A/N: This is posted in chapters on LJ, but I thought I'd post in one go on here. Have fun reading guys, and please please please review.
The first time John was kidnapped, he had known Sherlock for less than 24 hours. He had been stalked through street cameras and telephones, and abducted in an official looking black car. It has all been really very obvious.
Well, obvious except for the fact that his kidnapper had turned out not to be some kind of genius-mastermind criminal, or a crazed lunatic twisted by power and greed, but instead the arch-enemy brother of the man who'd turned John's life upside down in the space of five minutes.
Actually, John thinks, as harsh torchlight bounces off cold, damp brick and he stumbles forward over lumps of warped metal, genius-mastermind was still probably correct. It was only mildly comforting to know that this particular genius-mastermind was on his side, and this thought doesn't cheer him through his second kidnapping in as many months.
'Ahh, Doctor Watson,' a cheerful voice calls out, echoing off unseen walls. 'Good of you to come.'
John raises his eyebrows, and flicks his eyes towards the woman walking next to him. Anthea, or Jupiter as she'd introduced herself to John earlier, moves surely through the dim light, somehow avoiding all of the obstacles on the floor whilst staring into her Blackberry, while John trips and staggers even with his eyes glued to the ground.
'I'm quite sure I didn't have a choice,' he hesitates, then nods coolly at the man in front of him. 'Mycroft.'
Sherlock's brother smiles, then waves his ever-present umbrella to his right, towards something John can't see.
The torches flick, as one, to where Mycroft points, and John feels his jaw drop in surprise. There, settled amidst the rocks and ruins of the dilapidated tunnel, is a white, wrought-metal patio table, complete with a delicate china tea-set.
It seems like something out of a dream - a very strange dream - and it takes John several moments, and a rather painful pinch to his left arm, before he believes that this isn't some kind of hallucination, and that he isn't going crazy.
Mycroft looks up expectantly, and John feels his legs move forward of their own volition. He sighs, because there is no getting out of this as much as he wants to, and he sets his shoulders as he sits, mentally preparing himself for the onslaught of questions about Sherlock's wellbeing, and a reprimand of two concerning the cases they've solved over the past few weeks. The first question, when it comes, therefore is a complete surprise.
'How are you, John?' Mycroft asks, fingers steepled together. It's enough to startle John away from the amazing tower of cakes, stacked on the type of display stands he's only ever seen in Harrods, or in the background of TV broadcasts from Buckingham Palace.
'Um.' John answers, before he's distracted again by a small slip of a girl coming forward, picking up the teapot in dainty hands, and pouring him a cup of tea. John nods distractedly at the offered milk, and shakes his head at sugar, then drags his gaze back to Mycroft.
'Um. Fine. Thank you.'
Mycroft smiles, and it's all John can do to stop himself pinching his arm again, because this is seriously strange.
'I'm very glad.' Mycroft says softly, 'You do look well, and I see Sherlock has been buying you presents'
John glances down at the watch gracing his wrist, then raises his head and stares defiantly at Mycroft.
'Sherlock ruined my old one in an experiment.' He states, and Mycroft nods sagely.
'Of course.' He replies, his voice clearly indicating that this is not the real reason, but he'll let John believe it is. John feels a familiar feeling begin to set in. It's the feeling he associates with Sherlock making unwelcome observations, and suddenly John remembers with a terrifying clarity everything that Mycroft said during their first meeting - everything he deduced - and John knows he is uncomfortably out of his depth.
Even so, he was, and still is, somehow, a soldier, and John is damned if he is going to let a child-like genius and his over-bearing brother get the best of him.
'And how are you, Mycroft?' He enquires, a sense of triumph washing through him when Mycroft looks vaguely surprised. His triumph, however, is short-lived, when surprise is replaced by a smile. It might be a symptom of living with Sherlock and John's overactive imagination, but he is convinced that Mycroft's smile is not entirely innocent.
'I am indeed well, John. Thank you for asking.' Mycroft takes a sip from his teacup, places it delicately back on the saucer, and looks back at John, who has yet to touch either his tea or his cake.
'Now, John. It has come to my attention that you and Sherlock were involved in a case last week which resulted in you being thrown in to the Thames.'
John sits back, and thinks the conversation has finally turned round to Sherlock. The questions regarding Sherlock's safety and well-being, however, once again fail to materialise.
'I'm told that your coat was irrevocably damaged.' Mycroft beckons someone forward, and John is slightly startled to realise the man holds a soft, warm bundle of wool and cotton in his arms. John, once again, finds he is lost for words, but a vague suspicion is beginning to form in his mind. He glances at the watch on his wrist, then back at the coat in the man's arms.
'I can buy my own coat, thank you.' John states clearly.
