a/n: I just wanted to thank everyone who has reviewed so far, especially those responding to my last A/N, and those who've sent me private messages. I rarely log in to my account unless I'm putting up a chapter, so I might be behind on the PMs, but thank you all, all the same. I'm ... here? Lol, yep. Still here. But seriously you guys. I've been on this site for over ten years now, and it's never felt more like home. Thank you.

As always, not beta'd. :P

"It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things."

― Lemony Snicket

Of Islands and Men

Chapter Four

"Sea foam green, is it? Now that's a lovely idea," said Mycroft, flipping his fork and knife over and setting them at the four o'clock position on his plate. It was immediately cleared away.

Disdain flashed across Stephen Harper's face.

"Lovely," agreed Stephen.

His ears twitch when he lies.

The amusement that Mycroft found in this observation flared quick and took him by surprise. He had seen funnier tells before, yet he was hard pressed to keep his lips from quirking at this one. Perhaps it was the stress of the past week or just that Stephen Harper looked silly with his toupee-like hair cut and perpetual wiggly ears. Regardless, his face remained impassive as always. It would be rude to smirk in the Canadian prime minister's face. That sort of behavior (and worse) was best saved for his brother.

"A brilliant sea foam green for Rachel's room, darling, and oh, what colors would compliment that color green? Perhaps we can find a shade of pink. Or purple. Hmm, oh, it will be perfect no matter what! I can just picture it. Won't it be perfect, Stephen?"

"Mm, yes dear. Perfect."

"But we've yet to find a crib," Laureen said, turning back to Mycroft and huffing a breath, almost laughing, but catching herself just before. Mycroft deduced that she had an unusually loud laugh and would censor herself when she was in public so not to embarrass herself or her husband. How bland.

"That's why I told Stephen I was coming with him to London this time around, even if I'm as big as a barn. We're planning on finding a crib here, but I haven't decided if I want to look into antique cribs or have something commissioned down in SOHO."

"We're here through the weekend, dear. We'll have all day Saturday to find one," assured Stephen.

"Oh, Mr. Holmes, you wouldn't happen to know any decent places around London, would you?" asked Laureen, her smile expectant.

He permitted himself a small, polite chuckle. "No, Mrs. Harper. I'm afraid I don't. I've never had need to look into it."

"Well, I suppose I'll just have to search the internet for some recommendations then," said Laureen, her fingers twitching. Canadians were a twitchy sort it seemed.

Mycroft could tell she wanted to do a search on her phone right then and there, but she was at lunch in one of the nicest restaurants in London, and even if their luncheon was informal, it was all still politics. Laureen Harper, as grudging as it was, recognized more so than many politician's wives the need for self containment and tact both in and out of the public eye. She had to be on her best behavior – ruefully, observed Mycroft.

"We can always ask the concierge at the hotel, dear," said Stephen, the majority of his attention held firmly by the eggs benedict in front of him.

"You really think the concierge would know where to find antique baby beds?" asked Laureen, in a tone that suggested she thought anything but.

Stephen shrugged, and gave his wife a sideways look, tinged with exasperation before looking back down to his eggs. "Well, I don't know, Laureen. But we'll never know if we don't ask."

She smashed her lips together. "I'm sure I'll have found something by the time we get back to the hotel. I'll google it in the car."

Mycroft found himself looking forward to the end of this engagement. Meals with politicians (and their wives) were always so tedious. It was one of few regretful responsibilities his position required of him. Usually, he managed to get out of them. But he and Canada's prime minister had been haggling over a trade tariff for three days. Best to play nice.

Mycroft kept one ear on the regrettable conversation as his attention was drawn to the waiter. He held out his hand over his glass, shaking his head when the man made to refill his drink.

"Very good, sir," murmured the waiter, who then turned and refilled Laureen's glass. Between listening to the prime minister and his wife bicker and watching the waiter flitter around their table, Mycroft missed his assistant's entrance, and only noticed her presence once the waiter, who was turning to leave, had to dodge Anthea to keep from spilling his water pitcher.

"Pardon me, ma'dam!" exclaimed the waiter, before flittering off.

Anthea ignored him.

It was her face that made him still. There was something wrong. He could tell it the moment their eyes met. Laureen (the nattering harpy) stopped mid-sentence and blinked up at Anthea along with Stephen, both never having seen her before and no doubt wondering who she was and what she wanted.

