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Always London

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Late December


They can’t go to Baker Street their first night back. At the appointed spot in a Heathrow car park they find the inevitable chauffeured black car, overseen by the inevitable black-clad woman, who smiles as if John registers somewhere between a security breach and crap on her shoe, and visibly texts, ‘Proceeding to K5.’

‘Your dear brother can’t meet us himself, then? Too busy for a family reunion?’ John mutters as the car purrs out into the midnight rain.

‘Mycroft watches everyone. Inevitably a few reciprocate,’ Sherlock responds, peering cautiously out of the window as the car approaches the main road.

John settles back into his seat, feeling bleak. He isn’t exactly desperate to chat with the man who gave Moriarty the ammunition to destroy Sherlock, anyway. His leg is throbbing, he’s knackered, and if the entire press corps turned up screaming, ‘Fake genius rises from the dead!’ right now he’d probably just give them the finger.

‘Great,’ he grunts. ‘We’ve really left the cloak and dagger behind us, then.’

‘K5’ turns out to be a fully-furnished fake-residential flat in an anonymous block in Shoreditch, no doubt bugged to high heaven. At least John no longer has to worry about Sherlock jumping out of the windows. He pulls his clothes off as soon as the ’Croft Girl withdraws, and falls asleep ten seconds after landing on the bed.

He wakes to see the digital clock showing 5.07am. Sherlock is jabbing him in the ribs.

‘Wake up!’ Sherlock whispers, unnecessarily. And why the hell is he bothering to whisper? But even sleep-sodden, John puts two and two together as soon as Sherlock points at the bedroom door.

‘Oh. You two can actually detect each other through walls, can’t you?’ says John.

‘Stop jabbering and come on,’ retorts Sherlock, shrugging into the dressing gown he left out the previous night. While John scrabbles for his own clothes, Sherlock tugs the door open, strides out into the living room and flicks on the light.

John gets a brief glimpse of Mycroft at the window in the half-dark, leaning on his umbrella and glaring moodily into the street before the entire room is bathed in yellow light and Mycroft practically launches himself away from the glass. Sherlock crosses to the window and pulls the curtains shut.

‘Oh dear, security breach?’ says Sherlock. ‘How sloppy. I should fire someone over that. Except, oh wait. I don’t work for you. Even if you’re about to treat me as if I do.’

Mycroft has already recovered his composure. John stays by the bedroom door doing up his shirt, still not fully awake, and not confident that he can be much use. But Sherlock has deliberately involved him.

‘Mycroft,’ John says.

‘Ah, John, welcome back to England,’ says Mycroft, tapping his dry umbrella against his shoe. ‘I trust you are well?’

‘Do you? I’ve been shot again, I’ll have lost my job for running off without notice and I rather think I’m starting a cold.’

‘Oh dear, perhaps –’ starts Mycroft.

‘John, you can shoot him later,’ interrupts Sherlock. ‘Mycroft, you want me to do a press conference, I suppose?’

Mycroft pulls a pained face. He begins pacing the room, frowning at the tip of his umbrella.

‘Well, Sherlock, “want” does not, in fact, describe how I feel about you addressing the national media live and uncensored. Nevertheless, you are broadly correct, and my people are on it. The story will break this morning, after which the Metropolitan Police will be our hosts for the press conference, as the accusations against you were initially a regrettable blunder on their part. You will be provided with a statement by my people, and you will read it, after which I regret to say you will take questions from the press – it will seem too staged if you don’t. Ah well. Once the truth is out, I’m sure that the The Sun in particular will be eager to print a full retraction, accompanied by the correct version of the story.’

‘OK...’ says John slowly, trying to fire his brain up. Sherlock has already briefed him on the ‘correct’ version: Sherlock unmasked Moriarty, who then put him in fear of his life, leading him to fake suicide, after which Moriarty was killed by one of his own assassins and Sherlock went into hiding abroad while the evidence could be gathered to clear his name...

‘You mean the trite lowest common-denominator version,’ says Sherlock, then waves his hand as if grudgingly downplaying his own words. ‘Yes, yes. Effective, nevertheless, I’m sure.’

If you stick to it,’ says Mycroft. ‘If you do not, well, I may or may not be able to protect you from deportation to face murder charges. Speaking of which, you might have left someone alive for us to arrest. We’re having to use a little sleight of hand there.’

‘Really?’ Sherlock gets up again and begins to fiddle with the curtain. ‘All this trouble you’re going to might be touching if it weren’t for the fact that you fed me to Moriarty in the first place.’

