Chapter 1: Conventus Mycroft Holmes
Conventus Mycroft Holmes
Meeting Mycroft Holmes, April 2004.
Melissa Cartwright is always one for pushing the boundaries. As a child she would be the last one to go to bed or to eat her vegetables. In her teenage years it turned into a rebellious streak that is still present today. Her hair used to be a constantly changing array of colours through high school. She involved herself in more school clubs and activities then was probably wise and was often out past her curfew without telling her mother where she was.
Melissa did well in school. She was naturally bright, had a flair for languages and art and was good with technology. She took her A-levels and enrolled in a Bachelor of Journalism at Westminster University, graduating with honours.
Yet despite all this, she finds herself at 24 with a degree and no future career, heading a team of technical support for the transport department of the British government. The only upside is her small flat in the outskirts of Greater London with her cat Sophia and the fact that her family was 166 miles away.
Each day would start the same. She rises, feeds Sophia and goes to work.
Melissa walks up to security clipping her ID on as she goes. “Morning Charlie, how’s the kid?”
“Grown. It’s his birthday. Just turned three,” Charlie replied, waving her through with a smile.
“Give him a hug from me.”
Melissa turns towards the row of lifts nimbly snaring a newspaper form the stand by the door before stepping in and pressing the button for the 5th floor. Stepping out into a brightly lit office separated into compartments by the numerous desks, Melissa sighs before making her way to the small office at the end of the room. It’s a small mercy she even gets this; with the way cost cutting has been occurring across all the IT departments.
There’s a knock on the door, and before Melissa can even respond the door is opened and Kelsey, a member of her team, walks in closing the door behind her.
“Sorry for barging in before you’re even organised but these just came through marked class 1.”
Melissa bends placing her paper and bag on her desk before taking the offered file. “Who from?”
“No idea. Came via the regular route though, but I don’t recognise the signature.”
“Huh. Odd.” She turns, reaching across the desk to turn on her computer. “Thanks. I’ll get on them. Casey in?”
“Not yet. From what I heard he had a big night.” Kelsey smirks, and Melissa can tell she is itching to tell the story.
“Is that so?”
“He finally got Liz to go out for drinks.”
Melissa smiles slightly before replying, “The girl from finance? He’s been going after her for months.”
“He has. Finally got her too from what I’ve heard.”
“Good. Someone deserves something to go right.” Melissa sits down at the desk before pointing at the door. “Now shoo, work to do. We’ll take break together.”
Kelsey smiles before closing the door behind her, and Melissa sees her diverting another team member who was about to knock on her door. Melissa mentally makes a note to thank her for it later. For as much as she loves the people she works with, their inability to make decisions on their own can be more frustrating than having to complete all the paperwork from the department in one night. Shaking her head once, she logs on and opens up the file Kelsey bought to her.
ATT: Head of Transport Technical Support.
August 23, 16.25
For immediate delivery.
Re: job 34098
Message: Please stop all data recovery on this job immediately. Drive must be catalogued for transfer as per standard procedure to department 67. Please ensure personal delivery of articles to security on ground floor of Home Office by 10am on August 24. For further instructions contact: ext.928.
Job 34098. She types the file number into the database and clicks on the result to pull up the details. Submitted on Tuesday, hard-drive failure. Request for data-recovery and replacement drive. As per the notes, the replacement had been sent but the process on the data-recovery had come to a standstill, something about non-recognised drive. The drive itself was logged as being at Steven’s workstation.
Melissa walks out the office and around to Steven’s desk, the file under her arm.
“Steven, got a question for you.”
Steven swings around in his chair to look at Melissa. “Yes, my sunshine?”
Melissa shoots him a wiry smile. “Stop that. The drive you were looking at yesterday afternoon, 34098, what was the issue with it?”
“Not sure. Plugged it into my computer, wouldn’t registered the drive. It appeared briefly and I clicked on it, before a message came up stating this drive could not be found. Not even when I ran the COREX program.”
“Mind if I take a look? Transfer request on it. Department 67.”
Steven’s head snaps up sharply. “67 you said?”
“Yes. Does that sound familiar to you?”
“Yea. Nothing ever gets returned when it goes to department 67. No one knows quite what they do. No official records. Or at least not ones we can get into. Classified.”
“Huh, odd.” She picks up the drive and turns to walk away before turning back to Steven. “You wouldn’t happen to know who an MH is, would you?”
Steven shakes his head. “Never heard of them.”
Melissa nods her thanks before walking back into her office.
MH. Department 67.
It was the fourth attempt Melissa had tried without any form of success. Department 67 was listed as special security in the directory, and the initials MH when entered into the personnel database turned up any number of names, but none that listed the office of Department 67. Ext. 928 when dialled directed to Home Office general security with a pre-recorded message of information or the option to speak to a staff member. Looking back at the job report, Melissa had one more idea to work out what was special about this particular drive. She called the secretary of the transport division and waited.
“Hello, you have reached the Department of Transport, London office. Susanne speaking, how may I help you?”
“It’s Melissa from tech support. Quick question, looking back at the hard drive sent in yesterday, any idea what exactly happened to it?”
“Much as I know, Mr Huntington was reviewing the footage of arriving delegates to the dinner last night. Part way through an error message popped up and then the computer shut down. Couldn’t get it to do a thing until one of your guys came and replaced the drive.”
“Delegates dinner?” Melissa pulls across her note pad and jots down the information, carefully balancing the phone between her ear and shoulder.
“Yes. Was in the memo this morning. Discussion on global policies happening currently. Do you not keep up with the news?”
She twists around to pull over the newspaper from earlier. “Sorry, been busy,” Melissa replies.
“Not that it’s relevant for you down in tech. Must go, I have better things to do than trade idle gossip.”
There’s a click, then the dial tone. Sighing Melissa says “a have a wonderful day” before beginning to flick through the newspaper, stopping when se comes across the headline A CLIMATE OF CHANGE, BUT WILL IT CHANGE ANYTHING? accompanied by and article and a spread of pictures. Something tells her that if MH is in a high enough position to not appear on official databases, then he will most likely be involved in one of the highest security events of the year. Melissa peers across the photos, scanning through the captions until one captures her eye.
Mr Holmes and Sir Leonard greet the ambassador from Greece, Mr Ioannou.
Mr Holmes. It’s the best option Melissa has to go with. She isn’t even sure why she wants to know so much. A gut instinct that there is more to this than meets the eye. She stands taking the completed transfer documentation and the drive with her, picking up her coat and bag before leaving the office.
Outside she opts for a cab, not wanting to face the tube when it is the start of school holidays and peak tourist time. Melissa loves London, and since moving here 5 years ago, no other place could ever feel like home. The cobblestone streets, the slightly dirty buildings, and grey weather are something she has gotten used to over the years
Standing outside the rather impressive building that houses the Home Office, Melissa wonders what she is doing; why she is even considering trying to find out what a man who theoretically doesn’t even exist is doing. She steps forward, takes a breath and walks over to the security desk handing over her ID for examination.
“I have a transfer here for a -” she takes a breath, “- a Mr Holmes.
The guard’s eyes flick briefly up from his examination of her ID before handing it back over and opening his hand. “I can transfer it for you.
Melissa pulls out the original request from the file. “It says here it’s for personal delivery. I need to make sure it reaches its destination.
With a bored nod of his head, the guard waves her on. “Floor ten.”
Melissa smiles in thanks him before turning and taking a deep, steadying breath. She feels like she doesn’t belong, that any second one of the actual staff members is going to call her out and demand to know what she is doing here, outside of her normal department. It’s with shaking hands that she eventually reaches floor ten and steps into a small office with polished timber floor and full-length windows. There are two desks set up, yet only one occupied by a harried looking man in his late 30’s and a door on one side which opens the moment Melissa steps into the office.
A man walks out, tall and impeccably dressed in a dove grey three-piece suit. A file is in his hand, the pages being slowly turned as he steps into the space.
“Tyler, I need-,” he stops seeing Melissa standing in the doorway. He straightens slightly, his face fading into a blank mask. “Miss Cartwright. Transport tech support, if I’m correct.”
“Y-yes, sir.” Melissa responds, wondering how on earth he could know that. “I have the drive you requested, uh, Mr Holmes.”
The man nods his head slightly, hands the file wordlessly over to Tyler and waves his hand. Tyler takes the file, stands and moves through a second door. Mr Holmes moves to stand in front of Melissa, fixing her with a gaze that gives nothing away.
“You know my name.”
“Just your last name, sir.”
“That’s more than most.”
Melissa looks back, meeting his gaze. “It seems you want it that way, sir, and I don’t know you’re first name, as much as I tried to find it out.”
Mr Holmes nods.
“You have been working in your position for two years. Or just under.”
Melissa feels cold. First he knew her name, now he knows how long she has been employed, seemingly from thin air. She glances slightly to the side before holding out the drive. “I should go.”
He steps forward takes the drive before smiling. “Oh, I think we have gone past that.” He turns on his heel, walking back through the open door behind him. “Miss Cartwright, if you would join me.”
It didn’t once occur to Melissa not to follow, not to just walk out of that office and to leave as if she had never come here. Instead, she slowly walked inside; glancing at the walls before her eyes came to rest on the desk that Mr Holmes had just sat behind. He gestured to one of the two chairs in front of it.
She moved forward, sitting lightly on the edge of the chair, letting her bag drop down to rest beside her.
Mr Holmes leans forward, hands clasped in front of him. “You’re the head of the transport technology team. Tell me, how did you discover my name? I doubt you have clearance for most of the files.”
Melissa took a deep breath. “It was the job transfer. The drive that you wanted. We got it in yesterday, except, it didn’t look like a normal corrupted drive. Then the request came through for it to be transferred and to stop the data-recovery.” She glances away before looking back at Mr Holmes. “It was the stop work request that made me pay attention to it. That never appears on the paperwork. Normally.” She pauses and he nods at her to continue. Then the authorisation signature as MH. It’s not one of the ones we normally see. Steven mentioned something about department 67 and Susanne told me the drive corrupted after an error message when Mr –”
He coughs slightly and Melissa stops midsentence.
“I’m aware of the nature of the issue Mr Huntington had with the drive.”
“Oh right. Well. Susanne mentioned the delegate’s dinner last night. There’s a picture of you there. With a caption.” Melissa pauses, recalling what she read earlier. “Mr Holmes and Sir Leonard greet the ambassador from Greece, Mr Ioannou. Page 3 of the Telegraph, sir.”
