“John, is that necessary?” Sherlock asked from the door way as he watched his partner tuck his gun into the waist band of his trousers.
They were only going out to celebrate Harry’s birthday, a gun seemed excessive unless John was keeping something from him. It wasn’t the first time that thought had crossed his mind.
In the two weeks since Willa and John had presented Sherlock with the adoption papers. John had been more vigilant than he’d been even in the days following the birthday present incident in January. He was compulsively checking and locking the doors at night, sleeping with the camera feed to Willa’s room pulled up on his mobile and wearing the gun almost every time they went out.
Then there were the texts.
At first Sherlock had thought he was imagining things, imagining hearing John’s phone vibrate in the middle of the night, because John wasn’t restricting his access to the phone. He never snapped or snarled when Sherlock used it instead of crossing the room for his own. Then Sherlock had most certainly heard a text alert and when he went to investigate only twenty minutes later no text was to be found. John was deleting them. So he did what any perfectly paranoid partner would do, he stayed up for three nights in a row waiting for another text to come in.
When John’s phone finally vibrated on the third night, Sherlock gingerly reached over and snapped it up.
+44 7700 900651
So many flowers at this time of year.
I especially love the roses.
Will you buy me some?
Sherlock had feared cheating at first, a thought that had been crawling in the dark recesses of his mind since John had gone to Wales. Except John was barely leaving the house for anything other than work and on the rare occasions he left alone there was never any sign of infidelity. John certainly never seemed any more pleasant after he got back.
So after talking himself out of a blind panic Sherlock had begun looking at the message for codes. It certainly wasn’t a skip code and after some examination there didn’t appear to be any hidden meaning behind the words.
When John had woken and looked at his phone, message still displayed on the screen as unread, he scowled and shoved it face down on the night stand. John then turned and snuggled closer into Sherlock, complaining that he didn’t want to get up.
Mycroft had given him a devastating blow later that afternoon. The number was from a burn phone.
So yes, John was most certainly keeping something from Sherlock.
John pulled the back of his cardigan over the gun. “Probably not.”
“Then why are you bringing it?” Sherlock pushed.
“Because I’m paranoid.” John said simply and walked over to him. He pulled Sherlock down by his collar and kissed him. “You knew that.”
Sherlock returned the kiss albeit a little reluctantly. “It’s a Benihana, hardly a hotbed of crime.”
John sighed and pulled back clearly exasperated. “Sherlock.” His tone was warning.
“What about not wanting your gun around Willa? It’s practically become a part of you.” Sherlock continued, not caring how irritated he made John now. Worst case scenario was he would get angry and ask Sherlock to stay home, not exactly the worst thing in the world.
John pushed by him. “Because I’ve been thinking and I think it’s best if I keep it on me when we’re out. Are you telling me it wouldn’t have been useful at the park?”
Sherlock followed John into the kitchen. “Would you honestly have shot a man in broad daylight in front of your daughter?”
That brought John up short, Sherlock nearly collided with his back. “Not fatally.” He said eventually. “And our daughter. Not just mine anymore.”
Sherlock narrowed his eyes at John, he knew what he was doing. John had been absolutely delighted to discover he could effectively halt all trains of thought by referring to Willa as Sherlock’s daughter or even their daughter. It was a dirty trick and John used it constantly the first week. There was something about the idea that Willa was now his daughter as well that Sherlock’s mind could not fully process.
He was getting better at ignoring it though which was why it didn’t work this time. “That’s not the point John.”
John shrugged as if to say worth a try. “Sherlock I’m paranoid, alright? You know I’m a worrier, this is me worrying. Let it go.”
Sherlock had absolutely no intention of letting it go right up until he heard the sound of sandals descending down the wooden stairs.
Seconds later Willa rounded the corner carrying her hair brush and plastic box of hair ties. “Papa, will you do my hair?”
Sherlock cast one last glare at John, who wasn’t facing him to notice, before looking at Willa and nodding. “Of course.” It was entirely possible that as long as she prefaced a question with ‘papa’ he would have great difficulty telling her no. He was worried she would catch on to that.
Sherlock hadn’t admitted it to John, though he suspected he knew, but he enjoyed fixing Willa’s hair. There was something therapeutic about doing her hair for him and she enjoyed it too, nearly purring when he brushed it. Both she and John could brush it and make passable pony tails but it was only Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson who could tame it into anything resembling order.
“We’re going to be late.” John warned from where he was leaning against the counter watching them, there was a small smile touching his lips.
Sherlock shrugged. “And yet it’ll be a miracle if your sister gets there before we do.”
Willa tilted her head back to look up at him. “You have to be nice to Aunt Harry, it’s her birthday.” She scolded.
Sherlock tried to push her head back down so he could finish. “That’s a stupid rule.”
“We were nice to you on your birthday.” Willa said and stubbornly refused to move her head.
Sherlock sighed. “No, you were nice to me on your birthday. Now look at your dad so I can finish.”
Willa listened then and dropped her head back down.
John made faces at Willa to make her giggle while Sherlock finished fussing with her hair. She returned them with a few of her own that made John grin broadly.
The pressure of the gun in his lower back was a constant reminder that no matter how wonderful everything felt just then, it was all just smoke and mirrors.
His happiness wasn’t fake, he’d never been happier than he was in this moment. Even at his ‘happiest’ with Mary, just after the wedding when they’d found out about their daughter, he’d never even come close to this. The closest he’d come was the feeling of those months with Sherlock before he jumped from the roof. But being with Sherlock, being his partner in every way, and watching him fully grow into being Willa’s papa was truly one of the best things he’d ever done.
But there was a dark cloud over his head, one he wasn’t willing to share with Sherlock because he didn’t want to dampen the utter joy the other man was feeling lately. There would be a time, somewhere in the near future where he would have to tell him but now it wasn’t necessary. For now, though, he would bare this on his own.
Not that Sherlock hadn’t noticed, of course he’d noticed he was Sherlock bloody Holmes it would have been worrying if he hadn’t.
“Are we ready?” He asked as Sherlock took a step back from the chair.
Willa jumped up and ran into the bathroom to check her hair in the mirror. John winced as the sound of her sandals echoed off the tile. It was only mid-June but he’d finally given into her pleas to wear the horrible things. She hated the routine of shoes and socks, taking them off as soon as she could which made winters difficult, so when the weather began to creep just the slightest bit towards warm she would beg John for her sandals.
John gave in of course, there were bigger battles to fight than whether or not it was appropriate to wear sandals every day from June to September.
As Willa came out of the bathroom, gave Sherlock a little nod of approval, John realized that Sherlock had been watching him the whole time with a guarded expression. John tried to smile reassuringly at him but Sherlock didn’t return the smile.
“Let’s go!” Willa shouted at them from the doorway, as if she hadn’t been the whole reason they were still at home.
John chuckled. “Alright, alright.”
They took a cab to the Benihana in Chelsea, it was closer to Harry’s flat, and only managed to be ten minutes late. As Sherlock had predicted Harry wasn’t even there yet. John scowled at the sidewalk and checked his phone, there were no texts warning that she’d be late. John decided to text her to see if she was even going to bother showing up.
Are you coming?
“Can we go in?” Willa asked three minutes later, growing impatient and possibly hungry.
John shook his head. “Not yet, your Aunt Harry’s not here.”
Willa let out a moan of exasperation. She grabbed Sherlock’s hand and began swinging it in an effort to amuse herself. Sherlock allowed her to do so.
Yes! Sorry be there in five.
John rolled his eyes at the text. “She’ll be here in a few minutes.” He announced to Sherlock and Willa.
Sherlock nodded as Willa began to intricately weave around under his hand.
Five minutes turned into ten and by that point Willa had gotten Sherlock’s phone off of him. She had downloaded almost as many games to his mobile as she had to John’s. John was relieved when Harry rounded the corner.
He hugged her as she got to them. There was no warmth or particular fondness in their hugs, they were perfunctory. Simply the easiest way for John to determine the state of her sobriety. It wasn’t that John didn’t like his sister, he did when she was sober, but they had never been the hugging kind of family. Their parents had been the same way, reserved in showing their affection. It was why John hugged Willa and Sherlock every chance he got.
