Kate sat on the couch, legs crossed under her, sipping her third Diet Pepsi of the afternoon, rereading a case file she’d found stuck under a cushion. To say the arrival of Sherlock and John had made her presence superfluous was an understatement.
John had hustled Sherlock through the flat, waving off Mrs. Hudson and her bottomless pot of tea, and had shut the bedroom door firmly behind them. Mrs. Hudson frowned, set the teapot on the table, and left.
She hadn’t been sure what to do. She’d crept to the door of Sherlock’s bedroom, listened for a bit to the murmured tones, punctuated by Sherlock’s protests – I am not a child, John, I can take off my own trousers, John, I don’t need to rest, John – but she felt a bit pervy and wandered back into the living room.
She was starting to think of the couch as her spot – she’d spent enough hours sitting there over the last few days. She found the file after John had left to fetch Sherlock from the hospital and had been very interested to read how he’d figured out that the suspect had borrowed his sister’s shoes to avoid detection. She would have to remember that one.
She heard the bedroom door open and slammed the file shut. John walked into the kitchen, turned on the tap and filled the kettle. She walked to the doorway. “Everything okay?”
“He’s asleep.” John rubbed his neck. “Finally.” He sounded like the tired father of a small child.
“Doesn’t like naps I take it.”
“Doesn’t like being told what to do.” He set the kettle onto the stove.
“He listens to you more than most.”
John smiled wearily. “Not sure that’s true.” John retrieved the teapot from the table and emptied the contents into the sink. “I know better than to ask you if you want tea.”
She held up the can. “I’m good.” Kate walked back into the living room. She felt even more out of place than ever. John puttered in the kitchen, waiting for the water to boil, and she stood halfway between Sherlock’s chair and the door. Her suitcase was shoved behind the couch, her purse stuck under the coffee table, her Diet Pepsi cans standing in a perfect row.
John came out of the kitchen with his cup and sat in his chair. Pulled out his phone. Shook his head and held the phone up to Kate. “Mycroft. He’s called at least a dozen times. I’m surprised he’s not calling you too.”
Kate reached in her pocket and retrieved the phone. “I’m still using Sherlock’s.”
“Ahhh. Lucky you.” John put the phone on the table and warmed both hands around his teacup.
Kate sat facing him in Sherlock’s chair. John sipped his tea and looked past her out the window. She turned on the phone, scrolled through the texts, and tried to come up with something to say. Something safe that wouldn’t piss him off or let some secret slip. She’d never cheated on any of her girlfriends, but she imagined this must be what it was like. She had so much to keep straight – John didn’t know about the baby, but he did know Sherlock had cloned Mary’s phone and was having her followed. She couldn’t remember if she’d told either of them that Mycroft admitted that Mary worked for him too. She knew for sure that John had no idea just how much Sherlock loved him.
John cleared his throat. “I’m sorry about before . . . when we got here . . .”
Kate sighed with relief. “No worries.”
“It’s just that I knew Sherlock was dead on his feet and he’d end up back in hospital if I didn’t get him to lie down.”
“I’m sure the taxi ride was tiring . . .”
John rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Mycroft sent a car.”
“Nice.” Kate knew all about Mycroft and his cars.
“Sherlock didn’t think so.” John sighed. “For once, I didn’t care. I’m just glad he’s home.”
Kate nodded. “Look, I meant to tell you before, but I didn’t get the chance. I’m going to move back to the hotel tonight.”
“No, it’s fine. You should stay. You can have the room upstairs. I’ll stay with Sherlock.” His face coloured. “To keep an eye on him.”
She laughed. “I thought we were past all that, John.”
“Yes, well. Quite right.”
“I’m hungry. How about I go pick up some groceries and cook dinner for us tonight? Then I promise to disappear for a few hours.”
She stood and grabbed her coat. “Any requests? Don’t suppose you have Kraft Dinner over here? We can fancy it up – add some hot dogs or tuna.”
“Not sure. It all sounds rather . . . packaged.” He looked nervous.
“Don’t worry, I’m kidding.” Sort of. “I’ll find something decent. As long as I end the meal with cookies, he’s good.”
She wrapped her scarf around her neck and buttoned her coat. She had one hand on the door knob when she stopped and turned back. “John? You can stop worrying now. He’s fine. Everything’s going to be fine.”
“I know. It’s just . . .”
“God, I know I’m about to sound like Mrs. Hudson, so tell me to shut up if you like. But one thing at a time. He’s home. Worry about Mary and the rest of it tomorrow.”
He walked to the door, reached in his pocket and gave her a £20 note. “Buy some champagne. The good stuff.” He laughed. “As good as £20 will get.” He kissed her quickly on the cheek. “Thank you.”
