Chapter 1: Floor Five
Joan Watson was packing for an adventure. She was also having a row with her trunk. As hard as she tried, she could not get the latch to stay. Presently, she was sitting on the trunk, trying to catch her breath after a morning of furious packing. Joan was beyond excited to go to university. She did not expect to have the money to go to university, but with a last minute scholarship, loans and a little help from family, she can go. This mere fact made her breathless, despite the row with the trunk. Joan did not sleep at all last night-tossing turning fretting, planning. All week she has been packing and planning to go to London to start the university career she had always wanted. Joan had only been to London once, her mother’s illness making travel holidays almost impossible for her family.
Since her mother has been ill, the family had to carefully watch the money. No trips out of the country (to Paris, like some of her friends), no gap year for her. Joan did not mind giving up holidays with friends to stay home to care for her mother. Joan did not go to a posh public school, she went to state school-and a very good one- one of the top performing state schools in the UK. She won awards for her marks and writing, the headmaster noting that she was one of the top performing students. Joan was in the biology society and book club. She planned to major in medical science with plans to become a doctor one day. Joan volunteered at the local hospital and was also an occasional net ball player when she had time.
Joan's father is a teacher at her school. This was a sometimes good thing and a sometimes bad thing. Her mother, who stays at home, was not well enough to work for many years now.
On this auspicious morning, Joan had her long blonde hair pulled up in a ponytail, preferring to have it off her face when working. She dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, wanting to be comfortable for the long ride to London.
“Joanie!!” she heard her 12 year old sister Harry, short for Harriet, call her name up the stairs.
“We're leaving without you!” then she heard a giggle.
“You can’t-- I’m the student!!” Joan called down.
“Girls!!” her mother shouts, trying to be firm, but Joan can hear a smile in her voice.
Sherlock Holmes was a difficult person and everyone knew it. Sherlock Holmes did not care. Always known to be belligerently independent, she laughed at anyone and everyone. She hated to be called Sheryl, although people tried. She may at one time have been able to fit in, but since she went everywhere on a black Triumph motorbike and wore black leather even on hot days, this was difficult.
Sherlock was intimidating-- both women and men were afraid of her-when they weren't pissed off at her. And with good reason, too. Tall and lithe, she had a commanding presence when walking into a room. Her back was straight and she was graceful with long legs. Her limbs were slim and delicate.
She had curly black hair cut to a bob that often fell over one of her eyes. People were constantly asking her if she used that eye at all. Her light grey-blue eyes defied description. Although beautiful, she well known to be prickly on the best of days and most students gave her a wide berth.
Sherlock was the sister of Mycroft Holmes, beloved successful graduate of the college. Mycroft was popular, revered and generous with donations after graduation. These facts caused Sherlock much aggravation and countless comparisons.
Most of the time Sherlock preferred to be alone, but there were a few people who were closer to Sherlock than the rest of the students could ever hope to be. She was occasionally seen in the company of a group of people know as The Ivy, one of the notorious social clubs at the university. Originally chartered as a dining club, students would call it more of a drinking club. Sherlock did not join because she liked drinking (or socializing for that matter). She joined because she felt she had to. Family obligation. She did it to please her sister.
“Mummy would be so pleased you joined Ivy,” her sister would say.
“Mummy would not have cared at all, Mycroft.” Sherlock said, raising an eyebrow, wondering why her sister cared about such things. Their mother had passed away long ago.
“Well, I’m pleased. Thank you so much for joining.” Mycroft never says thank you.
Most students if asked, would say that each social club at the university had its own label. The pretty girls, the sporty girls, the heavier drinkers, etc. Ivy members liked to think they defied description. For such a large university, not many of the students were in the social clubs. You had to get invited, and you had to pay to belong. In addition to classes and papers to write, you had obligations to the club as well. Like a job. It was not for everyone.
Some university students were intimidated by the members of the clubs and scolded them for being elitist. There were urban myths and scandalous stories about the clubs, as was always the case.
Even though Sherlock was in the books and officially a member of a social club, the other members felt ambivalently about her. Sherlock was unlikely to pal around with them, and was only to be see among them on official club business.
Sherlock preferred to be alone. She had other things to do and felt that social obligations took her away from things she really enjoyed, like spending time in the university library and the lab. When pressed, she did attend the mandatory club meetings and pay the fees. And was also known to indulge in a pint, or two on occasion.
But membership in a social group had other advantages. Mycroft knew this even if Sherlock could not see the value.
Mycroft pushed Sherlock into the club for this reason alone. She knew that Sherlock might one day need people on her side. At this point, it was all Mycroft could do for her sister, try to provide some advantageous social positioning. And hope for the best.
In addition to meeting in the university pub, Ivy met once a month at someone’s flat to have more of a business meeting. Irene Adler was the president this year. Irene was pretty confident and ambitious. She gave Sherlock a glance as she slid into the back of the room, late as usual motorbike helmet swinging on her arm. Sherock sat down gracefully on a chair and pretended to listen to the president.
“Ok this year we are going to focus on recruiting.” Irene said, drumming her painted nail on her notebook.
“You say that every year.” Grumbled the gathered few.
“Yes, but our coffers are down more than last year and I want everyone to be on the lookout for fresh meat. Sorry, that sounded coarse. I mean, right now, even before term starts, let’s think of who we’d like to invite to join this term. We may even consider freshers.”
There was a bit of grumbling amongst the members and a few sly looks in Sherlock’s direction. First year students were not usually considered for membership, because their surprising lack of self-control, it just was not on. Except for Sherlock. As the sibling of a beloved alum, last year there was no question of her being invited, despite the reservations of the members.
“Ok, settle down, dismissed.”
Sherlock got up to slip away but was caught by Irene. “You were late, Sheryl.”
“Don’t call me that, Irene. Sherlock is a family name-ancient. I’m not going to change to a cutesy nickname. I’m not cute.” Dark curls falling into her eyes, Sherlock turned to go.
“Well, if you say so.” Irene said. She always chose the most provocative answer.
Joan arrived with her parents at the residence hall. After the check in, there was a mix up in the room assignments. Joan was on the list, but there was no room number next to her name. Assured by the staff that this could be made right, the family sat in the lounge and watched all of the other new students move in.
Soon a smiling face popped in to the lounge. “Hi I’m Michelle Stamford, I’m the resident assistant on five. You must be Joan Watson.”
They smiled and shook hands.
“Nice to meet you, so sorry for the mix up on your first day, but we hope to make it right. We do have a room for you on my floor and I can take you all up there now.”
Joan’s father carried the trunk and Joan and Harry carried the clothes. Michelle was a heavy-set girl about a year older than Joan. She was bright eyed and talkative, talking excitedly all the way to the room.
Her father wanted to leave right away to avoid driving back home in the dark. “Bye honey, we love you, study hard.” He gave her an affectionate hug.
It was hard to leave her mother, “Bye sweetie, call us, don’t let this little set back throw you. You’ll find your feet.”
“Ok, mum.” Joan said, a bit choked up.
She hugged her sister, “Bye, Harry.”
“Bye Joanie, let me know all about the cute boys.”
“Ok,” she whispered, trying to hold back a few tears.
They were gone.
Chapter 2: Room B
Joan surveyed the room. Small and pretty spartan, 2 wardrobes, 2 desks, bunk beds. The door was still open after her family left. Michelle popped her head in, smiling.
“Hello again, parents gone?” she hesitated. “I wanted you to know…, I didn’t want you to be scared, but…it’s all that was left.”
“Sorry?” Joan shook her head, not understanding at all.
“Well, this floor is a club floor. Mostly older students. Sorry, no freshers here.”
“Oh, ok. That’s ok.” Joan would make the best of it. She was aware that during fresher’s week there would be lots of events and people to meet. This was not going to be a setback.
“Oh Ivy,---it’s a dining club.”
“What’s a dining club?”
“You know, a social club, where people get together and go out to dinner, but no plate smashing!! I’m a member, really and…” Michelle looked at her feet awkwardly.
Joan thought it didn’t sound too bad, but the way that Michelle was hesitating she felt that there was more she wanted to tell her.
“And your roommate is Sherlock Holmes.” She said quickly, in a rush to get the information out.
Just then a group of people arrived on the floor, talking animatedly and laughing. The room phone was ringing on the wall. Joan started to take a step to answer it, but a tall girl dressed in a black leather jacket walked right into the room and answered the phone.
Joan looked at both the girl and Michelle dumbfoundedly.
The girl was speaking into the phone in rapid French.
“Allo. Qu’est que tu veux? Oui et toi? Oui, oui ca marche. C’est nul. Cool, merci. Ciao.” She hung up the phone.
“Joan, meet Sherlock.” Michelle said, gesturing toward Joan.
“Hello, nice to meet you,” said Joan, smiling. They shook hands.
Joan spoke up, “How did you know the phone was for you?”
“This is my room. Who would it be for?” Sherlock rolled her eyes.
“It’s my room, too.”
Sherlock looked at Michelle with wide eyes. “I thought we had this sorted?”
Michelle colored and looked at her feet, apologetically. “Sorry Sherlock, it’s out of my hands. Everywhere was full.”
“Bugger! I want the top bunk, then.” She took off the leather jacket, flung it on the top bunk and walked out of the room.
Joan looked at Michelle, “Yeah, she’s always like that.”
Michelle was gone leaving Joan to ponder her roommate when Sherlock came breezing back into the room. “Well, I feel much sorrier for you than I do myself, with you being afflicted with me.” She gave a rueful laugh and almost a warm smile.
Joan did not know what to say, “I well, I…”
“No mater, let’s see then,” she leaned against the desk and lit a cigarette. You are a first year. Dad’s in education and mum’s a stay at home. You have not traveled. You are not from London, so somewhere more provincial. You were raised by a conservative. And your dad’s a drinker.”
“Hey!” Joan objected.
“What?” Sherlock said taking a drag and walking over to the open window, trying to blow the smoke outside.
“What do you mean by all that? Joan now had her hands on her hips.
“Nothing--just what I see.” Said Sherlock with an indifferent air.
“How can you see all that?” Joan shook her head.
“Do you really want to know?” there was now a sparkle in Sherlock's eyes that had not been there before.
“Yeah, I thought so.”
“Well, you’re right, I haven’t traveled. We don’t have the money. My mom’s been sick.” Joan started to unpack a few things from her bags, eyes prickling a bit. She would not let this awful girl see her cry.
Sherlock put her head down very so slightly, “Oh, sorry.” She said softly.
Joan cleared her throat and got her voice back. “Yeah well, that’s not very nice, just taking someone a part like that. And I may have been raised by a conservative, but I try not to judge and like to feel that I give everyone a chance, leather girl.”
Sherlock laughed, “Touche.”
Michelle popped into the doorway which had been open as Sherlock and Joan were talking. “Hey there you are, Joan! Don’t want to lose the only first year we have! Here is the schedule for fresher’s week.” She handed her a pile of stapled papers.
“Looks like you have yourself sorted for the week, then,” Sherlock said and walked out the door.
Chapter 3: Fresher's Week
Joan kept herself busy with all the fresher’s events. She tried to do it all, hoping that she’d meet some nice people and to stay out of her room. Even though she was impressed by her roommate’s assessments, she did not appreciate being appraised-out loud.
She did meet a new friend, Molly Hooper, another first year who was not from London. Molly was a sweet girl with long brown hair and a gentle disposition. It was nice to have a partner for the events of welcome week. Together they took advantage of all of the activities they could manage. Campus tour, city tour, free films, poster sale. They especially liked the free shop where they could get pots, pans, kitchen utensils, books and stationery for free that were left last year by previous students. They saw a few bands and went to—society day-where you could see all of the sport and social societies to join. Molly was looking at the book society. Joan looked at the biology society. She noted that the Ivy dining club did not have a table.
She wondered about it out loud to Molly, “Oh, it’s not a dining society, Joan-- it’s a drinking society. You have to be fit to get in and they only take 6 girls each year. You only get to know about it if you are asked to join and they don’t usually ask the freshers. The girls in those societies are more like hard drinking ladettes. It’s really all about drinking and meeting blokes, anyway.” She giggled. Nothing wrong with that, thought Joan.
“Oh,” Joan said. “How do you know so much?”
“My brother-- he’s out of uni now. He told me all about it.”
Then she told Molly how she didn’t have a room when she arrived and now she’s on the floor with the Ivy dining (drinking) society.