Mycroft goes still. ‘Yes, well, I think that by concealing your plans from me you punished me quite sufficiently, and partly at your own expense. I could have helped, Sherlock, in a hundred small ways and not a few larger ones. I’ve wondered many times why you rejected that possibility, and I suspect John has too.’

‘I did, at first,’ says John stiffly. Since Malta he’s had a very good idea of Sherlock’s reasons, but he isn’t about to betray them to Mycroft. When asked about Mycroft and personal information, Sherlock insisted, ‘Tell him nothing. He’ll deduce most of it anyway.’

‘As if you were fooled, Mycroft,’ snaps Sherlock now, from over by the window. ‘It was child’s play to work it out. The angle of fall, the identity of the people who picked me up. You...’

‘Didn’t know,’ Mycroft interrupts heavily. ‘Obviously we monitor rumours, and I heard you were sighted in Morocco and New York – also in Hull, which I take to be an error – and then John went on holiday and neglected to come back, so yes, there were strong indications of the truth.’ Mycroft looks sideways at John. ‘Unless of course you are the tabloid press, in which case Dr Watson’s mysterious disappearance leads directly to the highly exciting conclusion that the lovelorn bachelor has done away with himself in emulation of his disgraced lust object.’

Dear God. But on some level John must have seen that coming, because it only takes a few seconds for his anger to harden into defensive steel. ‘Fine. Hardly surprising,’ he says. ‘At the press conference, I am just not answering that kind of question. End of.’

‘Hm, well,’ Mycroft’s smug smile thins. ‘I note from the rather blatant tells that the two of you are now in fact in a sexual relationship... and I note from your reaction to that statement, John, that you consider it to be romantic in nature. My brother is a surprising choice for that kind of attachment.’

‘Yes, you always did prefer me doing coke in toilets,’ says Sherlock, patting around the edge of the window-frame and uncovering a small camera with an exaggerated grimace. ‘Easier to patronise. Jealous, are we?’

‘Sherlock, the cameras were switched off as soon as I arrived. Do you think I want this recorded?’ Mycroft looks exasperated. ‘To return to my point, public attitudes to homosexuality may have eased, but they are hardly unremittingly positive. Discretion is advisable.’

‘Yes, you certainly are the person to give advice on hiding in the closet. But why be coy with me?’ Sherlock strolls over to his brother, first rolling up his sleeve and then opening the front of his dressing gown wider. ‘I can see you trying to deduce the marks. Well done; they’re quite faint now. No I haven’t been shooting up. I was planning to give The Daily Mail an exclusive on how in Malta we killed two assassins and then John chained me up in the cellar and tortured me for our mutual and extremely homosexual pleasure. But you think perhaps I shouldn’t?’

While Sherlock is speaking, Mycroft’s gaze goes to his chest, then to his wrist, then back. He must be interpreting tiny chafes that John can’t even see from over here. Whatever Mycroft is deducing, it’s clearly more than he can immediately digest.

Screw discretion. John's going to show where he stands. He comes up behind Sherlock and puts a hand on his arm.

‘I think –’ starts Mycroft angrily, and then pauses. He lays his umbrella on the dining table, then sits down in a chair opposite them. With an ambiguous pang, John feels Sherlock’s hand wrapping around his own. Sherlock is all but vibrating with tension.

I think, brother,’ Mycroft starts again, giving his hard, political smile ‘– that you haven’t tried so hard to shock me since you were fourteen. If you’re not merely showing off, then, well... all I can say is, it’s small wonder Irene Adler managed to play you. Good grief.’ Mycroft holds up his hand to forestall interruption. ‘It’s all right, John. Your tastes are hardly incongruous with your personality profile, and I should applaud your selection of a consenting subject.’

Sherlock growls at that. But John isn’t about to rise to the needling.

‘Yes, I am a sadist,’ he says. ‘Sherlock’s a masochist. So we’re a couple who play sex games: how shocking. Do you expect us to believe you really give a toss?’

‘Perhaps not,’ concedes Mycroft, with a brief, cold smile. He settles into his armchair and shoots Sherlock a look that is wistful, sad, protective, fearful... and passes in an instant. ‘You have correctly divined, John, that this subject is not my favourite. And I have divined that my brother is exploiting the fact. His telling me the truth on a personal matter is an unusual development, presumably intended to distract me from the question of what’s really going on here. I don’t mean your, ah, completed programme of justice.’ Mycroft pauses and steeples his fingers. ‘I mean, Sherlock, the source of tension that I detected in your voice on the phone, and that I presume is fuelling the show of adolescent defiance you’ve put on this morning. John knows what it is and I don’t.’

