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The Ties of Blood and Water

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If there was one thing Judith Watson didn’t have much of, it was patience for stuffy government types who didn’t give a damn about the faces behind the numbers on their spreadsheets. Let alone the numbers marked in red to note a combat-death or cause-related death. So when word got around Camp Bastion that a few such types were snooping around, she was not pleased.

 

It never mattered in barracks or mess-halls or even in the offices and command centres, but when it got around to the hospital-tents, that’s when things got nasty. She had seen her share of inspections, and nearly every time she received a warning from her superiors to behave the next time, these people signed their paychecks and controlled their budgets. The last thing any of them wanted was a smart-mouthed medical officer to tell off the wrong government official and get vital funding pulled.

 

Judith had been in the Army for twelve years and planned on a decently long career, so she appreciated the concern of her superiors, but she wouldn’t treat the government twigs like idiots if they didn’t act like a bunch of pencil-pushers who didn’t have a bright brain-cell between them.

 

She made herself scarce for most of the inspection, carefully dodging the suits while keeping them under surveillance. These two didn’t look half-bad, and her careful surveillance revealed that she might have gotten her wish for smart agents. She marked them for brothers or cousins, but siblings were far more likely between them, noting differences in stature and body-types. They were roughly the same height, give or take a couple of inches. Six-foot or taller, which kind of made her feel shorter than usual. There was an air of danger unknown to them. And the ginger looked familiar. Well, they both did, but where on Earth would she have met them? For the past twelve years, she had been all over the world, based in Afghanistan for the last four, so, when? She would have remembered them from other inspections, and had never once seen them on any of her bases.

 

Things came to a head, finally, when the camp commanders dragged the suits to the hospital tents. She was out making rounds when they came in. Otherwise, Judith would have been cornered in her office, hiding out and waiting for the inevitable. She gave herself a once-over, and without thinking twice, she tore off the disposable scrub-gown and bundled it, and the gloves, into a nearby bin, taking a minute to wash her hands. Her last patient hadn’t been a wounded soldier, but a local woman. She was grateful for that break in the gruesome parade of casualties.

“Doctor Watson!” Major Kendrick’s hail was far too cheerful, and she grit her teeth. “I was wondering where on Earth you’d been hiding!”

“So sorry, Major, it’s been Hell in here.” She turned, drying her hands on a rag, “I’ve been staying busy.”

“Mhm.” Of course, he didn’t believe her, he knew damn well what she thought of inspections, “Well, never mind that, you’ve been behaving yourself this inspection, you won’t hear from me.”

“I didn’t think I would be, sir.” She cleared her throat and tossed the rag in the direction of a laundry-bin behind her, stepping forward to shake hands with the inspectors. “Judith Watson, gentlemen, a pleasure.”

“Doctor Watson is one of our senior medical officers, runs this place ship-shape. Very good at what she does.” Kendrick said.

“Charmed, for sure, Captain.” The red-head smiled, a familiar tight smile she was used to giving people she didn’t necessarily like, “We’re very sorry to cause any disruptions.”

“Think nothing of it, sir.” She didn’t miss how she never got their names. That didn’t matter, anyway, she wasn’t likely to see them ever again, “You’ve probably figured that we’re a bit wary of inspections out here in the desert.”

“Hmm, yes, that did occur to me.” That smile slipped a bit into something more genuine, “And in your division particularly. Do you take issue with inspectors, Captain Watson?” Ah, he preferred to address her as “Captain”, not “Doctor”. A bit of respect she didn’t get very often, she appreciated the courtesy.

“No, sir.” She shook her head, well-aware of the look Kendrick was giving her, “None at all.” The dark-haired one, the brother, snorted. These two weren't stupid. She narrowed her eyes and glanced sideways at Kendrick. Picking up on her reluctance to speak her mind, the dark-haired inspector turned to Kendrick.

“Would you excuse us for a moment, Major? We would like to speak to Captain Watson in private.”

“Oh! Yes, right! Of course!” Kendrick seemed a bit alarmed by the polite but blunt request, “Certainly! Just don’t let her talk out of turn, will you? That one’s got a mouth on her fit to burn a man if he’s not careful.” The unspoken “Don’t say do anything stupid.” was very clear. Judith clenched one hand in a fist behind her back and ground her teeth together, well-aware of the flush in her cheeks that didn’t come from the abominable heat of this hellish place.

“Yes, Major, thank you. That will be all.” The ginger snapped and sent Kendrick scrambling with a muttered apology. Oh, she would be paying for this mess later for certain. Was it too late to turn in for retirement?

 

As soon as her superior officer’s back was turned, Judith turned and headed for her office. She needed to put space between them. She would talk to them, gladly, but…God damn it! Judith heard the two of them talking in quiet voices behind her and resisted the urge to run and never stop until her legs gave out.

 

Judith walked into her office and out the back, not stopping until she reached the far end of the compound. If they were that desperate to talk to her, they would find her. Judith paced along the fence-line for a bit before she turned and left the hospital-compound, staying out of sight of her superior officers.

***

She had taken refuge in the motor-pool, sitting on the bonnet of a parked truck with her feet resting against the engine-grille, when she heard footsteps on gravel and raised her head enough to see him but not his face.

“I don’t suppose you’d accept an apology, would you?”

“Why would you need to apologise?”

“Well, I kind of abandoned you, didn’t I?” She didn’t miss how he came alongside her perch and leant against the front of the truck, “That doesn’t bother you?”

“Should it?”

“Considering how much trouble I’m going to be in when this gets back to my commanders?” She rubbed the back of her neck, “Jesus, I’m so sorry.”

“Would you stop apologising? For Christ’s sake, the only person who should be apologising is Major Kendrick, for the way he behaved in the hospital-tents just now.” She saw the dark curls tremble with the shake of his head, and turned as he climbed up onto the truck next to her.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Sitting up here with you. Is that a problem?”

“Jesus, you’re nothing like the other inspectors, neither of you.” She huffed, shaking her head. He produced a pack of cigarettes from a pocket and held it out to her. “Are you sure?”

“I wouldn't offer you one if I didn’t intend to share. Most people turn me down.”

“Well, I’m not going to. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get good cigarettes out here?”

“An idea.” He smirked, “That’s why I brought my own.”

“Smart man, you are.” She took two when he gave a subtle nod, “And maybe a mind-reader. I didn’t say anything?”

“You didn’t have to.” He smiled, “I knew you would take two.”

“Hmm. Oh, ta.” She accepted his lighter as well, “So, do I get a name out of you now?”

“Would you like one? It’s highly unlikely we’re ever going to meet again.”

“Well, something would be nice. It’s considered polite to give someone your name when you meet them. You know mine, probably knew it before you ever set eyes on me, but you have me at a serious disadvantage.” She looked him over, “I’d say James Bond, but you’re a few years too young to be him, and I know him anyway, so no to that. Definitely MI6, though, marked that on you when I set eyes on you in the tent.”

“You…know James Bond?”

“Mmhmm. Kind of surprises people when they figure it out that a nobody like Judith Watson knows someone so important.” She chuckled, shaking her head as she blew a stream of smoke, “I am sorry about earlier, though.”

“Don’t be, it was very clear you were uncomfortable with being called out for past behaviour. Not that I blame you.” He made a dismissive gesture with one hand, “People are idiots anyway. Well, most of them are idiots.”

“You’re not a real people-person, are you?”

“Mm, no. It drives my brother a bit mad, really. I can tear a person apart on a single look and learn everything there is to know about them, but social niceties escape me. I’m a terrible person to be friends with.”

“You haven’t met me, have you? I can charm the socks off anyone I set my sights on, pull anyone I want, but I don’t have friends.” Judith shrugged, “I’m cute and charming until you piss me off, then you’d better run for the hills.”

“Well, I haven’t done anything to anger you, have I?”

“No, you haven’t. I like you, even if you won’t give me the courtesy of a name. I’m not asking for much, you know?”

“Well, since you asked nicely.” He made a face, “Will.”

“Oh, fancy that! A name!” She laughed at him, “What is wrong with your name that you weren’t going to tell me?”

“It’s such a common name is all. I know approximately twelve other people named William. I’m not fond of the name.”

“Pity, it’s a lovely name.” She smiled, “Imagine going through life with the name Judith.”

“You have such a beautiful name. Your parents wanted another son, were a bit disappointed when they got you.”

“A bit disappointed is a severe understatement.” Judith cleared her throat, “I spent the first ten years of my life wearing boys clothes and short hair.”

“And as you reached puberty, you wore a binder. Forced into it by your…father. He wanted sons so badly he was about to sacrifice your personal comfort.” Will frowned, his unusual eyes so dark they were almost brown. “And your mother wasn’t going to stop him.”

“Hmm. So, you can only imagine how thrilled I was when the Army gave me a way out of that house when I was sixteen.” She sniffed dismissively, wondering that she was talking about this with a complete stranger, and that without getting emotional about it.

“You’ve been with the Army for almost thirteen years, having forgone traditional university to enlist, which was due to a number of circumstances, eventually deciding to go to medical school in order to have a serviceable talent after you left the military.” Will flicked ash from the end of his cigarette and looked at her, “Have I forgotten anything?”

“Most of my home-life, but that’s alright.” She made a face, “You were right about knowing everything about a person from a single look. How did you do that?” She took a last draw of her cigarette and tossed it onto the gravel.

“It’s a gift of sorts.” Will got down from the truck and turned to help her down, “You don’t seem to mind.”

“I don’t, really. What do people usually say?”

“Uh, piss off.” He chuckled, “People don’t like me.”

“I can’t imagine why not.” She walked back across camp with Will, not saying much but enjoying a friendly moment of quiet.

 

About halfway to the hospital-compound, the base sirens went off.

“Raid?”

“No. Not a wounded-incoming, either.” She looked around, “Patrol-call.”

“For you?”

“Mm, don’t think so. Come on.” She headed for the staging-grounds to see how much time she had. She had her schedule practically memorised, but sometimes it was good to double-check. Hooked to the wall was a roster-log, and she took it down to read the names. Will read over her shoulder as she read down the list of names written on the log. There she was, slotted to take lead on the out-going patrol.

“Well, there it is. Sorry to cut our rather lovely talk short, Will, but duty calls.”

“Literally?” He grinned at her, “Don’t let me get in your way, Captain. You have an important job to do.”

“It’s a food-and-water run to the village of Maysarouz, about ten miles from here.” She sighed, hung the log back in its place, waved to the congregating soldiers, and went for her gear. Will continued to follow her as she got ready for the upcoming patrol. He watched her don different pieces of body-armor and the way his eyes widened when she picked up the patrol-pack was almost funny. She looked up at him and raised an eyebrow, “What?”

“That pack must weigh as much as you do! Jesus!”

“Not quite. Most of the trip will be taken in jeeps, but we carry everything with us.” She headed for the line of armoured trucks, “Here’s a quick prayer that nobody lined the route with mines.”

“Does that happen sometimes?”

“It has.” She tossed her gear into the lead truck and climbed onto the runner-board, “We’ll be back in a few hours.” As she dropped into her seat, he folded his arms with a scowl on his face, “Oh, what now, Will?”

“You’re driving?!”

“I always drive. Is that a problem, Mr Holmes?”

“Er, no.” He coughed, “But…”

“No buts, Mr Holmes. Yes I know your name, I recognised you the minute I saw you, I just didn’t know why.” She looked down the line of jeeps, “I’ve got a job to do, and as much as I like you, I’m not going to not do my job just because you don’t think I should be driving the lead-jeep.”

“I never said that.”

“You didn’t have to.” She sat in the open door, watching him, “What’s your deal, then? Hmm?”

“It’s nothing, Captain. My apologies.” He shrugged uncomfortably. Judith narrowed her eyes and beckoned with one hand. He hesitated and she raised an eyebrow.

“Come here, Mr Holmes.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He came over, well-aware of the curious eyes and whispers of her men watching every move and word. When he was in range, she reached out, caught hold of him by the front of his jacket, and pulled. The shock in his eyes was adorable. “What are you doing?”

“Shutting you up.” She grinned and kissed him. It was rushed and sloppy, but she put a bit of her usual finesse into it and a little promise to come back from this patrol in one piece. It was a routine patrol, they weren’t expecting trouble, but that didn’t mean trouble wouldn't come for them.

“Please be careful, Captain. Please come back.” He sighed softly when she let him go, “You need to do that again.”

“I might as well be accused of trying to sabotage an inspection in our favour for once.” She shrugged, “All you need to do is ask nicely, Mr Holmes.”

“God, you’re a menace!” He groaned, covering his face with both hands. The guys were chuckling and someone wolf-whistled, which had poor Will turning bright red. Judith pulled his hands away and kissed him on the cheek.

“Ignore the boys, they mean well. It’s not often I flirt with outsiders, most of my targets wear a uniform.”

“I’m almost afraid to see what you’re like if you dedicate yourself to wooing someone.”

“Maybe you’ll see for yourself. Stay out of trouble while I’m gone, will you?”

“I’m not the one who has to worry about land-mines, am I?”

“Ooh, low blow, Mr Holmes.” She wagged a finger in his face and climbed into the truck, “If you can manage a few hours without me and the camp is still standing when I get back, I’ll make it up to you on my next rotation home. Fair enough?”

“But that’s such a long time!” Oh, she had him good. He was still standing there as they pulled away, the saddest lost-puppy expression on his face. Her guys knew better than to pick on her about a new conquest, but the knowing looks and snickers in the truck were not subtle. Judith just shook her head and checked the mirrors for a last glance of the very charming Will Holmes. That wasn’t his name, though, she knew that now. That, if she wasn’t mistaken, was a grown-up Sherlock Holmes.

“You did well for yourself, Loki.” She murmured, waving out the window as they passed the gates of the base.

***

A couple of hours later, while she sat on the bonnet of her truck tossing sweeties to the local children, who clamoured and carried on whenever Judith’s people showed themselves in the village, she felt her phone buzz in her pocket. Reception was next to awful, but it was possible to get messages and phone-calls through closer to the bases. Judith could only think of a few people who would try to reach her by phone rather than the more-reliable radio and rolled her eyes as she fished her phone out of its pocket on her vest. It was a text-message from Sherlock.

 

I know you’re busy, and Mycroft is watching me like a hawk. But…I miss you. Why do I miss you? What have you done to me? Is it the heat or something else? Sorry, I’m rambling. It’s so miserably hot here, how do you do this all the time?!

– SH

 

 

You don’t believe in sentiment, Sherlock Holmes, it just isn’t something you do! But I remember happier days for both of us, before any of…this. And if you’re really that miserable because of the heat (which is rather awful), get out of that bloody suit! Trust me, a pair of combat trousers and a tee-shirt are more suitable for the weather out here. One of the guys at stores should be able to help out.

– JW

 

She bit her lip and sent another message right behind the first.

 

Do it for me? God, that’ll give me something to look forward to when I get back to base! You, in a uniform? Jesus.

– JW

 

 

Naughty naughty, Captain Watson.

– SH

 

 

You started it, you git! I don’t guess you remember the first time we met? I certainly do.

– JW

 

It would give him something to think about while she was still out. Pocketing her phone, Judith handed a bottle of water to a child pulling on her trousers, hands outstretched. Judith remembered very clearly that day, she just hadn’t thought of it in ages.

She had been thirteen, walking home from school with some friends, when she caught up with a group of boys from her school who were busy beating up on a younger boy who didn’t go to their school. He was from a private school, much better financial security than most of them. Judith, as a rule, avoided fighting with other children, especially boys, but she hadn’t been able to help herself when she’d found the older boys ganged up on Sherlock Holmes. She hadn’t even known his name that day, who he was or who his family was or what kind of money he might come from, but she had never been good about letting bullies get away with their cruelties and put herself in the way to take them on.

***

Judith was relieved when she returned to base without incident following a successful, low-key patrol. It was almost dark when she pulled her truck into position at the motor-pool and set the brakes. Groaning, she kicked the door open and slipped from the seat, reaching back to fetch her gear out of the truck. Every bone in her body hurt, every muscle ached. It wasn’t that she had experienced any violence, but she was still just…tired. But she was determined to reach her bunk before she collapsed, and managed to kick the door of her quarters shut before anyone could follow her, dumping her things in a heap with a solid-sounding thunk. Downing a couple of Paracetamol with water, she gathered a towel and a bar of bland soap to take a shower. It wouldn’t be hot water, but by God did she need a shower, she hadn’t had a good one for a few days. Shedding her jacket and vest, she headed for the door that led to a small enclosure that functioned as a shower-room. One benefit that came with seniority, she had access to private shower-facilities.

 

As she slid the door open, she was aware of the door to her quarters creaking open. Only a few people would be bold enough to come into her quarters like this, and she paused.

“Judith?”

“Come in, Sherlock.” She smiled and left the door to the shower-room open a bit, “I didn’t see you when we got back in.”

“I’m sorry. I was…busy.”

“Mm. I can only imagine with what.” She rolled her eyes, “Did you ever get around to changing your clothes?”

“No. Not yet. I’ve considered it, but it seems…sacrilegious, almost disrespectful. I haven’t earned the right to wear the uniform.”

“So disrespectful of everything else, and yet you respect the uniform.”

“More or less. I don’t care for most people or circumstances. But you know this.” He set the lock of the door and Judith glanced over her shoulder. He hadn’t given up his suit, but he had forsaken his jacket and the tie. Judith chuckled and listened as he shed the rest of his clothes to pants, doing the same and tossing her clothes out in a pile. She ran the water and sighed as it ran cool. There wasn’t really such a thing as hot water out here in the desert, but a shower was a shower.

“I hope you aren’t expecting a hot shower, there’s no such thing out here.”

“Hot water is a luxury we take for granted, isn't it?” He came in behind her, “You don’t mind?”

“Too tired to care, actually.” She held the door for him, “You ever figure it out?”

“Of course I figured it out!” He rolled his eyes at her, “I’m almost insulted you think so very little of me.”

“I’m not sorry.” She stepped under the showerhead and leant her head back, “Ugh, that feels amazing.”

“Mhm.” She didn’t see him, but his voice was soft and deep, and she heard him move in behind her. Judith sighed and went through her shower routine. But while she hadn’t been looking, Sherlock had quietly swapped out her soap for a different type. It smelled like sandalwood and lavender. Judith smiled and soaped up, thrilled to discover it was an all-in-one. She rinsed the new soap out of her hair and added a bit of conditioner to keep things smooth out of the shower. Sherlock was right behind her as they stepped out, exchanging towels and touches and getting dried off.  Judith pulled on a pair of clean combat trousers and vest, opting to go commando for convenience. She towel-dried her hair and pulled it into a messy bun.

“Do you remember the first time we met?” She sat down on her narrow cot and looked at him.

“It was years ago. I was bullied as a child, usually for being too smart.” He frowned and sat down beside her, “I was being pushed around by a group of much older kids, secondary-school age, as I was walking home from school. I thought my brother would step in to drive them away, but…you showed up first.”

“I remember that day very clearly.”

“You saved me from the bullies.” Sherlock turned her hand over in his and rubbed the lines of her palm, “I didn’t know a girl could fight dirty until that day.”

“I’m not afraid to get my knuckles bloody.” Judith leant her head back, “I remember your mother being very kind to me.”

“My parents have always been kind to others.” Sherlock smiled.

“Okay.” Judith looked at him, “You have a nice smile, but you don’t smile often, do you?”

“I don’t have much reason to be happy, why would I smile?”

“You and me both, I guess. I thought I recognised you.” She shook her head, “But what were the astronomical chances of you and I ever meeting again all these years later? I was thirteen, you were ten.”

“Rather out of our favour, I suppose, but there is no such thing as coincidence.” Sherlock rubbed his thumb in the centre of her palm, “The universe is rarely so lazy.”

“I don’t suppose you’re a religious man?”

“Oh please.”

“Didn’t think you would be. Me neither. I’ve seen too much out here to believe in a benevolent god-figure.” Judith sighed and rolled her shoulders. Sherlock smiled and turned her so her back was to him and carefully let her hair down from the damp bun, using a comb to work out any new tangles and getting to work braiding it.

“Since when could you braid hair, Sherlock Holmes?” She was surprised by this secret skill.

“Does that really matter?”

“No, but most people wouldn't mark a guy like you for someone with that particular skill-set.” She smiled, “But I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, you are a man of many talents.”

“This is news to you?”

“No, it’s not.” She closed her eyes, “You’re spectacular and gifted, Sherlock, never mind what anyone else says about you.”

“People don’t usually say nice things about me.”

“Give as you receive, I suppose.” She leant her head back, “Well, I’m grateful anyway.”

 

After Sherlock had worked wonders with Judith’s hair, they sat up and talked for hours, wandering out to get food at the chow-hall before the soldiers took it all, and returning to continue their conversation. That night was enjoyable, and the two following days were interesting as Judith caught up with a very old friend and actually behaved herself on an inspection.



 

 

Chapter Text



After that one inspection, Judith renewed contact with the Holmes brothers. She didn’t see much of them through the next three years, except on rare visits home during Holiday leave or the occasional inspection. But she kept up communication by letters, phone calls and emails.

 

Then, in 2009, Judith received new orders. She now had fifteen years of commendable service under her belt and she was eligible for retirement. She wouldn't have made a huge deal out of it if the orders had been handed over by one of her commanding officers, but she knew something was up when, as she returned from a morning patrol, she saw a chopper coming in from the east, in from Kandahar by the looks of it.

“That’s not one of ours, is it?” One of the lieutenants called over the truck as Judith shaded her eyes to watch the approach.

“No, I don’t think so, Roxy.” Judith narrowed her eyes, “That’s a government bird, private-owned.”

“From where?!”

“Hell if I know! That’s an Airbus, could be anywhere!” She went to drop off her gear and headed straight to the helipad. Something told her the chopper was in for her. She crouched at the edge of the LZ, ducking the blade-wash. This wasn’t a long visit, this was a touch-and-go. Hmm. She watched field-personnel open the doors of the chopper and two men hopped out.

“Oh, Christ.” She folded her hands against her mouth, tapping her lips with her fingertips. A pair of MI6 suits, it looked like. This could be just about anything, but she didn’t think it was another inspection, there had been no word.

 

As the pair crossed the LZ, Judith straightened and offered the pair an appropriate salute.

“Good morning, Colonel Watson!”

“Gentlemen, welcome back to Camp Bastion! To what do we owe the pleasure?” She smirked as she exchanged salutes and shook hands with the pair.

“This isn’t a business-trip in the strictest sense of the word, Colonel!” Mycroft Holmes didn’t look disgustingly smug, to no one’s surprise, “A bit of pleasure went into planning this visit!”

“I can’t imagine what would make coming out here pleasant, Mr Holmes! Come on, step into my office, gentlemen, we’ll talk inside!” She beckoned them to follow, knowing instinctively that they would, and didn’t say another word until she’d reached her office in the Medical Treatment Facility.

 

Mycroft peeled off to go hunt down her commanders, but Sherlock followed her like a loyal dog. Several men they passed on their way between the helipad and the med facility recognised Sherlock from other visits and were happy to greet him.

“See? I told you people liked you.”

“Ironic that it’s always soldiers. Your soldiers no less.” He rolled his eyes.

“Say that like it’s a bad thing, they like you. I get asked about you all the time.” She smiled and bumped shoulders with him, “So, Myc said this wasn’t really a business trip, so you’re obviously not here for an inspection.” When they reached the med facility, she let him go ahead of her, guiding him to her office, “And you’re not here with MI6. So, what’s the deal?”

“This.” Sherlock took an envelope from his pocket and set it on her desk. She had sat down at her desk and he stood on the other side of it. She picked up the envelope and turned it over. She recognised the seal, but not the handwriting.

“What is this?”

“Your ticket out of this hell.” He folded his hands behind his back, “I’d like you out of here before you get yourself shot.”

“Is that concern I hear in your voice, Mr Holmes?” She grinned as she broke the seal and pulled out several pages. “Ah, that’s why I didn’t recognise the handwriting, it’s a secretary.” Judith skimmed the letter, probably dictated to a secretary or written by the author on a computer, and raised an eyebrow. She couldn’t dare to show much more emotion than that. Not that the man on the other side of her desk didn’t know every one of her tells and couldn’t read her like an open book.

“Judith?”

“A moment, sir.” She turned to another page, “Interesting. I didn’t think I’d gotten anyone’s attention quite that high on the chain of command, but that’s that.”

“Hmm?”

“I’d be an idiot of the highest degree if I didn’t think you had connections to the Royal Family.” She looked up across the desk at Sherlock, “Am I right?” He didn’t answer, but she saw the flush of colour at his collar. She smirked.

“Thought as much. Of course you would.”

“But, Judith, how do you?”

“How do you think? I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, Sherlock, you know I’ve seen and served with the princes at least once. Not that I recall it very clearly, but apparently someone up there does.” She finished reading the letter, “I was kind of wondering why I kept getting listed for all of those high honours when I’m barely old enough to be taken seriously.”

“You’re thirty-two years old, Dio, you’ll be thirty-three next June. You’ve been in service to the Army for fifteen years, sixteen on your next birthday, that’s nothing to sniff at.” Sherlock narrowed his eyes, spitting out an old nickname, “You’ve shown exemplary bravery and loyalty time and again. I carried those letters from Spencer House myself.”

“You did?”

“Yes, ma’am. It was his request that the new orders putting you into a long-awaited retirement and a life of...well, I refrain from saying leisure, you’re not the kind to sit idly by a fireplace and content yourself with small mundane tasks. No, William’s orders were very clear. He would have handed them to you himself if he’d been able.”

“I bet he would have.” Judith chewed on her lip, “So…now what?”

“We go home, I suppose.”

“To what?! I don’t know if it’s occurred to you or not, but I don’t exactly have much worth going home to!” She sniffed, “I sure as hell don’t want a thing to do with any of my family, and most of my friends are in the Army. Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do?”

“You’re a doctor.” Sherlock smirked, “In fact, you’re an Army doctor.”

“Yes.” She waved dismally at the room they were in, “Obviously? I’m not here for fun.”

“Any good?”

“Very good. Some say one of the best.”

“Seen a lot of injuries, then; violent deaths.”

“Well, yes. I work in the middle of one of the hottest war-zones in the world.”

“Bit of trouble too, I bet.”

“Of course, yes.” She worked in a bloody war-zone, trouble was part of the lifestyle. “Enough for a lifetime. Far too much.”

“Wanna see some more?” Now he was smiling, like he knew the greatest secret in the world and he couldn’t wait to tell her.

“God, yes!” She got up from her desk, “Get me out of here, Sherlock Holmes, and I’ll do anything for you.”

“I need an assistant for the work I do in London, outside of my work for MI6, of course. But if that’s your sort of thing, I could probably work a security-clearance for you, too.” His smile turned into a cheeky grin and she raised an eyebrow at him. “If…top-secret, deep-cover fieldwork, I’d-have-to-kill-you-if-I-told-you work is your kind of thing, that is?”

“You don’t know everything about me, do you, Mr Holmes?” She smiled and got to her feet, looking around the office, “Come on, let’s go home.”

 

With Sherlock Holmes in tow, Judith walked out of her office for the last time, or one of the last times. She walked back to her barracks-room and went through her shelves and drawers, packing up everything into a few bags. She tossed uniform pieces into the bags, wondering what kind of future awaited her in London with Sherlock Holmes. While she packed, Sherlock stripped her bunk and stacked fresh linens on the mattress.

 

Word flew like wildfire and flowed like water around camp, so it wasn’t long before several of her men poked their heads in to see what was going on. As it became clear that she was getting a fast-track ticket home, they rallied and cleared out her barracks-room and her office. In under an hour, everything she owned in Afghanistan had been packed up and organised. She stacked her bags on the bed and checked to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything. All of her personal effects and all of her clothes had been packed, everything was ready. Judith paced her small room, twirling an unlit cigarette between her fingers.

 

Leaving her quarters, which felt a bit bittersweet, Judith walked along the ranks of bunks and cots in the barracks-tents, knowing she would never have to face the living-conditions of a military base ever again in her life if she found that fitting. Her men gave her a hell of a passing-out ceremony, half the base turned out, and by the time she arrived at the command tents, it was almost surreal. She exchanged salutes with all of her commanders, who were awfully sorry to be losing such a gifted officer, but if anyone deserved it, she certainly made the cut. After all, she’d been in service since her seventeenth birthday and hadn’t ever looked back or questioned or acted out, excepting one or two incidents during inspections, but her service-record was sparkling and she had several commendations and a number of honours to her name. After the impromptu passing-out ceremony, Judith led the way out to the helipad.

“There’s a plane waiting to fly us back to London, stationed at the airport in Kabul!” Mycroft Holmes yelled over the whine of the engines.

“Fantastic! Let’s go home, boys! I’m done with this place!” She hopped into the chopper and fastened her harness. As soon as the brothers were seated, they took off. Two hours later, she airborne bound for a place she hadn’t seen in two years.

***

The flight from Kabul to London took twenty hours, which included a brief stop in Germany to refuel and sleep. So, when they landed at London City Airport, and the first thing Sherlock’s phone did was start ringing, Judith was feeling rather spry and refreshed. She’d gotten a good solid ten hours of sleep, and at least two quality meals into her while she’d been in Germany. Sherlock was practically vibrating with wild energy and he answered the phone with barely-concealed glee.

“Lestrade.” There was a muffled conversation and Judith folded her arms across her chest, watching his body language. He was being offered work, if she had to guess, but not with MI6. After a short conversation, he hung up and pocketed his phone, turning to Judith with a goofy smile.

“Yes!”

“What’s up?”

“Oh, good, I’ve got work to do! Care to join me, Judith?”

“Where are we going?”

“To a scene just a short ways from here. Perfect for your first case.”

“Oh, Sherlock.”

“No, Mycroft, it’s alright.” Judith smiled at Sherlock’s brother, who wasn’t really all that different from how she remembered him, just…older. “Sherlock needs an assistant, and I, well, I sort of need a new job. So it works out for both of us. And I’ve seen enough in Afghanistan that I doubt anything your brother does is going to surprise me. Least of all a dead body.”

“Christ. Just don’t abandon her, Sherlock, don’t run off on her! Hear me?”

“Yes, yes, we hear. Judith, come on!” Waving off his brother’s concerns like bothersome flies, Sherlock grabbed Judith by the hand and dragged her away from the plane, “You know what to do with her things, dear brother!”

“Hold onto them until you tell me otherwise. Yes. Just be careful!” He called after them.

 

As they left London City Airport, Judith patted her leg holster and nodded when she felt the familiar, comfortable bulge of her service-weapon.

“Mycroft can get you a special license for that,” Sherlock said quietly as they walked. Judith shook her head.

“Got one already, thanks though.”

“Hmm. Prepared for all eventualities, are we?”

“Mm, more like there are a few people in MI6 who would rather I didn’t have to worry about the hassle if I get stopped carrying my service-weapon.” She smirked, “Figured me out yet, Mr Holmes?”

“You’re more than just an Army doctor with a bad attitude, but that was obvious. In good standing with MI6’s director, which means you know M, but how escapes me. She doesn’t…”

“Bother with plebes, I know.” Judith racked her Browning and chambered a single round, ensuring the safety was fully engaged before she returned it to the holster. “I suppose I lied a bit in Afghanistan.”

“Everyone does. What did you fib about?”

“Not having any family I’d talk to.” She rolled her shoulders, “I suspect my grandmother would be rather put out if I suddenly decided I wanted nothing to do with her anymore, which would be quite rude of me since she’s always supported me, no matter how much I botched things.”

“Hmm. Grandparents are always more forgiving, aren’t they?”

“You might say that. Where are we going?”

“Someone found a body in the Travelodge hotel.”

“Yikes.” She made a face, “Suicide?”

“Mm, not likely. Closed room murder. No forced entry, no sign of a struggle.”

“Any evidence someone else was in the room?”

“Nothing obvious. The room wasn’t tossed, nothing was missing. But then again, Lestrade’s people are idiots and would trample vital evidence before they saw it. I’m sure they’ve missed every clue in front of them.”

“And that makes you, what? A consulting detective?”

“Only one of my kind. I created the job.”

“You must be rather good at it, if New Scotland Yard wants your help.” She mused.

“Oh no, my dear Watson.” Sherlock smirked, “They need my help. It is not a matter of want. If these fools had their way, they’d never get a thing done.” The hotel was a hive of activity, there were cars and lights everywhere, it reminded her a bit of a crime-drama she’d watch on telly. But the adrenaline spike was very real. When they got to the floor on which the scene was contained, they found the place by following buzzing voices.

 

As they reached the tape-line blocking the room off from the rest of the hallway, a green-faced constable bolted under the tape and dove between them, heading for a nearby bin. Judith intercepted the poor man before he missed the target completely, knocking the lid off the bin with a quick swipe of her left hand. The lid crashed to the floor, and she caught the constable by the shoulders as he staggered, heaving.

“Hello, Freak.”

“Ah, Donovan.” Sherlock faced off against a feisty sergeant with dark skin and a bigger attitude problem than hers. Judith looked over her shoulder.

“I’m here for Lestrade. He called me.”

“Why?”

“I think he wanted me to take a look? Can I go in?” He flashed the woman an insincere smile, and turned to see where Judith had gone off to, “Coming, Doctor Watson?”

“In a minute.” She waved him off and looked around. “Go without me, I’ll be in right behind.”

“Oh, Donovan, if Doctor Watson needs anything, make sure she gets it, will you?” Sherlock ducked under the line and headed into the room. Judith caught sight of a housekeeping cart just up from her, and chewed on her lip. Like hell was she about to ask Donovan for help, but she could slip through before anyone caught her.

“Stay upright, son, I’ll be right back.” She patted the queasy constable on the shoulder and darted under the line when Donovan was distracted, snagging a bucket, a towel, three flannels, and two bottles of water from the cart. From experience, she knew the bottles cost about a quid each, and made a note to leave equivalent pay on the cart. She wouldn’t be accused of stealing from a hotel like that.

 

Going back to the young constable, she pushed him back against the wall and forced him to sit down on the carpet.

“Fold your legs lotus-style, son. And just relax, nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to worry about. No one around here’s gonna yell at you.” Uncapping one bottle of water, she had him swish to clean out his mouth a bit before the next wave hit, and he spit in the bucket.

“Just remember to aim for the bucket. And don’t forget to drink between bouts, alright?” She doused two flannels with water and folded one to lay against the back of his neck before she covered his head and shoulders with the towel. She stood in front of him, blocking him from the rest of the crew, waiting for his body to signal its slow-down.

“First day on the job, Constable?”

“Nah.” He coughed, gagging a little, “Been at this for…three years.”

“Bad one, then?”

“Oh yeah.” He heaved, “Worst I’ve seen in a while!”

“Hmm. I might go take a look, then.”

“You with Holmes, ma’am?”

“Yes I am. We’re partners.”

“Oh. I thought he worked alone.”

“Mm. Even the smartest detectives need help.” She smiled and rocked on her heels while another wave passed.

 

Once he was done throwing up, she knelt before him, pulling the bucket away, and touched his cheeks and forehead. She noted the blue tinge of his lips and tongue, and measured a thready, rapid pulse. All perfectly normal symptoms for a patient post-emetic episode.

“Ah, you’ll be right as rain in a minute, son.” She smiled at him, pushing damp hair out of his eyes, “What’s your name?”

“Uh, Ben. Benjamin. Roberts, ma’am.” He looked at her, really looked at her, and his eyes widened, “Oh!”

“Easy, son, I’m not a ma’am.”

“Oh, but you are! Sorry, Colonel!”

“At ease, son, we’re not in Afghanistan anymore.” She tilted his head back to get a look at his eyes, “Gereshk, wasn’t it? May of ‘06?”

“Yes, ma’am. Good memory.”

“Nah, I remember you, Mr Roberts. You were just a misguided kid out to save the world.” Judith smiled, “I hated sending you home like that, I’m glad you found something to keep yourself busy.”

“Just following orders, ma’am.” He grinned weakly as she fished a kit from a pocket, “Remembered what you told me when they shipped me back. “Stay out of trouble and don’t do anything too stupid. Find a foundation that works and build on it.””

“I’ll say you did just dandy, Private.” Judith broke open a pill-packet of anti-emetics and put two pills in his hand, “Take those with water and get your breath back. I’ll have a word with your boss about this, alright?”

“Thank you, ma’am, for so much.” He tugged on her sleeve, “Glad you’re home safe, too.”

“Yeah, home safe. And straight into the fray again.” She chuckled and ruffled his hair, “Get a haircut, Private. Getting a bit shaggy.”

“Yes, ma’am!” His smile was a bit brighter and she handed him the second wet flannel, which he used to wipe his face. She pressed a packet of oyster crackers into his hand as she got up, nodding as he ripped it open and nibbled on the little crackers inside. It wasn’t much, but it would settle his stomach a bit.

 

As she brushed her hands off on her trousers, Judith saw a flicker of motion at the door and looked up to see Sherlock. He poked his head around the doorjamb and when he saw her guarding Roberts, he waved her up. She looked at Roberts. He just looked up at her and offered a shaky salute. She nodded and headed for the room, ignoring Donovan again as she ducked the tape and followed Sherlock into the hotel room. He directed her into the bathroom and she could definitely see why Roberts had lost his nerve.

“Oh, Jesus Christ!”

“You must have seen worse, Colonel.” Sherlock murmured at her shoulder.

“Oh, god, I have! But that doesn’t make this any less gruesome! Christ!” She was careful not to step on anything, “This was a crime of anger, the throat’s been slashed so deeply it nearly severed the head completely, and the skull’s been crushed, either by deliberate impact or when the victim fell against the tub. And the neck’s been broken, as well.” She crouched, studying splatter-patterns, “Whoever did this would have been forced to change clothes, they’ll be covered in blood. Where’s the weapon?”

“Not here, the killer took it with them.” Someone else provided.

