At Right Angles (PG-13), Part iii

Jun 22, 2012 07:58

Title: At Right Angles
Characters: Joan, Sherlock, Molly, Mycroft, others
Rating: PG-13
Length: 5300 words this part
Beta: Thanks to the fantastic yalublyutebya
Summary: In which Joan's world is turned upside-down, Mycroft and Molly are nosy, and Sherlock is the last one to find out (for once). Preg! Fem!John.
Notes: Originally written for this prompt on the meme. Click for disclaimer.

It was already dark by the time Joan got home later that evening. She cursed softly when she saw the sign on the lift: “Closed for maintenance. Please use stairs.”

“Bugger,” Joan sighed, turning towards the staircase. It was only five flights up to her flat, but after the day she’d had, it felt like a million, and her calves and thighs were burning by the time she reached the door.

The flat was pitch black, and she fumbled for a moment in the entrance. Something smelled at bit off, she thought, feeling around for the light switch. Had she forgotten to empty the bins yesterday? She couldn’t remember. Finally, she located the switch and, with a click, the overhead light in the kitchen turned on, flickering once before releasing a dim but steady glow. Joan shrugged out of her coat, tossing it along with her bag on the floor by the door, and headed immediately into the kitchenette. The smell of rot got stronger as she rounded the corner, confirming her theory about the bins. Fuck. Well, it could wait until morning. What she needed now was a cup of tea-even the decaffeinated herbal crap she’d gotten for the baby would do. She was so intent on her goal that she got nearly halfway across the linoleum floor towards the kettle before she noticed it.

Joan froze, then turned slowly on the spot. On the table-the cheap Ikea table, that she’d only gotten because it seemed wrong not to have one-lay a box.

A cardboard box.

Joan stared down at it. It was rectangular and larger than the one she’d seen at the morgue, but she was certain it was from the same sender. Unwillingly, she approached. Only a few haphazard staples held down the top flaps, so it gaped open in certain spots. Joan tugged one flap up, ripping out some of the staples. The scent of decay wafted even more strongly from the box, and despite her training, Joan had to hold her breath to lean forward.

It was an arm. Jane Downing’s, Joan thought, glancing down swiftly at the fingertips. Sure enough, the nail beds were visibly tinted blue, though the surrounding flesh was bloated and discoloured-already in the second stage of decomposition. Whatever substance the sender had packed it in this time-and by the dark grey colour of the sandy material, Joan knew it couldn’t be salt-it hadn’t done much to slow down the putrefaction process.

She closed the box again, and the stench diminished to a bearable level. Biting her lip, Joan considered her options.

She should probably call 999, but she didn’t relish the thought of a swarm of police officers descending on her flat. And what would she say anyway? “Sorry, I’ve got an arm in a box over here, nothing pressing, but maybe you could send someone to pick it up? It’s making my kitchen smell bad.” Right. That didn’t sound crazy at all. Maybe she could request DI Lestrade specifically…but that came with its own problems. She’d have to explain how she knew so much about the case, for one, and she was fairly certain she knew more than your average morgue technician was supposed to. And her flat would still become a crime scene.

She supposed she could call Sherlock. Joan ran a finger over the outline of the mobile hidden in her back pocket, turned the idea over in her mind. He would want to know, and at least it would only be Sherlock invading her home, rather than half the Met. A chuckle forced itself from between her lips. There really must be something wrong with her, if calling Sherlock was beginning to sound like the more relaxing option. God, I desperately need a drink.

That did it, Joan decided. She would take a break before calling anyone, official or no. First, though, she had to get the goddamned box off the table, because there was no way she was going drink her tea with a bloody rotting arm under her nose.

She wrapped her arms around the box, teasing up the corners so she could tuck her fingers under for a better grip. It was an awkward size and shape for a small woman like her. With a grunt, she heaved it sideways, sliding it across the table. She wouldn’t be able to carry it far, but if she could just get it to the floor…

The bottom of box was halfway off the table when she felt the cardboard give. The loose-unsecured, she realized with mounting horror-flaps at the base of box gave way, and greyish particles spewed from the opening, coating her arms and covering the floor.

