Mrs. Hudson's first reaction upon seeing her boys alive and well was to cry.
Her second was to smack them on the head with her rolling pin for "Making her worry"
And her third was to invite them in for lunch.
As they head towards the kitchen, she keeps up a steady stream of chatter, knowing that neither of the two is in a good position to talk at the moment. She's not blind, and she has a pretty good idea of what they've been up to these past three years.
But she's not going to say anything. If the CIA can't be bothered to figure out what's been going on, she's not going to tell them.
"-never did get 221B rented out again, no one seemed to want it. I did have to clear it out, though; most of your things are in storage in 221C. Don't worry; I kept them out of the wet. Sherlock, you're not getting that dratted skull back until that apartment is spotless, I don't care if you need it to think. I'm not your housekeeper. Consider the cleaning your security deposit- you never did get the last one back. Are ham sandwiches fine?"
Not bothering for a response, she ducks through the bead curtain to make said sandwiches, leaving Sherlock and John in the hallway.
John can tell that Sherlock is trying to think of a way to get out of eating. (Three years of living in even-closer-proximity-than-normal will do such a thing.) That has to be nipped in the bud. "Three sandwiches, Sherlock."
"Digestion is boring-"
"But necessary." The you're-going-to-do-as-I-say tone doesn't surface in John's voice very often, but when it does, there's usually good reason for it. "If we've got to leave in a hurry, you collapsing would make that difficult."
On a lesser person, the expression on Sherlock's face would be considered a pout, which John is about to say something about when Mrs. Hudson returns, bearing a tray of sandwiches and a basket of cleaning supplies. She answers the boys' confused looks with another "Not your housekeeper, dear."
They have faced down assassins, mafia dons, and mob bosses, as well as a plethora of henchmen and hit men. But they're not stupid enough to argue with Mrs. Hudson when it's plain she's not going to budge.
Sherlock gets his skull back three days later.
Donavan eases the door open just wide enough to admit Lestrade, Anderson, and herself. They make their way up the stairs to 221B quietly, hoping they haven't woken Mrs. Hudson. The only reason that they've come at this time of night is that there's a better chance of those two actually being there, instead of off wandering the streets of London.
They quietly make their way up the stairs, and are at the top of the landing when something catches Donavan across the ankles, sending her sprawling. Lestrade and Anderson are up the stairs in time to be slammed against opposite walls with knives to their throats. In the dim light, they can almost make out the features of John Watson, who wore a pleasant smile in stark contrast to the circumstances.
"Really, so many people have trouble using the bell. You could have at least knocked; it doesn't hurt to be polite, y'know."
Lestrade starts. This isn't the shy, quiet Doctor Watson that he knew- this person would probably have no qualms about killing them here and now. After all, everyone here knows exactly what's been going on, even if they've nothing with which to prove their accusations.
So Lestrade swallows hard and spits out a whispered "Watson, you bloody fool, it's us!"
The change is immediate and almost frightening. The knives vanish, and Doctor Watson is helping Donavan to her feet.
"Sorry about that- the trip wire was Sherlock's idea. You really can't be too careful these days. Cuppa?"
Lestrade finds the entire situation to be a bit surreal.
He is sitting in 221B, drinking tea that was prepared by someone who has been missing for three years, and was quite cheerfully holding a knife to his throat not twenty minutes earlier. Said person has just emerged from the kitchen, bearing a plate of biscuits and another pot of tea. He sinks down into his usual chair (Anderson almost sat there before Lestrade gave a warning cough) and takes a drink from his own mug. If Lestrade wasn't deliberately ignoring it, he would have noticed the bulges beneath his jumper that indicated the man was armed to the teeth. Or at least the collarbones.
Donovan cuts to the chase. "Where's the freak?"
Watson raises an eyebrow. The expression speaks volumes- seeming to ask just how stupid she thinks he is with the twitch of a facial muscle. Wisely, she does not pursue the subject.
