Chapter 1: The Girl Screaming Your Name
Sherlock Holmes continued to pluck at the strings of his violin for the second hour running while his right foot tapped absent-mindedly on the floor of 221B Baker Street, probably annoying Missus Hudson down stairs but Sherlock didn't much care. The sound was similar to that of two shards of glass clashing against one another, or at least to anyone who wasn't Sherlock himself; a steady and repetitive twang. He stared straight ahead into the kitchen from his chair while John made the tea that the anti-social genius had demanded only a few minutes earlier; God he needed a case! Big case, little case, any goddamn case! The key to his last had been the wife's bra, elementary, easy, Lestrade could have solved it. Boring! Sherlock needed something more stimulating and less snooze worthy. Never had he wanted to see Gary or Gavin, whatever the hell his name was, so much.
“You've got to stop sulking, Sherlock.” Said John as he handed the detective his cup before taking his usual chair where he leant back on the Union Jack pillow. “There'll be a case soon. I'm sure the second Greg needs you he'll be straight over to ask for your help.”
“I want a murder case, John. Something interesting!”
He set his violin down – finally thought John. If it had gone on any longer he'd have no doubt woken Rosie. Sherlock drained his mug of tea only to slam it back down.
“I know, but people don't just drop dead because you're bored.”
“I know, it's so selfish of them.” John rolled his eyes at that and reached for his own cup to take a sip. “Don't drink that.”
“What? Why?” Watson shot the curly-haired detective a confused expression.
“Because I want a kiss and frankly that overly milky concoction you call tea is disgusting.”
John sighed but it quickly gave way to a smile, that was just who Sherlock was and part of the reason John Watson loved him. After Mary's death he'd been so angry, had hated Sherlock but they were connected, something that no amount of bad could ever break and eventually John had realized that his love for the macabre genius would always win out. He'd always love Mary but there was plenty of room in his heart for Sherlock Holmes as well. He'd never forget what had happened in that aquarium... but he had forgiven; it was what Mary would have wanted.
With that soft smile still on his face John set the cup down carefully, got up and went to his lover who quickly accepted the kiss, soft but loving, Sherlock pulled the doctor down onto his lap and gripped him tightly.
“Happy?” John questioned with a glint in his eyes.
“When I get a case I'll be happy, but I'm happier.”
They kissed again letting their foreheads touch, somehow when John kissed him Sherlock's mind found peace, the world fell away and his brain managed to slow down for a few blissful moments. Usually words zoomed around his head with only a quarter of them ever adding up in his chaotic mind, but the second his lover touched him there was only one word left left; John.
His arms tightened around John's waist while the doctor's hand came up to cup Sherlock's cheek keeping them close together, chest to chest. Sherlock could feel his boyfriend's slight five o'clock shadow against his cheeks but he couldn't bring himself to care, it helped to send little bursts of electricity through his skin allowing him to relax; and at least it wasn't that damn moustache.
John licked along the seam of his lover's lips seeking entrance that was quickly granted letting their breath mingle, Sherlock, of course, tasted of the tea he'd just downed while John still tasted faintly of his breakfast toast as well as something unique to one Doctor John Watson; Sherlock would never get enough of that.
Without warning there was a God awful bang mixed with the sharp sound of splintering wood.
“Hey! You can't go up there!”
Suddenly everything grounded to a halt when they heard that loud thud and it didn't take a mind like Sherlock's to figure out it came from the front door being kicked in, the bell had probably rung but Sherlock had yet again shot it. John hopped up from Sherlock's lap expecting some sort of fight but the younger Holmes knew Missus Hudson would have screamed if there were a real threat, instead, her yelling was more anger and annoyance driven. Still, he stood as well and moved over to the door just in time for it to fly open revealing a rather stunningly beautiful young woman... covered in blood and dripping on the floors. Sherlock nodded at Missus Hudson who stood halfway down the stairs dismissing her but she just continued until she was only a few steps behind the strange newcomer. The woman had clearly been shot in the abdomen and looked only a few seconds from passing out, face pale from blood loss and panting lungs but none of the pain reached her eyes.
“Can we help?” The great detective asked rather nonchalantly as John slipped into his doctor mode as his lover had taken to calling it.
“Mycroft.” Breathed the stranger in an accent John couldn't identify. “... get Mycroft Holmes.”
Before anyone could say another word the woman collapsed with a thud face first leaving John to dive to her aid, he checked her pulse and screamed at Sherlock to get his medical kit, it took three attempts before John actually got him to move. Missus Hudson just stood there looking worried... as well as somewhat irritated there was blood all over the floor. Sherlock raced back and dropped the kit down beside his boyfriend, mind already working on possibilities. If the elder Holmes brother was involved it could have been just about anything.
“What has your brother done now, Sherlock?” John growled without looking up, voice tainted by worry and concern, he pulled the girl into his arms bridal style then quickly deposited her down on the black leather couch before pulling up her tank top and setting to work on what he quickly realised was a gun shot.
“I have no idea.” The dark-haired man finally replied.
“I hope she's alright. I'm charging her for the door, she kicked it down.”
“Not now, Missus Hudson!” Sherlock shouted as he usually did but it no longer effected Missus Hudson, she just sighed and went back downstairs.
“She's exhausted and has lost a significant amount of blood, nothing looks too damaged so I can get this bullet out, patch her up here and start getting some fluids into her but she really should go to a hospital, Sherlock.”
“Let's hold off on hospitals until I get Mycroft down here. He's got some explaining to do.”
“Greg too. If we've got someone shooting random women in the streets of London, he should know.” Muttered the doctor without looking up; hands coated in a thin layer of crimson.
Sometime later found Holmes the elder walking up the stairs to 221B Baker street wearing his usual perfectly tailored three-piece suit – this time a dark grey herringbone with pale green shirt and tie – an umbrella securely in his right hand; his own iconic symbol. When he stepped into the main room he found John making yet more tea and Sherlock staring out the window as he often did when thinking, the unconscious woman laying on their couch caused his eyebrows to raise, he'd wondered where the blood on the stairs had come from and the cause of Missus Hudson's missing door.
“What's this about a girl?” Mycroft asked in a rather detached tone, he had better things to do.
Sherlock turned to glare at his brother.
“Oh, you mean the one screaming your name?”
John appeared from the kitchen having forgotten about the tea in favour of preventing another Holmes brothers fight; maybe he could put that on his CV.
“She wasn't screaming it.” The Doctor signed. “I believe her exact words were 'Mycroft, get Mycroft Holmes' then she passed out.”
“Know who she is, dear brother? One of your lackeys? Doubt it, she spoke with a Romanian accent.” The detective spoke a little too quickly but everyone had grown used to that; just another peculiarity of Sherlock Holmes.
Everything fell silent for a time as Mycroft looked at the young woman with those deductive eyes of his, he was the smart one after all. He set his ever-present umbrella against the couch. The first thing he noticed – the first thing anyone who'd ever seen her had noticed – was how stunningly beautiful the woman was, even laying there covered in drying crimson blood it couldn't be denied. Raven colored hair with ever such a slight curl to it hung around her face like a cloak, the bottoms of which had been recently cut. Her angelically smooth porcelain skin just seemed to show itself off. Mycroft leaned down and pulled back one of her eyelids surrounded by long lashes to reveal bold green eyes, almost an impossible green, they looked like two freshly polished emeralds staring blankly into the distance and around the very edge of her iris was a ring of black that only made them appear brighter. Stunning, Mycroft's mind muttered; there was something distantly familiar about them. Her body was athletically thin which only worked to make her chest seem larger – another thing most people would have noticed quickly. The woman had no jewellery and only wore a fitted grey tank top – that was now blood stained – and a pair of worn black jeans and boots, over the couch arm a denim waistcoat had been slung, drying blood covered it as well.
Annoyingly, Mycroft could tell very little about her which was frightfully unusual for him, he got the basics of course but nothing deeper. Her clothing had been purchased in Montenegro judging by the label in her tank top and waistcoat but everything was at least five years old, her boots however, were brand new, hardly a scuff on the soles . T here were small callouses on both her hand indicating she worked with them a lot but nothing like hard labour ; the lack of a sun tan ruled that out too. T his young woman certainly didn't have a regular occupation . Then there was her age; somewhere between twenty-five and thirty. That was just about all he could gather f ro m her.
Mycroft straightened himself but didn't look away from her as he spoke.
“Unfortunately, brother mine, I have no idea who this woman is.”
“I can hardly read anything from her myself." And didn't he hated that. "She had a gun in her pocket though, a Ruger, it's on the desk” Sherlock sighed as his brother lifted her arms in search of tattoos or scars. John watched on. “Then there is that Romanian accent, it wasn't quite right, doubt anyone would notice but I've been studying Romanian, Polish and Russian accents as of late and it's not quite right.”
Just then Greg bounded up the stairs and straight into the room, as soon as he saw the unconscious young woman his eyebrow raised. The Detective Inspector nodded to Mycroft in a silent greeting, somehow the two had become reluctant friends though neither one publicised it.
Finally Holmes the elder tilted her head to the side and pulled her hair out of the way to see the back of her neck, there he found six little numbers tattooed in jet black ink hidden away in her hairline, Mycroft paused going stiff and very silent.
“No.” He finally said, low and almost whispered, it certainly got the attention of Sherlock, Doctor Watson and Lestrade. “It can't be.”
Quickly Mycroft peered closer at the six numbers; 132601, the detective and doctor shot their eyebrows up when the elder man esentially yanked up her top and ran a hand down her left thigh in search of something, his movements suddenly quickened and be came a tad panicked . On her abdomen, almost directly underneath the wound John had patched up, was an old gunshot scar while under the fabric of her left thigh he found another raised scar indicating further previous bullet wounds.
“Do you make a habit of feeling up unconscious women, Mycroft?”
Sherlock asked teasingly but Mycroft didn't dignify it with a response, instead his eyes went wide with what could only be called shock, Mycroft never let his emotions be seen so plainly and it actually worried Sherlock and John.
“It can't be.” He whispered again almost as though he were trying to convince himself.
“What are you talking about, Myc?” Asked Greg but he was utterly ignored by everyone in the room, even Watson.
Searching the deep pockets of her oversized denim waistcoat he found the right empty – probably where the Ruger had been – while the other held a grey scarf.
“The scarf doesn't seem to fit either.” Sherlock began, mind still focused on solving the puzzle before them rather than wondering why Mycroft wasn't acting like his normal stoic self. “It's very well made, lambswool in fact, English too, I'd say Mulberry and it's probably from Harrods. However it's a mans. The scarf is old yet well cared for. You know it?”
“Yes.” Responded Mycroft as he finally turned to face his brother, Lestrade and John. “It's mine.” Mycroft paused for a second shooting the woman a fleeting glance. “Little brother, I was wrong, I know exactly who she is.”
He retrieved his umbrella almost seemingly for support.
“Well, you going to tell us?” Questioned John.
“Yeah, Myc, if you know who she is you need to tell us. We still don't know who shot her, they might hurt someone else.”
The taller man's deep eyes, a combination of blue and grey, looked back to the fabric in his hand.
Chapter 2: The Wilds Of Finland
Only a second or two passed by after hearing that name before Sherlock pulled out the chair from the desk and set it down heavily in the centre of the room, he pointed at it powerfully.
“Sit. Now. Explain.”
Sherlock had never seen this sort of reaction from his elder brother, not even when he'd confessed to Eurus' existence. It was strange to say the very least and that peeked the consulting detective's curiosity. A highly interesting story had just popped up and when an interesting tale came along Sherlock wanted to know about it, maybe Mycroft's past would be of amusement to him. He crashed down in his own comfortable black leather chair and watched as John did the same while resting his fingers together in a pyramid and setted his chin atop it, Mycroft didn't move.
“I'm not sitting in that godforsaken chair again.”
“Just do it.” Urged John. “ This is an injured girl not one of your petty brotherly squabbles. And why every time you sit in that chair is it about a woman?” The last part was directed more at himself tha n Mycroft.
Reluctantly the British Government sighed, rested his umbrella against the back of the dark wood and finally sat down in the uncomfortable chair, opening the button of his suit jacket as he did. Lestrade remained standing just off to his left with his arms folded over his chest.
“Fine, and this is only the second time I've sat here, it's not as though I make a habit of this.”
“Explain, Mycroft.” Sherlock cut in a demanding tone, cerulean eyes staring past John into the kitchen. “How do you know Gun Shot Suzy over there?” He gestured to the girl with a slight movement of his head. “Why does she have your clothing?”