“Shit!” Joan yelled, shoving the box back onto the table before the entire thing fell apart.

She stumbled backwards, her heart thudding painfully in her chest, and accidentally tripped over one of the kitchen chairs. She fell hard, crashing into the kitchen counter, but luckily took the brunt of the fall on the back of her arms and shoulders. For a moment she just huddled on the floor, back aching, until she realized that her hands were tucked protectively-instinctively-over her belly. The realisation gave her the strength she needed to look up.

From the low angle, she could see the long side of the box, towering over the edge of the table like Canary Wharf over the Thames. Despite the dim light and the shadows cast by the lid, the familiar red writing was just about legible:

I. C. U.
The hairs on the back of Joan’s neck rose up, but her soldier instincts kicked in before she would allow the weakness of a shiver. Someone had been watching her. Maybe they still were.

She stood slowly, rubbing her stinging elbows, her eyes darting quickly around the flat. It was small, but in her edgy state the darkened corners seemed menacing and the closed bedroom door stood like a threat on the opposite wall. She licked her lips. Come on Joan. You were in Afghanistan. This is nothing. Shewiped her hands on her trousers, and was pleased to find them steady. Just open the door. That’s it. One step after another.

Her hand was just closing around the doorknob when the buzzer rang, and Joan froze.

“Joan, it’s me.”

Joan’s heart started beating again. She strode to the front door and yanked it open.

“You arse!” she growled. “You nearly gave me a heart attack, d’you know that?”

Sherlock pushed past her into the flat, and headed immediately towards the mess in the kitchen. “I knew it,” he said triumphantly, gesturing at the box with a broad smirk. “Lestrade texted me, it seems they got a leg over at Scotland Yard. I knew the next parcel would be here.”

Joan crossed her arms, glowering at him. “Thanks for letting me know.”

He seemed disappointed by her lack of enthusiasm. “I came over as soon as I realized,” he said somewhat defensively, turning back to the box on the table. “Now, how are we going to get this back to 221b?”

“You’re not,” a voice panted from the doorway.

Sherlock’s head whipped around. “What are you doing here?” he hissed, eyes narrowing to slits.

Mycroft stepped forward. He looked exactly as Joan remembered him from their meeting on Sunday, in an identical three-piece suit and carrying the same umbrella, but his face was a bit pinker and he seemed slightly out-of-breath. He recovered quickly, however, when he caught her looking. “I’m here for the same reason you are, I expect,” he said, turning back to face Sherlock. “Out of concern for Dr. Watson.”

Joan raised an eyebrow. She liked Sherlock, and she was pretty sure he considered her a friend, but she highly doubted Sherlock was here out of concern for her safety.

Sherlock didn’t bother addressing Mycroft’s comment. “Leave now, you’re in the way. Joan, call a cab. No, actually text Lestrade…we’ll need help moving this.” He bent down to look into the box, poking at the grey sand-like stuff packed around the flesh in fascination.

Mycroft stepped into the kitchen, gaze sweeping over the partially ruined box and particle-strewn floor. “Absolutely not,” he said firmly. “You will come to my house. Don’t argue,” he added, when Sherlock opened his mouth to interrupt. “221b is no longer a safe environment. It was the first location targeted, and the sender will expect you to return there. In addition, my people think it is being watched-they found an unauthorised piece of surveillance equipment hidden in the moulding around the mantelpiece earlier today.”

Sherlock rolled his eyes at his brother. “Well, that’s nothing new, is it?” he responded acidly.

Mycroft pointedly ignored him. He turned to Joan. “Dr. Watson, I would like you to come as well, if it is not too much trouble.” He sounded oddly deferential, as though expecting her to protest. “In the meantime, I can have a security system installed here to prevent future problems.”

“I don’t mind, but there’s no need to go to all that trouble,” Joan said uneasily. “I think it’ll be fine as soon as I get rid of the, erm, box.”

