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Magpie: Two For Joy

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Sherlock contemplates the woman seated on the sofa. He has turned his chair away from the fire to face in her direction, as Mrs Hudson pours a cup of her tea- Yorkshire Gold. He makes a mental note to remind her to buy Darjeeling in future, if she is going to provide it for him. The guest utters a hasty "No milk, thank you"- as the older woman offers her one of her chocolate bourbon biscuits.

The letter had simply said that Miss Mary Morstan recommended that she meet with him. On that basis, he had decided to see her. But, now seated before him, Mrs Cecil Forrester is a contradiction in terms. With a name like that one might have assumed that the woman would conform to the white Anglo-Saxon stereotypic housewife. Instead, Mrs Forrester was petite, in her early forties, dressed in a sari and had the darker complexion of someone from southern India.

"Thank you, Mrs Hudson. You can leave us now."

His landlady gives him a little bit of a glare. "I'm not your housekeeper, Sherlock. Nor your personal shopper, waitress or doorman, for that matter." But she does as she was told, and leaves.

"I regret, Mrs Forrester, that I have no Nilgiri tea to offer you."

His deduction is rewarded by a smile, and an eyebrow lift of surprise. "Oh, you are so clever! How did I betray myself? How did you know?"

"That you are a native Tamil speaker? The accent is clear at least to my ear, and your written English in the letter is impeccable, which would not be the case if you were born in this country. Where were you educated in India?"

"In Coonoor—the Providence College for Women, and the Stanes Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School," she says proudly.

"I was right. Your look of slight horror at Mrs Hudson's offer of milk gave you away. I apologise for her taste in tea, but perhaps you have become inured to execrable British teabags. You are from a tea-growing family."

She nods, but then a shadow of regret passes over her dark eyes. "I was, I should say. Long ago and far away. I'm British now. Mrs Cecil Forrester. My husband's name, but it suffices. My first name is Ada."

He continues his deductions. "So, the oldest child, for that is the meaning of your name in Tamil." His eyes focus intently on her face for a moment. "But unusually, you are an only child, so the other meaning of your name—"special one"— is apt. I think one of your parents was Anglo-Indian, probably your father, so he chose a name that also has meaning in English, 'nobility' and 'adornment'."

She nods, but he senses a sadness in her.

Sherlock tries again, "Forrester is also appropriate for someone who originated in the forests of the Western Ghats. How did you come to England?"

"I won a scholarship, to study marketing at the LSE. The Nilgiri Planters' Association paid my fees and UPASI—the United Planters Association of South India— paid my maintenance grant."

He looks into his own cup of tea, as if divining a future, or in this case a past. A quirk of his lips, then, "Therein must lie a reason for some of the heartache you mentioned in your letter. You did not return, as you were expected to do. You married outside of caste, outside of Tamil Nadu, repudiated the investment in you made by those who paid your fees. Instead you chose to live 8,000 kilometres from what your family and sponsors called your home. A courageous move."

She nods, but says nothing, as if not trusting herself to do so.

Sherlock remembers a particularly awkward part of Moriarty's network in south India, in Kochi. The heat and the monsoon rain had been hard to endure. The commercial hub of Kerala state and home to the southern Indian naval fleet, Kochi's crime syndicate was reaping the benefits of a port construction boom that relied on several city officials being dark angels. His attention starts to drift, memories flood back of the Cochin Shipyard, where India's first aircraft carrier was being built. The network's fingers had been well into that pie.

"Mister Holmes?"

His eyes snap back to Mrs Forrester.

"I have come to you, Mr. Holmes," she says, "because Mary Morstan suggested to me that you could help me to unravel a little domestic complication. I know that you are a very busy man, and that the crimes you deal with these days seem so …" She grinds to a halt, with a perplexed look. "I do not know if it is correct English to refer to a crime as 'grand' because that implies it is not horrible. What the papers said about the slavery gang was horrible, and yet, your work to catch them was grand, too." With an embarrassed smile, she continues "My little problem seems too trivial to trouble you, but Miss Morstan insisted that if I wrote to you that you would at least give me a hearing."

