Title: No Rest
Characters: Q, Sherlock, Mycroft
Summary: Q just wants to get some sleep. Unfortunately, a certain brother has decided to break into his flat.
Author's notes: I've purposely made Sherlock's Hiatus adventures slightly more spy-like than I think they would actually be, in order to fit in to the Skyfall 'verse.
Set in the same 'verse as "Trio" (also uploaded here)
Q sat up in bed, and reached for his glasses on his bedside table. It was 2:43AM, and there was someone in his flat. He waited for a moment, making sure he hadn't been dreaming or hearing things. No, those were footsteps in the entry way.
This was very inconvenient. He'd been looking forward to getting some sleep, in his own bed, in his own (much neglected) flat. He hadn't made it out of Q-branch in days, and now here he was and someone was breaking in and bothering him after only a couple of hours of shut eye.
He silently got out of bed and felt for his trousers in the dark. If he was about to be killed, he didn't want to be found in his pants. He also had his distress beacon in his pocket, and he hit it as he did up his flies. He crept down mezzanine steps to the living room, and out to the hallway, quietly retrieving his service weapon from the safe at the bottom of the stairs.
The lights flashing from his computer hub had a human-shaped void in them. Whoever was there was in his computer room. He hugged the wall, keeping his gun at the ready.
Every member of MI6 went through basic defence training, no matter how far from field work their job was. Q didn't like guns. Not for firing anyway. For designing, yes, but as far as weapons went, he preferred his computer and his wits.
He kept the weapon in the isosceles position, and braced himself at the edge of the door, before turning quickly, hitting the lights in the room, and aiming it toward the computers.
"Oh, good God, have they given you a gun?" a familiar voice drawled. "Clearly they've gone mad under the new leadership."
Q's arms fell to his sides with relief. "Sherlock. Christ. How the hell did you get past my systems?"
"I've been getting past your 'systems' since you were three-years old," Sherlock said, the inverted commas obvious in his voice.
"I should have thought they'd improved since then," Q said.
Sherlock shrugged. "I've improved since then," he said.
Q squinted against the light, trying to get a good look at him. The man in front of him had only a vague resemblance to his brother. He was bleach blond and had a thick blond beard, and his eyes were a dark green. He was tan. It was only his voice and the sardonic sneer that identified him as Sherlock Holmes.
Q put his gun down. It couldn't be fired if it wasn't held by him, which meant it would be safer to throw it against a wall than it was for him to have a grip on it and accidentally shoot Sherlock, or–worse–one of his hard drives.
"You might want to call off the hounds," Sherlock said.
"Hmm? Oh, right," Q said.
He retrieved the beacon and pressed the distress signal again, turning it off. His mobile, which was in his other pocket, starting to ring and vibrate. He answered.
"Yes, this is the Quartermaster," he told the dispatch operator. "Identification Number 266847693. It was a false alarm, please recall any back-up. I hit the beacon by accident when I was fishing something from my pocket. I only realized it just now. No, everything's fine. I do not need someone sent over. Yes. Yes. I'm quite sorry for the trouble."
He ended the call, responding to Sherlock's silent mimicking of 'this is the Quartermaster' with the raising of his fingers in a V-shape. Sherlock smirked.
"You should have let me know you were coming," Q said. "I could have shot you."
"Not unless your marksmanship scores have improved considerably," Sherlock said.
"They have," Q said.
Sherlock quirked a sceptical eyebrow at him. "Besides," he added. "I could hardly ring or e-mail."
"I have access to every internet site in the world," Q replied. "You could have left a note. I'm assuming this isn't a social call. What do you need?
"Some proper tea, a change of clothes, the location of a man who doesn't exist," Sherlock said. "And—" he pulled a laptop out of the rucksack he was holding "—I need you to see if you can break into this."
Q grinned. "Well, let's get started then."
The first two items were easy enough. Q fetched Sherlock some clothes, and tossed a shirt on while he was at it. He climbed back down and found Sherlock had helped himself to a sports drink from the fridge, which he was gulping down between stuffing leftover Chinese into his mouth. Q didn't complain. If Sherlock was eating, it was because he needed to eat.
In the better light of the kitchen, he could see how haggard his brother looked. He was far too thin, and exhausted looking; his eyes horribly bloodshot. It reminded him of those years when Sherlock's addiction was at its most severe; when he alternated between being so busy, so quick and terrifyingly up, and walking around like a zombie.
