The Beast and the Beholder

Joan Watson. A woman, by no means the average epitome of beautiful. Her mediocre, some would call plain brown eyes cast over her solid but straight form in her full length mirror, her skin a mottled brown but quickly fading tan, the muscles in her left arm slightly less defined from the lack of use in the last few weeks, her right hand tense as she grips onto the solid metal cane that the army had provided.

She slumps backwards into her sofa-bed, the sound of her discharge papers crackling loudly around the otherwise silent room.

She's never been much of a crier, but a single solitary tear drops from her eye, trailing wetly down her face, the salty taste passing over her lips as a quivering hand unfolds the paper.

The text seems to have faded from the number of times she had read the words upon it, the ink cracked and fading.

Honourable discharge, saved a man's life in open fire, injured in the line of duty.

Her hand encloses the paper, the protest the paper makes satisfying as she crumples it once more, letting it fall through her fingertips to the ground.

.

Sherlock, now, Sherlock Holmes is beautiful. Far more beautiful that Joan could ever be, far more elegant, striking, captivating and downright stunning than a man should ever have the right to be.

For the woman at his side it is all too evident. And somewhat disconcerting.

Sherlock is the chiselled creature that is the epitome of what a woman should be, all high cheekbones, that perfectly coifed and styled hair, the clothes that cut the perfect silhouette and eyes that would look out of place on a model on the cover of Vogue. And yet, he's not.

Joan, by his side feels dumpier than ever in her size too big jeans, her father's old leather jacket and wispy blonde-brown hair that has finally grown past her shoulders.

Yet, that first time she speaks at a crime scene her face inches away from the corpse, and Sherlock turns those puzzled grey eyes on her, locking onto hers and peering into her very soul, she feels it. She watches her words light a fire behind those eyes igniting them to the purest silver, and suddenly it feels as though she is the most wonderful creature in the world.

The look of wonderment only lasts a second before the cold, unimpressed mask slips back over his face and with a twist of his leg and twirl of that dramatic coat of his Sherlock is running from the room and Joan is running, two of her running steps to his massive stride.

She tries desperately to ignore the hammering in her heart, which is definitely not from the sudden run.

The world is cold. Black, cold, damp and soft.

Joan splutters, her body launching from the tiles, her lungs heaving from the breath that her body desperately needed. Water spews from her throat and she heaves, vomit and water escaping her lips.

"Joan, JOAN, JOAN- please speak to me. Sweetheart please." hands, wet and clammy are on her face, a strangely angled face petering in and out of view. With a final solitary blink Sherlock's face comes into focus, his curls wet and lying flat on his forehead, the blood smeared across his cheeks the only colour in his milk white face.

Joan's hand comes to touch his, her fingers tracing over his knuckles and despite the ache in his chest she manages to cock an eyebrow at him.

"Sweetheart?" she manages to stammer. Her reply is the cheeks flushing with brilliant red, spreading across his face to the tip of his nose.

His coat is heavy but dry and warm as he drapes it over her upright body as they wait, leaning against the wall of the swimming pool.

With all the delicacy of a swooning Victorian maiden Joan manages to place her head on her saviours shoulder. It is then the events of the night catch up to her and tears begin to come.

And though he would later disregard it as a action fuelled by shock he placed an arm around her shoulder pulling her close, and in the moment she fell into a deep sleep ,she could have sworn she'd felt the same warm, soft lips as before pressed to her forehead.

.

"So... he's not gay. You're sure about this?"

"Yes, I am bloody sure Harry now butt out of it."

"But you're not going to make a move?"

"...No"

"So, your not going to try to nab him, yet I can't have a go?"

"Good lord, who did I kill in a past life to be surrounded by such dramatic men?"

"Who really are definitely, 100% not gay?"

"Well, you certainly are for one..."

.

Irene, how does Joan begin to even explain Irene Adler? With her soft brown curls, perfectly chiselled face and skin as perfect as untouched winter snow, she's who Sherlock deserves, if he even wants that kind of -thing.

She's perched on the sofa, the day after Irene's 'death', her eyes glazed as she stares into space, wondering why she couldn't be like her. Strong, confident and powerful, with the ability to make even a man such as Sherlock Holmes stop in his tracks, his eyes racking over her perfect face or body.

Christ, she'd even flirted with him. Her brain spat out the thought like a dirty word, Joan could have wandered into Sherlock's room completely naked and he wouldn't have paid any-more attention to her than his phone, either that or he'd throw his coat at her in alarm. Not that she'd ever, do that.

Sure, Joan could shoot a man in the heart through a window, from about 2 metres away, but what man wants that in a girlfriend. No wonder Sam had run a mile after that first disastrous date at the Chinese circus, and Zach, and John, and Peter and- well, her record speaks for itself.

And, even Irene had failed in the end, he'd only sneered sentimentality as he'd walked in from the Bond Air meeting. If Irene-fucking- Alder, with her beauty and intelligence and grace, a goddess in comparison to Joan had failed to meet Sherlock's standards, what chance did Joan, a mere mortal stand.

"Joan- what, on earth have you got on your face?" Sherlock mutters as he walks into the living room. Joan freezes, the widening of her eyes the only thing that he'd even heard her come in.

Fuck.

She'd forgotten about the makeup.

"Irene-makeup-left-thought I'd try it out-"she mutters, fixing her eyes on a spot on the wall and not moving her eyes from it.

Sherlock walks up to her, crouching down before her. She tears her eyes from her spot and her made-up brown eyes meet his shocking blue ones. A laugh vibrates through his chest and her eyes turn even steelier.

"I'm sorry Joan, but you look utterly ridiculous." Sherlock chuckles, his black curls flipping into his eyes.