“Oh, too bad you landed there. You should’ve been my flatmate!” Molly gave Joan a big squeeze around the shoulders.
At the end of the week, both girls were exhausted. Joan’s feet hurt. Everyone called it the ‘freshers flu’. The last days were the Greek party-where everyone was asked to wear a toga and the final night was fancy dress. Joan did bring a fancy dress, but did not have a toga.
Her roommate was scarce all week, nowhere to be seen. Just as well. She dropped Molly off at her room and proceeded to her own-in search of paracetamol. When she got there, Sherlock was there, on the top bunk laying on her stomach-reading.
“Hello.” Joan, said wondering just where Sherlock was all week. She did not reliably come back at the end of the day and often was not in bed when Joan woke up.
“Are you on your way to 'Chavs and Toffs' night?” Asked Sherlock with a snicker.
“What? No. It’s Greek night- togas.”
“Oh, just as well then.” Sherlock said, flipping pages of the book.
“I may not go, I don’t have a toga.”
“Nonsense, you have to go, you know what they say. ‘You only have one freshers week’.” Sherlock said mockingly, as she glided down from the top bunk in one swoop. “Here,” she said, reaching onto the wardrobe and handing Joan a ready-made toga. Obviously made out of a bedsheet--but perfect. Long, flowing and white. “I have two of these.”
“Where did you get this?” Joan was dumbfounded again by her flatmate.
“Last year-every year there is a Greek night.”
“You have two?”
“Comes in handy.”
“For Greek night, of course.”
Chapter 4: Greek Night
And so being young
and dipped in folly
I fell in love
Edgar Allan Poe
Greek night commenced at 8 pm, well after dinner. Students got ready in their rooms, excitement in the air. Everyone was invited to Greek night -all of the students not just the first years. Molly came over to get Joan so they could go together. Molly had on a toga, but it was pink.
“Sorry, best I could do,” she said-“that’s the color of all my sheets.” She smiled sheepishly.
Joan shrugged. “Well, I would not have a toga at all except for Sherlock.”
“Hi, I’m Molly.” She said, shaking Sherlock’s hand.
“Sherlock,” Joan whispered quietly, pulling Sherlock aside, “don’t…um.. don’t do that thing you did when you met me, ok?”
“What ‘thing’?” Sherlock asked irately, standing there in a long white toga and a black leather motorbike jacket.
“You know, where you look at someone and openly discuss all of their vulnerabilities.”
“Yeah, can you turn that off? Molly is…just…” Joan was at a loss for words just then, shaking her head a bit. "Oh, and lose the jacket. The Greeks didn't ride motorbikes." she said laughing.
"I know that, Joan. I heard it was going to rain." Joan thought she saw a small hint of a pout from Sherlock. Molly and Joan left and Joan looked back to see Sherlock reluctantly taking off the jacket and tossing it onto the top bunk.
When they got to the party, there were lots of people milling about, drinking and eating crisps before the dancing started.
About 30 min later, Joan noticed that Ivy arrived. All eyes turned to them. Anyone could tell who the leader was. A very confident older girl, likely in her last year at uni. Pretty, with her long dark hair up off her face, woven with golden ribbons. She had a haughty look on her face that was slightly out of place here with the uni kids, like she was 20 years older and queen of the world.
With the rest of the group confidently behind her, she gracefully floated into the party. All the girls looked great, Joan thought. Beautiful, older, sophisticated. Sherlock was nowhere to be seen.
“Oh my, I had no idea….” Said Joan, trailing off, with a wondering tone to her voice.
What?” said Molly, looking excitedly around and on her second pint already.
“I just…” Joan started and was interrupted by a boy at her elbow. When he spoke, she turned her head quickly.
“Hi.” he said, smiling and looking right in Joan’s eyes.
Molly giggled, clutching her pint in her right hand she poked Joan with her left.
“Hi,” Joan said, trying not to be irritated with Molly so early in the evening.
“I’m David Van Kirk.” He said, a bit of pink coming into his cheeks. He was tall with short, dark brown hair and deep brown eyes.
David stood there and talked to Joan for quite some time. He was in his last year, reading political science. He lived off campus. He had a toga on, like most everyone else, but most of the boys wore short ones, that stopped right above the knee.
Joan was a very cute girl with long straight blonde hair that fell down her back. She was not tall, but she was thin and fit with very deep blue eyes. She liked to wear makeup, but not too heavy like some girls. She also liked to paint her nails. She knew that she looked good in the toga.
As the night went on, Molly kept on giggling and poking Joan with her finger at regular intervals, which Joan thought was very immature. She didn’t want to ignore her friend and tried to get Molly into the conversation with David as much as she could.
David eventually took his leave from them and went to talk to his mates on the other side of the room. He asked Joan if it would be ok to call her next week. She said ok.
After that, all Joan wanted was a pint to calm her nerves. David was a very cute boy. And older than Joan, with a sophisticated air about him that Joan liked very much. This was such a hopeful development during her first week at university.
Joan did not get a chance to take a breath, nor to get her pint when the president of Ivy was standing in front of her.
“Why hello there,” said Irene Adler. She was flanked by two other well-dressed Greek goddesses, one on each side.
“Hello.” Said Joan, wondering what she had done to encourage the introduction and disappointed at being interrupted on her way to get her pint.
“I’m sorry that we haven’t met yet, I’m Irene.” She took a breath and looked down her nose at Joan like she was a cat and Joan was a mouse.. “And I know who you are, you are Joan Watson, Sherlock’s room mate.”
“Yes,” said Joan, not at all happy with Irene’s dismissive tone of voice. “What of it?”
Irene smiled. “No need to be defensive, Joan, I just wanted to congratulate you on getting the attention of David Van Kirk. That is no mean feat.”
“He seems like a nice guy.” Joan shrugged.
“Nice isn’t the word. He’s the most handsome guy here. And his family has lots of money. Did he ask you out?”
“I can’t see what business it is of yours, Irene.” Joan heard Molly snicker at her side. Joan looked at Molly in her pink toga, willing her to keep quiet. She’ll have to get Molly back to her room, she had a bit too much.
“Calm down sweetie, I’m a friend.” Irene said.
Irene continued with a sigh. “Well anyway, I am here to extend the hand of friendship and to ask that you consider joining Ivy as a first year. I don’t know what Sherlock has told you about our little society. But after what I’ve seen tonight, I think you would really fit in.”
“I was thinking of joining the biology society.” Joan countered. She didn’t need them.
Irene smiled an indulgent but bit condescending smile. “You don’t want to join the biology society, Joan.”
Joan looked up at Irene. She looked very beautiful in a brittle way, standing there in her toga. Her dark hair was piled on top of her head, gathered in the back with a golden ribbon. She had red lipstick to match her red nails. A gold belt was cinched around her slim waist and her shoes were some kind of gold lame. The effect was close to blinding.
“Well, I’ll consider it. Irene, do you know where Sherlock is?” Joan asked, looking around the crowded party.
Irene looked surprised at the question, “No.” she said, her brow wrinkling a bit.
“I thought she was supposed to be here with your group.”
“I’m sure she’ll turn up. Believe me--Sherlock can take care of herself, she doesn’t need a minder.” She laughed. “Think about what I said, Joan.” And she turned on her sparkly heel and walked away.
Somewhat concerned, Joan walked the perimeter of the party, dragging Molly with her, looking for Sherlock. Wasn’t she supposed to be here? Maybe parties were not her thing- but she needed to be here with her club-mates, no? Joan scolded herself for the worry, she wasn’t anyone’s mum.
Molly was very tipsy. Joan was calculating whether or not to take Molly back to her room, vs. continue to look for Sherlock, but it was so damn crowded, wall to wall people, the room hot and sweaty even with the doors open to the outside. Finally, she spotted Sherlock standing near the door talking to a short bloke with short dark hair and an intense look in his eyes. Sherlock looked very serious, her face almost impassive, saying few words. The bloke with her was smiling, more of a smirk, really, he put a hand on her shoulder and led her out of the room. From where Joan was on the other side of the room, there was no way to intercept them, there were too many people. Joan saw them disappear out the door. By the time she got over there, they were no where to be seen. Behind her, Molly was looking very queasy. Joan decided to get Molly back to her room before disaster struck.
Chapter 5: Joan the Fearless
Joan got Molly back to her room safely. She fell into her bed with her pink toga on. Joan made sure she was positioned on her left side with a waste basket near her.
Molly was very happy to be back in her room, but she was quite drunk. “Joan!! Joanie!! You are a great friend!!” Molly smiled ear to ear.
“You already have a boy friend!!” Molly was practically cackling as she sat on the edge of her bed taking her shoes off. “You just got here! My friend Joanie moves fast!!”
“Molly please—you know that’s not true.” Joan said laughing. ‘I just met David and we don’t even have a proper date scheduled.”
Molly was not listening. “Saint Joan. Joan of Arc!!”
“See you tomorrow, Molly.” Joan turned off the lights and left laughing.
She felt ambivalent about going back to the party. Sherlock was not her responsibility, she was just her roommate. Joan had a fine time and could really just call it a night and go back to her room, but she felt unsettled. She could not shake nagging suspicion for no reason at all-she still was unsure where Sherlock went.
When she got there, she decided to walk around again, looking for Sherlock before she got a pint. Joan was relieved to recognize a few faces as she milled about the crowd. The back door of the room led to a courtyard patio. She wandered out onto the patio. It was a very nice night, no rain in sight. There were a few kids smoking out there in the cool of the evening.
A door opened further down on the wall and a few people came outside, then carefully closed the door again.
Joan had an idea. She went back into the party to grab a lemonade, then went back outside and walked right up to the door. She tried to pull the door handle but it was locked. Suddenly the door opened and two people came out laughing. Joan went inside.
The room was dark and she smelled the distinct odor of marijuana. She did try it a few times in the past but had never liked the way it made her feel, slow and silly. It was difficult to adjust to the darkness of the room. There were people sitting on low seat cushions all over the floor.
She stood by the door, and slowly her eyes adjusted to the dim light. What was this place? It looked to be maybe a storage area, there were shelves, garden equipment and a few lawn chairs scattered around. There were about 10-12 people in here total.
She spotted Sherlock sitting with a few other people on the low cushions. She was sitting with the dark-haired guy with the smirk from before. They were talking in low voices. Joan realized that she was about to do something that could end badly. Joan walked up to Sherlock and crouched down to speak to her.
“Hey Sherlock,” she said, whispering harshly and giving Sherlock a meaningful look, “I have the lemonade you asked me to get you.”
“What?” Sherlock looked at Joan, wide-eyed, shaking her head, a frown crossing her face.
Joan smiled at the dark-haired guy sitting next to Sherlock. “I’m Sherlock’s roommate, I’m Joan. She asked me to get her a lemonade oh-ages ago, and I just got to it now. So sorry! Oh yeah, I have a message for you, too. Irene wants to ask you something. So come on, let’s go.” Joan placed the cup in Sherlock’s hand and grabbed her by the arm and pulled her up from her seat on the floor.
“What?” Sherlock said again, but stood up.
The dark-haired boy stood up, protesting. “I don’t think she wants to go yet.”
Joan was firm, “Oh yeah--I think she does. Any way, she does not want to get in trouble with Irene.”
“Yeah, Irene’s a bitch. Thanks for the lemonade. Bye.” Sherlock said and they walked out.
Sherlock was wasted, but not so badly that she couldn’t walk. Joan kept her cool until they got back to the room.
“What the fuck was that all about, Sherlock? Who was that guy? Why did you stay so long in there with him?” she looked at Sherlock’s dilated pupils. “What did you take?’
That was a lot of questions, but Sherlock managed to answer one, “That was Jim Moriarty.”
A delicate white hand appeared over the edge of the bed above her. From the bottom bunk, Joan considered it carefully. Taking her index finger, she touched it. Cool. Concerned-- she decided to press her fingers below the thumb in the area of the radial pulse—strong and regular.
‘I’m alive, Joan.” came a hoarse voice above her.
‘Fine. I’m making you a cup of tea.” Joan bounced out of bed and went to the kitchen.
There was no protest from above.
Back from the kitchen, with hot cuppa and 2 paracetamol, she handed it to Sherlock who sat up slowly and carefully on the top bunk.
“You have questions,” Sherlock stated.
“It’s none of my business, really.” Joan sat down on her bed.