She came to his side, leaned down, and cupped her mouth against his ear.

"I'm sorry sir – it's code nine," she whispered, regret heavy in her voice. She took a step back and waited.

The resultant molten dread that crawled through his veins upon her words left him feeling ill. His chest tightened, and his breathing shallowed. He could feel the adrenaline spike through his system, fight overcoming flight, as the meaning of code nine screeched through his head like a freight train. He was beginning to panic. Recognizing this, he reined himself back and deepened his breathes.

Outwardly, his face didn't so much as twitch. He stood from the table.

"Mr. and Mrs. Harper, it has been a pleasure to have dined with you, but I am afraid something of immediate importance has been brought to my attention. Mrs. Harper, I do hope your search through London proves fruitful. Stephen, I'll send you my counter-proposal next week. I apologize for having to cut our time short. Good day," Mycroft nodded, before turning away, ignoring anything the prime minister or his wife said after him.

"I've brought the car around, sir," said Anthea, her voice softened so only he would hear her as they walked through the restaurant and out the door.

"Tell me what happened," he demanded, ignoring the doorman who called out some sort of servantile rot behind them. He grabbed the car handle and pulled open the door, throwing his umbrella inside without ceremony.

Anthea met his eyes over the car. "Sir . . ."

He could see the swirling cocktail of empathy and sympathy in her expression. He didn't want her looking at him like that, so he looked away.

She shook her head slightly, as if shaking away a bad thought, and followed him into the car.

"He jumped from the roof of St. Bart's. We're heading there now," said Anthea, as soon as her door was closed and the car was in motion.

He closed his eyes briefly, not being able to stop the sudden image of his brother as a splattered stain of bone and flesh on the sidewalk. Good God. How many stories was that? He could barely even think as something cold settled in his chest.

Sherlock, Sherlock, oh God, Sherlock, what have you done? What have you done?

He refused to believe it.

The body was cool to the touch.

It was undeniably his brother, and part of Mycroft balked at the feel of Sherlock's cold cheek, yet he was compelled to touch him just the same – if only to assure himself that what lay cooling on the mortician's slab before him was real. The blood had been cleaned away, but he could easily see where his little brother's skull had hit the pavement.


Sherlock was dead.

He closed his eyes against the thought, his entire being rebelling against the very notion, yet the reality remained, stark and chilling in a way that left him feeling entirely, entirely lost.

Pushing everything down, Mycroft collected himself, and drew up the sheet to Sherlock's chin, pausing long enough to regard his brother's face one last time. It was drawn and pale, and a memory of his brother at fourteen, precocious and bratty and utterly sick with pneumonia and begging Mycroft not to leave him alone drudged itself up and lodged somewhere at the base of his throat. His heart beat a painful staccato against his ribs in response.

He expected to stand here years ago, identifying his brother's drug ravaged body. Or perhaps after his brother had gotten himself killed on one of his gallivanting misadventures. Never had he expected this. Suicide – it was illogical. Sherlock would never have committed suicide, if only by virtue of his own narcissism.

None of this sat right with Mycroft. Of course, it wouldn't sit right with him regardless as long as Sherlock lay before him, stiller and more quiet than he had ever been in life. Yet here was some sort of frustratingly indistinct feeling nagging him, but he couldn't collect his thoughts to find out why with Sherlock looking like that. So very dead. He let it be for now, his fingers ghosting just one more time across his little brother's cool face in a caress more affectionate than affirming.

He pulled the sheet over Sherlock's curls, his hand hovering, as if he wanted to pull the sheet back and check again, as if the body would magically transform into a stranger and he'd be able to breath again.

He let the sheet fall from his hand. The temptation was masochistic.

Sherlock's nose tented the sheet, he noted, somewhat disdaining the cheap cloth hiding his brother. He'd broken that nose once. When they were children, so long ago now. The chill of childhood memories tainted with death seeped into him, and he shivered.

Molly Harper stood meek and quiet behind him.

"Has John already been here?" he asked, his eyes not leaving Sherlock's only discernible feature under the stark sheet.

When the answer was not immediate, he turned his head and sought her out. The poor thing was positively trembling.

Molly nodded, her bottom lip a quiver. She bit it to make it stop. "Y-yes. He was -" she paused, looking for the right word. "He was devastated. Could barely even look at h-him."

Mycroft expected as much, knowing how much his brother meant to the man, and knowing how endeared the doctor was to his brother.

"I'll make arrangements for the body tomorrow morning," said Mycroft.

"Alright," Molly said, her voice watery, as she avoided his eyes.

He left before she could start crying.

He was just fine up until 12:13 AM.

That was when he shattered the decanter of brandy against the flagstone in his bathroom.

He could feel little shards of glass splash his bare feet as the bottle exploded upon impact. There was a good chance he'd get a shard stuck somewhere, but that didn't stop him from sinking down to his knees. A sharp wail pierced the silence, sharper than the sound of of breaking glass, and it was animalistic in its agony.

Control was a fine commodity indeed.

But he was completely out of it.

The funeral was small. His mother sat beside him and squeezed his hand hard, blinking tears down her soft, wrinkled face and muffling her low cries in her silk handkerchief.

The casket was black, shiny, and trimmed in gold. Just like the headstone Mummy had picked out. It was closed, of course. Sherlock's head wound had been too obvious to cover up, and his mother's constitution was weak.

He stood up and said a few words for Sherlock. He'd practiced them – measuring out the words and tasting the adjectives on his tongue before he'd found the right ones. He felt foggy and slow standing in front of the funeral goers, having his dead brother to his back. He was intensely aware of the casket throughout his entire speech, and it made the back of his neck tingle knowing his brother was in a box, behind him, dead, and about to be buried in the ground.

There had never been a time in his life where he hadn't been intensely aware of Sherlock's presence. Why would it be different now? By the time he'd sat back down with his mother, he'd half forgotten even getting up at all.

John spoke. Mycroft didn't hear a word.

His brother had been murdered. This, of course, sat better with him than suicide.

It took a few days after the funeral for Mycroft to engage with the world again, but once he'd gotten his mind straightened out and broken a few more expensive decanters, he'd seen that truth well enough.

James Moriarty was dead. He died with Sherlock, his brain splattering the rooftop of St. Bart's while Sherlock was busy throwing himself off of it. Forensics had confirmed that Moriarty shot himself before Sherlock jumped.


He mulled over the question for a week, but only after he'd settled his brother's will. Everything to John – the trust fund, the summer home in southern Spain, and all his worldly possessions - not surprising. What was surprising was that Sherlock had the forethought to update his will at all. A little over a month ago . . . had Sherlock known his time was short? Had he been planning for this turn of events for some weeks before?

More than likely, Mycroft admitted to himself. This was Sherlock after all. He'd probably known when he was going to die down to the very minute. Or, realistically, it would have been his last resort should he not be able to find a way out of whatever he'd gotten himself into. Obviously, his brother had failed. Just as he himself had failed his brother.

He shook the feeling away. Sentiment would make him foggy and disconnected. He needed to be sharp. He needed to find out what had happened to his little brother.

It haunted him. Sherlock would never have committed suicide without being grossly provoked. Moriarty dead on the rooftop proved it. Somehow, Moriarty's suicide ensured that Sherlock would jump. So it could have been prevented, whatever it was that Moriarty had hanging over Sherlock's head, but Moriarty held all the cards. He'd been in the game to win – no matter the cost, and his actions in turn prompted Sherlock's - just as Moriarty wanted.

But how did Moriarty make Sherlock jump to his death? What hold did the madman have over his brother?

It frustrated him that the answers remained elusive.

He had his best men and women on the job, but trying to find anyone connected to the late consulting criminal proved difficult.

It took four months before Mikhail Dorendorf was sat before his best interrogator. It took two hours before Mikhail was spilling everything he knew. Mycroft observed the sweating man with interest, fingers steeping beneath his nose, from behind the one way mirror.

"Three assassins. One for the cop, the doctor, and the old lady. I was supposed to take out the cop if Holmes didn't kill himself. I don't know who had the other two. The man who contracted me for jobs was a representative of Moriarty's, and I only saw him once. Just got assignments from then on. Didn't even give me his name. That's all I know, I swear."

Mycroft's gut clenched. Ah. So that was what got you in the end, little brother. Sentiment.

How ironic.

Nevertheless, his theory was confirmed. It didn't make him feel any better.

The questioning continued for another hour before Anthea came up beside his chair. "Richardson believes we've gotten everything we can out of him. What would you have done with him, sir?"

Mycroft smiled. It didn't reach his eyes.

"Dispose of him."

John Watson was dead.

The news came as a bit of a shock to him, Mycroft would admit. A plane crash in the Caribbean. There had been no survivors. A flicker of guilt was repressed as soon as it was brought up. It would do him no good, yet he regretted not keeping up with the doctor over the past year like he should have – like Sherlock would have wanted him to. The guilt flared again. He ignored it.

He, of course, did a little digging on the matter. The pictures of the crash made him melancholy. This was John Watson's gave. He'd have never thought that life would take such a turn for the friends who lived at Baker street. It hadn't been all that long ago that both of them were alive and well...

Mycroft sighed, and pushed the file away from him.

It was impossible to know why the plane crashed. It remained as much a mystery to the Puerto Riccans as it did to him, but no foul play was suspected, unless it happened aboard. Nevertheless, it was written off by all those involved as a horrific accident, likely due to the mechanics, and the case was closed.

According to John's therapist, the doctor hadn't been able to shake himself out of the depression he'd fallen into upon Sherlock's death. The therapist had offered up the suggestion of a holiday for some months before John boarded the doomed plane. It had been a surprise to everyone when he'd announced his trip out west, but his therapist, Mrs. Hudson, and Harriet Watson had all been encouraged.

All for naught. The good doctor was dead.

Still, Mycroft hadn't known the depth of John's suffering. He'd assumed John would grieve, of course he would have, but then Mycroft expected him to shuffle towards acceptance, maybe find a serious girlfriend or get married. Move on.

221B Baker Street told a different story.

He stood in Sherlock's former home amid a flurry of activity. His people moved with perfect proficiency around the small flat-share, boxing and wrapping and packing.

John's sister had already been by and collected what personal affects she wanted, and Mycroft honestly didn't know what to do with the rest of it. It seemed somewhat sacrilegious to donate or toss it all in with the rubbish so soon after his brother and John's death. Therefore, he was having the whole lot of it sent to storage. He'd figure something out later.

The bottles of unopened pills lined up with care in the medicine cabinet, along with the new bullet hole in the wall, and not to mention the other tells in the flat, painted a picture that Mycroft could see all to easy. If the plane crash hadn't of killed John Watson, something else would have.

Mycroft would have put his money on the sleeping pills.

It was the gentle push-pull of the tide that woke him. The sun hung low in the sky, and it was early. Seagulls screamed on the horizon, diving into the water, then shooting back up to the sky. Blood was dried to the side of his head, and he lifted his arm, half wet with ocean and heavy as hell, and wiped at the rusty flecks, eyes drawn to the screaming seagulls – the only movement or sound he could discern besides the waves.

The skin on his forehead was raw, and a very small part of him that wasn't marveling at his continued existence (he really should be dead), was trying to figure out exactly where he was and why he felt so sun burnt.

The sand and the salt water and the seagulls should have been enough to clue him in, but it was only after he'd managed to sit up (and damned if there wasn't sand slathered in every crevice of his body) and look around did he realize that he was on an island. He had washed up on an island – Christ. It was like that god awful Tom Hank's movie but ten times worse because it was real and happening to him. That, and he didn't have anything to make a suitable Wilson out of.

John groaned. He was going barmy already.

He hoped the island wasn't as small as the tiny ones he'd seen while on the boat tour in Puerto Rico. If it was, he'd be dead within the week.

He panicked at the thought and threw his head around to look behind him – white sand gave way to tall grass which gave way to palm trees and other tropical fauna, tangled and darkened enough to suggest depth. Trees. Palm trees. Maybe he wouldn't starve to death after all. He could see full bushels of coconuts hanging low from many of them. The relief was so powerful, it left him feeling heady. Some of these blasted islands were composed of only rock and dead coral. He was lucky to have washed up on this one. He might actually have a chance to survive until help comes – if help comes.

John almost laughed, the thought having caught him by surprise (he'd been so eager to die lately that this struck him as funny), but his guffaws coalesced into wheezes, and he rolled over in the sand and surf, vomiting bright yellow stomach bile and sea water.

John gave himself another few minutes once he'd stopped heaving to catch his breath and find his wits. Then he made himself get off the ground. Fuck, he was dizzy. John took a few heaving breaths before straightening his spine.

