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The Next Generation

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"I've no idea where he's got to, Greg. I think he's following up some lead for a private case, that girl whose jewels are missing. He's already huffing about how indescribably boring it all is."

Greg laughed at John's affected sigh over boring. "Honestly, I do sort of know how he feels. We've had nothing but greed and jealousy crimes for weeks, executed by the some of stupidest wannabe criminals I've met in years. I know it's my job and sometimes a rest is nice, but right now I wouldn't mind something a bit more challenging." He waved the file in his hand. "I've dug out an old cold case - one of those ones with no obvious motive and lots of contradictory evidence - and I was hoping Sherlock might want to play with it."

John grinned at him. "Even you're getting sucked into the Holmes vortex, wanting to slipstream some of the chaos he produces."

Greg smiled, offering a sheepish shrug. "Maybe--" He was interrupted by the sound of two sets of steps quickly mounting the stairs. "Huh. Sounds like Sherlock may have a new case."

There was a rapid double knock on the door and John walked across to open it. Two children stepped across the threshold. Or not children.... John stared in confusion. A boy and a girl, dressed with all the primness of posh Americans, close enough in appearance to be obviously twins, but carrying themselves like adults. They strolled into the space of 221b without an invitation, without self-consciousness, as if they owned the space and Greg and John were the guests.

"You must be Dr John Watson," said the girl.

"I thought you'd be taller," announced the boy.

With John apparently assessed and dismissed in under a minute, they turned to consider Greg.

"And you are Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade," said the boy.

"Now he does have potential. The photographs don't do him justice," declared the girl.

John listened with puzzlement to what sounded like a cut-glass English accent with an American overlay. He peered at clothes that seemed to belong in a documentary about the Kennedy family summering at Martha's Vineyard. He considered the dark curling hair and high cheekbones. Giving up on the deductions that seemed to make no sense, increasingly unimpressed at being treated like a piece of furniture in his own home, he finally demanded, "And who exactly might the two of you be?"

"I'm Olivia," said the girl.

"And I'm Leighton," said the boy.

They continued together. "Olivia and Leighton Holmes."

"Oh bleeding heck," exclaimed Greg, "one of them's been breeding."

"It can't be Sherlock," protested John.

"Oh no, not Sherlock," said Leighton.

"We're pretty sure Sherlock doesn't do it at all," continued Olivia.

"Which is why it is a good thing you are hetrosexual," supplied Leighton, considering John.

"Or it would be a pathetic gay crush, instead of an epic bromance," said Olivia.

"Sherlock is our paternal uncle," finished Leighton.

The twins looked expectantly at the two men, a look apparently stolen straight off the face of Sherlock, clearly anticipating the reaction when the others finally worked it out.

"Mycroft?" squeaked John. "Mycroft produced kids?"

"It is surprising that Daddy managed to do it with a woman," agreed Olivia.

"Given that he's clearly flaming gay," said Leighton.

"He thinks we don't know," continued Olivia.

"We're not sure he knows," added Leighton.

Olivia sighed with all the weary patience of a put-upon mother. "We may have to stage an intervention. He's been alone far too long. It is on our to-do list."

Both children turned on Greg, pinning him with a piercing double stare that seemed to combine the worst of Sherlock's focus and Mycroft's manipulativeness. "From the research we've been able to do on the internet, you are on the top of our list of likely candidates," said Olivia.

"You've stopped wearing your wedding ring," continued Leighton, "that's a start."

"We do hope you are in touch with your latent bisexuality," added Olivia. "It will make things a lot simpler."

Greg boggled at them, nervously rubbing the finger where his ring used to be.

"Woah, woah, woah, lets back the f--, ah, the hell up here," interjected John. "Where have you two come from? Does Mycroft know you're here?"

"Daddy doesn't know," said Leighton.

"Yet," added Olivia.

"But he'll work it out as soon as his minions see the security footage from the outside of the flat. He'll doubtless be along shortly," concluded Leighton.

"And your mother?" demanded John.

"Mummy thinks we're still in school in Boston," said Leighton.

"It won't bother her much, seeing as she's in Cancun with the gardener," said Olivia.

"Boston?" exclaimed John. "How did you get from Boston to London?"

Four pale grey eyes turned to look at John, their expression more sorrow than impatience, clearly pitying him for being so very slow.

"We flew, John," said Olivia, in the patient tone one might use to explain something to a small and regrettably dim child.

"You flew? Without your parents' knowledge? How old are you, exactly?" demanded John.

"We're twelve."

"But it really isn't very difficult."

"We have passports."

"And credit cards."

"And British Airways black cards."

John's head was swivelling back and forth between the two of them as if he was watching a tennis match.

"And if all else fails..." continued Olivia. The shape of her face changed subtly, her cheeks pinched, her grey eyes suddenly even larger, tears welling above the long dark lashes. Her voice trembled just a little. "It's very hard, parents divorced on two continents, having to shuttle back and forth unaccompanied--" She was the very picture of childlike stoicism in the face of family tragedy.

