Chapter IV: Shall We Dance?
by Jordanna (librarie at jordanna.net)
Chapter IV: Shall We Dance?
The situation was both better and worse than Lestrade had
She spent quite some time making the rounds with Holmes. Due to
her own direct responsibility for him, he had been required to
associate little with other Yard personnel, and had never met
many of the inspectors and officials to whom she introduced him.
Despite his gloomy predictions, he was well received -- and for all
his objections to displaying his perceptive talents as a mere
amusement, his vanity assured that he couldn’t resist. Even
Lestrade enjoyed his little demonstrations... for a while, at
"The nineteenth century or the twenty-second -- it makes no
difference." Conversing with a cluster of some half-dozen
partygoers, Holmes languidly folded his arms and assumed the air
of a lecturing professor. "I’ve always maintained that most
anyone, given the proper instruction and practice, could employ
my methods. In this age of instant gratification, I fear that
most people simply haven’t the patience to observe and learn.
Nonetheless, shall we experiment? Mrs. Brundy, kindly tell me
what you learn about Constable Parnell here, just by looking at
Good old Holmes; he never turned off.
With a sigh, Lestrade tuned out Mrs. Brundy’s observations about
Constable Parnell, and turned to watch the assortment of mostly
younger couples who were traipsing about on the dance floor.
Snatches of music drifted through the noises of conversation, and
she grimaced. Whoever was in charge of the sound system had a
perverse love of turn-of-the-millennium pop music, resulting in
an endless stream of whiny teenaged vocalists.
"Excellent, Mrs. Brundy!" Holmes’ approving voice drew Lestrade’s
attention back to the scene playing out before her, and she
turned to see him plucking at some short blond hairs on Constable
Parnell’s sleeve. "You have a good eye, Madam, to discern the
Constable as a dog owner--a yellow Labrador retriever, if I’m not
very much mistaken. I can further tell you that he has once had
an injury to his upper left arm, that he is fond of playing
cards, and that he is engaged to be married. My condolences,
sir," he added, in a tone of sly humor.
Lestrade shifted her weight uncomfortably. "Excuse me, Holmes.
I’m going for a drink."
He favored her with a glance and a salutory gesture, then
launched into the explanation of his inferences which Mrs.
Brundy, Constable Parnell, and the other onlookers were eagerly
awaiting. Lestrade would have been just as interested on most
days... but tonight, there was an unsettled feeling in her heart.
And Holmes thought he’d be the one to feel alone in the crowd.
She supposed the dress didn’t mean a thing to him, after all. Of
course not; why should it? In red velvet or body armor, she was
still just Lestrade -- a Yardie with an attitude. Besides, it was
she who had dragged him out to this affair, urged him to be
social for a change. Now that he was finally acting human for
once, to feel selfish about him would be unfair.
With a futile shrug, she made her way to the buffet table and
picked up a glass from a tray. The champagne was synthetic,
tasteless, purely ceremonial; not that alcohol was by any means a
lost vice in the twenty-second century, but some special-interest
group with deep pockets and political weight had pushed for New
Scotland Yard to "set a good example" at their official
Morosely sipping her drink, Lestrade watched Holmes from across
the room. Whether or not he truly had as much disdain for society
as he let on, he could hold court magnificently when he wanted
to. He lectured his small knot of admirers with confidence, grace
and charm, punctuating his remarks now and then with an energetic
gesture or flourish. Even with his deceptive physical youth,
there was a tremendous power and authority in his sheer presence.
Yet he was still... set apart. It didn’t take perceptive powers
such as his to sense his innate difference from other men. Beyond
his old-fashioned clothes and way of speaking, it was something
unmistakably written into his every movement and mannerism. He
could cause that subtle distinctiveness to vanish whenever he
assumed some other guise, but in his own extraordinary person, it
was always there.
Lestrade wondered if Holmes would ever lose that ghost of the
past, ever adapt completely to the present. It might make his
life easier if he could -- and yet a part of her deeply hoped he
If he changed, he wouldn’t be...
Lestrade turned her gaze from him with a self-disgusted grunt.
She was not going there.
Distractedly tracing the curve of her glass with a thumbnail, she
looked around the room. There was Chief Inspector Greyson,
schmoozing the higher-ups as usual. Mrs. Greyson had joined her
usual giggly flock of older women. Inspector Hopkins was doggedly
courting the daughter of Commissioner Hertford (and how she could
wonder why guys hit on her when she dressed like that was beyond
Lestrade). Then there was the isolated cluster of geeks from the
Science division; probably chatting about work, since none of
them had anything close to a social life. Psychotechs had a
tendency to give normal people the creeps.
