“If I can no longer function as a detective, I’m… I’m just not sure I can stay sober, and if I can’t stay sober… how’s my brain gonna heal?”
Watson tried to hold his gaze but found it impossible, the amount of emotions she could see in his eyes were too overwhelming. She looked down at the floor, incapable of saying anything.
“Anyway… we need to bring someone in to fix the guest room. Good night Watson”
And with that, Sherlock was gone.
Watson sighed when he heard Sherlock’s bedroom door close with a soft thud. Her hand automatically went to her forehead, trying to steady herself and calm her emotions and racing thoughts.
In the six years she had known Sherlock, first as a sober companion, then as an apprentice until they had reached a point of becoming business partners, housemates and friends, there had been just a few instances in which she had seen Sherlock so upset. And even then, she could count with one hand the moments that he had been so affected that he had almost cried in front of her. Regardless of how good a detective Sherlock was, he was mostly clueless when it came to dealing with his emotions; so what he used to do was bottle them up until it reached to a point he just couldn’t. His PCS was now one of those issues, and Watson was extremely worried at how he was taking the news. She shouldn’t have been surprised though, it was only a matter of time before the reality of what he was going through sank in, and it was only natural to become upset.
The reality of what was to come was also starting to sink in for her too. The fact that her friend had PCS meant that she was to support him in any way she could. As her best friend and doctor, she was not to give in to her own fears, but to serve as an anchor for Sherlock, who would need her more and more as time went by. She was aware that being Sherlock’s friend right now meant to become his main source of support, therefore there was no space for her to cry and give in to the turmoil of emotions she was feeling. And yet, despite knowing all that, all Watson wanted to do was scream and cry at the unfairness of it all. Why, of all the people, did it have to be Sherlock the one to suffer as he was? No one should take his brain out of him; no one should have the power to do so.
His brain was utterly exceptional. Nobody, but especially no one with that gift should go through something as disempowering as PCS. Watson passed her hand through her hair, undoing her neatly tied ponytail as she took a few deep breaths trying to control her urge to hit the wall, the door or anything she could get her hands onto. Her protective instincts were kicking in, as they always did when Sherlock was concerned, and her anger and frustration was growing by the minute.
She looked at the wall where he had been standing mere seconds ago, and recalled their conversation. She couldn’t say how she had managed to stay right where she was when Sherlock’s lips trembled as he was voicing out his fear. She could clearly hear in her head the way his voice had cracked when he asked her how his brain was going to heal if he couldn’t stay sober… and she could remember how hard it had been to refrain herself from closing the distance between them, from taking him in her arms and just shield him from the world.
There were very few things she couldn’t take, and seeing Sherlock suffer was one of them. Sherlock was terrified and she could understand that, since she was terrified too. She was aware the Sherlock she had known for six years could get lost through this process, there were many outcomes to his recovery, but Watson she couldn’t even picture a life without Sherlock in it.
She shook her head trying to keep those thoughts away from her mind. She didn’t have the luxury to think about that, and honestly right now she didn’t want to.
After their conversation he had quickly regained composure and said good night, effectively telling her he was done for the day. Yet Watson was still there, standing under the threshold looking at the wall in front of her with her hand still on her hair. She was torn between what she desperately needed to do for her own sake, and what Sherlock needed of her.
She sighed again, shaking her head, and decided that she couldn’t stay there doing nothing, so she went to her bedroom to get changed. She took off all her clothes, untied her hair and put on a pair of sweatpants and a light blue T-shirt she used to sleep in, all the while musing about what to do. She brushed her hair to give herself a bit of time, until she decided to go to Sherlock’s bedroom. Without slippers and ignoring the cold that was piercing her body she went out of her bedroom and walked downstairs, her footsteps silent even though the old wood cracked under her weight. She stopped right in front of his bedroom door, still unsure of whether to go in or not. Her mind was telling her to give him some space, but her heart was yearning to go to him and just take him in her arms.
She eventually decided to go in to check on him; at least that’s what she told herself and what she planned to tell him if he asked. She turned the handle with a crack, and slowly opened the door. The room was only lit by the moonlight, and she blinked a few times to get used to the darkness. Thanks to the light coming from the corridor she could distinguish Sherlock’s silhouette under the covers, he was laying on his side, almost in fetal position. Her heart sank a bit more at the sight; he really looked like a small terrified child even if she hadn’t been able to see his face yet.
She took a few silent steps towards the bed, and noticed Sherlock’s breathing changing. He was awake and knew she was there.
“Watson?” his voice said, it sounded husky and... hoarse, like he had been crying. He cleared his throat and she pretended she hadn’t noticed, although her heart hurt at the sight.
“Hey” she whispered with a sweet smile on her lips, even though he couldn’t see it, he was still giving his back to her.
She gently sat on the bed next to him, barely refraining herself from reaching over and touching him. Now that she was in his bedroom she didn’t know what to do though. He was completely still under the covers and she could sense his tension, but she didn’t know how to ease it. With anyone else touch would serve as a source of comfort: to gently caress the face, to squeeze a hand, to fondle with the hair… but that was out of the question with Sherlock and she didn’t know what to say or do to give him the calm he so desperately needed.