"I haven't been using," Sherlock said, around a mouth full of food. "I've just been on a red-eye flight from Australia and my custom lenses were damaged, so I've had to buy generic. They're extremely uncomfortable. "
Even after thirty-odd years of knowing Sherlock, Q still found it vexing that his brother could just read his mind like it was a book. Q had the Holmes observational skills, but he lacked the inclination to make observations into deductions. He used his skills to notice tiny bits of code, and miniscule cracks in security systems.
"You don't need them in here," Q said. "You can take them out."
Sherlock looked a bit confused at this notion, as though the concept of being himself was somehow novel. He pulled a case from his rucksack with multiple compartments for different lenses, and rolled his eyes up to remove the ones he was wearing. When they rolled back down, they were returned to their normal grey. Sherlock put several drops in them and blinked hard, looking relieved to be free of the lenses.
"These should fit," Q said, placing the clothes on the island for him.
Sherlock nodded, his nose wrinkling delicately at the clothes. "You dress like Grandfather," he said.
"Grandfather was extremely stylish," Q replied.
"In the 1950's," Sherlock said.
Q shrugged. He moved some of the Chinese to a plate for himself and got some chopsticks from the drawer, giving a pair to Sherlock, who had been using his fingers.
"I cannot believe you're still a vegetarian," Sherlock said.
Trevelyan glared at him. "Yes. I hope you're satisfied."
"I am rather pleased with the results," Sherlock said, smugly.
"Telling me how animals are slaughtered for food in excruciating detail was some sort of science experiment?" Trevelyan asked.
"Of course," Sherlock said.
"And what about trying to convince me that was adopted because I had the wrong eye colour?" Trevelyan said.
Sherlock grinned like a cat. "Oh, that was just fun."
Q's mobile rang, the first four notes of 'Rule Britannia' playing. He sighed.
"He must have been in a meeting," Sherlock said. "I was expecting it five minutes ago."
"Do you want him to know you're here?" Q asked, before he answered. Sherlock shook his head. Q hit the button to answer the call. "I'm fine, Mycroft."
"If you're fine, why did you set off your distress signal?" Mycroft said.
"It was an accident, as I told dispatch," Q said. "I'm sure you've heard the recording."
"Not even you could accidentally set off a distress signal," Mycroft said. "Were you speaking under duress?"
"Well, I could hardly tell you if I was, which I wasn't, because I would still be," Q said. "I was just a bit agitated. I've been working for nearly 72 hours straight, I can barely tell if it's day or night. I thought there was someone here. I was mistaken. You can return to whatever you were doing, I'm in no immediate danger."
"Trevelyan," Mycroft said, in a warning tone.
"I believe I've spoken long enough to drop in the code phrase if I needed to, and I haven't," Q said, trying not to be cowed under the use of his real name. In his line of work, it was like being Full Named. 'Trevelyan Sherrinford Holmes, what are you doing down there?!'. Even the government-approved doctors and dentists called him Q. Even he called himself Q. "Are you satisfied?"
Mycroft sighed. "Yes. Be more careful in the future," he said. "And tell him I said hello."
Q winced. "I don't know what you mean," he said.
The phone disconnected. "He knows," Q said, apologetically. "I tried."
"How they thought it was a good idea to employ you as a spy is beyond me," Sherlock said.
"Well, surprisingly, the majority of the world's criminal masterminds are neither as frightening as Mycroft, nor know me as well as he does," Q said. "It's not as though you're any better at it than I am."
Sherlock smiled one of his superior smiles. Q rolled his eyes. He turned the kettle off and poured the water into the mugs, sliding one across to Sherlock.
"That wasn't a lie," Sherlock said. "How long you've been working for. When did you go to bed?"
Q looked at Sherlock's watch, his own still up on his bedside table. "Two hours, 34 minutes ago," he said. "Why?"
"I don't want you stupid with exhaustion," Sherlock said. "You won't be any help at all."
Q grinned. "For a moment there I thought you cared," he said. "I was going to ask if you were hit in the head." He shovelled some cold noodles into his mouth. "Who is this man I'm trying to find?"
