Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock or any of the characters. I just enjoy playing with their little lives for my own twisted pleasure.

A/N: Part four of my Mystrade series which is-I am sad to say-still titleless.
Welcome back to anyone who has read the other three parts, your continued loyalty warms my heart. To anyone who is new and likes what they see, please go and read 'Fancy a Smoke', 'Intrusions' and 'Three Meetings'-they can be found on my profile.

WARNING: This fic contains references to drug addiction and has 'graphic' depictions of overdose and detox. Please do not read if you feel you would be upset by such events. Thank you.

Enjoy.


The Incident

Another delightful night in London.

Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade ran his eyes over the scene, picking a path around pools of congealed blood and the splatter of vomit from the poor dolt who had inadvertently stumbled upon her.

She-female, mid 30's, Caucasian, 5'7" with bobbed brown hair and a slight build-was slumped in a rickety chair, hands and feet bound down, her wrists slashed open; drained dry.

A message written in...Greek? Something Cyrillic anyhow, was scrawled lopsided across the front door.
A warning.

He'd have to wait for the translators to work their linguistic magic before he had any hope of making sense of it all.

And even then…

The only other thing of note was the missing tooth, carefully extracted, the work apparently done post-mortem.

A dentist perhaps?
He'd always hated dentists.

Around him the blue-suited forensic team moved in respectful silence. It made Greg feel like he was in a science-fiction film.

He passed his gaze over the scene…or the mess…again; head bowed, hands clasped tightly behind his back.

So far their quiet attention had paid off precious little.

Apparently their murderer had no fingers…and no DNA.

Greg scratched his chin, feeling the day old stubble, and then pressed his hands together again.

He'd been hoping for a nice quiet weekend too. Get some paperwork under his belt, spend some time with Debbie.

But life seemed to like to conspire against him. Especially in recent months.
Every slightly odd case, every mind-bogglingly difficult one, every really-gruesome death was shoved in his direction.
He'd been a DI less than 6 months, it hardly seemed fair.
Surely more experienced investigators were missing out on their share of gritty homicides and surely he deserved a break. He'd barely stopped in the last four months.

Greg was beginning to think, well actually he'd been thinking it for a while now, that a certain government official might be behind his ridiculous workload. He certainly wouldn't put it above the man to stick his big nose into police business to try and keep his brother under control.

It wasn't working.

Greg hadn't seen Sherlock in three days.

They'd-since when did the two of them become 'they'?-had wrapped up the last case on Wednesday morning; a curious incident involving a cyclist and human trafficking.

They-he and Sherlock-had had their usual post-case celebration: a large coffee for Greg and 3 portions of fish and chips for Sherlock.

Greg had returned home for paperwork and some much-needed sleep.

Sherlock hadn't.

That much wasn't unusual.

The guest bedroom, unofficially Sherlock's, was often left empty in favour of dingy corners of warehouses and the companionship of pock-marked men in alleyways with bags of white powder shoved into every orifice.

But Greg had never expected a bed and hot water to solve the problem.

Still he took it as an immense sign of respect that the boy never used under his roof. And knowing Sherlock had somewhere safe to crash made him worry less.

What was unusual and more than a little concerning was Sherlock's current absence.

He should be there, hopping over the blood and waltzing around the corpse with that smug smile, calling them all idiots.
The fact that he wasn't was making Greg's stomach turn.

Sherlock should have been all over this bugger of a case.

Greg needed Sherlock to be all over this bugger of a case.

Sherlock saw….no!...what did he always say!?...Sherlock observed everything; noticed things Greg never would have. The man seemed to be able to calculate the relevance of every speck of mud.

Greg knew he wasn't a bad policeman. He was good at his job and he'd worked bloody hard to get where he was.

But Sherlock…Sherlock was a genius.

Not that Greg ever said that out-right; the boy had an ego the size of a small planet as it was.

And he was rapidly becoming an integral piece in the grinding machinery of Greg's little team despite the other's being loathed to admit it.

Today a cog was missing and the jigsaw of evidence, what little there was anyway, lay unsorted.

Lestrade turned, making the executive decision that forensics had this under control, and left, stripping off the sticky plastic suit as soon as he was able and taking in a deep lungful of London air-untainted by blood or rotting flesh.

Goodwin had followed him and was in the process of tugging off his own suit, eyes never straying from his superior officer, even as Greg edged towards his car. The young man looked as pale faced as ever. Greg had seen him retching earlier and from the glassy film over his eyes and the sheen of sweat across his forehead he'd bet the young lad hadn't managed to keep down his breakfast.

"Sir?"

Greg sighed and spun to face the little man.

"There's something I need to do. I'm leaving you in charge," that should keep him occupied, "Make sure forensics get what they need and then lock it down for the night." He gave a wry smile, completely false. "You know the drill."

The petulant look he received was impossible to miss; it could give even Sherlock a run for his money.

"You're going to find him aren't you?"

The DI started, momentarily stunned by the look of complete contempt being angled at him.

He sighed again, raising his hands up, palms forward in a sign of peace.

"We need him…" He didn't understand how no-one else could see what an asset Sherlock was to their team. "…unless you've been holding out on me."

There was just enough of an edge in his voice to raise the slightest colour in the young man's cheeks, his face softening in embarrassment before it returned to stone.

"We're the police sir," Greg had never heard a title spoken with more disdain, "We aren't supposed to consult with addicts. There'll be complaints and if you're not careful all our careers will be down the pan."

Pale eyes bored into him, more passion in that one burning stare that Greg had seen in his Sergeant in all the months they'd been working together.
White lips tightened over bared teeth, the boy teetering on the edge of an outburst.

And then it hit Greg, like someone had landed a kick right in his gut.

He felt his fists curling inside his coat pocket, jaw set rigid.

"Did the Super enjoy your little tittle-tattle?"

He tried to keep his tone even, despite the red hot-burn that was scorching its way up his throat.

"I'll bet it was a shock when you came in on Wednesday and I was still around."

Goodwin turned a violent shade of red. For a second Greg considered calling an ambulance.
His mouth flapped, nostrils flaring before his mouth puckered shut and he stepped forward, turning in his superior with a sudden flash of vehemence.

"Everyone else here might like you enough to look the other way but I want a career and I have the balls to protect it. I'm not going to stand and smile while some junky you've decided to take pity on screws up my chance of making DI."

Greg's eyes narrowed, his hands came up to rest on his hips as around them the other officers rapidly dispersed, remembering tasks they hadn't finished as far from the pair as possible.

"Anything else you'd like to get off your chest?"

The Sergeant stepped back, his nerve failing.

His lip quivered as he spoke.

"If I was the Super I'd have had you suspended weeks ago."

The Inspector was silent.

The knife in his back sent a raw pain right through his chest.
He didn't even like Goodwin, but the thought of having been betrayed by a member of his team made him feel physically sick.
He hadn't even realised when the young man had clearly been radiating animosity for weeks.

No longer wanting to look into the oddly-pink face Greg turned on his heel without a word.

He reached the car and sunk heavily into his seat, not pausing before starting the engine and pulling away.

Screw Goodwin and his empty threats.

He was going to find Sherlock.

...

The first set of traffic light he came to gave him a moment to breathe and collect his thoughts.

Methodically he made his way down the quick mental checklist of Sherlock's favourite haunts.
Or, at least, the ones he knew of.

Closet-the (very) illegal boxing club in an old Hackney warehouse-was still a good fifteen minute drive even at this God forsaken hour.

He took it as a good sign he hadn't yet received a curt phone-call or seen a sleek-looking sedan tailing him through the maze of residential roads.

He skipped a red at the junction, swinging the BMW down another empty road with enough force to make his advanced driving instructor proud.

From inside his pocket his phone began to vibrate; Greg waited for it to finish, gave a deep, bone-weary groan and flew around another corner.

Hackney here I come.

xxx

The warehouse had been empty.

Well technically not.
It had been full of grim men, noses bent at distracting angles and mouths dripping blood.

But most importantly Sherlock had not been there. Greg had a blossoming bruise on his jaw to prove it.

He winced, fingers gently pushing against the damaged flesh.

Nor had the youth been wandering Soho's alleys or lingering around the low-tide mud of the Thames.
The burning bins of London's homeless were devoid of his hollow face and those few figures Greg had recognised from early morning pick-ups had kept their lips puckered shut in stony silence.

