Pairings: None, really. This is more of a friendship fic.

Warnings : Character death, some violence

Rating : PG-13ish.

Disclaimer : The characters aren't mine (which is probably for the best).


***Now a podfic!*** Available at megaupload dot cm /?d=VOGT5BA4

Also off of the Amplificathon livejournal community.

Set after The Great Game.



Coping Mechanisms

By Liannabob




Sherlock… hates this place.

He loathes it so completely that daydreaming about tearing it apart and setting it on fire actually holds his attention for several minutes at a stretch.

This is the third time Mycroft (Mycroft, his mind growls, and part of his attention wanders off to contemplate suitable vengeance for this) has interfered in Sherlock's life this heavy-handedly.

It's inelegant.

It's solving a puzzle with the blunt side of a hammer and he knows that Mycroft knows that he hates it when the older brother resorts to using his political influence - that cache of dirty power - to deal with him.

It's not subtle. Mycroft is capable of subtle. He's capable of sneaky and underhanded and brilliant and immensely complicated.

When he refuses to be any of those things, he does it just to piss Sherlock off.

No. That's fallacy. Assumption.

He's done it in the past to piss Sherlock off. Dangerous to assume consistency.

He's bored. He hates this place because it's boring, because it's worse, in many ways, than jail. Mycroft's only had him arrested once. He spent the entire three hours and twenty seven minutes exonerating, analyzing or harassing the people around him – be they in the cells adjacent to him, the guards, or the lawyers – until the officers had threatened to put him in solitary and Mycroft had relented, pending Sherlock's help with a case.

It had taken him twenty minutes to solve.

And he'd known it would be boring in the first place (it had barely even qualified as a terrorist plot), which is why he'd refused, which is why Mycroft had arrested him.

Mycroft usually only pulled stunts like that in January. Christmas would be too awkward, otherwise.

But it wasn't January, and this doesn't fit, and he hasn't just been arrested.

Sherlock contemplates popping his shoulder out of its socket and slipping free from the straight jacket just to free up his mobility a bit, but the first thing they'd done was take the hairpins out of his socks and now he won't be able to pick the lock on the door. At least they learned from their mistakes.

Besides, if they see him wandering loose, they'll tranquilize him. Not with the good stuff, though; Mycroft will have seen to that.

The whole point of recreational drugs (in Sherlock's carefully considered opinion) is that they numb or sharpen or distract his brain, depending on what Sherlock needs. The tranqs they'd use here are glorified muscle relaxants. They'd shut down his body but not his mind.

Sherlock shudders at the thought, and sighs.

God knows what John's getting up to while he's stuck here twiddling his thumbs.

Or he would be twiddling his thumbs, if his hands weren't strapped to the sides of his body.

There's a stain in the corner that, if Sherlock were the type to let his mind wander that way, would look like a winter coat stuffed with semtex, and Sherlock knows it's blood, and about a month old. The padding in here was replaced three months ago – there's a very, very faint smell of carpenter's glue that Sherlock can just make out when he stands on his tiptoes and presses his face into the creased corner – and he can tell the stain is blood because of the yellowish way that very light brown spot has marred the white cushioned surface. Yellowed because of chemical scrubs that (bother Sherlock because they render blood samples as forensically useful as Mt. Dew) disinfect, but don't quite manage to get rid of a stain completely.

There's a stain just in front of him that looks like nothing really whatsoever, and Sherlock knows that it, too, is blood, and about two hours old. That one's not really a very great deductive leap, though.

He licks his split lip and shakes his head just to feel his heavy, curly hair move against his scalp, and he's so damn bored and tense and frustrated and annoyed and

"Dammit Mycroft, let me out of here!"

He hates that he's said that out loud.

He's now, officially, he decides, been in this room for far too long.

He uses the heavily cushioned corner to push himself up to his feet. He paces – awkwardly, because one of the cretins Mycroft had had bundle him off had twisted his knee when shoving him into the car. Sherlock wonders if the man's been transferred to Somalia yet. Hurting Sherlock is not a part of this game. Mycroft would never allow it but, sometimes, he overestimates his control of his underlings. And Sherlock had, in fairness, just kicked said underling in the throat.

Sherlock didn't like being abducted.

He stops pacing and looks up at the camera nestled into the corner of the ceiling. Small movement inside as the lens focuses. He's being actively watched.

Sherlock wonders where John is.

There are nine possible scenarios, of which three are the most likely.

1. John is still visiting Harry and hasn't yet learned of Sherlock's kidnapping.

2. John has returned, found Sherlock missing, and has contacted Scotland Yard. He would have been informed of the incident (because Mycroft always has a man at Scotland Yard to deal with anyone who noticed Sherlock getting manhandled into a car. It's simple to have someone standing by to diffuse those pesky Good Samaritans. Mycroft's men would, of course, recognize John Watson. There was a 92% probability they'd tell him something to send John back to Baker St to wait for Sherlock's return).

3. John has returned to find Sherlock missing, and done nothing.

Sherlock believes that the last option is the most likely.

After all, it would hardly be the first time Sherlock's simply wandered off. Mrs. Hudson wasn't home when the commotion happened (she was still visiting family in Sheffield following the explosion on Baker St.) and Sherlock doesn't have the sort of neighbors who notice things, or comment on them. His bullet-pocked wall attested to that.

His mind supplies John's inevitable question; "How did you know I was visiting Harry?"

John was fantastic for that. Sherlock wasn't so aloof, no matter how earnestly he claimed to be a sociopath, that he didn't enjoy honest flattery.

And he does enjoy showing off his intellect, no matter how many times he's told to piss off.

"Simplicity itself. You're still obviously bothered by recent events – and running around town with me, while initially distracting, also reminded you of what you'd just survived per your association with me. You're not quite willing to talk about it yet, but you would want to seek out comfort – so, Sarah or your sister. It would have to be somebody you've know for a while because you're naturally going to be paranoid of strangers. You wouldn't go to Sarah because she knows about the sort of danger you've been exposed to and you want to get as far away from that as possible – that, combined with her medical training means that she wouldn't overlook your newer injuries, particularly in light of the company you keep. Your sister, on the other hand, is somebody that you trust by long association but is far enough removed from your day-to-day life and disinclined enough to observation to not wonder why your limp is on the wrong side now, or why you're barely using your left arm. You could conceivably convince her that you're fine, and spend the evening talking about… television or recipes or Clara or whatever it is that siblings who don't have insane relationships with each other talk about."

Sherlock replays the explosion in his mind's eye again, the way John's left side had taken the worst of the blast and the way he'd known, even as John had tackled him into the pool, that the doctor had been terribly injured. The second they hit the water, Sherlock saw the physical therapy that would follow and predicted, watching the way blood bloomed (beautifully, artistically, terribly) in the water around John that the wounds were bad.

When Sherlock's shoulder hit the bottom of the pool, he twisted, grabbed John and kicked hard toward the end of the pool closest to the door he'd come in through.

