Coming home had been - easy. He hadn't expected it to be easy. He had been warned time again of what to expect; the sense of loss, that his life was no longer what it should have been; the triggers of familiar objects firing uncomfortable memories; the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of daily tasks; the loss of the security of the clinic making daily life, daily irritations into a battle zone.
He walked into 221b cautiously, waiting for the panic to hit, but it didn't come. He walked slowly round the sitting room, brushing the back of his chair with the back of his hand, letting his fingers linger over a book, the skull on the mantelpiece. Their familiarity was comforting, and the sense of threat that he'd felt during the weeks of his illness had dissipated without trace.
It seemed lighter than he remembered, the windows letting out a tell-tale rainbow as the light hit them. 'You cleaned,' he said, turning slightly towards Kate, who was perched on the corner of the sofa watching him.
'I had a lot of spare time on my hands,' she said. 'Do you mind?'
He shook his head, 'No. It looks - better, more ordered, simpler.'
'I didn't throw anything away. I just packed up some of your papers and stuff, put them in document boxes, just until -'
'Thank you,' he said, standing at the window still, looking out onto the street now.
'You okay?' Kate asked. 'I mean, I know that it must be odd. Coming home, being back where -'
'It's fine, Kate. It's -'
Arms reached around him from behind, Kate's warm cheek resting against his back, and they stood silently for a while, his hands coming up to cover hers. 'I love you, you know that?' she said finally.
'I know,' he said, leaning back into her slightly, watching Baker Street below. There was a car there, engine idling, waiting just outside of his direct line of vision. He moved Kate's hands away and leant forward slightly to look, but the car moved off before he could confirm his suspicions.
'What is it?' Kate asked.
'Trouble,' he told her, realising that he was smiling slightly at the prospect.
'What sort of trouble?'
'The sort that Anna would tell me that I'm not ready for.'
The car entered Baker Street again from the other end, driving slowly past until Sherlock pushed up the sash window stuck his head out and shouted, 'Why don't you come on up Mycroft?'
'Mycroft?' Kate asked. 'What's he doing here?'
'Keeping an eye on me, I would imagine.'
Was it really going to be that simple, Kate wondered? For Sherlock to slip back into his old life as easily as putting on that coat of his. And yet there was something in his face that she hadn't seen for weeks. Interest, amusement, the prospect of - conflict perhaps?
The knock on the door made her jump as she went to open it.
Mycroft was alone, the driver obviously waiting in the car downstairs. He held a bundle of newspapers under his arm. 'Kate,' he said with a nod. 'Did you know?'
'Know what? Mycroft, Sherlock's only been home about ten minutes. What is this all about?'
'You didn't tell her?' He asked Sherlock, who had resumed his old seat in his chair, long legs outstretched, fingers templed as he watched his brother with amusement.
'Tell me what?' Kate demanded, forgetting that Sherlock had only been discharged from a psychiatric unit that morning, forgetting that she was meant to be keeping him calm, to ease him back into his daily life, but then this was his daily life wasn't it? Chaos and conflict. She was starting to regret declining Anna's offer to bring Sherlock home and help settle him in.
But Sherlock didn't look shocked, or anxious, or surprised. He looked controlled, he looked - smug.
'Sherlock, what have you done?' she asked quietly.
'I have no idea what you're talking about,' he replied innocently.
And in answer Mycroft slowly tipped the stack of newspapers into his lap. Sherlock failed to move so they slid, one after another onto the floor, where they lay fanned out so that Kate couldn't fail to read the headlines. 'Scandal in the House of Lords!' read one, 'Paedophile ring at the top of government!' read another. Kate sank to her knees and picked up the one closest to her, starting to read. The scale of it, the extent of what had been revealed, was beyond even her imagining.
'It wasn't just your father,' she murmured, and then when neither brother replied, looked up to find them engaged in some kind of childish staring contest. She noted with satisfaction that Mycroft was the one who blinked first.
'Some warning would have been courteous,' he said finally.
'Why? So you could have stopped them printing it?' Sherlock retorted.
'Is that what you think that I would have done?'
'No, Sherlock, I wouldn't. Your timing was questionable, however.'
'Why do you assume that the timing was mine?'
'Because nobody else could have dug out those details after all this time. It seems a coincidence, don't you think, that this story just happens to break the day that you're released from the clinic?'