He nods. "Miss Morstan knows something of my interests. Not every case is the sort that attracts the press. If I had my way, none of my work would do so. My only criterion for agreeing to take a case is that it not be boring. Please tell me that your case is not boring."

She gives that odd head waggle that to a westerner might seem like a negative, but he knows to be an acknowledgement that she understood.

"Then you may begin."

"I have lived with my husband for eighteen years in Colliers Wood. I am registered with the GP practice where Doctor Watson works, but I see a lady doctor there. It is some distance from my home, but she is Tamil, so I feel happy going to see her. I was waiting for my appointment, when I realised that something was missing from my handbag—a small amulet, a Ganesha carved in wood from the Nageia tree, native to the forests of the Ghat."

Sherlock stirs. "It has sentimental value," he says dryly. He loathes this sort of case—missing pets, treasured souvenirs, lost briefcases— excruciatingly boring. He will have to speak with Mary.

"Yes, it was carved from wood that came from a tree on my father's farm. When I left to come to London, I took only a few personal items, because I thought I would be going home again." She looks at the cup of tea again, decides against drinking it and sits the cup and saucer back on the table. "When I realised that the Ganesha was missing, I became very distressed. The Ganesha is important to me; do you know the Hindu deities, Mister Holmes?" She looks up, expecting him to shake his head.

His lip give a tiny quirk of amusement. He'd had a lecture from a doctor in Mumbai, when he was healing from an infected knife wound. "The elephant-headed god, the symbol of success, fortune and prosperity, and of overcoming obstacles, also known as Ganapati, Vinayaka or Pillaiyar. The patron deity of the arts and sciences. Interestingly, Lord Ganesha is believed to place obstacles in the path of those who need to be checked, and is the destroyer of vanity, pride and selfishness." It was that role of the deity which had led to the lecture from Doctor Parasathwarthy, all about his stupidity in ignoring the infection until it was bad enough to require hospital treatment.

She looks down at her hands, now clasped in her lap. "Yes…to all that. But, more, too. The amulet reminds me of the price I have paid to come to live in England and to marry for love. My father in Coonoor died six months ago, and the family tea farm has passed to my mother. It is my uncle—her brother—now who works the plantation for her. When my father died, my uncle wrote to me in the harshest terms, telling me that I had disgraced the family name, and that the punishment for my selfishness is that I have been unable to have children of my own. He told me that I should never return home." Ada comes to a halt, as if the memory of that letter was too painful for anything but silence.

Somewhat impatiently, Sherlock urges her on, "Please, continue." He really is going to have to speak to Mary; this is beginning to sound tediously domestic.

Chastised, Ada sits up straighter, and resumes her explanation. "The Ganesha was just the last of many such disappearances. Several months ago, I began to notice that small things in my house were vanishing. Nothing of value, I must say. The first to go was an old hairbrush, one that I use each night. I have had it for many, many years, and it always lives on my dressing table. Then one night, it was just…gone. At first, I thought that I had misplaced it, but I knew that was not possible, because I never move it."

"A week later- on the same night of the week- it's always on Wednesday, I started to prepare our evening meal, and the tawa was gone."

He must be looking confused, because she rushes to explain. "Of course, you would not know that this is a kitchen utensil—a flat iron pan used to cook chapatti or roti."

He nods, conceding his ignorance of such matters. Utensils…. He wonders whether this could be even worse than that request to find the rabbit, Bluebell. Actually, though, the glow-in-the-dark rabbit had proved rather important in the solution of the Baskerville case. Sherlock stifles his impulse to show her to the door.

Fortunately, Mrs Forrester knows nothing of his interior monologue, and continues blithely, "The next week, it was a CD—one of my favourites. The singer Kavita Krishnamurthy Subrahmaniam. She's a famous singer, in a lot of Tamil films. My mother and I used to sing along. Now gone—I looked through every CD we have; Cecil is meticulous about filing them, so careful. And it was just gone."

