Sherlock found Joanna in one of the bathroom stalls, hastily shoving a gun into one of the metal bins for sanitary napkins, covered in blood up to her elbows. There were also smears of red in her hair and on her cheek, as though she'd pushed it back and forgotten about the mess. She barely glanced up at him until he carefully wrapped his hand in toilet tissue, plucked the gun from the bin, and stuck it in his coat pocket. "We need to wash off the powder burns," he said softly.
"I know." She allowed him to pull her upright and to the sink, calm enough to be strange but not as calm as someone in shock. Her hands were steady as Sherlock pulled them under the tap and stepped back so she could take care of herself. She smiled shakily up at him and asked him to get her some soap.
As he watched her wash, Sherlock felt something strange and foreign settle in the pit of his stomach that he slowly identified as relief. The entire time he was listening to Jo and the cabbie, he had been terrified out of his mind, wound up so tightly that if properly manipulated he could have flown away. He wanted to touch her again, reassure himself that she was alright, that she was still alive, even though the evidence was right before his eyes. Simply seeing wasn't the same as touching, smelling, tasting, holding... "I was worried about you," he admitted in a low voice.
Joanna looked up at him through dripping eyelashes. "Why, because I'm pregnant?"
"No, oddly enough, because you'd been kidnapped by a serial killer who had already proven himself very clever and dangerous," he retorted. "Though I suppose it could have been, ah, that, as well." She made a soft sound reminiscent of laughter and shook her head, short hair swinging heavily where she'd wetted it.
Lestrade knocked on the door before pushing it open. "Are you hurt?" he asked.
"I'm okay," dismissed Joanna again, though there was a convincing tremor in her voice that even had Sherlock feeling confused, as she'd been perfectly composed only moments ago.
Nodding, the DI bit his lip. "Look, I know it's weird, but we're going to, uh, need your jacket. Evidence, and all that. The guys in the ambulance want to have a look at you too, make sure you aren't going into shock."
"Yeah, alright, just give me a second?"
"Take your time."
Once he was gone and they were certain they were alone, Joanna reached out and tugged the end of Sherlock's coat sleeve between two fingers, obviously preparing herself mentally. "Listen, Sherlock," she started awkwardly. "I'm sorry I didn't listen, earlier. I was - well - it's just been a weird day."
"It wasn't your fault," his mouth replied, leaving his brain in the dust. "Anyone would have made the same assumption. But I want you to know that, that night, at the club, I saw you and I read your story in you, and I wanted to know you better. You're interesting, and I would be very amenable to the idea of, ah-"
"Sherlock," she interrupted, "are you trying to say you want me around?"
He nodded, suddenly feeling shaky and uncertain. Was it possible to have heart palpitations when trying to discuss such mundane things as desire? "I went to rehab voluntarily, this last time," his mouth continued. "The other three, my brother had had to drag me in, but it's been nearly two years and I didn't want to fall back into temptation by trying to get through it myself. It wasn't fun anymore," he finished lamely.
Joanna smiled crookedly at him. "I can imagine. But, well, I ought to go down. I'll call you?"
"I can wait. There's a Chinese place on the end of Baker Street; I'm afraid I cheated you out of a meal earlier, and-"
"Can we do takeaway?" asked Jo before he could start stammering again. "It's just that I'm really tired and would like to turn in while it's still dark out, you know."
Again he nodded, feeling his heart start to race again as another thought occurred to him. As Jo was turning away to leave the room he called after her, but he was speaking so quickly that even he had no idea what he said. She turned back and he cleared his throat. "You could-you could stay at Baker Street tonight," he offered. "It's nearer than the bedsit." Then he stuck his hands in his pockets, jerking slightly when he encountered the gun.
"That would be good," she agreed, looking almost annoyingly amused. "See you downstairs."
The door swung shut and Sherlock was left alone. He didn't like it.
four weeks later
"That's it," announced Jo, ticking off the day on the calendar. "Three months. I'm officially up the duff." She turned around the look at Sherlock, who was draped messily across the sofa.
He angled his head toward her and murmured, "Oh, good," without opening his eyes. "I was worried you were faking being up sick half the night and throwing away my experiments because they smell purple." As she made a sound of mock-outrage he smirked and opened his eyes. "Oh, I'm joking. Though that last one was important."
"You said you'd get a second fridge," she retorted, getting up from the kitchen table to drop onto the sofa alongside him. "And I'm only up sick half the night because you've got my schedule all screwy on cases. Nap?" Before he could answer she had burrowed her face into his shirt and shut her eyes, breathing deep. Sherlock put an arm around her shoulders to keep her from sliding off the leather upholstery.
"I'm thinking of starting a second blog," she murmured into his shoulder five minutes after he thought she'd fallen asleep, and he jumped. "One for cases and one for our families to look at and see how the pregnancy's going. What do you think?"
Peering down at where she was tucked under his chin, Sherlock muttered, "Well, I can't exactly stop you. But it will keep Mycroft at bay, so I don't mind."
