Joan walks through the front door and finds a comically large bundle of red cylinders painted firecracker red with woven twine wicks and a giant neon placard timer that is beeping loud enough to be heard outside the building, counting down from fifteen seconds. Joan sighs heavily and sorts the mail into two stacks.
"We talked about this," she says, pitching her voice to carry through to the next room, and half of Sherlock's face appears at the doorframe, lurking like a particularly ungainly stork.
"You might find yourself to be quite adept at defusing explosives, Watson," he says, and she watches one half of his mouth form the words. "Being a surgeon requires holding calm under a great deal of pressure as well as making serious decisions quickly."
"Please tell me this isn't a real bomb," Joan says, and then shakes her head. "Nevermind, I don't want to know. You're cleaning whatever it is up, I'll be in my room."
(Later Sherlock offers her green jello, wobbling in a chipped coffee mug that still has a dark spot of tea smudged on the rim. Joan clothes smell of artificial lime flavouring for a week. There's a suspicious stain on the trim just below the ceiling above where the bomb was, but Sherlock never tells her and she never asks.)
"We should have codewords," Sherlock says. It's a lazy Sunday morning, the kind where Joan thinks about her mother making her wear stiff starched dresses to church as a child while she stretches luxuriously against her sheets and dozes until nearly ten in the morning. She shuffles out in worn thin slippers and finds Sherlock sitting fully dressed in the kitchen, his cardigan fastened around a shirt buttoned up all the way to the collar and brown shoes tied neatly. He speaks as soon as she comes into the room, still pushing her hair out of her eyes.
"Morning to you too," she says, her voice rough, and slips into the chair across from him. He stands to pour her hot water from the kettle on the stove, and Joan closes her eyes briefly to listen to the trickle and splash of it into a mug.
"Honey?" he asks, and Joan makes a murmuring negative noise. She doesn't trust his honey. He sets the cup in front of her, dipping the tea bag and wrapping the string around the handle, and Joan warms the tips of her fingers against the mug, brings it to her face. Sherlock vibrates across from her, impatient, and she makes him wait, breathes across the surface of the tea to make the steam rise warm into her face. Sherlock's knee jumps up to smack against the underside of the table and Joan relents. "Why do we need codewords?"
"Safety precautions, Watson," he bursts out. "Aeroplane pilots have a certain frequency on their radios, that, when flipped, indicated the presence of hijackers."
Joan takes that first sip, the tea flowing over her tongue and erasing the bitter taste of sleep, hot enough to sting just a little. "Are you planning on becoming an airplane pilot?" Sherlock's face contorts in an extremely pleasing manner.
"Don't be deliberately obtuse," he says, verging on a whine. "you've flat out refused to agree to my reasonable suggestions-"
"Demands," Joan interrupts, and Sherlock ignores her, his voice rising.
"-that you take the necessary precautions to learn to defend yourself. The least you can do is-"
"I highly doubt it's the least I can do." Joan says, and plucks an apple out of the bowl on the table. She rubs her thumb over the produce sticker until it rolls up onto her finger. Sherlock stops fuming long enough to curl-uncurl his fingers in a street magician's flourish In his palm sits a folding knife, coloured dull army green, and the visible outside edge of the knife shines grey silver. "Thanks," she says, and starts to peel the apple, a long curving slice. It cuts easily, parting the skin neatly, and the scent of autumn apple wafts up from the flesh of the fruit.
"It's yours," he says, and she blinks at him. "the law states the knife cannot exceed the length of four inches."
"I'm not carrying this," she says, one curl dropping to the table. She adjusts her grip and starts again. Sherlock eyes the peel on the table and she stabs the knife into the apple pointedly, slicing off a thick wedge and eating it off the blade.
Sherlock puts his hands in his lap. "And why not? You're going to deny me even this?" He looks wounded, and young, and almost earnest, as earnest as he ever looks.
Joan swallows and offers him a handful of peel. He takes a piece gingerly, with the tips of his fingers, and smiles, almost cautious. "Girl pockets are much shallower than guy pockets," she tells him. "It wouldn't fit." She hesitates, and sighs. "Two, two and a half inches would be better."
Sherlock beams at her.
(The grip of the two inch knife is bright bright red all over, even the metal pocket clip, and there's a dragon stamped into the base of the blade. Lucky, Sherlock tells her, and Joan rolls her eyes.)
Joan comes home with groceries cutting red ridges into the inside knuckles of her fingers. The bags bang against the door as she fumbles with the lock, and when she gets everything inside and thumps the door shut with her shoulder, she turns and sees a masked man holding a machete.
"Where is Sherlock Holmes," he asks menacingly, in a very convincing Brooklyn accent.
"Roof, probably," Joan says, hitching up the bags in one hand to lock the door behind her. "mind the the bees, lock up behind yourself."
Sherlock pulls the mask up above his nose and twists his mouth in a pout. "Now you're just being childish."
"I'm being childish?" Sherlock lets the tip of the machete drop and Joan glares. "Don't put gouges in the floor." She pushes past him towards the kitchen. "You've already done this one."
"The way you become sufficient at dealing with certain scenarios is by repetition of said scenarios."
Joan grunts as she hefts the bags to the counter. "Is that so?"
"Yes," Sherlock says, sounding mortally offended, "I always do my research, Watson."
