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Caring is Not an Advantage

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It was a Tuesday when Mycroft died. The rod had sliced straight through his spinal cord like it was softened butter.

They were so close, so close to making it out, Sherlock and him, but no amount of preparation or relief could have prepared them for Anderson, beaten and bloodied, attacking just as the two brothers were reuniting.

 --

Nearly two years before, no one could have told Sherlock that his brother would go out like this, especially since they hadn’t been on speaking terms, not until the night Sherlock decided to retrieve Mycroft from his small office job within the government and thrust him back into the world of monster hunting.

Mycroft was smart-- too smart for his own good apparently. That was overtly clear on this particular Tuesday, as well as during the preceding week.

Mycroft had disappeared, the yellow-eyed demon, Moriarty, dragging him to an abandoned military base with 6 of the brightest minds of Britain, him included. Moriarty had something in store for him, for all of them, but it became apparent that they were not just there to serve some intellectual purpose.

Moriarty knew these bright, young minds would either end up in the British Men of Letters, a natural enemy of all things demonic, or find some way or another to use their intellect against him. So, he rounded up the 99th percentile and threw them in a ring together, seeing who could figure it out first, who would resist least, who would ultimately win out against his competitors and serve him-- and then he’d burn the rest.

What Moriarty hadn’t expected was the pure rivalry and evil that some of his participants harboured for one another. He thought a bit of jealousy might arise, but he certainly hadn’t planned on them turning on one another and doing the slaughtering with their own hands. But ah, someone had told him once that intellect was a curse, not a blessing-- he should have listened. Then again, as much as he liked stripping sheets of skin off of his victims, he was climbing up the ladder in the demon world, and he was starting to enjoy the whole ‘orchestrate everything, but keep your own hands clean’ deal.

Luckily, Mycroft had managed to avoid the chaos that was going on outside of the room he isolated himself in. It was stale and old MRE’s were scattered on top of the desk and shoved into the drawers. He deduced that, to some degree, hunger was one of the forces driving his peers to go feral, that and the lack of societal structure.  

Ah, how typical, “The Lord of The Flies” proves itself once more, he sighed to himself.

He dug into the old military rations with care, desperately projecting the memory of Mummy’s Christmas pot roast onto the “Ham and Chicken Loaf” that he emptied from an old, rusted tin. He also utilized the materials at hand-- scrap metal, an old radio, a screwdriver, some overly acidic batteries, and old telegram cables-- to interfere with a signal to the Greater London Area, hoping to zero in on 221B Baker Street, which he and his brother fondly referred to as their ‘home base.’

After a few hours of tinkering, it had worked, and soon, a distraught (but grateful) Sherlock was on his way with Greg Lestrade, owner of The Scotland Junk Yard, a run-down auto repair joint, in a 1967 Chevy Impala, imported from the States and practically the only car Greg had attempted to fully restore to its former glory.

The pavement felt smooth under the tires of the glistening, black car, Sherlock’s blue scarf flapping out of the window in the wind. His curls were almost too long for him to drive safely with the windows down, but Greg had insisted, with a fond pat to the side of the car, “Windows down and music blasting, that’s the way to enjoy this baby.” Sherlock rolled his eyes at that but smiled as he had lowered himself into the driver's seat before Greg could see.

 After his mother had passed away, and his and Mycroft’s father had sacrificed his soul for Sherlock after a particularly bad fall from a hospital roof, Greg had been like a father to Sherlock. Lestrade had already been a fond friend and roommate of Mycroft’s but didn’t hesitate to take Sherlock in when he had needed shelter. Mycroft, on the other hand, was a businessman, his goal of working in the British government taking precedence over taking care of his brother, and soon after Sherlock moved into their apartment, Mycroft had left him and Lestrade for a solo flat closer to Southwark.

 But those days of estrangement and abandonment were whisked behind them, any remaining resentment being left in the dust that kicked up behind the Impala.

 --

It was dusk when they finally arrived at the old complex, a chain link fence surrounding the perimeter and an eerie silence sitting beyond it. Sherlock had wanted to climb the Impala for easier access before hoisting himself over it, but Greg had nearly had a heart attack at the thought and had insisted he give Sherlock a boost instead.