It was all so predictable, a carbon copy of the previous year’s
party, and the dozen before that. Year in and year out, things
never changed--not even when Lestrade walked into the room with a
living legend at her side.
With a heavy sigh, she rolled her eyes toward the door... and
immediately stifled a groan.
Horridly dressed in a rose-pink velvet dinner jacket and
lavender-grey trousers, Jack Rizzo swaggered into the room,
glancing around with bright furtive eyes. He was a short, portly,
obnoxious man, with the most annoying voice Lestrade had ever
heard. Eagerly he scanned the room, and she froze in place,
hoping he wouldn’t recognize her in her Victorian finery. No such
luck; his gaze lighted upon her, his face lit up, and he made a
beeline in her direction.
With a grimace Lestrade turned, hoping to disappear into the
crowd -- but instead she ran squarely into the solid black line that
was Sherlock Holmes’ tall slim figure.
As testimony to his subtle strength, the impact didn’t budge him.
Lestrade bounced back in surprise, only to find her hands firmly
captured by his in one quick, fluid motion.
"May I have this dance?" he murmured, and before she could form a
thought, he had swept her off across the floor.
The next thing Lestrade knew, she was in his arms, dancing. After
a few stumbles, she realized he wasn’t even trying to match his
steps to the late twentieth-century pop music that was playing.
Once she tuned that out and focused solely on his lead, she found
herself engaged in an elegant, leisurely step which might have
predated Holmes himself by a hundred years.
As her bewilderment settled, a rush of warmth blossomed in
Lestrade’s heart, and she leaned her cheek on Holmes’ shoulder
with an impish smile. "I didn’t know you could dance."
He uttered a grunt that was distinctly tinged with chagrin.
"Useful skill for the rescue of damsels in distress. A story for
another time." His head tilted, and he was apparently looking
toward wherever Rizzo was. "You see, I was watching out for you."
Lestrade felt herself blush at the subtle remonstrance. "Thanks."
"Don’t thank me. You owe me now. In order to come to your aid, I
was forced to abandon a very instructive lesson in criminal
"In that case," Lestrade chuckled, "I think I was the one who
rescued your audience from you."
A smile crept into Holmes’ voice. "Oh, but Constable Parnell was
the instructor, not me. I learned the man cheats at cards like a
"Hey, at least that’s one vice you can’t complain we’ve
"There is hardly any shortage of vice in the world, my dear
Lestrade. In fact, I find that it often runs deepest in the very
heart of man’s most cherished virtues."
With that grim observation, Holmes lapsed into silence, leaving
Lestrade to read him in more subtle ways. She couldn’t see his
face while her head lay against his shoulder, but she could feel
the alert tension in his muscles, the quiver of his long
sensitive fingers against the back of her hand. She could smell
him, too; he had a scent she had never quite been able to define.
It was crisp, austere, and oddly comforting, rather like the
smell of old books -- but fresh and keen instead of stale and
ageworn. For a long time she had thought it was the Inverness,
but now she had to concede that it was something about him.
Okay, so here I am at the ball in this fantasy of a dress, having
a waltz with the man I used to read and dream about when I was a
little girl. Lestrade smiled darkly. Way to go, Cinderella...
except your prince turns back into a frog at midnight.
No fairytale endings.
That’s the way it has to be.
Feeling a prick of conscience, Lestrade sighed and turned her
head slightly. What seemed like a fairytale to her had once been
Holmes’ everyday reality. How ironic that he, the most
dispassionate of souls, was now condemned to the hopelessly
romantic status of living history -- even if, as he protested, his
had not been the simpler, gentler age that so many imagined it to
With a will, Lestrade focused her thoughts on the present. "So
what are we going to do about Rizzo?" she asked, shifting her
posture in Holmes’ diffident embrace.
Holmes adjusted his grip to accommodate her fidgeting. "Shall we
leave? You’ve put in your appearance; Greyson ought to be
"Actually... he wanted me to stay through midnight. You know how he
is sometimes," Lestrade answered apologetically. "It’s partly
your fault, anyway, for pushing off so much of the credit for our
cases on me. He wouldn’t care what I did if you weren’t making me
such a success."
"How inconvenient." Holmes sighed. "I had rather hoped we could
dispense with this dreary business in time to join Watson and the
Irregulars for the sub-orbital fireworks over the Thames."
The wistful remark nearly stopped Lestrade in her tracks. "You
wanted to go see the fireworks?"
"Well, I never have seen plasma-based fireworks ignited in the
upper atmosphere. And besides, incendiary devices can be rather
useful. I’d be most interested in talking to the pyrotechnicians
about their art... but I suppose that would be entirely too much to
Feeling a renewed warmth in her heart, Lestrade smiled. "You
never change, do you?"
