Jamie was fifteen years old when she first read Wuthering Heights. She had spent the stormy afternoon sprawled on a rug in the library while the wind battered against the windows, and in the distance the Irish Sea crashed on the cliffs of Cape Clear. It was apropos for the reading of Brontë’s gothic fare, but adolescent Jamie was unimpressed by the novel even as she flipped page after page.
She remembers this now, as Joan sighs against her cheek, their bodies tangled up in sheets and each other. Jamie remembers reading Catherine Earnshaw speak of her love for Heathcliff as necessary. A source of little visible delight, but necessary. They were fools, she had thought at fifteen. Why would anyone succumb to such torment? She couldn’t fathom it. And yet now, as she listens to Joan breath, as she feels Joan’s ribcage expand and contract beneath her, Jamie thinks that perhaps she understands the inevitability of it.
There were moments, quiet moments, stolen moments, before it felt like everything fell apart, when Jamie would wonder about Joan and indulge in fantasy. Imagining the way she would sound as climax splintered through her body, the way her skin would taste, how her body would feel, the pull of skin over muscle and bone.
And still, nothing would prepare her for the sound of her name, a reverie from Joan’s lips. Jamie had imagined fucking her, imagined taking her, devouring her until the backs of her teeth tasted like Joan’s perfume. What she had not imagined, had not ever conceived of, was that it would be Joan who took her hand and led her to the cold bedroom just down the hall, while she followed with a giddy sort of thrill.
She had not foreseen this outcome, and it bothers her, it scratches at her skin and makes her uncomfortable in the worst kind of way. She doesn’t like the emotional ambiguity that Joan yields. She doesn’t like that she cannot anticipate her own reactions. She predicts that Joan will swerve left and instead she goes right, she predicts that Joan will submit and instead, she resists. She predicts that Joan will be cold, but her body, her words, her mouth – all hot as she bites and tears at Jamie’s skin, as if trying to climb inside. Jamie thinks she would let Joan lived there if she so desired, somewhere beneath her breastbone, in the hollow cavities behind her ribs.
She falls asleep quite by accident, to the sound of the rain and Joan’s rhythmic breathing.
Jamie dreams of storms and rain-rattled windows and on intemperate moors, an intemperate woman calls out for a cruel and adamant love and her sorrow clatters through Jamie like the wind.
She wakes to an empty bed, in an unfamiliar room. Pale, diluted sunlight creeps in from under thin curtains. Outside, London has begun its daily, dirty bustle and Jamie yawns.
She sits up with a wince as her tired limbs protest. Her body is a canvas of red and purple hues where Joan has left her mark.
Jamie throws on a robe and last night’s underwear. She combs her fingers through her hair and grimaces at the refection staring back at her from the oval bathroom mirror. She looks like she’s survived a battle. Barely.
There’s a cat on the counter, beside a vase filled with orange tulips. The air smells of coffee and toast. It’s alarmingly domestic.
Joan’s back is turned to her and Jamie’s bare feet make no sound against the cold tiles and so she says, “Hello.”
Joan spins around, her body tense in a moment of surprise until she sees Jamie and she relaxes. Curious, Jamie thinks, how a year ago, months ago even, the inverse sequence might have occurred.
Joan’s expression now is tentative, but without antagonism or any of the bone weary resignation the previous night had drawn from her. She looks, Jamie thinks for one fanciful moment, almost hopeful.
“There’s coffee.” A beat. “And tea.”
She’s nervous, Jamie realises, and then with growing surprise, finds that her own heart has begun a curious sort of fluttering that creates waves of uncertainty in the pit of her stomach. It's a first.
“Tea,” she says eventually and then adds belated, “Thank you.”
They say nothing as Joan pours from a pot of already brewed tea. Jamie sniffs it and finds notes of citrus. Earl Grey. She sips it slowly, letting it warm her as Joan turns back to the stove top where she chases eggs around a pan until they’re yellow and fluffy.
“Toast?” she asks holding up slice of bread and Jamie nods.
“Have you any marmalade?”
Joan wrinkles her nose. “Marmalade is disgusting. It’s like candied orange.”
“Heathen.” Jamie’s lips quirk up wryly as she hops off the stool in pursuit of the jam. “You’re in England now, darling. A healthy predisposition to marmalade is necessary.”
“I’ll make a note of that.”
Jamie opens cabinets above Joan’s head and cupboards at her knees, moving past her in a strange little dance as Joan reaches for the salt and butters the toast. She finds the jam next to the breadbin and swipes a healthy layer over the toast Joan offers up on a white china plate.
Joan has eggs, Jamie has jam. Joan sips her coffee, Jamie drinks tea. They don’t talk about fake deaths or arranged murders. They don’t talk about anything much at all.
Joan says, “It doesn’t look like the rain’s clearing up.” And Jamie hums in reply and chews her toast. She’s beginning to feel the bruises on her inner thighs from where Joan’s fingers had dug in.
