Author's Note: Well this is it, the very last chapter. I truly hope that you have enjoyed reading this story, and I hope you will take a moment to read the longer author's note at the end. Enjoy!
"I don't like this."
"You're over reacting."
"Sherlock, I'm not overreacting!" Mycroft exclaimed. "I told you this would happen!"
"I'm working with the police- of course it's going to happen!"
Through the reflection in the glass he could see Sherlock sitting up in his hospital bed, glaring at him. It was one in the morning and the rain still hadn't stopped. Mycroft drew in a deep breath, burying his hands deep into his pockets; it was freezing by the window. He forced himself to turn around and face his little brother.
Maybe it was only a sprained wrist and a cut on his forehead. Maybe he was only overreacting. But what he did know was this is only just the beginning.
"You're too young, you're too untrained, to be out running around with wanted murderers," Mycroft shot.
"And yet I solved the case!" Sherlock cried.
As they glared at each other, Mycroft realized his brother's eyes were actually glistening. He couldn't be sure if it was from fighting the pain or the emotion.
"I solved the case," Sherlock reiterated, lowering his voice a bit. "Not one trained professional on Lestrade's team solved the case, and I did. I solved a case that's had every officer and news writer in the country scratching their heads for months, and you're the only person who hasn't said thank you."
The room fell silent as Sherlock caught his breath. Mycroft swallowed, considering his words carefully.
"What you did was impressive, Sherlock," Mycroft admitted. "But you overestimated the weight and height of your suspect, so that when he leapt out at you from nowhere he was twice your size. You were unprepared, you panicked-"
"I'm sorry," Sherlock interrupted, "I'm sorry that he had a gun and I didn't. We could change that, you know-"
Mycroft's voice roared so loudly that nurses passing outside Sherlock's room stopped and looked. He offered them a fake smile and waited until they continued walking- but Sherlock beat him to it.
"I didn't mean it," Sherlock muttered.
"You did," Mycroft replied. He closed his eyes. "This case was too much for you."
Sherlock looked around, incredulous.
"But I solved it!"
"I was able to manage the clearance you needed to stay on this case," Mycroft said quietly, "I'll think twice the next time you ask me to help you put your life in danger."
He couldn't look at the disappointment on his brother's face as he walked away. The beeps of hospital machinery echoed as he stepped into the hall and leaned against a wall. He was about to close his eyes again, desperate for a moment of serenity, when his mobile beeped. He opened it to read:
It's the right decision.
"I don't think he's coming."
Mycroft ignored John, who was practically breathing down his neck, as he gazed out Lestrade's window. He was staring straight into another set of flats.
"Mycroft, are you even listening to me?" He wasn't. John had been shouting at him for nearly a half hour now, and he hadn't heard a word he said. "I don't think he's coming. He's not going to bother to show up. I don't understand why you're holding me here-"
He couldn't help but to turn around with John at Lestrade's quiet interjection. Lestrade stared intently at the floors as he sat on the edge of his sofa. His eyes were wide with horror, as though he still hadn't been able to wrap his mind around what was going on.
"Don't you get it, Greg?" John snapped, storming toward Lestrade and shoving an accusing finger toward Mycroft. "We mean nothing to these people."
John fell silent. Based on the look of pure shock on his face he looked like he had just been betrayed by everyone he had ever known.
Perhaps he had.
"Greg-" John attempted quietly.
"John-" Lestrade shot, getting to his feet. He wasn't staring at John, but at Mycroft. "I know Sherlock well enough to know that if he does something there's a damn good reason why he does it. And although I don't know Mycroft very well, I know he's his brother, and if there's one person Sherlock's going to trust above everything else, it's his own brother, who just happens to be powerful enough to start world war three from this bloody room!"
This brought John to complete silence for a moment. Even Mycroft was in shock as he stared at the D.I. He was correct, they hardly knew each other, but they had always shared a mutual understanding over Sherlock. Lestrade offered him a nod of understanding; Mycroft's lips remained pursed as he stared at him, a grim look on his face.