John is brought up short. Just how isolated is this guy? There but for the grace of God, John finds himself thinking.

‘Don’t you have some ministers to go and coerce?’ is all he says aloud.

Sherlock speaks at exactly the same time: ‘I have bipolar disorder.’

Sherlock’s voice was uncertain and John’s loud. The result is Mycroft saying ‘I’m sorry?’ and raising his eyebrows, looking genuinely unsure.

‘I have bipolar disorder,’ repeats Sherlock in a much clearer voice. He seems to be trying for boredom in his tone; he manages hostility. ‘You know what that is, Mycroft, or at least you know some clichés.’

Mycroft is staring. ‘Bipolar disorder?’ he queries, almost blankly.

‘Yes. I didn’t contact you when I disappeared because I was already half-way manic, and I didn’t want you trying to fix me,’ explains Sherlock calmly. John increases the grip of the hand on his arm. He didn't expect this but – well. Support first, pick up the pieces later. ‘I didn’t think I needed anyone.’ Sherlock shrugged. ‘I didn’t need anyone. Mania is rather compelling.’

‘I see,’ says Mycroft slowly. He has his head at an angle, looking at Sherlock as if beginning a reassessment process in spite of himself. ‘Dr Watson...?’

‘The diagnosis is mine,’ says John. Is Sherlock's odd calm due to lithium? More likely it's a brewing explosion. ‘I was hardly going to take him back to the nice doctor who said he was a sociopath. And yes we’re certain, as far as you can be with mental health issues. The labels are on the arbitrary side, because nobody really knows what the underlying pathology is yet.’

There is a snort. ‘Psychiatry! Passes for a science!’ Sherlock declares. He’s started dismantling Mycroft’s spy camera.

‘Hm,’ says Mycroft, regarding the demise of the machine with a longsuffering expression. ‘Are you taking something for this, Sherlock?’

‘Lithium. It stopped me wanting to kill myself all the time. You do realise this camera broke down two days ago anyway?’

‘Ah, well, my staff have been busy – assassinations to cover up, enormous damage limitation campaigns to organise. Honestly Sherlock, I think we all knew you’d inherited Mummy’s nerves, but manic depression?’

Sherlock freezes. Then his head shoots up. ‘Yes. Do you have difficulty understanding the term?’

‘I have difficulty understanding what you think to gain from this... label. It’s not like you to try to justify your bad behaviour. You’re usually proud of it.’

The remains of the camera go skittering across the dining room table as Sherlock takes two swift paces to lean over Mycroft, all but in his face.

I justify myself to you?’ Sherlock snarls, and then his voice changes to a bitter imitation of his brother’s. ‘“Calm down, Mummy. Stop imagining things. Don’t embarrass the family.” Of course, you and Father also made clear that nothing better could be expected of a woman who wasn’t a real Holmes, anyway. Well, I am a real Holmes.’

‘Then act like one!’ Mycroft rises suddenly, so that Sherlock has to retreat to avoid being head-butted. ‘For years I’ve been trying to get you to medicate your down periods, and you threw it in my face in favour of poisoning yourself with cocaine. If Dr Watson’s knocked some sense into you on that score, I applaud him.’

‘Sense? You don’t begin to understand what you’re talking about. I’ve experienced things that would smear your constipated little mind across the back of your skull. I’ve had moodswings that felt like my brain was being ripped open and stuck together backwards. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t think! I wanted to die. And you believe a pill makes it all go away?’


‘But you are taking the pills?’ asks Mycroft, cautiously. Then with growing confidence: ‘Mummy took her pills and she was fine for years before her accident.’

Sherlock explodes.

‘The wrong pills! You and Father made her, you – stop saying accident because you can’t cope with reality. If you're bipolar, antidepressants can cause hostility, violent agitation, and – well, what else do you think? Care to make a deduction?’

Sherlock leans back stiffly against the cheap dining table, taut with anger, staring at his motionless brother.

‘You think dramatic language helps?’ Mycroft says in a rather high, brittle voice. ‘If Mummy had bipolar –’ A glance at John, who nods. ‘– well surely she wasn’t – the treatments are better now, of course?’

