Sherlock dreamed of burnt toast, piled high on the kitchen table and spilling down onto the floor. When he woke, he could smell it, like something thick and cloying, and he looked automatically toward the kitchen. But the table was bare.
Light from the street lamp outside filtered in through the curtained windows, giving off an almost ethereal glow to the kettle on the stove and the coffee mugs sitting, unused, on the counter. Sherlock scoffed at his own imagination. It was light, not magic. There was nothing ethereal or special about his kitchen. Nothing at all.
Except that John wasn't there.
Biting back a sigh, Sherlock twisted around on the armchair, pulling his cold feet closer to his body and scrubbing a hand tiredly down his face. He was tired, yes, but he wasn't used to sleeping for so long. From evening to morning. He'd rather stay awake all night and day and keep his mind wired than relent and fall into the depths of unknowing.
He stood, plum pajamas whispering against the armchair and John's sweater still clutched in his hands. He wriggled his toes on the floorboards. His phone, the pink phone, was heavy in his hand when he picked it up from the coffee table. He scrolled down and read Lestrade's message, telling him to call once he was up and about. Up and about? Awake.
Surely Lestrade knew that Sherlock wouldn't call. Or perhaps there was something important they needed to talk about. But no doubt Lestrade just wanted to ask questions. Questions Sherlock had no answer to.
There was a sound, a groan and then the slamming of car doors outside. Sherlock would have given it no thought, but he relished the opportunity, however brief, to take his mind off of John and Moriarty. He leapt to the window and peered out through the curtains at the darkened street.
There was a large car, a van, really, pulling away smoothly from the curb. It was black, slick and clean of any identifiable markings. There was no number plate. Sherlock scowled, until he caught sight of the object the van had left behind.
His heartbeat rose a little, his interest was piqued.
Without another thought, Sherlock pulled on John's sweater and sprang from the apartment, sprinting down the stairs and opening the door with relish.
A cold wind hit him like a wave, but he didn't care. He stared at the large wooden crate with interesting. Mind automatically cataloguing anything and everything about it, from the slight scuffing at the sides where feet had struck it, and the simple latch keeping the lid in place. Of course, all of this was so minor when compared to the large, deep blue bow wrapped around and tied at the top of the crate. There was even a large tag tied to the ribbon.
Like a present.
Neatly displayed for all to see.
Sherlock stared for but a second more, and then darted back inside, where he hurried to grab a kitchen knife before running back down.
He was vaguely surprised that Mrs Hudson didn't come out to see what all the noise was, but then, she was used to his all hour running abouts.
Carefully, making sure there was no hidden booby traps, or rigging of any kind, Sherlock sawed through the delicate ribbon, one side at a time. Once done, he plucked the bow from the top of the crate and narrowed his eyes at it, the tag was waiting impatiently.
Sherlock, by and by, I got what I wanted for Christmas, did you?
"Rather gaudy, isn't it?" An articulated, rather arrogant voice spoke from Sherlock's side, and he jumped to the other, staring at Mycroft with surprise. The day his brother caught him unawares was the day he considered his own death.
"What are you doing here?" Sherlock asked, eyes still wide and trained on his brother.
Mycroft gave him that look, the one he'd been giving Sherlock since their childhood. Silently it said, 'Really, brother, you should know better than that.'
"I saw the van arrive and deliver this," Mycroft sneered a little. "Package for you. I wonder, do you think Moriarty had anything to do with it?" A stupid question, but one to let Sherlock know he was up to date and willing to help.
"Obviously. And have you found him, yet? You and all your secrecy and connections should have at least found a lead. A witness. A clue." Sherlock retorted.
He tore his gaze away from his brother and to the tag again. He wanted to look in the box.
Ignoring Mycroft as his brother followed him, he slunk toward the crate again, and placed his fingers on the lid. Mycroft's own leather clad fingers curled into a fist, as if he itched to help, but knew anything he offered would be refused.
Without saying anything, Sherlock tore the lip open and held it aloft. At once, both Holmes' leaned forward expectantly, curious to see what Moriarty had delivered.