“Check skips and bins around the hotel, they wouldn't have carried it for long. And look for bloodied clothing as well.” She inspected the body once someone had given her a pair of nitrile gloves.

“Serrated blade, approximately six inches in length. Possibly a hunting-knife. Right-handed suspect, shorter than the victim, look at the angle and the tearing.” She could see the initial slash, and where the suspect had gone hog-wild, using a sawing motion almost. “This was anger of unprecedented levels. I’d hazard to say a crime of passion. What do we know about the victim?”

Sherlock rattled off everything they had on the victim and she folded her hands under her chin as she processed what they knew already. She was quiet and still for so long Sherlock actually dared to poke her in the back of the thigh with his foot while he stood behind her.

“Doctor Watson?”

“Hush, I’m thinking.” She shoved to her feet, aware of someone putting a hand under her elbow in a kind but unnecessary gesture. Judith’s balance was quite good, excellent when she was focused and sober, a bit off-kilter when she’d had a bit to drink.

“So, going by the victim’s stats, this was a vengeful ex of some romantic involvement, not sure if wife or a girlfriend. Someone quite a bit shorter than he was, even with a three-inch heel on her shoes, but not used to wearing the shoes, which threw her off-balance a bit. She might have been inebriated. Right-handed. Blonde or strawberry blonde, wearing…Clair de la Lune, and True Dimensions Firecracker lipstick.” Stripping off the gloves, she bundled them and dropped them in a marked container, “Need anything else, gentlemen?”

“Uh, no. I…don’t think we do, Ms…?” The rather handsome silver-haired DI in charge of the scene blinked at her as he skimmed over a notepad.

“Watson.” She smiled, holding out one hand to him, “Lieutenant-Colonel Judith H. Watson. Late of the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers in Afghanistan.” She refrained from mentioning Special Forces. She didn’t fancy scaring him off just yet.

“Jesus, that’s a hell of a resume.” He chuckled, “You’re a doctor, then?”

“Yes, sir, I am.”

“Well, sure could have fooled me! You just put Sherlock to absolute shame a minute ago!” His smile was bright, “Name’s Greg Lestrade. You’ll be around a bit, then?”

“I certainly plan on it, Inspector.” She shook hands with him, “I’ll be working with Mr Holmes now, so I suspect we’ll see more of each other.”

“Of course.”

“Doctor Watson, if we’re done here?” Sherlock was impatient, and probably five seconds from taking off on his own and leaving her behind to fend for herself.

“Of course, Holmes. A minute, if you don’t mind?” She looked over her shoulder at him. He shrugged and flounced out of the room, his rather ridiculous Belstaff coat swirling like a cape around him. Every person in the room watched and they all stared at her, dumbfounded.

“Oh, Jesus. Can I put you on payroll to handle that one for me, Watson? God, how did you do that?!”

“I’ve known him a bit.” She shrugged, “Besides, I’ve seen and handled far worse in Afghanistan.”

“You must have! Bless you, my child! God bless you!” Lestrade huffed, ruffling his hair, “Christ.”

“Oh, Inspector?”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“I just want you to understand that Constable Robertson’s reaction was completely normal in the circumstances and does not reflect on his character in any way.”

“He booked it out of here pretty quick. He’s gonna be okay?”

“He should be able to close up the scene if he has to. Weak stomach for this particular volume of blood.” She looked around, “Not that I blame him. It’s always a bit sickening to see so much blood confined to small spaces like this.”

“So, can I hunt you down later for statements? You were a tremendous help in here.”

“Mm. Why don’t we come to you at Scotland Yard instead? I’ll make sure Holmes behaves himself.” She rubbed her hands together, “I’m not certain of his living-arrangements and I don’t have any of my own at the moment.”

“Any reason why not?”

“I went wheels-down at LCY about fifteen minutes ago, everything I own is being held in trust by Mycroft Holmes until I find somewhere to live.” Judith rolled her shoulders, “That flight’s going to catch up with me in a bit.”

“You came down here straight off a plane?! Oh, I’m going to murder him for that!”

“Don’t worry about it, Inspector.” She smiled and patted the rumpled lapels of his mac, “We had a layover in Germany yesterday and got enough sleep to keep us going as long as needed.”

“That explains why you weren’t bothered by the blood. You just left a war-zone, for Christ’s sake!”

“And glad to do it, sir.” She made a face, “About time I took a bit for myself and stayed home a while. I’ll figure out the details in time.”

“Well, here’s my number. Call for any reason, I’m usually around.” Lestrade passed her a card, printed with his information, “And I mean any reason. Case-work, Sherlock being an arse, hell, call me for a pint if you want!”

“Oh, thank you much. My contacts are a bit thin in London just at the moment.” She pocketed the card and pulled her wallet, sliding out one of her own cards, “There’s all of my information, fair is fair. Same rules as yours apply.”

“God bless you, Watson. You’re a rare one.” He pocketed her card and they shook hands again before she left to see where Holmes had gotten off to. There was no sign of him on the floor, Donovan wasn’t much help, and she didn’t see him outside. So the sod had gone and run off again. Fantastic. Shaking her head, Judith called Mycroft Holmes, who offered to have a car pick her up and take her anywhere she wanted to go. But she didn’t have anywhere to go, no residence in London, and only the clothes on her back.

“No worries, Colonel. I’ll send someone with your luggage.” He sounded very serious, “And I’ll have a word with my brother about etiquette.”

“It’s no real trial, Mycroft. All I really want is a set of clean clothes. I’d give a king’s ransom for something besides my uniforms, and all that’s all I’ve got.”

“Find a place to stay until my brother gets his priorities straight and I’ll have your things delivered.”

“Thank you, Mycroft.” She smiled and looked around, “Oh, Mycroft?”

“Yes, dear?”

“Has anyone told M that I’m back yet?”

“Oh, yes, and she, of course, made the requisite demands.”

“Right, I’ll see her first thing tomorrow. Then, I’ll make sure your brother makes a decent statement for The Met.”

“Ah, solving crimes already, are we?”

“More or less. Surprised myself how much I picked up from a rather gruesome scene. Didn’t quite solve it, but I gave a cause of death.”

“Excellent work, Doctor Watson, you’ll be a valuable asset to Lestrade’s team.”

“Thank you, Mycroft. I’ll see you later.” She hung up with Mycroft and looked around.

 

With nothing on, and nowhere to really go, she set off north-west and walked for a while. It was nice to immerse herself in London again, no one really bothered her, and she made good time. She was in Whitechapel when she received a text message.

 

Went to Saint Bart’s. Might be all night. Don’t wait up. Don’t worry. See you in the morning. – SH

Didn’t know you were a consulting detective and a doctor. Something else you didn’t tell me? – SH

 

 

Not that I didn’t tell you, just not relevant. And what in God’s name are you doing at Saint Bart’s Hospital? – JW

 

 

Work. At the Morgue, should be a long night. – SH

 

 

What are you doing there? – JW

 

 

Research. – SH

 

Judith could just see the smug expression on his face as he typed that out. What kind of research required a night in the morgue? Best not to ask, she’d probably find out anyway.

 

As it got later, she stopped off for a bite to eat and asked for any affordable hostels in the area. She got the name of a few with reasonable rates and set off again to find a place to stay for the night. All of them were full, and none of the secondaries she got were in her price range. It was getting late when she found herself wandering the streets of Mayfair. Judith wasn’t too worried, but she resolved to stop at the next hostel she saw. But Judith never got that far. She saw a flash of lights behind her and looked over her shoulder as an unmarked silver car slid up along the kerb and stopped. She stood on the sidewalk, wondering what on earth had happened, and briefly if Sherlock Holmes had anything to do with it. The window rolled down and she almost laughed as she recognised the driver.

“Need a lift, soldier?”

“Lestrade!” She chuckled and went to the car, leaning in through the window, “Fancy running into you around here, Inspector!”

“Same could be said for you, ma’am. Where are you headed?”

“Uh, nowhere, actually. Can’t find a hostel to save my life.” She shrugged, “What about you?”

“I live around here, I was on my way home.”

“Oh? Any progress on the dead businessman?”

“Got a list of suspects, but I’ll tackle that tomorrow.” His expression was familiar, “It’s been about two days since I had a break, so I called it quits for now.”

“That’s fair.” She sighed, “Well, good night to you, Inspector.” As she pushed away from the car, prepared to walk all night if she had to, some part of her desperately wished he would ask her to stay the night at his. It was a stupid thing to wish, really, but…she kind of liked him.

“Hey! Watson! Hold up!” He had gotten out of his car, “You don’t have a place to stay tonight?”

“No, sir, I don’t.”

“Well, it’s not four-star, or even two, but I’ve got an extra bed at mine if you need a place to crash for one night.” The silver-haired detective leant against his car, folding his arms against the roof, a charming, inviting smile lighting up his eyes, “If you’re interested?” Judith worried her bottom lip, weighing her options. It wasn’t a question, actually. She folded her arms across her chest and cocked an eyebrow.

“What’s in it for me?”

“A roof over your head, a real bed, hell, I’ll throw in dinner and drinks to sweeten the deal.” He tapped the fingers of his right hand against the roof of his car, “Can’t have the likes of you sleeping on London’s streets tonight. Shabby home-coming for a soldier with your history. Damn hero you are.”

“You don’t have to talk me into it, Inspector. If you don’t mind a returning, aimless veteran sleeping on your couch a few nights?”

“Oh, you’re not sleeping on the couch, love! Hop in, I’ll take you home!” Lestrade dropped out of sight and she chuckled, pulling open the passenger door and sliding into the car. As they got underway again, Judith fished her phone out of her pocket and fired off a text to Mycroft Holmes.

 

Staying with Greg Lestrade tonight. And probably until further notice. – JW

 

 

I saw. He’ll take good care with you. Welcome home, Judith Watson. – MH

I’ll have your things delivered to Lestrade’s. – MH

 

 

Thank you, sir. I’ll be in touch. – JW

 

She fired off the last text in that thread and checked to make sure she hadn’t missed any from Sherlock, who was buried elbows deep in a project over at Saint Bart’s. She hadn’t missed anything new, which was probably good.

 

Judith was aware of Lestrade talking on the phone with someone, and tuned in on the conversation. She’d deduced a few things about him before. Judith knew that he was in a loveless relationship with a woman he had been married to for almost sixteen years, a dedicated man to his work and desperate to leave a good mark on the world. He was smarter than people gave him credit for, not a genius on the level of the Holmes brothers but smart enough to get through above average, careful in all things, a dual-citizen of the British Empire with family in France, in the LaBarre wine region, and spoke French fluently, mostly when he was under stress. He played acoustic guitar and liked to compose his own music. Along with speaking French, he spoke Arabic and Russian. He had taught himself the languages, spending time in each of the places that spoke them, and mastering a native fluency in each.

 

As he hung up on the call he had made, she glanced at him sideways.

“So, where did you learn to speak Arabic, then?”

“Oh, you caught that?”

“Hard not to.” She smiled, “Not exactly something I expected to hear at home, you know? It’s fine, of course, but I don’t meet many people outside of the military who speak it so fluently.” She turned and looked at him, “You’ve got a service-record with the Army, explains your posture and the way you treat your subordinates, especially when they get out of line. You’re nice about it but you don’t suffer fools quietly. I’d give you…hmm, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, London Regiment, by the looks of it. Five, no six years of service, accounting for six of the sixteen years you’ve been married, and probably a bit of your wife’s antagonistic attitude.”

“How the hell did you do that?!”

“Sorry, it’s a bit of a gift.” She shrugged, “God, I sound like him, don’t I? I’m sorry.”

“No, no, that’s…it’s fine. It’s all fine.” He looked at her, “Jesus, you’re smart, Watson.”

“I have to be, sir, or I wouldn't have made it this far in my life.” She cleared her throat, “Where are we going?”

“Well, I did promise you dinner, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did. I’m not expecting anything outstanding, though.”

“Prepare to be a bit disappointed.” He chuckled, “I hope you don’t mind Lebanese food.”

“I don’t mind at all.” She shook her head a bit, “It’s just hard to find good Lebanese in London. Where were you planning to go?”

“Ever heard of a place called Maroush?”

“Oh, god, yes!” Judith smiled, “I’ve been maybe twice?”

“Oh, good.” Lestrade nodded and turned onto Edgeware Road.

 

Five minutes later, they were parked along the kerb and heading through the doors of Maroush. Judith pulled off and pocketed her beret as she stepped into the restaurant and leant her head back, taking a deep breath.

“God, what a thing.” She sighed, “God, I missed London.”

“And on your first day back you’ve already solved one grisly murder with intent to solve more in the future.” Lestrade chuckled and put one hand on her shoulder, “Come on, Colonel, let’s get off our feet and take a breather.”

“Sounds good to me!” She smiled and they followed the chatty hostess to a communal table. There were already a few people at the table, all of them in rather good spirits. Judith suspected it was the several bottles of wine and beer scattered along that section of the table that gave rise to their cheer. In a fit of alcohol-fueled goodwill, the businessman footing the bill for the other group at their table bought a round of drinks for everyone at the table, insisting that Judith and Lestrade consider themselves taken care of. Judith had never been one to turn down a free drink, and apparently, neither was Lestrade. Introductions were made and good times had by all. There was enough food, when that came, for twice the number of people at their table, but very little was left uneaten.

 

The highlight of the evening was watching the belly-dancers who entertained the customers. Judith recalled from past visits that occasionally, the dancers would pull people out of the crowds to perform with them, and had always enjoyed watching a few caught off guard as they floundered and did their damn best to follow the motions of the far more skilled dancers. Judith leant back against the wall, taking a sly sip of her beer. If she was a bit braver, she would raise a hand for a go on that stage. She had taken lessons from a couple of local girls at a pleasure-house back in Afghanistan, all done in secret, but for someone with body dysphoria, it was something that had made her feel legitimately beautiful.

 

One of the lead dancers, an absolutely gorgeous Amazon with caramel skin, wavy black hair, and eyes like quicksilver, approached their table. There was some elbowing and chuckling and teasing as their company took bets on which among them would be the unfortunate sacrifice to the mild humiliations of the stage. Judith was quick to deduce her purpose and raised an eyebrow as she took another sip of her beer, maintaining a passably straight face. Someone had passed word to the people that mattered here and she had a damn good idea who. As the tall dancer, a girl named Riyah, approached Judith’s side of the table, there was a murmur among their group. Lestrade watched with an unusual intensity, prepared to step in on her behalf if necessary. Judith signalled him to stay put, using hand-signs they had learned in the Army. He nodded, leant back, relaxed, and picked up his beer again. She was in no danger, and any trouble that might arise was nothing she couldn’t handle by herself. He would know if she required intervention. Taking Riyah’s hand, she got to her feet and turned to her highly-interested table-mates.

“Your pardon, ladies and gentlemen.” She said with a polite smile. There was a chorus of “Oh, no trouble!” and shaking heads. Whatever was up was bound to be a good show. With a brisk nod, Judith left the table.

 

Riyah and another of the girls led her through the restaurant and through the side-door that led into the small cluster of dressing-rooms set aside for the girls between sets.

“Trust Mycroft Holmes to have eyes everywhere. What did Hakim say?”

“Yes, of course!” Riyah just smiled at her and pulled the curtain on a small changing-stall, “Off with that uniform of yours, eazizi.” Judith chuckled and carefully removed and folded aside each piece of her uniform, stacking her boots on top when she was done. She had showered yesterday while in Germany, but a cursory wipe-down with damp flannel did a quick job to freshen up. After getting into her costume, wondering when on earth Mycroft’s people had dropped it off at Maroush and how he could have possibly known, Judith sat still to let Riyah do something about hair and makeup.

“Are you nervous, Zazi?” Riyah smiled over her shoulder.

“A bit. I’ve never danced in public before.”

“Oh, you will be fine! But who is your handsome friend?”

“My…what?” She made a face, “Oh! No, Riyah! We just met today! He’s someone Sherlock Holmes works with, from New Scotland Yard. He’s a Detective Inspector, and very good at his job, even if he and others don’t think so.”

“Hmm, I do not think that’s true, you know him from before.” Riyah teased her hair into a wavy half-up-do braid, “From the Army?”

“I usually remember faces, and he does look a bit familiar. I doubt he remembers me, though. I’m quite a bit younger than he is.”

“Never mind that! Just focus on him and you will be marvellous.” Riyah smiled and kissed her on the cheek after placing her head-scarf, “And you are ready. Come along!” Hoping to god she wouldn't humiliate herself, for as much as she adored dancing it was completely different in a public venue, Judith followed Riyah and the girls.

“Well, here goes nothing.”



 

Chapter Text



When Judith Watson disappeared with a few of the dancers, Greg Lestrade knew something was up. She’d said that this wasn’t her first visit to Maroush, and he believed her, but the way she was comfortable with the dancers spoke of some different familiarity. He liked Watson, he really did, more than he probably should He knew if Sherlock ever found out just how much, he would never hear the end of it. It wasn’t like today was the first time they’d met, anyway, so he was allowed a bit of fancy. He wondered if Judith remembered, he certainly did. It had been years ago, they had both been a bit younger then than now, but he had made himself a promise to remember the fiesty medic he had met on a deployment to Canada, and again in Afghanistan. Judith Watson had saved his life in Afghanistan three years ago, he wondered if she remembered that. He had been Army Reserves for most of his career with The Met, at the mercy of the needs of the military, and had left for a two-year stint in the Middle East. That had been their second deployment together, and his last.

 

Greg was pulled from recall of the past by movement on the stage and the house-band starting up a sweet, haunting tune. Everyone at their table turned to pay attention, and the MC gave an explanation of what they were about to see, informing the curious and enthralled crowd of diners that they had a special guest with them tonight to join the girls for this next set.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome guests, please put your hands together for Alshshafq Alrraqisun, featuring our very own Zazi! She comes home to Maroush after years in the deserts of Afghanistan. Please give her a warm welcome, ladies and gentlemen!” The way he said it made it sound like this particular dancer was a regular, but that didn’t seem too terribly likely. The girls arranged themselves and on the right musical cue began a beautiful and mezmerising dance-number. The idea behind legitimate belly-dancing was not to be a strip-tease but an unfolding.

 

He had seen the girls of Maroush dance many, many times in the past and always adored it. It didn’t take a genius detective to recognize Judith Watson as the lauded Zazi, but Greg was absolutely floored. It was like watching magic happen, the way she moved so effortlessly, so confidently. She had experience with this, obviously, and as the set continued, and they pulled off different dances, he watched her confidence blossom. She had started out with a bit of reserve, almost nervous, but as she hit her rhythm, her confidence took front and center and it showed in her energy.

“Jesus Christ.” He swallowed what was left of the beer in his hand, trying to catch his breath. Did anyone else know about this? Or was this one of Judith’s well-kept secrets and he was a lucky bastard to find out before the rest of their friends?

“Quite a girl you’ve got there, Inspector.” The cheerful businessman sharing their table and half the bill said in an admiring tone.

“Yeah.” He sighed, wishing to god Judith Watson was his for having. They were merely acquaintances at this point in their history, barely friends, and she seemed more likely to go after Sherlock Holmes or his brother than a washed-up, tired old copper like him. A fresh beer was pushed into his hands and he drank with abandon, watching Judith and wishing for the impossible.

 

When the dancers scattered among the tables to make their rounds of the customers and select the last few lucky unfortunates. It was random choice, or that’s what they said, and Greg was curious to see who would get pulled tonight. A few inebriated patrons were hauled from their seats to the great delight of their mates, including two from their table. Judith’s gorgeous companions did the picking, and Greg was a teensy bit jealous. The whole idea was to try, and in good fun make a fool of yourself, and Greg knew his skills were dismal when sober, he couldn’t imagine what it would be like drunk. He wasn’t drunk, but it was damn close.

 

There was a swirl of fabric at the periphery of his vision and he turned his head as a handful of glitter dusted his hair and shoulders. He had a brief thought that the stuff would never come out of fabric and how much grief he would get from coworkers when his jacket and shirt shimmered. The edge of a scarf brushed against his cheek and he caught at it with shaky fingers, turning his face into the folds of silk. By the heady scent clinging to the fabric, he knew it was Judith’s scarf. With a quick flick of motion, the scarf landed around his neck.

 

Oh God he was drunk. But it wasn’t just alcohol making him light-headed. Judith was lost in the rhythm of her dance, eyes closed, head tilted back as she swayed and gyrated to the music. He might as well have been the only person in the restaurant for all that he paid not a whit of attention to anyone or anything else. He heard his table-mates murmuring appreciatively, chuckling at the expense of their unfortunate mates who weren’t really doing that poorly, and felt a bit heartbroken when the dancers vanished backstage after an enthuastic ovation from their enthralled audience, until remembering that he got to take his home.

 

After paying his portion of the bill and exchanging business-cards with their table-mates, he went out front to wait for Judith to re-surface. He would be shaking glitter out of his coat for weeks, never mind the blazer and shirt he’d worn today, and it would take a few days for the glitter to stop falling from his hair. She had been subtle with her distribution, he’d seen what happened when the girls got plucky with the glitter. Judith joined him a few minutes later, back in her uniform and every inch the disciplined soldier. But Greg knew her wicked little secret. The harsh glow of the street-lights set her skin alight with rainbow sparks of the body-glitter she’d worn during the performance, and he smiled, buttoning his mack closed over the scarf still around his neck. His scarf hid it as well, it was a little soft secret against his skin. He reached for his keys, but thought better of it. Between the hour and the alcohol, he didn’t feel comfortable getting behind the wheel.

 

It didn’t take much to hail a late taxi, despite the hour, and he ordered the cabbie to his place on Pembroke Mews, right behind the Kensington Police Station. Sometimes he worked from there, rather than go all the way in to his office at the Victoria Street building. That was usually playing catch-up on paperwork, but his team knew how to find him if he didn’t make it in on a given morning and he wasn’t home. He had an arrangement with the station heads that if and when he showed up, word was sent straight Victoria Street to forward any case-calls to him at the station and he would take action from there. It was nice to have that going for him, convenient.

 

Judith had fallen asleep on the drive down from Bayswater, and he quietly shook her awake as he got out of the taxi and paid the fare. She slid out of the taxi and he reached out one hand to steady her.

“Steady on, my dear.” He murmured.

“Jesus. Between that flight, the food, the alcohol, and the dancing, I regret nothing, but my body is going to hate me in a few hours.” She groaned, rubbing at the back of her head, “What’s the time?”

“Half-one in the morning.” He smiled and led her inside, “Go upstairs and take a shower, I guarantee you’ll feel better if you do.”

“Thanks, Inspector. I’m sorry about this.”

“Oh, god, don’t be sorry! You kind of turned my night around anyway, so I won’t complain!” He smiled and pushed her in the direction of the stairs, “Top of the stairs, second floor, alright? Either room you want is yours!”

“Thank you!” she called down, the sound of her boots heavy on the stairs. Greg sighed and stepped out onto the quiet mews street just as a black car pulled up. Without a word, he passed his keys to the woman who rolled down the window.

“All of Lieutenant-Colonel Watson’s things are inside in the first upstairs bedroom, Inspector. Mr. Holmes sends his regards and asks that you remember the arrangement.”

“That’s why you’re here, Anthea.” He smiled, “You know what to do.”

“Yes, sir. Good night.”

“Good night, Anthea.” He stepped back and watched the car drive off again. His car would be garaged in half an hour. Desperate for some sleep, Greg went back inside and locked his doors. Ten years he’d known the Holmes brothers, ten years he’d known Anthea. What a thing. He heard water running upstairs and smiled. Judith would sleep hard tonight, hopefully without nightmares. He knew, personally, how badly PTSD could fuck up sleep-patterns. Taking his own shower, Greg dried off and got ready for bed. He was supposed to have a day off tomorrow, but crime never took a vacation, so it would be a wait-and-see game if any calls came in. It was half-one in the morning, he anticipated getting at least three hours of sleep, maybe four if he was lucky.

 

***

 

Greg’s alarm went off at a quarter to four, and he groaned, coughing into his pillow as he rolled over to smack the alarm into silence. Glancing at his watch, he debated the wisdom of sticking to his routine and going out on his usual morning run. Figuring a bit of air and exercise might clear his head, he gathered his running-kit and headed downstairs to put on his shoes. When Greg found the front door open, he frowned. But a rustle in the kitchen revealed Judith Watson at the sink. She had her back to the range, a glass of orange juice in hand, and a reusable plastic water-bottle sitting beside her on the counter. She was clad in running tights and a pair of layered shorts, trainers in a rather alarming but stylish shade of pink and orange, a quarter-zip fleece hoodie, and a hi-vis bib with a waistbelt. Hearing him, she glanced up and smiled.

“Morning.”

“I guess?” He blinked, scrubbing at his eyes with one hand, “What are you doing down here?”

“I’ve been up since half-three. I figured once it got a bit later, I’d run Hyde Park.” She finished the juice and rinsed the glass out in the sink before setting it on the side-board rack to dry. He watched her tuck the water-bottle into her waistbelt. The zip-compartment held her wallet and phone, with room for keys.

“Mind some company?”

“Not if you don’t. I usually run alone, but I never mind having a partner.” She smiled and held the door for him, holding her hand out once he’d locked the door. His keys went into her belt, along with his wallet. It was brisk and a bit foggy, but not an altogether terrible morning. They walked from the house to Earls Court Road, at which point Judith picked a direction and took the lead. It was early enough they didn’t have to jockey with traffic much, and when they reached the A315, she took off due north once they entered the park.

 

They ran a slow, almost lazy circuit of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, the only sound between them the rhythmic pounding of their shoes against the gravel and pavement, the steady in-and-out of their breathing. It didn’t surprise him that Judith was in such excellent shape, and she was careful to pace herself to her partner’s capabilities. When they reached Park Lane and Picadilly, they took a short break for water.

“So, up for a longer run, old man?” Judith handed him the waterbottle, and he took it with a roll of his eyes.

“Who’s old?” He sniped back, grinning.

“Well, no offense, but you’ve easily got ten years on me, Captain.” Ahh, there it was! He snickered.

“I wondered if you remembered that or not.”

“I remember faces, but you gave me a bit of trouble.” She smirked, “I could have sworn I knew you from somewhere before, but for some reason I never put you together with one of my old Army contacts.”

“Hmph.” Greg passed the water-bottle back, “Well, I tend to remember the people who put their lives on the line for my sake.”

“It’s part of my job, Greg.” Judith’s smile softened and their fingers brushed as she took the water from him. “You’re off today?”

“Well, barring any major crimes popping up, I’m clear and free.” He shrugged, rolling his shoulders, “Did you have something in mind?”

“Care to run The Mall?”

“Hmm.” He looked around and checked his watch. “I don’t see why not. We might have to fight the morning crowds, but nothing I can’t handle.” Judith belted the water and glanced at her own time-piece, a smart-watch of some kind.

“It’s just past half-five, Inspector, I don’t think we have to worry about crowds until our return loop.”

“Lead on, then.” He waved for her to lead the way, and followed as she set off for The Mall. It was a quiet, foggy circuit past Buckingham Palace and down The Mall straight-away, there a few more people out than before, but Saint James’s Park was still very quiet.

 

Greg found that he was enjoying this morning far more than any other, and knew it was his company. Judith didn’t insist on keeping up conversation, knowing the necessity of conserving energy, and he appreciated that. The morning mist lay heavy and damp, but it didn’t dampen his spirits much. When they began their return route, he found a final burst of reserve adrenaline and energy and led the final charge.

 

When they paused on Earls Court Road to catch their breath, the smell of hot food tickled his nose and Greg leaned his head back. “How many miles was that?”

“Eight and a half miles, on the nose.” Judith huffed, rubbing her shoulder, “Feeling it?”

“A little.” Greg turned his head and noticed that they had stopped outside of a little cafe called Cafe de Fred, which he recalled as having rather excellent breakfast sandwhiches. He raised an eyebrow and turned to Judith, who was looking up at the sign like it was the gates of Heaven. Neither of them were fit to eat in, but this place did take-away and the line inside was kind of short. Greg looked at Judith and smiled, “Hungry?”

“Starving!”

“I got this.” He pulled the door open as she handed over his wallet from her waist-belt, “Thank you, dear.” She slid in behind him and waited near the door while he got into line. It was seven-fifteen, but even the early crowd wasn’t too terrible. When he got to the front of the line, he placed an order for two egg-and-bacon breakfast sandwiches and two mochaccinos for take-away and paid the girl behind the counter.

 

He waited ten minutes for their order and when he picked up the paper bag and take-away cups, he smiled at the staff.

“Thank you, have a nice day.” Judith held the door for him and he passed her one cup. “For you, my dear.”

“Thank you, sir.” She took the coffee and sniffed, “Ooh, mochaccino! I haven’t had a good one of these in ages!”

“Well, I don’t think theirs are anything spectacular, but it’ll do the trick alright.” He smiled, “Let’s get home and eat.”

“Grand idea.” Judith’s smiled was wired and satisfied. Neither of their phones had rang even once while they were out, which he supposed was a blessing in disguise. He really, really wanted a day off. As they finally got back to the house and Judith was getting the door open, since Greg’s hands were full, her phone rang.

“Oh, really? Are you serious?” Letting the keys hang in the lock long enough to answer her phone, she swiped into the incoming call and took it on the wireless headphones she wore while running.

“This is Judith Watson.” Greg toed the door open as she pushed it open, not missing the way her eyes flashed.

“Sorry, can you…say that again?”

He set the bag down on the table and turned as she came inside, closing the door behind her with one shoulder, her motions almost distracted.

“Wait, wait. Say. That. Again.” Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. It must be family of some sort, but he couldn’t think of anyone she cared enough about that any bad news about them would bother her. She wasn’t on speaking terms with either of her parents, and she was barely on speaking terms with her brother Harry. What had happened?

 

The rest of the conversation only took a few minutes, and he heard only one side of the exchange, mono-syllabic or short answers, unsure if it was anger or something else in her voice and in her expression. When she finally hung up, she looked at her phone as though it had insulted her somehow.

“Everything alright, Judith?” He ventured carefully. “I take it that was bad news?”

“Oh, god. Greg, sorry.” She shook her head, “No, uh, that was my step-father.”

“And?”

“There’s been an accident, apparently.” Judith came to the table, “I’m supposed to be upset about this?”

“Maybe? Who was involved?”

“My brother.”

“What happened?”

“Apparently, he was hit by a car.”

“Oh my god! Really?!” Greg was shocked, that was serious, “That’s…terrible!”

“My mother was driving.” Judith sat down, “Richard swears it was all an accident, but I’m not stupid.”

“You don’t think your own mother is capable of that, do you?”

“Greg, you’re a cop, you see crazy stuff all the time. You look me in the face and tell me it’s not possible and I call you a liar.” She unwrapped her sandwich, “You never met my parents, did you?”

“Uh, no, I don’t think I ever did.”

“Hmm, well, you aren’t missing anything.” Judith was very calm, surprisingly calm, as she ate, but he saw her fingers trembling a little. Her voice was steady and soft, but she wasn’t entirely unaffected.

 

After she was done eating, she binned her trash and went upstairs. He heard the shower run and wondered. It was his day off, but he was still a DI of New Scotland Yard’s Homicide and Major Crimes division. Going upstairs to his bedroom, Greg took a fast shower and got dressed before he placed a call to work.

“Greater London Emergency Dispatch, Scotland Yard Branch, this is Valerie.”

“Valerie, it’s Greg Lestrade with Homicide.” He looked up at the ceiling, listening to the water run upstairs, “Listen, I need to know if any incidents have been called in this morning, what they were, who reported them, and what’s being done about them. Can you do that for me?”

“Oh, sure, hon! Just a mo!” Valerie was entirely too cheerful, but she was always helpful when Greg called for details. In less than three minutes, Valerie was back on the line.

“We didn’t get a whole lot interesting this morning, but one came in that they’ll probably end up handing over to Homicide.”

“What was it?”

Uh, it was called in half an hour ago as a PVMV. Anglo male, late thirties, severe trauma to legs, torso, and head. They’re not giving him great odds. He was pretty pissed, according to his BAV sats.”

“Any word on suspects or responsible parties?”

“The driver of the car that hit him was detained for a DUI.”

“Mmhmm. Do you have a name for the driver?”

Uh, looks like…Beverley Hughes. The victim’s her son, Harold Watson. Pretty unfortunate accident.”

“Thanks, Val. You’re a real great help. Can you tell the bosses I’ll take this one?”

Isn’t this your day off, though?”

“It was my day off.” He raked one hand through his hair, “This one’s personal, Valerie, and I need to make sure it’s done right. I’ll take the case whether it goes to Homicide or not in the end. But if the damage is as bad as I think it is, Harry Watson’s hanging by a fast-fraying thread.”

“Alright, Greg. You’re not the best man in The Met for nothing.” He heard Valerie’s smile, “Want me to send the reports?”

“Everything you’ve got, thanks. Where did they admit the victim?”

“It looks like they took him to Saint Mary’s.”

“Close, then. Thanks, Val. I’ll be in touch.”

“Take care of yourself, Greg, you hear me?”

“Let me take care of the family getting left behind first.” He muttered as he hung up with the motherly dispatcher who seemed to like him and would leave little packages of goodies on his desk when he was having a particularly rough time of things. Collecting his tablet and a notebook, Greg packed his work-bag and made sure he had his phone and keys. He didn’t have to call for Judith, she was waiting at the door for him. She look sharp in her combat-uniform, he marked her rigid posture and carefully blank expression.

“Are you alright, Judith?”

“Maybe.” She sniffed, “Are we going to Saint Mary’s?”

“I’m not planning to stay long, though.” He held the door of the car for her, “Your mother’s already back at The Met, and I need to question her. Your brother should be in surgery for his injuries, but it’s not likely he’s going to survive. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“My mother just tried to kill my brother, maybe succeeded. I’m furious and sad, but I don’t want to cry.”

“Why not?”

“Because they never cared about me. I was on my own until I was sixteen, fending off my father’s abuses by myself until I escaped to the Army. When Joseph Watson died at the bottom of a whiskey-bottle when I was twenty-one, I was free.” Judith glared out the wind-screen, “My mother remarried two years later to a man named Richard Hughes, who deserves so much better than the messed-up, broken family he married into. I mean, the man has grown children and grandchildren to boot, for Christ’s sake! My brother barely remembers his own name on a good day, you don’t want to know what he’s like on a bad one, spends most of his time swimming to the bottom of whatever bottle he gets his grimy mitts on.” She looked at him sideways, “What do you think, Detective Inspector?”

“I think you deserve better, but look at the life you’ve made for yourself. Hell, Judith, you just made retirement as a Lieutenant-Colonel of the bloody British Army, honors to boot! Would I be mistaken to think Richard Hughes and his existing family were more the family you deserved than your own?”

“No.”

“Then there you have it. Family is what you make of it, blood and genetics bedamned.” He reached across the console and took her hand, “You’ve got Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, you’ve got your grandmother, you’ve got me, for whatever it’s worth. That’s not bad for family.”

“My step-family has always been so good to me. And of course the brothers are there for me, I think I owe my retirement to Mycroft. And my grandmother…oh, god, I was supposed to visit her today.”

“We can do that, after we go to the hospital. I’m sure she’ll understand?”

“Oh, I hope so.” Greg watched Judith’s face fall a bit, “Fuck, I can’t believe I forgot!”

“Judith, calm down. You just got the absolute worst news anyone ever gets, you can be forgiven for letting it slip your mind. I mean, it’s barely half-eight, for God’s sake! I’m pretty sure your grandmother will understand that a rather serious family emergency got in the way of other plans!”

“Yeah, I’ll say. Hell, she might show up at the hospital, but that wouldn’t be her way. She stays out of our business, we stay out of hers. She’s there if we need her, but we kind of do our own things.”

“I never said family was perfect, but you’ve got family. And they’ll see you through this. Alright?”

“Okay.” She smiled and he rubbed her cheek with his thumb before he focused on driving. He hadn’t mean to touch her that way, but she needed it, needed a kind hand, an understanding voice.

 

When they got to Saint Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, he parked outside the A&E Department and they went inside. At the desk, he showed his badge and asked for Watson. They were directed to the proper department and in a waiting-room, they found a surprising number of people gathered.

“Your family?”

“Well, Richard’s family. But…yeah. My family.” Judith sighed, “Christ.”

“Go on in, I’m right behind you.” He pushed her through the doors as they slid aside, one hand tight on her shoulder to keep her focused. He saw an older gentleman, probably in his sixties or seventies by the looks of him, with dark hair going gray and mild features. His eyes were a soft brown, framed by prominent crows-feet from laughter and squinting in the sun and a pair of rather elegant spectacles, his skin a dark tan you only got from hard honest labor outdoors.

“That’s Richard.” Judith murmured, as if reading his thoughts, “He keeps a running farm out in Devonshire, likes to work with his hands.”

“I can see that. Honest-looking bloke.”

“Too good for the messed-up Watsons, but thank God he decided to stay.” She looked over her shoulder, “On his right are my step-sisters Adrianne and Melissa, with their families. Mel’s a single mother, we never cared to find out what happened to the father after it got around that he had a drug-problem, but she’s one of the best mothers I know to the twins. Adrianne’s married to a well-off politican, probably knows Mycroft Holmes better than I do, and they have four children.”

“And another one on the way, it looks like.” Greg raised an eyebrow, “Good breeding-stock in the Hughes family, eh?”

“Smart stock, is what they’ve got.” Judith smiled, “And over there is my step-brother, John.” John Hughes was a short fellow, about Judith’s height and build, with nearly identical coloring, and a pleasant personality with just a shade of something darker underneath. He was a soldier, too, Greg could have called that even without the fatigues. Army Special Forces, judging by the division-patches, probably one of the nameless divisions that did dark-ops. Charming and deadly, not to be underestimated.

“Jesus Christ, he looks like you!”

“Yeah, I know. We like messing with strangers whenever we’re together, it’s a little joke of ours to see how long it actually takes people to realize we’re not actually twins.”