“Fine.” Sherlock took the pills and sipped the tea. Heavy silence.
“OK, Sherlock, What the hell were you doing?” Joan jumped out of bed again, standing to face her roommate. She wanted to sound firm but her words came out much softer than she intended.
“What are you talking about?” Sherlock asked innocently, face blank, sipping tea.
“I think the guy you were with had ‘bad intentions’ towards you.” Joan admonished.
This elicited a loud laugh from Sherlock. “Stop Joan, your ‘provincial’ is showing.” Sherlock rolled her eyes.
“You know what I mean,” Joan threw up her hands.
“You’ll have to stop making me laugh, I have a sodding headache.” By this time, Sherlock had gracefully descended from the top bunk and was standing in front of Joan, a trifle too close and still wearing her toga. They were staring intently at one another.
“Joan, I know it looked dire to you, but rest assured I had it under control.” Sherlock said seriously.
“It really didn’t look that way.” Joan said sternly, softly.
Sherlock glanced down at Joan’s lips, looking at the way her lips moved, watching her speak.
Joan looked away first, clearing her throat, then looked back at her roommate and shrugged. “Sherlock, you just may as well tell me what is going on. And stop with the pretense. You were in over your head.” She said pointedly.
Sherlock looks at Joan quietly, searching her eyes.
Joan continued, “You just may as well tell me, I’m already involved.”
“I don’t need an assistant.” Sherlock states unequivocally.
“I’m not offering. make no mistake there.” Joan glared at Sherlock. "Offering? You're already participating." Sherlock's eyes were glinting in the dull light of the early morning.
There is a knock at the door interrupting the conversation.
Joan opens it. It’s Molly, “Oh, hi.” She looked at each of them-the irritated look on Joan’s face and then impassive, slightly confused look on Sherlock’s—the silence was uncomfortable. Molly gave a nervous laugh, “Am I interrupting something?”
“No, of course not, Molly come in, please.” Joan said as she opened the door and Molly entered.
”I see you have divested yourself of your alarmingly pink toga.” Sherlock observed.
“And I see you haven’t.’ Molly counters, standing tall, trying to defend herself.
“Color notwithstanding,” Sherlock adds, climbing back up to the top bunk.
“Well, um, yes.” Molly said uncomfortably. She cleared her throat. “Well, I’ll ignore Sherlock’s rudeness, but I wanted again to say thanks Joan. I do appreciate you rescuing me last night and getting me home.”
“Really Molly, is was nothing." Joan sighed. "My pleasure. I know you would do the same for me.”
Molly left and went back to her room.
Sherlock sighed, “Joan, I’m working with the police.”
“You?” Joan was uncertain. This sounded unbelievable.
Joan laughed, “And you just expect me to believe that? A university student?”
“It’s complicated.” Sherlock pulled the duvet over her head.
“Fine, if that’s your story, I’m getting a shower.” Joan walked out of the room.
Chapter 6: Love, Scotland Yard
When Joan got back to the room Sherlock was gone and no surprise. Sherlock was so often not in the room that Joan was always shocked when she was.
After a while of hair drying and dressing, Joan was ready for the day. She was not ready for Sherlock to come bursting back into the room.
‘I have a meeting today at Scotland Yard, if you want to come along.’ Sherlock said in an offhand manner, looking at Joan very sincerely, eyes wide.
Joan just stared. Sherlock stood before her, head to toe in leather. Jacket, leather trousers, boots and a helmet swinging on her arm.
Sherlock signed and rolled her eyes, ‘I soooo hate to repeat myself. Why does everyone ask me to repeat myself? Let’s just say you are welcome to come with me. --Might be fun.” She added.
“How will we get there?” Joan asked. Tube ride, she thought.
Sherlock looked at Joan’s shorts. “On my bike, but you’ll have to change into jeans and wear a jacket though, I have rules.”
"It’s not ideal, but you’ll have to wear jeans and a jacket to ride on the back of my bike.”
“Why don’t you wear jeans?” Joan asked. Finally, the leather question.
“Leather is much better, well-- if you don’t want your skin flayed off when you crash.” Sherlock explained.
“Do you intend to crash?”
“No.” Sherlock smiled. ‘I do have an extra helmet, though.’ Sherlock pulled an extra helmet out of the wardrobe and handed it to Joan. "I wouldn't let you ride without one."
Joan took her up on her offer and changed into blue jeans. With Sherlock’s extra helmet, they walked down to the parking lot and got on Sherlock’s bike. Sherlock had a Triumph Bonneville motorbike. It was black with retro styling and big headlight in the front. It looked like it came right out of a 1950s movie. Although this style of motorbike had been built for a smaller rider, there was indeed room for two people to ride.
Sherlock gave Joan instructions on how to ride, where to put her feet, the need to hold her firmly around the waist and how to lean when she took turns in the road. Joan had never been on a motorbike before and was thrilled to ride. Due to the way the bike was built, neither rider had to lean forward- both could sit mostly upright. This way, Joan was able to look around a bit and take in the sights of London enroute to The Yard. At this time of the day the traffic was not too bad and the roads were clear. Although she was wearing a helmet, Joan still felt the wind whipping her hair and stinging her cheeks. Heart thumping right out of her chest for the entire ride, Joan was afraid that she held Sherlock around the waist too tightly. An expert rider, Sherlock navigated the streets of London with care and they were soon at Scotland Yard. Sherlock pulled in front of the building and parked.
As they got off the bike, Joan was trembling slightly, but impressed at the assuredness of the driver and looked at Sherlock taking off her helmet with awe. Joan was surprised that Sherlock had no worries about parking in front of the building.
“Oh, they let me park it here.” She said to Joan matter of factly and breezed up the pavement to the building. Joan followed on shaky legs.
Sherlock explained on the way up in the elevator that she was investigating theft at the university.
“Not exciting, I know. Not like it’s a murder.” Sherlock said sincerely and shrugged.
Joan was happy it was not a murder.
Soon they were in the office of Detective Inspector Lestrade and Joan was being introduced as Sherlock’s roommate. Just a string of thefts over the last year at the university. Large items, smaller items, stereos, radios, TVs. Neither The Yard nor Sherlock were certain if they were done by an individual or a ring of thieves.
For the entire time they were in the office, Joan wondered just how this 'Scotland Yard' arrangement came about. Detective Greg Lestrade was an older man, quiet, serious and greying at the temples, but had a soft look and a twinkle in his eyes when he was talking to Sherlock. It looked like he thoroughly enjoyed her assessments and observations. Lestrade asked thoughtful questions and never cut her off. Lestrade acted as he had all the time in the world to listen to this leather clad young woman. Joan noticed that the older man took Sherlock very seriously, nodding as he listened to her and weighing her opinions with care.
Never once in Joan’s life had she seen an older professional man listen so intently to a young person, much less a girl. The weight of the moment was not lost on her. She had newfound respect for her roommate. This only generated more questions.
Finally, Sherlock appeared to be done with Lestrade and turned to go, motioning Joan to follow. The older detective stopped her and a more concerned looked crossed his brow.
“Sherlock, how are you doing… otherwise?” he asked softly. There was a noticeable nonverbal communication going on between them.
“Oh.. um.. fine, really, fine thanks.” Joan caught a slight but unmistakable pause and shift in demeanor as Sherlock put her head down slightly.
“Ok, keep in touch, then.” He called after her pleasantly, as she turned on her heel and left.
Chapter 7: A Full Dance Card
They got dressed for the party. The final party is formal, some universities start with the formal dress but they end with it, Sherlock had explained to Joan while they were getting ready. Sherlock changed into a short, sleeveless black-or was it deep purple? dress. Joan noticed that while Sherlock wore heels that were not high, Joan’s heels were a bit higher.
Joan came back from the loo, where the mirrors were better and she could dry her hair. She was wearing a dusky pink dress.
Sherlock was standing, leaning on her desk, looking into a pretty fancy microscope. While Joan as in the loo, she had removed it from the deep bottom desk drawer where it had been hidden.
“Where did you get that microscope?” Joan was surprised and wide-eyed as she came into the room.
“The lab.” Sherlock says quietly, not looking up, intent on her examination, adjusting the dial for the stage.
“From school? You nicked it?” Joan could not believe her ears.
“I’m giving it back!!” Sherlock huffed indignantly, now looking at her roommate.
“When?” Joan asks pointedly.
“Soon.” Sherlock promised, but Joan gave her a disbelieving look. “Ok, tomorrow. Just a lark, really.” She gestured towards the microscope, “I made a peripheral blood smear-well tried anyway, but I don’t have any EDTA-so it’s clotting. Makes a bit of a mess.” Disappointed, she stood up and moved away from the desk.
“A lark--you?” Joan could not help but smile at the thought. “Can I see?” Excited, she moved toward the microscope and adjusted the eyepieces.
“Yes- it looks bad, though. After I get the EDTA I am going to perfect my technique. It’s all about speed, angle and drop size, really.”
“Whose blood?” turning away from the microscope, Joan frowned at her roommate.
“Mine.” She held up her index finger with a small plaster over it.
Joan looked over from the plastered finger to Sherlock, “Please don’t nick any EDTA.”
No answer from Sherlock. She stood there quietly, considering her fingernails.
“Promise?” Joan asked, egging her on.
Hesitation, then, “Your dress is pink.” Sherlock observed.
“You’re changing the subject.” Joan looked down at her dress. “Problem?”
“Um no, it’s fine.”
“Not sophisticated enough?” Joan had likely hit the nail on the head, here.
“No really, it’s fine.”
They left for the formal. In the hallway, they were joined by several groups of well-dressed students. The formal attire was in stark contrast to the beige painted cement walls and linoleum fools of the bland residence hall.
“Sherlock how’d you get that big microscope out of the lab?” Joan asked as they walked down the hall to the elevator.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Actually, yes. Yes, I would.”
The formal was uneventful. After a week of drunken debauchery, savage sightseeing and likely a few trips to hospital, the students were uncharacteristically ready for a quiet evening. Everyone was on good behavior.
There were snacks-- crisps, biscuits, punch, lemonaide. A few professors showed up, chatting easily with students from the last year and meeting new ones.
Joan ran into a well-dressed David Van Kirk who made a bee line to talk to her as soon as he saw her and they made a date for the next week, exchanging numbers.
They saw Jim Moriarty talking to a group of people. Irene was there in a black dress, similar to Sherlock’s but Sherlock looked better somehow. Polished. Poised. Slightly bored. Irene had a quiet desperation about her, as if she were aware that time was running out and she had only so long to…what? Joan wondered. Irene tried too hard with every fiber of her being.
Irene again took a pointed interest in Joan, taking her elbow and touring the party, introducing her to Phillip Anderson and Sally Donovan. Phillip was a medium height bloke with light brown hair and Sally was a bit taller than him with darker skin and long hair. Sally smiled and Philip looked dour. Joan waved to Michelle Stamford, who was her usual bubbly self.
Joan noticed that Sherlock had stiffened a bit when they were all talking briefly to Phillip and Sally, who appeared to be a couple. Sherlock disappeared suddenly and Joan looked around for her. Considering what happened at the last party, Joan felt weirdly obligated to just keep a wary eye out.
Sally noticed Joan searching the crowd with her eyes. “Oh, she does that, you know.” She said knowingly to Joan.
Jon tried unsuccessfuly to feign non-challance. “Sorry, what?
“Sherlock, disappears on ya. She just leaves. Unreliable. She'll just disappoint you.” Sally said and Phillip nodded his head in agreement. Joan had already experienced the situation of Sherlock 'disappearing' first hand.
Irene took Joan aside, “Don’t listen to them Joan, it’s just sour grapes, really, Phillip asked Sherlock out last year and you could imagine how that might have gone.” She gave Joan a sly look out of the corner of her eyes.
Joan giggled a little. Joan could not imagine a more unlikely pair, tall, beautiful, sophisticated, worldly Sherlock and mousy, sour Phillip. But considering Philip’s situation, no harm in trying, she reasoned.
Irene continued, “Well, Sherlock was not even aware he was asking her out! Needless to say, he still harbors a grudge and Sally his current girlfriend, thinks that he still fancies Sherlock.”
More intrigue, it was worse than secondary school. “What do you think Irene?” Asked Joan.
“Well, what do you think? Look for your self.” Irene inclined her head towards the group and she could see Phillip looking over his glass at Sherlock across the room and Sally hitting him in the arm, irritated. "Sherlock's not interested in anyone."
