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“Why are you in Paris again?” Mycroft snapped down the phone as Sherlock lay on the sofa in the hotel's penthouse suite, a bottle of expensive wine next to him on the floor and a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower out the window.

“They have better croissants here than Tesco and you know how I hate to go to the supermarket and deal with the self check-out.”

Mycroft sighed heavily down the phone in obvious irritation and Sherlock rolled his eyes, gripping the mobile to his ear. “You could have asked any of the staff to go and get you some croissants instead of flying to a different country.”

“This conversation is boring me, Mycroft.”

“Fine. I know why you've gone and it won't help. Mummy is incredibly motivated to get you settled down. You have enough wealth and status to attract only the best sort of people, Sherlock. Maybe marrying or at least meeting someone new would help. I hear Jackson Levinson would be interested.”

“Levinson is American, all oil money and judging by the amount of luxury yachts he buys, clearly trying to over-compensate for his small penis.”

Mycroft let out another sigh. “Come home and we will throw a lavish affair and you can meet a lot of prospective men and women who would enjoy your company.”

Sherlock snorted and looked at his nails on his free hand. “Nobody enjoys my company.”

“Considering the world's population, there must be one person who can bear to be around you.”

“What if that person is a hairdresser on minimum wage?” Sherlock asked innocently, hoping to provoke his brother.

There was a long pause on the end of the phone and Sherlock smirked, counting it as a win.

“We will expect to see you tomorrow morning at the latest. Don't make me come and get you.” The line went dead and Sherlock stared at the blinking 'Call Ended' on the phone screen before throwing it on the floor where it bounced on the soft, luxurious carpet. His fingers wrapped around the neck of the wine bottle and he lifted it to his lips, taking a long swig, before lowering it and looking around the large suite, feeling completely and utterly alone.

Sherlock swanned into the main Holmes residence which sat in the leafy suburbs of London, ignoring the staff that flurried around him, taking his coat off him and folding his scarf carefully. He strolled through the large corridors before pushing a large pair of double doors open and walking into the second sitting room. His mother and Mycroft were sat on one of the sofas by the windows, drinking tea and softly talking to one another.

“Sherlock,” his mother said, a smile widening her mouth as she gently set the teacup down with her perfectly manicured hands and stood up, adjusting her cream pencil skirt. “How was Paris?”

“Fine. No doubt you got the bill,” Sherlock said, shoving one hand in the pocket of his trousers and glancing at Mycroft with a smirk.

“Why you needed another four outfits is beyond me,” Mycroft said pointedly, looking at the new purple shirt his brother wore and perfectly tailored black trousers.

“Shopping stops me from noticing how dull the world is. I was thinking of getting another car. Thoughts?” Sherlock stated, raising a challenging eyebrow at Mycroft.

“Stop baiting your brother, Sherlock. If you want another car, perhaps you could actually use the three you already have first.”

“Tedious,” Sherlock said, collapsing onto the sofa opposite them, his long legs stretching out across the seat.

His mother cleared her throat and smiled indulgently at her youngest son. “Now you're here, maybe we could discuss your future a little. You're twenty five which is a good age to start meeting some powerful people and making good connections to further our family's reach. You're so lonely, Sherlock. A nice girl on your arm would help surely?” Sherlock snorted and stared at the ceiling, not being able to think of anything worse than a boring, stupid woman who's only on his arm due to his wealth. “May I remind you that you do vaguely approve of Mycroft's wife Anthea. Perhaps they'll be another woman or man out there like that.”

“Yes, being partnered with someone I vaguely approve of for the rest of my life sounds wonderful,” Sherlock drawled sarcastically.

“Mycroft and I have put together a folder of possible matches we deem... appropriate for you.”

“Any hairdressers in there?” Sherlock shot at Mycroft. Mycroft just hardened his gaze, not willing to play Sherlock's game.

“Hairdressers? Oh heavens no. Can't have a Holmes marrying someone of that sort,” his mother said, shaking her head with a look like the very thought offended her. “Now, I have my favourites of course, but the decision is yours. We're going to throw such a big event for you my darling and you can have your pick.”