For once Greg found himself cursing the absence of the ominous black car and its sleek-suited master; an omnipresent knowledge and unlimited access to countrywide surveillance equipment would be beyond useful in this quite frankly hopeless search.

Finding one person in London especially when they did not want to be found, was near on-impossible. Greg should know. He'd done it before.

Typical that when something might actually be wrong the older brother was conveniently absent.

His feet slipped on the rickety staircase, the loud thud of his boot in the narrow corridor was momentarily deafening.

Something dripped from the ceiling above and the droplet slid its way slowly down his forehead to gather on the tip of his nose.
It smelt too foul to be blood, something to be grateful for he was sure. Still he made a conscious effort not to think about it.

This was the last hope.

If Sherlock wasn't here Greg would just have to wait and hope the boy turned up sooner rather than later.

He stepped onto another dingy landing certain he felt the floor shift beneath his feet.

The stale stink of smoke and alcohol mixed with the fetid damp air, the resulting mixture was a thick soup that tasted like urine at the back of his throat.

Greg couldn't imagine why anyone would desire to spend more than two seconds in this shithole even if the sleazy rat of a landlord never looked too hard at his residents and had a no-questions-asked policy on the various criminal practices going on behind closed doors.

He turned up another flight of stairs; Sherlock's attic room no more than thirteen steps away.

The peeling paint of the door was dotted with suspicious looking stains and various drawings Greg was quite certain were not anatomically accurate.

He knocked, the sound was huge in the small, dark space and the detective glanced quickly over one shoulder then the other.
Places like this were dodgy at the best of times; if it was discovered he was with the Met he'd most likely be carried out feet first by members if his own team.

Two minutes passed without the sound of sliding volts or stumbling feet.

He knocked again.

Nothing.

Laying his palm flat against the peeling wood he pushed gently. The door didn't budge. Probably the only solid thing in the entire establishment.

"Sherlock!"

He leaned towards the door, making sure he kept his mouth a safe distance from the soiled paint.

"Sherlock!? We've got a case!"

Still nothing.

"A good one!"

Silence.

"For fucks sake Sherlock! Stop acting like a fucking child and let me in!"

Beneath the echo of his voice there was no noise.

Something heavy settled on Greg's shoulders.

He knocked again, frantically, the pitch of his voice rising.

"Sherlock!"

Knock knock knock.

"Sherlock."

Knock. Knock.

"Sherlock!"

Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock.

"Sherlock!"

Of course there was the very real possibility that the young man wasn't there.

But Greg had long ago leaned to trust his gut feeling, a useful trait for a policeman. And this morning he knew….he just knew.

The door didn't even shudder as Greg's shoulder connected with the wood.
He was going to have another bruise to add to his fledgling collection.

Another violent push…a third…there was a telling groan from the hinges; Greg's sprits lifted slightly.

Four.

Five.

Shoulder throbbing the DI took a short run up, angled against the centre panel. His whole weight pushing solidly against the sturdy structure.

There was an unhealthy creak, the wood around the hinges splintering, and Greg fell forward, following the door into the dimly lit room beyond.

The bitter stench of vomit hit him and he thanked God that eighteen years on the force had pretty much eradicated his gag reflex.

He reached sideways fumbling in the darkness for a light-switch.

The overhead lamp came on with a buzz of electricity; it flickered briefly and then settled on a low, yellow glow that left shadows dancing in every corner of the tiny room.

Greg's skin prickled.

Sherlock was there.

Even face down in his own vomit the wild, dark hair and bloodlessly-pale skin was unmistakable.
A cracked syringe jutted from his long, left arm just below the elbow, a makeshift tourniquet pulled so tight his hand was swollen and tinged purple-blue.

Greg swore, hurrying towards the seemingly lifeless man and pressing his fingers against the side of his wrist.

He almost laughed as he caught the slightest pulse beneath white skin; it was erratic and slow but it was there. And Greg had always had a problem with laughing at inappropriate moments; the day of his grandmother's funeral had earned him a clip around the ear and two weeks grounded.

Certain no spinal injury had contributed to Sherlock's near-dead state he tucked two fingers beneath his chin and tilted the young man's head further sideways, opening his airway and ensuring he wouldn't suffocate on the contents of his own stomach.

For a split second Greg fingered the phone in his pocket.

The closest hospital was an six minute drive, a little less on blue light. It would take the ambulance double that to get here and then get back.

Without a second thought Greg abandoned his mobile to the recesses of his coat and heaved the dead weight over his shoulder, cursing and pleading that the damned boy lived…just so that Greg could kill him again later.

He dumped Sherlock on the back seat, ignoring the smear of sick left on the cushions.

The number for the nearest Accident and Emergency department was loaded within seconds, blue lights flashing and siren screaming.

"Detective Inspector Lestrade here. I'm bringing in a man, 30 years, suspected OD. Blue light. ETA six minutes. Thank you."

xxx

A trolley was waiting just outside A&E. Three nurses rushed forward to help him lift the limp young man out of the car while doctors shouted a plethora of long words Greg didn't understand.

They raced in; the detective two steps behind trying to keep Sherlock's sallow face in view.

A young nurse swooped in on his right, pulling on his sleeve and shaking his head. Greg jerked his head down, stared hard at him and then looked up again.

Sherlock had gone.

The corridor deserted.

The only remaining sign of any of the evening's trauma the yellow-brown smear on his lapel and the double door swinging gently in front of him.

He dropped heavily onto a hard, plastic seat and bowed low over his knees, head in his hands.

Tap-thud. Tap-thud. Tap-thud. Tap-thud.

Great, just what I need. Greg signed deeply.

"May I?"

He motioned shortly at the chair beside him without raising his head.

There was a slight pause, silent, before with the crisp rustle of expensive fabric and the creak of plastic the new arrival took his place next to the detective,.

Heavy silence followed. It was comforting.

"Where was he?"

It took a great deal of energy to bite his tongue and not tell the man to fuck off.
He knew. Of course he knew. He knew everything that went on in this city, probably had an entire team devoted to Sherlock's constant surveillance.

And still it had been Greg, up to his neck in his own work, who'd been left to find him.

His firsts curled in his lap.

"Hackney."

An address followed reeled off in his best policeman's voice.

The gentle tapping of fingers on a keyboard sounded in the quiet. Holmes had bought the usual entourage with him then; his assistant stood a little distance off, eyes fixed on Her Blackberry but no doubt squirrelling away every word spoken just in case.

"An overdose." Greg nodded, wishing the man would just shut-up. "How much?"

"I don't know," he sounded exhausted even to his own ears, "By the looks of him a hell of a lot."

He twisted his wedding ring around on his finger; three turns right and one and a half left.

The older brother hummed thoughtfully; his face placid, back poker-straight. Greg had seen more anxiety in people waiting to hear the lottery numbers.

"Sherlock always was one for dramatics, even when he was a child."

"They do say most overdoses are a cry for help."

Holmes turned his head slightly towards the detective observing with frosty disdain; otherwise he was completely still, hands clasped around the cane handle of his umbrella, military-polished shoes planted squarely on the floor.

"Or else the result of stupid men who do not know their boundaries."

Greg's throat tightened.

"Your brother is many things Mr Holmes: arrogant, rude, normally a complete pain in the ass," he angled a hard stare at the man beside him, "but not stupid."

Holmes's expression didn't change.

"And doesn't that make it all the more frustrating."

The suited man leaned back in his chair looking as close as a man in a three piece suit could to relaxed.

Greg stared.

He knew the brothers had issues; one spent his life snooping on the other, who in turn was spiralling into a nightmare of drugs and competitive violence.
But somehow Greg had hoped, perhaps for his own selfish reasons, that there was still some chance of reconciliation.
That seemed doubtful now.

Holmes cleared his throat, one perfectly shaped eyebrow raised towards his receding hairline.

"Is something the matter Detective Inspector?"

Greg scoffed for a second and hated himself for it. He just didn't understand. As an older brother himself he couldn't imagine any reason why the man couldn't even find it in himself to be a little watery-eyed.

His chest constricted, stomach flipping.

"I don't believe you," he finally managed, disgust making him slightly breathless, "your brother might be dying and…"

"What would you have me do?" There was emotion this time; aggravation. Greg fought the urge to punch him. "Pump his stomach myself? Would that satisfy you Inspector? Would that be enough to convince you I care?"

