Opening the post was always John’s job, even when it’s addressed to Sherlock and labelled Top Secret in big red letters. Especially if it’s labelled Top Secret in fact, because that probably means it’s from Mycroft, which means Sherlock would most likely burn it on sight.
John stares for a long time at the package that’s inside the padded envelope, only the experience of living with Sherlock stopping him from throwing it away and screaming like a little girl. It’s a piece of flesh, muscle gleaming redly beneath a thin covering of fat and skin, carefully wrapped in clear plastic. There’s a mark on the skin, just at the edge, that John’s trying to kid himself isn’t part of a tattoo. It’s labelled ‘J. Spencer’.
“Sherlock,” John calls, not taking his eyes off the gruesome package. “Sherlock!”
Sherlock comes hurrying down the stairs, forced in to motion by the panic in John’s voice.
John holds up the package. “Mycroft has sent you a lump of human flesh.”
Sherlock lets out a long sigh. “Is that all?” he demands. “I thought something had happened. The level of panic in your voice suggested at least a letter bomb.”
“Is that all? Sherlock, your big brother has sent you a lump of human flesh. Doesn’t that bother you?”
“Why should it? He knows I’m always in need of new samples. Besides, it’s something of a family tradition. Who’s he taken this one from?”
“It says J Spencer on the label, but I don’t…” John pauses, staring in wide eyed horror at his flatmate. “Jeremy Spencer, the merchant banker who took a swing at you with a paring knife last week.”
“Probably. I can’t think of any other J Spencers who’ve attempted to maim me recently and Mycroft does restrain himself to those who have tried to physically hurt me. These days.”
“Wait, this happens a lot?”
“Of course. I told you, it’s a family tradition. Mycroft brought me my first science equipment when I was nine. Ever since then he’s taken it upon himself to provide me with samples. It used to be fairly random, but I persuaded him to restrain himself to people who’d actually tried to harm me.”
“But I thought…”
“You though what everyone thinks. That I’m the sociopath and he’s the normal one. But then that is rather part of being a sociopath. Being charming is their most potent weapon. Well in Mycroft’s case it’s something of a tie between charm and MI5, but you get my drift.”
“And that’s why…”
“I love my big brother John, I always will. When we were children I adored him, wanted to be just like him. I know it sounds unbelievable but he really was the best big brother a child could wish for. He was so patient; he’d spend hours teaching me things. It was him who first showed me how to perform a dissection. He taught me about autopsies, about detection. It’s thanks to him that I’m the man I am today.
“But he’s still a sociopath and I’m not stupid. I turn down his cases because giving him any kind of control over me would be suicidally stupid.”
“But you still let him send you bits of dead people in the post?”
“Oh I doubt Spencer’s dead yet. This sample only looks about a day old to me. He’s probably going to live for weeks yet.”
Sherlock looks at John’s expression and laughed.
“Honestly John, where did you think I got all those dead bodies from?!”