Suddenly he’s almost pleading. John has seen this before, as it dawns on a patient’s relatives that a situation is real.

‘People who have the kind of bipolar that Sherlock seems to have inherited did use to be treated with antidepressants quite often, yes. The good news is that medical science has learnt a lot since the eighties. Sherlock seems to do well on lithium.’

Mycroft gives a jerky nod.

‘You could perhaps say I was afraid of something like this for him.’ There is an actual tremor in his voice and his hands shake as he smooths his immaculate hair. John sees Sherlock’s eyes kindle and his posture ease as he observes. ‘But I dared to hope that it would have shown up earlier if it was going to. I suppose it did, really, if you’re telling me that the – well, yes. John, is he – I mean, in the future...’

‘You mean am I contagious? Rabid? Terminal?’ Sherlock suggests. ‘Perhaps you want to know if I’m stable. And yes, I am. But no, I’m not cured.’

‘People take lithium for decades without problems,’ says John. ‘But no, we can’t take that for granted. I’ll be monitoring him.’

‘Of course, yes. We appreciate your expertise, Dr Watson,’ says Mycroft. ‘Even if my brother may not always express himself entirely graciously.’

We? Mycroft has some cheek, as if John didn’t know that.

‘I wouldn’t have troubled you with this, Mycroft,’ says Sherlock. ‘But John insisted, and I respect his medical judgement.’

What?! Now both brothers are regarding John with the dear-me-ordinary-people-eh expression that constitutes their main family resemblance. And John is... John is...

John is going to play along, because he understands what this is. If it puts him on the other side of the fence from Sherlock for five minutes, he can bear that.

‘As his brother, you’re Sherlock’s next of kin,’ says Dr Watson. ‘So legally and medically it’s best procedure to keep you posted. I’m pleased you understand.’

‘These matters can be delicate, but I commend your approach,’ says Mycroft.

‘Yes, well, I accept it as a tiresome necessity,’ says Sherlock, going back to examining the tiny camera lens. ‘I look forward to my diagnosis finding its way into the hands of every psychopath who ambles through your office.’

Mycroft stands up and rearms himself with his umbrella. ‘Really, I think you know that error will not be repeated.’ Then he pauses, and taps his brolly against his shoe, and such an odd, soft expression comes over his face that John almost thinks it’s time to melt away into the other room and put on his headphones... ‘Now,’ Mycroft says briskly. ‘I must get back to Whitehall for a breakfast briefing. The Chinese delegation will not change their timetable for the small matter of your return from the dead, after all. I look forward to your press conference.’

‘I don’t,’ responds Sherlock, eyes on the mechanism in his hands. ‘Smarming a horde of half-wits is rather more in your line.’

‘Ah hah. Well. I’m sure you will do splendidly as we are, in fact, rather closely related.’

‘Mycroft –’ says Sherlock suddenly. When Mycroft looks over his shoulder with a rather studied blank expression, he goes on, ‘For goodness’ sake get Mrs Hudson over here. I didn’t shoot Graf so she could find out I’m alive through the media and die of a heart attack.’

Mycroft nods. ‘Consider it done,’ he says. ‘Thank you, John. Good day.’

Mycroft is gone.

‘That was unexpected,’ says John levelly, going over to Sherlock

‘His reaction?’ Sherlock continues fiddling with the broken camera. ‘Oh, obvious. He can’t cope. He’ll never mention it again. He’ll pretend it didn’t happen.’

‘Very likely. But I meant you telling him in the first place.’

Sherlock gives John a glare, presumably meant to convey that John is on dangerous ground.

Bugger that. John lives on dangerous ground. So he says the thing that’s been at the back of his mind all through the Mycroft encounter.

‘I actually truly don’t love Harry, Sherlock. There’s no connection, she’s just this false grinning woman with suspiciously fresh breath. I thought maybe I should text her saying “I’m alive” but frankly she wouldn’t care apart from the embarrassment of it all, and then we might have to talk, so I haven’t.’

There. That’s all the lecture Sherlock’s getting. John delivered it matter-of-factly but now it’s out in the air it seems to have left a painful gap inside him that takes its time to close. He breathes deeply, aware of Sherlock’s scrutiny.

‘I see,’ is all Sherlock says. Then he puts down the bits of camera, and there is that one-second hitch between the action and his next words.

‘I loved my mother. Mycroft loved our father.’

John nods. ‘I guessed. I have to break it to you though, you’re not going to drive him off.’

‘You think I was trying to do that?’