“Yeah, and what sort of a name is Artemis ?” Added Watson with a perplexed expression .
“Greek. Artemis is the Goddess of the hunt amongst other things-” John cut the taller man off.
“Please tell me she's not another secret sister.”
“Good heavens no.” Mycroft responded quickly much to Sherlock's pleasure; he couldn't cope with more unknown siblings. “Sherlock and Eurus are quite enough thank y-”
“Get on with it, Mycroft. Quit stalling.” Sherlock clucked, eyes still locked on the fridge.
“Very well.” He took a deep breath. “It was fourteen years ago when we met.”
“Where? What were you doing?”
“Sherlock, if you want to hear the story do shut up long enough for me to tell it. Just listen like when you were a child and I told you pirate stories.” The man with curly dark hair reluctantly nodded. “Fourteen years ago I went on a mission to Finland, obviously I cannot part with all the details but it was an intel gathering mission.” Mycroft went quiet for a moment as though thinking and Greg unconsciously shuffled closer. “I'm going to tell you something now and not a single one of you are ever going to repeat it to anyone unauthorised, if you do your punishment will be worse than if everyday were Christmas with our parents and murder cases didn't exist.”
Sherlock's eyes went wide as he looked at his brother, the mental image was horrifying, he sighed.
“Now I'll have nightmares.” Sherlock muttered. “But yes alright, British secrets and all that.”
“The intel I was to gather was on Hades-”
“Hades?” John interrupted. “Who the hell is that?”
“Pun intended?” John shook his head no. “Hades is an organisation of highly trained assassins and mercenaries who ask no questions and never fail, John. Their agents are referred to as Reapers, it's all very dramatic, very cloak-and-dagger.” Sherlock turned his head to face his brother. “They're also a myth, like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.”
“Brother mine, I assure you they are quite real. Moriarty favoured them, I suspect they were probably the ones aiming at you in that swimming pool as well as the gunmen trained on the bombing victims. Artemis is part of Hades. That mission is also part of the reason I detest legwork.”
“I'm assuming you got your intel.” Began John with a curious expression.
Sherlock cut in. “That doesn't answer the question. How did she end up with your scarf for the last fourteen years?”
Mycroft sighed and went quiet again, no doubt editing the story in his head to hide any major details they weren't authorised to know, before finally staring into the empty fire and starting the tale; Sherlock knew that tone from his childhood, that was Mycroft's story telling voice.
“I was thirty-one years old, night had fallen and I was running for my life...”
Mycroft charged through the thick snow as more tumbled to the Finnish ground, the weather grew harsher with each second that passed and there was white as far as the eye could see. Behind him stood the only Hades base the British Government – or indeed any government - had ever been able to find; Hades was officially no longer a myth. The place looked like a run-down old factory, six stories of dark concrete and that was exactly what the decrepit worn out building was, hardly an intact pane of glass remained and looked as though the thick frozen snow was all that held up the building; underneath was where the magic happened. Miles and miles of tunnels stretched on into the distance as though it were some sort of labyrinth while the building above sat quiet and vacant in the middle of a gargantuan glade, a memory long forgotten. The building had been left over from the Second World War.
He could hear dogs snarling as he continued to run through the white, his breath turned to mist as he panted. Mycroft had been so careful, so careful , as he'd crept down into the Hades base, it had taken him ages to remain unseen but he'd done it, and then one stupid guard had decided to go for a cigarette early and spotted him; Christ he hated legwork . That was how he'd ended up running for his life in what looked to be almost six inches of snow, every step was draining but Mycroft wasn't a quitter, he might have had to quit smoking though, his lungs were killing him. He'd found a decent pile of information though, their next two targets, it would have been nice to have had more time and search for more but no, that damn guard had turned early and forced him to charge off into the snow with expertly trained assassins giving chase. Thankfully the snow had started to turn into a storm making it practically impossible for sharpshooters to get a lock on him, one small boon, the fresh snow would also quickly hide his tracks and the wind was on his side making it hard for the dogs to follow his scent. His only problem was that in all that chaos and biting wind he wasn't a hundred percent sure if he was heading in the right direction, still, escaping Hades was his first priority.
Suddenly something caught his eye, dark and different from the white coated trees, a cabin maybe. He'd seen a couple of them dotted around the huge glade but none of them looked like they were populated or used regularly. Just when Mycroft thought he'd survive the snow and Hades something – or more correctly someone – tackled him to the ground where he landed with a thud, thick snow momentarily cut off his air supply and burned his lungs.
Instantly he was flipped onto his back and pinned down by a girl – a teenager if his eyes were correct – there must have been something in the way he looked at her because surprisingly she paused for a moment, which gave him enough of a chance to buck the girl off of him and go for his gun. He fired without really aiming and hit her in the left thigh, the girl didn't scream, hardly even flinched, but her leg did buckle sending her to the frozen ground. Mycroft scrambled to his feet just before she managed to lunge at him and slammed the butt of his weapon against the side of her head knocking her out.
He stood there for a moment, snow slowly covered them both over, the gun aimed firmly at her head, she was just a teenager and looked cold in her short sleeved green t-shirt and torn blue jeans, breath huffed out in streams of mist but she didn't shiver. Instead of killing her he gathered the girl up into his arms and carried her the rest of the way to the cabin while trying to convince himself he could get more information from her. The snow made quick work of hiding evidence, blood and all.
The cabin's door squeaked when Mycroft opened it and the interior was practically void of anything, just one room with one small frosted over window and a rather hideous couch pressed up against the wall to the right of the wooden door, in front of it was a small rural looking coffee table topped with a first aid box. Mycroft dropped the girl onto the uncomfortable metal framed couch with green stained cushions and tugged a pair of handcuffs he'd found in the Hades base from his back pocket, quickly he cuffed her hands to the metal frame before pulling down her bloody jeans and grabbing the first aid box.
Time went on with quiet save for the storm that had turned into a vengeful blizzard, all he could see out the tiny window was a small black blob that was actually the ruined building; everything else was a white wasteland. He was safe until the storm slowed or stopped, which ever came first. His fingers were cold as he worked on her thigh but then again all of him was.
“What are you doing?” She asked in an American accent.
Mycroft stilled for only a second before he locked his fear away behind that mask of his and displayed only confidence.
“Calm yourself, little assassin.” He started without looking up from what he was doing. “You have a bullet in your thigh and I am in the middle of removing it, so hold still.”
The raven haired woman obeyed but only because she could see he wasn't a trained medic and didn't want his hand slipping.
“There we are.” He said removing the dented bullet from her thigh, he was surprised she didn't flinch, not the slightest hiss of pain.
Mycroft set the bullet aside before setting to work sewing the wound up and bandaging it. Her thigh felt like ice just like the rest of her and the fact she hadn't spoken since that first sentence unnerved him a little. Carefully he pulled her jeans back up and looked up prepared to speak but noticed something was different, she'd dislocated her thumb and had started to slip her cuffs; Mycroft hadn't heard so much as a clank of metal on metal frankly he was impressed.
“I'm afraid not, little assassin.”
He forcible popped her thumb back into place and pulled free the grey scarf from around his neck and tied it around her wrists to make slipping her cuffs nigh on impossible.
“Killjoy.” She jested flatly as though he knew the words but not the feeling.
He found that accent of hers strange, primarily American but ended with an almost Russian flair, it wasn't a natural accent that was for sure. She was a puzzle to Mycroft and that intrigued him.
“What brings the British Government here, hmm? Besides the promotion you want.” There was that Russian flair again at the end of certain words.
Clever one isn't she? He asked himself silently. Maybe she's not just a brain dead killer, maybe this one actually has an intellect. Mycroft couldn't let her think she was in charge though, she was the handcuffed one after all.
“I'm afraid I'll be asking the questions, little assassin. Let us start easy. How did you know I wanted a promotion? Guess or deduction?” He cursed himself for his curiosity into her, he should have just gotten to the point and started drilling her for information.
Her emerald eyes glanced over him.
“Why should I answer any of your questions?”
“Because I can make you hurt.”
The raven haired beauty before him just stared back at Mycroft with impossible green eyes as she tried to decipherer everything about him.
“You're funny, I like you. Seriously though, you have no idea how I was trained, torture was my wake up session as a child, still is. You can't do anything to me.” She took a breath looking him over again in his thick, warm – and expensive – clothing. “However, I'm I suspect you want a chat and there's a blizzard outside, plus I like you so I'll answer. It was a deduction. You're clearly not built for field work which means you give orders rather than carrying them out. You're the brains not the brawn. The only reason someone like you would come here in this weather to a place like this is if you want something, and I bet this mission makes you look incredibly dedicated to your boss'. So either you're the real life Dan Fielding or there's a promotion in the offering.”
Mycroft nodded to himself.
“Very good. Next question, how old are you?” The girl had said she'd been with Hades since childhood which suggested they trained child soldiers; a worrying turn of events.
“I don't know.” Her response came a little too quickly.
“Please don't lie to me-” Mycroft looked into those green eyes of hers. “Oh, you're not lying. You actually don't know.”
“Hard to know your age when being a Reaper is all you can remember.” She leaned forwards ever so slightly, her long straight hair slipped down around her shoulders like a cloak. “How long until your government comes looking for you? Or will they not bother?”
“I told you, little assassin, I'll be asking the questions. What is your name?”
The Reaper didn't know why she answered him, there was just something about the older man that made her want to talk to him and for her that was highly unusual; it went against everything she'd ever been taught.
“I don't have one. What's yours?”
Mycroft could see she was once again telling the truth and the explanation as to why she was a mystery to him suddenly became clear, she was a mystery to herself. He decided to completely ignore her question, the auburn haired man had never met a blank slate before.
“I think I'll light the fire, in this weather no one will see it and you do not have nearly enough layers on.”
There was silence as he turned to the fireplace, Mycroft knew he didn't have the skill to break her and he was pretty certain that the best England had to offer would struggle. He also found himself cursing his brain for this strange wave of care that had washed over him, you do not have nearly enough layers on, why in hell did he care? The tall man with auburn-red hair decided to focus on the fire, it was old fashioned and there didn't seem to be any matches in the draws to the left of it, the one time I don't have my lighter . Friction fire it is then. A large dead tree stood just outside the cabin almost hid d en away in the darkness of night that had been shielded a little from the snow and after only a few seconds Mycroft had torn a few sticks away that were dry enough to be used, the nameless Reaper just watched him as though he were the evening's entertainment. Mycroft dropped the sticks down onto the hardwood floor, slammed the cabin door shut and sat down cross-legged before the fireplace, with his knife he quickly flattened either side of the thicker stick then cut a little dent into one side, it had been years since he'd done this. The other stick he stripped of its bark and sharpened to a slight point, rising up to his knees Mycroft pressed a foot down onto the flattened piece of wood pressed the other stick into the cut out dent and started rubbing his hands together frantically spinning the wood, the girl watched on for a while until finally she broke the quietude.
“You need to cut a notch in that hearth otherwise you're going to set the floor on fire.” He looked over to see her smiling softly, she wasn't teasing him, just trying to help. “You can use the plastic packet you took the needle for my leg from to gather the coal up.”
The Reaper made a good point and Mycroft reached across the small cabin to grab the packet from the coffee table before cutting the notch just as she'd said, he wasn't an outdoor person and to be honest was a little surprised to find he'd not deleted the information. Soon after he had the smouldering coal and nestled it in the shavings he'd made before setting it in the fire with the logs, slowly the fire came to life.
“Well done, British.” She smiled at him and why did he find it so beautiful? Why did he want to make sure she never stopped smiling?
“Thank you.” He found himself replying, eyes looking away to watch the fire grow and start to radiate heat.
Mycroft tidied the mess he'd made away into the corner by the door so it was out the way then sat on the floor by the fire, he'd have rather been at home by the fire but Uncle Rudy was gone and he had to make his own way in the world now; hence Finland.
“Have you always been obsessive compulsive?” The girl asked from where she sat chained to the couch.
Mycroft regarded her plainly with a raised eyebrow. “I am not.”
“Yes you are. There are more server cases of OCD but you definitely are, or haven't you noticed you just stacked all the trash up in order of size?”
He just continued to watch her; she was faster than Sherlock. Mycroft cleared his throat and leant back against the wall, at least being trapped in the godforsaken cabin wouldn't be boring.
“You're rather observant, aren't you, little assassin.”
“The things we don't notice usually get us killed.”
“I couldn't agree more.”
Silence hung between them then as the small fire crackled. They were two sides of a war hardly anyone knew about, literally the brain and the brawn.