Once over, his wool Belfast jacket stuck with the job of straddling the chain link fence for padding, Sherlock shook out his curls and looked back to Lestrade, who was leaned against the car, waiting dutifully for Sherlock and Mycroft’s return. He gave a curt nod in the direction of the silver-haired man and headed into the complex. Despite the ringing of Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock in the detached tone of his brother’s voice that bounced around in his skull, Sherlock was not going to let his brother just die here. He had reached out to Sherlock, he wanted to be saved, and so Sherlock told himself that he didn’t care, that he wasn’t worried, that he wouldn’t let pesky emotions cloud his judgment, no matter what the scene he arrived upon looked like.

The concrete walls of the first building’s entrance were letting off swirls of loose debris as soon as he opened the door.

 Hasn’t been opened in over 10 years. Next.

He closed the door to the first building and moved on to the next, attempting to swallow down any clues that may lead him to his brother. He shook his head for a moment, and then, of course.

Moriarty, a demon, in all of his pride-- where would he take a group of intellects?

Sherlock smirked to himself, God damn demons, don’t think things through, do they? However, I suppose they're not always expecting someone like me to show up.

With that, Sherlock rushed past all the other buildings that sat crumbling in what felt like a tiny ghost town of concrete and metal and headed towards the education building where soldiers would study up during their short leaves from combat.

He opened the door quietly, his hand reaching to his side to put a hand on the hilt of his knife, specially, specifically and scientifically curated to kill demons.

He snuck in and walked along the edge of the wall so as not to disturb the dust or the silence. Suddenly, in the hallway adjacent to him, a body rushed past, followed by another, one almost inhuman, screaming and leaping just out of view. Sherlock slowed his heart rate and said a silent prayer to a God he knew didn’t exist as he continued down the hall, this time moving a bit more swiftly. When he leaned forward to look around the corner, he nearly cried out, a man, wily and bearded was straddling his brother, a rusted metal rod, presumably, the blunt leg of a desk chair, held above his head and attempting to push down against Mycroft.

 “There’s just two of us here now, Holmes,” the man’s voice shook through clenched teeth.

 Sherlock so wanted to simply turn the corner and surprise his brother’s assailant, but he knew the disruption would cause his brother’s concentration to falter, and he couldn’t risk the consequences of such an action.

“Give it up, Moriarty says it’s either you or me.” the man was pushing down harder against Mycroft, barely getting his words out, “I prefer the former.” Sherlock could see the man pressing his arms down with all of his strength when suddenly, Mycroft flipped the man over and pinned him down, one hand tossing the chair leg to his side and the other delivering a quick sock to the jaw.

“Now, now, Anderson, you know I don’t like to get my hands dirty,” another punch, “but I much prefer a bloody knuckle to a cup of tea when it means I beat an arsehole like you.” Another punch and a knee to his balls made swift work of Anderson as Mycroft stood and turned, straightening his tie and running a hand through his hair to flatten it back out.

“Ah, brother, once again, late. How am I meant to count on your help at all if you’re never here quite when I need you?” Despite his disappointed tone, Sherlock smiled and saw a small one on his brother's lips as well. They weren’t huggers, but Sherlock took a step out from his hiding spot and moved forward to shake Mycroft's hand, a sign more affectionate than most anything else for either of them. Mycroft turned down his disheveled, collar and approached his brother as well, meeting him halfway and grabbing his brother’s gloved hand with a stern shake.

“Sherlock, wha-” Mycroft's eyes turned wide, and Sherlock finally saw Anderson. He was positioned, almost lunging and reaching out, weapon in hand, like a renaissance painting, behind his brother. The chair leg was at the bottom of his brother’s spine, already having traveled the length of it. Mycroft fell into the grip of his brother’s hand and the weight toppled Sherlock, who helped move his brother down gently to grip him in his lap.

Sherlock cried out

caring is not an advantage

And went to feel his brother’s back

caring is not an advantage

Pulling his hand back, bloody and shaking

caring is not an advantage

shutupshutup   shut up

It was like that sometimes, for Sherlock. The world became, all of a sudden, too loud to handle. He ached to cover his ears and curl into a ball, but his hands were wrapped around his brother and covered in blood and his body couldn’t curl any further with the dead weight in his lap. He cried out again, and in that split second heard it clearer than ever.

Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock.

 His eyes snapped up, wide and shaking with anger and fear and sorrow, to see Anderson stumble around the far corner of the hall.

