Joan pauses in the doorway of the brownstone when the first thing she hears is an aria. A recording accompanies the voice, and it's only the slightest touch of white noise on the accompaniment that tells her the voice isn't part of the recording. It's lovely.
"Ms. Hudson?" she calls out, hanging up her things. Jacket, scarf, bag, keys. She goes to shut the door, but has to go back to grab her keys - and she might as well dig out her phone, while she's at it. No doubt Sherlock will soon be texting ambiguous details about his new lead on the killer of their murdered magician.
The aria stops, and a few seconds later the recording stops too. "Joan?" With a clip-clip of heels on wood, Ms. Hudson enters the hallway. "Sorry about the noise, I didn't expect you or Sherlock back for hours."
"You mean your singing?" Joan's got a new text. She unlocks her phone absently, more focused on Ms. Hudson. "That wasn't noise, that was beautiful."
Ms. Hudson smiles, flattered. "Thank you."
"Don't let me stop you from that, or your cleaning," Joan says with a grin. "I know the study could use your assistance, now that Sherlock's off his blood spatter kick."
Ms. Hudson grimaces. "Is that what that was?" She runs back into the kitchen, muttering, "I'm gonna need to spray those tables down again."
Joan wanders back over to the door, more intent on her phone now than the resumed aria. An eyebrow lifts almost involuntarily; she doesn't have a new text, she's got twenty. All from Sherlock. She shuts the door as she skims them (most are too chatspeaky for her to figure out without more context, one says he'll be back within the hour, and the others are just nonsense), putting her back into it when she meets resistance, and then something... pops. For a moment everything feels shivery, for lack of a better word, and then it's like she's on an airplane, and has to yawn or the pressure shift is going to kill her eardrums.
Ms. Hudson's aria cuts off with a squawk and a clatter. Joan tries to check on her, but trips over her own feet.
Which are in shoes a few sizes too big, which got caught on pants sagging a few inches over the toes - the same few inches her sleeves are hanging over her fingers.
"What the hell," Joan says, and then, "What the hell!" when that first one comes out half an octave higher than it should. She scrambles to her feet, kicking off a pair of normally nice heels in frustration, and when she finds a mirror immediately curses at it. She looks about fourteen, freckles and too-big teeth and all.
A blonde kid steps up behind Joan, holding up with one sleeve a dress made for someone five sizes larger, and says, "I couldn't put it better myself."
"Sherlock, you'd better call me back soon," Joan says, finishing up her third message in ten minutes. "I'm pretty sure there's more to this case than you know - stuff that I can barely wrap my head around, and I'm - well, just listen to me! Call me back, or come speak to me in person. I'll be at the brownstone." She hangs up with a sigh.
"No answer again, huh?" Ms. Hudson says from the other side of the room. She's buried her face in a book, one of Sherlock's she has apparently been meaning to read, and now seems as good a time as any. She's also buried in one of Sherlock's sweaters, which fits her decently in the shoulders but is way too long in the sleeves. The look kind of works for her. With her hair short, the oversized clothes give her a hint of androgyny that probably isn't how she'd like to look, but Joan figures it's an improvement on how she'd looked in one of Sherlock's better fitting button-downs.
"Nope." Joan drops her phone on a table and pulls a cold case folder into her lap grudgingly. She'd rather be looking for whoever did this - the magician's murderer, probably, and apparently a magician too - but they made a good choice with their spell. Joan has no clothes that will fit her like this - the best she's got is some undershirts, which look incredibly inappropriate on her, jackets that are intended to be too big, and a skirt she'd found at the back of her closet with an elastic waistband that hangs oddly on her hips. And if clothes are hard to come by, shoes are impossible. There's no way she can do any legwork for the investigation like this, and without Sherlock there to tell about this new turn of events, or to tell to buy clothes that will fit her, she's really got nowhere to go on the case mentally either.
So: cold case.
Ms. Hudson is quiet for a few minutes before Joan notices; she looks up to find a pair of curious eyes focused on her, and flushes automatically. Joan fidgets with the hem of her shirt. Stupid teenage body.
"You're really bothered by this," Ms. Hudson says slowly, like it's something strange and interesting.
"Well, yeah, aren't you?" Joan says with a shrug. Then she hits herself in the face accidentally, trying to hide her shame. "I mean - I'm sorry, that was really inappropriate."
Ms. Hudson just laughs. "No, it's okay. Everybody thinks that." She shifts in her seat, sets the book aside. "I was actually pretty lucky. My parents were a stereotypically open-minded and accepting SoCal couple. They figured for years that I was gay, but when I told them the truth they shifted gears pretty easily." She looks her body over with a critical eye and says, "I think I might have even been transitioning publicly at this age. I had this wig that made me look like Meg Ryan..."
Joan grimaces sympathetically, remembering nineties hairstyles all too well. Ms. Hudson catches her eye and laughs.
"Yes, it was that bad." A fond smile on her face despite her words, she turns her attention back to Joan. "What was it for you?"
"I'm sorry?" Joan tries her best, she really does, but her voice raises in this awful, shrill squeak at the end. The way it always used to when she got nervous.
"Something about being a teenager made you intensely unhappy." It's obvious, Ms. Hudson doesn't say, but Joan hears the words all too clearly. She flushes, and damns her teenaged complexion yet again.
"A lot of things," Joan admits. "Puberty took a long time to kick in, and when it did it made everything... awkward. Walking, talking, having a conversation without an emotional breakdown..." She actually feels tears welling up just talking about it, feels like she'd failed a test, and like she's just had a fight with her mother, and like she's just been rejected by her crush, all at the same time.
Ms. Hudson nods knowingly. "Sounds a bit like how HRT was for me."
"And I know - a lot of it is hormones, it's involuntary, not things you can just will yourself to stop feeling. But I keep finding myself trying to use those techniques I learned later, to calm down and control myself." Joan clenches a fist, recalling the first message she left for Sherlock. "And when it doesn't work, I get frustrated, and I try again, and get more frustrated..." She relaxes her hand and sighs. "It's a negative feedback loop. And the easiest way to stop it seems to be getting my normal body back."
"Which is why you've left so many messages for Sherlock," Ms. Hudson concludes, eyes lighting up.
"That makes sense."
"I like to think so." Joan glares halfheartedly at her phone. "Now if Sherlock would just respond, maybe we could - "
The front door slams open.
"Watson! Watson!" Sherlock says nasally. Did he wear a nose clip when he followed his lead? "Watson, I'm afraid a minor complication has arisen in our investigation. Minor," he repeats thoughtfully, "yes, perhaps not the best choice of words, but undeniably accurate. You see, I - ah." He stands in the doorway to the study, about a foot and a half shorter, sleeves folded up several times, and stares at them.
"I'm guessing you haven't checked your voice mail in the last twenty minutes," Joan manages eventually.