Joan is slumped at Bell’s desk, her head resting on her hand, her elbow planted on the tabletop. She stares unseeing at the bright pattern of Sherlock’s exposed sock where his pants hem has turned up. In front of her the man argues with the desk’s owner, but the words are like a distant noise, impossible for her tired brain to make out.
As she continues to sit dazed suddenly there are hands in front of her, clapping loudly and rapidly just an inch from her nose. She starts and drops her hand, sits up and looks from the hands to Sherlock’s eager expression with a mixture of irritation and petulance. “Come Watson! We have places to be!”
Joan sighs, “Places like the Brownstone?” She asks the question though she knows the answer. But she’s not happy still when she receives the expected response.
“Of course not! Detective Bell is taking us back to the crime scene.” Sherlock punctuates, gesturing to an equally tired looking Marcus. The detective just rubs his forehead and offers her a pitiful smile. They both know, in just the few weeks they’ve worked with Sherlock, there is no denying him what he wants.
Naturally, Joan still tries to fight it. She glances down at her watch and attempts to prompt her brain into counting. “We haven’t been back to the Brownstone since we got the call about the murder at 9 pm yesterday. It is now 6 pm. You’re stuck and you know it, so why don’t we call it a night and start fresh tomorrow?” She tries to reason.
“Pfft.” Sherlock waves his hand, shooing away the notion. “Nonsense. Freshness has nothing to do with it. If I am stuck as you call it, and I assure you I am not, then stimulation is the best remedy. A second visit to the crime scene will no doubt trigger a realization, catalyze the formation of a solution. There is a crime spree afoot Watson, we must put a stop to it!” Sherlock raises his finger energetically and Joan can only roll her eyes in return. Even that effort seems too much given her current state.
She can see Marcus turn his smile away at her reaction. “Why don’t you take a few minutes and I’ll go pull the car up.” He nods kindly at her, most likely commiserating that she is stuck with Sherlock, and leaves the two of them.
Joan yawns, stretches her hands over her head and attempts to coax herself up from the chair. Sherlock watches this thoughtfully. “Watson.” She looks up at him questioningly. “We are going to have to work on your sleep patterns and need for them if you are to continue on as an investigator.”
He turns away as she looks at him startled. He’s halfway out of the bullpen when she calls after him. “I’m not becoming a detective!”
“Hmm!” Sherlock waves back at her dismissively.
She would be more annoyed if she wasn’t so amused. Joan just shakes her head and follows after.
“How much longer are we going to do this?” Joan tries not to sound like she’s pleading. But the irritation in her voice suits her purposes.
Sherlock looks over at her, a mild frustration gracing his features as he prepares to argue. “We are training your ability to stay awake, Watson. That takes time.”
She sighs with exasperation. “I know how to stay awake. I was a surgeon.” She emphasizes the last word.
“Yes, and since you retired from that profession you have fallen back on bad habits. It has only been in your time with me that you have begun to relearn the art of sleepless nights.”
She gives him a hard stare. “Who helped you stay awake during the Balloon Man case?”
Sherlock tutts at her, “I am not questioning your valuable methods, Watson. I am merely pointing out that you no longer use them. Practice in this area is key!” He gets up from the table where the locks are once again unhinged and in disarray and goes in search of a book.
“We don’t even have a case!” Joan runs her fingers through her dark locks, tugging gently to relieve the headache developing from her tiredness.
“All the better time for practice. Ah!” Sherlock struts to her side at the couch and presents a thick, hard covered book. She scowls at him before taking it and reading the title aloud.
“The Oxford Handbook of Sleep and Sleep Disorders…If you’re trying to keep me awake I don’t think this is the answer.” Joan looks at him askance.
“If you flip to page 708 you’ll find-“ Watson gets up abruptly, cutting off Sherlock’s statement.
“That’s it, I’m going to bed.” She shoves the volume at him hard enough that it forces him back, his hands wrapping around the tome.
“No! No.” She shakes her head at him. “It’s four o’clock in the morning. I’ve played along, but I’m done. When we have an actual case that requires me to be awake, then I will be awake. Now, I’m going to bed. Don’t wake me up in the morning, I fully intend on sleeping past noon!”
Before Sherlock can form another protest she is climbing the stairs.
“You are neglecting a vital cog in your training Watson!” He calls after her.
“I don’t care!” She shouts back, her door closing soundly behind her. Sherlock pouts and returns to his locks, already formulating ways to complete her sleep training.
“No Watson!” Sherlock half shakes, half pulls her up from her position at the table.
Watson protests through heavy-lidded eyes at the intrusion. “I just need 10 minutes. A nap!” Her voice was as close to whiny as he had ever heard it.