Melissa shrugs. “Curiosity.”
Mr Holmes stands holds out his hand. “Phone.” He sees the look of confusion on Melissa’s face and stops her before she can say anything. “Your phone, please. No need to worry.”
Melissa reaches into her bag and hands Mr Holmes her mobile. Melissa tries to work out what is happening as he flips open her phone and scrolls through it. She doesn’t know how to ask what is going on and isn’t too sure she would like the answer if she does. She folds her hands into her lap and waits.
Mr Holmes, evidently happy with what he finds, hands back her phone before walking around the desk and leaning against it looking down at her. Melissa doesn’t speak, waiting for him to dictate the next move.
He shifts slightly before speaking. “I am in need of staff. Staff who can work hard, ask the right questions and do what they are told while still using their initiative. I need people who can work in a small team, who get along with people easily and don’t mind long hours.”
Melissa can barely believe what she is hearing. “Sir?”
“There is a number in your phone. I want you to go home, check your email and give it a call once you have decided.”
Mr Holmes just smiled. “You’re bright, I’m sure you can work that one out.”
Later as she was sitting at home, reading through an email that sounded too good to be true, Melissa wondered what was going to happen. A five-figure salary, paid leave, accommodation costs and transport allowance. A blackberry phone that she was required to keep on her at all times. For about five minutes after reading the email, Melissa considered not taking the position. Until she looked around and thought this might be her chance.
She picked up her phone a dialled, waiting.
“Hello Miss Cartwright.”
“You know it’s creepy when you do that.”
She was met by a chuckle on the end of the line. “I take it by this phone call you agree.”
“Good, good. Any questions?”
“Who are you?”
A pause before he spoke. “I am Mycroft Holmes and I occupy a minor position in the British government.”
“By which you mean you are the government.”
“You catch on quick. I will see you at 9am sharp, tomorrow morning.”
“One more thing. In interest of protecting the safety of you and your immediate family, you can no-longer be known as Melissa Cartwright.”
Melissa takes a deep breath, hesitating as she replies, “Protection?”
“Yes. It has been known that people try to get to me through my staff.”
“And this works? Changing my name?”
“Right. Okay. That might take a bit of getting used to.”
“You will adapt. I look forward to working with you, Anthea Jones.”
Chapter 2: Adhibetur Gavin
In which Mycroft gains another employee and Anthea has her access card stolen.
A new employee, July 2006.
Anthea had been in the employ of Mycroft Holmes for one year and three months when she first stumbles across Gavin Parker. Quite literally, as she is walking out the door of the office building.
“Sorry pretty lady. You ‘right there?”
Anthea rights herself, pulling away from the hand that is supporting her. She turns her gaze on the man standing in front of her, taking note of dishevelled appearance and hunched shoulders. She automatically files away the information for examination later, already dismissing the man in front of her in favour of checking the time on her blackberry.
“Fine. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
She turns away moving towards the black car waiting on the curb. Anthea doesn’t notice the access card that he is twirling between his fingers, not the satisfied smirk on his face as he straightens and casually walks away. She opens the door to the car and slides in, pulling the door shut behind her. Anthea smiles at Trevor in the driver’s seat speaking as she places a file on the seat next to her.
“Afternoon, Trevor. How’s things?”
“Miss Anthea,” he pauses while negotiating out into the London traffic before continuing, “All the better for seeing your face.”
“One day I’ll actually believe that.” She smiles fondly. Anthea and Trevor have always gotten along. Since she joined Mycroft’s team, Trevor has made sure that Anthea is safe. He is head of security, in charge of the safety of all staff. He has also given Anthea a few lessons in self-defence, something she has taken to rather quickly. “How bad is the traffic?”
“It’s moving, which is more than it was doing this morning.”
“Small mercies. I’ll fix the traffic lights, take some time off.”
“Very good, miss.”
It was one of the perks of working for Mycroft Holmes. A small, innocent application on her blackberry that tracked her location and synchronised the traffic signals so that they were green on approach had made journeying through the worst of London’s traffic bearable on more than one occasion. Today, it might just get her to Downing Street on time.
Might be late. Delayed leaving and who knows what the traffic is going to do. –A.
Do hurry. Blair is being particularly taxing today. MH
Trying my best. While I can manipulate the traffic signals, unless you have invented a teleportation machine, which I doubt you have, I will arrive when I arrive. –A.
How precise of you. MH
I do try. –A.
Anthea smiles, placing her blackberry into her pocket and staring out the window as the buildings go past. She arrives five minutes after the official start of the meeting, entering by the side door to avoid the press who have set up camp outside the front entrance. She signs in and follows one of the aides the meeting room. A quick glance as she opens the door establishes that Blair is already disagreeing with the points Mycroft is making. He glances up at Anthea as she makes her way around the table to the empty chair.
“Hello, my dear."
She nods, sitting in the chair and handing one copy of the file to Mycroft before turning to hand Blair the third copy. “Primer Minister.”
“Miss Jones. How are you?”
“Good, thank you. The wife and children are well?”
There was a slightly harried look to Blair’s face, and knowing the contents of the file she just handed him, Anthea knew it would only get worse. She stood and moved quietly to the corner of the room where there was a small stand containing a kettle, tea and instant coffee. She made a face at the coffee before boiling the kettle and placing a tea bag into each of the three cups. Adding water, then milk for herself and Blair, Anthea carefully balanced all three cups as she returned to the desk, placing them down to a grateful look from all.
“Will anything else be needed, sir?”
“No thank you. Just keep an eye on the time, we have that lunch meeting to get to.”
There wasn’t much for Anthea to do in this particular meeting. It was mainly a discussion surrounding red tape and paperwork, the finer details of months of planning. Anthea kept half an ear on the conversation as she focused on her blackberry, taking the time to work on the backlog of emails that were currently awaiting her. Including one from her mother demanding a phone call to know she was alive. Anthea grimaced and sent back a quick reply, promising to call later. She had no intention of it, but it would be enough to stop her mother incessantly calling her every five minutes until she gets a response.
The meeting continued, and Anthea moved from checking emails or writing up the staff roster for the next week. Anthe checks the time on her blackberry before glancing at Mycroft and quietly tapping once on the desk. She waits until she sees his acknowledgement before standing and leaving the room. Anthea’s standing at security when Mycroft catches up with her.
“Everything in order, sir?”
Mycroft sighs. “As much as it can be. I am not going to hesitate to say I told you so when this whole plan falls around their ears.”
“Quite right, sir.”
The exit together and Mycroft holds the door open as they get into the car. He greets Trevor before turning to look at Anthea.
“And now to lunch. Mind explaining why you haven’t called your mother when she is obviously worrying?”
“How could you know that?”
Mycroft smiles. “You get a particular look on your face when dealing with emails from your mother. Easy to pick when you know what you are looking for.”
“Worrying would be fine if she didn’t do it every week. I’m 26. I haven’t lived at home for the last 9 years. Haven’t even lived in the same city as her for that long. You would think she would be used to the idea.”
“Later. I sent her an email.”
“Written word is no substitute for the voice.”
“Trust me. There are times when it is a benefit not to actually speak to…” Anthea stopped, an alert appearing on her blackberry. “That shouldn’t be possible.”
“Apparently I just entered the office.”
“Doubt it. If it was a malfunction it wouldn’t be just one card setting off the alerts, it would be all of them.”
Anthea picks up her bag from the floor, opening the front pocket searching through it. “My access card is missing. I placed it there after leaving…” She stops and looks up at Mycroft. “Bloody hell. Sorry.”
With a slight smile on his face, Mycroft waves the comment aside. “Explain.”
“Ran into someone as I was leaving the office. Literally. Only incident I can think of that would explain why my access card is missing.”
Mycroft nods once, calling out to Trevor. “Back to the office. A situation has arisen.” Mycroft pulls out his own blackberry as he turns back to Anthea. “Contact Sharon and let her know that we are cancelling the meeting.”
She briefly hears Mycroft’s call connect through and hurried instructions to activate temporary lockdown before her own call connects and she is distracted in making apologies for the disruption and a re-schedule.
Arriving at the office and giving the correct code to alleviate the lockdown, Mycroft checks each room and staff member to make sure everything is in order. Anthea is standing in front of his office door as he enters. He makes his way over to her before speaking.
“As I thought. He’s not here. If he was smart enough to get in here in the first place, then he would be smart enough to get out of it before we came looking.”
Anthea nods at the door. Attached is a handwritten note, with Anthea’s access card taped next to it.
I’m impressed by the place you have here. Took a nice look around. Don’t worry I didn’t touch anything. It’s not what I do. You should take more care with those access cards. But to be fair, don’t take it out on the poor girl I swiped the card from. I’m just good.
Помните помню 5 ноября. Это может быть важно.
Anthea makes a slightly choked noise when she got to the 'poor girl' comment. “Poor girl my arse. Who does he think he is?”
Mycroft coughs, and when Anthea looks at him, she could swear he was trying to cover up a laugh.
“Not exactly important right now, my dear.”
Anthea sighs. “Right. The message. My guess is Russian.”
She steps forward, taking the note down and pocketing the access card before examining the characters. “Well, Russian or Ukrainian. It’s not Greek, I would be able to read that.”
“You can read Greek.”
“You’ve seen my university transcripts. I took classical languages. Yes I can read Greek.”
Mycroft looked thoughtful for a moment before coming to a decision. He tapped the note in Anthea’s hand and said, “You get on translating that. I’ll sort through the CTTV from this morning.”
Anthea moves over to her own desk and taps the keyboard to wake her computer, enters her password and sits down. She pulls up the translation software before locating a portable scanner to transfer the written note to electronic format. With a few tweaks to get it into a form the software can read, Anthea sets it to decoding the message.
Within five minutes, Anthea has an answer. She stands, clicking a button to send the translated copy to the printer before collecting it and the original and walking over to knock on Mycroft’s door before opening it and entering.
“Russian. As I said.”
Mycroft glanced at her, a smile tugging at one side of his face. “Well done.”
“Remember, remember the 5th of November. This could be important.”
Mycroft frowned slightly. “The gunpowder plot. Hmm.”
“Two possible meanings. The message is either implying that there is a group trying to simulate a modern version of the gunpowder plot, or that something is going to happen on the 5th of November. Or possibly both. But I doubt it.”
Anthea leans forward on her chair. “What makes you sure?”
