Author: Warnings for innuendos about masturbation, violence, poor descriptions of boxing, foul language, drug use, and pretty much every character but John and Lestrade being big jerk-faces. Oh, and shameless use of Wikipedia to try and figure out how one goes about practicing law in England. *Sigh* One day I will know everything and not have to resort to such low forms of research.
Wow, all I need now is sex and I think I might have hit all the warnings. Oh wait, that's next chapter.
Mycroft supposed that they were lucky to have gone the past three months without any real incidents. There had been, of course, John's initial uneasiness in the flat, what with the way he hesitated before touching anything as if afraid that he was committing some terrible breech of Mycroft's personal boundaries, or how Mycroft constantly had to give him subtle reminders that he wasn't an unwanted guest over-staying his welcome. And some days were better than others. Some days everything appeared fine, as if John had always lived with Mycroft and simply belonged there as much as Anthea belonged in Mycroft's office. Others, John would seem somewhat removed from reality, as if he were too busy looking into the shadowy universe of his memories to bother with the actual world around him. Mycroft understood this, too, and left him to his own devices. Unlike Sherlock, John was capable of recognizing that he had a problem and finding his own way of coping with it.
Which was why, when Mycroft was abruptly woken up by a loud thumping sound issuing from John's room, he was quite confused and a little bit frightened. Considering how well John had been doing, his first thoughts regarding the noise were of intruders and assassins. He quickly rose from his bed and pulled a dressing gown over his nightclothes before slipping his hand around the pistol he kept tucked in a drawer and carefully walking towards John's room. He paused outside the door, surprised to see light streaming from below the frame. He was about to push the door open when he heard the rasping sound of John's breathing in sharp, disjointed pants. For a second, he considered the possibility that he might be interrupting a more...intimate moment, but then he thought that John probably wouldn't have left the light on if that was what he was doing, so Mycroft gently rapped his knuckles against the door and waited for John's response. When none was forthcoming, he waited a bit longer to ensure that he wouldn't walk in at a less than timely moment before pushing the door open.
"John..." He stopped in his tracks as he took in the scene spread out before himself. John was sitting on his bed, evidently in the early throes of a panic attack while his hand scratched furiously over his sketch pad. Papers were already strewn carelessly over the bedclothes and floor, but still John continued sketching, baring the pencil down hard enough on the paper to leave thick smudges of graphite on what was once pristine white surfaces.
Mycroft stooped to collect one of the discarded sheets off the ground, his eyes quickly scanning the page to try and make sense of what had caused this sudden outburst of John's. It was difficult to make much of the image as it was clearly drawn from John's perspective as if he were experiencing it again, but slowly the pieces fell into place. He tilted the image slightly, and it all became clear. The sketch was of a pair of trainers and the trouser-clad calves of whomever was wearing them, but they were both standing at an odd angle, as if the person looking at them had been laying on their stomach and looking over at them. The edges of the sketch were also hazy and dark, creating a tunnel vision-like effect. Mycroft dropped it and quickly peered at some of the others, confirming his worst suspicions. Although each picture was merely a fragment of a larger story, together they vaguely reconstructed the events that transpired at the pool all those months ago.
"John!" Mycroft grabbed John's shoulders in an effort to draw his attention back to the present, back to his sheltered and safe reality. John obediently looked up to meet Mycroft's gaze, his hand stalling over the page he had been working on, but Mycroft could tell from the glazed look in his eyes that he wasn't fully returned to their setting. "John, what you're seeing isn't real. It's just a memory. Do you understand me?"
John swallowed harshly then slowly nodded. His eyes were losing some of their glassy appearance, but still he was shaking in Mycroft's grip and his breathing was far from normal. "I didn't know what to do...I had a dream- a nightmare- and I woke up, but I wasn't...I wasn't here, not really. I was still in the dream, but it wasn't...It didn't make sense." John dropped his head, a shuddering breath wracking its way through him as he further tried to calm himself.
Mycroft watched John in silence until he seemed to have regained some of his composure. When the muscles in John's neck and shoulders had somewhat relaxed and Mycroft was sure that he was firmly grounded back in the here and now, Mycroft let go of John's shoulders and eased himself onto the mattress next to John. "It was just one of your memories resurfacing. Your therapist talked to you about this, yes?"
John nodded again but still kept his head bowed low, as if afraid that if he looked up he would find that he had slipped into his nightmare world once again. "None of it was really clear. Not at all, actually, except for chlorine. I could smell it; even when I knew it wasn't real, I could smell it everywhere. I still can."
Mycroft forced a smile and placed a comforting hand on John's knee. He had become better at reading what actions were acceptable in which situations, and this situation definitely called for a comforting touch. "I can fetch you an air freshener, if you wish," he said jokingly. John, he had discovered, preferred to laugh problems off rather than dwell on them.
Sure enough, John finally looked up, a small, feeble smile tugging at his lips. "I think it would take more than a few dangly pine trees to make it go away." He frowned, his fingers picking at the seam of his sleep pants, and Mycroft recognized instantly what he was about to ask. "So...What do you think that was? The memory, I mean. I couldn't make heads or tails of it."
"Well..." Mycroft's mind was whirling. He could tell the truth, but doing so would just bring about so many more questions, and those would simply beget more lies. Wouldn't one major lie be less harmful than a multitude of smaller ones? In for a penny, in for a pound, he thought to himself before beginning to talk once again. "Well, if I'm not mistaken, it is probably related to your time in Afghanistan. You were involved in multiple bombings, including some near buildings that would have made the sort of destruction you drew."
"But what about the chlorine?"
"That's probably just a slight error on the part of your memory. I'm sure that some of the chemicals used in bombs and the like could smell quite similar to chlorine."
"Oh," John chewed on his lower lip as if trying to decide whether or not he believed Mycroft before giving a light shrug. "It doesn't really matter anyway, right? Not any more, at least. It's just part of my past; it's not like it's that important, yeah?"