Harry was sober today.
“Hello John.” She greeted as they stepped back from one another.
John noticed that Sherlock was standing in front of Willa, he nodded at him and then Sherlock stepped aside. Willa was oblivious to it all, still playing on Sherlock’s phone.
“There’s my favorite girl!” Harry called and darted at Willa as she realized she had passed John’s inspection.
Willa looked up from the phone and cried. “Aunt Harry!” Sherlock skillfully saved his phone from meeting an unfortunate end by plucking it from Willa’s hands as she jumped up to give Harry a hug.
Willa didn’t understand why they only saw Harry a few times a year instead of the frequency in which she saw Mycroft or even Molly. John knew one day he would have to sit down and explain the addiction to her but for now, at six, Willa didn’t need to know those details. John would tell her about it when she got old enough that her own predisposition towards addiction became something she needed to be aware of.
After everyone greeted each other, Harry and Sherlock remaining cordial but icy as ever, they went inside.
“How does it feel to be old?” John teased his sister as they chose their seats. Willa insisted on sitting next to Harry, then it was John and finally Sherlock at the other end.
Harry scoffed. “I’m not that much older than you.”
John smirked to himself and looked down at the menu. Harry was always sensitive about getting older, once she passed twenty-five birthdays were only fun if you didn’t remind her of how old she was getting. Turning fifty was certain to be causing some mild crises but John couldn’t resist tormenting her, he was a little brother after all.
“I don’t think you’re old Aunt Harry.” Willa said sweetly. Harry made an ‘awe’ noise and hugged her niece from the side.
“Well you’re certainly getting older.” Harry told her. “Your hair makes you look at least ten.”
Sherlock snorted, apparently unable to keep his mouth shut any longer. John was impressed it had taken him this long.
Willa preened, pleased with the compliments. What was it about children always wanting to be older than they were? “Thank you, papa did it.”
Harry’s eyebrows merged with her hair line. “Papa?”
John cursed himself for not thinking ahead and warning Harry about the adoption. He hadn’t really planned on telling her until they had a date for when it would become official. He hadn’t thought about the fact that Willa had completely stopped calling Sherlock by name.
“Sherlock is adopting Willa.” John announced hoping he sounded casual about it and definitely not nervous about how Harry would react to the news in a public setting. Sherlock’s body tense by his side, anticipating the outburst.
Harry’s mouth had dropped open in surprise. “A-a-adopt?” She spluttered out.
“Yes, adopt.” Sherlock answered, his words clipped and sharp.
Harry looked to John, her eyes wide. “John it’s been what? Six months? Really is that enough time-”
“I want him to adopt me.” Willa interrupted suddenly, she was obviously worried about the sudden tension. Willa would never understand why anyone would find problem in Sherlock adopting her.
“Of course you do, lovely, that’s very nice of you.” Harry said and awkwardly patted Willa on the back. She let the subject drop then but the look she gave John warned that their conversation wasn’t over.
John’s mobile chose that moment to chirp.
+44 7700 900651
We need to talk.
John pursed his lips together.
No, I’m busy
+44 7700 900651
John, I’m serious. Come find me in the park.
If you won’t come to me, I’ll come to you. Do you think that’ll go well?
I’m not home, out to dinner with family.
John turned his phone off after sending his final text, he didn’t need to worry about anything other than getting through this evening.
Harry watched as John argued on his mobile. She knew he was arguing, John’s eyebrows always went down and together when he was pissed at someone and since they hadn’t actually gotten to their own argument, for once the look wasn’t being directed at her. She also noticed how Sherlock watched John from the corner of his eye. Was there trouble in paradise already? And yet here they were trying to tell her that letting this psychopath adopt her niece was a good idea.
Harry Watson was a lot of things. A drunk, a cheater, and a quitter (though perhaps not where it counted) but being unobservant wasn’t one of the things she was known for.
She’d been standing on the sidelines watching John and Sherlock’s relationship since the beginning of it. She’d always known Sherlock Holmes was dangerous but her little brother, who seemed to be able to overlook everyone’s faults but hers if course, was blind to it. He’d allowed Sherlock to take up his whole life over a decade ago and she’d known it wasn’t good then.
She hadn’t been necessarily happy when the bastard had committed suicide, after all he’d made John watch him do it. John had been a mess but at least he’d been free from his manipulative partner, and no matter how many times John denied they were together there was no other word for it. It had been Harry’s sofa John had first slept on when he found he couldn’t live in a flat with a ghost. John had gone on to meet that lovely nurse at his clinic and Harry had truly thought his life was finally back on track, that he’d be able to forget Sherlock Holmes.
Right up until the day the bastard had revealed he’d tricked them all.
John had stayed with Mary even though Sherlock was back, sure he was indulging in Sherlock’s insanity but he was still managing to have a decent life. He got married and when John told her Mary was expecting Harry had been thrilled for them, John had always wanted children. That was the last time she had seen John until Willa was over a year old. John hadn’t told her exactly what went on only that Sherlock was gone, most likely forever and that Mary had left him and the baby as well.
Harry couldn’t blame the woman, John was always so obviously in love with Sherlock from the moment they met that competing for his affections must have been exhausting.
Sherlock coming back had made Harry sick with worry but she’d stamped it down after seeing how happy it made John. Six years was a long time, surely Sherlock would have changed. Except he hadn’t, he was still a psychopath except now he’d been dragging her niece around in it as well as her brother. She’d hoped John would have more sense than to allow Sherlock this close to Willa but as always John was blinded where Sherlock was concerned.
He’s adopting her.
John’s letting him adopt her.
I know and it’s unacceptable
I’ll deal with it.
“I’m starving.” Harry announced perhaps a bit too loudly and clapped her hands together. John’s face twisted into something he might have imagined was a smile.
Willa, being her precious and precocious self, pointed at the menu. “I want the prawns.” She declared.
John dropped the smile. “Willa that’s-”
“Fine.” Sherlock interrupted with a grin. “Have whatever you like.” He looked meaningfully at both John and Harry, as if to say that directive was meant for them as well. Sherlock had clearly not been raised to understand the value of money.
Harry could hear the lecture about food costs stuck in John’s throat. John who looked at anything more than twenty pounds and died a little on the inside. Yet when Sherlock told Willa she could have anything John swallowed down his typical arguments.
Willa got her prawns and Harry ordered the black cod because she knew her brother, or more specifically her brother’s partner, would be paying. Willa was delighted by the sheer amount of fire involved in the preparing of their food and Harry loved watching her niece being enraptured by anything.
Harry hadn’t necessarily wanted children of her own, she knew that her maternal skills were lacking, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t madly in love with Willa. Clara had wanted children badly and sometimes it was enough to convince Harry she felt the same. Those were the months that she’d give up drinking and tried so hard to remain sober. Obviously staying sober wasn’t something she excelled at and after some time Clara gave up, not just on children but on their entire relationship. It was why Harry cheated, not that she’d ever try to justify it to anyone that way, but the thrill of being wanted was enough to tempt her.
She hadn’t deserved Clara and she knew it had been her own hand that had ruined her life, which was why the only people willing to celebrate her fiftieth birthday with her was her brother, his deranged partner and her niece.
Halfway through cake, Willa insisted on singing and the staff helped even while John and Sherlock looked seriously pained, Harry’s mobile vibrated against her leg.
Five minutes, take her to the loo.
Because I asked you to.
Harry frowned at the message.
“Is everything alright?” Sherlock asked, he was watching her in that way that made her feel entirely transparent.
Harry nodded and repocketed her mobile.
John was watching her too now, because he took everything Sherlock said as law. Harry swallowed down a large gulp of her water, desperately wishing it was wine. “Just a text I wasn’t expecting.”
Harry didn’t like the way the text sounded, it was odd of her to ask for anything other than pictures from every visit and copies of the ones John bothered to email her. Harry didn’t mind doing that because she knew how stubborn and pigheaded John could be. If he perceived that he’d been wronged by you it was entirely in his character to pretend you didn’t exist, Harry suspected the only reason he’d never disowned her was simply because they were the last of their family. Without her he would have no relations, other than Willa of course, and John was always sentimental.
