When a quiet night of research at St. Bart's turns out to be just the prelude to a kidnapping nightmare, Sherlock makes himself useful in an unexpected way. Hurt/Comfort, Casefic and (very tentative) Sherlolly. Rated T for violence and references to adult themes.

Author's Notes:

This story takes place about a month after the events concluding "His Last Vow", and I'm assuming that the issue of Moriarty's "return" has already been resolved.

MDMA (short for 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) is the scientific name for the drug commonly known as ecstasy. A lot of it that is sold in Europe is made in the Czech Republic.

Not a rewrite of "The Valley of Fear". I just nicked some names and ideas.

This story is going to be SO canon-blasted once series 4 comes around. Enjoy it while you can!

221B Baker Street. The living room. Darkness outside the windows, muted, cosy light from a reading lamp and the lamp above the kitchen table within. Sherlock, in his camel-coloured dressing gown, is pacing around the room, a sheet of paper in his hand and a pencil behind his ear, humming softly to himself, radiating the quiet contentment of being absorbed in a pleasurable task. He breaks off, repeats a few notes he has just hummed, then wanders over into the kitchen and sits down at the kitchen table. The table is covered with clutter, as usual – newspapers, used dishes, laboratory glassware in varying states of cleanness, a notepad, Sherlock's phone, a steaming mug of tea, a china plate with a flower design and a gold rim with three or four of what looks like freshly baked scones on it, an open pot of strawberry jam, a plastic cup of clotted cream. Sherlock pushes some of the clutter out of the way to make room for the paper in his hand – music paper, half covered with handwritten music. He fishes an eraser out of the pocket of his dressing gown, corrects some of what he's jotted down, then puts the pencil down, takes up his phone, checks it for new messages – obviously in vain – and pulls the plate of scones towards him. He prepares one, complete with cream and jam, and bites into it. Then he freezes. There is the sound of footsteps on the stairs. Without taking the scone out of his mouth, Sherlock reaches out with his other hand and quickly covers both his phone and his music paper with a newspaper. By the time Mycroft Holmes – carrying his umbrella and a briefcase - has knocked on the open living room door and walked around into the kitchen to find his brother, Sherlock is innocently chewing again. He looks up at his visitor and raises his eyebrows, mouth too full for a verbal greeting.

MYCROFT: Good evening. (His eyes wander across the kitchen table.) Nice to see you're composing again.

With a frown, Sherlock follows Mycroft's gaze, which has come to rest on the pencil and the eraser on the table.

MYCROFT (with a smile): It is the only activity involving pen and paper at which I've ever seen you correct yourself.

Sherlock gives his brother a dark look, then – rather uselessly - pushes the pencil and the eraser out of sight under the clutter, too.

MYCROFT (nonchalantly): Nothing to be ashamed of, you know. It's not half as absurd as trying to set up a baby travel cot, I believe.

The dark look on Sherlock's face descends to murderous. Mycroft nods back towards the living room.

MYCROFT: The recent indentations in the carpet are faint but still there. Four of them in a rectangular alignment, at a distance of approximately 24 and 48 inches respectively – standard size for a baby travel cot. Don't tell me it was anything else.

Sherlock swallows his bite.

SHERLOCK (sourly): Who am I to contend with such obvious expertise?

MYCROFT (generously): I do admit that that mark on the side of your right index finger would have puzzled me for a while longer if I hadn't happened to have noticed the very same on Anthea's hands some time last year, when I realised that her younger sister must be expecting her first child. (He nods towards Sherlock's right hand.) The same two parallel lines, impressed deeply, and the skin in between red and swollen, though unbroken. These things do put up a fight when you try to collapse them again, don't they? Apparently the trick is to depress both long sides simultaneously, and then pull up the centre bottom towards you. Well. Mrs Watson is not due to give birth for another fortnight. Lots of time left to practise.

About half-way through this discourse, Sherlock has stopped listening, turned back towards his meal on the table and demolished the rest of the scone he had been eating when Mycroft came in. Now he licks his fingers clean and picks up the knife again. Mycroft walks around his brother's chair and sits down uninvited in the one next to it, depositing his briefcase on the floor at his side.

MYCROFT: And why are you having a cream tea at ten p.m., may I ask?

