Sherlock ignored his mother as she called after him. He left it to Mycroft to explain. He had other business here.
He crossed the yard, out the gate, and on to the rather unkempt grounds beyond. There was no path, but he knew the way. He'd been here – done this – before.
The first time there had still been dozens of hives. Grandmere explained the custom to him, declaring it ridiculous even as she told the bees of her husband's passing.
“We don't do it because it means something to them. Nor to the dead. We do it for us. Telling them is only acknowledging the truth aloud. It helps us to move on. To face it and focus on what remains, on what comes next.”
He'd been alone the second time, after Redbeard. There were only a handful of hives then.
He hadn't come when Ford had been killed, and regretted it still.
There was still one hive in the clearing.
Sherlock took off a glove and laid his bare hand on the wooden box. It hummed under his fingertips.
“I'm dead,” he whispered. “Suicide. He believes it, which makes it true. True enough to hide behind, at any rate. There is work to do, to keep them safe. When it is done, if should I survive … I will come back.”
Thanks to SailOnSilverGirl, kate221b, and sevenpercent for loaning me their eyeballs.
Illustration of Sherlock at the bee hive by willietheplaidjacket :)
For this chapter, and at least one more, there will be linked background fics posted. I'm sure you can figure out which minor detail here calls for a major bit of filling in :)
“... is dead.”
“I know that was hard for you John, but saying it will help you come to terms with his death. The first time is the hardest.”
“I 'came to terms' with it when I saw him fucking fall. Sorry. Sorry. I'm so sorry.”
“Anger is normal.”
“Yeah. Sorry … So, uh, that's not the first time. That I've said it, I mean.”
“Good, John. That's good. It will take time, of course, but it will get easier.”
“Was actually easier the first time, I think.”
“Oh? Why do you suppose that is?”
“I'm not sure.”
“When did you say it?”
“A couple days ago. Tuesday, I think?”
“I don't know, really. It just sort of … happened.”
“Can you tell me about it?”
“I … yeah. Sure. I was at the cemetery. Not- Not the one where he's buried. Paddington Old Cemetery. I was just. Just wandering, I guess. There was a woman there, looking after a hive box. They have those there. I couldn't look away. She saw me watching. Chatted. At me, mostly. I didn't respond. She told me.”
“Told you what?”
“To tell them. An old custom, apparently, to share the news. They don't listen, but that's maybe what makes it easier. So I told them.”
“The bees. I told the bees.”
A/N: Virtual biscuits and tea to SailOnSilverGirl, kate221b, and sevenpercent for their assistance. The next update should be in about a week. Between now and then I hope to post a linked story with a bit of background on a minor detail from Chapter 1.
The first line in the chapter above comes directly from a scene in TRF. You'll know the one.
Sherlock glanced up from the man bleeding out at his feet to where a striped insect flung herself repeatedly against the window. He could hardly hear her frantic hum over the oddly distant roaring in his head.
He was surprised at the impulse to speak to her. To unburden himself.
His lip curled at the thought. He wasn't seeking forgiveness. He wasn't sorry for what he'd done, though having committed murder sat more uncomfortably with him than he'd expected.
He'd handed nearly a score of Moriarty's associates over to local law enforcement, and another handful directly to Mycroft. They didn't matter. This one - who'd accepted a contract on an elderly London woman - did. And the one Mycroft held, captured by Donovan of all people ...
And one other.
Satisfaction was fleeting. Disquiet hovered around the edges, like the frenetic buzzing of the bee trying so hard to escape. To return home.
He could not afford the distraction of sentiment. He needed to focus. The mission was unfinished.
“I killed him. I'm not sorry.”
It was not a lie.
“Tell them for me.”
Sherlock opened the window. He watched as the bee knocked against the glass a few more times before finding the exit. The droning in his head did not diminish. A hand touched to his ringing ear came away bloody.
Hot chocolate with all the marshmallows for SailOnSilvergirl, Sevenpercent, kate221b, and Ghyllwyne.
Illustration provided by the fabulous Johix.
“John! Hello! This is a surprise.”
“A pleasant one, I hope.”
“Yes, of course! How've you been?”
“Yeah, well. The truth makes people uncomfortable.”
“I'd still rather hear it.”
“In that case, bloody awful.”
“But getting better?”
“Yeah. I suppose I must be.”
“I'm glad. So, what brings you by? I heard you'd moved?”
"I did, yeah. Couldn't stay. I'm in Ealing, now. There's a clinic nearby that's hiring, and I could do with the work.”
“Do you want a reference?”
“Yes, actually. I know I was never a model employee, always running off ...”
“But you are a good doctor.”
“Ta. I like to think so.”
“Go on and give them my name.”
“I appreciate it, Sarah. Oh, here, I brought this for you.”
“Tombstone Honey. Been volunteering with the beekeepers at Paddington Old Cemetery.”
“I'd heard that they kept hives there, though I hadn't considered what they did with the honey. Seems a bit ... macabre.”