“Nature of the message. He wrote this with an intention in mind. He got inside, which means he has been watching us for a while, and successfully got out again. He would have some idea that we are more than a standard government office, though I don’t think he quite knows who you are.”
Anthea nods her head in agreement as Mycroft continues.
“Message is in English, obviously planned out. Doesn’t give an indication who he is or whom he is working for, yet there’s a phrase in Russian, obviously meaning to be decoded. A warning, or a threat. Haven’t quite worked out which yet. He’s not in charge of the operation though. He’s just the messenger”
“A messenger who enters a high-security government facility to gloat and leave a warning or a threat?”
“A skilled one. Hmm”
“You’ve got that look, sir.”
Mycroft looked slightly indignant. “I don’t have a look.”
Mycroft said nothing, and instead just looked at Anthea.
“Oh fine, keep whatever your plotting a secret. Have you worked out who he is?”
Mycroft beckons to Anthea. She stands and moves around the desk, leaning in to look at the screen of his computer.
“I’ve tracked him back. As I said, he’s good. See here, enters Starbucks, waits 10 minutes, and exits in completely different clothes. He knew we’d find this. Finally a clear shot of his face here as he enters the tube. Ran it through the database.”
Mycroft hands Anthea a sheet of paper. A photo stares up at her.
“That’s him. Gavin Parker. 30. Un-employed. Yet wealthy enough to wear three-piece suits. Dropped out of school early and doesn’t talk to his parents. Emigrated from America at age 3. Occasionally mistaken for the actor Simon Baker. Bisexual.” Anthea stops at that one. “You discovered his sexuality in 10 minutes?”
Mycroft shrugs by way of response.
“Dear god, let me never get on your bad side. What are you going to do about him?”
“I’m not going to do anything. You are.”
“Address down the bottom. I need to establish if and when we can expect the Houses of Parliament to explode.”
Anthea found the lock and security system on Gavin Parker’s flat child’s play to get past. It was small, but neat. A large bookshelf by one wall overflowing, piles of books stacked on the floor near it, dirty plates in the sink and the subtle smell of coffee drifting from the kitchen. The flat was empty when she arrived, and Anthea sat herself down on the couch, waiting for his return. She was flicking through My Sister’s Keeper when she heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs and a brief pause outside the door. Anthea had deliberately left the door ajar slightly as a warning.
The door opened slowly, revealing Gavin in the dim light from the hall.
“Join me why don’t you?”
Gavin froze; spread his arms wide, showing that they were empty. “Whatever they said I did, I didn’t do it.” The faint touch of an American accent shone through the distinctive Londoner tone.
“That is a conversation for another time. Be a dear and close the door.”
“Who are you?”
“Did I really leave such a fleeting impression?”
Gavin inched slowly across to the light switch, flicking it on and flooding the room with artificial light. The look of surprise on his face is completely worth sitting in a deserted flat for the better part of two hours.
Anthea smiles. It doesn’t reach her eyes. “And the penny drops.”
“You make think you are good, darling, but really I’m a bloody expert.”
Gavin finally closes the door before leaning against it, the colour draining from his face. “You weren’t meant to work out…how…not possible. I was careful!”
“You were, really. We were impressed. If it had of been anyone else it might have worked. As it were, you swiped the access card of the one person who has security updates sent directly to her phone.” Anthea holds up her blackberry for a moment, glancing at it and opening up an email.
Currently talking to Gavin Parker. What do you want done with him? –A.
He looked up at mention of his name. “What?”
“I know more about you then you really could imagine right now. Think about that for a moment.”
Anthea’s phone buzzed with a return message.
Bring him in. We need a new member of PR. Check he really knows how to speak Russian. And what else he can do. –MH.
“Ready to answer my questions?”
With a resigned tone, he answered, “yes,” before moving to sit on the chair opposite, holding his head in his hands.
“See, I told you, sir. It’s freaky how much he looks like Simon Baker.”
“I’m assuming that is some celebrity figure who is mildly appealing.”
“Australian actor. And anyway, despite his outward charms, he’s an insufferable prat underneath it all. Remind me why you hired him again?”
“He gets people to talk to him easily. You, my dear, can be a little intimidating. He has useful skills and the ability to think for himself while still following orders. He’s much like you in that regard.”
“The day I start acting like I own the place and everyone should worship the ground I walk on, fire me.”
Mycroft smiled, “We’ll see.”
Chapter 3: Prandium alio genere
Gavin asks Anthea out. She refuses. Many times. But Gavin's persistent. Very persistent.
Prandium alio genere
Gavin asks Anthea to dinner, various.
“Anthea, light of my life, sunshine of my dreams.”
Anthea turns, a slightly mocking smile on her face.
“Ah Gavin, bane of my existence. What do you want?”
“Dinner. You and me.”
Gavin holds a hand to his chest, dramatically replying, “You wound me.”
“Yeah? Keep standing there and I can make it real.”
Anthea enters the office to see Gavin sitting in her chair, leaning back and looking far too comfortable.
“You better have a good reason for sitting there.”
“Do in fact.”
“Out with it.”
“Charlie wants to put a team in for the trivia competition at his local pub. Want to go with me?”
“You going to give this up any time soon?”
“Keep dreaming then. Now out, I actually have work to do.”
Anthea and Gavin are waiting at the security checkpoint for the Ambassador of Spain to come through the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. Anthea is on her phone receiving last minute instructions from Mycroft while Gavin flicks through the mornings newspaper. She glances at Gavin before firing a question at him.
“How’s your Spanish?”
“Dejame que te gritan cena.”
“Is that the only thing you can say in Spanish?”
“Answer is still no.”
Anthea can hear Gavin’s voice from the opposite end of the corridor, punctured by the laughs of the staff. There’s a crash and a shriek and a chorus of “Are you okay” before it dissolves again into laughter. Anthea enters the room just as Gavin and Kevin are getting to their feet next to a table on its side, files and stationery littering the floor.
Gavin turns, grinning, “Ah, mon cher, you missed it.”
“Don’t my dear me. And what exactly did I miss?”
Kevin claps Gavin on the back before explaining. “He was telling us about his cousin’s wedding. Demonstrated how well they could dance up here. Funniest thing I’ve seen in a while.”
Anthea shakes her head. “All right, all right. You’ve had your fun. Back to work. Quicker we get this sorted, quicker you can all go home.”
Still chuckling, the staff moves off back to their respective offices. Anthea calls out, “Gavin, a word please.”
She turns and heads towards her own desk, knowing Gavin will follow. She sits and indicates to him to pull up a chair.
Gavin speaks before Anthea can.
“I don’t want to hear it. There are times when it’s fine, and times when it’s not. Today really wasn’t that day. Not to mention the health and safety concerns in that. What were you thinking?”
“Bit of fun, lighten the mood.”
“I know. Save it for a more appropriate moment next time, please.”
Gavin runs a hand through his hair before nodding.
“Good. Now Mycroft wants a chat when you’re free. Not sure what about.”
Gavin stands hesitating slightly.
“Will you let me buy you dinner?”
Anthea laughs, slightly disbelieving.
“I just told you off, and now you’re asking me out?”
“No. Stop asking. I’m not going to change my answer.”
Anthea entered the office, an apology ready to go. She knew she was late, her mother wouldn’t get of the phone the numerous times she said that she had to go. Anthea can’t really complain. The one day she doesn’t mind her mother’s phone calls is Christmas and on her birthday. It’s sometimes nice to hear a familiar voice. What Anthea wasn’t expecting was the loud shout of “Surprise” and the entirety of Mycroft’s staff to be standing in wait with streamers and balloons.
Anthea yelped slightly, something she would deny later before stepping forward, slightly lost for words.
“I, I. Well, I can say I was not expecting this. Thank you.”
Mycroft moves towards her, handing over a card before saying “Well, it’s not everyday you turn another year older. Enjoy it, dear.” He leaned forward slightly and said quietly, “I’m taking you out for lunch. No complaining,” before stepping back and letting the rest of the staff wish her well.
Grinning, Anthea moved to her desk, sitting down to read the card. She had just reached the end of all the messages when she noticed Gavin next to her, holding his own card. Anthea looked at him and raised one eyebrow, waiting for him to speak. Gavin instead, shook his head and held out the card, indicating Anthea should open and read it.
Happy birthday. Now, I’m not speaking out loud, because every time I ask you this, you give me some form of negative answer. So, my thinking is if I don’t actually say anything, you might say yes.
Go out with me. Celebratory dinner.
Anthea looked up from the message seeing the hopeful look on Gavin’s face.
“I’m sorry, Gavin. Answer’s still no. I’m going out with Nancy and Molly from St Bart’s.”
Gavin visibly deflated, before shrugging.
“Was worth a try. Have a happy birthday, Anthea.”
He turns and walks away, his hands in his pockets.
“He’s quite enamoured with you.”
Anthea jumps. She didn’t notice Mycroft walk up behind her.
“Yes, and he is also an insufferable prat who thinks he’s job on this planet is to be the class clown.”
“I have to admit, he is good for morale.”
“Oh dear god, not you too.”
“You can’t deny it, dear, he has a way with people.”
“May be so. Doesn’t change the fact he is still irritating.”
“What’s that meant to mean?”
Mycroft grins. “Oh nothing. Just a thought. You shouldn’t be so harsh on him.”
“Well, maybe if he didn’t ask me out every other week, I might be.”
“If I’m correct, he hasn’t asked you out since January.”
Anthea sighs. “Still. The point stands. I’m not going to change my opinion of him overnight. Nothing he has done so far has shown anything else than a rather inflated ego.”
Mycroft moves past Anthea, heading for his own office. “Is that so. I’ll see you for lunch.”
There’s a cup of tea placed down in front of her and a chair pulled up next to her desk. Anthea blinks, not realising how drained she was. She turns to see Gavin with his own cup next to her.
Anthea stretches, takes a sip of the tea before asking, “What time is it? Where is everyone?”
“It’s two in the morning. Mycroft went home an hour ago. I promised him I’d make sure you didn’t stay here any later then three.”
“You didn’t have to do that. I would have gone soon. I’m almost finished…”
“You wouldn’t have.”
Anthea doesn’t say anything, instead taking a large mouthful of the tea. “Why are you still here?”
I’ve got a conference call with Australia soon. I only got in at midnight.
“Oh right. I forgot about that.”
“I don’t blame you. You’ve been awake for far too long.”
“Things to do.”
They fall silent for a while, each lost in their own thoughts. It’s quiet; the only sound the ticking of the wall clock and the whirling of the various computers in the room. Gavin’s voice gently breaks the silence.