"Why not?" Joan wondered aloud. And why does anyone care, really, she wanted to ask herself. Then she caught herself. Why do I care? Do I care?
Sherlock walked over to them and they had to stop talking. Irene excused herself to get punch.
Molly appeared and walked up to Joan and Sherlock. “Hi,” she said breathless. “I’m glad you’re here. I stopped by the room, but...” she laughed and raised her eyebrows, “you’re here!”
Joan did not wait for Molly. Damn, was she supposed to do? She could not remember. If she was, she certainly forgot after the nicked microscope and the blood and the rush to get here.
Joan shrugged, “Oh sorry, well I…” and gestured to Sherlock standing next to her, who all of a sudden, was nowhere to be found. Again. Joan glanced around the party. Gone.
“It’s ok,” Molly said, but it wasn’t. Molly didn’t want to be mad, but she was afraid she would be left behind if Joan joined the dining society that seemed to want her so badly.
Everyone just seemed to like Joan right away. Both boys and girls. She was cute and funny, but not at all annoying or childish. Molly felt like a black and white photo next to colorful Joan. And Molly could not stand Sherlock. Snarky, verbally aggressive, miserable.
To add fuel to the fire of Molly’s righteous indignation, David Van Kirk walks over to talk, bringing with him a cup of punch for Joan. Molly makes a polite exit.
After a few moments of chatting about the events of fresher’s week, Joan turns to her right to see Sherlock at her elbow with a cup. “Here,” she says, “I got you a lemonade.” And presses it into Joan’s hand.
“Oh, thanks I—” she looks down at the two cups, laughing a bit.
“I thought you asked me to get you a lemonade, oh, ages ago.” Sherlock shrugs, looks right at her and walks away.
“I guess you are a two-fisted drinker.” David observes, smiling.
Joan looks at David, “I –don’t remember…asking…”
Chapter 8: Surprise Me
Sherlock Holmes did not have an eventful first week of school. She did not have to arrive at school early, classes did not begin until next week. She decided to arrive early anyway, for the investigation. The thefts at school are likely to have been done by an insider. Never any breaking and entering, she is sure the thief has a key to the rooms. That narrows down the suspects considerably. How many involved, though? One, a few, a team? Hard to know.
That’s why she must get close to the people who carry the keys to all of the rooms ---the RAs. Undoubtedly it is the RAs. Who else would it be? During breaks, no doubt, the RAs could go into the rooms and take the items. Very few items have been found to have been sold, Lestrade told her. What is the point of stealing electronic items, if not to sell them? Control? Power? Intimidation?
The case barely kept her attention. It’s practically solved, the only the details are remaining to be sorted. Boring.
Not at all looking forward to the new school year. Trying to keep herself entertained, avoiding the ennui that always leads to trouble. Working with the MET, working out some of her own experiments in the lab at school, keeping up minimal obligations to the Ivy club (so Irene stays off her back), dodging Phillip Anderson.
Tinkering with her bike, a bit.
She’s had to interview most of the RAs, which had been very dull, because people can be very dull. Sherlock can tell within a few sentences if they are not involved. It doesn’t take much. She has narrowed down the suspects to a handful. Jim Moriarty is at the top of the list.
Sherlock is aware that Jim Moriarty deals drugs at school. Sherlock is not investigating drug dealers. Well yet, anyway. She met Jim last year, well before the thefts began. He has an unusual interest in her but she avoids him when she can. He is not afraid of Sherlock. He’d like to be closer, she thinks. This desire emanates from him in waves. It’s dangerous.
She can see an unusual light in Jim’s eyes. When he speaks to her, she can see him thinking, see the gears moving, tick by tick, trying to work her out, her motivations. She sees the questions there, and avoids looking directly at him too often, because can see her, too. Sherlock shudders. No one makes her shudder like Jim, a visceral reaction, but she can’t let it show. That’s a fault, she realizes. She can feel an electricity crackling on his skin, too close and it will shock her, too.
Irene is close to Jim, but to what extent cannot be sorted yet. Sherlock watches them together. A relationship of 2 similars, but Irene wants to be harder than she really is. Irene is vulnerable and Jim dictates to her, Sherlock can tell. Could Jim Moriarty have something on Irene—likely.
Irene could be an ally, but to an uncertain extent.
Irene is an enemy and not at all to be trusted.
There is a missing variable there. The x.
Sherlock will have to meet again with Lestrade soon, but does not have much to say differently from last time. Mycroft will want a meeting too, she won’t let her go too long without checking in. The bookends of her life. The MET on one side and her sister on another. The police and her family.
Lestrade was a big help last year really, negotiating with her sister. He was much more reasonable. Mycroft can be such a hard liner. After what happened, she didn’t want Sherlock to come back to school to live. She made a good argument for living in the flat they have here in London. Lestrade argued that Sherlock in the residence halls would be tremendous help to Scotland Yard. Mycroft was legitimately dubious and found the plan amusing, but relented.
She’s trying to stay clean, but boredom always finds a way of creeping in.
Sherlock made an angry phone call to Mycroft after she found she got landed with a roommate.
“Merde*, Mycroft are you behind this?” Sherlock spat.
“Vas-y mollo,* No, but it serves you right.” Mycroft almost laughed into the phone.
“You think that you can have everything go your way. You're spoilt, Sherlock. Deal with it. A revoir, J’ai d’autres chats a fouetter*.” Mycroft hung up.
Sherlock Holmes did not have an eventful first week of school. This was before the save, though. Before her roommate, the tiny, unassuming Joan Watson wandered unafraid into the garden storage area and pulled her up by the arm, extricating her trashed ass from the slimy clutches of Jim Moriarty.
And took a ride on her motorbike to Scotland Yard, holding her tightly around the waist.
Chapter 9: Maggots and Mail
As the first few weeks of school went past, Joan and Sherlock found an agreeable, albeit slightly uneasy, rhythm of life in the residence hall.
Joan thought that living with Sherlock Holmes was like living with a running chain saw. Indoors. Sherlock was often in motion. Either rushing in or out of the room, hell bent on an errand of some sort or another. If she was in the room, she was doing something, never sat still. Experiments. Playing violin. Arguing 'un rapide francais' on the phone. These conversations did not last long, although there may be two or three of them per day. Joan soon realized they were from her sister.
Alternatively, there were days of some lassitude, where Sherlock's mood was more cloudy, with a only a chance of vindictiveness. Joan was grateful then for the violin.
Joan got more of a chance then to see why Sherlock had earned her reputation of being difficult to live with.
She was surprised to find out the Michelle Stamford was Sherlock's roommate last year.
“I think we got on well,” Michelle said diplomatically. “It was just the maggots…”
Joan was dumbfounded yet again, “Maggots?”
“Well yeah, they were too loud.”
Sherlock gave a derisive snort from the desk, where she was again looking into the pilfered microscope. “I had to get rid of them. They were for an experiment.”
“Maggots make noise?” well, the things you earn at university, Joan thought.
“I kept them in a plasticine bag and they …squeaked as they moved-writhed, really- against the plastic.” Sherlock reluctantly admitted, voice low.
“How loud?” Joan whispered to Michelle.
Sherlock cut in, “--not loud!” she said loudly.
“--I couldn’t sleep, Sherlock.” Michelle admitted, sounding exasperated on recalling the scene.
Sherlock jumped up from the desk, head down, pushing the chair in hastily and ducked out into the hallway. She called into the room, “I got rid of them when you asked,” --saying from the hallway. Joan thought she may have been trying not to laugh.
Joan put a hand on Michele’s shoulder and gave her a comforting pat. “Well, I guess you had to draw the line somewhere,” she said quietly, nodding.
“Yeah, so if you …you know..” Michelle gestured to the hallway, “have any…”
“Maggots? Yeah--not so far, but I’ll tell you,,, yeah well…so far so good, right?” Joan reassured the contentious RA, though she could still hear Sherlock snicker from the hall.
In addition to a letter from her mum, a deep golden letter was found in Joan’s pigeonhole mailbox. She held it her hands, turning it over, looking at her name in calligraphy on the front. Immediately she knew it was from Ivy. The envelope was gold, with a fine green line along the perimeter. Even before opening it, Joan knew very well that the initiation fee was a few hundred pounds. She went to Irene and politely declined the invitation.
Before she was asked and before she offered any explanation, Irene told her dues were paid in advance. Irene added with a smirk that she was on strict confidence not to tell who the mysterious benefactor was.
Joan stood in front of Irene in the corridor and started to protest..”Irene…”
“Don’t question it, just enjoy it!" Irene shot over her shoulder, 'that’s my motto!!” and she walked away.
Next on the list was Sherlock--who denied any involvement.
“Why would I pay your dues?” Sherlock was sitting at her desk, small metal scoop in her hand, a small pile of white powder on the desk sitting in the middle of a small white paper square and a scale. “I didn’t.”
Joan looked at the white powder, “Sherlock is that..?”
“No.” and then, “no, I don’t know who did.”
Joan was stupefied, standing in front of her roommate.
Well, that would take the money out of the equation. Joan would then have to just evaluate the club based on merits alone. Did the club have any merits? Should she just listen to Irene and just enjoy it? 'Enjoy' was such a strong word.
Who wants her to join this organization? Who would care? Should she decline just on the principle that she should not be dictated to?
She looked at the years’ schedule of events that was included in the invitation. Monthly dinners, charity work, occasional net ball games. Occasional net ball games.
And then there was the dress. A black sheath, sleeveless, to be worn at all formal dinners.
It was very quiet in the room as Joan stood there, worrying the invitation in her hands, folding it, unfolding it.
Sherlock broke the silence, “I know you think I did it, but I didn’t, Joan. I swear. Please don’t get me wrong, I do think you'd be an asset, but I believe in making your own choice. I wasn’t allowed to make my own choice about Ivy, so I really would be the last person to do that to you.”
Sherlock gave her a look of such helplessness, Joan had to believe her words.
Joan did not know what to do. Join Ivy? Decline? She was tempted to join if only to find out who paid for her membership. She did the only thing she could think of- she called her mother for advice.
Mrs. Watson was a gentle soul, her soft attitude molded by years of illness and missed opportunities. She saw nothing wrong with joining the club. She told her daughter she'd work out paying for the dress in some way.
Before leaving for class in the morning, Joan then let Irene know she'd join the club. Smiling and inscrutable as ever, Irene then handed her a packet of information, which she then carried with her for the rest of the day, occasionally looking at it in between classes. Housekeeping folder really, paragraphs about charities, schedules for dinners with locations, net ball games. Also included was the information about ordering the dress and the cost. More money. Joan’s heart sank a bit when she read the price-it was almost the cost of membership. Close to regretting her decision to join, she walked back to the residence hall, shoulders slumped. As she walked into the common room, she saw a large box propped up against her room door.
Picking up the box, she saw her name and the address of the dress shop that she had read in the housekeeping folder. She placed the box carefully on her bed. Lifting the lid and folding back white tissue flecked with gold, she saw the black dress. The fabric was made of the softest shimmery black wool crepe. She lifted it out of the box to check the size. It was her size. She sat down on her bed.
It was gorgeous. She had never had a dress so lovely in all of her life. Who paid for the membership and who paid for the dress? The room door opened and in walked Sherlock.
Sherlock brought a cool autumn breeze in with her. The room door had not been locked, and she did not try her key, she just pushed it open.
“Oh,” was all she said, looking at Joan sitting on the bottom bunk, dress in her hands, open box with crumpled tissue on the bed beside her.
Sherlock immediately caught on.
“Little too soon for you to have ordered it yourself.” She said, shrugging off her black jacket and tossing it up on to her top bunk.
“Yeah.” Joan said a little bemused and little defeated.
“Does it fit?” Sherlock wondered aloud.
“Not sure yet, but it is my size. Sherlock, I feel like I am being manipulated-- like a puppet on a string.” Joan was filled with more doubt than ever.
Sherlock sighed, “Well, I’ll give you-this is an unusual situation, but maybe you aren’t being manipulated so much as obstacles are being removed.”
“By whom? Who would care? Who would know my dress size for goodness sake? God Sherlock, it borders on creepy!"
“Yeah, well creepy narrows it down a bit." Sherlock laughed, but Joan did not see the humor.
