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Ginger with a Chance of Freckles

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

When Sherringford decided to change his name to Martin Crieff, Lady Salisbury was devastated. Her Ladyship, known affectionately as Mummy to her beloved sons, had chosen all their names herself.

“I love my name mother,” he had said hesitantly, “but I just don’t want to live with the burden of being Sherringford Holmes anymore.”

When Sherringford declared he did not want a penny of the trust fund Robert Holmes, the Marquise of Salisbury, had laid aside for his youngest son, his Lordship had difficulty keeping his eyebrows still.

“I can earn my own way in the world,” stuttered Sherringford, “you’ll see,”

When Sherringford finally passed his pilot’s qualification, his parents wanted to throw a garden party to mark the grand occasion but Martin S. Crieff decided to spend it with just his family.

“The four of you are all I really need,” he said, feeling as if nothing in the world could drag him down from the heady height of euphoria, until he popped open the champagne and knocked himself out with the cork.

Chapter Text

When John Watson trailed up the stairs to the living room with a bag of shopping in one hand and The Guardian in the other, he expected to see Sherlock sprawl across the sofa. However he did not expect to see the detective sprawl across the sofa dressed as an airline pilot with a large lemon taped to the top of his hat.

“Oh hello, John,” said Sherlock, sounding far too happy to see his flatmate.

“What on earth have you been smoking?” asked John immediately. He mentally listed all the hallucinogenic drugs that he had found in the flat over the last week and cursed himself for not removing them all when he had the chance. 

“Oh I don’t smoke,” replied Sherlock chirpily, “I leave that to Sherlock,”

John fixed his flatmate with his most intimidating glare whilst he visually checked the detective for any signs of an impending medical emergency. Sherlock's pupils appeared to be the same size but his general cheerfulness despite the lack of gruesome murders was a sure sign that the detective had managed to dope himself with something unsavoury. 

“Right,” snapped John, dropping the food and rolling up his sleeves with the unwavering confidence expected of all good army surgeons, “you – my bed - now,”

“Um...I’m not sure that’s...um ...entirely appropriate,” stammered Sherlock, “given that you and my brother are...you know...um...together.”

Having spent seven years dealing with shell-shocked soldiers and a miriade of other mental disorders in Afghanistan, John believed he had heard every concievable delusion. However the suggestion that he was some how romantically involved with Mycroft Holmes belonged to a new magnitude of craziness. 

“You’ve really lost it, haven’t you?” groaned John, 

“Oh – sorry, I just thought – well you’ve known each other so long and I know how he finds it difficult to tell people that he likes them but I thought he might have told you already, which is why you’re still here...oh, God, I’m babbling,”

“Really?” said John with enough sarcasm to demolish an entire squad of new recruits, “I would never have guessed,”

“But he does like you though,” continued Sherlock brightly, “he’s in love, I can see it. All those times you guys have gone out together – he’s told me all about it!”

“Right,” grumbled John as he tried to decide on the best way to approach his highly unstable and utterly delusional flatmate, “I suppose the numerous times Mycroft has kidnapped me directly off the street is simply the Holmes’ version of a romantic gesture?”

Sherlock looked completely flabbergasted at his response. The expression was so at odds with his usually stoic and superior character that John was sorely tempted to take a picture and send it to the entire Metropolitan Police Force. Although, it was probably best not to remind the police that Sherlock enjoyed experimenting with illegal substances between cases. 

“M-mycroft?”

“Yes, your endearingly overprotective, pathologically controlling, creepy sod of a brother. Now are you going to get off the couch or do I have to restrain you like last time?”

“No-,” protested Sherlock rather feebly, “this isn’t what -,”

Sherlock's sudden indecision was an improvement on his usual oppositional nature and John saw this was a brilliant opportunity to brow-beat the detective into following his orders. 

“Okay, genius,” said John impatiently, “either get your butt into bed – not your bed, it’s covered in body parts, my bed – or I will ring Mycroft and inform him of his apparently undying love for me.”

However before Sherlock could rally his usual wit and sarcasm to counter John's remark, the sound of the front door slamming distracted both from them from the arguement. 

Suddenly, impossibly, Sherlock’s voice floated up the stairs with its usual clipped impatience:

“John – Mycroft is not gay, I physically disproved that hypothesis years ago.”

Turning around like a comically confused cartoon character, John almost stepped straight into the tall looming figure of the world’s only consulting detective.

“Sherlock?” he asked uncertainly.

“Sherringford,” replied the detective. John assumed he was sarcastically referring to the skull that currently adorned their mantelpiece but Sherlock - the real Sherlock - was staring intently at the stranger sprawl across their couch. 

“I go by Martin Crieff now!” snapped Sherlock’s doppelganger.

“Whatever,” muttered Sherlock with an air of supreme disinterest as he threw his scarf onto the coat stand.

“What – so – wait...who is this guy sitting on my sofa?” demanded John angrily.

“I – I thought you already knew,” muttered the man-who-went-by-Martin-Crieff-now, “I thought you had agreed with Sherlock to let me stay a few nights at your flat. You didn’t seem surprised to see me...”

“I thought you were Sherlock,” replied John, feeling that he was currently missing something very important.

“What? Seriously?” said Sherlock, sounding both amused and derisive, “why would I be dressed as a pilot?”

“Captain!” interjected Martin Crieff angrily, "I'm the Captain now."

“I don’t know! I thought you’d breathed in too many hallucinogenic fumes again,” snapped John, looking wildly from the real Sherlock to his oddly attired double. 

“You see but you don’t observe,” said Sherlock as he flopped down onto the sofa beside Martin Crieff, “Sherry has freckles, his eyes are three millimetres further apart than mine and he is five years younger. Surely even an idiot would be able to notice the difference.”

“So who is he?” demanded John once again. The detective rolled his eyes dramatically and then fixed John with an expression of pure disappointment but didn't move to introduce the mysterious pilot - Captain  Martin Crieff. 

“I’m Sherlock’s brother, Martin,” said the pilot as he cheerfully extended his hand. For a moment John merely stared at Martin's optimistic expression whilst his brain attempted to process the revelation that there were not two but three Holmes brothers. When he finally regained control of his motor function, John managed to politely shake Martin's hand with a mixture of astonisment and curiosity. 

“Nice to meet you, Martin,” he muttered, “sorry about the abuse when we first met, I honestly thought -,”

“Oh don’t worry about it, some people always get us mixed up. Mummy used to call us the fake twins and it would have worked if I’m not ginger and Sherlock isn’t five years older. I hope I’m not trespassing – Sherlock said it was okay for me to stay here for a couple of nights until we fly our customer back to Riyadh. I really didn’t want to stay in the hotel Carolyn booked us, I looked it up on Tripadvisor and someone had been bitten by rats there and then someone else had found pubic hair in the sheets -,”

“Sherry, you’re babbling,” snapped Sherlock, “stop trying to make a good impression, John likes you.”

John had to agree with Sherlock’s deduction. He did like the bumbling, cheerful and over-talkative Martin Crieff. Surprising this Holmes Brother was nothing like Sherlock or Mycroft, in fact Martin seemed positively normal if a little unsure of himself. 

“You’re Martin Crieff, formally known as Sherringford Holmes,” said John with an encouraging smile, “and am I right in thinking that you are not on drugs,”

“Yep – yep – that’s right,”

“So why do you have a lemon taped to your hat?” asked John curiously.

“What?”

Martin craned his head backwards to get a view of the lemon, lost his balance and tumbled over the edge of the armrest. There was a nasty splat as the lemon collided with floor under the full weight of Martin’s upper body. Sherlock didn’t even bat an eyelid.

“Well,” muttered Martin from his upside down position on the floor with his legs still dangling over the armrest, “at least I found the travelling lemon.”

John thought it better not to ask. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Big Brother and Even Bigger Brother


The “travelling lemon” was squished beyond repair but there was a pleasant citrus aroma slowly spreading through the living room, helping to mask the smell of half cooked eyeballs.  Sherlock was nonchalantly making Martin coffee – “I want coffee too, John,” - whilst the pilot fussed over his sodden hat.

Martin was indeed ginger – very ginger - and if John looked closely enough he could almost see faint freckles adorning the pilot’s pale features. Personality wise, John could not believe that Martin Crieff was related to Sherlock Holmes. They were polar opposites in every respect: where Sherlock was cool and confident, Martin was bumbling and unsure. Even having spent only half an hour with the man, John realised Martin had a deep yearning for approval that Sherlock and Mycroft simply expected as their due.

Sherlock busied himself preparing coffee and biscuits in the kitchen, whilst John chatted amiably with Martin. The detective seemed perfectly content to perform this particular domestic chore despite refusing to make any drinks when only John was around. It didn’t take Holmesian powers of observation to see Sherlock’s poorly disguised affection for Martin.  

However their peaceful domestic arrangement fell apart when Mycroft Holmes let himself into the flat, unannounced, and strolled straight into the living room as if he owned the place.

“Martin,” said Mycroft sounding, for the first time in John’s hearing, genuinely happy to see another human being but the feeling wasn’t mutual: Martin looked less than impressed by his eldest brother’s presence.  

“I know Sherlock hasn’t bothered feeding you,” continued Mycroft without acknowledging anyone else’s presence, “I’ve got a table booked for us at the Ivy; I remember much you like the truffles.”

John stared inquisitively at the fumbling pilot who looked like he wanted to protest but couldn’t find the courage to do so.

“I don’t like the truffles anymore,” snapped Martin after several seconds of incoherent grumbling noises.

“Well, I know that you still cannot resist their Peach Melba,” replied Mycroft jovially.

To John’s surprise, Mycroft calmly stepped passed him and pulled Martin to his feet. In a gesture both efficient and tender, Mycroft straighten out his brother’s uniform and produced from his leather briefcase a new pilot’s cap – much more tastefully decorated than the original.

“I bought you a present, as congratulations on becoming an airline captain,” said Mycroft softly.

Martin’s face instantly changed from disgruntled sibling to utterly adoring younger brother.

“It’s brilliant,” he said beaming.

“Put it on and we’ll go to dinner,” suggested Mycroft indulgently.

“Don’t do it!” snapped Sherlock suddenly lurching out of the kitchen with Martin’s coffee in one hand and a knife in the other, “you’ll never get away from him again. You’ll have to stay with Mycroft for the next three days.”

Sherlock made the idea sound like an extended sentence in Guantanamo Bay but John thought dinner at a posh restaurant and living in a luxurious London townhouse was worth paying the price of Mycroft’s company.

“No -,” said Martin sounding rather unsure, “I’ll make my way back to Baker Street afterwards...”

“Now, Martin,” said Mycroft, sounding very much like a stern father, “As you can see, Sherlock and John do not have much room in their flat. You don’t want to be a burden to them, do you?”

“Stop manipulating him,” snarled Sherlock, “Sherry is old enough to stay where he wants and he wants to stay with me.”

“And sleep on your...sofa?” asked Mycroft gesturing delicately to the well worn and much stained couch.

“In my bed, it’s a double,” snapped Sherlock immediately.

Mycroft’s expression changed from mild disdain to what John could only describe as a cultured sneer.

“Your bed,” replied Mycroft tapping his umbrella against the closed door, “is currently covered with plastic bags full of human remains,”

John really didn’t want to know how Mycroft discovered this particular fact without even setting foot behind the firmly shut door to Sherlock’s room, though he did make a mental note to check the entire flat for hidden cameras once Mycroft was safely out of the building.

“I am going to move them,” hissed Sherlock through gritted teeth.

Martin, the smallest Holmes, was clutching his new pilot’s hat and looking decidedly distressed as he gazed from one brother to the other. John felt a twinge of sympathy for the young man caught in the middle of this embittered feud. When an unstoppable force meets an unmoveable object, there isn’t much room for anyone trapped in middle.

“Look guys – seriously if you’re going to argue I’ll go back and stay at the Holiday Inn,” stuttered Martin.

