The Case of the Strange Etruscan Vase

Part III

by Joy Ellen Parker (Joyspc at aol.com)
7/16/02

After ten minutes of arguing that they couldn't possibly inconvenience Ben and Helena and that they would be perfectly fine on the floor in the other room, politeness won the battle and the two were forced to yield. They did succeed in getting Helena and Ben to take the blanket from the bed so their hosts wouldn't have to sleep on the bare floor in their own house, but that was all. "Lestrade," Holmes began as soon as Ben and Helena said goodnight and left them alone, "there is no need to-"

"If you tell me I'm overreacting, you won't live to see the dawn." With an effort, Lestrade ratcheted her voice down to a hiss, belatedly remembering the children who were sleeping nearby.

"I merely wish to state that I can sleep on the floor," Holmes whispered.

"And if one of the kids gets up in the night, hmmmmmm?" That headache had returned with a vengeance. Lestrade rubbed her forehead. "You started this, and you were the one to remind me that these people have plenty of reason to be suspicious."

"We could draw the curtain."

"You know how likely that is to keep them out tomorrow morning." Lestrade sat down on the edge of the bed and tried to remove her uniform boots. She was used to doing that by feel, but she wasn't used to feeling around on what looked like her bare leg. Even after she heard the thump of the boot falling, and saw it blink into existence, the holographic sandal she seemed to wear was still in place. This is really weird. I hope nobody decides to throw a pan of water on me or something. I would look perfectly dry. Getting burned at the stake or whatever it is they do to witches in this time would not improve this situation any. She shoved the boot under the bed out of sight and started on the other one. She heard Holmes draw the curtain and felt him sit down across from her. She kicked her other boot off with more force than was necessary and had to get up to retrieve it. "This system of holographic disguise was obviously not designed for long term existence in the past."

"Neither was I," Sherlock Holmes was lying on the bed now, looking perfectly comfortable. She threw the boot at him. It bounced off his chest and he caught it reflexively. Not even one little grunt, frag him!

"Rule number one: we sleep back to back; Rule number two: Only the footwear comes off; Rule number three: you don't get to sleep until I say. We need to talk."

"I'm at your disposal, of course." He held out her boot, his expression completely bland. When she snatched it back, he turned on his side and scooted over to give her room. I won't think about what he meant by that. I won't think about what he meant by that.

Lestrade placed the boot next to its mate as slowly and carefully as if she was disarming a bomb. She sat down on the edge of the mattress and tried to calculate whether or not she could avoid contact. The bed's got plenty of room. Thank you, Ben. Unfortunately what it also had was a dip in the middle. As soon as she laid down, she rolled against Holmes. His back was very warm and it came to her that he smelled of -- something. She couldn't quite place the scent. In the street, she could hear cart wheels and marching feet. Where were the soldiers going? Other less familiar noises of Rome, the largest city in an empire that was supposed to be safely buried thousands of years in her past, hummed at the edge of her awareness. Holmes shifted, but if he meant to put some distance between them, he had no luck.

Speaking of safely buried.... "Okay, Would you mind telling me why you decided we should pretend to be married? Couldn't I have been your sister or your cousin or something?"

He sighed and she tried not to twitch. "Lestrade, in this time women have even less freedom than in mine. No unmarried woman would be traveling with a man not related to her. I could have introduced you as a relative, but since we look nothing alike, my story would have been immediately suspect. Even if it were accepted, it would have seemed strange for a man to be bringing his sister or cousin on an extended trip -- but I admit I introduced you the way I did was because it was the first explanation for your presence that occurred to me. I didn't consider the possible... complications."

It was the first explanation that occurred to him? Sherlock Holmes the more-than-confirmed-bachelor?

Let it go.

"Why Linus?"

"Mycroft and I had a dog of that name when I was small. It was-"

"The first thing that occurred to you. Right. Has any notion of what Cromatty may be doing occurred to you?"

"Nero was eventually deposed and driven to suicide. I fear the professor may try to prevent that by strengthening his regime. We must not assume anything, however. Any change, no matter how minor, could have unforeseen effects."

At that Lestrade felt her stomach tighten. "Do you think we've changed something we shouldn't have? Maybe Cyrus was meant to get caught by the soldiers."

"Or we were meant to save him; it is difficult to tell. This is just the sort of paradox that always made me doubt that humankind would ever travel through time."

"So much for that theory. So what do we do?"

"We can only do what we think best and trust to Providence."

"I don't like flying blind."

"Your driving would suggest otherwise."

Lestrade chose to ignore that. "Speaking of Providence, do you really believe Ben saw a miracle?"

"As a police officer you certainly understand the positives and negatives of eyewitness testimony. Many of the supernatural events one reads about in the Bible have always seemed unlikely to me. But I have always felt that their must be a Creator, even if He and I never had much time for one another, and now...."

"Now?"

"Ben believes so strongly that Jesus is the son of God, he is willing to risk his life. So are our young friends. Nor are they alone in this. The apostles claimed to have seen an empty tomb-and later its former occupant alive and well. They gave their own lives to spread His message. Having risen from the dead myself, I'm hardly in a position to be skeptical."

"Go to sleep, Holmes."

Ad partem IV!

Ad partem II

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