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How Long?

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It's bright. Far, far too bright. But, Sherlock supposes, it isn’t really. It just is to him. A shaky hand pulls back the veil that covers the window pane set into the front door. He peers out, squinting at the early morning light, eyes not used to the starkness of what he is seeing. The glass is frosted, but he can make out the distorted shapes of bushes and trees, and the occasional zooming blur of a car going past. It’s like a painting by Monet.

Monet.

Sherlock grasps the book to his chest with his hand. ‘The works of Claude Monet’. His only saving grace for the last…how long? How long? How long? How long?

A sob rises in his throat but Sherlock supresses it when he remembers he has to be quiet. ‘Be quiet, Sherlock.’ The John in his head says. ‘You got all the way to the front door, so don’t blow it all now’.

The front door. This feels to Sherlock as if this is the best thing he has ever accomplished. None of the cases he used to solve, none of them, can surmount to how much of an achievement this is. He giggles quietly until the John in his head tells him to shut up.

“Sorry, John.” He mutters under his breath, but this only sets him off again. He is talking to John, but it’s not John because he hasn’t seen John in…. how long? How long? How long? How long?

The morning light outside the window is beginning to burn his eyes, so he lowers them to stare at his bare feet, and takes a few steadying breaths to calm down his giggles. Why is he still standing here? He should’ve pulled the door open already and made his escape. God knows how long he’s wanted to do that, but now that he’s here…he feels afraid. Afraid from all sides. Afraid of his kidnapper, afraid of the outside world, afraid of…John. How will John react? Will he be mad that Sherlock left without saying goodbye, even if he had no choice in it?

When did Sherlock get so scared? He never used to be scared of anything, but now he…. he doesn’t know how he feels. Feelings were always difficult and he’s been trapped with his own mind for too long.

‘Sherlock, the only thing you need to do right now is escape and find help. Can you do that?’

He nods and grips the book closer to his chest. Quietly, ever so quietly, he reaches up for the door latch. Blessedly the door opens when he turns the latch down. He almost sobs again in relief. Thank god for his kidnapper’s slacking. Probably took too many drugs this time, Sherlock muses. If only he had given me some, too.

Sherlock.’ The John in his head scolds him.

“Sorry, John.” Sherlock mutters again and gently peels the door open with his dirty fingers. The bright light becomes worse, and Sherlock sucks in a shaky breath as his eyes behold the outside world for the first time in…. How long? How long? How-

‘Sherlock, you need to go now.’

Sherlock jumps, “Sorry John.” He mumbles, and tentatively puts one foot in front of the other and steps over the threshold.

He cannot stop the tears that run down his face as he sets off out of the house and into the street. He’s not entirely sure where he is, which makes him cry harder because he should. The place is suburban, the houses with little lawns at the front. Sherlock didn’t look back at his prison, he probably should, so that when he has to give evidence he will be more useful, but he just can’t.

He spots a street sign. It tells him he is in London, and he sobs once again. A man walking his dog on the other side of the road gives him a weird look. He must look weird, he thinks, with his bare feet and wearing only a flimsy t-shirt and pyjama trousers. His kidnapper had told him numerous times how weird he was, and this man with the dog has just confirmed that he had been right.

Sherlock tries, he really tries, to conjure up his map of London, but his mind palace has been out of service for too long. He had driven it into overdrive and now he can’t quite seem to access it. All that remains is John. John, who has walked with him through the corridors of locked doors with a comforting hand in his when he couldn’t take reality anymore and had to escape from the dark cellar. Well, escape mentally at least. Standing barefoot in the street, Sherlock sniffs, bringing up the sleeve of his shirt to wipe his nose. God knows he’s had to suffer with worse conditions than a snotty shirtsleeve. Blindly he sets off to the left, just wanting to get as far away from his prison as possible. He tries to run, but he is devoid of energy, the adrenaline of fear and hope the only thing keeping him going. He hasn’t been fed in what feels like approximately three days, and has been without nothing but small sips of water for two.

Luckily he stumbles across a phone box, and his immediate thought is to call John. He has never forgotten his number. Not after…How long? How long? How-

‘Sherlock, come on, get a grip. You cannot phone me, no matter how much you want to. You haven’t got any money. You have to call the police.’ John urges.

Sherlock nods, “Sorry, John.”

He can almost feel the hand that would squeeze his arm.

Sniffing back tears he dials the 999 and holds the phone up to his ear.

“Police.” He tells the woman on the other end of the phone, and then to the police service that answers, “please, help me, my name is S-Sherlock Holmes, I’ve been missing for-”

How long?

How long?

How long?

Chapter Text

Sherlock is beginning to shiver. The day is bright but the breeze that is blowing is cold, even inside the telephone box. The woman on the end of the phone is staying with him while he waits for a police officer to come and pick him up. She is saying calming things, things that are meant to soothe, but Sherlock can’t hear her over the static in his ears. He had done it. He had finally done it. He had escaped.

Escaped.

Sherlock sinks to the bottom of the phone box, clutching his book in his hands and letting the phone dangle on the wire. He sobs to himself as he tried to imagine the John in his head stroking his arm, soothing his pains. How long would it be until he could see the real John?

How long?

How long?

How long?                                                                               


 

For Lestrade it was just a crisp, cold morning when he decided he might as well go into work early when he couldn't sleep any longer. He didn’t realise how paramount this day would become in his life until it happened.

“Sir.” Came an immediate and tense voice at his door. Before he had time to call them in his door was already flung open and there Donovan stood, looking flustered and shocked.

“What’s happened?” he asks, dropping his donut and sitting up in his chair.

“It’s…it’s…they…”

“What is it?” he didn’t want to snap, but what had gotten her so flustered?

“We think we’ve found him.”

There was no need for her to clarify who ‘he’ was.

Sherlock.                                                                                              


 

Sherlock has started to wonder whether he might be going into shock or not. Everything around him is bright, far too bright and his head is pounding and his body aching and he grips his book tighter to his chest.

Where was John? Was John coming? No, wait, the Police were coming. Yes, that was right.

‘Just hold on, Sherlock, just keep hidden,’ the John in his head tells him.

Sherlock nods, teeth rattling in his skull. Tears are still trailing down his cheeks and he can’t stop them.

Suddenly there is a knocking on the door of the phone box, a sharp rapping against the flimsy piece of glass.

Sherlock jumps and gasps, staring up at the fuzzy image of a police officer peering in at him, his fluorescent jacket increasing the stinging in Sherlock’s eyes.

“Sherlock Holmes?” the police officer asks through the thin glass, his voice slightly muffled.

Sherlock nods frantically, and attempts to stand up, grasping onto any surface. His legs are quite shaky but he manages to hold himself up and tentatively opens the phone box door.

“Sir, I need you to clarify to me that you are Sherlock Holmes.” The police officer states calmly, taking in Sherlock’s clothing and bare feet and the dirty hands holding onto his Monet book.

Sherlock nods, “Yes, yes I am.”

“Okay, good,” the police officer swallows and clears his throat, “Now if you would come-”

“Wait!” a voice suddenly calls out, cutting the police officer off. Sherlock freezes. He knows that voice, even after…how long? How long? How-

“Sir!” the police officer says, tone surprised. “What are you-“
“It’s okay, I’ll take over from here, thank you very much.” Lestrade tells the police officer as he reaches them, and the man nods and walks off back to his patrol car.

Lestrade is staring at him with shock and what looks to be overwhelming happiness. Sherlock is staring back at him as though he cannot quite believe what he is seeing; the first familiar- the first friendly familiar face he has seen in the past….How long? How long? How long? How-

“Sherlock….it’s….bloody hell it really is….” Lestrade gasps. All of a sudden Sherlock is pulled into a tight hug, squishing both his body and his book.

“My book!” he cries, although he doesn’t know why.

Lestrade pulls back, looking at him confused. He looks Sherlock up and down, as if seeing him properly for the first time. Sherlock doesn’t know what to do, feeling somewhat shamed by the state he is in, so he looks down at his book instead, making sure it’s not damaged in any way.

“…Sherlock,” Lestrade says cautiously. “Let’s get you into the car and see if we can sort you out, shall we?”

Sherlock closes his eyes against the bright light and the pounding in his head and the pity that laces Lestrade’s tone.

“How long?” he mutters.

“Sorry?” Lestrade says, leaning closer.

“How long….have I been…missing?”
Lestrade looks at him with pity again, and Sherlock is feeling too numb and too tired and just too glad to see a familiar face that he doesn’t care

“It’s been…” Lestrade says, but then breaks off before asking, “You don’t know?”

Sherlock shakes his head, clutching his book, “I have no idea.”

Lestrade sucks in a breath, eyeing him sorrowfully, “It’s been five years, Sherlock.”                                                                          


 

Sherlock wasn’t quite sure what was going on. He had asked Lestrade how long he’d been missing, and then he felt the concrete of the pavement beneath his cheek, and then Lestrade’s hands on his body, and he wants to pull back from the touch, wanted to scream and beg because ‘no, no, he didn’t want to, please, please.’

‘It’s okay Sherlock it’s just Lestrade, he won’t hurt you’ His John says.

Sherlock sucks in a breath. “Sorry, John.”

“Sherlock?” Lestrade’s very worried sounding voice calls. Sherlock opens his eyes, staring at the hedges of the suburban houses until he flicks them over to Lestrade’s concerned face. “Sherlock, we need to get you into the car now, okay? We’ll phone your brother and we’ll get you some medical help.”

Brother. Mycroft. God, what he wouldn’t give to see that annoying git’s face. Oh, he realises. He was going to see it. The thought sent a chill through his body and made the pounding in his head throb.

‘You really must not be feeling well if you’re getting excited at the thought of seeing Mycroft’ His John jokes. Sherlock chuckles with him, his hand automatically reaching for the book for reassurance that it was there. His hand grasps the air.

“Where’s my book?” he croaks as Lestrade starts to lift his upper body off the ground.

“Here.” Says another voice, and Sherlock is startled to look up to see Donovan standing over him, her face a mixture of uncomfortable and pitying, holding out his book to him. Sherlock grabs it from her hand and attempts to scramble up, Lestrade helping him when he loses his balance. The moment he is safely upright he searches his book again for damages, shaky fingers scrambling at the pages.

Lestrade and Donovan share a look, one that Sherlock fortunately doesn’t see or he’d drown in shame again, before Lestrade gently leads Sherlock into the back seat of the unmarked, sleek black police car while Donovan settles into the driver’s seat.

Lestrade helps Sherlock with his seat belt and after a moment’s consideration shucks off his thick woolly coat and spreads it over the detective. This nearly sets Sherlock off crying again, the feeling of expensive wool reminding him of his own coat. He has no idea where it went. Probably by his kidnapper with the rest of his belongings when he had first been taken.

The door slams and he jumps at the loud noise, before calming and laying his head against the window and closing his eyes against the bright sunlight. All too bright, too loud, the colours were too loud the light was too-

“Mycroft?” comes Lestrade’s voice. Sherlock listens without moving. “Mycroft calm-yes, yes we’ve got him, yes….okay, right, I will. We’ll be there as soon as possible, okay? Okay, sooner, yes we’ll try. Okay, see you soon.”

Sherlock smirks slightly. Judging by Lestrade’s reaction, his brother had been far from composed. The thought that he had caused his brother worry was, after five years, comforting. Comforting to know that people still cared about him after five years. Would John still care?

The car was put into motion and they sped away.                                                                                      


 

Mycroft moves away from his desk, trying to compose his face and slow his breathing. Five years. Five years of looking, five years of desperately begging his superiors to put more men in his control in order to search for Sherlock, five years of the feeling of failure every time he saw his parents’ shattered faces.

He opens his office door and calls out to Anthea at her desk. “send the car round, I’m returning to my house.”
“Sir?” Anthea looks up from her phone confused.

“And call the medical team, tell them to meet us there.”

Anthea nods, taking this all in her stride as she does every day. “Are you alright Sir?”

Mycroft nods taking in a breath that is much shakier than he would like it to be. “They’ve found my brother.”

Chapter Text

Lestrade’s car slides to a stop in front of Mycroft’s house, and immediately the man himself is out the front door to meet them. Mycroft’s house is large, seated in the high end part of London, near Belgravia, with enough rooms to cater for the medical treatment Sherlock may need after spending five years at the hands of some sadistic bastard. Mycroft’s ability to cater for whatever situation may arise not losing its touch.

Mycroft cannot remember the last time he felt this anxious and impatient, probably because he hasn’t had much experience with these kinds of emotions before, only when dealing with Sherlock. It seems fitting that it is Sherlock’s fault now- wait, no, that didn’t sound right, Sherlock hasn’t done anything wrong.

Shaking himself Mycroft steps forward as Greg climbs out of the car, making a move to open the back seat car door.

As the door opens Mycroft breath catches in his throat as he lays his eyes on his younger brother for the first time in five years. Sherlock is…Damn, Mycroft wishes he was better with emotions because the only way he can think to describe Sherlock’s condition is that this is not how he ever wished to see his little brother look, the person he was supposed to protect. That, and the cold hard facts: Sherlock is seriously malnourished, dehydrated and underweight. The evidence of abuses against his body are as clear as day to Mycroft. Abuses to Sherlock’s mind, however…. Mycroft has no clue to what extent damage may have been caused.

“Sherlock,” he says, helping his brother climb out the car. Sherlock is shaking all over, and his eyes are as wide as an owl’s. The moment Mycroft touches him, he can’t stop the elevation of his own heart rate, the realisation crashes down on him like a tsunami that Sherlock is actually here, flesh and bone beneath his hands.

The moment Sherlock is fully out of the car Mycroft, in a move he will always pretend to regret but secretly never will, pulls Sherlock into a tight hug. They have not hugged since they were young boys, but Sherlock has been missing for five years and Mycroft has been broiling with emotions he does not fully understand and all he knows right now is that he just needs to hold his little brother.

Sherlock does not complain like he would have done in a time long past. Instead Sherlock leans fully into the embrace, his frame thin and gaunt in Mycroft’s hold. Sherlock doesn’t smell bad exactly, Mycroft can tell that his kidnapper had allowed Sherlock to wash two days ago, but there is an earthy scent to him. Sherlock’s hair is slightly longer than usual but not messy, and his face is only slightly covered in stubble. His kidnapper has allowed him some basic human rights, then.

Mycroft can suddenly feel something sharp and heavy pressing against his back. He pulls back and asks Sherlock “What’s that?”

Sherlock brings his arms in front of his chest, and Mycroft can see the book he is clutching in them. “My erm…my book.” He says quietly, cheeks flushing slightly.

Mycroft deduces it in an instant. This book is to Sherlock what a teddy bear might be to a child. This must’ve been the only thing of comfort to him in those five years. The thought makes Mycroft shudder.

All of a sudden Sherlock sways on the spot, arms dropping to his sides, book falling to the pavement. Lestrade is at his side in an instant. He flings an arm around Sherlock’s waist and pulls Sherlock’s left arm over his shoulder. Sherlock moans in pain, sounding barely conscious.

“Mycroft, we need to get him inside and seen to by a medic.” Lestrade orders.

Mycroft nods and swallows the lump in his throat. “Yes, of course Gregory. The medical team is waiting in the drawing room. I’ve had a temporary treatment centre set up in there, and when they are finished we can take Sherlock upstairs into the spare bedroom.”
Greg nods at Mycroft and then towards his car, which drives off into the London traffic. “Donovan.” He explains.

Sherlock mutters something about his book as Greg leads him inside but Mycroft has already picked it up from the dirty pavement.

“Monet?” Mycroft examines the front cover as he follows Greg and Sherlock into his house. “Brother mine, I will enjoy talking about his paintings with you.”                                                                                                


 

Lestrade observes both the Holmes brothers while Sherlock is being checked out by Mycroft’s medical team. The temporary treatment room’s lights have been dimmed since Mycroft had sensed Sherlock’s obvious aversion to bright lights.

“Sometimes Sherlock’s senses get overstimulated, and noises and colours and light become painful.” Mycroft had explained while an emaciated Sherlock was huddled up on the treatment bed.

Now Sherlock sits perched on the edge of the treatment bed. He still wears his tattered pyjamas, but they will need to take off his shirt to examine him. Sherlock holds his Monet book in his left hand. Lestrade thinks he understands why Sherlock is so attached to it: it seems that it had been a comfort to him during his confinement, and that he’s afraid to let it go because he is so scared. The thought makes Greg want to cry, he cannot deny that.

One of the medics approaches Sherlock and calls his name quietly. Sherlock nods and looks up. His forehead is creased and his breathing is erratic, hands convulsively clutching at his book.

“We need to take your shirt off, Mr Holmes.” The medic, a petite blonde woman, says with a small smile.

Sherlock sucks in a shuddery breath but nods. Carefully the blonde medic and another, a male brunette, begin taking off Sherlock’s ratty t-shirt.

Mycroft sighs when he sees the state of Sherlock once the shirt has been removed. Every rib is visible; his collarbone is painfully prominent. Mycroft’s eyes are drawn to Sherlock’s arms and his worst fears are confirmed: track marks. Sherlock’s kidnapper has been drugging him. Sherlock, the ex-druggie, has been forced to use drugs. Which drugs, they do not know yet. A blood test will be taken soon.

As is procedure, the male medic starts to prod as Sherlock’s ribs to determine if any are broken and Sherlock pales suddenly. The trembling in his hands spreads to his entire body and he flinches from the man’s touch. The medic apologises, but as he makes to continue his examination of Sherlock, Sherlock jumps from the treatment bed and scurries to the nearest corner, back against the wall. His eyes are glazed over and tears are threatening to spill from them, hands clutching at his book, almost obsessively stroking over the cover.  

Mycroft’s heart clenches as he witnesses his brother’s mental breakdown. It is obvious to him that Sherlock is experiencing a flashback or something similar, initiated by the male medic’s touch to his bare skin. This tells Mycroft more than he wants to know, and he feels rage and sorrow roll in his stomach like a tsunami.

He holds out a hand to stop both medics from converging on a whimpering Sherlock. He knows that their unfamiliar figures looming over him will only make him feel worse.  Slowly he approaches Sherlock, crouching down to his level before he gets to him, stopping about two feet away.

“Sherlock? It’s alright, it’s me, it’s Mycroft, you’re at my house and no one here is going to hurt you. We only want to help you.” He says calmly, patiently.

Sherlock takes in a sharp and hitching breath and shakes his head. A pitiful whimper escapes his lips and Mycroft’s heart breaks for his brother. He will withstand a stubborn and irritating Sherlock, a younger brother who used to steal all the cake from their house and hide it in his bedroom just to spite Mycroft, but he cannot stand to see his brother so…. broken.

Sherlock looks to be having a conversation with himself. His head turns from left to right and he frowns and makes noises of consternation. Is Sherlock talking to himself? Mycroft wonders, knowing how lost Sherlock can get in his head. Or is it someone else? Someone he has conjured up in his head for comfort? Just as the book acts as a physical comfort?

“Come on, Sherlock,” He says, and his brother looks up at him, eyes glazed over with tears but nothing more. It seems Sherlock has managed to come back to reality.

“Was the medics’ touch too much?” Mycroft asks, and Sherlock nods.

“I’m sorry.” He gulps back tears. His fingers run over the book’s spine. “Please, Mycroft, can I go home?”

Home meaning Baker Street.

Mycroft wishes he could grant Sherlock’s request but he can’t: Sherlock still needs to be properly examined and Mycroft has the resources here to treat him. Plus, Sherlock is probably too exhausted to make the journey back to Baker Street. Mycroft will always do what’s best for Sherlock, and what’s best for Sherlock is for him to stay here in order to rest and receive medical treatment.

“I’m sorry Sherlock,” he says, “we cannot let you back to Baker Street just yet.” It occurs to him that the kidnapper will have noticed Sherlock is missing by now and may be out looking for him. If that is the case, the first place he will look will be Baker Street.

Sherlock nods. “I understand. It’s not safe.” Of course Sherlock understands. He may be in pain and in shock but that doesn’t make him stupid.

“Will you let the medics see to you?” Mycroft asks, to which Sherlock shakes his head, making his curls bob.

“Please, Mycroft.” He pleads. Sherlock and Mycroft make eye contact for a moment and that’s when Mycroft can confirm to himself what Sherlock needs. Or should he say ‘who.’

Mycroft nods and turns to face Greg, who is hovering on the far side of the room. “Gregory, would you be so kind as to phone John Watson to inform him of the situation. Tell him I will have a car pick him up.”

For the first time in five years, Sherlock smiles with happiness.

‘You won’t be needing me for much longer then.’ His John jokes.

He shakes his head. I will always need you, John.

John.                                      


 

“Thank you, Greg.”

John Watson drops his mobile onto his work desk, hands shaky, eyes blurry.

He cannot believe it. He has forced himself to never believe this will happen. Never allowed himself the hope.  His prayers have been answered.

Sherlock.

Chapter Text

John’s hands are in constant movement on his lap, and have been ever since he climbed into the car Mycroft had sent for him.  He feels numb, but his heart is beating faster than normal and he has broken out into a sweat. He feels like crying. He really does. He wonders whether it is the outburst of feelings that he has tried to suppress for years finally bursting free. Feelings of hope and sadness and joy. Sadness over the loss of Sherlock- for five years. Hope from the years he had tried not to get his hopes up, tried not to dream that Sherlock would ever be found. He had begun to believe Sherlock was dead when even Mycroft’s people couldn’t find him. He curses himself for not having more faith in Sherlock that he could escape and could be found.

And Joy.

He feels more joy now than he has ever felt in the two years he has spent with-

No, he can’t think of her now, not when he is focussed on Sherlock.

The car pulls up outside Mycroft’s house and John feels as though his heart and lungs will jump up and out of his throat. The door to the house opens and John sees Anthea waiting for him in the threshold. He sniffs and clenches his fists, preparing himself, before he climbs out of the car and meets Anthea in the doorway.

“Dr Watson.” She says. “Please follow me.”

John nods, takes a deep breath, and follows her down the large corridor.                                                                                          


 

Greg can hear the footsteps in the hall, and he nods to Mycroft. Mycroft is one step ahead of him, however (of course he is), and is already pacing to the door. He carefully opens it and Greg hears him say “Ah, John, thank you for coming” only to be cut off by John before he can say any more.

“Where is he?” John’s voice sounds hoarse.

“Right through here.” Comes Mycroft’s reply.

Suddenly John Watson is through the door. His face is pale to the point of almost being grey but his eyes are red rimmed.

“Where?” he looks to Greg, and Greg indicates towards the corner, where Sherlock has not moved from since they called for John.

John pushes past him but then freezes when his eyes set sight on Sherlock. Greg sees as the breath goes out of him as if he has been punched in the stomach.

Sherlock seems unaware of what is happening, his eyes are glazed over again, but luckily unlike they had been during that flashback he had just experienced. Rather he seems to be dozing off into sleep now, and the sight of Sherlock this…. delicate is one that wrenches at Greg’s heart. God knows what it’s doing to John.

“Sherlock….” John whispers. He walks carefully forward. Of course, John is an ex-army doctor, of course he knows how to deal with people who have gone through great trauma, Greg thinks.

John crouches down as he reaches Sherlock, and gently, ever so gently, he lays a hand on Sherlock’s arm.

“Sherlock.” He says.

Greg looks over to Mycroft as the two friends reunite. Mycroft’s face is as passive as always, but Greg picks up on the small tick in his cheek. He smiles to himself and then turns back to John and Sherlock.                                                                                


 

Sherlock is confused. Very, very confused. He doesn’t like this feeling. He drifts in-between wakefulness and sleep. He remembers that someone is coming. But…. who?

‘Me, Sherlock, I’m coming remember? I’ll be here very soon.’ His John says.

But you’re already here John. Sherlock doesn’t understand. He’s so tired…

‘The real me, Sherlock. I am just something you conjured up as a way to cope with reality.’

Sherlock shakes his head. What is going on?

From far away he can hear a door opening and footsteps hurrying into the room. He frowns. What?

He still feels shaky from whatever reaction he had had to the medic’s touch. He remembers talking to his brother, but he is finding it hard to keep a grasp on reality. Instinctively he clutches his book to himself. It is ironic that he finds comfort in the hard edges.

‘Only you, Sherlock.’  His John smiles, and lays a hand on his arm.

A hand on his arm. He has imagined this numerous times, but this feels different. More….real.

Wait.

He frowns again, focusing on what is going on around him. He grips the book tighter in order to give himself a grip on reality.

“Sherlock.” A voice says, and the strange thing is it sounds exactly like His John but it isn’t His John. Peculiar. He takes in a deep breath and can smell that familiar scent of honey, washing powder and aftershave. He would never, not even after five years, forget that smell.

John.

“Sherlock?” John asks, and this time Sherlock opens his eyes.                                                                         


 

John is sure that his heart and lungs will actually leap out of his throat when he sets his eyes on Sherlock for the first time in five years.

He blinks rapidly and sucks in a breath. He feels winded. It is as if someone has punched him.

Sherlock looks….well, the way Sherlock looks makes Captain John Watson of the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers, a war veteran wounded in action, someone who has battled through PTSD, want to sob. Not just cry, like he had wanted to in the car, but sob hysterically. He had never thought he would see Sherlock look so fragile and…vulnerable, curled up in the corner, eyes shut and brow furrowed. His arms are wrapped tightly around his emaciated frame and he seems to be holding…is that a book?

Suddenly John wants nothing more than to hold his friend, just hold him and comfort him and make him feel better. He moves forward slowly, noticing how Sherlock doesn’t seem to be all quite there. He crouches down in front of his friend- no, screw that, best friend, and places a gentle hand on his arm.

Sherlock is there beneath his fingers, warm flesh and bone- well, he is mostly bone. Sherlock is horrendously underweight. John will fix that. John sucks in a deep breath, clearing the fog of shock from his head. He must be a good friend and good doctor to Sherlock now.

“Sherlock.” He says, but it comes out sounding much more like a whisper than he hoped it would.

John can tell Sherlock has heard, but he looks confused. John waits, hoping Sherlock will gauge who it is and open his eyes. Sherlock sniffs, and his brow creases even more.

“Sherlock?” John asks again.

And this time, Sherlock opens his eyes.

Those eyes. John has never forgotten the stormy, versicolour eyes that have met with his so many times. He remembers how those eyes would pierce through him, reading everything about him in an instant. Now, however, when those eyes meet his, they do not pierce through him like a laser, but instead they seem to radiate both disbelief and then happiness.  The glazed look of sleep disappears like clouds dispersing from a sunny sky. 

“John.” He croaks, looking at him in disbelief.

“Mmhm.” John nods and smiles.

Sherlock sits up slightly. He stares at John intensely. “You’re here.”

John frowns slightly but continues smiling, “Yes, Sherlock, of course I am.”

Sherlock stares at him some more and then suddenly throws his arms around John’s neck and hugs him fiercely.

John stumbles and falls from his crouched position onto his knees. He brings his arms around Sherlock and finds his frame gangly and far too thin. Sherlock holds onto him for a long time. It speaks volumes to John. The self-proclaimed ‘high functioning sociopath’ that John had known five years ago would never have shown such weaknesses, and the fact that Sherlock now clings to him for dear life tells John that whatever it is that Sherlock has been through over the last five years, it has not been pleasant. John only holds Sherlock tighter and squeezes his eyes shut as if he were in pain when Sherlock starts sobbing.

“Shh,” he says, and starts running a hand through Sherlock’s curls. Sherlock sobs harder. His hands are clawing into John’s jacket, and John can feel Sherlock’s tears dripping down his own neck.

Oh, Sherlock.

“John.” Sherlock sobs. John shushes him some more. He looks over to Mycroft and Greg and signals with his head that they should leave the room. Mycroft looks as if he may object but Greg tugs his arm and eventually they both leave. The door closes behind them.

“Sherlock, it’s just you and me.” John says, attempting to pull back so he can look at Sherlock, but Sherlock still holds onto him. “Come on mate, we need to check you’re not seriously injured, then you can rest, okay?”

Eventually Sherlock pulls back. He nods, his head down, and brings up a hand and runs it over his face.

“None of my injuries are life threatening. They were caused in order to inflict pain and…humiliate me.” He says, voice a croak. John sucks in a ragged breath. He doesn’t want to know what torture has been done against his best friend, he doesn’t want to see Sherlock, who should be acting arrogant and stubborn and annoying right now, sobbing.

“They still need to be checked out, I’m sorry.” John sighs, but Sherlock shakes his head.

“It’s not your fault, John.” He stares at the floor still, hands fidgeting in his lap, as if searching for something. Suddenly his head pops up, and his red rimmed and watery eyes look alarmed.

“Have you seen my book?” he asks with urgency.

John frowns. “Your book?”

Sherlock nods, but instead of snapping at John like he would have done five years ago, he looks as if he may burst into tears again.

John is startled by this behaviour. “Alright, alright Sherlock…” he starts looking around, and eventually he spots a book lying under a nearby armchair. He reaches over past Sherlock (who flinches at John’s sudden movements, something that makes John wince) and grabs the book.

He passes it back to Sherlock, who grabs it and hugs it to his chest. John frowns at his behaviour, but he understands it: Sherlock has obviously not been treated well during his captivity, and this book must’ve been the only thing he had been given, maybe to keep him occupied when he wasn’t being….mistreated.

John watches Sherlock for a moment more before he asks, “Can we get the medics in here now?”

Sherlock shakes his head no, and then tentatively asks, “Please, John…can you do it?”
John might have felt uncomfortable about doing a close examination on his best friend in the past, but now he must do what’s best for Sherlock. To make Sherlock feel as safe as he can.

“Okay, of course I will, Sherlock.” He hesitates, “But can I have one of the medics assist me? I’ll need some help.”

Sherlock sniffs and then nods. “The female.”

John nods again, feeling incredible sadness for his best friend. “Okay.”                                                                                          


 

It takes hours to complete the medical examination. What with Sherlock needing a blood test, John had paled at the sight of the track marks on his arms, and then an ultrasound, to check for internal bleeding (despite Sherlock’s claim that there were no serious injuries, they had to check), and after that an x ray. John hated to do it, but he had to ask Sherlock whether there had been any assault of a…sexual nature, to which Sherlock had paled enough to tell John everything he needed to know. John had left it to the female medic to complete that test and had taken himself to Mycroft’s bathroom to throw up the contents of his stomach. He didn’t want to think about it. Didn’t want to think about how any of this had been Sherlock’s reality for years.

Now John sits outside the bathroom while Sherlock has a shower. He had wanted to give Sherlock his privacy, but he was worried that Sherlock might do something….irrational.  He is looking after Sherlock’s book for him, and he studies the front cover as it sits on his lap.

“Monet.” Says a voice from above him, and John looks up to see Greg standing over him. The detective inspector sits down next to him, wrists resting on his knees. “I never knew Sherlock was into art.”

John smiles slightly and runs his hand over the front cover. “I don’t think he really is; he just finds comfort in the book.”

Greg nods, grimacing. The two men sit in silence for a while, the distant sound of the running shower accompanying their thoughts.

“John…” Greg says, sounding hesitant. “Look, we need to get a statement from Sherlock. Mycroft and I are ready and waiting to find these bastards but we really need a statement from Sherlock so we can get this investigation underway.”

John nods, sniffing. “I get it Greg, but first Sherlock needs to have something to eat and drink and then he needs to sleep. Only after that can you take a statement.” He orders.

Greg nods. He knows there is no arguing with John when he’s in ‘Captain John Watson’ mode. And John will do anything to protect Sherlock.

“Doctor Watson?” Comes a hesitant voice, and both John and Greg look up to see the female medic and a very grave looking Mycroft standing over them. The medic holds a file in her hand. Both men stand up.

“We have the test results back.” The medic says. “There was a slight trace of cocaine in Mr Holmes’s blood, but its effects will be minimal by now and it will wear off very soon. The ultrasound showed that there was no internal bleeding or serious damage to any organs, but the x ray showed he has two cracked ribs and slight bruising to the others. We also have the results from the rape kit, and I’m sorry but…there were signs of assault. I’m sorry.”

John puts his head in his hands and tries very, very, very hard not to cry. In the end he gives in.                                                                 


 

On the other side of the door Sherlock sits on the shower floor, knees brought up to his chest and his arms circled around his legs. He rocks slightly. He feels strange not having his book to comfort him, but he couldn’t bring it into the shower.

He tries to access his mind palace, to find something else to help him remain calm, well, as calm as he can be, but he cannot access it, he just keeps wondering around the corridors, pulling on locked doors that won’t open. He can’t even find His John, and the John in real life has given him some privacy by waiting outside the door. He would call for him, but he doesn’t want John to see him cowering in the shower. He starts sobbing again, hating himself for being so…pathetic. Why can’t go back to being as clever as he was before? Being the consulting detective with a quick mind and quick wit. His body throbs and his head starts pounding again as his mind palace tries to forcibly eject him.

Why?

Why?

Why?

Chapter Text

It is late afternoon, and Sherlock has been sleeping for a couple of hours now. John had given him a light sedative. He had also insisted on attaching a saline drip while he did, Sherlock still being far too dehydrated. He had managed to get the detective to eat a little soup before he dozed off, which was something.

Now he sits by Sherlock’s expensive double bed in a comfy armchair, reading Sherlock’s book while he watches over his best friend. He had asked Sherlock for permission to read it, the detective nodding and saying “I trust you, John.”

Sherlock’s attachment to the book was very obvious.

He startles, suddenly remembering that he should call-

Should he call her? He needs to be with Sherlock, but Sherlock is deep asleep, and he supposes he’ll only be gone a few minutes.

John rises from the seat and his leg twinges a bit in pain. He grimaces, but he carefully leans over to stroke a reassuring hand through Sherlock’s hair. He smiles slightly as Sherlock turns into John’s hand, seeking out it’s comfort. John straightens and walks stiffly out of the room and into the corridor. He has no idea where Mycroft and Greg have gone, but he supposes they’re looking into the case while John cares for Sherlock. They’ll probably be urging him to ask Sherlock for a statement soon. Poor Sherlock, as critical as it is, to ask for a statement so soon after his escape seems particularly cruel.

John pulls his mobile out of his jeans pocket and presses number two on his speed dial. Even after all these years, Sherlock is still number one.

The line is ringing but is picked up quickly.

“Hey.”

“Hi, Mary.” John says, and his voice comes out croaky and strained.

“John?” Mary asks, sounding worried. “Are you alright? I haven’t heard from you in a while.”

“Hmmm, yeah.” John says, “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Listen, I errr…I have some news.”
“…What?” Mary sounds even more worried.

“It’s Sherlock, he escaped and I’m with I’m with him now.”
“Oh my god!” Mary exclaims on the other end of the line. “What…? How?” she seems lost for words. John knows the feeling.

“I’m not entirely sure yet, but he’s not in the best of shapes. I’m staying with him, and I’m not sure how long I’ll be or when I’ll be home.”

“Alright, I understand.” John is so grateful for how understanding Mary is. “Do you want me to bring you anything? A change of clothes?”

John shakes his head, and then realises she cannot see him. “No, no, it’s okay, I don’t want to leave Sherlock for any long periods of time. I’m sorry Mary but he’s really not in good condition and he needs me.”

“Okay. Honestly, it’s fine John.”

“You remember I told you about his overbearing brother? Mycroft? I’ll ask him to send someone round to collect some things.”

“Ah, yes, I do. Okay, Love, phone me later if you can?”

“Yes, of course, sorry again, Mary. Thank you…” he hesitates for second thinking of how to speak his gratitude at her accommodating his situation. “You know I love you, right?”

“Of course you love me,” she jokes, “and of course I do. I love you too.”

John chuckles. “I’ll speak later, alright?”

“Alright, bye Love.”                                                                                    


 

When John steps back into Sherlock’s room he notices Sherlock has changed from lying on his back to lying on his side. He is facing John and the doctor is suddenly stunned by how…. well, the only word he can think of to describe Sherlock is beautiful. In the glow of the bedside light Sherlock’s sharp cheekbones are softened, and yet they still look chiselled and defined. Sherlock’s curls lay almost perfectly across his forehead, and his lips are parted slightly in his slumber. John stands almost dumbfounded at Sherlock’s beauty for a long while, before he suddenly comes back to himself. Shit. What is he doing? He has a girlfriend for god’s sake! He and Mary have been together for almost two years, they even live together. And anyway, he is heterosexual. What is he doing?

Suddenly Sherlock shifts on the bed, moaning slightly. His forehead creases. John approaches carefully, well aware that Sherlock is possibly having a nightmare. God knows he understands that.

“Sherlock?” he calls, but the detective is still out cold, not helped by the light sedative.

“Sherlock?” he calls again, only to receive no response. John curses himself. Giving Sherlock a sedative had been a bad idea. Now Sherlock is stuck in a nightmare that he cannot wake himself from.                                                                               


 

He’s in basement again. He is always in the basement. The raggedy blanket and mattress he has been given not thick enough to stop him from feeling the cold seeping in from the concrete ground and the damp, earthy walls. He could hear footsteps ascending to the basement. Sherlock can’t help but shake. He reaches desperately for his Monet book and shoves it under the mattress. He doesn’t want it to be taken away. He needs it. Needs it.

The door is being unlocked, the key is rattling in the lock. Sherlock gasps, trying to stem the tears threatening to spill from his eyes. He can just about deduce that the pressure that the key is being turned in the lock with means He is angry. He is so, so angry.

Sherlock has been bad.

He is so mad.

The door unlocks, and He is suddenly in the room. He switches on the naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

“What the fuck have you done?”

Sherlock would speak, try to apologise, but he knows better than to speak.

A boot comes crashing into his side, and Sherlock yelps. This only makes Him angrier, and so the boot is shoved into side again. This time Sherlock screams as the boot puts even more pressure on his bruised ribs. He feels like he cannot breathe. Like he is suffering.

“For god’s sake Sherlock, I thought you were cleverer than that!” He shouts.

Sherlock nods and gulps back his tears. “I am.” He croaks.

“Don’t talk! You know how I hate you talking!”

Sherlock lets out a sob, and his side is kicked again.

“You are going to be bloody sorry for what you’ve done!” He drags Sherlock onto the mattress, holding both his wrists in a tight grip above his head. Sherlock knows what this means, and he tries and tries to stop sobbing but he cannot supress his body’s tremors.

He doesn’t want this. He’s never wanted this, even though He tells him he should appreciate it, calling him “slut”.

He bears himself for the worst.                                                                                


 

Sherlock is screaming now, saying desperate words like “please”, “stop” and “I’m sorry!” John bites his lip and sucks in a breath.

“Sherlock. You need to wake up.” He calls loudly, and only after the detective does not respond does he reach out a hand and shake his shoulder.

Sherlock’s reaction is a bit not good.

The man bolts upright, eyes wide by unseeing. He seems to be frozen for a moment before he starts sobbing. He curls himself into a little ball on the bed and starts to rock back and forth.

“Sherlock.” John croaks brokenly, feeling as if his heart will both burst out of his chest and shrivel into a ball at the same time.

Suddenly Lestrade and Mycroft are bursting through the door, both looking concerned. Mycroft makes for the bed at seeing his brother so distraught, but John holds out a hand to stop him.

“Don’t! Touching him is a bad idea. I’m not entirely sure he knows where he is.” John speaks from his own experience, and although he knows he cannot compare his own experiences to Sherlock’s, they are both, John is assuming, different from each other’s, he will try anything he can in order to help Sherlock not to feel afraid or in pain.

Mycroft backs up with a guiding hand from Greg, and the two watch anxiously as John tries to prove a soothing presence by Sherlock’s side as his best friend sobs into a pillow. The IV line in his hand is being pulled taut, and John knows that it must be painful for Sherlock. He winces in sympathy

  “Sherlock,” John says, “It’s alright, you’re at Mycroft’s house and with me, John. Come on, turn around, you’re pulling on the IV line.”

Sherlock doesn’t respond, only continues sobbing. Suddenly an idea pops into John’s head and he grabs Sherlock’s Monet Book from the bedside table he had left it on and circles the bed and crouches by Sherlock’s head, making sure he is lower than Sherlock.

“Sherlock, please open your eyes. It’s me, it’s John.”

Sherlock faced is scrunched up, in pain, but he is no longer sobbing, only giving the occasional whimper. He takes deep breath. His cheeks are flushed red and it is nearly two minutes until he finally opens his eyes and looks at John.

“John?” he asks, seeming confused and fearful.

“Yes,” John breathes, “It’s me.”

“John.” Sherlock replies, and this time his voice sounds tearful and upset.

“It’s alright,” John says, even though it isn’t. “It was just a nightmare. Nothing more.”

Sherlock shakes his head in denial. He lets out a shaky breath. “No, it was real. Once.”

John wants to cry himself. He had suspected that Sherlock’s night terror was drawn from memories of his time away but to have this confirmed tells John that what Sherlock has been through has been particularly terrible. And no Lestrade needs Sherlock to talk about it.

Well, John decides, that can wait until Sherlock is ready, and if this incident isn’t enough proof that Sherlock is traumatised then John doesn’t know what will be.

“Here,” John says, and holds Sherlock’s book out to him. Sherlock’s eyes light up and he grabs at it, immediately opening to a dog-eared page, his eyes focussed entirely on it. This confirms that the book must have been some source of comfort for Sherlock during his time as a captive, and John hopes it will also be a comfort now. It seems that way.

John, in a moment of daring, squeezes Sherlock’s spare hand that lays limp on the duvet. Sherlock tenses, but after looking up and seeing that it’s only John he gives John’s hand a squeeze back.

“I’ll always be here.” John whispers to him, and Sherlock nods, looking tearful again. “I’m just going to go and talk to Mycroft, alright?” Sherlock nods again and turns back to his book.

John rises and his knees creak and his joints pop, reminding him he’s not as young as he used to be. He ambles over to Mycroft and Greg, who are quietly muttering under their breath to each other.

“John,” Greg says as he approaches, “we were just-”

“Look.” John says firmly. “I know it is important that you get a statement from Sherlock, Greg, but for god’s sake the man is not very well and I think to push him would be a stupid and terrible mistake.”

Greg looks like he wants to argue back, but he obviously understands what John is saying, as his eyes are full of sympathy and grief.

“John,” Mycroft begins, eyes careful but the emotion in them evident. “I know that Sherlock has been affected, and lord knows I would do anything to change that, but we need Sherlock’s statement in order to catch the bastard that did this.”

John reels a bit at the expletive that comes from Mycroft’s mouth, he has never heard the elder Holmes brother speak so vehemently, but he cannot change his mind on this subject. If Sherlock is harmed further, then he will never forgive himself for letting it happen.

John swallows and takes a breath before speaking, “Mycroft, I understand, alright? God, of course I do! I want nothing more than to punch whoever the bastard is in the face, but we cannot put that much-”

“I’ll do it.” Comes a voice from behind them, and all three men turn to see Sherlock, pale and sweaty, but nonetheless sitting up looking at them with a look of fear mingled with determination in his eyes. There is an obvious battle going on inside his head, and he clutches his book to himself.

“Sherlock-” John begins, tone wary.

“I’ll do it.” Sherlock says again, speaking over John. “I want to.”

Chapter Text

“Sherlock, are you sure?” John asks, taking a step towards Sherlock as his best-friend weakly struggles to lift his legs over the side of the bed. His book is clutched in his left hand, whilst his right hand is coiled into a fist, trembling slightly, highlighting the pain John knows his friend must be in.

“Yes, John.” Sherlock says shakily, and John looks back towards Lestrade and Mycroft, not happy about this at all. Mycroft looks as apprehensive as John feels.

“Brother mine,” Mycroft starts, before being cut off by Sherlock.

“No, Mycroft, please just…let me…get it over with.” Sherlock’s eyes are pleading, face pale.

Mycroft stares at Sherlock for a long time down his pointy nose, but finally he acquiesces, giving a short nod. Sherlock lets out a breath and slumps somewhat into the bedding.

“Okay then,” Greg says, and runs a hand through his ashen hair, “I’ll be back, then, with what I need to conduct the interview properly…” he trails off, as if he too is doubting whether Sherlock will actually go ahead with it, but when no one protests against his words he nods to Mycroft and leaves the room, closing the door quietly.

“I shall leave you to some more rest, brother mine, before we begin.” Mycroft says quietly, before striding from the room.

John turns back to Sherlock, and watches with his ever-present concern as Sherlock struggles at controlling his breathing, at how there seems to be a wild, desperate look in his eyes as he struggles to keep himself from falling into a full-blown panic attack. Slowly and gently, John sits next to Sherlock on the bed and places his hand palm up on the duvet, allowing Sherlock the choice of contact but not forcing it on him, god knows he’s been forced through enough.

John can see Sherlock glancing at John’s hand on the bed out of the corner of his eye, and eventually Sherlock reaches and grabs for it. His hand is sweaty and trembling, reflecting the internal panic which is eating at him from inside out. John gently begins to stroke the back of Sherlock’s hand with his thumb, and eventually Sherlock’s head comes to rest on his shoulder. Shivers still rack Sherlock’s body, but eventually he manages to articulate some of the panic he is feeling.

“I just…want everything back to how it was, John.” He whispers, voice strained and scratchy. “It was so hard to remember my old life when I was…” he sobs as he sucks in a breath, and John can feel the heat radiating from his frail body, the abundance of emotions and physical strain having a negative effect on his body. “There were days, or…or weeks, I don’t know, where it would become harder and harder and I couldn’t remember the smell of our flat or of Mrs Hudson’s baking…” another sob, another dagger to John’s heart, “and even now I still can’t! What is wrong with me John?! What did they do to me?!”

The panic is clearly overwhelming Sherlock, and John knows he must do something now to calm him down or Sherlock might never be able to go through with giving the statement they so desperately need in order to find the bastards who did this.

“Sherlock, it’s fine for you to not be able to remember little things like those, the memory of smells will fade over time, it’s nothing that’s wrong with you that’s causing that.” John reasons, keeping him tone intentionally calm. “None of this is your fault, okay? And we are on the way to having everything as it once was, okay? I promise you it will all be fine, even if it may not feel like it now.”

John is not a professional, and therefore is not positive that his words are the ones suitable for Sherlock to hear, but he draws on past experience from when he was wounded in Afghanistan, and thinks about how he felt then: like the world had come crashing down and he was of no purpose to anyone. Whatever it takes to get Sherlock calm, John will do it.

Sherlock lets out a shaky breath, and john can feel the wetness of tears soaking into his jumper. Oh, Sherlock.

“I don’t feel like me, John.” He rasps, “I’m not like I used to be, I used to be able to remember all the small things, but now my mind palace is under siege and I can’t get in!”

“Sherlock, it’s okay.” John tried to reassure him once again, lightening his tone and gently placing his other hand over Sherlock’s, sandwiching it in his own as a sign of the unity between them. “What you have been through is…horrendous, and there will be repercussions because of it. What you are feeling right now is emotions, and I know you don’t like it, but you’ve got to let yourself feel them before you can get better and get back to being yourself again.”

Sherlock lets out another breath, before whispering, “It’s not that I don’t like emotions, John, I just don’t know how to deal with them.”

John squeezes his eyes shut, the sorrow he is feeling for Sherlock almost forcing tears from his eyes. “That’s okay, because I’m here now, and I have an idea of what they are about, and I promise that I will not leave you.”

Finally, John can feel the adrenaline ebbing from Sherlock as the shaking subsides. “John,” Sherlock breathes, and looks up at his best friend, his eyes watery and red. John smiles down at him and bravely reaches out a hand and lays his palm against the point between Sherlock’s neck and his jaw. Sherlock nestles into John’s touch, his breathing becoming more even and slower.

“Go to sleep now, before Greg returns.” John gently urges, and Sherlock nods, eyes fluttering shut.

John gently eases him down to lay on the bed and covers him with the duvet. He moves to the chair by Sherlock’s bed, making sure to never break the connection of his hand in Sherlock’s, making sure Sherlock feels safe and calm.                                                                       


 

What is he doing?

Sherlock’s room is cast in half-light, John’s face silhouetted by the side lamp. He holds onto Sherlock’s now cold and clammy hand, letting out a sigh. He does not know, in the bigger picture of things, why he does not want Mary with him. With him and Sherlock. Because now Sherlock is back John cannot bear the thought of leaving Sherlock, and he could not do it to him now that Sherlock seems so…fragile.

John can only rationalise his feelings as his seeing Mary as the marker of the end of his time with Sherlock, for as much as it pains him to admit it, he was beginning to lose hope after five years. Five long bloody years of searching, disappointment and hope rising and falling like a stormy sea in his memory.

John just cannot be dealing with Mary, his ‘new’ life, when he has suddenly been hurtled back into his ‘old’ life, to which he needs to commit fully. Hopefully having Mycroft send someone round will give Mary the message that she shouldn’t try to come find him, that he just needs to spend some time collecting his thoughts with the man he thought was lost. Mary is clever, he should not worry, of course she’ll understand his meaning. He loves her, she knows he does. John should not worry about Mary.

John shifts in the chair, settling in until Greg returns to conduct the interview. He glances over at Sherlock, who is sleeping fitfully, gaunt face set in a frown. Another nightmare, most likely, or an unpleasant memory. John makes a shushing sound, hoping it will calm Sherlock even in his slumber, and waits for Greg.                                                              


 

“Please can you, for the record, state your full name.”

“William Sherlock Scott Holmes.” Sherlock trembles in his seat, book clenched in his hands, his thumb tapping against the spine in a repetitive, soothing motion. John sits next to him, inconspicuously watching him out of the corner of his eye, not wanting Sherlock, who is already so very on edge, to feel like he is being stared at.

They are still in Sherlock’s room, Mycroft having a table brought in and chairs placed around it for Sherlock, John and Greg. A cassette tape is recording, a gentle whirring sound coming from it. Sherlock had begun trembling as Mycroft’s people quietly brought the table into his room, John’s words of reassurance seemingly not permeating the layer of panic that was settling around him like a shroud.

And yet he had wanted to go through with this interview, even though in John’s opinion, and John was pretty sure in Mycroft’s opinion also, this far too soon for Sherlock in his condition. John was beginning to wonder if Sherlock was trying to prove something to himself…

“Okay, and can you confirm to me that you are the William Sherlock Scott Holmes, known as ‘Sherlock Holmes’, that went missing five years ago on the 16th March?” Greg’s tone is formal, as it should be, but he is talking in a calming tone, obviously sensing the worry and panic that seems to be radiating from Sherlock.

“Ermm…” Sherlock’s voice is shaky, he refuses to look up at Greg and his scraggy hair is covering his eyes, so John cannot gauge from them how much Sherlock is coping, he can only read it through the tensing of this limbs and the increasingly fast movement of Sherlock’s thumb against his book.

“Sherlock?” Greg presses gently. Mycroft, from where he has been sitting on the end of Sherlock’s bed, looks up from his steepled hands, eyes narrowed.

“I-I…” Sherlock is stuttering, chest heaving. John hates not seeing his eyes, and so ever so gently places his hand over Sherlock’s. Sherlock flinches violently, but John is there instantly with soothing placations.

“It’s alright, Sherlock. Sherlock? Sherlock?”

There is no response from Sherlock, and his shaking has gotten severe. John, his worry now overwhelming, places his hand on Sherlock’s chin and encourages Sherlock to raise his head. His fears are confirmed when he sees the distant, glazed look in Sherlock’s eyes. Sherlock is not with him, he is somewhere else completely, experiencing some form of flashback. John knew this interview wasn’t a good idea, it was too soon. God, he should’ve stopped this.

“I’m sorry!” Sherlock suddenly cries out, and throws himself out of his chair and onto the floor under the table, curling into a ball around his book. “I’m sorry!”

“Stop the recording Greg!” John cries.                                                                     


 

Sherlock is confused. The only thing he knows is real is the feel of his book under his hands.

“Okay, and can you confirm to me that you are the William Sherlock Scott Holmes, known as ‘Sherlock Holmes’ that went missing five years ago on the 16th March?”

Five years. Sherlock knows it has been five years and yet he cannot believe it. How long? How long?

It cannot have been that long. Where is he? Is Sherlock his name? He slams his eyes shut, focuses on his breathing, but it is escalating out of his control.

‘You don’t have a name anymore, my dear, now tell me what you are?’ a snide voice. Sherlock tenses against it, this voice that heralds pain and fear and despair.

“Ermm…”

‘Tell me what you are!’

“Sherlock?” someone says, who’s voice is that?

“I-I…”

‘Yes, what are you, what are you?’

“It’s all right, Sherlock. Sherlock? Sherlock?”

Sherlock knows that voice, that’s John’s voice. His John. He opens his eyes, hoping to see His John sat there on the cold ground next to him, but all he sees is the dark basement. No, no, no, no, no.

‘You’re a slut! That’s all you are, a slut!’

Someone’s hand is on his face, his kidnapper, grabbing his face, ready to hit him, hurt him.

“I’m sorry!” he cries out, curling into a ball. He doesn’t want to be hurt anymore; he doesn’t want any of this. Where is His John? “I’m sorry!”

God, where is he? What is happening? Where is John?

 John, John, John.                                                              


 

John is immediately under the table with Sherlock, trying to push away his upset and shock and focus on Sherlock as a doctor. Greg switches off the cassette player, eyes wide.

“Sherlock, it’s alright, you’re at Mycroft’s house, it’s 5pm in the afternoon and you’re here with me, John, Greg Lestrade and your brother.” John keeps his tone calm and even, even though his insides are writhing with panic.

“Sherlock, come on, you’re fine, you are no longer a prisoner. You’re here with me, John. Come on, it’s John, you know me.”

But whatever John tries it is no good, Sherlock is too far gone, the panic and anxiety that has been accumulating ever since he decided on the interview becoming too much. A liturgy of ‘I’m sorry’ is spewing from Sherlock’s lips, his eyes squeezed tight shut. Typical Sherlock, always wanting to get things done in a rush, and John cannot blame him for wanting to start to put this experience behind him. John cannot comprehend his own guilt, however: he should’ve stopped this, he should’ve told Sherlock that he was going too fast. Stupid, stupid!

“Mycroft, please get one of your medical staff, the woman, with a sedative, he’s not handling this.”

Mycroft, whose sharp face is a sallow shade of grey, nods abruptly and exits the room swiftly.

John continues attempting to calm Sherlock, hoping the sedative may not be necessary, but Sherlock remains curled up, his stream of ‘I’m sorry’ still coming. Greg attempts to move the table away from Sherlock, but John stops him, “The noise could make him worse.”

Mycroft soon returns with the female medic, who is holding a tray with the prepped syringe filled with a sedative strong enough to put Sherlock to sleep and a sterile pad. John picks up the sterile pad first and gently dabs at Sherlock’s upper arm with it.

“Sherlock, I’m going to give you a sedative, okay? Then you can sleep, alright?” Of course there is no response, but John says it anyway, hoping that maybe Sherlock can hear him.

The female medic hands John the syringe, and he taps it to release the air bubbles before administering it to Sherlock. Immediately Sherlock goes limp, his hands falling from the book, which lands of the floor with a quiet ‘thump’. Sherlock’s liturgy of ‘I’m sorry’ finally comes to an end.

John falls back to sit on the ground next to Sherlock, chucking the syringe back onto the tray, the female medic leaves without a word.

John places his hands over his face, breathing heavily, pushing back tears. “I knew this was too soon, we shouldn’t have let him do this.”

“I know,” mutters Mycroft, “excuse me.” He leaves the room, pulling his phone out of his trouser pocket, a look of determination on his drawn face.

“Would you like help getting him back on the bed?” Greg asks gravely.

John shakes his head, “No, it’s fine, I’ve got him.” Gently and slowly he picks Sherlock up bridal style, careful of his multiple injuries, and carries him over to the bed. Greg picks Sherlock’s book up off the ground and then dashes ahead of John to pull back the duvet. John places Sherlock down on the mattress, pulling the duvet over him and muttering his thanks.    

“John,” Greg begins, but John cuts him off.

“It’s fine, Greg, I don’t blame you for this, it was just too soon.”

Greg nods, running a hand through his hair. “Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Look, I’ll, err, leave you to it…”

John nods and Greg leaves, the door shutting quietly behind him.

John hangs his head, sitting on the duvet next to Sherlock. John had promised Sherlock, barely an hour earlier, that everything would be fine, but seeing Sherlock like this made John well up with fear.

John has never felt so inadequate in his life. Sherlock needs more help than John can give him, he needs a therapist, one who can help him overcome what John would estimate, from past experience, is a case of PTSD.

Mycroft enters a room with a quiet creak of the door, putting his phone back into his pocket, jaw clenched.

“What was that about?” John asks as Mycroft comes to stand next to the bed, surveying his sleeping brother.

“The events of this afternoon and the last twenty-four hours have convinced me that New Scotland Yard is not an adequate force for finding Sherlock’s kidnapper or kidnappers. I know have my own men onto it, who will work with Detective Inspector Lestrade, to create a more effective force.”

John lets out a breath in relief, “Thank you, Mycroft.”

“I would do anything for my younger brother, John. Why do you think I have this position in the British Government?”

John stares at Mycroft for a long time, eyes wide as he tries to comprehend Mycroft’s true, and very well hidden, feelings for his brother.

“Listen, Mycroft, I think you might have to pull another favour for Sherlock.”

Mycroft turns to look at him, eyes narrowed, “What is it?”
“I think you need to get Sherlock the best therapist in the country, as soon as you can.”

Mycroft stiffens, blinking a few times, brows drawn together. “Isn’t it too soon for this, John? Shouldn’t Sherlock recover physically a bit more first? I don’t know if he should have to take on too much too quickly.”
“Yes but you’ve seen the state of him, this is the second flashback he’s had since he escaped, not to mention he’s been having nightmares. Mycroft, I am not professionally trained for these sorts of things, I’m perfectly capable to treat his physical wounds but his mind, that is something else entirely.”

Mycroft shifts his weight between his feet, his right hand clenching and unclenching, as if wanting to hold onto the handle of an umbrella.

“John,” he begins, his mouth opening and closing as he looks for the words to say, “John, I do not believe that a therapist would be a wise decision for Sherlock.”

“Why not?” John interrupts, “Look, I will do anything for him, okay, I would go to the end of the world and back for him, but I don’t think I can help with what I suspect might be case of PTSD.”

Mycroft sighs then, looking as if he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, “I suspected the same thing.” He takes a step forwards towards john. “Do not think I don’t know how much you care for my brother, it is as clear as day to me, but I still do not think that a therapist would be wise, and it is not out of a belief that you would be able to ‘solve’ everything for my brother.”

“Then what is it?” John asks.

Mycroft pauses before speaking again, however before he can get anything other than “Some years ago Sherlock was-” a sharp knock comes at the door and Anthea appears.

“I’m sorry sir, but there is a woman at the door. She says her name is Mary Morstan.”

Chapter Text

“Mary!” John was standing in an instant, surprise covering the worry that had been present on his face ever since he had seen the state Sherlock was in. John glances at Mycroft, who looks equal parts confused and annoyed at having been interrupted. “Sorry, Mycroft, it’s my girlfriend. I told her not to come, but I must’ve forgotten to ask one of your people to fetch me some clothes.”
Mycroft raises his eyebrows, “And yet she knew my address?”

John pauses. “Actually, you have a point. I never told her where you lived, I’m not exactly sure of the address myself.”

“Well then, this is unexpected. You may have use of one of my reception rooms, John, Anthea will take you to it after you pick us Miss Morstan from the front door. I know your reluctance to leave Sherlock, but I would rather not have people traipsing in and out of his room while he’s sleeping.”

John nods, “Yes, of course. I feel the same.” Even though he fully trusts Mary, he has yet to get his head around the fact that his two lives have now crashed together, and that he will have to make a new life with both Mary and Sherlock in it. It is too early for him to see them both in one room, and he knows Sherlock would not like for a stranger to see him like this.
“John, please, I will stay with him.” Mycroft says when John hesitates. “He will not even know you are gone, he is sleeping.”

John still feels uneasy about leaving Sherlock, but he knows he must see to Mary first before he can return to Sherlock. “Yes, alright, I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

With one last look at Sherlock, still sleeping due to the sedative, John leaves the room. Anthea follows on behind him as he finds his way to the front door. There, standing in the small atrium area, is Mary, wearing her distinctive red coat, hair pulled behind her ears. She is clutching a bag in her hands and looks at John apologetically when she sees him approaching.

“Mary,” he says, a little breathily from his fast pace, “What are you-?”

“I’m sorry darling, I know you said not to come but Mrs Hudson has been ringing and ringing the house phone, saying something about you not picking up and Sherlock? We’ve been trying your phone, but Mrs Hudson was getting so frantic I thought it best to come find you.”

John stops in his tracks. He had completely forgotten about Mrs Hudson, and Molly too. He had texted them after Greg had given him the news about Sherlock, only a short message saying ‘Sherlock found. J.’

John knew it was unforgivably short and tantalising, but he had been so swept up in his own emotions at the time he had completely forgotten to get back to them. Molly must have understood that he would be rather preoccupied, or John argued she could be preoccupied herself with her job or her fiancée, Tom, but Mrs Hudson must have been going spare, all alone at Baker Street. John’s chest feels heavy with guilt.

“Oh, god, I’m am such a-” John starts. Mary looks at him in bewilderment. “How did you find me?” John begins again.

“The tracker on your phone is still on,” Mary explains, holding up her own smartphone. “Remember we put them on when we went to that medical convention, so that we could find each other if we split up?”

Realisation dawns on John. He had completely forgotten they had done that. He is already baffled somewhat by modern technology, Mary taking the command in all things technological. She was the one who had brought him the new phone when his old one had died as a birthday present. He supposed these trackers were part of an app or something.

“Ahh, I see. God, you’re far cleverer than I’ll ever be.” He jokes lightly, and Mary gives him an exasperated yet endeared look.  “Listen, why don’t you come in? Mycroft has given me use of one of his reception rooms-”

“Mycroft? As in Sherlock’s brother?” Mary asks, surveying the large house.

John nods. “Yes, he’s upstairs with Sherlock. Did you want to come in or-?”

Mary raises a hand, “No, it’s okay. I’ve only come to put Mrs Hudson’s mind at ease, she’s baking like frantic, I think she’s got it into her head that Sherlock will need cake. I’ve also got these for you-” Mary hands him the bag in her hands, “It’s got a few days’ worth of clothes and also you’re shaving kit and some things for hygiene- well, you know.” She smiles, a little embarrassed at saying these things in front of Anthea, who is stood a little back, surveying.

“Ahh, yes, thanks- thanks, love.” John says.

“No one came for them so I thought I might as well, seeing as I was coming here anyway. Well,” Mary says, “I should probably-”

Suddenly from up the stairs a scream of pure terror can be heard, and Mary’s words stop in their tracks. John pales as he hears it and drops the bag where he stands before he rushes up the stairs, heading directly for Sherlock’s room. John barely registers Mary’s footfall behind him and he pulls open the door to survey the scene in Sherlock’s room.

John doesn’t think he’s ever seen Mycroft so…. well, he’s barely seen Mycroft anything other than mildly annoyed or regretful. However, the shock and grief on Mycroft’s face sends a deep pain straight to John’s chest. The sight of Sherlock only makes this pain worse. Sherlock’s eyes are half-lidded, he is obviously barely coherent, probably due to the sedative that he has somehow fought against into a somewhat awake stupor.  He cowers in the corner of the room, the duvet and bed sheet a mess from his struggling against them, and a liturgy of ‘No, no, no’ now replaces his earlier chant of ‘I’m sorry.’

John sighs, overwhelming guilt taking over. He grabs Sherlock’s book from the side table and ever so slowly approaches Sherlock, bending down to his level when he gets close.

“It’s John, Sherlock, and you’re safe. Look, I’ve got your book.” John holds out the book, and at his words Sherlock’s head twists in his direction, his glazed gaze alighting on John. Suddenly relief fills those eyes and he throws himself at John.

“John! I thought you’d gone. John, don’t leave me, I can’t do it without you, please, please!”

John, slightly startled, places his arms around Sherlock. Sherlock is shivering in his t-shirt and pyjama bottoms. John cannot ascertain whether he is seeing John in the present or in some sort of flashback, but his fears are confirmed when he asks Sherlock, “Sherlock, where are you?” and is given the reply, “The basement, it’s always the basement. Please, I need you here! I don’t want them to touch me, I know they will, I know they will now they’ve drugged me!”

John shushes him instantly, “I’m not going anywhere.” A horrible, drowning sensation is beginning to flood John, and he realises that drugging Sherlock may have worsened his recovery rather than aiding it, if drugs are something his kidnapper had used on him.  He situates himself on the floor with Sherlock nestled in his arms, face hidden in John’s jumper. He reaches for his book, still in John’s hands and just holds it to his chest, his breathing shaky. John closes his eyes against the surging sadness filling him; even sedatives cannot relieve Sherlock of the stress and fear that fills him. John had promised Sherlock he would not leave: another promise John had gone back on. God he was a fool, a damn fool. Mycroft better bloody listen to him this time about the therapist.

“Ah, you must be Miss Morstan.” Mycroft suddenly says, straightening his tie and holding out his hand for her to shake, looking more visibly composed now that Sherlock is somewhat calmer.

Mary, who John had forgotten about in the Sherlock situation, is stood in the doorway, eyes wide and confused. She turns to Mycroft when he addresses her, and shakes his outstretched hand. “And you must be Mycroft Holmes.”

“A pleasure.” Mycroft says, lips pinched tight. “We meet in unfortunate circumstances I’m afraid. I must ask you to leave, my brother needs privacy and quiet to heal-”

“Yes, of course, sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude, it was a heat of the moment decision, I should’ve stayed put. John, I-I’ll call, okay?”

John, who has been watching the interaction from his place on the floor smiles apologetically at Mary. “Yeah, of course love, I’m sorry.”

At that moment Mary’s phone ‘pings’ with a text alert, and a blush rises to her cheeks, “Sorry, that’s my signal to leave. I’ll find my own way out.” She throws one last supportive smile at John before closing the door shut behind her.

