Sherlock was convinced this was the most boring day of her life.
She’d been systematically checking her phone every 15 minutes in case Lestrade decided to be interesting for once in his life. No luck. She also had a half-hearted experiment going with some ears Molly had found her from the morgue, but so far the results were proving to be horrifically dull and disappointing. And to top it all off, all this would have been bearable had Joan not been at the clinic all day. Sherlock did not see how it was fair that Joan would just cruelly abandon her when she was in desperate need of entertainment. It was unacceptable.
Sherlock was sulking on the sofa when Joan finally trudged up the stairs to their flat, and had only been vaguely aware of Joan’s greeting. She was in her mind palace trying to organise her thoughts on a case they had solved last week so that she could type it up tomorrow. Joan disappeared into her room and left Sherlock to contemplate how she was going to spend the evening of this monumental failure of a day.
A few weeks ago when Sherlock was having a Bad Day, Joan had shuffled her legs out of the way of the sofa and sat beside her. She’d called in for takeaway and they’d had a James Bond marathon. The films weren’t particularly to Sherlock’s taste, but she knew Joan loved them and therefore tolerated them with minimal complaining. She loved the domesticity of it, how they laughed and discussed the story as it went on, scoffing at the particularly unrealistic scenes together. Sherlock had gone to her room feeling so warm and content that night, and wondered if Joan would be up for a repeat of it today. She hoped so.
Spending the evening with Joan was the only thing that would make up for the absolute mind-numbing boredom of her day so far. Maybe John would even be happy that she had asked to do something together, maybe her eyes would go soft and she would smile in the way that she does that makes Sherlock feel incandescent with happiness just from knowing that she has made Joan happy, has done something right. Sherlock was already feeling better just from the thought of it. It was stupid that Joan could provoke such a reaction out of her. That the idea of breathing the same air as Joan for a few hours was enough to brighten her entire day, but it was true.
Sherlock had liked straight women before, from what she could gather it was a fairly common experience for lesbians. But not until Joan Watson had she ever been so utterly in love with a straight woman that she couldn’t sleep at night through the force of her yearning and the pain that came from the idea that she would never be loved back, would never even be considered an option. It was agonising.
Joan had no idea how perfect she really was, and Sherlock was just about driven mad with it. She would wear her ridiculous jumpers and her denim jeans, and tuck strands of her short blonde hair behind her ear whilst she typed painfully slowly on her laptop, totally unaware of the fact that even the simple things she did made Sherlock love her more than she ever thought possible.
As was usually the case, Sherlock lost track of the time that she had spent thinking about Joan. She was contemplating the miracle that was Joan Watson until her reverie was cut short by the sound of the woman herself coming down the stairs.
She would just ask her about tonight. It was a totally normal thing for one flat mate to platonically suggest to another flatmate. Although it was a completely unsuspicious request, and she was only asking to do something they’d done many times, Sherlock had thought about it so much that it seemed now as though she may as well be outright declaring her feelings. She stood up, faced the door and braved herself.
‘Joan, I was wondering if you’d—’
Sherlock’s mouth shut abruptly and she stopped dead in her tracks.
Joan was dolled up in a way that was very unusual for her. She was wearing a lot more makeup than was customary – she usually only wore a bit of mascara and lip balm (her lips got incredibly dry). She was now wearing foundation, lipstick and quite a bit of eye makeup. Her hair hung tousled around her face in an ‘effortless’ style that had probably taken Joan a significant amount of time to perfect with her straighteners. Her outfit too, was unlike Joan. She was wearing a tight fitting black dress that went to just above her knee, but showcased her ample cleavage and accentuated every curve of her body. She looked beautiful, of course she did, and Sherlock was momentarily stunned.
She must be going out to meet someone. Oh.
Joan’s dating had become more and more sporadic since she first moved in with Sherlock, and in the last few months she had been on none at all, something that Sherlock had been intensely thankful for. But here she was, not only dressed for a date but dressed up in a way that Sherlock was sure she had never seen her before. Therefore there must be something about this date that was special, or rather, something special about whoever she was meeting. Sherlock was now in full deduction mode and Joan had begun to fidget and look nervous.
‘I’m, uh, going out.’ She said, refusing to meet Sherlock’s penetrating gaze.
Sherlock immediately began thinking that her unabashed staring had made Joan feel insecure, which was unacceptable. Sherlock could hardly stop herself from blurting out, ‘You look wonderful.’ and then immediately blushing and regretting it.
Wonderful, what an understatement, what an insult to the goddess that was Joan Watson, who was radiant at this moment and always.
