Resurrection: Pt 3

The sight of Sherlock Holmes in a worn pair of jeans and a battered black hoodie should've been comical, it was so out of character. Instead, at least for John Watson, it was kind of hot. He was doing his best not to look, but without his usual precise fashion, Sherlock looked younger, less guarded. John wondered, idly, if Mycroft had any pictures of him from his uni days. It was worth asking. Maybe he had short hair...

Oh, God, he was a pervert.

"You cannot just wander in and out," Mycroft was saying to Sherlock, who didn't seem impressed with that logic. The way they were facing off, with Sherlock slumped low on the couch, his arms folded and his face like a thundercloud beneath damp curls, and Mycroft, exhausted and frustrated and still in a three piece suit, his tie tight at his throat and his hair in order, made him chuckle.

When the both looked at him with varying degrees of confusion, he shrugged. "You look very much like a frustrated father and teenage son caught out past curfew," he said, standing and collecting the mugs from the coffee table. Mycroft's lips twitched, and Sherlock snorted.

"Fairly apt," Mycroft said, rubbing a hand over his face. "You do realize," he said to Sherlock, "that anyone who might be looking for you would have eyes on this place."

"You've doubled the CCTV cameras on this street and you still didn't catch me," Sherlock smirked back. "Are you implying they're smarter than you, or better equipped?"

John winced, but Mycroft took the verbal body blow in stride. "Yes, how did you get into this building without us knowing?"

Sherlock shrugged, but there was a faint smirk on his face. "221C."

Mycroft groaned, and John glanced over, surprised. "There's no way into or out of that flat other than the main hall," he said, brow wrinkling. The basement flat was dark and what windows it had weren't visible from the street, which was one of the reasons why Mrs. Hudson had such a hard time renting it out.

"No visible way," Sherlock said, the smirk growing. "Which is why no one's caught me."

"Yet," Mycroft said.

"Ever," Sherlock shot back.

"How?" John asked, rinsing out a mug and setting it aside.

"There's a break in the back of the building. An old coal chute," Sherlock said. "It was sealed up, but in a haphazard way. I found it not long after Mrs. Hudson showed me the flat. Every time you went away for the weekend, I worked on it."

"When I went away?"

"Oh, like you'd approve of me ripping out a chunk of load bearing wall without supervision," Sherlock groused.

"Or permission," John added. "So there's a secret door."

"From the back alley into 221C, behind what used to be the furnace room, yes," Sherlock said.

"That's where you've been hiding. Downstairs from your usual flat," Mycroft sighed.

Sherlock shrugged. "You weren't looking for me here, were you?"

"Don't be smug, Sherlock," John said, with a faint smile.

"I'm not smug. I'm self-confident," he said, but the smile he tipped in John's direction was his usual tight lipped smirk. John grinned back, glad that Sherlock seemed a little less... Breakable. There was something terrifying about that, about all the fragility that he knew was hiding behind Sherlock's cool eyes.

"Is that safe? I mean, what if someone finds the entrance?" John asked, not really comfortable with this. Or maybe a little too comfortable. Oh, God, if he could just move back in here, and know that Sherlock was down stairs, yeah, he was greedy and selfish and an idiot, but yes. He wanted that.

"The entrance is well camouflaged, and the keys to 221C was changed, along with the front door key, after Moriarty dropped off Carl Power's shoes," Sherlock said. "It's as safe as any other location, more so, because I know the area well."

"You really should get out of London entirely," John said, shaking his head. "If Moriarty finds you, that's what you should be worried about."

There was a moment of stillness, and he glanced at the Holmes boys. Mycroft was sitting with his hands folded on his umbrella handle, his head down and his eyes on his folded fingers. In the other chair, Sherlock was slumped low, his head tipped up, staring at the ceiling as if it was the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen. John had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach about this, but he asked anyway, "What aren't you telling me?"

Mycroft glanced at Sherlock, who made no move to answer. "Moriarty is dead."

John released a breath he wasn't even aware that he'd been holding. "You're certain of that." Moriarty, dead. He wasn't one to revel in death, really, but, God, yes, that was one party he'd attend. The world was better off without that psycho.

"He was on the roof with me," Sherlock said. "And he blew his brains out in front of me."

"Jesus." John stared at him, horrified. "He was up there with you? With a GUN?"

Sherlock glanced at him, a faint smile on his face. "I had a very bad day," he said, and John crossed the distance between them, not sure why, not sure what to do, but to his surprise, Sherlock reached a hand out to him, and he grabbed hold with a strange sort of desperation. He'd be embarrassed, but Sherlock was clutching his fingers just as hard.

John sank down to sit on the arm of Sherlock's chair. "How did you cover that up?" he asked Mycroft, who didn't look up. Confused, John looked at Sherlock, who shrugged.

"We buried him in my grave."

And just like that, John felt what little control he still had over his life crumble away. "No," he said, his voice flat and quiet.

Sherlock blinked. "Yes, that's what we-" He let out a hiss of surprise as John's hand tightened painfully on his.

"No," John repeated, shaking his head. "No. Absolutely not." His eyes snapped to Mycroft. "No. No, I can't-" He stood, dropping Sherlock's hand like it was suddenly too hot. "Jesus, no. No, I-" Swinging around towards Mycroft, he stabbed a finger in his direction. "Fix this. You fix this, right now."

Mycroft's eyes slid up to meet John's eyes. "I can't. Yet," he said. "I wasn't happy with it, either, but we needed a body, and we needed to hide another body. It was the logical solution."

"Logical," John said, his voice tight. "Really. You consider this logical." He took a deep breath, then another, trying to hold himself together. "No." He turned away from both of them, heading into the kitchen, his whole body just shuddering with tension, and then he was out of room and out of flat, and there was no where for all this rage, this pent up rage to go, and he grabbed a mug from the counter and threw it at the wall with all the strength he had. It hit and shattered, bits of porcelain going in all direction, and he didn't care, it didn't make him feel better, but nothing could make him feel worse, and he grabbed another, his arm coming back.

Sherlock grabbed his wrist before he could let it fly. "John..."

"Don't," John snapped out, hearing the wheedling tone that was there under the words, soft and subtle, but there. "Don't. You. Dare," he bit out, each word its own snapping attack. "Don't you try to-" Sherlock tugged on his wrist, pulling him around so they were face to face, and John jerked his arm in his grip. "I cannot even deal with you right now," he snapped.

Sherlock moved forward, pinning John between his body and the cabinets. "I'm sorry," he said, but it sounded frustrated.

