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You must have deduced enough about my parents from one telephone call with my sister. You were listening. How do I know that? Well, for one, you stopped howling precise observations at the telly. Instead you were just growling 'wrong'.

Look at that. You really did a number on me.

You didn't look at me after I put the phone down, the mechanisms of your mind whirling as you put two and two together. This was a conversation I knew my way around, one I had endured since upper secondary. People didn't like to look into your eyes for a long time. They thought that if they didn't pay attention to the horrors of the world, it would never affect them. They were curious but they were bound by the expected mutter of 'I'm sorry' and 'It will be alright'. Sometimes people were rude, asking why? How? And who do you live with now? As though they can't somehow fathom that we didn't live with anyone, because even with Mum in the house it was as though we had a ghost haunting us instead.

Two ghosts. Two children. And a cold bed with an empty left side.


You stayed silent. You nodded at the phone in my hand. 'Your sister wishes to borrow money you have no desire to lend her,' you remarked, frowning slightly. 'I thought you liked sentiment.'

I wasn't expecting that complete avoidance. I liked it, but at the same time I wished you wanted to talk to me. Because after two decades of pity, I wanted something else. Something brittle to break the ice.

But I pressed my lips together, shook my head, and clenched my hand. It wasn't trembling - never trembles when you're around - but it was still a habit. 'It's complicated, Sherlock,' I sighed. 'Relationships are complicated.'

Your lips twitched in a spasm of a smile. 'Precisely why I choose to avoid them,' you returned smoothly. The smug look disappeared for a moment, eyes flickering back and forth on the floor, then up. Sometimes, I don't know what colour your eyes are.

It's very difficult to remember now, too.

'However, you are quite exceptional,' you told me solemnly. 'You are never complicated.'

I took that as an insult then, but it really wasn't, was it? The great Sherlock Holmes loves complicated, intricate puzzles, but when it comes to feelings he would prefer them to be simple. Unbound. Unformed. Easy. Something to quieten the pounding he must hear in his head.


It was a tumour in his heart. The doctor had no idea what it was until it was too late. It was so rare, so unexpected, that we had various specialists come in to check. When Dad found out, he just nodded grimly and accepted his fate. He didn't protest, or scream, or even throw anything. That wasn't him. He was never violent, even though he could have been. He played rugby in school, and wanted to go professional, only he tore a ligament in his knee. The doctor suggested surgery to remove the tumour before it was too late.

'It'll be alright, John,' he promised with a smile, already slipping under the drugs. 'I'll be fine.' He told me what we both wanted to hear.

Somehow, only twenty, and Harry was already aware of things much greater than a surgeon's confidence and a wife's fragile hope. She turned her back on the doctors, on Dad, on everything. It was the first night she got drunk, really piss-drunk and head-first in the gutter. That was how she avoided reality. My version of it was getting a membership at the firing range, and learning how to use a gun. Learning about control, steady hands, and how the dead focus meant that I couldn't hear Mum's sobbing.

Mycroft's seen the file, doubtless. He knows my father died in surgery. He knows my mother was admitted to a place where 'she'd feel better'. Harry put her there, when I was in the army.


Here's the truth, the bloody awful truth.

I went to medical school to become a doctor, so that I could take matters into my own hands. So that I wouldn't make mistakes, so that if I got through it all, there would be the chance that one less incompetent idiot wasn't holding a scalpel. But as time passed, I couldn't go home, and there was nowhere I could go without running into someone who knew. Someone asked me what I would do next with my career, with all the promise that I showed. There was nowhere further from Harry, from Mum, than Afghanistan. I enrolled myself.

The first time I saved a life, it was a great relief. I had been struggling with Anthony for four hours. His heart stopped twice, but in the end, he surfaced, tear tracks running down his face and a small photograph folded in his front pocket. 

The first time I took a life, I found out how easy it was. A single bullet, and an entire history was erased. No hours of struggling. No tears. Just shock, and silence. I shot five more people within the next minute.

And then I shot someone for you. I shot a bad man, a man who would have killed so many other people. He would have killed you. I saved lives yet to be taken, and it was so easy. Mycroft was right. You are the battlefield, and now I am lost again, with no quiet place, no heaviness of a gun in my hand. Nothing.


No music. No sneers. No burning. No heads in the fridge.