Sherlock contemplates his brother in silence for a moment, then very deliberately slices open another scone, covers one half with a thick layer of clotted cream, dips his creamy knife straight into the jam pot – at which Mycroft grimaces in disgust – and adds a liberal amount of jam onto the cream. He then takes a huge bite, almost half of the scone disappearing into his mouth, and chews thoughtfully a couple of times, as if deliberating some particularly biting retort.

SHERLOCK (finally, in a muffled voice): Why not?

Mycroft sighs. Sherlock pushes the plate towards him.

SHERLOCK: Have one, too?

Mycroft leans back and even slides his chair backwards a couple of inches, obviously appalled at the very idea of consuming so many calories at once.

MYCROFT (stiffly): No, thank you.

Sherlock smirks.

MYCROFT: I've heard that expectant fathers tend to overeat, in a subconscious desire to match their partner's changing shape, but I wasn't aware that the same applies to expectant godfathers, too. No, keep smirking, I don't mind. You're the one who's going to suffer the disappointment when you discover that all your touching efforts at getting involved will pass largely unnoticed by the absorbed doting new parents.

SHERLOCK (in a deceptively mild tone): Mycroft, we established a long time ago that a mere urgent desire to sneer at me is not a sufficient reason for imposing your presence on me, and the same, by extension, applies to sneering at any of my friends. So unless you have anything of substance to say, get out of my house.

MYCROFT: Oh, I have.

SHERLOCK (taking another bite of his scone): Well, spill it.

MYCROFT (after a moment's pause): Put that knife down for a moment.

Sherlock swallows his bite and tightens his hold on the knife.

SHERLOCK (suspiciously): Why?

MYCROFT: Because I'm going to say a few things now that you won't like to hear, so I'd rather not be talking to an armed man.

Sherlock snorts and all but throws the knife down onto Mrs Hudson's best tableware with a clatter.

MYCROFT (pointedly): Thank you.

SHERLOCK: Hurry up. I'm still hungry.

MYCROFT: Yes, I know you are. (He leans back in his chair and crosses his arms.) You've grown quite insatiable of late, I've noticed. It's a bit like a drug, isn't it? Once you've tasted it, you keep wanting more of it, even though it may not always be wise, or healthy.

SHERLOCK (dismissively): There's nothing wrong with Mrs Hudson's baking, Mycroft. And you're the one who inherited our mother's tendency towards obesity, not me.

MYCROFT: I wasn't talking about scones, Sherlock.

SHERLOCK (drily): No, obviously not.

MYCROFT: I'm talking about another very strange habit that you seem to have developed lately. I admit I am at a loss what to call it.

SHERLOCK: Well, that doesn't happen often. Though given the subject matter, maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

Mycroft opens his mouth as if to disagree, then closes it again and exhales in resignation.

SHERLOCK: But if this is going to be simply another instance of what is in fact nothing but pathetic jealousy in the guise of patronizing disapproval, you might just as well save your breath. We're not going over this again. I didn't see it. I paid for it. End of story.

Mycroft leans forward in his chair, an almost pained look on his face.

MYCROFT: I wish it was.


MYCROFT: Of that particular instalment, maybe. Promise me that it won't get serialised.

SHERLOCK (raising his eyebrows): "It."

MYCROFT: Yes. That ridiculous hunger for company, that strange need of surrounding yourself with people you want to think of as your friends, and that blindness to their true natures, and their true motives. It is a drug, Sherlock. I don't blame John Watson for introducing you to it. If you had restricted yourself to him, I believe the problem would have remained manageable. But what worries me is how you fail to see that you won't necessarily find that same sort of high again with just anyone else on whom you please to stick the same label. Even though you've had a good taste already of what it feels like to overdose on that particular poison.

SHERLOCK (sharply): Mycroft, you are the last person who has any right to speak to me, or to anyone, of who or what deserves the name of friendship.

MYCROFT: I concede that I may lack the practical experience. But then, you should not need me to remind you to at least entertain the possibility of ulterior motives and hidden agendas, now and again. (A silence. Mycroft folds his hand on the table.) A mentally unhinged ex-forensics officer, whom you choose to provide with exclusive interviews to support his utterly absurd conspiracy theories. An underfed junkie, who tags along after you like a lap dog and prides himself on playing your new assistant. A girl, whom you let not only into your house but even into your bed, and I suspect at least half-way into your heart as well, when you barely knew her at all. What kind of company is that? It is not only unwise, Sherlock, it may be dangerous.

SHERLOCK (testily): The last time anyone let Anderson into my house, it wasn't me, remember?

MYCROFT (with a shrug): He had his uses, that day.

SHERLOCK: So had Janine, and so has Bill Wiggins. They're not my friends, Mycroft. They're means to an end.

MYCROFT (coldly): I once, long ago, heard you say the same about Molly Hooper.

Sherlock abruptly raises his head and looks at Mycroft in surprise.

MYCROFT: And look how easy it's become to unsettle you. Sentiment, Sherlock. Never a good counsellor. (With an air of concluding the conversation) So, before you embrace the entire world in your new-found enthusiasm for love and trust and all the other attending ills of ordinary interpersonal relationships, and maybe get another knife in your back in the process -

Sherlock picks up the cream-and-jam knife from the plate on the table and points it threateningly at his brother.

SHERLOCK: – speaking of which –

MYCROFT (unfazed): - let me at least make sure that your health and disability insurances are in good order and up to date.

Sherlock lets the knife sink down again, completely taken aback. Mycroft, either unaware of his brother's reaction or ignoring it, leans down to his briefcase and takes out a leather-bound folder, from which he produces a number of documents.

MYCROFT (looking over the papers, in a business-like tone): They're raising your premiums again, to a height that's beginning to border on ridiculous, so before I agree in your name, I thought –

SHERLOCK (slowly catching up): You're here to discuss my health and disability insurances?

MYCROFT: Yes. I've just said so.

SHERLOCK: I have health and disability insurances?

MYCROFT (impatiently): Of course you have. (He gives his brother a reproachful look.) On the NHS, there would probably have been a three or four weeks waiting list for the removal of the bullet alone. Now, as you're probably aware, a rise in the premiums gives you the right to terminate the entire contract, but I must warn you that it was difficult enough to find anyone who'd take you at all, after your resurrection from the pavement in front of St. Bart's. And since "Consulting Detective" is not a recognised profession in their catalogue, they were practically free to make up the premium on the disability insurance themselves, and I'm afraid they've taken full advantage of it.

SHERLOCK (muttering): In that case, I really don't want to know where you rank in their risk groups.

MYCROFT: Oh, modestly, by comparison.

SHERLOCK: They have a category for "Master of Puppets"?

MYCROFT (pointedly): "Civil Servant - Other". Very low down on the list, I assure you. I'm a downright bargain, compared to you. Anyway. Look at this.

He points at one of the papers. Sherlock leans over to get a better look.

MYCROFT: I thought this worth pointing out, too. Your health insurance comes with a clause that most emphatically excludes coverage for any self-inflicted injuries or conditions, whatever the means or the reason.

SHERLOCK (in a flat voice): Why would I want to injure myself?

MYCROFT: Well, with a man with a history of jumping off buildings in a good cause, it is a logical assumption that something of the sort may happen again, and maybe go less smoothly than last time. Not to mention the fact that he sometimes sticks needles in his arms as well, just to make a point.

SHERLOCK (glancing up at his brother with a frown): There was a point, Mycroft.

MYCROFT (coolly): Whatever the means or the reason, dear brother. That includes everything from struggling with baby cots to abuse of illegal substances.

Sherlock leans back again with a sigh of resignation.

SHERLOCK: They must have been massively displeased with me when they got that last hospital bill.

MYCROFT: Except they never saw that one, much less paid it.


MYCROFT (with a shrug): I suppose they'd have kicked you out of the contract altogether if they'd got to see it.

SHERLOCK: Who paid it then?

MYCROFT: Lady Smallwood.

Sherlock stares at his brother, the frown on his face giving way to an almost pained expression. There is a silence.

SHERLOCK (after a moment): All of it, or just the first week?

MYCROFT: All of it. (He sighs.) She insisted that everything that happened was a direct result of her commissioning you to negotiate on her behalf, and thus, her responsibility. (Seeing the look on his brother's face.) I tried. It's no use.

Sherlock nods slowly, looking down at the table in front of him, his appetite for the remaining scones obviously gone.

MYCROFT (in a business-like tone again): However, since we can't always rely on your future clients to display the same degree of magnanimity, I strongly suggest that -

There is the sound of the doorbell, and the front door below opening and closing. Muted conversation between Mrs Hudson and a visitor, and then the footsteps of a man on the stairs.

