Weighing His Words
"This Intriguing and Subtle Dance"
"Give me the soap," he ordered abruptly.
I took a surprised step back, caught off guard by the vehemence of the bizarre request. "I'm sorry?"
"Soap. Now," he commanded shortly, dancing from one foot to the other in his impatience. The man expertly snapped his fingers through stiff leather gloves and gestured widely with poorly disguised irritation.
I understood belatedly that this was a man used to getting his own way. Given my job as a maid, I frequently encounter all manner of guests seeking something extra for their rooms; an extra packet of biscuits here, a quick soap swap there. I hadn't, however, been party to such a strange or curt demand before.
Frowning and seriously considering his mental stability, I edged away from him ever so slightly. There was a panic button wired to my cart, just under the metal lip. Previously the butt of countless jokes and sarcasm, I was beginning to appreciate the overzealous safety measures of my employers.
To my utter surprise and fright, he lunged forward suddenly and seized the delicately wrapped, scented ovals from my bewildered hands. He brutally shoved them in the pockets of his coat and took off, spinning on one leather heel and disappearing down the carpeted hallway. All of which was accomplished while tutting exasperatedly.
I glanced around, half hoping that someone else had witnessed the incident - and could subsequently verify my sanity. Had my mind conjured the handsome apparition? It was an idea that I was seriously contemplating, but apart from me and my supply trolley, the stretched run of corridor was deserted. When I looked down at my empty, shaky hands, I knew that that wasn't the case. Soap-less palms aside, it was unlikely that I'd have invented an exit as overly-theatrical as that. Whoever he was, he certainly had a soft spot for melodrama; the image of his long, black coat fanning out as he rounded the corner was evidence enough for that.
He'd come and gone so quickly that I hadn't even enough time to register, let alone catalogue, his thoughts. The projection pattern of his mind was already fading from my memory; a half-forgotten jumble of pitch and tone. In fact, my attention had been so shoddy that I was left with no clue as to why he actually needed the soap. Bizarre was perhaps the word for it.
Shaking my head and balancing a mountain of pressed bed linens, I inserted my master key-card into the polished reader of room 403. Deftly wedging a stopper underneath the heavy, lightwood door, I shuffled into the vacant room before dropping my burden on an overstuffed loveseat.
In my experience, hotel furniture is the same the world over: utilitarian, straightforward and executed with varying degrees of elegance. At the Alton Court, one of London's more upscale examples of hospitality, this was no exception. But since their guests are paying a premium every time they check in, they'd made every visible effort to attain an atmosphere of comfortable luxury. And boy had they achieved it.
In the same way a pizza chef gets heartily sick of pizzas, the lavishness of the suites had eventually ceased to faze me. The bed, albeit softer than most, was essentially parallel to my own at home and the towels, while perpetually fluffy and pristine, were exactly the same size. Once I realised this, I found it easier for me to interact with the guests; I no longer felt I was meant to be holding out my apron so they could travel without scuffing their shoes.
In retrospect, I guess that's what Sherlock has always seen through; all the vanity and deception, all the pride and pretty trappings. This intriguing and subtle dance we move to, life, is stripped bare before his eyes. For someone who claims to despise the workings of the mundane, I would learn all too clearly how he revels in the chaos of humanity.
I began to strip the beds of their barely used linen, balling up and tossing the fine, white sheets into the corner of the room. I'd pick them up later. For the meantime, however, they weren't doing anyone any harm. With technique that only comes from making beds for eight hours a day, I unfolded the fresh sheets with a sharp flick of my wrists. The snapping sound, I'm sure you'd agree, is quite satisfying.
I suppose it means something when I say that I don't live in the irrational fear that I'll be imprisoned and dissected for my talent. A.) How would anyone guess in the first place? and B.) I'm pretty sure that the boffins in white coats could figure out a way to extract information (without the need for anaesthesia and a scalpel) if they felt so inclined.
To be honest, I quite enjoy my relative obscurity; living in a one bed apartment complete with normal, decidedly non-crazy neighbours. Of course, it would be a far greater plot device if one fellow tenant was a gorgeous fireman or sexy technological wizard, but sadly that is a far cry from reality. The last time I checked, my neighbours consisted of two broke, usually high, students and one depressed accountant. None of whom know what I can do. That said, it's not really the kind of thing you share as you pass on the stairs; especially if the only contact you have with them is when they're after some mint sauce or talcum powder every couple of months or so.
