Thursdays, well, the thing about Thursdays without drugs is that they're Thursdays, cold milk, colder tea, empty fridge, no clean laundry, dripping tap, and Joan's murmur of well, this just got mental when she finds out how he's been spending the night.
"I put a sock on the doorknob," Sherlock says, helpful, because that's a universally recognised sign. "I put socks on all the doorknobs, just to be sure."
"You put my socks on all the doorknobs," Joan agrees, mild, putting enough water in the kettle for one, so, no coffee for him, bad boy, then.
Sherlock wiggles bare toes on the floor that got a bit chilly when he wasn't looking. "They wouldn't fit on my feet," he admits.
Joan's eyes snap up from where she's spooning coffee into the cafetiere, hair tumbling over her left shoulder, curling a little from the shower, not quite Pre-Raphaelite, he'll take her to the Tate Britain, she'll never go.
(Irene posed in front of Proserpine, eyes glittering dark, hair a spillage of evenings, and he laughed enough to make the gallery ring.)
"You're wearing my underwear again, aren't you," she says.
"It's not a predilection," Sherlock tells her, "it's just necessity, and you think this pair is uncomfortable anyway."
Joan's thinking about pinching the bridge of her nose, a habit rather than anything else, Sherlock doesn't give her headaches anymore. In the end she just shakes her head.
"You couldn't have borrowed a pair from last night's guest?"
She pours the boiling water, gets one mug from the cupboard. Sherlock shifts, stripes on his back still stinging against the cleanish cotton of his t-shirt, he wore this for that case last week, still smells like gunpowder and irritation.
"Watson!" he reproaches, rocks a little on his feet, rotates stiff wrists, tries to remember if he's showered today. "Her underwear is an invaluable tool for her trade, you wouldn't have gone around lending to scalpels to anyone who asked for one."
Joan rolls her eyes, depresses the plunger, her brother called last night and she stumbled over the words. Sherlock was rather tied up at the time - ahem - but he still knows that it happened, it's in the curve of her spine, in her fingertips.
"You owe me a new pair," she tells him, firm, and pours her coffee to take back upstairs with her.
"Don't suppose you want to do some laundry to prevent this unfortunate happenstance occurring again?" Sherlock asks, attempts a winning smile.
"Nice try," Joan calls back, doesn't turn around.
Sherlock picks up his phone, puts it back down again, presses up on his toes, down, plié, rotate the wrists again.
"I think I could be a very good cook if I wanted to be," Sherlock decides, evening, no case, Clyde eating his way through lettuce, three cars parked outside, one red, next door have argued again, perhaps he should take over some biscuits or perhaps something more American, he never will.
"Mmmm," Joan says doubtfully, not looking up from her book.
She doesn't read medical journals anymore, flicks through psychology ones if she thinks he isn't paying attention, saves gossip magazines for hospital waiting rooms - and don't they end up there just a little too often - and spares literature for bedtime. Her taste in books is better than he would have initially expected, more discerning, graceful than he assumed at first, and after the initial five times he went into her iBooks account and deleted all the reading material he deemed unsuitable Joan stopped hiding the earl grey teabags and adding sugar to his coffee and just let it be.
"I understand the theory perfectly," Sherlock continues, waves an expansive hand. Clyde is probably listening to him; marvellous things, tortoises, perhaps he should have got one to replace Angus a long time ago, Angus listened but never blinked. "Haute cuisine is merely imagination, most of the time, and we both know I'm not short of that."
"You're forgetting," Joan remarks, turning a page, "I've watched you make an omelette."
"I make an excellent omelette," Sherlock reminds her, slumps a little more in his chair.
He doesn't miss drugs, certainly doesn't miss the half-functioning, glossy eyed and largely incoherent mess that he became, who on good days wrote on his ceiling about his genius in permanent marker and on bad days could ring up his father and growl at the dial tone long after he had hung up, and recovery has certainly made his existence something more than a gruesome actual joke engineered by someone who he'll eviscerate slowly one day when he catches up, but fuck, drugs could make evenings go far quicker.
