winter writing prompts: 5, 8, and/or 9
Re: this post
I chose 5: “I can’t feel my legs”
If this makes you imagine the red couch as a bit bigger or smaller than it actually is, so be it. I have bad spatial memory/recognition.
The case was solved. They’d just returned from the precinct and had settled down in the library with take away and ice cream and were now sitting before a roaring fire that served as a barrier against the sub-zero cold outside.
None of this was out of the ordinary for Sherlock. What was out of the ordinary was Watson’s position.
It had started innocently enough. She had come to sit next to him on the red couch to show him something on her phone—an article that related to an old cold case they’d recently solved. After he’d skimmed the article and handed her phone back to her, instead of getting up she’d stayed, leaning back on the opposite arm of the couch, nearest the window, continuing to read news and whatever else on her phone. She’d even pulled down the duvet from the back of the couch to drape over her legs, already clad in warm pajamas, her red cardigan wrapped securely around her.
Sherlock had no idea what possessed her to settle herself thus, on the same couch as he was sitting, but he had no reason to protest. He had nothing against Watson settling on the couch, but he wondered if he should move. But he was not at all tired, and didn’t feel like changing into more casual clothes—he still wore his trousers, shoes, and buttoned up shirt, only his jacket taken off due to the large fire before them.
He got up to stoke the fire, as an excuse to move his restless limbs. He took a book from one of the shelves, then a second, and resumed his seat on the opposite end of the couch from Watson. She still was reading something on her phone, her glasses a bit farther down her nose.
He set his books down and took off his shoes, in order to more comfortably sit cross-legged, taking up slightly more room on the couch. Watson didn’t even look at him. He took up a book and began to read, glancing at her from time to time.
After his third glance she looked up from her phone over the rim of her glasses. “Sherlock, what is it?” she said, her words careful, not yet annoyed.
“Hmm?” He looked over to her with wide eyes, feigning surprise.
“You’ve glanced at me several times. What is it?” she repeated, keeping her eyes still on him. He studied her expression. She was curious, relaxed, the contentment derived from their recently solved case still permeating her limbs.
He hesitated a full second, then held up one of the books he’d retrieved, flashing the title in Watson’s direction. She didn’t blink, telling him she’d caught it. “I wanted to show you something here that reminded me of that cold case. Are you heavily occupied at present?”
She gave a small shake of her head, tucking her phone between the back of the couch and the duvet, before coming up on her knees, bracing herself on the back of the couch with one hand and reaching for the book with the other.
Sherlock flipped to the appropriate page and held out the book to her, watching closely as she adjusted her glasses and began to read. She settled back on her heels, somewhat closer to him. He moved further over to his end of the couch, leaning back against the arm and laying his legs straight out in front of him. This caused his feet—clad in his “loud” socks, as Watson referred to them—to brush against Watson’s calf, but she showed no reaction. She did not move from her spot on the middle cushion, intent on the words before her.
“You’re telling me this,” Watson held the book a few inches in front of his face, tapping one paragraph with her index finger, “proves that the science behind the forensics was wrong? How can that be possible?”
He slowly took the book from her hands, and she let him, her hard stare pinning him with a demand for an explanation. She’d raised herself up on her knees to hand him the book, and now seemed to tower over him without meaning to, her high ponytail only making her look more austere. His mouth twitched.
“It’s a compliment to your attention to detail, Watson. You noticed a flaw when I didn’t. This,” he closed the book with a snap, “only corroborates your findings.”
Pursing her lips, Watson reached behind her to retrieve her phone, then settled back on her heels to type something into Google no doubt. As she typed, she settled more between him and the back of the couch, lifting and then resting her feet flat on the other side of his calves. Her feet were bare, and likely freezing. As she scrolled, Sherlock reached forward and caught the edge of the duvet, pulling it over both of them. Out of the corner of his eye he caught Watson’s smile.
“When was that book published?” she said, not taking her eyes off her phone.