Sherlock Holmes knows all about creepy. She manages creepy on a daily basis. She has a creepy past. People often accuse her of being creepy. She is related to creepy. If she gave it any real thought, she could be pretty sure there was creepy on both sides of the family.
As soon as she had a quiet moment alone, she called her sister.
“Mycroft, must you continue to interfere in my life?” Sherlock said in lieu of a greeting.
“I have no idea to what you are referring.” Mycroft deadpanned.
“Mycroft. I know it was you.” Quiet. Accusing. Certain.
There was a long silence, while Mycroft was assuredly considering her options. Ticking them off one by one on her mental PDA.
“Well if it was me, and I’m not admitting to anything, I think that everyone involved will appreciate my efforts.”
“And how can you be certain?”
“How can we be certain of anything in this life?”
Sherlock sighed. She wasn’t going to get anywhere with her sister. It didn’t matter. Her sister was aware she had been called out. Found out.
“Mycroft, if this is your idea of fun, you have a very unusual way of entertaining yourself.” Sherlock hung up the phone.
Mycroft Holmes was remarkable. Everyone said it. They said it at uni. They said it at the office. No one disputed it. My croft had a remarkable memory and a unique way of distilling information so as to resolve problems. National problems. International problems.
Mycroft had a stellar rise in government. With each rise in station, with each rung on the ladder reached, a bigger office, a larger staff. Quiet, dependable, indispensable.
The right hand of the powerful. The left hand of the influential.
Mycroft liked control. Both in her professional and personal lives. Order, logic, reason. There was only one aspect of her entire life where she was at a loss. Her sister.
Chapter 10: Initiation Night
Joan Watson looked forward to going out with David Van Kirk. A lot. They went out for a pint to a local club, then to dinner. He took her to a local pizza place. Not too causal, not too upscale. Nice. Cheerful.
David was a good looking chap. Tall, dark hair, clear bright eyes. He was well educated and well spoken. Joan ran into various friends while out with David at the pub and restaurant. She noticed that other girls looked at David appreciatively, but he didn’t notice. She had a good time with him. He had lots to say about his classes, his flat, his friends.
Joan and David went out a few times over the next few weeks. Out to dinner, movies, a few local uni pubs. It was nice.
Joan soldiered on. Classes, Ivy, David, Molly, Sherlock. All in all, she was very busy. Classes in the day, mostly sciences. In the eves, she had activities for Ivy. Organizational dinners, meetings. Joan did not realize she would meet so many people through the organization. There were a few other dining clubs in the university and she met all the members of these clubs, too.
Joan awaited the shoe drop. She kept her wits about her. Where was the harassment? The drinking all night? The naked mud wrestling? Those stories always made her laugh. Those types of activities were no where to be found. She was having fun and making friends and no illegal or atrocious activities were involved. Her mom would be relieved.
After all the requisite activities for new members, Initiation Night was soon upon them. After a meeting, they had a very simple ceremony in the common room. Wearing the dresses for the first time, all the girls held a candle each, a few words were said, new members were then welcomed and the candles were blown out. That was it. Joan let out a nervous laugh. Wearing the dresses, they were on their way to the campus pub.
When they arrived, they looked like a flock of shimmery black birds or black butterflies clustered in a group. Overdressed for such an informal setting, all eyes were upon them. The pub was crowded, packed with university kids.
Irene held court with a group of young men fawning over her, footballers and the like. The new initiates looked on appreciatively, watching her every move, taking mental notes.
Sherlock delicately holding both a pint and a cigarette in one hand, came up to Joan and said, “Can you believe it? At one time, the bylaws forbade smoking.”
“I think they should reconsider that one.” Joan said, raising her glass and smiling.
Now that they were at the pub, the atmosphere was more celebratory, the pressure off. Some of the other older girls Jenette and Sarah broke off from the group and were sitting with friends who were not in Ivy. Joan recognized Jenette’s boyfriend Archie sitting with them. She had seen him around school and in Jenette's room. Archie was a big bloke and a footballer.
Michelle, Joan and Sherlock found seats in the back in a booth. They sat there for a few pints, having an easy conversation, sharing funny stories back and forth, laughing.
Joan was in the middle, with Sherlock and Michelle on both ends. As the night went on, Michelle came to the slow, painful realization that Sherlock and Joan were no longer including her in the conversation and were really only talking to each other. Michelle got up from the booth and made a feeble excuse to leave, but they did not notice.
God, Sherlock was so funny, Joan thought. How had she not noticed this before? She had a new found appreciation for her room mate. She told such funny stories. A few times, Joan almost spat out her drink. She made a mental note to be more careful. Sherlock told stories about her time in secondary school, stories from last year at uni, stories about her sister. The more Sherlock drank, the more information she told Joan about almost everyone in the pub.
Anyone, everyone. Joan just had to point her finger and Sherlock would tell the life stories of each individual. Informational, enlightening, occasionally unbelievable.
"See that bloke, there? Gay. Look at his shoes." Sherlock remarked.
"His shoes?" Joan looked, just shoes, regular shoes.
"Ok, ok, see that one? His mum has 10 cats. Ten!" Suddenly Sherlock stood up. “Joan, I have to visit the loo.”
Joan and Sherlock got up and moved away from the booth, each going in separate directions. Joan was on her way to get another pint. She also wanted to look about her to see if maybe David was here, or Molly.
Irene intercepted Sherlock on her way to the ladies, “Sherlock, you are not socializing.”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow at her, “I am most definitely socializing.” Was her clipped response as she tried to continue to the loo.
“But with only one person.” Irene pointed out.
Sherlock whipped around to face Irene. “Problem?” Sherlock did not give one whit for Irene’s opinion. Or anyone else’s for that matter.
“People are noticing.”
Sherlock laughed. “You know me better than that Irene. I’m not buying that. No one notices but you.”
Joan turned her head when she heard what seemed to be a loud argument behind her. Jenette and her boyfriend were having a row right in the middle of the pub.
“I didn’t!” she heard Jenette say.
“I know you did!” He bellowed and made a move to grab her arm, but she pulled away. Jenette skittered away on her black heels towards the door. Archie went after her.
“Archie has had one too many.” A soft, silky voice whispered in her ear, much too silky for the content of the sentence.
She turned quickly to see Sherlock laughing slightly but then she got serious. “Sorry. Not to laugh at anyone’s distress, but he’s not my idea of a good time.”
“Is he a drinker?” Joan wondered.
“Yeah, but so is Jenette. But I don’t have room to talk.” Sherlock added cryptically.
It was getting late and the pub was starting to empty. Joan turned around and Sherlock was nowhere to be seen. Irene was nowhere to be seen. Joan found Michelle and they both decided to go back to the residence hall together. The walk was not long, it was not cold. Sherlock was not there when she got to the room, but she was too tired to worry.
Sherlock got back to the room shortly after Joan. Thankful for her bed, she climbed to the top bunk and fell asleep almost immediately. In the middle of the night she got up to get a glass of water. Walking down the corridor to the kitchen in her dressing gown, she noticed the kitchen light was on. The door was open a small crack, she could see the light peek through.
She pushed open the door to the small kitchen tentatively. She walked into the kitchen a few steps and stopped when she saw a foot. She stood in the doorway and looked at a dead body on the floor. She glanced at the clock-3 am.
A dead body. A big body, long, muscular with a slight purple tinge. She reached down to touch the foot. Cold. Definitively not alive-even without considering the enormous pool of blood that had flowed from the body onto the kitchen floor under the table and chairs.
A body she recognized, “Oh, hello Archie.” She whispered quietly, “I guess we have to call Lestrade.”
Archie had not been dead long. A few hours at most. He laid there in the t shirt he wore to the pub and only his pants. The kitchen was small and his body was large and took up most of it.
Kitchen chairs were overturned. The table was pushed back, the signs of a struggle. Sherlock put the kettle on. “Well I guess we’re not going back to sleep now.”
There was blood all over the floor. Sherlock was careful not to step in it.
There was a long kitchen knife on the floor near Archie. It was apparent he had a wound near his left upper leg or groin. Sherlock did not touch anything until the police got there.
By then the whole floor was awake. Irene, Joan, Michelle, Sarah.
Sherlock stood in the doorway in her dressing gown holding her tea. Joan at her side, Michelle behind them.
“Did you give him CPR?” Michelle asked.
Sherlock rolled her eyes, “No Michelle- he was cold. And purple. Livor mortis had already set in.”
“Yeah well, and he’s not my type, too…beefy.” Sherlock added, sipping her tea and grimacing.
“Sherlock,” Joan said reprovingly, looking sadly at Archie, “there’s someone lying dead.”
“What? Not good?” Sherlock asked, quite innocently.
“A bit, yeah. Did you make a cuppa tea in the middle of a crime scene?” Joan was incredulous.
“Yeah. Want some?” Sherlock uncharacteristically offered.
Joan just shook her head. This time it was Joan's turn to roll her eyes.
“Sherlock, were you out last night?” Lestrade asked quietly. his staff had taken over the crime scene and were photographing and collecting evidence. Students from other floors had started to creep into the hallway and Michelle had to do traffic control.
“Anything else?” Lestrade asked with raised eyebrows.
“N--No.” Sherlock started.
“No, I’m…better…now.” She added- quietly, haltingly.
“Anyway…” Sherlock sighed and changed the subject for now. “I’m sure your people will find that he has suffered a slash to the femoral artery, severing it in half, and in no time at all, bled to death right here on the kitchen floor.”
“What could be more convenient then solving a murder in your dressing gown?” Sherlock observed.
“You know who killed him?” Lestrade wondered aloud.
Sherlock took him aside and whispered, “Of course I know who killed him, but you are not going to find any fingerprints on the knife. Because the killer wiped them off.”
“Where’s Jenette?” Joan asked.
“She’s not here.” Irene added.
“Listen-she panicked-self-defense-of course there will be a trial, they have to-but I think she’ll get off. Self-defense-abusive boyfriend. Everyone at the pub saw the arguing. Everyone knows he’s got a bad temper. Shame they'll have to have a trial, though, it’ll be in all the papers. Must been bad that she felt she had to grab a knife to defend herself. She should have called an ambulance, though. Don’t think it’d have helped though, he was dead in minutes. Look at all of that blood.”
“I’m going back to bed.” Sherlock turned into the hallway and walked away.
Chapter 11: Man-Eater
Turns out that Jenette ran and caught a bus back home. When the police showed up at her parents’ house she confessed. Jenette related to them that as both she and Archie had too much to drink, they had a row that started in the pub and continued back at the residence hall. While everyone was still at the pub, Jenette had thought she had Archie calmed down and asleep in her room. He awoke later to continue the argument and had become physically aggressive with her. She tried to get away, running into the kitchen. He followed her to the kitchen and she grabbed a knife in order to defend herself. When he tried to grab her in order to punch her, she stabbed him. The knife went right into his left groin, severing his femoral artery. He collapsed onto the floor while she ran, got dressed and hopped a bus home to her parents’ house. After the police determined that Jenette wasn't a harm to herself or others, she would be, more or less, on house arrest at her parents’ until the trial. Sherlock was convinced she’d get off, but with a lesser charge, because of the circumstances.
The unfortunate and likely unintentional murder of Archie was all the students could talk about for quite awhile. The fact that Jenette was in Ivy did nothing for the reputation of the club. There were those who looked at Ivy with a bit of respect at times, but there were a considerable number of others who held only contempt for them.
Where the university could have used the incident to shine a light on relationship or dating violence, the university did not use this opportunity and members of Ivy took the brunt of the students’ increasing vitriol.
They were easy and accessible targets.
The girls of Ivy ended up keeping a low profile, not going out as much, certainly not wearing the dress or assembling as a group. When the murder made the papers, Joan had to call her parents in order to re assure them she was safe and herself, she really hadn’t joined a cult of killers.
Close friends were still close, Molly and David were still around. Sally Donovan and Phillip Anderson’s opinions hadn’t changed, though. Joan remembered what Irene said about Phillip, Sherlock and Sally. Irene recently volunteered the information that Sally had wanted to join Ivy, but hadn’t been asked. Not a good way to cultivate warm feelings in case things went bad.
As social outings lessened, the girls were spending more time together, hoping public opinion would soon turn. This gave everyone more time for studies, but also more time to fret and for the mind to wander. In some of these quiet moments, Joan started to wonder just what Sherlock was alluding to when she mentioned her last year at uni. As much as Lestrade seemed to revere her opinion about criminal activities, he also looked at her with a fatherly concern that Joan could not quite identify. Joan thought she’d just ask Sherlock, but chickened out at the last second, in favor of asking Irene.