"You make a lot of omelettes," Joan agrees, lamplight glinting off the rims of her glasses, sharp and soft at the same time, "in fact, I'm pretty certain that you can only make omelettes."
"Your lack of faith in me is frankly unfounded and uncalled for," Sherlock tells her. Clyde bobs his head, something like a nod, and see, the tortoise knows him, doesn't it?
"Let me know if you're going to take up cooking," Joan murmurs, chin still propped on her hand, "I'll put the batteries back in the smoke alarms."
"You two would make much more actual sense if you were sleeping together," Bell grouses, breakroom coffee visible in his eyes, just a touch too unshaven, out too late with his brother, then this happened.
"Only to a pedestrian mind," Sherlock informs him, crouches down beside the corpses sprawled on the floor like a game of Twister, which is a transparent plea for what is essentially dry-humping; something Sherlock has never had any use for, he can get as much dry-humping as he likes when he wants it, when he's paying to be teased and frustrated and driven half-insane with something he refuses to acknowledge.
He hasn't done that for a while, actually; he gets the feeling Watson would throw things at him the morning after, he's never exactly pleasant after those sessions.
"Bell likes you," Joan remarks when Bell has gone to liase with the building manager, swollen fingers, irritated expression - corpses are never a good advertisement for real estate, except perhaps to him; entertainment is frequently so hard to come by - and she thinks she won't be overheard.
"He likes you too," Sherlock replies, "although in quite a different way, and you're supposed to be examining the blood spatter."
Joan cuts her eyes in the way that she does when she wants to roll them and won't, but still wants him to know that she was contemplating rolling them. Her communication has altered since they first met, into the still-unconscious slips of expressions that slide out when she's not concentrating, not trying, and the deliberate spill of emotions that she gives him because she knows that he's looking for them.
It's unnecessary, but nice; a little like passing notes at the back of a classroom, coded up to the nines in something half-uncrackable - one had to do something at boarding school once forcing oneself to throw up in four a.m. bathrooms grew dull, routine - a secret just for the two of them, communication obvious and private all at the same time.
Sherlock used to like watching Irene dress in the mornings, to know what underwear she had underneath her clothes for certain rather than figuring it out in the way her posture altered in different bras, the way her hips swayed a little depending on the lace of her knicker gusset. A truth that only he was privy to, a piece of her that he could hold in cupped hands all day.
He sees Joan in pyjamas, in the clothes she works out in, in t-shirts that need ironing and trousers with falling-down hems and sweatshirts unravelling at the cuffs, the things she puts on when she makes no effort, when the world isn't looking in, when she's not on show in a uniform of an adult. They live together, and spot one another at their worst, at their most undressed - not literally, though he has no doubt it would be a delightful sight, and anyway he's already figured out exactly what shape and condition she keeps her pubic hair in; she'd already done the Times sudoku that day - and he's still acclimatising himself to that.
Irene never lived with him, of course, and Sherlock is unused to the concept of living with someone else where one isn't on whatever is considered best behaviour at all times, when a looseness of attitude and a skein of trust change things to an intimacy that still takes him by surprise at times, vest straps sliding down Joan's shoulders or a hip revealed in a casual pair of pyjama bottoms, when he feels she is revealing more to him than she intends to though, of course, she isn't.
Like so many things in his life, he blames his father for all of this.
Tick tick tick tick tick tick.
"You're doing that thing where you don't blink," Joan tells him, steam curling out of the mug her hands are wrapped around. She doesn't sound worried; Sherlock's losing the ability to disconcert her, and he loves and loathes that in something like equal measure. So few people are comfortable about him; this in itself is something new, something different.
He flutters his eyelashes, deliberately exaggerated, and the corner of her mouth flicks. She keeps her smiles to herself, and he's often relieved about that: he wouldn't know what to do with them anyway.
"I'm thinking," he replies, looks down at the table beside him, haphazardly stacked with books, papers. "I don't have any tea," he adds.
"No," Joan agrees, curling her legs up beside her. She's in pyjamas, he registers; it's got late. He isn't sure exactly when.
"I think I might like some tea," he attempts.