"Don't be ridiculous."

The second eyebrow joined the first as thin lips twitched into a thoughtful grimace.

"Ridiculous Inspector? I am being ridiculous!?"
Holmes sighed, it sounded like a chuckle and Greg got the distinct impression that inside that enormous head he was in hysterics.
"Personally I believe that keeping my head is of far more use to Sherlock at this moment than letting myself fall prey to my…" his voice dropped, pale eyes narrowed, "…emotions."

Greg rose to his feet slowly, his voice shook.
"You cold-hearted bastard."

Then he turned his back on the hateful figure and his staring assistant and left.

...

It was cold outside, unusually so and Greg pulled his pitiful excuse for a coat-a birthday present from his wife, freezing your bollocks off was apparently in fashion this season-tightly around him.

The air nipped at his cheeks and nose. The lit cigarette the only thing maintaining feeling in his chapped lips.

Smoking on a frosty winter morning was one of the few things Greg liked about the grey season. A policeman's life even tainted Christmas.

He took another long drag, feeling the pleasant tang on his tongue and the gentle burn as the smoke crawled down his throat.

He'd told Debbie he was going to quit again no more than four days ago.
The promise he'd bought to her after he'd missed a dinner reservation, along with the largest bouquet the local supermarket had to offer and tickets to her favourite musical.

He'd still ended up with the cold shoulder for three days.
Tonight would certainly extend the run.

Greg refused to blame her; life as a policeman's wife was not easy.
He missed appointments, was distracted at dinner parties and could be more than a little touchy himself, especially when on a big case.

She would begrudge him this one even more because she loathed Sherlock.

He dropped the smouldering butt crushing it underfoot and lit another, slipping it between his lips and taking in another gorgeous lungful.

Footsteps sounded behind, a single person, man most likely.

Greg extended an arm towards the stranger, the soothing balm of the smoke having eased away most of his anger as well as any meditation or aromatherapy.

"Smoke?"

An oddly long pause accompanied the question. Another recent quitter perhaps.

"No thank you."

Greg froze, arm still reaching out.

"I don't make it a habit."

Something in his voice, Greg couldn't pinpoint what amongst the perfect pronunciation, made Greg certain it was a lie.

He shook the crumpled packet, inviting him to change his mind, but didn't turn around.

There was another pause, the one he knew involved a half-hearted battle between self-will and desperation.

Holmes hand bumped his as a cigarette was drawn out and Greg felt his lips quirk with a strange sense of triumph at their shared weakness.
The prescribed thank you that followed was soft, almost grateful, as Greg slipped the cardboard cartoon back into his pocket, listening to the gentle scrape of metal as the other man lit-up.

He pulled in another breath.

"I apologise if I sounded sharp," the other man interjected into the pleasant silence and Greg wondered why some men found it so necessary to talk.

The policeman shook his head and brushed off the fallen ash from his jacket.

"Don't."
He hated insincere apologise more than he hated pointless chatter.

"Most people don't understand the relationship between Sherlock and I."

Greg stayed silent, unsure what the sudden, albeit vague, confession was in aid of.
His stomach gave an uneasy rumble.

What game was the suit playing now?

He blew out the final puff of smoke, watching it weave through the bitter air before it vanished and fought the urge to light number four. Deborah would probably hand him divorce papers if she so much as suspected he was chain-smoking.

"What was it between you two?"
He finally asked, curiosity winning over suspicion; if Holmes was playing games, which was pretty-much certain, then Greg could at least try to get something for himself.
It wasn't only the secret service that understood the true price of information.

"I have three siblings, I know sibling rivalry…but you two…"

He glanced sideways at the straight lines and clear angles of his companion's profile.
From the front this brother seemed softer, the edges of his chin rounder , the curve of his forehead more gentle.
From the side the sharp Holmes family resemblance was obvious.

"…it's ridiculous."

Holmes turned to meet Greg's eyes, but there was something less biting about them than normal.

"I have advised you numerous times, Detective Inspector, not to get involved in family affairs that do not concern you."

Greg laughed humourlessly.

"It's too late for that and even if it wasn't Sherlock is a…"

"What Inspcetor? A friend?"

This times Holmes laughed.
The dead sound danced about on the cold air, cutting right down to the bone.

"You honestly think Sherlock has friends?"

Greg was momentarily thrown, he'd never considered their friendship…relationship…whatever it was, in any depth especially not from Sherlock's side.

He just wanted to help.

And he liked the boy.
Yes he was arrogant, and rude, had no time for social nicities and seemed awkward in the simplest social interaction.

But he was genuine.

Greg liked that.

There was enough butt-kisisng and back-stabbing in the Met to leave you with a constant ache. At least with Sherlock you knew exactly where you stood.
That was something to be admired.

"I care about him," seemingly more than you do anyway, "and I've seen far too many young lives lost to this. Sherlock is brilliant and with help and guidance he could be even more."

He paused, the calculated tone of his voice cracked as his chest tightened.

"My sister wasn't brilliant but I would give everything to save her. I was too late, but not this time."

Holmes looked as he always did: disdainful.

Greg wondered what had happened to turn him into such a dull, heartless snob; it seemed more probable he'd come out of the womb fully suited, shit-under-the-nose expression already perfected over nine months.

"Molly-coddling my brother will not bring your sister back."

Red-heat prickled on the back of Greg's neck.

This time the policeman wasn't stunned; Holmes had hit below the belt before, he knew the man had dirty tactics and wasn't afraid to use them.

"Why do you even bother with Sherlock? Promise to mummy?"

Greg saw a definite flinch.

"A tick in your colleagues' good books? Something that might help you that day when your whole world crumbles around your ears? Because it always does to people like you. Your brother might be arrogant, he might be a junkie," another flinch, "but he's worth a million of you."

Greg ground the already dessicated cigarette further into the concrete with a violent twist of his ankle.

He turned to leave; enough was enough for tonight.
He would pop in sometime tomorrow to check on Sherlock, hopefully the older brother would have felt his duty done by then.

The soft tap of moving feet sounded behind him, Greg didn't stop.

"What you lack in eloquence Detective Inspector you certainly make up for in passion."

'Fuck off' lingered on the tip of the policeman's tongue, but as he turned to face the other man the insult died.

There was sadness there that Greg had never seen before; something intensely human that made the detective feel as if he were intruding on something deeply private.

He rocked on his heels indecisively.

On the other hand Holmes was a chronic manipulator, the melancholy in those icy eyes more likely than not a calculated show of fabricated emotion.

"My brother is a very lucky man to have such a loyal friend and I am beyond pleased to find he has chosen a mentor of such integrity."
To replace me, was left unspoken but the words were clear in his tone...his eyes.

Something tightened in Greg's chest.
He tried to bat the feeling away, aware that this was all a game and he was the pawn.

But being a policeman had taught him he had a good instinct and at that moment the little voice in his head was screaming genuine.

Holmes let out a stream of grey-white smoke on a deep exhale before dropping the finished butt and crushing it with a sharp twist of his heel.

Greg watched every movement intently, waiting for a tell, anything to clear up the confusion between his head and his gut.

Holmes turned, his face shadowed but eyes burning.

"And if I can ever offer my service in repayment for any pain," he made a sweeping movement with his arm and dipped his head: the action, despite being archaic, seemed sincere.

"I am in your debt."There was complete resignation in his voice.
"You are a far better brother to Sherlock than I could ever be." As if he had been expecting such a day for years.

"If you wouldn't mind I'll leave Anthea with you."
It took Greg a few moments to realise he was referring to his assistant. He looked around, she hadn't followed them.
"I'd like a report on Sherlock's condition when he's conscious."

The use of 'when' rather than 'if' didn't go unnoticed and Greg felt the smallest stir of affection toward this man and the sad sag of his mouth.

"She is at your disposal Inspector. She will not be any nuisance."

Holmes nodded shortly, the ice that seemed to have thawed in the last minute, under the red glow of the fire exit sign and the soft tendrils of cigarette smoke, already beginning to freeze over again.

But for a second Greg had seen Holmes the man, terrified of losing his brother not only to addiction but to someone-else…him.
The brother who saw his own failures as clearly as oil on snow and would never forgive himself.