'Of course, John.' Mycroft nods, tone sympathetic and understanding. 'But you are not a wealthy man. I am just trying to ease your way.'
John narrows his eyes, the whole conversation seeming rather too familiar to him.
'What do you want, Mycroft?'
Mycroft leans back in his seat, expression blank, and John feels uneasy, but not threatened. It's strange, he thinks, because this is a man who is feared by so many people. He is the government. After A Study in Pink, John had thought Sherlock was embellishing when he'd said it, but experiences since have shown him that there are few people who hold as much power as Mycroft Holmes. Surely John should be intimidated by this?
Mycroft just smiles slightly, gestures with his hand and the man with the coat moves closer.
'Take the coat, John.' Mycroft says quietly. John looks at the man across from him for a second longer, then sighs and stands. He shrugs off his jacket, then holds his hands out for the new coat. The air is cold on his bare arms, and he pulls on the new coat quickly. It's soft, and warm, and it fits perfectly. John doesn't even pretend to think that Mycroft got his measurements from somewhere, he knows that all Mycroft had to do was look at him the first time they met, and he knew everything from his shoe size to waist measurements.
John doesn't try to protest at the gift of the coat, which is obviously very expensive. He learned that lesson very early on from Sherlock; there is no point in arguing. In the early days of their acquaintance, John had attempted to argue with Sherlock, but it had seemed that every argument and point of attack John thought of had been sharply countered and thrown out. It had been, to put it lightly, frustrated. He'd quickly given up arguing the smaller points.
John sighs to himself, wondering when he'd become this easy, sits back down and reaches for the untouched cake display, feeling vaguely feminine as the idea of chocolate and calories cheers him up.
The thing is, John thinks, as he licks the chocolate icing off the tips of his fingers, Mycroft is infinitely more difficult to deal with than Sherlock, and that is something he never thought he'd believe. But Sherlock is as precocious as a child, while Mycroft…
Mycroft has intelligence and the ability to pull information from nothing, but he does not quite have the same child-like genius as his brother. Mycroft, however, makes up for it in his people skills. Mycroft is able to manipulate and control, and this makes him so difficult to read and understand.
Sherlock buries his emotions. Mycroft uses his masterfully to his advantage.
They are silent for a moment longer; John standing, left hand shaking slightly at his side, Mycroft sitting and watching. Then the silence if broken and Jupiter walks over, heels clicking and echoing off curved stone walls.
Mycroft stands, umbrella already clutched in his hand, and he takes a step forward.
'Goodbye John.' He holds out his hand and John takes it. Mycroft's handshake is firm and dry. John's dad always said you could tell a lot about a man by his handshake, John just wishes he could remember whether this means friend or murderer.
When John arrives back at 221b Baker Street twenty minutes later, he is still none-the-wiser as to what his meeting with Mycroft was supposed to mean. He is let out of the black car without a word from Jupiter, and he makes his way up the stairs to the flat, hands firmly in his new coat pockets.
Sherlock is sitting on the sofa, phone in hand, scowl firmly set in place. His fingers are flying over the keys, but he directs his comment towards John.
'Next time Mycroft invites you to tea, decline.'
John opens his mouth, but rethinks his question before he's even begun to form the words - of course Sherlock knows where he's been. Instead, he asks the other question that springs to mind.
Sherlock looks at him and he is as close to truly angry and upset as John has ever seen him, but he doesn't answer. Instead, he turns his attention back to the phone in his hand, fingers tapping keys, then with a particularly hard jab, the message is sent.
'Because he has nothing of importance to say.'
And that, apparently [comma] is the end of the conversation. Sherlock flips himself over, curling up on the sofa, his back to John. The doctor stares for a moment, then sighs and turns away.
There is something else going on here, he is certain, but John is damned if he can even begin to figure it out.
It seems that he'll just have to sit and wait this one out.
As soon as the footsteps fade and the door to John's bedroom door clicks shut, Sherlock turns on to his back, phone back in hand. There has been no reply, but Sherlock knows the text has been received; Mycroft is never far from his phone.
The anger is still bubbling under his skin, and it's something Sherlock cannot understand. This feeling, this irrational burning deep in his stomach makes him feel sick, and as much as he wants to study it, he can't even begin to focus. Instead, he sends his brother another pointed text. John is his friend - his associate and flatmate, not Mycroft's.
And there is no way Sherlock is letting his brother steal him.
The next time it happens, they're at a crime scene. Sherlock is doing what he does best - pointing out pieces of information that apparently everyone should see, and being excessively rude to Anderson - and John is doing what he does best - stand to one side of the crime scene, and look like he's there for a reason.
The black car pulls up quietly at the end of the street just at a moment when Sherlock is entirely engrossed in his case and thinks of nothing else. John, however, sees it straight away, and he knows without a doubt what, or rather who, the car is waiting for.