"You don't even know what you're apologizing for!" John yelled, trying to pull his wrist free, but Sherlock wouldn't let go, and he put his other hand on Sherlock's chest, shoving, trying to buy himself some room. "Jesus, you are not going to get out of every argument by-" His words cut off with a snarl, and his fingers grabbed a fistful of Sherlock's shirt, yanking him down without finesse or delicacy.

Their mouths came together even harder than he'd anticipated, and he didn't care, he just didn't, he just slammed his mouth against Sherlock's, and Sherlock didn't seem to mind. His fingers slid into John's hair, cautious at first, almost delicate. John growled against his mouth, and Sherlock's hands tightened.

The kiss was angry, searing, John's fingers on Sherlock's shirt, only his shirt, avoiding skin or any deeper touch. His mouth was hungry, hot, his teeth scraping on Sherlock's lower lip, and he knew that he wasn't responding rationally, but he no longer cared.

Sherlock absorbed the impact without flinching, his strong hands smoothing over John's head, his neck, down his back, his fingers digging in hard enough to leave bruises, and John didn't give a damn about that, either. When John heard him groan, the sound almost lost in the heavy breathing that passed between their lips, the sound sent a shock through his body.

John's hand flattened over the hard, steady beat of Sherlock's heart, and the rage drained out of him.

When they finally broke apart, they were both panting, sucking in breath with desperation, and John let his head fall forward, onto Sherlock's shoulder. He felt Sherlock rest his cheek on his head, and that wasn't bad. He could handle that.

God, he wished it didn't feel so good.

"I'm sorry," Sherlock said, his voice quiet in the stillness of the kitchen, but John could feel it through his whole body, from where they were pressed together, from the pressure of Sherlock's lips on his head.

John took a deep breath. "You mean that, I know you do," he said, with a weak chuckle. "But you don't have any clue what you're apologizing for, do you?"

Sherlock took a deep breath, and John raised his head, eyes narrowed in a sharp glare. "Don't lie to me," he said, his voice still and firm. "I can not cope with that right now. I have had a pretty brutal twelve hours here, Sherlock, and we're not on stable ground yet, you and me, so do not lie to me."

Sherlock studied him, and his eyes slid away, his face a familiar, cold mask. John could feel him retreating, pulling himself back to avoid rejection. "I don't, no."

John sighed, and moved off of Sherlock's lap. That took far more willpower than he would've guessed, but judging by the pinched, miserable look that flashed across Sherlock's face, he wasn't happy with it, either. John settled down next to him, shoulder to shoulder, leaning up against the kitchen cabinets. He took Sherlock's hand in his and leaned his head on Sherlock's shoulder.

"I went to your-" His voice broke, and he cleared his throat. "I went to your grave often."

"I know," Sherlock said, sounding lost.

John's lips quirked up, just a bit. "I know you know. But I went there, because, because I had no where else to go, Sherlock. I had no where to be. I was lost. So I worked, I slept in a sterile hole of an apartment because I couldn't bear to come home, to come here, and I sat next to your grave and talked to you. That was all I had left of you. That was what kept me together, all that kept me together, especially for the first few weeks after you-" Yeah, he wasn't getting that word out, so he waved his free hand.

"And now you're blindsiding me with the fact that you weren't there, that Moriarty was. That you allowed that-" His face twisted, the closest he'd ever felt to rage burning in his chest, "that monster to be buried in sacred ground under your name, that- That's an abomination to me, Sherlock. That's a desecration of the highest order."

He sucked in a deep breath. "How he went after you, Sherlock, it was like he was trying to strip you of your identity. Of who you were. He took your reputation, your good name, your standing with everyone we know, and the thought of him literally and truly taking your place after your death is just-" He choked on it, and it was a struggle to get himself under control again.

"I did not need to know that. I hate, I absolutely hate that you had to do that. That you allowed him to steal even your final resting place from you."

Sherlock gave him a sideways look. "I'm not dead," he pointed out.

"Thank God," John said, and it was with all the fervency that his lapsed religious background would allow.

"And even if I was, I'd be dead, so I don't understand what difference it makes," Sherlock pointed out with perfect logic. "Even if my body was there, it's just a decomposing-"

John put his hand over Sherlock's mouth. "Okay, that's enough of that." But he couldn't keep a straight face as Sherlock stared at him, blinking over the mask of his fingers. "It's not rational. It's an emotional response." That earned him more blinking. "I hate Moriarty." Sherlock's eyebrows arched. "I love you." He felt Sherlock's smile against his palm. "I want to keep the two of you separate. Always."

Sherlock shrugged, and mumbled something against John's palm. John lifted his hand away, but kept it close. "He's dead," Sherlock said, with a faint smile. "I'm not. As far as I'm concerned, that puts me ahead of him, no matter where he's buried."

"We win," John agreed, and Sherlock kissed him. He relaxed as Sherlock's hands crept up his arms and came to rest on his shoulders. "I'm still so angry with you," he said, but it lacked heat. He slumped forward, head finding the hollow at the base of Sherlock's neck. He felt Sherlock's chin rest on his head, and took a deep breath, ignoring the prick of tears in his eyes.

He felt Sherlock take a deep breath. "You need to stop being angry with Mycroft," he said at last, and there was a stillness in his voice that made John's eyes slide shut.

John pulled back, meeting Sherlock's eyes head on. "No, I don't. I get to be very, very angry with him. You know what he did. You know he told Moriarty all about you. He-" John gritted his teeth. "He set you up."

"Yes," Sherlock said.

"So why would you think I'd have to forgive him that?"

"Because I told him to do it."

John stared at him. "What?" he managed at last, the word a thin, thin whisper. "What did you just say?"

Sherlock leaned against the cabinet. "I told him to do it. When they first took Moriarty into custody, he warned me. Warned me that they wouldn't be able to hold him for long, and his obsession with me seemed to be, if anything, becoming more all-encompassing. I told him to string Moriarty along by providing him information about me."

"Why?" John's voice broke. "Jesus, Sherlock, why would you do that?"

Sherlock's eyes shut. "Because I could not end up back in that pool," he said, and there was an ugly note in his voice.

"Pool, what- What are you talking about?" John asked, but the anger, the hurt was fading into confusion. Into concern. "What pool?"

Sherlock's eyes opened again, and John reached out, not surprised when Sherlock latched onto his fingers with a staggering desperation. "The first case. With Moriarty. The pool."

"Oh! Oh, God, no, Sherlock, we're not doing that again." John let out a bark of laughter. "That was the worst day of my life, including the one where I got shot, so yes, not doing that again."

"We would have, though," Sherlock said, his voice thin and tight. "Unless I gave him something else to focus on, we were going to be right back there, and I can't, I couldn't conceive of that, John, I couldn't cope, and-" He sucked in a long, steadying breath. "I had to give him something else to manipulate."

