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The Quiet Man

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You look nervous, standing there. What are you looking for? There’s nothing to see out there. Barely any cars, no people. We’re safe in here. Too safe, I reckon; it’s putting you on edge. You’re holding your chin, your index finger is tracing your upper lip. Over and over. You’re waiting for something to happen. I’m not sure what. I’m not sure you know.

You used to tell me things. You’d tell me things all the time, long trains of details that result in a brilliant deduction, or didn’t. You’d talk when you were sifting through the details in your head, the useful and useless ones, before you could tell the difference. You’d tell me things even when I didn’t ask, even when you didn’t have any answers and I wasn’t all that interested. You’d just talk. For hours. You’d talk to me whether I was there or not.

You don’t do that anymore. Not by default, anyway. Well: three years is a long time. I haven’t been around to talk to. You’re used to being on your own now, aren’t you. You’ve been alone, surrounded by phones, in places that weren’t home.

You’ve been lonely, haven’t you. I’m sure of it. Maybe you didn’t even realise it. It’s only sentiment. Sure: meaningless sentiment, isn’t that right? No one to talk to. A skull, maybe. Or talk to the walls. Not quite as satisfying, though. Not quite. You’ve grown quiet.

You can unlearn that. You did once.

Maybe I can prod you back into it. Talk to me, Sherlock. What is it? “What’s out there?”

I think I’ve startled you. You look at me, then back at the street again. “Van.”

Yes. There’s not much else. Just someone’s van. That’s not very interesting, is it? Why stare at it?

“He threatened you, you know.” You say it without looking at me. You’re speaking into the window, as if I’m out there, on the pavement still. “To get to me.”

Did he? Well, he’d have done anything to get to you. He’d done it before, with semtex and snipers. We were close, he could see that. We were so close, it was probably only a matter of time before we ended up in bed together. Well, we did end up in bed together, from time to time. We did last night, even. But not like that. In time, maybe, we would have.

He threatened me three years ago, did he? To get to you? He wanted to play with you, toy with you, he wanted you to help him not feel so bored. Did it work?

I guess it did. You played his game. You did what he wanted. You died.

Is that why you did it? Because he threatened me? No: you wouldn’t do this all for me. You did it to destroy him. Well: him, and his network. To put an end to it. That’s why you did it. He wouldn’t have left you alone otherwise, isn’t that right? It would have gone on forever. He was fascinated with you. Obsessed.

“He was obsessed with you.” I’d say he was in love with you, infatuated at least, but that would be supposing a capacity for emotion that probably wasn’t there. I think nearly everyone who meets you falls in love with you, on some level. Molly Hooper certainly did. Irene Adler did, by all accounts. Most of your clients come to admire you more often than not. Lestrade was beyond flattering at the funeral. And then there’s me. There’s always me.

He was obsessed with you, so you pretended to die. But you didn’t kill him after all. He did it himself. Thinking you’d have to die as well, isn’t that right? He wanted to die with you. Some kind of unwilling suicide pact. That must have been the pinnacle of his life, then: to beat you, and then to die with you. To take you with him, his most prized possession. He was quite mad, wasn’t he. Quite mad. He died thinking he’d beaten you, that he’d got to keep you.

But he didn’t, in the end, did he. You’d beaten him, right from the start. I hadn’t quite realised it; you beat him. Moriarty devised a trap for you, he didn’t think you could escape from it. But you did. That’s amazing, Sherlock. It’s fantastic. You beat him and buried him under your own name. He would have hated that. Or appreciated it.

“He might have appreciated the irony.” Geniuses like the idea that they can be beaten from time to time, don’t they? You certainly do.

“Moran will threaten you now, in his place.”

Right. To get to you. Well, that’s why I’m bait. Isn’t it? If he can’t find you, he can at least find me. What purpose will that serve?

“So he didn’t know? That Moriarty was dead all this time?” That you were alive, hiding? He must not have known. You fooled him.

You glance over at me, your fingers still covering your mouth. You look frustrated. Impatient. What are you waiting for? You shake your head no. “He’s an idiot.”

Most people are, Sherlock. Most people are.

“Oh, lovely.” Your trademark sarcasm is on display again, I see. What is it now? There’s a car pulling up outside. Who’s there? Not whoever you’ve been waiting for, clearly. Not anyone welcome, either. “Oh, take your time out there, please.”