“Well, you're thinking about what's in the ground, rather than what's above. That's the bit that matters. Air, and light, and stories shared with the hives. Gives this honey a melancholy flavor. Makes it sweeter, I think.”
“About the dead. And the living. Regret, and gratitude. The bees hear all the stories we tell, those of us left behind.”
Thanks again to Sevenpercent, SailOnSilvergirl, Ghyllwyne, and kate221b for the loan of their eyeballs. The next chapter should be up Friday or Saturday.
The fantastic willietheplaidjacket has done another illustration for this fic - woot! It can be seen here.
Sherlock left Mycroft's man to make the arrest. The leader of Moriarty's southeast Asian network held little personal interest for Sherlock. Only his information was important. Sherlock strode, unseeing, through lush greenery, visualizing connections and fitting together pieces of the puzzle.
A heavy, droning sound pulled at his attention. He slowed without realizing it. The source of the sound blundered into him, bouncing gently away and continuing to the flowers along the walk.
It was blue.
Xylocopa caerulea. He'd read about them, but never seen one before.
The blue bee buzzed about the plants, lumbering charmingly among the blossoms. Sherlock found himself kneeling at the edge of the path, one hand holding back the foliage while he tried to take a picture with his phone. The bee landed on his finger, almost posing for the shot.
Sherlock realized that he was smiling. The expression felt foreign.
“It's not the same, talking to you,” he said to the bee as it danced drunkenly amidst the flowers. “No hive to share in the news of a job well done, nor the frustration with its interminable duration,” his bitter tone turned melancholy. “No. You're alone. Solitary. You're designed for it. You can't appreciate that things could possibly be any other way.”
“I can. I do. Now.”
He rose and turned away.
“My burden to bear.”
A/N: Thank you to SailOnSilvergirl, Ghyllwyne, and Sevenpercent :)
If you missed it, I posted a connected fic that provides background for a detail from back in chapter 1. It's called 'Fraternity'. Another background fic is in the works for a detail in chapter 3.
The next chapter of this work should be up sometime late Monday. Thanks for reading!
“Whatever it is you want, Mycroft, the answer is 'piss off'.”
“What if I don't want anything?”
“Oh, well, in that case, the answer is 'piss off'.”
“I came to offer you something. For you new … pastime.”
“I don't want it.”
“You don't know what it is.”
“I don't have to. How do you even know about this?”
“Was I not meant to?”
“I guess not. You know everything. Except not to stand in the flight path. Move, or be stung.”
“My concern is for the bees, Mycroft. Not for you.”
“You know, bees fascinated Sherlock. That they hold a similar attraction to you was a surprising discovery.”
“Another thing I should have known about him.”
“The evidence is all over the flat.”
“Ta. … He had a bee print ...”
“And several books on the subject, yes. Always said he'd keep bees someday. Insisted that Mummy keep our grandfather's old equipment. It's been in storage for years, waiting. For you, apparently.”
“Not because I don't want it, Mycroft. You knew I would, or you wouldn't have offered.”
“I'm giving them up.”
“Whatever for? You've clearly been enjoying working with them.”
“I have, yes. I needed this. Them. But. Mary's allergic.”
“It's serious, then? Your relationship?”
A/N: Thanks to the usual suspects - Sevenpercent, SailOnSilvergirl, and kate221b. The next chapter should be up late Friday or early Saturday.
Chapter 7: All that matters
This fic has strong ties back to the story Mycroft told John in 'Fraternity'. This stands alone, but might make more sense if you read that bit of backstory.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Doubled over, clutching his stomach, tears streaming down his face, Sherlock laughed.
He didn't have time for hysteria, but the absurdity of the situation demanded release.
He stood on an overgrown dirt track, ten feet from the target he'd raced to reach. His pursuers weren't close, but between the dogs and thermal imaging, he estimated his chances of escape at less than four percent. But he didn't have to escape - he just had to make the drop.
The abandoned car before him, rusted, rotting, and filled with bees, was the drop location.
Sherlock sobered, drawing in a ragged breath. He straightened and moved toward the car. Pulling his phone from his pocket he took a photo, texted it, and switched the phone off.
“I will be captured soon,” he said calmly, positioning the phone at the gap in the rotted gasket that served as an entrance to the hive. “I am unlikely to survive the Baron's hospitality.”
He slid the phone gently through the opening and into the car. It fell to the floor, out of sight behind the curtain of honeycomb. The bees buzzed angrily in response.
“Mycroft will send someone for that. He'll get what he needs to finish the mission. Eliminate the last gunman. That's all that matters,” he said, backing away. “I never understood that, before.”
Virtual margaritas for Sevenpercent, Ghyllwyne, and SailOnSilvergirl. To be exchanged for real ones should you show up on my doorstep one day.
“It's all right, you know.”
“Being glad that he's back. That he's alive.”
“Yes you are. You're thrilled, and that terrifies you.”
“I am not bloody terrified.”
“Well, you're doing a good impression of it, then.”