"Make yourself something to eat while you're down there," Joan muses, sharp rather than motherly, gaze on the television screen, book open in her lap. The process of her making the brownstone something like her home has been gradual, even after the loss of her flat, a gradual uncertain unfurling. Sherlock thinks she might be better at this than he is, but he's not sure anything has ever felt all that much like home.
"If you really wanted a personal valet you should've asked your father to pay for one," Joan suggests when he doesn't move, amusement threaded through her voice.
Cohabitation. It's still taking time, perhaps for both of them, though he can read years of shared kitchens and bathrooms at universities in Joan's expression sometimes when he's forgotten to take the rubbish out for collection - deliberately or otherwise - or when he's taking one of his five hour baths, waiting for the eureka moment. Watson values and enjoys her privacy and her space, though she's becoming less averse to having it invaded, and he hasn't yet pinpointed when it became important to him that she receive these things. Other people's emotions are something that he cannot ever avoid, but he isn't used to frequently accommodating them.
You can always learn something new. Sometimes, being the only person in the room with all the answers, he can forget that. He probably shouldn't; perhaps he'll leave himself a post-it next time, though of course it'll never make him humble. His father would like that from him, a son who can bend at the knee, but Sherlock burned those bridges long ago.
When he blinks again, the TV is off, Joan is gone, and there's mug full of half-cold green tea on the table beside him.
"Confrontation is key, Watson."
Sherlock is beginning to suspect that he should have taken on an apprentice long ago; not Irene, perhaps, who appreciated his genius without wanting to participate - possibly because she had enough genius of her own to be getting on with - and he's not sure that he ever met anyone suitable, but still, he enjoys imparting knowledge, the taste of second-hand success.
"I don't think I want to talk at someone until they slap me," Joan points out, hands shoved into her pockets. It's a cold day, their breath misting, and Sherlock lost the ability to feel the tips of his ears some time ago.
"A slap is a result," Sherlock reminds her. "You can tell a lot from a slap; I've even solved cases from some of them."
"You are so full of shit," Joan says.
"I see your education still has a long way to go," Sherlock says, prim, and wiggles his jaw a little, ghosts of the memories of past aches.
"Paying women to line up and slap you in the face doesn't count as research if you enjoy it," Joan remarks, light, softer and less judgemental than she was when she was an addiction counsellor; he's not sure that she understands, certainly doesn't want to have any kind of explanation, but she tolerates, and that part is the important one.
"You can lead this interrogation," he offers as they cross the street, Joan's mouth lilting doubtful, her footsteps evenly spaced.
Her eyebrows express incredulity; she says: "I don't want to play Good Cop, Bad Cop."
Sherlock considers this for a moment. "What about Cop Who'll Punch You In The Face, Cop Who'll Punch You In The Balls?"
"Depends which one I get to be," Joan replies.
"Both, if you like," Sherlock replies; he sees something flicker in her eyes, and reminds himself that he's the one who set up her self-defence classes in the first place.
Sunday morning finds underwear beneath his pillows, bitemarks on his shoulders, and the bemusing realisation that he's slept for a period of time Watson might even deem appropriate. His spine might take a while to recover, though, and his wrists are chafing.
Downstairs, there's laughter, crockery, conversation. It's something he's unused to finding in his home, and for a moment he's a child again, hiding on the stairs, but the memory is suppressed almost as soon as it is remembered and he has no use for it in any case. He continues down, tugging a t-shirt over his head, stairs cool beneath his bare feet. His home smells of coffee, of cooking, of something warm and intangible that he doesn’t want to think about because he thinks it lingered in the line of Irene’s back, morning tea and thighs long underneath one of his shirts.
(He doesn’t want to talk about it; he’ll never want to talk about it, it’s not for anyone but him, not for the world.)
Joan has her chin resting on her hand, relaxed though wary, hair pooling around her shoulders. She should be running but she isn’t; her iPod is abandoned on the table, the tie she should be using for her hair loose around her wrist.
This time, when the Lynch twins offered her breakfast, she agreed. Sherlock tips his head, decides he will choose how to feel about that later.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” Gwen coos, eyelashes a-flutter. Joan does an excellent job of not rolling her eyes, though Sherlock can see she desperately wants to, while Olivia flaps a hand at a half-full coffee pot.