The first thing he noticed was that the beach he was on was rather small. He felt a trickle of trepidation, but it eased once he looked towards the interior of the island. Just as he suspected from his once over, the island was bigger than what he thought. Beyond the tall grass was a tangle of palm trees and tropical plants, thin in some places, with sunshine coming through the leaves and hitting the ground in patches, until the underbrush thickened and grew dark.

He couldn't tell how big the island was. The beach he was on was small, shaped like a crescent, cradling the ocean in a bent C shape, with craggy rocks framing either side of the beach. If he followed the rocky shoreline, it met with the trees, tall grass and built up seaweed in between.

He stumbled his first few steps. His whole body ached fiercely (his head, most especially), but it was his shoulder that hurt the worst. It pulled taught when he moved, setting his neurons on fire. He had to sit down again. No chairs, he noticed, then shook his head. Of course there weren't any chairs.

The sun was rising, and with it, the temperature. Paying little mind to his legs (both of them hurt), John picked his way through the tall grass to seek refuge from the sun under a palm. He let his back rest against the smooth trunk and stared out past the small dunes of seaweed and grass to the ocean beyond. No ships. No sign of life or neighboring islands. Nothing. No one. Just a few screaming seagulls and varied hues of flat blue.

It took a moment for it all to catch up to him, and when it did, he couldn't quite wrap his mind around it. The plane crashed. That's how he'd come to be here. He'd survived a bloody plane crash, and had somehow washed up ashore, clinging to a big red cooler. The girl – Samantha – was probably dead.

John squinted his eyes. Everything was a bit fuzzy when it came to the actual crash. As should be expected. That was normal. Most people had trouble recalling accidents, but still, he could clearly remember the aftermath. There had been so many bodies, and he knew he'd be one of them if he hadn't of clung to that cooler.

Despair and guilt stirred, fitting like a well worn hat. It should have been Samantha to survive, not him. He'd been willing to throw his life away for months, and she had been so young, with so much of life left to live. It was bloody unfair for everyone.

Almost like a premonition, he'd noticed so suddenly, something red caught his eye on the other end of the beach, washed up towards the rocks. The cooler. He felt a chill, even though the temperature was becoming dreadfully warm, knowing that the girl who owned that cooler was dead (how couldn't she be?), and he'd used it to save his own life while she succumbed to the waves. The guilt gnawed like a starved dog.

He should have died in the crash, or drowned after, not her. Least ways, he should have left the cooler alone. If he had, maybe she would have found it. Maybe it would be her sitting against a palm tree, wondering how the hell she'd gotten there, nursing her scrapes and bruises, but still alive.

John had never been one to give into tears, but he could feel them prickle, escaping, fueled by his frustration, pain, and the overwhelming feeling of being trapped. He kept reminding himself that he shouldn't cry. He'd just get more dehydrated. But the tears wouldn't stop coming. He choked on them, and he was sure he made a pretty sight.

He was sun burnt and bruised and scraped and torn and crying. He was in the worst sort of shock, and now that he wasn't fighting for his life, it had all come crashing down on him – the reality of his situation, which was bizarre and utterly hopeless in a way that John couldn't handle right then.

And John Watson, brave army man that he may be, let the tears fall because he couldn't very well stifle them. He just didn't understand how this could have happened to him. Not that the plane had crashed or that he was marooned on a deserted island – he fully comprehended that, but that he hadn't died before he found himself here in the first place – at the lost opportunity. Now he bloody well had to live with it. Literally. Because there was no pills on this island, and he most certainly wouldn't be able to stand starving to death.

I should have gone with the sodding gun after all. He thought, with no little despair, and then immediately shelved the thought. It was pointless anyway. So were the tears.

He wiped at his rough face, smearing sand and reigning in all of the soppy emotions. He wasn't a sodding girl. He was Captain John Watson, MD, formerly a soldier in Her Majesty's army, and by God he would stop all these bloody feelings right this very minute. They weren't good for his head. Not when he had to find water and shelter.

And with that thought held firm, He arched his back against the palm tree bit by bit, using it to support the majority of his weight and help him to his feet. It was time to see what was in that big red cooler.

a/n: Wow. I'm always on my iPhone when I'm fanfictioning. They've made the review window down there just so...accessible. Hmmm. It makes you almost want to ... say a little something... doesn't it?

ALSO, I will give major major MAJOR props to ANYONE who can even remotely guess what's in the cooler. HINT: you'll never guess, but it's awfully...plotty? SMELLY? Well, it helps the plot, anyway. LOL.