The explosion had torn a hole in the building's floor. The water seemed unfairly hard to swim against as it moved to fill the void, and Sherlock's right leg didn't want to cooperate. Sherlock didn't want to surface before he had to – there was no way of knowing if the snipers would still be trying to kill them. The water in the pool wasn't very deep, but it was still deep enough to slow a bullet down.

He reached the far wall and hauled himself and John (who had fallen unconscious) up, banking on the confusion the explosion had caused to buy them the handful of seconds they'd need to get out.

He wasn't shot immediately. That was a very good sign.

As he dragged John toward the hallway and away from the exposure and chaos of the pool, he looked for Moriarty. The man was lying where he'd been flung by the explosion, leaking blood from lots of significant places - not the least of which, judging by the way blood was spreading around his hips, seemed to be his femoral artery. Shrapnel from the tile floor, Sherlock figured, recognizing matching wounds on John and himself. Moriarty had been wearing a kevlar vest. It hadn't helped him.

Sherlock noticed a trickle from what had at one point been an arterial gush, and observed that his nemesis was very decidedly in the last few seconds of dying. The man had looked furious.

Sherlock wasted another second staring, realizing that the only reason things had turned out this way had been because he'd let his emotions usurp his logic. If he'd been thinking about anything other than how close John had come to… if he'd been thinking, he would have thrown the explosive-laden coat into the pool to disarm it as soon as it had been removed from its intended victim.

But Sherlock hadn't done that.

He had just picked a direction and heaved, wanting to get the horrible thing as far away from them as possible. And so it had been at Moriarty's feet when the decision came to shoot.

John was still unconscious, and Sherlock realized with a jolt that the doctor wasn't breathing.

This wasn't a problem. The doctor had obviously just swallowed water when he'd lost consciousness after hitting the pool.

Sherlock turned John's head to the side and let water drain out for a moment, pressing his fingers into John's neck to check his pulse. He couldn't feel one, but then he could hardly feel his own fingertips – that jolt to his shoulder had been harder than he'd initially thought, and his hands were being stupid and numb as a result.

He pressed his mouth against John's and breathed. John tasted like chlorine and bile and blood and the tea that he'd been drinking less than an hour ago.

His mouth had been soft and cool under Sherlock's. Unresponsive, and so he'd breathed hard and felt the doctor's chest rise as his lungs filled.

He did this twice, then tried again to find a pulse. He put his ear to John's chest and tried to listen for a heartbeat only to realize that his ears were ringing from the explosion.

How frustrating.

So he'd improvised and pressed his face against the doctor's neck. He felt with his lips (highest concentration of nerve endings, better accuracy, not damaged by the blast) for the pulse that simply had to be there.

And wasn't.

John's ribs broke under his hands when he started chest compressions, and blood dripped from Sherlock's split eyebrow onto John's nose.

"1… 2…3…" Sherlock counted up to thirty, then pressed his mouth against John's again and breathed. He could feel scar tissue inside John's lip exactly where he suspected it would be – the way the man sometimes twisted his mouth when he scowled had made Sherlock suspect its existence.

Sherlock's right leg had abruptly collapsed under him and, to his horror, he'd fallen on top of John. Sherlock scrambled off, noting as he did so that a piece of tile had wedged itself just below his knee, because of course, of course, obvious, really: the hot, sticky feeling on the back of his calf couldn't be John's blood (although there was plenty of that on the front of his legs from where he'd been kneeling) so logically it was his own.

Too much blood. Had to stop the bleeding.

He tugged his jacket (well-fitted and clinging stubbornly for being soaked through) off of himself and pressed it, an improvised bandage, to the worst of the damage at John's shoulder.

More chest compressions. More mouth-to-mouth. Again. And again.

Optimistically, John would have spluttered back to life by now. He would cough the rest of the pool water out of his lungs and cringe in pain from his injuries and accuse Sherlock, soaked through and nearly half-naked for the thinness of his wet shirt, of impropriety.

"People will talk," He'd say. Or, no, not that, he'd already said that and while John is predictable he's not simple and doesn't tend to repeat himself. Probably "My, you're determined" or "Are you posing for the consulting detective's pin-up calendar?" or maybe "So, did you get the milk and beans, then?" A flirty little joke because that's how John dismissed things that were too big and too dangerous to look at directly. John would force a smile and then grab at his broken ribs or his lacerated hip or the burnt shoulder that Sherlock is almost positive has a good chunk of ceramic tile still embedded into it, because God forbid that Sherlock think him, a man who had just grabbed death with both hands and told him to run, weak.


Hands were on his shoulders pulling him away from John. He'd recognized Lestrade a moment too late to avoid punching him full in the face on his startled turn-around, but he'd gotten the impression, a second later when he realized what was going on (because of course someone had called the police – someone had to have noticed that explosion), that the man wasn't going to hold a grudge about it.

He'd seen the DI's mouth move but his ears were still ringing and he was a bit too dizzy to lip-read. He shook his head and squinted his eyes, conveying his non-comprehension. He figured Lestrade might as well enjoy the novelty.

There was an EMT crew pulling him up and off of John, and he was furious for an insane moment because he'd lost count of his compressions. He was on 20, wasn't he? He'd been ticking them off with the seconds and it had been 24 seconds since he started, but what had he…

He'd crumpled the moment he'd put weight on his leg, and knew he'd cried out with the pain. It echoed weirdly in his mouth – more a sensation than a sound.

It didn't matter. Official-looking medical people were tending to John.

"His ribs are broken. His shoulder and thigh were hit hard. He's probably concussed and definitely half-drowned. I got most of the water out of his lungs and I've been doing CPR." Sherlock said, or thought he'd said. He was pretty sure that'd been out loud – he'd felt his voice box vibrate. He'd probably said it too loudly, actually, from the look Lestrade gave him.

"Moriarty is dead. Over there." He told Lestrade, pointing back towards the pool. "Molly's Jim." He added vaguely, and realized he was going to pass out. "I think I've lost a lot of blo…" And he fell.






Sherlock woke up in the hospital to the wholly unwelcome sight of Mycroft Holmes smiling at him.

"Ah," Mycroft had purred, "Good morning."

"Where's John?"

Mycroft looked at him shrewdly.

"He's in this hospital." He said after a moment's pause.

"Is he alright?" Sherlock demanded.

"He's not in any danger." Mycroft said. "It was quick thinking, on your part; stopping the bleeding and administering CPR."

Sherlock scowled at him, offended at the implication that his thinking was ever anything but 'quick.' His leg ached. His head hurt so much that he wanted to tell Mycroft to turn down the lights. The tape holding his IV in place was making his skin itch. Also, annoyingly, he was hungry.

"Don't worry about him," Mycroft added. "Tell me what happened with Moriarty."

"By now," Sherlock muttered, turning his face into his pillow, "You'll have gone through my clothes and found your misplaced missile plans in my trouser pocket. It's surely no surprise to you that I didn't actually hand over state secrets. I doubt either they or the dummy drive will still work after that dip in the pool, though."