He shook his head. “I don’t think you understand. That box should never have gotten inside your flat. And given its current state-”

“The sender must have filled the package right here in the flat. Just look at the staples!” Sherlock cut in. Mycroft sighed, but allowed his brother to take over. Joan glanced at him. He had a tolerant expression on his face as he watched Sherlock gesticulate his way through the explanation. It was…strangely sweet. “The base has not been secured, so the sender or his assistant must have brought the box, the arm, the gunpowder and the salt separately and combined them in situ,” Sherlock was saying. “It would have been impossible to carry the filled box as it is now. This is meant to threaten, to say he can get inside any place he wishes.”

“But why would he want to get inside my flat?” Joan asked.

“Because you know me, obviously,” Sherlock answered huffily. “The package at 221b was left for Mrs. Hudson to find. Then Lestrade, and now you. The pattern is obvious.”

“I’m afraid he is right,” Mycroft added, soft enough that only Joan could hear. He pulled her aside; Sherlock was so engrossed in examining the writing on the side of the box that he didn’t even notice. “You still have a choice at this point, Dr. Watson,” he said. “You see how it is-my brother is a magnet for danger. You’ll never be safe as long as you are by his side.” He looked down at her, his expression unreadable in the dim light. “You can leave now. I could find you another flat, another job. You would never have to see either of us again.”

Joan squinted up at him, but she couldn’t see well enough to tell what he was thinking. It didn’t matter anyway. She’d already made her decision. In fact, she’d probably made it a week ago, when Sherlock had first stormed into her life in a whirlwind of colour and excitement. She had the taste of danger on her tongue now, and well…addiction always had run in her family. “I’ll go pack my things,” she said. “And you can stop calling me Dr. Watson. It’s just Joan.”

Mycroft exhaled, and the corners of his eyes crinkled. She thought he seemed pleased with her answer. “I will go and speak with my brother, then, Joan.”

She nodded, and headed into her bedroom. It was empty, of course (what had she been thinking before?), and she hurried immediately towards the bureau, grabbing a small overnight bag as she went. Indistinct, but clearly raised, voices floated through the closed door, and she shook her head, glad that the job of convincing Sherlock fell to Mycroft and not herself.

She opened the top drawer to reveal her old Sig, still wrapped in the soft polishing cloth just as she’d left it. She lifted it carefully from the drawer, a comforting weight in her hand, even unloaded as it was now. With a glance behind her, she tucked it into the bottom of the bag, along with several rounds and the polishing cloth, and then she continued packing.

It took her barely five minutes to get ready, but by the time she exited the bedroom, both brothers were lined up waiting by the door. Sherlock was sulky but unresisting, and Joan wondered what exactly Mycroft had to said to get him to acquiesce. At the thought, her gaze shifted to the older Holmes, and she found him regarding the overnight bag in her hand with an amused expression. He couldn’t know about the gun, Joan comforted herself guiltily. No one knew. Still, she moved the bag to her other hand so it was partially hidden behind her legs. Mycroft’s smile widened.

“I’m ready,” she announced, hoping to distract him.

“Finally,” Sherlock snapped testily. “Let’s get this over with.”

Mycroft held the door courteously, clearly meaning for Joan to go first, but Sherlock (with his usual amount of tact) stepped in front of her and disappeared down the stairwell before she’d even moved. Mycroft looked askance at his younger brother. “You’d think he was raised by wolves,” he muttered under his breath, and Joan had suppress a laugh.

“Thank you,” she said as they left the flat.

“For what?”

“For-well, you held the door,” she said and winced at how pathetic that sounded.

He chuckled darkly. “Consider it an apology in advance. The next few hours are sure to be a trial to us both.”

She felt a sudden frisson of nervous energy twist her stomach at the words. She wasn’t sure why, but she had the strange feeling that things were about to change; it felt like the first step towards something.

“That is not a word.”

“I assure you, it is.”

