For several heartbeats, no one spoke.
John ordered his thoughts. The young man with the mole, Tommy, was the least concern; he held his knife like he was half-afraid of the thing. Leave him 'til last, then, or to Sherlock, if John could manage to free him. Eddie and his gun posed the greatest threat, with the blond a close second.
If John had the chance to move, he would have to take it without hesitation – and, quite likely, without concern for mercy. He'd always rather subdue than kill, but only dead men posed no certain threat, and the stakes were too high for half measures this morning.
These men's plans for Lestrade left no room for mercy, after all.
"You were on the wrong side, but you always had a sense of honour, Eddie, I'll give you that." Lestrade licked his lips. "I need your word, your oath, that these men go free if I cooperate."
"Lestrade—" John couldn't help himself.
"I am trying," Lestrade said, very softly and very slowly, "to limit the number of corpses in this flat at the end of the day. For God's sake, let me do my job." For a moment he shut his eyes, and John noted the telltale twitch as Lestrade's fingers flexed open, only to close around nothingness.
None of the rules applied, did they? The conventional wisdom about hostage crises dictated buying time, keeping the leader talking. But with Sofie hiding, so very vulnerable – hell, with Lestrade completely ignorant of where she was, what had happened to her – the only course of action, in Lestrade's eyes at least, seemed to be for him to take it on the chin, to play out the scene as swiftly as possible so the bastards would leave.
To offer himself up for all of them.
John's muscles cramped at the sheer injustice of it.
His eyes roamed the room. Bloody hell, he thought, could that clock be correct? Had it truly been less than twenty-five minutes since Lestrade and Sofie had first arrived at 221B?
How soon before they could expect help? Mrs Hudson had invited the men in without a fuss, so the police and security teams who routinely observed the flat had no reason to be concerned. The footage of the men from the CCTV cameras would raise no red flags for Mycroft's people, because the facial recognition software would fail to yield any matches with Moriarty's known contacts. And even if, as John sometimes suspected, Mycroft had bugged the flat itself, there had to be some kind of delay between the recordings and their analysis.
Mrs Hudson had been gone only a handful of minutes, certainly not long enough to have the cavalry here in full force in the immediate future.
They were, for all practical purposes, alone.
"They stay for now," Eddie told Lestrade. "When you and I are done here, assuming you've behaved, I'll leave them alive and untouched. My word on it."
Fixing his eyes on a bare patch of wall, Lestrade nodded.
John shifted, gathering himself, only to feel Tommy's hand settle on his shoulder in warning.
"Over there and on your knees then, lad," Eddie ordered Lestrade. "Take your shirt and vest off first, and then put your hands behind your back."
It was an agony, witnessing the surrender of a man whose every instinct was to fight.
"This needs to look good. Not a quick bullet to the head," Eddie said, and John wondered if he imagined it, a hint of grudging regret in the words. "Can't make it too easy on you, can I? After what you cost me?"
"S'pose not," Lestrade said, his fingers working the buttons of his shirt. He was distancing himself, John could see, detaching from what was about to happen. John had observed such behaviour in fellow soldiers in Afghanistan – particularly with the Special Forces, as teams prepared for missions from which return seemed unlikely.
"I'd like to think that this will hit your people hard," Eddie said conversationally. Any brief spark of regret, if it had ever existed at all, was now frozen beneath a layer of impenetrable ice. "The way your sting hit mine."
John gritted his teeth. All the more reason to make certain Eddie never knew about or gained access to the little girl under the sink.
"Hate to disappoint you," Lestrade said, "but there's no one at home for me."
Technically speaking, this was true, John knew. Sofie lived with her grandmother, didn't she?
"You're wearing a ring," Eddie pointed out.
"My wife died years ago. If you insist on hurrying along our reunion, well… to be honest, I can't say that I object entirely. Considered it myself, once or twice over the years."
Lestrade draped his shirt and vest over the arm of the sofa.
"What few friends I have will likely feel relief as much as sadness – bit of a safety hazard, you know, being mates with a man who perpetually wears a target on his back. As for the Yard, before my body's cold they'll have me replaced by someone younger and faster and smarter. Someone with the sense to do things by the book.
"My closest colleagues might miss me, but they'll also get promotions out of the deal – silver linings and all that."
These matter-of-fact observations came too easily to Lestrade, John thought, to represent fiction composed on the spot. John twisted his hands in his bonds, simply for the welcome distraction of the pain at his wrists.