‘Thank you.’ Joan looked up quickly and then averted her eyes again, blushing too.
There was something off here; this overt nervousness was unlike Joan’s usual manner around Sherlock. Never were they so on edge with each other. Although the tension between them could often reach unbearable heights, this seemed an altogether different type of tension. She didn’t like it. It seemed as though Joan was keeping something from her and she needed to know what it was. She was speaking before she had even processed that she was about to.
‘You’re nervous. You’ve got a date tonight but there’s something special about it. You’ve got all done up to an extent that you never usually do when meeting one of your insipid boyfriends, and your unease around me suggests that there’s something about him that you don’t want me to know, possibly tha-’
Sherlock stopped her monologue abruptly.
‘Her. You said there’s something about him I don’t want you to know, but it’s not a him, it’s a her.’ Joan said defiantly, lifting her chin in the air a little as she always did when she sensed that confrontation was forthcoming.
Sherlock was sure she had misheard. She was also suddenly having trouble breathing.
‘You mean you’re not going on a date? You’re just meeting a friend?’ Sherlock asked,
bemused. Joan couldn’t possibly mean what it had sounded like.
‘What? Sherlock, no. I’m going on a date, with a woman.’ Joan said, a trace of confidence now apparent, although it was clear that she was still uncomfortable.
Sherlock felt as though she’d just been slapped across the face. There was a painfully awkward silence while Sherlock tried to gain control of her own emotions enough to answer.
‘But you’re not… like that. You don’t like…that.'
After a short pause, Joan said softly, ‘I am, I do.’
Sherlock didn’t know whether to be relieved or distraught. All this time she had been lamenting the fact that Joan would never consider her romantically, but now it seemed clear that she had considered it and decided that it was not a preferable option. She decided that was infinitely worse.
There was a woman. Someone who wasn’t Sherlock. Someone who Joan valued highly enough to make an effort for in a way that she never had for her dates with men. This date was therefore important to Joan; she was really hoping it would go well. Was Joan hoping for sex? Even with Sherlock’s limited understanding of dating she was aware that sex at the end of a date was a positive sign for the compatibility of the couple, wasn’t it? Was this their first date? Sherlock was pretty sure it was, she would have surely noticed if Joan had a girlfriend. But then again she hadn’t noticed that Joan was bisexual. That’s because she’s never shown any form of attraction to me, Sherlock thought miserably.
Usually Sherlock would put up a fight to try and get Joan to give her dates up before she went on them. It wasn’t unheard of for Sherlock to literally follow Joan to a date so that she could request Joan’s immediate assistance on some ‘urgent’ business that Sherlock would sometimes even make up on her way there to get Joan to leave. This had naturally caused her to be hated by the majority of Joan’s past boyfriends.
On one memorable occasion, Sherlock had arrived at a restaurant to claim Joan back from an undeserving man who she’d already rescued her from a week before, and it did not go well at all.
‘Why are you so obsessed with her? Are you a fucking dyke?’ He had asked Sherlock, his voice brash and sneering.
Sherlock was usually always ready with a scathing comeback, but he had hit uncomfortably close to home and exposed what Sherlock had always endeavoured to keep from Joan at all costs, she found herself unable to form a coherent reply.
She had begun to stutter her way through some pathetic denial, when Joan had saved her, her voice harsher than Sherlock had ever heard it.
‘Better a fucking dyke than a self-obsessed moron. Come on Sherlock, we’re leaving.’ She said, all the time glaring at the man across the table with a cold stare that had commanded the obedience of many soldiers in Afghanistan. She stood up, put her hand on Sherlock’s lower back in a gesture that felt oddly protective, and turned back to him.
‘Don’t even think about calling me.’
Sherlock had been so in love that night that her heart had felt full to bursting.
But right now, Sherlock just didn’t have the will to try to prevent Joan from going on this date. She felt hollow, but at the same time insanely jealous. She was trying not to picture Joan out with another woman; laughing with another woman, kissing another woman… it was too much. She wanted to cry.
At the same time though, this clearly meant a lot to Joan. What if she was in love with this mystery woman? Sherlock didn’t think she could bear the thought of interfering with Joan’s happiness. Especially if that happiness involved her being with the woman she loved. Sherlock knew too well how painful it could be to not be allowed that. She would not stand in the way of Joan’s happiness, she could not. But that didn’t mean she didn’t want to.
‘Who is she?’ She finally asked, needing to know that at least.
‘A woman I met at work last week, she’s filling in for someone who’s left on maternity. She’s called Eleanor.’ Joan answered awkwardly.
Does she make you laugh? Is she beautiful? Do you love her? Will you leave me?