 He let out a frustrated, “No!” and abandoned post at his brother’s body, letting him fall gently into age-old dust. Sherlock ran so fast he nearly missed the turn and hit the wall ahead of him straight on. When he got to that particular turn, Anderson was still hobbling, nearly reaching the next turn. Sherlock took his knife out of its sheath and in one quick movement, with a reverberating ‘ching,’ flicked it full force at the man running from him. With a crack, it hit Anderson in the neck and he fell, limp, lifeless, gone . Sherlock let rage carry him to the end of the hall, ignoring the tears prickling in his eyes and gripped the hilt of his weapon, pulling it from his victim's neck. He then stood straight, turned, and walked with purpose back to his brother’s body.

The last whisper snuck into his mind as he hoisted his brother over his shoulder, caring is not an advantage.

-- 

Greg first caught sight of Sherlock in the floodlights that came on at nightfall coming around the corner of the nearest building and nearly melted with relief. Nearly. As quickly as that relief had flooded him, it dropped him from a cliff high above an arctic sea and as it crashed, so did he. Cold, broken, suddenly slammed down on his knees without explanation.

Mycroft was slung over Sherlock’s shoulder, blood still seeping out from his back and staining the clean white shirt that he always wore. Sherlock’s face was stoic, it reminded him of the broken man who had shown up on his and Mycroft’s doorstep years before, swallowed with grief but too numb to react to any of it.

Greg’s mind finally stopped swirling and he pushed himself back up to standing, trying to figure some way for Sherlock and- and- well, Sherlock to get back over the fence. He growled and furrowed his brow as Sherlock came closer, and caved. He stomped to the back of the Impala and opened its trunk, propping it up with the shotgun that lay on top of all their other hunting weaponry. He grabbed a pistol and cocked it, moving back to the fence and shooting at the links that connected it to the ground. When he was satisfied, and Sherlock was finally nearing the end of his trek from complex to chain link, he ripped up the bottom of the fence at its now weak links and made a human-sized hole close to the ground. 

He huffed under his breath, “Fuck it,” and scrambled onto the hood of the Impala to reach over the fence and pull Sherlock’s coat down. He jumped down and spread the jacket under the fence, where Sherlock carefully positioned Mycroft. Greg nearly drowned in tears and fear and almost lost his dinner, but with Mycroft properly positioned, he pulled the jacket, and subsequently, Mycroft's lifeless body, back through the hole in the fence to his side.  

With Mycroft beside him now, he wrapped the Belstaff properly around his dear friend and hoisted him into the backseat as Sherlock army crawled his way under the fence as well. He was grateful that his coat had made it so he didn’t have to drag his belly along bloodied ground.

Finally, he stood, feeling naked without his coat, and took off his scarf, wiping it over his face, and then his red palms, throwing it to his side without any regard when he was done.

He watched, numb, as Greg struggled to lay Mycroft down in the back seat and then shook his head, silently rounding the Impala and climbing into his usual place in the driver’s seat.

With the shut of the back door, Greg entered and sat himself beside Sherlock in the front, gingerly closing his passenger door.

“Sherlock-”

Sherlock only shook his head ‘no’ and drove.

Silence filled the black of the car. It felt like a hearse, easing down the pavement and riding past its usual home at the Yard. 

Greg cleared his throat, even then it cracked with his attempt at forming a proper sentence, “Sher-” he paused “I know this is hard.” another pause, “I’ve got firewood at my place, I’m sure you know you’ve passed it. Mycrof-” He couldn’t finish the name, but continued despite the tears that threatened to choke him, “He’d want a proper hunter’s funeral.”

Sherlock tightened his grip on the steering wheel, “What’s burned stays dead Greg, you know that.”

Greg raised questioning eyebrows at him, and Sherlock caught the slight movement in his peripherals.

“Mycroft isn’t going to stay dead.”

Sherlock knew, it had been pounded into his head his entire life. It had been pounded into his head when he got a puppy, it had been pounded into his head when he played pirates with Victor Trevor, it had been pounded into his head before every case he and his father ever went on. ‘Caring is not an advantage,’ and he knew that, but he also knew, that when it came down to life or death, he wouldn’t let Mycroft experience the latter. Sherlock knew he was flawed, that his emotions in this instance would not get him anywhere, but his brother earned a life, deserved a life.