“God, are you sure about that?!” Greg couldn’t get over the fact that John and Judith were literally almost identical, “He looks more like you than the others!”

“No, we’re not, and we don’t care. Why should it matter? We’re family regardless, right?”

“Right, that.” He let out a slow breath, “So, this is your family?”

“Yep.” Judith stepped away from him and announced herself to her family, getting about the expected reaction from them. Richard Hughes peeled away from the cluster of adults and came to Greg.

“Lestrade, right?”

“Yes, sir.” He held out one hand, “Greg Lestrade, Homicide and Major Crimes. I’m taking your family’s case, sir, to make sure it gets done right.”

“You put that bitch away for life and I’ll sleep easier.” Richard’s eyes darkened, “Lord knows how I tried to steer her right, but she just didn’t have a care. And after what happened this morning, I don’t feel safe in my own house anymore.”

“Don’t worry, sir.” Greg tightened his grip on Richard’s hand, “I will do everything in my power to make sure you and your family are safe from Beverley Watson for the rest of your lives.”

“She’s a smart, manipulative woman, sir.”

“And I know people who don’t take kindly to the likes of her threatening a delicate balance of domestic content in London.” He was thinking specifically of Mycroft Holmes, “It’ll be done quickly once I put in word that Judith Watson is possibly in danger.”

“When we both know the girl can take care of herself no problem.”

“Strongest girl I know, but the shade of her mother’s cruelty and the memories of her father’s abuses hang over her shoulders.” Greg folded his hands behind her back and watched Judith interact with her step-siblings, “I’ve got a question for you, Mr. Hughes, if you’ve a moment?”

“Oh, of course! Anything I can do to help!”

 

Greg led the way out of the waiting-room, and waited until the doors had closed before he put his question to words.

“You probably know already, but has genetic testing ever been done for John?”

“Back when he was a teenager.” Richard nodded, “I waited that long because I didn’t want to anger Beverley. See, she was so convinced that John was mine, but...well, how could he be? Doesn’t look a damn thing like me or any of his siblings.”

“Did she say anything about a sibling?”

“Just said the twin had died during childbirth.”

“Christ. Did you know Beverley back then?”

“Sure I did! Didn’t take long to figure out what the real trick was. She lied to me, and lied to Joseph, too. I just didn’t say anything because I didn’t want her to hurt the kids.” Richard looked at the children, at Judith and John. They stood apart from the sisters and their families, heads together as they talked. It was clear in his posture that John Hughes recognized his sister’s senior rank and respected it, and watching the two together was a bit eerie.

“We’ve always treated John like one of ours, and Judith too, after she came to the family when I married Beverley.” He said grimly. “But my wife at that time, she understood how important it was to keep John safe. No one ever asked, and if they did, we just told them where to put it.”

“You’re a good man, Richard. I’m sorry this happened, but not sorry that maybe you’ll get some peace. I plan on making sure your wife goes away for a very long time.”

“Nah, she’s not even my wife anymore.” Richard handed him a stack of papers, “Divorce contract, signed and sealed and notarized two days ago. Do whatever the hell you want with her.”

“Mm. I hear Siberia’s nice this time of year.” He narrowed his eyes, “I’ve got friends in higher places than The Met who happen to be very fond of Judith Watson.”

“God bless you, Inspector, for being there for Judith, for all of us.” Richard tucked the papers away again, “You’ve got a job to do, I take it?”

“Not a pleasant one. Keep me informed of Harry’s condition, please?” He went back into the waiting-room, “I’d love to nail a homicide charge on Beverley Watson’s sorry arse.”

“Of course, Inspector.” Richard nodded.

 

Seeing him there by the doors, Judith came right over to him, John hard on her heels. It wasn’t just an illusion, he knew now, and it made his heart ache a bit for the clever, resourceful Watson twins.

“You’re leaving now?”

“Time to tear down Beverley Watson. I will not call her Beverley Hughes, it’s an insult to the name.” He looke from Judith to John, “When this is over, I’m taking the pair of you for a pint. I’d like to get to know you better, Captain Hughes.”

“Likewise, Inspector. It’s been a couple of years, but looks like life off the battle-field is treating you well.” John looked him over as they shook hands and smiled, “Well enough indeed. Sorry to hear about the trouble you’re having with your wife, though.”

“I’ll deal with her when I need to. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

“Mmm. Man of priorities. I like that.” John’s nose wrinkled in that slightly frightening way Judith’s did when she was planning a bit troublesome. Twins indeed! God help him and all the unsuspecting people of London! He said goodbye to the engimatic twins, wondering if John would be any help on crime-scenes. If he would be willing to help on crime-scenes. Would introducing John Hughes to Sherlock Holmes really be a good idea? Or was that just asking of the kind of trouble he couldn’t afford? He already got some flak from his higher-ups for having Sherlock on the rosters, but Mycroft kept them in check, since the politician had a bit more than some influence on their paychecks.

 

***

 

Going back to The Met, Greg spent the next three hours working on the Watson case, grilling Beverley Watson on motives and such, sorting through stacks of reports and files and taking a phone-call from the hospital for an update on Harry Watson’s status. He didn’t check the number as the call rang through on his desk-phone, just answered automatically.

“New Scotland Yard Homicide, this is Greg Lestrade.”

“Greg, hi, it’s John Hughes.” He had only met the man once, heard him speak a handful of words, but he recongized Judith’s brother’s voice right away.

“Oh, god, hi! Yeah, sorry, Captain!” He shifted the phone to his shoulder and kept working on the reports, “What can I do for you?”

I’m calling on my father’s behalf to inform you that at approximately twelve-thirty pm local time, Harold Jefferson Watson passed away from complications after surgery.”

“Oh, Jesus Christ.” Greg rubbed his forehead, “That’s the worst news ever, and exactly the news I wanted to hear. I’m very sorry, Captain, but so very grateful.”

“Put that woman away for life, Inspector, that’s all we ask.” John’s voice was so steady, so…calm. It was a bit frightening, but not that surprising. Greg chuckled and pushed away from his desk.

“I plan to, Captain. Thanks for the call, I’ll be in touch.”

Thank you, sir.”

“My pleasure, Captain. See you soon.” He signed off and hung up. As he headed for the interview-room, he pulled his mobile-phone from his pocket and dialed a number.

“Busy morning, Gregory?”

“Sorry to bother you, Mycroft.” He looked around, “I need you to do me a huge favor.”

What, besides find somewhere appropriately despicable to send Beverley Watson-Hughes?”

“Yeah, besides that. I need everything you can get me on the Watson twins, Judith and John. Anything. Service-histories, dental records, birth certificates. The works, if you can manage.”

“Ahh. You met the Other Twin, I see.” He heard a sinister tone in Mycroft’s voice, “What do you think of him?”

“I think he’s an asset. Judith’s already been useful to me, I’m wondering if I can’t put the both of them to use.”

I’ll see what I can pull together for you, Gregory. But you understand, of course, that certain things are above your clearance.”

“Always will be, too. I just need something to work with. If this guy’s dark-ops, where he’s been, what he’s done, targets, locations, names.”

I’ll have it to you by the time you leave The Met tonight.”

“Bless you, Mycroft Holmes.” He muttered, “Well, I’ve got to go, time to arrest Beverley Watson for a small string of crimes.” As he pushed the door open, a uniformed constable behind him to help with the arrest, he pocketed his phone. Time to put a spiteful, hateful woman away for good.

 

After he had booked Beverly Watson into jail, Greg went back to his desk to cut down on some of the paperwork that had been festering there. It was gone three before he bothered to check the time. He informed the family right away, speaking again with John, who seemed to be the family’s designated representative for this mess.

 

Judith and John showed up at The Met a quarter past the hour with no warning. Judith had the statements from yesterday’s case, and as he skimmed over Sherlock’s, he looked at the charming senior medical officer, one eyebrow raised. She just smiled at him.

“Yes, Inspector?”

“How and where did you get Sherlock Holmes’s statement from the case yesterday?”

“He came to the hospital looking for me. Ended up meeting my whole family.” Judith looked at her brother, who grinned, “I think it might have been a bit much for him so early in the day.”

“Was it all of them that tripped him, or just your brother?”

“Mm, it was John.” The twins smiled at each other and Greg suddenly felt very sorry for the criminals of London if they decided to pool their resources together with Sherlock Holmes. As he filed Judith and Sherlock’s statements in the proper case-file, he noticed that John had a cane. He had missed that detail earlier at the hospital, but it was only to be expected with so many people and so much going on. He frowned and looked up at the charming, slightly-dangerous blond.

“Captain?”

“Yes, sir?”

“When were you wounded?”

“A year ago. Sent me home two weeks after it happened.” He shrugged, as if it didn’t bother him, “The transition period was a bit rough, of course.”

“I can only imagine.” He shuddered, remembering his transition back into civilian-life, not made any easier by his wife. Judith and John exchanged a look and an entire conversation took place without a word being said. He was used to it from the Holmes brothers, and had the feeling this was something to take care with.

 

Checking the time, Greg realized he hadn’t eaten since breakfast, surviving on bad coffee and vending-machine snacks since then. Such was the life of a homicide detective. He groaned and ruffled his hair, irritated. On the other side of his desk, another glance was exchanged. He wondered if Judith and John ever actually spoke out loud to each other, or if they had adapted a silent method of communication.

 

Suddenly, he heard a commotion outside his office and hoped to god it wasn’t Sherlock. He heard Sally Donovan’s voice, trying desperately to tell someone off. Not Sherlock. He hadn’t closed his door all the way, and it crashed open as whoever had come for him stormed into the office. He watched, wincing, as the door almost hit John, who calmly reached out and caught the door before it slammed into him.

“I’m so sorry, sir, I tried to stop her!” Sally stumbled at the door, trying to catch her breath. He waved off her apology.

“You can’t stop me, ramera!” Claudia snarled, turning on Sally like a snake, “And you!”

“Jesus, can’t I get a break today?” He groaned, putting his head down, “What do you want, Claudia?”

“You owe me an answer, Gregory Lestrade!” His wife hissed, leaning over his desk. She was drunk, and quite possibly high. Behind her, completely unnoticed, the Watsons were gearing up to step in on his behalf. Sally stood in the doorway, blocking that escape, furious at being called a hustler by her boss’s awful wife. He was angry on his own for that, Claudia could do and say whatever the hell she wanted to him, but when she turned on his team and treated them like that, it was crossing a line.

“I don’t think I owe you a damn thing, but you owe my sergeant an apology.” He got to his feet, knowing better than to take this quite literally sitting down. “You came in here for something, so you’d best get it out before I have you escorted off the premises for willful harassment.”

“By who? You can’t touch me!”

“Willing to bet on that?” He glanced left and then right. The twins stepped forward, prepared to take her out. Sally was already reaching for her handcuffs.

“You’re drunk, Claudia. How long have you been drinking?”

“What business is that of yours?!” she hissed.

“Just a bit.” He picked up his mobile and quietly tapped out a text to Mycroft. “You just came here to pick a fight after a night of drinking yourself stupid and only woke up a few hours ago, you haven’t even taken a shower and you’re still wearing the same clothes you wore on your date last night. Which, judging by this moment, means things didn’t turn out so well.” He tipped his head to the right a bit, “What made him dump you like last week’s garbage, my dear? Hmm? The fact that he caught you lying?”

“Oh, don’t pull that on me!”

“You didn’t even take your ring off, Claudia.” He indicated her left hand, where she still wore both rings of the set. “Give me a reason, Claudia, just one god damn reason.” His phone chimed, signalling a new text-message, and he glanced at it briefly. Out of the corner of his vision, he saw the shift in his wife’s body-language and quietly stepped back just as her fist swung out.

 

The next bit happened so quickly he was a little surprised by the speed of his sergeant and the twins. It was Sally and Judith who did most of the take-down, and it was glorious. Using Claudia’s momentum against her, the girls caught Claudia by one arm apiece and pinned her to the desk, making short work of putting her in cuffs. Judith had one hand on the back of his wife’s neck in a nape-pinch that would hurt like a bitch if she applied the right pressure.

“Get off of me!” Claudia struggled, “This is harassment, this is assault! You can’t do this to me!”

“Don’t struggle, Ms. Mendez, it’s not going to end well for you either way.” Judith said in a low, threatening tone, applying that bit of pressure to the back of Claudia’s neck, “You’re already in trouble for harassment and assault of a senior detective of New Scotland Yard, no need to add resisting arrest to your charges.”

“You’re not Scotland Yard!” Claudia spat.

“You don’t know that.” Judith was all business, and Greg was desperately tempted to see what kind of a headache it would be to get her on the force. He inclined his head a fraction and let Sally pull Claudia back as John poked his head out and summoned a nearby uniformed constable to help manage his feisty, inebriated wife. Another text came in from Mycroft Holmes and he swiped in to read it.

 

Concern yourself with your own safety and consider the matter handled. I have given your information to my best barrister, and he has agreed to take your case pro bono. Consider it a favor. – MH

 

Greg heaved a sigh of relief and tapped out a quick reply.

 

Thanks for doing this, Mycroft. I know it’s pretty short notice, but things got a bit out of hand this morning. Well, most of the day’s been a circus. Thank god for the Watsons. – GL

 

Mm. What do you think of John Hughes? – MH

 

Greg didn’t need to be in the same room to know Mycroft was smiling. He glanced up at the man still standing by the door of his office, standing at ease but ready for action in whatever form it took, and grinned.

 

I think The Met could probably use a dozen each of the twins. I’m currently turning over ways to bring Judith on as part of the force, you missed a hell of a take-down a minute ago. – GL

 

I did not miss that confrontation. I am glad you are unhurt, your ex-wife was determined to do some sort of damage, whether physical or psychological remains uncertain. You handled it quite well, but I assure you having the sort of back-up you had at that moment in time was quite useful. – MH

 

Greg rolled his eyes and looked up to the corner of the office where he knew at least one camera was set up. There were at least two other cameras in this office, he just hadn’t bothered to find them all.

 

He was debating a proper response when his radio squawked at the same time his desk-phone rang. John picked up the radio and adjusted the volume as he picked up the phone.

“This is Lestrade.”

Sorry to bother you, sir, but…there’s a call in from Whitmore Estate. Apartment fire with people trapped inside. Fire crews responding put in a call for homicide, they found bodies.”

“Oh, that’s just fantastic.” He groaned, “Thanks. I’ll get my team on the road.” He hung up that call and quickly put out calls to the rest of his team. When he got hold of Sally Donovan, he had one request for her.

“If you’re still with Judith, stay with her. We’ll be bringing them in on this.”

“What about Holmes?” He noticed how she avoided using her derogatory nickname, “Are you calling him?”

“I don’t think I have a choice. Arson with bodies found in the wreckage.” Greg looked up at John, who watched with a sharp light in his eyes. “I think we need his help. We need all the help we can get.”

“Roger that, sir.” Sally hung up first and Greg pocketed his phone as he shrugged into his coat, looking up at John, who held the door for him.

“Thanks. Sorry I sort of volunteered you for work.”

“Quite alright. It’s not like I didn’t get a medical degree in forensic pathology, is it?”

“Oh, is that what you went in for?!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Oh, you’ll be damned useful!” He heaved a sigh of relief, “You still looking for work?”

“I take locums work for general practice when I can get it, part-time at a local clinic, but not enough to pay rent anywhere decent. I’m living with Mike Stamford at the moment, we went to Bart’s together ages ago.”

“Right. Your service-history is a bit shorter than Judith’s, yeah?” He shook his head, “She’s been in the Army almost as long as I was married, for Chrissakes.”

“You’ll find the right one, just give it a few months to heal up before you dip your toes back into the dating-pool.” John just smiled and they headed for the motor-pool. He would take John, and pinged Sally to have her borrow another marked car to drive Judith out to the scene. He fired off a text to Sherlock with all of the details he knew about this latest case and received a swift response that he would meet them on-scene, and asked who was on Forensics. He rolled his eyes.

 

Anderson is on Forensics, but there’s a few new faces on the team that I think you’ll find rather agreeable. Just…please behave yourself? – GL

 

You dropped a solid seven in my lap, Lestrade, I haven’t had a good case in three weeks before yesterday. Yesterday was a four, maybe. Today promises to be exciting. – SH

 

“Only you would think that’s exciting, Sherlock Holmes. Bloody poncy git, too damn useful.” He shook his head and headed for the scene.



 

Chapter Text



Judith Watson knew the tension humming through her bones wasn’t just her own. Beside her, Sally Donovan was practically twitching with fury. She narrowed her eyes and looked sideways at the police sergeant as they walked away from the jail after booking in Claudia Hendricks. There had been a certain degree of satisfaction she got from handing the woman over to the constables and wardens, watching her rant and fight against them, screaming that this was outrageous and she would never see the inside of a prison cell or a day of a sentence if she had anything to say about it.

“You took that better than I would have.”

“I’ve been called worse.” Donovan shrugged, “Thanks for helping out, though. You’re pretty good with a take-down.”

“I’ve got personal interest in your boss’s safety and well-being, like hell am I going to sit there and let his bitch of an ex-wife tear him down.” She clenched and unclenched her right hand. Donovan’s phone rang, it was Lestrade with a case. Apparently this was an-all hands sort of affair and on top of calling in Sherlock Holmes, Lestrade wanted Judith and her brother along.

“Both of us?”

“Apparently he liked what he saw yesterday.” Donovan shrugged and pocketed her phone, “Although, it was pretty neat to see someone else pull one of Holmes’s tricks and leave him staring. No one can do that.”

“I didn’t mean to do it, it just…kind of happened.” She rubbed her sleeve, “It’s pretty vital to my job to be aware of my surroundings and tiny insignificant details at all times. Any lapse could kill me. Didn’t mean for it to get useful for solving crimes, though.”

“Are you his partner?”

“Sort of.” Judith leaned against the frame of a doorway that led to a coat-room. On one wall a cork-board was adorned with key-rings, Donovan took a set of keys from these hooks and checked the tag on the ring. She made a note in a log and pocketed the keys, turning out the lights of the coat-room and closing the door as she left.

“Alright, you’re coming with me, Lestrade has your brother, and apparently our psycho detective is on his way.”

“You’re not really friends with him, are you?”

“No? Why?”

“Just an observation.” Judith tried not to smile, “Trust me, you would not be the first person or the last to call him a freak. No one really gets along with him, I guess John and I are special like that.”

“How do you know him anyway? You seem way too comfortable around him to be, uh, casual acquaintances.” Donovan led the way to the motor-pool, “Not that it’s any of my business.”

“Nah. I’ve known Sherlock Holmes and his brother for nineteen years. We’ve maintained a weird kind of friendship since then. In fact, until four years ago, I hadn’t seen him in almost fourteen years.”

“What was the cause for the split?”

“I enlisted. He dropped out of school shortly after I left for the Army. John joined me three years later and informed me that Sherlock had pretty much disappeared for a while.”

“Christ.”

“It was ugly. Three days before John shipped out he was hauling Sherlock out of a drug-den in the West End before the cops busted the place wide open. Last he knew, it was off to rehab for Sherlock.” She dropped into the passenger seat of a marked car, “We didn’t hear from or see the Holmes brothers until the two of them dropped in on Camp Bastion in 2005 while I was posted there. Then it was on-again off-again for a few more years until just a few days ago when Sherlock dropped retirement orders on my desk in Afghanistan and I got shipped home.”

“That’ll do it! Has he always been so annoying?”

“Yeah, pretty much. There’s not really a filter there, you know?” She sighed, “He doesn’t hate you, he just doesn’t fly at the same altitude the rest of us do.”

“No kidding!” Donovan rolled her eyes, “And I don’t hate him.”

“Didn’t think so. You’re too nice to him.” Judith smiled, “People who really despise him are pretty cruel. Between you two, Freak is almost a term of endearment. It’s Philip Anderson he doesn’t like at all.”

“You noticed?”

“Oh, I noticed.” She made a face, “Bit of a prick, isn’t he?”

“That’s nice of you.”

“I take it you’re not all that fond of him, either?”

“Not really.” Donovan shook her head, “He’s arrogant, more than a bit stupid, and won’t shut up half the time.”

“And Sherlock Holmes is arrogant, a bit more than too smart, and won’t shut up half the time. Which one is worse?”

“Anderson.” There was no hesitation, “Sherlock at least is too busy flouncing around London like a posh moron to bother me. Or bother with me. Idiot Anderson won’t take a fucking hint!”

“He’s married, isn’t he?”

“Yes he is, poor woman. But she’s as much an idiot as he is, so I don’t feel too bad. They’re kind of perfect for each other.”

“So, where in his mind is it okay to cheat on his wife with a coworker who doesn’t seem that interested?”

“Hell if I know! I guess that’s what I get for being nice!”

“Oh, no! You didn’t actually go out with him, did you?!” Judith could only imagine what that must have been like, “What were you thinking?”

“I think I was hoping if I said yes, just once, he would leave me alone after he figured out I wasn’t interested in another date!” Donovan’s fingers tightened on the steering-wheel, “God I hated myself that night.”

“Did you tell Lestrade about this? Does he have any idea?”

“He knows there’s something not quite on, but he keeps his nose out of my business unless I ask him.”

“And this wasn’t exactly something you wanted to risk getting around if things went south.”

“No.”

“You’re smart, Donovan. And surprisingly open with a stranger.” She reached over and squeezed the fingers clenching the steering-wheel so tightly they were turning white, “You didn’t mean to tell me everything, did you?”

“Not really, but…I couldn’t help myself. You’re so…nice.” Donovan loosened her fingers and Judith watched the spedometer needle tremble down as the car slowed. “Oh, good thing we’re in a marked car, yeah?”

“Can’t really pull ourselves over, can we?”

“It’d be interesting to try.” Donvoan groaned, “Oh my god. I’m sorry.”

“For venting? It’s fine. I get the feeling you don’t have a lot of girlfriends or get out much beyond your work obligations.”

“Friends don’t exist in my line of work, never mind a steady boyfriend! Are you kidding me?!”

“Well, not a steady, emotionally-stable, not-creepy, non-coworker boyfriend.” Judith couldn’t help herself. It took a minute for it to hit Donovan who she was talking about, and half that time for the laughter to start. Donovan actually had to pull the car over before they wrecked, which made them a little late to the crime-scene. It was so bad they were late enough to show up after Sherlock Holmes!

“Oh, we’re never going to live this down!” Judith got out first and looked over the roof of the car at the tape-line a few yards distant, “How are we going to explain this?”

“We’d better think of something good, we were right behind them leaving The Met.” Donovan wrinkled her nose. “But I think he’ll appreciate us not getting into a wreck on the way over just because you said something about Anderson.”

“Don’t do that, you’ll start all over again!” Judith reached over the car and poked at Sally, “We’re at a crime-scene, for god’s sake, we can’t giggle at a crime-scene!”

“Not good?”

“A bit not good, yeah.” She bit her lip to keep from laughing. They got to the line, got under it, apologized to Lestrade for being late, explained it away as a traffic-delay, and he sent Judith and John into the scene with Sherlock. They were met at the door of the ground-floor flat by a pissy Philip Anderson and Judith looked over her shoulder at Donovan, who watched, making a face no one else saw, mouthing “Fucking Anderson!” to the sergeant.

“Oi! Watson! Sometime today would be nice!” Lestrade called, the others had already gone in. Judith waved to Donovan, who turned away to hide her smile, and headed for the sheet-covered bodies of the victims after donning blue PPE gear.

 

When they reached the first body, Judith circled it a few times, reciting what she could see out loud as she lifted the sheet to get a better look. John inspected the bodies with her while Sherlock took apart the scene inside the apartment. For a while, it was quiet while they made observations and took notes. But while they were going over the third body, that of a six-year-old female child, Judith straightened and turned her back on the scene for a minute.

“Jude?” John watched her, “You alright?”

“Frances Almond, age six, youngest of six children, lived with her grandparents part-time.” She cleared her throat and looked over her shoulder at her brother, “John, it’s Frisk!”

“I know.” He said softly, shaking his head, “I knew as soon as I got here. Think it was Timo?”
“Who else could it be, John?! You and I know how he thinks, how he functions!”

“Where’s Lestrade?” Judith yanked off the mask and went after the gloves next

“Inside, I think? With Sherlock and Anderson.”

“I’ll tell him it’s Timothy Almond they need to question.” She stepped into the apartment, seeing remnants of a house she had played in as a child. She followed the sound of raised voices into the bathroom where she found Sherlock and Anderson going at each other’s throats.

“Do not tell me how to do my job, Holmes!” Anderson snarled, chest-to-chest with Sherlock, who looked rather unimpressed, “You’re only here because they let Lestrade keep a pet detective!” Anderson was in a fit, his face red. Judith saw Sherlock flinch at being called a “pet detective”, and Judith bared her teeth. That was a pretty low blow, even for someone like Anderson.

“Anderson, for God’s sake, leave alone!” Lestrade snapped, “That’s enough of you both! Christ! All I need is one answer! One clue!”

“You’re looking for Timothy Almond.” Judith spoke up, interrupting the moment, “He goes by the street-name of Timo, usually haunts around the flop-houses in Fulham.”

“Timothy Almond was taken to the hospital with first-degree burns. Are you sure he’s the suspect?”

“Absolutely positive.” Judith looked around the bathroom, “I grew up with Timothy Almond, we were kids together. I used to live in this estate-housing. He was unstable when we were kids, I always thought he’d get shot or knifed on a drug-deal gone wrong.” She turned around and left the bathroom and three puzzled detectives.

“That’s three strikes today, Inspector. You put that fucking son of a bitch away. Christine Almond was like a grandmother to me when I was a kid, she didn’t deserve this.”

“Hey, are you gonna be alright, Watson?” Lestrade followed her to the door, “Your day was about as bad as mine was.”

“The best part of the day was this morning and the drive to get here.” She looked at him, “Get Timo Almond behind bars ASAP, I’ll put word to the rest of his family.”

“Yeah, I can do that. Where are you off to?”

“Got some steam to blow off. If you want a break from this madness, stop by Maroush any time between eight and half-one. I’ll be there all night.” With a nod to Sherlock and Anderson, she left the house. John was speaking with the morgue-teams that had come to collect the bodies, and Donovan paced by the line, keeping out curious bystanders with the help of two constables. She waved to her brother and headed for Donovan as she sent a text to him.

 

I’m off to notify the family. Might get Sally Donovan to come along with me for moral support. Last thing I wanted today was to deliver bad news to the Almonds. They were such kind people when we were kids. – JW

 

You’re a good person to do that, Jude. Where you off to once you’ve seen to the family? – JH

 

Maroush. Lovely Lebanese place on Edgeware Road. You’ve been? – JW

 

Judith smiled as she tapped out that reply. Up at the scene, her brother looked at his phone then at her, his eyes narrow. She waved her phone at him and put a hand on Sally Donovan’s jacket as she came alongside her. Her phone chimed, but she ignored it for a minute.

“You okay?” Donovan asked in a quiet voice, “Off again?”

“I was neighbours with these people, I used to live here.” She looked back at the buildings, “Top floor, end apartment on the right, Stringer House. Don’t much miss it.”

“Donovan!” Lestrade yelled from up the road, getting their attention, “Go with her! She’s gonna see the rest of the family!”

“Yes, sir!” Donovan nodded and looked at Judith, “Where do they live?”

“Catherine House. This way.” She headed north a bit on the foot-path and turned the corner going left to reach Catherine House. She would bet money the rest of the Almond family already knew, but she owed it to them to give them the affirmative in person. She and Donovan climbed the many stairs to the third floor, and she counted doors and apartment-numbers until they got to 30 Catherine House. The door itself was propped open a bit, which she remembered as a habit from her childhood. People didn’t really close their doors around here, which would probably make canvassing the area much easier. And if her name got around before they started asking questions of the neighbours, all the better. Most of these people knew her, had for years.

 

Taking a deep breath, and nearly a hundred-percent convinced the family knew she was coming, or at least someone was coming, Judith knocked on the door.

“Mr. Almond, New Scotland Yard, sir. Can we come in?” There was a bit of a commotion inside and she saw Donovan reach for her waistband. She caught the sergeant by the hand and shook her head. No need here. The door flew open, thrown wide by Gerald Almond, who must have recognized her voice.

“Oh, it’s Judith Watson! Well, that’s a sight for these sore old eyes!” The kind man was in tears, he knew, even as he threw his arms around Judith and hugged her so tight something in her spine popped.

“Hi, Gerald.” She huffed, “Can you put me down? My, uh, feet don’t touch right now.”

“Jesus, child!” Gerald Almond shook his head and set her down, looking her over with sharp eyes, “You ain’t with The Met, are ya?”

“Not yet, I’m not. But Sergeant Donovan is.” She looked over her shoulder at Donovan, “Can we come in real quick?”

“Oh, sure you can, girls!” He smiled sadly and dragged them into the flat, which didn’t look that different from the last time she’d seen it, “Not much has really changed since you were home last, eh?”

“Uh, no.” She looked around, “You probably know why I’m here.”

“Oh, yeah. Couldn’t miss that commotion, no ma’am.” Gerald shuffled around, tending to his grieving family, “Just one question for you girls.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Was it Timo?”

“John and I think it was, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Sherlock says the same.” She looked around, “I am so sorry about all of this, I really wish I wasn’t…well, I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know already, but…you’re my family. I hate giving bad news like this.” Gerald’s father-in-law, who lived next-door in Unit 31, came over and hugged her tight before ushering her to a seat on the crowded couch.

“You girls take a sit-down for a bit.” Malembe Awara said sternly, “And not a word about it, hear?”

“Yes, sir.” Judith smiled and squirmed a bit to make more room, “Oi, Baxter, budge over, mate!” Obediently, Gerald’s eldest son, who was three years older than Judith, squeezed over to make a space. Malembe’s wife Sarah brought out tea and biscuits, which Judith and Donovan were happy to accept. Sarah peered at Donovan, and put a hand on one hip, eyes narrow as she looked the detective sergeant over.

“Oh, I know you! You’re Rachel Donovan’s girl Sally!” Sarah grinned, showing a few missing teeth, “All grown up now, right, and off to work for New Scotland Yard? Haven’t you gone some high places?” Judith looked at Donovan, who didn’t look as ashamed as she probably should have.

“Wait a minute here. You’re a CEM too?” CEM (pronounced with a K-sound) was an acronym for “Council Estate Mutt”, which was a derogatory term for the kids who lived in Council Estate housing with their families.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I thought I knew all the kids on our block.” She raised an eyebrow, “Pretty sure I’d remember you, at least.”

“We were kids, Jude.” Donovan said quietly, blowing steam off the rim of her cup, “You shouldn’t be expected to remember that far back.” A few of the family left after a bit, going to the hospital to make sure Timothy didn’t try to skip town before the police got him into custody, and to The Met to talk to the police and offer whatever help they could.

“Oh, ask for Greg Lestrade, he’s in charge of the case.” Judith called after the departing groups. With a bit more room in the crowded place, Judith kicked Baxter out of his spot and made room for Donovan, who plunked down next to her and handed over a biscuit.

“Had to swipe these, the littles were eating them like people drink water.”

“Oh, these are Christine’s cinnamon-sugar biscuits!”

“She fixed up the batch this morning.” Gerald looked a bit sad, “My mother was such a good woman.”

“She sure looked after us kids, that’s for sure.” Judith huffed, nibbling on the cookie, “Me and Harry and Sally, too.”

 

It got quiet after a while, and someone brought out an acoustic guitar, strumming random soft chords. There were tears and whispers, of course, but it wasn’t like any wake or house of grieving Judith had been in before. But then again, the Almonds were a unique family and didn’t approach things like death the same way others did.

 

Judith closed her eyes, comfortable in her spot, and leaned against the person to her left, resting her cheek on their shoulder. It was Donovan, but hell if the gifted sergeant minded at all. They had history far older than anyone outside this house suspected, it wasn’t like yesterday was the first time they’d set eyes on each other. Just…the first time in way too long for either of them.

After a while, she started humming a slow, slightly sad certain tune. She knew the song in two languages, in English and in Gaelic, but didn’t sing it often.

“You don’t still sing, do you, Jude?” Baxter asked from somewhere to her right. Judith nodded.

“Not often. No real call or need for it.

“You had a wonderful voice, I remember.” Gerald was smiling, she didn’t need to see his face to know. She sighed, wondering if she should go for it here. She still planned to spend the rest of her evening at Maroush, but there were a few hours yet before she had to be anywhere.

“Someone else take up for me if I can’t sing anymore.”

“Oh, thank you, Judith! Bless you!” Someone kissed her on the forehead and she scrunched her nose. She hadn’t sang for anyone in years, let alone put words to Down to the River to Pray. She sang the first couple of verses by herself, Baxter picking up accompaniment, followed by Donovan, who startled Judith with her rather lovely alto.

 

“As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

 

O sisters, let's go down,
Let's go down, come on down
O sisters, let's go down
Down in the river to pray

 

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

 

O brothers, let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
Come on, brothers, let's go down
Down in the river to pray

 

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

 

O fathers, let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
O fathers, let's go down
Down in the river to pray

 

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

 

O mothers, let's go down
Let's go down; don't you want to go down?
Come on, mothers, let's go down
Down in the river to pray

 

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

 

O sinners, let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
O sinners, let's go down
Down in the river to pray

 

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way!”

 

***

 

An hour later, Judith and Donovan left Catherine House feeling much better than they had when they’d walked into Unit 30, with small containers full of biscuits and a promise wrenched from both of them to stay in far better touch than they had before. Judith decided to head back to Lestrade’s place to take a fast shower, she felt a bit gross after her stressful day. She picked up a text-message from Mycroft informing her that her name had been added to that night’s performance roster and she was welcome to join the dancers at Maroush any night she wanted, and also her costume had been collected and taken to be cleaned and had subsequently been delivered to Maroush. All she had to do was show up. So, Donovan dropped her off and asked when they could see each other again. Judith smiled and leaned in through the window.

“Come by Maroush tonight, I’ll be there until close.”

“You’re not a server, are you?”

“Nah. Not enough of a people-person for that. Nope. Come by when you’re off duty and see for yourself!” She grinned, “I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

“I don’t trust you for a minute.” Donovan narrowed her eyes. Judith chuckled and leaned close, stealing a quick kiss.

“That’ll keep you busy for a bit. See you tonight, Sally!”

“What was that for?!”

“Give you something to think about.” She smiled and wiggled her fingers as she stood back to let Sally pull away. As soon as the squad-car was out of sight, she got into the house and ran upstairs.

 

After a shower and a nap, she got dressed in comfy clothes and set out for Maroush. Judith walked from the house up to Earls Court Road, where she hailed a taxi to the restaurant. It was half-seven when she got there, and she headed straight for the back area. Riyah and the girls were already there and getting ready, and when Judith showed up, were quick to pull her in.

“We heard about your day! Are you alright?”

“I’ve certainly had better days, but this is nothing compared to some of the days I had in Afghanistan. It’s definitely been busy, and I think I might look for a job with The Met. I seem to be rather good at solving crimes.”

“You’re certainly smart enough.” Riyah sat her down and handed her a mug of tea, “But you’re a doctor, yeah?”

“A little better at solving crimes at the moment. I’d be down to occasional locums work, maybe a half-time shift at a clinic I can talk into taking me.” Judith shrugged, “I’d kind of rather do something that lets me keep my own hours.”

“But if you go to work for The Met…?”

If I go to work for NSY, I’ll probably do patrol, I can’t hope to get into Homicide right away. Otherwise, I might go in as a forensics specialist. My brother and I both are forensic pathologists, but the Army gave us training as general surgeons. We have more than a few skills.” Judith finished the tea and got ready for the night. She had some negative energy to work off, and this seemed a good way to do it.

 

It was busy but quiet, and Judith slowly unwound from the crazy day she’d had. The dancing provided the badly-needed outlet Judith had needed and getting lost in the rhythm was simple despite her state of agitation. Each incident of today had been personal on some level, and she was desperate for relief. At nine-thirty, during one of the fifteen-minute performances they put on every hour, the doors opened and Judith recognized the man shaking rain off of his coat and umbrella. It looked like he was alone, but if he was in, then she had no doubt the others would be coming later. She smiled and tuned her awareness to the guests. She knew Mycroft was aware of her unspoken skillsets, the harmless and deadly alike, and wondered a bit where this fell on the spectrum. He knew she had danced overseas, and a few times domestically, this was only happening because he’d had words with Maroush’s management. If she had to guess, he was coming to see what a few words of suggestion had gotten them.



 

Chapter Text



When Mycroft Holmes arrived at Maroush Edgeware Road, he was only coming for one reason. At the moment, he was alone, but he knew better than to think it would remain that way for the evening and had reserved a table for himself and any one of a small circle of friends and acquaintances who would trickle in over the course of the next several hours as their work-schedules allowed. He shook the rain from his coat and umbrella, passing both off to a waiting server, who disappeared after handing him a ticket, which he put in his pocket as he looked around. The current number came to its end as he took his seat. As another song began, he paid attention to the dancers. They were all very pretty and of all body-types and racial heritage. They got along, he knew by the way they moved together among the tables.

 

He was familiar with tall, dusky Riyah, who traditionally led the girls during the night, but last night the leadership had changed a bit and Riyah had pulled in a partner. Leading the current set was Riyah’s blonde British counterpart, who performed under the stage-name of Zazi. He had heard of Judith Watson’s hobby of belly-dancing, had viewed hours worth of compiled CCTV and rehearsal footage, but there was nothing like seeing it in person. She did not disappoint, and Mycroft found himself hoping that the others would make it to see a few sets before the night was old. Judith was aware of him, he watched her rhythm change and sent a brief text to his brother, Judith’s brother John, and to Judith’s NSY contacts.

