Chapter 1: Brothers
Sherlock is finished with his three year mission to defeat Moriarty and it's left to Mycroft to bring him home. But coming home isn't as easy as he'd hoped.
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.’
Chapter 2: More than just your Landlady
Sherlock goes to Baker Street for the first time since his return and is reunited with Mrs Hudson. But all he can think of is coming home for good.
‘Baker Street?’ Sherlock asked as London flew by outside the window, it was just after two in the afternoon and having expected to be immediately secreted away at Mycroft’s mansion until the relevant paperwork was completed to bring him back from the dead-Mycroft did after all love a bit of paperwork-he was surprised and a little unnerved to find himself travelling towards his old home.
‘Yes’ Mycroft replied, ‘I thought we might drop by on the way.’
Sherlock turned in to look at his brother ‘Easing me in gently?’
‘Mycroft I don’t recall asking you to engineer my return to society.’
‘No but you do need me to.’ Mycroft’s tone was even, patient.
Sherlock sighed. He did, and not only for the paperwork. ‘I am quite good at observation you know. I might get by without you holding my hand.’
‘No.’ Mycroft said simply, gently. ‘Sherlock you know as well as I do this is a delicate situation, you have been away- you have been dead.’ He emphasised the last word. ‘You cannot simply….’ Mycroft gestured at his brother for once pained to state the obvious. Sherlock looked at him blankly, ‘Walk back into his life.’ Mycroft finished with a sigh.
‘How else do you propose I do it? Text him? ‘Not dead SH’? Or perhaps be terribly Victorian and write a letter?’ Sherlock pouted turning back to the window.
‘He won’t believe you unless he can see you.’
‘So let me see him!’
Mycroft drew breath, not wanting to push the issue but realising once again his brother’s ability to deduce often stopped at the emotional level. ‘You’re not ready. And I won’t let you see him until you are.’
‘I can find him myself.’
‘You will not.’ Mycroft’s tone was sharp now. ‘Sherlock I kept your secret for three years, I kept them safe. You have no idea what you’ve asked of me, what I risked for you and how difficult it was. Or what I still stand to lose! As usual you have no concept of anyone but yourself.’ Mycroft caught himself, realising the error of what he had said, measuring his tone he continued. ‘It has been difficult for all concerned Sherlock, not least myself.’
‘If you would just allow me to see-‘
‘Sherlock no!’ Mycroft silenced his brother ‘It is not that simple. There are things to consider. Things are different they cannot simply go back to how they were. There are factors to consider, there are people to consider Sherlock.’
‘Mycroft I will not blindly follow you because of the…’ Sherlock glared ‘Debt I owe you.’ He paused ‘I have waited too long. I can’t risk losing...’
‘In this instance then, for this one time listen to me Sherlock. We are perhaps not as opposed as you might think on this issue, play it wrong and we both stand to lose a great deal. More than we ever thought possible before you.’ He closed his eyes momentarily ‘Disappeared.’
Sherlock opened his mouth to protest once again, when suddenly puzzle pieces fell into face behind his eyes. ‘Mycroft?’ he began and was silenced with a glance.
‘Baker Street.’ Mycroft said nodding as the car began to turn.
Sherlock lent back against the seat, ‘Mrs Hudson.’ He said quietly as they turned the corner into Baker Street and stopped a few short moments later outside 221, Sherlock moved to open the door.
‘No.’ Mycroft commanded but his tone was gentle again. ‘Allow me to talk to her first. I’ll let you know when we’re ready.’
Sherlock nodded slowly, even in his impatience and knowledge that Mrs Hudson was a great deal stronger than the frail old woman others sometimes took her to be, he realised some groundwork might be necessary.
Mycroft nodded back at his brother and made his way to the door of 221 Baker Street knocking firmly on the door with his umbrella. Mrs Hudson would be in having returned from her coffee with Mrs Turner thirty minutes previously where she’d have learned of the extremely large tax return that had allowed the friends of her ‘married ones’ to so quickly afford the deposit for their longed for house in Brighton.
The locks rattled and Mrs Hudson stood before him immaculate as always and Mycroft sighed inwardly, with a cross expression clouding her face the minute she saw him.
‘Mycroft Holmes.’ She declared ‘To what do I owe this honour.’
‘Mrs Hudson, you’re looking well. May I come in?’
She eyed him suspiciously; Mycroft did his best at a charming smile, knowing his skills in that department were limited, ironically one of his brother’s greater assets.
‘I suppose so.’ She said moving aside to let him in.
‘Thank you.’ Mycroft said with a quick glance back at the car he walked in.
He had been back to Baker street several times since Sherlock’s ‘death’ first to break the news to Mrs Hudson before John got home, the least he could do for the Doctor, she had cried, as expected and then mourned his brother like a son. Mycroft had returned then to take items he claimed were of ‘sentimental’ or ‘family’ importance-some vital case notes Sherlock had not secreted to him in time, some of the clothing and disguises he required and Sherlock’s violin, which was more of a sentimental acquisition, a desire to keep it safe. Mycroft had returned later when John was moving out to take the remainder of his brother’s things which remained in their Mrs-Hudson labelled boxes in what he regarded as Sherlock’s room in his house.
He had seen Mrs Hudson since, on occasional pretence of government business, associated with Sherlock as the case remained officially open. It was more through badgering from interested parties that he kept an eye on her, and because he knew it was what Sherlock wanted.
Mrs Hudson busied herself with the teapot and Mycroft stood stiffly in the kitchen, not knowing how to begin now he was here. He had rehearsed this many times over the years and now everything seemed inadequate. He steeled himself; let Sherlock deal with that, he was laying the groundwork. This is the easy one, he reminded himself, she will forgive Sherlock anything, even dying and she will forgive Mycroft anything for bringing him back.
‘Mrs Hudson I’ve come about my Brother.’ He began
She put down the teapot and turned to him ‘Have they caught someone? That Moriarty man that John was telling me about? Have you proved he didn’t want to do it?’
Mycroft smiled slightly, this might actually go better than he hoped-it wasn’t every day you got to bring a man back from the dead ‘Yes Mrs Hudson you might say that.’
‘What was it then?’ she asked ‘Oh tell me Mycroft will you!’
‘I think you’ll need another cup out Mrs Hudson, I have someone who wants to talk to you-who might be able to answer your questions better than I. Excuse me one moment’ He pulled out his phone and dialled.
In the car a phone next to Sherlock rang, he glanced down and saw the caller ID and picked up
‘Yes.’ He said urgently
‘Why don’t you come and join us, Mrs Hudson’s got the kettle on.’
Sherlock grinned broadly and bounded from the car, discarding the phone one the seat he arrived at the door in three broad steps and only then did his breath catch in his chest and he stop. It suddenly felt like a very long time since he’d last stood there. Nodding to himself he pushed open the door and walked inside.
Mrs Hudson heard the door open, assuming it was one of the boys from upstairs back for something they’d forgotten having not noticed Mycroft leave the door just a fraction ajar.
‘Hello’ she called ‘Did you forget something dear?’
A lump caught in Sherlock’s throat at her call, he swallowed hard. ‘Yes.’ He said his voice barely a whisper ‘I rather think I did.’
Mrs Hudson froze, cup in hand and looked down at Mycroft who developed a sudden interest in the floor-best to let them muddle through this themselves he decided. She stepped into the light of the doorway and saw the man there silhouetted by the light from outside and the cup fell with a crash splintering on the floor. ‘No!’ she exclaimed as the man stepped forward slowly down the darkened corridor towards her ‘It can’t be.’
‘Mrs Hudson’ Sherlock said softly as he stepped fully into the light of the kitchen.
She stood frozen for a moment, and just as she’d always been-immaculately turned out surrounded by her tea things her face frozen in shock.
‘Mrs Hudson it’s me.’
It was indeed him, Sherlock Holmes thinner-much thinner than she remembered him, tired and gaunt and looking in his slightly tattered clothes so different to the immaculate man who had caused chaos on the floor above.
‘It’s me Mrs Hudson, Sherlock.’ He furrowed his brow as if unsure that she knew who he was.
Mrs Hudson furrowed her brow in return and before he knew what had hit him her hand deftly reached up and caught him square across the head, followed by a swift whip with the tea towel ripped from her apron faster than a master fencer drew his sword.
‘I bloody well know who you are.’ She said with another clip for good measure before pulling Sherlock wide-eyed with shock into her arms and a tight embrace.
‘Sherlock Holmes you’ll be the death of me you will’ she said into his shoulder and he reached down and tentatively returned the embrace.
She pulled back and wiped at her nose before turning back to the teapot, ‘Sit, sit. I need to make this tea. Oh bloody thing, china all over my floor.’
‘Allow me Mrs Hudson.’ Mycroft leaped to his feet and grabbed the dustpan and brush from its hanging place on the wall. Sherlock stood unsure where to put himself while his brother-in full three-piece suit swept the china pieces from Mrs Hudson’s floor while she tried to cover her sniffles with the whine of the kettle. Mycroft stood and nudged Sherlock’s hand pressing a hanker chief into it.
‘Mrs Hudson’ Sherlock said gently holding the handkerchief out to her.
‘Oh!’ she swatted his hand once more with hers and took the handkerchief, dabbing at her eyes ‘Oh just sit down both of you while I make this tea. Sherlock there’s a cake on the shelf-get it out you need feeding up, skin and bones you are honestly with nobody to look after you…’
She busied herself with the tea while Sherlock did as instructed and retrieved the cake from her cupboard setting out plates and serving the three of them slices, he resisted a snide remark about giving Mycroft a smaller portion fearing the wrath of Mrs Hudson’s tea towel once again.
Once Mrs Hudson was partially satisfied he’d eaten enough not to expire once again before her eyes she fixed him in her best motherly glare, ‘Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes do not think you are leaving this kitchen without some sort of explanation.’
Mycroft raised an eyebrow that clearly said ‘You’re on your own little brother’
Sherlock sighed, then smiled, then took Mrs Hudson’s hands in his own.
‘Of course Mrs Hudson.’
She nodded and poured herself some more tea settling back to listen. Sherlock had to be grateful, at least she was likely to hear him out without interruption and most likely believe what he said. He had long ago decided, and by default agreed with Mycroft who would know what about his ‘demise’ strictly on a need to know basis, John of course would know everything he and Mycroft knew if he would listen, Mrs Hudson only needed the edited highlights.
Sherlock began his story, ‘I faked my suicide Mrs Hudson, I didn’t die in my jump from the roof-how I did it and what happened up there you don’t need to concern yourself with’
‘It was Moriarty wasn’t it?’ she asked evenly.
‘Yes.’ He replied wondering now how much she knew already from John, from Lestrade possibly even Mycroft. ‘I needed him to be defeated, I needed him to die-that part was accurate.’ Mycroft sniffed a warning-the police and press reports had no doubt been doctored somewhat. ‘The reasons for it and the events which followed’ Sherlock continued ‘Less so.’
‘Go on dear.’ Mrs Hudson said patiently
‘I was forced to make it seem like I had died for Moriarty to be defeated fully, only with him and me completely removed from the equation could we be sure that his net of criminals were eliminated. That’s what I have spent the last three years doing Mrs Hudson, making sure no trace of his work remains.’
‘But all those lies the papers published about you-I said, I told them all that wasn’t the Sherlock Holmes Knew.’ Mrs Hudson sipped her tea defiantly with a pointed nod at Mycroft.
‘Unimportant’ Sherlock waved his hand.
‘It may not be to you young man but it was to those you left behind.’ Mrs Hudson snapped to attention now. ‘You’ve no idea how long I spent defending your name to all and sundry who were telling me otherwise. And as for John-well! I’m sure he’s given you enough of an earful about that already, but you’ll be getting one from me too-this isn’t the last of it-my goodness the things you put him through. What does he have to say about it?!’
Sherlock dropped his gaze, suddenly interested in the table cloth pattern.
Mrs Hudson inhaled sharply ‘You haven’t told him have you? He still thinks you’re dead?’ Sherlock nodded still to the tablecloth ‘How could you? Sherlock! Sitting here eating cake with me while that man still thinks you’re dead?! It’s cruel Sherlock. I know you’re a bit funny and not like the rest of us, but how could you? Not just this but how could you let him think you were dead? Sherlock!’ her tone was sharp now ‘Answer me.’
‘I was protecting him.’ He said to the table cloth, voice small.
‘How?’ Mrs Hudson snapped, on a roll now ‘Making him think you, the most important person in the world was dead? And that everything you two did was a lie-I read all the papers Sherlock- and then him having nobody to turn to when he lost his family? While you’ve been swanning off doing who knows what?’
‘He would have died! And so would you!’ Sherlock exclaimed head snapping up eyes blazing ‘I was protecting you, all of you.’
Mrs Hudson caught the fury and the sincerity in his eyes and fear, irrationally as the danger was clearly passed if he was sitting again in her kitchen, passed over her. ‘Died? Sherlock how?’
‘Moriarty.’ He replied calming a little now and looking at her once again his gaze softened, ‘He had sent men to kill three people, three people who mattered most to me, who he knew I would do anything to protect. It was them or me.’
He dropped his gaze again and after a moment felt Mrs Hudson’s hands covering his. ‘I’m sorry dear’ she said softly ‘shouldn’t have shouted at you.’ She squeezed his hand and he looked up at her and smiled wanly ‘For me?’ she asked frowning at him ‘Your landlady?’
Sherlock smiled ‘Never just my landlady Mrs Hudson.’
She smiled back at him warmly and pulled him into a hug again.
‘So myself John and-who was the third?’
‘Inspector Lestrade’ Mycroft spoke from behind her ‘Sherlock saved him as well.’
‘Oh!’ exclaimed Mrs Hudson ‘Well I suppose he was always so important even before he-‘
‘Thank you Mrs Hudson.’ Mycroft interjected and Sherlock frowned at his brother over her head and was rewarded with a glare. ‘Sherlock will have plenty of time to talk to you about this all once he moves back in. That is if you can bear the strain on your flat again.’
‘As long as he stops shooting my walls.’ She smiled ‘Where else would he possibly go?’
Sherlock nodded ‘Thank you Mrs Hudson.’
‘Yes thank you.’ Mycroft added ‘We must also ask that you keep this news to yourself for twenty four hours. We have some business to attend to, and I’m sure you’ll appreciate Sherlock would like to be the one to tell certain people this news.’
‘Of course dear. As long as you promise you’re telling him as soon as you can. Poor man.’
‘As soon as I am able to’ Sherlock shot a look at his brother who ignored him. ‘May I take a look upstairs before I go?’
Mrs Hudson beamed. ‘Of course dear, it’s not quite cleared out yet but we’ll soon get it sorted.’ She turned back to the table ‘ I’m going to wrap the rest of this cake up for you, you need feeding up and lord knows what this brother of yours will feed you.’
Mycroft rolled his eyes but stayed listening to Mrs Hudson’s monologue on looking after his brother as Sherlock pushed past him towards the stairs.
Seventeen stairs. He’d counted them numerous times, running up them, running down them. He’d even been half carried up them by a much disgruntled and struggling John after a particularly stupid but incapacitating ankle injury. He smiled at the memory of John bemoaning the fact he was far heavier than he appeared. The door was ajar and he walked through trying to convince himself nothing had changed.
It didn’t last long, the once familiar room was initially unrecognisable. The furniture reconfigured, some new additions, all of the personal touches that had made it home were gone, replaced he assumed and now taken away again by the replacement tenants. He wondered what it had looked like with them in it, a few of their boxes rested against the far wall and an arrangement of furniture-a desk and chair and some hideous freestanding lamps waiting to be moved out. Had they been the ones to cover the smiley face with a Rothko print (probably the only thing large enough)? Had they decided that the old sofa had finally had it and bought this new beige creation? Or had John changed it before he left? Trying to claim the space as his own? Sherlock sighed and made his way further into the flat.
The wallpaper was still the same-he imagined Mrs Hudson hadn’t changed that in about twenty years anyway, the kitchen looked much the same-except immaculately tidy without his experiments all over the place. He walked through to his bedroom, giving the door a shove to open it. It was bare. The bed and cupboards sat where they always had but other than that it was empty. Had they been using this or John’s room upstairs, a smile rose and faded remembering Mrs Hudson’s assumption ‘If you’ll be needing two rooms’ and John’s face. He quickly pushed it aside and returned to the living room idly wandering in a circle, seeing where things used to be.
He stood at the window looking out onto Baker Street, exactly as it had always been, changed cars and curtains surrounded him but essentially unmoving and unchanged to his eye. He knew inside rooms like this one had changed forever changing hands, moving on. He turned back into the room, he could change it back his things from Mycroft’s and new additions to the décor could be made it was always by default rather than design anyway. Except his room, he had been particular about that; he hoped Mycroft had saved his pictures his bed linens. There was something in the order of that bedroom that he’d held onto, he’d very much like to get that back. The rest was just an empty space filled with things, and him. In three years he’d had enough of empty spaces filled with just him and Baker Street felt emptier than any of those rooms at this moment.
He sank down onto the nearest armchair, a hard minimalist piece that didn’t belong in the living room’s ramshackle composition; Sherlock scowled at it and hoped it was earmarked for a trip to Brighton. He looked around again this was home, the place he’d spent three years thinking of in the darkest moments. It was in fact the only place that had ever felt like home since he was a child and their family home had been divided and Mycroft and himself shuffled between schools and one parent or the other, after which the old home that Mycroft now presided over stopped feeling quite like home.
As if on cue an invocation at his name Mycroft began to climb the stairs, Sherlock sighed and pushed himself to his feet moving back to the window for once last glance at his favourite view.
‘Ready?’ Mycroft asked from the doorway.
There was a pause as Sherlock’s back slumped slightly in defeat, ‘You’ll be back soon enough.’ Mycroft sighed and was instantly transported back to a childhood spent prying a young Sherlock-too young he thought-from cupboards and corners to return him to school, or to return him from school to home. It hadn’t been less difficult prying him from each subsequent filthy flat he’d inhabited as a young man and persuading him to his home or to rehab or in extreme cases a hospital. The memories collided and caught in Mycroft’s chest as he realised Sherlock had given up the one thing he’d lacked until this point; a home.
‘You’re home now Sherlock.’ He said gently.
‘What about you?’ Sherlock asked. Mycroft didn’t need to be puzzled that Sherlock had read his thoughts-deduced-he chided himself. He knew it wasn’t much of a leap the history was after all shared.
‘I have always had a home Sherlock.’ Mycroft tapped his umbrella as he spoke and then cursed himself, his tell for hiding something.
‘Mycroft?’ Sherlock raised an eyebrow.
‘Sherlock?’ he quirked his own eyebrow, their one shared physical attribute, they could have conversations using eyebrows alone Mycroft mused.
‘Where is this home?’
‘Surely you realise a home is far more than physical buildings by now?’
Sherlock threw a withering glance around the room, obliviously, and then raised an eyebrow in question again.
‘I’m looking at it.’ Mycroft tightened his lips into a thin line.
Sherlock furrowed his brow and looked around, here? He asked silently.