None of the questions Sherlock really wanted to ask seemed at all appropriate.
* * *
Joan felt like an idiot as she stood in front of Sherlock. She shouldn’t have put so much effort into getting ready, then Sherlock wouldn’t have been suspicious.
She could hardly blame herself though. Tonight was her first date with a woman since her army days, and she wouldn’t have known how to cope if it had gone just as horrifically as her other dates post-Afghanistan. Though she did realise that the reason those relationships failed was not entirely her own fault, she couldn’t really blame Sherlock either. If Joan hadn’t reacted to Sherlock’s interference in her love life with only mild exasperation (and sometimes relief) she was sure Sherlock would have eventually got the message and left her alone.
She’d eventually just stopped dating altogether; it was hardly worth the effort. Especially as Joan wanted the attention of Sherlock before she wanted anything from anybody else, meaning she was well and truly fucked on the relationship front whenever she was offered the ultimatum, explicitly or not, ‘it’s either me or her.’
It was always her.
Joan had been infatuated with Sherlock from the day they met, and it was blatantly obvious to everyone, including Sherlock. Joan will never recover from the mortification of Sherlock trying to simultaneously reject her and spare her feelings on that first night at Angelo’s. She had made it clear that she was not interested and Joan had tried her hardest to respect that.
It was just that Sherlock was so brilliant it was difficult not to fall head over heels in love, and she was surprised more people hadn’t done the same. Sherlock’s mind was like nothing Joan had ever encountered; she was fiercely intelligent but also startlingly compassionate. Sherlock thought Joan was fooled by the harsh front that she presented to the world, but Joan knew Sherlock better than she realised. There was also the fact that Sherlock was breathtakingly gorgeous. More than once Joan had to guiltily spend some quality time alone in her room after Sherlock had emerged from her bedroom in nothing but her bed sheet, her hair wild from sleep in a way that looked suggestive of other bedroom activities.
The issue was that her unrequited feelings for Sherlock had grown to such an extent that it was impacting their lives together, which just couldn’t happen. Joan found herself getting too comfortable with touching Sherlock and showing her affection more and more openly as the days went on in a way that was bound to make Sherlock uncomfortable.
Joan’s reasoning was that if she had a girlfriend, she could channel all her pent up sexual frustrations into her sex life and not into lusting after a woman who wasn’t interested. And not just sexual frustrations, but romantic ones too. She wanted to hold and caress and adore, and maybe if she concentrated all her energy hard enough she could want to do those things with someone who wasn’t Sherlock, and her relationship with Sherlock could continue as it always had.
That’s why when the temporary replacement doctor with the pretty smile had seemed to take an interest, Joan jumped at the opportunity to ask her out. This date had to go well, the future of Joan and Sherlock depended on it.
Despite her good intentions, standing in front of Sherlock before she left the flat had felt like she was keeping some sort of dirty secret. Joan was not ashamed about her sexuality at all, and did not think for a minute that Sherlock was a bigot or would think any less of her on the basis of her liking women.
What worried Joan was the thought that if Sherlock knew Joan was bisexual; the deduction that she had extremely strong feelings for Sherlock must surely follow. Joan was surprised Sherlock had not reached that conclusion yet when everything Joan did was done with Sherlock or because of Sherlock. She had shown her hand many times on cases by risking her life for Sherlock, which was proof enough that she felt something much stronger than friendship. But Sherlock doesn’t seem to think so. Maybe the possibility was too awful for her to contemplate.
It would be just Joan’s luck to fall for the most untouchable woman in England.
* * *
When Joan had finally left, Sherlock had watched her go from the living room window, feeling uncomfortable with the force of the emotions that were running through her. So much for her movie night.
She heard Mrs Hudson’s step on the stairs, and soon enough she was poking her head through the door to the flat.
‘Ooh, Sherlock did you see Joan? Didn’t she look absolutely lovely? Well, I’m sure you noticed how nice she looked, of course you did.’
Sherlock couldn’t tell if Mrs Hudson was referring to her deductive abilities or to her feelings for her flatmate, but she blushed anyway. Knowing Mrs Hudson, she was completely aware of Sherlock’s infatuation and had been since the day Joan moved in.
‘That’s some lucky man she’s going to see tonight, I’ve got to say.’
Sherlock could take no more. She started to head to the bathroom just for an excuse to escape.
‘It’s a woman.’ Sherlock muttered through gritted teeth before shutting the door firmly behind her.
* * *
Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, head in hands, Sherlock tried to fight back the tears that were already overflowing in her eyes. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Mycroft always said that sentiment was a chemical defect found on the losing side, but then she had never listened to her big brother if she could help it.
