John sighed as the unmarked car pulled up to him outside of the clinic. Shifting his jacket to his other hand he pulled open the door and slid into the seat. "Mycroft. I suppose it's been a few months. Have to keep your skills intact?"
"Hardly, John," Mycroft returned with his same blank smile. "Now John. It is fairly obvious that Sherlock cares for you."
"Oh really? That's certainly the last I was expecting to hear come out of your mouth."
"Only to the Holmes' is it obvious..." John grumbled.
"As he has begun to care for you, I should like to take this opportunity to remind you that Sherlock is very sensitive."
"He—wha—sensitive?" John spluttered, thinking of every time the man had made associate, victims, and suspects cry.
Myroft only shook his head with a pitying glance. "John. Sherlock has always been a senstive child."
"Right. Between the two of us, Mycroft, I believe I've less misconception about the man. And I'm fine with it." He reached over to open the door while they were stopped at a traffic light, Mycroft's grip suddenly crushing his wrist.
"This is something you need to understand, John, lest you injure my brother unknowingly." He cocked his head at John and then sat back as they moved again. "Did you know that Sherlock did not speak a word until he turned ten, John."
He blinked. "No. No, I didn't. That's strange, sure, but what does—"
Leaning back and crossing his legs, Mycroft laced his fingers and sighed. "I am reluctant to divulge more of my brother's past than he might be comfortable with sharing. However, you are apparently a case worthy of extra consideration. Therefore, I am making an exception."
"Yes of course. I'm sure he'll enjoy you nodding in on his business," John retorted, curious despite himself.
"It is important for you to know. Therefore you shall be informed. My brother would probably threaten to kill me if he knew so I will of course, require your discretion. As a child, Sherlock could perhaps be described as a sponge. He absorbed everything and anything, intelligence reaching far above his grade level. However, it might serve to illustrate my point more accurately if you were to see for yourself, rather than listen to my rambling on." Mycroft gave him a small smile, eyes glittering. "It may come to no surprise that, from an early age, I had taken an interest in surveillance." He produced a CD in a thin jewel case and offered it to John. "I would, of course, watch it while alone—probably at the clinic, and then destroy it when finished."
John took the disk, narrowing his eyes. "Why?"
"The disk covers Sherlock's childhood and what I could gather of his uni years. Enjoy, Doctor Watson."
Sighing, John slipped the disk into his jacket pocket and pushed the door open as they came to a stop in front of 221.
"Good day, John."
The car pulled away silently even before John was through the door.
"What did my brother have to say," Sherlock asked as soon as John got in.
"Not now, Sherlock." John hung his coat, transferring the disk into the papers in his hand.
"He's upset you. What did he say?" he persisted, craning his head around from the couch in order to scrutinise him. "It was about me."
"Yes. Because everything is about you, Sherlock."
"And now you're being defensive. Interesting. Pass me my laptop."
"It's right next to you. And I've surpassed my Holmes quota for the day, so I'm taking my laptop and going to my room." John stepped over the piles of books, skirting experiments to grab his laptop and head to his room.
"So not to watch porn then—"
"You're hiding something from me, John. I'll figure it out," Sherlock waved from the sofa.
"Yes! I've discovered your birthday!" John grinned to himself as he heard the strangled noise behind him as Sherlock fell off the sofa.
Once 'safe' behind the closed door of his bedroom, John started up his laptop and pulled the disk out of the case. "Well... the only way it'll give you answers is if you watch it..." He popped it in, plugged in headphones and pressed play.
Five minutes in and John had come to three conclusions.
Once. Sherlock was the most darling baby he had ever seen. Thick mop of black curls with chubby cheeks and huge watery blue eyes to freeze a person in their tracks.
Two. Mycroft could have probably had a very successful career in film making, had he not chose to go the route of Big Brother.
Three, Sherlock indeed, said nothing. The earliest footage appeared to be from when Sherlock was two. There were all sorts of occasions represented on the film, Mycroft's young voice appearing in the background as he talked to Sherlock.
Sherlock's eyes always tracked him.
By four, Sherlock seemed to have grown bored of the camera, minding his own business as Mycroft filmed. He walked around carefully and always with purpose, incredibly self-possessed. He scowled frequently at Mycroft—nice to see some things don't change—but there were moments when he seemed to catch Sherlock unawares and the boy would be reading, a soft smile gracing his lips.