"I don't understand," John said, but he held onto Sherlock's hand, held on tight when Sherlock's fingers twitched in his grasp.

"You were my only weak spot," Sherlock said, the words haunted. "I don't think you understand that, John, you were-" His throat worked. "I had to give him something else. Some other flaw, some other weak spot to attack, because if I didn't, he'd go after you. I knew he would. There was nothing I could do to stop that.

"So I worked it out with Mycroft. We'd steer Moriarty's attention in another direction. A direction he could understand, that he anticipated, the need for recognition." Sherlock's lips curled up, just a little, a bitter smile. "Don't you remember what I told you at the beginning, John, at our first case, about serial killers?"

John's eyes widened. "The clever ones always make a mistake, because they want to get caught," he said, the words slow. "They need the recognition. Holy Jesus, Sherlock, you-"

"Fed him the information. Gave him a route to attack that mirrored what I knew about him. That if he thought that my reputation, my public persona was the most important thing, then he'd focus his attacks on me, and not you." Sherlock stared at the floor. "He understood that, more than he understood-" His lips got tight, and he made a gesture between himself and John, and John raised an eyebrow.

"More than he'd understand an emotional bond," John filled in for Sherlock. "Because he was a sociopath. He didn't feel much of anything for anyone. So he expected you to be the same." Sherlock shrugged, his face tight, and John reached out with his free hand, the one that wasn't holding Sherlock's hand, and pulled Sherlock's head down to his shoulder. "You set yourself up. To protect me."

"And because I don't give a bloody damn what the stupid idiots reading their morning papers think of me," Sherlock gritted out. "I've a lot of experience with being accused of lying and faking things, I'm used to it. I don't care."

John's arm tightened on him. "I do," he whispered, but it was falling into place. Sherlock had never chased publicity. He'd never insisted on being recognized for his work with Lestrade or the Met. It would've been easy for him to be famous, but until John had started his blog, he'd labored comfortably in obscurity.

"I care what you think of me," Sherlock said, against John's shoulder. "Lestrade, too, to a point. Mycroft, perhaps. But not the wide world, let them think what they will. They have before, and that just makes them stupid. Stupid and wrong."

And it still hurt him, somewhere inside, and John knew it. "You know what?" he whispered into Sherlock's hair. "I will always believe in you. Always. Even when you're trying to convince me otherwise, you lying bastard."

Sherlock choked on a laugh, his fingers tightening on John's shirt. "Thank you," he whispered. "I-" He took a deep breath, and his whole body expanded with it. He pushed back, meeting John's eyes, and there was something dark and dangerous there, something that John hadn't seen very often, and truly, he didn't want to see ever again. "You have no idea how far I will go to protect you. What lengths I would go to, to keep you safe."

John cupped his cheek, and stroked a thumb against his cheek, and Sherlock's eyes fluttered shut. "I killed a man to keep you alive after knowing you for about a day," he said, his voice calm. "I understand completely."

Sherlock leaned over, kissing him, sweet and soft, and it deepened before John knew what was happening, and he shouldn't do this, shouldn't let Sherlock do it, but damn, it felt good, and by the time they broke apart, he was breathing hard and dizzy.

"No," Sherlock said, his voice gentle. "You don't."

John gave him a look from below his lowered brows. "Let's get one thing straight," he said at last. "You are not to hurt yourself, or allow yourself to be hurt, to keep me safe. Do you understand?" Sherlock gave him a shrug, and John's hands grabbed his shoulders, giving them a shake. "I am not doing that again, Sherlock. Don't you ever do that to me again."

Sherlock gave him a half-smile. "Of course not."

"Oh, like I haven't lived with you long enough to recognize evasion when you try it." John shook his head. "Don't lie to me. It's not right."

"Are you trying to appeal to my sense of morality?" Sherlock said, and his lips were twitching. "Because, you do realize I don't have one."

"That is a lie," John said, letting Sherlock pull him into his lap again. "You most certainly do-" He grabbed for Sherlock's hand as it slid down the plane of his stomach. "Oh, no. No, no, no, you are not going to-" He gave a yelp of surprise as he found himself flipped onto his back on the kitchen floor, Sherlock looming over him. "No," he said, eyes narrowing. "This is not going to happen. You are not going to get out of every fight we have by distracting me with sex."

"Why not?" Sherlock asked, his lips brushing John's jaw, his throat, moving down, and John struggled against him, knowing it was a losing battle.

Hell, he was half-hard already, because his body had absolutely no sense of shame.

"Because-" His breath was sucked in on a hard hiss as Sherlock's teeth scraped against his skin. "Jesus, Sherlock, no. No, get-" He let his head fall back with a thump. "You are incorrigible, you know that, don't you?"

"Mmm," Sherlock purred against John's chest.

"I am not forgetting that you took advantage of me while I was drunk," John said, twisting under Sherlock's weight.

"Well, of course. You never would've let me, otherwise," Sherlock said, and John worked a hand free and pulled Sherlock's head up.

"That's not going to work a second time."

Sherlock's eyebrows arched. "What, allowing you to get drunk and jump me? I rather think it will."

"I didn't jump you, you-" John couldn't hold back his laughter anymore, and he gave Sherlock a look. "I am not having sex with you on the kitchen floor. Get off."

Sherlock stared at him, eyes narrowed, and seemed to come to the conclusion that John was serious. Or at least serious enough that he had to obey. With an annoyed sounding sigh, he rolled off of John. John lay there for a moment, staring at the ceiling and trying to get himself under control. Finally, he sat up, ignoring way his head spun. "Is Mycroft-"

"He disappeared right about the time I started kissing you," Sherlock said. "If I had to guess, I'd say he's on his way to the office. He does have to check in from time to time."

"I'm surprised he leaves," John said, rubbing a hand down his face. "God, Sherlock, what are we doing to do with you?"

Sherlock's lips curled up, just a tiny bit. "Love me?" he said, and the words seemed to surprise him more than they did John, but John grabbed his shoulders before he could backpedal.

"I already do," John said, dropping a light, gentle kiss on Sherlock's lips. "And I'll say it as often as you need to hear it."

Sherlock's arms closed around him, pulling him close, and John buried his face in Sherlock's shoulder. "I love you," Sherlock whispered against his hair, and John smiled.

"I love you, too." John let their legs tangle together. "And I want our life back. The real one. I want our cases and our flat with the windows wide open, and our friends and-" He sucked in a deep breath. "I want you alive."

"Mycroft has some work to do before we get to that. We'll need more help than that, since I'm still the prime suspect in half a dozen criminal cases. If I come back now, I'll end up back in handcuffs. Faking one's own death isn't looked upon as something innocent men do." Sherlock's fingers stroked the nape of John's neck. "We need Lestrade."

"Yes, we do," John said, straightening up. "When?"

Sherlock studied his face, eyes narrowing. "You think we can trust him."

"Yes." There was no doubt in John's mind on that front. "He'll protect you."

With a nod, Sherlock shifted out of John's reach and rolled to his feet. He offered John a hand and pulled him up, up into his arms. Laughing, John hugged him tight, and kissed the line of his throat. "Enough," he managed, even as his own arms tightened. "When?"

"Now." Sherlock steered him towards the bedroom, and John dug his heels in.

"No, no, no we are not-" Laughing, he pulled out of Sherlock's reach. "When are we going to talk to Lestrade?"

"Now," Sherlock repeated, his lips curled up, and he was so real, so perfect, John was dizzy with it. He pulled the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head, smoothing his dark hair out of sight. "Take a cab, you know the address of his flat?"

"I've got it in my book, yes. Are you going to wait here?" John asked, knowing the answer, but he'd much prefer Sherlock stay hidden and safe.

"No, I'll meet you there." Sherlock's fingers brushed John's cheek. "Don't worry. I can make it there on my own."

John shook his head. "I don't like the sound of that, Sherlock..."

Sherlock gave him a grin, and it was his usual, wicked grin, and the sight of it was like a blow to John's breastbone. He grinned back, ignoring the way his eyes pricked. "I'll be fine," Sherlock said. "Trust me?"

"God only knows why, but yes." John grabbed the front of his hoodie and pulled him down for one last hard, deep kiss. "Stay safe, stay out of sight."

"I'll beat you there. Don't worry."

"Oh, I do nothing but."

Bloody night shifts were gonna ruin him.

Greg Lestrade tromped up the stairs to his flat, his leaden legs and aching shoulders making it a rough go. At this rate, he mused to himself, shifting his leather satchel under his arm, he was barely going to make it to his bed before passing out. It had been a rough night, and he was, in the traditional vernacular, getting too old for this.

He reached the third floor landing, his mind still puttering away at the cases that had crossed his desk, and almost missed the compact form standing next to his door. He blinked, surprised. "John. You all right?"

John had been standing to the far side of his flat door, his shoulders just resting against the wall, a typical posture that brushed the edges of parade rest without looking too uptight. He looked wan and washed out, his eyes and face holding echoes of his drinking of the night before. "I'm fine, I'm fine. Morning, Greg."

Lestrade shifted his satchel to his other hand and extended his right to shake John's. Eyes narrowed, he considered the other man with a critical gaze. "Not that I'm not glad to see you, but what brings you out my way?"

John's grip was firm and warm, his hand as steady as his gaze. Reassured, Lestrade fumbled in his pocket for his keys. "I need your help," John said, his voice pitched low.

Pausing, his keys halfway to the lock, Lestrade nodded. "Yeah? What's up?"

John stepped closer. "Did you believe it?" he asked, and his voice was so low that Greg almost didn't hear him. As one, both men glanced around, their gazes coming back together at the same time.

Lestrade considered the question only for a second, knowing what it meant. Shocked, on some level, that it hadn't been asked of him before. Not by John. He'd taken the whole mess with more dignity than Lestrade could've managed, calm and precise as he answered questions and responded to charges. He'd always liked John, liked him more because his presence had made Sherlock manageable.

How odd of a thought that was. Five years or more of working with Sherlock, a necessary evil that they'd all fallen into the habit of, but it had been such a strain, dealing with him, until John Watson had come along and somehow, inexplicably, taken him in hand. It wasn't that Watson had changed him; Lestrade didn't think that anything was capable of changing Holmes, but John had tempered some of his rougher edges, reigned him in, kept him focused.

He owed John for that, at the very least.

"No," Lestrade said now. He couldn't help glancing up the corridor again, even though he knew any neighbors he had were on their way to work, the building was likely empty now but for the two of them. Still, he'd been careful for the last few months, no reason to ruin everything now. "No. Tempting at first, but it doesn't hold up under clear thought." He reached out and unlocked the door. "Let's talk inside."

John grabbed his wrist. "I need to know," he said, stepping closer, his jaw set. "That you are on my side right now."

Lestrade glanced over his shoulder. "I am," he gritted out, "but if I go public with that, John, I'll lose my access to the files we both need to get this mess cleared up. We owe him at least that much, yeah?"

For an instant, they stared at each other, and finally, John dropped his hand. "There's something I need to tell you."

"Inside." Lestrade opened the door and waved him in. He got them both through the door and shut it, locking it for good measure. "Expected you to come around with this stuff earlier than this, to be honest."

"It wasn't your problem, and Sherlock put you in a bad enough position at work as it was, without me making you chose sides."

"True, but I should've stuck with him. It didn't make sense, and once people calmed down, it was more and more clear that we'd been lead around by our noses." And didn't that grate on the nerves. Bad enough that Sherlock jerked the police force around, having two people capable of doing it was just intolerable. "Even if he'd been able to do what the papers were claiming, and it wasn't out of his ability range, mind you, too many little cases, too many little people popping up to make it an open and shut case. You swallow their story, you gotta assume he's been committing crimes for years without getting caught." Lestrade paused, a faint smile on his face. "Or bragging about it."

"That would probably be harder," John admitted, a ghost of a smile on his face.

"Yeah." Lestrade nodded his head. "C'mon, let's have a cuppa, I've a little petrol in the tank yet."

"Lestrade, wait, I've-"

Greg had stepped past him, into the kitchen, and time seemed to slow down, stagger, stop. The tea kettle was on the counter, not the stove, where it belonged, and a faint hint of steam was still curling from the spout. Still hot. The tea chest was open nearby, wrappers scattered haphazardly across the surface. Cabinet doors were ajar, drawers not quite closed, a used knife resting beside the toaster.

As if from a distance, Lestrade heard the thump of his portfolio hitting the kitchen floor, and he was drawing his weapon, steadying it with both hands, turning on his heel to the only part of the kitchenette that he couldn't see, bringing the weapon to bear as he stepped around the counter, ignoring the way John was trying to grab his arm.

He stepped out and around, and stared down the barrel of his weapon at the man calmly sipping tea at his dining table. "Your tea selection," Sherlock Holmes said, balancing a saucer in one hand, "is absolute rubbish."

Lestrade was aware of John hitting him from the side, coming up under his arm, forcing the gun up and away from the dark haired ghost at his table, but he was barely holding on now, to the weapon or to his senses, it was the exhaustion, it had to be the exhaustion, he hadn't been sleeping hadn't been eating, and everything was-

"How many times do we have to go over TIMING, Sherlock?" he heard John yell, and then everything went black.


His eyes shot open, and he blinked, his vision fuzzy and indistinct. "What the hell?" Greg managed, and he realized he was lying down. "What.. The hell?"

John Watson was leaning over him, a wet dishcloth in his hand. "You had a shock," he said. "No, no, don't-" he started, as Lestrade struggled into a sitting position. Giving up, John pitched the cloth towards the table and put an arm around Lestrade's back, supporting him.

"What the hell happened?" Lestrade asked him, trying to remember. Something-

"You fainted," Sherlock said, stepping out of the kitchen. "It was rather impressive, actually, you went down like a maiden with the vapors." His lips curled up in a mocking little smile. "I got photographs."

"Sherlock-" John started.

"You're dead," Lestrade said, staring at him. "You bloody bastard, you're dead."

"Parlor tricks and misdirection," Sherlock said, sitting down again. "Stop talking, you're just embarrassing yourself."

"Parlor tricks?" Lestrade sputtered. "Parlor tricks? Sally's got your autopsy report framed on her cube wall!"

"That's rather morbid," Sherlock said, glancing at John. "Did you get copies?"

"Jesus, Sherlock, no." John gave him a disbelieving look.

"Pity. I rather did want to see it. I'll have to ask Molly." There was a sharp whistle from the kitchen, and Sherlock popped up. "I'll get the kettle."

Lestrade watched him go, his head still spinning. "He's not dead," he said to John. John shook his head, no. "How long has he been not dead?"

"I assume, all along. I just learned about it last night, though, so don't feel bad." John reached into his pocket, coming out with a penlight. "Look at me, please."

"I'm fine," Lestrade said, trying to turn his head, but John didn't give up.

"I tried to, you know, catch you when you went down, but you still banged your head when you hit the ground," he said, his voice apologetic. "So I'd really like to check, if you please."

Lestrade sighed, but let him do his work. "I'm fine. Just got lightheaded there. I mean, it was a shock."

"Oh, I understand." John sat back, satisfied by the reaction of Lestrade's pupils. "Dizzy? Nauseous? Any pain?"

"I need a stiff drink, that's about all."

"Do you really think that would help?" John asked, a faint smile on his face. "Really. The man's back from the dead and he's bloody smug about the fact, you think you want to be drunk around him? That strikes me as a very poor idea."

"When you put it that way, yeah, bad idea." Lestrade stared at him. "This is real, then? He's really not dead?"

"He's really not dead," John said, his smile growing. He leaned in and whispered, "We're not that lucky."

Lestrade choked on a snort of laughter, just as Sherlock wandered back in, holding the tea pot. "This is just idiotic," he said, frowning down at the pot. "I don't know what-"

He didn't even realize he was doing it, but somehow, Greg was on his feet, letting out a whoop of laughter. Before Sherlock could figure out what he doing, Greg had wrapped his arms around the lanky man and was hugging him hard enough to lift Sherlock's feet clear off the floor. "You bastard!" he yelled, and it was full of laughter and relief and shock. "You bloody goddamn bastard!"

John lunged to steal the teapot from Sherlock's flailing hand before it could go flying. He was laughing, even as Sherlock grabbed at Lestrade's shoulders and pushed. When his feet were finally back on the ground, he remained braced, hands on Lestrade's shoulders, his whole body leaning back and away. He had a traumatized look on his face, and John started laughing even harder.

"For God's sake, Sherlock, he's not going to hit you."

"No, that was your reaction," Sherlock said, still wary. "I think I preferred that."

"Fine, you bastard," Lestrade said, leaning forward and kissing Sherlock on each cheek with a smack. "Bloody fuckin' bastard, if you ever do anything that stupid again, I will kill you."

"Doesn't that defeat the purpose of being happy I'm alive?" Sherlock said.

"I'd almost forgotten just how bloody annoying you are." Lestrade let go of his arms at last, staggering back to the table and collapsing into a chair. He held up his hands in front of his face, laughing as he realized he was actually trembling. "You goddamn bastard."

"So you've said," Sherlock said, taking his own seat. "Don't ever kiss me again."

"Agreed," Lestrade said, grinning.

John looked at both of them. "Anyone for tea?" he asked, holding up the teapot.

"God, why not?" Greg said.

Sherlock nudged the teacups forward. "Mycroft will want to speak to all of us."

"All of us?" Lestrade asked, eyebrows arching. "Did I agree to be part of your merry band of idiots?"

Sherlock took the cup of tea that John handed him. "You are known for making very poor choices," he pointed out.

"Yeah, that's true." Lestrade saluted him with his teacup. "Where and when?"

"This isn't going to be easy."

Mycroft didn't raise his head from his files. He'd spent the majority of the day marshaling his forces, getting his paperwork in order, and sending over the bare essentials of survival to 221c Baker St. Under the guise of a contract to repaint and wallpaper the basement flat, an unremarkable van had been moving boxes and tool kits in and out of the building all afternoon.

Now, the windows to the flat had been blocked off and a simple table, chairs, and cot had been moved in. Paperwork was scattered across the table, with both Sherlock and Mycroft going through the files with brutal efficiency. Lestrade had contributed a small number that neither of them had seen yet, and he was glancing at some of the ones Mycroft had brought from, well, higher sources.

John had a laptop balanced on his knees, one that had been sanitized and rendered untraceable by the anonymous government techs that had supplied it to Mycroft. He was sifting through the online rumor sites, shaking his head in amusement from time to time.

"How so?" Mycroft said to him.

"This is just... An unbelievable amount of data," John said to him. "Have your people been tracking this at all?"

"Low level," Mycroft said, uninterested.

"You should be paying more attention. Sherlock is, shall we say, memorable." Next to him, his shoulders braced against the wall, Lestrade let out a snort of amusement. "People are coming out of the woodwork with stories." His eyebrows arched. "Some of them are highly implausible, but still."

"The implausible ones are the ones that are true," Mycroft said.

"Mmm, that's likely correct," Sherlock agreed, flipping through a stack of pages. "You can't imagine you can tie this to Moriarty." He tossed the file towards Mycroft, who gave him an annoyed look.

"It was Moriarty."

"That's not the point. The point is tying him to it."

"At this point, we do need proof." Lestrade was chewing on a plastic coffee stirrer, his fingers busy on the edges of the sheets. "I'll see what I can find, some of this stuff, I had no idea it was being investigated."

John glanced at him. "Don't get in trouble."

Lestrade's shoulder rose in a half-shrug. "It's fine. I've been on desk duty ever since the whole mess went down. I've still got access where I need to, but I keep my head down."

"I'm surprised it wasn't worse than that," John said, wincing.

"Hard to fire me when two thirds of the cops knew full well that Sherlock was using London's crime scenes as his personal playground. No one liked talking about it, because it was against half the rules we've got, but everyone knew. If someone said they didn't, they either weren't paying attention or they were being deliberately obtuse." Lestrade shifted the coffee stirrer to the other side of his mouth. "I was the sacrificial lamb, but if it'd gone to internal affairs, the whole thing woulda blown up in their faces, and they knew it. Also, I get the impression that there was pressure from the Home Office to back off."

"There was," Mycroft said.

"Thanks for that."

Mycroft gave him a sideways look. "I've done little to deserve praise."

"Praise, no. Gratitude, I'll go with." Lestrade gave him a tight-lipped smile. "Thanks."

"You're welcome."

"Oh, wonderful, someone found the tourists on that bus you hijacked," John said on a sigh.

"They loved me," Sherlock said, his lips twitching.

"That they did." John grinned, unaccountably amused. "You've got quite the fanbase. It's terrifying."

Lestrade chuckled. "You've no idea." He picked up his case and flipped open one of the outer pockets. "These show up from time to time." He tossed John a badge, and John caught it in one hand.

He flipped it over, and and grinned. "You're kidding."

"Nope. They pop up all over the Met. No one knows who's making them." Grinning, Lestrade added, "Officially, you can get into a lot of trouble for getting caught with one, but the beat officers like to plant them on each other."

Sherlock glanced up. "What idiocy is this?"

John held it up. "I believe in Sherlock," he read off of the badge before he attached it to his lapel.

"Give me that," Sherlock said, holding out a hand.

"No, you're going to destroy it. I know that look."


"No, Lestrade gave it to me. Get your own."

"Children..." Mycroft said, his voice drawn out and chiding. "There is work to do."

"Sorry, Mycroft," John said, trying and failing to repress a smile when Sherlock gave him a disdainful smirk.

"Besides, if anyone deserves a badge, it's me."


Mycroft glanced in his direction, pausing just inside the door. The afternoon had stretched on far too long, and he'd finally had to excuse himself. Leaving Sherlock and Lestrade downstairs, he'd headed up, his car already en route. John would let him out and relock the door behind him. "John?"

"Why didn't you tell me? That Sherlock knew what you were doing with Moriarty?"

To his credit, Mycroft didn't make excuses, or pretend not to know what John was talking about. "Because you were still correct, John. It was my fault. No matter what Sherlock wanted, I should have known better than to allow him to manipulate me that way." He gave a faint smile, just the smallest curl of his lips. "I took the easy path, one that allowed me access to what I wanted, and told myself it was fine, because it was what Sherlock wanted."

"It's not your fault," John said. "We both know how stubborn he can be when he wants to be."

"That is true." Mycroft checked his watch. "But I knew, perhaps even more than you, how dangerous Moriarty was. I still chose to allow Sherlock his ill-advised plan. I didn't deflect the blame from myself, because I was to blame. Even if Sherlock didn't blame me, I blamed myself. It only made sense that you would blame me as well."

John gave a faint snort. "Martyrdom doesn't suit you. I would've thought you were incapable of shame. Or guilt."

"I do keep them well buried," Mycroft agreed. His mobile trilled, and he pulled it out. "Ah, my ride has arrived." He looked tired, worn, and John leaned a shoulder against the wall as he checked his possessions, straightening his suit coat. When he was ready, John opened the building door.

"Good day, John. I'll be in touch," he said, with a faint smile.

"I understand. Thanks, Mycroft." John offered his hand to Mycroft, who shook it. John, on an impulse, pulled Mycroft forward and gave him a one armed hug. His mouth next to Mycroft's ear, he whispered, "Keep me appr-"

There was a crack, and a thud, and John reacted without a thought. The door had flown back, open, and he grabbed hold of Mycroft, half dragging, half throwing him over the threshold and falling after him, hitting with a roll and kicking the door shut as he did, it was a bare protection, but it was something, and his foot was still on the panel when the second bullet ripped through, he felt the impact along his leg and shoved, hard, until the door snapped shut.

Mycroft was pulling out his mobile and John scrambled to his feet, grabbing Mycroft by the jacket, by the shirt, by the arm, his grip shifting as quickly as he could as he grabbed hold and yanked, pulling the older man to his feet and half shoving, half carrying him up the hall, his military training so ingrained that he had his pistol out and ready without even realizing it.

"Move!" he snapped, running now in a low crouch, putting as much distance as he could between the door and them, his body between Mycroft and the threat. "Go, move!"

There was the sound of pounding feet, coming from the basement flat, and John yelled, "Lestrade, stay down there, we're fine, it's okay!"

It wasn't enough to stop Sherlock, who slammed out of the flat door, Lestrade right behind him. Sherlock skidded to a stop, eyes wild, panicked, and Lestrade caught up to him in two long strides, his body crashing into Sherlock with police approved force, knocking the lankier man into the wall and twisting his arm up behind his back. "Get away from the door!" Lestrade snapped, even as a third shot impacted the front door. "Holmes, you cannot be here now!"

John met Sherlock's eyes, a secondary flicker of a glance, and something hot and hard and horrible beneath his breastbone dissolved. "It's all right, go," John said, and Sherlock went, more or less willingly, Lestrade shoving him along, back down the stairs, out of sight and there were sirens already on the street, sirens that Anthea or Mycroft's driver had to have something to do with.

Not taking any chances, John hustled Mycroft up the stairs to 221B, getting him into the living room, away from the doors and windows and up against the well abused wall that Sherlock had shot at repeatedly. "Stay there," John said, moving to crouch low against the wall, taking the minimal cover as he moved towards the still covered windows, gun held loosely in both hands, ready to use.

"Don't," Mycroft snapped, looking rumpled for the first time since John had met him. "That was a rifle shot."

"Three, actually, high powered, sniper," John agreed, craning his neck to catch a view of the opposite building through the slit in the curtains. "What have you been up to this week, Mycroft?"

"Nothing that merits this," Mycroft said, his voice placid. The sirens were getting louder. "Get away from the windows, John." He had his mobile out, and he was speaking to someone, probably Anthea, in low, urgent tones.

"Just a second." John scanned the street. The shooter would be long gone by now, he didn't doubt that. As soon as the sirens started, he would've been off, there was no point in sticking around and trying to get off additional shots, his prey had disappeared, and judging by the fact that all three shots had been aimed at their front door, he didn't seem interested in shooting random passersby.

"John, now," Mycroft snapped out, an order, now, from a man used to being obeyed. John considered the distance between the buildings on the far side of the street as a combination of unmarked black cars and police vehicles filled the pavement. Keeping to the shadows to the side of the window, John watched, waiting for any sign of movement, any sign that their shooter was still in place.

There were no further shots.

He set the safety on his Browning, lowering it in a smooth motion.

There was pounding on their door, and feet on the stairs, a lot of feet. John glanced at Mycroft. "Panic button, I take it?" He tucked his pistol away before they were interrupted.

"Yes. You'll have one by the end of the day." Mycroft turned his attention to the government agents that were suddenly everywhere at once, going through the rooms and checking the windows in a systematic manner. John stepped back, put his back against the wall, and tried to be invisible until Mycroft gestured him over.

"Do me a favor, John, and go check on the workmen in the basement flat," Mycroft said, his voice an undertone. He glanced at John, his eyes sharp. "Let's make certain they stay out of the way of the officers, shall we?"

John nodded. "Yeah, sure." Mycroft caught his wrist, his fingers squeezing tight, and John gave him a faint smile, knowing what he was trying to say. "I'll keep them out of the way and make sure the flat's locked."

"Thank you." Mycroft went back to lambasting some poor officer who had no idea what he'd just walked into, and John slipped off before anyone could intercept him.

Heading down the stairs, he bypassed a couple of officers that were heading up and checked the movement at the front door, where a few others were stretching caution tape. Making sure no one was looking in his direction, he checked the knob of 221C, not surprised to find it was locked. Fishing his keychain from his pocket, he found the new key Mycroft had given him, and unlocked the door, slipping through and re-locking it as quickly as possible.

"It's Watson," he called as he headed down the stairs, his hand on the grip of his gun.

"C'mon down." Lestrade's voice, calm and centered, but John wasn't surprised to find him standing just inside the door, blocking the way, his own gun drawn and at the ready. He made sure that it was only John standing there before he stepped out of the way.

Sherlock was pacing like a trapped animal, his whole body a whip of frustrated tension. "It's okay," John said, dropping his hand from his gun. "We're both fine. No one was hurt, as far as we can tell."

Sherlock turned on him, his lips peeled back in a snarl of rage, and John's head tipped forward, lips a flat line of displeasure, eyes disapproving. "We're fine," he said, because Sherlock was breathing hard, his shoulders rising and falling far too fast, far too sharp. He twisted on his heel, his body swinging back into the pacing, and John put an arm across his chest, stopping him. "We're fine," he repeated again. "Mycroft and I, we're both fine."

He pressed his palm, flat and still, against Sherlock's chest. "That must've scared the hell out of you," he said, and the words were addressed to Lestrade, but intended for Sherlock.

Lestrade gave him a sideways look of 'you think?' but when he spoke, it was with his usual humor. "I"d prefer it not happen again, Jesus. What the hell happened, John?"

"I'm not sure," John said, and Sherlock hadn't moved away, so he didn't drop his arm, letting Sherlock lean into the slight touch, the cant of his body against John's hand subtle, but there. "Mycroft's car was on its way, so we were saying good-bye on the stoop, and then-" His eyes narrowed. "I hugged him."

Both of the other men gave him a bewildered look, and John grinned. "Yeah, it was as weird as you were thinking. I wanted to ask him something and do it quietly, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Just as I was leaning in, the first shot went off."

"You think he missed because you moved?" Lestrade said.

Sherlock pulled away from John's hand, going back to pacing. John leaned against the wall, letting him do it. He understood fear, and he understood the frustration of forced inactivity. "I don't know," he admitted to Lestrade. "It seems that way, but..." His lips pursed, he shook his head.

"What?" Lestrade asked.

"Why three shots? The door was closed, and we were behind it by the time he got the second one off. There was a slim chance he'd hit us through the door, but most snipers would just cut their losses and get the hell out of there at that point. The third shot was just stupid."

"A lousy sniper?" Lestrade asked, and Sherlock snorted. "Who'd send a lousy sniper after Mycroft?"

"Unprofessional or easily panicked?" John asked, not sure about that, either. "An amateur?"

"Most of the general population has no idea that Mycroft exists, let alone how important he is," Sherlock snapped. "He's not the sort to attract amateur attention. He's barely the sort to attract international assassin attention."

"This guy wasn't a pro, or the first shot wouldn't have missed." John shook his head. "He wouldn't have taken it."

"I need the crime scene," Sherlock said, and Lestrade and John turned on him as one. He glared at them. "I need the crime scene," he repeated.

"No," John said.

"Sherlock, be reasonable, you can't just go poking your nose into this, you're not even supposed to be alive, you great idiot." Lestrade pushed a hand through his hair. "Listen, I'll get you the information you need, you know I will. I've still got access, and friends, we'll figure out a way to get you what you need."

"Between him and Mycroft, we'll get you everything you need," John agreed. Sherlock's eyes narrowed, and John reached up, putting a palm flat on Sherlock's chest, right over the breastbone. "You are not sneaking in there, Sherlock."

"Not now," Sherlock said, rolling his eyes, and John's hand clutched into a fist, snagging Sherlock's shirt in his fingers. "After it gets dark and the officers leave, there's-"

"No," John said, his voice soft and firm. "Sherlock, don't do this to me." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lestrade's eyebrows twitch up, but he didn't have time to deal with that right now. Sherlock's mouth opened, and John glared at him. "I can't stop you," he said, lips tight, "but I do not need you to get hurt or discovered right now, Sherlock."


"No," Lestrade and John said at once.

John's mobile trilled in his pocket, and he fished it out, not at all surprised to see Mycroft's name on the readout. "Lestrade, if he moves, handcuff him," John snapped, even as he connected the line.

"I'd like to see him try," Sherlock said, and Lestrade grinned at him, full of teeth and threat.

"You wanna go, really? 'Cause I'd enjoy that probably more than is healthy or sane."

John shook his head at them. "Mycroft?"

"Is everything under control?"

"As much as it could be. Obviously, he wants to go check out the scene," John said, rubbing his forehead.

There was a faint sigh. "Let me speak to him, please."

John turned to Sherlock, holding up the phone. "Here," he said, and Sherlock gave the phone a dirty look. John pursed his lips, and gave him a glare. With a sigh, Sherlock took it.

"What is it?" he snapped into the receiver, and John sighed.

Lestrade's lips were twitching. John pushed a hand through his hair, feeling his cheeks heat. "So, uh," he started, and Greg held up a hand.

"You're the bravest man I've ever met," Lestrade said with a warm smile. He cleared his throat. "Can't say I'm surprised."

John rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, I know, everyone thought-"

"That you were the best thing to ever happen to him?" Lestrade said, clapping him on the back. "Yeah, everyone knows that."