He watched wearily as his mother picked up an light blue folder and walked over to him, holding it out. Sherlock snatched it off her and turned so he was sitting straight on the sofa before opening the folder and flicking through the various pictures and profiles.

“Easy to tell who you want.”

“Jackson Levinson is perfect for you. He leads the same lifestyle as you and looks to be very attractive,” his mother tried, eyes lighting up hopefully as Sherlock lifted his pinky finger and wiggled it at Mycroft pointedly. His mother carried on, ignoring him. “If not, there's a few more people in there that would also be good. Maria Marcus is the heir to several five star hotel chains and I think her father owns half of a country, but I can never remember which country.”

Sherlock shut the folder with a snap. “I have no intention of marrying anyone. As you are well aware.”

His mother gave an anxious sigh and fiddled with her pearls around her neck, glancing at Mycroft for help.

“This is not your choice to make, especially if you want to remain in the lifestyle you've become accustomed to,” Mycroft started, a threatening edge to his voice. Sherlock knew that Mycroft would cut him off financially without a second thought. “There is no reason this has to be an ordeal or change your life in any way. You can continue to do what you do now and if you marry well they'll most likely leave you alone. It's a business arrangement, Sherlock,” Mycroft said calmly. Sherlock huffed.

“It would be nice if you could at least like this person though. Maybe go on trips to Paris together,” his mother tried, eyes hopeful.

Sherlock stood up, the folder forgotten next to him. “I'm going.”

“Where?” Mycroft snapped.

“I hear Antarctica is beautiful this time of year,” Sherlock said, adjusting his shirt and shooting a look at them.

“This event will be in two weeks. By all means enjoy Antarctica but Sherlock, I will personally drug you and bring you back here myself if I have to. Don't make me,” Mycroft threatened, eyes dark and dangerous.

Sherlock stuck up his chin and walked out of the room and down the corridor where he passed Anthea. “Off somewhere nice?” she asked.

Sherlock whirled around to look at her. She was dressed impeccably and stood tall even though her face was focused on the phone she constantly had in her hands. She was a CEO of a major corporation abroad and took no prisoners which was why Sherlock actually tolerated her to an extent. Mycroft had thought Christmas and all of the food that came with it had come early when he had been introduced to her at a small cocktail party in Chelsea. She refused to be at all flattered or won over by him which Mycroft took as a challenge which he then won. They were engaged three months after they met and six months after that they were married and Mycroft had become even more powerful.

“You could do better than my brother.”

“Uh huh,” she replied, still tapping away on her phone before looking up with a small smile. “Like you? Although, you're not really a ladies man, are you?”

Sherlock folded his arms over his chest, flicking his head back to get his black curls away from his eyes. “Was than a thinly veiled hint to my homosexuality?”

“Take it however you want,” she said giving him another brief look before going back to her phone and wandering slowly toward where Sherlock had just come from, probably to see Mycroft.

Sherlock walked toward the main entrance where a butler moved to put his long coat on him and wrap his royal blue scarf around his neck. Sherlock strode outside and stared at the well landscaped gardens and grounds that surrounded the large house.

“Bored,” he muttered under his breath before shoving his hand in his coat pocket and retrieving his Aston Martin car keys.

He drove to Baker Street at a speed that would have gotten him arrested if not for the fact his brother practically owned the government and so the police often chose to look the other way from such things like Sherlock going fifty in a thirty area. He drew up to the kerb by his town house, shutting the engine off and jumping out the car. His town house was large and the only place he could make a mess and shoot the walls without anyone annoying him. It was his haven.

He strode up the small steps and opened the set of double doors, walking into the spacious main lobby.

“Sherlock! How was Paris?”

Sherlock turned toward the voice and saw his housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, walking toward him with a yellow duster in her hands.

“Boring.”

She looked at him critically. “Have you eaten young man?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes. “I'm going upstairs. Don't disturb me.” Mrs Hudson gave a small tut but left him to it.

He took the stairs two at a time and walked into the main living area which was bright and airy and smelled of antibacterial spray. He wrinkled his nose as he walked into the kitchen, checking that none of his experiments had been disturbed.