Rain splatters against the windows when she leans forward, across the smooth kitchen island and kisses Joan with marmalade on her tongue. Joan’s mouth is bitter - she tastes of coffee and want. She responds enthusiastically, like she’d been waiting to be kissed. Her hand tangles in Jamie’s hair and she arches forward so that they’re awkwardly fused at the lips.
“Come back to bed,” Jamie murmurs against Joan’s temple. “Forget the day and come back to bed.”
It’s a heady, almost unfathomable thing that Joan Watson should desire her so. In the beginning of their… involvement (Jamie, even now, is hesitant to all it a relationship) she had found a certain thrill in flustering Joan, in teasing her, in pushing her to admit that she had certain feelings that went beyond curiosity. And though she’d never admit it to Joan, in the beginning, it was a game. Admittedly one that Jamie was fumbling through, but it was entertaining, it was exciting, until it was something much more.
She knows the exact moment that it all changed. She knows it because the shift was so jarring, so visceral, that it had left her shaken to the core.
She dreams about it sometimes. Too many times.
In her dreams, she doesn’t get to Joan in time. In her dreams, she arrives after Negretto has flayed the skin from Joan’s skull. There’s blood on the floor, on the walls, on Jamie’s hands, indented into the grooves of her palms. Jamie’s never flayed anything before, and her mind is unfamiliar with the process, so it conjures up the most depraved image it can manage. She stares into the hollow void that was once Joan Watson’s face and reaches for her gun but finds only the smooth wooden grip of a paint brush. “I’m sorry,” she says to no-one at all. “I’m sorry.”
The reality, thankfully, is not as bleak. There was blood on the floor, but it was not Joan’s. It was Negretto’s after Jamie had disposed of her entire barrel into his chest. He’d fallen to the ground with an undignified thump. Or, Jamie supposed he had. She doesn’t remember much beyond the image of Joan on the chair. Bound, and halfway to broken. Joan had looked up at her, with dark, unfocused eyes and had let out something of a sob.
There was a moment then, as she held Joan’s limp body in her arms, as she pushed back the sweat-sticky hair from Joan’s forehead that something in Jamie was altered, as if her body was made of tectonic plates that shifted and caused a rift, a fault line right down her middle.
She remembers thinking, Never again. You will not be hurt like this again.
And it has shocked her, the fierceness of her conviction. Not even with Sherlock had she felt this… protective. Possessive, certainly, but hardly protective. Even as he stumbled and eventually fell, she had watched with regret and profound disappointment, but the temptation to save him was miniscule. And then he became inconvenient, a distraction, and his recovery made her curious and she thought that perhaps he was not as weak as she had initially perceived. And she loved him, even as she hated herself for it. And still, despite every complicated feeling regarding Sherlock, Jamie had never felt the bizarre pull strangely akin to tenderness that she felt while holding Joan’s head in her lap. Tenderness that later manifested itself as an orchid, as a postcard, as a kiss.
She wonders if Joan will ever know this, or if she will ever summon the nerve to tell her. It wouldn’t accomplish much, she knows. She isn’t some love-struck idealist. But she’s tempted, every once in a while to ask if Joan knows how singular she is, how utterly extraordinary she must be to have so deftly unravelled the threads that tie Jamie’s world together.
She suspects Joan must, in part, understand how important she is. Jamie hopes foolishly (because hope in essence is a foolish act), that it’s because Jamie’s own feelings are somehow mirrored in Joan.
This time, when they undress, it’s without the urgency of the night before, as if they’re in a shared delusion where time is insubstantial and nothing matters but their limitless desires. It’s a fever dream of sorts, something removed from reality.
Jamie tugs at Joan’s pyjama bottoms, scraping her teeth against hipbones, making Joan gasp and writhe. She enjoys this. She enjoys the ways in which she can make Joan lose herself. Jamie realises that she wants nothing more than for Joan to lose herself, to come unravelled under and over her fingertips. She wants nothing more than to bury herself in Joan, beneath her skin, between her sinews, through her veins, until the blood that pounds through her temples sings only Jamie’s name.
She’s unaccustomed to wanting the unattainable, she’s unaccustomed to anything being unattainable. Jamie makes a point of taking what she wants. With Joan, it’s different. With Joan, she cannot take, nor can she simply expect to be given the way Sherlock so easily gave.
Instead, Jamie gives more than Joan will ever know.
She trails her lips across Joan’s abdomen, feeling muscles twitch and jump against her lips in anticipation. Joan’s fingers find their way to her hair and she’s being urged down by her impatient lover.
She makes Joan cry out, again and again, a stream of profanities and prayers so interwoven, Jamie hardly knows which is which.
