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Where You Need To Be

Chapter Text

The day had started out as many did around 221b Baker Street. John had awoken early and made his way to the kitchen for a light breakfast. Once finished his toast and tea he went over to his favourite window to see if there was much happening out in the street. His light hair and oatmeal knit jumper lit up in the early morning sun as he stood silently, watching a few people run for buses and taxis whilst clutching tan takeaway cups. The weather looked decent and more importantly there were no nondescript black cars waiting for him by the side of the road. He smiled and sat back at the table ready to finish off his newspaper in peace.

Surprisingly though, the flat had been fairly quiet for the last few days. It had been around a week since they'd had a case from either Lestrade or Mycroft. Every couple of days John had worked down at the clinic and it was up to him to go out and get the groceries and anything else they had needed, he was the only one that seemed to be going through any of the food lately.

For the first few days Sherlock had run with his 'Bored' act. John had previously made sure to get a locked box for his army issue handgun. It didn't stop Sherlock getting to it if he really wanted to but sometimes out-of-sight out-of-mind helped. They didn't need any more holes in the wall.

After a few days of experiments, whining, insults and sulking, Sherlock had now spent the last couple of days in bed. On the first day of this John thought that the man might have actually gone out of the house and he just hadn't heard him. But once it got to 5pm though it was clear he hadn't left, so he knocked on his flatmates door with concern.

"Uh, Sherlock? You in?" he called out clearly, using a softer tone in case he was ill.

There was a pause followed by a darkly drawn out "Obviously". John rolled his eyes before "Come on in if you must" was added. He took that as an invitation.

As the doctor entered he realised how stale the room smelt. The curtains were pulled tightly shut so that most light was blocked, a little spilt out around the top and bottom which lit his way as he slowly moved over to the left of the bed. The consulting detective was lying on top of his covers staring at the ceiling in the same grey pyjamas he'd been in for the last six days.

"Do you feel sick?" John queried. It tugged at his chest to see his friend in this way.

"…no" he sighed, as though it took him all the effort in the world to answer.

"Are you going to come and watch some crap telly with me?"

"…no" he repeated in the same way again.

'Right' he thought. "I'm going to make beans on toast for tea, want some?"

The brunet didn't even bother replying this time, just rolled his head to the side to fix John with a heavy lidded stare. His usually bright eyes seemed uncharacteristically dull, the familiar light down a number of watts. John didn't need his years of medical practice to know a depressive episode when he saw it. He gave a tight, sympathetic grimace.

"Ok, fine. Can I do anything for you?" he offered, kindly.

"Go and kill a few people. Make it a puzzle"

John smirked at the ground near his own feet, times like this he wished he had his walking stick to play around with for something to do with his hands and feet. "I don't think that's going to be possible". His patience at such antisocial comments was wearing extremely thin.

"You've killed before"

The ex-army man's eyes flicked up dangerously. "Sherlock" he snapped. The detective had no idea about appropriate.

A heavy arm rose up and then fell down solidly, waving the idea away. "Oh, alright. Don't then". He gazed over at this bedside table where his phone sat, idle. "No word from Lestrade. I bet he's sitting there at his desk laughing at me". At this he slowly puffed up his pillow, movement seemed to be taking too much effort. "I think I'm going to rest again. You can let yourself out".

That was two days ago. Since then Sherlock had spent some small amounts of time out on the couch, walking around and catching up on the newspapers. He'd even had a little toast and jam at John's insistence. The night before he didn't go to bed, just stayed in the main room. John didn't know if he'd slept or not, just that the violin had remained untouched for a week. Not sleeping in his room meant that things were returning back to normal though, it seemed.

Back to the current day, while John was still reading the newspaper when Sherlock came out and said he was feeling quite a bit better but he wasn't going to go out. John felt he looked fresher, more upbeat. That spark was coming back and he was making small observations about things the doctor had moved around while it had just been him using most of the flat. He also made a few deductions about what had happened while he'd been 'away'. All of that said a great step towards recovery to the doctor.

Mid-afternoon John realised that they were out of milk again and went to tell Sherlock he was heading out to the shops. His flatmate, now feeling quite a bit perkier, made a whole list of demands for items that he wanted. Bi-carb soda, a handheld mixer and ammonia were top priority. John was happy that he was feeling better but was annoyed that he was once again running around doing everything on behalf of the two of them. It was going to be a lot to carry back in the taxi by himself at this rate.

Once he returned he walked up the stairs, struggling with the number of bags he was carrying. As he neared the top he watched as his roommate swept past making a small attempt at tying up his blue silk dressing gown over his pyjamas. One of the bags slipped as it began to tear.

"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks! Don't mind me!" he snapped bitterly as Sherlock sped through the door into the main room without a second glance. Seeing red, John kept going as he walked through the kitchen door and placed the bags on the table. "No, no. You're right. I went out and bought them, I used my money, then I'll end up doing the cooking, therefore I shouldn't get any help carrying this! Silly me! I-".

He stopped short once he entered the living room and realised Mycroft was leaning importantly on the mantle piece, umbrella hanging on this forearm as he held a silver pocket watch open in his hand. He was in a bespoke, grey three piece suit. Both brothers were staring at him as the silence stretched.

"Uh…sorry, I didn't realise we had company. Mycroft…hi"

"Hello, Doctor Watson" he beamed, it didn't reach his eyes. "Back from some grocery shopping, I see?" he enquired politely.

Sherlock made a noise almost like a growl as he pulled his blue gown around him moodily and sloppily sat on the back of their long couch, feet on the seats. "Oh, get on with it, Mycroft" he snapped as he rubbed at his hair and face, leaving his dark curls sitting at different angles. He hadn't washed in a week and his hair was stringy and thick with grease.

A small smirk pulled up the right side of the elder Holmes' lip. He gave John eye contact as he closed his watch with a click, placed it carefully in his pocket and turned to face his brother, now leaning on his umbrella with both hands neatly in front of him. "Certainly, I-"

"-you said you had news. I was in bed you know. Is it a case?" he asked, not quite able to keep the longing from his voice.

"No. No it isn't". Sherlock's body slouched a little but he continued to listen. "No, I've had a call from Aunt Erica-" the younger man scoffed but was cut off "-Stephen's dead, Sherlock. Happened Tuesday. Heart gave out, it seems. Awfully sorry".

John watched as Sherlock straightened and went completely silent, he had an odd blank look on his face. He saw Mycroft out of the corner of his eye and looked over to him.

"Stephen was our uncle" he explained kindly. "Unmarried, in his 70's, a bachelor who never quite learned how to look after himself properly". He watched Sherlock as John kept his eyes on Mycroft. "He and my brother got on famously when we were children. The other adults never really approved of him. Moved to Greece when I was fourteen, Sherlock seven, haven't seen him since".

John didn't know quite what to say. He didn't know how this news would affect his already unstable friend. "Oh. I'm…I'm sorry to hear that, I-". He turned to look at his roommate but only saw the tail end of his dressing gown as it slipped out the door. The doctor stepped forward to follow him but the other Holmes moved forward and placed his umbrella over his chest lightly. He halted immediately.

"Give him a minute" he instructed knowingly with a nod.

"But-"

"-he's fine". At this he gracefully lowered himself into Sherlock's leather chair. "In fact, he'll be back here in a minute or two. Perhaps put the milk, butter and chocolate ice cream in the fridge while we're waiting? Wouldn't want it to spoil"

John looked over and noticed that you couldn't see these items in the bags and at the angle they were at you wouldn't have been able to at any point. The older Holmes just gave him a knowing twist of his lips. John sighed and moved into the kitchen, he just didn't know how those two did it.

Once he returned Mycroft continued. "Stephen was the only family member dear Sherlock took a liking to". He seemed bitter at this, perhaps it stung a little. "Apart from Mummy, of course. As a child they would talk at our family events. Our mother tried to keep him away from us as much as possible understandably, he wasn't the best role model. He lived alone, was an alcoholic and prone to bouts of mental…unrest. He was so unlike our father, they were brothers, you see. Would think nothing of staying in bed until" he looked at his watch again "after 3pm". John realised what he was suggesting as Sherlock swept back into the room, still in his bed clothes as he was before. He sat quickly at the couch with his laptop on the coffee table. John noticed that he looked as he normally did when posed with a puzzle. For once he had thought that the great Sherlock Holmes had shown some emotion, it seems he was merely retrieving his laptop.

"There's no obituary in any of the papers" he stated, indifferently.

"Yes, no one put one in. There will be a funeral notice. Which, coincidently, is why I'm here". He took a pause. "It's in two days time near the manor, it's already organised that we're staying with Father. The service starts at 1pm, a car will pick you up at 10am on the day, please to try to be presentable by then".

The younger Holmes gave no indication that he'd heard. His eyes shot up. "How do you know it was his heart? Autopsy already conducted? Was he living alone? How long until someone found him?" he then spoke to himself "Was he found? Yes, he was found, he didn't call for an ambulance, people were there"

"This is no murder investigation, Sherlock" Mycroft assured gently in his usual patronising tone "simply me informing you of the time and location of the service. He would have wanted you to be there"

"But it all depends on whether he was found at his home"

"He was in hospital at the time"

"He was already there? Good. Is that good? Why is it good?"

"He has been in hospice care for the last few years" Mycroft explained, calmly. "The stroke five years ago made sure of that"

The consulting detective's face crumpled in confused. "Stroke? What stroke? I wasn't told about a stroke". His gaze flicked across to John as though he may have the answer. The doctor just shrugged his shoulders.

Mycroft looked down at his lap and played with the chain on his vest pocket trying to find the right words. "Think back to where you were at five years ago and that may go some way to explaining why you weren't told".

Crash. The coffee table was kicked, it skidded across the floorboards into the maroon patterned rug. John rushed forward and was able to half catch the computer after only one corner of it hit the ground. There was a small scratch but it still seemed to be working. He placed in on their shared table they often used as a desk, wondering why Sherlock had lashed out so suddenly with no thought to the wellbeing of his prized information provider.

"You knew?" he accused, the doctor had never heard him sound so personally offended by something.

"Of course I did" the elder Holmes spoke more loudly "but not straight away. Really, you know how he looked after himself. Could never cook anything more complicated than tinned soup and microwave meals, drank like a fish, smoked like a chimney. It is an amazement to us all that he survived to the age he did". The younger man tried to interrupt again, this time Mycroft's voice sounded final. "An old, ill man's heart stopped beating, Sherlock, due to his age and lifestyle. It is no mystery. I'll see you at the funeral"

"I'm not going" the younger one snapped childishly.

Only now did Mycroft let his frustration show. "Now, really-"

"-no! The rest of the family will be there. I don't want to see them, they'll just…ask me questions, look at me". He shuddered a little at that.

Mycroft stood near the door and made sure he had everything with him. "Father will be there, they all will. Do try to change out of your night clothes before then. I'd say a bath would do you good too. Isn't that right, John?"

John thought it was right to ask a few questions but he didn't appreciate being used like this to gang up on his colleague. "How long will Sherlock be away for?"

"Oh, just the one night. You'll have to move your Friday shift"

"Sorry?"

"We'll only be overnight but you may want to move your shift, it's a bit of a drive back to London and you don't want to be worrying about missing your locum work"

"I'm going too?" he seemed to realise something wasn't right. "Hang on, you know when my shifts are? They change, how do you-"

"-of course you're going" Sherlock muttered in frustration looking angrily at the bull skull with headphones on the wall.

"But how do you know my-"

"-that's the spirit!" Mycroft encouraged to his brother with his fake glee, not adding any comment about his knowledge of John's work hours. "Stephen would have wanted you there"

"Don't" the consulting detective replied, sharply.

"I'll see you there, John" the elder Holmes bid in farewell and turned down towards the stairs with a twirl of his umbrella.

"Yep…bye" the blond replied quietly, still wondering if he had mentioned his Friday shift to anyone yet. But come to think of it he'd only accepted it on the way to the supermarket earlier. There was no way, odd.

"Idiot" the consulting detective hissed once they heard the front door close. He slid around and lay on his back on the couch, arms folded tightly across his chest.

"Are you ok?". John could see this turning bad quickly.

"Yes, why wouldn't I be?"

"Well, you just found out one of your loved ones has passed away"

"He was a family member, John"

"That's a loved one"

"Is it?" he questioned pulling his silk dressing gown tighter around him. "I hope Lestrade calls with some work soon, some real work. It's been seven and half days since we had anything from him. I've done all the experiments I want to for now".

John went and looked out the window, trying to plan out his changed week. "I'm going to have to call Sarah, let her know I'm away for those two days" he said out loud, more to himself.

"Do whatever you want"

His head snapped over to the couch. "I don't think this is one of those times where I do what I want"

Sherlock grumbled then turned to face the wall, frowning like an insolent child.

"Right. Well I'll take that as a thank you then". Silence. "You're welcome" he added loudly as he went to put the rest of the groceries away. Oh well, you couldn't call this week boring now.

Chapter Text

The next morning Lestrade called Sherlock into his office and they went over a fairly simple case. The consulting detective had it solved in under an hour and was then begging for more work which they just didn't have to give him. In frustration he started loudly deducing some personal facts about the Detective Inspector in front of Donavan and a few others until Lestrade threatened to have him arrested for wasting police time.

They thought that they had finally rid of him until they had a tip off an hour later from downstairs. At this the team wandered down and had to remove the consulting detective from their canteen as he'd been deducing facts about officer's work and personal lives on their lunch breaks.

"You don't have to go home, Sherlock" Greg pleaded as people from other departments stood around and watched on in fascination "but if you stay here I will find something to arrest you for".

"Spoilsport" the tall brunet drawled, as he stood and adjusted his scarf theatrically. He looked to be pouting but a part of him loved the audience. Maybe then they'd see that Lestrade was wrong for keeping him away for a week.

