Title: Acceptably Close to Love
Characters: Siger Holmes, Metrodora Holmes, Sherlock, baby!Q
Warnings/Triggers: very slight implications of '60s mentalities
Summary: In which Siger Holmes meets Metrodora Mycroft, and falls in fascination with her.
Author's notes: I was talking about the Holmes parents with a friend, and what they were like and how they might have met and...tada. It's entirely my friend's fault.
This is almost completely headcanon, with a few references to book!canon. Set in the 'Trio' verse (Trio, No Rest, Most of the Time, also uploaded here), as a sort of prequel or bonus story, I don't know.
Sherlock would be about three and a half in the last section. Metrodora was named before I learned the Holmesian scholar theory of 'Violet', but I've gone with the scholarly theory for Father Holmes's name.
Siger Holmes hated parties more than anything in the whole of creation. They combined the things he hated most: talking to people, having food forced on him, and being stuck in a boring situation. They were a necessity for making connections at GCHQ, however, and since he very desperately wanted to get out of research and into cryptography, he accepted every invitation sent his way.
Through a little experimentation, he discovered that the minimum acceptable time to leave was forty-seven minutes after arrival, and if one placed oneself in a corner, one had at least fifteen minutes before someone felt the need to approach. Keeping oneself on the move could extend that time up to twenty minutes. Once, he'd managed twenty-seven.
He was well below his record tonight, but as he was forty-two minutes into the experience, the end was in sight. Thus, he smiled when two women approached him, rather than using his usual technique of attempting to deter by gaze alone.
The woman on the left was Bunny, or some such saccharine name. She was the very young wife of the very old man who lead the cryptography unit, and the hostess of the majority of the parties Siger attended. She hated him, but fortunately, her husband found him amusing.
The woman on the right he hadn't seen before, but he assumed she was tonight's sacrificial lamb. Bunny always found some unsuspecting soul to force into a conversation with him, so Bunny could feel as though she was being a good hostess without having to speak to him.
"Siger!" Bunny cooed. "How nice of you to come."
"I wouldn't miss it for the world," Siger said, dryly.
She gave him a cold smile. "You're too kind," she said. "I'd like you to meet a friend of mine, Miss Dora Mycroft. Dora, this is Mr Siger Holmes. He works with Robert."
Dora was tall and thin, and almost plain. She would qualify as plain if her face didn't have such interesting angles, and her eyes weren't such a pale grey. Those two features granted her an air of the exotic. She stretched a long-fingered hand out for him to shake, and he accepted it. She gave two firm pumps, then released.
"Pleasure to meet you, Mr Holmes," she said.
"Likewise," he said.
Bunny found some excuse to hurry off, leaving them alone with absolutely no basis to start a conversation. Dora stared at him with her exotic eyes, and he stared back, waiting to see how long it would take before she felt the need to speak. When she did, it was less out of discomfort and more out of curiosity.
"What does the E stand for?" she asked.
Siger blinked. That wasn't what he was expecting. He was expecting politics or the weather or if he was single or not. "Pardon?" he said.
She pointed to his hand. "Your ring says ESH," she said. "The S and H are presumably for Siger Holmes. What is the E for?"
Siger lifted his ring to examine it, as though he hadn't worn it every day for the last several years. Most people wouldn't have noticed the E. The scroll work was fancy, and it mostly looked like swirls. He'd never had anyone enquire about it before.
"Edward," he said. "It's my first name."
"That's rather boring," she declared. "No wonder you go by Siger."
"I go by Siger because my father is also an Edward," Siger said. "It's a matter of clarity, not preference. Besides, Dora isn't exactly rare."
"It's short for Metrodora," she said, primly. "It means 'mother's gift'. In Greek."
"How fascinating," Siger lied.
She laughed, a tinkling little sound. "What does Siger mean?" she asked.
"I've no idea, is it important?" he said.
She shrugged. "It's interesting," she said.
He was going to refute that, but she suddenly leaned right in towards him, making him lean back instinctively. What was she doing now?
"You tie your tie with your left hand," she said. "But you're right-handed."
"How on earth could you know that?" he blurted out.