With a heavy sigh, he turns and walks away from the crime scene towards the car. He knows Sherlock won't be happy, but really, John knows he won't really be missed. Sherlock deduces and thinks without any real help from anyone. Most of the time, John feels he's just there to remind Donovan and Anderson that Sherlock can have a friend and keep him.
The change to the norm strikes John as he walks towards the car. Usually, it's him who walks out of some house, or sewer, or park in the middle of nowhere to find Sherlock has disappeared on him. It's the first time John has done the vanishing act instead. He wonders how long it will take Sherlock to realise he's not there anymore.
The door to the car swings open, and John climbs in, his shoulder pulling slightly at the sudden change in body position. He clears his throat.
'Hi, again, um…?'
Mycroft's PA looks at him, and smiles slightly. 'Serendipity,' she supplies, and John nods.
'Right. Of course. Hello Serendipity. Any point in asking where we're going this time?'
Serendipity just smiles again, then looks back at her Blackberry. John sighs.
The journey doesn't take long, and John has no idea what to expect as he steps out of the car. The area there is pretty non-descript, and he doesn't recognise anything around them. For London, however, it's remarkably quiet. Serendipity moves towards the tall building in front of them, and John follows, because surely this has to be better than drinking tea in a ruined tunnel?
They take the lift, Serendipity pausing long enough in her texting to press the button for the top floor, and John thinks that tea on the top of a building is relatively normal for Mycroft Holmes.
The though has barely entered his mind when the lift doors open and, once again, his jaw drops in surprise. He takes a few steps forward, leaving Serendipity in the lift, and looks around, body twisting as he tries to look at everything at once.
There is no concrete in sight, nothing grey or dull. Instead, covering the floor is a thick layer of woodchips, intersected by a dark wood path. The air is humid, and thick with the scent of pollen and damp bark, and as John walks forward, he trails his hands through ferns and beautifully coloured flowers.
The garden is amazing. John knew that some buildings had gardens on the top, but he had never imagined anything like this. He walks a little further. Most of his view is obscured by leaves and foliage, but to be honest, he almost knows what to expect now. The path suddenly turns to the left, and widens into a large veranda, and there in the middle is the white wrought-metal patio table and delicate white china tea-set.
Mycroft is standing next to the table, right leg hooked behind his left, leaning on the familiar blue umbrella. John doesn't think he's ever seen Mycroft without the umbrella. A logical person would assume he carries it because of the unpredictable London weather, but John has never been overly logical outside of medicine, and somehow this reason just seems wrong.
'Good afternoon, John.' Mycroft greets him, holding out his hand. John shakes it, dry and firm as always. The tea-set is the same, John notes as he sits at Mycroft's invitation, but the cake is different. Instead of the elaborate stand of tiny chocolate-rolled delicacies, there is a large Victoria sponge dusted with icing sugar, and John feels his mouth water at the sight - it's late afternoon, and all he's eaten today is a hastily-buttered slice of toast, grabbed on the way out of the door this morning.
'How are you, John?' Mycroft asks, and John feels his mouth quirk into a small smile.
'Very well thank you. And yourself?'
'Tolerable.' Mycroft replies. He nods at a girl standing behind John, and the tea is poured, and the cake cut. John doesn't wait this time, and he bites deeply in to the cake, closely his eyes briefly in satisfaction. When he opens them, he finds Mycroft watching him closely, a slight frown pulling at the skin on his forehead.
'I know that my brother does not need to eat like normal people, but he should stop to consider others.'
Mycroft's tone is mild, but John can hear undercurrents of concern and irritation.
'He did offer to stop for food.' John finds himself jumping to Sherlock's defence, the words leaping from his lips before he even thinks them and he sees Mycroft's mouth twitch into a very slight smile at his words. Desperate to move the subject away from his eating habits, John asks the first question that comes into his head.
'How is the government?'
John sighs inwardly, knowing that he needs to remember to think before he speaks around Mycroft, but the man's smile just grows, and he takes a sip of tea.
'It's fine, thank you John. But you do not need to know the boring details.' The tea-cup is put down in to it's saucer. 'I have something for you.'
John follows the gesture of Mycroft's hand, and sees the shoe-size, rectangular box in the arms of another of Mycroft's men. It's placed on the table by his plate, and John flicks his eyes towards the man sitting opposite him, before moving his hands towards the lid.
Boxes like this are treated with caution around 221b Baker Street - they have been known to contain rather disturbing objects and dangerous chemicals.