“No!” shouted Sherlock and Mycroft in unison. Martin curled back like a frightened hedgehog at their outburst causing identical expressions of regret to blossom across his brothers’ features.

“You’re hardly ever here, Martin,” said Mycroft soothingly, “I just want to spend some time with you.”

 “I’ve already made you coffee,” said Sherlock gently holding out the cup of steaming brown liquid.

With the combined force of the two cleverest minds in the country bearing down on him, Martin whimpered and sat back down the sofa.

“Why don’t we all go to dinner at the Ivy?” suggested Mycroft, diplomatically, “John? It would save you the hassle of cooking,”

“Oh now you decided to acknowledge my existence,” replied John sarcastically, “I feel honoured.”

“No-one is going to dinner with you,” snapped Sherlock, suddenly reverting back to his usual acrid personality, “John is going to make beef casserole for us.”

John glared at Sherlock and wondered just when the detective had started presuming John’s domestic services were wholly for his benefit. John did make a lot of meals which Sherlock just happened to end up eating but he didn’t cook for Sherlock.

“You know Mycroft’s right – I would like to eat at the Ivy. If you don’t want to come Sherlock, you can microwave some eyeballs for dinner.”

Without another word, John grabbed his coat and headed out to the luxurious black Rolls-Royce waiting silently outside the front door. A uniformed chauffeur diffidently opened the passenger door for him.

Well, there are definitely perks to having Martin Crieff around,” thought John as he settled into the polished leather seats, “Mycroft would never kidnapped me in such a nice car!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: The Good Doctor and His Boyfriend

The Ivy upheld its reputation with both grace and splendour. Iridescent splashes of multi-coloured light spilled across the delicate cream carpet. Neat rows of tables covered with ornate linen and elaborately decorated with tasteful floral arrays spanned the entire length of the main dining floor. Although it was still early in the evening, the restaurant was almost at full capacity. Guests sat quietly chatting, laughing and enjoying the ambient atmosphere of luxury and privilege.

Mycroft Holmes was immediately greeted by maître d’hôtel who led their small party directly to the private function room that had been especially reserved for this occasion. Though they exchanged few words, John could tell from the swift smiles and nods of recognition that Mycroft was an old and valued patron of this particular establishment.

“Do you remember when we used to come here?” Martin asked, looking wistfully around the room. “I used to always sit by the window so I could look out onto the street below. I used to think I could see all the great West End stars...”

“It’s been a while,” Mycroft agreed, seating himself in the nearest chair whilst Sherlock obstinately took the seat diagonally opposite. The detective sat glaring at his older brother in sullen silence as John was forced to take the only remaining chair in the room and found himself positioned uncomfortably between Sherlock and Mycroft.

“Have you ever been here with Sherlock before?” Martin asked curiously as he fumbled with his napkin.

“No,” John said, grinning at the thought of Sherlock voluntarily setting foot in such a conventional establishment. "We usually get Chinese or a free meal at Angelo’s.”

“I love Angelo’s!” Martin exclaimed excitedly, tilting the drink in front of him at a dangerous angle. Thankfully, as if by magic - but more likely years of experience and practice - Mycroft gently nudged the glass back into equilibrium, its contents still very much contained. “Sherlock and I used to go there when I was between trips. Do they still do that beef lasagne and Angelo always brings it to the table and says ‘extra beef for Mr Holmes’s special friend’?”

At first John was rather amused by the idea of Angelo mistaking Martin for Sherlock’s date. It would obviously lead to some very awkward babbling on Martin’s part and a contemptuous explanation from Sherlock. However, as he fully grasped the idea of Martin sitting in his usual place at Angelo’s, John’s heart inexplicably sank.  Although he was far from sentimental, John had always considered Angelo’s as an unique part of his relationship with Sherlock. They had chased their first suspect from that very restaurant - a hair triggering, adrenaline fuelled chase that started their whole relationship – their whole platonic relationship.

Angelo’s had become more than just a free place to eat a long time ago. It was the place where John had met his best friend and the one man who made life worth living. If there was any more to their intense connection than a bond between brothers, John could not acknowledge it because Sherlock would simply not be interested in something so ordinary.

He shouldn’t be surprised that Sherlock would take his favourite brother to his favourite restaurant. However, though John genuinely liked the indecisive, clumsy, and rambling Martin Crieff, a small part of him was suddenly sorely disappointed that such a man even existed because up until two hours ago John had thought he was Sherlock’s only companion.  Being Sherlock’s closest confidant was at least a small form of compensation for the unrequited and confused feelings the John had been harbouring for so long.  

“Do try the hot smoked salmon, John,” recommended Mycroft as he delicately dissected a duck’s breast stuffed with black truffles.

Martin was haphazardly slurping down an oyster, whilst Sherlock surveyed the table like a judge before the sentencing.

“The broth has no shrimp in,” Sherlock stated coldly without even being within smelling distance of the small tureen of fragrant soup.

“Brother dear, do stop being so cynical, it’s terribly uncouth,” Mycroft replied, sounding almost bored by his own remand but John knew that despite appearances, the man was clearly enjoying his little coup d’état. Mycroft had smoothly hijacked the evening with Martin and forced his other dissident brother to endure polite society.

“You really should eat something,” John commented as the detective sat stiffly with his hands steepled in front of his face, contemplating the food as if to discern which dishes contained poison. “Look at it this way, Mycroft is paying for this – or at least I hope he is because I cannot afford caviar on my salary.”

Martin grinned widely from across the table and started on the smoked salmon.

“You’re really good at looking after Sherlock,” Martin said out of the blue. "He's looking so much better since you moved in and there was actually food in his fridge – edible food! You’ve been brilliant – I mean you’ve been just wonderful – I mean...”

Martin tailed off uncertainly when he belatedly noticed that Sherlock was glaring at him with murderous intent.

“Thanks?” said John tentatively. “I guess I do impose some hint of normality,”

“You're going to stay with him, right?” Martin blurted out, wincing in pain a moment later when Sherlock none too subtly kicked his brother in the shin.

“Martin, I really don’t think John’s future plans are appropriate conversation for this dinner table,” Mycroft said. "Let the man enjoy his dinner.”

"Your brother and I don’t usually end up anywhere this nice," John replied with a sardonic smile.

“Really?” Martin asked, blue eyes wide with surprise. "Where has Sherlock been taking you on dates then?”

Unfortunately for John, he had just started to take a large mouthful of the delicious but shrimp-free broth. Half of the tepid broth ended up splattered over the table and Mycroft’s right leg, whilst the other half went straight into John’s lungs.

During the ensuing coughing fit, John didn’t notice that Sherlock had quietly exited the room.

“What?” he managed to finally splutter gracelessly. “What did you just say?”

“Um” Martin was looking terribly guilty and extremely anxious. His usually pale complexion had turned an embarrassing shade of tomato and he was wringing his napkin between long slender fingers. “I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to -”

Throughout their awkward half-conversation, Mycroft was steadfastly dabbing his thigh with a thick cream napkin. John didn’t want to contemplate the magnitude of a dry cleaning bill for one of Mycroft’s bespoke suits.

“I’m not going out with Sherlock! For that matter, I am also definitely not gay!” John clarified in a strangled voice.

“No – no, of course not – I didn’t mean to imply – it was terribly rude of me – complete misunderstanding,” Martin babbled, looking for all the world like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck.

Sherlock’s stomping footsteps echoed up the bronze staircase and made the silence that followed suffocating. The detective had apparently decided to listen to their remaining conversation out of sight on the staircase before making the rest of his exit as dramatic as possible.  

“Well -" John muttered, looking ruefully down at his half finished lobster fishcake, “I’d better go after him.”

Mycroft did not comment on his abrupt departure; instead the insufferably calm man had turned back to his steaming truffles as if nothing untoward had happened.

By the time John had clambered down the spiral staircase, Sherlock had completely disappeared. The main dining room was crowded with the elite of the West End and their well-heeled supporters.  The maitre d’ hurried towards him with unflustered efficiency and gestured for John to stop blocking the narrow staircase to the upper floors.

To John’s astonishment, walking just paces behind the short, balding maitre d’ were Doctor Who and Amy Pond. The Doctor was dressed in his usual tweed suit and red bow tie, in one hand he carried his trademark sonic screwdriver and in the other he was tightly clutching a brightly coloured cocktail. Amy Pond, the good Doctor’s companion, looked as excited as ever to be following him on another adventure and she too was holding an exotic looking drink.

Shaking his head in disbelief, John took a few shuddery breaths and allowed logic to win through. He wasn’t staring at Doctor Who but rather Matt Smith, the actor. Why the poor man had been forced to dress up in costume to come to a restaurant was beyond John. However the actor looked like he was greatly enjoying himself with Amy – no – Karen Gillian.

The maître d’ smiled vaguely at John, having already forgotten who he was, and the army doctor swiftly stepped aside to make room for the two celebrities. Matt Smith paused to give him a friendly and slightly apologetic smile before climbing the stairs two at a time.

The first moment that John realised something was about to go terribly wrong was when he heard the clattering of uneven hurried footsteps coming down the stairs. It was impossible to see who was making the unholy racket but given the narrow width of the staircase and its tight turns, John could envisage what might happen if neither party slowed down.

It was as if fate did not want to disappoint John’s prediction and intended to give him a good show of it to boot because Martin came hurtling around the bend into view and promptly slammed chest first into Matt Smith’s astonished face. Karen Gillian, who was following only a few steps behind, took the brunt of the collapse as all six foot of the Doctor tumbled down upon her. The smart girl at least partially dodged that impact by hugging the banister and poor Matt Smith rolled down the spiral staircase hitting every step on the way down. The sound of body against metal and breaking glass caused a sudden rippling hush to descend upon the diners.

In the confused and uncomfortable silence that followed, one voice cut through the tense atmosphere:

“Oh my god, I killed Doctor Who!” 

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: To Baker Street, with love.

 

By the time Matt Smith had been taken away by an ambulance John felt completely exhausted. The constant pressure of the crowd’s attention and sometimes cutting remarks had made first aid very difficult. The worst moment of the night had been when John reflexively ordered a hysterical Karen Gillan to: “calm down and call the doctor!”. His words had since been immortalized in tweets by several high profile actors. According to one person in the crowd, a youtube video of Matt Smith rolling down the stairs and John Watson shouting that exact phrase already had over twenty thousand hits.

Sherlock, on the other hand, remained conspicuously missing from all the melodrama.

When the ambulance had departed, Mycroft swiftly made three phone calls in rapid succession and after the third, the crowd of patrons from the Ivy had mysteriously melted away leaving just Mycroft, Martin and John in an eerily silent restaurant.

“ I’m so sorry,” Martin murmured. He hadn't stopped apologizing since the accident.

“It’s not your fault,” replied John, rubbing his face to clear his head, “This restaurant has some serious health and safety issues.”

“Rest assured, Martin,” said Mycroft gently, “You won’t be dragged into any unpleasant business.”

“Oh -” replied Martin, looking slightly stunned, “I hadn’t thought about that. I’m just so sorry that I broke Doctor Who’s nose. How will they film the next season ifMatt Smith has to walk around with a bandaged face?”

John, who had always been a great fan of The Doctor, also hoped that Martin’s little accident wouldn’t delay the broadcasting of the next season.

“They will manage,” assured Mycroft, “Now, I do think we should go upstairs and finish our dinner."

John had completely forgotten about the feast, still waiting for them in the secluded private dining room. He really didn’t want to miss out on the gourmet cuisine, but Sherlock had disappeared and despite the man being a fully grown adult, John was beginning to worry.The detective had become increasingly agitated with John in the last few days and John couldn’t figure out what he had done wrong. Today’s sudden departure did not bode well for a quiet evening at Baker Street, so John was anxious to settle things with Sherlock before they spiraled out of control.