At six, he had his own science kit and John bit his fist at tiny Sherlock, already stick-thin and taller than national average, squinting over some project in protective glasses. Mycroft had apparently learned the art of being covert because more of this footage depicted Sherlock smiling blindingly down at his findings.
Then there was Sherlock on his first horse. Sherlock swimming lazily in the pool. Sherlock studying. Sherlock lazing in the grass, various tools and collections of grass in vials around him. Sherlock playing with a puppy. John again bit his fist.
The recording cut abruptly, and the sound of a voice startled John.
"I don't understand, Sherlock," a woman's voice said. "it's not as if you can't talk. Enough doctors have examined you, for God's sake. You're not dumb. All your teachers say you're quite brilliant. On paper, of course. However, they all have the same complaint."
The view shifted from a doorway with half of a woman's figure from the back down to show a surly-looking Sherlock, hunched and arms crossed. The floor seemed to be the current object of his wrath. John was also surprised to see a rather livid bruise high on his right cheek.
"You don't speak," the voice continued with a sigh. "Goodness knows I've taken you to enough shrinks to know there isn't anything they can suss out. Could you write your reason for not speaking, Sherlock? I've really reached my utter wit's end."
Sherlock tossed his head and rolled his eyes.
The woman sighed tiredly, like it was all just routine. Something being revisited ad nauseum. "I just don't know how to help you..."
"He doesn't need help," Mycroft's voice said quietly.
Sherlock looked up, directly at the camera and suddenly the screen was shaking and went black.
John sighed as the scene changed to Sherlock again, playing the violin. It was the first time he'd seen it on tape and it nearly took his breath away. He wore a small suit, hair looking as if the attempt to tame it had been made. His eyes closed, Sherlock's body swayed into the music as the notes soared and dipped. John's heart hurt. This was Sherlock speaking. Here were his thoughts and hopes and aspirations and heartaches and disappointments.
The camera must have been on a tripod, but Mycroft swivelled it smoothly to show the woman he'd heard but never fully seen on camera. She could only be Sherlock's mother, her profile and coiffed curls the same.
A concert then. As several other people appeared at the edges, all in formal clothing. Family reunion perhaps.
Sherlock finished with a flourish and satisfied smile and the intimate audience erupted with polite but not insincere applause. He bowed.
John rewound to listen and watch him properly. Sherlock never played like this anymore, little virtuoso... He sometimes woke to strains of something haunting in the small hours of the morning, but nothing so lovely as this. The applause sounded again, and after Sherlock's bow, he launched into something fun and lively, almost bubbly. John smiled. Sherlock's view of himself as a child.
The concert went on for a good twenty minutes more, all the music memorised. John treasured it. Then jumped as his door swung open. He quickly minimised the video and pulled one of his earbuds out. "Yes Sherlock?"
The man frowned, squinted. "It's nearly seven o'clock John. Dinner."
"Huh," he glanced at the time. "You reminding me about dinner. How about that."
"What's kept you?"
"Oh. Episode of Doctor Who." He smiled, keeping his face soft.
Sherlock scowled. "Come call for take away."
"Call yourself," he replied, not wanting to leave little Sherlock.
John sighed, knowing the rarity of that statement was designed to bring him downstairs. Relenting, John quickly changed his password, shut off his laptop and trudged down the stairs.
He didn't get to the film again until the next afternoon.
Sherlock was about ten. There was much more footage of his playing, but as soon as he would notice Mycroft, he would suddenly screech the bow across the strings horribly.
He huffed a laugh at Mycroft's soft cursing and more frequent scene changes.
There was more of Sherlock surrounded by science experiments as well as a few quiet scenes of him lounging in a window seat.
Then John was suddenly confronted by Mycroft's own round face fixed in a scowl. "He spoke. He finally spoke. Mummy is thrilled. But I missed it. He was agitated and then finally ran off over towards the copper on the corner. I followed. Didn't have my camera. Of course. He did that on purpose. Told the man there'd been a murder. I bloody missed it." He shifted the camera and glared. "Now of course he won't bloody stop. The murder must be what he figured out two days ago. Explains his agitation. Damn..."
The next scene was Mycroft and Sherlock shouting at one another, the camera forgotten on the bed. If John had to guess, it was Mycroft's room. Too neat for Sherlock's. Finally Mrs. Holmes burst into the room and threatened them both with a year of solitary confinement.
John had to laugh at the Holmes boys' twin expressions of absolute horror.
The filming went grey and fuzzy for a moment before changing to CCTV footage mostly just images of a teenaged Sherlock—looking darling in his school blazer—running around town. Always by himself, giving the cameras two fingers every so often.
