Actions

Work Header

Wounded Tiger

Chapter Text

“Joan!”

Joan rolled over, groaned, and went back to sleep.

“Joan!”

It was far too dark out and she’d gone to sleep far too late to wake up now. She floundered in the expensive sheets, burrowing into the covers, and tried to block out Sherlock’s shouting. At least he was good for comfortable linens; his insistence on Egyptian cotton and down made the bed that much more inviting, which made him a lot easier to ignore.

Joan!

‘A lot easier’ didn’t mean ‘easy’, unfortunately. Or even ‘possible’.

“I. Am. Sleeping!” she shouted from inside her cocoon.

“I need your assistance, immediately!”

She gave an exasperated moan and rolled out of bed, bringing the covers with her, tripping on them sleepily as she made her way downstairs.

Which was how she came to be wearing a sheet and half a pint of relatively fresh blood, from an unidentified source, when Mrs Hudson ushered Greg upstairs. He stared at her and she shrugged at his unasked question, keeping her arms straight out and wearing a put-upon expression, as Sherlock dripped a bit more into her already sticky hair.

Greg paused. “That’s not… human blood, is it?”

“God, I hope not. Sherlock’s just gotten it in my mouth.” She rubbed her lips with a clean corner of the sheet. Sherlock glared at her and she dutifully straightened her arms back out. “It is animal blood, right Sherlock?”

“Pig’s,” he muttered absently, dabbing it on her cheeks. He studied the effect for a moment.

“There you go,” Joan said to Greg cheerfully, “animal blood. Totally fine.” Greg looked like he wanted to argue the point but gave up.

Sherlock gave a huff of irritation, clearly not getting the result he wanted, and upended the remaining contents of the tub over her head.

***

“You still have traces of congealed viscera in your hair,” Sherlock told her, later, when they were sorting through reams of paper. Greg wanted them to find out why half of his raids were suddenly on empty warehouses. Sherlock had raised an eyebrow and told him it was because he had a mole.

“I don’t need Sherlock-Bloody-Holmes to tell me I have a mole,” he’d replied scathingly, “I know I have a mole, thanks. What I need is for you self-destructive idiots to tell me which of my staff it is.”

Sherlock had told him exactly what he thought of the case and Greg’s staff as a whole, and Greg had reminded him that Sally still had a recording of him tearfully begging Joan to take him back.

Sherlock had shut up and taken the case.

“And whose fault is my horror-movie hair, then?” Joan asked, scrubbing at the clotted mess that remained despite a rather vigorous shower. “Jesus, I’m knackered. Living with you is never boring, but I need to get more sleep once in a while.”

“Good luck with that; you’ve ruined my sheets,” Sherlock responded, glaring at a memo and tossing it aside.

I’ve ruined your sheets,” Joan asked, eyebrows up, “you’re the one who had to tip a container of pig’s blood over my head while I was wearing them. I think that one’s on you.”

“Focus on your work,” Sherlock said with a huff, and she smirked and went back to the email printout she’d been reading. “Anyway, I could hardly have Lestrade come upstairs to see you naked and shivering, covered in blood. He’d likely shoot one of us on the spot, considering what he thinks we get up to. He’s started staring at me as though he can’t believe I’ve managed to walk into the station without succumbing to a gruesome end on the way there.”

Joan laughed. “That look is for me. Unfair, too, I might add; I’m much more careful and reasonable about mass violence than I used to be.”

Sherlock looked over his stack of papers and gave her a half-smile. “Considering that you used to insinuate yourself into the most dangerous situations an army doctor could get into, and once in London you went out gang-baiting most nights, that hardly says much in your favour.”

Joan huffed and stuck her nose in the air. “And I was very good at both of those, too.”

“I would never question your aptitude at goring assailants. We’ve ended up covered in them far too often for that.”

“And when we’re not, you find other ways to spatter me in blood.” Joan grinned. “Is it a turn-on for you, Sherlock?”

Sherlock smirked, not even pretending to look at the correspondence anymore. “You arouse me in any state, Joan Watson, but yes, although you always make me wait for you to wash it all off before engaging in carnal relations.”

“It’s not sanitary otherwise,” Joan replied breezily. “I still have some in my hair, though, in case you were wondering. And I’m sure you’ve noticed that this room has a lock, no windows, and fairly good soundproofing.” With that she leered, leaned back, and turned the bolt on the door.

Sherlock dropped his papers and stood, smiling dangerously. “Not the blood-painted warrior I was thinking of, perhaps, but one does need to make allowances for a partner who offers to shag in a police conference room.”

“Pity date, then, am I?” Joan asked archly as Sherlock came to stand between her legs, looming over her.

Sherlock grinned. “Not hardly,” he replied, leaning down.

***

Greg was not pleased that they had taken an entire afternoon and not found his mole. He crossed his arms, leaned onto his desk, and glared at them.

“Instead of looking through the paperwork from the cases,” he said steadily, “you were having sex in my conference room, weren’t you?”

“Uh,” Joan managed.

“Yes,” Sherlock replied smugly.

“I have to work in that conference room, you arseholes! I have to go in there and discuss very important crime-related things, and all I am going to be able to concentrate on is Joan in her birthday suit on the table.” He sighed. “Thanks, the both of you; I’m never going to get another promotion again.”

Joan grinned, and Sherlock looked torn between triumph and jealousy. Greg snorted. “Yeah, you forget when you try to show off how much you sleep with her that I have to picture her naked in order to picture her naked with you, don’t you?” Sherlock scowled. “Luckily for you, I also end up stuck with the mental image of your lily white arse, so that puts paid to it. Get out of my office before you get it into your heads to shag here, too, and take these all with you. Maybe you can look them over when you finally pause to eat.”

***

When Joan decided they couldn’t put it off anymore, they finally sat down and started going through each and every piece of paperwork looking for some sort of trail. Sherlock got more and more irritated throughout, until he finally snapped.

“Bored!” Sherlock dropped his entire half of the files in front of Joan with a loud thud, and she glared up at him. “This isn’t detective work, this is drudgery. I’m being wasted!”

“And so… you’re giving it all to me,” Joan guessed, eyeing the pile.

“Your limited intellect is vastly more suited to this case,” he said briskly, waving a hand at it. “Similar to those with a low IQ being better suited to lorry driving, as they are less likely to go into a bored fugue state after too much time and run into a field when the road curves.”

Joan stared up at him, eyebrows raised. “I don’t know, Sherlock, it seems like my pitiably limited brains might not even be up to this much. You know what else is probably beyond me? Blow jobs. Ever again. They’re just too complicated.”

Sherlock frowned. “That’s just mean-spirited.”

Joan looked at him pointedly until he picked the papers up with a sigh and started through them again.

Sherlock sighed again, loudly.

And again. Even louder.

“Right,” Joan said, and poked him in the side when he inhaled to do it again, startling the air out of him in a breathy yelp. “I’m done with my half. You’ve been fluttering around uselessly for the last three hours complaining, you can do it alone now.”

Sherlock sulked. “But that’s why it makes the most sense for you to finish my half,” he reasoned, “and continue to provide blow jobs.”

Joan snorted. “Nope. I’m taking a break and going on a walk. And before you say you’re doing the same,” she continued when he opened his mouth, “You have to get some actual work done before you take a break. One page does not count. Text me when you’ve gone through half of that stack and then we can take a break together.”

“With blow jobs,” Sherlock said, just to make sure, and Joan laughed and headed downstairs.

***

When Joan came home, Sherlock was out. Mycroft was sitting in his chair instead.

Joan made a face. “Scared him off, did you?” Mycroft gave her a quelling look that did absolutely no quelling at all. “Did he have you search for a pen, yet?”

“I can see you’re in sparkling form today, Dr Watson,” Mycroft drawled. “I take it you’ve spent most of the day being humorously antagonistic and wished to impress me with your wit as well?”

Joan grinned. “He did. I didn’t think he was going to.”

Mycroft pursed his lips. “I offer you congratulations on what appears to be an extremely inefficient way to tidy away your prophylactics.” He examined the handle of his umbrella and studiously ignored her laughter. “As engaging as you may find the subject of my younger brother’s amorous pursuits, I find them rather distasteful to ponder. I would appreciate your finding another venue of offense, please. May I remind you that you were the one to violently attack me over bugging the areas in which you habitually engaged in the activity?”

“You’re right,” Joan agreed, nodding, “I apologize. Although I think ‘violently attacked’ is a bit of an exaggeration.”

Mycroft raised an eyebrow. “You incapacitated two of my largest employees before striding across the room to introduce me to your well-practiced right hook. What, pray tell, should I call it?” He waved at her when she rolled her eyes. “Yes, I know, ‘love taps’ and ‘kid stuff’. How wonderfully reassuring. No, Sherlock has taken himself off to inform Lestrade about his most recent case, which I must congratulate you on inducing him to complete. I would have expected Sherlock to have ignored it.”

Joan rummaged for her tea things, amused. “Well, he planned to, but Sally still has the recording of him declaring his love in a storage cupboard, so they used that as leverage.” She pulled out a pair of rather chipped mugs (nothing but the best for Mycroft), and started the kettle boiling.

Mycroft sighed. “You might advise him not to let her use that against him further, and perhaps to endeavour not to be quite so trying when his target has blackmail material; she forwarded it to the entirety of the station in a fit of pique this afternoon. My staff found it endlessly amusing.” Joan shrugged, smiling, and Mycroft pinned her with a cold stare. “I admit I am not quite as entertained at the thought of my brother’s partner bringing him to tears while in mortal peril, but I suppose I have simply missed the joke. Do enlighten me.”

“Like that, is it?” Joan asked, setting Mycroft’s tea down next to him and settling into her own chair. He relaxed slightly when she pulled her feet up under her. It would be harder to make sudden movements towards him that way, and it also kept her feet warm. Both of them got something they wanted; she was getting rather good at this compromising thing. “You’re upset with me for being around Sherlock, now you’re upset I left him?”

“Hardly,” Mycroft replied. “You have shown yourself to be indifferent to monetary compensation. What would you find convincing enough to leave him entirely for?”

Joan stared for a moment, mouth slightly open, although to be honest she probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Mycroft flinched back involuntarily when she stood, but she just smiled humourlessly and took his tea back.

“Holmes brothers who are not polite do not get tea,” she explained blithely, dumping the mug down the sink. Mycroft looked bemused. “I rather think you should leave now.”

“You are not in his best interests, Joan,” Mycroft told her, standing. “You are a reasonable woman. Surely you can see the danger you put him in from yourself and your enemies.”

“Pretty sure all the enemies we run into are his,” Joan replied, “and he’s still safe from me and my crazy homicidal ways, thanks.”

“You brought Sherlock Holmes to tears in public,” Mycroft said pointedly. “I fail to see how this is less than alarming. Furthermore, if you are free of dangerous enemies, why have my CCTV feeds been accessed to watch you for the past two weeks?”

“Your what? Have what?” Joan threw her hands in the air. “Your camera feeds have been compromised, I’m being cyber-stalked through the government, and you lead with ‘can I pay you to leave Sherlock’? Really?”

Mycroft glared. “You spent the majority of the last several years using my camera system to display your surprisingly unhinged penchant for violence, Joan. Surely you didn’t expect to remain friends with everyone you’ve goaded into ill-fated attacks?” He snorted. “Let me be blunt—“

“Yes, of course, because you certainly haven’t been so far.” Joan interrupted sarcastically.

“—I intend to be rid of you.”

Joan considered him for a moment. “I can’t tell. Are you threatening me? If you are, good luck. People who threaten me tend to end up dead, and you’ve really done such a spectacular job of influencing Sherlock’s choices in the past.”

Mycroft took his coat from the door and nodded to her. Joan rolled her eyes; it simply wouldn’t have done to be impolite as he left after insulting her, trying to buy her off, and attempting to intimidate her. “Have a good afternoon, Doctor. And do think about the danger you pose to my brother, whom you purport to care about.”

“Yeah, I’m the one who doesn’t take Sherlock into account,” she snarled back as he closed the door. Then she dropped her mug in the sink and leaned on the bench, thinking.

