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Fic: Burnt to ash [ACD Holmes]

Title: Burnt to ash
Fandom: ACD Sherlock Holmes
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Sherlock Holmes, John Watson
Length: 764
Alternate Link: AO3
Author's Notes: Written for the watsons_woes JWP 2015 Picture Prompt #16: Ablaze. Pre-slash and angsty. Unbeta'd.
Summary: Fire reveals a woman's, or a man's, priorities. It reveals, and it destroys.

I finished tending to the injured as best I could with no tools but buckets of cold water from the well, some bandages ripped from nightclothes, and a tin of horse liniment. None of the burns were serious, but I was concerned about the elderly Mister Grannock's breathing. I sought out Holmes, and found him engaged in a quiet, yet forceful argument with Lord Winters.

The men of the household had abandoned any attempt to save the manor house, but had managed to contain the blaze. The other structures on the estate were safe.

Holmes finished with Winters and stalked across the lawn to join me. He was the only one who had made it out of the manor house fully dressed. I was quite certain that he had not yet retired when the alarm was sounded.

"Winters is a fool, but he won't impede our investigation," Holmes said as he approached.

"Two of the maids were trapped inside," I told him.

Holmes nodded. "They slept under the eaves. One of them, Constance, was only hired a few weeks ago. It's unlikely that their deaths were the primary goal of the arsonist, but not impossible. I shall keep it in mind."

"There's no chance the fire was accidental?"

"None," he said grimly. "It began in the east wing. The lord's family are the only ones there at night, and the governess routinely checks for candles or lamps left alight before she sleeps." He turned to stare at the remnants of the house, still blazing into the night, and clicked his tongue in clear irritation. "Fire is an investigator's great enemy, Watson," he told me. "Evidence is destroyed, routines interrupted, witnesses' memories clouded by panic."

"At least you saved the letters," I consoled Holmes. He had informed me yesterday that Lord Winter's father's letters would be key to uncovering the truth behind the inheritance dispute.

He shifted next to me, checked his pockets, and then went still. "It seems I left them in the library when I went searching for the source of the smoke."

Holmes was embarrassed, and no wonder. He must have assumed there was some small house fire, found a conflagration in the east wing, and then ... here the narrative I was constructing in my mind faltered. The guestroom where I had slept was on the opposite side of the house from east wing. I was wakened by a shout of 'Fire', and yet Holmes had appeared to drag me out of danger whilst I was still putting my shoes on.

"You once told me, Holmes, that nothing reveals a woman's priorities like a fire."

"Yes," he agreed, "and the precept is well-demonstrated here." He gestured to the women, both whole and injured, around us. "You can see mothers with their children; the unmarried carried out whatever valuables or mementos they held … most precious."

His voice was tinged with humour for the last words, and I followed his gaze to find the cook seated upon the largest copper roasting pan I had ever seen, mourning the loss of her kitchen. After a moment my eyes were drawn back to the fire, hypnotically beautiful in its destruction.

"And what of you, old boy?" I asked him, amused and rather touched by his actions. "You discovered a major fire in the east wing, sounded the alarm, and then ran past the library and at least a dozen panicked members of the household to ensure my safety?"

Holmes was silent in the face of this accusation. I must say, I was delighted to catch the great detective in such an inconsistency. I believe I may have hoped for some expression of camaraderie, such as I had shared with members of my regiment after a close call in the field.

I have, in the past, written of Holmes as a machine, a creature of the purest logic. Yet as I turned away from the inferno to look Holmes in the eye, I saw him lost in the grip of some strong emotion.

In that moment, he turned his back on me, and in the coldest tones I have ever heard him use towards my person, Holmes said, "Do not mistake the clear-headed decision to ensure that your medical expertise was available to the injured for unwonted sentiment."

"Apologies, Holmes, I…" I stuttered into silence. I could not have been more astonished if Holmes had slapped me across the face.

"Get some sleep," he ordered, back unyielding. "We will investigate what remains of the house at first light." And with that, Holmes strode away into the darkness.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 17th, 2015 05:21 am (UTC)
Ouch. Touched a tender spot there, Watson.
Jul. 17th, 2015 06:17 am (UTC)
Yeeeah. He did indeed. Thank you for the comment, gardnerhill.
Jul. 19th, 2015 12:27 am (UTC)
*cackles* Busted.
Jul. 19th, 2015 03:14 am (UTC)
Yes, and Holmes is not the least bit happy about it. Thank you for the comment, caffienekitty!

Edited at 2015-07-19 03:14 am (UTC)
Jul. 20th, 2015 07:22 am (UTC)
I'm having a hard time keeping up on reading everything this year (my f-list is on skip=105 right now) and between RL and writing I haven't been able to comment on many, but I'm thrilled with the amount of participation the challenge is getting this year!
Jul. 20th, 2015 06:01 am (UTC)
Oh Holmes. You emotionally constipated idiot. And poor Watson, who conducted a light on something Holmes would far rather not have seen - or be seen.
Jul. 20th, 2015 10:27 pm (UTC)
"Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his."

Its no wonder that Holmes is upset, first at having acted in this way, and then by Watson actually noticing.
Jul. 26th, 2015 09:18 am (UTC)
Don't you believe it for a second, Watson!
(Holmes can be such a jerk when he's scared.)
Jul. 26th, 2015 10:52 am (UTC)
So true, captain. Thank you for the comment!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )