Disclaimer: Ths fanfiction is not written for profit and no infringement of copyright is intended. Not beta read so all mistakes are mine. Sort of a mashup of Sherlock, Persuasion and Bridgerton (mainly for the dresses, lol). If you want to read more then let me know
SOMEONE THAT I USED TO KNOW
He would be embarrassed to admit how long it takes him to recognise her.
After all, the long, chestnut hair (upswept now) is present and correct.
The light little foot and the careful, quiet walk are also still recognisably in effect.
Warm brown eyes, observant and laughing, sweep across the throng of dancers on the floor- Just as he has seen them do many times before. They miss little and yet settle on nothing, not drawing attention. (Attention being something, he knows, that she has never enjoyed receiving). No, rather she smiles, whispers something to one of the Ton Mammas (Mrs. Dunverrell, if he’s not mistaken, which he never is.) The words elicit a smile and there it is. That laugh. That trilling laugh he once knew so well.
It makes him smile in recognition, though it is not aimed at him.
As if without seeking confirmation from his brain Sherlock finds himself crossing the ballroom, making his way towards her. As he does he straightens his jacket, hands going to his hair to self-consciously check it before he reminds himself that he need not: she had never required that of him. She had never required anything of him, save he be what he is.
He comes to a halt behind her, waits a moment for her to notice him. Another moment. Then another, and another, until finally-
“Dear God, Molly, aren’t you going to say hello?”
Well, nobody ever claimed that patience was his forte.
The society mama she was talking to blinks, shoots him a sharp look to which he barely gives notice.
His eyes are still on Molly.
Smiling, a dimple at her cheek, she turns. Sees him. Her eyes light in recognition, the warmth in them everything he remembers. Everything he has missed.
“Why hello, Mr. Holmes,” she says, inclining her head slightly. Given how well they once knew one another, Sherlock is relieved to see that she hadn’t thought to curtsy. The greeting is a reminder though: he clears his throat and holds out his hand to her to shake.
Best to get this over with.
“Beg pardon, Mrs. Smythe,” he says, giving her her married title. “So lovely to see you this evening.”
If it doesn’t please him to say it, he’s not going to give anyone cause to suspect as much.
Molly’s smile dims somewhat. Her hand seems somehow… unsure, in his. “Yes, well,” she says. “I rather suppose that title is new to you, I shouldn’t wonder at you forgetting it.” She directs her gaze to her companion. “Mr. Holmes and I grew up together in Shropshire, Mrs. Dunverrell,” she explains. “We have not seen one another these many years, not since before my marriage.” Her smile brightens as she takes her hand back. “Which makes this an unexpected surprise, I must say.”
Mrs. Dunverrell narrows her eyes. “From what I’ve heard,” she says sweetly, “Holmes the Younger excels at surprises.” Sherlock opens his mouth to retort- what scrape of his is that a reference to?- but before he can the older woman coos at someone on the other side of the room, waving and excusing herself.
She leaves Sherlock unimpressed and Molly grinning.
“She’s not a subtle creature,” Molly says, sotto voce. An impish smile. “I can’t imagine why I find that engaging.”
Sherlock cocks an eyebrow at her but he can’t help it. He has to smile- he has always had to, when it’s her. “Yes, well,” he says, straightening his jacket once more. “I suppose I should have erred more on the side of-”
Her eyes are sparkling.
His tone is deadpan.
“Or, as the rest of us call it, civility,” she retorts. He laughs and she shakes her head, casts a side-eyed glance at him. Despite himself, Sherlock is suddenly rather aware of the grey at his temples, threading through the black. He is suddenly aware that he is older- quite a bit older- than the last time they saw one another. Were John here, he would tease him about his vanity.
Fortunately, however, John is not here.
If she finds the sight of him unappealing, however, she gives no indication of it. Rather she laughs again, shakes her head again. As he watches she forces her eyes from his, back onto the dance floor where a pale, dark-haired debutante is dancing with some young buck or other. Molly’s eyes sweep over them with the peremptory skill of a governess before moving back to his own.
“One must keep one’s charge in order,” she says at his questioning look. “Georgiana is having her first season and she hasn’t an ounce of sense when it comes to beaux.”