“I'm just saying, it's okay. You've every reason to be angry and hurt, but you should be happy, too. I am.”
“Why's that, then?”
“Because you are alive again, John!”
“I was never dead!”
“You had a pulse, John, but you weren't living, not really. ”
“Found that attractive, did you?”
“John Watson. Do not take that tone with me.”
“Right. Sorry. I'm sorry.”
“To answer your question, no. I found it terrible. You were so sad. Only the bees seemed to be able to cheer you. You'd smile like you meant it after you worked with them.”
“I used to talk to them. Told them about him.”
“I thought that might be the case. I was always a little jealous of them. But you chose me.”
“I did, yeah.”
“You could always tell me, you know. If you wanted to.”
“Tell you what?”
“The stories you told the bees.”
“I'd like to hear them. The unedited versions. Not just how he solved the case, but how you saved the day. You always left that out on your blog.”
Many thanks to SailOnSilvergirl, Ghyllwyne, and Sevenpercent for their beta eyeballs.
I've another chapter ready to post, if anyone's interested ... :D
The bees were quiescent. Not asleep, Sherlock knew, feeling the faint vibration in warm wood of the hive box under his hand. They were using the night to focus their attentions inside, waiting for the day to venture out for nectar, incidentally pollinating the plants and bringing life to the cemetery.
He hadn't been to these hives before, but it felt right. These were the bees John had tended for much of Sherlock's absence, when everything between them had changed.
Sherlock knew it had been laughable to think that things would remain static while he was away. But he could not afford the distraction of the foolish hope that his return would shift their relationship to something … else. In order to focus on the mission – on insuring John's safety and giving him the chance at a future – he had refused to acknowledge those sentiments, allowing himself to look for nothing more than a return to the status quo.
Even that was not to be.
Sherlock sighed and ran his fingertips lightly over the wood. When the sun rose, not only would the bees exit the hive and begin their work, but also, Sherlock would stand at John's side and listen to him pledge himself to Mary.
This was John's future.
“He says it won't change anything. We both know better.”
A/N: Thanks again to SailOnSilvergirl and Ghyllwyne for the use of their brains and eyeballs.
“Oh, John. Hi. Didn't know you were coming by.”
“Didn't know myself, Molly.”
“How was your 'sex holiday'?”
“Oh, Jesus. You read that? I'm going to kill him. As soon as I find him. I stopped by the flat, but he wasn't in. And he's not answering his phone. Thought he might be here.”
“I haven't seen him in a couple days. Sorry. Did you ask Greg?”
“Says Sherlock's working a private case.”
“Have you tried Regent's Park?”
“Why would he be there?”
“He said something about the silence in the flat being distracting. And that the skull wasn't making itself useful? I didn't quite understand that part.”
“I do. But, what's that got to do with the park?”
“They have bees there. White noise, and an audience.”
“Right. Okay. Replaced by bees. Lovely.”
“Are you okay, John? You seem a bit … worked up.”
“Yeah, fine. But, he's out there working alone on God knows what. Bees make good listeners, but they're shit backup. I shouldn't have been away so long.”
“You were on your honeymoon, John.”
“I was. Shouldn't have been, though.”
“Oh. Oh, John. I didn't know. Who would have thought you'd be harder to read than Sherlock Holmes? Does he know? Do … Do you?”
“Yeah, I do. Him? No idea. Jesus, Molly. I've been so blind.”
A/N: All the goodies to Ghyllwyne, SailOnSilvergirl, sevenpercent, and kate221b.
Sherlock opened his eyes, leaving behind the tangled images of his Mind Palace in favor of the overly bright lights and stark white walls of the hospital room. He wasn't sure how much time had passed since he'd been readmitted. The first few days he could remember, then things grew disjointed.
They'd caught the infection early, adding antibiotics to his IV meds. The fever came anyway, and with it, fever dreams.
Sherlock blinked, ignoring the blurry dots that swam before his eyes to focus on John, sleeping slumped over in the hard plastic excuse for a chair, his silvery blond head resting on the mattress just below the side railings, near Sherlock's knee.
Sherlock wondered how John's hair would feel under under his fingertips. He couldn't reach.
He wouldn't want to wake John, anyway.
The fuzzy spots continued to bob around the room. He could almost hear them – an indistinct hum at the edge of perception.
He didn't speak to them for fear of waking John. They weren't real anyway – nothing more than an hallucination brought on by the fever. Their presence was comforting, nonetheless.
He heard a beep from a nearby machine, and felt a rush of drowsiness as his morphine dose hit. Sleep dragged him down before he could turn his thoughts to the threat represented by John's bride.
A/N: Many thanks to SailOnSilvergirl, Ghyllwyne, sevenpercent, and kate221b. Their patience in reading over multiple drafts as I figure out how to say things as concisely as possible and with maximum impact is MUCH appreciated. :)
"Here you are, Greg. Cheers."
"Ta. So. How's himself?"
"Improving. Eager to be out of hospital."