“I’d better go find Sherlock,” muttered John.

“I’m so, so sorry about that too,” started Martin, “I didn’t mean to imply anything about – about – well you know. It was just me being really stupid. I -”

“Martin,” Mycroft interrupted softly, “I think John understands what you’re trying to say, don’t you John?”

The last phrase was said in the same gentle tone, but concealed a steely edge that made John hurriedly nod in agreement.

“I’ll come help you find him,” offered Martin immediately, “In fact why don’t I just call him right now?”

“He doesn’t answer phone calls, even when he’s in a good mood,” said John incredulously.

Martin looked highly puzzled for a moment before stating, “He always answers when I call. But I suppose I don’t call him all that much and it’s usually in the evenings and I must just be really luck to catch him at a good time.”

John didn’t understand why Martin’s innocuous answer lowered his already flagging mood: Sherlock never bothered to answer his phone calls even when they had genuinely been emergencies. The affectionate way in which Sherlock treated Martin demonstrated that Sherlock was perfectly capable of being considerate, he just couldn’t be bother to treat John considerately.

“Right, well, you’d better call him then,” said John, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

It took all of five seconds for Martin to get Sherlock on loudspeaker. The irritating detective sounded completely nonchalant about his abrupt departure from the dinner table.

“When you are done stuffing your face, Mycroft, bring Sherry back to Baker Street,” demanded Sherlock haughtily.

“Do you not want John back too?” asked Mycroft in his most neutral tone, but John could detect a glint of perverse delight in his expression. There was a long and pregnant pause, whilst John stared glumly down at the phone, hating both Sherlock and Mycroft in equal measure.

“John can do what he likes,” replied Sherlock offhandedly, but the silence beforehand had removed any flippancy from the remark.

“Too right I can,” snapped John, feeling his temper starting to fray at the edges. He had been concerned about Sherlock ever since the impossibly selfish man had left his sight, but Sherlock couldn’t seem to care less. John abruptly pushed open the restaurant door and stepped out into the cool night air. He didn’t want to spend another minute inside the Ivy; the evening had been irrevocably ruined by Sherlock’s childish behaviour.

 Why did Sherlock take such great offence at Martin’s assumption that they were a couple? Thought John, Everyone they had met from Angelo to Irene Adler had taken one look at them together and decided the relationship was anything but platonic.

John kicked at the pavement, venting all his frustration on the wet asphalt. Going back to Baker Street was the last thing he wanted to do now, but, as he scuffed up his boots, he realized Sherlock was not the only child in the friendship. There was nothing mature about refusing to go home; besides, were would Sherlock be without a guardian? Johnsmiled a little at the thought and decided perhaps he could just about tolerate going back to Baker Street after all.

 


 

 It was a bright starry night and still far too early for the London traffic to have died down. The street was filled with the rumble of taxis and buses slowly creeping towards their intended destinations. He considered taking a cab back to the flat, but the position of a locum GP didn’t pay as well as John had imagined so he still found it necessary to watch the pennies.

Walking alone, John couldn’t help noticing the couples cheerfully parading down the street: holding hands, chatting cheerfully and then leaning in for a quick kiss. John liked to think of himself as a stoic, but today the visions of happiness that greeted him deepened his depression. He had always been a popular in the army and after seven years constantly surrounded by friends; he found civilian life very lonely. Sherlock had been his salvation but now, as John looked on at the young lovers gazing tenderly into each other’s eyes, he realized he was missing something more than just friendship.  

“John! Wait!”

John turned around to look for the source of the voice and saw Martin running after him with an un-tucked shirt tail flapping comically in the wind.

“Martin, aren’t you going to finish your dinner?” asked John as he gazed curiously at the ruffled young man.

“No, I just managed to give Mycroft the slip – what say we walk a bit faster and hide behind that skip?”

Martin pointed breathlessly into a dark alleyway that looked singularly uninviting.

“You’re hiding from Mycroft?” demanded John.

“No – we’re hiding from Mycroft, just until he gives up and starts watching us on the CCTV,” replied Martin as he grabbed John’s hand and dived behind the rusty skip.

“Why?”

“I want to walk home with you. It’s the least I can do,” whispered Martin and then placed a hand over John’s mouth as the distinctive shadow of a Rolls-Royce slowly passed across the pavement where they had been standing just seconds ago.

“Martin this is just childish,” hissed John through Martin’s fingers, “If Mycroft decides to send the Security Services out looking for you..."

“Not going to happen,” whispered Martin as the Rolls Royce disappeared from view, “The CCTV camera at the entrance to this alley has just moved.”

John immediately stood up and gave the CCTV a very rude gesture. Martin followed his lead and pulled a face at the camera which looked ridiculously funny. John couldn’t stop himself from roaring with laughter and Martin grinned appreciatively back at him.

“Come on,” said John after he had managed to get his laughter under control, “we’d better get back to Baker Street before your brother changes his mind.”

Martin laughed, a wonderfully care-free sound, and grabbed John’s arm.

“Sherlock showed me a CCTV free short-cut,” he said excitedly and started to run.

John stumbled after him, thinking just how alike Martin and Sherlock really were.

Ten Mycroft-free minutes later, John and Martin ambled onto the tube, bound for Baker Street Station.

 

“I’m sorry about what I said today. Sometimes I say things without, well, really thinking about it," Martin said as they sat side by side on the train. John was still slightly breathless from ten minutes of running at top speed and Martin looked very much like he had been dragged through a hedge backwards. Two old ladies at the other end of the fairly empty carriage gave them stern looks of disapproval.

We must look like we’ve been up to no good, thought John, feeling very amused, they probably think we should be give asbos for breathing too loudly.

“I just thought,” continued Martin, utterly oblivious to the minor scandal his appearance was causing, “you know, Sherlock talks so much about you, and you’ve stayed for so long... Well, I thought you two had something really special going on. I always thought it was Sherlock who’d have trouble starting a relationship -”

Suddenly realizing just how wrong his words sounded, Martin’s eyes widened with shock.

“Sorry, it wasn’t supposed to come out like that. I just mean – now I know that you’re not gay, I understand why you two aren’t together.”

“I understand,” replied John, trying to smile in a reassuring way, “No offense taken."

In truth John was only half listening Martin’s rambling. His mind was still focused on what he would say to Sherlock when they finally arrived back at Baker Street. John was still frustrated, angry and hurt by Sherlock’s thoroughly inconsiderate behaviour over the last few days. Now that he had met Martin and seen how Sherlock treated people he actually cared about, John realized that their friendship was not something that Sherlock valued as much as John did. He had always understood on an intellectual level that Sherlock would never have the same bond with John as his army friend did. He was consoled by the fact that Sherlock treated everyone, including his own brother, with disdain but now he could see this simply wasn’t true.

 “So,” continued Martin hesitantly, “Why are you still living with my brother?”

John blinked vacantly at Martin’s question. He had honestly never thought about that particular question and, now that he was faced with it, he couldn’t think of an answer.

“I mean,” continued Martin quietly, “I love Sherlock a lot but the day he went off to Harrow was the best and worst day of my life.”

“How so?” asked John, glad for a distraction from his own answer.

“He’s my favorite big brother,” said Martin with a smile, “and he is a brilliant brother ninety-nine percent of the time. We used to explore the estate together, pretending to be pirates hunting for treasure, or just tormenting Mycroft when he was home from University."

 John had to smile at that mental image.

"But, sometimes Sherlock can just be so....obtuse, particularly when it comes to people’s feelings. He just couldn’t understand why an abandoned puppy we found meant so much to me, but then, when Mycroft took it away, he fought tooth and nail to get it back because, despite everything he claims, he feels love - he just doesn’t know the right way to go about loving people.”

Martin looked almost wistful as he kicked his lanky legs against the seat.

“It must have been difficult being the youngest Holmes,” said John eventually.

“Oh yes,” said Martin distantly, “Mycroft was perfect, he was everything our Papa could hope for in an heir and Sherlock was brilliant in his own unique way. I was just – well – me. Nothing special, not much to look at. Mummy, she was disappointed I wasn’t a girl, and Papa never understood why I just wanted to fly. Why do you think I changed my name to Martin Crieff?”

“I’m sorry,” muttered John, “I shouldn't have brought it up."

John did not know what Sherlock’s childhood had been like; if not for a few cryptic hints from Mycroft, John could easily have believed the detective had never experienced childhood. Sherlock always acted as if he came into the world fully formed and utterly perfect so there was no need for him to ever change.

“Oh no, it's fine” said Martin looking rather surprised, “They're not upset with me. My parents are actually really supportive of the flying – they keep trying to send me money, though, which is annoying. I don’t want to be one of those rich lazy kids that I had to go to school with; I want to make my own way in the world just like everyone else. I suppose I am much better off than most other people because I have such a loving family, and that’s not something I’d want to change - ever.”

John nodded mutely as he slowly absorbed the onslaught of information. From Sherlock and Mycroft’s antagonistic relationship and their cryptic references to “Mummy”, John had wrongly concluded that they must have had a difficult childhood. He had conjured a bleak image of a cold, distant father and a ruthless controlling mother.

“That’s good,” said John hesitantly, “I just thought from what Sherlock and Mycroft have said that – er – your home life might have been a little unorthodox.”

“Oh,” Martin grinned cheerfully, “Well, just meeting Sherlock would make anyone think our parents were complete nutters."

“Yeah,” agreed John, enjoying Martin’s infectious smile, "You're right there."

“And he’s not a sociopath, just so you know if ever he tries that one on you,” remarked Martin.

“I know, I am a doctor.”

“Sorry – forgot,” said Martin, “Sherlock is just – he just finds it hard to deal with his emotions, so he pretends he doesn’t have any. He does want friends but he was never any good at keeping them – or making them for that matter - so he pretends that he’s happy all by himself. I think Sherlock is so used to rejection that he automatically pushes people away so he doesn't get close enough to care when they leave him.”

“Is that what he’s doing with me, then?” asked John, “that would explain his terrible mood over the last few days.”

“No,” said Martin as he leveled John with a wide-eyed gaze filled with emotions that John could not quite name, “He can’t push you away anymore – Sherlock’s in love with you, John.” 

Chapter Text

John felt his mind freeze, and in that moment a thousand emotions raced through his heart. He was at once confused, amazed, utterly delighted and yet terribly afraid.

When he finally remembered to breathe again, Martin was watching him intently. The young man looked tense and determined, as if he was just waiting for John to pull the emergency handle and bolt off the train.

“You don’t have to do anything,” said Martin quietly, “You can just forget all about this conversation and carry on as normal.”

John almost wanted to laugh at such a ridiculous suggestion. How could he go back to leaning against the detective on the couch when they watched TV, or letting Sherlock hold his hand when they were chasing criminals down dark alleys? Martin’s words had turned John’s entire world upside down and he still couldn’t decide if this was a bad thing.

“I can’t,” replied John. His voice had suddenly raised an octave. “It – I – we can’t be the same again.”

Before Martin could reply, the train lurched into Baker Street station and the cool mechanical voice urged passengers to depart. They walked in silence up to the street, John deep in thought, and Martin watching him pensively. The traffic had died down and a calm, peaceful atmosphere had descended upon central London.

When Speedy’s awning came into view, John wanted nothing more than to take a seat outside the empty cafe and stay there all night. He felt emotionally drained and utterly exhausted. He didn’t have the emotional strength to face Sherlock Holmes, not with a knot of tangled feelings weighing down on his heart.

How do I really feel about Sherlock?  thought John.

He could not give words to the emotions that were tearing through his mind. He couldn’t pinpoint one feeling, one single word that could describe what Sherlock meant to him. Their relationship had never been simple and now it had become complex beyond the realm of John’s emotional intellect. If John was feeling so conflicted, he could only imagine what Sherlock must be experiencing. The angry outbursts and erratic behavior of late must have been Sherlock’s method of releasing frustration and coping with confusion. 