She knew that it wasn't fair to be upset about it, she didn't own Joan. Joan was free to do what she liked, including going out at night with women who weren't Sherlock.
When Sherlock raised her eyes to the mirror, the dejection she felt was amplified. She looked at her own unnerving eyes, cheekbones that somehow looked out of place on her face and the wild untameable mess of her hair. At least she wasn't as skeletal as she had been before she first met Joan, she'd gained quite a bit of weight now she was eating semi-properly, but she didn't have the gorgeous figure that Joan had. They weren't even remotely in the same league. It was ridiculous for her to be upset that Joan had no interest in Sherlock, to expect anything else would be utterly ludicrous.
She lifted her head high and willed herself to come to terms with the situation; Joan’s feelings always came first, regardless of Sherlock’s opinion on the matter.
* * *
After torturing her violin for a few hours Sherlock decided she ought to go to sleep. It wouldn’t do for Joan to walk in on her while she was pouring her heart out through its strings. From now on she would have to be especially careful about keeping her feelings for Joan a secret if she had a girlfriend.
Unsurprisingly, once in bed Sherlock couldn’t sleep. Joan was still out on her date and it was getting late. Sherlock tried not to contemplate the idea that she was spending the night out at Eleanor’s place, and could be snuggled in the arms of another woman right that very second. Sherlock berated herself for the use of the phrase another woman. She was thinking of Eleanor as though she was a woman that Joan had cheated on her with, when of course Joan owed no loyalty to Sherlock whatsoever.
She was too restless to sit still, and was sick of turning over and over in bed. Soon she was up again, pacing the living room, hardly aware of what her feet were doing as her thoughts were elsewhere. The sound of Joan’s key in the door made her stop in her tracks.
Thankfully, only one set of feet began to mount the stairs. Sherlock was in no way prepared to meet Joan’s date and possible girlfriend. It dawned on her after Joan stepped through the door that it looked a bit odd to be stood in the middle of the living room at this hour when they didn’t even have a case, and therefore no conceivable reason for Sherlock to still be awake.
‘Oh. Hi Sherlock. I was wondering if you’d still be up.’ Joan said as she stepped fully into the flat and kicked off her heels. They’d clearly been painful on her feet and had caused them to swell a little, but Joan had worn them anyway, meaning that she was feeling insecure about her height. Eleanor must be tall then, tall enough that Joan was convinced that wearing heels (despite the fact she hates them) would increase her chances.
Sherlock could deduce loads of pointless things about Joan’s date that were of no significance at all. She knew what cinema they’d gone to, what they’d had to eat afterwards, and which pub they’d impulsively decided on going to once their meal was finished. This didn’t tell Sherlock whether or not Joan had enjoyed herself, or if she’d be doing it again anytime soon. The fact that they went to an additional pub when the date was due to be over surely showed that they were reluctant to bring the night to an end, didn’t it? She thought the best way to find out was just to ask.
‘Did you have a good time?’
Joan’s mouth curved into a half-smile. ‘You never ask me about my dates. Why start now?’
That was true enough, Sherlock usually didn’t ask because she could deduce the answer most of the time anyway, and although society dictates that she should ask just to look interested, most of the time Sherlock just didn’t want to hear Joan rave about some moron who she was always far too good for. In this instance however, Sherlock needed to know so that she could prepare herself for whatever was to come.
‘It went fine. She was nice.’ Joan offered with a shrug when Sherlock took too long to reply.
Sherlock couldn’t tell whether she sounded apathetic because the date was mediocre, or whether this was just Joan’s difficulty with talking about personal things making it hard for her to express how she really felt.
She looked gorgeous, her cheeks were flushed (presumably from the wine she had been drinking) and she looked generally less put together than she had when she left. Her lipstick was gone and a few strands of her hair were out of place, Sherlock tried not to think of why that may have been. Sherlock wanted nothing more than to touch her and be touched by her, to take her into her arms and beg that she never leave her for anyone, beg for the chance to be allowed to love her, just once, so that she could prove that she would do it better than anybody else.
She remained silent.
Joan gave her an expectant look; she seemed to think Sherlock was going to say something important. After another pregnant pause, Joan sighed softly and looked disappointed. She turned to walk up to her room for the night and had made it halfway up the stairs when Sherlock ran after her.
‘Joan!’ She called from the landing.
Joan stopped and turned her head slightly to regard Sherlock, but didn’t turn around fully.
Sherlock felt the words building in her throat, and knew she had to say something, but her courage failed her yet again on what she really wanted to confess. All she could think of to ask was the question she knew she’d be up all night torturing herself over if she didn’t.
