elementary. holmes, watson. ~2000 words.
In the end, London is only a place and Sherlock is only a set of flesh and bones that used to occupy space in it.
Where do you find peace in the middle of the city
Hard enough to find a friend when everyone's starting over again
I feel like a child in a world that seems shapeless
When I am most afraid is when I get sucked back in.
When he gets out of rehab, the brownstone looks different. Everything is as he left it but the sense of space seems to have shifted. It appears larger, more cavernous and less like a cage. He had never spent much time in it before - the spaces in between London and New York, in between New York and rehab are murky and distant and unnecessary but now, the house swallows him up with its shadows and its corners and he settles into them, watches the city buzz from his rooftop.
Everything below him looks like just so many streets and corners, just so many places where there is work to be done.
(If he squints, it almost looks like home.)
He feels a strange ticking in his blood when Miss Watson is around. He finds himself - excited when she is with him, something wholly separate from the tangles of murder and mystery which no longer really thrill him but Joan Watson - Joan Watson is there and his blood keeps ticking and he fits in this feeling, the new pulse somewhere between her and this city.
It isn’t like it was the Woman, of course, it is never quite that. But Watson is startling in her own way, her wide dark eyes and the way they narrow when he missteps. She is her own set of mysteries, difficult to read, more difficult still to know. He jumps when her fingers splay across his arm in warning and he finds himself staring at her surgeon’s hands, strong, precise and small.
She fills up the places around him with something that tastes a lot like possibility.
It is funny that everyone assumes this but actually, he doesn’t associate her with London anymore, not really. He hasn’t in such a long time but even Watson, the ever perceptive Watson flinches when he talks about the house he lived in there and he realizes the connection she is making, how she is afraid for him and doesn’t know how to correct this.
In the end, London is only a place and Sherlock is only a set of flesh and bones that used to occupy space in it. Nostalgia, he used to think, was fodder for the week but from time to time, it overtakes him. This is what it is like to be sober - to be knocked off his feet every day, by Watson and New York as he explores them in the day, by Adler and London as he remembers them at night. He wander this city and his feet will all of a duden wish for winding streets as opposed to straight lines and his head snaps up when Watson (Joan) asks him hesitantly if he misses it.
He is thrown (again) and waits for a minute, rolling back on his feet. They are on their way to see a dead man. That is always how it is these days.
“I don’t - “ he says, carefully because it is difficult to quantify and difficult to articulate, “Not precisely, Watson but I miss - certain parts of it.” He breathes. “I miss the noise.”
“New York,” she says, one corner of her mouth quirking up, “Has noise.”
It’s not the same but he doesn’t say anything. Increasingly, he realizes with Watson, he doesn’t need to. She has learned to fill the gaps in his sentences.
(Everything before New York, everything, in fact before rehab becomes hazy because of this - with Watson fitting into his life, he finds he can't remember what it was like before she was around.
The memories go fuzzy and dark, like the old television set in his apartment, the only one that still plays black and white, no sound.
He is grateful, among other things, for this.)
He has never lived with anyone before, not like this. Watson is already used to this, she doesn't jump when she sees him in the morning coming out of the bathroom or when he stalks past her bedroom late at night. She remembers to bring milk. She leaves post-its when it's his turn to clean up. The simple, easy domesticity of it is unsettling. He watches her put on her coat in the morning, brush crumbs of toast off her blouse. She wears the same perfume every day. The whole place smells like this now. He wonders if he will miss this when she is gone.
Watson brings a pair of gloves to every crime scene, stretching them out over her fingers like she's been doing this all her life. She flinches but doesn't turn back, doesn't leave. Watson, he is starting to realize, is the only person who never does leave. She cleans his wounds at the end of the day.
(In the room next to her, Sherlock sits awake with ten television sets speaking and thinks about the curve of her spine beneath the towel, her skin flushed and soft from the shower.
He thinks about how steady her hands are and how his still shake in the night.)
She has been living with him for almost a month before he learns about Morstan, who shows up one day at the door asking for her.
It's funny because of course, she must have a boyfriend but he has never wondered where she goes on her nights out, never wondered where she has stayed when she comes back in the morning with a cup of coffee in one hand and a newspaper in the other, hair still damp from the shower. He never asks, never assumes, never assesses and it is irking to think that this slipped through his fingers that. He takes pride in this after all and it's the only thing left of him.
