The room was strangely bright, and she was oddly stiff and sore. In her half-asleep state, she vaguely recognised the smells and sound around her - the traffic outside was the same as she heard outside her apartment. Everything else seemed slightly out of kilter. Sorry for your loss. The words came flooding back. Joan sat up, and the first sensation was - pain. Pain. Incredible pain. In her neck.
Joan heaved herself out of the strange position she'd fallen asleep in, wiping dried drool away from the corner of her mouth. She looked down and saw a corresponding patch of dried saliva on Sherlock's lapel. She moved her head from side to side, trying to work out the kinks, before flopping back on her side of the bed, still on top of the covers. Joan covered her face with her hands. She'd slept on Sherlock all night. The night after - she sighed, ran her fingers through her hair, feeling pins from the previous day still tangled in it. Sherlock was sprawled out, fast asleep with one arm stretching across the pillows, the other dangling off the side of the bed. He was still in his funeral suit, tie loosened and jacket missing. Joan looked down. She was sitting on it - he'd used it to cover her.
Chewing at her lower lip, Joan tried to stop the memories from yesterday flowing back into her mind. The funeral. There it was. She rubbed her gritty eyes with the heels of her hands, remembering - Andrew's father. His mother could barely stand up. Looks of sympathy she didn't deserve. Sorry for your loss. Sorry for your loss. As they had the previous day, all the days since Andrew's death, her limbs felt weak, her hands clumsy and stiff. The guilt returned, settled in her stomach like a rock.
"Watson?" Sherlock mumbled. He made a snuffling noise, then opened his eyes. He peered around like he'd forgotten where he was, then followed his dangling arm and rolled off the bed, fell into a crouch, stood up abruptly. "I didn't wake you, did I?" He blinked and swayed as blood rushed from his head.
"Did I sleep on you all night?" Joan asked.
"Well, I assume so, but I was only awake until one, so I can only confirm the first few hours." Sherlock rotated his shoulder, the one Joan had been apparently resting on, and grimaced. "You were exhausted after the funeral. I thought it was just best to let you sleep rather than try and sneak out." He moved his head from side to side. "And I didn't think you'd want to wake up alone."
Joan looked at the ceiling, then at Sherlock. "Thank you," she said, smoothing out the wrinkles in the bedspread. "I really uh - appreciate it. I might - I might shower."
Sherlock ran his own hands over his messy hair, straightened his tie. "I'll go get something for breakfast." He turned on one heel.
"You don't need to keep doing that," said Joan. "I do have things to eat here."
"Watson," Sherlock said, turning back. "For your own sanity and my own, I am allowed to go get you a breakfast bagel." he thought for a moment. "And perhaps something for dinner."
"Sherlock," said Joan. "Thank you. For everything." Sherlock ducked his head and smiled, then headed out of the bedroom.
"Do you want your jacket back?" Joan called, and heard his footsteps returning.
i. He woke up with a mouthful of hair that smelt vaguely of rosemary but definitely tasted like - well, hair, which he extricated himself from, regretting it when he could taste his own mouth instead. Blinking the sleep from his eyes, Sherlock strained his head to see around him. Watson's room certainly looked different from this angle, lying next to the woman herself, who seemed to be running at a temperature of 800 degrees. Sherlock shifted himself away from being plastered to her back, onto the cooler portion of the mattress, free of the constrictions of the blankets. He vaguely recalled fumbling about in the early morning, kicking off the blankets only to recover them for Watson. He tucked the loose edge of the blanket in beside his roommate, slid off the side of the bed and retrieved his shoes and jumper before tiptoeing out in his socks.
Joan woke up an hour later to a tray of tea, juice and toast going cold on the bedside table. In the kitchen, she found Sherlock immersed in one of his vast tomes on beekeeping, taking notes on latin name forms, and so she sat opposite him with the sports section and finished her breakfast in silence.
The sound of typing - cell phone sound effects - drifted into her awareness. Joan lifted her head from the pillow, cracked open an eye and regretted it immediately. She groaned and mashed her face back into the pillow.
"You're not going to ask why?" Sherlock asked, from his perch in the armchair.
"You are not here right now."