John sighs and tips his head back against the wall. Well, there went his time to arrange the merging of his two lives in his head.                                                      


 

The sun is starting to rise on a new day. John has spent all night with Sherlock, lying on the bed next to him, his presence calming Sherlock greatly, much more than any sedative might have done. John is adamant that Sherlock will not receive any more drugs stronger than painkillers, having seen the negative effect the sedative had done. Sherlock had barely been lucid throughout the night, dozing at points and terrified at others. It was not until about 3am that he finally fell into a proper sleep, the sedative finally having left his system.

John himself is shattered, having only dozed when Sherlock had, but he cannot sleep now, not when the guilt he feels at drugging Sherlock after substance abuse had been forced onto him by his kidnapper, and at the thought that he had broken his promise about not leaving Sherlock, is settling over him like some sort of curse.

Sherlock starts to stir again at about 7:30am, and John is there to greet him as the haze of sleep clears from his eyes. He peers up at John, his gaze the clearest it’s been since the day before.

“John…. you’re actually here.” He places hand on the cuff of John’s jumper and runs his fingertips lightly over the material, feeling it. “I-I’m sorry.” He stutters, voice croaky.

“Whatever for?” John asks.

Sherlock’s adam apple bobs up and down as he swallows, “There’s time when I still think that I’m…. still there. With…”

“With who, Sherlock?” John prompts, without being pushy.

Sherlock opens and closes his mouth, but shakes his head without answering. “I’m sorry.” He says again.

“You have nothing to be sorry for.” John says, placing a hand on Sherlock’s forearm. “Remember what I said: none of this is your fault. The way your body and mind is reacting does not make you weaker, alright?”

Sherlock nods, but buries his head into John’s shoulder. “it’s just so hard to think, John. I’m just so tired- “he breaks off, and his forehead creases in a frown John can feel through his jumper. “John, was there a woman earlier? I can’t remember exactly what happened.”

John feels a punch of guilt to his gut at the ramifications of his administering the sedative to Sherlock. “…Yes, her name is Mary Morstan, she’s my….” he pauses, he doesn’t feel ready to tell Sherlock he had basically ‘moved on’ before he had escaped, but he cannot hide anything from Sherlock, not now that he has seen the raw terror Sherlock’s time as a prisoner has caused. “She’s my girlfriend.”

Sherlock tenses, john feels that through his jumper too. There is a very pregnant silence as Sherlock seems to process this information. “….Oh.” is all he finally says.

“I’m not going to hide anything from you, because I think it’s important that you know exactly what is going on around you, so you should know that we’re serious.”

Sherlock frowns again. “When you say serious…”

“I mean we love each other and we live together.”

The frown deepens. “So you’ve moved out of Baker Street then?”

John nods, “Yes, but Mrs Hudson has kept it as it was for you, for when you return.” He is quick to reassure.

“….Oh.” Sherlock says again, although this time his voice is thicker with emotion. They lay there for a while, John desperately trying to gauge what Sherlock is thinking, however when a few minutes later Sherlock says, “I might try to sleep more,” John knows that this information may have changes things between them, somewhat severely, if Sherlock will risk the threat of nightmares rather than remain awake, where he is still in pain but knows he is safe, knows he is with John. John sighs, knowing this could not have gone any worse.

“Alright, I will be here. I promise.” John says, turning his head to glance at Sherlock, coming face to face with the back of a curly head.

John sighs again.                                                                                


 

Sherlock cannot help feeling ashamed. Or maybe embarrassed? He cannot be sure what he is feeling, there are too many emotions to cope with at the moment, but now the revelation about John having a girlfriend, a serious one, not just the trysts he had had when they were back at Baker Street and Sherlock was ‘Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective’, is muddling his mind even more.

‘We love each other and we live together.’

There is a gaping hole in Sherlock’s chest, something which Sherlock thinks is ridiculous, because horrible things had been done to him in that basement but words from John’s mouth have done as much as those physical actions had to wound him.

There is nauseous feeling of hurt as he lays there, eyes closed, feeling John right next to him. Hurt that John had moved on with his life while he was away.

But then.

No, stupid, stupid Sherlock!

Of course John had moved on, he had been missing for five years! What did Sherlock expect? He is being irrational in his hurt to think John should have waited around for him, especially when Sherlock has never conveyed any real affection towards John.

Mycroft had always told him ‘caring is not an advantage’ and yet he had dismissed those words with every thought of John, and he has had so many thoughts of John over the past five years. He has even created his own John, one he can say the thing he has always wanted to say to John, that he…

God no, he could never say that to the real John now, not when he has a girlfriend, and Sherlock feels so guilty that he has taken John away from his girlfriend with his selfish, desperate need to see him and have him around, to protect Sherlock from things that are occurring in his head.

God, he hates what his kidnappers have done to him. He hates how he is so scared of his own mind, that he cannot even get into his mind palace.

There is only one thing he can try which might fix everything, which will allow John to get back to his life and his girlfriend and stop him from having to stay with Sherlock because he is being weak. So, so weak. It will also give him the love he craves from the one he loves, because that’s what this feeling that makes his heart thump and his head giddy must be. Love. He loves John.

He loves him.

He must find His John. Tell him everything he wants to tell the real John; the John whose body heat he can feel against his own. It is not perfect, but Sherlock has seen and been through too many horrible experiences in his life to know that the world isn’t perfect.

And so he closes his eyes and begins to search.                                                                                 


 

Two days.

It has been two days since John told Sherlock about Mary, and Sherlock has spent the whole time after that lying in bed with his eyes tight shut and breathing even and slow. It is as if he is in his mind palace, but Sherlock had told John he could not access it. So what is he doing? John is not sure, but he thinks it might be to do with him, basically, admitting that he had moved on.

Guilt gnaws at John as if it is a tiny creature (he pictures a rat) eating away at his flesh. John cannot be sure if Sherlock sleeps, a small part of him has hoped that Sherlock has passed out from exhaustion a few times in order for him to get some proper rest, but Sherlock has not moved in the past two days past John’s ministrations of taking his pulse or needing to check his injuries. John decides to reattach Sherlock to the saline drip, it had been removed for Sherlock’s interview, and to also connect him to an IV line to provide vitamin supplements for food, as Sherlock has also not replied to any of John’s queries of whether he will eat or drink. John’s worry has escalated with his guilt.

John returns from a shower and shave to see Mycroft sat by Sherlock’s bed, Sherlock still prostrate, texting on his phone.

“John.” Mycroft greets him without looking up from his phone.

“Has Sherlock…?” John asks, drifting off as he runs a hand through his still damp hair.

Mycroft does look up from his phone then to look at his younger brother, a slight look of discomfort John translates as worry crosses his face. “No, unfortunately not.”

“Don’t you see now why Sherlock needs a therapist, Mycroft? He’s basically catatonic! And I fear it might be my fault.” John really, really hates to admit his fault to Mycroft, but what else can he do? If they both want to help Sherlock, the truth must be told.

“And why would that be?” Mycroft asks and he slips his phone into his front pocket.

“Oh, please, don’t act like you’re oblivious, you’re aware of everything.” John scorns.

Mycroft smirks, “Not ‘everything’, John. Most things, yes, such as the fact that your revelation of having a partner has somewhat attributed to my brother’s current state. As to what Sherlock is doing in that head of his, however, I could not say.”

John sucks in a breath through his teeth, trying not to let Mycroft know how angered he is. “And yet you deny him a therapist that may be able to help him through this? Because I obviously can’t do this can I? I said it before and now here’s proof.”

John’s guilt has just come spewing out, and a heavy silence fills the room.

“Why?” John asks, after he feels he has composed himself. “Why won’t you agree to a therapist? What was it that happened before that makes the idea of one so unappealing to you, even if it could help your brother?”

Mycroft sighs, glancing towards Sherlock, making sure he is stable, before he motions for John to move over to the corner of the room by a grand fireplace. When they are both stood well enough away from Sherlock for him to not be able to hear, if he even can hear them, Mycroft finally opens his mouth to speak.

“Some years ago Sherlock was advised to be treated by a therapist, and our parents, the caring people that they are, thought it best to follow this advice if it may make Sherlock come out of his shell somewhat. You see, Sherlock did not have many friends when he was a child, as you may imagine, and out of some act of sympathy my parents bought him a canine companion for his seventh birthday.”

John frowns in bemusement. Sherlock with a pet dog? That is something he has never imagined.

“I must add that at the time Sherlock was not the high functioning sociopath he so often likes to address himself as, but I would rather say he was a lonely boy, looking back at it. As I was saying, my parents bought Sherlock a dog, a red setter he named Redbeard, owing to his fascination with pirates, you see.”

John smiles and nods.

“The two of them were rather inseparable. On one memorable occasion Sherlock snuck the dog into school with him.”
John laughs quietly.

“However, when Sherlock was eleven, and I was eighteen and preparing for university a terrible accident happened, one which led to the therapist being recommended.”

Mycroft pauses and shifts on his feet as he looks down at them. When he looks back up he pierces John with a look that conveys sadness and regret in downturned lips and hard set eyes.

“One evening, Sherlock being Sherlock had run off in search of the cause of a spate of rabbit murders that were occurring, Redbeard in tow,” Mycroft continues, “I think he had got it into his mind that this was some kind of serial murder case, when the truth is that it was just a fox. However, I digress.

“Sherlock had snuck into our nearby neighbour’s garden, this man had rabbits a plenty, bred them I believe, in order to investigate the ‘crime scene’. I believe that it may have been down to the diminishing light and the fact that our neighbour was developing cataracts that led to the altercation. The man saw a dog in his garden, sniffing around his rabbit cages, and came to the conclusion he had found the killer. The man was immediately into the garden with an air rifle and managed to…well, you can conclude what happened for yourself.”
John nods and swallows heavily, sorrow deep in his heart for Sherlock.

“And…. Sherlock? was he….?”
“No, Sherlock was physically fine, however witnessing the shooting of his pet and closest friend did considerable damage to emotionally. My parents rushed Redbeard to the Vetinary clinic, but it was far too late. I had told him from a young age that caring was not an advantage. My words were said in kind, to ward off the loneliness, but now they were turned against me as Sherlock turned into himself, growing almost catatonic, a little like how he is now. That is when he was recommended to a therapist.”

“So…what went wrong that makes you think one won’t help Sherlock this time?”

“To begin with it did work. Sherlock was at least moving and eating again, and he talked a little. However, after a time he started to just cry, and cry and cry until there was little else he did do. My parents were beside themselves with what to do. Although my mother is a genius she is as bad as I am with emotions,” Mycroft says with a little smirk of self-acceptance, “and therefore they turned to Sherlock’s therapist for guidance. This man was trained, yes, but I believe he was not sufficient for dealing with Sherlock’s mind. He reassured us that Sherlock was just grieving, however he did little else to help Sherlock from that point forward. The man seemed to have grown frustrated, I imagine, with Sherlock’s confused way of dealing with emotions. Our parents gave us love, yes, but with no friends and barely any human interaction Sherlock had no guidance with how to cope with feelings and social interaction. Thus, in a fit of frustration I believe Sherlock’s therapist diagnosed Sherlock as a sociopath and had done with him.”
“But, how could he be a sociopath? He was mourning a death for Christ sake!” John exclaims, anger at the treatment of Sherlock coming many years too late.

“That is exactly why I am not keen on a therapist, John. This man managed to scar my brother so much he stuck with this label of ‘sociopath’ when it is clear to see he is not. Oh, he may act like one at times, I believe my own words may have contributed to that, but I do not think there is a professional capable of dealing with Sherlock’s brain before giving up. And that’s that.”

The silence in the room is thick after Mycroft had been speaking for so long. John rubs the back of his neck, taking in what has just been said. After a while he replies, “Mycroft, I respect what you are saying, but I’m begging you to at least consider this. That man from Sherlock’s childhood was an idiot, one who made a grave mistake, but you have the power and resources to find someone up to the challenge. Sherlock needs it. Please, for him?”

Mycroft chews the inside of his cheek, his right eye twitches a little. Finally, he sighs and says, “I am trusting you, as Sherlock’s closest friend. If Sherlock is not changed in twenty-four hours, I will begin a search. If he has, and we are able to communicate with him, then you shall ask him if he approves. Is that sufficient for you?”
“Yes, Mycroft, it is. Thank you, thank you.” John is barely ever so openly grateful to Mycroft, but relief is overwhelming him that he has crossed one hurdle to getting Sherlock professional help.

The two men disperse, John heading straight for the bed to check on Sherlock. He runs a hand through Sherlock’s hair. He notices no changes.

Mycroft is about to leave before John suddenly remembers to ask, “Oh, how is the investigation going? Your agents found anything?”
Mycroft shakes his head, “Not yet. They are currently in the process of establishing where Sherlock was held captive based on the location he was found at.”

John nods. Any news is good news, he supposes. Mycroft turns to leave again, and he is at the door when another thought pops into John’s mind.

“Mycroft, I think Mrs Hudson should visit Sherlock.”

 

Chapter Text

Sherlock is surrounded by a dark mist, almost fog like in density. Whatever way he turns he sees nothing but this darkness, and he is starting to become slightly panicked when he hears someone call out “Sherlock!”

Wait, no. Not someone. John.

John.

“John!” he cries and turns desperately in circles looking for his friend.

“Sherlock, calm down! I’m right here!” John exclaims, and suddenly there he is, John, looking as John-like as he can get- worn jeans, soft jumper, sandy hair flattened down and yet still scruffy.

Sherlock stops his turning, and a genuine smile graces his face when he sees His John stood there. John smiles back, and Sherlock throws himself at him and grabs him in a tight hug.

“Hey, come on. I know somewhere better than this. Where we can relax.”

Sherlock follows willingly as John leads him by the hand through the misty darkness to an unknown destination. Time feels distorted because of the lack of anything to look at, and so Sherlock focuses on John’s firm, gently calloused hand, which holds his tightly, lovingly.

Finally, they stop, and Sherlock looks up to see a door. Not, not any door- the door to 221B Baker Street. John turns the door knob and it opens willingly, and the two of them wander inside. The door shuts behind Sherlock without him encouraging it to.

Everything is as Sherlock remembered. There are exactly seventeen stairs leading up to their flat and Sherlock relishes every one of them. When they reach the top John turns to him before he opens to door onto the lounge, and brushes some hair away from Sherlock’s forehead.

“John, how are we…?”

“This isn’t your mind palace, Sherlock. This is somewhere for you to relax and rest, a happy place, if you will.”

Sherlock face sours at the expression and John laughs, which makes Sherlock’s chest swell up with happiness. He had made John laugh. Him.

John opens the door to the lounge and Sherlock savours the familiar smells as they enter. His chest swells even more as he inspects the place and finds it to be exactly as he remembers it, treasures it. Turning the corner, he peers into the kitchen: his microscope is out, ready for his use, and some of John’s socks hang on the temporary washing line that runs in front of the window. Sherlock’s smile widens.

“It’s so nice to see you smile, and this is what this place is for. While your mind palace is out of reach you have this place. And you have me.”

Sherlock embraces John again, so relieved that he is there. “Please don’t leave.”

“I’m not going to Sherlock.” he reassures. “Come on, let’s sit down.”

They head for the sofa, Sherlock notes the yellow smiley face on the wall with relish, and plonk themselves down. John sits with his arm around Sherlock, who leans into his chest and soaks up the smell and feel of John’s jumper against his cheek.

Suddenly there is a rumbling, as if there is an earthquake and the light outside the windows darkens. Sherlock winces and slams his eyes shut against the dark thoughts and memories that are trying to break into his safe haven.

“Don’t worry, I will keep you safe.” John says.

Sherlock smiles, and nestles closer into John.                                                              


 

Time is distorted in Sherlock’s mind, but he knows he could stay curled up next to John for eternity. It feels like eternity, but not in the way some people use to describe a long ordeal. More like the eternity which could be had in a sort of…’heaven’. That is if the concept of heaven was actually real. Sherlock decides that he cannot put words to this happy feeling.

“John, I wish we could do this in real life.” He mutters. Sherlock’s heart and soul is coming out, his raw feelings that he used to keep coiled up, so hard to contain after his kidnapping and subsequent treatment and rescue. These feelings, though, he could never reveal them to John, not after he had imparted to him he had a girlfriend, had Mary.

His John settles next to Sherlock and passes him a cup of tea. He gives him a loving smile and they sit there together, every now and then one of them sipping at their tea.

“Sherlock,” His John’s voice holds a note of regret. “you know that you cannot remain here forever? This isn’t reality. This isn’t the real me.”

It stings to hear these words. His John had been with him through all he’d gone through in the basement, and now he was breaking this harsh news to Sherlock.

“I don’t know if I can tell the real you all that I have done and what has been done to me. He’d be so…. ashamed. I don’t want to see that look on his face. Please, John,” he can’t help himself, he wants to grasp onto this version of John for as long as he possibly can, before he has to go back to reality, back to Mycroft’s house, which is better than the basement but isn’t Baker Street, back to John whose intentions are good but who would surely be ashamed were he to know the whole truth of the five years Sherlock spent as someone’s…property, and who he could never say what he wants to say too.  “Please, just for a little while longer.”

His John relents, Sherlock and his mind are exhausted and therefore His John gives up. “Aright, just for a little while longer.”

They snuggle closer as thunder cracks and rain pelts down upon the windowpanes.

“I love you,” Sherlock murmurs, and nestles into John’s jumper.

“I know,” His John says, “I love you too.”

Sherlock smiles. If only this were reality. If only.                                                                      


 

Mrs Hudson does not take long to arrive at Mycroft’s townhouse. In fact, John is surprised with the speed in which she comes, seeing as she is rather old, but then he supposes he shouldn’t be, knowing how much she cares for and loves Sherlock. The last five years have done much to turn even more of her hair grey, and her face is lined by more wrinkles (as is John’s, if he were to be honest with himself). The lines that mar Mrs Hudson’s face as she is received into Mycroft’s house however are made of the tension of the past few days and hours, sitting waiting for tantalising news on Sherlock.

“Mrs Hudson,” John begins as he greets her at the front door, “I’m so sorr-”


“John!” Mrs Hudson exclaims, and he is immediately rebuffed, “What were you thinking? Leaving me with just that message these past days, not picking up your phone, leaving me to resort to pestering your poor girlfriend in order to know exactly what is going on! Where is Sherlock?”

John swallows, and rakes a nervous hand through his hair, “I’m sorry Mrs H, I’ve just been consumed since Sherlock was found.”

“Please, let me see him.” Her tone both demands and begs. John can see how tense she is in the way she clutches her handbag in both hands. He nods, but stops her with a kind hand on her shoulder before he leads her to Sherlock.

He swallows before imparting Sherlock’s current situation on her, feeling like an omen of doom and gloom. “Mrs H, I should tell you that…” she huffs when he hesitates, but he knows it is impatience born out of concern, not selfishness. “Sherlock, he…” he hesitates again, and Mrs Hudson’s handbag is practically being crushed by her hands.

“He’s not alright, is he?” She asks, tone steeped in sympathy.

John’s face scrunches with grief and despair as he shakes his head, “No, he’s not.”

Mrs Hudson’s reaches out and places a hand on his arm, “John?” she queries, still wanting to know what to expect.

“He’s not been treated well these past five years,” John just comes out with it, knowing cautious words will not stop the raw truth of Sherlock’s condition, “from what I’ve ascertained from his words and actions he’s been kept in a basement or cellar and treated harshly in…a number of ways.”

“Oh, John.” She mewls, a hand coming up to her chin.

“He’s not doing well at the moment, he’s had flashbacks and has been withdrawn since he was found, but for the past couple of days he’s been shut into himself, not talking or eating. I’m not sure if he’s in his mind palace or just wants…. you know, to escape everything…” he trails off, voice heavy with grief, and Mrs Hudson draws him into a tight hug.

“I just don’t know what I can do for him past medical care, Mycroft is reluctant to agree on a therapist, and I certainly am not qualified. If I only I could know what Sherlock wants!”

“Oh, John, you put too much pressure on yourself. Just be with him, I’m sure he missed your presence over the past five years, and would be grateful if all you did was sit with him. I’m sorry I shouted at you.”

John smiles into her shoulder, “It’s alright. I’m sure he’s missed you too. Maybe your presence might help bring him back out that head of his.”

Mrs Hudson smiles back and they draw apart, “His silly old head.” She says affectionately, and John chuckles, spirit lifted by her presence.

“Come on.” He says.                                                                       


 

Sherlock’s room is illuminated by a soft light that comes from behind the drawn curtains, and John switches on the bedside light so Mrs Hudson can see better as they enter into the room. She sucks in a small gasp as her eyes comes to rest on Sherlock, who is turned to face the door, eyes closed and face pale and sunken.

“Oh, John, doesn’t he look terrible!” She exclaims, voice barely above a whisper.

“I know,” his tone is sympathetic, “But he’s in an environment where he can recover.” He hopes his words reach Sherlock, wherever he is.

Mrs Hudson carefully sits down on the edge of the bed and runs a hand over Sherlock’s head and through his hair.

“Sherlock, it’s Mrs Hudson. Please come out of that head of yours, it’s not fair on John,” John goes to protest that he doesn’t matter but she continues talking over him, “we would desperately like to speak with you after all these years, and I can make you some of my scones. You like those…”

She trails off, but continues running her hand through his hair. Sherlock does not respond, at first, but suddenly his eyes shoot open, wide and confused.

“Sherlock?” John rushes forward and stands next to Mrs Hudson, whose hand has stilled in its movements.

Sherlock blinks. “John…” he mutters.                                                                    


 

Sherlock holds onto the fantasy thought of falling asleep on John’s lap as they lay there together on the sofa of 221B, but he could never do that when he is so scared of what could come to get him in his sleep. He hates this fear, a fear that leaves bile in the back of his throat and sweat on the back of his neck. It makes him feel pathetic. He is pathetic. Five years and he has become a pathetic mess seeking out the comfort of a delusion of his own mind, as he now knows that the real John could never love him. No, he loves Mary. Sherlock can dream of the ‘good old days’, back at the real Baker Street, solving crimes, John at his side, patching up his wounds and making him eat and drink, always there as a shoulder to lean on, but that can never be true again. Those times are over, they have shoved him forward into a new life which is full of obstacles and new players in his life, which doesn’t feel so much like a game anymore. It feels more like a struggle.

“Please don’t think like that.” His John begs, running a hand through his hair. “Things are a lot better than they have been, Sherlock. hold onto that thought.”

“But I will never get what I want.” Sherlock bemoans, “I cannot say what I want to say to him, I can’t ruin his life for him now that I’m back.”

“You can always say those things to me. I’ll be here, somewhere. But you cannot hide from reality Sherlock, not anymore. You’re out of the basement, I promise you. So make the most of this freedom.”

“You’re making me leave.” Sherlock whispers, feeling betrayed by his own mind.

“No, I’m not. You have to, Sherlock. You need to decide to leave, because you cannot stay here any longer. People wait for you in reality, in particular someone you have missed dearly, almost as much as John…”

Suddenly Sherlock hears the voice of Mrs Hudson as if from a tannoy above them, “we would desperately like to speak with you after all these years, and I can make you some of my scones. You like those…”

“Mrs Hudson,” he murmurs.

His John nods, “That’s right, it’ll do you and them good to talk to them. You cannot stay holed up in here forever, Sherlock. Don’t abuse this safe haven, make the most of your reality now, with John by your side.”

Sherlock sniffles, sitting up next to His John, who puts a hand on his shoulder. “This is the best decision for everyone.”

Sherlock nods, not knowing if he agrees fully but not wanting to disappoint His John. He rises from the sofa and heads cautiously to the door leading to the outside, to reality. He turns to have one last look at His John, who sits there, looking up at him with an encouraging smile.

Suddenly though there is a cataclysm of noise, and from the sliding doors opening from the kitchen comes Him, the man Sherlock once rivalled but now can’t help but fear. The one who had kept him locked away. Away from John, from Mrs Hudson, from Mycroft. He would be angry if he didn’t feel so scared, and that in itself makes him feel disgusted.

“Sherlock you have to go!” His John shouts with urgency, and Sherlock is running, and running and running until he reaches the front door of 221, which will take him back to reality. Behind him, however, the figure saunters quickly down the stairs. He tuts and shakes his head.

“Sherlock, Sherlock.” he shakes his head, tone sarcastic. Sherlock breath shudders out of him at the sounds of that voice.

“Please,” he pleads, “leave me alone!”

“You ran from me, darling, and I can’t have that.” His face, which had been in half light, comes into full view as he steps closer towards Sherlock, who is frozen, hand on the door latch. “and don’t think I won’t burn you, Sherlock.” Moriarty says, a devilish grin grows on his face. “Because I will burn you, Sherlock. I’ll burn the heart out of you.”

Sherlock flings open the door and doesn’t look back.                                                                            


 

Sherlock blinks. “John,” he mutters. John comes forward and sits on the bed next to Mrs Hudson, facing towards her.

“Sherlock, I’m right here.” He reassures.

Sherlock is not quite fully there yet; he appears as one would be when dazed after waking from a nap.

“Sherlock?” Mrs Hudson queries.

Sherlock looks up at her, brows knitting as he struggles to comprehend what he is seeing. “Mrs Hudson,” he murmurs, and she smiles. Suddenly though, his eyes are filled with fear, and he sits up with urgency, if a little stiffly.

“No, no, you cannot be here! You are in danger; you have to go!” he says with urgency.

John and Mrs Hudson both frown. “Sherlock? What is it? We’re safe.” John intercedes Sherlock’s panicked words.

“No, you’re not, he’s coming John, he was right behind me-”

“Who, Sherlock?” John asks, not unkindly.

“Moriarty!” Sherlock exclaims.

John can feel himself pale. “Sherlock…” he asks, “Is that…is Moriarty the one who kidnapped you?”

Sherlock looks at him then, and suddenly something snaps back into place, and Sherlock’s eyes lose their glazed overlay. He slumps somewhat. “I’m sorry…. I thought.”

John is quick to shake his head, “It’s alright, Sherlock. you’ve been hiding in your head for a couple of days, it’s understandable that you’d be confused.” John feels shaky. Has Sherlock just revealed something serious? Something very, very important?

“Were you having a nightmare?”

Sherlock struggles for a minute to find the right words to say. “Not quite. I think I was towards the end, but…” Sherlock is becoming paler as he desperately tries to rationalise his thoughts, but becomes slightly panicked nonetheless. John decides to put Sherlock at ease.

“Okay, don’t worry about it Sherlock. I’m just glad that you’ve come back out to say hello to Mrs Hudson.”

Sherlock turns to his old landlady, and she looks down at him so much affection that it almost spills from her eyes. Sherlock looks up at her with the same affection, and Mrs Hudson cannot supress a snivel.

Sherlock cannot help himself, “Don’t snivel, Mrs Hudson.” He says, although his own voice sounds thick with emotion. Mrs Hudson lets out a little laugh, and shakes her head.

“Oh, you…” She mutters, and suddenly Sherlock is leaning into her and they are hugging, a tight hug. Sherlock holds onto Mrs Hudson as if his life depends on it. It does not surprise John.

“I’m just going to find Mycroft,” he says, “I’ll ask someone to bring up some tea.”

Mrs Hudson nods and Sherlock watches him as he leaves the room, eyes watery.                                                                                      


 

A sharp knock comes from the other side of his office door, and Mycroft looks up as he recognises the force of the knock as John’s.

“Come in, John.” He calls, and John Watson is striding into his office, looking distressed.

Mycroft pauses in his action of putting down his pen. “What is it?”

“Sherlock has, err…woken up,” he announces, and runs a hand through his hair. “And I think he’s just revealed something very important.”

Mycroft shifts in his chair. “Well what is it?”

“I think we know who took him. I think it was Moriarty.”

Mycroft’s pen drops from his hand then, and he adjusts his tie. “I feared this.” He mutters.

“What?” John frowns.

“I thought that James Moriarty had gone suspiciously quiet these past years. I unfortunately did not have the resources or the hindsight at the time to look into it.”

John’s rolls his eyes. He knows he cannot blame Mycroft for something he cannot change now, but he cannot help but feel slightly angry the man had not made any connection between his brother’s disappearance and Moriarty’s sudden submission. Then again, he had not given much thought to the fact that Sherlock may have been taken by Moriarty, too wrapped up in needing to find him.

“I thought that maybe my brother’s disappearance was the reason Moriarty was quiet, seeing as he had lost his main rival. Now I realise…” Mycroft puts his head in his hands.

John shifts on his feet, unaccustomed to seeing Mycroft being anything but composed.

“Well,” he sniffs, “At least this will help us with the investigation, if it’s even correct. We cannot be sure, unfortunately.”

Mycroft nods, “Quite.”

“You got any far with it? Finding where Sherlock was held?”

Mycroft nods, bringing his hands together in front of him as if in prayer. “DI Lestrade and I have established that he was kept in a suburban house just outside London. Very inconspicuous.” He shuffles through some files on his desk and hands John a picture. John takes it. It shows a typical detached property, nothing out of the ordinary, one would think.

John nods, feeling quite aggrieved that Sherlock had been so near to them. “And he was kept there the whole time?”


“We’re not quite sure yet, but that is, of course, being looked into.”

“So you’re working with Greg?” John asks.

Mycroft nods, and a slight look of consternation crosses his face. “The man insists on helping, although everything is cross checked by my agents, you’ll understand.”

John nods, but can’t help but feel respect for Greg for not letting Mycroft bully him around.

“Have you got anywhere else with this whole therapist business?” Mycroft asks.

John shakes his head. “Haven’t had the chance. Mrs Hudson is with him now; I’ve left them to have some private time. I’ll ask once Sherlock’s feeling a little less…shocked.”

Mycroft nods, “I understand. My brother must be feeling quite unbalanced.”

“Yes,” John sighs. “You could say that.” John thinks Sherlock must be feeling shattered.

“I’ll do everything I can, John, I hope you know that, but now we’re almost certain Moriarty is involved it might be quite difficult.” Something in Mycroft’s eyes changes, becomes more feral, “But I have my ways.”                                                                          


 

“I have a task for you, a little commission, shall we say?”
“Yes, what is it?”

“I need you to get rid of some…’evidence’”

“Alright, I’m available. My boyfriend is currently busy with…things.”

“Well, isn’t that nice, having a boyfriend, a domestic life. It’s like I’m asking you to come out and play but you need permission from your mother first.”

“I don’t need permission.”

“No, but you are coming out to play. I’ll text you the address, darling. So long!”

The line goes dead.

Chapter Text

John has encouraged Sherlock to get out of the bed and take shaky steps towards the sofa in his large ‘bedroom’, which is rather like a hotel room. Sherlock sits there, a burgundy jumper, one of Mycroft’s that has never been worn, over his pyjamas, shoulders hunched as he fiddles with his fingernails, knees drawn up to his chest. John sits next to him, holding the Monet book in his hands, and he flicks through the pages. Some of them are worn with the number of times they have been turned, some of them are discoloured from the passing of time, and some are discoloured with dirt. 

Sherlock keeps glancing at him, John can feel it, and he ponders over what Sherlock is thinking and feeling.

Suddenly Sherlock blurts out, “John, please can we have a cup of tea?”

John looks up. Sherlock looks at him carefully, fingers running over his knees.

John nods and closes the book. “Of course we can.” John wonders when the last time Sherlock had tea was. “But how about we have one each instead of just sharing?” John jokes, trying to lighten the mood. Sherlock smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. John awaits the day when it does.

John is trying to figure out if he should leave Sherlock to go make tea, or simply ring the bell that is placed on a side table when in a flurry of movement, the door is flung open and Mrs Hudson bustles in, carrying a large tray of scones with plates and condiments. Anthea follows carrying a tray of tea. To John’s bemusement she is wearing a flour covered apron. She looks rather annoyed.

“There you are, my dears.” Mrs Hudson says, placing the scones down on the coffee table, “Some fresh scones. How lucky your brother has such a lovely kitchen, Sherlock. He had a lot of baking ingredients, too…I could’ve made fifty cakes with the amount he had!”

John glances to Sherlock, who had tensed at the sudden movement, and catches his eye. John raises an eyebrow, and Sherlock can read his look like a book: Mycroft’s diet has not been sustained. Sherlock smiles once again, and buries his mouth into his knees.

Mrs Hudson passes around the scones as Anthea lays out the condiments. John serves himself a scone slavered in butter and jam. He offers to do Sherlock’s for him, but the man shakes his head.

“No, I-I’ll do it.” He leans forward, and both John and Mrs Hudson try to make it look like they’re not looking at him. Sherlock tentatively picks up a knife and dips it into the jam pot and adds only the smallest dollop of jam to his scone. He places the knife down a little too quickly and swiftly resumes his curled up position.

John tucks in as the door shuts behind Anthea, who refuses the offer of a scone from Mrs Hudson.

“Absolutely gorgeous, Mrs H.” John compliments. The scone is really rather delicious.

Sherlock is eyeing the tea, and John reaches forward and pours them all a cup. He adds two extra sugar cubes to Sherlock’s, knowing that he needs the sugar to keep his blood sugar up.

The moment Sherlock takes the first sip he can feel the warm liquid heating him up from the inside out. He barely nibbles on the scone, his stomach reluctant to consume too much, but instead he drinks the tea lovingly, trying not to burn his tongue too much.

“Sherlock, dear, won’t you eat some more?” Mrs Hudson asks when both her and John’s scones are gone, but Sherlock’s plate still holds three quarters of his.

Her tone is gentle, but Sherlock cannot help but be reminded of the mocking, sarcastic words of Moriarty during the times when he would sit and eat a wholesome meal in front of Sherlock, all the while berating the man for not eating anything when he had been starving him. Sherlock had learnt fast that, when once he had eaten little because digestion had slowed him down, Moriarty gave him very little out of cruelty.

Sherlock reluctantly brings the scone up to his mouth and takes a small bite. The food soon becomes clammy in his mouth, and he gulps down more tea in order to swallow it.

Sherlock’s cup of tea is soon gone, and John pours him another one: Sherlock must keep hydrated, especially seeing as he is not currently attached to the IV line.

Sherlock takes one more bite of his scone, but it seems that that is all he can manage and he places his plate quickly back onto the tray and curls around his cup of tea.

The three of them sit there for a while in a comfortable silence, until Mrs Hudson announces that she is going to go and brew up another round of tea. She leaves the room with a quiet click of the latch.

Sherlock and John remain where they are, Sherlock occasionally sipping on his tea while John builds up the courage to begin the discussion on a therapist. Now seems a better time than any.

“Sherlock, listen…” he begins softly, “Mycroft and I were talking and we think, when you’re ready, that maybe it would be a wise, and good, idea that you were to try out some sessions with a….therapist.”

Sherlock freezes and stares straight ahead of himself at the fireplace. His brow furrows. John sits there, uneasy, and wonders what Sherlock is thinking. God, he hopes it’s not affected Sherlock in the worst way, he hopes he hasn’t just scared his friend.

“Sherlock?” he goes to query, but Sherlock interrupts him before he can finish.

“Would that make you happy, John?”

This time it’s John’s turn to frown. He looks at Sherlock, but the man won’t meet his eye and stares down at his teacup.

“Sherlock?”

“Would it?” Sherlock asks quietly.

John shifts and turns more towards Sherlock. “Well, it’s not about me…”

“But, if I were to see a…therapist,” Sherlock whispers the word, “would it make you happy that I was?”

John thinks. He supposes it would, if Sherlock were to seek that kind of professional help. John does not believe he has it in him to help Sherlock emotionally, he will be his doctor when attending to his physical wounds, but he does not trust himself to give Sherlock the help he truly needs in order to be on his way to normality following his…imprisonment.  

“Yes.” He manages to spit out. “yes, it would.”

Sherlock nods, almost as if resigned, and says, “Then I’ll see a therapist.”

John shakes his head in return. “No, Sherlock. I don’t want you to see one for me, I want you to see one to help yourself.”

Sherlock’s brow furrows again, and he takes a deep breath. “Please, John. I want to do this for you, too.”

John stares at him, trying to decipher what Sherlock is truly thinking, but Sherlock will not look up at him, he just keeps tracing patterns with his fingers over his cotton clad knees. John knows they only have so long until Mrs Hudson comes back, and he also does not want to distress Sherlock by pushing the subject so he replies only with a quiet, “If you’re sure.”                                                                                       


 

Lestrade is filled with a sense of self satisfaction and pride. He had firmly told Mycroft Holmes, ‘Mr British Government’, that he would be involved in catching the bastard that had taken Sherlock whether he liked it or not, because damn it all he was a Detective Inspector at Scotland Yard and he would do his job. Sherlock was also someone with whom he felt sentiment, although he didn’t mention that as it may have hindered his ‘tough police inspector’ vibe, although Mycroft had probably deduced it from his tie or something. Damn that man.

He climbs purposefully from his car and strides up to the suburban house they have sectioned off from the public, Donovan in toe, looking her usual surly self. A few civilians linger nearby, trying to get a look at what might be going on, but Lestrade puts on his best grumpy face and ignores them all and strides up to the house with purpose. It is a rather pleasant, if slightly run down looking, detached house in the suburbs, but the connotations that this house holds for Sherlock makes Lestrade look up at it in disdain.

“Sir.” Anderson comes from inside the house, suited up in his white protective suit. “You won’t believe this. The house has been gutted, absolutely gutted.”

“What!” Lestrade exclaims, and pushes past him to peer into the house. The house is milling with both Scotland Yard employee’s and Mycroft’s people. Lestrade can see through an arch a living room, however it is bare of any furniture, and the smell of bleach is strong enough to make him cough. He peers around, and can see a dining room just beyond the living room through another arch and straight ahead of him a glass paned door leads to a kitchen, also similarly gutted. To his left is a staircase.

“And the upstairs?” he asks Anderson.

“Similarly gutted.” The man says grimly.

“Blast it!” Lestrade shouts, and some of Mycroft’s people, he can tell their Mycroft’s employees by the way they glare at him every time he makes eye contact, look up at him in annoyance.

“The basement has similarly been gutted.” Anderson continues.

Lestrade sighs. Of course it has. Any hope of strong, clear evidence has been swept away and now they will have to salvage what they can. When Mycroft had informed him that Moriarty was the prime suspect he had been enraged. The man had suddenly dropped from the Met’s radar but at the time he had assumed Mycroft still had tabs on him. Apparently that hadn’t been the case, and Moriarty might have gotten away with Sherlock’s kidnapping. He supposes though he must still examine the house, especially the basement, in order to gain any information that he can about why Sherlock may have been kept there.

Heaving another heavy sigh, he glances back to Donovan and signals that they must go in. She brings her sleeve up to her mouth to lessen the stench of bleach and Lestrade does the same, and following on after Anderson they enter the house.

                                                                            


 

The basement is accessed by a door in the corner of the kitchen, which opens onto some derelict stairs which lead down into the basement. The smell of bleach is prevalent in the basement also, but Lestrade can also smell damp. The place is rather cold. Both Lestrade and Donovan pull out small torches from inside their coat pockets and flick them on. The basement is eerie when only illuminated by two small beams of light, but it is not that large, giving the impression that it would be a very cramped place to live for five years. Lestrade’s chest aches in sympathy for Sherlock. The room is empty due to whoever had gutted the house before their arrival and Lestrade sighs for what feels like the hundredth time that day at the lack of evidence. He crouches and examines the walls for any signs of abuse in the form of engravings, maybe by Sherlock, but can find none. He straightens up, back muscles protesting to his sudden movements. He is not getting any younger.

“Greg!” Donovan says suddenly, and he whips around to see her poking at one wall with a finger.

“What?” he says, coming over, “What is it?”

Donovan holds her torch out for him to hold and starts to dig at the wall with her fingers. In a sudden rush, like an avalanche, brick dust and filler comes away and then Donovan can easily pull away a brick, leaving quite a large hole behind it. When she does Lestrade shines the torch light on the hole, and they can immediately see that something is in there. Lestrade smirks in triumph; finally!

“Anderson!” Lestrade calls, “We’re going to need an evidence bag down here!”

                                                                               


                                                                

John, Sherlock and Mrs Hudson are still sitting together in the lounge area of Sherlock’s suite when there is a knock on the door and Mycroft comes in. He looks immediately to his brother and gives him a small smile before he turns to John.

“John, a word?”

John frowns but nods all the same. “Err, yeah, ‘course.” He turns to Sherlock, who is still curled up with his knees to his chest. “Won’t be long. Mrs H will be here.”

Sherlock nods, looking in Mrs Hudson’s as he rests his cheek on his knees. John stands, rather stiff from being sat for some time and follows Mycroft out of the room.

They go all the way down to Mycroft’s office, which immediately tells John this must be rather important. “Have you already got something on Moriarty?” John asks hopefully. Mycroft shakes his head but doesn’t elaborate until they reach his office, where Greg Lestrade stands waiting by the desk.

“John,” He greets, looking pleased to see his friend and with himself.

“Detective Inspector Lestrade made a discovery, something my team must have…. overlooked.” Mycroft speaks before John can greet Greg in return, looking as though he just wants to spit his words out and have done with them. “It turns out that this may be the only bit of strong evidence we have that Moriarty is behind Sherlock’s kidnapping. The house Sherlock was kept at had been gutted recently, someone must have known we were on their tracks.” He is hinting, obviously, at Moriarty.

John reels back, surprised by this news. “Oh, right.” He also feels slightly shocked that Greg is already aware of Moriarty’s role in all this, but he supposes is Greg had insisted he be a part of this then Mycroft must be keeping almost constant contact with him.        

Mycroft picks up a plastic evidence bag from his desk and hold it out for John to look at its contents. Inside is a very dirty, very tatty blanket, that may once have been white in colour, but was now a yellowish cream. Greg also picks up some images from the desk and holds them out too. One shows a dark hole in a red brick wall, and another is a close up picture, the hole illuminated with a light to show the blanket stuff in the corner.

“This is where you found this?” He asks Greg and indicates the pictures and then the blanket.

“Donovan found it in a hidden crevice in the basement. It looked as though it may have been used to house items to keep them hidden or safe. From what or who we can only guess, but, it seems likely, doesn’t it?”  he looks at both John and Mycroft now, all three men wearing the same grim expression, “It’s likely that Sherlock used this and kept it hidden from…Moriarty.” He finishes, and suddenly John feels like this blanket suddenly is so much more than a tatty rag: it was something that Sherlock may have used for comfort, that he found solace and warmth with. The fact that it was hidden may also mean it was all he had, and that he had kept it hidden in this secret crevice to prevent Moriarty from taking it.

“Was there anything else in this hidey hole?” He asks, and Greg shakes his head.

“But it was large enough for other things to be hidden there? Such as a book?” His second question elicits understanding from the other two men: if Sherlock hid this blanket from Moriarty, he also might have hidden his treasured Monet book from him too. John has had to come to terms with the fact that his best friend has been living in sordid conditions, but this confirmation of his speculations by both Mycroft and Lestrade’s faces brings back the reality of this situation in a new wave. It hits him like a tsunami. 

“We will send it off for DNA testing, of course.” Mycroft says after a heavy silence, and hands the blanket to Greg, leaving the legwork of actually taking it to the lab to be tested to him. “And hopefully any skin cells left on it can be identified as Moriarty’s.”

John sighs. He knows this is all they have, but yet it feels so small and pathetic. If this was Moriarty, and John is about ninety-nine percent sure it is, he will strangle the man. If they find him.

“This is all we have, John.” Mycroft reasons, and the doctor nods his head.

“I know, yeah, sorry,” he runs a hand through his hair. “Thanks, Greg, for doing this.”

“Just doing my job, mate.” The Detective Inspector smiles. “I better get this to the lab, send Sherlock my regards.” He nods to both men and leaves the room.

John is eager to return to Sherlock but as he is leaving remembers to notify Mycroft on the therapist matter.
“Oh, by the way, Sherlock has agreed to see a therapist.”

Mycroft, who has just sat down at his desk, raises his eyebrows in surprise. “Really?”

John nods, “Yeah, I err, I might just give him a couple more days just to make sure he’s sure about his decision, but he seemed willing to try.”
Mycroft is trying to hide his surprise. He clears his throat before he answers. “Right, well, I will have someone look into the best person for the job.”

John nods, “I must get back.” After an awkward silence in which Mycroft doesn’t reply John quickly turns on his heel and exits the room.

                                                                                       


 

 As soon as the door closes behind John Mycroft places his face in his hands and breathes out a heavy sigh. What a week. Mycroft has, since a young age, been able to rationalise and emit any sense of sentiment from a situation, but this week has been testing him far greater than any other circumstance ever has. And now that Sherlock has agreed to see a therapist…

Mycroft doesn’t quite know what to think.

Is this a sign of how much the past five years have changed his brother? Mycroft has seen for himself how damaged by the actions done against him Sherlock is, and, although Mycroft cannot relate, he suspects that Sherlock might grab onto any help that can be offered to him to help him on the road to recovery. Even if it did mean seeing a therapist.

He brings his hands from his face to run through his thinning hair. He somewhat wishes that he could just speak freely to Sherlock about this, but he trusts John Watson with the intimate care and talk of…feelings that his brother likely needs in the aftermath of his kidnapping. He has and will never be good at talking about human emotion.

How things have become complicated! It used to be a sibling rivalry as simple as bread and cheese between his brother and he, but now he wants to both throw his brother into the arms of John Watson and hold him close all at once, and it makes Mycroft feel uncomfortable and helpless.

He should’ve been there for his brother: should’ve found him quicker, looked into Moriarty’s sudden quietness instead of just dismissing it. He had considered the thought, briefly, that Moriarty might have taken Sherlock when he’s first gone missing, and it turns his stomach to think how he had dismissed that thought, believing Moriarty would get bored, that he wouldn’t hold onto his brother for so long, would want him back in the game to solve his little puzzles. He’d been wrong, he’d miscalculated, apparently, and his brother had payed for his mistake.

Well, what he can do now is make it up to him, and he can do that by catching the person or people responsible for his brother’s conditions

Mycroft reaches into his jacket pocket and presses speed dial on Anthea’s number. He stares down at pictures on his desk that show the gutted house and basement. Something about how immaculately finished the job has been done has him knowing that this was not done coincidently, of course it was not, if this is Moriarty then that was a checkmate move.

“Sir?” Anthea says as soon as the line is picked up.

“Anthea, have our specialist team look into the style of destruction on this house, it seems…somewhat precise, accurate, as if done by a professional. We need any information on Moriarty’s contacts, both obvious and…unlikely.”

The job would be hard, but Mycroft was confident his team could handle. They knew what was at stake, even if Mycroft was never prone to outburst of sentiment.

 

Chapter Text

When the door shuts behind John Mrs Hudson and Sherlock sit in silence for a few moments. Mrs Hudson is building up to saying something, Sherlock can tell, and it doesn’t help the on edge feeling he is currently experiencing. His fingers trace the pattern of his pyjama trousers, the fine material soft beneath his cheek where he rests it on his knees. He faces towards Mrs Hudson, but closes his eyes in the awkward silence that follows John’s exit. He can’t take this tension. He can’t take it any longer.

He starts into action suddenly, causing Mrs Hudson to also jump and let out an involuntary gasp and spill some of her tea. Sherlock grabs desperately for his book, which John had placed on the small table next to the end of the sofa John had vacated moments before. As soon as his fingers have purchase of his precious book he slumps back into his seat, finally able to focus on evening out and slowing his breaths as he thumbs through the pages and runs his hands over the spine.

“Sherlock?” Mrs Hudson asks cautiously but he pays her no attention, too wrapped up in trying to calm himself down. That tense silence reminded him too much of the times he would sit in the dark, thinking about who might be coming to disturb him with pain or insults, or what he might be to blame for this time.

He vaguely registers the sound of Mrs Hudson rising from her seat, the clinking sound of her teacup being placed on the table before her light footsteps approach and she sits closely, but not too closely, next to him on the sofa.

“Monet?” She quietly inquires.

Sherlock blinks rapidly, still trying to force his breathing into a normal pattern. “Yes.” He manages to whisper.

“I didn’t know you had an interest in art,” Mrs Hudson says. Sherlock knows what she is doing, for all his fragility he is not stupid; she is trying to distract him from whatever had sparked such a scare.

He swallows past the lump in his throat. He doesn’t want to explain to Mrs Hudson, both to save her the brutal truth and to remind himself of it, that he does not find art particularly interesting but rather holds this book as a source of comfort. “Yes,” is all he whispers again.

“I think I may have some of my own books on Monet at home, I’m sure I can find them for you, if you’d like me to, to be ready for when you-” she stops suddenly as she realises that the issue of when Sherlock will return to Baker Street, if he returns, might not have been discussed.

Sherlock coughs. He has not paid much thought to his return to Baker Street (he has been avalanched by talks of therapy sessions and news of girlfriends and emotions in such great amounts that he has never before anticipated), but it is somewhere he has set in his mind that he will return to. It proved the setting of his escape from reality with His John, and he is desperate to see it again.

“Yes.” He whispers, for the third time.

Mrs Hudson seems to understand and tentatively places a hand over his. When he doesn’t shy away from the touch, she gives his hand a gentle squeeze.

They sit for a while in a much calmer silence before John returns, the door opening slowly and quietly, the only marker of his return.

“Hey,” he greets them both, coming to sit in the armchair Mrs Hudson had vacated. “Everything alright?”

Sherlock catches his eye with a question in his own- what has happened? John shakes his head a fraction, conveying he will tell him after Mrs Hudson has departed.

Mrs Hudson throws glances at the two of them. Her brow creases. “Perhaps I should be off.” She says suddenly. “John, dear, accompany me to the door would you?”

“Err.” John starts, but Sherlock interrupts him quietly.

“I’ll be fine John.”

John doesn’t look convinced, but he stands and nonetheless escorts Mrs Hudson to the front door after she has said goodbye to Sherlock.

When the door closes behind him Sherlock sags into the couch, his book resting on his legs. He takes a few deep breaths, takes in the smell of Mycroft’s house and the soft upholstery of the sofa under his fingers, the dim pain from the IV port inserted into his hand. He still feels dirty, though. If he tries he can all too easily fool himself that what he really feels under his fingertips is the cold basement floor, can smell the stench of damp, the pain of the injuries done against him. It’s almost like it is real.

No.

No, he had thought that before, when he had first come to Mycroft’s home, more exhausted than he currently is and more confused. No, that wasn’t good to think at all. That is why John wants him to see a therapist, because he can see that Sherlock is….damaged.

Broken.

Sherlock turns his head to the side, staring off into the mid-distance. Sherlock was only agreeing to a therapist to make John happy, but as he thinks about it he can see the situation through John’s eyes, at how much he must pity Sherlock, because he is so damaged and weak.

What has he become?

He groans and rubs his hands across his face. A deep pit is filling up in his stomach of self-hate. Dirty. He feels dirty, he needs a shower.

He rises from the sofa and heads for the bathroom, John will surely hear the sound of the shower running when he returns and work out where Sherlock has gone.

Sherlock needs to think.                                                                      


 

Mrs Hudson links her arm around John’s as they leave Sherlock’s room. John stares down at her in confusion, and she looks back at him with an expectant look on her face.

“What?” John asks.

“John…” Mrs Hudson begins and there is something in her tone that makes John pull away from her and stop.

“What is it, Mrs H?”

She falters, and John can see the cogs whirring in her brain behind her eyes. “Well, I was only going to mention that…now Sherlock is back….well, you know….” She looks up at John, her face saying ‘well surely you must have thought about this too’. Suddenly John catches onto what she is thinking.

“No, Mrs Hudson, no!”

She tuts, “Oh, John, surely- “

“I’m not gay Mrs Hudson!” he protests. “I haven’t ever thought like that, alright? He’s just my best friend, and anyway I have a fiancé, I have Mary!”

“John I may be old but I’m not pushing daises quite yet, and I have eyes that could see something between you two all those years ago, and those things do not just go away, certainly not now that he’s back!”
John shakes his head, exasperated. He doesn’t want to hear this now, not when he’s got a million other thoughts swirling around his head. “Mrs H, I cannot be having this conversation now. Or even at all! I have to get back to Sherlock, I’m sorry.”

He turns back to head towards the room, his shoulder sagging as he goes. Mrs Hudson watches him until he has disappeared back inside the room. She sighs. There is no faking what she sees between John and Sherlock, even if John denies it until the day he dies.                                                                


 

The constant beat of waterdrops on the top of his head helps Sherlock to focus.  The warmth helps him relax. He’s curled up in the bathtub, the shower running over his skin as he closes his eyes and finds his safe place.                                                                         


 

When Sherlock opens his eyes again he is back in 221B Baker Street, standing in the doorway. And there he is, His John! He stands there in the middle of the room, giving Sherlock that proud smile the real John always used to give him when he’s solved a case. His John opens his arms wide, and Sherlock rushes to him and flings himself into his arms. There is no sign of Moriarty this time.

“John,” he sighs. He squeezes his eyes shut as the sudden urge to cry surges up.

“Sherlock, shhh.” John shushes him. A hand starts to brush through his hair.

“John.” Sherlock croaks. “Do you pity me?”

The hand pauses. “What?”

“Do you pity me?” Sherlock pulls back enough to look John in the face. “I mean the real you, does he pity me, John?”

John stares at him thinking. “What do you think?”

“He does,” Sherlock sniffs, “He must. How can he not? I’m pathetic. I’ll never be who I once was.”

“You cannot be sure of that.” John says, placing a hand on Sherlock’s cheek.

Sherlock doesn’t agree, and he responds only by pressing his face into the crook of His John’s neck, not wanting to answer.

“Sherlock,” His John says. “I don’t think John pities you.”

“You’re just saying that.” Sherlock interrupts.

“I’m not. I don’t think he pities you, but he does feel saddened by you.”
Sherlock pulls away slightly to look at John. “What?”

“You’ve seen it in his eyes, you know you have. He says he’s your best friend, doesn’t he?”

Sherlock nods.

“Then he must feel incredibly sad seeing you hurt.”

Sherlock frowns. “So…. are you saying I should try to make John happy?”

His John smiles, and reaches to tuck a lock of Sherlock’s hair behind his ear. “No, my love, I’m not saying that. I’m just telling you what you already know. John doesn’t pity you, alright?”
Sherlock frowns as he places his head back on His John’s shoulder. He’s not sure he quite believes His John, Sherlock is not stupid after all, he knows His John is only a construct of his mind, a mind that keeps tricking him into thinking he’s still in his living hell.

Maybe he should do something to make John happy, then.                                                                       


 

“Sherlock! Sherlock!”

Sherlock is suddenly thrown from his safe place and the arms of His John into reality, where the water that streams down on him is now ice cold. Sherlock hurries to shut it off. John’s voice behind the door becomes more clear, and much more urgent.

“Sherlock, please open up! I’m getting really concerned!”

John’s voice has taken on a tone of panic that makes Sherlock uncomfortable. He scrambles out of the tub and winces as he pulls on his injuries. He grabs his dressing gown from the hook on the door, making sure to hide any of his body from John. He is feeling sensitive enough already without feeling exposed.

John, obviously hearing his scrambling from the other side of the door says quietly, “Sherlock?”

Sherlock steadies himself with a few breaths before he unlocks and opens the door.

“John?” He asks, trying to appear innocent.

John licks hip lip as his gaze searches Sherlock up and down trying to see if there’s anything physically wrong. Sherlock draws the dressing gown closer around his body. “You okay? I was calling for you for ages and you didn’t answer.”

“Sorry.” Sherlock hesitates. “I-er-couldn’t hear you over the shower.”

John knows this is a lie, but to Sherlock’s surprise he decides to drop it.

“Right.” John scratches the back of his head. “I’m sorry.” He retreats back into the main room, and Sherlock closes the door behind him in order to get dressed.

He thinks as he dresses: what would make John happy?

‘He must feel incredibly sad seeing you hurt.’

The answer is obvious: Mary.                                                                   


 

John sits down on the sofa as the bathroom door closes again, presumably while Sherlock is getting dressed. Mrs Hudson had been out of order with what she’d said, but John can’t bear to be angry with her. Still, Mary is the one he loves, the one he wants to marry. Mrs Hudson is wrong. Mrs Hudson is just bringing up old feelings and emotions that are long dead due to the circumstances of the last years.

Yes, that’s all she is doing. She doesn’t realise she is wrong in her assumptions.

John loves Mary.

Mary….

Yes.

John sucks in a breath and sits upright as Sherlock re-enters the room, this time dressed in his usual attire.

“John.” He says, “I may need to have the IV line replaced.” He holds up his hand, which is bleeding slightly from where he had taken out the previous line before showering. John hadn’t even noticed.

“Of course.” He motions for Sherlock to take a seat and goes to grab his kit.

When he has finished and is tidying everything up John casts a few worried glances at Sherlock, who has remained quiet and lost in thought the whole time.

“You alright?” he asks. Sherlock jumps, coming back to himself, and nods shakily.

“You sure.”

“Yes, John.” Sherlock says.

John nods, not one hundred percent certain Sherlock is telling the truth but not wanting to push him nonetheless. “Listen,” John says, “I’m just going to ring Mary quickly, make sure she’s okay. Will you be alright?”

Sherlock nods again and sinks back into the sofa cushions. He is reaching for his Monet book as he says, “Yes, John, I’ll be fine.”

“Okay,” John says, “I won’t be a minute.”

He carefully slips from the room and closes the door behind him.                                                             


 

Sherlock flips through the pages of his book while he waits for John to return, his brain still whirring and thinking over the John and Mary situation. As his eyes look over the paintings they have seen so many times, Sherlock is struck with the sudden urge to feel the fresh breeze that carries the smell of nature on its wings for himself. He knows Mycroft has a garden, he can see it out the window on the right-hand side, and, if it is private enough, he would rather like to go out into it. He needs some fresh air.

He rises from the sofa, his books in his arms, and goes over to the window on the right side of the room. He looks out over the garden, his eyes still hurting slightly from the natural light, which, while not bursting with life like the plants and flowers in the Monet paintings, still holds enough colour and peace for Sherlock’s longing to increase. He will need someone with him, though, even though it’s not overlooked and it’s private, before he feels safe being outside on his own.

John re-enters the room, stuffing his mobile back in his trouser pocket as he does. Sherlock turns to look at him.

“She’s not picking up, probably too busy at work.”

Sherlock purses his lips and looks back across the garden.

“I’ll try later.” John says as he comes over and peers out at the garden with Sherlock. “Do you need anything?”

Sherlock swallows a couple of times before asking. “Please can we go outside?”                                                                      


 

 

John had insisted on Sherlock being wrapped up tightly if they were to venture out into the garden, and Sherlock is now stowed away in one of Mycroft’s fine coats, which sags on his weak body. He is also wearing some borrowed shoes, with two pairs of socks, John had insisted, but he feels a lot better as he feels the breeze on his face and can see the trees ripple in it. John sits beside him on the bench at the bottom of the garden. Sherlock had chosen to sit here so he could see if anyone was coming out into the garden, and he had the added security of a high hedge behind him, giving them some privacy. There is also a quaint little pond by the bench, and Sherlock looks down every now and then to watch the fish that swim in come to the surface and then sink back down into the depths. That’s almost exactly how he feels every time he thinks he can manage something but is afforded with memories of his captivity.

He shivers, despite the coat, and he can feel John’s gaze on him.

“You alright?” John asks.

Sherlock nods, “Yes, this is…. good.”

John smiles. “Good.”
The two of them sit in silence for a while, until the figure of Mycroft appears in the frame of the French doors that lead to the garden. The man seems to pause for a second before making his way towards them.

“Mycroft.” John greets as the man reaches them and stands in front of them, his gaze on his brother. Sherlock looks up at Mycroft, but doesn’t meet his eye.

“Sherlock. John.” He greets. “I’ve just received a call.”

Sherlock tenses, and he can feel John do so too. Before Mycroft can continue, however, John’s phone starts ringing. The doctor pulls it out. He intends to quickly shut it off again but he pauses when he sees the caller ID.

“It’s Mary.” He says, “Sorry, I might have to get this quickly.”

Mycroft sighs and makes to complain, but Sherlock quickly pipes up, “It’s fine.”

John gets up and makes his way to the opposite end of the garden to take his call. Sherlock watches him intently, but his attention is drawn away from John as Mycroft takes a seat next to him. His brother is radiating tension, and it is doing nothing to help the constant anxiety that Sherlock feels thrumming through his body.

“Are you alright, brother mine?” Mycroft asks in order to break the silence. Sherlock nods, and then suddenly realises that if there is one person who can do something to make John happy, it is Mycroft.

“Mycroft, could you do something for me?” He asks hesitantly.

“Of course.” His brother says.

“Could you….do something for Mary and John? I’m not sure what, but John should spend some time with her, away from here. He probably won’t agree to leave for a bit but…. Mary is his girlfriend. He should spend time with her. I’ll be fine on my own for a while.”

Sherlock watches John pacing as he says this. He can practically hear his brother thinking beside him.

Mycroft eventually says, “And do you think John Watson will be fine with leaving you on your own?”

Sherlock sighs, he is practically begging Mycroft now, but he just wants to make John happy, and to make John happy he needs to spend time with Mary. It makes to Sherlock, so why doesn’t Mycroft get it?

“I won’t be alone.” He answers, “…You’re here.”

Mycroft raises his eyebrows, and this time Sherlock has enough bravery to look his brother in the eyes. Mycroft looks like his brain has hit an error in its database, and the expression on his face is enough to almost make Sherlock smile.

When Mycroft finally answers him, his brother’s eyes contain the same incalculable gaze they normally hold. “You are quite right. Suppose I arrange dinner for them, would that suffice?”
Sherlock nods, he is sure John would enjoy that. “Yes, thank you, Mycroft.”

“You are welcome.”

John makes his way back to them as he finishes his call. Sherlock can hear him say a quick ‘goodbye’ and ‘I love you’ before the phone is hastily stowed away in his pocket again.

“She’s been stuck at work all day.” John complains. “Sorry, Mycroft, continue.”

Mycroft seems to brace himself before he begins talking. “John, did you tell Sherlock about what they found?”

“Oh, shit, no I forgot,” John says and pinches the bridge of his nose.

Sherlock’s anxiety instantly rises. “What did who find?”

“Lestrade.” John says, and he looks at Sherlock apologetically. “He went to investigate the, ermm, the house where you were…. you know. And err he found the place gutted.”
Sherlock’s insides are squirming.

“The basement was also gutted.” John continues, “But whoever did this didn’t notice the secret compartment in the wall.”
Sherlock’s insides are now frozen, and he feels as if a bucket of ice cold water has been thrown on him. He forgets to breath.

“He found a blanket.” John says, and Sherlock flinches. The blanket, yes, he knows what John is talking about. He knows that his friend pity for him has probably increased.

Pity. He is pathetic.

“We had it tested for DNA, in order to prove that it was Moriarty who held you captive,” Mycroft takes over from John, and Sherlock realises there must be a new development that John is not aware of either, “However, the prints we found on it do not match Moriarty, but somebody else.”

“What?” John asks harshly, shocked.

Sherlock didn’t think he could feel more pathetic than he was currently feeling up until this point, but as soon as the words leave Mycroft’s mouth his brain puts two and two together and he realises that soon John will pity him more. Much, much, more.

He feels sick.

“They match the DNA of a man named Sebastian Moran.” Mycroft ends gravely.

John looks over to Sherlock, not quite sure who this man is, too see if he recognises the name, and is shocked as he sees the glazed look in Sherlock’s eyes. His face is deathly white, his chest heaving.

“Sherlock!” he rushes forward, and Mycroft rises quickly from the bench so John can take his place and attend to Sherlock. Mycroft watches the scene with grim knowing. He had thought that telling his brother straight about Moran would be the better way to do it, but the news is obviously still shocking to his little brother. Mycroft wants to punch something.

“Sherlock, it’s alright,” John says and carefully places his hands on Sherlock’s shoulders. He doesn’t want to scare the man more when it is obvious he is teetering on the edge of a flashback.

“Sherlock, you need to take deep breaths.”                                                                            


 

“Sherlock, you need to take deep breaths.” Sherlock can hear John’s voice clearly, but all he can see is the basement in front of him. When he looks down he sees the blanket. It is as tatty as it was when it had first been given to him. Moran had sniggered then, as he is sniggering now, Sherlock realises, and he looks up in shock and fear as he sees the looming figure of Moran appear, seemingly from nowhere.

“What the fuck have you done?”

“Please!” Sherlock begs.

“Sherlock!” John’s voice. Which John? His John or the real John? “John!” he cries.

“John isn’t here, you little shit!” Moran spits. “It’s just me, and I’m very, very angry with you.”

“I’m sorry!” Sherlock says, even though he has no idea what he has done. It is probably bad though, he is always doing bad, he is always so weak and pathetic.

“Sherlock, stop, please come on, this isn’t real.”

“And you know what happens when I’m angry with you.”

Sherlock attempts to pull the blanket up and cover his body. Yes, he knows exactly what happens when Moran is mad at him. His arms, however, do not want to move it, they are being held tightly, but carefully. And yet Moran is standing a way back from him.

What?

“It’s not real, Sherlock, he isn’t real!” John’s voice shouts again, and Sherlock blinks rapidly. The figure of Moran flickers, replaced instead with green.

Green?

“John!” he cries again.

“He isn’t real!”

Suddenly Sherlock heaves in a deep breath, and he can smell fresh air, not damp basement. He squeezes his eyes shut and mutters to himself “Not real, not real, not real.”
“Yes, that’s it Sherlock, it’s not real.” John’s voice says, and it is a lot closer than it has ever been.

Sherlock opens his eyes again.

He is in a garden.

He is in Mycroft’s garden.

John is sat next to him, his hands on Sherlock’s arms. Mycroft is stood to the side, looking uncomfortable. Sherlock swallows and then relaxes as he realises that this is reality, this is real.