The officers finish their tea, and leave the flat with even more questions than they had upon entering.
Sherlock was asleep, actually- they'd just switched over when Lestrade and company arrived. John spends the rest of the night digging through the internet, uncovering some interesting facts about the disastrous affair three years previous.
-Kitty was dismissed in disgrace, and hasn't worked since.
-A number of NSY higher-ups resigned over the scandal, especially when:
-Several hackers discovered numerous holes in Richard Brooke's identity, casting doubts about whether or not he had ever existed at all.
-The "I Believe in Sherlock Holmes" graffiti campaign hit NSY headquarters, No. 10 Downing Street, and Buckingham Palace in the same night.
-Numerous clients of Sherlock's had come forward with their stories about the consulting detective's prowess, too many to be faked.
- And it seems that people had started to believe the Moriarty existed, especially when all of the criminals had started turning up dead. Luckily, any connections drawn between Sherlock's death and the killings were dismissed as conspiracy theories.
As the sun began to tentatively inch over the horizon, John leant back in his chair with a contented sigh.
It was good to be back.
Lestrade resisted the urge to slam his head against the nearest wall. Whoever was lying there had evidently pissed off the wrong person, judging by the numerous stab wounds littering their person, but the lack of blood in the area indicated that the victim had been moved. Adding to his headache, there was a distinct lack of footprints or tire tracks in the area that didn't belong to his team, and nary a fingerprint in sight.
It was at times like this that he looked at the number in his phone that he couldn't bring himself to erase. What the hell?814 Barnberry St.
Male, numerous stab wounds, possibly moved, no tire tracks, footprints, fingerprints.
Probably not boring.
Sherlock and John are having breakfast when Sherlock's phone buzzes. He glances at the message before swallowing the last of his tea and leaping from his chair. Halfway to the door, his shout of "There's a case!" tells him all that John needs to know.
John grabs his own coat and a few "necessities" before heading out the door behind Sherlock.
Definitely good to be back.
Donovan scowls at the grey sky, wishing that they can get the body to the morgue and go back to their nice, warm offices to finish the paperwork. Even paperwork is better than standing around in a cold, foggy alley with a corpse that refused to cooperate. It couldn't get any worse even if it started to rain.
"Hello, Donavan. Still seeing Anderson, I see."
Nope, it just got worse.
Turning, she gives the consulting detective a look that would have turned a hardened serial killer into a puddle of terrified goo. It didn't do anything except make her feel better, but that's still something.
"Hello, freak. I could have sworn you were dead."
Nevertheless, she lifts the barrier to allow the two through, Watson nodding cordially as he walks by. She isn't stupid, despite what Holmes might occasionally say. The sooner Holmes gets here, the sooner the case is solved, the sooner they're back in their nice warm offices instead of out her in the cold, foggy, almost-raining gloom.
He strides onto the crime scene, Watson hot on his heels, ignoring the whispers that erupt as everyone figures out who he is. He can almost hear the tweets and facebook updates as officers surreptitiously whip out phones, rules be dammed. A dead man has walked in, and any regulations just flew out the window.
Sherlock kneels beside the body as Lestrade looks on. His eyes flicker over the scene, and Lestrade realizes with a start that John is doing his own scan, eyes flicking from the streets to the rooftops, as if he's searching for threats. However, given what those two have been up to, it's not surprising. He supposes that he has underestimated Watson- a mistake he won't make again.
Sherlock rises quickly, and races to the nearby fire escape, shouting at John to follow him. They return moments later with several fibres and a pulley, proving beyond a doubt that the victim was lowered onto the scene, and the killer made their escape over the rooftops. Lestrade barely has time to start asking a question before they are gone, dashing over the London skyline on the trail of a killer.
The DI suppresses a grin as he starts to give orders. Some things never change.
