Note: I own nothing but my own plot, everything else is the BBC's, Stephen Moffat/Mark Gatiss's, and Arthur Conan Doyle's. I just like to play here. Not beta'd or Brit-picked.

Takes place during "The Empty Hearse," so, spoilers about a certain bonfire if you haven't seen it.


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Mycroft was just sitting back with a snifter of brandy, congratulating himself on a job well done. It wasn't easy, bringing a man back from the dead, even in the most superficial sense, yet he liked to think his efforts were well-placed. He had performed a bureaucratic surgery, removing several false paper trails and then stitching together two variations on Sherlock Holmes (Before and After) in as seamless a way as possible.

Yes, there was still work to be done there, fences to mend, but on the whole, the day had been successful. With any luck, his brother's reputation would now be revived.

He hoped it would aid the poor man's loneliness. Especially after last night's fiasco with John Watson. (Mycroft couldn't help but be amused by the doctor's reaction, though. After all, he had tried to warn his brother.) Still, Mycroft confessed he had almost enjoyed beginning the day playing games with his brother, like when they were children. If there were a more definite sign that Sherlock had missed his life here, he could not think of one. Perhaps now that Sherlock was back, now that he had a better understanding of the importance of family on whom you could depend, things between them might be different.

Which, of course, was the moment his door came crashing open and Sherlock stood there, hair a mess and coat a charcoal smudge around him.

"How could you, Mycroft? You said you would watch him."

"Sherlock?" Mycroft couldn't help but sit up in his chair, galvanized at the sheer force of electricity his brother brought into the room. "What are you… Why do you smell of smoke? I know we amused ourselves this morning, but surely you haven't regressed to the point of attending Bonfire Night festivities like a child?"

"You could say that," Sherlock spat out as he stalked across the room, bringing a fresh wave of wood smoke with him. Now that he was closer, Mycroft could see tiny imperfections in his coat, scorch marks on the glove sticking out from the nearest pocket.

"Sherlock," he said again, worried now. "What happened?"

"You said you would watch him," Sherlock said, momentarily distracted by the flames dancing on the hearth. He visibly shook himself as he pulled his gaze away to glare at his brother. "If this was some kind of payback for his reaction last night…"

Mycroft stared for a moment before getting up and pouring another glass of brandy, which he handed to his brother. "I warned you that your welcome might not be what you expected, but I thought I made it clear this morning that I considered that to be between you and your doctor friend."

"You did," Sherlock said, downing the extraordinary brandy in one swallow, no recognition of the taste at all. "I thought, however, that I could trust you … just because I'm back does not mean …"

"Sherlock," Mycroft said, as patiently as he was able. "I don't know to what you are referring. Did something happened to Doctor Watson tonight?"

"Does nearly being burned alive in a bonfire count?" Sherlock spat out, eyes trapped by the flames again.

Mycroft felt a surge of horror, but then reminded himself that Sherlock seemed angry, not distraught. "I gather he came to no harm?"

"Minor contusions to the head, some smoke inhalation, latent effects of the anaesthesia used to knock him out. He was … remarkably lucky." Sherlock's voice was soft, chastened. "It would have been quite different if we had arrived even a minute later."

"We?"

"His fiancée and myself. She was sent a text warning of his danger. We went together…"

Mycroft blinked, taking in this news. "But John will be well?"

A curt nod. "No thanks to you."

Mycroft felt his brow crease. "I promise you, Sherlock, if you think I had anything to do with this…"

"No," Sherlock said. For a moment he looked unutterably weary, but then his anger surged back. "But I can't help but wonder what kind of idiots you have working for you, Mycroft, that this happened right under their noses, hours ago, and nobody thought to mention it? Not even an anonymous tip to the Yard?"

"I've told you, Sherlock, my men cannot follow Doctor Watson 24 hours a day, especially not now that you're back and the danger is past…"

"But is it past?" Sherlock bit out. "I've been back less than a day and John has nearly been killed. I know I was thorough, I'm sure of it, Mycroft. So what did I miss?"

Mycroft ran through everything he knew about Moriarty's network and Sherlock's work bringing it down. "Nothing, brother. There was nothing. Are you sure this was connected to you? Not to some … disgruntled patient? An old soldier with a grudge? An enemy of Ms Morstan's?"

"No, Mycroft. This very definitely had to do with me."

"How can you be so sure?"

Sherlock didn't answer for a moment, eyes drawn back to the flames again, looking haunted at the orange flicker.

"Sherlock?"