“I like your hair.” She asked suddenly after a time.
He hadn't expected to hear anything like that from her – from anyone really – and found himself turning to shoot her a confused expression.
“What?” Surely he'd misheard, no one ever liked anything about him save for his money and ability to solve problems quickly, there was certainly nothing appealing about his appearance.
“Your hair, I like it. Most auburn hair is a combination of brown and red which is actually ginger, yours is like brown and wine. It's unusual, I like it. I bet it was brighter as a child.”
“Are you even old enough to drink?” He shot back, if it wasn't for that truthful spark in her eyes he'd have believed her to be teasing him as Sherlock often did.
“I kill people for an organisation that you assumed was a myth until you came to Finland, do you really think legal drinking age matters?”
“I suppose not, especially since you don't know your age.”
There was something about this Reaper that Mycroft found easy to talk to and that both worried and pleased him; worried because she so easily affected him, and pleased because he'd have someone to talk to until the storm stopped rather than living in his head like he usually did. Mycroft wouldn't admit it but he was lonely.
“How old are you?” Was it possible she found it easy to talk to him as well?
“You can't do much damage with that information. I'm thirty-one.” It was only then he noticed her shivering, despite her subconsciously hiding it; that seemed to be a built in response. “Here.” Without intending to that wave of care hit him again, Mycroft tugged of his thick coat and slipped it around her shoulders. “You're cold.”
“Why do you care?” She whispered, her face confused but she displayed no emotion at all.
Mycroft paused, he was known for being cold and emotionless himself but where he wore a mask to hide his feelings he was beginning to believe she couldn't feel them at all; had been taught not to.
“I don't.” Mycroft told her quickly before he yawned. “I'm going to sleep now, I've been up for almost seventy-two hours so I think I deserve it.”
He'd tied her hands tightly and she couldn't dislocate her thumbs again so he was sure he'd be able to get a few hours without her escaping and trying to killing him, outside it had gone almost pitch black but the sound of high wind and snow echoed outside like a Banshee; Hades would have been forced to retreat. Mycroft lay down over by the warm fire and settled down for a while, gun clutched in his hand just in case; he was asleep in seconds. The Reaper just watched knowing she couldn't kill him.
Practically an hour went by before she managed to loosen the scarf and get her hands free of the handcuffs, he'd almost made it impossible, almost. Standing up she stretched her arms above her head, careful not to over wrench her leg. The British man over by the fire looked so peaceful in slumber, the tiny lines around his eyes had relaxed making him look a decade younger and stubble had started to grow on his face; it didn't suit him. The Reaper knew she should have just killed him and left, gone back to Hades with the information he'd stolen and never think about him again, instead she heard the fire crackle and lure her into its warmth. Rather than killing the British man she found herself laying down beside him, snuggling into his warmth and drifting off to sleep.
Chapter 3: The British Government And The Teenager
It was the early hours of the morning and the snow showed no sign of stopping. When Mycroft awoke he found himself feeling calm, refreshed and relaxed which was unusual for him, normally Mycroft awoke to thoughts of work rushing around his head but this time he woke slowly and peacefully. He lay on his back beside the dwindled fire and rapidly blinked away sleep for a few moments before registering a heartbeat against his side, Mycroft paused for a second or two before daring to look down. There, cuddled up into his left side with a hand rested on his chest, was the Reaper, thankfully he still held his gun. Faster than lightning Mycroft jumped back jolting her awake, the raven haired woman didn't fight as Mycroft pinned her to the uneven wood floor, gun pressed against her heart. He couldn't understand why, this young woman was just a line of question marks to him, ????, that really did intrigue him, and those big green eyes were so deep and kept drawing him in; why does she have this effect on me?
“Why did you not kill me?” He finally asked, voice deep and grainy with lack of use.
She stared at him for a moment as though taking in each and every feature of his face, committing it to memory while at the same time trying to figure him out.
“You shouldn't stare longingly into my eyes.” She teased and Mycroft had to hide a blush. “Means you're not watching my hands.”
Suddenly she wrenched the weapon from his hand and flipped them, the barrel of the gun firmly against his throat; God I'm out of practice. That was only part of the reason, the rest was simply he found her distracting. She paused for a moment looking almost apologetic.
“The reason I didn't kill you is because I didn't want to. I like you, remember? If you find yourself alive in a room with an assassin then they don't want you dead.” Slowly she handed the gun back. “A Beretta 92FS, semi-automatic, designed in nineteen-seventy-two and accurate as well as durable, it suits you.” Carefully she clambered off him and shuffled back putting an appropriate distance between the two of them once more; Mycroft sat up. “I was cold that's all and you were so warm over by the fire.”
“Didn't think you were bothered by the cold.” He rolled his shoulders. “How did you get out?” He asked and she smiled.
“You ask a lot of questions you already know the answer to, don't you? I nearly didn't, I was about to give up when I got lucky.” The Reaper sighed and leaned back against the wall. “Neither of us can leave this tiny cabin until the storm ends, even Reapers won't risk coming out here – but they'll know you're either dead or in one of these cabins – so what about a truce until then?”
“Heavens forbid we even become friendly.”
She chuckled at that and if Mycroft didn't know better he would have believed she actually wanted to be there with him. Torture won't get anything out of her, she's grown numb to that. Talking might get her guard down, she might let something of importance slip if I play along.
“Alright, little assassin, truce.”
“Stop calling me little assassin, you can call me thirteen if you require a name.” The Reaper rested her head back against the the wall while Mycroft went to bring the fire back to life.
“That is not a real name, and why thirteen?”
“Tell you what, you tell me your name and I'll answer.”
“Simon.” Said Mycroft easily, as though he'd said it so many times before.
“Liar.” Started Thirteen flatly. “However, you are right, thirteen isn't exactly a name so I guess Simon is a fair trade, next time though pick something that suits you; certainly something with a 'M'.”
“I'll keep that in mind, now tell me about thirteen.” Mycroft – having brought the fire back to life – sat across from her on the floor, jeans ruffling.
He watched as the Reaper gathered up her long hair and turned to give him her back.
“Come look.” Cautiously Mycroft obeyed, shuffling across the hard floor until he was close enough to just make out tiny numbers hidden in her hairline, 132601. “It's my designation, closest thing to a name I have.”
She let her hair drop and turned back around leaving her face just a bit too close to Mycroft's and they both jumped back slightly. He didn't rush back to the other side of the cabin though, instead he sat down with his back against the wall beside her. The girl that had dove on him had been talented and violent but the one sat beside him seemed lonely and Mycroft knew all about that, Britain knew Hades was a dangerous and ruthless organisation but it seemed the way they treated their agents was just as bad.
“Do all of you have those tattoos?” He asked nonchalantly knowing that it may have offered a way of identifying Reapers in the future.
“We're suppose to but some have burnt them off or had them removed for one reason or another.”
Won't identify all of them then, but it could still be very useful.
“Do you use those to refer to each other?”
“No, it's just to keep track of whose who.” She answered knowing exactly what he was doing. The Reaper smiled when she heard his stomach growl. “You're not going to go cannibal on me are you?”
“I would never stoop to something so revolting. You have no Hannibal-like behaviour to worry about from me, I assure you.”
“You'll be amazed what people will do when they are hungry enough... and who is Hannibal?”
Mycroft wasn't very good with popular culture, never had been and probably never would be but Hannibal Lecter was one of the best known literary names of all time; he was up there with Dracula and Victor Frankenstein.
“I suggest you read a book.” He advised casting his eyes back to the fire, her young age didn't excuse an avoidance of reading.
“Beyond being taught to read I don't get books, killing people doesn't require me to be social or have a vast literary knowledge.”
“Still, you said Dan Fielding before I went to sleep. How can you know who he is and yet not know Hannibal Lecter?” By all accounts it didn't make sense.
“I was sent with a unit to kill a man a few months ago, the apartment was bugged and he left the television on, I could hear the show while I waited for a clear shot. I understood the promiscuity of his character and the fact he was an ass-kisser but not why that was funny.”
Didn't just knock on the door then so the little assassin is probably a sharpshooter primarily, explained why I managed to buck her off so easily. Hand to hand is not her best area.
“What's your favourite color?” She asked after a moment of of silence.
“What sort of a question is that?” Mycroft detested casual conversation and he started to wonder if the teenager had ever engaged such a thing or if this was some kind of experiment.
“That's what normal people do, right?” The raven haired young woman asked as she rested her head back against the wooden wall. “Ask each other pointless questions in the guise of polite conversation.”
“Yes. I suppose normal people do.” Responded Mycroft, how on Earth did I end up in this situation?
“Normal people are goldfish.” She muttered back softly and Mycroft laughed, uncharacteristic for him, so much so that it actually surprised him a little.
“Goldfish, I like that, I may use it. And it's green.” He'd not intended to answer the question, it just slipped out. Much to his surprise and disgruntlement Mycroft realised he actually liked the idea of just sitting and talking to her. “What's yours?” He asked quickly in a tone that hid his growing enjoyment.
“I don't have one. I'm not supposed to favour things like that, that's why I don't have a favourite food, animal or any of that other internet dating shit.”
“It isn't just that though is it?” The fire crackled as heat slowly radiated out through the cabin. “You didn't show an ounce of pain when I shot you and didn't flinch when I dug the bullet out. You're trained not to feel anything, to shut off your emotions.” Mycroft did much the same on a daily basis but Thirteen had taken it to a whole new extreme.
“That's about the sum of it.” She sighed. The girl squinted. “Pain is negative, isn't it? The one that hurts?”
Suddenly Euros was there before him as a child. 'Which one's pain?' he heard her ask in that dark voice. No, he couldn't let his sister in now. Mycroft forced it away.
“You said you liked me, liked my hair. That doesn't strike me as someone who obeys the rules.” All that training and yet hints of emotion still poke out, broken and disused but they're there, Mycroft's mind muttered.
“We all break the rules at some point, Simon, and I prefer to think of it as bending them.”
The British government smiled again, Thirteen seemed to have a talent for making him smile and it was a little worrying for Mycroft to find this teenager had power over him. His pale blue eyes glanced over the cabin, it was small and almost completely empty save for a few cupboards to the left of the front door below a frosted over window. Mycroft and the teen sat facing the window, the fire crackling to their right, wooden walls held no decoration of any kind giving up nothing as to who owned or built them. Overall the cabin looked like it had just been erected and in the elder Holmes' opinion it looked cheep. The girl watched him easily, not bothering to hide the attention she was giving him.
“Go on, ask, Simon.”
“What are these cabins for?” By encouraging him to ask it became clear that she was willing to grant him information, almost as though she knew it wouldn't amount to anything or effect Hades. “They're not stocked, not manned, they do not serve as look outs and I see no evidence of them being monitored so I doubt they're used very often. However, to ground troops with no access to satellites it makes Hades appear more populated, I myself was careful not to get too close to these cabins.
“Got it in one.” She grinned. “We also occasionally run training exercisers out of them.”
Conversation died down after that, Mycroft was too busy inside the expanses of his mind, snippets of information slotting into place as he mentally wrote his report. He did however, notice the girl's hands moving about skilfully with her emerald eyes closed, as though assembling a rifle. She repeated the action several times growing faster and faster with each new run through, with that Mycroft knew his deduction of her being a sharpshooter had been correct; he'd always admired snipers, they were patient and precise, masters at their craft. And this girl – no more than fifteen or sixteen – had a lifetime to grow even better.
Why was it that the strange murderer who'd just tried to kill him had more in common with Mycroft than just about anyone he'd ever met, even Sherlock? None of that was important there and then though, she was just a child really, a teenager. The British Government had known about Hades for decades, they knew about their heavily trained killers and mercenaries that never failed but this, using child soldiers, even Mycroft Holmes hadn't expected that. In truth it all made sense, the younger they were taken the more time to train and condition them into being the perfect little murderer. He suspected Hades had been in possession of this girl – he refused to call her Thirteen – for a very long time. She was an adult in a child's body, hadn't ever had a childhood.
Sherlock, John nor Greg Lestrade looked overly impressed with what Mycroft had been telling them. A secret trip to a base run by an army of trained assassins and the British Government had sent Mycroft of all people? They'd never heard anything quite so ludicrous; Sherlock almost found it laughable. Holmes the elder had always detested legwork and though strong of mind hadn't ever possessed a strong body, would have been easy enough to break him like a twig of someone wanted to. However, Sherlock had to admit to himself that Mycroft was excellent at deception, he'd smuggled himself into Serbian ranks easily enough to save him.