"If you're looking to make all London weep," Lestrade continued, "I'm not your target. But that's not the point, is it?"
"No. No, it's not."
Naked to the waist, Lestrade went down on his knees, training his eyes once again on the wall.
"Tie him up," Eddie commanded.
The blond slipped his weapon into his belt, withdrew a zip tie from his jacket, and went to secure the detective inspector's hands. Tommy drifted a step closer to watch. Then another.
John hitched up his shirttail and groped for the knife.
"It's a shame to hear it, though," Eddie mused. "You had such a promising start. How old were you when you first infiltrated my circle? Just a pup."
"Twenty-seven." Lestrade sounded distant, disinterested, as if he spoke from half a world away.
"Blimey, you're nearly fifty," Eddie said. "You should be running Scotland Yard by now."
Without warning, Sherlock spoke: "While I am disinclined to agree with a criminal who is preparing to commit homicide in the middle of my sitting room, I must say, Lestrade, you do deserve better. But not only in the way our captor assumes."
John froze in shock, knife secure in fettered hands, as all eyes turned toward the consulting detective at his side. All eyes but Lestrade's.
"As a nemesis, this man is utterly incompetent," Sherlock complained to his audience. "His planned actions will not result in his desired outcomes – thus leaving him a failure, Lestrade dead, and me out a rather expensive rug."
"Sherlock—" John breathed.
"I'm sorry: leaving John and me out a rather expensive rug. Mrs Hudson will make us pay for it, you know. But John's practically penniless, so I expect it's on me."
"What," Eddie blurted, "the fuck?"
My sentiments exactly, John thought.
Drawing a breath, Sherlock began to hold forth: "As I understand it, Eddie was badly disgraced twenty years ago when the Carletons learned that his right-hand man, known then as 'Geoffrey Lewis,' was, in fact, an undercover police officer – the same officer who helped to engineer the sting that brought down a substantial portion of their operation. Whether Eddie had been duped by or was in league with this policeman was immaterial to the Carletons.
"Now Eddie believes he can prove his loyalty and buy a future for his son with the syndicate by killing said officer, who is now known to be DI Greg Lestrade."
The blond wrenched Lestrade's arms behind him and secured them with the tie. When the young man straightened, he stared at Sherlock, hands curling into fists at his side.
"Your plan," Sherlock continued, now speaking directly to Eddie, "will do nothing of the sort. For one thing, the death of one of Scotland Yard's own will concentrate police attention on the Carletons, putting their so-called business in the greatest jeopardy it's faced since that very sting two decades ago. Why do you think they never went after him themselves?"
Eddie grew several shades paler. Lestrade continued to stare at the wall in front of him.
"For another," Sherlock said, "your choices ultimately disprove your loyalty. You came here today without an exit strategy for yourself or" – Sherlock looked to each of the two younger men –"your nephew and godson, neither of whom currently has a serious criminal record. Somehow I doubt they planned to throw their lives away for your son Seth, but that's exactly what you've betrayed them into doing.
"At worst, they'll be killed; at best, they'll be caught, implicated in the premeditated murder of one of London's finest, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. They will most certainly not, as I assume they hoped, secure the lasting appreciation and patronage of the Carleton syndicate."
An inarticulate sound of protest came from Tommy, who glanced back and forth between his captive and his mentor, as if attempting to follow an especially energetic tennis match.
"The syndicate fancies itself an extended family," Sherlock explained. "You, Eddie, have proved willing to trade two family members for the sake of another. Seth, conspicuous by his absence, has proved willing to let you do so. Those aren't the values that inspire confidence in people like the Carletons. If any of you do survive today, I doubt the syndicate will allow you to live for—"
With several long strides, the blond crossed the space to Sherlock and backhanded him. Sherlock rocked with the blow, huffing, barely keeping his seat.
"Shut your face," the young man growled.
John worked the knife, slashing both his fingers and his shirt before gaining purchase against the plastic restraint.
"Uncle Ed?" Tommy's voice was a suspicious whine. "What did he mean? What's he saying?"
"Don't listen to 'im," the blond said, when a visibly troubled Eddie failed to answer. "He's tryin' to get under your skin.
"And you," the young man continued, pointing his knife at Sherlock. "Next time I use this instead of my fist."
"Sherlock." Lestrade kept his eyes in front of him. "Thanks for trying. Really. But it's not worth it. Other things are more important."
Like Sofie, John supplied, hearing the implied message. Like you.
Lestrade took a measured breath. "Let it go."
"Uncle Ed, I don't—" Tommy protested.
"Good God." Eddie sighed raggedly, as the full implications of Sherlock's words appeared to hit him all at once. "A man can't catch a break, can he?"
Lestrade glanced up at him. "You're asking me?"
For a wholly incongruous and surreal moment, the two shared a bleak and wintry smile.
John seized the distraction as his opportunity to reach behind Sherlock and fold the knife into his flatmate's fingers.
Sherlock gave a slight nod of thanks, sending blood from his nose and lip dripping down his cheek.
Odd, John thought, that Sherlock's attention seemed to have wandered from such a tense scene. He appeared to be staring at the window.
"Wait, I don't—"
"Quiet, Tommy," the blond growled.
"I've come this far," Eddie said after a pause. "That counts for something. It has to." His hand shot out, twining into Lestrade's short and silvering hair. "Last words?"
Lestrade's tongue darted out, moistening his lips. He blinked. "Sherlock, John: thank you. For everything. You both know what to say, and who to say it to."
"That's all?" Eddie asked.
A tight nod. "Just get on with it."
"All right, then." Eddie brought the Beretta down in a wide-swinging arc, striking Lestrade above the ear, and then he caught the slumping man in the chest with a powerful kick.
"Tommy, think," Sherlock was saying, urgent and low, half-rising from his chair. "Whatever you decide to do this minute…"
One of us has to live through this, John told himself. We can't allow Sofie to climb out of that cupboard to find all of us dead.
Yet even as the thought crossed his mind, John was on his feet and moving, as fast as his limping speed could take him – unarmed, directly toward a man with a gun and a man with a knife.
The young blond aimed a savage kick of his own at Lestrade's unprotected ribs. The sound of the impact of unyielding boot against fragile flesh and bone, of Lestrade's choked pain, propelled John forward.
He was a pair of strong, well-trained hands clenched around a blond-haired skull. He was the twist and crunch and give of a cleanly-broken neck. Taking up the dead man's knife even before his body hit the floor, John became a leap and thrust and gush of bright red blood at Eddie's throat.
Everything else – the door, the windows, the shouts, the urgent rush of newcomers – was confusion.
"Easy. You're safe. Sofie's safe. Don't move. Easy. Let me get your hands free." Even, ordered words echoed in John's head, and after a moment he recognized them as his own.
Under John's capable fingers, Lestrade ceased his struggling and managed a shallow breath. Then another.
The gore-slicked knife sliced through the zip tie cleanly, and John eased Lestrade's arm toward his battered chest.
For some minutes, nothing else mattered to John but his patient. Not the blond corpse on the rug beside him. Not Sergeant Donovan, looking furious as a blood-drunk Valkyrie, kneeling beside a dying Eddie as if she hoped to hasten his final few steps toward the afterlife. Not even Sherlock, his cheek streaked with crimson, looming over a bound and half-weeping Tommy, Mycroft standing tall and ashen at his elbow.
John helped to turn Lestrade, shifting his bare torso ever so gently, and braced him as the man retched up a mouthful of bile and blood. "Concussion. Possible skull fracture. Broken ribs. Possible compromised lung due to displaced rib fractures," John recited, litany-like, to the gathering circle of paramedics.
"Please." Lestrade wheezed his plea. "Don't let her" – a harsh breath, positively grating– "see all this."
"No," John agreed, wiping blood from Lestrade's brow before it could drip into the man's eyes. "She won't. It'll be fine. We'll take care of her."
"Thank you, Doctor. We can handle it from here." John nodded and sank back on the rug to let the professionals do their jobs. He blinked, momentarily dazed at the number of people in his sitting room. Quite a few of them seemed to be wearing stab vests from the Yard. And were those half-dozen men there with Mycroft paramilitary troops?
He felt absurdly blessed to be part of the focus of such ridiculous overkill.
There was something he needed to remember. Something very important indeed.
How did the consulting detective arrive at his side so quickly, swifter than a thought, while still so unsteady on his feet? John wanted to reach up a hand for assistance, but he feared toppling Sherlock over instead.
"Sofie. Knock on the cupboard. Under the sink. Tell her who you are, before you open the door. She's armed."
"And Sherlock: she can't see any of this."
"Of course." Then he was gone.
