==Have Yourself a Chaotic Little Christmas==

Introduction:

Jumping on the bandwagon for the advent calendar—a bit late, but better late than never! Much kudos to HLotD and Spockologist for starting this! Expect fun but slightly rough reads, minimal nitpicking. Not going for masterpieces here, folks—this is purely for fun.

Day 8 – prompt from sagredo: Write about a momentous Christmas in the life of a secondary canon character – such as the first Christmas Sir Henry spends at Baskerville hall after returning from the voyage he took to recuperate from his shattered nerves, or the first Christmas Irene Adler spends on the continent with Godfrey Norton.

Further Note: "My" Sir Henry is the dashing and talented Richard Greene of Basil Rathbone's HOUN. Enjoy!


==Day 8: A Season for Hope==

He would never accept her, she knew. She had deceived him and hadn't possessed the moral courage to tell him the full truth before it was too late. She'd paid for it, too.

So when Sir Henry returned to Baskerville Hall two weeks before Christmas, she was not at all surprised that he made a round of seasonal calls without visiting Merripit House. Nor was she surprised that she received no invitation for the dinner to be hosted at the Hall on Christmas Eve.

It was a lonely Navidad she faced this year, as she had endured last year and would likely continue to endure for the rest of her life. She'd considered leaving Dartmoor many times, but where could she go? She had no close kin still alive in Costa Rica, nor had she ever had close friends there. And what would she do if she left? Teaching was the only thing she could do and the prospect did not appeal to her. With frugality, she could keep herself comfortable at Merripit House with the money she had.

She did not want to stay in Dartmoor, but she could not bring herself to leave.

These thoughts were racing through her mind for the umpteenth time when she heard a knock on the door. Odd enough that it was late in the evening, but on Christmas Eve, no less?

But if the knock was startling, the visitor was even more so. He was thinner than she recalled, paler… but at the same time more erect, nobler even than before. His face creased into an uncertain smile as she opened the door.

"Sir Henry," she breathed.

"Miss St—Mrs.—erm, Miss Beryl?" His smile grew lopsided with embarrassment. "Merry—ah, Happy—Christmas. May I come in?"

"Certainly," her lips replied for her while she tried to fathom exactly why the baronet would be calling upon her now and on Christmas Eve, of all nights, while he was hosting a dinner. Her heartbeat quickened fractionally at the warmth in his large blue eyes.

He cast a reminiscing gaze about the sitting room as she led in him into it. "This place has hardly changed." He turned to her with a fond look that somehow managed to look more affectionate than a smile. "Neither have you."

"I hope that is not so," she said quietly.

He looked down and cleared his throat. "Yes, well, I'm terribly sorry I haven't called upon you sooner. It has been a busy two weeks…"

"Yes, I know. Haven't you a dinner to be hosting?" She froze, startled at the bitterness in her voice. Why had she lashed out at him like that, of all people?

"I do," he murmured. "I did purposefully leave you out of my invitations, Miss Beryl."

She frowned, more curious than affronted. "Yes?"

"I wished our first meeting to be more private. I've a question to ask you, if I may."

Surely he must hear her heart pounding! "Please do."

Slowly, tenderly, he took her hand in his. "Then let me be plain about it," he said quietly. "There was once a connection between us. Whatever else was wrong with our world, the fact is that I loved you and that I love you still."

She stared at him, her heart leaping for joy at what her mind told her could not be true.

"I love you, Beryl," he repeated, his honest face as earnest as she'd ever seen it. "I love you."

She shook her head and stepped back. "I wronged you. I knew… I knew what my husband intended for you, and, God forgive me, I was too selfish."

"You were afraid," he protested

"My fear was selfish," she said firmly, removing her hand from his. "If I had truly loved you, I would have warned you sooner and more fully. I should have told you all."

"Then you did love me."

"Sir Henry, please." Why did he have to make this difficult for her? She had no right to be in his life, not when she'd endangered it by her silence.

She wanted him as much as he wanted her, but it would not be right.

"I forgive you, Beryl," he said gently. "What is it that the Bible says? Love keeps no record of wrongdoings? Beryl, I keep no record of yours."

"Then you have a purer heart than I," she murmured as she looked down, unable to hold his intense gaze.

"I see. You cannot forgive yourself." He sighed. "Very well, then. I can wait for you to be able to forgive yourself. And I warn you, I can be a very patient man."

She felt color rise to her cheeks.

He bent over her hand and kissed it. "May you have a happy Christmas, Miss Beryl."

"And you." She meant it with all her heart.

She risked a glance up and saw him grin. "Thank you. Never mind, I can see myself out." He nodded respectfully and, half a minute later, she heard the front door open and close. She sank onto the settee, sobs hitching in her throat. She was unsure why she cried—joy, despair, self-recrimination, and hope vied for dominance.

But when she awoke the next morning, it was the first time in a very long time that she looked forward to the new day.

She allowed herself to hope that, someday, she would be able to forgive herself.


Author's Note:

I've wanted to do this for a long time—write a story in which Sir Henry and Beryl are reconciled to each other. Yes, I'm a hopeless romantic. But in the interests of being realistic and not going for a long masterpiece, I did not go right out for the mistletoe. That will take time in their lives. It seemed to me that Sir Henry might be able to forgive Beryl, but maybe she would not be able to extend the courtesy to herself. I have to kind of smile when I read about her or the deranged wife in THOR—I'm part South American-Spanish, and I can understand that whole "woman of Spanish blood" thing. =)

Well, so here we are—romance and Christmas. And I actually managed to get it done in one day. Woo-hoo! Onto the next prompt!

Reviews and Gingerbread are Welcome!