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EPILOGUE: FAMILIAR TO THE STRANGER'S CHILD
Six Years Later
"Mummy," Miri Holmes says quietly, "There's a strange man staring at us."
And she tugs on her mother's hand, pulls her to a stop.
Indicates with one imperious, chubby finger where the person who has caught her attention is.
Sherlock and Molly Holmes both halt. Look around. Their eyes immediately coming to rest on the be-suited figure standing on the opposite side of Paddington Station at whom their daughter is pointing. With a murmured, "I'll handle this," Sherlock leaves his family and pads over to the other side of the platform, his gaze boring into the interloper with surprising harshness. One might almost think that he held some sort of grudge against the man, though judging by his aggressive, slightly-threatening demeanour one would be disinclined to stop him and ask about it.
And one would be wise not to do so.
As he reaches the man Sherlock comes to a halt, crosses his arms over his chest. He has lost none of the extra muscle and heft his years fighting Moriarty's network brought him, and it makes him look more intimidating than most.
Besides, this is about his family.
"Explain," he tells the man tersely. "Don't be boring."
The stranger heaves a martyred sigh, uses the curved handle of his brolly to tip his bowler hat back on his head. His gaze is speculative.
"I had thought that domestic felicity would improve your temperament, Brother Dearest," he says sarcastically. "Alas, I fear I was overly optimistic."
"Optimism has never been your strong-suit, Mycroft," Sherlock replies tartly. "And I seem to recall your lack of it leading to your current predicament. So tell me, what are you doing here?"
And he steps into his brother's space, blocking his view of his wife and daughter.
Mycroft, he vows, is not coming near them.
And judging by the look on his face, he knows it.
The elder Holmes shrugs though, an elegant, poised gesture. "I had heard about the little one," he says carelessly. "I thought it time I meet her."
"Well, she doesn't want to meet you," Sherlock snaps. "Not after the way you treated her mother." And he leans in closer, his tone sneering. For a moment that night five years ago moves behind his eyes, Molly crying as Mycroft claimed that marrying her would destroy Sherlock's sobriety. Molly trying to make peace between them even after all Mycroft had done, after all her suffering under Hough's Mycroft-sponsored thumb. When Sherlock had chosen a side in that conflict, he had never doubted that he chose well-
It hadn't been his fault that news of his brother's impromptu surveillance snafu had sent that brother into a governmentally-designated exile from which, it appears, he has only just returned.
But he's not willing to think of that now. "I take care of my family, Mycroft," he mutters harshly instead. "You neglected to do so with Hough, and you suffered the cost; You lost your right to us. So run along now, dear brother, and suffer on-"
And he leans back onto his heels, arms crossed, well pleased with his words. Well pleased with his brother's discomfited reaction to them. It's been six years since they buried Hough, since years since Mrs. Hudson was cleared of his murder, and for Mycroft to turn up here, demanding things, after what he helped put Molly through?
Sherlock bares his teeth at the thought: He's not bloody having that. Not for one moment.
He's really rather surprised Mycroft hadn't guessed how this would play out.
Or maybe he did. Because for a moment Mycroft turns away, his eyes coming to rest on Molly and Miri, and as Sherlock watches something- something which might almost be contrition- moves in their depths. It's been six years since the debacle with Hough and it is possible that he has lost his knack for reading the other man's expressions, but if he didn't know better, Sherlock might almost think his brother looked… bereft. Yearning. Sorry.
He must be imagining it.
Mycroft's gaze snaps up to Sherlock's though, his expression turning disgusted as he sees the understanding in his sibling's gaze, and instantly Moriarty's Iceman is back.
"Yes, well, never let it be said that I was so gauche as to outstay my welcome," he bites out tartly. "Give my regards to the morgue mouse and the little poppet, won't you?"
And he spins on his heel, preparing to go. His brolly held elegantly before him, almost like a Medieval knight wielding a lance. He must truly be intent on Sherlock because he doesn't notice the flash of movement beside him, doesn't hear a soft voice say his name. He hesitates and suddenly Molly is in front of them both, Miri holding her hand, one curly, brown plait twirled around her fist. She watches her uncle with wide blue eyes, so like her father's that for a moment they seem to startle Mycroft as they come to rest on him.
He opens his mouth to speak and for the first time since he tangled with Irene Adler, Sherlock sees his brother slightly lost for words. It's quite a sight.
He recovers quickly though. You'd never think it to look at them, but manners were beaten into the Holmes boys until they might seem to be hardwired, and those manners rescue him now. "Miss Holmes," Mycroft says politely, inclining his head to Miri. "Miss Hooper."
Molly cocks an eyebrow at him. "It's Mrs. Holmes now," she points out. "You should know that: You were invited to the wedding."
He hadn't turned up and Sherlock suspects it was because he knew he wouldn't be welcome. He's a clever man, his brother.