They both frowned into the crate.
"I'll be the first to say it, Sherlock, you do make the most interesting friends." Mycroft murmured.
Neither of them took their eyes away from the crates contents.
"I don't have friends."
"You have John. Well, 'had' if you can't get him back from Moriarty." Mycroft sniffed derisively.
Sherlock fairly snarled. "I will get him back!"
"Good. I'd hate to see all the progress he made with you go to waste."
"You should call D.I Lestrade." Mycroft said after a time. Sherlock's arms were beginning to ache from holding the crate lid up for so long, and his head, still tender from the explosion, had started to sting, the echoing pain thrumming through his skull with every beat of his heart.
"Why? What can he do?" Sherlock queried.
"It will distract him, he and his squad are making a bit of a mess of things, bumbling around London asking the right sort of people the wrong questions and the wrong sort of people the right questions. I need him out of the way, for a while, at least."
Sherlock gave a little shrug and a nod. A combination of both, he wasn't really sure which.
If he was to be honest with himself, he'd actually been thinking of calling Lestrade.. If only to leave this…this mess in his hands so he could get on with searching for John.
"Fine." He said, softly. And he let the lid drop back into place with a thud. "You do it." And he thrust the pink phone in Mycroft's gloved hand.
His brother just gave that infuriatingly smug smile and took the phone, fingers flying over the screen as he texted the Detective inspector and then slid the phone back into Sherlock's pyjama pocket when his younger sibling made no move to take it. They stood like that for a moment, both staring at the large crate. And then Mycroft lifted the umbrella, the one Sherlock had not even noticed, and hefted it up and open. A light drizzle started only moments later.
Vaguely, Sherlock wondered why he wasn't getting wet, and glanced up slightly to find the umbrella held over his head, Mycroft's shoulder was touching his, so he too, wouldn't get wet. It felt strange, to have comfort, from his brother no less. Comfort usually came in the form of words, whether snark or genuine concern, but rarely the later, and never physical.
The phone in Sherlock's pocket buzzed. And buzzed again. But neither made an attempt to open it. A few minutes later the blare of sirens and the flash of lights glinting off the rain drops approached. Lestrade was the first 'on the scene' hurrying out of his car without a care of the rain. Another car pulled up beside his and Donavon slunk into sight.
"Sherlock? What the hell is going on? You said you had a lead on Watson?" Lestrade fairly shouted when he was standing beside the two brothers.
His gaze slid over Sherlock, from the slightly damp bandage on his forehead, down to John's knitted sweater and the plum pyjamas, until he caught sight of Sherlock's bare feet. It seemed he didn't know what to think, the usually so together detective looked a complete mess. Lestrade turned his attention to the other man, as Mycroft exuded both a gentle harmlessness and an unleashed authority. Lestrade guessed they must have known each other, because they were standing close enough for their shoulders to touch, and the older of the two was thoughtfully holding the umbrella over both of them.
"I never said anything about finding John." Sherlock said, the haughty tone returning quickly. He drew himself up and fixed his mouth into a sneer. "There's a dead body. And as you are an Inspector, I thought it might be of some interest to you."
"Er, of course." Lestrade muttered, turning to the large crate he seemed to have overlooked. He pulled out his phone again, and peered down at the message, wondering if maybe he'd misread it.
"I thought it might get a timely response, Inspector, I know Scotland Yard usually finds better things to occupy their time than an actual case." Mycroft spoke suddenly, his tone pleasant but the insult clear. He didn't think much of Scotland Yard.
Lestrade frowned, putting his phone away. "And who are you?" He asked.
But it was Sherlock who said, "My brother."
"Brother? I didn't think you had any family, Freak. I just assumed you popped into existance one stormy night." Donavon arrived in time to catch the answer and comment.
But she found herself pinned by the older Holmes' gaze. He said nothing, but Donavon found herself hurrying to slink back behind the safety of Lestrade.