Mycroft couldn’t do anything to her without Sherlock flipping his shit and possibly murdering his older brother, so she wasn’t terribly concerned there. But if someone was watching her, someone not Mycroft, that was potentially dangerous. She would need to talk to Sherlock when he got back.

He was taking his time about it, though. Joan shook her head and sent him a quick text before stretching, heading to the bedroom, and taking a well needed nap.

***

When she woke it was dark outside and the phone was ringing.

Joan muzzily snaked a hand out from the covers and groped for it, almost sending it crashing to the floor instead. Clearly the world was conspiring against her to keep her from getting any sleep. She should probably lock away the guns before she started hallucinating.

“…’lo?” she mumbled, “s’Joan. Whozzit?”

“Hello, kitten.” The voice on the other end was harsh, smug, and Joan rolled her eyes. Well, she would have, if her eyes had been open. “How are you this evening?”

“I was sleeping,” she said tetchily, but since it could be a (condescending, annoying) client, she tried for relatively patient. “Who is this, please?”

“Without your boyfriend?” the man on the other line asked, and Joan could practically hear the leer in his voice.

“Nope, don’t need the money enough to deal with you right now,” she said, and hung up.

A moment later it started ringing again. Joan ignored it, but after a brief pause where the call went to voicemail, it started again. She groaned and picked up.

“We don’t need business enough to put up with smarmy creeps,” Joan told him. “Go away.”

“My name is Sebastian Moran,” the man said brusquely, having dropped the smarm and settled for threatening, “and I have Sherlock Holmes tied, gagged and blindfolded in a chair in front of me. I am holding a gun. Want to talk now?”

Chapter Text

Ice flooded Joan’s veins and she almost broke her mobile. Don’t freak out. Do not freak out. “Are you Greg’s mole?” she asked lightly, holding back the cold rage bubbling up in her throat. “Because if you are, Sherlock is in serious shit for going after you alone. If you don’t kill him, I will.”

“Kitten,” Moran purred, “you’ve left me low on patience. Don’t make another joke or I will shoot him in the leg.”

She was going to empty her Browning into his goddamn face.

“Yes. Sorry.” Joan ducked behind the bed and lifted up the section of the floor that covered her gun safe. “I didn’t mean to imply that I don’t take you seriously, I’m honestly just infuriated with Sherlock. What do you want?”

Moran laughed, and there was a soft thud and a grunt on the other side. He’d hit someone. Joan grit her teeth; before she reconfigured his face she was going to set him on fire. “Hear that, princess?” he teased, head away from the phone, “your kitten’s cross with you. Don’t worry,” he said to Joan, “he’s regretting it already. Getting him here wasn’t exactly easy, and a few of the boys got a bit upset with him. He’ll be right as rain in a bit, though. Nothing his pet doctor can’t stitch back up.”

“Please don’t hurt him,” Joan said, softly sliding a magazine in place and imagining what she was going to do when she got hold of Sherlock’s kidnappers. It helped her keep her voice sweet and scared, instead of viciously threatening. “Very dangerous people get upset when that happens, and I’m worried about them doing something stupid that will end with Sherlock dead.”

Sebastian barked a sharp laugh. “You’re right, sweetheart, he would end up dead. He’s too volatile to drag around while we run from the cops or that brother of his; we’d be safer and happier just shooting him. You have something we want, but we don’t want it enough to risk his protectors. Don’t call them, by the way; you already know I have eyes on the Yard, but I have them on the Iceman, too. Just give me what I want, and everyone will be fine.”

Joan’s eyes narrowed. “Anything I have,” she replied immediately, “and anything I have access to. Just tell me when and where.”

“You’re planning on getting him back and killing us later.” Moran’s voice was amused. “But I’m not planning on getting caught, so I’m fine with that. Put his computer on your back steps and I’ll send someone to come get it.”

“Do you want the backup hard disk, too?” Joan asked, and Moran thought about it for a moment.

“Yeah. Yeah, put that out too. I’m sending someone now. Make sure they’re out there when he gets there.”

“I will.” Joan slipped downstairs, avoiding the windows, and opened Sherlock’s laptop. She typed in ‘password1’ and watched the screen blink before showing the regular login screen again. Hopefully he hadn’t been keeping anything on there that he’d need later, because she’d just written everything over with their pre-planned mirror of boring tax files and porn. It would serve him right; he’d used her computer to download all the porn and had gotten her a boatload of viruses to boot. And she’d had to go into the repair shop with it and stand stone faced while the techies collectively snickered.

Christ, she hoped he was okay.

“When do I get Sherlock back?” she asked, putting a quaver into her voice.

“When I feel like it, kitten.” Moran had switched the smarm back on. “You know, I’m told you’ve quite a bite on you, but you’re really just a teddy bear.”

“You have a very big stick, Mr Moran,” Joan replied, “if you have Sherlock, that is. If he’s actually still alive.”

“Not sure you can trust me? Alright honey, have a word with him.” There was a pause, then another thud and a grunted breath directly into the speaker.

“I hope you’ve already burned file thirteen, Joan,” Sherlock wheezed. “I’d hate for Lestrade to find it when they spread out and toss the flat after you disappear, too.”

“I’ll take care of it,” she said softly. “Don’t get killed before I get there. I love you. But you are in so much shit if you went after this guy without me.”

“Never,” Sherlock managed before the phone was taken away and Moran picked up again.

“Not sure what he’s on about,” he said cheerfully, and Joan heard Sherlock getting hit again in the background. Her fingers clenched. “No one’s coming after you, kitten, don’t you worry. We just want a few little files and you’ll both be right as rain. Make sure the computer’s on the steps,” he ordered, and hung up.

Joan looked at the phone for a moment.

‘Iceman’. He’d called Mycroft ‘Iceman’. According to Sherlock, everyone who did that was dead. Worse, Moran obviously didn’t care about the computer, or he wouldn’t have had to think about the hard drive. That meant he was after something else, and if he was part of Moriarty’s crowd it wasn’t something simple. It was going to hurt.

Thirteen men, according to Sherlock, spread out over the area, but anything Joan was clever enough to pick up without coaching, Moran was certain to be listening for. Stupid people didn’t catch Sherlock Holmes unless they were very lucky, and Moran would have to be very, very lucky to do that and keep the Yard and Mycroft off his tail. Hopefully he would assume Sherlock had meant for Joan to relay those details to the police, since he’d mentioned them too. Hopefully she was too unassuming to be considered a threat on her own.

Hopefully.

Smart men were often stupid around Joan. She really didn’t look all that dangerous. Moran had certainly sounded unimpressed with her over the phone.

She was going to cram it down his throat before she set him on fire.

She considered for a moment, and then put the guns back in the safe. She changed quickly into close-fitting, comfortable grey clothes, and slicked her short hair down with gel to keep from shedding any evidence. Then she found the pair of leather driving gloves that Sherlock had bought her for Christmas, picked up the laptop and hard drive, and went to the back door.

“Hello?” she yelled through it. “I’m going to open the door, and if anyone is waiting on the other side to brain me and drag me off, I’d like to remind them that a willing hostage walking on her own is much easier to get to transport without people noticing. I’m not armed. My hands are going to be full of laptop when I get out. I don’t want to do anything to get Sherlock hurt, so I’m going to be quiet and nice.”

***

They had ended up bludgeoning her in the head the second she opened the door, but she’d been expecting it and moved with it, so no real harm done. The blood trickle even missed her eyes, which was an unexpected bonus that she felt pretty cheerful about. She hadn’t even hit back until they reached what looked like an abandoned, half-remodelled warehouse.

“That it, then?” she asked quietly, and they laughed and started to park on the street.

“Yeah, you’ll like it, sweetie. Loads of fuzzy little animals scurrying about.” The one in the front passenger seat leered back at her, fully expecting her to look horrified at the very thought of rats. She’d been playing up the sweet, defenceless bit of fluff, so she wasn’t surprised. It was amazing how someone dressed for battle somehow didn’t alarm anyone if they also featured a set of breasts.

“I see,” she replied, reaching forwards, and swiftly broke his neck.

Jesus!” The remaining pair both swore, hands jerking towards their weapons; but the driver was still distracted keeping them from hitting anything and the man next to her had tangled his holster in the seatbelt. It made it easier for Joan to draw his firearm than for him to, so she did and clocked him full in the face with it. The driver had a knife, which honestly was a lot more useful in close quarters where you don’t want to shoot any of your friends, but the angle was awkward and he was keeping one foot on the brake. She easily dodged and hit him with the gun as well. She tied them with some of the rope from the back (meant for her, no doubt) and gagged them with their shirts.

Three down.

Thirteen men meant she couldn’t afford to get hurt halfway through. Thirteen men meant she needed to get them down fast and quiet, and keep them down. She couldn’t use the gun initially if she wanted to be sneaky, and she couldn’t bring herself to slit the throat of an unconscious man if there was another option, but this outnumbered she was going to leave a lot of dead bodies instead of her usual unconscious ones. She had tried to bleed only on herself, so hopefully there wouldn’t be much trace of her in the car or building, but she’d probably leave some evidence. Murderers always did.

Sherlock would figure out something. If not, well, he’d be alive to worry about it, so she’d count it a win. Sherlock was not someone you could kidnap and then let go—when Moran got whatever he wanted, Sherlock would be dead. Only an idiot would let a Holmes in the same room with him in a situation like this and expect to get away easy.

On the other hand, her opinion of Moran was taking a serious beating with the grunts he’d sent after her. They were nothing like the calibre she would have expected. She rifled through their pockets for weapons and keys, and headed quickly towards the warehouse, sticking to any shadows she could find.

Around the corner, at the entrance, there was a pair of thugs with poorly concealed guns and free hands busy with cigarettes. There wasn’t anything around to use to sneak up on them, so she waved at the two cheerfully from the street and jogged up in plain view, hands clearly empty and visible. She asked directions to the best place to catch a taxi, and when one turned to point, she beat the shit out of both of them. One of them ended up getting squarely stuck in the gut with her newly obtained knife, and she’d left him bleeding out just inside the doorway without looking back.

Five down.

The warehouse had apparently been bought by some idiot who’d wanted to turn it into office space; it had been divided up into high-ceilinged hallways and rooms, which made it easier for her to duck and hide, but also easier for other people to do the same. Still, it was better overall, since she didn’t need to worry about running into the remaining eight all at once, but not particularly relaxing to walk around in.

If Sherlock had been behind her, it would have been a lot of fun. As it was, instead of the hot rush of adrenaline there was only an icy, quiet rage, interspersed with jolts of wrathful satisfaction when she found someone to hit. Eventually, with the numbers turning in her favour, her head switched over from ‘men down’ to ‘men left’.

Four left.

The fury was backing away slightly, now, and she was getting worried. She was good, and she wasn’t holding back anymore, but it was…too easy. Everything had been almost arranged for her; she hadn’t needed to fire her gun yet, and the building had been filled with common thugs, nothing organised like she’d been expecting. She wasn’t…well, she wasn’t disappointed, because every mistake Moran made meant she was likelier to get Sherlock out unharmed, but… something was definitely off.

There were two men playing cards in front of a room that clearly held a hostage. Their hands were bloodied from beating on something, and they sat directly in front of the door, obviously making some attempt at guarding it. She’d already taken care of almost everybody in the building, so someone had to be with Sherlock, which meant at most there could only be one person waiting for her if it was a trap. Sherlock could have made a mistake when he told her there were thirteen men, but it was unlikely. He would have had to be absolutely certain to give her an actual count.

Had they taken her to a decoy building? If they had, they’d certainly had ample time to overwhelm her instead of letting her mow down grunts.

Joan shrugged. She was too deep into it now. If it was a trap, she wouldn’t make it out without springing it. She took the corner at a run and the closest guard got a solid kick to the face with her full momentum behind it. She felt several bones crunch, and spun to ram her elbow into his companion’s windpipe and her gun into his face while he scrabbled at his throat and gurgled. She took a breath, looked around all the nearby corners, and steadied her shoulders.

Two left.

She kicked the door open, gun ready and aimed ahead of her, silence forgotten. It opened up into the untouched half of the warehouse, one large space with Sherlock bloody and bound to a chair in the center of it.

Trap. Trap. Clearly a trap.

She crouched and took in the room. Drums of…something, something that smelled quite volatile, were stacked against the wall near her. She thought back; the halls she’d been down so far had been strewn with rubbish, discarded papers and cloth.