“2014,” he said, tucking one edge of the duvet under his thigh in a motion he hoped Watson didn’t notice. A few seconds of silence passed, before Watson thrust her phone in his face this time.
“Read this. The murder we solved happened in 2009. Proves the science hadn’t yet caught up to prove Houser’s innocence.”
Sherlock dutifully read, drawing his brows close together as he focused on the words. Watson was moving around again, this time leaning to her left to pry the second book Sherlock had retrieved from between his arm and the back of the couch. He barely shifted to accommodate her, so she had to lean over to pull the book out. Her calf brushed his knee and lower thigh with her movement, though he pretended that did not cause him to lose his place in his reading.
“This is a book on traditional Chinese medicine,” Watson announced, holding the book with one hand and pulling the duvet closer to her with the other. Unconsciously, her ankles pushed back against his left calf as she settled in.
That did cause him to lose his place. But he did not look up from Watson’s phone. “I hadn’t noticed,” he said, keeping his expression his stiff version of neutral.
“This has nothing to do with proving Houser’s innocence. When did you buy this?” she said, not looking up as she flipped to the book’s table of contents.
He mirrored her and kept his eyes resolutely on the words in front of him, though not a word registered. “While I was in London. It proved useful on a case. And before you ask, Watson, it had nothing to do with corroborating your claims about Chinese herbs’ abilities to contribute to longer-lasting, more vasodilated erections.”
He looked up to find he had not mistaken the laughter in the two syllables of his name. Watson’s eyes were still hard but she was all but smirking at him.
“You know you’re a horrible liar,” she said, looking back to the book and turning to the first chapter.
“You think I was trying to cause myself more vasodilated erections?” he asked, blinking once at her. She lifted her chin without looking away from the page, her smile growing.
“You bought this book because of me. After I moved back in. I know you did,” she stated.
“Then why did you ask me when I bought it,” he said, no feigned question in his voice this time.
She finally looked back up at him, her expression unchanging even at the sight of his frown. “To prove how horrible a liar you are,” she said.
He simply looked at her, his frown deepening.
“You can’t keep your eyes still when you lie,” she added, tilting her head towards him, her stare becoming knowing.
“I was reading,” he said, holding up her phone. She shook her head once.
“Still lying.” And she returned to her own reading, becoming fully engrossed within seconds, her glasses sliding a bit further down her nose.
Sherlock gave her a glare which she did not return, and looked back to the article she had given him. The screen lit up and he found his place again, his scowl disappearing as the old case once again took over his thoughts.
By the time he had finished reading the article, Watson had more fully relaxed into the couch and into…him. Her bent knees were now resting over his thighs, and she had the book pulled closer toward her chest, likely to see better in the dim light.
Sherlock lowered Watson’s phone and was about to readjust himself when he made a realization. Watson was not seeing anything in the dim light—her eyes were closed. Her head was inches from resting on his arm, propped up on her hand instead, the book nearly closed in the lax fingers of her right hand. Her glasses were now on the very tip of her nose, inviting Sherlock to take them completely off, but he refrained.
By the rate of her breathing he knew she was likely only dozing. Watson could doze anywhere, he’d found. This was the first time she had chosen to do so on top of him, however.
“Watson,” he whispered, her name almost coming out a hiss. She didn’t stir. He became more aware of her weight on him, the way her loosening ponytail had caused her face to turn downward in sleep. He reached in with his left hand and carefully pried the book from her loose grip. She still didn’t stir.
“Watson,” he repeated, changing to a stage whisper. He tapped the book against her right arm that was within easy reach. “I can’t feel my legs, Watson,” he said, strangely hesitant to raise his voice further. It had been far too long since he’d seen Watson’s freckles so up close.
She only sighed in her sleep. Sherlock dared not take any deep breaths, and so to distract himself looked at the book in his hands to see where Watson had left off. The memory of her smile when she had discovered the book kept him reading, and also kept his fidgeting to a minimum as he let her sleep on.