By the time House had dragged Wilson away from whatever he had been doing to give him a lift home, Sherlock was back and apparently fighting Câmara’s men single-handed. Sitting in Wilson’s car, House could just see some shadowy figures in his living-room.
“Sherlock would not let me help,” complained Dominika, who had been hiding in an alleyway down the street until she recognized Wilson’s car parked across from the building. She showed them a case of vials. “He say I must hide and give you this. Is antidote.”
House frowned at the six vials, each color-coded, but only labeled with a number. “Which one is the antidote?”
Dominika shrugged. “I ask Sherlock, but he doesn’t know. He is very busy with four baddies.”
They all looked up as a man crashed out of House’s open front window and limped away. He didn’t seem to notice their car.
“Three baddies,” corrected House. “Wilson, take Dominika to your place but drop off the case at the hospital first. Get the lab onto analyzing these samples.”
“House...” started Wilson, clearly worried about what House intended to do.
“Don’t worry, I have a cunning plan.” When that failed to wipe the worried expression off Wilson’s face, House added, “I’ll call the cops if none of the neighbors have done it yet. Go! I’ll be right behind you.”
Grabbing his cane, House got out of the car and sneaked around to the side of the building. From there, it wasn’t difficult to shimmy open his bedroom window again - this was obviously how the men had gotten in - and climb into his apartment. Not for the first time, he was grateful he lived on the first floor. He quickly grabbed his father’s gun from the closet.
Sherlock was fighting two men in the living-room. He was unarmed, though John House’s samurai sword was lying by the couch; possibly the weapon he had selected to creep up on the men. The two men he was fighting were apparently trying to catch Sherlock, though they weren’t having much success. Every time one of them managed to grab him, he used their momentum to crash into the other man, evading their grasp.
A third man was lying in the corridor by the bedroom, apparently knocked out, though as House watched, he came to and tried to get to his feet. House whacked him quietly on the back of the head with his cane and the man collapsed again, unnoticed by the others in the living-room.
Uncertain how he could help Sherlock, House stayed where he was, concealed in the shadows of the unlit corridor, his cane in one hand and his stepfather’s gun in the other. Despite being up against two men, one of whom was younger and the other bulkier than himself, Sherlock was gaining the upper hand. House couldn’t suppress a twinge of pride at the sight.
Following an impressive roundhouse kick that knocked the older man off his feet, Sherlock twisted around to grab the sword and pointed it at the younger man’s throat.
“I think that’s quite enough of that, don’t you?” he said. “The antidote isn’t here if that’s what you’re looking for. I don’t have it. If I did, do you think I’d be here fighting you idiots instead of being at the hospital saving my friend’s life?”
“You must have it,” said the older man, picking himself off the floor. “You spoke to The Woman at the hospital and left immediately. You wouldn’t have come back so soon if you didn’t find it.”
Sherlock lowered the sword and laid it down on the piano. “Or maybe I came back so soon because there was nothing to find. The Woman wasn’t that helpful. She’s my wife. Separated, though,” he explained, giving the older man a significant look. “You know how it goes. She’d do anything to spite me. I’m sure she got great satisfaction out of sending me on a wild goose chase.”
The man half-smiled, confirming that Sherlock had guessed his marital status correctly. House observed the two men; for a moment, he thought they might be father and son. The older man was certainly observing the other one with what could be interpreted as fatherly concern, though the young man’s body language was different, as if he viewed the older one as a subordinate rather than a father. He was on edge, watching Sherlock’s movements with incomprehension and fear. House’s concerns about the young man’s behavior were confirmed when he pulled out a gun and pointed it at Sherlock. Although he was unarmed, having just put the sword down, Sherlock reacted only with raised eyebrows and a bored look.
“Yes, I thought you might have a gun,” he said languidly.
“Rui,” said the older man in a warning tone. “Put the gun down. We gotta go. He’s right. He wouldn’t be here if he had the antidote on him. He’s given it to someone else, which means it’ll be at the hospital.” When the younger man didn’t move, he added, “Come on, Rui! The cops will be here any minute.”
