He lets the gun fall to his side and exhales. He is finished. The sudden weight of what is done makes him slump heavily against the wall knees finally giving way under physical fatigue, mental exhaustion and if he dare allow it, emotional fallout.
Sherlock Holmes lets the gun drop with a loud thud on the floor of the abandoned German warehouse. Three years, ten deaths have led him here. He is finished.
There is a sound of sirens and he knows the German police accompanied by British Secret service-at his brother’s behest naturally are climbing the stairs, they will take the last of Moriarty’s web away and he will be done. He cannot move, he doesn’t know where to go.
A flurry of activity around him he registers the body being removed-minimal fuss no investigation- and the room emptying again. Footsteps approach.
Sherlock looks up slowly into the face of a middle aged Detective, Frankfurt’s answer to Lestrade he mused and a pang of remorse echoed the brief amusement he felt.
‘I’m to take you to your hotel, Sir’ the Detective informed him.
Sherlock nodded. It was late, he was exhausted and he wasn’t about to refuse transport back to the city even if it was in a police car.
The Detective mercifully didn’t speak and allowed Sherlock to stare out of the window in quiet thought, had he been able to muster a single one other than the one the relentlessly chased out of his mind for the past years. It was over and there was nothing else left to think of.
Sherlock was deposited at his hotel, a nondescript establishment on the outskirts of the business district, comfortable but formless, anonymous. Just what he had needed for his work but it now made him feel strangely empty. Sherlock pulled himself up the stairs, his brain still unable to formulate the next step, to compute what he did from here. It wasn’t a victory, it wasn’t even an end, it might have been a beginning but he couldn’t dare fathom that yet his brain, the great mind was addled seemed incapable of any further thought.
He opened the door to his room and tensed. There was someone there. Chasing every shadow across Europe had had perfectly honed his already sniper sharp senses, he felt his hip for the gun that still hid there and shut the door quietly.
In the darkness a figure moved and a lamp illuminated next to the bed a form silhouetted in the lamplight rose out of the chair and Sherlock let out a breath.
‘Mycroft’ he said softly
‘Sherlock’ his brother replied his tone neutral ‘I hear you have completed the task’
‘Yes. Moriarty’s web is eliminated’ he took a step into the room and let the gun drop to the bed.
‘Very glad to hear it’ Mycroft replied. ‘You’ll be returning home to London I trust?’
‘As soon as possible’
They stood in silence in the semi darkness for a long time Sherlock dropped his gaze to the bed covers feeling Mycroft’s penetrating stare taking in every detail of him. Mycroft catalogued with alarming accuracy the reduction in his already slim brother’s frame; his gaunt cheekbones no longer distinguished but sallow, injuries from the fight today-superficial but sore-cuts and bruises to the face and arms. Deeper scars and lingering injuries bellow his clothing, broken ribs from Russia, and the scar of a deep knife wound in France. Mycroft had kept track.
The man stood before him bore nothing of the younger brother Mycroft had watched depart in London, his hair, longer and matted without the luxury of London salons and bath products. He was sweaty and dirty and tired-Mycroft estimated he hadn’t more than cat napped in three days, hadn’t eaten in longer. And that was just the most recent case- how many times over three years had he watched the same thing from a distance? Unable to help other than to send in teams so pick up the bodies, keeping a watchful eye, checking he was alive.
Mycroft took another step forward until he was next to Sherlock at the end of the bed. He reached out and touched his arm.
His brother flinched with alarming violence swinging an arm at his brother and pinning him against the wall.
‘Sherlock!’ Mycroft exclaimed, but in an instant understood, not fighting back. How long since anybody had touched him not in violence? Without intent to hurt? ‘Sherlock’ he repeated.
Sherlock released his hold and took a step back looking down.
‘Sorry.’ He said shifting from foot to foot.
‘Understandable.’ Mycroft said stepping off the wall and straightening his jacket.
Slowly, as though approaching a frightened animal Mycroft tried again. Sherlock lifted his gaze and looked into his brother’s eyes for the first time, something broke inside him and before Mycroft could make it to him and take his arm again Sherlock flew at him arms around his big brother’s neck.