“Can I ask you something?”
Anthea nods, leaning back in her chair and cradling her teacup in her hands.
“What did I do that makes you detest me so much?”
“I don’t detest you.”
“You frustrate me.”
“Do you really want my opinion?”
Anthea paused, drinking another mouthful of tea before placing her cup on her desk and turning to face Gavin.
“You can be childish and irresponsible. Immature at inappropriate times. You have a habit of turning up late to meetings, to not being prepared then bluffing your way through it. You might be able to fool a lot of people, but not me. Generally acting like you own the place.”
Gavin nods, a blank look on his face.
Anthea continues. “You have so much potential. It seems a shame to see that go to waste. To me, you are more worried about what everyone thinks of you, making sure everyone likes you. We never see the real Gavin. The Gavin that I’m talking to now.”
“I’m that transparent?”
“You don’t spend as much time around Mycroft Holmes as I do without becoming good at reading people. You’re good at what you do. Mycroft would not have hired you if you weren’t. It’s okay to be amusing and to tell jokes. It’s achieving a balance.”
“You’re younger than me and giving me life advice.”
“My father wasn’t around as a kid and my mum worked full time. I looked after my sister and myself. I grew up fast.”
“I didn’t know.”
“Most people don’t.”
There was silence for a while.
“I don’t detest you. I might even like you if we’d started off differently. And you didn’t try and ask me out every second week.”
“You never know. You might still come to like me yet.” Gavin stands returning the chair to its former position by the wall. “Go home, get some sleep.”
Anthea passes through security, hits the button to call the lift and steps in. Just before the doors close, Gavin joins her, his glasses askew and a slightly harried look on his face.
“Is Mycroft in?”
“Yes, but he’s in a meeting. Cameron. Why?”
“Question for him. Was looking over the summaries from last night noticed a few things that don’t add up.”
“Conflicting information from different sources. Subtle, but it’s there.”
Anthea stares at him. “What?” The lift reaches Anthea’s floor, and the doors open. They step out and Gavin leads the way over to Anthea’s desk. He opens the files and lays the reports next to each other.
“Here. Different timings, and the description of the suspects are different. We assumed it was just the victims not remembering it correctly. I checked the CCTV footage. It was definitely two different times.”
“Damn. I didn’t even think to check that.” Anthea switches on her computer, pulling up the information and logging into the database at Scotland Yard. “They’ve taken someone in. Sherlock is meant to be questioning him later.” She pauses, tapping her hand on the desk. “Mycroft really should know about this.” She stands moves towards the office. Gavin follows her, grabbing her arm.
“Wait, you said he was in a meeting. With David Cameron.”
“Yes. Time for you to meet the Prime Minister.”
It was well past midnight by the time Mycroft and Anthea had sorted the problem. It included a few trips to Baker Street, terse conversations with Sherlock and one memorial trip to Scotland Yard that involved Sergeant Dimmock attempting to refuse Anthea entry until she pulled out a government clearance above anything Dimmock had seen before.
Anthea walks out of Mycroft’s office having set up the necessary meetings for tomorrow. She notices Gavin still sitting at her desk, a look of exhaustion on his face. He can barely keep his eyes open. She places one hand on his shoulder, shaking him gently. His eyes snap open and he looks confused for a moment before working out where he is.
“Come on. Dinner and to bed for you.”
“There’s a place around the corner. Technically they aren’t still open but I know the owner. They often cook up a late night meal when Mycroft and I have been working late.”
Gavin stands, swaying slightly.
“I’m being nice. You’re dead on your feet.” She smiles before continuing. “For the record, this isn’t a date.”
Gavin chuckles quietly.
“Of course it isn’t. Thank you.”
Anthea knocks before entering Mycroft’s office, balancing two cups of tea in one hand, her laptop in the other.
“Anthea, my dear, you are a saviour.”
“I should tell Lestrade the way to your heart is a well made cup of tea.”
“He’s already worked that one out.”
Anthea smiles and places the cups down pulls over one of the chairs and opens her laptop. There’s a knock at the door and Gavin sticks his head in.
“Call for you sir, line two.”
Mycroft replies. “Take a message and schedule a meeting.”
Gavin smiles before closing the door behind him. Mycroft sips his tea, eyeing Anthea carefully before speaking.
“He was looking particularly dashing just then.”
Anthea glances up, before continuing to type. “Sorry, what?”
“Can’t say I noticed.”
“Oh come on, dear. You would have to be blind not to notice.”
“What? That his hair was more ruffled than normal?”
“Ah. You did notice.”
Anthea pauses in her typing and glares up at Mycroft. “No I didn’t.”
“It’s quite lovely hair. As hair goes.”
“Why are we discussing Gavin’s hair?”
“Okay then, moving on. Staff rosters for the next week are done, emailed them through this morning. There is also two applications for time off which need your approval.”
“It’s just nice to see you two getting along.”
Anthea sighs. “Not sure what you’re trying to achieve here, sir.”
“Nothing. Just an observation.”
“He’s okay when he isn’t being an insufferable prat all the time.”
“Somehow I feel that insult has less conviction behind it than it used to.”
“Maybe so. Can we get these done now, please?”
“As you wish.”
“When was the last time you consumed something that was not coffee?”
Anthea glances up from her computer to see Gavin standing in front of her desk, a stack of paper in his hand.
“Hmm?” Anthea reaches out and takes the paper from Gavin, searching through the pile until she finds the one she wants and hands the rest back. “What time is it?”
“Just after 11. Pm that is.”
“Breakfast then. Before this all started.” Anthea waves her hand vaguely to encompass the office and the extra staff currently contained within it.
“You need to eat. Come on, up.”
“Gavin, I’m fine. I’ll eat later.”
“No you won’t. Knowing you, you’ve been at this since before anyone else was aware of the situation. I am taking you to get dinner.”
Anthea protested weakly, before standing and taking her coat which Gavin is holding out for her. He places his hands on her shoulders steering her in the direction of the lift.
“I need my bag.”
“No need. I know your blackberry is in your pocket. And it’s my shout.”
He presses the button for the lift, grinning as he waits for it to arrive.
“And for the record, this is a date.”
Anthea smiles softly before stepping into the lift, and reaches for Gavin’s hand when he steps in next to her.
To answer the numerous emails I have received today;
Yes, I am on two days off, not originally planned. (Mycroft, please note that I am not complaining).
Yes, Gavin is also on two days off.
Yes, we are together. (And you can call off the bets you had going, because I do actually know about that).
Can we all get back to work now? Thank you.
Chapter 4: Funere matris
Anthea returns to her childhood home and has a difficult discussion with her sister.
Her Mother’s Funeral, June 2011
I need to take a week’s leave. Starting, well, now. Family emergency. I’ll be in Chester for a week. I’ve let Oliva and Gavin know, they have the plan for the week. I am sorry for the late notice. My sister actually called me. She doesn’t like to acknowledge I exist, so I figure this is more than just their usual dramatics.
Anthea closed the door of her flat behind her, locking it and carrying her suitcase to her car. Placing it in the boot, she opens the driver’s door and gets in. She had a four-hour drive ahead of her, and wanted to avoid as much of the traffic as possible. Anthea attaches her iPod to the sound system and pulls out onto London’s streets.
It’s an experience that doesn’t happen often for her. Driving herself in her own car. During work hours, it’s government vehicles and when she decides to go out into London proper, she uses the tube and buses. Anthea finds London’s busy streets familiar, the coffee shops and marketplaces charming. It’s why after 8 years in Mycroft’s employ she still chooses to live in Camden, despite the nightmare of getting through peak hour each morning.
Her phone rings, and automatically connects to the Bluetooth microphone and speakers in her car, cutting the music.
“Hello this is Anthea Jones, personal assistant to Mycroft Holmes.”
“So formal, dear.”
“Can’t actually look at my phone currently, Mycroft. I had no idea who was calling.”
“Fair, fair. Just checking you got away okay.”
“Yes, yes I did. Sorry about the late notice."
“Anthea, there is no need to apologies. In the time I’ve known you, you have never asked for immediate leave. Family is important.”
“I know, I just don’t like leaving it at short notice.”
“You worry too much.”
Anthea smiled. “I always worry. It’s how everything gets done.”
“Very true. However, for this week, there is no worrying about work. I’ll get in contact with you later.”
Anthea clicked a button on her stereo, and the iPod clicked back in again. The current song playing was opening track of Legally Blonde: The Musical. It is an indulgence Anthea allows herself, and one she takes care to make sure Mycroft or the office staff never find out about. She would hear no end of teasing from them if they did.
A little over 4 hours later, Anthea pulled into the driveway of her childhood home. It was a small three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Chester. It looked the same as she remembered it. Dying flowers in the front yard, tacky ‘Welcome’ mat on the doorstep and peeling pain on the front door. Anthea sighed, before raising a hand and knocking on the door. Anthea’s sister – who looked near identical to Anthea, that on many occasions in their childhood, they were mistaken for twins, rather than sisters – opened it.
Anthea spoke first. “Hello Lydia.”
Lydia nodded once. “Melissa.” She turned and walked inside; the only indication that Anthea should follow was a slight jerk of the head. Anthea sighed, picked up her suitcase and placed it in the hall before moving down the hall to the kitchen.
Two small children immediately bombarded her, clamouring for her attention. “Lissa! Auntie Lissa!” Caroline and Lizze were 8 and 10 years of age, yet the last time Anthea had seen them was two weeks after Caroline was born.
Anthea bent down to hug each of them, not realising how much she missed them until that point.
“Hello girls. My, you’ve grown. Not long and you’re going to be taller than me!”
As they chatted about how the girls were going in school, Anthea could see Lydia’s disapproval in the edge of her vision. Just to spite her, Anthea reached into her bag and pulled out a book for each of the girls. She handed the first Harry Potter novel over to Lizzie first.
“It’s about time you started to read the greatest books ever.”
“I saw the movie for this in the store the other day. Mum wouldn’t let me watch it.”
“Quite right too. You should read the book first. You’ll understand more then.”
Lizzie nodded seriously. “That’s what Telsie is always telling me.”
Anthea frowned. “Who’s Telsie?”
“She lives across there.” Caroline answers first, pointing out the kitchen window to the house bordering the backyard. “She reads lots of books.”
“Is that so. I’ll have to meet her before I leave.”
“But, you only just got here, you can’t leave yet,” responded Lizze.