"Right." Mycroft was slightly disturbed by John's cavalier attitude towards his life prior to the accident, but then again he supposed that it was simply a defense mechanism. He would have to drop a line to John's therapist and mention this development. In the meantime, he thought it was best to keep John distracted from the memory. "Well, since we're both up and neither of us have a chance of having some proper rest, what do you say we get some breakfast?"
John's eyes darted to the clock sitting atop his nightstand and then turned to Mycroft with raised eyebrows. "At three in the morning?"
John shrugged and clambered off the bed, forcing the hollow smile that Mycroft had grown so used to seeing upon his face. "I'll make the waffles if you make the eggs, then. And don't put any of those weird spices in them, either. I didn't like them the last time you did that."
Mycroft rolled his eyes. "Forgive me, John, for trying to bring a little culture into your life. For a man who has spent time abroad in multiple continents, you seem to be terribly closed-minded."
Their light banter continued as they made their way into the kitchen and then began preparing their meal. Mycroft had little interest in the food, but the conversation was having the desired effect of easing the tension that had still been radiating from John. For that, he continued following John's orders concerning how to properly prepare the eggs while watching in amusement as John meticulously prepared the batter for their waffles. Since John had little else to do during the daytime, he had essentially taken over dinner duties and as such was becoming quite skilled in preparing their meals. Mycroft repressed the thought that he had, by denying John knowledge of his past, turned the soldier into a housewife. John had every opportunity to choose to do something else if his current role in their flat didn't suit him. Mycroft had not, he assured himself, pressed this upon John. Besides, John seemed to enjoy cooking, no matter how much he moaned about the absurd contents of Mycroft's spice rack.
Having finished the eggs before John was done preparing their waffles, Mycroft set about laying out the plates and silverware and also pouring their drinks. It was a rather nippy morning, especially considering how early it was, so he decided that some hot chocolate would be appropriate. He was in the middle of stirring the pot full of cocoa when he happened to catch a glimpse of John reaching out to turn the waffle iron off. His hand was shaking so badly that it took multiple attempts for him to fumble the switch into the "Off" position. Mycroft looked back down at his pot, pretending that he hadn't seen, as John carried a plate laden with waffles into the dining room.
"Go ahead and have a seat, John," Mycroft called after him. "I'll have the cocoa out in a moment."
In for a penny, in for a pound, Mycroft reminded himself as he quietly opened a cabinet over the stove. He searched through it quickly before finding the two bottles he wanted. He poured two cups of cocoa, then, and unscrewed the caps from the bottles to shake some of their contents into John's mug. One was a sedative, while the other was a light amnesiac. He couldn't give John enough to completely erase the memory of that night, but he could at least give him enough to make it feel more vague, less disturbing. John would wake up in the morning and probably only recall the barest of details from the night before, and that suited Mycroft just fine. At least then he wouldn't have to worry about John looking up whether or not explosives actually could smell like chlorine.
He carried the two mugs out to the table, carefully placing them such that John received the mug with the drugs intended for him. John murmured his thanks before digging hungrily into his plateful of food. They continued making conversation about anything and everything not related to John's nightmare, each of them carefully sidestepping any topic which might lead to further discussion of the memory. Gradually, however, Mycroft noticed John's attention slipping and his eyes drooping.
"Mycroft," John slurred. "I think I should go back to bed..." He stifled a yawn while his head slumped down to his chest then bobbed back up sharply as he blinked into the lights to try and force himself awake.
"Of course. Would you like assistance?"
In the time it took for John to process what Mycroft had said and then attempt to formulate a response, his head had already dropped back down to his chest and his response, whatever it was, was so garbled that Mycroft just assumed he said, "Yes." He did not look, after all, to be in the proper condition to go anywhere under his own propulsion.
"Alright, come along, John." Mycroft dragged him up from the table and together they shuffled their way towards John's room. He collapsed haphazardly onto the bed before sluggishly rolling over and blinking blearily up at Mycroft.
"You drugged me, didn't you?"
Mycroft thought it was best if he ignored what John had said while he continued pulling the covers back up around his shoulders and otherwise settling John in for a long rest. With any luck, the amnesiac would work to erase that particular bit of information. Once he was sure that John was fully asleep, Mycroft quietly set about collecting the papers he had left thrown across the floor. His breath hitched as he looked at the last one John had been working on. It was of two hands joined amid rubble, both dirty and bloody, but the fingers entwined so closely they formed a knot of knuckles and ash-smeared skin.
Mycroft had learned a long time ago that it was best to sleep on the floor of Sherlock's room on nights like these. If he didn't manage to quieten Sherlock before he awoke their parents, then it just made everything much, much worse. Part of him resented Sherlock for making the situation more difficult than it already was, but another part understood. Another part of him couldn't help but sink deeper into himself to cower as their shouts echoed down the hallways and up the stairs. Another part of him still ached to curl into Nanny's lap and let her console him with delicate fingers threading through his hair. But Nanny wasn't here, just him and Sherlock.
He knew better than to interrupt when Sherlock began whimpering and writhing on the bed. If he did, Sherlock would fall asleep shortly thereafter and then the dreams would start anew. No, he had to wait until the whimpers threatened to turn to shouts or sobs, had to sit and watch until Sherlock was panting and crying. Then when he woke him up and calmed him down enough so that he went back to sleep, Sherlock would remain asleep in a dreamless landscape and Mycroft would be able to get some rest of his own. Until then, though, he simply sat beside Sherlock's bed and waited.
Sure enough, Sherlock began quietly wriggling on his bed, his fingers clutching at his pillow while his legs kicked out and tossed the sheets to the foot of his bed. His knees curled up to his chest then, and he gave a low, weak whine. Mycroft carefully reached out to him, placing a hand on his wrist to try and calm him enough so that he wouldn't make so much noise their parents awoke, but he knew that they were far from the end of the ordeal. The crying would begin soon thereafter. Mycroft patiently sat next to Sherlock waiting for this and silently hoping that Sherlock had learned enough by now to not cry out for their mother. That was the absolute worst thing that he could do.
When Mycroft thought that it was safe to intervene, he clambered up onto the bed next to Sherlock and began trying to shake him awake while murmuring comforting little phrases. Sherlock came to awareness slowly, as children are wont to do, blinking up at Mycroft through tear-filled eyes. His lower lip immediately puckered into a pout as he tried to quiet himself. He knew from past experience that waking their parents with the sound of his crying only made matters worse.
" 'Croff?" He dragged his hand under his nose, smearing the mess of his tears across his face. Mycroft suppressed the urge to roll his eyes at the boy before retrieving a tissue from his nightstand to clean him up.
"It's okay, Sherlock. It was only a dream."
"But the fight wasn't." Sherlock stared up at him with wide, frightened eyes. His next words came out in a slightly panicked whisper. "Daddy didn't mean it, did he? He isn't going to...He won't...hurt Mummy, will he?"
"Of course not. He was just angry. People say things like that when they're angry, but they never actually mean it."
Sherlock had twisted himself out his his covers now and had crawled up to Mycroft to lean against his side and burrow his head in Mycroft's shoulder. "And Mummy isn't going to leave us?"
"No. Mum's going to stay. She wouldn't want to leave you, no matter how angry she was at Dad." Mycroft failed to mention that they hardly saw the two of them for it to really make a difference if either one walked out on the other.
"I didn't mean to make them angry," Sherlock sniffled and fresh tears began to fill his eyes. "I didn't drop the glass on purpose."
"I know, Sherlock, and they don't blame you, either. Accidents happen. They were already mad at each other and just used the glass as an excuse to yell about it."
"I made them a new cup to make up for it." Sherlock's tiny little hand darted out to his nightstand and grabbed a deformed lump of slightly damp clay. He pressed it into Mycroft's hand and smiled. "Do you think they'll like it?"
"I think they'll love it." The "cup" as a whole wasn't even big enough to hold a thimble full of water, and Sherlock had obviously tried to carve the same pattern that had been etched into the glass on it using a toothpick. The result was a brown, cracked, and deformed ball with a thumb print in the middle meant to hold the liquid. Mycroft smiled and set it to the side to put away later.
Sherlock gave a long, drawn out yawn then, his hand nearly smacking into Mycroft's nose as his arm stretched out. "Will Mummy be home for Sunday brunch?"
"Probably. She usually is." Mycroft carefully turned Sherlock about so that he was laying across his bed once again. He untwisted the sheets from the bottom of the bed and pulled them up under Sherlock's chin while the boy writhed into his most comfortable position. "Go to sleep, now, and don't worry about it anymore. Everything will be fine in the morning."
"Okay. Thanks, 'Croff."
Mycroft turned his bedside lamp off and slipped out the door and into the hallway, taking the little clay cup with himself. He would put it in with all the other little knick knacks Sherlock had made for their parents over the years. There was a whole box filled with them, ranging from toothpick-and-marshmallow men to rocks with little faces drawn or painted on them. Mycroft wasn't entirely sure why his parents bothered keeping them, considering that they placed no value on the objects whatsoever, but he had devoutly added to the box, assuming that eventually it would serve some higher purpose.
John shuffled out of his room around one in the afternoon, looking thoroughly perplexed as he blinked into the sunlight streaming through the lounge windows. "Why'd you let me sleep so late?" He inquired of Mycroft while making his way into the kitchen to prepare his customary cup of tea.
"I thought you could use the rest," Mycroft replied smoothly. "You seemed to have had a rather rough night." He flipped to the next page in his paper, acting as casually as possible while he searched John for any signs that the man recalled his nightmare and the subsequent drugging. Seeing nothing of the such, Mycroft turned his attention back on the paper while keeping John in his peripheral vision.
"Oh," John walked out into the lounge, clutching a steaming mug of tea and rubbing at his eyes with the corner of his sleeve. "I suppose it wasn't the most restful." He sat in his usual armchair and began sipping at his tea while his brow furrowed as he tried to work out what had happened the night before.
"Yes, your therapist mentioned that your memories might have a nightmare-like quality if they returned while you were sleeping." Mycroft kept his tone light and casual, hoping to implant the idea in John's mind that it had simply been a minor event from his time in Afghanistan turned into a nightmare by the twisted mechinations of his subconscious.
John, however, seemed to have other concerns on his mind. "You know, Mycroft, you sure do seem to know a lot about what my therapist says. One might think that you had been snooping."
Mycroft finally looked up from his paper to meet John's eye. "I'm sorry if it appears that way, John. I merely speak to her briefly after your meetings to make sure that she's worth the money I'm paying her. It's perfectly harmless, I assure you."
"Well, I want you to stop. If the money's such a concern I'll find one that's free. This isn't going to work if I know that you're constantly hovering in the background and spying on me."
"Of course. I'm sorry, John. I hadn't thought that you would consider my concern such a terrible breech of your privacy."
"Oh yes, sure, because harassing a man's therapist to gain access to his personal information usually isn't a breech of privacy."
Mycroft did not mention that he hardly had to harass the doctor as she was a personal employee of his and therefore required to give him the information he requested. Instead, he smiled his most placating smile at John and relented, "You have my word, John, that I will not longer "spy" on your sessions, as you so crudely put it."
"Thank you." John grew quiet and stared down at his mug, neither taking a sip nor making any motions to do so. Mycroft knew from his body language that he was going to discuss another troubling matter, but he hadn't the faintest idea what it might be. "I've been thinking, actually, that maybe I'd like to go back to school or find a job or something. I don't think I'd be of much use in the medical field again, but, I don't know, maybe I could pick something else up? Just something so I can get on my own two feet again."
Ah. Of course John was concerned about finding a way to feel like a productive member of society once again. Mycroft had known that stagnation would not suit John for long, but he had thought that surely John would be content to spend longer than three months recuperating. "John, you realize, of course, that prolonged exposure to the outside environment is inadvisable for a multitude of reasons. The lasting damage done to your lungs increases the chances of a respiratory infection significantly, and you're far less likely to have a successful recovery should you become ill. Your neurologist also mentioned that there is a high chance of you developing epilepsy as a result of the trauma to your brain."
