“Sherlock?” he heard a voice call out to him.
His eyes opened suddenly, pulling him out of the dreamy state he was in. He looked around, seeing the office was still empty aside from Aryn who was standing at the doorway.
“You alright?” she asked.
“Fine. Just fine,” he stated, standing up and buttoning his suit jacket. “Any news?”
“Unfortunately, no,” she said, looking at the floor. “The parents are nowhere to be found—Greg’s guess is that the child was put up for adoption.” She turned her head from side to side, stretching her neck. It had been many hours of going over files, searching through databases, and listening to Donovan complain about how much time was being wasted on this case. At times, Aryn wondered why Donovan was even there if she was this frustrated with how things were being run.
“More useless information then,” he spat, flopping back down on the chair he was just in. He pondered for a moment. “It can’t be this hard.”
She scoffed slightly, causing Sherlock to look up at her. “Something funny?”
“You,” she immediately answered. “So hung up on a puzzle you can’t solve.”
It wasn’t meant to be a mean jab. It wasn’t any different than how she would have spoken to him in college. Sherlock wasn’t amused.
He stood up once more and pushed past Aryn, heading back to the meeting room where he found Greg, Anderson, Donovan, and John discussing the child and its circumstances.
“It doesn’t fit, though,” Anderson was saying as Sherlock walked in. “It’s not like this baby has anything to do with the pattern. What if it’s just a copycat trying to throw us off of the trail?”
“Specific details haven’t been released to the media,” Lestrade informed.
“You’d need to have a leak in the department for something like this to get out,” Donovan finished as Aryn walked in.
“Just got these in from Molly,” she announced, flipping open the files in her hands. “Baby boy was two months old, COD was the stab wound, big surprise. Tests on the rose didn’t find anything, just like with the previous victims.”
It was an understatement to say that everyone in the room was frustrated with the direction that this case was going. More paths opened themselves up just to lead to three or four new dead ends. It was impossible.
Sherlock stood at the boards trying to inventory any information he hadn’t already collected in his mind. His anger with Aryn still carried over, his temper unusually sensitive that day. All it would take would be one more little round of sarcasm to send him over the edge. Cases like these were challenges he enjoyed, but only if there was a solution in sight.
Turning on his heel, he began to walk out of the room without saying a word to anyone. It was another great Sherlock mystery as to where he was going. Aryn was sick of it.
“Where are you going now? We need you here Sherlock—you can’t just leave,” she angrily scolded.
He stopped dead in his tracks. Turning to face Aryn, who was now standing on the side of the table, he took long strides towards her, analyzing her from top to bottom.
At one point in their lives, he had promised to never use deductions openly to tell her what her life was like or explain to others what she was like. She had witnessed this ability many times and had told him she hated the way it made people feel. His methods let out peoples’ biggest fears and insecurities, knowing that they were secrets for a reason.
Unfortunately, the only way Sherlock knew how to shut people up was to shoot them where it would hurt most.
“Of course you’d want me to stay here where we would make no progress,” he began, his words clear as they started to pour out at a quick rate, “because it’s so obvious that we’re going to get all of the answers together, correct?
“A successful DI like you might not want to be able to work on a case such as this right now. You could leave any time you wanted, really. Correct me if I’m wrong—judging by the tan mark on your ring finger, you’ve got someone waiting at home, don’t you?”
Aryn’s expression dropped suddenly. She looked quickly from face to face in the room, her eyes finally settling on John’s. They were etched with a fear he had never seen, as if she had been betrayed.
“You’re also having family problems at home as well. Your mother must be getting on your case as to why you’re not marrying yet which is why you ran off so suddenly to London. Putting off the wedding because you’re getting cold feet I imagine?
“But wait…it must be hard knowing your sister is putting pressure on you, isn’t it? Judging by the photos in your wallet, your niece and nephew are just stealing the show and adding to your mother’s notions to marry and have a family with this mystery groom. At our age, though, it’s understandable. Your numerous missed calls and texts from her must be getting a tad bit annoying, especially with this case.”
