Notes; a continuation of chartreuse. Sort of.
There are things she still keeps from Sherlock, because in every partnership, there are shadows and secrets that sleep beneath age-stained floorboards, whispering ever-changing prophecies in meaningless words and tongues, a string of syllables more choking, hissing consonant than tangible sound. Joan's good at shutting them out just like she's good at shutting out Sherlock's quixotic whims, good at ignoring the idiosyncrasies that seize him in the twilit gloam, scratching away at his violin as it caterwauls into the night.
The first, is how she lost her first patient, the only patient to matter in the eyes of the New Albion government. A minor political secretary, he bled green-black-red onto her scrubs as she used the saw to cut open his ribcage, allowed her hand to slip amidst the tangled snarl of branching veins linking his three hearts. The saltwater stench of his innards had accompanied her home that day, an odour reminiscent of cloudy-eyed fish and spoiled seafood rotting in the sun.
The second, is the password of freedom; the idea of Restorationalism, a dream of a world far removed from the brooding profiles of the Queen carved into nickels and pennies, emblazoned upon mugs and etched into Bohemian crystalware. Sherlock might eat his cereal and spaghetti from giant mugs with the the majestic countenance of Victoria Gloriana splashed across the ceramic; he might clang his fine Albion silverware against the chipping sides and slurp noodles in broth with scant regard for the coat of arms engraved on the back of his spoon but she thinks it's just part of his character, just part of the eccentricities of an almost-nobleman banished by his family for possessing far too radical ideals.
But that's exactly what they are, anyway, ideals are something distant and unattainable, a vain, futile thing to struggle towards.
She doesn't know how much of it is true, how much of Sherlock Holmes are delusions brought on by illicit drugs and a mind too far removed from those of the average person, how much is anarchy and the promise of rebellion simmering beneath inked skin.
Joan returns to the brownstone as night fades to dawn and the constellations - Ammutseba, D'endrrah, the great, spilling nebula of Shub-Niggurath blotting out the moon - gleam pale and ghostly in the sky. Cold metal lines her shoulders and chest, rows of polished scalpels lying close to her skin. She's disposed of her gloves, the cheap aprons and shoe-covers, watched them burn black and tarry in the night. Her prey tonight had been small fry, minnows in the sea of the Great Ones, their blood more human than Dagonite. Only one heart, this time, whispering with a murmuring triple-beat, but four-chambered instead of three.
"Where've you been," Sherlock greets her as she shuts the door behind her. His voice lilts downwards, not so much a question as a statement. She stiffens, feeling clean lines of surgical steel pressing against her back. Her hand clenches in her coat-pocket as she opens her mouth, then closes it again.
"Got back from an early-morning jog," she says instead. "I couldn't sleep."
"Hmm," Sherlock says. "Maybe a spot of tea would help?" At that he smiles sweetly, broad and guileless. He can read liars like open books, she thinks, can dredge secrets from the dilation of their eyes and the tightness of their mouths. She accepts.
"There's no need to keep me in the dark about your nightly hobbies," he remarks casually over a forkful of thirty-second rice, steaming from a mug with the royal emblem of the Empire crawling across the front. "After all, I am quite well-versed in the art of anarchy and disestablishmentarianism."
Joan stares at him from above the rim of her cup. The perfume of the tea hangs sweet and heavy and earthy in the air, a welcome respite from the brine in the air outside, a remnant of the rise of the Great Ones from Deep R'lyeh. "I don't think we should be discussing this," she says at last.
"Whyever not, hm? Freedom is a drug, a drug consumed widely by the masses without the knowledge of those in power. It's what gives them hope, even if they don't know it, hope for a world where our rulers aren't squat, bulbous frog-cephalopods brooding on the throne of England. I'm merely another abuser, but so are you." He says it all in a single breath, the words falling out of his mouth in a tumbling rush.
"Sherlock," she says, tight-lipped. "Stop talking."
"I can teach you a thing or two," he says, instead. "We'd make a good pair, you and I."
(what he means is, I can teach you how to be invisible, how not to leave a trace, how to baffle Albion's finest detectives. After all, I was one, myself.
what was her name, Joan asks, the one who ruined your world and fed you illusions?
and when he smiles his eyes are cold and empty as the clouded eyes of a gutted fish pinned by a fishmonger's knife.
"I rather think," he says the first night he accompanies her, "you should have a bit more flair. Being a surgeon is all well and good but your methods lack style and artistry. How are we supposed to make a statement?"