"I try not to make a habit of it."
For some reason, that remark stirred a reaction from Holmes. He
almost paused in his previously unfaltering step, and Lestrade
heard him draw breath to speak -- but at that moment a hand clamped
onto her shoulder, pulling her away from Holmes.
With a swell of indignance, she turned on her heel to confront
the bland, pudgy face of Jack Rizzo.
"Mind if I cut in?"
Okay, that does it. Lestrade pushed Rizzo’s chubby hand from her
shoulder, preparing to unleash her full fury on him -- but she was
stopped by Holmes, who gave her elbow a light and discreet touch
as he deftly stepped halfway between her and Rizzo.
"I beg your pardon," he said, in a tone that was at once both
velvet and steel. "My understanding is that the lady has asked
you to cease courting her, Mister Rizzo."
Rizzo squinted his watery eyes at Holmes, and a very unpleasant
grin broke out on his face. "You sweet on the little Yardie?"
"No. But I am something which you are not: a gentleman."
Deep in her heart, Lestrade felt an intense pang of... something.
She had no time to interpret the emotion, however, because Rizzo
"If you ain’t hooked up with the ‘lady’, I’d say it’s none of
your business." Rizzo turned back to Lestrade, reaching out to
take her by the arm. "Just give me one dance and I’ll change your
On sheer reflex, Lestrade recoiled. There was a sound of tearing
fabric, a black blur of sudden motion... and then, the soft thud of
a fist striking home.
In the next instant, Lestrade stood braced for a fight, the
sleeve of her dress badly torn at the seam. Yet she hardly
noticed the damage; it was Holmes who dominated her awareness. He
stood poised before her, his body rigid as an iron bar, looking
down at the colorful heap on the floor that was Jack Rizzo.
The expression on Holmes’ face was one Lestrade would remember to
her dying day.
By this time they had become a spectacle to the entire room. From
the corner of her eye, Lestrade perceived Greyson cutting a swath
through the crowd toward them. She deliberately ignored him, her
gaze focused on the profile of Holmes’ face: the set of his jaw,
the catlike, dangerous glitter in his eyes. There were things to
be read there that she might never have a chance to see again.
Something momentous had just happened. Something more than worth
the damage to her precious dress. Something that might be
awful -- but was entirely wonderful.
"Where I come from," Holmes said quietly, "one treated a lady
Rizzo uttered a groan, and like a beached whale, his portly form
slowly rolled upright. He raised his hand to the left side of his
jaw, yammering through his fingers, "It’s broken -- it’s broken!"
"You haven’t so much as a bloody nose," Holmes snapped. "Get up."
For a brief moment, Rizzo sat frozen; then, abruptly, he bounced
to his feet. "I’ll sue!"
At that moment Greyson broke through the surrounding gawkers.
"Lestrade! What is going on here?"
"Assault!" Rizzo shrieked.
"Yeah -- on me." Lestrade fingered the tear in her sleeve. "Holmes
just intervened on my behalf, sir. I think we’ve got plenty of
Greyson scowled at Lestrade, then leveled a suspicious glare on
"I don’t intend to press charges," Lestrade added gruffly. "-- if
Mister Rizzo doesn’t."
Rizzo glanced furtively around at the staring, and mostly
disapproving, faces of the onlookers. Without a word, he hunched
his shoulders and slunk away toward the exit, still rubbing his
His departure removed the prospect of any further excitement, and
the crowd promptly began to break up, to return to frittering
away the minutes until midnight. The sudden collapse of what had
appeared to be a crisis left Greyson mystified, and he rounded on
his usual suspect: Sherlock Holmes.
"You’d better leave off these Victorian lapses." Greyson shook
his finger at the detective. "You might have got off lucky this
time, but remember, we’ve laws against dueling these days!"
As the Chief Inspector waddled away, Holmes let out a disgusted
snort and began dusting off his lapels -- but a subtle catch in his
movements aroused suspicion in Lestrade. Catching his wrist, she
turned his hand over, and gasped at the sight of a raw and
slightly bleeding scrape across his knuckles.
"Slight cut from Mister Rizzo’s tooth. A trifle, Lestrade."
Holmes’ tone of voice was flat as he produced his handkerchief
and began to wrap it around his hand.
"Are you kidding?" Lestrade retorted. "Who knows what kind of
germs that scummy little rat has? We’re calling Watson to take
care of that."
Holmes scowled. "Oh, leave him be. It’s a mere scratch. If you
must insist, I’ll patch it up myself."
"No, you won’t. I will." Lestrade unceremoniously took him by the
arm. "Come on -- my place is closer."
On to Chapter 5!
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