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It all happened on a Thursday

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Subaru got out of the cab he’d taken from the airport and surveyed the haunted mansion, a two-storey affair with caution tape and police cars in place. The peeling paint and murky windows made it look old and exotic, and he needed a smoke. More than eleven hours without cigarettes had been a trying situation.

An exorcism was an exorcism, even if Subaru found himself across the globe, a restless sense of displacement and first signs of jet lag already taking their toll.

(Grandmother’s insistence had taken him away from his search for the Sakurazukamori . He didn’t need a ‘change of scenery’ but to find him .)

“Excuse me,” Subaru addressed the first police officer he came across in a polite tone, foregoing a bow. “Might I speak to Mr. Lestrade?”

“And I might ask just what you want of him?” Sally Donovan asked before adding, “And it’s Inspector Lestrade.”

“My apologies,” Subaru reassured hastily, wishing he’d had more time to practice his English, but when did he ever? “I was hired by Duke Ellington and I need access to the mansion. I was told to speak to Inspector Lestrade about the matter.”

“Hired? You. Are you … a private detective?” And she looked like she going to say more before ...

Lestrade walked into the scene and glanced at Donovan, signalling it was all right. “Sumeragi! There you are. Finally. Follow me.”

Subaru blinked and hurried to match the Inspector’s pace. “Thank you, Inspector Lestrade.”

“Don’t mention it,” Lestrade muttered as he led Subaru to the grand wrought iron doors of the mansion. “So you’re the... exorcist ?”

Subaru nodded.

Lestrade took a deep breath. “Okay. So. You have the mansion all to yourself, but only for an hour. Do try not make too much of a mess. I need my team to start working on our own jobs as soon as possible. Ghost aren't our division, you know?”

Inspector’s expression was suggesting he’d just made a joke, so Subaru smiled along in tight-lipped manner.

Inspector cleared his throat. “Is everything clear?”

“Yes, Inspector Lestrade,” Subaru said, stumbling a bit over the ‘r’s and ‘l’s.

“Good. I’ll leave you to it.” Lestrade seemed happy to escape his presence. Subaru didn’t give it a second thought.

He entered the premises and the presence tickling at his senses picked up intensity. There was definitely a spirit haunting the place, old and quite powerful -- whether in their spiritual ability or desire to cling to this plane of existence, Subaru couldn’t yet determine.

Loathe as he was to waste time, he stopped to take off his coat, revealing the shikifuku he’s put over his regular clothes and the ceremonial dagger tied to it. He drew out a sheaf of ofuda , fanning it out between the fingers of his right hand, and followed the breadcrumb trail of residual energy up a massive staircase that took him to the second floor. He didn’t pay attention to the paintings or other decorations, only barely registering the general layout of the rooms.

He came to halt in front of one of the doors in a long corridor and opened it cautiously, prepared for a surprise assault. Other practitioners must have failed for a reason.

The attack didn’t come.

“Duke Ellington? Sir?” Subaru called out.

The room appeared to be a private study with a desk and a small library. The heavy burgundy drapes shielding the only window had been drawn shut, but semi-darkness suited him just fine.

Subaru slapped several ofuda onto the walls to form a temporary ward. He’d have to draw the spirit out, since it wasn’t inclined to manifest itself, and he needed to prepare the ritual properly.

He rolled up the dusty carpet out of the way, uncovering the wooden floor, and removed his shoes before taking his mirror out of the bag and setting it on the floor. He kneeled in front of the mirror and cast more ofuda around himself.

Lastly, he cleared his mind and focused.

“On...batarei ya sowaka....” Subaru’s hands were clasped in front of his face, his index fingers raised and pressed together as he chanted, not relenting until a disgruntled specter materialized before him.

“Duke Ellington? My name is Sumeragi Subaru, I’m an exorcist--”

The Duke chuckled darkly, giving Subaru a start. “Fancy that.” He gave Subaru the once-over “Were there no exorcists closer to home, I wonder?”

“Sir,” Subaru said calmly, “your grandson sends you his most sincere gratitude for preventing his assassination and assures you that he would be more cautious in the future. Would that be enough to put your mind at ease?”

“Hardly.” Duke Ellington snorted. “If exorcising me is his way of saying ‘thank you, dearest ancestor.’”