And all of a sudden, Sherlock was between them, knocking Lestrade's hand away without even pausing in his bickering with Mycroft. Leaning against John's shoulder, he leveled a narrow eyed look in Greg's direction, and Lestrade held up his hands in a placating gesture. The fact that he was visibly struggling not to laugh did not help the situation.

John felt his cheeks get even redder, but he just leaned into Sherlock's body.

"Yes, fine," Sherlock finally said, rolling his eyes. His face unhappy, he held the mobile out to John. "He wants to speak to you again."

John took it. "How did you-"

"I have his Stradivarius," Mycroft said, his voice calm. "And I will not hesitate to use it against him."

John winced. "Ah, I see."

"And I promised him that you'd go on his behalf."

"All right." John blinked. "Wait, what?" He jerked his head around and found Sherlock staring at him with an expectant look on his face. "Now, wait a minute-"

"It's the perfect solution," Sherlock said, "you know what I need to see-"

"He'll be out of sight, and if you don't agree, you know he'll find some way around this," Mycroft said in his ear.

"I can trust you to look for the right information-"

"-you won't get into a fight with the officers in charge-"

"-without making a mess of everything-"

"Stop it, both of you!" John burst out. "It is not fair when you gang up on me!"

Both of the Holmes boys went silent, and John took a deep breath. "Right. Fine. I'll do this." He rushed on, forestalling anything else. "If! If you both agree to stay here. Both of you." He stared into Sherlock's eyes. "Both of you," he repeated.

"Of course," Mycroft said.

John stared at Sherlock. "Stay here. With Lestrade," he said, his voice gentle. "No one's after me, no one would think it strange if Mycroft sent me to do his legwork. You know this. I'll be in the midst of a dozen officers. I need you to stay here."

Sherlock's jaw got tight, but he nodded. "Fine."

"Thank you." And since Lestrade was looking very intently at the covered windows, John reached up and kissed Sherlock's mouth. "I'll be back soon."

Sherlock smiled with gritted teeth. "That would be appreciated."

DI Dimmock greeted John with a polite smile and a handshake. "So, you're branching out into Secret Service work now?"

John smiled back. "No, I was with Mycroft when the shooting happened. His people aren't letting him come crashing over here to make a mess of things, so he's sent me along." He shrugged. "He can be a bit overbearing."

"I can't imagine." Dimmock cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, about Sherlock," he said, his voice an undertone. He glanced at John, and his eyes were dark. "I lost one of my partners that way, once. It's a hard thing, in this line of work."

John nodded, with a faint smile. "I'm still angry with him," he said at last.

"Yeah, that doesn't really go away. Or, it hasn't for me." Dimmock nodded at the small flat. "Do me a favor and stay out of the way, if you can. Not all that much to see, but the techs are still-"

"I'm just going to get an overview before I get out of here," John agreed. "I'm sure Mycroft can request the files if he wants something more in-depth."

Dimmock gave a bitter little smile. "I do not doubt that at all." He paused, considering John. "Does he come to visit you often?"

"What, here? No." John pushed a hand through his hair. "For that matter, I haven't been living here. Since Sherlock-" He stopped, swallowed hard, ignoring the lump in his throat. "I took another flat. But I guess that Mycroft's still been paying the rent, which I only realized yesterday. He might've been coming by regularly, but not to see me."

It was good cover, actually. Mycroft certainly wasn't known for being sentimental, but he wouldn't be the first grieving family member to spend time in their dead loved one's home.

Nodding, Dimmock glanced around the flat. "Our shooter's been here for a while. The landlord says the place has been vacant for a couple of months; I guess the rent he's asking is too high for the space. Signs of occupation, but the place has been scrubbed. No fingerprints, no DNA yet." He hooked a thumb towards the front window. "That'd be our only really weird element."

Following the gesture, John stepped around a couple of evidence techs, his blue paper booties scrunching on the wooden floors. The window looked over the street, providing a perfect line of sight for 221 Baker, the door an easy target from this distance and angle. John crouched down, putting himself at the right height for their sniper.

Five bullets, unused and gleaming bronze-gold in the afternoon light, were lined up on the wooden windowsill. They had been placed in a neat row, each one lined up with the edge, equidistant apart, and a sequence of numbers was written on each one in black felt-tip marker. Tilting his head to the side, John studied the numbers. "I take it we don't know what these are?" he asked Dimmock, gesturing at the bullets.

"No. Three shots fired, and recovered, and these were clearly not intended to be used."

"They were meant to be discovered after the shooting." John frowned at the numbers, wondering why they felt familiar.

"Looks like. It's the only thing that's been left behind," Dimmock said. "The place might as well have been empty, other than that."

John straightened up, glancing around, and now that he was away from the open window, his nose twitched. "Was the last occupant a smoker?"

"No. Landlord's got a pretty strict no-smoking rule, another reason why this place is likely still on the market. So yeah, our sniper's a smoker, but we haven't recovered anything, butts or ash, to pull DNA off of. He was meticulous."

"Careful. A pro." Which made the lousy shooting even more curious. John stared out the window, and even from this angle, the shot at the front door was an easy one. The bulk of their bodies would've made an easy shot, the fact that neither one of them had been hit was just unbelievable.

Unless he wasn't really trying to hit them.

He rubbed his nose with the back of his wrist, trying to ignore the way it was itching. "Does the cigarette smoke smell familiar to you?" he asked Dimmock.

Dimmock shrugged. "I'm not a smoker, Watson, all cigarette smoke smells the same to me. Horrible."

John grinned. "Yeah, I've never been much of one for the habit myself, but enough people smoke in the army that-" He froze, his brain snapping into place with stunning speed.

Dimmock didn't seem to notice that he hadn't finished the sentence. "I suppose if people are shooting at you, then lung cancer's not so much an issue, is it?"

"Not so much, no," John agreed, his mind racing. It couldn't be. Why. Why would that- He gave a sharp shake of his head. "Okay if I take a picture of the bullets?" he asked Dimmock.

"My orders are that you're acting on behalf of the Home Office, so you get to do what you like, as long as you don't contaminate the scene," Dimmock said. One of the techs appeared at his elbow, and he nodded at John. "Let me know if you see anything we should note, right?"

"Of course." John waited until the officer finished the official photographs before he leaned in with his mobile and took a quick shot of the bullets, turning it sideways to make sure the numbers were legible. "Coordinates," he said under his breath.

Five bullets with coordinates written on them. That's why the numbers seemed familiar. Coordinates for the same area of Afghanistan where John had been, he'd seen enough maps, enough troop movements, enough air strikes called in to make them as familiar as a friend's phone number.

He suddenly had a very bad feeling that Mycroft hadn't been the intended target at all.