Another flashback. Another one.

He is pathetic.

Broken.

The urge to cry is overwhelming, but he clamps down on it. He doesn’t want to upset John further.

“I’m sorry.” He mutters.

John releases his arms. “That’s alright, it’s not your fault.”

“My apologies, brother mine.” Mycroft says, voice slightly clipped, “I thought it might be best to just tell you.”

Sherlock shakes his head and looks down at his lap, the pit of self-hate welling up in him again. “No, it’s fine.”
All three men know this is not the case.                                                                        


 

Later, after Mycroft and John had helped Sherlock to bed, where he had promptly fallen asleep, absolutely exhausted, and John had hooked him back up to the IV line, John had promptly dragged Mycroft out into the corridor and was now quietly trying not to lose his nerve.

“God, I didn’t know it was possible to feel any angrier. You see now, Mycroft, why he needs to see a therapist? He’s been so abused by those bastards, and it’s obvious this Moran was as much as a bastard to him as Moriarty was!”

John was, along with Mycroft, resisting the urge to punch a wall. John was no Holmes, but he was no idiot either. A blanket was a source of comfort, typically used when resting, and for Sherlock that would have meant whatever version of a bed he had been given for the past five years, and if this man’s DNA was found on it, matching that with Sherlock’s reaction to hearing Moran’s name, that added up to mean something that made John want to weep.

Moran was most likely the man who raped Sherlock.

No, not man. Monster.

“Do you have any clue where this monster might be?” he asks Mycroft.

“Not yet, but I assure you people are already working on it. I’ll call up the therapist I’ve chosen, they will begin tomorrow, do not worry John.”
John scoffs, “How can I not worry?” He asks rhetorically. Mycroft hums in agreement.

“Go back to him John, do not worry that I am not doing everything I can to catch Moriarty and now Sebastian Moran.”
Something dark and deadly in Mycroft’s tone made John believe fully that Mycroft would protect his brother at all cost.

John nods, “I won’t.”
                                                                            


 

Mycroft pours himself a drink from the canister and takes a deep swig. He has just confirmed with the therapist, and she will arrive tomorrow. He is uncertain of how well this will work out with Sherlock’s history with therapists, but at John’s insistence and the memory of his brother in the garden today Mycroft is complying. That is one thing off of his ever-growing list.

The next is his brother’s wish for John to spend a romantic evening with his girlfriend away from the house. Mycroft is, again, unsure, if he should go ahead with this plan now Sherlock seems to have a taken a dip. Mycroft will cross check with Sherlock in the morning.

Mycroft takes another swig of his drink. For a man who is normally sure of everything, he is feeling extremely unsure at this moment in time.

Unsure if he can contain his emotions in a way he hasn’t felt for many, many years. If he finds this Moran then he will be fine, splendid, even, knowing that he is locked and under his control, but for now….

He is feeling the pressure of being ‘The British Government’.

A knock on his door and Anthea enters. “News from the specialists looking into the arson done to the crime scene, sir, they haven’t found any strong links with any of the men and women we know Moriarty to be associated with, but they say they will begin digging deeper, into the files of those who have since changed identity.”

Damn.

“Thank you, Anthea.” Is all Mycroft says. She gives him a grim smile before she exits and closes the door behind her.

Mycroft suddenly feels like they aren’t closer than they were days ago. Moriarty is a viper, and Moran is surely just as vicious, if more stupid than Moriarty, who is undoubtedly a genius.

However, Mycroft is the ‘ice-man’, and is a strong match for them. He clenches his fists, the glass in his hand threatens to break.

The glass starts to crack, and Mycroft relishes in the thought of the glass being Moriarty’s skull. He will find him.

He will find Moran too.

For Sherlock.

Chapter Text

The sun the next morning is dulled beneath a grey sky, and Sherlock feels a certain irony at this weather. His new favourite place to be in the room is by the window now, and so John had dragged over an armchair, Sherlock wheeling his IV stand along with him, he had barely eaten or drunk anything since Mrs Hudson’s visit the day before, earlier in the morning, so that Sherlock can sit and look out the window at Mycroft’s garden.

Sherlock knows what is coming today, and he wants a moment of peace before the inevitable.

The therapist.

He has been reassured that the visit will be a short one, an introduction, to see if the arrangement will work, but he still feels the squirm of anxiety in his gut. He is grateful that he had been so exhausted yesterday that he had slept through the night, waking this morning to the sight of John slumped in a chair by the bed, and he had instantly felt bad again.

‘He must feel incredibly sad seeing you hurt.’

Mycroft have come to Sherlock this morning to check whether he was sure about setting up a dinner date for John and Mary, and Sherlock had tried to act as irritated as he could muster at his brother and had insisted that he was sure.

Sherlock traces the cover of his book as he sits staring out the window. At the moment his body feels calm but on the inside he feels…..he feels like he’s been burnt out, he feels old and damaged by the years of abuse he’s been put through. And now John, Mycroft, and soon Lestrade, know that Sherlock was abused by two men, that Sherlock couldn’t fight them off, that Sherlock is weak and pathetic because of Moran and Moriarty and they will pity him.

And there is nothing Sherlock can do about it, because he cannot save himself. He is broken. Damaged. Sherlock doesn’t know what John thinks a therapist will do about it. But if John wants him to try then Sherlock will do it for him.

There is a knock at the door, and John enters smiling kindly. “They’re here, Sherlock. Where do you want to go?”

Sherlock sucks in a shaky breath. He wants to do it here, in his room, because this is his safe area. He feels like he has some modicum of control in this area, and so facing this might be better in his own space. “Here.” He answers.

John nods, and he pokes his head around the door to talk to someone outside, and then Mycroft in entering the room and behind him a middle-aged lady who carries a smart handbag and wears a smart dress. She smiles warmly at him as Sherlock stands up shakily. He hasn’t greeted strangers in a long time, and he cannot help but feel wary, old fears welling up in him.

“Sherlock,” Mycroft says, “This is Dr Laurens.”

Dr Laurens holds her hand out for Sherlock to shake. Sherlock reaches out to shake her hand, well aware his own is cold and clammy. “Mr Holmes, lovely to see you.” She says smiling.

Sherlock attempts to smile back. “Sher-“ he coughs to clear his throat, “Sherlock, please.”

John smiles at him as Sherlock looks towards him. “Do you want me to stay or go?” John asks.

Sherlock hesitates. On the one hand, he doesn’t know how much he wants John to know about what happened to him, but he realises that even if John doesn’t hear it from his mouth, he will find out one way or another, be it through Mycroft or his own intuition. John is not stupid. He has realised by now how broken Sherlock is, Sherlock knows that.

“Stay.” He says.

John nods and they all get settled, Sherlock and John taking a seat on the sofa and Dr Laurens sitting in the armchair beside it.

“I will have someone bring tea.” Mycroft announces before exiting the room.

Sherlock shifts in his chair as he watches the therapist bring out a notepad and pen. It makes it all very official, and he can start to feel his hands tremble. He clenches them into fists.

“So, Sherlock,” Dr Laurens starts, her voice kind and calm, “Your brother has briefed me on the very simple things, as is the case when most people come to a therapist, but, and I’m sure you know this, I will be hoping to discuss these things in more detail with you in order to see where the problem lies and how we can work towards fixing it.”
‘I know what the problem is,’ Sherlock thinks, ‘I’m broken, pathetic’, but all he really does is to nod his head. He can feel John glance his way.

“Is that what you want from these sessions, Sherlock?” She asks, and Sherlock looks up.

“Want what?”

“You tell me.”

Sherlock pauses. He knows that what he really wants from these sessions is to make John happy, but he cannot say that to her, he knows that would be ‘not good.’ He looks towards John for a second and thinks: what would John do?

What has John done?

Because John had seen a therapist, when he’d returned from Afghanistan. But Sherlock barely knew that man; he saw who John was in his deductions, that much was true, but the John Sherlock knew and had lived with before he was abducted was stronger, stiff-lipped. Sherlock didn’t feel like that at all, but when he thought what that John might want to get from therapy he answered, “To be healed?”

Dr Laurens smiles and asks, “Is that a question or a statement?”
Sherlock shifts again on the chair, “A statement.” He says quietly.

She smiles again, and jots something down on her notepad. Sherlock glances at John, who catches his eye and smiles. Sherlock tries to smile back, but on the inside, he feels as though he’s burning up, his lies putting him on edge, and worries what the consequences might be when the therapist might realise he is lying to her. With Moran and Moriarty, it always has been some sort of degrading punishment. But, no, no, Sherlock tells himself, this isn’t the same. It’s not the same.

But what would John think?

Would he be mad? Definitely, Sherlock thinks, John hates it when he lies to him, but Sherlock just wants to make John happy. That was all he thought about when he agreed to see the therapist.

Stupid. What has Sherlock done? His self-hate is becoming consuming.

A swell of terror builds in Sherlock’s body, and he needs to move, get out of here, adrenaline pulses through his body, but all he can do is sit there, his heart thumping wildly.

He feels a hand on his arm, and looks up at John, who is looking at him concerned. Sherlock glances up at the therapist, but she is still writing, she hasn’t noticed his obvious terror.

“Sherlock?” John whispers. “You okay?”

Sherlock doesn’t want to disappoint John, John says this will help him. So, he nods, and tries to clamp down on the terror, allowing it to flow through him like an ebbing wave until the need to get out isn’t so prevalent.

John’s hand squeezes his arm reassuringly.                                                                                    


 

Greg is feeling rather strained from the past few days, but isn’t everyone? Even Anderson is acting uncomfortable, Lestrade thinks as he takes a drag on his cigarette. Mycroft has just phoned him, telling him the DNA on the blanket matched to a man named Sebastian Moran, and asked Lestrade to get his ‘minions’ onto looking into the Scotland Yard database. Lestrade is puzzled why this man has suddenly turned up when they had started with all their focus on Moriarty. Obviously, this man is some kind of associate or accomplice of the bastard, perhaps also in on Sherlock’s abduction.

God this is messed up.

Greg hastily puts out his cigarette as Donovan comes towards him, walking quickly through the front garden of the crime scene. Lestrade quickly pops a mint into his mouth, trying to appear as casual as he can.

“Anything back on the DNA test yet?” She asks.

Greg nods. “Mycroft just phoned, prints belong to a man named Sebastian Moran, whoever that is.”

Sally thinks for a second before she shakes her head, “Never heard of him.”

“This is putting me in an uncomfortable position, I feel like I’m shooting blind, all I seem to be doing is relating information to Mycroft Holmes, and when I ask if we, Scotland Yard, the Police, can do anything, he tells me he’s got it covered.”
Sally rolls her eyes and sighs. Before she can say anything else, however, Anderson appears in the doorway of the house.

“Sir, they’ve found something else!”

Greg almost spits out his mint. “What?”

Donovan glances at him before they both move towards the house.

“There’s another secret compartment,” Anderson says, “Behind the other one.”

“What?” Greg repeats. Anderson signals for them to follow him back into the house, the smell of bleach still repellent, and back down into the basement.

The basement this time is lit with the glaring lights they always use at crime scenes.

Anderson passes them some latex gloves so they will not damage the evidence with their fingerprints. Greg wiggles his on and pulls out his torch once again. The three of them go over to the hole in the wall and Greg shines his light on it. There, at the back, is another small crack in the foundation which holds the bricks together. Quickly glancing at Donovan who rearranges her grip on her torch in anticipation Lestrade puts his hand to the back and starts to dig at the brick and plaster.

It crumbles away like it did the last time, with a couple of bricks coming out in his hand. He passes them off the Anderson before he reaches into the cavern they have left behind. Immediately he latches onto something thick and heavy, and when he carefully inspects it further, he realises what it is.

“It’s papers!” He exclaims, “Files of papers!”

He begins to tug on them, making sure his hold is tight but not damaging. Eventually the files release from their hidey hole and Greg is grasping them in one hand. Anderson takes the torch from his other hand and shines is down on the files. There are four of them, all relatively thick, and Greg flicks open the first one. Inside is a picture of a man, and the file is filled with information about him: age, height, weight, appearance, etc. Greg quickly flicks few a few more of the pages of this first file, and is surprised to find sheets of normal lined paper filled with notes, no, not notes…deductions.

“Oh my god!” He exclaims.

“What?” Donovan asks sharply.

“This is Sherlock’s writing!”

Lestrade would know Sherlock’s handwriting anywhere, he has seen it many times in quickly noted deductions passed to him. The writing he sees now is shakier than it had been before when Sherlock had been working with Scotland Yard. The cursive is rushed and written small and tightly on the lines. Lestrade however, is more shocked by the content of the words than the actual writing style itself.

Deductions.

There are pages after pages of deductions of different men, all of them, when Lestrade flicks through, linked to the men in the files. Donovan gasps as she catches on.

“Look at the correlation between all these men.”

Greg frowns, “What is it?”
She points to the statement which appears in every one of the men’s files they have looked through so far. “They all work for CAM Global News.”                                                                                


 

Sherlock shivers into his jumper and dressing gown. John is lighting a fire in the hearth. It isn’t that it is particularly chilly today, but Sherlock has been shivering ever since the therapist left. The rest of the session went….as okay as it could have gone. It wasn’t particularly long, only an introductory session where they got to know each other a little better. Sherlock learned that Dr Laurens lives not far from Mycroft but dreams of living on the Cornish coast as she loves dogs and walking. Dr Laurens learnt that Sherlock can play violin and that he also likes dogs.

Sherlock isn’t sure he trusts her, but he knows she will not do any harm against him, and John seems proud of him, so…..maybe it was worth it?

“Ah, there it goes.” John says as a small flame finally catches and consumes the pile of kindling. John chucks on a couple of big logs from the holder then stands, and makes his way back to the sofa.

“I’m proud of you, Sherlock.” he says quietly after a few moments. They are both staring at the flickering flames, but Sherlock smiles slightly anyway.

“Thank you, John.” Yes, it was worth it then.

“What did Mary say to you on the phone yesterday?” Sherlock asks.

John shifts on the sofa. “She said work is hell at the moment, she’s snowed under apparently.”
Sherlock hums, before he suddenly says, “I think Mycroft has arranged for a meal at a restaurant for you two.”
John turns to look at him, “What? But-”

“John,” Sherlock gently interrupts and turns so they are both looking at each other. “It’s okay. You…deserve some time with Mary, she’s your girlfriend.”
John looks appalled. “I don’t deserve anything.” He says, “Sherlock, don’t think that I would rather be anywhere else than here with you when you need me.”

‘Oh, John, please don’t say things like that’

“I’ll be fine for one evening, John.” Sherlock insists, though he doesn’t know that for sure. “Mycroft is here…..” he trails off.

John huffs, still not completely happy. “Well….maybe…if. Only if it’s already settled.”

Sherlock nods and turns back to the fire. He is glad John hasn’t protested more, he may just have broken down and begged John to stay forever, that Sherlock could make John happy if he tried, he is trying.

He is trying.                                                                           


 

“So, what does that mean then?” Phillip Anderson asks Donovan as they make their way back up to her workplace at New Scotland Yard. Lestrade has headed off to Mycroft Holmes with the evidence they had found, something which Sally finds rather irritating; the power complex the Holmes man has that means anything they find must be passed onto him, making Scotland Yard, effectively, his dogsbody. Sally hopes Greg realises how much of idiot he must look in the eyes of his colleagues. If they even know what is really going on; Donovan could never tell when it came to Mycroft Holmes.

“Well, it means that whoever this Moran is who had the Freak…..contained like that obviously used his ability to….exploit someone, something like that.” She says as they reach her desk. Sally chucks her mobile down on the table with a sigh.

Phillip makes a sympathetic noise. Sally stares at him. “Don’t tell me you’re feeling sorry for the Freak?”

Phillip shifts, “Well, I mean, Sherlock,” Sally does not miss this use of the Freak’s first name, “was treated badly for years, you’ve got to feel sorry for anyone who has to go through that.”
Sally raises an eyebrow to that, but she secretly agrees that she wouldn’t wish that kind of mistreatment on anyone, not even the Freak.

“Yeah, well, let’s just hope these files give us something after the bloody house was gutted.” She says, as she slumps down into her chair.

Philip hums in agreement before he walks away.

“Although we of course won’t hear of it, too classified for Scotland Yard, for the Police.” She mutters under her breath as she begins filling out her backlog of reports, bitter.                                                                             


 

Unfortunately for Sally Donovan, she does not realise that the co-worker sat at the desk next to hers has been listening to her conversation and every word. The man pulls out his mobile and hides it under his desk as he texts a message:

TO: M

SCOTLAND YARD FOUND FILES. ICE-MAN INFORMED. KNOW ABOUT MORAN.

He slips his phone back into his pocket and casually turns back to typing inanely on the computer. He receives a reply a moment later:

FROM: M

GET RID OF ANYTHING ON MORAN. NOT SAFE.                                                                         


 

“Greg, what is it now?” Mycroft asks as the Detective Inspector enters his office, looking grim and carrying an evidence bag full of…. files?

“We found something else…there was another secret compartment behind the first.”

Mycroft’s eyebrows rise.

“These files were in there.” He hands the evidence bag to Mycroft. Mycroft holds his hand out and Greg wonders what he is asking for before he realises and pulls out one of his own leather gloves and passes it to him. Mycroft puts it on and carefully pulls out the files. He begins to look through the first one, and that is apparently all the knowledge he needs for him to suddenly slam it shut and put the files back in the bag. He chucks Greg’s glove back at him.

“Thank you, Detective Inspector, you need not concern yourself with this anymore. In fact, I am pulling out of all partnership with Scotland Yard on this case, please leave it to my people now and have yours leave the crime scene.”
Greg frowns, “What?”
“You are no longer involved,” Mycroft says, getting up and going past Greg to open the door. He holds it open for him, an obvious indication for Greg to leave. Greg, however, puts his foot down and holds his ground.

“No, Mycroft, we agreed, I would have some involvement.”

“And now I’m going back on that agreement,” Mycroft smiles, and his smile is dangerous. “Thank you for all your help Detective Inspector. Why don’t you go and visit Sherlock and John while you are here? Goodbye.”

And with that Mycroft pushes Greg from the room and shuts the door.                                                                  


 

Mycroft waits until he is sure Greg has retreated before he sits back down at his desk and dials Anthea’s number.

“Get people to the crime scene now, we are pulling Scotland Yard off the case. Magnussen is involved. Anyone searching for the arsonist needs to stop and begin looking for correlations between Moriarty and Magnussen, any associates who may have worked with either of them, any conflicts, and so on. It is of utmost importance this be kept classified.”

“Of course, sir.”

Mycroft slams the phone down and steeples his hands under his chin.  

This is turning into a living nightmare, if Mycroft allows himself to wax poetic.

Mycroft is aware of almost everything, and so has been aware that Moriarty and Magnussen have crossed paths in the past, however, he didn’t realise that this was an ongoing matter. He has believed up until this point that the death of the double agent who had exploited both of them had settled their dispute, but perhaps that is not the case…

Mycroft breaths in a heavy breath.                                                                        


 

“Greg! This is…. unexpected.” John says as a knock on the door comes and then Greg’s head pokes around it as he opens it.

Sherlock jumps, having been woken from the half doze he’s been in for…. however long it had been. The fire still crackles warmly in the hearth.

“Hi, I was just… visiting Mycroft, and he suggested I come up to see you both. How are you?” He asks to the room. Sherlock lets John answer for him, sinking back down onto the sofa.

“Yes, we’re fine.” John says and nods. He opens the door and lets Greg in further and closes the door behind him.

“Sorry, we don’t have any tea at the moment.” John apologises, but Greg shakes his hand is dismissal.

“No problem, mate, I just wanted to say hi.”

Sherlock closes his eyes, too tired to attempt to contribute to the small talk.

“You alright Greg?” John asks, “You look distracted.”

Greg hums and then awkwardly nods his head. “Yeah….” He hesitates, “Actually…we’ve umm…look, we found something else.”

Sherlock’s eyes fly open and he looks over to Greg, a little scared about what he might reveal.

John swallows, his Adams apple bobbing. Greg looks over to Sherlock as he says, “We found some files hidden in a further compartment.”

Sherlock sucks in a breath, and suddenly he is feeling very scared. “Don’t.” he begs and shakes his head. Greg looks away from him.

“Sherlock?” John asks, “What is it?”

Sherlock shakes his head, shutting his eyes. He doesn’t want them to know about what he had done, what he had been forced to do, a complete rape of his deductive powers.

“Have you looked at them?” He whispers, and Greg comes closer.

“Yes,” he says, “I’m sorry.”

Sherlock nods. He should have known he couldn’t hide anything from everyone. And now John will want to know, how can he not?

“Did they make you?” Greg suddenly asks, and Sherlock really wishes he wouldn’t.

“Yes.” He croaks.

“Those bastards….” Greg mutters. John looks between the two of them. He intervenes when he sees a tear escape from under Sherlock’s closed eyelids.

“Greg, explain now.” He orders.

Greg swallows. “The files we found contained profiles on men all working for CAM Global News, men who work for Charles Augustus Magnussen.” Sherlock sucks in a breath. “With them were pages of…pages of deductions in Sherlock’s handwriting.”

John swivels to Sherlock to see more tears flowing down his face. “And you’re saying that Moriarty and Moran forced Sherlock to deduce these men, possibly their weak points, in order to, what, exploit them? Kill them?”
Sherlock cannot help but think: clever John.

Greg sighs. “Yeah.”

“Yes.” Sherlock mutters, and looks at John. “To-to kill them.”
John sucks in a few breaths, his face grave, and looks as if he is trying not to cry. Sherlock closes his eyes again and tries not to sob; seeing that look on John’s face, that…pity makes him feel like a pathetic little bug. The cavern of self-hate grows.

“I-I-”

“You don’t have to explain Sherlock,” John says gently as he sits down next to him and places his hand over Sherlock’s, uncoiling the fist of tension Sherlock has made.  “None of this is your fault.”

‘But it is John!’ Sherlock wants to scream. ‘I was too weak to refuse them, to get away earlier, I even made up my own construct of you in my mind because I’m so pathetic and couldn’t go through it alone!’

Greg shifts awkwardly, “Well, don’t worry about it.” John interrupts him by snorting. “Mycroft is handling it. Handling it so much, actually, that he’s taken me and the whole of Scotland Yard off the case.”

“What?” John asks. Sherlock sniffs: what is his brother doing?

“Yeah, well, you know what Mycroft is like. Control freak.” Greg mutters. “Anyway, look, I should be going, someone needs to explain to the chief why he’s just wasted time on resources on a case that isn’t even ours anymore. Sorry if that was a shock, Sherlock.”

Sherlock shakes his head to convey that it is fine. “See you both soon.” Greg smiles grimly before letting himself out.

Sherlock sinks back into the sofa cushions, but this time wide awake, well aware that he cannot keep much of the truth from John any longer. He knows John has seen in the throes of both nightmares and flashbacks, and the man must have made assumptions from both those and Sherlock’s medical examinations. There is not much more for Sherlock to hide now if John now knows about Moran and the Magnussen files.

Sherlock cannot hide anything now.

Chapter Text

“And you’re absolutely sure?” John asks for what feels like the millionth time.

“Yes.” Sherlock says, “Please, just go out and enjoy your dinner.”

John is in the bathroom in Sherlock’s suite, checking himself in the mirror. Anthea had delivered some smart clothes for him that morning, and John had, bemused, accepted them. The door is wide open, and Sherlock, from his position in the bed, watches John as he turns to check his clothes out from different angles. Sherlock sniffs and looks down, he is not allowed to think of John like….

He sighs and sinks into the covers and stares at the night sky that comes in through a gap in the closed curtains.

“I think Mary will be glad of an evening off.” John says as he comes out the bathroom. Sherlock gives him a small smile from the bed. John smiles back and comes over to sit on the edge of the bed. He checks that Sherlock’s IV line is connected properly.

“I don’t really need that anymore, John.” Sherlock complains, not enjoying the slight strange tugging sensation it always gives him in his hand.

“I beg to differ.” John says, not unkindly. “It’s still incredibly important for you to keep hydrated. Plus, you haven’t eaten much since you’ve been here.”
Sherlock shifts in the bed. “I never each much.”
John smiles, “I know. I understand. Here,” John helps Sherlock in settling further down into the bed and pillows. He pulls the duvet up tightly around Sherlock. “You warm?” He asks.

Sherlock nods, “Yes, thank you. Now please, go out and enjoy yourself.”

John smiles again and gives Sherlock shoulder a squeeze through the duvet. “Alright, I will. Now get some rest, I’ll be back in the morning.”

“Goodnight John.” It is only around eight PM, but Sherlock gets so exhausted physically and emotionally he is always worn out by this time, so he figures going to bed while John is away makes sense.

John gets up and leaves, quietly closing the door behind him. He makes his way downstairs, just as the doorbell rings. He rushes to get it and there on the doorstep stands Mary. She smiles at him and he smiles back, suddenly so much the better for seeing the woman he loves. He embraces her, kissing her passionately but briefly, knowing that Mycroft’s doorstep is not the time nor the place.

“Ah, John, do have a nice night.” Mycroft’s voice suddenly calls out and John nearly jumps out of skin. He turns to see Mycroft stood in the hall, watching them.

“Geez, Mycroft, don’t do that,” He berates. Mary snorts behind him. “But, erm, thanks for this, anyhow.”

Mycroft inclines his head.

“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” John says, “Oh and remember to check on Sherlock every now and then, yes?”
Mycroft nods again, “Of course John, do not worry.” And with that Mycroft closes the door with a ‘clunk!’

“Well, shall we go then?” John asks Mary and holds his arm out to her like a Victorian gentleman.

She giggles and wraps her arm through his, “Yes, we shall.”                                                                               


As soon as the door shuts behind John Sherlock pulls the covers over his head and sinks down into the sheets as he closes his eyes and sinks down into his mind to find his safe place. He needs to see His John.                                                                                   


 

“John.” Sherlock says as soon as he opens his eyes again, back in 221B Baker Street. His John smiles at him from the middle of living room. Sherlock holds out his hand, and his John takes it, frowning a little.

“Where are we going?”
Sherlock doesn’t answer, just leads His John into his bedroom. The bed is made, sheets pristine. It is just how Sherlock remembers it. He smiles and draws His John closer to the bed until they are sitting down on the edge.

“Sherlock.” His John whispers. He hesitates. “…..This is new.”
Sherlock nods and takes a shaky breath. “I want…I…”

His John puts a hand on his cheek. “What do you want?”

Sherlock shifts. “I-I-need…. you.”

His John smiles and places his other hand on Sherlock’s cheek and cups his face. “What do you want to do?”

Sherlock blinks. He doesn’t know. Slowly he places his hands on John’s face.

“Sherlock.” His John whispers again, and that is all he needs to hear to lean in and kiss him. His John doesn’t really taste of anything. How could he? He is a figment of Sherlock’s mind, after all. The kiss is clumsy, but His John guides him through it, until Sherlock relaxes into it.

He wants to do more.

Sherlock pulls away, hands clenched into fists on his lap. His John looks and him, and he knows what Sherlock wants to do, and so takes Sherlock’s trembling fists and places them on his sides.

“Sherlock….” His John whispers…. it’s okay.”
Sherlock smiles and tries to relax as His John lays him down on the bed and leans over him.

But Sherlock should have known it wouldn’t last. He should have realised his mind would not give him a rest. Not after Moriarty had intruded on them when Sherlock had relaxed before, a looming figure of darkness.

His John’s eyes suddenly turn dark, a gleam in them Sherlock has seen in the eyes of Moran many times. His John laughs, but it isn’t John’s voice anymore, it is Moran’s.

“You slut.” It teases. “That’s all you’ve ever been, isn’t it? All you’ll ever be.”

Moran is suddenly pressing down on him from above, and Sherlock knows what comes next. He starts to sob.

“No! Please.”

Moran smacks him across the face, the pain sharp and metallic. “Don’t you ever dare say no to me, you know better than that you little shit!”

“I’m sorry.” Sherlock cries.

Moran nods, “Yes, you are, and now you’re going to pay for it.”

And Sherlock knows what’s next, and Sherlock begins to scream.                                                                          


 

When Sherlock is wrenched from his mind he cannot remember for a moment who he is, or where he is, or if Moran is really there or not. He is surrounded by softness, and he gasps as he feels a hand on his arm, and then suddenly the sheets and duvet that cover him are pulled away and his eyes are assaulted by soft light.

Sherlock makes a sound of pain and confusion, sweat covering his body and breath erratic.

“What…?”

“Sherlock. It’s me, Mycroft. There is no danger here, brother mine.”

Sherlock sits up suddenly and looks over towards Mycroft, who is sat on the edge of the bed, sheets and duvet in his hands. It was Mycroft, then, who was touching his arm just then, and how had also thrown the sheets off of Sherlock. Sherlock was back in reality, then. Yes, this was reality. He’s been through this before, of course it was.

“Where’s John?” he suddenly asks.

“On a dinner date with Mary Morstan, remember? Would you like me to bring him back?”
Sherlock blinks. Of course. Yes, he had insisted on John going out and spending time with his girlfriend.

“No,” he shakes head. “I’ll be fine in a minute.”

He can’t drag John away from his dinner just because Sherlock was stupid enough to try and do something he wasn’t ready for, in a mind that had already turned against him. He wasn’t sure if he could return to His John and the safe place again, or if that place in his mind was even his safe place anymore.

Mycroft stares at him suspiciously, reading every emotion that crosses his face. “Would you like me to light a fire?” he asks.

Sherlock nods, and Mycroft crosses the room over to the fireplace. Sherlock disconnects himself from the IV line clumsily and collects the sheets up in his arms and drags them over to the sofa. He plonks down in a little nest. Not soon after Mycroft has a fire burning in the hearth. Sherlock watches the flames as his brother walks to the door and calls for someone to bring tea, imagining that they are consuming his safe place in his mind, consuming His John, who is now as broken as Sherlock.                                                                       


 

Gentle music fills the air and the atmospheric sounds of clinking cutlery and companionable chatter surrounds John and Mary as they enjoy their meal. The place Mycroft has booked for them is incredibly posh, and John tries not to look like too much of an uncultured swine as he digs into his steak. It tastes delicious. Mary watches him relish his meal with amusement.

“Didn’t realise Sherlock’s brother was so loaded, although I probably should have guessed from the size of his house.” She says.

John hums in agreement. “That’s what you get when you have a lot of power, eh?”
Mary laughs and takes a sip of her wine. She looks around at the ambience of the restaurant. It is very…. romantic.

“Almost seems like he is trying to set us up or something.” She jokes.

Johns grins, “You should thank Sherlock, he’s the one who insisted that we spend some time together.”

Mary thinks about that, “Do you think he’s okay?”

John breaths deeply. “If I’m honest…. no. No, I don’t think he’s been fine since he’s been back, he’s just trying to hide it more, recently. I should have known he’d do that. I think he wants me to have a break from him, to see you.”

Mary smiles, “Well I can’t deny it’s good to see you, but Sherlock shouldn’t have done that if he doesn’t feel well enough.”
John nods, “I know, but I don’t want to force any matters on him, not when he’s so….” John swallows. This meal is starting to turn unpleasant. “Look Mary, do you mind if we don’t talk about this?”
Mary nods, “Of course, my love. Let’s just enjoy the meal.”                                                                             


 

Mary lies wide awake, John’s slumbering presence next to her reassuring. The rest of their meal had been pleasant, Mycroft footing the bill being an encouragement for them to get through more alcohol than they probably should have. They had returned to their flat and hadn’t stopped to think, now Mary lies on the soft pillows feeling slightly guilty. Sherlock is at Mycroft’s without John, probably feeling terrible after whatever had happened to him for the past five years, and they’ve just had a very pleasant dinner followed by other pleasures.

Mary’s phone suddenly vibrates, and she looks across at John to see if it has woken him: it hasn’t. She reaches for it where it rests on her nightstand, and the harsh illuminated screen hurts her eyes.

MEET ME HERE NOW. M

Mary frowns and unlocks her phone to see the message properly. Attached to the message if a location, and Mary sighs at the thought of getting up at this time, still a little inebriated. She cannot disobey, however.

She slips quietly from the bed and gathers the nearest clothes of hers that lay discarded on the floor. She pads into the adjacent bathroom and dresses quickly. Then, as quietly as possible, she opens the bathroom cabinet and removes the bottles of medicine and other various liquids from the second shelf and pops out the fake back of the cabinet. There, in the space between the wall and the cabinet, lies her gun. Mary takes it and efficiently checks it is loaded. Then quickly placing everything back in its proper place Mary moves silently though the room and out of the house, casting one last glance at John to check he is still sleeping as she goes. He is.                                                                    


 

Mary’s boots do not make any sound on the cold concrete floor of the abandoned multi storey car park. She breaths out, her breath making mist in the air.

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, your trail of destruction grows.” Mary sighs, recognising the sing song voice of James Moriarty which comes from behind her. She turns to see the man swagger out of the shadows, hands in the pockets of his bespoke suit as he chews some gum.

“Hello, Jim. Why the need to call me out here at this time?”

Jim sniggers, “You’ve been a naughty girl Miss Morstan. Domestic life is wearing off on you, it seems.”

“What?” She asks.

Jim rolls his neck out, and stares at her accusingly. “You made a mistake, my dear, and now you’re going to have to pay for it.”

“What mistake did I make? I followed your orders.”

Jim shakes his head and pouts, looking like a surly toddler.

“You didn’t do you job properly, and you know Daddy hates it when things aren’t done properly.”

Mary thinks back to destroying the house. It had been done in old fashioned interiors, but there were signs of use, and the basement had obviously been used to contain someone, which was likely when it came to James Moriarty, especially if he had been working with Sebastian Moran. Mary had a strong feeling that he had been and still was. Moran held a certain level of loyalty to Moriarty. She had burnt the place down, leaving only an exterior shell.

“It was an absolute mess,” She defends herself, “I destroyed it.”

Moriarty tuts, “No, Miss Morstan, you didn’t. Not all of it.”

He steps nearer to her, his dead eyes stare into hers, face petulant. Mary is glad he is chewing gum and therefore his breath is minty.

“You didn’t destroy one piece of evidence that really needed to be destroyed, you didn’t look close enough for it. I thought it might be a nice game for you, you know how I love games, but, oh no, you’ve grown used to domestic life, haven’t you? Lost your touch?”

Mary breaks eye contact with Jim and he chuckles. “Don’t worry, though, Seb has come up with a punishment for you, one that suits us well.”

“Yes?”

Moriarty clicks his fingers and from the darkness emerges Sebastian Moran, with his broad shoulders and his curled lip. He stares at Mary as an equal with whom he has competition, which is true to an extent. He had always been jealous of her….before, and now he wanted her to feel stupid for her slip up, she presumed. Moran passes Jim the files he has been holding, and Jim strokes the cover of the one on the top.

“These are men we need disposed of.” He says, and shoves the files at her. She takes them and flicks through, looking at the various agents doomed for their death. She notices something as she flicks through, and suddenly her blood runs cold.

“These men all work for Mycroft Holmes.” She states, and Jim chuckles as he notices her shock.

“Are you catching on now?”

Mary feels numb, and it is only with years of practice that she manages to supress the emotions. If this is linked to Mycroft Holmes, then it might be linked to Sherlock Holmes, and then it might be linked to John….

She looks up furiously. “We had an agreement that you would keep my other life out of this if I agreed to work with you.”
Moriarty sighs and shrugs his shoulders. “Some things are unavoidable, my dear. And it just so happens that Mycroft Holmes is someone who is getting in our way.”

“And this is my punishment, is it?” She asks, “Me risking exposing all of this to John.”

Moran smirks at that, and Moriarty nods his head, face the mockery of sympathy.

“Terribly sorry, my dear, but Daddy’s had enough now, you’ve messed up once before, don’t do it again.” He says as a last warning and turns and walks away, back into the shadows. Moran follows after cocking an eyebrow at her.

Mary stands there for a moment, grip tight on the files in her hands, and collects herself for a moment as she watches her breath turn to mist in the air.                                                                          


 

When John wakes the next morning, he is warm and comfortable. He frowns as he realises he is in a soft bed, under a soft duvet, and suddenly he panics and thinks: I didn’t get into bed with Sherlock, did I?

The thought is too close for comfort after Mrs Hudson’s talk the other day, and John is all sorts of conflicted. The thought of waking up in bed with Sherlock, not knowing what may have happened the night before is a baffling one, and John becomes even more conflicted when he reminds himself that he has Mary. The thought of waking up in the same bed as Sherlock, with nothing having happened the night before, however, is not that unpleasant. John has to admit to himself that he wouldn’t feel guilty if it had made Sherlock feel better to have John close by, Mary would understand, it wouldn’t mean anything more than just two best friends sharing close space to give each other comfort. There was nothing wrong with that.

“Sherlock?” John whispers, eyes not open yet, to see if the man is awake.

“John?”

Wait. That isn’t Sherlock. John’s eyes fling open and he realises that he is in is room, in his and Mary’s bed, and his girlfriend lies next to him looking…. concerned?

The night before comes rushing back: Sherlock insisting he go to dinner, the fancy restaurant, him and Mary coming back home and…

Oh.

John swallows. His thoughts of half slumber he had had moments before make him feel uncomfortable when he thinks about what he and Mary had done the night before.

“You okay?” Mary asks, “You’re acting…weird.”

John nods as he pushes himself up on the bed. “What time is it?” He asks.

“Just gone half seven. Tea?” Mary asks.

John nods and sits up against the headboard. “Sorry, I ermm, just can’t stop worrying about Sherlock.”  

Mary nods and passes him a steaming cup of tea. “It’s alright, course you can’t, poor guy.”

John sips his tea. He hasn’t told Mary any of the particulars, and he feels bad keeping this so private from her. The only thing she knows is that he had been missing for five years, and that he is obviously traumatised, since she had accidently seen Sherlock in the throes of a nightmare.  “I wish there was more I could do for him.” John admits, “He’s had one therapy session since he returned, and that wasn’t even a proper one, we barely scratched the surface, and he’s so…..” John’s grip tightens on his mug. “….They messed him up, Mary. They did things to him that no one should have to go through.”

“Who?” Mary asks quietly.

John shakes his head, filled with hate. “Oh, this…bastard who challenged Sherlock before all this. Moriarty.” John stares down at his cup of tea. He feels Mary shift next to him. “Though I don’t believe he was the one who actually…did those things to Sherlock. Never likes to get his hands dirty, apparently. It was some other guy, Moran, who….debased Sherlock like that. It makes me feel sick to think they were doing this to him while I just waited for Mycroft to find him without knowing the man wasn’t.”

Mary’s eyebrows rose. “He wasn’t?”

“He did at first, of course,” John explains. “But he was under too much pressure from superiors, something like that, and didn’t have the resources to search for him with his whole might. I don’t know whether to blame Mycroft or…”
“Well, you said these men did horrible things to Sherlock,” Mary says, and shifts on the bed again, “And they were obviously clever, in order to keep themselves and Sherlock hidden, so…maybe Mycroft should have pushed to search for his own brother, but he cannot be fully blamed, seeing as Sherlock’s kidnappers seem clever, even if they are bastards.”

John is surprised by how rational her reply is, and wonders why he didn’t think that way himself. He has been arguing with himself for days whether he should blame Mycroft for not finding Sherlock sooner, but he knows Moriarty, and he knows how clever he is, he had tested Sherlock when the man was at his prime all those years ago, and with this Moran man on his side…. roughening Sherlock up for him, weakening him, then Sherlock barely stood a chance in the end, did he?

John realises maybe he just wanted to shout at Mycroft as for once the man didn’t have entire control of everything.

A thought suddenly occurs to John. “Mary, listen…..why don’t you take the day off work? Spend it with me?”

Mary looks shocked at him. “What? John?”

“I mean come with me to Mycroft’s to see Sherlock.”
John thinks it might just do him good to spend time with Mary and Sherlock together. He had been struggling with the sudden clash of his past life with his so-called ‘present life’, but now he realises that no, this is his life now. He is in the present, and the present contains both Mary and Sherlock.

Mary hesitates, “Well….if you’re sure?”

John nods and smiles, “I am.”                                                                  


 

“Sir? Agent Lark is here to see you.”

Mycroft stands to greet the woman who enters the room after Anthea. He is wearing yesterday’s suit, having found next to no sleep that night. None of his team have, apparently, for an agent to be seeing him at this time in the morning. She is one of his top agents, experienced, tactical. Possibly one of the best goldfish Mycroft knows.  

“Sir.” She says, and Mycroft flicks a hand out in an offer for her to sit down. They both sit in their respective seats.

“Agent Lark,” Mycroft says, “I presume you are here because of the Magnussen/Moriarty situation.”

She nods, “Yes, I am…I have information that I thought best if  tell you in person, instead of being relates through departments.”
Mycroft nods to tell her she could continue. “Sir, I think it would be wise if we were to research any of the files and information we may have on a hitman known as AGRA.”

Mycroft’s eyebrows raise. “AGRA? That’s a name I haven’t heard in a while.”
Agent Lark nods her head, “They have been out of service for about two years, we are not sure yet if they are dead, or if they have changed identity. I would like permission to investigate this. We know that they had links with Moriarty beforehand, and there is a likelihood that Magnussen has information on them, perhaps that is why they are either dead or have changed identity, as he has information on almost every one of the same power that AGRA used to have.”

Mycroft leans back in his chair and thinks about that. Perhaps that is why Moriarty had the files on Magnussen. A power game, seeing who could best who. Sherlock would have been a helpful asset to him, and asset Moran had abused.

Mycroft nods his head, “Yes, that seems like a very wise path to take. Thank you, Agent.”

She smiles briefly at him before standing and exiting.

Mycroft steeples his hands under his chin, his eyes creasing into slits. This situation is growing big, and if it is to reach Charles Augustus Magnussen, then Mycroft will have an extensive and potentially devastating problem on his hands.

 

Chapter Text

Anthea opens the front door to let Agent Lark out of the house, but they almost bump into John and Mary, who have just turned up. John immediately goes to apologise, but Agent Lark does not pay any attention to him. She glances up briefly and her eyes lock on Mary, who averts hers immediately. Agent Lark frowns then moves on. Anthea also gives Mary a small glance, but obviously recognising her from the other day and realising she is not a threat lets her in with no comment. She does no more, however, and saunters off down the hall and behind the door to Mycroft’s office, probably to tell the high and mighty that they have arrived.

“You alright?” John asks, “She looked at you very intensely.”
Mary makes a face of agreement, “Well, perhaps she thought I was attractive.” She winks at him. John laughs and leads her down the corridor and up the stairs to Sherlock’s room. The house is eerily quiet after his laughing subsides, and John guesses that Sherlock is still asleep.

“I’ll just pop in first, see if he’s okay.” He tells Mary, who just nods and steps back a bit, looking around the grand house. John opens the door carefully and shuts it behind him. Sherlock is sleeping soundly, but John is puzzled to find him in a nest of sheets on the sofa. The remains of a fire still crackle away in the fireplace. He walks over to check on Sherlock and notes the disconnected IV line with disapproval. Despite the circles of exhaustion around Sherlock’s eyes the man looks peaceful and calm. John smiles and watches the gentle inhalation and exhalation through Sherlock’s slightly parted lips. His hair lays in delicate curls on the pillows and duvet that surround him, some falling across his forehead. John shakes himself. He’s doing it again. He’s doing it and he can’t stop it. He can’t help staring at Sherlock and thinking how….

‘God, John, what are you doing?’

He had made it clear to Mrs Hudson the other day he is not gay, didn’t he?

‘But you don’t necessarily have to be gay to think Sherlock attractive, do you?’ a voice in John’s head says. It teases him. ‘When it comes to love, it is solely that person who matters. Who cares about gender?’

No, John shakes himself. He has just enjoyed a great night with Mary, why is he suddenly letting these thoughts in again? These thoughts, he had told Mrs Hudson, have been put to rest since Sherlock had been missing for three years and he had met Mary two years ago. Mary had been the signal of a new life for him, and he couldn’t just let those feelings drop.

He shakes himself, this morning having started strangely and continuing so, and carefully places a hand on Sherlock’s arm, or where he thinks it is under the duvet. Sherlock frowns, but doesn’t stir apart from that.

“Sherlock?” John whispers. This time Sherlock moves and makes a little groaning sound. John smiles as his best friend’s eyes slowly open and he blearily looks at John. It takes a couple of blinks for him to realise who he is looking at. He suddenly looks slightly guilty. “You okay?” John asks, “You were on the bed when I left you.”
Sherlock squirms on the sofa but doesn’t answer, only closes his eyes again. John frowns and places a hand on Sherlock’s forehead, checking for fever. His cheeks are flushed but his forehead is cool, so John presumes it is a mix of being wrapped in the duvet and being by the fire.

“Mary is here.” John whispers, and Sherlock’s eyes open at that. “I can tell her to go away, though, if you’re feeling too…tired, or…”
Sherlock interrupts him though, “No, it’s fine…how was your dinner?”
John smiles briefly, “Yes, good.”

Sherlock shifts. “Good.”

“I’ll let her in, then,” John says, heading for the door, “And call for some tea.”

Mary enters a little apprehensively, having only seen Sherlock one time before, when he had been in the clutches of a nightmare. Sherlock’s cheeks flame red as he thinks about how she must think he is so weak, pitiful.

Sherlock hates the word.

“Hey, Sherlock.” Mary says brightly, not cautiously at all. “We haven’t met properly yet. I’m Mary, John’s err… you know.”
Sherlock nods. She smiles at him and he gives her a small one back.

“Shall I stoke up the fire again?” John asks as he re-enters the room.

“Please.” Sherlock says.

Mary takes off her jacket at John chucks a couple of logs onto the fire, making sure it will stay alight before he sits down on the sofa next to Sherlock, avoiding the duvet pile. Mary takes the armchair that hasn’t been moved over to the window.

They sit in silence while they wait for the tea to arrive. Sherlock clenches his hands into fists to stop the trembling that always comes when left in silence; he doesn’t want to appear weak in front of John or Mary, he is embarrassed enough, sat here in his pyjamas, ensconced in his duvet.

Eventually the tea arrives, and Sherlock relishes in the warm comfort of the beverage.

John sips his tea and makes eye contact with Mary. She gives him a look that says ‘say something, for goodness sake!’

“Err...” John coughs and clears his throat, “How was your evening, Sherlock?”
Sherlock’s tea cup freezes in its journey to his mouth. He pauses, mouth opening and closing for a few seconds, before he replies.

“Yes…. fine.”

His cheeks burn red, and John frowns as he sees this reaction? What had happened last night?

John glances to Mary, who is purposefully not looking Sherlock’s way, sensing his embarrassment. Sherlock seems very comfortable indeed, and John wonders if he had had a bad night. He will have to ask Mycroft.

“Oh, is that Monet?” Mary suddenly asks, pointing to the side table, where Sherlock’s book rests.

Sherlock nods.

“That’s a strange coincidence; only last week I went to a Monet exhibition.”

“You did?” John asks. Now he is the one who I embarrassed; he doesn’t even know what his girlfriend has been up to, he hasn’t even asked.

Mary nods, “Yeah, with Val. You know Val? The one with the parrot?”

John frowns, he does not know who Val is, but decides to nod anyway, “Yeah, yeah, Val.”

“It was quite good, maybe you could…” She gestures at Sherlock, who stiffens “It’s a long running exhibition, going to be there for months, I mean, so…. anyway.” She changes subjects when Sherlock doesn’t react positively to her suggestion.

No, he is not ready to go out into the world yet. He doesn’t feel like he ever will be. The short period of time he spent on the streets while waiting for Lestrade to pick him up was enough for him to feel out of place, a sore thumb, a freak. He hates that is what he has become, after spending those five years in that house and basement, a recluse.

“Perhaps I could go, and then phone you up on Skype? So, you could watch the whole thing from my laptop, or, no, you can do it from phones, nowadays, can’t you?” John says, and he sounds impressed with the developments in technology and that makes Sherlock want to laugh a little.

“Do you mean like we used to do on cases? When I couldn’t be bothered to leave the flat for anything less than a seven?” Sherlock looks to John, who smirks at him, and they both remember the ‘good old days.’

‘No’, Sherlock thinks after he’s said it, ‘not me- Him. Old Sherlock. One who would choose not to go outside, who hadn’t had all his decisions made for him for five years’

Mary’s phone beeps with a text message, and she pulls it out and reads the message, a frown forming on her face as she reads.

“John, I’m sorry, I think I’m going to have to go into work, I know you wanted me to have the day off but they really can’t spare me today, apparently.”

“Oh, right, no that’s fine, if you really have to, then…” John trails off, looking slightly disappointed.  Sherlock watches his face change as Mary talks, sees every little mannerism: the quirk of the eyebrows, the sniff of his nose, the clenching of his teeth. Sherlock has always been able to pick up on the small things about people, that’s what he did for a living before, but with John the process isn’t just collecting data it’s…. beautiful.

 “Right, well, I’ll see you boys later then.” She smiles at both of them as she leaves, but she doesn’t kiss John or make eye contact with Sherlock.

“Right then,” John says as the door shuts behind her. “And I thought we were going to be having the whole day together.”

Sherlock sorely wishes he could say to John: I will go out with you, let’s spend the day at that Money exhibition, but he can’t, he just can’t.

“We could go in the garden?” He finally suggests.

“Alright.” John nods. “Perhaps we could take some scones and tea out. You really do need to eat more.”

‘Yes, alright, John, if that will make your day better then I will’ Sherlock thinks, but all he does is nod.                                                                           


 

“Do you remember that Doctor Laurens is coming back for her second session today?” John asks, munching on a scone, sat next to Sherlock on the garden bench.

Sherlock nods, that tight fist in his stomach of dread and fear in his stomach. ‘For, John’, he reminds himself, ‘and you said to yourself after last time that maybe this would be good after all.’

“Are you going to be there?” He asks John.

“If you want me to be?”

Sherlock hesitates: he doesn’t want to admit to John how embarrassing he finds having to discuss his weaknesses in front of John, but at the same time he doesn’t feel he can do this without John. It’s a catch twenty-two.

“If you think you might not be able to say everything you want to in front of me then I can wait for you outside the door; I’ll still be nearby.” John prompts when Sherlock doesn’t say anything.

Sherlock jolts, and for a scary moment he thinks John is implying that Sherlock might confess his love for the man to Doctor Laurens. Sherlock shakes himself, and reminds himself that he hasn’t given John any outward sign of his feelings, that they are all still kept locked tight in his brain. John must mean about his time with Moriarty and Moran, then.

“You can be honest with me.” John whispers.

Sherlock lets out a shaky breath. ‘Stop’, he tells himself, ‘stop winding yourself up with your thoughts; being honest with John would be better, you don’t have to tell him everything, this is not Moran or Moriarty you are talking about, but you can trust him. He is John, he is the only person you really trust.’

“I just…” Sherlock begins, then takes a sip of tea from his thermos to clear his throat. “I don’t want you to think I’m…pathetic, or br-broken, even if I am, if you hear me talk about what Moran and Moriarty did to me.”

He sucks in a breath: finally saying that to John is like standing on the precipice of the White Cliffs of Dover.

John sniffs and shifts on the bench. Sherlock doesn’t dare look at him.

“Sherlock.” John says, “I think that maybe I should have told you this from the off, but I’m going to say it now so we’re finally clear: I will never, ever, think any less of you because of the actions done against you by those two men. That you are affected shows how good you are as a person, okay? It is not a weakness, it is, in a way, expected as the fallout of the sort of trauma such as what you’ve been through. Now, you may think you are broken, but I believe that you are as strong as a bull. Not physically, I admit, but your spirit and your essence, what makes you you, are still in there. Of course, you have changed, we are changed all the time by different experiences, just look at the state of me after Afghanistan, but I know you, and I know that, because you are so incredibly strong and incredibly brave, you will come through this and you will be as amazing and brilliant than ever.  So please, do not think you have to hide anything from me because I will judge you, because the jury is already in on my opinion of you and I have to say it is a positive one.” John smiles, and Sherlock just blinks at him for a few moments as he processes what John has just said.

“That’s……good.” Is all he can think to say, while his brain repeats ‘John doesn’t pity him, John doesn’t judge him, John thinks he’s strong’, over and over and over.

John smiles again. “Yes, it is, Sherlock.”

“Thank you,” He whispers, and, to show John how grateful he is, takes a large bite of his scone.                                                                    


 

“Sherlock, good to see you again.” Doctor Laurens greets him and John as she comes into Sherlock’s bedroom, the chairs all set up and ready for the second session. Sherlock not so much.

“Doctor Watson, I wonder if you could oblige me by sitting this session out?” Laurens asks, and John’s eyebrows rise.

“Well, I mean,” He blabbers, “if Sherlock doesn’t mind, I’ll wait just outside.”

Sherlock does mind, especially now the air is clean between the two of them that Sherlock can discuss with John his thoughts and feelings and not be judged.

“I apologise, Sherlock, but I think this will be better if it is just you and me.” Laurens explains. “As much as I respect Doctor Watson’s position in your life and your relationship with each other, I have always found it better to speak to my patients alone.”

She looks insistent in a calm, cool way, and Sherlock can see that she will not take ‘no’ for an answer. He nods, and she smiles at him.

“I’ll be right outside, Sherlock.” John says. Sherlock nods, and watches John go.

The moment he and Doctor Laurens are sat down, however, and the session had begun, he is extremely glad that John was not present for it.                                                                      


 

“Mr Holmes?”

A polite voice, one Mycroft knows but does not hear often, comes from the other side of his door, and he stops writing abruptly and announces she may come in.

Doctor Laurens walks forward and shakes his hand, before she takes a seat opposite his desk, her smart clothing slightly creased.

“Can I help you, Doctor?”

“I have some worries about Sherlock.”

Mycroft nods patiently, but inside his stomach is squirming, his lunch resting heavy.

“I don’t believe he is attending therapy sessions for the sake of getting better. I have told him this myself, and we have agreed that until he truly feels ready to begin to heal himself then we shall not continue further.”

“Oh.” Mycroft says; he doesn’t quite understand what she is saying. “What do you mean by he is not attending them to get better? I thought that was the whole point?”
Laurens leans forward a little more, which at once tells Mycroft that the situation is ‘delicate.’

“Sherlock has admitted that he had only initially intended to attend sessions with me in order to please John Watson, and he did that because….” Here she hesitates, and Mycroft assumes it is because she is about to impart extremely delicate information with him. “…because he loves him.”
Mycroft blinks.

Part of him is not surprised, would probably have already seen it for himself if he’d looked hard enough, but the part that is surprise has to consider what sort of love Sherlock feels for John Watson. Mycroft himself feels a brotherly love for Sherlock that borders on parental. His love for food is materialistic and addictive.

“In what way, does Sherlock love Doctor Watson?” He asks.

Laurens thinks before answering. “Wholly, Mr Holmes.”

Mycroft nods; so, his brother is completely and utterly stuck, there is no way Mycroft could help him to fall out of love with John Watson like he did with the cocaine. There is nothing Mycroft can do to help Sherlock in this matter.  

“I see.”

Laurens cannot help herself. “Do you?”
Mycroft inclines his head. “In terms of the logistics between you and my brother I do. I will contact you when my brother is ready to start sessions again.”
“Thank you, Mr Holmes.” Laurens says, before getting up and leaving Mycroft to his thoughts.                                                                  


 

Sherlock is so incredibly angry with himself. Of course, Doctor Laurens would see right through him, she is a therapist! Why did Sherlock fool himself? He is even more frustrated by the fact that he was, in fact, beginning to want to heal himself, was actually coming around to the idea of therapy when Doctor Laurens had suggested that he was doing all of this for John, which is, he admits, true.

Sherlock had felt like a little spider who had woven himself a web of plans and schemes that had been cruelly wiped away by a human hand, and he would have to start all over again, build his web stronger. Doctor Laurens had suggested that he should not only begin to heal for John, but for himself. Sherlock couldn’t quite fathom this; his self-disgust was so strong he felt he would never be healed, even after John’s confession of not caring how Sherlock was. “You are the most important thing in this, Sherlock.” She had told him, and he had shaken his head, explained that John was, that John was Sherlock’s driving force. That was when she had asked him: “Do you love John Watson?”
Sherlock’s cheeks were flaming red, his heart racing. He hadn’t answered, but the scribbles on her notepad that followed and her body language showed she understood that yes, he does, in fact, love John Watson. Would she tell him? Would it make John see how much of a lovesick idiot Sherlock was being, doing all of this for him? Would John retract his earlier statement, and judge Sherlock as pathetic, hanging onto him desperately when he was in love with Mary?

Sherlock clenches his fists and sinks down onto the bed. He is frustrated with himself, with Doctor Laurens, for leaving him when he is wanting to heal himself; it doesn’t matter if he does it for himself or for John, she is being ridiculous.

She is not’, the logical part of his brain speaks to him through his veil of anger, ‘she is a professional, she knows what’s best for you. Even if you can’t trust her, she is, at the moment, your best hope of recovery.’

“But what if I can’t recover!” he whispers to himself, “I’m so tired all the time!”

‘Of course, you can’, comes a voice suddenly, and Sherlock shudders to hear His John for the first time since his ‘nightmare’ the night before. ‘I told you earlier you are strong, and if I believe it, then it must be true, I believe in you, I’ve always believed in you.’

And suddenly Sherlock understands.

He jumps up, his body protesting, and makes his way to the door, ready to chase after Doctor Laurens if he must, because he finally accepts that he can heal, that maybe, just maybe, if he does, then John will love him, and not because Sherlock has done it just for him.

But that he has done it for himself, as well.                                                                    


 

Sherlock flings open the door, Laurens’s name already on his lips, when he jumps back, his heart racing faster and his mind going ‘danger, danger!’

“Sherlock. Geez, you alright?” John asks, and Sherlocks gaze swivels between him and the two-other people on the precipice of his room: Mrs Hudson and Molly.

Molly. He has not seen Molly in years….

“Sorry.” He says and flies back into the room and into the bathroom to calm down. He settles a shaking hand against the wall and glares at himself from under his lashes in the mirror. What a sight he has just made of himself! He turns on the tap and splashes his face with water, watching, almost entranced, as the pearl-like drops travel down his face. In a way, it is effective in abating Sherlock’s tears, but his heart races still. He must get a grip on himself! He has admitted he has to heal, and so he should start realising what these feelings are when he feels them and attempt to stop them. Unfortunately, the person who could tell him how has just left.

He sucks in breaths, remembering how John would sometimes do this when they first met and his thoughts would wonder back to the war and the heat and the smell of death. His brain is attempting to convince him that he was not surprised by his old friends, but by Moran. That he can smell damp as he breaths in and out rhythmically. He tightens his grip on the sink, the cool, polished surface keeping him grounded: it is so different from anything he was given my Moran and Moriarty, all rough and harsh, that it manages to do the trick.

He sinks down and sits on the edge of the bath, and again the cold smooth surface grounds him further. He blinks rapidly and his eyes come back online, realising the bright lights of the bathroom shining on him, so different from the bare lightbulb of the basement. Yes, this is right, he is at Mycroft’s, and a bittersweet triumph comes over him: he has successfully managed to drive himself out of a flashback.

A knock comes at the door: the rat-tat-tat of the knuckles of the forefinger and middle finger unmistakably John’s. “Sherlock? You alright?”
Sherlock sucks in a breath and stands and opens the bathroom door, his face still damp.

“Sorry,” He mutters, looking straight at John. “I needed to freshen up.”

“Ah.” John says. “You alright?”

Sherlock nods, and this seems to appease John who steps back and allows Sherlock to come further into the room.

“Sherlock dear.” Mrs Hudson says, and he sits down on the sofa, opposite her and next to Molly, who hunches into herself awkwardly.

“Mrs Hudson. Molly.” He says, voice even enough for it to sound calm.

“John was just telling me you had some of my scones for lunch.” Mrs Hudson says. John himself is, oddly, not sitting anywhere near Mrs Hudson or indeed Sherlock and Molly. He stands by the window, looking down at the garden. Sherlock frowns at that. “I’ve brought you something else, dear, I know you are fond of lemon drizzle cake, so….” She pops open the metal tin she has been holding to reveal a rich looking lemon drizzle cake, already cut into slices.

Sherlock smiles a little at her, and she places the tin on the table. “There if you want it.”

Sherlock’s stomach is still full from the scones, but he feels wiped out from his therapy session and almost flash-back, so he takes a slice anyway. John gives him a pleased look, and Sherlock is so relieved to see that John’s reluctance to sit is, perhaps, not to do with him directly. So, then, what is it that John is bothered by?

“I’m just going to go phone Mary.” The man suddenly says, and he is out the door before Sherlock can say ‘please stay.’

“Oh,” Mrs Hudson says, “John’s being funny today, isn’t he?”

“Maybe he’s tired.” Molly suggests, and it is the first words Sherlock has heard her speak in five years. “I know when I’ve had a long day all I want to do it curl into bed.”

Sherlock couldn’t agree more.

Molly leans forward to take a slice of Mrs Hudson’s cake and Sherlock notices the ring on the fourth finger of her right hand. Suddenly he feels a rush of shame as he remembers his treatment of her in those years before; that man is so different from him he barely recognises him and his actions as his own, but that is no excuse, and he wonders if maybe Molly feels satisfaction at his suffering? Moran had told him he was disgusting, detestable, and Sherlock’s brain automatically tells him: he is right, he is right, he is right. He shudders.

“Congratulations.” He whispers, and Molly stops in the motion of bringing the cake to her mouth, and she blinks at him. Forgive me, forgive me.

“Thank you.” She says, as she cottons on to the fact that he saw the ring on her finger.

“Oh, he’s lovely Sherlock, you should meet him.” Mrs Hudson says. Sherlock does not want to meet this man, this man will hate him if he knew how he had treated his beloved, and Sherlock does not trust himself not to break down in front of strangers.

In the past, Sherlock would have made a comment of how much healthier and happier Molly looks now than she used to, but he just nibbles on his cake and doesn’t meet her gaze.

“The morgue has been too full of cadavers without you.” Molly says, and Sherlock pauses in his chewing. Is that meant as a compliment of sorts?

“Thank you.” He uncertainly says, and she smiles at him, and Sherlock feels a lingering hope in his chest that maybe Molly doesn’t, actually, hate him.                                                                     


 

John passes Doctor Laurens as he makes his way to Mycroft’s office, and she jumps when she sees him, and the look she gives him is almost…. guilty?

“Oh, hi.” He says.

“Hello, apologies for earlier,” She begins, but John holds up his hand.

“Look, I may not agree with what you asked of me, but as Sherlock agreed to it I will let it pass.”
She nods. “Yes, well, it was much more productive this time around.”

John frowns. “What does that mean.”

She starts walking towards the front door and only replies with “I’m afraid that’s confidential.” Before she leaves.

John sighs and shakes his head before knocking and entering Mycroft’s office.

“Oh, Doctor Watson.” Mycroft sounds genuinely surprised. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Mrs Hudson and Molly Hooper are visiting Sherlock so I thought I’d just, you know, pop down and see what the situation is.”

“Right.” Mycroft says, and seems to look at John as if he is evaluating him. “Well, do sit down.”
John does, and is about to open his mouth to ask how the situation is after the discovery of Moriarty’s exploitation of Magnussen’s men, when Mycroft says, “is the relationship between yourself and Mary Morstan a strong one?”

John frowns. “What? Well, Mycroft I don’t really think that’s your business.”
“Everything is my business.” The man says.

John sighs. Oh, hell, like Mycroft would understand the emotions he might talk about anyway. “It is strong, yes. Before all this happened, I was thinking of asking her to marry me.”

Mycroft’s eyebrows raise, but his eyes are thinking, calculating, staring inwards at his brain.

“Why do you ask?” John says, absolutely baffled that Mycroft would care.

“Doctor Laurens has just imparted some knowledge with me that has made her reconsider therapy with Sherlock until such a time when he is ready.”
“But, he’s said he is, so I don’t see the problem.”

Mycroft leans forwards and places his arms on the desk, hands expressive in front of him. “He did not agree for the right reasons, according to Doctor Laurens. That is why she has postponed the sessions until Sherlock decides to attend therapy for himself, and,” here Mycroft pauses, and John is almost certain it is for dramatic effect. “not for somebody else.”

John tips his head to the side a little. “Who was he doing it for, then?”

Mycroft gives him a look that says ‘think, you moron’, and then John realises.

“No.” He says.

“Doctor Watson?” Mycroft asks, watching him carefully.

John can feel his face blanche. Sherlock was only doing it for him? He was only attempting therapy in order to please John. “But, why would he do that?” He asks, at a loss.

“Well, isn’t it obvious?” Mycroft shrugs. And, indeed, it is obvious when John thinks about it, but it is something he had never considered before, never thought possible.

“No.” he says again, shock rippling through like a rip tide.

“Yes.” Mycroft says and sighs, leaning back in his chair.

“Oh, my god.” John says, as he is hit with another wave, a wave of what could have been if Sherlock hadn’t been taken, if John had never met Mary, the feelings that he had so strongly denied to Mrs Hudson but admitted himself would never die. Yes, Mary had been there for him but so had Sherlock! Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock.

“I can’t deal with this.” John says standing up, “I’ve got to…. clear my head.” He marches out of Mycroft’s office and throws the front door open, not even bothering to put on his jacket and he marches down the pavement. He has no idea where he is going, how far he is walking. The only thing that his brain can focus on is that Sherlock loves him.

Sherlock really, truly and utterly loves him. And now, when John thinks back, he honestly can’t believe he hasn’t seen it before. Is that why he had acted so weird that morning? He is half mad and half dazed that Sherlock had only agreed to therapy because of him! John cannot wrap his head around everything, and the copious amounts of fresh air he is sucking in are not helping to clear his head. Sherlock had arranged for a dinner for him and Mary, and yet he loves John?

‘Yes, you idiot, he was doing it to make you happy.’

