Hey guys. Again, sorry for being such a slow writer. However, this is a rather big chapter, so I hope that goes some way to appeazing you :)
Thank you all for the lovely reviews and for everyone who wished me well after the hospital situation, thank you so much, I really am quite touched by all your concern. I am fine now :) Down a Gall Bladder but otherwise completely unharmed. Thank you regardless.
Anyway, I hope you guys like this chapter and thank you so much for reading (and waiting. My god, sorry against about the waiting).
Truth be told, Mycroft hadn't really expected to enjoy working at Angelo's restaurant all that much. That is to say, he hadn't thought that he would look back on the experience in years to come with any real fondness, as he had never before considered the food industry as a potential career path ('astonishingly' Sherlock would say).
And yet in spite of that, it would later stand out as perhaps one of the happiest periods of his life, and certainly the best five weeks of his and Sherlock's homeless stint.
Of course, it certainly wasn't easy. The job itself was demanding. Everything had to be done as quickly as possible, as well as possible and as the pressure built throughout the night, tempers had been known to flare.
And on top of that, there was Angelo, who was always pushing them, both of them, to work harder than everybody else, to do more, do it better, do it faster and do it gladly.
He made them work hard for their keep.
Most in their position would probably consider such behaviour as unabashed exploitation. Not Mycroft though.
He understood their employer's true intentions, and he truly appreciated it. If anyone needed to understand the importance of hard work and perseverance, it was his brother, and Mycroft was neither foolish nor arrogant enough to consider himself beyond a reminder as well.
They worked the dinner shifts, every night of the week, Mycroft in the kitchens under the watchful eye of the very Italian Head Chef - Luca Paparelli (who had an unfortunate habit of wrapping people's knuckles with a wooden spoon when they were about to do something wrong) and Sherlock out on the floor, acting as a little shadow for Billy, the unofficial head-waiter, spouting the odd Italian endearment and weathering the cooing and cheek-pinching of overly affectionate patrons like a champ ('astonishingly' Mycroft did say).
They closed up around 11 every night, cleaned up until a little past midnight, and everyone who chose to hang around for it, got whatever food was left over. A free meal and an extra half hour in the warmth of the kitchens, they were hardly going to turn an opportunity like that down.
It was a massive step in the right direction so far as Mycroft was concerned, far greater an improvement than either he or Sherlock could have ever hoped for after playing the part of fate's play things for such a long time. He honestly couldn't think how matters could possibly get any better for them.
So when, after little more than a week working for him, Angelo pulled them both aside as everyone was making their way home, to have 'a nice, quiet chat' he did not think for a moment that anything good would come of it.
In fact, as their boss ordered them to sit down on the sofa as he dragged a chair over for himself, his stomach was so knotted he was beginning to feel physically ill.
Angelo's sighed, "I'm not sure I feel too comfortable with this boys," confirmed his fears.
But as ever, you couldn't tell by looking at him. 'Never let them see you on the ropes,' their father used to say, 'That's when they go in for the knock out'.
So rather than beg and plead like he felt he really ought to, Mycroft heeded to his father's advice and merely cleared his throat, steepled his fingers and arched his brow in a practiced display of calm interest, before asking, "Not comfortable with what sir?"
"Mike, stop calling me sir," Angelo sighed. "How many times do I have to tell you?"
"Apologies. Habit," he murmured with a tight smile, tilting his head ever so slightly to the side as an indication that his question still stood.
Angelo ran a hand through his thinning hair. A nervous tick. Not good.
"I don't like the idea of you two wandering about the streets this time of night. It's not a nice area. Where do you even go?"
Mycroft could feel his composure beginning to waver in the midst of his distress. That's what happens when one goes so long without practice he supposed. Regardless, the mask, though in place, was quickly beginning to fall, he needed to settle this fast.
"We stay with our Grandmother sir- sorry, Angelo. She has an apartment not far from here," he replied, his tone was bland with just a hint suspicion mixed in, the former to convince him it was true, the latter to discourage the continuation of the conversation.
And yet Angelo remained unconvinced.
"I don't believe ya," he gruffly replied, arms folded over his broad chest.
Mycroft frowned. Perhaps a little earnestness would convince him.
"It's quite true," he said, ensuring his eyes were properly wide and guileless.
It did no good.
"Well I'll walk you there then," Angelo announced, clapping his hands together as he stood and grabbed his coat off the back of his chair. "Come on."
Mycroft's heart felt like it was trying to break free from the confines of his ribcage, it was thudding that hard. What were they supposed to do? Lead the way to some random apartment building perhaps. But what if he insisted on walking them to the door? Too many variables.
He can't change the story now. What would he change it to anyway? The camping one would hardly work.
Angelo cleared his throat and Mycroft realised with a sinking dread that neither he nor Sherlock had moved.
"Would you two like to tell me the truth now?" he asked, sitting back down.
Mycroft cleared his throat again, resisting the urge to shift or fidget in his discomfort.
Well they had no hope selling a story now. He'd try evasive honesty.
"I assure you, we are perfectly fine," he said, holding Angelo's gaze. "Our living situation may be somewhat... tumultuous, I grant you, but completely under control regardless. There's no need to worry."
Angelo sighed, shaking his head.
Mycroft could feel himself beginning to panic. He wasn't going to let this go.
He leant forward, resting his arms on his knees and fixing them both with a firm gaze Mycroft found himself struggling to hold more and more with each passing second.
"Now you two be honest with me right now, or you'll be out on your ears before you know it," he said, deathly serious.
Mycroft gulped. Sherlock nodded.
"Do you have anywhere to sleep tonight?"
Mycroft went to spin yet another tale, but hesitated... again. Nothing was coming to mind and he'd already pulled out all the stops for his earlier charade, Angelo had still seen through it. Then, just to really top it off, in his panic he did something unforgivably stupid... he gave into what was quickly become a nervous tick of his and glanced down at Sherlock, who was sitting rigidly (and tellingly silent) beside him.
And that was all the answer Angelo needed.
"Boys," he groaned, rubbing tiredly at his face.
"What are you going to do?" Mycroft quietly asked, swallowing thickly (though whether it was due to emotion or nausea he was not sure). It was all over now, surely.
"What can I do?" Angelo murmured, his voice muffled by his hands.
Mycroft blindly reached for Sherlock's hand, squeezing it once he found it, a silent warning that they might have to run very soon.
"We'll leave," he beseechingly replied. "Now. Please, just don't call Social Services... or at least give us a head start."
Angelo glanced up at them.
"Don't you think a life in care would be better than one on the streets?" he asked.
This time, Mycroft didn't hesitate for a moment.
"They'd split us up," he answered with great conviction.
"You don't know that."