Mycroft nodded at his younger brother, here, he instructed.
Another eyebrow ‘Oh.’ Sherlock responded understanding.
Mycroft chuckled, rolled his eyes; yes. He looked down embarrassed now. ‘Are we ready?’ he asked.
Sherlock looked around once more, looking uncertain.
‘Tomorrow Sherlock.’ Mycroft assured him ‘Tomorrow.’
Sherlock nodded, affirmative now and Mycroft led the way to the stairs Sherlock followed trying to ignore the ache in his chest as he left again, trying to tell himself it was foolish but the ache remained all the same.
After eventually extracting himself from Mrs Hudson’s cooing clutches, and with the cake and a box of ‘the good tea’ under his arm, Sherlock slipped into the back of Mycroft’s car once more. He placed the tea and cake delicately between them and nodded at his brother.
‘Home please.’ Mycroft addressed the driver and they pulled away.
Sherlock watched Baker Street disappear outside the window until he could see it no more.
‘What time is Lestrade arriving?’
‘Seven thirty this evening.’
‘And how long has Inspector Lestrade been arriving during the evening?’ Sherlock could barely contain the glee in his tone at his deduction.
Mycroft visibly withered in front of him. ‘I had hoped to discuss this at home, before his arrival.’
‘Well?’ Sherlock pressed.
‘At home Sherlock.’ Mycroft insisted.
‘Do you not want to know how I deduced it?’ Sherlock smiled, no Mycroft decided, smirked out of the window.
‘Not especially.’ He said pulling out his phone and becoming very interested in his emails.
‘You have lost weight, showing a final motivation for remaining on the diet. Your tie is not the usual Saville Row creation-in fact it’s from Marks and Spencer-so a gift. As I have been absent and I don’t see you wearing a gift from any of your minions to pick up your long lost brother-sentiment even you are capable-a gift from someone close then, clearly not said brother because quite frankly-it’s hideous. Next your phone, you rarely text if you can help it using it only to call and check emails as you’re pretending to do now, and you’ve been texting frequently I watched your finger patterns, I also caught you typing and ‘x’ at the end of one-really hope that wasn’t to the Prime Minister, though he does think LOL means lots of love so you never know. Finally yesterday you embraced me and I smelled a familiar aftershave, truly ghastly much like that tie, which I know is Lestrade’s favourite brand.’
Mycroft smiled but quickly supressed it. ‘Well done Sherlock.’
‘Which leads me back to my original question; How long?’ Sherlock asked his tone urgent now he needed to know to understand where their two lives had taken them in his absence.
‘Two years.’ Mycroft said softly.
Sherlock bit his lip and nodded staring out of the window once more. Life had indeed moved on without him, his brother and Lestrade he’d known for twenty four hours but suddenly it became real.
‘Sherlock?’ Mycroft dropped his defences concerned again. ‘Sherlock this doesn’t mean…’ he trailed off unsure what he was trying to say. It didn’t matter Sherlock wasn’t listening he was watching London blaze past the windows. Eventually he turned back to Mycroft something waging a war behind his eyes ‘Mycroft?’ he asked and Mycroft understood the confusion, the conflict there. The same conflict he’d felt two years before. He reached over and squeezed Sherlock’s arm.
‘At home.’ He said quietly.
Sherlock nodded. He didn’t look at his brother again but he did reach out and hold the hand in place when Mycroft began to retract it. Instead his brother shifted subtly across the car’s vast seat until the hand remained and his body was warm against Sherlock’s again while the younger Holmes stared out the window at the world disappearing before him and tried to remember he was home. Or at least almost home.
I haven't ever written 'Mystrade' fic but it's really for the epic amount of angst that is coming in the next chapter. This one's all going to be alright in the end...promise!
Chapter 3: Ordinary Men
Sherlock now must reveal himself to Lestrade and the impact for Mycroft illustrates the sacrifices he has made for his brother.
Mycroft let his brother disappear into the recesses of his house without asking where or what he was doing. It was their house really ‘Holmes Ancestral Manor’ as Sherlock referred to it, capitals implied. When their father had died Sherlock was in no state to look after the home-his early 20s having been a blur of addiction rehabilitation and grimy flats in central London. Nor did the rural location a few miles South of London appeal to him. He knew the place well he and Mycroft knew where he’d be.
He gave him an hour before slowly climbing the stairs to the third floor and following the corridor to the far end. The odd corner room had been claimed by Sherlock as soon as he was old enough to assert such things-so around seven years old then-and Mycroft maintained it as ‘Sherlock’s room’. He’d put his younger brother there every time he’d picked him up off the floor of a grimy flat, or from a hospital, or numerous rehabs. More recently Sherlock had escaped here more frequently than he’d like to admit- at times when John was away Mycroft would often find his brother in the dining room when he arrived home, following Irene Adler’s interference he had remained for several days-lying to the good Doctor about a case out of town-and leading up to and following his ‘death’ Mycroft had come home to find his brother in this very room on more than one occasion.
Mycroft didn’t bother to knock and entering found the room was already in chaos as expected, but yet impressive given it had been but an hour. Sherlock had been searching through the boxes Mrs Hudson had so carefully organised and labelled throwing bits of science equipment clothing and various unidentifiable objects from Baker Street across the bed and around the room. He was currently in the wardrobe-the few aspects Mycroft had actually unpacked were his clothes, sensing that these Sherlock would want as soon as he returned. He was clearly correct as shirts and trousers were currently flying out of the wardrobe at an alarming rate. Sherlock hopped out of the great wardrobe pulling on a pair of jeans. He started and froze at the sight of Mycroft in his room.
‘Could have knocked.’ He huffed doing up the trousers which fell and hung loosely on his hips. ‘And what kind of system is this I can’t find anything!’ he gestured wildly to the mess he’d made in the room.
‘Well that’s hardly surprising now.’ Mycroft mused moving a set of Petri dishes from the edge of the bed to sit on it ‘As usual you’ve made a terrible mess. Where are you planning on sleeping tonight with all this?’
‘I’ll move it.’ Sherlock said petulantly buttoning and tucking into his jeans a white shirt he was sure used to be tighter. He shivered slightly, ‘Is it always this cold in here?’
Mycroft looked his brother up and down, back in his old clothes they wear on his body was more apparent as they hung off him where they used to cling so perfectly as if made for his body. He looked more tired in his immaculate clothes and his overall appearance despite two days of showers and being looked after properly was still dishevelled. Mycroft realised he just looked so tired.
‘Your own clothes are an improvement’ he said it wasn’t a lie however the truth it concealed was of course apparent to his brother.
‘They feel better.’ He conceded ‘But I’ve no doubt they highlight the …deficiencies.’
‘Perhaps.’ Conceded Mycroft getting up and beginning to tidy the room once again while Sherlock became distracted rummaging in another box. ‘But you look more like yourself.’
‘As do you.’ Sherlock said into the box not making eye contact.
Mycroft looked down he had changed from his three piece suit into an open collar shirt and a green jumper with casual trousers. His shoes as always were immaculate dress shoes, he didn’t own anything less. He smiled to himself, to the rest of the world this was a contrast to his usual attire, always immaculately suited, coat and umbrella at hand. Sherlock’s words anticipated his thoughts.
‘You look as you used to.’ He said examining the Old Persian slipper carefully and giving it an optimistic sniff.
‘I suppose I do.’ Mycroft conceded ‘I don’t sleep in my suit you know.’
‘What do you sleep in these days?’ Sherlock had meant it as a teasing remark but it came out biting and harsh.
Sherlock ignored him and resumed his fervent searching in the box. Mycroft closed his eyes in realisation putting down the rolled up scrolls of who knew what in his hand he turned and left the room, he knew what Sherlock was looking for.
Mycroft quickly covered the short distance to his room next door and retrieved the object from the drawer in his bedside table. He walked in just as Sherlock threw the slipper at the door narrowly missing his head.
‘I believe this is what is missing Sherlock.’ Mycroft said without flinching.
He held out the framed photograph in his hand of himself-as a rotund seventeen year old next to an ever wiry unruly haired ten year old Sherlock. An unusual picture of them out of school uniform on holiday visiting their Grandmother in France, they were smiling Mycroft’s arm around his little brother.
‘I had forgotten about this picture, until I packed it from your room in Baker Street.’ Mycroft explained ‘I feel sure it used to be in my study’
Sherlock took it from him and regarded the picture. ‘I may have liberated it’ he confessed ‘It’s the only one I have.’
Mycroft smiled ruefully, ‘Well there aren’t very many-we were never ones for family portraits.’
Sherlock returned the smile and looked down at the image that had lived on his dresser since he moved into Baker Street. He held it out to Mycroft;
‘You can take it back if you like.’
‘I can make a copy.’ Mycroft gestured for the photo and Sherlock handed it over. Mycroft regarded it carefully, astounded by how they looked so innocent and uncorrupted. They had been happy siblings once he concluded.
Sherlock sat on the opposite side of the bed looking over his brother’s shoulder.
‘If you bothered to take it out of here why then keep it in a drawer?’ he asked. Mycroft didn’t need to ask how he knew that’s where it was kept.
Mycroft smiled down at the picture ‘Sentiment dear brother. You remember the emotion? I wished it to be nearby.’
‘Still you chose not to display it.’
Mycroft handed it back for Sherlock to examine. He turned it over several times looking at the frame. ‘You did display it for a time.’ He muttered turning it over in his hands, the stand is worn at a different angle to when I had it.’
Mycroft nodded, ‘Quite correct. It was on the bedside table, for nearly a year after I moved your things here, after you were gone.’
‘So when I first was gone, you kept it as a reminder.’ Sherlock smirked now ‘Oh Mycroft even though I wasn’t really dead how sentimental indeed.’ He frowned ‘But then you moved it.’
Mycroft nodded again.
‘Why?’ Sherlock furrowed his brow at his brother ‘After a year I was in Russia, then for a while in France. Our family contacts there kept you reassured so why did you no longer want the reminder?’ he closed his eyes and smiled, without happiness this time ‘It wasn’t you who didn’t want the reminder. Two years and a few months ago-when somebody else began sleeping in your bedroom.’
‘It isn’t what you think’
‘Of course not.’ He put the picture down on the bed and turned away again attention to the boxes. ‘You were…distracted, it’s fine.’
‘Really, Sherlock.’ Mycroft
‘No, really Mycroft’ Sherlock said to the boxes ‘I was disappointed by your sentiment to be honest. At least you redirected it somewhere you were fulfilling…whatever physical or emotional needs you may have. I wouldn’t want your relationship with me, your “dead brother” to get in the way of that.’
‘For goodness sake Sherlock!’ Mycroft stood up ‘I moved it because it upset Gregory to see you!’
Sherlock’s head snapped up from the box his brow furrowed in confusion. ‘What?’
‘Gregory was upset seeing your picture. Is that so hard to comprehend Sherlock?’
‘He was upset about me?’ Sherlock was frozen a framed petrified beetle in one hand, Persian slipper back in the other, his too big shirt hanging out at an odd angle, Mycroft smiled at the wonderfully dishevelled and confounded image his brother was presenting him with.
‘Yes brother dear, believe it or not people have been upset.’ As soon as the words left his mouth Mycroft’s smile dropped and he realised how wrong it was ‘Gregory was upset I mean. If you must know that is how we became…close. We talked; we had both lost you in a way. It seemed to help talking to me and well these things have a habit of developing.’
‘But you knew I wasn’t dead.’
‘My own weakness I am afraid. I valued the comfort Gregory afforded me. And’ Mycroft looked down ‘I could never be certain you would return.’
He eased himself off the bed and left Sherlock in his room. Sherlock watched his brother go before sinking down and lying on the bed.
At 7.15 that evening Sherlock ventured downstairs, after wandering amongst the rooms for a short time he located his brother in the library. Mycroft put aside the laptop he was working on and folded his arms.
‘Ready?’ he asked.
Sherlock nodded ‘Are you?’
As Mycroft opened his mouth to answer his phone vibrated, he looked down at the text ‘Just pulling up the drive. G’
‘Seems we are about to find out.’ He said pocketing the phone and standing ‘Wait here, I’ll bring him in.’
Sherlock nodded and took a seat in one of the armchairs, willing to defer to his brother once again.
Mycroft took a deep breath and went to the door; waiting in the porch he saw the lights of Greg Lestrade’s car grow brighter until they almost blinded him and then die. The detective almost bounced from the car to the door.
‘What’s this?’ he asked cheerily ‘A welcoming committee? To what do I owe this honour eh?’ his smile was broad and welcoming and something tore apart in Mycroft’s chest at the thought of what was to come.
‘Gregory’ he smiled painfully and Lestrade’s demeanour immediately dropped
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked urgently meeting Mycroft with a gentle squeeze to his arm. ‘Did something happen?’
Mycroft smiled painfully again ‘You might say that.’
‘Are you alright?’ Lestrade frown and tightened his grip on Mycroft’s arm, the man was infuriatingly unreadable most of the time but he’d flattered himself he could tell when if not what was wrong. And right now there was defiantly something wrong.
‘I am fine, for the moment.’ Mycroft said cryptically and stepped back allowing Lestrade to step inside. Once in the light of the hallway Mycroft took a long look at the detective and his heart ached again, he was a handsome man no doubt-far more handsome than Mycroft fancied he deserved being he knew the somewhat lesser Holmes brother in that department. He was also a good and honest man hardened by the job he’d done for too long now but capable of great caring and affection. Mycroft foolishly had missed that for years in the way he had looked after Sherlock. He had grown used to this man and what he brought to his life. Mycroft reached up tentatively and put a palm to Lestrade’s cheek.
Greg Lestrade was confused, though in 12 years of dealing with Holmes brothers and two years of a relationship with one of them this was hardly be a new emotion. Mycroft was difficult to read at times but right now his emotions were written across his face.
‘Hey’ he said bringing a hand up over Mycroft’s own ‘Did something happen while you were away?’
Mycroft nodded slowly not breaking eye contact, ‘Gregory whatever is about to happen please know that I care for you deeply and I would never do anything to hurt you.’
Lestrade drew back from Mycroft’s touch, ‘Why do I get the feeling I’m about to get hurt then?’
Mycroft closed his eyes and nodded ‘Follow me then. No sense in dragging this out.’
He turned to walk down the corridor and Lestrade reached out and grabbed his hand before he could fully move away, something flared in Mycroft and he pulled Greg in and kissed him-one last time-he told himself, after a moment he felt the kiss returned, for just a second before Greg pulled back.
‘Right then.’ He said ‘Do you want to tell me what this is all about?’
Mycroft nodded, solemn again now and led the way into the library.
Whatever Lestrade had expected to find out in there-dead bodies, government secrets, a nuclear bomb it wasn’t what greeted him. This tall thin man with a shock of dark brown curls, his elbows resting on the arms of Mycroft’s grand chair his fingers steepled together his brow furrowed in thought as he had seen it a thousand times. Lestrade felt like the air had been sucked from the room. He was hallucinating clearly-the number of times he had walked into this house, or into Baker Street, or into his office and hoped to see this very sight. He shook his head to clear it. This couldn’t be.
‘Lestrade’ the man who couldn’t possibly be him spoke with a familiar deep growl, and stood moving closer. Looking the same, just thinner, older and wearier than Lestrade could have imagined possible.
‘It can’t be…’ Lestrade looked from Mycroft to the impossible man in front of him and back again ‘You’re- you’re dead?’
‘Obviously not Detective.’ Sherlock smiled ‘But I do apologise.’
‘Now I know it’s not you.’ Lestrade said attempting to laugh but nothing came out. ‘Shit.’ He took a step towards Sherlock ‘It’s you?’
Sherlock nodded taking in the Detective fully for the first time; he looked good a few extra pounds maybe, a little tired as always but there was something different an almost glow about him that seemed to grow as his face broke into a grin.
‘It wasn’t true!’ he exclaimed, ‘You weren’t dead!’
‘It appears not.’ Sherlock said with a smile and was about to launched into an explanation when he found himself dragged into the kind of back slapping masculine hug that it appeared DI’s at Scotland Yard preferred. When he finished Lestrade held him at arm’s length and looked him up and down.
‘I’d say you don’t look good normally but frankly any version of you would look good.’ He smiled his eyes crinkling in a familiar concern Sherlock saw more frequently in the first years they knew each other. Lestrade reached forward and pulled him into another hug, gentler this time his hands reaching up into Sherlock’s hair. ‘Sherlock Holmes’ he muttered into the taller man’s shoulder.
Lestrade pulled away from Sherlock a grin stretching back across his face and turned to Mycroft
‘Why didn’t you ring me? Why did you look so worried – I’ He stopped at the sight of Mycroft who stood silently against the wall face stoic except for tears pricking at his eyes. It was too much to bear, this relief, this happiness in his partner.
‘I’m sorry Gregory.’ He said softly.
Lestrade’s face dropped ‘What? He’s alive? What is it?’
‘He was never dead.’
Lestrade frowned again ‘Well clearly not no…but we didn’t know that.’
There was an agonising pause in which Lestrade felt the bottom drop out of his world even before the next words were out of Mycroft’s mouth; ‘I knew’ he said and closed his eyes.
To his credit, Greg Lestrade didn’t shout, he didn’t punch anyone or anything, he didn’t behave as a bolshie former army DI at Scotland Yard would be expected to. He just said one word, in his most formidable DI from Scotland Yard tone.
Sherlock was the first to speak ‘Lestrade’ he began and for once Greg was glad to hear the detective begin one his tirades ‘I was forced to fake my own death in order to defeat Moriarty. I have spent the last three years travelling the world dispatching his operatives-Moriarty himself did die the same day as me.’
Lestrade nodded his permission to continue.
‘I did it because Moriarty threatened me.’ He paused ‘More accurately he threatened to hurt certain people close to me-you, Mrs Hudson and John.’ His voice caught on that last name.
‘Jesus Christ John.’ Lestrade muttered, forgetting himself for a moment ‘Does he know?’
Sherlock shook his head, ‘Not yet. I was advised’ he shot a look at his brother who was still looking down ‘To wait until tomorrow, to tell Mrs Hudson-which I did this afternoon-and yourself first. The last of Moriarty’s men was disposed of yesterday, Mycroft came to Germany to collect me.’
‘So you called him once you could reveal yourself?’ even as the words left his lips Lestrade knew they were far too optimistic.
‘I knew he was alive.’ Mycroft said softly ‘I was helping him’
‘How long had you known?’ Greg demanded an edge creeping into his tone.
‘Since the beginning, he needed my help.’
‘Lestrade you must understand-‘
‘Quiet Sherlock!’ Lestrade commanded raising his voice for the first time, then continuing quiet again ‘So before you and I….?’
‘Yes.’ Mycroft answered.
All the remaining air left Lestrade’s lungs momentarily before returning with a rush of adrenalin and anger ‘You knew! When you watched me break down, you watched me nearly throw away my career and he was alive? Then you let me come to you for comfort? You let me cry on your shoulder for fuck’s sake! And you let me think we shared this, our grief? It’s what brought us together and it was a lie! We are a lie Mycroft.’ He inhaled ‘Sherlock has done some things in his time but nothing-nothing compares to this.’