Willa finished her cake with minimal mess and as she wiped her hands Harry stood. “I’m going to pop into the loo before we’re finished. Willa do you need to go?”
Willa shook her head. “No.”
John sighed. “Go, Willa.” He ordered just like any good parent who’d watched their child guzzle down two full glasses of soda during dinner.
Willa didn’t actually have to go but she also knew if she protested Daddy would get cross with her. So she stood and took the hand Aunt Harry held out for her. Willa frowned when she noticed they were sweaty.
She liked Aunt Harry.
She was very pretty and looked a lot like Daddy, only shorter and with longer hair. She didn’t smell as nice though, she smelt very strongly of perfume and sometimes of the wine Daddy liked to drink. Willa occasionally tried to figure out if she’d be short like Daddy and Aunt Harry or if she’d grow tall like Papa. Right now she was shorter than most of her classmates. When she had told Daddy this he smiled and stroked her hair telling her it was because all the Watsons were short.
She’d used his phone that night to look up what determined a person’s height. Not that she didn’t believe Daddy but he always said that sometimes even he got the answers wrong and it was good to double check. He hadn’t been wrong that time though.
Willa held tight to Aunt Harry’s hand as they weaved between tables towards the loo.
There was no one else in the restroom when they got there and Aunt Harry pushed her into one of the littler stalls. Willa rolled her eyes even though no one could see her. Why did grownups push children around like they didn’t have any idea how to find the toilet?
As she was finishing up she heard Aunt Harry’s voice. “Sorry mate, you’ve got the wrong room. Bit too much to drink, eh?”
“No I think this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.” A man’s voice answered. Willa frowned because this was a woman’s restroom.
“I’m sorry?” Aunt Harry asked, her voice had gone all high pitched, it made the hairs on the back of Willa’s neck stand up.
“Where is she?” The man asked.
Willa cracked the door on the stall just enough to see him, the man’s back was to her so he didn’t see.
Aunt Harry hadn’t answered but her eyes darted to Willa and Willa took a step back. Aunt Harry looked worried and Willa was now worried as well. Why was Aunt Harry scared of this man?
A woman came into the room then and she did see Willa but she smiled kindly at her. She was very pretty with long brown hair. “Hello, love, it’s alright come here.”
Willa didn’t move.
“Willa don’t.” Harry snapped anyway. “Now I don’t know who the hell you are but you need to leave.”
The man shook his head. “Angie sent us.” He had moved to the side and was looking at Willa.
Willa didn’t like it, everyone watching her. She wanted to scream, Daddy had told her to do that once. If she was ever scared like this and he wasn’t around she was meant to scream. She kept trying to open her mouth but why wasn’t her voice listening? Why couldn’t she make herself scream?
“Angie?” Aunt Harry asked and she took a step towards Willa, the man held out his hand and stopped her.
“I’m sorry Mary sent us.”
“What? Why would she do that?” Aunt Harry went to push past the man’s hand anyway.
“Of for god’s sake.” The man cursed and reached behind him.
Suddenly he hit Aunt Harry over the head with a gun he’d pulled from his trousers. Willa had seen Daddy’s gun a few times and he always told her she was never ever to touch it. Aunt Harry fell to the floor.
Willa went to scream, she could feel it in her throat, but then the woman’s hand was over her mouth. “Jesus, Cole.” She cursed.
Willa tried to bite her and she kicked out as the man came closer, he pushed her legs aside easily.
“Hush, we’re not going to hurt you.” He said as he pulled a white needle from his jacket pocket.
Willa tried to scream louder and kicked at him more. Her screams were muffled by the woman’s hand still even though it was slipping as Willa fought.
“Hurry up.” The woman said and she dug her fingernails into Willa’s cheeks.
Willa couldn’t see well, there were tears in her eyes and everything had gone blurry, but there was a sharp pain in her arm. She shrieked as something cool pressed into the spot he had stuck her.
“Shh, it’s alright love.” The woman whispered even as her nails continued to dig into Willa’s cheek.
Willa kept kicking but then her legs began to feel weird, like when she was swimming. Her head got dizzy too.
“There you are love.” The woman said and then she slid her hand away. “That wasn’t too much was it? Angie’ll kill us if we hurt her.”
Willa’s entire body felt like she was under water. She wanted to scream but her body wasn’t listening again. The whole world spun when the man took her from the woman. He carried her the way Papa did sometimes when she was tired, with her legs around his waist and her head on his shoulder.
“She’ll be fine.” He said, his voice sounded far away. Willa didn’t understand why, his mouth was right there.
She tried to say something but it came out mumbled, her mouth not moving the way it was supposed to.
“We need to go.” The woman said.
Willa tried to lift her head as they walked out of the restroom but everything was so heavy.
She was so tired and her eyelids wouldn’t stay open.
She let them close as they turned away from the dining room but still she tried to stay awake.
She couldn’t call out for Daddy or Papa but she could still wiggle her toes. She managed to open her eyes just enough to see her right sandal land quietly on the rug behind them.
“We could leave if Harry and Willa would just get back.” John said as he impatiently checked his watch for the third time in the last fifteen minutes. He never understood females and their ability to spend half an hour in the toilets.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure she’s just interrogating Willa about the adoption.” Sherlock said with a small smirk.
John sighed and shook his head. “Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of.”
He wasn’t worried about what Willa would say. She’d tell everyone and anyone who listened how excited she was that Sherlock was going to legally become her Papa. He just didn’t think it was appropriate for Harry to be seriously second guessing the decisions he made as a parent.
Sherlock’s smirk dropped and he reached out to grab John’s hand, no doubt to assure him that Willa would proudly tell Harry off about it, but a woman shrieking from the back of the building interrupted.
“Oh god, someone call 999.”
Sherlock was on his feet less than a second before John was. They both darted towards the back of the restaurant, it was where the restrooms were. Where Harry and Willa were.
The woman looked at Sherlock as they reached her. “Help, I think she’s been attacked.” She pleaded.
John barely glanced into the room before shoving Sherlock aside and darting in. Harry was lying, crumpled on the floor, a small stream of blood running down the side of her face. She was unconscious.
He slid to his knees, ignoring the pain from impacting on the tile floor, and scrambled up to Harry’s head. Her pulse was perfect, she’d just been knocked out.
“Jesus, Harry.” John cursed as he worked to lay her out flat on the floor. “Come on, Harry wake up.” He shouted even though he knew it was no use.
“John, Willa’s not in here.” Sherlock told him, his voice had gone cold and clinical.
John jerked his head up and looked around, realizing for the first time that his daughter wasn’t hiding in one of the stalls. “Fuck.” He cursed and climbed back up to his feet.
Sherlock had disappeared already and John shoved his phone into the woman by the door’s hand. “Call an ambulance.” He instructed.
Sherlock hadn’t gone back into the dining room and John turned the other way to follow him. John spotted the small pink sandal lying in the middle of the hall as he turned the corner. “Sherlock?” He shouted not able to see the man. As he reached the end of the hall there was an exit. John shoved the door open.
Sherlock was standing in the middle of the alley spinning in circles.
“There wasn’t a car.” He shouted at John before bolting towards the street. John didn’t even think, he just chased after him.
He found Sherlock on the sidewalk spinning in circles looking on the edge of a panic attack, just like the one John could feel building in his own chest. Every heart beat was painful and he wasn’t allowing himself to listen to the part of his brain that kept screaming out for his daughter. If he did, if he succumbed to that blind panic, he wouldn’t be useful anymore. They’d no doubt have to sedate him and he’d end up in an ambulance.
“I can’t…” Sherlock said. “There’s nothing, I can’t…” He wouldn’t finish his sentences but John knew what he was saying. There were no clues on the street, just dozens of people walking past looking on in concern at the increasingly agitated man spinning in circles.
There were sirens in the distance, growing louder by the second, no doubt the ambulance coming for Harry. John inhaled sharply, ignoring the ever-growing desire to just give into his own terror.
“Sherlock.” John snapped, several people around them jumped.
Sherlock stopped mid circle.
