John stormed into the flat. "Sherlock!"
Sherlock slipped another slide under the microscope. "Hm?"
"What did you do to my debit card?"
"Is it gone?"
John growled a little under his breath. "No, it's right here in my wallet-"
"Then what's the problem?"
"-made out to 'John Watson Holmes.'"
The microscope made an unhappy sound as a knob was yanked past its limit. Sherlock slowly lifted his head. "...what?"
"And someone deposited 5000 pounds in my bank account," John said, with far more calm than he was feeling.
"It was labelled 'allowance.'"
There was a polite knock. "Ah, hello, Sherlock, John."
Sherlock whirled around, eyes flashing maniacally. "You! What did you do, Mycroft?"
Mycroft tutted. "Really, Sherlock, you must learn to curb your histrionics. John, I took the liberty of procuring a new passport and driving licence for you. Normally it would have taken a few months, but I let the offices know that it was a special priority."
John blinked. "Thanks?"
"No need, John. It was the least I could do for my new brother."
There was a silence. It was horrified.
"Of course," Mycroft added, "this does mean that your presence at Christmas dinner this year is mandatory."
"Christmas. Dinner," John said flatly.
"Yes, Mummy wants to introduce you to the rest of the family. They're all very excited to meet you, she's been talking about you nonstop."
"I see." John shook his head violently. "No, wait, no, I don't, I don't see at all. Have you lost your mind?"
Sherlock stared at his brother. "Oh. Dear. God."
"Histrionics, Sherlock," Mycroft said mildly. "You'll have to come in a little early, John, Mummy wants you there when she talks to the family solicitor. She wants to make sure you get a fair share of the inheritance."
"I think she wants to give you a title. No, don't look alarmed, it's just a minor one. She also wanted to give you an estate, but I convinced her that you would be happier with your own practice in Kensington. Sherlock, sounding like a cat being strangled isn't an attractive quality."
"I- This is- Am I being abducted?"
Mycroft pursed his lips, tapping his umbrella on the floor. "Really, John, you've been spending far too much time with Sherlock. You are being much too dramatic."
"Dramat- I'm being forcibly removed from my family and transplanted into your crazy clan of certifiable megalomaniacs! I'm bloody well being abducted!" John nearly shouted.
Mycroft sniffed. "Your former family consisted of an estranged alcoholic sister. And possibly an alcoholic father, we've identified a rather belligerent lorry driver in Edinburgh that may be him. I'll let you know when the DNA tests come back."
John went very quiet. But only an idiot would fail to notice the increasingly fiery death radiating from John's eyes.
Sherlock cleared his throat. "Mycroft?"
"Bit not good."
John was curled up on the sofa and glaring at the coffee table as if it was personally responsible for all of his troubles.
A normal person would have said he was sulking.
Sherlock was much more observant than the normal man, and knew for a fact that John was smouldering quietly and that it wouldn't take much to spark him into a white-hot fury.
It was an odd situation. Sherlock was used to John cajoling him out of his moods. This role reversal was quite bewildering.
Still, he had to do something. John had barely spoken to him since Mycroft had sauntered casually out of their flat a few days ago and Sherlock (kind of, sort of, if he believed in that sort of sentimental rubbish) missed his company.
All he knew was, this situation was intolerable and needed to stop.
"As much as I hate to admit it, my brother did have a point."
John transferred his glare from the hapless table to Sherlock. The fine hairs on the back of Sherlock's neck rose. He ignored them, just as he ignored every other self-preservation instinct that his body insisted on keeping.
"The Holmes family is well-connected and powerful. We'll take far better care of you than your own family did."
John's glare intensified. The self-preservation instinct coughed politely and pointed out that Sherlock may want to stop while he still had all of his limbs. Sherlock kindly told it to go bugger itself.
"Surely you can see that you're better off this way?"
"Not," John said in a very calm tone that, in the past, had made several soldiers reach nervously for their body armour, "the point."
Sherlock silently cheered at finally getting John to talk. He added a mark under his name in his mental tally and a negative infinity under Mycroft's. "What is it then?"
"You can't just change people's lives like that! Yes, yes, I know, my family's crap, but that doesn't mean you can just take me away from them!"
"Why not? Social workers remove people from intolerable living situations all the time."
"Those. Are. For. Children, Sherlock," John bit out. "I'm a full-grown army veteran with a medical degree. I've been taking care of myself since I was a kid, I don't need a bunch of toffs to take me in like a stray dog."
With that, John rolled onto his back to stare at the ceiling. "Especially if it's your family," he muttered.
Sherlock felt an odd stab of hurt at that. Not that he could blame John, he himself shared that sentiment often enough with regards to his relatives. But still.
Sitting on the edge of the coffee table, he hesitantly touched a jumper-clad arm. "Is it so bad," he asked softly, "to be related to me?"
He thought he managed to keep his voice neutral but John immediately snapped his head up and gave him a searching look. They stared at each other for a long moment, John's arm warm under the pads of his fingers.
John's eyes softened, ever so slowly. Sherlock could feel hope unfurling in his chest.
