Even after a near-scalding shower, Lestrade could still smell blood on himself.
Or perhaps it was his imagination; neither Melissa nor Hayley commented on it when he rejoined them. He sent Hayley to the cafeteria to get some coffee. She was seventeen now, but her father still saw her as a child who had no place in these sorts of grown-up affairs. He and Melissa went down to the foyer, where he'd promised to meet Molly. He still had no idea what he was going to tell her. His only information on how John was doing was that he was still in surgery, and alive.
"I can tell her if you want me to," Melissa offered quietly, seeing how violently he was shrinking from the upcoming ordeal.
"I've told people stuff like this before, Mel. Part of the job," he said briefly. Julie had never been much in touch with his inner feelings. Even after a year with Melissa, he still prickled up whenever she touched on places that for many years had remained undisturbed.
Melissa knew when she was touching on those places, but she didn't always stop just because he wanted her to. "It's different when it's someone you know," she said.
"It's fine. Let me do it."
Both of them had been watching the cab rank outside the sliding glass entrance doors. Just then, both caught sight of Molly getting out of one. She had a small overnight bag hauled over one shoulder. Melissa ran down to meet her, Lestrade in her wake.
"What's happened?" Molly blurted out, as Melissa took her bag for her and leaned over to pay the driver. "Tell me - tell me. Please."
"Maybe you should sit down -" Lestrade stopped himself. It wasn't fair to drag this out any further, and Molly didn't strike him as the fainting type, anyway. "Not good news, Molly," he said. "I'm afraid John's been shot."
For a second, Lestrade thought he might have to amend his view of Molly as not being the fainting type.
"He's in surgery," he went on, "and everything's being done that can be done, but… I don't know any more. I'm sorry. They won't tell me."
Molly's grey lips moved for a few seconds before the words finally came out. "But… but how? Who shot him? Why?"
Lestrade took a deep breath. How was he going to get her to understand that Sherlock Holmes was alive?
"Sebastian Moran," he told her. "We - John and me - were lured out to Battersea. And it turns out that there was a bigger game being played than any of us thought. Moriarty's dead. But Moran was working for him the whole time. And I don't know how to explain this, but -"
"Oh, my God." Molly's words were muffled by her hands. "You've found Sherlock."
Lestrade stared at her in stunned silence, searching her gaze. "Jesus," he blurted out finally. "You knew. You knew Sherlock was alive..."
She nodded, trying valiantly to blink back tears.
"But - you - how long have you known for?"
"The whole time," she said in a small voice. "Two years, six months, and eleven days -"
"Jesus Christ, Molly!"
Molly broke down; two years, six months and eleven days worth of tears in one wretched flood. "Sherlock made me promise," she tried to tell him through sobs. "I'm so sorry. He made me promise never to tell anyone…"
Lestrade shut his eyes; he looked grey-faced and haggard. "I can't believe this," he got out. "I can't actually believe I'm hearing this. My God. Your own husband -"
"Greg," Melissa warned. "Not now." She neither knew Sherlock, nor particularly cared about him. Her priority was Molly; she had wrapped her arms around her shoulders.
Lestrade put his face in his hands for a few seconds, breathing deeply. "I'm going to find Hayley," he finally said, but he was speaking to Melissa, not Molly. "Deal with this. Please. I can't. I can't do this right now." He was digging in his pockets; drawing Molly's hand toward him, he placed something into it and curled her fingers around it, then walked away.
Molly opened her hand. It was John's watch and wedding ring.
Despite his personality and habits, it had been a long time since Sherlock had been punched hard enough to lose actual teeth.
It had been a while since he'd had emergency dental work, too. The cumulative result of both punch and dental work was that every inch of his mouth and jaw were screaming in agony; he'd popped a couple of pain pills and sucked it up. Because while Lestrade had made it extremely clear that he'd been banished to the far end of the department corridor and was not to even look at Molly without permission, he'd still been able to deduce what was going on with John. He was out of surgery, but not out of danger.
Even at his most self-centred, Sherlock could see that his own problems had to be put into perspective just then.
Still, he wasn't being very useful, sitting there nursing his aching jaw and brooding on what was going to happen next. He had no idea where Mycroft had been taken. If Mycroft had called anyone at all, it wasn't his little brother - Sherlock didn't have the means to bail him, in any case. Mycroft could fend for himself. He'd always been able to fend for himself.
Still, Sherlock was surprised when his gloomy little reverie was broken by a voice close by.
"Well, that was rather inconvenient."
Sherlock looked up, angry at himself. How had Mycroft got that close without his even noticing? He could have been anyone. Anyone, and with any intentions. "What happened?" he demanded.
"Had a fortuitous reprieve, courtesy of a very old friend." Mycroft sat down in the plastic mould chair beside him. His back touched the backrest of the chair; an instant sign that he was exhausted. Sherlock stared at him, and he sighed. "Not in person," he corrected himself. "But when certain government bodies designate a person as threat, and an employee gets himself arrested taking out that threat, they don't leave him to cool his heels in a cell."
Sherlock frowned. "Your people told you to shoot Sebastian Moran?"
"No," Mycroft conceded, much as if he was disappointed that they hadn't. "Not my line of work, Sherlock. You know that. But I can assure you that my people are not disappointed that Sebastian Moran was shot. Nor am I."
"Nor I." Sherlock's gaze fell on the crook of Mycroft's left elbow, and he looked up at him quizzically.
"As if you needed any further proof of the Holmes pedigree…" Mycroft rolled up his jacket sleeve and showed him the bandage. "O negative. Worth its weight in liquid gold, I was told. Don't ever say I don't do anything for you, brother."
"You're a universal blood donor? Well, what am I?"
Mycroft rolled his eyes. "The same," he told him witheringly. "But I wouldn't waste time volunteering."
