Hello hello! This marks the beginning of what promises to be a very enjoyable month. I'm certainly looking forward to it. Today's prompt, from I'm Nova, is Knight. Thank you for reading!
Sherlock pressed his fingertips into the soft clay, leaning closer until his nose nearly brushed against it. The chair creaked beneath him as he rested his elbows on the low table. His dark eyes were sharp, his brow furrowed in concentration. The clay had a particular scent, he noted; dull and earthy, similar to wet sand. He filed this information away for later use.
A voice called from outside his door. He remained silent, turning the clay and pinching a stray lump into shape. It was nearly complete, slowly taking recognisable form in his hands.
"I say, are you in there?"
The voice was curt. He paid no heed, letting the figure rest flat in his palm to critique it.
Another summons was cut short, as Mycroft grew frustrated and pushed his way into the room. Wood scraped on wood as the armchair slid away from its place as barricade.
"Evening, Mykey," Sherlock murmured, eyes narrowed in thought.
"Hello." He registered Mycroft sitting across from him, elbows resting on his knees. His fingers and wrists were ink-stained, and he smelt of smoke. Clearly, he had come straight from studying with the older boys.
The daylight was quickly dying, and Sherlock found himself straining to see. Wordlessly, he set down his project and fished out a candle and matches. Contraband, to be sure, but necessary.
"Are you supposed to have those?" Mycroft asked, his tone amused.
"I need them."
Light restored, he reached out to resume his sculpting. The clay had wormed its way under his fingernails, leaving dark crescent shapes. Mother would have his hide if he presented such hands, back home.
"Whatever are you doing, Sherlock?" Mycroft leaned closer to inspect his craftsmanship. "Is that a horse?"
Mycroft quirked an eyebrow, sinking back into the settee and crossing his legs. "It certainly looks like one."
Sherlock shrugged minutely.
"Are you going to come to dinner? They've nearly finished serving."
Mycroft let out a put-upon sigh. "Very well. I shall leave you to your work."
He did not respond, setting the figure down on the table to test its balance. A tiny smile flitted across his face. It remained perfectly even.
"Are you well? You've been... Withdrawn, these few days, I must say, even for you." Mycroft's hands were in his pockets, feet shuffling against the floor. He was uncomfortable. Mycroft was seldom uncomfortable.
"I am fine." Sherlock looked up at him properly for the first time. "Only busy."
The lie was seen through as such, but Mycroft did not pursue. "As you say. I can bring you a sandwich later, if you like."
"No thank you."
Mycroft passed a hand through his hair, and shook his head. "Good night, Sherlock. I will see you tomorrow."
Sherlock nodded. "Good night."
The door closed with a soft click, and Sherlock's shoulders loosened. He slid from his chair, treading quietly across the floor, and retrieved a small wooden box. Straining under the weight, he pushed it up onto the table, hands under the edge as it nearly fell.
Methodically, he removed each piece. The board, checked and painted on the back of an old sign, and thirty-one pieces, half plain brown and half stained white. He hoped Mr. Whittemore would not miss the container of whitewash. It was to be a surprise.
They looked well, lined up on the board. Not as good as his old chess set, which had been oak and cherry with gold inlays. A present from Grandfather Holmes. However, as that had found its home in the river, along with several other belongings, he would make do with this.
Simmons and Grimes would not get their hands on this one, as it would be safely stored in a dry corner of the groundskeeper's shed. He would not deign to give them the satisfaction of seeing it. A boy his age had no business with a chess set, they said. Ignorant. Still, it would be pleasing to steal away and play with Mr. Whittemore in the afternoons again. He made a formidable opponent.
Tomorrow was the first day of exams for the older boys. Sherlock wondered how his adversaries would fare with their ink dried out. New ink would have to be requested at the last moment from Miss McCreedy, the librarian. All the boys were intimidated by her, and she despised both wastefulness and lack of preparation. The deed could not be traced back to him, of course. They would suffer unawares.
"And the knight makes thirty-two," he said, setting the last piece down. He regarded it with pride.
Try as they might, they would never best him.