By the time John was standing again – someone tried to wrap a blanket around his shoulders, and he nearly gave in to a fit of the giggles; couldn't they see his hands were perfectly steady? – Sherlock was heading toward the kitchen, his coat tucked under one arm, John's cane hooked over the other.
John threaded through the crowd to follow him.
Mycroft's personal assistant leaned against the threshold to the kitchen, typing furiously on her Blackberry. She didn't look up as she said, "Be sure to knock on the cupboard door and identify yourself first, or you'll get skewered. She means business."
Sherlock paused, John just behind him.
"You know about Sofie?" Sherlock asked.
The young woman glanced up at that. "Who do you think organized this entire operation?"
The flatmates stared at her.
"She's been texting Mr Holmes and Detective Sergeant Donovan ever since the moment she was alone under the sink. Mrs Hudson's been very helpful with eyewitness information these last few minutes, but the joint forces were already mobilised and en route before she was ever released."
"How much did Sofie hear?" John had to force out the words.
"Enough," she said. "Enough to be scared for her father and for the two of you. But not enough to lose her wits – and, believe me, she has plenty."
"Freak!" came a call, and they turned to find Donovan approaching, mobile in hand. "Make this any more difficult than it has to be for that little girl, and I'll see to it you're a permanent high tenor."
For once, Sherlock did not rise to the bait.
Seconds later he was kneeling before the cupboard door with John.
He rapped on the door. "Sofie? It's Sherlock. John's here with me. May we open the door now?"
Curled into a knot, one hand clutching the knife and the other her mobile, Sofie squinted against the light. Dried tear tracks showed on her cheeks.
"Daddy?" she asked.
"He was wounded, but he's going to be just fine," John said quickly. "The paramedics are tending to him now."
"I want to see him," she said.
"Soon," Sherlock agreed, as John helped her to swing her cramped legs out onto the floor.
"Oh, your face," she said to Sherlock. "Wait." Handing Sherlock the knife, Sofie shrugged out of her backpack. She tucked her phone into its depths and pulled out a small packet of pre-moistened antibacterial hand wipes, as precise as any member of the forensics team at a crime scene.
Sherlock inclined his head without a word and allowed the child to wipe the blood from his nose and cheek and chin.
"Oh, John, you're even worse!"
"No, no, the blood's not mine," he said, wincing at the mess on his shirt.
"But your hand." Clearly uncertain how best to help his hurts, she offered him a second wipe, which he accepted with thanks and wrapped around the shallow knife lacerations on his fingers.
"Sofie," Sherlock said, "We need to get you out of here, so we can follow your father to hospital. It's best if you don't see the sitting room, so we'll carry you out."
"Why? What can't I see?" She bit her lip.
"There are two dead bodies on the fl—"
"Sherlock," John said.
"Bad guys?" she asked.
"Bad guys," John agreed.
"John was quite the proper ninja." Sherlock leaned in, as if to share a delightful secret, and whispered, "You should have seen him. Unarmed, he snapped one's neck, and then he stabbed—"
"Sherlock! Not good. More than a bit. Inappropriate in the extreme, in fact."
"I knew it." Sofie's faith shone in her eyes. "I knew it, John. Thanks. For helping Daddy."
"Anytime," John said, humbled. "And thank you, for texting the good guys."
"It was an emergency, so I'm allowed," she explained. "That's what my mobile's for."
"Right you are," John said.
He became aware of a great deal of movement behind them, and he turned to see the paramedics rising to their feet, preparing to bear Lestrade on a stretcher between them.
Recalling the words Lestrade had spoken about what his death would (or, more to the point, wouldn't) mean to those around him, John was seized by the sudden conviction that the man should have a friend at his side, now of all times, while he was wounded and in pain.
"Go on. You're the medical doctor. It's fitting that you're with him. I've got Sofie. We'll follow and meet you there."
With a squeeze to Sherlock's shoulder, John went to Lestrade.
Mycroft, bless his near-omniscience, already had anticipated John's desire to ride in the ambulance and made the necessary arrangements.
As John waited for the paramedics to load Lestrade and secure him inside the vehicle, he leaned against its reassuring bulk and treated himself to a few deep breaths of air. The adrenaline crash, when it came, would be dizzying, but for now John Watson felt far, far better than anyone who had become a hostage in his own home, witnessed his friend's almost-murder, and turned two captors into corpses had the right to feel.
The panda cars, the police tape, and the milling personnel all felt like peace, somehow, despite the fact they represented its opposite.