John pulls the lid off, and for once, a shoe box contains exactly what it's meant to - pair of dark brown leather shoes. The gift, really, should have been expected. John's own shoes are rather worn; the soles are wearing through and the stitching is fraying as the leather pulls apart. It's also no surprise that Mycroft has noticed this, because John has yet to hide anything from either Holmes brother, but what John can't really understand is why.
Over the past couple of weeks, John has received a new watch, a soft angora scarf and a pair of very expensive leather gloves from Sherlock, and a coat and a pair of shoes from Mycroft. If John didn't know better, he'd say that his attentions were being bought, but of course, that is a stupid idea, and he dismisses it straight away.
Belatedly, John realises he's been staring at the shoes for rather a long time, and he clears his throat.
'Thank you.' He says, and Mycroft nods, his expression approving as John doesn't even try to reject the gift. Instead, the doctor twists in his chair, toes his shoes off and pulls the new ones out of the box. They fit perfectly, of course, and John can already tell that they will be so much more comfortable during the long hours spent racing around London.
John thinks for a second about asking about the gifts, but in the end, he doesn't. He sits back in his chair instead, and takes another sip of tea and bite of cake. Finally, the conversation turns towards safer ground, and John feels himself relax slightly as he talks about the recent cases. Mycroft, of course, already knows many of the details, but it seems he does really care about his brother and John's wellbeing, as he constantly shifts the conversation towards topics of food and sleep - John resists, and shifts it back.
The meeting - John doesn't really know how to describe it, meeting doesn't sound right, but neither does tea-date - ends with Mycroft somehow tricking John into promising to eat better, and sleep more no matter how demanding Sherlock is, and John still finds it strange that he is promising to look after himself, rather than Sherlock.
Mycroft is the first to leave this time. He excuses himself with a firm handshake - holding on to John's hand for rather longer than appropriate - and walks away, swinging his umbrella in his hand.
John is left, sitting at a table in an unbelievable garden on top of a block of flats, new shoes on his feet, and wondering if his life could get stranger.
The answer is yes. Apparently.
Sherlock is furious when John finally makes it home, and for the first ten minutes of the argument, John thinks it's because he left the detective at the crime scene.
'You do it all the time!' he yells, exasperation filling his voice as he turns his head back and forward, watching Sherlock pacing the room. The detective's head whips round to look at his flat mate, expression livid; eyes narrowed, cheeks alive with heated colour, mouth pressed together in a thin line.
'I have not had tea,' he spits the word out like it's something offensive, 'with my brother in months!'
This stops John dead in his tracks.
'This is about Mycroft?' he asks, tone surprised.
'Of course this is about Mycroft!' Sherlock roars back. 'You and Mycroft, and your lovely little tea parties!'
John can't seem to grasp what Sherlock is saying.
'I thought you were mad I left you at the crime scene.' he states, and Sherlock glares at his shoes.
'Oh how your tiny brain thinks.' He mocks, then throws a bag at John. It hits him in the face, and when John's vision is again free from flimsy plastic, he finds the room empty. John sighs, and moves to put the bag on the table. A distant, angry voice stops him before he can let go.
'Open the bag!'
Then a door slams and the discordant noise of a violin being played rather violently fills the flat. John stares down the hall for a second, before giving in, and opening the bag. His eyebrows raise as he pulls out the grey angora jumper. It's soft and warm, and of course it fits perfectly. Another gift. John just isn't surprised.
He thinks he's beginning to understand now.
The fourth time it happens, John is beginning to think it's all getting a little bit ridiculous. He's standing at the window, breathing in the smell of the scones Mrs Hudson has been baking downstairs, when the familiar black car pulls up. He thinks he can't really call it kidnapping anymore, because he actually walks in to it, but even so, it's vaguely annoying. Mycroft seems to pushing his luck more and more, because Sherlock is home. He might be preoccupied with an experiment which involves a hand whisk and some unfortunate person's fingernails, but Mycroft knows how observant his brother is. It's not likely that Sherlock is going to miss this.
John knows how angry Sherlock is going to be. He recalls the last time he arrived home after tea with Mycroft, and shivers slightly. The argument - and the grey angora jumper - was followed by a brand new Marc Jacobs suit, solid silver cufflinks and a top hat. John has never even worn a top hat before, let alone owned one, but he can't refuse the gifts, because whenever Sherlock sees him wearing something new, there is a glint in his eyes, and a small smile on his lips, and John feels his breathing hitch just a little bit.
He can't quite get the feeling that he's being branded out his head, but somehow even that thought doesn't irritate him, and that is confusing enough.
His problem, however, is not that Sherlock is going to be rather upset. The problem is that John knows that Sherlock is going to be upset, and yet he's going to go anyway. Mycroft isn't stupid, and therefore John reasons that all of this must be a part of some bigger plan. Either that, or Mycroft just really enjoys upsetting Sherlock. Somehow, John knows that that isn't right.
Sighing - he realises he's been doing that quite a lot lately - John walks to the door, grabbing his new shoes, coat, scarf and gloves (but not the top hat) along the way. He just wants to get out of the flat as quickly as possible, so he calls out a very quick 'I'm going out Sherlock!'; before shutting the door quickly behind him. He'll put his shoes on in the car.
He all but runs to the car. The door opens for him and he slides in, risking a quick glance to the window of the flat. The curtains twitch, and John swallows the lump he suddenly feels in his throat. There is a heavy, tight feeling in his stomach, as though he's betraying Sherlock just by sitting in the car, and he rubs at his face with his hands, before turning to the woman in the car. Before he even speaks, she's turning to him with a small smile.
'Cassiopeia,' she says, and then turns back to her Blackberry. John nods, finding it worrying that he doesn't think this is a strange conversation anymore.
'Hi, Cassiopeia,' He replies as the car pulls away. 'How are you today?'
She smiles at her Blackberry, not even turning towards him this time. Her fingers are flying over the keys, and John wonders who she spends all her time e-mailing.
'Fine thank you, John.' Her tone is friendlier than it had been the first time they had met, but there is still an air of finality to the words, and John just accepts the abrupt ending to their brief exchange. He sits back in his seat, watching London flash past through tinted windows, and he can't help but wonder where he's being taken this time. After tea in a ruined tunnel and a garden on top of a building, John thinks it's not possible for him to be too surprised, but that idea is quickly forgotten as the car slows to a stop and he steps out.
The car has stopped in the middle of a park, next to a lone oak tree. The park is busy, full of children and parents and dogs. Their screams of laughter and endless chatter wash over him. John looks around, but there is no sign of Mycroft. He turns back to Cassiopeia, brow drawn in confusion, and she nods towards the tree.
It's only then that John notices the rope ladder.
He tilts his head ever-so-slowly upwards, eyes widening in disbelief, then whips around to face Mycroft's PA.
'You have got to be kidding me.' he states flatly. Cassiopeia just looks back at him, but John can see she's fighting a smile. He narrows his eyes, but then his attention is drawn away by a familiar voice.
'Come on up, John.' The rope ladder twitches, and John fights the sudden urge to laugh, because he knows it'll come out as something maniacal and he'll sound more than a little crazy. Instead, he finds himself walking forward, and climbing the rope ladder. When he reaches the top, he pulls himself to his feet, and finally realises he actually has gone crazy, because there is Mycroft, sitting calmly at the white patio table with the dainty tea-set.
In the middle of a tree-house.
John can't help himself and he snorts with laughter. Shaking his head, he moves to the table, head ducked slightly to avoid hitting the low ceiling. When he looks up, he sees Mycroft smiling, and all he has to do is tilt his head slightly.
'It's different…' is all Mycroft says, and he taps his umbrella on the floor a couple of times. John just nods helplessly, because really, what else can he do?
'How are you today, John?'
There is no one else in the tree-house, so John helps himself to tea. He opens his mouth to reply, then stops suddenly, his attention caught by a plate in the middle of the table.
Scones. Warm freshly baked scones, with an unmistakable smell of cinnamon and honey. It's a smell John knows immediately, and his eyes widen. He may not be a genius, but even he can put two and two together.
'Mrs Hudson?' The words tumble from his lips and his tone is shocked, because this is yet another twist in a situation he thought he was beginning to understand. Mycroft doesn't answer, but he doesn't need to because there is no doubt that the scones on the table are the ones John smelled being baked this morning. Instead, Mycroft lifts the plate, and offers it to him.
'Would you like a scone, John?' He asks, voice too innocent. 'They're very good.'
John just stares at him for a moment, then gives in and takes a scone, because they are very good, and Mrs Hudson doesn't bake often enough. He cuts it open and spreads jam and cream on the still warm cake, before lifting it to his lips and taking a big bite. It is, as he knew it would be, absolutely delicious.
Mycroft, however, is wearing that slightly irritated, concerned look on his face again.
'I thought we agreed you would take better care of yourself.' he says, eyes narrowed and intense as he sits back in his chair, carefully relaxed. John frowns, mind diverted from the matter of Mrs Hudson providing Mycroft with kidnapping-scones, and swallows a mouthful.
'I have been.'
Mycroft's mouth twists.
'You're thinner than last time we met: you've lost around 3 pounds. You have shadows under your eyes which suggest that you're not sleeping enough and you keep clenching your left hand which means that you're in pain because you're using your shoulder too much.'
John has paused whilst Mycroft speaks, and when he's finished, he puts the piece of scone he'd been about to eat back on his plate.
'I need to lose a bit of weight.' John replies. 'I do eat, but chasing Sherlock around London is bound to make me shed a few pounds. My shoulder is fine, and I sleep as much as I can.'
