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The Guise of Fiction

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It isn’t a particularly busy day, and Reggie frowns up at the sun. She’s always preferred rainy days to clear ones and she can practically feel the sunburn setting in. With shoulders squared and jaw set, she steps through the doorway and onto the London street. She’s spent a lot of her time here but still gets turned around. Of course, it doesn’t help that she sounds so painfully American that many residents don’t want to help her get around.

This isn’t the touristy part of town, and she’s been told more than once to steer clear. Just as well. Her job is easier if she seems like the last person who could do it. But not the only person.

Her mind turns, as it often does, to her Alixx Black. She wonders if Alixx would laugh at her for wearing heels and how much taller she’d be than her friend if they ever got to meet. London would be much more exciting if she could share it with somebody.

A young man in a suit joins her on the sidewalk, interrupting her train of thought. “Hello,” he remarks cautiously in a low voice that saunters out of his mouth.

“Hi,” Reggie responds, peering up at him with a small smile. His curly hair and sharp cheekbones are unmistakable, but he’s not as tall as she expected. Of course, she expected that. “Are you ready to go?”

He nods, clearly uncomfortable, and follows her down the sidewalk. His eyes, like ocean fog, dart back and forth and Reggie wants to ask what he’s looking for. It breaks her heart that she already knows.

“He’s not coming today,” she remarks casually.

“Hmm?” he asks, seeming to pull himself out of whatever reverie he’d gotten himself caught in. “Who’s not doing what?”

Reggie cocks an eyebrow, casting him a doubtful glance. His tone is convincing enough but the odds of the great Sherlock Holmes not paying attention are slim to none. “Mycroft,” she responds, shaking her head with a small laugh. “He said he had other things to worry about today.”

“’Course he does,” Sherlock grumbles, straightening his jacket and looking away. “Anything in the world is more important than baby brother’s Placing.”

“Oh, don’t say that,” she chides, leading him down an alley between two buildings. He looks up and down the road to make sure no one is watching before following. “You don’t trust me,” she guesses, trying not to make it sound like a question. “I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. Or spells, if you’re really curious. No one’s watching.”

Sherlock rolls his neck, evidently not comforted by Reggie’s words. She tries to be nice. She always tries to be nice. Placing day is always a stressful one, although most characters look back and laugh at how silly they were for being worried. Still, some aren’t so lucky. She supposes she’d probably be scared, too, and tries to take a lighter tone.

“Did you get a good breakfast at least?” she asks, hoping for an innocent topic.

“No,” he responds, almost laughing. “I don’t eat when I’m working.”

“Are you on a case?” she glances back at him, puzzled, as she pulls aside a curtain of ivy that blocks their way.

He sighs through his nose and steps through the opening. “No, but this certainly feels like work. In either case, it requires the same tip-top shape, and I don’t want to slow myself down.”

She can’t help grimacing. Most people get nauseous during their first Placing; she’s not sure whether it’ll be better to have an empty stomach when he inevitably vomits. Of course, with years of a drug habit as bad as his under his belt, he’s no doubt used to puking up the contents of an empty stomach. She shudders at the thought.

“Just through here,” she says, pointing to a non-descript wooden door. It looks oddly simple considering the ornate brickwork of the building it’s placed in, but then, that’s wizards for you. They always overestimate the simplicity of Muggle characters.

Sherlock hesitates visibly, rocking forward on the balls of his feet and swinging his arms stiffly. “Does it…hurt much?”

His eyes are so soft and so innocent. Reggie can’t help thinking of the times she’s seen him make that same face to a lonely army doctor. The fear and helplessness that has overwhelmed the detective so many times only comes to a head with his Placing, and she knows it’s not the last time he’ll feel this way.

She places a comforting hand on his arm, ignoring the way his muscles seize uncomfortably beneath her fingers. “No,” she murmurs. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

His eyes swim for a moment as if his very essence is diving beneath the surface of something he isn’t sure he’s ready to understand. Nodding solemnly, he pulls himself to his full height and knocks on the door. “I hope you got me a good Place,” he remarks over his shoulder as the door opens and he’s beckoned inside by what must only be a breath of wind.

With one last gulp of air—perhaps he really is prepared to dive—he steps through the doorway and into his Place. Somewhere, in an alternate universe, visited only by those experts on the matter, Sherlock Holmes lands in the flat he shares with John, in a 221B Baker Street that never existed.