After this he travelled to Bart's to see if they had anything of interest come in. Molly was writing up some notes on her laptop and leant over to look more closely at her handwritten scribbles.

"Anything interesting?" she was questioned out of nowhere. After jumping about a foot in the air and making a small squealing noise, she shot around holding her heart.

"Oh, Sherlock, it's you!". She brushed her long side ponytail whilst rubbing her lips together to spread her gloss and adjusted her skirt to a more flattering position in a matter of seconds.

The consulting detective noted all this body language in the file named 'Molly Hooper- Bart's' in his mind's filing system. "Were you expecting someone else?"

"I wasn't expecting anyone! It's just been me and Mr. Black on the slate over there all day. I'm fine with the bodies but sometimes it can be a bit creepy by yourself. I just didn't expect you that's all. You frightened me"

"Hrm" Sherlock muttered, disinterested. "Maybe next time have a coronary so there is something interesting to do here"

"Umm, ok?" she giggled nervously, not quite getting what he was suggesting.

"Sooo, Mr. Black?" he began, looking through the office window to the corpse.

"Blood infection. Autopsy already conducted. Reason for death identified. I'm about to organise him to be moved" she smiled, satisfied with her work.

"How dull" Sherlock tutted, turning. "Although I did have a look before I came in here. You'll find the blood infection was caused by an infected toenail on the left foot. Diabetic. The repeated prick marks in the skin on the fingers shows as much"

Molly's brow creased. "But the sores on the right leg are bigger, deeper. These were apparently causing him great pain before he passed"

"But not the cause, merely another symptom of the mismanaged diabetes. His wife wasn't injecting him properly, not purposely of course, she didn't mean for this to kill him. In fact she doesn't know that she was a contributing factor. It's just with her own age and illness she couldn't manage the care of him herself but he steadfast refused to move into a home. Their two, scratch that, three adult children live overseas and haven't been able to see them for a while, they didn't know what stage their health had deteriorated to. He caused this himself"

Molly didn't know what to say to that. "I'll, make a note then. I can take another look at the foot. Ah, thanks. So what brings you here?"

He sighed. "Half the criminal classes seem to be having a break. The other half are conducting crimes so simple even the useless police can figure out 'who done it'. Don't they think of anyone but themselves?"

Molly giggled nervously again. "What, they should instead think of keeping you occupied and happy?". Sherlock inclined his head as if questioning the issue with that assumption. "Where's that doctor friend of yours?" she queried, changing the subject.

"Working" he dismissed. "Then I'm sure buying new clothes for tomorrow, I doubt he has anything suitable unless they are making beige knit blazers these days"

She perked up but appeared hesitant. "Are you going out tomorrow? If, I mean, if you're going to be out and about I'm having drinks for my birthday, it's my birthday this Sunday, and if you want, if you'd like to, you and your friend can come and have a drink with my friends and I"

"Why would I do that?". The woman open and shut her mouth like a fish. "John and I are attending a funeral a couple of hours drive away"

"Oh, ok. That's fine. I was going to ask you earlier but I didn't get around to it, I didn't think, I thought that..."

He let her trail off before he spoke. "I'd watch your drink, there have been a lot of spiking happening lately at Blue Ruby"

"Oh, thanks, ok. Yeah we-" she stopped and twisted her head "how did you know we were going there?"

"Several reasons" he began, methodically. "Firstly, you mentioned the place around six months ago and expressed a like for their Pomegranate Sour cocktails whilst you were displaying the hallmark signs of an overindulgence of alcohol the night before. Secondly, according to the A-frame sign on the footpath that I walked past earlier, they are having half price drinks tomorrow night. Putting that against the age of yourself and friends, your wages wouldn't be too high at your age, with their prices of 8-12 pounds per drink you'd want to get your money's worth. I could go on but the fact there is a sign on the notice board above your head reminding people of the time and place of the occasion, I think that more than covers it".

Most of that conveniently went in one ear and out the other. "You remembered that I said I liked, that I liked the place?"

"Well I could hardly forget the stench of your breath and skin as the alcohol left your system the next day". He turned and exited while he loudly called out "Well enjoy your birthday then, you'd do well to remember the signs we spoke about. Look at the eyebrows, underwear and so on. You had a little trouble last time. Bye!".

Molly sat there without moving, trying to make sense of the seeming cyclone that had passed through the room. She slowly got back to work craving those cocktails a little more than she had ten minutes earlier. He often had that effect on her.

 

 

 

After Bart's, Sherlock went for a walk and spent a bit of time strengthening his network of the homeless. By the time he got back to Baker Street John had returned home and was looking very stressed.

"Sherlock!" he called and pointed at their couch which had a number of clothes laid out. "Help. I haven't had to wear anything formal for a while and apparently now I don't have to run around carrying heavy packs in Afghanistan my muscles aren't as big. I have nothing to wear"

"A suit is traditional"

"My one black suit doesn't fit anymore and I'm not wearing my army formals. That brown jacket there might work for visiting your brother's office when I have to but it isn't going to work for this"

Sherlock hung up his coat and took a moment to slip off his gloves and scarf. "Go and buy some trousers off the rack, you most likely won't have time to get them fitted". John seemed quite panicked at the idea of having nothing to wear, Sherlock noted that it seemed to be more of an issue than it should be.

"Will that be good enough? I get the feeling that they're all going to be dressed as well as Mycroft".

Ah, that explained it. The detective walked over to the window then turned around. "Well we've got that pocket umbrella you picked up for a fiver at Tesco's"

"Not funny"

"You could borrow a monocle?"

"Still not funny"

Sherlock looked up at him from under his brow and spoke calmly, John was obviously taking this very seriously. "Head out to the shops before they close. Get a new shirt-"

"-what's wrong with-"

"-get a new plain white shirt, no checks, and some black trousers. But before you do that go to that shop near the market, he might have something of a shorter cut that he could sort out quickly".

John flushed a little. "But that would cost…". He trailed off as Sherlock pulled out his wallet and held out one of his cards.

"Just take it, you wouldn't be going if it wasn't for me. Don't worry about the cost. Go".

 

 

 

The next morning John was attempting to do up his navy tie in the mirror above the fireplace, he'd been at it for ten minutes. He was out of practice and while he could do the knot he realised that it wasn't just right. It had to be perfect, it was less about making a good impression on the family and friends attending but more about not standing out horribly as the worst dressed person there. The day wasn't about him and blending in supported that.

He'd been able to get a charcoal suit from the maker his flatmate had suggested. They did have a shorter cut available and for an extra hundred pounds he'd had it altered to be picked up at 8am that morning. In thanks he'd bought a couple of new dress shirts and ties. He'd spent the night before polishing an old pair of black shoes while Sherlock watched a documentary on embalming. Trying to get the knot right was difficult with his left hand shaking as it was. John swore and pulled the tie apart again when he felt hands on his shoulders spinning him around.

"Let me do it, the last two were fine. You're nervous, why?"

John noticed that Sherlock was wearing his plum shirt with a suit he hadn't seen before. It was a fashionably slim-cut black one that looked as though it would cost at least one to two months wages for most people. It had a thin, stovepipe leg which showed off his patent leather dress shoes. "They're all going to be impeccable".

"You're thinking of my dear brother. The rest won't be like that"

"You let me think that they would be last night!" he protested, indicating to what he was wearing "That's why I spent a whole heap of money on this, remember? I've never had such an expensive suit! Then I spent an hour and a half polishing my bloody shoes then getting the colour off my fingers for you"

Sherlock looked as though he found this display of frustration adorable. "Well I wanted you to look good. That way you'd feel more comfortable. People will be watching"

John shrugged off the way his friend was looking at him. "I thought you didn't care what people thought?"

"I don't. But why not make them jealous when you can?". Sherlock gave a little sarcastic grin then turned to face the door.

John looked down and saw that placed there was a perfect Windsor knot around his neck. He heard a voice and saw Mrs. Hudson putting plates down on the small amount of free space on their table. The kitchen table was currently unusable as it was covered in chemicals, dissected mice and who knew what else.

"Now I want you boys to remember that I'm not your housekeeper, but here is a little breakfast for you both. Knowing you, Sherlock, you wouldn't have bothered but you need your strength today. And you John wouldn't go near food in that new suit of yours if you weren't presented with it. You do look nice, dear. You should dress up more often"

"Thanks, I try. Eggs on toast?" John queried, walking a little closer.

"Oh, yes. Sherlock's favourite. I am so sorry to hear about your loss, dear" she admitted truthfully as she brought a hand up to the detective's cheek and rubbed it in a motherly way. He let her.

"Thank you, Mrs. Hudson" and he gave her a quick hug then sat at the table and started on the meal.

"Eggs. I'll remember that" John noted. "Any food that he eats straight away with such joy on his face is worth making again"

"Oh, you two are so cute". Their landlady commented with a wink and she was gone.

John frowned as he sat himself down at the table, feeling distinctly like he'd missed something.

 

 

 

Half an hour later they were in the back of the car that Mycroft had promised. John was impressed. There was a partition that separated them from the driver so they could talk freely. There were seats facing them with lots of free leg room in-between. This was the most expensive car he'd ever been in including the one with Anthea that time.

Sherlock was already on his phone looking at news sites to see if anything had come up. He had been in an alright mood so far but John could sense that that may change at any time. He'd been wondering about how his colleague was feeling about his uncle and seeing his family amongst other things. He didn't know so much about Sherlock's background, hopefully that may change after this trip.

"…hrm, body found in the Thames last night. Probable suicide. I should text Lestrade and see if he needs me to stay here if he's dealing with that one"

The familiar London streets passed by the window. The weather seemed nice today, no need for coats. "And what if he says he does? You can't exactly turn this thing around"

Sherlock looked forward with irritation. "Yes I can. I'm the world's only consulting detective. When I'm needed, I'm needed"

John's face lifted in surprise. "Are you still trying to get out of this?"

"I'm doing my job actually. Some of us can't just cancel shifts when the whim takes us" he snapped, pointedly.

"Hey, hey. I did that so I could support you while you attend the funeral of, and I quote, the 'only family member you took a liking to'. Apart from you mother".

Sherlock lowered his phone with a huff, rolling his eyes. "Over dramatic, umbrella carrying busy-body"

John looked sceptical. "How are you feeling about this? Aren't you upset? Do you want to talk about it?"

"Sociopath, John. Get Anderson to fill you in on the diagnosis sometime or I'm sure you have access to the DSM-IV"

The doctor didn't look amused. "I still don't buy that. Rude, disconnected, unwilling to conform to social standards such as personal space, yes, but I don't know about Sociopath"

"Is that your final diagnosis, Doctor?" he questioned with attitude, then focused on texting again.

A few minutes later John spoke up. "Aren't you going to talk to me about this before we get there?"

"We have over two hours until we do, can't it wait?"

"Fine" John huffed, and took out his phone to see what football games were going to be televised this weekend.

After around an hour and a half where the two of them hadn't really spoken, John was startled out of a nap by Sherlock's soft voice. He was staring out the window frowning a little.

"Mycroft was right. My uncle and I did get on really well. Mother's side of the family are quite well off and we used to have a lot of parties, dinners and things. My father would insist on having his brother and sister there but they never really fit in. My Aunt Sandy did her best to get on with others but she and her husband were obviously upper middle class suburbanites who didn't go on all the overseas holidays that the others would constantly go on about. Both my parent's friends would be there, most of them were wealthy. But then in contrast to everyone my uncle didn't conform to the stuffy, kissy-kissy attitude of the others and it stood out a mile. When you're a child you notice things, and obviously I was frightfully intelligent even then so it was such a nice novelty to see him upset the others by talking about 'not proper' dinner conversations, playing with his food to make us laugh. It was refreshing. I was seven the last time I saw him and for most of the time I didn't think of him. He was the only one that stood up to my parents on my behalf. It was him that convinced them that I was gifted and that it should be supported and developed rather than just handled by my school. I never got to thank him for that, but still as I aged I never went to find him. It was only after Mummy succumbed to her illness six years ago that I thought of him again and I was going to search for him until I got…distracted. I thought that perhaps what made him the way he was would give me an insight to how I am compared to most of my relatives. And now that door has been shut". He was worryingly calm but looked as though he needed to get something across. "I'm not upset that he's dead, John. I'm a little disquieted that I won't get the chance to deduce something more from him about myself and that chapter of my family. That's as close as I get to regretting his death. It's the closest I'll ever get".

John nodded, knowing his friend he understood what a great deal of trust he had put into him to tell him such a personal story. He knew that this was not the way the man operated but felt he wanted to reach out to the doctor. The blond nodded a second time, a warmth lighting up in his own chest in response to the kind gesture.

After a time they were almost at the church. John was ready to get out and stretch his legs and had spent the last half hour shuffling around as much as he could. But he was still compared to how agitated the consulting detective was. He had been undoing then redoing his cufflinks, tapping his fingers on the door, rolling his neck and shoulders and saying odd sentences such as 'I've often wondered how many goldfish can live safely in the one bowl' and 'Have you ever wondered what Anderson would look like with a beard?'. John wondered if they'd packed enough spare nicotine patches to last the next day and a half.

They were about two minutes away when Sherlock turned to John and rested his hand on the seat between them and leant across. When he spoke it was very fast. "My father is going to be here, John. I haven't seen him for a while, we've had a few phone conversations which have helped. We have a difficult relationship, it will be forced. I'm only here because I might be able to get that information about my family in relation to Stephen while I'm here. After this it will be as dead and buried as he will be in a few hours. There are other people that will be here too. I'm letting you know that there are many rumours that would have got back to them, most will be true. 'Substance abuse' will be one of their main issues, none of their business but people like to talk. They do nothing but talk. I haven't been to a funeral since my mothers and that was the strangest day I have ever had and will ever have". His brow furrowed, causing creases to sit at the top of his nose. He seemed to speak to himself. "I think I may be somewhat nervous".

John, gave a small smile and looked down at the seat between them. Trust Sherlock not to realise any of this until now. Anyone could have seen that he was worried about this. "Everything is going to be fine. You're doing the right thing in being here, even if you've convinced yourself it's for other reasons. I'll be right beside you". At this he gave the other man's hand a few quicks pats in encouragement.

The car stopped outside the church's front entrance. The engine was left running as the driver came around to open the doors for them.

The words were flying now as he tried to get it all out in the open before they were thrust out into the sea of people. "The last time I saw most of these people I yelled at them all with a mostly empty bottle of vodka in one hand and my violin in the other".

John's eyebrows raised. "Well that's, it's not too bad. If it was straight after your Mum's funeral it's understandable"

"I was balancing on the top of a balustrade three stories up, screaming obscenities and personal information about the guests below whilst only wearing white cotton briefs".

John's mouth fell open. Before he could reply Sherlock's door was opened and he had left John to his stunned face and thoughts.

Chapter Text

It took a moment for those words to sink in. "I was balancing on the top of a balustrade three stories up, screaming obscenities and personal information about the guests below whilst only wearing white cotton briefs".

Suddenly John found himself pulling back the handle and leaping out of the vehicle without waiting for the driver to let him out. The ex-army captain looked around with purpose, finding his flat mate should have been easier, he was used to watching for the long coat and dark curls in the thick London crowd. This time however there were more people his height, no coat and many mourners between them. After a moment however he saw Sherlock away from the doors on a grassed area near a garden in the opposite direction of the church.

"Hey, hey!" John called after him, either he was being ignored or the man couldn't hear him. He'd tented his fingers under his chin and was moving around in small circles obviously thinking. "You can't just drop that on me and run from the car!". He stopped for a second as his leg cramped, that will teach him for sitting in the car so long. "Ouch, damn it" he snapped, quietly, rubbing it in a hunch as he waited for the pain to stop.

"Tell you about his effort after Mummy's funeral, did he?". John turned to see the elder Holmes brother next to him. This man always seemed to appear out of nowhere at the right time, or the wrong time depending on your point of view. He was in a somber, black pinstripe number. He'd obviously left his umbrella in the car, John felt as though he looked naked without it despite the three piece suit and usual trimmings. It's amazing what you get used to.

"Mycroft. Hi". The doctor felt uncomfortable but as the leg began to feel better he kept walking over to his flatmate with this new intruder. "Yes, yes he did. As we were getting out of the car. Haven't processed it yet"

"I don't think I've processed it myself yet either" he lamented, with a pursing of his lips. "Although a three story drop might have knocked some sense into him. I've tried everything else"

Sherlock looked as though a bad smell sat under his nose. His hands were now by his sides. "A joke, Mycroft? At a funeral? I guess you had to make one in your lifetime"

John shook his head to dissipate the rising levels of sibling bickering swimming around it. He had to get this straight, his voice was filled with curiosity rather than judgement. "So he really was balancing on a balustrade, drunk, in his underwear yelling at a large group of people with his violin?"

The British Government got in first. "Yes, but his rendition of Mozart was the truly unforgivable moment of the evening"

"Two jokes! My we're on a roll, aren't we? What time did the brandy start this morning?" Sherlock turned his attention to John. "The brandy always comes out when staying at our childhood home, I don't think his hard drive deletion system is as efficient as mine, either that or he cares more than he would ever admit. I'd go with the latter"

Mycroft opened his mouth in a snarl but John got in first. "So how did you get him to come down? Off the staircase...balcony...thing?". At this the Holmes' brothers went silent and seemed to find opposite areas of the yard to stare into. The body language said a lot. "That bad, huh?"

"A story for another time, Doctor Watson. But don't think that's why people treat Sherlock like they do. That little performance was just confirmation of-".

"-that will do, Mycroft" the younger one instructed in a low, dangerous tone.

John searched Sherlock's face and was concerned when moments later he saw the eyes widen and the man begin to play with his cuffs whilst looking over John's shoulder.

"Ah, Father's here" the elder son announced. His voice was almost unreadable but John got the sense that he wasn't overly pleased at this. John turned around to see a largely built man in his late 60's with dark grey and white hair with matching beard. He noted the resemble to Mycroft immediately but had to look a lot further to see any to his flatmate. He wasn't horribly obese but he was thickset, shorter than Sherlock by about an inch and in a light grey suit.

As he approached his eyes were bright but John noted there wasn't much pride or love in the gaze, added to this his eldest son didn't seem emotional at the reunion at all, he was as unmoved as ever.

"Mycroft, so glad you could make it. Erica said you'd arrived by chopper at the estate this morning. I've been out with Sandy, we had a little walk in the garden and a talk about the will. Not that there's much there, I'm afraid, but it's all sorted" at this he clapped his older son on the shoulder.

He then looked at his younger child, John couldn't make out all the emotions that were on his face. "Sherlock. You're here" he stated simply.

"I am" he replied and accepted his father's extended hand, the shake was short and jerky. Working with Sherlock, John's deduction skills had increased dramatically but he believed it was more the body language he was reading here. Something wasn't right, even with Mycroft there was a real distance emotionally between them all. Whatever it is it wasn't a textbook case of happy families.

"I am glad" he admitted, his eyes hungrily drinking in his son's features. His gaze then fell on John. "Who is this?"

"This is Doctor John Watson, Father" Mycroft announced, cutting in. Sherlock rocked back on his heels in surprise, he watched with interest although keeping silent for now. "Army doctor, a captain posted in Afghanistan, back home now. Working with Sherlock, helping him with the rent too"

"He's my blogger" Sherlock stated with a huff but was ignored.

"Ah, Afghanistan, nasty business" Mr. Holmes noted with an understanding lift of his chin. He was reminded instantly of Mycroft.

"Yes" John replied, averting his gaze. The war was a lot of things and it felt somewhat like burying his head in the sand to call it 'nasty business'. He didn't know how to take it so he changed the subject. "I'm sorry to hear about your brother".

"Yes, thank you. We all knew it was coming-" Sherlock made a small cough into his fist and looked around, his father noticed this "-he hasn't been a well man for many years. Mentally unwell too, he liked a drink among other vices". He paused and gestured to them that they should start moving into the church. The two sons moved first, John could see the eldest Holmes man holding back to speak to him. "I'm glad Sherlock has someone to live with him, to be honest. My other son does his best but there is only so much he can do. He takes on too much".

John didn't know which one he meant about the busy schedule, maybe both. He felt uncomfortable, he looked up to see Sherlock staring at them with frustration, his hands on his hips, not able to hear what his father was saying. Mycroft gave up trying to council him about something and moved swiftly through the chapel entrance. John saw a group of older woman staring and obviously talking about Sherlock, his angry look wasn't doing him any favours. Eyeing the crowd as they moved to the entrance, John noticed that people seemed to know who Sherlock was.

Mycroft was two rows from the front already speaking with a man and two woman in the front row once they made their way inside. Sherlock obviously didn't want to go up that far so he stopped eyes wide, facing the back where everyone was coming in. Now that John was closer he saw that perhaps what he had seen as frustration at a distance may actually be some sort of anxiety. People were staring at him, one woman shook her head.

Sherlock's father gently pushed on his sons elbow and directed him towards the front pews, John was amazed that he took the direction and started to turn and move. He followed them.

Slowly they sat with Mycroft who was now silently facing the front with a look resembling sadness, John's eyes drifted ahead and he saw why, there was the coffin directly in front of them. It was a closed casket but there was a photo in a frame there. The man resembled a larger, dishevelled Mycroft but with the wrong coloured eyes and hair. He had a cheeky grin and rosy cheeks. The shot must been taken at least fifteen years ago going by his age and outfit.

John shifted in his seat trying to get his legs comfortable, the cushioned bars for kneeling at his feet made his bad leg sit at strange angle. Sherlock must have thought he was moving away, suddenly his friend's hand clamped down over his knee.

"What did my father say to you? No, don't tell me. Was it something about you living with me? He didn't try to get information from you did he? No, he wouldn't do that, not enough time either" his tone was fast paced but imploring.

John tried to shift out of the grasp, the hand loosened a little but stayed in place. "Information? Not at all, just said it was good that you have someone living with you"

"That's nice. If he cared so much about someone living with me perhaps he wouldn't have been absent on 'business' for most of my life after the age of six"

"He did that? What about your mother?"

"Relieved. She was intelligent, also the estate was hers. It's from her family the majority of the money comes from, it wasn't a Holmes house, it was my maternal grandparents and she inherited it. Her sister was living overseas and had no use for the place so we got it. My Aunt got the others"

"Your mother was relieved that he wasn't there?"

"He had a complex about the amount of money Mummy's family had and she regretted marrying him. He cheated on her with the one woman but for an extended period of time. It was only after the diagnosis that they both tried to make it work again. To most people he was just away a lot because of his job, we knew he didn't want to be around. He'd be back every so often and they'd throw a big party to prove that 'everything is fine!'" at this he waved his hands around with a sing song voice. John saw Mycroft incline his head, he had the impression he'd been listening the whole time. "These people are horribly fake, the ones here today, I mean. Most of them are just attending as they want to be a part of the 'event'. They are 'hanger's on', as it's termed. My family had a lot of influence, these people want to be seen. The sad thing is that Stephen would have hated this. He was an atheist for a start, hated these people, hated the fake lifestyle, the gossip and the pointlessness of it all. If it were my funeral I'd be sick knowing that this has been done as it has. I wouldn't even want a service, no one to attend anyway. Perhaps maybe Anderson to make sure that happy day had finally come to pass. I wouldn't want these things pretending like they care when I'm the opposite of what they aim for in life. Only now I can see that Stephen was the good guy. The one that wanted me to do well, the one that saw through the facade of wealth and gossip and who didn't want us children to have to go through what he knew was coming. I'm not in the habit of providing gratitude, it is meaningless, it's only the expectation of further favours, anyone of worth knows that. But I feel, given the overwhelming evidence and through careful analysis, that I should have thanked him. But I'm too late, too late". His eyes caught the picture on the coffin and his face went still for a moment. "Actually, I think I've found out all I want to know. Let's go".

Nothing could be done though, the priest had moved to the alter, extended arms open as the organ began to play. People raised themselves to their feet holding hymn books. The room became filled with the drone of many older people singing. John held the book up but didn't join them and neither did his housemate next to him. He saw Mr. Holmes in the seat in front of him giving it a go, in fact he seemed to know what he was doing. What Sherlock had just said was going through John's mind over and over. He looked up and spoke as the hymn went on.

"I'd go to your funeral, you know"

"Most likely if I'm dead you would have gone out with me. But I appreciate the sentiment"

"Do you think about that a lot then? Dying?"

"Me or you dying?" his eyes held the seriousness they usually did when posed with a question within a case, the one where we was considering the actions of the victim. Did this mean that Sherlock thought about them both dying often? Did he suffer from suicidal thoughts or did he when he was an addict? John didn't really want to know the answer so he returned his attention to not singing.

Over the next half hour barely anything was said about Stephen Holmes, there was a lot about religion, a lot about God. He did pick up some sentences and descriptions said by the priest that jumped out at him. 'Stephen was a lost soul', 'Stephen will be looked after in this happier place', 'He was known for his love of the Saturday crossword and any sort of word play', 'Although he wasn't keen for playing sport he never missed a match of chess if it were broadcast, he was a keen player himself and he was honoured to teach his niece and nephews how to play. A couple of them very good at it themselves'.

Then there were the comments that helped him place things. "Although never married the deceased-" John glared, that was inappropriate "-had many acquaintances, many here today. Although unwell for a time, and with his own peculiarities, that you are all here and that says something about the man he was". Later "Stephen had one adored brother, Alfred and one beloved sister, Sandy. Two loved nephews, Mycroft and Sherwood-" John felt a physical shudder from Sherlock at the mistake "- and a dear niece, Jenny".

John looked up at Sherlock's face, that name slip must have been crushing for him even if he would never admit to it. He was shocked at how pale he appeared, so much paler than usual, he wouldn't have thought that was possible. He didn't look at his eyes, he didn't want to so instead he noticed that the usually large pink lips were held in a thin pale line. The priest went on for a few more minutes but he wasn't listening by this point.

"Can the pallbearers please come forward". There was movement. Mycroft shifted past them, Alfred- that must be their Dad's name- went as did a few other men. It all happened so quickly then he suddenly realised that all the places were filled but Sherlock was still next to him. This couldn't be right, surely?

Everyone stood as the organ blared again. Through the heads and shoulders John could see that the coffin was about to make its way past. Suddenly he felt something, Sherlock had taken his hand tightly, so tightly it hurt. He squeezed back, it seemed to be the right thing to do. They both held on, apparently the consulting detective needed this. It felt good to be able to comfort him, if that's what he was doing. Sociopath and all that.

John moved to walk behind the coffin but Sherlock just pulled back on the hand he was still holding and stayed in place. He nodded in understanding and became still, returning to face the front. They were the only ones standing in the first two rows of the church now, but it didn't matter, everyone else was facing the back watching the recessional.

Eventually they sat, not looking at each other but still connected at the palms and fingers. John thought it indecent to know if his friend had cried or not, so he just didn't look. Something told him he hadn't though. He might be able to cry on demand when the situation called for it but he doubted if the man would weep at this, both the brothers were always so stoic. After a while his pocket buzzed, it was on silent.

'Come outside. We're moving MH'

"Sherlock-"

"-yes, the burial. I'm coming". His voice sounded odd, distant. So very unlike the man, however some things didn't change, it was deep and really didn't hold too much emotion. John realised they were still clasping hands, he let go. Sherlock swept past him and without his long coat billowing out behind him he looked almost like any other man in his 30's.

It was a bit of a shock on the eyes when they stepped out with the sun was shining so brightly.

A blond woman who looked to be a few years younger than Sherlock stepped in front of them. John recognised her as the lady that had sat in the front row. "Your brother has just gone in the first car with Uncle Alfred, you're coming with Mum, Dad and I". She didn't seem to be too pleased to speak with him but she held off from showing any large amounts of open distain.

Sherlock looked at the car. "There's a driver"

"Your detective thing is good, Locky. I'm surprised"

"As lovely as ever, Jenny. Although, more evidence that you skipped out on all the important Holmes genes. What I mean is: where is John going to sit?"

She ignored the insult. "John? John who?"

He thought this was time to step forward. "Hi".

She eyed him as though he was the least of their worries. "He's not coming to the burial, there's no room. I thought it was just you left to fit so I told the other car to go"

As she and Sherlock began to argue about this John felt his pocket vibrate for a second time.

'Been a mix up, you two were meant in our car, take a cab MH'

"Sherlock" he tried to interrupt.

"…if you didn't have a brain to body ratio equal to-"

"-Sherlock!" he finally broke through. "Your brother said for me to get a cab. Go in the car, I'll see you there"

"No, that's a nice thought but-"

"-non negotiable" he walked over and opened the door for him. "It's more important that you're there on time". He then whispered "You don't want to give these people any more ammunition against you". His voice was raised again "Go. I'll see you soon, I'll try to get a cab if not I'll see you later".

Sherlock looked at Jenny's parents in the car whose patience was quite clearly wearing thin. "Fine" the consulting detective whined loudly with a few people turning around as he slouched moodily to the door and entered the car.

Jenny assessed John with a newfound fascination. "He listens to you" she whispered, like it was unheard of, as though he had just performed some sort of magic. Her cheeks flushed pink "Are you two-?"

"-nice meeting you, Jenny" he dismissed. With that she was gone.

It was then John realised he didn't have a clue as to how he was going to get a car. Everyone there had seemed to want to watch him and his housemate only a few moments ago, now they had all turned and they were bunched so closely together in their groups he knew he wouldn't be able to join them. 'Right' he thought and walked around in a small circle trying to see if there were any taxis around. Nothing. "Right".

He decided to walk out to the road. It didn't take him long to get out there. There weren't too many cars, the main ones going past were leaving the funeral, most likely heading to the wake. John walked back up to the church and started reading some of the notices on the board to see if there was a local number for the taxis. After about ten minutes of walking around he realised that he was too late for the burial and should now just be focused on going to the wake instead which was at the manor, he'd wasted too much time. He should walk about to the town centre, it would take at least forty minutes but he should be able to get a cab there.

He headed back out to the carpark where he saw a woman watching him closely from her silver Mercedes coupe. She was smoking in the drivers seat with large sunglasses. Something about her face unsettled him but he couldn't place why. From what he could see she had a black and white tight suit on, she was in her 60's but incredibly well preserved for her age. With his hands in his pockets he gave half a glance back. She was smiling at him as she got out of the car and put her cigarette out on the ground.

"Hi there, I saw you with Sherlock Holmes before. Do you need lift to the wake? Everyone seems to have left you"

John stopped. "Are you going that way?"

She confidently stepped forward. With kitten heels on she was the same height as him. Her gloved hand was extended, he shook it. "Amanda Knox, nee Thomas". She removed her sunglasses in politeness. John froze, her eyes. "I'm Amelia Thomas' older sister. She married Alfred"

Her eyes were exactly the same as his friends, cool blue almost grey, intelligent but not with quite the same spark as the detectives. "You're…you're Sherlock's aunt"

"His mother's sister, yes". She said shortly.

Looking at her manner and features this was missing piece of his flatmate. This was where he got his eyes, cheekbones and dark hair. Sherlock didn't seem to look like a Holmes and Mycroft looked like a Holmes but already he could tell that he had pieces of the demeanour of this woman. Could it be that the boys took after their mother far more in terms of their personalities? It made John begin to question exactly how much influence 'Mummy' had had on the boys.

"I'm John Watson, Sherlock's flatmate and colleague"

"I was wondering if you were going to say friend"

"I'm that too"

"I'm glad to hear he considers anyone a friend. But he left you to fend for yourself. You both should have been more careful, you never know who you might run into". Something about the way she said this sounded cold but it was nothing like the chilling threats he got in his crime work.

"I'm sorry?"

She smiled. "A little humour, Mr. Watson"

"John, please. I didn't see you inside before"

"You were at the front, I was up the back. I thought I'd do the right thing and pay my respects. Although Stephen and I never really got on I did it for my sister, she was the one who always wanted to include Alfred's family in everything". As John looked around he noticed that they were really the only people left, the rest had already gone. "If you're happy to accept my lift, John, we should get going".

He nodded his agreement. The trip would take about forty minutes back towards London, it was going to be held at the Holmes family home.

"Has my nephew told you anything about my sister? Have either of them?"

"Ah, no. No, the most I've heard was today when I found out that she passed away six years ago from illness, Alfred was away a lot. They seemed quite close to her from what I've been able to tell"

"They were both her little princes. She held them so close it's amazing that they are able to stand on their own two feet without her around. Some would argue that them being able to look after themselves is a matter of opinion. The boys are seven years apart, Amelia used to get Mycroft to look after Sherlock, she would say it was it duty as the older sibling, the big brother, to make sure that he was safe. Alfred used to do the same for Stephen although Alfred was the younger of the two. It was my sister's biggest regret the boys didn't get along. It upset her greatly"

"Mycroft was encouraged to protect Sherlock?"

"Oh, yes, very much so. With Alfred away so much from his teens he was the man of the house really, and that included looking after him. I'm sure with darling Amelia gone it's his role more than ever to protect the un-protectable bundle of joy. With his job he doesn't need the extra responsibility. At least one of them is bettering society"

John frowned, she sounded awfully bitter. "Sherlock's your nephew"

"Yes, but Amelia was my sister". She said it in a way as though it was final. That sister comes before nephew both in timing and importance. "All he was in her final years was an addict and a burden. Of course in his mind it was never his actions that upset her. No, to him it was his brothers telling on him that resulted in the displeasure. Apparently he could do what he liked as long as she didn't know about it, then it was fine"

"An addict? What was he taking?"

"I don't know, I heard cocaine and strong pain killers. Probably Morphine. I saw the track marks myself".

"Why? Why would he do that himself?"

At this she grimaced. "Apparently he is so intelligent that if he isn't doing anything it destroys his mind. Absolute tripe, if he was so smart he would realise which of the two was destroying his brain. But the question is" she took her eyes off the road for a moment "how do you know he isn't still doing it now?"

Up flashed a memory on the second night they met. Lestrade's Drugs bust. 'I don't even smoke'. "He says he's clean"

"He says a lot of things, not all of them are the truth"

He changed tact. "Where does Mycroft come into this?"

"Ah. That is not for me to say. But he is like my sister in that he gives the boy too many chances. If he were mine he would have been pruned from the family tree as soon as it was obvious that he wasn't going to play nicely".

John felt the familiar burn of anger rise in him, he tried to keep it pushed down and out of his tone. "I like Sherlock. He is unique, he isn't the easiest person to get on with at times but deep down he is a good man. I know it, his brother knows it and by the sounds of it, his mother did too".

She looked across and the eyes took him again. He became aware that there was a hand on top of his own, lightly holding him. "He is going to hurt you so much. He will break your heart. That's what happened to my sister, she only lived a few more years after that happened. Get out while you can, you're a cute boy, get out and make something out of yourself before he burns you".

He pulled his hand away with a forceful tug. "You're wrong about him"

"This is the second time I've had this conversation, I was right then and I am now. Stay very far from Sherlock Holmes".

John looked out the window with tightly pressed lips. "I think I would like to get out of the car now, thank you. I can make my way from here"

Amanda scoffed, it was biting and familiar. "Don't be ridiculous, you don't know where the manor is. It would be over an hours walk from here, you'd never get a taxi"

"I'll take my chances"

"You don't like how I've spoken about your friend" it was one of those annoying statement-not-a-question character deductions Sherlock made.

"He's your family"

"Family can hurt you so much more than friends". John thought of Harry. "I wouldn't know if you know that firsthand or not. I'm convinced the stress and torment that that boy put my sister through put that tumour in her body, the cancer that took her too soon"

"That's a rather large accusation, I say that as a medical doctor too"

"And you're very loyal to a boy who has hurt a great many people without any hesitation or regret" her tone was now waspish.

"Being loyal is what people do for the people close to them"

"Then tell him that. Tell him what people are meant to do with the people close to them!"

"I've tried". It left him before he'd had a chance to think it through. It was an admission, a truth. After that he sat there in silence until about fifteen minutes later when they pulled up to a large gateway with well a well kept hedge.

"This is where we part, Dr. Watson"

John was confused. "You're not coming in?"

"It was never my intention to attend the wake"

"Then why did you…?" 'Drive here? Take me here? Talk with me?' He stepped out of the car and watched through the open window.

"Because Mycroft wasn't the only one who swore to protect him, as much as I wish I didn't have to". At that she drove off slowly. It took a moment before the car disappeared onto the main road.

John found himself looking down a long driveway with a rooftop on the horizon. It was going to be a long walk up to the house, at least he had something to think about.

Chapter Text

It was only as John walked up the drive he realised how big this estate actually is. There were some other aspects he noticed too though, now that he was inside he could see that the hedges were a little overgrown and there were a few clumps of weeds sticking out of the gravel on the long drive. It was his guess that this place wasn't inhabited all of the time. He would have expected a house as big and obviously important as this to be inhabited most of the calendar year or at least had its upkeep well tended to.

Then he thought back to the fact that it belonged to Sherlock's mothers side of the family and not his fathers. Did that mean that now she was gone the residence wasn't being looked after as much as it was meant to be? But Mycroft would want to keep up appearances, wouldn't he? It wouldn't take much for him to organise it to be sorted. They obviously had plenty of money so it shouldn't be a problem. There were so much going on with this family. John rubbed at his hair as he stiffly walked up the drive. The house was still hidden by trees.

After a while those trees seemed to part, revealing a majestic mansion. "Oh, Sherlock. You've been holding out on me" John murmured with awe. It was a huge stone building, three stories high. There was a front entrance but it seemed locked at this time. In front was a huge landing with cream pillars running up to the roof. Most windows had the curtains pulled shut inside though, which was strange. John began to walk towards it even though it looked to be all closed up. Where was everyone? Did Amanda take him to the right place?

"Hey!" someone called to his left. "Mate, we're all in here!"

John's head shot around and he saw a group of middle aged men standing around smoking next to a side entrance. He began to head across. "Thanks, didn't see you all there. That big thing had my attention, to be honest" he admitted with a finger gesturing at the front door.

"You haven't been to Undershaw Manor before then?" a bearded man stated.

"Undershaw Manor? Oh here, no, no I haven't"

"You should have seen it back in the day when the Alluring Amelia ran this place. With an iron fist, mind"

"Looked good?"

"Best house in town. Best party in town when they had them. Get in and get yourself a beer". The man in his fifties pointed to the door at the side of the building. Apparently they were using a few of the rooms to the side of the mansion instead of using the whole of it. Part of John was disappointed that he wasn't seeing the place in its full glory.

Walking through the corridor he heard the hum of chatter in a room ahead and on the left. He stepped into a large parlour with a bar and many seats edging the room. There would have had to be around forty to fifty people sitting but also standing around socialising, laughing while some looked a little solemn.

John was walking up to the bar when he was stopped by a lady in her eighties or nineties dressed in a deep green with far too much make up and large mismatched jewellery hanging from her withered frame.

"You're little Sherlock's friend" she stated simply.

"Yeah, I am. John Watson" he held out his hand she gave it a light squeeze.

"I'm his Aunt Erica. Great Aunt but no one says that! You're going to hear a lot of nasty things about Stephen and Sherlock while you're here. You need to be careful, dear"

"Did you know Stephen?" John asked politely.

"I did, yes, he was my nephew, poor soul. A lot of things people are saying are true, of course. Where there is smoke there's fire, I'm afraid. He did like a drink and a smoke, he was argumentative and a constant disappointment. But things are forgotten like that he held down a few decent paying jobs, there weren't too many times that he wasn't working. He used to build things, take apart engines and put them back together again just because he could. He did love his siblings and nieces and nephews. A lot. But he wasn't a good influence on the little ones. I'm sure you can imagine how a large group of Mycroft's would take to his kind of behaviour"

"A large group of Mycroft's?" John queried, a little stunned at her use of language.

"Their friends and any other of the family members in attendance were, and are, very much like Alfred and Amelia's eldest. Stoic, appropriate, stiff upper lip and all that"

"No wonder Sherlock got on so well with this guy"

"Indeed. A little under twenty years ago he got into a bit of trouble with the law and had to leave, went to Greece. He'd had a number of convictions for drunk and disorderly, assault, property damage but this was something else. We were never told what it was. He returned to England after the stroke five years ago. Alfred paid for his care. He'd lost his wife the year before and now here was his brother who was obviously not going to get better. I've always felt for Alfred, he was estranged from Sherlock at the time who'd gone right off the rails after his mother's death. It was decided, I think, not to tell him about Stephen. I'm surprised that he never went looking for him. We all guessed that he'd pretty much forgotten the man as he hadn't seen him since he was around seven. A shame, I think they both would have done well from having someone close, someone blood related".

"This is really heartbreaking then, for all of them" John realised.

"Yes, but you mustn't let their opinion of Sherlock sway yours. It doesn't matter what you think of his uncle, he's gone. But the boy needs someone there, someone he can talk to"

"I do my best". At this he noticed that everyone seemed to be back from the burial. Jenny with her parents entered followed by Alfred Holmes.

"There's always going to be tension between the boys. When Sherlock was younger, ten or something, he used that gift of his to figure out that his father had been unfaithful to their mother. He apparently didn't realise telling his father loudly that he'd been seeing that lady again meant what it did. It was innocent. It was apparently a once off, I mean the one woman anyway. They never divorced, but the damage was done. From then on he spent most of his time away on business with Amelia left at the house. It was Alfred's biggest regret and of Sherlock's actions, something Mycroft could never forgive. Both of the boys were frightfully protective of her until her dying day. Goodbye, Dear" she said with a pat on his upper arm and she went and joined another group leaving him there shell-shocked. Who leaves someone with that sort of information like that?

He excused himself then walked out in the corridor. The two Holmes brothers were walking in together, they seemed to be having an argument of some sort.

"...really not my problem. You can distance yourself from it, but is that what Mummy would have wanted?" Mycroft enquired, walking past John with a short nod of acknowledgement and leaving his brother stunned at the door. They were both alone out here now.

The doctor was about to say something comforting when Sherlock sniffed the air and snarled "Amanda" while he looked behind John as though she could have been hiding behind him. He was enraged "Where is she? I'll-"

The doctor raised his arms defensively. "-she's gone, she gave me a lift here but said she had to go".

"What did she say to you? You have to tell me!" he ordered, seeming a little mad for a moment.

John kept his arms raised and spoke slowly and clearly. "Just some family history, mentioned that you were on drugs-"

"-I'll kill her!" he barked, and it wasn't his usual dramatic voice but something much more raw.

"It's fine. Really. Nothing has changed. I already knew that you must have done something like that, but that's in the past"

Sherlock said nothing. He pursed his lips and looked at the ground.

"I said, that's not happening now. Right?" he pressed, more firmly.

"I don't know what you want me to say"

The arms dropped, John's own mood changed for the worse. "Ah, saying that you're not using drugs would be a good start. And meaning it"

"Sherlock". His father was standing in the doorway of the room John had recently exited. The voice was gentle and as he walked towards them a little John could see that his eyes were red and his face patchily flushed. He'd been crying recently which wasn't surprising given the occasion. "Why don't you come and join us? It would be good to have you here. You've missed a lot over the last few years"

"No, thank you. I'll be in my room" he declined curtly, not reaching his father's eyes.

The older man took one step forward. "I'm so glad you came, we have so much to catch up on. I'm utterly thankful to Mycroft for getting you here"

John instantly knew that wasn't the right thing to say. He could feel the anger radiating from his flatmate now but he kept a lot of it from his tone, he must have respect for his father at some level. "I chose to come, Mycroft didn't make me. He couldn't make me. I'm my own person and I don't need someone to...". He trailed off as his father stepped forward, tears in his eyes. He was level with John now who stepped back to let the two men have their moment.

"Your mother would have wanted you to be here today. It would have been our family together again". There was a sob. Sherlock was looking at the ceiling, anywhere but his father who was directly in front of him now. He was fidgeting, tapping his foot and playing with his own fingers. "I've made so many mistakes. You look so much like her". That was it, there was a wail and he had thrown himself onto his son, hugging him close and openly weeping.

John walked as swiftly as his legs would let him into the room and away from the private situation, but now he was there he realised he had no one to speak to. He walked over to the bar and got himself a beer. Turning around he thankfully saw Mycroft sitting in a chair by himself near a window, sipping what looked to be brandy. He joined him by pulling up an ottoman.

Mycroft gave him a tight grimace. "So you met Aunt Amanda? I expect that she was most interested in talking with you"

"She was" John agreed, taking a small sip from his drink. "Everything is starting to make more sense"

"I'm afraid that you've only just begun to fall down the rabbit hole, Dr. Watson". Mycroft obviously felt that this was too unkind to leave by itself then added "But I'm sure that some of this additional information will help with clarifying the situation".

John nodded and took a few sips from his drink which was going down rather nicely after the day he'd had already. "Sherlock and your Dad are having a moment in the hallway".

"Yes" the British Government acknowledged, simply.

"There's a lot of back story to that isn't there, a lot I'll probably never know?"

"Yes" he repeated, holding the bowl of his glass tightly and gazing at the door. "I need you to look after Sherlock while we're here. He's being rather stubborn as usual"

John frowned. "Um. Ok. Of course. I thought that's why I was here?"

"Yes. It took a great deal of thought on my account as to whether it was best to have him here or not. He is stable enough at the moment to deal with this I believe, a little while ago it wouldn't have been the case. I want him to be social, make sure he's seen in here for a while, then attends dinner. You'll need to do that for me, John. I almost contacted Gregory Lestrade a moment ago to send through a case for the two of you to leave early but I think it's better that he stays for now"

"That's your call is it? You decide when we leave and under what circumstances?". Part of John knew that he should have known something like this was coming but it didn't stop his feelings of indignation. "Actually, I think he's doing well as it is. I think you're lucky he even came knowing what he's like. You should give him more credit". He paused, he was going to leave it there but to hell with it. "You know, your brother's explained to me that you're a spider in the centre a gigantic web of all sorts of information that's coming in. You could always have a break you know, take a step back and let other's control their lives. It must get tiring to watch and tug on all the different strings on your web to ensure the 'right' outcome all the time"

Mycroft glanced up with a small dark smile, his eyes were chillingly cold and the ex-army medic realised firstly that he'd gone too far and secondly how powerful Mycroft must be. "That is none one of your concern, John, and please don't ever think it is. I trust this won't be mentioned again".

The Doctor took the warning as it was meant and didn't add anything. The words gave no indication to the level of threat he had just been issued with. He suddenly had this awful image of being dropped in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country never to be found again. Mycroft had taken out his Blackberry and said no more.

A few minutes later Alfred Holmes walked in again and started chatting to a few people. Sherlock stepped into the room and strolled directly up to the two of them. "I now remember why I stopped coming to these things years ago". He didn't seem shaken at all after the encounter he'd just had in the hallway. He was just his usual self as he clapped his hands together and rubbed them in anticipation, staring at John. "Well-"

"-this place is huge, Sherlock. Surely-"

"-I know what you're about to say, and no it makes no difference how big the property is it's still awful to be stuck with these people. You haven't seen your father since you were fourteen so please don't start lecturing me on happy families".

John clenched and unclenched his left fist feeling the familiar rage bubbling under the surface. "I wasn't about to. I just meant that there are worse places to be stuffed into with family. Christmas' with a drunk Harry in a one bedroom flat are never much fun let me tell you"

"Then we're agreed" Sherlock summarised, pulling down his sleeves unaffected "you are in no position to preach about functional families".

Before John could let rip a couple in their late thirties walked up, Mycroft stood whilst slipping his phone into a jacket pocket. John took the hint got out of the chair too to form a polite circle.

"Hi there, boys" the woman started, looking out from underneath her bushy fringe. "Been a while, hasn't it?"

Mycroft spoke, he was back to his most polite demeanour. "Cynthia and Thomas this is John. John, Cynthia lived down the road when we were growing up. Our mothers were very close"

He extended his hand. "Pleasure. The houses around here are beautiful"

She nodded and looked at the Holmes brothers. "You'd remember Thomas, I think you sent the most lovely crockery set when we were married, Mycroft?" he nodded. "Tom and I just bought our own house actually! We're so excited. The houses aren't as big as around here, not quite a country estate! But we're happy with the three bedrooms"

"Two and an attic" Sherlock corrected quietly, eyes rapidly shifting around the room, disinterested.

"Sorry?" Thomas questioned slowly like he hadn't really picked up on what was said.

Cynthia looked a little flustered but pressed on "Well, yes, but it's a big attic"

"Hrm, not really" the detective was now looking down at her with authority. John was reminded of the way he treated Molly. "Can't stand up in most of it and there's no real space for a window. It's a good start though with the baby on the way, you couldn't stay at Tom's mother's unit forever"

The two just stared in silence. Cynthia recovered first. "Baby? What baby? I'm not, we have announced. Tom?" her eyes were wide with despair as she looked up with fear to her husband.

"Drinking sparkling apple juice from a wine glass?" Sherlock noted with a scoff, ignoring John's elbow in his ribs. "Tom's had his hand on your stomach protectively as you've been talking with people here?" he looked at her belly. "Due in seven and a half months and…". They started to walk off. Sherlock noticed the glares he was getting from his two companions. He misread them. "Ohh" he nodded and called out "Congratulations!" after them as though that was his faux par, it only served to draw attention to the couple effectively outing their pregnancy. They placed their unfinished glasses on the table near the door and left in a huff.

"And at that I need another drink" John commented clasping his hands together then making his way to the bar leaving the brothers to it. Mycroft was seething.

"Gin and tonic, John!" Sherlock called after him, brightly.

"Hi Mate, a beer, whatever I had before and a gin and tonic" the doctor politely ordered to the young bar attendant.

"Certainly, Sir" he replied crisply.

By the time he made it back it was just Sherlock by himself. "I see that Deirdre's back working as a teacher, the lotto money obviously didn't spread as far as she though it would. Must be all the food for the litter of five puppies her supposedly 'fixed' Labrador had around two months ago. Three golden, two black. It got a little bit too friendly with the neighbours border collie"

John shook his head in amazement. "You still get off on this don't you?"

Sherlock shut his eyes in pleasure as he took a large sip from his own glass. "Mmm, this drink is divine, John, and to think you're wasting you time with beer".

"You don't deny it then?"

The consulting detective gave a a small sigh, he had been willing to let the previous comment slide. "I would have thought by now that you'd've realised that socialising like this isn't really my greatest love. And now you're not happy with the way I work my way through it. In this case which of us is worse?"

John gave a small chuckle from behind his glass. "I'd like to think the one insulting women and emasculating men in one fell swoop".

"All in a days work" the dark haired man uttered.

"This isn't work"

"Everything I do is work"

At this Sherlock stiffened as a large chubby arm swung around him, pulling him down a bit. "Sherly!" the man cried. "Long time! Hope that's not vodka in that". At this the man let out a series of harsh barks of laughter. John grimaced, this wasn't going to be pleasant.

"Dennis" the detective groaned trying and failing to get out of the man's reach.

"Your big bro's still got a ten foot pole up his back end I see. You'd be forgiven for thinking that he might enjoy a bit of that. What'd'ya reckon? Hey?"

"It's something I'd rather not think about".

The man was in stitches again. John didn't need Sherlock's deductive powers to know that this guy had hit the bar. Hard. By the look of him and by the sound of his gravely voice he didn't think it was the first time. John realised the man was staring at him so he extended a hand. "Hi, I'm John".

Dennis detached himself from Sherlock, who looked relieved as he rolled his shoulders, and clasped the doctor's hand with his two. "Now you look like a proper sort of bloke. None of those namby-pamby drinks. Beer. Good". John didn't know what to say as the drunken man kept talking, Sherlock smirked at John's look of panic. He looked as though he had a plan and one that wouldn't end well for John. "I grew up with Stephen, Alfred and pretty Sandy. Known them forever. Real looker his Mum" he said with a cocked thumb at the consulting detective who countered with an odd mocking face that left him with the appearance of having no chin but instead a lot of wrinkles on his neck.

Once Sherlock had gotten over pulling mostly hidden faces, he offered pointedly with a dark smirk "He was in the army". John turned his head in a look of exasperation and saw the delighted twitch of his mouth. He realised his flatmate had done that for a reason knowing what effect it would produce in their guest.

"Knew you looked like a good type!" and suddenly Dennis' arm was around him instead. John saw the look of delight on his flatmates face. He'd wanted revenge for the talking to he'd given him before this man had approached the two of them.

It took twenty minutes before Sherlock came to save him. Dennis had dragged him around introduced him to a lot of people who he wouldn't have a chance of remembering their names. "Hi John, having fun?"

"I hate you, you bastard" he spat so Dennis couldn't hear him.

Sherlock was impossibly smug. "Temper, temper. Have another drink". At this he handed John a gin and tonic.

"I don't like these"

"What are you talking about? I've had three, surely you can have one"

"You've had three?"

"Shut up" Sherlock snapped as he finished his third drink in twenty minutes.

"If you get drunk I'm not holding your hair back" he threatened lightly with a smirk.

"John!" Dennis called out and dragged him over. "This is Amber. Say hello, Amber"

John looked down and saw a young blonde woman with dark brown eyes that sparkled with interest. She couldn't have been more than thirty. "I hear you're a doctor" she commented with an intrigued pout.

John stood up straight with a pleased pull of his lips, annoyance at Sherlock forgotten.

"Amber likes doctors" Dennis explained with a wink and left him to it.

"Do you now?" John asked sitting down next to her carefully, his military career had never left his posture. His interest was evident.

"This is a funeral" Sherlock sighed, suddenly concerned with social politeness.

"I am" Amber agreed ignoring the detective, tucking some hair behind her ear. "Tell me about where you work"

"He likes going to look at bodies at the morgue with me"

"Sherlock" John snapped, then remembered to look his best. "Why don't you go and find someone to talk to?". He turned back to Amber "Sorry, he does that. I'm doing some clinic work at the moment. Are you a nurse?"

"No, but I am interested in doctors. I think they're sexy"

John looked as though all his Christmas' had come at once. "Well, I'll have to take your word for it. Although, I have heard that before and I've never had any complaints" he said with a grin and a chuckle that was returned with a giggle and a hand on a his thigh for a lingering moment. John swallowed hard. "Would you like another drink?" he suggested quickly.

"In a minute yes, that would be great. Is this your friend?" she asked about Sherlock who was still standing over the two of them with a scowl.

John looked at the closest group of people near them, then at this flatmate hoping he'd take the hint. "Yes, but I think he'd be more conformable talking to other people for a while"

Sherlock was staring her down. "I wasn't joking about the morgue"

She frowned and looked at John for clarification. He swallowed his frustration before replying "We do some detective work together. I've actually got a really successful blog about it". Sherlock rolled his eyes at the mention of the site. John pressed on, hoping that would get rid of him. "You should look it up, gets thousands of views a day"

"The counter is broken"

"Well it gets more views than yours" John snapped, barely concealing his anger.

"Unimportant. Do we have to talk about the fact your writing is barely above a primary school standard again?"

John's attention was totally focused on the detective now, he suave demeanour vanishing by the second. "Really, you're going to talk about primary school knowledge? Hrm, let's see. The solar system: name the first four planets, in their correct order. Go"

"I've told you, it doesn't matter!" the tall man whined, waving his arms around for emphasis.

"See!" John said as he looked around to Amber whose face was slowly changing from confused to totally disinterested, although the ex-army medic didn't seem to notice this. "He doesn't know the planets in the solar system! He doesn't know everything"

"I know that you're boring her"

John laughed bitterly. "Is this because you don't hit on women? Watch" he turned to her. "Am I boring you?" he looked confident.

"Yes" she said and stood.

"What?" John actually looked shocked. "Wait, no!" he stood too. "Doctor, I'm a doctor. I was a surgeon in the army!".

Amber didn't look totally convinced but also hadn't walked off any further. Now was John's chance to save this.

Sherlock got in before anyone could talk. "You left a hand in the bed"

John swung around to face him. "Your bed, not the bed. We have separate beds" John explained quickly with a nervous flash of his teeth.

"Fine, you left a rotting human hand under my pillow"

"That's because you left it in my cereal bowl in the fridge next to the cake! Again! At least put it in a plastic container, we've talked about this!". By the time John turned around Amber was gone. "Damn it, Sherlock. Again! What is it with you and, and" he tried to find a more delicate way to say what he wanted to "blocking me".

A small smile tugged at Sherlock's lips. "You 'blocked' you. Do I have to go over why it wouldn't have worked out with her? Anyway, aren't you meant to be looking after me and not chasing skirt?"

"Chasing...wait, I'm not meant-"

"-lying" the detective deduced as he turned on his heel. "Come with me. I'll make you forget about her". At this he stopped and thought about his words as some people turned around and gave them strange looks. "I don't mean that in any other way than being a genuine distraction". Then he was off again, John warily followed his flatmate to the bar. "I need a bottle of the finest Scotch you have and two glasses with ice".

"McKenna, 1949, 350 pounds, Sir" he said holding up the bottle expertly.

"Only 350? That will have to do then. That's my father" he indicated, taking the glasses with ice in one hand.

Mr. Holmes looked over. "Fine, fine" he said to the barman thinking that they were just opening it.

"Excellent" he said quietly "we'll take the bottle". At this he extended his hand, took it and placed it into his inside jacket pocket. It happened quickly, the barman tried to call him back but they were out the door. "Come on, John!" Sherlock instructed with a wink.

Chapter Text

"Right. Where exactly are we going?" John finally asks. They'd spent the last couple of minutes walking around the grand house in silence. John had been right, it seemed that most of this place wasn't in use for the majority of the time. A few rooms had the furniture covered in cloths to protect them from dust. Inside the manor was far grander than it looked from the outside with its rich dark wood, creams and burgundys.

Sherlock had been striding up to closed doors looking in, making a decision then moving on. "Away from all of them" the consulting detective muttered after a time as his search continued "if I have to be here, I'll choose where that is".

John gazed around at all the paintings they were passing as they went. "Ok. Logical. Very you" he commented evenly with a purse of his lips as he slips a hand into a pocket. "Doesn't really answer my question, though, does it?" he added with one of his trademark head turns and eyebrow raises.

The brunet sighs in exasperation. "We're going to my favourite room, I'm just cataloguing some changes first" he finally explained, his tone indicating that John should have already guessed this. They continued to walk until they got to a open area surrounded by a huge, sweeping staircase.

John realised this must be where the front door is, the grand entrance. It was as big as an indoor basketball court and as tall. On both sides was a large, ornate staircase. "My God" John breathed in awe "Sherlock". He walked forwards and looked up. At this he then stepped backwards toward the front door realising that the staircase skipped a floor that was obviously serviced by another staircase elsewhere. He saw the balcony at the top which was a long way up. "Is that-?"

"-indeed" the taller man nodded, following his gaze. "I would have died if I'd have slipped that day. Everyone was down here for canapés and drinks. That would have ruined their imported champagne". At this he seemed to take in the angle of the handrail he had stood upon and adjusted his stance, holding his arms up a little as to balance himself. He seemed to come to a realisation through his brief analysis. "Just as I thought, I knew what I was doing" he huffed, although the doctor knew that tone. It was the one he used when he suddenly realised he may have been approaching something like wrong. Maybe he had finally realised that what he had done was exceedingly dangerous and in his state could have easily died. He would never accept that though. "Come along, John, this wasn't what I wanted to show you". Sherlock sped off underneath the staircase through to the hallway which linked to the rest of the house.

John sped up to follow him taking a rather large gulp of the scotch as he did. Damn that was good scotch. Although now he'd lost sight of his flatmate. This happened more than he liked. "Sherlock? Hey, where are you?". He turned another corner and walked down a bit to see his friend in front of a set of double doors. He seemed nervous or at least as close to nervous as John had ever seen him.

Once he knew his blogger was looking the taller man turned and pushed the doors wide open to reveal a large library. It was two stories, the walls covered in books. There were a few ladders and maroon chesterfield lounges for reading. John stepped forward with a sense of wonder, a grin firmly placed upon his face as more and more of the room came into view. Sherlock was watching him very closely as though his opinion mattered greatly.

"What do you think?" he asked in a deep, hushed tone. This place obviously meant a lot to him and John knew the only thing to do was to be just as respectful. It wasn't often that the man opened himself up like this, this was an invitation to be a part of something very close to his heart and perhaps integral to his childhood years.

"This is bloody amazing".

The light blue eyes were still hungrily locked onto his friend. "Yes. Yes it is. My favourite room in the house, perhaps the world. I used to build a fort under there" he pointed to a small gap under some shelves "and stay all day. I'd sometimes sleep in here too. So much knowledge, so much to learn".

John gave his friend the warmest smile he could. "It's amazing". He looked down into his empty glass and cleared his throat a little. Perhaps the emotion of the day: a funeral, the talk by the estranged Auntie and meeting Mr. Holmes were catching up to him. "Ah" his voice was a little shaky "thanks for sharing this with me. It means a lot that you want to show me. Thanks".

Sherlock's lips twitched before settling into his usual poker face, he walked over. The man was now close, awfully close. John looked up with wide eyes and slightly parted lips. Sherlock bent down and held John's glass up, his hand over the doctors. He refilled both glasses and said with a light purr "A toast", apparently not realising that his body language could be taken as anything other than just friendly. "To the library" he called out loftily "the most interesting room in the world".

Their crystal glasses chinked together. John raised his to his lips and drained it quickly. Something in him though made him feel as though he wanted other drink and fast. Was it the emotion of being included in this? That he'd been dragged away from a leggy blonde or was it his flat mate's current close proximity? No, it couldn't be that. What the hell was he talking about? He obviously needed to get laid and soon if his friend standing close to him was affecting his thinking like this. His dissonance must have shown on his face as Sherlock looked slightly puzzled for a second trying to read his friend, he then came to his own incorrect conclusion then finished his own drink before topping them up again.

"You're right, this place calls for more than one drink in its honour". He brought the glasses together again then it was up to his lips. He then turned on his heel and was off as John drank too. "I need time to look for some things while I'm here. In the meantime you'll like this section" he explained with a raised hand, he assumed the smaller man would follow him over which he did as always. "Medical journals, textbooks, notes from nineteenth century doctors performing autopsies and discovering things about the treatments of the mentally ill". He twisted his head to the side in contemplation "They should probably be in a museum somewhere. Feel free to look through". He paused. "We could take some back to Baker Street if you like?". He turned to see a frozen John behind him. He looked so still and shocked. Sherlock tensed and panicked. "Not good?" he queried, with worry. It took a moment for the doctor to move again and when he did the consulting detective could see he wasn't offended, far from it.

"Actually very good, Sherlock. Very good". He steps forward eyeing the books with a chuckle. "Seriously" he reassures "this is good". They grin at each other again. "But, if I'm going to be looking around I'm going to need a top up in a minute".

"As am I. I'm going to try to find a few things. I'll leave the bottle here. I'll be around".

Around forty minutes later the two men had only said a handful of things to each other because as usual they were perfectly comfortable in the same space without saying much at all. They had helped themselves to more of the scotch, John felt as though he'd had more of the two of them.

Suddenly out of nowhere Sherlock cried "Eureka!". He slipped down a ladder that he was closest to. "Found it! Oh, I never thought I'd find this again". Instead of explaining anything to John, Sherlock just filled his glass and drained it. "I thought Mycroft had buried this in the backyard after a particularly nasty fight after making him walk the plank! Not what I was looking for but exciting, yes exciting. Oh!" he added thinking that this was a clear explanation. Then suddenly he seemed to realise what he'd said then tried to stop John from seeing the book, putting it in his blazer pocket and muttering something about needing to look for something else. In fact he looked a little sheepish about his outburst but then he finally relented allowing the other man to move his head around and read the title.

"The Many Swashbuckling Adventures of Blackbeard the Pirate" John read out. "Seriously? You liked pirate stories? You?"

Sherlock stood tall with a defensive look as he raised the book above his head and out of John's reach. "I was a child once, John. Don't look down your nose at me. I'm sure your childhood books weren't as exciting as mine"

"Seriously? Don't be an idiot, so what, now you're insulting young me's intelligence as well present days?"

Sherlock brought the book back down and held it to closely to his chest, as though the blond had lost the right to look at it. "I bet you can't even remember your favourite book when you were six. Go on"

John looked unimpressed and rather put upon but played along. "I don't know, probably something on football or racing cars. Don't get so upset, I just mean that I can't imagine you as a child, to me you sprang into the world as you are. I can't imagine a six year old consulting detective making The British Government walk the plank"

"Well when Mycroft came back from boarding school on the holidays I made him play games to make up for the fact he was hardly ever here once he turned twelve. He made a good prince to kidnap on my ship. He didn't seem as impressed when I wanted him to be a princess, though". His lips twitched and he and his flatmate shared a chuckle, all insinuations forgotten in an instant.

For the next while they took a few books from the shelves and made a little area for themselves based around one couch in particular. They wouldn't be able to say who went there first but as usual they gravitated towards each other. They also were in the process of making their way though a bit too much of the scotch between them. John didn't drink to excess too often, a few glasses here and there at home, a few beers down at the pub with some of his mates and increasingly Lestrade. This was the most he'd had for a while and he was feeling very relaxed and comfortable. Even though this wasn't a proper holiday it made him think that they should get away more often and he started to think of when the two of them might be able to get away next.

"…John…" Sherlock called softly from where he was lying on the floor near the doctors chair. "John" he repeated.

Finally the man looked up from a book on his hometown in the 1920's. He'd stopped reading ages ago but was looking at the pictures. "Yeah?"

Sherlock's pupils were larger than usual but he was obviously the sort of person that could hold his drink well. He'd taken his blazer off now and rolled his black sleeves up his arms a little. He also seemed very at ease, in fact the doctor hadn't seen him this relaxed in a very long time, if ever. As long as you weren't including the times he draped himself over the chairs at home in his bed clothes but even then this was a different type of relaxed, perhaps content? "John, did you have many books at home when you were young?"

He thought the question through and where he grew up flashed before his eyes. The images brought with them the happiness he felt as a child and the warm love he always held for his mother. "Enough, yeah. Mum had a lot of home stuff. Knitting patterns, she used to make me a lot of jumpers, not that I wore them too often where she couldn't see me. I was an idiot, they were toasty but I was more worried about getting my head kicked in for my clothing. She had cooking books, cooked all the time, a great cook in fact"

Sherlock nodded, making connections and filing it all away. "What about history? Science?"

"If I needed anything like that there was always the library. I may not be a genius but I did alright at school, you know, I did get into medicine which you never seem to rate. We always got the newspaper delivered. Harry liked to read the paper"

"You've never really said much about Harry. I haven't pressed it"

"Well what do you want to know? There's not much to say. She's a couple of years older, used to protect me in public around primary school, I was always small for my age. Popular though, got into a lot of sport and was good at it. Then she'd tease me mercilessly in private, you know like siblings do, nothing too bad. It was hard for my Mum sometimes when my Dad wasn't there but the three of us were a good family unit. I was never left wanting".

"She wanted to drop out of high school" he commented, it wasn't a question.

John just continued on, he was used to Sherlock just knowing. "But Mum made her stay, she didn't like it but I think she respects that now. Once I was fifteen or sixteen people started to treat me like the man of the house and she hated that, she'd always been the strong one for my mother and then people were paying attention to me. She had some issues going on and left home at eighteen. But there's no big problem, she was always in touch just living out of home and worked some retail jobs. She was doing a lot of partying in her late teens and early twenties which seemed to be fun at first but by her mid twenties you could tell something was wrong. She got a job in an office doing admin, she's always done well, she's had a few different jobs and she met Clara at one. Clara was so good for her" he sighed. "It was around then Mum got sick, it was quick. Things happened fast for a while there, I had finished training at Bart's a while ago, I'd been working. Playing a bit of rugby still on the weekends, seeing a few girls, getting out with the boys". He frowned. "Harry thought I joined the army to get away from things that were happening back here, that it was some crazy macho thing to do to prove that I didn't need Dad around or to get away from the loss of Mum. Of course she was totally wrong but she still hasn't forgiven me for leaving then".

"She had Clara"

"Yes, but she felt like I was abandoning her. Her drinking went in cycles and she looked like she was going into a spiral downwards again just before I left and I knew where she was at. I was in contact but she couldn't expect me to have to stay in the country for her. Not after all the help that she'd knocked back". He sat up a bit more. "You'd know with addicts that it's not all straight forward, it's not like she was always out of it, sometimes she seemed so much better". He then echoed his friend. "She had Clara".