‘I’m betting you’ve tried quite a few times,’ says John. The scene comes easily to his mind’s eye: a younger Sherlock, hypomanic and drugged up, raging scared and trying to claw his way past Mycroft’s repressed exterior before giving up and simply trying to shred him completely.

‘Come back to bed,’ says Sherlock softly.

John looks at him. The Sherlock who could say that is not the version Mycroft knows.

Johns switches off the light, and they go.



Tempting as it is to suggest that John ride his cock while choking him for the benefit of Mycroft’s cameras, Sherlock suspects John would refuse, and elects for a cuddle and sleep instead.

Mycroft’s reaction was actually quite intelligent by his standards. He almost admitted that Sherlock’s bipolar exists and that it does so for reasons other than simply to annoy civil servants. Holding John, staring at the ceiling in the dark, Sherlock is satisfied with that. Lithium does not let him stay angry. It’s strange, to not even want the anger. So much is strange. With input from John, he works around it.

Sherlock sleeps.

Around seven-thirty, a pair of ’Croft girls make a noisy entrance. Sherlock snaps immediately alert, while John is moaning and grumbling about ‘Didn’t we just do this?’ Today is Sherlock’s return, his revelation, his victory. All of which things are asinine, but also essential to regaining his work. Work itself will further increase his control of the situation.

He is winning, to an extent that not one of the media chimps whose game he will have to play could imagine. They will have no idea what he previously lost, and he certainly will not tell them. Fire in the sky and death in the snow are filed away, experiences he has learnt from but will not repeat. He is calm and focused.

He just keeps getting jolted.

Mycroft’s people bring Mrs Hudson to them as promised, shoving her into K5’s pastel living room as if it were a cell. As soon as she sees them she plumps down in an armchair with her hand on her heart and cries ‘Oh boys, I thought I’d lost you both!’ Then she’s up again and trying to hug the pair of them at once.

Sherlock hugs back. She feels thinner than before, and the deepening of her facial wrinkles is more appropriate to the elapse of six years than six months. He wants to smash whatever’s upset her, except this time the cause is him.

His reaction is irrational. But she’s just so... small.

‘We’re back,’ he says. He has the impulse to tell her about his illness, which is ridiculous. Now he’s handled Mycroft, he need never mention it again. There are many things they need to keep from her, and bipolar is one.

She’s crying. John is telling her how sorry he is, and how essential all the trouble was, and how everything will be peaceful now. That does not strike Sherlock as an entirely supportable projection.

What can he do for her? How to explain?

‘We’d like to return to living at Baker Street,’ he says. That’s certainly true.

Mrs Hudson turns to him with her scolding expression. ‘Of course you must! You were all alone for months...!’

‘I did call John.’

‘Eventually,’ mutters Mrs Hudson, reprovingly. ‘Well. There’s more to this than meets the eye, I can tell.’

‘Perhaps,’ agrees Sherlock. God, he remembers hunting Graf through Vegas, imagining him shooting Martha Hudson and leaving her to die on her kitchen floor. And here she is. What gesture would be big enough to acknowledge that?

Sherlock goes over to John, puts an arm around him and kisses him.

The deliberate show feels like a borrowing from the mundane world rather than something he himself would do. However, since he is doing it, evidently it’s part of his repertoire now. And Mrs Hudson’s reaction is immediate.

‘Oh!’ she breathes, wide-eyed. ‘Oh, Sherlock! Oh, at last. I am so glad. You can behave like normal people – well, normal people nowadays. That sort of thing wasn’t thought of in my time. But I’m so pleased for you both!’

‘Yes, completely normal, that’s Sherlock,’ agrees John drily, with a quick lift of the eyebrows that suggests there’s going to be a conversation about this later.

Sherlock lets Mrs Hudson kiss him again, and tell him over and over how glad she is. He’s even sitting with his arm around her when his phone bleeps. It’s Mycroft.

The news has broken.


An hour later, on the approach to New Scotland Yard, reporters and photographers elbows each other in the grey drizzle as they scramble up to John and Sherlock’s tint-windowed car.

‘Anyone would think we were talentless pop singers,’ jokes John without much humour. ‘Sherlock Holmes versus Simon Cowell – I might pay to see that.’

‘I’m sure this work of fiction is much more exciting,’ Sherlock says, holding up the statement he’s been given from Mycroft.

Outside, a cry of Has he got the hat? rises above the general clamour.

‘Are you going to actually stick to it?’ John asks.