There was a tap at the door, and Sherlock said; "It's Lestrade. Let him in." Sherlock had observed the PC that had been standing by the door wander off as soon as he'd started talking. Logically, the man would have been going to fetch his superior officer. Sherlock had been involved in what amounted to a bombing and would, of course, be expected to answer questions.

Mycroft had given him a flat, unimpressed look and was unsurprised when he opened the door to find Lestrade on the other side.

"Mr. Holmes." Lestrade said politely to Mycroft and walked over to Sherlock's bed. He looked at the world's only consulting detective and said "Sherlock. I'm so sorry."





Back in the present, Sherlock gave up glaring at the camera and slumped back down in the padded corner of his cell.

He absently scratched his left eyebrow with his toes.





Things had been boring for a while after Sherlock had been released from the hospital. He'd returned to Baker St alone because John, of course, had been hurt significantly worse than him.

The flat they shared had been completely repaired – one of those sneaky gifts that Mycroft would occasionally bestow upon him – and Sherlock had fallen into the numb, irritable sort of existence that plagued him when he didn't have work to occupy his mind.

He'd pace for a while before going online and checking the news to see if anything mysterious had turned up for his mind to chew on.

He'd play the violin. Sometimes beautifully, sometimes just the same bit of harsh noise pulled out from his strings over and over and over until he'd face up to the fact that there was no one around to annoy.

He'd rant at the skull that Mrs. Hudson or Mycroft or, in all probability, John himself had returned to their mantle.

It wasn't the same.

He'd gotten used to having someone talk back. To smile at him in a non-rictus sort of way.

He'd check John's blog without thinking about it and then scold himself for an idiot when of course it hadn't been updated.

He guiltily felt the void in his life where his companion – no, not companion, Moriarty had not been that - enemy had been.

It bothered him immensely when he couldn't shake the feelings of grief, as if he'd achieved low marks on a very simple test. Sherlock's mood, already dark, blackened further. He avoided thinking about the cause.

He went through nicotine patches at an alarming rate and gave serious consideration to taking apart one of the flat's walls to get at his carefully stowed supply of harder drugs, but ultimately decided against it. He'd give the world another six hours to get interesting before he resorted to that.

Besides, the look of disappointment he imagined he'd get from John Watson if the man returned home to find him so obviously and illegally compromised was... actually quite a deterrent.

At five and a half hours, Sherlock woke up to the sound of DI Lestrade climbing his stairs.

"Let's go, John," Sherlock said absently, rubbing sleep from his eyes as he walked unsteadily across the room.





The crime was almost an interesting one. Sherlock had to give Lestrade that.

"Hello, Freak." Donovan greeted him from the door way of the house, but without the usual bite of jealous contempt in her voice. She eyed him warily.

"Sally," Sherlock returned.

Sherlock made his way into what was otherwise a very normal living room to examine a body. The cause of death was very obviously home-brewed chloroform that had been made with too much bleach. An accident, but hardly an innocent one.

The interesting bit, and predictably the one that Lestrade hadn't even realized was there, was in finding the second body.

It was a comfort to hear John's cane tapping around the room with him as he worked, to hear the doctor point out little obvious things, to smile at him when Sherlock noticed something particularly small and unremarkable and important.

"John, what do you make of this?" Sherlock asked, tipping his head in the doctor's direction and indicating with a bandaged forefinger the glittering smear of broken glass on the dead young man's upper lip.

There was a pause while John told him entirely the wrong answer. Sherlock scoffed in response.

"Being crazy's never stopped him from helping us in the past." Lestrade said, addressing the look Anderson had given the DI, and there was a twinge of (displeasure, guilt, grief?) something in his voice that raised Sherlock's eyebrows entirely outside of the oddness of the comment itself.

"He's not crazy; he's just wrong." Sherlock said, and explained that the assailant had been wearing a cheap ring that had broken during the struggle. When she'd curled her fingers around the chloroform-soaked rag, she'd pressed the broken glass of her ring into his face.

"You're looking for a scorned woman," Sherlock concluded, "Not the fiancée, though, the fiancée is in her trunk."

"What?" Lestrade barked.

"Isn't it obvious?"

And John gave him that long-suffering, amused, impatient look that meant no, it wasn't obvious, please explain.





Four hours later, Sherlock sauntered into his flat, high on his own cleverness and tired from chasing two cars – first the wrong one, then the right one – through London. His knee ached fiercely. He regretted nothing.

He turned to make a comment to John and stopped abruptly. Mycroft smiled at him from Sherlock's armchair, looking insufferably pleased for having caught his brother off-guard.

"Mycroft." Sherlock said shortly.

John looked back and forth between the two brothers, then awkwardly offered to make tea.

"Yes, that'd be lovely." Sherlock said, nodding to the doctor. Mycroft's eyes flicked to John, but he said nothing.

"I've been hearing about your adventure, brother. Very clever." Mycroft smiled.

Sherlock sniffed. "Don't pretend you weren't the one who made Lestrade bring me in. This case was hardly worth my attention."

Mycroft didn't deny it.

John wandered back into the den and quietly told Sherlock that they were out of tea, and that he'd be popping out for a bit. Sherlock deduced that he was going to visit his sister, but kept the comment to himself.

The doctor said a polite good-day to Mycroft, which Mycroft ignored, and nodded awkwardly to Sherlock.

"Good-day, John," Sherlock said pointedly, "And I assure you, Mycroft will not be lingering."

The smile the doctor gave him was enigmatic in a way that John's smiles were never enigmatic, and Sherlock itched to figure out just what was running through the doctor's mind. But John left the flat, tapping his way down the stairs, and leaving Sherlock with his brother to deal with.

The world's only consulting detective flopped gracelessly onto the couch and picked up his violin bow, applying rosin with quick, efficient movements in preparation for the auditory assault conversations with his brother tended to necessitate.

The anticipated scowl didn't happen. Instead, Mycroft just looked… uncomfortable.

"We need to discuss what happened with Jim Moriarty."

"The man is dead," Sherlock said shortly, not pausing in his preparations. He winced as some of the rosin touched a healing wound on his palm. "And you heard what I told Lestrade. What more do you want to discuss?"

"You don't seem to be recovering well. I'm not the only one to notice."

Sherlock snorted in annoyance. "My leg is fine. I don't know how much you're paying Anderson, but I assure you, he's not worth it."

Mycroft paused, letting the revelation that Sherlock knew of Anderson's side job pass without comment. But then, Sherlock suspected that Mycroft had known he'd known about it from the start.

The pause was, rather, one in which Mycroft noticeably gathered his thoughts.

"You've been talking to John, Sherlock." His brother finally said, and Sherlock noted that Mycroft was averting his eyes.

"Not about your precious state secrets, Mycroft. And not about the missile plans; he didn't even know that I still had them."