"Yes, well, what seems to be the matter, then? You mentioned a body." Lestrade wanted to bring the conversation back in place. He gave the woman behind him a little glare. "In the crate, I presume."
"You presume correctly." Sherlock said. And moved forward to lift the lid with a savage glee that made Lestrade hesitate. But Sherlock, peering in the crate, and Mycroft, who had no doubted looked too, were both unbothered by what they had seen.
Lestrade moved to peer in the crate, and promptly retched and turned away.
Sherlock stared at him for a moment. He didn't see why it bothered Lestrade so much, a dead body was a dead body, and this one was so much more, because it was also a clue. He pushed the lid higher whilst simultaneously trying to reach into the crate to retrieve something. He growled in frustration when the lid wacked him on the back of the head.
"Sherlock. Don't tamper with the evidence." Lestrade commanded, pulling himself back together. He grabbed Sherlock's arm and gently tugged him away from the crate. But the taller man had already grabbed what he'd been reaching for, and thrust it in Lestrade's face.
"Look at this." He said, breathless. "What do you see?"
It was a hand, or more accurately, a hand attached to a small portion of arm. Blood dripped down the lifeless apendage and splashed into the water. But Sherlock wasn't looking at the blood, his gaze was trained on the small, black and white marking tattooed onto the inside of the wrist. He ran a pale finger over the ink.
"It's a bird, Sherlock." Lestrade said impatiently. He motioned for his people to move in and nodded to Anderson to take the hand from Sherlock. Sherlock didn't bother putting up a fuss, to which Anderson found quiet disconcerting.
"But its not just a bird, Lestrade. It's a symbol!" Sherlock said, he could feel the adrenaline surging through his veins. Excitement. He could do this. He needed to do this.
"You think it's a gang?" Lestrade asked.
Sherlock nodded. "You should run it through your database, pull it up against the gangs we have around here. Also, missing persons. You might want to check that." He muttered absently.
"I know how to do my job, Sherlock." Lestrade said, his patience wearing thin. He saw the Mycroft mutter something beneath his breath, and felt his brow lower in annoyance. "Whats that?"
Mycroft gave him a lofty smile.
"I'm sure you have the rescourses for this sort of thing, D.I Lestrade. We shall leave you to it."
Sherlock's gaze narrowed in on his brother's before he remembered their earlier conversation.
"Yes. Go….do whatever it is you do with this sort of thing." Sherlock mumbled, eyes wide as his mind whirred and spun around the problems at hand. Moriarty had John. Moriarty sent him a dead body. As a message? To prove a point? The message, possibly gang related, but what gang? If it was a point, what was it? That Moriarty could do anything, sneak under their noses unseen, that he knew where to find them and how they would react.
So Moriarty would expect Sherlock to pass the body parts in the crate off to Lestrade. He would expect Sherlock to move on and try to find John himself.
Sherlock looked at Mycroft. Wondering. Would Moriarty expect Mycroft to be helping him? Surely not. But, perhaps.
Mycroft gazed back at him.
"I've always been smarter than you, Sherlock." He said.
"No, you're not." Sherlock retorted. He glared. Mycroft couldn't be thinking the same thing. He wouldn't.
"You think you are."
"I know I am."
"Enough." Lestrade growled. Although he was just as stunned as everyone else who had paused to watch the two men bicker. They reminded Lestrade of children. He wondered if they had been like that when they'd been younger. "I want you to tell me everything you know about…this." He waved his hand at the crate. 'And I want you to come down to the station to give a statement."
"No, there's no-" Sherlock began.
"Now." Lestrade nodded to Mycroft. "You too."
"Fine. Give us a moment, we'll meet you there after breakfast."
"But I need-" This time it was Mycroft who cut Lestrade off midsentence.
"He's my brother. I know whats good for him."
The uncommon display of brotherly concern shocked them all.
"You've been watching him…us, this whole time."
Moriarty looked please. His smile stretched the stiched marching across his face.
"I have. I know all about you, Johnny. I also know Sherlock would do anything to find you, kill me. Its game, a higher thinker against a higher thinker, fighting over a pretty little pet like you." Moriarty said conversationally. "And I'm not going to make this easy, he'll be treading through a bit of my garbage, unfortunately. There's some people who you should just never cross."
