"Queen to E9."
"Rook to A5."
There were few things in the world that could make Avra want to laugh out loud, but her sons playing chess were one of them. They always did it so intensely, as if the fate of the world depended on their game – when he was eight, Sherlock had slammed one of the pawns down so savagely he'd actually split both the soapstone piece and the board itself.
Of course, they'd stopped using actual pieces when Sherlock was twelve and old enough to hold the board in his head without getting distracted by…everything else. Even now, Sherlock remained the most distractible of her sons – he was glancing towards her phone every minute, as precise and regimented as a digital watch. Mycroft was better at compartmentalising; he only glanced her way every five minutes.
The evening of tense waiting had begun with a single message; 'Jack and Jill are up the hill', meaning that the missions had begun in earnest. The target had been another splinter of Moriarty's previous organisation, one that had gathered itself under a leader of both intelligence and skill. They wouldn't have been another Moriarty, but they had been causing enough trouble to warrant the intervention of Jack and Jill.
Three hours later the message had been followed by 'Fetched the pail of water', indicating that everything had gone well and Jack and Jill were on their way home.
In fact, Avra suspected the laughter that was beginning to drift up the staircase was theirs.
"And when she opened the door-"
"I thought she was going to end up apologising to us, by the end! Good job with switching those knives, Rosy."
"It wasn't quite as amusing as his face when you pulled out your gun. Why is that that everyone, everyone, thinks you're harmless the first time they meet you?"
"Years of practice."
Yes, that was them; John and Jane. Or – as they were known in the covert operations business – Jack and Jill, the pair who, within six months, had developed a reputation for completing jobs others deemed impossible.
Sherlock and Mycroft had crossed to the door before it even opened. John entered first, and nearly ran straight into her youngest son.
"You know, Sherlock, one of these days I'm going to open the door too fast and you'll end up with a broken nose," John warned.
Sherlock ignored his remark. "You were supposed to be back two hours ago."
While Sherlock didn't embrace John, he was running his eyes up and down John's body over and over again, trying to detect any injuries.
John frowned in exasperation, but there was fondness lingering in his eyes. "I was not supposed to be back, I said if we were very lucky, we might be back. Might, being the operative word there."
The annoyance in his voice would be more convincing if he wasn't leaning so close to Sherlock. Jane and Mycroft were much less demonstrative, but they were gazing at each other in the fashion of a romantic movie just before the credits rolled, and the fingers of her left hand were entwined with the fingers of his right.
Avra smiled, and for a moment she allowed herself in the feeling of everything going completely right. Just for a moment.
AN: A big round of applause for my beta, ginbitch, who helped me out enormously with this story!