‘Will you see her again?’ She asked, her voice sounding wrecked even to her. She imagined how she must look to Joan. Small and vulnerable, stood below her, her eyes silently pleading for the answer that she knew she had no right to expect.
Joan looked at her long and hard. She murmured, ‘Goodnight Sherlock,’ and walked the rest of the way up to her room without glancing back at the woman who stood crestfallen at the bottom of the steps.
* * *
Joan was completely baffled. Sherlock had been acting so strange these last few days, beginning with the night of her date with Eleanor.
The first surprise had been when she had arrived home to see Sherlock looking totally wired and pacing the living room. She had acted so weird, asking after Joan’s date and then going completely mute and just staring at Joan intensely. She seemed off, as though her mind was somewhere else. Joan had tentatively begun to think that maybe Sherlock was building up to something. She certainly looked as though she was holding herself back. Joan was all anticipation, but after a moment of silence that stretched on just a tad too long Joan realised that she was being ridiculous. Sherlock was on edge because she was probably upset that Joan had spent the whole night on a date rather than staying in to be an audience to her genius.
She’d never liked Joan going on dates. She’d never reacted quite like this before, but this heightened awkwardness was probably just because she was still adjusting to the idea of Joan’s sexuality. Sherlock was not building up to some grand confession, and she certainly was not jealous. Not in a romantic sense anyway. Joan berated herself for even entertaining the idea, however briefly. Feeling dejected, she decided to turn in.
Sherlock coming after her was the second surprise. Joan had felt an ache in her heart to see Sherlock look so distressed and full of emotion, something she usually tried to hide. But she had tried to harden her heart; she would never get over Sherlock if she continued to give in to her. She couldn’t agree not to see Eleanor again just because Sherlock wanted her constant attention, however much she wholeheartedly wanted to give her it. That defeated the point of her going on the date with Eleanor in the first place.
Despite this, Joan couldn’t bring herself to directly say that yes, she would be seeing her again; she couldn’t bear the thought of making Sherlock suffer any more than she already was. Although Joan did admittedly get a feeling of satisfaction in leaving Sherlock’s question unanswered. How often had Sherlock done the exact same thing to her? This time Joan got to be mysterious, and if she was being truthful, the idea of leaving Sherlock in jealous suspense gave Joan a sort of thrill, even if the jealousy was only of Joan spending her free time with somebody else.
In regards to Joan’s actual date, she had no real complaints. Eleanor was nice enough and she clearly liked Joan a lot. She’d picked the film they’d gone to see, which was a bland Hollywood romance. Joan couldn’t help feeling the irony of taking the woman she was attempting to seduce out on a date to be subjected to 2 hours of heterosexuality. Eleanor didn’t seem to see it though, and fidgeted next to Joan until she eventually got the hint and put her arm around her.
They’d gone for a meal in quite a fancy restaurant afterwards and Joan had asked Eleanor all about herself. They’d talked amicably, but there was no spark between them. Joan craved the intensity of emotion and the exaggeration of all her senses that she felt when she was with Sherlock, and the way their conversations would just flow so seamlessly, their playful bickering which was almost flirtatious making Joan feel warm and at home whilst also starting a fierce longing in her for more.
But Joan was aware that she was unlikely to ever find what she had with Sherlock in anyone else. They had the type of chemistry that, prior to meeting Sherlock, she had never even believed existed outside of books. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing and Joan was not seeking to replicate it.
Once Joan had heard about Eleanor’s family and they’d discussed work for a while, Eleanor began to ask Joan questions about her life. Joan talked about the cases with Sherlock and her blog.
‘She’s a consulting detective?’ Eleanor repeated doubtfully, ‘is she any good?’
‘The best.’ Joan blurted without thinking, ‘she’s a better detective than the ones at the Met and she can tell everything about a person just by looking at them. She’s amazing.’
‘And you live together?’ Eleanor now gave her a suspicious look, ‘is there something between the two of you?’
‘Ah. No.’ Joan swallowed awkwardly; she could be so transparent when it came to Sherlock. ‘She doesn’t do relationships. She’s not the type.’
Eleanor didn’t look totally satisfied with that, as though she would have preferred Joan’s face to have crumpled with revulsion at the very thought, and for her to have violently denied having any feelings towards Sherlock that were not strictly platonic. Joan just couldn’t bring herself to do that, and luckily Eleanor seemed to recover pretty quickly.
They’d ended up in a pub not far from where Eleanor lived, and at the end of the night Joan had accepted the kiss Eleanor offered, but pushed her gently away when she tried to deepen it. They’d parted with a promise to get in touch and Joan had got a taxi home to Sherlock, who had been acting odd ever since.