Dinner was a disaster.
At least the food was good. Tikka masala from Taj Mahal. It had taken Kate all of five minutes to realize she could cook three things and two of them started with the word Kraft. If the line outside the Taj Mahal was any indication, she wouldn’t poison Sherlock on his first night home, so take-out it was.
Sherlock was back in his chair when she got home. She set the bags on the kitchen table and grabbed a Diet Pepsi from the fridge. She heard the shower through the closed door of the bathroom and sat down in John’s chair.
“How are you feeling?”
Sherlock sat with his fingers laced, staring at the fireplace. “Fine.”
“John in the shower?” She had suddenly lost the ability for small talk.
“Obviously.” Sherlock looked at her. “Did your supervisor get the information about the wire transfers?”
No need for small talk, apparently. “Yes, thank you. He’s sending it up the chain. Should have an answer back from him in a couple of days.”
“Good.” Sherlock went back to staring at the fireplace.
Kate felt like she was on a bad first date. “Uh, are you hungry? I brought-“
“Tikka masala and samosas from Taj Mahal. John doesn’t like samosas.”
“He doesn’t have to eat them.” Kate felt the irritation crawling up her neck. “What’s up with you?”
Sherlock sighed and leaned forward. “I’m trying to think. Why don’t you tell me everything you need to say now, and I can get back to it.”
“Oh I can think of plenty to say to you right now.” Kate stood and walked to the couch. “I hope you haven’t been an ass to John, too, today. He doesn’t deserve it.”
“Then he should act less like my nurse and more like my – ” His voice trailed off.
She threw him a dirty look, grabbed the file she’d been reading earlier and took it back to John’s chair.
“What is that?” Sherlock reached for the file.
“An old case file I found. Interesting.”
Sherlock looked at the name on the folder. “Tedious.”
“A five at the most. Lestrade knew better than to give it to me. I solved it over the phone.”
“And I paid for it for months.” A voice from the door startled them both. Greg Lestrade stood in the doorway, holding a brown bag. “Thought I’d bring dinner.” He walked into the sitting room.
“Put it on the table with the other one.” Sherlock leaned back in his chair.
Kate stood up and took the bag from Greg. “Detective Inspector.”
Greg smiled. “Please, after all we’ve been through?” He squeezed Kate’s shoulder. “How are you doing, Kate?”
“I’m good.” Kate nodded toward Sherlock. “He’s a bit cranky.”
Greg picked up the bottle on the table. “Champagne? What are we celebrating?”
“Sherlock’s homecoming.” Kate walked back into the sitting room. “Though I think he’d be happier if we left him alone.”
Greg grabbed a beer from the fridge, and sat on the chair at the desk. “So he’s back to himself then?”
“I am right here.” Sherlock crossed his legs, winced, and uncrossed them.
“You okay?” Kate frowned. “Need something?”
“An hour of silence and a good shot of morphine.”
“No morphine. Not until later.” John walked out of the bathroom, hair still wet. “Doctor said you need to wean yourself off.” He came into the room, greeted Greg and sat in his chair.
Kate went into the kitchen, took plates from the cupboard and opened a bag. “I brought Indian. Hope that’s alright.”
“You hungry, Greg?” John asked.
“Yeah, looks like Kate beat me to the take-away. Taj Mahal?” Greg smiled. “The naan was right out of the oven.”
John looked at Sherlock. “You feel like eating?”
He shook his head. “Does it matter? I had pasta earlier. At the cafeteria.” Sherlock looked at John. “How was your shower?”
John smiled. “Lonely.”
Sherlock sputtered something and sat back in the chair. Both Greg and Kate busied themselves with the cartons of food.
Kate was secretly ecstatic. John had just made a public innuendo to Sherlock, right in front of them. Things must be looking up.
They ate in silence for a bit. Kate watched John count every bite that went into Sherlock’s mouth. Greg’s phone rang twice, but he turned it off both times. She got up and was looking for champagne glasses when she heard John slam down his hand on the table.
“I don’t care, Sherlock. You’re just home from hospital. Give it a fucking rest for once.”
Kate came back into the sitting room. Greg had moved to the couch, and John stood above Sherlock, who was looking up at him.
“There is no time to rest, John. The plan is everything.”
“There won’t be a plan if you end up back in hospital.”
“What’s going on?” Kate stood behind John’s chair. “I was just opening the champagne . . .”
“I was explaining to John that it is imperative we retrieve whatever information Magnussen has about Mary. That is the only way John will be ever be safe.”
Kate walked around and stood between them. “Tonight? We need to talk about this tonight?”
Sherlock sighed. “We’ve wasted so much time already.”
