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The Annual Psychological Assesment of Mycroft Holmes.

Chapter Text

From the personal records of Emma Chilton. BSc. MSc. CPsych.

Twelve years I had worked as a psychologist for Her Majesty’s Government, assessing the mental wellbeing of politicians, police, military intelligence agents etc. Twelve years of secrets that (if I hadn’t signed the Official Secrets Act) would have had me running to the papers.

All public sector staff must undergo psychological assessment annually, my task was to check their stress levels, their relationship status (new relationships needed to be checked out, affairs, divorce etc could leave an asset vulnerable), their emotional stability, morale etc.

This was the 14th assessment I had done that week for MI5/6 and it was to be the last. I had read all the files beforehand and this one was intriguing. No job title was included - which was strange as I had open access security to all files and all levels - and there was no accompanying photograph. I had interviewed the head of MI5 herself and had access to a photo...who was this person that their identity was protected even more than (for want of a better title) M?

The file said Alexander Mycroft Holmes. Known as Mycroft. Wow, there was a name to get you beaten up in the playground. Why would someone choose to be known as Mycroft rather than Alex? That was already rather telling. However incorrect the assumption, names conjure an impression of a person, and ‘Mycroft’ was conjuring nothing more exciting than tax accounts, Eastbourne in February and beige knitwear.
‘Not a good start’ I thought.

Reading on...male, 48yrs, unattached (currently and historically) highest level access, educated Cambridge, IQ 180 plus, car, helicopter and light aircraft licence, speaks 12 plus languages, keen runner, allergic to strawberries.

So, an extraordinarily clever, single, successful hyperpolyglot who can pilot a plane...might be James Bond after all. There was a scribbled post-it stuck on this page, probably from a previous psychologist, which read

'Definite intimacy issues and possible issues around food. NFA'.

Bond with an eating disorder? This may be a more interesting hour than the last 13 I had sat through after all. NFA though? Why No Further Action? Why identify a problem, choose to ignore it, and then add an ‘off the record’ note advertising your possible professional misconduct in not taking it further? Most odd.

'Please be interesting', I internally begged the file in front of me. 'One more boring, self-satisfied Old Etonian with a drink problem whose partner doesn't understand them, and I may just resign'.

I pressed the buzzer to indicate Mr Holmes could enter the secure room at Thames House (MI5’s ‘official’ London HQ where I was borrowing some space for these sessions). The room was windowless and soundproofed, I had been assured it was bug free, but I wasn’t entirely convinced. Someone has to ‘watch the watchers’ - that was my job…but someone had to be watching me watch, right? ‘Best not think about it’ I decided.

The door opened and I braced myself for another downtrodden shell of a human being to enter the room. I fixed my most 'professionally welcoming smile' on my face and waited for James Bond to morph into Mr Bean...but I was entirely mistaken.

A man stood framed in the doorway, paused there for a second, assessing the room, then entered and closed the door. Old style umbrella in hand, he strode confidently into the room and sat in the empty chair without waiting to be asked. Most who entered this room did so sheepishly or anxiously (what were they going to have to reveal? what did I already know?) but Mr Holmes looked for all the world as if he were here to interview me.

He was tall, with perfect posture, and his trim physique looked (even encased in a stunning three-piece suit), at least ten years younger than his 48yrs. There was not a hint of middle-aged spread, no slouch, and as he moved he had...grace, that was the only word for it.

He sat, still holding the brolly, and met my eye coolly. Most of my clients looked at me apprehensively when we first met, but Mr Holmes looked at me with steely grey eyes that were not bored exactly, more resigned to the fact of his attendance.

[Psychologists are not popular in the secret service, we are considered a waste of time by busy assets who are always in the middle of something urgent when the time comes for their assessment.
Why waste precious hours talking about their feelings when there was a terror threat in progress right now or an informant on the phone with vital information to convey? 
I sympathised of course, there was no 'down time' in their world, it was a constant barrage of terror plots, spy networks, cyber hacking etc but their attendance was non negotiable.
This meant my clients were often defensive and uncooperative in these sessions, not to mention the fact that I would ask them about things most would not share with their closest friends but that they were compelled to share with me.
So I was relieved to see in these striking, clear and intelligent eyes a willingness to acquiesce to the process, if only to get it over with].