"I began to suspect the cleaning company. My husband insists on having someone come in once a week. Perhaps the maid was taking these things. I told the company that I was ending the contract but I have to give a two week notice. Then this week- a photograph of my father in Coonoor was stolen. Well, I say stolen, but it was on my phone, and when I thumbed through my folder, well- it was gone. Someone had deleted it! I told my husband, but he dismissed the idea as absurd." She drops her voice to sound more like a man, one with a south London accent, saying "No one would take such trivial things; a thief would take the silver, rob your purse of money, or take a key so they could break in and steal things they could sell on the black market or a boot sale. And as for deleting a photo, all that takes is a slip of a careless finger. And losing things is more likely than someone stealing a frying pan or an ancient hairbrush missing half its bristles."

Back in her own voice, she continues. "I was so shocked, Mr Holmes. My husband and I have never argued before this, but he thinks I am being silly. Then he asked me to go to the doctor, and check if forgetfulness and losing things like this is a sign of early dementia or some illness. It has…destroyed me; I am in a constant state of…" She raises her hand to her mouth in distress. "That is why I was at the surgery, and then when I discovered the Ganesha missing..." She is on the verge of tears. "Perhaps I am going mad." The tears start to escape.

To forestall further eruptions, Sherlock rouses himself. "A hair brush, a photo, a CD, a pan, and then your amulet—an unusual collection, I must say. And yet much can be revealed by mundane and boring items. The devil is in the detail, Mrs Forrester, and this suggests planning, careful planning. Events like these are rarely random." He steeples his fingers below his chin. "Let me think." He closes his eyes.

A few minutes later, he opens his eyes and sniffs. "You did not stay for the doctor's appointment." It is a statement, not a question.

She looks up, surprised. "No, I didn't; how did you know that? I was so upset that I cancelled. I mean, it's embarrassing. I am not going crazy." Then she starts to cry again. "That's when Miss Morstan asked me what was upsetting me and I told her the story. She told me to write my letter to you and to mention her name." She wipes her tears and tries to put an English stiff upper lip on.

He gives her a hesitant smile. "Mrs Forrester, rest assured you are not 'going crazy'. Far from it. All of the items, no matter how small or trivial they might seem— all of them were chosen because they remind you of your home in India. While any one item's loss is insignificant, you must keep in mind the big picture, what their loss means to you and why the thief wanted to inflict that on you. How old is your mother?"

Startled by the sudden question, Ada answers "Eighty-two. She had me late; my father had almost despaired of ever having a child."

"And you are in your early forties."

She nods. "Forty two."

"Then my advice is simple. Go back to the doctor, or if you want confirmation even before that, go to a pharmacy when you leave here and purchase an over-the-counter pregnancy test."

Her eyes grow enormous. "What ?… but…that is not possible." It comes out in a whisper.

"On the contrary. Women as late as their late forties can and do conceive. In your case, it may well be a genetic proclivity, and inherited condition."

"But…" Ada looks bewildered. "What does that have to do with the thefts?"

"Everything. I do have some bad news, however. It is likely that your mother is unwell, and your uncle is concerned that when she dies, the ownership of the plantation will come to you and to your English husband. If you do have a child, then your uncle will be cut out of the inheritance entirely. I suspect that if you were to interview the cleaning company, someone with connections to your uncle— a friend of a friend of a relation, as they say— has paid your maid to steal particular items that are related to your past. The thefts are designed to stress you, to keep you in a state of high anxiety and to disrupt your good relations with your husband. In my experience, it does not take much to de-stabilise a marriage, and this anxiety would limit the chances of a pregnancy happening in the first place or being carried to full term. Your uncle is simply trying to protect his interests, at your expense."

She looks thunderstruck. "Then, I am not going crazy?"

He give her an odd look. "While pregnancy can do strange things to female hormones and I have been told by some so afflicted that it can make one more emotionally volatile, it is not generally associated with mental instability."

She laughs. "You are a bearer of good news, Mister Holmes, for which I am eternally grateful. Please may I congratulate you?! I am much impressed by your kindness and skill. You are indeed a great man." She stands up and nods, her hands together. "Namaste."

And with that, Mrs Cecil Forrester bows again, and leaves.

oOo

The third time she pushes the buzzer, it is just that little bit firmer and twice as long. The first two times she'd pushed the doorbell of 221b's first floor flat,there had been no response. Above her, the lights are on in the living room, and she can hear the faint sounds of a violin. So, Sherlock is home, just ignoring the bell.

