Flash Fiction: Wolf’s Night In

Today’s #FlashFictionFriday tale was prompted by Twitter regular @Alexxphoenix42 (with “nail polish”) and new prompter @annb99 (Hamilton).

I’ve set this story in the universe of The She Wolf of Baker Street – my contemporary queer, paranormal take on the famous folks of Baker Street, currently being serialised for my supporters on Patreon. (Chapter 12 went up on 26 March, so we’re about half way through – now’s a good time to join up if you want to read it!)

The She Wolf of Baker Street focuses on Audrey Hudson (werewolf) who wants help to solve the murder of her family in Edinburgh. Sherlock Holmes and his new flatmate Dr Watson are very willing to try, but Sherlock doesn’t believe in this werewolf nonsense. It’s making life difficult.

Nick Murray is a former army mate of John Watson’s. In Conan Doyle’s canon, Murray is the orderly who saved John’s life at Maiwand. In She Wolf, Nick is the driver who does the same.

This short story is set at a nebulous point in the She Wolf universe – certainly towards the end of the story, if not after those events completely.

Wolf’s Night In

‘I’m shit at this girly stuff.’

Painting her friends’ nails was not high in Nick Murray’s lesbi-friends experiences, but she was encountering a lot of new experiences in the company of Audrey Hudson.  

Audrey peered down her nose at the hash job Nick was making of the pedicure. Nick’s expression of profound concentration, tip of her tongue stuck out between her lips as she tried to stay within the lines, was very funny. The splatterings of bright red Bloody Rosary polish on Audrey’s skin around the nails, the top of her toes – and even, good lord, how did it get on her ankle? – less hilarious.

‘You are not painting the side of a house,’ Audrey admonished her, and damn, once more it came out fond instead of annoyed.

‘It’ll just crack next time you wolf up, anyway,’ pouted Nick.

‘With that reasoning, I’d never brush my hair because once a month it’s unmanageable.’

The image of her friend’s werewolf fur as merely “unmanageable hair” made Nick laugh so hard she got hiccups. Audrey enjoyed Nick in this mood, a far cry from the former soldier’s desperation when they’d first met.

Then Nick grinned. ‘I used to get John to paint my nails when I wanted to tart up for a date. That boy has a steady hand. He used to do Percy’s too, when we were on furlough in London, though Perce did his own lippy. They tried their hardest with me, those gay boys, but we all had to accept that I was just never made to wear Maybelline. Even with his moustache, John looks better in mascara and rouge than I do.’ She smirked. ‘How long do you reckon before Sherlock finds the photos?’

Audrey leaned back in her armchair, eyes raised to the ceiling and her tenants living on the floor above. ‘You weren’t here when Sherlock dolled up for a case. I thought John was going to have a stroke.’

Nick waggled her eyebrows suggestively and Audrey pretended to be stern, with a severely arched eyebrow. ‘I mean the medical condition, not a quickie fondle.’

Nick’s laugh was raucous and infectious. ‘Don’t short change my Johnny-boy there, Mrs H. He could definitely do both.’ And she burst into a wicked snatch of song.

“That’s when I began to pray:
Lord, show me how to
Say no to this
I don’t know how to
Say no to this…”*

Then she fell over backwards on the floor, she was laughing so hard at her own salacious wit, and in doing so tipped the entire bottle of Bloody Rosary across her prosthetic leg.

In an instant, the laughter died. Memory seized Nick by the throat and by the heart and filled her mouth with fear. All the blood drained from her face. She began to breathe hard, fast, shallow. Audrey could see how the polish looked like a pool of blood across the limb Nick had lost in a roadside bomb in Afghanistan; she could see Nick falling suddenly, deeply into that memory of terror, pain and Percy’s terrible death.

Audrey leaned down to take Nick’s face in her hand.

‘Look at me, Nick.’

Nick closed her eyes.

‘Nick Murray. Look at me.’ Audrey spoke in the commanding tone of the Alpha wolf, and Nick looked at her.

‘You’re safe here in London. You’re with me. John and Sherlock are upstairs. You’re all right.’

‘I’m not, though, really,’ said Nick in a shaky voice. ‘One leg down. And then there’s…’

‘All true. And yet, here you are. Alive, with friends who love you, and I have promised to protect you. Even when you make a mess of my toenails and spill nail polish on my carpet.’ Audrey’s smile was warm, forgiving, encouraging.

Nick swallowed. Smiled crookedly. ‘Heya, Mrs H. Doin’ the fantastic Den Mother routine again.’

‘Heya, wayward cub,’ Audrey replied. She squeezed Nick’s cheeks like she was a six year old instead of a grown woman. ‘I really don’t mind about the carpet.’

She really did, but what was she going to do, with Nick so reluctantly allowing Audrey to calm her and comfort her?

Nick grimaced again, and then her cheeky grin slowly returned. ‘I should paint up my leg. What d’ye reckon? Union Jack, Betty Boop or a great big bone so next full moon it’ll be easier to find?’

Audrey smacked Nick lightly across the top of the head. ‘For you, I think a portrait of… who’s that strapping Amazonian woman you’re always drooling over?’

‘Oooh, Ronda Rousey! Yas, mah queen!’

And all that remembered terror was mist, blown away by distraction and Audrey Hudson’s determination that this time, with these people, she would not be the Cursed Alpha. This time she would protect her pack.

*Song lyrics from “Say No To This”, from Hamilton.