“Sherlock call Mycroft. Now.” John growled as he balled his fists and turned back towards the restaurant. He needed to do something, needed to keep doing something, and at least with Harry he could focus on being a doctor.
Mycroft was lounging on the sofa in the library, his very worn copy of ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ in hand. Gregory was at the other end of the sofa with his laptop balanced on his knees, their legs were entwined in the middle beneath a blanket. Gregory was absentmindedly brushing one of his feet along the outside of Mycroft’s thigh.
Mycroft’s love of Agatha Christie novels was a secret he was prepared to kill for in order to keep it out of Sherlock’s knowledge. The only person on Earth who knew about it was Gregory and he never teased, he would just get a goofy smile on his face whenever Mycroft grabbed a well-worn book from the shelves. Mycroft lived for that smile, it was the one that told him Gregory Lestrade was madly in love with him for reasons even he had not managed to comprehend.
The children were with Deborah, Mycroft had managed to rearrange the state of affairs in the world so that there were no imminent disasters that needed attention, and for now no one had managed to get themselves murdered in Gregory’s jurisdiction so they were enjoying a quiet night in together. In a few minutes Gregory would bore with his random scrolling through Facebook and turn his attention to Mycroft. With any luck in about twenty minutes Roger Ackroyd’s murder would be forgotten in favor of snogging on the sofa like teenagers.
Just as he was considering how to speed up the process his private mobile began ringing on the table behind him. Mycroft reached for it because, as much as he didn’t want to spoil their lovely night in, there were only a few people who had the privilege of knowing his private number and with one of them sitting across from him the number dropped drastically. He sighed when he saw Sherlock’s number blinking on the screen.
“As always, fantastic timing, Sherlock.” Mycroft muttered to himself as he thumbed the call button. “Brother dear, to what do I owe this call?” He asked in the sickeningly sweet tone that he knew Sherlock abhorred, Gregory grinned down at his laptop.
If it wasn’t for the fact that Mycroft knew every facet of his brother’s voice he would have hung up the phone instantly declaring it an imposter. Sherlock sounded lost and young again, and those two words were enough to convince Mycroft that something very very wrong had happened.
“Sherlock, what’s happened?” Mycroft asked as he swung his feet off the sofa. At his tone Gregory was instantly on alert, closing the lid to his computer.
Sherlock inhaled shakily on the other end, trying to regain his composure. “Willa’s missing.” He said, his tone regaining some of its normal qualities. At those words Mycroft was up on his feet though his heart seemed content to sink into the pit of his stomach.
There was a click and then the call disconnected.
Gregory was hovering behind him looking increasingly worried.
“Willa’s missing.” Mycroft repeated to him as he crossed the room for his work phone that was charging at the desk.
Gregory immediately started moving. “Where are they? Home?”
Mycroft shook his head. “No, Harriet Watson’s birthday is today. They would be in Chelsea at the Benihana restaurant.”
“I’ll go there and call the station on the way and you…” Gregory paused, he was worried and throwing orders out like the Detective Chief Inspector he was. “You find her.” He finished before decisively crossing back over toward Mycroft.
Mycroft reached out for Gregory before he got to him. Gregory pulled him into a fierce kiss before moving away just as abruptly and then jogging back out of the library.
There was a police scanner built into every single one of their cars and this fact allowed him to slide into the Mercedes coupe they rarely used. Greg often suspected that the scanners would pick up a lot more than the Scotland Yard channels if he knew what codes to push in but right now all he needed was the London emergency channels.
Chelsea was on the other side of London from their house but Greg hadn’t chosen the Mercedes just for fun. He pushed the engine over 200 KMH safe in the knowledge that no one would ever pull this particular vehicle over.
Despite his speed it still took time to reach the restaurant and by the time he pulled up the ambulance had disembarked with a fifty year-old female patient who had sustained a head wound inside. The roads were blocked by the sheer number of patrol cars that had pulled up so Greg just rolled to a stop behind one of them. He pushed into the crowds and flipped his badge at the lowly PC who moved to stop him.
John was surprisingly easy to spot, standing at military attention just outside the restaurant door. His face looked like it had been set in stone, jaw closed so tight Greg thought he could hear the bones crunching under the force.
“John?” Greg called to him as he approached. John didn’t acknowledge him. “John?” He repeated
John didn’t jump but his head whipped around quickly, Greg could tell he was wound tighter than piano wire. “Greg, Sherlock thought you would come.” If words could have marched in an orderly fashion from one’s vocal cords the ones coming from John’s lips would have.
Greg nodded. “What’s happened?”
John turned and brushed passed another PC who looked too afraid to stop him. He did make an aborted attempt to halt Greg but either he recognized him or he was too terrified of getting his head bitten off to actually try. Greg flashed his badge either way to reassure the man that he had rights to be here.
“Harry was pistol whipped.” John said in the same clipped tone as he marched towards the back of the restaurant that was now empty. “She was coming around as the ambulance pulled out.”
Greg swallowed and allowed a gap to form between he and John before he asked. “And Willa?”
John’s entire body ticked with energy but he didn’t turn or lash out. “She was no longer in the restaurant by the time someone found Harry on the floor.”
There was a crowd of cops blocking their path but John shoved through them mercilessly, Greg followed in his wake.
“John, tread lightly you’ll contaminate the evidence.” Sherlock’s voice warned just as John stepped into the woman’s restroom.
Greg paused outside the door, there wasn’t enough space for him to enter as well without brushing up against surfaces. He imagined that was why there was a queue of cops and forensic officers waiting behind him.
Sherlock was stripped down to his shirt, sleeves rolled up and he was bouncing from surface to surface with his magnifying glass. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to his movement but Greg new better than to question him and doing so right now might end with John finally snapping. He could see the shadow of the hand gun John owned under his sweater. Greg wasn’t that stupid.
“She fought.” Sherlock announced suddenly and finally stood still.
“What?” John asked before Greg even had a chance.
Sherlock snapped the magnifier shut. “There are light scuffs on the stalls, not from regular soles but from the foam sandals she was wearing.” He explained and pointed to what appeared to be a random spot on the cubical door. “Smeared hand print here.” He pointed to the divider. “She reached out at one point to try and pull herself away.”
Greg made mental notes of where Sherlock was pointing so he could direct forensics there. “So someone knocked Harry out and-”
“At least two people.” Sherlock corrected.
“Alright how’d you get that?” Greg asked carefully.
Sherlock glared at him. “We didn’t hear anything.”
“Someone was covering her mouth. Since she was fighting, she certainly would have screamed.” Sherlock said coldly.
Greg nodded. “Alright so one person held her and the other one knocked out Harry.” He repeated trying to get a picture of what had happened. “So how’d they get her out without an entire restaurant noticing?”
Sherlock’s arm snapped out and he pointed to something under the sink, both John and Greg crouched to get a look at it. It was the plastic cap from over the top of a hypodermic needle. “No one notices people carrying out a sleeping child.”
“She was drugged.” John said breathlessly. A broken noise escaped his throat, he stood so quickly and ran by Greg that he nearly toppled him to the ground.
The noise John had made seemed to rip Sherlock out from wherever he’d been and his face crumbled. “John.” He called and also ran by Greg.
Greg sighed and recaptured his balance. He turned to the sea of gridlocked people lining up behind him. “Alright, get to work!” He yelled and despite this not actually being his crime scene, everyone listened.
He took his time, watching as everyone began to fall in place and get back to their jobs. To most of these people Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were legends they’d heard about since they were too young to even be on the force. Everyone was having difficulty knowing exactly how to handle a situation in which these men weren’t legends but instead distraught parents who’s coping mechanisms were always shit.
Greg turned to go find John and Sherlock in an effort to make sure they were okay and hadn’t somehow managed to raze half of London in the five minutes since they’d disappeared.
“Sir, one of the witnesses gave this to me.” A young DS called over to him, she had a mobile phone held in her outstretched hand.
Greg reached for it and raised his eyebrows at her.
“It’s one of theirs, sir.” She explained to him as she handed it over.
Greg looked down at the mobile and nodded, at least now he’d have a somewhat valid reason for seeking them out.