Sherlock stood up so suddenly that Kate, still half kneeling by the papers, found herself scuttling backwards to remove herself from the conflict zone. There was an edge to his voice that made her feel uneasy - anger, barely controlled. 'Do you honestly think, Mycroft, that I would have chosen for the story to break now, had it been within my control?'
'You - didn't leak it to the press.'
'Then who did?'
'Lestrade, possibly. I gave him the file to investigate. I would imagine that this is his way of encouraging other victims to come forward .'
Mycroft Holmes shook his head at his brother. 'Why would you want it made public Sherlock, why now?'
Kate looked from one brother to the other. Something was off. Mycroft wasn't as angry as he appeared to be, and he wasn't shocked either, not remotely. What he was doing, was acting.
'You could have waited a few days, Mycroft,' she said, as she worked it out.
'What do you mean?'
'Exactly what I said. You could have waited to leak it until Sherlock had been home a few more days. I appreciate that you need other victims to come forward, and you didn't want the whole thing buried by the establishments but still -'
Sherlock was looking at her in confusion. 'What on earth are you talking about?'
Kate grinned at him. 'You mean I worked it out before you did? That's got to be a first. Mycroft leaked it, Sherlock. I presume it's his way of making amends.'
'Why on earth would I do that?' Mycroft asked.
'Because whatever Sherlock may choose to believe, you do care about him,' Kate said. 'You failed to protect him before, this is your way of doing it now.'
The staring contest seemed to have switched to between Kate and Mycroft, but Kate had learnt from a master, and besides, she knew that she was right. She raised an eyebrow at him and was rewarded when he looked away with a gesture of defeat,
'Well deduced, Kate,' he said, his tone entirely changed now. 'Of course, if you'd told me that my brother was going to be released today then I would had delayed the leak. I assumed that he would still be safely in the clinic for another week or more.'
'You hacked the laptop?' Sherlock asked, staring at Mycroft.
'Of course. I had to know what you were uncovering, Sherlock. I had to make sure that you weren't going to do anything - unwise.'
'So you leaked it yourself?'
'Lestrade was being a little too cautious. My superiors were aware and were considering burying the case. I had hoped to pin it on a leak from the police. I trust I can rely on your discretion?
Kate looked at Sherlock, concerned about how he would take this. He stared at Mycroft in disbelief for several minutes, then his face broke into a grin and he looked down. 'Thank you,' he said quietly, before throwing himself back down into the armchair and starting to leaf through the stack of papers.
'Will you get into trouble?' Kate asked Mycroft.
'Oh, don't worry, it can't be traced back to me. Had Lestrade tried it, then the implications for his career would have been severe. This way absolves him of responsibility. And I am significantly more adept at keeping myself out of the firing line.'
'I'm sure that you are,' Kate said, and then walked over and kissed Mycroft on the cheek. 'Thank you,' she said. He looked surprised, but also rather pleased.
'I did what needed to be done,' he said.
'No, you didn't. You did what Sherlock wanted done. That's why I'm thanking you.'
'Is he ready for this, Kate?' Mycroft asked quietly, looking at Sherlock, who was now thoroughly engrossed in his pile of newspapers.
'As ready as he'll ever be, I think. He needs this, Mycroft. He needs to finish this to get better.'
'Then I will leave him in your capable hands,' Mycroft said, as he made his way to the door.
And as Kate closed the door, she turned back to watch Sherlock, engrossed in the press reports. Everything was as it should be. Sherlock was back in his chair at 221b, absorbed in as close to a case as he could get at the moment, John was downstairs, and would wander up later, in search of a cup if tea and some company and would end up staying for dinner. And Anna was on the end of the phone, ready to be contacted before her appointment with Sherlock later this afternoon if the need arose. But somehow, Kate was fairly sure that they wouldn't need to call her.
There were no guarantees, Kate knew that. This wasn't an illness that was going to miraculously disappear overnight, and it would always be a part of their lives. But it was also a part of Sherlock. Without it, he would be someone else entirely. 'I would rather have you sane and ordinary than mad and brilliant,' she had told him, on an evening that felt half a lifetime away. But the truth was, she would rather have him as Sherlock, whatever that involved. And if the storm clouds gathered again then they would deal with them together. Just as they had this time.