"Isn't it obvious?" she asked, blinking in confusion. "It's extremely easy to tell a right-hand knot from a left-hand knot. Why do you use your left hand?"
"My father is left-handed," he said. "And he taught me. I never bothered to learn the other way, it worked perfectly well."
He assumed he'd given a satisfactory answer, as she nodded as though it made perfect sense. She went back to staring, and he was the unusual position of feeling uncomfortable. He was both afraid of what she was going to notice next, and intrigued. They battled, and fear won out. He did something he'd never done before: he made small talk.
"Are you new to London?" he asked.
"No," she said. "I lived here for a while as a child, amongst other places. I've been in France for the past two years, though."
"What were you doing there?" he asked.
"Painting," she said.
"Why would you want to do that?" he said. She was obviously clever. What a waste of intellect.
He'd finally caught her out. She looked extremely confused at the question. She frowned a little, thinking, and then answered in a matter-of-fact tone.
"I like it, and I am very good at it," she said.
He barked a laugh at that. From the look on her face he'd expected something profound about artistic joys and freeing one's soul. He took his pocket watch out to check the time, uncaring if it wasn't polite. Forty-six minutes. He should start to make his excuses.
"If you used a horsehair brush, you'd get a better shine on your shoes," Dora said.
How the hell did she know what kind of brush he used? He waited for the explanation, and listened as the magic trick was revealed. The clock ticked onwards into fifty minutes. He forgot to care.
He was fairly certain he hadn't actually asked Dora out on a date. He accepted the fact that he'd somehow how made one with her, but he was absolutely positive it wasn't his fault, even if he'd done the asking. She must have manipulated him somehow. By the morning after he'd done it, he had whatever the romantic version of Buyer's Regret was, and attempted to ring and break it, only to be so steamrolled over by her plans that he never had a chance to get around to the breaking part. He seriously contemplated simply failing to show up, but that was cruel, even for him.
He arrived to pick her up the appointed hour. She was dressed nicely, but not over the top. She hadn't tried too hard. He approved of that. They were going to the National Gallery, and then to dinner.
He hadn't dated much in his life. His mother feared that he was 'one of those', as she put it, ("we can get you help, dear"), but he assured her that he was, in fact, attracted to women. He just found them very hard to put up with for an extended period of time.
His longest relationship had lasted two weeks, with a girl who was clearly trying to find a rich husband. Most of her conversation had revolved around his estate, and his future in his career, and who his family were. She'd been very disappointed to find out that the Holmeses were rather jumped-up nouveau riche types. The house in Lincolnshire had been won in a bet a some generations back, and wasn't the ancient family estate she was looking for, nor did he possess a title to bestow. She'd hung on admirably, and he'd mostly allowed her to out of sheer curiosity at how long she would last. She left with a tirade about the state of his heart, which apparently was made of ice and nails.
Dora asked none of those sorts of typical questions. She was too busy looking at everything, as though her eyes wouldn't work fast enough to see all that she wanted. She saw things he couldn't begin to notice. Even art, which he'd never put much stock in, became much more interesting when he saw all the miniscule details through her eyes.
"This was painted by my seven-times great-grandfather," she said, pointing to a painting labelled 'Hunting in the Pontine Marshes'. "I believe. I know I'm related to him, but I'm not entirely sure the number of generations."
"I suppose you think that's where your artistic tendencies come from?" Siger asked.
"No. I don't believe art is genetic," she said. "I think it's learned. You value it because your parents valued it and their parents valued it. I'm very musical as well, because my father is musical, and his mother was musical. It all runs in the blood like that."
"It's a theory," Siger said, skeptically.
"What runs in your blood?" she asked.
Siger considered for a moment. "Sarcasm," he said.
She nodded, a look of mock seriousness on her face. "That's sort of an art, too, I suppose," she said.
All evening he kept waiting to be bored, but he wasn't. She wouldn't let him be. She just kept going, all controlled energy and enthusiasm. She filled in his lulls in the conversation, barrelling on whether he responded or not. She was exhausting in an entirely fascinating way. He wasn't attracted, he didn't think. Maybe he was. He was intrigued.