Sherlock found John leaning against the wall of the alley, emptying the contents of his dinner onto the dirty street below him.
“No.” John held out his hand to stop him from coming any closer.
Sherlock stopped instantly, even with his own mind in raging turmoil he knew better than to push a distraught John Watson. That could very seriously end with himself in the hospital and that would only be if John was practicing self-control.
“John I’m sorry.” Sherlock said, it was scarcely a whisper over the never-ending sound of sirens and people milling about on the street.
John had finished retching but both hands were on the wall in front of him, bracing himself. He was breathing heavily, one step away from a panic attack. Sherlock stood back and watched him silently.
“They drugged her.” John’s broken voice came after a minute of silence. “She was terrified and they stuck a needle into her and drugged her.”
“John.” Sherlock said softly. He wasn’t even sure what to say to that, the mental image of what had been done to Willa was too much for him to look at too closely.
John whirled around his face written over with rage. “She was terrified and they stuck a needle into her and drugged her.” He shouted.
Sherlock braced himself as John marched towards him, preparing himself for the hit he knew was coming. He wouldn’t dodge it, John had every right.
John stopped short, toe to toe with Sherlock. “She was terrified,” John started again but his voice broke, it was Sherlock’s only warning to reach out as John collapsed. “She was terrified.” John repeated again.
Sherlock held him up and pulled him to his chest.
John was sobbing, face buried in Sherlock’s shirt. Sherlock could feel him whispering the words over and over even though he couldn’t hear him. There were no words he could offer John now. Nothing he said would make this any better. Willa was missing, there was nothing he could do to change that and despite the fact that every part of him wanted to join John, to collapse with him in the filthy alley he knew that wasn’t an option. They couldn’t both break down at once.
He stood rubbing John’s back for minutes until the door to the restaurant squeaked open. Lestrade pushed his way out of the door and he stopped short at the scene before him. Sherlock watched him over the top of John’s head, he was holding John’s mobile in his hand.
“One of the guys said this is yours.” Lestrade said, not moving from just outside the door.
Sherlock nodded and held out a hand. John was slowly pulling himself together, Lestrade’s voice having drawn him back from the pit of despair he had been crawling into.
“It’s mine.” John said after a few more moments, his face still effectively buried in Sherlock’s shirt.
Lestrade took this as a sign to carefully approach them. Sherlock wanted to protest as John stood straighter and pulled away from him, he’d been unaware that comforting John had been a comfort to himself, but he kept quiet. He compromised by following John, one arm still around him.
“Have you two given statements?” Lestrade asked as he handed John his phone.
John shook his head as Sherlock nodded.
“Sherlock yelling at them isn’t exactly giving a statement.” John admonished. He should have sounded exasperated but instead he just sounded flat. Sherlock wanted to shake him until he sounded like himself again.
“Alright, listen you two, go find whoever is in charge. Give them statements.” Lestrade instructed them, speaking over Sherlock’s protests that it had been a functional statement. “You two cannot do this, you can’t be running this show. I shouldn’t even be here but I knew you two would try and take over. So I’m here to tell you it can’t happen.”
“Are you kicking us off this case?” Sherlock asked incredulously.
Lestrade scrubbed a hand over his face. “This isn’t a case, Sherlock.”
Sherlock let go of John, about to go over and argue with Lestrade. This had to be his case, he couldn’t just be expected to sit at home and twiddle his thumbs like some no brained civilian. There was zero chance this was just some ‘random’ kidnapping, that his daughter had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their lives did not allow for such coincidences. No, there was no doubt in his mind that Mary had finally made her move.
“Sherlock, stop.” John said and placed a single hand on his chest. It was enough to keep Sherlock from moving forward.
“We’ll make our statements, Greg.” John told him, there was an undercurrent of steel in his tone, replacing the horrible flat affect from earlier. “And we’ll clear this scene but we won’t just wait at home.”
Lestrade dropped his hands and he looked resigned. “I bloody well can’t stop you.”
Harry waited in the quiet of the room she’d been placed in at the hospital. The doctors had come and gone, checking her head and then ordering stitches. It had only taken two to close the wound on the top of her head. Then they had left her, without word as to whether she would be discharged soon.
She’d come around in the ambulance just before they left the restaurant. John had been standing just outside talking to one of the paramedics but he hadn’t noticed that she was awake. None of the doctors or nurses seemed to know where Willa was or what was going on.
It was nearly nine now and it had been twenty minutes since someone had last been in to check on her. Harry didn’t like the quiet, it made her whole body itch with discomfort which did nothing to help ease the knot of guilt that had wound its way around her gut. After what seemed like an eternity there were footsteps outside of her door. Harry sat on the edge of the bed waiting for the person to come in. She wanted to scream when Sherlock entered first but then John was right behind him.
They both looked like they had aged ten years in the past hour and a half.
“Willa?” Harry asked.
John paused and swallowed, balling his fists at his side. “She’s missing.” He managed to get out.
Harry felt her mouth fall open. “Oh god John I’m so sorry-”
She began apologizing but John held up his hand. “No, you didn’t do anything. You haven’t got anything to be sorry over.” He insisted.
Harry wanted to vomit.
John didn’t know. He still hadn’t realized what she’d been doing all these years, how she had caused this. She bit on her lip to keep the confession inside. John would murder her if he found out regardless of the fact that right up until tonight it had all been innocent. He wouldn’t see it that way, all he would see was the betrayal and he would kill her. She wasn’t joking and she didn’t think that Sherlock would do anything to stop him, in fact he might help.
She shivered at the thought.
“How’s your head?” Sherlock asked. He was looking at her that way again and she quickly silenced all the racing thoughts. She knew logically he couldn’t read minds but if he had even the slightest idea of what she’d done he would no doubt tell John and John would believe him.
Harry shrugged and played with the hem of her shirt. “Two stitches, not much damage. Head wounds bleed a lot.” She told them and idly rubbed at a dried spot of blood on her blouse. She hoped it was her blood, she hadn’t seen what they’d done to Willa.
Certainly, they wouldn’t have hurt her bad enough to make her bleed, it had to be Harry’s blood.
“Have the police been in?” John asked and he came over and began inspecting the wound on her head.
Harry didn’t protest, this might be the last time John was ever near her willingly if he found out. “No.” She told him after he stepped back, he seemed satisfied with the work of the A and E doctor.
“What happened?” Sherlock asked before John even had a chance.
Harry quickly decided to tell them the truth about that, after all Sherlock would be able to tell if she were lying to them. That would only make him suspicious of her.
“We were in the toilets. She hadn’t come out yet and this bloke came in the room.” Harry began, still rubbing at the blood. “Told him he had the wrong room but he wouldn’t leave. Said he knew exactly where he was and he asked me where she was.”
“Willa?” John asked.
Harry nodded. “Then this woman came in and she saw Willa and was talking to her, asking her to come over. I told her not to and then… I don’t know, this,” she gestured to the wound, “I guess.”
John let his breath out through his nose. “It’s alright.” He wasn’t very good at being reassuring. “What did they look like? Anything you noticed? Birthmarks, scars? Anything.”
“The man, he was American and he was maybe that one’s height.” Harry answered and pointed at Sherlock. “Brown hair, white. I didn’t really look at his face. She was Irish, I think, taller than me but shorter than the man. Dark brown hair, very pretty.”
“Irish?” Sherlock asked, his head lifting up like he had an idea. Harry nodded and watched as Sherlock tore his phone from his pocket. Both John and she waited as he did whatever it was he was doing.
Suddenly there was a phone thrust under her nose. “Her? Was it her?” Sherlock asked.
Harry looked down at the photo. It was older and the woman had her hair pulled only partially up but it was definitely the same woman. “Yes… wait, hold on, I’ve seen that photo before.” But before she could look at it any longer Sherlock handed the phone to John.
“Janine?” John cried out as he looked at the picture.
“Wait, Janine?” Harry asked suddenly realizing where she’d seen the photos before. “Oh my god.” She glared at Sherlock. “From the papers. You’re bloody ex?” She yelled at him.