She seemed incapable of keeping eye contact with Joan for longer than a few moments and was short with her whenever she tried to make conversation. She was also clearly attempting to avoid Joan altogether. Where before they would often spend their nights together, either chatting and joking or just sharing companionable silence, now Sherlock would head straight off to her room, leaving Joan by herself.
Joan started to get the impression that Sherlock was pissed off with her, which wasn’t fair as she couldn’t see what she’d done wrong. Was it really just that Sherlock was annoyed about Eleanor? Did she feel like Eleanor was going to be somehow detrimental to their relationship? This was the only solution Joan could think of, but Sherlock was not acting possessive and jealous, she was just distancing herself from Joan, like she didn’t want to be around her. She wasn’t being unkind either, no more than her usual abrasiveness, but Joan could tell there was something wrong.
She couldn’t help getting angry when she thought about it. Sherlock, who had rejected Joan and was not interested in her at all, had the audacity to sulk over Joan trying to move on. It was bad enough that Joan was sure she would never fully get over Sherlock. Even if she moved out and got married to Eleanor, her love for Sherlock was irrevocable. Sherlock should let her have this one thing without protest, for the sake of her sanity.
It had been 5 days now, enough time to try and make another date with Eleanor and not look too clingy. She was lying in her room, sending her a text asking if she was free to go out tonight when Sherlock burst through the door with that familiar gleam in her beautiful eyes.
‘A case, Joan! Sounds like it could be at least an 8!’ She said, sounding jubilant. At Joan’s confused expression, she added, ‘Come on! You’re wasting time!’ and ran back down the stairs.
Joan pulled her coat on and was out the door without another thought to Eleanor.
* * *
The case had turned out to be surprisingly easy to solve, by Sherlock’s standards. They were out for about 6 hours, one of which was spent in a stakeout. Then there was a chase, which ended up with Joan pinning down the suspect while Sherlock phoned Lestrade, both of them glowing with the thrill of the chase. They both got immense satisfaction out of apprehending a suspect. Solving a case with the culprit behind bars was tangible evidence that they were made to be a team, that they were their best when they were together.
It was in this mood of triumph that they made their way back to 221B. Sherlock looked particularly gorgeous, her face illuminated by happiness and her hair in wild disarray due to all the running she had done. She seemed to have forgotten she was trying to keep Joan at arm’s length and was instead talking animatedly about the case with her, just as she always did. Joan offered her usual praises, amazing, fantastic, brilliant, knowing that Sherlock deserved all those words and more.
They ran up the stairs together, giddy with their joint success, and Sherlock was just about to offer to crack open the bottle of wine that Joan had bought last week, when Joan’s phone pinged.
She pulled it out of her jacket pocket and smiled tightly. She wrote off a quick reply and put her phone away again.
‘That was Eleanor. She wants to meet for dinner.’ She explained to Sherlock, although she knew Sherlock had probably deduced it anyway.
‘You’re going out with her? Now?!’ Sherlock asked, incredulous.
She had been trying not to let her jealously show, which had proved impossible. Whenever she was in the same room as Joan she was in agony over the thought of her with Eleanor, so she had tried to subtly spend less time with her so that it wouldn’t seem so obvious to Joan that Sherlock was so affected by her new relationship.
However, she had forgotten herself during the case, and Joan leaving her now, when this was usually the time when they were the most open and unreserved with each other, was a harsher rejection than Sherlock could cope with.
‘I was going to yeah.’ Joan replied, immediately going on the defensive.
Sherlock’s heart sank. This is how it would be from now on, Joan would still come on cases because she craved the adrenaline, but the post-case celebrations and intimacy that had became as important to Sherlock as the cases themselves would have to come to an end. Her bitterness must have shown on her face because suddenly Joan was angry.
‘I honestly don’t understand you.’ Joan said, her voice dangerously calm. ‘You don’t want to be with me but you won’t let me be with anybody else.’
‘I haven’t stopped you from doing anything!’ Sherlock cried in self-defence. She had been trying her hardest to be happy for Joan, it wasn’t her fault if she had failed to be convincing.
‘No Sherlock, but I know you and can tell when something’s wrong. You’ve hardly looked at me since Friday night. I can’t live like this!’
‘So you’re moving out now?’ Sherlock asked in genuine panic disguised as bravado.
‘No, of course not! But you can’t just ignore me, Sherlock. Why are you so upset about this? We’ll still live together, you’ll still be my best friend and I’ll still help on cases, despite my relationship with Eleanor. She’s no threat to you.’