 

Maroush Edgeware Road. Come at once if convenient. – MH

If inconvenient, come anyway. Come regardless. – MH

 

What is so important? This demand is new. Where are you? – SH

 

Right where I said I was in the first text, dear brother. You will not be disappointed if you make the effort to come tonight. – MH

He smirked.

I daresay you might even enjoy yourself. Plenty of unwitting subjects to deduce for your pleasure, but a rather greater pleasure is here to be enjoyed. If you’re still in the company of Detective Inspector Lestrade, pass the invitation along to him as well, if you please. – MH

 

Pleased with getting one over on his brilliant, arrogant brother, Mycroft set his phone on the table face-down and reached for the glass the server had put by his place.

“Ah, so good to see you tonight, Mr Holmes! Are you going to have company?” Hakim Masoun came to his table after the set was complete and the girls had disappeared to take a short break between performances.

“Good evening, Mr Masoun. You seem to be doing well for yourself.”

“Mm.” The restaurant’s owner and manager nodded enthusiastically, “But having Judith Watson is not a bad business-move, I do not think. She is smart and gifted, yes?”

“Very much so.” He smiled, “You do us both a great favour letting her work here on the nights she needs somewhere to turn.” Like tonight. In the course of the past twenty-four hours, Judith had worked two cases with The Met as a consultant and managed a domestic between Gregory Lestrade and his ex-wife as well as a personal tragedy within her own family. He had particular plans for Claudia Mendez and Beverley Watson, insurance that they wouldn't harm anyone else ever again. Mycroft was rather fond of his brother’s friends, they had proven themselves valuable to him many times. Making sure respective troublesome family-members were no longer a threat was a simple matter for him.

 

When Sherlock arrived nearly three hours later, he did not come alone. Not that Mycroft had expected him to. With his brother were John Hughes-Watson, who would probably in the near future shed his “adopted” name, Gregory Lestrade, and Gregory’s assigned sergeant, Sally Donovan. Donovan, by Mycroft’s research, had grown up in the same Council Estate housing as Judith until life took them apart when Judith got into the Army Foundation College three months after her sixteenth birthday and gone on to fifteen years of continuous service with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers as a medic. Judith was also a gifted marksman and had done her share of rifle-work as a sniper. Her brother had the same skillsets, despite a shorter service-history, and he hoped that they could find good outlets for their work-related skills. Donovan had finished secondary school and shunned university for a head start in a career in law enforcement, which she was remarkably good at and showed promise to climb the rank-ladders to a high position, if she could only make better choices in her private life. He knew Sherlock was good about pushing and prodding Donovan to better herself. As the group sat down, he flagged down a server, who took orders for food and another round of drinks.

“Interesting place.” Donovan murmured, looking around the restaurant. Mycroft did not miss how Donovan, Lestrade, and Hughes all staking out the area, and at least two of them had eyes on the main entrance. Lestrade faced towards the kitchen, busy keeping tabs on the wait-staff and customers coming and going from that part of the restaurant while Donovan and Hughes took care of the other angles. Not that Maroush was a dangerous place, but old habits died hard and he appreciated their watchfulness.

 

It was a bit funny to watch how thoroughly distracted Donovan, Hughes, and Sherlock got as the dancers came out again after another short break and they recognized Judith. Mycroft chuckled at the absolutely gobsmacked expression on his brother’s face as Judith and Riyah danced at their table, leading the girls in a thoroughly entrancing dance. He took note of the many colourful scarves tied to Judith’s belt and knew they were favours. Lestrade was completely enthralled, and his focus explained the dusting of glitter on his coat and the scarf around his neck that Mycroft hadn’t noticed before. It was a very feminine, diaphanous thing of silk in gorgeous shades of blue and purple with silver accents that he was certain the strict, rule-abiding DI wouldn't wear without damn good reason. Ah, he had favour from Judith already.

“Think she’ll take anyone from our table tonight?” Lestrade murmured during one particularly enchanting number. Mycroft smiled into his wine.

“She has quite a few targets to choose from.” He mused, not missing how the boys twitched uncomfortably in their seats, trying to remain still and failing a bit miserably. So much for Sherlock’s loudly-proclaimed lack of sexual interest in women. Or in anyone, really. But then again, he amended, Judith Watson had always been the chink in his brother’s armour. Both twins had been, for as long as they had been friends. Even when there had been no recognized blood between them, Judith had been friends with John Hughes. Their mother’s marriage to Richard Hughes had made them recognized family, despite a hidden record that put their names on the same birth-certificate: Judith Hermione Watson and John Hamish Watson.

Mycroft had memorized their medical records and all relevant information shortly after coming into a position where he could access those records, and wondered if having similar fingerprints had ever been an issue for them. Without much of a history of trouble with the law, it was unlikely, but it would no doubt raise a few eyebrows when people figured out that they shared the same DNA and the fingerprint on the index and thumb of their left hands. By some luck of genetics, the Watson twins had ducked a common condition among mirror twins known as situs inversus and were two of the healthiest people he knew of, John’s discharge injury aside. And even that hadn’t really stopped the feisty blond soldier from getting things done. A few weeks bed-ridden in May and then it was off to driving his care-teams and therapists batty. If a bullet to the hip couldn’t take down John Hughes, Mycroft wasn’t entirely certain he wanted to know what could

 

He caught sight of the metal band around John’s wrist and raised an eyebrow. That was for the metal hardware the surgeons in France had used to replace the shattered joint. The first replacement, done in Kabul, had infected and the resulting scramble had left the rest of them a bit worried about John’s future. He didn’t seem too concerned now, moving around with the aid of a cane when he needed it, which was far less these days than before. He’d gone off the reservation and disappeared for four months before resurfacing two weeks ago in Central London with no proof of how he’d gotten back or where he had spent the prior four months. There was no trace of him on any flight anywhere, he had just…arrived.

 

***

 

Several hours later, after a thoroughly enjoyable evening with a few carefully-chosen friends, Mycroft was happy to offer the Watsons a ride home, wherever they happened to be staying tonight. Sherlock politely turned down the same offer, opting to take a cab back to Baker Street, and Donovan had a squad-car to return. Lestrade had his car, but wouldn't be driving home, and surrendered his keys to Anthea, who waited outside for them.

“Thank you, Anthea. I know you’ve got far better and more important things to do than drive my car home for me.” The DI grinned sheepishly at his long-time assistant, who just offered a glimpse of a genuine smile as she took the keys from him.

“Always a pleasure, Inspector. Have a good night.”

“Yeah, thanks. You too.”

“Come along, Gregory.” Mycroft smiled and held the door for the DI who kept his brother out of trouble most of the time.

 

It was a quiet drive from the restaurant to Lestrade’s Pembroke Mews flat, and by the time they arrived, John and Judith had fallen asleep. It didn’t take much to rouse the twins and he waited by the car until Anthea returned with Lestrade’s unmarked squad-car and the ground-floor lights went out. Time to go home. In all, it had been a successful night and a very busy day. Nothing too terrible. He would sleep well that night, Mycroft thought even as he brushed glitter from his collar. Judith and Riyah had been very careful, very sparing, but the look on Sherlock’s face when the glitter hit his hair would stay in Mycroft’s mind for days. It was a mild annoyance and resignation that it wouldn't be anytime soon the glitter washed out. They all had come home with glitter in their hair and on their clothes, but for Mycroft, it was one of Judith’s signs of affection towards friends and loved ones.

“Shall I send your coat for cleaning, Sir?” Anthea asked quietly.

“No thank you, Anthea.” He didn’t hesitate to turn her down. Anthea knew Judith and liked her, and probably knew why he had said no to getting his coat cleaned. That night, as he had expected, Mycroft slept well. The people important to him were safe and well. And that was truly something, as very few people were so important he would arrange deportation orders to some of the coldest, most hostile places on earth for their sakes.



 

Chapter Text



Two months after retiring from fifteen years of service in the British Army as a medic, Judith Watson was working for The Met as a Special Constable. She had cleared and completed the twenty-four-day training-period, passed every test and requirement, and picked out her three top boroughs. She crossed her fingers to land either Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, or Lambeth. She got Westminster, which put her smack in the middle of all of the action and walking the streets of the West End, but she got to keep Lambeth as a secondary on the outside chance help was needed across the bridges.

 

Judith knew the minimum was sixteen hours a month, but she had no full-time job and she kind of knew more people on the force than outside it, not counting her brother and the Holmes boys and they didn’t really count anyway, so she worked a bit of overtime and no on really minded. Her supervisors liked her, the citizens she encountered on her patrols liked her, and she liked her job.

 

It was late January that things got a bit more interesting. The city was buzzing with nervous energy and the media was fueling a paranoia regarding a string of incidents The Met had declared serial suicides, there had been three in all since October, but with nothing aside from cause of death to link the victims, they had very little to work with. It was a puzzle that even Sherlock hadn’t been able to put a dent in yet, and it had Judith and her Met associates scratching their heads. 

 

When a missing-persons call came in for Beth Davenport, a Junior MP, around eleven pm on the 27th, Judith was among the few who didn’t think she was just wandering the streets of London in a tipsy haze, safe but out of harm’s way. Judith was on duty that night and spent a few hours scouring the out-of-the-way spots her associates skimmed over on a regular day, never mind the night a politician was reported missing by her aides.

 

She was still searching at two am when she happened to make a round of a build-site down in Soho. The site had closed down at regulation hours, but the lights were still on, which wasn’t unusual. What was unusual, and what got her attention when she walked the length of the fences, was that a side-gate was unlocked when, by safety-regulations, all entrances to build-sites had be clearly-marked and locked against trespassing after dark or off-hours. So finding a door ajar was bad. Flicking open the holster for her Taser, forgoing reaching for her Browning just momentarily, she shouldered the door open and called in to Dispatch that she was investigating a suspicious incident in Soho. She got the usual warning to be alert and call in again if she needed back-up.

“I don’t think I’m going to need back-up, Dispatch.” She murmured as she stepped into the build-site, sweeping the beam of her torch into corners of darkness. As a precaution, she silenced her radio.

“Met Police, is anyone here?!” She called out warily, listening for any sound that didn’t belong. She heard some rattling by one of the trailers, but it wasn’t unusual for stray animals to get into the sites and take shelter under stacks of equipment. She thought she heard something inside, saw a light, but when she approached, a wary hiss had her stopping in her tracks. Judith froze, focusing her torch on the space beneath the trailer next door. Getting down on her knees, she shone the light there and saw shiny pin-points of light. A shape moved across the beam and she heaved a short sigh of something like relief.

“Oh, for God’s sake! What are you doing under here?” She chuckled breathlessly as a mangy female cat prowled just out of reach. She saw a lump of indistinct fuzzy shapes behind the mother and realized that a litter of kittens had been whelped under a construction trailer.

“Oh, this is no place for you! Or anyone, really!” Judith debated sticking around and getting this fuzzy family to a safer place or going on her way. Something was afoot in this build-site, and she was out in the open.

 

Going back to her car for a moment, she looked around and took note of a few things. There were several bars in the vicinity, the late-crowd was spilling onto the streets, and those who saw her nodded respectfully, slurring their greetings.

“Oi! Take a cab home, you lot! Don’t let me catch you down the way a bit, right?” She called after one rather cheerful group of revellers who didn’t have a sober driver among them.

“Right that, Constable! Good evening!” The ringleader waved cheerfully. Judith chuckled and flagged down a passing vacant taxi with it’s light on after doing a head-count. There were six of them. Shaking her head, she raised her traffic-whistle to her lips and hailed down another oncoming cab for the revelers.

 

As soon as that lot was safely on their way with bashful muttered thanks, Judith went back to what she’d been doing before being side-tracked. As she pulled a box, a coverall, and a couple of shock-blankets from the boot of her car, registered to Kensington Police Station, she noticed a vacant taxi parked behind her. There was no one in the taxi, all the lights were off. Odd. Well, no business of hers.  Returning to the build-site, she pulled the coverall on over her uniform and crawled under the trailer housing the family of cats. She suspected they were partly tame, certain domesticated, the mother didn’t hiss at her again as she pushed the blanket-lined box ahead of her. As she carefully lifted twelve tiny kittens, eyes still closed, into the box, she was startled by a lightweight pressure on her shoulders, a prickle of claws. The mother cat had climbed to perch on her back and shoulders, and was nuzzling her cheek, purring. She smiled and shifted a bit to rub the soft fur made grimy by living on the streets.

“It’s alright, little queen. I’ll take care of you and your babies.” She smiled, “Let’s get you out of this place, huh?”

 

Crawling out from under the trailer, Judith wondered what anyone who might have seen her would have thought. She knew there were cameras all over the site, and wondered if Mycroft was watching tonight. He’d been keeping closer tabs on her and John and Sherlock after the third suicide, concerned for their safety. It was a kind gesture, but unnecessary, as Judith and John were far more than capable of handling themselves in nearly every violent situation they might get into. She carried the box back to her car and set it on the front seat, holding the door for the mother cat, who had followed along at heel like a dog. She watched as the mother hopped into the box and started grooming her kittens.

“You’re a pretty girl, yeah? I bet you’re beautiful when you’re all cleaned up right.” She pulled off the coverall and bundled it up for later. The taxi was still there and she went to get the number and registration tags.

 

While she sat in her car going over the night’s logs and filling out reports, a task made a bit harder by the friendly mother cat who tried to get onto her lap, she was aware of movement. Glancing up, she caught sight of a rather unremarkable-looking gentleman in nondescript clothes coming along the sidewalk towards her. She saw a lanyard around his neck, attached to a medallion. Cabbie. Her lights were on but stable and she hadn’t made herself too obvious, but those most invisible to the unsuspecting citizens of London always seemed to notice each other. As he started to pass her car, he nodded in salute. She had her window partway down and returned the gesture.

“Evening, Constable.”

“Evening, sir. Quiet one tonight.”

“Yes, it is, ain’t it?” He grinned crookedly as he passed on his way. Judith shook her head and went back to writing reports while still keeping an eye on him. He got into the empty taxi and she watched the light go on. The late-crowd was still trickling out of the bars following last call, so it didn’t take long to get a fare.

“Be careful.” She murmured as a tipsy couple tumbled into the cab, giggling together. A pair of attractive uni students, both male, just enjoying a night on the town. She recognized them from her patrols and kicked her door open.

“Oi!” She hollered, “Kittern!” Hearing her, the tall one paused and looked over. Seeing her and recognizing her, his eyes brightened.

“Hey, Sunny! Lou, it’s Sunny!” A minute later she was hugged by the boys.

“Hey, get home safe, you two, alright?” She warned, looking them over, “Didn’t drink enough for a hangover tonight, good for you.”

“Didn’t feel like it.” Robert Kittern smiled sheepishly, “What are you doing out here, Sunny?”

“I’m working tonight. Of course.” She handed the boys her card, “Here, call if you ever need a thing, alright? Be safe tonight. I don’t want you two showing up on my roster as the next homicide.”

“Still haven’t caught the bastard, have ya?” Kittern’s boyfriend, Louis Raleigh, shuffled his feet, swaying.

“Not yet, but we will. No more bodies on my watch. You two get on home, alright?”

“Roger that!” The two smiled and waved.

 

As soon as the cab had pulled away, Judith looked up somewhere to take the animals. But none of the shelters were open and she didn’t want to drive out to Holloway to drop them off at Harmsworth Memorial Animal Hospital. She groaned and put her head down on the steering-wheel. The kittens mewled pitifully, she guessed they were hungry. The queen, a gorgeous silver tabby Maine Coon, climbed into her lap and rubbed against her, purring.

“It’s alright, Mama.” She sighed, “Just getting my head on straight.” She looked over at the fence surrounding the build-site, “Wonder if I’ll find anything in there, yeah?” Shrugging, she put the mother back in the box, cracked her windows, and locked her car while she went back into the build-site to see if she could find anything.

 

Going back to the pair of trailers, she went into the one on the right after finding the door unlocked. She didn’t bother announcing herself, something told her it was an unnecessary precaution, moving slowly with her pistol in one hand and her torch in the other. She came into the room at the far end of the trailer and paused. 

“Shit. I found her alright.” Judith groaned, “Damn it!” She clicked her radio and called for Homicide before setting up the first stages of the crime-scene. She crossed her fingers she would get Greg Lestrade tonight, she needed a friendly face. Hell, at this rate she’d even put up with Philip Anderson, if she got five minutes with Greg and Sally. 

 

She still lived in Greg’s flat over in Kensington, which made getting her car in the mornings very convenient. Walk to the station, get the keys, get her roster, hit the streets. Her brother had moved into a flat on Baker Street with Sherlock Holmes about two months ago, and they got along rather well. John had taken a job with Sherlock as his partner/assistant, proving very useful on cases with The Met as a buffer between the people there who didn’t get along that well with Sherlock and the moody detective.

 

She was sitting on the bonnet of her squad-car with the Maine Coon queen on her shoulders, wondering if she should give the cat a name, when Homicide arrived. A cab pulled up first, and she knew right then that either Greg had called in reinforcements or the boys had been eavesdropping.

“Evening, gentlemen.” She looked at the consulting pair.

“Good evening, Constable.”

“Did Lestrade call you?”

“No, we caught it on the broadband.” Her brother noticed the cat and raised an eyebrow, “Who’s your fuzzy friend?”

“She doesn’t have a name yet, but I found her with a litter of kittens under one of the construction-trailers inside.”

“And the victim?”

“Second trailer on the right, back of the lot.” She rubbed her nose, “I’ll figure out what to do with the kittens later.”

“Healthy?”

“A little skinny and mangy, but look where I found them? Mum’s in good shape, though, so I wonder if she’s not an escaped or discarded pet.” Judith shrugged, which unbalanced but did not dislodge the cat, “She’s a rather affectionate thing.”

“I’ll say!” John chuckled. “The kittens?”

“Safe in my car. They’re all about a month old or so.”

“What’d you use to contain them?”

“A box and a few shock-blankets. Getting them out was the fun part, I’ll tell you what.”

“Any chance we can sneak in before Greg’s people get here?”

“Can you promise to not touch anything or move anything? Anderson will kill all three of us for messing up “his” scene.”

“Not his scene, never is.” Sherlock wasn’t even looking at the fence, he was completely focused on the cat.

“Oh, she’s amazing.”

“You’re a cat-person, Sherlock?”

“I prefer dogs, but cats get along with me just as well.”

“You kind of remind me of a cat sometimes.” Judith chuckled, “I think she likes you.” It wasn’t a matter of maybe, the Maine Coon abandoned Judith and decided Sherlock was more fun to climb. His coat provided a bit of defense against sharp long claws, which would be clipped as soon as she could get the whole lot of them to a vet. Somehow, the cat blended with his coat and unless you’d seen her climb onto his shoulders, you missed her completely.

“Well, would you look at that!” John whistled. They displaced the mother briefly while the boys put on blue PPE suits and gear, and she took them back to the scene. She had taped off the door used for entry and the trailer as well as marking off part of the road alongside to keep traffic out after calling a few units for backup.

 

As soon as she showed them the body, Sherlock was circling the victim, on his knees beside the body.

“Who is this?”

“Beth Davenport. She was reported missing earlier tonight after she went missing from a fundraiser.” Judith looked at her brother, “Looks like another suicide.”

“Same as the other three?”

“Almost guarantee it. It’s up to Molly Hooper to make that call, but just on circumstances, I’d say yes.” Judith folded her arms, “Sherlock?”

“It is the same as the other three.” Sherlock snapped his gloves, eyes narrow, “But it won’t be his last.”

“We’re absolutely sure it’s a serial-killer?” John folded his arms, rocking back on his heels. The three of them were of the opinion that the suicides plaguing the city were actually the work of a serial killer who was either very lucky, or very clever. They had brought this idea before Greg and Sally, but for the sake of keeping the city calm and not promoting blind panic, they hadn’t made the concept public. Judith had been keeping a closer eye on the streets while on patrol, but it wasn’t until tonight, just an hour ago, that she…oh, Christ. Judith looked the body, flashed back to the cab she had seen earlier. Something must have shown on her face, because the boys looked at each other and John took one step towards her before she turned and ran.

 

By the time she got to her car and was digging for her notebook, Greg and the rest of the team had arrived.

“What are you looking for, Judith?” Sherlock stood by the door, “You remembered something you saw earlier tonight. What was it?”

“I’m looking for my notebook! I know who did this!” She had gotten under the passenger seat and knew she probably looked absolutely ridiculous, “Where is it?!”

“Right here?”

“Right where?” She shoved and twisted around to find him holding the item in question. “Well, fuck. Where did you find that?”

“It was on your dashboard, you must have left it there. Oh, no, no, Queenie, that’s not good.” He smiled and pocketed her notebook before coming around to lift the cat off of her legs. At some point, the friendly Maine Coon had decided to involve herself. “Don’t do that, darling. You must be gorgeous when you’re all cleaned up right, yeah?”

“Sherlock Holmes is a cat person.” She grunted, “Go bloody figure. Give me a hand, Holmes?”

“Happily, dear.” Sherlock got the cat, apparently named Queenie now, situated and grabbed hold of her duty-belt to pull her out of the squad-car. Once she had her feet under her, she took her notebook back and flipped to the page she’s written the cab’s information on.

“Whoever drives this cab is our killer.” She handed the notebook to John and Sherlock, “I guarantee he’ll strike again. Not tonight, but soon. He’s not done.”

“Where did you get this, Jude?”

“Saw the cab about an hour and a half ago, parked right there.” She pointed to where Greg’s car now sat, “Got a good look at his face, too. Pretty average-looking bloke, doesn’t look a thing like a serial-killer.”

“And you’re absolutely sure?”

“Sure enough to hack the area CCTV cameras.” She looked over her shoulder, “Hey, Sherlock?”

“Yes?”

“Is Q working tonight?”

“He should be, why? Did you need him for something?”

“I need his help. Haven’t figured if I need remote access yet or not, but I need to look at the cameras in this area, I know they caught the driver.” She coughed, “We can put him through facial-recognition and have a name on him by tomorrow.”

“Before he kills again.” Sherlock nodded and went to speak to Lestrade and Donovan.

“So, you saved a family of homeless cats and solved a string of homicides. That’s what I call a successful night.” John mused, holding one of Queenie’s kittens, “Speaking of cats, what are you going to do with this bunch?”

“Keep them overnight and find a shelter in the morning. I have the day off tomorrow, I plan to actually take time off.”

“For once.” John rolled his eyes, “Why don’t you just apply for a position as a new police constable and be done with it all?”

“I like the freedom being a Special Constable gives me. I get to pretty much pick my hours. A week a month takes care of my time requirements by a bit.”

“Yeah, just a bit!” John snickered, “You’re as bad as Sherlock!” Judith shrugged and kept herself busy until it was time to shut down the scene. Anderson had some choice words for her for letting John and Sherlock on the scene before anyone from the Yard got there and how that was against regulation and blah, blah, blah.

“They got here first and they didn’t mess up anything on the scene.” She said calmly, “I kept an eye on them the whole time, Anderson, so piss off.”

“You don’t get to decide who comes on a scene or not, Watson. You’re not even a real cop!” Anderson snarled, “You’re just a wash-out with too much time on your hands and a misguided sense of entitlement!”

Six people within earshot of them gasped and recoiled. Judith remained calm by virtue of fifteen years in the Army and the knowledge that as gratifying as it would be to chin Anderson and lay him out, it would only result in disciplinary action on her behalf and she had a clean record so far. She wanted to keep it that way. She narrowed her eyes at him and clenched her teeth so hard they scraped against each other.

“Watson!” Lestrade called warningly from off to their right. Judith turned her head to him.

“Don’t worry, sir. I’m still on the clock, I’m not that stupid. Or that desperate.” She shrugged, turning her back on Anderson, “Besides, I have bigger concerns than Anderson’s petty insults.” Like getting hold of the area CCTV cameras to look through footage for the cabbie to put him through facial-recognition.

“You’ve done enough, Constable. Take off for the night. See you back in a few days.” Lestrade said, indicating her car. Judith nodded and shot Anderson a last glance before heading for her car, knowing damn well she wasn’t going home. She’d return the car to Kensington Police Station, but she had work to do.

 

As she prepared to leave the scene, Lestrade tapped on her window.

“What’s up, Greg?”

“Where you off to?”

“Return the car to Kensington after I situate the fuzzy ones, and then hitch a ride across the bridges to MI6. I need some higher help.”

“Find something, did you?”

“A significant something. It’s what we thought.”

“Serial-killer?” He made a face, “What gave it away?”

“I saw the prick tonight. Why do you think I knew where to find Davenport’s body?”

“Jesus! You were here?!”

“Parked right behind me for about an hour. I need Q’s help.”

“Good luck to you. Got word a minute ago from Anthea that arrangements have been made at the flat to accommodate our temporary flat-mates.”

“We won’t be keeping all of them, or any of them, I don’t think. If I don’t keep the mother, Sherlock will take her in.” She smiled and looked into the box full of sleeping cats, “One bit of good I did for today.”

“Selfless bit of good. What’s her name?”

“Sherlock’s calling her Queenie, she’s a real sweetheart.”

“Scared the socks off of one poor constable who wasn’t paying attention when she suddenly moved.” Greg smiled, “Get on with you, and don’t worry about Anderson.”

“Who said I was worried?” She glanced over Greg’s shoulder at Anderson, who wasn’t paying any attention to her at the moment, “See you at home in a few, yeah?”

“Be careful.”

“I can take care of myself.” She smiled and pulled away from the scene.

 

It took about thirty minutes to get home, and she got the cats situated in the store-closet where she found everything they needed for short- or long-term. It had only been a few hours, but there was a pet-flap in the door that allowed access in and out of the closet, but the kittens would be contained in a crate for the most part.

 

Once the cats were taken care of, Judith checked her watch for the time, and checked her phone for messages. Nothing important or new. Sighing, she fetched up her keys and dialled a number she hadn’t called in quite a while. It rang a few times and she wondered if she’d caught him away from his station.

“Research and Development Inquiries, this is Quinton. How may I assist this evening?”

“Q!” Judith heaved a sigh of relief, “Thank God I caught you at your station! It’s Judith Watson, I need a huge favour!”

“Oh, Judith! Good evening, my dear!”  Well, at least Q was in a good mood tonight, “My brothers informed me that you might be needing a bit of assistance on a case you’re working on. What can I do for you?”

“I need to review some CCTV footage, and you’re the best I know at getting to the cameras. Are you available right now so I can come down and work on this?”

“I think I can make a bit of time for you, my dear. What’s up?”

“I’m trying to identify a potential murder suspect. I know he was caught on camera, and I know which cameras got him.”

“I am at your disposal, of course. Are you coming down now?”

“On my way as we speak. Anything you want me to bring with me? I kind of feel like I owe you something for helping me with this.”

“I don’t need anything. But you’re a dear for asking.”

“God, you’re as bad as your brothers! When’s the last time you ate something?” She shook her head and hopped into her car. Originally, she had planned to return it to Kensington, but she had decided to keep her car. It made getting around much easier.

“I’m alright, really.”

“Quinton Alexander James Holmes, don’t you lie to me. I’m bringing you something and you will eat, am I understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He sounded appropriately subdued, and she dropped by Angelo’s to get some take-away. She had only placed an order for Q, but as he had in the past, Angelo had included enough for Judith as well.

“Can’t have you starving on the job now, can I? Wouldn’t do for that.” Angelo scolded as he handed over the bag of food, “How’s your brother?”

“Busy as I am.” She smiled, “You take care of us.”

“Somebody’s got to look after you, lot of you won’t look out for yourselves!” The friendly Italian just smiled and gave her a tight hug. “Now, go on with you. You’re still on the job.”

“Thanks, Angelo. See you later!” She hefted the bag and waved as she left the restaurant.



 

Chapter Text



Leaving Angelo’s, Judith headed across Vauxhall Bridge to MI6 to meet up with Q and review some CCTV traffic-cam footage. It took fifteen minutes, and she walked into Q’s little kingdom five minutes after arriving at MI6.

“Evening, Q!” She called sweetly, “Didn’t catch you in the middle of something, did I?”

“Just finished queuing up your cameras, lovely.” Q’s head popped into view over the top of an array of monitors, “You brought food, didn’t you?”

“Told you I would.” She handed him the bag as she came around his side of the array, “Thanks for helping me out.”

“Anything to keep you out of trouble.” He grinned, “What are we looking for tonight?”

“I need the cameras out of Soho.” She leant over the back of Q’s chair, “And pull all of them, I can’t risk missing this guy because I forgot a camera.”

“Roger that.” He smiled and started queuing up the requested cameras, “Oh, by the way, M wanted to see you.”

“I bet she did. Upstairs?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Q was watching the video-queue load while he ate, not unlike John and Sherlock when they remembered to eat after going without for a while.

“Knew you were hungry.” She smirked.

“You brought Angelo’s, of course I’m going to eat it!”

“Figured.” She chuckled and sat down next to him, “Guaranteed M knows I’m here, I can take a minute to eat before I see her.” Opening her takeaway box, Judith reviewed a few frames of footage that had loaded, pulling up a camera from across the street of the build-site.

“Let’s see. I was parked on that street for almost three hours, not including the time I was on-scene, so...there's my car.” She spotted her squad-car, “Did a few foot-patrols while I was down there.” She hadn’t seen the cab by the time she finished eating, but Q knew what to do if and when it popped up on the cameras.

“I’ll give you a ring if I see it.”

“Thanks, love. You’re a keeper, Q, for putting up with me all the time like you do.” She kissed him on the cheek and popped a couple of mints as she headed upstairs to see her grandmother.  She realized about halfway there that she had forgotten to ask if Bond was around, but would find out in no time.

 

Judith walked into her grandmother’s office with little to no warning that she was coming, but didn’t care. She was one of a small handful of people who could actually get away with showing up unannounced. Her brother and the Holmes boys were the others, aside from Bond, making it a very small, exclusive group who could safely risk their necks to knock on her door outside of appointment times.

 

When her grandmother’s assistant saw her coming, there were no words exchanged, just a tilt of Eve Moneypenny’s dark head. Raised voices inside the office indicated a bit of trouble. Judith pushed open the door of the office. There were three people in the office when she entered, and a very heated discussion. She stayed still and observed for a moment, wondering what on earth had Mycroft Holmes and James Bond squaring off like this.

“Alright, alright, the both of you, knock it off.” She rolled her eyes and stepped between the two agents, “I could hear you carrying on outside. What’s going on?” She looked from one to the other.

“I had my own business here, but I’m not above putting down a few minor conflicts.”

“Can you talk sense into them, Judith?” M was obviously at the end of her patience.

“I’ll be more than happy to try, if someone would give me an idea of what’s going on in here?” She stayed between Mycroft and Bond, unwilling to move in case it went from verbal to physical. M handed her a file and she flipped through it briefly. “You know, I’m still working on a case with The Met.”

“Very much aware, my dear. Apologies.” Mycroft sounded like he hadn’t slept in a week and looked a bit awful.

“Thanks, by the way, Mycroft, for stepping in on my little side-project tonight.” She looked up and smiled at him, “I haven’t figured out where I’m going to take them quite yet. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. Right now, you two need to make peace.” She didn’t see Bond open his mouth, but she knew he’d done it and looked over at him.

“No, James. You know he’s right. Just let it be and get away with a smack on the hand. You could have gotten yourself killed out there.”

“But I didn’t.”

“Because your mark didn’t realise who you really were until a moment too late. Don’t do that again, you’re too valuable.” She handed the file back to M, “Anyway, I have work to do with Q downstairs, so if you don’t need my assistance further, ma’am?”

“Of course, Judith. You’re hunting down errant taxi-drivers now, is it?”

“Serial-killers, ma’am.” She wrinkled her nose, “Murder-for-hire, if I had to guess, judging by the looks of him. Fairly average, not of any extensive wealth, and not well-in with his family.” She shrugged, “I had Q pull a few cameras in Soho for me so I can go over the footage.”

“Clever girl.” Bond chuckled, arms folded across his chest, “One step ahead as always, aren’t you?”

“A bit behind, actually, until tonight.” She shrugged, “We haven’t gone public with the theory, there’s enough concern on the streets without us actually saying the words.”

“You’re not the best at The Met for no reason.” Bond circled her, he always did when they hadn’t seen each other in a bit longer than either would have liked, “If anyone can solve this, it will be you. Why haven’t you applied for a full position yet?”

“Oh, god, you and the other two! I’m not interested right now! I like calling my own hours and being able to say no when I’ve filled my time.” She rolled her eyes, “Not that anyone upstairs would mind if I did go all the way.” Judith felt her phone buzzing in her pocket and pulled it out, “Oh, Q’s got something for me.” She looked at the occupants of her grandmother’s office, “If you three would kindly excuse me, I have work to do.”

“Judith, why don’t you stay here and use my office?”

“Oh, I couldn’t.” She shook her head quickly, “This is just a hunch, Anma, nothing concrete.”

“Nonsense!” Before she could say no again, M picked up her desk-phone and dialled an extension, “Q, patch up the camera footage to my office, please. Yes, all of them. Thank you.”

“Well, so much for saying no to that.” Mycroft chuckled.

“I don’t make much use of this family connection, I don’t usually have to.” She smirked, “I could have easily done this from home, but I figured it’d get done faster if I came down in person.”

“And now you’ve access to the entire city-network.” Bond mused, “Well done, Judith.” Judith rolled her eyes and studied the three massive wall-mounted monitors in her grandmother’s office, each one showing a different bank of cameras, several feeds were still running live, and others were showing earlier footage from the hours she had specified.

“Let’s see, the victim was reported missing at eleven pm from a fundraiser in Islington, do we have those cameras?” She took a headset from M and switched it on, “Q, can you get me the cameras in Islington, please?”

“On it, boss.” Q worked some magic down in his lab and another set of cameras appeared on the monitors. She was now looking at cameras from Islington and Soho.

 

It didn’t take long to queue up the proper cameras, and she caught Beth Davenport’s departure from Islington in the cab she had seen in Soho. They tracked it’s path through London, and focused on the Soho cameras after Judith’s car appeared at the build-site. An hour after she arrived, the cab pulled up. They watched the driver lead Davenport out of the cab at gunpoint and into the build-site, where they disappeared from view inside the trailers. About fifteen minutes later, Judith appeared on the cameras on a check of the area. It was interesting to watch herself disappear beneath the trailer the cats had been living under.

“What were you doing under there, Judith?”

“Rescuing a family of homeless cats.” She watched the footage as she emerged again carrying the box, through to when the cabbie appeared again from the trailer without Davenport, and her very brief exchange with him on the street. When she watched the footage of Robert and Louis, she realised she had kind of forgotten about them.

“Judith?”

“Hmm?”

“Did those young men make it home?”

“I haven’t heard from them.” She narrowed her eyes, “I can find out fairly quickly, though.” She checked the time and sent a quick text to Robert’s phone. She’d had it for months, couldn’t remember when she’d gotten it or why he’d given it to her. What mattered right now is that she got a response from him.

 

It’s Sunny. Please tell me you two got home safe? Reviewing footage from tonight and worried about the two of you. All okay with you and Louis? – Sunny

 

She knew it was very likely the boys were asleep right now, but she was still concerned. When it had been nearly ten minutes since her text and there had been no response, she was about to call for a house-check on the boys when her phone beeped. At the same time, footage streamed showing the boys debarking safely from the cab, unharmed and unaccompanied.

 

Thanks for the ping, sweetie. We’re both safe and sound. Dead asleep when you beeped us. Sorry it took a bit. No troubles at all getting home. Any luck with the case? – Rob

 

Baby steps. Better than nothing. Sleep well, sorry I woke you. – Sunny

 

With that taken care of, and all the proof she needed that the driver of the cab she’d seen down in Soho was the killer, Judith decided to call it a night and go home. Thanking M for letting her use MI6’s rather valuable resources, and bidding the boys goodnight, she returned to her car and drove home to Kensington. She returned the car to the police station, marked the station-log for her time, and walked home to the flat. A light was on, so she guessed Greg was home, and when she got inside, the house was warm.

 

Going upstairs, she peeked into the upstairs reception-room where Greg did paperwork sometimes. A fire burned low in the fireplace, and she smiled at the sight of her flat-mate passed out on the couch. Case-files littered the coffee-table and desk, and two empty beer-cans heralded how he’d gotten to where he was right now. Judith chuckled and went to stir the fire a bit. After she had banked the coals, Judith went over to the couch and stood over Greg, who slept half on his side, as if he’d fallen over from a sitting position. He probably had. Shaking her head, she reached down and woke him up.

“Oh, Jesus. Hi.” He coughed and rolled onto his back, “When did you get in?”

“Just a bit ago. How long have you been in here?”

“Couple of hours. Make any headway?”

“Got everything but a name for the bastard. I’ll worry about that later. Come on, you, time for bed.” She moved around the couch and hauled Greg to his feet, heading for the bedroom next door. He waved her off to go upstairs, but after she had tossed her uniform into the laundry-bin and changed into pyjamas, brushed her teeth, and brushed her hair out of the braided bun she wore for work, she went back downstairs.

 

It was a good thing she did, he was sitting on the edge of the double-bed with his head in both hands, the lights off, and she could just see his shoulders twitching. This wasn’t work, this wasn’t the alcohol, well, not only the alcohol. This was something else, something bigger. Judith stood in the doorway, observing. There had been something a bit off about him most of the week, even her brother had noticed when they worked cases together. And Greg had been calling them on more cases over the last six days than in the past month alone. Most of them were solved within an hour or less of handing the files over, but even Sherlock had noticed something wasn’t quite on with the DI, and was nice about his deductions. Judith sighed and pushed away from the door. 

“Alright, you’ve been like this all week. What’s wrong?”

“What makes you think something’s wrong?”

“Because when even my anti-social, rude bastard of a best friend notices there’s something not quite on with you, it’s definitely bad. My brother’s been worried about you all week, knows you haven’t eaten or slept. I didn’t tell him, by the way, I know better.” She circled the bed, “But we’re not idiots. If there’s anything we can do to help you, just tell us. I mean, even Sally’s noticed, Greg, that’s how bad it’s gotten.”