“Sherlock, that’s enough,” John interrupted. His gaze never left Aryn’s, it being some kind of lifeline so that she wouldn’t drown in the sudden deductions Sherlock was drowning her in.
“Seeing that child the other day must not have put you at ease either. With Thalia gone already, how many of these deaths are you seeing as your fault once again?
“But the real kicker? Your depression.”
Aryn’s eyes finally left John’s as she looked up at Sherlock, begging him to stop.
“You eat very little when you decide to actually eat, you rarely partake in any activities, prefer to live alone, and the scars on your wrists poorly hidden with makeup indicate attempts at ending your life. Not happy with the way your life is going? Aryn, Aryn, Aryn—why are you hiding so much from us?”
“That’s enough Sherlock,” Lestrade growled as he stepped forward towards the consulting detective.
Her heart caught in her throat as she tensed up. The room was silent aside from Sherlock’s deep breathing. Her fists were clenched so tightly, she could feel the nails digging into her flesh.
Sherlock glanced around the room at each face as he took a deep breath to collect himself. He turned to leave, but a voice caught his attention.
Looking at Aryn, he was perplexed. “What?”
“Your deductions—all but one are wrong.”
He cocked his head as he walked towards this small woman who was looking at him now with ferocious eyes.
She stepped towards him, meeting him toe-to-toe.
“Yes, I’ve been depressed and I haven’t told anyone, but your reasons aren’t even close to the right justification. I keep photos of my niece and nephew in my wallet not because my sister is putting pressure on me to get on with my life but because they were killed in a car crash along with my sister and mum two years ago.”
She glared at Sherlock with a fire that had been burning for years.
John looked cautiously from Lestrade to the duo in the middle of the room.
“You missed their funeral, Sherlock.” She walked around him to face the door. “It was the one time in the last 10 years that I had tried to find you again. When I did and when I needed you to be there, you never showed.” She turned to face him once more. “I have no family left, Sherlock. Dad left when I was young and now everyone else has suddenly up and vanished. Getting out of Manchester was my way of being able to see what I could accomplish if I started back where I was familiar, where I had people who cared.”
She pulled a chain that was around her neck, breaking the clasp and grasping something in her hand. “Oh, and my ‘engagement’? The furthest thing from the truth.” Looking down at her palm, she continued, “This you can have back.” She tossed the ring at Sherlock, the silver band bouncing off of his chest and both it and the chain clattering to the floor.
She stormed out, not waiting for anyone to add to their argument nor allowing Sherlock to bite back with whatever remark he had waiting for her. It was around five in the afternoon and she headed straight for the pub down the street.
Everyone stared at the door wondering what had just happened.
Sherlock’s expression remained unchanged, his gaze settling on the ring that was on the floor. His heart was racing at the sight of it, unable to process the fact that not only had she kept it, but she had been wearing it this whole time they had been apart.
Anderson and Donovan were the first to leave, giving Sherlock a mixture of puzzled yet satisfied looks as they exited.
Lestrade walked over to him as if he were a disappointed father. Looking down at the ring, he angrily stated, “You fix this, or I’ll make sure you never solve another crime in England again.” He stormed out, heading back to his office to try and find Aryn.
That left only John and Sherlock in the room. John wasn’t sure where to start. It was amazing that Sherlock got a majority of his deductions wrong, for once. What followed was probably even more shocking than anything John would have ever imagined.
He walked over to Sherlock and grabbed the ring and chain off of the floor. He took Sherlock’s hand and placed both in his palm.
Sherlock watched John, then looked at him with confused eyes.
“I’ll find her. But Greg’s right; you need to fix this.”
John had checked her flat and every pub he could think of
that was in close proximity with both Scotland Yard and Aryn’s place. His last
option was to check Hyde Park. It was now nine o’clock at night and he was
starting to worry about his colleague.
Walking through, he saw a variety of people ranging from young couples out on dates to groups of kids enjoying their night out before curfew. The amount of people that weren’t there by themselves made it painfully easy to pick Aryn out of the crowd.