Sherlock lances a look at Joan when he learns there are both crepes and American pancakes, fresh strawberries, and expensive coffee of a variety they don’t keep in the brownstone since Sherlock lost the last bag and it turned up under a pile of dirty dishes a week later. Joan mirrors the look, deflects it, and Sherlock’s muscles half-flicker a smile that is too quick to be seen, only to be felt.
“This is domestic,” he remarks.
“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” Joan explains dryly.
“Does that mean-”
“Absolutely no,” she cuts in, smooth and firm, and Sherlock fetches himself coffee to the tingle of Gwen’s laughter.
Bees like to be talked to, which seems needlessly whimsical and somewhat ridiculous, but Sherlock learned long ago that he likes having an audience, even one with stings; perhaps especially one with stings.
The bees are a slightly better alternative than Angus, though they don’t listen to him either: Sherlock is beginning to suspect Clyde might be his favourite resident audience who can’t make tea; perhaps he’ll listen next time Joan points out that they should probably get some kind of terrarium, though Sherlock has decided that Clyde is a free range tortoise and anyway, he loves living in a drawer, whatever Joan may say.
While they may not make him tea, his bees do make honey. Joan refuses to eat things that she suspects have been filtered through the roof – it hasn’t been, if only because Sherlock suspects his father will have left some asbestos somewhere as a contingency plan – which is her loss because Sherlock is almost certain that he has perfected honey-making. It’s all in the book he’ll never publish because the world doesn’t deserve this knowledge and probably wouldn’t even know what to do with it anyway. It’s not pettiness, just a basic fact, whatever Watson may say.
(Irene had a bee tattooed just where the curve of her buttock became the top of her right thigh; the first time he uncovered it, pressed his mouth there, he thought: I have been found.)
“He does this,” he hears behind him, Joan’s boots clicking on the concrete, and the chances are she has Bell with her because they were supposed to be checking out a lead earlier, a lead Sherlock knows is already dead, but he’s learning that it’s essential though not at all actually helpful to do things as expected.
He holds his hand out, hears Joan’s sigh before she puts a mug of tea into it. She’s taught him multiple times that she’s not going to ever fetch and carry for him, but the main thing Sherlock has learned about cohabitation so far is that there is usually someone to bring you food products of varying descriptions.
Bell is holding his own mug, looking cold and a little bit tired. Things with his brother are strained, then, and there’s a thread of sexual frustration that Sherlock has very little interest in underneath that; perhaps he’ll give him a handful of business cards, he knows a handful of wonderful women who could sort all of that out, perfectly reasonably, of course.
“You keep bees,” he says flatly, in the tone of voice that he uses for you are increasingly implausible as a person.
“This is Detective Bell,” Sherlock tells the bees, “and we all seem to be having a tea party at two-thirty a.m.”
Joan curves her half-smile behind the rim of her mug, hair escaping from her beret, relaxed up here in a way that she wasn’t scant weeks ago. She’s not entirely comfortable around the bees, refuses to learn the basics of beekeeping no matter how many times Sherlock points out that it’s restful for the mind or that he might need someone to take care of them should he be killed or put in prison for… whatever reason.
(“In case you stab Moriarty with a screwdriver?” Joan asked one night, curiously vulnerable in her pyjamas, mouth hard, eyes soft.
“Oh,” Sherlock responded, fingers twitching on the arm of his chair, “oh, Watson, how naïve you are.”
She closed her eyes, opened them again, said: “Don’t tell me. I’ll need plausible deniability.”
She’ll try to stop him when the time comes, he knows, but her attempt at acceptance meant more than he expected it to, and it lingers.)
“De Rossi’s place was a bust,” Bell informs him after a moment, shifting in the cold, eyes warily on the bees.
“Of course it was,” Sherlock replies, dismissive. “I already told you he had nothing to do with any of it. I don’t know why you don’t just listen to me.”
“Because we’re not bees,” Joan murmurs.
“I mourn that fact every day,” Sherlock sighs, and even in the mostly-dark, catches Bell rolling his eyes.
