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A Study in Blackmail

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“Major John Patrick Sheppard, United States Air Force, I presume?”

John managed to swallow his sip of whiskey and water before clenching his teeth in annoyance. He looked up from the worn wooden tabletop of the corner booth he occupied to see a man in a well-tailored three piece suit. John took another sip, saying nothing.

How did this stranger know his full name and rank?

John forced a barely civil smile, trying to give off the impression that he wanted this guy to piss off and leave him alone. He narrowed his gaze as he took in the man’s receding hairline and sallow, weasel-like face. He looked terribly out of place in this seedy dive bar in Colorado Springs.

“Who wants to know?”

The man smiled, but his eyes were empty of emotion. He had a snide and conniving look about him, and John already knew he wanted nothing to do with this person, whomever he might be.

“An interested party,” the man said, sliding into the booth. “Mind if I join you, Major? Or should I say, Lieutenant Colonel?”

John’s eyes went wide, but he quickly hid his surprise behind a neutral albeit annoyed gaze. This man knew his full name, his rank, and that he was on Earth...or rather, in town, for his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. How could anyone know that wasn’t part of SGC? He’d been in another galaxy for the past year and a half.

Rodney was supposed to meet him in about a half an hour. That was if he happened to be on time - Rodney had a keen sense of many things, but time didn’t seem to be one of them. Still, he didn’t want Rodney to walk in and see him drinking with a random stranger.

“I do mind, actually. Look, I don’t know who you are, or how you know who I am or why I’m here, but I think it would be best for both of us if you got up and left.”

The man tutted in disapproval and folded his hands in his lap. “Now, now Colonel. No need to be rude.”

John smirked. “That was me being polite.”

“If I buy you another drink, will you at least listen to what I have to say?”

John looked at his watch, then at his empty rocks glass. “Fine. You have roughly thirty minutes, Mister...?”

The man smiled even wider, an unsettling devilish sneer. “Holmes. Mycroft Holmes.”

John caught the bartender’s eye and signaled that he wanted a refill on his whiskey and water. After setting John’s new drink down, the bartender asked Mycroft if he wanted anything. Mycroft waved him off as if he were a pest.

John raised an eyebrow and took a sip. He knew he should probably cool it a little since Rodney hadn’t shown up yet. He’d switch over to beer at some point.

“I take it this isn’t your usual idea of a good time.”

Mycroft shrugged indifferently. “It’s no Diogenes Club, but it’s where I found you, so it will have to do.”

“And why exactly are you looking for me?”

“Colonel Sheppard -”

“Major,” John snapped.

“As I was saying,” Mycroft continued, his voice sharp with annoyance, “I have a proposition for you and your expedition.”

John had an amazing poker face, but that didn’t stop him from panicking on the inside. He was determined to keep his cool though, and continued smirking at Mycroft even though his stomach was doing backflips.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Let’s quit playing games, John.” Mycroft sat forward in his seat, but still carefully avoided touching the booth’s table. “Does the name Russel Chapman ring a bell for you?”

John shook his head. “Can’t say that it does.” At least that was something he could be honest about.

“Russel Chapman is the British representative of the International Oversight Advisory - the authority responsible for the funding, coordination, and oversight of the expedition you command.”

“I know what the IOA is,” John muttered. He’d heard Elizabeth speak of them in passing, and if he had understood her correctly, the IOA were nothing but a political thorn in Atlantis’s side. Still, they had to play by their rules in order for the Atlantis expedition to continue. John knew the IOA would probably become a bigger problem now that Atlantis had established a connection back to Earth, even if it was a 36 day round trip at FTL speeds on the Daedalus.

“I am also a representative of the British government. A rather more...unsavory representative.”

John rolled his eyes and took another gulp of whiskey. “Will you get to the point? I don’t have all night.”

“I deal in secrets, Major Sheppard. And I know just enough of Russel Chapman’s secrets to cause a problem within the IOA and maybe even Stargate Command, unless you grant me my request.”

John chuckled, partially in disbelief at the man’s wealth of classified information, and partially because Mycroft Holmes was nothing but a peddler of blackmail.

“What’s your request?”

Mycroft reached into his jacket and pulled out an envelope. He placed it on the table in front of John and his expression changed to reflect the barest hint of sadness.

“I know you’ve been away from the world, Major, so allow me to update you. My brother is well known throughout London as the world’s only consulting detective. He regularly deals with the police and civilians in solving crimes.”

John opened the envelope and found an assortment of cut-out newspaper articles. One of them featured a man wearing a deerstalker cap, the collar of his jacket turned up against what looked like a mob of reporters taking photographs. He looked through more of the articles, saw stories about a painting of Reichenbach Falls, a man named Moriarty, and -

John stopped when he got to the article about a man jumping off the roof of a place called Saint Barts. The same man who’d been wearing the deerstalker cap. The man that was probably Mycroft’s brother.

He turned over the article and showed the headline to Mycroft. “Is this him?”

Anger flashed in Mycroft’s eyes and John saw the muscles in his face twitch and stiffen in an attempt to maintain his composure.