And then the front door opened, and Sally Donovan held it wide, waiting. She wore a singularly baffled-appalled-moved expression on her face, as if she'd just seen an angel, or met the historical Jack the Ripper, or spotted the Loch Ness Monster and the Eye of Sauron doing shots at the pub with the Queen.
Through the open door hobbled Sherlock Holmes.
John knew all too well that Sherlock had not once made it down the stairs without assistance since the explosion.
He was half-bent like a withered crone from a child's fairytale, steadying his balance with the cane designed for John's slighter height. His cheeks were colourless save for a burgeoning bruise, his lips a tight line, his face slick with sweat from exertion.
His coat hung over his right shoulder and chest – and, John realized, Sofie Lestrade, tucked tightly against Sherlock's side, carried in his slender arm. All that was visible of the child beneath Sherlock's coat – his cape, John corrected himself, thinking of Sofie's description of the man – was her hands.
One curled around the back of his neck. The other rested against his chest, above his heart, thumb and index finger extended in her best approximation of a Star Wars blaster gun.
Sherlock elbowed aside several offers of assistance as he made his way toward Mycroft's black sedan. Of course, the physician in John fretted at the strain the consulting detective had placed on himself, but any fool could see that this was something Sherlock had chosen to do – had needed to do – on his own.
Despite his obvious frailty and struggle, or perhaps because of it, Sherlock was the very portrait of fierce dignity.
Was it any wonder that John would follow this man anywhere?
As Sherlock approached the car, security team members seemed to materialise out of thin air, clearing his path and opening the door for him. Before he climbed in with his burden, his eyes searched the scene and found John's.
They nodded to one another. A shared moment of communion.
A heartbeat later, a paramedic called out that Lestrade was secure and the ambulance was ready to depart. John scrambled in and assumed the place they had made for him at Lestrade's side.
The detective inspector was in no condition for conversation, panting shallow breaths behind his oxygen mask, eyes wide and slightly unfocussed. Fortunately he did not seem to be in any immediate respiratory distress. John groaned to himself in sympathy anyway, knowing that each breath with those ribs had to be torture, and that Lestrade could receive little for the pain until his head wound was thoroughly examined.
When John put himself in the man's direct line of sight, Lestrade blinked in obvious recognition.
"Sofie's right behind us, riding with Mycroft and Sherlock," John said. "Sally's securing the scene. Everything's fine."
Lestrade attempted to nod, went still with a groan as his head protested, and then tried to smile instead.
"Jesus," he huffed.
"Yeah," John agreed.
Nothing else needed to be said.
The waiting room deserved a revolving door.
In the course of an hour and a half, they saw Mycroft, his personal assistant, Mrs Hudson, and three police officers and two members of Mycroft's staff whose names John never learned. Somehow, through fleeting snatches of conversations and reports, John patched together enough details to understand that he owed Mycroft Holmes his life.
Apparently two separate snipers had secured Eddie in their sights as he opened his attack on Lestrade. At the last possible moment, Mycroft had instructed them to hold their fire, a decision that nearly – and, John reasoned, quite understandably – sent Donovan into an apoplectic fit.
Before Mycroft could explain that he anticipated an imminent Watsonian rescue attempt, John had taken Eddie down. John's desperate lunge, of course, had put him directly in the snipers' line of fire.
Well, John thought. Huh.
He filed away that information for some future time when it would fascinate him more and freak him out less.
The last to arrive was a somber Sergeant Donovan, carefully balancing four lidded and logo-bearing cups. She made her way to Sofie, went to one knee, and set the drinks on the floor before her.
"I come bearing cocoa," she announced with solemnity, and offered a cup to the little girl.
"Thanks, Sally," Sofie smiled. Her red-rimmed eyes glowed with pleasure.
"Anything for a hero," Sally answered. "How are you holding up?"
"'Course you are." Extending a second cup toward John, Sally said, "Tea."
"Oh. Yes. Um, thanks." Just the way he liked it, too.
"Sherlock," she said.
With a raised eyebrow, Sherlock replied, "Sally."
"I didn't know what you liked, so I ordered the darkest, bitterest, most pointlessly pretentious thing on the coffee menu. Seemed fitting."
She held out the cup, and he accepted it. He took a sip that could only be called dainty. And then he smacked his lips.
"Sergeant Donovan, with accurate deductions such as this, you may one day earn that title of detective that you wear."
She stared at him. "Right."
Like an afterthought, she said, "Your flat will be a right mess for a while – not that you'd notice the difference. And your sitting room rug is a lost cause."