“'Oe'? Where? On Planet Holmes?”

“It means, ‘a whirlwind off the Faroe Islands.’ It comes from the Faroese term for ‘furious.’”

“Oh, a whirlwind,” Joan repeated, rolling her eyes. “Off the Faroe Islands. Of course. How could I have forgotten such a vitally important word?” She grimaced at the board. Mycroft, of course, was dominating: he’d taken every one of the four triple-letter scores they’d got near to, and played two bingos. “This is ridiculous,” she said. “Next thing you’ll be telling me that ‘ai’ is a three-toed lizard or something.”

“Very close, Joan, but I believe you’ll find it refers to a three-toed sloth.”

She just stared at Mycroft in bemused exasperation.

“For the love of my sanity, would you both just shut up!” Sherlock hissed, slamming the encyclopedia he was reading with a deafening crack. He launched himself out of the overstuffed armchair he’d commandeered and began pacing around the richly furnished drawing room. “I can’t stand it,” he muttered as he walked. “Not another minute.”

Joan and Mycroft shared a look. It had been nearly three hours since the Holmes brothers had appeared on her doorstep and brought her to Mycroft’s stately London townhouse. Feeling too wound up to sleep, Mycroft had suggested a friendly game of Scrabble to pass the time, and Joan had agreed (Sherlock had merely snorted his derision at the idea). In reality, they were merely waiting for the moment when Sherlock’s patience wore thin; both had known it would only be a matter of time.

Sherlock stalked over to the glossy wooden table opposite Joan and Mycroft, which was covered with scientific equipment-apparently, from Sherlock’s personal collection. There was a small microscope and a set of slides, two pairs of latex gloves, tweezers and even a centrifuge. There were also several beakers full of the salt and gunpowder mixture, one from each of the boxes, and Jane Downing’s body parts (Joan decided then and there not to ask how Mycroft had managed to get the head and leg out of police custody) arranged neatly on several dissecting trays.

Sherlock picked up the first beaker. The substance inside was nearly pure white, and for the second time, Joan noted the difference between it and the stuff packed around the arm found in her flat.

“97.8% sea salt,” he said. “The ratio decreased by approximately forty percent with each parcel. The one from Joan’s flat had the lowest, 35.2% salt to 64.8% gun powder.”

“So, mostly gunpowder then,” Joan said.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Thank you, Joan, for your unfailing ability to state the obvious.”

“Don’t be petty,” Mycroft rebuked him. “It’s not Joan’s fault you’re stuck.”

“That’s right, Mycroft, defend mediocrity. That’s your job, isn’t it?”

“Stop bickering, you two.” Joan stood, moving towards the table to take another look at the beakers. “So, the ratio of salt to gunpowder is decreasing. Is that part of the message?”

“Obviously.” Sherlock braced his hands against the edge of the table. “The problem is, I don’t know what it means.”

He growled and pushed violently away from the table, striding back to his chair and collapsing into it. “Go away,” he barked abruptly, his fingers threaded together beneath his chin and his gaze distant. “I need to go to my mind palace.”

“Your what?”

“Come along, Joan,” Mycroft said, heaving himself to his feet with a long-suffering sigh. “He won’t be doing anything potentially life-threatening for the next fifteen minutes. I think we should take the opportunity to find ourselves some refreshment.”

He led the way out into the hall. Joan glanced back once, but Sherlock hadn’t stirred from his reverie. His eyes were glassy and unblinking.

“Are you sure that’s…normal?” she asked as Mycroft shut the door. “He looks a bit strange.”

“He always looks strange,” Mycroft quipped testily, and Joan let out an involuntary chuckle. For a moment, she could see Mycroft and Sherlock as young boys, both with impossibly well-developed vocabularies and an inability to stay out of each other’s hair for longer than a minute.

Mycroft caught her eye, and coughed. “Excuse me, that was childish,” he said. “It does look a little unusual, but I assure you that Sherlock is in no danger. He’s merely trying to access his memory through his ‘mind palace,’ as he likes to call it.”