 

Greg raised his head and looked at her, even in the dark she could see the tears on his face. Oh, this was bad alright. Judith sighed and knelt between his legs, nudging his knees apart to give her some room, and took his hands in hers. 

“What happened? Claudia?” He nodded shakily, his whole body shaking with a quiet sob. The divorce had been scheduled to finalize today, which explained everything she and the boys had noticed.

“Oh Christ, I hate that woman.” Judith groaned and leaned her head forward until it bumped into his chest, “Did she leave you anything?”

“Not much.”

“She didn’t take your badge, didn’t take your job, didn’t take your friends. We’ve still got a roof over our heads. I’m still here, yeah?” Judith leaned back to look up at him, “Greg, it’s going to be okay, I promise. It hurts like the dickens right now, I know it does, but you’ll be a better person for it, stronger.”

“You make it sound so…simple.”

“It’s not simple.” She shoved to her feet and sat down next to him, “But think of it this way: she’s the one who lost.”

“How? She’s the one who got everything!”

“Because she lost you, Greg. She lost a loyal, devoted husband.” Judith put an arm around Greg, offering a bit of support, “If she strayed because you worked too hard, then she married you for the wrong reasons.”

“Says the girl who pinned my ex-wife to my desk nearly six months ago and helped my sergeant put her in handcuffs.” He said gruffly. Judith bit her lip so she wouldn't laugh.

“Oh, that was an awful day! And I don’t regret doing that, by the way, I really don’t. If I’d been of the mind, I probably would have decked that bitch for swinging at you like that.”

“You almost did! I was kind of expecting it, but you surprised me. Again.” He sniffled and turned his head, “Why do you stick around, Jude? You’ve got better prospects out there than a washed-up war-dog like me, better places to live than here.”

“Don’t do that to yourself, Greg, you know exactly why I stay.” She scolded, “The convenience of the station around the corner is way at the bottom of the list of reasons I still split the rent on this place with you.”

“You can do better than me, kiddo.”

“Not interested in better.” She reached up and ruffled his hair, still damp from the shower, “Not even close to interested in better. Too much to like here. Ah, there’s a smile.” She’d gotten a slight grin out of him. He snorted, which turned into a snicker, into a chuckle.

“You sneaky little prick.”

“Not a bit sorry.” She smirked and pushed him back on the bed until he fell backwards, pinning him down by sitting on his hips, “Now, we are going to sleep, in the morning we’ll run our eight-mile loop, we’ll get breakfast somewhere after, and figure out what the hell we’re supposed to do with twelve cats. I’m off tomorrow, and so are you. I checked your schedule this morning. So, barring any new cases coming up, you’re free.”

“What about the press-conference?” He tilted his head to one side, a little startled by the change of dynamic and sudden close contact.

“That’s all you have to worry about. Usually, we do the press-cons at ten, yeah?”

“Right.” His eyes narrowed, “What are you doing?”

“Holding you still.” She smiled, “Distracting you. It seems to be working.” Judith leant down until their noses touched, “Say stop.”

“Why?”

“You can say stop, say no.” She brushed tears from his skin, keeping her touch light and neutral. She didn’t want to startle him or scare him off. Greg needed neutral company and she wasn’t going to push anything on him either of them might regret later. Sliding off, she stretched out next to him, keeping hands on him and listening to his heartbeat under her ear as he started to calm down a bit.

 

Over the months since she had come home to London and moved into his flat, they had maintained a fairly neutral relationship, never really getting beyond a few careful moments of passionate touching. She had started staking out his crime-scenes and providing extra presence whenever he called for back-up, run down a few suspects that got away from him and the boys when she had to.

 

On one occasion she had spent six hours of her own time, while on the clock, tracking a tricky suspect across half of London. She had ended up pursuing the bastard right off of the Millennium Bridge into the Thames in the course of a foot-chase. A River Patrol boat had hauled her from the water six minutes after she cleared the railings and she’d spent the night in Saint Bart’s. Another boat had dragged the suspect out a few miles downriver, waterlogged and half-dead from exhaustion and hypothermia. Greg had been at her side from the minute she was pulled from the water until they discharged her the next morning. , He’d actually been on that boat and pulled her from the river himself. It had not been a pleasant night for either of them.

 

“What are you thinking about?” Greg’s voice was soft in her ear and she realised they had moved a bit and wondered how long she’d been lost in her head. He was behind her now, they were both tucked under the covers, and one hand was running up and down along her side. She looked at the clock on the bedside table and blinked.

“Holy hell! That’s the time?!”

“Yeah. You’ve been a bit out of it, love. You okay?” Greg pulled her onto her back and looked at her, “You zoned a bit.”

“Jesus, I’m sorry.” She groaned and rolled over in the other direction, “That’s two hours!”

“It’s okay.” He smiled, “Just wondering where you went off to in that mad head of yours.”

“I was thinking about that case last month.” She sighed. As she’d expected him to, Greg stiffened and she felt his grip tighten.

“Oh, Christ. Judith!”

“We spent Christmas in the hospital. Not the worst place I’ve spent Christmas, but not my favourite, that’s for damn sure!”

“Or mine.” Greg muttered, “You’ve only been back on the rosters for a few weeks.”

“Not even two weeks.” She sighed, groaning as a familiar ache blossomed in her leg. Greg found the soreness and rubbed cautious fingers against the twitching muscles.

“You’re lucky it was just a pulled muscle.” Greg tsked, “That was a damn stupid thing you did.”

“Oh, please, I’ve done far stupider things than jump off a pedestrian bridge to go after a suspect.” Judith clenched her teeth, “I can still run, I can still dance. Even John told me it was better than any PT the hospital would have assigned me to.”

“And I still say you’re an idiot. But you’re a useful, brilliant idiot.” Greg shook his head, “Valuable. Reckless. Caring. Stubborn. Sassy.” Judith swatted at him, giggling. He hadn’t stopped touching, working his fingers in a slow massage to calm the twitching, aching muscles.

 

She had pulled her hamstring muscle chasing the suspect, but was damn lucky she hadn’t been shot. He had fired his weapon at her but the shot had gone wide and missed by a safe margin. The injury had been classified as a Grade II Strain and she had been on crutches for a week, prescribed triamcinolone once a week as needed and paracetamol as a buffer.

 

She was distracted from recall by a shuffle and bit her lip to stifle the sounds getting caught in her chest.

“Now what are you doing?”

“Distracting you. Hold still.” He scolded as he carefully turned her over onto her stomach. She rolled her eyes and pulled the pillow under her chest to support her head as he carefully stripped away her pyjama bottoms to get full access to the point of interest.

“Oh, this is going to feel good.” Judith murmured. Greg chuckled and got to work.

 

Thirty minutes later, every muscle in her body was loose and warm.

“Christ, you’re good at that.”

“What can I say? Magic fingers.” He just grinned at her and wiggled his fingers, “Imagine what I could do with an hour.”

“Oh, god, there wouldn't be anything left of me after an hour!” She buried her face in the pillow, “Shit.”

“You are very welcome, my dear Constable.” Greg leant down and nuzzled her cheek, “You’ve got to go all the way, Jude, start climbing the ladder. I can’t get caught dating a subordinate that far down.”

“Or I could just walk away and that wouldn't be a problem?”

“No way! The Met needs you! You’re the only one who can handle Holmes and that scoundrel brother of yours!”

“We’ve kept it a secret this long, what’s a bit longer?”

“Someone’s going to figure it out.”

“I’m in a volunteer position, I’m not obligated to stay.”

“We would miss you.”

“I know.” She sighed, “Let’s catch our friendly serial-killer and I’ll think about it later.”

“Fair enough.” He kissed her on the cheek, “Time for sleep now, we’ve got an eight-mile run waiting for us in two hours.”

“Yay.” She rolled her eyes, nudged him off, and switched positions with him.



 

Chapter Text



After the promotion ceremony, Judith returned to normal duties. She would undergo required classes for her new station as soon as possible. But she knew better than to think her transition would be a quiet one. With Jefferson Hope still on the streets of London, hunting his next victim or victims, she wasn’t about to relax. 

 

Her one glimmer of peace was being able to go home after long hours on the streets to the house she shared with Greg and relax for a bit, even if it was a few minutes or a few hours. Her whole lifestyle was going to change now that she was in CID, but it wasn’t a change she saw as being too hard to manage. After all, she was living with a DI who worked in CID and kept the craziest hours she’d ever seen. But now, she would keep those hours right next to him. That was nice.

 

On the morning of the 30th, Judith woke up with a restlessness in her bones that didn’t go away with a ten-mile run that she dragged Greg out on. It was foggy but there was no real rain. The cold had them running hard and when they got back to the house, disturbing Queenie and Rocket, who had curled up for a snooze, she headed upstairs to take a shower.

“Christ, Jude! What was that for?!” Greg looked up the stairs after her.

“Sorry, I’ve got an itch.” She stripped off her damp kit and tossed it into the laundry-bin, “A bad one.”

“You don’t think there’s gonna be another killing, do you?”

“Not a clue. I’m sure gonna keep my eyes open, though.” She wasn’t surprised when he joined her in the shower, he’d been doing that more in the few days since her promotion. They’d continued to keep their relationship quiet from their coworkers, and the only one who actually knew about it was Sally, who wasn’t about to tell anyone else. When she got to the office, there was a notice at her desk alerting her to her change of duties for today. She was on patrol for the day, her car was waiting. When she showed Greg, he rolled his eyes.

“Mycroft?”

“Doubt it. He doesn’t dictate my schedule that closely.” She shrugged and zipped up her hi-vis jacket over her SAB vest and fleece. Instead of the typical bowler hat, she wore a black knit-cap that did a better job of keeping her ears warm in the weather they were having.

 

Running down to the motor-pool, she coded into the coat-room and grabbed her keys, marked the log appropriately, and headed for the Land Rover they’d assigned to her. If it was hers for the foreseeable future or just this one-off patrol was uncertain, but she was definitely looking forward to driving it. The Rovers reminded her of the Jeeps she’d driven in Afghanistan, she was more familiar with their clearance and handling and knew the limits of the cars better than the estate-cars driven by other patrol units. She had a partner today, a regular constable, but he was happy to let her do the driving.

“You’re not a mad driver, are you?”

“Not usually.” She pulled out into traffic after clearing the gates on Dacre Street. “Don’t worry about me, worry about the rest of them.” She merged and kept her eyes open for trouble.

 

The morning was quiet with a few general stops but nothing major. Her radio to Dispatch was quiet for CID calls, and she checked in with Greg a few times. Everything was pretty quiet up there anyway, so she was good to stay on the streets. He’d let her know if he needed her for something. 

 

At noon, she pulled off for a break around Regent’s Park and they sat at the top of Baker Street. She could see her brother’s flat from where they sat, actually. Thinking on it, she moved down and parked out front of the flat. It wouldn’t bother the boys, they were used to her doing it. But her partner was a little confused.

“What are we doing here, ma’am?”

“Just keeping eyes on Baker Street. Part of an arrangement with the landlady and her tenants. Even when they’re home, if I’m anywhere nearby, I always do a pass-by and if I can, I’ll sit on the flat. More for Mrs. Hudson’s sake.” She knew if they waited long enough, maybe five minutes, Mrs. Hudson would come out with something for them.

 

Sure enough, it wasn’t even five minutes before she was tapping on Judith’s window.

“Brought you tea and biscuits, dears!”

“You’re an angel, Mrs. H.” She kissed her brother’s landlady on the cheek, “Are the boys home right now?”

“I heard Sherlock yell down a moment ago when you pulled up.”

“Which means they’ll be showing themselves. They’re staying out of trouble, yeah?”

“Oh, of course they are!” Mrs. Hudson smiled, “I’m so sorry I missed your promotion-ceremony, my dear.”

“That was my fault for not telling you. It just...sort of happened.” She nibbled on a biscuit, “Oh, Mrs. Hudson, this is Rick Marcus. He’s with me today.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Marcus!”

“Rick, this lovely angel is Martha Hudson. She’s the one who looks after my brother and his mad flat-mate.”

“Pleasure’s mine, ma’am!” Rick was thrilled with the treats, “These are homemade biscuits!”

“Of course! Just a little something sweet to keep you two going strong! Have a lovely day, you two!” Mrs. Hudson went back into the house with a jaunty wave.

“I like her!” Rick murmured, “She do this often?”

“Any time I park on the street, I can almost always count on tea and biscuits. On my quiet days while I was on regular patrol, I’d actually go inside and sit with her. Or upstairs with John and Sherlock. Have you met him?”

“Not personally, but he’s hard to miss on a scene, yeah?”

“Or at the Yard.” She snickered, “He’s not actually that bad, I promise.” Her phone buzzed and she checked her messages.

“And there he goes.”

“Hmm?” Rick was keeping an eye on the street. She read the message from her brother and chuckled.

 

If you have cold-case files for us, please bring them upstairs. He’s getting restless. – JH

 

Got a box of ‘em in the boot. Be right up. – JW

She fired off a quick reply and tossed the keys to Rick.

“I’ve got to drop something off for them, keep an eye on things?”

“No problem, boss.” Rick was content with his tea and biscuits. “Got your radio, yeah?”

“Don’t go anywhere without it, son.” She kicked her door open and ran around to the back of the Rover, pulling open the boot and pulling out two boxes full of cold-case files for Sherlock.

“Is that two boxes?” Rick gawked, nearly choked on a biscuit.

“He’ll get through these before Valentine’s Day. Very latest April Fool’s Day.” She closed the boot and headed for the front door. John pulled it open for her and took the top box.

“Thank you.” He muttered, “You’re a saint.”

“I pulled these yesterday before I left the office.” She looked up the stairs, “Sherlock! Got something for ya!”

“You know where to put them, my love!” The tune of the music changed as she reached the top of the stairs. She looked at her brother and rolled her eyes.

 

They set the boxes down by the work-table and she pulled Sherlock away from his music long enough for a proper kiss. She tasted tea and chocolate and smirked.

“That’s more like it.”

“You’re a rather useful friend, aren’t you?”

“A useful friend! Oh, that’s rich!” She poked him in the ribs, “And you, sir, are still too skinny.”

“I don’t eat, it slows me down.”

“Oh, bollocks it slows you down! Eat light and it’s not a problem! Starving yourself is a really bad idea.”

“So, uh, Jude, who’s the shadow?” John was looking out the window, “Not a half-bad looking bloke.”

“Oh, that’s the unlucky constable who gets to follow me around today. Name’s Rick Marcus.” She checked her radio, “Young kid, but smart.”

“Richard Marcus, age 27. Middle of three children, eldest of identical twins, engaged to his girlfriend of six years, owns three dogs, medium breed. Broke his arm in a fall six months ago, break healed well, still favors that arm.” Sherlock rattled all of that off without missing a beat, Judith and John shared an eye-roll.

“And there you have it.”

“That’s Sherlock Holmes for you.” She chuckled, “You know, that kind of thing throws people off when you do it in front of them, right?”

“Of course it does.”

“Well, as long as you’re aware of it.” Judith looked at her watch, “I guess I should go back down before Mr Marcus knocks on the door looking for me.”

“Thanks for coming up, Jude.” John got up to hug her, then went back to his blog. Sherlock, on the other hand, saw her down to the door and waved as she got back in the Rover and took the keys from Rick.

“You didn’t stay long?”

“Nah. I usually only stick around if they need my help on a private case. This was a quick visit, and they both knew it.” She started the Rover and checked for traffic before merging.

 

They got a few more calls before it was time to turn in, and she had just stepped into the coat-room to sign in her keys when her radio squawked. 

“Oh, for Christ’s sake!” She groaned. “This is Watson, go for Dispatch.”

“Yeah, sorry to pull you out, ma’am. But we need a cover for a patrol out of Brixton.”

“Brixton?" She looked at a regional map of the city, broken into patrol areas by subdivision, "That’s Slater’s run, yeah?”

“His wife’s in labor, so he can’t make it in tonight.”

“Oh, Christ, and she’s having twins!” Judith groaned, rubbing her forehead, “Yeah, Dispatch, I’ll take it for him. Boy he’s gonna owe me for this.”

“Do you need anything before you go out?”

“Nope, thanks, Dispatch. I’ll make this run solo and call if I need back-up.” She pocketed her keys and headed right back to the car, “You can let Constable Slater know he’s got his shift covered for tonight.”

“Roger that. Good luck, Watson.” The radio went silent and she checked her time. This was definitely going on over-time. Returning to the Rover, she stopped by Angelo’s over in Soho to get dinner, waiting until she got to Brixton and had parked on a corner to eat. She reported in when she reached her post, took a few minutes to reorganize and eat, and drove the streets looking for anything out of the ordinary.

 

It was getting dark when she turned onto Lauriston Gardens. It was quiet on the street, and she circled the block for another run. The hairs on the back of her neck were starting to stand up, so she drove down Brixton Road to Brixton Police Station, where she checked in for any calls she might have missed. They didn’t have anything for her, so she set out again, focusing her efforts on Lauriston Gardens. Parking on one side of the street, she sat quiet and kept her eyes open for any sign of suspicious activity.

 

Judith had dozed off when something jolted her awake. Startled from her unintentional nap, she sat up sharply and stared out her windshield. Down the street a ways, she caught sight of an idling taxi. Taxis by themselves weren’t unusual, but there was a serial-killer roaming the streets of London in a cab, disguised perfectly as an unassuming cabbie. Yanking the keys and pocketing them, she left her car and walked the street. If this was Hope’s cab, she would tag it. One hand on her side-arm, Judith approached the taxi with caution. A quick check of the tags proved it was his cab, and she crouched by the boot, digging into a pouch on her duty-belt. She didn’t see Hope anywhere, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t close by. With a quick, subtle motion, Judith placed a tracking-device on the cab that would then let her acquire its position anywhere in London. One of the plate-lights was out, she noticed. Shaking her head, she fetched her ticketing book and wrote out a violation notice.

 

As she filled out the proper boxes, she heard a door open and close again. The house directly to her left as she faced Hope’s cab was empty, and yet…he had just walked out the front door. Hmm.

“Oh! Evening, Constable!” He called cheerfully, “Everything alright?”

“Oh, yes, sir.” She turned to him with a polite smile, “You’ve got a tag-light out. Might want to get that fixed soon.” She tore off and handed him the violation notice.

“Oh, it’s you!” His smile broadened as he recognized her, “Wondered what had become of you!”

“Still doing my job, sir. Everything alright with you?”

“Just fine, ma’am.” He peered at her tag, “Uh, Constable Watson? Yes, thank you.”

“Well, sorry to give you that, but can’t let a taxi drive with a bad light.” She shrugged, “Have a good night, sir.”

“Hope.” He held out one hand, “Name’s Jeff Hope. I keep seein’ you around town.”

“Just trying to keep the peace and keep the people safe.” She repressed an urge to shudder as she shook hands with him, “Well, I’ll let you get on your way, then.”

“Of course! Good night to you, ma’am!” He saluted and ducked into his cab. She watched until the cab was out of sight, followed it to the corner to make sure, and ran back to the house. Before she made entry, she radioed back to Dispatch.

“Dispatch, this is Watson. I need a uniformed car to 4 Lauriston Gardens in Brixton immediately. Code 2.” She added the radio-code as a precaution, she didn’t want Hope to get any ideas if he drove past a Brixton squad-car with it’s lights on. She was no stranger to running covert operations, but she hadn’t expected to be doing it as a police-officer. 

“10-4. A car from Brixton Police Station is en-route to you now.” Dispatch was quick to get back to her and Judith moved her car down to start the scene. As soon as the car from Brixton arrived, she made entry into the empty house, going in first. It was like clearing houses in Afghanistan, the same principles applied. There was nothing on the ground floor, or on the first floor, but on the second floor, they found Jeff Hope’s last victim.

“Christ.” Judith rested on her haunches after discerning the victim’s state, “We need Homicide. Call Dispatch.”

“Yes, ma’am. Where are you going?”

“To get help. You stay here, sit on the house until either I get back or our back-up arrives!” She was halfway out the door. She put out her own call to Dispatch even as she returned to her car and headed for Marylebone. 

 

It took her fifteen minutes to get up to Marylebone, and she had lights and sirens going by the time she reached Baker Street. She saw another car ahead of her and knew Greg had beaten her. Thank god it was his team tonight, she hadn’t even put in a request for it. They just needed Homicide and their consulting duo. Badly. She was in such a hurry she almost forgot to close her doors. Judith didn’t bother to lock the car as she slammed through the front door and ran up the stairs to 221B, completely ignoring Mrs. Hudson, who stood at the bottom with a startled expression on her face. Halfway up, she stopped and look over the railing.

“I’m here for John and Sherlock, but not to arrest them, Mrs. Hudson.”

“What’s going on? Greg’s already here!”

“We’ve got a problem.” She muttered, clearing the remaining stairs and barging through the door. “She left a note, Sherlock! A warning or a message, I haven’t figured it out!”

“Name?”

“Jennifer Wilson. She’s with Western Mail & South Wales Echo.” Judith caught her breath, “Found her down in Brixton.”

“Same as the other four?”

“Yes. Exactly the same.” She looked at Greg, who narrowed his eyes.

“Did you see him, Jude?”

“Yes. I called a car for back-up with a Code 2. I’m not sure he’s figured it out yet, and I don’t want him to think the police are on to him. I left Constable Mitchell sitting on the house to wait for us to get back."

“That could push him to make a mistake, and we need him to make a mistake.”

“He already has.” Judith ruffled her hair, “His name is Jefferson Hope.”

“How many times have you seen him?” Greg was already in work-mode, had been since they had called his team to Brixton probably.

“Since I realized it was him? Three times.” She looked at Sherlock, “Please?”

“Of course. It’s the least I can do.” He smiled and looked at John, who rolled his eyes and fetched their coats, “Besides, you brought me cases earlier, I owe you one.”

“Solve this and I’ll keep you in cold-case work for six months, Sherlock.” She muttered, jingling her keys irritably. Her irritation was short-lived as she felt a tug on her boot-laces and tiny, sharp claws digging into her combat-trousers.

“Hey! Ouch!” Looking down, she found the culprit. Judith chuckled and reached down to give her small assailant a boost, “Oh, hello there, Galileo.”

“He doesn’t like it when someone gets in a mood.” John smirked, “And yes, he likes to climb.”

“You kept two of them, yeah?”

“Galileo and Aristotle.” Sherlock shrugged into his ridiculous Belstaff, checking his pockets. His eyes widened and he chuckled as he removed a fuzzy bundle from the right pocket, “Who fell asleep in my pocket again.”

“Well, they can’t come this time.” Judith set Galileo on John’s chair and took Aristotle from Sherlock, “Maybe on the next run. Queenie was a bit put out when I left her behind this morning, but I didn’t think it would do to bring her along if I wasn’t sure what my schedule looked like.”

 

After situating the cats, who were either indifferent or displeased with being left behind, Judith, Greg, and the boys left Baker Street. Judith took Greg, the boys took a cab right behind. As they headed back to Brixton, Greg kept looking in the rearview mirror, tracking the cab that stayed a few car-lengths behind. They were obviously going faster, but Sherlock would have told the driver to keep their car in sight as much as possible.

“That’s not him, is it?”

“I can’t see from here. It might be.” She frowned, “If it is, then he’s a bit more of a psychopath than I thought. Only the worst of them will stalk their own crime-scenes to revel in the reactions from law-enforcement.” Her on-board laptop pinged and she looked down to see where the tracking-device she had set earlier had placed Hope’s cab.

“What is that?”

“I tagged the cab with a tracking-device when I found it in Brixton. The scans tell me where it is in London, anywhere in London.” She glanced at the screen, then at the cab trailing, “That’s him. Don’t say anything to the boys, I don’t want him to get suspicious.”

“Judith, don’t make a target of yourself. Why is he following you?”

“Because he knows I’m going back to the scene, and he wants a distant look at the response to his last victim’s discovery.” She turned her focus back to the road and didn’t think of Hope again until they reached the Lauriston Gardens scene. Driving in under the tape-line that had been set up to keep out bystanders, she looked for the forensics team.

“Already inside. Anderson’s on tonight, so I hope Sherlock can behave himself.”

“Don’t count on it. You know they don’t get along.” Judith narrowed her eyes as she pulled the keys and got out. Locking the car as a precaution, she headed for the tape-line to join Sally Donovan.

“Hi, sweetie.”

“Hey. Are the boys coming?”

“Just a few minutes behind us. Anderson’s here?”

“And he’s in a mood.”

“Fantastic.” She sighed, “Did he ever figure out that I’m not a Special Constable anymore?”

“Not that I know of. I’m kind of hoping he does something stupid so you can lay him out.”

“Getting on your nerves?”

“He keeps hitting on me! It’s awful!” Sally made a face and hunched her shoulders.

“Who’s hitting on what now?”

“That’s what I call timing.” Judith smirked and held the line for the boys, “Hello, boys.”

“Ladies.” Sherlock ducked under with a winning smile, “Couldn’t help but overhear that last bit. You’re too pretty for that expression, Sally.” He took Sally’s hand and kissed her on the cheek, making her blush, “That’s more like it.”

“Sorry, it’s just…it’s Anderson.”

“Oh?”

“Won’t take a hint, will he?” John was aware of the tension between Sally and Philip Anderson, the circumstances, “You can do better than that, Sally.”

“I know!” Sally rolled her eyes and tapped her radio.

“Agency’s here, sir, bringing them in.”

“Thank you, Donovan.” He’d only been inside for a few minutes, but Greg sounded tired. Judith suspected it was because of Anderson, who stonewalled them when they reached the house. Sherlock had a few snappy deductions to make and spit them out with typical glee, Judith and the other two got to enjoy watching Anderson splutter and squirm while Sherlock picked him apart.

“Oh, and just in case you’ve missed Sergeant Donovan’s very clear “not interested” signals, this should serve as fair warning to leave her be.” Sherlock grinned at Anderson with a smile that usually meant trouble before he turned to Sally, who stood by watching with barely-concealed glee, and grabbed her by the front of her jacket before doing something that, if they hadn’t been friends, would have gotten him laid out. But Sally had asked for help, and he was providing assistance to a friend in need. He didn’t do it often, and very rarely in public like this, but if there was one thing Sherlock Holmes was good at, it was kissing. It definitely got the message across loud and clear, though, if Anderson’s expression was anything to judge by.

“Nice work, Casanova.” John murmured, “I think that did the trick.”

“Anytime, Sergeant Donovan, will be my pleasure.” Sherlock said with a flirty smile he saved for a few people, “You know the drill, love.”

“Of course. Thank you, Mr. Holmes, that will do.” Sally somehow managed to sound formal despite the look on her face, which was really something. When she turned to Anderson, she was all business, “Anderson.” With a brisk nod, she turned and headed back to the line while John and Sherlock passed by a flustered Anderson to enter the house. Judith shrugged and went inside. The boys stopped at the bottom of the stairs long enough to change into PPE gear, chatting with Greg, who listened to the retelling of their encounter outside with a smug glee.

“You’re awful, Sherlock Holmes, but God bless you for stepping in for Sally Donovan.”

“I will always intervene for her. All she has to do is ask.” Sherlock looked up the stairs, “Where are we?”

“Second floor. We haven’t touched her since Jude called it in.”

“Anderson hasn’t been in?”

“Not yet.”

“Good.” Sherlock disappeared up the stairs, and Judith went back out to the line to wait with Sally. It was quiet outside for a while until Sherlock came tearing out of the house in a rush to get somewhere.

“What’s gotten into him?” Sally murmured.

“Hell if I know. Everything alright, Sherlock?” She called to get his attention.

“You didn’t see a suitcase in that house, did you?!”

“A…suitcase? No, I don’t think I did.” She shook her head, “But…oh! Wait, Sherlock!” she hadn’t seen a suitcase in the house, but she had seen a suitcase.

“Where did you see it?”

“The driver forgot he had the suitcase, it was still in the car when he left here.” She looked around the dark streets, “He wouldn’t have gone far to dump it once he realized he still had it. Anywhere within five minute’s drive. Check skips and alley-ways. I’d help but…” She waved at the scene behind them.

“No, you’ve been a great help! Send John on to Baker Street, will you?”

“Yeah, not a problem. Just stay out of trouble, yeah?”

“I always do.” He flashed a dashing smile at them and disappeared around the corner at a run. Judith shared an eye-roll with Sally and headed off to manage the top of the street. She called in two of the Constables on-site and spent the rest of the night working the Lauriston Gardens scene.

 

After a few hours, Greg came out and called her down from the tape-line. He was going back to Baker Street to coordinate with the boys and see if Sherlock had recovered the missing evidence.

“You know he’s unlikely to be home right now?”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean he gets to take off with evidence from a crime-scene without saying anything.” Greg narrowed his eyes, “You’re driving.”

“I was about to insist on it.” She smiled and took the lead.

 

Thirty minutes got them to Baker Street, where they found the boys not at home. Mrs. Hudson let them in and sent them upstairs, apologizing that they had missed the boys.

“That’s alright, Mrs. Hudson. We’ll wait for them to come back.” Greg just smiled at the kind landlady. They cleared the seventeen steps to 221B and searched the flat. Not that they had to look very far, a pink overnight case sat open on the coffee-table.

 

They decided against calling in back-up just for the moment, but sat on the flat for a while to keep an eye on things. Mrs. Hudson went out after a bit, drinks with Mrs. Turner next door, she said.

“We’ll keep an eye on the place for you, Mrs. Hudson.” Judith promised. Once Mrs. Hudson was on her way, they settled in for the long haul.

 

It was about another half an hour before anything happened, and she had dozed off when Greg suddenly shook her awake.

“Jude! Wake up!”

“What?” She fought to sit up, peering out the windscreen of the Rover. Greg pointed wordlessly at the cab that had just pulled up. On her laptop, the indicator showed that Hope’s taxi was in front of them.

“Oh my god.” They watched as Hope emerged from the taxi and went around to the passenger door, opening it and reaching in to help his fare onto the sidewalk.

“Oh my god, he got Sherlock!” Right then, her phone rang. She answered right away.

“John?!”

“He got Sherlock! Jude, he got Sherlock! You have to do something!”

“John, we’re watching him right now. He just pulled up to Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson’s out.” They watched as Hope ushered Sherlock, who was not well, across the sidewalk to the front door, using the detective’s key to get into the house, and looked around a bit before going inside. He didn’t seem to notice them, or care if he did.

“What did he do to Sherlock?” Greg muttered

“He drugged Sherlock, I don’t know what he gave him! Don’t let him kill Sherlock, please, don’t let him hurt him!” John was frantic, “I’m coming home right now!”

“John, where are you?”

“At Angelo’s! I need to get a cab!”

“Hang on, John.”

“Call a car in Soho to pick up John Watson.” Greg took her phone.

“Yes, sir.” Judith clicked her radio and called into Dispatch.

“Dispatch to Alpha-Seven-Ten-Echo. I need a car in Soho to do a civilian pick-up immediately. Location to Angelo’s on Broadwick and Northumberland, target is John Watson!”

“Do you need a uniformed car, Watson?”

“It doesn’t matter, anyone who’s close to the restaurant. Anyone. Just pick him up! Bring him up to Baker Street, I’m on location already! We need an ambulance and any backup in the area that’s available! Call in Lestrade’s team.” She clicked off and looked at Greg, who was checking his side-arm.

“He didn’t see us?”

“Don’t think he did. John’s pretty worried. I called Mycroft, he’s on his way.”

“Good. Now do we wait for back-up or do we go in on our own?”

“We’ve got keys to the place, it wouldn't be the first time we’ve had to make entry into a hostile situation.” Greg murmured, the sound of his Glock racking was unusually loud in the car. Judith racked her Browning, kept the safety on, and they left her car behind. She muted her radio and looked up at the first-floor windows. The sheers were drawn, and she couldn't see anyone at the windows themselves.

 

Moving quickly but with stealth adapted from clearing houses in Afghanistan, she got the front door open and left it unlocked behind her. Greg called in on his radio that they had made entry to the house and the front door was unlocked for the back-up teams to make entry when they arrived. Incoming units were to arrive without lights or sirens, only the last unit on-scene would flash their lights and siren, and only once.

 

They snuck upstairs, stepping over the creaky steps to avoid making any undue noise to get Hope’s attention and alert him to anyone else in the aforeto secured flat. The flat-door was locked, of course, but the kitchen entrance was not, and she carefully pushed that door open. The sliding doors that closed the kitchen off from the sitting-room were partly closed and the lights were off, but they were used to operating in less than ideal conditions. Moving in silence, they took up positions to either side of the gap that allowed them a view of the sitting-room. Their radios were silenced, their phones on vibrate. But most importantly, they could see Sherlock and Hope.

“If he hurts Sherlock, I’m putting a bullet through his fucking skull.” Judith muttered, keeping an eye on Hope, “Unless you want that bastard alive.”

“Answers would be nice, if he wants to give them up.” Greg narrowed his eyes and they watched an unusual and unsettling exchange take place.



 

Chapter Text



They managed two and a half hours of sleep before surfacing to go on their eight-mile run, taking time to check on the cats before they left. They made the loop a little slower than their normal time and stopped on the corner of Chester Street and Grosvernor Place to rest. As she braced her hands on her knees and caught her breath, wishing away the fog that had settled over the city this morning, Judith saw Greg’s head come up and watched his posture change a bit.

“Hey.” He tilted his head, “You ever seen Mycroft’s house?”

“What?” she looked at him, wondering if she’d heard him right. “No?”

“Come on, he lives down this street a bit. Guarantee he’s awake right now.” Greg grinned and grabbed her by the back of her hi-vis running-vest.

“Ugh! For god’s sake, Greg, leave him be!” She moaned, “And how do you know he lives over here anyway?”

“Caught him spying on me a couple years ago.”

“Spying?” She coughed, “What, like full-scale surveillance?”

“Close enough! I just about died when I figured out who he actually was, a bit embarrassing for both of us.” Greg smiled, “But we talked it out civil-like, and we’ve been close friends ever since. I look after Sherlock when he can’t.”

“And now my brother does it for both of you.” Judith shook her head and followed Greg down the quiet street. There were very few people out, even the dedicated runners had stayed inside this morning, but sometimes it was nice to have the city to themselves. No crimes to worry about, no phone-calls to dread, just themselves for company and the weather to deal with.

 

As they came up on 3 Chester Street, she saw lights on in the window, one of the only houses on the row that had any lights on. The curtains were drawn, but she’d be a damned fool if she didn’t think he was sitting in there and watching the street. She slowed down and leaned against the gate, trying to catch her breath and hating the weather for the ache in her thigh.

“God, it hurts.”

“Talk to John, sweetie. He’s got it on standby just for this reason.” Greg patted her on the shoulder sympathetically, “Christ, that’s a Grade II almost a month after the fact, I can’t imagine what a Grade III would have done to you.”

“I’d have left The Met for my own sake.” She shrugged and looked over her shoulder. There was a rustle of movement inside and she narrowed her eyes.

“Is it his habit to come to the door?”

“Not usually, not any time I’ve run by here except maybe once.” Greg looked up and down the street, “Why do you ask?”

“That.” She thumbed over her shoulder as the door clicked open. It didn’t open all the way, and Mycroft never showed himself, but the door was very obviously open.

“Well, if that’s not an open invitation, I don’t know what is. Shall we?”

“Might as well. Warm up a bit before we make the last leg of the run?”

“Good with me!” Greg rolled a kink out of his shoulders and they headed up the steps to the house. Judith nudged the door shut with her foot once they were out of the cold and looked around.

“Wow, nice house.” She breathed, “Good morning, Mycroft!”

“Good morning, you two. Please come in.”

“Thanks.” Greg pushed her into the house ahead of him, “Saw your lights on. Everything good here?”

“As always, Gregory.” Mycroft was his usual polite, pleasant self, but it was an easier attitude than he had with most outsiders. Definitely not strangers. Judith tried to keep her mouth from hanging open as she looked around the house.

“Nice place you’ve got here, Mr Holmes.” She whistled softly, “Pretty central, yeah?”

“It serves it’s purposes.” He smiled at them over the top of his laptop, his face lit in the blue glow of the screen, “I have information for you, Miss Watson.”

“You have the name of the cab-driver?”

“And anything else about him you could ever wish to know of him.”

“God I love having friends in the government.” She muttered, padding across the room to peek over his shoulder, “I promise most of this is wet from the fog.”

“I have seen you in far less savoury condition than after a morning run, my dear.” He just smiled and let her scroll through the information he’d collected.

“Let’s see here. Divorced father of two, rather late in life it looks like, drives cabs for a living, trying to make ends meet. Name is…Jefferson Hope. What is this guy’s deal? No record at all, not even a shoplifting charge as a teenager! What flipped his switch suddenly?” She had taken over Mycroft’s chair when he got up to refresh the tea and he had practically pulled her into it, “He’s responsible for the deaths of at least four people, including last night! I could pick this bloke out of any line-up you showed me, for Christ’s sake! I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s my job to notice things, and let me tell you what…”

“You noticed him.” Greg hummed, leaning over her shoulder the way she had leaned over Mycroft’s a moment ago, “Well, now what? We can’t just clap this guy in hand-cuffs and haul him in for questioning.”

“Wait for him to strike again.” Mycroft came back from the kitchen, “You know he’s going to.”

“Phew.” Greg shook his head grimly, “Ah, ta.” He took one of three cups from Mycroft, who set another beside Judith.

“So, now what?”

“Patience. He’ll make a mistake, and you’ll catch him on that mistake.”

“We need to catch him before someone else ends up dead.”

“It may take one more victim to catch him, but his reign ends here shortly.” Mycroft was dead serious. Judith sipped her tea and knew she would keep her eye out for the cab over the next few days.

“I’m off today, well, I’m supposed to be anyway. But tomorrow, I’ll go back on the streets.”

“I keep telling you, Jude, go all the way. A week a month obviously isn’t doing it for you, you’re working more and more time and even the Super is getting curious.”

“I told you why I don’t go all the way.” She looked over her shoulder, “I like dictating my own hours and it lets me keep eyes on the boys when they need it.”

“Well, in the interest of full disclosure, Judith, you might want to read this.” Mycroft slid an envelope under her hand.

“What is this?” She opened the envelope and slid out a stack of papers.

“Read, my dear.”

“Mycroft Holmes, what have you done this time?” She muttered, reading over the paperwork. It was everything she needed to go full-time at The Met, but…not as a Special Constable.

“Um, Myc?”

“Yes, dear?”

“What is this?”

“What it says.”

“How the hell did you do this?” Greg snatched the paperwork up and turned to read it for himself, “Can you do this?”

“I can’t, but the Director certainly can. As she put it to me, it is in the best interest of the further security and safety of the City of London as a whole entity that Judith Watson be given a higher rank and greater responsibilities, of which we are absolutely certain she can manage.”

“You could have asked me, you know? Kind of my job you’re meddling with.” She glared at Mycroft, “This has been sitting on your desk for two weeks, Mycroft!”

“Yes.”

“Ugh. You Holmes boys are impossible! That’s not regulation and you know it!” Judith shook her head, “You know today was supposed to be my day off!”

“I know. And I apologize.”

“Ask me next time?” She sighed, “I’m grateful, I really am, but I wasn’t going to make the move until this summer.”

“I had no say in the matter, you may take it up with M if you need someone to rant at.”

“God, I’m sorry, Mycroft. You’re the wrong person to be mad at.” She tapped the envelope on the table and looked at Greg, “I guess you get your wish, in a really round-about way.”

“No kidding.” He was trying not to smile, and doing a relatively good job of things. “But why would the director of MI6 care what you do?”

“Well…” Judith looked at Mycroft. “She might care a bit more than a little.”

“That didn’t answer my question.” Greg had no idea she was related to Mycroft’s boss, and someone who probably had bit more than a little to do with seeing to it that Claudia Hendricks and Beverley Hughes were no longer a threat to either of their families.

“Trust me, Greg? Please?” She rubbed her forehead, “God I need a shower.”

“Upstairs, third floor.” Mycroft patted her on the shoulder, “Either room is yours. I’ve already called Anthea.”

“Of course you have.” Judith sighed, “Thanks, Mycroft. Sorry for snapping at you.”

“I’ve endured far worse than snapping from you, Judith Watson, and I’ve the scars to prove it.” It wasn’t often he genuinely smiled, but he did now as he got her up and pushed her towards the stairs. Greg was right behind her, naturally, and steered her into the bedroom at the left of the stairs when they got to the third floor.

“Save time, save water. I’d be an idiot if I thought this would surprise him.” He muttered as they pulled off damp layers, “But you surprise me all the time. What’s your connect with the Director of MI6? I didn’t even know the Director was a woman until this morning!”

“M is one of the city’s most powerful women, pretty much the only person higher than her is the Queen. Not even the Prime Minister. Then the Prime Minister, then Mycroft Holmes, then Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and then me.”

“Wait. Sherlock’s an agent?”

“Ever wonder where he gets off to when he disappears for a few weeks and doesn’t say anything?” She raised an eyebrow, “There’s a reason for that.”

“Christ! Wouldn’t think it of him, would you? Slumming it in a Central London flat with your brother, making a pittance on private cases when he gets them?”

“Oh, don’t worry, they’re not suffering for money too badly. He gets a pension every month from Mycroft out of the trust-fund until he turns thirty. Part of a deal they made in an attempt to get Sherlock clean.”

“Did it work?”

“I think it did? I honestly don’t know. I lost touch for a few years while I was with the Army.” She headed for the shower, “And I searched that flat from top to bottom last time I was over, didn’t find anything.” And she had looked in every possible hiding-spot, including a few clever ones Mycroft had warned her about. She’d done the search while Sherlock had been out on a case, left absolutely no trace of her search, and reported back all-clear when she was done.

 

There was plenty of hot water to be had, but they still didn’t take much time. When they got out, wrapped in towels and mostly dry, they found clean uniforms laid out on the bed.

“Oh, remind me to kill him?” Greg muttered.

“It’s a press-conference, Greg, wearing a uniform isn’t going to hurt the cause.” She smirked, “Besides, I think you look rather dashing.” He rolled his eyes, grumbling about the collar. Judith chuckled and finished getting dressed. 

“You forgot what it was like to wear a uniform, didn’t you?”

“Can you blame me?!”

“No.” She smiled and picked up her phone as it buzzed. “Oh, it’s John. Wonder what he wants this early.” She swiped into the incoming call.

“Judith Watson.”

“Hey, Jude! Sorry about the hour, you’re not home right now, are you?”

“No, I was out on my run with Greg. What’s up?” She looked at Greg as she sat down to tie her bootlaces, “You’re not in trouble already are you? It’s not even half-eight.”

“No, no, we’re not in trouble. But we were in the area and wondered if you wanted us to take the cats to the vet for you?”

“Oh, gosh. Yes! If you can find somewhere to take them, please do! The kittens might have to go to foster until they can be adopted, but make sure Queenie doesn’t get left behind.”

“It shouldn’t be too hard. They’re what, a month old?”

“Something like that. The vet will be able to tell. If you do that, I will be very grateful. I was going to do it, but something came up and I have to go in to work.”

“Really? I thought today was your day off?”

“Yeah, me too.” She got up and looked at her reflection in the mirror, “Damn. Well, there it is. Keep in touch, and don’t let Sherlock be a pest during the press-conference, please?”

“I’ll try to keep him occupied. When is it?”

“We go live with the press at ten. I’ll talk to you later, alright, gotta dash!” She hung up with John and pocketed her phone as she ran downstairs. 

 

Greg caught her on the first-floor landing and dragged her to a halt. She didn’t get a chance to ask him what he was doing, because he went ahead and did it. It was a good thing her back was to the wall, but that didn’t stop her from grabbing the front of his NATO jumper. Subtle touches while out in public and cuddling at home was pretty much the order of the day, but they’d never gone further in kissing than innocent kisses on the cheek or forehead before bed or in the morning. Greg pinned her to the wall with one knee between her legs, and one hand on her shoulder. The other was free to touch. 

 

She remembered to breathe a split-second before his lips touched hers in something slow and frantic all at once that tasted like toothpaste. They hadn’t eaten today, but she detected a hint of curry. Probably from yesterday’s lunch? A door opening downstairs broke the moment, and Judith caught her breath again.

“Jesus! What was that?!”

“Just a bit of something to keep you on your toes.” Greg smiled and tapped her on the nose, “If the rest of today is just god-forsaken hell, then at least this morning wasn’t a complete loss, yeah?”

“I don’t think it’s going to be that terrible, but what do I know?” She looked down the stairs, “I think he caught us but didn’t say anything.”

“Of course he did, and of course he wouldn't.” Greg shook his head, “Come on, you.”

“Right behind.” She followed him down the stairs and out to the waiting car. Mycroft was giving them a ride to The Met, a very kind gesture, and it was quiet as they joined early traffic. Anthea had been a busy woman, fetching clean clothes for Judith and Greg from the Pembroke Mews house and picking up takeaway from Cafe de Fred so they wouldn't forget to eat.

 

Thanking Mycroft for his assistance once they reached The Met, and promising to keep him abreast of things as needed, Judith followed Greg into the quiet but busy building. There was plenty of time before the press-conference so they retreated to Greg’s desk and closed the door to enjoy a quiet, quick breakfast. Anthea had picked up jacket potatoes with cheese and beans, a couple of scones, and two mochaccinos. Caffeine for a quick boost, carbohydrates and protein to keep them running a while longer, and the scones for a sweet treat.

“Bless Mycroft Holmes.” Greg murmured appreciatively.

“Amen.” Judith scraped out the potato-skin shell and started in on that bit, “God, these remind me of Chris Havens. Remember him?”

“Skinny American kid, yeah. God, he could cook though, couldn’t he?” Greg smiled, “Wonder whatever became of him? He was good.”

“Well, last I saw of him, he wasn’t such a skinny little twig anymore.” She finished what was left of her potato and crumpled the wrapper, “Army life was very good to him, he filled out nicely. Still a sweetheart and a perfect gentleman, of course. Insisted on calling me Doctor J for some reason.”

“That’s good to hear.” Greg took a gulp of coffee and looked at the clock.

 

Sally knocked on the door five minutes later, looking for Judith.

“Oh, there you are. Chief’s looking for you.”

“Bet I know why.” She sighed, “Thanks, Sal.”

“Everything turn out alright last night? You were in a pretty foul mood before you left the scene.”

“Anderson being a dick is really the least of my problems, and it’s easier to just ignore him.” She got up and brushed off her uniform, “Well, I’ve got a date with the Chief Superintendent. So, if you two will kindly excuse me, I’ll try to make it back down for the press-con.”

“No rush, Jude, take your time. This isn’t a small affair, anyway, and the press-con’s just for the sake of the press before word gets out somewhere else.” Greg followed her to the door and hugged her tight, wishing her luck as she set off on her own. 

 

She reported to James Roben’s office and he explained things to her. This was not something he approved of, it was very unusual, not quite regulation, but these orders had come from quite a bit higher than he cared to nose, so she was about to become a full police constable.

“Why is it a problem, sir? I completed the required two-hundred hours of operational service and got my Independent Patrol Status last month. It’s not like I’ve skipped any steps.” That would be true if Mycroft and M had bumped her from Special Constable to, say, Detective Constable, but it didn’t look like they’d done that. At least, she didn’t think they’d done that. Roben’s eyes narrowed and Judith bit her lip. Oh, what had Mycroft done this time? He shuffled some papers on his desk and glared at her.

“I would love to know how a nobody like you got the attention of someone like the bloody Director of MI6! The fucking head of SIS, Watson! Ordering the Commissioners to put you in a station you’d be working your ass off for two years otherwise to get! Who the hell do you know up there?!”

“What?” Judith gaped at him, “Sorry, sir, what did you say?”

“You, for whatever reason, are being booted straight from a part-time voluntary position to a full-time paid position! With benefits to boot!”

“What’s the problem, sir? I wasn’t aware I had done something wrong?”

“Bloody Detective Constable, Watson! That’s what!”

“Oh my god.” She felt the blood rush from her face and the ground beneath her feet swayed a bit. “Oh, Mycroft.”

“What was that?”

“Nothing, sir.” She cleared her throat, “Where will I be posted, then?”

“CID, Lestrade’s division. That was made very clear in your paperwork, apparently someone thinks we’re all a bunch of morons up in Criminal Investigations. Homicide and Major Crimes is populated by prancing idiots, apparently!”

“I really doubt that, sir. There’s plenty of competent people up in that division.” She chose her words carefully. Not that Judith didn’t know her share of said prancing idiots and morons, but that was a different problem.

“Was there anything else, sir?”

“Report at noon to the Swearing Room.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Oh, and Watson?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Because a charitable benefactor has forced this upon us, you get to babysit the consultants for Lestrade’s division.” Roben snarled. “Keep them out of trouble and out of crime-scenes they’re not welcome at!”

“That’s a bit unfair, don’t you think?” Judith was aware that Sherlock wasn’t really popular in The Met, but this kind of hostility was a little uncalled for. “I mean, maybe Holmes is a bit of a pain in the arse more than he’s helpful, but Hughes knows what he’s doing, yeah?”

“Are you…defending them, Watson?”

“You can’t fire me from a job I haven’t started, sir, and I doubt the Director of MI6 would be terribly pleased to learn you’d booted me from The Met because you can’t get along with the smartest consultants in this place.” Judith gave a short, sharp nod, “With your leave, Mr Roben.” Before he had a chance to stop her, she turned on him and left his office. Her phone buzzed in her pocket and she answered right away.

“Mycroft?”

“Roben giving you a hard time, dear?”

“You could say that! Not enough I want him sacked, but I might call on that favour another day! Christ what pissed him off?!”

“Well, you know your folk don’t much like it when mine poke our noses into your business unwanted?”

“Mycroft, if looks alone could kill, I’d be dead.” She heaved a sigh, “I guess I lay low until noon?”

“If you feel the need to maintain a low profile until then?”

“For my own safety, yeah.” She sighed, “God, I thought he was going to come across the desk at me for standing up for John and Sherlock!”

“They are rather disfavored in The Met at large, aren’t they?”

“You could say that.” She looked around, “Christ, Mycroft! If I didn’t think I would be missed, I’d hide out at MI6!”

“Is it so bad there?”

“At least on the administrative floor, it is.” She escaped to a lift and headed back to Homicide and Major Crimes, bee-lining for CID when she got there. “Roben was mad as a hornet because your boss bumped me past Police Constable and skipped over two years of probationary training to drop me off at Detective Constable! What was she thinking?”

“You know her thoughts, Judith. I’m very sorry we caused any trouble for you at your job, but your skills were not being used appropriately, by standards. Never mind that you have the equivalent of those two years of probationary training behind you.”

“I really, really doubt fifteen years of military service in any way equates to two years of probationary police training, Mycroft, but I appreciate the sentiment.” She caught sight of Philip Anderson and groaned, “Oh, bloody hell. Mycroft, I have to go. I’ll talk to you later?”

“Of course, my dear. Perhaps I might even  see you?”

“At the rate my day is going, I’m starting to think Inspector Lestrade was right about this morning. God-forsaken hell, indeed.”

“He cares rather deeply for you, Judith. He will take care of you, and with you, you may trust him.”

“I already do, Myc. Thanks for everything.” She hung up on him first and pocketed her phone while she tried to work out a detour that would get her past the huffy forensics specialist who seemed to have a personal grudge against her. More people in The Met liked her than disliked her, as far as she was aware, but the negative energy this morning was an almost physical weight on her shoulders.

 

She somehow got around Anderson and practically dove into Greg’s office when she got to his door. Throwing her weight against the door, she slammed it shut and contemplated locking it.

“Uh, hang on a mo. Something’s just come up.” He was on a phone call and she winced, realizing how much noise she’d made just now, “Can I get back to you, sir? Yeah, thanks. Right away, sir.” He hung up the phone and cleared his desk faster than she’d expected him to.

“Jesus Christ, Jude! What happened?”

Not a good day!” She kept her eyes closed and her head back, “Roben would have booted me if he’d had the chance! Might still try, not that I blame him.”

“What on earth happened to you? You look terrible!”

“It’s not just a bump from Special Constable, Greg.” She leaned against him, “Not that at all. I don’t know why she would do that to me when I clearly don’t have the training or the time. What kind of test is this? How many of my higher-ups can I alienate in one morning?”

“Judith, talk to me. What is going on?” Greg pulled her away from the door and sat her down at his desk, “I know for damn certain it’s only the fifteen years you were in the Army that’s kept you from breaking down. What happened?”

“When they said bigger responsibilities, they weren’t joking. Roben put me in charge of John and Sherlock, just for spite’s sake.”

“Why? Why is that a problem? You know them better than anyone else, yeah?”

“That’s not the point, Greg! It’s that what I do is directly affected by your decisions now!”

“What?” He frowned, leaning forward on the balls of his feet as he crouched before his chair, rubbing her knee absently as he tried to calm her down, “Why would…oh, hold on. Wait. They bumped you past Police Constable up to DC, didn’t they?”

“Yep.”

“Why?”

“Your guess is as good as mine! I’m doomed! Roben hates me already, and Anderson was looking for me outside a minute ago! What do I do?”

“When do you report to the Swearing Room?”

“Noon?”

“It’s almost ten, you can’t really hide out here for two hours.” He looked worried, “Here, come with me.”

“But you’re going down to the press conference.”

“I know. I’m keeping my eye on you until noon, then you can do whatever in hell’s name you want to. Turn in your badge if that’ll make your life easier, but no one should have to put up with that kind of discrimination.” 

 

He was halfway to the Press Room by the time she caught up. Sally met them there, confused when she saw Judith.

“What are you doing down here?”

“Keeping a low profile.” She muttered, “I’ll tell you everything later.”

“Oh, what did you do?!”

“Absolutely nothing. For once.” She scrubbed at her face, “Well, nothing on purpose, anyway.”

“Are we sure you’re not secretly a Holmes?” Sally whispered as they entered the Press Room.

“Pretty damn sure. Just spend more time than is wise with them is all.” She coughed. The way they were seated at the long table, backed by a pull-down screen displaying photographs of the most recent victim, it was Sally on the right, Judith on the left, and Greg between them. 

 

The press-conference was fairly straight-forward, as far as such things went, and when the question of a serial-killer came up, it got a bit more interesting. The crowded room was humming and they were sort of making it harder to keep quiet. But anything she had in mind for giving a piece of her mind to the press was way-sided when every phone in the room started buzzing. Not a phone-call, but a text message instead. Someone had hacked into the system and sent out a one-word message: Wrong!

 

This warning came back two or three times before Greg finally reached the end of his breaking point and excused himself. On her phone, and on Greg’s and Sally’s, was the following message:

 

You know where to find me. – SH

 

“Damn it, Sherlock!” Judith groaned and dialled her brother once she was out of the Press Room. It rang out three times before it picked up.

“No! Sorry! Jude!”

“I thought I was rather clear when I asked you to keep him out of trouble.”

“Sorry about that! He just tried to throw my phone out the window a minute ago!” Her brother sounded out of breath, “Damn it, Sherlock, go away!”

“You know I can have him arrested for just about anything?” She was only half-joking. “A few hours in handcuffs might teach him a lesson.” 

“I’m bored!” Sherlock yelled in the background.

“That doesn’t make it okay to throw away my brother’s mobile-phone, Sherlock! Don’t you have any cases?”

“No!” Two voices were in perfect unison. She sighed and looked at her watch. She had to be at the Swearing Room by noon, it was half eleven.

“Can’t you do something, Jude?”

“I have to report to the Swearing Room in thirty minutes, but I’ll see if I can send Sally down to Cold Case to dig a few files out for you, alright?”

“Wait, what? Why are you going to the Swearing Room?”

“Because someone decided I wasn’t busy enough as a Special Constable and booted me into a full-time position with hours and benefits to suit.”

“What’s wrong with that? You were going to apply for a PC slot in the summer anyway, weren’t you?”

“You two had better find a way to make it to the Swearing Room if you want to find out. I don’t really feel like telling you over the phone.” She checked her watch and headed for the Swearing Room so she wouldn't be late. Not that being late was an issue, she still had nearly twenty minutes to go. 

 

The group of people presenting for swearing-in was fairly small, and everything from fellow SCs making the move to PC, PCs making the move to other divisions, and others changing ranks entirely. Constables making Sergeant, Sergeants making Inspector, and so on. Judith found a place to sit and kicked her heels under the chair, wondering that she had only been working for The Met for the equivalent of four months and she was getting this boost. She hadn’t asked for it and could see it causing some problems among her peers for apparent outside favouritism.

 

Families gathered to cheer on their loved ones up for promotion, and Judith knew better than to think anyone she considered family would actually make a show. Yes she had told John and Sherlock to come so she wouldn’t have to explain herself, but that didn’t really count. Not surprisingly, Greg and Sally showed up, but she had kind of expected them. But when John, Sherlock, and Mycroft all made an appearance, along with M and her step-family, Judith wondered who had spread the word that fast. Probably Mycroft, if she had to guess. Well, no matter, she had a family to cheer her on.

 

***

 

John Hughes had been surprised when he found out that his sister was up for a promotion when she had only been with The Met for four months as a Special Constable. She was very good at her job, and was well on her way to solving a string of suicides that had plagued the city since last October by herself, but the promotion still came as a bit of a shock to him and the rest of their family. It wasn’t that unexpected, but so soon after she had joined the force? He suspected that they had the Holmes brothers to thank for this, more likely it was Mycroft’s doing. But when he asked Mycroft, all the man would admit to was handing over the letter of promotion written from somewhere inside MI6. John didn’t think James Bond had the pull to effect something this big, but M certainly did. Had their grandmother, who had always been there for them but had never stepped in on their lives unwanted or unasked for, finally gotten sick of sitting on the sidelines and done something about Judith’s career with The Met? God bless her if she had, that was a risky thing to do without warning any of them. Of course, John was intimately familiar with the level of outrageous miracles M and Mycroft were capable of pulling off both together and single-handedly.

 

Now, he wasn’t related to the Holmes family by blood, but it sure felt that way sometimes and they might as well be for the sheer ridiculous amount of time he’d known them. If Judith hadn’t gotten between Sherlock Holmes and a pack of bullies on her way home from school that one day, an entire lifetime ago for them, it was unlikely they would have met each other any time soon enough to make a difference in each other’s lives. But because he had befriended the loner genius when no one else wanted to be around him, John had been there for Sherlock in some of his darkest times and still hadn’t turned his back on the other boy. 

 

When he had hauled Sherlock out of a flop-house in Brixton three days before he was due to ship out with the Army, backed up by Mycroft, it had broken his heart to see Sherlock so low and so desperate for relief he had turned to drugs. But he had gotten a promise out of Sherlock to get clean and stay clean, just for him. They’d lost touch a bit after he went to the Army, but Mycroft kept him informed of things and when Sherlock got out of rehab for the second time, John had been there to take him home. His flat had been cleared out and everything that they could salvage had been moved into a new place closer to family. Sherlock had railed for a bit before he realized that the family involved went well beyond his meddling older brother and hovering parents. John’s family, the family he had grown up with, was there for him. And Sherlock loved the Hughes family. Now John was ready to settle into civilian life, not necessarily a quiet civilian life, but he was ready to leave his Army service behind.

 

“What are you thinking?” Sherlock whispered as they waited for Judith’s name to be called.

“Just thinking back on a few things.” He smiled and looked over at his flat-mate, who was a bit more than that, “How long do you think it’ll be before Judith jumps to Sergeant?”

“Well, if she’s going into CID with Lestrade and Donovan, a year. Maybe. She went to school for forensics and criminal justice, and she cleared her required two-hundred hours of operational service and got Independent Patrol Status last month.” Sherlock mused, grinning as he looked at something on his phone, “That’s why they put her up at Detective Constable. She’ll take the necessary courses immediately, but there are no concerns for where she’ll go from here.”

“Up is the only way she can go.” John sighed and tuned in to see where on the rosters they were reading names from. Still not to Judith’s class, but they were getting there. It was a smaller group, so they’d be calling her up soon.

 

Another ten minutes had them calling his sister’s name.

“Judith Watson. Detective Constable. Criminal Investigations Division, Homicide and Major Crimes.” The master of ceremonies called Judith’s name and even though she didn’t look at them, he did not miss the way his sister blushed when their little group made enough noise to deafen their half of the room.

“That’s my girl.” John was very proud of his sister and looked forward to the chance to watch her rise through the ranks of New Scotland Yard. She was good with people, and rather good at solving crimes, so this was the perfect job for her.



 

Chapter Text



“Get yourself together. I want your best game.” The now-familiar voice of the cabbie pulled Sherlock, still fighting out of the haze of the drugs, back to the here-and-now. To the matter at hand. Screwing his eyes up in concentration, Sherlock tried to straighten up. He remembered stopping the cab outside of Angelo’s restaurant when he decided to take a risk, without waiting for John, of being drugged, seeing John, briefly, outside the restaurant, the sound of his name shouted in panic, a tone of voice he’d only heard a few times. He couldn't remember anything else until he’d woken up here, at Baker Street.

“My...my best what?” He leaned forward and laid his head down on one hand on the table

“I know who you are, Mr ’olmes.” There was a smugness to the other man’s voice as he started to wander around the living room. “The moment you said your name, I knew. Sherlock ’olmes.” He picked up a magnifying glass from the bureau and lifted it to look through it at Sherlock before continuing around the room looking at various things.

“I’ve been on your website loads of times. You are brilliant.”

“What?” Tiredly, Sherlock lifted his head to look at him.

“You are. Proper genius.” The cabbie turned and walked back to the table as Sherlock’s head slumped down onto his hand again. He felt terrible, far worse than any hangover or high. And he was more likely to suffer a hangover than a high these days.

““The Science of Deduction.” Now that is proper thinking. Between you and me, why can’t people think?” The cabbie looked angry, but...why? “Don’t it drive you mad? Why can’t people just think?”

“Oh, I see.” Sherlock slurred his words, keeping his head down, it seemed to hurt less that way, as he pointed a finger towards the cabbie, “So you’re a proper genius too.”

“Don’t look it, do I? Funny little man drives a cab.” His smile was smug, “But you’ll know better in a minute. Chances are it’ll be the last thing you ever know.”

“Who are you?” Sherlock finally got his head up and glared up at the man. He knew the man’s name, of course, thanks to Judith Watson. But the cabbie didn’t need to know that he knew. Not right away.

“Nobody.” He looked down at Sherlock. “For now.” He pulled out the other chair and sat down.

“But I won’t die a nobody, now will I?” Sherlock tiredly leaned back in his seat and blew out a long breath through his nose, trying to concentrate. He pointed to the vials on the table.

“Two pills.”

“There’s a good pill and a bad pill. You take the good pill, you live; take the bad pill, you die.”

“And you know which is which.”

“Course I know.” The cabbie grinned. Why did he keep smiling like that?

“But I don’t.”

“Wouldn’t be a game if you knew.” The cabbie shrugged, “You’re the one who chooses.”

“It’s not a game.” Sherlock squinted, “It’s chance.”

“I’ve played five times. I’m alive. It’s not chance, Mr ’olmes, it’s chess. It’s a game of chess, with one move, and one survivor. And this...this is the move.” He slid the right-hand pill across the table towards Sherlock with his right hand, then pulled his hand back and left the pill where it was.

“Did I just give you the good pill or the bad pill? You can choose either one.”

“That’s what you did, to all of them. You gave them a choice.”

“You’ve gotta admit: as serial killers go, I’m verging on nice! Anyway, time’s up. Choose.”

“And then?”

“And then, together, we take our medicine.” He smiled and licked his lips expectantly, “Let’s play.”

“Play what? It’s a fifty-fifty chance.”

“You’re not playin’ the numbers, you’re playin’ me. Did I just give you the good pill or the bad pill?” The cabbie nodded at the pills on the table, “Is it a bluff? Or a double-bluff? Or a triple-bluff?”

“It’s still chance.” Sherlock shook his head, desperately trying to clear it.

“Five people in a row? It’s not chance.”

“It’s luck.”

“It’s genius. I know ’ow people think.” The cabbie rolled his eyes, “I know ’ow people think I think. I can see it all, like a map in my ’ead.” Sherlock turned his head away, exasperated and fighting down a wave of something very much like panic.

“Everyone’s so stupid – even you.” There was deliberate venom in those words, a baited hook. Sherlock’s gaze sharpened a little as he looked back at the man who had kidnapped him and then made what could potentially be a fatal mistake of bringing him back to Baker Street. He couldn't hold his gaze for long, however, and he looked away again after a while.

“Course, maybe God just loves me.”

“Either way, you’re wasted as a cabbie.” Sherlock propped his head up on his hand and looked at the man again. Rubbing his fingers across his chin, he dropped his hand, now strong enough to keep his head up unassisted.

“How did you choose which ones?” He looked at the cabbie.

“Anyone who didn’t know where they were going, ’cause they were drunk or lost or new in town.” He chuckled, “Anyone I could walk through the wrong door.” Sherlock frowned thoughtfully.

“You risked your life five times just to kill strangers. You’re dying, aren’t you?” The cabbie’s eyes flickered but he managed to hold Sherlock’s gaze.

“So are you.”

“You don’t have long, though. Am I right?” Sherlock never guessed, and was rarely wrong.

“Aneurysm.” The cabbie lifted his right hand and tapped the side of his head. “Right in ’ere. Any breath could be my last. It’s your only ’ope, Mr ’olmes. Bet on the aneurysm.”

“I’m not a betting man.” Sherlock couldn’t help the crooked smile.

“D’you think I’m bitter?”

“Well, you have just murdered five people.”

“I’ve outlived five people. That’s the most fun you can ’ave with an aneurysm.”

“Made things interesting for one of The Yard’s medical consultants.” He mused, “Never mind one of their constables.”

 

Outside, the screech of brakes heralded a vehicle coming to a halt. The flashing lights of a police car came through the window. John would have called Scotland Yard the minute he was snatched. And Sherlock was fairly certain he had actually seen one of the Yard’s marked Rovers parked outside the flat when they’d arrived. Only one member of The Met’s patrols had a reason to be sitting on Baker Street tonight, and he was ever so grateful for the kind of friends he had.

“What if I don’t take either?” Sherlock’s gaze flickered briefly to the window but he quickly turned his attention back to the cabbie.

“Then I choose for you, and I force it down your throat.” The cabbie shrugged, “Right now there’s nothing you could do to stop me.” Sherlock was very aware that he was too weak to fend the man off. Just then the land-line phone began to ring. The cabbie didn’t seem to notice as he looked at Sherlock.

“Funnily enough, no-one’s ever gone for that option. And I don’t think you will either.”

“Especially as that’s the police.” Sherlock looked across to the phone. That was either Lestrade calling, or it was Judith. Possibly John, maybe his brother Mycroft. But Mycroft didn’t call Baker Street, he called on Baker Street.

“I know.” The cabbie turned his head to glance over his shoulder at the flashing lights reflecting on the window pane. A siren whooped outside, just once.

“I’m not blind.” Sherlock turned in his chair and prepared to stand up.

“You make the slightest move towards that phone, I’ll kill yer.” The cabbie snapped, trying to sound menacing. It didn’t work very well. Sherlock was a clever man, a detective, a government agent. Very little legitimately frightened him anymore.

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Sherlock slowly hauled himself to his feet, then looked down at the cabbie and smiled. “Not your kind of murder.”

His would-be killer didn’t know a damn thing about Sherlock, really, or the people he called his family. Between John Hughes and Judith Watson, there was no way this man stood a saint’s chance in hell of getting away with anything. Over the ringing of the phone, Sherlock heard a soft click. A door closing, somewhere else in the flat. He and Mr Hope were not alone in 221B and probably hadn’t been for quite a while. Not if that had been Judith’s squad-car parked on the kerb outside.

He was aware of a flicker of motion by the door and turned that way. Unnoticed by either himself or by the cabbie, who couldn't see them due to the cover provided by the dark kitchen and the sliding-doors, he saw Judith Watson. She was in plain sight, crouched in the opening, but still concealed by the shadows and Sherlock’s position relative to Hope. He saw the Browning in one hand, the glint in her eye. She had orders. Only one of them would die tonight, and it wasn’t going to be him. Judith signalled him to keep quiet, but he wasn’t about to give her position away.

“You wanna risk it?” The cabbie pulled his attention away as the phone beeped, going to voicemail. Sherlock looked down at the pills thoughtfully.

“Which one do you think? Which one’s the good pill? Come on. I know you’ve got a theory.” Sherlock raised his gaze and the two men locked eyes.

 

After a few seconds Sherlock looked down to the pills again and raised his hand, his fist clenched above the table for a moment before he extended his arm and pointed to the vial on the cabbie’s left, the one which wasn’t pushed across the table towards him.

“Oh. Interesting.” The cabbie looked at the pill with interest but his voice gave nothing away as he spoke. Well, nothing a normal person would notice. Sherlock, trained to pick up wavers, tone-changes, and inflections, heard a slight change of pitch. A slight hitch in the breath-pattern.

 

The cabbie reached out and slid the left-hand pill across the table while pulling the right-hand one back towards himself. Releasing the left-hand one, he picked up the other pill and looked at Sherlock.

“So what d’you think? Shall we?” Still holding his gaze, Sherlock slowly sank back down onto his chair.

“Really, what do you think? Can you beat me?”

“I’m not certain, but I’d like to try.” He eyed the pills, “See if I can really outsmart you. Or, rather, the man who hired you.”

“Ohh.” The cabbie turned away with a sigh. Hmm. He looked at Sherlock again.

“You are good, ain’t you?”

“You didn’t just kill five people because you’re bitter. Bitterness is a paralytic. Love is a much more vicious motivator. Somehow this is about your family.” Sherlock held the pill to the light, squinting, “But how?”

“When I die, they won’t get much, my kids.” He shrugged, “Not a lot of money in driving cabs.”

“Or serial killing.”

“You’d be surprised.”

“Surprise me.”

“I’ve got a sponsor. For every life I take, money goes to my kids.” A casual shrug, “The more I kill, the better off they’ll be. You see? It’s nicer than you think.”

“Who’d sponsor a serial killer?”

“Who’d be a fan of Sherlock ’olmes?” The cabbie leaned across the table, “You’re not the only one to enjoy a good murder. There’s others out there just like you, except you’re just a man...and they’re so much more than that.”

“What d’you mean, more than a man?” Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “An organisation? What?”

“There’s a name no-one says, an’ I’m not gonna say it either.” Sheer defiance, not that Sherlock had expected anything else, “Now, enough chatter.”

 

Both men propped their elbow on the table, holding their pill a few inches from their mouth. But Sherlock did not move to swallow his pill. Suddenly, something behind him got Hope’s attention and the man’s face drained of colour. Sherlock stayed still while Hope reacted with frantic violence, shoving away from the table and scrambling to his feet. He overturned his chair in the process, causing it to crash to the floor.

“A name, Mr Hope, if you please.” Sherlock set his pill back in the vial and screwed the cap on tightly. “You underestimated my friends and my resources. Don’t do anything foolish.” He reached across the table to seize the cabbie by the hand to keep him from trying to ingest his pill.

“You’re running out of time anyway, Mr Hope.” Judith’s voice was calm and level. “Just give us a name and go in peace.” Sherlock was aware that Judith had seen and spoken to Hope before and wondered if she could get him to talk. He heard a soft click behind him and felt a hand on his shoulder. He got up slowly, still unsteady from the drug, and let her take his seat.

“Oh, you’re a clever girl, Constable.” Hope smiled, shaking his head as Judith and Sherlock switched places, “Clever girl.”

“Have a seat, Mr Hope. Let’s talk.”

“About what?”

“Just talk. Nothing in particular. Please, sit.” Judith was good at charming anyone she pulled, he was curious to see if she could get Hope to cooperate. Sherlock felt a hand on his arm and knew it was John.

“Now, we can talk here, in peace in Baker Street, or this conversation is going to happen in a metal room and you’re going to be very uncomfortable.” Judith gave a casual, disinterested shrug. “It’s your choice, but I’ll get my answers out of you in a fashion either way.” Oh, she was so good at mind-games. Sherlock stifled a grin.

“I like you, Constable. I’ll talk to you.” Hope said after a moment of weighing his options. “May not like my answers, but you asked nice-like. I got some respect for people like you.”

“People like me? What kind of people are like me?”

“Good, honest, hard-working folks. You’re ex-Army, too. Marked it on you right away.” He sat down, “But if you want answers, you’d better get rid of your cop buddies.”

“That can be arranged. But you realize, Mr Hope, that your next stop out of Baker Street is prison. We can’t have you taking anyone else for a final ride.” Judith folded her hands on the table-top, “And the Detective Inspector will remain on-premises. Procedure, you know?” Hope just shrugged, seemingly content to stay as long as the police-presence on Baker Street was minimized.

 

Sherlock was distracted by a tug on his hand and he turned away. He let John lead him out of the sitting-room, back through the kitchen, and into his bedroom.

“I don’t have a clue what he gave you, so I’ll go basic. Sleep off the worst of it and pray for the best.” John murmured, “You fucking moron, Sherlock Holmes, he would have killed you!”

“I don’t think that’s what he wanted, or what his boss wanted, whoever he works for.”

“Leave it my sister to find out.” John shook his head and got him situated. Sherlock zoned out, listening to John’s voice, and was aware of a sharp prick in his arm. Something to put him to sleep, probably. Or a remedy for whatever Hope had given him before. He didn’t mind, really. He trusted John, he trusted Judith. He was home, he was safe, and the killings would stop now that they had Jefferson Hope in custody.



 

Chapter Text



Once Sherlock had gone back through the kitchen to the bedroom with John, Judith was left with Jeff Hope and Greg. She was a little surprised that Hope had agreed to stick around so quickly. After all, he had basically just told Sherlock to go pound sand. And yet, here they were, sitting at the table, very much as Sherlock and Hope had been, and he seemed willing to talk. She was a little surprised by this. And she asked him, “What is it about me that you trust so much? Why me?” And he had a very honest answer for her.

“You don’t seem all that bad.” He told her. “In fact, you’re rather…I find you rather honourable. You’re approachable. But then again, ain’t that your job?” An interesting answer, but she had asked.

 

With Greg behind her, keeping tabs on the whole thing, and glad he was around, she decided it was time to start probing for answers. She set Greg’s recorder between them on the table. She had already read him, he had already agreed to talk. He wasn’t asking for a lawyer, he wasn’t going to ask for a lawyer, and he had basically agreed that after this was over, he would go to jail quietly. Not that he had much time left. As Sherlock had already deduced, he was sick, dying.

“So, Mr. Hope. Five people dead. What’s your motivation?”

“Well, I already told your friend, Mr. ‘olmes. I’ve got family to look after.”

“Your children? But you don’t see them, do you?”

“Not as often as I’d like, no. Wife won’t let me.” He shrugged, “But when I die, they won’t get much. Not much money driving cabs, yeah?”

“But apparently, money to be had for…killing people?” Judith leaned forward against the table, “You have a sponsor.”

“You could say that.” Hope grimaced, “Smart, scary man he is.”

“Do you know his name?”

“Yes.”

“Will you say his name?” She asked cautiously. Hope fell silent and stared at the table-top.

“Mr. Hope, if the man who has employed you as a contracted killer poses any threat beyond this to the people of London, we need to know.” Greg stood behind Judith, “We need his name, so that we can keep an eye out on him.”

“What will you do with the information?”

“Well, until he becomes a viable threat, nothing.”