‘It wasn’t a lie.’ Mycroft said softly ‘I grieved for him every day until yesterday. Every day until I heard he was alive-and some I didn’t- he died again and again for me. My brother, Gregory, my grief was real, every second of it.’
‘And you couldn’t trust me to share it?’ Lestrade spat and strode from the room.
‘Gregory!’ he heard shouted after him an edge of desperation in the voice.
‘Leave him’ Sherlock instructed making to follow the Inspector. At the door he turned and looked back at his brother ‘Was that true?’ he asked with a frown.
Mycroft answered with his own ‘Of course.’ He said gently.
Sherlock paused, considered answering but simply nodded and left in pursuit of Lestrade.
Lestrade had he quickly found himself lost in the maze of rooms. Cursing the Holmes Manor as he called it-capitals implied, he banged into the nearest room-that happened to be the kitchen. He kicked a table, growled and stopped panting for breath. A lie, it was all a lie he closed his eyes against the spinning world and gripped the counter in front of him.
‘Please tell me you didn’t come here looking for a knife’ a familiar voice drawled from the doorway ‘I have seen quite enough bloodshed for a while. Plus you know what he is; killing the man who is practically the British Government is best not taken on by the likes of us.’
Sherlock strode into the room and with precision located a bottle of brandy and two glasses.
‘Cooking brandy.’ He sniffed at it ‘But I’m sure the effects are the same.’ Handed Lestrade a glass and took one himself, Lestrade downed his in a gulp and Sherlock refilled, ‘cooking brandy’ in the Holmes household was better than most people’s Christmas brandy.
‘So you’re alive’ he repeated.
‘Yes we had established that. Do keep up Detective Inspector.’ Sherlock smiled slightly ‘And you and my brother are….’
‘Were’ Lestrade insisted.
Sherlock considered his response for a moment didn’t deny it then spoke with a reasoned tone ‘You’ve put up with him for two years I’m assuming there is some level of ….affection there.’
Lestrade took another gulp of brandy ‘I fucking love him.’ He said ‘God help me and God only knows why but I fucking love that man. Loved.’ He corrected himself swiftly staring into the brandy ‘God damnit Sherlock you were alive!’
‘Yes.’ Sherlock said patiently ‘And as much as it pains me to say so, my brother was doing his best to ensure it stayed that way.’
‘But it was a lie. All of it.’ Lestrade set down his glass and pushed it away.
Sherlock leaned back against the counter and folded his arms. ‘Mycroft lied to me also.’ He said ‘I mean has done many times but one seems pertinent at this point: He once told me love was a dangerous disadvantage. He was lying.’
‘Then why did he tell you that?’ Lestrade asked.
‘He was protecting me.’ Sherlock answered with a tight smile ‘Or trying to, that in fact is his weakness, as it has been yours Greg.’
Lestrade smiled, Sherlock had never used his first name. ‘A pair well met perhaps?’
‘Perhaps.’ Sherlock smiled and turned to leave.
‘Sherlock.’ Lestrade said and he turned back to face him and Lestrade shifted uncomfortably unsure how to proceed now he had his attention ‘You were part of a pair well met too.’
Sherlock nodded a grim resolve covering his face ‘I know.’ He said.
‘You did all this for him didn’t you.’ Lestrade continued.
Sherlock looked away ‘I was protecting innocent people from Moriarty.’
Lestrade smiled ‘Of course.’ He walked around the table to where Sherlock stood ‘Look Sherlock your brother, despite not being my favourite Holmes brother at this second’ Sherlock smirked ‘Is right about one thing-it’s not going to be easy.’ Lestrade took a breath and put a hand on the Detective’s arm ‘But get it right and it’ll be worth it.’
Sherlock frowned, confused and Lestrade laughed and honest laugh from somewhere deep in his chest.
‘Wow.’ He said ‘The great Sherlock Holmes is confused. You don’t know do you? You have no idea?’
‘I once told someone you were a great man and one day if we were lucky you’d be a good man.’
‘Sentiment.’ Sherlock said his face impassive.
‘Probably. Wishful thinking at the time.’ Lestrade said.
Sherlock’s frown deepened ‘Lestrade has the brandy gone to your head? You’re making less sense than usual.’
Lestrade smiled, what he’d always loved about Sherlock despite his obnoxious nature and infuriating ability to be right was underneath it all he was in some respects completely innocent and naïve, parts of the world completely passing him by.
‘Even better, you have no idea.’ He smiled again ‘You’ll figure it out.’ He squeezed Sherlock’s arm and then shook his head pulling him into another hug, Sherlock tolerated it at first but then Lestrade felt arms tighten around him. Suddenly he was overcome by emotion and the enormity of what had happened that night, what this young man had done for him.
Lestrade pulled back and looked into Sherlock’s glassy eyes ‘Thank you.’ He said carefully keeping his emotions in check ‘Thank you.’ He repeated
Sherlock said nothing but Lestrade saw a wave of emotion threaten those glassy eyes and be pushed back with a curt nod. ‘He made you a good man. And he is a good man.’
‘Speak with my Brother before you go.’ Sherlock said ‘I don’t think I could stand his moping otherwise.’
Lestrade smiled and nodded and made his way back down the dark corridors towards the library.
Mycroft was sitting at the tables elbows resting on its hands supporting his head with a glazed expression unseeing facing the darkened window.
Lestrade cleared his throat ‘Mycroft’ he said shutting the door behind him and the younger Holmes out. Mycroft looked up and braced himself, he’d deserved it and he knew if his brother came back alive this is what he’d be sacrificing for him.
It wasn’t a long conversation, it wasn’t really a conversation but for once the monologue didn’t belong to a Holmes, Mycroft’s eyes slowly brightened as Lestrade’s explanation continued including after words like ‘betrayed’ and ‘lie’ moved then to ‘trust’ and ‘progress’ and ‘time’ but eventually ‘Love’. Mycroft nodded dutifully, provided explanation when asked for.
Finally Lestrade stopped pacing and looked at Mycroft ‘Why did you let it get this far?’
Mycroft looked him directly for the first time since he’d returned to the room ‘I was afraid.’
‘Of what exactly?’
‘That I would lose both of you.’ Mycroft inhaled deeply ‘To reveal Sherlock to you would endanger both of you. And while I did not realise how…vital you were until recently, I knew I couldn’t be without both of you. That is what you need to understand Gregory-it was certain I would lose you both if the truth was revealed.’ He paused and stood, walking carefully but deliberately towards Lestrade ‘If there was any other way I would have found it.’
Greg Lestrade looked up into Mycroft’s steely eyes and nodded slowly. ‘I believe you.’ He said softly.
Mycroft nodded back and a heavy silence hung between them, there was nowhere to go from here tonight, something was still broken that would take time to fix.
‘I should go.’ The detective said ‘Early start. And you have….well.’ he gestured to the door beyond which the younger Holmes was no doubt lurking.
Mycroft stiffened again ‘Right. Yes. Of course. I’ll see you out.’
Lestrade followed into the hallway again not seeing Sherlock anywhere but sensing he wouldn’t have ventured far Mycroft opened the door and gazed down at him again.
‘I am sorry Gregory.’ He said softly and slowly and delicately as if anticipating violence reciprocation reached down and kissed him lightly.
‘I know you are.’ Lestrade replied with a soft half smile, self-conscious suddenly much like the first time Mycroft had shyly reached over and touched his lips to his own. With a soft nod Lestrade turned and left closing the door gently behind him.
Mycroft lent back heavily against the door closing his eyes and listened to the sound of the car driving away.
‘We’re not so different you and I Mycroft are we?’ his brother’s voice seemed to cut through the silence. Even with his eyes closed Mycroft knew he was sitting on the stairs, twenty two up where they curved out of sight. He’d shown him as a child of 4 that he could hide there from Mummy and listen to her conversations at the door. Slowly and wearily Mycroft left the door and climbed the stairs sitting eventually one bellow Sherlock at his feet.
‘Enlighten me.’ He said leaning back against the bannister and closing his eyes again.
‘Well apart from the intelligence, the brilliance the disregard for law and custom as well as and the uncanny ability to irritate all around us within minutes of meeting them’
‘Are you attempting to cheer me up Sherlock?’ Mycroft opened his eyes to a smirk from his brother, almost mischievous.
‘We have the uncanny ability to attract to us the best of ordinary men.’ Sherlock finished.
Mycroft smiled momentarily ‘But we are unable to…’ Mycroft gestured towards the closed door.
Sherlock didn’t speak again. He shuffled down a step as he had done when they were children, listening in to the arguments from the library. Instead this time as they sat shoulder to shoulder on the stairs there was a heavy silence.
These are getting longer!
I have never written Mystrade before-I never really 'got' it but for this story it seemed to make sense.
There's a short interlude chapter to come before the big one-John.
Chapter 4: A house is not a home
Sherlock pulled his blue dressing gown tightly, he longed for something warmer but could find nothing in the disorganised mess of the wardrobe-most of which was now strewn about the bed with his other possessions. He’d spent the last couple of hours rifling through them searching for nothing in particular. He pulled the blue dressing gown around him again and stopped; he pulled it up and sniffed it closing his eyes. He was imagining it. He knew after all this time the material had lost all trace of scent though it hadn’t been cleaned though unlike his other clothes. Sherlock fancied for just a moment that he could smell Baker Street-faint traces of chemicals mixed with coffee, fumes from central London and Mrs Hudson’s cooking, and a faint musky aftershave that was so far from Sherlock’s own more floral scents but somehow mixed perfectly with the coffee and the chemicals and the cooking. Sentiment he chided himself, foolish sentiment.
It was late, and his body was exhausted but he couldn’t stay still, he’d unpacked and repacked and unpacked again all his things. He’d taken the laptop from the library and read all that he thought was worth reading it the so called news. Most of it dull. He should have stolen Mycroft’s laptop for the real news he reasoned, which was probably why he had left the cleaned laptop out for him. Of course he’d been reading the news only on pretence, the real news he was looking for he’d already memorised every word of, reading John’s blog from start to finish. He’d never allowed himself to while he was away, in part for fear of being traced even from anonymous internet cafes and in part for fear of what he might read. At the slightest hint of danger he knew he’d have come running back to London and that might actually have been worse. So he stayed away, and instead read the accounts, the testimony John had left him, he read over all the old cases and the new versions of old cases that John had written up. It grew quiet at times, John giving away only scant personal details-a ‘happy event’ (his marriage) ‘joyous but busy time’ (birth of his child) and finally a ‘tragedy’ that had halted all new entries for the foreseeable future. When he finished a part of Sherlock wished he hadn’t read it, hadn’t known because the knot that had been forming in his stomach and the whirring in his brain that was preventing sleep only intensified.
He shook his head trying to clear it and flounced out of the room leaving the mess behind him. It was around midnight and the light was still on in Mycroft’s room- he was probably starting a war in some far flung corner of the Empire or arranging for schools to be bulldozed for weapons factories or whatever else a man who was the British Government did. Sherlock supposed briefly that his return might be interfering somewhat with the business of Government but gave it little more thought.
He wandered downstairs and back into the kitchen cold and empty in the dark. He flicks on the fancy lighting that just illuminates the counter tops and begins opening cupboards; tea the answer to everything he’d been told. Mycroft had obviously had the place redecorated since he last spent any time here, though he’d had no idea where anything was in the kitchen then-food was never his priority, even less so during previous stays and cooking it far from it. He began opening cupboard after cupboard cursing his brother for not keeping his tea in a logical place-next to the kettle. He’d tried to move the tea at Baker Street once and the lecture he’d got for it made him resolve not to touch the tea again. John had a point though Sherlock reasoned as he slammed another cupboard door, tea belonged next to the kettle. He huffed to himself and gave up leaving the light on behind him he wandered back into the darkened downstairs of the house.
The house was dark at the best of times with wood panelling on almost every available surface, and seemed somehow oppressive as he wandered down the corridor towards the living room. He ran his hand along the panelling and his fingers caught on an uneven piece in the wood. He stopped and ran his fingers backwards over it a breath hitching in his chest. Newer panel of wood slightly raised to the touch, slightly rougher varnish that didn’t match the surrounding. Replaced in 1983 when his Father put a foot through the original in a fit of rage. Sherlock had been inches from the splintering wood hands raised above his head cowering on the floor while Mummy had screamed. Eventually Mycroft had come and pulled him away while the row raged and had sat with him, letting Sherlock read his University textbooks in his room, turning up the radio to drown out the noise. He developed an aversion to Jazz from that night.
He stepped away from the wall and opened the door in front of him flicking the light to his left, the room inside was curiously bare. Mycroft had redecorated most rooms when he took over the house in the late 1990s, retaining or ‘preserving’ as he put it the more valuable pieces but replacing the rest with his own questionable taste-questionable that a man in his then late thirties could seem to share the tastes of their Victorian ancestors. It amused Sherlock that in contrast Mycroft’s London home was as modern as could be with not a shred of wood or antique anywhere, along with his power complex as John had referred to it once, he clearly harboured aristocratic aspirations. This room however had been left virtually untouched only emptied.
Sherlock ran his fingers along the wall and then to the desk, he wandered to the window and back around the small room to the right of the door. He leaned heavily against the door and closed his eyes letting his head fall back. He could see the room as it was filled with books and papers and various miscellanies that for the first time he realised resembled his rooms at Baker Street, he squeezed his eyes tighter and blocked that image. Their father’s study had been a mysterious and forbidden room. He shifted his spine on the wall and felt a knot of wood and a knot formed in his stomach. This piece of wood like the one outside held secrets as did this room. He had felt its pressure in the small of his back many times, felt it’s sharp stab as he tried to press himself against it and make himself as small as possible. His head had impacted that wood-much lower down than it stood now many times. He closed his eyes and tried to breath, he’d deleted much of that-he didn’t need it therefore it had gone. Or so he thought. He seemed unable to open his eyes against the images that flickered there, a hand a gold ring striking his cheekbone leaving a mark, a walking stick missing his head but cracking across his back as he ducked. And worse the fist waving above his head coming down and stopping short over and over again much worse than the impact was the threat of it ‘I should hit you’ ‘Go on then’ he had screamed in reply thinking please, then it’s over. With the threat it always lingered, owed as the fist stopped short, stored up for another time. Sherlock could always tell the difference between victims who had been hit as children and those who hadn’t, those who hadn’t had fearlessness in adulthood that anybody would ever hit them; those who had knew someone always could.
He shook his head once again to clear it and forced his eyes open. It was just a room, now empty of all but memories it had no special power over him, all it was demonstrating now was the weakness of his mind when tired. Sherlock pushed himself off the wall and out of the room letting the door close behind him with a bang to wander through the darkness of the rest of downstairs. Upstairs Mycroft heard the bang of the door second from the right downstairs and sighed. He had anticipated Sherlock’s late night wanderings would take him there and he knew he was forced now to intervene.
The rest of the downstairs rooms had been thoroughly Mycroft- organised; despite the lingering antiques everything had a place and was in it. There were minimal personal touches if you didn’t know the history of each piece as Sherlock did-the paintings passed down from generations before or those acquired by their father for anticipated value. The furniture that had come with their Grandmother from France and that which had been acquired from debtors to their grandfather, all of it told a story but little of it meant anything. In truth Sherlock preferred Mycroft’s ultra-modern flat which had always had at least sentimental touches of photographs and keepsakes he’d acquired in his travels as younger civil servant less powerful, but with chance to sightsee on trips to far reaches of the globe. There was once piece that Sherlock held the smallest sentiment for however in the library where his brother and Lestrade had rowed earlier, where in fact Mycroft had perched himself, was a tall leather chair that had been his mother’s favourite seat. He goes in flicking on the nearest lamp and sits, legs folded under him-impressed he can still fold himself almost entirely inside the chair and sits in the quiet.
It’s only a matter of minutes before a soft clinking of china alerts him to Mycroft’s approach, he frowns however at the sound and cannot conceal a look of surprise when his brother enters, dressed in dressing gown and slippers carrying a tray of tea.
‘I believe you were looking for this’ Mycroft says evenly to his brother, trying not to draw attention to the fact that he is wandering the halls at nearly 1am, to do so would be to draw attention to the last time Sherlock did so in this house, when his mind and body were addled with so many substances-or a deficit of them-that he could do little else. Mycroft was still anxious to prevent any danger of a repeat occurrence.
‘If you kept it in a logical place I would have located it easily.’ Sherlock scowled at him from under his messy hair-clearly he had attempted sleep earlier in the evening.
‘It was in the cupboard above the kettle.’ Mycroft answered dryly pouring the tea and handing his brother a cup. He couldn’t hide an intake of breath when Sherlock’s hands visibly shook taking it. He opened his mouth to ask the question he dreaded the answer to but was cut off.
‘I’m cold. This ridiculous house has no heat.’ Sherlock spat at him ‘But nice to see you have such a high opinion.’
‘Merely going on past evidence, Sherlock.’ Mycroft said evenly
‘Where on earth could I possibly get anything from –I’ve been under your nose all day.’
‘Sherlock we know that hasn’t stopped you in the past.’ Mycroft quirked and eyebrow at him and shrugged out of his dressing gown and held it out, when Sherlock didn’t react he reached around and draped it over his shoulders.
‘I’m fine’ Sherlock protested though already his shivers subsided somewhat.
‘You’re not.’ Mycroft said ‘And besides as you are so fond of pointing out, I have more natural insulation than you do.’
At that Sherlock smirked, took a sip of his tea and set it down on the table pulling the dressing gown more tightly around him. It was heavy and soft unlike any of his light satin garments and the shivers that had begun to fully take hold of him slowly subsided. They sipped their tea in silence for a time.
‘This place isn’t a home.’ Sherlock said finally, ‘I mean it is a physical building that has most certainly functioned as a house for some time. But, going by your previous definitions it is no longer and perhaps never was a home.’
‘No.’ Mycroft agreed.
‘Why have you kept it?’ Sherlock looked into his tea.
‘It was left to us. You were either incapable or on uninterested in making a decision about it. I could not do so alone so I have maintained it.’ Mycroft shrugged and put his tea down.
There was a long pause and Sherlock pulled himself closer into the chair the teacup held tightly in his hands.
‘Do you wish to live here with Lestrade?’
‘Assuming Gregory and I have any kind of future, we both need to live in London for work; it would be foolish to stay here.’
‘Not even a nice retirement home?’
Mycroft chuckled he didn’t even know the word retirement was in Sherlock’s vocabulary. ‘No’ he said ‘I would prefer to retire to the Sussex countryside.’
Sherlock chuckled himself, forming into a sound that was almost a giggle.
‘What?’ Mycroft asked ‘Is so amusing about that?’
Sherlock chuckled one last time ‘Nothing.’ He said ‘I have often thought the same myself. You’re not planning on keeping bees are you? It wouldn’t do for us to have the same hobby.’
Mycroft frowned at Sherlock, the same frown he had used as children when Sherlock had come to him with a new fascination or fact of some kind that he didn’t understand but pretended to because it was important to the younger boy.