She was sitting on a bench on the far end of the park, overlooking the water.
He didn’t know how to approach her. So much had happened in the last day that he didn’t know what she’d be like. As he walked over, he mentally prepared himself for the worst.
Upon first look, she seemed fine. The strong smell of whiskey cleared those thoughts out of John’s head very quickly, though.
“Aryn?” he said, announcing his presence.
She chuckled slightly, her gaze still on the scene in front of her. “Cocky git, isn’t he?”
Sitting next to her and sharing the view, he said, “Yes. Yes he is.”
She sniffed. “I’m guessing you have questions.” Her words were slightly slurred.
He nodded, now looking over at her. Aryn’s eyes were red as was her nose. Her hair was let down which was a new sight for John. It acted as a curtain against her face.
“How did it end?”
Thalia’s friends had
been trying to get Aryn to agree to go to this dance for the past month. It was
the last hurrah for all of the students who were going to graduate. As much as
she appreciated the thought of them including her in their plans now that Thalia
was gone, she was not one to entertain the idea of going to a dance.
From what she gathered, it was supposed to be very formal and people brought dates with them—it was a college version of a high school dance in her eyes.
Venting about it to Sherlock, she figured that after ten minutes of her rambling, he’d have stopped listening.
“So are you going?” he asked a while after she had stopped talking. They were in his dorm getting ready to go out to look for evidence.
She looked up at him, surprised that he cared enough to ask. “Um…wasn’t thinking about it.”
He nodded understandingly, Aryn slightly disappointed.
Since the night that she had exposed her soul to him, things had continued as normal between the two of them—at least externally they had.
Aryn was very conflicted within the confines of her mind. She had thought that something clicked with them that night. She thought she had reached out enough to Sherlock to make more of an impression on him. Alas, it was just a means to being much closer friends. To her, it seemed that was all it would ever be.
There had been one night where she was sitting alone in her dorm reading. She felt very distracted, Sherlock having left a few hours prior to rest and dig deeper about something he was helping a friend with. She remembered setting the book down and staring up at the ceiling, trying really hard to look for Thalia beyond the boundaries of her dorm room. She looked as if she was trying to look towards the heavens for her friend.
“Well, it finally happened,” she remembered telling Thalia. “Lia, I like him. I finally like a guy and he’s a nut.” She laughed to herself, looking down at the book in her lap. “And I have no idea what to do.” Sighing, she continued, “What I wouldn’t give to have you here with me right now…”
Little did she know, Sherlock had returned that night; he was just outside of Aryn’s door when she had confessed her feelings for him to the empty room. He didn’t dare enter after hearing what she had said. He let it go for the time being, but knew that it would become something to address later.
The dance was to take place the night prior to graduation, both Sherlock and Aryn preparing for their commencement. It wasn’t something they talked about a lot. Knowing that graduation was that much closer meant that they were counting down the days until they’d have to go their separate ways.
As they left his dorm, Aryn wondered how many more adventures the two of them would have together before they had their last “hurrah” as friends. She dreaded the thought.
The night of the dance, Sherlock was nowhere to be found. Aryn was stuck packing up her dorm with no one to keep her company. Most of Thalia’s belongings had been packed up by her family and Aryn was left to look through old photos and random things she and Thalia had collected over the years. They were fortunate enough to be roommates throughout the duration of their collegiate careers.
She stretched, standing up and rubbing her stomach. She hadn’t eaten all day and figured it was better to go out and buy food rather than bringing home leftovers. She ran down to a local sandwich shop, got a light dinner, then came back to her dorm.
As she was eating, she walked to her bed and saw a white box sitting on her covers. There was a note attached to it.
Setting her sandwich down, she grabbed the note and unfolded it.
Hyde Park. 8pm. Wear this. –SH
She had to admit, her curiosity was piqued. She put the note down and proceeded to lift the cover off of the box. A beautiful black gown sat within layers of tissue paper. She was in awe as she pulled it out. It was strapless and floor length, appearing to be just her height. She didn’t expect any less from Sherlock, though. He probably knew her height and measurements without her having to tell him.