Sherlock rolled his eyes at her and pierced her with a glare that made her feel like an insect. “She was Mary’s maid of honor at the wedding.”
Harry crossed her arms over her chest. “So you’re ex attacks me on my birthday and kidnaps my niece? How is that okay, John? Don’t you see what he’s done?” She shouted, standing.
“Enough!” John bellowed and shoved Sherlock’s phone back in his hands.
“Sit down, Harry.” He snapped at her, she obeyed. “There are things you don’t know about. That you don’t need to know about but Janine taking Willa has nothing to do with whatever relationship she and Sherlock had over six years ago.”
Harry wondered what the hell John was talking about ‘things she didn’t need to know’. She was about to argue with him but he was already turning away from her. “We need to tell Greg.” He said to Sherlock, his tone softer with him than it had been with her.
“Let us know when the police have spoken to you.” John told her before sweeping out of the room, Sherlock hot on his heels.
Sherlock had quietly followed John from Harry’s hospital room. There was something about Harry’s story that bothered him. She hadn’t been lying when she told them what had happened, things had likely gone exactly how she said.
It had been her nervousness though, the constant toying with the hem of her blouse. It wasn’t the kind of nerves someone had after being attacked or even the nerves of an alcoholic needing a drink after a stressful situation. Whatever had been bothering her was something bigger than that, the way she’d seemed surprised when John had reassured her everything was alright. She hadn’t been expecting John to offer her comfort. John and Harry might not have been close but there was no way John would blame her for something like this. John was more likely to blame himself and self-destruct while trying to pinpoint exactly what he could have done to change things.
Harry hadn’t been expecting John’s comfort because she thought he knew something that would make her at fault.
But what had she done to make her feel that way? She hadn’t been faking that she didn’t recognize Janine, she honestly had not known the woman until they’d mentioned her name. Though, she had been extremely quick and relieved to point the finger at Sherlock and try to assign the blame to him.
Harry felt guilty for having done something.
John stopped short outside the hospital and pulled his phone out to call Lestrade.
“Greg,” John said into the phone. “Do you remember Janine Hawkins from my wedding?”
Sherlock pulled out his own mobile as John filled Lestrade in on what they’d just learned.
Janine Hawkins. She’s involved. – SH
Noted. – MH
Anything? – SH
Nothing. – MH
They could be leaving the country. – SH
All flights from Heathrow have been delayed since 8.
Her photo has been distributed to the Border Forces – MH
CCTV? – SH
Being reviewed now. – MH
Sherlock growled at his phone and barely resisted the urge to slam it against the wall. John was watching him, having finished his conversation with Lestrade.
“Mycroft has nothing.” Sherlock admitted and John’s shoulders immediately dropped and he tilted his head up towards the sky. He was desperately blinking away tears.
“Greg is letting everyone know about Janine and they’re sending someone over now to speak to Harry.” John said after regaining his composure.
“Listen, John, I believe...” Sherlock started to tell him about his suspicions of Harry but movement from across the street caught his eye. A homeless man was making his way down the road, oblivious to them. “Oh, I’ve been so stupid.” He spat and pointed at the homeless man’s back.
John looked over and then he nodded in understanding. “Go.”
Sherlock didn’t move, he’d been expecting John to come with him. They only had to speak to a few people in order to get the word out. “Come with?” He asked.
John shook his head, he was rubbing his thumb absently over the darkened screen of his mobile.
Sherlock’s heart clenched when he looked at the black screen, he knew what picture was just one button away from lighting up. Willa and Mrs. Hudson had recently emptied her camera’s memory card onto the computer and then proceeded to email John over two hundred photos. John had instantly set one of the three of them from Willa’s birthday as the background of his lock screen. He’d recently started saying that he needed a new picture of the three of them because that one was nearly six months old.
“No, I need to go tell Mrs. Hudson. No one’s told her.” John said and he sounded distant. “She doesn’t even know yet.” He repeated, his voice cracking.
Sherlock closed the gap between him and pulled John into his arms. John instantly wrapped his around Sherlock’s waist and buried his head in his chest, a mirror of how they had been earlier in the alley behind the restaurant.
He wanted to reassure John that they’d find her soon, that everything would be alright again and as soon as she was home they’d take a new photo of the three of them for his mobile.
He couldn’t force the words out because he’d promised not to lie to John and he couldn’t be sure that they would find her soon. Janine’s involvement solidified the fact that Mary had a hand in this, the woman appeared to be the Anthea of the criminal world, always the right hand of the most powerful person in the room.
John pulled out of the embrace first and he reached up to stroke Sherlock’s cheek. “It’ll be alright.” He assured Sherlock instead. “We’ll be fine.”
Sherlock nodded and turned his head so he could press a kiss to John’s palm. “I’ll find her.” He promised because that was one thing he was sure of, he would find Willa.
John smiled weakly at him. “I know you will. So go, go talk to your people. When you’re done come find me at home, alright?”
John watched as Sherlock’s back disappeared down the street, chasing after his network of the homeless. As soon as he was no longer in site John turned and walked towards the main road to hail a cab. It took a while but eventually someone stopped for him. John climbed into the back and directed the man to Baker street.
As they drove John opened his phone and went into his conversations. There were three messages he’d ignored when he turned on his phone, Willa and Harry had only just gone to the bathroom and the messages hadn’t seemed urgent at the time.
+44 7700 900651
Does he know?
Fine. Text me when you’re done. This is urgent.
You owe me dinner.
John hit the reply button.
Where are you?
No answer came by the time the cab pulled up to Baker Street, John had been compulsively checking his phone during the entire ride. He paid the cabbie and stood on the sidewalk, looking up at the building before him.
He didn’t want to go in. He knew what waited when he did: all of Willa’s things and an empty flat to remind him she wasn’t there. He took a deep breath and willed himself to take a step forward. He didn’t have to go upstairs, someone really did need to warn Mrs. Hudson what had happened. She was family and deserved to learn it from them and not when the police eventually came around.
John paused at that thought and looked up and down the street.
There was a distinct lack of police even though the DI who had taken their statements had instructed them to go home and wait, that someone would be around to check on them shortly. John wondered how much of the absence of police was from Greg and Mycroft’s involvement and how much of it was because Sherlock had effectively screamed at the entire force about their incompetence. He sincerely hoped it was the former.
Walking into the foyer wasn’t terrible. There were none of Willa’s things down here to remind him and John kept telling himself not to think of it. He couldn’t let himself think of it because he’d already broken down twice this evening, both times Sherlock had been forced to catch him and right now he was out using his resources to try and find their daughter. John needed to suck it up and do his part.
He knocked on the door and waited.
He could hear Mrs. Hudson puttering around on the other side, the clink of china as she no doubt put down her cup of tea to come answer.
“Oh hello, John.” She greeted as she pulled open the door, she was in her dressing gown and slippers. “How was your dinner?”
John had to remind himself to breathe. “Willa’s missing.” It fell out of his mouth in a rush, blunter than he’d planned on telling her, but then how do you tell someone that your child has been kidnapped?
She took a staggered step backward and held onto the wall, the shock written across her face. “What?”
John stepped in after her. “At the restaurant, someone attacked Harry and took Willa.” He cursed himself for the tremor in his own voice.
“Do you know who?” Mrs. Hudson asked and she pushed off the wall, recovering from the shock.
John went to shake his head but he realized that it wasn’t necessarily true, they had a very good idea who was behind everything. “Harry recognized Janine Hawkins and we’re fairly confident this is Mary’s reaction to the adoption.”
Mrs. Hudson reached forward and yanked John to her, she was surprisingly strong given her age, folding him into a hug. “Oh John, it’ll be alright. She’s a bright girl and I’m sure half the country is already looking for her.” She reassured him and rubbed a circle into his back.
John nodded into her shoulder and gave her a tight squeeze back. “Mycroft’s been made aware.”
“Exactly, we’ll have her back in no time.” Mrs. Hudson said and gave a quick nod as if agreeing with herself. “What can I do?” She asked.
John shrugged. “I expect the police will be by soon, I didn’t think it was something you deserved to learn from them.”