‘No.’ he said with a quirk of his mouth ‘I should think I’d prefer philology.’
Sherlock quirked his mouth in an answering smile then returned his gaze to his tea. For a long moment there was silence.
‘Sell it.’ Sherlock said quietly.
‘Pardon?’ Mycroft asked.
‘Neither of us want the place. It is logical to sell it.’
‘Time to move on?’ Mycroft asked.
‘Something like that.’ Sherlock agreed.
Mycroft nodded, ‘Agreed.’ He stood and rounded the tea things up, ‘You are helping me sort this place out-heirlooms don’t sell themselves.’
‘Dull.’ Sherlock remarked.
‘Indeed it is.’ Mycroft said with a smile. ‘I’ll have that chair sent to Baker Street.’
‘If I’m still living there.’ Sherlock said his face suddenly dropping.
Mycroft stood in front of him considering his younger brother, all limbs folded into the ancient chair wrapped in a too large dressing gown and looking as if the world were about to end. Perhaps he reasoned he feared it was, he leaned down and pulled the dressing gown around Sherlock’s shoulders.
‘Go to bed.’ He instructed picking up the tea tray.
‘I can’t sleep.’ Sherlock said, not with the petulance of the familiar childish tone Mycroft knew well and that he had still used on John when he was being particularly difficult, but a desperate plea for help, ‘Really Mycroft my head it’s, it’s just….’ He ran his fingers through his hair as an anguished tone escaped the back of his throat, ‘I can’t…’ he trailed off looking up at his brother eyes wide and pleading, for what he wasn’t even sure.
Mycroft considered a moment longer and then reached into his pyjama pocket and held out two small pills, Sherlock frowned at Mycroft’s offering.
‘Take them.’ Mycroft instructed ‘Sedatives.’
‘Government issue?’ Sherlock asked with hardly any energy to be sarcastic, he was already flailing then, these would just give him the push he needed.
‘Virtually experimental.’ Mycroft said ‘Though on you they’ll probably have the effect of a mild herbal supplement.’
Sherlock wrinkled his nose at the sarcasm but took the pills from Mycroft’s hand, examined them for a second then swallowed them dry. Mycroft supressed a shudder at the amount of practice that had taken.
‘Bed.’ He instructed.
Sherlock nodded not looking up, however when Mycroft moved down the hall back to the kitchen he heard his footsteps on the stairs. He sighed to himself as he quickly washed the cups and set them on the draining board to dry. He had done everything he could to get Sherlock this far, for the rest he was on his own. He took a moment to consider the old house himself as he climbed the stairs. He wouldn’t miss it, although he used it occasionally as an out of London retreat it was more out of a sense of duty than desire. And perhaps, if the next few days went to plan it was an ideal time to move forward.
Mycroft noted the open door to Sherlock’s room and the darkness beyond, he flicked on a light and as expected was greeted by the chaos that his brother had left it in but no evidence of Sherlock himself. Mycroft rolled his eyes and shut the door, he could deal with that mess tomorrow, moving to his own room still illuminated by the bedside lamps, he was not surprised to find a Sherlock shaped lump curled up in his bed facing away from him. He shut the door behind him with a soft click and picked up his and Sherlock’s discarded dressing gowns from the floor inside the door and hung them up.
‘Sherlock?’ Mycroft said gently ‘You do have your own room.’
‘My room is uninhabitable.’ Sherlock muttered, a soft slur on the final word told Mycroft the pills were taking effect.
‘There are six other bedrooms in this house.’ Mycroft said sitting on the bed and removing his slipper.
‘Sitth.’ Sherlock lisped and Mycroft couldn’t help but smile at the memory of a small Sherlock before he’d gotten control of his speech impediment. ‘issth warmer in here’ he muttered.
Mycroft smiled again and reached over to pat his brother gently on the back, Sherlock tensed and started against the touch. Mycroft flinched away and then returned his hand, firmer this time ‘Sherlock.’ He muttered ‘It’s just me.’ He ran his hand gently but firmly along Sherlock’s spine and he felt him relax back into the touch.
‘Scared me.’ He muttered mind defiantly beginning to drift now.
‘Sorry.’ Mycroft said gently leaning over his brother to turn off the light and tightening the covers around him before slipping under the duvet himself. ‘Are you ok?’ he asked the huddled lump to his right, he couldn’t be sure but he still seemed to be shivering.
‘Fiine’ Sherlock said wearily.
‘Good night then.’ Mycroft leaned over and turned the light out, and settled down to sleep. Sherlock was defiantly shivering but he didn’t dare reach out to him again. There were soft mutterings coming from Sherlock and Mycroft couldn’t tell if he was finally asleep or simply somewhere in between aided by the medication-one could never be sure exactly what effect legitimate medication had on Sherlock as John Watson had found out to his detriment-and several sleepless nights-when treating Sherlock for the flu.
‘Sherlock?’ he tried gently.
The muttering and slight movement to his right stopped, Mycroft cursed, it seemed he had woken him from some sort of sleep.
‘John?’ came the reply in the dark and then a more urgent ‘John?!’ followed by Sherlock leaping bolt upright.
‘No Sherlock.’ Mycroft said gently, sitting up and placing his hands on Sherlock’s shoulders gently ‘It’s Mycroft. You’re at home.’
‘No John?’ he asked confused.
‘Not yet.’ Mycroft said patting his shoulder gently trying to ease him back down.
‘Where is he?’ Sherlock was wide eyed but Mycroft was sure only half conscious.
‘He’s at his home.’ Mycroft eased a surprisingly pliant Sherlock back down to the bed.
‘Why isn’t he here?’
Mycroft sighed, he’d had too many conversations with a half conscious Sherlock over the years to know it wasn’t worth trying to make him see sense, instead it was better to play along. ‘You want him here?’ he asked.
‘Yes.’ Mycroft could hear the pout in Sherlock’s tone as he turned over to face Mycroft ‘I need John.’
Mycroft smiled a little sadly, ‘I know you do Sherlock.’
Sherlock muttered something into the pillow.
‘What?’ Mycroft asked, confident Sherlock was settling again and lying back himself.
‘I said I miss him!’ Sherlock said impatiently, his tone becoming agitated.
‘Alright, alright.’ Mycroft said soothingly and reached tentatively to touch Sherlock’s hair, the gesture had always soothed him from a child to the worse of his addiction and he became soft and pliant again under Mycroft’s hand. ‘I know.’ He reassured his brother ‘But you’ll just have to put up with me for tonight.’
Sherlock chuckled softly, sleepily as he felt the continued soft pressure on his head; he closed his eyes and shuffled tentatively closer to his big brother. ‘Crofty.’ He muttered and came to rest close against Mycroft’s side.
Mycroft winced at Sherlock’s nickname for him but couldn’t help a smile quirking the corner of his mouth.
‘Just for one more night yes.’ He said.
‘One more then John?’ Sherlock asked into his chest as he shifted inch by inch tentatively closer.
‘Then John’ Said Mycroft moving his arm to allow Sherlock in, and praying to whatever deity he could think of that was true.
Sherlock made a contented noise as he settled against Mycroft’s chest. ‘I need him’ he muttered
‘I know.’ Mycroft answered, moving his hand back to Sherlock’s hair willing him to sleep.
‘I love him.’ Sherlock said his tone soft and sleepy.
Mycroft smiled sadly and tighten his grip around his little brother who was suddenly so very small again. ‘I know Sherly.’ He muttered, barely loud enough for Sherlock to hear.
‘Love you too.’ Sherlock muttered before Mycroft felt the soft thud of a head on his chest and finally Sherlock slipped into oblivion. Mycroft looked at him in the darkness for a moment, and though it was foolish, he was asleep and even awake had been drugged and probably not meant a word of it whispered back
‘Love you too, Sherlock.’
Chapter 5: Caring is not an advantage
Sherlock is finally reunited with John but finds life has moved on without him.
Sherlock paced by the door waiting for Mycroft’s car to appear, he paused at the mirror adjusting his suit once again, it was the one that seemed to fit best along with a now too big shirt. Mycroft appeared at his side and rested a hand on his shoulder stilling him. Sherlock dropped his head and exhaled, Mycroft squeezed gently.
‘It’s here.’ He said seconds before the car turned the corner into view. ‘Ready?’
Sherlock nodded tightly and followed his brother to the waiting car.
They drove in silence until London was upon them when Sherlock finally asked ‘Where are we going?’
‘Yes.’ Mycroft said ‘As a civilian, in between stints at an rehabilitation hospital and some locum work at A&E. He’s a busy man. He has been lately anyway.’
Sherlock nodded, ‘Where does he live?’
‘A flat in Kilburn at the moment, he sold the house he and Mary bought and hasn’t gotten around to buying anything new.’
Sherlock nodded again. They drove in silence until they pulled up outside the imposing façade of Bart’s. Sherlock spoke again ‘Schedule?’ he asked.
‘He will be finishing a lecture to the first year students in approximately fifteen minutes. His other classes today have been rescheduled.’ Mycroft raised an eyebrow at Sherlock ‘So he’ll be going to the office he uses for the rest of the day to catch up on some work. Where I suggest you find him. I have also taken the liberty of giving him an unexpected day off tomorrow, which including the weekend and the third Monday every month he takes off from the rehabilitation centre, a clear four days off. ’ Mycroft reached into his pocket and pulled out a phone and handed it to Sherlock. ‘My number is programmed in.’ he paused ‘As is his.’
Sherlock exhaled sharply and looked at the phone, running a long finger over the screen. For once Mycroft remained stubbornly silent, it was his choice, he had to decide how best to do this.
Sherlock nodded a thank you. ‘I trust you’ll be lurking somewhere in the vicinity?’
Mycroft nodded in answer and Sherlock reached for the door handle his brother reached out and caught his arm ‘Be careful.’ He said before letting him go. Mycroft watched Sherlock stride confidently across the pavement not giving the other people or his surroundings a second glance, not seeming to register that the last time he was here he was throwing himself of the roof to his ‘death’. Mycroft tried to block out the images he’d seen of Sherlock lying covered in blood on the pavement, it didn’t matter that it was an illusion it was still his brother’s lifeless body he saw. Mycroft leant back and tried to concentrate on the build-up of emails in his phone, trying his best to leave Sherlock to whatever he needed to do.
Sherlock wandered the familiar corridors of Bart’s knowing exactly where he was going without being told. The first year lectures were always in Lecture theatre three on the fourth floor. It was an old fashioned lecture theatre with doors at the front and back, and that was where he was heading. He glanced quickly at his watch, ten minutes until the lecture end he rounded the final corner and slowed as he approached the doors. Soft and cat like he made no sound, the doors were closed but old and poorly insulated and he was about two feet away when he heard a voice from the other side, a voice that stopped him in his tracks. He was talking about of all things, gunshot wounds, Sherlock tried to focus, to figure out exactly what or why, but all he could hear was the voice and it felt as if everything else had stopped. All his attention was on the sound, the familiar register. Suddenly a sharp edge to the voice and clearly Sherlock heard the words for the first time
‘I’m sorry am I boring you?’
Sherlock smiled the same tone he’d had directed at him many, many times was now being directed at a hapless first year who had talked to a friend or glanced at his phone once too often. Sherlock found the power to move again and stepped up to the rounded windows of the lecture theatre. He was there, right in front of him looking for the entire world as if not a day had gone by, for the entire world except Sherlock that was. Instantly he picked up the slight lean to favour one leg, no cane so perhaps not a bad day but the limp was back. He was clenching and unclenching his fist which meant the tremor was now a more permanent fixture. He was far away but Sherlock could still pick out the details of more grey in the sandy brown hair and the tired eyes that betrayed insomnia and nightmares. Something tightened in Sherlock’s chest, but then he continued to speak, ignoring the rude student now and the confident knowledgeable words-wisdom on treating gunshot wounds. Sherlock stood and watched for the last eight minutes of the lecture observing John taking back in all the details of his movement and mannerisms he’d missed.
Sherlock pulled out the phone he hesitated for just a moment and tapped out a message;
Your office five minutes. I think we need to talk.
Trite and a little over dramatic he granted himself but he needed to do something bridge the massive gap three years had left.
John was packing up his things and noticed his phone flash. He retrieved the phone and frowned at the message, number unknown. Probably a student messing around, he sighed and tapped a reply.
Who is this? Why am I meeting you? JW
Sherlock paused, tempted to attempt revealing himself, knowing it was pointless John was too sensible to believe such a ridiculous suggestion.
I think you’ll want this meeting. Five minutes.
John rolled his eyes and tapped out a reply.
Fine. This better not be a waste of my time. JW.
Sherlock replied once more
I hope not too.
He followed John in a circulatory fashion, looping around to the front of the lecture theatre just in time to fall into step behind him-far enough away that he wouldn’t see.
John made his way slowly towards the café after his lecture he had intended to treat himself to the largest, strongest coffee the slightly shabby café could muster, and perhaps something decidedly unhealthy to eat to go with it following the lecture as was his custom. He also was not inclined to pander to whoever the author of the mysterious text was, whoever they were it could wait. He had an afternoon of admin ahead of him, and strictly speaking he should make a start on writing the end of term exams. Neither prospect was filling him with joy or excitement, so the coffee and the possibility of a dry scone or slice of hardened Victoria Sponge it was as a highlight of the morning.
Having loitered to talk to the lady behind the counter who always called him pet and liked to slip him a large coffee or the biggest slice of cake occasionally, and then been accosted by one of the more dull Doctors who shared his first year class, John eventually began to wind his way towards his office. His phone chirped in his pocket and juggling coffee, scone and briefcase he retrieved it assuming it was his visitor getting impatient.
Do please hurry back to your office. MH.
Mycroft bloody Holmes. John suppressed the pang that always accompanied thought of the elder Holmes, because it was impossible not to think about Him afterwards. The nerve of the man was incredible, to even after all this time turn up unannounced and demand his presence in his own office, still it was an improvement on the kidnapping he had previously favoured. Not that Mycroft had ever truly left him alone, despite John’s strict instructions not to he had a habit of periodically turning up in John’s life, checking up on him it seemed and he had a suspicion there were many more times when he didn’t see him that Mycroft had been there. Guilty conscience he reasoned, absolving himself for what he’d done to his brother. John was finished fighting him over that, he’d gone to him the day before the funeral and let him know exactly what he thought of him and while he was still angry, while he was still certain Mycroft played a part in what happened to his brother he had mediated his feelings somewhat; they’d both lost him and the other man had lost the only family he had and that meant John couldn’t actively hate him anymore. It didn’t mean however he welcomed him in his office on an otherwise ordinary day when he might forget all the things he wanted to forget in the day to day monotony of work. He sighed reaching his office and struggling with his full hands opened the door. Behind him, a safe distance back Sherlock watched him go in.
‘You could have opened the door.’ John said letting the door swing open behind him his tone clipped and an edge creeping into his voice, in what seemed to be an involuntary reaction to the presence of Mycroft who was standing his back to the door staring out of the tiny window to the street below. John didn’t need to ask what he was thinking about it was the reason his desk faced away from the window and he had never opened it.
‘Apologies, I didn’t hear you approach.’
John snorted, a lie he knew, even if Mycroft didn’t hear it he’d sense it or get an alert from his spy cameras or God only knew what else.
‘What is it Mycroft? I’m busy.’
‘No. You’re not.’ Mycroft turned around ‘You have no further classes for the day and you’re returning to the office for the afternoon to catch up on some work.’
‘Yes, alright thank you.’ John said putting down the coffee he knew he wasn’t going to get to drink any time soon ‘I suppose you have something to do with that.’
‘I strongly suspect you are not going to wish to return to work this afternoon John.’ Mycroft said evenly clasping his hands together in front of him.
‘Alright out with it Mycroft. I don’t have the patience for this anymore.’ John folded his arms ‘What are you doing here?’
Mycroft opened his mouth to respond before his gaze locked on something behind John’s head. Before John had chance to turn and look another voice answered his question.
‘He’s here with me.’
John didn’t move, couldn’t move. He’d imagined it. He must have. He looked at Mycroft who nodded barely and lifted his eyes over John’s shoulder.
‘No.’ John whispered.
‘If you would turn around perhaps it might be easier to comprehend.’ The voice was so familiar and the look of annoyance on Mycroft’s face impossible to replicate for any other purpose.
‘Do as he says John.’ Mycroft said ‘Apologies for the shock, I had hoped to soften the blow a little with my arrival but as usual…’ he raised an eyebrow to the space above John’s head.
John turned slowly terrified of what might greet him-or what might not- it was impossible whatever he thought he had heard, whatever he inferred from that look on Mycroft’s face could not possibly be.
Sherlock saw the moment the realisation truly hit John his eyes focused and locked onto Sherlock’s own, if he were prone to romantic language he might say the world stopped, or some kind of electric charge sparked or the air disappeared from the room, at the very least that time appeared to stand still. Sherlock knew that really it was to do with chemical reactions in the brain, in his own and likely John’s judging from his reaction.
John felt the world begin to spin and he staggered backwards and leant heavily against his desk. He was not going to pass out, if he did whatever strange hallucination he was having might disappear or if it was real he wasn’t giving either of them the satisfaction of seeing him faint.
‘John are you alright?’ Sherlock asked the question in that tone, the tone that John knew well but had only heard a handful of times that meant he really was concerned.
‘No.’ he repeated ‘No. It’s not. I’m not….’ He gripped the desk tightly not trusting his legs, he was breathing as if he’d run a marathon and his heart pounded hard in his chest.
‘John.’ Sherlock repeated taking a step into the room.
‘No!’ John commanded stronger suddenly ‘No you stay right there. Just for a second while I…’ he wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do but he knew he wasn’t ready for Sherlock invading his personal space just yet. He took a breath, steadied himself and stood up, adjusted his clothes and looked Sherlock Holmes right in the eye and said the first thing that came into his head;
‘What the fuck are you doing being alive?’ he asked
Sherlock’s mouth twitched a little supressing a grin ‘I was never dead John. Surely you can deduce that.’
John’s brain was beginning to swarm back into focus again now and he didn’t like the picture he was forming.
‘But I saw you.’ He said ‘I saw you out there on the pavement dead.’
‘Just a magic trick.’
‘What?’ there was a dangerous edge to John’s voice that Sherlock recognised and he stumbled and stuttered as he responded.
‘A-a magic trick. I tricked you. All of you.’ Sherlock looked down at the floor shifting a little wishing he could be allowed in to get closer to assure himself that John was real also.
‘What?’ John repeated
‘You must understand John it was necessary.’ Mycroft’s silky tones cut over John’s head; he’d all but forgotten he was even in the room.
‘You can shut up.’ John said immediately his tone harsh and his eyes flashing anger.
Mycroft didn’t respond, simply moved behind Sherlock forcing him to take another step into the room and shut the door behind him. Taking the chance Sherlock took the two steps across the room and grasped John’s arm tightly standing over him, too close far too close.
‘It’s real.’ He assured him.
