention! Regardez-moi, et personne d'autre!" She said to the children. She turned to glare at the interruption. As she noticed John, red-faced and trying to sink into the seat, her expression softened and there was a sudden flash of a grin. She turned back to her choir.
"Encore une fois, depuis le début."
They started the last piece again and John sat and watched quietly.
"That soloist she has there is exceptionally good," Sherlock said, his voice low and quiet.
John didn't answer him. They came to the end of the song, and Emma dismissed the children for a short break. She was immediately surrounded by a number of them, and she patiently and gently answered them all and waved them on. She turned, and smiling walked up the church to John.
"John! Oh, it's wonderful to see you!" She kissed him on both cheeks, then wrapped her arms around her in a massive and warm hug. "Thanks for coming!" she said, releasing him.
"It's fine! It's good to see you too! They're excellent, by the way," he nodded to where the children were chatting noisily with each other.
"Yes, I think I got very lucky with some of them!" Her eyes glanced to Sherlock and John sighed.
"Emma, this is my..." he considered the various options here. "Flatmate. Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock, this is my friend, Emma Thompson."
"I'm pleased to meet you, Mister Holmes." She kissed him on both cheeks too. He didn't get a hug.
"Madame Thompson, je vous félicite pour la beauté exceptionnelle de votre chorale. Ils sont vraiment délicieux."
"Thank you, Mister Holmes, you're very kind. I think I'd prefer English though, if it's all the same to you."
He nodded slightly and remained quiet. She turned back to John.
"John, I'm sorry, I know you must be waiting for your dinner but we're running horribly behind. I need to spend another half hour with the kids. For some of them it's their first trip abroad so they've been horribly distracted while we're trying to work."
"It's fine! I can wait."
"Yes, of course. As long as you don't mind me getting a sneak preview."
"Not at all. You're coming then? Tomorrow night!"
"Of course! I wouldn't miss it for the world!"
"I have our tickets safely in my pocket," Sherlock put in. John shot him a grateful look.
"OK then. Shouldn't be more than half an hour, I promise, then dinner." They were interrupted by a harsh, French voice shouting at the front of the church. Emma grimaced. "I'd better get back."
The newcomer was an older French man, bearded and slightly balding. He continued to shout at the children as Emma walked down the church. John didn't speak much French but he was able to understand the tone, and the fact that the children were either looking at their shoes or, in one or two cases, defiantly down the church. Emma intervened and the balding gentlemen turned his attention to scolding her instead.
John sat back down again, next to Sherlock.
"What's he saying to her?" he whispered.
"From what I can make out, that man is the head-teacher of their school. You got that he wasn't happy with them taking a break and chatting, didn't you?"
"Yes, but what's he saying to her?"
"He's not happy with her choice of music. He thinks it's childish."
"Well they're children."
"That's what she told him. Be quite now, I can't hear them if I'm talking to you."
He'd missed the conversation anyway. The head-teacher had stalked away and was standing staring at a large picture of the Virgin Mary. Emma gathered her choir again. She beckoned two boys forward, one, the soloist from earlier, and a slightly shorter boy next to him.
The choir started singing. It was hauntingly beautiful, but it was clear even to John that though they were extremely polished, they weren't enjoying themselves.
"What are they singing about?" he whispered to Sherlock. When Sherlock raised an eyebrow his bristled slightly. "What? I don't speak French!"
"For one thing, it's Latin, and for another, it's Ave Maria. Surely even you know that!"
John blushed but listened and when the solos started it was indeed obvious. The first boy sang clearly and beautifully again. He had an astonishing voice and was calm and confident with it. He finished his section and his friend took a deep breath and started. It was clear that this boy had talent too, but his voice was noticeably weaker than the first boy. He was obviously nervous too, his eyes kept wandering over to the head-teacher. He reached a high section and he struggled and floundered. He looked over at Emma, blushing and ashamed. She continued conducting, though quietened and steadied the rest of the music, then beckoned him to join in again.
He did so. This phrase was lower and calmer and he got through it without a problem. He looked relieved when it was over though, and he could just sing with the rest of the choir. John suddenly noticed that the taller boy had at some point taken his hand, and he was squeezing it gently.
The song came to an end. John was about to clap enthusiastically, but Sherlock caught his hands and shook his head. The cross man stalked from the room without saying anything. Emma gave her choir some encouraging words and the tension in the room lessened. She announced another song. It was an ensemble piece and the children sang in their sections, with smiles on their faces.
"What's this one about?" John whispered. "Sorry, still haven't learned Latin."
"This one's in French. It's about the Summer."
"Well, they seem to like the Summer."
"They certainly do."
They listened for a while, then John turned to Sherlock.
"Listen, Sherlock, about dinner..."
"Yes, I'm looking forward to it."
"No, that's the thing, I'd quite like to catch up with Emma properly."
"Of course. I suspected you would." He registered the slightly disappointed look on John's face. "Don't worry about me. You know I'm happy to talk with anyone about anything. I enjoy hearing updates on your friends."
"Yes. Yes of course." John sighed. "Actually, Sherlock, would you mind desperately... I mean, I had hoped that this time, it could just be me and Emma."
"Oh! I see." Sherlock looked disappointed.
"Look, we'll all be out tomorrow."
"No, it's fine." He sniffed. "I'll see you back at the flat later. Have you booked anywhere?"
"No. It's a Wednesday night though, we'll find somewhere."
"Well, I booked a table at Orsino's in East Street. You might as well use the table."
"Oh. OK. Thank you."
John looked at the floor as the choir came to the end and Emma finally dismissed them. She stopped to talk with a couple of the musicians, then said goodbye and came back to John and Sherlock.
"It was nice to meet you, Miss Thompson," Sherlock said to her. "I'm looking forward to the concert tomorrow immensely."
"Thank you! And it was nice to meet you too. Are you joining us for dinner?"
"Ah, no. Unfortunately I have an appointment this evening that I can't get out of. But best of luck for tomorrow, though from what I've heard from your children, I don't think you'll need it."
He held the church door open for John and Emma and strode off down the street.
"It's ages since I was in London," Emma said. "Where's close that's good? I'm starving."
"Er, I thought Orsino's in East Street. It's just up here."
John took her arm and the set off up the street.
So you may have noticed that I don't speak a word of French. Well, not much more than a word or two anyway, and I'm ashamed that I had to resort to Google Translate. If anyone is able to check over a few French phrases per chapter for me, I'd be extremely grateful. I'm hoping to write around it as far as I can, but I might need to put one or two bits in there.
If not, that's fine, as long as you're all comfortable with my appalling French. (Or I could move the choir to somewhere English speaking, but I think I'd prefer to leave it.)
I would love feedback on this.