« Part 4 of the Fallen series »
In a world where myth, mystery, and the supernatural flourish beneath the veneer of modern civilization, Sherlock is a master of magic as well as science and deduction. But there are some things that he cannot see, riddles he cannot unravel, even when they walk right beside him in the form of one John Watson…
This is the second story in the Fallen series. One should read Fallen first, otherwise this probably won't make much sense. ;)
It's important to me that I represent characters of different nationalities accurately and, in this story, there are Chinese characters with which I attempt to do just this. But China is a huge country with over three thousand years of traceable written history, rich folk traditions, and is the home to more than dozens of different cultural groups and languages. As such it is not only likely but inevitable that no matter how many people I consult or how much research I do, there will be mistakes and disagreements over my choices. As a result, this will probably always be a work in progress as I will continue to upgrade and improve the Chinese terms, language, and details whenever mistakes are revealed and as time and energy allows. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
He watches her demurely pour the tea for these gweilo, serving these foreigners as she had served her former masters, fury burning in his belly. The anger is easier, safer than the gentler pang he feels in his heart. But he cannot deny her beauty and grace, the way her hands tenderly caress and handle the fragile antiquities. He cannot deny the peace and joy that radiates from her face as she tends to them, restores them. Watching her after all these years, a loneliness blooms within him. For so long it was just the two of them relying upon each other. Taking comfort in each other.
Until she left.
The anger flares anew, burning the brief longing in his heart to ash. Jealousy intermingles with rage as he keeps to the shadows, watching her every move with rapt attention. Foreigners, British and tourists, pass him by, but he remains unseen, unnoticed.
When the ceremony and demonstration ends, Soo Lin lingers on a little longer, pouring the remaining tea over the pots once more before gently patting them dry and finally packing them away. His eyes shift toward a young man, gangly, awkward, who steps over to her and begins talking. Another sei gweilo, a coworker apparently. He tries to make a joke, but it falls tragically flat.
“Four hundred years old, and they’re letting you use it to make a brew.”
Soo Lin smiles without looking back at her admirer, her hands deftly returning the pots to their protective case. Her eyes and wistful smile are that of a soul far, far older than his own, her gaze turning distant as she points out, “Some things are not meant to be kept behind glass. They’re made to be handled.” She turns her head to meet the foolish man’s regard. “To be touched.”
The yearning in the gweilo’s gaze is palpable, even from this distance. His lips curl in disgust at the display and his eyes narrow as Soo Lin turns her head away in rejection of the youth’s base need. Maybe she is likewise disgusted. Maybe it is a yearning that she has herself forgotten; that, like him, she can no longer relate to. Or perhaps she realizes that she must deny herself. It is best simply not to be tempted for something that they cannot have. Not any longer.
The young man fumbles out his awkward invitation to go out on a date. Soo Lin’s face falters for a moment. A brief flash of pleasure, of wishfulness, touching her features before she remembers herself and shakes her head. “I don’t think you would find me good company…”
He pushes, determined. Her expression becomes darker, anxious. She can’t be close to him, she can’t be close to anyone. Not now. Not ever. Her voice becomes cool, clipped, resolute. “I can’t. I’m sorry. Please stop asking.” The case shuts with a loud clack that echoes through the exhibition hall, the perfect punctuation to her request. The young man shuffles off, red-faced and embarrassed, and Soo Lin lingers on her work for an unnecessarily long time, till the room is finally empty, before letting her head drop. Her shoulders lift and fall with a deep breath, and when she lifts her head once more, her fingers brush over her cheeks and beneath her eyes, destroying the traces of tears lingering there.
For a moment, he feels a pang of regret. Remembers crouching in dark alleyways and in tiny cold rooms, wiping tears from her face with his own fingers. But then he remembers how she left him. Betrayed him with tears and pleading. He will not be taken in again by her tears. He will not forget that it was she who broke her promises and left him all alone.
And so, when she finally departs for the evening, he follows, silent, invisible. He will give her one last chance to make amends. One last chance to stand at his side, where she belongs, once more. After all, in all the world they only have each other to rely upon, to be close to. Their destiny is forever intertwined and nothing will cause them to part again.
gweilo = literally "ghost man" - a derogatory term for white people/foreigners.
sei gweilo = damned foreigner
Many thanks to non_canonical for her friendship, brilliant advice and Brit picking, to Daluci for being a top-notch beta, and to 99everafter and folha5eca for making sure my Chinese dialog/culture/references are correct! :D
Special thanks go out to abundantlyqueer. If it wasn't for her encouragement, I wouldn't be writing at all.
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