"I assure you Watson, I take no pleasure in this."
"Are you watching me sleep?" Joan asked the pillow.
"Oh God, you didn't put a webcam in here did you?" Joan sat bolt upright, holding the blankets up to her shoulders.
"In return for information on the Murdock case, Everyone have requested, in keeping with their recent Twilight theme, that I live a day as Edward Cullen. Which includes-"
Joan was more familiar with Twilight than she'd willingly admit. "Watching me sleep. No. I am trying to take a nap. Because of the Murdock case. Because you made me stay up for the last two nights researching and on that useless stakeout. This is creepy."
"I watch you sleep all the time." Sherlock visibly wilted under Joan's glare. "I mean, when we pull all-nighters my glance occasionally falls upon you when you may or may not happen…to…drop…off."
Joan breathed out. "Still creepy."
"May I take a photo of me watching you sleep, to fulfil Everyone's requirements?"
"If you must." Joan wriggled back under the covers and pulled them over her head.
"Can I sit on the bed to take it?"
"You're moving even further into the area of creepy."
"They can get us the Wayne financial records. I need to see your head."
She pushed the covers off her face. "You've got one minute."
"You're meant to be asleep," said Sherlock.
"Get in the bed, take the picture, get out before I make them change their deal."
ii. Joan was cold again. She sat up with a groan, glanced about, blinking blearily, and yanked her portion of the duvet back from Sherlock. Or tried to, because he was sleep on it.
"Sherlock," she mumbled, flopping back down and trying to roll over and pull the duvet with her. "Geroff."
Her third attempt at moving the duvet was successful, sending her idiot roommate onto his back and rewarding her with a mass of prewarmed blankets. Joan smiled and wrapped herself in them, watching the early colours of dawn outside her window.
"You're fixing the heating today," she said, through a yawn.
Sherlock, still fully dressed except for his shoes, muttered something and shoved his head under the pillow.
There was someone in her room. Joan tried to keep her breathing steady, as if she was still asleep. Slowly she rolled towards the edge of the bed, where Sherlock had abandoned his singlestick a few days previously. Her hand crept out from under the covers into the chilly night air-
"It's me," said Sherlock in a low voice. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"That makes a nice change," Joan said, sitting up in bed and recognising Sherlock's silhouette against the window. "Can't sleep?"
Joan chewed her bottom lip. It had been two days since they'd returned Kayden Fuller to her family and Moriarty back into custody. Sherlock had rattled around on the roof with the hives the previous night and had still been up there when she finally fell asleep. She watched the dark oval of his head move, ducking down like he was ashamed.
"Letters are one thing," he said. "Seeing her in person - learning of new things. Reminding me of my failures to deduce even one true thing about that woman. It's not that she's a trigger, she's walking talking, jailed human incarnation of my mistakes and my wasted time and my foolishness. My addictions."
In the darkness, Joan waited. In a corner of her mind she wondered vaguely if Sherlock's excellent eyesight extended to good night vision.
"I keep dreaming about relapse," Sherlock said finally. "Or the day I thought Irene died. The day she came back."
"Relapse dreams happen, Sherlock," said Joan. "I-"
"I feel like it would disappoint you. That's the worst part."
They sat in silence for a moment.
"Can I sleep with you?" asked Sherlock in a small voice, as Joan pulled up the covers on the other side of the bed and said, "Get in."
Sherlock shucked his jacket and undid the top button of his shirt as he quickly and quietly crossed the room, slipped under the blankets.
"Thank you," he said quietly, staring at the ceiling. Joan slid back down into a lying position.
"Would you be disappointed?" he asked. "If I relapsed."
Rolling over to face him, glad they were having the conversation if not so glad it was happening while he was in her bed at 1AM, Joan thought. "I'd be disappointed in myself, if I somehow didn't see it coming and didn't get you to help in time. I'd be upset. But relapses happen. It's what happens afterwards, how you pick yourself up in the aftermath that matters." She waited. Sherlock said nothing. Carefully she reached out a hand and rested it on his chest.
"I've come too far to fail now. But as one challenge passes, another arises. Even lack of cases is a problem. The boredom. It - is vexing. It's exhausting."
