Chapter One: Opening Night
Disclaimer: All for love, not for profit.
Joan Watson descends the stairs in a percussion of stiletto heels. From where he is sprawled on the sofa in the parlor, Sherlock Holmes calls out.
"It's a restaurant opening, Watson, not an invitation to a royal ball. Your Christian Louboutins seem a trifle overdressed."
"Speaking of dressed," Watson says as she strides into the room pulling a mohair sweater over her asymmetrical silk shift, "you aren't going like that, are you?"
Holmes sweeps his gaze over his torso and then looks up at her.
"Why not? I am adequately covered, even in the opinion of someone with excessively prudish sensibilities such as yourself."
"You're in a t-shirt," Watson says, wrinkling her nose. "One I saw you wearing yesterday. This is an important night for your brother. I thought you wanted to make amends."
The mention of Mycroft makes Holmes uneasy. As glad as he is for their recent tentative rapprochement, Holmes can't help but feel as if Mycroft is waiting to spring something particularly onerous or unpleasant on him. A request to visit their father, perhaps. Another private dinner invitation to Watson.
He's still uncomfortable imagining the meal Mycroft already shared with Watson—the one where Sherlock had been the main topic of discussion, the one where Watson had suggested that getting his attention was the key to getting to know him. A ridiculous comment, implying as it does that he is unobservant. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Christian Louboutins, for instance. Watson almost never wears them—not because they are uncomfortable, but because they are an expensive indulgence, an uncharacteristic showy extravagance that embarrasses her and keeps her from enjoying them more often.
Yet here she is wearing them, her finest shoes, the rest of her apparel impeccable. The idea that the evening is important to her is surprisingly disagreeable.
"We did make amends," Holmes says. "The past is forgotten. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. Otherwise I wouldn't have agreed to attend tonight."
"In a t-shirt."
"You know me, Watson. Comfort over style. However, if it makes you more comfortable, I will put on a freshly laundered one."
"If you are," Watson says, opening her clutch and looking inside, "you need to do it now or we will be late."
Holmes opens his mouth to point out that the brownstone is a two minute walk to the nearest subway station, that the A and C trains into the city run every seven minutes this time of night, that the walk from the station in Manhattan to Mycroft's new restaurant is less than a block. No hurry necessary.
Watson shifts, the heel of her right shoe coming down harder than normal. Irritation?
"Back in a sec," he says and is rewarded with a look of relief crossing her face.
The trip into the city takes more time than Holmes anticipated. The A line is undergoing weekend maintenance, something he would have known if he'd checked. Not like him to fly blind this way—something must have distracted him. By the time he and Watson exit at 14th Street, the sun is setting and a chilly breeze is whirling bits of paper along the sidewalk.
Two weeks before Halloween and New York is enjoying a warm spell. A respite, really, before the miserable cold to come. Not that New York is colder or more miserable than, say, London in winter, though Holmes is fully aware—because Watson reminds him often—that he carries his own internal weather with him wherever he is.
Watson shivers and crosses her arms in a vain attempt at increasing her warmth by decreasing her body mass's exposure to the chill. Without comment, Holmes slides his arms from his jacket and offers it to her. Her face pinches into an unreadable expression—and for a moment he thinks she is going to refuse the jacket. Then with an odd snort, she takes it, slipping it over her shoulders.
"I should have come better prepared," she says.
"Like me, you may find this event oddly distracting."
"I find this event exciting," Watson says, sounding like a school master correcting a wayward student. Holmes lifts an eyebrow in response.
"Exciting is when an unidentified murdered body shows up in the morgue," Holmes corrects her. "A puzzle to be solved, a criminal found and arrested. That's true excitement, Watson, not nibbling on some overblown celebrity chef's fanciful imaginings."
Watson darts a glance in his direction.
"You really ought to widen your interests," she says. "There's more to life than solving crime."
"I have many interests," Holmes says, stepping off the curb into the crosswalk. "Indeed, I am more widely read than the majority of people. Unlike them, however, my interests are connected. Rather than random, scattered bits of knowledge, mine are catalogued and sorted in the service of making the world safer from criminal elements."
His comments are factual and straightforward but Holmes is certain Watson will look askance—roll her eyes, as it were. When he turns to look at her, he sees that he is right. Eye rolling indeed.
"Here we are," he says, indicating sleek glass double doors with a brightly lit sign overhead that says "Blossom."
Mycroft's new restaurant is his first in America. Like his five other ventures in the UK, Blossom is upscale, touting a well-known chef and sufficient ambience to garner notice from serious food critics. Unlike his other restaurants, Blossom specializes in regional cuisine from the American South. A curious choice for an Englishman, though Mycroft's choice of New York is just as surprising.
"It gives me an excuse to play on this side of the pond," Mycroft said when Holmes first heard his plans.
"You consider risking your money in a business with a high chance of failure mere play," Holmes said, but Mycroft simply laughed, refusing to be riled.
