Over a year ago I promised to write a sequel to Never Tear Us Apart. I knew it wouldn't be easy as NTUA 'followed' a lot of series 2, and being at the time fairly certain they were bringing in a wife for John Watson I realised I would have to be a little more creative...and yes, I kept putting it off!
Now, in honour of Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night if you prefer) I offer you the opening chapter of that sequel - I hope you enjoy it.
Disclaimers: As ever, the honours go to ACD, SM and MG, I don't own these guys. I thank them for the wonderful bits of dialogue and text messages that I have filched, and I thank my good friend Sue for lending me the Series 3 DVDs...
In an Eastern block country, in a damp dirty cellar, a hulking thug of a torturer stormed out of the room, the words his prisoner had spoken ringing in still in his ears.
Sitting in the shadow out of the way of the torturer's work was a soldier. Until now he had been quiet, just asking occasionally for clarification of the prisoner's words, now he moved forwards and leaning down pulled the chained man's head up by his hair.
"There's an underground terrorist network active in London and a massive attack is imminent. Sorry, but the holiday is over, brother dear." With a smile Mycroft Holmes released the prisoner's hair and straightened up. "Back to Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes."
"What do you mean he's moved on?"
Freshly showered, shaved and dressed once more in his customary suit and crisp white shirt, Sherlock paused in his observation of his reflection and shifted his gaze over his right shoulder to glare at his brother.
"Exactly what I said, John Watson has moved out of Baker Street and moved on with his life." Mycroft's face twisted as if uncomfortable with the subject matter.
"I know Sherlock, I promised to look after him and make sure no harm came to him – unfortunately as I couldn't appraise him of the facts he believed me to be responsible…."
"But you do know where he is? He is alive?"
Mycroft looked surprised, then peered closer at his brother's reflection and his face settled into an expression of understanding.
"Ah, you thought…." He cleared his throat. "I believe John voluntarily handed his service weapon to your Detective Inspector friend, who – rather than arrest him for having an unlicensed weapon – passed it to me."
Stepping over to his desk he pulled open a draw and lifting the Browning out handed it to his brother.
"Where is he?" Sherlock's voice croaked, tight with emotion as he took the gun.
"Islington, he has a house there, and works in a local surgery – I believe the senior partner is considering offering him a partnership in the practice…."
"Give me his address."
"Ah, now that might not be the best idea right at this moment," Mycroft prevaricated. "Maybe you should let Lestrade know you are alive? And Mrs Hudson? Surely it would be a kindness to tell her?"
Sherlock scowled and said nothing.
"And it would be good manners to let Miss Hooper know that you are back from the dead, so that she can stop worrying that she might let the cat out of the bag so to speak."
"I want….I need to see John." Sherlock's scowl became an expression of suspicion. "What it is that you don't want me to know?"
Under his brother's sharp gaze Mycroft grew uncomfortable – it wasn't something that happened often to him, but he could appreciate how Sherlock's 'victims' felt when faced with that icy gaze.
The silence stretched between them, uncomfortable and claustrophobic until, with a resigned sigh, Mycroft lowered himself into his chair, his hands clasped on the desk in front of him.
"For the past year he has been living with a woman, a Miss Mary Morstan…." Seeing the blood drain from his brother's already pale face Mycroft waved him to a chair, waiting until he was seated before continuing. "I understand from what he has told Lestrade that it started as companionship, but over time it has evolved."
"I understand they are planning to marry next summer."
Mycroft watched his brother's reaction. The younger man went absolutely still, and he closed his eyes.
"Then I've lost him." He whispered.
"He believed he had lost you."
In the end Sherlock paid a short visit to Scotland Yard (the underground car park, where he almost made Lestrade choke on his cigarette), another to Bart's morgue to relieve Molly of her fears of betraying him, and a slightly longer visit to 221B Baker Street where after the initial shock had subsided Mrs Hudson took him to task for his deception and nearly hugged him to death in relief that he wasn't truly dead.
As she poured him another cup of tea, Martha Hudson took in the changes wrought by Sherlock's time away, then broached the question that had been on the tip of her tongue almost from the moment he walked through her door.
"Have you told John?"
Sherlock flicked a glance at her then glanced away.
"Mycroft withheld his address until I had been to see you, he promised to text the address to me once I leave here."
Mrs Hudson was outraged.
"That man! He may be your brother, but he has no right to dictate to you when you can see your…."
She stopped suddenly, as if remembering something. Sherlock looked up at her.
"It's alright Mrs Hudson, I know about this Mary Morstan he's living with."
"Oh." Her thin hand stole across the table to take hold of his, giving it a squeeze.
