Author's Note:

Well, it's been a long time since I've updated this! This piece takes place in the middle of Mortality, some time after Watson sends Mary away to Mrs. Forrester. This scene was actually written for a school assignment for dialogue and has now been polished slightly thanks to my mentor's comments. The three characters are… well, you'll see in a moment! Enjoy!

© 2012 by Aleine Skyfire.

All rights reserved.

==13. Wives of the Yard==

"And they say that Christmas is a time of peace on earth," groused Annie Lestrade, sifting through the crate of decorations.

"It is, and you sound like my Tobias," Lisbeth Gregson grinned.

Annie favored her friend with a scowl before turning to her business. Lisbeth merely shook her head and continued to untangle a string of dried berries.

Ellie Bradstreet entered the storage room, grimacing and holding her head. "Ach, but the chilluns are loud outside," she complained. "That lot could make a fine batch of constables, with lungs like that."

"I believe Sherlock Holmes beat you to the notion," Annie said absently. "Oh!" She rose from the crate and held up an angel. "She is lovely…"

"She's seen better days, darling," Ellie pointed out. "Perhaps you should retire her."

Annie shook her head. "If you think we should not use her, I would be willing to take her home with me. Rhiannon would love her."

"Take her, and my blessing," Ellie shrugged. "They're all of them donated decorations. Lizzie, how soon do you think we can decorate?"

"A few minutes, I should think."

"Splendid. Annie?"

"I'm ready right now, Ellie." Annie set the doll on a shelf and hefted up the crate.

Ellie sighed. "Ach, you're too small to be doing that, Ann. Let me help."

"You just take that crate over there," Annie directed, shifting her hold on her crate. "I'll be fine."

"If you say so…"

"I may be small, Eleanor Bradstreet, but I am not a weakling," Annie said firmly as she marched past her friend.

"I plead that living with a giant for a husband has skewed my view," Ellie called after her.

Annie considered that. "Skewed your view…"

"That's what I said."

"That was… strangely poetic, Ellie."

"Heaven help us. Annie, do not use that in one of your poems."

Annie flashed Ellie a completely unladylike grin. "A bit late for that, dear: it is already taking shape in my head."

Ellie glared back. "Hopeless romantic."

"You encourage me."

"I do not!"

"Ladies," Lisbeth's soft voice interjected. "Are we going to 'deck the hall,' or you going to stand there bickering? Remember, Annie—peace on earth."

Annie glared at her friend but set the crate down and drew a wreath from it. "Peace on earth," she repeated, scanning the walls for a place to hang the wreath. "I stand with Mr. Longfellow—there is no peace on earth, I say!" (1) She flung the wreath out for dramatic emphasis before holding it up to a bare patch of wall.

Lisbeth merely raised an eyebrow.

"From the dregs of Whitechapel to the shores of our Indian possessions (2) to our very own hearths," Annie continued firmly, eyeing the wall critically. "Now, I put to you that the angel was speaking of the same peace Christ spoke of at the Last Supper (3); therefore, I do not a-t'all appreciate the words 'peace on earth' bandied about at Christmastime when the Christian world is at its battiest."

Ellie stopped removing ornaments and clapped. "A teacher through and through, Annie, m'dear."

Annie carefully placed the wreath on the wall. "Forget it not, darling."

"As if I could ever!"

Lisbeth sighed. "I miss the other teacher of our little group."

Annie frowned. "As do I. Mary Watson certainly leaves a void in one's life when she's away."

"She could have stayed with one of us while the Doctor was away," said Ellie.

Annie shook her head. "John didn't want her in London right now." She sighed. "Sherlock Holmes leaves a void when he's not present, and that's the gospel truth!"

"I pray the men will find him soon," Ellie murmured.

Annie rounded on her, dark eyes widening. "Eleanor!"

"No, my Roger is not working on the case like your husbands are, but they do keep in touch!" Ellie snorted. "Do help with this garland, please."

Annie moved forward to help, and it was Lisbeth's turn to frown. "That information is confidential. Either Tobias and Geoffrey are speaking out of turn, or Roger is working on the case to some degree."

"Knowing Geoffrey, then, I'd say it's the latter," Ellie said firmly. "'Best of professionals,' and all that. Annie, your side of the garland is slipping."

Groaning, Annie adjusted it. "Thank you, Mr. Holmes, for that wonderful hon—I shouldn't say that." She bit her lip. "I don't even know if he is alive yet or not."

"He was kidnapped, Annie," Ellie reminded her gently, "not killed outright. Keep your chin up and keep praying."