“So you're telling me that – because of you – I now have a bloody assassin in my flat with my baby daughter asleep upstairs?!” John panicked from his usual seat; eyes wide.
Mycroft sighed. “Artemis is of no danger to you.”
“No danger? She kills people, Mycroft!” John shouted. “Is every woman we meet a goddamn assassin?”
Sherlock and Lestrade still tried to wrap their heads around Hades actually existing. Neither man had ever believed the whispered rumours about them, it had always seemed too Bond movie in their opinions but Mycroft Holmes wasn't the sort of man to make something like this up and the girl was right there in front of them to prove it.
“Not all women, John.” Said Sherlock plainly. “Just her and Mary, that's not a very large percentage.”
Mycroft breathed out a small laugh, so low and small that it was hardly even noticeable.
“I assure you, Doctor Watson, while your wife was an extraordinary shot and trained killer she is nothing compared to what Artemis is capable of. Do you know why?”
John glared at him. “Do I care?”
“Almost certainly not.” Sighed Mycroft.
“I'll cuff her.” Greg told them as he tugged his handcuffs free from his belt. “Better to be safe than sorry, huh, Myc.”
Mycroft rolled his eyes. “Gregory, did you even listen to the start of what I was saying? She'll be out of those in a matter of seconds and choke you to death with them.”
Lestrade glanced down cautiously to the unconscious woman then to Mycroft and finally to his cuffs before he tucked them away again.
“Okay, maybe not then.”
“If Artemis is here,” began the elder Holmes brother which jolted Greg and Sherlock out of their thoughts “then something is seriously wrong. She has asked for me specifically and somewhere that her superiors will not be looking for her which means it will be to do with Hades itself. I would also like to add, John, that were Artemis to want you or little Rosie dead then we would not be having this conversation, I'd be tending to my dear brother's broken heart as he cried over your corpse.”
“Stop being smug, Mycroft!” Growled Sherlock as he continued to stare off past John into the kitchen as he thought. “Just get on with the damn story.”
Reluctantly Mycroft carried on.
Chapter 4: The Tortured Child
Several gruelling and cold hours had gone by since the blizzard had set in, a blizzard that had only grown stronger. The thick wooden walls creaked and screamed as snow settled atop the roof and wind beat against the door like a police knock. The dead tree's branches scraped and scratched. Chaos howled around them but inside the cabin everything was quiet and unexpectedly calm; peaceful even.
Mycroft had managed to get the girl to open up and talk about little bits of Hades' internal workings though it wasn't all that useful. She was a smart one, this girl was clearly as intelligent as Sherlock – maybe ever so slightly more – but she didn't feel the need to flaunt it; probably a result of the lack of emotion. Despite the bits of information he squeezed from the raven-haired teenager not being all that useful it was still more than his government had possessed before. It was too easy though.
“Why are you teasing me with these little bits of information?” He asked quietly. “Feeding me scraps so you can work some out of me.”
The teenager shrugged and spoke without taking her eyes from the small fire. “Our truce will end, British. You're going to die when this blizzard breaks … best resign yourself to it.”
“Ah! So it's the classic won't live long enough to tell anyone game. Boring.” He sighed disinterestedly. “I have no intention of dying in Finland of all places. I may surprise you and live.”
She looked him over then, her emerald eyes revealed nothing of her inner thoughts and frankly Mycroft found that refreshing; it had always been so underwhelming to just see everything.
“No you won't, but I welcome you to try.”
Mycroft had always been the smart brother, he knew this girl was right; she could kill him at any second if she wished. He was fully aware the only reason she hadn't – despite what she'd said – was that she wanted to see what information she could bleed from him. Then again, there was always the possibility of him talking his way out of it; a very tiny possibility but it was there glinting away and Mycroft would lunge at it.
“You're rather young, fifteen or sixteen I'd say judging by the lack of static lines on your face, the firmness of your neck and breast development. Going on that I wonder, how long has Hades had you?”
“I don't know.” She leant her head back against the wall while Mycroft continued to watch her.
“You have no memories from before? I suppose you could have been born into this.”
“I was not.” She sounded certain of that. “I do remember something though, a car crash and a boy, young, dark hair, covered in blood, dead. Water too. It is not important.”
This teenager really was numb to emotion. “You don't care where you came from? Don't miss your family?”
“No. Caring implies an emotional connection and emotions lead to mistakes and disloyalty. Hades trains it out of us rather successfully. Then again, you should know that, British, you did break into our child training centre.”
“We didn't know there were children here.”
“The inexperience and lack of training is probably the only reason you made it this far.”
Mycroft hated that she was right. He missed his home and his old movies, his peace and quiet, his tailored suits! He really wasn't designed for legwork, at least not anymore. A long time ago when he'd been in his twenties working for British Secret Services he's been passable, wasn't like he'd ever been Johnny Fedora but still he'd been passable … now he was more like Nancy goddamn Drew.
“Hades is like an iceberg isn't it, little assassin.” He let his legs kick out straight towards the fire. “No matter how much horror we're aware of there is always something worse just underneath the surface.”
“It takes a certain mindset to do what I do, British, that's why Hades gets to us so young. And who is going to suspect a little girl?” She flashed him a smirk but it seemed forced, as though the action wasn't fully known to her. “An assassin can't afford to be reckless or waver. We don't kill out of greed or desperation, for sport or even hate, and despite what you may think of us, we don't let ourselves become animals. Our feelings are always the first target so we eliminate them, only when they're cold and buried can we train our sights on our victims.” Her eyes raked over him a moment. “You should know the cost of doing business is high, and I am fully aware that feelings are hard to kill, but they're far harder to resurrect.”
Mycroft had always prided himself on being intelligent and always having a comment or a come back to off balance others but this girl left him speechless; he couldn't imagine the torture she must have gone through to deaden her thoughts and feelings, quite frankly he didn't want to imagine.
The British Government fell silent when the black leather couch squeezed, he turned around in the uncomfortable wooden chair just in time to see Artemis sit up. John was up and by her side in a matter of seconds back in full doctor mode. Mycroft and Greg watched while Sherlock carried on just staring into the kitchen blankly.
“You need to take it steady.” Said John but Artemis just rose to her feet and yanked the IV drip Watson had fitted free of her body without a single hint of pain. “Or you could do that. I need you to sit down so I can take a look at you. You've lost a fair amount of blood.”
The raven-haired beauty grabbed Mycroft's aged scarf and stuffed it in her back pocket. When John tried to rest a hand on her shoulder and force her back to the couch she cast him a look and he instantly backed away; he may not have been as smart as the Holmes' but he knew when to pick his battles.
Mycroft stood as Greg once again reached for his cuffs.
“If you could resist the urge to handcuff someone for longer than two minutes that would be wonderful, thank you, Gregory.”
Artemis rolled her shoulders, the blood loss was evident but the IV fluids had done her a world of good, as had John's quick thinking. She pulled her bloody top up a little to see the damage but showed no signs of … well, anything really.
When Mycroft spoke Artemis dropped her crimson stained top and snapped up to the elder man.
“Why are you here, Artemis.” Smile, the all clocked it. Tiny and hardly there but for someone who'd they'd come to learn didn't feel anything it was quite the statement. “Who shot you?”
The assassin cleared her throat and spoke again in that Romanian accent. “There is a price out on your head, British, Lady Smallwood's as well.” Mycroft only raised an eyebrow while Lestrade and John grew concerned. “Due to your position and stretch of authority only Hades is willing to take the contract.” Artemis' voice was really rather monotone. “We have also accepted it because the contracts work in conjunction with another task we have accepted which is to acquire information on a classified project codenamed Tesla.”
Greg raised an eyebrow, this girl sounded like a female Mycroft now she'd started reeling off a wealth of information.
“And, pray tell, how much is my death worth?”
“In total Hades stands to make a profit of fifty-one million, though we are paid in bitcoin.”
“Fifty-one million!?” DI Lestrade's eyes went wide. “Fifty-one bloody million?”
Artemis cast a glance at him. “Yes, Detective Inspector.”
“How does she-?” Mycroft cut his friend off with a gentle gesture.
“It's really rather evident.” He turned his attention back to the girl. “Go on, Artemis.”
“For your death, thirty million, for Protect Tesla it is twenty million and one million for Lady Smallwood's death. The price was originally a hundred thousand but – as you know – that is nothing for someone with priority ultra clearance.”
Mycroft swelled with fake modesty. “Thirty million for little old me?”
“British, don't pretend you aren't aware of how many people want you dead and will pay for it.”
Suddenly Sherlock launched up from his seat and started to pace around Artemis though she didn't seem phased. Knowing he had no hope of giving out any more medical skill, John fell back into his own chair while Greg leant on the back of it; he should have been back at Scotland Yard but this was like dinner and a show.
“You can stop whatever morbid flirting this is with my brother and get on with explaining. Why? Why would you come here to reveal everything to your intended target knowing that all that wealth was on the line and that by doing so your organisation will undoubtedly want you dead?”
Sherlock continued to slowly circle her but Artemis didn't pay him any mind, she just caught Mycroft's blue eyes with her green ones.
“You know why, British.”
Everyone's attention went to Mycroft a moment but he gave nothing away. Sherlock jumped in again.
“Yes, yes, hung out in a cabin, we know. I'm surprised you didn't kill him for breathing. Now, back to more important – and frankly more interesting – facts. What is Hades' plan?”
“It's really rather simple.” Artemis moved out of Sherlock's circling and perched on the couch arm. “By now I'll have been placed in the list of your security detail under the name Hope Cole-”
“If you're already in the British Secret Service's systems why not just take the project?”
Mycroft flashed Sherlock that unimpressed elder brother face he's had so many years of practice at.
“It's a separate network entirely, little brother, don't be so dense. Does it hurt being so slow?”
“Shut up, Mycroft.” Grumbled the younger Holmes.
“British, earlier today your car was attacked and diverted while your security detail broke off to pursue.”
“Hardly a blip.” Came his quick reply.
“That's because Hades didn't want you dead. We just needed to separate your security from you long enough to kill them all.”
That got Greg perking up and slipping into full concerned policeman.
“You're saying there were shots fired in the middle of London and no one alerted the police. What if a civilian had died? God, sometimes I wonder why I even bother.”
Unfortunately for Lestrade, as always, he went completely ignored by the other three men and woman in the flat.
“I was to become the surviving member of your security. You had a woman of my height and similar features so it would be easy to just swap our pictures out and have me replace her. Of course everyone else had to be dead for that to work.”
Mycroft smile one of those tiny smirks of his. “Clever.”
“Not as clever as you are.” Replied Artemis. She paused. “I'm supposed to sound English, aren't I.” She cleared her throat and when the raven-haired beauty spoke again it was as though she'd been born and raised in England all her life, gone was the Romanian accent into the aether. “Sorry, that's better.”
“Hmm, I take it the bullet wound is to increase believability.” The elder Holmes brother commented. “Expertly shot to cause heavy blood loss but miss anything vital.”
John seemed shocked. “They just shot one of there own? What if they'd killed her?”
Mycroft spoke over his shoulder. “I assure you, Doctor Watson, Hades wouldn't have batted an eye. What is Hades' next step?”
“To have me infiltrate and observe you until I have access to the information I require, then kill Lady Smallwood and finally you.”
“Why you specifically though? Just coz you look like this Hope girl?” Greg questioned.
Artemis cast him a look, her eyes impossibly green like emeralds in firelight. Unlike everything else she said, when Artemis spoke again there was actual emotion in it; faint but it was there.
“When I found out Mycroft Holmes was their target I told my superiors about the cabin. Told them that you were the one who broke into the child training centre fourteen years ago. I knew that would make sure I was the one they sent.”
“Obvious, Gregory. I got away. I got away and now that they know it's me they want her to prove she didn't let me go, that she's still loyal by killing me. They want her to fix her mistake.”
“Still doesn't answer why she's doing all this. Could have just killed you.” Sherlock looked almost desperately at Artemis. “Why couldn't you just kill him? You'd put so many people out of their misery. You had it all planed out so perfect and plan-y.”
The assassin's face remained unreadable. “Because Mycroft Holmes is the one man in the world I can't kill.” Her brow furrowed a moment. “No, that's wrong, I could kill him really rather easily, he's stood right there. I could kill all of you. It's because Mycroft Holmes is the one man in the world I will not kill. I refuse.”