If he’d been heavier the force would have knocked Mycroft over, worryingly Sherlock felt like barely anything against him. He felt long arms around his neck tighten and he wove his own arms around Sherlock’s torso and held tight. Mycroft had always been happier with silence than his younger sibling but there was much to ask, much to tell. He began quietly murmuring softly into the matted curls under his chin
‘Are you alright little brother?’
Sherlock exhaled into his brother’s shoulder, a great shuddering loss. Those were the words Mycroft used when they were children and Sherlock came running to him after the older boys-and later the younger ones too-teased and hurt him. He nodded slowly into the shoulder and gripped slightly tighter before pulling back.
‘Yes.’ He said squaring up ‘Fine.’
Mycroft nodded. ‘Good. Clean yourself up; there are clothes in the bathroom, then food. I will be out here working.’
The implicit reassurance that Sherlock would be safe was noted as he disappeared into the bathroom hoping to wash away more than just the accumulated grime. As the hot shower washed over him he let himself relax fully for the first time. His brain felt numb, without the thought of the next fight the next deduction to spur him on there was a strange emptiness in his head that worked its way to a dull ache in his chest.
Sherlock emerged some time later, clean and dry and clothed in the grey t shirt and pyjamas that Mycroft had left out for him, just as he did when they were small. Mycroft looked up from his phone as his brother re-entered the bedroom and Sherlock felt eyes on him cataloguing his thinner frame down to the last ounce, the cuts and bruises on his arms and neck now viable and the way he held himself betraying the still unhealed rib fracture from two months ago.
‘No urgent medical needs?’ Mycroft asked levelly.
‘None.’ Sherlock answered
‘You were lucky.’
A knock behind him sent Sherlock reeling against the wall again.
‘Room service’ Mycroft said not making a fuss but noting how deeply traumatised his brother was revealing himself to be. ‘Sit over there where you can see the door and I’ll retrieve it.’
Sherlock clenched his jaw and nodded. His limbs twitching with unwanted adrenaline, he breathed out slowly and deposited himself in one of the chairs.
Mycroft spoke softly to the hotel employee at the door; Sherlock heard the clanking of a trolley and the door shutting. Mycroft pulling the wheeled food cart into view again, Sherlock smirked a bit at his brother struggling with manual labour while being simultaneously touched that he had avoided Sherlock having contact with anybody else this evening.
‘You might help rather than smirk.’ Mycroft said without looking up from his task, knowing also his brother realised why he was struggling with it himself rather than have a stranger let into the room.
Sherlock got up and helped, arranging plates on the small side table while Mycroft wheeled the table out again. Sherlock couldn’t help it; he laughed. The sound was strange in his throat and it caught there like a bark as he caught himself. He had no business laughing. He caught Mycroft’s frown before he replaced it with his usual mask of calm.
‘Eat’ he said gesturing to the plates in front of him.
Sherlock nodded and began to slowly pick at the food in front of him. The chef was English he guessed, unlikely Mycroft would eat from any other-and the food good though to his starved palate almost anything at this point would taste like fine dining. They ate in silence until eventually Sherlock could eat no more and put his cutlery to one side, Mycroft did the same.
‘Tell me everything.’ Mycroft commanded sitting back and folding his arms.
Sherlock nodded and began to talk, slowly methodically laying out the details for his brother-from his flight from London after Mycroft and Molly helped him to fake his death across Europe as far as Russia in pursuit of Moriarty’s web. He detailed every fight, every kill and the deductions that led him there. As he talked he began to become slowly more animated, words spilling from him tumbling from his mouth as fast as his brain could form the words.
Mycroft sat and nodded, hanging on every word-not for the case details as he already knew all that was necessary-a combination of Sherlock’s coded letters and emails along with his own surveillance had furnished him with a working knowledge of his brother’s activities. He listened now for Sherlock’s sake and it became clear from the shaky quiet start that grew into a pacing, anxious, verbal assault that Sherlock needed to tell his story.