‘I’m not threatened by her!’ Sherlock lied, her voice gone high and distressed. Listening to Joan reiterate that romantic feelings played no part in their relationship was like a punch to the gut and harder than Sherlock could’ve imagined.
She was also astounded by how gravely Joan had misunderstood her. She genuinely thought that Sherlock didn’t want to be with her, that she was only being a weirdly possessive friend that couldn’t cope when Joan spent her time with other people. The thought that Joan believed Sherlock was petty enough to be upset over that was mortifying and Sherlock resolved to tell her the truth.
Joan’s mounting frustration was obvious. ‘Well, what is it then? If you’re not worried that this will ruin our friendship then what Sherlock? Why are you acting so strange around me?’
‘Because I love you!’ Sherlock shouted back.
Her words seemed to echo in the awful, deafening silence that followed. She was torn between wanting the ground to open up and swallow her whole and feeling relieved that her secret was finally out in the open. There was obviously a huge chance that she would lose Joan forever, which was terrifying, but Joan was not heartless and Sherlock hoped that she would allow them to continue their friendship regardless of her feelings. It would be awful, but at least she wouldn’t have to pretend anymore.
Joan was looking at Sherlock as though she’d never seen her before.
‘What?’ She breathed, stuck between puzzlement and awe.
‘I love you, Joan. I have loved you for years.’ Sherlock whispered. If she was going to know it she may as well know it all.
Sherlock stared at the floor, dreading Joan’s response and not daring to look at her face. There was a knot in her throat and a pressure on her chest that was making her breaths come sharp, and she willed herself not to cry in front of Joan.
‘Sherlock.’ Joan said, her voice breaking. Sherlock’s head whipped up to find Joan stepping towards her with tears streaming down her cheeks. She was grabbed and pulled close to Joan’s body in a warm hug, Joan’s arms circling her and holding her tight. Sherlock tried to release some of the tension from her body, and lifted her on arms around Joan’s shoulders.
‘Why did you never say anything, you silly, silly woman.’ Joan murmured into the warm skin of Sherlock’s neck, making her shiver. Sherlock could feel Joan’s tears wet on her skin and revelled in the intimacy of it and of holding Joan this close.
Joan snuffled into her neck and began to nuzzle it gently. Sherlock gasped and bent her face down to look at Joan. Joan surged forward and then they were kissing.
It started out soft, Joan brushing Sherlock’s lips with hers as though waiting to see her response. Then Sherlock pressed her lips and her body into Joan firmly, which made Joan moan and place her hands on Sherlock’s lower back to ensure that her whole body remained aligned with Sherlock’s. Then the kissing began in earnest. Joan devoured Sherlock’s mouth with all the pent up frustration she had felt for the past few years, practically bending Sherlock backwards with the force of her desire. Sherlock endeavoured to give as good as she got, entwining their tongues and running her hands up into Joan’s hair, all the while making soft noises and trying not to be overwhelmed by sentiment.
Joan was very aware of the fact that Sherlock had made herself vulnerable by putting her feelings on the line, and Joan had not yet said that she felt the same, so she tried to convey this through her kisses instead. She broke apart from Sherlock’s warm, sweet, perfect mouth, which tried to follow her lips, and began to kiss all over Sherlock’s face instead. She could hardly prevent herself, her adoration was unstoppable. She kissed her nose, her brow, her eyelids, her cheeks - which were damp from the emotion Sherlock had given up trying to control.
‘You’re so beautiful. I love you, I love you, I love you.’ Joan said in between soft, tender kisses to Sherlock’s skin.
Sherlock blushed furiously; she could hardly believe this was happening to her and not the stuff of one of her more melancholy fantasies. She blinked the tears that were forming out of her eyes and smiled, feeling completely cherished with Joan’s kisses raining down all over her face and neck.
‘Maybe we should move this to the bedroom?’ Joan asked, almost nervously. ‘I mean, only if you want to, of course. We don’t have to-’
‘Yes.’ Sherlock interrupted eagerly, ‘Please.’
So they made their way into Sherlock’s bedroom, unable to keep their hands off each other.
Sherlock began to look nervous as they got onto the bed, and tensed slightly underneath Joan’s body.
‘Hey, are you alright?’
‘Yes.’ She averted her eyes. ‘It’s just, I’ve never done this before.’
Joan frowned slightly. ‘You mean with a woman?’
‘No, just in general. I’ve never wanted to be with men and it’s so much more complicated to find someone when you’re gay. It never seemed worth the hassle when I was young, and I never liked someone enough to really want to do anything like this with them. Then later the work just took priority and it didn’t seem important.’ Sherlock looked ashamed as she said this, blurting it out all at once as though she was trying to justify herself by making excuses. Joan hated the thought of Sherlock doubting herself and feeling as though she owed anyone an explanation for not having a sex life.
