AN - Sorry for the delay, had a few issues with this part, trying to find the balance between Sherlock proving he could be a good friend without being too sappy. If its any compensation, its also the longest single chapter I've ever written.
John pressed his lips together, his jaw clenching tightly as Sherlock's deduction hit a little too close to the mark. He never talked about this, any of it.
"I've made you uncomfortable." Sherlock realized.
"Yeah, a bit," John admitted. "I don't usually tell people about Harry and me, partly because I can't bear how awkward they look when they realize they don't have a clue what to say."
"Ah," Sherlock frowned as he considered that. "Would it be helpful if I told you what I have deduced, then you wouldn't need to concern yourself with my reaction?"
"No, it's alright," John took a moment to gather his thoughts. He supposed he might as well get used to never being able to keep things from Sherlock and if anyone could understand a dysfunctional sibling relationship, it was definitely the consulting detective. "Harry and I have always had our problems. I suppose the age gap didn't help. When we were growing up I was the annoying little brother she was expected to babysit for and she was the selfish older sister whose antics took up all my parents time and attention and made my Mum cry a lot."
"Antics?" Sherlock raised a brow.
"I think it started with her dying her hair, after that there was the whole range of body piercings, the outrageous clothes, the smoking, the drinking, the unsuitable friends, staying out all night, taking drugs. If there was any kind of risk involved, she probably tried it."
"So says the man who signed up to get shot at." Sherlock pointed out.
"That .. came afterwards," John paused, looking up at Sherlock as if searching for something important in his expression, he apparently found was he was looking for as he plunged on. "My parents were killed in a car crash a few months before my fifteenth birthday. Harry had rung up from some night club in a right state and they had gone to fetch her home. Some HGV driver already well over his hours ran a red light and plowed straight into them. They died at the scene."
"Harry became your legal guardian," Sherlock surmised, frowning a little at the concept. He couldn't imagine the self-centred young woman he had met investing a great deal of time and energy in raising her younger brother.
"In a manner of speaking," John's grimace spoke volumes. "She was old enough to take legal responsibility for me but she wasn't around all that much. I threw myself into my books, it was ironic really, I'd always been bright but I much preferred being outside mucking around with my mates, than doing any actual work. Mum and Dad were always nagging me about it, wanting me to do better. It took them dying for me to listen to their advice."
"And Harry?" Sherlock prompted.
"Harry started drinking in earnest," John admitted. "It got to the point where she was never really sober. I did my best to look after her but I wasn't much more than a kid myself. After she ended up in A and E having her stomach pumped, my parent's life insurance paid for her to check into rehab. I was sixteen by then so I used my share to go to a local Sixth Form College and then onto Bart's. By the time I graduated she was sober and was making a new life for herself with Clara."
"A life that didn't include you," Sherlock deduced. And people thought he was cold. "Is that why you decided to join the Army?"
"It was a part of it, I suppose, I was looking for a new family," John acknowledged, even as a wan smile graced his features. "That and the danger, of course."
"Of course, how could I forget the lure of the danger?" Sherlock smiled.
"Although, dealing with Harry can be pretty hairy when she's being .. difficult," John rubbed unconsciously at the bite scar on his arm. "How much did you give her again?"
Sherlock almost smiled. He should have known that even still feeling rather under par John wouldn't forget his earlier question. They both knew that when John said difficult what he meant was blind drunk. He had already paid to have Mrs Hudson's rug dry cleaned and the porcelain vase restored by an expert at the British Museum who owned him a favour. They had both agreed to say nothing about either of those things to John. Knowing that Harriet Watson would never remember exactly how generous he had actually been, he settled on a sum he thought John would accept.
"Fifty pounds," He lied, adding a little apologetic shrug for effect. "It was all I had on me at the time."
"No that's fine, good of you," John forced a grateful smile. Not so long ago he would have blown fifty quid on a good night out with his friends without a second though. Now it represented a week's worth of groceries. He really needed to get himself a job. "I'll pay you back."
"Not at all," Sherlock protested. "I was happy to help, isn't that what flat mates are supposed to do for one another. Help each other out?"
"Doing the shopping and cleaning the bog," John acknowledged. "Not bailing out the alcoholic sister."
"John, the first time you met my sibling, he kidnapped you, attempted to intimidate you, invaded your privacy and then insulted you by offering you money to spy on me," Sherlock reminded him. "Granted Mycroft has always had a tendency towards the melodramatic but I hardly think I'm in any position to pass judgement, do you?"
"No, I suppose not," John grinned briefly at the memory. "Although, I should have listened to you and taken Mycroft's money when he offered, I don't suppose there's going to be much going down the job centre for a one handed surgeon. Perhaps, I could get some locum work or something."
"Wouldn't you need to retrain for that?" Sherlock wondered.
"Contrary to popular belief, the presence of bullets and IED's doesn't mean you become immune to everything else. I've had my share of sick bugs and ear infections and the like, more than enough to manage as a GP, presuming, of course, that I can persuade someone to give me a job."
"Mycroft has enough money to set you up in your own practice. That way you would always be available to help me on a case. " Sherlock said brightly. "I have at least three of his credit cards. I use them to make embarrassing or obscenely extravagant purchases whenever he gets particularly annoying. "
"Well, if I do need a loan, I'll know where to come," John smiled back. "Although, frankly he idea of being beholden to Mycroft for anything is more than a little disconcerting."
"Very true," Sherlock's lips quirked. "So, tea then?"
"If it's not too much trouble," John teased. "I mean, I know how tricky it is for a chemist of your caliber to ensure that the water is just off the boil, that the tea bag has had precisely the right amount of time to steep, only adding the optimum amount of milk, not to mention the challenge of finding a clean mug in the first place."
"Don't be ridiculous, John," Sherlock said with a totally straight face. "I was going to ask Mrs Hudson to oblige."
It was much later, almost midnight, when footsteps sounded on the stairs. Even so, Sherlock didn't look up from his microscope or otherwise acknowledge Lestrade's arrival in his living room. The man stood impatiently for several minutes, shifting his feet slightly as he stood waiting to be noticed, before he eventually spoke up in an attempt to attract his attention.
"Not interested." Sherlock didn't spare him a glance.
"You don't even know why I'm here yet."
And that was sufficient to get his attention, because, after all this time, Lestrade really should know better than that. In fact, part of Sherlock wondered if the DI had actually intended to provoke him into addressing the situation by choosing those very words. Quite possibly, he decided, since Lestrade had proved himself to be relatively innovative in his methods in the past, his 'drugs bust' being a case in point, and they both knew that there was no way Sherlock Holmes could ever resist rising to a challenge.
"I know enough," Sherlock pointed out. "I know that you arrived in your own car rather than a police vehicle, so not a case, not an active one anyway, judging by the way that you actually walked up the stairs for once rather than taking them two at time. But it's something you need my assistance with, some sort of favour then, if the way you just stood in my living room for an unprecedented ten minutes before you actually tried to interrupt me is any indication."
"Right on all counts," Lestrade agreed. "But you still don't know why I'm here."
"And that would be because I'm not interested." Sherlock pointed out, as he returned to resolutely ignoring the Detective Inspector.
"For God's sake man, it's Harriet Watson."
Those words, coupled with the grave look on Lestrades' face were enough to bring Sherlock to his feet. His swift glance in the direction of John Watson's room, where his sick flat mate was presumably sleeping, went a long way to convince Lestrade that coming directly to Holmes wasn't actually the stupidest thing he had ever done. Even though, Dimmock had done his best to persuade him otherwise.
"That arrogant git?" Dimmock had scoffed. "You can't honestly think he's going to care about this?"
"Not about the girl, no," Lestrade agreed. "But I'm hoping that he'll at least think about what this would mean for John Watson."
"Is she dead?" Sherlock asked bluntly.
"What? No, Christ no," Lestrade protested, his optimism plummeting at the other man's apparently uncaring words. "How could you even think that?"