Mary wonders whether she should take it personally, but then remembers that John had told her the story of the time that Sherlock had cut the doorbell wires. Maybe, he's just avoiding the paparazzi. The return of the Rosenborg's Opal Tiara to its rightful owners in Denmark has led to yet more press coverage. After solving the Tilbury and the Fight Club cases, Sherlock is on a roll; the newspapers are now happy to give him all the positive headlines they could, as if that would atone for their role in his 'demise' two and a half years ago.

Come on, Sherlock; answer the door. She needs him to do this, to accept the role of planning their wedding, and not just for the reasons she had told John about. Mary knows that her deal with Mycroft* is predicated on keeping the boys working together; she has to be seen to be actively promoting a closer relationship. It is the price of his silence, his tolerance, the willingness of the man who was the British Government to look the other way about her past. And it is a small price to pay; she's seen the positive changes in John Watson since Sherlock's return.

Changing tactics, Mary gives Mrs Hudson's bell a quick push, and is rewarded by the sound of footsteps. That's when she realises that there is no peep-hole. As she hears the door latch being opened, Mary decides to have words with Sherlock. For the security of an elderly woman living on her own, Mrs Hudson needs to know who is on the other side of the door before she actually opens it.

"Oh, it's you, Mary! Do come in, my dear." Mrs Hudson beams.

As she comes in the door, the landlady looks over Mary's shoulder, down the street a bit. "Is John with you?"

"No, I'm flying solo; I'm a woman on a mission." Mary gives Mrs Hudson a cheeky smile. "I know his nibs is upstairs, because I can hear the violin, but why do you think he's ignoring me? Is it safe to go up there?"

The elder woman's voice takes on a conspiratorial tone. "Well, you know Sherlock. He's liable to be rude to anyone and everyone, but he can't hear the bell because he has those things on his ears." She gestures as if she was putting on a pair of headphones. "He didn't even hear me when I was up there a moment ago taking him up a pot of tea and some date flapjacks I just baked. So, just go up, sit yourself down in John's chair and help yourself to a cuppa. I expect he'll realise you're there eventually."

The thought of it makes them both share a giggle. Mary then heads up the stairs, not bothering to avoid the squeaky stair that John had told her about. When she gets to the landing and slowly pushes open the door to the living room, it is to the sight of Sherlock, with his back to the door. Despite it being four o'clock in the afternoon, he is still in his dressing gown over pyjamas. The headphones are on and his eyes are closed as he plays the violin. For a moment she stands mesmerised by the sight of his lithe playing, the eloquence and emotion of the notes being given physical shape; with swoops and arching arms, he is almost dancing to the music.

After a moment of enjoying the view, Mary pours herself a cup of Mrs Hudson's tea and helped herself to a flapjack. She recognises the music vaguely, but can’t put a finger on the name. Then her eye falls on the empty case by the CD player on the bookshelf by John's chair. She plucks it off and sits down to read the handwritten sleeve: Bruch's first Violin Concerto in G Minor. The scrawled writing simply says third movement 7.32 minutes/soloist track deleted. So, a piece where the violin part is missing—something he could play along to. She giggles. Who would have thought of it—karaoke for violin! As she settles back to listen, she spots the music stand is in its usual place in the corner by the window; he is playing a piece he knew by heart.

Sipping the tea, she listens to his performance, her imagination struggling to supply the parts played by the orchestra that she can’t hear, but Sherlock clearly can. From John's stories about his violin playing, she had not realised that he is such an accomplished concert musician. "Two cats fighting" is a particular piece that John had moaned about. 

Sherlock's playing eventually climbs to a crescendo and ends with a dramatic flourish and a swish of the bow, but he stands listening, still with his eyes closed, to what she imagines is the last bit of the orchestra's finale. Then his shoulders drop. She starts applauding, wondering if he will hear it.

He whirls about, at the same time shoving the violin onto the table, wrenching off the headphones and dropping into a fighting stance, wielding the bow as if it were a weapon.

"Oh, Sherlock: I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to startle you!" Mary realises her mistake; given what he's been through over the past few years, the unexpected sound of someone intruding could provoke a flashback.