Looking at her watch, it was already 7:15. She rushed to shower, put the dress on, and searched for a pair of black heels to prevent the dress from dragging on the ground. In the box was a shawl to drape over her shoulders. She quickly grabbed that and frantically ran around her dorm trying to finish getting ready with whatever she hadn’t already packed. Thalia had given her a make-up set at the beginning of the semester and taught her how to use it, Thalia somehow thinking that Aryn would have time to find a boyfriend to use it for. As she applied the make-up, she felt confident thinking that this was a way Thalia could be with her for moral support.
As she finished, she grabbed her keys, locked her dorm, and rushed down to catch a cab to the park.
Sherlock stood looking down at the setup he had, unsatisfied with the arrangement. It was a simple blanket on the grass that had a small black box on it along with his violin case. He also had a tape recorder set to play a song he had been practicing for the past few weeks.
It was an odd feeling trying to do something nice for someone. Although, he had to attribute all of this to what he had heard from Aryn that one night. She liked him—as more than a friend—and he had no idea how to handle it. He observed a variety of romantic acts at the college, but they never mattered to him until now. He had always been married to his work. Suddenly he had someone who shared a passion for the work he did and he found it all didn’t seem as important anymore. What did matter was ensuring that he spent time with Aryn before they graduated the next day.
He felt eyes watching him. Looking up, he saw her standing on the path that lead to where he was standing. She was in her gown, the shawl gracing her pale shoulders. The lamplight overhead didn’t do any justice to her face. She had just the right amount of blush and wine colored lipstick. They were what stood out to Sherlock the most. Her hair was in a neat bun, although he found he much preferred her hair down after that night on the lawn.
Uncomfortably straightening out his coat, he gestured at the blanket. “Surprise,” he said.
She giggled as she looked at the spread before her, walking through the grass and making sure her shoes didn’t get stuck in the soft ground. “What is all of this for, Sherlock?”
He knelt down and grabbed his case, fiddling with the latches. “I figured…” He opened the case cover. “…that since we only have tonight to spend before we graduate…” He grabbed his violin and set it very precisely between his chin and body “…I’d do something nice in return for you.”
She removed her shoes and sat on the blanket next to where Sherlock had left his case open. “For doing what?”
He paused as he was about to set his bow on the strings. “For being…a friend.”
With that, he began to play the most beautiful violin piece Aryn had ever heard. So many wonderful notes strung together at the right pace. It enhanced the night air that surrounded them. She could hear some tones of sadness, but most of the song was happy. The song made her feel as if it was Sherlock’s way of expressing himself. He never needed words, just his violin.
He watched out of the corner of his eye as she swayed slightly with the rhythm of his music.
As the song came to an end, Aryn clapped excitedly for the man who was now bowing for his accomplishment.
“That was great,” she added, watching Sherlock put the violin back down to rest in its case.
“Thank you. And now…” he began, grabbing the black box, “…put this on and dance with me.”
He held it out to her and she had frozen as she stared at it. It was a small box that was covered in the fine velvet one would see on high end jewelry boxes. She reached for it cautiously, slowly opening the lid. Within, there was a silver band. There wasn’t anything special to distinguish it from anything else. Just a simple silver band.
Pulling it out of the box, she inspected the inside. There was no inscription, just her initials “A.K.C.”
“Wh-wh-what is this for?” she asked, looking up at Sherlock.
“I wanted to get you something nice. I noticed you never really wear earrings or necklaces so I figured a ring would be more suitable for an everyday accessory.”
“Sherlock,” she said, more directly than what she had asked previously, “what is this for?”
He kept eye contact with her briefly before walking towards the water that had been his company for several hours that night as he prepared for Aryn’s arrival. “I’m told it’s something like a promise ring.”
“Oh?” she asked, standing up and walking to Sherlock’s side. “And what is the promise we’re to keep?”