"I'm sorry," John breathed. "I guess I underestimated the amount of trust Sherlock and I had as friends, flatmates, and bloody business partners!"
They all turned at the sound of Sherlock's voice, which although hoarse still boomed with its usual strength. The smallest of smiles peered from Mycroft's lips. John's face was a ghostly pale as he stared at his former flatmate.
"Lestrade's right," Sherlock continued, stepping into the flat. "There came a time when I knew Moriarty's game could only end one way."
Mycroft was relieved to see that, aside from his previous injuries, his brother was unharmed; but he did look exhausted. He didn't hesitate to take a seat on Lestrade's sofa. He stared the ground a moment, fingertips raised to his chin, before continuing.
"In a matter of life or death I had no choice but to turn to the one person who could truly help me," he turned to John, forcing him to meet his eyes. "I'm so sorry, John. But your life was already in danger, and I couldn't risk it anymore."
"Your life, Lestrade's life, Mrs. Hudson's life. Three snipers, three guns, pointed right at you. And you never knew."
This time, Lestrade paled. John collapsed in an armchair across from them and dropped his head into his hands.
"What about Mycroft?" John whispered.
All eyes shifted to him. Mycroft stiffened; he had prepared for this.
"Because I was the pawn." Everyone turned back to Sherlock. "I was wrong about it all. This wasn't Moriarty's game. If you ever wondered why one man could have such a great vendetta against someone he didn't even know, how he could commit kidnapping and murder just to get at him- it was because I wasn't that man. It was Mycroft, and it's a game that's gone on for a long time."
Suddenly Sherlock winced and clutched at his side. Mycroft took a subconscious step forward and was shocked when no one else did the same.
"Get him some ice," he ordered John. His demand was met with a glare. "You're a doctor, John, get him some ice."
John stared at him for a moment longer before shaking his head, disgusted. He stood silently and headed to the kitchen.
"Are you alright?" Lestrade asked quietly, placing a hand on Sherlock's chest.
Sherlock paled a bit as he nodded.
"Fine," he rasped. Sherlock's sunken eyes trailed to Lestrade. "I appreciate you more than you know."
Lestrade let out a hollow laugh.
"I think that's just the pain meds talking."
John appeared with two bags of ice, a glass of water, and bottle of pills.
"Here," John said, placing one of the bags of ice against the wound. He lifted Sherlock's sweatshirt slightly to confirm there was no blood. "The stitches didn't rip, you just wore yourself out a bit. This is for your head." The two men glared at each other. "It's hurting, I can tell- take it."
Sherlock accepted the second bag of ice and held it against his forehead. As he did his eyes shut, appreciative of the relief.
"Need I remind you that you just took a knife to the chest?" His eyes shot up to the jagged scar running down Sherlock's cheek. "Not to mention the face?"
With a weak nod, Sherlock silently thanked him.
"You should rest," Mycroft suggested.
"No," Sherlock shot. "They've waited two and a half years. They deserve to know."
"Here," John said quietly, handing him the pills. "They're okay to take, I promise. I brought them from the practice."
Sherlock took them without argument. Afterward he handed John the ice and leaned into the sofa.
"The man, at Thames?" John asked.
"Sebastian Moran," Sherlock replied, staring his friend directly in the eye. "His story started out as simple as yours, John, caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He got caught up in a terrorist-type cell Mycroft was hunting down as a young man trying to work his way up the government ladder. Long story short…Mycroft won."
Their eyes met briefly, and he knew Sherlock understood his silent appreciation of him not going into the details.
"Moran became yet another victim of the government, shoved off into a room somewhere with four white walls, never to be seen again," Sherlock continued. "But it turned out he learned more than he let on. Mycroft used him for information- used him up until the moment he shot him."
John blinked, and Mycroft held his breath, hoping he wouldn't question-
"When you say 'used him for information'?" Lestrade asked.
"Made deals with," Mycroft replied. He turned away, not up to facing their curiosity. "He means I made deals with Moran. For years."
"You made deals with a terrorist?" John repeated.
Mycroft looked him straight in the eye.
"Moran was working with a group which targeted individual leaders of various governments across the globe. When I-" he stopped short, remembering not to go into the details. "Moran was on the run for some time, during which time I was told to use whatever means necessary to get him back."
"What happened?" Lestrade asked, looking terrified, as a detective should at that moment.
"He made the game personal," Sherlock said, "and so it began."
No one spoke. No one questioned him. Straight faced, Mycroft fought- as always- not to be overwhelmed by the memories threatening to fight their way back.
"I became the new target," Sherlock continued quietly. "Moran went off the radar. He went undercover as a lost, young, homeless man, much like myself at that time."
"Oh my god," Lestrade breathed, holding his arm to his mouth. "The bloke I arrested-"
"He learned everything he needed to know about me in that time we knew each other," he continued. "He learned my strengths…my weaknesses. He would later know how to use these against me- against my brother."
His brother conveniently left out the part where Moran ruined his life by getting him hooked on the drugs.
"I don't get it, though," John said, "why us? Why now?"
"A final ultimatum," Mycroft stated quietly. "Back when you and Sherlock were flatmates, I had breaking down Moran to an art. I had three of his biggest allies in federal prisons in three different countries. These were some of the most violent men on the planet, and Moran wanted to make a move. He's been rounding up the troops for a decade."
"Are you kidding me?" Lestrade said. "This is all some big government takeover conspiracy?"
"What else would it be, Lestrade?" Sherlock said. "Drugs? Money? It's the power that makes it all worth it."
"All those men we caught this week," Lestrade said, "all those criminals…were they apart of this deal?"
"It seems Moran was able to gain a bigger following than we feared. This…wasn't going to be a straight out takeover. More like a slow death. There are ways..." he paused, closing his eyes, not wanting to think of it.
"Then what was the deal in London today?" Lestrade said, eyes wide. "Christ, we're not talking a terrorist attack, are we?"
At those works Sherlock paled even more, if possible. He looked almost green in the face, like he would be ill.
"I decided to use Moran's methods against him," Sherlock whispered. "The only way I could truly beat him was to get on the inside. I tricked him. A big magic trick. I got on the inside of some of his biggest rings…took control of it all."
Mycroft swallowed, feeling ill himself. The idea of his brother getting so deeply involved with such a prominent group of terrorist terrified him enough to want to lock Sherlock in solitary confinement for the rest of his life, just to keep him safe.
"I take it from the fact that your brother looks like he might puke all over my carpet that he didn't know," Lestrade commented.
Mycroft simply shook his head.
"I managed to convince each leg of Moran's web to descend on London," Sherlock said, eyes brewing with darkness. "I knew exactly where each would be. I set out a stream of anonymous police calls."
"That was you?"
His brother held up a hand, silencing Lestrade.
"Why not just go to Mycroft?" John said. He looked completely unmoved by the whole story. "Isn't it his job to deal with that kind of thing?"
He stopped breathing as his brother's eyes fell on him, and Mycroft knew exactly what he was going to say.
"Because history would have repeated itself," Sherlock stated. "Because Mycroft doesn't know what to do with the power he has."
"So you called the police to deal with the capturing of nearly a half a dozen globally wanted terrorist?" Lestrade said.
Mycroft couldn't help but to be humbled that Lestrade found the flaw in this plan.
"And yet the London police force is looking better than it has in years, isn't it?" Sherlock shot. "And you- the press is probably wondering where you're hiding. I'm surprised they haven't swarmed this place yet."
"I took care of it," Mycroft muttered. Sherlock rolled his eyes. "What he means is that the police have been left out of these conversations. The amount the amount of power, the amount of strength, the police have compared to these people is so miniscule that sending those men out there could have been a lethal mistake. No offense, Detective."