Caroline looks upset before saying, “and I haven’t got a book yet.”
Anthea turns and pulls her in close, before placing a collection of Disney stories into her lap. “Do you think I could forget you?”
“Disney! Will you read me the one with the flying carpet?”
“How about later? I need to have a talk with your Mum first.”
Caroline nods, a smile breaking out on her face as moves across to the couch where Lizze is already starting on Harry Potter. Anthea stands, smiles at them before crossing to the door leading to the backyard and opening it before gesturing to Lydia to come outside.
“I figured the conversation we’re about to have you wouldn’t want the girls to overhear.”
“It’s not like you should care. Haven’t seen a hair of you since you moved to London. You don’t answer your phone and emails get barely a response.”
Anthea barely contained her frustration. “Not for want of trying. Every date I was actually free and available, you suddenly had something more important to do. I don’t give you my phone number to protect the girls. You cannot tell me that it was all me.”
“No, but tell me, when was the last time you spoke to Mum?”
Anthea visibly deflated, bringing a hand up to rest her head on.
“Her birthday. 2 months ago.”
“And before that?”
“And now she is lying in hospital, unable to function of life support!” Lydia shouted suddenly, slamming her hand down on the wooden table next to her.
“Then why are we arguing? Right now, our own problems can wait.”
“See, right there, that diplomatic pacification. Because this is a problem and it can’t wait. I don’t care what it is you do for a living, but this isn’t going to go on some agenda–” Lydia raised her hands to make air quotes, “-because it’s happening now.”
Anthea looked at Lydia, her gaze unwavering. “It can wait.”
Lydia looked away first, clenching her fist before replying. “Fine. But don’t think I won’t forget it.”
“May I remind you who currently pays for this house, who will be paying her hospital fees and who will be financing Mother’s funeral?”
Lydia stiffened. “Who said anything about a funeral?”
“I did, because I’ve seen the medical reports.” Anthea reached out and risked holding Lydia’s hand. “She isn’t going to make it through this.”
Lydia’s hand was stiff in Anthea’s. A moment later, the pressure was returned. Anthea stepped forward, pulling Lydia close, holding her tightly as she cried quietly onto Anthea’s shoulder. Anthea laid a hand on her head, gently stroking through the short, brown curls. She whispered quietly, almost to quiet to hear. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. There is nothing we can do.” Anthea was including everything in her apology. She was saying sorry for not being around the last eight years, for not taking an interest in anything outside her own life, for forgetting that even though she doesn’t need her family, her family still very much needs her.
Lydia pulled away, wiping her eyes and trying to collect herself. She looked exhausted. Anthea sat back, letter her take the time she needed.
Quietly, she asked, “When is David getting here?”
“Thursday. He couldn’t get time of work.”
Anthea nodded. “How about I take the girls down to the park for a bit?”
“It’s fine. I’ll put the kettle on as I leave.”
Anthea stood, rested a hand on Lydia’s shoulder before moving back into the house. Caroline and Lizze looked up as she entered.
“Who wants to come to the park with me?”
Lizzie jumps off the couch first, Harry Potter forgotten. “Can we?”
“Only if you wear your shoes.”
Lizzie raced of to the front hall, Caroline following after her, grumbling about the injustice of being made to wear shoes. Anthea followed them to the front door, leaving her bag in the kitchen, scooping up a set of keys and placing them in her pocket along with her blackberry. She pulled the door closed behind her before moving to join the girls who were waiting impatiently at the end of the driveway.
Anthea laughed as Claudia grabbed her hand and started pulling her along the footpath in the direction of the park at the end of the street. “Come on, Mel! You’re taking forever.” She drew the word out, accompanying it with a dramatic hand wave that screamed Lydia. Anthea was reminded of her own childhood. Lydia had been fond of dramatics, always suited to theatre and art. It’s a talent that Anthea didn’t have as a child. She was never entirely comfortable pretending to be someone else. Now she got paid to do it as a living. Lizzie was already ahead, skipping down the path, auburn hair bouncing as she went.
Anthea returns with the girls just as the sun is setting. She walks them inside and gets the bath water running. She collects the clothes as she leaves the bathroom, reminding them to wash their hair and that she will be back to check on them. Placing the clothes in the laundry she moves into the kitchen and watches Lydia cook.
“The girls are in the bath, I’ve put their clothes into the wash and sorted what was in the laundry.”
Lydia glanced up from the pot she was stirring on the stove. “Good.” She points at the cutlery draw, a silent command to set the table. Anthea places out the cutlery, fetches plates from the cupboard and places them on the counter.
“Can I help with anything?”
Lydia levels a look at her. Right. Cooking has never been Anthea’s area.
“You can’t even cook pasta without burning it.” There was no accusation there, just a frank reminder that while Anthea looked after Lydia through high school, it was definitely Lydia who did the cooking. “The day you can cook something more than biscuits or scones, I demand photographic evidence.” Lydia lifted the pot of the stove and placed it on a no-heat mat.
As if summoned, the girls re-appear, dressed in pyjamas and hair tangled. “Hair. Brushed. Now.” At Lydia’s command, the girls sighed and left the room again, returning five minutes later with hair sitting neater. The girls grab cups and go over to the table to claim their spot.
“You do well with them.”
“They’re good girls. I’ve been lucky.”
“I always knew you would be good with kids. Myself, not so much.”
Lydia turns, spoon still in her hand. “I learnt most of what I know from you.”
Anthea laughs bitterly. “I’m surprised it was any help as all. I didn’t exactly know what I was doing. And Mum was still around, even if it we only saw her for a short time each day.”
Lydia turns back to the pot, serving out a portion of the curry onto each plate. “So when are you going to have kids?”
Never, Anthea thought to herself. Not with the life I currently lead. Instead she answered, “I haven’t dated anyone in years. Children are not on the agenda.”
Lydia handed two plates to Anthea, before turning and moving to the table.
By Thursday, they had a routine. Lydia took care of meals, while Anthea took the girls to school and picked them up each day. David arrived mid-afternoon, and Telsie was organised to pick the girls up from school and look after them until the adults returned from the hospital. It was a difficult visit. While Anthea had spent a large portion of the previous two days at the hospital, today was the last one. The decision had been made to switch off life-support at 10am the following morning. It allowed the girls to say goodbye to their grandmother. Lydia had already sat and spoken with them. While they didn’t fully understand what was about to occur, they knew that this was the last time they would see their grandmother.
Lizzie and Caroline where in bed when Lydia, David and Anthea arrived back from the hospital. Anthea left Lydia and David to thank Telsie and entered the kitchen. Turning the kettle on, she took out three mugs and placed a tea bag in each before adding water and letting them brew. Anthea took hers and went outside. She sat down on one of the timber chairs and pulled out her blackberry and sent a quick message to Gavin.
Is Mycroft free? –A.
Do you really need me to answer that? G.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve not been around recently. –A.
I’m aware. It’s hell here. How do you do it? G.
I’m the best. Now, Mycroft, is he free? –A.
Currently, no. He’s in a meeting. G.
To hell with it all. –A.
You okay? G.
Fine. Just wanted to talk. –A.
A minuet later, her phone buzzed with an incoming call. The screen read ‘Gavin Parker’. Anthea sighed and raised the phone to her ear. “That wasn’t an invitation.”
“I realise that. Mycroft’s busy. I know I’m not much of a substitute but thought hearing a friendly voice might help.”
“That it does.”
“You okay, Thea?”
Anthea smiled at the use of the nickname. It’s been a long while since Gavin had dared to use it. “I’m at my childhood house, with my sister who doesn’t like my presence, looking after my nieces, while my mother is in a medically induced coma on life support. Life support that we’re switching off tomorrow. How do you think I am?”
Anthea heard Gavin’s intake of breath. “Shit. I had no idea. I’m so sorry.”
“You didn’t know.”
“Did anyone know?”
“Mycroft probably had an idea. He tends to know more then he lets on about everything.”
“Why does Mycroft know? Surely you can answer that one on your own.”
“No, why did you never tell anyone?”
“I’m not close to my family. We don’t talk. My sister resents me for leaving her when I went to university. I’m now working for the government. She doesn’t know what I do, but knows it’s highly paid. She never got out of Chester.”
“Even after everything you did for her as a child?”
“Probably because of that,” Anthea pauses and looks behind her, making sure Lydia was still inside. “We get along, but it’s always there. And knowing me, I’ll just find a way to avoid it until I can leave again.”
“Is that best?”
“Probably not, but I’m not one for confrontation. The sooner I leave them be, the better.”
“If you think so.”
Anthea shifted uncomfortably. “Gavin, I’m not close to my family, and I have no desire to change that in the near future.” She leant back in the chair, tucking her feet up into the side. “And to be frank, it’s not really a topic I currently feel like discussing.”
“Sorry. I just…” Gavin broke off, unsure of what to say.
Anthea sighed. “I know your trying to help. I appreciate it, really. There isn’t much anyone can actually say to help right now.”
“I’ll let Mycroft know you wanted to speak to him.”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll see him on Tuesday. You too, probably, if you’re in.”
“Will be. Take care, Thea. Buzz if you need anything. Anything at all."
“Thank you. I’ll keep it in mind."
Anthea hit the end button, placing her phone in her lap while looking up at the stars.
Arriving back at her flat on Tuesday evening, Anthea felt drained and exhausted. The weekend was difficult.
Flat or office? –A.
Flat. Lestrade is out. Use your key. MH.
It didn’t take long for Anthea to navigate through London’s Tuesday evening traffic, even if she did cheat by tampering with the traffic light signals. She parked, got out and entered the building that housed Mycroft’s flat. She took the stairs to the second level and used her key to open the front door.
She places the keys and her bag on the kitchen counter as she moves through the room. Anthea opens the office door gently, closing it behind her.
Mycroft looks up from the file he is working on, a smile turning into a concerned frown.
“You look terrible.”
“Oh, why thank you.”
“In the nicest way possible of course.”
Mycroft nods towards the chair, standing and moving around his desk to pull one up next to her.
“How are you?”
“Gavin may have mentioned it to me.”
Anthea nods, draws in a deep breathe before turning away, not responding.
Gently, Mycroft speaks. “Anthea.”
Anthea turns, meets Mycroft’s eyes briefly before looking down, bring her hands up to wrap around herself.
“I had to switch off life support, Mycroft. I made that decision. Lydia agreed, but I made the decision. I…I…” her voice cracks slightly as she stops speaking. “My sister already resents me enough as it is.”
