Holmes came in far later than I had hoped, but my first glance over her form showed no apparent injuries. She had left in skirts, looking mostly like herself; now she was dressed like a gentleman come from the theatre, with a faded buttonhole and her shoes and trousers splattered with mud. She closed the door behind herself and slumped against it, looking across our sitting room with deep weariness in her eyes, and I revised my estimate. If she was not physically injured, she was certainly exhausted.
I thought at least she would come and sit down, but she stayed where she was, looking at the sofa where I sat with a pirate story, but saying nothing and not moving further.
“Holmes?” I asked. Her gaze focused on me slowly. “Come here.”
She blinked, then crossed the room and sat next to me. She held herself stiffly, and I thought it best to ask outright. “Are you injured?”
She shook her head. After a moment’s pause she said, “I have simply been too many people today.”
She got like this sometimes, barely responsive. It was more frequent when she didn’t have a case, but it was crueler when it appeared when she did, when she wanted to be at the work she loved but it utterly exhausted her. Either way the solution was the same.
I reached to place my arm around her shoulders, and then instead of simply holding her I pulled her down, to lie with her head in my lap. She sighed with relief and pressed her face against my thigh, and I buried my hand in her short hair.
I doubted she would want to talk for some time. I stroked her hair and kept reading, and she curled up on the sofa and sighed a little. One of her arms slowly came up and wrapped around my knees. Eventually I put my book aside and closed my eyes, leaning back against the sofa and letting my hands play with her hair and stroke her neck and shoulders as they wanted. We stayed there until the clock struck, and I pushed her hair away from her face and asked, “Bed?”
She sighed again. “Just this for a while?”
“Of course,” I said, and held her still.