“Keep reading, Major,” Mycroft seethed through gritted teeth.

John put the suicide article down onto the table and looked at the next one. He was instantly caught off guard by the garish colors and loud headlines of tabloid journalism.

CONSULTING DETECTIVE SHERLOCK HOLMES FAKES INFAMOUS JUMP FROM ST. BARTS ROOFTOP!

John was so flabbergasted by the words that he actually started to read bits and pieces from the article. The name Moriarty was mentioned again, along with another name he thought he’d seen before but hadn’t paid much mind to - Dr. John Watson.

John looked back up at Mycroft and took a big gulp of whiskey. “Do you mind giving me the Reader’s Digest version of this?”

Mycroft raised an eyebrow and cocked his head slightly to the side, but said nothing.

“The Sparknotes?”

Mycroft still said nothing, and continued looking both confused and annoyed.

“The short version. Speed this up.”

“Right. I’ll be brief then. My brother Sherlock faked his death a little over three years ago in order to catch a criminal mastermind named James Moriarty who was terrorizing London. Sherlock then went into hiding and traveled around the world, putting his skills to good use for anyone who needed them. After three years, I asked him to return from his exile to help me bring a new criminal mastermind to justice. His name was Charles Augustus Magnussen.”

John continued to skim through the remaining articles while Mycroft spoke, seeing a few articles about important political figures being blackmailed all over London. The last article’s headline read:

CHARLES MAGNUSSEN KILLED IN HIS OWN HOME!

“Who killed him?” John asked, and even after all the whiskey, he was fairly certain he knew what the answer was.

“Sherlock killed him.”

“That seems strange,” John began. “The other article about that Moriarty guy said that his wound was self-inflicted. Is this the only time -”

“Yes,” Mycroft answered curtly.

John downed the rest of his whiskey and gently placed the glass back on the table.

“You’re requesting that Sherlock be allowed to join my expedition, is that it?”

“They said you were smarter than you looked.”

John put his forearms on the table and leaned forward. “And how is it exactly that Sherlock Holmes isn’t going to serve time in prison for killing a man?”

“I told you already. I know secrets. I know which strings to pull in order to get Sherlock out of the hands of the authorities and into the hands of someone who could use a genius civilian on their staff. Russel seemed quite accommodating. And besides, you’re no stranger to doing the right thing at the wrong place and time, are you?”

John narrowed his gaze. He wasn’t enjoying discovering just how much information Mycroft had on him. “Even if I said yes, what use would he be to the expedition?”

Mycroft smiled. “Oh, I’m sure you could find something to occupy him.”

A bell chimed, and both John and Mycroft looked in the direction of the sound. A dark haired man in a long trench coat swept into the bar, spotted Mycroft, and quickly made his way over to their booth.

It was Sherlock Holmes. He proceeded to sit down in the booth across from Mycroft.

John Sheppard was now officially surrounded by the Holmes brothers.

“I thought I told you to wait outside,” Mycroft whispered, his voice trying to give off a commanding air but instead sounding petulant.

“Bored,” Sherlock muttered, shrugging. “Has he said yes, yet?”

Mycroft took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “We were just getting to that.”

The bell chimed again. This time, it was Rodney McKay who walked in, and John could see him looking around warily. After a few seconds, their gazes locked and Rodney’s eyes grew wide. He approached the corner booth slowly.

“Is this a bad time?” Rodney asked, and John could tell that he was seething under his somewhat calm demeanor. Rodney’s blue eyes darted back and forth between Mycroft and Sherlock and then looked back at John, waiting for an answer.

“No, Rodney. Perfect timing. You’re only...” John looked at his watch, “...five minutes late.”

“Well, I didn’t expect you to have company.”

John looked at Sherlock pointedly. “Do you mind?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes and stood up and out of Rodney’s way. Rodney smirked at Sherlock and sat down in the booth, scooting closer to John and giving Sherlock room to sit back down.

“So, who are these people?” Rodney asked, very obviously pretending as if Mycroft and Sherlock weren’t there or couldn’t hear him.

“Well, this guy -” John pointed to Mycroft, “ - is this guy’s brother.”  He pointed to Sherlock. “And they both want him - “ he gestured again at Sherlock - “to go back to the expedition with us.” John gestured at himself and then at Rodney.

Rodney stared at him in disbelief. “How much have you had to drink?”

John tried to casually hide his empty rocks glass. “A little bit.”

Sherlock sighed loudly. “Just shut up and say yes already. I assure you I will prove to be an invaluable member of your staff, especially compared to the likes of you both.”

Rodney scoffed. “Excuse me? I’ll have you know -”

Sherlock looked Rodney dead in the eye. “Judging by your flair for the dramatic, I’d say you were a failed actor and/or musician who turned to science as a last resort. You feel the need to prove yourself at any given moment, even if that means doing something you don’t like or don’t want to do. You obviously have deeper feelings for your companion here judging by how close you’re sitting next to him and how jealous you were when you came in to find him joined by two, excuse me, one, singular attractive man. And you have a serious allergy to citrus.”