The devil's in the details, after all.
He could say "You never told me, Watson" and she could say "You never asked" but instead, he puts a smile on his face and lets her boyfriend through the door.
Morstan is pleasant enough, smart enough, friendly enough and a little too charming, a little to easy when he takes a seat on the couch and he looks like he is trying to settle in. He looks like he would like to be friends.
(He doesn't need any more people. Watson, he decides, is enough.)
He depends on her. It's not often that he admits it, but he does.
He knows that she watches him, not as a partner though they do enough of that - they look out for each other, after all. But she watches him in the way she is paid to. She watches the way his body moves when he walks, watches the pupils of his eyes, watches him drink.
He had not expected to adjust to this. He had though he found find it cloying, distracting, infuriating to be treated this way. He would have thought she would be like a ghost, clinging at his heels but Joan Watson stands and takes places and she doesn't even pause to watch him, doesn't even have to think about what she's doing to keep track of it.
She is seamless, smooth, clever than he expects people to be. He has said already - Watson is a marvel in ways he never did expect.
(In all the things that will happen during their time together, he will come to depend on her even more and she on him. They will stand together as they bury their dead. She will hold his hand when he needs it and pretend, for both their sakes, to be checking the scabs across his knuckles.
She will not turn away when he winces. She will say nothing of the Woman or the ghosts, the skeletons in his closet but - and this is important - she will not turn away.
He will wonder, again and again, if she will leave. The answer is always lurking around the next corner.)
"Do you think you'll marry him then, Watson?" he asks once, quite casually. They have sandwiches in their hands. It is midnight and they had both missed dinner so they are eating these on the way back home. He likes how New York is at night, bright and dark and alive. It makes him feel young and a little small but he likes it, in a way.
She goes still for a minute and he doesn't know if he should have asked. They don't talk about these things, generally.
"I don't know," she says, honestly, "He hasn't asked yet." Her mouth quirks up in a grin. There is mustard at the corner of her lips.
"You don't know that."
"I know these things."
She only rolls her eyes and takes another bite. They're almost home.
By the time the summer comes, he feels as at home here as he is ever going to be. The sun is bright in this city, bright and sharp and it sizzles on the sidewalks and his stuffy brownstone, cooking them all in their skins. He wears cotton tshirts with short sleeves and necks that have gone loose from how he tugs at them in frustration. He puts away the coats and the scarves and the armour and when Joan sees him one morning, no shirt, just a pair of jeans and a line of sweat down his chest, fixing the light above their bathroom sink, she smiles.
He is all tattoos, dark circles under his eyes. In the mirror, he frowns and thinks he looks gaunt, older even. His hair pushed back off his damp forehead.
But Joan smiles and asks him if he wants any coffee and doesn't stop smiling when he answers, sharply, that "it's too fucking hot for coffee" only brings him a cup of iced tea and leaves it by the bath tub.
He lets her buy a shower curtain, a new table cloth, a baseball cap that he will never wear.
He would let her do anything at all if she'd stay but she doesn't know that and half the time, he doesn't know it either so they go along like this, day by day.
New York is new still, still years later but in a nice way, he guesses, nicer than he has a right to expect.
It's funny but it almost still feels like a vacation; he has dug his feet into the grime of this city but there are still monsters hiding in the dark. There are still streets he hasn't lived in, hasn't walked up and down and known. It opens it jaws wide every night, invites him in and Holmes takes and takes.
He and Watson run this fine line between room-mates, team-mates, just mates and he works around her as she works around him. He only goes out on the nights that she's with Morstan, goes out into the streets and empties his need into the dirty corners of this city, rubs up against it as if he can absorb some part of it, slip it into his skin.
(This is his kingdom, always, always the bottom of every city, sinking to the lowest point, both in work and pleasure. The underbelly of cities have been wife and mistress to him for years, all he's ever needed.
Joan is the exception, always.)
It is a lull, even this life. There is blood on his floor boards and something pumping in his veins and Holmes is not dissatisfied with what he has built here, this electric city he has constructed around him. He is not dissatisfied with how it sits around him, only he knows it won't last.
He watches Watson, watches the door, watches for the signs for it all to go hurtling down.
(Any minute now - )