Annie shook her head, stepping away from the garland. "It's been nearly a month now since he disappeared, Ellie. You know what can happen to a man in just one week if his kidnappers are ruthless enough. And, for all that radiant intellect… he is so very fragile. You have no conception of just how…" (4) She nearly choked on the words as she looked down.

Ellie wrapped her arm around the smaller woman's shoulders. "Our lads will find him, love. They will. You just worry your head about your children, and leave the worrying of the investigation to the menfolk." She lifted Annie's chin to meet her gaze. "That's their job."

Annie released a shuddering breath. "But it is my job to worry after my family, and Sherlock Holmes is that." She let out a sound somewhere between a sob and a laugh. "Have you ever seen him with the children? Jeremy and Rhiannon long to be Irregulars, and, of course, Geoffrey will have none of it. But the children love Mr. Holmes that much, and he adores them in return—I know he does."

"He's quite a paradox, that one," Lisbeth observed as she inspected a nutcracker. "Acts like he's all brain, but he's all heart underneath—at least, I have it on good authority." She nodded towards Annie. "'Fraid I haven't had much experience with the Great Detective myself; Tobias doesn't like him half so much as Geoffrey does, so…" (5) She shrugged one shoulder.

"Who says Geoffrey likes Mr. Holmes?" said Ellie, hazel eyes twinkling.

"Well, he surely consults him often enough," Lisbeth returned.

Ellie cocked an eyebrow. "I once heard Geoffrey call the man… well, there were a few invectives involved."

Annie's eyes widened. "Ellie, are you saying that my husband swore in your presence?"

Ellie blushed slightly. "Not quite. I was at the Bow Street Station to see Roger, and I overheard them talking. It's really fascinating what you can hear when the lads don't know that you're about the place."

Annie and Lisbeth groaned. "You are incorrigible, Eleanor Alice Bradstreet," Annie retorted. "A-t'any rate, Geoffrey really does like Mr. Holmes very much, no matter what profanities he might level on the man. This kidnapping has certainly taken its toll on him; I sometimes have the impression that Geoffrey feels an almost fatherly duty towards Mr. Holmes."

Lisbeth blinked.

Ellie nodded sagely. "Roger has that impression, also."

Annie pressed her lips together. "Well, don't ever let Geoffrey know that. He'd first lecture us with all the authority of the Yard on how the exact opposite is true, and then he'd have to call upon the services of The Crooked Arrow to erase the memory of the entire conversation."

She sighed. "My sister Gwynne wants me to join her temperance society, and I shan't deny that there's some valid logic in the notion of alcoholic abstinence. But how can I join in good conscience when I know that, quite often, the only way for Geoffrey to endure Mr. Holmes's… abrasive personality… is to drink it off at the Yarders' favorite haunt? I find that, upon hearing the 'horror tales,' I can't even blame him!"

"'A policeman's lot is not a happy one,'" Ellie sang as she hung up another wreath. She turned back to face her friends, hands on her hips. "Nor is the lot of a policeman's wife!"

"And that's the gospel truth," Lisbeth said firmly.

(1) A famous American Christmas song: "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem was born out of the crisis of the American Civil War. The second stanza declares: There is no peace on earth! I say. For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men. And church congregations sing this song at Christmas—fortunately, there's a lighter ending!

(2) Annie is consciously quoting Dr. Watson's turn of phrase in A Study in Scarlet.

(3) John 14:27: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Christ was speaking of an inner, spiritual peace, not peace between nations—in other words, not as the world gives. Annie's point is that the Christmas angel was speaking of the same kind of inner peace when he said "peace on earth".

(4) Annie is recalling the events of "76. Sick" from At the Mercy of the Mind, in which a 20-yr-old Sherlock Holmes comes down with pneumonia. Geoffrey and Annie Lestrade keep him at their flat for the duration of the illness and tend to him, both knowing that the lonely young man just might lose the will to live. It all goes back to what Geoffrey tells the other Yarders in The Crooked Arrow: "Sherlock Holmes in his early twenties was a young man I would not have wagered on reaching his thirtieth year."

(5) Only in STUD does Gregson ever ask Holmes for help—it's Lestrade who's always doing the asking. See aragonite's LJ for a fascinating look at this dynamic: http : / / karstcrystal . livejournal . com / 10056 . html

Author's Note:

Up to a point, writing this scene was difficult—the first scene in which any of these characters had appeared. Oddly, that point was Annie and Ellie going back and forth over Annie's poetry. Once I got past that, it was all coasting downhill.

I love Annie, dearly. I like the other women, as well, but it's Annie who has my heart. Expect to see more of her in the future!

Please review!