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JWP Amnesty Fic: Smokescreen (Granada)

Author: methylviolet10b
Rating: PG
Universe: Granada (could just as easily be ACD, but who can resist those sets?)
Characters: OC, Sherlock Holmes, John Watson (in cameo)
Word Count: 933
Summary: The tobacconist on Oxford Street has a different perspective. A follow-on of sorts to Neighbourly Perspective. Written for the following two amnesty prompts:
- That's All Folks: Let the end be the beginning (or the entirety) of today's entry.
- Welcome to the neighbourhood: Outsider fic from the POV of someone else living near 221 Baker Street.
Warnings: OC narrator. And absolutely no beta. This was written in a complete rush. You have been warned.
Disclaimer: I don't own them.

When my uncle retired, I took over the tobacconist business he’d started. He’d brought me up in the trade, and a quiet, respectable, prosperous business it was, there on Oxford Street.

My uncle had no children of his own, so he was glad enough to take one of his brother’s children on as his ward and eventual heir, even though we lived far away in Antigua and he’d never met any of us.

My poor father faced a difficult decision. He had many children, oh yes. But of the ten of us, only two were boys. My oldest brother was already fully apprenticed in my father’s tobacco-growing business, and engaged besides. He had no interest in it. And my other brother – Henry, my twin – was frail and tubercular. We knew, already, that he would probably not survive the long journey to London, much less thrive there in the damp, murky air. Any chance he had to live at all (and I knew in my heart that he would not live to grow up, no matter how dear he was to me and how much I wished it) required staying in Antigua, and yet the family could not afford to pass up this chance.

“Let me go with Henry,” I told my father. “I can look after him, and my uncle’s household too. I’m sure a bachelor establishment could use the help.”

My father brightened, then sighed. “You’re hardly more than a girl, Henrietta, and that’s a heavy burden to place on your shoulders. But you’re sensible, and you’re right too.” He shook his head. “If only Henry had half your strength and determination…”

If only you had been a boy, he meant. I often thought so too. For I felt a boy, far more than I felt myself a girl. And there were opportunities for boys and men, while being a girl was a life sentence to a restricted, dominated world, one I wanted no part of.

So it was decided that we would both go to London, and my fate decided too. My brother and I embarked on the journey unaccompanied, for none could be spared to come with us. Henry and I made our own plans, took our own precautions. He knew the heart of me, the truth of me, as no other ever has or ever will. The captain was quite surprised to learn that he had two brothers, rather than a brother and sister, in his charge; but one look at poor Henry’s pallid face and constant use of his handkerchief to stifle his slight cough, and he thought he understood well enough.

He did, too, at least in one part. My poor Henry did not survive the journey. His body was buried at sea. I alone was left to greet my uncle with the incredible news that my ‘sister Henrietta’ had not lived, but that the sea air had done wonders for my own health.  I was determined to be a credit to both my uncle for his generosity in taking me in, and to my dear late sister, in honour of her memory.

My uncle never guessed my secret. He was a good man, but a confirmed bachelor who knew nothing of children and was more than happy to see that ‘Henry’, as I called myself, was so self-sufficient. My distant family must have wondered, but they too never questioned the strange turn of fate. Even my youngest sister Jane, who wound up marrying a friend of my oldest brother a decade after I left and relocating to London to help run a shop not two blocks away, ever guessed.

I lived as a boy, and then as a young man. My uncle’s health diminished, and he turned the business over to me in favour of retirement to a seaside cottage. The business continued on much as it had, with no one the wiser.

Not until the day a new customer came into the shop. Mr Holmes was quiet, not wealthy, but particular about his blend, wanting the strongest smoke his limited purse would allow. I noticed my shop-boy go back and forth several times, bringing out samples from various drawers, and stepped in to offer my expertise. A discerning customer who appreciated good tobacco was always welcome.

Mr Holmes greeted my suggestion with approval, but then stopped and glanced at me, raking me up and down with a single bright-eyed, keen look that seemed to take in everything about me, even what I hid from the world. I told myself I was being absurd, even while blessing the side-effect of the smoke that had deepened my voice to something far lower and rougher than any woman would have. “Would you prefer to try something else?”

“No,” Mr Holmes said at once. “This blend is quite satisfactory. I thank you for the recommendation. Your expertise is notable.”

That is all he said, then or ever. He became one of my most reliable customers, and his friend Doctor Watson too. Others came to my shop, for both men recommended my establishment often, and as their fame grew, so too did the number of people coming to buy where they bought.

Given his reputation, I have no doubt that Mr Holmes guessed my secret at that first meeting, that I was not born to the gender I was meant to live as. That he never said anything, and that it apparently made no difference to him, is all the proof I ever needed to know that he was, and is, just as extraordinary – and worthy – as his reputation paints him.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 8th, 2016 12:13 am (UTC)
Excellent writing about an excellent oc, both convincing and interesting. I'm glad Holmes learnt from Mrs Norton.
Aug. 8th, 2016 05:40 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you found Henry interesting; he's one of those characters that just popped into my head.

Thank you also for all the great commentary and support throughout JWP 2016! I really appreciate it.

Edited at 2016-08-08 05:41 am (UTC)
Aug. 8th, 2016 05:59 am (UTC)
We appreciate the fine fics to comment on!
Aug. 8th, 2016 01:17 am (UTC)
This really is quite a great story. You managed to endeared me to henrietta quite quickly and to smile at Holmes first meeting with Henry. What a great fill!
Aug. 8th, 2016 05:41 am (UTC)
Hurrah! I'm delighted you liked Henrietta/Henry. Thank you!
Aug. 8th, 2016 04:12 am (UTC)
Charlie Parkhurst, the toughest stage-driver of the old West (who was born Charlotte) would be proud.
Aug. 8th, 2016 05:42 am (UTC)
And there is no greater compliment than that. Thank you!
Aug. 9th, 2016 07:41 pm (UTC)
"...it apparently made no difference to him": how restful, finding someone for whom sex and/or gender are not primary preoccupations!
My best wishes to Henry. I hope (s)he can lead a full, happy life.
Aug. 20th, 2016 04:41 am (UTC)
I hope so too. Thank you!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )