Characters: Sherlock, Mycroft; John
Summary: A coda to The Dealt Hand. Mycroft visits with bad news.
Edit: Now available as a podfic, read by the absolutely amazing pandarus. Click here for the mp3 version. The audiobook version is attached to the audiobook of The Dealt Hand.
Opening the door to find Mycroft sitting in one of the armchairs by the fireplace was unexpected, but the visit was not entirely unanticipated. Sherlock stood just past the doorway, his face still burning with cold, and pointed one long finger down the stairs. “Get out.”
Mycroft leaned forward in the chair, his hands folded on his umbrella, wearing a conciliatory smile. “I’ve just come to speak with you, Sherlock. Surely you’ll grant your brother that much.”
“Has the fat migrated to your ears?” Sherlock asked blandly. “I was certain I gave a clear order.”
“What I have to say will interest you.”
“I doubt that very much.”
Sherlock made a frustrated sound and let the door close behind him, stalking further into the room. He violently tugged his scarf away from his neck and dropped it on his desk, followed by his coat. “You betrayed my trust,” he said.
“I’m pleased to hear I had your trust to begin with.”
Sherlock, his back to Mycroft, paused. Then he continued, shuffling papers on his desk. “You nearly had John killed.”
“An unfortunate result,” Mycroft sniffed. Sherlock looked angrily over his shoulder to see Mycroft looking down and brushing off the shoulder of his suit. He added lightly, “For which I apologize.”
Sherlock’s mouth twitched. He looked back at the desk. “It was a ridiculous deal.”
Mycroft sounded affronted. “I did what I thought was best! I was trying to save your life.”
“And your name,” Sherlock sighed. He turned and leaned back against the desk, facing Mycroft. It was still mid-morning; the sun fell through the windows, over Mycroft, casting Mycroft’s shadow to the floor. Dust floated in the beams. “You regretted it on the beach.”
Mycroft rolled the handle of his umbrella between his hands. “How did you come to that conclusion?”
Sherlock lifted one lazy shoulder, watching the drift of dust in the light. “Why else would you pretend to forget John’s name? It was a classic defense mechanism. I thought you might do better.”
Mycroft rolled his eyes but restrained himself from commenting. “How is Dr. Watson?”
“Fine,” Sherlock said. “A few more days in bed, he says. No help from you.”
Mycroft sighed wearily. “I should expect comments like that from you for the foreseeable future.”
“I should think so, yes.” Sherlock stood up straight. “Well, Mycroft, if you only came here to apologize, it seems you’ve done that. I’ll pass the message on to John. You can see yourself out.”
“There is something else,” Mycroft said, catching Sherlock mid-turn. Sherlock glanced at him. Mycroft gestured to the other armchair. “Why don’t you sit down?”
Sherlock stayed where he was, unease beginning to brew uncomfortably in his chest. Mycroft’s voice was uncharacteristically hesitant. He was anxious of the subject he was broaching. “This is what you really came here to speak to me about,” Sherlock said.
Sherlock turned to face him. “What could have you so rattled?”
Mycroft cleared his throat. “Sit down, Sherlock.”
Sherlock remained standing for another minute. He took in the nervous way Mycroft rolled the handle of his umbrella between his hands. The way Mycroft was not quite meeting his eyes. The oppressed hunch of Mycroft’s shoulders.
He walked to the chair and sat down. “Tell me,” he said.
Mycroft let out a long, troubled breath. “There have been developments in your case with James Moriarty.”
“Murders,” Mycroft said, glancing up from his hands on the umbrella handle to Sherlock’s face. “Ten of them.”
Sherlock frowned. “There’s been nothing on the news.”
“Yes, well, there wouldn’t be,” Mycroft sighed. “The police are convinced that the deaths are accidental.”
“How did you connect them?”
“I am intensely clever,” Mycroft said, with a grin that didn’t quite make it to his eyes. “The pattern was strange. There were too many sudden deaths of young people. I used to call you morbid for reading the obituaries at breakfast, but it is a habit I’ve picked up of late.”
Sherlock’s mind was still caught on the revelation. “Ten murders,” he murmured, looking towards the empty fireplace, “all of young people.”
“Reasonably young,” Mycroft corrected, peering at Sherlock, leading him slowly to the conclusion.
The stone inside of the fireplace was smudged and blackened with use. Sherlock felt the cold fingers of realization wrap slowly, one by one, around his heart as he stared. He closed his eyes. “Are the victims connected?”
Mycroft shifted slightly in his seat with the air of someone who had been asked the right question, and was sorry for it. “Not at the surface,” he said. “But I went deeper.”
Sherlock still had his eyes closed. “You were looking for this.”
“I was – anticipating it, yes.” He sighed. “Though very reluctantly.”
“How did you know?”
“It was only a feeling, Sherlock. A persistent, unfortunate hunch.”
Sherlock opened his eyes and looked steadily at Mycroft. “The ten victims are connected in that each of them was loosely involved in a criminal investigation in the last ten years. All of the investigations were separate, and all of the victims were cleared of possible charges due to lack of evidence. Am I correct?”
“You are spot on.”