There was that word again, ‘mind palace.’ Joan had never heard of such a thing. “That’s what this ‘mind palace’ is? A memory?”

“No, not exactly. It is a mnemonic device, wherein various memories are grouped and placed inside an imaginary house. This ensures that no memory is ever lost; one merely has to find one’s way back to the appropriate room.”

“So Sherlock’s got a palace full of memories. In his head.”


Joan frowned, trying to visualise the idea and failing utterly. Finally, she gave up. “What have you got, then?”

Mycroft looked confused. “Could you be more specific?”

“Sherlock’s got a palace,” Joan replied. “And you’ve got a-a castle? A Taj Mahal?”

“Certainly not,” Mycroft sniffed. “A mansion is more than sufficient to organize any person’s memories. Sherlock just likes to be dramatic.”

“Well, thank God you’re above all that.”

Mycroft sent a penetrating look her way, but Joan kept her face carefully bland. He narrowed his eyes at her for a moment, before pushing the door to the kitchen open.

The room was large and modern, with gleaming black-and-white tiles and an island in the middle twice as big as Joan’s kitchen table. Stainless steel appliances dotted the countertops. Everything looked brand-new-either that, or very rarely used. Mycroft crossed to the refrigerator. “What would you like? I have milk and orange juice. I would offer you something stronger, but…” he trailed off delicately.

“Orange juice is fine,” Joan said, settling onto one of the leather-covered barstools lined up beside the island.

Mycroft poured her a glass and set it on the counter before filling another glass with ice water.

“No nightcap for you?” Joan raised the juice to her lips and sipped. Fresh squeezed. It didn’t taste anything like the stuff from the carton.

“I never drink when Sherlock’s in the house,” Mycroft replied, taking a long swallow from his own glass. “Too much liability.”

“God, I can believe it,” Joan agreed. “Can’t drink around my brother either, though not for the same reason.”

Mycroft nodded. “Yes, I imagine you wouldn’t want to encourage his alcoholic tendencies.”

Joan grimaced into her juice. “Do you know you do that out loud?” Mycroft looked confused again, and rather annoyed. Joan got the distinct impression that he was unaccustomed to confusion, and wasn’t liking his sudden introduction to the feeling one bit. “I mean, talk about stuff you’re really not supposed to know.”

He raised a calculated eyebrow. “Does it bother you?”

Joan considered. “A bit,” she admitted. “The stuff about the alcoholism. You shouldn’t have said that.” She took another drink of orange juice. “It’s not a big secret or anything, everyone knows Harry’s got problems. It’s just-I’d have rather told you myself, if you wanted to know.”

“I see.” Mycroft looked thoughtfully down at his glass of water. “And what I said on Sunday. Did that bother you as well?”

“Not as much,” Joan replied without thinking, only realising as she spoke that it was true. Strange. She’d have to think about that at some point, when she had more time. Right now, though, she had bigger things to worry about. “That reminds me. Molly said that Jane Downing’s body was stolen on Sunday night-some of the security tapes were missing. Did you have anything to do with that?” she asked bluntly.

Mycroft didn’t appear offended. “Yes,” he said to her surprise. He must have seen the shock and disapproval on her face, because he quickly amended himself: “That is, I had the security tapes removed. I had nothing to do with the theft of the body.”

Joan frowned at him, still slightly suspicious. “Why did you take the tapes?”

He sighed. “My only desire was to keep our meeting private. You must believe me, I had no other motive.”

Did she believe him? Joan wondered. She knew she wanted to. If Mycroft had the tapes, maybe they could recover some footage of the real thief. “Do you know where the tapes are now, then?”

“Yes, but I regret to say that they have been wiped,” Mycroft said, the remorse clear in his eyes. “It’s standard procedure-we would have edited the tapes and returned them before their absence was noticed, if it weren’t for the onset of recent events.”

Joan let out a disappointed sigh. “Bugger. I thought we might have something.”