Taking in the very expensive and perfectly tailored grey suit, the sumptuously red tie and the undoubtedly bespoke Oxfords at the end of his long legs, he looked very impressive.
His hair was brown but in the artificial light it shimmered with red tones. He was...beautiful.
I surprised myself with the thought, I didn't usually make personal judgements about the people in my care, they were just faces, but this man…it was as if he were in a spotlight or he was a saint from a medieval painting, he…shone.
In an attempt to regain objectivity, I tried to find fault with his face...one of his ears stuck out further than the other, his nose was large, his hair receding, and yet these supposed imperfections came together in his face perfectly. There was no escaping it, he was quite the most handsome man I had ever seen.

I unconsciously picked up a biro off my desk and put it in my mouth. I tore my eyes away before he could notice I was staring and instead looked at his file.

(Ok, get it together, you have a job to do).
I glanced up to see him still looking at me with an authoritative, controlled look. I made to speak but realised I still had the pen in my mouth (honestly Emma, bit of a giveaway of your thought processes that). I removed it and twiddled it between my fingers instead.

“Good morning Mr Holmes, it can’t be raining, can it?”
I gestured to the umbrella.
“Good morning. No, why? Oh this”.

His voice was the icing on the cake. It was indescribably attractive. It was soft and warm despite its owners attempts to make it sound aloof and sharp. His spoke what people used to call 'the Queen’s English’ - precise, well spoken, obviously 'home counties', it was like listening to music, quiet, heavenly music. I was immediately glad I was recording this session.
He fingered the handle of the umbrella thoughtfully.

“It may rain later”.
I glanced out of the window at the blazing sunshine. He saw the look and clarified
“I like to have it… just in case”.

A security umbrella? That was a new one on me.

“So, Mr Holmes, thank you for making the time to join me today”.
He nodded his head but said nothing.
“I'm sure you know why we are here” (again a nod) “so I think we can skip the preamble and begin the session, ok?”
At this he shifted in his chair and seating his elbows on the arms of the chair he put his hands together and rested his index fingers on the just visible cleft of his chin in an 'I'm ready’ sort of way.
Then I saw it…he was wearing a ring. I mentally re-read his file at speed…no marriage on file, present or past. Maybe this was a new occurrence?

I dived straight in with my first question...

“How has your year been Mr Holmes?”

He replied with no hesitation nor anxiety, but with a relaxed tone and natural speed which was uncommon in these meetings...he was not easy to ruffle apparently.

“Eventful”.
“Care to elaborate?”
“You know I cannot”.
“I can assure you I have security clearance to hear anything you may need to share with me”.
“I doubt that”.

I sighed inwardly. So he was going to appear to be co-operative but actually be quietly obstructive to the process. I didn't have the energy for this today.

“Did any of your work this year leave you feeling stressed or worried? “
“Yes, all of it. Nature of the beast I am afraid. Next question”.
“Anything specific you would like to discuss? “
His tongue was, for a second, just visible skirting the line of his mouth and then disappeared from sight. I let it go this time, but I would make a note if he did it again.
“No”.

He had a slightly smug, condescending look on his face now, he was enjoying trying to derail our session by saying so little, confident that he could bend this meeting to his own end...which was finishing as early as possible I imagined. But tough, I had a job to do too. Ok different tack...

“I understand you were involved with the assassination of General Ho-chomski a few months ago”.
“Involved yes, but you make it sound as if I killed him. “
“Sorry, I just meant, you were involved in the official visit and the resulting investigation”.
“Yes”.
“I understand you pretty much caught the assassin and the power behind it single handed, the same day wasn't it? “
“Well, I wasn't involved in the…legwork, but yes, if you like. I was able to deduce who had done it, how and why. “
“That's very impressive Mr Holmes”. (Powerful men tend to like a spot of flattery).
“Not at all, it was all quite tediously obvious. May we move on?”

He shifted in his chair. Was he embarrassed? There did seem to be a pink sheen to his pale, slightly freckled skin that wasn't there a minute ago.

“Does it bother you…to be praised?”
His eyes narrowed.
“No, but I do not seek it the way my broth…the way others do. It is not my motivation. I prefer criticism to praise, that is feedback one can work with, can use to improve, to develop, to…”
He didn’t say ‘perfect’, he didn’t have to. I made a mental note ‘perfectionist, possibly to the point of persecution’.

“After the investigation, you and the others who were present at the shooting were offered counselling services and compassionate leave...you took neither. Why was that?”
“I didn't need it”.
“You weren't affected by it?”
“No”.
“You weren't affected by the General being shot through the head at your table in the middle of the fish course?”
“Well, I didn't eat salmon for quite a while afterwards if that's what you mean”.

