A Study in Red

A day and a half after hauling her and her terribly long legs into bed, cursing under his breath and muttering spiteful comments about Irene Adler’s behaviour, John watches her pull on a robe and walk sleepily into the kitchen.

She fills the kettle with water and flicks it on with her finger, waiting for the sound of steadily rising, rumbling steam.

Over this din, she speaks. “John, could you run me a bath please?”

The soldier opens his mouth to protest, but knows she wouldn’t hear him over the sound of the water, and even if she did, she wouldn’t hear him if she didn’t want to. He rises stubbornly to his feet, as much as anyone can rise stubbornly to their feet – and went into the bathroom.

He runs the water and briefly looks for epsom salts and pauses over Sherlock’s myriad of creams, salves, powders, pumices, fixes and balms. The captain turns over the little tubs and pots in his hands, trying not to twist any caps and remember where they all went.

Honeysuckle and Sage hand cream, with a thin silver lid and heavy glass-green container. Leatherwood Honey and Peach Nectar bath melt, Athenian Buttermilk and Sumatran Coconut soap, still in the paper. John allows himself the luxury of looking through her lipsticks, and, to his surprises, recognises most of them by their shade. A nude pink, a warm peach, an understated pink – English Rose, one name not written in English – rouge – and a red he’s never seen on her before.

The colour itself was as lurid and vivid as it was dark. It was red enough to be blood.

The good doctor puts the lipsticks away and pulls up his sleeve, testing the water and shaking his hand before drying it. He walks into the sitting room and Sherlock walks into the bathroom, already untying her robe.

She forgets her tea, John realises, once he’s returned to his chair, and sits there to stare at it for several minutes.

“John,” she calls, as if she’s speaking over her shoulder.

“Mm?” comes the half-distracted reply.

“Could you bring me my tea, please? It’s on the counter,” she says, and John is rather astonished that she’s said please twice in a day, let alone such a short period of time.

The former soldier collects her tea and knocks, and is about to open with a joke about what wonders little kips can do for someone’s manners, but he stops himself.  The detective is pulling her curls over one shoulder, running her fingers through them and looking over at him. “Anywhere there is fine, thank you Watson.”

Christ —! Sherlock, I’m so sorry,” he starts, placing the mug down and half backing-out.

“It’s fine,” she replies with a smooth roll of her eyes. “You’re a doctor.”

“Yes,” he answers, knowing he’s flustered already and that his ears are going swiftly scarlet. “But I’m not your doctor.”

“Yes you are,” she says emphatically, reaching for the Leatherwood Honey and Peach Nectar bath melt. She uses a wooden tongue dispenser she nicked from John’s kit to spoon it in, the mixture so viscous and so like honey the company had to print a warning label for the jar telling people not to eat it.

“Right, well, ah, I should…” he licks his lips, though, and thinks about how he’s her doctor, and she interrupts him again.

“Have you been through my things?”

The question is poised very matter-of-factly, and Watson thinks that he’d rather be back in Afghanistan than watching a beautiful detective in her bath. Well, almost. Not really. All things considered. Sort of. “Was looking for epsom salts, actually.”

“Oh, I ran out the other day. Should buy some more. I also need almond oil body scrub and some extra gentle soap, and some lipstick,” she talks as if he should be writing these things down.

“Why more lipstick?” John asks, before he can stop himself. He avoids her eye as best he can, but her gaze finds his – and holds it, in the end.

“Because the one I have doesn’t suit me,” Sherlock says, without specifying which one.

“But I like it,” he answers, a little too-firm and a little too-possessive, and slowly realising what he’s just said just then.

And the detective holds his gaze again and doesn’t say anything for a long, humid moment.

“Away with you, then,” she says, dismissing him. “I’ve thinking to do.”


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