I do not own anything that Mark Gatiss or Steven Moffat or even the great Arthur Conan Doyle have created, but I thank them for giving me something so amazing to completely lose my mind over. Happy Reading!
Don't Forget to Remember Me
People hardly expect their lives to change in an instant, even though we all know that that is generally how it happens. But one hardly expects it to change on a rare sunny Sunday in June in London while selling fruit. But mine did. Before I tell you about that I should probably introduce myself.
My name is Moira Holloway and my family has always owned Fíorghrá Farm in Pershore, Worcestershire. My family is gone now and there is only me. I am twenty-six years old and I live in my family home at the edge of our orchard on the banks of the River Avon. My parents and younger sister were killed while driving on another of those rare sunny days into London and I was left an orphan at twenty with 15 acres of farmland to maintain and a staff of workers to supervise. Growing up the child of a generation of farmers certainly would have made handling the latter tragedy easier had my parents estate not been supervised by a greedy, manipulative, callous aunt who chose to siphon off my surprisingly sizeable inheritance behind my back before disappearing leaving me nearly destitute. The first few years there was great fear that the legacy I had been left with would not last and I would be forced to start selling off land that hadn't been in a name other than my own for over a century. But I hadn't gone to college for Agricultural Business for nothing and after about three very lean years, we were once again one of the premiere farms in the county. Throughout even those lean years, I maintained the tradition of the weekly trip into London for the Farmers Markets even when there was little to sell. Now, three years later, we have a permanent stall at Marylebome Farmer's Market at the Cramer Street Car Park and business hasn't been so prosperous since my father's time, something I like to think he would be immensely proud of, but enough about me.
This particular Sunday, as I said, began a series of events that would change my life forever. And it began with the sound of a cane on pavement.
Distracted, I put on the company smile as I turned to the customer (it was not out of the ordinary for repeat customers to call me by name, being such a fixture in the area) but it turned into one of genuine pleasure when I saw who it was.
"Hello, Doctor Watson, out for a stroll?"
I had met Doctor John Watson about seven months prior when he'd been escorting (at the time I assumed his mother but, I later learned, his landlady) Mrs. Hudson on her weekly shopping. I had been taking a break from a very busy morning when I had spotted the lone man sitting on a bench with his cane looking dreadfully lonesome and out of sorts so, being the friendly sort, I had grabbed one of the spare sandwiches and the last of the pears before making my way over to sit beside him. I eased him into conversation about the weather before offering the sandwich (claiming that I was full and would hate for it to go to waste) and a pear, which he politely took. I asked how he'd liked the fruit and he hesitantly admitted that he couldn't remember having one better and I cheerfully told him that it had come from my farm and to please stop by next week so I could bring him some more. The following week they were back and, as promised, I presented him with a bag full which he attempted to pay for but I wouldn't hear of it, citing the discount for new friends. After that, he was a weekly visitor. I learned of his relationship with Mrs. Hudson one afternoon when he hadn't been able to stop by. She promptly hugged me, but being a hugger, I didn't mind. She thanked me profusely for looking after her boy and getting him to eat again. I told her she had a perfectly charming son and I was glad to be of service. That was when she told me that she was his landlady and that she'd practically had to beg him to come out with her when she did her shopping because he was barely leaving his flat. I didn't mean to pry but I asked what the trouble had been and she tearfully told me that he had lost someone very special, that they both had, and I didn't press the matter further. So, I kept the good doctor in fruits and vegetables and told him which of the meat purveyors to trust and often brought a dish or two that I had experimented with and thought he might like, knowing politeness would never allow him to refuse.
But back to the present, though.
Greetings exchanged I took a quick survey of my friend. I'd noticed a decline in him the last few weeks, weight loss judging by the bagginess of a sweater that had fit two months earlier, sleepless nights showed under his eyes, and his smile came more and more hesitantly. He stood off to the side as I assisted customers but being a champion multitasker I was able to keep the bulk of my attention on him while making a successful sale.
"Busy today?" he asked.
I smiled cheerfully. "Oh, yes. Summer has come early for us and the peaches have followed suit. We're the only stall here with peaches so early. I put some aside in a bag for you, along with a pie. You mentioned once that you had a fondness for it."
"I don't know if I can eat a whole pie," he said.
"Well, you could take it to your sister's. How are she and her wife getting along?"
"They're alright. Talking about adopting." A quirk of a smile.
"So you'll be Uncle John then! That's marvelous. That definitely calls for pie."
"Oh. That reminds me. I have another surprise for you. I'll ask you to be gentle in your criticism as I've never made it before and this was, I think, the most successful batch." I took the opportunity of the pause in customers to scurry to the back of the stall where I dug out a jar and presented it to him.
He studied it for a moment before I got nearly a full smile that just reached his eyes. "Strawberry jam."
"This was our first year planting strawberries and I wanted you to have the first fruits of our labor."
I took the jar back and tucked it into the bag with the peaches and the pie. "Where's Mrs. Hudson? Charming some flowers out of Mr. Clarke?"
"I expect so. Or some pork out of Mr. Parker."
I rolled my eyes dramatically. "Such a flirt. She has half of the gentlemen here tripping over themselves to get her business and I can't find a single!"
He smiled at me softly. "Somehow I don't see you ever having a trouble finding a lad to make a fool of himself over you."
I grinned. "No, not since Uni. After mum and dad and Ella were gone and I came home I dove into the farm and never really came up for air. And when I did it was because some poor bloke and gone and got himself bashed in the head and almost literally dropped on my doorstep."
I should explain that. About eight months ago we had a terrible storm that left a great many of our trees down. I had waited until the worst of it had passed before going out with some of the men to inspect the damage. While walking through what remained of my plum trees I almost tripped over some poor man who must've gotten caught right in the middle of it. He had a nasty gash on his head and was soaked through. Being a bit of ways out of town and with so much damage in the area, it was several hours before a doctor would be able to come to us so I had him taken up to the house where I did the best I could for the head wound and set about trying to warm him up. When the doctor did finally arrive, the patient was still unconscious and would very likely be facing a bad case of pneumonia. For the next month he was half-delirious with fever and when that finally broke and he was speaking coherently, the poor man couldn't remember a thing. A stroke of luck had been finding the broken down car he'd been forced to abandon that had contained a wallet but all it had in it was a few pounds and no ID. It was nearly three months before he was strong enough to stand and we had no leads on who he was or where he'd been coming from. The doctor had said it would be best to let his memory try to work its way back on its own so I'd gotten him settled into the old gardener's cottage on our property where he made a steady recovery. He had offered to pay rent but as he had no job I had suggested a trade. Help out on the farm for room and board, which he'd agreed to. He was a restless sort, could often get more done in a morning then many did in a day but on occasion could be equally frustrating, disappearing for hours on end, sometimes a whole day, but always returning with an idea to help the farm which, most of the time, turned out to be a great success. The strawberries had been his idea. Since we couldn't go around addressing him with no name, one day he'd asked me to come up with one for him. Not a last name, just a first. I'd studied him hard while he sat calmly under my scrutiny. Because of the placement of his earlier head wound I had been forced to trim his formerly longer hair short, and the black that it had been had lightened several shades in the sun. He had a long face with likely the finest cheekbones ever to grace a face and eyes so light and clear that I romantically imagined must be the color of starlight. It was a striking face, sort of rugged now that he was letting some scruff in here and there, and he was taller than me, an impressive feat over a girl of nearly six feet, and terribly thin, more so when he'd gotten here but a few months on a farm will change that. I decided to call him Ben. He frowned curiously and asked why. I told him I didn't know but that I rather liked the possibilities of it. Was it short for the classic Benjamin or the more unusual Benedict? A Ben could be anything they wanted. He rather liked that so from that day forward he was Ben and my friend.
Well, now I've gotten completely off the point, haven't I? Back to Doctor Watson.
"Oh, your amnesiac friend. How is he? Any memories resurfacing?" he asked curiously.
"Not a one and I think I'm as frustrated as he is. He's taken up bees."