“Indeed.” Mycroft’s brows furrowed, and when he spoke again his voice cut the air like a steel blade. “What is more disturbing, however, is the idea that the thief was well enough informed about my schedule and methods to take advantage of them. The logical inference is that someone in my employ has compromised our security.” His grip tightened around his glass. “They will have to be dealt with.”

A shiver ran through Joan despite the comfortable warmth of the kitchen, and it occurred to her that Mycroft Holmes was a dangerous man. They had had tea and biscuits, played scrabble, talked about their siblings…unconsciously, she had begun to think of him as the “milder” of the two Holmes, despite the secretive and perhaps even sinister nature of his job. But his hard expression as he spoke of “dealing with” people was somehow scarier than Sherlock’s insensitivity and obsession. When she was with Sherlock, she got the sense that he couldn’t help himself: his brain would burn itself up, claw itself to bits, without the distraction of a case. With Mycroft, she wasn’t so sure. He was subtler than his brother, smoother, his motivations more opaque. Everyone had secrets, and Joan was no exception, but she had a feeling that Mycroft’s were darker than most.

They sat absorbed in their thoughts for a few more minutes, finishing their respective drinks. Joan had just reached the bottom of her glass, when the sound of a mobile ringing split the silence.

“Excuse me,” Mycroft said, reaching into his pocket. He glanced at the screen. “It’s my assistant. She wouldn’t call at this hour if it weren’t important.” He sighed. “I might be a little while, so please, help yourself to anything you’d like.”

Joan nodded as he exited the kitchen, mobile already raised to his ear. She thought she heard him say something about a party-the Labour party?-as he walked out into the hall, but the words were muffled and she couldn’t be sure.

His “assistant,” he’d said. She. Joan didn’t doubt him, it probably was his assistant calling, but she wasn’t unobservant either. She had noticed the ring on his finger the moment he’d walked through the door of her flat. A simple gold band, plain, but gleaming enough to show it was well cared-for. It was on his right hand, rather than his left, but that didn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t what she thought it was. So he’s married, she thought with a mental shrug. It’s not like I was interested anyway. I don’t want a relationship right now, I said so the first time we met. Haven’t I got enough on my plate?

She stood with a groan. That kind of thinking was getting perilously close to feeling sorry for herself, and she wasn’t going down that road. She would go and check on Sherlock. If he was still busy, she could always come back to the kitchen. And if she explored a bit along the way…well, Mycroft didn’t have to know.

She’d barely gotten a few steps down the hall, however, when a loud crash and a curse from the drawing room made her rush forward and push open the door. Sherlock was standing in the middle of the room, his mobile lying in pieces on the floor. He was breathing heavily, his hand clenched.

Joan surveyed the scene. “You idiot,” she said calmly.

“Oh, shut up,” Sherlock snapped.

“The memory palace didn’t give you any ideas?” Joan closed the door behind her and leaned back against it, crossing her arms.

“I have exactly twenty-seven ideas, but none of them add up,” he groaned, dragging a hand through his already-messy hair. “It’s a riddle, he likes riddles. Word play, numbers, just look at the messages he’s left so far! But this, this is different. This is deeper, it’s a reference to something, but I just can’t understand it!”

“What makes you so sure it’s a he?” Joan asked. “The sender hasn’t signed anything, have they? It could be a woman.”

“Statistically more likely to be a man,” Sherlock retorted, drumming his fingers on the table. “Women are nine times less likely to commit a violent crime, twelve times less likely to be involved in organised criminal activity.”

Joan looked at Sherlock. The collar of his normally-pristine shirt was crumpled, and his hair was frizzy from constantly running his fingers through it. His eyes were red-rimmed and wild, with deep purple circles. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days, and there was a manic look to his movements. She hadn’t know him long, but even she could tell this wasn’t his usual behaviour. “There’s something strange about this whole thing,” she said cautiously, trying to modulate her voice to calm him, as a trainer might an excitable horse. She pushed off from the door, moving closer with her hands outstretched. “I don’t mean to criticise, but don’t you think he’s just playing with you? That maybe he wants you to run around in circles thinking about his riddles all the time? Maybe the best course of action is to ignore him, and he’ll leave you alone.”