For a long moment John was caught, the weight of Sherlock’s grip on his arm had him reeling again it was real, he was real John could feel his grip, the heat from his body and his familiar scent wafted towards him. John reached out and tentatively squeezed Sherlock’s arm just to satisfy him that it was real.
Sherlock met his eyes and smiled and for the briefest of seconds John smiled back and it could have been three years ago and any other room at Bart’s and a the final clue cracked and on their way. Mycroft’s voice broke the moment of equilibrium between them.
‘Sherlock.’ He said carefully ‘He needs to know.’
As fast as it arrived the balance was lost and John dropped his hand and pulled free his arm leaning as far out of Sherlock’s space as he could. Shaking his head and not meeting Sherlock’s gaze again he spoke to the floor, his voice even measured but masking a mass of emotion he didn’t even have language for.
‘Tell me.’ John said ‘I don’t care which one of you but someone tell me.’ He looked between them then shook his head again, fixing on Mycroft ‘No wait. You. What did you mean ‘It was necessary?’ You sold him out you told Moriarty all those lie-you made him do it!’
There was a heavy silence that told John more in an instant than either of their long winded speeches on the matter could. He looked from one Holmes to another, so different and yet suddenly so similar.
‘You knew?’ John was speaking to Mycroft now anger rising in his chest again ‘All along you knew?’
Mycroft nodded and with that John was barrelling towards Mycroft with a speed that took even Sherlock by surprise, the punch landed square on Mycroft’s jaw.
‘You liar!’ John all but screamed as Mycroft stumbled back against the door ‘You lied about him, you lied to me! He was alive and you let me think he was dead!’
He recoiled for a second punch but Sherlock’s arms were around him pulling him away.
‘No!’ he said ‘John! No. Don’t.’
John struggled against Sherlock’s arms and managed to break free, he was shocked to find himself loose once more, later his brain would register that Sherlock was weak-normally even John struggled against him in a hand to hand combat situation. Instead he wheeled around and glared at Sherlock.
‘You’re protecting him’ he spat the last word with such venom at Mycroft with such hurt he felt burning in the back of his throat. ‘Him. That liar, that thing that ice cold machine? Who let all those things be said? Who let me think-that-not only protecting, defending that?’
Mycroft looked momentarily taken aback but the mask quickly slipped back and he simply raised a tentative hand to his jaw.
‘My brother.’ Sherlock said ‘I’m protecting him yes.’ He glanced over and Mycroft raised an eyebrow again in answer to his question, fine yes. Sherlock turned back to John ‘Yes, I am protecting him, as he did me. If you want to punch someone punch me.’
It was a cheap shot but John was in no mood to take the moral high ground. He landed a punch across Sherlock’s cheek. Sherlock made no attempt to fight back allowing John to send him reeling backwards against the wall, no sooner had he landed against it he felt himself pulled forward by his lapels as John continued to launch his attack. Fists flew and Sherlock felt himself pulled around and pummelled hard as furniture in the small office went flying. He fought back just enough to save himself from real injury but didn’t try and inflict any on his assailant. He caught Mycroft moving to intervene but put him off with the slightest shake of his head.
John was shouting incoherently now, a few words breaking though as he pushed Sherlock over a table and against the wall by his coat collar. Every swear word known to the British army and few Sherlock assumed were dialects and curses he’d not picked up in Arabic and several other languages besides. One phrase kept being repeated ‘You’re alive’ amongst the curses against his name, ‘you’re alive’ and against the punches became an accusation ‘you’re alive’ and against the tears he now saw forming in John’s eyes
‘You’re alive.’ He said one more time pushing Sherlock back against the wall one last time breathless.
‘Yes.’ Sherlock said softly.
John hung his head close to but not touching Sherlock’s heaving chest, he felt pulled towards the other man, the desire to hold him and make sure he really was there, to be close to him and really feel he was there and not going away overwhelming. Fighting that desire was the urge to hurt him, really hurt him like he had been hurt all this time. He shifted the weight back on his heels and prepared himself for one last punch, a punctuation of sorts but as he looked up into Sherlock’s resigned face all the fight left him he dropped his arm and took a slow deliberate step back.
‘You’re not dead.’ He said.
‘No.’ Sherlock responded John was impressed the simplicity of the answer, no ‘obviously’ or calling him and idiot.
‘How are you not dead?’ John asked then shook his head ‘No wait. That can wait.’ He closed his eyes and seemed to be processing the information and filtering it as he continued to talk ‘There is an explanation-and you will give it to me- as to how you are clearly not dead. The main thing I’m concerned about right now is why? Why were you….and now not... Why on earth would you do that Sherlock?’
It was the first time he’d said his name aloud and Sherlock inadvertently balked at hearing his name from John again. He realised in a moment that in three years nobody but Mycroft had spoken his name aloud to him, he smiled slightly and sadly as spoke;
‘For you.’ He said simply.
‘What?’ John asked suddenly angry again ‘How could you possibly think that dying-that making me watch you die and then disappearing for three years was in any way for me. I knew you were twisted Sherlock but this is something else. Do you have any idea what I’ve been through? Any idea at all?’
‘Yes.’ Sherlock said his voice soft and quiet ‘Yes I…’
‘No! No you don’t. How could throwing yourself off a building in front of my eyes and then disappearing for three years leaving me to-to bloody grieve for you Sherlock- I must be an idiot because I can’t possibly see how this did anything for me!’
‘He was saving you!’ Mycroft’s tone was urgent but not harsh. He took a breath an moderated himself wincing slightly at the ache it produced in his jaw. ‘Apologies John but my brother will either take all day to express this to you or burst it out in the most inappropriate manner. I thought I’d save him the bother.’
‘Mycroft’ Sherlock tried but was silenced by a wave of his brother’s hand.
‘Moriarty threatened Sherlock, his life for those who he cared about most, three assassins trained on the three people who mattered most to him. Mrs Hudson, Inspector Lestrade and yourself. The other two had no idea and were safely out of the way, you of course went some way to figuring things out-as he knew you would-and would have persisted with the investigation had you not seen with your own eyes.’ Mycroft paused ‘Hence what you had to see, and that I also tricked you. And for that John you have my sincere apologies.’
John didn’t know what to do or say, he looked between the brothers again for some greater clue as to what he should do this time, his gaze settled on Sherlock.
‘Is that true?’ he asked ‘You ….did that to save us?’
Sherlock nodded, ‘Of course.’
John looked at him for a long time, taking in every inch of him for the first time. He was exactly the same except somehow slightly lesser-he was thinner, his appearance even without John’s assault, slightly ruffled and unkempt but there was more, as though something was missing from him somehow. John looked once again and wanted to freeze the moment because it hurt, it actually hurt how much he had missed him, and what he had to do now.
‘I have to…. ‘ he began then composing himself straightened up ‘I have to go.’ He said simply moving towards the door.
‘John!’ Sherlock’s cry was urgent almost begging.
John clenched a fist and stopped by the door willing himself not to turn around because if he did he might lose the will not to simply run back to Sherlock wrap his arms around him and forgive everything. Eventually he turned around-he owed him the decency to look him in the eye.
‘I have to go. Right now I just need….to go.’ John nodded not trusting himself to say anymore and using all the will he had turned away from Sherlock.
Mycroft stepped to one side and opened the door allowing him to pass; John gave him the briefest of nods and head down made his way into the corridor.
‘John please!’ he heard behind him but didn’t turn back.
In John’s office Mycroft caught hold of his brother’s arm as he tried to follow the Doctor gripping tightly as Sherlock struggled against him.
‘Let him go Sherlock.’ Mycroft said gently ‘Let him go.’
Sherlock struggled once more then relented, Mycroft released him and he dug into his pocket for the phone and began to tap out a message.
‘What are you doing?’ Mycroft asked although the answer was obvious.
‘Shh’ Sherlock said tapping out the message.
Baker Street. This evening. Please come. SH.
‘Sherlock.’ Mycroft warned.
‘You are right.’ Sherlock said ‘And I am letting him go now. That doesn’t mean however I am letting him go.’
Downstairs as he crossed that dreaded bit of pavement John’s phone beeped, knowing who it was that it couldn’t be anyone else, he retrieved it. He realised he already knew what I would ask him and of course he knew his reply.
Baker Street, this evening. And you will tell me everything. JW.
Upstairs Sherlock received the message with a nod of satisfaction.
I will. SH
He looked up at Mycroft then turned the phone so he could see the screen, Mycroft nodded. For a moment there was silence Sherlock pocked the phone and looked at his brother.
‘Thank you, for… what you did there.’
‘You’re welcome Sherlock. It wouldn’t do to allow you to make a complete mess of this after all we’ve done.’ He smiled a tight smile ‘Consider that when you see him later.’
Sherlock nodded and surveyed the mess in John’s office, it was bad enough even for him to concede it was a mess. He picked up the chair and put it back in the correct place, slowly he went about gathering in the papers on the floor and piling them neatly on the desk. Mycroft watched his brother with interest, cataloguing the unheard of behaviour momentarily before bending down and picking up the pens strewn near his feet and straightening the desk to his right. They worked slowly methodically and in silence until the office resembled somewhat the ordered space it had been before their arrival. When they finished Sherlock surveyed the scene and nodded to himself satisfied now and looked at Mycroft.
‘If you are ready Sherlock, we have some business to attend to in bringing you back from the dead.’
Sherlock nodded and followed his brother from the room.
Baker Street looked bleak without the last of the previous tenant’s furniture. Sherlock paced impatiently in front of the window eyes trained on the street bellow until he finally saw what he was waiting for, a taxi pulling up next to Mycroft’s car-empty as Mrs Hudson had insisted he come in and have tea with her and even Mycroft was powerless against Mrs Hudson. John stepped out of the car and looked directly up at Sherlock, knowing he would be there in his favourite window; Sherlock offered a curt nod to John and moved into the room to wait.
It was harder than he’d anticipated knocking at the door of 221 Baker Street. John had been back and though it had gotten easier to come and take tea with Mrs Hudson and let her fuss over him he’d never ventured upstairs again, and now the world had turned on its head again and he didn’t know what to think.
Moments after he knocked he was enveloped in Mrs Hudson’s cooing embrace he barely heard what she had said but suffice to say she was ecstatic about Sherlock’s miraculous return he wished he could share her unconditional enthusiasm as she ushered him up the stairs and returned to chastising Mycroft who sat looking decidedly uncomfortable in her kitchen-a sight which John took some satisfaction from. He climbed the stairs slowly counting as he went-seventeen stairs to their flat apparently, their old flat he corrected himself. He’d never had much chance to count as he was usually running up or down them at full speed. The door was open as it always was and he walked in to find a virtually unrecognisable room and an unmistakable man leaning on the fireplace.
John reeled again at the sight, some part of him in his hours of wandering the streets of London had been convinced it was all an illusion-a magic trick- the cruellest of all but here was Sherlock Holmes looking for all the world as if he had never left Baker Street.
‘John.’ He said acknowledging his entrance, Sherlock’s face looked as if it didn’t know what to do his eyes seemed to narrow in worry or concern while his mouth seemed to be fighting not to smile. All too quickly he gained control and a mask of calm came over him. ‘Thank you.’ He said simply and gestured around him at the assortment of chairs.
John picked the nearest to him and sat, feeling a stranger in his old home now, Sherlock likewise looked uncomfortable and unsure of himself, something John used to take great delight in on the rare occasions it happened. Now he felt a great pang of sadness and sympathy. He cleared his throat.
‘I am-and this sounds ridiculous to say aloud but still-I am very glad you are alive.’ He said carefully.
Sherlock nodded, but didn’t speak, John had prepared things to say and he was willing to listen. John nodded and continued;
‘You, I mean your…’ he steeled himself to say it again ‘Your death Sherlock. It affected me. You died and I have things to say about that, to you but first I need answers. I need to know what you did how you did it and why you did it.’ He nodded, signalling he was finished and Sherlock nodded in response.
‘I know.’ Sherlock said he took a breath and began, telling the whole tale from its beginnings way back months before that day at Bart’s the slow cataloguing of information to the moment Moriarty revealed himself again. He told John of the plan and Mycroft and Molly’s part in it and moved on to his time away not missing a detail of who or when and why he did what he did. John listened patiently asking the occasionally logistical question or for clarification or simply nodding along. When he finished John nodded again.
‘Thank you.’ He said.
Sherlock nodded and stood from where he perched on the armchair next to the fireplace, ‘Good. Yes. Is everything ok now?’
John had to smile a little, although sadly, at Sherlock’s naivety, so able to read emotions in strangers but oblivious or some might argue useless at cultivating his own. John wanted it to be the end, he wanted now that he’d heard the tale and what Sherlock had been through to leap out of his chair and hold onto his skinny dishevelled frame and tell him he’d missed him and perhaps unleash all the thoughts that he’d previously chased away from his mind. Half of him wanted that, the half that had Sherlock Holmes back in his life and thought that made everything ok again, the other half the part of him that had lived through the time without him still had things to say and wasn’t sure he could ever cross that room to Sherlock Holmes ever again.
‘No.’ said John ‘Now you listen.’
Sherlock nodded meekly and sat back down.
‘My life went on while you were gone and things well they change Sherlock. I got married without you there-where like it or not my best friend should have been. You should have been there forced into a suit at my side in church. You should have been there giving an embarrassing speech at the reception-and God only knows you’d know how to do that-but you didn’t, Harry did it instead. And then I had a son-a son Sherlock- and you should have been there because I needed someone to be excited with, to be terrified with and to escape back to normality-or your own twisted sense of it with.’ He gave a half smile which quickly vanished ‘ I wanted my son to know you, to know the best man I ever knew and he didn’t.’
John paused and took a deep breath getting up from the chair and wandered to the window. After a long pause he turned and looked back at Sherlock whose eyes were locked on him, patiently listening. ‘And he could have known you’ John continued ‘that’s what’s makes it worse. My son will never know you and he could have.’ John paused again and looked Sherlock in the eye ‘and then I lost them, I just lost them. Nobody’s fault, an accident and I was alone again. I mourned them and I mourned you again. I swear Sherlock nobody should ever feel the way I did then, nobody.’ He paused again closing his eyes against the memory, but that just made it worse.
Sherlock bit his lip and looked down. ‘I am…’ he couldn’t finish the sentence the words ‘deeply sorry’ were so inadequate he knew. So he bit his lip and bit back the words looking down at his feet.
John nodded, acknowledging the attempt Sherlock made ‘You know what the worst part actually is?’ he asked, Sherlock met his gaze and shook his head slowly. John took a breath and a step towards him ‘That is never should have happened. None of it.’ Sherlock frowned at him and John continued ‘I should never have had a wife to love, to make a son with and to lose. If you’d been here I never would have had them-I’d have been running around London chasing criminals and getting swiftly dumped by any girl stupid enough to agree to a date. Just like I was before. But without you Sherlock, without you Mary had a chance to fall in love with me, for me to love her back and for me to lose her. If it weren’t for you Sherlock I never would have lost her, because I never would have had her.’
John looked down at the floor for a second and squared his shoulders straightening up. There was nothing more to say right now and he had no idea where they went from here.
Sherlock couldn’t move. He desperately wanted to go to him to do something, say something he knew that’s what people did but he couldn’t he didn’t know how.
‘John I…’ he tried.
John tilted his chin up slightly protective rather than defensive, making a decision he turned and strode towards the door.
‘What was his name?’ Sherlock said the words tumbling out of his mouth with such urgency he barely had time to process them.
John’s shoulders slumped and he stopped dead, he tried to turn around-he knew he should turn around and deliver the answer to Sherlock’s face but he couldn’t ‘Hamish.’ He said sadly and after a pause ‘Hamish Sherlock Watson.’ Without looking back he slowly climbed the stairs down and out of 221 Baker Street. As he did his phone vibrated in his pocket, sighing angrily at the nerve of whichever Holmes was texting him he retrieved the phone.
Fancy a pint? It’s been a while but I imagine you could use one. Greg.
John blinked at the screen for a moment; it had been a while and a few unkind and clearly uncalled for words on his part. Pushing away how Lestrade knew what was going on John tapped out a reply.
Yes. Rising Sun Tottenham Court Rd 15 mins? JW
Setting his shoulders John marched down Baker Street trying to ignore the eyes that followed him from the window above.
Mycroft climbed the stairs slowly having excused himself from Mrs Hudson bracing himself for what might greet him upstairs. Sherlock stood stock still by the window peering down the street. Mycroft didn’t have to guess what he was staring at.
‘Give him time.’ He advised his brother
Sherlock didn’t respond, still following John Watson’s outline slowly disappearing down the street. As soon as he was out of sight Sherlock turned and crossed towards the door.
‘Sherlock where are you going?’ Mycroft demanded.
Sherlock didn’t respond pounding down the stairs and ignoring Mrs Hudson’s calls, Mycroft moving faster than Sherlock gave him credit for caught up with him on the doorstep pulling him back violently.
‘Don’t do something you’ll regret Sherlock.’
‘Oh I severely doubt I’m going to regret it.’ He struggled to free his arm from Mycroft’s vice like grip
‘Sherlock please.’ Mycroft was practically begging ‘You’ve done so well. And after all you did is it really wise to do this.’
‘I suspect not Mycroft but I never was the wise one was I?’ he yanked his arm free ‘And look what doing the right thing, helping others and caring did for me. No.’ he said with a smirk ‘I think it’s probably best that I revert to-what did you call it? To him at the funeral? ‘the old Sherlock’ the one who he made ‘so much better’ well.’ Sherlock turned up his collar ‘Looks like you were wrong brother dear.’
With that he strode off in the opposite direction to John’s route and into the darkness. Mycroft hung his head and tried to collect himself. He dialled a number on his phone.
‘Elevate Sherlock Holmes’ surveillance status, category one. Notify me personally of any incidents.’
He put his phone away and watched his brother disappear.
Slightly less Brotherly fluff in this chapter mainly because adding John into the mix takes on a life of its own. Things are about to get a little dark however with hopefully some Holmes brothers fluff to make it all better.
Chapter 6: As always
Sherlock retreats into old habits when his homecoming isn't what he expected. Mycroft and Lestrade are picking up the pieces and trying to get Holmes and Watson back where they belong.
Slight warning for drug use in this chapter-nothing too graphic. And another warning for John Watson's language. He does like to swear a bit.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Mycroft could do nothing but return home to his flat and wait. He instructed Mrs Hudson to inform him should Sherlock return there. Phone in hand and checking it constantly he instructed the driver to take a particular route past some of Sherlock’s old haunts, to no avail. Obviously, thought Mycroft. He didn’t call John or Lestrade, assuming they were the last people, himself aside, that his brother would seek out and because he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t put them through it not so soon after finding out he was alive again. So Mycroft waited pacing the living room of his flat phone in hand waiting.
Sherlock slipped away from the man no sooner had he slipped the familiar package into his hand. Inside the familiar building was unchanged, had he been of a state of mind to he might have analysed how or why in ten years this old warehouse had escaped either renovation or demolition, as it was he had little on his mind except the small package just slipped into his pocket. From his favourite window he had a view of the dark water of the Thames bellow, for a moment he stared into the blackness the quiet darkness bellow with the soft lights of the city beyond. He had missed the city but it felt empty again now, just as it had when he had come here regularly despite the excitement, the constant energy and life it always felt there something missing that he was somehow separate. That was why he had come here.
Slowly methodically he unpacked the materials from his pocket, a well-practiced routine he could conduct with his eyes closed; the most simple of experiments. Preparation complete he lifted the needle up to the light to check before slipping it into his arm. The tiniest sensation of pain, not nearly enough really, before the wash of warmth took over him. It had been long enough-not quite as long as his brother liked to think-that the effect was swift and Sherlock felt his mind almost immediately succumbed and his body quickly followed.
‘Any news?’ Mycroft asked the assistant who answered the phone
‘None as yet sir.’
‘Find him’ Mycroft snapped and hung up the phone.
Sherlock leaned back against the window frame and looked out at the light and darkness as the drug took complete hold. Everything seemed to blur and merge into one, his mind quieted and for a time there was something akin to happiness, to contentment as his mind shut down. The feeling was quite alien to him, the drug replicating a feeling he’d all but forgotten.
Across London, John Watson savoured the warmth of scotch slipping down his throat and warming his body, soothing slightly the shake in his right hand as he looked anxiously towards the door. It had been one hell of a day that was for sure and still despite all this time, and despite the reason why today had been such an ordeal there was still only one person he wanted to talk to, and one he couldn’t. He downed the last of the drink just as he spotted Greg Lestrade coming in he stood and nodded at the detective from across the room.
Lestrade saw John instantly, the pub was quiet and he was seated at the bar angled towards the door perfectly positioned for observing, some habits never die. He looked well, it had been a while since they’d seen each other, a month after his wife’s funeral if Greg recalled a chance meeting near Scotland Yard and a tense coffee under the pretence of beginning to rebuild a friendship. Neither had done anything about it since, though Greg felt he should have done more across the three years.
John stood up and walked across to the Inspector and held out a hand, Greg took it.
‘John. You look well.’
He nodded ‘You too Greg. Drink?’
A few minutes retrieving drinks-pints this time for both, Guinness for John and a larger for Lestrade-followed by some small talk about the quiet pub and the football muted in the background. Eventually they seated themselves in a corner and sat in silence each staring into their drink.
‘So you know then?’ John asked, not needing to elaborate on what or whom.
Greg shifted uncomfortably, ‘Yes. I err found out yesterday.’
‘Right. Right ok.’ John nodded to himself ‘So that makes you and Mrs Hudson, not to mention his brother’ John nearly spat the last work ‘Who all knew he was alive. And I’m the last to know. Right.’
‘John it wasn’t like that.’ Greg exhaled wondering where to start and knowing this was not going to be an easy exchange. He began with the neutral ground, or at least ground that was nothing to do with him. ‘From what I saw he needed to build up to it- he wasn’t ready. He went to Mrs Hudson first-wouldn’t you choose the path of least resistance? She was never going to do anything but welcome him with open arms-and possibly the sharp end of her tea towel.’
John had to smile at the image, ‘I suppose. And I assume Mycroft is influencing these events slightly? As usual.’ John took a sip of his pint ‘But that doesn’t explain why, with all respect Greg, he went to you next?’
Greg swallowed hard and took a sip of his pint partly for Dutch courage, partly to delay a little further; this wasn’t going to go well he knew. ‘Mycroft.’ He said simply ‘You’re right it’s his doing-the whole thing-but I swear John, I had no idea and I only know what I managed to get out of him at the house last night.’
‘The house? Last night?’ John frowned.
Shit. Greg thought, that came out wrong, he’d meant to bridge the topic slowly lay the blame on Mycroft-where he still firmly placed it himself.
‘Mycroft’s.’ Lestrade explained ‘Well technically I suppose it belongs to both of them, that’s where they stayed after Mycroft got back from Germany with him.’
John nodded slowly, that all fit with what Sherlock had told him, however something wasn’t fitting or rather it might be beginning to, and John didn’t like the knot it was forming in his stomach.
‘So you went to his house? Isn’t that place somewhere in the wilds of Kent?’ John had a vague recollection of Sherlock mentioning ‘Holmes Manor’ to him at some point ‘surely they could have come to Scotland Yard? Brought you to Baker Street? Also if they were talking to you last night why the hell couldn’t someone talk to me?’ John was growing angry again now
‘I know, I know.’ Greg raised a hand as a means of appeasement and John nodded and took a sip of his drink.
‘Sorry.’ He said ‘It’s just all a bit….’
‘Yeah I know.’ Greg exhaled slowly ‘I’ll explain best I can from my point of view, but I warn you John you’re not going to like it, and I’m sorry.’
John nodded, ‘I had a feeling I might not. Just as long as you’re not a long lost Holmes or even’ he laughed hollowly ‘That you were sleeping with Sherlock all this time.’
Greg attempted a laugh but it caught somewhere in his throat, ‘No.’ he said ‘Not Sherlock.’ He bit his lip and prayed John wouldn’t make him say it.
Realisation slowly dawned and John blinked swallowed hard and took a gulp of his pint trying to give his brain a chance to catch up. ‘You- err -and you? What?’ he managed.
Greg sighed, no such luck. ‘Me and Mycroft Holmes.’ He said with a shrug ‘Yes.’
John didn’t know how to respond, the idea of Mycroft Holmes and Greg Lestrade was alien enough without adding that he’d spent the last three years hating the former and avoiding the latter for their involvement with Sherlock’s’ death’.
‘How long?’ he asked
‘Two years.’ Greg said evenly ‘I swear John I would have told you, if we…well.’ He didn’t need to add ‘were on speaking terms’
John closed his eyes and tried to measure his next response, he didn’t want to make a scene.
‘Did you know as well?’ He asked softly unable to keep his hands from shaking in anger.
‘No!’ Greg answered quickly, ‘God no John, I knew nothing until last night.’
John exhaled and looked Greg in the eye, he was telling the truth-and something else edged in there underneath something akin to what John was feeling. He frowned slightly at the other man, questioning.
‘And I have never been so angry in my life.’
‘Makes two of us.’ John said
‘Everything we had built ourselves around just gone-our entire relationship a lie.’ He shook his head ‘God I sound like some crap daytime TV show.’
‘Connie Prince could have sorted you out.’ John quipped and before he knew it they had both dissolved into giggles unbefitting of the situation- particularly given the unfortunate end of the talk show host herself. Eventually they composed themselves and John downed the rest of his pint and looked at Lestrade for a moment.
‘Still you and Mycroft Holmes…how does that happen? He asked
Lestrade shrugs, ‘How does anything happen?’ He paused and leaned forward ‘Look if you’re asking how do I go from being dumped by my wife of ten years- for the second time- to being with a man, particularly one like Mycroft Holmes, then I think John Watson you of all people are asking the wrong question.’
John shifted uncomfortably, ‘I don’t know what you mean.’
‘Yes you do.’ Lestrade said downing the remains of his own pint. ‘Another?’
John nodded, grateful for the distraction, he spent the next few minutes while Lestrade retrieved their drinks obstinately trying to think of anything else but his brain refusing to comply.
There was a comfortable pause while both sipped their drink then Lestrade continued;
‘I’ve known Sherlock a long time, and I was grieving and Mycroft understood like nobody else’ Lestrade held up a hand to silence John ‘No really. What you and Sherlock had-have-is different. To me he was always like the annoying little brother I never wanted.’ He smiled ‘And what with my marriage breaking down and losing him as well, Mycroft and I sort of drifted together.’
‘Just like that?’ John asked with a frown
‘We have a history Mycroft and I. I knew Sherlock for five years before you did, and those were not his best years, Mycroft and I were well, thrown together then.’
‘Picking up the pieces after Sherlock?’
‘Picking up the pieces of Sherlock more like it.’ Lestrade explained.
‘Oh.’ John said softly ‘You mean when he…’ he didn’t need to finish the sentence
‘Yeah.’ Lestrade said. ‘So obviously then Sherlock started working with me and then you came along and Mycroft and I sort of faded into the background a bit.’ Lestrade shrugged ‘With him gone we found ourselves I don’t know gravitating towards each other.’
‘Alright.’ John said mulling it over in his mind, ‘But Mycroft Holmes?’ he could see how, theoretically people might drift together in a situation like that, though why anyone would want to drift towards Mycroft Holmes of all people was at present a mystery to him, he was not anybody’s first choice of companion surely? No sooner had that thought crossed his mind John felt a sinking feeling in his stomach and a pang of guilt. ‘Sorry.’ He said looking over at Lestrade.
The other man shook his head ‘It’s fine.’ He said
‘No. It’s not.’ John said ‘How many times did I put up with insults and teasing for living with Sherlock for being his.’ He paused struggling to get the words out ‘His friend.’ He shrugged ‘I’d get so angry-that people couldn’t-or wouldn’t see-what I did. Even when what I was seeing was him being a dick.’
Lestrade snorted ‘Runs in the family I’m afraid. As does arrogance, pomposity and an inability to admit they are wrong.’
‘Which they never are.’
‘Of course not.’
‘Arseholes.’ John smiled at Lestrade over his pint, Lestrade returned the smile but with another look in his eye this time, one John didn’t want to admit to recognising in himself as well. ‘Jesus, you really love him don’t you.’
It wasn’t a question but Lestrade answered anyway. ‘God help me I do.’ He said ‘And so do you.’ He added ‘Not Mycroft-and believe me I appreciate the sentiment at present- but Sherlock.’ He held a hand up ‘Don’t look at me like that. I don’t know how you love him or what your relationship is-clearly neither of you two do either-but you love him, whichever way you dress it up. So what are you going to do?’
John was silent for a long time, staring into the murky depths of his Guinness hoping it might give him an answer, eventually he gave the only honest answer he could ‘I don’t know.’ His voice wobbled a bit and he felt Greg’s eyes on him, he continued talking into his pint ‘I spent three years wishing-wishing how old am I?- that he wasn’t, that he wasn’t dead and…’ he paused trying desperately to pull his thoughts into some kind of coherence ‘And all that time defending him, insisting he wasn’t a liar, and somehow he’s made a liar out of all of us.’
‘But a lie told for the right reasons?’ suggested Lestrade. ‘John he died for you.’ Again he held his hand up silencing the other man ‘Yes for Mrs Hudson and me after a fashion, but I don’t kid myself, it was for you really. He’s not a sociopath, whatever he likes to say, and he’d do all he can for the people he cares about-however few they may be-but he wouldn’t do that for anybody.’
‘But he didn’t actually die.’ John said
‘Didn’t he?’ Lestrade asked ‘You thought he was. I thought he was. And I’m going to hate to admit it to his face but for his brother it still felt like he had.’
Mycroft paced the flat again phone in hand checking over and over, still nothing. His thumb hovered over Greg’s name but he forced himself not to dial, not yet at least. Instead he crossed to the small cupboard in the hall and pulled out a battered violin case. Crossing back to the living room he placed the case on the table as if it were the most precious object in the world, which to him at this moment and many across the last few years it had been. The one thing he’d taken with him the day Sherlock died too precious a thing to be kept in storage, and one that Mycroft needed close, much more than a picture it was so fully Sherlock. He played it regularly, telling himself he needed to keep the old instrument in use but really just to keep his idle hands busy. He began to tune it and then played a slow mournful piece to keep the silence at bay.
It wasn’t enough. He could still hear himself, the experiment was a failure. Again the small scratch of pain and a wave of warmth, this time he allowed his eyes to close a little, focusing on the drug coursing through his veins and the respite it gave. In the darkness Sherlock heard sounds in the distance voices and footsteps approaching, he thought he should move but couldn’t find the will, instead he continued to stare out into the lights of the city. The sounds got closer; two men each around six foot four he deduced from their footfalls, heavy set, no doubt dealers checking their rival’s haunts.
‘What’s this then?’ one voice broke through the haze, baritone, Cockney inflection drawing closer.
‘What’s that?’ the other, lighter with Essex undertones came closer.
‘Ay-posh boy.’ The voice was directly above him now and he turned to look through glassy eyes.
The last thing Sherlock saw was a fist heading towards his face. The attack was swift and brutal, extracting exactly what they wanted-phone, wallet, drugs-with precision and maximum force. Sherlock didn’t fight back, what was the point? He was in no shape to fend them off and even if he were he could see little point. So he let them pummel him and relieve him of everything he had until finally they left and he slumped down into a puddle and out of consciousness.
‘So will you forgive him?’ Lestrade asked as they left the pub.
‘Will you?’ John asked.
Lestrade thought for a moment ‘Probably, eventually. Maybe I already have.’ He paused again ‘But that doesn’t mean I’m not still angry at him, or that it won’t take time to fix.’ He snorted ‘Jesus perhaps I should get my own talk show!’ he thrust his hands into his pockets embarrassed slightly at this public introspection on his relationship. John didn’t seem to notice, lost in his own thoughts again.
‘Can I trust him?’ he asked eventually
‘Yes.’ Lestrade said firmly ‘If nothing else you can trust Sherlock Holmes-when it matters at least.’ He reached out a hand and touched John’s arm firmly ‘That’s Sherlock Holmes-can’t trust him to pick up the groceries but you can trust him with your kids!’ Lestrade winced the moment the words left his mouth and tightened his grip on John’s arm ‘God I’m sorry’ he said ‘I didn’t mean.’
John shook his head ‘It’s fine. Really I know you didn’t.’ he looked down at the floor ‘Things have changed though.’ He shrugged.
‘Things do.’ Lestrade said gently, ‘Who knows what would have happened if he’d stayed. Look if we’re thinking that way I’d be second guessing everything I’ve done since-and I’ve done enough of that to last a lifetime.’
‘Really?’ John asked
‘Really.’ Lestrade said ‘One does not simply get involved with a Holmes brother and not second guess your sanity if nothing else.’
John chuckled too, ‘Quite.’ He paused and shuffled his feet ‘What if, well what if I did things that need to be put right too? Said things?’
‘Then put them right.’ Lestrade said clapping a hand to John’s shoulder ‘Look John I’ll tell you what I told him yesterday-you’re a good man. And for please don’t’ repeat this any time soon-so is he. ’
John frowned a bit and nodded. ‘Right, well I’d better…’
Lestrade smiled at him and pulled him quickly into a hug.
‘You know where I am.’ He said before turning to walk to his car.
John watched him go and glanced at his watch, quite late he’d better get the tube home, but he had time and a walk would clear his head. He turned and headed back towards Baker Street.
Sherlock came slowly back to consciousness, with no idea how much time had passed. He moved to glance at his watch-gone of course-and pain seared through his head. A quick inventory of his body indicated no major injuries-several cuts and bruises and a couple more cracked ribs or possibly just worsened the existing injury. All extremely painful but nothing life threatening, pity, he thought. He rummaged in his trouser pocket until his fingers found the small plastic packet, swallowing the sedatives lifted from Mycroft with a grimace he began to drift off and forget the pain.
Mycroft picked up his phone again, then placed it back on the table, picked it up again, and put it down. Finally he hit call.
Lestrade was almost at the car when his phone rang, cursing silently whatever emergency someone was no doubt dragging him in to work on a Friday night for he pulled out the phone. He frowned at the caller id but didn’t hesitate in answering.
‘Gregory I need your help.’ Mycroft’s voice had an edge to it Lestrade had heard rarely but he knew exactly what was about to follow ‘It’s Sherlock.’
‘What happened?’ Lestrade fished the keys out of his pocket and got into the car.
‘Gone? Gone where?’
‘He, well I suppose ‘ran away’ would be the appropriate term, though it seems faintly ridiculous for a man of thirty six, but then as you know most things regarding my brother are faintly ridiculous..’
‘Mycroft’ Greg tried to interrupt the nervous ramble
‘But you see that’s what it amounts to he ran away. Which is ridiculous my own staff think I’ve gone mad shouting at them to find him but he’s dropped off the radar-of course he has he’s Sherlock.’
‘Mycroft!’ Greg raised his voice this time ‘Breathe ok?’ he did the same exhaling sharply, when Mycroft was nervous he talked, when he was upset he talked or he completely shut down, another infuriating trait he shared with his brother.
‘I am sorry Gregory.’ Mycroft seemed to come to his senses a little having let out some of what had been building for hours ‘I am worried about him.’
Greg’s chest tightened a little, he was too ‘What can I do?’ he asked ‘Do you want me there? I can ask my men to look for him.’
‘You need to look for him Gregory. I’ve got my people looking but he knows how to hide. You, well you know the places he used to go.’
There was silence for a moment as Greg absorbed what Mycroft was saying ‘You mean?’
‘Right ok.’ Lestrade started the engine. ‘And what if he’s well, you know?’
‘Bring him here unless it’s absolutely necessary. I can take care of him.’
‘Right. Ok then.’ Lestrade pulled off ‘I’ll be in touch.’
‘Thank you Gregory.’
Mycroft hung up and looked out of the window dreading the next time the phone rang but willing it to all the same.
It didn’t take Lestrade long to find Sherlock, there were three or four particular favourite haunts of his he’d used when he didn’t want Mycroft to find him, for some reason he’d never bothered to really hide form Lestrade, possibly he’d reasoned because Sherlock Holmes was far too fond of himself to ever enter a serious suicide bid, but wasn’t quite clever enough to realise when the next fix was an overdose. When he saw him this time however Lestrade feared for the first time in many years he was too late.
Sherlock was slumped under a window ledge lifeless and bleeding-a large gash on his forehead was mixing with filthy water from the puddle he’d landed in which Lestrade hoped was making the volume of blood look far worse than it actually was. Lestrade reached him and immediately put two fingers to the younger man’s neck, breathing a sigh of release to find a strong if slightly elevated pulse.
‘Sherlock’ he said gently shaking him ‘Sherlock come on.’
A gargled sound escaped Sherlock’s throat as Lestrade shook him.
‘That’s it come on Sherlock.’ He said repeating his name in the hope of recognition.
Another set of garbled sounds followed by a weak ‘John?’
Lestrade felt a pull at his chest, relief followed by another ache. He swore as long as Sherlock was ok he might punch him for being so stupid later.
‘No its Greg.’ He said easing Sherlock up off the ground.
‘Mycroft?’ Sherlock muttered his eyelids fluttering.
‘No Sherlock Greg.’ Lestrade finally got him upright and had a good look at him, cuts to his face bleeding quite badly, shirt was torn, probably a mugging. ‘Sherlock can you open your eyes?’ he asked holding him against the window ledge.
Sherlock blinked open his eyes as if it were the most difficult thing in the world. Pupils wide and blown, unable to keep them open, head lolling from side to side, up there with the worst Greg had seen him then. For a brief moment he focused on Greg’s face and muttered
- ‘Lestrade’ before his eyes fluttered shut again and his head lolled to the side. He should take him to the hospital he knew, but Mycroft had insisted, and it wouldn’t be the first time Mycroft had taken care of him in this sort of state. Greg sighed looking at the mess of a man before him.
‘Alright then Sherlock, off we go.’