"Gee- thanks, sure know how to make the girl paying half your rent feel special." She mutters, turning her head away from him.

The laughter immediately stops and he tuts, placing his long fingers under her chin and spinning her face back to meet his. She bats him away.

"Hey, I'm not some fucking doll to be manipulated Sherlock." She snaps at him.

"Which is exactly why you shouldn't be trying to be one." Sherlock replies sitting back on his haunches and regarding her through his fingertips. Her eyes blink in confusion, and god helps him, she nearly tilts her head in puzzlement.

He gently moves his coated arm up to her red lips and wipes away the substance upon them. Joan feels her breath hitch at the contact and watches him, eyes wide as he removes most of the makeup from her face. He stands, looking down on her from his great height, his eyes soft.

"Don't try and be someone else Joan, your perfect as you are." He whispers. With that, in his usual dramatic fashion, he swept himself from the room.

.

Sherlock sometimes comes into Joan's room when he can't sleep and watches. Just, watches her.

Every twitch of the muscles in her otherwise body, limp body. Her soft, warm face screwing up for a second as he enters the room, careful to avoid a creaking but his foot petering solid against the now creaking floorboard. Another tear slides down her face, and her mouth opens slightly in a soft whimper.

She hadn't left Baker Street since the day- well; Sherlock tries not to think about those days.

Joan standing by the grave, his grave, her knees shaking and chest heaving with tears that she doesn't want to let appear. The moment when all resolve broke and her knees buckled, a howl escaping her lips as she falls to the floor before his gravestone. That moment when a steady hand on his shoulder from Mycroft was the only thing that stopped him running to her side.

And then, the day when he fell, Joan's eyes when wide and terrified she saw his arms lift and him lean forward, that cry of alarm and pain that almost, almost made him stop in his tracks. And then, the fall, Joan's voice nothing more than a whisper on the wind, but piercing and loud to his ears. Then, the blur, the blur of voices, blood being sprayed on him, the shriek of the bike voices, every muscle tensing, and finally the last thing he remembered of that day, soft hands grasping desperately to find a pulse and Joan's voice calling his name, before a final soft whimper reaches his ears as she fails.

Sherlock's eyes flash open, and suddenly he's back in Joan's bedroom of 221b and- she's crying, harder, pained cries wrecking through her body. Every fibre of his being wills him to reach out and brush away the tears that are flying down her face, but- he can't, instead he slips out of Joan's window, hearing her gasp his name as she wakes. He leans his head against the bricks of the house, listening to her sobs start afresh, his name nestled somewhere amongst the cries.

.

Joan, despite recent evidence, has never been much of a crier. Sherlock knows this which is why he is hardly surprised when he snuck back into Baker Street and has whispered a hushed 'hello' to a back-turned Joan that Joan punches him directly on the nose, knocking him out and breaking a finger or two of hers in the process. Okay, maybe a little surprised.

Sherlock's got his finger and fore thumb pinching his nose as it bleeds out into a tissue paper, his head tilted back as he sat in the A&EA department St Mary's, Joan sitting next to him, cradling her hand and occasionally looking over at him with eyes of pure loathing.

"Hope that hurts." she mutters after about 20 minutes. Sherlock raises his eyebrows, looking at her over the tissue.

"Of, donf worfy it doef." He replies, his voice stuffy, rich and even deeper than normal.

Joan's eyes flash upwards, and despite herself the sides of her mouth lifts and her eyes crinkle. A laugh escapes her lips and her head falls backwards onto the wall.

Slowly, like an animal with a new owner, she shifts closer to the seat next to him sliding her head down, resting it against his chest, breathing in his scent. His arm encases her small, thinner in the last few months, body.

She sighs, nestling further into him and he can feel the beginning of tears beginning to drip onto his skin, soaking through his shirt.

"Why- why didn't you tell me Sherlock?" she whispers, into his body. He stiffens, his heart pounding in his ears.

Her eyes meet his and he can see the remnants of anger and tears glistening in them.

"I wouldn't have told anyone you're alive, I could have helped or at least I could have know-"Sherlock's soft sigh silences her.

"I had to protect you- you had to really think I was dead otherwise I couldn't rid the world of Moriarty's web. " Joan sits up, her face inches from Sherlock's; he turns looking her dead in the eye and running his hand over her bruised knuckles.

A memory echoes in her mind.

Sherlock's face coming into focus, his curls wet and lying flat on his forehead, the blood smeared across his cheeks the only colour in his milk white face. Joan's hand comes to touch his, her fingers tracing over his knuckles...

"He would have killed you, you were too important, you had to be protected. " he whispers, his fingers still moving in their path over her fingers.

"Why, why me?" she whispers. Sherlock's eyes meet hers once more and sighs a soft sigh.

"There was a story of a cursed man, a beast. If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a beast? And then beauty came into his life. And she saw past his, outlandish exterior and learned to love him, and he loved her in return, but he was still a beast, and still had enemies and had to leave to protect her. Doesn't mean he ever stopped loving her." He whispered, his eyes falling to their now entwined hands.

Joan's breath came out in a whoosh and a scared laugh appeared in her chest.

"Sherlock- you're hardly a beast. And I'm hardly a beaut-" "Who says not?" He demanded. Leaning forward he pressed a kiss to her forehead.

"Joan, when I look at you I see, the only woman I've ever felt anything for. A stunning" another kiss on her temple. " evocative" another kiss this time on her nose. 'demure' on her cheek, causing blood to flush to them ' and downright beautiful woman'. His forehead rested on hers, his breath inching across her lips and into her very lungs.

Joan smiled, her brown eyes flickering shut as their lips finally, after, so long met.