“He’s not interested in the antidote,” said Sherlock, facing the man with the gun calmly. “He’s here to avenge his father. I must admit I had no idea Câmara had a son.” He glanced at the older man. “You raised him as yours but learned the truth some years ago. No wonder you’re out of sorts with the missus.” He addressed the young man called Rui. “It must have been quite a thrill to discover you had this master criminal for a father rather than one of his mere underlings. Such revelations can sometimes be underwhelming; discovering you are the son of an American doctor rather than a British civil servant, for instance. But oh yes, you must have been very pleased. And here you are imagining that you are avenging his death by shooting the messenger.” He looked down at the gun with disgust. “And the messenger’s innocent friend by the look of things.”
“You were there when he was shot,” said Rui.
“So were you. And so was he.” Sherlock nodded in the direction of the older man. “I can assure you my presence there was purely coincidental. I was following up on a lead which I hoped would put me in contact with Moriarty’s successor at the head of his empire, so that he could be brought to justice. Câmara Sr’s usual line of business was dodgy pharmaceuticals, the kind you buy off the Internet because your state medicine won’t pay for it or you can’t afford it otherwise. His products are directly linked to dozens of deaths in the poorer areas of this country and hundreds worldwide. And that’s without counting all the people whose health has been permanently compromised.”
Sherlock turned his back on Rui, and pretended to observe one of the faked photographs of House and Dominika on the piano. “But Câmara also had a sideline in more exotic chemicals imported from his native Brazil. The kind unscrupulous ladies like my lovely wife might dispense to unsuspecting consulting detectives. Or that even less scrupulous consulting criminals might use to dispose of undesirable rivals. But with Moriarty’s empire crumbling after his death, Câmara saw a chance to up his game even further, by peddling a deadly poison for which only he had the cure. Unfortunately for him, Sebastian Moran must have decided he would like a piece of that action. I see you recognise the name.”
“Shit. I told you Moran must be the one who raided our labs last week,” said the older man. “So he’s the one who commissioned the hit on Rui’s father?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so. I am merely an innocent bystander,” said Sherlock with a smirk.
Rui didn’t seem to be buying that and given the smartass look on Sherlock’s face, House couldn’t blame him. But then House wasn’t feeling too happy with his son right then either; he was still seething over the idea that his being Sherlock’s father was ‘underwhelming’.
“Bit of a coincidence that your friend just happened to be the hit man, don’t you think?” said Rui, though he had lowered his gun a fraction.
“No, not really,” said Sherlock airily. “My wife worked for Moriarty for years. She must have known Moran very well and probably offered her services to help him with a few little ‘problems’ like suppliers getting too big for their boots. As to why she employed John…” He inhaled sharply, staring at nothing in particular as the revelation came to him. “Oh, of course. Irene wants to recruit me. That’s why she employed John specifically for this job. She knew he was a good shot so it made sense on a practical level. But Irene must have other good shots at her disposal and she never does anything for purely practical reasons. She didn’t know where I was, but she knew that eventually, I would look for John and if she kept him close, she might be able to convince me - or manipulate me - into working for her.”
“I don’t believe you,” insisted Rui.
Sherlock looked over at him with a sneer. “No, of course not. That would require some level of intelligence. And if you were really intelligent, you wouldn’t have let Moran kill your father and then steal his greatest assets.”
Not surprisingly, Rui’s reaction to the insult was to raise the gun and point it at Sherlock’s face. “I guess we’ll see who-”
Alarmed that Sherlock might genuinely be in danger, House decided to create a distraction. He pointed his father’s gun at the men and sprang into view, as best he could with only one and a half functional legs.
“Freeze. Police!” he yelled.
Alarmed, Rui swung around and shot in House’s direction, though he missed by a couple of feet. House decided that was as much heroism as he was prepared to muster at this point and threw himself on the floor behind the couch.
“Oh well done, House,” said Sherlock sarcastically, grabbing Rui’s arm and starting to tussle with him. “Did you seriously think they’ll be impressed by an old man with a limp and an unloaded gun?”
Another shot rang out, destroying something behind House - hopefully one of Dominika’s garish mementoes of her homeland. House crawled forward behind the couch until he could peer around it at the space in front of the piano where the men were fighting. Or rather, where Rui and Sherlock were fighting; the other man had backed away toward the front windows.