There was a polite rap on the door. "Sherlock, John, good afternoon."
For five violent seconds, Sherlock could have cheerfully bludgeoned Mycroft to death with his own umbrella.
John immediately shut down, going blank-faced and silent. Sherlock, however, could tell that he had skipped right over white-hot fury and straight into supernova.
"Not going to invite us in?"
Sherlock snarled and strode over to slam the door in Mycroft's face. "Get out, Mycro-" His brain caught up. "'Us?'"
"Be nice to your brother, Sherlock." And yes, that was his mother sailing past him while he stood sputtering in the doorway. "Hello, John."
John was struggling with himself, Sherlock could tell. But he was first and foremost an officer and a gentleman and he reluctantly sat up. "Ma'am."
Mrs. Holmes laughed and waved an elegant hand. "Oh, there's no need for that, John. 'Mummy' will do fine."
John twitched. But centuries of stout British manners in the face of adversity had bred true in John, and he made his way to the kitchen.
"Tea?" he asked politely.
(Somewhere in Afghanistan, several soldiers shivered and reached for their body armour, then stopped and gave each other confused looks.)
Soon they were all sitting with cups of tea and a plate of biscuits. Sherlock immediately claimed the spot next to John on the sofa, silently daring anyone to take that from him. Mrs. Holmes smiled indulgently at him before turning her attention to John.
"Now, dear, I heard that Mycroft upset you."
Sherlock snorted indelicately.
"Sherlock, you're not a horse. Don't make such noises. John?"
John was staring studiously into his cup of tea, as if it would tell him why he didn't run away the first time the strange, smiling man with the umbrella kidnapped him off the street. No really, why. "I wasn't very happy, yes."
"And Mycroft wasn't very forthcoming in his explanation," she concluded sympathetically.
"I didn't think an explanation was necessary," Mycroft cut in. He sounded almost petulant. "Clearly I overestimated his intelligence."
The look John gave him could have stopped a band of armed Afghani insurgents in their tracks.
(And quite possibly had. There is a file in Mycroft's office labelled "2009 Office Supply Requisitions." Among its contents is a disk holding grainy footage from a skirmish in Afghanistan. It showed several British soldiers pinned down under heavy fire, fire that had suddenly and mysteriously stopped a few moments after a certain army doctor charged into the hot zone. Only when John returned to cover, carrying an injured soldier, did the insurgents very hesitantly start firing again. And not with the same enthusiasm.)
"Mycroft," Mrs. Holmes scolded. "That's no way to talk to your brother."
Sherlock and John winced in tandem.
Mycroft's face was an interesting study in conflict. On one hand, he was the most powerful man in Britain. On the other, Mummy.
"I do apologize, John," Mycroft finally deigned, in a way that suggested he was doing anything but.
John smiled back, baring a canine. "No worries," he said in the exact same way.
Mrs. Holmes looked satisfied. "Good boys. Now, I heard that you think I adopted you because I thought you weren't capable of taking care of yourself."
John didn't ask how she'd found out. He really didn't want to know. "Something like that."
"And that's perfectly understandable, darling. But I'm afraid you're quite wrong."
"Oh?" John asked mildly.
(Those soldiers in Afghanistan were looking about them wildly with increasing paranoia.)
"Yes, dear. You see," she stopped and gave a little sigh. Suddenly, she looked every bit the tired and careworn woman who had to raise two brilliant and astoundingly difficult children. "Sherlock is a darling boy, but he's not very good at taking care of himself. He gets into so much trouble. You can understand how, as a mother, I worry."
"I can take care of myself," Sherlock interjected.
John had never been involved in a two-way synchronized eye roll before. That it was with Mycroft of all people did not bode well.
"Don't interrupt, dear," Mrs. Holmes admonished. "Now, in recent months, I've seen some changes in my son. Nothing too big, mind. But he's eating and sleeping regularly, and he's interacting with people outside his normal social circles. And he hardly ends up in the hospital anymore, with you watching out for him."
Mrs. Holmes leaned over and clasped one of John's hands in her own. John looked uncomfortable but allowed it. (Sherlock felt a stab of vindictive satisfaction. Only he was allowed to touch John without permission.)
"I'll admit, John, I acted very selfishly and I apologize. But you're good for him, John. So very good. And I couldn't bear the thought of you leaving him. Can you forgive a mother for trying to do what's best for her child?"
The thought of John leaving him had never actually occurred to Sherlock. He would have to make deductions to the household budget, of course. Probably cut down on his chemicals, lab equipment, and nicotine patches if he wanted to afford the rent by himself. Food wasn't an issue, he could get that for free. But he would have to use less electricity, and that would interfere with his experiments.
No one to make him tea or throw cushions at his head when he was screeching on his violin at four in the morning. No soft utterances of amazement, no giggling inappropriately at a crime scene. No warm presence at his side, fierce and determined. No moonlit chases that ended with them tumbling into the flat and collapsing on each other like puppies, laughing and breathless and high on adrenaline.
And wouldn't it be ironic, if the very act that was supposed to prevent John from leaving did just that? If John decided that he couldn't take any more of people playing with his life, if he just up and left like so many of Sherlock's former friends?