Who worked so hard to make their hideout a textbook fire hazard? Who actually stacked anything explosive in their workspace with people who smoked? Really?

Someone who doesn’t plan to be here when it goes off, she thought, and smelled smoke from somewhere further into the building.

She looked up at the ceiling, appalled. “Really?” she whispered, “Really? I know Greg accuses us of living an action movie, but really?”

She’d known it was going to be a trap.

Sherlock had been blindfolded, gagged, and even had earplugs; it was the first sign that anyone knew what they were doing. He jerked away when he felt her hand on his gag, but relaxed almost immediately when he realised who she was. He leant into her touch, and she took a moment to run her fingers through her hair before she went back to work on the knots.

She gave up on it quickly; the smoke was starting to seep into the room and sweat and blood made untying them impossible. Instead she sliced at the ropes around his wrists and ankles with the knife, nicking him a bit as she did. When free, Sherlock tore out the earplugs and gag with newly bloodied hands, before grinning up at her tiredly and cupping her face.

“You are the most singularly erotic thing I have ever seen,” he breathed around his injuries, and she laughed and waggled her eyebrows at him.

“That was actually a good look for you, too, tied to a chair with your legs spread. I wish we had more time.”

“You’re welcome to recreate it at home,” Sherlock replied smugly, “but at the moment we should probably flee what is going to be a quite impressive fire instead.”

“Agreed. You’re missing a tooth, by the way,” she told him, slipping under an arm to hoist him up. His injuries seemed fairly minor at a glance, but he’d been tied to a chair for a while and his limbs weren’t quite ready for his whole weight. He nuzzled into her hair, making a put-out sound when he found it slicked down. She smiled. “You’ll have to get a new one. You’ll love it; you can take it out at parties and amaze everyone.”

“I kept the original,” Sherlock assured her haughtily, “It still has the root attached. When we get out of this firetrap you can put it back in and I won’t need a new one at all.”

“Right,” Joan answered happily. There was movement on one of the beams above them, and she fluidly spun and shot. There was a snap of something vitally internal when the sniper hit the concrete floor. “That’s twelve. I’m guessing I don’t need to worry about the thirteenth?”

“I would assume so. Moran took off the moment he finished your phone conversation.” Sherlock frowned. It wasn’t hard to get outside; there was a neon exit sign just ahead of them. Joan took it first, expecting trouble, but all she found was an empty street.

“This was a trap, but I am… not certain what it contained,” Sherlock murmured against her shoulder as they made their way down the street. “Fire isn’t the best way to avoid leaving evidence, but you are using one of their guns and anything but bullets that you’ve left behind will be destroyed when—“ there was a loud explosion somewhere behind them, “—the barrels of fuel go.” He frowned. “With perfect timing. That explosion was not meant for us.”

Joan nodded. “The men I took out were dangerous, but disorganised, and lazy. They weren’t expecting me, and didn’t know what to do with me when I got there. I don’t have a bruise on me besides the first one and anywhere I hurt myself hurting them.”

“Hm.” Sherlock didn’t look pleased about this; Joan wasn’t, either. It was suspect that Sherlock should get through rough handling with only surface damage, but it was ridiculous that she could take on thirteen goons without injury; and it was very worrying that the fire seemed entirely pre-planned.

“Too much to hope for that the fire was only to get rid of any evidence Moran might have left?”

Sherlock shook his head. “Unlikely.” He didn’t explain, but went silent and thoughtful. Joan gripped his shoulder tightly and left him to it.

***

Sherlock was… not panicking, but something entirely close.

Moran should have been dead, and that he wasn’t meant Irene Adler hadn’t been able to resist adding one more point to her scoreboard against the world. Joan could probably explain to him why Irene collected enemies like Mycroft collected favours, but as far as Sherlock was concerned, it was gross stupidity and lack of foresight. Irene had sworn to him years ago that she left her enemies alive and hating her, yet unable to touch her, for the power it gave her over them; but power so precarious it balanced on a single piece of blackmail was just another firearm pointed at your head. Ridiculous. Useless. It was a mistake Sherlock would never have made, but one Irene could not seem to avoid over and over again, no matter how many times it burned her.

On the other hand, Sherlock had allowed himself to care for Joan, which was dangerous in a similarly destructive way. She had fallen asleep against him on their sofa, curled up around her Browning with her head against his shoulder. He absently touched her hair again; he’d been thinking all night, and he had reduced her shower-wet hair to messy peaks and cowlicks as it had dried. She hadn’t minded. She didn’t mind most of the things he did. It was nice. Domestic.

He would never be able to replace her and didn’t want to, which made him worry. Constantly. It galled him to emotionally understand any of his brother’s motives, but it couldn’t be denied that he was as likely to make overblown, emotional decisions about Joan that he would sneer at in anyone else. Right now he was working very hard not to cut Joan out of the case, regardless of her usefulness, and was only succeeding because she would leap in anyway if he tried.

Moran had been Moriarty’s brawn, the way Joan was Sherlock’s; very dangerous and intelligent, absolutely necessary for the work being done, but not the one behind the puzzles. Still, he would have the tools and experience of working with Moriarty to make his enemies’ lives difficult. Tonight had not been meant to trick them for long; it wasn’t clever enough to fool Joan, and definitely not clever enough to fool Sherlock. Moran had been poking their hornet’s nest and they had responded as expected, but he hadn’t cared about tricking them after the fact.

That meant the trap had already been sprung and that Sherlock just had yet to see the extent of it. That meant Joan was already in danger and Sherlock simply didn’t know which direction the teeth would come from. So he was not panicking. But he was close.

Joan’s mobile chimed, and Sherlock glanced over at it.

Oh, *Tiger*, it said, Jim *wasn’t* lying about you.

Chapter Text

4 years ago

“Joan. Pet.”

Joan Watson cracked her eyes open, barely. Greg hovered over her, face pained and earnest-- loving. Joan couldn’t deal with that, though, so she rolled over to face the wall. She wasn’t sleeping, but the longer she hid under the covers with her eyes closed, the longer it would be before she had to face what her life had become after the bottom had fallen out of her world.

Ha. Fallen. She was a regular comedian.

Maybe she could just shoot herself and be done with it all.

“Joan. Come on sweetheart, you’ve been in bed for three days this time. It’s not getting better. You need to talk to someone.” Joan didn’t move, and Greg sat heavily next to her. “It doesn’t have to be me. It can be, if you want, but you’ve barely spoken a word to anyone since he was… since the funeral. You’re starving yourself, too.” He touched her shoulder, where the bone was clearly visible through the skin. “I’m worried about you.”

“I’m fine,” she whispered, her voice a raspy croak from lack of use.

“You’re not.” Greg let out a frustrated breath, and said, “I know you don’t like shrinks. But I’m not… I don’t know what to do. I set up an appointment for you. Someone new. Even if it’s for you to just sit and stare at her. Please.”

Joan rolled over to look at him, blank faced.

“For me. Please just go. Once.”

“Okay,” she managed, “yeah. Just… just let me sleep for a bit more now, okay?”

“Okay,” Greg replied, and Joan rolled back away so she wouldn’t have to see the ache and pity painted clearly on his face.

***

Greg coaxed Joan into the shower (“you’ll feel better”), clothes (“come on pet”), and out the door (“I have work, so I can’t come with you, but I’ll call for a taxi”). She stared at herself in the big mirror in the lobby when she got there: too thin, too sad, too stupid to stop the slow motion car crash that was still happening in front of her eyes. Too useless to pull herself back together after Sherlock jumped, too insipid to get out of bed, too closed off and damaged to be what Greg needed, and too bitter to forgive anyone involved in the three ring circus their last case had become. Especially Greg. Especially herself.

The therapist was thoughtful and concerned, and expected confidences from Joan that she hadn’t even given to Sherlock. She wasn’t going to explain them to a complete stranger. She wouldn’t be going back again.

Too weak. Too distrustful. Too feeble.

She’d fulfilled her promise. Greg wouldn’t be happy, but he’d happier than if she’d refused to go at all. She tried to stuff down the tiny part of her that gloried in his guilt; he deserved it. He hadn’t—but no. That wasn’t fair. He had just been doing his job.

She wanted to punish him anyway. She tried not to.

Hailing a taxi was too much work, and the cabbie would expect her to make conversation with them. She wasn’t up to it. She didn’t have anything to do, anyway; she’d been working with Sherlock full-time when…

She could take the time that walking home would require.

She kept her head down, so she wouldn’t have to smile at anyone walking by, wouldn’t have to meet anyone’s eyes. Maybe she could buy a pair of headphones and just tuck the plug into her pocket. Wear sunglasses. Curl her shoulders forward like a movie star trying not to be noticed and hope to god that no one sat down next to her on the tube, or at the park, and asked her what could be so bad, why didn’t she just smile? She wanted to break their smarmy faces when they did that.

Then Joan turned a corner and saw something out of the corner of her eye. Some furtive movement, a duck behind a skip that was just a touch too quick to be ignored.

Her heart rate sped up a beat or two.

She glanced around. Two CCTV cameras; Mycroft was making sure they followed her recently. Whoever was in the alley wasn’t the brightest—they could easily have chosen somewhere without a direct camera feed. But then, clever criminals generally didn’t hide behind skips to drag people off the street in broad daylight.

She stopped and pulled out her phone, pretending to send a text. Another figure moved in the shadows now that she’d presented a viable target, and her breathing started coming a little easier, her pulse picked up further. Two. Unfair odds. She grinned, pretended to dial, and stepped into the alley as though trying to make a slightly more private call.

Hands grabbed her from behind and her blood sang.
She was smiling as she slammed her head back into her assailant’s face, feeling the crunch of the cartilage in his nose, elbowing him viciously under his ribs and jerking away when his grip loosened. She started laughing, loud and thrilled, and the second man managed to slice a seven-inch groove down her forearm before she barrelled into him, smashed his wrist against the brick wall and yanked him down to introduce her knee to his face. He collapsed, bleeding profusely, and she turned, battered and giggling, back to her first attacker. He stared and gaped awkwardly, clutching his broken nose as she strode towards him. Then he started, stumbled and fell, crab-walking backwards frantically against the filthy tarmac, until he backed up against the skip.

When she crouched down in front of him he cringed back, arms up in surrender. “Do you want to call the police?” she asked, manic, bloody, and terrifying, and he fumbled his mobile with shaking hands. He had to dial twice before he managed it.

Greg had come personally, bringing three cars with him, racing for her before the officer driving had come to a stop. She kissed him when he reached her, ignoring the cut oozing into her clothes, and he anxiously searched her for further injury, looking terrified, heart in his teeth.

Joan couldn’t hold back a toothy grin. “I am so glad you convinced me to see that shrink,” she told him, and only felt the smallest sliver of guilt over the broken stare she got back.

***

Four Years Later

Greg was happy Sherlock had caught the constable leaking information to criminals for ridiculously small sums (the man had clearly not been a thinker), but he had to admit the paperwork involved was certainly not one of the perks. Especially not the bureaucratic gymnastics he’d had to pull off in order to convert Sherlock’s amazing deductions into something the courts could reasonably call proof. He was fiddling with his pen, trying to decide how to re-word ‘because of the past possessive, obviously, Lestrade. You are so unbelievably vapid at times’ in a way his superiors would accept, when Sally opened the door.

She looked pale and worried, not a look she had often sported, and Greg sat up straight in his seat.

“You’ll want to check your email,” she said curtly, and Greg immediately pulled it up. There was a message from Sherlock near the top; apparently he had forwarded it to the same list Sally had sent cryingsherlock.mp3 out to. Greg groaned.

“Shit. How far did he go, Sally?”

She shook her head. “It’s not about me. Watch it.”

Greg did, and slowly went, if possible, paler than Sally. He looked up at her. “Who has this?” he asked quietly.

“Enough of Anderson’s old mates that there’s an arrest warrant out already,” she replied, lips thin. “But we would have had to make the arrest anyway.”

“We would,” he agreed, still staring at the screen. He had thought he was finished feeling like this when Joan had finally stopped walking alone at night, but he’d been wrong. “He must have some sort of plan, but I can’t imagine what it is. I’ll call him, you call Joan.”

