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Cold Hands, Warm Heart

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It was the middle of December and a freezing wind was blowing through London, turning rainwater into flying little icicles that bore into one's skin.

It was no wonder that cabs were nowhere to be found by the time Miss Jane Watson could finally go home from the hospital. After much slipping and sliding on the treacherously frozen roads, cheeks and nose red and fingers and feet numb, she finally closed the front door to 221B Baker Street behind her and heaved a sigh of relief.

She barely had the time to take her hat off before Mrs Hudson appeared in the hall and started to fuss around her like a protective mother hen.

"Oh goodness, Miss Watson! You must be frozen down to your bones. Did you walk all the way in this dreadful weather?"

"Good evening Mrs Hudson. The cabs were all taken, so I'm afraid I had no choice in the matter."

Mrs Hudson ushered her deeper into the warmth of the house with the very welcome promise to bring a pot of tea upstairs. Watson opened the door to the sitting room and came face to face with Shirley Holmes. Her grey eyes had a worried look in them and her brows were furrowed.

"Jane, at last. It took you a good hour longer to come home than usual. I was on the verge of going out to look for you myself."

"Shirley, I'm sorry. I-"

Before she could finish, Holmes grabbed her by the shoulders and coaxed her into an armchair in front of the fireplace. The warmth felt so lovely that Watson forgot entirely what she was about to say, and stretched her fingers towards the fire in almost childlike fascination.

Holmes wrapped a quilt around her now melting friend and sat on the rug. She observed her for a moment and took her hands into hers, rubbing more warmth into them. After a while she stopped, but kept holding her. "You have lovely hands", she said out of the blue.

Watson looked at her hands, skin roughened by the cold weather and the constant washing up at the hospital. "Oh Shirley, they're quite different from your long and elegant ones."

Holmes lifted her head to look into her eyes. "If I must justify my compliment, your hands are lovely, because they are caring, working hands." She lowered her eyes back to their united hands, dark eyelashes framing her downcast eyes. "You're always so keen on taking care of others that you forget about yourself", she said quietly.

Watson raised her eyebrows at that. "I'm half frozen because there were no cabs around!"

Holmes' gaze lifted up to peer into her eyes again. "Jane, you always leave later than you could."

Watson sighed. She couldn't dispute that. There was always something to do, and even more to do after that. "Very well, perhaps I am too dutiful."

A small smile tugged about the corner of Holmes' mouth. "Indeed you are."
She lifted Watson's hands to her thin lips and kissed her knuckles gently.

Watson could feel the warmth rushing to her face from the gesture. She smiled and said:
"You're hardly one to talk, though."
She grabbed a hold of her companion's wrists and pulled her on her lap, wrapping arms around her long neck.
"It certainly wasn't me who stayed up over 48 hours in one go because of a case and slept for a week afterwards."

Holmes let out a soft laugh.
"We are perfectly matched, then."

The detective's hands found their way around her dear friend's waist, and Watson pulled her into a kiss. Holmes withdrew shortly, furrowing her brows. "Your face is still cold."

Watson leaned back in and whispered against her thin lips:
"Warm me up then, dear."

Holmes readily obliged, hands and long fingers caressing her face and ears before languidly finding their way to her neck and hair.

As their breaths mingled between kisses, Watson felt her heart picking up speed, pumping steady warmth all around her body.

Their increasingly warm embrace was soon cut off by the sound of Mrs Hudson's approaching footsteps. Watson grabbed the quilt instead of her friends’ hair and wrapped herself more carefully in it, and Holmes stood up and sat down on her own chair just as their landlady stepped in with a tray of hot tea and sandwiches.

Only then did Watson notice that she was actually rather hungry, and she felt very content sitting in front of the fireplace, sipping hot tea and eating freshly made ham and cheese sandwiches.

Holmes also took a cup of tea and one sandwich for herself. She watched from the corner of her eye how her friend was happily chewing her food, and suppressed a smile into her teacup.

After a while Mrs Hudson reappeared, bringing them hot soup. Holmes didn't want any much to the honourable landlady’s chagrin ("Now really, Miss Holmes, you should get some meat on those bones!"), but Watson ate one and a half bowls of it. The hearty broth was delicious.

With her stomach filled with warm food and drink, and the crackle of the fireplace in front of her, she was soon half asleep.
She was roused by a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"My dear Jane, I think you should retire for today. You're dozing off."

Watson let out a quiet unladylike noise of discontent, and slowly got up, still holding the quilt around her shoulders. By the door she hesitated, and turned to look at Holmes, who was smoking a pipe by the fireplace.

"Shirley?"

"Mm?" She turned her sharp eyes towards Watson.

"Why don't you come along, if you like?"

Holmes nodded, exhaled smoke through her nostrils, and put her pipe down. She went to her own room, grabbed her pillow and her nightshirt, and followed Watson upstairs.

The fireplace there needed some stoking; Holmes took to it while Watson undressed and slipped into her nightshirt as fast as she could. The cool floor felt unpleasant under her bare feet, and she quite literally dove under the blankets. Holmes followed her soon enough, and without saying a word they cuddled close to each other, arms and legs entangled, sharing each others' warmth.