He never stops. Most days, if she let herself feel it, Sherlock is overwhelming. On rarer days, just looking at him is exhausting. She looks at him when he's doing his best to ignore his fatigue and she can feel it right down to her bones.
Whatever his reasons, Sherlock just goes. It's constant. He explodes out of the gate every morning, up and moving—assuming he's stopped at all in the first place—with either a case or an experiment to keep him going. Food, sleep, sex, he approaches them all like maintenance, perfunctory things to be gotten out of the way so as to pursue investigations.
She watches him burn through mountains of data at a time, any data, running experiments on everything. Understanding his mind on an intellectual level is almost possible. Sherlock's mind is a monster in constant need of stimulation.
It doesn't take her long to pick up the pattern, but it takes a little longer to learn to watch for the rare occasions when there is no case and no experiment, when he's bored.
Bored is bad. Bored is when his experiments aren't enough. When Gregson doesn't have a case. When the bees don't provide the stimulation he needs.
He doesn't relapse, but Joan knows if he does? It will probably happen when he's bored.
Joan learns to watch for the boredom and she learns to head it off at the pass. As it turns out, Sherlock likes nothing better than to perform.
She takes him people-watching for fun. They spend hours in restaurants and train stations, Joan listening to Sherlock deduce and create backstories for the people that pass by.
"Oh yes, yes," he grins, tiny and impish, and she's long past the point where trying to hide a smile was even an option. Joan laughs and shakes her head. "What?" Holmes ducks his head and smiles out at her. "You don't believe me? I assure you, Watson, that man was a killer for hire and she'd every intention of hiring him to rid her of her mother-in-law, a woman she finds absolutely odious, but as she is also quite frugal, she refuses to pay his exorbitant fee."
He nods in satisfaction, then takes yet another look at the departing man. His eyebrows flick up for just a second and then he turn to Joan. "Actually, it's quite a wise decision on her part."
Smiling, she decides to bite. "All right, what?"
"Her would-be hitman is, in reality, an undercover police officer. If she'd gone through with the transaction, she would be well on her way to the station by now." Holmes makes a face and Joan hides hers, laughing. "What?"
"It bothers you."
"That she got away? Not a bit, Watson. One would think you understand that by now." Holmes looks wounded, hurt, and it's absolutely affectation, but she lays a hand on his anyway.
It makes it better when she leans in to say, "That she was so unoriginal about it."
"Got it in one, Watson," Holmes says, just a little gleeful. "Honestly, if you've gone far enough as to make up your mind to kill someone, there's no need to go off half-arsed about it." He moves his hand, bringing it up to cover hers instead, tracing patterns into the skin. "Homicide can be an art if done right."
"And doing it right requires paying for it," Joan agrees.
"Of course. If you're going to risk life imprisonment, you might as well do it in style." He beams at her and she grins.
They flirt over imaginary homicides. Joan has a feeling she probably shouldn't find that adorable, but she does and she likes it.
He cleans the parlor.
All right, it's actually just a subtle rearranging of the files, but enough that she's sure to notice.
When she walks in, he's sitting on the floor in the middle of the room hunched over, staring at a semi-circle of photos arranged before him. Blood spatter. Supposedly, he's working on an article, but she suspects that its just an excuse to cook up fake blood and decorate one of the rooms with it.
Joan holds out, not saying anything for a minute or so. Until he finally tips his head back and says, "I was thinking we might go out for dinner tonight, Watson. Any preferences?"
She smiles. "Not really."
It's a tiny bit cruel that she waits until she turns away, heading for the stairs, before she says, "It looks good."
She's in the kitchen, making tea, when she realizes it's the Holmes equivalent of bringing her flowers.
Her laughter brings him out of hiding with a delighted smile.
"Come on," she says, turning off the stove and putting away the kettle. "I'm hungry and you promised me dinner."
They end up a few blocks away at a new Indian place. Joan's curious about the food and Sherlock's fascinated with the new faces. They sit at a corner table so he can see everyone come and go and play their usual game while they wait for their meal.
It's not the first time they'll make that mistake, but it's certainly going to be among the most memorable.
Midway through dinner, Sherlock deduces the busboy is having an affair with the owner's husband and a murder is in the offing. Just their luck that said owner is having an affair with the pastry chef in the French restaurant across the street. A pastry chef whose ex-boyfriend is the jealous sort and a damn good shot.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), so is the owner, who comes out of the kitchen with a semi-automatic.
"Crossfire," Holmes announces, giddy. "Always a brilliant way to liven up an evening!"
She glares, but it doesn't faze him in the least. In fact, he launches himself over the table at her and tackles her to the floor. She hits hard with his weight atop her and glares harder.
Hitting the floor with his weight atop her, she stares up at him. "Ow."
"Apologies," he says, straight-faced if she ignores the touch of panic in his eyes. "I thought you might prefer a mild backache to a bullet wound. By the way, have I mentioned that you look lovely this evening?"
She raises her eyebrows. "Of course this would be a date."
He frowns and she has to hold back a laugh. Bullets are whizzing back and forth over their heads and he barely notices, but this he worries about? "I thought that quite clear."
"It was, but the bullets really helped push the point home."
He grins, delight in his eyes that has nothing to do with the sirens outside. "You know, Watson, anger is much more convincing if you forgo the smile."
She rolls her eyes, laughing a little as she pushes his shoulder. "Off; you're bleeding on my shoulder."
"You know, Watson, it's most fortuitous that your former career is in surgery." Holmes peers up through her arms at her, pleased as punch by the observation and she flicks his forehead.
Well, she flicks the part that isn't hurt and bleeding.
Behind Sherlock, the paramedic whose kit she's appropriated starts grinning. He's working on the busboy, probing the wound in his shoulder while his partner assesses the others and Gregson's people rush around them.
She suspects it should worry her that this is actually funny, but only a few people are bleeding and there's nary a corpse in sight.
As first dates go, it's definitely going to be a memorable one.
Still, she has to have a little fun with this. "You know, I hope you don't think my services come free," she says, grinning down at him. "There's a Mets game in my future for this."
Holmes freezes and blinks up at her. "An actual game? In person? Sitting down in a stadium?"
Joan finishes up, patting him on the shoulder. "Exactly. Make sure the seats are good."
He smiles wide, delighted, and, yes, she is in so much trouble with this. All the worse for the fact she doesn't really mind. "The best. It is a date, after all."
Joan shakes her head and smiles back. "Just leave the bullets home this time."
"But of course. A second date is explosives."
The seats are phenomenal, better than she imagined, and Joan barely notices. Not with Sherlock sitting beside her. He splits his time between watching the people, making outrageous observations about them all, and predicting the score and getting it wrong every single time.
He looks at her and she sees the fascination, the delight, and she turns away to hide her smile.
Which is about when first base explodes.
Joan decides not to take that as a metaphor.
It's almost two days before they get home. Sherlock's dates are turning out to be a special sort of memorable and Joan's so tired she can barely put one foot in front of the other. Still, she stops on the stairs and looks at him to ask, "So, what's the third date?"
"A truly spectacular experience, I assure you." He grins at her. "Suffice it to say, Watson, with me? You'll never be bored."
His fingers brush the length of her hand before curling around hers and holding tight. She shivers and looks down at their hands.
She squeezes back. "Murder rate willing, neither will you."
He beams back. "Watson, you say the sweetest things."