"No. No, I mean…" Mycroft shifted, and it was the first time Sherlock had ever seen his brother look genuinely out of his depth.

"Sherlock, I need you to tell me what happened after that explosion."

Sherlock put the violin under his chin and played a low E, holding the note in an incessant hum back and forth along his bow.

"I don't enjoy doing this, Sherlock. I know you think the worst of me, but I'm doing this for your best interests. You have an elephant in your head, and as much as I care for you, I truly believe that you are a danger to yourself and others right now."

"An elephant? Mycroft, what -" Sherlock stopped abruptly, eyes widening. He dropped the violin and threw himself off of the couch and towards the door because of course, of course Mycroft meant to abduct him.

He was halfway down the staircase before Mycroft had reached the second syllable of his protesting "Sherlock!"

Sherlock paused for only a moment when he got to the street, taking in with a small wave of surprise the lack of one of Mycroft's government cars waiting for him. He didn't linger.

He actually had a moment of foolish self-doubt - had he misread Mycroft? - when he turned the corner of Baker St and nearly walked into a meticulously nondescript man. A meticulously nondescript man who very deliberately changed his course so that Sherlock did walk into him.

Sherlock let out a little 'ooof' of impact, and then hissed angrily when he felt a needle jab into his side.

The car Sherlock was expecting drove over to them, and two other not-pedestrians nonchalantly walked over to Sherlock's assailant and helped him manhandle Sherlock into the car. Sherlock got a few good kicks (and a very well-placed elbow) in before the sedative rendered him unconscious.

He awoke wearing a straight jacket.

Sherlock looked at the padded walls of his cell and sighed in irritation.

The door opened and Mycroft walked in, his suit looking entirely too dark against the white backdrop. The door clicked shut ominously behind him.

Sherlock glared at him. "You are very sadly mistaken if you believe I shall not tell our mother about this."

Mycroft's face broke into a painful little smile. Sherlock didn't like it at all.

Mycroft tipped his chin down.

"You're not actually a high-functioning sociopath, you know."

"I'm very high functioning!" Sherlock said indignantly, but Mycroft just shook his head.

"You're not a sociopath." He said firmly.

"This is about John, isn't it? You said I was a danger to myself and others." Sherlock's eyes narrowed in offended suspicion. "How could you possibly think I'd be a danger to him?"

"No," Mycroft snapped, "Sherlock, stop this now. John is dead. You know that John is dead. I'm sorry, I truly am sorry. I didn't realize how much you cared for him. But you need to stop."

Sherlock went white with anger.

"How dare you? What kind of game do you think you're playing at, Mycroft?"

"Not a game, brother. John died in that explosion." Sherlock hated him for the gentleness of his tone.

"That is patently untrue!" Sherlock yelled at him, slamming his head forward into his drawn-up knees out of raw frustration and giving himself a split lip for his troubles.

The taste of blood pulled him back. He was reacting too emotionally. It was unwise. Sherlock took a deep breath and pushed aside his feelings to look at this logically.

Fact: The explosion had injured John badly. Sherlock had tended to him. The ambulance had arrived. They had both received medical care.

John had been in the hospital with him when he awoke.



Mycroft's word – not something he had personally observed.

But, fact: John had accompanied Sherlock on his latest bit of crime solving. They were both injured and healing, but there had been at least a dozen people there who had seen John, and of those only three people in Mycroft's employ. This wasn't something Mycroft was going to easily cover up unless the officers on the scene, including Lestrade (whom Sherlock very nearly trusted) had a very good reason to go along with it.

Fact: Mycroft had had him abducted, committed (or possibly just contained) and was now trying to convince him that John was dead.

It didn't add up.

It felt like the solution was staring him in the face, obvious but unobserved. A jade hair pin in some silly secretary's unflattering bun.

"I don't wish to be cruel, Sherlock. You must know that. But I can't leave you like this."

Sherlock pointedly spat his mouthful of blood next to Mycroft's shoe. "I agree with you completely. Now let me out of this straight-jacket and take me home."

Mycroft's fingers flexed – a move that, on the enormously self-contained man, amounted to anyone else throwing their hands up in vexation.

But Mycroft looked terribly unhappy.

And Sherlock wasn't remotely amused.

Sherlock scooted backwards so that his back was pressed against the cushioned wall. He stretched his long legs out in front of him and crossed them at the ankles.

Sherlock could see from the very slight smudge of ink on the heel of Mycroft's right hand that the man was busy with diplomatic relations in China, could tell from the way the knot on his tie was almost fully half a centimeter lower on his throat than usual that Mycroft hadn't been to a meeting all day, and knew from the way Mycroft still hadn't said anything that this… this obscene joke, was more serious than Sherlock had initially supposed.

The first time Mycroft had had him committed, it had been after a slight miscalculation in a self-administered dose of morphine had led to Sherlock into passing out in an alleyway.

Sherlock maintained that it had been a complete overreaction on Mycroft's part.

The second time had been over another case that Sherlock had refused to do.

This time was obviously different.

Sherlock hadn't indulged himself lately and Mycroft hadn't mentioned a case.

He had mentioned Moriarty, though. He'd wanted to know about the explosion. Was it relevant?

But during all of this, Sherlock's mind couldn't stop circling around "John is dead."

What an unbearable thought.

Mycroft had taken this too far.

Sherlock closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the padded wall. Whatever it is Mycroft was after, he wasn't going to get it. Not after that. Not after saying such a hateful thing.

How John would scoff and think the both of them insane when Sherlock told him about this later.

Sherlock could just see the incredulous blog post now.





Mycroft Holmes took in the stubborn set to his brother's jaw and felt his heart sink.

He turned his back on Sherlock and nodded to the camera, and a moment later the door unlocked for him.

As he left ('click' went the door behind him, and Mycroft decided that he hated the sound), he let himself wonder what it was about John Watson that made his brother notice him, or care.

He especially wondered what it was that had made Sherlock care.

Mycroft regretted the things he had said to Sherlock after he had woken up in the hospital. It was a long established habit to tell the absolute and absolutely misleading truth to his brother. It was true that John had been in the hospital - he'd been in the morgue. It was true at he wasn't in any danger - he was dead. And it was true that the CPR had been quick thinking - it had simply been useless.

At that moment, all Mycroft had cared about was getting the details about Moriarty. In part because of the threat the criminal mastermind had been to national security, and in larger part because of the effect he'd had on Sherlock.

Mycroft had completely underestimated the effect John had had on Sherlock.

On the first day of his acquaintance with John Watson, Mycroft had told his assistant (whose name was not Anthea) that he believed he doctor would be the making of his brother, or would make him worse than ever. Mycroft hadn't expected to be right on both counts. In truth, Mycroft hadn't expected to be right on either count. John Watson had been unremarkable in every way, save for the fact that he was crazy enough to live with Sherlock Holmes.

Mycroft viewed him in the way that he had (wrongly) assumed his brother had viewed him; as an interesting experiment and nothing more.