Doctor Laurens cannot be wrong, apparently, Sherlock had admitted it to her, so John must be the one who is wrong for not having seen it before. He stops abruptly, and he realises that someone is shouting at him and that he has just stopped in the middle of a busy London pavement.  But he doesn’t care. The only thing he can worry about is: does Sherlock know that John loves him?                                                                                


 

Mary creeps silently, as stealthy as a leopardess, through the streets of London, on the trail of her prey. It had taken her most of the day to be able to predict the moves of her first victim, her heart really wasn’t in it, and the threatening text she had received from Moriarty earlier in the day had provoked to churlishly work slower than she could have.

She perks up as she spots her victim, the woman she had made eye contact with that morning, the action that had made her heart jump into her throat. The woman, Agent Maria Lark, had seemed suspicious, and Mary, scared she would recognise her and report back to Mycroft Holmes, had not hesitated to choose her as her first kill.

She slips from her hiding spot, her black clothing melding and mixing her into the darkened streets. She was a fleeting shadow, a wisp of a breeze, a warning of the oncoming storm.

Agent Lark makes her way down the street quickly, shoulders hunched, on her way home after a long day of espionage. She is alone, Mary knew she would be armed, she had made plans for that. Mary creeps up on her from behind, but the woman is a trained secret agent, and so turns in preparation for conflict. Mary, however, is quicker.

She disarms the woman and twists her wrist. Lark doesn’t scream, she grunts and attempts her own move, but Mary is there with her weapon and is cutting her across the chest, then across the face. She wounds the woman to kill, efficiently, but there is none of the art that she used to put into it in her attempts this night. She has a job to do and she will do it.

She leaves Lark lying in the street and slinks off, not giving the dying woman a backward glance as her blood trails out into the cracks in the concrete.

Chapter Text

 

“Mycroft, where is John?” Sherlock asks his brother as he pops his head around his office door. Molly and Mrs Hudson had just left, and Sherlock had worked himself up to making this visit.

“He has gone to get some fresh air, I believe.” Mycroft replies, and he beckons Sherlock in with an open hand. Sherlock pads over, feeling extremely out of place in his pyjamas in Mycroft’s sleek office. He sits down in the comfortable chair facing the desk and takes a deep breath.

“I am ready for therapy.”

“I see.” Mycroft says, and puts down his pen. “But Doctor Laurens has just informed me that you will not continue sessions until you are ready for the ‘right’ reasons.”
Sherlock cringes, and fear crawls into his stomach, causing the Pavlovian response of looking down at the floor and clenching his fists.

“Sherlock?” Mycroft presses gently.

Sherlock sucks in a breath, then another one, and raises his head slowly: he is with Mycroft, Mycroft, Mycroft. Mycroft means safe.

“What did she tell you?” He mutters.

Mycroft does not hesitate. “That you were only doing it for John. That you love John.”

Sherlock lets out a shaky breath.

“I’m sorry, she had to tell me.” Mycroft says, “You are under my care in my house. Plus,” and here Mycroft hesitates, looking at the ceiling. “You know how much of a control freak I am, I need to know everything.”
Sherlock wants to laugh at Mycroft’s self-depreciating joke but he is too wrapped up in the fact that Mycroft knows, Mycroft knows….

At least John doesn’t.  

“I was, and…. I still am.” Sherlock says, looking at Mycroft’s tie, not his face. “But, I’ve realised that I’ve also got to do it for myself, and I am ready to do that now.”

Mycroft squints at him. “And if you do that, do you think John will love you then? Is that why?”

Sherlock does look Mycroft in the face then. “I can’t make him love me. But, I’m starting to realise that I cannot keep myself trapped in the past like this. Doctor Laurens will help me to heal myself.”

Mycroft looks surprised. “Oh, well, that is good news. I will phone Doctor Laurens at the next possible moment. If you are sure?”

Sherlock nods. “Also.” He hesitates. He has given this some thought, and has convinced himself that this will also help his recovery. “I want to help. Find them, I mean, Moran and Moriarty.”

Mycroft looks even more surprised at that, his eyebrows almost disappearing into his thinning hair line. “I’m not sure there’s much you could do; my team has everything under control.”

“But, I want to help.”
“I’m not so sure, Sherlock. You’re still recovering physically, and I don’t want it to take its toll on you both mentally and physically. You should really just focus on the therapy.”

“But-”

“I’m sorry, Sherlock.” Mycroft raises a hand. “But I cannot allow this. Assessing the situation, it is too dangerous, could put you in danger, and we do not want that.”
If Sherlock was still the man he used to be he would have cursed Mycroft and found a way to help anyway, but at the moment, exhausted from the activities of the day, the only thing he can do is sink back into the chair and sigh. Some of these problems are his fault, surely Mycroft should let him undo his own mistakes? His own weaknesses when bullied by Moran and Moriarty. Sherlock is so frustrated by his position.                                                                             



John wanders for hours. It is when he realises the sky is darkening that he realises he should head back to Mycroft’s, whichever way that might be….

He heads back the way he has just walked to the nearest tube station, deciding his legs have got enough exercise for one day. So has his brain, and he wishes he could sleep for days, but there is issue upon issue to deal with, and the main one has turned his whole world upside down and the replaced it with everything the same apart from John. Sherlock loves him. He loves Sherlock. But, he also loves Mary, and there’s the rub.

For a moment, he had considered breaking up with Mary, throwing it all away in an instant because the only person he can think to be with right now is Sherlock. Sherlock, who had changed his life so massively, like a hurricane that had picked him up and flung him out of his depression and taken him to solve crimes and battle with baddies. Sherlock, whose disappearance had broken John in two, just a little bit, until he had found a crutch in Mary. Mary, who has always been supporting John but who isn’t Sherlock. No one will ever be like Sherlock to John, and not just because he is such a big personality, but because he is, simply, him. There is no other way to describe Sherlock other than ‘Sherlock’. High functioning sociopath was never true.

But, John has shaken himself and told himself that he is being frivolous, giddy with the shock, that he needs to calm down, breath and assess the situation then. Instead, he has resolved to speak to Sherlock first, just come out with the truth, and see what happens.

The tube car John is taking stops and John jumps off, fairly certain he is near Mycroft’s home. Nerves begin to build up in his stomach, doing summersaults and increasing the nauseating hunger John is feeling: it has been hours since the scones. He steadies his breath as he reaches Mycroft’s home and, with anticipation, opens the door and steps inside.                                                                           


 

Sherlock’s room is quiet, as it so often is, and John cringes as his footsteps sound like an elephant’s to his ears.

“Sherlock?” He whispers. The bed is empty, as is the sofa and the armchairs. Weird. John steps further into the room, and that’s when he realises he can hear the shower running in the en suite. Ah.

John hesitates and clenches and unclenches his hands, not sure what to do. Perhaps he should sit? Yes, that’s a good idea. John plonks himself down on the sofa with a sigh. He gazes into the near distance, mind shouting at him to plan something, anything, to say to Sherlock when he gets out of the shower. He’s angry at himself that he hadn’t spent the past few hours he spent walking around like an idiot deciding what he should say, but he’s reeling from the fact that Sherlock loves him.

The shower in the bathroom stops, and John stomach flutters with nerves and he realises that time is running out. What should he say? ‘Hi, Sherlock. Heard you love me, and that’s funny because, you know, I love you too!’

The bathroom door clicks open and John braces as Sherlock comes out of the bathroom wrapped in towels around his waist and shoulders. He jumps when he sees John, and immediately John can see a tenseness form in the line of the man’s shoulders. Oh, god, John hopes Sherlock doesn’t feel embarrassed about his feelings. Or maybe it’s his barely clothed state? No, John has seen Sherlock’s body before, lots of times, it couldn’t be that. So, it must be the ‘feelings’, then.

“John.” Sherlock says and he shifts from side to side. “Mycroft said you went for a walk.”

John nods. “Yeah, sorry. I needed to clear my head.”

Sherlock hesitates, and he doesn’t look at John when he says. “You don’t have to stay here all the time if you’re finding it….hard. Honestly, I’m fine.”

John shakes his head. “Sherlock, please. Of course I want to be here. I just got a little stir crazy. So, please, don’t just say you’re fine for my sake. I don’t expect you to be, you don’t have to say that to appease me. If anything, I want you to be honest, tell me as much as you want, okay? Now, I’m not saying that you’re not coping, but I don’t want you to lie to me just to protect my feelings, because-”

‘Because if we love each other then we should be honest with each other’, John wants to say, but instead all he says is, “I don’t want you to do that to yourself. Alright?”
Sherlock nods, looking at John closely as he adjusts the towel around his shoulders. John smiles at him and lets out a sigh. Okay, that was not what he had thought he’d say when he saw Sherlock, but he supposes at least something is out in the open.

John is reluctant to throw away the life he had built while Sherlock was gone, even if he wants to. He shuffles, hands clenching and unclenching, his brain not working for him in coming up with words to say in this now pregnant silence, until Sherlock finally mumbles something about clothes and heads back into the bathroom.

John sighs again and mentally berates himself for being such a coward. ‘You should have just told him!’ John couldn’t be sure with himself how long he would now procrastinate facing his feelings, and was angry with himself that he hadn’t yet gone through with his plan.

“John Watson, you were a soldier, you fought in a war, for god’s sake you can tell your best friend that you love him!” He mutters to himself under his breath as he begins pacing back and forth across the room. “And, if he loves you, then surely he won’t react badly? Why should you be scared? Get it together, man.”

Sherlock comes out of the bathroom just as John is making his six turn of his pacing. Sherlock stops as he watches John, and John feels the weight of the other’s man gaze on his back and instantly stops pacing to face Sherlock.

“John?” Sherlock asks, sounding concerned. “Are you alright?”

John takes a deep breath, and opens his mouth to speak. Okay, this is it. “Sherlock, I-”

All of a sudden there is a quick knock at the door and then Anthea rushes in, mobile, as always, held in one manicured hand. She sounds more than a little tense when she says, “Mycroft needs a word.”                                                                                 


 

Sherlock glances between John and Anthea as the woman announces that Mycroft ‘needs a word’, brain fighting through the fog of tiredness after taking a long hot shower as he reminds himself that he wants to get better and he wants to help, even if Mycroft won’t agree to it he will do it anyway. Because this is Mycroft, not Moran, not Moriarty, and Sherlock always goes against what Mycroft wants him to do because he is his little brother, and therefore it is his duty to contradict him.

“A word with who?” John asks, and a frown dimples his forehead. John. Sherlock is entirely befuddled by John. The man looks troubled, and Sherlock feels a stab of anxiety that it might be about him and his….’feelings’. But, he can’t know, unless Mycroft told him. Sherlock’s heart jolts as he realises that Mycroft probably did.

Is that why John left for a walk? Has Sherlock scared him? No, John told him that he was staying, that he wanted to, and that Sherlock shouldn’t keep how he really felt from him to protect him. Through this, was John implying that he knew about Sherlock’s love for him? Oh, lord, Sherlock is so confused.

“He didn’t say specifically.” Anthea says.

“Then I’m coming. Please.” Sherlock blurts out, nervously fidgeting with his dressing gown as he does.

“You sure?” John says, squinting at him.

Sherlock nods, and in that moment, tries to act like his ‘old’ self with a roll of his eyes. “Please, you don’t have to keep things from me in case they upset me.”

‘Even though they most likely will.’ His John reminds him in his head. ‘But, you are strong, and you’ve made great progress in recognising that yes, there is something wrong with you, and that you want to change that. Heal yourself.’

“I want to start getting back to…to like how it was before. I’m sick of being weak and fragile. I want to heal, so please do not keep these things from me because you think they’ll be detrimental. On the contrary, knowing that things are changing and that something is being done about Mo-” Sherlock couldn’t say their names, not yet. “About them, I think I’ll feel much better about it.”
John gave him a tight nod, his eyes a little wide and, dare Sherlock say it, proud?

“Well, it’s not exactly that kind of news, but alright.” Anthea says and she beckons them to follow her out of the room.   


                                                                         

“You’re kidding?” John asks in disbelief, stood stock still next to Sherlock in Mycroft’s office. The British Government shakes his head and steeples his hands under his chin, appearing outwardly calm, but John can see the flickers of worry and anger in his eyes.

“Someone attempted to kill Agent Lark, and we can only assume that this person has connections with Moran and Moriarty.”

“Shit.” John says, not eloquently at all, and Sherlock is inclined to agree with him. “Wait, attempted to? So, she’s not dead?”
Mycroft shook his head. “No, but she’s in critical condition. I will know more soon, but she was only just brought into surgery when I was notified.”

“God.” John exclaims. Sherlock doesn’t have any words, he doesn’t feel surprised so much as resigned to the fact that Moriarty might have begun to take out anyone trying to find him. Perhaps it was Moran who had tried to kill this agent? The thought of the man out on the streets, not far from Mycroft’s house, makes Sherlock feel sick.

“Is there any CCTV that might help us know who did it?”

Mycroft shakes his head. “This assassin is well trained, they would know to pick a spot that wasn’t in direct line of a camera. We already have suspicions about a certain assassin we had thought retired or dead that might be working with Moriarty. The fact that Agent Lark had only come to me this morning to ask for permission to do research on this agent makes me even more convinced that this might be their work.”

“Shit.” John says again. “So, what now?”

“Well,” Mycroft says, and he adjusts his tie. “I will of course inform all my agents on this case of the danger, but we shall carry on and simply wait for their next move before deciding on any plan to bring them out into the open.”
John shook his head and let out an unsteady laugh. “How are you so calm about this?”

“It’s my job to be calm, John.” Mycroft simply replied, aloof. But, Sherlock could read his brother like a book, and he could see that the man was nervous. Which didn’t help Sherlock’s own anxiety. He had to forcibly remind himself that he was determined to get better, that having any sort of panic attack right now would be detrimental both to his own progress and John and Mycroft’s belief in him to be more involved in finding Moriarty and Moran. He couldn’t deny, however, that the thought of an assassin out there, killing for Moriarty and Moran, was a terrifying one.                                                                   


 

The next few days are, for Mycroft’s poor agents, what John can only describe as a bloodbath. Over the course of forty-eight hours after the reports of Agent Lark’s attack no less than three of Mycroft’s other agents were targeted. Unfortunately for them, they had not been so lucky to have escaped with their lives, and John has watched Mycroft become less composed with each day and each death.

Sherlock was also struggling, with both the news that Moriarty and Moran were out there killing those who wanted to stop them, and with his struggles with his demons. John sympathised completely, and was so proud of the man for taking up therapy to help himself heal. John had discreetly asked him before Doctor Laurens’s session the day after Lark’s attack if he was doing this for John or for himself, and the man had only told him he wanted to get better. John conceded, and discreetly passed the question on to Mycroft, who gave him a terse nod before turning right back to his computer.

Doctor Laurens had suggested similar things that Ella had suggested to John when he was dealing with his own PTSD: she asked him if he would be able to keep a journal for her, writing down his feelings and so on. Sherlock had come out of the session holding a plain notebook she gave him, but John had yet to see him use it. Laurens had also taught him some grounding techniques and breathing exercises in order to bring himself into the present. Sherlock was also incredibly keen on the idea of having sound to remind him of the present, as well, and soon enough the gentle caress of classical music played out through Sherlock’s room through a CD player John had found stowed away in one of Mycroft’s cupboards.

John was, of course, still battling with the conversation he needed to have with Sherlock. He had been about to when Anthea had rushed in the other day, and now, two days after that, sat on the comfort of Sherlock’s sofa in the darkening evening, John doesn’t quite know how he’s going to build up the courage to try again. That is until he looks over at Sherlock sat next to him; his head is tipped back and his eyes are closed as he enjoys the music playing, and for the first time in all of this madness, he looks peaceful.

Suddenly, like a lightning bolt to the heart, John has the courage. “Sherlock.” He begins, voice soft but steady. “Listen, Mycroft told me something the day I took a walk. Something which did surprise me, but,” he adds this part quickly upon seeing the expression on Sherlock’s face. “But, I’ve never been happier to hear it.”

Sherlock looks at him then, eyes wide and open and John can see his soul in those eyes, can see that Sherlock is stripped away by John’s words and has nothing left to lose. “I know this is completely ridiculous, the fact that I heard it from your brother, I mean, but, well, I’ve always thought Mycroft’s nose was quite big, and now I’ve realised that’s because he’s incredibly nosy.”

Sherlock snorts a little at that, and to see such an expression of humour on Sherlock’s face compels John to speak the words that have been ready to burst out of him for days. Years, if he is completely honest with himself.

“Sherlock, I know you love me, and I want you to know that,” John pauses, sucks in a breath, “I do, too. Love you, I mean.”

John coughs, clears his throat. God, that was awkward, and yet it felt so right. Maybe that was the thing with love; when first announced, it felt so awkward, because it was so obvious. The speaker knew their feelings and so to say them, to bare their soul like that with only the use of words, was… silly. Perhaps John should….                                                                  


 

Sherlock is frozen. His body completely still, yet his brain is whirring away. ‘I do, too. Love you, I mean.’

John had definitely said that, and everything that Sherlock can read in his body language and in his eyes, tells Sherlock that he is sincere. This is not a joke, no scorn like Moran might have made. No, John has been wholly honest with him, and Sherlock is……relieved, elated. How can he describe this? Well, this is love, he supposes. This is what people used to simper about in the books his mother used to read, in the rubbish television shows John used to watch at Baker Street. It had always seemed so silly to Sherlock, the only thing he could mildly compare it to was his love for the work, or even Redbeard, but no, he won’t think of that. But, this love, his love for John, is so much more consuming. John is the sun, and he is a man with a vitamin D deficiency. ‘No, Sherlock, that’s not a good metaphor’, he berates himself.

 John hesitates after speaking those words, coughs, clears his throat. Sherlock feels stuck; he wants to do something, reassure John that oh, god, yes, he loves him too, but he’s quite sure he might be in shock. He cannot move until John seems to glance his way with decision and leans forward. And then, suddenly, their lips are meeting, and it is not the passionate kiss of lovers, but a soft, gentle thing that conveys the love between them so perfectly, that finally brings them together.

Sherlock leans into the kiss, his limbs melting and thawing, and John places both his hands on Sherlock’s face, cradling it. They break apart, and Sherlock gazes into John’s eyes, so close to his, and smiles.

“I love you too.” He croaks, and then John smiles back, and kisses him again. They break apart once more, and this time Sherlock, feeling the lightest that he has in five years, jokes, “And I think I might just break Mycroft’s nose for being so nosy.”

John snorts, and the wrinkles around his eyes crease. “That would be my, pleasure, too.”

Sherlock leans into John, and they embrace for a long while. At some point Sherlock’s CD stops, and the silence of the room should have been enough for Sherlock to tense up with anxiety, and yet, with his head against John’s chest, hearing the faint beat of his heart through his shirt and his jumper, Sherlock feels safe, serene.

He is almost dropping off when John suddenly shifts. Sherlock looks up at him, and the man gives him an apologetic smile. “Sorry, bathroom.”

Sherlock lets John go so that he can…go, and drifts over towards the CD player and presses play, and once more the swooping notes of the violin burst out. Sherlock peers into the dark garden, the only light coming from the open doors below, and he frowns as he sees his brother, pacing the patio, and frown on his face and his phone held up to his ear. To Sherlock’s surprise, Lestrade is also there, arms crossed and frowning too. Another agent has been killed, perhaps, and all because of him, Sherlock thinks, guilt stabbing at his gut. As he listens to his music and the faint sound of John humming from behind the closed door, Sherlock reigns himself to doing something to stop Moran and Moriarty; he hates what they have done to him, what he has become, but Sherlock is changing that, and if John is with him then he can do anything. That’s how it’s always been.

Suddenly a vibration, and then the ringing of John’s mobile on the coffee table. Sherlock absentmindedly wanders over to it, and as he peers down at the screen his heart gives a harsh jolt as he realises that he has been foolish, and not weighed one vital calculation into his plan: Mary.

Chapter Text

Greg is feeling rather frustrated. Both at Mycroft and his situation, which, with contemplation, is due to Mycroft, and therefore Greg decides he is just feeling very frustrated with Mycroft. The man should not have taken him off the case, just because things were getting a little too scandalous for the British Government’s liking, a little too close to touching the infamous Charles Augustus Magnussen. Greg is a detective inspector at Scotland Yard, for goodness sake, and he was assigned this case when Sherlock escaped, and therefore he has a right to be investigating.

That is why he has burst into Mycroft’s home after coming off his shift, after having to put up with Donovan nagging at him all day about being taken advantage of by the elder Holmes. For that, he had assigned her to a dull case about cat robberies, and had watched with satisfaction as she became ever more frustrated after a day of questioning petty criminals and cat-less old women.

Mycroft had been less than pleased to see Greg, and had told him to leave repeatedly, but Greg had had enough, and had even followed Mycroft into the garden as the man took an urgent call because he was being so stubborn.

That is why he is now standing, arms crossed, watching as an ever-increasing irritation came over Mycroft as he listened to who-ever was at the other end of the phone-call. Greg can only presume that something has happened to one of Mycroft’s agents on the case, and it fills him with a sense of wonder and relief that, had he not backed down from the case, then it might be one of his men or women that might have been “dispatched of”, as Mycroft had said with indignation and resignation into the phone. Yet, he is still salty.

“Yes, thank you.” Mycroft says as he finishes the call. He holds his mobile in his hand while he takes a moment, seemingly ignorant of Greg’s presence. Or, so Greg thinks.
“Detective Inspector, perhaps now you see why I took Scotland Yard off this case; most of your people might be dead by now.”

Greg frowns. “You make it sound as if lots of people have died.”

“Four have.” Mycroft mutters. “Four of my best agents, all because of James Moriarty.”

“Geez.” Greg is shocked: he hadn’t realised that this investigation would have been so deadly. But then, he supposes, they are dealing with abusers and a crime lord, who most likely has people in his employ who are trained to kill. Greg stops to count his lucky stars for a moment.  “Look, Mycroft, I’m s-”

“Please, do not say sorry.” Mycroft says, contempt in his tone as he stares up at the sky, and the sundry stars that dot it. “They knew what they were doing when they entered my service, and they shall rest knowing they will be remembered in the highest honour.”

Blimey, Greg thinks, this is all very empathetic for Mycroft. Greg shifts his weight between his feet, suddenly feeling awkward for having stormed over here demanding to be involved when Mycroft seems so solemn. He is about to turn to leave when Mycroft says, “It is not just for your incompetence that I removed your team from this case, Detective Inspector, it is for your safety, too.”
Mycroft most likely means that as a reassurance, and he probably wants a thank you for that, but Greg, having grown irritated and angry by Mycroft’s words, simply replies with, “You cannot protect everyone, Mycroft. You are not god.”

With that, he turns and leaves, a plan forming in his mind, one that some might consider stupid, but to Greg, as a Police Detective Inspector, who signed on for this job in order to help people, it seems to make perfect sense.                                                                        


 

Mycroft watches the irritated Detective Inspector leave, a little baffled as to why the man thinks Mycroft protecting his people from almost certain death might be a bad thing. Then again, Mycroft has never quite understood goldfish, especially ones as dense as Gregory Lestrade. His phone starts chirping in his hand, and Mycroft doesn’t hesitate to answer it.

“What news?” Mycroft asks immediately after picking up the call.
“Moriarty was using Sherlock to exploit weaknesses in Magnussen’s organisation. Magnussen had information on men useful to Moriarty that he wanted gone. He’s been killing off Magnussen’s men to try to prevent the stream of information from coming to Magnussen. There’s nothing they could do about the information Magnussen already has, but they were trying their hardest to strengthen their position against Magnussen.”

Mycroft could understand Moriarty’s actions perfectly; Magnussen was dangerous, he was a shark who, when scenting blood, went for the kill. If he could expose any part of Moriarty’s web and make it vulnerable, Moriarty himself could face downfall. Mycroft, with the powers he had, knew that Magnussen found pleasure in letting the scandalous and the dishonest like Moriarty squirm with threats of exposure.

“Alright, thank you.” He says, before shutting off the call. Tonight, another one of their agents has lost their life. Tonight, once more, Moriarty had got the better of him, but Mycroft will not let it come to that any longer. He has strong suspicions about who this is who is taking out his agents, and if those suspicions prove true, Mycroft will have a large gamble to make.

Fighting the urge to pull the package of low tar cigarettes from his jacket pocket, Mycroft lets out a heavy breath before meandering back inside and to his office. He briefly spares a thought for his brother and John upstairs. He wonders whether they have kissed yet, by his calculations they should have done.                                                                      


 

Mary is well and truly fed-up. She cannot do it any longer. She cannot lie to John. She has already dispatched a number of Mycroft’s agents, and she wishes that were enough for Moriarty, but no, it will never be enough. he is messing with her, she knows, taking advantage of her weak position, stuck between him and John, the truth or lies. Mary wonders if it might not just be fairer on John to tell him the truth now before all this gets too out of hand.

She collapses against the wall of the house where Moriarty and Moran had kept Sherlock, the roughness of the bricks against her back all too poetic. She has already killed tonight, and it is barely midnight. This is her fifth victim now. Well, her fifth recent victim. She makes herself sick. This used to be normal, come so naturally to her that it hardly bothered her, and now here she is, back against the wall and trapped between a rock and a hard place.

She loves John, she really does, but telling him what she has done, what she is doing, there’s no possibility he will love her, after that.  And yet, if she deceives him any longer, Mary will feel like she is bursting from the inside. The guilt is so heavy, it’s-

She perks up as she hears the sound of a car stopping not far away, and then soon after that the slamming of a car door. Then, footsteps. Male, going from the heaviness of the tread, and quite a large male. She raises herself from the ground, pulls out her gun and clicks off the safety.

She peers around the corner of the house, and she sees a dark figure approaching the house up the front garden, their gait less than silent in the quiet of the street. Another of Mycroft’s agents? She supposes they think she is gone, already satisfied she has made a kill for the night. However much she hates it, she cannot leave the job a shoddy one; seeing as this is her punishment for making that mistake the last time.

She watches as the figure tries to get in through the front door and fails, and then watches with even more anticipation as they decide the side entrance might be best; the side entrance where she is stowed away, hidden by the shadows. Mary finds it almost funny that now she is finding use for the shadows; they were her friend when she did this full time, and it seems they are not letting her down this time.

She prepares to strike as the figure comes even closer, until they are almost around the corner. In that moment, she doesn’t know if it is the echo of the agent’s shoes reverberating off the walls in this enclosed space that catch her off guard, or if she should blame her reluctance, but the agent turns the corner much quicker than she is expecting. She almost doesn’t have a choice when she pulls the trigger, her finger simply pressing down on the trigger as if it were an innate skill. There is not sound as the bullet is fired, her silencer doing its job.

The agent, indeed a man, going from the deepness of their voice, cries out and curses. He clutches his arm, and Mary recognises that, yes, she didn’t quite deliver the killing shot she had intended. She slips from the shadows and delivers a roundhouse kick to the man’s torso, and the man cries out, slumping to the floor. He curls around his abdomen and clutches his arm. He continues to curse quietly, and that is when Mary recognises his voice.

She freezes.

Oh god. What has she done?

This is no agent, this person isn’t any danger to her, not directly, and not purposefully intending to be. This person is… a friend, really. She’s spent many an evening with him and John, as they have socialised, normally in the pub. She thanks the stars that she didn’t actually deliver him a killing blow. She would never intentionally hurt Greg Lestrade. But, now she has, and now, she knows more than ever, she is going to pay for it.

She steps back and assesses him from the shadows once more, this time concern in her mind. She can barely see in the darkness of the alleyway, but the fact that he is still conscious and, indeed, struggling to get up, is a good sign. She is desperate to run out and help him, explain her actions, but she cannot, not unless she risks John finding out about her.

She stays stock still as she watches Greg get to his feet, breaths coming out short and fast as he tries to contain the pain in his body. He fumbles around in his pocket, and he must have the number on speed-dial as he is swift to put the phone to his ear.

“Mycroft.” He wheezes out, and Mary’s heart skips a beat. “I’ve just been attacked by that killer. What? At the house, I was just going to-What? No, I’ve been shot. The arm. No, it’s not hit anything vital I don’t think, just hurts like a motherf- what? No, it’s okay, I think I can drive- oh for- Mycroft! Mycroft?” It is clear the other man has hung up going by the way Greg voraciously swears down the line before shoving the phone back into his pocket.

The Detective Inspector sucks in a few more breaths, and Mary can see his eyes travel over the darkened alleyway. They pass right over her, and Mary is relieved he doesn’t see hide nor hair of her. Eventually he starts to stumble out of the alleyway, taking careful steps, hand pressed to the gunshot wound.

Mary stays there until he has long since disappeared into a sleek black car that pulls up outside the house after about ten minutes. When the street is once again silent she lets out her own shaky breath and tries to calm the erratic beating of her heart. Her mind is screaming ‘I can’t do this anymore! I can’t do this anymore!’, and she almost sobs as she realises that there is no way out now; she cannot do this anymore, but the only way she can get out of this is to turn herself into Mycroft and, therefore, expose her real self to John. She doesn’t care what Moriarty is holding over her head anymore, it doesn’t matter, not if John will find out anyway, and she’d rather lose her love after turning herself in for injuring his friend than betray him for Moriarty.

She steps out from the alleyway, and her eyes catch light of Greg’s car on the curb. She sets her jaw, her mind made up. She marches over to the car and, expertly, breaks in. There is no need for her to conceal prints, she is intending to be caught, so she pulls off her gloves, they feel sweaty on her hands, anyway, and places her hands on the cool steering wheel. ‘I’m doing this for John’, she tells herself, and as she goes to switch the engine on with a handy tool designed for such a job, she catches sight of her own eyes in the rear-view mirror; they look sad, resigned. She knows there is no going back now.

With that sobering thought, she pulls the car away from the curb and down the street, into the silence that dwells in the night.                                                                           


 

“John.” Sherlock says softly. John smiles at him as he comes out of the bathroom. He has taken his jumper off and it has mussed his hair up a little. Sherlock itches to go over and smooth it down, but he can’t. Not when he knows they must talk about this. Her. Mary.

“Sherlock?” John asks, and when Sherlock meets his eye, he can see that John catches on about what’s on his mind. “Oh.” He seems to deflate, and he scratches the back of his head. “Right.”

“I don’t want to make you…” Sherlock begins, and he has to clear his throat before he continues. “I don’t want you to have to give up everything you had with her just for me.”

“Sherlock.” John admonishes.

“I know I’m a mess, and I know that I’m never going to be good at this.” Sherlock says, and he can feel his throat tighten with each word. He doesn’t want to say this, all he wants is John, but at the same time he does not want to get in the way of what John had with Mary: a future, hope. “It’s not right for me to just come in and interrupt your life like that.”

“We’ve already discussed that, and I’ve told you that I don’t mind it.” John protests.

Sherlock shakes his head. “Not in that way. I mean this.” Sherlock crosses his arms over his chest, feeling more vulnerable with every moment. “I know you love her. You told me you do, and I don’t want to make you unhappy by making you choose between us, so I should just step back now. Before we go any further,” Sherlock can feel his cheeks turning red. “Before I cause you any more pain than I already have. I wouldn’t’ be able to do…. those things. I can’t.” He really can’t, not after Moran. It scares him more than ever. He stops thinking about, tries the breathing exercise Doctor Laurens had suggested, anything to get away from those thoughts. Tears tracks are trailing down Sherlock’s face now, and he feels a stabbing pain at the realisation that he has once again messed up John’s life, that he is to blame, that he needs to fix this, as well.

“Sherlock,” John says steadily, but his nostrils are flaring and his chest is heaving. “Listen to me. You are not to blame for what I feel. Not directly anyway; you haven’t forced me to love you, but, I do, Sherlock, and it’s not going to be as easy as you think for us to walk away from this as if it didn’t happen. We are not going to do that.” He says this with such sincerity that Sherlock feels his heart start to beat faster. “We can’t save ourselves from any pain, because we are already in love. And yes, I do love Mary, but no more than I love you, and it’s in a different way, it’s,” John pauses, obviously searching for the right words, “I love you each because of who you are, and it’s complicated, and maybe I should never have said anything to you and lived happily with her, but that wouldn’t be fair on you now, would it? And I couldn’t do that. The moment Mycroft told me- god, that sounds strange, but the moment he did, all I wanted to do was spend the rest of my life with you, to forget everything and be with you. But I cannot choose between you and Mary, that’s not fair. I need to speak to her about this, I can’t keep it quiet. I just need to think.”

Sherlock nods. “I understand.”

John looks at him them, and gives him a small smile. “Come here.” He says, and he steps towards Sherlock, wiping his tears away with his thumb. “We can blame these on Mycroft as well.” He jokes.

Sherlock smiles at him, and watches as John formulates his next words carefully. “And I wouldn’t care if you didn’t want to do those kinds of things. I don’t expect them, and I wouldn’t mind, so please don’t worry about that.”
Sherlock lets out a shaky breath and feels more tears fall. “Okay.” He mutters, before he pulls John into a hug, clinging to him desperately. If John is to choose Mary, then this may be the last chance he gets to be close to him.

They embrace for a long while, the classical music filling the air, when for the second time that evening the door is knocked on and Anthea enters rapidity.

“Doctor Watson, your assistance is required.”
John pulls away from Sherlock, and he suddenly feels a lot colder than he did. He refuses to meet Anthea’s eyes, embarrassed by his red-eyed, tear-stained face.

“What? Why, what’s happened?” John asks.

“It’s Detective Inspector Lestrade.” Anthea says, the sentence loaded with all sorts of implications.                                                    


 

“What on earth were you thinking going there on your own with no protection, thinking you could just swan in!?” Mycroft admonishes loudly, very loudly, and John glares at him from where he is sewing up Greg’s arm. Greg, himself, is holding an ice pack to his stomach and hissing every now and then in pain. They are set up in the front room in a setting similar to that of when Sherlock had first been brought to Mycroft’s. Mycroft is extremely cross, and even John is finding it a little off-putting. He debates whether it is because Greg had bleed all over one of his cars.

“I don’t know what I was thinking, okay?” Greg says, “I was just angry at you for treating me like I’m a stupid child.”

“Well, it turns out that is exactly what you are!” Mycroft says harshly.

“Mycroft, quiet, or I’ll send you out!” John orders. Sherlock, from where he is sat in the corner of the room, watches the conversation like a tennis match, eyes flicking back and forth between the opponents, body tense and eyes wide. Greg has been injured, almost killed, because of him. Because of his sodding case. Now more than ever does Sherlock want to do something to help.

John finishes stitching up Greg’s arm and places a dressing over the wound, securing it with bandages. “I’ll look at it in the morning, but for now you should rest. I’m sure Mycroft won’t mind you taking one of his spare rooms for the night. Here, painkillers, every four hours, or there’s some sedatives.” He says, passing the said pills to Greg, who mutters his thanks. Mycroft huffs does not protest otherwise. Greg gingerly lifts himself from the treatment table and walks over to the door, to where Mycroft is stood.

“You know, Mycroft, maybe I’m not as clever as you, but I’m trying my damndest to help. I know you’re under a lot of stress trying to find this bloody Moriarty, and ever since Charles Magnussen got involved-”

“You need not involve yourself, Detective Inspector.” Mycroft spits, cutting Greg off. “Why you think the British Government cannot handle something, and Scotland Yard can, I have no idea.”

“When you say ‘the British Government’, do you mean yourself or the actual British Government?”

“In this case, there is no difference.” Mycroft hisses. “When it comes to this case, Gregory, I am more than willing to take it on. In the case of my brother, Gregory, I do not care if it kills me, but I will take it on.”

Greg steps back both literally and metaphorically. He nods once, before wincing and grasping his arm. “Alright, Mycroft. You win.”

Greg leaves, and Sherlock and John look at each other after Mycroft’s stern words. Sherlock’s cheeks feel flame red; his brother has always been protective of him, but this was quite the display of that. Sherlock also can’t help but feel slightly guilty about wanting to help, and therefore going against Mycroft’s wishes, even though he has done that numerous times. Mycroft comes further into the room and loosens his tie. John is clearing up the medical supplies as he surveys the elder Holmes brother with a critical eye.

“Sir?” Anthea enters the room, phone, as always, in hand. “Someone went back to fetch the detective inspector’s car, but it was gone. We’ve got the tracker signal on it. Just being wary; it might just be robbers, but that seems unlikely, and none of the cameras have picked up anyone else in the area, including the attacker.”

Mycroft takes the phone from her and peers at whatever is on the screen. “Strange location. If this is our assassin, then this could be some sort of message, or bait.”

“Where is it?” John asks, coming forward. Sherlock, before anyone can say anything, does the same. John frowns down at the screen as Mycroft holds it out for him to see. “I know that place.” The statement is heavy, and Sherlock peers over at John, confused. “It might just be coincidence, but I’m not sure….”

John can feel something growing in his chest, some uneasiness he knows is not just because one of his friends has been attacked. It’s more than that; it feels like a bad omen.

Suddenly John’s phone chimes in his pocket. Mycroft glances at him pointedly, and so John takes it out, with a sigh, and peers down at the screen. He frowns even deeper at what he sees.

“It’s from Mary.” He says, with such a tone of confusion in his voice Sherlock is baffled; he has never heard John like that. Sherlock peered over at the screen displaying the message. It reads only, ‘chips and gravy.’

“If your girlfriend is quite finished texting you her food preferences, might we be getting on with this?” Mycroft complains.

“No, no. This is…. linked, somehow.” John says. “Chips and gravy, that’s what we ate at that location, in her car, we were, well….” Here he hesitates and glances at Sherlock. “It was the first time I told her about you. About what happened to you, I mean. We’d been dating for a few weeks, and I hadn’t spoken of it at all, and she could see that something was eating at me. The night before, she’d tried to talk to me about it, but I was being stubborn, and… I said some things I regretted instantly, so the next day after work I bought her chips and gravy, her favourite food, and we drove out there. No reason, it’s just car park by a small park, I just decided to stop there, but I stopped there and told her everything. What it’s got to do with all this…God, Mycroft, what if they’ve got her? What if whoever it is has got Mary?”

“Please, calm yourself, John. I will have someone sent out immediately-”

John’s phone chimes once again, and this time the message is a lot more ominous: Come alone.

“Shit.” John mutters. Sherlock feels anxiety spike through him; he definitely does not want John to go alone. Luckily, Mycroft has the same idea.

“You will not be going alone. You don’t have to go alone. I will send my peo-”

“Mycroft, no. If this concerns Mary, then I am going. Bring people along with me if you like, come yourself for all I care, but I am going.” John says sternly.

Mycroft levels his gaze at him. “Maybe I will go with you John. It’s been so long since I did any leg work.”

“Then I’m coming too.” Sherlock says, trying his best to look strong and sure in his pyjamas.

John steps forward, looking unsure. No, more than unsure-opposing. “Sherlock, I really don’t think you should.”
Sherlock doesn’t think he should either, but he will. No, he isn’t ready, and yes, he would rather go to his bedroom and listen to his music, but this is his fault, and this is something to do. Something that is of a lot of importance to John. “I want to, I can help.”

“Sherlock, no. Please, it would reassure me if you didn’t come.” John says.

“Brother mine, think rationally. You are in no state to be facing an assassin.” Mycroft cuts in, and it makes Sherlock angry, to be talked to like a child. Suddenly, and without fully realising what he is doing his body is so incensed by frustration and panic, Sherlock starts to shout.

“This is my fault! Can’t you see that? This is all because of me and because I was too….stupid not to try and get away from Moriarty and Moran!” In his rage Sherlock holds back no reservations he usually holds when speaking their names, “They beat me, and they r-raped me and they drugged me, and if I can’t get some sort of revenge against them than I do not deserve any of your comfort.” Sherlock is looking directly at John as he says this. “And now, if they’re harming your…your… Mary, then I want to help, because no one else should go through what I did. So, for goodness sake, let me help!”

“Sherlock, for god’s sake stop! Please!” John protests, and he looks both angry and heart broken. Sherlock hates himself more to think that his outburst caused that expression to mar John’s face. His body thrums with anxiety and panic, filling him, consuming him. He makes a weak effort to push past John and Mycroft to escape, but John grabs him by the arm and leads him to an armchair. He is speaking to him, but Sherlock cannot hear what he is saying past the blood rushing in his ears. He was wrong, he shouldn’t have shouted, it is not his place to-

No. No! They are not Moran and Moriarty, Sherlock has every right to shout if he wants to, and oh, did he want to, but he is still too confused, too terrified, he just wants to submit to his body’s need to flee.

He is a mess, and he is so sick of it! He is determined to get better, and yet it feels as if the tide is working against him, and despite him trying his best to swim against the current, he can feel himself being pulled under and under and under…                                                                                    


 

“Sherlock? Please, calm down. Breathe, follow me, here.” John guides Sherlock’s hand to his chest, to feel his own breathing pattern as he attempts to calm the younger man down. Hearing Sherlock say those things…. knowing that Sherlock is still feeling so low, John is despairing. Not an hour ago Sherlock had been smiling and they had been kissing, and now, now it feels as if they are right back to where they were when Sherlock first came to Mycroft’s house. But, no, it is not that bad, John tells himself, Sherlock has only just started therapy, he is still a long way off recovering, and this is only a small setback. They are fine. It’s fine.

Except it isn’t. Currently, Mary is quite possibly in danger, and Sherlock, his Sherlock is panicking and claiming that it is all his fault, when, blatantly, it isn’t. Luckily, Sherlock seems to be calming down somewhat. His eyes are distant, focussed inward, and John hopes he is working through some of the calming techniques Doctor Laurens has taught him.

 “I’m sorry.” Sherlock says suddenly, voice hoarse. He looks to where John is crouched in front of him. “I shouldn’t have shouted.”
“No, no, it’s alright. You were angry.” John reassures. “But, listen, Sherlock, it’s not your fault, alright? You are not responsible for other people’s actions, and if they had caused harm to you to the point where you couldn’t fight back, then that is not your fault.”

“But I should have been better, John. Don’t you see?” Sherlock insists, eyes fever bright.

“Sherlock, no. You are human. Yes, you are clever, a genius, but sometimes human cruelty overtakes everything, and we have no say at all. I was a good soldier, but that didn’t stop me getting shot, did it?”
“That wasn’t your fault.” Sherlock says.

“And neither is this yours!” John says, tone firm but gentle. Sherlock doesn’t look entirely convinced, but he is a lot calmer than he was. John presses on. “Listen, I think it would be wise for you not to come; we don’t know what we’re facing, and I think both Mycroft and myself would feel much better about you being here. That’s not to say that you wouldn’t have been a help, but Sherlock, you’re still recovering physically, and I know ‘transport’ is irritating, but it is also necessary. I would certainly feel better if you were to remain here, and as the man who loves you, I think my opinion counts for quite a lot.”

Sherlock smiles a little at that, and John’s soul feels lighter. “And I’ve only just got you, I don’t want to risk losing you.” John finishes.

Sherlock still looks unsure, there are trembles going through his body, and John wishes he could stay and soothe them away, but they are on a time limit and John is caught.

“I have arranged transport for us, as well as the necessary protection we will need.” Mycroft says, checking his phone.

John nods. “You’re coming then?”

Mycroft smirks. “Don’t think I haven’t ever used a weapon, John. I was young once.”

Mycroft is only a year older than John, so he feels it necessary for his own sanity to say, “You’re not old yet, Mycroft.”

“John, we must go.” Mycroft says, voice insistent.

“Alright.” John nods. He stands, and Sherlock stands with him. He pulls his dressing gown up over his shoulders. “Sherlock, I-we will be back soon.”

Sherlock nods, and gives John a small smile. John, not caring that Mycroft is behind him, pecks a quick kiss to Sherlock’s cheek. Sherlock looks a little shocked, possibly because of his brother’s presence, but he leans into it nonetheless. Soon, though, John is pulling away and he is giving Sherlock once last smile before he and Mycroft are heading towards the door.

“You sure you’ll be okay on your own?” John asks. God, he feels awful leaving Sherlock here; going to dinner with Mary had been bad enough, but now John is going out to face danger….

Sherlock nods, but he doesn’t look John in the eyes. “Greg is here. I might…. just sit with him, if he doesn’t mind.”
“I’m sure he won’t” John reassures. “But he might be asleep.”

Sherlock nods again. “I don’t mind.”

“Alright,” behind him, Mycroft coughs, “I’ll be back, Sherlock. I…” John pauses. They have said it to each other before, in the thrum of adrenaline that came with the momentous moment, and in the closeness that followed, but this was more…public, more of an acceptance of the fact that this was how life was now, how open they could be, if John took that chance. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Sherlock says quietly, and his eyes look sad as he watches John and Mycroft leave.                                                                     


 

“Oh, jeez, I’m really not sure about leaving him there alone.” John says as he and Mycroft get ready to depart, making their way out through the sunken garage, something John finds incredibly James Bond. Mycroft has led him into his office and through a secret door, disguised as a bookcase. John might wonder if he is dreaming all of this if his heart wasn’t beating so fast and his palms weren’t so sweaty.

“He isn’t alone, Gregory is there.” Mycroft reassures.

John huffs. Yes, Greg is there, but Greg is incapacitated, and what if Sherlock has a flashback, or a panic attack, and he can’t deal with it on his own, and Greg also doesn’t know what to do?

“John, please, do stop worrying. We have to focus on this.” Mycroft says sternly.

John nods and squares his shoulders as he prepares for whatever battle they will be facing. He knows, however, that it will not be as difficult as the battle he faces here, against himself, against his own indecision. For now, he resigns himself to focusing on one thing at a time; to think of Sherlock, without his protection, while he himself is in danger, is too much to bare.

Chapter Text

John and Mycroft sit in a stony silence in the back of Mycroft’s slick car. They follow another car which carries some heavily armed officers. Mycroft and John wear protective black gear, but John has only his gun in a hidden front pocket, and he is sure Mycroft must have an equivalent weapon. It is strange not seeing Mycroft dressed in his usual formal garbs, but somehow the black and consuming outfit he wears serves to make him look even more powerful, even more taller. John himself is reminded of his army days, and it helps his mindset of going into ‘battle.’

John can feel Mycroft’s gaze on him, watching him almost in expectation. “Yes?”

“Might I assume that any romantic affiliations you had with Mary Morstan have now terminated?”

“What?” John frowns. Mycroft raises an eyebrow at him.

“Yet you and brother have seemed to have come to an agreement.”

John’s cheeks flame red; he feels incredibly uncomfortable. “Mary is still my girlfriend, Mycroft. I haven’t yet had a chance to speak to her yet, therefore she is still my girlfriend. It is not fair on her for me to drop her like she’s worth nothing after two years.”

“Even though you love my brother more?”

“Mycroft!” John protests, incredibly angry. “Would you please stop meddling in my affairs?”

“But, you do not deny it? You love my brother much more than Mary Morstan?”

“Look, I don’t know what you’ve deduced, but I don’t think Sherlock would appreciate you trying to set him up with me, there is no need. And, Mycroft, you cannot just compare love like that. Leave it.”

Mycroft sniffs, and John knows he has won. Mycroft, as always, has to have the last word, however. “I came to that conclusion as I was presented with evidence which made it irrefutable, ergo you and my brother exchanging a romantic gesture and expressing your fondness for each other with the words ‘I love you.’ Not only that, but you were reluctant to leave him, even though your ‘girlfriend’ might be in mortal peril.”

John frowns. “That’s not- of course I am going to worry about leaving Sherlock alone, I worried before our feelings were out in the open! I’ve always worried! Mycroft, please, do stop forcing the issue.”

“So many excuses.” Mycroft sighs, face turned from John to peer out of the window. “So much denial.”

John decides not to reply, knowing it will only anger him further. Mycroft has a point, but John knows he is right-he cannot compare his love for Mary and his love for Sherlock like that, it is not moral and neither is it fair. Part of John just wishes that someone, or something, would just solve this mess for him.                                                                                    


 

They arrive at their destination too quickly for John’s liking, stopping a few streets away from the car park. The streets are deserted, Mycroft’s work, possibly, and John feels the weight of their mission stronger still in the dead silence of usually teeming London. Even in the middle of the night, there would be the scant drunk or homeless person wandering the street. Now, it is just them, shrouded in their black outfits, Mycroft’s men heading off in different directions, helmets down, ready for battle at any given time. John cannot help but spare a thought if any of these people have friends, family, people who do not know that their loved one might be in danger this night. Then John thinks of Sherlock, back at Mycroft’s with Greg, and his heart clenches to think Sherlock knows fully well what John is facing, and John can only spare himself that guilt because he knows he stopped Sherlock from being here with him. He would spare Sherlock anything.

“John, let’s be moving on.” Mycroft says quietly. John nods, and he and Mycroft make their way slowly but surely down the streets towards the car park, flanked by two guards. John has his gun out, safety on but poised if needed. Mycroft does not carry a weapon that John can see, but he is sure something must be concealed somewhere; Mycroft must just not like to be encumbered with any heavy weapons, that’s simply not his smile, John thinks with a sardonic smirk.

As they round a corner, edging slightly, John spots the park, the children’s equipment empty, almost ghostly in the still night. There is no wind, no breeze, no nothing. Even the air feels like it isn’t present, or maybe it is the tension that makes John feel unable to breath.

John’s breath catches in his throat as he spots a car, Lestrade’s car, waiting there, in the car park on the other side of the park. He suddenly remembers what Mary’s text had said, and stops Mycroft and the guards from proceeding further. “The text said to come alone, I should approach alone.”
“Alright, but know we will be concealed close behind you.” Mycroft says. John is glad he hasn’t protested, glad that Mycroft hasn’t patronised John’s experience as a soldier.

John nods at him once before turning. He stows his gun in his pocket, safety off this time, but keeps his hand on it, ready to pull it out if needed, but he doesn’t want to approach as a possible danger and get Mary hurt. Therefore, he maintains a casual but anxious stance and makes his way towards the car park with his hands shoved in his pockets, hand still on the gun, looking for the world like a man who just wants to save his girlfriend. Which, he supposes, he is. But he has a gun.

John can feel his heart in his throat, but he is surprisingly calm, almost detached from his body. As he gets to the Car park, sliding past the barrier, twisted and bent and pushed aside by the force of Lestrade’s car driving straight into it, he tries to peer as much as he can to get a glimpse of who is in the car, but there is no light on in it, and the only source of light in the entire car park comes from two badly lit streetlamps. From this close distance, he can see the dents on the car bonnet from where it hit the barrier.

John thinks it might be wise to look like he comes in no harm, so he makes sure of the security of his gun before raising both his hands over his head in surrender. He coughs to clear his throat before speaking. “Hello? Mary, are you there?”

‘Great start John’, he berates himself.

There is no reply, and John takes a small step closer. He draws back, however, when a figure gets swiftly out of the car, gun brandished, face masked. They stand behind the still open car door, so John cannot tell if they are a man or woman.

“Look, if you’ve got Mary, then just let her go, alright? She’s not involved in all of this, you should do her no harm. Just…. let her go.” John tries to sound as calm and pleading as he can, even when mentally he is screaming ‘Give her back, you shit!’

The person behind the car door shakes their head, and John almost loses that tenuous grip he has on his temper. “For goodness sake, please!”

They shake their head again, whoever they are, and John cannot take it any longer; how dare this person think they can use Mary as some sort of leverage? As if she isn’t her own person, as if her freedom and health means nothing. John swiftly pulls out his gun and aims it at the person, finger on the trigger, and this time when he speaks his voice is harsh, more a growl than anything else. “Giver her back, or I swear to god I will shoot you where you stand.”
Mycroft must be cursing John from wherever he is hiding, but John does not regret his decision, being confident that their armed guards and the multiple other soldiers will have their guns trained on this mask figure, hopefully stopping them before they may take any action.

“I cannot.” Says the voice, muffled, and John shifts his grip on the gun as they continue to persist. Strangely, the voice sounds familiar, thought John cannot place it when it is so muffled.

“I’m not joking.” John warns. “I’m an army veteran, I know what it is like to shoot someone, believe me I will not hesitate to do it again.”

“I cannot let you do that, John.” The voice says, and there is a softer tone to it that John finds unsettling. It feels familiar, but in a way John cannot link to this present situation. He is surprised by the use of his first name, but he does not pay attention to it. Right now, he does not think it matters.

“Look, it’s just me here, I will not harm you if you give me Mary back. What are you trying to do? Are you trying to scare me? Blackmail me somehow by taking her? I’m not as important as you think, you know. You really should just contact Mycroft Holmes if you have a problem. I’m sure he’d be happy to oblige you.”
“You are important, John.” The person says, and there is a sorrow to their tone that tells John not it all as it seems.

What do you want?” He demands, voice rising.

“To be honest?” They say, and John is getting more confused by the second. He wonders if this person is purposefully messing with him. “To be seen for who I really am, even if it destroys me.”

“…What?” John has, admittedly, no idea what is happening now. It seems that he is not just here to rescue Mary, hell, he realises, she could have saved herself, but rather to be a spectre to this person’s confession of sins. “Who are you?”

The person moves forward, coming out from behind the car door. They chuck their gun to the ground, but John still keeps his raised, just in case, even though he feels no fear. Then, they are pulling off their balaclava, and John’s heart skips a beat, before breaking into two.

Mary.

It is Mary who has just taken off the balaclava, who now stands there, hand flattening her messy hair, face lined and eyes filled with a detachment John has never seen there before. For a moment, he thinks it is a joke, and he has a chuckle in the back of his throat, and the words “Mary, what…?” on his tongue as she kicks the gun away from her and raises her arms above her head.

“I surrender.” She calls, shouting loud enough for, John presumes, Mycroft and the soldiers to hear. She does not look John in the eye. “I am AGRA, I am the one that has been killing Mycroft Holmes’s agents. I surrender. I will come peacefully.”

John understands now why his chest feels so heavy, his heart aching. He lowers his gun and licks his lips, trying to gain some clarity. “Mary, what the hell are you saying?”

She ignores him still, though. “John Watson knew nothing about this. He is not involved in my deceit, I swear it.” Now she looks at him. Looks straight into his eyes and John can read emotion in them now, as strong as hurricane: regret, fear, hatred, platitude. John doesn’t know what to think of it all, his own emotions feel cut off. He feels numb. The only thing he feels is shock, he supposes.

Mycroft’s men are coming forward, then, guns aimed at Mary, and John wants to scream ‘don’t shoot!’ even though he knows they won’t, not when she’s surrendered willingly. Two of them grab an arm of Mary’s each, and she lets them, still staring at John. A solitary tears drips from one unblinking eye, and John thinks she must say something like “I’m sorry”, but he cannot hear very well past the rushing in his ears.

Mary is led past him, and John watches her, stock still, like a statue. Mycroft comes to stand next to him, supervising as his men take control of the situation. Every so slowly, John feels himself start to thaw. His fists begin bunching into fists, and a terrible heat overcomes him. John realises that it is anger, and suddenly he has the irrepressible urge to punch something, someone. Luckily for Mycroft, John manages to supress it, and instead he sinks to the ground, trying to squash the burning anger in his stomach. He breathes out heavily, and manages to straighten out his fingers. He realises he is shaking.

“What the hell is going on?” He spits at Mycroft, looking out at the other man.

Mycroft sighs, and looks a little regretful as he says, “It seems the woman we both believed to be Mary Watson did not in fact exist. We will question her thoroughly, to make sure she is not just covering for the real AGRA, but something tells me she was not lying. I am sorry, John.”

John makes a grumbling sound in the back of his throat. “You’re sorry? Like fuck you’re sorry! I bet you did know something, didn’t you?” John demands of Mycroft. He stands up and points a shaking finger in his face. “You just left me to fall in love with someone who apparently doesn’t even exist, what, because it was convenient for you to keep an eye on her?”

Mycroft raises his hands in a sign of peace and placation. John wishes it were begging. “John, believe me when I say I had no idea of Miss Morstan’s true identity. I have been aware of AGRA for years, yes, but she is much changed. I would not have recognised her, she is too good of an agent for that.”
“Shut up, just-shut up!” John shouts. He sucks in a few heavy breaths as the urge to punch Mycroft comes storming back.
“John, I am finding this as hard to process as you are, but we must move forward.” Mycroft presses on, of course he does, in a level voice, “If you would like to go back home, to Sherlock, one of my men will take you-”

“No, no, I’m coming with you. I’ve been lied to, apparently, for two years, and I want know why.”

Mycroft just nods, as if he had been expecting it, and he signals for John to follow him. John does, the calm of the night now seeming far too mocking, too hurtful. Everything has changed now.                                                                               


 

“My full name is Ani Gabriele Rosamund Aella.  Mary Morstan was a name I picked at random from a record of deceased infants. I used her as an escape. I wanted to escape from what my life was, I wanted to have a regular life. Seems like that was never to be.” Mary smirks, her eyes red rimmed, but with that detached coldness John had seen before covering them. John watches her from behind the one-way mirror. It is a typical setup: a table with chairs either side, Mary’s hands are handcuffed to the table, a plastic cup of water sits next to her arm. Mycroft is on the other side of the table. A recording device sits between them, the display counting the seconds, minutes, hours this interview might take.

“You intended to leave your life behind, and start a new one?” Mycroft asks, looking doubtful.

“Yes.” Mary insists. “And it was going well, until Jim Moriarty discovered I was back, and then he saw fit to use me. Blackmail me, if you will.”

“How did he do that?”
“With John.” Mary says, and John notices her eyes flick to the mirror. Unbeknownst to her, she makes eye contact with John. Eye contact he cannot hold. “I didn’t know of John’s link to Moriarty through your brother.” Mary continues. Mycroft watches her, the image of calmness. “John never told me specifically that he had come into contact with Moriarty, he didn’t want to speak much about his past, with Sherlock. I knew something was bothering him, that was what attracted me to him in the first place; he was a troubled soul, but he was still so polite to everyone at the clinic.”

“Ah, so you met John through work?”

Mary nods. “Yes. I am-was,” She corrects, wincing slightly. “a receptionist. It wasn’t until that day we drove to that car park that John told me about Sherlock. About how he had disappeared, and such.”

“And had you already been working for Moriarty before that time? The event in the car park you are referring to happened around three and half years into my brother’s five-year captivity, I believe. Ample time for you to have possibly caught on to the fact that Moriarty was holding someone, and that someone was named ‘Sherlock.’”
“I’ve already said, I had no idea!” Mary protests. “I hadn’t exactly been working for Moriarty before I met John, but I had run into Sebastian Moran a couple of times. Moriarty’s ‘right hand man’, you know?”
Mycroft nods stiffly. “Yes, we know about him.”

Mary must read something in Mycroft’s expression, or lack of. “Oh, shit. He was the guy, wasn’t he? The one who did all that crap to Sherlock?”

“So eloquently put, Miss Morstan. Sorry, Miss Aella.”

“Well, I really didn’t know. If I had, I would’ve gone straight to John and told him. I know you, I heard lots of stuff about you, about the whole of the British Government, actually, from people over my years of work. I know you would have had the resources to get Sherlock out of there. I did think, actually, when John mentioned the surname Holmes, that his friend Sherlock might be connected to you, but I didn’t pursue it. I didn’t want to, and I know John would not have wanted me to at the time, either.”

“How much better it would have been if you had.” Mycroft remarks, looking almost pitying at her confession of emotional weakness stopping her from following her gut instinct.

Mary looks at him seriously. “I would have done, and still will, do anything to spare John pain.”

Mycroft is the one to glance over at the mirror, then. John has to take a step back, and he shakes his head, almost in denial. If Mary had said that in any other circumstance, then John would have kissed her and replied in the same vein. But now, when Mary is not ‘Mary’, but AGRA, John can think of nothing better than maybe punching something or dropping to the floor and sobbing.

“It’s only when Moran caught onto the fact I had a boyfriend, a normal life, that Moriarty decided that would be good leverage with which to use me. It was him who commissioned me to destroy the house where they kept Sherlock. I didn’t do a very good job, apparently. My heart really wasn’t in it. That’s why he was getting me to kill you agents, Mr Holmes. As punishment.” Mary says, looking at the table.
“But you had enough? You decided you’d rather turn yourself in then kill any more people.” Mycroft says with scorn.

“It wasn’t the killing the people I had a problem with.” Mary says. “It was the lying to John. It had been fine when I hadn’t actively been back to my old tricks, I had started a new life, therefore my old one shouldn’t have mattered, but I didn’t want to lie to him anymore.” She looks, again, to the mirror. John breathes out heavily, nostrils flaring. He looks down at his feet, swallowing his anger and betrayal.

“So, why was it you he asked to destroy that house for him?” Mycroft asks, breezing past Mary’s attempt at apology.
“Arson was one of my signature tools in my past life. You read the reports at the time, didn’t you?”

“Yes, quite right. But you were distracted this time, weren’t you? That’s why Detective Inspector Lestrade, the same Lestrade you shot earlier this evening, I should add, found the evidence which proved Moran’s involvement, and the files concerning their business with Magnussen.”

John reels back at that. Of course. This is the truth that he has been denying since Mary threw that balaclava off. He had been fooling himself that Mary just happened to be in Lestrade’s car, and just happened to be calling herself AGRA, the one who has been impeding the investigation. John feels he might be sick, bile rising in his throat. He needs the comfort of something. A stiff drink, perhaps? No, no, he is not his sister. The comfort of a loved one, then. Perhaps that might have been Mary, but now-now, it is obvious. John doesn’t know when he will next speak to Mary, AGRA, whatever her name is, or if he ever will again, he just knows that he has to get out of here. He cannot face her. Not now.

John’s bangs at the glance with his fists, not caring at all what an obvious sign of anger it is, before flinging the door open and storming to the exit, hopefully.

He just wants to see Sherlock.                                                                            


 

“Good. Now that John Watson is gone, I want to discuss an offer with you.” Mycroft says matter of fact-like. They had both heard the loud bang on the glass and then the sound of a door slamming outside. One of Mycroft’s men had popped his head in after that nodded, giving Mycroft the signal that John was no longer there.

“Oh?” Mary says, trying to act aloof, even though Mycroft notes the bead of sweat dripping down her neck and the rapid blinking of her eyelids.

“I know that Moriarty has information on some of Magnussen’s team of men, his whistle-blowers, if you will. You have heard of Charles Augustus Magnussen?”
“Yes.” Mary says bitterly.

Mycroft smirks. This is going splendidly. “Might I gather from that that Magnussen has information on you that you would rather not have used against you?”
Mary raises an eyebrow, “You might, yes.”

“Good. Really doesn’t surprise me, if I’m honest, seeing as you’re so keen to forget your past and yet you cannot. You’re a perfect target for Magnussen.”

“What is the meaning of all this?”

“An agent informed me earlier this evening that Moriarty has been using files on Magnussen’s men to stop him from prying into his organisation. Now, do you know if there is any specific reason, or is Moriarty just being cautious.”

Mary shrugs. “I honestly don’t know. I’ve been trying to stay out of it as much as I possibly can. But, if Moriarty is doing that, then I guess I should give him my thanks.” She smiles sardonically. “If only he’d stopped that bastard from prying into everyone’s lives sooner. Then maybe we could all live, in peace.”
“So, you are quite keen to see Magnussen put to rights?” Mycroft says with a smile that butter wouldn’t melt.

“What are you getting at, Mr Holmes?” Mary demands.

Mycroft leans forward, placing his hands on the table. “I will arrange a meeting with Magnussen in the morning, and we will agree that if you and I were to put a stop to Moriarty, and whatever he is planning, then Magnussen will sign a legal contract in which he will never divulge any information he has on you, and he will burn any physical copies of anything he has on you.”

Mary chews the inside of her cheek as she thinks this through. “How do you suppose we stop Moriarty?”

“Seeing as you’re apparently working for him, it would be quite easier for you to ask if you could ‘help’ in anyway with what he’s doing, don’t you think?”

Mary raises an incredulous eyebrow. “You think he doesn’t already know I’m here? That I might have already struck up a deal with you?”

Mycroft smirks. “Oh, I’m counting on that.”                                                                               


 

Sherlock sighs, and pulls his dressing gown tighter around himself. He’s cold, chilly, even, and the darkened atmosphere of the room was not helping. Lestrade is conked out on the bed, sleeping deeply. In specific, Mycroft’s bed. Sherlock had crept in after John and Mycroft had left, feeling vulnerable and anxious. He cannot bear to think if John might be hurt while they sort out the situation with Mary, cannot even entertain the thought, otherwise he might find himself hiding under the covers of his bed, begging, almost like a child does for their mother, for John’s presence. Now, more than ever, does he crave it, when he knows that John could be close to him, hold him, perhaps kiss him. That is, unless John decides Mary is the better choice. Sherlock, pathetic as he is, thinks she probably is.

He has never been in Mycroft’s bedroom before, and it had taken him a few tries at every bedroom door in the house to finally find Greg. When he had, it had taken him a moment to realise this room was Mycroft’s, seeing as it looked almost exactly the same as every other bedroom in his home, but there were little personal touches Sherlock noticed: a portrait of their great-great grandfather taken from the family home, a few pictures of the Holmes family placed on various surfaces (one, in particular that causes a stabbing pain in Sherlock’s stomach- him, as a young child, with Redbeard, his dog), and what was most likely supposed to be a ‘secret’ stash of chocolate bars, which Lestrade had apparently found and feasted on.  

Thus, finding Greg Lestrade in Mycroft’s bed had been…. confusing. Sherlock had attempted to try to hold a conversation with the man at first, but Greg, already dosed up on painkillers and a sedative, had simply muttered something unintelligible from behind a chocolate bar and then fallen asleep on Mycroft’s king sized bed. Sherlock reckoned he has been sat here in the room with him, in the dark, for about an hour, now. The armchair he was occupying was cushy and cozy. Sherlock wonders that if, one day, he returns to Baker Street, he might purchase a similar chair. Which also makes him wonder: if he returns to Baker Street, will John return too?