“Sir, it’s natural for a soul to pass on to the afterlife.” Subaru’s voice was firm. “You can’t stay here forever.”

Duke Ellington’s lip curled in disgust. “I do not wish to have this kind of conversation with the likes of you. Do your job, whatever that entails. I don’t intend to make another scene.”

He looked worn out. Subaru realised he couldn’t move on on his own, even after he started wanting to. He must have been a strong-willed, forceful individual in life and remained so in death.

“Very well.” Subaru nodded, his face solemn. “Farewell, Duke Ellington.”

The duke waved it off.

“Rinpyou tousha kaichin retsu zan zen,” Subaru chanted until he was the only occupant of the study. Then he stood up and pushed the curtains to let the sunlight in.

Sherlock knew that something was off when Donovan, for once, didn’t start off their greeting by calling him a freak as she lifted the tape, letting them through. Nor did she say anything else, in fact -- when, usually, she never wasted a second on telling Sherlock (and John) how unwelcome they were at the crime scene.

Instead, she frowned and just sighed. Sherlock rolled his eyes, muttered ‘rude’ under his breath and turned his attention to John. Who looked just as confused as Sherlock, but also ...amused, if the grin was anything to go by (slightly lop-sided smile, hinting at light mockery, eyebrows furrowed showing scepticism but also amazement --).

“This isn’t funny,” Sherlock whispered as he and John walked past the hooting cars, towards the mansion -- a Victorian-styled affair, placed in one of the nobler areas of London, surrounded by trees and other Victorian-themed mansions ( dull ). “She didn’t even comment on how I was a psychopath.”

John shook his head, and whispered, “You don’t always have to be the centre of attention --,” and then he chuckled,”I didn’t know you liked being called a psychopath .”

As they approached the door, Sherlock just shrugged. “It’s what makes her tolerable. She’s at least more creative in her insults than Anderson.” He pushed the door open, immediately taking in the smell of dust that hovered over the place.

They walked up the creaking staircase, and Sherlock inspected the pictures on the wall when they reached the second floor. “ Fakes .”

John just rolled his eyes, and looked at the portraits as well, eyes especially fixated on the portrait of an old man in whiskers. “You’re doing that thing again.”

“What thing?” Sherlock just frowned.

“The we both know what’s going on thing,” John said, irritation seeping into his voice, and he started walking again, this time being the one in front.

But Sherlock caught up to him quickly, pushing up the collars of his coat. “We do, don’t we?”

John just sighed. “No, I don’t. Which is why this annoys me so much.” And he just continued walking, muttering something about Sherlock showing off again.

“The pictures are fake because, despite the sign of age, it’s all too -”

John was listening, but had also pushed the door open at that time when he stopped and tugged at Sherlock’s coat. “Sherlock. Look.”

And Sherlock did look, wondering if it was John’s superstitions kicking in again because, somehow, since the Baskerville case, he’d gained a strange habit of always looking around the corner for phantoms and what not. But that didn’t turn out to be the case: as Sherlock followed John’s gaze, his eyes fell upon a figure in white (male, judging from the height and lack of feminine attributes, and most likely Asian from the tint of black hair -- Europeans never having quite that black hair and … )

“Sherlock, what is it?” John asked, interrupting Sherlock’s thoughts.

“It’s a man, obviously,” Sherlock said, frustrated sigh escaping his lips. “And Japanese -- that attire and the footwear suggests so.” He turned to John, taking in his fear (panted breath, eyebrows knitted together, lips trembling --) and sighed. “You fought in Afghanistan. You really shouldn’t be afraid of men dressed in religious garb -- there’s a rational explanation for everything, after all.”

John coughed. “Right. Which … you’re right, you’re right,” he said, running a hand over his face, “but that still doesn’t explain what he’s doing here. Besides, as strange as London can be and no matter how famous the English are for their madness, you don’t get this --” he pointed to figure in the distance, “ this every day.”

“Madmen in Japanese outfits?” Sherlock asked, laughing lightly. “You mean, that’s stranger than men who see gigantic hounds and a dominatrix?” He shook his head, loving how John always rationalised things -- but that was John. Ordinary and yet extraordinary. Perfectly harmless in most cases, and yet capable of killing a man in cold blood.