Irene liked power. With the most recent events, she had lost some of her power and standing in the university community. She is now the president of a club that others view with suspicion, not envy. Irene smiled at Joan’s curiosity regarding her roommate. Just how much of the story should she let on? Or better yet-- should she tell the truth or embellish—just a bit? All of the options were delicious and she relished them, turning each one over in her head and running the options, like a footballer running plays.
So, Joan wanted to know if Sherlock had any ‘problems’ last year. Of course, she was concerned. Of course, Irene could just send her back to Sherlock for the information. But where’s the fun in that?
Irene filled in the curious Joan. The story was so long they should have had tea or gone out for a pint.
Joan listened carefully to the tale of Sherlock’s first year at uni. Sherlock arrived at uni with a splash. Mycroft’s younger sister, but beautiful. Rode her motor bike all over London. Wore black leather like some kind of road warrior. Intelligent, caustic, brittle. Not at all nice. Not at all polite. Not afraid of anyone, boy or girl, professor or student. Not interested in making friends or joining societies, most of all, Ivy.
Sherlock started to hang around with Jim Moriarty and Victoria Trevor, who were also first years. The first half of the year was spent with those two. They were inseparable. They were an unholy trio.
Sherlock did not go to class to her sisters horror. She slept all day and went out all night. There was talk of drugs and drug dealing, but the dealing was never substantiated. Irene called Sherlock ‘a beautiful disaster’.
Then tragedy struck. One Saturday night after a long party in a different residence hall, the police arrived to find all three of them had overdosed on a cocktail of drugs.
Sherlock and Jim had to go to rehab for a few months and each had a record with the MET. After peeing in jars for a few months and completing the program, they were allowed back to university.
“What about Victoria Trevor?” Joan asked, afraid of the answer.
“Oh Joan, she died.” Irene said quietly.
With a heavy heart Joan thanked Irene for telling her the story and walked back to her room.
When she got there, Sherlock was upon the top bunk, laying on her stomach, reading. She looked up when her roommate walked in. "You could have just asked me." Sherlock said.
“Sherlock I…" Joan began her answer and her feelings so complicated, she was not sure where to start.
“It's OK-- you didn’t ask me because you were afraid I wouldn’t tell you the truth.” Sherlock said as she glided down from the top bunk. Joan was sure that this was a possibility.
“Well…” She tried again.
“It's OK, I understand.” Sherlock stood in front of her, gazing down with an accusatory stare.
“You do?” Joan looked hopeful.
“Or--" Sherlock continued, "You were afraid of the truth. About me.” Sherlock looked right into Joan's eyes, she wasn't sure if she saw a bit of moisture there but Sherlock blinked and it was gone.
Joan had no answer for her. She just stood there.
“Feel any better --now that you know?” Sherlock said quietly, a blank look on her face, unreadable.
And she grabbed her jacket, spun on her heel and walked out the door.
Joan felt terrible. Well, that was it. Any budding friendship she may have had with her difficult roommate was definitely not in the cards, now. She had most certainly ruined it. She hadn’t wanted to hurt Sherlock’s feelings-- she had been tiptoeing around them, in fact. Skirting 'round to ask someone else. Not wanting to pry…but pry is just what she did.
Chapter 12: Lasagna
Sherlock did not come back to the room. That night Joan had a date planned with David. They were to shop for food and then go back to his flat and cook lasagna. That sounded like fun-- Joan had never tried to make a lasagna.
She was distracted as she and David shopped. Pasta, tomato sauce, cheese, he said he had some herbs back at the flat. She tried to be cheerful, as he chirped along about his classes and friends and plans. She dragged herself through the store, holding a box of pasta and ruing her insensitivity. David did not seem to notice.
When they got back to the flat Joan was surprised to find that he was a very competent cook. A few years older than Joan, he had a pretty well stocked kitchen. He produced a bottle of red wine and poured two glasses. This would have charmed her with its tinge of adulthood, but….
David asked her about her week. Joan didn’t know what to say, she felt as though a long cold shadow had passed over her heart. She shivered in David’s kitchen, even with the oven on. Archie and Victoria-these two people are truly dead. Young people. University students just like her.
She smiled at David, this was not the time to be in a black mood. She was determined to cheer up. A few of David’s flatmates showed up, Joan did not mind their presence, it helped when she didn’t have anything to say to David.
The lasagna was in the oven, but just. They group had moved to the sitting room, she was sitting next to David on the sofa when the phone rang. David got up to answer it.
He started talking on the phone in the kitchen. He was far enough away that Joan could not hear any of the conversation. She chatted with the two flatmates, whose names she could not keep straight on a regular day, but not after 2 glasses of wine.
David got off the phone and pulled the lasagna out of the oven. It was cooling in the kitchen when he came and sat beside her on the sofa. He took some ribbing from the flatmates about why he was on the phone so long with a girl here. The boys were going out to the pub and soon Joan and David were alone again.
"I’m sure you were wondering who was on the phone." David said, taking a sip of wine.
Joan actually didn’t care-- she felt it must’ve been important, otherwise he would have told them he’d call back another time. Maybe a family emergency or other important concern?
“It was my old girlfriend.” David said matter of factly.
"Oh," Joan just looked at him. “It was a long conversation.” she commented.
“She's at another university. In Edinburgh.” He chuckled a bit. “I guess she is trying to keep tabs on me. She asked me if you and I were making lasagna.”
Joan felt a bit queasy. Maybe it was the wine on an empty stomach. Maybe it was something else.
Joan calculated her options. “David, I'd like to go home, now.”
“Now?-- we didn’t eat yet!” he protested.
“Yeah, I'm sorry---I drank on an empty stomach---I don’t feel so good.” She stood up abruptly and grabbed her jacket.
"OK that’s fine." he said.
Joan told him she'd walk, but he insisted taking her back to the residence hall. The cool air felt good and her nausea lessened. As they walked, he talked more about the old girlfriend.
As soon as they got to the hall, she bade him goodbye at the front door. He did not try to kiss her. She flew up the front stairs of the residence hall.
After Sherlock left the residence hall she made her way across the university lawn, head down, staring at the pavement. Her mind was clouded with thoughts of Joan. And Joan’s thoughts concerning her. And Joan, mostly.
So much for good first impressions. They don’t really matter much when the truth can quickly undo them. The cool air felt great after the stuffy closed-in residence hall. It wasn’t helping to clear her mind, though.
She was angry at Joan, at Irene and at Mycroft. At Joan for just not asking her, at Irene for spilling the beans and at Mycroft for trying to buy Joan’s friendship for her. Yes, that’s what it was, she knew. Buying Joan’s way into Ivy. Mycroft, that was one of your most ridiculous schemes, she said in an imaginary confrontation with her sister. But, secretly Sherlock had liked it. Really liked it and enjoyed seeing the scheme flower in front of her eyes.
It was nice to see Joan join the society unencumbered by financial worry. Sherlock never had worries of that kind. Neither Sherlock nor Mycroft had ever had plans derailed because of lack of funds. Now at uni, this was not lost of Sherlock.
Of course, good as well as bad decisions can be purchased with enough money.
What Irene did not now about last year was that the drugs were always purchased with Sherlock’s money. No one knew that, not even Mycroft. Not only was Sherlock responsible for doing the drugs, she was responsible for buying them and providing them to people she knew. With disastrous consequences. So both Sherlock and Mycroft could be accused of trying to purchase friends. For Sherlock.
But all things considered, Sherlock was mostly angry at herself. She realizes she has to take responsibility for her actions. But on some other night.
Sherlock heads straight for the pub, she knows who she needs to see tonight. The pub is crowded on this Friday night, full of university kids. Hazy and smoky, several pairs of eyes look at her as she swings wide the pub door and lets in the brisk autumn air.
She walks straight in and straight up to the bar. She notes that there are several people here she knows, but not the person she is looking for.
Joan rode the elevator up to the fifth floor. When she got to the room, there was still no sign of Sherlock. No surprise. Joan felt a hotness to both of her cheeks. She was burning, but not with anger. With what then? Disappointment? Confusion? Irritation? Difficult to describe, really.
Pacing up and down the room, Joan was ready to admit that it was pretty obvious that David still had feelings for this other girl, the ‘ex-girlfriend.’ Joan wondered if this girl was really an ex. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to solve that puzzle. She was not upset or hurt. She was not in love with David, they had just been dating, just starting to get to know each other. Joan was not going to let her acquaintance with David continue. She was not going to be someones placeholder for an out of town 'ex' girlfriend.
Sherlock. Right. What could she possibly say to her to make things better? She wondered where Sherlock was. The lab? The library? Racing her bike across London? Working with the MET to solve a crime when she should be at the pub like any other uni student?
The pub. Joan grabbed her jacket. Nausea gone and feeling brave after her 2 (large) glasses of wine, she set off for the university pub. There had been enough hiding for the girls of Ivy, they had nothing to hide.
Chapter 13: Snowman
It didn’t take long for Sherlock to find the person she was looking for. She stood at the bar, nursing a pint for no more than 10 min when she heard, “I’d offer to buy you a drink, but I see you have one.” Whispered in her ear.
Immediately, she knew who it was. She turned to speak to the person behind her.
“Or, you can by me the next one,” she said.
He smiled and looked at her with raised eyebrows, “Or, maybe you want something else.”
“Maybe I do.” She said, looking over the rim of her glass.
Jim knew it would not take long, Sherlock was going to come around. Back to him, for …he knew what she wanted. She was trying to act like any other university student, going to classes, towing the line, but he knew better. She wasn’t just any other university student. She was different.
Jim gazed at Sherlock, standing there in her tight black jeans and her leather jacket and could not believe his luck. Where was the infernal group of harpies that surrounded her when she came out to the pub? Last year she was alone, well most of the time and much easier to entice.
Beautiful, smarter than everyone else, capable, he also knew she came from a moneyed, well connected family. What they could do together as a team. What he could do with her. To her.
All the other students at this university paled in comparison to Sherlock Holmes. When he stood next to her he felt electricity. He even liked her name-- it was not a person, it was more like a place, a destination. That's where Jim wanted to go.
Sherlock was taller than Jim and he liked that. He liked her posh clothes. He liked the way she spoke. He liked hearing the sound of her voice. He liked the way she looked imperiously down her nose at him. She was a challenge and he was, most certainly, up to the task.
Jim knew her weakness. He had inside information. Nothing kept her interest, nothing. But Jim knew what she really wanted, because Sherlock was just like him. She wanted novelty. Excitement. He heard that she had been working for the police at one time, that made him laugh. Sherlock?
Sherlock thought she was in control, but Jim knew he could break her. He just needed to bide his time and await his opportunity. He was patient. Always patient.
“It just so happens that I may have what you need.” He smiled a half smile and patted the chest pocket of his shirt.
Sherlock had about half of her drink done. “Just come with me,” he said, taking her hand and leading her into the back of the pub.
Sherlock looked around a bit nervously she didn’t see anyone who could rat her out--like Irene.
In a back room near the loos, that was more of a closet really, the staff kept boxes stacked. When the corridor was clear, Jim opened the door, turned on the dim light bulb and they went inside.
“Look what I have.” He held up a small baggie with fine white powder in the bottom.
“God Sherlock, where have you been all fucking year? He said, suddenly irritated. “I never see you anymore.” he got out a little mirror, a razor blade and a straw that he kept in his coat pocket. He started to cut the cocaine into little white lines, about 4 of them.
Sherlock kept her cool. She had seen Jim irritated plenty of times, it’s likely he’d done some cocaine before the pub. “I’ve been busy with school and since Archie died, Ivy has been laying low.”
“Oh yes, reputation to up hold now, is it?”
“Yeah, something like that. Did you bring me in here to chat?”
“You know Sherlock, you owe me.” He said quietly, thoughtfully, still cutting the cocaine, and musing dreamily.
Sherlock snorted, “I don’t owe you anything.”
He laughed and shook his head, “---and that’s just not true. I’m always trying to get you set up. Anything you want, anything.” He bowed as he presented the cocaine to her on a little mirror sitting atop a shorter stack of cardboard boxes. “Look how I get you anything you want, anything you need. All you need to do is just say the word.”