Apparently the risk is worth it. Since opening three weeks ago, the place has been packed each night, online reservations listing the first available seating weeks in the future. Tonight is an exception—the official opening—and Watson hands an engraved invitation embossed with the image of a magnolia flower to the hostess. With a smile, she leads them to a small table near the kitchen door.
The inside of the restaurant is a contrast to its minimalist exterior. The plaster walls are pale lavender, the high ceiling covered with ornamental pressed tin squares. The artwork on the walls is varied but all identifiably from the American South—an antique appliqued quilt folded and hung on a dowel, several Romare Bearden collages grouped together, a scrolled iron gate by Philip Simmons mounted in a corner. Holmes nods in approval.
As they are seated, Mycroft approaches and holds out his hand to Watson.
"Joan," he says, letting his fingers linger in her palm. "Thank you for coming."
Even in the dim light Holmes can see Watson blush.
"We wouldn't miss it," she says, darting a glance at him. With a start, Holmes realizes that she is giving him his cue.
"Indeed we wouldn't," he says.
Mycroft narrows his eyes at him as if doubting his sincerity. "For tonight the chef has prepared a tasting menu, but you can order from our regular menu if you prefer."
He hands them each a folded printed card with the same embossed magnolia flower on the front, then moves away to greet other guests. The menu is inside, and on the back is a short biography of the chef, Travis Wilkerson, who grew up in rural North Carolina but has worked in New York for a decade in several notable restaurants. Blossom is his first time as head chef, and according to the biography, he is updating recipes from his childhood by adding a modern twist.
"The tasting menu," Holmes says when a waiter comes up to take their order. "Without the wine pairing for me. Watson?"
He sees the wheels of her mind turning. It's touching, really, how she rarely drinks around him, as if he will be tempted by her imbibing. He hastens to reassure her that he doesn't mind if she has a glass of wine with her meal.
The first course arrives right away. With a flourish, the nattily dressed waiter sets down small plates of sautéed shrimp drizzled with a spicy tomato reduction, the chef's version of a traditional shrimp cocktail.
"This morning these shrimp were swimming off the Carolina coast," the waiter says.
"How unfortunate for them," Holmes mutters. Across the table, Watson gives an undisguised snicker.
The other courses come more slowly—fried slices of polenta-like grits, a shredded kale salad, a mound of pulled pork dressed with vinegar and pepper flakes, and for dessert, gooey pecan pie. Holmes has to admit that the food is an improvement on his usual dinners—cold cereal or ethnic take-out. Watson, too, seems to enjoy it. She keeps up a pleasant patter, mostly stories about meals she recalls sharing with her family—epic Chinese feasts on holidays and cozy meals prepared by her grandmother.
Throughout, Mycroft moves around the crowded room, chatting with customers and refilling wine glasses. He's always been the more self-assured—the one with an instinctive understanding of people and how to relate to them, as extroverted as Holmes is introverted, but with as keen a mind as his younger brother.
No, not as keen. Keener. In his private musings Holmes can admit that. Mycroft's academic achievements are impressive, his intuition flawless.
Except in the matter of love. There the brothers share a similar myopia about women. Or at least the bad luck to get duped in the past.
Mycroft passes their table, giving Watson a smile.
From the kitchen comes a loud bang and Mycroft scurries through the door. Almost at once Holmes hears him shouting—and even louder, another voice. Another bang, and then Mycroft appears again at the door, his face red.
If any other patrons are aware of the noise, no one turns to look. Watson, however, says, "Do you think we should check on him?"
What Mycroft does in his own business is none of their concern. Holmes is about to say so when he hears his brother's voice raised again, this time at a man sitting alone at a table beside a window.
"—unwelcome and uninvited," Mycroft says to the man. "I'll ask you to leave now!"
People are craning their necks to watch the argument. Conversations fall silent. The only noise is the distant clanging in the kitchen and an occasional clink of a fork on a plate.
Slowly the man rises.
"You'll be sorry," he says loudly enough for Holmes to hear. Then he steps to the door and exits. At once the noise in the restaurant resumes.
"What was that about?" Watson says, and Holmes shrugs. It's the kind of drama that holds no appeal. A simple misunderstanding, the gears of social discourse grinding to a halt for some unremarkable reason.
"Dunno," he says, lifting a fork of pecan pie to his mouth. "But it has nothing to do with us."
Eight hours later he's proven wrong when the phone wakes him up. With one bleary eye he notes the caller ID: the NYPD precinct phone number. Instantly Holmes sits up in bed, alert. The evening might not be a total waste after all.
"Yes, Captain Gregson?"
But the voice on the other end of the line isn't the captain's.
"Sherlock, I need you right away."
"I'm being questioned by the police."
And then like an afterthought, he adds, "On suspicion of murder."
A/N: Hello again, "Elementary" fandom! I had so much fun hearing from the terrific fans here when I wrote "Sherlock Goes to School" that I decided to wander back over with a new story. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for letting me know what you think!
Thanks to StarTrekFanWriter for her suggestions. Check out her many stories in my faves.