“Wait.” The beekeeper called out before he could stop himself, though his voice was low.
His visitor paused her hand just above the door handle. It wasn’t in response but rather simply coincidental to his word. Her movement had already been slowing as she approached the door, as if she was as hesitant as he was, agonising over whether to speak.
His cottage at Sussex Downs only occasionally saw visitors other than John and his brother’s PA. There’d been a few irksome journalists that’d somehow acquired his private address. And then there was him – twice Sherlock had opened the door to find a heavily (and amusingly) disguised young man with bright scanning eyes as sharp as his.
The Woman had gracefully arrived without notice on a foggy morning earlier that week, and that single knock, clear and crisp, was the most beautiful of sounds.
Since relocating he still took on cases now and then, but was mostly away from the public eye. And her..business could be expertly conducted at a distance. If he were to broach the subject, now would be the time. To discuss future arrangements, entertain possibilities. To..ask her to stay.
But then what? Games of puzzle-solving and wits over newspapers at breakfast, and a round of chess whilst waiting for the kettle to sing ‘afternoon tea’? Domesticity and companionship, night and day, each other’s moves turning all too predictable and never more a mystery? Until time diluted their inky hair to an ever lighter silver and further traced lines at the corners of their eyes, until one pair of charming blue jewels was losing its shine under an ardent but watery gaze, until trembling hands lingeringly caressed cooling skin in a painful, single-sided embrace?
No. He couldn’t continue that train of thought. He’d rather close his eyes and see the Queen of his Mind ever brilliant, ever wearing a challenging smirk, when all the lights of the Palace eventually dimmed as the Grim Reaper arrived to take him away. He’d rather them remember each other for their very best of times, as matching sharp minds, always. He knew she would want the same. He couldn’t..couldn’t have her stay.
“Allow me.” He gestured to the door instead.
There was relief written in her demeanour.
As he held the door open, she tugged at the lapel of his suit jacket and leaned up to briefly connect their lips.
“Thank you. Mr Holmes.” She said in a whisper as she pulled away.
For not bringing up what we’ve both been carefully dancing around to avoid. For not making it even more difficult for me to leave. Thank you, because to what you’d wanted but chose not to say, I might’ve..I might’ve answered yes.
Thirty years ago on a sunny day in London they had fatefully crossed path, a meeting that had since entangled them like a quantum mechanical paradox, and from that point began a story of many, many occasions of ‘could’ve been but never was’.
But perhaps it was better this way. Better to keep their timelines principally separate, marked with a controlled number of sporadic rendezvous. Better to continue with their intermittent texting, a little surprise and fondness with every sound of the familiar ringtone, a small smile with each 'message delivered’ that requested no response.
Better to imagine that the other simply grew disinterested when, someday, a text became their last.
Because unlike fairy tales that’d invariably come to a halt, unlike ‘together and happily ever after’ with an expiration date attached, this way, this way their story would never have to end. A story through time and distance, of what was spoken in silence. Of anticipation without expectation, the thrill without the burden.
Or so they told themselves.
After all, even death would be powerless to do them apart if they hadn’t been together in the first place.