“Martin,” said John hesitantly, as they approached the front door, “Why did Sherlock tell you he loved me?”

Martin didn’t look flustered at the question; instead he smiled gently at John as if he had missed the obvious answer.

“Because he wanted to know how to tell you.”

John gaped in astonishment; his previously confused thoughts suddenly disappeared, leaving an odd feeling of peace and numbness. Sherlock wanted to make his feelings known. The great detective, who usually avoided sentiment like the plague, wanted to share his feelings with John?

“Why?” he managed to ask.

“Because he loves you,” replied Martin as if it was the answer to everything, and perhaps it was.

“Thank you, Sherry,” came Sherlock’s deeply annoyed voice from behind their backs.

John turned abruptly to find Sherlock standing right behind them, still wrapped up in his usual coat and scarf. There was a moment of tense, embarrassing silence as Martin rubbed his neck and tried hard to avoid Sherlock’s piercing gaze, whilst John simply stared at the man in front him as if he was seeing him for the first time.

“Well...” said Martin sheepishly, “You never said I couldn’t tell him.”

Sherlock turned his gaze to John. His expression was icy and his features arranged in displeasure, but beneath the facade John could clearly see the vulnerability shining in Sherlock’s pale, grey, eyes. The detective looked as terrified as John felt. For a moment there was only the sound of Martin’s agitated shuffling as John and Sherlock stared at each other. Then Martin’s phone broke the tension.

It was a ridiculously jovial ring tone that must have been on sale because it was liable to embarrass anyone who heard it. John tried to find some sense of relief in the momentary distraction, but his heart was still galloping away, as if it wanted to escape the confines of his rib cage and join Sherlock’s heart in his chest.

“Tell Mycroft to get his fat nose out of our business,” stated Sherlock flatly.

“Hello, Mycroft –“ said Martin into his phone, “Sherlock says you should get your nose –“

“Fat nose!” shouted Sherlock, loud enough for the whole street to hear.

“Fat nose out of our business,” concluded Martin gleefully, “Yes, I’m back at Baker Street. Don't pretend you aren’t watching us right now on CCTV.”

There was a long pause during which time Martin’s gleeful expression turned to something resembling annoyance.

“Go away, Mycroft, I can handle it,” snapped Martin, “Sherlock doesn’t need your help...what do you mean he has issues?”

At this point, John had completely lost the thread of the conversation. He wasn’t sure who Mycroft thought the issues belonged to: John, Sherlock or perhaps both of them? He did understand, however, that Mycroft’s arrival was imminent, and they could still bolt the front door if they hurried.

“Come on people, get in the flat before Mycroft turns up,” said John, jamming his key into the door and pushing it open with one smooth movement.

He did not expect to see Mycroft Holmes in the hallway smiling down at him with a condescending expression.

“Hello, John, how good of you to come in.”

“This is my flat,” snapped John coldly.

“Yes, of course,” replied Mycroft, smiling blandly at John. “Now, Martin, we really must go. You need some food and a good night’s sleep.”

Mycroft,” growled Martin, for the first time sounding almost as dangerous as his older brother, “I am staying with Sherlock.”

“Who cannot provide you with any of the necessities of daily life,” concluded Mycroft, barring the hallway with his umbrella.

“Move, or we will make you,” said Sherlock darkly, and John decided it would be a good time to dive into the nearest nuclear bunker.

“Really, Sherlock,” replied Mycroft, sounding utterly condescending, “Shall we think back to the last time you and Martin tried to...ambush me?”

Whatever Mycroft was alluding to clearly caused Martin great embarrassment because the pilot flushed an alarming shade of red, while muttered something about not breaking his ankle this time. John didn’t want to ask when ‘last time’ occurred but he had a nasty feeling it wouldn’t have been that long ago.

“I was ten, Mycroft,” snapped Sherlock, “Unless you haven’t noticed, you are no longer bigger than me, or Sherry.”

John was caught between surprise and disbelief as his mind tried and failed to conjured up a mental image of a ten-year-old Sherlock tackling a fully grown Mycroft to the floor. As to where Martin and his broken ankle fitted into this scenario, John couldn’t imagine.

“If you have been observing,” replied Mycroft with a particularly dangerous smile, “I am at least two inches taller than you, Sherlock, and considerably taller than Martin.”

It was Sherlock’s turn to flush with embarrassment – or more likely, pure rage.

“Guys,” muttered Martin timidly, “I don’t think we should do it here.”

“You’re right, Sherry, it wouldn’t be a fair fight. Mycroft has his umbrella. Get your flight manual from your suitcase and I’ll get out my violin bow.”

John gaped in astonishment and his imagination went into overdrive. He could just picture the scene: a furious Sherlock choking Mycroft with his violin bow, whilst the older man attempted to whack his assailant off with an umbrella. In the background, Martin was gleefully raising a heavy book, ready to drop the deadweight on someone’s unsuspecting head.

John didn’t try to contain his laughter and after an emotionally wrenching evening, a good laugh was exactly what he needed to relax his frayed nerves.

“I’m glad you are enjoying this, John,” said Mycroft softly, but as always his voice carried a veiled threat. Tonight, John couldn’t care less what excruciating punishment Mycroft was subtly hinting at; the idea of a Holmes Brothers’ brawl was just too entertaining.

Sherlock placed both hands on John’s shaking shoulders and steered him out of the way as he stepped into Mycroft’s personal space with his most intimidating glare.

“Take your time, Sherlock,” drawled Mycroft, standing perfectly still, his face merely inches from Sherlock’s, “I’m sure you’ll want to put off talking to John for as long as possible – feelings can be so awkward sometimes.”

John did not believe that Mycroft could misjudge his brother but on this occasion the infallible Mycroft Holmes had made a grievous error. Sherlock reached out as if to point at Mycroft’s chest but his long thin fingers gripped the fabric of Mycroft’s bespoke suit as the lithe detective threw his entire weight upon his elder brother.

Mycroft tumbled backwards, the tip of his umbrella tearing a horrendous gash through Mrs Hudson’s wallpaper. Immediately, Sherlock was sitting atop his elder brother, straddling his waist and wrestling with the umbrella that Mycroft was using to ward off his attack. There was a nasty strangling sound as Sherlock ducked under the swinging umbrella and tightened Mycroft’s silk tie. A second later an even nastier thud accompanied the umbrella colliding with Sherlock’s head.

To John’s complete astonishment, Mycroft, the soft bureaucrat who hated legwork, dextrously swung one lanky leg around to the front of Sherlock’s body like a contortionist and pushed against Sherlock’s chest.

By that point, John’s utter mind-numbing shock had thawed into a slightly lesser degree of  astonishment, but his brain could at least understand the need to assist Sherlock.

He rushed forwards to catch the tottering detective and they both fell awkwardly against Mrs Hudson’s wall with a resounding thud. In the seconds that followed, John sat breathing harshly, as his arms locked tightly around Sherlock’s waist. The detective looked more flustered than John had ever seen him and he too was panting ruggedly.

“What in heavens is going on?” demanded the startled voice of Mrs Hudson as she opened her door and was instantly greeted by the sight of Sherlock and John locked in an embrace.

Mycroft looked miraculous calm, standing idly beside the exhausted duo. He smiled politely at Mrs Hudson as though he had played no part in the raucous.

“I do apologise for my brother, Mrs Hudson. He got a little carried away.”

“Oh, boys,” tutted Mrs Hudson, “How many times do I have to tell you, if you’re going to do that sort of activity, please make sure you stick to the bedroom – you do have two from which to choose from, you know.”

Martin stared incredulously at Mrs Hudson, looked down at the sweaty, panting mass of limbs that was John and Sherlock, and then burst out laughing. If John had any sanity left, he would be angrily correcting Mrs Hudson’s crazy misconceptions, but right now his entire mind was focused on the armful of consulting detective he suddenly couldn't release.

Sherlock’s body radiated warmth and John’s arms fitted perfectly around the detective’s waist, resting comfortably on his stomach. Sherlock’s scent filled his nostrils and a new warmth swelled inside his chest, spreading slowly down to his stomach. John waited expectantly for Sherlock to break the contact – to end this peaceful, comfortable moment – but the detective remained still in his arms.

I could get used to this, muttered a strange new voice inside John’s head, I could get very used to this

Chapter Text

The wonderful warmth that John felt as his embraced Sherlock formed a protective cocoon where time ceased to exist and the entire universe was distilled into one single moment. John was startled when Sherlock finally decided to move from his awkward position on the floor. Their shared moment of physical intimacy suddenly dissolved like a dream as Sherlock hesitantly extracted himself from John’s embrace. 

“Well, John,” drawled Mycroft whilst contemplating the tip of his umbrella, “It seems that you have once again cushioned Sherlock’s fall.”

“Don’t you have somewhere to be, Mycroft?” asked John. The bureaucrat's nonchalant and superior attitude was hard to tolerate even when John was emotionally stable and tonight he found Mycroft’s presence as aggravating as Sherlock normally did. 

“On the contrary,” replied Mycroft, suddenly leaning forwards to smile dangerously at John, “I do intend to stay for the grand finale.”

Poor Mrs Hudson, who was still standing at the door to her flat, interpreted the words “grand finale” as a thinly veiled sexual innuendo and suddenly turned an alarming shade of pink that matched the roses on her night dress. 

“Really, now, boys, I’m an old lady – I don’t usually judge, but that is a bit much, Mycroft.”

John glanced back at Mycroft, who simply stood perfectly still and refused to remove the smug smile that was adorning his features. Nor did he try to correct Mrs Hudson’s assumption that he intended to be a voyeur to John and Sherlock’s intimate night ahead. The detective, meanwhile, was fastidiously dusting his coat and pretending not to be paying any attention to the conversation.

“No, Mrs Hudson!” snapped John, who had come to the conclusion that he was the only person willing to defend his honour, “Nothing is going on between Sherlock and I. Even if there was – Mycroft wouldn't be invited!”

Behind him, Martin made a noise resembling the squeal of a stuck pig and then burst into peel of laughter. It took several moments and a deadly glare from Sherlock for Martin to finally get his laughter under control.

“S-sorry Mrs Hudson, I’m Martin, Sherlock’s younger brother,” gasped Martin, “Don’t worry, it won’t be too noisy tonight once Mycroft’s gone. I’m sleeping with Sherlock for the next few days -”

It was Mrs Hudson's turn to make an inhumane noise and she managed to produce a unusual note that sounded like a small bird being strangled. The long suffering land lady, who had tolerated bullets in walls and human corpses in fridges, looked only a few seconds away from forcibly evicting John and Sherlock. 

It took Martin a few seconds to work out exactly why Mrs Hudson looked completely scandalized. When the realization dawned, the poor man seemed as if he wanted the ground to open up and swallow him.

“No – no, that’s not what I meant!” cried Martin desperately, but Mrs Hudson had already slammed the door shut. John could hear the flustered lady muttering to herself through the door from his vantage point on the floor. It was rather ironic that within four minutes of meeting Martin, the only normal Holmes Brother, Mrs Hudson was in need of psychiatric counselling. John would have happy offered his services as a doctor but now that Mrs Hudson thought he had a perverse relationship with an incestous clan of brothers, the offer would not be very welcome. 

“Well done, everyone,” said John sarcastically, “You’ve managed to make Mrs Hudson think the entire Holmes clan is incest mad and I’ve volunteered to join in!”

“Oh god!” groaned Martin, “When will I ever stop putting my foot in my mouth?”

“When you stop talking so much,” snapped Sherlock and, without bothering to see Martin’s reaction, stormed up the stairs.

John looked sympathetically at Martin and patted him gently on the knee. Throughout the whole dramatic misunderstanding, John hadn’t yet managed to get himself up off the floor.

“He doesn’t mean it,” said John as he clambered to his feet, “Like you said, he’s had a tough couple of days, though it would help if Mycroft wasn’t still hovering around.”