He was being flippant, but his right hand had balled into a fist and he was refusing to meet my eye for the first time.

“It must have been very distressing”.
Silence.
“You have not been a field agent for many years have you Mr Holmes? You are no longer used to this side of the profession. It must have been difficult to watch him die in front of you?” I probed.
“Yes”. His voice was quiet.
“Why didn't you accept help when it was offered?”

Now his voice raised a little with irritation and he looked me directly in the eyes again.

“There was nothing a counsellor or a week at home could fix. I am the best judge of what I need, what I do not need are imbeciles pussyfooting around me asking me how I am feeling or wanting me to write a diary, like John”.
“John? “
“No one. Just a friend of my brothers. He was in Afghanistan and his therapist advised him to keep a journal. Utter nonsense, I have read it, half of it is nothing more than fantasy”.
“Does it help him? “
He paused, then sighed and said
“Fine, yes, I believe it does”.
“If you feel” (no not feel, read the room Emma) “If you think you might benefit from someone to talk to, or just some ideas to help you deal with these things when they arise, I am quite happy to meet with you and discuss anything you want”.
“Thank you, that's very kind, but unnecessary I assure you. “

Ok. Move on...

“It says here you are currently unattached, is that information still up to date? “
“I am not in a relationship if that's what you are asking”.
I glanced at the ring without meaning to. He saw me look.
“Not even anything casual?”
“Casual isn’t really my area”.
“When was the last time you had someone to share your spare time with?”
“I don't have spare time”.

I waited, long enough for him to begin to feel uncomfortable with the silence and fill it...I was surprised such an elementary trick worked on him.

“I tend not to involve myself with...other people.
Why?”
“It's easier not having to worry about anyone else”.
“Why would you worry about them? “
“My work takes up all my time, apparently people like to spend time together..”.
Apparently?
“…It could cause conflict. Plus, this work can be dangerous, having significant others just makes them a target, their safety is a distraction”.
“But you have family, right? A…” (I checked my notes) “brother, a sister. Don't you worry about them?”
Mycroft scoffed.
“They can look after themselves” (he frowned) “for the most part. My brother has people who look out for him and my sister..”. (he paused) “...well, let's just say anyone thinking of going after her would be making a significant error of judgement. Besides, I find people in general to be hard work. I try not to bother with them”.
“Hard work how exactly, Mr Holmes? “

He sighed again.

“They are short sighted, emotional, unable to grasp simple concepts, they are without”.
“Without...? “
“Exactly. Without. I have neither the time nor the inclination to babysit”.
“You consider other people to be like children? “
“If you like”.
“So you don't…date?”
“No”.
“At all?”
“No”.

I took a deep breath. Nobody ever liked my next question…

“I have to ask Mr Holmes, and please remember everything said in here is completely confidential...but...you have never been married, you have not had a significant relationship at all according to your file, and you don't date. I must ask Mr Holmes (and for security reasons it is vital that you respond truthfully) ...do you pay for sex? “

It wasn't as unreasonable a question as it sounded, under the circumstances. High pressure job, little time, single, it was hardly uncommon in his line of work and, if this was the case with Mr Holmes, my job was not to judge but to assess whether this was behaviour that could be discovered and manipulated by...unfriendly sources. Nothing in Mr Holmes life should be free from scrutiny, that was the nature of these assessments...find their secrets and deal with them before they became a problem for the individual or for the nation. To my surprise, unlike most clients he did not put on a pretence of offence or shock, he just gave a resolute answer.
“No”.

In any other job, asking my next question would be very unprofessional, if not illegal. But here, nothing was off limits and whenever someone deliberately avoided a question, that is a good enough reason to probe for more information. Besides, I really wanted to know...

“According to your diversity questionnaire, under 'sexual orientation' you have ticked 'prefer not to say'. Why is that? “
“Because I prefer not to say”.
“You understand that Her Majesty’s Government does not care who you go to bed with Mr Holmes, but that there are still ‘groups’ who may feel differently and may use this information against you. We can only protect you if you let us”.
“As I have already stated that I do not enter into relationships I fail to see how it is relevant”.
“But for our paperwork Mr Holmes? “
“But for your paperwork I am heterosexual”.
“And have you..”. but he interrupted me.
“I think I have answered these questions around my sex life as fully as is necessary Ms Chilton, shall we move on? “
“Yes, of course, I was just trying to understand how..”.