John just frowned. “...Yes, right.” And then he sighed. “Perhaps, we should talk to that person and find out what he is doing here.” He sighed again, muttering something about ‘why do I always get into situations like this’.

And Sherlock would have told him because he loved danger, and got his thrills from that, but decided not to. John still hadn’t gotten over the jar full of eyeballs that Sherlock had placed into the fridge last Thursday.

“That’s a wise course of action, yes.” And Sherlock just waltzed over to the man, his coat flapping behind him, and John just sighed before jogging up to him, so that they soon were walking side by side. Sherlock smiled; he knew that John would follow him -- John always would, being loyal as he was.

But Sherlock didn’t focus on that for long, his thoughts soon settling on the figure again, seeing more and more how right he’d been about the man being Japanese -- his hair definitely blacker than any European’s and thicker too (not Indian then --).

To most people the sight of a lonely figure standing in the center of room littered with square pieces of paper with black ink pentagrams drawn on them would have been … a disconcerting sight. In fact, John did raise his eyebrows, and mutter something akin to ‘what the bloody hell’ under his breath, but Sherlock was used to that.

As much as he was used to strange sights, so all he did was just poke the man in the back as if he were nothing but one of the corpses he was so fond of whipping.

Subaru turned around sharply and looked at the newcomers. What his gaze latched on, against all rational thought, was the black trench coat.  

“Oh,” he said awkwardly, “is my time up?”

Sherlock just raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know Lestrade dealt with amateurs .” John gave Sherlock a look, which he dismissed. Because it was the truth . “I’m not being rude, John.” John just rolled his eyes, and sighed, walking over to the man.

“Sorry he didn’t …” he shot a dirty glance at Sherlock, “mean it this way . What Sherlock meant to ask  was what you’re doing here.” He said this all in as soothing and polite voice, even smiling a bit as he held out a hand. “By the way, John Watson. And the man over there is Sherlock Holmes. He’s a bit of a dick, but don’t mind him too much.”

“Sumeragi Subaru.” Subaru shook Watson’s hand cautiously; he was still slightly flushed from the embarrassment caused by Holmes’s scrutiny. “I was hired to perform an exorcism.”

Sherlock snorted. “Another one of those attention-seeking madmen.” He walked over the window, letting out a loud sigh. “Moriarty was, at least, original .”

“Shut up, Sherlock.” John shook his head. “Sorry. Right. That was a joke, right?” He knitted his eyebrows.

Subaru set his jaw and straightened his shoulders. “Don’t worry for my sake, Mr. Watson. It’s a common perception of my profession.”

For a second, John just stared at him before turning a helpless glance towards Sherlock who was still busy staring out of the window, not talking at all. Then, he coughed again, and put on a somewhat strained smile. “Right. That is very … funny, Mr Sumeragi. But even if I’m a doctor, I don’t go around telling people that I create Frankenstein-like monsters, so let’s please act like grown-ups?”

Sherlock just snorted again. “And you’re starting to sound like Mycroft . Lovely.”

“Excuse me, Dr. Watson, I didn’t mean to offend you.” Subaru smiled ruefully. “Perhaps you would like a demonstration of my abilities?” He took another ofuda out of his sleeve. He reasoned it would be acceptable to summon his shikigami in front of someone who was here on Inspector Lestrade’s call.

John’s eyes just widened. “Pardon me, but just what do you want to dem-” And then Sherlock cut in, turning around again, so that he could fully fix his eyes on Subaru.

“Don’t worry, John. This isn’t worth your time,” he said, his face expressionless as he took in Subaru’s appearance. He pushed his hands into his coat and then walked closer to Subaru. “No hint of a gun or badge on your body anywhere, so not a policeman. And your hands … no imprints of a scalpel on your palm, so not on the medical team either.” He tilted his head to the side. “Overly stilted English, ‘l’s pronounced like ‘r’, and your appearance -- Japanese , but no tan, and --” he sniffed, “smelling like cherry blossoms, so most likely someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, but shielded from the sun -- a wealthy, traditional Japanese upbringing. And incense, so you also spend lots of time close to a shrine or temple. Outdoors, shrine -- priest.”