A hand on his knee stopped his train of thought before it could steam happily into even more terrifying scenarios.
John had extricated himself from his mother's grip and was looking at him with silent concern. Sherlock stared back at him miserably, radiating anguish and soul-rending despair.
John rolled his eyes. "Ease up on the pathos, will you? I'm not going to leave you."
The dark panic left Sherlock so abruptly that his brain stuttered for a fraction of a second.
John looked Mrs. Holmes straight in the eyes. "Not ever. Not for anything," he said with quiet conviction.
Mycroft smiled so blandly that it was obvious he was restraining himself from making an acerbic comment about human sentimentalism. Sherlock, on the other hand, was experiencing an unfamiliar emotion. It was warm and fuzzy and so incredibly schmoopy that, if it had a physical form, would manifest as the layout of Molly Hooper's blog - resplendent with sparkling hearts and kittens.
"Oh John." Mrs. Holmes sniffed and dabbed at her eyes with a silk handkerchief. "You don't know how much that means to me."
John chuckled ruefully with the resigned air of someone going to their doom. "Mind, if you could keep him from bringing home so many severed limbs-"
"What?" Mrs. Holmes looked at Sherlock sharply. Sherlock shrank down in his seat.
"It's not much of a problem," John interjected hastily. "Just, it'll be nice to eat something that hasn't been next to a decomposing head. You know, every now and then."
Mrs. Holmes patted him on the knee. "Don't you worry, dear, I'll have a new refrigerator sent." She gave Sherlock a reproachful look. "Sherlock, how many times have I told you to keep your experiments in your own room?"
"No buts, young man!"
John looked from Mrs. Holmes, to Sherlock, to Mycroft, and back to Mrs. Holmes.
(Sherlock had been too busy squirming under his mother's disappointed glare to notice at the time. But later, Mycroft would tell him that, just for a split second, John's face had been lit up with unholy glee.)
"Oh, no, you don't have to do that." John rubbed the back of his neck, smiling self-deprecatingly. "It's no trouble at all. Not like those ASBOs I keep getting."
The look on Mrs. Holmes' face could only be described as that of a parent whose rebellious wild child had somehow dragged his well-behaved and upstanding sibling through a muddy swamp and right into an important dinner party attended by the social elite of Britain.
"We will talk about this later, Sherlock," Mrs. Holmes promised direly.
Sherlock swallowed. "Yes, Mummy."
"Mycroft, you'll get rid of the ASBOs, won't you?"
"Of course, Mummy," Mycroft agreed smugly, basking in the glory of Not Being In Trouble.
"Thank you, Mycroft," John said earnestly. "I forgive you for the kidnappings and the cameras in my room."
The next half-hour was, to Sherlock, mind-numbingly horrifying. His mother berated him and Mycroft in turn. John would interject on occasion with, "It's not that bad, really," and placating comments that just. Made. Things. Worse.
By the end, he could only sit there and take it. All the fight had left him. Mycroft wasn't in much better shape. During a break in the tirade, his brother (by genetics) turned pain-glazed eyes to him.
What have you done?, they seemed to scream.
Me? This is your fault!
You're the one that let John Watson in your life!
You froze my bank accounts, I had to find a flatmate!
You wouldn't need one if you'd just agree to work for me.
I would, but society frowns on fratricide.
Both men jumped and looked at their irate mother.
"You will stop fighting this instant! Honestly, the two of you!"
"Sorry, Mummy," they mumbled in chorus. They didn't ask how she knew they had been arguing when neither had said a word. Mothers always knew.
Mrs. Holmes gathered her things and stood up. "Thank you for the tea, John. I'm afraid I have to cut this short. Appointments, you know."
"Of course." John escorted her to the door. "So, uh, any chance the adoption can be reversed?"
Mrs. Holmes laughed and patted his cheek. John grimaced but bore it stoically.
"Don't be silly, dear. You've already been added to the family tapestry, it would be far too difficult to undo this now."
"Can I at least keep my name?" John asked desperately. "It's just, it'll be weird being called 'Dr. Holmes' after so many years."
Mrs. Holmes thought about it. "That's acceptable. Very well, I'll have Mycroft draw up new papers for you."
"Take care of Sherlock for me, won't you, John?"
"Good boy." She threw one last look at the two men still sitting in shell-shocked silence. "Why can't the two of you be more like John?"
Sherlock whimpered. Mycroft twitched.
And then she was gone.
John shut the door and cocked his head thoughtfully. "You know, I'm starting to see the bright side in all of this."
"You-" Mycroft struggled to find a word explicit enough - in about ten different languages. "You-"
"Did you just use our mother against- where are you going?"
John was shrugging on his coat. "To the pub. There's a game on. Some of the lads are meeting up."
"But you said you didn't feel like going not two hours ago!"
"I feel much better now. Don't wait up, Sherlock. Mycroft, piss off."
The door slammed shut. They heard John bound down the stairs, cheerfully whistling a rugby fight song.
An unnatural silence descended on the flat.
"Does this mean John's the favourite now?"