"Meeting you was fate, becoming your friend was a choice, but falling in love with you I had no control over."
The first time I met John Watson I almost allowed my gaze to pass him over. That thought is enough to make me break out into a cold sweat now – I came so close to missing him. But how could I have known, at first glance, that this gentle, unassuming man would become the most important thing in the world to me – and the most enigmatic?
Mike Stamford had been nattering on at me that morning about the cost of living in London. I was largely focused on examining a soil sample under a microscope, barely letting his chatter permeate my consciousness. Stamford is alarmingly gregarious, a man who would probably make conversation with a dustbin if there was no one else available. (Of course, in terms of brainpower, Stamford and the bin would probably be well-suited.) Therefore he persisted in asking questions, forcing me to continue the conversation.
Somehow my recent selection of 221B Baker Street as a possible accommodation came up, and Stamford, determined to be "helpful," suggested that I find a flatmate to share the rent. In order to shut him up (not likely) I stated that it would be difficult to find someone who would be willing to share a flat with me. Fortunately, he was scheduled for office hours, so he finally ended the conversation and left me in peaceful solitude.
I had moved on to mould spores (traces of stachybotrys chartarum would be proof that my client was innocent) when Mike Stamford returned with a visitor. I spared him a brief glance, noting that he was recently returned home from military service, not really adapted back to civilian life, that he had eaten a rather sad meal of beans on toast for breakfast, and that he had been injured in the war. Nothing special, I thought.
Dear God. John Watson, nothing special. Hardly.
Needing to send a quick text to Lestrade to confirm that he should arrest the brother of his latest murder victim (the green ladder would definitely link him to the scene), I asked Mike to lend me his phone, using the patently false excuse of lack of signal for mine. Really, I couldn't be bothered to retrieve mine from my coat pocket across the room, but people get so touchy about that, insisting on perceiving it as laziness instead of conserving my valuable resources. It's easier to blame technology failure. Mike had left his phone, so I sighed, preparing to rise and get my own phone, when John Watson said, "Here, use mine."
Generosity is always surprising to me. The idea of going out of one's way for another person is so strange – why bother? People who deliberately choose to do something helpful for a stranger always intrigue me a bit, as it seems so foreign to me. What is to be gained by altruism?
So, when John offered his mobile, with no reason for helping me that I could see, I glanced at him again, cataloguing more details about him. And upon closer examination, I was fascinated by what I saw. His intelligence was obvious at a glance (Army doctor, decorated for bravery, clearly he can think quickly in dangerous situations), and his stance indicated a deep reserve of backbone (no vacillating jellyfish, this one – he knew who he was and where he stood).
What was unexpected to me was a quiet dignity and depth that almost concealed that enormous strength. His hazel eyes seemed so deep, and the shadows there made me itch to find out more about his past. I also couldn't help but notice that his compact frame was overlaid with well-balanced muscle (I'm only human, despite what they might believe at Scotland Yard). The weathered, tanned skin on his face and hands made me wonder how the skin on the rest of him looked, and I felt an unaccountable desire to unbutton the next three buttons of his ridiculous checked shirt to see how much hair was on his chest.
Discomfited by the slight heat I felt building in my lower belly (and the lack of self-control that reaction indicated), I asked him, "Afghanistan or Iraq?" When those clear eyes met mine, I felt a strange jolt, as though I had received a low-grade electric shock. Molly's arrival with coffee was a huge source of relief to me, as it provided a much-needed distraction.
"How do you feel about the violin?" I hastily began gathering my belongings, wanting to be sure of a quick getaway. John frowned, so I clarified by offering a few more details about my bad habits, then hastened to describe the flat in Baker Street. It was obvious that Mike had brought him because of my comment earlier about a lack of unwilling flatmates. I found myself wanting to know this quiet army doctor better, and the flat-share excuse seemed a heaven-sent opportunity – even though I actually had no need of a flatmate. (I live off of a sizeable trust fund.) I rattled off a few more details, then hastened toward the door, making an excuse about needing to fetch my riding crop.
"Is that it?" John's question stopped me in my tracks. Perhaps I had rushed out too hastily. "We've only just met, and we're going to look at a flat?"
"Problem?" I raised my eyebrows at him inquiringly.
"We've only just met, we don't know a thing about each other. I don't know where we're meeting, I don't even know your name."
Right. How to convince this fascinating man to want to come look at the flat? His (oh, so enigmatic) eyes had glinted with intrigue when I asked about Afghanistan – perhaps I could use his curiosity about my deductive skills to lure him in.
"I know you're an army doctor and you've been invalided home from Afghanistan. I know you've got a brother who's worried about you, but you won't go to him for help because you don't approve of him – possibly because he's an alcoholic, more likely because he recently walked out on his wife. And I know that your therapist thinks your limp's psychosomatic, quite correctly, I'm afraid. That's enough to be going on with, don't you think?"
I turned to leave the room, then leaned back to fire a parting shot.
"The name's Sherlock Holmes, and the address is 221B Baker Street. Afternoon."
Those wide hazel eyes met mine with amazed fascination, and it sent another little electric jolt through my belly. It so startled me that before I knew what I was doing, I had winked at him. Me. Sherlock Holmes. Winking in a decidedly flirtatious manner.
Less than five minutes with this man, and I had already lost control of myself. That simply never happens to me. I must get to know him better.