Sally nodded, looking ill. “On it.”

***

Sherlock jerked awake at the sound of his mobile and Joan’s going off simultaneously. Joan nearly knocked skulls with him doing the same; she frowned and picked hers up, nudging him to do the same when she saw the caller ID. He snarled and answered.

“Lestrade. I appreciate your waking me but only because I should not have fallen asleep; I’m busy. I don’t have time for you.”

Sally was apparently on the other line with Joan, who got up and moved away so they weren’t talking over one another.

“You’ve bloody well got time for this, you fucking idiot!” Greg yelled. Sherlock frowned and looked down at his mobile before putting it back to his ear. Lestrade was often frustrated and cross with him; he was rarely ever spitting-nails furious. “I don’t know what the hell you’re about, but this is the densest move you have ever pulled. Bar none. What the hell are you thinking with this goddamn email? You’d have tied my hands just sending it to me, but the entire department? I can’t fix this, Sherlock, and you had better have a damn impressive plan, because I’m worried you won’t be able to, either.”

Sherlock glanced up at Joan, who had gone white at whatever Sally was saying. “Lestrade, I’m afraid I do not have my computer, and as such cannot account for my emails. You will need to be more descriptive.”

There was a pause, and Greg said, “that’s… that’s not good.”

Joan had brought a hand to her mouth and was staring at him. The panic he had avoided the night before (and had foolishly fallen asleep despite of) rushed in full force. “Lestrade. Cease your emotional meandering immediately and work your useless head around words that will actually inform me about the situation. What has happened?”

Greg let out a breath and said, “Someone’s sent a video to the list Sally had emailed your audio file to. It’s of Joan. Video of her killing four men and seriously wounding a further eight. The only upside is that at the end she’s half carrying you, and you show obvious signs of having been held against your will and beaten. There are close ups; it’s obviously her. Tell me it’s manipulated, Sherlock. Please.”

“I can neither confirm nor deny that,” Sherlock managed, “please don’t ask me anything you do not want an answer to.”

Shit,” Greg replied. “Officers are on their way to arrest her now. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t let her punch anyone this time, don’t steal anyone’s gun, and don’t run off with her again. When we came for you the team was just angry; the guys coming to get her are angry and scared. The video is cut like an action movie, Sherlock, and she is fucking terrifying on this. I got scared watching this. And the guys coming were good friends of Anderson. They will hurt her if you give them reason to.”

“Understood,” Sherlock said hollowly, “I will call you soon,” and hung up.

Joan was doing the same. She ran a shaky hand through her hair. “Upside,” she said weakly, “I’ve already taken a shower, and I concentrated very hard on my hands.”

He stared at her, mute. They both knew it wouldn’t help.

She had been taken against her will, she had used only the weapons used against her, and she had escaped with him as soon as she was able. There would be proof of her attack on the doorstep. But combined with her past record and her clear attempts to avoid leaving evidence, added to the mysterious fire and subsequent deaths of the men she hadn’t directly killed, and then her reluctance to contact the police afterwards…

Stupid. Stupid. Sentiment had made him stupid. He’d wanted to get home and hold her, and figure out how to protect her, and instead he’d ignored the danger she was already in.

When Anderson’s friends came, Joan kissed him and let them handcuff and shove her around in a remarkably similar fashion to his own arrest four years prior. He had been angry then; he was livid now. He didn’t move, though, until after they had left.

He lifted his mobile (he hadn’t had a chance to set it down), dialled, and waited for his brother to pick up.

“Mycroft,” he said, leaning his head against the wall, “I need help.”

There was a long silence on the other end. “You’re asking for help. Directly. Without little jabs or sulking.”

Sherlock ground his forehead against the wallpaper. “I’m making mistakes. I’m not thinking clearly. I don’t know if I can fix this, and I am scared to try and fail. If I ruin this it will be unfixable.”

Mycroft made a thoughtful sound. “You haven’t asked me for help without making it sound as though you were doing me a favour since you were four,” he said slowly. Sherlock thumped his fist against the wall. Mycroft sighed. “There are very few things I would not do for you, Sherlock, but redirecting the lawful apprehension of a murderer that regularly brings you to your knees is not one of them. I did not sign you out of your drug rehabilitation facility, and I will not put her back in your presence. Listen to yourself, for God’s sake. You’re a shadow.”

Sherlock choked back the rage and bit out, “please.”

Mycroft hesitated. “You will owe me a case,” he told him eventually. “There will be no putting it off or refusing. When I call it in, you will go wherever I send you and complete whatever I ask you to, immediately, and to the best of your ability.”

“Agreed,” Sherlock replied, slumping with relief. “Yes.”

“I shall extract the felonious Joan Watson without delay, then. The video will be thoroughly buried.” Mycroft was quiet, considering, then, “desperation and humility do not suit you, dear brother. I do wish you would reconsider your partnership to the good doctor.”

Joan’s safety obtained, Sherlock did not hold back. Mycroft rang off halfway through his furious tirade about exactly how he felt about that suggestion.

***

Greg had been having ulcers trying to figure out a way to help Joan when suddenly everything was cleared, and Anderson’s friends were stuck with the ulcers instead. Half an hour later, Mycroft Holmes strolled into his office, ever-present umbrella in hand, and smiled at him like an alligator that had tasted something rather unpleasant. Still, considering what he had likely done for Joan, Greg was beyond thrilled to see him.

“I don’t know what you did,” Greg said, shoulders bowed with relief and his head in his hands, “but Christ, am I happy you did. I probably shouldn’t be, but I really, really am.”

Mycroft made a moue of distaste. “I used a great deal of leverage and favours to do it, but Sherlock’s merry murderess is indeed loose and free once again to bend him before her will. First James Moriarty, now Joan Watson. What my brother finds so overwhelmingly fascinating about the criminal class so far eludes me, but he will have his way.”

Then he took in Greg’s expression. “Apologies. I am frustrated with family issues; I shall avoid voicing them in the future.”

Greg leaned back in his chair. “Mate. Did you even watch the recording before you buried it?”

Mycroft smiled humourlessly. “Indeed, and I assure you I have made every effort to give Dr Watson the benefit of the doubt; when they first met I believed she would be an ally in the warzone that is caring for Sherlock, in fact. Unfortunately, I have been forced to the conclusion by all available evidence that she is a violent criminal who has come to own my brother. I have watched her ‘rescue’ video carefully, and seeing Sherlock lean into her hand like a dog before she carelessly sliced into his hands is…”

“Mycroft,” Greg said quietly, “Joan doesn’t own your brother. Her world revolves around him, and he adores her for it.”

Mycroft looked away. “He adored cocaine, too. It nearly killed him and destroyed his mind. Joan will do the same.” He waved his hand airily. “I do wish you would press your suit with her a bit more intelligently, Lestrade, although to be honest it would likely be unhealthy for you to do so.”

Greg blinked. “Damn right it would be unhealthy; Sherlock would disembowel me with his magnifier. Are you seriously telling me you think Joan is some mad killer twisting Sherlock to her whim? She’s right; emotion does make you stupid.”

Mycroft bristled. “I have not—“

“Look,” Greg cut him off, “Sherlock is more centred, happy, healthy, and a goddamned sight more tolerable to be around since Joan showed up. I remember what he was like as an addict, Mycroft, and you do too; he was nothing like this. Watch the video again; pay attention to Joan this time, not to your brother.”

“Pay attention to the cold-blooded killer mowing down multiple armed men over a breathtakingly short amount of time, and unable to hold back from cutting up my brother along with his own restraints?” Mycroft scoffed, incredulous, “she seems entirely unchanged from her CCTV performances a few years ago, except that she is now unconcerned with getting caught since she has her pet genius to both take care of her and beg me to fix things.”

“Your blood’s a sight more frigid than most, too,” Greg pointed out, “and I had access to the CCTV footage as well. The difference this time isn’t that she’s not afraid of being caught; the difference is she’s furious and terrified for Sherlock instead of unhinged, and I’ll admit she was massively unhinged back then. But she went off the rails because Sherlock took a dive off Bart’s in front of her. He owns her as much as she owns him, Mycroft, and he’s done a lot more to her than just make her cry in a cupboard. I’ll go get her and you can take her home, but you had better be polite when you do.”

“Oh?” Mycroft sneered. “Had I then? I wasn’t aware of your many sudden promotions giving you wherewithal to threaten me with anything convincing.”

“Christ, emotion makes you into an unbelievable berk, I had no idea,” Greg said, exhausted, standing and heading for the door. “To think, I wondered where Sherlock got his streak of obstinate stupidity from, since you seemed so blessedly free of it. You’re going to be polite because anything less is a disservice to Joan, your brother, and yourself. Quit being an arse about it and suck it up.”

Mycroft sniffed and looked away, but he remained completely unbruised when he dropped Joan off at 221B later that afternoon.

***

Joan,” Sherlock gasped, meeting her at the door and pulling her to him, mouth against her neck, hands in her hair. His grip was careful, gentle, as if she would break. She leaned up into him, arms tight around his waist, and smiled against his shirt.

“I’m fine, Sherlock,” she said, pushing them both back into the flat and closing the door behind her, “I’m a very, VERY, violent murderer, who is on tape killing people without any weapons. They put me in a cell all by myself and worked very hard not to go in with me.”

“I should be thinking about the case, I should be fixing this,” he muttered, “but I can’t think about anything but you.”

“So come get me out of your system,” she said softly, leading him upstairs.

“Not possible,” Sherlock replied, but he followed her up and kissed her eyelids, cupping her face. Then he pulled back and wrinkled his nose. “You smell like a jail cell,” he complained, and she cracked up.

“Help me wash it off, then,” she finally suggested, wiping her eyes and pulling off clothes on her way to the shower. Sherlock grinned and shucked off his jacket. “You love it when I tell you how dangerous it is to pick me up when you’re standing on slick porcelain.”

“I have exemplary balance,” Sherlock protested, unbuttoning his shirt quickly and letting her pull him along by his belt, “something as simple as water is not going to change that.”

“Last week you would not shut up about how complex water is,” Joan retorted, “you were going on for an hour in that awe-filled voice you get when you talk about famous criminals. Because it expands when it freezes.”

Sherlock paused, still unbuttoning his cuffs. “But water expands when it freezes. I don’t see why you don’t understand. Everything else shrinks with cold. But water expands.”

Joan grinned, taking one of his wrists and undoing his cuff herself. “You sure shrank when I put the ice cube down your trousers mid-rant. But you expanded pretty soon after that, so I’d say it was inconclusive.”

Sherlock sniffed, but his pupils dilated and he quickly kicked off said trousers. “My penis is not comprised of a single chemical compound,” he told her loftily, “and as such is not a reasonable structure for that experiment.”

“You just don’t want me to put any more ice cubes down your trousers,” Joan accused, and then shrieked when he swiftly turned the cold tap on the shower and swept her under the spray. She yelled and struggled, but he had a tight hold and was using her to shield himself, until she changed tactics and put her tongue in his ear instead. He groaned, and then yelped when she twisted him around to catch the frigid water against his back. He slipped while fumbling for the warm water tap, sending them both (thankfully uninjured) to the bottom of the tub, giggling, shivering and slippery. Joan sent a quick thank you to whatever power might be listening that Sherlock had bleached the owl blood out of it months ago.

“That was your fault,” Sherlock informed her, reaching over her to adjust the temperature and take the soap. “I wouldn’t have fallen if you hadn’t been here.”

“You wouldn’t be shagging anyone in the bath if I weren’t here, either, so you can’t blame me—ah.” Sherlock ran the soap over her, across her chest, up her side, under and down the inside of her arm to the tips of her fingers, brushing kisses across her shoulder as he did, and she squirmed slickly against him. Sherlock let out a breathy groan, sliding against her in return and taking care to get certain parts of her really clean, if the time he was taking between her legs was any indication.

Joan was cold, the tub was hard, the taps were in the way of her finding anywhere to rest her head, and Sherlock was heavy on top of her. But when either of them moved against the other, soaped and slippery as eels, it made stars burst behind her eyelids.

Sherlock poured far too much shampoo into her hair, and rubbed it in with his fingertips, making Joan almost purr with satisfaction. Sherlock grinned and slid his thigh up between hers, pressing his hard length up against her hip. She rocked up against him; he licked her neck and then made a face.