“Shit, Rui, are you crazy?” exclaimed the older man. “The whole street can see you through these windows. Leave him!”
With his face pressed flat to the floor, House could only see Sherlock’s leather shoes and the hem of the thick woolen coat as he somehow managed to bend down and grab one of Watson’s guns from the duffle bag. Looking up, House saw the older man get involved again and grab Sherlock by his left shoulder, the one he had injured earlier. There was a scuffle during which Rui appeared to punch Sherlock in the stomach, making him bend over in pain. Acting with a strength and speed House didn’t even know he still possessed, he jumped up to his feet and whacked Rui hard with his cane. This gave Sherlock the chance to kick away Rui’s gun and elbow the other man in the face. Rui still looked determined, but the older man dragged him towards the door just as police sirens started outside.
Sherlock waited until the men were at the door, then he raised his gun and shot Rui in the knee; he collapsed, screaming in pain. His companion gave Sherlock a grudging look of respect as he struggled to maneuver Rui’s deadweight. It delayed the villains sufficiently to allow the police to burst through the door into the building and intercept them.
“House, hide your gun,” ordered Sherlock, lowering himself awkwardly onto the couch.
The cops were busy dealing with the two bad guys so House did as he was told, kicking his stepfather’s gun under the cabinet by the kitchen. He then set about distracting the police by telling them about this inexplicable robbery that had just happened. He knew that a proper investigation would reveal the presence of two guns - Rui’s, still lying on the floor, and Watson’s, wherever that was - but for now, he really just wanted to sit on the couch beside Sherlock, both to tend to his son’s injuries and because his own leg hurt like hell.
When he turned around, someone had wrapped a thermal blanket around Sherlock and it was the fact that he was still wearing it more than his pale face that worried House.
“You’re injured,” he said, batting away a cop who wanted to ask him more questions and sitting beside Sherlock. The other cops were now busy with the unconscious henchman in the corridor.
“Did Dominika give you the antidote?” asked Sherlock, his lips barely moving. He was clutching his coat tight shut and didn’t sound like his usual arrogant self.
“Yeah. Wilson will get the lab started on working out which one it is. Are you sure one of them really is the antidote?”
“I bloody hope so. It’ll be a right bummer if it isn’t.”
Sherlock unfolded his arms and House saw for the first time that his gray shirt was spotted with blood. Sherlock raised his hand; he was holding a thin metal dart.
“Hi, Dr. House, can I talk with you a moment?”
The nurse’s light brown skin looked green in the subdued light of the kitchen. House was momentarily distracted by the man’s prominent Adam’s apple before he read his body language and guessed why he was there, interrupting House’s amicable argument with a colleague.
“Uh, Dr. House, you know that guy you brought,” said the nurse once they were in the parlor. “I - uh - I don’t think he’s feeling too good...”
The street lights were streaking past, casting alternating patterns of shadow and light on the dashboard. The route was as familiar to House as the back of his hand. He knew the sequence of every set of traffic lights, the places where the traffic got snarled up at busy times of the day, the shortcuts other motorists hadn’t yet discovered.
He also knew exactly how long it would take to get to the hospital even at top speed and with a police escort, and that was gnawing a pit of anxiety in his stomach.
“Don’t fall asleep,” he said, his eyes on the road ahead.
“Trying not to,” muttered Sherlock. His habitually pale skin looked positively ghostly.
House had seen overdoses before and at a glance, he could tell Sherlock would survive given the right treatment. Even so, the sight of this boy he’d never wanted to acknowledge was his son convulsing on the cold bathroom floor made his insides clench uncomfortably. He didn’t want a son but he didn’t want him dead either.
“Ecstasy. He took three pills,” said the nurse when House asked him what the hell Sherlock had taken. “I said ‘You gotta be crazy, man’ but he said he wanted to know what it would feel like.”
“He sure as hell got his answer,” said House, kneeling on the hard floor just as Sherlock started to go into cardiac arrest. “Now get down here and help!”
House made the nurse give Sherlock CPR while he called the hospital to tell them they were coming. He had driven across town at breakneck speeds then too, trying to get to PPTH before his idiot son died from his own stupidity.
He had supervised Sherlock’s treatment that evening... until a fat young man in an expensive suit appeared and whisked Sherlock back to England.