 All Sherlock had ever done was hunt-- his brother had gotten out, was on his way to the top, when Sherlock, selfish, had stomped back into his brother’s life without a care and dragged him back into the life, all to find a father who had trained them, “Don’t be a hero. You can never save anyone but yourself.”

Mycroft deserved to wake up and move on, pursue his career, his dreams, Greg.

“-lock? Sherlock.” Lestrade’s voice pulled him out of his trance, and he realized he had been stewing all the way up to the curb in front of his and Mycroft’s flat.

“Let’s get the body in, up to the kitchen table. Don’t break any of my equipment. Clear?”

“Alright. But Sherlock, you know your brother wouldn’t want you doing anything like, well, whatever you’re going to do.”

Sherlock flashed seething eyes at Greg and he promptly shut up, pulling out Mycroft’s feet first, which Sherlock took, and then eased the rest of the body out, positioning himself to support the body’s neck and head.

With a nod and hip bump to shut the back door, Sherlock and Greg moved across the sidewalk to the black door that welcomed them to 221B Baker Street. 

“Mrs. Hudson!” Sherlock shouted out, with as loud a knock of his elbow against the door as he could muster while holding his brother's legs.

“Sherlock!” came Mrs. Hudson’s voice, sweet and singsongy, greeted them at the door, until she saw the body being hauled between the two men. “Oh my god, Sherlock what have you done?” but her voice, suspicious of murder, quickly switched to sobs of sorrow as the coat, wrapped just so to cover enough of Mycroft's face, fell away right as they reached the staircase and began the ascent.

Sherlock drowned out the sound of her wails and just gripped his brother tighter, finally reaching the first level of his flat and steering the body into the kitchen. Disregarding his own advice, he quickly swept all of his chemistry equipment and other clutter off of his table and sent it crashing to the floor as Greg helped him move Mycroft to lay there.

“Thank you, Greg, but you’re free to go. I hope to see you soon.”

“Are you staying?”

“What?”

“Are you staying with the body? Or are you going out, wherever it is you need to go, to save him?”

“Out. I’m going out.”

Silence filled the pause.

Greg pulled up a folding chair and set it at the table side, sitting down and cautiously picking up one of the older Holmes’ cold hands and wrapping it in his, “Then I’ll stay. Don’t want him to be alone." 

Sherlock huffed, but nodded and then rushed out of the kitchen.

Greg could hear the muffled sounds of Sherlock’s feet stomping down the stairs, pausing once for a little bit too long, and then, the inevitable slamming of the front door. He sighed out a long breath and finally let himself break.

-- 

Once outside, Sherlock jumped into the Impala and sped off faster than he ever had. He was used to only using the car on long hunting trips while opting for cabs when working in the heart of the city.

The tension of city traffic began to ache in the silence of the car and he switched the tape player on, the song they had arrived at the compound playing, and then pausing, starting mid-chorus.

The soothing violin of ‘Dust in the Wind’ filled all the blank gaps in Sherlock’s mind palace as he drove out, further and further from London, and into the green countrysides surrounding Sussex. When he reached the dirt path he was seeking, dawn was just beginning to stir.

He erratically raced to a familiar crossroad ahead and came screeching to a halt when he was within walking distance. He grabbed the box he had prepared from the passenger seat and exited the car with purpose. He took ten paces to the center of the crossroad and kneeled, digging furiously with leather gloves protecting his hands. Once he deemed the depth appropriate, he placed the box in its spot there and covered it with dirt and gravel, standing and clenching his fists to release the tension he felt gripping his soul.

He turned, nothing. No one. He nearly yelled out into the brightening abyss when a figure caught his eye. The hair on the back of his neck stood up, but that was to be expected next to a demon of the crossroads.

He turned to face the demon. A woman stood there, stark naked, save for a pair of black heels and lips as red as cherry pie. Her hair fell against her shoulders, black as the riding crop she held in her left hand.

“So, Sherlock Holmes.” She spoke as she stood there, running a hand down her riding crop, “Fancy seeing you here. Especially after escaping your fate and all.” She approached Sherlock, sly, and ran a red fingernail along his cheekbone, “You really are as handsome as they say you are. I can’t wait to have my way with you down in hell.”

Sherlock just rolled his eyes and pushed his body closer to hers, “Bring my brother back.” he breathed through clenched teeth.