He became more and more animated, his speech racing as he got up pacing the room reeling out the details of his time away. His hands waved manically illustrating just the angle at which he’d caught one of Moriarty’s men, waving and gripping his brother’s shoulders to demonstrate how another had caught him. Still Mycroft watched impassive but engaged as Sherlock gave him minute observations and asides from the history of the places he’d visited to the sex lives of the hotel staff- that was when he’d managed to stay in hotels.
Mycroft had been aware, he’d known the progress of this epic case, he’d known when Sherlock was in true danger and been ready to act. But still much of it had alluded him-his younger brother was that clever after all, he’d hidden some of it; the injuries, the misses nearer than Mycroft had thought , how close he’d come to not defeating Moriarty’s web. Mycroft sighed inwardly not betraying his emotions, letting his brother carry his story to its conclusion. Finally exhausting every avenue of description Sherlock flopped back into the armchair and steepled his fingers together regarding his brother.
‘And that is that.’ Mycroft said
‘Yes.’ Sherlock said his tone measured. ‘I’ve told mine Mycroft.’
Mycroft raised an eyebrow. ‘You know from my correspondence that I’ve been monitoring-protecting’ he emphasised the last word, a slight indication of Sherlock’s recklessness ‘The case from London. There is nothing bar a few administrative and political details that would no doubt bore you.’
Sherlock stared at him, eyes ice cold ‘Tell me.’ He said firmly
Mycroft exhaled and nodded. ‘He is alive.’ He said carefully and Sherlock let out the breath he’d been holding his head dropping. ‘As are the others.’ Mycroft continued. ‘In that sense your plan was successful. Mrs Hudson has continued as landlady to some very nice young men-friends of Mrs Turner’s tenants I believe, who mysteriously gave their notice a month ago.’
Sherlock snorted, still not lifting his head.
‘Lestrade found himself on lower profile cases for a few months but was quickly allowed to head his division once more.’ Mycroft paused ‘As I say, in theory your plan worked.’
Sherlock’s head snapped up ‘What?’ he asked ‘John?’
Mycroft nodded. ‘He is not the man you left. Rather he may be the man you first met.’
Mycroft closed his eyes briefly ‘Grief affects a person, even you Sherlock. John Watson mourned you for a long time. Eventually he rebuilt his life-a wife, a child. And now they have been taken from him.’
‘But you said-‘
Mycroft held up a hand silencing him. ‘There was no foul play, at least none that I could prevent. A tragic accident-hit and run-before my surveillance picked it up it was too late.’ He exhaled ‘I assure you Sherlock, I put a team onto it for a month it was an accident nothing more.’
‘John.’ Sherlock all but whispered.
‘That was nine months ago.’ Mycroft continued, leaning down to his briefcase. ‘Here is his file. I assumed you’d want the full picture.’ He handed the file over and Sherlock took it.
‘Thank you’ he muttered and began to read, slowly methodically moving through the file. Mycroft left him to it, becoming absorbed in his own files, knowing what his younger brother needed to do was absorb information, to prepare, so that when tomorrow came he would be ready-even Mycroft reasoned if John Watson was not.
After a while Mycroft realised Sherlock was no longer moving, no longer flicking through pages, he had stopped. Frozen, transfixed by the file in his lap Sherlock’s face betrayed the war going on behind his eyes. Mycroft didn’t have to look down to know what Sherlock had found. Gently he reached over and closed the file, covering the photographs leaving only their imprint in Sherlock’s mind.
John and his young family, John alone, John and Sherlock from before, John all John, exactly as Sherlock remembered him and yet completely different, it was too much to take; as if his brain had finally frozen, hard drive overloaded, information unable to process. He closed his eyes but the images remained, intermingling with his own memory snapshots, the ones he’d tried so hard to override at times over the last three years, and had at other times tried to desperately to recall.
‘Tomorrow you’ll be home’ Mycroft said gently
‘Home’ Sherlock repeated ‘I’m not sure I have one.’
Mycroft understood ‘Homes can be rebuilt’ he said, tone still gentle. ‘For now, rest’
Sherlock quirked a smile at him ‘So maternal Mycroft, so caring, don’t tell me this is a new habit-your new partner must be good for you.’ He raised an eyebrow at his brother pleased with his deduction.