Greg and John just stared at Artemis while Sherlock seemed confused and ever so slightly repulsed. Mycroft though had heard enough, Lestrade, Watson and his brother shouldn't have heard this much. He took out his phone and quickly called Anthea, he shuffled over to the fireplace and gave her orders quietly only to learn that all his security were indeed dead though Miss Cole's body hadn't been found; everything Artemis had told him was true. Athena seemed half prepared to take London to DEFCON 1 but he stopped her in her tracks. Mycroft hung up and stuffed his phone away and turned his attention back to Sherlock's dusty flat.
He cleared his throat. “Brother mine, you and your rather short lover needn't hear any more of this.” John made to complain but Mycroft just carried on talking. “Gregory, should civilians be placed in harms way and I believe that you can actually provide assistance I shall, of course, inform you.” So he was listening , muttered Greg's mind. “I'll also see to it that Artemis here gets the best medical attention in all of London back at my office.” He retrieved his umbrella and handed Artemis her Ruger. “Come along, little assassin.”
Artemis smiled again and one didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to clock it. She followed him to the stairs and started to descend them when Mycroft gestured for her to go first. However, The British Government ground to a halt when Lestrade caught him by the shoulder.
“Myc, are you okay? I know you won't admit to it in front of Sherlock but are you? You never told us how you got out of that cabin. You know you can talk to me if you need to, I'm your friend.”
Mycroft still wasn't used to having friends and he really wasn't too sure how he'd found one in Gregory Lestrade but he was thankful for the Detective Inspector's concern.
“I assure you I am fine, Gregory. Also, do not worry yourself over Hades, they've been operating everywhere for as long as anyone can remember. If there was a real threat I'd be rushing to my car rather than walking.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. You're Mister Government and I'm just an idiot.” Lestrade said as though he'd heard that a thousand times before.
Mycroft raised an eyebrow. “Gregory, you might not be intelligent when compared to my brother and I but, if I were to believe you stupid I would be stupid myself.”
Without another word Mycroft made his way down the stairs where he found Missus Hudson scowling at Artemis as the assassin waited by the kicked in door. His blue eyes glanced between the door and the two women as he breathed out a sigh.
“I'll have someone come and repair that for you, Missus Hudson. Good day.”
Holmes the elder and Artemis got into the waiting car and sat a moment in quiet before he instructed his driver to take them back to his office and to raise the divider to give them a little privacy. Quiet lingered between them again, Mycroft found it a little awkward but the green-eyed girl remained blank faced.
“Why are you trusting me, British?” Artemis asked. “I could be playing you for a fool.”
He breathed out a laugh. “As if you could.” He fiddled with his umbrella. “But to answer your question I'm trusting you because I know you don't fully follow Hades' rules and that you are still your own person somewhere deep down.” Mycroft regarded her a moment before he got back to business. “We are going to let Hades' plot continue as they intend and you, little assassin, will from now on be my … personal bodyguard. Best to make it all look convincing and that you're hard at work.” When he glanced at Artemis he could see she was listening intently. “I am going to use your knowledge to shut down Hades. Will you help me?”
Silence. The lack of noise hung between them a while and Mycroft actually started to grow concerned but then, like a ghost uttering an answer in an empty room, she replied.
“Yes.” Artemis nodded. “You have no idea how long that will take though, Mycroft. And why?”
He shrugged a little. “Because Hades has been a thorn in England's side for decades, because they abuses children and turn them into soldiers, because if Hades is gone then people like Jim Moriarty won't have an army available to them for a simple price. Mostly though,” he paused for dramatic effect “it's because they made me run through snow.”
Chapter 5: Because People Are Scared Of You
Mycroft's eyes hurt. He'd been stuck in that cabin for a full day and the storm showed no sign of dying down any time soon much to Mycroft's chagrin. Somehow he and the girl had ended up tossing scraps of paper into a trash can that they'd sat between themselves and the fireplace; a game he'd learnt the teen was far better at than himself. The fire crackled. Their truce seemed to be going well, she'd not tried to kill him and he hadn't frozen to death yet.
In a way the assassin reminded him of when he'd been a child before Sherlock had been born, the times when he'd just sit quietly in his room and focus on a puzzle in peace.
“I find myself wondering,” he started as he tossed another scrap of paper at the trash can and promptly missed, overshooting it into the fire. “Is there anything you like, actually like, something that defines you as an individual rather than simply a body controlled by a hive mind?”
The teenager shot and scored. “I like you, so that's something. Otherwise, though, no, that sort of thing isn't encouraged. Preferring something leads to liking and liking leads to emotions which then sparks emotional connections that are little more than distractions and weaknesses.”
Mycroft half agreed with that. He'd long believed that caring wasn't an advantage but that still didn't stop him caring.
“What do you like? What makes British tick?”
“Not much, I am fairly work focused though I do appreciate good Scotch, old movies and occasionally I play the piano, not too much any more though.” Sherlock had taken to the violin like a duck to water as a child when Eurus had elected to teach him, but Mycroft himself had favoured the piano. “Then surely you're good at something. You may not be encouraged to take pride in your work but I'm positive you do.”
She shot again though this time missed so Mycroft smirked and took up his next scrap.
“I have an aptitude for language if that's what you're getting at. Currently I speak ten.” Mycroft raised an eyebrow. “Obviously English then there is; German, Russian, French, Latin, Swedish, Finish, Japanese, Norwegian and Danish.”
“Ooh, really working your way around the verbal world.” He teased sarcastically.
“I could also climb on a roof a mile away and install a state of the art ventilation unit in the side of your head.”
Mycroft's eyebrow shot up, surprised by her comment. “You're conditioned to have little to no emotions, to hardly register pain and here you are making jokes. My, my, you are a naughty little assassin.”
“It was a statement not a joke.”
Mycroft took a breath. His sister's blank tone had often terrified him as a child – and as an adult – but this girl's seemed more … sad; maybe that was because he was discovering what had been done to her.
A few days passed by and London carried on as it always had; best of British and all that. While most Londoners had slowly meandered through their lives Mycroft Holmes had been hard at work. He'd taken Artemis to his office where he'd gotten Anthea – resourceful, prepared for anything, Anthea – to find the little assassin something a bit more appropriate to wear if she was going to be his personal bodyguard. Artemis had refused to put on the suit jacket saying it was too large so a hindrance but the rest she'd easily accepted. She looked like a whole new person when Mycroft had seen her stood before him at his desk post Anthea's handy work. Her hair hung loosely around her face, the slate colored slacks and waistcoat somehow managed to exaggerate her green eyes and the powder blue blouse Anthea had found clung to Artemis like a second skin. Not that Mycroft had ogled her of course; that wouldn't have been like him at all and rather inappropriate for someone of his station. Yes, yes, that made sense.
For a few days he'd kept Artemis close partially to make it look to Hades as though she'd integrated well into her role but mostly because he knew he was the only one who knew how to deal with Artemis. To everyone else she'd seem robotic or sarcastic or just plain rude.
It would take quite some time to get one up on Hades, Mycroft knew that, however, there had been several bits of information they'd managed to intercepted that he suspected were linked to Hades. Even he hadn't been able to decode them with all his cryptography knowledge but with Artemis he had found a translater. That was how he'd ended up sat at his desk flicking through case files while Artemis sat on his couch hunched over the coffee table decoding. He admired her work ethic, the little assassin hadn’t spoken in the fifteen minutes since he'd given her the files and was writing quickly.
Holmes the elder had found his office quiet and in relative peace which was nice, it all ended though when Lady Smallwood just threw open the door with force and stormed in. She moved so fast towards Mycroft's desk that she didn't even notice Artemis shoot up from her seat with the fountain pen she'd been using gripped tight. The suit clad man raised his hand in a gesture to halt.
“It's quite alright, Artemis, dear.” Lady Smallwood looked around horrified though she hid it well. “There's no danger to my life here.”
“Yes, Mycroft.” With that the girl went and sat herself back at the coffee table to carry on with her work.
The elder woman turned her attention back to her colleague and took a steadying breath.
“You inform me that my life is in danger from assassins via email? And then that said assassin is now your bodyguard!”
“I informed you that there was a price on your head, yes, just as there is on mine, but you are in no actual danger, I assure you. Artemis won't kill you-”
Lady Smallwood cut him off. “Oh really? Because it looked remarkably like she was about to drive a pen into my neck, Mycroft.”
“No. I would have thrust it into your ear,” began Artemis without looking up. Mycroft found himself fascinated while Lady Smallwood was horrified. “the bones are more fragile there so a low-velocity object can do far more damage. Also there would be significantly less blood than if I were to stab you in the throat meaning body disposal time becomes more efficient.”
When there was nothing but silence and Artemis felt eyes on her she glanced up at the two government officials. Her head tilted a little.
“Should I not have said that?”
Mycroft shook his head slightly. “Probably not, no.”
“I want her incarcerated, Mycroft. I want her in MI6's secure cells and interrogated. She can't be trusted.”
Mycroft didn't seem impressed. “Artemis does not need incarceration and she is perfectly trustworthy. There also isn't any need to interrogate her, as you can see she's already decoding intel for me.”
“Those things are in what, thirty languages and all mixed together? Our best couldn't figure out what they said and you expect this loaded weapon to do it because you asked her to?”
Holmes the elder raised an eyebrow and gestured to Artemis. “Well clearly, yes, she already is.”
“I don't know if it's relevant to whatever this is – argument? - but there are actually thirty-two languages here and yes I do speak all of them.”
To anyone else she'd have sounded boastful but Mycroft knew the truth, she was simply stating a fact. Artemis didn't boast, would have meant she wanted the attention and gratification so no, Artemis didn't boast.
Lady Smallwood didn't look impressed, frankly the expression was rather incredulous. “You speak thirty-two languages?”
Artemis shook her head. “No, I speak thirty-nine. Most recently Farsi.” She glanced at Mycroft then. “These are all somewhat out of date but I'll finish.”
With that Artemis went quiet again as though she weren't there. Mycroft smirked, he remembered when he'd first seen her she only had ten under her belt; quite the little Polyglot. His attention left the assassin though when Lady Smallwood started up again.
“Mycroft, what if this is all an act? She needs to be detained until we can assess what she is up to not let her lounge about your office like a cat. She's not a pet.”
Mycroft raised an eyebrow at that. “I am quite aware of that, Lady Smallwood. However, I still disagree with you. Artemis is perfectly fine where she is and I know for a fact that she will not harm myself or you.”
She folded her arms over her chest, clearly closed off and irritated. “And how can you be so sure?”
“Hades' Reapers are trained to do one thing above all else, follow orders to those they're loyal to. Artemis is not loyal to Hades, she is loyal to me. I know that because she helped me escape and when I look at her I see absolutely no signs of deception.”
Lady Smallwood seemed confused and rightly so. “Helped you escape, what does that mean?”
“Precisely what I said. Fourteen years ago while on a mission in Finland Artemis could have killed me … but she didn't, she helped me escape the other Reapers knowing that it could be her death.”
That gave the other government official pause and she glanced across to Artemis as she flipped over a sheet of paper and then back to the man who controlled England. To her this woman was a walking time bomb but Mycroft seemed certain and Lady Smallwood had come to learn that he was very rarely wrong. If he trusted Artemis then it was for a very good reason; didn't mean she liked her though.
“I still want her incarcerated. You can give her whatever you like to decode but she needs to be in a cell.”
With that Lady Smallwood vacated the room leaving the office door open behind her. Artemis rose to her feet and shut it before she gathered up the papers she'd been writing on and lay them before Mycroft.
“I told you these were out of date, British. None of this information is useful.”
Mycroft lifted the pages with a slender hand and looked through them with a disinterested expression.
“I know that, Artemis, of course I knew that.”
Her head tilted slightly, robotic but the only indication of what was going on inside her head.
“I don't understand.”
“Oh come now, you're smart enough to figure it out, surely.” He leant back in his chair; ever imposing.
A pause as Artemis' eyes raked over the sheets of paper then up to Mycroft's eyes and back.
“You were testing me.” She smirked ever so slightly and he couldn't help but recall when she'd smiled at him in the cabin years earlier. It had been forced then but now the smile seemed as though there was ever such a hint of emotion in there. “You already decoded them, didn't you? Just wanted to make sure what I wrote matched your results. What happened to you trusting me?”
“Artemis, dear, my deduction is to trust you however, I would be stupid were I to not gather some sort of physical proof to back it up.”
She didn't seem jaded by his words. “Did I pass?”
Mycroft breathed out a laugh. “With flying colors, my dear. Do you think less of me?” He teased.