 The woman sucked air in between her teeth and broke the gaze that she was holding with Sherlock, “See, the King down there is not too pleased that you got out of your fate so easily. And your father, well, he pushed his luck with that last deal.” She looked back up, eye flashing red between batted eyelashes.

“What do you want?” Sherlock snapped.

“You know what I want, Sherlock. Even you can deduce that.”

“Fine. Then let's make a deal. Ten years and then, you come collect.”

 The woman only licked her lips and shook her head.

“Fine. five.”

She swayed again and ran a finger down his chest, brushing over a spot of his brother’s dried blood on her way down. At this, his own blood boiled and he swiftly grabbed her wrist “What then? A year”

A devilish smile crept across her lips, “Your brother escaped the King of Hell. Moriarty isn’t too pleased with that. Mycroft was the only one leftover from his little...experiment. He needs someone for the job now. Not in a year.”

Sherlock took in a shaky breath as he realized what she was saying.

He lowered his voice and it rumbled like the gravel beneath his feet, “Take me now then.” 

The devilish grin on her face only widened, “Deal,” she said as she rose her lips to Sherlock’s.

Barking in the distance grew closer as the kiss deepened and then, suddenly, his lips were free.

Howls encroached on him as he stood alone and felt the fan of hot breath around his feet before searing pain overloaded each nerve in his body and he was torn to shreds by hounds of Hell.

In the silence of the countryside, pink sky rising to greet the world, and bees waking from sleep, Sherlock’s soul screamed as it was dragged down to Hell. 

--

It was early morning Wednesday when Mycroft shot up from his spot on the table he was laid on.

 Greg was woken by the startling movement of a hand gripped in his and his shock didn't cease upon seeing the cause of the movement.

 “Greg.” Mycroft’s stilted voice filled the silent early morning air that filled the kitchen.

“Yeah,” he spoke, still holding Mycroft’s soft hand in his, “yeah, it’s me.”

 Mycroft gazed down at their latched hands before surveying the room, “What happened?”

“Sherlock must’ve don-”

At the mention of his brother, Mycroft pulled his hand from Greg’s and turned, swinging his legs over the side of the table and staring intensely into his friend’s eyes, “What did Sherlock do? Don’t you dare tell me you let him do something reckless.” 

The slightest bit of fear gripped Greg and, despite his attempts to hide it, flickered through his eyes.

“Greg. Where is he?” Mycroft asked sternly.

A pause overstayed its welcome and, at that, Mycroft stood from his position and walked to the door frame, leaning into it when the soreness in his back settled in.

“Mycroft.” Greg sighed, “you didn’t see him. His heart was completely broken.”

“Too much heart,” Mycroft scoffed into the empty of the stairwell, “that was always Sherlock’s problem.”

Greg just pursed his lips and stood for the first time in hours, moving to Mycroft’s position in the doorway, gazing at the torn, bloody shirt that exposed his miraculously healed back, before enveloping him in a hug with a soft, "But you're okay and that's what matters." Mycroft froze at the contact, he and Lestrade had drifted since he moved out, but this, this hug felt all too much like home to pull away .  

As much as he wanted to further bask in the comfort that Greg’s chest provided his back, Mycroft eventually moved from the soft grip behind him with a step forward and a turn to face the silver-haired man that stood before him.

He licked his lips and gave a single nod, “Thank you for staying with me.”

Greg looked up and to his left at nothing in particular before looking back at Mycroft, “I’m glad you’re alive.”

Mycroft quirked his head a bit, “Why would I not be-” 

Greg’s eyes widened and he froze attempting to patch up the wounds of what he had just said, but none of his word vomit could fix it. Mycroft knew he had been dead, and him rising, there was nothing he knew of that could do that besides--

Anger welled up in the pit of his stomach, “You let him make a fucking demon deal?”

Lestrade backed up to the edge of the table as the older Holmes’ loomed over him

“I-I-I- I didn’t know.”

 Mycroft ran his hand down his face in frustration and sucked in a tight breath, “Time to find him then. At least we’ve got ten years before he gets dragged to hell.”

Lestrade nodded like it was a normal occurrence, trying to ignore the pure terror he felt upon the realization that, of course, nothing that rose a man from the dead could be pure, could be without consequence.

--

Darkness. Nothing but dark, black, nothingness. The dark was an unexpected shock after seeing such commotion in his commanding spot beside the racks of hell.  Something bright and white and pure had invaded his quadrant of hell and then, as quickly as the light had invaded, it was gone. He was stuck with heavy lungs in the complete absence of light.