Sherlock eyed the cocaine. There was nothing in this world she wanted to do more than this drug, right now. It was an ache in every bone of her body. Her mouth was dry and her palms were wet, just thinking about it. There was no way to say no to this, not now.
“Leave some for me, mind.” He said.
She walked over to the stacked boxes and reached for the mirror. Holding it in her left hand, she took the small plastic straw from Jim. Sherlock wasn’t sure just how much cocaine Jim had. Likely he was holding some back for later. So she just did two of the 4 lines.
God how she loved cocaine. There was just nothing like it. Nothing. It burned in her nose, and she closed her eyes letting euphoria crash over her like an orgasm. She could feel her eyes watering a bit after the second line.
God how she missed this.
Smiling, she handed him the mirror and remembered what he said, ‘Just say the word.’
“What’s the word, then?” she asked.
Jim was quiet as he did his two lines and turned towards her, pinching his nose and sniffing.
“God that really clears the sinuses!” he then licked his little finger, wiped the mirror clean and put his finger back into his mouth with a tiny sucking noise.
He was quiet as he put the supplies back into his coat pocket. He took a step closer to her, standing directly in front of her, almost touching.
Sherlock was now leaning against the wall of the small room, not fully standing upright, so when he moved closer, they were almost the same height.
“The word..is..‘yes’.” He said leaning against the wall so that his lips were very close to hers.
“What?” She asked, not understanding, laughing a bit.
“’Yes’, that you’ll come back to my room and do the rest of it with me.” His words—full of meaning---hung in the air. As Sherlock was considering this offer, he looked her eyes, then her lips and leaned in and kissed her.
As astute as Sherlock was, she should have seen this one coming but, at the time, all she could think about was the cocaine.
Sherlock did not kiss him back, no matter, he moved his kisses down to her neck. She stood there, considering her options, her eyes closed in thought. Punch him and no more cocaine, move away and no more cocaine. She spent a minute listening to him murmuring into her neck, “Sherlock your skin is so soft, God, you are beautiful.” Sounding like a plea, “Come back with me, my roommates are gone, I have lots of cocaine. Lots.”
She put her two hands on both of his shoulders and pushed him off. “Ok.” she said.
Chapter 14: Tales From the Vermillion Border
As soon as Joan crossed the university lawn and got to the front of the pub, she saw Sherlock walking out with Jim Moriarty. “Oi! Sherlock!” she called.
Sherlock looked around confused. Joan came running up the pavement out of breath. She was thankful to have caught them.
“Are you leaving the pub so soon?” She said cheerfully. “I just got here. Thanks loads for waiting.” Joan laughed but Sherlock still looked confused, standing there, arms crossed in front of her.
“Yeah well, I was going to buy you a lemonade. Remember?” Joan smiled at her, ignoring Jim standing there.
This made Sherlock laugh out loud. She had no idea what Joan was on about. She was a hilarious person.
“You have got to be jokeing.” Jim interrupted, irritated. “Fine Sherlock, if you have something else to do and won’t let me in on it. You know where I am. If you need….” He said as he gave Sherlock a meaningful look and backed away down the pavement.
Sherlock stood on the pavement, considering. “Ok Jim, maybe I’ll see you later.” Sherlock gave Jim a wave. Still frowning, she and Joan went back into the pub. “Let me get you a pint.” said Joan, touching Sherlock on the shoulder.
“Sit, get a table—I’ll pay,” said Joan and she walked away.
Sherlock got a small table and sat. Joan turned to watch her and noticed that she was shaking her foot under the table and looked nervous. Sherlock never looked nervous for as long as Joan had know her. This was new.
“Listen Sherlock,” Joan got back with the pints and wanted to start right out of the gate--before chickening out again.
“It’s ok, Joan--really.” Sherlock grabbed the pint and swallowed about half of it. She then waved her hand as if to wave away the issue.
“No, no--let me finish, please. I’m sorry, I really am. I’ll admit, I was trying to get information, but only out of concern…and… and…care. I really was not trying to hurt your feelings or or…” Joan looked over at Sherlock, trying to see her eyes. “And I’m sorry I went to Irene. I should have just asked you.”
Sherlock looked at her with a frown. Joan got a better look at her now that they were under brighter lights. Sherlock had a slight sheen of sweat on her brow.
“Sherlock, are you ok?”
“Yes.” Sherlock nodded, speaking quickly. “Anyway most people know. It was just a matter of time before..before you…would have heard from someone…” she shrugged and shook her head sadly.
Joan touched her arm. “Hey,” she said smiling, “it’s ok, really. Look how great you are doing, right? You go to class, your marks are good, you are staying away from…from…well...” Joan wasn’t sure just what it was that Sherlock was staying away from, but she did not get any indication in the last few months that Sherlock had been indulging in anything but a pint or two here and there.
Sherlock did not comment.
Joan wanted somehow to make it up to her, cheer her up. “Hey--Want to get out of here? We could go get something to eat, Chinese? My treat. I missed dinner, anyway.”
“Weren’t you going out with David Van Kirk tonight? Sherlock asked.
“Yeah well, I won’t be any more.” Joan said, finishing off her pint, giving a rueful little laugh and rolling her eyes.
“Oh?” Sherlock could not hide her surprise.
“Yeah, well. I think he still has some feelings for his old girl-friend. It was weird.”
“Oh sorry.” Sherlock put her empty glass down.
“Nah, it’s ok, for the best. Chinese?” Joan, sounding almost cheerful, got down from the stool and Sherlock followed her out of the pub.
The night was getting colder. Joan was glad for her coat. Sherlock walked along with coat open and her scarf undone.
“Aren’t you cold? Joan asked.
“No, not really.” Sherlock smiled at her, kind of a goofy smile Joan had not seen before. Her roommate, will she ever truly get to know her? Just when she thinks she does, something else happens.
“Hey Joan, I’m not that hungry just now and I have a bit of a headache. Can we sit here, for a moment?” Sherlock asked, suddenly sitting down on a park bench along the path.
“Yeah sure.” Starting to get more and more suspicious, Joan asked, “Sherlock just how much did you have to drink tonight?”
They sat down on the park bench. Sherlock was holding her head in her hands and leaning forward. Joan thought maybe she was going to be sick right there on the pavement.
Although it was a weekend, there was no one else out, due to the unexpected cold snap.
Not directly answering the question, Sherlock said, “The cold air makes me feel so much better, thanks.” Then, “I don’t know-- two? Three?”
What time is it? Where is everybody? It sure is desolate out here. Joan thought as she moved closer to her roommate and put her arm around her shoulders, “Are you sure you’re ok?” Joan leaned down to see if she could see Sherlock’s face to gt a better assessment.
Sherlock looked up at her roommate. “Yeah honestly, I’m fine.” She said, smiling, again that goofy smile.
They were very close now. Sitting together on the bench, thighs touching. Joan’s right arm around Sherlock.
Sherlock raised her head and looked at Joan. Joan looked at her roommate, noticing that her lips were a bit pale and she reached up with her left hand to touch her, putting a finger right where her pale pink lips met the skin of her face. 'You're cold," Joan said, quietly, softly.
Sherlock cleared her throat, "Vermillion border." She said quietly.
"What?" Joan asked.
"Vermillion border--that's the juncture where the lip meets the adjacent skin of the face. You know-- the area of demarcation. You're going to have to know that if you want to be a doctor." Sherlock explained, almost whispering.
"Yeah of course, thanks." Joan responded.
They both paused and looked into each other’s eyes.
And Joan leaned in and kissed her roommate right on the lips. For a minute, time stopped and Joan was enjoying the thrill of her boldness and the softness and sweetness of her roommate’s lips when Sherlock suddenly pulled away and with a shocked look on her face, bolted upright and ran across the university lawn.
That was not what she intended. She shouted “Sherlock, wait!” and took off after her. Sherlock putting great distance between them with her long legs.
Moments of loveliness interrupted by panic. Joan decided to kiss Sherlock in a split second decision. She certainly was not sure in that fraction of time if Sherlock would reciprocate or not. She expected more words, maybe, knowing her roommate. Not a full blown panicked sprint across the university lawn.
Joan could not catch her, but not for lack of trying. She decided not to shout any more and was happy when she could see Sherlock open the residence hall door and go inside. Small mercies that she would not have had to chase her all over London. Because she would have.
Joan arrived at the residence hall, went in and finally got up to floor five. Still uncertain of the time, she noticed that the floor was quiet. Were people asleep?
She tentatively opened the room door and peeked in to look for Sherlock. She was sitting on Joan’s bed, still wearing her leather jacket, staring into the space in front of her.
“Sherlock?” Joan started to say tentatively. “Hey listen—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…” but she didn’t get to finish because Sherlock got up from the bed and closing the distance between them in two strides, put both of her hands on Joan’s shoulders and leaned down to kiss her.
Joan closed her eyes. She could feel Sherlock’s breath on her lips as she leaned in. Her heart was loud in her ears and the softness had her dizzy, but despite the positive turn of events, it was her turn to pull away. joan shook her head and looked at her roommate. “Why did you run?”
“I was thinking.”
“You can’t think sitting?”
Sherlock sighed and looked away, “I needed a minute.”
“Did you get your minute?”
“Are you ok?”
There was a knock at the door. They jumped apart.
“Bloody hell.” Sherlock jumped quite a bit more than Joan, and her face was even paler than it had been before.
“I’ll get it.” Joan offered and opened the door- that had not been locked--it was Molly. She was in a t shirt, track pants and slippers, looking like she was off to sleep soon. Joan and Sherlock still had coats on. Molly smiled at Joan. She peeked around the half-open door a bit and saw Sherlock on the far side of the room, arms crossed in front of her, not smiling, tapping her foot.
“Oh hi, am I interrupting something?” Molly asked, always timid.
“No, it’s fine.” Joan said. Molly frowned, “Um…Joan sorry, you left a note book in my room yesterday while we were studying. I didn’t want you to worry.” She smiled then and handed her the notebook.
Molly looked at her feet, “Ok ‘bye. Goodnight.” She turned and left.
Joan closed the door slowly and took the time to turn the lock. She stood in the middle of the room, and Sherlock took 2 large steps toward her and looking into her eyes, said earnestly, “The answer is ‘Yes’.”
“What was the question?” Joan put her hand over her eyes to think and laughed. This had been a very long night.
“God, Joan--to whatever you want.” Sherlock said seriously, her voice slightly strained, both of her hands back onto Joan's upper arms, holding her at length a bit to see her face.
Joan looked away briefly, suddenly nervous. “Oh. What if I’m not sure what I want?”
“That’s ok too, we can go slow and sort it later.” Joan thought Sherlock was being very generous with her. Considerate. Gentle.
“It might be hard-- this.” Joan waved her hand in between them, feeling a tiny ping of sadness.
"No doubt there. Dangerous, even." Sherlock added, smiling--her slow, warm voice gently teasing. Joan looked up at the tall, vibrant, gorgeous creature before her. Sherlock's cheeks were pinker now in the warmer room and she was flushed and smiling. Her unruly hair was over her face a bit and Joan reached up to move a strand of hair away to see her eyes.
"OK then-- here I am." Joan said and kissed her again.
Chapter 15: Insomnia
Sherlock Holmes could not sleep. Sherlock was running scenarios in her head- scenario after scenario, case after case. All the scenarios and every case was about Joan Watson.
Joan Watson. Tiny, blonde, perfect--- and laying in her arms. Joan’s blonde head was laying on her chest and Sherlock had her left arm around Joan’s shoulders.
Sherlock could see the moonlight slant through the room window onto Joan’s hair as she slept in Sherlock's arms. The kiss was a surprise and not unwelcome. The kiss sent a thousand joules to Sherlock’s toes. This development certainly complicates matters. The school year had not been on long and Joan had already been helpful to her. Sherlock did not have a great track record with roommates or friends. Last year it didn’t take long to drive Michelle away and Vicky---well.
Sherlock had liked Joan from the very start, but Joan had been dating David. Sherlock wondered if this could be a rebound of sorts or a temporary thing and felt a small stab of uncertainty. She was afraid to be happy--She reviewed what she knew of Joan---helpful, steady, kind-- but no fool.
Sherlock wasn’t worried about the investigation into the thefts. Not anymore. She was worried about Jim Moriarty.