I trailed off, I could hardly say 'how someone as clever and successful and gorgeous as you could have stayed alone for so long, or why they would want to’. Intimacy issues certainly, but stemming from where or when? I decided to probe a little more.

“Are your parents still together? “
“Irrelevant. But yes, they are quite nauseatingly happy together”.
“Were you boarding school educated? “
“Home schooled. “
“Any significant deaths during your childhood?”

He frowned at this and shifted in his chair. Again, his tongue moved along the back of his lips and sunk back out of sight. I didn’t let it go that time. He was subconsciously indicating that there were things he was trying not to let out of his mouth, things he wasn't allowing himself to voice.

“Please try and be as open as you can with me Mr Holmes, this is information I can look up for myself after all. Best not appear to be holding things back, it will confuse my report”.
He looked at me but for the first time he looked less certain and his voice was quieter.

“My brother… lost a friend when we were young. He took it badly, the effect on my family was devastating. My brother and I learnt not to trust even those close to us after that. “
“But surely it wasn't the child's fault for dying, how did they betray your trust? “
“I wasn't talking about the dead boy!” he snapped, his voice raised almost to a shout for just a second, before he regained control slightly and his voice levelled.
“Trust opens people up to the most brutal betrayals, being alone is the best protection”.

He stood up suddenly and walked to the water machine, drinking a whole cup of icy water in one go. He was regrouping, regaining his composure. When he returned to his seat his calm demeanour had been restored, as if the cold from the water had cooled his mind as well as his body. It was a good trick, but it wasn’t fooling me. He met my eye challengingly.

“Next question”.
“How do you cope with the pressure of your work Mr Holmes? “
“I run. First thing every day”.
“And does it help? “
“For the most part, yes. It is freeing, cerebrally. There are few activities where one can truly let go of all thoughts and be mentally still. “

(I can think of another one, much more fun than pounding the pavements at 6am every morning).
I quickly shook that thought off before an image accompanied it, of those long legs and pale skin, free from their Saville Row armour, glistening and salty, but from some other exertion than running.
What was wrong with me today?

“And I read”.
His voice dragged me back into the room.
“What do you read? “
“Non-fiction mostly, histories. There is nothing coming that hasn’t come before. It helps my work to understand the mistakes of the past”.
“Nothing lighter, no holiday paperbacks?”

I smiled as I said this, knowing the answer, just teasing him slightly. He gave a sarcastic, closed mouth smile in response.

“Not as a rule no. But I did read the Harry Potter series a few years back”.
“You did?”
He smiled genuinely this time, pleased at the surprise in my voice.
“There was a group using a Harry Potter ‘chat-site’ or whatever they call it to send messages, I had to bone up on Hogwarts folklore pretty quickly in order to infiltrate the code”.
“Goodness” I said, not knowing what was more to take in, a HP terror cell or that Mycroft Holmes knew what floo powder was.
“What...er…what did you think?”
He laughed. I don't think either of us were expecting it and it took us both off guard.
“I found it to be childish…”
“It's a children's book Mr Holmes” I chided gently.
“…but there was reference to Greek and Norse myths, a smattering of Latin, some interesting architectural flourishes, and a few of the character studies were intriguing. It was…diverting. The world was...appealing”.

I bit my lip to stop myself asking which House he would have been sorted into, I think I could guess.

“However, even there, malevolent forces were always lurking in the shadows. Which reminds me I do have one or two thousand things I should be getting on with, was there anything else you wished to know? “
“Just two more questions if you don’t mind? “
He nodded.

“Living alone and working such long hours, do you manage to have regular and nutritious meals? “
“You sound like my mother. “
“Never the less..”.
“I don't bother with meals as such, food is fuel nothing more. It is not part of a daily routine like for most people, I eat when necessary”.
“What do you eat Mr Holmes? “

He sighed again. It was obviously his favourite passive-aggressive method of expressing irritation.

“Fruit. I like fruit. It's portable”.
“And? “
“And... nuts, raw vegetables, I don't cook. “
“Why is that? “
“I lack the time and the inclination. “
“It sounds very healthy although as you say not exactly meals, but you find you can sustain such a hectic work life on fruit, nuts and raw vegetables? “
“Yes. It suits me. I have to eat out for work almost daily, diplomatic dinners etc. I get some protein and carbohydrates then”.
“And for a treat? “
“Treat? “
“Yes, special occasions... “ (he looked bewildered) “your birthday for instance”.