“Thank you.” She said as she reached up and patted his cheek. “Where’s Sherlock? You’ll both be needing some strong tea.”
She clearly wasn’t asking, as she was already disappearing into her flat towards the kitchen. “He’s out with the homeless, putting out the word about it.” He found himself feeling a bit calmer in this woman’s steadfast presence, his voice was more even now.
“Come have a seat, I’ll make you tea while we wait.” Mrs. Hudson ordered from the kitchen and John obeyed.
They had just finished the first cup of tea, generously dosed with amber liquid pulled from beneath the cupboards, when John’s phone finally went off.
+44 7700 900651
With a client. Are you done?
You need to come to Baker Street.
+44 7700 900651
Are you sure?
No but come anyway.
+44 7700 900651
When I’ve finished here.
Willa’s head hurt worse than she could ever remember it hurting before.
She raised her hand to her head expecting to feel a bump. She didn’t know why her head hurt, or why everything was moving so much. It felt like the room was spinning or she was spinning, something was spinning.
“Alright she’s waking up.” A woman’s voice told someone, Willa was certain she wasn’t talking to her.
Willa convinced her eyes to blink open and looked around.
She was lying on a bed somewhere. The room smelt horrible and Willa could see mould growing on the wall. The mattress smelt even worse and Willa focused on breathing through her mouth. There were no sheets on the mattress and a spring was digging painfully into her shoulder.
“Hello, lovely, are you alright?” The woman asked and she leaned over so Willa could see her without moving her head.
Willa felt like she knew this woman though she was certain she’d never seen her before. Déjà vu. That’s what Daddy had said was the feeling of having experienced something before even though you really hadn’t. Willa had never had déjà vu before.
She nodded at the woman’s question and winced as the pain made her head hurt even more.
Willa didn’t want to nod but her mouth felt dry and sticky so she did anyway.
“Alright I’ve got some water for you.” The woman said and she picked up a small paper cup.
Willa didn’t want to drink, she didn’t know who this woman was, but her mouth was so dry and her head hurt. The woman didn’t seem bad, she was talking soft and was trying to make Willa feel better. Her hands were even gentle as she helped Willa sit up so she could drink properly.
Willa noticed a man standing in the corner of the room looking out the window. His back was to them and Willa saw a gun sticking out of the back of his trousers. She must have made a noise because the woman shushed her and held the cup back up to her mouth.
“It’s alright love, that’s Cole and he’s not going to hurt you. Right Cole?” The woman asked, her voice was hard at the end like she was warning him he’d better agree with her.
Cole turned his head to look at them. “You don’t give me problems, kid, and I won’t give you any.” He spoke like a tourist.
American. Papa had taken her out and asked her to identify all the tourist’s accents a few times, they went out a lot when Willa’s arm had broken. The last time they’d gone she’d gotten over seventy-five percent of them right. Papa had looked so proud when she’d done that. She was certain Cole was American but Papa wasn’t around to ask.
Willa drank down the entire cup of water without noticing it and the woman took it away with a soft smile.
“There’s a good girl.” She cooed and pet Willa’s hair. Willa wanted to pull away, she didn’t like it when strangers touched her.
The woman wasn’t American, she was definitely Irish.
“Where’s my daddy?” Willa asked and she tried to remember.
They’d been at the restaurant with Aunt Harry for her birthday. Papa had let her order prawns and didn’t even complain when she hadn’t finished them. She remembered taking Aunt Harry’s hand to go to the bathroom but she couldn’t remember anything after that.
Why couldn’t she remember how she got here?
The woman didn’t answer. “My names Janine but for now you can call me Janey.” She said instead.
Willa frowned. “Where are we?”
“Stop asking questions.” Janine snapped, her voice suddenly sharp.
Willa kept her mouth shut and she couldn’t help but glance over at Cole and his gun.
Janine saw this. “Yes, that’s right. You need to be good and that means no more questions. Do you understand now?”
Willa nodded and bit her lip. She wanted to cry but she was afraid if she did they would hurt her.
“Now.” Janine sighed. “We’ve got to do something about your hair. Have you ever been to a salon?” She was trying to sound nice again.
Willa shook her head. Nana trimmed the ends of her hair sometimes but Daddy had always said he liked her hair long so she’d never gotten it cut before.
“Really? Well then you’re in for a treat.” Janine said and she stood up off the mattress and walked over to a chair, there was a bag on it. “We’re going to have our own salon right here.” She continued as she dug through the bag. “Would you like that?”
Willa didn’t, she liked her hair the way it was but she was too afraid to tell her no.
Janine turned around holding a small black plastic box and a green box with a woman with brown hair on the front. Hair dye Willa realized after a moment, Aunt Molly had dyed her hair once using dye like that. “Alright come on then, like a good girl.” Janine told her and jerked her head.
It took Willa a few tries to stand, her legs felt rubbery and every time she stood the room spun just a little. Once she could stand Janine led her across the room into a bathroom.
The bathroom didn’t look any nicer than the other room. Parts of the wall were peeling off and inside the sink was black even though the rest of it was supposed to be white. There were jugs of water sitting along the side of the bath tub. Janine put her things down in the sink and grabbed Willa by the shoulders steering her to sit on top of the closed toilet lid.
“Take off your dress.” Janine told her.
Willa shook her head without thinking about it.
Janine just sighed like she was done with her. “Alright, whatever. Ruin it, it’s not like we won’t throw it out in a little.”
She began pulling out Willa’s hair ties and then undoing the braid Papa had put in just before they left. Janine then opened the black box and pulled out a brush. She wasn’t as nice at brushing Willa’s hair as Papa was, even Daddy did a better job, and when she was done Willa’s entire scalp hurt from having her hair pulled.
“Well there’s no use in dying the whole thing.” Janine said to herself.
Willa saw her pull out a pair of scissors from inside the box, she bit her lip and looked down at her knees. She closed her eyes after watching as the first bits of her hair fell to the floor, the tears came anyway.
Letting herself into Baker Street she noticed that the door wasn’t locked, for someone who seemed paranoid of the outside world and the threat that it posed to his daughter, John Watson was being extremely careless.
She frowned as she climbed the steps, there were three voices coming from above. One John, one Sherlock and the other she didn’t recognize but it was another man. It was far too late for 221B to be entertaining visitors, even those of the client variety. She’d heard that since the introduction of the little princess into their detective agency that they were entertaining those guests down stairs. She wondered what John was possibly up to.
She didn’t worry though, John was far too noble to ever harm her but even she had a few needles worth of protection hidden inside her hand bag. One could never be too careful where Sherlock Holmes was concerned.
“We’ll have to tell Molly,” John told someone, he was tired.
“At this point you might want to think about alerting the press.” The unknown man’s voice answered him.
“Alerting the press is never a good idea.” She announced walking into the room.
John let out an exasperated sigh and to her left a tea cup slid out of Sherlock’s hands. He fumbled with it, spilling tea all over the rug, but he managed to keep the cup from shattering on the floor.
“Why are you here?” Sherlock growled, his eyes narrowing at her.
“Oh you don’t know?” She asked in mock surprise, one hand coming up to rest over her heart. “Oh John, I’m hurt, you haven’t told him?”
John dropped his head into his hands. “Irene, just sit down and shut up.” He ordered and rose from his chair.
“I’m sorry who is this?” The third man asked, Irene recognized him as someone she’d seen in photos with Sherlock.
“Irene Adler.” Sherlock spat but he’d turned his venomous gaze towards the back of John’s head, like it would give him the answers John wouldn’t.
“And you are?” Irene asked and ignored John’s orders to sit down, she extended a hand towards him.
“DCI Gregory Lestrade.” The man answered and curtly shook her hand.
“He’s also very married to Mycroft.” Sherlock interjected finally tearing his eyes away from John.
Irene smirked. “I’d heard someone managed to melt your brother down, I can now see why.” She winked at Gregory Lestrade and he colored but took a step back.
“Why are you here, Irene?” Sherlock repeated through clenched teeth.
Irene finally sat down, intentionally choosing Sherlock’s chair. She wasn’t surprised the dumb thing was still here after all these years, John probably would have gone completely mental on anyone trying to take it from him. “I don’t know. Shall we ask John?”