"I'll bet. And you? Working with the bees again, I see."
"Go on, then. Tell me how you know."
"That's not a tyre lever in your pocket."
"Ah. No, it's not. It's a hive tool."
"Yeah. Was helping out a bit today."
"Thought you gave them up?"
"I did. Mary's allergic."
"Was quite a gesture, that. A conspicuous sign of commitment."
"So, what's this a sign of, then?"
"What d'you mean?"
"You're working with the bees again, and you're living here in Baker Street rather than in Ealing with your allergic, pregnant wife."
"Sherlock needs medical supervision. I'm a doctor. Of course I'm here."
"Your patient isn't even here yet."
"I'm where I need to be."
"And where you want to be?"
"I- Yeah. Maybe."
"Your timing needs work, John. Unless …. well. Is this something you'd have wanted even if he hadn't got himself shot, or is this because of something she's done?"
"I'd been looking for him, y'know? To tell him. And when I found him at the drug den … then Janine .. and Magnussen. Then he got shot. Bastard nearly left me again. And she- And I …"
"Bit of both, then."
"Yeah. Jesus, Greg. It's complicated."
A/N: Tremendous thanks to sevenpercent, SailOnSilvergirl, Ghyllwyne, and kate221b. I taxed them heavily with a zillion drafts of this chapter. And what I'm posting is still tweaked from the last version that some of them saw.
Sherlock sat on the fire escape, head leaned back on the railing, eyes closed against the light of the midafternoon sun. Next to him a handful of bees buzzed around the potted lavender that had been Mrs Hudson's welcome home gift. John would plant it in the back when he returned from the shops. After he had words with Sherlock about climbing out the window.
He wasn't trying to escape, this time. There was no reason for that. Everything was out in the open.
It was clear to him that Mary had been placed in John's path. He needed to work out by whom, and for what purpose. Whether Magnussen was involved, or merely an opportunist.
Sherlock had spent more than two years away, tracking the snipers who had targeted his friends, enduring torture and loneliness to ensure their safety. The danger John faced now was far worse than the clean death Moriarty had threatened.
His thoughts slid to John, back in the flat with him, though not the way he hadn't dared to imagine but desperately wanted. A desperation he saw mirrored in John.
They hadn't spoken of it. There was no point. It wasn't safe.
“The only way to keep him alive is to put him in danger,” he said to the bees, his voice breaking.
A/N: many, many thanks to SailOnSilvergirl, Ghyllwyne, sevenpercent, and kate221b.
“I see you've found our hive, John.”
“Oh, Mr. Holmes. Yes. I hope it's okay to be here.”
“Of course. The bees appreciate visitors, especially the ones who talk to them. I haven't nearly as many stories to tell them these days. Not since I retired from the service.”
“Oh. You? I knew that your family had a history ...”
“But you didn't think that meant me? Nobody does. Rather useful to be underestimated, don't you think?”
“I- Yeah. Occasionally.”
“Were you telling them about Mary shooting Sherlock?”
“Oh, bloody hell. You know?”
“I do. Martine doesn't.”
“Ah. Okay. And no, not that. I was telling them about me. How I went haring after the future I was supposed to want, but didn't. Don't.”
“No. God, no.”
“What do you want, then?”
“I want to stay. With him. Doesn't matter, though. He wants me to go.”
“He thinks it will keep me safe.”
“You'd trade happiness for safety?”
“Not mine. His. Staying with her keeps him safe.”
“Idiots, the both of you, each as bad as the other. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that he's right. You need to go back to her. For now.”
“She is a threat to both of you, but she's just a footsoldier, following orders. Take care, John. The real danger is her boss.”
Uncountable thanks to SailOnSilvergirl, sevenpercent, and GhyllWyne.
Head falling back against the cement wall of his cell, Sherlock cursed himself for not seeing the truth sooner. For allowing his desire to discover the engineer behind Mary's presence in their lives to blind him to the facts.
Magnussen had not just been terrified by Mary's armed presence in his office that night, he had been shocked. Whatever he'd had on her, it was not her history as a rogue agent turned assassin.
Nor was it the identity of her employer.
Sherlock'd been rash, chasing after an answer that wasn't there to be found. It lay elsewhere, and by his own actions he was no longer free to find it.
Mycroft would try. His efforts were appreciated, though they would come to naught. His office was compromised.
John would try. Was trying.
Sherlock stroked the front of the notecard John had sent, opened and read before being delivered to him. Written in plain language, their shared experiences the only cipher, the card bearing a cartoon bee told him to be patient, and to be ready.
He didn't deserve the efforts John was going to, plotting and planning with Sherlock's father to turn his blunder to their advantage. He would nevertheless seize any opportunity they managed to procure.
He could only hope that Mary and her employer would take the bait.
A/N: This chapter and the three that follow are last minute insertions. Because why add chapters to the end of a fic when you can put them in the middle? Massive thanks to SailOnSilvergirl and sevenpercent for their lightning fast eyeballs.