Sherlock frowns, eyes flicking back to the girl. Surely Molly hasn’t a daughter old enough to come out- Has she ? But even as he tries to do the requisite maths in his head his eyes go to the locket at her throat: it’s heavy, made of jet. It hangs on a black ribbon. His eyes sweep over her gown, they take in the pale lavender bombazine, the black and lavender ribbon threading through her hair.
Suddenly he sees it. Dear Lord, he sees it.
He doesn’t want to look at the wash of emotions that move through him at the realisation.
Nevertheless he stiffens. How could Mycroft have failed to inform him? “My apologies, Mrs. Smythe,” he says. His throat feels tight. “I- I had not heard about your husband.” And he gestures to the locket, her dress. Lavender is a colour of half mourning which means the bereavement is, at least, not too recent. But still…
A small, sad smile lights her face. “I’d ask how you guessed but that would be foolish,” she murmurs. A second, wherein her eyes seem to turn inward, and then she’s back with him. She raises that fierce little chin of hers, meets his eyes boldly. “The war has cost everyone someone,” she says bracingly. “I could not expect it to pass me by.”
“Quite.” He nods. He’s only too aware of what the last years have cost everyone in blood and misery. One could not spend so much time in His Majesty’s service and not notice. “Mycroft did not inform me,” he says, “or else I should have written to you-”
Molly shakes her head, that little hand moving in a fluttering, dismissive gesture which Sherlock dislikes. She only flutters when she’s nervous. “Mycroft has much on his mind,” she says evenly. “One could hardly complain of his forgetting about me.” Sherlock opens his mouth to argue but as he does his reason for being here- one Rosamund Marie Watson- swans onto the floor on the arm of a rake at least ten years her senior. She’s grinning like the proverbial cat with the proverbial cream dish and despite himself Sherlock swears under his breath.
John is going to kill him.
Molly looks from him to the girl and back. Her expression is curious. “Is that-?”
“John Watson’s daughter?” Sherlock says. “Yes, it is. I’m supposed to be watching her.”
Just as he says the words Rosie meets his gaze and grins, waving jauntily.
Despite everything, a smile twitches at Molly’s lip. “And why is her father not performing that august honour?” she asks dryly.
If nothing else, their childhood together must have indicated that Sherlock is not the sort of person one chooses as a chaperone.
Sherlock shoots her a sour look. “John is not here,” he says testily, “because the good doctor cannot be trusted.” At Molly’s disbelieving laugh he shrugs. “Every single time John has attempted to attend one of these occasions with his daughter he has ended up either ejected from the premises or threatened with a duel.” He rolls his eyes. “A couple of times, it’s been both. If Rosie’s mother could see how he’s behaving she would never let him live it down.”
Molly’s smile widens. “So I take it the good doctor is overly protective?”
Sherlock nods. Sighs like a martyr. “Ridiculously so.” Again he shakes his head, only reminding himself at the last moment not to rake his hands through his curls and set it into dishevelment. “It’s not as if it makes things any better: telling Rosie not to do something is about as useful, as, oh-”
“Telling you not to do something?” Molly helpfully supplies.
She bats her eyes innocently and Sherlock narrows his eyes. “Precisely.” A beat. The music has started. The couples have started swaying in time, the business of the night beginning in earnest.
After all, Sherlock muses, these debutantes aren’t going to get themselves wed on their own, now are they?
“Bloody hell but I still hate these things,” he mutters under his breath then. As has been the case so often since he returned from the Peninsula, he just feels so wretchedly old.
To his surprise though he feels Molly’s hand at his arm. She gives it a squeeze. “I’ve always hated them too,” she says, sotto voce. “I’m only here because Georgiana has nobody left to bring her except me.” She gives a small sigh. “But if it helps any, you can have me too, to help you through it.” Another smile. "After all, they say misery loves company."
By now both her charge and Rosie are swirling expertly around the floor in the arms of their partners. Georgiana’s boy looks dazed, Rosamund’s looks positively smug.
Sherlock gives Rosie less than an hour to knock that right out of him.
“That does help,” Sherlock says and then stops, unsure why he said something so uncouth out loud.
Whatever would Molly think of him?
Her eyes are still on the dance floor but nevertheless she’s smiling. “This is going to be a long season, old friend,” she tells him wryly, “but we’ll get through it together.”
And though he doesn’t want to cogitate too carefully about the whys and the wherefores, her words make Sherlock very glad indeed.