Mycroft watches him, then nods, his expression sympathetic towards something John is sure he didn't say.
'Ahh, yes.'; He murmurs. 'Nightmares.'
John opens his mouth to protest, but Mycroft just raises a hand to stop him.
'It's ok, no need to say anything. But we really must get you a better therapist. The one you're seeing really doesn't really know what she's doing.'
John just gives up and takes another bite out of his scone.
He escapes nearly an hour later, and it's been a blur of scones and tea and thinly-veiled enquires about his health and favourite past times. Why Mycroft wants to know his favourite flower and type of chocolate is beyond John at this point, and he thinks he hides his sigh of relief pretty well when Mycroft finally looks at his watch and stands to leave.
John is down the rope-ladder and in to the car waiting for him as soon as he thinks Mycroft has gone. Cassiopeia isn't waiting for him, which is different and a change to the apparent routine Mycroft has crafted for these meetings, but to be honest, John doesn't care. He just wants to get home.
It's only when the car pulls up outside 221b Baker Street, that he realises he hasn't been presented with some sort of gift. He's surprised and, although he'll never admit it, disappointed. His arms feel empty as he walks up the stairs to the flat.
The door to the flat is pulled open as John reaches for the handle and he stumbles forward. He barely rights himself before he hears the door click shut and he finds himself slammed back against it. He looks up into murderous, pale eyes, and swallows nervously.
'At what point did your tiny brain come to the conclusion that doing this again was a good idea?' Sherlock snarls, and John feels his breath catch as the detective moves so close that their noses almost touch. John thinks he should be able to respond fairly quickly and sensibly, but when he opens his mouth, his brain falls well short of supplying a useful answer.
'What did he give you this time?' Sherlock growls angrily, his voice deep and rough and it does all sorts of things to John that he doesn't even want to think about right now. 'New clothes? A car? A house?'
The words are spat at him furiously, and Sherlock looks at him expectantly, waiting for an answer. All John can do is stare at the man in pinning him to the front door, and think about how glorious Sherlock looks when he's angry. It's not a particularly useful thought at this point, but it's the only coherent thing his brain is capable of producing in such close proximity to Sherlock.
The silence stretches between them, and when Sherlock realises he's not going to get an answer, he lets John's arms go, and stalks off, dressing gown flapping behind him dramatically. The door to his bedroom slams, and John sighs. Again.
John walks to his bedroom, shutting the door gently behind him as if to show Sherlock that doors don't have to be slammed. He toes off his shoes, and lies on the bed, fully clothed, and is finally able to think.
'Mycroft. Presents. Scones.' He mumbles out loud to himself, as if talking aloud will somehow show him a link he hasn't seen, but he comes up blank. He goes over and over it in his head, but he comes up with nothing that seems even remotely possible, and instead he lets the warmth of his bed lull him to sleep.
The sound of the front door slamming jerks him awake a while later, when the light in the room has dimmed considerably and the air in his room has turned decidedly chilly. John sits up in bed, wondering if it's Sherlock leaving or coming back, when there is a knock on the bedroom door. Rubbing his eyes, he stumbles out of bed, and opens the door to find the detective looking a lot calmer.
'Here.' Sherlock says quietly, holding out the box in his arms. John takes it carefully, seeing the holes poked in the lid and moves back to his bed, Sherlock following. He puts the box down, and works the lid of gently. There, sitting in the box and looking at him with soulful brown eyes, is a bulldog puppy.
'Sherlock.' John breathes, as he reaches in to pick the puppy up and turns to look at the detective, who doesn't meet his gaze.
'His name is Gladstone.' He says, and John finds himself speechless. Sherlock finally looks up, and smiles slightly at something he sees in John's expression. John can barely breathe at the look in Sherlock's eyes, but the detective leaves the room before he can form coherent words.
It's the first time Sherlock has given him a present face to face: another change in the rules of this game they're all playing. As he sits on the bed, laughing softly as Gladstone jumps up to lick his face, he finds that he can't wait for the next move.
When there's a knock on the door, and John opens it to find Mycroft's PA standing outside, he thinks Mycroft has finally lost his mind. She's Andromeda today - John wonders if she's taken up astronomy lately - and she informs him concisely that Mycroft is waiting for him downstairs. With Mrs Hudson.
Sherlock, thankfully, is out on a case. It's one John now wishes he'd joined the detective on, because after Sherlock's reaction last time, he doesn't really want to see Mycroft again.
The air in the hallway is chilly compared to the comforting heat of the flat, so he pulls the angora jumper on over his shirt, and pads after Andromeda in his woolly socks, feeling vaguely anxious.
