"Sherlock, I'm doing laundry."

"Mmm," the detective replied, never looking away from his laptop, where he was engaged, no doubt, in a battle of wits with the Tetris program John had downloaded for him a week ago. "Goddamn square."

"That means that if you have anything you'd like me to wash, you have to give it to me."

"I'm busy. Can't you find my laundry for me?"

"Sherlock, I'm not going to strip you naked and find your clothes for you because you can't pull yourself away from your fiftieth game of Tetris today." John sighed deeply, recognizing that Sherlock wasn't going to budge, and going to the door, where the detective kept his outerwear. "At least let me clean this scarf. It's probably black with grime from now."

Suddenly his flatmate shut the game off and jerked upward, locking his steely glare onto the shorter man. "You do not lay a finger on that scarf or you'll lose all of your digits, do you understand me?"

Stunned into brief silence, John simply swallowed, nodded, and quickly gathered up the laundry basket, going downstairs and out the door without a word.

Sherlock sat back, clicking the laptop shut, and closed his eyes, remembering the first time he'd lain eyes on the scarf that had been his protection, his security object, since he got it five years ago.

Mycroft had taken him to Morocco to get clean from drugs. Why Morocco, he would never be sure: maybe it was a place so alien to each of them that they could find their way back to themselves with no reminder of the ugly things they had become through Sherlock's long battle with heroin. When Sherlock had awoken, weary and weak from yet another overdose, and had looked out the window at the foreign angle of the sun, he had known immediately that this was it: Mycroft had taken over, and he would never be alone with a needle and the London sky ever again. He'd screwed up for the last time. He wondered briefly if he'd been sent into exile in some faraway land, never to return to England, and that he would spend the rest of his life mute in a place where the language would always sound like distant music to him.

Then the door opened with a quiet click and an even quieter closure. He recognized the pattern of footsteps as his brother's – even addled with drugs, he would always know that sound – and he immediately perked up, even if he hated himself for it. His brother symbolized protection, no matter how much he resented that fact. Mycroft would not abandon him.

The man in question came to stand by Sherlock's bedside, a tight smile on his face. "You're awake."


"I was out at the marketplace. I brought you a . . . get better gift. To remind you, always, not to ever come back here." The older brother held out his hand, showing a small, slinky scarf of dark and darker blue, the ink thick from the hand-made dyeing process. "Not to get this bad again. It'll keep you warm during the winter; I know how cold you get. And it'll remind you that I do care about you, even if I show that by locking you up in some North African hospital until all the poison you nearly killed yourself with is out of your system."

Sherlock solemnly took the scarf with shaking hands, and wound it carefully around his neck. The fabric felt like an embrace, a soft knit-work hand lending him reassurance through its weight. He managed a weak smile and looked up to the care-worn, exhausted face of the man who always loved him, even when he fought back with hatred.

"Thank you, Mycroft," he said softly, in a cracked and damaged voice. The man merely nodded, and said what he always had, what he always would, no matter what Sherlock did to hurt him:

"Anything for you."