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THE BLACKBIRD SINGS AGAIN

Chapter Text

The East Wind. A terrifying force that lays waste to all in its path. It seeks out the unworthy and plucks them from the Earth.

- Sherlock Holmes, "His Last Vow"

There's an east wind coming all the same. Such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind nonetheless, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared."

- Sherlock Holmes, "His Last Bow"

The East Wind had come, and it went by the name of Sherlock Holmes. The small private jet Sherlock had taken off in for exile as punishment had done an about-face only four minutes into the journey. While officially he was leaving on an undercover assignment in Eastern Europe, it was technically exile, a "hardly merciful" solution as Lady Smallwood had stated. He was never meant to return to his beloved Britain, and the undercover assignment which would likely result in his death in six months would probably insure that he would indeed never see his homeland again. However the jet had returned almost immediately and all was pardoned to deal with the unthinkable: the potential that James Moriarty was somehow alive. Yet even Sherlock knew that it could not be possible for his old nemesis to be alive.

It had been just over three years since Sherlock's fake suicide in the fall from Bart's roof ledge. The illusion of his suicide had been kept up long enough for pictures and body identification, blood typing, DNA testing - everything that was needed to verify his death before he went undercover for two years. Moriarty's body had been brought down from Bart's roof. Sherlock had been shaking Moriarty's hand when Moriarty had put a gun in his own mouth and had blown the back of his head off. Instantly dead. It had been horrifying and shocking, but Sherlock knew for certain that he was indeed dead. He had seen and witnessed the evidence with his own eyes. Not only had he seen it, but the body had been positively verified as dead by Molly, Lestrade, John and a host of other Scotland Yard, forensics and medical experts. His was not a death that was faked or could have been faked. His head wound was not recoverable.

Only now when Sherlock was being exiled for murdering newspaper magnate Charles Augustus Magnussen, did Moriarty's face appear on television screens all over the country with the taunt, "Did you miss me?" Sherlock had immediately watched it on the plane once he was made aware of it. However, he had no illusions that Moriarty was alive. The image was a still image with a digital voice behind it and a slight, warped movement of the lips that never opened. Someone didn't want him leaving Britain and was using Moriarty's image to taunt him and the government into keeping him. The fact that it occurred on the day that Sherlock was being sent away told him that whoever it was had access to the information that Sherlock was being sent away. Someone knew about the government mission and probably the true reason behind it. His mind already had two scenarios: that there was a double agent in MI6 that had leaked the information to one of Sherlock's many enemies, or that one of those many enemies simply had access to Mycroft's top government officials and knew what would keep Sherlock in the country. Sherlock even toyed with the idea that Mycroft had rigged the entire thing although he relegated that to being an unlikely scenario. Regardless, someone was trying to get his attention, and he was determined to find out who. He didn't like not knowing.

The jet touched down and moments later taxied to where it had only been shortly before. Sherlock disembarked, and a healthy gust of wind blew his coat open as if on cue. He found Mycroft standing almost where he'd left him.

"Welcome back, brother mine." Mycroft said dryly.

Sherlock gave him a slight nod. "Mycroft."He hesitated a moment then added almost under his breath, "Thank you."

"As I said before, you have utility closer to home."

"Utility." Sherlock lit a cigarette and took a long drag. He held his breath and allowed the nicotine to rush his system, and he released his breath slowly. He looked over at John and Mary. She was nearly ready to deliver. "They're going to make me the godfather, you know," he said tersely. "And here I thought I'd escaped that fate. Thanks for that too."

"I told you once that caring was a disadvantage. So do Britain and the world a favor this time and try not to get your heart involved. It only ends badly." Mycroft said.

Sherlock smirked a little, dropped his cigarette to the ground and snuffed it with his shoe. "Involved." He scoffed. "Found yourself a goldfish yet?" He caught a glimpse of Anthea in the back seat of the car. "Ah, I see you've still got that one." He then began to walk towards John and Mary as the wind continued to blow open his coat. He would catch a ride back to Baker Street with them.

Mycroft watched Sherlock get into the car with the Watsons and drive away. He knew that Sherlock's heart was losing its ability to remain detached and uninvolved, and he blamed that entirely on the friendship with John Watson. Now with a potential new threat to national security via the Moriarty taunt, that made him quite concerned about Sherlock's capability to solve the problem. Anthea stepped out of the car then.

"Sir, do you want his surveillance status upgraded again?" she asked.

"No need," Mycroft said dryly. "He's micro-chipped. We know where he is 24/7."

Sherlock was still reeling from his heart being ripped first by thinking he was being separated permanently from those he loved dearly and second by now being yanked back as if he were a dog on a leash. He had worked so hard on the plane to control his emotions, and he had nearly lost it when he approached John and tried to say with a bit of excitement, "The game is on again." But his words felt hollow and contrite, and his ride back to Baker Street with the Watsons had been one of mostly silence. None of them had known what to say. It would seem as if they should have been overjoyed, and inwardly all of them were, but the grief of nearly having lost him again was clouding everything.

He had asked them not to come up to the flat because he needed to be alone and to sort out what had just happened. He had made a partial stab at packing up the flat before leaving on the jet. All of his things were supposed to be sent to storage. Somehow he just hadn't been able to complete the task. Mycroft had promised to send a crew in to finish the packing, but that hadn't happened yet.

"Sherlock?" Mrs. Hudson's surprised voice brought him out of his shock. "You're back?"

"Tea please," he said simply. When he realized she hadn't moved, he turned to her and faked a smile and light tone. "Change of plans! Turns out I'm not going away after all. I do hope you haven't thrown out all my specimens."

Still she didn't move. It was the same awkward silence he had experienced with Mary and John. Everyone's hearts had been torn a little, and Mrs. Hudson's was no different. He dropped his fake smile and shuffled his feet like a guilty child before saying apologetically, "Mrs. Hudson, this flat is my home, and it will always be my home if you'll continue to bear with me as a tenant."

"Of course, dear," she said.

He kissed both her cheeks and touched her face tenderly. "Now, about the tea."

There were tears in her eyes. She loved him as a mother loves a son. He hadn't told her the details of why he had had to leave, just that it was permanent and that he likely would never see her again. She patted his cheek, but she didn't say anything else. She needed time to process too. He gave her a hug and she stifled a little sob. "Right. I'll just get the tea then, Sherlock. You'll be wanting biscuits too."

Sherlock furiously blinked back his own tears as she left, and he shut the door behind her. He looked around again, and he was overcome. The grief he had been unable to show on leaving his friends and homeland forever and the relief to be returned now flooded his entire being. From a death sentence in undercover work to a new chance at life all in the space of a few minutes: it was difficult to process the gravity.

Mrs. Hudson did not bring his tea right away. Even before she had walked down the stairs to her flat, she could hear his heavy sobbing, and she allowed him the space and time he needed. Her motherly instinct wanted to go up and comfort him, but she had come to know that he was the most private person she knew, and she respected his need for privacy.

* * *

The televised Moriarty taunt had gone on for one hour before all programming resumed normal as if nothing had happened. However, #Moriartylives, #Moriartyisalive and various other hash-tag versions took over the internet like a firestorm. It was repeated on all the news channels, and one channel even stopped all programming to begin to air continuing investigative coverage of the event. The over-saturation of media had begun, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

Under heavy police guard, Moriarty's casket was exhumed within twelve hours, which put it in the middle of the night. It was not the ideal time to do it, but the seed of doubt had been sown in the nation, and the contents of his coffin had to be verified as quickly as possible. Media trucks were parked nearby and hundreds of the general public were kept at bay behind barricades. It was a circus, and Sherlock found it quite irritating and intrusive to the work. Sherlock wished John were there, but Mary was having some contractions and John did not feel he could leave her.

Even before the digging began, Sherlock carefully inspected the ground at the grave for evidence of tampering. The clues were inconclusive, however, made even more difficult by recent heavy rains which had left the grave site soggy.

Tenting was set up around the grave to allow for privacy of the investigative team, and Sherlock watched unemotionally as the casket lid was cleaned of dirt and debris.

“Everyone shut up and stay out of my light.” Sherlock said sharply.

Sherlock walked slowly around the casket and visually inspected it before pulling out his magnifying glass to take a closer look at all the seals. Although he knew for certain that Moriarty was dead, that didn't preclude the fact that someone could have stolen his body in an attempt to pull off a ruse of him being alive. Every nick and scratch was suspect., but he was also looking for evidence that it could possibly be booby-trapped with a bomb. That would be like Moriarty. He felt around the edges of the seal, but there was nothing unusual. He stepped back and nodded that he was done, and the casket was opened. There was a collective gasp among all who witnessed the opening.

Sand. No body. Just sand, and probably the equivalent of Moriarty’s weight.

Lestrade turned sharply to his team. "I saw him laid out in the morgue with the back of his head blown off, and that was after he’d been dead for hours. We had guards at the morgue! I want to know where that body is! And I want to know how this happened!”

Sherlock’s jaw tightened and he cursed under his breath. But it was not only sand. Laying on top of the sand was an envelope with Sherlock's name on it. Sherlock pulled a pair of tweezers from his kit and carefully removed the envelope. There was a slight tremor in his hands. It was not from fear, but he could not stop it. He did not, however, linger too long with it in his hands. The brown envelope was inexpensive and nondescript, the kind that would come from any stationers, and the writing on top was with a wide, black felt-tip marker. The lettering style was bold and likely belonged to a man. It could, in fact, be Moriarty's own handwriting. He'd have to check it against known samples. He tucked it inside his coat.

Sherlock turned to Molly and said sternly, “You laid him out.”

“Yes.” She said. “I even had to remove the rest of his brain because it was falling out anyhow.”

“And what happened to his body afterwards?” Sherlock took a step closer to her, and there was something almost accusatory in his stare.

He had never spoken to her in that tone before, nor did he have a right to. She stood up a little taller and met his gaze squarely and replied firmly, “It was released to the family after forty-eight hours for burial. Standard procedure.”

“Were you there when it was released? Did you personally check the body bag? You of all people knew there was nothing standard about this!” He scolded her as if she had not done her job properly. She pursed her lips and glared at him, but he had already moved on. “So no one actually saw his body in this casket and stayed with it the whole time until it was put into the ground.” He turned to Lestrade with that same accusatory stare. “You let him slip through your fingers. You should have had a police guard on him at all times. All times!”

“Sherlock, the man was dead. Self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The case was closed.” Lestrade said firmly. He did not like being accused of not doing his job either.

“Consider it re-opened.” Sherlock said.

“What’s that?” Molly pointed to something in the sand.

Sherlock turned back to the open casket. He had missed the shiny bit of something mostly buried in the sand because he’d been so focused on the envelope. He gently blew the sand away from the item to reveal a watch. Platinum and encrusted with diamonds. It was a very high-end Breitling. Although modern it had an old-fashioned face with minute and hour hands. It was still operating and the time was accurate. There was simply no way the watch could have still been running after over 3 years. Its battery would have long since died. So who put the watch there? Was it even the same watch? Was this even the same casket or a replacement? Was Moriarty ever in this grave?

He stepped into his mind palace to review the information from Bart's roof when Moriarty had shot himself. It had all happened so quickly, and he'd been in such shock from it that the details were slightly distorted. He couldn't remember seeing a watch at all. Moriarty's coat sleeves had been too long. He had only seen blurred flashes of the band during those insane moments. "I'll just be needing this too." He removed a pen from his pocket and gingerly looped it through the watch band to lift it out, but the moment he pulled it up, a delicate thread that was a attached to it that ran beneath the sand broke, and instantly a digital timer lit up beneath the casket ceiling fabric. A five-second countdown began.

“Run!” Sherlock yelled, and everyone scrambled practically on top of each other to get away. The shock wave of the explosion sent them all to the ground hard, and he had barely enough time throw his arm around Molly and pull her in close before they both were knocked off their feet. The blast set off a fireball in the casket as if the entire thing were highly flammable.

Hot sand rained down on them as did flaming pieces of casket debris, and Sherlock covered his head, trying to tuck himself deeper into his coat while also covering Molly with his coat as best he could. The heat was intense, and it was a few moments before he dared to look back at the casket. The blast had blown down all the tenting, and now the news crews could get an inglorious look at the carnage.

Sherlock stood up and helped Molly to her feet. “All right?”

She nodded and brushed herself off. She had slight abrasions on her forehead and cheek, and she was trembling a little. “I will be.”

Sherlock turned his attention back to the scene and watched as everyone else got back to their feet. Except for a few minor cuts and scrapes, no one was seriously injured. Lestrade turned to his crew. “Someone find some fire extinguishers now!”

“Up to his old tricks,” Sherlock said grimly. “Well, this just got very interesting.”

Sherlock made his way to the labs at Barts. His first order of business was the envelope. He dusted it for fingerprints, but as he suspected, there were none. Whoever left it was too clever for that.. He held the envelope up to the light. There was some sort of note inside, but he couldn't read it. However, the envelope did not appear to be booby-trapped.

Molly and Lestrade looked on, but he yawned, then tried to shake himself a little to stay awake. Molly was also struggling to focus. It was just past 4:00 A.M., and it had already been a long day. Sherlock didn't look at them but could feel the questions burning on him. "Ask ."

"Why were you leaving us for good and why are you back just as quickly? Not that I expect you to tell." Lestrade said. "But if you ever do-"

"Scalpel." Sherlock said simply.

Molly looked around for a moment, then found the one Sherlock had already set out on the counter top. "Look, Sherlock, if you ever get in a tight fix and need help, you know you can count of me. My department is at your disposal. Always has been." Lestrade insisted.

Sherlock swallowed hard. He was still feeling a little emotionally raw and was determined not to show it now. "I know. Thank you." He said simply.

Sherlock took the scalpel and gently began to slice open the envelope with surgical precision. He gently blew a puff of air into the envelop to force it open, visually examined the contents, then used a pair of tweezers to remove the contents - a single, folded sheet of paper. The paper was dusted for fingerprints and again, none were found. The note appeared to be blank, but Sherlock examined the surface under angled light, then under a black light. The words nearly jumped out at him.