Sherlock lives to see that day, and if he believed in any sort of divine influence on his life then he would pray, nay, beg for John to be with him. But only if John was happy. Sherlock would hate himself if ever he made John miserable. With a clenching in his heart he realises that is what he is doing right now. At this very moment, John is rescuing the girlfriend he had a steady relationship with before Sherlock returned, who now might be in mortal danger because of Sherlock. He must do something to stop all this. To stop all of John’s pain.

He rises, cat-like, from the chair, and pads across the room and out into the corridor, leaving the door ajar behind him; he worries about being cut off from the only other person in the house by a physical barrier.

He creeps downstairs, switching on every single light as he goes; the dark is still a sensitive issue with him, he’d only endured in in Mycroft’s room because of the presence of Lestrade, and his snoring. He makes his way to Mycroft’s office, feet making a floorboard creak every now and then, and closes the door behind him, switching the light on as he does.

He is relieved to find he is alone; he had half expected Anthea to be sat behind the desk, fingers twitching as they move across her phone screen. He crosses to the desk, and begins searching: he must find something, something that will help, something he can do to solves his problems and therefore other people’s as well. Mycroft’s desk has many drawers, one of which filled with chocolate and other sundry sugary snacks. Mycroft is a stress-eater, always has been.

On the desk are copies of the Magnussen files, the ones Sherlock had written page after page of deductions on. He remembers that, and as he does bile rises in his throat, and Sherlock reminds himself to breathe like Doctor Laurens has taught him to calm himself. It works, and so Sherlock powers on.

Sherlock scours the computer after the drawer search is fruitless: Mycroft’s password is not as easy to predict as John’s had been, all those years ago, but Sherlock knows his brother, so for him it is simple. On it he finds files and files of notes on Moriarty’s movements through the years, and shudders as he notices the lack of information about those five years Sherlock had been in his possession: Moriarty had taunted Sherlock, telling him that lying low would make his brother lazy to his actions, that he would start to lay off on paying attention to Moriarty. It seems Moriarty was correct.

Sherlock searches his own name into the search bar, and up comes files and files of information. Some are from years ago, from when he was a druggie on the streets, and Mycroft was literally Big Brother. Another is from his first encounter with Moriarty, and the USB stick with the missile plans. It feels like these files talk about a different man Sherlock is so changed. Some he skips past, because he cannot bear to look at them, such as his medical notes from when he was first brought here. The DNA results on his blanket from the basement, confirming the presence of Him, Moran, come up under the more recent files, as well as digital copies of the Magnussen files.

He expects more, he expects to find other pages of the people he had to deduce. People who didn’t work for Magnussen but had-his heart jolts as he realises- Mycroft doesn’t know. He had assumed, as they had found the Magnussen files, that he would also find the other files, but he cannot find hide nor hair of them, and if one person would have access to them, had he been privy to them, Mycroft would.

He is about to give up and leave, when he something on the Magnussen files catches his eye. It is something he hadn’t noticed before, and he reaches for the nearest pad of paper to jot down what he sees. There are ten files on each separate agent of Magnussen’s and for some reason they are numbered, and their agent number is copied down by the number. It is already typed at the top of the page, next to the picture of said agent, which makes it strange, in Sherlock’s opinion, that they would be written out again in tiny scrawl at the bottom of the page. The other strange detail is that, although there are ten agents, they are not numbered one to ten, but divided into two groups, each numbered one to five.

Sherlock quickly scribbles this on the pad, along with each agents number and name, and rips the page off and stuffs it into his dressing gown pocket. He panics to close everything down and leave the files as they were when he hears someone scrambling with a key in the front door in the corridor outside. He hurriedly walks out of Mycroft’s office, just remembering to switch the light off behind him, as the front door opens and John stumbles in, his hands a little shaky, breathing heavy.

Shocked, Sherlock deduces, confused, emotionally battered. John doesn’t look well, and Sherlock’s stomach begins to squirm as he wonders what might have happened. Has Mary been injured? Killed? Why isn’t Mycroft with him? Has something happened to him? He just thanks his lucky stars that John is here, safe and, as much as Sherlock can tell, unharmed.  

“John?” Sherlock asks, tone worried and a little panicked. John looks up at him, seemingly startled by Sherlock’s presence. But as quick as the shock appears on John’s face it is wiped away by grief and what looks like want. John rushes forward and grabs Sherlock, pulling them together like magnets. He crushes his face into Sherlock’s bony shoulder, and Sherlock is shocked and terrified to feel tears start to soak his dressing gown.

He brings his arms up around John and they hold each other. Sherlock places his chin on the top of John’s head, relishing this closeness. He cannot contain his anxiety, however, and he asked shakily, and fully expecting terrible news, “John, what happened?”
He is disgusted by himself when what John tells him brings him not just shock and confusion, but an inkling of hope as well.

Chapter Text

“John, what happened?” Sherlock asks, staring at the still open door behind John.

John pulls back from their embrace, eyes red. Sherlock is moved by this: he has never seen John cry, and to see and feel that he has been makes his stomach clench with nerves. This must be bad, to make John cry.

“Let’s go and sit somewhere, I’ll explain then.” John says, and he moves to close the front door, discreetly wiping his eyes as he does. Sherlock pretends not to notice.

John takes Sherlock’s hand and leads him into the kitchen, muttering something about needing a drink. He pours them both some water, before once again taking Sherlock’s hand and leading him into Mycroft’s lounge, which overlooks the garden. In the dark it is eerie, and Sherlock pulls away from John to close the curtains; he hates the deep dark that doesn’t seem to end, like some terrible abyss. John watches him as he comes to sit beside him on the cream-coloured sofa, downing his water as he does.

Sherlock sips his own with a shaky hand, and waits for John to start speaking with a growing anticipation which makes him feel like he’s going to burst. When John finally does, tremors run through his body.

“We went to the place, the car park, you know, to see if this person who has been killing Mycroft’s agents had her. Well, it turns out that she- Mary, she-” John stumbles over his words, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat as his emotions threaten to rise up. “Mary was the one who was killing Mycroft’s men. Mary is apparently not her real name, it’s AGRA, Ani Gabrielle Rosamund Aella. She’s been lying to me since we first started dating, and she’s been working for and been in contact with him and Moran intermittently. She’s the one who tried to destroy the house they kept you. She claims she had no idea that Moriarty had you, and that we know each other. She lied, and she lied, and-” John breaks off and sucks in breath after breath, each looking like an effort. Sherlock can only sit there, frozen, and watch John struggle.

Sherlock has only met Mary twice, and one of those times he was too out of it with terror to notice her, but Sherlock has got the impression she is an honest woman. Therefore, this news comes as a shock, but more than that Sherlock is worried. No, terrified. How could they have not spotted this? How could Mycroft have not spotted this. He strains his memory, as dangerous as that is for him to do with his painful past, to think if Moran or Moriarty had ever mentioned an AGRA, but he cannot recall anything. Not like his memory of that time is very trustworthy, anyway. Too clouded by the drugs enforced on him and the resignation of fear he always felt.

“Are-are you sure?” He asks he’s so puzzled.

“Yes.” John says hoarsely. “She confessed it all to Mycroft. I was watching, but I had to go, I couldn’t stand it anymore.”

Sherlock feels vulnerable, and he’s quite sure John must feel that way too. To realise that someone you’ve known and, in John’s case been close with, doesn’t actually exist? It begs the question: who really is Mary Morstan? Was she all an act, or was it just AGRA escaping into another persona to be herself?

Sherlock knows John would not want him to pity him, and he doesn’t. But, oh, does it feel as if John’s pain is his own. The pain he sees in john, as he sits there, slightly hunched over himself, is mirrored back at him; they are so much as one that their pain is shared. Sherlock wishes he could take all of John’s pain and give it to himself, like sucking a snake’s venom out of a wound.

Suddenly, though, another thought comes to Sherlock’s mind, and a ray of hope goes through him like lightening. It feels so wrong, and Sherlock is disgusted by himself, but he cannot help but think that maybe he will have a chance of spending the rest of his life with John. Broken, pathetic, Sherlock might actually be granted the gift he’s always wanted. He’s desperate to embrace John now, kiss him, but that would be inappropriate, of that Sherlock is sure. John has just discovered that Mary has been lying to him; he wouldn’t want Sherlock draping himself over him and begging for his love like a whore.

‘You slut.’ Moran’s words run through his mind, and Sherlock winces.

Sherlock worries about what might happen now, now that Moriarty’s hitman, or rather hitwoman, has been taken out.  Moriarty might have something planned. Sherlock wouldn’t have been deducing all those people for nothing. But is it something big? Or is he just strengthening his position? Something tugs at Sherlock’s mind, then, something that tells him he is being wishful in thinking Moriarty is only doing this to keep himself safe. He scratches at his forehead, as if to stop the mental itch he is having? What is he not remembering. Again, Sherlock is frustrated: if he had been his old self, he would have just gone into his mind palace, and there the answer would be, waiting for him. But no, that was currently under siege.

John, next to him, is still breathing heavily through his nose, but he seems a little calmer than before. Sherlock has no idea what to do, what to say, so he just sits there and restrains himself from touching John.

“I’m sorry,” John suddenly says, and as Sherlock jumps and looks over at him, he gets the feeling John’s been looking at him for a while. “I just need to think things through for a bit. Need to be on my own. Will you be okay?”

Sherlock’s heart clenches to hear these words, but he nods anyway. He supposes this is the same as what John did yesterday evening, and when he had got mad at Sherlock before, back at Baker Street. Sherlock knows John. “Whatever you need, John. Just,” Sherlock cannot help himself, “please be safe.”

John smiles sadly at him and nods. He leans forward to give him a chaste but loving kiss. Sherlock relishes it long after it is over. “You should get some sleep, it must be about three am.”

“So should you.” Sherlock says, and how he wishes he could drag John upstairs and share the bed with him, but no, he cannot. Boundaries must be respected.

“Don’t think I could.” John says, and Sherlock hums. Of course he can’t, what was Sherlock thinking.

Sherlock rises from the sofa, his body feeling achy and fatigued. He stumbles towards the door and looks back at John. John is staring at him again, and Sherlock wishes he knew what he was thinking. “Goodnight, John.” He mumbles.

“Goodnight, Sherlock.”

The ‘I love you’ goes unsaid, but there is no need to say it anyway.                                                                            


 

“Mycroft Holmes, here for a meeting with Mr Magnussen.” Mycroft announces his and Mary’s presence to the speaker on the elevator that will grant them access to the loftiness of Charles Augustus Magnussen’s office. Neither of them look their best, both sleep deprived, both with lank hair, both with dark circles underneath their eyes. Mycroft always has a spare suit at work, for emergencies such as this, so at least his clothes feel clean, whereas Mary still wears her black clothing from the night before. There is a tracking device around her ankle, hidden, just in case.

“Mr Magnussen will be with you very soon. Please come on up.” Comes the lilting voice of his PA. The elevator opens and they step in. The silence of the journey upwards is awkward to say the least.

Finally, and it seems to Mary as if it is the greatest sound on the planet, the lift comes to a halt with a ‘ping!’, and they both step out, turning a corner into the vast expanse of Magnussen’s lobby, London sprawled out before them like Rome to Julius Caesar.

“Good Morning. Mr Magnussen will be with you shortly.” Says Magnussen’s PA, her Irish lilt soft and pleasant. She smiles widely at them both, and her gaze lingers on Mary for a second before turning back to the computer screen, manicured nails tapping at the keyboard.

Mycroft takes a seat, hands clasped on the umbrella that has, of course, accompanied him on this trip. Mary sits next to him, back rim-rod straight, a strange anxiety stirring in her stomach. She hardly ever gets nervous, but this is not a normal situation; facing one’s potential ‘executioner’ will of course start up the butterflies in anyone’s stomach, even assassins.

They wait ten minutes, then twenty, until finally, after twenty-four minutes, Magnussen’s PA’s phone rings and she picks it up, nodding and making ‘Mmhm’ noises, before signalling they may go on up to Magnussen’s office, another beaming smile on her face. Mycroft smiles back, but Mary is caught up in wondering how this woman can be so cheerful to respond.

Through a glass door and a short flight of stairs they come to Magnussen’s office, and there he is, the shark. Magnussen pretends not to see them for a moment, looking at a computer screen over his glasses, before glancing up at the click of Mycroft’s umbrella on his marble floor. He smiles, or rather seems to salivate over his guests, and offers them a chair each. His eyes, like his PA’s, linger on Mary longer than Mycroft, already knowing why they are here, presumably, going by the joy and utter amusement running through them.

“Miss Morstan.” He drawls. “What a lovely choice of name.”

Mary curls her lip. “Thank you.” She spits.

“Charles, I presume you are well?” Mycroft asks, all politeness.

“Very well.” Magnussen says, “And even more so now you are here.”
Mycroft smiles slimily. “Quite. Now, if we might get down to it?”

Magnussen gives a nod. “Yes, I am intrigued.”

Mycroft takes a levelling breath, all diplomat, before beginning. “It has come to my attention that James Moriarty has been causing you some trouble.” He says, alluding to the killings of Magnussen’s men.

“Ah yes, James.” Magnussen says, not sounding surprised at all. “He is quite the pest, isn’t he?” He looks at Mary as he says this.

“Well, I think we can help with that.” Mycroft says. “If not, he might start to cause even more trouble for you, and then where will you be?”

“Quite.” Magnussen says, mirroring Mycroft’s words from just a moment ago.

“What I suggest, is an agreement between us.”
Magnussen nods. “Go on.”

“We will deal with James Moriarty and his man Sebastian Moran, and in return for doing you a favour, in doing so, you will agree, formally, to never use any information on Ani Gabriele Rosamund Aella, against her, or in any other way.” Mycroft pulls out a crisp folder from inside of his jacket, and chucks it down on the desk. “This is a formal contract that I would have you sign if you agree to this.”

Magnussen smirks the whole way through Mycroft’s bargain, and he peers down at the contract as if it is a fly he is about to swat. Mary sighs, thinking that this has all been a waste of time, but is surprised when Magnussen says, “That sounds agreeable.” She glances over at Mycroft, who, too, looks surprised, but is doing well to hide it. This is like a game of poker, after all, and Mycroft has had years to perfect his poker face.

“So you will sign?” Mycroft asks.

Magnussen pulls the contract towards himself, flipping it open, his eyes flicking over the words, taking them all in. “Yes, I think so.”

“Good. Then please, do sign.”

Magnussen glances at Mycroft, still smiling, before reaching for his fountain pen and placing pen to paper. He scrawls his signature over the dotted line before chucking the contract back at Mycroft. “I presume Moriarty has done something to your dear poor brother, Mycroft. Pressure points make us do drastic things, don’t they? Well, make ‘you.’”

Mycroft twitches for a moment, mask falling, before it slips effortlessly, or so it seems, back into place. He responds level voiced. “Mostly it is because ‘Miss Morstan’ could be an extremely valuable asset to me, and to have her protected from you, in order to help her aid, me against Moriarty, would be extremely helpful.”
“I see.” Magnussen says, and Mary knows that what he means is that he sees right through Mycroft.

“Well, we do not want to keep you. You must have news to report, emails to reply to.” Mycroft says, rising from his chair. Mary follows suit.

Magnussen, again smiles, all teeth. “The press doesn’t stop for anyone. Enjoy taking out Moriarty while I remain here, safe. He is planning something, I think.” And with that last ominous sentence Magnussen turns back to his computer, just like his PA had, and begins typing away, the image of a perfectly composed, relaxed man. As if Mycroft and Mary’s visit hadn’t happened.

Mycroft leaves without out another backward glance, but Mary remains stood there for a few more seconds, looking at the man in disgust. When Magnussen still doesn’t respond to her presence, she gives up, but makes sure to slam the glass door behind them. She almost hopes it shatters. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

Mycroft barely stops to glance at Magnussen’s PA, but Mary’s eyes catch hers as they are leaving. She sees something in them, some sort of knowing mockery, and it almost makes her stop, but she forces herself to keep walking. Those eyes are so similar to some she’s seen somewhere before. Who though?                                                                          


 

“Are you quite satisfied now?” Mycroft asks once they are back in the safety of his car, pulling away from the curb outside Magnussen’s great skyscraper of a building.

“Yes.” Mary replies.
“May I have them now, then? The names?”

Mary looks at him and nods, before turning back to gaze out of the window. “It might not work, he might not believe me.” She warns.

“Even if he doesn’t, the plan will work. That is the point. If Magnussen says that Moriarty is planning something, then he most likely is.” Mycroft smirks. “He normally is. Jim loves a plan. Though their effect against me has yet to be so detrimental as to make me vulnerable. Even your killing of my agents hasn’t weakened my position by any large margin.”

“What about your brother’s capture?” Mary asks, confused.

“Ah. Yes, well, what I meant was me as in the ‘British Government’.” Mycroft explains.

Mary smirks. “Not modest, are you?”

“No.” Mycroft deadpans. “Why should I be?”

Mary sighs. “You lot are enough to give anyone a migraine.”

“What will it take you to realise that you are now what you used to be? Your perfect dreamlife with John Watson no longer exists. You chose to turn yourself in, so didn’t you want to return to this? Even a little bit?”
This time it is Mary’s turn to deadpan. “No. Not at all. You can have the names of your agents, they are no longer a danger to me. All I care about is stopping Moriarty.”

“And John Watson?”

Mary doesn’t bother to reply, but stares out the window, watching people walk by.                                                                         


 

Sherlock stares out of his bedroom window, watching John pacing down below. The man needed time to think, but Sherlock was so grateful that he hadn’t disappeared again, but had instead decided to use to peace and quiet of the garden in order to process his thoughts. Sherlock himself used his classical music to help calm his thoughts and think everything through.

Mary’s betrayal. What this might mean for his and John’s relationship. What this might mean in terms of what Moriarty’s next action might be. He will know Mary has betrayed him, Sherlock knows, so what will he do next? Hurt someone to get to her. God, what if it is John? God no, Sherlock will not let that happen. He will sacrifice himself before any hurt comes to John.

Sherlock sits up. That’s what he will do. Of course.

He must think of a way to contact Moriarty, get him to come to him, give himself up in return for John’s safety. The thought of that basement, of captivity, of being an object makes him sick to the stomach, but the thought of John hurting is much more sickening to him. Even if it will hurt John to see him gone again, Sherlock will do it if, in the end, John might be happy. But how will he contact Moriarty? And where will he meet him.

Again, the answer comes to him almost instantly. Of course: the place where this all began.

Perhaps Moriarty is planning something, Sherlock worries. Mary might not have been taking out Mycroft’s agents just to stop the man from finding him. No, he is not important enough. furthermore, what might Mary’s betrayal of Moriarty mean? Is he planning something too dangerous for her to be mixed up in? It must involve Magnussen, presumably, seeing as Sherlock had been made to write deduction after deduction about those men; their habits, what routines they normally went through. Every single tiny detail. God knows what he did with that information, although Sherlock does have an idea of their treatment. He shudders.

Sherlock is in the midst of planning how exactly he is going to stop Moriarty when there is a knock on the door and it swings open, revealing Doctor Laurens. Sherlock jumps; he had forgotten about their appointment.

“Hello, Sherlock. How are you?” She says, coming into the room.

Sherlock shrugs. “Alright.” He remains where he is sat as she comes in and sits on the sofa, getting out her notepad and pen.

“Have you been practicing the techniques I’ve been teaching you?”

“Yes.”

“And do they help?”
Sherlock nods. “Yes. Thank you.”

“Fantastic. That really is great news. You should be proud of your progress.” Doctor Laurens says with a smile. Sherlock doesn’t respond, all he can think is ‘Ugh, typical therapist’.

He looks out of the window again, watching John pace, and Laurens must have been talking at him for a while without him realising, because before he knows it his name is being called loudly and she is much closer than she was before. “What?”
“What’s on your mind? You went away for a good few minutes there.”

“Oh.” Sherlock says. He hates that his mind does that to him sometimes: in the past it had been convenient for ignoring idiot clients, and Anderson, but now he hates that someone might catch him off guard like that. “It’s ermm.” He begins, and tells himself that this is his therapist, she should know things if he is to get better. “John. His girlfriend has been…cheating.” Close enough.

“Oh dear. Does this upset you?”

Sherlock shrugs. “Yes. A little. Not really. I’m more…. hopeful. which is wrong.”

“It doesn’t have to be wrong. Why do you think it is wrong?”
“Because I shouldn’t take advantage of John’s feelings being hurt to…” he pauses, and not once does he make eye contact with Laurens. “To get…. Closer? With him.”

“Right.” Laurens says, catching on immediately. Obviously, she has already seen something between them in previous sessions. Sherlock feels like he is being outwitted; he does not like it. “We cannot help what we think, Sherlock. but it is your decision to act on it.”

“I don’t know what to do, that’s the problem!” Sherlock says. “It’s too complicated, too caught up in everything.”

“Why?” Laurens asks, looking as patient as ever.

“Because.” Sherlock doesn’t know if he should say this, but there’s nothing in this woman that screams she would use this information as blackmail material. “Because she’s been working for the man who had me. Her whole persona with John was a fake, and now I don’t know why she has turned herself into my brother, whether it is because Moriarty might do something or if she’s bluffing with him, but it’s so hard to tell!”

Laurens nods and blinks through his speech, and she hardly reacts afterwards, only to tell him to use the breathing techniques they have been through to calm himself down. After a while, when Sherlock had managed to stop the trembling in his hands, Laurens leans back again and says, “Sherlock, realise that there is a logical explanation for all this. Thinking more rationally, might you be catastrophising? Thinking everything is worse than it seems? It’s very common for people to do, but what you don’t realise is that everything is in control. Nothing truly terrible will happen.”

Sherlock could smirk at those words; she is being stupidly ignorant, of course something terrible is going to happen. But Sherlock will die trying to stop it if he has to. For John.                                                                                 


 

 “Jim? It’s done.”

Moriarty smiles, lounging on a cushy couch. “Brilliant. About time. I’ve been dying to get on with this for ages.”

“Not my fault they got the files, boss.” Moran shrugs, Slumping down next to Moriarty. Jim sighs and falls back, placing his head in Moran’s lap and looking up at the man.

“No, that would be ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary’s’ fault.”

“She won’t be quite contrary after all this.” Moran jokes. Moriarty laughs, snuggling into Moran’s stomach. Suddenly there is a knock at the door, and in steps the woman herself, looking exhausted and defeated.

“Speak of the devil!” Moriarty exclaims, jumping up and coming forward to Mary, who stands there, back rim-rod straight.

“It’s done, Moriarty. Will you leave me in peace now?” Mary says, not looking him in the eye. She can see Moran smirking on the sofa.

“All of them?” Moriarty asks.

“All of them.”

“You promise?” He drawls.
“I promise.” She spits out.

Moriarty smiles. “Good. Now, is there anything else you want to tell me?”

Mary flicks her eyes to him and then back again. “No. Now please, will you leave me in peace?”

“Hmmm maybe, but only if you tell me the truth.” Moriarty says, circling her like a snake circles its prey.

Mary hesitates. “What ‘truth’?”

“Oh, you know, my dear. Please, do stop calling my bluff. I’m not going to reveal anything to you if you’re just going to feed it back to Mycroft Holmes.”
Mary sighs; she knows the game is up. “Alright. Mycroft wants to meet with you.”

“Oh, how delightful! Will we have tea?” Moriarty exclaims, and Moran laughs.

“Perhaps, he just wants to speak with you.”
“Hmmm, well I’ll see if I can fit it into my very busy schedule.”

“Oh, what do you have on?”

Moriarty smirks, “Nice try. Look, tell me where he wants to meet me and I’ll tell you when.”

Mary raises both eyebrows before saying, “221B Baker Street. Quite soon would be convenient.”

Chapter Text

“Oh. Well, doesn’t that sound wonderful, Seb?” Moriarty says, turning to his right-hand man with excitement. “A trip down memory lane. Ahh, will Sherly be there?”

“I don’t know.” Mary says. “Do you think Mycroft would be willing to risk his brother being in danger again just because he needs to have a talk with you?”
Moriarty shrugs. “If that’s what it takes, and that will be what it takes. I don’t want Sherlock anymore, but I would like to see his pretty face. I suppose he might be looking a little less like a skeleton, now that he’s been under the coddling of your dear Doctor Watson?”

Mary shrugs. “I’ve barely seen him. But, I wouldn’t count on Mycroft, or John, letting Sherlock meet you again.”

“Sherlock is his own man. He can do what he likes.” Moriarty shrugs.
Mary raises an eyebrow. “Is that so? Is that why you kept him in a basement for five years.”
Moriarty smiles, and in that smile Mary can see no joy, no pleasure, just malice, and the awareness of his actions, of what he had done to Sherlock, and with that no remorse. “Exactly.”

“Alright, I will speak with Mycroft about this, then I will text you about a time and place. Is that clear?” Mary says, attempting to gain control of the situation.

“Crystal clear, my dear.” Moriarty hisses. He turns and slumps back onto his sofa. “I adore crystals. They’re so beautiful, so shiny. And I love beautiful, shiny things. I cannot wait to see Sherlock again.” He waves his hand in dismissal, and Mary knows that her time is up, but that is quite alright. She has gotten what she came for, even if it will come with a bit of a compromise.

Mary leaves, not looking back, and not noticing Moran’s smirk as he watches his master swoon back onto the couch.                                                                          


 

“He wants Sherlock? Well, that is quite convenient.”

Mary blanches. That is not what she had expected Mycroft to say. They are back at his office, not his home office, no, not anywhere near John, but his office at the Diogenes club. The light from the window cast shadows over the portrait of the Queen, and Mycroft sits before it all, the image of calmness and surety, though Mary doubts he is anything but.

“Well, he wants to see him. Apparently, he’s not interested in having him ‘abducted’ again.”

Mycroft nods. “Quite reassuring.” His tone drips sarcasm. “However, it will be of benefit to have my brother there, it may help…speed things along.”
“John will not be happy. Will he be there?”

“I wish to keep Doctor Watson out of things. He knows of the situation, of course, but I don’t want his…. temper to tarnish any of my plans.”

“He’s not an animal.” Mary protests.

“No, but he is a very angry man, as you might well know seeing how you’ve lied to him for two years.”

“I doubt he will want to speak with me again.”
“Oh, do stop being melodramatic. John Watson might take his time sulking and being angry at you but he will want to hear your side of the story. Even if it is just for closure.” Mycroft says, looking Mary dead in the eyes.

“And then what? I work for you, John stays with Sherlock, your brother, and we both pretend the other doesn’t exist? Mycroft, it doesn’t seem likely.”
Mycroft shrugs. “Well, you don’t have to work for me. You could, instead, work against me, or run from Moriarty and his delightful friend Sebastian Moran, couldn’t you?”   

“Alright, alright.” Mary says, holding up her hands in defeat. “But, can you not place me somewhere far away from here? From John?”

“It depends what comes up, but I don’t see why not, though your usefulness would be most beneficial here. But, we shouldn’t focus on that now. Let’s deal with the matter at hand, shall we?”

Mary nods, and begins, “Moriarty is waiting on you to name a time. So, when do you want to do this?”                                                                           


 

“John.” Sherlock says as John comes into his room, looking up from his Monet book. After his session with Doctor Laurens, he had wanted to take his mind off of things, and what better than his book?

“Sherlock, hi.” John’s voice is rough, as if he has been talking for hours on end, when Sherlock really knows he has just been pacing, wearing the grass in the garden thin. He was watching him for a large amount of the time he was doing so, after all. “Look, Sherlock,” he beckons Sherlock over, and the man put his book down, coming over to stand in front of John. “Look, I’ve been doing some thinking-”

Sherlock, feeling brave, and wanting to bring John some source of comfort, does a weak impression of his former self and says, “Obviously.”
John looks up, shocked, but smiles at Sherlock. The smile fades before he begins talking again, however. “I’ve been thinking, and I’ve decided that…. I could never spend my life with someone who would lie to me.” Sherlock feels a stab of guilt in his stomach, as he remembers what he is not telling John. “Not so extensively, not about their life. She has explained herself, yes, but that was in front of Mycroft. I need to speak to Mary alone.”
Sherlock swallows. He doesn’t quite understand. “What does that mean?” The ‘for us’ goes unsaid.

“It means,” And at this John takes Sherlock’s hand. Sherlock is suddenly aware that it is cold and clammy. His cheeks flush red. “that I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Sherlock. I always have. This was never a competition between you and Mary. How could there be? Things like this, like love, aren’t the bloody Olympics! I loved her, that’s true, but I’ve loved you since we first met, and I could never see my future without you in it. That’s why when you,” John clears his throat, “When you were taken, life was almost the hardest it had ever been, and Mary was there for that, and in no way do I want to discredit her love, but it was never as strong as my love for you. When you first came back, I could barely function, the only thing I wanted to do was to take care of you, you see? But…. I still need to speak with Mary; I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t let her explain in her own words, whether I like them or not, or even trust what she says.”

Sherlock doesn’t know what to do with himself; John has just answered all his hopes and dreams and, even better than that, confirmed that he has the same feelings about Sherlock as well. Sherlock feels doubt knowing at his insides. Surely John cannot be saying what Sherlock has hoped he would? That would be too much to ask for, wouldn’t it?

“John? Are you sure?” He asks, and his voice trembles a little.

John smiles at him, looking a little bewildered himself. “What? Sherlock-yes, yes, of course I’m sure.”
There is a burst of happiness like Sherlock has never known. Not in his time with Moriarty and Moran, not in his time before then, either. He practically jumps on John, pulling him tightly towards his own body. Such closeness to another person Sherlock has never experienced, not in kind, anyway, and John chuckles as he arranges their limbs into a semblance of an embrace, but with much more meaning. The meaning of Sherlock’s whole thanks goes into this embrace.

“Thank you, thank you…” he mutters over and over, and John chuckles as he presses his nose against Sherlock’s curls, smelling the faint scent of shampoo.

“There’s no need to thank me.” He murmurs, and holds Sherlock tighter in his arms as he realises just how happy he has made Sherlock. if this is what it had taken to make the man happier than John has ever seen him, then by god John would have done this before now. He’s been repressing it for too long, anyway.

John pulls Sherlock tighter to him and pulls them both down so John is lying on the sofa with Sherlock practically on top of him, drawn close to his chest, head in the nook between shoulders and head.

“I love you.” Sherlock mutters, and John can feel his eyelashes fluttering against his neck.

“I love you too.” Those words, so full of meaning, so long in coming, seem to both John and Sherlock like the greatest gift in the world. Sherlock, however, this gift is a burden; his need to protect John is deeper now than ever, and he settles back into his old mind frame, the one he had adopted every time Moran had left him alone, perhaps granting him a cup of tea as a ‘present’, of ‘savour this while it lasts, because you cannot have it forever.’ That will make it easier to cope when he has to say goodbye.

It is with reluctance, then, that both of them move when they get yet another summons to Mycroft’s office from Anthea.                                                                                


 

“Are you mad?!” John all but shouts, turning on Mycroft. “You want to put Sherlock in the same room as him?

“There’s another thing, John. I do not think you should be there.” Mycroft states, with the manner of a man rushing to get his words out before the dam breaks, and he will not be able to say them.
“Why not?” John demands. Sherlock watches as John leans forwards in his angers, innately towering over a sitting Mycroft in a show of power.

“Because there is something else who is involved, and for you two to be in the same room as each other whilst I am trying to strike a deal with Moriarty might prove unbeneficial to our cause.”
John sucks his cheeks in, a sure sign he is holding back his anger. Just. “Mary, you mean?”
Mycroft has enough good sense to lower his eyes. “Yes.”
“You want to use her, then? Make her another one of your puppets?”

“I do not think I could make her do anything she doesn’t want to, John.”

John laughs sardonically. “I bet you planned this all, didn’t you? Did you force her to reveal her real self to me because you needed to work with her in close quarters?”

Sherlock thinks this sounds far-fetched, and that is one sure sign that John is very angry right now.

“John, that is really rather ridiculous. There are many things that I do that you are not involved in. Do not be so hasty as to think that this is all about you. I had heard of AGRA, many years ago, but I had no idea that she had assumed the identity of Mary Morstan and was in a close relationship with you. I’m only making the most out of this situation; she is an incredibly skilled agent, and seeing as she has been previously working with Moriarty-”

“Yes, against you. Against Sherlock.”
Mycroft holds up a hand to tell John to keep listening. “Seeing as she has been previously working with Moriarty, she could prove a valuable asset in trying to work with him.”
“So, you’re working with him, now? And you require Sherlock to come with you to this meeting with Moriarty as some sort of bait?” John spits.
“In a sense, but Sherlock will never be in any true harm.” Those words are not as comforting to John and Sherlock as Mycroft might want them to be. “I want to strike a deal. I am hoping we can meet with him in two days’ time. See, I think Moriarty is trying to get all sorts of powerful people on side. I know not what he is planning to do, but the evidence we found from the house.” A brief flick of eyes to Sherlock. “worries me that Moriarty might be planning something that could, potentially, be devastating to the nation.”

“I don’t know anything.” Sherlock mutters, before Mycroft can ask. “They would never speak properly in front of me.” In fact, Sherlock had barely seen Moran and Moriarty together. Mycroft nods at Sherlock and John gives him a fleeting smile.

“Which is where Charles Augustus Magnussen comes in.” Mycroft continues.

“Magnussen?” John repeats, and Mycroft rolls his eyes.

“If I get Magnussen on side before Moriarty can, we have some way of stopping the man. Myself and…. Agent AGRA have already met with Magnussen this morning and have agreed a deal with him, so he is on side.”

“What deal?” John demands.

“Myself and Agent AGRA will take out Moriarty for his benefit as well as our own, and in return he will not use any information he has on Agent AGRA to blackmail her in any way.”

John’s eyebrows raise so high Sherlock gets a little worried they might get stuck there. “Because she’s a valuable asset to you? So you can use her for your own gains?”

“She’s a super-agent, John, that’s what her purpose is.”

“No, she was a super-agent, Mycroft.” John insists. Sherlock doesn’t quite understand John’s defence of Mary; he had said he loved her, but that he wanted her to explain, is that why he is mad Mycroft seems to be doing that for her?

“And she has resumed her position after her surrender last night.” Mycroft replied, non-plussed by John’s insistence that Agent AGRA is still ‘Mary.’

John hangs his head and sucks in a breath through his nose. The same breath hisses out through his teeth a few moments later. “Just…Let me be there Mycroft? If you want Sherlock there, then I will have to insist that I am there, too.”

Sherlock feels a little swell of emotion in his stomach at John’s protectiveness over him, and watches as his brother’s eye flick between the both of them. A knowing glint comes into them. “I see the situation has changed somewhat. In that case, I will allow you to come with us, Doctor Watson. But, I must insist that you do not speak with Agent AGRA that are in any terms not professional-”

“I’m not an animal, Mycroft!” John roars, most like a lion. “I’m not going to lose my nerve just by looking at her! If anything, I would like to speak with her rationally.”

Mycroft raises an eyebrow. “Are you quite sure you can manage that, John?”

This battle of words and wits goes on for quite a while, and Sherlock shuffles awkwardly behind them, not saying a word and feeling quite bewildered. In his dressing gown pocket, Sherlock’s hand touches the piece of paper with Magnussen’s agents’ numbers and their corresponding code, and suddenly realises that, if there was any better time to get Moriarty’s attention, it is while John and Mycroft are locked in a battle of the wits and words like this one.

He sneaks out of Mycroft’s office and sneaks up to his brother’s room. He has thought his plan through, and unless Lestrade is awake, it should work without a hitch, and now he knows when Mycroft plans to meet with Moriarty in two days’ time, he can take his chance to act before then.  A particularly squeaky floorboard betrays him as he pushes open Mycroft’s door, but when he slinks in he sees Lestrade lying flat out of the bed, mouth open, and snores emitting loudly from it. He is sound asleep.

Sherlock pads over to the chair in the corner, where Lestrade has thrown his jacket. It doesn’t take too much poking through the pockets to locate Greg’s phone. Nor does it take Sherlock too much time to correctly guess the password and send of a text to a number he knows so well; he had seen it every time Moriarty did a business deal with low-life scum, printed neatly onto a black card business card, rimmed with gold. He makes sure the message is seen as read before he deletes the message and replaces the phone, slinking out of the room just as agilely as he had entered. The first step of his plan is in action, and Sherlock lets out a shaky breath as he thinks what this will mean for him, for John, for him and John as.... soulmates? That seems too romantic, but that is exactly what they are. But, if this were to protect John, and stop Moran and Moriarty, then Sherlock would do it, not matter how suffocating the anxiety about seeing his captors again was.

Sherlock reels a little against the bannister as a memory comes into his head. Now, it all seems rather ridiculous, but at the time it had been terrifying….

‘Sherlock’s bare feet padded across the linoleum floor, his heart in his mouth. Moran had accidently left the basement door open, and Sherlock had taken his chance. Not to escape, no, god, he can’t even think which way is up. All he knows is that he is desperate for a glass of water, and that the kitchen has a running tap. He can hear movement from up the stairs, on the first floor. Sometimes Moran takes him there, if he wants to do it somewhere more comfortable. He tells Sherlock that he is lucky Moran lets him up there at all. He is even luckier is Moran will let him have his was for the week up there, too.

Sherlock breath hitches as he sees the coast is clear and he darts across the corridor and into the kitchen. There it is, the tap, a very normal thing, something that usually fades into the background of anyone else’s life, but to Sherlock, in this moment, it is like a blessing from heaven. The only thing he’s had to drink in two days is the stale water that drips through into the basement.

Sherlock lets the tap run a bit, making sure the gush of water isn’t so strong as to be heard upstairs. When the water beneath his fingertip is cool and clear, he sticks his mouth under the tap and laps the water up like a dog. It is strangely disorientating to have his head stuck under the tap like that, he cannot hear much but the water running through the pipes, and so he doesn’t risk staying there any longer than a minute. Only once he feels so full of water is it nauseating does he stop, turning off the tap and wiping his mouth, panting a little. The light coming through the windows is bright and disorientating, and Sherlock stumbles back to the basement stairs a little less gracefully than his first journey.

He freezes as he hears footsteps from upstairs come across the landing and head for the stairs, and he panics, pelting back down the stairs and into the basement, huddling up under his blanket on the tatty mattress in the corner of the room. Please say he didn’t see. Please say he didn’t hear.

“Little bird?” Comes Moran’s voice in a mocking tone of sweetness. His feet appear at the top of the stairs, then comes his legs, his torso, his shoulders and his head as he lumbers down them. Sherlock’s breaths come in fast and heavy as he waits on Moran’s next move. He clutches the blanket to his body to hide his heaving chest.

“I left that open, didn’t I?” Moran says, indicating to the door with his thumb. Sherlock nods, not making eye contact.

“And yet you stayed here, didn’t you?” Moran comes forward and kneels down next to Sherlock. he places a large hand on Sherlock’s bony shoulder. “You’re such a good pet.”

“Thank you, sir.” Sherlock mutters, his heart still going at the rate of a freight train in his chest. Moran didn’t see him, he will not be punished. He will be fine for now. He has gotten away with it.’

Sherlock grips hard against the bannister as he grounds himself in the present, focussing on his breathing. He is getting better at controlling his reaction to these flashback-like memories, but, as always, he feels shaky and a little like he is floating outside his body, that he needs to be pinned back into his skin.

Sherlock makes his way back to Mycroft’s office slowly, thinking through the next stage of his plan; get out and get a weapon. Sherlock is not keen on using a weapon, but up against men like Moran and Moriarty, he doesn’t feel like he has a choice.                                                                           


 

“John?” Sherlock asks, shifting from foot to foot by the bedside. John hums as he turns from shutting the drapes, giving Sherlock a light smile. The light outside has faded as the day is drawing to a close. It is till early in the evening, but both Sherlock and John had wondered up to the bedroom, exhausted, leaving Mycroft and a very grumpy and groggy Lestrade downstairs, alone, a thought that had made Sherlock smirk a little. “Stay?”

Sherlock glances towards the bed and John picks up on his implication immediately. “Are you sure?”

Sherlock nods, and steals himself before saying. “Just cuddling…. I can’t….”

John nods and comes forward to take both of Sherlock’s hands in his own. “Of course. That’s fine, remember? I really don’t mind. But, if I could….” John leans forward, pressing his lips to Sherlock’s. It is soft and gentle, and Sherlock cam feel all his anxiety leak out of him as he melts like butter into the kiss. He saves this memory, remembering it for his Mind Palace, whenever he can salvage that. If he can salvage it.

John breaks away after a few minutes of breathless kissing. “Come on, let’s go to bed, I’m bloody exhausted!”

Sherlock smiles and lets John arrange them on the bed, Sherlock lying across John’s chest and the duvet pulled up to his chin. Sherlock shudders as he realises how little time he and John might have, and he has only just got this. John, mistaking Sherlock’s shudder as him being cold, pulls the duvet up higher, so high it almost covers Sherlock’s mouth.

“John, in my session with Doctor Laurens today, she said me wanting to be like….’this’ with you wasn’t taking advantage of you, seeing as you’ve had to deal with a lot of emotions. And it isn’t, is it?”

“What?” John says, his head rising from the pillow as he peers down at Sherlock. “Sherlock, no, of course not! I’ve had time to think and process those emotions, and this was my decision. You aren’t responsible for my emotions, and you have in no way taken advantage of me; I think we have both been wanting this for a long time.”

“Yes…” Sherlock says, reassured. “Yes, we have.”

“John?” Sherlock whispers a little while later. “Do you think everything will be okay?”

John hesitates before answering. His tone is honest, but Sherlock appreciates that much more than any consoling lies. “I’m not sure, but I hope so.”

Sherlock nods, but his mind twirls poisonous thoughts in his head, and he knows that perhaps, things might not be alright at all. But he will try to make them that way if he can, and he will be damned if he doesn’t try.

Chapter Text

Mycroft clicks his neck and sighs as he feels some of the tension that had accumulated there ease somewhat. Yesterday has blended with the day before to create a span of time that seemed, to Mycroft, to last an eternity. Not literally, of course, but Mycroft is too exhausted to care about waxing poetic. Today will also be as trialling, Mycroft believes. Today they will meet with Magnussen once again, on Mycroft’s turf this time, in order to finalise Mycroft’s plans for their meeting with Moriarty.

It is regrettable that Sherlock must be there, Mycroft doesn’t want to cause him any more harm by having in the same room as his captor, but if it will help ease these ‘negotiations’ then Mycroft will have to live with himself about it. God knows what his parents would say if they were here and not away line dancing in Texas. Mycroft has left them in peace for the meantime, until the fallout of Sherlock’s escape blows over.

They are so close to getting Moriarty, and yet Mycroft is worrying more than ever. All the evidence they have collated from the crime scene shows Moriarty had been using Sherlock to deduct weaknesses in Magnussen’s men. To take them out, perhaps? So, what is Moriarty planning against Magnussen? And will it affect anyone else in a likewise powerful position, like himself? There are too many unanswered questions, and Mycroft hates not knowing the answers. To makes things worse, Mycroft fears that Moriarty’s near-silence in the five years he had Sherlock means something bigger than just Magnussen. If only he had more agents, but his superiors are being slow with replacing those killed by Agent AGRA, and all he has apart from that is less skilled agents. Mycroft sighs once more, and decides that breakfast should, just this once, include bacon.

His phone vibrates on the bedside table as he is straightening his tie. Mycroft picks it up and has to hold the screen away from himself to get it into focus. He has yet to put his contact lenses in.

He groans as he reads the screen; apparently Magnussen is unable to attend their meeting this morning, and will be sending his PA in his place. That certainly hinders things a bit, and were time not so limited Mycroft would probably reschedule. Nevertheless, these plans must go ahead, so he will do his best.

He listens to the still quietness of the house in the early hours, and past Gregory’s low rumbling snores he can nothing. He wonders what Sherlock and John are doing. Sleeping, hopefully, they will need their rest. Moving as silently as he can Mycroft leaves Gregory sleeping in his bed, and prepares to start the day, knowing the only thing he can be sure of is that there will be bacon for breakfast.                                                                    


 

Sherlock swims towards the surface of wakefulness, for the first time in the serenity of a calm pool, instead of a raging sea. There is an all-encompassing warmth next to him he hasn’t felt before, and he smiles as he remembers the night before, of how John had come to bed with him and they had held each other. John continues to hold him this morning, and so Sherlock knows it was not a dream.

His stomach gives a pang as he remembers that today will not bring the same happiness. Today he should be spending breakfast with John, followed by this meeting with Mycroft and Charles Augustus Magnussen, with a session with Doctor Laurens in the afternoon, finished with cuddling up to John in bed when they can forget the world and enjoy each other’s company. Instead he will sacrifice himself, as it is what needs to be done.

He does not think too much about what he might be going back to, or else he might end up wimping out of going through with his plan, but hopefully it will not come to that, hopefully Sherlock can stop it all before then.

Greg’s gun is safely stowed in his dressing gown inseam, which Sherlock had picked open the night before, after dinner, whilst John had been in the shower. Nobody touches the garment save him, so the weapon should go unnoticed. The gun he had stolen after dinner, too, when a still drugged up Lestrade had fallen asleep on the couch downstairs, leaving his possessions unattended.

The matter of getting out of Mycroft’s home, without his brother or John noticing is, well, a tricky one, but Sherlock thinks he has an idea that might work.

Sherlock sighs as he stares at John in the soft morning light coming in through a gap in the curtains. John is, without a doubt, the most miraculous person Sherlock has ever met, ever seen, ever loved. The only human, now Sherlock comes to think of it, that he has ever loved, truly and with all his heart. Perhaps it had taken five years of misery for him to realise this, but Sherlock has a feeling that they were meant to be together, in an almost innate twist of fate, if Sherlock ever believed in fate and the ‘it was written in the stars’ drivel Mrs Hudson had so loved to bemoan in the time ‘before’. Sherlock will savour this memory of John, sleeping soundly next to him in bed, for however long he still has on this mortal coil. Sherlock will treasure John forever in his heart.

“Sherlock, what….?” John murmurs, and Sherlock realises with a jolt that John is awake and he must have been staring at him for an embarrassing amount of time.

“John…” He says, relishing in being able to say that name, to the man he loves, who loves him back. “Nothing, I was just…. you make me so happy.” Sherlock’s face isn’t used to the massive grin he can’t contain as he says this, and his eyes sting a little as he fights to stop tears welling up in them; he cannot let John know anything is amiss.

John smiles back at him, sleep still lingering in the corners of his eyes. “That’s soppy.”

Sherlock giggles, actually giggles. “I know, but it’s true.”                                                                            


 

“Sherlock, John, please come in.” Mycroft says as the pair make their way into the lounge, which Mycroft has deemed to be the best place to hold this meeting with Magnussen. Except Magnussen isn’t who is stood, ready to greet them, by the fireplace as they enter. Instead, it is a woman, around Sherlock’s age, with piercing brown eyes that emulate a personality that is powerful and strong-minded. She seems, to Sherlock, familiar, but he does not know why. The thought makes him stare at her for longer than he really should, Moran and Moriarty had taught him never to stare at anyone, but he cannot help himself. He senses he is making her uncomfortable, and with cheeks flaming red with embarrassment he looks away. Strange.

“John, Sherlock, please meet Janine Hawkins. She has come in the place of Magnussen today, as he had a sudden commitment he had to see to.” Mycroft explains as he closes the door behind them. Janine nods at both of them, a conciliatory nod that speaks of an alliance, not a friendship. Sherlock glances over at his brother, he looks stressed to say the least, and Sherlock reckons Magnussen’s absence isn’t helping with that.

“Mr Magnussen sends his apologies.” Janine says. Her voice is lilting. “But anything that he needs to know from this meeting I will relate back to him. Rest assured he will be kept up to date with the progression of this plan.”

Mycroft nods at her. “Then I shall begin.” He sits down in an armchair, gesturing for everyone to do the same.

John and Sherlock sit down together on the couch, almost touching thighs. John looks around. “Where’s Greg?”

Mycroft fixes John with a level gaze. “He is still sleeping.”

John opens his mouth to speak, but seems to think better of it at the expression on Mycroft’s face, so he just nods. Only when everyone is settled, John and Sherlock on the couch, Janine in the other armchair, does Mycroft start relating the outline of their plan to stop Moriarty. “Sherlock, John and myself shall be meeting with Moriarty tomorrow at 221B Baker Street, please rest assured Mrs Hudson will be away when this happens, John,” he adds as a side note. John nods, satisfied. “To see whether we might come to some agreement. However, the effectiveness is debatable when considering the amount of power and sway Moriarty holds over others, and since we do not know exactly what he is planning to do we can only have a vague idea of what he might do. This is what we are trying to stop.”
“What do you think it is?” Janine asks.

“From Moriarty’s actions in the past and the data we have acquired about what he has been up to, I believe he might be planning on getting Magnussen on side, along with others, to gain control over some aspect of the press. If he has control of the press, because there’s no denying Magnussen is one of the most powerful men in the press business, then I worry he might look to control other people and other institutions.”

“Such as the government.” John says, and Mycroft nods at him. Sherlock sucks in a shaky breath. It seems more and more is now riding on his head to get his plan into action.

“Now, I have already agreed an alliance with Magnussen, and this is where I intend to bring him into the meeting with Moriarty tomorrow. He will not be there at first, and if Moriarty fails to comply to my wish to stop this before it gets out of hand, which will most likely happen, we will reveal that Magnussen is already aligned with us and that any hold he might hope to gain over him will not be feasible. I know already that Moriarty has an agreement with all the press and papers to never use his real identity if any leaks of his underground ‘activity’ appear in the papers or the news. He uses pseudonyms. Richard Brook is a favourite, I think.”

“Wait, yes, Richard Brook.” John exclaims, sitting up. “I’ve heard his name loads. Always wondered why nobody was ever able to catch the man. Now I understand.”

Mycroft nods. “Quite. Continuing, this is one of the threats we will use against him to hopefully get him to concede defeat; Magnussen will stop using his pseudonyms and retract them from any existing articles, naming James Moriarty as the man behind all the crimes.”

“And if he agrees?” Asks Janine.

“Then we will attempt to get from him what exactly he has been planning, and his word that he will stop it.”

“This may sound incredibly dense, but why don’t you just arrest him when he gets to Baker Street?” John asks suddenly, staring down at the coffee table; he has obviously been thinking everything through thoroughly.

“You don’t think Moriarty would have thought of that?” Mycroft replies.  “No, he’ll have some sort of protection, ready to shoot us if we try anything, I should think. Do not worry, we will be similarly protected.”

“And what if his word isn’t enough?” John is incredulous, and Sherlock wonders if he is thinking the same as he; why would Moriarty ever tell them the whole plan?

“There is always something up my sleeve, John, another team to disable Moriarty’s, for example, thus weakening his threat to us until we hold all the power in our court.” Mycroft reassures with a smug smile.

“Well this all seems thoroughly planned out, and with your assurance that Mr Magnussen will not be in any danger of physical harm he will ensure he is there tomorrow.” Janine says, holding her phone in her hand, ready to relate this meeting back to her boss, no doubt.

“I am glad we could come to such an amicable agreement. If Magnussen has any queries about tomorrow, do not hesitate to ask.” Mycroft says. They both stands, and Janine shakes his hand. Sherlock cannot stop looking at her. Where has he seen her before? Why is she so familiar?

“I will let him know. If not, he shall see you tomorrow, for a hopefully positive outcome.” She says smoothly, with a slight smile.

Mycroft smiles back, “I will see you out.”

The two of them leave, and Sherlock spends a few minutes confused, staring into space trying to think just where he has seen Janine before. Was it from a case from before those five years?

“Sherlock? You alright?” Sherlock jumps and blinks, turning to look at a frowning John next to him.

“Yes.” He whispers.

“You worried about tomorrow?”

Oh John. Sherlock wishes he could be worried about tomorrow, and not about what he has decided he will do today. He feels tears gathering in his eyes again and has to swallow a few times to will them away. It works eventually, but John could not have missed Sherlock’s falter. “Yes.” He decides to reply.

“It’ll be fine,” John takes his hand, rubbing it gently with his thumb. “Honestly, Sherlock, I really think it will be. They will never touch you again.”

Sherlock wishes with everything that that was true.                                                                                


 

Sherlock makes sure he is wearing the dressing gown with the gun stowed away in the seam for his appointment with Doctor Laurens; there will not be time afterwards to get ready for his departure. He also makes sure the notes he has from the Magnussen files are in there too. He doesn’t necessarily need them, he could remember them, but he doesn’t trust his destroyed mind palace to provide for him if his mind decided it would rather throw him back into the past than stop the danger at hand.

Sherlock glances across at his Monet book with a twinge of sadness. He cannot take it with him, there is no room on his body to stow it. John will look after it for him, it can be a gift to him from Sherlock, after all he has given him he deserves something back.

He and John had eaten lunch together, sharing a plate of Mrs Hudson’s scones. Sherlock had banked the remembrance of that lunch in his mind, the smells, the tastes, the touches, knowing he would need something to see him through later.

Sherlock doesn’t have a phone, but he is uncertain whether he will be able to contact anyone at all anyway, so it does not matter much.

There is a knock at the door and Sherlock looks over to John in panic. He isn’t sure how much time he will have after his session with Laurens in order to get out, and he isn’t sure if he will be able to see John again before that. John looks over at him before going to open the door.

“Wait!” Sherlock exclaims. He could tell John now, confess to his plan and let him take charge. But no, Sherlock berates himself, that wouldn’t be protecting John at all. He cannot afford to be weak now, god knows he feels anything but strong, but he must try his best. This is for John, all for John.

“Sherlock?” John asks, a frown marring his brow.

Sherlock takes in a shaky breath and steps forward to press a kiss to John’s lips. It is warm and soft but too short for Sherlock’s liking, and yet that is all he can do to say goodbye. “Nothing, sorry, I…I love you.”

John smiles, “Alright. I love you, too.” He looks perplexed by Sherlock’s sudden outburst of sentiment, but he humours him nonetheless. Sherlock is going to miss this.

There is a knock on the door again and Doctor Laurens’s voice calls out “Hello?” Sherlock sighs and nods to John to open to door.

“I’ll be just downstairs if you need me, Sherlock.” John says before opening the door to let Doctor Laurens in. Sherlock barely registers her presence as he watches John give him a reassuring smile before disappearing out of the room. Sherlock wants to cry again, thinking that this might possibly be the last time he ever sees John.                                                                              


 

John sighs out as he plods down the stairs, thinking over Sherlock’s actions over in his head. He was confused by but not adverse to Sherlock’s sudden burst of affection, and he had certainly enjoyed it, but John is worried that he is missing something. Sherlock is not great with expression of emotions, but that felt…desperate, as if Sherlock were savouring the kiss as if it were their last…

John pauses in his tracks, and is just about to turn back with doubt when the door to Mycroft’s office opens and someone steps out-

No, not someone.

Mary.

 No, she’s not named Mary. Whoever she is.

John sucks in a shaky breath, and Mary freezes when she notices him. Her face pales by a few shades. “John.” She whispers.

John squares his shoulders and reminds himself of what he had told Sherlock; he will hear out ‘Mary’s’ story, let her have her say. The question of whether he can forgive her or not, however….

“Follow me.” He says. His tone leaves no room for protest. Mary swallows, her throat bobbing as her eyes plead at John to explain. John is not a cruel man, or so he hopes, but he does not respond to Mary’s obvious desperation, because if he does…he thinks he might lose the tight control he has over his emotions, like letting go of the leash of a rabid dog. John squares his jaw and turns, heading for the lounge. There, hopefully, they can get all their emotions out onto the table. John just wishes he was more prepared.


 

Sherlock can barely pay attention to what Doctor Laurens is saying. In fact, he’s not sure he even heard her greeting to him, his mind still on John. He sits hunched on the sofa, shivering slightly. John. Saying goodbye to John. Never seeing John again. Possibly. Sherlock feels his breathing start to pick up, bordering on hysterical. He hates this; hates that he’s like this, and that he cannot have the one person that he needs, ever again for all he knows. Sherlock balls his hands into fists and presses them against his forehead, scrunches his eyes up and attempts to control his breathing. He doesn’t care what Doctor Laurens thinks of him, she doesn’t matter to him now, John is the only person who matters to Sherlock at this moment, and he just bade him farewell.

“Sherlock?” Doctor Laurens says.

Sherlock ignores her and focuses on the pain of pressing his fists against his forehead. There is a plaster over one of them from where the IV port has been placed for the last few days, and Sherlock can feel blood begin to trickle from the wound.

“Sherlock, come on, talk to me.” Doctor Laurens persists, and to Sherlock’s ears she seems louder, as if she has leaned closer to him. 

“Whatever it is, it can’t be the end of the world.” Laurens reassures, and Sherlock wants to scoff, but then-

His mind freezes, and then it starts to rewind.

He has heard those words before, some when, but where? When? Sherlock shudders as he begins to remember, and he feels nauseous. Those words were spoken before, but in a different tone, with a different meaning, and Sherlock can barely remember who-

‘Sherlock feels fuzzy, and there’s a sharp pain in his upper arm, and Moran is above him, holding a now empty syringe. He smiles, that menacing, cringing smile. It makes Sherlock uncomfortable, because it always follows after he has exerted power over Sherlock, or knows something Sherlock doesn’t.

“Sleep now, my dear.” Says Moriarty, and Sherlock jumps to realise that the other man is sat beside him, on a dingy and sunken sofa in the front room of that house. Moriarty draws Sherlock’s head down to his shoulder, and Sherlock, too drugged up to do otherwise, lets his head fall. Moriarty starts to run his fingers through Sherlock’s hair.

“Well done, my dear, that was some very clever work you did there. This is your treat.” Moriarty drawls. Sherlock is confused. The drugs are his treat? This petting, as if he is a dog, is his treat? He doesn’t reply, just lets out a shaky breath.

“Does he really enjoy that?” Says another voice, one that Sherlock doesn’t recognise, or not enough to be able to label it to someone, but lilts in the same way that Moriarty’s does, though it is much more feminine.
“How could he not?” Moriarty asks, continuing to run his hands through Sherlock’s curls. “He’s always loved drugs, haven’t you Sherlock?”

“I don’t think morphine is very fun, Jim. Besides, that’s not what I meant. I meant you petting him. He’s not your pet.” The voice admonishes Jim in a mocking tone, and Sherlock knows that this person is not on his side. No one is.

“He is.” Jim protests.

“You’re terrible.” The voice teases, and it laughs, and its laugh is the same as Moriarty’s, and when they both laugh with each other Sherlock winces. That is the sound of cruelty, and Sherlock is far too well acquainted with it.

“He’s priceless though, isn’t he Seb? Don’t know what we’d do without him. It seems a shame to let him go.”
“We don’t have to, Boss.” Moran speaks, but Sherlock cannot see him, either. The voices of his abusers’ float around him like ghosts.

“I know you love him, Seb. But really, it’s so unfair.” Moriarty’s voice is jesting, and Sherlock wants to scream and cry in equal measure. “And anyway, we need him for a little more problem solving.”

“How many people have you got left?” Asks the other voice.

“A fair few. Magnussen’s people are proving very tricky to catch, but I’ll get them in time. It’s like picking sweets from a pick and mix, my dear. There’s so many to choose from and I want them all.”

The other voice laughs. “And this plan of yours? Are you going to be wanting the whole world next?”

“Oh, so much more than that, my dear.” Moriarty laughs.

“Whatever it is, it can’t be the end of the world.” That other voice mocks.

Moriarty laughs, and gets up from the sofa, letting Sherlock’s head thump down on the sofa as it loses its support. Sherlock is now lying down on the sofa, and the effects of the morphine Moran had given him feels stronger now, and his eyes begin to close. He can just about register Moriarty speaking, and then there is a new face in front of him, one he has only caught drugged glimpses of before now. Their eyes are brown, and to Sherlock they seem to go on forever. It’s like looking down into a deep, dark well. They promise nothing good. The face is obviously feminine, but there is something in the expression that reminds Sherlock of Moriarty’s face when he’s teasing Sherlock. Sherlock lets out a little whimper, much to his embarrassment, and the woman tuts and runs her hand through his hair, just like Moriarty had. Her hair is long, and its dark strands tickle at the skin on Sherlock’s arm as she leans down.

“We must be going, Sis.” Moriarty says. “We’ll leave Seb to babysit.”

Sherlock watches as the woman smiles and walks away. His vision fades as the morphine starts to take full effect, and he is dragged down, down, down….’

Sherlock gasps and falls forward as he is ripped out of the memory. He has to quell the urge to vomit the contents of his stomach up, and he pushes himself to his hands and knees on the floor, his breathing ragged and loud in his ears.

‘Janine is Moriarty’s sister. Moriarty’s sister is Magnussen’s PA. Magnussen may already be compromised, may already be on Moriarty’s side.’

He knows now why Janine had looked familiar earlier, and he groans as he berates himself for not realising earlier. He could have stopped her right in her tracks! She must have taken him for a fool; he had sat there in that room with her whilst Mycroft had related the workings of his plan to her in full trust. Sherlock must warn his brother before anything happens.

He scrambles up onto his feet, but he is too unsteady and shaky and falls down onto the sofa. He catches his breath for a second, adrenaline pumping through his system. Every sat here feels like a second wasted. He jumps as he catches sight of Doctor Laurens in the corner; he had forgotten about her presence entirely. She is hunched over in the corner, and holds her phone in her hand. She looks to be reading a text message.

Sherlock groans and lifts himself from the sofa, finding his footing this time. Laurens jumps as she sees him stand, but he barely pays attention to her hurried movements as he makes his way towards the door. He has to warn Mycroft, he has to-

A sound behind him makes him stop. He knows that sound well; it reminds him of the time Before, and he hesitates before turning to face Laurens. It is as he had expected; she stands there, gun cocked and primed to shoot, face pale but determined.

“I wouldn’t go anywhere if I were you Sherlock.”

Chapter Text

John holds the door open for Mary and waits until she has stepped well into the room before closing it after himself. He pauses for a moment, leaning against the door, before he turns to face Mary, or whoever she is…. AGRA.

“John…” She begins, but he turns on her, finger pointed.

“Don’t.” He orders. “Just…. don’t.”

“I couldn’t lie to you anymore, John.” Mary continues, not heeding John’s words. Why would she? “I didn’t want to live like that anymore. Believe me, if I could have kept our life how it was, not got involved with…. anything, then I would have. But,” her eyes glisten, “I don’t know what Moriarty might have done if I hadn’t handed myself in, given myself up, before then. He might have had me do worse-”

“Worse?” John says, “You lied to me. You, you killed the people who were trying to catch Moriarty, Mary. You burned that house to eliminate evidence. Did you ever wonder why? Hmm? Did you ever stop to think, why am I doing this? You had already seen me, and Sherlock, in this house, before you took those actions. Did you ever connect the two?”

Mary shook her head. “I didn’t, I didn’t care enough to, John. I just wanted to get the job done. I pretended it was nothing to me; I had killed before, it was my job. He was threatening to tell you, and I knew, before anything, I just didn’t want you to know.”

John hangs his head. This is getting worse, the further and further they talk the more John wants to punch the wall.

“But, in the end, when I realised that I had hurt Greg, that you and Sherlock were involved…. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I had kept going. It was better for me to give up myself than to let Moriarty do it for me. The betrayal may have been as bad as it is no matter who told you, John. But, at least I had control over that. It was something.”

John looks Mary dead in the eye, and what he sees there makes him believes her. He believes she is telling him the truth, because what he sees in her face...it looks like his Mary; the Mary he had met two years ago, when he was lost and confused and angry. He sees the woman he loves, and he is relieved, because he knows that she would never have done something so cruel as to have kept the secret of John’s best friend’s kidnapping a secret from him.

But now… it is too difficult, too wrapped up in questions and secrets.

“I wish I could say that your past is your past, and that all I care about is our future together, but…. It’s not that simple, is it? Because you’re still that assassin, aren’t you? That’s never going to leave you, and now you’re working for Mycroft.” John says, voice quiet, all his rage subsiding below.
“I figured if I had to give up my life with you, I might as well use what I’m good at for better people.” Mary reasons with a smile, but that smile is laced with tears and she looks so sad.

“I can’t say I can forgive you, Mary, but…. I understand.” John says.

Mary nods, and sniffs. “There’s just one thing I want to know, John. If I never speak to you again, properly, after this…just, promise me that you will be happy? That you’ll be who you were before Sherlock was taken, the man who I knew when you were really, truly, happy?”

John can feel tears start to sting at his own eyes, and he nods, sniffing, before replying. “Yes. I think I might be able to keep that promise. If Moriarty doesn’t decide to kill us all, that is.”

Mary smiles at him, but there is a determination that glints in her eyes, a glimpse of AGRA. “He won’t. I promise you, John.”

John shrugs, he isn’t sure how she can be so certain, but at the moment John isn’t certain that anything will be okay. “I don’t even know what to call you now.”

Mary hesitates, “You could just call me Mary? I prefer to my real name. It’s who I wish I could be.”

John nods. “’Mary’ it is, then.”

‘Mary.’ It’s a name of broken trust and a forgotten future. Now, though, it is also a name of forgiveness and of broken bridges in construction. Which is enough.                                                                              


 

Sherlock’s brain cannot quite process what is happening, all he can register is that he must get to Mycroft, warn him about Janine, but he cannot do that because Doctor Laurens has a loaded gun trained on him.

“You must come with me.” Laurens says, shifting a bit. She swallows, visibly nervous, and Sherlock begins to wonder what her motive is.
“Who- who are you?”

“Doctor Joanna Laurens, I wasn’t lying, but I need you to come with me.”

Sherlock’s heart is beating loudly in his ears. “No, I don’t want to.” He is confused, and he is almost relived that when he asks, “Are you working for Moriarty?” he sees a flicker in Laurens’s eyes that most definitely means that yes, she is working for Moriarty.