“About time one of you came t'see me. Investigatin' Mags' murder, yeah? Thought it'd be Sherl. Wanted t'show him the hives.”
“Sherlock's not available.”
“And not allowed, by the sound of it. It's touching, how possessive y'are. Still, y'could've brought him by.”
“I really couldn't.”
“Oh, please. You've nothing t'worry about. I'm not his type.”
“He can't come. He's in custody.”
“He's in- Oh, the blessed idiot. He didn't, did he?”
“Ready to run tell the papers?”
“I never would. What was he thinking?”
“Magnussen knew things about Mary. Threatened to print them.”
“Mags knew things about everyone.”
“I'm hoping you know some of them.”
“I was hardly his confidant, John. I was under his thumb, too. That's why Sherlock came t'me – he needed an in, and I needed an out.”
“Not his confidant, hers. Mary's.”
“I really didn't know her well.”
“You were her maid of honor.”
“I turned her down, at first. We weren't that close. She said she hadn't anyone else.”
“You don't know anything?”
“I know she takes milk in her coffee.”
“She doesn't like coffee.”
“Could've fooled me, always dragging me t'that coffee shop after pilates. Lovely barista. Gorgeous blue eyes … actually, the baby ...”
“I'm sorry, John.”
“Hardly her biggest betrayal. Doesn't matter. The baby will be cared for. She's not to blame.”
Cupcakes with sprinkles for sevenpercent, SailOnSilvergirl, and GhyllWyne!
Electronic surveillance chafed. Physically it was only mildly uncomfortable. Psychologically the idea of such monitoring was a constant irritant, threatening to distract him from the case.
He needed John.
John's presence would focus him.
John's absence chafed far more than the band on his ankle, but it was necessary. John was with Mary.
Mary's employer had made his move, broadcasting the Moriarty video on every screen in the country in order to recall Sherlock. The stage was set. The sleeper agent in their midst would receive her orders soon. John would be ready.
Sherlock must be, too.
He had to focus.
The video had been traced back to the originating IP address. It had been uploaded via Wi-Fi from somewhere inside this building.
Sherlock looked at the displays in the entomology collection of the Grant Museum. Insects of all kinds, pinned and preserved.
Almost all kinds.
The bees were missing. Every specimen of every species of bee was gone.
It was clearly a calling card of some sort. An indication, perhaps, of the importance bees held for the man behind the video. Behind Mary.
More likely, it was an observation of their significance to Sherlock and John. Further evidence to support the notion that this was personal. That they were being watched. Being targeted.
Someone was trying to make them bleed.
A/N: Ice cream sundaes for sevenpercent, SailOnSilvergirl, and Ghyllwyne!
“What are you doing here, Sally?”
“That's what I came to ask you. Why aren't you with him?”
“He doesn't need-”
“Like hell. He needs you like oxygen, same as you need him.”
“He works better with you. You know that, but you're here. Why?”
“I'm where I need to be.”
“You need to be here? With her? Are you still working with the bees?”
“That's not an answer.”
“Fine. Yes, I am.”
“Right. So, you've got his back, then, same as always. Somehow, you being here is about protecting him. You're keeping him safe.”
“That is a dangerous line of questioning, Sergeant.”
“That's a yes, then.”
“Don't get involved, Sally.”
“You didn't listen when I gave that advice.”
“Not when you called him a psychopath, either.”
“I was wrong, then. I'm right, now. You should be with him.”
“We need eyes on her.”
“I have eyes.”
“It's not safe, Sally.”
“I'll be careful. Go. Help him track down the man behind Moriarty.”
“Behind … Moriarty?”
“Behind the video! Oh, Jesus, John! Sit down before you fall down!”
“I hadn't considered that there might be someone behind him, but… Moriarty was a consultant. People hired him.”
“You think someone sent him to target Sherlock?”
“Maybe the same someone behind Mary. He sent them both.”
A/N: Many thanks to Team Beta for a lot more than their help with this chapter. I appreciate you immensely.
Also, there will be a companion story to Telling the Bees that gives a bit of background for Sally's apparent change of heart. I hope to have it written and posted perhaps within the week. As a tiny clue - there was a hint of what began the shift in her opinion and attitude dropped into chapter 3 of this fic.
The connection between Mary's disappearance and the queen bee specimen delivered to Mycroft's office became clear an instant too late.
Mycroft jerked back, crimson blossoming around a neat hole in his suit jacket. His cigarette slipped from his fingers as he teetered, then toppled over the low wall to the ground ten feet below.
Sherlock vaulted the railing a second behind John, and hit the ground running. If Mycroft was alive, John would do his best to keep him that way. If he was dead, John would be behind Sherlock before he'd taken a dozen steps.
He heard the bullet whistle through the air to strike the brick wall next to him in an explosion of sharp edged fragments. Only the blood obscuring his vision told him he'd been hit.
There was only one place she could be to have made those shots.
