Chapter 1: Look Into My Eyes
His heart was beating out of his chest, its steady rhythm resonating in his ears. It was such a simple thing really, sitting on his small row while looking out the window; a flea in a world of giants. The miniature prison he’d spent all his life in was flying past him, waving its crooked arms in a mocking goodbye for the stupid creatures that dared leave its safe, caging walls. His fingers beat on his thigh, pulling on invisible violin strings; he wasn’t stupid at all, yet he’d never felt so careless. He made calculations, considered all variables, built a plan on the go; he hadn’t had the chance this time. All he had was the waving trees of the countryside, his miniature cage being left behind as the train carried his flea self into the large world. How very reckless, escaping what always has been for the sake of the unknown, for a taste of miraculous wilderness on his tongue. He was a bird, his previously clipped wings having been returned to him just for his body to be thrown out the window by two pairs of wrinkled hands, as if they expected him to know how to fly after a lifetime in captivity. He wondered if he would crash, slam his head and crack it open on the pavement, perhaps wring his own neck by crashing against an invisible glass barrier, be recaptured by another pair of hands with far fewer wrinkles.
He was a flea on a train, destined for small, boring, endless misery. He was a flea on a train, looking for wilder, bigger, better.
“Dad”, a small hand pulled on his curls, “dad, dad, dad, dad...”
“What?”, he mumbled, still drowsy by the pulls of sleep, “what is it, Child?”
“What!”, an adrenaline surge made him jump upright, all signs of sleep fading away. He turned to the small clock on the bedside table, his mind taking only half a second to realize the child was, in fact, correct, “oh bloody... “ He rubbed his eyes with the sides of his hands, forcing himself awake. He was about to rise when his eyes landed on the small body standing by the bed and stopped short at the sight of a princess skirt topped with a rolled-up unicorn shirt, a large multicolored bow on the messy dark curls, blue sandals for footwear, and a sparkling feathered scarf for flare. Sherlock fought down a smile, “however interesting such style choices may be, I doubt the daycare would be too pleased with them.”
The three-year-old’s eyes darkened, narrowing under the frown that had taken over her previously excited face; Beth huffed, crossing her arms over her chest, “stupid daycare.”
He couldn’t help but snort, completely agreeing with the girl, “yes.” He got on his feet, pulling his sole blue dressing gown over his shoulders and ruffling the child’s curls, “go brush your teeth, I’ll get you new clothes.” His daughter ran out of their room, hopefully to do as she had been asked, and he turned to their few drawers. Mindlessly, Sherlock started pulling out clothes, mindful of the warmer weather he was still growing accustomed to after so many months in their new city; the child didn’t have that problem, of course, she was young enough to hardly remember London. Something about that made his stomach clench. He went out into the poor excuse of a living room, small clothes in hand, to find Beth gulffing down spoonfuls of cereal; he went to stand behind her and patted the girl lightly on the side, “trousers.”
Sherlock helped her dress while the girl all but ignored him, her breakfast holding priority. His hands moved fast in their practiced ease, by now having had to rush-dress the child far too many times for it to be viable; he had never been good with schedules. He did, however, decide to put the ridiculous bow to good use and tie the wild curls up into something that would spare him a lecture from the daycare. There was no time to force the girl’s hair into submission that morning.
“Motel today?”, a small voice asked around a mouthful of milk and cheerios.
He nodded before remembering Beth couldn’t see him, “after daycare, yes”, a smile broke out at the girl’s groan, “just for a bit.” Bethany clearly thought the arrangement unacceptable, for she stomped her foot with a huff, angry at the prospect of her having to spend her evening waiting for him to finish a double shift. He patted his daughter’s head before getting up and going into their room for clothes of his own, “go get your bag while I dress.”
She grumbled, and rolled her eyes as she followed behind him, but obeyed and stayed behind, packing her things while he went in the bathroom to get ready. He caught his own eyes in the mirror, his breath hitching in his throat at the lack of dark smudges underneath, the fewer premature stress lines around his eyes, and the much longer hair. It still caught him by surprise, still made him have to look twice; he had known leaving would be a good thing, he just hadn’t expected how good. Even Beth was happier, though that may just be her getting older, God knew she talked enough to prove it.
“Eight thirty!” her sharp voice yelled from outside the door. He muttered a curse under his breath, getting out and into his clothes at the utmost speed; giving his hair for a lost cause, he patted the curls down at the lack of a bow of his own and got out. His legs hurried him across the small apartment, getting him from bedroom to kitchen in seconds. Bethany, for her part, stood by the door in her light pink jacket, her princess bag in hand; the girl was also remarkably entertained by his suffering, explosive giggles leaving her lips as she watched him hurriedly grab his own bag and coat, “run, daddy, run!”
“Out, now”, he ordered, opening the door and slamming it shut behind him. He fumbled with his wallet, looking for his keys, and stretched out a hand. When no one grabbed him back, he turned around only to realize he hadn’t been followed by the smaller human that was meant to be with him. “Oh for God’s…”, he ran back inside, finding Bethany standing in the middle of their home, hands pressed against her mouth to muffle her laughs, “hilarious, Child.”
She nodded enthusiastically, “yes”, the girl claimed through her giggles.
Sherlock rolled his eyes, going up to his daughter and picking her up; once she was secured in his arms, and the door had been locked, he ran back to the street. They better make it in time.
He stirred the eggs on his pan quietly, keeping to himself in the large hotel kitchen; occasionally, he still missed the pub and it’s crowded rooms, the slightly claustrophobic press of shoulders and backs against his own had become integral to his life, and this new kitchen where he could stand in one corner and never meet anyone’s eyes was rather disappointing. Not that it mattered, really. It was a well-paying job, it was more experience under his belt, the motel was close to the daycare, and his boss, Anne, was a flexible woman. He had little to complain about; the hidden away kitchen kept him far from both idiots and guests alike, at the very least. Yes, it was a good job.
Alan, the head cook, entered the kitchen with a scowl on his face. He hadn’t seen him step out earlier. The man looked around his staff, intent gaze stopping on each of them and their respective works; finally, he looked to Sherlock and his nearly done eggs. Alan walked to him, standing close enough for the conversation to be private, yet not close enough to touch him.
“Hey, I need you to go up to deliver a plate once you’re done with those”, the cook pointed at his pan and got his hand in his front pocket, pulling out a card, “dish is done, you just have to get it to the room.”
He frowned. It wasn’t customary for kitchen aids to deliver plates, they were supposed to stay in the kitchen, “I thought we didn’t do room service.”
Alan huffed, rubbing his eyes, “we don’t, usually, but we have orders from up above.” Sherlock had no idea of what could possibly make someone up above -most likely Anne- decide to send a kitchen aid to deliver food, “sorry to tell you, but you might just have to go up and do room service for a few days.”
The older man patted his shoulder, starting to walk away, yet stopping mid-step and turning back to him, “room 201, dish is at the front.”
He bit back a groan. Clients, idiots, boring and unbearable people he would have to serve for days. Utterly unacceptable. He had become a kitchen aid, not only out of necessity, but because he refused to serve others, and now he had no choice.
Sherlock did what he could to delay the eggs being well cooked, but he ran out of time eventually. With a sigh, he went out front for the tray and on the elevator. If he was lucky, unlikely though the prospect was, whoever resided in room 201 would want him out of their day as much as he did. He knocked on the white-painted door, shoving down a scowl lest he got into trouble with Anne because her special guest didn’t like being scowled at. There was a shuffle behind the door, quick steps running up to it and what he presumed was a pause to look out the eye hole. Frowning at the unusual behaviour, he cleared his throat, “I was sent to deliver breakfast.” He lifted the tray to the small crystal and took a step back. There was a minute of hesitation before the door opened just enough for the beginnings of a worn-down face to peek through.
“That’s fine dear, just a moment.” He muffled a gasp at the familiar accent that greeted him. The woman on the other side of the door closed it again, removing some other lock, and opened it wide for him to enter the small room, “leave it on the table, please.”
He walked inside, doing as she asked and setting the tray on a small wooden table by the window. The woman didn’t move from her place by the door, her eyes following his every move. Sherlock turned back to her, an endless string of deductions flashing before his eyes. Mid-fifties, used to live in London but has lived in Florida for years, no pets, high middle class, long hair to cover her face, bruises on her wrists, the balance of probability says there were more bruises under her long sleeves and trousers, running from something. He hesitated, not knowing if he should address his findings or leave as quickly as possible. He decided to make himself known instead.
“My name is Sherlock, I was told I would be delivering your meals for a few days.” She nodded her understanding, a kind smile on her lips, but said nothing. For once, he was struck by the intensity of her gaze. It wasn’t as obvious as his, but he would be a fool not to realize she was studying as much as he had studied her. “If you don’t need anything else…”
“Not at all, dear, thank you”, she stepped aside, opening the door wider for him to leave. Not wanting to stay any longer, he walked out of the room without turning back. Just as he was reaching the end of the hall, the woman spoke up again, “it’s a lovely name you have, Sherlock. Good to be around someone from home again, isn’t it?”
Perhaps it was the glint to her eyes or the familiarity with which she talked to him, but Sherlock didn’t dismiss this odd woman. He turned back to her, finding the previous skittishness gone, replaced by a quiet self-assurity and a curl to the lips that spoke mischief. She looked at him as if they had just exchanged secrets, and for a moment he felt like they had.
Three days later, after several similar instances of meal deliveries and ever-growing smirks from them both, Sherlock decided to learn the woman’s name. On his way to picking up Bethany, he stopped at a public library and settled himself on an open computer. It would take him minutes to hack into the hotel’s system, and even less to cover his tracks. Perhaps his father would grow furic at the idea that it had been his own computer and company systema he had learnt to hack with. It was a refreshing thought, he almost wanted to add it in the next letter he would find himself forced to write the parental unit.
Cracking his knuckles, Sherlock set to work. It was embarrassingly easy for the system to crack under his efforts, the list of the week’s residents appearing on his screen; he skimmed through it, going directly to the 200’s and stopping at his target. His breath hitched in his throat, the final puzzle piece settling in place and confirming his theory. Whoever that woman was, staying in room 201, she was unlisted. Running from someone. The bruises he’d seen, the starvation for conversation on her lips, the erratic movement of her eyes whenever he saw her. Unlisted. Running.
He leaned back on his chair, hand going through his hair. Should he bring it up in their next conversation? Keep the knowledge to himself and observe from afar? He couldn’t walk away, of course. This nameless person grew more interesting every time, her existence in his life the only mystery he’d come across in years; the only thing that required him to think.
He closed the list, erased his entrance into the core of his workplace, and left the library. The rest of the day, and all of the night, he spent running miles around the bright eyes that hid behind a picturesque smile.
By the end of the week, he had to take Beth with him to the hotel. It wasn’t the first time they did that, the rest of the staff were already growing used to the young child running around the halls while he finished some task or another. That evening, the task was delivering a tray. He’d sent Beth to the small garden behind the building, where he knew she would be easy to find once his job was done. Though they were both familiar with the place, he still took the long way up to his destination and went up the stairs, knowing that way he could glance down at the garden and ensure the child was there. Halfway up the second floor, he leaned to the window and felt his heart fall to his stomach. Adrenaline rushed into his veins, his eyes running across the green expanse in frantic search for the mop of wild curls that resembled his own. He was about to drop the tray and run back down when a set of giggles reached his ears. Giggles he shared a home and a room with. Giggles that were followed by a delighted laugh he also happened to know, though not as well.
Slowly, careful to not make a sound, he went up the stairs. He entered the hall silently, eyes stuck on the child animatedly luring the nameless woman into a conversation about flowers. The older face lighted up in a way he’d never seen before, the tension around her eyes gone and the glint of her gaze brighter than ever; he did notice, however, that the woman’s back remained tense, as if ready to spring up and away at the earliest inconvenience. He walked to them, tray in hand, and raised a brow.
“I told you to wait for me at the garden, Child”, both the woman and child turned to him like deers caught in headlights. The woman’s eyebrows raised almost imperceptibly as she connected the dots of the girl’s parentage. Beside, his daughter greeted him with a groan.
“But dad!”, she whined, walking to him, “the garden’s boring.”
The edge of his lips curled up; old memories of himself uttering similar complaints flooded his mind. To be fair, the garden was rather boring after the first ten seconds. He turned back to the woman, eyes rakking her up and down at this new development; she liked children, but never had any.
“I hope she isn’t bothering you.” Beth scoffed by his legs, offended at the idea her presence could possibly bother anyone.
“Oh! Not at all!”, the woman gushed, the gentle smile opening wider, “she’s a lovely girl, this one.” She shared a conspiratorial smile with the girl before turning to him again, the mischievous glint back in her eyes. “Looks a great deal like you, let me tell you.”
“We’ve been told.” Sherlock lifted the tray he was carrying, “dinner.”
“Of course, of course, give it here”, the older woman fussed, going up to him and taking the tray in her own hands, “no need to carry that around all night, thanks dear”, she smiled at him, almost motherly, and gestured down at Beth with her chin, “now you take that little one home, don’t let me keep you.”
The child looked up at him hopefully, eyes wide. Delivering the tray having been the only thing he’d had to do before they could leave, he nodded at his daughter. Bethany smiled brightly, jumping up and down in her spot; she turned to the woman who had retreated to her door, and waved happily.
“Bye Mrs. Hudson!”, the woman’s expression twitched, the smile that had been adorning her lips dimming slightly as her eyes darted to him before looking away just as rapidly. Eventually, she waved back at the little girl, though her eyes were no longer as bright. Beth didn’t notice, too enraptured at the possibility of going home early, for once; she grabbed his hand and started pulling, “let’s go daddy, time to go home.”
He allowed himself to be led away, turning back to the now-named woman and giving her what he hoped had been a reassuring nod. Once they were out of earshot, he leaned down to his daughter and whispered, “Mrs. Hudson?”
Beth nodded with a humm, her short legs struggling at the last few steps.
“She said her name was Martha, but I could call her Mrs. Hudson instead.”
“I see.” He settled the new bit of information into the mental board he’d created on his new acquaintance. Mrs. Meant a marriage. The bruises, unlisted, skittishness, Mrs. Running from someone. Running from a husband. A female partner could be a possibility, of course, though the balance of probability was against that. He strengthened his grip on his daughter’s hand; apparently, Beth could be a remarkable spy. She looked up at him again, a question in the rise of her brow; he smirked at her and offered payment for her services, “ice-cream?”
Beth jumped, smile much like the one that odd, purple cat had in the animated movie she liked. His daughter squeezed his hand back. “Always!”
Once Bethany had fallen asleep, her small limbs sprawled across their shared bed, he sat up and thought. His mind drifted back three years, to his miserable form hunched over a bar stool with a depressing list before him. Marcus had helped him then, given him a job, a home, the bones of a life he could build on. After what had happened, both him and Beth could have easily found themselves in a much worse state; this apartment, this job, the trust fund, he wouldn’t have gotten them alone. Oh, he’d accomplished a great deal left to his own devices, anyone else would have crumbled long ago. He knew he was cleverer, more resourceful, better, than most. People were idiots, and he was no idiot. But even he had needed some semblance of help at different times in his life; and if he’d needed help, who was to say that this Martha Hudson wouldn’t. Certainly, she was not the average human; there was something about her eyes, hidden beneath the olderly frailty and motherly kindness she emitted, something with a backbone. Something interesting. And he wasn’t one to let interesting go to waste. Not ever again.
His grey-blue eyes settled on his daughter’s face unprompted, the tip of her nose burning itself in his eye sockets. Occasionally, the shadow of another face on hers would force the air out of lungs, even now. Perhaps it always would.
Interesting was precious and easily lost. He’d lost before, and though he'd vowed never to open the door again, never to put himself at the disadvantageous hands of sentiment, though he’d promised never to care again, about anything but the child he had made; he refused to lose interesting again. Perhaps it could be an experiment, trying his hand at the affairs of mystery. Surely his genius wouldn’t hurt.
His hand brushed at the raven-black curls gently, a decision made.
The next morning, he knocked on the now-familiar door of room 201 with a tray in his hand. Mrs. Hudson opened the door, greeting him with the usual smile, only it was now tainted with weariness.
“Morning dear”, she opened the door widely, inviting him in, and remained far away from him after that, as she always did.
“Morning”, he followed his usual routine, setting the tray on the small wooden table and grabbing the one from the night before. He set the second tray back down, took a deep breath, and whirled back to face the woman, “Mrs. Hudson.” He watched as her back tensed, her gaze sharpened, and her smile dimmed. Yes, the frailty was an act, a convenient facade, but not her. Not really. Her hands were far too steady for the truth to be otherwise.
“Yes?”, her tone remained friendly, though not as inviting as before.
“I told you once my name was Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes”, he started, taking a seat by the window and crossing his legs. He made sure to keep his hands open, resting in the armrest where Martha could see them, “what I didn’t tell you is that you would be hard-pressed to find someone smarter than me.” Martha raised a brow, seemingly amused at his confidence. That was alright, once she knew what he could do with just a glance the amusement would fade, “I’m a genius, Mrs. Hudson, and I’m going to help you.”
“And how do you intend to do that, dear?”, she walked closer to him, still out of arm's reach, but clearly entertained by his surety. But Sherlock wasn’t blind, and the glimmer of hope beneath her every move spoke volumes of the truth. Whispered to him he was right in his conclusions. And he knew exactly how to begin.
“I am going to catch your husband.”
Chapter 2: The Badlands
“What do you want to know?”, asked Martha in a breathless sigh.
Her lips curled in slight amusement.
“That’s a lot of information.”
Here it is!! Second chapter!! It took a horribly long pair of mornings to force it out in a rush, but it's here and I think it's interesting. It's definitely a bit different from the rest of the series, but I think it works nicely. I hope you guys like it!
The chapter title comes from the song "Chasing Twisters" by Delta Rae, which can be found in the playlist for this series in my published works along with a short explanation for why it's added to the soundtrack.
Even if you don't check out the playlist, I super recommend the song, it's fantastic.
TW: Non-graphic discussions of domestic abuse, drug use, and violence.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sherlock stood outside the large white fence with the princess bag in one hand and his daughter in the other. They were right on time for once, both father and daughter washed and dressed for the day; but then, it wasn’t just any Thursday. It was the beginning of something, something interesting, thrilling, far better than kitchens and hotels. Today he got to meet with Martha Hudson and discuss her husband, her… case, he supposed. Today he started solving Mrs. Hudson's case.
“Ready?”, he leaned down to ask the girl as he put the bag around her shoulders. She nodded, curls flying around her head as she did. “I’ll come get you at one, I don’t know where we’ll go after though?”
“Not hotel”, Beth frowned, lips curling down at the edges, “it’s boring.”
“I know, but we might have to go”, his mind was running ahead of him already, theories and variables about what little he knew of the mysterious woman he’d all but stumbled upon by sheer chance. How interesting the universe was in its laziness, “we’ll see.”
Beth stood stock still, a frown adorning her much smaller face. She looked at her father with her own pair of bright eyes emanating what he assumed must be the harsh intensity people always complained about his own gaze. He allowed her to see, to observe, knowing from experience there would be no excuses or white lies that would make her lose interest now that she’d caught trail of his drifting interest. Her small brows lifted, curled, and frowned again, her face a kaleidoscope of emotions that came and went so quickly it was hard for him to catch them all. Eventually, she smiled lightly, face cleared, and kissed his cheek.
“Tell Mrs. Hudson I say hi”, she told him, starting to walk towards her school backwards, her front still to him, she sent him a wave before she turned back and ran inside, yelling over her shoulder, “bye daddy.”
He stood there, smirking at the fading shape of his child. He hadn’t told her about Martha Hudson, nor her case; there was little point in telling the girl, he thought. She wouldn’t be able to participate, no matter how much she may want to. She was too young. Perhaps in another time, when she was older, if he ever got his hands on a mystery such as this again the girl could help. She had proved to be a rather useful spy when it came to gathering information; it’s amazing what people would be willing to tell a child, possibly due to the construct of innocence society built around children. Idiots. Sherlock took a deep breath and walked away.
Martha Hudson had already been waiting for him, given by how fast she was to open the door once he’d knocked with her breakfast tray in hand. The woman stepped aside to let him through, her hands clutching what looked like an old handkerchief. The bruises in her wrists were fading, he noted as he set the food down on the small table. This time, instead of standing back up and leaving the room, he pulled one of the chairs and sat across from Martha’s usual seat. He gestured the woman forward and sat down. Martha raised a single brow, almost reminiscent of Mycroft, but sat across him without comment.
She smoothed her skirt and set her hands on her lap, the handkerchief still clutched between her fingers, “well dear, you never did say how you were going to help.”
“That’s because I don’t know yet”, he responded calmly, watching her carefully for any giving-away reactions to his purpose, “and I won’t know until I have all the information I need.”
“What do you want to know?”, asked Martha in a breathless sigh.
Her lips curled in slight amusement.
“That’s a lot of information.”
“Even the smallest of details could be what turns the tables in our favour”, he tilted his head in mock confusion, “or would you prefer us both to die because of laziness?”
Martha frowned, licking her lips in what seemed to be a nervous habit, “well”, she tutted, “there’s no need to be so graphic.”
“So?”, he suppressed the urge to tap his fingers on his thigh, “the story, if you would.”
“Well, it’s nothing complicated about it, really”, Mrs. Hudson looked out the window, talking to the outside more than him, “we were in our twenties when we met, me and Frank, and you know how it is at that age”, her smile became mischievous, the same light he had seen in the past dangling in her eyes, “we were all hands, the two of us. It was fun, in the beginning, so when he asked to move to Florida and gave me a cheap ring as a one-way ticket, well, I said yes.”
“He hadn’t displayed abusive behaviour at the time”, he stated, that much was clear to him. It wasn’t unusual for abusers to hide away their more violent traits when seeking to lure someone into a relationship.
“Oh, he was always difficult, Frank”, her fingers tightened over the purple fabric, “he was just difficult to other people, I thought I was special; the kind of logic one has when so young, I’m sure you know what I mean”, her smile was sad as she made eye contact with him, an uncomfortable grip clenched his stomach; he swatted it away, “but he didn’t get angry until after he started making money, that’s when things changed”, Martha’s eyes darted back to the window, “he never did tell me where it came from, he would just walk out the door for most of the day and come back with enough for a month. But I got to do whatever I liked, so I never really questioned it.”
They sat across from each other quietly as Martha gathered her thoughts, eyes going to the door and back at him as if she were waiting for Frank Hudson himself to kick the door down and kill them both then and there. It should have worried him, but all Sherlock felt at the thought was excitement, a euphoric thrill not dissimilar to that which led him to cocaine. After two breaths, Mrs. Hudson continued her story.
“Over the years he stopped going out himself, instead he had other men and women coming and going every day, some of them are still there”, she lifted her shoulders in an approximation of a shrug, “the few times I asked he wouldn’t tell me anything, and when I pushed he got angry, so I let it be. Better to just do what I pleased during the day and be all hands with each other at night. Because we were still all hands, dear, I can tell you that”, he allowed her a moment of deflection, but when no continuation came, he decided to press.
“Then what happened?”, Sherlock watched as the woman tensed, her fingers trembling on her lap, “something changed, something big enough to make you leave him, what was it?”
“Frank had always had a thing for the drugs, ever since we were young, but he mostly smoked with me. Kept away from the stronger stuff”, oddly, she showed no shame over her admittance of drug use; for what he had seen, most people expected immediate judgment whenever illicit substances were brought up in conversation, “he started using something else, I’m not sure what. It made him angrier, unpredictable. We started fighting all the time, just hours yelling at each other, until eventually he got tired of yelling and became all hands again, only this time it wasn’t anything nice”, Martha closed her eyes, every inch of her body held tight with tension, caught in a cycle of fight or flight after what must have been years of abuse. Sherlock made sure to make a single move while she calmed. “That’s when he made me count the money, keep the books. He still wouldn’t tell me how he got it, and I knew better than to ask him or say no when he had that look in his eyes, so I would sit in his office and count fags and fags of money for hours until it was done or he came in to say I could leave”, her eyes came up to meet his, head held high, “I never wanted part of his business, you see. I only ever wanted to drive my car, buy my things, dance my pole when I still could; Frank and I used to have fun together, that’s what I was there for”, there was no apology in her voice, no shame. He was filled with respect for her, even more so than he’d already had. Still, it was his place to question, to find the loopholes she could be trying to hide from him; or hide from herself.
“Only now it wasn’t fun anymore”, he continued for her, “it got dangerous, and you wanted out”, Sherlock raised a brow, going straight to the point, “what happened the night you left? A catalyst of some sort, that much is obvious.” Martha hesitated, her lips tightly closed and he fought an eye roll, “I could find the answer myself later, but that would just be wasting valuable time. Tell me, I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.”
“I have been talking to you, dear”, she reproached, not unkindly. Sherlock watched as she battled herself, battled every instinct that dictated silence and obedience for the sake of survival, her whole body ready to run out the door and never return. Perhaps it was hope, or anger, or exhaustion, but Martha’s restraint broke before him as she leaned back and, though she remained tense o an inch of her life, she opened her mouth and spoke, “I had just finished counting the money for the night and was on my way to my room when one of the men he had going out all the time started knocking on the door, so I went to open it and he ran to the office all wide-eyed. I figured they didn’t need anything so I started going back upstairs when Frank started yelling, and then the other man was pleading or something of that sort. There was a big raucous, then a loud bang, then nothing”, her voice flowed with no inflection to it, no pauses, no emotion, just detachment. Detachment and a thousand-yard stare that went past him completely. “I ran upstairs and grabbed the bag I kept packed from the back of my closet, went back downstairs and left through the back door”, Martha deflated where she sat, lounging back, her voice all but collapsing on itself as she talked to him, “you know the rest.”
“Your husband killed the man”, shot him, most likely. Mrs. Hudson shrugged from her seat.
“Maybe, I didn’t stay around to be sure.”
“No, of course not.” Sherlock pressed a fist to his mouth, mind running circles to find some entrance into Frank’s life, some weak spot to exploitation, “if he’s not too influential, your husband should be simple enough to catch. He sounds careless, keeping his numbers through fear more than contacts or power.” A short-range local dealer would be easier to knock down, if that was all Frank had become over the decades, they would already have an advantage.
“Fear is a strong motivator, I hear”, she murmured.
“Not nearly as much as you may have been led to believe”, that was something he knew; something both his parents and him knew very, very well. He watched Martha Hudson and realized that though she wasn’t aware of it, she knew it far better than him too. “There’s always someone who grows tired of being afraid”, Martha’s back straightened under his valuing gaze, and though neither of them said anything, he could tell she had understood the compliment and was pleased by it. Sherlock got to his feet, stepping away from both table and woman as he walked to the door, “give me a few days to make a plan, I’ll need some time to study him better”, he turned to her with his hand around the doorknob, “we’ll catch him, you won’t have to worry about Frank ever again soon.”
“Sherlock”, Mrs. Hudson stopped him before he could leave for the day, “Frank’s world is not kind, be sure to think very hard before you run into it again”, she smiled at him kindly, her eyes settling on the crooks of his elbows that remained exposed due to his short sleeves, “you know how it is.”
Yes, yes he knew. They both knew. How very interesting.
“I’ll see you in a few hours, Mrs. Hudson.”
That same night, he returned to the room with the beginnings of a plan. He just needed one thing from Martha first, and though it took some convincing to make her give it, she eventually relented after delivering yet another warning in regards to Frank’s character. By the time he went to bed, Sherlock had memorized Frank Hudson’s address.
Friday night he left Beth with Martha Hudson and took to the streets. He’d made sure to look the part, his clothes consisting of jeans, a loose shirt, and a dark hoodie. Tonight he would go to Frank Hudson’s address and watch, learn the routine of the drug dealer and his minions, learn as much as he could of the new enemy. His heart was beating wildly in his chest, a touch of joy mixed in with fear causing endless adrenaline in his bloodstream. How had he gone his whole life without a case? It was exhilarating.
He arrived at a relatively large white house tucked into a corner of the city; it was well kept, almost nice, or it would have been if not for the masses of bodies going in and out of it. It appeared there was some sort of party inside going by the LED lights and music that made their way out the windows and onto the street. Was Frank Hudson a constant host, or was this a one-time occasion? He would have to ask Martha upon his return. For now, he started on the way to the house, keeping a close eye on every man and woman that stood outside the door; he wouldn’t go in yet, he wanted to map the place first. Sherlock walked past the front door, past the windows that looked into a packed living room, and past the long, thick walls. The back of the house was a dark area, leading directly into the road and a stack of full trash cans. He stood before the same backdoor Mrs. Hudson must have left through, it was white to match the walls, easy to miss. Perhaps a useful entrance point in the future. Or an escape. Having saved the outlines of the house to memory, he took a deep breath and went inside.
The lights and smell of alcohol were the first thing he noticed, a headache already building at the top of his skull. A headache and several memories he had spent nearly three years trying to forget; he forced the past back into the depths of his Palace, setting a lock on the door that guarded it. Isabel couldn’t ruin this right now, not if he intended to survive the night. Most of the people there were common civilians, he noticed right away, but a few of them were dealers. It was all in the way they stood, lurking around dark corners with their shoulders spread wide, hands in their pockets, loose jackets obviously hiding some weapon or another -3 knives, one gun- and the complete alertness in their eyes, unlike all the other guests who were clearly lost in their respective highs going by their dazed smiles. Had he looked like that? He hoped not.
Sherlock went up the stairs to the second floor, surprised it was almost as full as the first. There were people sitting on the stairs with glasses in their hands, couples engaged in pre-coital advances leaning on the halls, a group of twenty-year-olds smoking in one of the rooms, another two bedrooms were locked but their occupants were loud enough to alert the whole house of their activities, and finally, he came across a bathroom. There was still an undone line on the toilet lid. He felt his breath hitch, sweat breaking over his brow; he hadn’t been before the murderous white dust in some time, purposely keeping all thoughts away from his previous affair. Roughly, as one would an angry horse, he reigned his mind in, forcing it into submission. This was not the time. He had a case, he had to focus on the case, on the thrill, on the… the game. That was it; he had to play the game. Sherlock slammed the door to the bathroom shut, turning back to the stairs and going down.
He was about to make his way outside when he saw another man through the corner of his eye. This man wasn’t unlike those scattered over the living room and kitchen, only he was not carrying any drugs, he wasn’t a dealer. He stood on the beginning of a hall with his stance wide, arms crossed over his chest and an angry gleam to the eyes. And behind him was a single, closed door. A guarded door. Frank Hudson. The same room Martha had been made to keep the books in; the door had to be the man’s study. And that was exactly where he wanted to be. Where the evidence was.
Sherlock went to the kitchen, standing between the fridge and the wall to keep away from view, and thought. There were very little odds he would get past that guard alive: if he wanted to enter the study, he was going to have to be invited in. He was going to have to earn Frank Hudson’s trust. But how? How to earn a drug dealer, an abuser? How?
He returned a second night to find there were no parties, and therefore, no entrance to the house. That night was spent walking the same route around the house he’d committed to memory, only this time he added the rest of the street as well. He went home with both guards and dealers pinpointed in their posts around Hudson’s more immediate territory.
The third night, he bought some drugs.
Nothing problematic, nothing he liked or would be in too much trouble for were he to get caught on the way home. Sherlock walked the street, went to the dealer that seemed to sell molly more than anything else, and bought some grams. He would give it to Martha once he got home, she could decide if she wanted it or not. The dealer was not the most dangerous of the lot, part of why he had decided to begin his approach to the Hudson cartel with the man. The deal went smoothly, both men leaving with what they wanted, no violence.
On his way out, Sherlock decided to check on the house one more time and discovered there was a man standing by the trash cans with a lighted cigarette between his lips. The man was around Mrs. Hudson’s age, with dark hair peppered by a few white strands, rough hands, a gun in the waist of his jeans, and not a single fear standing outside in the middle of the night next to the home of a cartel leader. Frank Hudson. Sherlock looked at the time and date. Sunday, 12:30 am.
Two weeks later, after making his face relatively known in Hudson’s territory, he approached the house again. He’d come to know the cartel’s routine very well, he knew their schedules, their shifts, their most recurring clients. And above all, he knew how to get close to Frank Hudson, which was exactly what he was going to do that Sunday night.
Sherlock walked calmly to the back of the house, eyes steady on Frank’s shape as he smoked his usual cigarette. He was making a deal that night, who must have been a high-ranked client leaving the place with a needle and bag in his coat pocket. Still at a safe distance, Sherlock opened his mouth and spoke.
“Would you have a cigarette to share?”, he asked. Frank Hudson turned to him, eyes traveling his whole shape and deciding he was no threat. Grave mistake.
“Help yourself”, the accent came as no surprise, of course, though he pretended to be pleased, “a bit far away from home, aren’t you”
“I could say the same”, he stretched his fingers into the man’s lighter, “home got boring.”
“I’ll cheer to that”, Frank lifted his cigarette in a mock cheer; Sherlock responded in kind.
He took a breath, the same thrill that had become known to him yet not familiar taking over his veins. It was almost like cocaine, only better, more long-lasting. He cleared his throat, retrieving the dealer’s attention, and set to work.
“I believe I may be of help to you”, Sherlock took a drag of his cigarette, “I have a set of skills that would benefit you greatly.”
“Is that so?”, he asked, amused, “and what are these skills?”
“I am an observant man, as I’m sure you could attest is very important due to your profession”, Frank nodded, urging him to continue, and he did, “I can tell you the client that was here before me is of relevance to you because of his economical status. His clothes were expensive, well kept, his nails were trimmed and manicured, the gel in his hair was luxurious as well going by the texture. A businessman, owner of a company that is beneficial to your endeavours, possibly a bank though I won’t try to know which one, I don’t care about that”, he reassured the man before he got any ideas, “you allow him a lower price in his drug of choice, possibly heroin, in exchange for his services to you. However, the banker does not realize that his addiction has incremented severely since he has known you personally, incrementing his habit’s expenses to almost double what it was in the beginning; you make more money out of him than you do most clients, so cutting the price is no real sacrifice to you at all, clever really, well done”, Frank Hudson watched him with narrowed eyes, the beginnings of a dangerous smile drawing in his lips, “and I can tell you he will be back in four days going by the shaking of his hands.”
“Who the hell are you, kid?”, Hudson still sounded amused, though there was a cold undertone to his voice now. Sherlock had to thread carefully now, lest he was decided more trouble than he's worth.
He took another drag, shrugging, “someone that could be useful to you if you allow me to observe.”
“And what would you observe?”
His heart was beating furiously, blood rushing in his ears. He had been preparing his hypothesis for the two weeks of his vigilance, ever since Martha had mentioned what had happened to the man Frank had most likely shot dead. The panicked eyes, the precious bookings Mr. Hudson trusted no one but his wife to keep, the leader’s anger. It was a sound theory, one that could decide whether he left the house alive or not.
“I can tell by the tension around your shoulders and jaw that you are greatly stressed about something”, he started, speaking calmly, “and going by the banker’s desperate gaze, I would deduce that you upped his price, something you wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t necessary, not when the man’s client status is mutually beneficial. You are missing money, but live comfortably enough for me to know it is not for lack of business”, he rushed through his words, aware Frank could get angry at any second, “in short, you have a mole, and I can tell you who it is.”
The man’s eyes widened, his whole body going into alertness and aggression in an instant. Frank was holding himself back, but no one could know for how long that would last. Sherlock needed to get the deal done now, he needed to get out of there. “How?”, the dealer demanded, “tell me who it is!”
“I cannot”, he raised his hands, taking a step back, “I don’t have the necessary information, but once I do, I could tell you and all your troubles would go away. I could be useful to you.”
He could see the gears inside Hudson’s head turn, see him contemplating what Sherlock had just put on the table. See him wager if it would be better to kill him or not. It shouldn’t have been as exciting as it was.
“Why?”, the man finally asked, “why would you offer your… services?”
“Because I want what the banker has”, Sherlock told him, head held high against his better judgment, “a mutually beneficial arrangement.”
“So you’re a businessman as much as an observant one”, Frank chuckled, “alright, what do you suggest.”
“I get you your mole, and you get me free grams.”
Mr. Hudson outright laughed, the anger Martha had talked about buried under amusement over Sherlock’s antics.
“Well, aren’t you an ambitious one?”, the man walked to him slowly, much like a predator would his prey. Sherlock fought the urge to step back, “I’ll tell you what, you work on finding that treacherous rat, and I’ll give you half price on whatever you want. We’ll talk about free product after you have delivered what you promised. Deal?” Frank extended a hand in Sherlock’s direction.
“I would need to spend time around your runners, study them and their habits, gather the necessary information”, Sherlock added in a blurt of words.
“I would also need direct contact with you, I’m sure you wouldn’t want a delegate to handle this particular operation.”
Frank spread his arms wide, signaling around them, “you know where to find me”, the hand returned to him then, “so, do we have a deal or not?”
Sherlock shook Mr. Hudson’s hand in pretend self-assurity; that was until Frank grabbed his wrist and pulled him close against his chest, his grip tight enough to bruise the younger’s pale skin.
“I like you kid”, the man’s rancid breath whispered against his cheek, “I suggest you keep it that way.”
He nodded, grunting his assent and pulling away. Mr. Hudson let him go. Sherlock smoothed his hoodie down, shoving his hands in his pockets to hide the way they shook against his wishes. Frank Hudson smirked at him and lifted a brow.
“So, what’s your poison, so I can know what to give you.”
“Cocaine”, his voice got ahead of him, calling out for the forbidden fruit he had sworn away from before his mind could catch up and stop it. His fingers twitched inside his pockets, the itch in his elbows growing louder than it had been in a year.
“Here you go then”, the man smiled venomously at him, a bag of white dust a devilish offering in his hand, “as an incentive.”
Sherlock took the bag between his fingers and, with a curt nod, made his way home. With each step, he felt the weight of the cocaine in his pocket.
He entered his home with a sleeping child in his arms. Martha had offered to let them spend the night in her small room, but Sherlock had refused right away, it was nowhere near as practical as the flat he already possessed. He set Beth on their bed gently, changing her into her pajamas as she mumbles sleepily at him about how great Mrs. Hudson was for company. More fun than the garden, daddy. He hummed and nodded when he knew he ought to, but kept to himself otherwise. Once she’d fallen asleep, he crept into the bathroom to change as well. As he’d grown used to doing, he stared at himself in the mirror, mentally holding his face against the one he’d seen in the past and comparing London’s Sherlock and Miami’s. Usually, Miami’s looked healthier, but that was not the case on that particular Sunday night. He looked tired, weary, an old shadow he hadn’t seen since Cambridge dragging him down with every breath. He forced the window aside, opening the cabinets so he wouldn’t be faced with his reflection anymore. Not tonight.
Once he was in his sleeping clothes, Sherlock grabbed his hoodie and fished around for the bag. Before he could think better of it, before his malfunctioning brain chemistry could convince him otherwise, before he fell prey to the siren’s song and drowned, he dropped the bag on the toilet and flushed it away, watching as his lover swirled out of his reach.
He went into the bedroom with his head trapped by the old fog he occasionally found himself batting away. There was no time for it to make its attack on his mind and spirit; he couldn’t afford to be vulnerable. Not with the threat of Frank Hudson just around the corner. He couldn’t listen to the whispers of long-ago euphorias and extasis he still found himself longing for at the worst of times. Instead, he got under the covers and curled up with his child, holding his daughter close, and buried his nose in her hair. The small child pressed herself against her father’s chest, patting his arm twice and mumbling a sleepy, “good night, daddy.”
He pressed his lips against the crown of her head, her curls tickling his cheeks, and closed his eyes. As he forced the shadows away and fell to his subconscious, he could have sworn he caught a whiff of strawberries. Inside his Mind Palace, he opened the door that led to Isabel
So that was chapter two, I hope you enjoyed it, and are excited for what comes next. The following chapter, in particular, is one I'm very excited to write and have been planning for a while.
While you wait for the following update, I invite you to check out my other Sherlock fics if you haven't already, and if you feel like it. There, annoying bit of self-promo over, apologies.
I hope you enjoyed, I hope you're excited for what comes next, and I hope you have a great night :)
I'll see you all in the next one!
Chapter 3: Family Tree
Mycroft stood tall, covering both brother and niece from immediate contact from those inside. Just in case they really were forced off the premises.
Oh Dear Gods, this took so bloody long! I'm so sorry, believe me when I tell you I forced this chapter out as quickly as I could. I'm afraid my little corner of the world has been especially hectic over the last weeks. But! Peace has returned upon the realm and I should have much more time to write this and other Sherlock projects I have in line.
As a way to make up for the time, I bring you a chapter almost three times the usual size, and a part of this story I have been very excited to write for some time. I hope you enjoy, and I promise the next update won't take so long.
The title comes from the song "When you break" by Bear's Den, which can be found (as usual) in the series playlist.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Winter in Miami was a very different thing from London, or Surrey. He was used to the so-called ‘White Christmases’, and the lack of them was both underwhelming and refreshing. Mycroft had called only a few days ago; it seemed the annual Christmas gatherings at the Holmes house were back on track. Apparently there hadn’t been any after he left for Cambridge, which was a surprise, not necessarily a good one, but a surprise nonetheless. But now that there was a form of correspondence between the parental unit and himself (mostly through letters delivered along with Mycroft’s), it was decided the family shame could be ignored once again. He could already see his mother making a toast ‘for family’ while blissfully ignoring the endless miles between her and her children. And grandchild, now.
Which brought him here, sitting on his small kitchen table with an exceedingly decorated invitation to the family home. There was still a part of him that wanted to wreck it in half and throw it away, nevermind it had been five years since he last saw his parents, nearly six. Letters he could pretend to have read and respond with a very reductive report of their lives were one thing, returning to that airless coffin was another. He didn’t want to go, that much was clear to him. Now he only had to figure out how to skip every mine and refuse without starting another bloody war. Or perhaps Mycroft could do it for him, let him deal with them for once. He got up from the chair, digging around the drawers for one of his notebooks and a pen; Beth’s book came up first, he returned it to the drawer softly and held onto the one that still housed what had once been the ‘possible jobs list’, tore a page, and got to work on his dismissal.
“What’s that?”, speaking of the child, she stumbled to his side, a curled fist rubbing her still sleepy eyes. She had been fast asleep when he quietly slipped out of their room almost an hour earlier.
“A letter for my parents.”
They had never called them grandparents. Beth knew that’s what they were to her, of course, but he had never thought it necessary to acknowledge their relation to them outside of unsaid, basic family information.
“Us staying here for Christmas”, he wrote the beginning of the note; an insipid line about being perfectly fine and healthy, “there’s to be some gathering at their house, I’m telling them we can’t go.”
Beth’s reproachful voice shocked him out of his writings. He’d already started to decline. Sherlock turned to his daughter only to be met by a deep frown and unhappy curl to the lips.
“Because it would be boring”, there were many more, far worse reasons. Reasons his three-year-old had no business knowing. Perhaps not ever.
“But… I want to go”, the girl spoke softly, almost hesitantly, and refused to meet his now wide eyes, “why not?”
He licked his lips trying to find some acceptable response. Bethany had never met the parental unit, as had been his intention since her birth, and she’d never displayed an interest in them before, until now. Not even when he started asking her if she wanted to add anything to the letters he was forced to send to Surrey after weeks of both his parent’s and Mycroft’s insistence she added at least a drawing; apparently, there was no other way to be sure Sherlock ever told her her grandparents existed. They probably had a fair point, not that he would ever admit it. And now here she stood, asking to see them at Christmas, it made no sense, “why would you want to go?”, he settled for asking. Sometimes the child was a proper riddle in her own right.
“I want to see them”, Beth still looked down at her shoes, her words coming out in small puffed out mumbles.
It was his turn to frown. Surely seeing the parental unit couldn’t be all she wanted. Besides, it wasn’t as if she had no contact with them, to his endless misery, “you get letters from them all the time”
Beth huffed, her small brows going up and down, frowning and clearing, several times as she searched for the right words, and grew angrier as she failed to find them, “but I want to see them!”, his daughter finally looked up at him, eyes damp and narrowed as if straining to keep the tears at bay, “other kids see their grandpa’s and grandma’s for Christmas, I want to see them too!”
Ah. Other children, of course. The disastrous human desire to fit in, be like everyone else. There had been a time when he’d fallen into that particular trap himself, before he was quite literally beaten into sense by everyone else. If it were another thing she was asking for, he could consider indulging such a concept for once, if only for the youth of the child. But this… this could be a calamity. There was a reason he always started his letters by reiterating both health and stability, a reason he bothered with double shifts while Mycroft still provided access to the trust fund whenever necessary, and a reason he didn’t use that access if he could avoid it. The parental unit remained a threat in his eyes, their words from months past still ringing in his ears whenever new mail from them arrived.
Eventually, you are going to realize you are not yet capable of caring for any child and then, hopefully, you will accept our help.
He wasn’t an idiot, he knew what they had meant then and knew they still meant it now. No. No, the parental unit was not a good duo to let too close.
“I… I don’t think”, Sherlock cleared his throat, wondering how to tell a child that the grandparents she was so desperate to meet would separate them at the earliest opportunity. He decided to say something else, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Please, daddy!” Beth’s despair grew stronger, her small hand clutching his shirtsleeve, “I want to have a grandpa and grandma! I want to see them”, her tears were falling freely now, pooling on the wooden table below their arms, “please let me have a grandma and grandpa”, the child’s words shook as her small voice trembled, her long lashes batting away a second batch of tears on her bright eyes, “just once, please?”
Sherlock didn’t know what he was supposed to do. Bethany had cried before, in both pain and tantrums. She had asked for things in the past, and grown both upset and indifferent when she didn’t get them. He had thought he’d learned how to handle his own daughter but this was something he had never seen her do before. Beth had never, not once, begged him for anything. She had never lost a battle with her own sorrow and pleaded for him to fix it. He hated it had now happened at all. And he hated that it was about his parents even more.
“I’ll try”, he choked out, his throat now clenched tightly shut at the pitiful scene before him.
Beth breathed in slowly, her small lips trembling. The same pair of bright blue-grey eyes met one another, and the youngest Holmes in the room whispered in a broken voice, “can you really try?”, her delicate fingers tightened around her father’s shirt, “just this once?”
He didn’t want to. He wanted to pretend that conversation had never happened and go back to living in the world as if it had always been just the two of them, with the occasional appearance of secondary players whenever necessary. He also knew that, whatever the outcome, he couldn’t do that. “Alright”, Sherlock lifted his child on his lap, shoving the pen and paper aside, “alright, I’ll try.”
They stood in the garden behind the hotel while Beth ran around the different flowers and shared her findings of the bee population on her school’s grounds with the pink roses. It was only a week before Christmas and his time was running out. Beth had let him pretend he was negotiating terms for their return without leading to a hostage situation, but they both knew he had made no such efforts with the parental unit. It had been easy to distract himself, between Frank Hudson and his own job in that same hotel, he was busier than he had been in a very long time. But Beth was running out of patience, she wanted an answer even if it was a negative, and he didn’t want to give her one.
“Is everything alright, dear?”, Mrs. Hudson asked from his left, her hands clutching the new bag they had given her that same morning. The child and he had agreed it would do no harm, in fact, it was probably convenient to earn more of the woman’s fondness with how interlaced their lives had become over the last months.
“Yes, of course”, he curled his fist at the lack of a cigarette.
Martha kept her eyes on him, a fact he chose to ignore in favour of watching Beth argue with some orchids, “the little dear is a bit nervous, isn’t she?”
Yes, she was. Very nervous indeed, almost as much as he was. Not that the state of their nerves was an acceptable conversation to have surrounded by flowers, he thought. Quite the opposite. Besides, there were much more important things to discuss with this particular guest, and the proximity that both father and daughter had to an absolute nervous breakdown was not part of them.
“I have ruled out five of Frank’s runners, whoever betrayed him is closer to him than I expected”, he murmured, making sure to keep his voice low even if there were no other people in the garden, “a member of the more immediate circle, I’m sure.”
“He can’t have taken that well”, an almost indiscernible edge colored the woman’s words, her weight shifting uncomfortably from leg to leg, “he hasn’t gotten angry with you, has he?”
“No”, Sherlock was quick to assure. To his luck, the infamous Frank Hudson did seem to enjoy his company enough to restrain his temper whenever Sherlock was around, “frustrated, yes, but nothing more.” He cleared his throat, looking ahead. So far, the case had been simple enough; get a list of names to investigate, go to their locations, follow them around long enough to rule them out as potential traitors, and report back. All the newer runners had been cleared almost as soon as he saw them; they were all too dependent on Frank Hudson to risk going against him. Due to the lack of findings, he had expected to be asked to continue over the holiday season and have the case as an excuse to turn down any and all invitations; his luck had taken a different turn. “We agreed to continue the investigation into his operations after New Years, apparently he’s to host an event and needs both numbers and prestige around”, and as he was no official member of the man’s crew and a twenty-two-year-old that wore hoodies and jeans every time they saw each other, Sherlock was no part of either category, “not that I particularly mind.”
“He used to have people over for the holidays, Frank”, Mrs. Hudson nodded, crossing her arms around herself, “a fancy lot. Bankers and such, I think.”
The influential clients, then. He had expected as much. To be fair, this unexpected break in his interactions with the man was rather convenient; it gave him the perfect opportunity to put all peons in motion.
“You should go back to London while the case is otherwise on pause”, he added, meeting Martha’s eyes, “I’m sure my brother would be amenable to acquiring plane tickets if needed.”
“Oh, I couldn’t possibly”, she rapidly refused, her lips pouting in the beginnings of a fuss, “truly, there is no need for…”
“You should take Beth with you”, they didn’t have time for the woman’s sensibilities. It was far too dangerous for her to be as accessible as she was when Frank finally finds his mole. It had taken more than a bit of convincing, but eventually, he had called his brother and informed him of the plan, so the government official could handle the more legal aspects of his endeavor if nothing else. “Mycroft and I have decided to join forces after some… consideration. We don’t know how well Frank Hudson has us watched, or if he knows where you are”, it had been his brother who first suggested it, which he despised. It was hardly a difficult guess that a man like Frank Hudson would keep a close watch on everyone involved with his business, “when the case escalates, it would be best for both you and the child to be somewhere else.”
“He wouldn’t hurt a baby”, both of them heard the underlying doubt in her voice. All Sherlock had to do was raise a brow and she relented, “oh, alright, I’ll think about it”, Martha straightened her spine, holding her head high, “but I don’t take charity, I can find my own tickets.”
He nodded, having expected that answer already.
Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson continued to watch Beth for some time, each keeping to their thoughts. Or in Martha’s case, keeping to watch both Sherlock and the baby with careful study. It seemed she had caught a scent and, like a bloodhound, refused to let it rest.
“Is that what’s got you all tense?”
“I’m afraid my current troubles have a far more personal source than a cartel leader.” If only the internal affairs of the criminal world were his only worries. He would be a happier man, he thought. Much less to lose sleep over.
“You mean your parents”, she completed the thought for him. For his part, Sherlock turned to her, wide eyes and brows to hairline. Martha was amused, “well, you never talk about them. I thought they may have passed but Bethy mentioned them once”, she gave a small shrug, as if they were speaking about the weather or how close the tulips were from drying, “something about a letter.”
“We have been invited to their home for Christmas”, he sighed. Of course, the child had not kept things to herself. In her defense, he never said she should. “Bethany wants to go.”
“But you don’t”, Mrs. Hudson nodded, a thoughtful look taking over her eyes. She stepped closer to him, keeping her sight on the toddler around them but the rest of her face angled at him, “my parents… well, they died not too far from each other. Illness and heartbreak take a terrible toll on the body, you see”, Martha pulled her coat closer around her lithe frame, “we were never that close, them and I, especially where my father was concerned. And after Frank…”, she allowed herself a second of indulgence, her usually bright persona growing sad. Mrs. Hudson shoved the sadness aside as quickly as it took over, grasping his forearm and continuing her story, “but the first Christmas without them, just my sisters and I around the dining table with nothing to say to each other and two empty chairs to keep us company… it was a horrible night.”
He understood the point she was trying to make, even if it was solely a sentimental one. But he couldn’t help but think whatever families they had grown up in, had been of a very different species. The Holmes’s always removed the seats from deceased relatives, for one.
“Empty chairs have always been my companions in that house”, he answered, remembering all the afternoons he’d spent having lunch in the kitchen by himself while his father worked and Mummy fussed about some other aspect of the house that no longer met her expectations. “I see no reason for that to have changed now.”
Martha chuckled lightly by his side, her hold on his arm growing loose.
“Oh, I’m sure there’s a little someone who wouldn’t mind sitting next to you all night if it meant getting the chance to see some things for herself.” Said someone kept running about, having gotten hold of a few peebles that had been decorating the small pond only a few minutes before. Mrs. Hudson turned to him and gave him a motherly, gentle smile, “maybe a chair or two will surprise you by not being empty anymore.”
He waited until the child fell asleep to make the call. They had three more days before Christmas and he was finally going to make that phone call; or a phone call, at the very least. One he truly did not want to make. With a long-suffering sigh, he picked up the phone and dialed a now-familiar number, the rock at the bottom of his stomach taking him back to another night, when he had waited for Beth to be deeply asleep, and ventured into the snake nest that was his familial relations.
“Sherlock”, his brother’s voice rang in his ear, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”
Any other night, he would have fallen into the traditional dance between faked cordiality and hidden intentions that appeared to be the Holmes' innate form of communication. However, this matter in particular was already drowning in secondary intentions, and it was probably best to keep it from getting even more tangled. God knew anything involving the parental unit was troublesome enough on its own.
“Christmas in Surrey.”
Mycroft sighed from his side of the call, the ruffling of papers could be heard from wherever he was. His office, probably.
“You will not be attending, I expected as much”, the older of the two spoke slowly, so very sure of himself as was usually the case, “I intended to inform Mummy you had an event at work and would not be able to attend.”
That was… quite convenient. It made him want to say yes. Surely not even the parental unit could reproach him prioritizing work over family, what with their history of continuously doing the same. Though they had always been hypocrites. Not that it mattered, really, they could think of him whatever they pleased, they always had. It would be so easy to go along with Mycroft’s plan and spend the end of the year in his single-bedroom, perhaps join Mrs.Hudson for dinner. It would certainly involve less of a headache. But Bethany… Bethany would be angry at best, hurt at worst; and while both of those scenarios were still very likely to come true if he dared expose her to his parents, it would be very different if her being upset was his fault directly. How had he fallen into caring so very deeply? And for a toddler, no less. Though he supposed it was relatively permissible, considering said toddler happened to be his. It was still terribly inconvenient.
“You can pick us up from the airport on the morning of the twenty-fourth”, he said through gritted teeth, signing his own sentence, “I’m sure you wouldn’t mind sharing one of those honestly preposterous cars with us on the way to Surrey.”
There was a heavy silence on the other end of the line, his brother probably blinking repeatedly in an attempt to understand what could only be an unexpected turn of events. He was busy still trying to understand it himself.
“You’re going?” Sherlock almost laughed. Mycroft hadn’t sounded so disturbed in a very long time. Not even when he first called him to relay the news of the baby’s existence. Perhaps the first time he had seen Sherlock high, but that was a topic that was better left alone.
“Bethany wants to meet her grandparents, believe it or not”, he said, bitterness slipping into his words.
“And you wish to use this opportunity to allow it”, Mycroft breathed, “I see.”
There was something about the way he spoke that worried him; his brother came very close to sounding regretful, but it wasn’t quite right. A thought came crashing into his mind, the lights of the Palace flickering in alarm at the possibility he had so idiotically neglected to consider. It had seemed obvious to him that Mycroft would attend the gathering, to appease their parents if nothing else. But if that wasn’t the case, then… no. No. No, he would not go to that house without support, even if it came in the poor excuse of aid his brother provided between himself and the parental unit. Between them and Beth. “You are going to Surrey, aren’t you?”
Mycroft sighed softly, the paper ruffling returned for a second before stopping completely and, though he couldn’t see it, Sherlock could picture his brother’s face clearly. That odd mix between pained and indulgent.
“The three of us can go together, of course”, said his brother softly, “I will see you both for Christmas then, brother mine.”
Sherlock knew he was supposed to say something else, a thank you, probably. Somehow the idea sounded as impossible as defying gravity on the spot.
He hung up before hearing a response and set the phone down on the table next to him. Slowly, he walked to the bedroom and opened the door, careful not to make a sound and accidentally wake the child. Sherlock leaned on the door frame, his arms crossed over his chest, and watched the small shape of his baby as she slept.
He really hoped they didn’t come to regret this.
Mycroft watched the younger members of his family as they neared Surrey. He hadn’t seen them since their move, though he did know that the pair kept a more constant correspondence with him than they did their parents. They probably talked to the other members of their ‘family’ much more, however. He’d been told Sherlock’s previous employer had visited them not too long ago. Apparently, the man was important. Perhaps he could visit Miami for their birthdays, though he would have to find a proper hotel for himself, he doubted the three of them would fit in his brother’s home. He was now doubting even Sherlock and the girl did. They had both grown in the year since he had last seen them. Sherlock was somehow taller, and had grown his hair longer; there was more meat in his bones, which was always a good thing. A far cry from the lost teenager he primarily thought of when he thought of Sherlock. As for the girl, she was starting to resemble a person. The moment she had recognized him, Beth had jumped into his arms and started a diatribe about her first plane ride and how exciting flying must be for birds. Even now, as she slept against her father’s arm, it was clear to see how much a two-year-old was far from this girl who was nearing the age of four. “She’s grown”, he found himself stating for the sake of doing it.
Sherlock looked away from the window that had kept hold of his gaze and turned to him with an annoyed frown.
“That’s what children do.”
The young man almost managed to sound nonchalant. Almost. His left leg was bouncing restlessly, his words had been scarce since their arrival in London, and his jaw remained clenched. Somehow, Beth hadn’t noticed her father’s discomfort, or if she had, she’d made no comment of it.
“Speaking of children”, he continued, taking no mind of Sherlock’s mood, “how is life as an adult treating you?”
“Fine”, he bit out. He took a deep breath with his eyes tightly shut and more calmly pronounced, “better.”
Mycroft had to agree, it was clear as day the change of scenery had done wonders for his brother’s state of mind, despite his initial protestations to the move. He kept that assessment to himself, better wait for another time when there would be a lesser likelihood of getting his head chopped off by an erratic Sherlock. Even so, there was something else that bothered him greatly about his brother’s latest developments.
“I still think this case of yours is too much of a risk.” Mycroft smoothed his coat from his seat, pretending he couldn’t see Sherlock’s eye twitch.
“Mrs. Hudson needs the help”, the younger muttered, “surely even you wouldn’t deny her the opportunity of freedom”, it sounded reproachful. He knew immediately it wasn’t just this woman’s freedom they were discussing. Well, that Sherlock was discussing. He honestly had no energy for this conversation; so much of his reserve was being used up already by sheer dread of what would happen once they reached their destination.
“A freedom she would still have, had she made different choices”, he responded. He didn’t think that not marrying a cartel leader wasn’t too far from common sense for the average populace.
“It’s not that simple”, Sherlock said in a tired sigh.
“And you would know?”, Mycroft responded, his words drawn out and dripping with sarcasm.
“Drugs trap people”, his little brother’s voice was subdued, nearing a sadness reminiscent of previous, darker times; it shocked Mycroft out of what he had believed to have been gentle teasing. “Lots of things do”, Sherlock watched him blankly, his sharp gaze offering no opportunities of escape, “which you wouldn’t know.”
“No, I suppose I wouldn’t”, he said softly, to this day wishing Sherlock wouldn’t have the means of knowing either. He suspected he would never stop wishing for it.
His brother turned back to the window, his eyes pinned on the trees flying past. The girl shifted in her sleep, pressing her face deeper into her father’s side. Both brothers watched her as she slept, each thinking of what sort of reception she might receive upon their arrival. Mycroft believed it would be a good one, all things considered. He also knew the young man sitting before him expected to be forced out of the property the second their parents set their eyes on them.
“If they go too far, I’m never letting them near Beth again”, Sherlock’s tone remained low, the words almost a whisper if it weren’t for their severity, “just so you know.”
“Regardless of what happens, I already intended to leave at the earliest opportunity”, he assured. It was true, after all. Even before having agreed to arrive in company of the younger pair, he had already made plans to leave as soon as dinner was done and over with. Surely the importance of his work in MI5 would be enough of an excuse for a hurried exit.
They spent the rest of the ride in silence, interrupted only by the low mumbles from the child as she slept. It took both incredibly long and not long enough for the Holmes Manor to come into view; he could see from his seat as Sherlock’s spine straightened, all of him growing alert as if expecting an attack. He asked the driver to stop right at the door and exited the car first, stepping away and granting the young father enough space to wake the sleeping child unbothered; there was a spot of crying, to his horror, but it died out as soon as the girl laid eyes on the house. Beth’s mouth went slack, eyes wide open in fascination, and she turned to her father as she pointed forwards excitedly. His brother indulged in the beginnings of a smile as a response, but said nothing, faking distraction over placing the bag he insisted on carrying over his shoulder. Together, they walked up the stone steps that led to the large porch and wooden doors. The curtains covered the insides from view, granting them only the sight of the fine, woven fabrics within the long glass panes. He turned back to Sherlock, who had remained a step behind him and was clutching his daughter close; Mycroft raised a brow and got a slight nod in return. Ready. He pressed the doorbell and listened as the bell-imitations rang out inside the Manor. Mycroft stood tall, covering both brother and niece from immediate contact from those inside. Just in case they really were forced off the premises.
The door opened forcefully to reveal his mother, her greying hair carefully arranged in a high bun, revealing the diamond earrings adorning her ears and the glittering collar of her black dress. Back to playing Mrs. Holmes, he saw. She held her mouth partly opened, whatever words she’d been about to say having been shaken out of her at the sight of the younger Holmes’ that had remained far away for a very long time. He stepped aside, still a step in front of Sherlock but no longer covering him completely. Mother and son watched each other, twin gazes studying everything they could read. It was a stark contrast, Mummy’s fine tailored dress and expensive jewels faced with Sherlock’s too large white button-up and Beth’s plain summer dress and white tights that were a bit stained with dust. Beth cowered slightly, clearly intimidated, and pressed closer to her father, her hands tightly around his neck.
“Sherlock”, their mother was back in character, her face was hard though not angry, thankfully.
“Mummy”, Sherlock all but spat the word, his mouth curling as if saying it again after so long left an odd taste on his tongue, “I’m sure our invitation has not been taken back.”
“Don’t be ridiculous”, she rolled her eyes, holding the door widely open and stepping aside to let them through, “come in, come in, let me see you”, his brother entered first, his steps hesitant, and looked around much the way Beth did, as if he had never seen the place before, “well, not half as bad as I expected”, Mummy stated, eyes still looking both father and daughter over carefully. Sherlock frowned at the comment but said nothing. Their mother stopped short for a moment, her eyes darting to him and granting a short nod in greeting he returned, and she stepped carefully towards the young child that still clutched to his brother, “hello, you must be Bethany.”
“Hello”, his niece mumbled cautiously. She was frowning as well, mostly in confusion.
Seeing as Sherlock was still catching up if his repeated blinking was any indication, Mycroft decided to ‘help out’, as people said.
“She usually goes by the nickname Beth, Mummy”, he clarified, watching as the girl’s frown cleared a bit to gift the woman before her a shy smile.
“Of course she does”, Mummy sighed, finding the use of a nickname distasteful. He kept his eyes on Sherlock, mindful of the young man debating the merits of defending how he decided to call his own child. Mummy shook her head and signaled them forward before he could, “never mind that, off we go”, she strode inside the house, leading them through the hallway, “your father is waiting for us in the living room.”
“‘S that your mummy?”, Beth whispered in Sherlock’s ear, she wasn’t frowning anymore, but remained buried in her father’s neck, as if she wasn’t sure if she should be scared or not. Mycroft found it surprisingly apt, considering the circumstances. At least no one had cried yet, hopefully, it would remain that way.
“I’m afraid so”, Sherlock whispered in return, sending a smirk Mycroft’s way as the girl watched them both with wide eyes, “it’s alright”, he reassured, mouth pressed against the crown of her head.
The Holmes brothers followed their mother into the wide space that made up the living room, a mostly barren room of marble floors and surrounded by different paintings of sceneries all over the world. There was a long, leather sofa, surrounded by tree leather armchairs, and a small wooden table in the middle. Due to the season, there was a carefully decorated Christmas tree in the corner, by the window, and a set of gifts beneath it, all of them wrapped in plain red paper and decorated with golden ribbons. And right in the armchair by the fireplace sat their father, a book in hand and a cup of tea in the armrest.
“Siger, look who decided to join us”, Mummy walked into the room, making Father lift up his eyes from the old pages and meet Mycroft’s, who he greeted with a curt nod, and as he stood, he finally laid eyes on Sherlock. Their father held himself perfectly still, jaw clenched. He didn’t greet the younger pair.
“Father”, his brother went ahead and dared to start the welcoming process at the lack of response, though Mycroft was sure no one missed the protective way he angled his body to the side, holding Beth farther from the parental unit.
“Good evening”, Father nodded in Sherlock’s direction, his eyes stuck on Young Bethany, who was once again cowering in her father’s arms. Their Father’s jaw worked once, twice, he set the book down slowly and looked away from his grandchild, “if you’ll excuse me.”
Without another word, the man walked out of the living room and towards his study in the left wing of the home. Mycroft watched his brother anxiously, who had closed his eyes and sighed the moment Father turned away. Mummy, for her part, was careful to say nothing, her own eyes unfocused enough for him to know she had been surprised by Father’s outburst as much as him. Well… perhaps Sherlock’s fears hadn’t been completely unfounded after all.
Beth drew in a shaky breath, consternation clear on her young face, “he’s angry”, she whimpered from Sherlock’s neck, having buried her face in it.
From his place by the armchairs, Mycroft could see the inner battle displaying in Sherlock’s eyes. He thought perhaps they looked slightly damp, but it was probably a trick of the light and merited no comment whatsoever. His brother started swaying from side to side, arms around his daughter much the way he used to do when she was still a baby, “of course he isn’t, don’t mind him”, he whispered over her curls. Sherlock kept eyeing the hallway they had come through, eyeing his way to the door and exit from the Manor. Mycroft couldn’t say he blamed him for it, considering. Still, when his little brother’s eyes met his own, something akin to fear shining in them, Mycroft found himself nodding reassuringly and mouthing ‘try.’ Sherlock took a calming breath and turned to Mummy, head held high, “I trust there are pastries in the kitchen.” Mummy nodded, her face softer than it had been by the door. His brother turned to the girl, his lips curled in that half-smile he often gave her, “come on, let’s steal some before Mycroft finishes them all.”
Beth chuckled softly, looking Mycroft’s way shyly as her father carried her out of the room and to the kitchen, the opposite way Father had gone through moments prior. Mycroft and his mother were left alone in resounding silence, neither making a move to follow either of the missing family members. Mummy was holding her hands tightly clutched over her middle, that being the only crack in her persona. He waited for her to speak.
“They took him by surprise”, she said, jumping to Father’s defense as she often had over the years, usually whenever father and youngest clashed as spectacularly as they always had. He’d always believed that, while Mummy and Sherlock fought more often, it was the occasional fights with Father that were the most vicious. In this instance, he couldn’t say he would take Father’s side, as he sometimes did, if a proper fight broke loose.
“You are the ones who extended an invitation to them”, he responded, an undertone of reproach to his words.
“Well, we didn’t expect him to come, did we?”, Mummy snapped, finally turning to him, “why did he come? It was my impression he was still stubborn in his resentment.”
He isn’t the only one, he thought, but kept the words to himself. One battle at a time. Instead, Mycroft took a breath, smoothing his suit down as he spoke calmly.
“Young Bethany wanted to meet you both”, he announced, watching Mummy’s eyes sharpen, “she asked to come repeatedly and, after some serious begging, Sherlock complied.”
She kept quiet, considering his words carefully while he set his coat down by the sofa. When he turned to her again, Mummy was frowning, her lips curled downwards.
“So he doesn’t want to be here”, she concluded, all of her dripping with dissatisfaction.
“Does it matter?”, he bit back. It had been exhausting enough to plead their case to Sherlock only for them both to frown down at the fruit of his efforts as if they’d never wanted such a result in the first place, “the son you haven’t seen in nearly six years is here, in your house”, he walked to her, his words sharp as knives, “and he also happens to have brought along his daughter, the grandchild you had never met before.” Mycroft sniffed, straightening his back and meeting his mother’s unrelenting gaze with no hesitation. “Surely, that’s more important than the why’s.”
Mummy said nothing, her blue-grey pools that served for eyes observing every line of his face for some hidden meaning, some hidden intention that to anyone else would be hard to see. The Holmes family did so like to play with words, it was hardly a surprise suspicion colored the air whenever they met. That didn’t mean he wasn’t steadily growing sick of it. If nothing else, he’d always privately commend Sherlock for his unapologetic bluntness; yet another trait he had rejected from the familial status quo. It was one thing to handle oneself secretly with matters of state, he thought; family was another kind of battle.
Mummy sighed, turning away from him and standing in the hall that led to the kitchen, having made both of their choices in one move.
“There are some strawberry cakes in the oven, do you expect either of them will show any interest?”, she asked, voice steady. She hardly ever defer to anyone, how tragic it must appear, having to defer to him for matters pertaining to her youngest son.
Mycroft thought the question over. Strawberry. He’d seen Sherlock get an odd look to his eyes at the mention of the fruit before; one time he’d come close to asking, but decided against it when his brother’s saddened gaze settled on the (back then) baby on his lap, nostalgia shining through his every move.
“Strawberries have some secret sentimental value for them, or at least Sherlock”, he responded, keeping his suspicions over said meaning being related to the mother for another time, “however, I’ve never seen either of them turn down anything of that flavour.”
“I’ll go and offer them some, then”, she nodded resolutely, starting on her way. “Mycroft”, before being completely out of sight, she pointed to the opposite hall, “do try and talk him down, would you?”
He nodded, watching her disappear behind a white wall. For his part, Mycroft prepared himself for what could, potentially, be a rather unpleasant conversation, and started down the left wing, towards the study. The door was partly open, which he took as an invitation, though it was probably intended for Mummy to take, and not him. Not that it mattered, not this time. Mycroft stepped inside, coming to see his father standing with his back to the room, one hand under his chin in deep thought, and gaze lost amongst the trees and flowers that made up the Manor’s garden outside the window.
“Merry Christmas, Father”, he announced his presence, shocking the older man out of his reveries, “Mummy is handing out cakes, we should probably join in before Sherlock gathers them all for Beth.”
There was no response. The man remained immobile, still lost in his own mind. Mycroft waited, minutes passing them by, each one seeming like thousands of kilometers growing between the study and the rest of the house. Between them and Sherlock. When the distance had grown large enough, the silence steady, Father found comfort enough to speak.
“I didn’t expect him to ever bring her here”, he said softly, “in fact, I was quite sure he would do everything in his power to keep her far away.”
There was no reproach in the man’s words, not like there always was in Mummy’s whenever she made the same accusations. And so he realized, to his horror, that his brother had been right all along, if only partially. His daughter and he were not welcomed in that house, not fully. Outrage grew in his veins for Sherlock and Beth both, who, to his own eyes, had done nothing to deserve such rejection, “and you were fine with that”, he hissed through gritted teeth.
“Oh, don’t sound so bitter, boy”, his father reproached, sounding annoyed more than upset, “she is a Holmes, that alone earns her a place in this family”, the man all but dictated as if he were passing a royal decree. Still, he remained far away, out the window, and when he spoke again, it was with a softer but far from gentler voice, “but her arrival into this world has been a very complicated affair.”
“Complicated for who?”, Mycroft asked before he thought better of it, the outrage still strong, “correct me if I am wrong, Father, but it has been my brother who has been most impacted by Young Bethany.”
“And we weren’t?” Finally, Father returned to the room, his prideful stance leaving a bitter taste in Mycroft’s mouth, “all of the scandal, the stain on the family name that rose from that… accidental child”, the man spoke the words slowly, clearly restraining from using a much different term, “it has been very difficult.”
He wanted to indulge in the fiery burn within his veins. It was, in all honesty, terribly blindsided to claim a victim’s role after the past five years. They hadn’t seen just how difficult everything had been, not even Mycroft had. Only Sherlock knew the truth, and he adamantly refused to share it, which was everything Mycroft needed to know it had been very difficult indeed. It was that same ignorance that allowed the parental unit the nurture of their wounded pride and act of suffering; they hadn’t seen Sherlock’s usually steady hands shake under the influence of deadly chemical substances, they hadn’t seen the dimmed light of who had once been a curious and adventurous child, they hadn’t seen the poor excuse for a home he’d had before Miami, the despair for further income, the hesitation and downright fear at the front door. He had. Mycroft had seen, time and time again, the results of the difficulty his father now dared claim for himself. If anyone had a right to complain over recent burdens other than Sherlock, it was him. Not the parental unit, who had heard tertiary reports and little else. And yet…
And yet he knew there was nothing to be gained by defending its rightful ownership. He couldn’t take a side so carelessly, not like this, not if there was to be a mediator amongst the sharp edges of the family. So he swallowed his outrage back, shoved the fire down, down, down into his core, and turned it into a gentle fire, just hot enough to make his point.
“Why invite them if you wanted them away?”
“That is not what I said”, his father replied, an affronted frown over his eyes.
“Then what are you saying?”
“Merely that I would have appreciated a warning, to prepare.”
“I didn’t realize there was anything to warn about”, he frowned, stomping the fire down further.
“I have just laid eyes upon my runaway son and the child he had when he was still a teenager, there is much to be warned about”, Father shook his head, an image reminiscent of several previous lectures given to a boy that climbed furniture as he attempted to play ‘Pirate’; his father looked him in the eyes then, a curious light shining through, “weren’t you affected the first time you saw her? When you realized what she represented”, the man’s mouth worked as he thought of that representation, whatever such a thing was supposed to mean.
Mycroft thought back to that first encounter, nearly two years ago now. It had come as a shock, facing the small creature that shared his brother’s eyes and hair. It had been just as shocking facing a boy that resembled the brother he had once known far more than he had in years. There had been no thoughts about pride or deeper meanings, all he’d been capable of thinking that day had been how very much the girl resembled her father. And how very unexpected it was for his brother to be a father at all, let alone what seemed to be a capable one.
“I was amazed, she’s Sherlock’s child, after all”, he murmured fondly. Mycroft raised his eyes to meet his father’s in a clear challenge, not an act he dared very often, “that’s all I see when I look at her, my little brother’s baby, my niece”, his lips curled in distaste against his wishes, the fire wishing to go ablaze, “I suggest you find a way to do the same, and until you can, learn to fake it”, he took a step back, lest he did something unwise, “I doubt Mummy and you will ever see them again if you don’t.”
His father kept studying him curiously, but nodded all the same. The man turned to the window one more time, arms held tightly behind his back.
“You’ve met her before, what do you expect the girl would like?” It seemed he had been officially pronounced the Bethany expert, and he’d already had a lifetime of being the Sherlock expert as well.
“She’s a toddler, just offer her a biscuit and say hello”, he sighed. Father looked at him unconvinced, the idea too simplistic for his taste. He went back to that first interaction, remembering the already prideful boasting of what he had originally thought of as a cheap dog plushie. Now that he understood what it actually represented, he could understand the even larger pride Beth showed whenever she played with it, “ask her to show you the dog”, Father raised a questioning brow, “it’s a toy, the first one Sherlock ever bought for her. She’s held onto it since she was but a few months old. I’m sure they brought it with them.”
Father nodded his ascent and gestured to the still-open door. They both exited the study and started on their way back. He had expected the others to remain in the kitchen, but it appeared Mummy had somehow coaxed Sherlock out of it and back into the living room. He now held a plate of various biscuits while Beth munched on a pink one. He still hadn’t set the girl down.
Upon noticing them, the hushed conversation that had been flowing steadily between Beth and Mummy came to an end. Sherlock pressed Bethany to his chest, already starting to turn and keep her out of reach. His brother narrowed his eyes, cautiously watching Father for any signs of trouble. The older man nodded in greeting, stepping towards the child with heavy steps.
“Sherlock”, Father peeked at the girl in his brother’s arms, “you must be Bethany.”
“Apparently, she goes by Beth”, Mummy added, sensing the girl's discomfort.
“Hello”, his niece murmured, mouth still around the biscuit. Sherlock kept quiet, allowing Beth nearer their father but still holding her tightly enough to possibly hurt, just a bit.
“Hello Beth, my name is Siger”, Father spoke gently, the unpleasant conversation previously had between them leaving no trace in his words, “I see you have a biscuit already”, the man hesitated, eyes darting to Mycroft, “I hear you have a dog that’s very special, would you show it to me?”
Bethany’s eyes widened, her mouth spreading in a wide smile. She turned to Sherlock questioningly, all of her hopeful. His little brother met his gaze, suspicion coming off of him in waves. Mycroft nodded curtly. With a sigh, his brother set down the bag he’d been carrying and searched for the toy, handing it to the child without comment.
“This is Dog”, she said, holding it out with a smile, “he’s very old, been here forever”, she whispered almost reverently. Mycroft caught the slight attempt to curl upwards from Sherlock’s lips.
“Very impressive indeed”, his father agreed sagely, “come along then, I’m sure the appetizers will be ready any minute now”, Father patted Mycroft’s shoulder, starting down the center of the house, towards the dining room. In obvious relief, Mummy followed closely behind.
“Here, you go ahead, I’ll join you in a minute”, Sherlock muttered, setting Beth down and picking the bag back up, “I’ll set this down somewhere.”
The child did not walk, staying in her place and all but studying her father in a way that was remarkably Sherlock. She sighed, pulling his brother down by his shirt and gesturing for him to get closer. The young man complied, kneeling before his daughter in annoyed indulgence. The girl leaned forward and planted a kiss on her father’s cheek.
“Breathe, daddy”, she whispered to him, patting the side of his head gently, “it’s alright.”
His brother smiled fondly, his head hanging low as he let out a soft huff.
“I’m fine, you go ahead”, he patted his child’s head and pushed her gently forwards, away from the living room.
Bethany smiled and started walking in the same direction she had seen the parental unit go, but not without stopping next to Mycroft and patting his hand.
“Give daddy a hug”, she told him conspiratorially. He raised a brow in her direction. His niece frowned, “he’s sad but don’t want me to see”, she grabbed his hand and pulled him back inside the room, “give him a hug.”
Mycroft watched his little brother, who had made himself busy setting the bag down by Mycroft’s coat and looking inside it for some reason. “Doesn’t”, he corrected the child mindlessly, almost missing the urgent go she murmured before going on her way.
He stared at his brother; the young man had walked away from the bag and now stood by the window, having drawn the curtains. He was watching the entrance to the Manor, which also acted as an exit. He wondered if Sherlock was counting down the seconds, hoping the moment came for them to leave and never return. He was uncomfortable to know the boy probably was. Without a word, he followed his niece's advice, to a point, and walked to the young father, his steps echoing across the nearly empty room.
“I don’t have her fooled, do I?”, Sherlock asked him, still enraptured by the outside. Did Sherlock see an exit, or freedom the like they discussed had been denied for this Mrs. Hudson? Was this house one of the many things that can trap people? Did his little brother look upon the Manor that carried his name and see a prison?
“Your daughter is under the impression you are sad and in need of a hug”, he answered.
“Partially fooled, then”, his brother scoffed, changing his stance just enough for half of him to be directed inside the house (and at him), while the rest remained loyal to what laid beyond. Sherlock smirked, “I certainly don’t want a hug from you.”
“Certainly not”, he agreed readily. They hadn’t hugged in years, not since that first night spent in hospital after his brother’s drug use became drug abuse. It has a horrid memory, one he would gladly lock away somewhere it could never be reached again if it weren’t for the words that had been exchanged between them; if it hadn’t provided a terrifying insight to how completely they had failed Sherlock. It left an uncomfortable clench around his throat to see a similar, if milder sadness in the blue-grey eyes now. It seemed Young Bethany proved to have the Holmes ' intellect yet again; her father was sad, or something like it. Sentiment. It was such a complicated beast, and Sherlock always allowed it to grow so very tangled. “Are you alright?”, he dared to ask, the words leaving his lips trembling at the unfamiliar shape of them.
“I must look a right mess if you’re asking me that”, his brother said, followed by a sharp laugh that was more painful than amusing. He watched the bright eyes grow somber, the young face half shadowed, “I promised myself I would never bring my child here, ever”, his words were drawn out, slow and heavy in their gravity, “it was a promise I had intended to keep.”
“Surely it hasn’t been as disastrous as you feared”, his voice turned into a question, near the end. There had been the incident with Father, but it had been resolved easily enough, at least for now.
“The evening is still young”, the young man said bitterly, his face twisting in rage and hurt, “how dare he just walk out like that? Beth nearly started crying, did you see?”, Sherlock moved away from the window, starting one of his typical pacing circuits around the room. It was almost surreal, seeing it happen as it had many times before, only with a more adult, angrier, more damaged Sherlock, “and what if they ask about Isabel? I haven’t even told Beth about her properly, so what the hell do I do if they start about how stupid we were”, he continued his diatribe, hands flying around him wildly, “and what happens when they ask about Miami? Because they will”, his brother stood before him, all of him shaking with unreleased energy and frustration he must have been carrying all day, if not longer. An undertone of panic slipped into his voice, “what happens when I’m forced to start talking about our single-bedroom, and the hotel kitchen I work in, and the fact that I can’t even afford to buy ice-lollies as often as we’d like because we have a lot less money than a proper Holmes should? Do you think they’ll spare me the critiques?”, he sighed brokenly, his legs seeming weak at the weight of him, “But Beth… she doesn’t know any different, to her you flat is amazing and this house probably seems like those palaces the princesses she likes live in. She won’t understand why they’ll turn up their noses, but she will notice them doing it, and what am I supposed to do about that?”
“Your daughter is clever, as we well know”, he interrupted Sherlock’s breakdown, his voice steady, “she won’t care about your home not being like this”, he watched his brother’s hands ruffle his own hair, passing through it erratically, “if anything, I expect she will jump to your defense.”
Sherlock met his eyes, a pool of what was dangerously similar to tears at the bottom of his own. It startled Mycroft, seeing it now. It always startled him when the disastrous ball of energy he called brother fell into overwhelming sentimentality.
“What if they decide I’m not good enough of a father and they take her away?”, he asked miserably, slumping down on the leather sofa that had luckily landed behind him by the end of his manic pacing.
“I won’t allow it”, Mycroft decreed, certain of that simple truth, “Sherlock, you are sober, you have a respectable job and a respectable home, they would have no ground to stand on.” The younger man calmed slightly, breathing in slowly. It was a truth they could both be certain of; Sherlock had been doing surprisingly well. Still, he felt he ought to say something else, just the once, now that recent conversations were still fresh in memory, “for what it’s worth, I truly believe all they want is to meet her.”
Sherlock visibly considered the idea, perhaps thinking back to whatever had been said between him and Mummy while Mycroft had been building a bonfire with Father. His brother deflated, hands covering his face for a moment as he regained his composure.
“If I decide a line has been crossed, I’m taking her and we’re leaving”, he made sure to add, once again, though they both knew it was more out of obligation. Sherlock’s continued presence was as close as an admittance of surrender as anyone would ever get. For tonight, Sherlock would try.
“Of course”, he said because it was what he had to say, “now let us join the others and tell Young Bethany we have hugged”, he added, holding one arm out towards the hall as his brother walked past him.
The slender arms were crossed over his middle, almost in a self-given hug, but his head was held high, unpreoccupied by the now messy curls resting upon it. “Shudder the thought.”
Mycroft walked a few steps behind Sherlock, allowing the youth to take the lead and guide them into battle. Their march was strong, steps resounding jointly within the walls of the Holmes Manor as they once had, many years ago. They entered the dining room to find Mummy standing by the table (that was already covered in small but vast appetizers), pointing out different dishes to an excited Bethany, who was ogling at the food as if she had never seen such a thing in her life. Considering the pair’s lifestyle, she probably hadn’t. Mycroft remained by the entrance, standing alongside his father who remained external to the scene of familial bonding before them.
Hearing them arrive, both Bethany and Mummy raised their heads to greet them. Mummy merely nodded at them, her lips unmoved but no longer held tightly shut. Beth, however, was incredibly excited.
“Look daddy!”, she yelled, ushering Sherlock forward urgently, “it’s crab”, her voice a mist of wonder.
“Is it?”, the young father complied, walking to the table with a minimal tilt of the head to acknowledge Mummy, who decided to all but ignore him in turn. Sherlock didn’t seem particularly bothered, pleased to join his daughter by the table and have her as the sole conversationalist, “do you want to try some?”, he asked her, chuckling as her eyes went even wider (a wonder that was even possible), and her face lighted as if the world had just opened before her, “well, it’s a dinner, child, it is customary to eat”, he teased her gently, actually laughing as she stuck her tongue out at him.
For his part, Mycroft leaned against the wall behind him and watched the small theatrics produced by his niece as she ordered Sherlock around the table, having him offer her small bites from every plate, allowing him to finish the ones that didn’t impress her, and coveting the ones that did for herself. In that minimal interaction with his child, Sherlock’s previously shadowed eyes cleared, not a single trace of the nervous wreck he had been minutes earlier remaining.
“Everything alright?”, his father asked from his right. A polite attempt at conversation as much as an attempt at gathering further information. It was the Holmes way, after all.
Mycroft watched the scene before him. Sherlock and Beth remained by the table, laughing over shared plates and what they (or the child) perceived to be exotic meals, their attention granted to no one and nothing other than each other; Mummy kept to herself, only a few steps away, but the longing look in her eyes and uncoiled spine were enough to know she was intent to memorize the show the younger two were putting up, even if the skin around her eyes and mouth remained tight at the pressure of a yearslong history of battles. As for father, who was hesitant to reach out and touch either his son or grandchild, the man remained in the room, almost no sign of his resentment visible. Overall, they were all there, no weapons being wielded and no cutting words attacking still open wounds; there was tension and suspicion in the air, yes, but no one was going to incite a biblical disaster, not when Young Bethany was so clearly enjoying her first Holmesian Christmas.
“Yes”, he said, and felt confident that, while his family still needed a great deal of work, it would eventually stop consisting of separated factions constantly colliding with each other. Hopefully, Beth’s entrance would help move the process along, “I believe so.”
So! We meet the parental unit.
I had originally intended to write Christmas from Sherlock's POV, but Mycroft wanted the stage and I couldn't make him leave. Overall, I thought it was interesting to tell that particular event from the only part of the equation that isn't all but drowning in resentment and things unsaid.
I also wanted to share this small news, which I'm not sure would be very significant to you guys, but it is to me. And that is that we have officially reached and passed the 100 pages for this series. We're creating a small book together, dear readers, isn't that exciting?
As for the next chapter, I promise it will *not* be over two weeks for it to arrive, and I'm very excited for it, a lot is going to happen in it.
There will also be a return of my other Sherlock works, which exist in their own universe and are independent for this series; there's one in particular that required quite a bit of research into neurochemistry and psychiatry that I really want to write. So, if you're interested, there's more Sherlock content all around :)
There, my self-promo has been dealt with, apologies :)
That's all for today, let me know if you liked this chapter and if your opinion of the Holmes clan has changed at all. I'll see you in the net update, have a good night, watch something that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, and thank you for reading!
Chapter 4: Shadows
“I’ll be fine”, he promised this oddly interesting person he had stumbled upon while trapped in what had been an uninteresting life.
Oh Gods, I thought the day the last bit of prose for this chapter was done would never come, but here we are! At last!
The chapter title doesn't come from anywhere this time, just my desperation.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sherlock hid behind the bricked wall, taking to the shadows for cover. The year had started incredibly fast, even for him. Suspect after suspect, dealer after dealer, night-shrouded meeting after meeting. Frank Hudson had been growing impatient, every week a little more; he had realized his time was close to running out when Frank Hudson had finally struck out in his anger and shoved Sherlock forcefully against the white walls of his home, a forearm pressed against his throat. He had hesitated to go back, cold seeping into his bones at the lack of future victims for Frank’s anger.
The blond man before him watched the streets for the twentieth time since he had started following him earlier that night, his wide eyes glistening in alarm. Clearly, the man wasn’t very vigilant, he’d never spotted Sherlock.
The young father knew who he was looking at, Frank had given him a list with both names and photographs, after all. A list of those in the man’s immediate vicinity, the higher-ups. The ones Frank trusted. Clearly, trust didn’t amount to anything much when it came to addictions, even if said addicts leaned to money more than they did chemical substances. And this one loved money, loved it enough to risk his life and turn on his employer. Erick Henson, Frank’s first partner in the criminal world, the mole.
From his place, hidden in darkness, Sherlock watched as Erick waited by a dark corner of a nondescript back alley, his fingers thrumming in nervous energy against his thighs. A figure wearing a dark hoodie walked to Henson slowly, his steps measured; at the sight of his partner, Erick’s hand dug into his pocket and emerged clutching onto two kilograms of illicit entertainment wrapped in white paper and duct tape. That amount of regularly missing product would be a severe hit against Frank Hudson’s finances in the long run, it was more than enough for this Erick fellow to be the only traitor in the cartel, at least for now. And more than enough for him to deliver on a silver platter to the cartel leader, for the trap to be set. For Martha Hudson to be free of her abuser once and for all. In their respective dark corners, Frank Hudson’s enemies kept to themselves, each preparing for their plans against the man to take flight. Erick Henson exchanged the drugs for money, the hooded figure walked away with new merchandise, and Sherlock waited until the street was once again deserted before he walked home, the scapegoat’s name at the tip of his tongue.
He stood in the middle of his small home, the lived-in air of it a comfort against his tingling skin. His spine still got caught in ghost shivers at the memory of the house in Surrey and that God-awful Christmas; the warmer air of his one-bedroom reassured his lungs of the lack of countryside boredom and isolation. He had a city here, in Miami, in his small corner of the world. And he was about to shake the grounds on which it stood, to tear at the foundations of this new world and, hopefully, start the beginnings of a new one, where interesting characters were not snuffed out by cold-blooded manipulators. But in order to do that, he first needed -sadly- the political influence of another Holmes. Embraced by the moonlight coming through the open windows, Sherlock sat on his living room floor with the phone in his hands and made the call.
The phone rang on for longer than he’d expected, the dim tone of it echoing in his ear, four cars drove by, a fifth beginning to enter the street, when the call was answered, “hello?”
“Sherlock…”, his brother mumbled, sleep slurring his words, “do you have any idea of what time it is?”, he asked in outrage, not unlike that of his mother upon finding a young boy using an antique vase to host a family of slugs (it was an experiment).
Sherlock sighed in annoyance, his eyes rolling, “three in the morning, I’m well aware”, he leaned back using his free hand to support his body; there were urgent matters to be discussed, tiredness be damned, “however, I believe you won’t be complaining once you hear what I have to say.”
Mycroft held his tongue, the ruffling of sheets barely audible over the flimsy line. In his mind’s eye, Sherlock could see the older of the two sitting up, slow and deliberate, a frown and early worry-lines decorating the pale skin, what had been a tight line of a mouth opening, shaping a question that opened way for dreaded answers, “what’s happened?”
“I found the mole, I have his name and photograph”, he responded, his eyes catching onto the colorful lines of crayons over pale,yellowish drywall. Beth had been experimenting with how the colors changed on different textures, and ensuring he would spend hours the following day cleaning the decór off the cheap, rented walls. The same hours Mycroft would spend holding true to his word, whether he liked it or not. “I believe this is the part where you prove your worth and ensure I’m not arrested by the end of this.”
“Communications with the proper authorities will commence later today”, his brother breathed, his hand grazing the microphone as it pinched his nose, “go to sleep, brother mine.”
He could. He should. But he wouldn’t, not yet, no with uncertainties and Erick Henson’s face rattling about in his head. One of those he could take care of already, “what should I expect from the proper authorities?”
“I presume you will be interviewed, and the case will be passed on to them”, Mycroft’s voice somehow managed to shrug in its indifference, its satisfaction with such preposterous course of action. Of course, trust the meddling bastard to force him off the scene now, after months of work and endless nights of obscure meetings in the depths of illicit living. Control in the name of love, for the sake of protection; love by way of suffocation. He had allowed it before, in London, in regards to economical arrangements and binding contracts surrounding the trust fund. He had endured its half-arsed counterpart in the emptiness of Surrey. He wouldn’t hold the door open for it now, not about this. The Holmes way had no place in regards to his case, to his life, the sticky tendrils could not spread so far in. He wouldn't let them.
“No”, he stated, firm in his blockage of future passage, “this is my case, I’m seeing it through”
“Sherlock…”, the exhausted tone he’d long ago connected to furrowed brows and downwards curls of lips brought forward the craving for nicotine.
“I’m not stepping aside, Mycroft”, he snapped, words cutting, “I will not.”
“This isn’t some puzzle you can put back in a box once it’s done”, Mycroft hissed, his own eyes most likely alight, resembling torches in his own moonlight-shrouded room, “it’s a crime, a drug lord and murderer”, Mycroft’s words became almost mocking in their sarcasm, saving him no mercies, leaping from his mouth and pounding at their prey in a desperate attempt at caging him, “tell me, little brother, have you taken the time to consider what will happen once all the pieces are in place and you are left with the final image?”
“Yes, I will have proved Frank Hudson’s fallibility”, that much he knew. Regardless of how and the possibility of red-coloring bloodshed, it would all lead to a very specific ending, and that was saving interesting to live another day while boring misery rotted behind bars, its ego stomped on. It ended with Sherlock winning.
“Oh, you will have done much more than that”, his brother’s voice was grave, heavy in its warning like some ill-fated prophecy, “and I doubt you’ll like everything you come to find.”
“Keep me on the case, or I will force my way back in it”, he responded with a prophecy of his own. Warnings were all well and good, he could swallow back his protestations and endure them, but the case belonged to him, Frank Hudson’s words had been whispered to him, his forearm pressed against his throat; warnings didn’t erase his already rooted involvement. An edge took to his words, horrid in its reminiscence of darker times, reflections of drug-addled nights and shivering days, “you don’t want to challenge me with this, brother mine.”
As if sensing the cold grasp of a past that was best left forgotten, Mycroft bit back his words, frustration and surrender merging into a single possible response.
“I will suggest your controlled participation, however, the final decision of your involvement will not be in my hands.”
“Then I suppose you better make a convincing argument, lest I do something reckless.” Like forcing his way into the Hudson home and calling out witch. Sending the mole to the noose with no back-up for his own as he fulfilled his plan and removed the bars caging another bird, of a different kind, with a picturesque smile.
“Sherlock”, stern reproach strongly similar to their Father’s met his ear, “you may be enjoying your game now, but I am warning you”, a final prophecy, the last set of words before diving in fully, a taste of ash on his tongue, “you won’t enjoy crossing the finish line and discovering it was no game at all.”
“Everything is a game, Mycroft”, life, death, sentiment, loss, “and don’t forget, this is one I know how to play”
He hung up before his brother could utter another word, could interfere with what had been set in motion that night, what needed to be released as he set out to sea. Sherlock sat on his living room floor, phone in hand, and bathed in moonlight. Over his eyes, the shadows of night’s past waltzed.
The proper authorities turned out to be a middle-aged woman of dark hair and skin, and her partner, a man not too much older than him that had clearly just been assigned to narcotics less than a year ago. And was clearly downright incompetent.
Mrs. Hudson sat next to him, her back straight, her hands clutching the ends of her knitted sweater tightly. Detective Amelia Novak stared them both down with a withering glare and an accusative pen. Apparently, attempting to tear down a drug lord on one’s own was not a welcomed form of aid from the police. Ridiculous. They didn’t even know of half of Frank Hudson’s operations, in all truth, Sherlock had been doing them a favour.
“The coup against Frank Hudson was never a covert operation, the British Government was well aware of it”, he drawled for the thousandth time that afternoon.
Detective Novak nodded, “as we have been informed”, she raised from her seat, reclining against her desk and looking at them from above her crossed arms, “but you are not in Britain, and your government is beyond its jurisdiction by setting operations here of any kind without permission.”
He fought the urge to roll his eyes, and though Martha made a show of being repentant, he could tell she was closer to annoyed herself, “surely a matter to be discussed by a different crowd.”
With an exhausted sigh, Amelia Novak rubbed her eyes with her hand, the other remaining tightly around her chest, “yes, for now”, the detective met his gaze, a challenging brow raised, “I was advised to keep you in”, she leaned forward slightly, “care to tell me why I should?”
“Haven’t you been told already?” Honestly, if Mycroft hadn’t managed the specifics of this ridiculous and utterly unnecessary attempt to involve the police, he wasn’t going to.
“I don’t want the answer of a government official, I’m asking you.” Oh. Well, anyone who took a politician’s word with a grain of salt couldn’t be too idiotic. “Mr. Holmes, why should I allow you to stay in my case?”
Sherlock met the detective's eyes, his head held high; he was invaluable to this case, he had made it so, “because I got this far on my own”, he straightened his spine, “because Frank Hudson will be suspicious if I just happen to disappear, because he trusts me enough to let me into his inner circle, because with me you won’t have to send one of your own into the cartel”, Sherlock raised a challenging brow back, “because I can do it.”
Detective Novak and he engaged in what was not far from a staring match, identical brows mirroring one another. The silence stretched on, neither of them willing to give in. The incompetent detective whose name he didn’t care to remember grew uncomfortable with their face-off, “it’s rather unwise for civilians to be dragged into cases”, he murmured. Not too comfortable in his place as Detective Novak’s partner then.
Sherlock smirked, not breaking eye contact with Novak, “technically, I’m the one doing the dragging.”
Amelia Novak did not smirk back, instead, she turned to Mrs. Hudson, “and you?”, she asked, words colder than his mother’s eyes, “are you dragging too?”
“I just want Frank to be stopped”, Martha fussed, everything about her screaming frail older citizen. Oh, she was rather good. “That’s all I’m here for, to stop him”, Mrs. Hudson clutched her sweater tighter, her throat working in her apparent unease.
Detective Novak slammed her pen down on her desk, making her partner flinch beside her, “you realize the position you’ve put my team in?”, she leaned her hands on the desk, owering over the foreign pair, “I have two civilians that went behind the law, a local drug lord that somehow evaded the system, and covert international operations”, Novak shook her head as if disappointed, “If I had a touch of sense I would send you home and far away from my city.”
Sherlock smirked, the fiery excitement growing in his veins as the cracks beneath the composed mask of one desperate detective showed beneath her skin, “but”, he prompted.
“But, I also have a lot of work, and the fewer cartels are infesting my streets, the better”, Amelia nodded resolutely, a grimace at play on her lips.
His eyes widened, an open smile fighting to break free, “you’re letting us help.”
“I’m letting you talk and share whatever intel you have, further participation is open for discussion”, Detective Novak pointed at him, the very image of sternness. Her partner squirmed uncomfortably where he sat by her left. “And if I decide you’re more trouble than you’re worth, you’re out.”
It wasn’t the first time he’d been told those very words; he’d been able to prove his use then, and he knew for a fact he could do it now, perhaps even better. He could be irreplaceable.
He nodded slowly, careful to keep his surety close to his chest as if they were a hand of cards, “very well.”
“We won’t get in your way, detective”, Mrs. Hudson assured beside him.
Sherlock leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees and hands coming together over his lips as if in prayer, “in fact”, he began, “I have a suggestion.”
He had always had a plan, after all.
Three weeks of preparation later found them here, with his heart all the way up his throat and an annoying stinging to his eyes. Such override of sentiment was completely unnecessary, he wasn’t waving his child goodbye forever, never to see a particular nose again. It was for a week at most, just enough for Frank Hudson to fall. Perhaps he had developed allergies, that would explain the need for constant sniffing.
Beth, for her part, was just as heartbroken and absolutely inconsolable. She’d never been separated from him before, not even for a day, he supposed it was to be expected she would take it as harshly now. The girl wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and refused to let go, no matter how much Martha and him tried to coach her off. A pool of tears fell on his shoulder, small sobs hitting his skin in puffs of warm air. Honestly, these allergies needed to be dealt with, he could hardly breathe himself.
“Child, there is no need for this”, he murmured by her much smaller ear, “you will return so soon it will be as if you hadn’t left.”
“I don’t want to go”, Beth shook her head wildly, what had apparently become her motto once again leaving her lips.
“I thought you wanted to see everyone”, he prompted, play-acting excitement, “remember? you get to stay with Jack and Gina, and Marcus said he would take you to the park”, he leaned in conspiratorially, “you may even manage to get Mycroft to share his endless supply of cakes with you.”
Usually, the child would have giggled at the joke. Not this time. Now, she sniffed heartbrokenly and squeezed so much tighter he worried for his oxygen intake, “you’re supposed to come with me”, she lamented as if she were saluting him before his imminent death, “it’s you and me, not only me.”
Mrs. Hudson tutted by their side, one of her hands setting the bags on the floor before coming to rest on the girl’s back and caressing her soothingly, “oh, sweetheart, of course it’s you and your daddy”, Martha met his eyes, an odd look to her motherly smile he couldn’t quite place, “and we get to see your daddy again very soon.”
“I might even fly to London and meet you there in a few days, we could stay for a week”, he agreed, following in the older woman’s example, “would you prefer that?”
Beth just shook her head and buried in deeper. Outsiders were starting to stare now, some in annoyance and others in sympathy. A blonde single mother was nearly in tears as she enjoyed the show his child was making them put on. Mrs. Hudson and he shared desperate looks, neither of them knowing what else to do.
Beth sniffled on his neck, her small and broken voice finding the words to share her misery, “if I leave, we’ll be all alone”, she complained, “and you’ll be stupid and bad things will happen”, there was no venom to her statement, she made it as coldly as he dealt facts. Perhaps that’s what made his breath hitch on his throat and his blood go cold.
He blinked repeatedly, different parts of the Palace freezing up, “why would you say such a thing?”, he forced through clenched teeth. Mrs. Hudson admonished him with a light pat on his shoulder.
Bethany sobbed twice, trying to gather her bearings in what was, probably, the worst tantrum of her short life, “because it’s true”, her small hands turned fists around his shirt, “you’ll forget to make breakfast, and will be out all night and be all tired, and the police will be mad because you’re supposed to have energy but you need to sleep for that”, something about her complaints reminded him terribly of Mycroft.
“I’m going to be perfectly fine”, he reassured her, rather hypocritically, since he was probably going to do everything she’d just said, “I won’t do anything stupid, I’ll be smart”, he droned on. His arms had started to ache, growing tired of carrying his now five-year-old for far too long in a single try. “Child, surely you agree I’m a clever man”, he reasoned, feeling his daughter’s shoulders grow loose at the tone she often heard whenever they practiced deductions (which now looked as him performing them for her to observe the process). Bethany nodded, “then trust I’m not going to stop being clever for the week you’re gone, can you do that?”
Beth didn’t say anything, but did not go back to choking him either. Martha passed her fingers through the younger mop of curls, “come on dear, our plane will board soon”, she set the bags on her shoulder again. “Your daddy is going to be just fine, you’ll see.”
A shaky breath escaped the toddler’s lips, hitting his neck, “be very careful”, she whispered in his ear, reminiscent of Gina’s reminders whenever they spoke on the phone, “promise you’ll be very, very careful?”
He nodded, pressing his lips o the crown of her head, “promise”, Sherlock squeezed his daughter tight once and set her down on her feet, wiping the tears away with his hands and handing her small hand over to be held by Mrs. Hudson, “now, off with you.”
He pushed the small body towards the older woman and straightened up. Martha walked towards him, adjusting the bag on her shoulder and pointing to his chest, “now you take care of yourself, young man”, she patted his cheek with her wrinkled hands that had been unblemished and unbruised for the longest stretch of time in decades, “this little lady and I will be waiting for you with a tray of biscuits.”
“I’ll be sure not to miss it”, he said in the toddler’s direction and looked up to find a gentle protectiveness he was still not used to and doubted he ever would be. “I’ll be fine”, he promised this oddly interesting person he had stumbled upon while trapped in what had been an uninteresting life.
Martha pressed a kiss to his cheek, softer and more loving than any of his mother’s had ever been, “make sure you are.”
And another chapter done! Thank the Gods. As you may or may not have noticed, I upped the chapter count to eight chapters, which will be the final number. It seems I overestimated my ability to wrap up a case, but the final outline has been updated and perfected, so writing the following chapters should be easy. Buckle up everyone, things are about to get interesting.
That's all for today, hope you enjoyed and are excited for what comes next, see you in the next update and have a good night :)
Chapter 5: Cold Bones
Frank Hudson sighed slowly, almost painfully, his eyes gleaming in their disappointment.
Chapter title comes from the song "Where's my love" by SYML which can be found in the series playlist.
PS: I am on schedule!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
His steps echoed, the weight of them bouncing off the bricked walls around them. Nighttime fell on his shoulders like a blanket, wrapping him up in gifted anonymity for as long as her cold fingers could hold him, until he stepped into the sight of the beast that could spring at any moment. The beast that would spring, if it followed its nature. He just hoped it wouldn’t spring at him.
“I know who it is”, Sherlock announced his presence, watching as the beast turned his way, fire in its eyes.
“Tell me”, it growled, bloodlust dripping from its lips.
The dark eyes widened, pupils dilating, the white and brown swallowed by a deep, dead black. It made the cold bury in his bones to see, cold and a never-ending thrill. A chase, a hunt, a game. And for the first time in his life, he was the hunter. He was sailing the open seas and he was hunting a monster, burying his sword in its gut, the advocate of death never to be seen again.
“Tomorrow, at nightfall”, the beast growled, “I want him to see who will be taking his place.”
“As you wish”, Sherlock nodded curtly, his heartbeat in his ears. According to plan.
“Be here, boy.” With a final pronouncement, a final order, the sea monster walked away, back into its cave, hidden in plain sight.
The pirate, the hunter, the genius stepped back slowly, falling back into the darkness, moving through it as a shadow. How interesting, the art of playing both sides, moving the pieces along for a single goal as if it were a brilliant game of chess. Leading the criminal under the cloak of darkness, just to feed the angels during the light of day. Exhilarating, really, the most wonderful game he’d ever played. And he was so very close to winning too. So very close.
June 11th, 9:30 am
Detective Amelia Novak leaned back on her chair, a pen held tightly between her fingers. She eyed the young man before her carefully, more than painfully aware he had no business sitting across her desk, and she was beyond rationality in having put him there. Well, if she wanted to get indulgent, she supposed she could pat her own shoulders with the knowledge it had been powers from on high that had sent the boy her way; still, she had been the one to allow his stay. Had it been anything else, she wouldn’t have. But Frank Hudson, it seemed, ran deeper than her team had originally realized. Oh, they had heard of him before, of course, even kept an eye on his territory, contrary to what Holmes believed. And yet, the drug lord had set roots, and a foreign boy with too much time on his hands and no sense had dug them out for the world to see. It would be stupid not to use him, not to use the advantage he represented. It would also let her sleep better at night.
“Nightfall?”, she confirmed.
“Yes”, the boy crossed his legs, a petulant brow raised, “as I’d already mentioned.”
“Would you rather we skew the details for the sake of avoiding repetition?”, she retaliated and enjoyed a deep sense of triumph when the brow fell back down.
She sighed, leaning forward and evaluating her contact, her trojan horse. He was young, too young, to be involved in something like this. But then again, so were most people in Overtown that got caught in the crossfire of the illicit business of chemical substances for the sake of recreation and, eventually, premature death. There was enough of that in her life thanks to the poison running wild in her city. Amelia didn’t want any more of her own doing.
“This is your last chance to back down kid”, she said, jaw tense as Holmes straightened his back as if burned.
“I’m not a child, and I’m not backing down.”
“Twenty-three is a child as far as I’m concerned.”
“Not in my case, you are aware my responsibilities already exceed those of an average individual my age.” She was. Standing back as the evacuation of a toddler was arranged had come as quite a shock for them all. Holmes acknowledged her train of thought with a tilted chin, “and even if they didn’t, you need me there for the final act.”
Novak rested her elbows on her desk, hands over her face as she let out a long breath. God help her, but she needed him there, needed to throw the young father of a young child to the wolves, “yeah, we do, but once you’re in we won’t be able to protect you until it’s done.”
“I’m aware of the risks, it is my plan after all.”
She didn’t know what bothered her more, the obvious lack of worry or the poorly hidden excitement in the grey pools the boy had for eyes. Or maybe it was the knowledge that somewhere in England, there was a little girl that would be left without her dad if Amelia messed this up. Because it was her case, whatever Holmes thought, and if it went to hell, it would be all on her. Her life would have been a lot easier if she had never met one Sherlock Holmes.
“As you know, you’ll go in at eight pm, officers will be around the area keeping an eye on you”, she recounted, “once it’s done, the officers will alert the patrols that will have been waiting two streets down, back-up will arrive soon after that and Frank Hudson will be under arrest.”
“And you will have your key witness.”
“It’s a good plan, Detective Novak, it will work.”
“I suggest you pray to God it does, because if it doesn’t, you might find yourself on a slab.”
Sherlock Holmes merely curled one corner of his lips, “it is the inevitable fate of humanity to die.”
June 11th, 10:20 am
He sat down on his kitchen floor as the phone rang, waiting for his brother to pick up. Now that there were no criminals or detectives, he happened to find himself something akin to nervous. Not exactly that, of course, why would he be, he’d made the plan after all. But it was undeniable that his pulse quickened at the anticipation of what would happen that night and his mouth was abnormally dry.
Blast Mycroft, pick up the phone!
He dialed two more times before his brother deigned to answer.
“Holmes”, the older man greeted.
“Took you long enough”, he muttered through gritted teeth.
“Yes, well”, Mycroft took a deep breath, “your child was having a bit of a spell.”
“What do you mean?”, he jumped to ask, his mouth suddenly drier.
“Nothing to be concerned about, I assure you, I have heard tantrums are common in children.”
It wasn’t much of a reassurance. Beth simply did not have tantrums, not badly enough for a caregiver to be out of breath, at least.
“What was it about?” Mycroft proceeded to bite his tongue, to his endless annoyance, “Mycroft!”
“It’s nothing, honestly”, a touch of condescension colored his brother’s words. Divercion.
“Tell me what is wrong with my daughter, now”, he drew out his words, coolness seeping into each of them.
“I hadn’t realized you had come to possess the stereotypical parental voice”, Mycroft teased, smugness coming out of every pore.
“Oh, sod off.”
“Well, the effect is certainly gone now”, his brother sighed, a deep pause between his carefully picked out words, “it appears Young Bethany misses your presence greatly, that’s all.”
At his loss of words, Mycroft picked up the conversation, “I’m assured it’s to be expected, and she is fine now, not to worry.”
To be expected… perhaps. However, he knew better than anyone Bethany was not prone to tantrums at all, least of all about him. To be expected, but worrisome all the same. If he ever found himself another case (as he hoped he would), he’d have to find some way to involve the child. Sending her away every time was not viable, at any rate.
“Is Mrs. Hudson with her?” She would know how to keep Beth calm, entertained, perhaps even content.
“Not at the moment, your friend stepped out early in the morning to take care of some private business, it seems”, it was not difficult to tell Mycroft had been greatly annoyed by this, “I was told to keep out of her… womanly duties.”
“As you should”, he snorted, commending Mrs. Hudson in his mind. Not that Martha’s abilities at evading meddling men and Bethany’s emotional instability had been the reasons for his call, sadly. No. He had called to deliver what he knew would be received as terrible news, “I’ll be going in tonight.”
“I see.” His brother kept quiet for too long, his rapid-going mind loud enough to be picked up over the phone; when he did speak up, it was with a sense of foreboding, “and everything is in order?”
“Of course, why wouldn’t that be the case”, he assured, ignoring the dark coil in his stomach, “tell Beth it should be over by morning.”
“Yes, of course”, the older man’s voice cut mid-sentence, backtracking and changing direction, clearly. Sherlock would never know what Mycroft had intended to say that morning, he would, however, remember the last words he heard from his brother’s lips on June 11th, “be careful, little brother.”
“Careful Mycroft, I would almost think you’re worried about me”, he spoke against the growing knot that stopped any oxygen from reaching his lungs, or so it felt.
Sherlock found it hard not to smile, his throat growing shut.
June 11th, 18:47 pm
Sherlock could hear his blood rushing in his ears, the rapid heartbeat beating against his ribs almost painful. He had been walking outside, in a bit of a stroll to make time before heading to the Hudson house. Not that he should have bothered, it appeared Frank Hudson had decided to demonstrate Sherlock’s growing rank by sending a car to fetch him, one of his runners in the driver’s seat. Alicia Romero, a bit green still, but terrified of her boss. She existed in the limbo between fear and obsession that ensured her loyalty to the drug lord that ensured her daily dose of ecstasy. There was no way she would listen to him if he asked her to delay, Frank’s hold was too tight on her.
The man had said nightfall, which meant eight by this time of year; there was light outside, an hour left before the plan would be set in motion at the station. Before the patrol cars would be in position as the stakeout began. Would the undercover officers already be there? Probably not.
Well, this was more than a bit not good.
Salvageable, but not good. He would have to keep Frank talking, not that it should be too difficult, the man certainly liked to indulge in the occasional egocentric monologue. But if the drug lord hurried, if he found himself a bit trigger-happy and jumped to kill like a lion at a prey… well, he would have to hope the police got there in time, before everyone died there and then. Regardless, Frank had proven to be easy enough to manipulate, that should remain the case. Keep him busy, that’s all he had to do, delay the plan.
The old and beat-down car hurried past the streets of Miami, guiding him to the white house he had come to know so well, the blurs of people and pedestrian lives flying past him as the hunt came to an end. He wondered if Amelia Novak would be too inconvenienced by this unexpected change of plans; probably. The thought made him smile. At least he wouldn’t be the only one forced to skip a few steps of their battle strategy.
Tall, white walls appeared on his left, the car stopping directly in front of the wooden door he hadn’t crossed in months. Alicia Romero nodded at the house, encouraging him to exit, and waited until he was stepping towards his destination before stepping out herself and following him to the door. His eyes traveled his surroundings quickly, taking note of any inconsistency; there were no officers that he could spot, but no drug runners either, which was certainly an advantage. With his head held high, he went up the steps and rang the doorbell, squaring his shoulders when a set of footsteps neared the door and a woman in her late forties opened it, her dark hair in a messy bun at the top of her head. Housekeeper, it seemed. Well, even cartel leaders had to clean their homes, he supposed.
“Name”, she demanded.
“Shezza”, he gave his alias, sure he would be allowed entry without any trouble. And that proved to be the case when the woman stepped aside, opening the door wider for him, and started walking away, leaving Alicia Romero to stand outside the door. A guard, it seemed, but a sloppy one. Detective Novak would have a field day with her.
“Follow”, the housekeeper barked at him, leading Shezza to the office he had seen cordoned off the first and only time he’d been inside Hudson’s home. His steps were heavy on the wooden floors, bouncing off the walls as if battle drums were being played on a hill looking down at the field he found himself in. “Mr. Hudson’s waiting for you”, the housekeeper pointed at the door and promptly returned to whatever she had been doing. With a deep breath, Sherlock knocked on the door.
“Shezza, my boy, is that you?”, the raspy tone of the drug lord was muffled by the barrier between them, an inconvenience he was quick to be rid of, opening the door into what, in all honesty, looked like the most common of offices, if not for the stack of drugs wrapped in white paper that rested on the desk.
“It’s a bit earlier than I had expected”, he said coolly as he entered the room, taking note of the nervous buzzing emitted by the older man that sat across from Frank, his hair messed up after having passed his hands through it repeatedly over the last hour. Erick Henson was pale and clearly nauseous.
“Our friend here was in a bit of a hurry to go back to Ireland, weren’t you, Erick?” the sharpness of every word cut deep into Henson’s flesh, who squirmed on his seat under Frank’s gaze.
“I told ye already, Frankie, I’m just to see me mum”, the man all but begged, definitely not helping his case. Sherlock rolled his eyes.
“Of course, there are some things to clear up first, is all”, the drug lord turned to Sherlock, eyes more alert than he’d ever seen them and ablaze in what was most certainly a dangerous lead-up to getting ‘angry’, and Martha had so often put it, “Shezza, please, take a seat.”
Following Frank’s hand, he sat on the black plastic chair next to Erick Henson, who was now shaking as sweat rolled down the back of his neck, the smell of fear from the losing side making the young father’s nose itch. With a pleased smile, Frank cleared his throat as he stood, a hip resting against his desk.
“Do you know what keeps a business running, my friends?”, the man extended his palms, as if he were praying, “trust. Trust keeps us alive in times of need, trust allows us to function where most don’t live to see the sun, trust is our only guarantee. But… when that trust is gone, when it rots and turns to poison, it becomes an infection, and the bad weed must be ripped out. It must.” Hudson's eyes shone in mock apology, a sad smile decorating his lips as he looked down at whom he thought of as his sequitur much like a disappointed owner would their pet, “Erick, my old friend, we have been through much together, you and I.”
“Yes F-Frankie”, the man stuttered, trying for an unsuccessful nonchalance, “lots we’ve seen, us.”
“Hm, yes, lots”, the same edge that a predator held as it watched its food squirm and whine in a desperate attempt to survive its inevitable demise appeared on Frank’s lips, his eyes turning to dead and empty black pools, “and yet, you still found it in your heart to repay my trust, my love, with betrayal.”
“N-n-no!”, Henson nearly jumped out of his seat, the collar of the shirt now damp, “of course not, I love you Frankie, you know I do.”
“Then how, exactly, did Shezza see you with Martel?”, the murderer and abuser asked, towering over his latest victim.
“Is he? Because he’d never seen Martel in his life, and yet he perfectly described the bastard to me”, Frank’s voice had turned to a gentle whisper, as if attempting to shush Erick as he sentenced him to death, “how could he have managed that?”
“He must be one of his, he’s playing you, Frankie!”
“Do not take me for a fool, you piece of shit!”, Hudson slammed his fist on the desk, the drugs staking down as they shook, Henson all but falling out of his seat, “do you think I didn’t have my own look after Shezza here ratted you out? Do you think I own Overtown by being stupid? I am a king!”, Frank leaned forward slowly, his lips shaking as they formed the now again whispered words that must have felt like the kisses of a siren’s promised death against his skin, the drug lord’s nose touching Erick’s, “I am your king, and you betrayed me, there is only one sentence for betrayal, Erick.”
“Please Frankie”, the man pleaded, his lips nearly on his murderer’s, “please.”
Frank Hudson sighed slowly, almost painfully, his eyes gleaming in their disappointment. He straightened back up and sat down on his desk, Sherlock’s eyes following his every move in careful consideration while Erick Henson whimpered and cried on his seat.
“Traitors, everywhere I look, Shezza here has been a Godsend”, the drug lord smiled at his trojan horse, receiving a nod in return, “however, I will accept we’ve written quite a story together, my friends. And it will take more than just the three of us to tell it.” Frank walked to the door Sherlock had been let in through minutes prior, his mind racing as he attempted to decipher the meaning behind his opponent's words. They had been the only players, he’d been sure of it. Unless this Martel intended to get a hit on his poorly versed spy. Hudson opened the door, partially stepping outside the hall and signaling someone forwards. Not having been sure on what to expect, Sherlock’s heart jumped to his throat when one Martha Hudson stepped into the room, face blank, and brown eyes pinning Sherlock down.
Well… this wasn’t part of the plan at all.
Another chapter down, a few more o go, next one will be pretty intense if I do it right :)
I hope you guys have been enjoying this part and are excited about the next update, I'm very excited about writing it myself. As for the other fic I teased in my last update, I'll be working on it during the week and will post it when it's down, it simply had to be delayed cus I had a rather aggressive medical procedure done on my foot that kept me in and out of the doctor's during the week. But now I'm on the healing stage and, considering I have half a sole covered in holes (literally), I'm sure as hell not going anywhere for some time *nervous laugh* which overall means I'll have lots of time to write these next ten days :)
Anyhow... small self-promo ahead: I put my Holmes Brothers stories into a single series, where I will continue to upload the stories that center around them for those that are interested, and I am working on several fics on the side as well, I'm just not going to start publishing them until they're done or mostly done so this is my only WIP.
There, announcements made! I hope you have a good day, and I'll see you on the next update :)
Chapter 6: I'll Take You To The Grave
TW: Graphic depictions of violence, drug addiction, domestic violence
Chapter title comes from the song Chasing Twisters by Delta Rae
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Frank stepped aside, letting Mrs. Hudson through with a reverent gesture appropriate for the revelation of some beloved royal in those ridiculous films enjoyed by the general populace.
“My wife, took you long enough”, he smiled widely at the other two men, who had gone equally still on their respective chairs.
Martha’s eyes drifted from Sherlock’s, meeting her husband’s in blank nonchalance, “it was a long flight.”
The man chuckled, placing a hand on her shoulder before grabbing the chair that had been behind his desk, moving it to stand beside Sherlock, “please, take a seat”, he grabbed Martha by the shoulders, slowly lowering her into the chair and stepping back, “now, where were we?”, he extended his hands with a joyous smile, “ah, yes. Treatchury. It really is funny, isn’t it? My closest friend, my wife, and my sniffer dog, all conspiring against me.”
“Mr. Hudson…”, he started, now horribly unsure of where he stood in this particular disaster. And terribly suspicious of standing wherever he was alone.
“Not now Shezza, I’m talking”, the drug lord dismissed not unlike his mother always had, “now, I have to admit, I was very surprised when my eyes and ears around the city told me my runaway bride had been seen sharing ice-cream with the same man I’d allowed into my home, into my world. And with a child, at that”, he met Sherlock’s eyes just as his breath caught in his throat, an adrenaline rush flooding his veins so suddenly it made him nauseous, his vision left blurry around the edges, “where is she, I wonder”, Frank whispered, leaning in.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to keep wondering”, he whispered back, forcing his trembling limbs to stay still.
“Erick the traitor and Shezza the liar”, the man leaned back, his jaw clenching the only sign of his building rage, “of course, Martha here is nothing but a coward, but I knew that already”, his gaze rested on each of them, as if reading the individual behind the mask they’d portrayed around him for so long. The truth set a fire alight inside the criminal’s core, “honestly, did you all think me so stupid?”
“Frankie, please, just let me explain”, Erick began, once again resorting to begging his way out of a death sentence.
“Explain?” A pointed look at his former partner was all Frank gave him, “but I already know. Martel wanted my product because he’s so useless he can’t get it on his own, and you, idiot that you are, fell for whatever he promised you”, he shrugged, “business.”
The curve of Henson’s spine shifted just enough to draw his attention, the stress lines around the man’s eyes deepening. Oh. Of course, he had suspected it, but missed the final proof, until now. “You’re wrong”, Sherlock supplied, the rubbles of his plan perhaps enough to keep them afloat until eight, “Martel didn’t go to Erick, it was the other way around.”
Erick Henson fell into an unnatural stillness replicated by Martha when she recognized the glint in her husband’s eyes, whose face flattened into an emotionless mask, “Is that so?” he leered, a scowl beginning to settle in his features, “and why would that be?”, he began to sing-song, “why, Hensy, why?”, Frank slammed into the man’s chair, yelling directly in his face, “why?!”
“Because you’re a right bastard!”, Erick finally yelled back, his composure broken, “I have been here, every day, for years and you treat me like rubbish! Like a dog”, he spat, rising to his feet and circulating around the office in the likeness of a caged animal before execution, “you take, and you take, and you take, and what have I got? Nothing!”, a bitter smirk colored his lips, “Martel gave me triple what you did, he’s taking over the city”, he whispered shakily, his lips undecided in their fear and absolute elation at having gotten the best of the man who’d wronged him, if only for a little while, “you’re yesterday’s news Frankie.”
Frank, who had remained unmoved and unreacting through the man’s diatribe, shook his head dispassionately, standing straight and striding towards Erick in two loud steps, a gun that had so far remained hidden behind his back making his way to his hand, aiming directly between the blond man’s eyes.
“No, my friend, you are.”
Frank pulled the trigger. Erick Henson’s blood, skin, and a fair bit of brain matter colored the walls, some of it splashing Sherlock’s way and coloring the bridge of his nose in red, warm drops. Martha screamed from her seat, a hand flying instinctively to her mouth in an attempt to muffle her panic, lest the predatory stance turn on her. In Sherlock’s mind, the echoes of his brother’s words bounced through the walls of his Palace. It wasn’t a game at all. He wouldn’t say that, exactly. It was a game, just as everything in life could be considered as such. He would admit this particular one was not going as he’d expected. And while he hadn’t expected to overtly care, the absolute lack of a response to the slumped body on the floor surprised him. It was a biological imperative to shy from death, to be startled in the face of it whenever it was reflected on another member of our species. Humanity was ruled by survival as much as any animal. He should at the very least cringe at the sight of Henson’s still warm corpse. But Sherlock felt nothing, not even the beginning tendrils of a future emotion. In fact, he was perfectly calm, bordering on indifferent. The moment the shot resounded in his ears, a lever was pulled within the Mind Palace, and Sherlock felt nothing at all.
“Such a waste”, Frank murmured, shoving the man’s body with his foot until he laid on his back, and proceeded to turn back to the pair behind him, “now you two, we have plenty to discuss.”
“Do you believe so, Frank?” Sherlock responded, not bothering to wipe the drying blood off his face, “to me, it seems rather straightforward.”
“It would, except I can’t for the life of me figure out where the hell you came from, Shezza”, Frank smiled, almost playful.
Martha, who had gathered herself admirably in such short notice, drew in a shaking breath and turned to her husband, “he’s just a boy, please Frank, he’s practically a child.”
Mr. Hudson leaned his hip on his desk, nodding along to his wife’s words as he studied Sherlock’s sitting form, “yes, a child with a child, and my wife’s number”, he said thoughtfully, a slight frown creasing his forehead, “you know, it took my people some time to figure it out, to spot the two of you conspiring against me. You can imagine my surprise.”
Sherlock smirked, ignoring Martha’s nervous gaze on him, “if it took you so long, then surely I must have done something right.”
“Maybe”, the man agreed, “but come on, since we’re already here, what was the plan?”, he rested his hands on his knees, smiling between the remaining members of his kill list, “what were you going to do?”
“Does it matter? It’s all gone sideways, there would be no point in losing time mourning a useless plan”, he answered. He wanted Frank bussy. He also wanted him certain the plan was gone, obsolete. Perhaps it would mark the difference between his own survival and Hudson’s intentions to put a hole between his grey eyes in a similar fashion as he had done with Erick. If there was any left of the plan to save, that was.
“Clever man, just not clever enough”, Frank’s smile widened, “it may have worked, whatever you intended, if it weren’t for one very stupid mistake you failed to consider. Do you really think I don’t know my own wife’s phone number?” he laughed, gesturing at Martha with the gun and reveling in her flinching, “tell him, Martha. Tell him how you got here.”
Interested in the coming response, Sherlock turned to the woman, granting her his complete attention. Frank wouldn’t shoot either of them while she explained, he wasn’t done playing with them yet. If there was one thing to be known about sadists, it’s that they’re bound to take their time.
“He called, last night, he said he knew about you and your lovely girl. He said he had sent some of his people after us and they would hurt her if I didn’t meet you here.” Martha sobbed, her hands shaking where they rested on her lap, tears glinting in her eyes, “I’m so sorry, dear. I really am.”
Idiot. He had been an idiot. Of course, the man would know how to reach her, of course, he was watching her just as much as he was watching Sherlock. Bloody, stupid idiot. He had expected vigilance over his own person, and had taken what the police and he had considered being necessary measures to avoid being found out. They had all been too busy with trying to win, and forgot Martha was bound to be of interest for their target. What a shameful oversight, he should have known better. Just because Martha had run didn’t mean she was free, as he had told Mycroft. He should have known better.
With a clap, Frank raised his gun and pointed it between the two of them, “and now, I get to look into your eyes as you die. Both of you”, he gave Sherlock a pointed look, “the real question is, where to begin?”
“Frank, it’s my fault. Just let him go”, the woman begged, perfectly still, “I went to him, he would have never gotten involved if it weren’t for me, please don’t punish him for trying to help me.”
“Oh, Martha”, the man drew the words in a mockery of regret, the gun caressing her cheek, “you always were a stupid woman.”
In a blink, he aimed directly at Sherlock’s head, right between his grey eyes. His mother's eyes. His daughter’s eyes.
“Frank, no!” Martha begged, launching at Sherlock, and time stopped.
He had believed the popular take on death to be a ridiculous hyperbole. Time did not stop because one wished it so, the world remained the same, the passage of one’s last conscious seconds on this earth equal to those that had been spent in the peak of life, and those that would be spent by the remaining few after death. Time did not care for individual whims and regrets. And yet… and yet Frank’s finger stopped midway to the trigger that would bring about Sherlock’s demise. Echoes, shadows of both past and fantasies ran rampant through the Palace, doors slamming open and locks broken in a desperate attempt to inspire survival.
Interesting is precious.
And it was so easily lost. In a second, in a placenta rupture, in a car that did not stop soon enough, in a train that carried a flea. In a bullet. Interesting, interesting, interesting. Life had been boring, and clever, and brutal, and dishonest. He wondered if death would be the same. If it would equate an emptiness not unlike the kind he felt in the midst of self-destruction. Would death be forgiving, where life had not?
Interesting is precious
Should he have settled for boredom and endless misery within his prison’s walls? Caged by prejudice, and expectations he never managed to meet. Drowning in the black goo that leaked through the crevices and the wooden doors hinges inside his mind, where he was most himself. He had always longed for something wilder, bigger, better; and he had found it. Had it been worth it? In a girl of dyed hair and a pointed nose, in a woman of bright eyes and picturesque smiles, in an accident that had saved his life. Had it been worth the pain, and the fighting, and the shaking in a valiant effort to battle an itch burning in his bloodstream?
Interesting is precious
It hit him, the air out his lungs in a gasping breath that never reached its destination. He was dying, sitting in the rubble of his own destroyed plan that he had believed to be so utterly foolproof. He was being murdered by a man that had abused, tortured, and extinguished so many before him, including the woman begging for his life at that very moment. In his very last few seconds, time was dragging itself to the finish line, granting him just enough of itself to think, think, think. What did he have to say? What was there to say, really, that could justify such an error in his judgment? Worth it, worth the pain, worth the struggle, worth the unerring defense of interesting’s value; something had to have been. In his very last few seconds, what did he have to say?
Bethany is so very precious
Sherlock closed his eyes, the weight of a small, warm, irreplaceable body heavy on his chest. Strawberries and glazed sugar from the biscuits he bought for special occasions filling his nostrils. An unfinished melody, a truth, a mistake, a reason. The child he had made in his stupidity, the child he was losing in his weakness. The only child he would ever have. Such an interesting creature, he owed her an apology. Pity he would never get to give it.
A shot. A bullet fired. A stunned silence.
And then absolute chaos.
“Get away from my boy, you murderer”, Martha jumped on Frank, her thin wrist fighting his strength as she strained to keep the gun derailed, aimed at the ceiling.
Startled, Sherlock jumped back on his seat, his head knocking itself on the edge of the plastic chair. He lost his balance and fell on his side, lifting his sight just in time to see Frank slapping Martha, her sharp scream at the sudden pain ringing in his ears. She fell on her knees, where Frank shoved her to the floor with his foot, the gun aimed at her tearful face.
“No!” he found himself jumping to his feet, stumbling into the man and knocking them both down, where they scuffed, and struggled, and groaned for the gun held tightly in Frank Hudson’s grasp. The drug lord kneed Sherlock’s middle, making him yelp and weaken his hold enough for the man to push the younger one aside, making him roll on warm liquid that covered him whole. He stopped when he happened to come across light eyes, open and sightless and stained in dripping, open flesh. Sherlock lifted himself on his hands and knees, crawling away from the corpse. Behind him, Martha had grabbed a plastic chair and thrown it at Frank, who had not been fast enough to dodge it, and proceeded to stumble backward. The drug lord growled, aiming at Martha and Sherlock knew he wouldn’t make it across the room on time.
Oh, thank God.
“Drop your weapon, drop it now!” Amelia Novak walked into the room, accompanied by several officers, all wearing bulletproof vests and holding guns in Frank’s direction. The cartel leader snarled, attention flailing from one enemy body to the next like a panicked animal. Novak met his gaze in unrelenting distaste, finger steady on the trigger in clear warning, “get on your knees”, she ordered, words cutting. And to Sherlock’s endless surprise, the man did. Begrudgingly, and spitting saliva as much as curse words, but he did. Apparently a sadist and a killer, but not a suicidal maniac. Lucky them. Detective Novak turned to him, raising a quizzical brow, “alright?”, he nodded absentmindedly, all but dragging himself to Martha’s side, whose cheekbone was starting to darken in an upcoming bruise. Noticing it herself, Amelia pointed at an officer who had been standing uselessly to the side while everyone else cuffed and arrested Frank, “you! call an ambulance, I want them taken to a hospital now.”
“Yes ma’am”, the man nodded, scurrying away with his mobile in hand.
“Thank you”, he turned back to the woman by his side, unable to stop the curl of his lips at the unexpected turn of events. He had thought he was saving her, not that she would return the favour quite as literally as she had.
She patted his cheek softly, unbothered by the blood covering it, and met his gaze, eyes twinkling.
“I got tired of being scared.”
All Sherlock could do was laugh.
The fluorescent lights from the emergency room were giving him a headache, and though she did not say it, Sherlock was sure his companion was facing the same problem. They had been given neighboring beds, separated by a blue curtain they had both decided to pretend wasn’t an option. Their police escort, a rather useless officer who had stumbled and stammered his way after them once he’d called the ambulance, had gone on a coffee run. Twenty minutes ago. Perhaps he was complaining to Detective Novak about being designated babysitter for two adults. He hoped that was the case, the presence of said escort was beyond tedious.
“Are you sure you’re alright, dear?”, Martha asked from her bed, where she was nursing her aching wrist with a packet of ice.
“I believe I should be asking you that”, he responded with a smirk that vanished from his lips as he laid eyes on their incoming visitor. “Oh, great”, he muttered, sharing a commiserating look with Mrs. Hudson (should he still call her Mrs. Hudson?) and turned to the intruder, “Mycroft, come to lament my survival?”
“What happened?” his brother bit out the words, a very prominent vein jumping in his neck.
“I would have expected you to have figured that out already, considering you’re here”, he gestured to the older man’s whole body, noticing the increase in waistline measurements since their last encounter at Christmas. Someone had gained some holiday weight.
“I know a man was shot and you came very close to following that same fate, my question is why”, the smile on his brother’s lips was everything but polite.
“Frank found out about Sherlock’s friendship with me”, Martha murmured, fussing from her mattress.
“And you left the safe house I provided you, endangering this entire operation”, he snapped at her, not noticing the way her shoulders hunched under his furious gaze. Or not caring. After the day they’d had, Sherlock thought that wasn’t acceptable at all.
“There was no longer an operation by then, do keep up”, he spoke up, jumping on his bed, where he crossed his legs as if to meditate.
“He threatened to hurt Bethy, I could never let such a thing happen”, Mrs. Hudson spoke for herself, not too visibly intimidated by being stared down by the British Government. Sherlock smirked.
“You could have alerted me”, Mycroft rolled his eyes, drawing out his words as he did when it was the youngest Holmes he happened to be annoyed with.
“His people would have seen me do it, they were watching me”, Martha retaliated, leaving Sherlock to sit back and enjoy his brother’s increasing annoyance at not having them both surrender to his authority or some such similar nonsense.
“Possibly, that is not a certain fact as of yet”, his brother said through gritted teeth.
Sherlock remembered their conversation earlier that same morning when Mycroft had been watching Beth for some reason. Perhaps Jack and Gina had been needed at work, though they had assured him they had cleared their schedules for the week to watch over their niece. Not that he minded, really, but if Mycroft had been with his daughter during the day, and she wasn’t climbing all over him now, then what had the man done with the child?
“Where is Bethany, you didn’t bring her with you”, he asked, cutting Mycroft midword.
“She is safe, your friends are keeping an eye on her in my house”, he assured him, his words much softer than they had been since his arrival.
“Why your house?” he frowned. Jack and Gina had a perfectly functional home of their own, he would know, he had lived in it.
“Because the presence of Frank Hudson’s men is not a certain fact as of yet”, Mycroft looked very unhappy with that pronouncement, “I’m told you will be going home in the morning”, he told Sherlock, a pointed brow acting for the lack of a visible question mark.
“Yes, I’m merely bruised, nothing that would cause any complications requiring hospitalization”, he shrugged. In all honesty, the only immediate care he needed was an urgent and thorough shower.
“And for that, you are very lucky”, the stern voice and look reminded him far too much of their father for comfort. Sherlock shrugged again, lest he did something unwise like hunch his shoulders.
“The case will be closed, Frank has been apprehended and will be imprisoned at best. I won”, he decreed, head held high.
“That remains to be seen, brother mine”, Mycroft sighed, exhaustion visible in the lines on his forehead just long enough for Sherlock to recognize it for what it was, before being reined in and turning back into the telltale placid distaste of a politician, “now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a disaster to clean up.”
Without another word, Mycroft turned his back on the pair sitting on hospital beds and staked out of the room, probably to meet up with some president or another. As long as he didn’t drag Sherlock into it, he found he didn’t particularly care.
“Well, he’s just a lovely man, isn’t he?”
They didn’t say anything more for the remaining duration of their enforced stay, but he did wink at Mrs. Hudson, and she did giggle.
Water was dripping down his back, his curls flattened by the very long shower that would come back to haunt him whenever the water bill came through. It hadn’t bothered him in Frank’s house, being covered in another man’s blood. And though it had grown to be irritating, it hadn’t bothered him too much in hospital either. But then, he hadn't looked at himself in the mirror then. The shower had been a relief, washing all the red off his skin, standing under the spray as he watched it disappear down the drain, carried by the nearly scalding hot water falling on him. So many doors of the Palace had been forced open that evening, Isabel running free and instigating chaos wherever she went. The same could be said of his parents. Of memories that held trains, and suitcases, sirens and ships, milkshakes and broken vases. A hospital bed covered in drying blood.
Sherlock forced his eyes shut, dressing himself hurriedly, and all but running out of the bathroom. He had left all the lights off when he entered, enjoying the moonlight that came in through the windows. Clad in that same moonlight, he walked barefoot to his kitchen, opening the top drawer near the stove and fishing for the poison it housed. He had forgotten to be rid of it after Martha and Beth had boarded their plane. Or he hadn’t forgotten, because he was always painfully aware the grains of deadly snow was in his home, he simply hadn’t moved to the bathroom to flush the plastic bag down the toilet. Nor had he moved to make use of it.
He shouldn’t. But then, the Mind Palace was in shambles, submerged in chaos he would have to spend days trying to fix. Perhaps it could give him enough energy, enough focus, to do the process rapidly. Faster than he would without it, that was certain. Four years. Four years since he had submitted himself to be kissed by the blissful oblivion of cocaine. He didn’t need a line, and he wasn’t going to prepare the seven percent solution he had once depended on for enduring his own existence. But he could always let some cover his finger, rub it on his gums, allowing the rapid breath of fresh air to build up slowly, and fade away in a similar fashion.
But he wouldn't. He couldn’t. Not with Detective Novak in immediate contact, not with Mycroft in the city, not in the midst of an investigation. He couldn’t do it, he knew that. Sherlock wasn’t stupid, he could see the consequences all too clearly. The loss of Beth, of his job, of his future. He hadn’t done everything he had just to wash it away for the sake of a shortcut.
Except, the inevitable end wasn’t all he could see all too clearly. He closed his eyes and he saw unseeing ones staring back at him, a hole blown in the middle of them. A hole he had worked day and night towards putting there. Did it count as murder, if his plan had always been the death of another, and he had succeeded in securing it? It had been an obvious solution, even the police force had agreed with him, not that they liked it. But then, no one was about to defend preserving the life of a drug lord and murderer, even if he wasn’t half as bad as Frank. That was only because Erick Henson had never been allowed the time and resources to become Frank’s equal, Sherlock knew that. The man had been an idiot, but he had still been a criminal, dangerous.
There were questions, and possibilities, and alternatives, none of which he wanted to consider. A brake, a sudden stop on his running mind, he needed that. Just for tonight, just one time, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. He hadn’t minded before, hadn’t been bothered by the blood, and the brain blown to bits, and the dead body clinging to his skin. All Sherlock needed was to be unbothered again. He had never cared for the dead before, they were dead, there wasn’t anything anyone could do. Caring wouldn’t bring them back to life, wouldn’t trigger a series of synapses that instigated consciousness. Caring isn’t an advantage. So why did he care now?
Perhaps because he had never been responsible for a body becoming a corpse before. But then, this particular body hadn’t belonged to a very nice man, so why care at all? The world was better off with him dead. Frank was imprisoned, had committed first-degree murder, he would never win this case now. Martha was free, a drug cartel leader off the streets, a drug dealer was dead. Sherlock had won.
Why did he care? He didn’t understand. It was so.... pointless. It hadn’t bothered him before, why now? Why, why, why, why, why. The word circled in his head as he sat down on the kitchen floor, back against the counter, and the bag of deadly delight in his curled fist. He didn’t even notice when the darkness was chased away by the morning light. He didn’t even feel it.
Ah! Getting this chapter down was rough, but a bit of "The World Was Wide Enough" from Hamilton was great help, though I did spend a great deal of time bawling, but that's part of it. I hope you enjoyed the chapter, two more to go and then another part. Every day we get closer to meeting John!
Let me know if your theories about what happened were right :)
On another note, a lot of future works are being written along with this one, most of them fully outlined and some partly written. Amongst those there's a one-shot, the next installment of my Holmes Brothers series, a novel-length Parentlock story, and the next series that I intend to work on once The Child Verse is finished. So, there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes, as you can see.
I'll see you on the next update, hope you have a good night, and remember to stay hydrated.
Chapter 7: Pull Me From The Dark
And though he struggled, though he fought and kicked, trying to propel himself back to the surface, he failed.
TW: Depressive episode and implied domestic abuse. Also drug use and cravings.
Chapter title from the song 'So Far' by Ólafur Arnalds and Arnór Dan, which is not in the series playlist but helped inspire this chapter.
PS: An edit of this part made to this song would work wonderfully, because it fits too well with the overall mood of it all, I think. Just a fangirl's ramblings, apologies.
Now, onto the chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The small, fragile body of his toddler child ran in his direction with remarkable focus. Had it been any other girl of four, he would have expected a wide smile and excited babbling, calling after him over and over until she reached him. However, this was Sherlock Holmes’ child, and her eyes narrowed in cloned focus to his own, lips in a tense line and short legs carrying as fast as they could until Beth collided with his kneeling form, nearly sending them both backward as he struggled not to fall on the airport’s floor. His hands cradled his daughter’s shape, one rubbing her back as she hiccuped and muffled sobs on his shoulder. Over the crown of her head, he saw his brother walking towards them with her suitcase in hand and curled lips on his face.
Without realizing he was doing it, Sherlock found himself taking in the familiar smell of apple scented shampoo and sugar that had grown to mean Bethany in his mind; he held the child just a little tighter.
“I’m alright, I told you there was no need to worry”, he lied through his teeth, attempting to calm the girl before she fainted or started screaming. He had an inkling the other people at the airport wouldn’t take too kindly to either option, least of all the latter.
“Uncle Myc said… said you were hurt”, she hiccuped, her words wobbly and marked with tear tracks on her cheeks.
He felt his blood boil in his veins, a heated glare sent his brother’s way in an instant as he spoke through gritted teeth, voice dangerously low.
“Did he now?”
“I merely mentioned you had been in Hospital for a few hours, but clarified there was no serious injury done to your person”, said Mycroft without a care in the world, stepping closer to the younger pair and setting the suitcase down. For his part, Sherlock slowly rose to his feet, the young child still in his arms
“You told a toddler I was in Hospital and expected her to be calm?”, he bit out, relishing his brother’s frown and downwards tug at the lips as he realized it had not been his best idea. Still, he had another priority at the moment. Sherlock untangled Beth’s arms from around his shoulders, facing her as he spoke gently, “I am fine, though. Truly. Just a bit bruised is all.”
“Does it hurt?”, she asked him, eyes bright with unshed tears.
“Not a lot”, he told the truth, knowing she would see through his lie if he didn’t, “I will be fine in a day or two, promise”, Sherlock kissed her temple, letting her set her head down on his shoulder.
“Ok”, Beth whispered, curling her small fist around his shirt, “daddy, home?”
“Yes, Child”, he closed his eyes with a sigh, “we’re going home.” Sherlock turned to his brother, meeting the older’s gaze and stomping down the heat rising up his neck at the indulgence coming off of the older man in waves as he watched him and his child, “I suppose you intend to come with us.”
“Yes, that would be quite convenient, if you wouldn’t mind”, Mycroft smoothed his suit jacket, a tense smile on his lips.
“Are you staying the night?”
“That all depends on whether you find yourself willing to discuss certain… legalities in present company.”
Both of their gazes traveled to the young girl in his arms, who was growing drowsy as all the energy spent in the past few minutes took its toll. Not that Sherlock was fooled, she would be up and running as soon as they got home, he was sure. He also knew the arrest and possible sentencing of the man that bruised her father and abused her dear Mrs. Hudson wasn’t something he wanted to ever discuss in her presence. It would be a recipe for disaster. And endless fussing.
“You can have the couch”, he told Mycroft, starting to turn and lead the way out of the building.
“How generous”, his brother was quick to complain, hand flying to the suitcase as he followed in Sherlock’s step.
“The kitchen floor is clean, if you would prefer it”, he called over his shoulder, a smirk at play on his face at his brother’s eye roll and following nod at the young girl with them.
“Do try and learn better manners than those possessed by my brother, Young Bethany.”
“No”, the girl giggled, startling a huffed laugh from her father’s lips as they walked.
“Your child indeed”, Mycroft was perfectly unamused. Such a glorious sight it was.
“Come along now, I’m not going to wait if you fall behind”, he called out, his steps steadier than they had been since the night spent at Frank’s office. With his daughter in his arms, and Mycroft muttering displeasure enough to rival their mother, Sherlock found he could breathe a lot better.
Hours later, with a simple dinner having been shared between them and Beth having roped both adults in the room into several games, Sherlock and Mycroft found each other sitting on opposite ends of the couch, the child asleep in her father’s arms. Silence had reigned between them during the day, tension keeping their jaws tightly shut as the uncomfortable truth behind Sherlock’s bruises and Mycroft’s sleepless nights hanged above them in the likes of a noose, ready to snap their necks as one would a twig if they were to be found unprepared for its suddenness. Once night fell and they were left on their own, however, matters seemed to change, the noose now becoming an inevitable sight that could only be addressed in the cloak of nighttime's darkness.
“What is it you’re here for?”
Sherlock found himself asking, fingers absentmindedly brushing untamed curls that resembled his own.
“Besides ensuring your well-being?”
He scoffed, his eyes rolling and meeting his brother’s gaze with a crooked grin.
“Don’t dither, Mycroft, it makes you look idiotic”, he deadpanned, regaling in the older’s affront, “the legalities that are urgent enough for you to kip in my couch.”
With an exhausted sigh that spoke of several worries the younger man just couldn’t muster any guilt about, Mycroft opened his mouth and talked slowly, the political mask of self-assurance and placid belonging in full force.
“Frank Hudson is in custody, as you well know”, Mycroft began, “I have made sure no consequences may befall you or Martha Hudson for the… undercover investigation you engaged in, however, your job is not yet done.”
Sherlock frowned at that, a downwards tug to his lips the only sign of his displeasure. He had agreed to catch Frank Hudson; any boring process left to be done was Detective Novak’s problem as far as he was concerned.
“Both Martha and yourself will be required to stop by the station and give your final statements, as well as any other information Detective Novak may ask of you”, his brother all but ordered, “you may also be asked to testify, if it comes to that”, Mycroft hesitated, noicing the young Holmes’ discomfort at the idea of a court sneering down at what they would undoubtedly perceive as a boy’s childish antics. Idiots, the lot of them. “I’m confident it won’t be necessary, it will be in Frank Hudson’s best interest to confess once and for all. I am merely saying you should be prepared in case he doesn’t.”
There was nothing Mr. Hudson could possibly do for himself now, no hope of being spared whatever sentencing awaited him. They had made sure of that, and Detective Novak herself had been adamant in that particular aspect as much as he. If he knew Frank, which Sherlock believed he did, the man would confess and remind everyone he was unrepentant. Gloat in his years of success and regale them all with detailed accounts of the abuse he inflicted on others. No way of saving himself, no; but one could always find new ways to torment someone if one looked hard enough. Frank Hudson would know. His whole adult life had been lived upon that principle.
“Very well, seems reasonable enough”, Sherlock nodded, confident whatever steps were to follow would not be of much trouble to him.
The Holmes brothers sat across one another in silence, one strenuously attempting to disguise the urge of passing his fingers over the crook of his elbows as he battled the mild itch on the fair skin. He hadn’t flushed the drugs yet, nor had he taken them. It appeared Sherlock now found himself at an impasse with his own sobriety, and the last thing he needed was Mycroft reading it off of the set of his shoulders. He was clean, and would remain clean, he just needed some time to reorder the Palace and stop the spontaneous trail of iron that had been invading his tongue and nostrils ever since Frank’s arrest. He just needed some time.
“Are you sure you are fine, brother mine?”, Mycroft asked softly, an arched brow pointing the question enough for Sherlock to feel its danger. The risk that entailed his brother catching a sniff of a particular weakness.
“Yes, of course”, he answered calmly, his hold over his child tightening minuscully, “just a bit sore, is all. Nothing to be worried about.”
Mycroft frowned but said nothing at all. Both brothers spent the night awake, wondering if he should have.
Amelia Novak watched the civilians that had turned her world upside down in a matter of days with no short storage of relief at being done with them. Oh, they had been helpful, the boy especially; but Amelia was more than comfortable with seeing them on their merry way as they took all their complications with them. One less cartel in her city, one more criminal in jail, another case closed. It was more than enough for her.
Across her desk, Holmes and Mrs. Hudson signed their final statements, their last participation in her case if they all had it their way. And she was confident they would. Both adults were bruised and moved slowly, as if sore, bringing up just a bit of bile as she thought of how wrong it all had gone. How much worse it could have still gone. She had screwed up, she knew. Hudson had nearly outsmarted them and both of her ‘spies’ came close to dying for it. All she could do now was sigh in relief at not having to carry that on her conscience for the rest of her life. The memory of the little girl she’d only ever caught a glance of was heavy on her mind as she considered what could have happened had Amelia and her team arrived a second later. The girl that would have been left without a father. Alas, all had gone well. Only one very specific man had died and, God help her, she was glad.
The thing the job did to them. Jesus.
From her seat, Martha Hudson cleared her throat with a friendly smile and extended a bruised wrist, “here you are, Detective.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Hudson”, she was quick to answer, taking the statement in hand and holding back a wince at the purple around the frail and wrinkled skin.
“Here”, Holmes grunted, his statement all but shoved at her. At least there had been no venom behind it. Detective Novak took it with a polite nod, setting both statements on her desk.
Oddly, the young man held back his spiteful retorts when he spoke to her; she didn’t know if it was any cause for pride. She did know the rest of her team couldn’t say the same. Her partner mostly. To be fair, she often wanted to snap at him herself, not that she would ever admit it aloud. She figured Holmes already knew, had figured it out in that inhumane way he had to see every detail. Especially the ones people wanted hidden. She wouldn’t miss that at all.
“Everything’s set, then”, she stated, hands locking on her desk, “I’ll call you both if we need you again, but I highly doubt it.”
Holmes nodded, not anywhere near surprised by her words. Beside him, Martha Hudson fiddled with her sleeve, her mouth opening, and closing as she tried to find her words. Amelia waited patiently as Holmes frowned, bafflement in his eyes as he watched his companion fumble. Eventually, Mrs. Hudson gathered herself and spoke.
“Detective, whenever possible, is there a chance I could speak with my husband?”, the woman asked, taking the other two people in the room by surprise, “there are some answers I would like to get. And I’m sure Sherlock can say the same”, her eyes met the boy’s, who nodded in understanding and turned to meet Amelia’s gaze.
“Depending on Mr. Hudson’s actions, I may be able to arrange a visit after the sentencing, if you want”, she drawled out, not too sure she liked the idea but knowing it wasn’t her idea to have. It wasn’t uncommon, sometimes, for victims to speak with perpetrators as they sought some form of closure. She also knew they rarely found it in such visits.
“I would be very grateful”, Mrs. Hudson nodded, the kind smile of an older woman back at play.
“I would make use of that opportunity as well, I believe”, Holmes spoke up, finding a very interesting spot on her desk as he did.
“I’ll see what I can do”, she nodded, holding back her thoughts about how wise (or unwise) this was, “in the meantime, thank you both for your help. I can take it from here.”
Both civilians stood, Mrs. Hudson started her way to the door and out of Amelia's life. Holmes stopped halfway through, turning back to her and extending his hand towards her.
“Make sure he never gets out”, he said, gaze stern and eyes alight.
She nodded her assent, more than ready to agree to such an easy request. She had intended to keep Frank Hudson behind bars for as long as she could. Less filth in her streets. With an answering nod from the young man, Amelia shook Holmes’ hand, perfectly happy to go on the rest of her life without ever seeing him again.
The air was frigid as he waited outside the prison to be let in. A sentence had been given after several shocking confessions and his own explicit testimony in which he detailed how Frank Hudson had blown a man’s head off, as Martha often put it. He was still hesitant to call her Mrs. Hudson, as she seemed unsure of whether the name was still a welcomed one for her or not. Sherlock imagined a final sit down with her husband would clear several things for her, bring them into perspective. He hoped the same could be said for him.
A tense man with a perfected expression of absolute unemotionality walked towards the fence, a set of keys in hand. His dark eyes took Sherlock in, his every step uncomfortable as he reached the entrance to the prison.
“Sherlock Holmes?”, the man rasped out, “here for Hudson?”
“Yes”, he nodded, back straight and arms behind it in a way that was annoyingly reminiscent of his father. Sherlock could perfect his body language at a later date, he had far more urgent matters to attend to this evening.
“Come along, then.”
Once he had been let in, the man walked away, trusting Sherlock would follow without question, which he did with a not-too-subtle roll of the eyes. Together, they walked towards Sherlock’s last if licit meeting with the first criminal he had ever put behind bars. And he was sure Frank Hudson wouldn’t be the last.
The room around them was cold and empty, the artificial light on the ceiling turning Sherlock’s skin a ghostly pale. Across from him, Frank Hudson sat with a predatory smile gracing his lips, all of him reminding the younger of rotting flesh. The two spoke slowly, each word carefully measured and those unsaid constantly guarded. Frank appeared thrilled with his visit; prison must be terribly boring.
“Ah, Shezza, missed our conversations?”
“Missed is not the word I would use.”
“Isn’t it?”, the criminal tilted his head, a crooked grin like a beam, “what would you say, then?”
“I would say I wanted to see you one last time before your timely death, revel in my winning the game”, Sherlock drawled, his own head tilting in the opposite direction. Both men stared at each other, pretenses and disguises gone for the first time in their acquaintance.
“The game, huh?”, Frank frowned dangerously, a darkness falling down his face like a curtain, “I hadn’t realized my life was a game”
“Don’t lie to me, Frank, it doesn’t work”, he snapped, words cutting, “everything you have ever done has been play, your attempts at winning. You could have, I believe, if you hadn’t met me.”
A bitter chuckle left the former drug lord’s lips, hate spewing from it like a disease. If there hadn’t been Sherlock, Frank may have someday ruled the city. If there hadn’t been Frank, Sherlock may have never gotten any cases. What a horrifying landmark they seemed to be in each other's lives now, forever tangled.
“Shezza, the clever one. Are you to be the hero of the story now?”, Hudson mocked, singing the words as a child would.
“I’m not a hero”, Sherlock cut in.
“No, you’re not. Heroes don’t arrange for people to get killed just so they can catch their bad guy”, Frank’s voice became a whisper, malicious and taunting as he leaned forward much as he had done in his study, a predator playing with food he wouldn’t get to eat, “you’re not a hero at all, Shezza. You’re as bad as me.”
Fire burned in Sherlock’s gut, the itch on the crook of his arms increasing just a bit.
“I may not be a good man, Frank, but I assure you I am a better one than you. Far greater too.”
Frank leaned back, landing on his chair in a disappointed huff. The younger man straightened his back, chin raised while he observed the murderer and abuser that sat across from him. There was exhaustion, and anger, perhaps even despair. But he knew what was missing. Frank Hudson held not even a drop of regret. If anything, Sherlock read satisfaction.
“And Martha, is she the hero or just an angel?”, Hudson mocked, his grin venomous.
“That is for her to decide”, he shrugged, not rising to the bait. Mrs. Hudson would become what she liked; she had the freedom to do so now.
“And you’ll be on her side as she does, her saviour.”
“Not a saviour, merely a consultant. As far as I’m concerned, she saved herself”, Sherlock spat, anger in his veins now, Frank’s disease contagious upon extended contact with the man.
The criminal scoffed, too busy in his outrage to notice Sherlock’s hand traveling to his covered puncture scars, his fingertips grazing them individually as if pulling the strings of his violin.
“You’re just a child, a reckless one that makes disasters wherever he goes, what could you possibly know about salvation?”
Nothing. Nothing at all. And yet, he was not the one on death row.
“Considering our current circumstances, I would argue I know far more than you”, Sherlock smiled, his own rage to be found in his bared teeth.
“Will you be there to watch me die, celebrate your victory as I turn cold and rot?”, Frank’s voice dropped an octave, his eyes black pools that drew him in and threatened to drown him in their poison, “Shezza the murderer, if only by proxy. We’re not as different as you would like to believe, you know? I would say we’re very similar, both of us manipulate and lie to get what we want, even if it gets others in an early grave. Maybe that’s why my stupid bitch of a wife is staying with you; are you to be my replacement, do you think?”
An uncomfortable force coiled his stomach, the criminal’s words far too close to his own, private thoughts. Sherlock had never deluded himself into believing he was a particularly good person, however, he found recent developments to be harder to digest than he had expected. He wasn’t Frank Hudson, and never would be. But he was also reaching the dreadful conclusion he wasn’t too far from him either. A bit more genius in the mix and…
He stomped the thought down hard, denying it entrance into the front of his mind, his fingers pressing on his arms enough to bruise. It felt oddly like the press of a needle, and there was primal comfort to be found in the act.
“Whatever I am to become, you won’t be here to see it.”
“Because of you”, Hudson snarled.
“I’ll be sure to toast to your demise”, Sherlock smirked, “rot in hell, Frank.”
“Likewise”, the man grimaced as he watched Sherlock stand, stepping away from the table and beginning to turn away. Before he could fully reach the door, however, the criminal and abuser that had shared so many nights with him cleared his throat and raised an arm in a mock-toast, “to your health, Shezza, and whatever poor bastard you get killed next.”
“Be sure to greet them as they arrive. You could start a club, Beaten by Sherlock Holmes”, he grinned crookedly, turning his back on the fiery eyes that glared at him, “I’ll be sure to deliver plenty of members.”
Sherlock walked out of the room, his head held high, and an unbearable itch in the crook of his arms.
He woke to the same black goo that had been tormenting him since the age of fifteen. This, it seemed, would be the worst instance yet. With the Mind Palace in complete disarray and the bag of fresh white dust hidden away in the bathroom cabinets, Sherlock knew without a shadow of a doubt this was a flood he would not win. The snapped locks and torn-out hinges of the Palace gave way for the goo to enter rooms it hadn’t touched in many years, and never before simultaneously. Barks from a red dog, needles that promised oblivion, his inability to look into his baby’s eyes, other children at school chasing him down the halls as they taunted his younger self, a promise to stay, an interrupted kiss in which the cat was forbidden company, a silent violin. A flea on a train. It all turned to black, overwhelming, stagnating goo.
His chest weighed heavily on him, his breaths short and shallow as he panted, fighting to draw in oxygen against the onslaught of painful memories and idiotic sentiment that rattled the Palace’s walls. Sherlock’s muscles spasmed, shivers running up and down his spine as his blinking lids struggled to hold open and allow him reprieve from his warring mind. The ultimate betrayal from his greatest tool, armoured by the past. And he could do nothing but lay there, shaking in the midst of it all, curled up into a ball on his bed. Useless, drowning, and utterly pathetic.
“Daddy?”, a soft voice whispered, breaking past the shroud of darkness that had taken over him, separating him from his own existence, “daddy, talk please.”
Beth. Bethany Isabel Holmes. His mistake. His melody. His truth.
Her voice was shaking, wobbly as her small hands curled around his cheeks and she kneeled next to him, begging for his father to answer her. He tried, tried to open his mouth and speak, tried to look at her. He tried. And he failed, only eliciting a groan and curling up further.
“Daddy, talk, please”, she insisted, urgency seeping into her words as she squeezed the sides of his face.
Sherlock fought harder, swimming to the surface and spitting out the filth that had infested his lungs and threatened to drown him. He remained unable to open his eyes, a thin layer of goo gluing them shut. But he opened his mouth, the taste of absolute and endless misery on his tongue, and forced the words through. Slowly, and in a whispered sigh, but he spoke.
“Call Mrs. Hudson. From my mobile”, he felt the small hands leave him, the shaking of the bed, and following footsteps walking around the room the only indication his child was doing as he asked.
Ears still tuned to the fragile words behind him, Sherlock’s hold on the world failed him, the goo swallowing him whole. And though he struggled, though he fought and kicked, trying to propel himself back to the surface, he failed. Sherlock’s eyes fell closed, his consciousness drifting away as, inside the Palace, he drowned.
Sherlock woke to the evening sunlight coming through the window and gentle caresses on his curls. It took him several minutes in which the goo lowered to his hips, no longer filling his lungs but still holding him hostage, to open his eyes in a series of lazy blinks. Above him, he found Martha Hudson cradling his hair with a gentle smile on her lips. Confused, the gears of his mind running slowly, he frowned at the woman as the conversation he’d had hours earlier with Beth resurfaced amongst his memories. His throat closed as he remembered her panicked voice, begging him to talk to her; he was supposed to care for the child and all he had managed to do was cause her grief. His hands covered his face as he hid the burning in his cheeks and the annoying stinging in his eyes.
“Oh, it’s alright dear, don't you fret”, the woman shushed him, her hands rubbing circles around his wrists.
“I scared Beth”, he mumbled behind his palms, the goo riveting within.
“That you did, but she is much calmer now, don’t you worry”, Martha reassured him, the now-familiar motherly tone of her voice like balm on a wound, “if anything, I’d say it’s you we should worry about.”
“I’m fine”, he dismissed just a bit too quickly.
“Are you? It really doesn’t seem like it to me”, with a sigh, the older woman took hold of his hands and gently parted them from his face, looking into his eyes, “it’s perfectly fine not to be fine, dear. The past few days have been terribly hard, you’re allowed to be struggling with them.”
“There is no reason for me to struggle, it’s stupid for this to be happening.”
Mrs. Hudson hesitated, licking her lips in deep thought. It would have reminded him of his mother, had he not been sure whatever Martha was going to say would hold no judgment and withhold from being purposely hurtful. Margaret Holmes never had such considerations, especially when it was about him. Finally, with a deep breath and a tightening over his hands, Mrs. Hudson found her voice.
“The first time Frank got angry, I spent the following week in my bed. No words, barely a bite of food or a sip of water; all I did was cry, buried under the duvet”, she smiled, self-deprecating, “after I left, I spent a few days the same way. I should have been happy I was out of that house, but… well, sometimes we don’t react the way we expected.”
“Sentiment”, he huffed out, the word like poison on his tongue.
“Hm, yes. Such a troublesome thing, but very useful, I think”, her smile faded, an earnest look to her eyes as her words were sent his way, forceful and unrelenting in their forceful tugs to drag him out of the goo. “People like Frank are what happens when sentiment doesn’t matter to a person. You may be embarrassed about struggling or frustrated about needing to lay down for a while, but don’t think for one second you would be better off without it. A bit of sentiment is a good thing, Sherlock.”
He couldn’t help but scoff, a bitter frown drawn on his face. Inside the Mind Palace, he kicked uselessly against the black dense liquid, his efforts only increasing his exhaustion, a pair of fantom hands on his cheeks.
“Being unable to care for my child is hardly a good thing”, he spat out.
“No, but you can always ask for help when you need it”, Martha smiled gently, her hold on him lessening, “right now, I was thinking it might be a good idea for me to stay for a little while. Keep Beth entertained for a few days, give you a chance to get better without worrying about the sweet thing.”
His stomach dropped and the air was kicked out of his lungs. Sherlock had known there would be no possibility of his caring for the child that day, or the next in all likelihood. He had also known it was an incredibly dangerous move to call for help, to allow someone into his home at such a vulnerable stage of his existence, when he would have been all but unable to fight and defend. Margaret and Siger would have taken advantage of it, would have used such a state to justify their actions, and carried Beth out the door with them, satisfied in being right about his inability to parent. Mycroft… wouldn’t take Beth away, he thought but would have fussed and insisted about enforcing some form of control over the whole thing, regardless of how unwanted such control may be. But Martha had done neither, and he found himself overwhelmingly grateful for it, for her. Such an interesting woman he had stumbled upon, one worth keeping.
“Thank you”, Sherlock choked out, his neck and ears flaring as he did. For her part, the older woman patted his cheek and stood, starting her way out of the room. In a surge of emotionality, a lack of inhibition, and utter exhaustion, Sherlock called out before she was fully out the door, “Mrs. Hudson”, he swallowed, cold sweat breaking out over his forehead as he forced the words out of his lips, his pulse erratic at the many outcomes that could arise from his efforts at self-discipline, “there is a bag of my medicine of choice for these instances in the bathroom’s top cabinet. Could you kindly flush it for me?”
Martha’s back tensed where she stood, face unreadable to his gaze, a frustrating trait she occasionally displayed. The goo rose to his middle.
“Did you take any?”, she asked cautiously, eyes sharp and all pretenses of a brittle old lady gone within seconds. At his shake of the head, relief flooded out of her limbs and a sad smile appeared, “I’ll get right to it, dear.” Martha stopped in her tracks, the doorknob making a wonderful sight as she turned partly back to him, “Sherlock”, her voice was calm, collected, and stern in its insistence, holding his frail focus in an instant, “the world we know is not kind, but it’s also breakable. We can smash it and throw away the pieces. It’s hard but it’s possible. I know you know that; and if you ever feel like you’re forgetting it, just look at your little girl, she’ll remind you.”
“Yes, Mrs. Hudson”, he answered dutifully, the beginnings of a curl to his lips. Not enough, not heartfelt, but genuine. Salvation.
With a parting nod, the older woman was out the door, leaving it open and heading to the bathroom across the hall, leaving that door open too. He frowned, unsure as to why she had decided to do so, when a petite individual peeked into the room, uncertainty all over her movements. Ah. It appeared he was being watched from all fronts today.
“Hello, Child”, he forced his lips into the suggestion of a smile, his heavy eyelids difficulty held open as he watched Beth’s grey eyes dart between his face and the floor. “It’s alright, I’m just tired, that’s all”, he attempted to calm her, patting the bed once (as much as he felt strong enough to handle), and feeling the goo lower back to his hips as she jumped on the bed, sitting beside him.
“You look sick”, she mumbled, her fist flying to her lips and muffling her words.
“I’m having an Off Day, but it will pass. Don’t worry.”
The little girl frowned, confused at his choice of words. It was only then that Sherlock realized how long it had been since he had had such an episode; long enough for her not to be aware of them being a part of his regular functioning. Or lack thereof. It had been years since his last day spent drowning inside his own head, three years, to be exact. With a tired sigh, he set about explaining what an Off Day, as he had baptized such episodes in his youth, entailed.
“My mind, parts of it are turned off at the moment, I’m afraid. It doesn’t work the way it should”, he gestured mildly around his curls, “it just needs some time to fix itself and I’ll be back to normal.”
Bethany appeared to take in his words, considering them carefully inside her younger, un-gooed mind. The frown was still there, along with traces of her initial confusion, but she reached a satisfactory conclusion to let it go and nod, laying her head on her father’s chest and trying to hug him with her short arms.
“Everything will be ok”, she whispered, one thumb inside her mouth.
Across the hall, he observed his newest ally flush the toilet, watching the water swirl away along with the siren’s murderous kiss.
“I have no doubt.”
Another chapter down, just one left for this part. And after that, three more parts and The Child Verse will be finished. Christ.
I hope you liked this chapter, that you've been enjoying this story and are excited for what comes next. Be sure to drink some water and wear something you like.
The rest of this series is completely outlined, down to the last chapter, which is a relief since that wasn't the case a week ago, but I managed to do that so updates should remain regular.
For those that are also reading my other works, the next installment of my Holmes Brothers series is written halfway through, and an individual novel-length work is being written along with this series, so there's more content coming all around.
I'll see you guys in the next update, and since it's 4 AM I really should get some sleep. Good night everybody :)
Chapter 8: For The Rest Of Our Lives
TW: discussions of domestic abuse, and (maybe) explicit death scene ahead.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It took two weeks for Martha to be sure both Sherlock and sweet Bethy would be alright without her, and by sure she meant being all but kicked out of the small apartment the pair lived in. In those two weeks, she conveniently forgot all about her petition to see her husband, focusing instead on helping the young man that had changed her life in every way she could think of. Martha, more than anyone, knew what a sit down with Frank could do to a person; she was well aware of the man’s talents when it came to hurting people, to knowing exactly what to say. Seeing Sherlock in such a state, it had been awful, this bright reminder of how she herself had once been.
But, Sherlock was alright now, back on his feet and to the kitchen that employed him. Which left her here, sitting on a cold metal chair, a slab of the same metal acting for a table, and the steps of her husband coming closer with every second. A shiver ran down her spine, memories of all the times she had counted those same steps, preparing herself to face his anger whenever she heard it in them. Frank didn’t sound angry now. Somehow, that made the waiting so much worse.
Across the room, a loud buzzing filled the air and announced her husband’s presence, his hands and feet chained together doing nothing to reassure her. There was more than one way to hurt someone, and one didn’t always need touch to do it. Sherlock’s pain had been proof enough of that. The nightmare she had woken up from that same morning had been more than enough proof too. Frank’s eyes met hers as he walked to the table, his face plain and smooth the way it used to be before Miami; the way it was when she loved him. Martha’s hands curled into fists as she waited for him to sit.
“Martha, my wife, to what do I owe the pleasure?”, he drawled, the words like liquid spilling from his lips.
“I wanted to know if chains suited you as much as I imagined they would”, she answered, forcing a harmless smile, “I have to admit, you make quite a sight in them.”
The smooth facade fell away as soon as she finished talking, the darkened and furious eyes returning to their well established place on her husband’s face. Angry and ugly lines were drawn on his skin, twisting his expression into the disgust she knew so well.
“What the fuck do you want?”
Martha forced herself to breathe out slowly, her fingernails digging in her palms. She ignored the thin coat of sweat starting to raise all over her back as she met Frank’s gaze with her own.
“An answer, that’s all”, she took in a deep breath, painfully aware of the man’s careful eyes on her, “why me?”
“Excuse me?”, Frank looked positively delighted, a bright smile fading out the previous wrinkles as he laughed in her face.
“Oh, I think it’s a simple enough question, Franky”, she said good-humoredly, smiling along as if bile wasn’t rising in her throat, “out of all the women in your life, out of everyone you could have chosen to marry and drag all the way here, why me?”
All her husband did was shrug, not bothered at all by her demands.
“We both know there’s a better answer to my question, dear”, Martha tilted her head, coquettishly batting her lashes at him.
“You were pretty enough, bored, all alone and desperate for someone to love you. You were everything I wanted, Martha. So yes, why not you?”
He spoke coldly, much the way Sherlock stated his observations about other people. As if it didn’t matter, as if it hardly meant anything. And it angered her, it made her want to cry, and slap his teeth out, and pull on his hair the way he used to pull on hers when they fought. It wasn’t fair, this was her life he had used and played with. It wasn’t bloody fair.
“You were such a waste of my life, such a waste”, she sighed, a prickle of blood coating one of her fingernails, “I deserve so much better than the disaster you are.”
Frank smiled, leaning on his elbows and coming close enough to her his breath puffed out against her cheeks.
“Are you so sure about that? You came with me willingly, Martha. You chose me, out of every man in your life, and you kept me. I didn’t make that last mistake, or do you really believe you are the only one? Please… there are so many more beautiful women to shag in this country, why would I settle for just you?”
She had started to suspect it a year ago, when she’d seen how that young lady who dealt out his drugs looked at him. With that same foolish adoration she had had for Frank Hudson when he had first arrived at her father’s doorstep with a bouquet. Now she knew it had been the cheapest one he had found. She had seen him do the same for the young lady, after all. It was still hard to hear it hadn’t just been one, and not recently. He may have been cheating on her from the start. The thought made a bright, white fury run down her spine. She wondered if it was the same rage he felt when he kicked her.
“All the more reason to bury you as soon as I can, you cold, cold-blooded man.”
“Bury me? Already? And just how does your little head think you can bury me?”, he taunted, laughing as one would at a child.
Martha leaned forward too, ignoring the raised hairs along her arms and the back of her neck. She moved the way she had seen him do so many times, and hated how entertained by it all he seemed to be. There was one thing she had come here to say, and she would damn well do it now instead of waiting for him to be done mocking her. Twisting and spitting on the love she had so blindly given him. He didn’t get that luxury anymore.
“The bruises you gave me have almost faded away, the nightmares will stop soon enough, I’m sure. Every sign of you in my life will be washed away, with time. I will go on, drink good tea, enjoy my herbal soothers, maybe I’ll even take up bingo. And you, my love, will stay here to die. That’s a happy ending as far as I’m concerned.”
A shadow fell over her husband, covering his eyes as his mouth tugged downwards and his fists curled, a rather angry vein on his neck popping out.
“So this is how you win?”, he sneered at her, leaning as close to her as he could, their noses about to touch. Adrenaline pumped in her veins, both making her want to run as fast as she could and spit on his face.
“Oh, I don’t care about winning, Frank. My life was never a game to me, just you”, she whispered back at him, “this is how I survive you, if that also means you lost then that is your business and yours alone.”
“You will never be rid of me, you know. I am part of your story, Martha, you can’t just erase that when you’re out the door”, he sang-sung.
“No, I can’t. But unlike you I don’t need to erase other people in order to feel tall. I just need you to shut up and die”, Martha spat out, straightening in her chair and facing the bastard she had married one last time, “goodbye, Frank.”
She stood, gathering her bag and keeping her fists curled lest he see the blood on her palms. He raged as he watched her turn her back on him, hitting the table with his cuffed hands and yelling at her.
“Don’t you dare walk away from me!”, it was the angriest she had ever heard him, “Martha! You stupid bitch, come bak here!”
She didn’t even turn to look at him, waiting until the door was opened by a young prison guard and stepping out of the room with her head held high. Behind her, Frank kept on raging long after she was out of sight. Kept calling out to her, demanding her obedience, and she refused it from him with every step. Halfway down the hall she realised she was free to leave, she could go home and enjoy the rest of her day. Frank couldn’t, he was the one trapped now, cuffed and beaten, with nothing and no-one for himself but his own misery. With her husband’s cracking voice yelling out in the background, Martha left him behind with a smile.
Sherlock sat next to Mrs. Hudson on a pair of uncomfortable metal chairs. There were few others in the room with them; Detective Novak and members of her team, prison guards and staff, a string of young women he had soon deduced had been mistresses, and lastly the two of them. Each and every single member of this rather disarrayed group of people here to witness a man’s last breath. He was sure anyone else would find it morbid, his parents would certainly think it in poor taste. Sherlock was surprised to find all he felt was peace. Somehow, in between Off Days and sentencings, he had found a way to feel nothing for Frank Hudson other than vindicated in his own actions against the man. Martha’s new stance, the way she held herself without fear for the first time in their acquaintance, certainly helped settle things.
Without a word, the door to the sterile, cirurgical room across the one way mirror opened, and across it came Frank, accompanied by a pair of prison guards and whom he presumed was a doctor. Beside him, Martha tensed her back, a pair of wrinkled hands clutching onto a tissue for dear life. His shoulder pressed just a little bit closer to her; an accidental graze of course, nothing more. And together they held themselves stock still as they watched the man they had imprisoned be strapped down on a gurney, his wrists and ankles tightly tied in leather. The prison guards settled themselves by the door, keeping as far from the execution as they could, while the doctor gathered her needles and IV lines, setting the stage. He wondered if anyone in this room was apprehensive of what they would soon witness, even if they each knew who Frank was and what he had done. He wondered if any of them were happy. Would it be a horrible thing to rejoice in Frank Hudson’s death? People were always so selective about which forms of death were to be shuddered and which ones they were to be morbidly fascinated by. He gathered Frank was not someone to lament losing.
The man of the last hour himself was looking around his sterile room, the last place he would ever see, the scene of his own murder even if lawful. Had he been a different man, Sherlock would have said there was something ironically poetic about that knowledge, poetic and fitting. He knew Frank couldn’t see them, that he may not be aware they were there at all, which is why he berated his mind as strenuously as he did when the man’s dark eyes settled where both Martha and himself were sitting and Sherlock’s breath hitched. Of course the man would find a way to pin them down as he took his final breaths.
For God’s sake, just die already.
One of the prison guards stepped forward as the doctor placed the needle in the crook of Hudson’s arm, the three tubes being set up and prepared to deliver one lethal injection and finally bring this to an end. Stoically, the guard levelled his gaze on Frank and asked as if reading from an instructions manual.
“Do you have any last words?”
All air left the small viewing area they were huddled in, anticipation vibrating in all of their bones as they waited for whatever the criminal would say now. Some in fear, others in misguided hope. Martha, he assumed, in a bit of both.
Frank turned around, meeting the guard’s eyes and whispering, “I was a damn good player, a king”, the man smiled, glancing at the ceiling, “I was a king.”
Sherlock suppressed a scoff. How very telling a set of words those were. Pathetic too, it was downright laughable. Frank Hudson, ascertaining his power as he is put down, a self-given title the most important thing he ever managed to have and consequently lose.
“Egoistical to his deathbed”, he muttered, loud enough for only Martha to hear, who quickly dabbed her eyes with a conveniently unfolded tissue that covered her mouth. Sherlock found he had no such reservations and allowed a minute curl of the lips.
Clearly displeased, but holding back the scowl trying to break through, the guard stepped back as he nodded at the doctor. Nodding back, she silently went about releasing the first of three drugs. Inside his Mind Palace, Sherlock talked through the process, garnering this newly acquired first hand experience to further his understanding of each drug. One never knew when such knowledge could come in handy.
Sodium thiopental - The clear liquid entered Frank’s bloodstream undramatically; if one were to hold reality to the standards of fiction, the slowing of Frank’s blinking and stillness in the sterile room as the anaesthetic did its intended work would be disappointing. As he stood, Sherlock counted the seconds before Frank lost consciousness all together, watching raptly as even the smallest of movements from the man slowed down and stumbled in lazy intoxication. 23 seconds.