He glanced at his post sitting on the table but ignored it in favour of taking off his coat and collapsing onto the sofa, stretching himself out and propping his fingers underneath his chin in thought.

….

“You look beautiful,” his mother said two weeks later as she faffed and moved about his body, making sure he looked perfect as he stood in the middle of his bedroom at his mother's house, one hand clutching a glass of champagne as he was dressed and fiddled with like a prize pony.

“He does,” said one of their staff who was moving a lint roller down the side of his trousers.

“Does your wife know you have a gambling problem?” Sherlock muttered casually to him and the lint roller stopped in his tracks.

“Sherlock, stop it. We have rules about making observations about the staff. And perhaps tonight you can try and not break up any marriages or uncover any major scandals. This night should be about you networking and meeting a potential wife or husband. Do you know that every single person we invited is coming? Everyone is so excited. You're the last unattached Holmes left-”

“Can you stop your endless blathering, Mother,” Sherlock snapped, taking a sip from his glass and feeling the expensive champagne slide down his throat.

“Don't be rude. This is a big occasion and you need to live up to the Holmes name.”

“I'll be sure to mention my millions and where we have homes abroad in every conversation,” Sherlock said dryly, picking a bit of fluff off his suit jacket and throwing the man who'd supposed to have gotten rid of it all a look like he was dirt under his finger nails. His mother rolled her eyes and turned, leaving the room quietly to get ready herself. He continued to be prodded and turned to ensure he looked respectable. He knew what he looked like and he was generally seen as the far more attractive brother but then Mycroft had the power and connections that meant most eligible women used to flock to him first. And then Mycroft got married and suddenly Sherlock became everyone's favourite.

Sherlock stared blankly at his reflection in the large mirror at one end of the room, wishing that the night was already over.

“OK, you will stick with the current rotations. No deviations at all. Do not attempt conversation with any of the guests. You're here to work, not become best buddies with these people. If I catch any of you mingling or chit chatting away with guests, you will be sent home immediately. If a guest asks for something directly, do not carry on your rotation but fulfil their request straight away. Does anyone have any questions?”

John Watson listened intently as he leant back against one of the large cookers in the middle of the industrial sized kitchen, chefs already in the middle of making hors d'oeuvres as his supervisor talked to them about their duties for the evening as waiters. He looked around casually at the other waiting staff who he was working with for the night and felt decidedly out of place as he tried to hide his limp from any of his supervisors by using the cooker to stabilise himself. The only reason he had taken the job was because money was tight on an army pension and his friend Mike had set him up with it as a favour and told him he'd earn a large amount of money just to hand out food to posh gits all night. Easy money.

“Right, Watson and Barks, go over there to see what food you will be handing around. Ask the chefs any questions you have quickly as no doubt guests may ask about what you have on offer. Go.”

John pushed himself away from the cooker and walked as steadily as he could over to the large preparation area where silver trays sat, each with food being carefully placed on it in different, intricate patterns.

“Looks nice,” John remarked as one of the sous chefs leaned over one of the trays and did something fiddly to ensure the mouthful of food looked perfect. She cast him an annoyed glance like he was putting her off. He just put up his hands and backed away, waiting to be told when to start.

He was already looking forward to the night being over.

- - -

The ballroom at the Holmes residence in London was incredibly large and had white doors running the length of the large room which all opened to a large balcony area with soft chairs and candles for guests to spread out onto. For the event there were a lot of flowers and the floor was so shiny you could use it as a mirror. The whole room buzzed as guests mingled and moved around, chatting away loudly.

Sherlock felt uneasy as Mycroft pulled him through all the various politicians and heirs, all of them looking at him with a predatory gaze like Sherlock was their next meal.

“Jackson,” Mycroft said with a smile, pulling Sherlock to stand next to him stiffly. Jackson Levinson greeted them with a well crafted smile that displayed perfectly straight, white teeth. Sherlock looked him up and down, taking in his thick blond hair and blue eyes that held a smug expression, like he thought he was the best person in the room. Sherlock knew different.