“You have to come with me. Now.”

“But, I don’t understand…I was meeting with him anyway, why….?”

“I don’t know, I just know you have to leave with me, now.” She says, voice tense. She backs away from him, but does not turn or drop the gun from where it is trained on Sherlock. She gropes around for her bag until she successfully grasps the handles in her hands. She shoves it up her arm and then commands, “The back garden, how do we get to it?”

Sherlock guesses that in order for them to make their escape, they cannot go through the front door. “You don’t have to use the gun, I’ll come willingly. It’ll be more discreet if you don’t.”

Laurens hesitates, and Sherlock knows she might not believe him; if she has been told about him from Moriarty or Moran, then none of it would have been flattering. However, luck is, for once, on Sherlock’s side, and she nods, lowering the gun. She doesn’t put it away, but she does hide it in her jacket.

Sherlock takes on shaky breath, eyes lingering on the bed, where he and John had spent the last night in each other’s embrace, and his Monet book, his companion through so much, which he cannot take with him this time. Except Laurens notices his glance to the book, and with a tinge of guilt says, “Take that if you need it.”

Sherlock goes towards it, gladly willing to take it with him. He might need it, to give off the perception of weakness, it could help him achieve his end goal. He tucks the book under one arm and turns to Laurens.

“Ready?” She asks. “Let’s go.”

Sherlock opens his bedroom door and leads her down the stairs. He worries what might happen if they bump into someone. Would she shoot them? Would she shoot John?

Sherlock moves quickly, going as fast as he can to reach the door to the back garden, which leads through from the kitchen. He opens it as quietly as he can. He wonders if Mycroft might see him through his office window, or Greg from where he is still in Mycroft’s bedroom, or John from wherever he is. He hopes they don’t, Sherlock just wants to go, because then there will be no turning back.

They both step out onto the patio, and Sherlock waits in expectation of what to do next. “He said there is a way out through the garden. Is there?” Laurens asks, voice shaky, as if she is out of breath.

“I don’t know.” Sherlock says. He glances around the garden, wondering what she could possibly mean. He surveys the fence; the wooden panels are equal in width and in spacing with each other. Except-Sherlock looks closer at part of the fence near the back corner of the garden, which backs onto another house, much like Mycroft’s. The fence panels are slightly more together on one side, but on the other the gap is much wider. The difference is miniscule, Sherlock sees it only because he is used to picking up on small details, but if Sherlock is right then it looks to him like that there might be a hidden door.

“Over there.” He says, and sets off, Laurens close behind him.

As they approach the fence Sherlock can see for certain that yes, this is a hidden door, and he wonders whether Mycroft had this installed. He places his fingers against the wood and pushes, but it doesn’t shove. He looks at the hinges, small, almost looking like knots in the wood, and they tell him the door swings towards them, not outwards. Sherlock looks down at the ground, and suddenly notices the flowerbed he stands on is not actually part of the ground. He steps back, shoving his Monet book further up his arm, bumps into Laurens and bends to lift the flowerbed, about the size of a large brick, out of the ground. He notices his hand is still bleeding from the IV port incision as he does so. He places the flowerbed to the side, and as soon as it does not obstruct the path of door, it swings open, leading to the back garden of the next house.

“Good. Let’s go.” Laurens commands, and Sherlock steps through, letting her follow on before swinging the door shut again with his fingers. He cannot make it look like they were never there, but it will have to do, and unless Mycroft looks closely he won’t see anything amiss with his upturned flowerbed.

“This way.” Laurens says, and they move on, walking up to the house. Sherlock glances up at it, and is confused to see it looks dilapidated, as if no-one has lived there in a long while. The windows are dark, some with glass panes missing, and the white sandstone façade is dirty. Sherlock wonders what exactly this house is used for, or if it even is, but he has a rough idea.

“Was this a…. hideout?” He asks.

Laurens, who follows just behind him, says, “I’m not sure. All he told me was that the men inside it had been taken out so we could escape this way.”
Sherlock concludes this must have been a place for government agents to watch over Mycroft’s and other government workers’ houses, but Moriarty must have been privy to this fact and been able to take those men out in order to get to Sherlock.

Sherlock and Laurens pass by the house to a little back alley, and from there they are led to the main street. A car waits for them, one of Moriarty’s classic sleek silver favourites, and Sherlock feels sweat run down his back at the memory of these cars; the rare times he was let out of the basement, and the times Moran would take him to the bedroom, sometimes he would take a cautious peek out of the netted curtains to see one of these cars pull up and the man himself exit, button up his suit jacket and slicking his hair back.

Laurens indicates for him to get in, so he does, the supple leather of the seats soft and encompassing. Sherlock does not enjoy the feeling, it seems perverted. Laurens gets in from the other side, and then they are off, driving away. Sherlock doesn’t look back, there’s no point.                                                                        


 

John thinks he hears a door closing whilst he and Mary are talking, and when he has left her so that she can go and prepare whatever Mycroft has instructed her to prepare, he walks up the stairs, fully expecting to meet Doctor Laurens on the way down, presuming the door he heard closing was the end of her session with Sherlock. It seems they must have had a quick session today; Sherlock did not seem keen on proactively being part of it when John had left, so he can only imagine that Laurens had noticed that as well, and called a close to the session early.

However, John does not bump into Doctor Laurens any when during his walk, and when he reaches Sherlock’s bedroom, the door is ajar. John peeks his head round the door; the room is empty.

“Hello?” He calls, and he steps into the room, confused. “Sherlock?”
John wonders the full area of the room, and even checks the bathroom, but there is no sign of anybody. More than a little bemused, and with worry starting to set it, John decides it would be best to check every room before he alerts Mycroft to the fact that his brother is, possibly, missing.

The first floor heeds no result, only Greg snoozing away in Mycroft’s bed, to John’s surprise, and with growing panic John searches throughout the whole house, and it is not until he has checked everywhere, even the cellar, before he goes to Mycroft’s office, knocking and entering without waiting for admittance.
“Sherlock’s gone.” He says, tone short and laced with panic.

“Pardon?” Mycroft asks, looking up from where he and Mary and Anthea are discussing something.
“Sherlock, I can’t find him. Nor can I find Doctor Laurens. Mycroft, what the hell? Do something!” John protests, when Mycroft just stands there, not blinking. John is irrationally angry at Mycroft; how could the man who claims to be the ‘British Government’ lose his brother in his own help? Mycroft is not fully to blame, John knows that. In fact, John blames himself more than anyone else. If he wasn’t so confused as to where exactly Sherlock has gone then he would smack his own head against the wall in frustration at himself.

“Are you sure? You’ve checked everywhere?” Mycroft asks, irritatingly calm. Next to him, Anthea and Mary are gaping at John.

“Yes! Unless you’ve got some hidden room or something?”

Mycroft shakes his head. “No, don’t be silly. Anthea, please check the CCTV. We need to rule out that Sherlock didn’t just leave through the front door.” Anthea nods and leaves, passing by John with a rush of air scented like roses.

“Well I bloody well doubt it!” John exclaims. “How could we let this happen? Why would he leave anyway?”

John wonders if this is why Sherlock had been so antsy and worried before John had left him with Doctor Laurens. He should have asked. John freezes, and his paranoid brain won’t stop nagging at him that maybe he has missed something huge.

“God, Mycroft, you don’t think Laurens has taken him, that she has anything to do with Moriarty?”
“She can’t have done, my team did a background check on her….to begin with…” Mycroft hesitates, looking doubtful, an expression which does not suit his face.

“What do you mean, ‘to begin with’?” John demands.

“My resources have been on finding Moriarty and Moran, John. I have had many cuts over the years, the amount of people under my control has dwindled. There simply wasn’t the time nor the people to do it.” Mycroft explains. He is no longer calm, signs of stress creeping around his eyes.

“I can’t believe this!” John exclaims. He hates that he is losing his cool in front of Mary and Mycroft, but Sherlock is missing and he feels like his insides are eating at him with worry.  “I don’t understand why Moriarty would do this, we were meeting with him tomorrow, we said Sherlock would be there. What could he want?”

“I don’t know, perhaps he’s using Sherlock as leverage? Maybe he doesn’t want to play fair? I had hoped we might be able to deal with this rationally, but apparently not.” Mycroft says, sighing. It seems to him that as soon as a solution is made, another problem crops up.

“Well we’ve got to do something! Get in contact with him, ask him what the hell he thinks he’s doing?”
“How did he do it….?” Mycroft wonders, barely paying attention to John.

“Mycroft!” John exclaims. “Do something, for god’s sake!”

“John, I will try my best, but….it might be better if we leave things as they are for now; the meeting tomorrow has already been arranged, Magnussen’s presence is guaranteed. To mess it up now might put our whole aim of succeeding into jeopardy.”
John can barely contain the rage that is building up inside him like a beast. It feels like a raging bull wants to burst from his chest. “Do you not understand what is going on here? Moriarty has Sherlock, your brother, your younger brother, who has been mistreated for five years, and is now back with the man who abused him, against his will, and you just want to sit back and wait until tomorrow to actually do anything? He might kill him. Sherlock could be dying right now.”

“Excuse me.” Mary mutters, before leaving the room. Mycroft lets her go, and John is too frustrated to care.

“John, I don’t think Moriarty will kill Sherlock. What could he gain from it? He kept him locked up for five years in order to use Sherlock’s talent for deduction, I don’t think he’s wants to gift death with as valuable an asset as Sherlock is.”
At that moment Anthea bursts in, looking befuddled, a frown creasing her brow. “Sir, all the CCTV cameras within a mile of here have been disabled; we do not know how, that shouldn’t have been able to happen.”

“What?” This time, Mycroft’s frustration does show. He clicks his mouse a few times, and John rounds the desk to see Mycroft has just brought up the CCTV monitors. The screen displays multiple angles of the streets surrounding Mycroft’s home. Apart from the occasional car, bus, taxi and pedestrian, the streets are rather quiet. This strikes John as odd, seeing as it is London.

“It’s looping.” Mycroft says, groaning in irritation. “How could this have happened?” His eyes flick back and forth, indicative of him thinking hard. “I fear maybe Moriarty already has far too much power than I had hoped. If only I had a little more control over people!”

Mycroft stops talking as his mobile vibrates on the desk; he has a text message. He picks it up, and both he and John read the text on the screen with dread:Having trouble finding little brother? Consider this a test of how much I control. Taking out your CCTV was only the beginning. JM x’

“Shit.” John says.

“Yes.” Mycroft replies. Mycroft rings the number the text was sent from, but the automated voice tells him the number has been disconnected. “Just as I thought, he’s using burner phones.”

“Bugger it!” John practically shouts. “God, if he’s being hurt and we’re just sat here waiting…” Visions of Sherlock in pain, of Sherlock frightened, taunt at John and his conscience until he feels like he is being suffocated. While it seems likely that Sherlock was taken only to serve as some sort of hostage to ensure they both get a good deal out of this, John feels paralysed with fear about where Sherlock could be and what might be happening to him. What if he has a flashback, and then gets confused as to where he is and has a complete meltdown? What is Moriarty’s actions have undone the work Sherlock was making towards getting better? What if Sherlock is wondering where John is, if he will come and save him?

John wants to scream, but of course he can’t; Mycroft cannot know how emotionally screwed he is. John scoffs at himself: he is not a child and Mycroft is not his parent. John will be there either way, and if he so happens to punch Moriarty, and maybe Moran, too, in the face, then that’s just the way it will be.

Mycroft’s phone rings, and he picks it up immediately. Mycroft has an exceptional poker face, but right now John can see the cracks in the façade, the anger and frustration fighting through as he hears what whoever is on the other end of the line has to say. John assumes it might be Moriarty, and braces to hear the news.

“Fine. Yes. Seeing as you cannot play fair, I suppose I shall have to comply.” Mycroft sighs, and John watches as his face gets redder and redder. “Goodbye.” Mycroft says abruptly, and hangs up. He drops his phone down on his desk and places his fists on the edge of the table, hanging his head. John feels uncomfortable; he is not sure if Anthea feels the same, if she might have seen her boss act this irritated before, but she stands there, patient, a reassuring presence of strong foundations and support.

“That was Moriarty.” Mycroft says, confirming John’s fears.

“Oh shit. So, he has got Sherlock?” John says, voice an octave higher with worry.
“He didn’t say anything definite, but he wants us to meet tonight, on his terms.”

“Will Sherlock be there?” John demanded to know.

“I cannot know for sure, but, and I hate to say this, I doubt it. Moriarty will keep him back, I think, from us, until he can come out of this meeting with the best deal for himself. But don’t take my word for it John, I promise you that I will do everything in my power to stop whatever it is Moriarty wants and to get Sherlock back unharmed. Luckily, I have already compiled my teams together, so both will be ready for the meeting. I just worry what Moriarty will have in store for us; he has kept the meeting at Baker Street, so whether he will be alerted to the presence of at least one of my teams… we will have to see. Anthea, phone Magnussen’s office, insist that he must be at this meeting, we need him there.”
Anthea nods and, as calm as one can be, strides out of the room, shoulder back, phone already dialled.

“John, I would go and prepare, relax, if you can, before we must leave. There are still a few hours before the meeting, and there are things I must see to in order to make sure we have the best position in this meeting we possibly can have.”

John nods. “Is there anything I can do?”

Mycroft contemplates this for a moment, before replying. “Prepare yourself mentally for what we are about to face. I do not underestimate your strength, but this might be potentially catastrophic.”

John nods, and leaves Mycroft’s office without another word; he doesn’t want to talk about fate, or catastrophises, or how they might lose to Moriarty, and that Sherlock could die, or could spend the rest of his life as some sort of prisoner to Moriarty and Moran. He catches a glimpse of Mary as he passes through the hall, and halts a little as he sees her go through the kitchen, and he intends to say something, but she is gone so fast, and so John lets her go.

Reaching Sherlock’s room John sits down on the bed; the sheets still hold his scent, and John cannot contain the racking sobs that travel through him. He cannot repeat the last five years of his life, not again. How long might it be this time until he can hold Sherlock in his arms again?                                                                              


 

Mary strides out of Mycroft’s office and pauses just outside the door. Warning bells go off in her head; this is so much more than Mycroft and John think it is. Moriarty had told her at their meeting that he had no interest in taking Sherlock again. Has this changed? Mary doubts it. Oh, Moriarty does love to change his mind so, but this smells like something else, someone else. She decides, if this is Moriarty, and he has somehow managed to smuggle Sherlock out of the house, he must have planted some bugs of some kind in order to plan the espionage. Yes, that is very much his style; sleek, smooth.

Mary knows where to look, and each potential hiding place rewards her with nothing; not behind books in the bookcase, not concealed anywhere in the kitchen, nor in any of the innards of the sofas in the lounge, nor in any of the bedrooms (it seems slightly awkward when she sneaks into Mycroft’s room, checking anything and everything for bugs, to rifle through Greg’s things whilst the man snores away in the bed, but needs must). Her search finishes in Sherlock’s room, and she sighs, plonking down on the bed; there is no sign of bugs anywhere in the house, so, unless Moriarty has become even cleverer, he has not got the house bugged. Mary’s feeling, like smelling flowers in a dingy dungeon, is growing, and she is even more certain now that this is not Moriarty’s work.

Mary’s eyes catch sight of something stained into the carpet beneath her feet, and she bends down, examining the substance: blood. It is not yet dry, and therefore must be recent. She’s comes to the conclusion this must be Sherlock’s blood. The trail of blood continues down the corridor and into the kitchen, and Mary follows it eagerly. When she sees it leads to the back garden, Mary frowns. Is this how Sherlock got out?

She goes through the ajar patio door, but the blood trail is harder to find in the grass. Mary, however, is an extremely talented super-agent, and anything that seems amiss she can spot. Which is how she very easily spots the secret door in the fence, and the fact that it has been disturbed.  She follows the path, and as she comes to the deserted house next door, she thinks it might be worth a look, just in case. She pulls out her gun, thankful Mycroft had trusted her enough to bestow it upon her. Entering cautiously, she kicks down the door into the abandoned townhouse; it is eerily like Mycroft’s home, same sweeping staircase, same plush, although faded, carpet. Every footstep seemed amplified in the dead silence of the house, and Mary makes her way through every room, treading carefully and prepared to fire if anyone jumps out at her.

It is not until she reaches the first floor and a bedroom which overlooks Mycroft’s garden and home that she finds something; two bodies. These must have been men under Mycroft, or another government official, posted here to watch over the house. They have been killed recently, Mary can tell, from experience, and therefore most likely so that Sherlock could get out with his ‘therapist.’ The most significant thing about what Mary finds on these bodies is the manner of their killing; two bullets through the heart, equally spaced and precisely pinpointed. This was done by a skilled marksman, and this is their signature, and Mary knows it well.

She exits the house out onto the front street. There she notices tyre tracks on the street, illuminated by the now setting sun. They head east, away from the city centre, and Mary has an idea where Sherlock might have been taken. She frowns, glancing around at all her possibilities. Her eyes land on an unoccupied car, and she knows what she must do.                                                                            


 

“How did he do it?” Sherlock asks, the silence of the car as it streams through streets, coming out of the central London, too much for his already shredded nerves to bear. “What did he blackmail you with?”
“Who? Richard Brook?” Laurens asks, as if that is a question that needs to be asked.

Sherlock pauses for a moment; it comes as no surprise that Moriarty used his pseudonym with Laurens, she does not need to know who it really is who is threatening her.

“Yes. He has threatened you, hasn’t he? Said he will kill a loved one if you don’t comply?”

Laurens looks at him, but she does not look surprised that he has guessed it all correctly. She nods. “My daughter. She’s only five.”

Sherlock wants to laugh. ‘Only five.’ Five years, to Sherlock, had seemed an infinite amount of time. Instead, all he does is nod and say, “I don’t blame you.”

They sit in silence for the remainder of the journey, and Sherlock grows ever nauseous, ever terrified as they travel through the suburbs, reaching the streets he had wandered when he had first escaped, and then finally reaching the street, then the house where he had been broken and used and kept like a mistreated doll. Sherlock feels he might throw up, but he reminds himself with a fleeting touch to his dressing gown that the gun is still there, there is still a chance that he, for once, might have control inside that house.

As they pull to a stop Sherlock feels shudders of anxiety travel through his body as he waits for what’s to happen next. Laurens also looks uncomfortable, and the driver in the front of the vehicle, separated from them by a screen. Suddenly, however, Laurens’ phone ‘pings!’ and from the look on her face it is, going by the situation, good news.

“Goodbye, Sherlock.” She says, and she gathers her bag and chucks the gun down on the empty seat in between them before scrambling out of the car as quickly as the can, slamming the door behind her. Sherlock wonders where she will go from here, stranded in some indistinguishable suburbs in greater London.

Sherlock feels cold in her absence, now he is the only person remaining in the back of the car. The driver has yet to do anything, and no one has dragged him from the car yet, pulling him toward his fate in that disgusting house of fear. Two minutes pass in which nothing happens, apart from an increasing anxiety in Sherlock. Finally, the screen separating the front of the car from Sherlock comes down with a mechanical whirr. Sherlock can hear someone laughing, and it is with leaden dread and fear that he looks into the eyes of the driver as the man turns, laughing, to greet him.

“Hello, Sherlock.” Says Sebastian Moran.

Chapter Text

“Hello, Sherlock.” Says Sebastian Moran.

Sherlock feels as if he is being pulled back into the past, as if the weeks at Mycroft’s never existed, that they had been conjured up by his mind in order to escape, in some way, the horrors of his reality. But no, he reminds himself that the feel of John’s lips against his and the feel of John’s hands on his body had been to tender, too loving to be fake. His John had never felt exactly the same as real John does, and this brings Sherlock some comfort now when the sound of Moran’s mocking voice makes him feel like he is down in the dingy basement again, not sitting on a supple leather seat.

When Sherlock does not reply instantaneously, Moran’s laughter stops abruptly and he glares at Sherlock, making the other shrink back in his seat, sweat drenching his back. “I said, hello, Sherlock.”

Sherlock, so overwhelmed by Moran’s unexpected presence in the car and by his fear, cannot help averting his eyes and muttering a “Hello, Sir.” Back to him.

Moran smiles again. “Better. Bet you’re surprised to see me?”
Sherlock doesn’t reply this time, because he knows he doesn’t need to; Moran is taunting him, like he so often did before.

“Well don’t worry if you are, everything is going to be okay. Jim and I will make sure of it.”

Sherlock clenches his hands into fists by his side. He doesn’t say anything. Better to not say anything unless told to, he has learnt.

“Everything will be alright now that I’ve rescued you from your brother and that awful Doctor Watson.” Moran continues, and Sherlock presses his jaw shut. He wants to scream, he wants to cry, but instead Sherlock just remains quiet, head down. “Come on, let’s go in. I have so much to tell you. Now wait.”

Sherlock waits for Moran to exit the car and come around to Sherlock’s door. He opens it for him, and then grabs Sherlock’s arm in his large hand and pulls him out of the car. Sherlock has never forgot the feel of those hands on his body, and to now feel Moran’s hand squeeze his arm like it is salami is horrifying. It is like someone has dumped a bucket of cold water on him. Sherlock has just enough sense of himself to grab his Monet book before the car door is shut behind him.

Moran drags him up to the house, which, though scorched and burned, and in some places caved in, still stands almost solidly sound. The area where the kitchen had been, and on the floor above it the bedroom in which Moran had seen fit to use Sherlock like a thing are destroyed by fire, no more than blackened remains. This brings to Sherlock a little satisfaction, but not much, when the hand of his abuser wrapped around his arm.

The stench of burning fills Sherlock’s nostrils as Moran leads him into the house, Sherlock, who is still barefoot, is glad that the police who had been here gathering evidence had seen fit to place a plastic sheet on the ground, which is speckled with brunt patches and in some places charred remains of whatever had stood in the fire’s path. Sherlock thinks Moran is going to lead him to the basement, that had been his ‘home’, but instead he is dragged into the lounge, the setting of his last flashback involving Janine. It is stripped bare of any furnishings, bar the remains of a bookcase and two chairs, which seems, to Sherlock, quite convenient.

Moran indicates that Sherlock should sit in one of the chairs, but before he can do so Moran calls “Wait!” and Sherlock freezes where he is, hand tightening around his book. Moran saunters as close to him as he can get, pressing their bodies together until Sherlock can feel the man’s breath against his throat. He wants to be sick.

“You won’t be needing that, will you?” Moran says, taking the book from him. He steps back in order to flip through it, looking through like it is worth nothing more than a penny, when to Sherlock it is priceless. “What is this? Why you like this drivel Sherlock I really don’t know.” Moran throws the book to the floor, and kicks it away with his foot for good measure.

“Now, I’ve got to search you.” Moran says, his voice laced with disgusting desire. He comes close to Sherlock again, and Sherlock clenches his eyes shut, begging to whatever divine power might be listening that Moran does not find that slip of paper with the codes written on it. The gun is a write off, and Sherlock knows this when Moran’s meaty fingers run over his legs and stop at the feel of the metal weapon. Moran makes a noise of curiosity before pulling the weapon out of the dressing gown.

“Oh dear, Sherlock. What are you doing with such big boy toys.”

Sherlock shudders, and, again, doesn’t answer. This patronising voice, it makes him want to curl into a ball, but there is a fire burning inside of him, a fire that wants to stop Moran and burn him where he stands, just like this house has been burned. But he will keep up the scared façade which is more than an act but less than a breaking of willpower.

Moran also throws the gun to the side of the room, which Sherlock takes note of. He braces as Moran’s search continues, but by some miracle the man’s hands do not feel the piece of paper in Sherlock’s pocket, and a breath leaves Sherlock like a tidal wave as Moran steps away.

“Sit.” He commands, and Sherlock takes a seat in the nearest chair. Moran sits opposite him, and pulls out his own gun, stroking the barrel and looking at it like he would a lover. Eventually, however, those eyes fix on Sherlock, but the meaning in their gaze doesn’t change. “God, I’ve missed you.”

Sherlock decides to try his luck with a question, and says, “I don’t understand.”

Moran sighs and rolls his eyes. “Be more specific, Sherlock. You don’t understand what?”

“Why-Why we’re here, I said I would meet Mr Moriarty at St Bart’s, I was going to get out, I promise.”
Moran sighs, and looks at Sherlock with something bordering on pity. “Oh, Sherlock. You honestly didn’t think Jim would believe that you might be willing to meet him somewhere and not have big brother coming with you with all the king’s horses and all the king’s men? No, Jim did this on his own terms; seeing as you so lovingly offered to come back to us, he wanted to do it properly. We know how you mess things up so. It was a kindness, don’t you see.”

“But-but I said I would come back with you if Moriarty stopped what he has planned. That’s what we promised.”

Moran laughs, tipping his head back as if it is hysterical. “Sherlock, so naive! You think you have so much power, but in reality, you have none. No, Jim would never have cancelled what he has planned. Believe me, it’s going to be fabulous!”

“Mycroft will stop him!” Sherlock spits, and it is the first time in a very long time he has ever talked back at Moran. The man’s face instantly darkens. “What the fuck did you just say? ‘Mycroft will stop him’? I don’t think so, Sherlock. See, Jim left getting you back all up to me, as he’s been far too busy making sure your brother’s destruction is as beautiful as it can be. Mycroft has no idea how vulnerable he is. For example, look at you here, sat opposite me, equals. Or so it might seem. But, even though there’s a gun just over there, and you’re not tied down, still you cannot do anything to stop me; and your brother is in exactly the same position.”

Sherlock trembles. Moran is right, Moran is always right, and yet Sherlock thinks the man might be on the edge of revealing a little too much, and giving Sherlock a push in the right direction to doing something to stop them. “You blackmailed Doctor Laurens?”
Moran shrugs and scoffs. “That was as easy as pie; she was weak and far too loving, such an easy person to threaten. Use one of Jim’s pseudonyms, she can’t report me to the police then, can she? All she knows is someone might kill her little daughter if she doesn’t do as she says. Simple.”

“But, she was security checked by Mycroft, she must have been, how could you get past that?” Sherlock asks.

“Oh, Jim has much more control over everything than you think. Mycroft has no idea Laurens was ever compromised! Jim has…. shall we say ‘spiders’? everywhere. Even in government. Right under Mycroft’s nose.”
Sherlock feels himself pale, and his stomach turns with this new information. Moriarty has men within the government? This part of what he’s been working on for the past five years?

“Now, you’re not getting any more from me, I’ve already spoilt you rotten.” Moran says, and gives Sherlock’s knee a slap. Sherlock jerks back, skin stinging. “But, I’ll give you a clue as to why we’re here… You’re being kept away until it is done. We’re keeping you safe from all the hardship. Now, aren’t you grateful? We know how weak you are, Sherlock, dear.”

Sherlock fights the impulse to stay quiet, and carefully asks. “Why? What is going on?”
Moran raises his eyebrows, but Sherlock blinks innocently; Moran cannot resist Sherlock’s pitiful look, for gloating, that is, and answers with glee. “Jim’s bringing this little meeting forward to tonight, no excuses for any absences, and he’s going to set his plan into motion. Isn’t it exciting? Always one step ahead of your brother. You have no idea how much Jim is going to destroy him! But he’s let me keep you company, he knows how jealous you make me. The attention he gives you, god it makes me mad; that attention should be on me!” Moran suddenly turns on Sherlock, anger filling his eyes, a vein in his temple throbbing. He grabs Sherlock’s shoulders and shakes him until Sherlock feels dizzy.

“But you are nothing Sherlock!” He continues as Sherlock tries not to fall off his chair. “Jim couldn’t even be bothered to kidnap you himself, he left that to me, because he knows how much I love you, and hate you! He’s got bigger fish to fry, Sherlock, did you honestly think he would be persuaded to go and meet you when he’s finalising his plans for everything? Ha! You’re so stupid, Sherlock. So stupid I have to babysit you like this. Don’t worry my love though, it will soon be over. Jim doesn’t want you dead, but I am so sick of your attitude, that I may not be able to help myself.”

Moran pulls out a gun, then, and looks it over like one might gaze at a lover’s body. He traces the barrel with his finger, and checks to see if it is loaded like one might check to see if a stapler has staples. That is to say, he is a man in his workplace using his equipment with the casual tediousness of having done this many a time and yet still spending his life doing so.

Sherlock tries to block out Moran’s harsh words; Moran has threatened to kill him many times in the past. He does not care for how Moriarty feels about him, either, but he cannot get rid of the fear that, if Moriarty is not bothered about Sherlock, what is he doing with Mycroft? And, more importantly, John?                                                                          


 

“Anthea? Confirm that Team A is in place?” Says Mycroft into his earpiece, staring hard at the seat opposite him. They sit, him and John, in the back of a land rover. John shifts on his seat, suddenly feeling as if he might be back in Afghanistan, with the feel of the hard bench beneath him and the protective armour on, even if it is under his shirt and oatmeal jumper, there is still a feel of going into battle. Which, John thinks, is precisely what they are doing.

Mycroft nods at whatever reply Anthea has for him. “Make sure Team B is also prepared to move, you know how likely it is Team A will be taken out. Thank you, Anthea.”

Mycroft turns to John. “Team A is in place, but, like I said, I’m fully expecting Moriarty to take them out at any time, so Team B is also ready.”
John nods. “Good.” He grits his teeth. “Magnussen will be there, yes?”

Mycroft nods. “Miss Hawkins confirmed it.”

John nods once again, a stiff and sharp movement of his head. “Good.”

“I regret that this could not be on the terms we had agreed. The terms I had planned.” Mycroft says, “But I cannot say I am not prepared, and we will get Sherlock back, John, and end this nonsense with Moriarty. The thing that worries me the most is if Moran is there; it will be harder if he is, he is incredibly skilled, and without Miss Aella here, then are chances will be less than if she was.”

“I can’t believe she did that.” John says, tone tight. “Where the hell has she gone? Do you think she’s run off?”

“I’m not quite sure, but I cannot work out why she would. She dismantled the tracker I had on her ankle.”

John pauses. “You put a tracker on her ankle.”
“Do remember she did kill many of my agents, John. She might be working for me but I do not fully trust her. Which might now be a good judge of character. She is threatening to throw away the bargain and the safety I had offered her. I cannot work what actions she is taking.”
John shakes his head in denial. “I swear if she’s turned back to Moran and Moriarty…”

“I doubt it, John. I really. But, and I hate to say this, I cannot guarantee that she hasn’t.” Mycroft replies, and he will not meet John’s eye.

John leans back, and his head meets the iron shell of the car. It feels like he is simultaneously the most important and most unimportant part of all this; at the centre he is there, as the fates of his lovers past and present, Sherlock and Mary, are revolving around him as he looks to Mycroft to hold everything together. Then again, it is possible that Moriarty stands at the centre, with everything revolving him like planets, and John is only the moon to Sherlock’s planet. The former analogy seems the most likely, John decides; in this, Moriarty is the puppet master, apparently.                                                                                   


 

“Here we are.” Mycroft says a little while later. John takes a steeling breath before pulling his gun out of his waistband, checking it is loaded, and, for once, turning the safety off.

“John, I’ll warn you that your weapon will be probably be taken off you.” Mycroft says, and John rolls his eyes.

“Just, let me do this Mycroft?” He says, meeting Mycroft’s eyes. The man stares at him for a moment, almost as if to figure him out, before he nods. He checks his watch.

“We’ve got five minutes. Here.” He says to John, passing him a small earpiece. It is discreet, and John slips it into his ears, hearing an electronical crackle as he does.

‘Moriarty has been spotted.’ A voice, Anthea, says into John’s ear, and Mycroft and all of the agents must be hearing it too.

“Thank you, Anthea. If anything happens to Team A, disconnect all their earpieces so that Moriarty cannot hear our plans.”

‘Yes, Sir.’

“Alright, let us go.” Mycroft says, and with a push at the door they are out of the car and onto the street. John had been expecting to be brought onto the pavement outside Speedy’s, but the café is nowhere in sight.

“We are a few streets way again.” Mycroft explains, and then gestures for John to follow him. They walk for a few minutes along deserted streets. John peers around, perplexed about the absence of London’s many inhabitants. There wasn’t even any cabs or cars on the streets.

“I had the surrounding streets evacuated, said it was down to a ‘gas leak’. A precaution, you understand.” Mycroft explains, as he watches John look around.

“Ah. Right.” John says. That does not surprise him.

Finally, they reach Baker Street itself, and as they turn onto it John sees a silver car parked right outside; Moriarty’s ride. There is no other car on the street, and John wonders whether Magnussen has arrived yet or not. He relays his query to Mycroft, who frowns slightly but otherwise does not change his face from the passive expression it has put on. He does not reply, and this is when John realises this is Mycroft’s game face and the game is, John thinks with a tight squeeze in his chest, on.

Upon reaching the front door of 221 Baker Street, John feels that whoosh of adrenaline flood through him like a thousand needles piercing his skin. Mycroft does not knock, but seems to know the door is unlocked, and pushes it open, entering the house. John follows on his heels.

He has not seen Baker Street in almost two years, and it is like a museum of memories John has held onto and similarly tried to push away because their embrace is laced with poison. Memories of Sherlock and himself coming home victorious from a tricky case solved, him and Sherlock sharing domestic instances. Memories of himself sat in the flat on the night Sherlock had disappeared waiting for his friend to come home, memories of Mycroft coming to him with apologies that meant nothing when he couldn’t find any trace of Sherlock.

John pushes this all away as they climb those seventeen steps up to 221B, John and Sherlock’s home. Really, it was their home, and always will be; John may have been living with Mary for two years in a different flat, but those walls were just walls, and the floor just a floor. They were not home. 221B was home.

Once again, Mycroft does not knock on the door to 221B, but instead strides in, John just behind him. There, sat in Sherlock’s old chair, sits James Moriarty, casually eating an apple, hair slick, suit even slicker. He doesn’t bother to look up at them at first when they enter, but instead just continues chomping on his apple, staring at it with the attention John and Mycroft deserve.

“Moriarty.” Mycroft finally says, impatient and riled. John coughs, and shifts on his feet. He wants to do so much more, oh how he wants to punch Moriarty, kick Moriarty, hurt Moriarty, as he had hurt Sherlock.

“Oh.” Says Moriarty, looking up at Mycroft and John with fake shock. “I didn’t see you there.”

“Please stop fooling around, Moriarty, and let’s get on with this.” Mycroft demands.

Moriarty rolls his eyes and pulls the apple away from where he was just about to take another bite. “Oh, fine.” He pulls out his phone and takes another bite of the apple as he puts it up to his ear, “Darling, be a dear and take out Mycroft’s lovely team? It’s really rather an inconvenience.”

He slips his phone back into his pocket and throws the apple to a corner of the room. He shrugs, “I’ve got things to do, sweetheart. Don’t try to kill me before I can.” He says to Mycroft. “John, so lovely to see you. It’s been an age.”

“Shut up.” John spits. Moriarty laughs and jumps up out of the chair. John reaches for the gun in his pocket, but Mycroft holds out a hand and mutters, “John, I told you could only be here if you were calm.”

Moriarty laughs again and swaggers forward, “Oh, is the teacher getting angry at his pupil? Does the pupil need a spanking?”

“Shut the fuck up.” John says. Suddenly the humorous glint in Moriarty’s eyes disappears and there they are, the cold orbs that have stayed stuck in John’s memory.

“I wouldn’t speak to me that way, Doctor Watson. Not if you want poor Sherly to be okay.”
John starts forward to say something back, anger at boiling point, but one glance from Mycroft and he knows that that would be a very selfish action; he could mess it all up if he were to do that. Therefore, he clenches his fists and stays quiet. “Good boy.” Says Moriarty.

‘Team A taken out, Sir. I have disabled their earpieces.’ Anthea says into the earpieces.

“Shame about your people, Mycroft; another team taken just after Miss Morstan took out so many of your agents before. Is she here, now she is working for you? Or did she lie about that? She’s lied about a lot, hasn’t she John? She’s a naughty girl.”

John grits his teeth. This is worse than any endurance tests he’s ever had to take.

“What is it about the people you love hurting you? Sherlock left you for five years, and then your girlfriend isn’t the person she tells you she is. Weird, isn’t it?” Moriarty continues, but Mycroft steps in front of John which, admittedly does more to anger John more than Moriarty, and says, “If you’ve quite finished with your personal attack on Doctor Watson, then may we please get on with this?”

“Oh? I ‘d have thought you’d want to wait for Magnussen?” Moriarty says, but before Mycroft can query how the hell he knows about Magnussen, he continues. “No?  Okay, well, let’s begin; I’m so excited!”

Mycroft swallows, a barely perceivable tick of nervousness that one would not notice, expect John, and he expects Moriarty too, pick up on. It sets the mood, for, if Mycroft Holmes is nervous, then Moriarty has gained the upper hand already.

‘Team B in place, Sir.’ Anthea’s voice says, and John shifts as this comfort of security is known to them.

Moriarty’s phone pings, and he pulls it out, expression transforming into fake shock at the message on the screen. He holds up a finger to Mycroft and John, telling them to wait as he dials a number.

“Oh, darling I don’t believe what you’re telling me! Mycie has another team at the ready?” John shoots a startled look to Mycroft, who looks like a gaping fish. “I never saw that one coming!” Moriarty’s tone is sarcastic. ‘Of course he knew’, John thinks. “oh, well, take them out, would you? Thank you, love!”

Moriarty ends the call and slips the phone back into his pocket. “Love those little earpieces you’ve got in, lovely touch. But, oh, so obvious.”

‘Team B has been taken out as well, Sir.’ Says Anthea, tone tighter than it had been previously. ‘We are compromised. I shall stop using this channel as a means of communications.’

“What are you doing?” Mycroft demands after Anthea cuts off. “I came here to rationally agree a deal with you, Moriarty. Not to play these stupid games of power.”

“Oh, Mycie, darling it’s too late for that, now. You’ve already lost! Now, I must insist you hand over any weapons on your person, both of you. Oh, and your mobiles, and then we can get started!”                                                                         


 

Sherlock has his eyes clenched shut, so hard that it starts to hurt, but he cannot look at Moran, cannot listen to his words anymore. They’re making the feelings of worthlessness and panic swim to the surface, whilst at the same time pulling Sherlock down in the current they’re creating. He scratches at the incision left over from the IV port until Moran stops whatever he is talking about, punching Sherlock, kicking Sherlock, fucking Sherlock, Sherlock could probably take his pick out of those, and berates him for it.

“Sherlock, you shit, you’re getting blood on yourself and my carpet!”

Sherlock’s eyes jump over and he peers down at the trail of blood he has created over himself that drips off his dressing gown onto the floor. He is reminded, with a jump of his heart, of the blood he had left at Mycroft’s, and wonders if maybe, just maybe, someone might have worked it out. But, that person would have to be incredibly clever, and, Sherlock’s thinks as his excited heart starts to sink, nobody probably had the time to search for clues, so wrapped up in dealing with Moriarty.

“Sorry.” He whispers. Moran makes a noise of disgust and leans forward in his chair, placing his gun on his lap and using both his hands to grab Sherlock’s thighs in a firm grip.

“Are you trying to entice me? Is that what this is?” He demands.

Sherlock frowns and tries not to squirm under Moran’s grip. “What?  No-”

“Oh, don’t try to deny it!” Moran spits. “You wanted to come back, didn’t you, well lucky you, I’m here now, darling, I rescued you, and now we can fuck to your heart’s content!”
Moran leans forward, to do what Sherlock does not want to think about, but before he can do anything there is the sound of the front door opening and closing, quite loudly, too.

“What the fuck?” Moran whispers. He stands up, taking his gun off the safety. “You stay where you are.” He says to Sherlock before he edges towards the doorframe. Sherlock breathes in shakily. Who could this be? He really hopes, wishes, that this isn’t one of Moran’s accomplices, god knows what they’d do to him if it is. God, he wants John, he wants John, John, John.

Footsteps come closer to the lounge, and Sherlock’s heart catches in his chest as Moran moves, like a panther, into the area of the doorframe, gun poised to shoot. “Don’t!” shouts a voice. It seems familiar, and Sherlock almost shouts in relief when Mary appears in the doorway, hands held up in surrender. “I’m not here to stop you, Sebastian, I’m here to help.”
Sherlock’s heart freezes in his chest.

Chapter Text

“I can’t fucking trust you.” Moran says, laughing, gun still cocked at Mary.

“No, of course you can’t.” Mary reasons, “But you can trust Jim, can’t you?”

Moran scoffs. “What are you harping on about?”

“Here.” Mary pulls out a phone and taps at the screen before turning it to Moran for him to read the screen. From where he is sat Sherlock cannot see what the message, well, he presumes it is a message, says, but Moran stares at it with suspicion. Sherlock watches as his hand relaxes, his gun lowering, as he reads the message. So, not a threat against him then?

“Jim sent you that?” Moran asks, but then answers the question for himself. “Well, he doesn’t love you as much as me. I get kisses.”

“Cut it out.” Mary says with a smile, and Moran smiles back. Sherlock swallows down nausea; it seems these two have a rapport, which does not bode well. Mary slides the phone away in her pocket, and Sherlock reckons it must say something along the lines of ‘trust AGRA, she is not a threat.’

Sherlock does not know what to think, and Mary has yet to look at him. Has she really turned her back on him? On John? On all of this? He is too scared, too pent up with terror and anxiety to think rationally right now, and it’s not like he has access to his mind palace.

‘She hasn’t betrayed you, I think.’ His John says, and Sherlock jumps to see him there, stood right next to the woman in question, eyes squinted at her, judging. It has been a while; Sherlock had thought he’d never see him again. ‘Nah. She wouldn’t, and if she had, why would she be here?’

“Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be helping Jim at Baker Street?” Moran questions, stepping back from the doorway, effectively allowing Mary entry.

Mary shrugs and comes further into the room. She looks at Sherlock, but does not meet his eye. “Jim’s got it under control. Thought I’d help you babysit this one.” She indicates at Sherlock with a flick of her wrist.

Moran turns to Sherlock, eyes glinting. “Didn’t know you were into that.”

Mary scoffs. “Normally, no. But, this little bastard has taken it all from me. Maybe I’d still have John to fuck if he hadn’t escaped.”

“Oh, Ani, you don’t understand; Sherlock probably didn’t mean it. He’s just too stupid to realise he’s doing something wrong.”

Ani? A first name basis?

Moran comes forward to stroke at Sherlock’s hair with the hand not holding his gun. Sherlock shudders and looks towards Mary. She looks disgusted, but with what Sherlock does not know.

‘With Moran, Sherlock. Like I said, she hasn’t betrayed you.’ His John reminds him from where he is leaning against the doorframe. He indicates to Mary with his eyes, and Sherlock flicks his own over to whatever Mary is doing, and is surprised to see she seems to be pouring something over the floor while Moran has his attention on Sherlock. She finally catches Sherlock eye, and when she does she winks.

‘See. I was right.’ His John says smugly. Sherlock feels his heart, and soul, soar. Mary is on his side, and she has come to help him out. For the first time in this house, Sherlock feels hope.

Sherlock decides that whatever Mary is doing must not go noticed by Moran, and so he preens, pressing into the caress of Moran’s hand in his hair. The other man chuckles, a rumble oh so different to when John chuckles. “You love it, don’t you darling? How much I love you. How much I hate you.”

“Yes, Sir.” Sherlock says.                                                                                


 

John looks to Mycroft for guidance, something he would not usually do but in this instant, when their plan has been turned upside down, Mycroft needs everything to be known to him, planned by him as much as it can be. Therefore there is no place for John to do anything spontaneous.

“Give him your gun, John.” Mycroft says, as he pulls out his mobile and hands it over to the criminal mastermind. “And your phone.”

John sighs and does as Mycroft says, and the absence felt as he hands over his gun is like losing one’s arm. Moriarty takes the items from them like a child who has just been handed the largest lollipop in the sweetshop. However, like a greedy child who wants more, he chucks the items behind him and they skitter into the corner of the room.

“So, now you’re unarmed and practically helpless in my grip I think I have the right to start gloating.” Moriarty says, clasping his hands to his chest in delight.

“Oh, please do. The sooner you start the sooner you’ll stop.” Mycroft says with a sigh, adjusting the placement of his jacket on his body.

“Oh, I will never stop, dear.” Moriarty purrs.

“Get on with it.” John mutters, and Moriarty glares at him.

“I was just about to, Doctor. Do calm yourself, dear me.” Moriarty shakes his head. “So, first things first, you’re probably wondering why I moved our meeting to tonight?” Moriarty begins, with the tone of an impatient child talking to their deaf elderly parent. That is to say, condescending. “The answer is simple: because this is on my terms now. Plus, I’m ready and raring to go with what I’ve got planned, and I simply could not wait!”
“And will you enlighten us on what it is you have planned?” Mycroft asks.

“I was just about to! So impatient!” Moriarty rolls his eyes, and then asks patronisingly, “You want to know what I’ve got planned, darling? Shutdown.”                                                             


 

“I didn’t think you would really turn to Mycroft Holmes, you know.” Moran suddenly says to Mary, without turning to her. She jumps in surprise but continues to pour whatever it is she is pouring onto the floor.

“Of course not. He didn’t offer me much at all.” Mary replies. “And I’d decided I’d rather be married to my job than an army doctor; there was nothing John was offering me more appealing than what I’ve built for myself with this career. The sex was shit.”

Moran laughs. “You should have it with this one.”

Sherlock lets out a breath that sounds more like a sob than he would like, but he cannot help it; Moran is so close, and he is joking about how he has raped Sherlock and it makes the other man want to break down. God, he wants John.

‘You’ll see me soon, I promise.’ His John says, looking sad. Is there hope of that? Sherlock had thought he might never see John again, but now that Mary is here….

“I think you’d get jealous if I did.” Her voice sounds closer, and Sherlock realises he has closed his eyes. He blinks them open to see Mary is now standing next to Moran, towering over him. Sherlock looks into her eyes, and she looks back. Something in her eyes acts as a warning, and Sherlock tenses, eyes flicking over her and Moran. He notices Mary has discarded the canister of whatever it was and, as she stands on Moran’s left side, her left hand is empty, and that in Moran’s right hand he holds his gun loosely. Sherlock gets an idea about what Mary is planning.

He twitches, like a runner at the beginning of the Olympic final, except he has been tied down to the track, unable to move. He so desperately wants to help, but Moran looms over him like a cloud, making Sherlock want to curl into a ball. He cannot go against. If he does then the man will be mad.

‘Sherlock.’ His John says, ‘This man means nothing. The man who abuses for five years means so much less than the man who survives five years of abuse! Moran is nothing to you, he holds no control over you! He is outnumbered, both in numbers and in strength! You can do this!’

Yes. Sherlock can. His John is telling him he is so much more than this man, and this is something real John has told him too, so therefore it must be true!

‘Yes, it is. Now, get on with it.’ His John says with affection, and Sherlock turns his gaze to Moran, staring straight at him so intently he is surprised he is not burning holes in the man.

“What are you looking at?” Moran demands of Sherlock. Suddenly, and with no lead up, Sherlock knees Moran in the crotch. The other man cries out and bends over, at which point Mary grabs his gun from his hand and aims it at his head. Sherlock pushes back his chair and jumps up and out of it.

“Sherlock, spread this around.” Mary commands, throwing Sherlock another small canister whilst keeping her gun tracked on Moran “And this.” She chucks him another identical canister. Moran himself looks to be reaching for another weapon, a knife concealed in his sock, perhaps? Mary does not let him, however, and trains Moran’s gun on his head and her own gun on his crotch.

“Try anything and worse will come to your balls.” She warns.

Moran groans and places both hands up in the air. “I knew I couldn’t trust you, you bitch.”                                                                      


 

“Shutdown? What does that mean?” John asks.

“Complete shut down!” Moriarty says, spreading his arms wide. “Of everything and anything that keeps this country under control! Wonder why I’ve been so quiet for five years? I’ve been undermining every single centre of authority and control in this country. Little brother was extremely helpful in those five years, Mycroft. Oh, all the blackmail I was able to achieve with those deductions he did! It was orgasmic! One by one, I managed to worm my way into organisations you wouldn’t think could be infiltrated! Want me to name a few? Well, for one, did you wonder why your friends over at Scotland Yard weren’t able to get any information on my dear Seb? My mole was hard at work! They still are!”

John lets out a shaky breath. This is far, far beyond anything he had imagined, and he fears it might get worse.

“Now, this one was up until very recently my favourite. I bet you can’t guess what it is? Let me give you a clue. Mycroft, I know you’ve had some trouble over the years getting enough people scrambled together to find little brother, and then after he ran away, myself and Seb? Well, guess why that is?” Moriarty smiles, nodding his head. “That’s right, it was me, myself and I!  I was actually quite surprised at how quick I got into the British Government, but you will not believe how many slanders people with power have against them, how much they do not want these revealed! Lady Smallwood, for example, my goodness….” Moriarty trails off, shaking his head.

Next to him, John can feel a rigidness fall over Mycroft’s body, and he wonders it if it the man’s way of expressing anxiety. He glances worriedly over, but Mycroft’s face is a blank mask, even if his body emits more messages about his mood than perhaps words could.

“Now, when talking about slanders, you think newspapers, right? Tabloids spreading rumours? Right! Now, this is my favourite, really, this delights me so! I’ve got control over law and order,” Moriarty counts these out on his fingers as he names them. “but now I need some way of spreading good word about me, and nasty words about my enemies, so how do it do that? Well,” and with this Moriarty raises angles his head to the closed partition between the living room and the kitchen, and says in a near shout, “Sis, bring out Charlie, would you?”

John tenses, suspicion growing in his brain, and it is confirmed when the partition slides open and out strides Janine and Charles Augustus Magnussen.                                                                        


 

Sherlock gets on with the job he was tasked, and his hands shake as he pops open the lid on the first canister, some of the liquid slopping over onto his fingers. The pungent scent of petrol fills his nostrils and sinks into his pores, making him pull back and hold his breath. Petrol? What is Mary planning? Sherlock begins to pour it over anything and everything, but takes a moment to safely deposit his book and the Greg’s gun into his dressing gown pocket, next to the paper with the codes on it. They weigh him down a bit, but he continues spewing the petrol around the room like one might throw confetti at a wedding.

“You’ve really chosen the wrong choice, Ani. What did Mycroft Holmes offer you? Eh? Any charges dropped for any crimes you’ve been convicted of?” Moran jibes at Mary from behind Sherlock’s back.

“I haven’t been convicted for any crimes, Seb. Unlike you, I don’t get caught, and unlike you, I didn’t go crying to Jim Moriarty to stop the mean men from putting me in prison.” Mary mocks him.

Moran laughs, a low chuckle Sherlock associates with ‘you’re worth nothing, you little shit’. “Oh, Ani, you can mock, but what is it that Mycroft Holmes has offered you that is any better than what Jim has given to me?”
“He’s agreed a contract with Magnussen: if I work for Mycroft and help him destroy Moriarty for him then Magnussen will never use anything against me. I will be absolved.”

Moran laughs harder, and this time it is overflowing with joy. “You actually believed that? Oh, Ani, I didn’t take you for a sucker, but, I suppose that’s what hanging around people like John Watson does to you. It’s pathetic.”
“Shut up!” Mary snaps, and Sherlock turns to see her step forward and press the barrel of her gun harder against Moran’s temple. “You don’t say his name.”

Moran rolls his eyes, but keeps quiet nonetheless.

“What makes you think this agreement with Mycroft won’t last?” Mary asks, and Sherlock winces as he realises she does not know of Magnussen’s…. consumption of the disease that is Moriarty. This blow will be particularly harsh.

Moran sniggers, teeth bared like a feral cat. Sherlock turns back to his job, spooked, only to realise that the petrol has run out, and the first canister drips dry.

“Because Magnussen is already under Jim’s control.” Moran practically sings.                                                                            


 

“Good evening, everybody.” Janine says, and walks over to Jim, giving him an affectionate kiss on the cheek. Moriarty responds in kind, and it is now when they are stood together that John notices the similarity between the two, realises why Moriarty had called Janine ‘sis’. James and Janine. Siblings Moriarty.

Magnussen comes to stand by the siblings, and the man simply stares at Mycroft, smirking. John eyes flick between the two men, fear growing in his gut like a weed. Mycroft eyes are squinting, cheeks pinched; he is thinking hard. John worries that all is over for them.

For him.

For Sherlock.                                                                                


 

“What?” Mary spits, and Sherlock winces. He discards the first canister and pops the lid open on the next. He comes closer to Moran and Mary on his next trail, and he catches her eye as he does.

“It’s true, Mary. I’m sorry. Magnussen has been threatened by Moriarty; he’s been on their side all this time.”

“But, he signed a contract. We gagged him, he was never going to say anything. I might have been able to live as Mary Morstan again.” Mary says, eyes trailing off, looking distant, her face three shades paler. Sherlock stops and stares, feeling pity for this woman he had envied once, some time ago; she looks like someone who has lost everything, and Sherlock wonders if perhaps she has.

“Well I don’t think that’s going to happen.” Moran says with a raise of his eyebrows.

Mary takes in one, shaky breath before turning her attention back to the situation.  “Well, plan A was to simply blow your brains out right now, but I think I’ll resort to plan B.” Mary says stiffly, and she drops the gun aimed at Moran’s crotch, and pulls something out her pocket which she conceals in her hand. “I’ve already put it into place.” She laughs sardonically. “Huh. Perhaps I should never have tried to escape this life; I’m obviously much better at this than I am at anything else.”

“Mary, what-?” Sherlock whispers. Mary glances over at him, and sees the flask held in his hand. She indicates it with her head.

“Sherlock, chuck that over him. Come on, you know you want this revenge.”

Sherlock looks between Moran and Mary and then down to the canister. He is so unsure; what if this is a test? What if Mary is lying to see what he will do? If he does this, how much will he be punished? His breath catches in his throat. He cannot do this. He cannot, he cannot, he can-

A hand closes over his, or that’s what it feels like, and he jolts as he realises His John stands right next to him. ‘Yes, you can. You are so much more than what Moran thinks of you. You can trust Mary. Now, find out what Moriarty is planning and get out of here.’ With that His John heads for the door, turning just to give Sherlock a reassuring nod before heading for the door.

It is Sherlock’s turn to take a deep, shaky breath, and he moves to chuck the canister over Moran, but before he does, he knows there is one question he must ask. “There is a code, isn’t there? Moriarty is doing all of this with a code?”

Moran smiles, and looks proud. “Well done, Sherlock. I’m so proud of you. I just hope Jim punishes you for such naughtiness. I’ll see you in hell.”

Sherlock shivers, but he forces himself to stand up to Moran after all these years. “No, you will not. You will never see me again, you will never touch me, or hurt me, again.”

Moran’s smirks, and Sherlock knows he should feel embarrassed to feel tears trailing down his face, but instead he just throws the canister of petrol over Moran, soaking him. The canister is drained empty, and Sherlock chucks it to the ground.

“Go and stop him, Sherlock.” Mary says. “Take Seb’s car, I drained the other one of its petrol. You’ll find them at Baker Street.”

Sherlock nods, but he cannot just leave her here. “Mary, are-”

“Just go. There’s nothing left for me now.” She says firmly. She looks to him, looks straight in his eyes and says. “Just…. tell John I love him, and that I’m so glad he loves you.”

Sherlock feels more tears drip down his face. Mary raises the hand without the gun to Moran’s petrol-soaked chest, right over his heart. “I’ll give you ten seconds to get out of here, Sherlock. If I were you, I would run.” She glances around the charred remains of the house, eyes glassy. With tears? Sherlock cannot tell. “I’m finishing the job I started here. Ten-”

Sherlock hesitates for about half a second before turning and running through the corridor (Nine), out of the front door (Eight, Seven), through the small front garden and onto the street. Mary’s voice fades the further away he gets. He spots Moran’s car resting in the street and takes cover behind it, covering his ears.

There’s an eerie silence on the street, and Sherlock is struck by how peaceful it all looks, when the house in front of him, the place that has been his prison for five years, bursts into brilliant yellow and white. Inside, the blast consumes Moran like a blackhole, but Mary is a supernova, and her light bursts outwards, forcing Sherlock backwards onto the concrete with the force of her sacrifice. His vision is dotted with stars, and Sherlock thinks, in that moment, that Mary’s supernova is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.  

 

Chapter Text

There are stars. Stars that form constellations. Sherlock gazes up at them, transfixed by their beauty. Then, something blocks his view, and he blinks a few times, trying to get this shapeless blob into focus.

“John….” He mutters as the face suddenly morphs into that of John Watson, smiling down at him.

“Sherlock.” John’s words echo in his ears, and they feel like they are reverberating off the walls of a cave they ring so loud. It almost hurts, and Sherlock winces.

Something has happened. Something big. Huge, even.

“Sherlock!” John repeats, shouting. But wait, no, that isn’t John shouting. Who is it?

“Sir! Sir!”
Sir? Is Moran here? Sherlock panics; if Moran is here, and Sherlock is caught idly gazing at the stars, there will be a punishment. He forces himself up, his head not quite following his body, and it swims, the world blurring away again until he lets himself breath for a moment. He looks up, expecting to see John again, but instead there is a stranger, a woman Sherlock has never seen before. She looks worried, her eyes are wide with shock. She is calling out to him.

“Sir? Are you alright?”

‘Why is she calling me Sir? That’s Moran’s title.’ Sherlock thinks dazedly. ‘Mine is…. Mine is…?’

“Sir?” She presses once again.

“Yes.” Sherlock manages to say shakily. Things are becoming a bit clearer now, his eyesight is remaining in focus, although there seems to be some grey cloud hanging around his pupils.

‘No,’ Sherlock thinks, ‘that’s not my eyesight, that’s the House.’

Sherlock scrambles to his feet, and the woman by his side helps him with a hand on his arm, and someone else is also on his other side, too, and as Sherlock swivels his head around he sees there are lots more strangers, and more coming, pouring out of houses and onto the street, all gathering around where Sherlock is supported. He wishes these people would let go of him, so he shakes them off and staggers around so he can look at the house. Or rather, what is left of it.

Like a pile of blackened bones, the house lays in pieces where it once stood. A grey fog of smoke settles over and rises from it like a shroud, and what lays beneath Sherlock knows is the endings to both his abuser and his saviour. He sucks in a shaky breath, trying to get himself together. Something dribbles down the back of his neck, and he puts his hand up to collect whatever it is, and his fingers come away red with blood. He is bleeding, then. There is nothing new there, he does not mind much.

Sherlock would love to have the leisure to stop and stare at this monstrous wreck, but there is a reason this house has gone up in flames, and he does not want to do Mary the injustice of not stopping Moriarty for her sacrifice. Moran had confirmed it to him, Moriarty has a code with which he will cause catastrophic damage to the country. Sherlock assumes that is his plan. That’s what he’s been doing all this time, hasn’t he? Dismantling Britain’s security, Britain’s very core with blackmail against those in power. Blackmail Sherlock has provided for him. A burning stab of hate squirms away in his stomach, and Sherlock is resolute that he must stop this. He has caused it, therefore stopping it is his responsibility.

Pushing away any lingering dizziness Sherlock digs his hand into his pocket and pulls the piece of paper out. He goes over to Moran’s car’s bonnet, and smooths the paper over it, using it as a makeshift desk. He leans over the paper, and studies it carefully. Surely these numbers must be the inspiration for the code? Why else would Moriarty take the time to note down the Agent’s number next to the number he had allocated it? This handwriting is Moriarty’s, Sherlock is sure of that, he knows Moriarty’s handwriting: delicate, rather feminine. Therefore, it must be of some consequence.

Sherlock searches for other clues that these numbers make up this code Moriarty is using. This code that doesn’t seem quite possible. How is Moriarty doing this?  A good combination of blackmail and criminal ingenuity? There is so much that is up in the air that Sherlock cannot help but doubt himself, heart beating hard in his chest. If he has gotten this wrong, if Moriarty succeeds because of his making an error after putting all his trust on this flimsy evidence, how will he ever face John again? His brother? Life?

‘Sherlock, focus!’ His John shouts, and Sherlock startles as the man appears at his side. Ah, that is why Sherlock had seen John over him before, blocking out the stars. ‘This is what you’ve got to go on so use it! Just like cases in the past, yeah? You never doubted yourself then!’

“Yes, but-” Sherlock goes to interrupt, but His John cuts him off.

‘There is no reason to doubt yourself now, either! So, please, just bloody well get on with it so the real me can kiss you again. I’m sure he’s desperate for it! I know I am!’

Sherlock nods, and John smiles at him, smiling a little. His subconscious knows exactly how to motivate him; John. Sherlock stares at the paper again, focus back on how to solve this puzzle. Like His John said, it is just like any other he has solved in the past.

The first thing Sherlock banks in his mind is that all the agent numbers begin with eighteen. Then, just like a flame that meets with petrol, Sherlock’s brain sparks into an explosion of understanding. “Oh!” He looks between the names and the numbers, and he understands.

Without his mind palace Sherlock needs a pen with which to write his theory out, and he peers around at the people in the street to see if any of them might have a pen. The woman who had called him ‘sir’ stands nearby, still watching him with concern, and when he meets her eye she comes forward. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Mmmhmm.” Sherlock says, not meeting her eye. She continues to stare at him, at his pyjamas and his thin figure, the blood trickling down his neck like raindrops.

She hesitates. “Is there anyone I can call?”

Sherlock shakes his head, still searching beyond her. Suddenly, he sees a man, staring gormlessly at the smoking remains, beer belly slightly on display as his white shirt is hitched up. He holds in his hand a newspaper and a biro, limply supported and obviously forgotten in all the drama of the explosion. It looks like he was doing the crossword.

“Excuse me!” Sherlock shouts, ignoring the stares coming his way as he does. It has been years since this many eyes have been on him, and he can’t help but feel exposed. Vulnerable.

‘Keep it together, Sherlock.’ His John encourages.  

“Excuse me?” Sherlock repeats, walking over to the man. “Can I borrow your pen?”

The man jumps, and stares at Sherlock in surprise. “Eh?”

“Please, can I borrow your pen?” Sherlock is incredibly conscious on how much time he is wasting, and this man’s vacant confusion isn’t helping the situation.

“What?” the man looks down, surprised to see the paper and pen in his hand. “Oh, right.”

“Yes, can I borrow it?” Sherlock asks, practically taking it as he hold his hand out for it.

“Err…yeah.” The man says, handing him the biro. Sherlock grasps it, saying a quick “thank you,” before rushing off back to the car, leaving the man still gaping after him.

Sherlock has noticed something about the codes that seems all too familiar, almost comforting. It convinces him that yes, maybe this is the code he is looking for. He jots down what he has figured out, and as he stares at it, it becomes all the clearer that Moriarty has been very clever, but that he had counted on Sherlock never seeing this code, because to Sherlock it is all too obvious. Sherlock smiles, and for the first time in five years feels that spark of genius that he has inside him. Moriarty may have made a huge mistake.

He folds the piece of paper back up and slips it back in his pocket, fingers fast and impatient, just like they used to on his Stradivarius; Sherlock feels as if he is beginning to get back into the rhythm of life, the answer to how to solve this lain out in front of him like a beautiful melody. He chucks the pen back in the general direction of the man he had borrowed it from, and it lands on the concrete by the feet of the woman. She looks at him as if he is the hardest algebra problem she has to solve. It disconcerts him, and so Sherlock ignores him and head for the car door, pulling it open, ignoring his aching limbs.

“Sir, please, I really you should just take it easy.”

“There isn’t time for that!” Sherlock insists. His John stands by his side, and Sherlock makes to get into the driving seat, but he hesitates. “You’re not coming with me?”

The woman glances between him and His John, and Sherlock becomes all too aware he is speaking to the air from her eyes.

‘No, Sherlock, I can’t.’ His John admits. He looks sad. ‘I have a feeling this is the last time we will speak. But that’s okay, you have the real thing now. So please, go save him, and then just…. love him. For me.’

Sherlock takes in a shaky breath and nods. He wants to hold on to His John, who has been his encouragement through many a dark time. “I will miss you.”

‘You won’t silly. I’m all in your head. The reality is much better, I promise.’

Sherlock looks down, His John’s words reminding him just how much is at stake. He has to do this. For John, both real and imaginary.

“Thank you.” He says, but when he looks back up His John is gone. Sherlock’s words leave his lungs like a deflating balloon. He glances over to see the woman looking at him warily as she pulls her phone out. She is making assumptions, and Sherlock feels a sudden flare of anger; how dare she judge him like that? She has no idea what is going on here!

Sherlock slides into the driving seat, slamming the door shut behind him. Mary has left the keys in the ignition, and Sherlock turns the engine on until the car is purring, ready to go. It has been years since he last drove, he thinks the last time previous to this was the Baskerville case. Still, it comes to him like again like riding a bike does, completely natural the moment your hand hits the steering.

The woman stares at him in shock as he starts to accelerate, putting the car into reverse. He thinks he hears her call for the others to move out of the street, which is, frankly, incredibly dramatic, as Sherlock does a three-point-turn and races down the street in the opposite direction, leaving behind the crumbled remains of that house behind him, with no backward glances.                                                                       


 

“You will not believe how much I laughed when Charlie here told me of the contract you struck with him, Mycie.” Moriarty says, almost jumping up and down with glee. Janine grins next to Moriarty, placing a well-manicured hand on his shoulder, her pearly whites shining. Moriarty takes it in his own and gives it a squeeze. “However, by the time ‘Miss Morstan’ turned against me and went to you, your idea to get her on side by striking a deal with Charlie was unachievable, he had been under my control for too long. Or, should I say, Janine’s control.” He looks towards his sister with pride.

John pauses. What does Moriarty mean, getting Mary on side was ‘unachievable’? Is this confirmation she has gone against Mycroft? John sniffs: he is rapidly losing all his patience with this enigmatic nature Moriarty is putting on.