It was an unprecedented thing - Sherlock Holmes caring for ... anyone, really. Little wonder John's death had damaged him so spectacularly.

Part of Mycroft wanted to shove photos of John's autopsy under Sherlock's nose and dare him to deny it, force him to snap out of his delusion.

But the rest of him couldn't stomach the thought of hurting Sherlock like that.

And so he didn't know what to do.

Sherlock would quietly fume for at least two more hours, and Mycroft definitely needed the time to think.





Geoffrey Lestrade was a man thoroughly suited to being a Detective Inspector. He was smart, resourceful, hardworking and able to admit when he was wrong, or in over his head. He was a man who could take in stride the entire concept of a consulting detective - his world view allowed for such a thing. He knew that the citizens of London were all the better for that allowance.

Lestrade had been a DI long enough to have acquired vaults in his mind of images that took turns haunting him - bodies and bloodied faces, rape victims, abused children - the sorts of things that most people simply didn't have to see, let alone see on a weekly basis.

As a detective, he wished he could say that he'd known from the moment he met Sherlock Holmes that the man would provide fodder for those mental vaults, but this wasn't case.

The first time Lestrade had met Sherlock, he had thought the man to be a twenty-something college kid pulling an ill-advised prank on the London police force.

"And what," He'd asked, annoyed at having to take time away from his crime scene to even address the young man, "Exactly, is a consulting detective?"

"Someone who tells you what you've got wrong."

Lestrade doesn't know why he hadn't just had Holmes escorted off the scene then, if not outright arrested. He's pretty sure it was the look in Sherlock's eye, though. It was the disturbing, predatory and hungry gaze of a jungle cat and it had given Lestrade pause.

"Really." Lestrade had said, his tone unimpressed even though his curiosity was piqued.

"Really." Sherlock had answered. "The walls of that staircase are cheap, stucco, but I'd wager the victim's fingernails are still perfectly manicured and there are no scratches on the pads of her fingers, meaning that she couldn't have possibly tried to stop her descent. The outline of the body," And here Sherlock nodded to the dead woman some twenty-five feet away on the other side of the police-tape barrier, "Does a very good job of suggesting falling trauma, but the body itself isn't nearly far enough from the base of the stairs. That's sixteen steps to the first floor - she would have tumbled past that bottom step much further than that. There are holiday stickers in the window of that flat, which says children, and yet the woman is not a mother or a nanny- look at her purse. That isn't her home, nor is it likely to be the home she was visiting. No, in all probability, you're looking for her boyfriend or lover - someone with a study in forensics or a medical degree of some sort, who lives in this building but not on the first floor. My guess would be whoever it was occupying flat 310. That parking spot," Sherlock nodded to the tarmac and the empty space labeled 310, "Was vacated less than half an hour ago, and whoever left did so in a hurry. He'll be nearby because he'll want to make sure the police see him returning to make a credible alibi of having been away at the time of her death. It's obvious, really."

Lestrade had stared at Sherlock, stunned. He no longer thought this was a prank, and he no longer thought Holmes was a kid.

And because it was the first time he'd been subjected to one of the man's deductions and didn't yet know how futile such a comment was, his reply was one of instinct more than anything else.

"Piss off." He'd said.

Sherlock had smiled like the Cheshire cat. He pulled a small piece of paper from his lapel pocket and handed it to Lestrade. Since the DI was still reeling, he took it.

It read: Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective. There was an address.

"You don't have a phone number on here." Lestrade pointed out a moment before turning the card over and seeing the hand-written digits on the back. He rolled his eyes in irritation.

"And you're already planning to call me." Sherlock had answered, looking insufferably smug.

And Lestrade had. He'd brought Sherlock in on cases when his best simply wasn't good enough. Slowly he began to trust Sherlock's genius (if not the man himself) and slowly the vault in his head filled with horrible crimes and horrible images.

Sherlock himself had never seemed affected by any of it. People weren't victims - they were facts. Sherlock viewed a body in exactly the same detached way that he viewed the tire iron that had put it there.

Lestrade imagined the inside of Sherlock's mind to be as clean and precise and organized as a pre-operation surgical theatre. Everything in its place and not so much as a spot of blood to stain it.

It was, Lestrade admitted (if only to himself), a bit creepy. Despite his encounters with a criminal element as a part of his job, Lestrade hadn't met many genuine sociopaths in his life, and none of those save one would be what he'd qualify as "high functioning."

Lestrade wasn't sure what the tipping point had been for him, when exactly he'd started taking Sherlock's detachment from humanity and emotion for granted, but he knew down to the second the moment that that supposed detachment had been proven wrong.

The image of Sherlock Holmes, his face half-covered in blood and twisted in anguish as he pumped the heart of his dead companion ... it was something Lestrade knew he'd never get out of his head.

It had been a shock. Somewhere along the way, Lestrade had forgotten that Sherlock Holmes was human.

It was worth getting a bruised jaw to turn the man away from John Watson's corpse. The astonished look that had bloomed on Sherock's face a second later when he recognized Lestrade was a novelty in itself, but the DI had hardly been in a mood to appreciate it.

"Sherlock, stop. Let go of him."

Sherlock shook his head at him in mute incomprehension.

The medical team had swept in then. One of them pulled Sherlock up and he yelped in pain when he put pressure on his leg. Lestrade flinched, and grabbed Sherlock by the arm to steady and support him.

"His ribs are broken," Sherlock began, and rattled off the litany of injuries John had sustained. His voice was too loud and Lestrade realized the explosion had, at least momentarily, deafened him.

"Moriarty is dead. Over there." Sherlock told him when he finished, and Lestrade felt his eyebrows climb his forehead. Sherlock swayed on his feet and Lestrade tightened his grip.

"Molly's Jim." He added nonsensically.

Sherlock looked Lestrade directly the eye and seemed to focus on him with his customary uncanny sharpness. "I think I've lost a lot of blo..." And then the man had passed out in his arms.

"I need some help here!" Lestrade barked, and medical technicians took Sherlock from him (the man was deceptively heavy for such a skinny frame. It was because he was so tall, Lestrade figured).

They loaded Sherlock onto a gurney and wheeled him toward the exit and the waiting ambulance. Lestrade walked over to John and closed the doctor's eyes.

"Sir," said one of his officers. Lestrade focused on him. "Got another body at the site of the explosion."


Lestrade fairly ran to the scene. It was more that just curiosity compelling him - he needed to know what this man - this murderer who had toyed with and tormented and finally cracked Lestrade's consulting detective - looked like.

He had to go around the opposite side of the pool as the direct walkway to Moriarty's body was a mess of broken tile and cement.

It was amazing to Lestrade how much this man looked in no way special at all. Just a body in a nice suit lying in a puddle of blood.

The door on the hallway to the left opened and Lestrade glanced up as the only person to ever frustrate him more than Sherlock Holmes walked in.

Mycroft stopped on the other side of the blood puddle and glanced down at Moriarty.