"I know," John cut in. "I just don't want to sit around on my thumbs for the rest of my life. God knows it's not worth living if I'm just rotting away in your flat each day."
"I see." Mycroft grew quiet as he tried to find a solution to their problem. Although he disagreed with the timing of John's request, he knew that it was a problem which was going to have to be dealt with eventually. "What if, for the time being, you enrolled in some online classes? You could take a couple and complete them in a manner which suits yourself while exploring your interests. If you found something that seemed particularly interesting, you could enroll in more classes of that nature until you found an appropriate career path. I just hope that you realize that there is no end bound to how long you are allowed to stay here; I welcome having you here as long as you wish to stay."
John thought it over for a moment and then gave a genuine, relieved sort of smile. "Right. That sounds okay. I can deal with that."
Satisfied that John's need to feel productive had been sated for the moment, Mycroft smiled and rose from his seat, tossing his paper aside for later. "Well, if that's all you wished to talk about, I'll be in my office finishing up a bit of work. I should be finished around dinner time."
"Great," John smiled up at him. "Then you'll be able to go out to the pub with me and and Lestrade."
"Come on, Mycroft. It'll be fun. I don't think you ever go out for strictly recreational purposes."
"John, I believe I just mentioned how inadvisable it is for you to be out in public right now. What makes you think that going to a pub, the cesspit of society, is a good idea?"
John rolled his eyes but refused to back down. "That's why you should come with us. I'm sure you'll be perfectly responsible and make sure to bring alcohol wipes to clean every surface before I come into contact with it."
"John, I hardly think that protecting you from pathogens is within my job description."
"Then don't do it! You can be irresponsible for the night and have a drink or two. I won't let you get into trouble, I promise. I can be the big brother for the night and watch out for you. I'm not allowed to drink anyway, so I might as well live vicariously through you."
"Fine." John shrugged and leaned back in his chair, looking the picture of casual uncaring. "I guess Lestrade and I will have to go alone, then. Probably we'll have to ride in a filthy cab, and I doubt that Lestrade knows which pubs are the cleanest of the lot. We'll probably end up in that god-awful tavern he's visited since he was in uni. I can't remember the name, but he's told me all sorts of stories about it. He even said that one time, when he was younger, of course, the bartender taught him how to shoot up cocaine. Demonstrated on himself and everything before going back to serving up drinks."
Mycroft stared at John evenly. He could see through the ploy as easily as cellophane, but still he felt a niggling sense of wariness. He didn't doubt that Lestrade would keep John safe, and yet John's casual mention of cocaine had struck a nerve. "Fine, I'll go, but you have to leave as soon as I say so, and you're not to go near anyone with as much as a sniffle."
"Good," John beamed up at him. "Now go and get your work done and find a change of clothes. I'd be much obliged if you'd try not to dress like you've got a meeting with the ambassador of Bangladesh. It'll scare the other patrons away."
Mycroft heaved a long-suffering sigh but turned to go to his office nevertheless. He assured himself that it wouldn't be a completely miserable night. He liked Lestrade, after all, and John certainly made most activities more entertaining.
The party was about as needlessly extravagant as Mycroft had anticipated it would be. His parents had spared no expense in the flower arrangements, catering, or decor. Of course, they could hardly be expected to bypass a chance to flaunt their wealth and success. Really, Mycroft should have been glad that they hadn't rented the albino peacocks for the occasion as they had done for his eighteenth birthday. Of course, Sherlock's allergic reaction to the birds and subsequent trip to the A&E probably had more to do with their decision to avoid the peacocks than did tact or taste.
"Ah, Mycroft, my lad, come and meet my dear old friend Vincent." Father threw his arm over Mycroft's shoulder and steered him towards a rather grouchy looking old man. "Vincent, you of course remember Mycroft. He and your son used to be such good friends. How is Bernard, by the way?"
Vincent's mouth twisted into a poorly-concealed scowl before taking on the usual faux smile of the extremely wealthy. All white teeth and barely concealed malice. "I'm afraid that Bernard has got himself into a bit of a scrape with the law. He's currently being held under suspicion of involvement in drug smuggling."
"What a pity," Father shook his head in mock sadness. "I suppose you can't choose your children anymore than the child can choose their parents, of course. Perhaps Mycroft could lend a hand to dear Bernard. He's been admitted to the bar, you know. Graduated at the top of his class, in fact. His mentor said that he'll be running the country one day. I'm sure that a boy with talent like Mycroft's could get your son out of trouble in a fix."
"Yes," Vincent's mouth hitched open a little wider, revealing even more bleached white teeth. "I'm sure that he could. Although if he plans to follow in your footsteps, I doubt he would condescend to work such a simple case as my son's."
Seeing that the two had no intentions of dropping the conversation any time soon, Mycroft quietly excused himself and went to find a less vicious conversational partner. He wondered through the house, murmuring pleasantries to the guests as was necessary and subtly ducking away from those to whom he did not want to speak. Eventually, he found himself a secluded corner where he could eat cake and drink champagne in peace. At least, that was the plan until Sherlock appeared next to him, looking as petulant and scornful as ever.
"Sherlock. Are we on speaking terms again?"
"Only when it's completely necessary."
"Ah. There are plenty of other guests, Sherlock. I hardly think that the situation necessitates speaking to me."
"The other guests are tedious and dull. You are marginally less so, and therefore make a better conversational partner than they."
"Thank you, Sherlock. I feel so distinguished."
"I was being contumelious."
"And I chose to ignore your sarcasm. Just as I am choosing to ignore your pompous choice of wording."
"You mean my diction?"
"Really, Mycroft, if you're trying to get me wound up, it won't work."
"It seems to be working nicely, actually. Or is the drink making you flushed? You always did seem to have such a low tolerance for alcohol. Pity. You do take so much after mother."
"Don't you dare accuse me of being like that-"
"That what, Sherlock? Surely the best academy in Britain has at least taught you how to formulate a proper sentence."
"Well, that was mild."
"She agreed to turn your old room into a lab; I can't be too acerbic towards her."