Pancuronium bromide - The doctor pushed through the second drug, this one working its way through the man’s body as it stopped it completely. Paralyzing agent, 100 milligrams. It would be enough to kill him, with enough time. Stop his muscles, his organs, deflate his lungs. Sherlock suspected none of them was feeling particularly patient as they watched Frank gasp a few times before laying completely still.
Potassium chloride - A lethal dose, the last ingredient to the deathly cocktail impeding electrical impulses that would, otherwise, keep the heart beating. On the gurney, the man deflated by the second, the irregular beatings on the screens the only sign anything was amiss. Slowly, very slowly, the heart gave in. Sherlock’s skin hummed while he studied the electrocardiogram. In the viewing area, everyone held their breath when the heart stopped completely, alerted only by the mechanical flatline across the one way mirror.
At 12:35 on a Sunday, Frank Hudson was declared dead.
Outside the prison, Sherlock and Martha leaned against a tree as they shared a pack of cigarettes. Not one of theirs, of course, they hadn’t had any. A rather obnoxious guard with a permanent glare on his face and a condescending tone, however, did. If they hurried, the man would notice his missing vice long after they had gone. As for themselves… well, both Martha and he had agreed that a bit of nicotine could be forgiven, considering the circumstances. It was better than other stimulants.
Neither of them had said a word after Frank’s heart stopped beating, merely standing and marching out of the room once everyone else had scurried away. Even Detective Novak had seemed eager to leave, to pretend what she had witnessed didn’t happen at all. He was sure the woman would envy his ability of deleting the unpleasant if she knew of it. Sherlock had nothing to delete, to his surprise. They had sat there, quietly, and kept their eyes on the still warm corpse until the obnoxious guard had cleared his throat and all but thrown them out. Ergo, the free pack.
Now they stood side by side, a cloud of smoke between them, and Sherlock found both of their respective pairs of hands were steady. Nothing to change, then. A satisfactory outcome all around. Regrets? Perhaps, but ever since the week wasted in misery and goo, Sherlock had determined regrets were a waste of time and energy. What was done, was done, suffocating in sentimentality wouldn’t change that. Regret was a rather useless human reaction, he should know that better than anyone.
“Everything alright, dear?”, Martha's voice broke his reveries, a puff of smoke leaving her colored lips.
“As a matter of fact, yes. Everything is perfectly fine”, he spoke slowly, taking another draw of his cigarette and rolling his eyes at the lingering look he was being given, “honestly, Martha, no need to fuss.”
“Mrs. Hudson, dear. It’s my name, and it would be such a pointless hazard to change it”, she smiled at him in that sly way she sometimes had, “it’s not like there’s anyone else to carry the name around anymore.”
“Mrs. Hudson, then”, he smiled back, more than pleased at how calm the woman had been ever since Frank’s sentencing. He could only imagine that calm would grow from now on. As for himself, he found kitchens and hotel’s were more than boring after this particular adventure of theirs. Sherlock turned to his companion, the bitter tang of nicotine on his tongue, “whatever will we do now?”
“Go on with our lives, I believe”, Mrs. Hudson shrugged, head tilting with confusion that did not erase her easy-going smile.
“Hm, boring”, he took a long draw, closing his eyes at the feeling of the smoke going down his throat only to come back up, “wouldn’t you say now is as good a time as any to wrap things off, so to speak?”
“Well, Frank is gone, as is the cartel. There is no longer a case and what kept both of us in this particular city has come to an end. Perhaps it would not be such a bad idea to end our stay on a high note.”
“You want to go back to London?”, Martha’s surprise was palpable, her brows raised and eyes wide as she considered him. She took her own long draw as he spoke.
“Is it such a terrible idea?”, Sherlock sighed, contemplating the cigarette between his fingers, “I found what I had been looking for when I moved here; I’m thinking the rest of what I need, whatever that may be, won’t be here.”
He had needed to find a way to breathe again, to stand on his own two feet when he made the decision to leave England. To leave the whole continent. He knew who he was now, what he could do. Oh, his life was nowhere near complete, he was perfectly aware of that fact. And yet he found the idea of running from his parents, from Sabel and his brother, was too exhausting now. Too unnecessary.
“Going back to London, I never would have thought”, Mrs. Hudson exhaled, frowning as she twirled the cig around her fingers, “are you sure you want to go back, Sherlock, instead of going forward?”
“I don’t think a return would be a regression as much as it would be a continuation of a path that was paused for this specific interlude”, he shrugged, the beginning of a not-too-happy smile on his lips, “London is my city, Mrs. Hudson. It has been since I was a teenager. There was a time it’s streets were no longer welcoming, but I need to make them so again. I gather The Child and I need a home.”
“And London is that home?”
“At the time? No. But I figure it’s as good a place as any to make one”, he turned back to the scenery around them, the trees and bright sun above allowing them to forget it was a prison they had just exited. He thought about the past two years, nearly three now, and knew there was something both his daughter and himself had come to need throughout, “though I’m sure Beth would appreciate your continued company.”
“Oh Sherlock”, a pleased laugh was startled out of the older woman, her bony arms curling around him as she grinned, “I would miss you both too.”
“Does that mean you’re joining us?”, he asked her, allowing the contact, just for a moment.
“Eventually, I have some loose ends to tie down here. The house, for one. But yes, I think I might just catch up.”
A relief he would never admit soared through him, Martha’s knowing glint telling him he hadn’t been able to hide it from her. Somehow, he didn’t particularly mind.
“Very well then”, he stubbed out his cigarette, digging his phone out and starting to walk away, “I need to make a call, excuse me.”
Mrs. Hudson nodded, going back to smoking against the tree in peace. He stopped far enough from her she wouldn’t hear, but close enough both would be perfectly visible to one another. As he dialed, Sherlock found himself in a sort of deja vu, knowing he had been in this position several times in the past and would, in all likelihood, find himself in it several times in the future too. He still wasn’t sure what he felt about that. He was interrupted before he could figure it out by a tired and simultaneously smug voice.
“Sherlock, calling so soon after my last visit, should I be concerned?”
“That’s for you to decide”, he shammed excitement, sure the other Holmes was rolling his eyes on the other side of the line, “I need you to find me a new flat. I believe it’s time Beth and I move homes once again.”
“So soon, little brother?”, Mycroft made it sound as if he was moving every two months or so. Always so fast to exaggerate everything Sherlock did, it was seriously getting old.
“We’ve been here for over two years”, he defended himself, a bit of his annoyance coming through, “will you do it or not?”
“Yes, of course. Wouldn’t want to leave you to your own devices in choosing housing for my niece.”
“She’s my daughter, Myroft.”
“No need to remind me. Wherever do you intend to go now?”, his brother sighed again, as if Sherlock was burdening him with strenuous work. Honestly, and they called him histrionic.
“Isn’t it obvious? I believe it’s time my child knows the city she was born in.”
“You’re permanently coming back to London”, his brother stated, dangerously close to wistful.
Completely unwelcomed, the memory of Mycrfot’s expression when Sherlock had first announced his intent to leave resurfaced in his mind. The way he had looked at both the child and himself had been unexpected. It had forced Sherlock to soften then, and seemed adamant in doing so now.
“I did promise we would return, in time”, he said softer than he had intended, which of course needed to be remedied as soon as possible, “I will make no promises about permanence, mind. Wouldn’t want you to start getting ideas.”
“Of course not”, the other man answered, sounding far too much like a cat who got the cream to Sherlock’s liking, “I’ll call you back once I have a list of potential future homes for you both.”
“You do that.”
Flying with a toddler was a strenuous affair and would be henceforth avoided at every turn for the foreseeable future. He could only imagine the disaster that Mycroft and Beth in a plane together must have been and, for once, Sherlock wanted nothing to do with it. Having had to keep the child entertained for so many hours with only himself and a set of toys as tools had been bad enough. He would delete the whole flight as soon as possible. It was only with gigantic relief that he realised they had arrived in London and would be getting out and far away from that inhumane concoction that was a metallic bird perfectly designed to trap parents with bored and far too energetic children. As well as an alarming amount of people.
In what would almost seem a divine mercy, the rest of the arrival process had been swift and with minimal human interaction. Which found him tightly holding onto his daughter’s hand, a suitcase in the other, and gaze seeking the designated drivers for the evening. Next to him, Beth ‘sang’ some inane tune from her princess films which, in all honesty, sounded as nothing but gibberish. Who had thought up something as ridiculous as ‘bobbity boo’ or whatever the words were supposed to be. It was the sudden interruption of the song and a forceful pull of his hand that alerted him to the new arrivals at the gates.
“Aunt Gina!”, Beth called out, letting go of her father’s hold and running to her aunt with her arms wide open.
Sherlock watched as Gina kneeled down, accepting the hug and returning it just as enthusiastically, pressing kisses on the girl’s cheeks. Behind them, a rather sleep-deprived looking Jack emerged from the crowd, smiling at the hugging duo and trotting towards Sherlock to help him with the two bags hanging from his back.
“Hey”, the other man greeted, a wide smile under his tired eyes, “go everything you need?”
“Yes, of course”, he said, handing over one of the bags and resetting the other one on his back. Both of them turned to the female pair, neither aunt nor niece done hugging just yet, “I see the Child has been missed.”
Jack huffed a gentle laugh, clapping him on the shoulder and setting them forward.
“Not just Beth, but yeah, you have been”, Jack’s smile widened at the rose tint to Sherlock’s pale cheeks (which was obviously due to the heat that often came with being surrounded by human bodies), “it’s good to have you back.”
Sherlock allowed the beginnings of a smile, stopping right next to the kneeling pair and interrupting their ‘cuddling session’ or whatever this was.
“Do try not to suffocate each other”, he said in a not too convincing irritation.
“Oh, leave me be, I’m loving my niece”, Gina snarked back, their traditional banter back at play effortlessly. The woman stood, carrying Beth with her and huffing at the added weight of the girl as she walked to her boyfriend and allowed him to carry his niece. Gina smiled widely and wove her arms around Sherlock’s shoulders before he could react, “how are you?”
“I’m fine”, he murmured at her back, letting go and putting the suitcase between them, “make sure to remind me never to get on a plane with a small child again.”
Amused, Gina raised a single eyebrow, “that bad?”
“It was much easier when she slept all day and couldn’t speak”, he only half-joked, sharing a smirk with the unexpected addition to his family as he did.
“Are we staying with you?”, Beth called out from her uncle’s hold, ending the conversation about the struggles of flying with children.
“No, sweets, we’re just driving you to your new house today. But we’ll drop by to help you unpack tomorrow”, Gina told the girl, regret tinting her words and face. Jack pursed his lips, sharing a pout with the young child.
The information came as a surprise to him too, having assumed that the couple would join him and the Child for dinner, or at the very least an hour.
“You’re not staying?”
Jack met his gaze, shaking his head with a grimace that let him know they were genuinely upset about their inability to join them
“Can’t, we both have work right after we drop you off, but we’ll invade tomorrow, don’t worry”, he ended with a cheeky smile that was quick to cheer Beth up, if her giggle was any indication.
Sherlock rolled his eyes, huffing and biting back a curl to the lips, “if anything, I’m grateful for the modicum of peace”
Gina snorted, slipping her arm through his and guiding them out of the airport, “come on, let’s get you two home.”
They arrived at a busy street in Central London, not too far from where Marcus’ pub was. The buildings around the area appeared to be closer to apartment buildings closer to the cheap side than restaurants and stores, unlike his previous home address in the city. Gina parked the car outside a tall white building with green window sills for every apartment; Sherlock recognized it from the photographs his brother had sent him while they discussed possible renting spaces.
“Alright, we’ll see you both tomorrow, be safe, don’t forget to eat and go to sleep early. Flying is always tiering”, Gina turned around the seat, pointing a finger at him as she spoke.
“Yes, mum”, Sherlock muttered back, undoing both his and Bethany’s seatbelts.
“Get out of my car”, she chuckled and turned to smile at the girl, “bye sweets.”
“Bye Aunt Gina, bye Uncle Jack”, the Child waved as she got out of the car and into the pavement, where Sherlock had just finished pulling out their bags from the trunk.
“Bye Beth”, Jack called out, leaning out the window and smiling at the other man, “see you in a bit, Sherlock.”
He nodded at the couple and stood by his child as they waved them goodbye, quick to hold her hand before she decided to dart off and away. He adjusted the bags and smiled down at the young child, who was jittering where she stood, turning in every direction and watching all the people that walked past them.
“Ready to see our new home?”
“Ok”, she sighed, looking more than a bi overwhelmed.
With the girl’s anxiousness in mind, Sherlock was quick to drive them into the building, leaving the bussy street behind them. Once inside, he started towards the stairs at the end of the room, already lamenting the need to carry the suitcase up four flights of stairs when Beth gasped and pulled on his hand. And Sherlock, who had already been having a frustrating day, could not hold back a groan. Not that he tried.
“Of course you’re here.”
“Always a pleasure, brother mine”, a far too smug Mycroft crossed the hall, meeting them at the foot of the stairs and extending a hand to the child, which she was quick to hold, much to her father’s displeasure, “hello, Young Bethany, how was your flight?”
“Boring”, she shrugged, “lots of people and nothing to do.”
He allowed a grin to fully bloom now, taking great pleasure from the simultaneously shocked and resigned fall of his brother’s eyebrows. Mycroft sighed, minutely shaking his head and sending an unimpressed glance the younger man’s way.
“You’ve been with your father for far too long”, at the pair of identical smiles he received in response, his brother strode up the stairs, leaving Sherlock behind to struggle with the bags and suitcase alone. “Nevermind, come along now.”
Muttering and muffling curses, Sherlock took up the rear of their small party, glaring at the smugness coming off of the older man as he watched Sherlock scramble when one of the bags decided to fly out of his back by passing over his head when he bent over to lift the suitcase. At the very least he had his child’s loyalty, which she proved when she all but forced Mycroft to take one of the bags once they reached the second floor. His brother obliged when the girl informed him that she would be ‘very cross’ with him if he didn’t. Sherlock made no effort to hide his amusement.
Finally, once on the fourth floor, the three Holmes’ walked to the end of the hall where a wooden door was waiting for them. Mycroft unlocked it and pushed it open for Beth to go through, stepping aside once Sherlock caught up with the other pair. The suitcase had caught on the carpet and caused him to trip a few doors back. The carpet was perfectly smooth, but that didn’t change anything.
Once inside the small apartment he would now be renting, Sherlock set everything down on the corner, decided to leave most of the unpacking for tomorrow, when both Jack and Gina would be there to, at the very least, keep the Child occupied. In the center of the sitting room, Beth stood with her arms curled around her torso, eyes wide and mouth agape. The white walls and green details fitting those of the overall building made an interesting contrast with their mostly brown furniture, which had been shipped from Miami a week before. He had to admit, even if only to himself, it was much better than the previous homes he had had ever since becoming a parent.
“I believe you’ll come to find the presence of two decently sized bedrooms a novelty”, his brother drawled from the now closed door, causing Beth’s eyes to widen even more and a big smile to break out on her face.
Both father and daughter walked the apartment’s length, peeking into the bedrooms across one another which were, as Mycroft had said, of a decent size and already set up with their possessions. Bethany’s was painted in a light shade of pink; she was obviously delighted about the whole thing. Though Sherlock knew getting her adjusted to sleeping without him was not going to be easy, no matter how much she liked her room at the moment. He also knew it would be an experience to have a bed for himself again after four and a half years of sharing it with a smaller person. It was definitely a step up from Marcus’ minute bedroom and the one in Miami.
The pair walked back to the sitting room, from where Mycroft had been watching them and was now tall with pride at their transparent reactions to the whole thing. Not liking such high levels of delight from his brother, but also unwilling to do anything about it, he turned to Beth instead.
“What do you think?”
“It’s very big, I like it”, she bounced happily, running over to the couch and jumping on it with a giggle.
It was an excellent reaction, considering how unsettled she had been minutes earlier. And yet, Sherlock could feel a tear in his chest at the words. It was a fine enough place, affordable and enough for a young man and a small child. It was also certainly not big. Sherlock knew that, Mycroft knew that, but Beth didn’t. This was the best home she had ever known, that he had ever been able to provide. Shame rose up his neck, hot and angry at his inability to give his child anything beyond ‘decent.’
Noticing his insecurity, which would later displease him immensely, his brother crept up to him, keeping his voice low and as near to reassuring as he knew how, “all in it’s due time, Sherlock.”
Still upset, but unwilling to delve on it in present company, he raised his hand and asked for the keys.
Later that day, when the sun was setting and the Child had gone to bed, he dared to go into his things and dig out his violin. The notebook with the composition he had been working on was set on the coffee table as he opened the black case and held the instrument in his hands for the first time in years. Stepping away from it had been difficult at the best of times, but very few things compared to the outermost misery and frustration that the panic attacks incited by his playing had caused him. Having this one thing he had been forced to deal with slowly when every other aspect of his life required him to rush and jump through hoops had also been most unusual. Hopefully, he would be able to stop slowing down now.
With shaky breaths, he added rosin onto his bow, tuned the violin strings, opened the notebook on the first page of the composition and raised the wooden instrument to his neck. The first draw on the strings was both a foreign and first language, home and unknown, safe and terrifying. He’d grown so unused to it now, to the music he had once used as yet another form of speech in which he was more fluent than any other. As he played through a few scales, he found himself forcing his lungs to accept the oxygen going in through his nose, forcing his hands to hold steady and his heartbeat to slow. Pinpricks of anxiety raised on his spine, his arms, clogged his throat. But he ignored them; Sherlock had been crawling long enough, he needed to find his voice now. This was the only way he knew how to have one, after all. Isabel had understood that, had sat down and closed her eyes as he played into the night, content to just listen and always with a glint to her eyes as if she understood the words he had transformed into notes. As if she had heard him more than the piece itself.
Slowly, and carefully, lying in wait in case of a threat, the anxiety sat back. His bow moved over the strings more confidently, rehearsed music melting into the written notes of his daughter’s life, of her mother’s touch, of his own dragged steps which were gradually turning into a run. Sherlock closed his eyes, allowing the music to float and lead him to his Palace. He had something to do tonight, it would take hours, perhaps all night. But he needed to do it, and it needed to be now.
Behind his closed eyelids, Sherlock stood in the lobby of his Mind Palace, the wooden walls high and stable around him. Letting the notes be his companions for the task, he willed his feet to move down the halls, to a red door with the lock broken in half. There was a leak that needed dealing with. Dropping the lock to the floor, and watching it dissolve to ashes by his shoes, Sherlock opened the door, forcing his gaze to what stood inside.
Sabel met his gaze, blank faced, her bright pink hair up in a bun the same way it had been the night they made Bethany. Or so they had later theorized. It was both painful and unnerving to see his mind decided to immortalize her in it.
“Hello Sherlock”, she spoke, a twinkle to her eyes, “it’s been a long time since you came to see me.”
Willingly? Yes. Since she had forced her presence upon him? Not nearly as much. Though he had learned from experience never to argue with Isabel, she never let him win, even when he was right.
“I’ve had no reason to”, Sherlock shrugged, wincing at how ragged his voice was.
“You’re not here to say hi, are you? There’s something else in your mind. But then, there always is”, her head was tilted to the side, the smile still sweet and her eyes still amused. She had always been the epitome of befuddled acceptance when it came to him. When she wasn’t whacking him with pillows for his perceived idiocy, that was. She had done both surprisingly often, near the end. But to be fair, he’d always deserved it when she yelled at him. Usually when his hands shook with chemical bliss.
“I’m here to live my life again, surely you wouldn’t oppose that”, he told her, not pleased at how close to pleading his tone had been.
“I’m sure the real me wouldn’t, but it’s not her you’re trying to convince right now, is she?”
She stepped closer to him, cheeky notes flying in the air between them, in beat with her steps. The smile was still sweet, but the amusement had gone, replaced by a fiery conviction that had mostly come out with the help of tequila or sexist lecturers. Until impregnation had become apparent and given her something else to be fierce about. He had always enjoyed that conviction; it had tasted so much like his own, and ended in bumbling fools unable to deny it or her for too long. It had made him laugh at the time.
“I do miss you, you know? Even now”, Sherlock found himself saying without meaning to do so. Though he supposed there was no harm to admitting it here, in the privacy of his mind, where the only one that could hear him was a dead girl with a smile.
“I know, it’s ok, I would miss me too”, she teased, chuckling at her own joke and brightening when he couldn’t help but do the same. Her hand flew to his face, grazing his cheekbone in a ghostly touch, “go ahead, do what you must. I don’t come first.”
He flinched away from her, all of him aching, his hands shaking as a false note was drawn from the violin. He’d dreamt about those words for months after she died, dreamt about her sweating form demanding and ordering doctors and nurses around when things started to go wrong. I don’t come first. He hadn’t know whether to argue or not, and then it had been too late. A decision had been made and, indeed, Isabel hadn’t come first. A pink, wrinkled, crying being he hadn’t dared to look at had. And it was a horrible thing, but he was grateful for it now. Even if he had curled up in a close and cried at the time.
“I’m sorry”, Sherlock told her shoes, unable to see her or the gentle smile he knew was there. A forgiving one because she always forgave him, even when they both knew she shouldn’t have. Even when he told her to fuck off as he retched into the toilet and sneered at anything and everything. After, he would apologize and she would tell him it was fine, that she could and had been like that with him too. As if that made it right. As if that made it fair.
They had been better, in the end. Having shared more milkshakes than cocaine had probably been part of that improvement.
Isabel proved him right soon, the notes evening into a simple but calm melody as she held his face between her hands, sorrow and care at war in her features. His eyes stung as they met hers, and he hated it.
“It was my choice as much as it was yours. Always”, she shushed him, stopping him from saying anything further by taking his hand and interlocking their fingers, “come on”, she pulled him out of the room, showing how much a figment of his own mind she really was by leading him down several flights of stairs, to the basement of the Mind Palace, where all that was old and forbidden but never to be deleted now resided. She stopped by an unused door, pushed it open with her foot and extended her free arm wide, encompassing the empty space with it as if showing him a stage, “this will do nicely, don’t you think?”
“Perfect”, he answered. It was perfect, just as he knew it would be. He led her to the center of the room, letting her hand go and standing before her with a knot on his throat. She looked so much younger than he’d remembered her being, so much younger than he now did. A child, a child with a child, just as he was. “Goodbye, Sabel.”
“Bye, Sherlock. Remember I don’t love you”, she told him with a smirk.
He knew what he was supposed to say, what he used to say. He also knew he couldn’t do it now, not if he intended to go through with this. Which he did, it was necessary. A new beginning, in a new life, without her.
“I know”, he whispered, going to stand by the door and leaving her where she was, her young eyes still trained on him.
Parallel columns rose from the floor and to the ceiling, their twirls and lines in style with Ancient Greece in their Ionic details, each holding red curtains tied with a golden rope that would fall loose over the room, separating what was inside from the rest of his subconscious when he was ready to tug the golden fiber. A tree covered in Christmas lights grew on the left corner, casting a soft glow over the white room. A pink rose, a strawberry, a line of cocaine, a pregnancy test. Each object drew a line from the tree to Sabel’s still form. Metal plaques beneath each, detailing their story in this mental museum. On Sabel’s right was a train seat, a broken vase, a hospital bed turned to the opposite wall so he didn’t have to see the blood he knew was on it. The past, pain and loneliness, loss and addiction, sex and laughter. He placed all of it around the room, keeping the girl he had outlived at the center of it all. Every detail with its own plaque, a nod of recognition to the weight they had once held and could not be permitted to keep. Not if he was starting over, on his own two feet, in London’s streets.
Once the room had been filled, he stepped in front of Sabel, his breath shallow as the notes increased their intensity, swirling around them fast and chaotic. Just as they had been. Sherlock planned it to the second, raising his hand as a pane of glass erected from the marble floor. He drew his hand nearer, watching as Sabel raised her own to meet his only for the glass to interrupt them, coming between them in the nick of time. As the window reached the ceiling, Sherlock let out the breath he had been holding, keeping his fingertips pressed against the cool surface as if it were Isabel’s own hand for exactly five seconds before letting go.
Isabel stood behind the glass, a sad smile on her face the likes she had given him many times in life, and now continued to grant in death. For his part, Sherlock stepped back, watching his past and all involved sentiment for one last time before doing as a museum keeper would to an exhibit that was no longer fit to be visited, that had grown brittle and obsolete with age, and setting the curtains loose, shrouding Sabel’s ghost in darkness, never to be seen again.
When he emerged, his heart was much lighter, no longer held down with feelings and useless sentimentality. Only weighted by the never ending access of irrationality and warmth that belonged to another Isabel, this one with a different set of eyes. After setting down the violin and bow in their case, Sherlock welcomed the new day freely, opening one of the two windows in their new home and breathing in the scent of London.
He was back.
Ah! This took forever, but here it is! At 4 AM but it is!! Thank the Gods.
And... another part down! With this chapter we conclude 'It's Gonna Take A Bit Of Work' and go onto the next installment of this series, back in London, where we belong. Let me know what you thought of the chapter, of the snippet of Isabel that we got in there (which wasn't planned, but she wanted it to happen and who am I to deny her?), and what you're most excited for in future parts. On that note, we only have 3 parts left! How did that happen? And yes, a particular army doctor is closer than ever before. As for the lethal injection scene, hope that wasn't too upsetting, and yes, it took a bit of research and youtubeing that was pretty interesting but not very pleasant for the mental imagery.
As usual, there will be about 10 days before the next part begins, which I find very exciting :) and the next installment of my Holmes Brothers series was uploaded a few days ago, if someone hasn't checked it out and feels up to it.
Finally, for that reader that held high expectations for my portrayal of Mrs. H, I hope you were satisfied, I really tried and honour such an iconic lady.
And that's all! See you guys in the next update, don't forget to stay hydrated. Imma go to bed!