Sherlock reached into his pocket and pulled out a facial composite sketch. "I don't have a name, I know nothing about him except that he's part of Moriarty's network. This is based on the best description I could obtain," he said. "No idea of country of origin or address or current location. No job titles, no idea of skills or education. I just need to find him."
"Oh, is that all?" Q said. "You made it sound like it was going to be difficult."
Sherlock drank his tea, alternating between making happy noises, and rattling off deductions about Q's work, his flat, and his love life. His conclusions could be summed up as 'boring', 'ridiculous', and 'non-existent' respectively. Then they went to the computer room, Sherlock's second cup of tea in his hand. Q scanned the composite in, and ran biometrics on it, making a more 3D version of it. When that was done, he entered a long string of commands that would search for the face, once it found the face would search for a name, address, fingerprints, job or criminal records, and various commands on what to do when and if any of those were found.
Next, he set to work on the laptop Sherlock had brought. He plugged it in to a computer that wasn't part of the network, so any viruses or attack programmes wouldn't wipe out everything. He'd learned that lesson the very hard way. He used this computer to test new coding and programmes, or sometimes to infect it for fun to see what various viruses did and if he could repair the damage done.
The laptop had an encryption programme on it. Very easy to get past. He started to type and—
"The encryption just changed," he said.
"I know," Sherlock said.
Q identified the new programme and began to deactivate it. "It's changed again," he said.
"Yes, I know," Sherlock said, impatiently.
Q tried again with the new encryption, but once again it changed before he could get past it. "It changes every five seconds," he said. "So by the time I've recognized the encryption, it's changed to something new."
Sherlock made a pained noise in the back of his throat. "Yes. I know."
"Well. That's rather galling, isn't it?" Q said. He cracked his knuckles and waited for the next changeover, working as quickly as possible. He wasn't fast enough.
"I assume the owner can predict mutation of the encryption," Sherlock said. "However, I wasn't able to discern the pattern, though it's not my area of expertise. I thought you might be able to figure it out. Apparently not."
"Yes, well, I've only known about it for less than a minute, do give me a chance," Q said. "I will not be beaten by something this simple. Devilishly simple, but simple nonetheless. I suggest you take a shower. This may take a while and you smell like people."
It was perhaps significant that Sherlock didn't ask what people smelled like, but Q wasn't quite sure what it was significant of. In any case, Sherlock agreed and left the room. A moment later the sound of running water could be heard.
Q continued to work on the laptop encryption, growing more frustrated with each failure. He watched carefully for thirty seconds without doing anything, trying to discern a pattern to the algorithm. By the time Sherlock returned from the shower, Q was fairly sure he knew generally how it was mutating, but he still couldn't think fast enough to put in the right code in time. He assumed the owner knew what part of the screen to watch, but there was too much code there to figure out which part it was.
"I'm going to have to write a programme," he said.
"How long will that take?" Sherlock asked.
"It's relatively simple, a good programmer could do it an hour," Q said. "So, it should take me ten minutes. Maybe twelve. I am a bit tired. It will go faster without you over my shoulder."
Sherlock was staring at the corner of one the screens, where a permanent search ran.
"Oh look, you're in London," Q said. "Who knew?" He disabled the search temporarily. No point in wasting resources on tracking a brother who was standing next to him.
"I wondered how you were keeping track of me," Sherlock said. His eyes looked over the code and his brow furrowed. "How are you keeping track of me?"
"It looks for ten separate characteristics," Q explained. "Your height, your weight, your eyes, your profile, the length of the bones in your legs, the length of the bones in your arms, your facial shape, your mouth shape, your nose shape, and your shoe size. When any five or more are detected on CCTV anywhere in the world, it makes a note of it. If eight or more match, I pay attention. It's rather like a worldwide game of Where's Wally."
Sherlock looked impressed, which always gave Q a sense of pride. It was bloody hard to impress him and even harder to make him show he was impressed. "Quite a lot of work to call me a wanker via Japanese billboards," he said.
"I just thought I'd say hello," Q said.
Sherlock smirked. "If you can find me this easily, couldn't anyone?" he asked.
Q glared at him. "This is not 'easily'," he said. "This is hours of programming and refining the programming. It took me two weeks to get it properly configured. You have a doppelganger in Singapore and I am now intimately acquainted with his life. Then there's the issue of the number of times it identified me. I didn't realize how similarly we're built until I kept coming up as a 68% match."
"What a horrifying thought," Sherlock said.
"Exactly," Q said. "That's why I only pay attention when the match is 80% or more. And you've been dead for how long? Almost a year now? I've only found you five times as a definite match. I've likely only found you today because I have access to far more cameras in London than elsewhere. You change your appearance enough to make it nearly impossible to track you for any length of time. Plus, I have the advantage of knowing for sure that you're alive. So, no, anyone couldn't. Only me."
Sherlock nodded a concession, and Q nodded an acceptance of it.
"You should have a nap," Q said. "No matter how fast I write the programme, it's going to be a while before I have any concrete information for you. You can take my bed."
"I'm not tired," Sherlock said.
"Cobblers," Q said. "You've been up as long as I have, if not longer, knowing you. You won't be any use if you're stupid with exhaustion either. Go and lie down."
"I'm not tired," Sherlock repeated, more firmly.
"You're going to have to leave the room in any case," Q said. "I work better without supervision. Go away. Get some rest. You're safe here, you can relax properly." Sherlock didn't move. Q quoted the Holmes Family Bedtime Motto: "'You don't have to sleep, you just have to try'."
That made Sherlock's lips twitch in a smile. "Fine," he said, reluctantly."Call me the moment you have anything."
"I will," Q assured him. "Now leave me be."
Sherlock left, and Q settled in to work.
Q couldn't decide if he wanted to kill the person who had encrypted the laptop; or find him and shake his hand on a job well done. And then kill him. It wasn't that he couldn't beat it. He did that in an hour. It was that there were so far three more levels of encryption, each a different type and more difficult to crack than the last. It had gone from being annoying to thrillingly fun to annoying and back to fun again. Now it was back to annoying.
He came to the sudden realization that the violin music he'd been humming along with for the past little while was not coming from his computer, as he'd put no music on. He glanced at the clock. It was now nearly eight in the morning and he'd been working for five hours without moving. His lips were licked raw—a bad habit when he was thinking—and he was thirsty and hungry and really needed the loo. This was all very much news to him. He blinked at the sunlight coming through the window and stretched. Both his legs had gone to sleep. He lurched down to the loo, then out to the living room.
Sherlock was poised by the baby grand in the far corner, his arm making quick, graceful movements with the bow in his hand.
"I see you've found your violin," Q said. He grabbed a drink from the fridge and put some bread in the toaster, then went out and flopped down on the piano bench.
"How did you get it?" Sherlock asked, his voice distorted by the angle he was holding his chin at.
"Your landlady was giving away all your things," Q said. "There was an ad online. I told her I worked with a music programme for underprivileged youth. She gave it to me for free, along with all your sheet music."
"You lied to Mrs Hudson?" Sherlock asked, with disapproval.
"No," Q said. "Not technically. She was so thrilled with the idea that I felt compelled to find a music programme for underprivileged youth and donate to the cause. I was grateful I found a programme. Otherwise I think I would have had to start one. Still quite a deal, though, overall."
"Mycroft wrestled your books away from John," Q went on. "He didn't want him to have anything. I gather all your science things went to a school. The rest we thought you could replace."
Sherlock nodded, in what Q perceived to be a thank you gesture. Q put down his drink and picked up the song—'Danse Macabre'—on the piano to accompany him until the toast was cooked.
"When did you get up?" Q asked.
"An hour ago," Sherlock said.
"I'm surprised you weren't in there pestering me," Q said.
"I was," Sherlock said. "I couldn't get you to respond. The closest I came was when I threw a stress ball at your head and you turned and looked at me blankly, before you went back to work." He demonstrated, giving Q a look like he'd never seen him before. "I thought you were having one of those staring fits that sometimes go with your migraine auras."
"And you thought the best way to respond to that was to hit me with something?" Q asked.
"It worked when you were twelve," Sherlock replied.
"I believe Father proved that there was no correlation between the duration of migraines and how hard you hit me," Q reminded him.
"My independent research was inconclusive," Sherlock said.
"Besides, I haven't had a migraine in years," Q added.
"Then why aren't you done yet?" Sherlock asked.
Q sighed and lifted his hands from the piano, making a show of going to get his toast and returning to work. Sherlock placed his violin down in its case with care, then followed him to the computer room.