Mycroft smiled arching his own eyebrow in response ‘Sure you’ll deduce for yourself soon enough.’ But furrowed his brow to let Sherlock know his deflection did not go unnoticed. He settled back in the chair and turned out the main light flicking on the table lamp and nodded at his brother.
Instructions understood; Mycroft was staying while Sherlock slept- for their mutual reassurance Sherlock guessed, Mycroft didn’t want Sherlock disappearing now he’d finally got him back where he could really watch him again and Sherlock couldn’t deny that in his current heightened state of alert the presence of someone else in the room would enable him to get some much needed rest. He closed his eyes and hoped for oblivion.
For a while Mycroft breathed a sigh of relief, exhaustion seemed to have gotten the better of his little brother-so little- he mused as he watched him sleep in the half light-his thin form rising and falling with deep breaths of sleep Mycroft felt a surge of relief as he allowed himself also to relax and doze off in the chair.
He wasn’t sure at first what had woken him. The room still looked the same, nothing moved. Sherlock’s sleeping form still on the bed still rising and falling with deep breaths-no he realised suddenly, rising and falling too rapidly for sleep. And then he heard what had awoken him, a soft squeak one that pulled at his chest having heard it so many times as a young boy, the last time he’d shared a room with his brother. Another soft hiccupping squeak that matched the shuddering rise and fall on the bed.
Mycroft put aside his papers, shoes long discarded he padded silently to the bed. He let his weight on one side be a warning, moving slowly so as not to frighten Sherlock-one could never be sure how awake he was through this. Gently Mycroft lay down behind his brother and wrapped his arms around his chest pulling him in towards him, he felt violent shakes run through the thin form as Sherlock struggled to contain the sound, contain himself. Mycroft tightened his grip.
‘I’ve got you little brother’ he whispered into the mass of hair. A wave broke then and Sherlock gave in to deep juddering sobs, still virtually silent-the curse of those forced to hide their emotions through fear-but wrecking through his body with alarming ferocity. Mycroft held on tightly, whispering reassurances of utter nonsense into Sherlock’s ear, if he could hear himself, if Sherlock could hear him properly, they’d scoff and the notion. But in the dark, when nothing was making sense Mycroft’s words had always calmed his younger brother.
They did not fail him this time, although he was alarmed at the amount of time it took. Mycroft wondered if this was the build-up of just these past years-the time since that single tear on the rooftop-yes Mycroft had seen. Or something more, something deeper. At this moment he didn’t want to know. Just relieved to exhale as an exhausted Sherlock shifted, now half asleep once more to bury his head into Mycroft’s chest, he adjusted his grip accordingly, still circling Sherlock’s upper body with one hand, stronger than his rounded form indicated and gripping tightly as he knew Sherlock needed should he wake again. His other hand wandered to the matted curls under his chin and gently stroked as his kept up his monologue, just in case.
‘What did we do to you?’ he asked gently before assuring him ‘We’ll all take care of you from now on, I promise’ he repeated ‘I promise’ until sleep took over him also.
Sherlock awoke the next morning alone. For a moment panic rose that it was not real, that it was not over, that he would get up and once more be after one of Moriarty’s men. Then he heard the soft click of the bathroom door and through his bleary eyed state saw his brother, immaculate as ever standing in his shirtsleeves doing up his cufflinks.
‘Morning Sherlock.’ He said evenly. ‘We are booked on a noon flight so I suggest you gather your things. We’ll be back in London by mid-afternoon.’
Sherlock sat and nodded. Unsure of his ability to speak, he felt drained. He looked up at Mycroft whose gaze softened.
‘Get ready. There’s food-you need to eat.’
Sherlock nodded. In silence mostly they ate and prepared to leave, drove to the airport and sat each preoccupied with their own thoughts. When the plane finally landed and Mycroft stood gathering his briefcase and umbrella Sherlock froze. There was a gentle tug at his elbow.
‘Sherlock’ Mycroft’s eyes were gentle ‘it’s time to go home.’