John shook his head.
The teenaged years were short, quickly turning into Sherlock at university. Here, John recognised him more easily, his height established. He frowned. He was too thin. Still mostly on his own, though there was another bloke that sometimes appeared at Sherlock's side. The two-fingered salutes to the camera increased, the other boy laughing along. The time stamp told him, after he did the maths, that this would have been Sherlock's first year. The mystery of who he was was cleared when he and Sherlock snogged obscenely beneath a lamppost.
Second year, October, Sherlock's gait was heavy and the expression on his face was pinched, tired. He looked..well. He looked awful. His face was too narrow, cheek bones cutting sharply across his features. The cameras followed him, but Sherlock resolutely ignored them.
John frowned. Something had happened. The other bloke wasn't around. Break up?
Sherlock wobbled home one night, swaying, hair plastered to his head. Drunk? On...drugs... Sherlock had alluded to drugs in his past. Was this... This must have been the start of it. Because of the man?
John nibbled at his lower lip. The footage only got worse. Sherlock shaking. Sherlock jittery. Sherlock with eyes too bright that even John could see through the CCTV cameras. This was...worse than he had ever imagined when the thought bubbled up to the forefront of his mind.
Finally, video of Sherlock in the hospital, pale, drawn, twig thin, eyes little more than sunken pits, in and out of consciousness. Mycroft yelling—yelling—at a man who was pleading to see Sherlock.
Sherlock's breath rattled in as his eyelids fluttered. "Matthew..."
"See!" The man-Matthew said, pushing past Mycroft. "He wants to see me! Sherry..."
"Matthew..." he said again, summoning the energy to give him a flat stare with bloodshot eyes. "Get the fuck out of my sight; if I ever see you again I'll feed you your bollocks and then cut off your head."
Matthew scrabbled back, face going white, and John saw Mycroft reel back on his heels as well at the flat vehemence in Sherlock's voice.
"Get the fuck out of my sight," Sherlock said again, voice detached and emotionless.
John felt chills down his spine. Did the maths. Sherlock's third year. There was a bit more to the hospital, Sherlock covered in tubes ad wires, IV drip. Mycroft chastising him for being careless and irresponsible. Mrs. Holmes crying and holding Sherlock's hand, looking vaguely horrified and in pain.
There was one more.
Sherlock. Moonlight streaming in, violin cradled like a lover in his hands while he tuned. Raised the bow. Drew it across the strings in the most beautiful and haunting version of the Moonlight Sonata John had ever heard. His chest clenched and he buried his hand in the skin over his heart as if that would make it stop hurting. Moisture plopped down on his hand, another tear rolling down his face. Sherlock played until he passed out, Mycroft sneaking in and lifting the violin from his hands reverently.
The remainder of the film was Sherlock getting involved with Lestrade, a drugs relapse on the job, and finally, a quick scene of Sherlock, running, John chasing after him. That first night. From Angelo's. When John first ran, after being home from Afghanistan.
"You made me run again," John murmured as the video stopped.
His phone buzzed twice.
Be careful, Doctor Watson. Mycroft.
We're going out.
John sighed and hid the disk, washed his face and joined Sherlock downstairs. "Where to?"
Sherlock frowned at him on a second glance. "What's wrong?"
"You've cried," Sherlock accused, boxing him in.
"Oh," John huffed a laugh. "It was the episode. Terribly sad."
Sherlock scoffed and rolled his eyes, muttering, "...foolish to over-associate with characters from a telly program... Grab your jacket. Lestrade has a case."
"Of course he does."
When they got there, Lestrade handed over the file without a word. Sherlock immediately had it spread across Lestrade's desk, eyes scanning furiously, methodically, like he was aggressively downloading all of the information. Peering over his shoulder John thought, perhaps he was. "That's strange..." He murmured, eyes drawn to the strange symbols surrounding the body in the photo.
"Yes, John," Sherlock muttered back, eyes still devouring. "Dammit. Why didn't you leave the body for me to examine!"
"Freak getting huffy about his corpses already?" Donovan sneered.
"It was sent to us from the north—Gateshead, if I remember correctly. I'm sorry," Lestrade said wearily, ceasing his pacing.
"Of course, of course," Sherlock snapped, mostly to himself, still looking through the information.
"Some sort of cipher?" John asked.
