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The ordinary charms of John H. Watson

After writing a lyrical description of Sherlock, Shouldboverthis recently asked people to describe why they thought either John Watson or Mycroft Holmes were physically attractive. I'm not much good at descriptions, so this is the best I could manage for JHW.

Rating: 12

In many ways, it's easier to say what John Watson's looks aren't than what they are. He doesn't have sticking-out ears, or a bald patch, or a broken nose or any of the other commonplace aesthetic disadvantages of men. There's nothing obviously off or comic about the proportions of his face.

On the other hand, he hasn't got cheekbones or hair or eyes or lips. Well, obviously he has - almost everyone does - but not in the memorable way that some people do. He doesn't have Sherlock's perfect bone structure, that makes him seem carved out of marble. There's a softness to John's face, a roundness even; he's been accused of being chiselled out of plasticine. But if you want a face to touch, there's no comparison. Run your hand down the side of Sherlock's face and at best you'd be chilled to the bone; at worst you'd cut your fingers to ribbons. But John's face would be warm and comforting to your touch.

John's hair is similarly soothing. It's a nondescript light brown, normally cut short in a way that reveals the masculinity simplicity of his neck and skull when you see him from behind; a touch of the soldier still. But now John's somewhere with a regular water supply and a place to buy hair product, his hair is better cared for. Dense and strokeable, like a short-haired cat. Occasionally, when the sunlight catches it just so, a few of the strands have the golden fluffiness of a kitten. A highly trained combat kitten, of course.

John's eyes are not strange, mysterious, shape-shifting pools, but just eyes. Grey eyes that have seen a lot of things, judging by the crease lines round them. Experienced eyes, maybe even wise. As for his mouth, it doesn't have the perfect, almost feminine pout of Sherlock's lips. But then John isn't really the pouting sort. His mouth is usually either set in the firm, determined lines of someone who's seen a lot of trouble and knows there's more just round the corner, or grinning infectiously.

Sherlock's beauty needs a protective force-field. No, it is a protective force-field in itself. The stark message of hands off, of look, but don't touch. John's ordinary attractiveness seems designed for other people to touch, to hold. Sherlock belongs in an art gallery; John you can take home and keep for everyday use.

It's the same with their bodies. Sherlock looks down on people; John's lack of inches means most of the time he literally can't. Sherlock's body is perpetually on display: coats, shirts, trousers all primed to say: Notice how superior I am to you. The man can wear a scarf arrogantly. John wears clothes he likes, that say: I'm safe. Stay with me and I'll protect you.

Yet there's also a mysteriousness about John's body, something of the same reticence there is in his speech. You can't be sure what is beneath the obscuring coats and jumpers. Whether there's still the sturdy musculature of a soldier, or a body that's now softer, but whose gentle curves would be comforting to pillow one's head against. Whether he's below average in size in other ways, or if lurking in John's trousers there's something worthy of a porn star.

Well, some people can't be sure. Sherlock, of course, has already made a detailed investigation of his own armour-plated teddy bear, the very ordinary, gorgeous, John Watson.     

Note: the 'chiselled from plasticine' line is nicked directly from MF's own commentary on TGG (the scene when Mycroft comes to 221B).


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 5th, 2011 12:16 pm (UTC)
armour-plated teddy bear.. That really conveys what lies beneath the comfy jumpers!

What a lovely read.
Sep. 10th, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC)
I must admit that that's a line I reused from a previous fic of mine, but it seemed apt enough to be repeated.
Sep. 5th, 2011 01:19 pm (UTC)
I really like the combat kitten. So true.
Sep. 5th, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)
A lovely study in stark contrasts! This made me smile :)
Sep. 8th, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC)
very nice indeed.
Sep. 9th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
I think this is beautiful.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )