David Karofsky was a successful man. Not yet thirty, and he was already a senior partner in his company, an agency that supplied sports agents to top players in the MLB, NFL, NASL, and NBA. He had a wonderful, gorgeous husband; an amazing son who would be three in a few weeks (where did the time go?); and his future was only getting brighter. All the bad seemed behind him.
Which was why, when the news broke that Tim, the agency's second-most junior partner, was missing, David didn't automatically assume the worst. It wasn't until Rich, another senior partner at the agency, made a comment in the elevator as they rode up to their floor that morning, about how unreliable young people were these days, that David began to suspect. He had known Tim; they had lunched together a few times, Tim starstruck at David's presence, and David happy to make a friend around his age and in his field who was like him, even if Tim wasn't out at work. In fact, there was a lot about Tim that reminded David of his younger self in ways that made his heart ache, and David had tried to be there for Tim the way Kurt had been there for David. After everything, all the bullying and the secrets and the late nights and the bad days and--God--The Attempt--and the acceptance and the comfort and the strength he had drawn from the one person he had never expected--not after everything they had been through, and--
Listening to Tim, being there for him, had felt a lot like Karma.
David was pretty sure he was the only one Tim had told about his new boyfriend, was pretty sure he was the only one Tim could tell. (And wasn’t that way too familiar). He had smiled, and congratulated Tim while Tim had blushed and refused to give details because, he’s not out, either. He can’t be. He’s, well, he’s kind of a client. Not mine! But--yeah. David had laughed and teased Tim about dating the quarterback, ignoring the twinge in the back of his mind that warned of the minefield that was his memories of High School. That had been the last time he had seen the younger man. There had been nothing about him that had hinted at unreliability--he was happy at his job, he had found romance--David guessed he could have run off with this boyfriend, but the tabloids were always quick on athlete’s love lives and there hadn’t been any athletes outed in the last few weeks.
No. There was something wrong with this picture. David waved at Rich as he walked off towards his office, deep in thought. He nodded absently at his secretary as he passed her and went into his office, setting his briefcase down next this his desk and sitting back in his chair. He stared for a moment at his computer screen’s screen saver, scrolling pictures of his family--His wedding with Kacy, Kacy’s red-orange curls bright in the setting sunlight; in the hospital with Vickye, their surrogate, and a swaddled newborn Jake; their first family Christmas card picture where Jake was hanging in a stocking and teething on an over-sized plastic candy cane; last father’s day with three generations of Karofskys (his father had flown in to the city to visit, and spent the entire trip talking about his new girlfriend. David had been happy; the divorce had hit his father hard).
There was a delicate tap, and David startled. He looked up to see Irene Norton, his secretary, poised in the doorway, one perfectly manicured hand still resting against the door frame. David tried to smile at her, but he could feel it failing, doubly so when Irene frowned at him.
She was a beautiful lady, Irene. Even David could appreciate that. Strong and dark like bitter chocolate, and just as poisonous. It was just as well that she didn’t swing his way, any more than he swung hers; she would eat him alive. (Rich had said once, before he knew about Kacy and Jake, when he had tried to include David in the office version of locker room talk, that Irene was his type of naughty secretary; the kind who wore fuck me heels with a stern expression. David had flustered his way through a response, knowing that Irene could hear them. Irene, for her part, had simply smiled a Mona Lisa smile, and tapped her red nails against the screen of her cell phone).
In his head, David referred to Irene as his secret weapon. She was scarily good at her job; the office would fall to pieces without her, and she could, if she wanted, work rings around David, which made her perfect for knowing what was needed, and anticipating that need. And, if David was the only one who recognized that about her, the same way he recognized who she favored in her bed and the same power that she brought with her there--well--Irene had her own reasons to hide that were none of David’s business.
Irene entered the office, closing the door behind her. “What’s wrong?” she said, striding forward. Her voice was deeper than one would expect of a woman of her size, and though her accent placed her squarely in New Jersey, she always sounded more British to David’s ears when she was upset, or taken by surprise. He could certainly hear it now.
David sighed. “Oh, it’s--It’s Tim. Uh, Tim Fielding. He’s pulled a vanishing act and--” David broke off, brow furrowing. “It’s not like him.” He glanced up at Irene. She was staring back with an intensity he hadn’t seen before. “What?”
“Is that what people are saying?” Irene asked, softy. “That he just--vanished?”
“Yeah,” David said. “Rich was on about irresponsible youth in the elevator, but that doesn’t seem like Tim.”
“Has anyone called the police?”
David shrugged. “Didn’t sound like it. As far as everyone’s concerned, Tim just flaked.”
Irene nodded, eyes far away. “You’re right. That doesn’t sound like Tim.”
David felt his eyebrows raise. “You knew him?”
Irene focused on David, smiling with real warmth this time. “I know everybody, Mr. Karofsky.”
David snorted. “And their business, too.”
Now Irene laughed. “Naturally.” She sobered quickly. “Do you want me to call the police for you?”
“No,” David said, shaking himself off. “No, I’ll swing by his place on my lunch break, see if he’s around. If he’s not there, I’ll call then.”
Irene nodded. “Very good. You have a meeting at 10 with Chambers, and 3 with Weston.”
David groaned. “What does Weston want now.”
“More money,” Irene smirked. “What else.”
“Can’t I be sick?”
“Maybe you can get some conveniently timed food poisoning from some iffy tuna at lunch?”
David laughed. “I like that. Pencil me in for some ptomaine.”
Irene nodded and turned to go. “I’ll get you Tim’s address before lunch.”
“Thanks, Irene,” David said, and moved his mouse to wake up his computer. He tried to push all thoughts of Tim aside for now, and manfully ignored the rising unease in his stomach. Secrets hadn’t sat well with him since High School, and he had a distinct feeling that he was sitting in top of a big one.
It had been years since Sherlock had returned from the dead, and still, sometimes, John would wake to an empty bed, half-asleep and nightmare laden, convinced that Sherlock was nothing more than a dream. Then he would hear Sherlock’s familiar frantic pacing, or the skritch-scratching of Sherlock’s thinking violin, or, on one memorable occasion, a minor explosion, and John’s heart would settle and the ache in his leg would disappear, and he’d wander downstairs to make tea. Sherlock would know, the way he seemed to know everything about John, and his pacing would take him into the kitchen to bounce around ideas, or the skritching would turn to one of John’s favorite melodies, or Sherlock would be standing in the kitchen, covered in soot with a surprised expression, and John’s relieved laughter would giggle out of him, and they’d be off, right as rain.
Only once had John woken to an empty flat. Never again.
This morning John woke to Sherlock’s bowing the Imperial March from Star Wars. John sighed, and wiped a hand over his face.
Wonderful. Mycroft was here.
Wincing at the way his spine popped and cracked, John stood and stretched, falling forward to catch himself in a series of pushups and sit-ups that had become part of his morning routine during what he had come to refer to as The Hiatus. He had been walking one day, limping down an alley in the cold damp of early March, when he had seen the first graffiti. It hadn’t made sense at first, and he found the writing blurring before his eyes as he blinked back tears made by the pain in his chest. For a brief moment he had thought he was having a heart attack, but the yellow paint resolved in his vision:
I Believe in Sherlock Holmes.
He had looked around in awe as the slogans--war cries, really--had registered.
Moriarty was Real.
Sherlock was Framed.
And one, down in the corner, nearly hidden in the darkness, that made his breath come
That was the phrase that had echoed in his mind as he had walked home on two solid legs, past Mrs. Hudson, up the seventeen steps, and into 221B. It was as if he had been away for months, for all that he had been there that morning. He had cleaned in a flurry, pushing aside furniture, making room, taking out his gun and cleaning it for the first time since--
He had started his workout that day, frustrated that he had let himself go for so long, but he was driven, finally given a purpose.
Suddenly, it was the most important thing in the world to be ready.
When Sherlock came back, John would be ready.
And he had been. Sherlock had come home to a John in fighting shape as he had not been since Afghanistan, and earned himself a black eye for his trouble. But it had cracked the ice, and they had laughed like schoolboys as they raced off, forgiving and forgiven, Sherlock’s eye swelling and John’s laughter echoing down the alleyways, to wrap up the last of Moriarty’s web of crime.
It was in the wake of that high, victorious and alive, that they had crashed into each other with lips and teeth and grasping hands, panting breaths and wet, red mouths, and John had awoken with Sherlock wrapped around him and had laughed and laughed.
They hadn’t told anybody about the change in their relationship, but Mycroft had still shown up the next day with a gift of a cheeseboard to celebrate their “happy circumstances,” and a case of national importance. Sherlock had surprised John by taking the case, only later explaining that, while his name was still not fully cleared, these were the only cases he was likely to get. And then, when he had told John that Mycroft had known, and helped, Sherlock during The Hiatus, Sherlock had nearly gotten another black eye.
They solved the case in a week, and Sherlock used the board to dissect a human heart, timing it so that Mycroft would walk in just as Sherlock was finishing his last incision. John went to have tea with Mrs. Hudson until the flat quieted down.
John stood, pulling on a pair of Sherlock’s pajama pants, rolling the waist because Sherlock was part stork, and grabbed one of Sherlock’s old shirts, knowing full well that Sherlock was dressed in one of John’s over-sized jumpers and sleep pants that barely reached his ankle (a habit that Sherlock had started even before they had started sleeping together). John didn’t usually dress in Sherlock’s clothes, and when he did it was usually a shirt, never pants, but there was something about John invading Sherlock’s space that made Mycroft twitch.
They had finished a case last night, damnit. It was their day off.
Sure enough Mycroft was sitting in their living room, in John’s chair, across from Sherlock. There was a third empty chair pulled up, with a cup of tea steaming at it’s side. John repressed a sigh, ignored the chair to place a kiss on top of Sherlock’s head, and was rewarded as Sherlock’s atonal plucking became a sweet melodic run. He sat in the chair, sipped from his tea--steeped slightly too long. Sherlock, then. Mycroft would be too perfect--and smiled at Mycroft. There. Twitch.
“Mycroft was just about to tell us to take a case in America.” Sherlock said. “Someone, who has the potential to cause an international incident, has gone missing.”
“Which would cause a different sort of incident,” John said. Sherlock flashed a smile at him, and Mycroft shifted in his seat.
The years hadn’t been as kind to Mycroft. Where Sherlock remained whippet thin and strong with activity, Mycroft had started to loose his battle with his waistline. He had adapted, taking on a Churchill-esque persona that impressed everyone except John and Sherlock.
“Quite,” Mycroft said. “So will you take it?
John exchanged a look with Sherlock, raising his eyebrows over the rim of his mug. Sherlock screeched his bow and stood, his dressing gown flapping dramatically behind him as he called back of his shoulder.
“Why not. I’ve always wanted to show John, New York.”
Mycroft closed his eyes. John smiled into his tea as Sherlock played the opening strains of New York, New York.