John was speechless for a long moment, he didn't know what to say, how to react.
"This isn't a game."
"You can't play with someones life."
"Oh, I can."
"And, Sherlock, you can't just send him into…that. They will kill him! I thought you didn't want to kill him." John sputtered desperately.
Moriarty pressed his lips together and spared a glance at the screen.
"Well," he said in his dipping voice. "If he dies, then so do you."
Sherlock sat across from Lestrade, watching the Detective filling in papers with quick, precise movements. There was a lot of paperwork on Lestrade's desk, which was unusual, the man seemed to like things neat and organised. It was out of place to see him bedraggled, harried, not his usual self.
Mycroft stood across the room, resting most of his weight on his umbrella. He looked composed. Sherlock turned back to Lestrade and frowned.
"You're desk is messy."
Lestrade's pen paused, poised above his papers. He glanced at Sherlock without moving his head.
Lestrade seemed to be struggling between exasperation and amusement. "Working. Trying to gather leads. I'm trying to find Watson, Sherlock."
"Trying. Not finding. You won't." Sherlock said absently.
"Thank you for the vote of confidence."
Lestrade paused, and then gathered several blue papers from the corner of his desk. He leaned forward to give them to Sherlock and Mycroft, but neither brother made a move to take them.
"I'm tyring to help you, Sherlock. The least you could do is return the favor."
Sherlock sighed. Could Lestrade really help him? Doubtful. Wasn't it?
"Fill in the papers, Sherlock." Mycroft said, eventually, when Lestrade's will seemed to be weakening. "It won't hurt you."
There was a few minutes silence and both the Holmes' brothers filled in their papers.
"Thank you. This will all go much quicker if we work together." Lestrade said, just as Sally Donavon popped her head through the door.
"Boss? There's something wrong with the computers. And the tellys." She said, looking slightly worried.
Lestrade spread his hands out. "And you're telling me, why?"
"There's something about John Watson." She said. There was a pregnant pause, and then Sherlock and Lestrade rocketed out of their chairs, Mycroft trailing casually behind them.
The main office was silent. Even Anderson didn't seem to notice Sherlock's appearance. They were all staring at their computer screens or the telly hanging from one of the square pillars. Lestrade hurried over to where Donovan sat at her desk.
He sucked in a breath when he saw her screen. Like before, John's face took up most of the screen, but he didn't seem to be looking at it.
"Whats happening? When did it start?" Sherlock hissed at anyone. Everyone. No one.
"Just a few seconds ago." Donovan murmered faintly.
Sound boomed from all of the screens at once, for those who had their sound turned up. And only then did Sherlock realise that Moriarty had been waiting for him to arrive. Which meant that Moriarty was somehow watching him, and could probably hear him aswell.
"Sherlock! I see you got my little….present. I rather thought you'd be a little more appreciative. I have something fo yours, you have something….well, you have something." Moriarty's voice boomed richly throughout the room. Sherlock felt the hair at thenape of his neck stand on end.
"I thought you said you didn't like to get you're hands dirty, Jim." Sherlock said, deliberately using his name and speaking in a slow, calm voice.
"Some things are worth getting your hands dirty for, Sherlock. And you have to admit, it is most entertaining playing with your John. He's got a little…spunk." Moriarty said, and there was laughter in his voice.
"I want to speak with him." Sherlock demanded. Lestrade put a hand on his arm, whether to comfort or to hold him back, Sherlock didn't know and didn't care. He shook him off.
"Fine. Say something Johnny, Sherlock misses you."
John's face wavered on the screen, gaze flickering from whatever he was looking at, Moriarty perhaps, and then back again. His mouth worked, but no words emerged. He looked dreadful, the bruise across his face had not abated, and there were dark purple smudges beneath his eyes, as if he's never slept a night in his life. He looked wane, exhausted, lost. Sherlock gritted his teeth and clenched his fists.
