Chapter Fifty-Five: Holmes' Family Secrets

"Play it again."

Mycroft and John looked at Sherlock in joint surprise. He tersely repeated his directive. When neither man moved, the consulting detective took on the task himself, clicking to replay the recording. Mycroft issued a huff of disapproval and moved behind the changing screen. Sherlock disregarded this as he focused on the computer. Once he'd had watched it all the way through a third time, he turned away and paced the room. John, he noted, had mutely collapsed onto the sofa, head in his hands.

Mycroft, now changed, returned from behind the screen, wiping away the final remnants of his disguise. He stopped when he spied John. "No need to despair, Dr. Watson. This is a minor setback. Nothing more," he said.

John looked up with an incredulous glare. "A minor setback? Your man-on-the-inside is dead, and, with him, your plan to rescue Molly. There is nothing minor about that."

Mycroft gave no reply as he strode into the diminutive kitchen area and began the process of making tea. His movements were unhurried but efficient. Sherlock stopped pacing to observe this, looking for some crack in the older man's aloof facade. There was none. It should have left Sherlock relieved, but it didn't. No, the fear that had been gnawing at him ever since he'd first realized Molly had been kidnapped was still there. Underlying this was a concentrated level of anger unlike any he'd ever known. Simply put, seeing her suffering first hand was emotionally flaying him alive. He knew it was best to bury these feelings, but he couldn't. Not this time. They were unabashedly in charge of him. Right now, he was overly emotional and overly emotional people were notoriously stupid for seeking hope in any form. Acknowledging this truth did nothing to change the situation. Logic was a foreign concept at this moment, a language his mind couldn't comprehend. So, he continued to watch as Mycroft added his usual two dollops of sugar to the teacup along with a squeeze of lemon. When the spoon returned twice more to the sugar bowl to deliver a third and fourth helping of sweetener, Sherlock hissed his displeasure before turning away.

The pacing resumed. The walls around him seemed to be closing in more and more with every step until he felt he couldn't breathe, but he knew better than to leave. Molly was priority here, not his needs, not these feelings. He had to save her. He tried to compel his brain to come up with some kind of plan, but there was none to be had. Instead, his mind fought back, flooding him with a host of images too foolish to think about right now.

Molly slapping him that day so long ago in the lab. How proud he'd been of her in that moment, how mortified he'd been with his own weaknesses in the face of such strength.

Her screams as Moriarty beat her. The impotence Sherlock felt as he watched it all.

Molly smiling at him on the other side of his bathtub, more sensual in that one expression than any woman he'd ever known.

Holding her in his arms as they danced that night. Dancing. That night. With her. And she'd known then that all of this could happen to her. She'd swallowed her fear. Went anyway. She danced anyway. She smiled up at him as if he were a god … put her trust in him … anyway.

The sweet taste of her skin on his tongue. The intoxicating scent of lavender that always followed her.

The vision in his mind's eye of her hurt, kept locked away and tortured in some room under Moriarty's thumb, under his maniacal control.

Her laughter, which never failed to enliven Sherlock. Her eyes, which never failed to see into the core of him—especially in those moments when he desperately didn't want her to. The intense and uncomfortable rush of pleasure and contentment, which never failed to hit him whenever he spent time in her company in the lab, in the flat, in the bed.

No. This is the surest way to madness. Shut it down. Now.

Sherlock knew Moriarty's purpose. Make him so terrified he would lose Molly that he would do anything to see her returned, including giving up the microchip. Honestly, it was a masterstroke; an ingenious way for Moriarty to regain control of this game he'd designed. But Sherlock wasn't an idiot. He knew giving up the microchip wouldn't save Molly. She would only be a loose end at that point, something quickly tied up and done away with. No, the only true way to save her was to take back the power, make Moriarty the one to feel desperate and out of control.

The question was how, and that how lay somehow with Mycroft. It had to.

"Sherlock, you should sit." Mycroft carried his tea over to the daybed and resumed his former position there.

Sherlock continued pacing, lamenting his lack of cigarettes. He needed to be calm. He needed to think. Abruptly, he darted over to Mycroft's changing screen and behind it. There was a tiny chest of drawers and a series of hooks on the wall, clothing hanging from each. He opened drawers, rifling through their contents. When he didn't find it, he rummaged through the pockets of the coats and jumpers.

"Sherlock," Mycroft called from the other side of the screen, voice laden with growing weariness and exasperation.