“Martin,” said Mycroft, suddenly sounding very serious, “Go and wait in the car, whilst I have a word with John in private.”

“What? No!” said Martin vehemently, “You’ll only make things worse.”

Mycroft leveled his youngest brother with what John thought of as the classic Holmesian glare. Poor Martin stuttered uncertainly and then looked towards John for direction.

“He’s not going to eat me,” responded John, suddenly feeling very weary. Being caught between two Holmes brothers was tiring enough but with Martin added to the mix, keeping the world from imploding was more than John could manage.

“Right – okay,” muttered Martin and he hesitantly walked out of the house There was a beautiful black Rolls-Royce parked immediately outside and a uniformed chauffeur quickly opened the passenger door for Martin.

“Right,” said John in his most businesslike manner once the front door had slammed shut, “Whatever it is you want to say, I don’t want to hear it.”

“John,” said Mycroft in a soft, yet deadly tone, “I suggest you put your bravery aside before it ends up being the death of you.”

A sudden chill ran through John's body as he glared furiously back at the still smiling man standing in front of him. He felt as vulnerable as he had done back in the warehouse when he had first met Mycroft Holmes for the first time, but back then John did not know this was the most dangerous man he would ever meet.

“Are you threatening me?” demanded John, holding his ground. Adrenaline started to course through his blood as his body prepared for fight or flight. He could feel his fists clenching of their own accord and his heartbeat galloping in his chest.

“Do I need to threaten you?” asked Mycroft, sounding almost pensive. “You see, John, your psychological profiles - all of which I had compiled by world experts - state that you are a practical man who does not need to create illusions to cope with the world.”

Mycroft paused and leaned forwards slightly so that he was physically looming over John.

“I don’t need to threaten you, John – the situation is quite clear to you already.”

“And what situation would that be?” asked John, trying to keep his voice level.

Mycroft had not changed at all over the course of the evening but the man standing over John was no longer the annoyingly condescending bureaucrat but an utterly terrifying man who wielded so much power that he could make John disappear without batting an eyelid. John knew he wasn’t physically shaking but it felt as though his entire body was vibrating with fear. He became acutely aware of a bead of cold sweat, slowly rolling down the back of his neck, causing a horrifying prickling sensation that sent shivers down his spine.

“Do you really want me to spell it out?” asked Mycroft, with a predatory smile that showed John a gleaming row of white teeth.

All the better to eat me with, thought John, trying to contain a rising tide of nauseating fear.

“You think I’m going to hurt Sherlock,” stated John evenly, despite his nervousness, “You think that I’m going to exploit your brother if we have a relationship. All of that anyone could guess, but I’ll raise you one further: you’re terrified. You’re terrified that for once in his life Sherlock will have someone other than you to depend on.”

John had expected Mycroft’s expression to twist with anger at his words but to his surprise Mycroft simply laughed.

“Oh, John,” he said as if John was a particularly stupid but adorable kitten, “I gave your intelligence too much credit.”

“What?”

“It’s not Sherlock I’m worried about,” replied Mycroft, chuckling. His smile had lost some of its predatory edge but it was still making John very uncomfortable. “We’re talking about you, John.”

“What about me?” asked John through gritted teeth.

Mycroft turned slightly and looked up the darkened staircase towards the flat.

“Have you ever wondered, John, just why Sherlock has never had any relationships?

“He’s Sherlock.”

“No,” stated Mycroft flatly as he turned his full attention back to John, “It is because he has sociopathic traits.”

John felt his eyebrows ascending into his hairline in surprise.

Surely Mycroft, who had known Sherlock all his life, understood that his brother was not a real sociopath.

 “Sherlock isn’t a sociopath – he understands human emotion, he has a conscience, he-”

“I said he has sociopathic traits,” corrected Mycroft calmly, “There is a difference, as they no doubt taught you in medical school.”

John wanted to retort but he found that there was little he could say. He had never been interested in psychiatry beyond the basic knowledge needed to pass his exams, but he distinctly remembered being told that whilst up to one percent of the world’s population could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder – the professionally approved term for sociopathy – a much greater proportion of the population exhibited a significant number of sociopathic traits but not enough to be medically diagnosed according to current guidelines. Diagnosing sociopathy involved ticking a long checklist of personality traits including: superficial charm, failure to learn from mistakes and manipulative behavior.  The critical number seemed to be completely arbitrary because like every mental disorder there was a gradual sliding scale of sociopathy from the petty criminals with nasty dispositions to utterly inhuman monsters who committed mass genocide.

“I’m sure you have already catalogued the sociopathic traits Sherlock does exhibit: callous disregard for the rights of others, shallow emotions, lying, manipulation, exploitation of those close to him – to mention just a few. He never did reach the forty points mark but then Sherlock never did cooperate with the psychiatrist for long enough for them to finish the checklist.”

John had not given much thought to Sherlock’s proud pronouncement about being a high-functioning sociopath. He had always managed to convince himself that Sherlock’s cruel and inconsiderate behavior stemmed from a traumatic upbringing compounded by undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. No one wanted to believe that they were sharing a flat with a genuine sociopath, particularly one that they had become undeniably attached to.

“I never gave it much thought,” confessed John, suddenly feeling a sense of dread that had nothing to do with Mycroft’s looming presence.

“I suggest, Doctor Watson, you give as much thought as you possibly can to this subject right now, before you walk up those steps, because once you commit to a relationship with my brother...”

Mycroft trailed off and once again contemplated his umbrella with a pensive expression.

“He’s not going to hurt me, you know,” said John quietly. He stared resolutely into Mycroft’s deep grey eyes and willed the other man to understand just how much he truly, deeply, loved Sherlock: as a brother in arms, as a friend and perhaps as something much more. In the last hour, without any conscious thought, his mind had emerged from the choking fog of confusion into the bright, clear dawn of acceptance and understanding.

I love Sherlock Holmes, thought John. It sounded so natural and the mere idea of saying this small sentence out loud caused a swell of pure joy in his chest.

Mycroft glanced back at John, his expression weary.

“You still don’t understand, do you, John? You are so geared towards protecting others that your own needs are always suppressed – dealt with only when absolutely necessary. I can see why Sherlock finds you so...attractive.”

“I love Sherlock,” replied John, savoring the words as they rolled off his tongue, “I love Sherlock and nothing you can say is going to change my mind.”

Mycroft turned his piercing gaze back to John and for several moments stared in silence at the resolute soldier standing before him.

“Are we done here?” demanded John as he grew ever more uncomfortable under Mycroft’s formidable stare.

“Are we?” inquired Mycroft softly, “Would you listen to anything else I have to say?”

“No.”

John glared pointedly at Mycroft and turned to go up the stairs but suddenly found his path blocked. Mycroft stood casually to one side whilst holding out his umbrella so that it obstructed the entire narrow staircase.

“Remember John, I am not your enemy. If this relationship does not...’work out’, you can always rely on me for help.”

“Don’t worry, it will work out, I will make it work out,” replied John with iron resolve.

“I can only hope you are right, for both our sakes,” muttered Mycroft, his voice suddenly filled with an emotion John could not quite name. After a long pause, during which both men refused to move, Mycroft finally relented and said quietly:

“Goodbye John, see you very soon.”

“Let Martin back out of the car first,” demanded John, suddenly remembering the young [pilot still trapped in the back seat of Mycroft’s Rolls Royce.

“You like him, don’t you?” asked Mycroft, though it was more a statement than a question, “Martin is a good man, John but he, like all men, is prone to immense lapses of judgement, particularly when it comes to Sherlock.”

“Just let him out of the car,” snapped John and turned to head upstairs to his flat and Sherlock.

Mycroft opened the front door and beckoned to the driver, who calmly opened the passenger door once again.

Either Marin despised luxury car interiors, or Mycroft’s Rolls Royce had some serious problems hitherto unnoticed by anyone else, because the young man practically fell out of the car in his haste to leave.

Mycroft looked back at John and smiled with uncharacteristic sadness. Then the expression vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Mycroft turned his full attention back to Martin, who merely looked puzzled at their strange exchange.

 “Goodbye, Martin, I expect to see you tomorrow,” said Mycroft and promptly exited the building without bothering to hear his brother’s incoherent protests.

Martin gazed at John who was halfway up the narrow staircase and smiled uncertainly.

“So...how did it go?”

“Could have been better,” replied John nonchalantly, “Your brother could gut a man with looks alone.”

Martin grinned apologetically,

“We think he gets it from Father’s side of the family. Mummy’s side – they’re all far too French for that sort of thing.”

“Right,” said John, trying to imagine which side of the family Sherlock got his traits from, “You’d better come up and have some jam...on toast – if we have any bread.”

“Oh don’t worry, back when I was trying to pass my flight exams I used to live on jam and tea. You dissolve a spoonful of jam in some hot water and then add a tea bag,” explained Martin cheerfully as he bounded up the stairs two at a time.

The door to their living room was slightly ajar but there were no sounds of life coming from the flat. John hesitantly pushed open the door and peered into the living room. Sherlock, it appeared, had retreated into his room and left a trail of mess in his wake.

“I’ll stay out here,” said Martin kindly, “You guys have a lot to talk about."

With mounting trepidation, excitement and a strange warm feeling that John still couldn’t find a name for, he rapped lightly on Sherlock’s bedroom door.

“You don’t have to knock,” said Sherlock’s deep melodic voice, “You never did before.”

“Can – can we talk?” asked John, hating the way his words caught in his throat.

“Talk – talk is boring!” snapped Sherlock as he flung the door open and stared straight into John’s startled eyes.

“Okay, we can not talk if that’s what you’d prefer...”

To John’s surprise, Sherlock reached out and grabbed his collar before physically hauling him into the room.

What happened next would astound John for years to come.

In a blinding flash of movement Sherlock’s face was mere millimetres from his own. John could feel Sherlock’s breath fluttering against his cheek, he could smell the unique aftershave the detective wore, he could see all the fine details of Sherlock’s skin that he had previously never given any thought to. Then the detective bent down and pressed his lips against John’s open mouth and John’s mind went completely blank. 

Chapter Text

The reality dissolved, to be replaced by a brilliant haze of incredible feelings: love, joy, comfort, contentment. The emotions danced through John’s mind as he relaxed under the novel feeling of Sherlock’s lips covering his own. It was not a particularly refined kiss but it provoked a natural, visceral sensation that melted any semblance of coherent thought. Existence was distilled into this one pure, shining moment with no beginning or end.

 

“Sherlock!” squealed Martin’s voice from behind them. The pilot sounded completely aghast at what he was witnessing. “That is not what I told you to do!”

To John’s devastation, Sherlock pulled away abruptly and stepped backwards. He had to suppress the urge to grab the detective by his lapels and pull him into another kiss. Sherlock was scrutinizing him again, his face a mask of concentration.

“He has not physically assaulted me,” responded Sherlock flatly, “In fact, John appears to have enjoyed the contact very much.”

Having his reactions stated in such a bland tone made John blush, but he stared resolutely back into Sherlock’s dark blue eyes.

“Yes, yes I did,” he replied, wanting Sherlock to understand he was not ashamed or embarrassed by what had just transpired.

“Then go out with me,” said Sherlock instantly, his eyes shining with determination, “Go out with me.”

The endorphins rushing through John’s brain from that first amazing kiss left very little room for contemplation. He wanted to shout yes and declare their new relationship from the rooftop to every passerby. He wanted to grab Sherlock in a loving embrace and share another spectacular kiss.

 “You’re supposed to woo him, like I explained,” grumbled Martin, breaking John’s euphoric thoughts, “Be romantic – go on dates, send flowers, and compliment his appearance –“

John almost smiled at the last part of Martin’s speech – he was an army doctor, not a teenage girl, and he’d be perfectly content if Sherlock just bought him a pint once in a while.