"I'm as good as certain," he replied. "I've done the research. It's common practice. Foster parents tend to dislike taking in siblings, too much history. They feel left out. It's their family, why take on that burden when you needn't? There's also a large age gap between us, which makes separation more likely. And, of course, we have... difficult personalities, which usually results in lots of moving throughout the system so far as I can see, so once again, an increased risk of separation. No, I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't wager against it."
Pinching the bridge of his nose and squeezing his eyes shut, Angelo nodded his reluctant agreement.
"Nor would I," he conceded.
"At least this way we can keep an eye out for each other," Mycroft said.
"I assume returning home is not an option?" Angelo asked.
"Absolutely not!" snapped Sherlock, crossing his arms tight over his chest.
Mycroft smiled apologetically.
"Afraid not," he said. "I doubt things have gotten any better since we left."
"And it was a good reason was it?" Angelo asked. "For leaving."
"The situation was becoming... volatile, to say the least."
Angelo glanced at Sherlock, who was too busy scowling down at the fraying tear on the arm of the sofa to notice.
Mycroft nervously cleared his throat once again.
"I understand this puts you in a difficult position," he said.
"Bloody right it does," Angelo grumbled.
And that was that then.
Best get out whilst Mycroft's argument against foster care was still fresh in his mind.
"We'll leave now then, if you don't mind," he sighed, nudging Sherlock to stand up. He offered his hand and a small smile, it wouldn't do to be impolite. "Thank you for the opportunity si- Angelo... I'm sorry it didn't work out."
Mycroft had expected that to be the end of it, a firm shake, perhaps or regretful reply if they were lucky, and then a quick escape before anybody changed their minds.
And yet Angelo continued to carry on regardless of all of Mycroft's expectation, choosing instead to do the exact opposite.
"Oh sit down for goodness sake," he gruffly replied, waving his hand irritably at them.
"I'm sorry?" Mycroft asked, a crease appearing between his knitted brows as he attempted to determine whether he'd heard right.
"I said sit down," Angelo snapped (apparently he had.). "I'm not gonna turn you in and I'm certainly not going to turn you out. I figured when I hired you that you two fellas were doing it rough. I'd just hoped I was wrong about how rough."
And there it was, a tiny little light at the end of the tunnel, so small it was hardly in view but there regardless.
Mycroft and Sherlock exchanged apprehensive glances, before settling back down on the edge of the sofa (Sherlock's hands still clutched tightly in Mycroft's).
Ordinarily he wouldn't take the risk. He'd grab Sherlock and they would leave before things went sour (as they so often did) and hope for the best. But this time... perhaps, it was worth the risk... maybe, they might still get out of this with their jobs.
"Well what are you going to do?" Sherlock asked.
"I don't know," Angelo grumbled, "I can't have you going off wandering the streets."
"It's fine," Mycroft insisted. "We're really careful."
"I'm sure you are lad," Angelo replied, "But I still can't, in good conscious, let you go off like that. You're good kids. I don't want nothing bad to happen to you. You understand?"
Mycroft warily nodded.
"Don't bloody know what to do with you though," Angelo sighed.
Mycroft bristled a bit at that, in spite of his efforts to remain level-headed. He appreciated the concern, of course, but they didn't need someone to just butt in and 'do something' with them, thank you very much.
This time Angelo didn't take any notice. Typical really.
"No room up in my loft," he carried on. "Trust me. And it's not like you can't stay down here-"
"Why not?" Sherlock asked, deftly ignoring Mycroft's hissed instructions for him to hush.
"Well there's no beds," Angelo replied.
"We don't need beds," Sherlock piped. "We can sleep here. The sofas would be fine. Oh... we wouldn't break anything, promise."
"I apologise for him," Mycroft hurriedly said.
"Brother-Mine... be quiet," he hissed, before turning back to Angelo. "We completely understand why that would be utterly out of the question."
Angelo tapped thoughtfully at his chin.
"Why would it be out of the question though?" he murmured, a sly smile slowly spreading across his wide face.
"Sleeping down here," he replied. "It's not perfect. The sofas are rubbish and the fellas start turning up around nine. If you can sleep through the racket they make, you're far better men than me. But it would be safe, you should get a full night's rest, you'd never be late to work..."
"You're serious?" Mycroft asked, glancing down disbelievingly at his brother, who merely smirked back in reply.
"Why not?" Angelo asked.
"Yeah My," Sherlock jeered, sharing a conspiratorial grin with their employer. "Why not?"
"I- it's your restaurant!"
"What, the crew room not good enough for you?" Angelo chuckled.
"Don't be such a snob My-"
"That's not what I meant and you know it," Mycroft snapped. "What if we broke something?"
"I already said we wouldn't," Sherlock grumbled.
"Brother-Mine, you're a human wrecking ball," Mycroft retorted.
"I've got insurance," Angelo replied with a shrug.
"What would the others say if they found out?"
"Mike lad," Angelo chuckled, "Luca has made it very clear that he would be having this conversation with you if I didn't. Billy and all the others backed him up. They're just as worried about you as I am. They would be relieved."
Well that was... unexpected.
Mycroft swallowed thickly, head spinning slightly at the thought of so many people caring about their well-being after so long of having no one giving a damn about it. It didn't make sense. None of this was making any sense at all.
"Kid?" Angelo murmured, a concerned frown creasing his brow.
"Why?" Mycroft uttered.
"I told you already, it's not a nice part of town for two kids in the wee hours-"
"No- I mean, why help us at all?" Mycroft asked, glancing up. "Why care? Surely it's more trouble than we're worth."
"Gift horses My," Sherlock murmured warningly.
"As far as those go Brother Dear, you and I are positively Trojan," Mycroft retorted, before turning back to a bemused Angelo. "I'm sorry. I don't want to seem ungrateful, because truly, I am, but... it just doesn't- I don't understand."
"You're good kids," he replied, more than a little tiredly. "And Christ, you are still kids Mike. We're decent folk, and a lot of us have had it pretty tough growing up too. We just want to do what we can."
Mycroft frowned. Angelo seemed, for all the indicators he could spot, completely genuine. But still...
"Come on My-" Sherlock pleaded.
"I don't know," Mycroft murmured, glancing uneasily from his brother to his employer. "I- it's nothing personal... it's just" he sighed, "This is very new-"
"Having somewhere to stay?" Angelo asked.
"Having someone care," Sherlock replied before Mycroft could (or had to).
Angelo heaved a deep, long sigh.
"I know lad," he murmured regretfully. "I know."
Mycroft finally gave up all pretence of control (it wasn't doing him any good any way) and fidgeted uncomfortably with the hem of his shirt as the pregnant silence lingered on.
This was all happening too fast for his liking.
First they got a job, which is brilliant. And on top of that the job itself was great, and they got free food, and now they were being offered a place to stay and... it was just all too good to be true, or at the very least, too good to last.
It would come back to bite them in the end, he just knew it.
"Can we not just... pretend you didn't know?" he asked. "Let's just say that you believed me when I said we were staying with our Grandmother. Couldn't we just- things have been working fine the way they are haven't they?"