Perhaps the two of them weren't so different after all.

Greg opened his mouth to speak.

A strange sound emerged, Holmes paused as if he had interpreted the meaning when even Greg couldn't work it out.
He stammered a moment, feeling ridiculous beneath that intense stare.

"You know, she rather terrifies me, I'd rather not be left alone with her."

A slight smile slipped onto Greg's lips, it felt like he hadn't smiled in weeks. Holmes mouth twitched too.

The two fell into step beside one another as they headed back to A and E.

...

Two paper cups greeted them on their return-the sweet scent of tea and the bitter bite of coffee hiding the cloying scent of cleaning fluid that lingered in all hospitals.

The detective took a tentative sip, expecting a scalded tongue and a terrible aftertaste, but this was good.

Hell, it was fucking excellent; made just the way he liked it.

He took a gulp, barely caring if it was impolite and flicked his eyes to the assistant…Anthea…she didn't seem to have moved an inch since he'd left.
He gave her the faintest smile and while her eyes didn't stray from her Blackberry once he was certain he saw the corner of her mouth curl just the tiniest bit.

In the next seat along Holmes was sipping his tea as if from a bone china cup, his eyes were closed and the lines on his forehead seemed less pronounced.

It reminded Greg of his mother; a complete tea-addict.
She always swore that tea could cure any ailment, brighten any bad day and a pot shared could bring even the deadliest enemies together.
Personally Greg had never subscribed to the British obsession. He'd always been far more European, preferring to start the day with a shot of espresso rather than over-steeped tea. Call it the French blood or the necessities of the job that was just the way he was.

He blinked, realising he'd been staring and that Holmes was now looking at him over the top of his cardboard cartoon, both eyebrows raised and lips pursed with minor amusement.

Embarrassed, Greg cleared his throat and cast a useless glance to his watch.

"So…" he started, initially just to distract attention from the gentle flush up his neck.

He paused as a nurse bustled through the double doors and they clattered loudly behind her. Both men followed her, almost desperately, with their eyes but she hurried past without a single glance. Holmes gave a cleverly disguised sigh behind a short cough, his eyes flicking momentarily to his shoes and then back up. His hands remained steady in his lap, so different from Sherlock's buzzing energy and violent crashes.

Greg was suddenly and unexpectedly hit by the wave of curiosity again.

"...You two?"

Holmes didn't move an inch but the policeman noted She…Anthea, he reminded himself again…had stopped typing.

"I believe you enquired on this subject not five minutes previous."

"You didn't answer."

Holmes held up a hand.

"It's a long story Inspector: long, hardly interesting and little more than ancient history now."

"If I'm getting dragged into all your shit I'd like a little more information," he shrugged, "call it a policeman's weakness."

"As I have told you before, Inspector, I prefer to keep family matters within the family. So unless you and Sherlock are planning an engagement without my knowledge," and consent, "I find no reason to reveal personal details. Please refrain from asking again, it is becoming rather tiresome."

"What if I told you we were long-lost siblings?"

Holmes started…or rather blinked once. Interesting.

"I would tell you to keep your slanderous and erroneous suspicions to yourself until you can provide DNA evidence to prove your claim on my family name."

Greg laughed, proper full-bodied chuckles that almost sent tears spilling down his cheeks.

Holmes stared again, his forehead creased.

"Did I say something amusing?"

The deadpan tone made it hard for Greg to tell if he was being serious or just humouring him.

"Do you always take everything so seriously?"

"It is a requirment. In my job," he replied as if laughing in one's career was sacrilege.

"Lots of straight faces in the Depertment of Transport?"
Greg asked, reeling out the lie he'd been fed when he had asked the long-awaited question a few weeks earlier. Sherlock had already told him the truth by then.

"Exactly."

Greg gave a weak smile and leaned forwards over his knees, classic interogation pose, he eyed the other man.

"I'm not one of your suspects Inspector. Please do not treat me as such."
The scowl the man wore reminded him starkly of Sherlock.

Greg leaned back, tapping one foot impatiently as silence descended over them once again.

"Mycroft!"

A middle-aged man with a very receeding hairline and a horrible, patterened shirt appeared suddenly from behind the swinging doors, jerking both of them back to the gloom of reality.

Anthea followed, so close behind she was almost treading down the backs of his shoes. Greg hadn't even noticed her leaving.

Beside him Holmes rose steadily to his feet; the deeply etched pain gone, as if it had never existed at all.

The two men shook hands.
The new arrival leaning in close and muttering something too low for the detective to hear, before he turned and started back the way he'd come.
Holmes followed, umbrella swinging lazily from his arm, no different from one of his usual kidnappings.

"Detective?"
Greg looked up, realising he was being summoned.

He fell into step beside the assistant who remained a precise two-and-a-half paces behind her boss. She didn't look at him once, her eyes fixed dead ahead like an eagle that had picked out its next meal.

They stopped outside a small room, the third man of the group mumbled a second time to Holmes before he slipped inside, out of sight.

"Doctor Georgeson is an old friend and by happy co-incidence a specialist in addiction."

Greg nodded. He didn't believe for a second that anything around this man happened by co-incidence.

"And Sherlock?"

"He had taken double the lethal dose of heroin and enough cocaine to make a drug's mule shudder."

It was hardly a shock.

"Intentional then."

The sickly pallor had returned to Holmes face, turning his cheeks a nasty off-white.

"With someone like Sherlock how can you tell?"

"Mycroft." The doctor poked his head round the door, still managing to block the view inside. "He's unconscious but you can see him if you like."

Holmes moved instantly; he had an odd sort of grace for a man of his height, passing easily behind the medic and into the room beyond.

Greg didn't move.

"Detective Inspector Lestrade?"

Holmes was once again beckoning him forward; there was a haunted look about his eyes that made Greg even more certain he didn't want to go inside.

"I…."

A cool gaze settled on the other man's face.

"Inspector."

Georgeson was flicking his gaze between them curiously and Greg swore he caught the shadow of a smile on Her pursed lips.

He stepped forwards.

...

Inside the room machines beeped and hissed as if alive.

Sherlock lay on his back, neatly tucked beneath the thin cotton sheets; painfully unnatural.

A multitude of tubes peeked out from beneath the nice set of sapphire blue silk pyjamas, clearly not hospital issue. Greg would have to make a request next time a suspect tried to stick a switch blade into his femoral artery: he still had the scar.
Each tube joined a bag: some clear, some coloured, all with the purpose of restoring life to the young man.

It didn't look like they were working.

Sherlock looked paler than ever, his hollow cheeks and white lips shone with a veil of cold sweat and every now and then his entire frame shuddered in agony.

What hit Greg the most was how impossibly small he looked. No more than a child swaddled in blankets.

The policeman blinked. And for a moment Sherlock's Grecian features morphed into something softer.
Greg choked on the bitter taste of bile.

Amy.

His fingers found the shape of his phone at the bottom of his coat pocket.

He stood silently, avoiding the sight of Sherlock's prone figure like the plague and willing for one of his team to ring.
Deborah raging at him for not getting home would do.

He knew he was being watched; Holmes's cool gaze was like ice needles against the back of his neck and Anthea watched every movement with the rapt attention of a bird of prey.
Even Georgeson was looking, not that Greg cared about him…not that Greg cared about any of them.

He flicked his gaze to Sherlock once more and turned on his heel sharply, settling into his most authoritative tone with ease.
"I have to go."

He didn't explain why or make up any excuse. Holmes would see straight though any lie he told.

The taller man stared passively at him and Greg half expected a dozen burly men in black suits and shades to bar the exit.

Instead he received a curt nod and without any other word, or having to fight of ten of MI5's finest, Gregory Lestrade was permitted leave.

xxx

At noon the following day a bleary-eyed detective inspector navigated his way, rather poorly, through the white walled corridors.

After barging into the wrong room for the second time-why did everything look the same?-he decided it was time to concede defeat to the architectural conundrum.

"Detective Inspector?"

Greg sighed and turned to find himself face to face with Holmes's…Anthea.

She looked immaculate as always, bright and alert.
Greg wondered whether the two had actually spent the night here.
Holmes may have stayed on his own; Greg supposed. But that seemed less likely than pigs flying.

"Good morning."

She gave him a smile that he couldn't determine as fake or genuine and gracefully drew an arm around in front of her. Instructions to follow.
Wordlessly he fell into line just behind.