She watches as Sherlock recognises her and then gets his rapid breathing back under control and relaxes his shoulders. Raising his eyes for the briefest of moments to glance into the kitchen behind her and then down the hall, Sherlock sees her, but she knows he is looking for John.

"I'm on my own."

Mary watches the effect of her words. As he puts the bow down, the grey green eyes look away from her and become wary; two creases forming on his brow. He's trying to figure out why I'm here alone.

"Sherlock, I won't bite. And just because I'm on my own doesn't mean I'm going to take back anything I said when I've been with John and you at Hartswood. He knows I'm here. You can trust me."

He stands there, uncertainty telegraphed in every fibre of his being. He has not yet uttered a single word; nor will he look directly at her. Oh, God. I've really rattled him.

She decides to take a slight detour before coming to the point. No need to frighten the horses. It is an English phrase she had come to appreciate. "Someone— a recording engineer?— removed the soloist's track and you play in that space?"

Sherlock nods, then decides to demonstrate his nonchalance by pouring himself a cup of tea and sitting down in his leather and chrome chair. He still isn't really looking at her, but waiting, cautiously.

Mary thinks about it. Baker Street is his sanctuary, and she's just invaded, without his permission— a sneak attack. If her mission to get him to take on the wedding planning is to succeed, she needs to give him the upper hand again, make him feel comfortable again. She decides to take a risk.

"Okay—I get that your prodigious memory means you don't need the sheet music in front of you. That's impressive. And you can obviously play with the orchestra."

He nods again.

"Could you keep in time, if you weren't listening? Let's experiment." She puts the challenge into her tone, and hopes he will rise to the bait.

He tilts his head in acceptance of the unspoken challenge. Without a word, he gets to his feet, and then hands her the earphones. The long lead isn't needed; the CD player is within reach of where she is sitting. He reaches over to the CD player and reverses to the start of the last movement before pausing it. Then Sherlock pulls the plug of the earphones just out of the socket, before picking up the instrument again.

As he lifts the bow, he says quietly, "I need to hear the first note of the orchestra— it's the equivalent of the conductor's baton. Then you can push the plug in; it will cut the audio play off the speakers and onto the headphones. Then only you will know if I am keeping in time."

Game on. She grins, slips on the headphones as her hand hovers over the CD player. "Ready?"

He nods, and she pushes the play button. As soon as the orchestra begins, she pushes the headphone jack all the way in, keeping her eye on the digital counter.

Twenty three seconds later, he strikes the bow across the strings and is off. It sounds right, but she doesn't know the piece well enough to be sure. When the counter hits 45 seconds, he finishes his section, and the orchestra resumes a beat later in full flow, as if he had been listening. The second time he hits the entrance mark perfectly, she starts laughing. At four minutes into the piece, she pulls the jack out to show him that he is in perfect synch.

"How do you do that?!"

He stops playing, and the orchestra carries on. She stops the recording as he shrugs. "I know the music, and what each instrument is supposed to be playing at each moment. I don't have to hear it."

"What happens if it's a different orchestra or a different conductor?"

"This is the newest release. The Czech Philharmonia under the baton of Jakob Hrusa. The soloist is Nicola Benedetti."

She raises a sceptical eyebrow. "So, if it was by someone else, you could still  keep in time?"

He shrugs again. "Sarah Chang plays it faster with the Dresdner Phil under Masur; whereas Maxim Vengerov with the Leipzig Gewanthaus under the same conductor uses a slower, richer tempo."

"And you could match either?" She doesn't have to fake her amazement.

"I have an eidetic memory for music; so long as I've heard them play the piece, it's not difficult for me to match their style and timing."

"Why would you do that? Why not just play it the way you want to play?"

"That's obvious." He looks puzzled.

"Is it?"

"Yes, of course. The orchestra has been recorded when working with another violinist; it can't possibly stay in synch with me, or I with it, if I was not playing with them when they recorded. Besides, it's more challenging to match the different styles of playing. I know six versions. Simple, really."