He didn’t stop there, but walked closer to Subaru, his hands still stuffed into his pockets as his coat swished, “But you smell of cigarettes -- and your hands were shaking while you talked, so chronic smoker. And your clothes --” he smirked as he moved closer, “look new, but aren’t -- just well-kept, but you’ve washed them out often. So this either means that you’ve worked in this profession for long time or that you hold a particular attachment to this costume of yours.” He shrugged. “Which is all ...nice, but still doesn’t really explain why you’re here.” He bit his underlip. “It’s not for showing off. You didn’t show a trace of anger when I insulted you or John expressed that the reason why you’re here is not personally important to you. And yet, you’re doing it, why? Lestrade wouldn’t have bothered consulting you.”

“I’m an onmyouji . The Sumeragi clan has served Japan and her emperors for generations. Helping lost souls to ascend to afterlife is a part of those duties. In that sense, I would be an equivalent of a Western exorcist.” There was a hint of pride to Subaru’s voice when he spoke of his clan. He met Holmes’s gaze and held it. “Duke Ellington invited me to London to put his grandfather’s spirit, which had been causing a disturbance in the manor, to peace. As to what I offered earlier, I was simply going to summon my shikigami - that would be a... familiar in the Western magic system.”

John let out a sound that sounded like a mixture between a choke and beginning of hysterical laughter. Meanwhile, Sherlock looked unimpressed, crossing his arms. “Right, and I suppose you’ll do a little demonstration for us.”

Subaru nodded at him and held the ofuda up on his palm as it swiftly transformed into a three-headed dove-like bird. It took flight, made a small circle around the room and finally settled on his shoulder. He shifted his attention back to Holmes, waiting for a reaction.

Silence fell upon the room, and then all Sherlock did was nod once, twice before he walked out of the room, leaving a frowning John behind. He opened his mouth a few times, and only managed to speak after the third or fifth attempt. “Yes, that was ...certainly different .” He took a deep breath, standing still and rigid like a well-trained soldier, nearly looking as if he was about to raise his hand against his forehead in a salute. “...Do you often perform tricks like this?”

“Tricks?” Subaru echoed numbly. “I-- Ah.” He paused and shook his head. “I’ve taken enough of your invaluable time already, Dr. Watson. I think it would be best if you allowed me to change my clothes and bid you farewell. I was finishing my job when you arrived.”

He started moving around the room and picking up his paraphernalia. His shikigami perched itself on the desk.

John sighed. “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. I -” he walked over to where ... whatever it was sat and patted one of its heads. “That’s a pretty”

“It’s all right, Dr. Watson... and thank you.” Subaru smiled at him gently. “It’s just that I really should be going. I haven’t found accommodation yet. And. Well.” He was babbling a little.

John frowned. “But you know where you can stay, right?”

“At a hotel?” Subaru blinked at Watson, his expression a bit sheepish. “Is there anything specific I should know about London hotels? To be honest, I haven’t had much time to make inquiries about it.”

John shrugged. “Well, obviously a hotel, but there are many around here. And an inn ...would be cheaper. Do you have a netbook around or a phone with internet connection? I could help you find one.”

“Oh, I don’t have either.” Subaru smiled apologetically. “But it was very kind of you to offer.”

“...So you are telling me you came to London without bothering to book a hotel?” John asked, a confused expression flashing across his face before it gave way to... defeated acceptance, and he bowed his head, sighed and then chuckled. “Right, I shouldn’t judge,” he muttered,” Sherlock is hardly any better.”

“I... forgot about it,” Subaru confided. “This is my first time abroad and the job came up on short notice.”

John sighed, and walked over to Subaru, throwing another look at the three-headed ...thing. And sighed again. “Right. I will most likely regret this, but … you can sleep over the night until you found something. Don’t worry about Sherlock. I’ll … talk to him.”

Subaru forgot to close his mouth, utterly astonished, his voice shaking a little, “is this really all right for you, Dr. Watson? I-- I wouldn’t know how to repay for your kindness.” He stared at Watson as if he ’d grown a second head.

Something wistful passed over John’s features as he shook his head, and then smiled. “Don’t worry about it. It’s not the first time we had someone sleep over, and you’re most certainly not ...a dominatrix out to eat dinner with Sherlock.”