It took them no more than three minutes to reach the right room.

"Good day Inspector." Holmes kept his eyes fixed on his brothers still form, the occasional tremor and miniscule flutter of an eyelid the only movement. "Did you sleep well?"

Greg knew that one glance at him would inform anyone that he hadn't slept a wink between leaving the hospital and his six o'clock alarm.
But Holmes made it impossible to tell whether the question was meant to aggravate or an attempt at politeness.

"Very."

"You left very abruptly."

"I'm on a case."

He immediately disliked the condescending smile he got in return.
"Of course."

"Well I just wanted to check he'd survived the night."

It was meant to sound somewhat humorous. It didn't.

Holmes looked back to his brother with the tenderest expression the detective had ever seen on the man's face.

"Well," he began again, "let me know when he's up."

"You are most welcome to stay Inspector."

Greg stared, first at the back of Holmes head and then the lean figure in the bed.
He shook his head, a sharp-edged lump had formed in his throat.

"I'm half-way through a case," he glanced to the young man's still form again, "Could do with his help actually."

A thin smile appeared on the older brother's mouth, he looked up at Greg over his hsoulder.

"I never did understand his morbid fascination with crime...When he was eight," there was the shadow of a laugh in the sigh he gave, "he accused the scullery maid of stealing some of our mother's jewellery. He set up a whole trial in the drawing room; Sherlock was judge, jury and executioner."

The man stopped himself suddenly, as if he hadn't realised he was reliving that childhood memory out loud.

"I apologise. I didn't mean to bore you with excerpts from our..."

"Was he right?"

Holmes looked at Greg with an indiscernable expression, the policeman stood his ground. The man turned slowly away, eyes drifting back to his brother.

"The real question is is Sherlock ever wrong?"

"In his own head I'd bet not."

"And in reality?"

"Well," Greg offered with a shrug, "No-one can be right all the time can they? And I'd defiinitely say pumping himself full of narcotics was a pretty bad decision,"

Holmes made a strange noise in the back of his throat, like he was choking.

"I'm sorry, I..."

"Do not aplogise Inspector. You are quite correct. I can only hope that this...incident, will be a turning point."

Greg's arm started to move of it's own accord, the instinct of a man who had dealt with too many mourners to count. He pulled it back, holding it down by his side.

If he thought it would have made any difference he would have nodded, said he was sure even Sherlock would see enough was enough. Some people reacted well to lies like that. Not this man. He stayed silent.

Holmes cleared his throat but his voice wasn't thick or trembling when he spoke. Greg should have known better.

Still it was obvious that beneath the fresh-suit, steady tone and genial smile the man's heart was bleeding.
The policeman knew how he felt, had gone through the same himself.

"I am sure you have many demands on your time Inspector, I did not mean to distract your attention from where it is needed."

"I could stay..." Greg offered, his voice wavering. He wasn't entirely sure why he was offering, his team was expecting him back in-he glanced at the watch on his wrist-twenty minutes. Besides why should he feel obliged to spend long hours with Sherlock's insufferable older brother.
Perhaps because he's not nearly as awful as you thought.

Holmes looked back at him, a hint of warmth in his gaze.

"I would not impress such a demand upon you Inspector, especially not after all you have done for Sherlock and...for Sherlock already."

"It's no trouble Mr Holmes. I'm just glad I could help. He's a good kid...You'll let me know when he wakes up?"

"It would be my pleasure Inspector."

Greg slipped out with a farewell nod to both Holmes and Anthea. Feeling somewhat awkward and more than a little numb.

...

Outside he laid a hand gently against the door and mumbled something, perhaps a childhood prayer, maybe an apology, before he turned and left.

xxx

Greg rubbed his eyes and leaned his head back against his chair; it was gone midnight, the chimes of Big Ben had just finished echoing around the city and by all rights he should be asleep.

It had been three days since he'd rushed Sherlock to hospital, two since he'd checked in last and since then he'd probably managed about ten hours sleep…and that was being generous.

Around his new case-the DNA-less murderer was safely behind bars, mainly thanks to the quick thinking of his sergeant-Greg was undertaking the grizzly task of going through all the Jane Doe's that had been dragged into London's morgues over the past weeks.

So far he'd been lucky.

No Amy.

But he spent most nights with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Vrrrrm. Vrrrrrm. Beep. Beep.

Greg rubbed his eyes again and switched his focus from the computer screen to his phone. The little green light winked at him as he opened his new message; number unknown.

He's awake-H

Something twinged behind Greg's ribcage.

He glanced back at the bloated face of Jane Doe No. 72, flicking through the given dental records, DNA details….

No, he concluded with a sigh and closed the list. He could come back to it, in the meantime he'd just hope he could keep checking them off.

His phone beeped again.

He wants to see you-H

Greg doubted that as he draped his coat over his arm and headed out of the office.

...

"Detective Inspector." Holmes greeted him with a weary smile and a strong handshake.

Greg smiled back grimly, the image of that water-logged corpse still floating around his mind.

Sherlock was propped up in bed, he still looked as white as salt but Greg immediately recognised the petulant scowl he'd plastered across his face.

"Lestrade." His smooth baritone was cracked, raw. It made Greg wince. "Why the fucking hell is my brother here?"

Behind him Holmes-the-elder sighed.

"As I have told you Sherlock, I was concerned…."

"Don't give me any of your political bullshit Mycroft. I am not one of you lackies who you can blind with a few nice words at some fancy ceremony and a bit of glitter."

For the first time since all this craziness had begun Greg wanted to stand up for the other Holmes.

Instead he shrugged.

"Your brother arrived just after I'd brought you in."

Sherlock turned his glare back on his brother.

"You're still having me followed."

"Are you surprised?" the elder Holmes replied dryly, meeting his brother's eyes from beneath lowered brows.

"I told you…."

"And clearly I was correct in continuing my surveillance. If there wasn't an issue we wouldn't be in this situation would we, brother dearest?"

Sherlock's lips curled into a viscous smirk.
"You didn't find me though did you."

Holmes didn't so much as blink but somehow Greg knew that had struck a low blow.

"No I did not…"

"So clearly," the younger man began, copying his brother's intention exactly, "I was correct in saying your spying was just you being a power-crazed, intrusive prat and that it wouldn't make any difference what-so-ever."

"Sherlock…"

"You're not my father Mycroft!"

Greg watched the exchange unsure of which side to take.
Sherlock was his friend, the man he'd vowed to help...but after the shared experience of the other morning he wasn't so certain that every insult Sherlock threw at his brother was deserved.

The last one was clearly a sore subject as the elder Holmes gave a tight smile, nodded towards the shady corner where Greg presumed his assistant was and excused himself politely from the room.

As soon as he was gone Sherlock drew his scalding gaze over to the detective.
Greg pushed on a stiff smile and stepped forward, in his outstretched hand he presented a thin cardboard file.

"I brought you the details of our latest case."

Sherlock snatched-up the file without a word and flicked it open with one finger, eyes scanning the standard typeface ravenously.

"Male and female-26 and 42-no known connections…"

"Yes Inspector," Sherlock snapped, his eyes never leaving the text, "I can read."

Greg stepped back, feeling slightly at a loss.

He had never liked hospitals; hospitals with an irate Sherlock was pretty much his worst nightmare come to life.

"You have checked I am alive Inspector. I hope even your poor observation skills can determine that; there is no further need for your presence here."

The policeman stared, blinked, stared again and then slipped out.

...

"Ungrateful bastard," he murmured to himself half way down the corridor.

"I am sorry you were witness to that appalling spectacle Detective. There was a time, if you'd believe it, when Sherlock and I were inseparable."

Holmes appeared from out of nowhere and handed over another cartoon of exquisitely scented coffee. Greg took a long draught.

"What changed?"

"Circumstances," he sighed and took a sip of his own drink, "Duty. Time. The only thing that didn't change was that Sherlock was my brother and I would have…I would do…anything for him."

The policeman reached out instinctively. A comforting hand reserved for widowers, bereaved parents and now brothers with obnoxious siblings it seemed.

Holmes turned slightly towards him, a vague smile pulled up the corners of his lips.

"Once again I'd like to offer my thanks Detective Inspector Lestrade. Sherlock owes you his life and I owe you my little brother. If there's anything…"

Greg held up a hand.