What?

“We’re to be treated to a visit from Her Majesty.” Are we? You walk over to me and adjust the table at my elbow. You’re creating a tripping hazard, aren’t you. On purpose. Then you sit opposite me. You throw back your shoulders and assume the most languid, bored pose possible. Must be your brother, then. I see relations there haven’t improved any in the last three years.

“Mrs Hudson!” You shout for her. She can hear you; the door’s still open a bit. “No need to answer the door, we’re not interested in having any visitors this afternoon!”

Outside a car door opens, and closes again. There’s a pause; then the audible sound of a key pressing into the keyhole downstairs.

“I should have had her change the locks.”

He has the most deliberate pace in the world, your brother. It sounds as though every motion is planned and executed with purpose. He knows we can hear him. He steps into the flat, he closes the door behind him. There’s a pause, the rustle of a coat. The engine outside shifts gears and the car drives away. Are they leaving him here? Terrific. Neither of us want to see him.

All this time, he knew you were alive and didn’t tell me. He called me in the middle of the night two months ago, why?

I can hear his careful, even pace on the stairs. It couldn’t be anyone else. He must have ordered the security perimeter; only he could pass through it at will, I’m sure. I’m not going to play the mediator between you two. I’m not. I’ll leave you to it. Sherlock, this is yours to deal with. Don’t get me involved. Good luck with him. The door creaks a little as he opens it wide and steps through.

“Sherlock.” Smooth as silk, just as he always was. Some things never change. Not a single hair out of place. The creases in his trousers are perfectly pressed. He closes the door behind him. “Good afternoon, John.”

I suppose I have to answer that. “Mycroft.” Just nod. That should be enough. Enough from me, anyway. I’ll put the kettle on.

“How are you getting on, after the rude shock from yesterday?” He smiles. It could be a nefarious smile; it could be genuine concern. I can’t tell. He only has the one smile, and he pulls it out for every occasion. It is perfectly symmetrical and practiced. He’s probably adjusted it in the mirror over time to convey the perfect combination of guile, threat, and blamelessness.

I have not missed you, Mycroft Holmes. I don’t know what to make of you.

“I’m fine.” I suppose it would be rude not to offer him tea. “Tea?”

“Please,” he says. He glides across the room, neatly avoiding the leg of the table. He sits opposite you. In my chair, which I have just vacated. He’s yours to deal with, Sherlock. Yours. This was your bright idea, faking your death and working with your brother.

The staring contest begins. I know you don’t want to engage with him any more than I do, but you’ve got to. You’re trapped here, and he’s the architect of your prison, isn’t he. He must enjoy that: ultimate control over you, exactly what he’s always wanted. He’s locked you in a prison of your own making. Hasn’t he. I let the water run until it’s so cold my fist feels numb underneath it.

“Your taunting isn’t doing anything but winding him up. You must know that.” All I can see is the back of his head. And you, looking past him. You’re looking at me, as if I’m not here. I’ve over-filled the kettle. It will take ages to boil.

You make a frustrated noise. Is that what you’ve been doing, taunting Moran? Is that a good idea? If you taunt him, he threatens me. Do you want him to threaten me? You must. You must want that. You’re anticipating it. I don’t understand.

I suppose I might as well bring down the teapot, if there’s three of us.

“There are lives at stake, Sherlock.” That sounds familiar. He must know that that’s no way to get you on side. When has that ever worked? Whose lives at stake? Mine? His? Yours? We’re in a safehouse. How long is Mycroft planning to stay?

“You’ve taken all the necessary precautions.” You say precautions like it’s the most distasteful thing you can imagine.

“Obviously. Someone has to.” That’s clearly an accusation. “But there’s always a risk.”

“Because your people are incompetent.”

“The time was short.”

“Your Captain is short.”

“Don’t be petty, Sherlock.”

You’re not looking at me anymore. You’ve got your feet on the leather now, your hands on your knees, you’ve buried your face in the crook of your arm. You look like a child holding back a tantrum. “I’ve done everything I can. He went to Tesco. He stopped in front of the camera on Marylebone Road, he walked along Euston Road, for god’s sake. He was in the Tesco for twenty minutes. He has all the evidence he needs.”

“He didn’t see it.”

“He must have. Even an idiot should be able to see where John is now.” Even an idiot. Moran. Right? Milk; sugar on the tray. There it is, very civilised. Unlike whatever it is that’s going on between the two of you.