"Ah." Mycroft frowned down at his now empty glass. Sherlock always did seem to have the effect of making him want to drink. "And what do you plan to do in this lab of yours? Find more recreational drugs with which to experiment?"
"That was only once," Sherlock bit out sharply. "And I haven't done it since."
"Have you found a new activity to preoccupy yourself, then?"
"Yes, actually. It's a little club I found. I intend to go there later tonight, in fact, if you're interested in looking in on it. I know how much you do so love to spy on me."
"Calling the headmistress and inquiring after your behavior and marks is hardly spying, Sherlock. It's only what every concerned parent would do."
"Yes, and contrary to whatever neurosis you are suffering under, you are not my parent."
"Considering that I masqueraded as your father in order for you to gain admission into the academy, I hardly think that it is outside of my rights to call in to check on you."
"I only asked that of you so Father wouldn't mar my chances of being accepted by acting...abrasive. You, at least, have a working knowledge of how to be pleasant and amicable."
"I'm glad to have been of service, then."
"You're glad to have something to hold over my head."
"Yes, well, that doesn't prevent me from being proud of your accomplishments thus far. You're doing well, Sherlock, very well."
"I don't need your approval."
"Then quit pushing me into situations wherein I'm obligated to give it."
"I never-" Sherlock heaved a frustrated sigh and snatched a glass of champagne from the nearest server. He downed it in one gulp before taking a deep breath and seeming to relax. "You are utterly infuriating. You do know what they're saying about you, right? They're saying that you're some sort of genius at law, that one day you'll be some big wig in Parliament."
"Is that so?" Mycroft laughed lightly while shaking his head. "I'm sorry to disappoint the blathering masses, but I actually have other intentions. Father, of course, does not need to hear about this."
"Really?" Sherlock's eyes lit up with interest. "What is it that you plan to do?"
"I can't say, but I assure you that a job in Parliament is not on my agenda."
Sherlock scowled but otherwise did not press the matter. "Will you come with me? When I go out tonight, that is."
"Where do you intend to go?"
"The club. The one I mentioned earlier. I think you'll find that it is quite rewarding."
"Club? Forgive me, Sherlock, but you hardly seem like the type to go dancing and drinking."
"Not that type of club. Has politics really made you so dense? It's different. I really do think you'll like it."
Mycroft frowned, his eyes roving about the room as he contemplated whether there was more risk involved in staying at the party or in going with Sherlock. "Fine. I'll go with you."
"Wonderful. Meet me on the back patio during the fireworks. Mummy and Father will be too busy catering to their drooling guests to notice our absence then."
"Alright. In the meantime, I suggest you stop drinking. It wouldn't do to be sloshed in front of the guests."
Sherlock rolled his eyes before disappearing into the horde of tux and gown-wearing piranas once again. Mycroft made his way into the crowd also and begun lightly conversing with the more civil of the guests. When it finally came time for the fireworks display, Mycroft slipped out the back door and stood on the patio while waiting for Sherlock. He didn't have to wait long as his brother soon arrived in a pair of cotton sweat pants and a t-shirt. He carried a bag over his shoulder which he tossed to Mycroft.
"You can change here, or there. Whichever you choose is fine, but I can't guarantee that your tux won't be stolen if you change there."
Mycroft sighed and quickly stepped behind some bushes to dispense of his tux. He didn't mind, really; the thing was horridly uncomfortable, even more so than his usual formal wear. He pulled on the clothing that Sherlock had provided for him, noting with some chagrin that the pants were a bit snug. Once he was fully clothed and his tux was neatly folded into the bag, he stepped back out and allowed Sherlock to stowe the bag in one of his many hidey holes.
"Come along, then." Sherlock's long legs took him briskly over the yard and towards the main road, and Mycroft found himself following Sherlock with only a moment's hesitation. Usually it was best not to just walk wherever Sherlock decided to lead you, but in this instance Mycroft thought that remaining at the house might be the greater of the two evils. Together, they made their way towards the road where Mycroft was surprised to find a car waiting for them. Sherlock threw the door of the taxi open and gracefully slid in as only Sherlock could do while giving the address to the cabbie. Mycroft sat next to him, slightly discomfited by the whole situation.
They arrived at the address not too long thereafter, the cab ride having been marked by an uncomfortable silence as were most spaces which were simultaneously occupied by Sherlock and Mycroft. For over a year now, it was either silence or poorly concealed bickering. That aside, however, Mycroft was surprised to see that they were in front of a small, squat building with no real discerning features on it. In fact, it stood out if only because it was so obviously trying to blend in. Nevertheless, Sherlock strolled towards it with his usual air and Mycroft followed after him. When they walked through the door, Mycroft was assaulted by the stench of sweat and body odor. He wrinkled his nose distastefully and looked around the room in confusion.
"Sherlock, this is a gym."
"No, it's a club."
"There's exercise equipment, Sherlock! And punching bags, and..."
"Yes?" Sherlock smirked as Mycroft's eyes widened at the large, rope-surrounded platform.
"And there you have it. It's a boxing club."
"You've taken up boxing?"
"You, Sherlock, have taken up boxing?"
"I believe that's what I just said. Now come on, we need to rent gloves and then we can get on with it." Sherlock began walking in the direction of what looked vaguely like a reception desk while Mycroft trailed after him, his eyebrows arched upwards in a perpetual state of astonishment.
"Sherlock, this can't be sanitary..."
"They sanitize the rings after each fight, Mycroft. And you can hardly bemoan proper sanitation considering your exploits while away at university."
"That was different, and it was with one man, Sherlock! You can hardly hold that against me. Besides that, I knew him. I do not know where the other people that engage in this boxing thing have been or done."
"Shut up, Mycroft," Sherlock launched a pair of gloves at him which he only taught due to reflexes trained by music lessons. "Let's go. There's a ring open down here."
Mycroft frowned but followed after Sherlock nevertheless. There wasn't much point in not following now anyway. He hadn't the faintest idea what he was supposed to be doing there, but he supposed that he was going to find out soon enough. Sherlock made his way into the ring, Mycroft mimicking the way that he stooped under the rope to get himself into it also. Sherlock helped Mycroft get into his gloves without saying a word then managed to wriggle his own on before stepping to a corner of the ring.