Sherlock’s hand tightened on the arm of his chair, but he hardly noticed. Ten victims of ten perfect murders. Ten nervous dots of red light on Sherlock’s chest as he stood before a broken old chapel. He held up his head with the fingers of his left hand pressed to his temple, letting his eyes slip closed again. “Moriarty is alive.”
“I believe that is the case, yes.”
“I told them to run, Mycroft. I told them he was dead and that they had no loyalty to him anymore.”
“It isn’t your fault that they died.”
Sherlock’s eyes snapped open, angry. “I know that it isn’t my fault, Mycroft. They got themselves involved with him. Their deaths are on their own heads. But I honestly thought that I had killed him. He lay five meters away from me for three minutes before the ambulance arrived at the scene, and he was alive.”
Mycroft’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “What would you have done? Stood over him and shot him again?”
Mycroft frowned. “I don’t like what Dr. Watson has turned you into.”
Sherlock waved that away, leaning forward, his elbows on his knees. “The body at the scene. It was taken away and never identified.”
“It has been cremated,” Mycroft said. “I looked into it. The remains are useless now. And the crime scene photos are missing.”
Sherlock froze. “They’re what?”
“All digital and hard copies of the crime scene photos, particularly those of the body, have been removed from New Scotland Yard. Presumably, they’ve been destroyed.”
Sherlock ran his hands through his hair, wide eyes staring at the floor. “His friend in the police works quickly.” He leapt out of the chair and kicked at it, frustrated. “Damnit!”
“It’s no use getting upset,” Mycroft said, watching as Sherlock began to pace the flat, one hand still in his hair. He waited for a moment. “What do you plan to do?”
“I don’t know,” Sherlock said. He kept pacing. “It’s only a matter of time. The only thing I can do is wait until he calls again. Whatever form that call will come in.”
“Are you going to tell John?”
Sherlock stopped at the window and twitched the curtain to look out. “That’s none of your business.”
“It’s irresponsible to keep it from him.”
“When I want your opinion, I will ask you for it.” Sherlock turned from the window. When his eyes settled on Mycroft, turned in his chair, expression some strange mixture of concern and continued hesitance, he sighed and leaned back against the glass, looking at the floor, at the dark form of his shadow stretched before him. “I knew. Somewhere, I knew it couldn’t be so easy. But I ignored it.”
“You wanted it to be so easy.”
Sherlock looked up at the ceiling. “Couldn’t it just once?”
Mycroft stood up. He gathered his coat from the back of the chair and laid it across his arm. He crossed the room to stand in front of Sherlock. “It’s never easy,” he said. “And if it were, it wouldn’t be fun.”
Sherlock smiled very slightly. He sighed. “Get out of my flat, Mycroft.”
“With great pleasure.” Mycroft smiled back. “And do tell John about all of this, won’t you? It isn’t fair to him.”
“There are world leaders waiting to be bribed, Mycroft.”
“I’m off,” Mycroft sighed. “Try not to get yourself killed.”
“I make no promises.”
Sherlock watched him retreat until the door swung shut. He sagged further back against the window, closing his eyes, feeling the heat of the sun seep through the new glass and into his shirt, through his shirt and to his skin. He felt tired. More tired than he had ever felt before, with an uncertain path suddenly in front of him again. He’d thought it was over.
He thought he had won.
“I thought I heard you talking to someone earlier.”
Sherlock scowled. “Mycroft dropped in unannounced. I found him sitting in the lounge when I came back from seeing Lestrade this morning.”
John laughed. “Rudeness runs in the family, then?”
John was sitting up in bed, his laptop balanced on his knees. Sherlock sat in the armchair in the corner across from him in the small room, his knees bent over one arm and his back against the other. It was good to see John both sitting up and not fogged with painkillers. If the frequency of his bandage changes were any indication, he seemed nearly healed, and Sherlock noticed that he seemed anxious to be out of the flat. He kept the blinds up and the window open despite the chill.
“He apologized,” Sherlock said lazily, leaning his head back against the wall. “Though not in so many words.”
“Apologized for what?”
“Almost getting you murdered.”
“Ah. That.” John shrugged. He was typing, his attention split two ways. “That’s nice. I didn’t expect it.”
“Nor did I,” Sherlock muttered.
“He just came by to apologize? Or, well. That, in a roundabout way?”
Sherlock paused. He looked out of the window, at the darkening mid-April sky. There were advantages to both choices. They sorted themselves neatly in his mind, to tell or not to tell. He settled.
“Some misguided streak of nobility. I’m sure it will pass by tomorrow and he’ll be back to rigging elections and provoking land wars.”
“If he isn’t back to it already,” John said. He settled back into his typing, falling into a pleasant, concentrated silence.
Sherlock watched the sky through the window.
His mobile beeped. He shifted uncomfortably and extracted it from his pocket with effort, then opened the message.
He’s intelligent. He’ll work it out eventually.
“Who was it?” John asked.
“Lestrade,” Sherlock muttered. He typed his own message, then slipped the phone back into his pocket, tilted his head back once again and closed his eyes.
Then he’ll know eventually.
Keep watch for anything else M might be doing,
and let me know if you find anything.
Your apology was accepted. More or less.