NOTE: Sorry about the delay for the last chapter. Blame Hurricane Sandy and a complete lack of power for 5 days.
Later, sitting in the back of the ambulance, Harry insisted that she just wanted to go home.
The medic protested. "You need to be under observation after this, Ms. Watson. You should be in hospital."
"That's all right, I'll be with her," said John, trying not to look as tired as he felt. His fever was back, his lungs were whistling again, and he could barely keep his eyes open, but he looked at his sister and said, "I'm not letting you go home alone tonight."
Sherlock suppressed a sigh. This meant he didn't get to go home tonight, either. There was no way he was letting John out of his sight tonight, and even he conceded Harry probably shouldn't be alone, either. Not that John was in any condition to watch someone else's health tonight.
This time the sigh escaped.
John managed a smile. "Don't worry. Harry and I will be fine."
"Of course you will. I'm coming with you."
One of Mycroft's cars brought them to Harry's house. (Sherlock was sure it would sit outside all night, too.) Before they were at the front door, a second car pulled up and Anthea climbed out with a large paper take-away bag and a suitcase, which she handed to Sherlock with a smile. Well, that took care of dinner. He hoped it was something nutritious. John and Harry were both undernourished.
They ate around the kitchen table (even Sherlock found himself with an appetite), but none of them talked much. It had been a long, exhausting day for them all and John barely had the energy to lift his fork. Harry excused herself early. She gave John a huge hug before she left and surprised Sherlock by giving him a kiss on the cheek, but otherwise left without a word.
Sherlock and John moved to the living room with cups of tea and sat companionably, John on the sofa with an afghan, and Sherlock in his dad's old chair.
"I am sorry about today, you know. What I did. Not telling you." Sherlock finally offered, bracing himself.
"I know," John said wearily. "Don't let it happen again."
Another sip of tea.
Then he added, "Thanks for saving Harry, by the way."
"She's incredibly frustrating, but she's the only sister I've got."
"I know the feeling."
They both grinned into their mugs, thinking about their respective difficult siblings.
"You would have been proud of her today, the way she distracted Littleston so I could get free," Sherlock offered after a while. "She's quite good at scolding."
"I'm her little brother. I'd noticed."
They sat quietly, watching the shadows shift across the room, dancing over the family portrait where a five-year old John smiled in his mother's arms.
"Does she know?" John finally asked.
"What was in the diary? I don't think so."
"How did he even know about the diary in the first place? Neither Harry or I did."
"He didn't, not entirely," Sherlock said. "I took a moment to look at his desk before we left his house and found this." He held up an old, faded envelope with John's mother's writing and passed it over. "It's just a simple note that says that her husband agreed to the terms and they would keep you safe. That Harold would protect the contract for as long as it took, but that she'd leave a note for you in a safe place. And this." He held out a photo of baby John in his mother's arms.
Sherlock sipped at his tea and then continued, "Apparently when Andy found this, he tracked down your mother's address and confronted Harry, asking where your mother kept her secrets, the idiot."
"Apparently LSE paid my parents' mortgage after I was born," John said quietly, looking around the room. "And Ian Littleston's the man in the photo."
"Mycroft told me."
"I don't understand about my dad, though. He was a good dad when I was a kid. But all that changed when I hit my teens when he started drinking, really drinking. And that one night…" He briefly told Sherlock the story. "Why would he be so horrified?"
"Most children look rather alike," Sherlock offered. "Maybe it wasn't until you started looking like the man you would become that your father truly began to have trouble. And maybe the agreement was founded on you being safe, would treat you like his own son."
"Maybe." John put his mug down, suddenly too tired to hold it. He looked sadly around the old, familiar room. "He did, though-treat me like his son. He loved me once, I can remember it. There was a lot of love, when I was still small."
"He was horrified to find himself thinking of you differently, of having to admit you weren't his," Sherlock said very quietly, his years of exile flickering behind his eyes. His voice was even quieter as he added, "He couldn't bear to think you didn't belong to him any more."
John looked over at Sherlock, noting the unusually vulnerable expression on his face. "And then he died before we could try to fix it. Dad and I never had a second chance. Unlike us."
The room was gray now, with navy shadows streaking the walls, but Sherlock's face was a little brighter. "You know, Harry looked pretty impressed when you confronted Littleston tonight. Awe-struck, in fact."
John ducked his head, embarrassed. "Yeah, I let my temper get the better of me."
Sherlock shook his head. "Quite the contrary. I've never seen you in better control of your temper. It was quite terrifying. Even Donovan looked impressed."
"I'm never going to be able to show my face at a crime scene again," John said with a groan.
"He deserved it."
John nodded. Too tired even to think about what the day's events might mean to his future. How was he going to explain to Harry? Could he possibly be Ian Littleston's son? (Clearly that wasn't possible, was it?)
"It all comes down to family, doesn't it? You can't put money first." Staring at his dad's face in the portrait, John said thoughtfully. "Not every man would be able to do that. Knowingly raise another man's son, and do it with love. Even if he failed at the end."
"I'd rather be a Watson than a Littleston."
"Yes," was all Sherlock said. "You were far better off here."
John thought about all the things he didn't know, all the things he thought he had known that now he must question. But what he did know was that Sherlock was the best friend he would ever have.
Throughout this entire long day, Sherlock's only objective had been to help him. He had even allowed himself to be kidnapped to protect John—and had kept his temper! As much as John deplored being left behind, he had to admit he was grateful. Even Harry had been impressed. Given her own rage at Sherlock Holmes from those long years of absence, that was more than John ever expected.
"Sometimes," he finally said, "it's not the family you're related to that matters the most."
He glanced at Sherlock and saw his eyes widen just slightly. "John?" he asked.
"You did remember to take your medicine, didn't you?"
John just smiled. Inside his chest, he felt nothing but warmth.
Notes: I hope you've enjoyed this. The funny thing is, I didn't set out to have John NOT be a Watson. It just happened because I wanted to create a situation where Sherlock was kidnapped to influence John for a change (basically, the story I wrote called "All in a Day" is what I really MEANT to write), but then things just kind of ... happened. There's more coming, though, because it turns out this WANTS to be a series. As always, reviews are MUCH appreciated.
Part two will be "A Chat Between Old Family Friends."