"So, what do we do now?"
"Now," Sherlock said pleasantly. "We beat the shit out of each other."
"Sherlock, this isn't a bloody fight club."
"Precisely, because those don't exist. This is a boxing club. We are going to box, and in the process of doing so, beat each other bloody. I trust you know the basic mechanics of it?"
"Of course I do, but that doesn't mean that I want any part in this!"
"You followed me here. You came in the ring. You put on the gloves. Seems to me like you're very eager to box me."
"I didn't know where we were going-"
"You didn't ask."
"-Nor did I think that you were going to use this as an excuse to get rid of your pent-up aggression."
"I'm doing nothing of the such. Think of it as an exercise in self-defense." And with that, Sherlock struck Mycroft across the jaw with a right hook. Mycroft gasped in surprise, instinctively bringing his gloved hand up to his mouth before narrowly dodging another blow.
"What the fuck, Sherlock? I wasn't even ready!"
"And you probably won't be-" Mycroft ducked from another punch. "If you're ever assaulted."
"You're deranged!" In order to avoid another punch to the jaw, Mycroft lashed out wildly, his fist striking against Sherlock's side.
"And you're a fucking prick!" Sherlock lunged forward, garnering himself another strike to his gut while his fist collided with Mycroft's skull. Mycroft staggered back, momentarily dazed, before the anger finally welled up and sent him hurtling towards Sherlock in a blind rage. He managed to catch Sherlock off guard, thereby gaining an advantage as he pummeled his brother relentlessly. He only vaguely registered Sherlock's reciprocal blows against his own body, so caught up was he in causing Sherlock as much physical pain as possible.
He didn't even notice that he had been shouting until he felt the first of thick, hot tears fall onto his collarbone. "I fucking hate you! You've ruined everything since the day you were born. I couldn't live my own life or have my own friends because I was always looking after you, and you are an ungrateful, narcissistic, self-centered bastard!"
Of course, he didn't feel so bad about it when he realized that Sherlock was doing some shouting of his own. "My whole life you've bitched about how terrible our parents are, and yet you go right along and do whatever they wish. You're just like them, Mycroft, and you're turning more into Father every single fucking day, and I hate you for it!"
They somehow found themselves on the ground, each taking a turn at smashing the other's face in before the one being beaten finally managed to tip the balance back in their favor and turn the tables on the other. They didn't stop until they were both panting and gasping too hard to have even a remote hope of being able to land a solid punch on their opponent. Finally, they broke apart and sat across from the ring staring at each other while they tried to catch their breath.
"Right. I don't...sense any pent-up...aggression...at all." Mycroft gasped out as he angrily tried to wriggle his hands out of the gloves.
"Fuck off," Sherlock said simply before clambering out of the ring and storming off towards the locker rooms. Mycroft watched him disappear into the showers, feeling a heaviness descending upon himself. Saying all of that should have been a relief, considering he had been thinking it for so long, but instead he felt strangely ill and a bit hollow.
"Mycroft, are you ready to go?"
Mycroft sighed but stepped out of his room nevertheless. John smiled eagerly up at him, practically radiating joy at the prospect of getting to go out. Mycroft internally winced as he realized how deprived of socialization John was if merely going out to the pub with his "brother" and close friend was causing him his much excitement. Then again, it could also probably be attributed to the novelty of the thing for John. More than likely he didn't remember what pubs were like at all and was therefore eager to experience them again.
"Lestrade's here. He said that if you come out wearing a three piece suit he's going to take you back to his place and force you into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt." John looked Mycroft's outfit over appraisingly, smiling at his attempt to be informal. "Well, you don't look like a complete twat, so that's something."
"Shouldn't having your memory erased have cleaned up your mouth a little bit?"
"Not at all," John said simply while leading Mycroft into the lounge. "The neurologist said that the memory part of the brain is separate from the speech part, so in most cases of amnesia, unless there's broad-range trauma, the patient's speech patterns stay the same. Apparently, I was a foul-mouthed soldier," he shrugged and grinned at Lestrade whom was awkwardly standing at the door. "Ready?"
"Yes, let's get on with it. I'm sure that Mycroft has a bed time scheduled for you." John made a face and punched Lestrade on the shoulder, but otherwise didn't seem deterred at all from their evening plans. Mycroft had vaguely hoped that Lestrade's snarky remark would have caused a fight and therefore ended the evening early. Apparently, however, he and John had the sort of friendship that one expected from teens whom were mates on a rugby team.
"No, but I feel it's necessary to remind you, John, that you shouldn't try snogging every girl you encounter. The human mouth is wrought with bacteria."
John blinked at him, cocking his head to the side while he looked from Lestrade to Mycroft as if looking for some sign that Mycroft had been joking. "Did I often snog every girl in the pub?" He asked with a slight frown.
"Er," Lestrade shifted awkwardly and shrugged. "It wasn't so much as every girl as just every somewhat desirable person that made themselves available, really. Although, to your credit, you never initiated it. They just sort of...flocked, I guess would be the word for it."
John stared at him with an incredulous expression before a grin spread across his face. "Me? No way. I'm..." He frowned slightly as if trying to find the right word for it. "Well, I'm just sort of boring, I guess."
Lestrade rolled his eyes and shrugged. "You said the same thing before, too. You'll see what I mean when we get there, I'm sure."
Mycroft silently hoped that they wouldn't see when they got there, but he knew that it wasn't likely. If anything, the loss of his memories made John seem more exotic and therefore interesting to potential mates. Already he had noticed the barista at the nearest coffee shop taking an unhealthy interest in John, and then there were the young university students that delivered their take away when John ordered it. Luckily, John for the most part had seemed oblivious to their advances, which was just as well. Mycroft found himself even more distrustful in light of Sherlock's predicament, and really did not want to have to go through the tedious process of screening all of John's sexual partners.