"What about locating the man I asked you find?" he said.
Q checked the information on the screen. "Looks like we've made a bit of progress there," he said. "Your sketch matches one that a witness to a murder made. There are fingerprints there. Sally's tracking those."
"Sally?" Sherlock asked.
"It's acronym," Q said. "Somewhat. It should go faster now that she knows what she's looking for."
He went back to work on the laptop. He suspected Sherlock made attempts to communicate, but Q didn't respond. Eventually, Sherlock climbed the ladder to the mezzanine and flopped down on a futon up there.
Two hours passed before the laptop screen changed and, for once, it wasn't a stream of code.
"Get in," Q muttered, triumphantly. "What's this now?"
Sherlock was instantly beside him, jumping off the side of the mezzanine and landing with a thud. "It's a riddle," he said.
"Good Lord, are we in a Tintin adventure?" Q grumbled. "It's counting down. I'm assuming we don't want it to reach zero."
"It's in German," Sherlock said. "Here."
"No, I know the answer," Q said, moving the keyboard away from him. "Der Rücken. Fairly straightforward. Okay, now... Russian it looks like? I'm a bit rusty..."
"How do I enter Cyrillic?" Sherlock asked.
"Here," Q brought a miniature keyboard up on the screen. "Just tap what you need."
Sherlock entered the answer. "French now..." he said. They read it over. "Its a play on suis and suis..."
"Berger," they said together.
Q typed it in. "Oh good, Chinese," he said, dryly. "How's your Mandarin?"
"That's thirty," Sherlock said, pointing. "It's the only character I know, though. How fast can you translate?"
Q brought up a translation programme. What it came up with was very literal and they both puzzled over it for several seconds. The clock was now in single digits.
"Teeth," Sherlock said, suddenly. He shook Q by the shoulder. "It's teeth."
Q entered it. The screen changed to a desktop. Both men sighed in relief, and then high-fived each other, an act neither of them had done before in their lives, and, Q hoped, never would again.
Sherlock pushed him out of the way, sending Q's rolling chair into a wall. He started clicking madly, a look of joy on his face.
"You're welcome," Q said, pointedly.
"What?" Sherlock said. "I did most of the work in the end."
Q quietly entered his name on the list of people to kill, immediately following the programmer of the laptop. Perhaps 007 would oblige.
By noon that day, Sherlock had been through every inch of the laptop. Q didn't quite follow what was so important about it; mostly because he was playing Twenty Questions with Sherlock, as he was too absorbed to give anything more than monosyllabic answers. Whatever it was, Q gathered it was a huge step forward in bringing down the last of Moriarty's network. Which was probably worth the aggravation, but Q hadn't decided on that yet.
Q had had a chance to shower and dress properly. Now he was up in the mezzanine, fiddling with a new programme that was acting up, and making sure Sherlock didn't break anything.
A stress ball flew up and hit his glasses off his nose. "Your computer is flashing smugly," Sherlock said.
Q retrieved the ball and chucked it down, but Sherlock dodged before it made contact. Q put his glasses back in place and climbed down the ladder. He rolled Sherlock away from the computer and rolled his own chair into the vacated space.
"It seems Sally is rather alarmed," he said. "The fingerprints matched several others from crime scenes all over the world. And the photo matches... someone named 'Rene-Charles Voisard'. It's all there, I wonder why no one ever bothered to connect it before."
"He's French?" Sherlock asked, leaning in over Q's shoulder.
Q did a quick search for the name. "French-Canadian," he said.
"Canadian?" Sherlock echoed.
"Well, statistically speaking, at least a few of them have to be evil," Q said. "Look at Lord Black."
"Who?" Sherlock said.
"Never mind," Q said. "I forgot how limited your knowledge is."
"Not limited, specialized," Sherlock corrected. "I don't have the world's data at my fingertips, so I have to actually remember things. Where is he? Voisard?"
"I don't know yet," Q said. "I'll narrow down the search, now that we have a proper photo. Add aliases in for border crossings, and known associates."
He entered the new parameters. He noticed Sherlock had been doing his own searches on another screen.
"They're all safe," Q said, while he typed. "I keep an eye on them for you."
Sherlock didn't reply.
"I can tell you what they're up to, if you're interested," Q added.
"I'm not," Sherlock said.
