Sometimes nothing is enough.
Not all of Holmes’ brilliance. Nor his analytical mind or his cleverness, which is quite apart from his brilliance. And even my ability to shed light, which he has so often praised, was today completely without worth.
When all of that fails, sometimes people die.
Holmes, despite his public image as an uncaring automaton, [for which I take significant responsibility, of course] always feels such things deeply. I am the only one who realises how much to heart he takes each of those failures. Most especially when the victim is a complete innocent.
As was little Franklin Worthy-Dale.
Only eight years of age and according to all, a bright and friendly lad, whom in no way deserved to fall into the clutches of the vile kidnapper, Hailey and his gang. Hailey insists the death was an accident, that he had not intended the boy to die, that it was his underling who delivered the fatal blow. Holmes actually struck the man at that point, in one of his rare displays of actual temper, which is much different from his usual melodramatics.
We left the Yard shortly after and returned to Baker Street. Mrs Hudson brought up a tray of sandwiches and tea, but Holmes ignored it, going instead to the window to stare down at the road below.
I managed half a gammon sandwich and took several swallows of the tea, but the sight of Holmes so still at the window caused me to leave off trying to behave normally. Instead, I rose and went to the sideboard to fetch two portions of our best whisky before joining Holmes at the window. He was reluctant to take the glass but I forced it into his hand. “Drink it, Sherlock,” I said. “On your doctor’s order. And your dear companion’s advice.”
After a moment, he lifted the glass and sipped from it, still looking out the window rather than at me. I watched our reflections in the glass. His lean and sharp-edged profile standing beside my own softer features. Absurdly, I wondered absently if perhaps I should shave off my mustache.
Holmes broke the silence. “What do you see, I wonder, when you look at me?” he said softly.
I met his gaze in the window and doing him the honour of seriously considering his question, I did not answer quickly. “I see Sherlock Holmes. A brilliant man. A great man.” My reflection reached for his hand, took it, held it. “A good man.” I raised his hand to my lips and kissed his palm. “The man who owns my heart.”
“A man who failed and whose failure cost a child his life.”
My grip tightened on his hand. “No, Sherlock, I will not allow you to bear the guilt for that. You—-we—-did our best.”
“Which was not enough.”
We stood in silence, as still as our reflections, for some time.
“You really believe me to be a good man?” Holmes’ voice was soft as a feather floating in the air between us.
“I believe you to be the very best of men.” My tone left no doubt of that belief.
Holmes finally turned towards me, reaching for my free hand and we stood there, holding onto one another not unlike two children in a storm, fighting the wind and rain.
“Bed,” I said. “This day has been far too long.”
We both picked up our glasses from the ledge and drained them. I set the tray outside the door for Billy to collect, while Holmes extinguished the lamps. With no more words between us, we went into our bedroom,
It was not until we were both in bed that Holmes spoke again. “Thank you, John,” he said.
My fingers began to stroke through his hair. “For what, my dear?”
“When I see myself through your eyes, I seem to be a much better fellow and for that I am so grateful.”
I could not think what to say to that and before any words came, he turned towards me, reaching out to embrace me and words no longer mattered.