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FIC: They Tell In Their Garlands. H/W.

Thanks to basingstoke, amireal, and lydiabell

They Tell In Their Garlands
Laura JV

The box was innocuous enough, tilted half-off the papers piled on my writing-desk. Holmes was conducting some chemical experiments -- detecting certain poisons in the blood was his latest passion, and he had been absorbed in it for some weeks.

I picked up the box and shook it; but the faint thumping within gave no hint as to the contents. I slid the string from around it and opened it, revealing a tussy-mussy in a fine silver holder.

No one had sent me a tussy-mussy since Mary; she and I used to give them as love-notes to each other. For all the length of our marriage I wore her gifts at my lapel; Holmes used to mock me mercilessly for sentimentality, but I never paid his gibes any mind.

I fingered the violets in my lapel; Mary had always preferred them to any other flower, and used them often in the delicate arrangements she made for me. I was whole-hearted when I loved her; since Holmes's supposed death and Mary's true death, I had not been, and would never be so again. Holmes's return had healed only half the wound, and Mary was lost to me forever.

I withdrew the flowers from the box and looked for a card; there it was, at the bottom: To my dear Boswell, with kind regards -- from Holmes, then. I looked over at his worktable, and he raised his eyebrows at me before turning back to the beakers and vials.

I turned it over in my hand, frowning. Ivy for fidelity, pansies for thought, and grass for I knew not what. I went to my bookshelf for my copy of Ingram. Grass, grass with the faint scent of lemon about it--

I pride myself that I did not give myself away by blush or sharp inhalation of breath. I set the book down, and placed the tussy-mussy atop it, studying it for a long moment before speaking. "Holmes?"

He set a beaker down with more force than strictly necessary, apparently irritated at the interruption of his work. "Yes, Watson?"

I answered his look with one of my own, and gestured at the flowers. "Holmes, are you calling me an invert?"

He favored me with a sardonic smile. "Ah, but a faithful one, my dear Watson."


I did see, of course. I am not obtuse, nor without the rudiments of deduction. Holmes was watching me still, his chin tilted up and lips pressed firmly together. I know Holmes well; he would not accuse me of unnatural impulses with an intent to insult. There could only be one meaning behind this: Holmes, who could never speak of love, had chosen this way to speak to me.

I took the violets from my lapel and teased the stems apart; I wove them into the holder with the ivy and pansies and grass. Violets for faithfulness: both to Holmes and to my dear Mary. She never would have suspected this of me -- though she was a perspicacious woman and may have suspected Holmes -- and yet I would not forget her, nor pretend I was heart-whole without her, even in a declaration such as this.

Holmes clattered glassware, watching me from the corners of his eyes as he cleared his experiments from the table with rather more violence than was typical.

I placed the tussy-mussy in my buttonhole, and looked up to find Holmes standing before me, upright and firm, only the faintest tremble in his hands betraying him. "My dear Watson," he said, and I laid my own hands, one after the other, on the strong boxer's muscles of his upper arms.

"My dear Holmes," I replied.

Note: Watson's "copy of Ingram" is John Ingram's "Flora Symbolica", one of the comprehensive dictionaries of "the language of flowers".

In Eastern lands they
talk of flowers

and they tell in their
garlands their loves
and cares

each blossom that
blooms in their
garden bowers

on its leaves a
mystical language

-- John Ingram (1822-1876), "Flora Symbolica"


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 30th, 2008 05:21 am (UTC)
Oh! Lovely Watson voice; clearly the same man as the narrator of the stories, but not in his public persona-- more private and subtle.

I liked this, very much.
Mar. 30th, 2008 05:34 am (UTC)
Thank you! I was looking up the language of flowers as I was trying to remember a particular (non-Holmesian) story that I read years ago, and the idea rather took hold of me.
Sep. 11th, 2008 04:17 am (UTC)
is the story that inspired you a smallville fic?
Sep. 11th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
No, it wasn't fanfiction. (Plus I wouldn't say that the story I was looking for inspired me; I was just fact-checking something it had mentioned about the language of flowers for curiousity's sake.)

Edited at 2008-09-11 11:16 pm (UTC)
Sep. 11th, 2008 11:57 pm (UTC)
oh! I forgot to post the second comment that I'd written because I'd forgotten (so much forgetfulness in my life) to thank you for writing this gem of a vignette. subtle, sweet, and very victorian. great ending.
anyway, I just found the first flower symbolism story I read which I thought you might've come across, too. here is a link in case you're interested: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/924758/1/Silent_Linguistics
I know that a url starting with ff.net is kind of a DO NOT READ to some people, but it's quite a lovely story :)
Sep. 12th, 2008 03:05 am (UTC)
:) I'm glad you enjoyed the vignette! and thanks for the link -- I don't know when I'll have time to check it out, but I'll put it in the stack.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 30th, 2008 05:52 am (UTC)
Oh, I so hoped you would like it!
Mar. 30th, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
Ah, very lovely indeed.
I would off you a rose!
Mar. 30th, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC)
Mar. 30th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
You're welcome.

::facepalm:: Of course, I meant offer: I would offer you a rose.
Mar. 30th, 2008 08:49 pm (UTC)
I figured. :) Typos: the scourge of the universe!

(Ever seen Taylor Mali's The Impotence of Proofreading?)
Mar. 30th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
Very nice indeed. I like how Watson's sorrow was still such a part of him. I also quite like this method that Holmes uses -- it seems very Holmes like to say something without actually saying it. This was very nicely done. Good job!
Mar. 30th, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC)
It is hard to picture Holmes making a declaration of love, isn't it? I rather thought this way might appeal to him: he could always claim it was a joke....
Mar. 30th, 2008 08:51 pm (UTC)
This is just glorious. I love the use of flowers as symbols! Brilliant!
Mar. 30th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
The story goes that sending coded messages in flowers was quite the thing to do. I don't know how true that is, but it's a nice tale, and good fodder for something like this!
Mar. 30th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
Manly restraint! Romantic gestures! True love! Respect for the canon het! And a lovely, lovely story.
Mar. 30th, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC)
NOTHING gets me more riled up than people dissing Mary, let me tell you what.
Mar. 31st, 2008 12:10 pm (UTC)
Like copracat said, "respect for the canon het!" I like how Watson loved her as well.

And that seems so like something Holmes would do!

Very "awwww"-inducing :)
Mar. 31st, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
thank you!
Apr. 1st, 2008 01:50 am (UTC)
Oh, that was lovely. :)
Apr. 6th, 2008 04:39 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Apr. 19th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
This is so quietly beautiful and sentimental. Holmes obviously respects and honors Watson's past love-life, while expressing how he'd like to be a part of the present...

Only one nit-picky thing - I've never seen the term 'tussy mussy' used to refer to a boutonniere. A tussy mussy is traditionally a small bouquet of flowers in a fancy holder (usually silver), meant to be carried in the hand. It would probably be too large to tuck into a lapel buttonhole. Just a thought!
Apr. 19th, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked the story.

On the tussy-mussy note, there were (are) small tussy-mussies meant to be worn in a buttonhole or pinned to the lapel.
Apr. 20th, 2008 03:24 am (UTC)
Ah, I so rarely read Holmes fic, but it's a treasure to find. I love the quiet declaration, and Watson's acceptance. Really nicely done.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )