And here is the second piece of Two. Fitting, no? :)
Thanks again for reading, everyone! I really appreciate all your lovely reviews for not only this story, but all of them. :)
Daniel Hooper is intrigued.
He'd been pulled away from his work during the lunch break (where he'd been carefully mapping out the trajectory of a falling apple to determine if, from the height it was dropped, it could have been the source of the distinct marks on Ms. Addlebury's damaged Fiesta), and taken to the small courtyard behind the school. Mr. Martin had escorted him, his ruddy face flushed, clearly displeased with the interruption of his midday meal.
"All a fuss, your uncle was," Mr. Martin was saying, as they made their way through the hallways and out towards the courtyard beyond. "Said it was urgent, said that he'd come a long way to speak with you, that it was a family emergency." The schoolteacher looked down at him then, apparently gauging the boy's response to this statement, and Daniel quickly rearranged his features to reflect what he approximated a worried expression would look like in a situation such as this.
So he's been led to the courtyard, out to a table in the sun, where a man was waiting, his hands folded in front of him, looking nervous and worried and distracted, all at once. He looks up from the table, looking over to Daniel, and his eyes are filled with concern, his mouth frowning with the weight of considerable anxiety.
Daniel, for his part, remains delightfully fascinated.
Mr. Martin is speaking again, and he remembers to pay attention to the words. "...hopefully all is well, and please let us know if you need anything else, Mr. Hooper."
"Th-thank you, Mr. Martin," 'Mr. Hooper' is saying, looking down at Daniel. "I'm, uh, I'm sure it will all be fine."
And then it is just two of them, two Hoopers – one real and one fake-, alone in the courtyard.
Daniel takes a seat opposite the man, keeping sure that his expression remains neutral. How exciting, he can't help but think; this is definitely far more captivating than the little problem of the dent in Ms. Addlebury's old car. For a long moment, the two of them sit in silence, just studying each other, and Daniel knows this is the most interesting thing that's happened to him in a long, long while.
"I don't have an uncle," he says finally, locking eyes with the man across the table.
"Oh, you do," answers the man, and suddenly everything changes: the worry and the anxiety and the emotion in his face disappears, just like one would remove a mask, all pretence suddenly and completely stripped away. "I'm just not him," he finishes, and he drops his hands down to his knees, totally and utterly calm.
The boy takes a moment to study him, this strange man who's just suddenly appeared before him, erasing the false Mr. Hooper in a flash. "You're Sherlock Holmes," he realizes then, taking it all in, and a shiver of excitement runs up his spine. A famous dead consulting detective made for a very interesting lunch indeed...
The man tilts his head in silent acknowledgement, and leans back on the edge of his bench. "Bravo," he replies, "remarkably quick for an eleven year-old."
"Twelve," Daniel corrects, and then blushes a little. Surely Sherlock Holmes didn't care about his age.
The man opposite him smiles. "Twelve," he concedes.
"Why are you here?" the boy asks, unable to keep himself from asking the only question on his mind.
The great detective regards him for a long moment, staring him down with those startlingly bright eyes. "I wanted to give you something," he answers finally, gesturing to the box next to him on the table, and Daniel was chagrined that he hadn't really noticed it there before.
"For me?" the boy says incredulously. "Why do you have something for me? Why did you come all the way here, convince the school administration you're something you're not, just to give something to me, someone you've never met?" His eyes narrowed. "You're not going to kill me, are you?"
At that, Sherlock Holmes laughed out loud. "Oh, not quite," he says, his eyes still filled with mirth.
Daniel continues to stare at him, this ghost before him. "Mum's told me about you."
Suddenly all that mirth, that amusement, is gone. "She has, has she?"
He nods. "Yes"
The man looks at him, expectantly. "And...?"
"She says you were – are – a very brilliant man. She says you aren't what all the papers and the books and the television programmes make you out to be. She says... she says you were good. A good person."
Sherlock smiles softly at that. "Ah, Molly..." he says, almost fondly, and suddenly Daniel becomes aware that the man isn't really even looking at him anymore, but somewhere else, somewhere outside the confines of time and space, somewhere beyond what they both can see.
Daniel doesn't really know what to make of that.
But then the detective shakes his head and focuses his eyes into the present once more, and looks back to the boy in front of him. "It wasn't the apple," he says suddenly, and Daniel can only stare at him.
Sherlock smirks. "The apple, the teacher's Fiesta. It wasn't an apple that made those marks. You need to re-analyze the trajectory of the impacting item. Once you do that, the answer will become evident."
"Th-thank you?" Daniel answers incredulously. How could he have known...?
Without pausing for a breath, the man reaches for the package and sets it in front of the boy, putting it down with a heavy thunk. "You may find this useful. I found that having my own made it much simpler to work on cases, especially should one come up at an awkward hour – the school laboratories have an unfortunate protocol of remaining closed throughout the night. Open it later – the lunch buzzer is about to go, and I believe Mr. Martin is coming to fetch you now."
He can hear the approaching footsteps of the teacher coming up behind him, and suddenly, Daniel is struck by a feeling of abject disappointment, at having only scratched the surface of what exactly was going on.
The detective leans forward then, making sure not to let the ruddy-faced man behind them overhear. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Daniel Hooper. I hope we meet again."