John couldn't shake the notion that some kind of détente had been reached. He filed away that information, as well.
The ribs would mend.
None of the tests or scans revealed complications from the concussion, although the doctors wanted to keep the detective inspector for observation a while longer. It seemed highly probable, however, that Lestrade had escaped the Beretta with only temporary side effects: blurred vision, sensitivity to sound, and one hell of a headache.
"Hey, Sweetheart," he croaked, as John helped Sofie onto the bed, careful not to jostle the man too much.
"I was scared," she confessed, with quivering lips.
"So was I," he admitted. "But you kept your wits and carried on. I'm so very proud of you, my brave girl."
With a sniffled, "Poor Daddy," Sofie buried her head on his shoulder for a brief, explosive, and cathartic cry. Lestrade stroked her head and slurred reassurances that he would be fine. When the storm had passed, and more than one adult had wiped eyes as discreetly as possible, Sofie sat up again, announcing, "I feel better now. And I really need the loo."
Sally confirmed that it wasn't beneath her professional dignity to serve as an honour escort.
Sofie paused on her way out the door to hold up her phone and say, "Gran texted. She'll be here in ten minutes!"
Once Sofie and Sally were gone, Lestrade muttered, "Whoever said that your flat was the safest place in London is an idiot."
"It will be safer, after this," Sherlock said. "Mycroft is already generating a new set of protocols—"
"—yeah, and the Yard will respond, as well," Lestrade said. "God, the paperwork."
They lapsed into their own thoughts for several moments.
Sherlock broke the silence with an abrupt announcement: "I loathe hospitals. Thought I'd never be released this last time. And where do I go for my first proper outing from the flat? To hospital. Dull."
He was looking distinctly worn, John had to admit.
"Go on, then, Sherlock." Lestrade made a shooing motion, and then blinked and squinted at the consulting detective. "All… ah, three of you. When she gets back, Sally can drive you home. She can take your statements there, as well."
John sighed. "For a moment I'd forgotten our home is also a crime scene."
Like a child on Christmas morning, Sherlock began to glow. "Yes, it is, isn't it?"
"But there's no mystery to solve," John pointed out. "You already know what happened. You were there."
"True. Still. There's the ambience." After some thought, Sherlock added, "And my experiment is still in progress. It requires attention. You must clean up the mess you left on the table, John."
John shook his head, hiding his eyes in his hand. He glanced up to find Lestrade regarding him with a knowing and rueful look.
"Do you need anything? Does Sofie?" John asked.
"We're good. If Julia's coming, she'll take care of Sofie."
"We'll check with you later, see how you're doing."
A grin. "Thanks, Doctor." After a beat, more soberly, "For everything. Both of you."
"One question, Lestrade," Sherlock said, rising none too steadily and draping his coat over his arm. "Whatever happened to the chocolate éclairs?"
"That is your question? Seriously?" John asked. "All that's happened today, and you're thinking about the éclairs?"
"I never got mine. I wanted it."
"I stopped and ate them on the way, once I knew you were tied up," Lestrade said. "Sure, your life was in immediate peril, but they were bloody good éclairs. Couldn't let them go to waste, you understand."
Folding his arms over his chest, Sherlock waited.
"Made a spontaneous donation to members of your Homeless Network, didn't I? The ally of my ally is my ally, too, right?"
Sherlock straightened a bit, clearly pleased.
"And we need all the allies we can get," John nodded in approval. "Although it seems we can mark one threat, at least, off our list today."
"Not your list, mate," Lestrade noted.
"Our list," John repeated.
"The biggest name remains, and there will be more to add, I'm sure," Sherlock said. "But in the meantime, there's éclairs on the way home."
"Sherlock. Priorities." John indicated his own torso. "Besides, something about being splattered in dried blood puts me right off pastries."
Sherlock smirked. "No, it doesn't."
"Fine. Fine." John knew when he was defeated. "No, it doesn't."
As they retreated, John paused at the door and lifted his hand, gratified to see a weary but genuine smile on Lestrade's face. "We'll find Sofie and say goodbye. Ring you later. And Lestrade—"
"I know. I'll be careful. You, too."
With a nod, John followed Sherlock down the hallway.
Sequel: The sequel story is "After All."
Vital Stats: Originally written in September 2011.
Originally written for the "Fall Back Into Sherlock" Fest at the Sherlockmas Livejournal community.