"Your lack of urgency rules out any kind of injury or accident," Sherlock pointed out calmly. "Still, the matter is serious enough that you came yourself, rather than delegating the task, which indicates you wanted to ensure that the situation was handled appropriately. Since you primarily work with homicides it seemed logical to assume that you came in person to break the bad news to John that his sister had been murdered."
"Well, she hasn't been and she's not dead," Lestrade hissed, glancing nervously in the direction of John's room. "And for God's sake will you keep your voice down? Do you really want him to hear any of this?"
"So, if she isn't dead then why are you here?" Sherlock asked more quietly.
Sherlock hadn't apologized for his words and Lestrade didn't really expect him to. But he did take the fact that the consulting detective had deigned to lower his voice as something of a promising sign. Weighing up his options, Lestrade decided to stop beating around the bush and just cut straight to the chase.
"Because you have the funds to pay the criminal damages which will make this whole mess go away and from what I can tell that poor bloke upstairs definitely doesn't."
"Criminal damage?" Sherlock frowned If Lestrade didn't know better he might even have said the consulting detective looked a shade guilty, although why Sherlock would feel remotely responsible for Harriet Watson's actions was beyond him. "How much exactly?"
"A fair bit I'm afraid," Lestrade shrugged. "Place was a high end club, celebrating its re-launch after a major re-fit by a top interior designer. Apparently, Ms Watson had blagged her way in by putting £500 in cash behind the bar, she's presently unemployed so Christ knows where she got that kind of money, course as soon as she'd drunk it dry they cut her off, by that point she was totally wasted and completely trashed the joint. Luckily, she's been a good customer in the past, a very good customer, if you get my drift, so the proprietor is prepared to give her some leeway. He'll drop all the charges the damages are paid in full within twenty four hours."
"You want me to pay for a bar fight," Sherlock's expression gave no indication whether he was receptive to that or not. "Was she arrested?"
"The proprietor called the police," Lestrade made a face. "When they turned up Ms Watson was a bit mouthy and not very co-operative. Threw up on one of the officer's shoes and tried to take a swing at another. She missed by a country mile but they weren't taking any chances after that."
"And how exactly did the detention of one of no doubt numerous Saturday night drunks, happen to come to your attention?"
Lestrade hesitated. This was where things got difficult. John Watson struck him as a decent bloke. Almost a saint if you took into account his willingness to deal with Sherlock Holmes on a daily basis. Plus, there was no denying that having him around had helped bring some of Sherlock's better qualities to the fore. He certainly didn't deserve this. But there was really no avoiding it.
"She refused to give a urine sample so the custody sergeant had to ask for a blood sample to be taken."
"Don't tell me," Sherlock rolled his eyes. It really was the only explanation. "Anderson."
"I'm sorry," Lestrade sounded truly sincere. They both knew the forensic scientist was only pulling the hated Saturday night custody suite duty with its endless procession of drunks, drug addicts and related injuries, as punishment for being even more of a git to Sherlock than usual at a recent crime scene. So, much so that John Watson had stepped in and demanded that Lestrade take him down a peg or two. Anderson had made no secret of his resentment. "It's bloody awful timing, I know."
"How many people has he already told?"
"Some," Lestrade admitted. "Too many, I've been doing my best to keep a lid on it. But if we don't throw some money at this problem pretty sharpish then Harriet Watson is going to end up in prison and then there won't be anything either of us can do to protect her brother from that."
"A custody sentence? That's rather unlikely isn't it?" Sherlock's eyes narrowed as he considered the problem. "Ah, it wasn't her first offence, was it? Or, even her second, means the judge is far less likely to go easy on her, if she's been up before him before he might even want to use her to make an example Who's sitting tomorrow?"
"Dawkins," Lestrade admitted with a grimace.
"Definitely prison then," Sherlock surmised. "That man would bring back the death penalty if he could."
"So, will you help?" Lestrade demanded.
And there it was, because this wasn't one of those cases. There was nothing here to challenge Holmes' great intellect. Nothing to tempt him away from whatever he had been so engrossed in when Lestrade came to call. On the contrary, if he did get involved it was going to cost him a fair amount of inconvenience and a considerable amount of money. Lestrade knew that Sherlock's tolerance for John Watson was far higher than it was for most people but he wasn't at all sure what to expect.
"On one condition." Sherlock said smoothly.
"I'll deal with Anderson." Lestrade promised quickly.
"Not that," Sherlock was impatient. "Although, I wouldn't object in the slightest if you wished to remove his vital organs with a blunt spoon."
Lestrade knew better than to let out the breath he was holding just yet. The Lord only knew what kind of conditions Sherlock might impose in return for his assistance. Although, when it came, he had to admit that it was absolutely the last thing he expected from a man with an ego as enormous as Sherlock Holmes.
"Neither Ms Watson nor John are to know anything about my involvement in this."
"How the hell am I supposed to manage that?" Lestrade protested.
"Not my problem," Sherlock pointed out. "So, are we agreed?"
"Yes, yes, I suppose so," Lestrade agreed. "So, will you help?"
In the event, it had been a simple thing for Sherlock to transfer sufficient funds to the proprietor's bank account to cover the damages, plus a bit extra to ensure that the whole mess stayed out of the press, a second call smoothed the wheels for Harriet Watson to check into a rehabilitation clinic. Lestrade stamped firmly on all the rumours circulating around Scotland Yard and to (almost) everyone's surprise. Sergeant Donovan stepped up on John's behalf to ensure Anderson's silence.
"Poor bloke has enough problems hanging around with the freak," was all she would say, "He doesn't deserve to take the flak for his sister's mistakes as well."
And Sherlock had thanked her politely and held his peace, not making any reference to her own shame at her father's numerous drink driving convictions. All in all, he felt quite pleased with himself.
But he should have remembered there was always something.
The following day Sherlock scowled darkly as he climbed into the back of the taxi. It was bad enough that he had made the trip all the way out to Wandsworth Prison for nothing more than a mind numbing open and shut case of GBH. It never ceased to amaze him that criminals who had been stupid enough to get caught in the first place thought they could pull the wool over his eyes. But to add insult to injury the prison regulations required that he surrendered his mobile phone before entering the visitor's room.
17 New Messages
Clicking deftly through his inbox Sherlock ignored as boring most of the e-mails generated by his website, saving just one of those as worth investigating as a viable case, his thumb hovering over the one message from Lestrade and three from John. He selected the ones from John first of all.
"Feeling much better, Lestrade is coming around to take me out for a pie and pint so if I'm not home when you get back we'll be in the pub. JW"
"Got a message from Harry, she was arrested last night. Come if you can? JW"
"Spoke to Lestrade. Don't rush back. I'll leave the key with Mrs Hudson. JW"
After that Sherlock didn't bother to check the message from Lestrade, he simply promised the cabbie a fifty pound tip if he followed his directions to the letter in order to return him to 221b in the most optimum time. Racing up the stairs he came face to face with DI Lestrade in off duty jeans and grey sweat shirt.
"You told him."
"Well, of course, I did," Lestrade defended his actions. "That was a good thing you did. He seems like a decent bloke. He deserves to know that you're not an arrogant git all the time. You should be pleased. I've done you a favour."
"Is that why he's upstairs packing?" Sherlock scoffed.
"Oh don't be such a .." Lestrade trailed off at Sherlock's unwavering expression, and his own features showed a flicker of apprehension. "He's not is he? Why the hell would he do that?"
"Did it never occur to you that I had a perfectly good reason for not telling John about our intervention?" Sherlock spoke icily.
"I didn't mean, .. oh damn," Lestrade ran a hand over his face. "What can I do?"
"Leave." Sherlock ordered curtly.
Sherlock took the stairs two at a time not bothering to see if Lestrade had obeyed his instruction, only to pause as he reached the threshold of John's bedroom. Through the half open door he could see the other man carefully folding jumpers and shirts before placing them in an almost full suitcase. His eyes narrowed as he catalogued exactly how tried and defeated John Watson looked.