“I thought you might want some company tonight” the words came out without thinking, and she realized that the way she had voiced it made it evident that she needed the company as much as him.
He kept silent, but slowly he moved to make room for Watson. She looked at him with a question in her eyes, and even though he still was giving her back to her, he nodded permission once. Watson then gulped, still not believing he was allowing her to get under the covers with him, so she proceeded with caution and very slowly. She didn’t want to scare him or make him uncomfortable, so she lay on her side right behind him, and didn’t move. Sherlock then shifted and turned around so he could see her. Or more precisely, so she could see him, as he had his eyes closed. She realized there were tears on his cheeks, and his eyes were bulgy and probably red if he opened them. Her stomach churned uncomfortably and she couldn’t help it, one of her hands reached to touch his right cheek, gently wiping away the tears with her thumb. He flinched at the probably unexpected contact but didn’t move away, and Watson let out the sigh she had been keeping in. Her motions were slow and gentle, only touching his face with her thumb and nothing else, trying to keep the contact to the minimum so as not to make him uncomfortable.
“I don’t have all the answers, Sherlock” she whispered, making reference to the rhetorical question he had posed minutes earlier “and we don’t know how your recovery is going to play out. We don’t know how much it will affect your brain”
She heard a muffled whimper at those words but he didn’t say anything, so she kept brushing away his tears while she continued.
“But I can tell you this. You are an exceptionally resilient person, detective or not.”
“You know I’m not, not without my work” he sounded pitiful and she hated that tone coming from him.
“I know you Sherlock, probably better than anyone else. And I know it’s true” she answered, softly but firm in her tone “and if in the end you can’t continue being a detective we’ll find another way to keep you sober.”
He snorted in disbelief, and her thumb went to his left eye, gently caressing his eyelid and wiping away the tears left on there.
“I can’t tell you how it’s going to go, but I can promise you this. We will find a way to make you better. I will not allow you to drown in this, we’ll figure it out. As we always do.”
After a few seconds he nodded and she heard him swallow, probably trying to control his emotions. Watson’s hand left his cheek when there were no more tears to wipe, and she sighed almost imperceptibly. Her hands and arms were itching to grab Sherlock and hold him in a tight hug, she needed to feel that contact and to reassure herself that Sherlock was really here, that he was still in her life. She was so terrified of losing him that she couldn’t stay away from him, not now. But she was also well aware Sherlock neither needed nor enjoyed to be touched, and she didn’t want to put more pressure on him.
So, she snuggled a bit closer, mere inches apart but without touching him. Accompanying him but without being too invasive. It took all her willpower to not get too close to him, finding that the boundaries they both had kept in place for the entirety of their partnership were becoming blurred and difficult to see. This realization both terrified and excited her, as that meant their relationship was going to change irremediably. A part of her brain wondered why precisely now she needed to be closer to him when she had never needed so much closeness with him, but discarded the thought for later, bringing her mind back to reality.
Sherlock still had plenty of room in the bed if Watson’s proximity was too much to bear for him, but strangely enough he didn’t. So there they were, both lying facing each other but refusing to look at each other’s eyes, both very awake but without uttering a word.
Then, when Watson was starting to feel the exhaustion of the day claiming her and her eyelids were beginning to become too heavy, she felt movement in front of her and opened her eyes. Sherlock had snuggled closer to her until their foreheads were touching, and he was trembling slightly. She grew a bit more worried at the fact that Sherlock had been the one initiating the contact, which only went to show how affected Sherlock really was if he was actively seeking to feel closer to her.
She felt at a loss for words so she stayed where she was, allowing her breathing to mix together with his. His eyes were still closed and his breathing was somewhat erratic, so she took a few deep breaths, trusting that he’d try to adjust it to hers. Sure enough, without needing a word she heard Sherlock trying to control his breathing as he inhaled through the nose and exhaled through his mouth. She heard a slight rustle from under the covers and knew instinctively Sherlock was clenching and unclenching his hands into fists, trying to control his tension.
After a while Watson knew it wasn’t working. Sherlock had managed to control his breathing but the tension was still there, so Watson decided to disregard everything she had learnt from Sherlock so far when it came to touch. This wasn’t the usual Sherlock, so perhaps the way he needed to be comforted was also unusual.
Unhurriedly Watson’s hand travelled to Sherlock’s arm, close to his shoulder. Sherlock froze at the contact, didn’t even flinch, as Watson’s hand started to go up and down in a very slow motion. She was precise in her movements, alternating between stroking and squeezing while watching out for any indication that Sherlock was becoming uncomfortable, but she saw none of it. Quite the contrary, shortly afterwards she realized the rustling had disappeared, which meant Sherlock’s hands had stopped the clenching and unclenching of fists.
She continued to stroke his arm but gently she allowed her hand to stroke a bit downwards, where his hand was nearly glued to his body close to his hips. Watson’s hand paid attention to the back of his hand, giving it gentle brushes with her fingers instead of using her palm, and realizing that Sherlock’s breathing had become elaborate once more.