He screwed up his face at this, his mouth small and taut and his nose scrunched up.

“I don't do birthday treats. “
“No birthday cake? “
“Cake? Why are you bringing up cake?”
“No reason, don't you like cake?”
He looked furtive.
“My feelings about cake can be of no interest to Military Intelligence. Final question?”

Gosh, the scribbled note may have been right...issues with food. Hmmm.

“Ok, final question...If you could change your current working situation in any way Mr Holmes, what would you change? “
He narrowed his eyes. Something was there, waiting to be said, but he pressed it down with a flick of his tongue. It was the third time he had done it in the hour we had been together.

“I would say a better class of biscuit in the meeting rooms. These government cuts are destroying the tea trolley. You have no idea how much difference a chocolate digestive can make to international relations”.

His eyes sparkled at this, he was having a little joke as well as avoiding the question. I gave a small ripple of laughter to acknowledge the joke and closed my notebook (which I never use during sessions but opening and closing it acts as a useful visual indicator of the beginning and end of a meeting).

“Well, thank you Mr Holmes, for your time and your candour. You may return to your work now, I will send over my report to Human Resources in due course”.
“Thank you. This was..”.
“Not as painful as you had anticipated? “
I smiled and gave him a little twinkle, which he didn’t exactly return but I was sure there was a slight softness behind his eyes that wasn’t there an hour ago. Or that could have been my imagination.

“No, it wasn't. Thank you”.

He got up from his chair and I expected him to walk away towards the door, but instead he walked around the table towards me and gestured his hand. I stood and shook it. His hands were just like the rest of him, thin, elegant and perfectly manicured. His skin was so soft, the effect of a job indoors and a very expensive moisturiser, I mused.

“Goodbye Ms Chilton. See you again next year I expect”.
“Goodbye Mr Holmes”.

Sitting in the room alone again, I waited as long as I could stand before grabbing my session recorder, plugging in my headphones and surrounding myself with that mellifluous voice again.

The next morning an email pinged into my inbox from ‘The office of M Holmes’ via someone called Anthea. No subject heading. I took a deep breath, I had been expecting this. I had sent my report first thing this morning and less than an hour later here it was, a response to my report. How he had got hold of it so fast I couldn’t imagine, he shouldn’t have had access to it at all of course, but I already knew Mr Holmes could access whatever he damn well pleased. I had sent my findings to HR and from there it would have gone to…someone, who oversaw Mycroft Holmes? Oh well, no point putting it off. I opened the email.
All it said was…

'We will meet to discuss this. Mycroft Holmes.'

Oh dear. That was worse than I thought. An angry outburst would have been better, easier to deal with. I responded in a mirroring manner…

'Of course. When, where? Emma Chilton.'

An immediate reply…

'Today, 4pm, the needle. Mycroft Holmes.'

Hee-hee, sounded like a spy’s rendezvous. Cleopatra’s needle, on the banks of the Thames. I wanted to lighten the mood by replying something about wearing a carnation in my lapel or carrying a copy of some John Le Carre novel, but I didn’t think Mr Holmes would be in the right frame of mind for jokes.

I tried not to spend the rest of the day picturing him waiting at the needle - exquisitely dressed, the ginger notes in his hair catching the light, absolutely furious. But what could I do? I had had a very serious heart to heart with myself and this was the best course of action for Mr Holmes and for the service. It was definitely not due to my wanting to see him again, it was entirely the correct decision professionally. I had even asked colleagues (leaving out the details like his name, job, his extraordinary good looks, and my near craving to hear his voice again) and they had agreed with me. Mycroft Holmes had issues with intimacy and for the good of his mental health and his ability to function in top condition, he should spend a minimum of six weeks in 1-2-1 sessions with me to address the issue. It wasn’t my fault, I was just doing my job. I was pretty sure.