"That's not the point Mike," Angelo sighed. "Don't you understand how dangerous it is out there?"
If his pride had been stinging earlier, it was well and truly beginning to bruise know.
His eyes narrowed as, in spite of his best efforts, his hackles began to rise at the question, or rather, the accusation.
What was that supposed to mean exactly? 'Don't you understand?' He was not some naive child that needed to be taken in hand. He knew full well the danger he routinely put his brother and himself in, it kept him awake at night more often than not.
But he also knew the danger he'd be putting them in if he allowed them to just go and shack up with anybody who offered a room or a bed or a sofa without really being sure about it. He'd allowed them to sink as low as homelessness - he was not going to risk their situation worsening further still.
But he didn't say any of this of course.
Instead he merely grumbled an unimpressed, "Yes, of course I do."
Unfortunately, the unconvinced twitch of Angelo's brow and the muttered, "I don't think you do?" did nothing to cool his flaring temper in.
"Of course I understand," he growled, before he could think better of it, his teeth and fists clenched. "We have been living like this for almost half a year for god's sake!"
"And what dangers have you actually encountered?" Angelo asked him, infuriatingly calm.
Mycroft huffed an angry scoff, only to find that he had no answer for him.
Angelo's left brow inched higher.
"Have you been assaulted?" he asked, "Mugged?"
"No," Mycroft resentfully replied.
"Has anyone come at you with a knife? A gun? Drugs? Any of that?"
"No," Mycroft muttered again.
"Anything like that?"
And after a long moment of mutinous silence, Mycroft was forced to grumble a shame-faced, "...Nothing like that," his pride beaten all the more with every syllable.
"Then believe me boy, you do not understand anything," Angelo gravely announced. "You've both been so lucky - but everyone's luck runs out eventually."
"Why are you doing this?" Mycroft cried, all semblance of his fraying sense of self-control shattering as he leaped to his feet. "Do you want me to be scared about what's out there? Well I assure you, you needn't bother. I'm not a child Angelo and I am certainly not an idiot! I know what could happen! I worry about it constantly! Don't you understand? I am trying to keep us safe! That's all I'm trying to do! I'm doing the best I can!"
For a long moment, Angelo didn't say anything. He just sat there, silent in his chair, gazing tiredly up at him, Mycroft, standing there with his fists clenched and chest heaving, a hair's breadth away from stamping his foot with frustration, every inch the child that he'd been so insulted about being considered.
He groaned, flopping back down onto the sofa and covering his rapidly reddening face with his hands. This is why one shouldn't allow their emotions to get the better of them, in the end you wind up looking like an utter arse.
A heavy hand rested gently on his shoulder, and Mycroft, in spite of himself, glanced up.
Angelo gave him a small, sad smile.
"Nobody said you weren't son," he murmured. "And nobody's calling you an idiot. If you were one, there wouldn't be much point even bothering with this conversation. But you are a child, and you need help. Only fools turn down help when it's needed."
Mycroft ducked his head.
"Come on boy," he sighed, giving Mycroft's shoulder a gentle, reassuring squeeze. "Let us help you."
"Come on My," Sherlock murmured, giving his shoulder a light shove. "It will be fine. He's not lying, I can tell."
With a soft scoff, Mycroft lifted his head high enough to peek over at his brother.
"Can you really?" he murmured.
"Absolutely," Sherlock replied with a confident nod.
Mycroft sighed and squeezed his eyes shut. He had a horrible feeling that this was all going to end in tears, if not tomorrow, then sometime in the future. But Angelo was right, they did need help and even if it was just for a few days, a roof over their heads would be nice.
"Alright," he finally murmured, sitting up straight and glancing tiredly from his brother to Angelo. "If you're sure about this-"
"Well then, we appreciate it, thank you."
So they stayed for the night. And then when they woke up the next morning to find that Social Services were not in fact banging down the crew room door, they decided to spend the next as well. It became a habit. Before long, they were practically living at the restaurant. And if some of the staff brought the odd blanket or pillow to work for one reason or another, and promptly forgot to take it back home again, nobody commented on it.
For the first time in months they got to sleep for a full eight hours a night (at least), and after a hard night's work, they slept soundly.
They woke when the Lunch staff turned up in the morning (making more noise than a herd of buffalo). They packed everything away, washed in the locker room, worked on their course-work before heading out for lunch (an actual, proper lunch... for two! Having money was something neither of them were going take for granted again).
For a little under a month, everything was brilliant. They were more or less financially sound, had food and shelter and were surrounded by people who did not merely tolerate their presence, but welcomed it, embraced it even.
Sure, their living arrangements weren't exactly ideal (they couldn't keep sleeping on the sofas forever after all) and they were going to have to work something out, whether it was asking Angelo for his help getting a lease on a flat (doing so on one's own at 16 without guardian involvement was turning out to be impossible) or moving in and sharing one with Billy or Paola like they had offered; but they were finally in a position where an actual long term solution was in grasp.
Which was probably why it hurt so much, after taking such a massive leap forward towards their moving on with their lives, to be knocked all the way back to square one.
The trouble started almost exactly four weeks into their run at Angelo's. They'd been preparing for dinner for about an hour and the first few reservations were just beginning to walk through the door. Angelo was out on the floor with Billy and Sherlock, greeting them and taking orders. Luca was in full form, barking instructions like a general would to his troops (his wooden spoon, as ever, in hand) expecting utter perfection and nothing less. Generally, things didn't seem to be all that out of the ordinary.
"Watch it does not burn Michele!" Luca barked, punctuating each word with a sharp wrap around Mycroft's already bright red knuckles. "You must never burn risotto."
"It's not burning," Mycroft argued.
"It's not now, certainly," Luca smugly retorted.
Mycroft rolled his eyes, only to yelp when his knuckles once again made swiff acquaintance with the back of Luca's spoon.
"Would you stop doing that?" he grumbled, gingerly rubbing the sore skin.
"Oh stop your whining," Luca replied. "This was how I learned everything I know today. It's going to make you tough."
"It's going to make the backs of my hands tough, that's what it's going to do," Mycroft muttered, tugging said hands away just in time to avoid another whack.
"No respect, that's the problem with the youth of today," Luca sighed, lumbering away with one last forlorn shake of the head.
"Christmas is in the air," he called as he began walking circuits around the kitchen, taking a deep breath to further illustrate his point.
"It's 26th October," Billy scoffed, before darting out with some plates.
"Nonetheless!" Luca cried, "The holiday season is our season boys-"
"And girls," Puola snapped from the Pizza Station.
"Team would more gender-inclusive," Mycroft commented, promptly stuffing his hands deep inside his pockets upon spotting Luca's reproachful glare (the smirk stayed in place though).
"Anyway!" he barked, "We need to pick up the pace now so we're ready."
"You say that every year."