"Well, beekeeping. He's built several bee boxes down by the little cottage and he's been studying them. He's not sure why, just that he finds them interesting and the poor man desperately needs a hobby before he irritates me so that I bury him out with the rhubarb."
"I bet they'll grow better."
"You might be right. Oh. Lord, I'm a scatterbrain today. I brought along some rhubarb for your inspector friend. Lestrade? When he stopped by with you a couple of weeks ago he mentioned he'd like some."
A shield came down over the doctor's eyes. "Right. I'll see that he gets them," came his stiff reply.
"Something wrong? You two on the outs?" I asked.
"Met for a pint last week."
I couldn't see why that would be so upsetting so I waited, knowing there would be more.
"He and his wife are giving it another go. They're taking a trip next week. A second honeymoon."
He scowled at his shoes and mumbled. "Don't see why it couldn't wait a week…"
"What's in a week?" He looked up at me, startled, as though he hadn't realized he'd spoken out loud.
"What? Nothing. Just…an anniversary. Thought he should be here."
Ah. I asked the next question as gently as possible. "The someone you lost?"
He paled a bit before nodding jerkily. "How'd you know?"
"I've lost people too, John. I know what it looks like. You're losing weight. Why do you think I keep bringing you food?"
"Trying to take care of me, are you?"
"Someone has to." I put a hand on his arm and rubbed.
He sighed. "Greg-. Lestrade. He thinks I should go away this year. Not stay in London for it. But I don't know how I can go."
I'm not really sure where the idea came from. Just that I didn't think this incredibly sweet, incredibly sad man should spend such an obviously hard time all by himself another year. "Why don't you come stay with me for a few days?"
Startled again. "Pardon?"
"Sure. The house is big, plenty of room for you, you'll be able to see the last of the Blossom Trail. Plenty of fresh air. You don't even have to stay for a week. Just come for a few days and if you want to go home I'll drive you back myself."
"Oh. Moira. I couldn't impose-"
"It's an offer, not an imposition. John, I won't ask because I know it's something you only talk about if you're ready but I know what this feels like. You shouldn't have to be alone. You can talk, you can not talk, you can eat massively, which I firmly encourage because you've lost close to two stones, you can take a walk through the orchards, walk along the river, just do whatever you like for a few days. And if you want to be back in London on the anniversary, farmer's honor, I will bring you back."
He studied me for a moment, I knew my face was earnest, my eyes painfully understanding in the way that only people who have lost someone important can grasp. He nodded slowly.
"Alright." He seemed a tad shocked. Like he couldn't believe he'd agreed.
I smiled. "Wonderful! Now how about you run home and pack and meet me back here at three. We should be all packed up by then."
"Alright." A bit more confident in his decision now. Warming up to the idea. "I'll be back at three."
"You won't regret it," I said with a smile. "I promise."
If I had known what was going to happen in the weeks that followed, I might have phrased that a bit differently.
So, I hope you're enjoying this so far. I'm going to do my absolute best to update this as often as possible, I have a definite plan in mind, it's just a matter of carving out the time to actually write. A few notes: Pershore is a real place in Worcestershire in the UK, I stumbled across it in a book about hidden jewels of the English countryside in a section about the Vale of Evesham and the town of Pershore is just surrounded by orchards so I thought it would be a nice place to put a farm. It's also only a couple hours outside of London and I needed to put it far enough away from London that Moira wouldn't necessarily know about Sherlock but not so far that she wouldn't have a reason to come in often. Marylebome Farmers' Market is real and that car park is where it is, I tried to find the closest market to Baker Street (even though the actual filming location is N. Gower Street) and that was it. Also, I'm putting this timeline at about June of 2014. Two years after Reichenbach. According to his "blog", John's last post about Sherlock's death was on June 16th. I know in ACD's canon, Sherlock was gone for three years but I didn't want to stretch it quite so far. Again, I hope you've enjoyed this and come back for more. Also, I apologize for any grammatical errors. I stayed home with a migraine today while writing this so I'm not quite as good about catching them as I normally am. Reviews are appreciated!