"In a minute, John. Male, 38 or so, architect but not currently working. Fired recently and looking for new employment. Most likely doing private work while searching—he pays his bills on time and his lifestyle hasn't changed much for being out of work for just over eight months. He's lost weight—not eating lunch, therefore busy, therefore working an independent job, For someone wealthy. He had a deadline, working late hours almost every night, divorced but wears his ring still... He's not looking for a relationship."
"Wow," John said when Sherlock finished his crazed monologue.
Lestrade shook his head. "And the cipher?"
"Blood. Most likely our victim's—yes, this is confirmed, page 2, he was killed by exsanguination due to his arms being slit, wrist to elbow. He did it himself, but... he was forced—this wasn't a man who wanted to die. Do we have his affects?"
"Not yet," Lestrade replied. "It will arrive tomorrow."
"Good. Text me immediately. I'll need to see his phone and wallet."
"Jesus," Sally said lowly, "You're like a computer. Put all the info in and an answer pops out."
'Hardly," Sherlock scoffed. "More like a calculator in function if you were to use that analogy. It is nothing more than aligning the whole of the information and making the paper deductions. But none of you idiots ever stop to look." He shook his head. "I'll take the photo to work on the cipher. Text me tomorrow—"
"As soon as his effects come, yes, Sherlock."
Narrowing his eyes at Lestrade, Sherlock gave a curt nod and then swept past John, making him trot after to catch up.
"This isn't his first victim," Sherlock said once they were in a cab on their way back to Baker Street."
"How do you know?"
Eying him cautiously, Sherlock laced his fingers in his lap. "It's too creative. A man killing for the first time would start off with something much more dull, like a stabbing, or a garrotting. Or a shooting. This..."
"Sherlock..." John's mind buzzed with the one name he didn't want to say.
"I know, John."
"I don't know," he snapped, immediately looking almost...apologetic. "The data is... too inconclusive to say for certain."
"But chances are good it's Moriarty."
Sherlock shot them a quick glance full of...worry? Guilt? Apprehension? "I fear it."
John nodded, suddenly wanting his gun. "Right. So if we decipher what's written, we'll know for sure?"
"I hope so..." Sherlock said seriously.
They worked on it back at the flat for four hours to no avail.
"Ugh..." John groaned. "These symbols look so familiar! Why can't I..."
Sherlock hummed, having retired to stretching out on the sofa, fingers steepled, looking for answers on the ceiling.
"Not helpful..." He stood and stretched upwards, back popping as he twisted left then right. "I've seen them before... School, uni, Harry..." He paced back and forth, biting his lip in concentration.
"For God's sake, John!" Sherlock snapped. "Sit. Down. You're driving me mad."
"Mad. I'm driving you mad? What about all of that screeching on your violin? You're cutting me off when speaking? Running me ragged while telling me nothing? Leaving me behind? Asking me to do your texting for you when it's in your bloody pocket?"
Sherlock blinked at him before swinging his legs over, sitting. "The violin helps me think. You know that. When I cut you off, it's usually because you're about to say something that will only embarrass yourself. You love running around with me, and if I feed you all the answers, how else are you supposed to grow and learn to figure things out for yourself. Your skills have already improved. I don't leave you behind. I leave and you're clever enough to figure where I've gone and follow. And you like being useful. Therefore I ask you to do things for me. You also enjoy being in close proximity to me, I suspect, because of affection, though you haven't realised it."
John opened his mouth.
Sherlock shrugged. "And I don't mind."
Shut it. Flushed and turned away.
"I thought you might appreciate honesty in my answers, though I have belatedly realised they were perhaps rhetoric in nature and you meant to prove that I have habits and mannerisms that put you off. I apologise."
"Christ..." John dug the heels of his palms into his eyes. Dropped them. "Wait a minute...! That's it!"
"Beg your pardon?"
John whirled. "They're runes! Celtic! The Celtic alphabet; I bet you anything!"
Sherlock grinned and was on his feet immediately. "Dinner!"
"If you're correct, dinner is my treat."
"Oh. Right. Um. Okay."
Sherlock already had his back turned, typing away furiously and then whirling to snatch up the photograph. "Well done, John," he crowed.
"I was right?" he asked, pleasure warming him.
"You were correct. Now go to bed. You're tired. I'll have this translated by morning when we return to Scotland Yard for our victim's effects."
Sherlock waved his protests away. "I'll need you sharp for tomorrow."
"Be sure you sleep as well, Sherlock."
The other man gave him a quick smirk and then lost himself in his work, leaving John to get himself to bed. And time to dwell back on Sherlock's answers to his rhetorically-intended questions.