"Well if you didn't need reminding-" Mycroft tuned them all out after that and focussed on cooking Table 2's risotto.
At least he did, right up until Sherlock dashed around the corner, as low to the ground as he could get, and ran right up to him.
"What are you doing?" Mycroft cried, wincing as Luca appeared out of nowhere to wrap his knuckles once again.
"We're in trouble My," Sherlock whispered, eyes wide as he glanced nervously at the doors.
"Why?" Mycroft asked. "What have you done?"
"It's not my fault!" Sherlock blustered indignantly. "We have to get out of here! Come on!"
"I can't. I've got work to do and so do you. What are you even doing in here?"
"You're not listening!"
"Basil!" Billy barked, storming into the kitchen.
"Apologise," Mycroft snapped, before turning back to his own work.
Sherlock sighed and stomped over to Billy.
Mycroft didn't think much more of it until Billy proceeded to call Luca over to The Line, sending Sherlock back to wait with Mycroft.
"What have you done?" Mycroft hissed, glancing furtively to where both of their bosses were talking on the other side of the kitchen, voices hushed and expressions sombre.
"I already told you," Sherlock snapped. "I didn't do anything!"
"You said we were in trouble."
"Sherlock, if you just got us fired I swear I'll-"
Mycroft spun around at Luca's bark. Both he and Billy were looking worryingly grim.
"Take your break."
Mycroft's heart sank.
"Just do it kid," Billy called, already balancing new dishes on his arms.
"Seriously Michele, you'll be wanting to take it now - your brother will explain."
Mycroft was beyond confused.
"Come on!" Sherlock whined, grabbing a hold of his brother's arm and tugging him towards the back door as hard as he could. Finally, Mycroft left his station.
He did, however, pause once more to ask, "Back at 6?"
Luca merely nodded before turning back to hiss something urgent at Billy. At least they weren't fired.
Mycroft breathed a sigh of relief.
Sherlock was still pulling persistently at his sleeve.
"Wait!" Mycroft said. "I need to hang up my apron."
"No!" Sherlock cried, chasing after him as he headed towards the dining room doors, beside which the coat pegs hung.
"And why can't we go into the Crew Room?" he asked, tugging at the straps tied behind his back before pulling the aforementioned apron over his head and hanging it up, "It's freezing outside."
"We just can't!" Sherlock snapped. "Come on."
"I'm at least getting our coats, for goodness sake!" Mycroft snapped.
"Oh would you just tell me what is going on!" Mycroft barked, running a hand irritably through his hair.
But before Sherlock could respond, Mycroft heard for himself.
'-just got some questions as to your whereabouts on the 19 of October," announced a gruff and terrifyingly familiar voice.
Mycroft's eyes widened.
"See!" Sherlock hissed.
Swearing, Mycroft grabbed a hold of his brother and legged it as fast as he could across the kitchen and out the back door.
"What the hell is he doing here?" he cried as they burst out into the back alley..
"How am I supposed to know?" Sherlock snapped, "He just walked in!"
"Did he see you?"
"I don't know," Sherlock replied, "I hid the second I saw him coming past the window."
"But you're not certain?" Mycroft pressed.
"I'm never 100% sure of anything," Sherlock snapped, fisting his hair. "There's always room for error. There's always something!"
"Damnit Sherlock!" Mycroft cried.
"I'm 90% sure!" Sherlock yelled back. "Maybe 95%. I did everything I could alright?"
Mycroft ran a hand through his hair, pacing back and forth before of his brother, attempting to calm down. After counting to twenty and back in his head, he finally managed it.
"I apologise," he murmured, glancing at Sherlock, "You did good Brother-Mine."
Fortunately Sherlock didn't seem to be in the mood to hold grudges, and merely nodded sharply in reply.
Mycroft paced the length of the yard twice more before throwing himself onto the top step, run his hands through his hair yet again.
"Do you think he's here because of us?" Sherlock asked, sitting down beside him.
"I doubt it," Mycroft sighed. "He's a homicide detective, remember that newspaper article we saw him in? I doubt tracking down runaways is his division."
"He wanted to talk to Angelo about something," Sherlock pressed on.
"I know," Mycroft murmured.
"What do we do?"
Mycroft sighed and scrubbed roughly at his face with his hands.
"I don't know," he admitted. "But we have to find somewhere else to hide out until he leaves. If he decides to talk to the kitchen staff, he'll come out this way."
"Right. So - where do we go?"
"To the coffee shop across the street?" Mycroft suggested.
"There's another one waiting in the car," Sherlock replied. "They'd see us sneaking out the back-"
"And would probably mention it to Lestrade, right - that's out then."
"What about next door."
"The pub? We would stick out."
"Yeah, if we stayed in there but-"
"It's on the corner and if we walked out the second exit-"
"His partner wouldn't see us, exactly!" Sherlock cried, already leaping off the step and dashing towards the pubs back door. "Come on!"
"Alright," Mycroft replied, dusting off his trousers as he walked over and took Sherlock's hand. "But we're going to have to be quick - the staff won't like strangers wandering through their kitch- ...hang on."
"What?" Sherlock cried.
With his stomach sinking with dread, he asked, "Where did we leave our bags?"
Sherlock's eyes widened with horror.
"Oh the sofa," he all but squeaked.
Mycroft squeezed his eyes shut.
"Do you think he'd recognise them?" Sherlock whispered.
"Do you want to take the chance?" Mycroft asked.
"What do we do?"
Biting his lip Mycroft glanced at the door then Sherlock, then back at the door again.
"Stay here," he whispered.
"Like hell I will!" Sherlock cried.
"It'll be quicker if I just go in now, I'm older - nobody would notice something was off at first glance," he hissed, gripping Sherlock's shoulders.
Sherlock shook him off.
"And what if someone came around here and found me hanging about huh?" he snapped. "Do you think they might recognise something off about that?"
Mycroft's frown deepened.
They were running out of time.
"Come on!" Sherlock insisted, tugging his hand, "If he sees them, and recognises them, we're finished!"
Mycroft hesitated a moment longer before, with a loud groan, relenting.
"We stick together," he hissed, gripping Sherlock's hand tight. "We go in, we grab them, we come out, clear?"
"Crystal," Sherlock replied. "Let's go!"
Dashing through the door the sped through the kitchen, ducking and weaving their way around the two chefs, two remaining kitchenhands and the three waiters waiting to pick up their orders, before getting through the door and heading down the narrow hall to the staff room.
Mycroft stopped, and Sherlock skidded to a halt beside him.
"Can you hear anything?" he whispered.
Sherlock shook his head.
Nodding, Mycroft murmured, "Right then, let's go," before setting off once more.
They crept in to the staff room and flew over to where their bags were sitting on top of the sofa.
"You think they came through here?" Sherlock asked.
Mycroft held up a hand and both brothers listened as hard as they could.