He slammed through the doors, darted to the east stairwell, and began to climb. She would be headed down the west stairs, nine months pregnant and burdened with an awkward rifle bag. She could not outrun him.
He reached the fourth floor and raced to the west stairs. He heard the clatter of her steps, then a gasp and a startled cry, ending in a thud.
He found her on the landing two floors down, her neck broken.
A/N: Tea and cucumber sandwiches for my incredibly patient and always helpful betas - sevenpercent, SailOnSilvergirl, GhyllWyne, and kate221b.
“Doctor Watson. I need a report on Mr Holmes' injuries, please.”
“Anthea. Right. His condition is serious, but stable. GSW to the left shoulder, injuries to the head and pelvis consistent with a fall. They've taken him for scans. Have you heard from Sherlock? Is he all right? Did he find Mary?”
“She's in custody, then? I want to be there when she's questioned.”
“She ... won't be answering any questions, I'm afraid.”
“She won't … Is she- ? Oh, God. How?”
“Her neck was broken in a fall down a flight of stairs. Sherlock called 999 when he found her, and performed CPR to try to save the baby.”
“I'm sorry, Doctor Watson.”
“Oh, no. No …”
“Is there someone I can call for you?”
“Sherlock. Please. Just Sherlock”
“Already on his way.”
“Right. I'll just … wait here, then. Christ, what a bloody mess. Who is this bastard after? Everything else has been aimed at Sherlock, but the bee was sent Mycroft. She shot him. Not Sherlock. Not me. Mycroft. But why?”
“No. She could have killed him. She didn't. The placement of the shot was deliberate.”
“To what end?”
“To incapacitate him? Hurt him? That sounds … personal, not political. This is someone seeking retribution.”
“To generate this level of animosity? Betrayal.”
A/N: Thanks beyond measure to SailOnSilvergirl, kate221b, sevenpercent, and GhyllWyne.
I'm still working on the 2nd background fic in this 'verse. If you've not read the first one yet -'Fraternity'- go have a look at it while you wait :)
Sherlock studied the evidence wall. The identity of the man behind Moriarty and Mary, behind targeting Mycroft, behind kidnapping John, was here, hanging just out of reach. It must be.
His gaze fell on the IP address that had led him to the Grant Museum.
There was no message in the numbers, but a shift in punctuation organized them into a different, familiar, pattern.
The date was significant to the Holmes brothers. All of them.
Sherlock whirled. On the mantel, a gift from a dead man grinned.
Certainty coalesced around an impossible truth. The dead man … wasn't.
Snarling, he picked up the skull and hurled it across the room to shatter against the wall.
The print of a bee hanging nearby swayed slightly with the force of the impact. Sherlock smiled grimly. In the mid-February chill, no other bees were available.
"I should have seen that the execution video was fake. That he was alive," Sherlock whispered with regret and self-recrimination. "I should have realized that Moriarty's interest was far too personal. He could have gone anywhere. He came here. Was directed here. Was directed to me."
"I will not let him hurt John. I will find him. I will end this."
Furious, grieving, anxious, and determined, Sherlock left 221b. It was time to go see his brother.
A/N: Thank you to Team Beta. You are the awesome.
If you're unclear on the connection between the skull and the 'dead man', head on over to read 'Fraternity'. It was just supposed to be background when I wrote it. Turns out, there's more going on there than I knew.
“You know, your younger brother's resurrection had more style, and your older brother's got a better kidnapping technique. You win on location though. The observation hive at the London Zoo, yeah? Been meaning to come here.”
“Well done, John. You know the who and the where. Have you worked out the why?”
“You believe Mycroft betrayed you. Don't know why you seemed to focus on punishing Sherlock.”
“His disappearing act diverted attention from uncovering the truth of the faked execution. I spent six years being tortured and abused while he chased the next high.”
“You were dead! He went off the rails because he lost you! He loved you!”
“Imagine what he'll do when he loses you.”
“You will not hurt him again.”
“Brave words, given your circumstances.”
“Circumstances change. Your knot-tying needs work.”
“Oh, you are quite resourceful, aren't you? You are also, however, sadly unarmed.”
“I don't need a weapon.”
“Perhaps not, if your opponent is also unarmed.”
“If you were going to use that, you'd have done it already.”
“The audience for our little drama hasn't arrived yet.”
“I've not quite learned my lines. May have to improvise.”
“You can't seriously think you can win.”
“I believe you can lose.”
“If it costs your life?”
“Worth it, to keep him safe. Bring it on, Ford, you bloody bastard.”
A/N: All the cookies to SailOnSilvergirl, GhyllWyne, and sevenpercent!
John's defeated expression told Sherlock all he needed to know.
Ford, who'd set so many events in motion in a bid for revenge, was dead.
Sherlock had been shocked by the fury and naked hatred with which his brother had regarded him. He'd seen the wrath turn to desperate fear as his Met escorts turned him over to SIS custody.
At his side, Lestrade had seen it, too. He'd tackled Sherlock to the ground, covering him with his own body as Ford had torn free to hurl himself at his brother, shrieking profanities rendered incomprehensible by his mad rage.