"So, I spoke to Harry," John spoke without turning, his voice dangerously low and level "Apparently, she got arrested last night, because some muppet gave her £500 in cash and she put it behind the bar until she'd drunk the lot. And then when she was completely tanked they cut her off so surprise, surprise, she trashed the place."
"I didn't realize she would spend all of it on drink." Sherlock defended his actions.
"She's an alcoholic, Sherlock, what the hell did you think she was going to do with that much money?" John raised his voice, tension quite evident in his back and shoulders. "This isn't one of your experiments, this is my sister's life. She could have gone to prison, Sherlock. With that much alcohol in her system she could easily have died."
"But she didn't."
"Not this time," John allowed. "And not ever if I can help it. I'm going to go back to Surrey to live with her for a bit. Coming back to London was a mistake. I thought I could pick up my old life where I left off. But things have changed, people have moved on. I've changed. I thought, maybe .. but I can't help thinking this is for the best."
"But the rehabilitation clinic," Sherlock frowned. "It's all arranged."
"It also costs a bloody fortune," John pointed out. "And in case you haven't noticed Harry doesn't have any money and I've been more than a bit unemployed recently and I thought I made it clear I don't want to be indebted to a man whose idea of introducing himself is to kidnap me in order to make veiled threats in a deserted parking garage."
"The clinic really is very good." Sherlock said quietly.
John opened his mouth to make another sharp retort, when he registered not only exactly what Sherlock had said, but more importantly how he had said it. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath before he opened them again.
"You didn't use Mycroft's contacts to find the clinic did you?" He didn't wait for an answer. He knew he was right. Sherlock knew the clinic was good because it was somewhere himself had been a patient there. John took a deep breath. Perhaps, he had over reacted just a bit. He still wasn't feeling 100%. "You didn't use Mycroft's money for the criminal damages either, did you?"
"People pay extremely well for my services," Sherlock spoke without a hint of modesty. "My only concern is the work. The money isn't important. I recognized that I could have handled the situation more efficiently yesterday so I was endeavoring to address that."
"Was that an apology?" John almost smiled.
"Of course not," Sherlock retorted, an amused glint in his eye. "I think you're still feeling slightly feverish."
"Thank you," John decided he should probably be a little more grateful. Sherlock had been an idiot but he had genuinely tried to make amends. "But Harry is still my sister and whatever our differences have been I can't turn my back on her when she needs me."
"Much as it pains me to point out the glaringly obvious I think we both know Harriet Watson has never really needed anyone. Not you. Not your parents. Not even Clara. She left her after all. Answer me one question, when she called did she even ask how you were or why you hadn't been answering your calls for the last week?"
"No, she didn't," John sighed. "If I'm honest we've never really had that kind of relationship. At first I thought it was because I was too young. But as I got older we just seemed to grow further apart. I mean, I'm a doctor I help people, that's what I do. And I can't help but blame myself that I've never been able to be that person."
"Perhaps not for Harry." Sherlock murmured.
John froze, his fingers tightening on the wool of the jumper in his hands as the true meaning of what Sherlock was trying to tell him sunk in.
"John, I don't think you appreciate how much I value your input into my life. I am used to living alone working with whatever assistant Lestrade can provide I'm not accustomed to having someone I can rely on. It's very useful to me. I would like to think we could be partners."
"And you really didn't mean that the way it sounded," John frowned. "Or at least, I hope you didn't."
"Don't be obtuse, John, you know exactly what I meant."
"Partners in crime?" John tipped his head on one side as he reflected upon that. If he was honest with himself Sherlock was probably right that Harriet would be better cared for in the rehabilitation clinic. John had looked it up on the Internet and it was indeed extremely good. And that fact that Sherlock had been prepared to go to such lengths for a woman he had only met once, for his sake, was oddly touching. "Maybe I should put that on my new CV?"