“He doesn’t know that. You were impatient, Sherlock, you moved too soon. And you know what he’ll do next.”

“Well, good. That should be the end of it, then. You’ll track him down and have him arrested. And all this will be over.”

“If we’re lucky. They aren’t like the ones you found here. They’re newer, harder to trace.”

“Not impossible.”

“No.”

“Well then, I’m sure your brilliant experts can manage it.” I can guess what you think about the relative brilliance of Mycroft’s experts. You’ve had an unhappy three years, haven’t you, Sherlock. Surrounded by idiots, MI5 and secrecy and rules you hate. Is that why you hovered around me? You were lonely and miserable and no one told you how amazing you are. You were just as homesick as I was.

I wonder if I should put out some biscuits. Mrs Hudson brought some; they’re the ones you always like best. It looks like Mycroft’s put on a bit of weight since we were last here together. I’ll put out some biscuits, then. I can play host well enough. A few biscuits wouldn’t hurt you any, and they’ll annoy your brother.

The kettle whistles. I pour the water into the pot and watch it change colour. I’ll break the silence. I have my questions. I might as well ask them. Bring the tray into the sitting room and place it at Mycroft’s elbow. He’s still staring at you. Your head is thrown back now, you’re staring at the ceiling.

“Why did you call me, Mycroft?”

“I’m sorry?” It’s like he’s forgotten I’m even here.

“You called me. Two months ago. You called me in the middle of the night and woke up my girlfriend. It was the night before they announced that Moriarty was dead. Why did you call me?”

There’s that smile again. Absolutely blank and meaningless, but filled with smug superiority. “I needed to ensure that your phone wasn’t compromised, John. Nothing nefarious, I can assure you.”

Compromised? By whom? Moran? I’ve never met Moran, I have nothing to do with Moran. He’s certainly never compromised my phone. I don’t use it that much anymore, anyway.

“I’m sure Sherlock has informed you that his ridiculous activities almost always result in a clear and present threat to the safety of you and everyone you love, hasn’t he?” He glances at you. You look absolutely miserable, but you don’t look back at him. You’re still staring at the ceiling. “Did he not tell you that? Oh, pity.”

This little dance you two engage in every time I see you has only got worse. I’m not going to engage in this. I’m not.

I’ll pour the tea. I left my own cup on the worktop. “And you came to my book launch party. Why did you do that?”

“You wrote a book about my brother, John.” That’s what you said then. “Did you think he wouldn’t try to make an appearance?”

Did you? You’re still not looking at either of us. Did you read my book, Sherlock? Of course you did. Were you there that evening? Did you see me? Did I see you?

There’s a beeping sound coming from Mycroft’s pocket; he pulls out his phone. “Well,” he says. “There’s been an incident, Sherlock. This is going to complicate matters.” He ignores the tea and stands, walks over to the telly and switches it on. The news. “Any moment now.”

He sighs, dials a number, and stalks across the floor, his phone against his ear.

“Yes,” he says. “I know. We need footage.”

The volume is still low, I can’t make out what they’re saying. They cut to a live camera with a reporter. It’s Bart’s. They’re in front of Bart’s, Sherlock. Just where I was standing when you–

Right. Yes. Just there. There are flashing lights and a crowd. There’s an ambulance. The reporter is talking animatedly. There’s tape, around the spot where you fell, the police are holding the crowd back. There’s a body there. Again.

What’s going on? This is live. Did someone else jump off the roof?

They show some photographs; a body. There’s no blood, and I can’t see his face. His left leg is tangled up underneath him, his body is too still. His arms rest against the pavement in impossible angles. You can tell he’s dead, you can tell. Like I could tell with you? I watched you fall; this time I can only see the aftermath. But there’s a note pinned to the long, black coat on the body. I can read it from here, it’s in block letters. SHERLOCK HOLMES LIVES.

“Sherlock?” You’re not looking. You haven’t seen this. You’ve got your eyes closed. I want to touch you; I need to feel your pulse again. There’s no blood on the pavement, but I can almost see the ghost of it there. It wasn’t your blood. And that’s not you. It’s only a message. It’s a threat. To whom? To you, to me. Is that what you’ve been waiting for?

“I’ll have that cup.” You extend one hand, ignoring the telly. “I’m dry as a bone.”