Joan pulls her up roughly, kissing her with a feverish intensity. They sit, still entangled in each other and Joan arches against her, into her, gripping her shoulders as she buries her face in Jamie’s neck. Her breath comes out in fast, ragged pants and she moves even closer, rooting herself in Jamie’s lap. She cries out as she comes, Jamie’s name stuck like a barb in her throat and Jamie thinks that perhaps, in this case, hope might not be the worst thing to have.
Joan slumps against her with an audible sigh. Their bodies are hot and sticky and if it were anyone else, Jamie would have shoved them off to make space to breathe, to separate herself from the physical intimacy of being wrapped up in another human being. But with Joan, she stays. With Joan, it’s different. Every time.
“When are you leaving?” Joan's voice is a whisper against skin.
She will leave, of course. It had been decided well before the incident in Pakistan. She will spend a year in Switzerland. It’s all been arranged. She has a property there, one of her favourites in the Bernese Oberland region along the Reichenbach stream. A year, she has decided will be adequate time for her to “manage” her affairs. In retrospect, she admits to the naiveté of her post-incarceration actions. Her belief that she could simply take back what was hers by intimidation and extortion was perhaps a little misguided. She has come to the conclusion that her enemies have roots that go deep and spread far and she must cut them off at the source.
She also finds that her motivation to do so, has dwindled somewhat. Oh, she wants them to be annihilated, that much is certain. But beyond that, beyond the reclamation of her throne, she finds herself at a loss. For the first time in perhaps a decade, Jamie is not quite sure what will come next.
It was, she had discovered, surprisingly daunting to leave the name Moriarty behind. Although, it would not be the first time she had given up a name. Jamie Eleanor Desmarais had given up her French matronymic in favour of her father’s Irish name at the age of sixteen, after her mother had succumbed to the slow-suicide of untreated cancer.
As Moriarty, Jamie had cultivated some her of her greatest relationships, and accomplished some of her greatest feats. She’d built an empire on the name. And yet, despite the connection she feels to it, she has also become increasingly aware that it no longer fits the way it used to, as if it were a dress that, before the Macedonia deal, before Sherlock, before Joan bloody Watson, had fit perfectly, but had since become uncomfortable. She scratches at the fabric, pulls her arms through holes too small. It chokes her sometimes. It isn’t right anymore, and the knowledge of that has floored her.
If she isn’t Moriarty, she’s isn’t anyone.
“Sherlock won’t be back until Thursday,” Joan mumbles, her breath a flutter against the curve of Jamie’s neck, pulling her out of her myriad of thoughts and back into Joan’s embrace.
Jamie pulls back. Joan’s eyes are dark, her lips kiss-swollen, her cheeks pink, still flushed with the after effects of her orgasm. She’s exquisite, Jamie thinks and she says, in a voice more cautious than any she’s used before, “The longer I stay-”
“I know,” Joan cuts her off softly and lets her head fall against Jamie’s shoulder. “I know.”
Jamie stays the week.
They’ve become very good at pretending that this isn’t a bad idea wrapped up in a terrible situation and Jamie takes certain pleasure in play acting. She always has.
They’re in the little lounge, on opposite couches. Joan flips idly through a home and gardening magazine while Jamie reads Ishiguro. They don’t mention Jamie leaving, or what will happen after.
They spend time in the kitchen as Joan cooks and Jamie watches, they make love in the middle of the day, they read and talk about the places they’ve travelled, the places they want to go (Joan’s list is longer than Jamie’s).
Joan’s voice reaches her as if from far away and Jamie looks up from the book in her lap. She’s caught the tail end of the sentence, which ended with the words “scare me”, and she raises an eyebrow in question.
Joan’s resting her cheek against the heel of her hand, elbow propped up on the arms of the chair as she watches Jamie. "I was asking if you really had seven people killed in restaurants or if you only said that to scare me?”
Jamie’s lips twitch. Joan’s voice is light with curiosity, not accusation. It’s a strange thing and Jamie says, “Well, if I did it didn’t work, did it?” She narrows her eyes a little. “You were never afraid of me.”
“Oh, I was,” Joan admits with a wry sort of smile. “I just hid it well.”
“You did.” Jamie agrees. “And no, not seven.” She shrugs almost carelessly, “Only two. It’s an awfully complicated set-up. Rarely worth the trouble.”
Joan is quiet for a moment and then lets out a humourless, incredulous little laugh. “What am I doing with you?”
Jamie blinks and then, in a moment of complete honestly, says, “I’ve been asking myself the same thing.”
This is the closest they come to talking about “the outside” and all it entails.
Only once, as Joan fills up the dishwasher and Jamie runs her fingers through Napoleon’s thick grey fur, does she ask, “Are you glad I’m here?”
Joan says nothing for an age, before turning around to look at Jamie. “I don’t… ”she starts and then nods as if to validate her feelings. “Yes.”
Jamie is quiet as Napoleon purrs on her lap.