The Eighth Guest

Chapter Four

by TT (a.m.tilmouth.s99 at
She could smell the air through the helmet, not foggy city air but the cold clean air you could only get high up in the country sky. It mixed with the helmet smell of plastic, sweat and hair; it was the smell of skyboarding. Underneath her the board hummed, sending vibrations up her feet and into her ankles, like a swarm of bees surrounding her boots; the racing suit creaked as she shifted position slightly. She smiled; she was free. Behind her, one arm tightly round her waist, Ling put slightly more pressure on the thrusters; the board responded with a purr before speeding up.
"You all right?"
Tessa jumped; she'd been in her own little world again, high in the sky on her own board. "Fine."
"The speed's not hurting you."
She smiled. "I'd ask to go faster but I doubt the board could take it with two people."
"Your ankles?"
"Fine. I am still allowed on the practise board, you know."
Ling pulled the board higher instead of faster and they began to create intricate cloud trails in the sky. Freezing water droplets began to form on the outside of their jumpsuits.
Tessa felt the lefts and rights as the board turned this way and that. "What did we just do?"
Ling flipped the board for a second and glanced down before righting it again. "It might be a bird...but I think it's been ill." Giggling erupted from the other helmet. He smiled. "You want to try a sick fish?"
Sighing came back over the radio link. Ling's grin disappeared: it sounded sad. Maybe boarding hadn't been such a good idea for an outing.
"Not today, we've still got the flight back to London, and I'm getting cold."
Ling glanced at the time display on the side of his visor. "Maybe you're right; it is getting late!" They flew on for a few minutes in silence.
Ling tightened his grip round her waist. "Yes."
There was silence for a few more seconds.
"Maybe...maybe we've got time for just one fish!"
Ling laughed and began to trace the shape in the sky.
Flames flickered in the grate of 221b Baker Street, beating back the chill of an otherwise unheated room. The chairs next to it were as yet unoccupied; an empty cup once containing tea sat cooling by the side of one. In the background were the muffled sounds of movements. Soon Watson emerged from one of the rooms upstairs and made his way down into the sitting room, the coal black bowtie smartly tied around his neck standing out on his silver frame. Bending down next to the fire he turned off the image of flames and set the heating to a lower setting. Upstairs a door shut and soon the quick firm footsteps of Holmes began to descend the stairs; at the same time there was a knock on the door.
"Just in time, Holmes," called the droid as he went to answer the door. "It seems Lestrade is punctual to the second."
Holmes straightened his black jacket. The 21st century black suit made him look even taller and thinner than usual. "Makes a change," quipped the detective as Watson let Lestrade in. "Good Lord."
She glared. "Don't start, Holmes. This was the only thing I had left over from the Policeman's Ball this year." It was red, tight, slit and had a line of glittering material twisting round the body.
Holmes coughed. "Looks very...modern, Lestrade...well done!"
Watson straightened his bowtie. Lestrade raised an eyebrow. "Just the bowtie, Watson?"
The droid looked hurt. "It was the only thing that would fit."
"I was about to say it looks good. You, too, Holmes. The suit...suits you."
Holmes rolled his eyes. Watson, responding to some internal clock, started. "I believe we have to go; the traffic reports are particularly bad this evening. It looks like we're going to be late."
Lestrade grinned. "I'll drive; that way...."
Holmes smiled. "....We might even be early."
Tessa tugged at the low neckline of her dress and sighed, overly used to her jumpsuits. The dress was more than a bit of a shock to her system; she could feel air over the burnt skin.
The Dragon took his hand off the steering wheel for a second and squeezed hers. "You look beautiful."
Tessa tried to smile. "Thanks." There was silence for a minute.
"You're worried, aren't you?"
Tessa shrugged. "I'm not used to going out in public like this; I don't like people staring."
Peter Ling sighed and moved his hand back to the steering wheel. "Remember, you told me what it was like behind the mask. You said you wore it because you were afraid of people's reaction to you and afraid of yourself, and in the end it was like a prison."
Tessa nodded.
"But it wasn't just the mask, was it? You covered yourself head to toe to hide the reminders of your past and now slowly you find you have to release little bits of that. You're not a monster, Tess; you're not even ugly. You're a gorgeous fascinating woman and I adore you, all of you, even the scars."
Tessa let out a blunt laugh and turned in his direction,
Peter glanced from the road to her then back again. "What? What is it?"
She shrugged and turned away. "Nothing. I just this moment realised why I love you so much. Let's hurry. Caroline, Tenny and the others must be half starved by now; I know I am."
Peter grinned and turned the car towards the ground.

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