Sherlock came out from behind it and went into the kitchen to continue his search. Drawers and cabinets were opened and slammed shut in quick succession, but he still failed to locate what he sought. "I know it's here," he muttered to himself. He stopped putting his fingers against his temples. "Think. Think. Think. Where would he put it?"

"Sherlock, you're being ridiculous. Stop this now, and collect yourself."

"I need it."

"No, you don't."

"Tell me where it is."

"No."

"Which means you do have it and it's in this very room," Sherlock said gleefully, moving his search into the sitting area. There were shelves lining the wall. He started there first, knocking over knick-knacks and trinkets as he went.

A loud, put-upon sigh took over the room. "We don't have time for this."

Sherlock moved onto the drawers in the end table near the end of the settee. "Then save me trouble, and tell me where it is."

Mycroft calmly sipped his tea. "This is nothing more than weakness and vice."

Sherlock felt as if he were about to explode. "No, this is my process." He slammed a fist on the end table, causing the lamp atop it to teeter precariously back and forth. "Give it to me now!"

Mycroft began to speak, but John cut him off. "He just watched his girlfriend be beaten by a psychopath, Mycroft. Give him the damn cigarettes!"

Mycroft glared at John, who glared right back, unfazed. At last, with a huff of displeasure, the elder Holmes delved into his trouser pocket and held out a rumpled packet. "Here's your crutch, brother dear."

Sherlock snatched the packet from Mycroft's hand. "From the syrupy nature of your tea, brother dear, I would say I'm not the only one with a crutch."

"Well, since everyone else has gone to hell, I might as well," John said, getting to his feet. "Got any Scotch, Mycroft? I could use a nip."

"In the cabinet over the sink," Sherlock answered before Mycroft could.

He went to shake a cigarette into his hands and noticed the marking on the packet. "Methols? Really, Mycroft?" he asked with a mocking sneer. "Taking your feminine disguise a bit too far, don't you think?"

Mycroft ignored him. As beggars could not afford to be choosers, Sherlock lit the cigarette and was halfway through it before John returned with a glass and the bottle. Resuming his seat on the settee, the former army man poured himself a finger of whiskey and, after a wincing gulp, said, "So, what's the plan now?"

"Yes," Sherlock added sardonically, "do tell us what you have in mind next, oh great one. No doubt, you knew this would happen and have a backup plan in place for this minor setback."

The pause that followed this confirmed what he already suspected. Sherlock rolled his eyes and continued smoking his cigarette.

John looked as panicked as Sherlock felt. "So that's it then? The two greatest minds in this hemisphere are in the same room, and we have nothing? What are we going to do?"

"We're not going to panic," Mycroft said.

There was only one plan here. Sherlock knew that, had known it since that recording had begun to play the first time. The issue was getting Mycroft to agree to it. "We're going to give the man his microchip," Sherlock declared.

"No," Mycroft said. "It cannot and will not fall into his hands. No matter if …" He trailed off and turned his attention to his tea. He swallowed thickly before beginning again. "There is another way. We just have to think. Luckily, we have time."

"Surely, you know there is no other way this must play out. Give him the damn chip. We can get it back after Molly is secured."

"No."

"Do it," Sherlock growled, "or I will."

"And how will that save your …" Mycroft made a face before continuing, "pathologist? You know he'll kill her once he has the chip. He'll have to. It's the obvious move."

Sherlock straightened to his full height. "Not if I offered him someone else to kill instead."

John asked, "Who?"

"No," Mycroft said, already knowing the answer.

"Who?" John repeated.

"Me," Sherlock said. "He takes me and the microchip in exchange for letting Molly go. That will be the deal. This gives you time to get Molly to safety and devise a plan to get the chip back."

"No," Mycroft repeated.

"Just listen—"

"It won't work." Mycroft sighed again. "You're letting sentiment rule you, Sherlock. Grasping at straws like an overemotional fool. Pull yourself together. Remember the rules."

"But—" Sherlock began.

"He's right, Sherlock," John interrupted. "You'll only get yourself killed. Besides, we can't let a chip that powerful end up in the hands of a madman. You saw what he did to Molly. There has to be a way for us to rescue her, keep you alive, and hold on to the microchip."

"Don't you both see? He's coming after us anyway—well, me. His plan has to end with me dead."

"And you think the best way to deal with that is to assist him in the endeavor?" Mycroft hissed.

"I don't care what happens to me. Just get Molly to safety."

Mycroft's mouth fell open, but he quickly collected himself and stirred his tea. "You don't really mean that."