Mycroft stands, moving in front of Anthea. She looks up at him, eyes red.
Mycroft reaches out and takes one of Anthea’s hands, pulling her up and wrapping his arms around her. Anthea freezes for a moment, before reaching out and returning Mycroft’s hug, as tears that she had held back finally made themselves known. Mycroft rubbed his hand in a gentle circle across her back, letting Anthea take the time she needed. Slowly, Anthea lessened her grip on Mycroft, moving back slightly to wipe at her eyes.
She takes a deep breath, attempting to collect herself. “I’m sorry for that.”
Mycroft moves to the desk, picks up the tissue box and offers it to Anthea. “Don’t ever apologise when it’s unnecessary.” Anthea nods before sitting back down, tucking her legs into the side of the chair before wrapping her arms around herself. Mycroft leans against the edge of his desk. “You’re taking at least another two days off before coming back to work.”
“No arguments. Take some personal time. You haven’t since Christmas. Two days. Spend them as you will.”
Anthea sighs before nodding. She hesitates slightly over her next words. “Can…is it okay if…do you mind if I stay the night? My flat isn’t the most comforting place right now.”
“Of course. The spare bedroom is more than free.”
“Come on. Time for cup of tea, I think.”
Anthea stands and follows Mycroft from the room.
Chapter 5: Praesent modo adiutore
Dinner at Buckingham Palace isn't the only thing that takes Anthea by surprise.
Praesent modo adiutore
Promotion to PA, November 2004
Anthea knocks on Mycrot’s office door, a post-it note in her hand with the message ‘My office, when you are free’ scrawled across it in what is obviously Mycroft’s handwriting. It had appeared on the edge of her computer screen as had come back from the afternoon meeting. Mycroft calls to enter. Opening the door, Anthea steps through, closes it behind her and freezes. Mycroft is leaning against the front of his desk, arms folded and peering intently at three formal dresses hanging on a collapsible clothing rack
“Oh it’s you. Good.”
Anthea steps forward, stopping just short of his desk. She raises an eyebrow and nods towards the dresses.
“Something I should know about, sir?”
Mycroft smiles, and replies in a sarcastic tone. “Not for me, Anthea.”
“Never said they were.”
“Which one do you like the most?”
“Of the dresses?”
Anthea examines the dresses, head tilted slightly to the side. The first dress was green with a full-length skirt and strapless. The second and third was the same dress in two different colours. One purple, one blue, just below the knee, empire line with lace detailing on the back.
“The blue one.”
Mycroft nods. “I thought you might pick that one. It was between the blue and purple. I don’t pick you for a green person.”
“How- oh never mind. Why are you asking my opinion on dresses?”
Mycroft steps forward, takes the blue dress of the rack, places it into a dress bag before handing it to Anthea.
Anthea takes it. “I’m sorry, but what? You giving me a dress wasn’t in the contract.”
“No, and I do hope you will forgive me for taking the liberty but we are short on time. Tell me, would you have something appropriate to wear to meet royalty back in your flat?”
“Uhnn no, and royalty, sir?”
“Yes. The Queen, to be precise. She requested a meeting.” Mycroft glanced at Anthea. “Oh don’t look so terrified. Elizabeth is lovely.”
“You’re on first name terms with the Queen. The Queen of England. I’m an office aide. What am I going to do? What do I say?”
Mycroft chuckles. “You will be fine.”
Slightly panicked, Anthea turns to look at Mycroft, dress in one hand, the other on her hip. “Fine? What-”
Mycroft cut her off, placing his hands on her shoulders. “Anthea. I wouldn’t not have said I was bringing you if I didn’t think it was going to end well.”
Anthea took a breath and nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Go home, change and get ready. I will be around to pick you up at six. Why you decided to live in Camden, I will never know.” He releases her, before pushing her gently towards the door, an exasperated look on his face.
Anthea shrugs as she goes. “It has charm. And that only gives me two hours.”
“Make it quick, then.”
Anthea rolls her eyes as she moves out the room. “Yes, sir.”
Six o’clock on the dot there was a tap on Anthea’s front door.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.”
She checked her appearance one last time in the mirror before picking up her back and coat, swiping her keys of the kitchen bench. She walks to the door and opens it to find Mycroft standing on the other side. He’s dressed in a new suit; dove grey with a slight pinstripe, antique white shirt, dark grey waistcoat and a tie the exact same colour blue as her dress. He steps forward, kisses Anthea on the cheek before offering her his arm. She pulls her door shut, locking it and tucking her keys away before taking his arm.
“Good evening, sir.”
“Evening, Miss Jones.”
They make their way down to the car waiting for them, Mycroft holding the door open while Anthea slides in. He joins her, closes the door and taps once on the glass and they are off. They sit in silence for a while, Mycroft tapping out a rhythm on his thigh, Anthea gazing out the window, fiddling with the chain around her neck. Mycroft lets out a breath before turning to Anthea.
Anthea scoffs slightly. “Uhmm, we are actually going to meet the Queen?”
Slightly puzzled, Mycroft replies. “Yes. I wouldn’t lie about something like this.”
“Sorry. Yes. Just, not exactly what I expected.”
“You know partially what I do. Why are you so surprised?”
“Yeah, I know theoretically what you do. I just organise things.” Anthea shrugs before continuing. “Rosters. The archives. Paperwork. Why me?”
“I like you.”
“Good to know.” Anthea shakes her head. “But in all seriousness, why?”
Mycroft glances at Anthea, before turning back to his phone. “You can read people. You don’t think that you are, but you subtly change yourself depending on whom you are speaking to. It’s a slight manipulation of people to get what you want.” Anthea opens her mouth to speak. Mycroft stops her, holding up one finger. “I’m not done. You pick things up quick, know what needs to be done without having to be told. You’re organised. Dreadfully organised. It puts me to shame how quick you can get through paperwork. You remember things. Never make the same mistake twice. And as I said, I like you.”
Anthea stares at Mycroft, a shocked expression on her face. “Okay then.”
Mycroft turns his attention back to his phone, a slight smile on his face. He waits, letting Anthea digest the information. “There is no one else who I would have brought tonight.”
Anthea nods, turning away for a moment. She turns back to Mycroft. “That aside, what do I actually say?”
Mycroft chuckles and tucks his phone away. “Call her ma’am. Let her initiate the conversation. Watch her. You will pick up on the cues. And I’ll be there. I don’t expect you to be too involved, dear.”
The car stops, and a butler opens Mycroft’s door. He steps out, before reaching a hand back into the car.
“Welcome to Buckingham Palace.”
Anthea steps out, peering around. The gardens are perfectly manicured, and the sheer size of the building in front of her is nothing she has seen before. She whistles low. “Fancy.” Mycroft shoots a curious look at her. “Most people spend their lives imagining what this looks like, not actually getting to go inside to have dinner with the Queen. Give me a moment.” She has visited Buckingham Palace before. Stood outside the gates with her sister and pointed out the guards. Anthea never actually expected to set foot inside.
They make their way inside, an attendant that clearly knows Mycroft waving them forward.
“Mycroft Holmes, a pleasure as always.” He turns to look at Anthea. “And who is this you have with you?”
Mycroft shakes his hand once, before stepping back and presenting Anthea. “Eric, let me introduce you to Anthea Jones, my personal assistant.”
Anthea barely blinks at the comment, before taking the proffered hand and a murmured “Pleasure to meet you.” As they follow Eric, Anthea leans into Mycroft. “Personal assistant? Where did that come from? I’m an office aide. I do the paperwork.”
Mycroft merely grins. “Didn’t I mention? You’re getting a promotion.”
Anthea gapes for a moment before whispering in reply. “You could have mentioned that sooner.”
“Oh relax, you’re doing fine.”
They round a corner to a small drawing room, where Eric leaves them to wait. Mycroft gestures to one of the chairs, waits until Anthea has seated herself before sitting down opposite her. The rest of the evening passes in a blur. A meeting that Anthea still can’t quite believe, dinner on plates that Anthea is fairly sure costs more than her apartment alone and tea after. Sharing tea with the Queen. She greeted Mycroft warmly, made polite conversation with Anthea. Discussion topics ranged, some seeming more important than the others. It gave Anthea an insight into just how important Mycroft was. Mycroft drops her back at her flat, requests a meeting when she comes in tomorrow.
Anthea sleeps, wakes up late but still manages to arrive on time, coffee in hand as she knocks on Mycroft’s door.
Anthea enters, balancing the cups expertly in one hand as she opens and closes the door. She walks over, hands one to Mycroft before sitting in front of his desk. He sips, makes a pleased noise before placing the cup down.
“Whatever did I do to deserve coffee? And you’re drinking it to.”
“One of those mornings, sir.”
“I see.” He holds out a file. Anthea reaches for it, placing her own cup down on the desk as she takes it and opens it. She reads through it, twice. She goes back to check she read it right, checks the figure written at the bottom of the page. It’s more than she has ever had as a salary. More than she was ever expecting to get as a salary in her life. Despite Mycroft’s words last night, she isn’t even sure she is the right person to take this position.
“Before you say it, I think you are the only person for this position.”
“How did you know?”
“I’m a Holmes. Once you meet my brother, you will realise what that means.”
“You, have a brother?”
“Yes. And a mother too, surprisingly. But we haven’t spoken in a while.”
Anthea nods towards the file in her hand. “What else does this entail? Being your personal assistant.”
“I won’t throw you in the deep end. But eventually, you should be capable of running this place when and if I need to go somewhere. Which means meetings with government, international arrangements. Communication with Clarence House. But to start with, you’ll attend all meetings I do. And have free range of the IT department.”
“Whatever you want it’s yours.”
Anthea exhaled. There were a few projects she had lurking in the back of her head. A few ideas on how to improve her blackberry. If she could get them to work, it would change the way she used her phone. “This is dangerous.”
“Letting me into the IT department. I may never leave.”
“That is rather the plan.” Anthea looked up and met Mycroft’s gaze. A moment passed and she understood the implications. Mycroft wanted her around, rather prematurely. There would be no other job offers, nothing else. He could make sure of that.
Anthea held her hand out. “A pen, please.”
Mycroft handed her one. Anthea flipped back to the last page of the contract. Signed her name. Her real name. Signed the copy before handing the file and pen back to Mycroft. In return, he handed her a new access card.
“24 hour access. No limits. The only place it can’t get you is this room. There may come a time when that is necessary, but not yet.”