Joan shoots him a look. "I'm not," she says from between clenched teeth and loosens the harness for her scalpels and hand-saws, slipping it off her shoulders, "trying to make a statement. I'm trying to right a wrong. It's people I should be saving, not them. I've thrown away so much time and for what, how to recue Queenkin from the brink of death? This isn't what I envisioned my life leading to."
"And you envisioned your life leading into butchery, I suppose?" Sherlock says, running his hands over her tools. "Yes, you're righting a great wrong there, kudos, Watson."
Usually, she does not hunt this soon after her last but Sherlock's driven by restlessness and ennui. His is a fatalistic excitement that has him staring silently at their victim as he thrashes and hisses in the rasping tongue of the Great Ones, enunciation slurred by the drugs pumping through three shivering hearts.
"Call yourself a descendant of Her Majesty," he says idly. "I can speak better Dagonite than you can, and I'm pretty rubbish, never paid attention in class."
Ftga'ryva wna'th-qa, their captive snarls. Sherlock smiles placidly, a cold curve of his mouth that doesn't reach his eyes. "Yes, the sentiment is quite mutual," he says.
Joan isn't sure where he procured a harpoon from. She allows it only because it's short enough to be easily concealed, a jagged spike of metal with cruel barbed hooks to the head. Sherlock has his secrets as she does hers; just as she does not question the harpoon, she doesn't question the bees on their roof, or the cameras scattered across his bookshelf, nestled within salvaged hardcovers.
"I wonder," he says with deceptive innocence, his footfalls soft as he paces, "if Dagonites have a similar non-valvular structure to their blood vessels as whales."
He objects to her neatness, her precision; after the initial strike with the harpoon Sherlock is content to watch her work. She slits the half-breed's throat, sets about gutting him as she does a calamari on the chopping board, ready to be stuffed with herbs for dinner.
"Too methodical," he says, reaching into their victim's chest cavity to stroke the smooth, slimy walls of tissue; he pulls his hand away, sniffs at the emerald ichor on his fingertips. "Fascinating," he says and licks it. Joan's nose wrinkles in distaste; she cuts out the hearts, one by one, dissects them and then ponders burning them. Sherlock seizes one, throws it against the wall. It slides down the faded wallpaper, leaving a sticky trail of green. "The media likes some sensation and the police, well, it's going to be harder to figure out a madman, hmm? Or even two, that's all the better."
"Ha, ha," she says, snatches up the heart from the dust and drops it back over the plastic sheets where the rest of the cooling entrails are piled. "I'm not doing this for your entertainment, Sherlock."
"Mm, no, but it's for someone else's," he says. "Come on, let me give them something to think about."
She sighs. "Very well."
They leave behind a corpse and three hearts, each carved with one letter.
I O U.
On the wall, inked in vibrant green is a single word.
They're home by five in the morning; Sherlock wants to watch the news, wants to track the coverage on their handiwork. They're glued to the T.V., doing squats to stay awake. Since their return Sherlock has picked through their leftovers - baked salmon pie; she tosses the rest into the trash because she's had enough of fish-people and their guts, cool and oozing around her hands.
"What was that for, the message in the hearts and the writing on the wall?"
Sherlock grins. In the bluish cast of the television screen he looks manic, haunted - like a man drowning, a ship cast adrift. "I owe someone something," he says. "We're going to have a good heart-to-heart, the two of us."
"Right," Joan says, and completes her third set of squats. Her muesli's gone soggy where she left it by her armchair; she picks through it dispassionately, contemplates how her life has come to this. It was supposed to be about saving people, not being an angel of death; it was supposed to be about prolonging lives, not murdering to chase fleeing dreams.
"Next time," Sherlock's saying, "we should try something new. How about, I know, exsanguination? They make mighty impressive blood pools, and as for the bodies, it'll be all the more baffling if the police can't find them. Shall we dump them into the ocean, for sweet poetic irony?"
Sherlock Holmes is a madman, that much Joan knows - wild and dangerous, even without the cocaine and heroin.
There's nobody else she'd trust with her secrets.
"Irene," he says the next day.
His voice is slurred, heavy from sleep. Joan curls deeper into her armchair and stares at him, at his inelegant sprawl across the couch. "I'm getting revenge for ... ahhh, Irene."
The news is a muted hum in the background.
"And the other?" she prompts, remembering what he said to her, all those weeks ago as he stares into the flames cracking in the fireplace as he plucked at the untuned strings of his violin.
"Jane Moriarty," he says simply. "The Queen's very own hunting dog."