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A Wondrous Subtle Thing: Choosing

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Joan has been sober long enough that it should not be this hard, but not long enough to accept it will always be this hard.

She goes out for a walk, leaving Mary and Sherlock to argue over Mary’s mother’s recipe for pork schnitzel. (“But you’re Jewish.” / “But it’s delicious.”) Mary asks her to pick up some matzo meal if she goes past the store, and whatever Joan says must be enough, because neither of them perk up like bloodhounds at the scent of her unhappiness.

She’ll take ten minutes, feel the wind on her face, and if it’s still this hard after that then she’ll phone her sponsor. He’s on speed dial for a reason.

She doesn’t call him, and her feet don’t take her past the store, and ten minutes later she’s back at the brownstone trying to make herself pull out her keys. Sherlock’s keys, really; she gave Mary her own set and kept the ones he’d given her, and Sherlock pretended not to notice. It’s that thought, that small kindness, that gets her through the door.

There are seven cups of tea waiting for her.

“This one,” Mary says quickly, handing her the third from the left.

Joan looks a little closer -- the cups are in various states from just boiled to badly overbrewed. Like someone -- two someones -- started a new cup of tea each minute, so that one would be perfect whenever she got back.

“Thank you,” she manages. Mary is looking at her anxiously, and Sherlock’s focus on his laptop would be more believable if she couldn’t see him watching her reflection in the silver of the Coke can.

“We don’t have to have schnitzel?” Mary tries. “We could get takeout, or I can do soup? Or I could shut up, that works too? Right? Right.” She stuffs her hands behind her back, and Joan can’t help thinking of when they first met, Mary Morstan on a great day.

“I’m good,” Joan says, almost meaning it now.

Sherlock’s face in the Coke can loses some of its tension. Mary’s hands reappear from behind her back. And Ms Joan Watson, four years and three hundred and sixty two days sober, takes a meat tenderizer from its place on the counter and goes to smash the tref out of some pork loin, just like Mary Morstan’s mother used to.

[Image description: Joan Watson smiles as she drinks from a cup of tea. Screencap from S01E06.]