Mycroft turns back to his computer, making notes in the open file next to it. Anthea should go, but she doesn’t. Just sits and drinks her coffee. She should go and continue with the archives organisation. She feels like something bigger should have happened. Her life has changed in that moment. Had started on a path that she isn’t too sure where it leads. She hasn’t thought that far ahead. Doesn’t dare to. For now there’s coffee and work to do.
Chapter 6: Capta
Capture, November 2011
Anthea finished her morning cup of tea right as her phone beeped with an incoming message. She placed down the cup on her desk, reaching over a stack of files to retrieve it.
Let me take you out to lunch. I’m sorry for yesterday. Can we please talk? –Gavin.
They had had a disagreement of sorts. Gavin asked Anthea to accompany him to his cousins wedding. A wedding with a guest list of approximately 200 people. To say Anthea had freaked out slightly was an understatement. She had promptly shut down, saying no and refusing to speak of why. It was an instinctive reaction, from years of not sharing her problems and refusing to sxpeak to others about issues that bother her. Gavin had similarly become frustrated in return, not understanding why large family gatherings would bother her.
Not available. Meeting at Whitehall across lunch. –A.
Anthea turns back to her computer, rubbing her hand across her forehead, the dull throb of a headache already present. On two hours sleep, the fact a headache was all Anthea was battling with was a relief. Her phone chimed again.
Dinner then. I’ll cook. Garlic and black pepper chicken. –Gavin.
Gavin, please, just leave it. I’ll talk to you later, I’m rather busy currently. –A.
She took a deep breath, running a hand through her hair and visibly pulling herself together before standing. Anthea picks up her phone and the files for the meeting – national security, inquiry reports and findings – before sticking her head into Mycroft’s office before leaving.
“Whitehall meeting, sir. Will most likely be out most of the day.”
Mycroft looks up, tapping his pen on the edge of his desk. “Yes, dear. Pass my regards onto Charlston will you”
Anthea’s face pulled up into a half smile. “Good or bad, sir?”
Anthea turned and left, making her way down to security and out the side door of the building. She turned the corner to the garage looking down at her phone as she did.
“Miss Anthea Jones.”
Anthea stopped and looked up. Jim Moriarty was standing in front of her.
“Don’t worry, my dear. I’m not going to hurt you. I just need you out of the way for a while. Now hand over your phone, and we’ll be gentle.”
Anthea glanced at the phone, thumb hovering over it, thinking quickly. She glanced at Moriarty, before smiling and hitting a sequence of numbers. She was vaguely aware of a presence behind her, before pain hit the back of her head and she crumpled forward.
Anthea regain consciousness slowly. She was dimly aware of lying on the floor. Anthea sat up, blinking through the pain and trying to clear her vision. She was in a small room, no windows and no identifying features. There was a door on the far wall with no handle on the inside and security cameras in each corner. Anthe raised a hand to the back of her head. Her touch was met with a throb of sharp pain, causing Anthea to gasp. When she took her hand away, there was blood on the end of her fingers. She slumped forward, resting her forehead on her knees.
At the sound of the door unlocking, Anthea snapped her head up and groaned, regretting the sudden movement.
“You don’t look happy to see me, sweetie.” A cold voice greeted her as Jim Moriarty moved into the room, a chair in his hand. He placed it down in front of Anthea before sitting, crossing his legs and leaning forward.
“Being abducted and hit over the head doesn’t tend to bring out my good side, my dear.” Anthea answered, a mocking tone to her voice.
“I feel if I had of given you another option, you would have refused, love.”
Anthea levelled a look at Moriarty.
“And I have my answer.” Moriarty reached into his jacket, pulled out Anthea’s blackberry, tapping it on his palm. “Now, you really are of no importance to me.”
“Yes I am.”
“To a point. A minor thorn in my side.”
Anthea sighed. “Do all genius’ have to be so dramatic?”
“All part of the fun, dear.”
“Why are you here? Just to mock at me, or is there something else? You know, I was on…”
Moriarty cut her off. “Not important. What may help you currently is to tell me what you have done to this.” He gives the blackberry a slight shake.
Anthea smiles. “Really. You need me to tell you that. Your tech guys must be worse than I thought.”
Moriarty was on the ground directly in front of Anthea. “DON’T PLAY GAMES WITH ME.”
Anthea blinked. She closed her eyes, leaning back, briefly before opening her eyes and looking at Moriarty, a smug expression on her face.
“I erased it. The sim card is worthless. There is no data on that phone that you could have access to, no-way of restoring it. It’s completely blank. And be careful about hitting the hash key.”
Moriarty’s eyes flashed, before he stood. The door opened again, and a man entered. Anthea could briefly see into the corridor beyond. There were another two men standing outside the door. Moriarty nodded towards Anthea. It was the first time in this conversation that Anthea had felt a glimmer of fear. She stood, using the wall behind her as support.
“What do you want?”
“I said before, Miss Jones, you aren’t important. I needed you out of the way.”
The man walked over to her. Anthea backed up a few paces, before stopping and standing still. She spoke in warning. “Don’t touch me.”
“I’m afraid you have no say in that, my dear.”
Anthea moves. She ducks under the arm that is reaching for her, simultaneously slamming her palm upwards into his nose. She turns, cursing the limited space. She kicks out, her foot connecting with the second man’s ribs. A crack is heard as he doubles over in pain, Anthea moving swiftly forward to take is wrist and twist. A jab to the temple has him collapsing on the floor.
“That is enough.”
Anthea feels something cold at her temple. Metal. She turns. Moriarty is standing next to her, a gun in his hand. The look in his eyes is utterly empty. He barks a command.
A third man enters, picks up the fallen syringe before grinning. He gets a hand on her neck, roughly slamming her backwards into the wall. Before she could react, the man places the syringe into her neck, an arm pinning her in place. As the blackness took hold, Moriarty spoke.
“We could make quite a team, Miss Anthea. Think about that.”
Gavin checked his phone again. Still no reply. It was nearing home time, and he still had not had contact with Anthea since before lunch. From memory, he was sure that the Whitehall meeting would not have run this late, and if it was Anthea was generally good at letting him known. Gavin stood and made his way to Mycroft’s office. He knocked on the door and waited for the resulting “Enter” before opening the door.’
“Ah, Gavin, what may I do for you?”
“Just a quick question, Mr Holmes. Has Anthea been in contact at all?”
Gavin nods once and hesitates before asking, “Can you let me know if she does?”
Mycroft stands and moves around the desk to lean on the opposite side.
“Meetings have run later than this before, Gavin, don’t…” he stops. A constant beeping can be heard coming from Mycroft’s pocket. Mycroft pulls his phone out and freezes for a moment, he steps forward, moving swiftly to the office door. “Other things to worry about. Get Anthea’s laptop and meet me downstairs. Moriarty’s moving and he’s after Detective Inspector Lestrade. Send a message to Anthea for me. We need her.”
“Yes, Mr Holmes.”
Gavin pulls out his phone, sends the message before walking to Anthea’s office and picking up her laptop. The response is there before he has left the office.
This number is not active. Please check you have the right number before trying again.
“What?” It was the same number that he had always had in his phone for Anthea. Gavin turns and runs across the office to catch up with Mycroft. He finds him waiting outside next to a black car. When Mycroft sees Gavin, he opens the door and gets in. Gavin follows, closing the door behind him.
“Mr Holmes, you need to see this.” Gavin hands his phone to Mycroft. “Response to the message I just sent to Anthea.”
“Did you get the right number?”
“Yes, Mr Holmes. I checked.”
It was the first time Gavin had heard Mycroft swear while he was working. Mycroft handed the phone back to Gavin before pulling his out own.
“Her signal is gone. Not just hidden, completely gone.”
“What? Is that possible?”
“Well, yes. But only Anthea could have done it. She built the software that makes it possible. A five-number key sequence that erases all phone data. Not just the data on the phone, everything. It makes it as if that phone and the number linked never existed.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means Moriarty is smarter than I gave him credit for.”
When Anthea next wakes, the first thing she notices is that she has moved. She is still on the floor, but the floor has a distinctly tiled feel to it. She’s leaning against something and it’s dark. Anthea can feel a slight breeze and the sound of traffic passing. She squints trying to see through the darkness, shakily moves to standing and freezes. It’s her kitchen. The teacups in the sink and plates on the bench are exactly as she left them.
Anthea turns, having no idea how she got here or why she was here. The last thing she remembers is leaving Gavin’s after the discussion about the wedding. She steps forward, bare feet moving silently across the tiles before stumbling, catching herself on the bench, the throbbing in her head making it difficult to see.
Supporting herself against the wall, she walks gently to her office searching for her phone. She doesn’t find her current blackberry, but pulls out an emergency phone, sitting down on the floor with her back against the side of her desk. She takes a deep breath, shakes her head gently trying to clear it before looking down at her phone. There is one message showing as received.
Care to tell me why we had no warning on Moriarty cornering Lestrade on his way home? MH.
Possibly because I have no memory of anything from leaving Gavin’s place to now. How the hell did I end up on my kitchen floor? –A.
Anthea leans back, eyes closing as she does. Events in her head don’t line up with where she is now. The phone beeps.
What happened? –MH.
I don’t know. One helll of a soree head. –A.
She touches her head, feels dried blood at the back, a puncture mark on her neck.
Gavin is on his way. Are you able to stay conscious and can you move? MH.
I should be albemto.m-A,.
Anthea? Are you still with me? MH.
Anthea breaths, pauses before replying.
Yeas. It’s a bit hardd to see whatI’m typking curenmtlyu. ,a
Stay with me. Gavin will be with you in half a minute. Paramedics are with him.
Gavin? Whoiss…oh right. I remnember. He’s angry withnme, but I can’t re,ember why.,.
She leans back, phone slipping out of her hand as she tries to stay conscious. Dimly she is aware of hearing her name called and the front door opening. Footsteps make there way towards the office where Anthea is sitting. She looks up as a hand gently touches her face, blinking. Her voice croaks as she speaks.
“It’s okay. You’re okay. It’s going to be fine.”
She nodded once before closing her eyes, blackness taking her again.
Gavin is sitting in the hospital watching Anthea sleep. Thanks to Mycroft, the hospital had not complained at Gavin staying despite not being listed as Anthea’s next of kin. If it comes to that, there will be no record of an Anthea Jones ever being admitted to hospital once she is discharged. It’s been twelve hours since the blood tests, and the two times Anthea has woken since then she has been confused and dazed. Gavin has been home to change clothes before returning back to the hospital. He’s on his fifth cup of coffee for the day when his phone buzzes in his pocket.