‘Oh, darling. It’s all fine. I’ve got you.’ She replied sincerely, leaning down to capture Sherlock’s lips with her own. Sherlock reacted enthusiastically, and soon Joan had a hand underneath Sherlock’s shirt, fondling one of her breasts.
Sherlock sat up to pull her shirt away, and motioned to Joan to do the same. Joan thought she may as well just go for it, and took her bra off as well.
Sherlock couldn’t help but catch her breath at the sight. She stared at Joan in awe. Joan’s breasts were full and perfect. Sherlock had been obsessed with them for so long that seeing them properly for the first time was almost overwhelming. In the past she had quite often had to avert her gaze when she realised that she had been staring. Thank God she now had full permission to stare whenever she liked, as she knew Joan was staring at her likewise.
Joan was not as toned as she had been in her army days; her stomach was soft and Sherlock adored it. Joan stripped herself of her jeans as well, her hips were wide and her thighs were thick and beautiful. Sherlock’s mouth watered at the mere thought of them and what was between them.
She couldn’t go another moment without touching her. She rolled them over so that Joan was now underneath her, bent her head to John’s breasts and took her left nipple into her mouth until it pebbled. Her hand reached up to massage the neglected breast whilst her mouth worked on the other. John arched her back to push herself further into Sherlock’s mouth wantonly.
Sherlock’s brief confidence that had sprung from her sudden, all consuming desire waned and she faltered, she wanted to get Joan off but didn’t know what she would like.
‘Come up here.’ Joan coaxed, then greeted Sherlock with a deep kiss. ‘It’s okay, we don’t have to do everything tonight. I just want to be close to you.’ She breathed into Sherlock’s mouth. They kissed slowly and luxuriously for a while. Sherlock began thinking that she’d died and gone to heaven and nobody had told her.
‘Show me how to touch you.’ She pleaded in a voice tinged with arousal.
Joan guided Sherlock’s hand down between her legs to rub against her clit, and Sherlock put two of her fingers inside of her, moving them in a steady pace until Joan moaned and threw her head back against the pillow as she came. It was a glorious sight, and Sherlock was about ready to come herself just from watching her.
Once she had hurriedly stripped off her trousers and underwear, Joan then shuffled between her legs, looked up at her, murmured ‘Is this okay?’ and with Sherlock’s nod of affirmation, placed her mouth between Sherlock’s legs. She clearly had experience as it didn't take her long to get into the perfect rhythm, keeping pressure and friction on the right places as Sherlock moaned and thrashed. It was like nothing she had ever felt before. The tension in her stomach began to build and she finally froze before crashing over into the intense pulses of her orgasm, gasping out a slurred version of Joan’s name.
* * *
‘Seriously though, why did you never tell me before, or at least give me some hint that I could work with?’
They lay tangled together naked in the sheets of Sherlock’s bed, sated, warm, content and happy to luxuriate in the each other's proximity.
‘Until Friday I was convinced you were straight,’ Sherlock was shamefaced at the admission that she had failed to deduce something relevant about Joan, ‘I didn’t know how you’d react.’
Joan looked slightly incredulous at this, but held Sherlock even closer. ‘Have you forgotten that my sister is a lesbian? I wouldn’t have thought any less of you, even if I wasn’t in love with you myself.’
Sherlock’s heart swelled at the casual way that Joan had just told her she loved her, as though it was just another fact of life and not the most glorious thing to ever happen in the history of the universe.
‘I would never risk losing you Joan, not for anything. I didn’t want to ruin what was already the most beautiful relationship of my life by asking for more than I deserve.’
‘More than you deserve? How am I?’
‘You’re more than anyone deserves, Joan.’ Sherlock mumbled, her voice heavy with sincerity.
Joan smiled at her softly, with such infinite tenderness that Sherlock felt herself begin to well up again. Joan leaned in to kiss her gently, and entangled her fingers in Sherlock’s hair.
‘You silly, silly woman.’ Joan whispered, cradling Sherlock’s head, their noses touching. Her words were not particularly romantic, but they were as powerful as a caress, making Sherlock feel warm all over. Sherlock smiled one of her beautiful, rare, genuine smiles and for the first time, but by no means the last, both Sherlock and Joan felt like something precious, something cherished.
In the morning Joan would have excuses to tell and apologies to make, and they would both have a lot of explaining to do.
But for now they fell asleep safe in each other’s arms.