Sherlock sent her a disgusted look. “That’s the most idiotic thing you’ve said so far, Joan. If I left him alone, he’d just threaten more people. He’s doing this to catch my interest, don’t you see? It’s his calling card, his introduction.”

“Well, what do you want me to say?!” Joan burst out, exasperated. “‘Oh, how nice, Sherlock, you’ve made a new friend’? He’s a criminal!” She took a deep breath, willing herself not to lose her temper. “Look, this is not what people do, Sherlock. Real people don’t send boxes filled with body parts as a getting-to-know-you present. Real people don’t threaten your friends.”

“What do real people do then, in their real lives?” Sherlock sneered.

“They do fun stuff together,” Joan said. “Dates. You know, dinner and a film.”

“Isn’t that exactly what he’s been doing?” Sherlock retorted, leaning back to grab a beaker full of the salt-gunpowder mixture from the table. “Look! Salt, pepper.” He thrust the beaker to the side, and picked up the rotting arm that had been sent to Joan’s flat, shaking it in her face. “Even meat. I would call that dinner, wouldn’t you?”

Joan wrinkled her nose and took a step back. “That’s disgusting, Sherlock.”

But he didn’t respond. He was frozen, staring down at the severed arm in his hand, a look of wonder on his face. “Dinner,” he murmured again.

“What about dinner?”

He turned to her, his eyes wide. “What was it that came after dinner?”

“I don’t know, digestion?”

“No!” he shook his head impatiently, dropping the arm back on the table with a dull thud. “What you said before. You said ‘dates’ and ‘dinner’ and then you said something else. What was it?”

Joan’s forehead wrinkled. “A film?”

“Yes!” Sherlock shouted, a grin lighting up his face as he punched the air. “Dinner and a film, obvious, why didn’t I think of it before?”

He pulled off his latex gloves and hurled them at the bin in the corner, missing completely. “Give me your phone!” he ordered, hand outstretched. When Joan pulled her mobile from her pocket, he nearly snatched it from her hands. “What films are popular right now?” he demanded, punching several buttons to unlock the scene. Joan grimaced, wondering when and how he’d gotten her password. “What do real people go to see?”

She still couldn’t see where this was heading, but she racked her brain for recent films nevertheless. “There’s the new James Bond film out, that’s pretty popular-”

“No,” Sherlock cut her off.

“Um, some chick flick with Jennifer Aniston, can’t remember the name…”

“No! What else?” He stabbed at the mobile in frustration.

“Oh, there’s that film ‘Salt’ opening today. I’ve been seeing ads everywhere. It’s the one with Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber, something about Russian spies.” Joan’s eyes widened. “Salt, Sherlock! Could that be it?”

“S.A.L.T., for the US-USSR Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, of course he would use gunpowder,” Sherlock said, snapping the mobile closed and slipping it into his pocket. He grabbed his coat. “There’s a midnight showing at the London IMAX. We have to go now, it starts in fifteen minutes.”

“Wait a minute!” Joan reached for her bag, surreptitiously pulling her gun from the bottom and sliding it into her coat pocket along with a round. She hurried to follow Sherlock to the front door. “Why the IMAX?” she asked, catching up with him. “That film’s playing everywhere, it’s a huge blockbuster.”

Sherlock didn’t even bother to look at her as he raced across the street straight into the oncoming traffic, arm up to flag a passing taxi. “It’s obvious Joan, weren’t you paying attention?” he called over his shoulder as the taxi slowed down and stopped in front of him. “Cardboard!”

Cardboard? Joan cursed under her breath, jogging across the street as horns blared. “Damn it, Sherlock!” she gasped when she reached him. “Don’t do that.”

He rolled his eyes, holding the door open for her. “Come on, we don’t have time to waste!”


sherlock bbc, au, friendship, casefic, genderswap

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