“I’m not into that kind of thing, Martin,” explained John patiently, “It’s different dating a guy.”

Although dating Sherlock would be completely different from dating any ordinary guy, thought John

“I’ll take that as a yes to going out,” replied Sherlock nonchalantly, but his eyes betrayed his joy and excitement and John couldn’t resist drinking in Sherlock’s exotically beautiful features.

As he gazed at Sherlock, John’s euphoric state of mind slowly dissolved into a mellow happiness and the logical part of his brain returned with all of John’s anxieties.

Dating Sherlock was going to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions. The detective was simultaneously the most amazing and the most frustrating human being alive. Their relationship as flatmates could be strained at times but the increased intimacy of a romantic relationship would produce a whole new set of challenges.

Mycroft’s words echoed in John’s mind: “If this relationship doesn’t work out...”

There was every chance that their relationship could end in bitterness and disappointment. John was a thoroughly ordinary man and at the back of him mind, he half expected the day when Sherlock would simply grow tired of his company.

How long can I hold his interest for? thought John, How long before he becomes frustrated or disgusted by how ordinary I really am?

John had been so sure of himself when he declared to Mycroft that if Sherlock wanted a relationship he would make it work, but now as he stared at Sherlock’s beautiful yet alien features, doubts began to gnaw away at his resolve.

Once again Martin’s protests chased away the dark cloud of uncertainty in John’s mind.

“Well – well,” spluttered Martin, “You still need to ask before you just go and kiss someone!”

Martin’s desperate expression was so comical that both Sherlock and John grinned openly at that remark.

“Oh, Martin,” said Sherlock, a small smirk spreading across his smug features, “I think the non-consensual kiss worked very well indeed.”

“Ugh!” groaned Martin and slumped down on the couch with his head in his hands.

As John turned back to Sherlock, he saw that the detective had fixed him with a penetrating gaze. He tried to smile reassuringly but it felt more like a grimace.

What should I do?  thought John as Sherlock continued to gaze at him, should I tell him how I feel? Will it get things off to a bad start?

John still didn’t know after three years of living with the brilliant detective whether Sherlock had ever been romantically involved with anyone. Mycroft had briefly hinted that Sherlock didn’t have normal romantic relationships, but that did not mean his flatmate was entirely inexperienced.

I should take this slowly, concluded John, just make some tea.

“Well, now that’s settled, tea anyone?”

Sherlock’s eye suddenly betrayed a hint of confusion as the analytical expression vanished from his features. He opened his mouth as if to object, but then slunk back into his bedroom without another word, slamming the door behind him.

“What did I say?” asked John, thoroughly bewildered.

Martin looked up from his despondent position on the couch and said flatly, “I think he wants to kiss you some more – maybe a lot more...and other stuff as well,”

Understanding dawned on John like a switch being thrown. Sherlock, it seemed, did not want tea or talking or taking it slowly – he wanted to get straight to the point.

 All of John’s previous relationships had started off much more slowly, but this time in the course of less than five hours John had transitioned from being Sherlock’s flatmate to being his boyfriend. Although he knew Sherlock much better than any of his previous girlfriends, he wasn’t sure how to go about starting a physical relationship, particularly when he still could not untangle the knot of anxiety building in his stomach.

“Er – do you think I should go in there after him?” asked John hesitantly.

Martin’s expression morphed from disappointment to a full blown smirk that made him look even more like Sherlock.

“Well – if you do I’ll have to sleep on the couch.”

John stared at the young pilot for a moment, wanting to protest that nothing was going to happen between him and Sherlock but he settled instead for humourous smile.

“Would you mind terribly if you had my room instead?”

“I’ll live,” replied Martin beaming from ear to ear, “Oh, and Sherlock has all the supplies you need,”

“What?” asked John, suddenly remembering the exact mechanics of what Martin was suggesting.

Martin started to look very sheepish and rubbed the back of his neck with embarrassment.

“Well...you know...jelly and stuff.”

“Jelly?” snapped John, abruptly getting a terrible mental image of Sherlock lying naked covered in wobbling green slime.

“KY jelly,” clarified Martin, blushing a deep shade of pink, “We went shopping before you arrived home this afternoon.”

You planned this?” demanded John, feeling both utterly manipulated and rather impressed by how quickly the Holmes brothers had manoeuvred him into position.

“We also bought some milk!” protested Martin.

“Sherlock knew I would say yes?” asked John, wondering just how transparent his subconscious desires had been.

“He’s Sherlock,” replied Martin, as if that explained life, the universe and everything.

John conceded that if ever there was a man who could know what he wanted before he even wanted it, that man would be Sherlock Holmes.

“Yeah, well – I’d better get back to your brother...” he replied awkwardly.

 

 

He didn’t knock this time but simply opened the door to Sherlock’s room. The body parts had disappeared, though John knew they were probably sitting in the fridge, and the room had been scrupulously cleaned. To his surprise, Sherlock was walking around with his shirt half open, lighting candles that were dotted around the room. If John wasn’t feeling unsure of himself, he would have laughed out loud at the ridiculous scene.

“Are you trying to set the place on fire?” asked John trying to lighten his own mood, “I know the decor leaves much to be desired, but I don’t want to be homeless.”

“You also don’t want to be so tense,” replied Sherlock, lighting another candle. The room was filled with a familiar, pleasant scent that John could not quite name and as he inhaled the aroma, he felt his anxiety slip quietly into the background.

“They smell like the candles my mother used to like,” said John, as old faded memories to slowly come back into focus, “she’d always light one when we were unhappy or ill or just need comfort,”

“I know,” stated Sherlock calmly.

 John couldn’t help but gazed in wonder at the detective. At times like these, Sherlock’s abilities seemed almost supernatural.

“You’re anxious,” observed Sherlock, “and insecure – you are afraid that our relationship will end horribly.”

 “Can you blame me?” asked John with a humourless smile, “I mean look at us, we must be the two most incompatible boyfriends in the history of gay relationships. I’m not even sure I am gay – and you don’t seem to have a sexual preference for anything.”

Sherlock turned to look at him with an unfathomable expression.

“I have a preference for something,” replied Sherlock slowly, “I prefer John Watson and only John Watson.”

Sherlock’s words washed over John like a tidal wave of revelation. It was one thing being told about Sherlock’s feelings and quite another to actually hear directly from the man. The heavy knot of anxiety started to unravel. He felt hope and confidence replacing the dark doubts that once preyed upon his mind.

“That’s enough of a sexual preference, isn’t it?” asked Sherlock, fixing John with his intense gaze that seemed to narrow John’s entire world down to one single moment. As the warm glow of joy expanded throughout his entire body, John struggled to make even the most incoherent of noises.

I know I love you, thought John, desperately hoping that Sherlock could see his feeling through his expression alone, but I don’t know how to love you.

In that moment, Sherlock let all his defences fall away like a soldier stripping off his armour. He looked oddly vulnerable for a moment, before a smile of pure joy spread across his face – lighting up his features with a new kind of brilliance. It was the most beautiful thing John had ever seen and it would remain etched into his memory for the rest of his life.

“Haven’t you always said: you can’t logically dissect emotions, you need to feel them?” asked Sherlock standing up and moving forwards so that they were only inches apart. “Well, John, follow your own advice and stop trying to think – just feel.”

John’s thoughts evaporated like mist in the bright morning sun and he leaned in automatically for their second kiss. 

Chapter Text

When morning finally made itself known by the sounds of traffic and birdsong filtering through the old sash windows, John wanted nothing more than to stay wrapped up under Sherlock’s warm duvet. Sherlock’s usual insomnia seemed to have been cured by their night together and the detective was currently breathing gently beside John in a deep and peaceful sleep.

The hazy morning sunshine illuminated the clock on the opposite wall, and John was content to see that he would not have to leave the wonderfully warm bed for a very long time. John would have been happy to just lie there and marvel at his new found love but a thunderous crash from the kitchen made him sit bolt upright with shock.

“Seriously, Sherry,” muttered Sherlock almost incoherently, “That shade of pink is not fluorescent enough...Mycroft’s umbrella...more paint...”

Sherlock had a tendency to ramble nonsensically in his sleep but John wondered for a moment whether Martin had really painted Mycroft’s umbrella pink or if Sherlock was merely having a particularly satisfying dream about defacing his brother’s most prized possession.

A muffled curse came from the kitchen and then the sound of a chair being plonked back into place echoed through the otherwise peaceful flat. John rolled reluctantly out of bed, taking care not to disturb Sherlock, and padded out of the bedroom to assess the carnage.

Martin was standing in the middle of the kitchen covered in wet blotches of flour and milk. He was furiously trying to wipe the congealing mess off his pilot’s uniform with the last of the kitchen towels. When he spun around to see who was standing behind him, one foot landed in a puddle of split milk and Martin went flying backwards into the kitchen counter. There was a nasty crunching noise as a dozen eggs were flattened.

“Martin,” muttered John, not sure whether to be amused or exasperated.

“I’m sorry,” said Martin as he peeled himself off the kitchen counter and looked dismally at the sticky mess of raw egg, flour and milk that was covering the bench and his clothes. 

“Are you always such a disaster or do you only do this on purpose to annoy your brothers?” asked John with good humour, but the question brought flush to Martin’s pale cheeks.

“I’ve always been clumsy,” he conceded, “But how was I to know that there was a precariously balanced jar of raw acid in the top cupboard? I only jumped off the chair to avoid getting burnt. I’m sorry about the milk...It seems that buying it last night wasn’t such a great idea.”

“Well, I’d prefer you to be covered in milk than first degree chemical burns,” replied John pragmatically, “Maybe if I scrape that stuff off the bench, it would make a passable pancake mix...”

Surprisingly, Martin did not look disgusted at the idea, but embraced it wholeheartedly and he did an admirable job of getting the eggshells out of the mixture, whilst John heated up the frying pan, still clad in his boxer shorts.

The smell of freshly made pancakes was wholly irresistible even to the most food-adverse of detectives and it was only a matter of minutes after the first steaming pancake had landed on a plate that Sherlock came wandering into the kitchen wrapped in his silk dressing gown.

“Why did you leave a jar of acid lying around?” demanded John as he expertly flipped the second pancake.

“What acid?” asked Sherlock nonchalantly as he picked up John’s first creation with his bare hands and stuffed it unceremoniously into his mouth.

“Forget it,” said Martin as he rummaged through the draining rack looking for a second clean plate, “I shouldn’t have let my guard down. Living with normal people for the past nine years has really dulled my Sherly-senses.”

“Your what?” asked John whipping his head back to look at Martin.

“Oh, you know how Spiderman always goes: my spidey-senses are tingling? I’ve got Sherly-senses, they tingle when a Sherlock-related disaster is about to happen.”

John burst out laughing at the idea but Sherlock remained completely oblivious to the cultural reference; he had most likely deleted any information regarding comic book superheroes before he left primary school.

“I’d like to have some of those,” said John as he tossed the second pancake onto the only available clean plate, “It would greatly increase my life expectancy.”

Sherlock, having devoured one pancake, moved over to stand by John’s shoulder, whilst he poured another batch of rather lumpy batter into the pan.

“Your method of pancake production is highly inefficient,” stated the detective as he reached out his lanky arms to grab the second plate, “If Martin were to heat up a second pan the production rate would increase by forty five percent.”

“Give it a break, Sherlock,” said John languidly, “It's the weekend, there’s nothing on...”

“Wrong!” snapped Sherlock as he succeeded in stealing another pancake, “We need to go to the morgue - Martin, go change before you are arrested for public indecency.”

“I’m not the one wearing a dressing gown,” protested Martin, “And how many times do I have to say I’m not going to the morgue with you! Honestly, every time I come to stay, all Sherlock wants to do is to drag me to see dead bodies.”

“He does spend a great deal of time there,” said John, “He drives Molly insane.”