"Actually," Miri pipes up, "it's Doctor Holmes. Mummy is head of her department at St. Bart's. That's a hospital. She likes cutting up dead people, because cutting up live ones hurts them and she doesn't like hurting them. She says it's not nice and I think she's right." The child frowns. "I don't think Daddy always agrees though."
Miri stares up at Mycroft with the preternaturally frank gaze which used to stare back from a mirror at Sherlock, and despite himself the detective smothers a smirk. Let's see how the Iceman does against a real Holmes. Mycroft has never been good with children, and it shows: At being spoken to he looks down his nose at Miri, his gaze equal parts condescending and interrogatory.
Molly's hand tightens on her daughter but the child looks back at her uncle without fear. She came out of the womb knowing herself to be the smartest being in the universe, and it would take more than her Uncle Mycroft to make her doubt it.
Sherlock can't help but suspect that this will be Rather Good.
"Aren't you a little young to be speaking quite so much when you haven't been spoken to?" Mycroft demands, crossing his arms peremptorily.
Miri frowns. "Are you a little old to be afraid of someone speaking without having been spoken to?" she retorts, crossing her own arms in answer, and Sherlock hears Molly stifle something which sounds suspiciously like a snort.
That's my girl, he thinks. Both of them.
For a moment the elder Holmes grimaces and Sherlock steels himself, preparing to defend his daughter from the ranting of the fully grown adult man who seems so intimidated by her. But it doesn't happen: As quickly as Mycroft's consternation appears, it flees. A small smile quirks his mouth, exactly as it had when Sherlock displayed similar cockiness as a boy, and just like that both brothers arrive on common ground.
They both know where they stand in this.
"She's so like you," Mycroft mutters dryly then. He looks at Molly. "God help you, Doctor Holmes: You're in for quite a busy few years."
Molly shrugs. "I knew what I was getting myself into," she says quietly. "So did her father." She smiles, ruffles her daughter's hair despite the girl's pout of embarrassment. "I wouldn't have it any other way," she adds, and Sherlock can see the miniscule nod Mycroft gives her, acknowledging that his allegations against Molly, his stated belief that she would be bad for his brother's sobriety or sanity were just that. Allegations.
They have not come to pass and that look tells Sherlock he understands that.
He'd better, Sherlock thinks darkly. If he wants to spend a waking moment with me or mine.
Not that that he's thinking of that now though. Instead he throws a look at Molly, eyebrows half-raised. She understands it- what do you think, love? it means- and she gives him another minute nod in answer. Puts her hand in his and squeezes. Just as it has every time since she started doing it, it feels really, really bloody good. "We're going to visit Mrs. Hudson in Dartmoor now," she announces, "we can't be late, John and Mary are already there. But we're back the day after tomorrow, if you're about. What do you think, Mycroft? Do you fancy coming round to ours for a cuppa?"
The older man inclines his head politely. "I would be charmed, I'm sure."
"He's lying," Miri announces, displaying the same spectacular lack of tact her father had had in such abundance as a boy. Molly rolls her eyes heavenward. "He doesn't want to come," the girl says, "we make him nervous-"
"That you do," Mycroft says. "I will not insult the intelligence of anyone present by denying it."
For a moment he hesitates, and then the elder Holmes kneels down in front of his niece. Sets himself level with her. Sherlock rolls his eyes that he checked to make sure his suit trousers wouldn't be damaged before he did so, but Molly just smiles.
"Unfortunately, however," Mycroft is saying, "though you make me nervous, I fear I shall have to brave your company, Ms..?"
"Miri," the child announced. "Mireille Marie Holmes." The child puffs out her chest proudly as she says it and a ghost of a smile moves through Mycroft's eyes.
Miri was named for her paternal grandmother.
"Quite," he says, "Ms. Mireille. You do indeed intimidate me. But I have been a good deal less than kind to your Mummy and Daddy, and I wish to make amends." He cocks an eyebrow at her. "Do you think I'm up to the challenge?"
And he shifts, lets the little one get a good look at him.
The child stares for a moment, her eyes narrowed and evaluating. She looks awfully like Molly when she does that, Sherlock can't help but think.
"I shall allow you to come to tea and see my new microscope," Miri announces with magnificent, Holmesian disdain. Her parents grin at her. "Then I shall see how you handle yourself, and whether you are nice to Mummy and Daddy." She sniffs. "If you are, you may remain. If you aren't, I shall call Auntie Sally and have you arrested." She holds out her hand to Sherlock. "But now we have a train to Dartmoor to catch, and if we're late Uncle Henry will be worried. And all the trifle will be gone. So we won't be late."
And with that she turns on her heel and- both her parents hands in hers- she heads towards platform three. Molly is grinning. Sherlock shoots his brother a chipper little wave- "Laters," he announces- And then he walks off. He knows his expression says the rest: Don't fuck this up, brother dearest. I'll be watching you, and so will the rest of the family.
Sherlock and Molly swing their daughter from their arms as they hustle her into the train to Grimpen.
Mycroft watches them go, he knows, but Sherlock doesn't turn to look back at his brother, and he suspects Mycroft understands.