He hauled the other man up into his arms, limp as a ragdoll now, and made slow painful progress out of the warehouse.
Lestrade thanked whatever force had kept the rest of the place free of the kinds of men who had done such damage to Sherlock as he secured the still unconscious man in the back of the car. Slipping into the front seat he hit Mycroft’s number as he pulled away, anxious not to spend too much time here without backup.
Mycroft answered Lestrade’s call before it had rung out once.
‘Gregory.’ He said urgently
‘I’ve got him. I’m on my way.’ Greg said tightly ‘ETA fifteen minutes.’
‘How bad is it?’ Mycroft asked
Greg winced glancing in the rear-view mirror ‘I’d say an eight. Sorry Mycroft, he’d been attacked.’
A sharp inhalation travelled down the line.
‘Hurry.’ Was all Mycroft said before hanging up.
John waited outside Baker Street for a long time staring up at the windows, which were all dark. Luckily for him Mrs Hudson was long ago in bed otherwise she’d have whisked him in for a cup of tea and he’d never have escaped, or possibly had him arrested for stalking. Realising Sherlock wasn’t there John began to walk to the tube. About halfway there he pulled out his phone, scanning through the last couple of messages he came to Sherlock’s from earlier in the day. He stopped and hit dial listening to it ring.
It rang and rang and eventually and automated answerphone picked up, clearly Sherlock hadn’t had time to record a message.
‘Er, Hi yeah it’s me. John’ he said awkwardly ‘Look um, if you get this give me a call. I err well I’m sorry about just walking out earlier, let’s meet up. Tomorrow, yes? Baker Street. Right. Ok.’
John hung up and silently cursed his rambling tapping out a text.
‘Baker Street. Tomorrow 6pm. JW.’
He pocketed the phone and tried to stop himself checking it the rest of the way home.
Lestrade made it in ten minutes, he was probably going to owe a few favours to the Traffic division but it was worth it. Mycroft was waiting on the pavement; he had the door open almost before Lestrade stopped. Lestrade jumped out himself and rounded the car to help Mycroft pull his brother out. Lestrade moved to lift him but Mycroft stopped him silently with a hand, Lestrade nodded and instead helped hoist Sherlock into his brother’s arms.
‘What has he taken?’ Mycroft asked urgently as Lestrade opened the door.
‘I’m guessing cocaine-injected-from where he was and the dealers who operate around there.’ Lestrade impatiently pressed the lift button as Mycroft shifted Sherlock in his arms, beginning to feel the weight of him, ‘He was mugged and they took whatever he had on him. Except these’ Lestrade pulled out the packet of Mycroft’s pills he’d found in Sherlock’s pocket ‘No idea what they could be-are you sure we shouldn’t take him to hospital?’
‘I know what they are.’ Mycroft said as the lift finally arrived ‘I gave them to him-at least I gave him two yesterday, of course he stole the rest’ they stumbled their way inside and Mycroft leant his weight against the wall. ‘They’re sedatives’ he explained ‘I checked the composition to ensure no severe damage would be done should he mix them with other substances.’
‘You knew he’d take them?’
Mycroft raised an eyebrow and then looked down at Sherlock’s lolling head ‘I know my brother.’ He said sadly. ‘Though of course I had hoped…’ he didn’t get chance to finish as the doors opened then directly into Mycroft’s penthouse flat , stumbling through the door Lestrade held open Mycroft carried Sherlock to the bathroom and put him down as gently as he could manage.
‘Sherlock.’ He said gently touching his dirty damp face ‘Sherlock I need you to open your eyes.’
Sherlock moaned slightly, good that was good, Mycroft told himself, he gave him a gentle shake. ‘Sherlock.’ He repeated.
‘Myc..’ Sherlock muttered this time. Fairly sure that was an attempt at his name Mycroft kept talking in the hope his voice could focus Sherlock’s addled brain long enough to find out what he’d taken and what he’d injured.
‘Yes it’s me. You’re at home-well no you’re at my home- making a terrible inconvenience of yourself as usual.’ Sherlock mumbled something incoherent again ‘So if you’d be willing to wake up for just a bit I can find out what’s wrong with you and put you to bed. How does that sound Sherlock? Do you want to sleep?’
‘Mmm.’ Sherlock mumbled ‘Sleep, Mycroft.’ And began to close his eyes again.
‘No!’ Mycroft commanded pulling up by his lapels. ‘No. Awake Sherlock! I need to make sure you’re ok before I let you sleep. Sherlock!’
It was useless Sherlock slumped down again unconscious.
‘I checked him over at the scene.’ Lestrade said from the doorway ‘But I reckon whoever mugged him didn’t have much resistance so they just roughed him up a bit. He’s got that cut and probably a few bruises.’
Mycroft spun around startled; he’d forgotten Lestrade was even there. He nodded, ‘Thank you.’ He said ‘Don’t let us trouble you any further, you can go.’
‘I can help?’ Lestrade offered, trying not to take offence at the brusque dismissal. Mycroft looked hesitantly at his brother and Lestrade knew he was weighing up the embarrassment of needing help, of exposing them both at a weak moment, with the need to actually help Sherlock. ‘Come on.’ Lestrade added ‘It’s not like I haven’t done this before.’
Mycroft nodded, ‘Thank you.’ He managed ‘Could you try and find something for him to put on? I’ll get him out of these clothes.’
Lestrade nodded and disappeared into the flat. Mycroft looked at his brother dishevelled bloody and dirty slumped against the bath; he looked so small, so broken and so helpless. Mycroft bit his lip fighting the emotion, it would be no use to give in, and yet he’d thought they’d seen the last of this. He set to work, easing Sherlock out of the sodden coat and suit jacked throwing them in a corner, next he worked off the shoes and socks. Leaving Sherlock in his trousers and shirt for a moment he stood and ran some warm water into the basin. When it was full he dipped a flannel in and slowly began to clean the blood off Sherlock’s face, working around the cut until everything else was clean and only Sherlock’s sheet white skin remained. Trying not to focus on that at the moment Mycroft rinsed the cloth and examined the cut. It wasn’t that deep, just happened to have hit on the thin layer of skin at the hairline at an angle that produced a lot of blood.
‘This is going to hurt a bit.’ He muttered although he was sure Sherlock couldn’t hear him. He gently dabbed at the cut cleaning gently and methodically, he was almost done when he must have hit a sore spot. Sherlock jerked out of unconsciousness and let out a yelp of pain, Mycroft attempted to steady him with a hand as Sherlock flew upwards in surprise.
‘Alright, alright.’ Mycroft attempted to sooth him as soon as Sherlock was upright however he doubled over clutching his stomach. ‘Sherlock?’ Mycroft asked placing a hand gently on his brother’s back.
Sherlock doubled over the pain in his stomach contracting felt like it was tearing him in two. His stomach contracted and he cursed the fact that he’d been eating properly for three days. He moaned once more as a warning before his lost control and vomited over himself and Mycroft. He felt himself hauled upwards and in the general direction of the toilet as his stomach convulsed against him again, while a firm hand was on his back as he gripped his stomach with one hand and the toilet with another. Sherlock heaved until nothing was left and his stomach continued to cramp determined to rid itself of everything. He coughed and dry heaved a little before collapsing back down closing his eyes again. He felt a cool sensation on his forehead and flickered open his eyes, Mycroft was wiping his face with the cool damp flannel, gently and carefully again but with a dark look of concern in his eyes. Sherlock tried to smile and reassure him the worst was over but it came out tired and pained. He let his eyes fall shut again.
Mycroft was working methodically, working with a damp flannel cleaning the sick off his brother’s face, where moments before he must have also cleaned the blood. Greg stood in the doorway watching quietly, the man in his three piece suit now covered in almost as much grime as the frail younger man before him. As his wiped the last of his brother’s face clean Mycroft lifted a hand to his cheek.
‘You’ll be alright now.’ He said softly
Sherlock who was almost back to full consciousness now opened his eyes and fixed his brother with a look of such sadness it almost broke Lestrade’s heart. He couldn’t imagine what it would do to Mycroft.
‘Liar.’ Sherlock said quietly.
Mycroft’s face twitched trying to formulate a response that wasn’t a lie but Sherlock’s eyes fell shut again so instead he busied himself propping him against the wall again, he heard movement from behind him and jumped a little and instinctively tightened his grip on Sherlock.
‘Sorry.’ Lestrade said feeling suddenly extremely self-conscious, the look on Mycroft’s face he could only describe as feral a protective instinct kicked into overdrive. Lestrade held out the clothes he’d retrieved ‘Just wanted to, well.’ He put the pile on the floor not wanting to intrude further than necessary. Mycroft reached over one hand still supporting Sherlock, he frowned looking at the clothes and looked back up at Lestrade.
‘Mine, yeah. The ones I leave here. Left. ’ He said cursing his choice of words, he shook his head ‘Figured t shirt and joggers would be better than silk pyjamas.’ He quirked a little smile at Mycroft who responded in kind with a softening of his expression. ‘Look.’ Lestrade continued finally stepping over the threshold and picking his way across the mess to crouch down about a foot from the two of them ‘Let me help-be quicker and easier with two of us.’
Mycroft nodded and the two of them set to work undressing and re-dressing Sherlock in the clean dry clothes. He stirred a few times attempting to help them and therefore making the task far more difficult. Pulling the t shirt over Sherlock’s head Greg’s palm grazed his face and he quickly pressed it back to check what he’d just felt.
‘He’s burning up.’ He said putting the back of his hand to Sherlock’s slightly damp forehead before pulling the t shirt down.
Mycroft nodded grimly leaning over and brushing against Greg’s shoulder to place his own hand on Sherlock’s forehead. ‘He should be fine. But it will be...’ He tightened his lips ‘Unpleasant, for a few hours.’
‘Let’s get him to bed.’ He suggested. Mycroft nodded and hauled Sherlock into a sitting position, he struggled for a few moments to get a grip and pull Sherlock into his arms but a combination of their angles and his fatigue meant he couldn’t get his brother off the ground. He hung his head and sighed in frustration. Lestrade crossed the room and took a hold of Sherlock by his underarms and pulled him upwards, Mycroft stood and grabbed his brother’s feet and together albeit with limited dignity they carried the still unconscious Sherlock to the bedroom. Once there Lestrade left Mycroft to fuss with sheets for a few moment, ensuring they weren’t too tight or covering too much of Sherlock’s burning skin, he checked and re-checked Sherlock was securely on his side. Lestrade returned unheard again and gently took his arm and jerked his head towards the door. Mycroft reluctantly followed, pulling the door behind him but not quite closing it.
‘What?’ he asked a little irritably.
‘He’s fine. You need some rest.’
‘Thank you Gregory. I appreciate the concern but…’
‘But nothing.’ Greg insisted ‘You’re exhausted and frankly filthy. He’s sleeping. Clean up and get some rest.’
‘Gregory I assure you that I am fine.’
Lestrade took a step closer to Mycroft longing to wrap his arms around him and hug some sense into him or something, knowing he wasn’t ready for that and knowing that Mycroft wouldn’t respond favourably to that approach right now, he simply spoke plainly and evenly ‘Please.’ He said ‘Let me take care of you for a moment. Or you’ll be no use to him anyway.’
Mycroft nodded meekly too tired to fight any more, longing for just that, to allow himself to give in and wrap himself around Greg once again. But he couldn’t, he’d sacrificed that privilege when he started protecting his brother. He cursed internally but allowed himself to be led to the bathroom.
He perched himself on the edge of the bath, noting that in his absence Greg had cleaned up the room, all evidence of the earlier events were eliminated. Greg stepped closer to Mycroft and began to unbutton the many layers of clothing that were earlier damp now dried into a sticky mess. Helping him down to his underwear Greg turned on the shower and excused himself allowing Mycroft a moment of privacy. He slipped into the bedroom to check on Sherlock.
He was lying on his side facing the door, eyes shut and it seemed finally peacefully asleep. Greg wandered over and adjusted the blankets, pulling them down a little more to keep him cool. He reached up and gently patted his hair.
‘Idiot boy.’ He muttered, Sherlock stirred under him and Lestrade withdrew his hand. Sherlock muttered something ‘What’s that?’ he asked thinking he was simply talking in his sleep.
‘Mycroft.’ Sherlock muttered ‘Mycroft ok?’ he flickered open his eyes and managed to focus on Greg.
‘Yeah, he’s fine.’ Greg said crouching to bed height ‘He needs to sleep. And so do you.’
Sherlock muttered something again and then more clearly ‘Look after him.’ He said closing his eyes.
Greg patted his hair again ‘I intend to.’ He said softly before straightening up.
‘Thank you Greg.’ Muttered Sherlock before Lestrade saw his body go limp and give in to sleep again.
Mycroft appeared in the doorway clad in his customary silk pyjamas.
‘For once we are in agreement-thank you Gregory.’ He said with a tight smile.
Lestrade nodded and made his way towards the door, Mycroft moved to one side to allow him to pass, as he did so he raised a hand to touch Greg’s arm but caught himself and dropped it. Greg stopped just past Mycroft torn between instinct and intellect-the latter preventing the former by reminding him just how angry he still was, and how worried his rational side was about getting hurt. He looked up at Mycroft aware of the sleeping Sherlock just behind him, Greg gave in and crossed the distance between them and kissed Mycroft gently.
‘It’s not fixed.’ He said ‘I need you to know it’s not fixed. I can’t… and I can’t, not yet…’ Greg didn’t know how to finish the sentence.
Mycroft nodded, and they stayed for a moment barely in contact-Mycroft’s hands firmly by his sides Greg’s barely touching his shoulders keeping him at arm’s length. Eventually Greg nodded turned and made his way out. The door clicked shut behind him and moments later Mycroft heard the front door click and lock, Lestrade using the key still in his pocket. Mycroft moved to the bed, giving his brother a quick once over he sank down on the other side. He shouldn’t sleep he knew, he should stay awake and keep an eye on Sherlock’s condition, but his whole body suddenly felt so heavy, he sank quickly into a deep sleep.
As he feared it didn’t last long, Sherlock began to overheat and thrash violently in his sleep. Mycroft woke him several times and forced some water upon him, and pulled the damp sheets back. Abandoning sleep himself he perched in the armchair next to the bed and dozed as Sherlock did, always somehow awakening just before him to shake him awake or try and sooth him back to sleep. They managed a pattern of two hours sleep at a time until six thirty, when a blood curdling scream ripped through the flat.
Sherlock had been fighting nightmares all night; everything from giant spiders stalking him, to falling into deep holes, he’d relived the worst beatings of his childhood and some from adulthood as well, he’d drowned and suffocated all within a matter of hours. None had made him scream like this. It was so simple a dream really Sherlock knew the outcome the minute it started. He was at Bart’s, it was the day, the last day. Except this time he was on the ground and he was watching the others fall; one by one-first Mrs Hudson, then Lestrade, then Mycroft and finally John. He heard their desperate pleas for life, to be spared, for justice and for him, they all cried to Sherlock for help but he was frozen seeing them fall in a broken blood heap at his feet. Then he was on the roof looking down, and he wanted to jump, he wanted to jump more than anything he’d ever wanted but Moriarty wouldn’t let him, merely beat him within an inch of his life and taunted him ‘You have to live.’ Before leaving him alone and stranded on the roof. Sherlock screamed in anguish and in pain, and woke up.
Within seconds there were arms around him, holding him trying to pin him down as he thrashed against the Moriarty he could still see, a few blows hit home catching Mycroft but there was no force behind them, no injury sustained.
‘He’s not there Sherlock, he’s not there.’
Sherlock had no idea if he’d screamed Moriarty’s name or if his brother just knew what would make him react so. He leaned into the touch unselfconscious in his dream and drug addled state, he felt Mycroft’s arms tighten around him as he tried to catch his breath. He felt Mycroft push him back slightly and saw him peering down in concern.
‘I saw… he was…they were all dead. You were dead, John. I wasn’t. It hurt.’ The words made no sense he knew, which told him his brain was beginning to function properly again but was still quite a way from it. Sherlock shook his head, eyes closed trying to focus. ‘It hurt.’ He managed, no that wasn’t right ‘It hurts.’ He said opening his eyes and looking up at Mycroft ‘It won’t stop hurting.’
That was the limit for Mycroft, three years of waiting worrying, of fear, the relief at bringing him back alive and the torment of trying and failing to bring him back to the life he knew, of wanting to fix whatever was broken in his younger brother and himself and failing so miserably. Even Mycroft Holmes had his limits and the desperation in his little brother’s eyes then was it, tears spilled out of his own eyes and he began to sob silently.
Sherlock’s brow collapsed into a frown and he instinctively reached out to his brother, Mycroft turned away from Sherlock attempting to hide his face, the one thing he’d sworn though all this is Sherlock would never know just how much if affected him, it wouldn’t help. He tried to settle his breathing and stem the flow of tears but to no avail. He felt a hand on his shoulder but he couldn’t turn around, Sherlock shifted slightly on the bed behind him and rested his chin on Mycroft’s shoulder. A gesture he’d often made as a child when Mycroft was ignoring him, the reference to their childhood only made it worse Mycroft’s stomach tightened and he let out a sob he couldn’t silence. He felt Sherlock wind long arms around his middle and hold on as Mycroft had for him a few nights before, holding on until the deep grief inside him was exhausted and he slumped down letting sleep take over him again as early morning light began to seep through the curtains.
John had spent the morning, much like the evening before doing nothing much except checking his phone every five minutes. His flat admittedly was spotless, his paperwork filed and shredded, computer files organised, all mindless tasks because his brain could think of little else but the reply he was waiting for. He’d been worried-scared he’d said something stupid to offend Sherlock then briefly worried that something had happed-a thought he dismissed quickly with Mycroft’s omnipotent presence lording over his brother, to now being angry he was being ignored. This time he picked up his phone and dialled Lestrade’s number.
‘John?’ Lestrade sounded groggy, distracted ‘Everything ok?’
‘Not especially.’ John said ‘Look at the risk of sounding like a teenager, I’m being ignored and I don’t like it.’
It took Lestrade a moment to register what John was talking about, the moment he did he cursed himself for being such and idiot. He sat upright on the sofa where he’d fallen asleep in the early hours.
‘Shit. John no, I’m sorry this is my fault.’ He rubbed a hand through his hair in frustration, of course John would have tried to contact Sherlock, who wouldn’t have answered even if he hadn’t lost his phone, and of course now John thought Sherlock was ignoring him, because well it was Sherlock.
‘He isn’t ignoring you, he ah, shit John. I should have called.’
‘What is it?’ John asked immediately sensing there was something to be concerned about.
‘Last night, I guess after you saw him Sherlock well, he fell into some old habits. He was mugged-so I guess he lost his phone.’
‘He’s fine’ Lestrade answered quickly then cursed himself for the lie again ‘Well no, he was in a pretty bad way-they didn’t really hurt him but he’d taken quite a lot and well…’
‘Shit. Fuck.’ John cursed himself for not checking sooner ‘I should have thought- I should have, Jesus this is my fault isn’t it?’
Lestrade faltered for a moment ‘John he…’
‘It’s fine.’ John said ‘I know.’