Joan laughed. “Soap in your mouth?”

Sherlock looked offended at the entire world. “Ugh. Yes.”

Joan wiggled and he inhaled sharply. “Worth it?”

“God, yes,” he breathed, pulling her up to bring her hair into the spray, sliding against her as he did, and she moaned at the friction before closing her eyes against the rush of shampoo and water. Then he was kissing her, and they were frantically biting, licking, trying to breathe around one another and the spray, and it was awkward, and cold, and wonderful. Sherlock came against her with a growl, tongue on her neck, and held her as she shuddered against him a few moments later. Mrs Hudson’s ancient boiler had already run out of hot water, and the shower was icy once again. They both gasped into the other’s wet, freezing skin, wrapped up around each other, beaming and blissfully, stupidly happy.

***

It was easier, so much easier to concentrate when Joan was sleeping securely under his arm, knowing she was safe, knowing whatever came for her would have to go through him first.

Well. Logically, it would probably go through Joan first. She was, of course, the one most suited to combat, despite his own lengthy study. She had the aggression and speed to make up for his quick thinking, and she would tear headfirst into anything that threatened either of them. Still, he would be nearby and was no little threat himself. It kept the panic down, kept him from eating himself alive with worry, and the pieces were beginning to slowly fit together.

Which was why he was in such a foul mood when Mycroft broke his concentration with a phone call, despite being well-shagged and curled up on the couch with Joan. Sherlock ignored it, but after the third ring through Joan started to wake up.

“What? I’m working,” he hissed into the mouthpiece, trying to keep his voice down. Either he succeeded, or Joan was used enough to his angry tirades that his voice didn’t wake her, because she settled and fell back into sleep.

“Indeed, you are,” Mycroft replied smugly. “Pack a bag. Your train to Paris leaves in an hour.”

“Paris?” Sherlock’s brows knit. “Are you finally going senile in your old age, Mycroft? This case has nothing to do with Paris. There is nothing pointing to Paris in the least. Unless you have caught something I missed, which is infinitely unlikely, the entirety of my kidnappers’ operations are based solely within the country.”

“Which is why, my dear brother, I am sending you as far from them as possible. You promised me a case, and I am calling in your debt. Joan, of course, is not invited; classified, you know. Not the sort of thing to bring a criminal into.”

“I refuse,” Sherlock said shortly. Mycroft laughed.

“Sherlock, I’m surprised. You had led me to believe Miss Watson—“

Doctor Watson,” Sherlock cut in.

“—Doctor Watson meant so much to you. Still, if you wish me to revoke our agreement…”

Sherlock had trouble breathing as the panic welled up in his throat. “No.”

“Then I will see you in half an hour, dear brother.”

Chapter Text

Neither Sherlock nor Mycroft told Joan much about how the legal system had been massaged into letting go of her so suddenly and completely. Nothing too horrible, apparently; all she got were silent stares as she headed for Sally’s desk.

Despite evidence to the contrary, she didn’t actually live in an action movie. No one stammered and scrambled to get out of her way (although to be honest that would have been somewhat cathartic), and no one tried to corner her and gruffly tell her how unimpressed they were with her law-dodging ways. Since she was on edge enough that she would probably do something stupid, like laugh maniacally and try to freak them out, it was definitely a good thing. Convincing the force that both Sherlock and herself were insane mass murderers was probably not good for business.

On the other hand, even Mycroft couldn’t wipe people’s minds; Sherlock had shown her the video, so the whole ‘not a mad killer’ ship had probably already sailed.

“Where’s your taller half?” Sally asked when she glanced up and saw her. Joan smiled, and Sally returned it after a beat. “He’s not looming around you, and I can’t hear anyone crying.”

“Mycroft finally figured out that he could pry Sherlock away from me by holding my own safety over his head,” Joan replied, stretching sleepily. Bloody hell, she was tired. This entire disaster was going to make her a complete zombie by the end of it. “I got a get out of jail free card, and Sherlock goes to France to chase after some convenient case Mycroft just happens to have found for him. Mycroft hates me, so he’ll probably try to stymie Sherlock at every turn and drag it out as long as possible.

Sally looked skeptical. “What exactly does the man expect a trip to France to do? Does he plan to hire some Frenchwoman full of quirky foreign joie de vivre to trip and fall on Sherlock’s penis in the hopes he’ll get distracted?”

Joan snorted. “No, although Mycroft will probably try to stuff the surrounding area with as many intelligent, lovely people of both genders as he can on the off chance that one of them will stick. Far more likely, in Mycroft’s eyes, that I’ll get myself killed or lose interest in Sherlock in that time. Not sure which he would prefer; probably the death one, although Sherlock would never forgive him even if he wasn’t directly involved, so perhaps not.”

Sally rolled her eyes. “I would not trade places with you for shit. As if you weren’t already sack-of-cats mad, you surround yourself with people twenty times worse.”

“You’re one of the people I surround myself with,” Joan pointed out, and smiled beatifically, “and with Sherlock, the sex more than makes up for it.”

Sally raised her hands. “Please don’t expand on that. I’m good.” Then she cocked her head. “You’re taking this awfully well, by the way. Considering, you know. Kidnapping, arrest, emotional blackmail, and now a long distance relationship.”

Joan closed her eyes. Her fists tightened and she took a deep breath. “I am so eye-crossing furious right now I can’t breathe if I think about it, so I’m not. Instead, I’m going to focus on finding out as much as you can tell me about the jackass who set me up and recorded me.”

Sally looked like she wasn’t sure how to react for a moment. She’d seen the video before Mycroft had put the virus out to wipe it from the Yard’s computers; clearly she wasn’t sure how to feel about it. “I’m pretty sure it’s only considered a set-up if you didn’t actually do it,” she said slowly. “Which, by the way, was drastically illegal and you’re only out now because Mycroft said that you were a member of MI6.”

Joan stared. “He did?”

Sally made a face. “Well. It was all top secret and he didn’t tell us anything, actually. But the way he didn’t tell us anything strongly implied it.”

“Huh,” Joan managed. When Sally just looked at her expectantly, Joan laughed. “What?”

“Well,” Sally said bluntly, “are you? A secret agent protecting Sherlock?”

“Would I tell you either way?” Joan countered, smiling, “that explains the looks I got on the way here, though.”

Sally snorted. “Yeah, I think half the constables aren’t certain whether to be terrified of you or fall desperately in love. I’ve been telling them to leave you alone either way if they don’t want a repeat of the movie, with Sherlock starring and tearing them apart instead.”

Joan nodded. “That’s probably best.”

***

Sherlock didn’t bother looking for surveillance gadgetry in his appallingly expensive hotel room, although it was almost certainly there. He was only going to pour out his entire day over video chat to Joan every evening anyway; Mycroft would doubtlessly be watching and recording the entirety of it.

Their chats would usually have been quite short; he would mine her brain for data on whatever case he was on, sign off, and ponder. But there wasn’t a case here in France; Mycroft had invented it from whole cloth, and the case with Moran in London had stalled from lack of data. Luckily, from what he knew of him, Moran would give them time before he tried anything. The man liked his prey to be fully recovered from his first attack before he moved again.

This all meant that Sherlock could actually pay attention to Joan when they spoke with each other, which he knew made her happy, but he didn’t have anything to distract him when he became ridiculously, inanely lonely without her, either. Mycroft, watching their conferences remotely and certainly seeing the desperation in his face, probably looked like he was sucking lemons the entire time.

He shared this thought with Joan, and she laughed. He liked it when she laughed. It was tighter now, a bit more strained, but he liked hearing it all the same.

“We should refer to each other only in pet names,” she told him, and he grinned. “The more saccharine the better. He’ll probably give himself a concussion beating his head against the wall every time we do it.”

“Whatever you say, my heart, my joy, my buttercup,” Sherlock replied, and basked in her sharp cackle of amusement.

“How many strapping young lads and lovely young ladies have been conveniently interested in your work so far?” she asked when she recovered, and Sherlock grimaced.

“Entirely too many. Mycroft knows I’ll know, so they aren’t even trying to hide it.” This set Joan off in giggles, so he continued, “one of them sat herself on my work and emptied her water bottle over the front of her blouse, then asked me to help her clean it up. I took a page from your book and upended the desk. She was quite put out.”

“Oh no,” Joan managed breathlessly, “you didn’t. Oh god. I can see it now.”

Sherlock shrugged. “I’ll have Mycroft send you the video feed; he’s certainly taped everything. He seems completely torn on this; half the young women here look as much like you as he could manage, on the chance that I am, presumably, of such limited intelligence that I will be confused by lust and register only short blonde hair and brown eyes. The other half are as much your opposite as he can manage. One told me flat out that she believed a woman’s role was to be completely subservient to a man.”

“Wow,” Joan replied, “that level of difference is impressive. What did you do?”

Sherlock snorted. “What do I usually say to people who do anything I ask them to? I told her to get me coffee.”

“It’s usually tea with me,” Joan pointed out.

“You don’t do anything I ask you to. You do anything I ask that happens to coincide with what you already want to do.”

Joan rolled her eyes. “Yes. It has always been my lifelong dream to take your mobile from your pocket for you because you’re too damn lazy to do it yourself. And doing all the shopping? An ardent passion of mine.”

“Don’t be stupid; you like to take care of people,” Sherlock explained, “you like to make me happy. You like to touch me, in the case of the mobile. If you didn’t enjoy being with me, you would have already left.”

Joan gave a surprised huff and smiled in the pleased way she had when he’d seen something about her she hadn’t expected. Sherlock carried the image in the back of his mind with him the rest of the week.

***

“They’ve stopped being subtle,” he told her several days later.

“Staging an ‘accidental’ wet t-shirt contest on your desk was being subtle?” Joan asked incredulously. “What the hell are they doing now? Stripping in your lap?”

“Disturbingly close,” he conceded. “One of the women tried to crawl on top of me after pulling the V-neck of her blouse aside today.”

“Christ!”

“I won’t go into how often I’m crowded in the toilet,” he complained, “but I’ve been keeping a tally. The men here are unsurprisingly proud of their endowments and all of them want me to marvel at them.”

“Okay,” Joan told him, not laughing anymore, “it was harassment before, but this is out and out assault. Your brother is paying people to sexually assault you. Again.”

“He does seem to have a penchant for it, doesn’t he?” Sherlock mused. “In his defence, as smug as he has been about his sexual knowledge compared to mine, it’s highly unlikely he realizes what he is doing.”

“Not an excuse,” Joan said through grit teeth, “I’m booking a flight. As soon as I’ve broken into Mycroft’s office and ensured his need to eat with dentures for the rest of his life, I’ll be on my way.”

“Appreciated, but unnecessary.” Sherlock smirked. “I’ve managed to keep a copy of your video; one of my colleagues saw a bit of it. I informed them you were my romantic partner, and very likely to be violently furious when you’d heard of my day. Suddenly their interest evaporated, and I expect word to spread quickly. I doubt they’re being paid enough to risk angering you.”

Joan frowned. “How did they accidentally see…” Sherlock’s look said it all. “Were you wanking in your office to a recording of a murder spree?”

“No,” he corrected her, “I was wanking in my office to a recording of you fighting through a warehouse of assailants to get to me. Surely you can see the appeal.”

“It’s…” Joan paused. “Well. It’s a bit Not Good, Sherlock.”

Sherlock waved away her concerns. “That’s wholly unreasonable. You were aroused to find me bloody and tied to a chair once your concern for my safety was assuaged. You love the chase and the fights when I am not in any real danger. If I’m Not Good, we both are.”

Joan gave up and smiled. “You’re probably right,” she admitted.

“Of course I am,” he said. “In any case, I missed you, and we have been remiss in making any more appropriate recordings of our own.”

“I’ll take care of that tonight,” Joan promised, leering. “Want to watch?”

Sherlock leaned back and unbuttoned his fly. They both knew Mycroft would stop watching the moment Sherlock became undressed. “Absolutely,” he assured her, and she was still smiling when she pulled her blouse over her head.

***

“I’m not going to get jealous,” Joan said to Mycroft over the phone later, and lit into him about paying employees, again, to sexually assault his brother.