MYCROFT: - that we accept these conditions as they are. Sherlock, are you listening? Detective Inspector Lestrade is going to declare neither the identity of the victim nor the manner of death nor the location of the crime scene before he has actually entered the room, and –

There is a knock on the kitchen door, and Greg Lestrade looks in.

LESTRADE: Oh. Sorry. Mrs Hudson said –

SHERLOCK: It's fine, come in.

Lestrade opens the door fully and enters, looking from Sherlock to Mycroft and back, still uncertain whether he is welcome. Sherlock smiles, if a little artificially, and jerks his head at Mycroft.

SHERLOCK: Just having a friendly little chat with my probation officer. He's trying to bore me to death with paperwork about insurance issues.

MYCROFT (drily): But he would like to state in his defence that he didn't start until his client here tried to stab him to death with a blunt butter knife smeared with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Greg Lestrade's eyes visibly brighten, but whether at the mention of two new murder cases at once or at that of cream and strawberry jam is unclear. Sherlock picks up one of the remaining scones.

SHERLOCK: Cream and jam?

LESTRADE: Sure. Brilliant. I'm starving.

Sherlock proceeds to prepare a scone for Lestrade, being even more generous with the cream and the jam than he was for himself. Mycroft looks downright revolted. Lestrade, noticing it, gives him a slightly concerned sidelong glance.

SHERLOCK (to Lestrade): Never mind him. He envies you, is all. Here.

He picks up the plate and hands it to Lestrade.

MYCROFT (to Sherlock, in a dignified tone): I most certainly do not. (To Lestrade, generously) But enjoy your scone, Detective Inspector. (Lestrade nods in acknowledgment and tucks in.) Since you'll obviously be on the road again within the next five minutes, whisking my brother away to another crime scene – no, this time directly to the morgue, isn't it? – you might as well face whatever horrors await you there on a full stomach.

Lestrade's mouth is too full of scone to voice his astonishment, but his eyes grow wide in a very eloquent manner.

MYCROFT (to Sherlock): And we were finished at any rate, I believe. Keep it in mind.

SHERLOCK (lightly): What, the knife in the back?

MYCROFT: That, and the clause in the contract.

Lestrade's eyes go back and forth again between the two brothers, puzzled. He is still chewing vigorously.

SHERLOCK (to Mycroft): You don't trust me to avoid either of that for any length of time, do you?

MYCROFT: Well, if the precedents were more in your favour, I'd give you about a fortnight on both counts. As it is, a week.

SHERLOCK (with a snort): I'll bet you.

MYCROFT: I never bet.

SHERLOCK: True. Neither do I. (He holds out his hand.) Is it on then?

MYCROFT: Absolutely. He takes his brother's hand and gives it a brief, firm shake.

SHERLOCK (with a sour smile): Mind the pinch.

MYCROFT (pointedly): Apologies. He lets go of his brother's hand, collects the papers on the table, puts them back in his briefcase and gets up. Then he turns to shake hands with Lestrade as well, who has finished his scone by now.

LESTRADE (with a politely restrained but still audible note of triumph in his voice): It wasn't a knife in the back though.

MYCROFT (smoothly): I never said it was. Good evening to you both.

He gives both men a nod to share between them, and exits the room. The moment he is gone, Sherlock springs into action. He is out of his dressing gown and half-way down the corridor to his room in less than three seconds, calling back to Lestrade over his shoulder.

SHERLOCK: The morgue, is it? Not another silly kid trying too hard to have a good time on a Saturday night?

LESTRADE: Exactly that, I'm afraid.

SHERLOCK (off-screen, from the direction of his bedroom): Number five, is it?

LESTRADE (calling after him): Six!

SHERLOCK (still off-screen): How come she's already there in the morgue? It's barely eleven!

LESTRADE That's what I'd like to know, too. Boss McGinty strikes again, probably.

SHERLOCK:Boss who?

He's back, with his jacket and shoes on, unearths his phone from the kitchen table and squeezes past Lestrade to get to his coat, on the hook at the back of the living-room door.

LESTRADE: Boss McGinty. I'll explain in the car. And how do you know it's a girl, anyway?

SHERLOCK (putting his coat and scarf on): All the others were. (With a somewhat reproachful look at Lestrade) I do read the papers, you know. Come on!