He said, quiet calmly for his mood, "John?"
John's head jerked up, eyes gazing right back at him. It was eerie, the amount of hope in his eyes now that he had heard Sherlock's voice.
"Sherlock? Are you okay? You haven't been sleeping have you? You're not supposed to sleep when you've got a concussion." John said quickly, voice but a murmer, as if he were talking to himself.
"Stop worrying about me, John, I'm not the one who go-" he forced himself to stop, I'm not the one who got caught by Moriarty. "How are you? Where are you?"
John didn't even bother attempting to answer that. For one, he didn't have a clue where the hell he was, and two, Moriarty would put a stop to it if he even opened his mouth.
"Not the right questions, Sherlock." Moriarty purred. "I just thought this little chat might be a bit more to motivate you, since you seem to be in no hurry to save your Johnny-boy."
John's face twisted into a grimace and he looked down and away from the camera. When he looked up next, his face was smooth of emotion, save the few cracks in the façade, such as his eyes. His eyes were broken and bleeding tempered hope and desperation.
"What do I have to do to save him?" Sherlock asked quietly.
"I broke the toaster, Sherlock!" John suddenly said, his voice cracking. "You need to fix it!"
A hand came into veiw, slapping John lazily, but hard enough that he grunted and pulled back. Silent.
"Enough, John. Now, Sherlock, you've seen your pet is alive and well. I think you should go and finish the game, hmm?"
"And how do I do that the game isn't a hoax, that you won't just kill John to spite me?"
"Now, now, Sherlock! Have some faith! You have all the clues, you're a smart guy, you just have to piece it all together, and then I'll Johnny to you! A prize! The treasure!" Moriarty said, and his chuckle reverberated through the room. A rolling peal of thunder.
"Why are you doing this?" Sherlock gritted out. He could feel bodies around him, Lestrade, Mycroft, Donovan. But he couldn't concentrate on them, not when John seemed to be staring back at him, naked eyes pleading. Begging. Never had Sherlock felt like he'd failed someone more in his life than John, right then.
"You asked me that before, Sherlock. The answer hasn't changed." Moriarty said softly, voice slick with amusement.
The screen went blank.
"No." Sherlock muttered. "No. No."
He had to solve this game. Had to get one step in front of Moriarty. But could he? Moriarty held all the cards, Sherlock had nothing. No, he didn't have nothing. He had the body, the body with the tattoo.
As he thought, he began making his way out of the room, heading toward the elevator. He had to get down to the morgue, no doubt he'd find more clues on the body.
A hand grabbed his shoulder and he spun, pushing out roughly with both hands. Lestrade stumbled back a little, frowning at him. He held his hands up in a silent surrender.
"I wasn't going to stop you, Sherlock. I'm going to help." He said.
Sherlock snarled at him. "You can't help, Lestrade. You know nothing."
"I know enough. There are only gaps because you've been keeping things from me. But you can't keep me from helping you find Watson. He's a friend of mine too."
Sherlock stared at him for a long moment. Studying him shrewdly. Over shoulder he could see Mycroft, his brother's eyebrows were raised, as if the answer should be clear and Sherlock should tell Lestrade to back off. Never one to follow his brother's orders, Sherlock felt himself nodding slightly.
"Fine." Was all he said, but Lestrade looked relieved.
Mycroft simply rolled his eyes.
The elevator pinged, at that moment, and they all three found their gaze turn and stare in horrorfied facination. Inside the elevator, looking completely innocent in a large blue ribbon, was another crate.
"Crap." Lestrade muttered.
Sherlock gave a grim smile.
To be continued...
I don't think there's a word to describe how sorry I am for taking so darn long to update. And I know this chapter is a filler, because I needed to get some facts straight before moving into the whumpy action.
I've brought both Mycroft and Lestrade into the story, I love them both.
Or maybe I just love Rupert Graves because I was watching Ashes to Ashes. And I mean, how can you not love Mark Gatiss?
He's the reason we have Sherlock in the first place!
Thank you so much for reading! I love you all!