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A Walk in the Park

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Sherlock Holmes was a man who seldom took exercise for exercise's sake. Few men were capable of greater muscular effort, and he was undoubtedly one of the finest boxers of his weight that I have ever seen; but he looked upon aimless bodily exertion as a waste of energy [...] One day in early spring he had so far relaxed as to go for a walk with me in the Park, where the first faint shoots of green were breaking out upon the elms, and the sticky spear-heads of the chestnuts were just beginning to burst into their five-fold leaves. For two hours we rambled about together, in silence for the most part, as befits two men who know each other intimately. It was nearly five before we were back in Baker Street once more.

"Beg pardon, sir," said our page-boy, as he opened the door. "There's been a gentleman here asking for you, sir."

Holmes glanced reproachfully at me. "So much for afternoon walks!" he said.

-- Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Yellow Face"

***************

"Well, I'm going out."

Holmes' eyes appear above the top-ridge of slightly crinkled newsprint to momentarily regard his flatmate; they rake across the doctor's coat, cane and walking shoes and deliver the sarcastic you don't say that can't fit in his mouth around the pipe-stem before vanishing behind the barricade of neatly typed crime again.

Watson shifts his weight from one foot to the other and fiddles with his cane a moment. He opts for a discreet cough into his gloved fist when he realizes Holmes can't actually see him. The paper inches slightly lower again, in a manner that suggests it does so grudgingly; their eyes lock in a sullen battle of wills. It's nice out, and I'm still your physician, Watson's seem to say. You've been moping around indoors for two weeks. There is something about the way Holmes angles the paper without dropping it that argues, I'm not a child, and I am certainly capable of ascertaining my own limits. A walk is senseless when one has nowhere to go.

The only sound in the room is the ponderous ticking of the clock.

Watson shrugs a little, as though the matter is of no consequence to him, but he can't avoid grimacing at the action. He'd wrenched his arm horribly on their last case (singularly notable for the manhunt that had ensued, unexpectedly and at the last minute, one the doctor had conducted in his dressing gown and slippers after an over-excited detective hauled him without warning from his bed.) He eases his stiff shoulder back carefully as he turns to go.

An over-exaggerated sigh, the violent rustle of discarded newsprint, and then Holmes is pushing past him. He snatches his coat off of the rack so quickly that it almost tips forward; Watson smiles, not because he's won but because he loves how Holmes always has to be the first person out the door.

They traverse London's streets in the usual way, Holmes subconsciously adjusting his long strides to accommodate the slight limp Spring always picks out in Watson's knee. It really is a lovely day. The sun has put forth an extra effort and is doing an admirable job of piercing London's perpetual haze, coaxing color into the drab dregs of city-winter and luring the mole-eyed inhabitants outdoors again. The thaw brings mud, but it's quickly hardening, and while the rains are inevitable there isn't, at present, a single cloud in the sky. Watson shields his eyes and looks upward, captivated by its shade of blue; Holmes unconsciously braces a hand under his elbow to steady him even while he's studying a coach as it rambles by, noting the season's new model and the difference in the length of its axles.

"Remarkable, isn't it?" the doctor muses, wondering at this fortunate turn in the weather.

"Truly," the detective agrees, wondering how the carriage avoids tipping 'round every sharp corner.

The park is crowded when they arrive, though that's to be expected; Holmes has had more than one occasion to lament that the majority of mankind do not share his views. He keeps his hands crammed deep into the recesses of his otherwise empty pockets, absently counting paving stones and identifying unseen birds by the discrepancies in their singing. "They've migrated early this year," he muses when he catches a particular strand.

"School's in session," Watson explains, watching a herd of laughing children barrel past in pursuit of a wayward ball. Their suntanned arms flash as they race by, as much a mark of middle-class wealth as their mothers' paleness is.

They both pause to watch a father and son struggling mightily to get a brightly colored kite airborne, despite the refusal of the wind to cooperate. Admirable effort. Even if they don't succeed today, they certainly seem to be enjoying themselves. Watson smiles.

The stick supporting the left side is slightly weaker than that on the right. With only the application of some mild adhesive, they might be able to manage despite the weak breeze ...

They continue on, following some meandering, uncharted path around picnickers and impromptu games of cricket and dodge ball. Holmes lets Watson lead the way, a concept so novel and unfamiliar that the good doctor is entirely unaware of it. Sherlock's keen eyes are everywhere at once, though his shoulders maintain a determined slouch to show that he's still objecting to the outing on principle. Watson doesn't comment on it. They pass under a copse of trees that filter the strong sunlight and Holmes abruptly snags the back of Watson's jacket, keeping him from walking right into a puddle. He leaves his arm where it is a little longer than is necessary, and Watson doesn't comment on that, either.

As they make their way back towards Baker Street, it's approaching five o'clock; Holmes knows this because he's been keeping track of the church bells tolling the hours. Watson knows this because he's just beginning to grow hungry. The sun has put up a valiant effort but it is, after all, still very early Spring, and it has begun to sink wearily below the horizon line. In its final moments, it scorches the underbellies of the slowly approaching clouds - twilight blues and soft pinks, pale lavenders and the sharpest edging of fiery gold. "Do you see that?" Watson asks, his tone appreciative as he looks skyward again.

"Yes, of course," Holmes agrees indifferently, thinking about the rising pollution rates in the city due to industrialization and -

"Look at it, Holmes," Watson orders firmly, his hand on his friend's sleeve. "Don't think about it; look at it. Have you ever seen anything so quietly captivating?"

Holmes had turned towards Watson, surprised at the determination in his command. "No," he agrees quietly, a shadowy smile playing about his lips. "Indeed I haven't."

Watson nods in a satisfied way, and together they move off down the street.