And then just as quickly the look was gone, her cool control once more in evidence.

John gaped at them, at a loss for words.

"How do you know who we are?" interjected Greg.

Olivia sighed, clearly resigned to yet more banal explanations. "We follow Sherlock's blog."

"And John's," said Leighton.

"And all Sherlock's press clippings."

"And yours."

"Daddy sends them to us."

"It sweet, really. Daddy tries so hard to pretend he's not proud of Sherlock."

"And that he doesn't collect photographs of you."

They both smiled at Greg, perfect teeth gleaming like little sharks circling their prey.

Quick steps coming up the staircase drew everyone's attention to the door.

"Sherlock's back," said John. "Thank God, he can sort them out."

"A sweet thought, John" said Olivia.

"But hopelessly optimistic," concluded Leighton.

Sherlock bounded through the door in his usual dramatic swirl of black coat. "John, this case is insufferably boring, why am I always burdened with--" He stopped abruptly as he noticed the children. "Oh no, no! What are the spawn of hell doing here?"

"We're moving to London, Sherlock."

"We're going to live with Daddy."

"And visit you every weekend."

"And help you with your cases."

"Like hell you are," exclaimed Sherlock, crossing his arms and focusing a ferocious scowl at his niece and nephew. "Where's the garlic? I'm sure I've got a silver cross here somewhere. And a wooden stake."

The children giggled.

"Does Mycroft know?" demanded Sherlock.

When the children shook their heads in unison, Sherlock brightened immediately. "Oh excellent. This is going to be worth seeing. And speaking of my dearest brother..." Sherlock strode to the window and peered out. "The car is here, demon cubs. Prepare to meet your maker."

For the first time since they'd burst through the door, the children looked nervous. Leighton straightened his cuffs. Olivia smoothed down her skirt. They moved closer together, as if to present a united front.

Everyone waited in breathless silence, listening to the slow steady tread up the stairs, accompanied by the distinctive click of the umbrella landing on every second stair.

"Olivia. Leighton," said Mycroft evenly as he entered the room.

"Hello Daddy," they said together.

All three were apparently calmly dismissive of each other, but there was an electric tension building in the room.

"Explain," stated Mycroft, both hands planted firmly on the handle of his umbrella.

The twins took a deep breath, spared each other the briefest of glances, and they were off.

"We're moving to London, Daddy."

"We're going to live with you."

"Mummy's gone off to Mexico with one of the landscape contractors."

"You don't want us being brought up by the servants."

The twins paused, as if waiting to assess Mycroft's reaction to this information. He did not look amused. "Well I suppose we do still have some adequate boarding schools in this country--"

"We're not going to boarding school," interuppted Leighton.

"Recent research shows boarding schools promote relational dysfunction in adulthood because many important emotional and psychological needs are not met," continued Olivia.

"It is not good for us to be brought up in the absence of a parental figure."

"And we don't want to be separated."

"You and Sherlock should know all about that."

"We want to live with you, go to day school in London."

There was another careful pause. Mycroft rubbed a hand distractedly across his forehead. "It's not that simple--"

"We can stay with Sherlock when you are travelling."

"It'll be good for us to meet ordinary people."

"Like John. And the detective inspector."

"We are sure they'll help."

Olivia and Leighton turned on John, with just a hint a genuine desperation in their voices.

"You will help, won't you?"

"You must have realised that things would be better if only Daddy and Sherlock hadn't had such a bizarre upbringing. And trust us when we say Mummy is worse."

"This is your chance to intervene."

"To save the next generation from the same fate."

"You'll be good for us. We're sure of it."

Four huge grey eyes stared up at him, pleading.

The charm of Sherlock, the manipulativeness of Mycroft, the ferocious intelligence and entitled attitudes of the Holmes' family and apparently much better social awareness than the generation of their father... He suspected the world was going to need all the help it could get in containing these two.

"Yeah sure, Greg and I are happy to help." He ignored Greg's eye-roll of horror and settled in to enjoy watching Mycroft being comprehensively outmanoeuvred. He doubted it was a sight he'd often be privileged to see and he was going to enjoy it while it lasted.

"Very well," said Mycroft at last, " but I must insist--"

Whatever it was that Mycroft had foolishly thought he could insist upon was lost in an excited squeal as both children launched themselves at him, wrapping their arms around his neck, kissing him on both his cheeks.

"Oh thank you, Daddy."

"It's going to be brilliant."

"You'll see us every night."

"And we'll help Sherlock on the weekends."

"And the Detective Inspector too."

"And we'll upgrade John's blog."

"And monetize it."

"There is so much to do!"

"Help," Mycroft mouthed at Sherlock over the heads of the two children.

Sherlock grinned evilly. "Well, I guess that's the end of boring for quite some time to come."