Mycroft? Would not care-she would likely consider the responsible Joan as a minder of sorts. She tried to suppress a laugh so as not to wake Joan. Irene--who knew about Vicky, also would not care. Sally and Phillip—idiots. Molly—clueless. Her father—distant, removed and…Lestrade—can’t worry there.
Sherlock had more questions than she cared to contemplate. But she didn’t want to stop—this---just in case there was a chance, any chance that she could really have Joan. Caution was the word then---so she wrapped police caution tape around her heart-- ‘Crime scene-- do not cross’.
And in the middle of the night Joan woke up in her own bed—but there was something distinctly different. Cracking open two eyes, she was aware that she had fallen asleep without brushing her teeth. Always a disappointment.
The second thing was that she had fallen asleep in her coat. Well, that’d have to be remedied, she was hot now and uncomfortable.
But the third thing was the extra body. She realized that not only did she have her coat on, she was curled up around her roommate. Joan was laying on the side near the wall and had her head nestled on Sherlock’s chest, her arm tossed around the lower part of Sherlock’s ribcage. She looked up and could see that Sherlock was awake, the glint of her eyes sharp in the semi dark of the room.
Joan cleared her throat, “Sherlock?”
“I have to get up and go to the loo. Have you slept at all?”
“I don’t always sleep.” Sherlock said in a low whisper.
They disentangled themselves from each other. Joan got up, took her coat off and tried to find a t shirt and track pants for the trip down the corridor. Sherlock sat up too and took off her jacket.
“Why didn’t you wake me?-- you must’ve been hot and uncomfortable, laying there with your jacket on.”
“I was much too involved in running scenarios to notice. And you were asleep.”
Joan got up to go to the loo and didn’t ask further questions until she was back. “What scenarios?”
“Various. I’ve had a few hours.”
Sherlock had changed into a long t shirt. Again they tucked themselves back into Joan’s bed, much more comfortable now.
“Sherlock I need to ask you something..Was Vicky Trevor your girlfriend?”
“Oh.” And then, “I’m sorry.”
Sherlock was quiet.
“And Jim…was he..?”
“No, Jim means nothing to me. We were—are-- not friends.”
“Why do you hang out with him, then?”
“For the investigation.”
Joan did not completely believe her.
On Monday, Joan was crossing the university lawn, enroute to the library. The cold weather continued and it looked like the London winter would soon be upon them. Despite the cold, the sun was bright in the sky and Joan’ s mood was cheerful.
Half way to her destination, she heard her named called and turned to see a tall, slender, well-dressed young women quickly approaching her.
“Yes, hello.” She said as she paused on the pavement.
“I wonder if I can have a word?” the young woman approached her, slightly out of breath.
“I’m not sure, who are you?” Joan frowned, making sure there was a bit of distance between them.
“I’m so sorry, I got a bit ahead of myself. Hello, I’m Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s sister. Very nice to meet you.”
She extended her hand and smiled. Joan shook her hand.
“How can I help you, Mycroft?” Joan had not met Mycroft yet and could not help but be amazed that she had sorted her from all of the other students milling about.
“Oh well, you already have and I just wanted to give you my sincere thanks.”
Joan looked at her quizzically.
“Can I offer you a cup of tea?” Mycroft said cheerfully.
Joan sighed, her errand to the library interrupted. She looked up at Mycroft and saw a look a quiet desperation. She agreed.
The only place open right now that would be reliably uncrowded was a small coffee shop at the edge of the university, so they went there.
On the short walk there, Joan took a minute to compare the two sisters. Mycroft was very well dressed but did not look at all like Sherlock, and yet there was a similarity-more like a vibration or a tautness- that Joan could feel and yet not name.
They sat down and ordered. “Please don’t worry, my treat,” said Mycroft pleasantly, then hesitated. “I wonder if I should order a scone?” then, “No.”
Mycroft smiled, “Joan, I am truly sorry for accosting you in such a manner.” And there is the similarity, Joan thought. Not the smile, certainly-Sherlock rarely smiled-but a few mannerisms and the way of speaking. “But, I’m sure you can sort that I’d like to speak to you about my sister.”
Joan cleared her throat and looked at Mycroft. She took a sip of too hot tea and waited.
“Well yes—” Mycroft looked down with a wan smile into her cup—"I think you may already be aware…that my sister...is not like other uni students.”
Joan did not dare laugh. Even though she could have. Even though she was nervous.
“My sister—is---complicated and that’s putting it mildly. I can start at the beginning if you like, but we’d be here all day.” Mycroft took a sip of tea, then put her cup down.
Joan felt guilty for meeting Sherlock’s sister behind her back, even though this meeting was not her idea. Especially after she had hurt Sherlock’s feelings so recently. Joan didn’t want this conversation to get out of hand. She felt she needed to speak up immediately, “Mycroft, I don’t like talking behind Sherlock’s back”
“And there it is!!” Mycroft leaned forward as if to punctuate her sentence, “that’s why you are so good..for… my sister. You are brave and forthright.”
Joan just looked at her again, waiting. If Mycroft thought she could be manipulated by compliments, she was very wrong.
“Sherlock…um…the family…um, Sherlock’s mum is gone and her father and I are her only family, really, and well, her father is gone quite a bit and…Sorry, maybe we should start with how much you know.”
“Please just tell me.” This all seemed unnecessarily dramatic to Joan.
“Well…” Mycroft began, “Ok, you may be aware that Sherlock had gotten into considerable trouble last year here at the university.” Joan nodded. “And do you know to what extent?”
Joan nodded, ‘Yes, I think so.”
“And that the terms of her…umm…rehabilitation, after she was determined to be drug free, for a time, is that she checks in periodically with the MET, and that she has a probation office over there of sorts, named Lestrade.”
Mycroft sighed again, “Well, I negotiated most of the terms of this…arrangement, the best I could do, but because there had been a death…”
Joan nodded, worried now.
“I have been keeping a wary eye on her this year, as well,” Mycroft laughed a bit to herself, “but I can’t be everywhere. and sometimes, I must admit, I have lost more than a little sleep because of my sister.”
“Mycroft, she is actually working with the MET. I’ve seen it.” Joan stated.
Mycroft then gave a derisive laugh, “Well, that is all very charming, but I worry that is not enough to keep the demons at bay.”
“Maybe you need to have a little more faith in your sister.” Joan was done with her tea and wanted to be done with this interrogation.
Mycroft’s soft concerned look hardened a bit. “Miss Watson, remember please, that I have lived with Sherlock most of her life and for a 17 year old girl…”
“What?” Joan felt the need to interrupt just now.
“And maybe you don’t know everything, Miss Watson. Sherlock is only 17 years old.”
“So, she started uni at..?”
“16, right. Last year she was 16 years old.”
“Oh.” Joan had no answer for this new information. She just looked at the concerned young women sitting across from her.
Chapter 16: Confessions of the Prodigious
When Joan got back to the room, Sherlock was sitting again at the purloined microscope peering into the eyepieces. She cast only the merest glance in Joan’s direction.
“I just met someone you know.” Joan said as she closed the room door quietly and locked it.
“Who?-- friend, enemy… parole officer?” Sherlock was still speaking from the microscope.
“Yeah very funny-- your sister.” Joan said as she shrugged her coat off.
“Ah Mycroft, scaring children on the street now, I’ll wager. A bit too early for Halloween.”
This new information made Sherlock get up from her seat at the desk and in her signature two strides, stood directly in front of her roommate. Sherlock gracefully reached over and placed her two hands on each side of Joan’s waist. Sherlock’s steady gaze searched for additional information in Joan’s eyes.
“She seemed-- nice.” Joan said shyly smiling and looking down.
Sherlock tugged her roommate closer, “Yes, she has been known to smile, but don’t let that smile fool you, she’d eat your head in an instant, if she felt that you were no longer useful.” She said as she murmured kisses into Joan’s neck.
“Yeah—" Joan giggled, “Thanks for the warning.”
“Yeah, well—” Sherlock pulled back a bit, “--did you survive unscathed? You look well to me, but was there any psychological scarring?” she asked, looking into Joan’s eyes.
Joan looked up and smiled. It got quiet in the room. As Sherlock leaned forward to kiss Joan. Joan leaned into the kiss, forgetting the question and momentarily forgetting her meeting with Mycroft. Joan got lost in the soft, warm kiss. As Sherlock’s tongue found hers and moved slowly to caress her lips, she gave a small involuntary moan.
And then caught herself, “Oh!” she said suddenly pulling away, breathless, “Oh no-- wait Sherlock!” She said, holding her head.
But, Sherlock did not want to wait, “What? Why? Let’s move to the bed,” she took Joan’s hand in hers and led her over to the bottom bunk.
Sitting on the bottom bunk, Joan put her right hand onto her roommate’s shoulder. “Wait I-- I need to know-- are you 17 years old?”
“Bugger!! Mycroft-- always trying to ruin my fun.” Sherlock smiled.
“So, you are?” Joan insisted.
“Yes, I am.” Sherlock relented. “Maybe we can have this conversation at a different time.” she suggested, moving closer again, shoulders touching.
“No, we need to have it now, Sherlock.” Joan was serious.
“It doesn’t matter Joan, I’ll be 18 in January. You are 19. No matter.”
“But last year-- last year, you were 16.”
Sherlock sighed, she did not see the point of the inquiry and threw up her hands. But she realized that she was not going to get anywhere with Joan just now.
“But this is not last year! Ok, fine--what do you want to know? I’m an open book.” She held up her hands, palms up.
Joan laughed, she knew that was not true.
"Yes Joan, I left secondary school last year at 16 and came here, to university. I completed my studies. All the A levels. I had nothing more to do. I'm sure you've heard of other people doing the same."
"Yes Sherlock, yes-- I have heard of them." Joan was quiet, contemplating.
"Problem?" Sherlock looked at her with a furrowed brow.
"I just have never kissed one." Joan smiled.
Sherlock tried to change the subject, “Well, how’d I do?”
“You mean the kissing? Well, yeah..um..great really. That’s not in question. It--um, last year--you were 16 and—” Joan began.
“Oh.” Sherlock got it-- no words needed. Sherlock’s voice became very soft and dropped to a whisper. She threw herself backwards on the bed, tossing an arm over her eyes dramatically. “You’re asking about Vicky and the drugs and…”
Sherlock saw that Joan nodded as she was peeking out from under her arm.
“Ok well, yeah, Vicky and I were, sort of, well-- seeing each other, we were not roommates, I lived with Michelle. I met Vicky and Jim first term and we hung about quite a lot, not at all going to class, running about all over London, going to clubs. We were resolved to try every substance we could before the end of the year. Whatever we could manage to get ahold of, really.” Sherlock sat up now, voice lower, head down.
She cleared her throat. “So, what happened that night, was a speedball. We had done it previously, but snorted it. That time it was injected, so…but-- we—I-- had misjudged…and…well---”
Sherlock looked up, “Joan, you have no idea.”
“Well right-- I don’t.” Joan stood and stepped away from the bunk bed toward the center of the room.
“But, I promise I-- I am done with all that, now.” Sherlock stood up and followed her, standing in front of her, eyes pleading, “You have to believe me.”
“What about Jim? Sherlock, it really looks like he is after you. What could he possibly want? Oh Sherlock-- have you slept with him?”
“What?! No. He’s-- I’m-- I’m not interested…in boys” Sherlock trailed off, quietly.
Joan’s hand was again back up on her forehead, she had a headache. “You know I want to be a doctor, someday, so…”
“…Oh, diseases? Oh, I’m clean, um both ways. No drugs, no diseases. I get tested regularly.” Sherlock said sullenly.
By this time, Sherlock's elevated mood had disappeared.
Joan took a step toward Sherlock, reaching for Sherlock’s left wrist with her right hand as she moved closer.
Joan looked right up into Sherlock’s eyes and looked at her beautiful, sad face. She hoped to let her know that she was really ok with trying, but her patience had its limits. Joan was not the saint everyone said she was and there was only so much chaos she would accept. “Sorry Sherlock, but this stuffs really important and if we are going to do this—thing we’re doing, well, we have to be forthright and on the same page, really. Because otherwise--- I can’t, I just can’t…” Joan shook her head.
“Yeah, ok.” It seemed as though Sherlock understood, but only time would tell.
Joan took another step closer to her roommate. Putting her left hand on Sherlock’s waist, she leaned in a bit so her stomach brushed up against Sherlock’s. “OK, now kiss me.”