“But don’t you see?” Kate asked, her voice rising. “You think this is about John and Mary, but it isn’t. Not really. It’s not even about you. You’re all just pawns in Magnussen’s game. You must see that . . .”
“I need to see Mary. “ John stood with his fists clenched at his side. “Before we do anything, I need to talk to her.”
Sherlock and Kate answered at the same time. “No.”
John turned to Kate and pointed a finger. “You have nothing to say about it. Why the hell are you even still here?”
Sherlock reached for John’s arm. “John, she is invested . . .”
John pushed away from the table and stood up. “Mary is my wife. My pregnant wife.”
Kate looked at Sherlock, who sat back heavily in the chair and closed his eyes. She wanted to punch John. Didn’t he understand what he did to Sherlock every time he said that?
“John, even I agree with Sherlock. You have no idea how deep any of this goes.” Greg stood beside John. “Mycroft’s all up in it, so you know it’s serious.”
John grew very still. He lowered his head. Kate thought for a minute he was crying. But then he raised his head and the look on his face made her step back a bit.
“I understand the seriousness of this situation. I understand it better than all of you. It’s my life. It’s my problem.”
Sherlock started to speak, but John held up a hand.
“I know you’re trying to deduce your way to a solution, Sherlock, but you’re just out of hospital and you have a rather compromised perspective about this.” His expression softened. “You have too much skin in the game to be objective. You know I’m right.”
“I know no such thing.” Sherlock gripped the chair and pulled himself up. “It’s precisely because I do have skin in this game that I must stop Magnussen from ruining Mary. From hurting you.”
John stared at Sherlock for a minute. Kate didn’t know whether to say something or grab Greg and head to the nearest pub. She glanced back to see Greg typing madly on his phone. At least if it all went sideways, she knew Mycroft ex machina would be at the ready.
He turned and headed to the door. He grabbed his coat and scarf from the hook. “I need some air.”
Kate waited until she heard the bottom door slam, then went back to the kitchen table and lifted a small container from the take-out bag. “Cookies, anyone?”
John turned the corner and felt the familiar pain grip his chest. This was the place he’d hoped to find his happily ever after Sherlock. He’d been so angry with him for being dead and later, so angry with him for not staying dead. Sherlock’s return had made John’s life with Mary seem small and foolish.
The black sedan idling at the kerb ten feet ahead should have surprised him, but didn’t. He stopped, hands on his hips. Kate was right – his life was a soap opera. The back door opened and an umbrella appeared, followed by Mycroft’s shiny shoes.
John waited while he walked toward him. Crossed his arms. He wasn’t in the mood.
Mycroft stopped a few feet from him. “John.”
“Must be important. Anthea usually does your dirty work.”
Mycroft smiled. “Anthea is in Tahiti. Don’t make a scene, John. Get in the car.”
“Bugger off.” He turned and walked down the block toward the house. His mistake was looking back. Mycroft stood, umbrella hooked on his arm, staring at him, infuriating smile still plastered on his face. Mycroft shrugged and turned and walked back toward the car and John wanted to laugh because it felt so good to finally –
He felt an arm tighten around his neck and the point of something hard press into his back. He was carried back to the car a few inches off the ground, gasping and choking.
The grip around his neck loosened and the car door held open for him. John looked back (and up) and his pride was relieved to see that Anthea’s replacement was clearly military – tall, wide and well-trained. John straightened his jacket and stepped into the car. The door closed and Mycroft smiled at him.
“Thank you for meeting with me, John.”
“Yes, well. I thought it was time you and I had a private chat.”
John frowned. “A chat? Really? You followed me all the way here to chat?”
“I needed to ascertain if your repeated threats to confront your wife were simply that – threats.”
“I am not going to confront my wife . . .”
“Prudent, since she’s an assassin. An extremely successful assassin, I might add.”
“You may not. It’s none of your business what I do.”
“Sherlock is my business.”
“What about him?”
Mycroft crossed his legs, looked out the window. “How is he?”
That wasn’t the question he expected. He almost sounded concerned. John didn’t answer. He had to be careful. Mycroft was nothing if not a master manipulator. John knew why Mycroft didn’t want him talking to Mary – at least not without an approved script in hand. And he knew why Sherlock didn’t want him here. Even Kate fucking Canada had an opinion about it. She may not have the jersey to prove it, but she was definitely playing for Team Sherlock.
Only John wasn’t lying. He really hadn’t come here to confront Mary. He just wanted to see her, talk to her, and convince himself that he hadn’t imagined her. He needed to remind himself that whatever else she had turned out to be, she was also Mary – the woman who blushed when he called her beautiful, cried when she watched Notting Hill, laughed when they found out about the pregnancy. She drank him under the table, and fucked him on top of it. And Mycroft bloody Holmes had nothing to say about any of it. This was between him and Mary.