“Viable threat?” Hope snickered, “I’ve just killed five people, under his orders! If that’s not a viable threat, I don’t care to know what would be!”

“Mr. Hope, I understand your motivation. Just give us a name.”

“Moriarty.” Hope spoke the name a bit hesitantly, “H-his name is…Moriarty.”

“Oh. See? That wasn’t too bad.” Almost too easy, but she wasn’t complaining.

“You can’t keep me safe.” He grimaced.

“I wasn’t promising you protection, I was asking for honest answers. You’ve kept up your end of the bargain.” She sighed, “I know I can’t keep you safe, Mr. Hope. Men like Moriarty, whoever he is, have people everywhere.”

“Bit much to ask for, wasn’t it? Worth a shot.”

“I’m sorry for your troubles, Mr. Hope, I really am. And I wish there was something we could do to help you but…I’m not even sure you would take our assistance.”

“He looks like an honest fellow.” Hope looked over her shoulder at Greg. “And the other one, too.”

“Uh…the other one?”

“The blond. Your brother?”

“Uh, yeah.” She was a little surprised by that, “Twins, actually.”

“Ah. So you’ve got family then.” Hope smiled a bit.

“Hmm. A bit. Some family I talk to, anyway.” Judith shrugged. “Mr. Hope, financial difficulties are no justification for the murders of five people. Or the attempted kidnapping and murder of a sixth.”

“I’m not asking for mercy. Do whatever you need to.” Hope looked at her steadily. “You have to do your jobs, I won’t stop you.”

“I think you’re…a good person. Desperate and driven to do unforgivable things.” She tapped her fingertips together, looking across at her suspect, “Can you go to prison with a clear conscience?”

“If I tell you everything? Yes.”

“Even if it puts your life ultimately at risk, you’ll tell me everything?”

“Yes.”

“Will you talk to me at Scotland Yard, or will you only talk to me here?” This was almost too easy, she was a bit concerned.

“I will talk to you wherever I must.”

“Mr. Hope, I have a question for you.” Greg piped in finally, rejoining the conversation. Hope looked over Judith’s head at Greg.

“Yes, Detective?”

“Why do you trust Constable Watson? Why will you talk to her?”

“Because she’s the one who figured it out first.” He smiled, “She caught my game before anyone else did.” Judith was floored. She looked over at John, who had come out of the bedroom sometime in the past few minutes, and then at Greg.

“You knew? All this time, you knew that I was onto you! And it didn’t stop you!”

“I was having fun! After all, when you’re dying, sometimes a little bit of fun is all you can get.”

“You…knew that I was on to you, and you didn’t say anything?”

“Why should I? I was enjoying the game as much as you were. ‘sides, you never treated me any different, never let on that you knew what you knew.”

“Then how did you…?”

“Saw you that night, heard ya, too.”

“Oh, god!” Judith couldn't believe what she was hearing, what he was admitting to.

“What?” Greg was lost, very lost.

“No, no! The night you…the night you killed Beth Davenport!” Judith shook her head in disbelief. “The night I found the cats!”

“Mm-hmm.”

“How did…?”

“Well, you did announce yourself.” He said it so calmly, as if it was just that simple. And it was.

“Oh God!” She pressed one hand to her mouth for a moment, stifling a bubble of something in her chest, “Well, I kind of have to do that!”

“But you didn’t announce yourself tonight.”

“I couldn't, Mr. Hope. I thought you were going to kill him.” She sobered up quickly and rubbed her face.

“Who? Holmes?”

“Well, you did kind of kidnap him from a busy street, in plain view of his best friend no less.” Greg pointed out, not unkindly.

“Best friend?” Hope snorted and shook his head, “Oh no, no! There’s more than just friends between them. I ain’t blind, and I ain’t stupid.” He looked over at John, who couldn't seem to decide if he wanted to punch Hope or kill him, and winked. Then he turned back to Judith.

“I remember the boys I took home that night, after Davenport. I got ‘em home safe, I wasn’t interested. After all, you’d made it rather clear that you wanted them home safe, so I took them home.”

“My God. You’ve been baiting me!”

“Oh no, no. Not baiting you. Enjoying a little game. I was supposed to be playing to Mr. Holmes, but you seemed to be a bit more fun.”

“I doubt your boss would consider that a good use of his resources.” Greg didn’t seem to think it was very funny that one of his constables had been picked on by a serial-killer.

“He doesn’t know.”

“Hm, he will. Someone like him? He’ll figure it out.” Greg’s eyes narrowed, “How much of a threat is Mr. Moriarty to London?”

“Right now? Not much. I wouldn't worry about him until you have to.”

“Which would be…when?”

“Whenever he feels like upping the game a bit.”

“Ah.”

“Mr. Hope, I can’t promise…much. And I cannot promise you safety behind bars. Jail-time is inevitable for you, and I don’t know how long you have, considering your condition of…aneurysm?” Greg was trying to remember what they already knew about Hope.

“Mmhmm. Right here.” He tapped the right side of his skull, right behind the ear, “Every day, I live on a clock I have no control over.”

“So, you were basically setting aside funds for your children after you died.”

“Like I said, there’s not much money to be made driving cabs and, well, even though I don’t see ‘em, after I die my kid’s will get somethin’. I’d rather they get somethin’ more than nothin’, which is what they would get otherwise.”

“What are the names of your children, Mr. Hope?” Judith looked over her shoulder at Greg. She could see the wheels turning in his head. Hope pulled a picture from his wallet and slid it across the table.

“Those are my kids. Mark and Kaitlyn.”

“Oh. Handsome family.” Greg picked up the picture, “And that, I assume, is your ex-wife?” The picture had been torn off and the adult woman was barely in the frame.

“Hmm.” He nodded.

“Mm.” Judith took the image from Greg and studied it. “Hmm. Lovely family.”

“All I’ve got.”

“You know, Mr. Hope, people try to leave this world having made a positive mark on it.” Judith set the picture on the table. “Do you really want to go out of this world having five deaths on your conscience?”

“No. I wouldn't be talkin’ to you if I did.”

“You are not what people expect in a serial-killer, Mr. Hope. But then again, that’s not what you do. You’re just an average cabbie, fallen on hard financial times, trying to make ends meet.” Judith got to her feet, “I can respect that. We’ll take you down to the station and we’ll finish our conversation there.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Very well, Mr. Hope. See you in the interview rooms.” Judith reached over and switched off the recorder.

 

Greg called up the officers waiting outside and they had Hope transferred down to the station. As he was bundled into the waiting car, he had one more thing to say to Greg.

“Oh. I’ll talk to you too, Detective! If you don’t mind?”

“Uh, s-course. Yeah.”

“Mean, it is your case, ain’t it? Holmes and Watson just happened to be on the job when things went south a bit.”

“Y-yeah. Of course. Thank you, Mr. Hope.” Greg closed the door once Hope was inside the squad-car and gave orders to the constables. They would take Mr. Hope to Paddington Green Police Station for questioning.

 

Judith leaned against her Rover, which had seen a bit of action tonight, and looked at her watch as the car pulled away from Baker Street.

“Jesus, is it really midnight?”

“Yep.” Greg patted her on the shoulder, “Want me to take over questioning Hope?”

“Yeah, I’m not really qualified to question suspects. I probably shouldn't have done it.”

“He asked to talk to you, though, he agreed to talk to you.”

“Damn.” She looked up at the sky, wishing she could see a few stars tonight.

“Well, I’ll be off then. I’ll keep you in the loop about Hope, yeah?”

“Thanks, Greg. I’ll stick around a bit longer, I guess.” Judith sighed and let Greg go. Radioing back to base, she was informed that she was off the clock if she cared to go off-duty, she’d been working for almost twenty-four hours straight by now.

“Roger that, Base. Thanks.” She signed off and accessed her shift-logs, remotely clocking out with several hours of overtime on her chart for tonight.

 

She was still compiling her daily reports when a tap on the window startled her. It was just Sherlock, who looked a bit better than he had earlier. She rolled her window down and smiled, “Hey, you.”

“Hungry?”

“Starving. What’s on?”

“Dim sum. My treat.”

“Sounds good to me!” She signed off on the report she was reading and locked her car before following the boys down Baker Street to the Chinese at the end of the street that stayed open until two am. They got as far as Melcombe Street before they had any trouble, and Judith saw them first.

“Oh no.”

“Hmm?”

“Big Brother at your eight.”

“Oh, what is he doing here?!” Sherlock made a face as the back door of the black government car popped open and disgorged Mycroft Holmes onto the sidewalk.

 

For the utterly outrageous hour, he looked as prim and put-together as ever. It was very annoying for Judith and the boys. They were all exhausted, Sherlock was a bit hung-over from the drugs, and Judith was probably going to be in a bit of trouble by tomorrow for questioning a suspect when that was above her station, no matter if he wanted to talk to her. That’s not how things worked.

“Good evening, Sherlock. Good evening, Judith, John.” Mycroft was polite, at least.

“Go away, Mycroft, we don’t want to talk to you.” Sherlock growled, “We’ve had a long night and we’re hungry. Now, go away.”

“Oh, come now, Sherlock. No need for dramatics.”

“I’m not being dramatic!”

“Calm down, Sherlock.” John cautioned, “Though I seriously doubt it, he might have a good reason for being here.”

“Well, I couldn't get to Baker Street, they had the whole bloody road closed until half an hour ago.” Mycroft leaned against his brolly, “What manner of ill-begotten trouble did you get into tonight, dear brother?”

“Oh don’t pretend you don’t know what happened!”

“Easy, Sherlock.” Judith put herself between the brothers, “Please, Mycroft, he’s in a bad way. The last thing he needs is the kind of stress you’ll put him through. He was kidnapped by the serial-killer responsible for Beth Davenport’s murder and the previous three. He took out another victim tonight and Sherlock might have been his sixth, but we got in the way.”

“Another victim?”

“Yes, another victim.” She narrowed her eyes at him, “Now unless you have information for us or a legitimate concern for your little brother’s well-being, you can just go on your way and bother Baker Street another day.”

“The loyalty of the Watsons is not to be underestimated. Do so at your own peril, and prepare to be met with hackles and teeth if you dare.” Mycroft smiled a bit crookedly, “I was aware of the kidnapping, but I suspected if it had come to grave danger, I would have heard from either John or Judith regarding your final fate, little brother.” Sherlock just hissed at Mycroft as he looked at the three of them, unbothered by his brother’s little tantrum.

“And yet, despite that, you’ve solved another case. How very…public-spirited of you.”

“Piss off, Mycroft!” Sherlock snapped, his voice unsteady, “And didn’t solve anything!”

“No?”

“No! Judith solved it! She probably had it solved two nights ago, for all we know!”

“Not very like you to reject credit for solving a case, Sherlock. You must not be well after all.”

“Mycroft!” Judith said warningly. “That’s enough, both of you! Maybe I solved the case, but that’s not going to matter!”

“Of course it will matter, you caught his game before anyone else did.” Mycroft looked at her, “It was a brave thing you did tonight, Judith. We taught you well, didn’t we?”

“I did my job, Mycroft, that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.” She realized she had one hand on her side-arm and loosened her grip, “I’m not supposed to talk to suspects beyond taking them into custody.”

“And yet, you got Jefferson Hope to confess.”

“I’m not proud of that, Mycroft. If I’d been serious about stopping him, I wouldn't have waited this long.”

“You’ve had a long night, and a longer day. I was concerned about my brother’s well-being, but I have found him in safe company and am sure he’ll recover in time.” Mycroft tapped his brolly against the pavement, “I’ll take my leave and be in touch. Good night to you all.”

“Good riddance is more like it.” Sherlock muttered as the black car pulled away. Once it was gone, they headed for their original destination. Judith knew she would sleep at Baker Street tonight, she was just too worn out to drive back to Kensington.

 

As she kicked off her boots and dumped her gear in the Baker Street sitting-room when they got back to Baker Street after dinner, she fired off a text to Greg to let him know she wouldn't be home tonight.

“You are not sleeping on that couch, Dio.” Sherlock said dismissively as he hung his coat on the back of the door, “Don’t even think of it.”

“Bloody mind-reader. Don’t do that, Sherlock, not nice.” She rolled her eyes at him, “Where do you expect me to sleep? Upstairs in John’s old room?”

“If you insist, but that wasn’t what I had in mind.” The clever detective picked up her gear and hung her coat and fleece, setting her boots and vest against the wall by the door.

“He likes to cuddle after a case like this last one, Jude. That’s all.” John said as he handed over his black shooting jacket and headed into the kitchen to make tea after toeing off his shoes, “But he’s a bit of an octopus, just so you know.”

“I know.” Judith smiled and kissed Sherlock on the cheek, “Trust me.” Sherlock blushed a bit and wrinkled his nose, but didn’t say anything. They sat on the couch once John had tea ready and she leaned against Sherlock.

“Do something like that again, Sherlock Holmes and I’ll bury you myself.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry.”

“You’re reckless, but you’ve always been that way, and expecting you to change now is unfair. Just be more careful.” She sipped her tea, “Especially with someone like Moriarty in play now. We don’t know anything about him, who he is, where he came from, or what his motives are.” Sherlock hummed in agreement, and it was quiet for a while. The cats had gone into hiding and had yet to surface, John found them up in his room sleeping on the bed. Sherlock collected their empty mugs, took them to the kitchen and rinsed them out before setting them on the drying-rack for the next morning.

 

While the boys finished shutting down the flat, Judith got ready for bed. She sat cross-legged on the bed while the boys went through their nightly routine, wondering if Greg had made any headway with Hope. His only text had been a quick one, which meant he was probably going to be up all night.

 

Still working Hope. Got him to tell me the whole story, it’s coming in bits and pieces. Not sure why he’s so willing all of a sudden, but I’ll take what I can get. – GL

 

Glad you got your own version of the confession. Not sure if mine would stand up in court. See you tomorrow? – JW

 

Bring the boys in so I can get their statements and get eyes on Sherlock, he got pretty messed-up by Hope. – GL

 

Roger that, boss. – JW

 

Judith smiled and sent off that last text. Setting her alarm for her usual time, she set her phone on the bed-side table and tugged on the covers, sliding into the warm cocoon. Almost as soon as she was settled, a weight landed on her shoulder and she grunted.

“Yo!”

“Told you. Octopus.” John murmured sleepily, “Give him an elbow if he gets too clingy, he’ll back off a bit.”

“Jesus, Sherlock! For a guy your size, you’re pretty solid.” She rolled her shoulder and got a bit of breathing room.

“Yes?”

“Prick.” She pinched him between the ribs, “Sleep now.”

“Boring.”

“Necessary. Good night, Sherlock Holmes.” She fell asleep at an odd but comfortable angle, lulled by the soft snoring of her bed-mates.



 

Chapter Text



Judith wasn’t sure how long she slept, but something kept making the mattress twitch and she finally opened her eyes. Sherlock had her half-pinned to the bed, he was dead asleep. Her watch read a bit ahead of four. So much for boring sleep. She squirmed free of Sherlock and propped herself up on one arm to peer over him. On the other side of Sherlock, her brother was thrashing in his sleep. It was more of a twitch than anything truly violent, but he was clearly having a nightmare. His eyes were screwed shut, and she wasn’t sure if his face was damp because of sweat, tears, or both. His tee-shirt stuck to his skin and his skin was clammy to the touch. A nightmare for sure.

“John?” She carefully reached over Sherlock to prod her brother’s shoulder.

“John! Wake up!” She whispered. Suddenly, Sherlock’s eyes shot open and he grabbed her, rolling. They landed hard on the floor and he held her still, one hand over her mouth.

“Shh shh! Did you touch him?”

“Barely!” she whispered. On the bed, John came awake with a yell. “Does this happen often?”

“Enough I know how to handle it. Get on the other side of the bed.” Sherlock peeked over the edge of the mattress, and they watched her brother’s shaking form. “Go.” She got to the corner of the bed before she had to stop.

“Stop!”

“John?” She stood still and looked at her brother, “Wake up, you’re home in London.” Judith looked at Sherlock, who nodded. Talking helped. She took a deep breath. “Can you hear me, John? Can you hear my voice?”

“Judith?”

“Yeah, I’m right here. Focus on my voice, can you do that? You’re alright, it was just a bad dream.”

“Where are we?”

“Baker Street. London. We’re home, John, we’re safe.” She smiled and held out one hand, not nearly close enough to touch, “Breathe deep, brother, breathe slow.” She slid onto the bed and perched just out of harm’s way, kneeling in place. Sherlock joined her.

“Is Sherlock here?”

“He’s right next to me, John. Focus on us, focus on the sound of our breathing. Come on back, you’re safe.” She rested her hands on her thighs, keeping her eyes closed. Sherlock would be her eyes. He had one hand on her shoulder. Slowly, her brother came back from whatever dark place his nightmare had taken him to and Judith found herself rocking him in her arms when he came looking for physical contact. Sherlock was holding onto him as well, offering a grounding for John. After a while, Sherlock started to hum. Judith recognized the tune and smiled, running her fingers through her brother’s hair in slow, soothing strokes.

“Do you know the words, Judith?” Sherlock murmured. She nodded, maintaining contact with John, and knew what Sherlock was asking for.

“English or Gaelic?”

“I don’t think it’s going to matter. Just give him a grounding.” He leaned against John’s shoulder. The last time Judith had sung Down to the River had been at Christine Almond’s informal wake. She had sung in English that day, but for her brother, she would sing in Gaelic.

 

“Nuair chaidh mi sios dhan an abhainn an dé,
'g ùrnaigh 's a'foghlum facal Dhé,
Is có a dhleasas crùn nan seud?
Mhic Dhé, stiùir mi nad cheum.

O, pheathraichean, rachamaid sios,
rachamaid sios, thugnamaid sios;
O, pheathraichean, rachamaid sios,
dh'ùrnaigh san abhainn le cheil'.

Nuair chaidh mi sios dhan an abhainn an dé,
'g ùrnaigh 's a'foghlum facal Dhé,
'S có gheibh an trusgan 's crùn nan seud?
Mhic Dhé, stiùir mi nad cheum.

O, bhràithrean, rachamaid sios,
rachamaid sios, thugnamaid sios;
O, bhràithrean, rachamaid sios,
dh'ùrnaigh san abhainn le cheil'.

Nuair chaidh mi sios dhan an abhainn an dé,
'g ùrnaigh 's a'foghlum facal Dhé,
Is có a dhleasas crùn nan seud?
Mhic Dhé, stiùir mi nad cheum.

O, athraichean, rachamaid sios,
rachamaid sios, thugnamaid sios;
O, athraichean, rachamaid sios,
dh'ùrnaigh san abhainn le cheil'.

Nuair chaidh mi sios dhan an abhainn an dé,
'g ùrnaigh 's a'foghlum facal Dhé,
'S có gheibh an trusgan 's crùn nan seud?
Mhic Dhé, stiùir mi nad cheum.

Mhàthraichean, rachamaid sios,
thugnamaid sios, nach tig sibh sios?....

Mhàthraichean, rachamaid sios,
dh'ùrnaigh san abhainn le cheil'.

Nuair chaidh mi sios dhan an abhainn an dé,
'g ùrnaigh 's a'foghlum facal Dhé,
Is có a dhleasas crùn nan seud?
Mhic Dhé, stiùir mi nad cheum.

O, pheacaich, rachamaid sios,
rachamaid sios, thugnamaid sios;
O, pheacaich, rachamaid sios,
dh'ùrnaigh san abhainn le cheil'.

Nuair chaidh mi sios dhan an abhainn an dé,
'g ùrnaigh 's a'foghlum facal Dhé,
'S có gheibh an trusgan 's crùn nan seud?
Mhic Dhé, stiùir mi nad cheum.”

 

 

Sherlock joined her after a while, and John found a stable voice halfway through. It was something they had actually done during their service together, something that kept him calm when things got too hard. By the time he had calmed down, Judith realized it was half-four. She sighed and debated skipping her run this morning. She hadn’t missed a run in months, and after last night, she felt a bit too wired to sleep in. She groaned and untangled herself from the knot of bodies and padded into the loo. Judith finished her morning ablutions and went in search to the running-kit she kept at Baker Street for the nights she stayed over. She kept her clothes up in John’s old room, which had never actually been slept in. She made the climb quietly, skipping over the squeaky risers.

 

After she had gotten dressed for the weather, she carried her shoes downstairs and sat on the bottom step to tie her shoes. Soft voices in the next room got her attention and she looked up to find the boys doing the same thing. She liked running with company anyway. Usually, she ran with Greg. Slipping out the front door, she waited on the street for the boys and once they had locked the door, she headed for Regent’s Park. They ran a four-and-a-half mile loop around Regent’s Park, making the return circuit on Ulster Terrace and Marylebone Road. They caught a quick breakfast at Speedy’s Cafe next-door after finishing their run, and Judith took a quick shower after checking her shift-roster. She was due for on-call duty at The Met, so it meant a day waiting for a call to come in. She’d rather be on the streets, but she wasn’t on patrol anymore.

 

Once she was dressed and ready for the day, she made sure she had everything and returned the car to Kensington, relieved that her one patrol had been based out of the same station she’d been working from the last six months. As she left the Kensington Police Station, Judith debated the probability of her timing in order to catch a ride in with Greg, who usually left for work right about this time. She had done it before when she would stay over at John and Sherlock’s for a night. And even without any prior warning, she hadn’t been standing on the kerb more than a minute tops before the familiar silver car pulled around the corner and stopped at the kerb.

“You’ve got a reliable routine, Constable.” He flashed her that cheeky grin of his. “Can I give you a ride?”

“You can always offer me a ride, sir.” She didn’t even hesitate. She smiled and pulled the door open. Once she was in, she closed the door, buckling her seat-belt as he got underway again. It was quiet between them on the fifteen-minute drive from Kensington to The Met, a familiar drive for them both, and she wasn’t a bit surprised when he reached across the console and took her hand in his.

 

“You kids get any sleep last night?” He asked as they waited at a signal.

“Not much. John had a PTSD nightmare around three that had all of us up. After we got him back to stable, we ran a four-and-a-half mile loop around Regent’s Park.”

“All three of you?” Both eyebrows went up, “The boys run?”

“Rather good at it, never mind my brother’s injury. We took it easy, yeah, but it felt damn good to lay our grievances to the pavement.” She sighed, “God, we came so close last night! Too damn close! What did Hope tell you?”

“Everything he told you, and everything else he thought we might need to know. He’s a bottom-rung gun-for-hire, but he knew enough to be useful. He knows his time is limited, if the aneurysm doesn’t off him then one of Moriarty’s insiders will.”

“That’s…scary.” She sighed, “Some anonymous psycho hovering just under our radar. Fantastic.”

 

When they got to The Met and reported to their work-spaces, Judith spent some time arranging her desk. She didn’t have much in the way of personal effects, but Greg had brought in a small box of things for her to use in decorating her cubicle. Mostly pictures from her time in Afghanistan; well, their time. She noticed that most of the pictures were of the two of them together, others showed her with John. And there was one picture, a very recent picture, that showed her with John and Sherlock. She was in her Met uniform, John wore his fatigues, and Sherlock that ridiculous Belstaff coat of his. They were obviously on a scene, if their expressions and the glimpse of yellow tape and police vehicles in the background were anything to go by. John didn’t wear his fatigues very often, usually only to get-togethers with squad-mates from Afghanistan, and she tried to date the picture from clues. Time of day, landmarks visible in the frame, anyone else in the frame, that sort of thing. She couldn’t think of anything just then, but it didn’t really matter. It was a picture of all three of them together, even if they weren’t smiling. Taping it to her monitor, she finished setting up her workspace and got some paperwork done.

 

They got a few calls that day, but nothing terrible or anything warranting calling on their consultants. Between calls, she ran errands for Greg and Sally. She was the new girl, sitting at the bottom of the division ladder, so if anyone needed something done, it was usually her job to do it. And really, she didn’t mind doing it, and no one seemed too eager to haze the new girl or pick on her at all. She was nice to everyone, careful to say please and thank you if she needed something done, and worked without complaint. After an entirely uneventful day, Judith went home with Greg, wondering if they would get a call after-hours.



 

Chapter Text



After solving the taxi-cab murders, the last of which John rather cleverly titled A Study in Pink, it was quiet for Judith and her loved ones. Her brother filed the necessary paperwork to change his last name to Watson. Which took a bit less time than usual in part, no doubt, thanks to Mycroft Holmes’ interference. He could be downright annoying, overbearing at the worst of times, but he meant well and really did have their best interests at heart, even if he was a bit misguided. Judith settled into a routine at The Met in Criminal Investigation Division, reporting to work every morning at eight, and returning home whenever she got a chance. Sometimes she didn’t see her bed for two days, other days she was home before midnight.

 

Despite her posting to CID as a Detective Constable, Judith was still running street-patrols. It was part of her job description, she realized, and made sure to thank Mycroft and M for working her old responsibilities into her new contract. She was assigned the Range Rover she had driven the night she had taken down Jefferson Hope for patrol and transport duties, which she appreciated. She liked the Rover more than the estate car she’d driven as a Special Constable, it was more her style and comfort level.

 

It was not unusual to find her Rover sitting outside of Baker Street on the days she ran street-patrols. She had taken to spending her time there waiting for calls to come in, and no one upstairs really minded or said anything if they did. Roben tried to say something, but the complaint didn’t get very far and he settled for a hostile truce. Enough people liked Judith that it was going to take a lot more than one fussy superior officer to topple her routine.

 

Things got a bit more interesting when Judith happened to meet a very unique individual. She was walking in Westminster, when suddenly, Judith found herself standing still. She didn’t remember stopping, and yet…she had. Trying to move failed her, and she looked around. No one else was bothered by what felt like gravity holding her still. Looking to her right, she saw the sparse early traffic passing her by on Grosvernor. To her right stood Davies Street, which she had been down many, many times. She turned towards Davies Street and took one step in that direction. Quickly setting her foot down again, Judith took stock. She was fairly certain she hadn’t been drugged, but not a hundred per cent. And most drugs didn’t work like this. She could turn in one direction only, but not move otherwise.

 

Walking down Davies Street, she lit the way with her torch. When she stopped again, she found herself standing before a house with blue double-doors and no visible house-number at the corner of Berkley Street and Picadilly. But she recognized it. She stepped back and looked up. The top window of the massive building that sat here had an unusual symbol on it, created by the iron frame-work in the glass.

“I should go home. I need sleep.” She muttered as she crossed the street. She had never seen anyone come or go from this place, having spent time watching it on CCTV camera. Looking over her shoulder, she glimpsed one of the cameras fixed on this building, and waved. She doubted anyone was watching, but the recorded footage would show her going inside. If anyone was home, that was. As she knocked on the door, it popped open.

“Whoa.” Looking at the camera one last time, she pushed the door open and slipped inside. It had started to rain while she’d been walking, and getting out of the rain was a bonus right now. Shaking water out of her hair and from her jacket, she looked at her watch to see what time it was. It was almost four am. She groaned and leaned against the door.

“Damn it! Hello! Anyone home?!” She called out. Lights were on, but she didn’t get the feeling anyone was actually in the house. There was something eerie about entering a vacant house. Especially if it wasn’t actually vacant in the first place. Like this house, she would be an idiot of this place was truly vacant. It didn’t look like any vacant house she had ever entered.

“Hello? Met Police, is anyone here?” Getting no response, and feeling very much like this was some weird out-of-body experience, Judith climbed the impressive staircase that led to the first floor. She still didn’t encounter anyone, but this house reminded her of a museum. A very bizarre museum.

“Okay. That is…weird.” She murmured, studying a relic of some kind contained behind glass, “What is this place?” Judith explored three rooms without seeing anyone, when she was absolutely certain this place wasn’t abandoned, until she reached a room of stone pillars with a set of great doors on one end carved with a symbol that looked very similar to the one on the massive front window.

“No opening strange doors. You don’t know where they’ll take you. Turn around, leave, and go home.” She talked to herself, trying to talk herself out of opening the doors.

 

As she contemplated the doors, she was distracted by a buzzing in her pocket. It was her phone. Again. She answered without looking, startled by the sound in this quiet place.

“Watson!”

“Hey, Jude!” It was her brother. “Where are you?”

“Oh my god! John, thank god!” She caught her breath, trying to calm herself down from an oncoming panic-attack, “No, no, I’m fine, I’m just…um…maybe a little lost.” She looked around and sat down on the floor.

“Are you okay?”

“Might be in a bit of trouble, but good luck getting help to me.”

“Judith, where are you?”

“That weird house, the one on Berkley Street, that no one ever seems to come out of or go into.” She frowned, “The one with blue double-doors and the symbol on the window?”

“How did you get into that house?”

“I was…uhm, I think I was led here? I don’t know. I don’t think there’s anyone home, I haven’t seen anyone.”

“Have you touched anything?”

“No. John, where am I?”

“You’re in one of the most secure locations in the city right now. But outsiders can’t get into the Sanctums, not without permission.” John sounded very calm, but very concerned, “Or with purpose. What were you doing in Westminster?”

“I was on patrol here.” She ran one hand through her hair, not missing the tremor in her fingers. “John, am I in trouble?”

“Where are you inside that house?”

“In a rotunda with a set of doors. The symbol looks like the one outside on the street.”

“Are the doors open?”

“They weren’t open when I came in. Why?”

“Are the doors open?” He sounded tired. She looked over her shoulder at a scraping sound.

“They just…opened. By themselves.” She scrambled to her feet and reached for her Browning. It was instinct, long-ingrained instinct that countered an impression that any weapon she possessed would be of little use against what was on the other side of that door.

“You’re not going to need that.” A soft voice addressed her from the other side of the door. Judith almost dropped her phone.

“Oh, Christ.”

“Go on, Judith. Where you’re going, you’ll be safe.” John’s voice reminded her that she was still on a phone call.

“Going … where? What’s going on, John?” She demanded.

“I’ll see you soon, Jude. Don’t worry, you’ll be just fine.” And that was the last she heard before the line clicked over. She stood dead still as a woman stepped through the doors, through some kind of barrier. It looked like pure energy. Magic. But…

“Magic doesn’t exist?” The woman smiled, “Welcome to London Sanctum, Judith Watson. We’ve been waiting for you.”

“Uh, h-how did you know my name?”

“Your brother, John, was with us for a while as he sought healing for his body.” The woman, taller and paler than Sherlock, and…hairless, smiled. She was pretty, in a strange sort of way.

“Come, for a while. Rest. You must be tired.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are, or what’s on the other side of that…thing.” Judith eyed the glowing portal.

“Kamar-Taj. I am the Ancient One.”

“What’s going on?”

“Would you like to see something?”

“See what, exactly?”

“You’re just like him. So critical.”

“Like who?” She hadn’t realized she had put her phone away until she pulled her hand out of her pocket. “Did you make me do that?”

“I merely suggested that you were safe, but you would not listen, so I appealed to your subconscious.”

“Don’t ask how she did it, Jude.” The sound of John’s voice behind her startled her so badly she almost screamed. She certainly jumped.

“Jesus Christ! John! Where did you come from?!”

“Baker Street. Back through there.” Her brother waved at a portal behind him, which closed as she got a glimpse of the Baker Street bedroom.

“Uhmm. What’s going on?”

“Come on, Judith. I want you to meet someone.” John took her by the hand and up the steps. The strange woman was right behind them, and as she hesitated at the threshold of the barrier, Judith was aware of a firm shove between her shoulders. She stumbled forward and went through the barrier head-first, landing hard on her knees on the other side.

“Ow!”

“Hurry up, Jude!” John was already out of sight, leaving her to get her head on straight and follow him wherever he was going. She ran to catch up with him, finally tracking him down in a wide open room. The Ancient One was there, which didn’t actually surprise her that much.

“Um, what’s going on? Is this where you went when you disappeared, John? This place, whatever it is?”

“I healed here, Jude. I didn’t stay very long, but I learned so much.”

“How?”

“Here, drink.” The Ancient One handed her a brown ceramic cup, full of tea. “It will help.” Suspicious, but willing to play along if it got her some answers about what her brother had done here, Judith drank the tea. Not sure if the tea had been drugged or if it was just exhaustion, she was aware of a very heavy feeling in her body.

“What…was in that tea?”

“Your state of exhaustion will heighten your sense of awareness. I apologize for the disorientation. Brace yourself.” The Ancient One gave only that warning before she struck Judith in the chest. What happened next could only be described as an out-of-body experience in the truest sense of the word.

“What just happened?!”

“This is the astral plane. One of many planes and dimensions a sorcerer can access with proper training.” The Ancient One stood before her, looking a bit blurred around the edges, transparent. “Your mortal form has not reached the floor yet. You will not be harmed by the fall.” She watched, wondering if any of this was real, as her brother put one arm under her shoulders in the physical world. John catching her was the only thing that kept her from hurting herself when she fell back into her physical body.

“Holy Christ! That was amazing!” She gasped, “John did that?!”

“All of our students are shown the way, if they wish.” The Ancient One smiled as Judith got her feet under her, “But, you might want to brace yourself. The trip can be rather…exciting.”

 

Before Judith could ask what the hell was going on, the Ancient One tapped her on the forehead and she was falling through time, space, and everything in between. She saw entire universes, whole galaxies, billions of people all over the world, all over many worlds, living, dying, going about their daily lives. She saw so many different dimensions it was hard to count them all. She fell for what felt like an eternity, listening to voices in her head. She heard John, she heard the Ancient One, and a voice that sounded an awful lot like Sherlock’s, but different.

“She’s certainly strong enough, but is she willing to surrender that control she’s used to?

“She doesn’t have much time either way.”

“You don’t have to work miracles, Stephen, just be patient. She is rather young and headstrong. In the right hands, she can be a great sorcerer.”

“I’m not a great anything. My hands are still shaking when I use my magic!”

“And I dream of Afghanistan every night. None of us are perfect, Stephen. Believe me, I live with Sherlock Holmes. You are just like him. If I can handle you, I guarantee my sister is up to the challenge.” That was John.

“We will see what stuff your sister is made of. If she is like you, it will be quite the show.”

“If she’s anything like him, god help us all.” That was…who was Stephen? Why did he sound like Sherlock, just with a different accent?

 

Judith was aware of spinning as she fell and curled up, making a smaller target. Suddenly, she felt a shift in the air around her and reacted out of pure instinct, putting her hands out. She encountered resistance and pushed through it. Momentum carried her forward and she compensated for it, using all of her extensive training to keep her body upright.

“She landed on her feet! Did you see that?!” someone in the room spoke up, it sounded like John. She couldn’t be sure, though, her head was spinning. Judith sank to her knees, letting gravity carry her weight.

“I didn’t know that was possible.”

“What the hell was in that tea?” She groaned, bracing herself on hands and knees and waiting for her body to realize it was stable again. Motion-sickness and sea-sickness had never bothered her, but she felt very nauseous.

“Tea, and a bit of honey. That was…extraordinary.” The Ancient One circled her, “How is your head?”

“Dizzy.” She groaned, holding her head in both hands, “It that normal?”

“If you’re not expecting the trip?” John chuckled, “You took that better than either of us did, though. You landed on your feet, for Christ’s sake! No one lands on their feet like that, not out of the Astral Plane like that, on their first time.” Her brother was on one side of her, one hand on her shoulder, grounding her back to the physical world.

“What just happened to me?”

“What did you see?”

“Everything. Everything.” She leaned back, “I saw the past, the now, a future. I saw friends, family, strangers. Places I’ve never been and won’t see again.”

“Amazing.” Her brother was going over her with careful attention to her vitals, using a pen-torch to check the way her eyes dilated.

“You don’t say things like that to me, John.” Judith leaned her head back a bit, “You usually save that kind of praise for your mad flat-mate.”

“Pupil dilation bilaterally normal and reactive, heart-rate and respiration appropriate for what she just went through.” The man she assumed was Stephen was right next to her brother, and Judith couldn't help staring at him.

“Oh my god.” She gasped, “You look just like him!”

“Judith, this is Stephen Strange.” John took her free hand, “He came here for healing the same as I did, but he stayed when I left for home after getting what I needed.”

“What is this place?”

“This is Kamar-Taj, a place of sanctuary and learning. At the moment, you’re almost forty-five hundred miles from London.”

“From walking through a door?!” She let the boys help her up, trying to get over just how much like Sherlock John’s friend Stephen really looked. He acted like him, looked like him, and sounded like his expatriate American cousin or long-lost brother. There had been three, but she didn’t recall ever meeting the third brother. Judith still felt a bit dizzy.

“Ugh.”

“That’s what you get for working six cases all week and sleeping four hours between them!” John caught her by the arm as she staggered, “Christ, Judith!”

“I think she needs to rest now, Master.” Strange peered at her closely.

“We will begin in the morning.” The Ancient One smiled, “Sleep well, Judith Watson, you are going to need all the luck and strength you can muster.”

“Thanks. I think?” She followed John and Strange out of the massive room. “Does anyone know where I went?”

“No. I’m the only one who knows you left London.” John smiled, “I’ll stick around, Sherlock doesn’t need me and I’m not scheduled at the clinic.”

“Thanks, John.” She sighed, “Where are we? Where is Kamar-Taj?”

“You’ve been all over the world with the Army, and this is still the furthest you’ve ever been from home.” Strange shook his head, “It was the same for me, and for your brother. Many who come here don’t travel as far.”

“Where did you come from?” She looked over at him, “I’d put you somewhere on the American East Coast going by your accent.”

“I live in Manhattan. When I’m not here, in Kamar-Taj.”

“Did you leave anyone behind?”

“One person. She thought I was mad.”

“Ah.” Judith smiled, a bit disappointed by that revelation. Some bit of her had hoped he was unattached. She had Greg, of course, but there was a roguish charm to Strange that she found very appealing.