“I told you a long time ago what I thought of you, Mycroft Holmes. Fourteen years, four months and seventeen days and none of what I think of you has changed.”
He smiled. “At least I am consistent.”
Mycroft had to find somewhere for Artemis to live when not under his supervision, he also had started to think about arming her; she could kill well enough without a gun but as his bodyguard he should have armed her. It seemed that he didn't have to worry about any of that, two days after Lady Smallwood had burst into his office demanding Artemis' incarceration, Mycroft found himself pulled into a meeting with her and the rest of the most high ranking members of MI5 and MI6; not that there were very many. Artemis remained outside as ordered.
“... she is a walking weapon.” Insisted Lady Smallwood. “Even if she is of no threat to you she is clearly a danger to everyone else.”
“I told you, Artemis will not harm you or anyone else unless I tell her to. She should be considered a Freelancer rather than a threat to us.”
“That is of absolutely no comfort, I'm sorry, Mycroft, but it isn't.” Sighed Smallwood.
Mycroft rolled his eyes. “Good Lord, has everyone in England suddenly developed intense cases of unnecessary paranoia?”
“Unnecessary? Unnecessary?” Lady Smallwood just stared at him a moment. “She tried to kill me a few days ago.”
The British Government sighed, this really was cutting into his time for other things.
“No, Artemis attempted to protect me, bodyguards tend to do that. If she had tried to kill you, Lady Smallwood, I am quite certain you would be dead.”
“You're doing nothing to ease our concerns, Mister Holmes.” Said Sir Edwin.
“I agree.” Frankly Mycroft felt as though he were being ganged up on. “Mycroft, all we know about this girl is a codename and that she is an emotionless live grenade.”
“I believe an emotionless grenade is far less danger than an emotional one, less prone to outbursts and fits. Also, Artemis is not a codename it is her name. If you wish a codename then I suggest 132601. If we lock her up then Hades will sense something is wrong and send a replacement, one that will not provide us warning.”
“That is a risk we must be willing to take.”
Had Mycroft not had better control of his facial muscles he'd have stared open mouthed at Lady Smallwood; it was by far this least intelligent thing she'd ever said.
Sir Edwin stared off blankly for a moment and then back to Holmes the elder.
“I appreciate your view, Mister Holmes, I really do and were this literally any other assassin I would be inclined to believe you, but she is Hades. Every high level criminal we've ever pulled in here is in some way afraid of Hades and its Reapers. Then there is the Prime Minister's worry that she is a threat to National Security, a worry I – and clearly Lady Smallwood – share.” He sighed. “I'm sorry, Mister Holmes, but you have been out voted. The girl will be placed in MI6's custody where she will be secure until we can be fully assured that she is now our operative.”
“And if you're never fully assured?”
“Then she will remain in a cell until she is no longer of use to this country.”
“Hmm. And since when have we answered to the Prime Minister? We have priority ultra clearance.”
“Doesn't change the fact you are out voted.”
Mycroft felt his eye twitch as Lady Smallwood and Sir Edwin packed away their things. He didn't like having his hand forced but he was faced with no choice. He'd still be able to give her tasks to carry out but he'd not have easy access to her. With her locked up Mycroft wouldn't have nearly as much help taking down Hades either.
As he left the room he found Artemis stood tall in the hallway looking as though she belonged; she really was a chameleon. Seemed she noticed his irritation because she placed her hand lightly on his forearm which drew his attention, there was still feelings inside her.
“What's wrong, British?”
“I'm sorry.” He told her honestly. “You are to be lock up within MI6.”
Artemis' brow furrowed in confusion as Lady Smallwood entered the hallway followed by two members of security.
One of the men grabbed Artemis from behind by the arm and shoulder, a mistake, from muscle memory alone she yanked the man to her and threw him over her onto the floor. Lady Smallwood jumped while Mycroft just stepped out the way of the sprawled man.
“This is what I'm talking about, Mycroft!”
“Would not any woman retaliate against a man who grabbed her from behind against her will?”
“That's not what this is and you know it.”
He sighed, eyes closed a moment before he looked up at Artemis who appeared to be focused on his reactions more than anything else.
“Artemis, I need you to follow me.” She nodded. “You'll be spending the foreseeable future in a cell.”
When he made to walk off in the direction of MI6's cells he half expected her to refuse but no, she loyally followed him with the conscious security man trailing behind her. She nor the suit clad man spoke as he led her deep down under the building. Why couldn't people just see that what he said was the right thing to do? He was more intelligent than them all after all.
Several security gates later and Mycroft stood outside a fairly sized cell with padded walls and cameras covering every inch of it; security bordered on Sherringford level. The security guard opened the cell then stepped aside.
Artemis peered in, it was empty save for an excuse for a bed and a toilet, though that didn't look to bother the assassin.
“If you wouldn't mind, Artemis.”
“Why do I have to go in there?”
Why indeed. “Because people are scared of you.”
Quietly she stepped inside the cell into the middle where she glanced around with an unreadable expression.
“I will get you out of here. We have hell to overthrow after all.”
The cell door slammed shut and Mycroft stood there a moment before he stomped off to his office in a huff.
His office was where he stayed for many hours. Anthea brought him coffee when he decided tea wasn't strong enough and he actually hurt his fingers from drumming them so long against the desk as he thought. Why did people always have to make things so difficult? Just the fact that Artemis had entered the cells without protest told him she wasn't a threat. Mycroft undoubtedly knew Artemis better than anyone else ever had, and yet Edwin and Elizabeth hadn't listened to a word he'd said.
Many more hours went by with Mycroft locked away in his office – maybe a poor choice of words – as he put together a plan for slowly dismantling Hades; but he needed Artemis in order to do it. He only left his thoughts when a knock sounded and Lady Smallwood slipped her head around the door only to smile almost fondly at him as she entered the room fully.
“I'm sorry if you think Edwin and I forced your hand but we need to be safe above all else.”
“Forgive me if I don't agree with this being what keeps us safe.” He responded a little more violently than he'd intended.
“Would you like to join me for a drink, Mycroft?” He raised an eyebrow. “The day is over.”
She'd given him her number before and he'd not known what to make of it. He'd taken the number home with him and stared at it for a very long time trying to figure out if she had some sort of attraction to him or if Sherlock was right and Mycroft was actually lonely so had read too much into it, maybe it was a combination of the two. In the end it hadn't mattered, he'd tossed the number away in his notebook for in case of emergency and never said more on the matter.
“No, I shan’t. I apologize but I will be here quite late, I'm handling an issue for the CIA.”
Either his renowned skills of deduction had failed him or Elizabeth Smallwood actually seemed a little rejected by that.
“Well, you have my number if you change your mind, Mycroft.”
Chapter 6: Sentimentality Is The Respect The Cold-Hearted Pay To Feeling
Sherlock couldn't take it! He was going insane trying to figure out his new case which had led to him running back and forth through the Yard while John and Lestrade watched on with furrowed brows. They'd seen Sherlock like this many times before so neither man was overly concerned about it, they would just let him get it out of his system then listen to his overly dramatic explanation of what happened. In a way the younger Holmes was just a toy that they would wind up and watch it go. Donovan didn't seem happy but she never really was.
Lestrade folded his arms over his chest and leant back against his office door.
“You heard anything about Myc and that Artemis girl?”
John was surprised. “Shouldn't you know more than me or Sherlock? You know, you're Mycroft's best friend.”
Wasn't that an odd sentence. Even Sherlock hadn't been able to figure out how Mycroft had befriended Lestrade of all people. It was just one of those things that had just sort of happened like Sherlock's tea appearing in the morning or how the fridge magically restocked itself.
Lestrade chuckled. “We're not that sort of friends. It's not like we chat about work or National Security. No, we mainly talk about Sherlock and how much he irritates the pair of us, it's more like a support meeting really.” He shrugged. “There was this one time he took me to the Grand National, had to wear a fancy suit and everything.”
“Shut up!” Screamed Sherlock as he continued to pace and grumble to himself; or maybe it was someone in his mind palace. “You're putting me off even more than Anderson does.”
“Did.” Corrected Lestrade. “Anderson doesn't work for us anymore, remember?”
“When did this happen? Should have told me, I could have celebrated.”
John rolled his eyes. “You deleted it, didn't you? Sherlock, darling, Anderson hasn't worked for Scotland Yard since you faked your death and he went mad with guilt.”
Oh, that was all he said. The only syllable he expressed before turning back to the task at hand. Years ago it would have bothered John but now he just let it wash over him. He knew what Sherlock Holmes was like and he loved him anyway.
“John?” He looked up at the Detective Inspector. “Let's go into my office, we won't bother him and we can sit down.”
The former soldier followed Lestrade into his office with a glance back over his shoulder to the man he loved.
“You know, Greg, I may have to join you and Mycroft to complain about him.”
“Well, you are the one dating Sherlock, brought it on yourself.” Greg teased.
“Yeah, everyone already thought we were a couple so we decided to try and here we are. He's good with Rosie and that's the most important thing. I'm not gay, I just happen to have fallen in love with a man.”
Lestrade fell into his chair and raised his hands non-threateningly. “Hey, I don't judge. I am feeling a little deflated though, I mean, both Holmes brothers have someone and I'm just sat here like I'm out to pasture.”
John sat himself down in the chair opposite Greg. “Both?”
“Yes. Sherlock has you and now Myc has Artemis or whatever her name really is.”
Doctor Watson actually seemed surprised by that comment. It hadn't occurred to him that Mycroft was anything but asexual to be honest; not that he'd really thought about it until that very moment.
“You think they're together? He didn't even recognise her to begin with.”
The Detective Inspector breathed out a laugh. “Please, she's a highly trained killer who apparently doesn't have any feelings and yet she flat-out refused to kill him. Turned thirty million down because of it. Of course she's in love with him. I might not be as smart as Myc or hero coat out there but I know love is a pesky emotion that's hard to squash.”
“But it's Mycroft. He's, you know … Mycroft.”
“It may surprise you to know this, John, but Myc isn't actually as much of a dick as Sherlock makes him out to be. He's actually rather pleasant once you get to know him. He might be the most powerful man in Britain but he's also the most stressed.”
John chuckled. “You telling me to be nicer to Mycroft?”
Sherlock shoved the door open then claiming he'd solved the case, that it was obvious and that everyone but him was an idiot; the standard.
The Holmes that actually possessed some manners had finally managed to get away from being on load to the CIA and into a meeting with Lady Smallwood. His only want was for Artemis out of that cell so she could start supplying him with information and the pair could plot their next moves. However, in order to get her out he had to have either Edwin's or Smallwood's approval and frankly Mycroft believed he had a better chance with Edwin but he'd play both fields.
He spent a long time listing the reasons for wanting her freed. Made it clear to Elizabeth Smallwood that the longer she insisted on Artemis being incarcerated the less chance of Hades being shut down. If the little assassin stayed in there then she was a wasted assets but nothing he said seemed to get through to her, she was too focused on Artemis being a liability and nothing more than a walking WMD.
“I am the most qualified man to tell you what Artemis is and isn't. Yes, she is dangerous, yes she could kill us all if it pleased her but the fact of the matter is that she has been trained to obey orders rather than do what she wants – to not even have wants.”
“Then she's unpredictable. I agree that we should be interrogating her but so that we're sure she's telling us the truth.”
Mycroft raised a ginger eyebrow. “Are you suggesting torturing it out of her? She was already telling us the truth and more importantly torture won't work on Artemis. Hades has been torturing her since before she entered double digits. I shot her myself, twice, and she didn't flinch. You have no hope of torturing anything out of her and I really don't recommend that you try.”
“I'd be careful, Mycroft, you're starting to sound as though you care about her.”
The suit clad man's brow furrowed deeply. The idea was laughable, surely.
“Of course not. I just think we are cutting ourselves off from a very useful chess piece. She's the queen, Lady Smallwood, the queen who can move anywhere she likes on the board and is almost impossible to catch.”
“And yet we have her in a cell.” Said Lady Smallwood thinking she was being clever.
“No.” He shook his head slightly. “No we don't. She went willingly.”
He left then, knew he wouldn't get anywhere with Lady Smallwood. He'd been right to begin with, Sir Edwin would be the easiest target to over turn this all.
Mycroft marched down into the cells after a stop off in his office for something and ignored the odd looks the guards gave him, he wasn't the sort of man that made trips to the cells often. He only had to glare at them to convince them to open up the door to her cell; not standard procedure but everyone feared being on the wrong side of Mycroft Holmes.