John perched himself on the edge of the sofa and ran a hand across his face. He should have realised it was a danger, Sherlock after everything he’d been through and then their meeting.
‘Don’t blame yourself John, Sherlock right now, I’ve never seen him quite like this. He’s been through it I guess.’ Lestrade shrugged.
‘I could have helped though couldn’t I?’ John said ‘What can I do now?’
‘Talk to him? Like you were planning to?’ Lestrade honestly didn’t know if it would help he hoped that last night was the beginning and end of it but who knew. ‘I’ll text Mycroft, check how things are and let you know.’
‘Tell him Baker Street, at six. I’ll be waiting.’ John said ‘Thanks Greg.’
He hung up and hung his head, cursing himself once more he thrust the phone into his pocket and grabbed his jacket. He’d take a walk before going to Baker Street, work out exactly what to say or do. He flinched as he began to walk, the pain in his leg flaring like a warning.
Once he was sure his brother was asleep Sherlock had extracted himself from the bed, he was exhausted but knew sleep wouldn’t come. He needed to think so he slipped away quietly hoping his brother would now get the rest he needed. When Mycroft awoke his mind felt cleared wiped, not fixed far from it but something had lifted. He opened his eyes and a moment of panic seized him’ Sherlock was gone, in an instant possibilities and solutions raced across his mind, and then he heard the faint strains of a violin coming from the living room. Getting up he padded into the living room.
Sherlock was standing looking out of the large patio doors that opened up onto the balcony and the city beyond. It was a nice day and the sunlight was bouncing off the tall buildings of the city to the right and the smaller older buildings to the left were bathed in a glow. Sherlock wasn’t playing anything he recognised, therefore one of his compositions, a new one it seemed. Mycroft doubted he’d had time to compose while he was away so had clearly thrown this together this morning. A part of him cursed the musical gift Sherlock had that he himself lacked-he could play and play well but he lacked the same soul of music Sherlock possessed, that was when he deigned to play properly, as he was now. Listening Mycroft could hear frustration, sadness and a string of questions in the music. Sherlock stopped playing and turned around to face his brother, his face streaked with tears.
Mycroft looked at him with sadness and recognition.
‘Keep playing.’ He said
Sherlock nodded, and began again a renewed energy and anger working its way into the notes, a determination of sorts. Mycroft’s phone beeped and he retrieved it from the table where he’d abandoned it last night. Ignoring the barrage of emails that had accumulated in his absence he went straight to the text message-the only person who ever texted apart from his brother was Gregory.
‘Baker Street 6pm I’ll bring a Watson if you bring a Holmes?’
Mycroft had to quirk a smile at that, he didn’t have to think, the response was as his brother would say obvious.
Yes. And thank you.
Moments later the phone beeped again
No problem. Talk to you later?
A strange lightness appeared in Mycroft’s chest.
Across London Greg smiled to himself and pocketed the phone.
Sherlock’s playing had reached a fever pitch now, his face reflecting the harsh anguished notes his picked out with fresh tears joining those already marking his cheeks. Mycroft crossed the room and placed a hand on Sherlock’s back halting his playing.
‘Enough now, enough. Time to get on Sherlock.’
Sherlock nodded dropping his hands to his sides, not turning around. Knowing his brother was speaking for both of them he wiped a hand across his face and attempted a smile.
‘Can one of your minions bring me some clothes? If it’s a choice between greeting John in these’ he gestured in mild disgust to Greg’s slightly scruffy and very oversized clothes ‘Or nothing. I’m likely to take nothing.’
Mycroft rolled his eyes. ‘Unfortunately I know you would.’
Sherlock smirked a genuinely mischievous grin this time and Mycroft turned to his phone instructing one of his assistants that clothes shopping for Sherlock Holmes was now on their to do list for the day. He paused then tapped out another memo-his assistants could spare one more day sorting out his brother’s affairs.
John felt like he had walked the entirety of London trying to decide what he would do or say to Sherlock but by the time he found himself walking up Baker Street again he was still none the wiser. He saw Greg approaching from the opposite direction and breathed a sigh of relief, at least he wouldn’t be going in alone somebody there to ease the tension-or at least create equal tension with the other Holmes was a blessed relief John thought.
‘Greg.’ He smiled in greeting which quickly melted into a frown ‘Have you heard anything?’
Lestrade shrugged ‘Mycroft agreed to meet without hesitation. I assume that means he’s alright.’
John nodded, ‘Shall we then?’
Greg nodded looking as uncomfortable as John felt.
Mrs Hudson opened the door barely before he had chance to knock-he should have spotted her twitching at her net curtains.
‘John! Inspector!’ she exclaimed
John Smiled ‘Mrs Hudson.’ And was enveloped into her hug, Lestrade likewise.
‘You can call me Greg.’ Lestrade said with a smile
‘Of course dear.’ She said both of them knowing full well she wouldn’t. ‘So happy to have you both here.’ She cooed ushering them towards the stairs, ‘Finally to have things getting back how they should be.’
John followed directly behind her up the stairs so it took a moment after she moved inside to fully register the scene in front of him. He blinked several times.
‘I’m sorry have I managed to walk back in time?’ he asked
‘Don’t be absurd John.’ Sherlock said from his seat in front of the empty fireplace opposite Mycroft both of them upright and stiff facing off, just as John had walked in on many times.
The room too looked eerily familiar, all of Sherlock’s possessions had reappeared, the furniture rearranged back to its former layout. But as John looked closer taking in the scene things were different, subtleties only he and of course Sherlock might notice. There was no real mess, sure the furniture and belongings were in their usual ordered chaos but there were no bits of paper, fragments of evidence and mercifully perhaps no latent body parts. What else was missing that seemed to leave half the room empty despite the clutter, was anything of John’s. He’d always assumed amidst the clutter of Sherlock’s belongings that his things occupied a minuscule portion of the flat. Now with the other items restored the place looked almost as barren as it had under the previous tenants.
There was one another difference, now that he looked closer; although Sherlock and Mycroft were sitting opposite one another in their customary pose there was something different. Gone was the tension between them, the atmosphere you could sometimes cut with a knife. They looked, not relaxed as given the circumstances tension ran clearly through them like a current, but as if they belonged. John half smiled realising what it was-for the first time they looked like they belonged to each other and suddenly everything he’d been trying so hard to think about fell into place. John didn’t respond to Sherlock’s question instead he strode across the room to Mycroft’s chair. The elder Holmes looked frankly alarmed at the sight of John striding towards him, probably fearing another blow he managed however not to flinch. John held out his hand.
‘Mycroft.’ He said ‘I owe you an apology. I’m sorry for yesterday, I shouldn’t have hit you.’
Mycroft didn’t bother to conceal the surprise on his face but he stood slowly and took John’s hand shaking it firmly.
‘Accepted.’ He said with a nod.
John nodded in return, ‘I also need to thank you.’ He said with a nod towards Sherlock who was sitting watching them with a confused expression on his face. ‘For keeping him safe.’
Mycroft this time didn’t know how to respond, he swallowed hard and simply nodded. ‘Pleasure.’ He said awkwardly before releasing John’s hand and adjusting his suit.
Lestrade cleared his throat behind them and Mycroft jerked his head up, ‘Yes quite.’ He said ‘Mrs Hudson the Inspector and I would love a cup of tea if you’d oblige.’
‘Oooh yes. Yes of course dears.’ She smiled and looked fondly at John ‘Give you two some peace a moment.’ Lestrade gently ushered her out of the door. ‘I’ll bring you something up later Sherlock, you look worse than yesterday. Needs feeding up like you.’ She said to Mycroft and John caught Lestrade’s affectionate grin back at the elder Holmes before he shut the door. They’d be ok he decided, he hoped he could say the same for the younger Holmes and him.
Sherlock fixed him in one of his penetrating stares the minute the door was closed, the kind that gave nothing away but seemed to rip right through its recipient. John looked at him properly for the first time that day, despite the clean suit that was clearly new and fit him better than yesterdays and the fresh haircut that brought him some way to his former immaculate turnout, he was far from fixed. His skin was ashen and his eyes darkened with fatigue, now that John looked closer his upright posture was not merely pomposity or self-defence- it was pain likely from cracked ribs. Topping all this off an angry gash dissected his forehead.
‘What have you done to yourself?’ John couldn’t help ask crossing the room and reaching out to the cut instinctively.
Sherlock flinched away, partly in pain, partly in surprise.
‘Sorry.’ John said taking a step back, ‘Sorry that must have hurt.’
‘It’s fine.’ Sherlock said looking down.
John swallowed hard, ‘I owe you an apology too.’
Sherlock waved a hand ‘You were upset yesterday. You were shocked. It’s fine.’
‘No not for yesterday.’ John said firmly ‘I maintain you deserved a punch to the face and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.’ He smiled a little to try and lighten the mood. Sherlock gave him nothing, looking down at his lap. John took a breath preparing himself; ‘I owe you an apology for the last thing I ever said to your face.’
Sherlock looked up in confusion, this wasn’t what he’d expected ‘John look I…’
‘No be quiet. For once in your life shut up and listen to me.’ John instructed wandering away to the window trying to order his thoughts again ‘The last thing I told you, the last thing I told my best friend before he threw himself off a building-it doesn’t matter if you really did or not-I called you a machine. And I’m sorry Sherlock, you aren’t a machine.’
Sherlock was quiet for a long moment and John began to worry he’d made things worse. ‘The most human, human you ever knew?’ he asked quietly.
‘What?’ John said his voice almost a whisper ‘How did you…?’
Sherlock stood and faced him ‘In the interests of full honesty-as I believe this is important should we…move forward... I heard you say so. ’
‘You heard…wait- you were there?’
Sherlock nodded. ‘I was on the way to the airport, as I explained I spent several weeks hiding here at first.’ He looked down again ‘Before I was due to depart I begged my brother-believe me that is an accurate adjective-to see you once more. It just so happened that was where you were going.’
John shook his head in disbelief. ‘You were there, close enough to hear…’ he looked up at Sherlock and locked eyes with him.
‘I understand you’re probably upset.’
John’s face quirked into a slight smile ‘No.’ he said.
‘No?’ Sherlock frowned tilting his head, his expression of genuine confusion so rarely seen John fought hard not to break into a grin.
‘No.’ John said simply ‘Then you already know everything . You heard.’
Sherlock still looked confused ‘I simply heard your conversation with an imaginary version of myself; you were talking out of a severe grief. What am I supposed to know?’
John took a step towards him and folded his arms ‘Deduce it you idiot.’
Sherlock had a pained expression on his face, the one he usually wore when social conventions or popular culture references confused him. ‘What? Your grief filled ramblings don’t tell me much other than you outpour sentiment when you’re upset.’
‘Sherlock.’ John warned
‘What? I don’t know!’ he exclaimed.
John smiled and shook his head, ‘My ramblings, as you so eloquently put it tell you I was lost without you Sherlock, that I didn’t realise how much I needed you until I didn’t have you anymore.’
Sherlock’s face now didn’t seem to know what to do and John had run out of words, so he did the only thing he could think to do, the only thing he’d wanted to do since he’d first laid eyes on Sherlock yesterday-no he corrected himself, since Sherlock had fallen in front of him. In two quick strides he crossed the room and pulled Sherlock into a hug.
Downstairs Lestrade and Mycroft found themselves sitting uncomfortably close together at Mrs Hudson’s small kitchen table while she chattered about how lovely it would be to have some life back in the place now that Sherlock was back, and did they think that Doctor Watson was really going to move back in after everything with his wife? and then moved on to fill them in on the saga of the new owners at Speedy’s next door and Mrs Turner’s take on the matter. Greg nodded along politely one ear trained to upstairs for sounds of shouting or gunfire when suddenly she fixed them both in her sights.
‘And what about you two?’ she asked sternly ‘When are you two going to get sorted?’
Mycroft nearly choked on his tea and then promptly spilled Greg’s putting his own down. Mrs Hudson tutted and fussed for a cloth, Greg found himself laughing much to Mycroft’s disgust.
‘Oh come on.’ He said ‘Mr Perfection spills his tea! He is human.’
Mycroft huffed slightly accepting Mrs Hudson’s fussing around him to clean up with good grace.
‘I am you know.’ He said sounding slightly put out.
Greg smiled a softer smile now and put a hand over Mycroft’s ‘I know.’ He said and Mycroft smiled back tentatively.
‘It’s gone quiet up there.’ Mrs Hudson noted ‘Do hope they’re sorting things out.’
‘Perhaps time to check?’ Lestrade asked getting up and moving towards the door.
Mycroft nodded, ‘Then perhaps we can leave them to it?’
Lestrade turned back and locked his eyes to Mycroft’s ‘Good idea.’ He said.
Sherlock was momentarily taken aback finding John’s arms wrapped around him, his body responded before his brain and he instinctively wrapped his arms around John and dipped his head to meet John’s finding his face buried in sandy-grey hair. He felt John adjust his grip and hang on a little tighter as Sherlock returned the hug and he sighed contentedly, John was warm and strong and smelled comforting and familiar, suddenly he felt like he really was home. He squeezed tightly not wanting to let go anytime soon, perhaps never. John felt the embrace tighten and burrowed a little deeper into Sherlock’s chest just to reassure himself it was real. Sherlock had been tentative at first but now was returning John’s hug with an urgent ferocity, John moved a hand up and down the other man’s back reassuringly. Sherlock muttered something into his hair.
‘What?’ John muttered into his chest. Sherlock made a noise again, John couldn’t be certain but he thought it sounded like ‘I missed you.’ He smiled and gave Sherlock a gentle squeeze in reply, careful not to aggravate his injuries. He’d have to look at those later he reasoned, and then it occurred to him, his medical bag was back at his flat. John pulled back and looked at Sherlock who looked down at him with something akin to outrage that he’d broken the contact, and not quite letting go, his long arms still holding a light grip on John’s sides.
‘What?’ Sherlock asked
‘I don’t live here anymore’ he said his tone halfway between realisation and question.
Sherlock tilted his head and opened his mouth to answer when the door clicked open behind John. Sherlock broke into a wide grin. ‘Mrs Hudson.’ He said triumphantly ‘Doctor Watson will be moving in.’
‘Of course he will.’ Mrs Hudson said as John jumped back in surprise at their entrance behind him, he felt Sherlock’s hand at his back to steady him, which with the lightest contact possible he left there, John looked up at him and he looked away but didn’t move ‘It’ll take me a few days to clear the other room though.’ Mrs Hudson said ‘That is if you’re still needing the second room.’
John attempted a protest but nothing coherent came out of his mouth in response, the distraction of Sherlock next to him still touching him, still being there was enough without Mrs Hudson’s teasing on top of Greg’s hint, not to mention he thought again Sherlock still hadn’t moved. Luckily Greg came to his rescue.
‘I’m sure they’ll work something out Mrs Hudson.’ He said with a slight glint to his eye ‘But I think they have a fair bit of catching up to do. Shall we leave them to it?’
‘Ooh! Yes of course.’ Mrs Hudson all but squealed hurrying out ‘I’ll bring you something up later-just this once for your first evening back.’ She called behind her.
Greg smiled ‘I’ll give you a call.’ He said ‘See if you’ve got time for a few cases.’ He turned to Mycroft ‘Dinner?’ he asked
Mycroft frowned a little, then smiled a little, then frowned a little more, ‘If you would like?’ he asked.
Lestrade shook his head ‘I asked didn’t I you fool?’ he looked over at John ‘They should come with a manual.’
Mycroft and Sherlock huffed in unison Sherlock finally moving his hand from John’s back to fold his arms crossly, he looked mortified when he looked up and realised Mycroft had done the same.
‘Oh Mycroft he forgives you-or he will eventually-because for whatever reason the Inspector is in love with you. How can someone as intelligent as you be too stupid to see that?’
Mycroft remained impassive, ‘We are perhaps all permitted a little ignorance Sherlock.’ He said with a meaningful glance to John. Sherlock and John both frowned at the other two, Mycroft and Lestrade’s eyes met and they smiled.
‘Dinner then Gregory?’ Mycroft asked, Greg nodded and allowed Mycroft to guide him out with a hand on his back.
Sherlock and John turned to look at each other
‘I err…’ John began ‘Lestrade was talking last night…it…doesn’t matter.’ He said shifting looking down at the floor.
‘What?’ Sherlock asked tilting his head trying to look John in the eye again.
‘Well you know.’ John said ‘That nonsense again about us being well…more than flatmates, colleagues.’
‘Friends?’ Sherlock asked, he cleared his throat ‘I thought we’d established that, well…’
‘What?’ John said looking up suddenly on alert.
‘Well I told you, before that I didn’t have friends that I…’
‘Only had one. Right.’ John said ‘And I told you, well you heard and then I told you that you were….’
‘Your best friend. Right.’ Sherlock said ‘So that’s clear then.’
‘Clear.’ John said shifting awkwardly; he looked down again ‘God I missed you Sherlock.’ He said his voice catching a little, he began to take a step forward again but stopped.
‘I, um, that is, I missed you too John.’ Sherlock said lifting a hand then dropping it.
They both shifted a little looking at the floor, after a moment they both looked up at the same time, catching sight of one another they broke into a grin. Sherlock took a tentative step forward and John mirrored, standing very much in John’s space now Sherlock reached a hand out and brushed his fingers over John’s and held on very lightly, barely a touch.
‘John.’ He said in a low tone, John’s eyes flickered back and fore trying to decipher the meaning, he didn’t give anything away in his face but slowly, very slowly giving Sherlock every chance to back out he curled his fingers around Sherlock’s.
‘Sherlock.’ He said with a tentative smile.
‘Sense at last.’ Came a voice from the doorway. John and Sherlock jumped apart guiltily.
‘Mycroft!’ John exclaimed
‘Forgot my umbrella.’ He said gesturing and crossing the room to the armchair where it still rested.
John glanced at Sherlock waiting for an explosion at the intrusion; instead he allowed his brother to retrieve the umbrella and simply stepped into his path as he headed towards the door. Mycroft threw him a questioning look, and Sherlock wrapped his arms around his brother. For a moment Mycroft was shocked but returned the hug.
‘You forgot nothing did you?’ Sherlock muttered into his ear
‘Simply checking you were going to be alright.’ Mycroft whispered back.
‘As always.’ Sherlock said holding on a little tighter.
‘As always.’ Mycroft repeated giving his little brother a final squeeze before stepping leaning back ‘But the rest you have to figure out yourself.’ He told him ‘But as usual I think you already have.’
Sherlock quirked his mouth into a half smile ‘With a little help.’
Mycroft smiled at him and affectionately and completely unselfconsciously brushed the hair on Sherlock’s forehead out of his eyes. He caught himself in the gesture, one he’d not repeated for nearly twenty years. Sherlock smiled at him.
‘Thank you Mycroft.’ He said
Mycroft nodded ‘You know where I am.’ He said striding towards the door. Sherlock nodded, adjusted his jacket and turned nervously back to face John.
So that's it. Well for now...I'm not done with Holmes brothers yet! Thank you to everyone who has stuck with this.