“Now is no time for slumber!” Sherlock informs her as he moves her in front of the evidence wall, using her shoulders as a steering column. He stops her directly in front of it and lets go as if his hands burn.
“It’s 2 am, if there was ever time for slumber-“ Watson turns towards him but Sherlock cuts her off and nudges her back forward.
“Think Watson! It’s here. We’re so close. Just think!” He cajoles her. He paces behind her, his shoulders stooped, his fingers dancing next to his thighs.
She sighs and slumps as she stares at the wall again. They’ve been at it for hours without break and she doesn’t think another moment with her eyes glued to this same information will help anything. In fact, she’s fairly sure it’s hurting their progress. But this was Sherlock’s method. Push and push until something breaks. She only hoped it would be the case and not her head.
Joan sighs again, pushes her hands against her eyes then brushes them back through her hair. She takes a deep breath, pulls her shoulders back and forces her eyes to focus. Five minutes she looks from paper to picture, name to alibi, again and again until the letters are practically swirling before her. Sherlock maintains his pace behind her, back and forth, back and forth until she thinks she might hit him.
Joan swings away from the wall, “Will you stop that?!”
He keeps his rhythm, four steps to one side, a quick spin and four steps back. “No, Watson. I must move. I must keep the momentum. It is right there-”
She rolls her eyes and turns away as he continues to ramble on. She puts her hands on the sides of her head ready to interrupt him, about to tell him that enough was enough. And that’s when she sees it.
“Sherlock.” Joan says as her eyes begin to widen, her hands still pressing to her temples. His ramblings continue and she shouts, “SHERLOCK! SHUT UP!”
She hears him stop dead behind her, pause only momentarily before he moves to her side, his gaze switching from her to the wall and back again.
“Ha…” Joan laughs suddenly, her hands falling away from her face, her palms open towards the wall. “HA!” Her face breaks into a broad grin and she begins to laugh fully, turning towards Sherlock and his puzzlement.
“What, Watson, what?!” He scowls at her amusement.
She snatches the sheet of paper tacked on the wall and shoves it in front of his face. “That! That’s what!”
He peeks around the sheet and looks at her wildly, his expression still open and confused.
“She made the call at 2:03. 2:03! Think!” She implores him and she enjoys the turnabout, the look that tells her she’s gotten to the finish line and he still hasn’t caught a glimpse of it. “Come on!” Joan goads him.
And then she sees it, the slow dawning of realization, the focus coming back into his gaze on the paper, the tension releasing from his face. He smiles softly then looks up at her, the smile growing larger. “Well done, Watson.” He tips his head towards her, his voice soft with awe.
“Hm.” She responds with a lilt in her voice, an eyebrow cocked towards him as she crosses her arms over her chest. “You can call the Captain. I am going to bed.”
She doesn’t wait for him to respond and goes straight to the staircase.
“There now.” Sherlock calls after her. “I told you it was no time for slumber!”
She manages to hide her smile until she is out of sight. The floating feeling staying with her until she is curled up in her bed and sleep has taken her away.
Joan stifles a yawn and tries to blink the blurriness from her eyes. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could continue to function, but this case was important. For the first time she truly understood Sherlock’s madness in regards to forgoing sleep.
She has been there before; all night surgeries, where your absolute focus was of outmost importance. Where even the thought of rest was vanquished from your mind because you couldn’t dare think of yourself when you held a life in your hands.
But that was years ago, when she was a different person. And perhaps more difficult, yes much more difficult, was the fact that there was no end to be sure of when she was on a case. A surgery was predictable. A set of steps, predetermined, exactly timed. An experienced surgeon could count the number of minutes each one would take, how the entire operation would lay out from beginning to end. It meant that even going into a long surgery, you could estimate the length, store your reserves of energy and know when you would need to expend them. Even in the instances when things took longer, the adrenaline of the moment would kick in and fuel your body.
Detective work was different that way. The steps were uncertain. The timeframe unpredictable. And while she enjoyed so much of that, it also meant that while she had barely slept in 3 days, she had no way of knowing when she would.
Joan yawns again as Sherlock hands her a steaming mug of tea. She looks down at the contents and wonders if this might be a good time to switch to espresso. But they didn’t have a machine at home, and given that it was three am, it didn’t seem worth venturing out to find one. Instead she sighs and raises the mug to her lips, sipping at it and wondering if a good burn to her tongue might jolt her awake.
“You’re doing well Watson.” Sherlock encourages and she glances up to find him looking at her earnestly. She kind of hates him in this moment. Though he looks rough around the edges, there is nothing bleary about him. If he usually runs at 100 mph, he was still going, even on 3 days of non-stop movement, at about 95. His inability to rest certainly had its upsides.