Subaru stifled an urge to ask what the unfamiliar word meant and smiled at Watson - his first heartfelt smile in a long while, almost reaching his eyes. “It’s very kind of you, Dr. Watson. I’ll do my best not to cause you any trouble.”

At that John just laughed heartily, so heartily that he had trouble breathing for a while. “I really wouldn’t … worry about that. Considering that Sherlock keeps ...right, not important. Just don’t worry.” He smiled. “And John is fine. No need for formalities.”

“All right, Dr. Wa- err, John.” A part of him protested at the very idea of informality, but there was something... endearing about John’s manner. Besides, when in Rome... But it dawned on him how awkward it would be for someone to address him by his first name. “Would you mind if I asked you to continue calling me by last name? It’s... a cultural thing. I’m sorry.”

John’s eyes widened for a fraction of a second, but then he just shrugged. “Alright. ‘Sumeragi’, wasn’t it? It’s a bit strange on the tongue, but … I promise I won’t give you any strange nicknames. Nothing like Harry-short-for-Harriet.” He laughed again before that expression turned pained.  

Subaru sensed his discomfort and hurried to say, “thank you. I appreciate that. So, shall we meet again outside? Your companion must be getting impatient by now.”

“My com-” John sighed deeply, and rubbed his temples. “Sherlock and I aren’t … we aren’t like that.”

Subaru frowned at him. “I’m sorry, I assumed you were colleagues. Or did I use the term incorrectly?”

John turned an interesting shade of … red, and then cleared his throat. “Ah, yes we are. In a way. We’re flatmates, and he solves his crimes while I blog about them. So, yes … we’re colleagues.” He smiled, and then turned around. “I’ll go talk to him.” With that being said, he marched out of the room -- in a way that most people would have described as ‘too eager to get out of a potentially awkward situation’.

Subaru pushed his momentary unease to the back of his mind and concentrated on cleaning up and preparing to leave. He carefully packed his shikifuku back into his bag, dispelled his bird helper and directed his steps towards the exit.

He immediately ran into Inspector Lestrade and his team and reassured them he’d done what he came here for, keeping the exchange as brief as possible. Then Subaru retreated to an unoccupied spot outside of the caution tape to finally lit up a cigarette. He’d needed his nicotine. Hopefully, Watson wouldn’t go back on his word -- he’d seemed like a genuinely nice person.

Holmes reemerged first, with Watson trailing behind, and shot a pointed look at Subaru’s cigarette -- like it’d offended him somehow. Subaru extinguished it, readjusted the strap of his bag and hid his hands in his pockets, avoiding confrontation.

The trip to Watson’s -- and Holmes’s -- apartment was a surreal affair. As none of them could be considered bulky, everyone fit on the back seat -- Subaru bumping his elbow against Watson’s.

Watson smiled encouragingly and repeated that it was no trouble, but his colleague shot another look over Watson’s shoulder, his face scrunching up as if he’d eaten something sour. Watson shuffled away to give Subaru more space, Watson’s and Holmes’ thighs touching. Friends. It gave Subaru a nostalgic feeling he quickly suppressed.

John let out a sigh as he looked at Sherlock -- silent, sulky Sherlock who stared out of the window, his lips drawn to a tight line. His facial expression was mostly devoid of any other emotion than boredom, but John had come to read Sherlock really well, and knew that the silence as well as the stiff posture spoke volumes. Namely, that Sherlock was pissed. not only because the case had yielded no proper data, but because Lestrade had texted him with the following message: Case solved, for once your assistance is no longer required. John heavily suspected that the text had come from Donovan.

Needless to say, Sherlock being mildly displeased was an understatement. John shuffled closer to Sherlock, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Sherlock. Don’t... mind it too much.” He sighed, throwing a look at their guest, hoping he wasn’t reading too much into this (friends, he and Sherlock were just friends ).

Sherlock turned around to look at John, eyes narrowed. “You owe me,” he said, “an experiment. And you’ll tell me where you hid the cigarettes.”

“Oh,” Subaru exhaled understandingly and fished out his pack, holding it out to Holmes. “Would you like one, Mr. Holmes?”

