Disclaimer: I don't own Sherlock. I'm just playing in someone else's park.
This started out as a one shot, but I liked the OC, and she hijacked John's blog later. I put that in a one shot story as well, then realized the stories were a single narrative told in vignettes. The invisible woman might show up again at a crucial moment in our boys' life. So, while this story is complete, it might one day expand.
I was sipping tea at a little sidewalk table under a sheltering awning. The table sat in front of the coffee shop directly across from my charge's front door. It made my job a lot easier that his home had only one exit. Technically, there were other exits, but my charge had shown no inclination to jump out of windows. He was as conservative in most of his habits as he was in his manner of dress. Not all of his habits, of course. If he had been as ordinary as he appeared, I wouldn't have a job.
My phone showed me an image of the back of his apartment building, with a good view of the windows, just in case. I hadn't gotten to be the best in my chosen field by being careless with my charges.
The detective slid into the chair opposite me.
I raised an eyebrow. I hadn't seen him leave the apartment, either by the front door, or the windows. Or, rather the flat, I suppose, not the apartment. I can blend my accent to match those around me in virtually any crowd, but sometimes I use American expressions for things. It's a dangerous weakness for a woman who needs to be invisible. I'll keep working on it.
"Hello," I said to the detective. "May I help you, Mr. ...?
"Holmes, Sherlock Holmes, although I'm sure you already knew that." The tall, curly-haired consulting detective waived the waittress away impatiently without ordering anything. "And you are?" He leaned forward, waiting for my answer, eyes so intensely focused and intelligent, I would swear I could feel them piercing into my brain.
It was difficult to think with that much potent attention spotlighting me. I'm used to being invisible. It should have felt like a bad thing to suddenly, and so forcefully, be noticed, but instead I found myself, "Intrigued, attracted, fascinated."
His eyes were a lovely shade of bright blue, but up this close, and with those eyes this focused on my face, I could see the patterns, different in each eye, of golden color glinting just above the pupils. It was a rare mutation, as if genetics had stamped a warning in those bright eyes to anyone who would heed it, that this individual was uniquely dangerous.
His expressive lips quirked in annoyance. "I meant who are you, and why are you following me?"
"I know what you meant, Mr. Holmes." I sighed. The man was beautiful and shining, but it wasn't my job to flirt. From what I had seen, it would be a waste of my time in any case. "My name is Susan, and I'm not following you." There was little point in lying to Sherlock Holmes. This man saw through lies like glass, and could cut you with their sharp broken edges. "Would you like to join me for tea? The biscuits are delicious." I nibbled the edges of one.
He ignored my offer. "You've been following us for weeks."
I smiled. Good to know that I wasn't completely losing my touch. "Months," I corrected him
"Months?" He blinked and sat back in his chair a little, non-plussed. "How could I have missed that?"
"You are often pre-occupied with your cases," I reminded him gently. "Your attention tends to be tightly focused then. Anything that isn't relevant to the puzzle at hand, and that doesn't present an immediate danger, you ignore."
"And you were never relevant to the cases." He nodded understanding, and added that bit of information to his sum of knowledge pertaining to me. Then he glared at me again. "One moment you say you're not following me, then you admit in the next breath that you've been following me for months. Which is it?"
"I'm not following you." At his skeptical expression, I shrugged. "You are not my charge, Mr. Holmes."
He was silent for only a second, perhaps two, those overwhelming eyes lost their laser focus on me as he processed the information. "John," he said. There was no question in his tone. "Why are you following John Watson?"
My smile widened. What a magnificent mind. "I have often wondered what would happen when the woman no one ever notices was put in such close proximity to the man who notices everything."
"No one ever notices you?" His eyes raked down my body and back up in an assessing way that would have made me blush if it had been any man but him. "Why?" he asked, seeing nothing in my appearance that would make me so difficult to notice. It's not as if I were painted to blend wth the chair or the brick wall of the coffee shop. Neither was their anything about my person that would make me stand out. Even being too plain can make one memorable.
I shrugged again and took a sip of my cooling tea. "That's my specialty. They call me the invisible woman."
He scoffed. "I see you."
"Do you?" I wondered if he really did. He, of all people, just might. "Close your eyes, Mr. Holmes."
"Why should I?" he asked warily.
"Because I am a puzzle you wish to solve, and if you do as I ask, I will give you new information." I had seen enough to know that a puzzle was the one bait he couldn't resist.
"Fine." He closed his eyes and crossed his arms. "What is this meant to prove?"