Sherlock shrugs. Mycroft’s team has produced some pretty watertight weasel-wording, so there’s no point wasting his skills improvising when he should be using them to perfect his visual act. ‘It’s good. For a pack of egregious semi-falsehoods.’

The rim of a camera viewfinder all but scores a hole in the window next to him. Sherlock turns up the collar of the Belstaff, which Mycroft’s people brought him this morning. Wearing it again is bizarrely comforting. John hunches defensively in his seat and glares around.

‘If I wanted this kind of attention I’d be snogging Beyoncé, not you,’ he says. ‘Better tits, as well.’

The joke is unfunny, but mostly a sign of John’s unease, so Sherlock lets it slide. John has always felt uncomfortable with the media, with plenty of justification. Soon they will be over this, back at Baker Street, taking cases and – and what exactly? Will the new side of their relationship translate?

Sherlock can’t concentrate on that now. Someone’s opening the car door; time to fight his way through the crowd.

It being the ‘festive’ season, the Yard is festooned with scrappy tinsel, and staffed in part by people who have clearly been called back into work in a hurry. The team that closes in around them is surprisingly junior-looking: chattering PR execs and a couple of sergeants with worried expressions. They are in obvious disarray, focusing mostly on the shepherding ’Croft girls who are giving instructions about the party line. Sherlock ignores the frank stares and whispers. John is stony-faced beside him.

There’s a detour to a room where make-up is applied, then everyone sets off again. The chaos as they all straggle through the building is sufficient to let a grey-haired figure in casual clothes worm his way through the crowd and clap a hand on John’s shoulder. Sherlock keeps facing ahead as they walk, but he turns his eyes to catch Greg Lestrade’s.

‘You absolute fucking tossers!’ The ex-DI stays just ahead of them. One of the ’Croft girls seems to accept his presence, and she is ushering the entourage to give him space. ‘What the hell is going on?’

‘Pleased to see us, then?’ says John cautiously. ‘You got my text?’

‘Frankly I thought someone’d nicked the phone off your corpse and was playing silly buggers, but yeah, course I’m pleased. Except what the fuck?

‘You’re about to hear what’s going on,’ says Sherlock. Suddenly it’s difficult to keep a straight face. But there are a lot of eyes on him. Should he hug Lestrade? It would be appropriate for masculine re-acquaintance... Then Lestrade hugs John instead, in a sort of awkward, blokey, on-the-move half-clinch. John responds in kind.

‘It’s OK, mate,’ John says, with more determination than eloquence. Incoherence is socially valued on these occasions. Sherlock is wondering if he can achieve the right tone when Lestrade takes a couple of deep breaths.

‘Right, well, I’m sure the unvarnished truth will be broadcast for all to hear,’ he says. Then his voice drops. ‘Whatever, Sherlock, it’d better be good.’

Sherlock observes that Lestrade has been working a pseudo-civilian desk job since his demotion, probably pending some means of quietly removing him altogether. He’s been smoking, and has put on weight. He’s been working in a sunless room.

That is going to end.

‘It will be good,’ Sherlock says. Lestrade has enough brains to take that as it was meant: It will get you your job back. A small smile appears on his face. Sherlock feels... lighter. Lestrade’s anger is an uncomfortable thing.

‘I’ll hold you to that,’ says Lestrade. ‘You know BBC News is leading with “Shock return of vindicated Holmes” already?’

Sherlock nods. He does know that. It means this is working. The media are buying the story.

‘Are you coming to the actual press conference?’ says John.

‘Nah. Not allowed anywhere near this – yet. What’s going to happen is, we are going to have a drink. Not anywhere with journalists. You’ve got my number.’ Lestrade puts a hand on Sherlock’s arm as the whole group of what must be two dozen accrued people came to a rambling halt.

‘Deal,’ says Sherlock. One of the ’Croft girls is now indicating by various means that Lestrade should bugger off.

‘The whole thing never added up for me,’ Lestrade persists, ignoring her. ‘Vain git like you offing yourself? You’re too stubborn for that.’

Sherlock feels a half-smile on his lips. He believes it’s a natural one, but it also appears to have stalled. Vain git like you offing yourself. He is irrationally discomfited.

‘I’m sure it seems unlikely,’ he responds. ‘But experimental data alters theory. See you later.’

He gives a curt nod and sweeps into the media suite, aware of John waving a slightly awkward ‘See you!’ gesture at Lestrade, then nipping in behind.