Chapter III: Fashionably Late

by Jordanna (librarie at

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Chapter III: Fashionably Late

Beth Lestrade was feeling inordinately pleased with herself. For once, she had succeeded in surprising the unshakeable Sherlock Holmes. That feat alone was well worth the time and money it had cost her to obtain the perfect replica of a Victorian dress -- not to mention the discomfort of wearing a corset.

Now she was glad she had submitted to wearing the zedded thing. Judging by the signals his eyebrow had been telegraphing, she knew Holmes was acutely conscious of that little detail.

Hey, she had been studying with historyís greatest master of observation.

As for Holmes himself, no matter how anachronistic his clothing was, Lestrade had decided that he looked spectacular in black. Most men as tall and thin as he was would have come off looking like a scarecrow, but somehow he wore it beautifully. He was built like a greyhound, all long limbs and lean muscle, and the color accentuated his sharp, trim lines in a most impressive way.

The New Yearís party was being held in the ballroom of a hotel not far from New Scotland Yard. Lestrade left her cruiser in the care of the droid who served as parking valet, then turned to Holmes as, with a courtly gesture, he offered her his arm.

"Thanks for the escort," Lestrade grinned, putting her arm through his.

Holmes chuckled. "On the contrary, you are escorting me. Remember, I wasnít invited."

"I invited you. Thatís close enough," Lestrade asserted with a fierce smile, hugging his arm a little tighter against her side. He didnít seem to mind, and it occurred to her that she should observe whether the dress made a difference in the way he behaved toward her.

Together they strolled into the hotel -- attracting some bemused double-takes along the way -- and found the ballroom on the top floor, still fully decked out in its Christmas regalia of the week before. The room was full to bursting with Yardies of every rank, along with their spouses and other guests, variously engaged in conversing, dancing, or browsing the buffet.

It took all of three seconds for Chief Inspector Greyson to zero in on the newly arrived pair.

"Lestrade, what the devil are you wearing?" Looking out of place in a tuxedo, the stout, grey-haired man lumbered toward them. "Didnít anyone tell you this was no bloominí masquerade party? Why didnít you dress properly?"

Glancing down at her Victorian splendor, Lestrade bristled--but Holmes spoke up before she could unload both barrels at her chief. "Inspector Lestrade is properly dressed, sir. More so than any other woman in this room, I might add," he said coldly, glancing about with a frown at the unconservative fashions most of the feminine guests were sporting.

Greyson glanced offhandedly at Holmes, the way he might regard an angry dog on a leash. "I might have known youíd be in back of it. Oh, never mind." He waved a finger under the unflinching detectiveís nose. "Just mind you donít cause the Yard any embarrassments tonight -- weíve a lot of important guests, and I wonít stand for any of your antiquated wit."

"Indubitably," Holmes murmured, unruffled, and Lestrade stifled a laugh.

"Oh, Charles dear, there you are!" A middle-aged Englishwoman, as stout and grey-haired as Greyson and clad in an ill-fitting yellow dress, abruptly inserted herself into the moment. She latched rather possessively onto Greysonís left arm, smiling sweetly through her generous layers of makeup. "Good evening, Inspector Lestrade. What a lovely dress youíre wearing. Is that a new style?"

Greyson made a noise like a bird being choked.

With a soaring sense of vindictive smugness, Lestrade beamed proudly. "Why, thank you, Mrs. Greyson. You havenít met Sherlock Holmes, have you?" She gave her companion a casual gesture, inwardly hoping he was enjoying Greysonís consternation as much as she was.

Holmes might as well have been reading her mind, because his... Victorian-ness... suddenly shot up about a dozen levels. He swept up Mrs. Greysonís hand in his and bowed over it, in a stiflingly stately manner that was nothing short of a parody. Then glancing up into her small hazel eyes, he said in a low and husky voice, "Charmed, Madam."

Mrs. Greysonís overly rouged cheeks darkened still further, and she giggled like a young girl. "Oh, Mister Holmes, Iím thrilled to meet you at last! Iíve heard so much about you... from Charles."

"Nothing good, I trust." Holmes was smirking -- and Lestrade, while desperately maintaining a polite smile, was afraid she might die of suppressed laughter.

In the meantime, Greysonís ruddy face had turned a fascinating shade of purple. He abruptly sucked in a breath and took his wife by the arm, prying her away from her hypnotized stare at Holmes. "Come along, my dear, you havenít said hello to the Forsbys... Iíll deal with you two later," he grumbled over his shoulder at Lestrade and Holmes, as he began steering the missus toward a particularly raucous clutch of partygoers across the room.

"I hope we have the chance to chat later, Mister Holmes!" Mrs. Greyson managed to say before she was hustled off into the crowd.

Lestrade vaguely heard Holmes give a genteel reply, but she couldnít quite make it out, because she was doubled over with laughter -- or at least, bent as far as the corset would allow.

"Iím glad youíre amused," Holmesí level voice remarked somewhere above her ear. She took a deep breath and straightened, hoping her tears of laughter had not damaged her rarely-worn and judiciously applied makeup.

"That was fantastic!" she exclaimed, squeezing his shoulder.

"That," he said flatly, producing a handkerchief and offering it to her, "was something I saw in a twentieth-century motion picture. Now what sort of idiot would sincerely act like that, in any century?"

Swallowing her laughter, Lestrade gave him a bemused look as she accepted the handkerchief. He frowned in response -- but as she wiped her eyes, she could have sworn she saw a gleam in his.

On to Chapter 4!

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