“Mycroft. You're looking well,” Jackson said, clasping Mycroft's hand warmly. “And Sherlock, it is an absolute honour to meet you.” Sherlock stood in shock as Jackson leaned forward and pulled him close in a tight hug like they'd known each other years. Sherlock's eyes widened in annoyance when he felt a hand sliding down to graze against his
bum.

Sherlock adjusted his clothing with a glare once Jackson had pulled away. “No.” Sherlock turned and strolled off, ignoring Mycroft hissing after him to come back and then loudly apologising to Jackson for his behaviour.

Sherlock moved through the crowd like he was on a mission, hoping it would dissuade people from trying to intercept him and make conversation. It worked for precisely 6.8 seconds.

“Hi, I'm Stephanie,” a tall, blonde woman said, putting her hand on his arm and smiling brightly at him. He looked at her, assessing her expensive red dress and the way she held herself.

“Socialite. Three lovers currently on the go but you did have four. I wonder why you got rid of the fourth. Ah. STI scare? Bingo. I'd rather remain free of sexual disease and my mother would murder me before I got a chance to kill myself if I lowered myself to even consider a socialite. Goodbye.” Sherlock walked off, grabbing a flute of champagne and downing it quickly, hoping it'd give him a buzz to carry on the evening without maiming anyone.

He dodged a few more people trying to introduce themselves and moved onto the balcony, breathing in the night air and quickly going to the small alcove at one end, pleased to find it was empty. He was pretty much hidden from anyone who came his way on the balcony so he immediately sat down on one of the plush chairs, staring out over the gardens, lit up with lanterns.

John was more than intimidated by the event, moving around several people he actually recognised as being incredibly high up in the government of several countries. He moved back into the kitchen, his silver tray empty of food and saw one of the other waitresses standing by the line of trays.

“I'm John,” he said, eyeing her quickly up and down.

She turned to him, her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. “Sarah. How you finding it? Pretty beautiful setting.”

“It's... spectacular. People have way too much money.” He placed the tray on the metal table and waited for the next tray to be complete so he could take it out.

“These people certainly do. Apparently this whole thing is because this powerful family want to marry off their youngest son or something. They must be incredibly desperate to spend this kind of money and throw this kind of event just to settle him down.”

John's eyebrows rose. “All this for some guy to meet someone? He must be incredibly ugly or just really rich.”

“Very, very rich. I don't even think I've seen him tonight. He's probably hiding in a closet from all the gold diggers.”

“Who is he?”

“Sherlock Holmes. You've probably read about his brother in the news at some point. His brother is Mycroft Holmes and he's married to some billionaire CEO.”

John nodded. “Yeah, the name Mycroft rings a bell.”

“Tray Watson,” one of the chefs snapped, shooting him a glare and nudging a full tray of canapés his way. “Less gossiping, more working.”

John rolled his eyes and gave Sarah a small smile. He picked up the tray and felt his leg give a slight wobble but managed to keep the tray steady. He walked through the main kitchen doors and down the large hallway and into the ballroom where the murmuring was loud and it was clear people were getting more drunk. He'd just walked a few steps forward when he felt his leg give a sharp stab of pain and it jarred. He gave a small shout as he toppled forward, the tray of canapés clattering to the floor loudly as people around him stared at him in horror and disgust.

His supervisor was on him immediately, grabbing his arm roughly and hauling him out of the main ballroom and back down toward the kitchen.

“What the bloody hell was that? You created a scene and drew attention to yourself. Get your shit together or I will send you home. Take five minutes and then be back in the ballroom. Understood?”

John nodded, one hand on his thigh as the pain ebbed. His supervisor gave a shake of his head and strode off toward the kitchen, muttering under his breath about hopeless staff.

He gave a loud sigh in the empty hallway and walked toward one of the empty sitting rooms which wasn't being used for the event. He noticed an open door at the end that led onto a balcony and decided getting a bit of fresh air would be a good idea. He saw that one end of the balcony, the much larger end, was where guests were milling about in their evening wear, no doubt comparing the size of their yachts. John went in the opposite direction and noticed a small hidden alcove with a few chairs. He limped toward the area, hand still rubbing at his leg, trying to ease the throbbing.

He turned into the alcove but stopped short when he saw somebody already there.