At 3.50pm I arrived at Cleopatra’s Needle, a monument possibly gifted but more probably pinched from somewhere and brought back to England hundreds of years ago. It was a lovely stretch of the river, great views, wide promenade, Victorian lighting. It was already approaching twilight and the lamps gave a misty glow to the surroundings. I practiced looking calm, relaxed and completely in the right, but I felt none of those things. What was the point of engineering a chance to see Mycroft Holmes again if he would be angry and not actually engage with me?
This was a mistake, but I had put my name on the document now, as a psychologist I had said he needed help (and he did, that much was true) but I may have overegged the pudding slightly in my sense of urgency that his intimacy issues be addressed. They didn’t seem to have done his work any harm so far, even if they had definitely had an impact on his life away from work. No it was fine, I argued back at myself, as a professional you cannot in all conscience let him go on like this. I would do the same for any other employee at the service, even if they didn’t look like an angel in human form, I was mostly sure of this. Anyway it was too late now, he was coming down the steps to the riverside walkway.

He looked as calm as a millpond, walking slowly down the stone steps, letting his umbrella tap the stone at each step. He looked like he was out for a pleasure stroll and when he saw me he made no indication of what I was sure he was feeling inside. I was so nervous I barely noticed he looked even more incredible today than yesterday. His suit was again immaculate and perfectly cut, and his eyes were bright (with anger no doubt) as he approached me and said brusquely

“Ms Chilton, would you like to walk?” and without waiting for an answer he took off down the promenade, leaving me running to catch up. When we had lost the crowd at the needle, he did not turn towards me but continued walking and said to the air

“This is absolute bloody nonsense, what on earth are you playing at?”

I launched into my prepared speech.

“I am sorry if you feel you have been misjudged Mr Holmes, but I have to report what I believe to be the case. You yourself must be aware that you have an area of weakness around interpersonal relationships, and I believe that addressing this will help you, professionally and personally”.
“Codswallop” he almost shouted, then lowered his voice again, this time to a threatening whisper
“There is nothing wrong with me, it’s it’s”
“Everyone else?”
“Well, yes to be frank. Being different isn’t the same as being wrong”.
The way he said it made it sound like a mantra, something he had told himself many times before.

“True. But in this case, you must see that your life might be easier if you allowed other people into it?”
“Easier? I don’t agree”.
“Happier then. Are you happy Mr Holmes? “
“Have we started the sessions already Ms Chilton? “ He avoided answering.

Okay, lets distance him from the question a little…
“Your brother and sister…do they have significant others, friends? partners? “
“Erm. My sister… does not care for people (other than my brother), it is no hardship for her to be alone”.
“And your brother?”
“He has a few ‘friends’ I suppose you could call them”
“And a partner? “
“We don’t discuss such things, but (he thinks for a moment) possibly”.
“And your sister, is she happy? “
“I would not call her happy no”.
“And your brother? “
“He seems so, on occasion”.
“And on these occasions, is he alone at this time, or is he with his friends and possible partner? “
“Yes, fine, I see the point you are trying to make”.

We walked a while longer in silence, and then I said

“Will you allow these sessions Mr Holmes?”
“You know full well I do not have a choice Ms Chilton. It is in the system now, and while I could overrule the decision it would forever be recorded that I was referred for and did not complete psychological counselling. It would not look good and could be used against me”.
“So you will attend? “
“It appears I am in your hands Ms Chilton”.
“I could…” I hesitated, I didn’t want to offer this, but I felt guilty at possibly pushing this on him a bit too fervently, so I said…
“I could arrange for another psychologist to take your case, if you would prefer. It doesn’t have to be me. It’s important that you are comfortable. If you would prefer a male therapist, or an older one perhaps?”
There were those who didn’t feel they were getting their moneys worth unless their psychologist was a wizened old man with a beard and an Austrian name.

“That won’t be necessary. However, I would like to make the following clear…I am not saying I need your assistance, but I am willing to sit through the sessions and I will do my best to cooperate and engage with the process fully. IF at the end of six weeks you will promise to sign me off as fit with no need to reassess”.

He had made concessions I could see that, he was trying to be accommodating, but I couldn’t in good conscience agree to that.

“I can’t promise that Mr Holmes, you know that. We shall have to see where the road takes us. But I will try to make the process as painless as possible and no longer than it has to be, that I will promise”.
He sighed.
“Very well”.

We walked a little further and I heard his phone beep.

“Excuse me, I must take this. I will await our first appointment. Please make arrangements through Anthea. Goodbye”.

And he was gone, just like that. On his phone and off in the opposite direction. I was left to walk to the tube alone, relieved that he hadn’t shown too much anger and that he had agreed to our sessions. I felt excited and guilty, I couldn’t shake the feeling gnawing away at me that I shouldn’t be running these sessions myself, that I should have handed them over the minute I found myself replaying the recording I had made of our first meeting, and replaying it and replaying it.