She laughed quietly against him. "I was thinking the same with my sister, actually. We're such terrible younger siblings."
"Really? I think we're doing an excellent job." She laughed again and he smoothed his hand over her back a few times. "Go to sleep; we'll talk later." With a contented hum she wriggled closer and really did fall asleep that time.
Sherlock buried his nose in her short scruffy hair, enjoying himself nearly to the point of feeling a bit revolting. It was so absurd to be in such ridiculous domestic bliss and actually be happy about it; never in his life had Sherlock imagined that one day he would have a child or something like a girlfriend, let alone have them both thrust upon him in one 36-hour period. He and Jo had briefly entertained the idea of living separately until they had passed the danger of spontaneous miscarriage, but it quickly became clear that, after two more casual meals and one rush back to Baker Street to catch an actual axe murderer, followed by some of the most delectable sex either of them had had within living memory, they were far more compatible than limiting themselves to friendship. He snuck his hand around to Jo's front and rested it against the soft barely-there swell of her stomach. His child. Well, their child. Their baby.
Half an hour later Sherlock had to very carefully maneuver himself free from under Jo, arranging her in a more comfortable position and covering her with a blanket, in order to shake feeling back into his tingling limbs. He wandered over to the table, running both hands through his hair before looking down at Jo's meticulous desktop calendar and smiling to himself; she'd gone through and labelled down every approximate date for milestones until her due-date on the eighth of October, and then every approximate milestone for the baby through December. Staring at the month of October, Sherlock couldn't help but wonder if he would last that long. Yes, he was completely enamored with Joanna and their impending parenthood now, but would he always be?
Jo sighed in her sleep, rolling over on the sofa, and Sherlock treaded quietly over to make sure she wasn't about to fall off the edge. Once certain, he hitched her blanket up higher and went back to the kitchen. He was halfway through emptying out old experiments when it hit him; of course he wouldn't always be enamored with being a father, but that didn't take away his responsibility or obligation to raise up a fellow human being. And even if his infatuation with Joanna faded, there would always be something holding them together for the rest of their lives, through that child that they both would love no matter who they were or what they did.
It dawned on him when he could hear his own breathing that he was panicking; he reached for his coat and was out the door before knowing where exactly he was going. His hand shook as he pulled his mobile out of his pocket and dialed the first number to occur to muscle memory. After four rings Lestrade finally answered, and Sherlock nearly shouted, "I'm going to be a father," as he dropped to sit on the front step of 221B.
Lestrade laughed for probably two and a half minutes. Welcome to the adult world, you sorry bastard. I would ask if you're gonna make an honest woman out of Jo, but I think you both and half of London would punch me. Though now you've come to terms with it, I suppose congratulations are in order.
"Yes, yes, fine," snapped Sherlock, "but what do I do?"
You guess as you go and hope to God you made the right decision.
He sighed. "That information means nothing to me," he growled and hung up. God, how he wanted a cigarette, but the smell made Jo nauseous. Everything made Jo nauseous these days; according to some of the books he'd compulsively collected over the past month she and the baby were at a critical transitional stage and a bit of sickness was a good sign. It was just the powerlessness, the inability to change anything, that irked him.
It was another 45 minutes of sulking on the front steps before the door creaked open behind him and Jo asked, "Sherlock, what are you doing out here?" in a sleep-muffled voice. "I fell off the sofa and you weren't in the flat."
"You - again?" he sputtered, jumping up. "You're not sleeping on the sofa anymore; it's obviously not safe."
She grinned toothily up at him. "You worry too much. Now come on, I've had an idea about the baby-blog." Grabbing his hand, she pulled him back up the stairs to 221B before he could protest. "I've got this jumper that's really big and stretchy, so I thought it would be a fun idea if I wore it for a picture once a week to put on the blog. Do you have a camera? Otherwise Mrs. Hudson probably has one, or maybe the married ones next door..." She continued to talk excitedly about her plans while Sherlock listened patiently, watching her gesture wildly as she got a bit overexcited and nearly knocked something over. But her eyes were tight around the corners, and her smile didn't fully reach them.
"What are you thinking about?" he asked once the stream had slowed, and Jo quieted.
Smoothing her jumper consciously over her stomach, she murmured, "I thought I might visit my mum today and tell her the news." Instantly Sherlock's mind went back to the night with the cabbie, his nasally voice asking "What about your mum? Why doesn't she love you anymore?" and Jo's violent reaction. Past wondering who Moriarty might be, Sherlock tried avoiding that disastrous second meeting at all costs only to save Jo the obligation of explaining an obviously touchy subject.
"Do you want me to accompany you?" he asked warily, unsure of how to proceed.
Joanna smiled and shook her head. "You don't have to."
"That's not what I asked."
She briefly twisted her mouth and flushed slightly as she considered it. "Yeah, okay. As long as you don't mind."
"Of course not," he assured her, though inside he felt like running as far and fast as he could. He wasn't good with his own family, let alone complete strangers who would inevitably want to know more about him and intrude on his private life because of the baby. Parents just didn't like him. And there was the matter of why Joanna was even going to see her mother at all after already mentioning not getting on with her sister, the cabbie's jab about her mother, and her stony silence in regards to her father.