"I've told you before Mr Holmes I'm doing this for Sherlock, I don't want anything from you."
It didn't feel as true as it had five days ago.

The taller man nodded.

"As you wish. You are a good man Inspector, if every man were like you my job would be far easier."

Greg laughed awkwardly. He wondered if Holmes realised that no-one said things like that outside trashy novels.

"But a lot less interesting."

Holmes laughed.

There was a sudden, sharp tap of a woman's high-heel; Holmes jerked his head to look over Greg's shoulder.

Anthea stood there, her expression passive as ever and her phone clutched lovingly in her hands.
"Sir."

She blinked twice and tapped her foot again. She got a nod and three blinks in reply, then promptly vanished back down the corridor.

Holmes turned back to Greg and if the detective didn't know better he'd swear he read disappointment in the line of that thin mouth.

"I apologise Inspector but duty calls," he inclined his head towards the cartoon with a grim smile, "Enjoy your coffee."

Then he was gone.

Greg glanced down to his cup and surprised himself with a slow sigh.

In his gut he knew whatever had changed over the past few days was now to be forgotten.

He would go back to being Sherlock's loyal minder and Mycroft Holmes would go back to being the hard-hearted, snub-nosed bastard who had him kidnapped whenever he thought Sherlock was getting out of hand.

For some reason that left him feeling a little hollow inside.

xxx

"I'm here to see Sherlock Holmes."

The nurse looked at him blankly.

"A young man, dark hair, came in a week ago after an OD."

Another blank stare.

"He was in this room."

Greg jabbed a finger at the room he'd just barged into, the room holding a man being prepped for a heart transplant. He was lucky he hadn't given the poor bloke a heart-attack.

"Has he moved?"

She shook her head.

"Dr…" he clicked his finger trying to recall the right name, "Dr…Georgeson. Is Georgeson here?"

"There's no Dr Georgeson at this hospital," the nurse spoke as if she was reciting a line from a play, "and we've never had a Sherlock Holmes here."

The detective shook his head in disbelief as she retreated, muttering something beneath her breath as she went.

...

His phone rang as he reached the lobby; Debbie's number flashing up on screen.

"Debs? What's wrong?"

There was a light giggle down the phone line.

"Don't give me all that Greg," the policeman braced himself for the onslaught bound to follow, "I can't believe it. That bouquet must have cost you a fortune."

The usual words of defence died on Greg's tongue. Bouquet?

"And you finally told that bloody junkie to move. I'm so…."

"Wait...what!?"

Debbie gave an impatient sigh, it rattled through the speaker.

"Some men came today and moved all his things out. But come on Greg you know all this, they told me you'd sent them."

A black car pulled up beside with a gentle hum.

Of course. He sighed.

"Look Debs I'll call you later. Work stuff, yeah. Dinner? Tonight? No, no. That sounds lovely. Bye. Yes, love you too. Bye."

The passenger door facing him swung open, narrowly missing his leg and Greg, knowing the script by now, slipped wordlessly into the dark interior.

Holmes was waiting inside, his assistant perched on a little pull out seat opposite them, she didn't look up once as Greg settled down.

"Good morning Detective Inspector."

The policeman nodded his reply.

"I'm sorry for any confusion," he glanced at the retreating rectangle of the hospital visible behind the tinted-probably bullet-proof-glass, "but I prefer not to have my family name associated with events such as these. Prevents any unwanted attention, you understand. The Holmes family name has long been one of the most distinguished in Britain."

"Having a smack-riddled brother can't go down very well at state-dinners."

Holmes gave a transparent smirk.

"Can't be good for the image either."

"Those I work with don't care about the pitfalls of my younger brother as long as I do my job."

"Important work you do then. In the Department of Transport."

Holmes made no notion that he had heard. He spoke directly to the glass screen opposite.

"More importantly this way any of Sherlock's 'friends' who decide to come looking for him will discover an absolutely cold trail."

"Where is he now?"

Holmes clasped his hands tightly in his lap, his knuckles turning white.

"Sherlock has been removed from the city to our family home, pending treatment."

"Rehab?"

Surely that sort of thing was best done in centres with specialists and high fences.

That awful smile reappeared.

"Trust me Inspector."

Greg almost wanted to, the memory of the genuine terror, the undeniable sorrow on that hard face made him desperate to believe the best of this man.

But a few hours could hardly erase the animosity created by the man's love of curbside abduction and mind games.
Greg wasn't sure if he would ever be able to completely trust this man.

Still he responded with a silent nod.

"There are to be no cases."

"Of course."

"However much he insists. I will have his phone removed of course, but this is Sherlock." Despite the situation Greg couldn't hide the fond smile that tugged at his lips. "If you require any assistance in his absence..."

The policeman shook his head.

"I can manage." It was meant to come out angrier than it did, lack of sleep was surely getting to him.

Silence followed.

"The bouquet was a nice touch."

Holmes looked at him, something clouded the edges of those ice-blue eyes.

"I apologise if I was presumptive…"

"It's fine," Greg interrupted sharply.

It wasn't.
But deep down Greg knew that the man had had the best intentions, and that seemed to matter all of a sudden. It managed to temper what two weeks ago would have been a raging storm into something managable.
Besides, it had been months since he'd heard even the shadow of a smile in Deborah's voice. That was worth some lenience surely.

"Thank you."

The taller man smiled and it almost looked real.

The car drew smoothly to a halt, the door opened.

"I hope you and your wife have a delightful dinner."

"You'll keep me informed on how he's doing?"

Holmes nodded once.

"If you wish."

"And if you need any help…"

He nodded again.

"You shall be my first point of call Inspector…"
Something in that silken voice told Greg he wouldn't be needed.

It was probably for the best, he'd quite like to still be on speaking terms with the younger Holmes when all this was done.

The two men shook hands awkwardly and the detective stepped out into the fresh air.

"Good luck Mr Holmes."

xxx

Mycroft watched the detective until he disappeared into the monstrous block of New Scotland Yard.

He'd always loathed the building, preferring the elegant lines and white stone of the Met's original home. The next time the Force wanted to erect a new landmark for themselves he'd ensure the plans crossed his path first.
Frank in planning did owe him a favour, or two, after all.

The eyesore vanished as they turned a corner, the car easing its way steadily through the traffic dipping down side-streets to avoid the worst of the snarls. There was the slightest bump as they edged over a curb, opposite his assistant twirled a strand of hair around one finger and tucked it back behind her ear, eyes fixed on her phone all the while.

"How is our patient?"

A few rapid taps, a quick flick of her eyes.

"Agitated."

Mycroft pressed his tongue against the roof of his mouth, pursing his lips.

"Unsurprising. Dr Georgeson?"

"Looks about ready to start tearing out his hair."

There was the briefest flash of humour behind her eyes; the poor doctor really should watch those wandering hands of his, it was a miracle he still had possession of his right arm.
The two smiled at each other, the smallest upturn of lips.

"Do you think he'll last?"

The man's expression turned hard again.

"He won't be receiving the other half of his paycheque if not."

Her phone gave a tinny buzz.

"Anything of importance?"

"America wants a word," she voiced passively, closing the message and settling the device in her lap, "Nothing too urgent."

"Let them stew for a night; sometimes our dear friends across the Atlantic need reminding who is really in charge."

Another smile and silence.

They were out in open country now, the grime of the city fallen away behind them to reveal green fields.

Still it would be a while before they arrived…home?

Mycroft had always called it such despite feeling very little for the place.
The winding corridors he'd explored alone as a child for 7 years, the rooms where he'd first laid eyes on the form of his younger brother, where they'd later played…all memories now and bitter ones at that.

He supressed a shudder at the thought of being caged in with Sherlock for a month and a half.

He must have been frowning because Anthea, as she liked to be called, leaned forwards over her knees, her expression searching.

He shook his head and she relaxed, as much as she ever did.

Turning, he glanced out the window desperate to find something, anything to distract him for the hellish weeks ahead.
A tree-oak-crawled past. A herd of cows.

He sighed, each tick of his watch seemed to drag.

Opposite him Anthea gave a sympathetic smile, he didn't return it. Just folded his hands and stared.

xxx

It had been 11 days, that was 264 hours, and Mycroft had just finished having another discussion with a disgruntled Dr Georgeson in which he'd had to try very hard not to start planning the man's extradition to Antarctica.
Instead he'd taken to whispering insults from his favourite Restoration playwrights under his breath.

