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The Second Time Around

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Thursday was largely Sherlock’s we are consulting detectives; we do not take holidays, followed by a plane journey where Joan had many blissful hours of sleep with her noise-cancelling headphones while Sherlock harangued the air hostesses and watched six films. She knows he watched six, because when she woke up he’d made notes on post-its and stuck them all over the back of the seat in front so that he could complain about them in the most time-efficient way possible.

Sherlock, as it turns out, has some kind of vendetta against Reese Witherspoon that he seems to think is logical, but which really, really isn’t.

Things between Sherlock and Mycroft seem to be slightly better this time around, in that they’re icily polite and making small talk like they’ve never met each other, which Joan is happy enough to leave alone, at least while both of them seem to be adept at homemade bombs. Still, she slips out early Saturday morning, while Sherlock is… well, he probably isn’t asleep, but he isn’t present, and Mycroft merely offers her a homemade wholemeal bagel for her tube journey and a small smile.

“It would be great if the apartment could still be standing when I get back,” Joan says, because she suspects that Mycroft needs just as much babysitting as his brother, restaurant empire or not.

“I’m sure we can find some way to entertain ourselves,” Mycroft replies blandly, and Joan decides not to warn against smashing each other’s faces into walls because if it does happen then at least they’ll have worked off a little excess resentment and Sherlock might even be quiet on the plane journey back.

The Victoria & Albert museum is quiet at this time of the morning, and Joan is safe in the knowledge that even if Sherlock follows her to the South Kensington museums, he’ll be more drawn to the Natural History one across the road, where stuffed animals and body parts and dinosaur skeletons exist in abundance. Here, Joan can wander through rooms of beautiful jewellery and delicate ironwork and antique furniture; beauty for beauty’s sake, with her phone turned to vibrate so that she can ignore what are undoubtedly a string of texts from Sherlock that all read you left me alone with my brother you are going to come home to at least one corpse, because she doesn’t quite live in the world anymore but that doesn’t mean she can’t still appreciate some of the simpler things, the things that don’t always have to involve dead bodies and lying.

London is London, and Joan doesn’t just want to be here in her new capacity as a consulting detective. She has room in her life for more than one purpose.

By early afternoon, Joan’s gone meticulously through the fashion gallery and admired the Shakespeare folio in the theatre galleries, and from the vicious buzzing sounds coming from her purse, Sherlock has either set Mycroft on fire or is settling in for some really major sulking.

“It’s like having a pet,” Joan murmurs to herself, leaving the theatre galleries through the narrow dark hall full of sparkling necklaces and tiaras, and pulling her phone out when she’s not in danger of missing one of the exhibits while replying to a text message.

From the number of increasingly capslocked texts from Sherlock, coupled with a few from Mycroft (most of them featuring variations on can you take him back to New York now), she assumes that nobody’s dead yet, which is a definite plus. It’s been a nice morning; she’ll pick up postcards for her mom, make it look a little more like a vacation than the last breakneck run around London, but she should probably let her actual life crash back in.

If you promise no one’s been subjected to actual physical harm I’ll let you buy me a pot of tea in the tearoom downstairs, she texts Sherlock, wandering downstairs toward the garden where she can wait. He’s probably in the area, though she tucks that thought to one side, because it’s nice to believe Sherlock doesn’t have all of the answers all of the time. Or that he’s not kind of stalkery. That would be a nice thing too.

I’m not going to buy you a pot of tea, Sherlock tells her, though I will see you forthwith.

You can buy me some cake too, Joan sends back. She smiles to herself, and steps outside into the sunshine.