For the rest of the school day, Daniel doesn't hear a single word or learn a single thing, too preoccupied with thoughts of a dead consulting detective and what exactly might be in that non-descript yet heavy box.
It takes all the strength Molly Hooper has not to faint at the sight of Sherlock Holmes' microscope.
She comes home from work to see her son at the kitchen table, an empty box on the floor beside him, totally engrossed in the work before him. He's sitting up on the balls of his feet, perched up above the main lens, peering down into a petri dish filled with God-knows-what.
"D-Daniel?" she starts, stammering a little, and she quickly pulls herself together. "Where did you get that?" she asks, though the sinking feeling in her stomach tells her that she most likely already knows.
Her son looks up from the table, his face locked in an expression of pure delight. "It was a gift, Mum!" he answers excitedly, and she notices more and more now how his eyes seem to glimmer just like another man at microscope she used to know.
She raises an eyebrow at him, and crosses her arms. "A gift from whom?"
His smile falters, but only for a moment. "Sherlock Holmes," he answers, before turning back to the lens and his experimental work.
She's not quite sure how to respond to that.
She manages to make it through the rest of the evening without thinking about it too much. Between preparing their evening meal to tidying up the kitchen and making sure Daniel remembered to go to sleep, she'd been far too preoccupied to give the significance of the appearance of the microscope a second thought.
But now... now she was alone in the dark of her room, staring up at the ceiling from the warmth of her bed, and all she can think about is the microscope. The former microscope of certain detective. A certain detective who had gone to her son's school and given it to him. It was just... too much.
She'd always assumed, on some level, that Sherlock must know about her son. She'd never really set it out to keep it a secret from him, but how exactly was she supposed to contact a man that was, for all intents and purposes, buried six feet under ground? And then the weeks and the months started to pass and she never heard from him, not even a whisper, so she'd simply kept carrying on, on her own.
She doesn't know how she feels about this. She'd never really told Daniel anything about his father – what would be the point? If she told him, really told him, he'd figure out the math, and realize that Sherlock Holmes really wasn't dead after all. And then if someone else figured it out, connected the dots just like her clever little son, then all of sudden all the years of anguish and hardship and struggle that everyone had gone through would all be for nought.
She can't even imagine Sherlock Holmes as a father, anyways. She can't picture him holding a baby, cleaning up spit-up, or buying nappies down at the store. She can't see him walking a child to school, helping him with homework, or disciplining him when he does something wrong. She can't fathom him in any of these domestic scenarios; Sherlock Holmes was the antithesis of ordinary, and her life was about as ordinary as life could get.
"Oh, Sherlock," she whispers as she closes her eyes.
"Hello, Molly," she hears murmured back to her, and she bolts up in utter and complete surprise.
And there he is – a ghost in the living flesh. She can't quite make out his features in the dark, but she can recognize enough – the curly, dark mop of hair on his head, the lean and straight frame – all so familiar, so heart-breakingly familiar.
She's caught staring at him, unable to think of anything to say. "Th-the microscope?" she says stupidly, the first thing that comes into her mind.
She can see the edges of his mouth turn up, even in the dark. "What is a detective without a proper microscope?" he says quietly, stepping forward, until he is mere inches from the edge of the bed.
"H-how did you-?" she starts, and he shakes his head, cutting her off without even a word. He raises his eyebrows as if to say Molly, please, and suddenly it feels like it did all those years ago, when she'd stand beside him in the lab, hopelessly enthralled, trying her hardest to get him to notice her at all.
He sits down at the edge of her bed, not quite looking at her. "You have a very intelligent son, Molly. Well done."
She can only stare at him. "Th-thank you?"
"He seems strong, bright. A fine young mind," he continues, as if she'd never spoken at all.
They sit in silence for a moment, Molly still reeling from the sudden shock of his appearance, Sherlock caught (as always) in the depths of his own mind.
"Moriarty is still out there," he says finally, still looking away, back towards the wall. "I've tracked him through Europe, followed him through Asia, stalked him to America – " his fists start to ball on the edge of the mattress, all coiled tension and restrained anger, "but I haven't caught him."
She reaches out suddenly, on a whim, and touches him lightly on the arm (if only mostly to make sure he was real). "You will," she replies.
He swings his head around to her, and she can see his eyes now, those incandescent blue eyes, eyes that look so unnervingly like her son's. She's caught in his gaze, and it kills her that he still has the same effect on her now as he did then, that she still can't ever really separate herself from Sherlock Holmes (but really, does she want to, after all?).
"You're a good mother," he whispers to her softly, his gaze still locked with hers. He moves a hand to the side of her face, and cups her cheek lightly before planting a kiss between his fingers and her skin, his lips lingering on her cheek, warm and familiar to the touch. "But I would have been a terrible father," he finishes, pulling away from her and standing up from the bed, all in one fluid motion.
And then he's gone – gone without goodbyes or words of farewell, back out the door and into the streets of London beyond. She's still frozen in her bed, one hand upon her cheek, hovering over the spot where she'd felt his lips touch just moments before. There are a thousand different thoughts that she should be pondering, but there's only one thing she can think about in the wake of his departure: just how wrong Sherlock Holmes could really be.