He moved his hand beside his body only to feel the rough scratch of wood along his knuckles.

He quickly reached into his pocket, suddenly terrified of the possibilities, and lit the Zippo lighter he always had handy in his little kit of investigation tools. 

He let the light of the fire only glare for a moment, within a second he knew where he was, the death sigils carved above him all too familiar. 

This was a hunter’s coffin.

Understanding his situation, one he would rather not have to deal with, being buried alive and all, he quickly shut the metal lid of his lighter, not wanting to waste a single more breath of oxygen on the small fire. He noticed his scarf had returned around his neck, which he promptly used to cover his nose and mouth to avoid any dirt intake, and quickly began to kick up against the end of the box, splintering the wood and letting the dirt build at his feet. When it became looser, he pushed the top of the coffin up with a huge amount of force and pushed the dirt that fell in down to his toes. Slowly, he maneuvered his body into a crouching position in the loosened dirt and stood, the brightness of the morning sky too much after such physical deprivation of light.

With a deep breath of fresh air, he quickly took inventory of his body, only to notice that any discomfort he had had...before...was gone, and the only pain that existed was on his left shoulder.

He stood, feet still in his grave as he unbuttoned the top three buttons of his shirt and moved his left hand into his shirt to feel the skin on his shoulder. The tender, raised red that resided there was new, but not unfamiliar.  

He considered the possibilities for but a moment before deciding that he had been standing in his own grave for far too long.

He pushed himself up from the deep using the wood of his coffin to give him a slight advantage on the whole “six feet under” thing.

Upon reaching steady ground and stretching up, he rubbed his forehead as a loud, sharp pain struck him, but he ignored it and began the trek to civilization.

The ground around him was suspicious, but rather than stay and observing what looked like a blast site, he just committed it to memory and set off. His body needed water and he was going to get it.

--

In the distance sat a petrol station, white and red and eerily quiet. His mind flashed him back to the eerie silence of the military compound, but he quickly shook himself from the memory as he crossed the black pavement and reached the glass door of the main building.

He took a look to his left and right to check for signs of life, but upon seeing none, took his filthy, once blue scarf, off of his neck and wrapped it around his right fist, smashing it through the door’s thin glass. Through the hole he had created, he cautiously reached to the gold doorknob on the inside of the shop and twisted the handle, releasing the lock. 

He entered the tiny station and looked around before heading to a fridge towards the back and grabbing a bottle of water, guzzling it down without regard to the liquid pouring out from the sides of his dry, pink mouth.

He closed his eyes and finally swallowed, letting the smallest moment of peace reach him before raiding the store of any essentials he might need on his journey home. Before heading out of the place, he picked up a newspaper that sat on the shelf beside the front register, “29th January 2012.”

3 months. 3 God Damn months. How could he have possibly blacked out for so long?

No.

Died.

Not possible.

Not scientifically possible to be alive.

Then again…

He gazed at the register, blanking out into his thoughts for a moment before opening the register and taking what he would need to escape this hellhole in the middle of nowhere.

As he pushed a pile of twenty and five dollar bills into the pocket of his jacket, (it looked new, just slightly different than the one Greg had wrapped around his brother, the gold buttons a dead giveaway to its provider-- thanks Mycroft. ) a ringing filled his ears.

It wasn’t painful, only bright and colorful and overwhelming and it felt like the last time he had dosed up with his special 7% solution. He shook his head, attempting to rid himself from the sound, but soon he fell back letting the ecstasy overtake him. The windows burst around him, but he was unaffected as he lay there behind the station counter.

“Sherlock. Sherlock Holmes?” spoke a voice, deep and soft. 

Sherlock ignored all reason, because this simply wasn’t reasonable, and replied “Yes?”

“Stand please.” Sherlock pulled himself up using the side of the counter next to him and gazed upon bright white, recognizing the purity from the racks of hell, “Do not be afraid.”

Sherlock shook his head, “You.” He fumbled with his words and then, “Why?”

“You have important work to do for us. Heaven’s work.” spoke the energy that pulsed before him, magnificent and beyond all reaches of his wildest, childhood imagination.

“What are you?” He spoke, and then the light was gone, suddenly and without reason.