The feeling only increases when the door to Mrs Hudson's flat swings open, and the landlady and Mycroft are sitting there behind a table. It looks and feels like an intervention. John's spine straightens, his body tenses and it's like an army inspection all over again. Only this time, there's tea and lemon cake.
John blinks. The patio table he has become so familiar with over the past couple of weeks is sitting in the middle of Mrs Hudson's living room, as is the delicate china tea-set. For a moment, John thinks this is probably the weirdest dream he's ever had, but then he pinches himself, and the sharp pain reminds him that this is actually real.
'Come in, John,' Mycroft says, as though he's not sitting in someone else's house. 'We were just discussing you.'
The tension in John's body increases. He walks slowly to the table, and sits down stiffly. He'd just gotten used to the meetings with Mycroft - he'd almost started looking forward to them - but this is something completely different, and John has the strangest feeling that nothing is going to be the same after this.
Mrs Hudson pours him a cup of tea, preparing it perfectly after weeks of watching dull television together, and slides the cup and saucer over to him A piece of lemon cake follows soon after.
'Thank you.' he says, but his own voice sounds strange to his ears. Mrs Hudson smiles in sympathy, and pats his arm gently.
'Don't worry dear,' she says. Her voice is familiar and calming, and John relaxes slightly, but her next words send the tension back in to his limbs. 'Mycroft was just telling me about the opera in town, says he's got an extra ticket.'
Her eyes are bright, and there's a glint in them that John can't help but feel distrustful of, but his mind is busy trying to think of a way he can get out of this because he knows what is coming next. Mycroft gives Mrs Hudson a slightly disappointed look, which she expertly ignores, then turns to John.
'Yes, I do have an extra ticket. Do you like the opera, John?'
Here is his chance, John thinks. All he has to do is say no, and he'll be out of this situation. But when he opens his mouth, the word doesn't come out.
'Yes,' he says instead. Mycroft looks delighted, and John can't quite understand what has just happened.
'Wonderful. It's on Saturday at 8 o'clock. It is formal attire, John. Do you have suitable clothing?'
John moves to respond in the negative, until he remembers the brand new morning-suit Sherlock had bought him the previous week, and the top hat he had never thought he'd find a use for.
'I do.' John replies, although he's quite positive Sherlock never really meant for his gifts to be used in quite this way. Mycroft, however, doesn't seem to realise his troubled state, and takes a sip of tea.
'I thought we could go for dinner beforehand. I have taken the liberty of making reservations for two at Hibiscus. Shall I send the car around to pick you up around, say, 6?'
He smiles, and for a moment, John is amazed at his resemblance to Sherlock. The thought of the detective awakens something in John. He shifts slightly in his chair.
'Mycroft…' he pauses, unsure of how to continue, or even what he wants to say. He doesn't know why, but something tells him that agreeing to this date - because he can't think that it's anything but that - would be entirely disastrous.
'Mycroft… I'm not sure…' John stops again, dragging a hand across his face in frustration. 'I don't think Sherlock would be entirely receptive to…this.' He waves his hand back and forth between them, but Mycroft just smiles.
'What you do is none of Sherlock's business,' he replies, almost sternly, 'and Sherlock has certainly never really been interested in whom I date.'
John chokes on his tea at his words, because assuming it's a date, and hearing the confirmation from Mycroft's own lips, are very different things. He gasps in one deep breath after another until the horrible tickling sensation in his throat eases, then drags his gaze up to the man in front of him. Mycroft just stares back, tapping his umbrella on the floor, while Mrs Hudson tries - unsuccessfully - to hide her smile behind her tea cup.
The silence, however, is shattered when the door to Mrs Hudson's flat slams open and Sherlock strides in, expression thunderous.
'Ahh, Sherlock. It's very nice to see you - although do you have to be quite so dramatic?' Sherlock stops behind John's chair, and the doctor can feel the outside-cold radiating from the detective's coat. Sherlock's glare at his brother is just as icy, but when he moves his hand to John's shoulder, John feels like he's burning.
'Mycroft.' Sherlock seethes. 'What are you doing here? I thought I told you to stop kidnapping my…John.'
Mycroft just smiles.
'I haven't kidnapped him, Sherlock. As you can see, John hasn't even left the house. I am merely here to invite Doctor Watson to the opera.'
Sherlock's stare grows colder, and John feels his hand curl possessively around his neck.
'He can't go.'
Mycroft raises an eyebrow.
'I believe John is able to make decisions by himself, Sherlock.' His tone is condescending, and John feels Sherlock's hand flex slightly. 'Besides, he's already agreed.'
John feels Sherlock stiffen behind him.
'He's changed his mind.' Sherlock's tone has dropped another few degrees, and John winces. Mycroft, however, ignores the tone.