"I must see him even if he doesn't forgive me for what I did, I need to tell him I'm sorry." Sherlock swallowed past the tightening in his throat. "But I shan't wish him happiness in his new life, because after all I've done to him I find I can't lie to him anymore."
"Mary's a nice girl…."
"And John was mine." Suddenly all the hurt and anger that Sherlock had forced down since he had heard about his once-partner's new life erupted, and the tea cup he held in his hand shattered as he slammed it down on to the table.
"Sherlock!" Snatching up his hand Mrs Hudson checked Sherlock's palm to make sure he hadn't cut himself, then set about clearing away the broken china.
"I'm sorry." As fast as it had come Sherlock's anger went, leaving him sitting looking deflated and lost.
"That's alright dear I'll add it to your rent." Mrs Hudson looked at him expectantly. "You will be moving back in, won't you?"
At last a weak smile graced his thin pale features.
"If you'll have me back."
Sherlock didn't need to wait for his brother's text. Mrs Hudson handed him a slip of paper with John's new address on it.
As the taxi pulled up at the end of the street Sherlock experienced an unfamiliar feeling of butterflies, and his heart jumped into his throat as he slowly walked through the dark November evening towards the modest house that John now called home.
The sound of the doorbell had barely died away when the door was wrenched open. On the threshold stood a slender woman, short, with short blond hair and a face that was pretty in an unusual way.
"You….You're…." she stammered seeing Sherlock standing on the doorstep.
"Yes, and you must be…." He didn't get the chance to finish as he was hauled in through the doorway and into the hall by the lapels of his Belstaff, and a mobile thrust into his hand.
"Read that!" Mary ordered him as she pulled on her coat.
Sherlock looked down at the message open on the screen.
'Save souls now! John or James Watson?'
"I think it's a skip code," Mary said as she moved up close to read it with him. "First word, then every third I think."
"Save John Watson – Who sent you this?"
There was a second text screen open too and Sherlock read on.
'Saint or Sinner? James or John? The more is Less?'
"I don't recognise the number, but that's hardly important now is it? We have to find John!" Snatching the phone back Mary hustled the consulting detective out of the door and into her car.
Without a second thought Sherlock climbed into the passenger seat, his brain working a mile a minute trying to assimilate the data.
Mary started the engine.
"You don't know?" Sherlock looked at her.
"You're the bloody genius here – where to?" Without waiting for his response she pulled away from the curb with a screech of tyres on tarmac.
"Saint James the Less is a church in Pimlico, about sixteen minutes away if the traffic doesn't hold us up."
"I know a shortcut." Already Mary was pulling into narrow backstreets and little roads covered with speed bumps.
Sherlock gritted his teeth, too concerned about John to complain every time the little car hit a bump at speed, throwing him upwards and bumping his head against the roof of the car.
Mary's phone beeped with another incoming text. She reached into her pocket and threw the phone at her passenger. Sherlock opened the new text.
'You're getting warmer Mr Holmes. You have about ten minutes'
"They know I'm with you." Watching as the streetlights threw strange shadows on Mary's face as she concentrated on the road Sherlock frowned. "Either they were watching your house, or they know I've returned and guessed I'd come to your house."
"I don't care, I just want John back safe!"
"Then we both want the same thing."
A knot of stationary traffic delayed their journey, but just as Sherlock was preparing to get out of the car another text came through.
'Better hurry, things are hotting up here...'
"Oh for God's sake…" he reached once more for the door handle as Mary floored the accelerator, screeching through an impossible gap in the traffic and speeding them once more on their way.
"That's it, just up there." Sherlock pointed to a church at the end of the road with one hand while opening yet another message with the other.
'What a shame Mr Holmes. John is quite a Guy!'
"What does it mean?" Mary screeched as the message was read out to her. "What have they done?"
But Sherlock didn't respond. The car skidded to a halt and he was out and running before the engine dies, pushing through the crowd towards the newly lit bonfire in the middle of the church green.
"Move, move, move!" He yelled at adults and children alike as a scream rent the air.
From inside the piled and burning wood came a pained call for help, and the child that had screamed was now in hysterics.
"John! John!" Frantically Sherlock pushed and pulled at the burning wood.
Mary ran up beside him.
"John! Where are you?"
"Call an ambulance" Sherlock ordered as he finally uncovered enough of John's arm to get a grip on him. "John, hold on, I'm going to pull you free."
With a strength born of desperation he pulled, trying to protect John's head as the pile of flaming planks and sticks imploded.
Once free of the inferno Sherlock and Mary knelt on either side of the injured man. Leaning over his friend Sherlock gently patted John's face.
John's eyelids fluttered.
"Hey, John." The younger man said softly.
This time the eyes flashed open, and stared upwards into his face before rolling back into his head.
As the doctor lost consciousness one word slipped from his lips…