“I looked at his charts. His improvement was . . . a relief,” Mycroft said.
John looked over at him. “Tell him that.”
“I thought it best to monitor his situation from a distance . . .”
“Although I’d love to sit here all night and discuss your fucked up relationship with your brother, I have to go.” John tried the door. “Unlock the door.”
Mycroft’s face lost all traces of a smile. “Not advisable John.” He sighed. “I didn’t want to have to do this, you know.”
“Do what? Kidnap me?”
“I had hoped that when you discovered the true nature of your wife’s . . . nature, you would understand the delicate position you are in. As well as the danger you continue to put Sherlock in.”
“What are you on about?”
“My brother’s obsession with Charles Magnussen has turned a difficult situation into an untenable one. Not to mention the latest addition to your happy little household.”
“Kate? What does she have to do with this?”
“What indeed . . . I fear she has stirred up quite the hornet’s nest. She has far more in common with Sherlock that you might imagine.”
“Do you ever get to the point? You and Sherlock think that if I tell Mary I know that she was working for Moriarty and killed that MP in Canada, it’ll get me a bullet to the head –“
John stopped. “She’d never hurt me. She’s not a monster.” He hoped he sounded surer than he felt.
“And you are convinced of this because . . .”
“Because for one thing, she’s carrying my baby. She’s not going to kill the father of her baby, no matter what files you have on her, no matter what you think she’s done in the past . . .”
Mycroft turned to face John. “This is getting us nowhere. You will not contact Mary. Not today, not tomorrow. You will continue to correspond exclusively through emails and the postal service. Until such time that I feel it is necessary, she is simply someone you used to know.
“Fuck you Mycroft. She’s still my wife. Sherlock and I-“
Mycroft reached over and grabbed John by the collar. It shocked him so much he forgot everything he was going to say.
“You are an idiot. An idiot who is going to get my brother killed. Again. And you continue to wound him with this nonsense about your poor, misunderstood wife. I won’t stand for it.” Mycroft was breathing hard. “Your wife, John, is right now in Essex eating rosemary potatoes and filet of sole with the man she’s been sleeping with for months. She started seeing him two weeks after Sherlock’s return. Two weeks after she realised it was very unwise to put all her eggs into your very flimsy basket. James Moriarty taught your wife well. She will always have an exit strategy.” Mycroft released John’s collar and he fell back against the seat.
“What are you talking about?” John’s voice was barely above a whisper. He didn’t want Mycroft to say another word. He knew it was the truth, a truth he had been studiously avoiding since he’d seen them at the window, his window.
Mycroft ran a hand through his hair. “I didn’t expect to reveal so much.” He looked at John. “I have a soft spot for my brother, infuriating as he may be, and I fear these last weeks have made me sentimental. My only objective is and has been to keep him safe. A daunting task at the best of times. But surely John, you do see what you’re doing to him?”
“What I’m doing to him?”
“You move back to Baker Street and resume what I can only surmise is a longstanding relationship, and now here you are, running back to your wife.”
“I just want to talk to her. Why does no one believe that?”
“If you tell her you know about her connection to Moriarty – what do you think happens then?”
“I don’t know, maybe she could explain . . .”
“What explanation could she give, John? She is exactly what Moriarty made her.”
John took a deep breath. Fucking Mycroft was right. Sherlock was right. Kate was even right. He had to stop thinking of Mary as Mary Watson. The woman he loved. Had loved he realized with a start. And if he were honest with himself, it had all gone wonky the minute Sherlock returned. The wedding had been nice, the honeymoon nicer. How many chances did one get to upstage Sherlock Holmes? But the picket fence future he had clung to those first nights with Mary, when she had rescued him from the endless nights without Sherlock, had all seemed moot the moment Sherlock appeared in front of him, champagne bottle in hand, saying all the wrong things, in all the right ways.
Fucking hell, he’d been a daft prick.
“Two weeks after . . . so like November last year?”
Mycroft looked at him. “I don’t have the exact date. I can access the file if you . . .”
“No . . . does Sherlock know?”
Mycroft frowned. “No. He doesn’t have the clearance.”
John sat for a moment, trying to make his heart slow down. Trying to take all the ridiculous pieces of information swirling around his head and put them in some kind of rational order that he could understand. That he could accept. He wished he had Sherlock’s mind palace. Because it was all too much. He could feel himself shutting down. But then a lone thought flashed across his brain in neon colors. And it changed everything.
“It’s not my baby, is it?”
Mycroft didn’t answer, took a long look at John’s face, and tapped on the window. The car pulled away from the kerb.