“If I may interject,” Magnussen says politely, leaning forward a little. “Even if I wasn’t being threatened by this man, do you think I would have agreed to such a silly little contract?” By Magnussen’s tone and the way his eyes twinkle, John can tell these words are just for the delight of spiting Mycroft.

“You signed. I have proof.” Mycroft says stiffly.

“I don’t care for things written on paper.” Magnussen says dismissively. “Yes, my business is in newspapers, but you don’t believe everything that is printed in the press, do you? No, it is what you have up here that counts.” Magnussen says, tapping his forehead. “Things put on paper can mean nothing.” He smiles, baring his teeth like a shark. “There can be no truth in those words, and yet people will believe them because they want to; you can discredit someone, spread rumours, tarnish their name.”
“Slanders, Sir!” Moriarty interrupts, coming forward with impish joy. “See, when my plan works, and it will, Charlie here has promised he will begin to slander your name in his papers. Any attempt you make to try and stop me, to regain any footing, any power, it’ll be for nothing. People will not trust you. You will be notorious. Just like Richard Brook.” Moriarty jokes. It falls sour. “I mean, I might kill after the wipeout is complete anyway, so we’ll see. Depends how nice I feel like being.”

“You’ve made the wrong choice, Magnussen.” Mycroft warns, ignoring Moriarty’s threats like they are nothing. John cannot say he will do the same. Christ, if this man wins, what will happen to them all? Will he kill Mycroft and John, but keep Sherlock alive? That thought frightens him more than the threat to his own mortality. The thought of Sherlock alone, without him, period, is more than he can bear.

“I didn’t have much of a choice.” Magnussen says, a hint of annoyance in his tone, eyes flicking to Moriarty.

“No wonder you didn’t respond to my demands you be here. You already were.” Sighs Mycroft, rolling his eyes. Magnussen shrugs, as if to say ‘what could I do? There’s a criminal mastermind blackmailing me.’

“Now, Charlie is my favourite of all those that I have blackmailed because he inspires me so!” Moriarty boasts. “At first, he was still working behind my back, still trying to work with his men to gain information against me! Naughty! But I put a stop to that, got Sherlock to find these men’s weaknesses. He put a lot of hard work into it, not that he had much choice, however. Then Seb did all the hard work of getting rid of them for me, if you understand my implications.” Moriarty says, with the tone of someone making chitchat at a cocktail party. “Now, a quiz for you kids! I’ve mentioned ‘shutdown’, but how do you think I’ll do that?”

“Code.” Mycroft states, monotone. “You’ve created a code, I assume, that will effectively spread like a virus, wiping out and shutting down all systems that control this country.”

“That’s why I had your girlfriend kill Mycie’s men: they couldn’t disturb me while I was creating the code!” Moriarty says, looking at John. “Getting back to my point, darlings, you’re right on the money there, Mycie. My code is ready to go, ready to be triggered with just a single tap at my phone! Technology is wonderful!”

Moriarty pulls out of his phone, looking at the screen with mock concentration, like one’s grandparent might look at their phone when trying to figure out how it works. After some poking and prodding he brings up a white screen with a litany of numbers displayed across the top and a red button at the bottom of the screen. The detonation button, John guesses. “I wanted to press a big red button.” Moriarty justifies with a shrug.

“How does that work?” Mycroft says, shaking his head. “You shouldn’t be able to just press a button and send that code from your phone to every major institution in the country.”

“Oh but ‘shouldn’t’ doesn’t apply here, darling!” Moriarty says with delight. “I’ve mentioned my moles before, and they’re so good to daddy; they’ve all ready to disable any silly security there might be in place. The moment I give them the word, your institutions will be stripped bare and vulnerable to my touch.”

This analogy makes John uncomfortable, and to see Moriarty gloating away and beaming as if it is a parade makes his want to throw something.

“When I’ve had my victory, when you are all on the floor, poor helpless little things, daddy will come and make it all better, and you’ll all be so grateful. Everyone will be so grateful for James Moriarty, bringing his cure to this administrative plague. Everything will continue, healthy again, but there I’ll be, pulling the strings to all my puppets. I’m not too bothered about running things, that’s a bit dull.” Moriarty says with a snort. “I just want everyone to love me, look to me as their god! And they’ll be no way for you to stop me, Mycie, so don’t even think about it. I’ve the press on my side, remember? I’ll become the king, keeper of the keys! Oh, does that mean I get a crown?” he asks the room, and Janine laughs.

Mycroft looks to Magnussen with disdain and John just shakes his head, muttering “Shit” under his breath. This whole plan seems surreal. Surely one cannot change so much about a country with just one line of code? But then, John realises he stands next to the man who has, up until this point, commanded control over the country to such an extent that John hadn’t thought possible. Unless they were the Queen, and while Sherlock had once called Mycroft that, of course Mycroft is as mortal as the rest of them, and even the Queen cannot control everything. What Moriarty is implying is he will become like some sort of secret dictator.

“There’s one question you haven’t answered in all this,” John says, suddenly riled, and all eyes turn towards him. “Where the fuck is Sherlock?”

“Oh,” Moriarty says with raised eyebrows, and suddenly, like dogs can sense approaching thunder, John senses that the approaching words will hit him like a punch to the face. “He’s with Seb. But, that’s a funny story, actually! You see, we’d agreed to this silly little meeting here already, and then dear Sherlock got in touch, practically begging, saying ‘take me back, take me back in return for stopping all of this.’ Obviously, I couldn’t agree to all of it, there was no way I was going to stop all of this now! But since he was offering himself up to me, I thought: why not? But the thing is, I’ve been rather busy with this whole ‘domination of the country’ business, and so I’ve had no time to plan a kidnapping, so I left it all to Seb. I had to wonder whether it was you behind this little offer of Sherly’s, Mycie, but no, you wouldn’t offer little brother up like that, would you? Like bait? Well, either way, I wanted Sherlock back, but was never going to meet him on his terms, a little too risky! I knew Seb would love to have him back, so I left it to him to take him from your house! Right from under your nose!” Moriarty and Janine share a laugh, while Mycroft and John watch on, appalled. “I’m sure he’s taking excellent care of him.” He winks at John, who all but leaps on him, but Mycroft grabs John’s shoulder with a bony hand, digging it in until John feels the scar tissue from his bullet wound start to ache. He shakes the hand off and keeps his feet planted on the ground, restraining himself.

“Make one move towards me and my men watching from the house across the street will shoot your pea-sized brain out, Doctor.” Moriarty warns.

“Moran had better not touch him.” John spits. He’s blinded by all that’s been revealed to him; Sherlock had wanted to give himself up, let himself live through all that pain and humiliation again in order to protect them all? John’s heart beats right behind his eyes.

Moriarty looks at him with befuddlement, “I’m a bit busy here, Johnny, I cannot tell Seb what and what not to do with Sherly. That hasn’t worked for five years.”

“You fucker.” John spits, so enraged, so frustrated that all he can see is red.

“John!” Mycroft barks, and Moriarty laughs at the apparent disarray on his opponent’s side.

“Oh, do keep a leash on him, Mycie!” Moriarty berates. “He’s feral!”

“I wouldn’t have offered my brother up to you like that, James. Unlike you, I do not perceive him as an object to be used in any way I please.” Mycroft says, and John can see how Mycroft is barely holding onto his calm demeanor, his front, after facing the news of Sherlock’s sacrifice.

Moriarty sneers, and comes forward, closer to Mycroft than he has this whole evening. “No, but you still couldn’t prevent him from being taken from your own house, could you? You couldn’t stop him from wanting to run back to me!”

Mycroft freezes; he does not reply, he does not respond in any way physically, not even the slightest twitch of his hand. John, frankly alarmed, can only think to compare this to a computer crashing.

Moriarty steps back without a care about what a blow his words have just administered, and turns his attention back to his phone again. “Right, I think it might be time to get the real party started. This was just an overture!”

John shifts, a spike of adrenaline going to his heart as he looks towards Mycroft, tempted to just scream “Do something!” But, he remains silent as he watches Mycroft watch Moriarty. The other man is still tapping away at his phone’s screen.

“Shall we do this as a facetime?” He asks the room, and Janine tuts good-naturedly, muttering “Jimmy, honestly.”

“No?” Moriarty asks. “Okay, group chat it is.” Moriarty begins to speak the words as he types them on the phone. “’Dear underlings, please begin with Part One: Coronation.’ Should I put one kiss or two? Mmhm. One, I think. Bit more professional.”

Soon the message is sent, a swooping sound coming from Moriarty’s phone signalling this. He beams will glee, slipping the phone into his jacket pocket before smoothing his hair back with the palm of his hand. “There. Now, seeing as Britain is going to be undressed by me oh so deliciously, I’m thinking perhaps Mycie here should undress too.”

John looks to Mycroft with alarm, and sees the man’s face is paler than a snowstorm. Janine laughs and flicks her hair over her shoulder. “Oh, gosh, I would love to see that.”

“Well go on then, Mycie, if you want to keep your head on your shoulders, I would do what my sister says.” Moriarty warns, titling his head towards the window, to where his snipers wait for his command.

Mycroft looks between Janine and Moriarty, as if waiting for them to tell him they’re only joking, which they are, but the joke is, unfortunately, on Mycroft, and he will not be getting out of this easily. Mycroft raises a hand, and is in the process of unbuttoning his jacket when suddenly, from outside, the sound of screeching wheels can be heard, and the revving of an engine. Then, there is a massive crash, and John’s heart jumps into his throat. Everyone in the rooms pauses, and Mycroft lets out a relived breath.

“What the hell?” Moriarty mutters.

They all move forward to peer out of the windows in the living room, forgetting personal space and the stand-off that was, ultimately, just playing out. A sleek silver car has crashed into the identical car that had been stationary at the kerb, putting a severe dent in the latter’s bonnet.

“My car!” Moriarty exclaims, offended. “Both of them!”

John lets out an involuntary noise of surprise, and relief, as a figure emerges from the car, staggering slightly, but apart from that apparently fine. Their feet are bare, and John has no idea how they drove like that, and there is a trail of blood on their neck. John would know that figure anywhere, the leanness, the bony shoulders, the head of rich curls. Sherlock. Sherlock, who has somehow managed to escape Moran and drive a car here?

Sherlock glances up at them before setting off for the front door, and soon they hear footsteps on the stairs. John moves forward to greet the man but Mycroft pulls him back. John goes to protest but Mycroft mutters “just wait,” and then Sherlock appears on the landing, gun in his hand, pointed at Moriarty.

“Darling! What are you doing here?” Moriarty says with fake joy, but John can hear the undertone of genuine confusion. Sherlock shouldn’t be here, and yet he is.

“Sherlock.” John calls, unable to help it, but Sherlock doesn’t look his way, he keeps looking at Moriarty, gaze intense. John can see that his eyes are squinting, however, and with the blood trickling from his neck he worries Sherlock may have suffered a head injury. He also realises Sherlock seems to be rather dirty, covered in what looks like ash. God, what has happened to the man?

“Moriarty, I would stop this plan now.” Sherlock warns, voice shaky but firm.

“Oh, darling, you didn’t convince me the first time with your offer of sacrifice. Very cute, by the way, but you’re not going to convince me now.”

Sherlock walks further into the room, closer to Moriarty. “I know the reset code. I know how to stop you. So, there’s not point now. Just stop.”

Moriarty squints, trying to figure Sherlock out. “Hmmm, not sure if I believe you, sweetheart. Now, I would put the gun down if I were you.” Moriarty indicates to where Mycroft and John stand, still slightly shocked by Sherlock’s sudden appearance. Sherlock noticeably pales when he looks towards them, and he instantly drops the gun to the floor. John looks across to Mycroft, and is alarmed to see a red point of light trained on his forehead. The snipers, of course. He assumes there is an identical red spot on his own forehead.

“I’m not bluffing, Moriarty.” Sherlock warns, and now he pulls out a slip of paper from his pocket, unfolding it slowly. “I’ve solved your code. I assume you never thought I would see it, you kept me nice and drugged up, didn’t you?” Sherlock is speaking to Moriarty with such a tone of confidence that John had worried, a couple of weeks ago, he would never hear again. “It’s quite simple, I’m surprised that’s what you went with. You really were being so callous.”

Since Sherlock’s entrance, the atmosphere of the room has changed considerably, and the putrid stench of Moriarty’s confident gloating has eased somewhat. Sherlock turns to Magnussen. “Mr Magnussen, you don’t happen to appreciate the works of Claude Monet, do you?”

“Pardon?” Magnussen says, looking quite surprised that he is being addressed, and about Monet at that.

“You do, don’t you?” Sherlock asks. “So does James. He knows I do, too.” Sherlock pulls something else out of his pocket, then, and John startles to see it is his Monet book, the one he had clutched like a comfort blanket when John had first been reunited with him, which he now holds, almost victorious.

“Sherlock, dear, if I wasn’t so fascinated by this display of undeserved accomplishment you would be dead where you stand. Get to the point.” Moriarty spits.

“Monet. The reverse code spells Monet.” Sherlock declares.

“Right….” Moriarty drawls, sounding sceptical he turns to Janine as if to say ‘what is this guy’s deal?’

“You split Magnussen’s agents into two groups of five. You noticed, like I did, that out of the ten agents they can be split into groups of two by their surnames.” Sherlock stores the Monet book under his armpit and smooths out the piece of paper. He begins to read out the surnames of the agents. “Tribble, Trento. Eck, Erbach. Newburg, Nicholson. O’Neill, Olivo. McMahan, Manzo. For the code, you’ve kept them in this order, haven’t you? But backwards, they spell ‘MONET’.” He says to Moriarty, and John feels like he is sat in Sherlock’s ‘class for aspiring espionage.’ “This is where I believe you appreciate Claude Monet, Mr Magnussen, as the agent numbers you gave these men play on this little anagram they make. Every number begins with eighteen, I’m assuming the number of the team they were part of?”

Magnussen nods, looking rather impressed at this display.

“But the remaining two numbers are specific to the agent.”
“Obviously.” Moriarty scoffs, and John is sure it is only because the other man wants to say something.

“I’ve compared these numbers to what I find in my book here, which details all of Monet’s artwork, and the dates they were completed. You gave these men numbers the same as the dates of some of Monet’s most famous paintings, didn’t you Mr Magnussen?”

Magnussen nods, smirking. “Yes, that is correct.”

“James, you wouldn’t have missed this. This is why you chose to use these men as inspiration for your code.” Sherlock says, and John can tell from the use of Moriarty’s first name Sherlock is becoming buoyant on increasing confidence.

“Very good, Sherlock. That was a little tribute to you, you know. I saw with that book every time I visited you and Seb, and then noticed Magnussen’s men held this little bit of whimsy in their files, and I just had to! But that doesn’t necessarily mean that reversing this code is going to stop what I’ve got planned.”

Sherlock shakes his head. “No, but it is my best bet, and this is clever, and I know how much you like being clever.”

“Likewise.” Says Moriarty. “But I’m not confirming whether you’re right or not. In fact, Seb is the only one who knows the reverse code for certain.”

“Sebastian Moran is dead.” Sherlock says, tone cold, matter of fact. This stops Moriarty completely in his tracks, and he hesitates, blinking.

“Moran is dead. Mary Morstan killed him.” Sherlock says.

John blanches. What?

Moriarty’s nostrils flare. “How?”

“She blew up the House.” He flicks his eyes to John, acknowledging him for the first time with his full attention, and he speaks his next words with apologetic regret. “With Moran and herself inside it.”

John feels his legs shake, and he wonders for a moment if there is an earthquake, but then he realises that he is the one shaking. His ears ring, his vision fades out for a moment. He cannot process this, and yet it is the only thing he can think of.

Mary is dead?

“Poor Sebby….” Moriarty says, and he sounds morose, almost angry. Sherlock shifts on his feet, not quite sure what to do now that his big reveal is over. He hadn’t thought that far ahead. “Still, you’re not going to stop me.”

Moriarty holds up his phone, and presses the big red button, on the screen, teeth bared in a smile wide and self-congratulatory.

Then, many things happen at once.

Chapter Text

 

“Still, you’re not going to stop me.”

Moriarty holds up his phone, and presses the big red button, on the screen, teeth bared in a smile wide and self-congratulatory.

Then, many things happen at once.                                                                                


 

“Gregory, now!” Mycroft shouts. John startles as suddenly the sound of crashing and banging can be heard from the floor below, and then from the direction of Sherlock’s old bedroom people dressed in full body armour with guns are storming into the room. The word ‘Police’ is plastered over their armour. John steps back as they flood the room, heading for Janine, Magnussen and Moriarty. Janine and Magnussen, looking like deer in a speeding car’s headlights, are easily restrained by officers holding them in a tight grip.

Footsteps hasten on the stairs, and then in bursts Lestrade, flanked by more armoured Police officers and, to John’s surprise, Sally Donovan. They are holding guns, too, and Greg loudly announces, “Threats disabled, Mycroft.”

Sherlock watches Moriarty carefully while all of this unfolds, his apparent victory in triggering the code seemingly forgotten in all the flurry. Sherlock observes as the man is struck slightly dumb by the entrance of the Police, it is alarming to say the least, but Sherlock is more worried about what Moriarty might do next, and therefore he acts while he can.

As Moriarty stands, almost frozen, Sherlock darts forward and grabs the phone out of the man’s hand.

“John!” He shouts, and the doctor turns, and on reflex catches the phone as Sherlock throws it to him. “Here!” Sherlock goes to throw John the sheet of paper with the reverse code on it, but before he can he feels someone grab him roughly from behind and then something cold and heavy is pressed against his temple, and his breath catches in his throat as he feels the press of Moriarty behind him, his arm around Sherlock’s neck, his voice loud in Sherlock’s ear as he shouts, “Stop! Everybody! Or I’ll shoot him!”

The room freezes.

“Everybody, weapons on the ground now, or I’ll use mine!” One by one, with nods from Mycroft and Greg, both standing buzzing with energy, all inertia paused at the sight of the gun to Sherlock’s temple, each police officer in the building puts their gun on the floor, the heavy metal clunking against the wooden floor.

John wants to move forward to do something; tackle Moriarty, punch him, get that gun away from Sherlock’s temple now, but he is frozen by sudden revelations. His brain can only relay and process one fact: Mary is dead. Mary is dead. John looks down at his hand, feels the weight of the phone in his palm. He barely remembers catching it. The screen is still glaring with the image of the code, but the button is now white since Moriarty had pressed it. John experimentally presses at it, not knowing quite what he is doing, feeling as if he is in a dream, and a box pops up, asking ‘would you like to cancel?’ John, fuelled by shock and adrenaline, immediately presses ‘yes’, and another box pops up, asking him for a code. This is where he should input the reverse code?

“Don’t try anything with that phone, Johnny, or I’ll shoot your boyfriend’s brain out.” Moriarty warns, and John looks up from the screen, and like a blow to the head he remembers the situation the love of his life is currently in. It feels as though he is floating inside himself, unable to control how he reacts as he screams at himself to ‘focus!’. Another part of his brain, however, is nagging at him that ‘Mary is dead. She died saving Sherlock. She didn’t betray you. She gave her life for Sherlock’s.’

This is the thought that finally slams him back into the here and now, back into control of his emotions, for the time being. There will be time to process this later, well, if there is a later for them, but for now John will finish this with the knowledge that Mary died to give Sherlock the chance of living and he will see to it that her sacrifice is worth it.

“His oh so clever little brain, which solved my code and worked out the reverse code as well! So smart, Sherlock! I would have thought all those drugs I injected into you would’ve eaten away at that intelligence.” Moriarty drawls, but there is a dangerous undertone to his voice that speaks of a growing anger.

Sherlock doesn’t reply. He barely notices what is happening to him as he looks at the phone in John’s hand. They have the means to input the reverse code, and yet how can Sherlock relay the code to John? The paper is in his pocket, but he cannot reach it with how Moriarty is holding him; tight and intrusive and savagely familiar to Sherlock. Sherlock closes his eyes for a moment, trying to put aside the intensity of Moriarty’s body against his, how this brings back memories of wishing he could scream for help but unable to. If only he could convey the message another way….

His eyes fly open as an idea comes to him, and it is perfect. He knows exactly how he will relay these numbers to John. Now, he must remember how exactly he can do this trick; he hasn’t used these skills in years, and he worries now that maybe he cannot remember how to do this.

‘There is no reason to doubt yourself now, either!’

His John’s words, or rather, his own, come to him and he sucks in a breath, squeezing his eyes shut as he focuses inwards.

 “After all I’ve done for you.” Moriarty sighs, looking around the room and shaking his head at everybody in consternation. They all pause where they are; Greg and Donovan and the Police still poised, but unable to do anything with the threat to Sherlock’s life. Mycroft stands with his arms raised a bit, as if the moment anyone moves he will shout at them to stop before his little brother meets his maker. “I let you live under my protection for five years, gave you the drugs you so desperately craved, and this is how you repay me? Darling, I wish I’d done better at teaching you your manners! All those punishments Sebastian and I gave you and yet you haven’t learned?” Moriarty goes on, his voice so close to Sherlock’s ear that his breath is hot on Sherlock’s skin. “Such betrayal! How could you run away, darling? How could you betray me now? You must know you will never win, Sherlock. I will always beat you.”

Sherlock lets out a shuddering breath, eyes flicking open, and he looks towards John. He blinks, then blinks some more. John frowns as he watches Sherlock blink at him strangely whilst Moriarty is still gloating. Sherlock flicks his eyes back to Moriarty to check he is still preoccupied with his harsh words, and then looks back to John, blinking again, leaving shorter and longer pauses between each blink. John squints, and then he gets it. He understands.

This is Morse code. Sherlock is blinking him the reverse code in Morse code.

“Sherlock, do you want me to tell these people what I did to you? What Seb did to you? Do you want me to tell your friends?” Moriarty threatens, tone delightful. “I might as well while we wait for the code to take effect. I don’t know what you think you’re playing at by getting the Police involved, Mycroft.” He turns his head to the elder Holmes with a twist and click of his neck, a reptilian-like movement.

“They’ve taken out your men, Moriarty. I don’t know what you think you were playing at in believing I would only prepare two teams for this. I don’t know why you thought lines of code would stop me from employing as many people as I possibly could to stop you.” Mycroft takes this moment to gloat as much he can. He indicates to the Police team surrounding them. “These people cannot be controlled by code and computers, their loyalty lies in their employment to a man who has always worked with Sherlock, and their perhaps unexpressed,” Mycroft glances at Donovan, “respect for Sherlock, and all he has done for Scotland Yard. Now, as they aim their guns at you, the man who believed he had the power to ever break Scotland Yard’s most valuable asset, they are, I should think, very angry.”
“Oh, but I did break him. Didn’t I, Sherlock?” Moriarty says, voice savage. He had growled through Mycroft’s speech, the news that his men have been taken out obviously displeasing, obviously going against what he had oh so pompously planned. He had thought he had already dealt with any threat to his security team Mycroft might pose; he hadn’t considered that Scotland Yard would ever be susceptible to anything other than rigorous planning and approval. Greg, although perhaps not a scratch on Sherlock when it comes to solving crimes, is a very good cop.

Sherlock does not reply, too focussed on relaying the code to John, who knows better, but to the others it must look as if the other man has gone into emotional shutdown.

“Well. I’ll tell them.” Moriarty says, obviously playing for time. Mycroft wonders if he is hoping that as soon as the code works, Greg’s men are simply going to fall to the floor, like broken down computers. Perhaps he is figuring a way to get out of this situation. Mycroft cannot read the man so well when his little brother is against his chest with a gun to his head.

John concentrates hard on what Sherlock is conveying to him, his brain booting up its files on Morse code; it’s been a while since he had to use it, but he is incredibly grateful that he knows it now. It could just save their lives. He brings the phone down to his side, out of sight of Janine, Magnussen, Moriarty, anyone who might try to stop him, so that he can inconspicuously type in the code whilst still being able to see the screen. His eyes flick between the screen and Sherlock’s face, his deep and desperate eyes, as he types in the code.

77

“When we first took him, he was so rude! So incredibly insolent.” Moriarty begins disgracing Sherlock in front of everyone while John, glad they are all preoccupied, gets to work. “Now, Seb, he’s always had a crush on Sherlock, ever since I first showed him who I’d taken a fancy to. It was his idea we take him.”

91

“He wanted him for himself. Me? Well, I loved the idea of this exotic human being caged, like a bird. Ha! He was like a peacock, weren’t you, Sherlock? But Seb loved your feathers, and so did I, and so we plucked them out one by one.”

90

“He was useful, as well. As long as we kept him subdued enough by the drugs so that he couldn’t link what we were making him deduce to what we were planning, it was a good setup! Janine knows, don’t you sis?” Moriarty says to his sister, who looks uncomfortable, as if she’s swallowed a golf ball. “Remember that time you came to the House, reporting on Charlie, and you met him? Weren’t you just blown away by what we’d done to him. How beautiful he was?”

66

“Yes.” Janine says, barely louder than a whisper, as if she’s unsure she should answer.

67

“At first I was unsure about what Seb was doing to him. You see, I liked Sherlock obstinate. I liked him to have a little rebel flare in him. He did, at first, but then Seb started to take away water, and food.”

73

“Then he started to be a little…. physical with him, shall we say?” Moriarty says, with a malicious grin down at Sherlock. “I cannot believe I used to call you the ‘Virgin’.”

82

“Seb was the one who really got obsessive over him. Couldn’t stop thinking of things to do with him. After the first couple of years, I debated whether we should let him go, but Seb practically begged me to keep him. Said he’d take care of him for me if I couldn’t be bothered. Well, I mean ‘take care’ isn’t the right phrase, but…” Moriarty shrugs his shoulders, trailing off.

75

If John were not concentrating so hard on the code then he might be displaying the same appalled faces that mask the faces of Mycroft, Donovan and Greg, but as it is he is glad that Moriarty’s words seem like white noise to him.

69

“Would you like more specifics, dears?” Moriarty asks the room. Donovan and Greg shift awkwardly, but Mycroft mutters a “no” to no avail, as Moriarty will continue no matter what. “Do you want to know exactly what Seb did to Sherly? Well, to begin with it was just a simple beating, bit of kicking, bit of punching, bit of choking. But then, I think Seb really fell in love with what he was doing to Sherlock, became obsessed with breaking him, and that’s when the rape started. Not sure how recurrent it was, but I think it was quite often, wasn’t it Sherlock?”

There is no reply once again, and Mycroft despairs for his brother; the humiliation he was put through which is now being reminisced about cruelly in front of people, some friends, some colleagues, none that Sherlock would have wanted to know the truth.

72

“I came back to the house once, needed Sherly here for more deduction time, and, this really is my favourite little story, I find it empty, the downstairs, the basement, all empty. So I go upstairs, and they’re in the bedroom. And I’ll just say this, whoever had lived there before us had left behind some dresses, which looked very appealing on this one. So much more so while getting it from behind! So there, that’s what happened to your great hero of Scotland Yard, everybody! That’s what happened to your brother, Mycroft! God, isn’t he pathetic?” Moriarty finishes, and he freezes in place, smug smile on face as if he expects applause. The room, however, is deathly silent.

John waits for Sherlock to blink more code at him, but the man just twitches his head in the faintest form of a nod and closes his eyes. It is done, then. John looks, down, makes sure everything is right, and then presses ‘send.’

The screen jolts as the icon that usually indicates buffering pops up and does multiple revolutions of itself. John is terrified, heart in his throat, lodged there since Sherlock first turned up at Baker Street. He is so scared he might have typed the code wrong, that he might have misinterpreted Sherlock’s message. It is not until the screen pops up with another question box reading ‘Confirm cancelling instruction’ that John lets out a breath and presses ‘yes.’

He cannot stop the faint whisper of a laugh he lets out on a breath. Janine’s head swings round to gaze at him, and her eyes grow wider as she takes in the phone in his hand and his victorious little grin. “James!” She shouts. Moriarty pivots round to look at her, eyebrows raised, hand tightening around Sherlock’s neck, who splutters a little. “He’s done something.” She gestures towards John. Moriarty’s eyes squint as he works out what exactly John is looking so happy about. All other eyes are on John, too, and so he holds up the phone for everyone to see the screen displaying its message: Instruction cancelled.

“What?” Moriarty spits. Everybody is looking to John with shock, Mycroft’s eyes might pop out of their sockets if he keeps staring so much. From Moriarty’s death-grip, Sherlock lets out a relieved chuckle, eyes watery yet triumphant. “What did you do?” Moriarty demands. When he notices Sherlock’s little chuckles as he tries to breath, he leans down into the other man’s face, spitting all over him, “What did you do?”

“It’s too late, Moriarty.” Mycroft says, voice lighter than it’s been all evening. John’s victory has obviously impressed him and he is now riding on the adrenaline this sudden victory has given him. “There’s no more stalling for time, now. This sudden blip in the systems will catch everyone’s attention, and they’ll trace it back to your phone. And then they’ll all be coming for you.”

John slips the phone discreetly into his front jacket pocket, hard for anyone to get at if they desire to set the code off again.

Moriarty looks from Mycroft to John to Sherlock, face mutinous. The outrage on it might be funny if the situation weren’t so dire, and John has to remind himself that they have yet to surface from the danger; Moriarty’s men and his code might have failed him, but he himself is the biggest threat they face, and right now he has Sherlock in a potentially fatal position. John edges forward a bit, trying to get closer to Sherlock, but Moriarty yanks the man backwards as his eyes dart around the room, alighting on something behind them all.

“Janine, dear. Be a good sister and pass me that gun, would you? Don’t use it, mind.” Moriarty asks, and Janine looks to protest, but Moriarty squares her off with his best cold-dead stare. The officer holding her looks to Mycroft for guidance, and the British Governemnt nods, permitting him to let her go, not wanting to risk anything. Janine walks, almost tentatively in the palpable tension of the room to pick the gun up off the floor, John’s gun, the man realises with a jolt, and passes it to her brother, letting go of it almost reluctantly. “If I can’t have my way completely, I’m not going to let you do what you may with me using your silly justice system. No, I’m going to do this on my own terms.” Moriarty brings the gun to his own temple, mirroring his other arm as it presses Greg’s gun to Sherlock’s forehead. “But, it seems fitting I should at least take one of you with me. And who is better than you, my dear Sherlock?”

“No!” John protests, coming forward, but Sherlock lets out a little “John!” as Moriarty moves the gun from Sherlock’s head to John’s chest.

“Don’t try anything, Johnny. I took your boyfriend once before, and I’ll be taking him again. Permanently.” He brings the gun back up to Sherlock’s temple.

“Moriarty…” Mycroft warns, a hand raised in mid-air as if he intends to do something, although John is not sure what. Greg and Donovan stand there, looking appalled at all that has played out this evening.

“John…” Sherlock mutters as he looks at the man, eyes becoming more and more watery. John stares back, unable to look away from Sherlock’s crystalline eyes, the way they seem to go on and on forever like a cave in the depths of an icy glacier. This cannot be how it ends. This cannot be. Sherlock will not be killed by the man who has taken so much from him, not when they were so close to showing this man that he does not own him. They haven’t had enough time. John has barely begun to show Sherlock how much he loves him. This cannot be happening.

“SHUT UP!” Moriarty screams in Sherlock’s ear, and the other man pulls away and winces. Then, in a last-ditch attempt at getting away, Sherlock squirms a bit against Moriarty, trying to dislodge himself from the other man’s grip, but it is to no avail, and Moriarty brings him, choking, back up into his hold. “What would you prefer, Sherlock? A bullet to the head, quick, painless, or for me to shoot you in the stomach, where it will be much more painful and oh so much slower? Hmm? If you want it in the head I would stop it now!”

“Moriarty, please, why do this?” John asks, even though it will probably be to no avail. “Haven’t you let him suffer enough?”
“Yes, I have! Now I’m going to put him out of his misery. Aren’t you grateful?” Moriarty declares, and he tightens his hold on both guns.

“James…” Janine repeats, although pleading for Moriarty’s life rather than Sherlock’s.

Mycroft’s phone, where it is discarded on the floor, starts to beep and chime as messages and calls come in. Presumably it is Mycroft’s bosses asking him what the hell has happened, and whether he has any idea about Moriarty’s whereabouts.

“Oh, is that the cavalry?” Moriarty asks. “Well, I think that’s our queue to part, Sherlock. Sorry you couldn’t kiss him one more time, Johnny boy, but neither of you deserve that benevolence. What can I say, Sherlock? It’s been a blast. Say goodbye now!”

“John…” Sherlock mutters one last time, before, without giving anyone the chance to reach for a discarded weapon and stop him, Moriarty pulls the triggers on both guns.                                                                           


 

John is sure that his heart, having been lodged in his throat for the last half an hour, will jump out of him and kill him as Sherlock dies, but instead all that comes out is a inadvertent cry. He slams his eyes shut, he does not want to see this, and adrenaline travels up his body, making him feel nauseous. He fights down this gagging sensation out of reflex, and another sound, almost like a whimper, passes his lip. He doesn’t know how to feel. Doesn’t want to feel. If the shock of Mary’s death had been like a bulldozer, then to face the fact that the one person he has ever loved, with all his heart, is gone, forever, is…. it’s like an atomic bomb.

John almost wishes that as Sherlock’s heart stops, his does too, like in fairy tales where when one lover passes, the other ceases to live. But, this is no fairy-tale, and he is still there after the shot has gone off, after there is the thump of two bodies hitting the floor, and his heart remains beating in the sickening silence afterwards, too. His eyes are clammed shut tight, he cannot bear to look, and wonders whether anyone will make the first move. Surely someone will approach the bodies, take them away and let John just stand there, head bowed, unable to watch Sherlock’s body be carted off? Surely someone will spare him the mercy?

“John!” A voice cries, and then John’s eyes fling open as he realises it’s that voice. His voice. And then it hits him. There had only been one shot.

He looks towards the kitchen doorway, where Sherlock and Moriarty had been standing moments ago, to see one man with a bullet to the head, blood and brain matter trickling away from him as his life has left him, and another struggling to sit up, struggling to breath, gasping and calling out John’s name, over and over.

“Sherlock!” John says, slammed back into the present, rushing forward and crowding his lover’s space, somehow processing that ‘Sherlock is alive. Sherlock isn’t dead. Why isn’t he dead? Is this a miracle?’ He checks the man over, hands shaking in a way that isn’t at all professional for someone who’s a doctor, but god damn it if he isn’t in shock right now because Sherlock is alive.

“Sherlock!” Mycroft says from behind John, out of pure relief, but the man leaves them be and instead heads for Moriarty, Greg in tow. Even though John is the doctor in the room, there is no point in him checking the criminal mastermind over, it is obvious from the hole in his head, the blank stare that the man is dead. He is dead, and Sherlock isn’t. They have won, in the end. Or so it might seem, but John’s own numb buzzing feeling, shock, most likely, and Sherlock’s shaking and shivering and cries of John’s name over and over make him worry that the fallout of all of this might just be as hard as the actual battle. He feels like going into a corner and crying until dehydration sets in, but he has to be strong for Sherlock right now, that can wait until later. He shushes Sherlock as the other man grasps at his jacket, hiding his face from the dead body next to him. There is some blood on one side of Sherlock’s face, much darker than the blood on his neck, Moriarty’s blood, and John pulls out the handkerchief that always seems to be residing in his jeans pocket and gently wipes it away, the sight sickening.

“You’re incredible.” John tells him. “You’re the best of all of us, Sherlock.”

“John, you’re here…” Sherlock says, trailing off as he stares into Sherlock’s eyes.

“Yeah. Hey, Sherlock, look at me?” John asks, and the man’s eyes drag up towards face. John takes his face in both of his palms and looks deep into those eyes, before moving his hands around to inspect the injury at the back of Sherlock’s head. It isn’t deep, and both of Sherlock’s eyes are equal in dilation. John is fairly confident Sherlock is not suffering from a concussion, and if he is it is very mild. Shock would be his main diagnosis.

“JAMES!” A scream from the living room, and then Janine is being held back by an officer as she tries to reach her brother’s body, face flushed, hair falling over her face. How she must be feeling, knowing she had passed her own brother the means with which to kill himself, John cannot comprehend. She is pushing and pulling so hard against the officer she almost breaks free of their hold, but she is eventually led out, her cries of protest and anger and grief leaving their echo in the room once she is down the stairs and gone. To where, well, John can only guess Mycroft has some very secluded cells in places.

“Sir?” the officer who holds Magnussen, who looks like he needs a stiff drink, asks Greg. Greg turns to Mycroft, who sizes Magnussen up with satisfaction.

“Well, as much as I would love to keep him in a cell overnight, there is nothing I can really hold him on. I will need to speak with you about this, however, Charles, so can I count on your presence at my office tomorrow morning?”

Magnussen sniffs, and tries to look as composed as a person whose arms are being restrained them can look, and replies shortly, “Yes, you may.”

“Good, I will see you tomorrow, then. If you could escort him back to his residence?” Mycroft tells the officer, who nods and leads the newspaper tycoon out of the house. One by one the spectators of this feast leave, but Moriarty remains.

“Is that my gun?” Greg suddenly asks, to no one in particular, looking towards the gun that lays discarded from where it fell from Moriarty’s limp hand. It is the one that had been aimed at Sherlock, as John’s gun lays a little further off, that John could identify anywhere. Whether he will get it back, now, he does not know. “How did this get here?”

Greg’s picks his gun up, using his sleeve to cover his hand so as not to contaminate evidence, and inspects it. “Wait…. It’s not loaded.”

“Pardon?” Mycroft asks, looking up from where he’d been standing looking at Moriarty’s body in disgust and…. John wants to say triumph?

“My gun isn’t loaded. Thank god he aimed at Sherlock and not himself.” Greg breaths out. Mycroft sighs too, and uses a hand to wipe at his forehead.

John thanks whatever deity it is out there who had decided that Moriarty should place the guns that way round, that he hadn’t even checked the guns were loaded. He jolts as he wonders whether it is Mary up there, making sure her sacrifice was worth it. That sounds like something she would do.

“We need to vacate this area.” Mycroft says to Greg, who nods and starts instructing officers, now reclaiming their discarded weapons, to alert forensics and get the coroner. Donovan stares at the body of Moriarty, and then to Sherlock for a few moments, and it looks as if she means to say something, but Mycroft beats her to it.

“John, could we get the phone from you? Then, perhaps you should take Sherlock back to my house?” He suggests, hovering as if wanting to give his brother a comforting pat on the shoulder, but hesitant to.

John nods, and removes one hand from Sherlock long enough to reach into his pocket and deposit Moriarty’s phone into the evidence bag held out to him by Donovan.

“That was incredible, by the way, John. How on earth did you do it?” Greg asks, giving him a baffled grin.

“I didn’t. Sherlock did.” John explains. “He threw me the phone, then relayed the code to me in Morse code so I could input it. Thank god Moriarty used the conveniences of technology to catalyse his code, otherwise it might not have been as easy as just cancelling it.”

Greg lets out an impressed “Ahh,” and both he and Mycroft look towards Sherlock, proud. Sherlock still has his face hidden in John’s shoulder, however, and misses this praise. John is scarily reminded of how the man had first been when he had been reunited with him, and he worries that the confident man that stood up to Moriarty not even half an hour ago might have crawled back into his shell. All John is certain of is that he needs to get Sherlock away from here, away from Moriarty’s body, and hold him until winter.

“John….” Sherlock murmurs, and he looks to John with red-rimmed eyes filled with guilt, mouth moving as he works desperately to speak. John’s heart clenches. “I’m sorry.”

Sorry? Why should Sherlock be sorry? He is the last one John would blame, for any of this.

“Sorry? Sherlock, you’ve nothing to be sorry for.” John reassures him. “Come on, let’s go back to Mycroft’s, yeah?”

Sherlock nods, and John watches as his eyes lock onto Moriarty’s body as John helps him up. John tries to divert his attention, but Sherlock will not look away. It feels as if John is forcibly tugging Sherlock’s eyeballs away from the man as he leads Sherlock out of the room, with a last nod at Greg and Mycroft.

“There’s a car outside for you, John.” Mycroft says gently, eyes lingering on his brother, but phone in his hand, obviously back to business.

Sherlock finally turns his eyes away from the body of the man who had been so full of life, so full of delight when abusing him, but who now lies to live no more, unknowing that he did not bring his obsession with him. When Sherlock turns away from James Moriarty, he knows he will never see that face ever again.

Chapter Text

The car is calm and quiet and soothing and everything the past few hours have not been. John and Sherlock sit in the silence, or rather, John sits and Sherlock clings to him like a limpet, head in John’s lap, seatbelt off, much to John’s worry as images of them being involved in a crash flicker through his mind. Although, it strikes him as rather stupid that he should be so worried about an everyday device, when they have just faced off a criminal mastermind and come out of it…. well, alive.

Sherlock has said nothing since his heart-wrenching apologies, only making small pained sounds every now and then. John worries about why Sherlock is behaving like he is. He is aware Sherlock is in shock, he himself is probably suffering from it a bit, too, going by how cold and numb he feels, but Sherlock needs him now; he has been so strong in the face of what could only have been his worst nightmare, and he has come through it. Now, it is time for John, as the healer, to take over.

John’s hand runs through Sherlock’s hair, giving him something to think about as the streets fly by. Luckily, it is quiet out, it must be near midnight, and the trip from Baker Street to Mycroft’s house will hopefully will not be long. The curls are greasy under his fingertips and some of them are caked with dried blood, near the nape of Sherlock’s head. John’s fingers clench as he moves over these areas, and he decides the first thing they must do when they get to Mycroft’s is have Sherlock take a bath.

The car slows to a stop immediately outside of Mycroft’s house. Say what you will about Mycroft’ apparent loss of control of the Moriarty situation, but his chauffeurs are fantastic. John unbuckles his belt, but pulling it away from his body will require Sherlock moving from his lap.

“Sherlock.” He says softly, his voice sounding exceedingly loud in the quiet of the car. Sherlock’s only reply is a low moan, and John presses again, gently coaxing him into an upright position, and John can finally free himself from the seatbelt. He turns to Sherlock then, who just watches him with sad eyes, and John brings a hand up to Sherlock’s cheek, cupping it in his hand. Sherlock’s skin is clammy and cold, but there is sweat peppering his brow. Definite shock, then. “How about we go and get a bath, and then we can sleep the next week away?”

Sherlock smiles at that. It is small, but it is a smile. He nods, and John smiles once again. “I love you.”

Sherlock sucks in a breath, and there is something so sad, so regretful in his eyes that John wants to both simultaneously sob and punch a wall. Instead, he just leans forward and places a soft kiss to Sherlock’s clammy forehead. “I love you too.” Sherlock whispers back.

“Let’s go.” John says, and they exit the car onto the pavement. John leans down to help Sherlock out of the car, and the moment Sherlock’s feet hit the ground and he puts the required pressure on them to stand, he winces and holds in a cry with a little catch in his throat. John frowns; these are the little cries he had noticed earlier, and he starts to worry that it has something to do with Sherlock’s feet. They will be the first thing he looks over when he starts to patch Sherlock back up again.

The door behind them opens as John is helping Sherlock straighten up, and there stands a familiar figure. “John! Sherlock!”

Molly Hooper takes a few steps forward to descend the steps at the front of the house. She frowns, concern glinting in her eyes as she takes in the two men, battered and bruised, if not physically then mentally, from their ordeal and keeps her distance as she notices the cloying shock that lingers on Sherlock. John appreciates this, and recognises that Molly works in a hospital, even if it is the morgue, and therefore has knowledge of how to deal with people going through trauma similar to Sherlock’s. John wonders what she thinks of him; he must look like the many mourners she gets coming in and out of her workplace; bedraggled, tired, numb.

“Molly.” He says, honestly surprised to see her, and he hadn’t thought anything else could surprise him tonight.

“John. Mycroft summoned me here, in case you need any help. Of course, I wasn’t going to say no. I mean, Tom wasn’t very happy about his interrupting our movie night, but when I explained the situation was life and death, I think he was a bit more understanding.” Molly laments, speaking at super speed.

“That was very kind of you Molly. Thank you.” John says, genuinely touched that she had dropped everything, even her fiancée, to help them. “Well, I think…. Could you get the bath running in Sherlock’s room please? You know which that is, yes?”

Molly nods, all confidence, her flustered edge gone in the face of purpose and care-giving. She is very kind, Molly is. “Yes. I’ll get on that right away.” She dashes back into the house, leaving John and Sherlock to make their slow way in.

Sherlock is making those crying sounds again, and John is sure that something is very wrong with his feet for him to be making those noises, even when they reach the soft lush carpet that lines the staircase. Now, the staircase is another matter, and John all but carries Sherlock up it; the man is obviously very far away right now mentally, and out of instinct cannot get himself to move much when every step causes pain. With John’s gentle coaxing, however, they manage to reach the top landing just as Molly exits Sherlock’s room, sleeves rolled up to her elbows.

“Ah, right. I’ve done the bath. It’s warm, but not too warm, and it’s not full either. I didn’t want you to cause a flood.” She says, tucking a strand of hair behind her ears.

“Thank you, Molly, that’s great.” John says.

“Anything else?” She asks.

“Not for now.” John says, trying to think quick as he feels Sherlock starting to wither next to him on his injured feet. “Well, I don’t want to make you our maid or anything-”

“John.” Molly interrupts, tone firm. “I will do whatever you need me to. That is why I’m here. It doesn’t matter if you think the job is menial, like tea-making, or you’d like my help for medical purposes, they all add up in the end to making both of you feel better.”

John smiles, so grateful for this woman who stands across from him. “Tea would be wonderful, actually.”
Molly smiles. “Good. I’m dying for one. And besides, I enjoy making tea, it gives me time to calm and collect my thoughts. Almost like meditating.”

John laughs, but not in mocking, more in appreciation for Molly’s take on life. He is about to reply to her with what his idea of relaxing is, sleep, when he notices she is staring down at the carpet at their feet with a crease in her brow. He looks down himself, and notices that they have left a trail behind them, or rather, Sherlock has. A trail of blood. In the shape of footprints. There are also other blood stains dotted elsewhere, but they are older, dried darker against the crème carpet. John swallows; he really needs to get to work making Sherlock better. He hopes Mycroft doesn’t mind the mess they’ve made of his carpet.
“Come on, let’s get to that bath before it cools.” John says to Sherlock, and the two men move off, passing Molly as she goes in the opposite direction, that small frown still marring her brow. John does not know how much she has been told, and he knows he owes her an explanation at some point.

Being back in Sherlock’s room, the place where a lot of developments in their lives, their relationship have played out, is…. strange. To know that the threat that hung over them like a cloud with every moment they spent in here is gone… it might be him, but John thinks the room looks lighter, happier, even though it is dark outside and there is not fire in the grate. Sherlock looks towards the bed with longing, but John pushes him in the direction of the bathroom. The room is warm and cosy, like being embraced in a warm hug, and the bath looks inviting. Molly has even put a little bit of bubble bath into it. Sherlock immediately goes to sit on the toilet lid and John takes that moment to take the man’s pulse. Just as he had thought it would be, it is faster than it should be.

“Come on, you really do need a bath.” John says jokingly, and Sherlock makes a noise of agreement, face scrunching up in displeasure. He begins to shove his dressing gown off with his shoulders, and John assists him, pulling the fabric away from Sherlock’s body. John catches sight of that piece of paper with the codes in the pocket, and the reminders of that evening come back to him like a smarting slap to the face.

John takes a deep breath and smiles reassuringly at Sherlock, helping him to pull off his t-shirt next. Sherlock is reluctant to stand in order to take his trousers and underwear off, but John pesters him until he rises, with a wince, allowing John to pull them both down and chuck them to the side. Sherlock’s nakedness does not bother him in anyway, he has seen Sherlock naked before, years ago at Baker Street Sherlock would sometimes wander around naked when he simply couldn’t be bothered to put on clothes. What does bother John is how every rib is visible, how Sherlock’s hipbones seem to be bursting from under his skin with a thinness borne of malnutrition, and how Sherlock’s thighs have very prominent and very fresh-looking bruises, both shaped like handprints.

John’s eyes linger on them and Sherlock notices, his own eyes going down to his thighs, too. He stares at the bruises with the look of a man who has seen this far too many times before, which reminds John that of course Sherlock is used to this impression upon his body. No thanks to Sebastian Moran. To John, however, it is one of the most sickening sights he has ever seen, not because Sherlock is not beautiful, to John, no matter how Sherlock might look, he will always be beautiful, but because of the connotations that such bruises bring. He hates to ask Sherlock this question, but it has been nagging in his mind and it is one he really should ask, as a doctor.

“Sherlock, today…. Moran didn’t force himself on you, did he?”

Sherlock blinks, his gaze travelling from his thighs up to John’s shoulder. He will not meet the man’s eyes. “No. No. He was just…asserting his control.”
John lets out a breath. Thank god. “Okay.”

Sherlock brings his hand up and prods at the wound on the back of his head. This prompts John to get a move on so he can see to Sherlock’s wounds. He guides Sherlock, one foot after the other, into the bathtub, and the man sinks into the warm water gratefully. The moment Sherlock’s feet hit the water, however, blood clouds into the water, dirtying its purity. John frowns as he kneels on the floor next to the tub, and as Sherlock brings his knees to his chest to clam up on himself, John gently encourages him to lift a leg so he can inspect a foot. What he sees is what he had expected, but…. worse.

Sherlock’s feet are almost in tatters; various cuts bleed from the soles, and little bits of gravel and dirt are lodged into some, making John wince with the uncleanliness of it all. There is also bruising to some parts. John assumes this might be from Sherlock’s driving a sleek super-car with bare feet. He would scold him, but, well, he doesn’t have the heart.

“It was silly, I know.” Sherlock mutters. John glances up at the man, to see the knowing glint in his eyes that tells John his mind has just been read.

John smiles apologetically back at him, and replies, “Yes, it was. But, it was also bloody brilliant.”

Sherlock doesn’t smile back, he just shudders and brings narrow shoulders in closer to his ears, “It was Mary’s idea. She’d drained the car she’d taken of its petrol in order to….to use it, and told me to take Moran’s car.” He says quietly, again not meeting John’s eyes.

John bites the inside of his cheek as he listens to Sherlock. He swallows. He hates to ask Sherlock this, but desperation to just know is eating away at him. “When you say she used the petrol…. did you mean to, you know, to blow it up?”

Sherlock nods, turning his face away. “I helped her to catalyse it. I spread it out for her while she threatened M-Moran. I didn’t know what she was planning John, honest. I mean, yes, I knew she was planning some sort of explosion, but no, I didn’t know she would be doing it to herself-”

“Sherlock, stop.” John insists, placing a hand on the edge of the tub. Sherlock looks at him fearfully from under his fringe. “Sherlock, it is okay. Please, let me say this, and remember this for the rest of your life. You are not responsible for Mary’s death. You did not force her to go after you and Moran, you did not force her to decide to….to kill herself in order to give you a chance. The only person who could make that decision was Mary. Yes, maybe, she was influenced by things others had done, us included, but nobody forced her. God, I wish she hadn’t, but in killing herself, she gave us the hope of a future. No, if anyone should be blamed, let’s put it on Moriarty, shall we? And Moran? If they hadn’t enjoyed being so…. frivolous with people’s lives…hadn’t used us all like pawn in a chess game then…. well, things might have been better. But, these are the cards we’ve been dealt.” John finishes with an abrupt nod of his head.

“She said, before she did it, she wanted you to know that she loves you, and that she is glad that you love me.” Sherlock says softly, hesitantly.

“Well, there you go.” John says, but something catches in his throat and tears rise with a sting and he fails to stop them before they travel down his cheeks. Sherlock leans over in the bath to reach him, lying his bare arms on the bathtub rim next to John’s hand.

“John.” He whispers, and gentle fingertips brush against John’s. John sniffs and takes Sherlock’s hand in his own.

“I’m just trying to come to terms with her death. I spent two years with her, you know? I cared for her, I still do, and now she’s gone forever. The implications of that are scary as shit, but I’m going to try and get my head around it. Just…god, we’d cleared the air, you know? We’d spoken forthright about everything and agreed it was all fine. Actually,” John coughs, clearing his throat. Sherlock watches him adoringly, “it was when, well, when you were taken-god, Sherlock, I am so sorry I let that happen.”
Sherlock frowns. “Let it? John, you could not have known that Doctor Laurens was going to be blackmailed into kidnapping me for Moran. I didn’t know, either, and maybe I should have, may I should have noticed-”

“No.” John says shaking his head. “That bastard used a low means in order to get to you, you couldn’t have known he would have blackmailed her. Hell, even Mycroft didn’t know Moriarty had a mole in the British Government! I thought he was supposed to know everything?”
Sherlock smirks a little at that. He sobers rather quickly. “I thought they were being reasonable with me. I thought they had agreed to have me back and stop everything, but then…. suddenly Moran was just…gloating and telling me how worthless I am and how Moriarty was going to kill you all!”

John, who has let his own tears run down his face, now reaches up and wipes away the salty tears from Sherlock’s cheeks. He hates that doubt in Sherlock’s eyes, and he will do all he can to prove to the man that the self-doubt imposed on him by Moran and Moriarty is misplaced and holds no truth. “Sherlock, look what you did tonight. Look at what you saved. Not just me, not just Mycroft’s job, but the whole entire bloody country from being controlled by a psychopathic dictator! You were so in control, even when Moriarty had a gun to your head,” John stutters a bit here, fighting rising bile. “you were basically telling him ‘fuck you.’ That was so clever of you, Sherlock, and it shows how strong you are. Hell, you were planning to give yourself, apparently, which, while brave, I’m telling you as your partner to never do again,” John says with a light tone. Sherlock smiles apologetically. “I meant it when I said you are the best of us all. Those bastards were never going to be bargained with: Mycroft tried and failed, as well. Okay?”

Sherlock nods, eyes full of tears and emotion. He leans forward and presses an oh so gentle kiss to John’s lips. John relishes it, just thinking ‘Cherish this. You almost lost this man today.’

“Let’s get you cleaned up. You’re still too clammy for my liking.” John says, pulling away but remaining as close to Sherlock as he can he grabs the sponge and soap from the wall basket, soaping up the sponge until it is sufficiently bubbly and frothing. John passes it to Sherlock, who half, nay, quarter-heartedly starts to clean himself. John sighs and rolls his sleeves up, taking the sponge from Sherlock and doing the job himself.

He works quickly but efficiently, aware Sherlock’s feet need tending to, as well as the head wound. He takes extra care on Sherlock’s feet, getting out as much of the gravel and grit as he can with a flannel. Then, it is time to deal with Sherlock’s hair. Much to John’s delight, Sherlock practically melts under his touch as he massages the shampoo into his scalp. He is careful around the cut, but to watch the blood run out of those curls until they are left slick and shiny is extremely satisfying.

“You should have climbed in with me.” Sherlock murmurs as John is finishing up. John chuckles and rises on stiff knees, grabbing for the towel on the radiator. He starts to gently rub Sherlock’s hair dry, and the man leans into the touch, almost like a cat.

“Perhaps next time.” John suggests. He peers down at the water and adds, “Besides, look how much grime you washed away.”
Sherlock’s eyes flit down to the water and his nose turns up. It is true, the once clear water is now turned murky red and brown, a mixture of wounds and debris from the House combined in a strange cocktail of sorts.

“John! Sherlock! Tea!” Molly shouts from the next room. John calls back and encourages Sherlock to climb out of the bathtub, wrapping the towel around him as he does. Sherlock winces as pressure is put back on his injured feet, and sits back down on the toilet seat almost immediately.
“I’ll go and get you some pyjamas. Stay put.” John says, leaving Sherlock left sat, shivering slightly in the bathroom.

Molly is arranging things for John on the coffee table, and he feels a warm glow in his heart as he realises it is his first aid kit, with a bowl of warm water and a cloth next to it. On the table beside that sits a teapot and two cups, as well as a plate of lemon drizzle cake. “Molly, you are too good to us.”
Molly smiles and waves his thanks away. “It’s nothing. I know, I mean, it’s been hard on you. Both of you, so whatever I can do…”

“But, it must’ve been hard on you, too.” John reasons, coming forward and placing both his hands on her shoulders.

Molly shrugs, but she will not meet his eye and there is a pink blush rising on her cheeks. “Well, yes. It was for everyone when he suddenly was just gone, you know? But, I had moved on. I mean, I have Tom now, and he’s…...lovely.” She adds, a little unenthusiastically for the topic. “Now that he’s back…. well, I’m glad for you, and it’s great to have him back. But,” And here she nods decisively. “I have moved on.”
John smiles. “I’m glad you’re happy, Molly Hooper.”

She smiles back, and places both of her hands-on top of John’s. “And you? Are you happy?”

John breathes deep, thinks for a short moment and replies, “I will be. I’m sure of it. With him here, how could I not be?”

Molly nods, eyes squinting at him, and it is with alarm he realises that neither he or Sherlock have revealed to her that they are in fact…. well, in love? Partners? All of that? John pulls away, he will have that conversation with her, but not now. He pulls a pair of pyjamas from the chest of drawers, as well as some underwear. He thinks for a moment, before he goes to his little rucksack of clothes and pulls out one of his own jumpers, soft and comforting.

“I’ve re-done the IV for you, just in case.” Molly says, as she reorganises the pillows on the bed. “I didn’t realise Mycroft had such…accessibility to medical equipment.”
John scoffs. “Anything for his little brother. Speaking of, if you’ll excuse me.”

Molly nods. “I’ll be downstairs should you need anything.”

Upon re-entering the bathroom John is concerned to see Sherlock staring with blank eyes at nothing in particular. He places the clothes on the washing basket and kneels down in front of the man, placing a gentle hand on Sherlock’s knee. Sherlock jumps and his eyes come back into focus, flitting down to John’s face. John smiles at him. “I’ve got your pyjamas. You were miles away.”

Sherlock hums, and is semi-cooperative as John helps him dress in the underwear and pyjamas, his mind seems far away, and there is a sadness seeping from him like an aura, and it is so thick that John can almost feel it. He keeps his touch gentle and soft, and the moment he puts his jumper around Sherlock’s neck and guides the man’s arms into the sleeves, Sherlock lets out a shaky breath and his eyes refocus somewhat. He returns John’s small smile, which means more to John than any riches or treasures could.                                                                          


 

Sherlock is compliant as John tends to his wounds, luckily none of them need stitches, and John is content to at least clean the head wound and keep an eye on it. Sherlock’s feet he cleans and takes extra care to make sure there is no grit or dirt left in them before bandaging them and instructing Sherlock to keep off of them as much as he can for the next few days. If John is honest, with the way Sherlock looks, beaten and dazed, he doesn’t think keeping the man in bed or on the sofa will be an issue.

Sherlock’s sucks in sharp breaths every now and then whenever John dabs the iodine soaked cloth against the cuts, but he sips his tea and even nibbles some cake as John works. However, when John is finished putting a plaster on the incision from the old IV port, Sherlock shakes his head vehemently when the doctor advises him they should probably insert another line.  

“John, please, no…. I don’t want to feel like a patient again.” Sherlock whispers, cheeks flushing.

“Alright.” John sighs “But you have to promise me to drink some water as well as the tea.”

Sherlock smiles weakly, looking wrung-out but glad. “I promise.”                                                                               


 

They’re curled up in bed not too long later, John spooning Sherlock in an all-encompassing and warm embrace. Sherlock is still shivering slightly, but the tension in his limbs is loosening with every passing second as the man slides his way into sleep. John prays that there will be no nightmares to disturb the man in his healing, although he is not positive about that outcome.

“I still…. I cannot believe we’re alive, and that they’re gone…. for good.” Sherlock whispers into the sleepy silence.

John smiles in sympathy. “Well, they are. They’re really gone, Sherlock. I hope you feel glad.”

Sherlock nods. “I got to knee Moran in the balls.”

John laughs at that, a deep and genuine laugh, the likes of which Sherlock has not heard for a long while, and it rumbles against his back. “Brilliant. He deserved that.”

Sherlock’s breath hitches, and John prevents the man from getting too worked up by shushing him and encouraging him into sleep. “It’s okay…. sleep now.”
Sherlock snuffles a little bit more, before one sleepy muttering of “they can’t be dead,” and he has drifted off into sleep.

John sighs, and noses against the back of Sherlock’s neck. He knows Sherlock is in denial, in shock, that he truly cannot believe that the two men who had ruled his life in a pseudo dictatorship for the past five years are gone, and gone for good. John himself is having a hard time of believing it, too.

Unlike Sherlock, John cannot seem to find sleep, and it is not long before he finds himself slipping from the bed, making sure Sherlock is still soundly sleeping, and exiting the room in search of something to drink.

He finds Molly in the kitchen, and she gives him a comforting smile as she sees the state of him: dishevelled, shell-shocked and, honestly, just a complete mess. Much to John’s bewilderment, however, Anthea is also there, and before his entry she and Molly had been sharing a laugh. Strange. John had no idea the two women knew each other. Anthea passes him to exit, and she gives him a proper smile, almost congratulatory, and John decides that there is definitely nothing more that could happen this night that would surprise him.

“Molly, you should go home. It’s late, and Sherlock’s sleeping so I’m sure we’ll be fine. Thank you so much for your help.” John thanks her.
“Well, if you’re sure?” Molly says, shrugging her cardigan back onto her shoulders properly. She watches John as he wanders into the kitchen and grabs a glass, filling it with water from the tap. “John…Are you sure you’re alright.”
John pauses, and pulls the glass away from his mouth. There is so much to explain, and he doesn’t quite know how he will explain his feelings to Molly if he doesn’t tell her the facts. “There’s been a lot going on…. ermm,” John scratches the back of his head as he thinks how to break this, and decides he should just come out with it. “Mary, she, well, she’s dead.”

Molly gasps, almost theatrically, and brings a hand to her mouth. “When?”

“Just tonight. It was to actually, ermm, save Sherlock from one of the men who took him. He’d kidnapped him again, but she stopped him from doing anything to Sherlock by sacrificing herself in order to take him out.”

“One of the men? Who was the other?” Molly asks, tone husky as the shock takes her breath away.

John winces; this is an extremely delicate matter. “The other was James Moriarty.”

Molly’s eyes, if possible, get wider. “Jim…” She says on an outbreath. To her, Moriarty had been ‘Jim from IT’, a fake identity to get closer to Sherlock who had charmed her and used her, but ultimately, Molly had had the upper hand, and had dumped him.

John nods. “Yeah. They, yeah, it was a bit not good for Sherlock. But, they’re both dead, and so is Mary, but Sherlock’s still alive, thank god. This is going to sound utterly shit, but I think Sherlock’s death would have been worse than anything else.” And then, suddenly, John is sobbing.

Molly comes over and takes the glass out of his hand before placing a comforting arm around his back in a half-embrace. The effort it had taken to hold his head up high and see Sherlock through this evening has been torn away as every event comes to the forefront of his mind, ripping and pulling at John until he is nothing but the bare plaster beneath his stone-wall defences. A wall chipped at and abused. A wall that has now broken. But, John reckons, as he cries his eyes out next to Molly Hooper, he has just the tool that will help him build his walls up again, until he is whole: Sherlock. He hopes he is enough to give the same back to Sherlock.

Chapter Text

“Well, Mycroft, I suppose there is nothing else for me to say expect to offer you my congratulations.” A stiff-lipped Lady Elizabeth Smallwood says as she sits across from Mycroft in his office, the mahogany desk separating them, but in no way blocking the waves of embarrassment that are coming off of Mycroft’s associate. After being woken in the middle of the night due to the disruption in the system, Lady Smallwood had realized with horror the abuse that Moriarty had taken against the government and turned up, red-faced, at Mycroft’s door this morning to offer him her thanks for stopping this threat.

“You are too kind, Elizabeth.” Mycroft says, giving her the smuggest smile he can hope to conjure. Really, Mycroft shouldn’t be feeling so arrogant that he had stopped the threat against the country, one because surely the government, his workplace, should be humiliated that it had even been sensitive to such an attack, and secondly because he knows that his brother was the actual person responsible for stopping the code.  It feels oh so good, however, to be receiving praise from his superiors.
“Your brother also deserves my thanks.” Lady Smallwood says, fiddling with the rings on her fingers. “And apologies, again, to both him and you, that we were not able to provide you with the resources to catalyse his discovery and retrieval earlier.”

“Yes, well, it seems that was due to one James Moriarty, so not exactly your fault.” Mycroft says graciously, although his tone speaks volumes of his real opinion: Moriarty shouldn’t have been able to do that, you should have noticed his meddling. But, he should have, too.

“I assume you have everything under control, Mycroft?” Lady Smallwood asks.

Mycroft nods, “Yes, I do. Baker Street remains a crime scene, as does the other House. Officers are currently searching for the remains of Sebastian Moran and Ani Gabriele Rosamund Aella, although due to the circumstances of their deaths, this task is proving to be quite difficult. Hopefully proceedings will be quite swift now that we do have our resources back under our wing, and Scotland Yard is helping too.”

“Right. Gregory Lestrade. Appears he did not recognise the mole in his team, either.” Lady Smallwood says in a childish tone, as if she and Greg are fighting for the last biscuit on a plate. Mycroft is quite unsure as to why she has put on this tone. He frowns.

“Quite true, Gregory should have noticed. However, Gregory also took a bullet to the arm because he wanted to go out of his way to help my brother, so one could argue he’s been rather distracted.”

“Was it because he wanted to help your brother, though, or was it because he wanted to help you?”

Mycroft’s frown deepens until the skin between his eyebrows resembles the Grand Canyon. “I am not quite sure what you mean, Elizabeth. Your tone is…. unsettling.”

“I didn’t know you swayed that way, Mycroft.” Lady Smallwood says sharply.

“What way? Is there a way?” Mycroft asks.

Before Lady Smallwood can spit any more vitriol, there is a knock at the door, and in walks their subject matter: Gregory Lestrade.  