“I don’t know why your massive brain falls out whenever it comes to me, but I don’t live an action movie, and I don’t live a romcom either. You’re not going to convince me to leave Sherlock because his office is a hostile work environment. You will, however, convince me to knock out all your teeth. There are only two reasons you’re not eating through a tube at the moment: I’m not smart enough to get away with it so you’d only have more to blackmail your brother with, and secondly, that Sherlock cares about you enough to defend you to me.”

Mycroft didn’t reply. He was only ever at a loss for an immediate reply when Sherlock was involved, it seemed. Of course, Joan only really talked to him when Sherlock was involved, so maybe that was a poor deduction.

“Sherlock hates me,” he said finally. “But I take your point. Again.”

“Sherlock loves you or you would be breathing through a straw the next time you kidnapped me, I swear,” Joan countered. “I don’t care if you never realize it’s sexual abuse until afterwards. This is a pattern. You need to educate yourself or I’m not kidding, next time you’ll be dead.”

“Joan Watson. Are you threatening to kill me? Over an unsecured line?”

“I am promising that you will hurt if you abuse Sherlock again. I am not joking.”

“Happily then, this was not my intention,” Mycroft said after another pause. “I overpaid my employees to convince Sherlock into an indiscretion, and it seems that as their sexual advances are generally very positively received, they made serious mistakes. Anyone who touched him was immediately reprimanded and let go.”

“Alright,” Joan replied, mollified, “you’re partially forgiven. Get rid of anyone who wags their pecker at him in the bathroom and I’ll rescind my death threat.”

“Done.” Mycroft assured her. “I must confess I’m surprised by how completely unthreatened you are, however. Sherlock is surrounded by intelligent, attractive people pre-selected to enjoy his company, yet you are unmoved.”

Joan smiled. “Your brother is custom built for monogamy, Mycroft. I am never in doubt about his feelings for me, and I’m pretty sure that he can avoid having his head turned by people paid to sleep with him. You, on the other hand, are constantly underestimating him in everything from his relationship with me to his work with the Yard, and I’m not sure why.”

“Sentiment,” Mycroft muttered in a moment of honestly that shocked Joan into silence. “Joan Watson, I do not like you. My fondest wish is that you would disappear entirely. But you are, against all expectation, slowly convincing me that your regard for my brother is real.”

“You were in doubt?” she blurted, incredulous. “It isn’t obvious? Did you somehow miss that Sherlock is working for you because I went bugnuts crazy on thirteen armed men when they kidnapped him?”

“I am paid very well by several parties to doubt the inherently obvious, Doctor,” Mycroft said softly, “and possessiveness is often mistaken for sincere affection. But I have witnessed your every interaction with him this past month, and you do indeed seem to be genuine. I will take that into account in the future.”

“Uh. Thanks?” Joan replied, and Mycroft hung up.

***

Greg Lestrade had gotten used to sleeping through the night since Sherlock had run off to France for his brother, and so it was an unpleasant surprise when his mobile went off at 3 am. His first assumption was that Sherlock had come home and had immediately managed to find trouble, but the name on the call was blocked.

“Hullo?” he slurred, sleepy, and the voice on the other line snorted. “What’s he done now?”

“Come, Lestrade, you must receive at least a few late night calls in your line of work that do not involve my brother,” Mycroft admonished, and Greg laughed into his pillow.

“Right. Well. What do you need?”

Mycroft was silent for a moment. Greg had almost started to drift back to sleep when he said, “I believe I have made an error of judgment.”

“If we’re talking about Joan, then yes. Yes you did.”

“I’m well aware of your bias in her favour,” Mycroft assured him, “do shut up. No, I’m referring to my handling of the situation.”

“Oh. Well then, yes, you cocked up there, too.”

“Yes. Thank you.” Mycroft sighed. “I had…previously believed that Joan’s affections were…well. I find myself expecting from her the poor behaviour that I am exhibiting myself, unfortunately.”

“You’re expecting her to jealously lash out at anyone who gets close to Sherlock, the way he acts around her and you act around him,” Greg translated, and Mycroft choked.

“Ah,” he tried. “Yes.”

“So stop doing it,” Greg told him, “and stop expecting her to. Christ. You Holmeses! You don’t need to call me and apologize—call one of them.” He hung up and went back to sleep.

***

Sherlock rang Joan at five the following evening, just as she was coming in with the shopping. She’d just downed her first cup of tea and started on the second, so she put him on speakerphone in order to fix it properly.

“I’m leaving for London in two hours,” he announced, sounding short of breath. He’d probably run to the hotel to pack the moment it was decided.

Yes,” she gasped, “What happened?”

“Mycroft announced that he was mistaken about the case and there was nothing to solve. Which we both already knew, but proving a negative was becoming… difficult.” Sherlock was tossing something around his room—likely his clothes. She wouldn’t be the one who ironed them, so she wasn’t fussed. “I will plan for a car meet me at the airport; Moran is likely to make his next move soon, now that I’m to return. Do not go out alone. Promise me.”

“I promise,” Joan teased, dizzy with excitement, “I wouldn’t want to upset your delicate constitution worrying about me. Don’t forget, though, it was you who got kidnapped. I rescued you. Remember?”

“Yes, yes,” Sherlock bit out, “I recall it perfectly, thank you. You’d do well to recollect, however, that it was entirely staged—and now Moran knows what you are capable of. He will be very careful in the future, and completely avoid a fight with you if possible.”

“Why would he want me?” Joan asked, grinning and giddy, falling into Sherlock’s chair. “You’re the genius.”

“Not only are you extremely valuable in your application of physical force, Joan, you are proven leverage in moving me to do as others wish.” He gave a grunt of effort, probably trying to cram his suitcase closed. She’d seen it when he went out—his packing was generally a thing of beauty, indexed and arranged like a game of 3D Tetris. It was likely twice its size when just crammed back in. “You’re not usually this slow.”

Joan frowned. “I’m not,” she murmured, concentrating. She’d been distracted by the phone call, but something was…

Her head swam. She was glad she’d sat down.

“Fuck,” she said, “the tea. You put me off coffee, now I’m going to be off tea.”

“Joan?” Sherlock said, alarmed.

“The window’s open,” she hissed, swaying as she tried to stand.

“Joan. I’m calling Lestrade on the hotel phone now. Get downstairs to Speedy’s, out among people.”

“I’m not…” Someone caught her chin from behind; she bit down, hard, and managed to spin enough to catch her elbow in his face before she overbalanced and fell to the floor. Her attacker spit a bloody tooth next to her and picked up her phone.

“Evening, Mr Homes,” Moran said happily. “I would suggest you don’t finish up that chat with the police.”

Joan passed out before she heard Sherlock’s reply.

Chapter Text

“…The thing about catching wild animals,” someone was saying, “especially this one, is that you have to be perfect every time. One slip and they’ll kill you.”

“Yes,” replied Sherlock, thin and digital. Maybe through computer speakers? “You’re right. She will.”

“Christ,” Joan mumbled as she slowly came awake, “the drama. Really? The night he plans to come back? After the firebomb that was the hangout. Do you take all your plans from bad daytime soaps?”

“Sometimes.” Moran’s voice was as smarmy as she remembered, the audio equivalent of running your hands along a wall and finding it greasy and covered in dust. “I’m weak at planning, I won’t lie. Need someone else to do it for me.” She opened her eyes, but it was dark in the room, and she couldn’t see.

No. Wait.

If there was a computer, or even just a phone nearby, she should have been able to see at least a little in the glow. It shouldn’t be completely black.

Oh, she thought. Shit.

“You’ve blinded her,” Sherlock snarled, and the tiny speakers didn’t hide the menace in his voice at all.

“Temporarily, I promise,” Moran promised. “I want you to help me; you would never do that if I hurt her, but I’ve seen the video. I made the video. She’d go for my throat in a second if she saw a chance, and she’d win if I didn’t kill her. This keeps the both of us safe for long enough for us all to talk without worrying about one of us dying.”

“Did you seriously stab me in the neck with a needle too?” Joan interrupted, reaching a hand up to the wound and rolling her shoulders with a wince, “The tea wasn’t enough? Jesus. Was it even clean?”

“One was to put you out fast; the other was to take care of your sight. And of course it was clean, Tiger,” Moran crooned. Sherlock growled, and Joan sneered in response. “I want your boyfriend’s brain on my side, and it won’t be if you come to any harm. ‘Sides, he’s not all I want; that swath you cut through the warehouse was a thing of beauty. I want that on my side, too.”

“Sure,” she said gamely, “no problem. I’m on your side. Take me to a hospital and I’ll get right back to you when I can see.” She wasn’t tied to anything, which seemed like a bad idea on his part; on the other hand, he was obviously very good at what he did to have been able to sneak up on her earlier. He’d been watching her through Mycroft’s system, which meant he had a pretty strong idea of what she was capable of—he would have planned accordingly. “I promise,” she added, smiling sweetly.

Moran laughed. “I bet you would! But no.” There were footsteps, followed by the sound of plastic sliding against a desk, and Sherlock’s soft curse; Moran had adjusted the computer. “I only trust you to kill me, babe. Luckily, I also trust you to do what Sherlock says, and I plan to convince him with bribery and a big stick.”

“Joan is obviously your big stick,” Sherlock said, clearly furious, “and you’ve seen her used as leverage to great effect already.”

“Bingo. I have her murder video, and if you cross me, I send it to the papers. They loved dragging you through the mud; imagine what they’ll do to her. She’ll have a mob at the door in hours.”

“You must know that won’t work long term,” Joan said. Sherlock would move heaven and earth to destroy the copy, and when he did, he’d slaughter Moran. “So what’s the bribe?”

She could hear the smug grin in Moran’s voice. “Tell her who else is here, Sherlock.”

Sherlock cleared his throat. “He appears to have my brother tied to a chair. I’m assuming he expects us to kill him. I am… extremely tempted.”

“Shit,” Joan breathed, “how? I barely got in one punch before I was tackled by three men twice my size.”

Moran smirked. “The trick to manipulating a genius, Tiger, is to find out what they want, and then let them think you want it too. They bend over backwards to make it easy on you. Then you can use what they give you however you want, and when you do what they don’t expect, they just try harder.”

“I’m not sure how I would use that to make Sherlock do the washing up, but I’ll take it into consideration,” Joan told him.

“There is nothing you can do to trick me into doing the washing up,” Sherlock informed her, “so kindly put that thought out of your head immediately.”

“I don’t actually kill people for fun,” Joan mused, “not that anyone listens to me when I tell them that, anyway. I also can’t imagine you’re not planning on recording me shooting him either, so while he’s not my favourite person in the world, I’m not sure how this is the bribe part of the deal.”

“It’s not for you, Tiger. It’s for Sherlock. Sherlock’s already found out just how much his big brother has been helping me, haven’t you Sherlock? I may have put my own spin on a few things, but this whole setup has been dropped in my lap—I’m no good at planning. You know it. I know it. Mycroft knows it. He had to make sure I’d succeed.”

“The intent was for Joan to be enticed away into a life of crime more suited to her obvious skill and pleasure in it.” Mycroft wheezed, finally taking part in the conversation; not gagged, then, just wounded. Sherlock would have been able to tell exactly how injured he was from the sound of his voice; Joan only knew it had to be impeding his breathing. “I didn’t plan this.”

“Yes, Mycroft, that’s painfully obvious. I doubt even you would be so convoluted as to plan your own beating and capture.”

“Joan will be taking the shot, Sherlock,” Mycroft coughed. “I am not attempting to reassure you.”

“But our Tiger does everything Sherlock asks, and you know it. You’re just hoping otherwise because you’re desperate,” Moran broke in again, and Mycroft gave a pained grunt. Moran had done something, but hadn’t hit him. “She’s a beautiful weapon. No, I only need to convince Sherlock, and he’s halfway there already. You really shouldn’t have given me so much help, Mycroft. It’s painted you in quite a poor light.”

“Joan,” Mycroft persisted, “I have never attempted to harm my brother. Ever. Everything I have done to you has been for him.”