“I am considerably more than my companionship with Miss Watson,” Sherlock reminds Alfredo. “We have frequent conversations about boundaries.”
“When was the last time you made an actual friend?” Alfredo asks, and: “that’s because you keep wearing her clothes.”
“I wouldn’t have to wear her clothes if she would only agree to a dry-cleaning rota,” Sherlock sniffs, skimming over the first question so gracelessly that he almost flinches, expects a skinned knee for his poor efforts.
Alfredo’s expression is unimpressed, tells Sherlock that he’ll never let him get away with it. Occasionally, Sherlock wishes that he had had the foresight to pick a sponsor formulated of platitudes and half-real smiles rather than someone who actually has the capability to understand him; it would be far easier if his sponsor could buy the shit that Sherlock likes to sell, could be bought off with easy pretences.
On the other hand, if he had a conventional sponsor, the kind that he would probably have made cry by now, they would be sitting in a coffee shop drinking sour lattes that Sherlock disapproves of, not breaking into cars on a time limit armed with nothing but stationery supplies. Alfredo has figured out how to keep Sherlock’s interest, and sometimes he’s grateful, and sometimes he’s resentful.
He hasn’t given him Irene yet, though. Not her, with her hair and her eyes and the filth of her laughter, the way she haunts him still, in ways that he never thought a person ever would, ever could. Irene is separate from the drugs, but her memory is difficult, and ever increasingly heavy. Sherlock doesn’t want anyone else to carry her; she is his alone, his bride in blood and death.
Perhaps he does have something of a flair for the darkly melodramatic, though he’ll never admit it anywhere Watson could hear.
“Aha,” he muses under his breath, curling his fingers through a clump of wires, breaking through the nearest red one with a twist of scissor blades. The alarm silences and he stays still, wires trapped beneath his fingers like strings.
Alfredo is watching him; after a moment, he asks: “how many instruments do you play, anyway?”
Sherlock smiles wanly. “My father wanted me to be able to fill in for an entire concert orchestra at short notice.”
Not the truth; not quite a lie.
Alfredo lets out a breath, slides down a little in his seat. “I’m looking forward to when that wall breaks and all that shit comes spilling out.”
That isn’t going anywhere; it’s compacted tight, somewhere he doesn’t ever have to take it out and look at it, relive a million stings and grazes. Sherlock doesn’t point this out; no one ever believes him.
“I wouldn’t,” he murmurs, brisk, and opens the car door.
Irene hammers under his skin in every step, every flash of lightning. Sherlock does his best to ignore her; at least the drugs kept her quiet.
“It’s raining in my room,” he says.
“It’s three a.m.,” Joan mumbles into her pillow, sprawled under the covers. He can see her in slices of storm light through the curtains, tangled hair, rumpled sheets.
“It’s still raining in my room,” he insists.
Joan doesn’t move. “Is it self-induced.”
He considers this, rocking up on his toes, back down again. “Somewhat.”
“Sleep on the couch,” Joan tells him.
“It’s cold,” he adds.
Joan sighs, pushes the covers back, sits up. Her face is made up mostly of shadows, shoulder pale in the half-light where her t-shirt has slid down. Irene laughs darkly in the back of his throat.
“If I’d wanted a pet I would’ve gotten one,” she tells him.
“We never discuss this again,” Joan says, “and you’re calling an actual professional to fix whatever it is you’ve done to the house.”
Sherlock nods. “And I’ll make you breakfast in the morning.”
“You only make me food when you want something,” Joan says.
“Yes,” he agrees.
Joan shuffles over, shoving a pillow across to the area of the bed she doesn’t sleep in. “If you hog the covers I will kick you onto the floor.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Sherlock replies, dignified, and catches her amusement in a flash of lightning before he curls fingers in her blankets and clambers onto the mattress, undignified. She rolls over, still half-asleep, and he lets a breath out that he didn’t know he was holding.
“And I want at least three different food products for breakfast,” Joan mumbles, words muffled, “and the good coffee.”
“Noted,” Sherlock replies, eyes on the ceiling, smile visible only in the fringes of his voice.