Prompt: Warming Up
Somehow, he had assumed that Buckingham Palace would be…well, warmer.
The Queen, who was really very tiny, although rather broad, was wrapped in a wool shawl over a black crepe dress and she did not even seem to feel the draft that was blowing through the red and gilt room. Maybe after so many years she was used to it. Watson wished he had not let the officious butler take his coat.
Holmes, of course, did not even deign to notice either the gilt or the draft. He was, however, growing increasingly impatient with Her Majesty; it was fortunate that no one but Watson would have noticed those signs of impatience and that made him realise, not for the first time, how well he knew the other man. Probably it was foolish to feel a bit proud of that fact.
The Queen was talking about Scotland. Whether what she was saying had anything to do the problem they were supposed to be helping with was not clear. At least to him.
Watson tried to subtly slip his hands into his pockets. He told himself that it was not nearly as cold as Afghanistan. Or Scotland, for that matter.
When the Queen stopped to take a breath, Holmes jumped in. “Yes, Your Highness, I agree that the grouse hunting at Balmoral is unparalleled. But perhaps we should turn our attention to the problem you mentioned in your note.”
Watson wondered if this were the first time anyone had tried to hurry Victoria along.
Possibly it was, given the frown she was now directing at Holmes. “Your brother has informed us that you have an impatient nature. He, of course, is always a perfect gentleman.”
Watson knew exactly what was about to emerge from Holmes’ mouth. Something along the lines of ‘Well, then, madam, I suggest that you ask him to solve your untidy little problem and let me get on with more important matters.’
Which would probably be more than a bit not good.
Hoping that he was not putting himself in danger of a stint in the Tower, Watson spoke in his best Bedside Manner voice. “Forgive us if we seem unduly brusque, Your Majesty.” He hoped that Holmes would appreciate this attempt to shift some of the blame off the detective and onto himself. Not that he deserved that but… “We are only hoping to relieve your mind of whatever is troubling Your Highness as quickly as possible.”
She looked at him carefully, shrewdly. “Mycroft Holmes has told us that you are the diplomat, Doctor Watson.” Her gaze flicked back to Holmes, before eying Watson again. “We imagine that is a full-time occupation.”
It almost seemed as if there might be a bit of humour in her words, but it seemed unwise to smile.
She returned her attention to Holmes and Watson returned to wondering why it was so bloody cold.
When the Queen finally got to it, the story was not dissimilar to ones they had heard before. An impetuous young person, an unwise association, some indiscreet letters. The only distinguishing feature was the royal connection.
Watson could see that Holmes was just short of yawning.
Just as Watson was beginning to wonder if his toes were going a bit numb, Holmes stood, promising a quick solution. Her Majesty expressed…well, not gratitude, exactly. More like a royal hope that her impatient subject would live up to his reputation.
In only moments, they had been dismissed and were escorted out by a silent Sikh man. Watson had never pulled his coat on so quickly. While they stood waiting for the carriage, Holmes reached into the pocket of his greatcoat and pulled out his black leather gloves, thrusting them at Watson.
“Thank you, Holmes,” he said, pulling them on. “You would think that they could heat the Palace sufficiently.”
Holmes smirked as they climbed into the carriage. “It is a matter of pride, Watson. The upper classes, especially the aristocracy, like to think that they are made of sterner stuff than the hoi polloi. Under-heated parlours and over-cooked sprouts. Things they love to bear with the proverbial stiff upper lip.”
“Bloody stupid,” Watson muttered.
They rode in silence for a few minutes. Watson glanced at Holmes, who had leant back and closed his eyes. And he knew immediately. “You have solved it already, haven’t you?” he said.
Holmes did not open his eyes, but smiled faintly. “Of course. But I want to earn my fee. Let the old gal stew for a bit.”
Watson knew that he should be scandalised at such disrespect. Knew that he should not giggle.
Knew, especially, that he should not feel so much warmer just because he was now wearing Holmes’ gloves or because Holmes’ shoulder was pressed into his. Unnecessarily, really, as the carriage was spacious enough. But ‘should nots’ meant very little to him these days. It was a scandal, really, how little he cared about what others would think.
Of course, no one else would ever know how he felt about Holmes. No one could ever know. His secret [soon to be their secret?] would have to remain just that.
The raw truth of the matter should have chilled him all over again.
But the gloves and the presence of the man sitting closer than necessary continued to warm him.
“So,” Watson said, “since you will have this case wrapped up quickly, would I be safe in booking our table at Simpson’s for tomorrow evening?”
Holmes only nodded.
Of course, Watson was quite sure that there was nothing safe about it at all. But once his mind [and his heart] had determined that this was his path, there was no turning back.
“Good,” he said. “Tomorrow evening, then.”
It was so warm, sitting here in the carriage with this man. And John Watson never wanted to be without that warmth, not even for a moment.