She, however, didn’t have time to process why his breathing had changed, as the quick movement surprised her. In a swift move Sherlock’s hand turned around and his fingers caught Watson’s, intertwining their fingers together. He was frantically squeezing her hand, perhaps as an attempt to calm or anchor himself, she didn’t know. She returned the squeeze, gently shushing close to his face as she nuzzled their foreheads together. But Watson noticed she was trying to instill calmness in Sherlock when she wasn’t really feeling it herself. She had been holding back her instincts, trying and failing at helping Sherlock calm down but it hadn’t worked, so she decided to go even bolder.
As gently as she could she snuggled even closer to him, closing the distance she had allowed between them in an attempt to keep Sherlock’s discomfort at minimum. Their hands were still joined and when she tried to disentangle her fingers from his he whimpered slightly, squeezing even harder. She knew he was crying again, but he cried so silently that she only realized when he took deep breaths from time to time. Deciding that she didn’t need to let go of his hand she moved them both towards his back, hoping he would understand what she was doing. Sure enough, Sherlock’s hand let go of hers to allow her to move, while Watson’s hand travelled to his back, hugging him while trying to comfort him.
And then Watson felt it. It was as if a dam had been built to contain all that Sherlock was feeling inside it, but the dam was finally crumbling, showing Watson and Sherlock himself the extent of his pain.
First came her name in the form of a sob. Not her surname, as he normally called her. Her name. The way Joan escaped his lips, the way his voice broke with that sob made her insides turn. He had been silently crying for a while, but this sob showed Watson two things: one, that he was in so much pain that he couldn’t muffle the sobs any longer. Two, that the need for comfort was so huge he had thrown all the barriers through the window, calling not his business partner, not even his friend, but Joan. He needed a part of her he knew existed but never had had the need of.
Then, she noticed Sherlock’s strong arms around her body, specifically around her waist, while his hands were grabbing the T-shirt at her back. She felt herself being strongly pulled towards him, as his legs also surrounded Watson’s legs capturing them between his own. It was as if he was trying to be engulfed by her small body, and Watson felt both overwhelmed and powerless at his obvious need.
Finally, she felt Sherlock removing their still joined foreheads as he bowed his head, placing his chin on her shoulder while hiding his face in her hair. She noticed her neck getting wet due to the tears that were still streaming down his face.
Watson processed all of this at once, her brain nearly overwhelmed by the jumble of emotions, her own feelings mixing together with his. He was not hugging her; he was clinging to her as if she was his lifesaviour in a storm. And she couldn’t take it anymore. She fiercely returned the hug, pulling Sherlock towards her and surrounding his body with both arms, squeezing him even if she suspected she was hurting him. He made no complaint.
She allowed him to cry against her neck, his face hidden in her raven hair while she hushed next to his ear. There were no words of comfort she could say, so she held him close while his body shook with each sob, and his tears travelled through his cheek to end on her neck. Watson’s face moved towards his temple, one of the few areas that weren’t hidden, and sweetly kissed the rough skin. It felt odd on her lips, but pleasing nonetheless, and she felt it even more pleasing when after a while Sherlock seemed to finally start to get calmer.
Very slowly she noticed his body more at ease, his iron grip on her T-shirt a bit less fierce. His sobs started to diminish and his breathing, elaborate and erratic until then, became deeper and calmer. He made no indication of wanting to move away from her though, so Watson didn’t move an inch of her fierce hug.
No words were said between them, there really was no need. Watson, however, was now a bit calmer than a few minutes ago. She was secretly thankful she had given in to her instincts and had come to Sherlock’s room, as she had not only calmed her own rollercoaster of emotions, but Sherlock’s as well.
She looked down to observe him and realized that the exhaustion had finally caught up with him and had finally dozed off. His chest was heaving with every breath against her own chest. She looked at his face lit by the moonlight, paying close attention to his relaxed forehead, his now unclenched jaw, and his now deep and calm breathing. His face still held vestiges of his breakdown, tears that were starting to dry scarring his otherwise serene face. She didn’t like to see them there, so she allowed one of her hands to travel to his cheeks gently wiping away the tears with her thumb. Sherlock had profoundly succumbed to sleep and didn’t seem to notice, but he snuggled a bit closer to Watson, his face returning to his previous position against her neck. She allowed him to do so, her hand leaving his face and going to his back once again, cradling him in her arms.
Watson remained vigilant for a while longer, fighting to keep sleep at bay for a few more minutes and feeling Sherlock’s breath caress her neck. She told herself that seeing him sleeping peacefully was more than enough to calm her nerves, to feel Sherlock close to her, breathing and alive. She knew there would be days this wouldn’t be enough, she knew there would be days she’d need to unwind and just cry and yell at the universe. But for now, she finally allowed Sherlock’s deep and slow breathing to take her to the world of dreams.
There would be time to think. The actions that had taken place in that bedroom that night would change the mechanics of their relationship, the barriers which had been firmly put in place for years now had dissipated into thin air. But Watson didn’t feel anxiety in the face of that change. Now, more than ever, she felt she was exactly where she was meant to be. Now, everything Watson was seeking, everything Sherlock was seeking, had finally been found.