“Our…friendship,” he replied quickly, thinking back to the night he eavesdropped on her confession. “You’ve been an excellent…” He paused, trying to find the word.
“…friend?” she asked, wondering how many people before her had been able to have the title of being Sherlock’s friend.
“Yes. That.” He walked back to the blanket and kneeled down towards the tape recorder, pressing the ‘play’ button. “And now, we dance.”
“Dance?” She looked nervously around at the people who were at the park. “Here?”
He too looked around, slightly baffled. “Something wrong?”
She laughed to herself, realizing that Sherlock would find nothing weird about the situation. Slipping the ring on her finger, she replied, “Nothing. I’d love to dance with you.”
She walked over to him, Sherlock already in position to dance. He held out his hand for her to take and reached his other for her waist. She placed her right hand on his shoulder, her left hand in his, and they began to waltz. At the beginning, she felt ridiculous, people beginning to watch them from afar. As the music continued, though, she noticed how well Sherlock could dance. He would spin her around, tip her backwards, and bring her back in very fluid motions. Had he been practicing?
The longer they danced, the more their dancing style began to change. From the stiff, formal dance they began with, Sherlock eased into a more relaxed pace, the space between himself and Aryn closing. Their long steps changed into a simple sway back and forth. Aryn placed both of her hands on his shoulders and both of his hands were on her waist.
“Sherlock,” she had said halfway through. She looked up at his eyes that looked more vibrant than ever. They were curious, wanting to drink in every word that she was going to say. “Thank you…for everything. I’m going to miss you.” She paused as tears began to roll down her cheeks. “In all honesty, I’m not sure what I’m going to do without you. I’ve gotten quite used to you bothering me at all hours of the night.” She tried to laugh it off, but Sherlock didn’t react the way she had hoped.
He didn’t know how to reply. He broke eye contact and looked at the scenery behind Aryn, leaving her wanting for an answer. She felt his grip tighten and pull her closer, his head resting on hers. Their dancing pace had slowed immensely, not even matching the music any longer.
Understanding the silent communication, Aryn’s hands met one another behind Sherlock’s neck and clasped together, holding on as long as she could.
It was a moment in time that they both wished would never end.
She brought one of her hands out from under her jacket, a
tape recorder resting in her hand. She pushed the ‘play’ button, and the
silence between her and John was filled with Sherlock’s song for her. John
thought it was even more beautiful than the one he had written for his and
His heart ached as he listened to her story. None of what she had described leant itself to being the Sherlock he had grown to know and care about. Some of those traits she described leaked out every once in a while, but for the most part Sherlock had been cold and unforgiving in many situations.
“What happened the next day?” he asked her.
She shrugged, looking down at the tape recorder. “I didn’t walk the line at graduation. He told me to wait at my dorm until after the ceremony so we could have our proper goodbyes.” Tears began to fall from her eyes onto the machine in her hand. “I waited until the absolute last minute that I could. And then…”
Her words were caught in her throat.
“And then what?” John asked, encouraging Aryn to finish her story by placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
“…I never saw him again.”
He sighed as he pulled Aryn in for a hug, her head falling to his shoulder.
“But that’s Sherlock, isn’t it?” he asked to no one in particular.
She chuckled, “Yes, it is.”
Suddenly, it clicked.
“Oh my god, John. You’re a genius!” she said, words still a bit slurred, as she bolted upright and looked at the confused doctor’s face.
“I’m what?” he asked. “How much have you had to drink?”
“Never mind that!” she exclaimed, leaving the bench. It wasn’t the smartest idea. Immediately she fell onto the concrete in her haste, skinning her right knee, her elbows, and part of her face.
“For god’s sake!” John exclaimed. He helped her up, slinging one of her arms over his shoulders for stability. “We need to get you cleaned up.”
“No!” she argued, trying to stumble away. “We need to go to Scotland Yard.”
“What is so important at Scotland Yard?” he demanded, starting to walk her towards the main entrance of the park.She answered with great conviction, “SHERLOCK.”