Any change? MH.
Gavin shifts as he responds.
Blood tests done, and they have treated her for minor head trauma. It’s probably what is causing the memory loss. Results should be here soon and I’ll forward you a copy. She’s woken twice, was disorientated and confused. Still no recollection of what occurred. –Gavin.
I’m sorry. I should have picked up on this sooner. MH.
Gavin stands, moving towards the window and looking out of the London streets below.
It’s not your fault, Mr Holmes. –Gavin.
I employed her. It’s entirely my fault. MH.
If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s Moriarity’s. –Gavin.
A question for you, why is Anthea under the impression you are upset with her? –MH.
We had a minor disagreement. And I was upset, but probably not for the reasons you think, Mr Holmes. –Gavin.
I see. When Anthea is well you and I need a little chat. MH.
He turns back towards Anthea and the quiet beeping of the machines hooked up to her. Her skin is paler than normal, a bandage cover the base of her head and neck and a drip in her arm. Gavin takes a shaky breath.
Yes, Mr Holmes. She…she looks so small. –A.
She is small, if we consider her literally, though she is taller than Doctor Watson. MH.
I know she is literally small, Mr Holmes, but she never seems it. –Gavin.
Gavin moves forward, sitting back down in his chair and reaching out, gently taking one of Anthea’s hands in his. She shifts slightly in her sleep, fingers closing around Gavin’s.
She projects quite the presence, yes. Anteha will be fine. MH.
I’m not worried. –Gavin.
Yes you are. MH.
Okay, so I know logically she is going to be fine. –Gavin.
Yes, but you are afraid that she will not be. Concentrate on the logic, Gavin. MH
I’ll try Mr Holmes. –Gavin.
Anthea was discharged from hospital the next day and Gavin took her home and helped her back into bed as per the doctor’s orders. She was still tired, sleeping more than she was awake. Gavin was cleaning up the kitchen when Mycroft arrived, a few packages under his arm.
“How is she?”
“Asleep. She might wake up later if you are still around.”
Mycroft nods, moving forward and placing the packages on the kitchen bench. A new phone for Anthea and a few supplies that he thought she might need in the coming days. He moves into the kitchen, takes the cloth from Gavin and points him towards the couch.
“Sit. I know with the amount of sleep you’ve had in the last few days, you will be close to collapsing soon.”
Gavin protests weakly, before doing as he is told. Mycroft boils the kettle, pouring two cups of tea before joining Gavin on the couch, handing one of them to him.
“How are you, Gavin?”
“Tired. But I’m fine. Nothing sleep won’t fix.”
Mycroft sips at his tea before fixing his gaze on Gavin.
“Indeed. Now, Gavin, believe me to currently be very suspicious of you. Pray tell me your intentions.”
Gavin looks up, confused “Intentions, Mr Holmes? Intentions towards?”
“You are tired. You’re normally quicker than this. Towards the woman undoubtedly lying unconscious in the bedroom. What are you intentions towards her?”
Gavin nodded in understanding. Running a hand through his dishevelled hair before answering.
“I don’t plan on letting her go any time soon, unless she chooses it.”
Mycroft leans forward slightly, catching Gavin’s eye and not looking away. “Anthea is a sister to me, and one that I love dearly. You are not a fool, Gavin, and you are able to comprehend my meaning, I assume. Need I spell it out to you?”
Gavin shook his head. “No, Mr Holmes. You’re quite clear. I don’t intend on ever letting something occur where that should be necessary. If it is, then you have my permission to do your worst.”
“Make no mistake that I will.”
“Sir, you don’t have any idea why she is adverse to family gatherings at all?”
Mycroft sits back and resumes drinking his tea. “She has recently lost her mother. Other than that I can recall no objections. She doesn’t like talking about her family.”
Gavin sighs, leaning back against the sofa.
“I warn you too, she rarely even speaks to me about issues concerning her. I wish you better luck.”
“I’ve noticed that, Mr Holmes. Thank you.”
“Now go. Rest, shower and change. I’ll let you know when she wakes.” Mycroft stands, takes Gavin’s empty cup back across to the kitchen. He walks Gavin to the door before making his way to where Anthea is sleeping. She stirs slightly as he opens the door, opening her eyes and blinking.
“Mycroft?” She moves to sit up, but before she can Mycroft is there laying a hand on her shoulder.
“Stay. Don’t get up on my account.” Mycroft pulls up the chair that Gavin has been sitting on and brings it closer to the bed.
“I sent him to get some rest. I don’t think he’s slept since this started.”
Anthea nods. “What happened? I can only remember bits from the last few days. Moriarty?”
“Indeed. You need to be more careful of who is behind you.”
“I wasn’t exactly expecting it.”
Mycroft nods in agreement.
“You don’t look the best either. When did you last sleep?”
“Too much to do. I will soon. It’s more important that you rest and recover.”
Anthea turns away, shuffling slightly. “Uh, sorry about this. Bit of an inconvenience for you. I’ll pay more attention next time.”
Mycroft sits up before replying. “Anthea, I am not blaming you if that is what you think. It’s not your fault. You are on leave until Gavin deems you well enough to be back at work and you will be on a half-load until I deem it appropriate.”
Anthea sits up, pushing at the pillows until they are more comfortable. “I’m fine. Slight headache and fuzzy memories. Gavin explained most of what happened. Though I think he left a few things out. I’ll be right in a few days.”
“You are not permitted in the building until you are completely well and Gavin will be the one to decided that.”
Anthea’s hand slams down on the sheets, a look of frustration on her face. “God damn it, I am fine and I do not need a nursemaid!” The tone in Anthea’s voice changes from frustration to annoyance. “As much as I love him, all I can remember is that he was angry at me and I was annoyed in return but I can’t remember why. It’s one of the blank spots I can’t get back. And Gavin refuses to tell me!”
“Anthea, that is what people do. Give him time. Lord knows it takes an age for Gregory to bring up something that is bothering him.”
Anthea shakes her head. “I don’t even know what we were talking about or what I said to cause it!”
“He will tell you eventually. Patience, dear.” Anthea flinches. Mycroft notices and he leans forward in concern. “What is it?”
“Moriarty. He was calling me that. I remember that.”
“Not really. A vague impression that he thought we would work well together.” Anthea shudders slightly. “And I lost my best phone.” It was a custom-updated blackberry that Anthea had put a large amount of time and effort into.
“I must thank you for that. I apologies for the amount of time it took me to realise you were missing, but the erasing of your phone made it easier to work out what happened. And to alert me to Gregory.”
“Why he thinks taking me was going to help I have no idea. I’m not that important.”
“You are the most important person on the team and most skilled in every aspect. Not that I am defending him, but he was wise to choose you.” Anthea couldn’t come up with a response to that. “Now, I do not want to see you in the office until at least Thursday. And you need to talk to Gavin. I have never seen him this worried before.”
“Now rest, Gavin will be back soon.”
Anthea was perched on the window sill, feet up with one foot dangling outside, a half-full cup of tea sitting in her lap. The sun was shining, with blue skies and a gentle breeze and Anthea was trying to soak up every bit she could while she had the time. Gavin entered the office, placing a laptop and bag down on the desk before walking over to her and placing a kiss on her temple.
“You know I get uncomfortable when you do that.”
Anthea shrugs. “It’s not that high. I’ve done worse.”
“I’d rather not discover what is worse than sitting on the edge of a three-storey building with concert being all that greets you at the bottom.”
Anthea just smiles vaguely before handing over her teacup and swinging her legs in off the sill and standing. She moves over to the desk pulling files out of the bag Gavin bought in. “Is Mycroft finally letting me back in?”
Gavin nods. “Yes. He’s gotten to the point where he is more than willing to accept help again. I’ve never known a man to detest paperwork more than him.”
“Now you know why I do all of it.”
“Mmm.” Gavin takes the files out of Anthea’s hand and places them on the desk before taking her hand and leading her out of the office. “Enough work talk for today. I have something else I want to ask you.” He leads her over to the couch and sits down, gently tugging Anthea down next to him Anthea sits and draws close to Gavin, resting her head on his chest, his arm coming down to settle around her. He absentmindedly draws patterns on her arm, causing Anthea to curl in closer, a soft sigh escaping.
“I think I know what you want to talk about.”
Gavin looks down. “You do?”
“I remember…bits of it. Something about a wedding.” She blinks, inhales quickly before continuing. “Dear god, tell me you didn’t propose.”
Gavin chuckles. “Nice to see the idea fills you with delight.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I didn’t propose. When I do that you won’t forget it.”
Anthea twists slightly to look up at Gavin. “So you plan on proposing?”
Gavin raises a hand to brush the hair from Anthea’s eyes. “Eventually. I’m not getting my hopes up. It took me 8 years to get you to agree to go on a date with me.”
“If it’s any consolation, I’m glad you didn’t give up.”
Gavin leans forward and kisses Anthea briefly before leaning to whisper in her ear.
“You were worth it.”
Anthea smiles, reaches for Gavin’s hand and links her fingers with his.
“Now, what was it?”
“I asked if you wanted to come with me to my cousin’s wedding. You proceeded to, well, freak out for want of a better phrase and closed off. You left and wouldn’t talk to me for days. Why?”
Anthea leaned her head down, closed her eyes and took a deep breath to calm herself. She spoke softly, no louder than she knew she needed to.
“I don’t know. Family situations have never exactly been smooth in my book. What’s left of my family prefers not to have anything to do with me. I encourage that. We don’t get along, we fight and don’t talk.”
“But that’s the beauty of it. Family fight, you have arguments and people you don’t like, but at the end of the day you are all there together to celebrate something special. You have support there for if you need it.”
Anthea sits up, and moves away slightly, placing one hand over her face.
“I’ve never, ever had that support. My mother was cut off for her extended family and I practically raised my sister. There is no love there.”
“Trust me. This will be different. And if it’s bad, I promise we can leave. As soon after the ceremony as you want.”
Anthea looks up at Gavin and nods before looking away, still not entirely convinced. Gavin watches her for a moment. “Come here.” He lifts both arms and gently coaxes Anthea closer. “It will be fine. It will be better than fine.” Anthea rests her head on Gavin’s shoulder, closing her eyes and letting out a breath.”
“I’m keeping you to that.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything else of you.”