One of his hands came up and covered her own, traced along the shape of her fingers. "It's terrifying." He yawned suddenly.
"I wouldn't be disappointed in you," Joan said. Sherlock nodded, gazing intently at the ceiling with damp eyes. Eventually, she felt his body relax into the mattress, his breathing even out, his heart-rate slow. Joan retrieved her hand and clasping them on her chest, lay awake for longer, staring into the dark and wondering if she could approach this topic in daytime. In his sleep, Sherlock muttered something and rolled over, moving his arm across Joan's waist. The engine noise from a car outside could be heard faintly, then disappeared into the night. Joan closed her eyes.
Engrossed in buttoning his rumpled jacket, Sherlock whirled around at the sound of Bell's voice, out of place in the foyer of Watson's apartment building.
"Good morning, Detective," he said slowly, taking in Bell's finely pressed suit and coat. "What brings you here at this hour?"
"Oh, well I was on my way from a scene and I thought I might check in Joan. She's usually up by nine," he said. "Though I get she might have been taking it easier lately. Obviously."
"I was just up there," said Sherlock. "She's awake."
Bell's gaze travelled over Sherlock's crumpled suit, bedhead and slightly-worse-than-usual stubble. Sherlock ignored Bell's expression and put on his hat.
"I slept on the couch," he lied. "Sorry, must dash - I have a client to meet. Detective."
"I'll be seeing you, Holmes."
"Watson," came the whisper. Joan opened her eyes, which was a mistake. Sitting up was her next one. The covers fell away from her torso and the cold air hit her like a physical force.
"What the hell?" she said to the blackness. "What time is it?" It was so cold it hurt to breathe. "What have you done?"
"3AM," said Sherlock. She thought, through the fogginess of her sleep-addled mind. He was probably by the door, with that vaguely sheepish look he wore when he'd flooded the kitchen or bathroom because of some cold case experiment.
Joan grumbled and lay back down under her blankets, shoving a pillow over her ears.
"If I can't hear you, you're not here," she said.
"I'm still here."
"Weren't you trying to hook the heating into those experimental solar cells on the roof when I went to bed?"
"Why is it so cold?"
"Well, it transpired out that the heating is too old for the kind of power the cells were generating."
"You shorted out the heating. In the middle of winter."
"I can fix it, there's just a dearth of 24-hour hardware stores in the immediate area. And a dearth of cabs. And a death of immediately available firewood, if that was your next suggestion."
"It's four in the morning. Go to bed."
"It's three. It's cold."
"You broke the heater." Joan desperately tried to hold onto the fuzziness of sleep, but she was becoming unfortunately conscious. "Put a sweater on and go to bed."
"I may have used part of my bed in an attempt to fix the heater. And then, failing that, very poor quality firewood."
"Oh, for - " Joan flailed one arm out of the tangle of blankets and slapped it down on top of the covers. She was awake, her bed was cold, and she wasn't getting back to sleep with him standing there. She lifted the covers up, letting the rest of the cold air. Great. Just fantastic. "Get in, shut up." She heard Sherlock take a step forward. "Take off your shoes."
"I was about to do that." There were two thunks and she heard him move them over to the wall. The covers rustled, the mattress dipped and Sherlock tucked them both in.
"If you say another word, I'm kicking you out," Joan said, turning over so her back was to her partner.
Sherlock sighed, and she could imagine his expression.
"What about thank you?" he whispered.
"That'll do," she said. He was actually doing an admiral job of quickly warming the bed back up. "Night, Sherlock."
Blissful silence in the darkness. Sherlock shifted. Joan swore.
"Oh my God, your feet are freezing."
iv. God, but Sherlock had a vice-like grip when he wanted. Joan woke up with Sherlock's arm locked across her waist, and perhaps more embarrassingly, her head propped on his shoulder.
"Sherlock, I can't move," she said, lifting her head up and expecting him to sleepily release her. He stared back at her, wide awake, the angle strangely intimate.
"Sorry," he said, moving his arm and shifting away to a more respectable distance, gaze once again fixing itself to the ceiling.