"You are a very observant person, and you have been staring right at me for the last few minutes. Tell me, Mr. Holmes, what color are my eyes?"
His brow furrowed for a moment. "Hazel, a mix of brown, green and gray. Your hair is dark blonde, with golden highlights, and you have a sprinkling of freckles on you nose and cheeks. You have never been married. You're an American. You're right-handed. You're a middle child with two brothers. You don't smoke, drink very little. You are very fond of tea, and you are an expert in hand-to-hand combat." He opened his eyes. "Satisfied?"
"Impressed." I waited expectantly but that was all he intended to say apparently. I was disappointed. "You're not going to tell me how you knew all that?"
"I gather that you are familiar with my methods of deduction." He tilted his head. "I'm more curious as to why you thought I wouldn't notice something as simple and obvious as the color of your eyes when I've been sitting right here looking at them."
"A fair question." I gestured to the waitress. "This same young lady has been serving me tea every day for seven months. Her name is Kate, and she's working her way through university. We've chatted several times over the months." I waived the young woman over.
"Can I get you something else, miss?"
"Just indulge me a bit. My companion and I are playing a game. Close your eyes for a moment.
The young waitress obliged with a bored expression
"What color are my companion's eyes and hair?" I asked.
"Blue eyes. And his hair is black and curly."
"And my eyes?"
"Um, brown? Blue?" The young woman's brows drew together.
"And my hair? Is it blonde? Dark? Red?"
"I um, is it dark?"
"Just one more question. You've been very kind to indulge us. Have I been here before?"
"Yes. A few times, I think. I remember you were here two weeks ago."
"When I broke my cup. Yes. Thank you, dear."
The waitress wandered off.
Sherlock Holmes waved a hand dismissively. "That proves nothing except that ordinary people are blind and stupid, which I already knew."
"She saw and remembered you just fine." I drained my cup of the last bit of cold tea. "She's actually quite an observant girl, to have remembered that I was here before. Most wouldn't remember at all, and if they did happen to recall my existence for some reason as she did, they would be unable to provide even the most rudimentary description."
"The invisible woman."
"Even to you for more than half a year, the man who sees everything, until I did something to make me stand out in your memory." I poured myself a second cup from the pot, added a single lump of sugar and a dash of cream. While I went about the task, I considered where I might have tripped up. It wasn't hard to figure out. The girl had already supplied the answer. "When I broke the teacup. That's when you noticed me."
"Even John noticed you."
"Dr. Watson noticed the noise and commotion, and that someone had broken something. If you ask him about it, he might remember the incident, but he certainly won't remember me."
"It wasn't an accident." Once again, he wasn't asking. He was mentally connecting the dots and coming to a conclusion.
"No, it was necessary." I regretted that my action had drawn attention. That wouldn't do. I would probably lose the contract, now. But it would have been pointless to keep the contract if I failed in my primary mission.
Those bright eyes lost focus again as he replayed the incident in his mind. "The lorrie," he said.
"John was distracted by the argument we had before we left the flat. He left ahead of me. I was trying to catch up to him. He looked back at me as he was walking. I saw that he was about to step out in front of a lorrie, but I was too far away to shout a warning."
"So, I dropped my teacup."
"John stopped, turned to see what the sudden noise was, and the lorrie passed. I remember feeling quite relieved."
I raised my cup to him in salute at his perfect recollection of the incident. The man really was amazing. "And that was when I first caught your attention. After you had noticed me that once, I could no longer blend as easily into the background of your life. I suspected that you might have caught on to something when you made eye contact with me yesterday."
"You referred to John as your charge. You're protecting him then?"
I shrugged. "As best I can without being obtrusive. You do seem to get him into a lot of trouble, Mr. Holmes." I smiled when I said it, to let him know it was more of a tease than a criticism.
"John delights in trouble."
I chuckled. "So he does."
"You are a terrible bodyguard," he remarked, just as I took another sip.
I laughed, and barely managed to avoid the indignity of snorting tea up my nose. "I am an exceptional bodyguard. The best in the world, in fact." It's not arrogance. It is simply fact.
"John has been kidnapped twice, and come within inches of death a half dozen times in the last seven months."
"Mm. Since you only count him as being kidnapped twice, I assume you mean the Tong and Moriarity. You're not counting the time your own brother kidnapped Dr. Watson."
"I assume Mycroft is the one who hired you."
"Ah, of course. You would."
"What do you mean by that?"
"It's a logical assumption, and you are a man driven by logic. I would expect you to come to that conclusion."
His face took on an expression of someone who tasted something sour. "Which is to say that I have reached entirely the wrong conclusion, but you have no intention of enlightening me."