They arrived at a small establishment which looked harmless enough. It wasn't overly crowded nor offensively dirty. Lestrade, at least, seemed to be half as mindful of John's condition as was Mycroft. They entered the pub and found themselves a small table a safe distance from the bar, John already looking thrilled just to be out of the flat.
"Are you going to have a drink, Mycroft?" Lestrade almost looked hopeful, and Mycroft realized that, like himself, the DI was doing this as much for John's benefit as he was. Mycroft frowned, weighing the risks involved before finally coming to a decision.
"Yes, just the house brew. And I'm only having one," he shot a glance towards John so that he would know that Mycroft had no intentions of becoming inebriated. John, however, was already busy talking to another man sitting at the next table over. Mycroft blinked in surprise, startled at just how quickly John had found himself a conversational partner. He sighed and resolved not to take his eye off John the rest of the night.
Once Lestrade returned, he settled three glasses onto the table and sat next to Mycroft, shaking his head at the sight of John already immersed in conversation with a small cluster of people. "Alright, there's a house brew for you, a house brew for me, and a water for John." He pushed the glass towards John with a slight smirk. John, however, simply turned around, thanked Lestrade, and went back to his conversation. Apparently, the group was very enthusiastically discussing rugby, although how anyone could be enthusiastic about such a sport was beyond Mycroft's comprehension.
"So..." Lestrade ran his fingers through his hair and cleared his throat. "How have things been with you?"
"Fine." Mycroft stated simply before realizing that Lestrade had been making a feeble attempt at conversation. "John and I discovered that he's terrible at chess the other day."
"You know, you two are becoming unhealthily co-dependent. That's why I brought him here; I thought it might be good if he made some friends."
"He has plenty of friends," Mycroft scowled. "The whole of Scotland Yard seems to think they're his best mate."
"Yes, and he's friends with them because he feels obligated, and most of them only vaguely knew him before the accident, anyway, and have just been playing the part of being his mate out of pity or some misguided sympathy."
Mycroft shifted in his chair uncomfortably. He was not liking the realization he was coming to. He had thought that, if he kept John safe and healthy, everything would be fine. Now he was finding that "safe and healthy" did not instantly entail "happy."
"So you're saying that this," Mycroft gestured to where John was now standing and playing darts with some men, "is something that he needs to do?"
"Well, not just going to the pub, but just getting out in general. I'm sure he's brought up that he wants to go to school or get a job, hasn't he?"
"Yes, he mentioned it earlier today."
"And what did you say?"
"I told him he could sign up for some online classes until he's in better health, and then we'd figure out where to go from there." Mycroft winced as he realized that he had likely said the exact opposite of what he should have in that situation.
"That's a start, I guess." Lestrade leaned back in his chair, now watching John playing darts as well. "He's pretty good at that." His eyebrows arched up as John made a particularly impressive shot. "Very good, in fact." He leaned forward with a slight frown as John prepared to throw another dart.
Little alarms were going off in Mycroft's mind, but he couldn't exactly place why. He knew it had something to do with John's uncanny aim, the way he was hitting the highest scoring spaces on the board time after time, and the way Lestrade was staring at him with an expression of mixed awe and horror.
"Bloody hell!" Lestrade exclaimed. "He's the one that shot the cabbie, isn't he?"
Ah. So that explained the vague sense of unease Mycroft had been feeling, at least. He supposed that he could be forgiven for forgetting the cabbie. It had been so long ago, after all, and was such a trifling matter in the grand scheme of things.
"Yes, he was," Mycroft said with a shrug. "But are you really going to take an amnesiac to court and try him for a crime that he doesn't even remember committing?"
Lestrade's mouth fell into a thin line as he watched John laughing with the other players while they reset the board. "No, I suppose not...Then again, I was probably so drunk that I imagined all this." With that, he drained his glass and rose to fetch another.
It was an utterly miserable day.
Miserable weather, miserable time of morning, and miserable crime. A grisly triple murder at three in the morning during a sleet, to be more specific. Ghastly, horrible, miserable.
Lestrade groaned and let his back slide down the wall so that he was sitting on his heels and he could bury his face in his hands. Was it too much to ask that the psychopaths at least waited until a decent hour to commit their disgusting crimes against humanity?
He supposed that it was, given the state of the lounge he was currently hunched in.
Abruptly, however, his moment of quiet was interrupted by a ruckus from above. He groaned and straightened himself out, attempting to prepare himself for whatever was causing the shouting and thunking issuing from above.
"Lestrade! There was a man! A man in the attic. He was in a bath tub..." Gregson dragged a rather scrawny looking bloke into the room, brandishing him as if he was some sort of trophy. "And he's got blood on him. Lots of it."
That much, at least, was obvious. Lestrade couldn't even make out what color his jumper was under the thick coating of the stuff. "Okay..." Lestrade worked to regain his bearings at the onslaught of new information. The man certainly did look like a murderer, but Lestrade quickly banished that thought as counter-productive. If one started making assumptions, they would also twist the facts to meet those assumptions. "What's your name, young man?" He figured the term was appropriate, given that he didn't appear to be out of his early twenties yet.
"Sherlock. Sherlock Holmes."
"Bollocks," Gregson cut in, giving him a harsh glare. "There's no way that's a real name."
"It is, and it's mine. I'd appreciate it if you'd not mock it, thank you much. I'm rather fond of it, myself." Sherlock's hand reached up to brush greasy curls out of his eyes, and he blinked in shock at the thick coating of blood on his hand. "There's blood on me!" He exclaimed in shock.
"Yes, are you just now noticing that?"
"No, I noticed it earlier, but I thought that the bath would have washed it off..." He frowned and tried wiping it off on his jumper, which really only served to get more of the tacky fluid on him.
"Okay, Sherlock, I think you ought to explain what you're doing covered in blood in a building where there's just been a triple murder."
"Holing up for the night, of course. It's sleeting out. Bound to be a bit chilly, wouldn't you say?"
"And what about the murders?"
"What about them?"
"How did you end up covered in their blood?"