“You’re barking up the wrong tree, Mr Holmes,” Moran said sharply, and there was a muted thud, a gurgle, and something wet hit the floor. Joan sincerely hoped Mycroft had spat something, because if the wet was from a wound she would be awful at fixing it without her eyes. “She might care that you have noble intentions. Sherlock doesn’t see it in the same light.”

“I see that you are now a mind reader, Moran. I hadn’t realized before.” Sherlock’s voice was calm, pleased even. Moran laughed and tugged Joan upright. She could have hurt him now that she knew where he was, and they both knew it, but they also both knew she would wait for Sherlock’s signal. She felt a pistol pressed into her grip, and she gave a prayer of thanks to anyone who was listening that her balance seemed to have returned to normal—only her sight was affected by the second drug, and the first seemed to have worn off.

“So here’s the plan, Sherlock. I have to play it safe; you know I can’t risk myself with the both of you here. I can’t even risk having Joan at full power. So you get to tell her where to point her gun, she gets to shoot—it’s like you’re both pulling the trigger, yeah? I’ll send the tape to the police, which makes her a fugitive, but since you’ll both be underground with me, it won’t matter anymore.”

“That is the stupidest plan I have ever heard,” Joan looked incredulously in the direction of Moran’s voice. “Are you serious? We’re going to play pin the tail on the donkey with a gun? Really?!? Are you even stupider than you sound?”

Moran just laughed at her. “I told you I’m no good with plans, Tiger, but you should see your boyfriend’s face. He’s seriously considering it.”

“I am unlikely to have Mycroft in the position where murdering him is so simple again,” Sherlock admitted, “and you are correct, the prospect of his death is very enticing.”

“Fine,” Joan groaned, and jerked her arm away from Moran. Just the feel of him ticked her off. “You’ll cock up my form,” she snapped at him, bringing up the handgun. He backed off without a word, radiating smug satisfaction. “Sherlock? Tell me.”

“Shoot him.” Sherlock decided.

“Joan,” Mycroft tried, and there was another grunt of pain as Moran silenced him.

“Where?” Joan brought her aim to about the height of a sitting man’s head and kept it there.

“Up. Right. Left. Right. Down…stop.”

Moran laughed, but it had an edge. “You’re lucky you usually have her with her sight, Sherlock. Your aim is terrible.”

“You’re entirely correct,” Sherlock said after a moment of contemplation. “I’m what, about thirty degrees off?”

“Exactly,” Moran said, relaxing slightly. “You had me worried about funny business there for a moment.”

“Perish the thought,” Sherlock assured him. “Joan, turn thirty degrees and shoot.”

Mycroft gave a soft moan to her left. Joan pivoted a perfect thirty degrees to her right and pulled the trigger.

***

An hour later, Greg was kneeling next to her and checking her eyes, as if the medical personnel had missed something he could catch. She’d held Mycroft together as well as she could whilst blind as they waited for the proper authorities to arrive, and her hands still felt tacky with his blood, but she still couldn’t see them. Moran had apparently been honest about the drug; she had started sensing strong light about half an hour after waking, and Sherlock had identified it soon after she’d shot Moran, so she was able to report it to the police as soon as they showed up. No apparent side effects and she just had to wait for it to wear off entirely.

Her aim hadn’t been perfect on Moran; he might yet still live, but he’d have to do it without one of his kidneys and a large portion of his intestine. She’d give herself a pass, though, as she’d shot him without the use of her eyes.

Greg breathed out like he’d been holding it in for a while, pulling her to him and gripping her tight. “Christ, Joan, only you. You get into these insane situations—“

“Hey, okay, this one was definitely not my fault--“

“—and it’s only because you’re you that you get out of them like this. I mean… you shot him without being able to see? At all?”

“Sherlock told me where to aim,” she explained again. “I knew I wasn’t going to hit anything more important than Mycroft if I got it a little wrong.”

“Christ.”

Sherlock arrived two hours after that, panting and furious, fairly ripping off Greg’s arm as he hauled him away from Joan to crush her against him instead. She gave a soft sigh, threading her fingers into his curls, as he breathed into her neck.

“You smell like an aeroplane,” she informed him, and he snorted.

“And you’re covered with my brother’s blood,” he countered, “but I was being mindful of the circumstances and not saying anything.”

“Oh, so when I smell of jail you’re allowed to complain, but when you smell of—“

“I missed you,” he interrupted her, and she swallowed and held tighter. “I want to take you home, clean you up, and keep you in bed with me for a week.”

She kissed him, licked her tongue into his mouth, and said, “Do it while I can’t see, and we won’t need a blindfold.”

Greg snorted and muttered something about hoping that they stayed in their flat for it this time, but Sherlock ignored him, so Joan did as well. He treated her like she was made of glass on the way to the taxi, constantly checking and rechecking her few wounds with quick, gentle hands on the way to Baker Street, and led her slowly up the steps and into the bathroom with both arms around her from behind, with her hands clasped softly in his.

When he gently pulled her clothes away, carefully, slowly, she shivered and leaned into him. He waited, this time, until the spray was warm before pulling her into the shower, and didn’t risk them falling no matter how much she moaned and pressed against him, as he soaped their hair and ran his hands everywhere he could touch. It was probably for the best—she was almost dizzy again and couldn’t see well enough to keep her balance. Then he dried them off and tumbled her into bed with him, hands on her waist, and she laughed and kissed any part of him she could find.

“I’m perfectly capable of taking a shower and towelling off in the dark,” she told him, and then squeaked when he put his tongue on her bellybutton; half giggle, half sigh. “I’m not actually delicate. I just killed a man and I couldn’t even see to do it.”

“Likely killed,” Sherlock amended, “and I realize that. I just…want to go slow. This time.”

“Liar,” she told him, “you want to wrap me up in cotton wool for as long as I’ll let you.”

Sherlock laughed into her stomach, and she squirmed. “True. But I also want to go slow,” he breathed, licked over her hipbone and kissed his way down her thigh, and she almost wept when he made his way back up again and slid his tongue between her legs. She twisted, moaned, called out his name and came in his mouth as it curled inside her. He slid two of his fingers in to replace it before her hands could loosen their tight grip in his hair, and began to wind her up all over again. She gasped and shivered, kissing and touching any part of him she could reach.

“I love you,” he told her suddenly. Her eyes flew open and she yanked his head up by the hair, glaring at him as well as she could.

“That is not fair. That’s the first time you’ve said that and I can’t even see you.” Sherlock laughed and kissed her, and she shivered against his hand. “That’s why, isn’t it? It’s easier when I can’t see you.”

“A bit,” Sherlock admitted, “Although I’ve observed that it becomes easier with time.”

“It does,” she agreed. “I love you too. And oh God, I need you inside me right now.”

“You and your insatiable demands,” Sherlock admonished, and rocked into her so slowly and so sweetly she thought she would die of it. She bit down on his shoulder, dug her nails in at his hips, and he groaned and responded by pushing in deeper and staying there longer. Joan nipped at his ear and he laughed, deep and low in his throat, then brought his hands up to cup her face as he leaned in and kissed her, chastely despite their current activities, and she fell apart again. This time he followed with her, pressing his cheek to hers and breathing heavily against her ear.

They made it two more rounds before they finally gave in, and as they lay exhausted and tangled up in one another, she said, “you know, if you’re working on keeping me from danger, I do tend to nick myself when I do the washing up. You could save me from it. If you wanted.”

Sherlock hummed into her skin where he lay draped over her face down and mumbled, “Taking advice from contract killers and the like is generally considered to be a bad thing, or so I’m told.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just saying it would be very dangerous for me to do the washing up this week, my eyes being what they are. I’ll probably slice open my wrists and bleed all over the sink.”

“You will regain 100% of your sight by tomorrow.”

“I don’t know, Sherlock, it seems awfully iffy. I should probably just stay here naked in bed instead of getting up and dressing to tidy the flat—I’ll just get bored and go out somewhere, probably somewhere dangerous, and get in a fight. If only there were someone who could do chores while I lay here in my birthday suit instead. That way I’d still be here when they were finished.”

“You are a terrible manipulator. I assure you I am completely unmoved.”

Joan reached leisurely down and gave him a gentle pull; he hissed and arched into her hand. He was doubtlessly oversensitive, but he’d only come twice so far. And they’d been resting. “If only I didn’t have to get up and clean…If only it would go faster because someone else was helping, why, I might even just forget to wear clothes altogether.”

“You are cheating, and following the advice of a man you just killed,” Sherlock panted. “Fine. I will help you tidy the flat if you promise not to stop doing that.”

“Done,” Joan murmured, and flipped him over onto his back where she could get a better angle.

***

Mycroft arrived home late a week later, and heard the rustle of fabric behind him when he turned to lock the door.

“Ah,” he said softly, not turning around. “Joan.”

“Wrong.” Mycroft spun to see Sherlock, face was blank and relaxed, reclining on Mycroft’s settee.

Mycroft frowned. “Very dramatic, Sherlock. Didn’t breaking in and sitting in the dark backfire on you the last time you did it?”

“Surely you don’t mean to imply that you have Moran tucked away in here somewhere?” Sherlock asked archly. “Speaking of Moran, I was just dropping by to speak with you about him. You remember the fellow: a week ago, he blinded my partner and held her at gunpoint? This was after he had ordered his lackeys to bludgeon me over the head and take me hostage in order to tempt her into risking her life and freedom for my release, of course.”

Mycroft didn’t say anything.

“It’s quite interesting, really. He implied that he slipped your leash when he kidnapped me. He might have even believed it,” Sherlock went on. “Theatrical as he was, however, Moran can’t plan his way out of a paper sack. He was extremely dangerous when he worked for Moriarty, but he was a weapon; he needed to be aimed by someone a bit cleverer.” Sherlock tipped his head carelessly to the other chair; Mycroft sat down.

“Sherlock, I—“

“You can’t hurt Joan, not without my finding out eventually, and you won’t let me come to any serious harm. So I imagine it must have been a great deal of work, tweaking the plans long distance without him realizing. Ensuring I would remain unharmed, making sure he put the cameras in the right places to catch Joan’s face just right, guaranteeing he accidentally found them in your storerooms, helping him came upon the idea of giving them to the police…”

“Sherlock. You know I would never harm Dr Watson,” Mycroft said weakly.

“Of course not. I never said you would,” Sherlock agreed, “but you did plan for her to go to prison, or, failing that, be so vilified in the press once the video leaked that she wouldn’t be able to show her face in public without a mob. Didn’t you?”

Mycroft sighed. “Sherlock. Joan Watson is a killer, and like is attracted to like. As I told her last week, she was supposed to fall in with Moran once it was no longer profitable to remain with you. Whether that was because she was on the run from the authorities or because her face was recognizable across London did not matter to me, but I never expected her to languish in captivity.”

“And if she was accidentally killed in the warehouse?”

“Possible, but unlikely.” Mycroft leaned back, laced his fingers together, and admitted, “I changed plans throughout, but you are correct: I didn’t lose control of Moran until I was beaten and tied in that basement with her. You knew that.”

“Yes.”

“Does it help my case that I changed my mind and sent you home before I needed to?”

“Minutely.” Sherlock tilted his head to the side. “I’ve had time to consider and I am not as immediately eager to kill you as I was earlier.”

“Ah.” Mycroft narrowed his eyes, scrutinizing his brother’s face. “Earlier when?”

“When do you think? When I told Joan to do it for me.” Sherlock snorted. “Surely you didn’t miss it when I said ‘shoot him’? Not exactly my most subtle moment. Joan had been blinded, kidnapped, and could easily have been murdered at that point, so I was feeling quite put out.”

Mycroft raised his brows. “Dr Watson did not understand you, then. I had assumed…”

“On the contrary,” Sherlock corrected him, “I told her to shoot you and she didn’t.”

Mycroft smiled. “Attempting to manufacture sympathies for your pet killer, Sherlock?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes, communicating clearly his scorn and glee seeing Mycroft so completely wrong. “Either Joan controls me or I control her; you really must pick one conclusion and stick with it. In any event, I told you weeks ago that Joan does what I ask only when it’s what she wants to do anyway.”

“She clearly—“

“Joan didn’t need me to tell her where to shoot, Mycroft. The two of you were making enough noise that she could have seriously injured you both without me. She wasn’t waiting on my orders. She was waiting for me to come up with an option she would take.”