"What? Why not?"
"Because you've dabbled with needle drugs in the past ten years, that's why. Besides that, you need to have steady blood pressure and a normal heart rate to donate blood. You have neither."
"Oh, yes, I'll fix that immediately," Sherlock responded bitterly. Mycroft decided to brush off this comment; neither spoke for a minute or two.
"Sherlock," he finally ventured. "Why on earth didn't you tell me this was happening?"
"Apparently, I didn't need to," Sherlock retorted. "Did you get to Changi before me, then?"
"I was on the same flight as you."
This genuinely threw Sherlock. He thought he'd been more or less aware of all of Mycroft's movements since he'd left Sydney. He stared at his brother for a few seconds.
"You were very preoccupied at the time," Mycroft conceded. "Talking to a woman sitting in the seat beside you, wearing a rather loud orange jacket and a great deal of hideous jewelry. I handed you a napkin and told you to have a pleasant flight."
Almost everything Sherlock had learned about detective work, he had learned from Mycroft. He had always been a good pupil, and in some areas actually overtook his master. But there were still many things Mycroft did far better than he, and one of them was the art of hiding in plain sight.
"The note in the airport lounge was from you, of course," Sherlock commented, brushing over what he hadn't known by commenting on what he had. "If I make my bed in hell, thou art there. Comparing yourself to God himself now, are we? Nice."
Mycroft pursed his lips. "I thought it only fair I gave you notice that I'd followed you," he explained, "and anything plainer could have been intercepted and put us both in danger."
"Quite," Sherlock agreed. "And I suppose it was you who put the reference on the tunnel wall, and called up the homeless shelter people to come and get me?"
"You seemed to be quite cold, lying there."
"I was fine."
Mycroft got up with a sigh. "No, you weren't. I'm going to get coffee."
This was his way of asking Sherlock if he wanted any; Sherlock's way of indicating that he did was to respond with a vague grunt, and to kick at the floor impatiently.
Mrs Hudson didn't hold a key to Harry's house. When her knocking went unanswered, she tried the front door and found it unlatched.
For Mrs Hudson, the news of what had happened was both purest pain and purest joy. The surrogate-son that she had lost was being returned to her, alive and unharmed. The other might die. On being told what had happened, and that there was nothing to be gained by her joining those milling around the hospital corridor, her thoughts had gone out to John's only living kin. One that she knew had a drinking problem, and who would surely not be coping well with the news.
She was not particularly surprised, then, to find Harry curled up crying on the living room floor. She was barefoot, and dressed only in a grubby nightgown; her knees were drawn up to her chin. There was a bottle of whisky clutched in her hand, and Mrs Hudson could smell it from the other side of the room. On seeing who it was, Harry cringed and sobbed, burying her face in her knees in shame.
"Oh, Harry, dear, you're in a disgraceful condition," Mrs Hudson scolded gently. She picked her way across the living room and plucked the bottle out of Harry's hand in a businesslike way, then took it out to the kitchen. She'd more than once had to confiscate certain substances from Sherlock Holmes in much the same way.
"John's dying, Mrs Hudson," Harry hiccuped.
"Nonsense," was the immediate response. Mrs. Hudson was pouring the remaining contents of the whisky bottle down the sink. "I was just on the phone to that lady friend of Inspector Lestrade's twenty minutes ago. She says that John's out of surgery and holding on better than the doctors expected, and there's every reason to think he might be all right after all."
While not technically a lie - Mrs Hudson was honest to a fault - this was a very, very optimistic version of what Melissa had told her. John had survived surgery and was somehow holding on, but he was in an induced coma and on life support. Molly was at his bedside. It was too early for a solid prognosis.
"Then," Harry sobbed, "then why won't they let me come to the hospital to see him…?"
Mrs Hudson frowned. "Who won't let you?"
"Lestrade told me not to come in. Why won't he let me come in?"
"Because look at the state you're in, dear," she murmured, making plans to have a chat with Melissa - nice, level-headed girl - about Lestrade's tact. If, of course, that was even what he'd said. Harry's judgment wasn't the best just then. "Do you think it's going to help anyone, you being at the hospital when you're like this?"
"But what if he dies, and I'm not there?"
"He won't die. You're being silly now." Mrs Hudson brought a glass of water back in to Harry, and stood over her while she coughed and spluttered her way through it. Then she pulled out a handkerchief. "Dry your eyes and calm down, pet. You're going to make yourself ill, and that's not going to help anyone, is it?"
"I won't survive, Mrs Hudson. Not without him -"
"Stop it, Harry."
Mrs Hudson's tones had suddenly become so sharp that it even pulled Harry up in the midst of her tears. She looked up at her, still hiccuping.
"You come back to stay with me for a bit." She stroked Harry's hair off her sticky face. "It's not right for you to be here on your own, not when you're in a state."
Somebody, Mrs Hudson felt, had to make sure that Harry was eating properly and wasn't substance-abusing. And Lord knew she had plenty of experience with that, and with someone who was even more stubborn about accepting help.
Besides, this was what John would want. And though Greg and now Melissa were still holding onto the secret of Molly's pregnancy, Mrs Hudson all the same realised that the last thing Molly needed was to worry about her sister-in-law. She helped Harry to her feet; the younger woman leaned heavily on her arm for support. Too heavily. Her bad hip flamed up with sudden pain. She flinched, but worked through it without complaint.
"Now, I'm going to pack you a bag to bring with you," she said. "Come with me and tell me what you want me to put in it for you, dear."
"Thank you, Mrs Hudson," Harry sobbed.
Mrs Hudson drew her close for a hug. "You're such a lovely girl, Harry," she said. "I wish you didn't drink so much."
"So do I..."