Which was a lot more fun.
Siger lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair. He was thinking. Hard. The small pile of cigarette ends building up in the ash tray was testament to that. He'd been thinking since he'd got out of bed that morning. And smoking. He tended to smoke in bursts, then ignore the cravings for days on end. Smoking was reserved for making his brain work clearly.
He needed to think clearly.
Dora was still asleep. He stared at her while he smoked. She was the problem. He'd been seeing her for nearly six months now, and she had entirely failed to become boring. It was annoying. Week after week, he kept waiting for her to lose her patience, or suddenly demand attention or need to be coddled. She didn't seem to care, though. She seemed fine on her own for extended periods, so that if he worked all night and all day and forgot to ring, she just carried on her merry way, as though he wasn't very important at all. Which for some reason he found vexing, in a way he quite enjoyed.
She was a fully formed person without him. She was clever, and capable, and played beautiful music and made beautiful pictures and saw the world in details no one else did.
He'd come to the conclusion sometime during the night that he might be in love with her. That was too ambiguous a term for him, so he'd been trying to break it down into something more precise. What it amounted to was that he liked to spend time with her, that he didn't want to spend time with other people, and that he didn't want her to not spend time with him. And when she was hurt or ill or sad, he wanted to correct it. And he wanted to be important to her. Which, if it wasn't love, it was something acceptably close to it.
He finished his current cigarette and stubbed it out in the ash tray. Then he purposely got up, walked over to the bed and shook her awake.
"Get up, we're getting engaged," he said. "We'll go to Hatton Garden and get you a ring."
She blinked up at him, and smiled. "Excellent," she said.
"I only have an hour," he warned.
"That's fine," she said. "I already have a ring picked out."
Siger's patience was wearing thin, and he'd only picked up Sherlock from his in-laws half an hour ago. He wasn't sure how Dora dealt with him all day. Or why she'd wanted another one.
He had trouble with Sherlock, far more than he'd had with Mycroft. At least once Mycroft learned to speak. He wasn't good with babies, who couldn't say what they wanted. It was like trying to crack a code written in gibberish. Once Mycroft had become a person, and not just a wailing collection of molecules, he'd managed quite well. Mycroft did things logically. He thought precisely and acted appropriately. It was easy to know what he was going to do, and after seven years, Siger had forgotten what it was like to have a baby. If Dora wanted another, why not?
Sherlock was a whirlwind. He took Dora's energy up another degree, and acted without any sort of reason. He was curious without any self-limits, and the moment no one was watching him, he immediately tried to kill himself. He didn't listen, couldn't be prevailed upon to come away from what he was doing without a fight. It was settling down as he got older, but Siger still found looking after him like holding a bag of unruly cats.
At present, it had taken them ten minutes to walk the length of the hospital car park. Sherlock had to stop to look at everything. He was currently on his hands and knees over a puddle, staring down at it with intense concentration.
"Sherlock, come along, Mummy is waiting for us," Siger said.
Sherlock poked at the puddle with his finger and watched the ripples. "I'm busy," he said.
"Don't you want to meet the baby?" Siger asked.
"No," Sherlock said. "Why do worms come out in the rain?"
"So they don't drown in their holes, I believe," Siger said.
"How do you know which is a boy worm and which is a girl?" Sherlock asked.
"They're hermaphrodites," Siger said.
"What's that?" Sherlock asked.
"It means...never mind," Siger said. "I'll tell you later, if you come along now and meet the baby."
Sherlock folded his arms. "Mycroft doesn't have to meet the baby," he said.
"Mycroft is in school, he'll come later," Siger said.
Sherlock pouted. "I want to be in school," he said.
They were so very close to the door, and Siger had had quite enough. He plucked Sherlock up, dodging flying limbs, and carried him into the hospital over his shoulder. He ignored the disapproving stares that Sherlock's howls and screams of unfairness were garnering. He went over to the lift and stepped in calmly once it arrived.
"I want to push the button," Sherlock said, going limp all at once.
Siger turned around so that Sherlock was facing the buttons. "Maternity is on the fourth floor," he said.
Sherlock pressed the button, and Siger turned back around to face the doors.