In the dining room the clock struck eleven.

Anthea was on watch now; it would be his shift in just under an hour.
She had insisted it was unnecessary, he had argued and with a rueful smile she had let him win. No-one would ever say he was not a gentleman.

His ears pricked as someone moved upstairs; the soft footfalls meant it was probably Anthea, stretching her legs as she neared the end of her four-hour shift.

Otherwise the house was silent.

Sherlock had stopped screaming two and a half days previously. Mycroft was taking it as a good sign.

He finished checking his inbox-the PM had his reply, America had been satisfied for the time being-and logged off the secure network the boys from Tech had installed. With Sherlock in the house no precaution was to be overlooked.

There was a crash from somewhere above, the man started to move: never running. He could still hear his father's scolding tone, the sharp flash of pain across the back of his neck, like fire.

Another smash followed. Mike quickened his pace.

...

"Fuck you! Fuck my brother!"

Sherlock was stood in the corridor; arms stretched out in the narrow space, his hair was stood on end, his skin like wax and covered in a thin sheen of sweat. His eyes were wild and red-rimmed.

Anthea stared straight at him, undeterred by the madness plain in his face.

"You're not well Mr Holmes," she said, her tone low and authoritative, "You should go to bed."

Sherlock looked at her with disgust, his hands balled into fists at his side.

"You don't tell me what to do Mira."

Mycroft scowled.
Anthea just stared.

Sherlock was far too clever for his own good sometimes.

He gave an ugly sneer, leering towards her with bared teeth.

"You can't just hold a gun to my head and expect me to do what I'm told."

She didn't move. Her expression was blank as she replied shortly.

"I could try."

Only her boss saw the flash of pain behind her eyes.

"A gentleman does not raise his voice to a lady Sherlock."

Mycroft stepped forward out of the shadows and faced his brother; he waved a hand and slowly Anthea dropped back behind him. Still poised, still deadly.

"Your assassin barely counts as a lady."

Mycroft tutted; just another childhood tantrum.

"Be polite Sherlock."

"Fuck you."

The older Holmes hardened his expression and pushed his hands into his trouser pockets, rocking back slightly on his heels.

"This is for your own good," he re-affirmed, he stretched a hand out and Sherlock jerked back as if those fingers would burn, "Go back to bed, you'll feel better in the morning."

"I won't feel better, not ever, not unless you give me some."

The cry had lost its venom now, the sounds slurred together, soft, pitiful.
Sherlock took a shaky step forward and collapsed forward onto his brother, head-lolling on his shoulder, fingers weak in the expensive weave of his shirt.

Mycroft's heart gave a painful thud, his ribcage felt as if it were being crushed.

Sherlock's breath was hot and stinking against his neck.

Gently he lifted his brother's tiny frame into his arms, like when they were children and Sherlock had been woken by those nightmares with the faces pressing close and the impenetrable darkness all around.

"I can't," he said firmly laying the boy down on his bed. One hand strayed up to brush an errant curl from his eyes. "You know I can't."

He left the room quickly, the routine known well enough by now.

The dead lock clicked as he turned the key, followed almost immediately by the dull thud of fists on wood, the sharp shout of insults.

Mycroft sighed, resting his forehead against the door, feeling every tremor as Sherlock fought against his bonds.

"Mycroft?"

"You may go Anthea."

She hovered; her dark eyes locked on him, the mild warmth of her concern making the skin on the back of his neck tingle.

He raised a hand before she could speak.

"Honestly my dear, please go and rest. I will see you at seven for the video call with the prime minister."

A moment of silence passed, no-one moved

"Of course sir."

She always knew the time to pick a fight and when to just do as she was told, he admired that.

"Wake me if you need anything."

He nodded, waiting for the soft pad of her steps to fade before he settled into the chair opposite the door.

They went through this damned rigmarole every 2-3 days and Mycroft was already feeling drained, which for a man who usually managed to steal a maximum of four hours' sleep a night, was telling.

He closed his eyes, took a few deep breaths and tried to block out the raging cries of his brother.

Inside his pocket he felt his phone vibrate.

The DI is getting anxious.-A

He felt the smallest shadow of a smile creep onto his lips.

Leave it to me. Get some rest dear-M

The phone remained balanced on his knee, it was quiet.

Mycroft looked to the door, the phone, door, phone, door, phone.

The detective was a good man, easy to talk to, easier still to trust and Mycroft found himself flittering on the precipice of like, a place he visited all too rarely.

He was well aware the detective's view on him was far less complementary, it was something that came with the job title and he doubted Sherlock had said anything to his merit.

Not that it mattered, he corrected, the DI had one purpose here: keep Sherlock distracted.
Anything else was superfluous, unimportant.

Still it was hard to forget the effortless talk-something one didn't take for granted when one spent one's life surrounded by the pointless, false chatter of politicians-and the warmth of a smile given for reasons more genuine than winning the next cabinet vote.

He stopped his fingers on his phone.

Tomorrow.
He scheduled the four minute conversation in his mental timetable and slipped the small device into his pocket.
He would call the policeman tomorrow, assure him all was well, his help as yet unnecessary and then return to his work.

He leant back on the hard, little chair trying to ignore the thought that talking to the Detective Inspector might be the most pleasant part of his day.

...

"Greg Lestrade."

"Good day Inspector."

"Mr Holmes?"

"I hope you can forgive me this small interruption into your free time. I will be quick, I assure you."

Surprisingly there was no muttered insult, no shout about how he had gotten hold of the man's personal contact details.
The brief pause was followed by a genial request for information on Sherlock's well-being.

Mycroft cleared his throat. Lie.
"He's doing well considering the extent of the problem."

There was a genial hum of understanding.

"It can't be much fun stuck in a house with him like that. Hell! He's bad enough on a normal day."

Mycroft could almost appreciate the attempt at humour and he gave a strained chuckle.

"I can think of far more pleasant past-times."

"Is there anything I can do? For S...your brother?"

There was a shuffle at the other end of the line.
A woman's voice sounded, weak and distant but clearly not impressed.
Lestrade replied his hand over the mouthpiece so that Holmes only managed to decipher a few odd words.

"Sorry."

Mycroft blinked.

"Not at all."

"Debs thinks every call is the Yard."

Something tightened at the base of the politician's rib cage.

"The prerogative of a policeman's wife."

The detective laughed again but it was thin.
Mycroft didn't like it.

"Did you need anything?"

Help.

"Your concern is most appreciated but we are doing quite well at the moment."

"Oh," the man seemed almost disappointed; Mycroft imagined one tanned hand pulling through strands of silver-grey.
"Well if you do the offer's still there."

The smile spilled over before he could stop it.

"Thank you detective, I hope my brother realises what a lucky man he is, to have such a devoted friend."

A strange, strangled noise crackled over the speaker.

"It's Sherlock," came the eventual reply, the shrug audible.

"Quite."

"Anyway I better go...You'll keep me up-to-date?"

"Have I not kept my promise?"

"Right. Good. Thanks."

Another smirk tugged at the edge of his mouth, he fought it back. Not the time or the place.

"I will leave you to your free time. Good day Inspector."

"And to you."

The phone went dead.

Mycroft gave a gentle exhale of air, too soft to be a sigh, too deep to be a breath.

Anthea didn't look as she asked if he was all right. He looked at her as if he didn't understand the question.

"Is there any reason why I shouldn't be?"

A little crease appeared in the very corner of her mouth.
He stiffened knowing that small dimple and not much liking the memories it conjured.

"Nothing," she answered, turning back to her task, "Nothing at all."

xxx

Three weeks later and Sherlock sat slumped against his brother's side.

"I wish you'd have just let me die."

Mycroft tensed and unbuttoned the collar of his shirt.

"Now I know that's not you talking. You love yourself far too much to kill yourself."

That earned him a quick chuckle, a lone finger dug into the flesh of his wrist.
Mycroft looked down; an earnest face greeted him, quicksilver eyes dulled with hours of continuous retching.

"What do you wish?"

The older brother raised an eyebrow; there was a sharp pain in his stomach.

I just want my baby brother back.

I want you well.

I want to see you smile when you see me, like you did when we were children.