The door swung open to reveal Artemis sat cross-legged in the middle of the room with her hands limp and her eyes closed.
“She's been like this since you had her locked in, Sir.” The blonde guard told him. “Three days and she hasn't spoken, eaten or slept. She just sits there like she's dead.”
“Hmm, it's a sniper technique. She can remain fully awake and alert for days without rest or food. Artemis has heard every word we've said.” Mycroft went silent but the guard didn't move. “Go away.”
The ginger man made his way into the cell, popped open his blazer button and crouched down beside the dark-haired beauty.
“Hello, little assassin.” He greeted calmly.
“I asked you a long time ago to stop calling me that.” Her green orbs snapped open. “What time is it?”
He took his pocket watch free a moment to spy the time. “It is two-thirty-nine.” Mycroft tucked it away. His knees weren't designed for crouching but he carried on. “Unfortunately I have not convinced Lady Smallwood to change her mind in regards to your captivity. I will endeavour to work on Sir Edwin tomorrow. For now you have to stay here.”
Artemis didn't seem too bothered, Mycroft suspected being in this cell was a walk in the park compared to her isolation training as a child.
He rested something in her lap then that had hung heavily from his hands since he'd slipped into his office to get it. When Artemis looked down she found it to be a copy of Red Dragon.
“You told me you didn't know who Hannibal was and since you've been good and not killed anyone or tried to escape I think you deserve a present.”
Artemis looked up at him with something in her eyes he'd never seen before. It amazed him that when he looked at her he managed to see bits of feelings and emotions but everyone else just saw a blank void.
“Thank you, Mycroft. I've never had a gift before.”
“Well, pretty girls get nice things and all that.” He cleared his throat before she read too much into that sentence. “I will get you out of here, Artemis, we have work to do.”
He finally stood back up to his full height then and was truly grateful for it; his knees weren't too pleased with him. Mycroft closed his button once again – ever the gentleman – as Artemis looked up at him with those big eyes of hers. Sat there cross-legged and small she reminded him of a child and in a way she still was, she'd never been allowed to grow a personality of her own. The scarf that had once been his was tied around her wrist and it confused him. Artemis was sentimental when it came to him and that could have been because of any number of things that had happened in that cabin; several of which he'd never entered into his report.
After a moment of quiet Mycroft took out his pocket watch again and unhooked the golden watch from the chain and handed it down to her.
“Dreadful pain not knowing the time, Artemis.”
She looked it over a moment then set it neatly atop the book. “You know I could kill a man with this, right?”
He smirked at that. “You underestimate my intellect. I am by far smart enough to know you're capable of killing someone with that. However, I am also smart enough to know you won't.”
She clicked the watch open. “Mycroft R. A. Holmes. What do the middle initials stand for?”
“My parents have always favoured odd names and unfortunately for me, Sherlock got the best of them, I was not so lucky. The A is for Amyas.”
“So what does it stand for? Rudolph? Ragnar? Rasmus?”
“It stands for something you, nor anyone else, shall ever know.”
He made to leave then but Artemis verbally forced him to a halt.
“Can I have one of your cigarettes, please? I'm supposed to say please, right?”
“If one wishes to be polite, yes.” He turned back to her and tugged the pack and lighter from his waistcoat. “I didn't think you smoked. You haven't displayed any signs.”
She shook her head as she accepted the cigarette and let him light it for her.
“I don't unless I need to stand in public without looking suspicious but, I seem to be scumming to boredom.” A trait that was remarkably unusual for a Reaper. “Thank you for making me bored.”
A ginger eyebrow shot upwards; he was ever so slightly taken aback. “How can that possibly be a good thing? Boredom is the destruction of the mind, it's probably why my brother is so slow.”
Artemis shrugged. “My mind is a constant stream of information. I calculated twelve ways of killing you just as you walked in the door – good job you didn't bring the umbrella or there would have been a few more – I didn't intend to I just did it. My mind is on constant auto-pilot, an auto-pilot run by Hades. But you, you interrupt that and let me be something else.”
Mycroft's eyebrow only raised higher. “I let you be bored?”
“I don't know how to be something else yet so boredom is the most I get.”
He paused a moment. This was why she'd held onto the scarf all these years, why she'd warned him and refused to assassinate him. She believed he had made her a person, that he'd made her Artemis; the thing he couldn't get away from was that she was right, he had.
“Then I suggest you read that,” he gestured to her gift “If you want a personality of your own books are an excellent place to begin.”
Then he was gone back off to running England from the shadows while Artemis watched the door close and lock. He might have lived in the shadows but her world was still too dark for him.
Chapter 7: When The Storm Ends So Does The Truce
Three more days crawled by before Mycroft had finally had enough of the completely unnecessary and idiotic imprisonment of Artemis. He'd quit playing nice and put the fear of God into Sir Edwin in the space of a ten second period and even fewer words; he should have done it earlier to be honest but Mycroft had tried to continue some sort of polite courtesy. Of course with Sir Edwin thoroughly terrified Mycroft had gained majority rule for releasing Artemis and within a half hour he'd yanked her out of that godforsaken cell and had her cleaned up again. Following that he'd made sure that Anthea had Artemis listed as his personal bodyguard, he needed her close to him not only for it to look real to Hades but so as his colleagues didn't get ideas about throwing her back in that pit.
Once he'd made everything official – or at least as official as a man of his clandestine nature could - Mycroft had taken her shopping. Well, that was a bit of a stretch, he'd actually taken her to his tailor who was used to the occasional female client. Mycroft was sick of Artemis looking like a vagabond. If Artemis was to follow him around on a semi-permanent basis then he'd make sure she damn well look the part. A few blouses and a couple of pairs of slacks and Artemis looked like the perfect bodyguard, imposing and yet somehow invisible at the same time; perfect.
With the return of Artemis to his side rather than the cell, Mycroft found himself once again thinking of the accommodation issue he'd had. Of course, the auburn-red haired man could have dumped Artemis at a safe house sure but she needed to be easily accessible to him; needed her to be within arms reach. That conundrum was what had Mycroft sat at his desk with his fingers folded under his mouth in an all too familiar prayer position. Artemis sat before him in one of the uncomfortable chairs – not that it bothered her – watching him as though trying to figure out which facial expressions meant what.
“Why can't I just live with you?” That made his eyes snap up. “I'm your bodyguard right? I need to be close like you say but away from your … friends. So why don't I just live with you? It's not like there is a flat across from you. And, Hades isn't watching us every moment of every day, that's not how we – they – do things.”
It wasn't a good idea, that was Mycroft's first and loudest thought. He couldn't keep her around like a pet but, at the same time it made the most sense. He was the only one who understood Artemis and he was running the project to shut down Hades once and for all. She was his key to it all so yes, this made sense.
“Very well. I suppose we have shared close quarters before.”
His house was certainly big enough for two and it would solve a lot of minor problems for him. Also, if Hades did decide to just try and end Mycroft then he had a Rottweiler at the foot of his bed. Artemis flashed him a smile; they'd started to become more common from the assassin.
“At least there won't be as much snow this time.”
That actually made him breathe out a laugh. He'd not been able to stand snow – or Finland – since that ruddy blizzard. Mycroft could tolerate looking at it but actually being out in the white powder he couldn't stand any more; he'd breathed in so much of it while running.
“When do you have to meet with Hades?” He asked to change the subject.
Mycroft raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me? All agents check in whether they're freelance, or service operatives. They all check in.”
Artemis shrugged. “Reapers don't. Unless we're on a clock. Our whole organisation is built on the idea that we are given a task and we carry it out. Once it's done we come back.”
“That makes absolutely no sense. How do they know what you're doing? How far you've gotten?” Mycroft couldn't believe what he was hearing. “You never meet a handler?”
“No. Never a meeting. We do check in, yes, in a way I suppose, but there is never a meeting.”
Okay, that made slightly more sense. “How do you check in then?”
“News paper obituaries. We have different coded obituaries for different things. To answer your original question though I already have.”
“When you took me to that tailor. You were being fitted for a new waistcoat so I had plenty of time.”
“That took maybe five minutes, he just wanted to re-measure my waist.” Artemis shrugged once again. “Alright, what did you tell them?”
“That you and yours had accepted our planned sequence of events, had no idea Hades is involved and that I'm no working on getting Project Tesla.”
Mycroft leant back in his chair. “All lies then.”
Mycroft got back on with his life and work in the following weeks. He solved problems and kept England – as well as a few other countries – running while Artemis followed him about as though she were on a leash.
She'd made quick work of plotting all the Hades bases known to her – which were far fewer than he'd hoped – on a large map in his office, and had versed him in deciphering the obituary correspondences she'd told him of. The reason no one had been able to decode Hades secrets was because they needed to be changed into several different languages before it could be deciphered into another language and decoded fully. Clever, paranoid and had taken Mycroft over a year to figure out. A year of work but it had meant that Mycroft Holmes was the only person outside of Hades who could read what their messages said. He'd given Sherlock a dumbed down version of it once and he'd not had a single idea of what it read; he'd sent Mycroft away with a growl and a string of insulting arrogance.
Eventually though he was forced to make his way to Baker Street to bring his little brother in on a small issue. As always Sherlock wasn't pleased to see him or Artemis as they stood by the fireplace at 221B.
“... why do I have to do it? As you like to keep reminding me you're the smart one.” Sherlock fell down into his chair, his dressing gown fluttered around his lean form.
“I cannot be seen to solve this. Yes I have already determined what happened and why in my mind but it needs someone to do it publicly that isn't occupying a minor position in the British Government.”
Sherlock snorted. “You run everything, Mycroft.” His elder brother just rolled his eyes and fiddled with his umbrella. “John, how long does it take to make tea?”
Mycroft and Artemis flashed a look. John wasn't in the kitchen.
“He went upstairs ten minutes ago.” Artemis informed. “Your tea is next to you.”
Sherlock cast his blue orbs to the cup of steaming tea beside him and raised an eyebrow as if to accuse the cup of magically appearing.
“Yes, brother mine, it's been there a while and you – once again – didn't notice.”
“Shut up, Mycroft.”
“Will you take the case, dear brother?” The suit clad man asked in a tone that wouldn't take a rejection; still Sherlock rejected.
“No! I'm not your performing monkey, Mycroft. I don't just hop to it when you tell me!” He shot to his feet and over to the window. “You can't just show up whenever you want me to dance and shove me onto the stage! This is you all over, brother dear, popping up when your shadows and secrets aren't good enough! Have your pet assassin do it. And why is she dressed like someone died?”
"Just wait." Replied Artemis blankly.
Mycroft sighed, seemed Sherlock was in one of his childish days and wanted to throw a fit. He blamed their parents, they'd always indulged Sherlock's nonsense when they'd been children and now this was what Mycroft had to deal with on a constant basis. How John hadn't killed him Mycroft wouldn't ever know.
Speaking of John. The man himself marched down the stairs from the upper bedroom that they'd been using as a play room for Rosie; his expression as clearly irritated.
“Sherlock, could you shut it maybe? All I can hear is you and you're upsetting Rosie.” He gestured to the small child in his arms.
John's words didn't even make a dent though, Sherlock was off on one and Mycroft suspected it was down to him trying to quit smoking again.
Without warning John shoved Rosie into Mycroft's arms forcing him to drop his umbrella and Rosie her small bunny and went to his lover's side.
“Sherlock, darling, you can't just throw a tantrum every time Mycroft shows up. I don't like his face either but you're an adult so grow up. What sort of example are you setting for her, huh? You're her Godfather for God's sake and you're teaching her it's okay to have a tantrum every time someone you don't like shows up.”
Sherlock paused in his grumbling and looked from John to Mycroft then back. “You really must be angry, John. You gave Rosie to Mycroft.”
John spun around suddenly just in time to see Mycroft bouncing little Rosie on his hip. John just stood there with wide eyes, both men were obviously surprised to see Rosie actually giggling while in Mycroft's care.
The little girl reached down towards the ground in a pointless attempt to grab her bunny so Artemis retrieved it for her instead. Rosie grinned when the assassin handed the pink rabbit over. Mycroft noticed his brother and John then as John's mouth fell open to continue his display of surprise.
“Honestly, I have two much younger siblings, do you really think I've never comforted a baby before?”
“You never did that to me.” Sherlock insisted quickly as John took Rosie back. “Besides you said you weren't good with babies.”