“Tell me we’re close.” She replies softly.
He nods with a surprising amount of understanding in his gaze. “I too am feeling strung out. This is often the point of the case which is hardest for the investigator. Where we know we are close to something, but it is out of grasp and difficult to be sure when it may come around. But Watson, we have made remarkable progress in the past six hours alone. I am optimistic we will soon get to the proverbial finish line.” He turns eagerly towards the table where the case is spread about and gives it a menacing grin.
Watson shakes her head. “You’re surprisingly chipper given we haven’t yet cracked this. You’re typically more foul-tempered at this point.” She moves closer to him and stares down at the details of the case yet again.
“True.” Sherlock agrees. “I do feel better than I usually would. I feel that is onus to you.” She turns towards him, but he keeps his gaze on the papers as he continues. “I don’t believe we would be as far into the case if I had been working this on my own. So I am quite giddy at the speed we have reached our current conclusions. And that leaves me feeling hopeful in regards to how much more time we need. Not to mention that your companionship has quite bolstered my spirits.”
Watson smiles softly and takes another sip of tea. Already feeling more positive she looks down again at the case, reenergized. “So what next?”
Sherlock’s gaze flits over to her and back to the case, satisfied by her clear refocus. “Next, we go over the timeline again.”
Sherlock shuffles by the side of the worn maroon couch. He squints down at Watson, curled under a blanket, wrapped in her red sweater, fast asleep. He almost wants to wake her. No, actually he always wants to wake her but thinks that just this once he should allow her to sleep. Waking her would provide no help for their current case – Everyone was working through his request and until they had provided information on the locations and amounts of Steven Doerfler’s bank accounts they were simply stuck. He would of course continue to pour over the information they had, hoping for some bit of evidence he had previously missed, but Watson was not needed for that.
In fact, she had not had nearly enough rest in the two days since they had gotten this case and he knew that rest was something she truly required. For nothing more than the fact that she would be sharper, not to mention nicer to him, for it. Although, he did rather enjoy an irritated Watson.
She had already slept two hours on the couch as he had rearranged his wall of information, gone back over the prior victims and read back the phone records. And as usual he had found her presence soothing. But it was becoming evident that there was time for several more hours. As much as her presence while he worked was a comfort, he also thought her own luxuriously festooned bed would be far better for her than this rickety piece of furniture.
But the question was how to get her there. If he woke her now he knew she would likely spend several minutes asking him for updates and he would inevitably drag her into a longer conversation about the perpetrator’s motives and desires. This would only detract from the time she had available for rest and he did not consider this worthwhile for the time being.
No, he had to get her to her bed without waking her. He shuffles towards her feet, and hums to himself. The answer was obvious, even if he was hesitant to acknowledge it. He would have to carry her, plain and simple. Or not so plain and simple for two people who only touched when strictly needed.
He understood this was his doing. Watson was not averse to touch, initiated it from time to time and seemed readily willing to give and receive it. Sherlock was the hold out in this situation. This was his standard procedure for anyone who may think on it. He was not a person who expressed himself through typical avenues of affection. He believed a curt nod, a truthful statement, was far more effective in conveying consideration.
But there were exceptions. Irene being one. Watson being the other. The truth of the matter is he was not averse to such ideas when it came to Watson. He actually did desire them. A thought which concerned him greatly.
He had long avoided touching Watson. In many ways because he was apprehensive that whatever small physical interaction may lead to him wanting more. And what would that mean for their partnership?
Now Sherlock rubs his forehead uncomfortably. He sighs and steps towards her, leans down and quickly scoops her up and into his arms. She smells of sleep, sweet and warm. Her weight is no surprise, but the way she snuggles into him is. He feels and hears her sigh as she settles against his chest, her face turned upwards, her lips brushing his neck. He frowns and pushes the sensation aside.
He goes up the stairs, makes it to her bedroom and is about to put her into her bed when she mumbles, “Sherlock?”
He clears his throat in return. “Bedtime, Watson.” He means it to be strident, as he usually is, but it comes off soft, hushed, in the darkness of her bedroom. He lays her down underneath her quilt and pulls it up over her.
“You didn’t need to carry me.” She replies sleepily, but the words hold no conviction of truth as she shifts into the bed and he pulls the covers over her.
“Go to sleep.” He admonishes gently. There is no reply as she has already slipped back to slumber, the deep, even breaths evidenced by the shadowy movements of her shoulders. He reaches down to slide the hair away from her face and stops abruptly short. He jerks his hand back, bringing it to his side where it clenches tightly. He nods in satisfaction instead and slips out of the room, the door shutting quietly behind him.