I want to see you live past your 40th birthday.

"You're asking what I want?"

Sherlock groaned and shifted slightly, his forehead rested on the toilet seat, eyes closed.

"Don't know what I'm saying."

The older man gave a faint smile, one hand caught in the sweat drenched hair at the base of his brother's skull.

"Clearly."

...

He left Georgeson with his patient at ten, knowing the American ambassador would be waiting for his call. Anthea fell into step behind him, his shadow.

"Did you contact the Inspector?"

"As you requested. He sends his best."

Mycroft raised an eyebrow.
Anthea raised her owned in reply.

He chuckled.

"I highly doubt that my dear. You were able to placate him?"

"Oh ye of little faith," she smiled, "To be honest he needed very little appeasing, he was somewhat distracted."

"A case." She nodded. "I'm sure the distraction is much appreciated," his eyes narrowed a fraction, it woud be unnoticable to anyone but her, "Nothing of your arrangement?"

A delightfully shrewd smirk tugged up on corner of her mouth.

"Not this time."

Mycroft sighed, pushing a stray strand of hair back into place and glancing at the watch he'd tucked carefully into his trouser pocket.

"I believe the American Ambassador will be awaiting my presence."

"And Lord Ascot phoned."

He made a small half-choked groan in the back of his throat. Upstairs Sherlock retched again.

"You always bring me the most delightful news my dear."

xxx

Three months.

It felt more like three years.

Georgeson had said he could do nothing more now, that Sherlock had to go alone.

Mycroft had insisted on at least another month.

Georgeson had refused, pointing at the new creases around his mouth, the purple bruises under his eyes, and left.

Mycroft had paid him in full despite feeling he could have read one of those atrocious self-help books and done a better job.
He'd muttered those very words to Anthea after one difficult night and had woken with a copy of the yellow monstrosity tucked under his pillow.

Still Sherlock was clean.

Mycroft was sceptical over how long that would last.

...

The car drew to a gentle halt outside a well-kept, little house in Hammersmith and for the first time during the entire journey Sherlock turned to face his brother.

"What are we doing here?"

"This is to be your humble abode for the foreseeable future," Mycroft cast an appraising eye over the crisp white exterior and the neat flower boxes at the windows, "Try not to burn it down."

Sherlock followed the line of his gaze over the tidy building his brows drawn down over his eyes in what could only be described as disgust.

"This?" he hissed, "What about Lestrade's?"

"The Inspector has a life outside baby-sitting you. He has a wife," Sherlock's eyes lifted briefly, the expression did not fill Mycroft with confidence, "They may decide to have children. People do."

"Lestrade knows better than to muddy the evolutionary water with his idiot genes."
There was an odd fondness in his tone that was unmissable, at least to Mycroft, but he hid his approving smile beneath a look that was mildly scolding. "Besides even you must have noticed."

A disinterested look and a bored 'what' was enough to distract his brother's attention for a few seconds longer.

"Lestrade's marriage is hardly a happy affair. I'd say it's been pretty bad going on a year and a half..." he hummed in thought, "...seventeen months."

Personally Mycroft would have put it nearer twenty.

But he made a careless noise in the back of his throat and tapped the tip of his umbrella once against the floor.

The door on Sherlock's side swung open.

On the steps of the house a woman in an apron hovered, a tray of baked goodies in her flour dusted hands.

Sherlock shifted towards the exit, saw her and recoiled.

"Your landlady, Miss Whitsun," the shudder was nearly worth a laugh, "She has been ever-so looking forward to meeting her new tenant."

"I prefer Hackney."

Mycroft scowled.

"Perhaps you'd prefer my guest room."

Sherlock didn't shiver but the glare he gave was spine-tingling.

"In the same house as you and your triggerwoman, I'd feel safer in a tank full of Great White's."

"Your new home awaits you then."

A flourish of hands, a hateful stare and the younger Holmes was quickly enveloped in a dusty hug, a rosemary biscuit pushed between his teeth.

Mycroft gave his most shark-like smile before the door closed.

He felt a hundred times better now Sherlock was under the supervision of Joy Whitsun, one of MI5's top 'baby-sitters', highly recommended.

He met his brother's narrowed eyes through the tinted glass.

He'd try and make a break for it in less than a week of course.
Mycroft wasn't an idiot or an optimist, but he knew few things harder than escaping the watchful eyes and gentle hold of Miss Whitsun.

Sherlock would work it out soon enough. He could barely wait for the barrage of texts he'd receive with that little revelation.

There was a sudden buzz from his driver.

"There's someone on your private line sir."

He tapped the glass twice in response. Only one person ever used that number.

"Mycroft," a lyrical voice, barely louder than a whisper echoed through the dark compartment, "My darling Mycroft."

He forced on a charming smile despite knowing no-one could see him.

"Bonjour mother."

"How are you my love? It's been so long since your last call."

"I apologise, things have been…"he paused awkwardly, "…hectic."

She made a soft humming noise, Mycroft could picture her delicate features all pressed together.
He shifted, uncomfortable, in his seat.

"Tell mama all about it."

Mycroft bit back a groan. The same request, every time.
And still the guilt never diminished. He was only glad he could not see the hurt look she always gave, a deer caught in a trap.

"Mother," he started gently, twisting one finger against the thick weave of his jacket, "You know I am not obliged to tell you…"

"How is my little baby?"

Mycroft sighed.

"Fine," he lied, the truth would break her, even more than she already was. "Sherlock is just fine."

Her voice turned; sharp as a glass shard.

"You don't sound very sure."

"I am merely tired mother," he fibbed again.

She gave a fond little sigh in answer.
"Oh my darling. You work yourself too hard. I've always said so."

"I do my duty mother."

There was another tsk-ing sound.

"Always so humble. Always my sweet little boy."

The hollow words just bounced off him now.

"You are coming for Christmas this year? And that lovely assistant of yours as well, what's her name?"

"Anthea. Yes mother."

"And Sherlock?"

Mycroft kept his voice steady despite his grimace.

"I'm sure he'd love to."

He glanced down at the mobile in his hand.

Will be somewhat delayed. Make my excuse to Lord Ascot. Something about the traffic should suffice-M

"I want no repeat of the fiasco two years ago."

Apology received. ETA?-A

"Of course not mother."

"You know it breaks my poor heart when you two fight. I don't know why you can't get along like you did when you were boys, always playing together. Now all you seem to do is argue."

12 minutes-M

"I'm sorry mother. We don't mean to disappoint you."

And send an email to DI Lestrade informing him that Sherlock is back in London and will imminently be in need of a distraction-M

"Sometimes I wonder what your father would say if he could see you now."

Mycroft clenched his jaw, teeth on edge.

"I would hope he would be proud…of us both, mother."

An airy laugh floated down the phone-line, followed by silence.

"My beautiful, baby boys," she finally replied her voice no more than a breathy whisper.

Mycroft pressed his back molars together and leaned forward over his knees.

"I shall ensure Sherlock is there for Christmas mother, and we shall both be on our best behaviour."

"You're so good to your old Mama, Mycroft."
He could practically feel the pat of her cool, lavender-scented palm against his cheek.
"Back to business now. I know how invaluable your time is."

"I shall call you next week mother."

That would satisfy her for the time being.

"Goodbye my dear," the usual pause, "Send my love to your brother."

"As always."

There was a soft breath on the other end of the line and then silence.

...

Anthea met him in the entrance hall.

"How is he?"

"Borish as ever."

"The dress…" he started, passing a glance over the red number that skimmed her knees and hugged her slim waist. She smiled graciously though he knew she hated the outfits that came with the job.

"..is beautiful and has kept him distracted and pleasantly quiet. Just as you'd hoped."

"I'm sorry."

Her face twisted.

"Is everything all right sir?"

He pressed his lips into a thin line. She nodded.

"Lord Acsot is in the drawing room."

"The message…"

She gave him that infuriating smile. As if he'd even needed to check.

Thankful, he dipped his head in a private salute, the tension he always got at the start of a migraine throbbed painfully behind his eyes. The normal outcome of a conversation with mother.

"Should I be prepared for anything untoward?"

"Well," she said, her expression turning slightly devious, "He did have his trousers on the last time I checked."

"A Godsend."


I can't believe how long that is. Nearly 14,000 words; I'm so sorry guys.

I hope it was worth it.