"This?" He gestured at himself inquiringly. "Oh...Well, I think I came in, saw them bleeding, tried to stop it, realized it was a lost cause, and then went to wash up. That's what any rational person would do, at least."
"No, a rational person would have called 999 and let the professionals try to help them." Lestrade frowned, leaning as close to the man as his ol factory nerve would allow to peer at his eyes. "Are you high?"
"I would assume so. That's normally a consequence of shooting up cocaine. Although it was a while ago, so I'm probably coming down off it. That would explain, at least, why I'm starting to get the less-than-pleasant suspicion that you're going to accuse me of murdering these three people."
"Put that one together now, have you?" Gregson sneered. "Right proper genius you must be to have figured it out."
"Oh, I'm so glad you noticed. People usually don't. They think that junkies are automatically sub-intelligent. Quite the opposite, actually. It's the truly brilliant ones that realize what a dreadful place the world is without the aid of a few vices. Some try sex, some try food, others try a 7% solution of cocaine."
"Okay, okay. Listen, Sherlock, I'm afraid I'm going to have to bring you in for further questioning. Just cooperate and everything will be a whole lot easier on all of us." Lestrade made a motion for Gregson to retrieve some hand cuffs while he continued talking to the man. He didn't seem inherently threatening, especially not in his half-starved and shivering state.
"I don't want to be brought in for questioning," he said simply while wrapping his arms tightly around himself. "The last time I was in holding I had to give an officer a blow job so they wouldn't call Mycroft."
Lestrade froze, frowning at the many things wrong with that particular statement. He decided that it was best to ignore it, especially since Sherlock was high and was most likely lying. "Listen, I'm sorry to say that you're in quite the bind here, Sherlock. Given the preliminary evidence, you look like a fairly likely suspect. I'm not saying this to scare you; I'm just saying it because, well, you should probably refrain from saying anything else incriminating."
"Oh...Yes, I can see the logic in that. Although," Sherlock turned to Lestrade with eyes that were alight with something other than drugs. "If I could find you the murderer, would I be able to go free? Mycroft's going to be terribly smug if he finds out that I was arrested for murder, after all."
"You? Catch a murderer? I don't think you're qualified for that. Listen, why don't you sit down in this corner over here and we can talk-" Lestrade was abruptly cut off as Sherlock strode over to the bodies and began examining them, poking them carelessly with his bare hands and crawling over the floor around them. Lestrade was too shocked to say anything, and by the time he had managed to gain control of his vocal chords once again, Sherlock was crawling across the floor elsewhere and mumbling to himself. He then yanked the window open, letting the freezing air further permeate the room as he examined the sill and surrounding areas.
"It should be fairly simple to catch your murderer, Lestrade, if you stop wasting time by talking to me. He's been injured, you see. The second victim has traces of gunpowder on their fingertips. Probably he was so preoccupied with severing the first victim's carotid artery that he didn't notice that the second victim had a gun. He was shot in the leg, as evidenced by this blood splatter pattern over here." Sherlock gestured at the floor. "You don't get that sort spread or drop from a knife wound, and the wound was too close to the ground to have been anywhere else on the murderer's body except the leg. Probably the right leg, too, if the smear over there says anything about it. He then managed to attack and kill the second victim while the third proceeded to hyperventilate in the corner, as evidenced by the slight blue tinge to their fingernails. None of the other victims had it, so it can't be attributed to the cold. Hyperventilation, then. The murderer heard me coming in through the front door, then, and panicked. He took the nearest exit out the window and hobbled his way towards shelter. Now, you should be able to pick up some signs of his trail, if you were to hurry and not waste time further interrogating me."
Lestrade blinked at him, indecisively chewing his lower lip. The man sounded so convincing, and yet part of Lestrade reminded him that psychopaths were also very talented liars. Again, however, he shook aside this assumption. He had no evidence which said Sherlock was a psychopath except the uncaring way that he had treated the bodies, and even then some officers could be rather uncaring when it came to the deceased. "Gregson, come keep an eye on Sherlock. Anderson, Donovan, let's go take a look outside."
The two officers grumbled about having to go muck around in the bitter cold, but Lestrade ignored them. The most important thing was to catch the killer, and Lestrade had a firm feeling that Sherlock wasn't their man. A drug addict in desperate need of having some sense shaken into him, sure, but not their murderer.
Hours later, Lestrade stared in shock at the sleeping form of Sherlock sprawled across his sofa. The man had showered and was wearing some of Lestrade's pajamas, and he at least looked slightly more human than he had in the early morning hours. He still needed a haircut and about a stone and a half in additional body weight, but at least he wasn't rotting in a holding cell somewhere for a crime he hadn't committed.
Following Sherlock's guidance, it had been shockingly easy to find the killer. With their team sweeping the streets and back alleyways, they had found the man near death in a cellar not even two streets over from their original location. He was currently in custody at a hospital, but the doctors had assured Lestrade that he would make a full recovery eventually. Sherlock, meanwhile, had been sitting in a cell at the station while the whole mess was sorted out. Once evidence confirmed that he had been trying to help the victims and was not an accomplice in the murders, he had been released. Lestrade had barely caught up to him in time to offer the services of his flat, on the condition that Sherlock got clean and stopped mucking up his murder scenes.
Looking back, Lestrade decided that getting Sherlock to keep up at least half of his bargain was quite an impressive feat. Of all the crimes he had solved and criminals he had put behind bars, he couldn't help but feel proud that he had been the first one to gain Sherlock's trust enough to make him sober up. He had then passed the torch to John, letting him take up the responsibility of turning the great detective into a good man. And he had thought that John was actually going to succeed. He had thought that, in a little more time, Sherlock would become the man that everyone hoped he would be. Time, however, is a valuable commodity. Time, it seemed, was the one thing of which Sherlock and John never seemed to have enough.
Author: May I say, "Thank the sweet deities of fanfiction that this chapter is done!"? Seriously, I thought I was never going to get it uploaded. Anyway, thank you for putting up with the delay between updates and being wonderful readers. And, hey, look! I added chapter titles to make it easier for me to tell you how much time is passing.