"How do you spell 'maternity'?" Sherlock asked.
"How do you think it's spelled?" Siger asked.
"Erm...m-a-t-u-r-n-i-t-y?" Sherlock tried.
"Close," Siger said. "Try again."
"M-a-t-u-r-n-i-t-e-e?" Sherlock guessed.
"Less close," Siger said.
They arrived on the fourth floor, and Siger set Sherlock down on the ground. Sherlock read the sign out carefully, frowning at the spelling of maternity.
"I don't like that it has an E there," he announced. "It's stupid."
Siger pulled him by the hand down the hallway. Sherlock ran ahead when they reached Dora's room, and Siger paused in the doorway to let out a sigh of relief that he'd brought Sherlock across the city and the child was still alive. Quite an accomplishment.
Dora sat with the baby in her arms. She looked perfectly photogenic now, much better than when he'd left her a few hours earlier to return to work. He'd been there for the final moments of his children's births, but not up to that point. It had been agreed upon by both of them that his presence was the opposite of helpful. He'd removed himself when Mycroft was born, letting her mother take over until his birth was imminent. Dora's sister attended for Sherlock, and the new baby had come so quickly that she'd been on her own for the majority of it. Siger come flying in just in time for the final push.
Sherlock hurried over and pulled himself onto the bed. Siger moved around to a chair and set himself in it, feeling he earned a break.
"I was playing pirates with Mamie. Father made me stop to come here," Sherlock announced, by way of greeting. He crawled up by Dora's side and stared down at the baby.
"Well, this is very important," Dora said, putting her hand on the back of his head and playing with his curls. "The baby is anxious to meet you."
Sherlock frowned. "Hello," he said to the baby, after a moment. He looked back to Dora. "What its name?"
"His name is Trevelyan," Dora said.
"How do you spell that?" Sherlock asked.
Dora spelled it out.
Sherlock frowned again, and stared for several minutes, at one point poking the baby in the stomach. "I don't like him," he said. "He's boring."
"He won't be boring when he gets older," Dora promised.
Sherlock appealed to Siger. "Can I go now?" he asked.
"In a bit," Siger said. "Why don't I make you a cipher to work on while you wait?"
Sherlock brightened at this. Code breaking was the one activity that appealed to both Mycroft and Sherlock. Siger found some paper and a pen and set a simple Caesar cipher for Sherlock to crack, keeping his vocabulary and spelling abilities in mind. Sherlock took it and placed himself on the floor under Siger's chair to work on it. Siger kicked his heels back underneath the chair to tickle Sherlock's side, and Sherlock swatted him.
The baby started to wail and Dora soothed him, while Siger gritted his teeth against the sound. Why she wanted another child when he hadn't yet figured out all the operating procedures of the previous one was beyond him. She claimed to not be getting any younger, which he supposed was reasonable. At least it was another boy. Siger didn't think he'd do well with a girl.
"Do you want to hold him?" Dora asked, once Trevelyan calmed down. "He's not slippery anymore, and he's looking more like a person now."
Siger stepped over and received the baby into his arms. She was right, he was more identifiable now. Not as a Holmes, though. All babies looked the same; he'd be hard pressed to pick his own children out of a group before they grew up a little. It looked like he would have the same black hair as Sherlock and Mycroft—and himself. Eyes always changed colour, so he didn't take the bright blue as permanent. Sherlock and Mycroft had both been blue before they settled into their grey.
He brought the baby over to the window, stepping over Sherlock on the floor. The phone next to the bed rang, and Dora answered. It sounded like Mycroft was ringing to check in on her.
"Yes, I'm fine, everyone's fine," she said. "You go on to your next class. Father will pick you up after school. I love you."
Siger bounced Trevelyan gently in his arms, looking at his reflection in the window. He was starting to go grey at the temples. No wonder. Three children. How on earth did that happen, him with his heart of ice and nails?
It was still ice and nails, really. It just had a few cracks in it to let certain people through. Three boys, one wife; they all slipped in. Perhaps not easily, or comfortably, but they fit.
And whatever that counted as—love or something acceptably close to it—it would do.