Joan rolled onto her back, feeling the kinks in her neck. "Did you sleep okay?" she asked.
There was a nod. "Did you? I confess, I didn't realise I'd trapped you. Sorry."
"It's fine. You're warm. And kind of like a limpet."
"Do you find it odd you've slept with me enough to know that?"
"Oh, the limpeting varies," Joan said. She paused, rubbed her face with her hands. "This suddenly got weird."
"Would a cup of tea unweird it?"
"If you're making it."
Three nights after Moriarty's arrest, Joan stumbled onto the landing, rubbing her eyes and wrapping her red cardigan around her chest, glancing at the eight-hours slow clock on the wall. Joan could see the yellow glow of a light downstairs, and followed it. Sherlock sat in the kitchen, a room Ire-Moriarty, Moriarty hadn't frequented. He looked up from his mug of tea.
"Can't sleep?" she asked, stepping barefoot into the kitchen.
"I'm not tired," he replied, stubble and the dark shadows under his eyes making him a terrible liar. "I don't. Want to."
Joan leant on the doorframe and waited.
Sherlock glanced up at her, then sighed. "When I shut my eyes, I can see her. I can smell her. It's pervasive. I know Miss Hudson cleaned. You cleaned." He chuckled bitterly. "I scrubbed the floor in there last night. She came into my room once, but I feel like I can sense her everywhere."
"Not sleeping isn't going to help that," said Joan, sitting lightly in the chair opposite him. "You're not going to wait until you basically drop of exhaustion, are you?"
"Actually, I found the canister with your sleep tea at the back of the cupboard." Sherlock pointed at the mug. "Would you like some?"
"No, thank you."
"I'll see her when I sleep," said Sherlock. "And that sounds pathetic, but it's true. It's not just that either. I know I didn't actually relapse. But playing it out - it was very difficult." His eyes darted around the room. "I will talk to Alfredo about that, but I'm not in danger of actually relapsing, I'm not. It just felt that it would not come as a shock if I truly ended up back there."
"You won't end up back there," said Joan. Sherlock nodded. She waited for a moment. "Come on. Get up. Time to get some sleep."
"Are you going to tuck me in?" asked Sherlock.
"You're sleeping with me," Joan said, and wanted to get a photograph of his expression. "If you need someone, I'll be right there. Just for tonight."
Sherlock stood as she did, and trailed after her as they went upstairs, Sherlock shutting off the kitchen light on the way. Discarding her cardigan, Joan slid back into bed, Sherlock standing awkwardly in the doorway, tapping his fingers quickly against his palms.
"Shoes off," Joan prompted. He obliged, lining them up neatly along the wall. He took off his belt and tugged his sweater over his head, folded that and left it on his shoes. In his socks, Sherlock shuffled over, lifted the covers and got into the bed cautiously, like she'd change her mind at any moment. He lay facing the ceiling, doing a fairly good impression of a plank of wood. In the soft yellow light, Joan studied his profile.
"Relax," she said. Sherlock rolled over to face her, looking up and meeting her gaze properly for the first time since the hospital.
"Thank you," he said.
"I'm going to read for a while," said Joan, leaving an opportunity for him to talk, though she felt he'd need a few more days to pass before he could properly talk about what had happened. She watched Sherlock roll onto his other side, facing away from the light, before trying to focus on the text and give Sherlock a minute or two to settle in. Exhausted, Sherlock soon dropped off to sleep, his limbs relaxing and breathing turning to a snore. At one point he rolled back over to her, face slack and eyes shut, his forehead nearly against her hip. Carefully, Joan put her book back on the nightstand, slid down under the covers next to him, and switched off the light with a snap.
Joan woke up just before dawn to find Sherlock's face pressed against her back, his arm slung over her waist. She squinted into the dim grey light of her bedroom and shivered. Sherlock was wonderfully warm against her, but it seemed he'd kicked most of the blankets off. Clumsy with sleep, Joan reached down and fumbled for her duvet. Sherlock shifted and stirred.
"'ry," he mumbled, reaching down and pulling the blankets over them, moving his head up onto the pillow. He slid his arm back over her waist, sighed into her hair, and Joan felt herself drifting back to sleep.