John interfered before Sherlock could talk. “No, he’s trying to quit.” He glanced at Sherlock. “Aren’t you, Sherlock?” He really didn’t want to remind Sherlock of what he and Mrs Hudson would be forced to do if Sherlock didn’t keep his promises. Oh, that reminded him; John grinned. “Or would you like me to tell Mycroft how you’ve been using his card for --”

“No,” Sherlock said immediately, crossing his arms and narrowing his eyes. “Fine. You still owe me an experiment, in which you’ll act as the test subject. No complaints. You’ll go along with whatever I say.”

… There was no escaping that. John had promised Sherlock, and he would comply. He took a deep breath. “Fine, fine. I’ll do whatever you want.” Ah, he nearly clapped his mouth shut when he realised how that sounded ...but, right. He wouldn’t say anything else. That would have just made that more awkward .

Subaru eyes widened in mild alarm at their exchange, before remembering it was definitely none of his business and crushing a pang of sympathy for John. He averted his gaze, fixing it straight ahead of him and intending to make himself invisible.

“You don’t have to mind him,” John whispered to Subaru. “He’s just upset that he didn’t get to show off.” He knew Sherlock could hear him, but then John had never hesitated to hold his ground against him. He shook his head. “Just don’t mind him.”

Subaru swallowed and attempted a smile, his tone as noncommittal as possibly. “All right. Don’t worry about me, John.” He folded his hands on his lap to keep himself from touching up his cigarettes.

For a second, John wondered why Sherlock was never this polite, but then reminded himself that one of the things he liked about Sherlock so much was his… lack of anything that resembled normal human behaviour. He chuckled at himself. He really was mental too.

“Is something wrong?” Subaru cast a perplexed look at John. Had he just said something funny? He’d forgotten what it was like to have someone laugh with or at him.

Before John got say anything, Sherlock just snorted. “Nothing is wrong. Apart from your utterly dull presence.”

“Well, excuse me --” Subaru’s eyes flashed with old, misplaced anger. “--for not being entertaining enough .” He said no more, clenching his teeth and squeezing his hands until his knuckles whitened.

Sherlock just shrugged, running his black gloves over his coat, fishing out his mobile. “Believe me, there’s nothing remotely entertaining about you.” And then, he just started searching the phone for news. John sighed.

Subaru closed his eyes and calmed himself with a breathing technique. The scathing remark didn’t require any reply. Besides, he wasn’t really angry at Holmes , but at another man he’d been reminded of. Subaru shouldn’t make John regret his kindness. From now on, he would only speak up when addressed and hopefully everything would proceed without further incidents.

“Drowning yourself in the Thames is not only idiotic, but useless,” Sherlock said before John could say anything. He paused in his typing. “And how do I know? I know because you were casting a rather desirous look in the Thames direction as the cab passed it, and your hand trembled. So, suicidal.”

That gave Subaru a start and, after a moment of utter shock, he let out a strained, bitter chuckle. Holmes was good , no, brilliant, and he’d just hit the nail on the head. He indeed had a death wish, albeit a rather specific one.

“Mr. Holmes is incredible at his trade,” Subaru said to John, impressed.

John smiled briefly. “He is amazing, fantastic-”

“That’s enough John,” Sherlock said, cutting in, but sounding pleased. “What do you assume my trade is, Subaru?”

“I was told you solved crimes,” Subaru elaborated cautiously, turning his undivided attention to Holmes, “and seeing your deductive skills in action makes me think you must be incredible at it.”

Sherlock smiled for the first time at Subaru. “Not as stupid, after all. I do solve crimes, but I’m not a private detective.” John shook his head, an expression of both irritation and resignation crossing over his features -- as if he knew very well what was coming next.

“You collaborate with the police, but you don’t seem to be an out-of-office worker,” Subaru said thoughtfully, then smiled. “That’s it -- I have a better idea of what you aren’t, Mr. Holmes.”

And Sherlock’s smile widened -- not warm or kind, but John knew it wasn’t condescending either (a good start, he thought). “I’m a consulting detective. When the police doesn’t know what to do -- which is often -- they hire me to help. Of course, I invented the job -- I’m the world’s only consulting detective.” And John chuckled, thinking it was rather cute how proud Sherlock was that. Childish .

