(Dear reader, please pretend Reichenbach never existed. Thank you kindly.)
Behind Closed Doors
John activates 'Mission: Easter' on Saturday, March 30th 2013 at 8:30 sharp. Firstly, he goes down to the Tesco and buys two large plastic bags filled with multicoloured chocolate eggs. Then he stops at a nearby cafe and takes out his sharpie.
The waitress unsurprisingly gives him an odd look, when she comes to serve him his drink. There's a little mount of chocolate eggs on her table and her customer is patiently writing down sets of initials on each little item. Weirdo, she thinks, but she wisely chooses to refrain from commenting aloud. It wouldn't have mattered; John is all but ready to explain to her that, for him, Easter is a very serious matter. There are rules to be followed, precise steps to be taken. He is doing this for his friends and, by god, he is going to do it right.
Once John is done with his branding, he forces all the eggs back into the packages and takes out of his pocket the list of places he needs to go to next. It's going to cost him a little fortune in cab fares, he knows, but this is a price he will gladly pay.
Firstly, he takes off to Whitehall and meets up with Anthea, in an alley near Mycroft's office. The young brunette doesn't have much time and John quickly drops a fistful of eggs into her designer leather bag. The PA knows she has to be quick and discreet, if she doesn't want to arouse her boss's suspicion. She rapidly trots back inside – not minding that it hurt her feet to be running so fast in heels – praying that her little getaway will go unnoticed and that Mr Holmes will not find out what they are up to.
Oh yes, the doctor thinks, looking at the woman disappearing inside the intimidating building, Easter is a very serious matter, indeed!
Sherlock isn't the only one who can be smart and cunning; John has moments of his own. The former army soldier had an entire year to plan this event and he is not alone with it. The blogger has discreetly enrolled Lestrade, Molly and Anthea to help him. They all have their sets of instruction and, within the hour, they will all have the same amount of chocolate eggs to scatter all around town. As a certain detective would say, 'The game is on'.
While Mrs Hudson keeps Sherlock company - with explicit instructions not to let him get out of the flat, under any circumstance - John meets with the rest of his partners-in-crime at Barts. He empties his load of eggs on one of the autopsy table and divides them between Lestrade, Molly and himself. They review the strategic plan one more time and 'Mission: Easter' is officially declared a go.
Molly starts with the lab. The first hideouts are obvious: inside a cupboard, beneath an upturned bowl, at the back of a drawer. Then she gets a little bit more creative. She opens the skull of one of their educational skeletons and places an 'MH' egg inside before screwing it back closed, thinking Sherlock might appreciate the joke (everyone knows the elder Holmes often has chocolate on his mind).
Then she leaves the morgue altogether. She has prepared her own list of locations and she took the afternoon off from work, especially for the occasion. She comes back to the morgue in the evening, exhausted but happy. The last 'SH' egg, she blushingly places it inside her white coat's breast pocket, wondering if the detective will get that message.
Lestrade is forced to hide all of his Easter token inside New Scotland Yard. He really wishes he could put up more of a challenge for the Holmes brothers, but he is currently juggling with two cases (not challenging enough for Sherlock to want to take them, but intricate enough to give him one hell of a headache) and he can't spare the time.
The DI still gets creative in his own way and the Yard is a very large building after all. He receives more than a few strange looks from his colleagues as they watch him hiding chocolate eggs all over the place with a boyish smile on his face. The smile turns slightly evil as he gives the last two 'SH' eggs to Donovan and Anderson, with the specific instruction not to give them up, unless the detective says 'please'. Well, he thinks, John never said a little payback was forbidden.
He goes back to his desk when he's done, happy to finally be allowed to sit down after a good fifty minutes of running up and down all the corridors. When he reaches for his pen, he notices he's forgotten one of the eggs meant for Mycroft. Not knowing what to do with it, he puts it in his breast pocket then buries his nose in a dossier.
John, is a soldier on a mission. He goes all over town, methodically leaving behind coloured eggs in highly strategic locations. He is very thorough; years of military training put to good use. He previously did a full reconnaissance and he has the entire layout mapped out in his head, like a battle plan. He gets more than a few arched eyebrows and mocking smiles along the way, but he raises his chin proudly and marches on; not minding a bit, because nothing can stop him now.