Sherlock's voice was deadly calm as he said, "I ask again, brother, what kind of idiots do you have working for you, that a man you've promised to protect could be standing on the pavement in front of 221 Baker Street and be abducted in broad daylight without anyone noticing?"

Mycroft almost felt flayed by the bitter anger in his brother's voice as he felt his blood chill at the location of the kidnapping.

"I can understand that your security forces might be too thin for a bodyguard to follow the one man whom you swore to protect. Especially with the danger of Moriarty's network past. There are limits, I understand." Sherlock's voice was silky, but as he turned back to look at Mycroft, he saw now that the flames were burning in his brother's eyes now. "What I do not understand, however, is how the CCTV camera you've had pointed at my front door for years now somehow failed to pick up two men drugging John and carrying him off."

His brother was all but shouting now, and Mycroft closed his eyes at the pain of it. "I'll look into it…"

"Oh, you'll look into it," Sherlock said with a sneer. "How very reassuring. I suppose it can be so difficult, training people these days. I can understand that your peons might not recognize a mild-mannered doctor after all these years, but I thought they were supposed to work for Queen and Country, Mycroft. Do they usually let abductions happen right in front of them without telling anyone."

"They can't watch every camera, every minute, Sherlock," Mycroft began.

"Then what good are they? John almost died, Mycroft. When I came here, I had several possibilities in mind—that you were somehow responsible, that you were aware of the fact and chose not to say anything out of a sense of revenge for his treatment of me last night, or that you didn't know. I was prepared to be furious with you for the first, but now that I know it's that you honestly didn't know? Frankly, I'm not entirely sure whether the thought is liberating or terrifying. I thought you prided yourself on knowing everything, Mycroft."

There was no possible defence with Sherlock in this kind of mood. "Nobody can know everything, Sherlock."

He didn't think he had ever seen Sherlock look quite so defeated as he slumped in his chair, eyes one more fixed on the fire, as if he were unable to tear them away.

"He almost died, Mycroft, burned to death, and nobody did anything to help."

"You did," Mycroft told him as gently as possible. "And Ms Morstan. No-one else was necessary."

Sherlock didn't move, not even to shake his head.

"Were you hurt? Your gloves are scorched."

"Nothing to speak of." Sherlock said, dismissive. "If it wasn't you, though, Mycroft, and you didn't know … then who?"

"I'll look into it, little brother."

Another moment and then Sherlock pulled himself to his feet. "I'll see myself out," he said with a nod, as he drew his ashy coat about him. He paused then, looking lost like he had when Redbeard ran away when he was five. "I can't lose him, Mycroft. Not now."

Mycroft all but winced at the pain in his brother's voice. He remembered all the miracles Sherlock had performed in the last two years to make this rebirth even possible and found himself terrified. With all the new skills and ruthlessness Sherlock had been forced to learn … if anything happened to John Watson now … well, it might be catastrophic.

It was possible that keeping John Watson safe now was more important than ever.

Mycroft just nodded, though. "I will look into it—the abduction as well as whichever technician neglected to keep an eye on that particular video feed."

"I…" For a moment, Mycroft feared Sherlock was actually going to thank him, but years of practice steered him away from it at the last moment. "I should go."

"Do. You reek of cinders and ash. And, after all, if there is a new ball coming, you'll want to be wearing something better than rags."

He was relieved to see a glimmer of humour. "So long as that doesn't make you the fairy godmother, Mycroft."

"Naturally not," Mycroft said. "With my connections? I'm much more likely to be a Godfather. Now, go. I have some calls to make."

"Heads to roll."

"Exactly." Mycroft reached for his phone, but kept an eye on his brother and spoke again, just as he reached the door. "He will forgive you, you know. Especially after tonight."

"Of course he will." The shadows made Sherlock's eyes dark and unfathomable as he looked back over his shoulder. "Why else would I have suspected your orchestration?"

And with a swirl of wood smoke and the scent of fresh air and desperation, Sherlock was gone.

Mycroft gave a reluctant look at his brandy and sighed. It was true. Barely back a day and already Sherlock was making things chaotic.

Lord, how he'd missed it.

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THE END


(NOTE: Because, really, am I really supposed to believe Mycroft does NOT have a CCTV camera pointed at 221B at all times, especially with his little brother so recently back from so dangerous a mission? It's not like it wouldn't have taken hours to get John to the bonfire and buried underneath it without any of that crowd arriving and seeing it. Wouldn't someone have noticed something?)