MISS ME? MURDERER. I.O.U.

"Bugger!" Lestrade muttered in frustration. "What's it mean, 'murderer'?"

"I.O.U. Just like three years ago," Molly added.

Sherlock's eyes narrowed then began to burn with fury. The casket’s tampering was recent due to the addition of the word "murderer." Someone intimately connected with both Magnussen and Moriarty was trying to draw him out, and he wasn't happy with the revelation. If this mysterious person knew these intimate clues, what else about Sherlock's private life was at stake? "Nothing. It's just baiting." Sherlock said tensely.

"What about the watch?" Molly asked.

"Ordinary." It wasn't at all ordinary, but he didn't want to discuss it further until he had finished examining and researching it.

"That's a very expensive watch, Sherlock, and you know it. It's hardly ordinary." Lestrade said. "Don't damage it. It's police evidence."

"Watches have been keeping time since they were invented. There's hardly anything extraordinary about that. Different packaging, but it's still a watch." Sherlock said coolly.

"This from a man who doesn't know the Earth revolves around the Sun." Lestrade chuckled a little and Sherlock groaned. He would never live down that faux pax. Lestrade yawned again. "Look, I've got to get some sleep or I'll be worthless tomorrow. Today, I mean. I'll call you later, and trust me, we’ll find that body." He gave Sherlock a slight pat on the back. He didn't see him wince.

Lestrade left, and Molly looked up at the clock on the wall.

"My shift starts in five hours. I have to go too," Molly said. "You'll be all right by yourself?"

"Why wouldn't I be?" he responded bluntly, almost coldly.

"Because you don't look all right. By the way, thank you for what you did for me tonight.”

He both liked and disliked that she seemed to be able to see right through him. He didn't like being transparent to anyone. "I could use a coffee," he finally said. He then added, "Please."

She brought him a coffee and watched him quietly for a few moments as he meticulously examined the watch. She could see his tremor. He could feel her gaze burning on him, and he finally managed, "Thank you."

She hadn't been waiting for his gratitude. She had been waiting for eye contact, but he didn't make it. He was too focused on his work and had mentally shut her out. She turned and left, but the moment the doors to the lab shut, he looked up in her direction.

Alone, he let out a terse sigh of discomfort as he stretched his back, but that wasn't the cause for the discomfort. It was the microchip. It had hurt hellishly when implanted, and it still bothered him.

Murder. He had murdered Charles Augustus Magnussen in cold blood before Mycroft, John Watson, and at least a dozen agents, and as punishment was exiled and sent on an undercover death mission in Eastern Europe. All the agents who went on death missions were micro-chipped but always in the upper arm. For British government, however, having Sherlock chipped would also insure that he could not re-enter the country, should he miraculously survive his mission, without their knowledge. Satellite tracking would insure that. The doctor was about to inject the chip into Sherlock's arm, but Mycroft had stopped him. "Not there. He'll cut it out himself the first chance he gets. Put it where he can't get to it."

Sherlock had wanted to accept the MI6 assignment with more dignity, but sensing his own mortality suddenly rushing to him within six months and the loss of his beloved homeland, he had fought back. It took four strong men to hold him down while the Doctor had implanted the microchip into his upper back near his left shoulder blade as Mycroft watched. "For your own good, brother dear." Mycroft's words still haunted him. With such a dangerous mission, and with almost no chance of getting out alive, the chip had been more for body recovery rather than tracking, and Sherlock knew it. Once the chip stopped moving, they would know he'd either been imprisoned or killed, with the highest probability being the latter.

There was no chance to escape anywhere in the world now, and if he had deserted his assignment, MI6 would certainly have hunted him down and killed him. If the chip were destroyed while on mission, agents would be sent to find him, and if he were found alive, their orders were to shoot to kill. If he set foot on British soil again, he would be shot. However, he had been called back to London within minutes of leaving for his assignment, and all was pardoned. Now he was determined to rid himself of the offending item although he had not been officially sanctioned to do so. The trick was how to do it and not raise suspicion.

* * *

The explosion and flaming casket were all over the news first thing in the morning. Footage of the tenting being blow down and even melting in the intense sudden heat, the general confusion afterwards. A new crime scene had been created. The one thing the news did not know, however, was whether or not there had been a body in the casket. All they knew was that it had exploded. When Lestrade refused to comment on the presence of a body, at a briefing later that morning, it sent Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook into a trending frenzy with theories on what had happened, most of which were leaning towards Moriarty being alive. Even Sherlock was not entirely convinced he was dead. He had witnessed what he thought was a suicide, but he had gone undercover immediately after his own faked death, and he never saw the body again. He trusted Lestrade and Molly’s accounts, but he would have preferred to have witnessed the final body with his own eyes. Now he was being baited just like he had been so many times. And yet he could not answer the one final question: Why now?