“Molly?” asked Martin in a tone that was more angry than curious, “Who’s Molly?”

After two seconds of fierce suspicion, Martin apparently reached a very unsavoury conclusion.

“This is another one of yours and Mycroft’s ridiculous attempts to set me up with someone!” snapped Martin indignantly as he pulled himself up to his full, but rather unimpressive, height.

“Hardly,” retorted the detective in his most apathetic tone, “She’s just a mortician who happens to have no social life.”

“Stop,” said John decisively as he sensed another argument of Holmesian proportions brewing on the horizon, “Sherlock, unless you have a legitimate reason to visit the morgue, shut up and stop eating all the pancakes – Martin, you seriously do need to clean yourself up before you single-handily bring the piloting profession into disrepute.”

“I’m not eating all the pancakes,” protested Sherlock as he slid the empty plate he was carrying onto the kitchen bench, “And I do have a case – Lestrade texted me this morning.”

“I’m not meeting this girl – I do not need my big brothers playing matchmakers in my life!” protested Martin sounding very much like Sherlock when he was on the verge of entering another epic sulk.

“Okay,” replied John trying to placate Martin, “You can stay here and clean up the kitchen.”

“I –” Martin looked set to disagree but then his conscience seemed to get the better of him.

“No time!” snapped Sherlock, suddenly shedding his apathetic attitude and regaining his usual frenzied energy, “We need to leave now.”

John could do very little defend himself when, out of the blue, Sherlock shoved a jumper over his head and tried clumsily to force his hands into the sleeves.

“Sherlock! I can’t see!”

“Seriously John, I don’t understand why the day of the week should have such a large effect on your general efficiency. You should be dressed by now and out of the flat,” grumbled Sherlock as John waved his spatula furiously in the air whilst issuing muffled threats from under the thick woolly material.

“Drop the spatula,” advised Sherlock, as if he was not the cause of John’s hilarious predicament.

“I’m doing what you said but only so I can punch you more quickly,” snarled John but his face was completely swallowed up by the light blue jumper and the only effect of his threat was to make Martin start laughing.

By the time John had struggled into his jumper, Sherlock had wisely retreated into the living room and Martin, after one murderous look from John, sobered up impressively quickly.

“Martin can have the last pancake,” said Sherlock swiftly as he pretended not to be affected by John’s glare, “Just make me a jam sandwich instead.”

The spatula, which John had temporarily relinquished, came flying towards Sherlock’s head with deadly accuracy and astounding speed. The detective did not try to duck; he picked up John’s laptop and allowed it to be splattered with pancake mixture instead.

 

When they finally left the flat, John was giving Sherlock the cold shoulder, but the detective appeared not be phased in the slightest; he spent much of the taxi ride relating the finer – and more gruesome – points of the police case he had been given.

A young woman, barely out of her teens and most likely a prostitute, had been murdered in Whitechapel in the early hours of the morning just metres away from the entrance to a crowded pub. It was a community support officer who had found her mutilated body. According to her statement, the victim had had her throat cut so deeply that the bones in her neck could be clearly seen.

 Martin looked distinctively uncomfortable at Sherlock’s fascinated tone as he described in great detail each and every cut mark the victim had sustained. By the time they arrived at the entrance to Bart’s morgue, John was almost at the end of his tether.

“Hurry up,” said Sherlock sounding far too excited about the prospect of examining a corpse, “We need to inspect the corpse before those meddlesome pathologists get their incompetent-“

Before Sherlock had the chance to use a more colour adjective, Molly Hooper came charging around the corner clutching a precariously stacked pile of medical notes. Ever the agile detective, Sherlock merely stepped aside with feline grace, allowing Molly to collide spectacularly with Martin. Coloured sheets of paper burst into the air and then fluttered down gently around the dazed pair.

“I’m so sorry,” squealed Martin as he dusted himself off in his usual flustered manner.

“No – no it was my fault,” said Molly as she scrambled about on the floor trying to retrieve her fallen notes.

Martin gallantly dropped down onto all fours to help but only managed to make things more difficult by getting in Molly’s way. It was only a matter of moments before Martin’s forehead collided with Molly’s nose. There was a particularly nasty crunch and a cry of surprise as Molly went tumbling backwards onto the floor. A stunned Martin stared incoherently at her prone form, whilst a large red mark started to spread across his forehead.

“Jesus, Molly!” exclaimed John as he rushed to her aid. She was clutching her nose with pain; a small trickle of blood had escaped through her fingers.

“I’m – I’m” stuttered Martin, “So sorry.”

 “It’s not broken,” reassured Molly, although her strangled tone suggested otherwise.

“I’ll take you to the hospital,” offered Martin hastily.

“We’re at the hospital,” stated John, trying not to sound too patronizing, “You can take her down to accident and emergency.”

“Yes, yes, I’m so sorry[.]”

“Stop apologising,” snapped Sherlock, who was standing to one side, watching the drama unfold with disinterest.

“It would help if you actually lent a hand,” said John pointedly, as he produced a packet of tissues for the still bleeding Molly.

“There are two of you, I think it’s more than enough. Now, Molly, give me your card, I need to see the -"

“Just stop right there!” exclaimed John. It was amazing that after three years of living with the detective, Sherlock could still horrify the doctor with his sheer callousness. “Molly is injured and she needs our help. This is not the cue for you to ransack her morgue.”

“I don’t mind,” muttered Molly though her voice was now almost incomprehensible, “Go ahead, Sherlock, the door’s propped open.”

“No – just wait a moment-" protested John.

“Come, John – we have a case to solve,” said Sherlock imperiously as he strolled casually past Molly and Martin without a second glance.

“You’re unbelievable,” snapped John “just utterly-"

He didn’t have a chance to properly upbraid the detective because Sherlock grabbed the back of John’s shirt collar as he walked past and physically hauled his flatmate through the open doors.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10 – Love is a Much Mangled Thing

The body lying motionless on the slab was respectably covered with a white sheet but even from several feet away the swollen features and the blue protruding tongue were enough to stop John in his tracks. All thoughts of berating Sherlock were instantly chased from his mind by the horrific imagine of the mutilated corpse.

“Sherlock! Jesus – what – happened?” demanded John leaning against the wall for support has he took several deep breaths to quail the wave of nausea rising in his throat.

“I told you,” replied the detective nonchalantly, “Lestrade had an interesting case. It appears we weren’t fast enough,” he threw John a mildly accusing look and continued unperturbed; “the morticians have washed down the corpse against my explicit instructions.”

“She looked worse than that – before?” asked John breathlessly.

“I assume so given that she was stabbed 38 times with a penknife and then once with a bayonet or other large long implement.”

“A bayonet?” gasped John,

“Or other long sharp implement – do keep up, John,” sighed Sherlock sounding exasperated.

“Why! – why?”

“Two excellent questions,” responded Sherlock, his lips quirking into a smile, “but first we need to examine the evidence.”

With a flourish, the consulting detective whipped the cover sheet off the corpse like a magician revealing the finale to his show. John resisted the urge to gag as he saw with vivid clarity the terrifying injuries that have been ferociously curved into the victim's ivory flesh. Her body was strewn with deep inch-wide wounds that still had layers of dark blood clinging to their jagged edges. In the middle of her chest, like the centrepiece to a grisly art display, was a huge gash extending right down to the breast bone. Despite his years in the armed forces and the horrific injuries he had helped to treat, the sheer malevolence of this murder was truly horrified John.

“The woman – clearly it’s a woman – is between eighteen and twenty five,” mused Sherlock seeming unaffected by the horrific sight in front of him. “Recently destitute, divorced, at least two children -,”

“-Wait,” said John putting up both his hands to halt Sherlock’s rapid deductions, “how -,”

“Elementary, my dear John – her left ring finger has a slightly lighter band of skin, clearly wedding ring but it’s been removed for a while, so divorce. The ring was expensive – she wore it in a bag around her neck, again notice the skin colour, but it’s not there anymore and yet she still has the bag.” Sherlock gestured swiftly towards a clear plastic container sitting on the table besides the corpse which John had failed to notice,

“So pawned or sold – recent destitution. The fact that she kept it shows sentiment – he left her. The stretch marks on her stomach – two distinct sets of different sizes: at least two separate pregnancies, maybe more. I have been reliably informed that after three pregnancies women no longer suffer from stretch marks given that their skin remains permanently extended.”

Even after hearing Sherlock’s deductions countless times, John still could not contain his amazement when Sherlock fired out ideas with such speed and ferocity.

“That’s -,”

“Brilliant? I know,” stated Sherlock arrogantly, “she’s also an alcoholic with decompensate liver disease, notice the large number of spider naevi on her torso and the extensive bruising around her wounds.”

Now that Sherlock had pointed them out, the signs looked very familiar to John from the years he had spent as a junior doctor, treating the endless line of destitute alcoholics that frequented Bart’s hospital.

“She’s only at most twenty-five,” muttered John, “she must have been drinking heavily for the past ten years…”

“Exactly – young mother, most likely two teenage pregnancies, from a poor socio-economic background, came to London for a better life…from Liverpool.”

“What?” asked John wondering how on earth Sherlock managed to figure that last detail.

“Train ticket found on the body, John –  open return to Lime Street Station and correspondence to an address in Liverpool, unopened and dated within the last week.”

“So she has a house in Liverpool?”

“No – her family have a house in Liverpool, the correspondences are always specifically addressed to her but none of them are utility bills. She doesn’t have a permanent address in London but is never the less far too clean for a homeless woman - most likely sleep on friends sofas, squats or uses a woman’s shelter.”

“Violent ex?”

“Possibly, no bruising consistent with assault before the murder – murderer probably didn’t even touch her with his own hands. Excessive amount of wounds suggests frenzy and anger, though, but use of a weapon suggests some emotional distance…”

“Psychopath?”

“More likely borderline personality disorder – these people form intense relationships that inevitably break down and leaving them mentally unstable.”

“Wait, are we talking about the victim or the murderers?”

“Murderer single, John,” snapped Sherlock impatiently, “do try and keep up. I read that post-coital hormonal changes can affect mental agility but seriously it’s been,” he paused to read his watch, “thirteen hours since we last had sex!”

Despite the fact that they were alone in the morgue, John felt a wave of embarrassment wash over his face. He could only glare menacingly at Sherlock whilst a tidal wave of red swept across his complexion making him blush to the tips of his ears.

“Sherlock,” he hissed, “we can’t discuss that here!”

Sherlock’s impervious expression morphed into something akin to confusion and then contempt. His deep blue eyes suddenly lost their excited sparkle to be replaced by a distant, cold look.

“I see…” replied the detective, turning away slowly to look back at the corpse.

Even though Sherlock’s thoughts were always a mystery to him, after three years of cohabitation John could tell when Sherlock was hurt despite the detective’s seemingly unbreakable façade.

“Sherlock – I didn’t mean it like that...” he stumbled over his thoughts, wanting to explain the sanctity of their relationship but unable to find the right words, “I really loved last night, it was – it was brilliant.”

He waited patiently for a reaction, some kind of acknowledgement from Sherlock but none was forthcoming.

“I just want you to understand that it’s not really appropriate to talk about our love lives in a morgue. It’s not that I’m ashamed of what happened – I’m proud of my decision, Sherlock, and I would never regret starting this relationship.”

Sherlock turned towards him, his long dark coat swaying slightly with the motion.

“Do you mean that?” he asked solemnly, “not just using those words to placate me so that your life would be easier.”

John felt surprised and almost hurt at the accusation – he had at times pandered to Sherlock’s eccentricities to keep the domestic peace but he would never lie about his feelings.


“Everything I tell you about my feelings towards you is true and I stick by it” replied John stoically, “if you find it hard to believe then it’s not my problem.”