Angelo's, the Chinese where he and Sherlock often stop at, the Diogenes club (and boy does he get few half-offended half-horrified frowns and contemptuous twitch of eyebrows in there, but eh, no one complained aloud!), a few empty warehouses which are amongst Mycroft's list of favourite places to take kidnapped-former-military-doctors-for–friendly-chats to, the dark alleys where his mad flatmate likes to meet with members of his shady network,... no place is spared by John's unstoppable Easter Spirit.
The soldier is tired and worn out, when he finally gets back to Baker Street as the night falls. He leaves half a dozen eggs behind Mrs Hudson's door before taking the stairs slowly. Sherlock's playing a cheerful melody on his violin, when he arrives, and their landlady is knitting happily in one of their chairs.
"Close your eyes," John instructs loudly, with only his head peering through the entrance door. The musician gives him an odd look but he complies nonetheless. He knows the notes by heart anyway, so he doesn't need his eyes to play.
John promptly dashes through to the flat and runs straight to his bedroom. He removes his clothes quickly and changes, then he goes back down and tosses everything in the laundry machine before Sherlock has a chance to have a look at the mud on his shoes or the particles of whatever that might have gotten stuck on his pants' leg or the crumbs of god knows who's food that might have landed on his sleeve.
The brunette is done playing when his flatmate re-enters the living room. "Easter?" he asks with an hopeful and gleeful expression. His smile widens, when John nods 'Yes'.
Mrs Hudson soon departs, explaining she has a long overdue phone-call to make to her sister. She gives John what she thinks is a discreet wink at that. With one look at Sherlock, the doctor quickly understands that he noticed and that Mrs Hudson's flat will be the first place the young man raids, comes morning. Never mind, the blonde thinks, this is going to be a great day.
Sherlock hasn't talked much with John about his childhood. The subject of his father hasn't been broached once since that day, a little less than a year ago, when his flatmate found out the truth. But occasionally now, his friend would share one of his happy memories of him and Mycroft growing up. When the duo took a case involving a boat that mysteriously sunk in the Thames, Sherlock told him of a time when he used to play pirates with his older brother. When one of their investigations took them to the zoo, his flatmate recounted an afternoon spent in the forest with his sibling, capturing bugs for their collection.
Things between Sherlock and Mycroft are still a little touch and go. Both men are ill-equipped to deal with situations that require any kind of emotional approach, but they are working on it: slowly and steadily. The elder Holmes stops by their flat more often now and the two brothers are finally able to talk to each other again. Their encounters are no-longer just a series of veiled insults or one-sided work-related requests. They finally manage to have real discussions.
The subjects are diverse. On bad days, they would discuss sometimes idle like the weather or trivial news; on better days, the topics would get more interesting. On such days, they'd discuss cases, exchange ideas and scheme. There is even that one time where Sherlock solved a case solely because of one of his brother's idea. Sure, there is still tension, between the two. Sherlock can't help but send the occasional jab hinting at his brother's weight problems and Mycroft easily retaliates with something addressing the perpetual mess in which his brother seems content to live. Oh yes, John thinks happily, the working on it... is working.
The doctor is looking forward to the next day and he truly hopes Sherlock will enjoy running around town in his friend's hunt. He looks at him, as he cleans his violin before placing it carefully on a shelf, and he can already see the buzzing of excitement coursing within the young man's veins; same as when he's on a case. Sherlock is also looking forward to it, he realises. And he hopes the detective will appreciate the final surprise he has for him.
On the morning of Sunday, March 31st 2013, John is woken up at 8 sharp by the loud banging of his flatmate's fist on his bedroom door. He gets up with a smile and puts some clothes on, before going out of his room. When he comes down, he finds the detective near the entrance door - coat, scarf and gloves on - bouncing from one foot to the other in anticipation.
"Morning, Sherlock," he tells him, still somewhat sleepily.
"Can I go now?" his friend all but whines. Yes, John realizes, this is really a kid going on an Easter Egg Hunt.
"No, we're still waiting on someone and I still need to give you the rules," the doctor explains as he goes to the kitchen to make himself tea.
"Who are we waiting for?" Sherlock questions seconds later, peering his head inside the kitchen. "I didn't know there was a need for a third entity. Does this game require some kind of a judge or a witness?" he enquires keenly, as if he is interrogating a suspect in one of their cases.
"No," John tells him fondly, pouring water in his cup. "But no game is fun when there is only one player."
His friend raises a surprised eyebrow at that. He wonders who his flatmate could have chosen to play against him. Someone with good detective skills, he surmises. He thinks of Lestrade; sincerely hopes it's not Donovan, or - god forbids - Anderson. Neither would present much of a challenge for him though.
The sound of feet coming up the stairs interrupts his train of thoughts and a surprised expression crosses his face as he recognises his brother's familiar gait. John has invited Mycroft to play along, he deduces and without knowing why, he feels his lips begin to curve into a smile.
His friend leaves him alone in the kitchen, with his surprised thoughts, and goes to open the door, welcoming the newcomer in.
"Good morning, Mycroft," he greets the elder Holmes warmly, when he enters. "Glad you could come."
"I'm not really sure what I'm doing here," Sherlock's older brother says with a sour tone, somewhat reluctant to admit that - for once - there is something even he doesn't know. "Anthea said it was most urgent that I come here and then she cleared my schedule for the whole day."
Sherlock walks back in the living with a smile and Mycroft's brow furrows even more. It is quite a sight to see the elder Holmes thoroughly perplexed, John finds.
"What day is it?" the blogger questions and Mycroft thinks what a stupid question this is. Yet, he indulges his host; his mother did, after all, teach him some manners.
"March 31st. Sunday," he replies in a monotone. John gives him an expectant look as if it isn't the answer he was waiting for. The ginger-haired man thinks a little longer and adds disdainfully, his noise crinkling slightly, "Easter." He's never really been fond of that particular holiday. Too much chocolate lying around everywhere; it's always challenging for his resolve.
John smiles brightly at that and the shorter man's evident cheerfulness reminds him at once of his brother placing a chocolate egg in his palm, roughly a year ago. He looks up quickly at Sherlock, who is standing near the kitchen entrance with a grin.
"Easter?" he asks his sibling, voicing the word with interest this time. He hasn't forgotten the eggs hidden by his brother, all over his flat, last year. Sherlock nods happily at that and he finds it hard to fight the smile that attacks the corners of his own mouth in return.
"Alright," John interrupts. "Rules!"
The brothers turn their heads sharply at him, both pairs of blue eyes narrowing on him like hawks eyeing their prey and glinting in anticipation.
"Fifty eggs each, scattered all over London; none hidden inside the flat because that would be too easy. Yours are marked 'SH'," he tells his flatmate, who nods appraisingly. "Yours have your initials, Mycroft. You are not allowed to take an egg which isn't yours. If you do find one, you have to put it back, okay?" He insists on that, fixing them sternly in turns, until both brothers nod in agreement. "The first one who comes back with all his eggs wins."
"What's the prize?" Mycroft asks at once, words flowing out quickly. John isn't even surprised to discover the eldest is the more competitive of the two.
"There's a surprise for the winner," the shorter man assures him with a smile. He has placed a special order in a nearby bakery just for the occasion. Well, two orders actually, but there's no need to tell them that just yet.
"There's one more thing," John informs them in an even voice. "There's two ways to play this game. You can either go your separate ways, search alone and hope to be the first to get back here," he pauses and takes a breath before continuing, "or you can play together and help each other out."
The brothers both seem perplexed by the alternative and the doctor wishes they have done enough progress in their relationship to want to take the second option. He wants them to take this chance to finally do something normal, together.
"If you work together, you both get a surprise," he adds feeling Mycroft is going to question him about that.
The two Holmes keep their matching perplexed expressions for a moment, until the eldest finally averts his gaze to peer down absentmindedly at his umbrella; a sure way for him to avoid having to look at either one of the other men present in the flat. Sherlock gives John a doubtful and hesitant look, silently pleading him to tell him which one of the two options he should take. John remains mute and unhelpful; the decision is not his to make.
The detective knows if he plays alone, he will probably win; Mycroft is good but Sherlock knows John better and he calculates this will give him an edge. At the same time, the young man discovers a little part of him would be sad, if he were to end up having the prize when his brother got nothing. The thought perplexes him; not so long ago, he wouldn't have had to think twice about it.
Sherlock finally makes up his mind and crosses the living to get to the door. He stops on the threshold, an instant, to call out over his shoulder, "Well, what are you waiting for, Mycroft, we haven't got all day."
His brother dutifully follows him out, fighting off a tender smile. A second later, John can hear the detective telling his brother that they should start with Mrs Hudson's flat.
John gets updates from his accomplices throughout the day. The brothers seem to take the hunt in a methodical geographical order; starting with the closest places and expending their search clockwise.
The doctor leaves the flat mid-afternoon, whilst the Holmes's search the Yard, and goes to the bakery to retrieve his special order. It's a bit of a posh place and not a boutique he would usually go to because it's a little too expensive for him, but he thought he could make an exception just this once. Aside from the dozen different sorts of bread, they also make cakes and chocolates. There is a series of various chocolate bunnies, ducks and kittens in the window.
Lestrade phones a while later to let him know the brothers found all his eggs. The doctor chuckles, as the DI describes Sherlock's pinched expression when he was forced to ask Donovan and Anderson for their eggs. Anthea texts an update a while later, explaining how Mycroft had to be particularly creative when the Prime Minister asked why there was a red chocolate egg - marked with his initials - in one of his desk plants. This time, John laughs out loud.
When night finally starts to fall over London, ninety eight eggs have been found and John goes outside to sit on the entrance step of 221B Baker Street with number ninety nine and number one hundred in his hands.
It isn't long before the two Holmes arrive, walking next to each other. They appear from a perpendicular street and the blogger gathers the Chinese was their last stop. Sherlock says something then that makes his brother laugh, but they are still too far away for John to make out the words. It doesn't matter, he thinks, they're both smiling. As far as he is concerned 'Mission: Easter' was a complete success.
"Found them all?" he asks, when they're within hearing range.
"Of course," Sherlock says immediately. He's kind enough to leave the 'obviously' out, but his flatmate hears it in his tone nonetheless.
"All of them?" the doctor challenges.
"Minus the two which are hidden behind your back, obviously," he voices it aloud this time.
John sits up and happily obliges, holding out both of his still closed hands.
Both brothers seem to barely need an instant to make their choices. Sherlock reaches for John's left hand and Mycroft reaches for the other. They both get the right egg, leaving the doctor a little awed.
They get back inside after that and find Mrs Hudson waiting for them in the flat with home-made roasted lamb. They eat together, the four of them seated around the kitchen table.
In lieu of dessert, Mycroft receives a bunny with a red tie and an equally red umbrella clutched within his paws. Sherlock gets one with a grey cap and an oversized magnifying glass made out of marzipan. The look on both Holmes then is priceless and John regrets not having a camera to capture the moment. On second thought, he realises, there's very little chance that Mycroft would have allowed him to walk out of the room, with such compromising evidence.
The evening is very pleasant, the mood jovial and the discussion easy going. Just like in many other homes all over London that same night, a family shares a happy moment together. The first of many, John hopes.
Mrs Hudson takes her leave eventually, wishing them a good night and cautioning her boys not to eat all of the chocolate tonight. John insists that Mycroft stays for one last cup of tea and although the elder Holmes seems to be rather tired - probably because of all the walking around he did today - he accepts. All three men move to the living room with one large kettle filled with simmering water, three empty cups and a box full of tea bags.
The three men soon get into a lengthy discussion about improvements that could make the Ester Hunt even more challenging next year. The doctor is patiently explaining to his flatmate that the city's sewer system is off-limits, when he suddenly stops mid-sentence as he realizes that Mycroft has fallen asleep in the corner of the sofa.
Sherlock, who has his back to his brother and hasn't noticed, gives John a perplexed expression at his unexpected silence. The blonde indicates the sleeping ginger-haired man with a nod of his chin.
"Too much legwork?" John hints, lowering his voice slightly, so as to not wake the other man up. He is expecting a smile from Sherlock in return for his joke but the brunette's expression turns thoughtful and slightly worried instead.
"Mycroft never lets himself fall asleep somewhere he doesn't deem secured," Sherlock says, finding his brother's behaviour odd. He wonders an instant if maybe he's falling sick or something.
"That's because he does," John says simply. "Feel safe, here," he completes, when Sherlock turns on him a lost expression.
"You're here," he tries to explain further, with a wave of his hand thrown in the young man's general vicinity. "He trusts you to keep an eye on him."
Oh, Sherlock thinks, feeling his chest constrict at the thought. He gazes at his brother again and takes in the odd position this time.
"I should wake him up," he says, thinking aloud. "He doesn't look comfortable."
His older brother is still mostly seated, only he has taken to lying on his right side, with his head pressed against the back of the sofa and his right arm awkwardly folded beneath it. If he sleeps on like that, he's going to hurt all over the next day, Sherlock knows. He also knows how cranky his brother gets at such times and he really doesn't want to have to deal with him like that, comes morning.
"Don't wake him up," his flatmate counters gently. "Just help him lie down, so he's comfortable," he finishes before standing up to retrieve an afghan from a cupboard and the pillows which - for some reason that probably has to do with one of Sherlock's latest experiments - are piled up, near the window.
The younger man does as he is told and gently pushes his brother down on the sofa, before lifting his legs up. Mycroft barely stirs in his sleep and Sherlock is amazed again that he feels safe enough with him to be sleeping so deeply. He removes the light-blue tie and polished shoes, undoes the first two buttons of his brother's shirt and drapes the afghan over him.
Mycroft looks different, Sherlock realises, sleeping like that. The ever-present worry lines around his eyes are gone; his face looks completely relaxed and it makes him appear a decade younger. His posture is unguarded and the habitual mask of coldness, that he wears most days, has vanished. This, Sherlock finds, is the brother he remembers from his early childhood. The one he used to go to when he felt unsecure; the one who would hold him close during unsecure nights.
John shuffles behind him and the detective returns his attention to his flatmate, twisting around to look at him.
"I'm going to bed," the blonde tells him. "Good night, Sherlock."
"Good night, John," the detective replies and the blogger leaves the room. "Wait," the younger man calls out to him, two seconds later, standing up and taking quick steps in his direction.
"Thank you," he says honestly to John who is on the first step of the stairs. "For today."
"You're quite welcome," the doctor assures him, with a warm smile. "I'm glad you had a good time."
"I did," Sherlock confirms. "We both did," he adds, looking back at his sleeping brother. "Thank you."
John nods to him understandingly, before climbing up the rest of the stairs, quietly. Sherlock returns to Mycroft's side to check on him one last time, before retreating to his own room.
"Good night, Mye," he murmurs, with a fondness he hasn't felt in years. Then a strange impulse he cannot fight has him bending down to place a close-mouthed kiss on his brother's temple. Standing back up, a little surprised at himself, he sighs.
He thinks of going to bed, but decides to sit down in his chair with a book instead. If Mycroft trusts him to make sure he is safe for the night, then he's going to do the job seriously. He falls asleep, eventually, in the wee hours of morning, thinking of children playing pirates.
When he wakes up, some four or five hours later, the detective finds himself alone in the room. His sibling is gone and John hasn't come down yet. The afghan that he placed over his older brother last night is now covering him and a pillow is safely tucked behind his head. Sherlock smiles upon noticing those two details and a comforting warmth settles deep within his chest. Closing his eyes, he drifts back to sleep.
And here we are my lovelies... this story is now officially finished. I hope you've enjoyed it!
I know the ending is slightly silly and full of fluff; trust me, I did debate whether to post it or not. In the end, I decided to go forward with it, feeling that a little bit of brightness and happiness would be a nice way to conclude this rather dark fic.
Thank you again a million for all your nice reviews and kind comments. Thanks also for the favs and alerts; it means a lot to know you appreciate my work enough to want to come back for more.
I have another long Sherlock fic in the works, titled "Two Words". I should start publishing it, in a week or two, so keep those alerts on and be on the lookout for it.
In the mean time you can keep an eye on my twitter acount to know what I'm up to (and to hear me raving about chocolate). The link is on my profile page.
P.S: This fic is available to download in an easier on the eye, well polished and nicer to read version, if you want to print it for safe-keeping or just stash it somewhere on your computer. The link is also on my profile page.