She snorts. "Yeah, simple. Just keep track of what everyone else is supposed to be doing at the same time as managing your own playing, oh and let's level up so that it matches your memory of how another violinist does it. That's… well…" She giggles. "I can't resist using John's signature phrase: That's amazing." Mary finds herself broadening the smile into a grin. She doesn't need John to be Sherlock's cheerleader on this occasion; she's just realised that the man's brain can do extraordinary things even when it doesn't involve murder cases. The thought emboldens her.

"In fact, that's actually why I've come to talk to you. I want you to do something for me and John that is remarkably similar to what you are doing here."

He sits down, cradling the violin in his lap. "You want me to play, for you?" His surprise has something else in it, a scarcely concealed delight. "…at the wedding?"

"Yes, of course. Now that you've been kind enough to audition…" she smirks. "But that's not why I'm here. John and I have a problem, and we need you to solve it."

Now she has his attention. "You know John better than anyone. You've probably deduced just about everything that can be known about someone— including things he doesn't even know about himself." She can tell by the look in his eyes that she's said a truth he recognises. "…and things he probably doesn't want to know or anyone else to know about, either, so please don't put those into the best man speech."

He looks back at his violin in his lap, and seems to retreat a bit. She gives him a reassuring smile. "Relax, I'm not here about the speech. Our problem is more fundamental than that. I'm afraid there may not be a wedding, if you don't help us."

His head snaps up and he does not hide his shock, blurting out, "Second thoughts?" He actually makes proper eye contact with her for the first time.

"No, not from me, or from John. We both want to be married. It's the process that has him spooked. Has he said anything to you about the actual wedding? The ceremony?"

"No."

She sees that he is lying. "Oh dear; he has. I knew it. He just hates the idea of the event itself."

The two wrinkles are back on his forehead.

"Oh Sherlock; you aren't that  good a liar, especially not about John. He might be fooled when you're fibbing, but I know the truth when I see it. And that's our problem. I need someone to help me get him through the process; I need you."

"I don't understand."

She grins, and then says with a bit of mischief, "Ouch, admitting that must be annoying."

The grey green eyes narrow, but he must have heard the teasing tone, so does not seem to take offence.

She draws a deep breath and launches in. "It's the girly stuff he doesn't get. You know— the church, the dress, the cake, the reception. He'd prefer if we went straight to the honeymoon."

"The sex holiday…" Sherlock murmurs.

She giggles. "Yes. That's true. Even living together as we do, we've both been working, and we've never taken a holiday together. That part he gets. But the rest of it, he sees as a chore."

"Then elope. Isn't that what people do?"

"I'm not 'people'. My parents died when I was five and while it wasn't a terrible childhood, it was a case of distant relatives playing pass the parcel with me and I was always a hanger-on, never the centre of attention. I always told myself that if I was lucky enough to find someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I would do it in style. Properly. Not cut corners or make do. So, I really want a proper wedding. It doesn't have to be big or grand." She gives a sheepish look. "We can't afford anything like that anyway. But, the registry office thing? Well, it makes my blood run cold."

Now Sherlock is no longer hiding how perplexed he is. "What does any of this have to do with me? Why are you telling me this?"

"Because if you get involved in planning this wedding, then John will want to be, as well. You've talked him into chasing across roof tops, staking out criminal hideouts for hours, nights on end, in the freezing cold. And I'm not just talking about thrill-seeking stuff that appeals to the adrenaline junkies you both are. You've got him to do things that he would never in his right mind agree to. He's told me about the time you made him dress up as a woman and wear make-up, just to spy on a suspect at a brothel."

"It was for a case."

"Yes dear, I know that. But I also know John. He wouldn't have done that, unless you asked him to. So, in the case of the wedding, our wedding, if you were involved, he'd play along. Might even enjoy it."

"Involved? In what way?" His look of total befuddlement is actually rather endearing. How can someone so intelligent be quite so…innocent? This is the man who had single-handedly destroyed a global criminal network, and yet is not able to fathom the direction in which she is nudging him.

She takes her courage in both hands. "I want you to plan it. Plan our wedding. Tell us what decisions have to be made by when, what the options are, and in what order we need to make them. Project manage the whole thing, from start to finish. You have the attention to detail that both John and I lack." As she explains the proposition, Mary watches consternation taking hold of Sherlock's expression.