He let the wave of sudden emptiness crash over him as he leaned hard against the register and grabbed one of his stolen bottles to drink once more. Halfway through his second gulp, a sound like wind rushing through the forests next to his childhood home fluttered past him, and he brought himself back from drowning in the sweetness of the water.

A man stood before him wearing a wiry Christmas sweater and looking stern, even more soldier-like than his older brother tried to present as.

“I am an angel of the lord,” The voice was familiar. It was the voice, the one that had been a ball of light just moment before, “The one who gripped you tight and pulled you from perdition.”

“When? What?

“Oh, I do apologize. A vessel called upon me and I had to fetch him to ease our” the vessel stared deeply into his eyes and motioned between them, “conversation.”

“So you’re...an angel? And you pulled me from hell to do...your work?”

The angel smirked at him, “God’s work, Sherlock. Not mine. I am but a soldier in the battle for heaven’s souls.”

“Ah, I see. So,” Sherlock gazed guiltily at the counter where he had set all of the goods he intended to steal. He cleared his throat, drawing his attention back up to the being that presented itself before him wracking his brain for what he should say in the silence, “what should I call you?" 

The shorter man smiled fondly and Sherlock ignored the flutter that found its way into his chest, “Call me John. I have one of the more simple names in heaven,” he looked contemplative, “but I assure you I am not any less worthy of a charge than those with more, say, angelic names, such as Castiel or Gadreel.” 

“John.” Sherlock spoke, more softly than he had intended, “It suits you. Fit for a military man. One of heaven that is.”

John looked at Sherlock curiously and felt pulled to the humanity that this straightedge soul so overtly presented in the current circumstances.

John cleared his throat, the unfamiliarity of a human vessel stifling him for a moment, before remembering how to adapt and operate on this earth. With this, he approached the curly headed man before him and placed his hand on his left shoulder, the place where he had gripped Sherlock and pulled him from Hell.

“Sorry about this.”

Sherlock shuddered at the jolt the touch sent through his nerves. He didn’t break gaze or the silence until John, his angel, moved to take his hand from its spot on his shoulder. Sherlock instinctually stopped that from happening by placing his own hand on top of John’s, caging it in.

“Where does an angel like you stay on earth?”

“Oh, no, I-” John stuttered as he pulled his hand from under Sherlock’s. “I-”

“I’m unattached if you were worried,” Sherlock couldn’t stop the compulsive words from slipping from his mouth and he turned bright red. John coughed and looked up from his position standing before his charge as those full, pink lips spread and spoke once more, “and my address is 221B Baker Street.”

Sherlock mentally smacked himself for being so incredibly transparent, but then again, caring had been at his advantage for once in his life. It had lifted him from hell, saved both him and his brother, saved two souls instead of one.

John chuckled at this dropping his gaze, “Yes, all-knowing being and all, I should know.”

Sherlock looked eagerly at the angel that stood before him, the one that looked so beautiful both within his soft, kind vessel and without it, in his terrifying and awe-inspiring true form. 

He returned his hand to fit on Sherlock’s shoulder and spoke: “Hold on.”

The world shuddered and gold feathers flashed around him. Sherlock’s head was spinning by the time he found his feet planted before the black door of his old home.

He smiled at the angel by his side and popped the collar of his coat before pushing gently into the flat.

Home.

--

The sound of the door at the bottom of the stairs startled Mycroft from his sleep. He knew Mrs. Hudson was out for the day and Greg wasn’t meant to be home for at least an hour. His bones shook at the thought that it could be Moriarty, back to reclaim his soul and drag him into doing his dirty work.

He stood from where he had been slouched down, napping in Sherlock’s old chair, and wrapped a silk robe he got for Christmas around his body. He grabbed the gun that hung over the mantle and snuck around the corner to peak out of the doorframe that gave him a straight shot down the stairs.

He saw a shadow in the frost of the entry door that looked like- No. It’s not him. Caring is not an advantage. It’s not him. It simply isn’t, Mycroft. His mind squashed down all hope, until it rose like bile as the door pushed open and there stood his brother, bright-eyed and fresh-faced. Any nicks he had from hunting completely gone, like a too perfect version of his brother.

Too perfect.

“Who are you?” He shouted from the top of the staircase, hands shaking even in their hold around the gun.

“Mycroft.” Sherlock eased.

Too kind.

Sherlock approached the staircase carefully and placed a hand on the banister, “It’s me.”

Too rehearsed.