They sat in silence as Voisard's travel history popped up all over the map on the screen. Q narrowed it down to the last month, and told Sally to put the locations in order of visitation.
"Quite a busy man," Q noted. "Ten countries in the last month. Last scan of one of his passports was in New York...three days ago. Let me see if I can find him on the street somewhere and get you a more precise location."
He ran a search through security and traffic cameras. New York had a lot and was a busy place. Sally made a slight chugging noise. Q patted the screen. "I know you're tired," he said. "Just a bit more work and then I'll let you rest."
"I cannot believe you talk to your computers," Sherlock said.
"You talk to people who aren't there," Q said.
"At least the people who aren't there are people," Sherlock said. "And not inanimate objects."
Q shrugged. "Let's say we're even in eccentricities," he said. "And be grateful we don't have to talk to real people."
Sherlock actually laughed at that. "Agreed."
It took about half an hour to get enough still frames of Voisard to build an idea of which part of the city he was in. Q transferred the all the information he'd found to a flash drive for Sherlock to take with him.
"Give that to someone local," he said. "He or she will likely have a better idea on where he might be holed up." Sherlock nodded, and took the flash drive. "Drop me a note somewhere when and if you find him. I should notify Interpol and get some of these cold cases cleared up, but I'll give you a head start."
"Thank you," Sherlock said.
It wasn't a phrase he'd often heard from him, and Q took it with the proper honour it held. "Anything else?" he asked.
"Do you have any hair dye?" Sherlock said.
"Why would I have hair dye?" Q asked.
Sherlock sighed. "Get me some," he ordered.
"Tell me what colour, I'll have it delivered," Q said.
"There's a chemist at the corner of your street," Sherlock said, pointing out the window. "You could walk down and be back in five minutes."
"That seems like an awful lot of work," Q said. He brought up a website and clicked over to their delivery service. "Tell them what you need. They'll be here in twenty minutes."
Sherlock muttered about laziness. Q thought it was a bit rich coming from a man known to text people to hand him pens.
By the time Sherlock was ready to go, he'd transformed completely. His hair was now a rich auburn, his contacts changed to deep brown, and his face filled out with cheek inserts. He somehow managed to look about five years younger, though not through any physical changes. Just in the way he stood and carried himself, already playing the part before it was necessary.
"I've booked you a flight to New York, it leaves in half an hour," Q told him, feeling a bit like he was briefing an agent. "I've used your Sigerson passport. I guessed that's who you were being, judging by the hair colour you chose. You'll be removed from the manifest as soon as you hit terra firma."
Sherlock nodded, accepting the boarding pass Q had printed for him.
"If you need help with anything in my bailiwick, check in with Frankie Oh," Q went on. "I've written her address down. She's not me, but she'll do, and she's discreet. Try not to be yourself. I rather like her, and I don't want you breaking her spirit."
"Being myself is not something I've done a lot lately," Sherlock said.
"I suppose not," Q said. He produced a small object. "This is a prototype. It scrambles your phone signals. It's version 1.0. There's nothing wrong with it, I've just made the new one smaller. Plug it into your earphone jack before you dial. Maybe next time you visit, you could ring in advance, so I don't almost shoot you."
Sherlock pocketed it. "I'll consider it," he said. He shifted on his feet, and slung his rucksack over his shoulder, giving Q a brief nod.
Q nodded back. They didn't do goodbyes. Sherlock left, and Q let him. He returned to the computer room. On one of his computer screens, a text box opened and words popped up.
-How is he?
Q typed back.
He waited, his foot bouncing impatiently. Mycroft wasn't the fastest typer in the world.
-I know that, I have his passports flagged. HOW is he?
-Might I have a bit more detail?
-Tired. Annoying. Himself.
-Thank you. Send me the bill.
-No need. It's fine.
-I'd like to be useful.
-Stop pestering me, then.
-Very well. Do you need any help cleaning up?
-Already cleared everything. He wasn't here.
-YW. Go away.
-Get some sleep.
-Tell the world to stop needing my help.
-I'll do my best. Good night.
The box disappeared, as did all records of it ever having been there. Q set up some protocols for when Sherlock's flight landed. He reengaged the Sherlock Search in the corner of his screen. Then he climbed up on to the mezzanine and lay down on the futon.
He was asleep for fifteen minutes before Q-branch called.