"Don't I?"

Mycroft's gaze locked Sherlock's. After a long pause, he said, "Sentiment has no place here. You know what the rules are."

"I don't give a damn about your rules!"

"No," Mycroft said, "you care about Molly Hooper, which is exactly what will get her killed."

"You don't—"

Mycroft's teacup rattled as it was banged onto the coffee table. "William, sit down and shut up. The adults in the room need a bloody moment to think!"

It was an old button to press, calling him William and using the tone and command Mummy often employed to get her way. But, from the way Sherlock felt himself immediately do as he had been bid, it was apparently still an operational one. Thus, with nothing more than a muffled grunt of disagreement, he went back to smoking his cigarette. Mycroft picked back up his tea and resumed stirring it.

John looked between the two siblings as if they'd both lost their respective minds, but remained mute. A pregnant silence followed. The longer the silence, the more Sherlock was sure he was losing his mind. Then, the silence was blissfully broken, but not with something Sherlock expected.

"When did this package arrive in Anthea's lap? How much of the two days Moriarty gave us do we even still have?" John asked.

"The package was on her doorstep when she arrived home last night. We can assume that means we have until tomorrow at sunset," Mycroft said.

John blanched. "He knows where she lives?"

Mycroft drank his tea. "She knows how to protect herself."

"Yes," Sherlock added churlishly, "because Mycroft would never put someone in danger who didn't know how to protect themselves. He would never let someone die to safeguard himself and what he wants. The rules must always come first. And, if one does not follow the rules, well, they must then be done away with in short form—no matter who they might be. Right, dearest one?"

The temperature of the room shrank by twenty degrees as Mycroft's eyes darted to meet his. "Sherlock, this is neither the place nor time for a tantrum."

"Isn't it?" Sherlock countered. "John believes you to be an honorable gentleman who follows some kind of unbreakable code of chivalry. Shouldn't he know whom he's really dealing with? That your governmental codename isn't just that? Iceman is truly what you are."

"You will stop speaking now," Mycroft ordered.

His implacable tone was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Sherlock grinned at Mycroft. "Will I? Don't count on it. John is like family to me. It seems he should be in on a few of the Holmes' family secrets. Don't you think?"

"Boys, please," John started. "Sherlock, you do need to calm down. Mycroft will come up with something. He has to have another plan. He always does."

"No, John, he doesn't. He's going to let Molly die so he can keep his precious microchip." He looked at his brother. "Tell him the truth, Mycroft. Tell him how you've already thought everything through."

Mycroft said nothing, just kept peering down into his teacup as if it held answers. Sherlock turned to John. "It's all a chess game which he must win. And he will sacrifice anything—including an innocent pathologist—to keep his positioning on the board."

"But it's Molly!" John said.

"It doesn't matter. He's done far worse in the past. His own—"

"Sherlock, shut up now," Mycroft ordered, shooting to his feet.

"Or what? You won't intimidate me into silence, brother dear. Not anymore. Do what you will with me, but John Watson is going to know who you really are." Sherlock turned back to John. "Allow me to introduce you to Arthur Mycroft Edward Holmes. He isn't just a man with a minor government position who is burdened with a troublesome younger brother. No, he once had two troublesome younger brothers."

"Two? What do you mean by two?" John said weakly. He looked between them again. "There are three Holmes brothers?"

"Yes, Sherrinford Holmes. Older than me and younger than Mycroft—but smarter than both of us combined. Haven't you ever thought it odd that there are seven years between Mycroft and myself? Mummy quit her important work to raise children. You know this. Do you really think she would wait six and a half years before getting pregnant again?"

"Sherlock, no," Mycroft croaked in dismay.

He continued anyway. "He forced Sherrinford to work for him, to work for the government—just as he does me from time to time. And, when our dear, sweet Sherrinford got in the way of something Mycroft wanted …. Well?" Sherlock paused as he made a grand gesture toward the older man, who'd gone much too pale. "Should I finish it or do you want to?"

When the silence continued, Sherlock gave a nod. "When Sherrinford got too caught up in his work, when he became too troublesome for Mycroft to handle, when he failed to follow the rules—"

"Sherlock, please," Mycroft pleaded, looking as if one more damning word would strike him down where he sat.

But Sherlock was too far gone for anything to stop him now. "Mycroft had him killed."


A/N: More to come soon! And, no, I still have not watched Season 4 of Sherlock yet. That's my prize for when I finally finish this thing.