They could faintly hear a pair of voices coming from the Angelo's office. Sherlock crept closer, pressing his ear against the wall.
"Can you hear anything?" Mycroft asked.
"No," Sherlock said, "It's all muffled."
"We shouldn't be listening anyway," said Mycroft, chuckling their bags into the coat closet and covering them with blankets and one of Angelo's Parkas. "Come on."
"Wait, there's a duct."
New voices flooded into the room.
"-urely you can understand why I'm so confused Mr. Del Sarto," Lestrade said. "You and the victim did have a longstanding an habitually hostile relationship."
"As I'm sure plenty of other people did," Angelo replied, clearly irritated, "Roger was an old con artist."
"Then why do business with him?"
"Because he's got the best produce in town," Angelo replied. "Even if you have to pay through the bloody nose to get it."
"Look, loads of people had a problem with Roger. Why don't you go talking to them."
"I have talked to a lot of them. But many of those people weren't booked in to see him at the exact time of his murder."
"I told you, I didn't go."
"And yet there's no evidence to prove it."
"No evidence to disprove it either. It won't stand up in court I don't think."
"You are also one of the few people who have links, negative ones and all, to all three of the victims."
"I'm a business owner. I have connections with a lot of people."
"You had frequent rows with Roger Stefanovic-"
"I just told you, everybody had rows with Roger! Ask anyone!"
"You were in a relationship with Carla Jiménez."
"So I was."
"You parted on bad terms."
"She cheated on me with my cousin, quit without giving notice and tried to steal my staff when she set up her own shop. I'll be honest, I wasn't thrilled how things turned out."
"Tony Collins, another former employee of yours."
Mycroft and Sherlock exchanged a confused glance.
"Yes he was," Angelo replied.
"You fired him."
"Yes I did," said Angelo. "He was an alcoholic. I put up with him turning up late. I put up with him coming in hung-over. I put my foot down at his coming in roaring drunk. I had to let him go."
"But you didn't 'let him go' did you? You threw him out and told him to stay away from your restaurant."
"Yes I did."
"Patrons from the night have described it as quite the heated exchange," Lestrade remarked.
"Detective Inspector, I run a restaurant. Tempers are known to flare up in our industry. When one of my chef's turns up unable to work properly, setting my whole team behind, costing me money - it annoys me. I fired him and told him to not come back. I don't deny it."
"I've got phone records telling me he received a phone call from you a few hours before his death."
"I called to make sure he had made it home," Angelo explained, getting steadily more agitated. "He was pissed."
"I've been told you were quite angry with him."
"I was bloody furious with him."
"And yet yet in spite of that you still called him to make sure he was safe?"
"Yes. The kid let me down but I didn't want him spending the night in a gutter somewhere."
"I'm a very considerate bloke Detective."
Lestrade hummed, unconvinced.
"You have no alibi for any of the murders."
"I wasn't aware I'll be needing one," Angelo replied a touch snidely. "Will that be all, only - I have work to do, and I assume you do too."
"Just one more thing and then I'll leave you in peace."
"I need a copy of Mr. Collin's work details, to cross check. You understand?"
"Yes. No problem. Filing cabinet is in the Crew Room, this way."
Mycroft felt his heart stop.
Sherlock ran to the window only to find it barred from the outside. Angelo's office door was creaking open. They were trapped.
Thinking fast, Mycroft frantically glanced about the room.
Window barred. Door not an option. No exits. They needed to hide. Pot plant, to small. Filing cabinet, obviously out. Coat closet, no big enough. The two sofas, impossible to hide inside of and wouldn't cover them from all angles... unless.
"Sherlock, push the sofa against the wall!"
"Just do it!"
Thanking every deity he'd ever heard of for Angelo's ability to talk up a storm when he was indignant about something and DI Lestrade's being a tolerant enough man to simply hear him out, Mycroft dashed over to the second sofa and pushed it across the room and against the wall, before going to help Sherlock push his over to meet it. The two arms now formed a right angle, leaving a convenient box of space between them and the corner of the room, inside which they could hide. The only way anyone would see them was if they were to walk over and look down.
"Come on," Mycroft hissed, as Angelo and Lestrade begun walking down the hall and towards the room.
Mycroft had only just jumped inside and all but flattened himself to the ground when the door was eased open and the two men walked in.
"Here you are," Angelo announced.
"Oh you get it," Lestrade sighed, flopping down and on the sofa, making Mycroft's heart stop anew and prompting Sherlock to clap a hand over his mouth. "I don't want to screw up your system."
"There isn't a system," Angelo gruffly replied, "This may take a while."
Lestrade merely grunted an acknowledgment.
Thankfully it didn't take an incredibly long time to find Tony's records, which was good because Mycroft was starting to go dizzy from holding his breath for so long.
"Here," Angelo sighed, thrusting the file at Lestrade, who, with a put-upon sigh, stood from the sofa.
"Look mate, I'm just doing my job," Lestrade said, and for a terrifying moment, he was standing right over the boy's hiding space, although his back was turned to them.
"I don't take being accused of murder very well I'm afraid," Angelo retorted a might heatedly.
"Will that be all?"
"For now, yes," Lestrade replied, before finally stepping away from the corner of the room and walking towards the door. Pausing briefly to remind him to not go 'booking any holidays' before leaving once and for all.
Angelo lingered in the room for a second longer, before slamming the filing cabinet drawer shut and storming out himself.
Mycroft and Sherlock exchanged wide eyed glances. Angelo was a suspect, the chief suspect by the sound of it, of a triple homicide.
"He couldn't have done it," Sherlock said later that night whilst he and Mycroft lay on their respective sofas, fluffing his pillow within an inch of its life. "He just couldn't have."
"He's capable of it I suppose," Mycroft replied. "If properly provoked."
"Angelo wouldn't kill three people Mycroft!"
"I'd like to think not," he said, glancing over at where Sherlock had finally flopped down, stretching himself the full length of the sofa. "We are practically living with him after all."
"So what do we do?"
"To prove him innocent," Sherlock said, eyes wide but determined.
"We don't do anything," he said. "We keep out of it."
"We keep out," Mycroft repeated firmly. "If we start snooping around, before too long we'll get caught up right in the middle of it, which is - needless to say, the last thing we need."
"We can't just leave it."
"He could be arrested!"
"If he didn't do it-"
"-then he won't be," Mycroft sighed.
"Please," Sherlock scoffed. "How can you trust the police?"
"The professionals you mean?"
"It clearly wasn't Angelo," Sherlock snapped.
"How do you know?" Mycroft asked.
"I know Angelo."
"As do I, and though I don't believe him to be the culprit, that doesn't mean with have any evidence to prove it."
"Then all we have to do is-"
"Stay put and do nothing," Mycroft firmly replied. "That's exactly what we have to do little brother."
"But he could be arrested Mycroft!" Sherlock cried.
