Another Country

by Maureen S. O'Brien(mobrien at
This story takes place during "The Fall and Rise of Sherlock Holmes"
"The past is another country; they do things differently there," Holmes quoted absently as he looked at himself in the mirror. Men in Town now apparently wore neither the coats and top hats of his youth nor the double-breasted suits of his old age.
Well, no matter. Sir Evan Hargreaves had been an eccentric dresser in his youth, and his closets had yielded some quite adequate shirts and pants, and even an Inverness for traveling. Add a deerstalker to complete his country dress and he became the man people expected to see when they said 'Sherlock Holmes'. (That Gillette fellow, and the flickers, had much to answer for.)
Of course, it meant that he had only to wear some ordinary tunics and leggings to become anonymous. Useful. He chuckled to himself and rubbed his hands together. The eye only saw what it expected to see. Simple misdirection, no more, but human nature never changed.
"Hey, Holmes! You all right in there? Need help?"
And neither did woman's nature. He was nearly a hundred years past needing a nursemaid, and yet this female kept pushing herself into his affairs.
"Changing clothes is well within my powers, Lestrade."
"Well? Do they fit?"
"They fit well enough." The new styles weren't so embarrassing if you pictured them as a longer version of court dress. His own grandfather must have worn such tight-fitting clothes as a young buck among the Sussex gentry.
"Aren't you going to show me how they look?"
"I am not a dressmaker's dummy nor a mannequin. So, no."
He had no intention of exposing himself to the female's intense ferret-like gaze at the moment, no matter what the customs of the day. Indeed, he should have seen how matters lay when he first awoke after this 'cellular revitalization'. That intent stare had been the first thing to meet his eyes, and the only time Inspector Lestrade had looked at him with any sort of womanly concern. After that, she had been nothing but information and demands for the same. In other words, a typical denizen of Scotland Yard.
Lestrade sighed noisily. "You take all the fun out of shopping."
"Then I only complete the process your own people have carried so far," he retorted, beginning to undress again. "No tobacco. Really. Then you brainwash your own people out of being able to express their dissatisfaction with their joyless existence through criminal acts. What does one do these days that isn't regulated? I expect that even marriage is only permitted for eugenic purposes."
Lestrade's reply was hushed for the first time since he'd known her. "Not here." Then she continued, brassily, "Now, Holmes, I thought you weren't interested in mushy stuff! Love's a piece of grit on your magnifying glass, wasn't that what you said?"
"Something like that," he replied airily, while his brain raced. So. The 22nd century had its problems, after all. "You would know better than I, as you are the one who is a scholar of Watson's writings. One would almost think you had a pash on me." He would have to listen to her response carefully. Such a situation would be... well, not unprecedented, but certainly awkward.
"Pash? Oh, yeah, like a crush or a twitch." She chuckled. "One would be wrong, then. When I was a kid, I thought Dr. Watson was absolutely gabowzers. But what do you expect when you give a kid all his journals to read? So sympathetic, so strong, so well- moustached...." She sighed theatrically. "Alas, so very married."
It wasn't hard to picture her as a gawky girl, and the thought made him smile. "Indeed. My old friend was always too embarrassed or too kind to notice, but Mrs Watson nee Morstan made short work of any young girls trying to hang about their doctor. Your younger self would have had little luck."
Holmes finished putting his shirt on. The cuffs buttoned together, which was convenient if less stylish. He couldn't smell starch and the material was soft enough, but the shirt refused to wrinkle.
"Hmph. You were always a big meanie to my poor ancestral Inspector, too."
Experimentally, he crumpled it between his hands. As soon as he released it, the fabric began to smooth itself, crawling outward thread by thread. He watched fascinated, but couldn't help a bit of a shudder. Shirts weren't meant to have a mind of their own.
"I was not 'mean' to him. I was merely chaffing him in a humorous fashion. If he hadn't liked my company, he would scarcely have stopped by so often in the evenings, consultation or no."
"That's what you say. I think he just came by to see Watson."
"If so, he spent a lot of time ignoring the man he came to see. Though they became better friends after a few years had gone by."
He reached for his new traveling cape. Whatever it was really made of, it at least felt like honest English wool. It seemed like the proper thing to wear, given that he was going out into a sort of wilderness where he didn't know the social climate. All his precious knowledge of the minutiae of daily life was now useless lumber in his brain attic. Fortunately, he also had his youth back again. But the time it would take to learn the world anew!
Holmes adjusted the hang of the cape. He would have to try to remember not to take off his deerstalker inside. Impolite and useless as it was to keep his hat on, that was what these people of the future expected of him. At least according to those 'vids' Lestrade had shown him on her handheld computer's screen.
He stepped out the door with a flourish. Lestrade applauded. "You look just like you stepped out of a Rathbone flick. Very detectival."
"Very foolish."
"Yeah, but now people will believe you when you say who you are." She turned to Sir Evan Hargreaves. "Thank you for letting us use your clothesmaker and dressing room, not to mention donating your old outfits."
"Think nothing of it," the rotund scientist said quietly. He led them downstairs and out to Lestrade's patrol car, a sleek vehicle with no wheels or means of propulsion apparent. "Only let me know something of your progress against Morgan Fenwick. My old colleague is more of a menace than most realize. And if you experience any health problems or complications, Mr. Holmes --"
"I will let you know. Thank you." Holmes watched Hargreaves vanish into the house, then turned back to Lestrade. "Where now?"
"My place. I'll get you started on some more vids, so you can catch up on what's happened in the last two hundred years." She opened the car doors for him and then climbed in herself. He watched her actions closely and copied them. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
He looked down as the car rose above the green fields and even above the trees. The strange architecture of the neighboring farmhouses dwindled into insignificance. The higher they went, the more England rolled beneath him, different only in details from the place he'd seen on his first aeroplane ride. There was Hadrian's Wall beneath them. Sometime in the intervening years since he'd seen it, the Wall had been reconstructed to look like it had as an Imperial outpost.
The land had been inscribed by so many human beings even before the Romans came, from the Paleolithic hunters to the Celts and Picts. They had left their bones here to enrich the soil. Let these people of the future do as they may, the land would have their bones too in the end.
Unless this cellular revitalization became common, of course. Then the people of today might never have to die.
What had this erstwhile Inspector Lestrade started? Did she realize what she might have done? Did she care?
Holmes stole a glance at her reflection in his window. Thinking herself unobserved, she had allowed her expression to sober. She looked as young and vulnerable as she had when he awakened. Oh, yes, she knew. But then she glanced at him, and smiled, comforted.
He groaned inwardly. For all her flippancy, she truly trusted that she could put all her problems into his hands and get back nothing but answers. If only she knew. This old man in a young man's body felt just as frightened as she of this strange new world they were entering. All the mysteries of the High Llama of Thibet were as nothing to the mysteries of life and death, and travelling through time.
But he was nearly as fond of travelling as solving mysteries.
"So," said Lestrade, asking the classic American question, "What do you think of the 22nd century?"
He leaned back into his seat uncomfortably. "I am reminded of the German philosopher, who told us that the stranger returning to his home does not make strange lands homely, but makes home strange."
Her combative smile faded. "New London's not all that different from Old London, really. You'll do fine."
He met her gaze. For once, its directness seemed more friendly than irritating. She appeared to be determined to prevent him from falling into a brown study, and for that he was grateful.
"Besides," she added, "You're English. Your home's always been strange."

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