“Sherlock’s dead,” He said with conviction, still pointing the barrel of the gun right between the eyes of the intruder.

Too easy.

“No, Mycroft.” Sherlock looked over his shoulder and he saw another man enter from the entry, calm and steady, “This is John, he’s an angel.” Sherlock reached his hand out for John to take in his, “He pulled me from hell.”

Too human.

All too quickly, Mycroft switched his barrels position to aim right between John’s eyes and pulled the trigger. A shout escaped Sherlock’s lips as the impact of the bullet swayed John’s stance next to him.

John just tightened his grip on Sherlock’s hand and used his other hand to heal his forehead with a simple swipe.

“Mycroft, you’re safe, I am an angel, here to watch over you and your brother.” John said and, Sherlock in tow, began walking up the stairs to where Mycroft had collapsed into himself against the wall in the landing. He was shaking and small and not at all as Sherlock had remembered him.

He reached down and placed his fingers on Mycroft’s forehead and suddenly, all the chaos, the conflict, the resistance, fled from within him. He looked up with wide eyes, far too innocent looking for a man of his age, but he couldn't help himself.

“You...you’re an angel?”

John just nodded and Sherlock stepped out from behind him to kneel beside his brother.

Mycroft drew his eyes from the angel that stood over him and looked to his brother.

It’s him.

He suddenly threw himself at his little brother, wrapping his arms around him and grasping at the extra fabric in the coat that he wore. He sobbed into Sherlock’s shoulder “You were gone, you were dead. You were gone. For me, Sherlock, you died for me.”

Sherlock just leaned into the shock of the affection and smiled into his brother’s thinning hair, “Better have been for good reason.”

Mycroft pulled back from the hug with a slight chuckle, “I’m the responsible one here, don’t forget that I’m the one meant to order you around, Sherlock.”

Sherlock laughed into the familiarity and wiped the tears from below his eyes that had fallen there without his knowledge. Mycroft was wiping his nose on his silk robe sleeve when Sherlock looked up at the angel that watched over them. John smiled down and put a hand out to pull Sherlock up with.

With a sheepish grin, a “thanks” mumbled its way out of Sherlock’s soft lips.  

Mycroft looked up at his brother, so clearly smitten already with the man -the angel- that stood beside him. He smiled, pushing down the pain that came with seeing Sherlock after mourning him for so long. He stood finally and motioned towards the living room where Sherlock took a seat on the couch, if only to leave room for John to sit beside him. John took him up on the offer, sitting gently beside him.

Mycroft stood there, in awe, wondering what to say, or do, or ask, when the door downstairs opened again causing Mycroft to flinch. John spoke calmly towards him, “Just Greg. I can sense his soul. Greg is his name, yes?” 

Mycroft let his breathing calm and nodded while moving to resume his position at the top of the stairs waiting expectantly for Greg.

“Sunshine?” Lestrade's voice called from the bottom of the stairs and, though faint, Sherlock beamed, pleased with the prospect of what might have happened in his absence.

“Greg...” Sherlock heard Mycroft say, before hearing Greg take two steps at a time up the stairs in utter concern. Mycroft stepped back inside the living room, letting Greg follow him and take in the sight.

Greg’s jaw dropped at the sight of Sherlock and Sherlock stood, moving towards his dear old friend and mentor. Greg pulled him into a gut-wrenching hug, entirely too tight, and despite the eye roll he shot Mycroft, he softened into it and laughed.

“Damn you for leaving us, Sherlock.”

Pulling out of the hug, but still clinging on ever so slightly to Lestrade’s forearm he spoke in a hushed tone, “Sorry.” His eyes flicked away, but Greg just squeezed Sherlock’s arm where he was still gripping too and smiled mischievously.

“Oh it’s fine, but you’re stuck in the upstairs room now.”

Sherlock sighed, mocking shock and signaling to John to approach. 

Sherlock and Greg parted to make way for the angel who Lestrade looked up and down and turned to Sherlock, “I like this one.”

Sherlock laughed and grinned as John relayed his tale of rescue to Greg and an eavesdropping Mycroft.

Amidst the joy and the sounds of stories being passed on, Mycroft looked over to catch Sherlock’s eyes, a knowing look pasted on his face.

He nodded. Sherlock nodded back.

It was a Sunday when Sherlock came back from the dead, decidedly more human than he had ever been before.