"We could be arrested Sherlock," Mycroft retorted. "No. We keep as far out of this fiasco as is possible - and that is final."
Sherlock opened his mouth to argue further but (shocking both himself and Mycroft) was silenced by a firm glare from his brother.
"Our first and foremost concern is keeping ourselves safe," Mycroft said. "We can't do anything to jeopardize that."
Sherlock scowled and flipped around so his back was to Mycroft.
Mycroft sighed. Turning onto his stomach, he leaned over and rested his hand on Sherlock's bony shoulder.
"Angelo's a grown man Brother-Mine, he can take care of himself."
Sherlock merely huffed in reply, shaking Mycroft's hand.
Pausing long enough to lift his brother's blanket over the aforementioned shoulder, Mycroft flipped back over onto his back, folding his arms behind his head and turned to stare out of the small window to his right, trying hard to ignore his own unease at the ordeal.
"Try not to think about it," he murmured aloud, though whether it was directed at himself or his brother, he wasn't sure.
Sherlock refused to talk to him for days following Lestrade's visit, much to the amusement of the staff and the irritation of Mycroft.
"Luca, can you tell my brother to pass the salt."
"I'm sitting right beside you."
"Michele, Basil says-"
"Yes I heard him," Mycroft snapped, grabbing the salt shaker and placing it down a little more firmly than necessary in front of Sherlock, muttering all the while, "Just once, can't you behave like a grown up."
Sherlock poked out his tongue and continued to ignore him.
The silence was finally broken when Mycroft caught him, in spite of his specific orders to the contrary, asking questions about DI Lestrade's investigation.
"Why can't you just leave this alone!" he cried after dragging him out to the back of the restaurant once more.
Tugging his hand free Sherlock snapped, "Angelo helped us. That's why!"
"How very valiant of you," Mycroft retorted. "And just who, pray tell, will help us when we get caught in the middle of this? Please, just tell me that."
"We won't!" Sherlock moodily snapped.
"How do you know!" Mycroft cried. "This is the last time I'm going to tell you this Sherlock. Leave. The case. Alone."
Sherlock huffed, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring defiantly off to the side of Mycroft's head.
"Don't make me order you," Mycroft sighed, rubbing tiredly at his temples.
Finally focusing on Mycroft Sherlock merely snarled, "I'd like to see you try," before storming back into the kitchen.
Sherlock's antics aside though, things didn't come to a head for a further week. In that time officers from The Yard were sent over to collect Angelo for 'a chat' with Lestrade a couple of times, but the man himself had yet to return, for which Mycroft was infinitely grateful.
By the time everything finally went to hell, Sherlock was even beginning to lose interest in the case and Mycroft had begun to hope that it would all just blow over.
But of course, that would simply be too simple.
It was half past four and the sun had only just set. They were making hasty preparations for what was promising to be a busy evening, wiping everything down, preparing ingredients, wrapping the cutlery in napkins. Luca was in even more of a tizzy than usual (apparently he'd wanted them to have made more progress by 2nd November ('Christmas is around the corner and I'm working with snails for chefs!')).
In fact, he'd been right in the middle of a rant he'd been reciting word for word for the past five days when a loud clatter from the Dining Room caught them all by surprise.
Then the shouting started.
"What the hell is going on in there?" Luca grumbled, eyeing the door along with the rest of kitchen staff.
"They're arresting Angelo!" Sherlock cried, bursting into the kitchen.
With loud cries of surprise and outrage, the others all rushed through the doors. Mycroft tried to grab a hold of Sherlock, so they could make a run for it or hide at the very least, only to find to his mounting frustration and terror, that he was in the lead of the pack.
Groaning, he reluctantly followed everybody out in the vain hope of finding his brother before Lestrade and his underlings got a hold of him.
The dining room was in chaos, packed with the entire restaurant's staff bellowing defences for their employer and obscenities at the police, whilst the police barked back at them to remain calm as Lestrade attempted to handcuff furious Angelo.
"I'm telling you I didn't do it!"
"We can discuss this down at The Yard Mr Del Sart-"
"No we'll discuss it here!" Angelo roared. "I have not bloody murdered anybody."
"Then tell me where you were on the days the victims were murdered," Lestrade snapped back. "This isn't a vandetta against you Mr Del Sarto, but the evidence is weighing against you. If you'd just tell me-"
"I told you, I went out for a walk," Angelo grit out.
"Right, take him away," Lestrade sighed.
"No!" Sherlock cried, rushing forward, and Mycroft was certain that he was about to have a heart attack.
"Lockie!" Lestrade cried. "What are you doing here? Where's your brother?"
Mycroft squeezed his eyes shut in an uncharacteristically childish (and ultimately ineffective) hope that when he opened them this would all turn out to be a nightmare.
"He's over there," Sherlock snapped.
Mycroft sighed. It didn't work.
"And he's telling the truth. He didn't murder anybody."
"No you listen!" Sherlock cried, "You're supposed to be a detective, a professional! How can you idiots not see the evidence right under your nose!"
Mycroft uttered an almost silent whine of despair. They weren't going to get out of this.
Lestrade frowned down at him but Sherlock refused to be cowled.
"It's obvious he didn't do it. How can you not see you blind, stupid, lazy-"
"I think that's just about enough out of you," one of Lestrade's officer's growled, grabbing the back of Sherlock's shirt and yanking him back away, earning a pained yelp from Sherlock.
Well, in for a penny in for a pound Mycroft figured as he surged forward and pushed the officer, yanking his brother away from his grasp and, with Sherlock under arm, turned to leg it whilst they still could. They got a whole two paces closer to the door before they were grabbed by two more officers, promptly pulled apart and Mycroft's arm was twisted sharply up behind his back.
"You let him go you stupid-"
"Brother-Mine, perhaps we should lay off the insults just for the time being," Mycroft hissed, wincing as the officer tightened his grip.
"He's hurting you!" Sherlock cried.
"Oi! Rance! Let the kids go," Lestrade snapped,
"Now Constable," Lestrade growled, glaring his man down until both Mycroft and Sherlock were finally released.
"Thank you," he muttered, rolling his shoulder.
"Don't be polite to him!" Sherlock cried. "He's the enemy!"
"Remember when I told you to keep out of this?" he hissed, "This is not what I had in mind!"
"You said they were competent!"
"Oh you remember when I say that do you? And yet the 'Do nothing' and 'Leave the case alone' somehow went right over your head."
"Just because I'm not a coward like you!"
"I am not a coward you little nitwit! I was looking at the big picture! Something you seem to be incapable of!"
"And how does the big picture help stop Angelo from getting arrested exactly?" Sherlock bellowed.
"If you haven't noticed Brother Dear he is getting arrested anyway! In spite of all of your pig-headed, short-sighted efforts! Except now, just as I said we would be, we're stuck right in the middle of it!"
"Not if I can help it," Sherlock snarled, narrowing his eyes determinedly before spinning about to face the rest of the room.