“We certainly don’t have anyone like that in Japan,” Subaru said diplomatically, since it appeared to be what Holmes would like to hear.

Something flitted across Sherlock’s face, and his expression turned nearly wistful. John frowned, remembering that he’d acted this way around her . And his next words didn’t soothe him either. “Right, no one like that. Yes, that’s quite right.”

The cab pulled to a stop, saving Subaru from ruining Holmes’s improved disposition. He glanced at the counter and reached for his wallet, thinking since he’d been offered accommodation he should at least do this.

“Would it be all right with you if I paid for the cab?” he asked John, holding the banknotes.

John coughed uncomfortably. On the one hand, he wasn’t exactly rich but … Sherlock spoke before he could. “That would be charming.”

Subaru blinked in surprise, nodded and handed the money over to the driver. Holmes wouldn’t stop taking him off-guard, it appeared. He got out of the car and came to a halt, expecting John to lead the way.

And John did, followed by Sherlock whose coat still swished -- and John wondered why it was that someone who visited Buckingham Palace dressed in bed sheets managed to look so ...effortlessly elegant at times. Oh well. “Just’s here.” He pointed to the brick building, next to Speedy’s cafe. Then, he rang the doorbell, not because he had to, but because he was sure Mrs Hudson would appreciate getting to know their guest.

Subaru tailed the procession, paying more attention to Holmes’s coat than to the sights of London, but it was inevitable.

John’s action was unexpected, prompting him to ask, “do you have another houseguest or-- ?”

“No, just waiting for our hou-landlady to introduce her to you.” At that, the door did open and out rushed Mrs Hudson, a worried look on her face. “Did something happen to two? The police again --” Then she noticed Subaru, and her anxious look was replaced by a smile. “Oh, you have a guest?”

John nodded, adding. “He’ll stay for a day. I hope that’s fine.”

“Why, of course it is --” Mrs Hudson exclaimed, rushing over to Subaru to examine him closely, immediately murmuring how ‘thin you are, poor dear’ and dragging him off into the kitchen for biscuits.

John turned to Sherlock. “Well, that went well.”

Sherlock just shrugged, chuckling. “She might want to adopt him by the end of the day.”

Subaru had the biscuits all but force-fed to him. He endured it, smiling wistfully at the landlady. Somehow her presence made the flat seem more homelike.

“My name is Sumeragi Subaru.” He bowed jerkily. “Um. Just Su-- Sumeragi is fine. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Mrs Hudson laughed heartily. “My, my -- what a gentleman you are, dear. Still there’s no need to bow. I’m not a lady.” And she patted him on the head, and then smiled warmly again.  “And you can call me Mrs Hudson.”

Subaru flushed a little. “All right, Mrs. Hudson. Thank you for your hospitality.”

He looked around sheepishly. “Mr. Watson -- John said it would be acceptable if I stayed the night. I hope it’s not too much of a trouble.”

“Of course not,” Mrs Hudson answered, moving around the kitchen as she placed more biscuits into the bowl. She stood still, and tilted her head to the side for a moment, saying -- her voice dropping to a whisper, “Sherlock, you know, is a lot of trouble. Puts heads where you place food, always has the police coming over …” She sighed. “And I never consider him trouble, so there’s really nothing to worry about, dear. Just have a nice cup of tea. But just this time. I’m not your housekeeper.”

Subaru’s eyes widened comically. “Mr. Holmes is an... extraordinary person.”

"Yes, Sherlock is very extraordinary,” Mrs. Hudson agreed in all seriousness.

“Thank you again, Mrs. Hudson,” he said, accepting the tea. “We usually drink green tea in Japan, but English tea also tastes very nice.”

They discussed this and that (mostly tea) and Mrs. Hudson showed Subaru around (“You have a very nice apartment” -- “Why, thank you, my dear”). He commented neither on the bullet holes on the wall nor on the skull resting on top of the fireplace, taking all the oddities for granted. She didn’t ask him too many questions either, which was a blessing.

Holmes and John must have rushed on to another case and that left Subaru to his own devices. He dropped his bag by the couch assigned as his sleeping place. Two irresistible urges battled in his head: to have a smoke and to sneak a peek at Holmes’s heads.

The heads won.