“I invited her, Sherlock.” John admitted and stood, turning around with his hands up trying to placate the irate detective.
“Hold on I thought you were dead.” Lestrade said suddenly as if finally connecting her to who she was.
Irene smiled passively. “I do wonder, Detective Chief Inspector Gregory Lestrade, how often that phrase is said inside this quaint little flat?”
“Irene, shut up.” John snapped, having given up trying to pacify Sherlock. “She’s missing.”
Irene looked between the three men and realized what John was saying. She felt terribly for John and Sherlock. “When?”
“Three hours ago in Chelsea.” John informed her. He then closed his eyes and braced himself against whatever emotions he was feeling.
Irene had taken it upon herself to follow both John and Sherlock’s exploits after she’d ‘died’. They were much more fun than any television programme. She never claimed to have big brother’s skills of tracking and monitoring but her job put her in positions to illicit favors from some other very powerful people in the world.
She’d known, of course, who innocent little Nurse Mary Morstan was. Jim had been so terribly fond of her and her skills as an assassin. She was very surprised when Sherlock didn’t object once to the little farce that had been John and Mary’s wedding, surely he’d been able to see right through her. Then again, Sherlock was always so blind when it came to John, love did that to a person.
Irene had been dying to show up to the wedding just to watch how it went. She’d had to settle for the reports that trickled out and Sherlock’s dramatic hijacking of John’s blog. John and little Miss Mary’s honeymoon had been the first time Sherlock had responded to her texts since his death had been revealed a hoax.
It had been difficult to keep track of Sherlock when he was exiled, difficult but not impossible. She knew too many high-ranking men and women to make anything truly impossible to her.
John had been much, much easier to follow.
Even when he and that adorable little girl had been hiding away from her mean and evil mother. When they returned to London they lived such a simple little life and Irene enjoyed watching them from afar. She could ignore them for months at a time and when she came back everything was just the same. Yes, Willa Louise would have grown a bit and her brilliant little mind had learned a thousand new things but everything else was same. Same little flat, same little routine and same little John who was only half of himself without Sherlock around.
When Sherlock had returned, oh then things had gotten so much more interesting.
Irene had always known, from the moment she met Sherlock Holmes and John Watson that they would come to this. Unfortunately for them it had taken them a decade to get that simple fact through their thick skulls.
She knew things weren’t going to be easy for them, with mummy dearest in the background pulling strings, but she had never wanted it to come to this. So when she’d been innocently entertaining guests in California and heard rumblings that Mummy Mary was none too pleased when one of her pets had gone missing, last seen running the fool’s errand to London, she’d dug a little deeper into their messes.
Sherlock and John couldn’t just live their lives in quiet bliss, of course. They had to make headlines constantly, from their adorable little holiday on Valentine’s Day to the numerous high press cases. Missing of course from every story, every picture, was the little princess herself. Irene sometimes wondered if Mummy Mary would have left well enough alone if they’d just blogged about the child once in a while.
When their cases began attracting attention Irene had tethered herself to Europe, listening as big bad men bent one by one under Mummy Mary’s demands. Most of those men came to her because, as horrible as it was criminality was still such a misogynistic field, the men who willingly bent under Mary wanted to be bent under Irene as well.
As it turned out she was none too pleased to discover that Sherlock had resumed his life at 221B and he and John were very obviously carrying on with one another. She’d moved Cole Gilbert into London in February after their getaway and then in March came Janine Hawkins. That was when Irene felt stepping in was necessary, Mary only used Janine when things became personal.
She’d found John at his conference in Wales. He’d been less than thrilled to see her, but not surprised.
John had definitely been living in the world of Sherlock Holmes for too long because not once did he blink at the fact that she was essentially returning from the dead. They’d been texting regularly ever since (it was so nice of someone in that house to text her back) and even met up a few times when Irene had news to give him.
“Why were you trying to get me to meet you tonight? John asked, resolutely not looking at Sherlock.
Irene sighed. “I was trying to warn you that she knows about the adoption but I think you know that now.”
Sherlock lifted his head. “You two.” He stated, feeling particularly dense not a feeling he was used to. “Have been working together about Mary?”
John nodded and looked away from Sherlock, he was obviously feeling guilty from the way he now glued his eyes to the floor. “For how long?”
“What? You can’t deduce it?” Irene asked with a smirk. There had been a brief second, not even a minute ago where Sherlock had felt she might be looking out for someone other than herself. When John had told her that Willa had gone missing her face had fallen just enough that Sherlock wondered if she was feeling sorry for them and what they were going through.
“April.” John answered giving Irene a dark look. “When I was in Cardiff, she approached me at a pub.”
“She’s who you’ve been texting all this time.” It wasn’t a question, nothing John had to answer. Sherlock had figured out it was Irene from the moment she stepped into their flat looking smugger than the cat that ate the canary.
John nodded anyway. “I was hoping you hadn’t noticed.” He said more to himself than anyone.
Sherlock just felt insulted. “Oh do give me credit John, I am the world’s only consulting detective after all.”
“Then why haven’t you asked me?” John asked finally looking up from the floor.
“Because I didn’t want to know. You were getting texts, obviously from a female, at all hours of the day and night that you were deleting.” Sherlock shouted at him. It was only after he’d said it that he realized that was the true reason he hadn’t confronted John. He’d never really been able to convince himself John wasn’t being unfaithful.
John took a step back like he’d been struck. “You thought I was cheating? Jesus, Sherlock, what is wrong with you?”
“Me? You’ve been going behind my back and meeting with the one person in this world you can’t stand more than Mary.” Sherlock growled.
Irene was still in his chair watching them argue like it was a sporting event. Lestrade was in the corner looking for all the world like he wanted to just slip out the door but didn’t trust that John and Sherlock wouldn’t try and kill one another.
“Me? That’s your problem with this? You let me believe she was dead for a decade!” John shouted clenching his fists, Lestrade took one step towards them.
“You told me she was in America!” Sherlock shot back.
“Alright enough!” Lestrade shouted and stepped between the two of them. He put his back to Sherlock and placed a hand on John’s chest. “You two fighting about her isn’t going to give us anything. And you,” Lestrade said and pointed a finger at Irene, “stop winding them up, this is serious!”
Irene smiled placidly at them, Sherlock growled at her while John pulled away from Lestrade and stomped into the kitchen. Sherlock heard the sounds of tea being made violently and he took a breath to calm himself. “Why are you even here, Irene?”
“Because, Sherlock, women of power are always aware of other women with power.” Irene answered and she tilted her head to peer past him into the kitchen.
Sherlock scowled at her. “So you’ve decided to make Mary your enemy?” He asked and stepped into her line of sight. He might be furious with John but he wasn’t about to let her wind him up to doing something he might regret.
Irene let out a laugh, it was fake and overly dramatic. “Oh Sherlock you misunderstand me, it isn’t Mummy Mary I’m interested in. The woman with the most power, right now? It isn’t her and it isn’t me.”
“I’m sorry what?” Lestrade asked sounding utterly confused, it was a common trait of his.
“John’s only just figured it out. Haven’t you John?” Irene called into the kitchen. “Of course I had to help him along to the notion. Have you figured it out yet Sherlock?”
Sherlock ran through the list of every woman connected to the case.
“Oh my god you are all such men.” Irene spat in disgust as she stood up. “You’re taking me too literally Sherlock. Woman, female, girl they’re all interchangeable.”
“Willa?” Sherlock asked suddenly understanding where Irene was going with this.
Irene nodded with a half smile of amusement.
“What the hell do you mean?” Lestrade asked her. “She’s just a child.”
Irene sighed and rolled her eyes. “DCI Lestrade, the girl isn’t just a casualty in her parent’s bitter custody battle. Who in this world has the power to bring not only the great Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson to their respective knees but also bring the entire British government and, I would bet, a very substantial portion of the NSY to a grinding halt?”
“Willa’s not a pawn.” Sherlock protested and he pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling the pressure of a headache building behind his eyes.
Irene folded her arms over her chest. “No, I agree. But in this game, Sherlock, there is no king, only the queen.”