Sherlock had heard the gunshot. Felt the silence that followed it.
By the time he'd gotten free of Lestrade, John was already on his knees at Ford's side, putting pressure on the wound and barking orders.
John had tried. In spite of all the grief in his life attributable to Ford – he'd tried.
Sherlock's knees buckled and he sagged against Lestrade's steadying arm. He couldn't say if it was from relief or regret.
There was no activity at the entrance to the observation hive. He could not share the news, even if he could form the words.
It was over. They were safe.
He did not argue as an orange weight settled on his shoulders, accepting the comfort of the shock blanket.
A/N: Many thanks to SailOnSilvergirl, GhyllWyne, and sevenpercent for the use of their eyeballs and grey matter.
“Oh, hello, Mrs Holmes. It's lovely to see you. You've just missed Sherlock. I'm not sure when he'll be back, actually.”
“I came to see you, as well, John.”
“Of course. My boys are alive because of you.”
“Ah. Not Ford. I'm sorry I couldn't save him.”
“He knew what he was doing, throwing himself at Sherlock like that. He didn't want to be saved, not if it meant prison again.”
“Right. Well. I'm relieved you see it that way. I wish Sherlock did.”
“You think he doesn't?”
“He's been avoiding me. I think he's angry with me over Ford's death. Can't forgive me for failing to save him. Now he's lost Ford twice.”
“I think he's been staying away because he worries that you won't forgive him.”
“Because he couldn't save the baby.”
“For her to have had a chance, Mary would have had to survive her fall. And if she had … I regret that the baby died, even if she wasn't mine. But I wouldn't trade her life for Sherlock's. I wonder what that says about me.”
“What does it say about me, John, that I mourn Ford's death, but don't regret it? I would not trade his life for Sherlock's, or Mycroft's. Or yours.”
“I think it makes us human. And doing our best.”
Huge thanks to GhyllWyne and to SailOnSilvergirl. Also, my apologies for posting a day late. RL kept me busy, and exhausted. I've put in 40+ hours at the library shifting and unloading 589 boxes of books in the last 4 days. Photos of the glorious madness that is our 3x a year Friends of the Library book sale can be found on my tumblr. For those who wonder what that many boxes or that many books look like, or just how much of a masochist I am. I'm going to try to squeak in an extra chapter this week as a bonus/apology for allowing silly things like book sales and manual labor get in the way of my posting schedule :)
Sherlock woke with a shout. This nightmare had been especially vivid, and eminently disturbing. Images of the four men he'd killed in his time away, each morphing into John with their final breaths, the army doctor's body bearing fatal wounds inflicted by Sherlock.
John's blood on Sherlock's hands mutating into a writhing mass of dark, stinging bees … Their angry hum not enough to drown out the sound of Ford's laughter.
The creak of his door opening tore his attention from the horrifying vision. John had heard his nightmares in the months he'd stayed here while Sherlock recovered. He'd never before come into Sherlock's room.
The bed sagged as John sat, reaching for Sherlock in the dim light. With John's hands on his shoulders, pulling him close, Sherlock could not stop himself from wrapping his arms around John's waist, burying his face in John's hip.
John was alive. And he was here. It might not be for good, but it was for now, and that would have to be enough.
Sherlock became aware that John was rubbing his back and murmuring to him. He tried to focus on the words, breath catching in a near-sob when he heard them.
“I've got you, Sherlock. We're home, back where we belong. We're safe. I need you to breathe for me, love. Just breathe.”
A/N: Thanks again to Team Beta for the use of their eyes and grey matter. :)
AND LOOK! Did you see? The fabulous anotherwellkeptsecret drew an illustration for this chapter! Gah!
“Here, let me help you, Mrs Hudson.”
“Oh, thank you, John. It's so nice to have you back.”
“I'm glad to be home, though I wish I'd returned under other circumstances.”
“I know you wanted to come back almost as soon as you left.”
“I did, yeah.”
“You've been to see Mycroft?”
“I have. He's doing well. His vision is fully recovered, and his arm continues to improve. They'll get him up to walk soon. He'll have to trade his umbrella for a cane, and I suspect he'll appreciate your herbal soothers.”
“But he'll be able to work?”
“He's already badgering his PA to bring him files. She's refusing.”
“Good girl. Mycroft will be fine.”
“I think he will, yeah.”
“What about him?”
“He seems a bit skittish. I'd have thought having you back would settle him, but it hasn't.”
“I think … well. I know he thinks it's temporary.”
“No. I've told him as much. He still expects me to 'come to my senses' and leave.”
“Perhaps you need to show him, dear.”
“Any suggestions on how to do that?”
“I'm sure you'll figure something out.”
“I- Yes. How do you feel about bees, Mrs H?”
“Useful creatures. Treat them with respect or you'll regret it. Why?”
“I think I know how to make him believe.”
A/N: Many thanks to kate221b for her help with med-picking.