His gray eyes moved up and down the body, sweeping over his face and his clothes and his hands, memorizing him in that same eerily specific way that his brother had.

Then he turned and walked back out without saying a word, and Lestrade realized that Mycroft had wanted exactly the same thing that he had.

He had just wanted to see the man who had gotten to Sherlock Holmes. He had wanted to see with his own eyes that that man was dead.





After presenting his initial report to his senior inspector and calling the hospital to make sure Sherlock was okay, Lestrade had gone home and attempted to get some sleep.

He was immensely surprised when he succeeded. He awoke with his cell phone in his hand and remembered that he'd been waiting for a call when Sherlock woke up.

Looks like he'd beaten the consulting detective, then.

Lestrade took a shower and checked in with the precinct (to make sure nothing else had burst into flames) before heading over to the hospital. He figured he owed it to Holmes to be the one to take his statement.

He'd only just arrived at the hospital when PC Carter called him.

Lestrade wasn't overly surprised when Mycroft Holmes opened the door to Sherlock's room.

"Mister Holmes." Lestrade greeted him warily. Mycroft had a tendency to make Lestrade uneasy even more than his brother did. Sherlock was scarily overperceptive. Mycroft was overperceptive and ridiculously powerful. It made Lestrade paranoid even when he hadn't done anything wrong.

"Sherlock," He said, addressing the more familiar brother. Sherlock looked... terrible. His eyebrow had been stitched up and his hands and arms were dotted with bandages. Sherlock was too pale on the best of days but today he matched the hospital sheets. Lestrade found himself thinking about the shattered look on Sherlock's face as he'd administered CPR to John Watson's body less than twenty hours ago. The doctor's open, dead eyes burned in Lestrade's memory.

"I'm so sorry." Lestrade said, because it was simply unavoidable knowledge that Sherlock had lost someone he'd cared about.

Sherlock's brow furrowed in confusion.

"I'm fine." He said somewhat testily. "I suppose you'll be wanting details for your report, then." Sherlock said, and it was in so matter-of-fact and dismissive a tone that Lestrade realized he had been completely wrong.

Sherlock... was a fucking sociopath.

Whatever it was that had happened at the pool - whatever buried bit of humanity had surfaced in the man, it was obviously gone now. Sherlock Holmes was back to being the detached freak that Sally Donovan, evidently correctly, accused him of being.

Lestrade swallowed. It hurt him a little to think that Sherlock wouldn't mourn Watson, but then he had to admit he was a little disappointed in himself for thinking that Sherlock was capable of changing who or what he was. It wasn't really fair to either of them.

He took out his recorder and opened a notebook. They would all move past it. It was one more thing to add to his mental vault, and dwelling wouldn't help anyone.

"If you could start from the beginning, please." He said.





Three days later, Lestrade received a phone call from Mycroft Holmes suggesting that it might be prudent to bring Sherlock in on his current case.

"I'm sure we can handle this one," Lestrade had protested. He'd been avoiding thinking about Sherlock, truth be told.

"That's not really the point," Mycroft replied in a very dry tone. "Involving Sherlock will yield a swifter resolution, as I'm sure you're aware. And I think some fresh air will do him a world of good."

Great. Just great. Lestrade should have seen this coming. With Moriarty and John dead and no new cases to occupy him, of course Sherlock would get himself into trouble.

Lestrade wondered if the consulting detective already had drugs swimming around in his bloodstream, but realized that no, no, Mycroft was calling him to prevent that from happening - not to arrest him.

Which meant he also had to get over to Baker St sooner rather than later, as Mycroft would have called him as a nearly-last resort.

So, Lestrade had gone to collect Sherlock Holmes.

When Lestrade began walking up the familiar stairs at 221B Baker St, he heard something that gave him pause.

It was Sherlock's voice, and it said: "Let's go, John."

'John who?' Lestrade had time to wonder, and then the consulting detective himself was standing before him.

Sherlock still looked awful. There were raw bits of healing skin showing on his arms and jaw and the stitches on his eyebrow looked gruesome without the bandage to hide them.

Sherlock was using Watson's cane, and Lestrade remembered the damage that had happened to Sherlock's leg in the explosion.

It didn't seem to be slowing him down overmuch, though. He paused at the top of the stairs to put on his coat and scarf (it made him look very much like himself), and then gave Lestrade an impatient, inquisitive look.

Lestrade looked past him, wondering whom Sherlock had been talking to. When no one else appeared, Lestrade frowned. The idea occurred to him that perhaps Sherlock had, morbidly, named his cane 'John.'

Lestrade decided not to think about it.

"Got a murder. Male, twenty-four, signs of a struggle. Interested?"

"I think I can clear my schedule," Sherlock said, and then tossed a playful "Are you coming?" over his shoulder as he walked past Lestrade to the car waiting outside.





The ride over had been a short and quiet one. Lestrade filled Sherlock in on the basics and Sherlock had 'hmm'ed noncommittally.

"Well, of course," Sherlock said apropos of nothing after they'd been silent for a few minutes.

Lestrade lifted an eyebrow at him, but Sherlock didn't elaborate.





The first concrete sign Lestrade had gotten that something was very, very wrong had been when they'd walked up to the crime scene and Sherlock Holmes had held the police tape up for.. no one at all. He dropped the tape and held his hand hovering out from his body for a moment before lifting it, and settling it back to his side. The perfect pantomime of putting a hand on an invisible companion's elbow to assist said companion up over the unusually tall front stoop.

"Mind that," Sherlock said, addressing the thin air as he finished the gesture and resumed walking into the house.

Lestrade felt the hairs at the back of his neck rise.

He must have misunderstood that, he absolutely must have misunderstood that, because otherwise...

"Hello, Freak." Donovan said. She shifted her eyes from Sherlock to Lestrade, and the question 'did I see that?' was written clearly across her face. Lestrade averted his eyes, thinking furiously.

"Sally," Sherlock returned, taking no more offense to his title this time than he had the last hundred times Donovan had called him that. Sherlock's mind was already on the case. The game, as the man would say, was on.

Lestrade felt something dark and unpleasant and shameful uncurl inside himself as he watched Sherlock survey the room.

Because Lestrade understood. He knew it. It made him feel cold and ill, but as Sherlock rattled off the cause of death with a glib little "I love the smell of acetone in the morning," Lestrade knew that a broken Sherlock was still a useful one. A chipped knife that wasn't any less sharp for being flawed.

It wasn't going to stop Lestrade from using him.

Tap, tap went the cane around the room as Sherlock worked, and it was all Lestrade could do not to flinch.

"John, what do you make of this?" Sherlock said, tipping his head toward his ghost.

Did Mycroft know about this? It seemed impossible that he wouldn't. What if he didn't? Should Lestrade be the one to tell him? Mycroft didn't strike him as the type to kill messengers, but...

Sherlock scoffed at whatever it was he'd imagined John had said.

