The framed print of the Periodic Table of Elements is missing from his bedroom wall. They’re out of milk again, even though there was a fairly decent amount left last he checked, as he was making tea the previous afternoon. And his flatmate’s military haircut appears at least a full centimetre longer than its state just a day prior.
In hindsight, those oddities Sherlock has noticed this morning, observations he couldn’t immediately formulate a deduction to adequately explain, should’ve been sufficient clues.
The critical – and most alarming – sign that it most certainly isn’t just another day of his life at his (and his blogger’s) 221B, however, arrives in the form of a plain envelope. Addressed to him. Well, to ‘Mr S. Holmes’.
Enclosed is a ticket to a symphony concert (over in the States, in NYC), an introductory flyer (containing a photograph of the very fresh-faced orchestra, featuring bright, innocent eyes and a few missing-tooth grins), and an unsigned note, penned in elegant script: “Don’t be late.”
The detective’s gaze fixes upon somewhere specific on the photograph, and is for a long moment incapable of moving away. Amongst the performers sits a dark-haired, neatly dressed boy in the front row. A child whose confident, lopsided smile reminds him so much of-
He shakes his head, but fails to clear his mind of painful memories threatening to surface, memories that he’d wished to leave behind amidst the rolling plains and sweltering heat in that Pakistani city and never have to revisit.
He’d realised, mere days after, that a significant part of him did desperately hope to win her, yet despite the heart’s insistent whisper, their respective pride decisively yielded dispute instead of ‘dinner’.
He absolutely despises how, years of silence later, three pieces of paper are all it takes to make something in him once again flutter.
There is no doubt that the invitation is from The Woman. Nor that the charming boy, the child that is sure to shine as the star of the performance, is none other than her own. What he doesn’t understand, is the reason behind such a move. Move? He’d thought their game was long concluded, and he certainly wasn’t the winner.
What’s she hoping to achieve now, taunting him with the family she’s clearly succeeded in building? Tearing at old wounds that haven’t healed and probably never will, as if there hadn’t been enough hurt that they each caused the other?
Nothing, nothing makes sense.
..but there is a way to rectify that, he supposes, hands still steepled beneath his chin.
He reaches for the desk beside him and flips his laptop open. A few clicks and keyboard taps later, the British Airways booking page appears on the screen.
It’s a nice, blue-skied morning, after a night of precipitation and thunder. Sherlock Holmes is one swift motion away from pulling his bedroom door open when he pauses, his attention suddenly caught by something to his left.
A Periodic Table print, on the wall. The one that should currently be resident in NYC, not here in London. The same one that he’d gently taken off himself and placed into a poster tube, to accompany a small boy on the flight back to his American home, a couple of years ago, at the youngster’s request.
“No! It won’t be the same. I don’t want a new one, Dad, I want this. Yours.”
Nero had taken a keen interest in the sciences, even back then, when he still liked to be carried and swung around. He’d ask to be lifted up in front of the large framed print, hug his father’s neck tight, and tilt his head to study the columns with concentration. He’d point towards individual elements, and demand to hear cool stories of their discoveries, to learn their unique properties, to know everything there is to know about these fascinating constituents that make up the world..
A slight curve stretches its way across the detective’s lips at the thought of his son. A far-too-telling smile. One that he has to remember to erase from his face before entering the living room to greet John. One to which no passing observer would’ve spared a second glance before assigning the simple, ordinary label of ‘fondness and pride’.
But proud he is, indeed. In curiosity and cleverness, in exploration and mischief, the plantlet cheekily flourishes, with much more liberty than he ought to have been allowed. Yet it isn’t as if either parent has any real power to constrain his access to what latest objectives he’s chosen to set his determined young mind upon – both Sherlock and Irene’s well-honed people-manipulating craft has proved unconditionally susceptible to what they see in those big, blue eyes. Nor do they truly intend to deny the boy at all.
Directing his thoughts back to the present, Sherlock examines the framed print before him – is this yet another coded message from Irene or Nero? Has it been delivered and discreetly put up within the time frame of a few hours, whilst he was asleep? They couldn’t have been visiting Baker Street themselves – he would’ve observed. And the boy must’ve been busy with rehearsals recently, with his first big concert this coming weekend.
Speaking of which, he expects to pay them a visit very soon.