"Do you always watch someone putting away groceries without helping?"
"Yes, actually," he says, but steps up and starts pulling vegetables out of one of the bags, piling them in his arms and then looking slightly confused about the next step of the process. Joan orients him towards the refrigerator and opens the crisper drawers at the bottom, putting away item after item in his hands like a rather interactive shelf.
"How do you even have a machete," Joan asks, "I thought you said the legal limit was four inches."
"Yes," Sherlock says, rocking up onto his toes and down again, "at first I thought it was a typical failure stemming from the ridiculous American resistance to the metric system, but it's actually a rather interesting loophole."
"Fascinating," Joan says. "Go get the last bag-be careful, there are eggs."
(They have omelettes for dinner. Sherlock tells her about how they manufacture cheese in Nepal and juggles the eggs. He drops three and Joan makes him clean it up before he can eat.)
Cops may think they've got the market cornered on relentless waves of bureaucratic paperwork, but Joan knows it's no match for hospital employed insurance liaisons, who may be directly responsible for the deforestation of multiple continents in in the name of eliminating liability. Sherlock presses his lips together when she finishes her statement first, signing her name in a quick flourish and slipping her papers into a manila folder.
"Going for coffee," she tells him, and he waves at her impatiently, his pen scritch scratching across the paper.
"Hey," Bell says, catching her in the break room. "I can file those for you."
"Thanks," Joan says, momentarily juggling two styrofoam cups to hand him the file folder. She offers him one of the cups and he takes it. Joan turns back to get another coffee for Sherlock. "How's your brother?"
"Good," Bell says, hovering very slightly at her elbow. He shifts on his feet like he wants to ask her something. Joan waits him out, adds sugar, pauses, adds sugar again. "If you're interested," Bell says, breaking as she reaches for the creamer, "I could take you down to the range, teach you to shoot."
Joan considers him. "Sherlock put you up to this."
Bell has the grace to look slightly ashamed. "I owe him one."
Joan throws the wooden coffee stirrer away. "You don't owe me?"
"Sure," Bell says. "I owe him enough to ask, and I owe you enough to ask once."
"Good talk," Joan says, and vindictively adds two more packets of sugar to Sherlock's coffee.
(On Saturday she tells Sherlock she's going to the shooting gallery with Bell. Instead they have lunch in Chinatown, and she teaches him how to order the steamed pork buns he likes so much. They pack up six for his brother, and when she gets home Sherlock takes one look at her and his mouth goes into a straight line. He sulks for nearly two hours.)
Joan wakes up in the hospital. Sherlock is sitting in the rickety plastic chair, drumming his fingers on the green felt armrests and eating ice chips out of paper cup. Joan flexes her fingers, feeling the pull of the IV.
"You don't get any," Sherlock says, snooty, and then contradicts himself immediately, offering her the cup.
Joan waves it away. "Water," she says, "I know not to overdo it."
Sherlock shakes the cup until the ice rattles. "The doctors were quite clear."
"One of us has a medical degree," Joan says, trailing off. She shoves the thin scratchy sheet down to press through the paper gown, run her fingers down the bumps of the stitches.
"I could practice medicine better than half the practicing physicians in this country," Sherlock says, dismissive. "No, wait. Seventy five percent of the practicing physicians."
Joan ignores him. "Where's my chart?" She leans forward to grab it off the foot of the bed and sucks in a hard gasp. She leans back against the pillows, more carefully.
"In the world," Sherlock clarifies. "Ice chip?"
Joan resists the urge to use profanity. She leans forward again, slow and careful, and Sherlock waits until her fingertips graze the edge of the clipboard before snatching it from her.
"Twenty six stitches," he says, "twelve in the underlying muscle-the blade deflected off your ribcage. Estimated two days in the hospital, six to eight weeks full recovery."
"Get me a DAMA," Joan says.
"Already filled out," Sherlock says. "As if you need these imbeciles to give you medical advice. I took the liberty of forging your signature."
"Good," Joan says, and sighs. "And uh, the guy who...?"
"Recovering in a prison infirmary," Sherlock says. He crunches an ice chip. Joan raises an eyebrow. "I understand he took a nasty fall during his apprehension."
"Detective Bell of course rushed him to receive medical attention."
"Of course," Joan says, and smiles. She feels drowsy, that floaty numbing feeling of prescription painkillers. She has a brief flash of worry-Sherlock could easily finagle his way into hospital storerooms-but her head lolls a little.
"I don't suppose you'll share what possessed you to run after an armed murder suspect?" Sherlock's fingers clench around the cup, white knuckled.
"I got caught up in the moment," Joan says, and watches lines crack across the pastel painted outside of the cup, stress lines. Her eyes grow heavy.
"It will take some time to process your discharge," Sherlock says. "Bureaucracies are so very inefficient."
"Yeah," Joan says, and slides a little further down. The blanket falls and Sherlock moves between one blink and the next, tucking it up around her shoulders. He brushes the hair off her neck and trails his fingers down to link with hers, pressed against the point in her side where the knife slid in. There are flecks of her blood dried under his fingernails.
"Sleep for a moment," he says, and she murmurs a yes.
("Could have been a gun," he says when she wakes up, holding pamphlets for self defense courses at the local community center, and dodges when she tries to throw the flowers Bell had left on the nightstand.)