Sherlock bounded through the door of the flat, greeted by the sight of Mrs Hudson dusting the blue skull print on the wall. He filtered out her chatter and looked for John, making a mental note to check for his cigarette stash later.
Signs of John's presence were obvious – his coat on the hook, his keys and phone in the dish on the table – but unnecessary. His text, which had left Sherlock vaguely distressed, had indicated he'd be here.
Come home. I've got introductions to make.
Mrs Hudson's words reached him.
“He's on the roof, dear.”
There was more, but Sherlock was already down the hall to his bedroom, out the window to the fire escape, and climbing.
John was on the roof.
His concern became confusion. Introductions on the roof?
As Sherlock reached the last step he stopped and stared. John was on the far side of the roof, facing away. Dressed in white coveralls and heavy gloves, a hat draped with netting sat on his head.
He was surrounded by clouds of bees.
John gently eased the lid of the second of two hive boxes down and stepped back. Moving away from the hives, he began stripping off his gear. He caught sight of Sherlock and his face lit up.
Sherlock thought he'd never seen John smile so brightly.
A/N: Thanks to Team Beta, as always.
Only one chapter to go, then an epilogue. Time to get these boys to their happy ending :)
“There you are. Come here. Let me introduce you.”
“John. What- What is this?”
“Some genius you are.”
“You've got beehives. On the roof.”
“Knew you'd get there in the end.”
“Shut up. Why are there beehives on the roof?”
“The Watson-Holmes honey empire has to start somewhere.”
“Or Holmes-Watson, if you prefer.”
“You plan to keep bees. Here.”
“Of course 'here'. It's where I am. Where I'm staying.”
“Yes, you've said as much.”
“I have, and yet, you've been looking nervous.”
“I wasn't nervous. Maybe I was a little bit concerned, but that's not the same thing.”
“Did … Did you just quote 'The Princess Bride' at me?”
“You made me watch it.”
“Should have made you watch it ages ago. Right after the cabbie and those damned pills.”
“I still maintain that I was right.”
“'Course you do. Git.”
“So. You're staying, then? For the bees.”
“Not for the bees.”
“No. I'm staying because I want to be here, with you. I want this. I want us. I know that you know this. You knew before you sent me back to her.”
“I- I thought … maybe.”
“You thought right.”
“You want us. Together.”
“I do. If that's what you want.”
“You really mean this.”
“I really do. I'm utterly besotted.”
There you have it. The boys have gotten through all the obstacles keeping them apart - including the ones they put in their own way. The only thing left is an epilogue that'll give us some idea of what life is like for our beekeeping consulting duo.
Well, the epilogue and a couple more stories in this 'verse. There are background bits that want to be told ...
Many many many thanks to Team Beta. You've put up with my rewriting zillions of drafts as I looked for the right words to convey emotion and action in a limited space. You've nudged me when things weren't quite right or could be better. You've pointed me to research bits that have helped me write things that are true to life. You've put up with me as I said I had finished the fic only to write back, less than a day later, about the four new chapter ideas I'd had and how they needed to be wedged into the middle of the arc ... Thank. You. :)
And thank you as well to my readers. I appreciate every single hit/kudo/comment so, so, so much. Come over to tumblr and chat with me there, too!
Mike looked up as his office door opened abruptly, smiling as he heard John's admonition to Sherlock.
“It's polite to knock first, you berk.”
“Tedious. Here, Mike. This is for you.”
John shot Mike a wry smile at Sherlock's rudeness as the detective deposited something on Mike's desk with a heavy thunk.
A jar filled with a viscous, golden liquid sat on the stack of papers Mike had been reviewing.
“Hullo, John. Sherlock. What's this then?”
“Honey,” Sherlock replied, the unspoken 'obviously' apparent in his tone.
“From our hives,” John added, stepping closer and catching Sherlock's hand.
Mike caught the look of surprised delight that flashed over Sherlock's face as he glanced down at his fingers tangled with John's. The army doctor didn't miss it either, his face breaking into a dazzling smile as he tugged Sherlock to stand just a bit closer.
“I heard you were keeping bees,” Mike said, picking up the jar and looking at the tag tied around the lid with a bit of twine.
The notation '#1/19, 2016' was printed in Sherlock's neat handwriting, under which were the words 'Thank you' in John's scrawl.
“One of nineteen?” Mike asked, looking up again.
“The first jar of the year, every year, is yours,” John said, smiling.
“A vastly inadequate repayment for your introduction.”
“But it's a beginning.”
A/N: And here we are, at the very end. For a change of pace, this epilogue chapter is told from a different POV. The character who started us down this path is now showing us what he sees when the boys come visiting several months after the events of the last chapter, and what he sees is happiness :)
Willietheplaidjacket, who did an illustration for chapter 1 of this fic, has bookended the story with another bit of art. Our boys are happy, honey is yummy, and Mike is looking a touch smug :)
Thank you, again, to Team Beta. I owe you. Margaritas are on me. Stop by to collect any time!