Anderson was looking fixedly at Lestrade. A very 'what are you going to do about this?' look. A very 'I told you he was a nutter' look.

"Being crazy's never stopped him from helping us in the past," Lestrade said.

He felt like an absolute bastard for saying it.

"He's not crazy; he's just wrong." Shelock said, addressing whatever piece of conversation had happened in his head.

Lestrade felt like even more of a bastard when Sherlock rattled off one of his rapid-fire bits of deduction. Still a sharp knife, Lestrade thought, and tried not to hate himself for thinking it.





The Detective Inspector had, perversely, hoped that something would go wrong.

Practicality got in the way of being good sometimes but he was, ultimately, a good man. And so it bothered him, what he was doing. It made him feel guilty and conflicted.

Not enough to stop using Sherlock. No, not enough for that, but enough to hope that Sherlock would slip and Lestrade could remove him from the case for a practical reason.

Of course, that didn't happen.

They'd found the killer and found the second body exactly where Sherlock had predicted. The arrest was made, the body and evidence collected. Another case closed.

Lestrade took the cigarette case from his pocket in which he (quite appropriately, he felt) kept his nicotine patches. He put one on and turned to offer one to Sherlock, only to find that the man was no longer standing next to him.

Sherlock, as was his habit once the mystery was solved, was walking away and leaving the police to do the tedious bits. Lestrade watched as his tall figure paused to laugh at something nobody had said. Holmes walked to the end of the street and hailed a cab.

As he closed the cab door, Lestrade sighed.

It was a very deep and passionate sigh.

He took out his phone and made a call.

"I know," Said Mycroft on the other end before Lestrade had so much as said 'hello.'

The call disconnected.

Lestrade stared at his phone for a moment after he clicked the cover closed. He wondered if he'd done the right thing.

Well. In fairness, he hadn't really done anything. Hadn't said a single word.

And he wondered what 'I know' meant, exactly. 'I know and I'm handling it?' 'I know and it's fine?' 'I know, but I've got garden snakes to take care of that teddy bear problem?'


It made a man really stop to reevaluate his life when turning around to deal with a murder victim was the better alternative to thinking about a phone call.





An hour and a half later, Lestrade was back in the precinct typing up his preliminary report. His eyes flicked up as a beautiful young woman approached his desk.

Her name was not Anthea, but it was still better than calling her That Chick Who Works for Mycroft Holmes in Some Unknown But Doubtless Unnerving Capacity.

"I'd like for you to come with me," She said, smiling an neutural, professional smile.


Lestrade didn't even try to get out of it, just saved and closed his progress and shut down his computer. No way to know how long this was going to take.

Anthea nodded to Lestrade's superior officer.

"I'm just going to borrow him for a bit," She said, and wrinkled her nose coquettishly.

It annoyed Lestrade because it made him momentarily forget the plethora of good reasons he had for never, ever asking her out - the very least of which being that she could have him transferred to Alabama at a moment's notice.

Still. She was very pretty.

There was a sleek little silver car waiting for them outside, and she climbed into one seat without even looking to make sure that Lestrade was following her.

She had her phone in her hands and was typing something when Lestrade settled in next to her. No doubt she was telling Mycroft that they were en-route.

"You're looking lovely, Anthea," Lestrade said when she seemed to finish typing.

"I'm not going to go out with you." She said without looking up from her phone.

"I know," Lestrade said, blushing unexpectadly, "I was just saying-"

"Alabama," She told him firmly, and started typing something else.

Lestrade sighed.

The ride passed in awkward silence. Well, it was awkward for Lestrade –Anthea didn't seem to notice or care about the silence, busy as she was tapping away on her phone.

Lestrade felt his heart sink some twenty minutes later when they pulled into their evident destination. It was a mental hospital.

The car glided to a stop at the front entrance and Anthea exited. Lestrade followed her.

She nodded to the guards at the door and Lestrade recognized them vaguely, having seen them in previous dealings with Mycroft.

Anthea walked unhesitantly down the long corridor of the hospital, turning near the end and gesturing Lestrade into an observation room. She closed the door behind him, standing on the other side.

Mycroft Holmes was standing inside, watching a large monitor mounted what had to be a guard's desk. He was holding his umbrella like a cane.

On the screen, Sherlock sat with his back against the padded wall, his long legs crossed loosly in front of him and his head bowed over his restrained arms so that his curly black hair covered his eyes. He looked thin and pale and disgruntled. There was a thin line of blood on his chin under what looked like a split lip, and there was a suggestive little dark spot on the floor in front of him. Sherlock's bare foot was tapping restlessly against the cushioned floor and as Lestrade watched, Sherlock's shoulders twitched and shifted as he tugged at the straight jacket.

In short, the consulting detective was doing a very good job of looking like a crazy person.

"Damnit Mycroft, let me out of here!" Snapped Sherlock, looking directly up at the camera. His voice was tinny over the hospital's speakers, but the annoyed frustration was perfectly clear all the same. His eyes blazed, all angry contracted pupils in remarkably pale irises.

Mycroft glanced over at Lestrade.

"Right on time," The man said smoothly, and it left Lestrade wondering if Mycroft had been talking about his own arrival or his brother's exclamation.

"Please, detective inspector, have a seat," Mycroft said, settling down into one of the chairs, crossing his hands over the handle of his umbrella.

This was surreal, Lestrade thought, sitting down. Mycroft sat across from him. The monitor was beside them.

"I would like for you to please give me your impression of my brother's mental state as he assisted in your case this afternoon." Mycroft said plesantly.

Lestrade's eyes flicked to the screen as, his outburst having garnered no response, Sherlock huffed and lifted one foot scratch his eyebrow. Lestrade sort of marveled at his flexibility.

It was tactful of Mycroft to say 'assisted.' The both knew Sherlock tended to grab cases with both hands and hoard them until he'd solved them.

"He's..." Lestrade started, then stopped. How to say this?

He cleared his throat.

"Sherlock was as brilliant as always. When he arrived at the scene it took him all of five seconds to determine that the cause of death was improperly made chloroform. He figured out who our assailant was, figured out that there was a second body. He deduced the car's location from the victim's screensaver." Lestrade gave a humorless little smile. "You know what he does. He was just as much of a genuis today."

Mycroft looked down at his hands and brushed an imaginary piece of lint from his cuff.

"But...?" Mycroft prompted, raising his eyebrows but not his eyes.

Lestrade glanced at the monitor to avoid looking at Mycroft, and realized that looking at Sherlock was worse. He turned his head to the other side.

"But he seemed to think that the late Doctor John Watson was accompanying him. On several occasions he would address things that no one had said to him or interact physically with things – with a person," Lestrade corrected himself, because really, what was the point of dancing around this? "Who wasn't there."

Lestrade paused, then added.

"I watched him closely today. You must know that I'd have pulled him off of the case if I thought he was..." Lestrade didn't finish the sentence. He shook his head. "It didn't even slow him down. This... granted, abnormal way that your brother is dealing with his... grief..." Lestrade cleared his throat. "Mycroft, it didn't even slow him down."