"You didn't abandon her, John. I can't see you abandoning anyone". Sherlock seemed very still. "I mean if you haven't left me after all the experiments and body parts I don't think you'd leave anyone"

"You're a special case"

"You're just being nice"

"No I'm not. Trust me. Maybe Lestrade's lot are right, I must be crazy. The other day when we had a client in the flat I didn't realise what the problem was, they were looking at me strangely. It took me a few moments then I realised that it probably wasn't normal to have to move the bag of finger tips and jarred kidneys aside to get to the milk for the tea that I'd offered them"

"No, you're right, it's not normal. It's usually toes and perhaps a severed head". There was silence as they two men looked each other in the eye and then suddenly they began to giggle and laugh loudly, much louder than what was decent. Both had tears in their eyes. In their mirth they didn't hear the footsteps and were cut off by one of the doors opening revealing Alfred Holmes.

"Go away" Sherlock said clearly as he pointed at the door. John saw the man was holding something, plates it seemed to be. He stepped in and left the two meals on the sideboard near the door.

"Aunt Erica said you might want some food. You missed the dinner" he commented in a strange stern but detached way.

John took his phone out and after fumbling around with it noticed the time, it was just before 10pm. They'd been here for hours and now that he'd sat up he was more intoxicated than he had thought. "Oh damn it. Sorry Mr. Holmes" he said, words a little slurred. "Lost track of the time, we've been reading" he explained.

"I can see that" he said with a disapproving glance at all the open books strewn across the floor. Many of these books were worth thousands of pounds and here they were carelessly flung about.

"I said go away!" the younger Holmes snapped sitting up then falling back a little to rest on his arm, not due to lack of balance but for comfort. "We don't want you here!".

As the doctor sat up a little the room spun a bit then returned to normal. He'd had more than he thought to drink and now he had to play mediator again. "Be nice, Sherlock. Thanks for the food-"

"-no!" Sherlock yelled loudly, his early instructions were not being listened to and he surely couldn't be clearer that this? "This was my room! Mummy would come in here and read with me when Mycroft was away at school and you were gone. You were not welcome then and you're not welcome now. Now get out!"

The elder Holmes stood there limply. They eyeballed each other for a moment then from the hall outside a voice called.

"Al? Al? Are you in there?". A woman with short dyed black hair stepped in. She would have been in her early fifties and was wearing a bright pink top, neon green earrings and light blue pants. It didn't match the house, the people here or the occasion and stuck out more than John had after Sherlock had left him in the middle of the church's driveway earlier to get to the burial. "Al?"

John looked down as Sherlock worked his way up to standing. "No! Out! Get out!" he was slightly shaky on his feet then was upright with no problems.

"Sherlock, Karen" Alfred said calmly then turned to the woman behind him. "Karen, this is my youngest, Sherlock. Not the best timing but here he is. And his friend John".

The detective moved a little on the spot and just pointed at the door, words lost to him. He'd said all he wanted to say and now it must be sheer idiocy to not take heed to his words.

"I've heard so much about you" Karen said in a voice which sounded as though she was trying to ignore the amount of alcohol these two must have consumed.

The consulting detective waved her words off with a scoff and something muttered along the lines of 'lies'. "What do I do for a job?" he questioned harshly.

"Umm, ahh" she looked to her partner.

"Ok, next one then, Love-"

John rubbed at his face and tried to get his flatmate's attention to stop this before it went too far.

"-where did I attend university?". John could see at a distance how flushed her face had become. "I bet he's never mentioned me by name before, you knew he had children but he doesn't mention us. You've been together around two years. You didn't go to the funeral today out of respect, though you needn't have bothered. Nobody cares about you" he waited for people to speak but no one did, they were in too much shock even though they knew the man well, so he went on. "Smoker, you have a son and a daughter who don't speak with you, you didn't finish high school, you're a receptionist at least you were until my father took you in, paying for everything with my mother's money-"

"-Sherlock-"

"-I met your brother, he seemed nice" she offered.

"If you knew a thing about either of us you wouldn't have said that" he noted with a petulant cross of his arms.

"I'll be going then" she quickly turned but her partner took her by the wrist so she would hear what he said next. His voice was deathly cold and John was taken with an image of a Mycroft gone bad.

"How dare you". His face had darkened and behind all of the features that weren't his flatmates, John saw pieces that were such as the tightness of the eyes and mouth when incensed. "You will not contact me until you get the help you so obviously need. I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is something wrong with you, Boy. I won't have your brother protect you any longer-"

"-you don't even speak with him-"

"-get help or do us all a favour. I'm sick of trying, it's a disgrace. You're on your own".

He was almost out the door when a strong voice called out. "No, he's not". The tension in the air was thick, Sherlock and his friend looked at each other, the intruders already forgotten in their minds. It was eventually broken by the door clicking shut and a few unimportant muttered words.

"John" Sherlock whispered. They stayed like that for a moment. "I. That was. That was, um"

"You mean 'thank you'?". Sherlock nodded, looking as lost as he usually did with social niceties. "Anytime".

Sherlock sat down. They were silent for around ten minutes after this. The detective seemed to be processing what had happened and was adding it to whatever information he already had stored away. Out of nowhere he commented "Well obviously he's discovered the fate of his 350 pound scotch".

The spell was broken and the men giggled which turned into full blown laughter again. "Is he always like that?" the doctor asked, feeling relieved that his friend seemed to be ok.

"Yes and no. Not being in contact is the usual. No loss"

"Yeah I know what you mean". He gave himself a dark smirk and nod thinking back at this own situation. "We missed the dinner".

After eating the food on the plates, John having a little more of the scotch, they headed up to the guest rooms they were staying in.

"That's your room" Sherlock said pointing to the door next to his. "Nightcap first?" he questioned.

"Why not" John replied following him in. Once the light was on he saw the large four poster bed in the middle of the guest room as he walked past the small en suite to his left. There was a bay window with extravagant curtains and an ornate chair facing into the room in front of it. After they both made use of the bathroom separately John walked out to see his flat mate sitting on the chair. John lay on the bed, now that he'd splashed some water on his face he realised how tired he is and how everything was a bit muddled.

"You look exhausted, Captain" Sherlock drawled, his chin resting on his knees.

"I feel exhausted, it was big day". His eyes were wider than what was normal, as though he was doing everything in his power to keep them open. His forehead crinkled as he did this.

"And you had more of that scotch than you'd ever care to admit, even to me"

"Could be that too". At this he lay down on top of the covers, head resting on an arm that he had placed on a pillow. "Today was ok. It could have been worse".

"Indeed". The taller one looks around the room clasping and unclasping his hands with a scowl. "I need my violin".

"Well, I for one, am glad you don't have it because" the blond paused, apparently the next words were coming more difficultly. "I'm glad because...".

The consulting detective gave a devilish smirk which was mostly hidden by his knees. "Because it's loud and now it's late?"

"Yeah that". He then started to chuckle a little. "We missed the dinner". For some reason he couldn't place this was so very amusing.

Sherlock was tapping out Vivaldi fingerings just below his left knee as he spoke. "We did. I'll never be forgiven, neither will you. You're meant to be my keeper this trip. And now this unpleasantness with Father, my dear brother will be all over it"

John sighed and stretched, pointing his toes towards the end of the bed. "Did you find out what you wanted to know? You came here to find something out. I think. That's what you said, why you agreed to come here".

"Yes. I wanted to know more about my family. I believe I've found out all that I need to. In the morning we'll take the car and get back home. Mrs. Hudson will be desperate to hear about our trip and ply us with her baking once more. It will sadly be unavoidable. But Lestrade might have a nice new murder for me by then" he seemed to brighten at the thought of this. Then his eyes narrowed "I'm convinced that Mycroft stopped him from reporting anything to me while we were here".

John wasn't listening too hard. "I need. I'm just going to shut my eyes for a second then I'll go to my room, wherever that was"

"The room next door"

"Yes, that one, I think it's ages away. There's people. I'm just going to rest my eyes. I won't sleep, you can keep talking. Then I need to leave. Wouldn't want people to talk now, would we? People are always saying things"

A smirk appeared then disappeared. "Go to sleep, John"

"Not sleeping, I'm...not...". Moments later his face went slack and Sherlock allowed a small, indulgent smile to fully form this time. At this he grabbed his phone and brought himself up to date with the latest news, nothing seemed interesting. He took his headphones and put on some Paganini, tapping along once more. Around an hour and a half later John became restless. Rustling around in discomfort.

"John" Sherlock called softly as he paused the music and slipped a headphone out of his ear.

The doctor began to undo his button-down shirt as he slowly got himself in an upright position head drooping, he wasn't properly awake. It took a while but he finally got it off leaving a white singlet which he also fumbled off. He undid his trousers but apparently anything further was just too much. Moments later his head was back on the pillow and just after that he was snoring.

Sherlock found that the little smile was back but as he wasn't being watched so he let it stay there. He stood leaving his phone and headphones on the chair and walked over to his friend. Methodically he removed the mans shoes and socks, lining them up neatly next to the bed. He was able to roll the man over until he could fold enough of the bedclothes towards him. At that moment John chose to roll back over, Sherlock leant across and brought the covers over the man. As if by instinct the smaller one grasped them to himself with a content face. "'night" he murmured, still asleep.

Sherlock stood up straight with a frown. His own reactions to this were quite curious. He obviously felt quite strongly for this man, friendship of course, but him feeling this deeply for another was something unheard of. He should go to his mind palace and process this further with the presented data. He knew though that this wasn't something new, that it had been coming for a while. John was his only friend, John understood they had a strong friendship. This was good.

Sherlock made his way back to the chair and started some Bach as he brought his knees up again and tented his hands under his chin. John slept soundly through the night.

Chapter Text

"…and what could you possibly want from a PE teacher? What could they do or have that could benefit you?"

John heard the mutterings of voices around him. He was waking up, where was he? It was about then when his headache struck and he moans softly, rubbing at his hair as he pulls the bedding up around his head.

"Ah, that took long enough. I don't think either of us win that round, brother mine. I wonder when the situation will hit him? I should have had some photographs taken"

"The hidden cameras in the flat should have enough blackmail material even for your tastes. For once in your life don't be greedy"

What were these muffled idiots talking about? John thought. The bed was so comfy but it didn't feel like his. He reaches down and scratches at his chest and notices it is bare, but he does sometimes just sleep with his pajama pants on especially when it's been warm. But hang on, he's not dating anyone at the moment, why is he in a strange bed? Wait- why are there male voices?

John pulls the covers back a bit and looks up to see Mycroft Holmes resting against a sideboard opposite the bed, directly in front of him. "Jesus!" he calls out and pulls the bedding up to his chin. They don't come as easily as they should and turning to his right he sees why. There is his flat mate sitting up under the covers next to him bare chested, resting against the bed head. John's mouth opens and his jaw shakes a little but no words come out. A thought hits him and he raises the sheet up, a panicked noise escapes him as he sees that his trousers are undone, they're still pulled up though. "Sher-Sherlock?" he questions in a high pitched whine. He racks his brain trying to remember what happened last night, he last remembers lying down to rest his eyes for a minute. He wasn't that drunk, he doesn't feel like he had any blank outs. Usually if he does he'd be throwing up but his mouth doesn't taste like vomit and he doesn't have that urge. At least he didn't until he noticed that his pants were undone.

"Relax, John" his flatmate uttered with a sigh, apparently he was being incredibly dense. "You fell asleep then at some point woke up and adjusted your clothes as they were constricting you. Although I am a little offended, am I really that hideous that being close to me would be that much of a disturbance?"

"Wha-oh thank Christ". John was flooded with relief, nothing had happened, but going by the smirk on Mycroft's face this was a situation which is going to be brought up time and time again. "No, you're not hidious but why didn't you wake me? I would have gone to my room"

"Unnecessary" the detective dismissed with a wave of his hand. "There is plenty of room for the two of us here. I've only been in the bed for the last two hours if that helps ease your mind".

The elder Holmes in his grey three piece suit, looking far too put together this early, couldn't help himself. "Still keeping minimal hours aside for rest I see, Sherlock?"

Cold eyes narrowed "You're one to talk, Mycroft. Stimulents, really. John, don't write any prescriptions for my brother".

"Sherlock" the British Government bit out, ears becoming tipped with red.

This seemed to all be happening too fast for John this early in the morning. "What are you talking about?" he honestly hadn't heard properly.

The detective addressed the man in front of him. "I'm sure there are whole department's set aside to keeping you satisfied, managed or perhaps constantly firing on all cylinders? I don't know what the best description is. Maybe it's a mix of all of the above"

John vocalises his sudden thought, ignoring this exchange. "I hope you have some pants on?"

A raised brow. "Make a deduction?" he dared.

Mycroft was speaking, it seemed to be about what Sherlock had said to him a moment ago about his job but neither man listened.

"I try not to think about your pants. Especially when we're sharing a bed". John smiles openly. "What would your work say about this?"

A twitch of a grin flashes on the detectives face, it disappears just as quickly. "Well she is a tough mistriss"

Mycroft sighs and comments loudly over them now "As much as I hate to break up this little 'love-in' I am here for a reason, and that reason is not to watch you two cuddle"

"We weren't-"

"-hurry up and get out, Mycroft. I'm surprised you're here this early, I would have expected you to be down at breakfast for a while longer. Three pancakes, two croissants and three helpings of the fruit salad and cream, no?"

Mycroft's mouth drooped with indignation, his nose becoming more prominent. "Not two croissants, thank you"

"Oh! Yes you're right, my mistake. Three pancakes and syrup, the fruit salad and cream, a croissant and a large muffin. It must be nice to be back around your favourite cook, you celebrated".