It's only when they've cleared the fifth rooftop with a jump that isn't commonly seen outside a parkour video that John realizes how much he's missed this. Their feet pond concrete and tiles as they swerve around chimneys, Sherlock dashing ahead and John watching his back. They did what they did because they had to, but this is what they were meant to do- they were meant to be chasing shadows in and out of the darkness, and they were meant to be dancing the line between here and there and then and now. The smoke-fog-air tastes bitter on his tongue and he laughs at what they've become- two runners who don't know how to stop.
The reporters descend en masse to 221B in the wake of the news, but find only a landlady who refuses to comment and several government agents who take their "no one who shouldn't go in goes in" orders very seriously. After the world has moved on to more scandalous headlines, they move back from Mycroft's "guest cottage" (read: safe house where he can attempt to keep an eye on his brother), and resume their lives.
But some things have changed.
A larger table has taken up residence near the window, where two laptops and an unholy number of files rest, threatening to collapse whenever a door is slammed, but never making good on the promise.
The violin makes as many appearances as usual, but instead of tuneless screeching, the flat will occasionally ring with Hayden, Mozart, Beethoven, and Rimsy-Korsakov. And some Beatles occasionally, if John found a head in the fridge.
Anyone entering the flat with unsavoury purposes is startled to discover that the harmless-looking doctor's anatomy knowledge extends to nerve endings, pressure points, and the simplest ways to fracture bones. Judging by their quick descents to the rubbish bins outside the windows, its clear that he knows some physics as well.
And any police officer that is foolish enough to try to obtain "borrowed" evidence learns very quickly that the flat has excellent security systems.
Three years of running, of fire, and of blood do not fade quickly. They still have the occasional nightmare, or traumatize a rookie who hasn't learned the unspoken "don't come at them from behind if you don't want a near-death experience" rule that was made after Anderson grabber Sherlock's arm and got a broken nose for his troubles. They still sleep in shifts, unless they both haven't slept in over seventy-two hours and pass out together on the couch. They still create escape plans upon entering buildings, and they still cannot look at someone they don't like without seeing the quickest way to take them out.
And they still run.
Rooftops and alleyways, overpasses and tunnels, bridges and byways- London is theirs, theirs to keep and hold and know like no-one else does. And they know every inch of it, from the floor inlays in Westminster abbey to the rain (and occasionally blood) –splashed back walls of the dockyard warehouses.
Foreign agents and government agencies and a travelling man who only shows up when things get really interesting (and who's blue box Sherlock ignores for sanity's sake)- they know them all, and are known in return. The shadows twist and dance on the wall as the fire flickers and the time passes, until one day, it will be embers and ash. And they know that.
But now the flames leap and spark and dance, as if they don't know whether or no they should be illuminating or burning. Two sets of eyes do both as blood and sweat and tears flow into the gutters, not drop unnoticed.
And the shadows dance with them, grey-tongued reminders of the dark that lurks in the borderlands and stays there thanks to those who would come and dance with them, and remind them of their place in the underthebeds and beneaththestairs and justaroundthedarkestcorner of the city- their city. And if the shadows make the flame burn brighter, so be it.
But until Time claims her prize of dust and ash and memory, they will be there, chasing the shadows against the light of the rising moon.
Wow. Okay, I'm not really sure what my brain just did there in that last bit. Maybe I need more sleep (not that I'm going to sleep more, but whatever.) Well, thanks for sticking around to real my delusional ramblings as I complete my first multi-chaptered story, couldn't have done it without my beautiful reviewers, alert-ers, and favourite-ers (probably not real words, but what do I care?), and I salute you. Hope you had fun, and feel free to leave a review on the way out. Check out my other stories too, of you want- I'm writing quite a bit of Sherlock right now. Now excuse me while I go ice my fingers. WAAAAY too much typing.
P.S.- a virtual jammy dodger for anyone who noticed the teeny hint of a crossover. I'm writing a longer one too, if you like the idea ;)