"But…I don't…I know nothing about weddings. I'm the least likely person in the world to know anything about the…the girly bits, as you call it. I don't even believe in the institution, let alone all the faffing about people do at one."

His look of dismay is now bordering on panic. He starts waved his hands about, almost flailing. "Parties…people, noise, all that smiling; horrible clothes, pointless religious mumbo jumbo, rituals." Sherlock seems to realise that his hands are doing something not quite right, so pulls them back in front of him, and grabs his violin in both hands to re-assert control.

He draws a breath, then asks "What part of your experience of me says that I'd be comfortable being involved in planning such a torture, let alone participating in it on the day?"

She plays the first card. "You agreed to be John's best man. Supporting him by planning the weeding is your role, part of being best man."

The reply is instantaneous. "No, it isn't. I know that now. What you've described is the role of the moth…" He stops.

"Oh, you remembered…orphan. Hello, that’s me." She waves, smiling. "That's the trouble with learning a plan from a book or on the internet. It never prepares you for the real thing. That needs contingency planning, calculating the risk factors, weighing them up, building the critical path. You know, the stuff you did so well to take down Moriarty's network. Sherlock, you have form when it comes to planning."

He looks unconvinced. "What about the Best Woman…maid…matron person?"

She shakes her head. "So not going to happen. Her boss is a slave driver; I can't even be sure she'll get away on the day. That's what I meant about real life intruding. If I rely on her, it will be another year before we are married."

"You say that as if that would be a bad thing."

"It would be. Tick, tock…my biological clock is ticking. The older I get, the less likely it is that John will get the chance to be the father he’s always wanted to be. Would you deny him that, just because you don't know what's involved in planning a wedding? Anyway, it took you all of a couple of days and you became the expert at being a Best Man. You can learn anything, if you think it's worth it. Isn't John's happiness worth it?"

She wonders if Sherlock realises how much his face communicates emotions when he is too busy thinking to bother concealing them. Mary points at the wall over the sofa. "You can use your evidence board to lay it all out for us, what needs to be done first, which decisions depend on the others. Plan it— in all its detailed glory. That's what you're good at."

He looks with utter confusion at the wall, adorned with its yellow smiley face. "But that's for crimes. Your wedding isn't a crime."

"Glad to hear it, especially coming from you, Sherlock. Listen, you've already agreed to be there as Best Man—and that means you're willing to cope with the people, the party, the rituals that you probably think are either silly or pointless. You agreed to it because John asked. Well, I'm asking you for his sake to do the rest of it, too, because John needs you to, don't you see? And I do, too."

He blinks rapidly, and continuously for a few seconds. Then he suddenly picks up his violin from his lap and puts it under his chin, an almost instinctive reflex.

She watches him pluck the strings quietly. She knows it is like a security blanket now; he's learned enough about the EMDR techniques. She is stressing him. He knows it; she knows it. He knows that she knows it, and yet is doing it anyway.

Finally, he says quietly, "You're asking a lot."

"I know. It's in a good cause. John wants to be married. You know that. With your help, he can actually enjoy the process of getting there. If you need another incentive, then consider these two."

Mary drops the teasing tone, and gives it her best shot. "First, it will give us an excuse to come over here a couple of times a week for a planning session. John won't try to duck it if it's done at Baker Street. Diane Goodliffe says it is important for both of you to find ways to interact on a day-to-day basis to rebuild your relationship. And I want to be part of that, so this is one thing that the three of us can work on together."

Then she delivers what she hopes will be the deciding factor: "And when he's here, it will be easier for you to raise the case of John's stint as Guy Fawkes— that's unsolved, and it worries me that he seems to want to forget all about it. I can't— and I'm guessing that you can't, either. Sherlock, I need your help to keep John alive so I get to marry him. If planning the wedding will help you figure out who would want to hurt John, then just put that marvelous mind of yours to work on our behalf. Sherlock, please."

The same three strings are being plucked over and over. She shuts up and lets him think it through. Almost three minutes later, she gets her answer.

"I'll think about it."

Gotcha. She smiles.