Both men were quiet for a moment, and then Sherlock, as if on queue, underscored Lestrade's point by saying:

"Simplicity itself. You're still obviously bothered by recent events – and running around town with me, while initially distracting, also reminded you of what you'd just survived per your association with me. You're not quite willing to talk about it yet, but you would want to seek out comfort – so, Sarah or your sister..."

Both Mycroft and Lestrade watched as Sherlock rattled off his stream of logic. When he ended with: "You could conceivably convince her that you're fine, and spend the evening talking about… television or recipes or Clara or whatever it is that siblings who don't have insane relationships with each other talk about."

This last made both men let out a surprised little laugh.

On screen, Sherlock (Lestrate swore to God) pouted and slumped into an even less dignified sprawl.

Mycroft regarded the image of his brother.

"When our father died, mummy hired a grief counsoler for Sherlock. After fifteen minutes with my brother, she got so angry she fled the house. Actually fled. Sherlock was six at the time. It was really quite remarkable." Mycroft smiled fondly. "But, since he never showed any problems coping with day to day life, never acted out about it, our mother didn't try again."

Lestrade was intrigued by the anecdote – honestly, picturing Sherlock Holmes as a child was bloody amusing even in these somber circumstances – but he wondered where Mycroft was going with this.

It seemed Mycroft was wondering as well.

"I made him go to a therapist after the second time I caught him... overindulging." Mycroft looked down at his hands. Lestrade replaced 'overindulging' with 'high out of his mind on narcotics.' "When I checked up on his file, I'd found that he'd convinced the woman that he had a dissasociative identity disorder. And that he was narcoleptic." Mycroft met Lestrade's eyes for a moment and the men shared a look of amused exasperation.

"I'm asking you what you think not because you're qualified to assess my brother's mental state. Rather, it's because I don't believe anyone is capable of assessing my brother's mental state. He simply won't let them. The best I can do is get a second opinion from someone else who knows him."

"I wouldn't really say that I know him," Lestrade protested. "I've worked with him for years, but your brother doesn't really let people get close to him." He said this gently. "John was the first person I ever saw him show any attachment to."

"Yes." Mycroft agreed. "That's rather the heart of the problem, isn't it?"

On screen, Sherlock sighed and darkly said, "Honestly, Mycroft, you know you can't keep me here. My brain will rot and then what good would I be to you, hmm? I have been informed that I'm skinny enough to be a hat-stand but I assure you I won't cooperate."

Lestrade gave up biting his tongue and said, "He's got a point, you know."

"Yes," Mycroft drawled, "He'd make a terrible hat-stand."

Lestrade didn't laugh. Mycroft's eyes were doing rapid flicking movement he'd come to recognize on Sherlock when the man was making sure his conclusion matched his data.





Two hours and nineteen minutes after Sherlock had been committed, Mycroft Holmes reentered his cozy little cell.

Sherlock glowered at him.

"Hiding it in the wall was very clever, Sherlock." Mycroft said.

Sherlock's eyes widened, then narrowed.

"I hate you. I absolutely hate you."

Mycroft pursed his lips and looked innocently at the space above and to the side of Sherlock's head.

"At least tell me John wasn't there when you ransacked our home." Sherlock demanded. Mycroft wondered if Sherlock realized how telling that statement was.

"Ransacked? Really, Sherlock. You should know me better than that. And no," Mycroft continued when it looked as though Sherlock would protest, "He wasn't there."

Sherlock continued to glare balefully at him for a minute. Mycroft said nothing, clearly waiting for Sherlock.

Then, "Fine. I won't buy more. For at least three months."

"One year." Mycroft said.

"Three months." Sherlock countered.

"One year, or I'll leave you in here for another two hours. And I'll turn the radio on to pop music."

Sherlock's nostrils flared.

Mycroft turned to leave.

"Fine!" And then said with exaggerated patience; "I won't buy more illegal, recreation drugs for at least twelve months."

Mycroft considered this.

"Buy or acquire." He said.

"Dammit, Mycroft." Sherlock hissed. "Fine. Deal." He said.

"Deal." Mycroft nodded.

Sherlock shoved his torso into the wall abruptly, and Mycroft winced as he heard his brother's shoulder pop.

"Really, Sherlock," Mycroft began in a long-suffering tone. Sherlock ignored him and in a matter of seconds had flopped his way out of the straight jacket.

Mycroft winced again when his brother rammed his shoulder back into place.

"Oh for God's sake."

"Why did you say John was dead?" Sherlock said, not acknowledging his masochistic little show of power at all.

Mycroft's eyes narrowed just slightly – contemplative and trying not to look contemplative.

"Why do you think?" He finally said.

Sherlock gave a disgusted little breath of a noise. "Judging by the heel of your right hand and the tilt of your tie, I'd say your job is putting you under unusual scrutiny. Which means, by extension, I am under unusual scrutiny. While I realize it'd be too much to get a 'thank you' from you for ultimately stopping a very dangerous terrorist, the unorthodoxy," Sherlock's mouth twisted around the word as though he hated the taste of it, "Of my methods is, as you have mentioned, frowned upon."

"'Unorthodoxy of your methods,'" Mycroft repeated, incredulous. "Sherlock, you arranged a secret meeting with an insane bomber. Which you went into alone."

Sherlock examined his fingernails, ignoring his brother.

He glanced up abruptly, though, gray eyes sharpening on Mycroft's face. "Why now, though? Why do this now?" He said, gesturing around to encompass the padded room.

Mycroft turned the handle of his umbrella in his hands.

"As I said, you didn't seem to be recovering well from the events at the pool."

Sherlock paused, then scoffed derisively.

"The elephant in my head. Oh really, Mycroft, did you actually think I was going to go into a fit of self-indulgent grief over a man like Moriarty?"

Mycroft said nothing, merely handing Sherlock his socks and shoes.





The woman whose name was not Anthea rode with Sherlock back to Baker St.

"Until next time, Melissa," Sherlock said cheerfully as he exited. He could feel the heat of her glare on his back and it nearly made him laugh. She would give Mycroft hell, he knew. Finding out her identity had taken Sherlock hours, and it hadn't involved Mycroft at all. She would still blame him.

It had been time well spent.

He walked into 221B Baker St and had to acknowledge that yes, Mycroft's men had been meticulous. The signs that the house had been searched were tiny, and Sherlock knew that John wouldn't notice them.

Speaking of.

"Hi you," John said from his armchair, looking up from the book he was reading. "How was your visit with your brother?"

"Oh, I imagine it went just as well as the one you had with your sister," Sherlock said, smiling inwardly. He loved it when John set up convenient little segues to show off his deductions.

"How did you know I was visiting my sister?" John asked, ever the straight-man, his eyes wide in that amused and amazed look Sherlock had come to crave.

"Simplicity itself," Sherlock began, and John smiled.








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