In the corner of the room, Mycroft Holmes angled his BlackBerry just so, took a digital photo, and sent it on its circuitous and encrypted way. The number to which he forwarded the image would be changed within the next thirty-six hours; the recipient it represented was identified only by the title "Unknown Caller" in Mycroft's list of contacts.
The picture he'd taken revealed two men. Ordinary. Dull. Altogether remarkable.
The one reclined in the bed was grey-faced and silver-haired and attached to an alarming number of tubes and wires, but he was breathing on his own, finally in recovery after the last of a marathon of surgeries. The other man curled in a chair by his side, head tilted back and mouth hanging open in exhausted sleep.
The photo offered proof of life.
Vulnerable life. Life currently in Mycroft's charge.
The phone vibrated in Mycroft's hand. The text read, "The room is secure?"
Mycroft typed, "My own handpicked guards stand watch. Only MH, MrsH & a few of my staff know who is here. When he can be moved safely, they'll both be taken to a secure location."
John's head shifted slightly and found another position. The fingers on his left hand flexed open and then closed into a fist. His snores devolved into snuffles.
Another text followed: "I will send the Carlsons a message."
"I was under the impression I already had," Mycroft replied.
"It's worth repeating," came the response.
Lestrade made a soft growl of complaint and frowned in what was obviously less-than-peaceful slumber, rocking a heavily-bandaged hand.
Mycroft stepped closer to the bed and rested his fingertips on the blanket beside Lestrade's feet. He remained frozen there until the man sighed and descended back into drugged oblivion.
"The more names you add to your list, the longer you delay your return," Mycroft noted in his next message. "I will handle this." He couldn't resist adding, "It's not always about you."
The reply was abrupt: "Yes it is."
Attached to this text was a grainy photo obviously taken from a distance as daylight surrendered to dusk. Mycroft narrowed his eyes. The older of the two men on the hotel balcony, stocky and florid-faced and cradling a bottle between meaty hands, was Jay Carlson, the patriarch of the Carlson clan.
The slender man at his side leaning a hip against the railing was at least a generation younger, with a mild, boyish face that easily could have shifted from bland to quite fetching, given the right context. His slight smile in the picture, however, was as unsettling as his dark eyes were cold. Mycroft knew this man used many names. One was Sebastian Moran.
"I see," Mycroft typed, after a heartbeat's pause at the revelation. "Do as you will. You always do anyway. But be careful."
"You should worry about L & J. I'm holding you responsible for their safety."
Mycroft glanced up at the two. They held rare distinctions, these empty-handed refugees from the natural disaster known as Jim Moriarty, whether they knew it or not. They had Sherlock's true concern, and they had Mycroft's absolute trust.
Of course, they had paid for both. Dearly and repeatedly. Greg Lestrade had nearly given his life's blood this day.
Mycroft's word – in this case at least – was his bond. He texted, "I will."
And he would. Constantly.
They were, after all, his allies.
Note: The title refers to the lyrics "If I could only give you everything/You know I haven't got./I couldn't have one conversation/If it wasn't for the lies,/And still I ought to tell you everything..." from the song "Bad Reputation" by Freedy Johnston, which I find very evocative of the mood of the Great Hiatus.
Vital Stats: Originally written in January 2013.