“Oh, sorry Mycroft, I didn’t realise you had company.” He says. There are deep bags underneath his eyes, and he still holds a takeaway coffee cup from the morning’s commute over to Mycroft’s. Whether he has forgotten he is holding it, or he is trying to drain the last bit of coffee that he possibly can from it, who can tell?

“No matter, I shall take my leave of you.” Lady Smallwood stands and smooths down her skirt, cheeks pinched. The atmosphere in the room is, if Mycroft were poetic enough to describe it as such, frosty. “Congratulations, once again.” She nods and leaves, not once looking at Greg. After her exit, Greg looks to Mycroft looking baffled. Mycroft shrugs.

“So, all the moles have been arrested and detained, probably to be locked up and to not see the light of day for a long time. If ever.” Greg says with a huff, stepping further into the room.

“Excellent.” Says Mycroft, with a lightness to his tone Greg has not heard in many weeks. Years.

“You’re very chipper today.” He observes, and Mycroft leans back smugly in his desk chair, placing both hands on his stomach.

“Well, Gregory, we have managed to stop a criminal mastermind that has been plaguing me for years. As well as that, we also stopped his hideous threat to the country.”

“You mean Sherlock stopped it?” Greg says with a smirk.

“Not solely, but yes, I admit my brother is the one to thank.” Mycroft concedes, with a slight turn up of his nose. He leans forward in the chair, putting his elbows on the desk. Greg frowns. “Thank god it didn’t go the other way.”
Greg comes around the desk, throwing his coffee cup onto its surface as he places a hand on Mycroft’s shoulder. The muscle beneath is tense and knotted. The cracks in Mycroft’s façade are evident to Greg now. “Myc…It’s alright for you to admit just how worried you were.”

Mycroft breathes through his nose, eyes focussing solely on the desk-top. “I despised how much I could not control. It was embarrassing. To think that my brother almost died because I lost control of the situation-”

“Myc, come on. We’ve been through this. You cannot control everything, no matter how hard you try. And you did try, didn’t you? Your hardest?”

Mycroft shrugs. “Of course.”

Greg nods, thinking they have gotten somewhere, but then Mycroft mutters, “I cannot bear that my hardest was not good enough. It doesn’t seem logical to me. It doesn-”

Greg stops him before he can lose himself in a spiral of self-doubt and existential hate of how unpredictable life is, and grabs Mycroft by the shoulders, forcibly pulling him around in his chair to face Greg. Mycroft sighs but does not resist as Greg quickly pecks him on the lips and tells him, firmly, to “Stop.”

“Have you seen Sherlock yet today?” Greg asks, hitching one hip onto the side of Mycroft’s desk. Mycroft shakes his head.

“No. When I got in Anthea told me he and John were sleeping.” It had been nearing six in the morning when the aftermath of the Moriarty situation had been dealt with, and even then, officers and agents combined were still working away at both crimes scenes: Baker Street and the House. According to the witnesses they’d interviewed, a man dressed in pyjamas had been hiding behind a silver car when the house had suddenly gone up in smoke and fire. They had tried to get him ambulance, but all he had done was steal someone’s pen to write on some paper, and then driven off in the silver car. Appearance descriptions told Mycroft this was his brother.

Those qualified to were now searching the remains of the House for the remains of two certain people; Mycroft was unsure what they would find. Luckily, Sherlock’s speeding through the streets of London had alerted the Police to his presence, and so the extra officers who had chased him to Baker Street had also been used last night to speed up the process of extracting Moriarty’s moles from the various institutions. Sally had been surprised, to say the least, to discover the man who had sat next to her at their workplace had been working against them.  

“How do you think he is? Sherlock? After….” Greg trailed off, unable to find the words to explain the whole ordeal of the night.

Mycroft shrugged, “I am not sure even Sherlock could tell you that.”

“Then perhaps John could?” Greg jokes, even if it falls a little sour.

Mycroft lets out a huff that just about classifies as a laugh, “Quite. I think he knows my brother better than Sherlock knows himself.”

“Actually, I do need to speak with Sherlock…” Greg changes subject. “Well, I don’t need to speak with him, but we do need that paper he had with the codes on it. For evidence, you see.”
“Ah, of course.” Mycroft says, and sits up in his chair. “I’ll go and see if he’s awake. You sit down, Gregory.”
Greg moves into Mycroft’s chair, instead of the guest chair that Mycroft has gestured to. He smirks, “You could just call me ‘Greg’, Myc?”

Mycroft raises his eyebrows. “I prefer Gregory. Anyway, I’ll save use of your nickname for the bedroom, I think. Sexually, you understand.”

Greg’s cheeks flame red, and he hopes more than anything that no one is right outside the door. “As you wish.”

Mycroft nods, and with that he leaves a squirming and rather flustered Greg sat in his chair.                                                                       


 

When Sherlock wakes, it with a jolt, as if he has been electrocuted. He scrambles to get up, leaning on his elbows. Beside him, John is stirring, a little frown marring his brow. Sherlock’s heart is beating as if he has just run a marathon, and his breathing mirrors it. He can also feel sweat on his brow, and his feet certainly ache as if he’s run a long distance. Why does he hurt so much? And why does he feel as if he has just woken from a nightmare?

Suddenly everything comes back to him, and Sherlock cannot hold back the gasp that comes out of his mouth. John mutters his name, and then touches his arm, encouraging him to lie back on the bed. Sherlock does, allowing John to pull the covers over his body, but all the while his brain is playing out the same mantra: they’re dead, they’re dead, they’re dead

They cannot be dead. It does not seem possible that those two men can be dead. For, how does one kill the devil?

“Sherlock, shhh.” John says sleepily, as if he can read his thoughts. Sherlock settles his face against John’s sternum, and breathes in John’s scent to calm himself. His brain is going at break-neck, like a train out of control that reminds Sherlock of the old-Hollywood films his parents used to watch, with the steam engines going at full speed, the billowing clouds of steam rising, thick and full like candyfloss. Sherlock used to be fascinated by the automotive, but now he cringes and pushes his face harder into John’s chest as he tries to get the train to come to a stop.  

“John….” He feels so ashamed to have to ask this, but if he doesn’t confirm it with John his brain is going to run off the rails. “Are they really gone?”
John pulls him tighter against himself. “Yes. They are.”

Sherlock lets out a shuddering breath. Okay. John says they are, then they are. Full stop. The end of it. There is still a niggling fear, though.

They lay there in the quiet of the room for a while, with only the occasional bird song and creak of the floorboards downstairs to disturb the silence. Sherlock is drifting off again when there is a knock at the door. John makes a grunting noise and says “wha-?”, jumping at the rude awakening. Sherlock looks up as the door slowly edges open, a blue eye peeking in. Mycroft.

“Apologies.” His brother says, softer than Sherlock has ever heard him. “I was not sure whether you two would be awake.”

“Ugh, Mycroft.” John groans, stretching against Sherlock’s side.

“I am in need of something. For evidence. That piece of paper?”

“Couldn’t it wait?” John says grumpily, politeness forgotten in the face of sleep.

“No.” Mycroft says, deadpan.

Sherlock forces his limbs to move, and the moment his feet touch the ground the sizzling pain in them flares up until it is burning. He is sure Mycroft notices, as the man’s gaze travels up and down his body. Sherlock gives up, and remains sitting on the edge of the bed, pulling his feet up. “It’s in the dressing gown pocket.”

“Ah.” Mycroft says. He looks around. “And where is that?”

“Oh,” Sherlock said, and a red flush comes to his cheek in embarrassment. His brain is still sluggish from sleep, still exhausted from the night before. Perhaps a cup of tea would help? He looks around for the dressing gown, but cannot see it from the bed. He glances behind him, and is startled to see John is, in fact, wearing his dressing gown. Sherlock thinks back to last night; he must have fallen asleep before John, as he doesn’t remember the man putting it no. He reaches over John and fumbles in the pockets, eventually pulling out the now creased and crinkled paper. He passes it to Mycroft, who pockets it in his suit.

“I would say that this was clever of you, solving this, but I think that the truth is Moriarty was a bit too cock sure of himself, thinking you would never see the code, and therefore never work it out.” Mycroft observes.

Sherlock shrugs. “The numbers worked almost like a nickname for the actual code, which could work like a virus. It would have been too tedious for Moriarty to put in all the 18’s, therefore he left them out. There was much more going on beneath the surface than what I did.”

Mycroft sighs, knowing his brother is putting himself down, but, not wishing to embarrassing him further by bringing the matter up, he leaves it be.

“Would you like me to get you breakfast?” He asks, and Sherlock raises his eyebrows. Mycroft realises his mistake. “Not me, personally, but I shall ask for it to be made for you?”

Sherlock glances to John, who holds up a thumbs up before dropping his hand to the bed. Sherlock does not care much for food, his stomach going into knots. Mycroft nods, his eyes squinting at his brother, and it unsettles Sherlock. “Might I ask after your health this morning, brother?”
Sherlock shifts a bit on the bed. What must his brother be thinking? After Moriarty’s cruel words last night, with the gun pressed to Sherlock’s temple, the most bitter pill to swallow being that all his words were true, Sherlock feels humiliated. What he will do when he has to leave this room and face the others who were in that room, Sally Donovan, god, he does not know. He would not have cared in the past, would have taken it in his stride, but the fragile confidence he had built up in his sessions with Doctor Laurens has suffered many blows. Sherlock jumps as he suddenly remembers the therapist.

“Mycroft! Doctor Laurens!”

Mycroft looks surprised at the change of subject, but speaks nonetheless. “Oh yes, Doctor Laurens. That, I certainly did not see coming, and I apologise for it.”

Sherlock nods. “I understand.”

“She made it back to her home last night. Gregory sent some of his less competent officers to check up on her. She is shaken, but no harm has been done towards her family. She is also feeling extremely guilty, and I think would like the chance to apologise to you at some point.”
Sherlock shakes his head, “She doesn’t need to do that. It wasn’t her fault; Moran is very…. forceful. Was.” Sherlock corrects himself, shaking his head.

Mycroft nods once, looking solemn. “Yes. Of course. Still, I think it might put her mind at rest. She has been sworn to secrecy about all of this, although I am assuming you don’t want her as your therapist anymore?”
Sherlock cringes; he can barely stand to think about therapists or working to feel better at this moment, he is so tired that all he wants is to curl up in bed with John for millennia.

“Sherlock?” His brother presses. Sherlock feels John’s hand come to rest over his own, and he sucks in a breath before replying with a raspy “No.”

“Alright.” Mycroft says, “I will consult the list of recommendations I have as soon as I am able, and we can begin-”

“Mycroft, please stop.” Sherlock says, looking down at the carpeted floor. His brother pulls up short, and his mouth closes with an audible clap. If Sherlock’s gaze was not on the floor, he would notice John shake his head at Mycroft, and mouth ‘leave it’.

“I shall leave you to rest, Sherlock. We will discuss this at a later date.”

Mycroft steps out of the room, the door clicking shut behind him. The moment it does, the tension in Sherlock’s shoulders releases and they slump down heavily. “Sherlock…”, John encourages him to lie back on the bed, and he does, sinking into the other man’s embrace.

“I don’t want to think of any of that now, John.” Sherlock explains. “I don’t know what to do.”
“I understand. Sometimes, all you feel like doing is sleeping when life seems to be offering you nothing but more and more questions without answers. But, Mycroft is just trying his best to be…well, I suppose this is his way of showing brotherly affection.” John says with a huff.

“I would like to…to pick my own therapist.” Sherlock says. “If I am to have one.”

“You do not have to have one.” John reasons, “But, as your partner, and as a doctor, I would recommend you do seek some help from a professional. But, do it for yourself wholly this time, yes? Don’t just agree to do it for me, like last time.”

Sherlock stomach clenches up, and although John’s tone is light and joking he still feels a rise of self-hatred taint his thoughts like poison. “Sorry.”

John tightens his hold on Sherlock. “I didn’t mean for it to make you feel guilty. I just want you to be clear that that’s not how things like this work. You have to do it for yourself, because you know you want to get better.”

“What if I want to do it for the both of us?” Sherlock asks, turning a little to look John in the eyes.

John shrugs, and then gives Sherlock a beaming smile. “I think that could work.”                                                                            


 

Mycroft has just descended the stairs when Anthea is walking towards him from the direction of the front door. “Mr Magnussen is here, Sir.”

Mycroft smiles, his mouth bunching up into an uncanny resemblance of the Cheshire Cat. “Oh, I am going to enjoy this. Very good, Anthea, bring him through to my office.”
Anthea nods and turns back on herself. Mycroft turns towards his office, fixing his tie; the talk with his brother had alerted him to the worries he has already had placed in his hard-drive of a brain: Sherlock is most certainly in denial that Moran and Moriarty are dead, and must be feeling incredibly shaken up from the ordeal of the previous night and the five years previous. Mycroft wants to help, but it seems his therapists will do Sherlock no good. Never before has Mycroft felt so helpless. Still, he will get his victories from somewhere, and Charles Augustus Magnussen will be a resounding defeat.

Greg is still waiting in his office, feet propped up on his desk and eyes closed. Mycroft slams his door and Greg startles, almost falling out of the desk chair, wincing and grabbing his wounded arm as he jars it.

“That is mahogany. I would ask you please to remove your feet from its surface.” Mycroft says, staring pointedly at the desk.

Greg sighs and rolls his eyes, but removes his feet nonetheless. “Blimey Mycroft, does the door really need that much force behind it to be closed?”

“No, but apparently these measures must come into effect when you keep forgetting not to put your feet on my mahogany desk.” Mycroft says, as he pulls out the piece of paper and hands it to Greg.

“Thanks.” The other man says, digging around in his pocket until he finds an evidence bag. He drops the paper into it and closes the bag up. “Mind if I send one of my officers’ round to pick this up? I’d rather stay here with you for a little bit.”

“By all means, but we have work to do, Greg. This isn’t a soiree.”

Greg, once again, rolls his eyes. “Yes, I know, but it does make sense for me to work with you on this, doesn’t it? It would be nice to work with my boyfriend.” He teases.

Mycroft makes a noise of disgust. “Please, do not call me your boyfriend. Neither of us are boys. If you must use a term of sentiment to describe my connection to you, then perhaps something a little more mature?”

Greg raises an eyebrow. “Lovebug, then? My chunky bunny? Pumpkin-pie?”

“Gregory, please.” Mycroft complains. “I am neither an insect, a rabbit or a fruit. Nor am I chunky.

“I’m teasing, Myc.” Greg says, sighing. He pulls out his phone, summoning an officer with a few taps at the screen. A knock at the door follows swiftly after, and Mycroft stands up taller.

“Out of my seat Gregory, please. Magnussen is here, and I am so looking forward to being self-righteous.”

Greg chuckles and moves out the chair, standing behind it as Mycroft settles into it again. “Enter!” Mycroft calls after he has settled, and the door opens and in walks Charles Augustus Magnussen.

“Good morning, Mr Holmes. I trust you had an eventful night?” Magnussen asks, voice smarmy.

“You are quite right, Mr Magnussen. Please, do take a seat.” Mycroft holds out an indicating hand to the chair facing towards his desk. Magnussen sits down stiffly as Anthea closes the door behind him.

“And Detective Inspector Lestrade is here, too. My, my, aren’t you two close?” Magnussen drawls. Greg smiles down at him.

“I think, perhaps, that is why we have been such an effective team.” He replies. “We know how to work together and cooperate with each other without having to be blackmailed.”

Mycroft can barely supress the smile breaking out on his face. Magnussen raises his eyebrows. “Such a clever little pet you have.” He says to Mycroft.

“You sound like Moriarty.” The other man remarks.

“Well, yes, he does tend to rub off on people. Like a sour aftertaste.” Magnussen says, lip curling. There is a pregnant silence in which Magnussen intends to say something, but doesn’t seem to be able to get the words past his lips. He bits them as he works up the courage, and Mycroft and Greg stare directly at him, enjoying the display of humiliation. “In fact, I would like to give you my thanks,” Magnussen finally spits out. “for freeing me of that pest. The damage he did to my business has left me in need to search for new…well,” He lets out a breathy laugh, “I suppose you could call them ‘journalists’, after he killed my last ones. Blackmail is a dirty business, as I well know. It was foolish of me to get caught up in it.”

“Would you have gone ahead with it if Moriarty had won? Shaming my good name?” Mycroft asks, with an eyebrow raised.

Magnussen winces. “I wouldn’t say no…. but, I wouldn’t say yes, either.”
“Oh, how vague.” Mycroft complains.

“Well I can’t go putting all my eggs in one basket now, can I?” Magnussen says with a slimy grin. “I have one question for you, just for my own reassurance, you understand?”

“Yes?”
“Where is Janine? That woman might have been irritating but one could only admire her power.”

“Really? She seemed pretty powerless when faced with her brother’s suicide?” Mycroft debates.

“I think we all were.” Magnussen reasons.

Mycroft hums in conceding agreement, “Janine is in the custody of the British Government. She will remain there for quite some time.”

“Do make sure she doesn’t escape.” Magnussen says patronisingly.

Mycroft smiles at him, as if they are both in on a joke, but really, they are stabbing at each other with metaphorical daggers, trying to disarm each other.

“Is your brother around? I have brought him a token of my thanks. A present, one might say.” Magnussen says, sitting up a little now that the embarrassment of thanking Mycroft is over.

Mycroft squints his eyes. “What present?”

“Oh, just a little appreciation of my thanks. Your assistant is already checking it for any possible threats.” Magnussen says, rolling his eyes.

Mycroft still looks wary, and he presses a button on his desk. Within a minute, in which there is an awkward, hostile silence, Anthea appears at the door, eyebrows raised in expectation of instruction. “Mr Magnussen says he has a present for Sherlock?”

Anthea’s eye light up in uncharacteristic excitement. “He does Sir! Would you like me to fetch him and Doctor Watson for you?”

“I’ll go.” Says Greg says, hedging his way out of the room. He is obviously desperate to get away from the awkward silences.  

“Oh, Anthea, before I forget again, could you tell our cook to fetch John and Sherlock some breakfast? Thank you.” Mycroft says.

“Of course, Sir. I will have one of the security men bring the present in for Sherlock.”

“Tell him to put it in the sitting room.” Mycroft says. Anthea nods and leaves the room. Mycroft stands, as does Magnussen, and the both men share a look for a moment. Mycroft knows at this point he should thank the newspaper tycoon for his generosity, but he simply cannot bring himself to do so.

As the two men exit the office to head to the lounge, there is a knock at the door, and Mycroft sighs, knowing he will have to answer it. He simply hates when people turn up unexpected, and he is of course rather wary of who it might be, but there is security on the door, and they would be aware of anyone who is a threat; their attention to detail has been heightened since the revelations of Moriarty’s last night. He pulls the door open, and is quite embarrassed to see Sergeant Sally Donovan stood there; of course, Greg had summoned an officer, she is not unexpected at all. However, that does not mean he has to be particularly pleasant to her, after how she has treated his brother in the past.

“Come in, Sergeant.” He says, and she nods, looking uncomfortable.

Mycroft turns as he leads her into the house, and feels a stab of guilt in his stomach as he sees Greg descending the stairs and right behind him, supported by John, his brother, looking weary and confused. A glaze of shame covers his eyes, however, when he sees not only Magnussen watching his painful descent, but also Sally Donovan. John does not look best pleased.

“Mr Holmes.” Magnussen says, addressing Sherlock as the party reach the bottom of the stairs. “Apologies for this sudden invitation, but I have a token of thanks I wish to give you.”

Sherlock swallows and nods, not looking anyone in the eye. Mycroft heart clenches.

“Sir!” Donovan says suddenly, obviously desperate to get away. “The evidence you had for me?”

Greg startles. “Oh, Sally! Yes!” He fumbles around in his pocket and pulls out the evidence bag. He hands it to his deputy with a nod, and she takes it, placing it in her own pocket. She then stands there awkwardly for a moment, before her gaze finally rises to look at Sherlock, as she has most likely been wanting to do this entire time. She opens her mouth and closes it a few times, like a fish, before she starts, “Holmes, I-”

“Thank you, Sergeant Donovan!” Mycroft says, and all but pushes her through the door before she can say anything else, slamming it in her face. John and Greg look appalled, but it is worth it for the grateful look his brother shoots him. The implication behind her sudden need to placate Sherlock sits heavily in the room, like an unpleasant odour, an odour that reeks of Moriarty’s embarrassing words against Sherlock, who now stands here, defenceless against the fact that everyone knows what this odour means. What Sherlock was put through.

“The present, Mr Magnussen?” Mycroft asks, breaking the silence.

“Yes, of course.” Magnussen says, and the group follow Mycroft as he leads them through to the sitting room, John supporting a tentative Sherlock on his injured feet. Inside, they discover Anthea and a burly security guard, carefully propping up a wrapped rectangular package against the wall by the fireplace, which is unlit. The confusion between everyone is palpable, except for Magnussen who is looking expectantly at the package. Mycroft has a small frown between his brow as he tries to figure out what it is. John despairs what he might be like at Christmas.

Beside him, Sherlock almost vibrates with tension. John is trying to support the man the best he can; he does not want Sherlock to put too much pressure on his wounded feet.

“Please, Mr Holmes.” Mr Magnussen says, addressing Sherlock. “Open it. I guarantee, you will find it to your liking.”
Mycroft is still looking at Magnussen with trepidation as Sherlock edges forward towards the present. He looks incredibly uncomfortable with all eyes on him. Mycroft nods to Anthea and his security man and they both leave, Anthea looking a little reluctant; she, too, is desperate to see this present.

Sherlock crouches down, eventually dropping onto his knees in order to begin undoing the paper covering. His body hides most of the present from the others as he undoes it, John peering around his shoulder. When the item is finally unwrapped, Sherlock lets out a gasp.

“What? What is it?” John cannot help but ask.

Sherlock looks to Magnussen in disbelief before his head whips back around to the present. “Is it real?”
“Oh yes.” Magnussen nods. “One hundred percent the genuine thing.”

Sherlock leans back a bit, to take the whole item in, and then, finally, does the rest of the room get a good look at it.

John is not an art expert, but even he recognises this painting. It is rather famous, and its meaning to Sherlock must make this gift surprisingly sentimental, seeing as the gift-giver is in no way close to him at all. “Is that a Monet?” He asks.

Magnussen nods, but it is Sherlock who replies, “’Impression, Sunrise.’

The painting is beautiful; John can barely think of words that could describe the painting, seeing as one could simply look at the painting to see its beauty.  

“How on earth did you get a hold of this?” Mycroft asks, looking as surprised as John has ever seen him.

Magnussen shrugs. “Oh, it was in my private collection.”

“I…I…. Thank you.” Sherlock eventually stutters, looking as if he has just been blown away by a strong wind he is so shocked.

“You are most welcome.” Magnussen nods. “Mr Holmes, I must take my leave of you if you are finished with me?” He asks Mycroft, who nods, and leads him back through to the hall, leaving behind a gaping Sherlock.

“I must thank you for that gift, Magnussen. My brother will appreciate it more than you can know.” Mycroft concedes.

Magnussen nods. “It seemed fitting. I assure you, also, that I will keep as much as this from my papers until the memory of James Moriarty is far behind us. I think it would be far too embarrassing for all of us for this to leak into the press. I will see what I can do with my fellow tycoons, as well.”

Mycroft smiles, a rare thankful smile. “I thank you. I believe from now on we should work closely together in order to keep this as hush as we possibly can, Charles.”

Magnussen, too, smiles. “Quite. Good bye, Mycroft. I will keep in touch.” He leaves through the front door, head held high, and a much more agreeable man in Mycroft’s eyes.

Mycroft wanders back to the living room to watch as his brother’s eyes trace the brushstrokes and the care taken with the Monet. Wherever Sherlock goes next, be it Baker Street, possibly, then extra care will have to be taken of this present. Mycroft will make sure of it.

Greg gives him a wide smile as he returns, and the both of them watch as Sherlock inspects the painting in awe. John crouches next to him, hand lightly on Sherlock’s back, supporting him, sharing Sherlock’s excitement.

Sherlock is the man who Mycroft’s owes the success of taking down James Moriarty to, and he is also his little brother, the man Mycroft has tried to protect, and has failed on many occasions. Now, though, Mycroft is sure he will do everything he can to see harm never comes to Sherlock again.

 

Chapter Text

“Breakfast!” A voice trills, and then through the doorway comes Mrs Hudson, carrying a tray laden with breakfast goods and beverages. Sherlock and John both sit up from where they were leaning against each other on the sofa, just simply staring at the painting. It seems to Sherlock that the longer he looks at the masterpiece, the more it seems as if it is coming to life. He knows it is a trick of his eyes, but to imagine that the painting he has adored looking at might be a real, living, breathing reality is a comfort. Furthermore, knowing that this is the genuine thing, as so carefully painted by the artist over one hundred years ago, Sherlock is almost elated.

“Mrs Hudson!” John exclaims, and he instantly rises to help the older woman with the tray. She protests against his help and blocks his arms with her body, placing the tray on the coffee table with little difficulty.

“There we are.” She says, beaming. “A proper breakfast for you.”

Sherlock cannot doubt that; the tray is laden with cereal, cooked breakfast, pastries. Sherlock is instantly drawn to the pain au chocolat, and he picks one up, munching at it, getting pastry flakes all down his front. Mrs Hudson tuts, but she does not begrudge him.

“Mrs Hudson, you are far too kind.” John says, kissing her on the cheek. He puts one hand on his hip, and another on Sherlock’s shoulder. “What are you doing here, though? I thought you were in a hotel?”
“Oh, I was.” The old lady says. “The Ritz. But Sherlock’s brother sent for me this morning. Thought you might want me here.”

Sherlock’s cheek flame red; it reminds him of when he had been young, and the psychiatrist and the doctors had told his parents in hushed tones that he had heard anyway that Sherlock finds comfort in familiar faces because he’s not normal. He’s never been normal. Never. Now, he’s in an even more messed up state. His breathing is accelerating, the pastry feeling chammy and dry in his mouth, but before he is tipped over the edge, John says something that catches him by the scruff of his neck.

“And we do. We’re all family.” John says, and his voice is tinged with sadness, and Sherlock feels ashamed at himself for being so selfish. John has lost more than Sherlock in the past day. Why should John be the one with the comforting hand on Sherlock’s shoulder, and not the other way around? Why is John bringing them all together with the solidarity of that statement, ‘We’re all family’? Why must he be the one that has to be strong for all of them? Why is Sherlock so weak?

“Hopefully we can all have a home now all this drama is over?” Mrs Hudson bemoans. “I can tell you, I wasn’t very happy to be dragged from my home. At least I was taken to The Ritz.”

John sympathises, but realises Mrs Hudson must not quite know the extent of the events at Baker Street the night before. “I know. We had no idea it would be such an inconvenience, either. You can blame Moriarty for that.”

Mrs Hudson tuts at the mention of the man’s name. “Oh, that man. If I ever see him, I’ll-”

“He’s dead. Shot himself.” Sherlock says, looking at the ground. John’s breath catches in his throat.

“Oh.” Mrs Hudson breathes. She looks at both of them, her hands to her mouth. Unsure. “…..Good?”

John chuckles, he cannot help it. He understands Mrs Hudson’s thinking: whilst it is a relief to have Moriarty gone for good, there is a moral part of him that feels corrupted at being grateful for another person’s death. Still, it was Moriarty. “Yes. It is.”

There is no point in elaborating with her about Moran’s death either, since she was not aware of his presence in the first place, and Sherlock will not meet his eye, and therefore John only takes a deep breath before he decides to break this news like one would rip a plaster off a wound: swiftly.

“But, err, there is something else…” He licks his lip, and looks up at the ceiling as that sharp prickle gathers behind his eyes and his brain stutters to a halt. Ineloquently, all he can mumble is, “Mary. She died last night, too. She sacrificed herself to save Sherlock.”

“Oh, John! I’m so sorry!” Mrs Hudson gasps, tears welling in her eyes as she watches John’s sorrow. Sherlock stomach clenches, and he stops munching on his pastry.

“Yeah, I know. It’s err…. it’s pretty shit.” John says, rubbing a hand across his face. His eyes burn as they have been doing since his breakdown last night in front of Molly, and he feels haggard and worn down, like a cliff face beaten with the current of the sea. “But, it’s all over now, and we’ll get through it, won’t we?” He directs at Sherlock, moving his hand up to Sherlock’s head to run his fingers through his curls.

Mrs Hudson watches the interaction closely, and, as someone wizened to the world who has certainly seen many things, the look in John’s eyes is enough to tell her what exactly is going on here. She squeals and claps her hand, and John’s eyes flick over to her, looking a little alarmed. She raises her eyebrows at him, looking a little smug, and John sniffs, trying to figure out what her meaning is before the conversation they had had days and days ago comes back to him; she had insinuated that now that Sherlock was back their feelings for each other, so hidden and unspoken over the years, would finally come out in a burst of passion. Well, she wasn’t wrong, and John cringes to realise how his grief for Mary must look so unjustified since he has caressed Sherlock’s head lovingly. This whole situation is mess.

Between them, Sherlock sits with the pastry slowly being crushed in his grip. John’s painful admission of Mary’s death to Mrs Hudson, and all those feelings of belittlement and self-hate come flooding back.

Discarding the pain au chocolat on the tray, he rises from the sofa, ignoring the head rush this quick action brings. “Excuse me.” He mutters, and leaves the room.

John moves forward to follow him before he remembers Mrs Hudson’s presence. “Mrs H, I’m sorry, I’ve got to-” He indicates to the doorway, and the old lady nods.

“I understand, John.” She says, looking sad. “At least take the breakfast with you; he needs to eat.” She bends down, attempting to lift the tray again, but John beats her to it and carries it himself.

“Thank you, Mrs H.” he says, before he follows Sherlock out of the room.

Mrs Hudson shuffles around awkwardly, not quite knowing what to do with herself. She settles for plumping pillows. When done with that, she turns to survey the light and airy room, and jumps in surprise at the painting resting by the fireplace.

“Oh! Is that Monet?” She asks the empty room.                                                                                     


 

As John expected, Sherlock has gone up to his bedroom. He follows with the food tray, pushing the door open with his hip. Sherlock sits on the bed, shrouded in the sheets, face hidden under the covers. John places the breakfast tray down on the table by the sofa and walks over to the bed, sitting down on its edge, but not pushing Sherlock to speak to him yet.

Finally, Sherlock’s hoarse voice speaks. “If you need time to…to grieve, John, then please, take it.”

John’s eyebrows raise. “What do you mean?”

Sherlock swallows, and John watches the movement of his Adam’s apple. “It’s not…it’s…you shouldn’t always have to be strong for me. I shouldn’t have to stop you from grieving for Mary.”

John’s raised eyebrows now drop down to furrow. “Sherlock…why on earth do you think you’re stopping me from grieving for Mary?”

“Because I’m so weak!” he exclaims. “You shouldn’t have to be unable to deal with your own personal tragedies because of me, because I need taking care of!”

John breathes out, a gush of air that makes Sherlock tremble as he feels the tension in John’s body. “Sherlock. I am a soldier. An army captain. What they teach you, is to control your emotions. Yes, I have had to deal with PTSD. Sometimes it still comes back, and it’s shit. But, do you want to know the one thing that helped me when I came back from Afghanistan a wreck? It was you. And, that hasn’t changed, Sherlock. Now, I’m not saying you’ve replaced Mary, that I’m using you as a rebound due to her absence, of course you’re not, but don’t think that just because I’m here, supporting you that I’m not facing my own shit. In fact, it might be the other way round.”

John cannot help himself any longer, and therefore reaches forward and puts his hand on Sherlock’s shoulder. The muscle is tense under his hand, so he squeezes it a little, and some of the tension releases.

“What do we do now, John?” He asks. “I don’t know what to do now that they’re gone.”

John nods. He understands. “It can be tricky; they were a massive part of your life-”

“That’s putting it delicately.” Sherlock scoffs, and it is so like him that John laughs.

“Yes, it is.” He grows serious, and turns so he is looking directly into Sherlock’s eyes. “But, we’ll take it day by day. Work on getting better. Both of us. Wherever that will take us, I’m just happy to be with you.”

Sherlock nods, and sniffs, and repeats the words he had muttered sleepily last night. “This doesn’t feel real.”

“What do you mean?”

Sherlock thinks. What he means, is that any moment he expects Mycroft or Greg to burst in, hinting at some crime Moriarty or Moran has done against them, leaving Sherlock feeling like a useless lump of feebleness. What he means is, Sherlock wants it to stay just him and John forever, in the room, a safe place. Perhaps they could hang the painting on the wall so they could stare at it all day? Sherlock would like that; they could lie in bed looking at it, lounge on the sofa looking at it. They cannot do that for the rest of their lives, though. John will probably want to move out of Mycroft’s home now that the threat to them is over…. or is it?

Because this is what Sherlock is really trying to explain; he is scared, that if they were to move back to Baker Street, the ghost of Moriarty’s corpse would still linger, as ridiculous as that sounds. Sherlock desperately wants to go back to his home, but the memory of that man might have tainted that for him, and that is something that he cannot deal with at the moment. But then, would John want to live there? Would he want to live in the apartment he had shared with Mary? Sherlock isn’t sure John would, but then, Sherlock isn’t sure of anything. Does John, too, just want to say hidden away here for the rest of their lives? Sherlock doubts it.

With a sharp stab in his gut, Sherlock realises that, again, Moriarty and Moran’s presence destroys this safe place for him, too. This room might have been a source of comfort for him, but it is where he has also faced a humiliating loss of control, too, because of Them. He cannot live here forever. Where will they go next, then?

“Where would you want to live? If we moved out of here?” Sherlock asks, shifting a little, not meeting John’s eye.

John thinks about it. “Well…I suppose the best place for us would be Baker Street? Seeing as we used to live there, and it holds some good memories for us.”

Sherlock nods. John places his hand over Sherlock’s. “Although, we don’t have to if you don’t want to? I know, seeing as last night a certain person shot themselves there, that it might not be ideal.”

Sherlock hesitates. That is what he had been afraid of; Moriarty might have ruined his home for him. “I want to go back to it badly, but…I feel like he still might be there. That he might come back.”

John frowns. “As a ghost?”
Sherlock sighs. “No. As in, I think that his corpse will never truly leave. Plus…” he feels pathetic, admitting this nagging thought to John once again. “I cannot believe that he is dead. That they are both dead.”

John nods, but instead of the frustration or disgust Sherlock thinks he might see, John just looks understanding. “What do you think it will take for you to really believe he is dead?”

Sherlock shrugs. “I don’t know. It feels as if he can never be killed. He and Moran held so much sway over me…to have that sort of control gone; it doesn’t feel possible.”

John nods. “I understand. Honestly. It’s hard when someone has so much presence in your life to think you’ll never see them again.” His eyes go dark, seeing things Sherlock cannot, and he tightens his grip on John’s hand. He knows he is thinking of Mary. “I mean, for you, it must be incredibly hard, and you’re completely justified to feel this way. Those bastards were so controlling that of course having them gone for good doesn’t feel possible.” John thinks for a moment, biting the inside of his cheek. “But, I think I have an idea.”

Sherlock blinks. “What?”                                                                                   


 

“That seems reasonable.” Mycroft says, reasonably. John rears back a bit, thinking his plan would face a little more protestation. “We’ll have to get everything cleared, of course. My superiors will not like it, but I think Sherlock’s efforts to take down a key threat to them will convince them.”

John huffs. “I should bloody well think so.”

Mycroft slicks his hair back and shifts in his seat. Beside him, Greg texts away, mouth slightly open and tongue peeking through in concentration. Mycroft glances at him out of the corner of his eye and then proceeds to roll them. To John, they look like two school boys paired together on a project, sat next to each other at the desk, and it makes him smile. “Please give me some time to do this, John. We are currently a little overwhelmed.”

John nods. “Of course. But, if this could be as quick as possible, that would be great, your brother needs this; we have to think about the future now. How he is going to heal.”

‘And how I am going to heal, too.’ John thinks, but doesn’t say it. They must all look to the future now; John must remember Mary, but he must heal, too. She would have wanted that.

Mycroft winces, and he concedes that John is right; his brother’s health is as important as the clean-up from the Moriarty disaster. “Alright, I will put Anthea on it right away. We’ll send for you when we’re ready.”

John nods. “Thank you. There is another thing.”

Mycroft sits up straighter. “Yes?”

“I think Sherlock should visit 221b again. He’s unsure about where to go from here, and I think if he gets a feel of the place it will help to decide how he wants to heal.”

Mycroft does not admit that this is a good idea, because it is also a tricky one. “That could be difficult, seeing as Baker Street is currently a crime scene.”

Greg tears his eyes from the screen to watch the conversation.

John shrugs. “I don’t care. He needs this, Mycroft. Moriarty is gone, Sherlock needs to focus on healing.”

Mycroft can feel a headache building behind his right eye. “I will do my best, John.”

“Thank you.” He steps out the room without being dismissed.

Mycroft sighs and runs his hand through his hair again, using his other hand to press the call button for Anthea. While they wait, Greg pulls his attention away from his phone and scrutinises the man next to him. “You think that’s a good idea? The morgue?”

Mycroft nods. “Most definitely. If Sherlock is having a hard time accepting Moriarty’s death, the definitive proof of it will set his mind at ease.”  

“Shame we don’t have anything to show him of Moran. From what I’ve heard and seen, it was him who…you know,” He tries to put it delicately to Sherlock’s brother.

Mycroft’s cheeks pinch and he nods. “Yes. I fear that might become a worry in the future, too.”

Greg doesn’t resist the urge to put a hand over Mycroft’s. “But, Sherlock is strong. He’ll get through it. Especially having John with him.”

Mycroft sighs. “I know. I just hope I can give him the protection he deserves. I’m worried what this break-in by Moriarty will mean for the continuation of my position within the British Government.”

Greg scoffs. “Oh, Mycroft, come on! You helped stop the man, for goodness sake! Lady Smallwood was all congratulatory earlier.”

“Yes, but that was incredibly reluctant, and now they’ll be looking for anything that could dethrone me, seeing as this case is so close to home. ‘Compromised’, they’ll call it.”

Greg sighs, realising Mycroft has a point. “Look, just….do something that will convince them otherwise.”

Mycroft steeples both hands under his chin. “John was naïve. Moriarty might be gone, Moran too, but there’s still a complete web of people who were under his control. People who might be cross that his plan didn’t work out, who might look towards someone else as their next leader…”

Greg blinks. “Do you mean Janine?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps it will be someone else. We will need to eliminate the threat before it becomes dangerous. And…I do not know if I will be given the resources to both tackle them and provide Sherlock with protection. It worries me, Greg.”

“Not everything rests on your shoulders, Myc.”

“No, but they will give me that charge as a punishment.” Mycroft says bitterly.

Greg scoffs. “Oh, surely the British Government cannot be so snide.”

Mycroft raises an eyebrow. “You don’t know them.”

“Then,” Greg says, and he leans in closer to Mycroft. “let me help.”

Mycroft looks to him, and Greg smiles. He leans in even closer and pecks a kiss to Mycroft’s lips. Then, there is a knock at the door and they pull away just as Anthea walks in.                                                                             


 

Sherlock and John have to wait a day until they can get access to both the morgue and Baker Street, which is probably for the best as it gives Sherlock’s feet a chance to heal up a bit more. Sherlock had agreed with the morgue idea but hadn’t commented on Baker Street. Now, as they sit in the back of Mycroft’s car, Greg next to him and John and Mycroft in the front, Sherlock’s stomach is churning with the thought of what is to come. He is dressed in clothes borrowed from both Greg and Mycroft, Greg has leant him some jeans and Mycroft a shirt and jumper, rarely worn and still in pristine cashmere condition. He wears a pair of Mycroft’s shoes, too, and he feels ridiculous.

John had made the suggestion the day before that, if nowhere else were to work out for them, perhaps they could stay with Sherlock’s parents, in their country cottage. Having suggested this in front of both Mycroft and Sherlock, at a light-hearted dinner, he had been rather amused to see both of them balk at the suggestion.

“Our parents have been told of Sherlock’s escape, but past that they are not aware of the situation. Whilst our mother means well, I fear her need to mollycoddle Sherlock could cause more harm than good.” Mycroft had explained, and Sherlock had agreed.

That had been a definite ‘no’, but the thought of the country is something that John now realises might be a good idea; peace, quiet, lack of psychopaths (hopefully, anyway). He has yet to bring it up further, but that depends on how today goes.

They pull up outside of a nondescript building, obviously built in the sixties by its blocky, square design. John can see Sherlock’s eyes flicking around at the people walking past as they exit the car, wary of them, looking for danger. Being locked in a basement for five years will do that to someone, John thinks sadly, and his idea of a country retreat is becoming even more like an actual prospect. A slow introduction back into society, something London, with its bustling populous, will not provide.

“This way.” Mycroft says, and they follow him into the building, hit with a blast of modernity that does not match the building’s façade. Security men watch their approach, but one look at Mycroft and they nod and let them pass. They walk down corridor after corridor until John is dizzy and doesn’t bother to concentrate on the path they’re taking.

When they finally reach their destination, they must be in the basement, as the temperature has dropped somewhat, and Sherlock shivers in his strange get-up. Mycroft buzzes them through a door using a personnel badge and they all shuffle into a morgue, harsh metal surfaces greeting them and making Sherlock shiver even more. All the slabs are empty apart from one, at the far end, which holds a body covered in a crisp sheet. A familiar figure stands next to it.

“Dr Hooper, thank you for joining us today.” Mycroft says, giving Molly his pleasant yet insincere smile. She just nods, looking serious; this is not a place for pleasantries. “I thought it might be best to have Dr Hooper here, seeing as she is someone we can all trust.” Mycroft explains.

“I have the files here, detailing the cause of James Moriarty’s death.” She says, holding up a yellow folder. John holds a hand out, asking to have it, and with a nod from Mycroft she passes it to him. He flicks through, everything adding up to what the obvious cause had been: bullet to the head, complete cerebral damage.

“Right, well, ready?” Molly asks, looking to Sherlock, who is pale and tight-lipped, but who nods nonetheless.

Molly pulls back the sheet.

John feels a sick sense of satisfaction staring into the lifeless face of James Moriarty, no longer lacking in human emotion because of an absence of those feelings, but because it has been wiped away by death’s cruel clutches. His eyes are open, the orbs staring sightlessly, no glint of twisted humour in them now.

“I’m sorry, his eyes wouldn’t close.” Molly says, as if it’s her fault.

John glances to Sherlock, who is breathing heavily, chest rising and falling. Mycroft looks at Moriarty like one might look at dirt on their shoe, and Greg looks nonplussed, having seen many corpses over the years. Sherlock sucks in a breath and releases it, and when it does it is like a weight has lifted, and he nods. “Okay.”

Molly pulls the sheet over Moriarty’s body.

John hands the file back to Molly who takes it and announces. “We will have him cremated. Then we know for sure that he won’t rise again.”

It is supposed to be a joke, but it falls as flat as a pancake.

With one last thanks to Molly, who glances down at the covered body every now and then, they leave the morgue as quick as they possibly can.                                                                             


 

“If you could please excuse me for one moment, there is someone I need to see quickly.” Mycroft says as they reach the foyer of the building.

“Who?” John asks.

“Agent Lark. The agent that, ahh…” Mycroft hesitates, which is strange since he is rarely ineloquent, “was injured helping me locate Moriarty. She is convalescing here, therefore it seems fitting I should visit her whilst we are here.” He turns and heads off down another corridor before any of them can say otherwise.

“We’ll return to the car, then.” Greg says, rolling his eyes.

They retreat back to the car, John’s hand resting supportively on Sherlock’s back. Sherlock’s arms are crossed over his front, but he seems a little more relaxed than he had on the journey to the morgue.

“I’ll wait out here, just in case, you know?” Greg says, and John realises Sherlock isn’t the only one who is wary of people.

John nods, and follows Sherlock into the back of the car. “Alright?” he asks Sherlock, who has squished himself into the corner near the door.

Sherlock nods. “That was ermm…. That was good.”

“Yeah?” John asks, not wanting to push Sherlock.

“Yeah. I…. know now, know that he’s really gone for good.”

John places a hand over Sherlock’s and leans in for a kiss. “I’m glad. You still up for Baker Street?”
A shiver runs through Sherlock, but he nods nonetheless. “Yes. I’ll do it.”

John squeezes his hand. “I’ll be with you.”

Sherlock smiles at that, and this time he is the one to initiate another kiss.

They sit for a while, waiting for Mycroft’s return, the shadow of Greg’s body outside the car window a reassuring presence. Sherlock places his head on John’s shoulder, and John feels like now might be a good time for him to bring up his idea. “Look, I’ve been thinking, and…if this doesn’t work out, Baker Street, then…how would you feel about a holiday?”

John can feel Sherlock’s frown against his chest. “Huh?”

“What I mean is, what about we spend some time out of the city? Somewhere in the country? It’ll be more peaceful, and while I know you detest that, I think it’ll be better at getting us back into the swing of things.” He keeps his tone and his words light, not revealing how much of a good idea he thinks it is. “We could get Mycroft to find us a nice cottage, or house, we can ensure we have all the security measures we might need, so we wouldn’t have to worry about any of that and we could just…breathe.”

Sherlock traces his finger on John’s stomach as he listens to John’s suggestion. He isn’t against it, but he would rather go to Baker Street. He will always choose Baker Street, and he wants to be better immediately so that they can return to that Baker Street lifestyle, but he realises that of course he still has a long way to go before he’ll feel up to it, and maybe John’s ‘holiday’ in the country idea isn’t abhorrent; the thought of less people, of wide open spaces full of nature and light…its more appealing than unappealing. There is one thing that sticks out like a sore thumb to him.

“But, John…what about the therapist?”

John chuckles a little, but is endearing, not mocking. “Sherlock, they do exist outside of the city, you know. A lot of people go to the country to recover from things, it’s probably a booming business for them.”

Sherlock sniggers a little at that. “Okay.”

John is surprised Sherlock has agreed so easily. “Okay?” he repeats, a little stupidly.

Sherlock looks up at him, smiling tentatively. “Yes, okay. If it doesn’t…. you know, if things are…”

“A bit not good?” John suggests, and Sherlock’s smile widens a little.

“Yes, that.” Sherlock says, and settles back against John. After a while he says, “Maybe the Sussex coast?”

John shrugs. “Whatever you want, love.”

‘Love.’ Sherlock feels so cherished in that moment, with a love pure and equal, not overwhelming and obsessive, like the ministrations he had faced from Moran. In that moment, he knows that as long as John is there, life will be more bearable with every new day.                                                                                    


 

There is an eerie silence in Baker Street, the absence of people living and breathing in the space making it chillier than usual. Mycroft, again, leads the way, but he and Greg draw back at the stairs to 221B, letting John and Sherlock take their own time to get a feel for the space. For John, it is like stepping into the past all over again, and there is a comfort there, but at the same time, so much has changed, that it feels like an old friend who he hasn’t spoken to in a long time, that he will have to chat with a bit in order to warm that friendship up to the ease it had had a long time before.

Sherlock steps cautiously into the room, John following. There are little hints that the forensic team has been there for the past thirty-six hours before their entrance, but apart from that the place is untouched.

Sherlock looks around, taking his time, absorbing all the emotions that he feels looking at the space. He doesn’t face the doorway to the kitchen, where Moriarty had shot himself, yet. Instead he focusses on the living room; the piles of books and newspaper clippings he had kept for references, his old leather armchair, the smiley face spray-painted on the wall with the bullet holes through it. They all remind of a different time, a different person that he cannot be right now.

A tear slips down his cheek as he realises how disconnected he feels from his former self, how far he has been taken from that suave, sharp man in his striking suits, how he simply cannot bear to live here whilst he feels not even half the man he was. It is true, he did get some of his former self back here a couple of nights ago in front of Moriarty, but as he finally turns to that spot, he knows that it will take some healing until he can be his full-time self again. He despises it, but it is the truth.

John steps closer to him, noticing Sherlock’s tears, and puts a comforting hand on his back.

“I can’t do it, John, not yet. I’d feel I was living a charade of myself.”

“That’s absolutely fine.” John says, tone firm and calm. “We have all the time in the world.”                                                                  


 

Later, when the sun is setting and casting shadows across the lawn of Mycroft’s garden, John and Sherlock sit on the bench facing the house, the little pond next to them. Birdsong fills the air, and past that the sound of cars and buses, reminding them that their retreat to the country is still to come, that this might be a taster of the peace they both need. If someone had told John five, six years ago that he and Sherlock Holmes would be holidaying in the country, he would have thought them to be mad. But, time has changed them, experiences have changed them, and while those experiences might have been bad, they have also brought the two of them closer together, closer than John had thought he might ever get with Sherlock, partly due to Sherlock’s insistence on ‘I’m married to my work’ when they had first met, but also thanks to Moriarty and Moran. Mary had been his conductor of light in those times, but now, all those people are gone, they are left for memories, and it is John and Sherlock together, supporting each other, lighting up each other’s lives. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

Beside him, Sherlock is similarly lost in contemplation; he has never been one to reminisce, and instead he looks to the future, knowing that sharp reminders of the past will come back at every corner, Moran’s ghost still casting its shadow, but, as he holds onto John’s hand, resting on the seat next to him, the warmth of that palm and the solid presence of the man next to him, gives him hope he will heal with time. He will make sure he does.

And how long will that take?

How long?

How long?

Well, Sherlock reasons, looking up at the sky, however long it takes.

 

Chapter Text

It is quiet in Mycroft’s house, only the occasional creak of a floorboard and the chiming of a far-off grandfather clock can be heard. Sherlock stands, on slightly smarting feet, in front of a mirror, full-length, dragged into his room by a grumbling John. He breathes in deep as he pulls the jumper until it settles properly on his body. Then, he examines his reflection in the mirror.

He is all sharp angles, and bones too defined under pale skin, but at least some of this is disguised by the long sleeve and high neck design of most of the clothes Mycroft has so graciously paid for him to have tailor made. Jumpers, pullover shirts, and jeans make up the main percentage of Sherlock’s new wardrobe, but there are some button downs, similar to those he had favoured in the past, thrown in there too, along with some smarter trousers. Unlike Sherlock’s previous wardrobe, however, none of these clothes are tight-fitting, instead they fit in a looser way, still perfectly designed for his body, but disguising the thinness of his frame.

Sherlock tilts his head as he inspects the thick, grey jumper he has just adorned, pleased with its fit. He nods before pulling it over his head and immaculately folding it and placing it into his travel case. They leave for Cornwall in the morning.

Sherlock’s initial idea of the Sussex coast as the location for their ‘holiday’ had proved a little tricky for Mycroft to organise, as a lack of what they desired, a quiet home with access to a nearby village but essentially isolated, was available in that area. With a little research, and a trip on Google street view, which John had found incredibly exciting, they had settled on Cornwall. Although not the least populated county in England, Cornwall has many benefits for them; more rural areas than urban, most houses holiday homes, therefore empty for most of the year, thus it will give them the isolation they crave whilst also offering them a taste of village life that will hopefully not contain any malicious psychopaths. 

He looks around the room, shucking on his dressing gown, but keeping his jeans on, trying to gain a semblance of normality, and notes that there is not much left for him to pack. Not that he had much in the first place. The Monet painting is wrapped in extremely secure packaging, layer upon layer of bubble wrap and then a metal enforced carboard material Mycroft had spoken at length about, but Sherlock could not bring himself to listen to. Sherlock has tucked his Monet book in his suitcase with his new clothes, and now he is waiting on John’s return from 221B for the rest of his books to be packed for the journey.

Sherlock sits on the edge of the bed, hands shaky and sweaty; the silence still gets to him, and whilst he is alone and John isn’t even in the house, his brain is playing havoc with his sense of rationalisation. He glances towards the door of the bathroom, and the darkness that emulates, almost like light, even though it is the complete opposite, from underneath the door and around the door’s edges. Anything could be lurking behind it, his brain tickles him with, like an irritating itch. Moran could be behind there. At this, Sherlock flinches, and he is on his feet before he knows it.

No, he is being ridiculous, Moran is not behind that door because Moran is dead. Perhaps he should check, though? Sherlock takes cautious steps towards the door, afraid that his traitorous brain might be right. He sighs, and loses patience with himself, and strides forward, slinging the door open with false confidence born of frustration. His heart skips a beat.

There is nothing there.

Sherlock growls low in his throat. Of course, there is nothing there, Moran is dead; he has scared himself for no reason. He steps back, leaving the door open so there can be no second doubt, muttering at himself for how stupid he is being. If only John were here.

                                                                             


 

“John, dear, do make sure he eats!” Mrs Hudson pesters John as he packs books into a box, all carefully selected by Sherlock to accompany them on their holiday. They leave behind them the bare shelves of the bookcases in 221B, and dust plumes in clouds with each vacancy, the items having barely been touched in three years.

“Yes, of course, Mrs H.” He placates.

“I know I’m being silly John, but, oh, it’s just he was gone for so long and now he’s back it’s hard to see him go again! Well, both of you, if I’m honest; it’ll be so quiet here, once again!” Mrs Hudson chokes up, and immediately John discards what he is doing to put a comforting arm around her shoulders.

“Mrs H it’s not permanent! We’re only staying down there for as long as it takes for Sherlock to feel ready to get back in the swing of things. Look, you can come visit. Or, there’s the phone, and I’ve shown you how to Skype call so there’s also that.” John reassures her, feeling a little guilty that Mrs Hudson will be left all alone, especially since their departure follows five years of absence from Sherlock and two years since John had moved out to live with Mary. Mrs Hudson will definitely have to come visit.

“You’re right John, I know, I’m just going to miss both of you so much!”

John makes a sound of sympathy and pulls her in for a proper hug. They remain that way for a few minutes more, before Mrs Hudson pulls away and pulls out a handkerchief and wipes at her eyes.

“Mrs Hudson, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realise it had upset you so much we’re going away.” John says, running a hand through his hair.

“I’m just being silly, John. Don’t worry about me.” She waves him off, and John doesn’t want to push her so he just resumes his book packing.

“Sherlock didn’t want to come, then?” Mrs Hudson asks after a while, and John shakes his head.

“No, I think he’s got it into his head that living here is…. like some sort of reward for getting better. It’s the same with his old clothes, he doesn’t want them because I don’t think he feels he deserves them, because he feels like he isn’t the same man he was before all this shit.” John explains, his frustration and his helplessness bleeding through. John does not see what Sherlock does; he seems the same man that had drawn him into his world all those years ago: someone strong, someone clever, and he knows Sherlock’s attitude is unhealthy, but making him realise this without seeming too domineering is tricky.

“But that isn’t right, is it?” Mrs Hudson says, sounding deflated.

“No. Of course it’s not. But, it’s hard to try and get him to see otherwise; he needs a professional. I think if I were to try and change his opinion of himself then it might come across with too much pressure.” John says, the reason for Sherlock’s first attempt with a therapist coming to the forefront of his mind. He grimaces.

“Make sure to look after yourself, too, John.” Mrs Hudson says, squeezing his upper arm briefly.

John smiles at her, and covers her hand with his own. “I will, Mrs H. Don’t worry.”

She smiles at him, before startling suddenly. “Oh! Stay right there, John. I have something for Sherlock.” She wanders off, heels clacking against the floorboards, descending the stairs to her flat and leaving John alone.

John stands there for a moment, hands on hips, taking a breather. He feels exhausted, and is looking forward to this holiday more than he possibly should. 

The past two weeks since the deaths of Mary, Moran and Moriarty have been busy, to say the least. John has never seen Mycroft eat so little, and he is sure the man has lost weight. If it wasn’t for the presence of Gregory Lestrade, John is sure the man wouldn’t have slept, either, but the detective inspector has been very persuasive.

For John and Sherlock, it has been a convalescence of sorts. Sherlock has suffered in the aftermath of the show-down at Baker Street, and it wasn’t as if the deaths of those who had hurt him would cure him of the trauma he had taken away from those five years, and so John has been prepared every time Sherlock looks spaced out, or suffers from a nightmare, preventing Sherlock from seeing or hearing things that might trigger him. John is, essentially, doing the best he can. He just hopes it is enough.

For himself? Well, two weeks is incomparable to two years, but he is getting through it. At least he can be with Sherlock and hold him like one would their close partner without feeling that he is doing Mary a misjustice, as she had given him and Sherlock her blessing. It makes it easier for John to compartmentalise their relationship as all that it was and had been, not focussing on what might have been if certain events hadn’t occurred. John wonders if, seeing as he and Sherlock have ended up together in a pseudo-fairy-tale ending, it was fate that his and Mary’s relationship would be all that it had been, and nothing more.

John will now look to the future, he and Sherlock had promised each other that is what they would do. Therefore, he catches himself before he gets lost in the past and continues packing books into the box until all that’s left behind are the bare shelves. His work here is done.

                                                                    


 

“I have something for you.” Mycroft says, as Sherlock settles onto the couch. His older brother turns to pick up a black box that had been resting on the coffee table and hands it to him. He watches like a hawk as Sherlock fumbles with the lid and lifts it. Inside, resting in a nest of silk and tissue paper, are the expensive bottles of shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, and aftershave he had used ‘before’. Sherlock picks up the shampoo, flipping the lid and taking a sniff. The rich, slightly fruity odour of the shampoo makes Sherlock feel as if he has been slapped back into the past; it reminds him of coming home from late night cases and taking a shower to get the grime of the city off of himself, and of waking to the smell of this shampoo in the morning, lingering on his pillows. It reminds him of his old self, and he feels slightly nauseous.

“I thought, perhaps, it might give you a semblance of normalcy.” Mycroft explains, and then gestures to Sherlock. “If you would like, I can also offer you the use of my barber? He is very good.”

“No, it’s fine.” Sherlock cuts him off, running a hand through his hair. He knows it is overgrown and that he really should have a haircut, but the thought of blades near his head like that….it makes him shudder. “But, thank you. For the gift.” He is unsure if he will use these gifts, but he appreciates Mycroft’s efforts nonetheless. Mycroft nods, and the two fall into a comfortable silence.

“Oh, Her Majesty the Queen would like to bestow you with a knighthood, for your actions against a threat to the State.” Mycroft says, as casual as if he were speaking about the weather.

Sherlock shakes his head. “No. I’m going to have to turn it down.” He does not care for public declarations of recognition.

Mycroft sighs in what Sherlock presumes is relief. “Good. That saves me a lot of covering up; makes it harder to keep the Moriarty incident hush when a knighthood is involved.”

Sherlock nods in agreement, but does not say anything. 

“I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to hold Mummy off this time.” Mycroft says. “Especially now she doesn’t have to suffer the capital in order to come and see you.”
Sherlock winces. “How much does she know? How much do they both know?”

“They were, of course beside themselves when they first heard of your disappearance. Father packed them off the America in order to get away from all the… gloominess. I think he has been fighting to keep her there now that they know you are back. As for how you are doing health-wise… I just said you’ve been better, and space is what you need before you can be reunited.”

Sherlock couldn’t help scoffing a bit. “That’s very simplified.”

Mycroft smirks a little, too. “Yes, but, you know how mummy worries.”

Sherlock sighs and nods. “Alright. I will warn John that we should expect her at some point.”
“I’ve put together a security team for you. It is led by a very competent agent. Gregory recommended him to me, actually, when he saw the list of names. Apparently, he used to be a Police Officer. His name is Toby Gregson.”
Sherlock does not recognise the name, but just nods along. He squirms a bit where he sits. “Mycroft…thank you. For everything.” It is less than Mycroft deserves, but it is all that Sherlock can give him.

Mycroft’s cheeks flame red, but he simply nods and says, “Of course, little brother. Although, there is one last thing.”

He walks over to a cabinet that date back to the 1920s, going by its design, and carefully opens the doors, bending down to pull something out of it. Sherlock watches with curiosity, but once Mycroft rises it is obvious what it is that he is handling. The shape of the case gives it away instantly, and, aside from John, this is the one thing Sherlock had missed most in those five years: his violin.
“I took it from Baker Street once John moved out, to keep it safe, you understand, in case of a break in. But, I must return it to you now.”

He places the case on Sherlock’s lap, and Sherlock undoes the clasps and lifts the lid with shaky fingers. He sucks in a deep breath as he sets eyes on his Stradivarius. He places a hand over the strings, and experimentally plucks at one of them; it is out of tune, and this pleases him, as he would not want anyone else to touch his violin. The bow is also tucked in there, along with a block of resin, and satisfied Sherlock closes the lid back up. He will play it when he is ready.

“Thank you.” He repeats, and Mycroft smiles back at him, a rare, open-faced smile.

“You are most welcome, Brother Mine.”

                                                                  


 

The next morning, Sherlock looks around his room at Mycroft’s with an ounce of sadness at leaving it behind. He will miss its large windows, and the fireplace, and the expensive quality of the bed and its sheets. He will miss the view of the garden from the window, even though he knows the view from their new living quarters will be just as impressive. Still, they are not the same, and this room he knows he will miss, even if his time here has been bittersweet.

His belongings are gone, already packed into the car waiting for them downstairs. The only thing left in here are the pile of books gifted to him by Mrs Hudson, having been brought back by John the day before. Each and every one is on the subject of Claude Monet and his artistic career, and he plans on breaking into them on the journey.

There is a knock on the door, and John enters, smiling. “Hi, you….” He begins to say, but trails off as he takes in Sherlock. Sherlock, who crosses his arms a little self-consciously over himself at John’s gaze; far from the striking figure he posed five years ago, today he is dressed in jeans and a navy-blue roll-neck jumper, paired with some suede brogues. “You look…” John starts, and Sherlock tenses. “…gorgeous.”

Sherlock blushes, and lowers his gaze to the ground. “I’m not sure about that.”

“Well, I am.” John comes forward, and runs a hand through Sherlock curls. “You look like a Romantic poet with this style. I like it.”
Sherlock smiles, and meets John’s gaze. “You look….”

John’s smile widens, expectant. “… Yes?”

“Like John.”

John laughs, and Sherlock huffs a bit at his lack of poetic ability. “You couldn’t have done a better job, Sherlock.” John congratulates, and pulls him into a slow kiss.

“You ready to go?” He asks when they have pulled away. Sherlock takes one last look around the room, one last look at the view out of the window, and nods.
“Yes. Let’s go.”                                                                      


 

“Have a good journey.” Greg says, as he shakes John’s hand.

John chuckles. “Oh, I think we will in the luxury of one of Mycroft’s Jaguars.”

Greg chuckles, too. “Have a good time, mate. I’ll text you soon.”

“Thanks, Mate. You take care of yourself.” John grasps Greg’s hand tightly before letting it go.

“You too, and Sherlock, obviously.” He jokes, and John smiles and nods.

“Think I’ll get a kip in in the car, seeing as Sherlock has committed himself to reading the entire literary collection on Monet during the journey.” John says as he gestures to where Sherlock is arranging his items in the back of the car, his back to them. He stands up and turns when he hears John talking him about him, though.

“Hmmm?” He asks, and John just waves him off and says, “Nothing. Don’t worry.”

“Have a good holiday, Sherlock.” Greg says, turning to shake Sherlock’s hand this time, who receives the gesture with a small smile.

“I would leave now in order to beat the rush hour traffic.” Mycroft advises as he comes out of the house, checking his watch.

“Right, let’s get going then.” John says, and, without a flicker of indecision, he holds out his hand to Mycroft, who shakes it with a tight nod. “Look after him.” He says in a low tone that Sherlock will hear regardless.

“Of course.” John says. “You don’t need to tell me that.”

“No,” Mycroft concedes. “But I will anyway.”

John smiles and steps back, putting a hand on Sherlock’s back. Mycroft and Sherlock’s goodbye is nowhere near sentimental, John didn’t expect it to be, and the two brothers simply nod at each other before they all spring into motion.

“Let’s get going then.” John says, and he starts to usher Sherlock into the car.

“Gregson will meet you down there,” Mycroft says. “Be safe.”

John nods and pulls the door to the car closed. Mycroft and Greg are left on the pavement, and they watch, stood side by side, as the car pulls away and down the street, out of sight. Mycroft pinches his cheeks, and Greg gives him a knowing look. “I know you are worried about him going away, but he will be fine. You know he will be, he’s with John for god’s sake!”

“You know I do not like to feel like I have no control over a situation. Why, oh why, did they have to choose Cornwall? Being roughly five hours away, it isn’t as if I can give them immediate protection or attention if something happens.”

“But nothing will happen.” Greg reassures. “And Gregson is down there, too, with his small team; he’s a good bloke, it’ll be fine.”

Mycroft raises his gaze to stare at the end of the street, where the car has long since disappeared, but he likes to imagine he can still see it, out there is the busy streets. ‘It has to be fine.’ He thinks. ‘It has to be.’                                                                        


 

Much to John’s amusement, not even an hour into their journey and Sherlock is asleep, head slumped against John’s shoulder, the first book in his pile open in his lap. John chuckles very quietly and gently pulls the book out of Sherlock’s slack grip. He presses a light kiss to Sherlock’s head, and the turns his attention to the book Sherlock had been reading. Well, if he’s got a long journey ahead of him, then he might as well learn some culture.

Not even an hour after that, and John is also asleep, head resting against Sherlock’s.                                                                          


 

In the deep depths of a Government prison, Janine Moriarty sits, slumped against the wall of her cell. There are no windows down here, and she wonders if Mycroft Holmes is violating any of her human rights by not allowing her access to natural light. She shrugs; it doesn’t matter, she’ll get him back soon. She already has a plan. It’s been formulating for the past two weeks, her resolve hardens every time the image of her brother’s dead body swims to the surface of her brain, normally during rest and sleep, and she grits her teeth and holds her nerve and tells herself it will all be worth it in the end. She might not be necessarily proud of the actions she will take from a moral standpoint, she has always had more of an understanding of empathy than her brother ever did, but if Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes want to play dirty, then she will do so, too. They will sure as hell know about it soon.

Janine can’t wait to get her revenge.