Rodney stared at Sherlock, his mouth agape in shock. He cleared his throat and scooted an inch or so away from John, as if trying to prove a point. “How on earth do you know about my citrus allergy?”

Sherlock raised his eyebrows and pointed to Rodney’s medical ID bracelet. On the visible side of the bracelet, there was a tiny lemon sticker that Rodney had stuck on.

Rodney sighed and raised his hand in an attempt to signal the bartender. “Drinks. Please.”

The bartender came over and Rodney ordered a beer for himself, and one for John after John gave him puppy dog eyes. Mycroft and Sherlock ordered nothing.

They all sat in awkward silence.

“Major, do we have an agreement?” Mycroft asked, with an air of finality.

John shrugged. “Honestly, it’s not entirely up to me.”

Mycroft nodded. “I assumed as much.”

John’s phone buzzed in his pocket.

“You might want to get that.”

John pulled his phone out and saw he had a text message from Elizabeth.

I’ve been cornered by Russel Chapman from the IOA. He keeps telling me there’s a civilian detective that we need to take back to Atlantis or else he may have to convince the IOA to pull resources.

John quickly typed out a reply. Rodney and I are with him right now. His brother works for the British government and seems to have dirt on Chapman.

His phone buzzed again. What do you think?

John set his phone down and took a long pull from his beer bottle. “Sherlock, I have one question for you.”

Rodney huffed. “Just one question?”

John picked up the last article, the one about Magnussen’s untimely death. He held it up for Sherlock to see.

“Why?”

Sherlock’s face became steely, but his icy blue eyes betrayed a deep sadness that lay somewhere inside of him.

“To protect someone I love.”

John nodded, glanced over at Rodney and looked away just as quickly. That was something John could understand. He’d been in that position once.

He was still in that position every time Rodney opened his mouth offworld.

Rodney snatched the article out of John’s hand and began reading it over. John picked his phone up and began texting Elizabeth back.

I say we bring him on for now. Nothing says he needs to be stationed permanently at Atlantis. Tell Russel we’re doing him a favor.

Elizabeth responded quickly. Okay. He’s your responsibility...Colonel.

Nope. I am officially delegating that to the Chief Science Officer.

John sat his phone down on the table and stretched his limbs, his arm casually settling on the back of the booth and behind Rodney’s shoulders.

“Okay, Mister Sherlock Holmes. You’ve been granted a spot on our expedition. Try not to screw it up.”

“Excellent,” Mycroft said, a look of relief passing over his face before being replaced by a mask of smugness. “I’ll arrange everything with Russel then. Good night, Major.”

Mycroft abruptly stood up and began walking toward the door. It was only when Mycroft reached the door that he noticed Sherlock wasn’t following him. He cleared his throat.

Sherlock waved him off, and Mycroft stormed out.

“So,” Rodney began, the volume of his voice now untethered by alcohol, “what do you know about astrophysics?”

Sherlock shrugged.

Rodney rolled his eyes. “Okay, how about space?

“I know enough.” Sherlock’s eyes were glued to his phone.

“Wonderful. Absolutely terrific. Because why consult the Chief Science Officer about anything at all?” He shot a heated look at John.

Sherlock still sat in his seat, his eyes growing wide. John could see Sherlock’s phone gently vibrating in his hands.

“Don’t you want to get that? In private?”

Sherlock nodded but said nothing.

Rodney looked over Sherlock’s shoulder. “Yeah, I’m sure this John Watson person really wants to talk to you. With no one around.”

Sherlock still hadn't moved. He finally answered his phone.

“John?”

John recognized the look on Sherlock’s face and for the first time, felt sympathy towards him. Sherlock got up from their table and swept out of the bar in the exact same manner in which he had swept in.

Rodney turned toward John. “Are you actually kidding me?”

John shrugged and polished off his beer. “I’ve never really been fond of politics. Anyway, if he causes problems, we’ll just ship him back on the Daedalus. And Russel Chapman can go right to hell with him.” He gently nudged Rodney in the ribs. “Sorry about this. That Mycroft guy ambushed me out of nowhere.”

Rodney chuckled. “What kind of name is Mycroft, anyway? Or Sherlock?”

“I don’t know, Meredith.” Now that the potential threat had dispersed, he could feel the alcohol burning in his veins, the flush in his cheeks, how easy it was to rub his thumb along the back of Rodney’s neck. “Was he right?”

“Was who right about what?” Rodney stammered.

“Was Sherlock right about your deeper feelings?”

Rodney blushed and looked away. “I guess we’ll just have to see how things play out...Colonel.”

“Not a Colonel until tomorrow,” John mumbled and scooted closer to Rodney, their thighs touching.

Rodney took a deep breath and looked back at John. “Is that an invitation? If so, we should probably pay our tab and remove ourselves from public view.”

“Why’s that?” John breathed.

“Because we are definitely idiots.”

Later that night, as John fell asleep in Rodney’s naked embrace, he wondered if Mycroft really understood what he’d requested, and if Sherlock got the chance to say goodbye to Dr. John Watson.