Chapter II: The Belle of the Ball
by Jordanna (librarie at jordanna.net)
Chapter II: The Belle of the Ball
The days between the twenty-sixth and thirty-first of December
were uneventful. Holmes was not engaged in any particular work on
the day of New Year’s Eve, but the Irregulars had invited
themselves to spend the afternoon with him, as Watson was taking
them to see a sub-orbital fireworks display at midnight. The day
passed pleasantly in their company, and they were still lingering
in the sitting room when Holmes retired to dress for his evening
"You look spiffy, Mister Holmes," Deidre proclaimed brightly when
Holmes returned to the room.
"I presume that to be a compliment," Holmes replied genially,
leaning close to the mirror above the hearth to adjust his cravat
of mulberry-colored silk. He had not compromised his customary
anachronism for the sake of formality; his suit, sharp and black
as the winter’s night beyond the frost-rimmed windowpanes, was
as entirely Victorian in style as his Inverness coat. The
Inverness, however, would tonight be traded for a long black
cloak lined with white satin, which at the moment lay across the
back of the armchair.
A brief dimming of the lights caused Deidre to glance up.
"Inspector Lestrade must be here," she observed, clearly mindful
of her past lesson from Holmes about the old wiring.
"And that is unmistakably her tread upon the stair," Holmes
agreed as he strode over to the door. At the first knock from the
outside, he threw it open.
Holmes stood for a brief moment, staring... and his right eyebrow
arched slightly. For the undemonstrative detective, that subtle
change of expression was equivalent to a full-voiced exclamation
Elizabeth Lestrade looked as though she might have just stepped
from Queen Victoria’s court.
The dress of scarlet velvet was as Victorian in design as Holmes’
own attire--a magnificent cloud of ruffles and lace, underpinned
with sweeping crinoline skirts. The lines of Lestrade’s slim
figure even suggested--Holmes’ eyebrow hiked up a bit further--an
actual corset beneath the gold-buttoned bodice. Delicate lace
gloves were set off by a ruby-and-pearl ring on the right middle
finger, matching her necklace and earrings. Even her shoulder-
length brown hair had been arranged in the finest Victorian
Suddenly conscious that he was staring, Holmes blinked and
straightened his spine, his lips curving softly. "Why, there must
be some mistake, Madam. Surely you are not Inspector Lestrade."
Lestrade let out a tomboyish snort of amusement, but something in
her expression betrayed pleasure at the admiring tease. "Since
you’re making the effort to drag yourself into my world for once,
I thought it was only fair for me to try out yours." With that,
she brushed past him and glided majestically into the room.
Holmes turned to watch her, briefly letting his amazement show
upon his face while her back was turned -- much to the amusement of
"I say!" Watson remarked, gaping at Lestrade as she swept past
him to stand in the center of the room.
Beaming, the very much out-of-uniform Inspector gathered her
skirts and curtseyed playfully. "So what do you think?"
Tennyson was the first to chirp out a comment on his keyboard,
and Wiggins laughed. "He’s right -- you do look like you just came
from the same century he did," he offered, pointing to Holmes.
"Indeed." Watson smiled. "I daresay the two of you look perfectly
Feeling a blush begin to creep across his own pale cheeks, Holmes
distracted himself with minutiae. "Quite so, Lestrade. You have
it all down perfectly -- except, of course, for the shoes." He
casually indicated the bottom edge of her skirts, which just
barely swept the wood floor, concealing her feet.
Flushing slightly herself, Lestrade lifted the edge of her skirts
over her left foot, revealing a simple and very modern ladies’
shoe -- one without high heels, Holmes observed, though he had
already known that as well from an estimation of her height.
"Okay, you caught me. I went for the rest of it, but there was no
way I was going to wear those buttoned-up high heeled things. So
how’d you notice?"
"Your footsteps in the hallway," Holmes replied, his lips turning
up wryly. "Even after two hundred years, I do remember what a
lady’s steps are supposed to sound like."
In that remark, there was the subtlest of gibes against the
changed role of Lestrade’s gender in the world. She perceived it
without a doubt, but ignored it completely. "Well, we’d better
Holmes picked up his cloak from the chair and fluidly drew it
round his shoulders, turning as he did so to Watson. "Enjoy your
evening with our young friends, Watson."
"And make sure they get home immediately after midnight,"
Watson nodded, but Deidre pulled a half-joking pout. "Listen to
the two of you! Just like parents talking to the babysitter."
Holmes reddened again, needled by the various implications, not
least of which concerned the fact that he was physically not much
older than his teenaged informants. Nevertheless, there was a
very old soul within his youthful body -- something he never
hesitated to make clear.
"Mind," he commanded, with a sternly raised finger. "Now, good
night... and a happy New Year to you all."
Amid a chorus of similar wishes from the Irregulars and Watson,
he turned and escorted Lestrade from the room. She laughed as
they descended the steps.
"They really are great kids. I’m sorry if I don’t seem to
appreciate that sometimes."
"I know your concerns are always in their best interests, my dear
Lestrade," Holmes replied unaffectedly. "...And they can be rather
trying now and again."
From the corner of his eye, he saw her smile in amusement, but
she said nothing.
On to Chapter 3!
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