Sherlock Holmes could not abide being cold.
One of his earliest childhood memories was of the time the visiting son of some distant cousin locked him in the old garden shed. It was a day when the temperature was dipping towards freezing. His coat kept him warm for a bit, but slowly and insidiously the damp chill in the abandoned shed soaked into his bones. Part of the problem was that he was a mere four years of age and during those years, as the youngest off-spring, he had been sheltered and coddled by his family. No one had ever treated him so meanly and he was bewildered.
Perhaps the incident was the beginning of his disenchantment with the human species.
It was not until teatime that they even realised he was missing. A search was immediately launched and, unsurprisingly, it was the visiting boy who found him. Luckily Mycroft was there as well. Sherlock was so cold that he could not even speak, only shake uncontrollably and try to cling to his brother. The other boy stood behind Mycroft, smirking, but Sherlock was still too frightened to point a finger.
At tea, his torturer was given an extra serving of trifle.
People sometimes made mock of him now for being wrapped in his great coat on days that did not seem to warrant such a warm garment, but Sherlock Holmes never wanted to be cold again.
When John Watson set sail on the journey that would end with him on a battlefield in Afghanistan, he was eager to do his duty for Queen and Country. The Empire seemed a just cause for which to fight. Not that he planned on doing much fighting himself. After all, he was a surgeon and his goal was to save lives not take them.
It did not take very long for him to realise the depths of his ignorance.
One of his harshest lessons came with the weather. Somehow, in his mind, Afghanistan was a desert, which meant sun and heat and indeed there was a summer during which he sweltered and perspired. The surprise came with the arrival of winter. John donned as many articles of clothing as he could wear and still function as he must. But he was never warm. The only thing that helped a bit happened on those nights when all was quiet and he could drink. Occasionally, he would muse on the history of drunkenness in his family, but damn it all, he was so cold.
On the day John Watson was shot, on the day he believed that his life was ending, he watched his blood soak into the ground of that foreign land and there was one almost cheerful thought in his mind: I will never have to be cold again.
Mrs Hudson, kindly woman that she was, at least when Holmes was not testing her last nerve with his experiments or tantrums, had known that they would be late arriving back in London from Yorkshire. She expected that they would be cold and tired after such a long journey on a snowy December night.
So when Holmes and Watson climbed down from the growler that had collected them at the train station, she was prepared. At her direction, Billy the boot-boy hauled their baggage up the stairs. She told them that a simple meal of hot soup and freshly baked bread would be served in twenty minutes and tut-tutted over their weary faces.
It was a delight to find that their priceless housekeeper-cum-landlady had made certain that they were greeted by a fire already blazing away, by drawn curtains and lamps that were lit. The room was a perfect refuge. They shed their outer garments, as well as jackets and cravats, donning warm dressing gowns over trousers and shirts. Holmes poured them each a healthy shot of the very acceptable whisky which Mycroft had given them recently. They sat in front of the fire and each man gave a deep sigh that might have signalled weariness or possibly satisfaction.
“You were quite brilliant,” Watson said, staring at the flames instead of looking at Holmes. “The way you deduced that it was the nephew who killed Hampton and not the butler. Brilliant.” He knew that had he glanced at Holmes there would have been a raising pinkness over the unmistakable cheekbones of his friend and that the colouring would have nothing at all to do with the heat of the fire. Holmes was ever susceptible to praise, at least when it came from him.
It was a moment before Holmes spoke. “As usual, my dear Watson, your help proved invaluable.”
Mrs Hudson chose that moment to appear, carrying a heavy tray in her hands. Watson leapt to his feet and helped her set it on the table. The appealing scent of steaming potato and leek soup filled the room. She bustled to get the soup and warm bread set out, then with a promise to provide tea when it was wanted, vanished back down the stairs.
Watson ladled soup into their bowls, while Holmes cut thick slices of bread and buttered them extravagantly. “We are terribly domestic this evening,” Watson murmured as they settled down to eat.
Holmes did not respond, but only took a spoonful of the soup and swallowed. “I have been attempting to think of the most fitting word to describe this,” he said then.
“Describe what?” Watson asked.
Holmes waved his free hand in a vague gesture that seemed to encompass the table, the fire, the whole room. And them.
Watson could think of several words that he wished could be used to describe them. In the past, simply considering those words would have saddened him, because he saw no hope that he and Holmes might ever reach a point where a word like…beloved would be appropriate. But of late, he had begun to hope just a bit. He continued to eat, while Holmes was clearly lost in thought.
After a few moments, Holmes’ face brightened. “I know!” He glanced around the room once more, before his gaze settled on Watson. “Cosy,” he said. “We are cosy.”
Watson smiled at him. “Yes,” he replied. “Cosy seems quite the perfect word.”
They just looked at one another for the space of three breaths and then they both returned to the meal.