"Or, perhaps, that you have reached the correct conclusion, and I am attempting to misdirect you." I have an excellent face for poker. I do blank and bland extraordinarily well. I might be able to keep the contract if I could keep the identity of my employer a secret. I liked this job. One of the two reasons I liked it so much stared me in the face with those burning blue eyes.
Holmes studied me closely for a few more seconds. He looked unsatisfied, then changed the subject back to the one I thought I had steered him away from. "Regardless of who hired you, you have done an abysmal job of keeping John safe."
"Keeping Dr. Watson safe is not my job. In fact, it would be counter-productive if I attempted to keep him completely safe. Like you, Watson thrives on the thrill of the chase."
He blinked. "You just said that you were his bodyguard."
"I said that I was watching over him, and that I was the best bodyguard in the world." I paid no real attention to the taste of the tea I sipped, but I savored the look of confusion on the face of the smartest man I had ever met. I sighed in pleasure, and smiled. I enjoyed surprising him. Despite the possible consequences, I was enjoying the entire conversation. "I was originally asked to watch over you, but once I had done my research on you, I refused the job."
He huffed a bit. "I have no need of a bodyguard."
I laughed again. "I'm not sure I've ever met anyone more in need of a guardian in my life."
"Then why did you turn down the job?" he challenged.
"Because anyone watching over you would eventually be spotted and rejected. Even me. You would undoubtedly find it an enjoyable exercise to avoid your own guardian. I would find a charge who constantly evaded me not only annoying, but impossible to protect. I made a counter-proposal to protect Dr. Watson instead."
"How does watching over John help me?"
I laughed again. "How long did you know John Watson before the first time he saved your life?
"I don't know. A few weeks, perhaps," he replied vaguely.
I raised an eyebrow.
"One day," he admitted.
I opened my hands to indicate that he had made my case for me. "Dr. Watson keeps you grounded. He has been a stabilizing influence in your life. He does not hold you back from doing what gives your life meaning. He, instead, wholeheartedly supports you in your chosen life's work of catching serial killers, kidnappers, and other particularly nasty criminals, but reins you in when you go completely off the rails."
"So, you believe that by keeping John from being hit by the occasional lorrie, you will keep me safe?" Sherlock asked. "What makes you so certain I won't leave him behind and go into danger on my own?"
"Oh, I have no doubt that you will. I have seen you do it. You have zero concern for your own safety. That's what makes you such a difficult man to protect. But like you, Mr. Holmes, I don't take on the easy cases. Where is the challenge in that?" I grinned at him.
He smiled back. For a moment, we acknowledged each other, each the best at what we do. Then, he tested my confidence, poking to see if there were any holes in my story. "It's not much of a strategy, really. Protecting a man that you know I'll leave behind if I feel like it."
I nodded acknowledgment. "True, you leave him behind sometimes. That first day, you walked out of a room full of police and John Watson, and got into a cab with a man you knew to be a serial killer. You left him behind, but he found you, and saved your life anyway. I'm not sure I could have done as well, myself."
"You contradict yourself a lot, you know? First, you say you're the best, then you say John is better than you are."
"In your case, Dr. Watson will always be a better protector for you than I ever could be. Not just because he would do anything to protect you himself, but also because you will do almost anything to protect him, including avoid danger that you otherwise would blithely walk into, and pit that brilliant mind of yours against any enemy foolish enough to threaten him. That is why, I watch over him, but do not keep him completely safe. Keeping Dr. Watson safe is counter to my primary mission."
I patted my lips with a napkin and set the empty cup down. "Knowing that, I put my energies into keeping Dr. Watson alive and involved in your life. Nothing more. Beyond that, like any bodyguard worth her salt, I seek to remain invisible and interfere as little as possible."
I folded my hands in my lap, and looked into those eyes that saw everything, even me, who walked through so much of my life unseen. "The question is, now that you know who I am and what I do, what will you do with the information?"
"Do?" He considered the question. "I hadn't really thought about it."
I smiled warmly. I was a puzzle to be solved. Solving the puzzle had been his only goal. What to do with that solution was not a factor he had considered. How very typical of the man. I waited patiently while he thought about it, considered the possible implications of sharing what he had learned with pretty much anyone, including his best friend or his brother. If anyone learned who I was, and what I was doing, I would become ineffectual. I would lose the job. It might or might not be assigned to someone else.
"I believe I'll have that tea now," he said, after a few moments. "Unless you're no longer offering?"
"I'd be delighted, Mr. Holmes."