A small smile, barely perceptible, curved up one side of Sherlock’s pale lips,

“Well then,” replied the detective with a hint of mischief lurking in his otherwise cold tone, “I’m sure you wouldn’t mind holding the organs for me whilst I do an autopsy?”
Before John even protest at the insane scheme, Sherlock had snapped on a pair of gloves with lightening speed born from years of practice and thrust the poor woman’s liver right into John’s uncovered hands.

 


 

Martin had never met anyone like Molly before; she was sweet with a shy sense of humour that made her even more attractive than he first thought. Despite the blood soaked tampons sticking out of her nose, Martin could not help but find her breathtakingly beautiful. He did not believe in love at first sight but the strange sensation warming his heart was probably the closest he had ever come to this mythical idea.

Molly had insisted that they come to her lab instead of Accident and Emergency because she did not want her friends down in the department asking awkward questions.


“So this is where I work,” said Molly in a nasal tone which Martin found to be completely adorable.

“It’s lovely,” he muttered not really looking around the room because he didn’t want to lose a single second of her beautiful sight.

“Seriously?” she asked both amused and bemused. “Sherlock says it looks like the recreational room at Broadmoor.”

“Oh er – he’s just joking,” replied Martin sheepishly, “Sherlock's got an awful sense of humour."

“I didn’t know he had a younger brother," continued Molly pensively, "but I suppose we don’t really talk much – we’re more like colleagues than friends.”

Martin wasn’t exactly pleased at the whimsical note in Molly’s voice, though he was relieved to know that Molly considered her relationship with Sherlock to be strictly professional.

“So – what do you do down here?” asked Martin as she led him over to her work bench. It was tucked away in a corner of the pathology laboratory, just in front of the large glass windows overlooking the morgue.

“Well, examining patient samples mostly,”

When she saw Martin’s blank expression she decided to clarify, “I shave bits off dead people and then look at them under the microscope. It helps tell us about the cause of death.”

Martin swallowed reflexively and tried to imagine having to shave “bits” off a human corpse. The mere idea of having to touch a deceased person sent uncomfortable spasms through his stomach.

“That’s – nice,” he mumbled, wishing that he could think of another topic of conversation. “How’s that going for you then?”

“Oh I love my job, well apart from the times when you have to cut up children,” said Molly, still sounding as if she had a very bad head cold.

“That – that must be pretty disturbing,” admitted Martin, wondering how his attempts at wooing Dr Hooper had morphed into a discussion about dissecting children. He had never been particularly successful with the opposite sex, though not from lack of trying, but five years at Harrow hadn’t exactly given him a good grounding in how to talk to women. Conversations about dead children, though, had to be an all time low.

As he was racking his brain for something witty and intelligent to kick start their rapport again but the sharp clatter of metal disturbed him from his thoughts.
Molly had leapt towards the window and was now pressed up against the glass. Martin longed to stand right next to her but decided to keep a gentlemanly distance between them.

In the morgue below, he was at first disgusted to see a half dissected corpse laying on one of the metal tables like a butchered piece of meat.
However what was even more disturbing was the sight of Sherlock with his blood stained gloves cupping either side of John’s face whilst he kissed the doctor senseless as John held a pile of entrails in his arms.

Chapter Text

 

Public displays of affection in morgues should be illegal – or at least Martin thought so as he watched with mortified fascination the scene unfolding below. Sherlock did not appear to have noticed that his gloves are covered in bodily fluids from the corpse or that he was currently smearing a trail of viscous yellow liquid all over John’s face. John stood in a trace like state holding an armful of human organs and accepting Sherlock’s ministrations with silent compliance. His logical mind must to have gone into hibernation in order to preserve his sanity.

“Oh dear god,” gasped Molly and one of the blood soak tampons promptly fell out of her nose as if to accentuate her surprise. Martin’s first reaction was to physically block out the grotesque parody of romance playing out beneath them but Molly was already press so tightly against the glass that anyone might think she wanted to get a better view. 

“That doesn’t usually happen, I swear!” protested Martin. “My brother hasn't got necrophilia or anything like that!”

Molly turned to look at him with surprise as if the words “my brother hasn't got necrophilia” implied the exact opposite of what it was intended to mean.

“Seriously,” continued Martin, acutely aware that any chance of a blossoming romance with Molly was now six feet under and pushing up daisies, “it’s not the dead bodies that turn him on!”

Had Douglas Richardson, Martin’s co-pilot and first officer, been around to hear the conversation, he would probably be wheezing with laughter right now.

“Um…” Molly looked rather uncomfortable as she tried to stuff the loose tampon back into her left nostril, “…okay,”

“He’s not crazy, our mother had him tested!” insisted Martin. He was not quite sure why he was desperately trying to defend his brother’s sanity to a woman who probably knew Sherlock as well as John did but perhaps he was subconsciously afraid Molly might reject him on account of being related to a crazy man.

Fat chance of that happening, sneered the snide voice in Martin’s head that sounded just like Douglas, you’re enough of a nutcase to put her off yourself.

“Do you want to get some coffee?” asked Molly out of the blue and Martin reeled back in shock. He had been expecting her to throw him unceremoniously out of her lab.

“I’d love to,” he breathed and hoped that he didn’t sound incredibly desperate.

“I’ve only got instant,” muttered Molly somewhat apologetically.

“That’s fine – just fine,” insisted Martin, wondering what saintly deed he had accomplished recently to deserve such an amazing reprieve.


 

 

The staff room for the hospital pathologists resembled a student common room – low padded seats were haphazardly arranged in a circle, whilst a pile of washing up towered over the sink in the small kitchenette build into one wall. The microwave was covered with all manner of stains, some of which looked decidedly non-food like, whilst the coffee machine has to be at least twenty years out of the date.

Molly busied herself finding coffee and Martin boiled the kettle. They worked together in companionable silence and within minutes two steaming mugs of coffee sat on the work surface.

“Milk, sugar?” asked Martin with a pint of whole milk in one hand and the sugar dish, which definitely appeared to contain more than just sugar, in the other.

“No thanks,” replied Molly, still sounding very nasal, “I like my coffee plain.”

“Oh well that’s such a coincidence!” exclaimed Martin, “that’s just the way I like it too.” A moment later he realised how incredibly cheesy the last sentence sounded.  “I wasn’t just saying that to impress you or anything…”

Molly merely smiled sweetly at him and bent down to blow on her coffee. When she looked up at him, he tried to smile back but was caught short by the fact that she now only had one tampon in her nose. The other blood-soaked tampon was calmly bobbing up and down inside her coffee like a small pink teabag, releasing the contents of her nose bleed into the mug.

“Err, Molly…” said Martin hesitantly, not sure how he should go about phrasing the next sentence.

She looked at him expectantly whilst raising the coffee mug to her lips. As she swallowed a large mouthful of coffee, Molly’s expression changed to utter surprise before forcefully spraying an impressive jet of hot coffee all over Martin’s clothes. 

Well, thought Martin as he calmly wiped the beverage from his face at least I wasn't wearing my new Captain's hat. 


 

 

A morgue was definitely been one of the few places that John never had the urge to make out it. He had tried bike sheds, cleaning closets, toilets (public and private), bedrooms, ice staking rinks and even a motion simulator in his youth but none of these previous incidents could compare to the breathtaking kiss he had just experienced.

Sherlock was already concentrating on the body again. The infernal detective seemed to be able to switch off his personal life like a light and refocus on his work in an instant, whilst John was still hyperventilating. He dumped the internal organs he had been holding into a metal dish and took a few moments to catch his breath. Thankfully the morgue was empty and devoid of cameras; John did not want to know whether they had potentially broken any laws but they had certainly committed a crime against decency.

“Look!” exclaimed Sherlock, as he emptied the contents of a plastic bag into another metal tray. He was evidently very excited by the new finding, all thoughts of what had transpired just a few moments ago had evapourated from his mind. The tray contained a few precious possessions of the deceased woman – a set of keys, a crumpled photograph of two small children and a round red and white token.

 “What is it?” asked John, peering down into the metal tray. He was used to Sherlock's caparious moods and he refused to believe that he could be offended by the detective bursque attitude to their shared intimacy. 

“A gambling chip,” said Sherlock as he picked up the small perfectly circular token, “worth over fifty thousand pounds.”

John stared incredulously at the detective, all thoughts of their kiss completely forgotten in the wake of this astonishing discovering. He wondered for a moment if Sherlock had suddenly developed a treacherous sense of humour. He wouldn’t have been more surprised if the infuriating man turned around and shout “sucker!” at the top of his voice.

“You must be joking,” whispered John, “that thing is worth a small fortune?”

“Only if we cash it in at the right establishment,” replied Sherlock with a small smile, “I think we have just found the motive.”

It was rather generous of Sherlock to include John in his discovery, give that all John had done so far was hold a bunch of mangled organs and sort of consent to be kissed senseless.

“How did she get hold of something like that?” asked John. Sherlock spun around instantly, his coat flapping out behind him in a dramatic fashion worthy of all great stage actors, and his eyes dancing with excitement.

“Right in one, John - we have a case!” exclaimed Sherlock, “I had a feeling this was not going to be one of those boring run of the mill type murders…isn't this just wonderful?”

The corpse lying on the morgue slab did not seem to agree.


 

 

By the time Lestrade turned up alone in his police car, Sherlock had already gleaned enough from the corpse to “allow” the pathologists to finish their forensic autopsy. Molly looked slightly flustered as she hurriedly slotted the woman’s internal organs back into their rightful place. Whilst Martin hovered in the doorway of the morgue looking distinctly green.

John wondered whether Martin and Molly had enjoyed a more conventional time together but judging by Molly’s bright red cheeks and the conspicuous wet stain across Martin’s t-shirt, it had not been so.

Beside the corpse, Sherlock was pouring out his deductions in a continuous verbal torrent of information while Lestrade concentrated on taking it all in.

“I’m guessing this woman won fifty thousand pounds, hid the chip in her underwear and was subsequently murdered by some very sore losers who wanted their money back?” concluded Lestrade after the tidal wave of information had finished washing over them all.

“No!” snapped Sherlock, “you’ve got it all wrong. Look at the token,” Sherlock shoved the offending object under Lestrade’s nose in the same way other men would point guns, “it’s brand new, there’s still a layer of waxy substance on the surface from when the chip was manufactured. Normally this would rub off within one round of play at the tables.”

“So, our murder victim didn’t win this through gambling,”

Sherlock rolled his eyes in frustration:

“Single mother of two, unemployed and on benefits – where would she get the money to play for such high stakes? She evidently went to buy chips for someone else – but not for the purposes of gambling.”

When Lestrade failed to respond, the detective became even more agitated.

Think! Why would anyone want to exchange money for a casino chip that they never intended to use?”

Realisation dawned on Lestrade and he quickly disentangled the token from Sherlock’s hands.

“So our victim was probably part of a criminal organisation that used a casino as bank and a money laundering system for their ill gotten gains.”

“Exactly. The chip is a receipt; it allows the money to be collected at some point in the future.”

“Well what I want to know it which casino,” replied Lestrade as he turned the token over in his hand, “there doesn’t appear to be anything to help us on this chip.”

“Every casino has a unique set of chips; you merely have to match the artwork to the right establishment,”

“Got any clues on where to start?” demanded Lestrade still staring down on the small ceramic circle that was worth more than his annual salary.  

Sherlock smiled,

“I would say Monaco,”

Seriously?” Lestrade had evidently been hoping that this case would be confined to his normal jurisdiction. Now it would seem that he was going to have the nightmare of dealing with a foreign police force that probably would not have the decency to speak proper English.

“The casinos in Monaco are the only ones in the world that issue chips for sums as large as sixty thousand Euros. Everywhere else, for sums of this magnitude casinos use plaques.”

“How exactly am I going to get to Monaco? The Met budget is not about to stretch to giving the entire CID team a free holiday, not to mention the two of you.”

“Well,” Sherlock suddenly looked like a particularly satisfied feline, “I do happen to know a small charter airline who have very competitive prices.”