I shot a puzzled glance in the direction of my supply basket, wondering for about the fourth time what had driven the guy's urgent need for cleanliness. Late for a meeting, maybe? I didn't know. I shrugged to myself and got on with my work, pushing the thoughts firmly out of my mind. I hurried to finish my work; cleaning and preparing the room for its next tenant. Like always, I kept my head down, offering a polite, submissive 'good afternoon sir' as required. The sooner I got my work finished, the sooner I could fold myself into my favourite (and only) armchair with a cup of tea and a yellowed, dog-eared novel for company.
To be honest, I never thought that moment would have any particular significance. I'd put his behaviour down to an inexplicably strong urge to bathe using more soaps than was standard and left it at that. I had no idea who'd just snatched soap from my unwitting hands, nor where the occurrence would lead.
Since the dark haired stranger had nicked the last remaining soaps on the floor, I decided to fashion two of the Egyptian cotton hand towels into roses. I was secretly hoping that it would detract from the fact that not all of the promised 'luxurious personal amenities' were present. The resulting flower was the only creditable product of an origami fad I'd succumbed to in my teens.
To this day, I still haven't mastered the damned swan.
I only half listened to the gentle hum of human minds going about their business. I can only describe the sensation as a low murmur, and unless I get angry or frustrated, that's the way it usually stays. Although I try to block out some of the more personal thoughts and provide those around me with a scrap of privacy, the fact that the businessman staying in room 405 was having an affair didn't escape me. It had been that way for three years, yet the comforting lull of mental noise had never really posed much of a problem for me. While telepathy has its good days and its bad days, arm yourself with a box of painkillers and anything is possible.
I'd gotten up one morning with a splitting headache and a sandpaper mouth, two symptoms I initially credited to the copious volumes of alcohol I'd drank the night before. Hen parties – they happen to the best of us. The mouth had been rectified with three glasses of water and two and a half cups of coffee, but four paracetamol later and the headache still hadn't. Imagine my surprise when dragged myself out of my flat to pick up some milk and a complete stranger comments acidly, without halting her stride, on my split ends. I'd heard it, but she hadn't moved her lips. While I didn't stop her and demand an explanation, I did end up getting my hair cut.
The hangover eventually went away but the ability never did. But, to borrow a favourite idiom of my mother's, 'never look a gift horse in the mouth.' Ill fitting and very nearly out of context, yes, but I think the point stands nicely. Despite that in more recent months it's been a source of increased hassle, I believe it's a good thing. It keeps me on my toes, if nothing else.
Shutting the door behind me, I brushed my hands down my light blue uniform to straighten out the minuscule creases that had formed during my shift.
Company policy. What can I say?
After checking that all my various supply boxes were present, I rolled the substantially lighter cart down the long hallway. Since somebody had decided it wasn't proper for the help to use the same lifts as our clients, I headed in the direction of the discreet staff elevator. Glancing down at my watch, an item that was technically contraband, I sighed lightly when I saw the time. The soap snatching incident and resulting mental preoccupation had made me late to leave; a fact that bothered me less than it should've done.
The women's cloakroom was mostly deserted when I walked in, but since it was between shifts, it wasn't unusual. Pulling my civilian clothes out of my locker, I hurriedly shed my uniform and changed. As I was hanging the discarded outfit on the laundry rail, I tried to remember what the man had been thinking when he'd commandeered my supplies.
If we'd touched, even briefly, I would have been presented with his emotions rather than a stream of consciousness. But while I'd definitely heard something within the jumbled buzz, I hadn't thought to pay attention to it. I shook my head, chiding my lapse of attention but didn't fret over it. It was unlikely that I would ever see the guy again and at the end of the day, it didn't really matter, did it?
I pulled on my coat and ticked myself out before heading into the prematurely dark March evening, instinctively creating barriers to ward off the stray thoughts of fellow commuters. A particularly bitter wind toyed with my hair as I joined the main street, slipping into the steady stream of tired workers. I was too preoccupied with winding my scarf around my neck to notice the hooded figure discard their cigarette and fall into step several paces behind me.
A/N: In case you're wondering, the chapters do get longer – more than double this length – and of course Mycroft, Sherlock and John will be putting in regular appearances. It wouldn't be a Sherlock fanfic without them! In fact, we'll meet the latter two in the next chapter.
Please feel free to tell me what you think and, as always, I am open to suggestions and constructive criticism. I don't want to be the one to butcher the canon...
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or plot sequences recognisable as being from the BBC's Sherlock or popular culture. *sigh* Ah well.