And that was the last time House had seen his son in the flesh until he came into work three days earlier and found Sherlock sitting at the meeting table. Seeking House’s help because this guy Câmara’s son had tried to murder Watson.
“Why the hell didn’t you just shoot the son of a bitch?” he asked. “I could tell he was dangerous.”
Sherlock was curled up in the passenger seat, knees tucked under his chin, his head lolling on his fastened seatbelt. He was clearly struggling to remain conscious.
“I obviously didn’t think this would happen,” he said through clenched teeth. “Hurts like buggery too.”
“Yeah, and you’d know, wouldn’t you?”
Sherlock laughed softly. “Why does that matter so much?” He turned towards House with difficulty. “You’re worried I’ll end up alone.”
Right now, I’m worried you’ll end up dead, thought House. “Just making sure you’re not the kind to fall in love with an anatomically correct doll. We had this patient recently-”
“Tell me about Mummy,” interrupted Sherlock, still watching House through half-closed eyes. “Did you love her?”
House thought Sherlock probably didn’t want to know the truth right now. “Yeah, sure.”
“She didn’t love you either,” said Sherlock as if House had just told the truth. “But she said you were the cleverest student she’d ever met. She was very proud of the fact you’d become a doctor.”
Talking did seem to make Sherlock a little more animated despite the pain. Even though he needed to concentrate on keeping the car on the street without crashing into the police car in front, House realized he had to keep him talking.
“And yet you were underwhelmed by the fact your real father was an American doctor.”
“To be fair, I think I pictured... What was his name? The American doctor who was like a detective.” Sherlock paused a long while. “Oh, yes. It’s still there. Quincy.”
Glancing at him, House saw that Sherlock’s eyes were creased in amusement a moment before he winced in pain.
House laughed too.
“Yeah. I modeled my career on Quincy.”
There was another long pause before Sherlock spoke again; his eyes were closed.
“I don’t understand you, Greg. You don’t know me. You’ve only met me once. You didn’t even like your own father so it isn’t as if you’re trying to recreate a cosy relationship with me. So why do you care about me?”
“Is that Doctor Gregory House?”
Even at 3.00 am and with his head full of troubled sleep and whatever was troubling him at the time - hallucinations of sex with Cuddy, as he recalled - House recognized the drawling British accent. He made an indistinct noise to indicate he was listening.
“I’m afraid I have some rather bad news for you,” said the man on the other end of the line. In retrospect, House should have noticed the jarring hint of triumphalism in his voice. “My little brother is dead.”
“Your little brother,” repeated House stupidly, even though he knew this was Mycroft and they were talking about Sherlock.
“Yes. I believe you have been corresponding with him recently so I only thought it fair to let you know. Though given that you nearly killed him the one time he visited you...”
“An accident. Yes of course.” Mycroft’s voice was dripping with insincerity. “It could happen to any vulnerable teenager in the care of a doctor who sees nothing wrong in giving young people recreational-”
“Is that how he died?” interrupted House, his mind reeling.
“No, he jumped off a training hospital in central London.” This time, Mycroft managed to school his voice into some semblance of grief. “It was suicide. I am sure you are aware of the unfortunate turn of events which led-”
House hung up and lay back in his bed, dazed by the loss of a son he had only just started to know through their online conversations.
Sherlock laughed dryly and looked out of the window. “I don’t care about you either.”
“Right. So you promise you won’t visit if you move to New York?”
There was another long pause. Sherlock’s teeth were clenched in pain.
“I don’t want to move to New York,” he said in a strangled voice. “I want to go home with John.”
“Yeah.” House glanced at him and put his foot down on the accelerator. “I don’t think you were fooling anyone, you know.”
He could tell Sherlock was struggling to stay conscious. “Look, I’ll make sure you can go back to your own Baker Street with your Dr. Watson, but you’ve got to promise me you won’t die before you get to hospital, right?”
Sherlock didn’t respond and House tried to control the panic slowly rising in his own chest.
“Do you hear me, Sherlock?” he said more loudly. “Don’t die on me, you asshole! Promise me you won’t die.”
This time, he got a croaking response.
“Yes, Dad, I promise.”