The elder man's face stayed the same, just as he opened his mouth to retort the doctor got in first.

"Boys" John admonished. "Too early for this".

The senior Holmes adjusted his waistcoat to buy himself time to come down from his high state of indignation. "Anyway you've both missed the breakfast-"

"-they must have run out-"

"- quite the interesting morning actually" he continued more loudly which signalled danger to the blond. "Apparently you were both quite loud returning here last night which lead to drawing a number of people out of their rooms to see you both enter here together holding the mostly empty bottle. You were quite the talk of the party this morning. My congratulations".

His smug look made a sickening feeling rise in the pit of John's stomach. "We're not, you know. Use that thing of yours, you'll see that nothing happened, that nothing has happened at all". He paused. "You're enjoying this" he added.

"I'm allowed to seeing as what I have to put up with on a day to day basis. Now, as I was saying, it is after 9am. My ride will be here in an hour, I just thought I'd drop by and see how you were both doing. Sherlock and I have already had a little chat. Although, Doctor Watson I must bring this up, I thought you were going to see that you both attended the dinner?"

John yawned and rubbed at his face. "We were distracted, I'm sorry. I lost track of time. We couldn't have missed all that much"

"Hrm, indeed" he looked sceptical. "But I did want you both there. Not to worry, I see you're both properly admonished".

"Not that it's your job to do so" Sherlock said making sure he looked everywhere around the room except in the direction of the sideboard.

The Government official stood with a pleased narrowing of his eyes. "How could I resist? Apparently this isn't the decade where you decide to grow up either. Oh well, we'll eventually get there, won't we?"

The curly haired man scoffed. "Then what would you do with yourself? There are enough wars going on at the moment, imagine what would happen if you had some more free time?"

"Yes, what could I possibly get up to if I didn't have to waste half my life doing the equivalent of pushing your knife wielding hand away from the proverbial toaster?"

Sherlock pouted, recrossing his arms. "Dramatic git"

"Boys" John warned again. He was going to take the high road even though he was convinced this man was here to spy on and humiliate them. "Thank you, Mycroft, as you can see we're alive and well and ready to get moving for the day. See you back in London"

"Speaking of London" Sherlock mentioned in a higher pitched voice "why can't we get the helicopter back with you? It would save us hours. Hours in which I can get to Lestrade earlier"

Mycroft eyes flicked up from his pocket watch which he had been inspecting. "Because I'm not going back to London but instead to an airfield. Straight to Argentina to…well, again you don't need to know about that, do you?"

"Show off" the younger man admonished as he huffed in distain.

"The car ride will do you good". The timepiece was clicked shut and placed back in the waistcoat pocket. He then seemed to possess a smugness John had only seen once before, with eyes only for his brother. "And anyway, I'm sure the Inspector will thank me for the extra hours of peace it will give him, he'll be quite appreciative in fact"

Sherlock sat up as straight as he could manage. He even seemed to bounce a little on the spot. "Don't you dare talk to him, he's my police officer not yours!"

The blond couldn't believe his ears. "Are you serious? Lestrade isn't a thing to be owned, possessed!"

Sherlock got out of the bed wearing only navy blue briefs and bent over a little to pick up his phone and watch from his nightstand. As he bent over a little Mycroft internally grimaced taking in the sharply protruding ribs and vertebrae. The skin was so very pale. He ran his eyes up and down the body as he make notes in his mind, 4 pounds lost since his last case, he needed another and soon.

"Why not?" the detective questioned as he wrapped the watch around his wrist. "You're my John" he said as if it was obvious.

Mycroft moved towards the door as the ex-army captain's face twisted into outrage. "On that note I'll take my leave" he murmured but didn't think anyone took notice of him.

"What the hell is that meant to mean?" he heard called out loudly as he clicked the door shut. That was going to be an interesting conversation.

 

 

After a half hour argument in which the detective and his blogger discussed the matter of John being Sherlock's friend and associate, which is fine, but also the fact that it is a bit 'not good' to talk about him as a possession, they packed up and got ready for their trip home. Sherlock went out the front to get the car ready while John went for a final walk in the manor, making his way up to the top floor. From what he could hear most people had left already including Alfred Holmes who took his leave straight after breakfast. As he was eyeing the cream walls and maroon carpet, for the second time that day Mycroft Holmes appeared unannounced. He was wearing the same clothing as earlier, his hair done to perfection as always. But now the umbrella was back and for some reason it really seemed to complete him. He gave John an uncomfortable pull of his lips and the doctor realised for a moment that it was the closest thing to a real smile the man had even given him.

"I spoke to my brother this morning about our father. He explained what happened last night. To be honest with you I'd already heard it from the man himself but it's often prudent to get both sides of a story. He is far easier to talk with without an audience".

John nodded with understanding, accepting of the fact that when the man wanted to talk Mycroft could always find him. Back to the task at hand, he'd often thought his flatmate and his brother would get on better when other people weren't around. "Sherlock said the two of you don't talk, you and your Dad I mean"

"Which is true for the most part. However, I am always interested in the interactions between them both"

"Your Dad doesn't seem to think of Sherlock too highly"

"No he doesn't seem to, does he?" he pleasantly agreed while inspecting the tip of his umbrella. "Not a new development I'm afraid".

John had at some point in time come to the realisation that Mycroft respects him for not only being a man who fought for Queen and country but as the man who seems to get through to his brother. He's the one that stands by him not dispute his quirks, interests and lifestyle but because of them. The elder Holmes was a tough person to get through to, he possessed an icy exterior which was masked but also emphasised by his cold, over the top politeness and his overbearing sense of control. In his own way he had accepted John as part of his brother's life and a person who seemed to bring out the best in the great Sherlock Holmes. Mycroft may not be the type to sit down and have a friendly, relaxed chat with someone, but the way he did treat John compared to his usual interactions with others showed how much respect he actually does hold for the man. It would have been so easy to dispose of him otherwise. Now that John truly understands this he knows the ways in which he can speak with Mycroft and that deep down they just want the best for their consulting detective. Even if The British Government's ways often led to large bouts of exasperation on John's behalf.

"You know, you go on about your brother needing to grow up. Well he's not going to if you've got the safety net set up at all times. He needs to learn for himself. And this childish feud is ridiculous, can't you both just drop it for the sake of everyone else?"

Mycroft seemed lost in thought, then uses his umbrella to indicate to a spot on the balustrade. "I pulled him down from there just as he was slipping. He would later go on to say that I would have gotten there earlier if it hadn't have been up three flights of stairs, did I not want to risk breaking a sweat? That night however he didn't have the presence of mind to even suggest that. So we took off down the hallway together and ended up in the library where we sat in silence for four and a half hours as he clung to me on one of the chesterfields. I laid my jacket over him, every time I made to move to retrieve something more appropriate he'd pull me closer so I couldn't move. I didn't see him for ten months after that. He slipped out before dawn and hitch hiked to London. After months of searching and using a network to keep an eye on him, his new 'friends' left him for dead, he overdosed in a old building they were squatting in. If I hadn't have been tipped off one of the greatest minds of our generation would have choked on his own vomit and slipped away in a building with a crumbling roof and a moderate rodent infestation, the world never understanding what they had lost. He may have even rotted there before he was ever found. That was not the end of that chapter of his life but something worth mentioning. He resented the fact that he needed me that night in the library, he still does, but that is not the basis nor the extent of our rivaly. Just another moment". He let all of what he had just said settle between them before continuing. "So as you can see, Dr. Watson, our rivalry is more than about me hiding his pirate books, and no it's not something either of us are likely to put aside to make others feel more comfortable. It is more than that, I hope you are beginning to understand this".

John didn't know what to say. "Okay. Yep". Mycroft displayed thinly disguised disappointment at this comment, as though he was expecting more from the man who had so engaged his sibling. John thought hard about how much he wanted to say but decided on one thing. "Look, Mycroft. I'm not saying I fully understand everything between you two but my sister hasn't-"

"-I'm aware of Harriet Watson's particularities"

"Right, of course you are. The first time we met your pocket book was filled with notes from my therapist, silly me. You understand then that I know being the sibling trying to help them isn't easy. Someone needs to be the bad guy, I get that. And this one must have been a handful, still is-"

Mycroft tensed. "-I don't need your pity, Doctor"

"Pity? What? I'm not- has anyone every sympathised with you? Ok, no, don't answer that. Listen, I don't pretend to know everything that's gone on between the two of you, just know that at his friend I think a lot of the guy and want him to be happy and healthy". As he finished he gave himself a short nod, a little roll on the balls of his feet and he flexed his left hand, double checking that all he wanted to say was out in the open. All of this was taken in by the other man but John couldn't take the silence, he felt he'd said too much. "I'm sorry about last night".

"You needn't be. If it was imperative that you were there I would have made sure of it. No, you were exactly what you needed to be last night, you were exactly where you needed to be. You provided someone to talk to and a distraction".

"I always do that for him" he replied simply with no other meaning.

"Yes you do, don't you?" he gave John the most penetrative stare yet. As though he was reading every last inch of his soul. "All joking aside, you're very good for my brother. I respect that, it pleases me"

"And I expect you're a hard man to please" John guessed at with a warm smile.

The taller man gives a quick, amused huff. "Yes". Overhead they hear a chopper approaching. "And that is my cue to leave. I would appreciate that this stays between you and me. Until next time, Doctor Watson".

As Mycroft walked away and turned a corner, his umbrella swinging, John stepped forward and examined the balustrade. As the elder Holmes had stated there was a mark there. Not possessed with the powers of deduction of the two others he couldn't tell if it was made the way that the British Government had described but he had feeling that it had.

"John!" John stepped forward and bent over the railing as he saw Sherlock standing near the front door with both of their overnight bags. He seemed to be in a mad rush to get out of here.

"Coming, Sherlock. You got everything?"

"Yes, of course I do. Well come on!". He paused and the added a little more softly "And make sure to use the stairs".

John, knowing the man, could hear the humour in the last sentence. He must have known he was inspecting the spot where he had almost fallen but didn't mention it. Once he was down at the front they got the door open and stepped out to see a large black car waiting for them.

Sherlock strode over with purpose and wrenched the handle. "Once we're out of here I'm calling Lestrade to see what he's got for us"

"Sure. I think I'm going to have a bit of a nap" John let the other man know as he stifled a yawn behind his hand.

"Suit yourself" Sherlock sighed, as though napping was boring and huge waste of time when there is so much going on.

Once they were seated the blond commented straight from his own line of thought "Your brother's alright you know. Bit of an idiot with control and spying issues but I think he's just trying to do the right thing".

The detective rolled his eyes. "And the biggest trick he over pulled was to convince the world he was trying to care".

The doctor frowned, face crinkling. "That's not the quote and I'm fairly certain your brother isn't the devil"

"No, but it's fairly apt, wouldn't you agree?" Sherlock replied loftily, playing with his collar. He would usually readjust his scarf but he wasn't wearing one.

As they were pulling out of the long drive, John heard a noise to his right and looked out over the house just in time to see the silver helicopter pass by overhead. He gave himself a small smile.

"What?" the brunet demanded, reading John intently. He looked as though he missed something and nothing infuriated him more.

"I was just wondering how many more cases until we get the chopper treatment? Lucky bastard, my leg isn't going to enjoy this long trip in the car"

"I'll let my brother know you prefer helicopters"

John snorted. "Like he's going to send a chopper next time"

Sherlock was back to typing on his phone. "You'd be surprised"

"Right well I'll believe it when I see it" the ex-army captain said, not accepting it for a second. After a few minutes he watched his friend, trying to read him. "Listen, you ok? It's been a big couple of days"

"I'm obviously fine, John. What's the matter with you?" he replied automatically.

"Silly me, of course you are" John responded, comment dripping with sarcasm.

Sherlock ignored this. "However, I will be even better once Lestrade calls me. If I'm correct, and I always am, he would have just received the ok to make contact. It must be the changing of the guards for my handling, you excluded. I need to do something about this, it won't do. I-" his phone begins to buzz, he punches the air in triumph and his face lights up. He presses the call button and places it next to his ear. "Sherlock Holmes. Yes. Yes. Oh, that does sound gruesome tell me more. Yes. Fascinating. And you think the nose was removed after death? Hrm, yes. Plausible but I'll need to see the body". He pulls the phone away from his ear for a moment and turns his attention to John. His face was shinning with a level of positivity and brightness that John hadn't seen from the man since their last case weeks ago, although him showing off the library came a close second. "Good news, John. A woman's turned up in a library with her nose hacked off and a book on Ancient Egyptian ruins littered around her body! Oddly her hair has been cut and her makeup drawn to resemble Cleopatra. Not in the news yet, the forensics team is there now. I'll need your medical expertise on this one, we need to place when the tissue was removed. Oh, this is a ten at least!" he exclaimed brightly, returning the phone to his ear.

John nodded, he should feel worried about how much this man lit up around homicide but he had to admit seeing his friend so happy outweighed most of his concerns. God, what has this detective done to him?. "Sounds good, Sherlock". The brunet waved a hand for him to be quiet while he spoke to the DI. "Right". As John looked out the window he felt pleased that he was able to be there for his friend this trip. He was interested in what they'd both found out about Sherlock's family, the things he himself had discovered but also the aspects Sherlock had found out for himself. The younger Holmes now knew that his uncle was well loved by his close family dispute his addictions and quirks, he had faced his father and proved to him that he had an ally and the way he had been treated in the past wasn't good enough and that he himself had the power to walk away if that what he has to do, he had been able to go around with his head held high amongst relatives and family friends for the first time in years. The blogger could already see that the man seemed a little changed, a little more sure of himself. He smiled warmly out the window, his friend probably wouldn't consciously take note of a lot of these things as it was too close to 'sentiment', but John felt a little lighter knowing that this time things had changed for the better.