"Angelo Del Sarto is not a murderer!" he announced for all to here. "It's obvious! If you can't see that for yourselves than I'm astonished you have survived this long."
Mycroft flopped down in one of the vacant chairs and covered his face with his hands. Foster Care had been one things, but the way Sherlock was going they'd be lucky to get out of this without being sent to a Juvenile Prison.
"And what's so obvious about it?" Lestrade asked.
Mycroft glanced up.
His arms were crossed over his chest and he was frowning, but his head was tilted to the side and as far as Mycroft could see, he seemed more interested the infuriated. How odd.
Sherlock, of course, took no notice of this and barrelled on, chest puffed out and face alight with excited determination. He was in his element, the absolute centre of attention.
"For one, he was on the wrong side of town when Roger Stefanovic was murdered."
"He was on the other side of town," Sherlock irritably repeated. "Stefanovic was murdered in Harrow but Angelo was in Wandsworth hous- uhhh..."
"Yes?" Lestrade prompted.
Sherlock glanced meekly over his shoulder at Mycroft who leaned back in his chair, pinched the bridge of his nose and muttered, "We really must work on your startling lack of foresight."
"My," Sherlock whined.
Rolling his head onto his shoulder so to better see the man, Mycroft drawled, "Angelo, may my brother please reveal to the good Detective Inspector what you were really doing in Wandsworth? I assure you it's in your best interest. Circumstantial or not, they have enough to send you down for a triple homicide."
Angelo glanced from Mycroft to Sherlock, utterly stunned.
"He knows?" he asked.
Mycroft rolled his eyes again.
"He knows," he confirmed.
With a surprised blink, Angelo turned to Sherlock and with a slow nod said, "Go ahead."
Sherlock spared time enough to shoot him an apologetic grimace before spinning around once more, back in full form and announced, "He was in Wandsworth, breaking into his little brother's ex-boyfriend's flat."
A heavy silence fell across the room.
"How do you know that Lockie?" Lestrade asked, a deep crease forming between his knitted brows.
"Oh it's obvious!" Sherlock cried. "His brother came to the restaurant really early that morning, real worked up. And then, he snuck out right in the middle of the lunchtime rush. Angelo never does that. I thought he was just going out the back for a cigarette, he does do that sometimes. But when I went out to see what was taking him so long, there was no sign of him. Then, I saw him come back an hour and a half later with a bag of stuff, which he put in his office, where his brother had been all day. His brother and he went to talk to real estate agents the next day, I saw the brochures. But whilst they were out, Billy asked me to go and fetch the menus from his office. The bag was still there, and it was open. I was curious, so I had a little look inside-"
"You did what?" Mycroft cried.
"Oh like you wouldn't have done the same!" Sherlock cried.
"I wouldn't have!"
"Boys! Focus!" Lestrade barked, cutting both brothers off short. "Lockie - you were saying..."
Sparing Mycroft a parting glare Sherlock continued, "I looked in his bag and there was just a whole bunch of clothes, a photo album, a very old teddy bear and some well-used books. Sentimental stuff. His brother-"
"Dante," Angelo gruffly announced. "His name is Dante."
Nodding quickly, Sherlock continued, "Well Dante left the following evening and he took the bag with him."
"So you're saying he broke into somebody's house and now his brother is in possession of stolen goods?" Lestrade asked.
"Thought you were trying to help kid," Constable Rance chuckled.
"I am and you're missing the point, you idiots!" Sherlock cried. "They weren't stolen goods, they were Dante's. His boyfriend was horrible, he came here looking for him that one time, remember?"
"Oh we remember," Billy grimly answered for the staff. "Swearing his head off, threatening everybody. We were about to call in you lot."
"You see, horrible. We've all seen Dante come here after fights with him. But on the day of Roger Stefanovic's murder, he had a major row with his boyfriend and they split up. Except this time, Dante had had enough. He came to Angelo, his big brother, for help. Clearly he had left without any of his belongings, that's how he turned up in the morning, so he either asked or Angelo offered to go and fetch some clothes and a couple sentimental things. Angelo was furious when he left, I'd say he was looking forward to a fight with the boyfriend, right Angelo?"
"Oh yeah," Angelo growled, fists clenched tight at his sides. "Bloody bastard would have deserved everything he got."
There was a chorus of approving hums and grumbles from the staff.
"I agree," Sherlock continued. "But he wasn't there was he? Your knuckles would have been reddened at the very least, if you weren't arrested that is. Not to mention, he was a big guy, boxer. I completely believe you could hold your own in a fight Angelo, but he would have gotten a couple of punches in at the very least. And yet there were no signs of a fight at all, just a nasty scratch you got on your arm whilst breaking in because he wasn't there. Did you break a window?"
"Picked it's lock," Angelo replied, smirking down at him. "Caught me arm on the latch whilst I was climbing through it."
"Brilliant!" Sherlock cried. "Nobody cleans the latches - you should be able to find DNA evidence there- no, get the details later! I'm on a roll! Anyway - the papers said Stefanovic was killed around midday, that's right isn't it?"
"Yes it is," Lestrade replied. "He was found half past one. Hadn't been dead for an hour."
"Well Angelo left at quarter past twelve. It would have taken him around a half hour to get to Dante's old flat by the tube, give or take. You should have DNA evidence placing him there and you might be able to catch him on CCTV around it or maybe the station. Then probably a further twenty odd minutes breaking in and collecting Dante's things and then another half hour to get back. He was only gone from quarter past to half past one, you can see that for yourself when you seize the security camera tapes. There was no time to take a trip out to Harrow to slice and dice Stefanovic."
"And you're sure about all that?"
"Yes," Sherlock replied.
Lestrade glanced over at Angelo.
"And you're willing to confess to all of that?" he asked. "Keep in mind if it turns out to be true, I'm still going to have to arrest you for it."
Angelo tilted his chin up defiantly.
"You're going to arrest me for helping my baby brother are ya?"
"No I'm going to arrest you for housebreaking," Lestrade retorted. "The baby brother bit can come up in court where it belongs. Besides, I'm not even sure whether or not he's making all of this up."
"I'm not!" Sherlock cried.
"Alright then, you have a nice story for Stefanovic's murder," he said. "But have you got anything for Jiménez or Collins?"
A smug grin quickly spread across Sherlock's face.
"I haven't got anything for Jiménez," he replied. "It happened before My and I met Angelo. But I do have rock solid alibis for Angelo at the time of Tony Collins' murder?"
"Is that so?" Lestrade murmured, brows raised speculatively.
"Yeah! Me and My, we're his alibis."
"It was our first night here, remember?" Sherlock asked, spinning around to face him. "We went out for coffees and hot chocolate by that 24 hour shop by the Thames."
"Yes," Mycroft slowly replied. "I remember."