'And why would he do that?'
John hears Sherlock sigh slightly, the hand at his neck shifts down to his arm and he's pulled from his chair. John's eyes widen in surprise as he's spun around. his feet catch on the leg of the chair and he stumbles. When he looks up, Sherlock's expression isn't angry as expected; in fact the pale eyes are softened with something John's afraid to name and his breath hitches.
Before he can say - or do - anything, Sherlock moves; head tilting and moving closer. For a moment, he's frozen, but then he gasps and the world explodes in a sensation of colour and pleasure. His back arches as Sherlock presses forward, kissing him so thoroughly and deeply, and John forgets everything outside of the feeling of Sherlock's lips on his, and the warmth of his hands on his face.
He doesn't want it to end, but the need to breathe makes him pull away. He's gasping, chest heaving as he drags in one breath after another, but his eyes are wide and locked on Sherlock's. The detective stares back, lips parted, and John can see the uncertainty in his face as he watches for John's reaction.
The moment, however, is interrupted as Mycroft clears his throat, and John jumps back from Sherlock as if scalded.
'I see…' is all Mycroft says, but John can see triumph in the way his lips curve and his eyes crinkle at the corners. He stands, umbrella clasped firmly in his left hand, and leans down to kiss Mrs Hudson on the cheek.
'Thank you for your help, Mrs Hudson,' he murmurs, then straightens and moves forward, right hand extended. John takes it automatically, and Mycroft smiles.
'Good luck, John.'
The door swings open, and then Mycroft is gone, and the flat is silent for a moment before Mrs Hudson gets to her feet and the clatter of china invades. The noise startles John back to life, and he turns his gaze to the landlady.
'We'll just be…umm…' he motions to the door with his thumb, and Mrs Hudson winks.
'Have fun, boys!'
John casts a glance at Sherlock, before rolling his eyes and dragging him bodily out of the room and up the stairs to their flat. He shuts the door behind him, and the silence encroaches again for a brief moment before John breaks it.
'What was that about?' He asks, quietly. Sherlock raises an eyebrow in an unsettling imitation of his brother.
'What do you think that was about?' he counters, neatly side-stepping the question. John narrows his eyes.
'I think that was you stopping me from having a life. I think that was you stopping me from having anything that resembles fun if it doesn't include you. I think that was you…'
He's cut off mid-sentence when his back hits the closed door, and Sherlock's mouth finds his for the second time that evening. The kiss makes John's knees weak, and he tightens his arms around Sherlock's waist, hands burrowing under his coat and shirt to find smooth skin.
Sherlock hisses into his mouth at the contact, presses his body closer and John groans. He knows this isn't going to last long, and as Sherlock slips his hand inside John's trousers, John lets his head fall back against the door. His hips move with Sherlock's hand, small cries escaping his lips as Sherlock rests his forehead against John's, eyes tightly closed.
A couple of minutes later - or it could have been hours, John doesn't really know - his body tenses and with a sharp cry, he comes. Sherlock is gasping, making desperate little sounds John didn't know he was capable of, and he pulls Sherlock's hips harder against his own. The movement is all it takes, and Sherlock snaps his hips forward, eyes tightly closed as he rides out his own orgasm.
For a while, nothing is said, and only the sound of panting permeates the room, but it doesn't take long for Sherlock to shift, and he pulls back slightly. John looks at him, eyes wide and pupils blown. Sherlock smiles slightly at the sight.
'It was about this.' He murmurs. 'It was always about this.'
John thinks about that for a moment, and Sherlock watches at he pieces it all together.
'So Mycroft was…?' John pauses and wrinkles his nose slightly. 'Mycroft was playing matchmaker?'
Sherlock huffs a laugh.
'Yes, apparently. Mycroft and Mrs Hudson. But I didn't realise…'
John blinks in surprise, and then he grins.
'You didn't realise?' He says, tone amused. 'How did you not realise?'
'You didn't realise either.' Sherlock points out, and John laughs.
'Yes, but I'm not the great Sherlock Holmes.'
Sherlock frowns, and John pulls his head down to kiss him.
'He was trying to make you jealous.'
'To get you to react.'
'Took you long enough.'
Sherlock just smiles slightly and leans in for another kiss.
'Much too long.' He says.
They stay silent for a moment longer, then John pushes him gently away, grimacing slightly at the cold stickiness. He glances at Sherlock then towards the bathroom, a small smile tugging at his lips. It takes Sherlock less than a second to figure out what he's thinking, and his lips curve as well; they move towards the bathroom together and John's smile turns into a full-blown grin.
'Thank God for Mycroft.' he says, and Sherlock glares at him.
'He's never seeing you again.'
John just laughs and pulls Sherlock into the bathroom, closing the door firmly behind them.