Mycroft bent to pick up his umbrella. “I said I wasn't good with humans, brother mine. Babies aren't exactly human, not yet anyway.” He smirked to himself. “And yes, dear brother, I did do that to both of you and you loved it. I remember once Mummy and Father had to rush Eurus to the hospital because of a fever which left you alone with me. You were only two at the time, hadn't become an ever present thorn in my side just yet. I read you pirate stories and taught you the periodic table.”
“No, never happened. Thank you for your fiction, Mycroft, but I don't think we need it.” Said Sherlock quickly and dismissively.
John muttered to himself. “They left two kids alone for who knows how long. Yep, explains a lot about you two.”
“Will you take the case, Sherlock? Lives are at stake.”
Doctor Watson could see Sherlock getting ready to complain about literally everything that had happened between himself and Mycroft since birth so jumped in and answered for him.
“Yes, he will. I'll make sure he does.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” He looked over to Sherlock. “I'll expect results in a day or so. Didn't take me long to crack it so at your slower rate it shouldn't take longer than three days. Good day.”
Mycroft left his brother and Sherlock's lover to the case and the child and headed down to his car with Artemis hot on his heels. He did have other things to attend to at the Diogenes Club. Once the vehicle was movie Artemis broke the comfortable quietude.
“What is it like having parents?” She enquires softly.
Mycroft honestly didn't know how to answer her question. To him his parents were well meaning but slow and irritating however, when he thought about having never had them he wondered who and what he'd have become without them.
“I'm not sure how to explain that to you, Artemis. They're the people who made me who I am so I suppose the good outweighs the bad in the end.”
He knew that wasn't a satisfactory answer but it was the best he had for her. She didn't complain, she'd never complained, and the pair sat quietly as the driver took them to the Diogenes Club.
Mycroft stared out of the cabin's tiny, half frosted over window. He could hardly see a thing through the heavy iced up glass. The wind still howled and frantically Mycroft would have killed to be back in London at the Diogenes Club with a glass of well aged brandy, instead he was stuck in Finland with a teenage murderer.
“I think that the blizzard is starting to ease off.” He said almost absent-mindedly. “It's several hours off but it has started at least.”
He went back to sit on the floor beside her knowing that he'd almost undoubtedly die as soon as the blizzard passed. If she didn't kill him then one of the Reapers that came out searching would. He'd never been a strong man physically, he couldn't fight them off. Mycroft would die if he could talk his way out of this.
“How does your leg feel?” The elder Holmes asked and he found he actually cared.
“I know that it hurts but it doesn't bother me.”
Carefully she pushed down the bloodied fabric revealing her legs to Mycroft. He locked onto the wound instantly and reached over to check her stitches; she'd live.
“So you can feel.”
“You can't just make someone stop feeling physical pain, British, not without a medical condition. I always know about the pain, I always know it's there. Hades just trains us not to be bothered by it and eventually it fades into the background where we can't hear it. Trained long enough and that happens to our emotions as well.”
“I don't know if that's incredibly useful or incredibly cruel.”
Hades weren't the mercenaries and assassin's they'd thought, they were monsters. It was children they were doing this to.
The teenager reached for the gun he'd left on the coffee table and instantly his eyes were wide. His heart rate spiked and Mycroft began to panic, at least he did until she started to take the weapon apart.
“What are you doing?” He asked while he tried to connect the dots for himself.
“I need to stay quick.”
Slowly Mycroft's heartbeat eased and he started to breathe at a normal rate once again. The truce hadn't ended just yet.
Chapter 8: I'm Not Lonley
The hour was late when Greg glanced down at his watch. He'd been at Mycroft's home for several hours and not even noticed the time sail by. It happened occasionally, Lestrade would be invited over to dine with the British Government and then the pair would end up watching something, usually it would be one of Mycroft's old films or, every now and again, Greg would convince him to watch the football; this was a night where they did the former. Since their strange friendship had bloomed the Detective Inspector had gained an appreciation for classic cinema, there was soul in the films and they were often more focused on plot than fast paced action add in some good suits and Greg understood fully why they appealed to Holmes the elder.
“Next time we'll have to watch The Italian Job, I haven't seen that in years.”
Mycroft cast his blue orbs from the screen to Lestrade. “I may allow it.”
The first time Mycroft had joked with him Greg had assumed the man was drunk. Holmes weren't known for their humour or frivolity, quite frankly they were known for being assholes. However, Lestrade had come to know that Mycroft was a good person underneath everything.
He couldn't help but tease back. “I feel honoured.”
“And so you should.”
A bang sounded then, somewhat faint but clear. Lestrade had been hearing it on and off for the last hour or so though hadn't paid much attention to it since the noise hadn't appeared to bother Mycroft. Greg had assumed it must have been a boiler or something echoing but eventually he just had to ask.
“Myc, what on earth is that noise? It's been going on ages.”
Mycroft took a sip of his brandy. “I apologise for the noise. The room directly underneath us had been used for storage, now though it is Artemis' training room. She needed space when she moved in.” Another sip of rich amber liquid.
Greg's eyebrow shot up in surprise. “That girl lives here now?”
Mycroft felt a need to point out the obvious. “Well, she is my personal bodyguard which means she needs to be around to guard my body on a constant basis, so yes, she lives here now. Also, it's that or an MI6 cell.”
Greg had only met the girl once but he thought cells might have been a bit harsh, if she'd turned on her people and gone to Mycroft then clearly she would make a better asset than a prisoner; obviously Holmes the elder saw that as well.
“My colleagues would rather just keep her locked up than allow me to use her.” He sighed.
“What is it you're planning to do?” Greg asked eagerly.
Mycroft just smiled at him in that way that said 'you don't need to know that, Inspector'.
Suddenly a far louder bang sounded, much harsher, and Greg jumped to his feet in alarm.
“Is she okay?”
The auburn-red haired man really didn't seem all that concerned, however, when several minutes went by without a single noise and Artemis didn't seem to come upstairs the pair decided to go check on her. Just because she was a highly trained killer didn't mean she was incapable of accidentally hurting herself.
The British Government and the Detective Inspector made their way down through Mycroft's house and into the room Artemis had been using as her training room. It was nestled amongst a few smaller rooms that appeared to be storage for bits of random furniture and Greg thought he even spotted an old wooden crib as they passed one room.
In the training room brown eyes found a load of sports stuff like a bench press and a skipping rope on a table beside the door, but what really had Greg's attention was the wall of weapons all neatly lay out for perusal and a sort of mini gun range. Mycroft stifled a yawn clearly unconcerned but Greg's eyes were wide.
“Myc, mate, you can't have all this down here.” He moved closer to get a better look. “I mean seriously, you've got a bloody Uzi, Glocks, an M4 Carbine, a Baikal MP-153, I don't even know what that one's called and … is that a fucking FAL?! Myc, no.”
“Gregory, I remind you who I am and what I do for a living. I am beyond the police's periphery and laws so yes, I can.”
Lestrade sighed, he knew he'd not win if he made this an argument. “Yeah, yeah, you're the British Government.”
Artemis' eyes snapped open then and the movement actually drew both Mycroft's and Greg's attention. She sat cross-legged on the floor within a white rubber square almost as if she'd been meditating.
“You okay, Artemis?” Asked Greg softly.
She nodded. “I am fine, yes. It's a Rheinmetal MG 3.” Greg raised an eyebrow so she pointed to the machine gun he'd not been able to name. “We just call it an MG 3 though. It's German, very useful.”
“What was the loud bang we heard?”
Artemis just pointed over to the range where the silver haired policeman saw a shotgun laying on the bench and all became clear. She seemed to struggle to assess the situation, couldn't seem to figure out if they were annoyed or not.
“Was I making too much noise?”
“No.” Mycroft answered quickly. “I'll have the place soundproofed soon enough. We were just checking on you.”
Again the assassin seemed somewhat confused but let Holmes the elder help her up with an offered hand even though they both knew she didn't need it. Meanwhile Greg had found himself curious and made his way to the range area. He wondered silently to himself how big Myc's house really was. Ooh, maybe there are secret tunnels that spider off everywhere, like the underground but without trains. The Mycerground! He looked at the paper targets she'd been shooting at. Greg was amazed, he'd always been a pretty good shot himself but this girl was on a whole other level. She probably could have signed her name if so inclined.
“You're an excellent shot.” He told her as he turned to face Artemis and Mycroft.
Brown eyes locked on her legs, she wore a white tank top and a pair of shorts but they revealed the scratches, scars and burns that littered her skin. From what he could tell though, most of them seemed to be in odd places. Mycroft had told them all at Baker Street that Hades had tortured Artemis, that had to be where the scars had come from. How could someone do that to a child? Someone did that to my little girl and I'd kill 'em.
When Myc spotted Greg raking his eyes up and down Artemis he wasn't stupid enough to think the policeman was ogling her, no, he knew that look of horror hidden away. Still, he decided to tease the shorter man.
“Care to try your luck in the ring with Artemis, Gregory?”
Greg breathed out a laugh as he snapped back to the world around him.
“Yeah, no, I'll pass. I'd like to stay alive, thanks.”
Artemis' head tilted ever so slightly. “I promise not to kill or injure you.”
It was the stupid teasing expression on the elder Holmes' face that made Greg feel competitive so – somewhat idiotically – he accepted. He'd get his ass handed to him, of that Lestrade was certain. He took off his watch and gave it to Mycroft along with his phone and keys who set them on the range bench then stepped into the rubber floor square. When Artemis rolled her shoulders Greg realised just how moronic he'd been, okay so maybe she'd not kill him but Greg knew he'd be very embarrassed by the end of it.
Not knowing if there was to be a count down or if it was just a sort of go when-you're-ready-type deal, Greg just threw a punch. Instantly the dark-haired woman blocked it and somehow managed to get her palm on his left biceps, the next thing he knew he'd been pushed, pulled and then Lestrade was on the floor staring up at the ceiling and bright lights. Artemis offered a hand to help him up which he took.
“How the hell do you do that?” Asked Greg half-amazed.
She was astounding in a slightly terrifying kind of way. Artemis shrugged, to her what she'd done was simple, uninteresting and not worthy of praise.
“It's rather easy once you know how. If you like I could teach you.”
“Yeah, alright, go on then.” Greg smiled while Mycroft watched on.
Artemis taught the silver-haired Inspector and Myc was actually pleased by it. Artemis had told him she'd wanted a personality of her own, something separate from Hades, and this simple act of teaching Greg to floor an opponent was the first indication that she'd started to develop her own personality. Maybe when Hades was destroyed – not that it would be any time soon – he'd get her to train their spies; couldn't hurt.
By the end of the night Lestrade was covered in bruises of varying intensity but he didn't care, he knew how to take someone down quickly and skilfully for the first time in his life. Then there was the fact he'd had a lot more fun than he'd anticipated. It had certainly been more fun than watching one of Mycroft's old movies; not that he'd be telling the taller man that any time soon … or indeed ever.
With the moon high up in the sky shining silver and free of clouds Mycroft found himself realising just how late the hour was; he didn't want Lestrade to head home alone and coated in a thin layer of bruises, wasn't healthy. Artemis had kicked the crap out of him so Mycroft thought it best to call him a car. He pulled his phone out his pocket and pressed it to his ear as he left the room leaving Greg and the assassin alone in the basement room.
DI Lestrade slipped his coat and made to follow The British Government but stopped dead when he saw Artemis quietly tidying things away and taking down the paper targets. When he'd first seen Artemis she'd been a pile of black hair and crimson blood slowly dying on Sherlock's couch at Baker Street, now though, all he saw was a tortured girl. He could see the scars that littered her body, most were faded by time while others were larger and covered in thick scar tissue. Lestrade might not have been as smart as Mycroft and his younger brother, but he was smart enough to see that most of those wounds were done to her by the same hand. He remembered the story, what Mycroft had said about her telling him torture had been her morning routine. He'd thought about that on and off since they'd gone down into the basement and every time it shocked him; Greg just couldn't fathom why anyone would do that to a child.
All Greg's inner thoughts made him divert from heading after Holmes the elder and instead to help Artemis clean up. There wasn't much to do but still he wanted to help, wanted to show her some kindness even if it was minuscule. Hardly a full minute had passed before he started to find the quiet awkward, not heavy exactly and he doubted Artemis even noticed him tense, but awkward it remained; Greg had to fill the quietude.
“Artemis?” She glanced over at him from her place at the weapon racks. “What really happened in that cabin? Why didn't you kill Myc?”
Silence. Artemis just watched him a time. Lestrade was certain she'd be able to stand still as a statue for days if needed, but then she set down the shotgun on the rack and stared off passed Greg as memories came back to her.
“Alright. I'll tell you.”