"None taken," Lestrade shrugged. "Sherlock, do you have any idea how suspicious is this going to look to the public?"
"Suspicious!" Sherlock snorted.
"This is the biggest news in the world right now!" Mycroft roared.
"Good!" Sherlock exclaimed, glaring at him. "It should be!"
"This wasn't your place, Sherlock!"
"You're welcome, Mycroft!" Sherlock got to his feet, swaying slightly. John reached out to steady him, but Sherlock shrugged him off. "You're just angry because I did in two and a half years what you couldn't in your whole career! You're just angry because you can't take any of the credit!"
They were face to face now. His brother was shaking; Mycroft had to hold out a hand to steady him. Sherlock shrugged him off as well and nearly fell back at the effort. Mycroft caught his hand.
"I'm angry because my little brother has been going around the world, conspiring with some of the most dangerous terrorists this world has ever seen," he replied quietly, so quietly John and Lestrade were straining to hear.
"John, maybe we should-"
"Yeah," John breathed. "I need some air."
The two exited the flat, leaving the brothers glaring at each other. Somehow, with the adrenaline rush and the action of the past couple of days Mycroft had forgotten it had been nearly a year since he last laid eyes on his brother. He let out a sharp breath of air.
"You look older," Mycroft whispered. "You've aged…you're just so different."
Sherlock didn't argue.
"I didn't intend to go behind your back," Sherlock admitted. "I couldn't get you involved, it was too dangerous.
"No more dangerous than my brother rooming with criminals," Mycroft said. "Working with Moran? Sherlock, there are a number of crimes you could be charged with."
"Are you alright?" Mycroft asked suddenly.
Sherlock stopped, staring at him- confused.
"Yeah," Sherlock breathed.
"No, really," Mycroft said. "Sherlock, when I saw you in that bank, you weren't even yourself."
"I was acting!"
"I know the people you were talking to," Mycroft said. He studied his brother's eyes, examining every trace of a lie, every speck of pain, every ray of exhaustion. "I know what they're capable of. I know what Moran does, when he's angry. I can see how much you've changed."
"I'm fine, Mycroft," Sherlock said, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I promise."
He was lying. He could see it in his strained smile, in the darkness in his eyes, which shot away as soon as Mycroft met them. Still, he nodded.
"I don't know what to think, Sherlock," he admitted. "But Moran's dead and his web is all but dismantled. I want nothing more than to debrief you, find out exactly what happened and what you know. My superiors will certainly be asking questions. If they find out you were involved they will not only want to lock you up for the better part of the rest of your life for questioning, but I will no doubt lose my job."
Sherlock's eyes widened.
"I never wanted-"
He held up his hand.
"It's fine," he replied. "While your methods have remained…unorthodox…there's no doubt that you've done a good job."
Sherlock stared at him.
Mycroft grimaced. He should have known better.
"What did you just say?" Sherlock repeated again, fighting to restrain laughter.
At that moment the door opened, and John and Lestrade entered.
"We thought we should make sure you two didn't kill each other," Lestrade admitted.
Instead of commenting, John crossed his arms and leaned against the far wall.
Yet his brother smiled at him, and from that pure, honest, smile things actually felt normal for once.
"John, you should take a look at Mycroft," Sherlock said.
"I think you should all be in the bloody hospital," Lestrade mumbled. "But who listens to me anymore?"
"I'm fine, Sherlock," Mycroft insisted.
He had almost forgotten his own injuries, but at the reminder pain shot up his chest once more. His fingertips burned where dry blood caked them, and the bruises beneath his eyes had a dull ache to them.
"You were tortured, Mycroft."
"It was nothing," he lied.
He just needed to sit down…
"Maybe a glass of water, then?" Lestrade said. "Better yet, whiskey?"
"There are more important matters," Mycroft said, taking a seat in the armchair. The world immediately swayed with dizziness. He rested his head in his hand as he continued. "My superiors can't know Sherlock's involved with this anymore than the press can't know he's alive. Bringing you back to life is going to take more than an apology and press release. I think you should go into hiding."
He was shocked when Sherlock didn't argue.
"Are you sure you want to come back?" John stated quietly. Everyone looked at him. "You said it yourself. You could always just slip away again."
Sherlock walked over to John, standing only inches from him. They both looked so different from when they first met. The carefree, enthusiastic, nature of their friendship was long gone. The friendship was in complete shambles.
"You said you don't want anything to do with me," Sherlock said. "You shouldn't even be standing here, right now."
"I didn't mean-"
"You did, and you have every right to."
"Sherlock?" Lestrade asked carefully. He stepped up to them; Mycroft watched in admiration as the three addressed each other for the first time in years. "Can I just say…I forgive you."
The room fell silent.
"And…thank you," Lestrade added, so quietly it was hardly heard. "You gave up your life for us. Those men we took down, god they could have done some damage."
Lestrade placed a hand on his brother's shoulder as Sherlock stared at him, mouth agape and in shock. John stared between them, unsure how to respond.
"I…" John stammered. "I- Sherlock-"
But before Sherlock could protest any further, John threw his arms around him. Mycroft smirked as John pulled his brother into a hug while Sherlock just stood in place, stunned. Lestrade glanced toward him, amused, and he nodded. John closed his eyes as tears overwhelmed him.
"I'm glad you're alive," he choked.
At last, Sherlock placed his arms around John and patted him on the back, accepting the embrace. When they broke apart they both looked emotionally drained.
"I'll go with you," John offered. Sherlock glanced toward Mycroft, who was too surprised to interject. John addressed him: "Do you have somewhere we can go? A safe house or something?"
"John, you don't have to-"
"No, it's fine," John said, waiving off Sherlock's' protest. "I want to."
"Your practice?" Sherlock asked.
Mycroft could tell by his brother's quickened pulse and the tremor that shook him that he secretly longed for this to be able to happen.
"It'll be fine," John said. "There are other doctors in London, right?"
He threw a forced smile to them all.
"Well, I'd love to go, but I have this to deal with," Lestrade said. He nodded toward Mycroft. "I'm sure we'll be talking. You three stay as long as you need."
He turned back to his brother and embraced him. Sherlock froze, too overwhelmed with all this emotion to respond.
"I meant it," Lestrade said, holding Sherlock in place as he stepped back. "Jesus Sherlock, you've been my best asset on the team for years. When this is all over with, when everything is settled, I'd love to have you back."
Sherlock nodded, looking ill once again.
"Thank you," he replied, his voice stiff with shock. "And I'm sorry- really."
"Don't," Lestrade said. He shook a finger at him. "I don't want to hear you say that."
Sherlock nodded again and looked away, clearly uncomfortable. Lestrade offered him a kind smile before departing.
"So," John said, looking to Mycroft. "Thought of somewhere?"
"Sherlock, you'll have to go through a serious debriefing-"
"You've said that."
"But first you'll need to be kept safe," Mycroft continued. "John, I'm entrusting you with this."
"You need to heal, Sherlock," Mycroft said. "Truly heal, and then we can talk about bringing you back."
Sherlock gazed at him, still reeling from the shock of the sincerity everyone was offering him. Suddenly, Sherlock took a few strides forward, and Mycroft found himself face to face once more with his younger brother.
"Well, everyone seems to be doing this," Sherlock said; he swallowed, nervous. "And…I owe you."
He was silenced when his brother wrapped his arms around him, actually embracing him. Mycroft froze up, suddenly understanding Sherlock's conflict with emotions.
"I couldn't have done this without you," Sherlock whispered.
"You wouldn't have gotten into this without me," Mycroft replied.
Sherlock shook his head, and when they broke apart Mycroft caught him running his arm across his face.
"I'm sorry I had to leave you out," Sherlock said.
"I'm sorry you couldn't trust me."
Sherlock stopped, seemingly unsure if this were a compliment or another cheap shot. Mycroft placed a hand on his brother's shoulder, ignoring how limp and numb he felt.
"We'll talk when you get back," he promised.
"I'm not sure if that's something I should be looking forward to," Sherlock said, studying him.
Normalcy. He had never been so grateful for it. He glanced between the two men, and for the first time he could see the remains of their friendship.
"I'll have you two on a train to Cornwall by morning," he offered. "John, if he gets to be too much, just dial the number."
Sherlock looked between them, perplexed.
"Number?" He cried. "What number?"
Both he and John smirked.
"Good to have you back, Sherlock," Mycroft said, gathering his coat.
Sherlock rolled his eyes and turned back to John.
"Cornwall?" Sherlock asked him.
"I was going to take my holiday in Australia," John admitted. "But Cornwall has its perks. It's very…" his voice trailed off as his eyes found Mycroft. "I don't get it either."
"You two get four weeks," Mycroft said as he headed toward the door.
"Weeks?" Sherlock exclaimed.
Before he opened the door, Mycroft turned back to his brother. He almost enjoyed it, the confusion, the mistrust and uncertainty, on Sherlock's face right now. Having him in the same room, hell, the same part of the globe, was still surreal, but Mycroft hadn't been able to breathe this easily in months. It would be hard to let him go again.
"It's this or therapy," he offered.
"Oh great, I'm a therapist now?" John said.
He looked at the two one last time, wondering if he was doing the right thing. Two and a half years ago he was thrilled just to see Sherlock offer his trust, his friendship, to someone else. To see his brother give his life for someone- for these people- was extraordinary. He thought back to the days of Sherlock's rehab, to the nights he spent wide awake, wondering how his brother was doing on Lestrade's cases, and considered how everything was finally coming around full circle. He knew his brother would win respect from London, if not the world, for what he did. He would be worshipped.
And for that reason, Mycroft knew it had to be his priority to keep this quiet.
Sherlock turned to John once again, looking him in the eye.
"You don't have to do this," he stated quietly.
"No, maybe I should," John said. "I…I've had a rough couple of years, Sherlock. I want something better than this. I want…I want things to go back to normal."
"You want Cornwall?" Sherlock smirked, a sarcastic grin plastered across his face.
Sherlock held out his hand, and John looked between it and Mycroft. Mycroft couldn't help but to offer him a smile.
"Four weeks?" John said. Mycroft nodded, and John turned back to Sherlock. He shook his hand. "Cornwall it is."
Author's Note: There it is. The end. I hope I've done the story justice. I could have dragged it on for longer...but I think 40 chapters is enough. I'm getting really excited about the sequel, and the ending offered some major hints as to which story it will be based off of. Like I've said before, the sequel will be from John's point-of-view, and it will be very stand alone. It will refer to this story in flashbacks. The squel will focus on the rebuilding of Sherlock and John's trust- not to mention their friendship- while they managed to find themselves on a horrific case in Cornwall. I'm not exactly sure when the sequel will be posted (hopefully within the next week!), but it will be called something along the lines of "The Devil Inside". I really got into coming up with the backstory for Mycroft, Sherlock, and Lestrade in this fic, and I'm considering writing a separate story about that too. I just have so many ideas!
As I conclude what has been a long journey, I just want to say that I've truly had a blast writing this story. I really appreciate the fact that people are still reading, and it would absolutely mean the world to me if you let me know what you thought of the story and its ending- even if you have never reviewed it before. Feel free to ask me any questions. Thank you, each and every one of you, for reading! Thank you to everyone who has reviewed! All of your lovely comments and wonderful insights have truly helped with the writing of this story. It's been fun, and I'll miss it...but onto the next adventure!