They climbed into a cab and Jo gave the address of a nursing home in Ealing. She was wound up tightly as a spring, biting her nails and looking altogether so pitiful that Sherlock wanted to offer they turn back and save the journey for another day. But on the other hand he was loathe to prolong her anxiety any longer - if not for her own good than for the good of the baby - so instead reached across the seat and tugged her hand away from her mouth. One of the nails was bleeding. "Your mother's still relatively young but in an assisted living home. Early-onset Alzheimer's?" he gently guessed.
"No," replied Jo instantly, her voice eerily calm. "When I was fifteen my dad beat her so badly her brain hemorrhaged. She can't take care of herself."
It very suddenly felt as if Sherlock had been punched in the chest, now knowing what the cabbie meant when he said What Daddy did but unsure of how he'd got the information. He wanted to taste blood. His hand tightened subtly around Jo's wrist, trying to reassure her. "Where is he?" he asked tightly.
"Killed himself before the trial."
Bastard. Sherlock didn't even get the pleasure of terrifying him into complacency. Still. At least he wasn't bothering Joanna anymore, at least not in the literal sense.
The receptionist at the front desk was very young, had only been at the job for a few weeks, and her eyes boggled at the sight of Sherlock trailing into the nursing home. Joanna inched closer to him and tried to ask for visitor badges, but the girl was too busy gawking and trying to look "cute" at the same time to help. Another nurse, a stocky young man and several years older, had to intervene. Very red but trying to pretend she wasn't bothered, Jo handed Sherlock a spare badge. The nurse glared at the receptionist before leading them down the corridor to Joan Watson's room.
"You know, no one's been around to visit in at least six months," the nurse said with obvious distaste, straightening his scrubs while trying to stare Joanna down.
"What?" she gasped, then sighed, "Oh, I will kill Harry... I'm sorry. I'll come by more and make sure my sister does too." They reached the door, but she waited until the nurse was gone before addressing Sherlock. "Listen, it's really okay if you don't want to come in. She's not all there, Sherlock."
He gestured impatiently for her to go in and that he would follow. Smiling bleakly, Joanna opened the door and almost instantly a woman's frail dreamy voice called out, "Hamish?"
Joan was a tiny woman of around 5-foot-four, around her daughter's height but a slimmer build, with a long graying-blonde braid trailing over one shoulder and a skittish expression.
"Hi, Mum; it's me, Joey," said Joanna cheerfully from the door, holding out a hand to keep Sherlock back for the time being.
For a moment Joan looked puzzled, glancing down at one of the hundreds of sticky notes plastered up around the bed. "But Joey's in Afghanistan," she read off of one of them.
Slowly, "Joey" stepped further into the room and sat in the chair opposite where her mother was perched on the edge of the bed. "I came home, Mummy. I missed you terribly, so I asked one of the Afghanis to shoot me and was sent home for my trouble," she grinned. Then she allowed her mother to reach out and run an age-softened hand over her cheek. Joan only looked to be in her mid-fifties, but acted like both a very old woman and very small child.
"Joey," breathed Joan happily. "Oh, baby girl, you grew up. You were just fifteen."
"I know, Mum, it's been a while. I brought a friend with me, would you like to meet him?"
"Hamish?" There was a fearful quaver in the woman's voice, and Joanna grimaced.
"No, Mummy, I promise not him. This-" she gestured to Sherlock that he could come in, then bit her lip as he trailed over to her shoulder, "-this is - my boyfriend, Sherlock."
He blinked at the title, but made no outward reaction. Joan beamed at the news and insisted that Sherlock lean down to hug her. The old woman was frail and had a delicate mind; there was no need to over-complicate things. Then Joanna said, "And guess what else, Mum? You're gonna be a granny."
Joan stared wide-eyed for a moment, then burst into tears and was completely inconsolable for several minutes. She seemed to have brief flashes of understanding that time moved differently for her, and that she would always feel lost and confused no matter how many times people tried to help her come to grips. It had to be frightening to know that even if they saw her every day she would just forget again. Joanna crawled up onto the bed and wrapped her arms around her mother until she stopped crying. Then the older woman, still sniffling, wrote out a sticky-note for herself. Joey's having a baby with Sherlock. He'll do.
Sherlock was oddly touched. He sat quietly for the rest of the visit, only speaking when directly addressed. When the nurse came back to bring Joan to the dining room for dinner, they said their goodbyes and called another cab for home.
"I love my mum, but I hate this," Jo muttered halfway back, staring at her hands.
Sherlock immediately replied, "I understand. You want her to be involved but know that she can't." Then, after a long moment of thought, he added, "I suppose this means you'll want to meet my family," as delicately as he could while making a face like he'd just sucked on a lemon.
Jo laughed until she cried. They spent the rest of the ride with one of his arms around her, and with his other hand under hers on the barely-there swell of the family they would start together, and hopefully get right.