"That's why I wouldn't let it go," Sherlock announced. "He had a proper alibi and wasn't using it because he was trying to protect us!"
"Alright, I get the point," he grumbled, glancing guiltily up at Angelo. "Sorry sir."
Smiling fondly, Angelo shrugged.
"Looking out for little brother's before all else. I understand that."
A grateful smile tugged at the corners of Mycroft's lips.
"Do you actually have any proof?" Lestrade asked.
Mycroft sighed and stood up from his chair, fishing his wallet out of his pocket and announcing, "Beside our word you mean? Yes, I was the one who bought the drinks. I kept the receipt. Sentiment. First pay check and all that. Here. I'd check the shops security footage, you should find us there around half past eleven. The same time Mr. Collins was murdered, if the papers are to be believed."
Taking the scrap of paper, Lestrade glanced down and sighed, stowing it away in his coat pocket.
"We'll get right on that then," he grumbled, running a hand tiredly over his face, only to be cut off by an indignant, "You cannot be serious!" from amidst the crowd.
Mycroft, Sherlock and Lestrade turned as one as Constable Rance stepped out, eyes wide and incredulous. "You're letting the word of two brats derail months of work sir?"
There was a loud chorus of unimpressed grumbles and sneers from the staff, and both Luca and Billy looked just about ready to start rolling up their sleeves and starting something with the officer. However it was Lestrade who, with narrowed eyes and clenched jaw, stepped forward and squared up against his subordinate.
"That's the second time you've spoken out of line Constable. I'd be very careful if I were you," he calmly announced, although the underlying anger behind his words were obvious to everybody. "Understand?"
"Yes sir," Rance muttered, glaring mutinously at the corner of the room.
"Good," Lestrade replied. "Now why don't you stop nursing your bruised ego by attacking the kids that may have done more for this bloody case than you have in the months we've been working it, and think for a moment. If Del Sarto isn't our killer, and after all that, I think there's a chance he isn't- what does that mean?"
Scowling, Rance obediently growled, "Our killer's still out there."
"Precisely. So don't you think it would be worth our while checking out the validity of these new leads, so we might be able to rule Del Sarto out as a suspect or if they do turn out to be false, rule out any doubt of his guilt?"
"Yes sir," Rance grumbled.
"It is our job after all isn't it? To detect."
"So we will be getting on to these leads and you are never suggest we overlook new evidence simply for convenience's sake. Are we clear?"
"Excellent," Lestrade replied, before stepping back and regaining command of the room. "Mr. Del Sarto, we still need to take you down to the Yard, but I assure you we will be investigating these new leads and should they turn out to be true, you will be ruled out as a suspect and handed over to the appropriate division to work out this housebreaking incident. Do we understand each other?"
"Yes Detective we do," Angelo replied, considerably calmer now he was being charged with a crime he'd actually committed.
Sherlock, however, was not impressed.
"But he was doing to to help his brother!" he cried. "It's not fair for him to be punished for that!"
"He still broke the law I'm afraid," Lestrade replied. "I can't overlook that."
"Basil," Angelo interrupted. "It's fine. I know some good lawyers."
Sherlock bit his lip, but nodded.
"Now you two," Lestrade sighed, "You're coming with us too."
"Why?" Puola cried, surging forward with the rest of the staff. "They've done nothing but help you."
"Which is exactly why I'm trying to help them!" Lestrade cried back, standing his ground as the employees of the restaurant and his own officers, who were attempting to control said employees, crowded around him. "I know as well as you lot that they're runaways, we've met before. They need to talk to a Social Worker."
Mycroft squeezed his eyes shut as the blood roaring in his ears steadily blocked out his colleagues (no, former colleagues) cries of outrage. It was all over. They were going to get put in homes, or worse, get sent back home. God, he was feeling nauseous again. He couldn't move. Why couldn't he- the should be running and he couldn't bloody move!
And then someone was grabbing a hold of his shoulder and tugging him roughly to the back of the crowd. And suddenly he realised, he was moving now. He fought back for a brief moment before promptly freezing in place the second a swift slap connected with the back of his head and his captor leaned forward and hissed into his ear, "This really isn't going to work with their attention on you Michele."
And they were clear of the crowd.
"You're going to have to run for it," Luca hissed, barely audible over the racket the rest of the staff were making. "That bloke will have you packed off in a children's home before morning."
Mycroft gulped, nodding quickly.
"Where's Sherlock," he croaked.
"Sherl- oh, Basil. Where's Basil?"
"Here!" Sherlock hissed, running out from the crew room with Billy on his heels, duffle bag, violin case and umbrella in hand.
"Go on, then, get going," Billy urged, giving them both a light shove towards the door. "We'll hold them off as long as we can."
Nodding quickly Mycroft swung the duffle bag onto his back and grabbed Sherlock's hand.
"Thank you. So much."
"Go!" Billy and Luca urged as one, before rejoining the fray.
"Come on," whispered Mycroft, squeezing Sherlock's hand before dashing across the room and out the door.
They ran as fast as they could down the street, and then down another, and another, before they struck it lucky and were able to flag down an empty cab.
"We've got £30 pounds, how far can that get us?" he announced the second the jumped in, struggling to maintain an illusion of relative calm, so not to tip of the driver that they were in fact running away from a room full of Scotland Yard's finest.
The driver grimaced, taking the crumpled notes Mycroft shoved through the glass window.
"Camden area," he replied with a shrug.
"Brilliant, let's go," Mycroft cried, glancing nervously out the back window as Sherlock buckled in. "Now please."
"Alright, alright. Hold your horses," the driver scoffed as he turned back around, flicked on his meter and rejoined the traffic heading away from Angelo's.
Only once they'd finally made it a further ten blocks away did Mycroft's breath began to come easier.
"Well," Sherlock murmured. "That was..."
"Yes," Mycroft muttered, roughly scrubbing at his face. "Yes. Considerably."
"We got away though," his brother continued. "And Angelo's not being charged with murder and... and..."
"And we're without a job, friends, a place to stay and now, once again, have a detective hot on our heels," Mycroft growled under his breath so only Sherlock could hear him. "Not an ideal evening."
"But... can't we just go back. You know, in a week or two?" Sherlock asked, wide eyed.
Mycroft shook his head.
"Lestrade will probably be spending a lot more time down there, keeping an eye out for us," he sighed. "He's trying to do us a favour remember? He thinks he's doing the right thing and if tonight has proven anything, it's that the right thing is very important to him no matter how much hard work it requires. No, we need to steer clear of that place from now on."
Sherlock bowed his head, whispered an almost inaudible, "Oh."
"Oh," Mycroft quietly echoed.
They sat in silence for almost ten minutes, letting the events of the last half hour and the sounds of London rushing by wash over them.
Of course, it was Sherlock who eventually broke it.
"What do we do know?" he asked, glancing up at his brother. "Mycroft?"
"I don't know," he muttered.