Mycroft digested that, then, “So what now?”

Sherlock thought for a moment. “I’m inclined to leave you alive,” he said slowly. “Despite your many warnings against it, as well as the plethora of sins you’ve stacked against yourself, I don’t want to kill you. Sentiment, if you will. And of course, if Joan ever found out, she would be disappointed.”

“We certainly can’t have that,” Mycroft snapped, and Sherlock grinned.

“We certainly can’t.” he said blithely. “I know you won’t harm her physically lest I, as Joan puts it, ‘flip my shit’ and inflict equal or greater harm upon you. But this still leaves a great deal of leeway, doesn’t it? And I can’t threaten death for everything, not the least of which because I don’t want you dead.”

“And so we are at an impasse,” Mycroft concluded.

“Not at all. I’ve decided to let you win.” Sherlock smiled. “The next time you try to remove Joan from London, I will let you do it.”

Mycroft smiled in return. “Hardly a deterrent, Sherlock.”

“You overestimate my attachment to London, and consistently underestimate my attachment to Joan, Mycroft. If you succeed in destroying my partner’s life, I will be joining her when she runs.”

Mycroft went pale. “You would never live anywhere but London. You referred to Manchester as ‘appallingly barbaric and altogether foreign,’ for Christ’s sake. London is your City.”

Sherlock ignored him. “If she leaves, I will follow her. I will hate it, and I will likely become everything you hoped to save me from. If she is hurt in any way, Mycroft, we will disappear and destroy ourselves without you nearby to help me.”

“I cannot be held responsible for any and all harm done to Joan Watson when you both so willingly throw yourself in its path at every chance you find,” Mycroft protested, “and what happens if you succeed in driving her off on your own, again?”

“Well,” Sherlock said reasonably, “you’d best make sure she’s safe and happy, hadn’t you?”

Chapter Text

Mycroft was just finishing up to head home – as much as one could if one was the British government – when Anthea rapped at the door and stuck her head in. He glanced up, took in her concerned look, the smudge on her hand, the crease of her skirt, and drew the obvious conclusions.

“Dr Watson is here to speak with me, I take it? And is not leaving until you ask me.”

Anthea looked peeved. “I’m guessing you’ll want to see her, then.”

“’Want’ is rather a strong way to put it, but yes, please send her in.”

Mycroft glanced around his office and swept his desk of the most convenient potential weaponry. If Joan attacked him, for whatever sin she felt he’d committed this time, he would simply have to weather it; Sherlock would not take kindly to Joan being removed by force. Still, that didn’t mean he had to make it easy for her.

Moments later the doctor strode calmly in, looking as tired as she often did, but altogether better than the last he’d seen her two years ago; involuntarily drugged, exhausted, and with his blood coating her hands up past the elbow like opera gloves. He imagined he looked quite the sight better, too, although he now held a cane for necessity rather than his usual umbrella. Moran had completely shattered his knee, and unfortunately the damage was not psychosomatic in his case. As she hadn’t been able to see him at the time, however, he supposed she lacked data for the comparison.

Joan sat and levelled him with a determined stare. He waited, knowing she would eventually break the quiet. Somehow the same observant silences she valued in Sherlock made her nervous when he used them, which meant he was often as silent as possible.

“We’re having a Christmas do,” she said baldly, “and you should come.”

Mycroft was rarely surprised, but Joan often managed to blunder her way into doing it. He raised his eyebrows. “I’ve found it to be much simpler, when requesting attendance of a guest to an event, to simply send out invitation cards. Personal visits make relations much more awkward when the summons is politely refused,” he told her pointedly. She grinned.

“Which is why I came in person; it’s much harder to say no.”

“Sherlock and I are not on speaking terms at the moment, and there is no love lost between the two of us,” he gestured between them. “I fail to grasp your motives.”

“Mrs Hudson has started dropping hints about Sherlock and I having a baby,” Joan explained. Mycroft looked aghast. Joan threw her hands into the air. “Exactly my point! Can you imagine? You’d be a father within five years when we’d finally gotten our brains kicked in fighting in an alley somewhere.”

“While not my main concern, that is certainly a strong possibility,” he muttered.

Joan ignored him. “Mrs Hudson is about as subtle as a brick when she’s sober, but drunk? And Greg is no help, he just laughs and starts telling me what a joy children are, completely forgetting he already has his own pair of horrible ones at home. And Sherlock gets that look in his eyes that tells me he’s planning appallingly unsafe experiments on the elasticity of our hypothetical baby’s skull.”

Mycroft cocked his head. “That does sound like my brother, yes.”

Joan leaned forward and put her hands on Mycroft’s desk. “I need someone else who realizes what a terrible, horrendous mistake a baby would be.”

Mycroft studied her for a moment, and then it clicked.

“You’ve ferretted out from Sherlock what we discussed after the Moran affair.”

Joan didn’t even look sheepish. “Yes. Yes I have.”

“You weren’t even attempting to be believable just now,” Mycroft complained, pained.

“No. No I wasn’t.”

“What is it you’re expecting?” Mycroft asked, perplexed, “for Sherlock and I to suddenly bond over your charred Christmas goose and become loving brothers in some sort of Dickensian Christmas miracle?”

“No, I expect you both to snipe the entire time and make everyone else uncomfortable by one-upping each other by deducing all of our most embarrassing secrets, and ultimately making me wish that I’d never even asked you,” Joan admitted. Ever one for blunt honesty, Joan Watson. One of the (very few) things he actually liked about her.

Mycroft gave her a considering look. “Sherlock must have told you the extent of my involvement in the Moran affair.” The same simplicity that led to complete, open honesty in Joan made her very slow to develop a grudge, but surely his duplicity with Moran would have done it?

Joan shrugged. “I’ve forgiven Sherlock for faking his own suicide in front of me, lying to me for three years, calling me a whore, and for stealing the covers only to toss them to the floor when he overheats. I think I can manage overcoming you trying to lure me into a life of crime while convinced I was a manipulative virago out to use and destroy your beloved baby brother.”

“You could have easily been killed,” Mycroft pressed. “There were a baker’s dozen of armed murderers in that warehouse.”

Joan waved her hand dismissively. “Childs play. You knew I could handle it.”

“I couldn’t be certain,” Mycroft argued.

“Yes you could,” Joan countered easily, crossing her legs and clasping her hands over one knee.

“I gave Moran the materials to blackmail and destroy you,” Mycroft persisted.

“And then got me back out if it,” Joan reminded him. “Just like you’d planned to, if needed. Look,” she said seriously. “I think you’re a prick and you treat Sherlock like a child whose actions are yours to control, and you are just as unused to being a caring human being as he is. But, you would give anything for Sherlock. All my brother has ever given me is a used mobile and bruises.”

“I—“

“You’ve proved you love Sherlock enough to risk him killing you in order to do what you think is best for him.” Joan gave him a level look and he narrowed his eyes at her. “You both know that was a possibility; if anything had gone wrong and I had been seriously hurt, you would probably be dead. Now prove you love him enough to put up with me instead.”

Mycroft studied her. “I will never like you.”

“Of course you won’t. I take up all of Sherlock’s attention.” Joan stood, cracked her neck, and headed for the door. “But I’m a big girl and I can deal with it. Come to our Christmas dinner and make it a properly British, traditionally awkward, utter disaster.”

***

“Stop sulking.”

“I’m not sulking.”

“Of course, what am I thinking? You’re clearly curled up on the couch in your altogether making exasperated sighs every four seconds because of an experiment. How little I know you.”

Everyone had gone home, and Joan was doing what little washing up remained; most of the guests had been wonderfully considerate. Unfortunately, the git who tended to leave behind his messes behind already lived there.

“Oh! I take it you are referring to my completely reasonable fury at having been surprised with my brother’s offensive presence at the Christmas party you swore would be ‘fun’ and ‘not annoying at all, love, only people you like will attend, I promise,’” he mimicked her with a squeaky singsong and she laughed. It only made him sulk harder.

“You loved it. You got to criticize him for three hours straight, and I didn’t even stop you once. You even beat him at deductions when you told the entire party about Sally’s new girlfriend before she had the chance to, you little shit. She’s going to have your front teeth for that one, just watch her.”

Sherlock glared over his shoulder at her, furious. “I am perfectly capable of being better than my brother when he is not in the same room as I am.”

“Yes, but then how would the rest of us know about it?” Joan asked cheerfully, drying off the last dish and wandering over to the couch. “Don’t lie to me. You love showing off.”

“I might enjoy demonstrating my skills, but I also like being nowhere near Mycroft. I especially enjoy not inviting him into my home as a guest, and feeding him goose.”

“He hated the goose, so stop whining about it. Everyone understands how you feel about it by now, you were sufficiently vocal when you told him to keep his ‘thieving, manipulative hands’ off the ‘fruits of your labour’. A statement, by the way, that was completely inaccurate, seeing as you didn’t lift even a finger to help me the entire day.” Joan collapsed into the cushions, and Sherlock budged up reluctantly so she couldn’t mistake stubbornness for wanting to cuddle.

“Putting a thawed poultry in a pan and leaving it in the oven all day is hardly difficult, Joan. Even someone of your limited culinary abilities must admit it was terribly simple. An infant could do it.” He considered. “Although perhaps not do it well, a fact I should have taken into account before I took so large a portion.”

“Yes, fine, both the Holmes brothers were equally unimpressed with my cooking, I’ll let you do it next time.” Joan rolled her eyes and opened a book.

After twenty minutes of being ignored, Sherlock said tentatively, “I haven’t had a chance to insult him so frequently in quite a while, though.”

“You clearly hated everything about him,” Joan assured him absently, not looking up, “no one was fooled that you weren’t the least bit happy to see him.”

“Don’t patronize me, Joan Watson, I can read you even when you make an attempt at acting, which you decidedly are not.”

“Gosh, but you sure are clever.” Joan turned a page. “I wish I was as smart as you are.”

Sherlock huffed, turned suddenly and kicked his legs over her lap and into her book. She calmly extracted her arms and kissed his knee before going back to her reading.

“I am naked as a jaybird and you are reading ‘Agnes and the Hitman’,” Sherlock finally said.

“Yes, well done making sure everyone left on time with that. When you declared they were welcome to stay but you had endured trousers for long enough, I think Molly was the only one who didn’t dive for the door.”

“Sally looked thoughtful before she ducked out,” Sherlock huffed, “I am astoundingly attractive, however much she despises my personality. Even Lestrade paused before they all ran out in response to your bloodthirsty glare.”

Joan grinned. “Couldn’t have them getting ideas, could I.”

Sherlock kicked her book from her hands and scowled. “Ideas you seem to lack at present, because I have been lying here without a stitch on for the past hour and all you’ve done is tidy up.”

Joan laughed and crawled over him. “You should have helped. Then it would have only been a half an hour.”

“Equally unacceptable,” he pouted, looking away.

She chuckled and leaned in, kissing him until he relented and kissed back. “Sorry. You have my attention now. What do you want to do?”

“Well,” he said, thoughtful, “we never did recreate the scene of my rescue, did we?”

Joan’s mouth split in a huge grin. “Don’t worry, baby, I’ll tie you up and save you… from your enormous boner.”

Sherlock stared at her, appalled, and then pressed his lips together. Joan lost it and fell on him, giggling.

“That was base and unimaginative,” he told her huffily, “I’m horrified. I can’t believe I deign to sleep with you.”

“I can go down on the problem baby,” she cackled, “I’ll even come up with a solution as long as you get me off the resulting charges!”

“This is awful. I’m shrinking, look, this is the most unattractive you’ve ever been.”

“Oh honey, maybe if we spend more time together you’ll rub off on me and my jokes will get better—“

“That’s it,” said Sherlock, flipping over and tugging her under him, “if your mouth is occupied maybe you’ll cease this nonsense.”

“But then who will marvel at your huge,” she shrieked, flailing, “your massive, your amazing cock, I mean intellect—“

Sherlock put his tongue in her mouth and his hands down her pants, and she was kept to giggles and moans for a while after that.

She started up again about an hour later, and Sherlock tried to escape out the window, so she ended up tying him to a chair after all. They ended the night in giggles, sporting several rope burns, rug burns, bruises and splinters, and honestly could not have cared less.