“So, let me see if I have this right. Stephen Strange, age thirty-four, single but interested, too busy to pursue her, once the top of your field in…neurosurgery, known world-wide for your skill, lost the use of your hands in a car accident no one should have been able to survive, but you did.” She narrowed her eyes thoughtfully, “You spent everything you had trying to heal your hands and get your life back together, before something drove you to seek a different kind of healing in Kamar-Taj. Coming here, you’ve found magic, but you can’t let go completely. You’re a scientist, magic has no place in logic.”

“Oh, she is good. But?”

“You’re starting to believe in something bigger than yourself. That’s why you stayed here, there was more you can learn, more you can do.” She shrugged, “Did I forget anything?”

“No, I don’t think you did. You’re a detective, then?”

“Of a sort. I’m not nearly as skilled as my friend Sherlock. You remind me an awful lot of him.” She smiled, “So, are you my teacher now?”

“Apparently. If you’d like me to be?”

“I suppose we can learn together. I can’t be away for long.”

“I’ll take care of that, Jude.” John had led them to a small bedroom, “You haven’t taken any time off in a while, you can spare a few days.”

“Worst case, invoke Mycroft’s name.” She walked into a small, spare room with basic furnishings and shaded windows. In the morning, she would have a view of the city. On a work-space bench, she saw a laptop and some books on spirituality and magic. There were others, written in Sanskrit. The laptop was hers, and she wondered when John had found the time to go back to London and bring it through, or if he’d stopped by the flat and grabbed it before following her to Kamar-Taj. Well, whatever the case, she was grateful, even if it wouldn't be much use.

“If you don’t need anything, Judith, I’ll leave you to get some sleep.” John stood in the door as she looked around.

“I’m good for now, John. Thanks for…well, whatever this is.” She hugged her brother, “See you in the morning?”

“Of course, we have work to do.” He handed her a slip of paper and left. She looked at what was written on the paper and made a face.

“What is this?”

“Your wi-fi password.” Strange grinned at her, “We’re not complete savages at Kamar-Taj, Judith. Sleep well.”

“Good night.” She turned the paper over in her hand and set it down on top of the laptop. Once the door had closed, she toed off her shoes and set aside her uniform. She had been coming off-duty when she’d found the London Sanctum. After shedding her uniform and folding it aside for later, she brushed her teeth, let her hair out of the braided bun she wore on-duty, and fell asleep listening to the sounds of a foreign city. She didn’t know where Kamar-Taj was, and decided to find out in the morning.

 

Judith slept very well that night, despite the hour she actually got to bed, and was up at her regular hour. She wasn’t in London, so running was out of the question, but she got up regardless and was just done getting dressed when someone knocked on her door. Going to answer, she found Strange standing outside, fully dressed.

“Oh, good morning, Doctor Strange.”

“Stephen, please.” He smiled and held out one hand to her.

“If you insist.” She chuckled, “But you can’t get formal with me either. Just call me Jude.”

“Fair enough. You’re up early.”

“When I’m at home in London, I usually go for a run before work.” She slipped on a pair of flats and followed him out of the room, “That’s not an option here.”

“We’ll start your training, then.” He led her to a communal dining hall, which was a bit empty at this hour, and they ate a small breakfast before starting on whatever The Ancient One decided her training would consist of.

 

John and The Ancient One joined them after breakfast, and Judith began a training-period that lasted all of the following two months. She spent weekends on-site at Kamar-Taj on intense training, and during the week at the London Sanctum between shifts at work. She never let on what she was doing, and Greg knew better than to ask. Now that she had tapped into a world of magic and tapped into powers beyond imagining, harnessing that power with help from unlikely allies, she started seeing little hints of it everywhere.

 

She was a bit surprised how many sorcerers lived in London, of different levels. The night she ran a power-mad sorcerer to ground in Whitechapel was the first time she had to use any of her own magic. He had wiped out a whole squad of police officers and taken to the streets. No one had been seriously hurt, but they were definitely going to feel it in the morning. 

“Judith! Don’t!” John yelled as she took off after the suspect, “You don’t have your ring!”

“Don’t leave the house without it!” She pulled the sling-ring from her duty-belt and slid it onto her right hand.

 

It didn’t take long to catch up to the suspect and she took him out with a spell. Judith knelt on his back and slapped the hand-cuffs around his wrists. Searching him, she confiscated his sling-ring and added a charm to her hand-cuffs to keep him from using his own magic to break free.

“Oh, sure it’s you! Rookie wizard can’t do the big spells by herself!” He spat, still fighting the restraints.

“I don’t need to do them by myself, I don’t use them. But it’s with great pleasure I get to take you into custody, Mr. Costas.” She read the suspect and called for a uniformed car to come and get him. She placed a spell that kept him from using his own magic to escape at any time, stopping short of stripping him of his magic. She wasn’t strong enough for that, and without his sling-ring, he couldn't do much. As the car pulled away, she pocketed her own sling-ring and leaned against the nearby wall to catch her breath.

 

After she finished what needed to be done with reports and such, she headed straight to Berkley Street and parked outside the Sanctum. Going inside, she made her way to the Rotunda and from there entered Kamar-Taj. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for going back to the sanctuary, but it seemed the most likely place to find whatever she was looking for.

 

She fired off a quick text to John to let him know where she was going.

Went back to Kamar-Taj after taking Jonathan Costas into custody. Need some relief. Spread the word. – JW

 

It was very likely her car would be seen on Berkley Street, but no one would bother looking for her in the Sanctum. The Acolytes and sorcerers who lived at Kamar-Taj were used to seeing her like this, at all hours of the day, in her duty-uniform, and she muted her radio out of habit. Going to the room she kept at the sanctuary, she opened a portal to somewhere quiet. Stepping out of the portal and onto the slopes of Mount Everest, which had become a favorite place of hers to go when she needed to get away, she found her “thinking-perch”.

 

She wasn’t alone very long, she never was once they figured out where she’d gone from Kamar-Taj, and sighed as the air crackled behind her.

“You know, this is where we send difficult students to test their ability to get out of a difficult situation. You come here for escape.”

“I’m not like most of the students at Kamar-Taj, you know that.” She leaned her head back, “Took you three minutes this time. You’re getting faster.”

“You caught Jonathan Costas tonight.”

“Made sure he can’t use magic to escape, but I didn’t take his power away, I can’t do that and wouldn't want to if I could.” She looked up at Stephen Strange, who had been her teacher for three months while still a student himself. She hadn’t been a student in a while, and neither had he, but together they had learned a few things. Strange took her back to London, and they walked the quiet streets for a while.

“You’re getting stronger, Jude. You’re always careful.” Strange took her hand, a familiar touch she was used to by now.

 

They found their way back to the London Sanctum, where she parted ways with Strange. He kissed her good night before disappearing into the Sanctum, returning to Kamar-Taj from there. Judith drove home, feeling much better than before. When she checked her messages, there was nothing from Greg aside from a check-in text letting her know he was still working on the most recent case.

 

She was not surprised to get home from dropping the car off at the station just ahead of Greg. She held the door for him and locked it once they were both inside. She checked on the wards she had set around the house and all were in place and solid. Nothing was getting through without her knowing about it first. Queenie came out to greet them, climbing to her favorite perch on Judith’s shoulders.

“Hi, pretty girl. You miss me today?” Judith smiled as Queenie rubbed her head against Judith’s cheek, “See anything interesting?” Queenie told her about her day, most of it spent sleeping in the sun on Judith’s bed and hunting bugs and rodents on the terraces of their housing-block and in the neighbourhood gardens. Nothing really to report. After getting late take-away for dinner, she took a shower and fell into bed with Greg, who was so tired he couldn't keep his eyes open.

“Heard you went out of town for a few hours tonight, after you pulled in Costas.” He murmured as he used her for a pillow. Judith sighed and ran her fingers through his hair.

“Did John tell you?”

“Yeah. Where’d you go?”

“Couple thousand miles from here.” She wondered if she could take Greg to visit Kamar-Taj some day. “You believe in magic?”

“Like wizards and spells, that kind of thing?”

“Yeah.”

“Sort of? I mean, I’m a practical man, and magic doesn’t have much to do with my job or daily life, but…if I had to believe in something?”

“Would you believe me if I told you that John and I are sorcerers? And every day I touch something so powerful it scares me to think that someone could misuse the power?”

“You?! You two?”

“I didn’t say you had to believe me.” She tapped his temple, “God, you’ve been working harder than I have.”

“Yeah?”

“No, I can feel it. You’re all…foggy.” She rolled so she was on top and leaned in to kiss him, “You need to sleep more.”

“Can’t make me, can you?”

“I can, but I’m not going to, unless you ask me to.” She listened to his heartbeat, “You’re taking this well.”

“I kind of suspected there was something about the two of you, and you keep disappearing on the weekends and on days you’re not slated for work. Where do you go?”

“There’s a sanctuary in Kathmandu I go to, where John went when he dropped off the radar last year. You can go for healing, and stay for something far more than that.”

“That’s…Nepal? You spend your weekends in Nepal?!”

“I can take you some time if you want to go. I don’t think my masters would mind.” She took his hand in hers, “You actually believe me.”

“I can’t not believe you. You wouldn’t lie about something like this. It’s too important. Too…serious. But forget about sleep now!” His eyes were bright.

“You need to sleep, Greg. We both need to sleep.”

“My mind’s running too fast.”

“I can take care of that.” She smiled and leaned down for another kiss. She touched two fingers to Greg’s temple and felt his body relax and slow down.

“That’s it, that’s it. I’ve got you. Sleep well, my love.” She slept well that night, and they were both awake at their usual half-four start-time.

 

They ran their ten-mile loop around Kensington, Hyde, and St. James’s. When they made their return circuit and looped past Mycroft’s flat on Chester Place, noting the light on in the front window, Judith decided to check on the wards she had placed on the flat.

“Hold up.”

“What? Something wrong?” Greg leaned over a bit, catching his breath.

“Just doing a perimeter check.” She tugged her sling-ring from a pocket on her running-vest. She executed a spell to render the wards visible. Shimmering mandalas and spirals of mystic symbols appeared in a shield-wall against the front of the house, extending out to the gate where they stood on the footpath. There were no signs of any weak spots or splintered spells. Confident that the mystic protection measures were solid, she cleared the visibility spell. Multi-colored sparks showered down on the damp pavement as the wards were rendered invisible again. Beside her, Greg’s eyes were wide with awe.

“That was amazing!”

“You’ve never seen a spell executed before, have you?”

“No! That was…fantastic!” He breathed, “You’re amazing! How can you do that?!”

“Two months of training.”

“That’s two months?!”

“I’m still learning, but on my own time now.” She took Greg’s hand in her. “Maybe I’ll take you with me next time, you can meet my instructor.”

“You’re allowed to do that?”

“There’s no rules that say I can’t do that.” She headed off for the other end of Chester Place, Greg tagging along behind. They finished their run with breakfast at Cafe de Fred and showered at home before heading out for work.

 

Greg wouldn’t stop staring at her like it was the first time he was really seeing her, and honestly, it might have been. He had spent all this time living with her and gotten comfortable with a routine that had been shaken when she disappeared for a week. When she had returned, resurfacing right in the middle of Central London, everyone in her small circle except John had been shocked to see her healthy and unharmed. Mycroft had even admitted that there had been a fear of kidnapping, which had turned out to be unfounded.



 

Chapter Text



A few weeks later, she was on her way to Saint Bart’s to visit Sherlock. She was working that day, and was at the tail-end of a boring, uneventful on-call shift, and had decided to take the Tube to the hospital for a bit of excitement. No one really bothered her, a few riders said hello when they marked her a member of the police force, but for the most part it was a quiet ride. The hour helped, too. It was nearly midnight. There weren’t many people out at this hour, and no one who would risk bothering an armed constable just for kicks. And yet, Judith was aware of being under someone’s very curious scrutiny. She paid a bit more attention and tracked the source to a pair of men sitting across from her on the train. They didn’t look that out of place, at first glance just a pair of businessmen on a late train home from work. But there was something else, something her training picked up. She remembered them getting on at Baker Street.

 

The one on the right was taller than the one on the left, he easily stood above Sherlock, with dark blonde hair cropped close in a military cut, but grown out and due for a clean-up. He was built solid, with broad shoulders, and his bearing screamed military service. She looked at his partner, who looked like he knew his business and probably thought the rest of them were dumb plebes crawling along in blissful ignorance of bigger problems. A bit shorter than the blond menace, with dark auburn hair slicked back from his forehead, and bright, intense brown eyes. Men like that rubbed her a bit wrong, and there was something about the pair that prickled that part of her wired to danger. The blond carried a registered Browning concealed in a special holster on the back of his trousers, and two knives. The dark-haired one carried a Berretta in a shoulder-holster under his suit-jacket, she saw the slight tell-tale bulge.

“You know, it’s generally frowned upon for regular civilians to travel on mass-transit armed like that.” She kept her voice soft and opened her eyes to look at them, “But you’ve got those registered with the Home Office, so I can’t bother you for it, and you’ve got them out of sight. Which means you follow the rules. When it suits.” She tilted her head to one side and looked from one to the other. The pair blushed and looked at each other.

“Fancy running into you on a late train like this, Colonel Watson.” The blond menace was just as soft-spoken and careful not to smile. Judith hadn’t been addressed by her rank in almost nine months and sat up a bit more. Had she served with him at some point? Her name-tag was covered by her radio, so she didn’t think he’d seen her name like that. He might have gotten it off of her badge? No, he knew her. She leaned forward and glanced at the map above their heads that indicated their position on the system. They were coming up on Euston Square.

“You’ve got fifteen minutes to explain yourself, sir. I haven’t been addressed by military rank since I pulled retirement back in July of last year, except by my men. I see them once every two months.”

“Told you she wouldn't remember that far back, Seb.” The dark-haired one murmured, “Put her to ease before she hurts something, will you? Or someone.”

“I’ve got clear memory, begging your sir’s patience. I’m not an idiot.” She rested her elbows on her knees as the train slowed to a halt at Euston Square, and the car emptied.

 

As soon as it was only the three of them in their train-car, and they were underway again, she waited for answers. The dark-haired business-man, if that’s what he was, just smiled at her. It was an alarmingly friendly smile, very pleasant and open.

“Why don’t you sit with us, Judith? We’re all friends here.”

“How do you…wait, no. I don’t want to know.” She got up hesitantly. Anyone who knew her first name without her saying it, who knew she had served in the Army and retired out at Lieutenant-Colonel, was someone to be handled carefully. “Who are you?”

“At the moment? A friend. Please sit.” He indicated the empty seat, “You’re on your way to Saint Bart’s, yeah?”

“Uh, yeah.” She sat down next to them, “I’ve got some information for a friend who’s in the labs all night.” She rubbed her hands together and tried not to fidget.

“Možete nam verovati, znaš.” The blond murmured. Judith was glad their car was empty and the only person in danger was the man sitting between them.

“Major Moran! Oh my god!” She shot across the bench and nearly knocked her former commanding officer out of his seat, “What are you doing here?!”

“Well go ahead and prove me wrong why don’t you?” The dark-haired man chuckled, not at all upset by Judith’s uncharacteristic and unexpected outburst.

“Hello, Lucifer.” Sebastian Moran grinned at Judith, “Still busy making trouble for the baddies, are we?”

“My god, sir!” She ended up sitting on the floor of the train-car between his legs, knowing she probably looked ridiculous and not caring, “Last I heard of you, you’d tapped out with an honorable discharge after you kept refusing to be promoted!”

“Yes, thank Mr. Holmes for me, will you? I know he said something, or I’d have been out on my arse with nothing to show for it.” Moran smiled and pulled her off the floor, “Get up. Won’t do having the likes of you sitting on the dirty floor.”

“Yeah, no. Right.” She brushed off her uniform, “Uh, well, I got my answer, yeah?”

“I’ll say. I like her, Seb!” Moran’s companion wouldn't stop smiling, “You say she was one of your best?”

The best, actually. Judith Watson, this brat is Jim Moriarty. Good friend of mine, keeps me busy these days.”

“Oh, nice to meet you.” Judith shook hands with the charming man, wondering why his name sounded so familiar, “We…haven’t met before, have we?”

“I don’t think so, which is a bit of a shame. I’d remember you for sure.”

“You seem familiar to me somehow, but hell if I know why! Never mind, though.” She shrugged and sat down again, “So, what brings you gentlemen to this part of London so late?”

“Business.”

“At this hour? I can only imagine! I won’t see you on my rosters, will I?”

“I shouldn't think so.”

“Good. Because folks with business this late usually end up being my business for one of two reasons.”

“Making trouble, or getting into it.” Moriarty chuckled, “No, no, don’t worry about us.”

“No, I don’t think I have to.” Judith wrinkled her nose, “Not with the heat you’re packing, anyway.”

“How did you know we were armed? You didn’t even look at us.”

“I noticed you when you boarded the train at Baker Street.” She rubbed her fingertips together, checking the map so she wouldn't miss her stop, “It’s kind of my job to notice things about people, and as Moran knows, a lapse of concentration can spell disaster. Not that such a thing was ever my problem.”

“Watchful thing, this one. Hard to take her by surprise. One of my brightest, one of my best.” Moran rubbed her shoulder fondly, “Always thought you’d go into government work once you got out, never mind you being a doctor and all that.”

“Oh, you’re a doctor?”

“Not in practice, not anymore. I was never that interested, but my brother refused to suffer alone, so we went in together.”

“That was nice of you to suffer for your brother’s sake.”

“We’re not exactly typical siblings, and less what people expect of two doctors. For god’s sake, I’m a police-officer!”

“And a good one, too, I hear.” Moriarty looked thoughtful.

“What could you possibly know about me?”

“Careful what you ask for, Lucifer.” Moran cautioned, “He’s a collector.”

“Of what?” She narrowed her eyes. The train was beginning to slow as it pulled into Barbican Station.

“Interesting people, mostly.” Moriarty explained with a casual shrug.

“What exactly did Moran tell you about me?” Judith asked warily.

“All good things, Lucifer, don’t worry.”

“I think I’ll be a bit worried. Well, this is my stop, gentlemen.” Judith got up as the train slowed to a halt and the recorded voice announced their stop, heading for the opening doors. She had a short, six-minute walk from Barbican Station to Saint Bart’s Hospital. Her phone buzzed in her pocket, a message from Sherlock.

 

Should be close, if not here. What’s your status? – SH

 

Six minutes away, just got to Barbican Station. Be there soon. – JW

 

She sent off a quick reply and looked over her shoulder as Moran and Moriarty debarked from the train behind her. Getting to street-level didn’t take very long and she decided to take Long Lane to West Smithfield. It was the shortest way to get to the hospital from the station, and she was a bit late anyway.

“Joining me, gentlemen?” She didn’t miss how the pair she had picked up at Baker Street didn’t seem that keen on losing sight of her.

“If you don’t mind, it would do us better sleep tonight if we made sure you arrived at your final destination safely.” Moriarty came up on her left, “You’re far too valuable to the City of London to risk anything happening to you that might land you a stay in the hospital against your will. There are some rather…unsavory characters about at this hour.”’

“I appreciate your concern, Mr. Moriarty, but I think I can handle myself.”

“God help any criminal stupid enough to take you for an easy target, my dear.” Moran murmured. He knew exactly how dangerous Judith could be, how lethal. He had taught her everything she knew, practically. And what he hadn’t, she had learned from James Bond. But no one knew that, and those that did never made the mistake of taking advantage of her.

 

The walk from Barbican Station to the hospital was quiet, unhindered. When they got to Saint Bart’s Hospital, that was where she parted ways with Moran and Moriarty. Before they took off into the night on whatever business had them in Clerkenwell this late, Moriarty gave Judith his card. On the back, he had written “Call me!” in a flowing scrawl.

“Good night, Mr. Moriarty. Good night, Major.”

“Good night, my dear Watson.” Moriarty flashed her that boyish grin, “Do be safe, won’t you?”

“Safe as I can be, sir.”

“And please, call me Jim. I insist.”

“Oh. Right then.” She twirled the card between her fingers and stuck it in a pocket on her vest. “Jim it shall be then.”

“But?”

“Only if you call me Judith. None of this Constable Watson or Colonel Watson, or any of that noise.”

“Fair is fair, dear Watson! May I use your last name?”

“Only if you don’t put anything else before it except my first name.”

“I think I can manage. You’re charming company, my dear constable, perhaps we can be friends of a sort?”

“Perhaps.” She bit her lip as Moriarty…no, Jim, took her hand in his hand bowed to offer up a proper gentleman’s kiss.

 

It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be friends, but there was still something about him that itched at her awareness, that warned of a darkness and a danger she should want no part of. But until he proved himself a threat to her safety or that of her loved ones, she would treat him as she treated everyone else who showed an interest in being her friend: with the same charm and kindness that had won numerous partners into her bed over the years and had put her in good standing with her superiors both at The Met and in the Army.

 

At the moment, however, the only threat he posed was that of complete distraction from duty and her business with Sherlock.

“My friend is going to know I’ve seen someone he doesn’t know, and he’s not going to like it.”

“Hmm, your friend is a smart man?”

“One of the…smartest in London. Proper genius, and a proper git.” She caught her breath, “Oh, you’re dangerous.”

“You don’t seem to be very afraid.”

“I said dangerous, not frightening. Am I supposed to be afraid of you?”

“Do you think you should be?”

“I don’t know.” She shook her head, “I’m very confused.”

“Best way to quiet a spinning mind.” Moriarty smiled and one hand touched the soft underside of her jaw, “Hold still, lovely.” Judith had enough time to look at Moran for help, but it was clear he thought this was alright. She trusted Moran, more than she knew she should. Judith was completely distracted when Moriarty kissed her.

“Ah, that’s it.” He chuckled, “Got you to slow down.”

“How did you do that?”

“I happen to be very good at quieting a hyper mind. Seb knows that. And you’re very much like him, I see why he’s so very fond of you and your brother. You really were his best, weren’t you?”

“Yeah. I guess I was.” She shook her head, “There’s just…something about you. I don’t know what it is. It’s bothering me. Like I shouldn’t be this close to you, that you’re trouble for me and everyone I love.”

“Are you listening?”

“Should I be?”

“Do you want to?”

“I want to believe the best of everyone, but…”

“Calm down, dear sweet Watson. You can trust me. If I want to play a game, I’ll keep you and your friends safe.”

“If you hurt any of them, you won’t be safe. Be careful of your games, and what you want to play.” She took his hand, “Or you’ll find out the hard way that Watsons don’t play by the rules.”

“I won’t hurt you, you’re too dear. I don’t think Seb would like me very much if I hurt his favorites.” Moriarty leaned in close, “There’s a bit of a game I’m playing, if you don’t mind a round?”

“What kind of game?”

“You’ll see! Something to keep you busy a while.” He kissed the tip of her nose, “I will keep my word. Go on, you’ve been missed.” He let her go and headed off down the street. Judith watched until he was out of sight, wondering what it was about Moriarty.

 

Moran stayed behind a while and she leaned against him, remembering a very different time when she had looked up to him for so much more than taking orders in combat.

“Don’t let him hurt anyone else.” She murmured, nuzzling under Moran’s collar, “Please don’t let him hurt anyone else.”

“Oh, you’re a smart girl, alright!” Moran chuckled, “When did you make him?”

“Just now. He’s the one who was behind those suicides last year. I shouldn't trust him at all! I shouldn't trust you!”

“And yet?”

“He’s very charming.”

“You caught him good, though. He really does like you.” Moran stroked her hair, “I’ll make sure you and your boys are safe in this mad little game of his. Who matters to you, besides John?”

“John, his flat-mate Sherlock, and my flat-mate. Greg Lestrade.”

“You know Sherlock Holmes?”

“Of course I do! You knew that!”

“Right, childhood. You saved him from bullies.” Moran smiled and rubbed his thumb along her cheek, “You’ve always followed me without question, and I swore I would never lead you astray. I never did, I never will.”

“What does he want, then? What does Jim want?”

“He wants to play with Sherlock. There may be casualties, I can’t promise no one will die, but I can promise that no one you care about will be harmed or threatened. You will not be harmed.”

“I can’t possibly mean that much to him.”

“Then you don’t know him very well.”

“I don’t know him at all!” Judith sank against Moran’s chest, “What did I get myself into?”

“Nothing you’re not capable of handling. Treat this like you’re on a covert mission. Remember how you acted, what you did, what you said.” He touched the back of her neck, pressing his index-finger to the hollow of her skull, “Calm your mind, calm your body, this is an operation now. Do not worry about yourself or any of your loved ones.”

“You can’t make that promise, Seb.”

“I have a white-list, there is one name on it right now. I will put your names there and you will all be safe. And if something goes wrong and you get hurt in some way, the responsible parties will be punished for their mistake.”

“What do I tell them?” She kept her eyes closed. “Sherlock is going to read me like an open book, and we both know John’s not as stupid as he likes to play.”

“No, he won’t. He can’t now. If he asks, simply explain that you met me. He will not question further. And if he does, you know what to tell him?”

“I only speak of you, nothing of Jim. How dangerous is Jim Moriarty?”

“One of the deadliest men in the world, and one of the most powerful.”

“And you’re his sane handler. Oh my god.”

“From now on, call me Seb. Or Sir.”

“Right, sir. I suppose I could call you damn well anything I wanted, since I outranked you a long time ago.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Moran smiled, cradled her face in gentle hands, and kissed her. It was a very different experience, it always had been, from anyone else she had ever kissed. He let her go and leaned against the wall of the ambulance station, fishing a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from his pocket. She didn’t smoke very often, it made running miserable, but she didn’t turn down the offered cigarette. Her phone rang in her pocket and she answered it.

“Watson.”

“Judith? Are you alright?”

“Oh. Hey, Sherlock.” She cleared her throat and looked at Moran, who shrugged, “Yeah, I’m fine. Miss me yet?”

“Are you here yet?”

“I’m outside right now. I ran into Sebastian Moran on my way over and we’ve been playing a bit of catch-up. You can send up John to get the drive if you want to.”

“What makes you think John is with me?”

“Because he told me he was going to be with you all night and when I texted him earlier, he told me he was in the lab with you and had been for hours. If he’s down there, send him up. I’m out by the ambulance station, he can’t miss me.”

“Can’t you come down?”

“I don’t really need to. I was at the end of my shift when I headed over here, Sherlock.” She ignored the badly-stifled chuckle from Moran. “I’m ready to go home.”

“John’s going up there, he’ll be out soon. Are you okay, Jude?”

“I’m fine, Sherlock.” She blew a stream of smoke at the dark sky, “But it’s half-twelve, I’m running on four hours of sleep in the last three nights, and you consulted on both of the last two cases I worked. So you’ll forgive me if I want some down-time.”

“Of course you do. And you’ve earned it, too.” Sherlock sounded worried, “Will you stay at Greg’s or at ours tonight?”

“Haven’t figured that out yet. I do know I’m skipping my run at half-four. I need the sleep more.” She heard footsteps to her right and felt Moran nudge her in the side, “Oh, John’s out. Bye, Sherlock.” She hung up first as she tossed the thumb-drive to her brother one-handed.

“Thanks, John. Sorry.”

“That’s fine. You look knackered, you going home next?”

“Planning to. Didn’t drive over, took the train, of course.”

“You drove in with Greg this morning, yeah?”

“Mmhmm.” She looked sideways at Moran, who grinned, “Of course, then I picked up this loner and he hasn’t gone away.”

“Well, no. Wouldn’t expect him to.” John smiled and shook hands with Moran, “Civilian life is treating you well, Major.”

“Nothing to complain about, Captain. So, it’s Watson now?”

“Yeah, figured I might as well own up to the name I was born with and give my bitch of a mother the middle finger at the same time.” John shrugged, “It’s good to see you, Seb. It’s been too long.”

“Any time is too long away from the likes of you and your sister, TC. You look very well.”

“Mm, yeah.” John made a face and shuffled his feet. They’d lost track of John during his recovery, he had dropped off the radar for a while before resurfacing in London in far better condition than he’d been in when he left, and they still didn’t know where he’d gone or what he’d done. Judith knew, but no one else knew. But he was able to run after Sherlock, so they weren’t going to question a bit of physical soundness. Judith smiled and they watched John go back inside.

“Well, that takes care of my business for the night. I guess I go home now.” She crushed the dog-end of her cigarette under the heel of her boot, picking it up to toss it in a nearby bin, “Just try to keep your promise.”

“Stay on guard, love. Be safe.” Moran hugged her and offered to hail a cab for her, but she didn’t let him.

 

As soon as he was on his way, she stood on the kerb and debated going home to Kensington or to Baker Street. She sighed and set off with no real direction in mind, and walked for what seemed like hours. No one bothered her, and she wondered if anyone actually noticed her, or if she just felt invisible. Something was coming for Sherlock, Jim had some awful game planned, and she hated being caught in the middle.

***

Judith encountered Jim Moriarty and Sebastian Moran on March 27th, two days later she was standing guard at a tape-line on Baker Street while working the scene of a bombing across the street from John and Sherlock’s flat. The only reason the flat had taken minimal damage was thanks to the wards John and Judith had placed on the house, otherwise the windows would have been blown out and Sherlock would have been injured far worse. As it was, only one window had been blown out and another had lost an outer pane, and several things had been knocked off of shelves. John arrived in a fit, worried about Sherlock, who had been home at the time of the blast.

“He’s upstairs. Fine. Shaken and a bit deaf in one ear, but not a scratch.” She held the tape for her brother, “The wards did their job.”

“Any idea what it was?”

“Nope. You’ll know when we do.” She promised. John nodded and went inside 221B, eager to lay eyes on Sherlock for himself.

 

They ended up digging a safe from the wreckage, inside which they found a pink mobile-phone that was reminiscent of the phone from The Study in Pink. This led to a chain of clues and victims strung along the city by a clever anonymous bomber, who was playing a deadly game with Sherlock. Judith remembered her encounter with Moran and Moriarty. Oh Jesus, this was the game he’d warned her about!

 

So when a block of flats in Whitechapel was blown up on 31 March, killing twenty people, she called a number she had never thought she needed to dial from the tape-line as she worked the blast-site.

“Hello, dear Watson.”

“You promised! You swore no one would get hurt, Jim!” She snarled, rubbing her cheek, “Why am I guarding the tape-line of a blast that’s killed twenty people?”

“I’m so sorry, my dear. But I do not take pleasure in their deaths.”

“Why, Jim!”

“It was no one of yours who broke the rules, my dear. Do not hate me. I did warn you, yeah?”

“My god, you’re completely mad! And I can’t trust you to keep any of us safe!”

“Please don’t say that, love. I’m very sorry this has distressed you, I’ve already had words from Seb about this.”

“Then stop! Whatever this is, just…stop!” Judith doubted she could single-handedly convince him to put an end to this deadly game he was playing with Sherlock, but she had to try. “Please, stop this.”

“It’s not up to me, dear Watson. But I will play carefully, I promise. Be safe, my dear.” Jim sounded genuinely concerned, “It would not do for something to happen to you or your loved ones. And I know Seb would take it out of my worthless hide if you got hurt.”

“It’s a bit hard to take me by surprise, but I’ll be vigilant.” She looked around, “Got to go, work to do.”

“Oh, of course. I’ve taken enough of your time.” Jim’s voice wavered a bit, “Goodbye, for now, dear Watson.” There was a click as he hung up first and she pocketed her phone, covering her mouth with one hand for a moment.

 

After she had been dismissed from the scene, she worked the rest of the day, went home to Baker Street that night. She helped John and Sherlock with the next set of clues the following day. It was her day off, so she wasn’t expected anywhere and could give her efforts to Baker Street. They stopped another bomb, solved another case, and as it got dark, Judith decided to head back to Kensington.

“Be careful, Jude! Let us know when you get home!” Sherlock called as she went down the stairs, shrugging into her coat.

“Will do! Good night, boys!” She called back, waving to Mrs Hudson as she left the flat, making sure to lock the door behind her. It was twilight as she stepped out onto Baker Street, and she pocketed her keys as she walked south down Baker Street and headed for home.

 

Judith was aware of her surroundings, and knew she had picked up a tail at the corner of Baker Street and Marylebone Road. She got as far as York and Baker Street before she was jumped. Her tail hadn’t been expecting her to fight back, and she took down two of them before she was dropped in her tracks with a sharp needle-jab to the back of her neck. She was aware of being picked up and bundled into a nearby van, but that was the last thing she remembered before complete black took over.



 

Chapter Text



What felt like hours later, she was yanked back to consciousness by raised voices. Her hearing was fuzzy and her head was swimming, and something was making her nauseous. Moving hurt, her limbs felt heavy. If she’d been more aware, she would have pulled into the Astral Plane to get a look. Lifting her head, she tried to get an idea of where she was. The room was tiny, cramped, and dark. The air smelled heavily of chlorine and pool chemicals. Ah. She was in a pool deck, then. Desperate for some mobility, she shifted into the Astral Plane and heaved a sigh of relief as she was able to move around freely. Her physical form slumped against a cinder-block wall. She was tied up in a supply-closet full of equipment and containers of industrial-strength treatment-chemicals. They had used her own handcuffs on her, tied her hands behind her back, gagged her with duct-tape, and she wore a green parka with a fur-trimmed hood, which was weird. That wasn’t her coat? What had they done to her? Her first thought was that Jim was going to be furious about this. Speaking of which, where was he? He had to be somewhere nearby, he wouldn’t sit this out from the side-lines. Someone like Jim Moriarty would want to be front and centre of the final spectacle. At least, she assumed it would be the last spectacle. She hoped. Time to go hunting.

 

Judith didn’t have to look very far, thankfully. She found Jim outside the closet, tearing into a couple of his goons.

“I told you, don’t hurt her!” He snarled, “How much did you give her?”

“She wouldn’t stop fighting, Boss.”

“How. Much. Did. You. Give. Her?!” Jim grabbed the man by the front of his shirt. Interesting that he was so angry. The goon gave him the information and Judith rolled her eyes.

“That’s enough to knock a bull flat, you moron!” she hissed, knowing they wouldn’t hear her. Jim laid the goon out for the trouble, and Judith chuckled. She returned to her physical body as Jim entered the supply-closet, coming out of that foggy unconsciousness with a violent, full-body jerk.

“I am so sorry, my dear Watson. That moron will pay for hurting you.” Jim knelt beside her, using the key to her hand-cuffs to get them off before moving to very carefully remove the duct-tape gag, “This will hurt.” She nodded and braced herself. The tape came off with a painful rip and brought tears to her eyes.

“Ow! Can I rack your morons for you?”

“If you’d like.” He balled up the tape and threw it aside, unzipping the parka, “Christ.”

“Not every day I’m kidnapped off a busy street, knocked unconscious, and wake up strapped to a bomb-vest.” She muttered, reaching for the wire of a radio ear-piece. A good tug brought it lose and Jim worked on getting her out of the vest, “What were you planning to do?”

“This is a dummy-vest, but it looks real enough. The merry idiots didn’t know that.”

“Who was the actual target?”

“Your brother.”

“He would have done the same exact thing I did, with a bit more physical damage to the goons.” Judith shifted her weight forward and tucked one leg under her as the vest was removed and set aside. “How angry is Seb going to be?”

“It could be a while before we’re on civil speaking-terms.” Jim offered her a hand, “He was always very fond of you.”

“Everything I didn’t learn from MI6, I learned from him.” She took Jim’s hand and got to her feet, groaning as sensation and blood-flow rushed back to her legs, “Ow!” The only thing she was still connected to was the radio, and Jim plugged the ear-piece back in just in time for word to get to them that Sherlock Holmes was on-site and on his way in.

“Did he come alone?”

“No, sir, he didn’t.”

“Does he have the pen-drive?”

“If he does, we haven’t seen it.”

“Fine.” Jim rolled his eyes and clicked off.

“Well, that’s interesting.”

“Are they talking about Andrew West’s pen-drive? The missile plans?” Judith arched an eyebrow.

“Mmhm.”

“What were you planning to do with them?”

“I don’t want them, but Sherlock thinks I do.”

“You wanted to get his attention.”

“I think it worked.”

“Yeah, I’ll say it did!” She was thinking of the people who had died in the flat-block explosion. And Jefferson Hope’s victims.

“I don’t want to be your conscience, but human lives are not bargaining chips or game-pieces.”

“I know.” He looked at her, “Care to play a bit more?”

“Psych out Sherlock and John?”

“You’re in absolutely no danger, but they don’t know that.” He picked up the vest and she slid it on again, shrugging into the parka and zipping it up to conceal the dummy-vest once it was properly fastened. It was a true work of art, and if she hadn’t known it was a dummy, would have been terrified. There were indicator lights and everything.

“Who came with Sherlock, though?” She wondered. “John?”  Jim shrugged as she tweaked her radio.

“Tiger, it’s Lucifer. Name three targets.”

“Oh, god, it’s good to hear your voice, Lucifer!” Sebastian Moran sounded relieved, “I’ve got eyes on Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and that handsome silver-haired DI you live with. What’s his name?”

“Lestrade?!” She choked, “Oh my god, it’s Greg? Fuck!”

“Up the game. Play the game.” Jim kissed her on the cheek, “Hand-cuffs?”

“Might as well.” She held up her hands, “Poor Greg! Actually, it’s all three of them!”

“You’ll be in good hands. This isn’t real, Seb’s got his orders, and if anyone else tries funny business, it won’t last long. Get that pen-drive.”

“Yeah, sure.” She swallowed on a suddenly-dry throat. She had expected John to tag along, but Greg was a rogue entity she hadn’t accounted for, and neither had Jim. Why had he come? Had they called him when they realized she’d never made it home, or had he called them? Or had Mycroft called after witnessing her kidnapping on CCTV? Oh god.

“Brought you a little getting-to-know-you present.” Sherlock called out on the pool-deck, “Oh, that’s what it’s all been for, hasn’t it? All your little puzzles; making me dance – all to distract me from this.”

“Show time.” Jim whispered, opening the door of the supply-closet, “I’m listening, I’ll give you the words to say, and Seb’s got you in sight. Chin up, love.” The vest was a fake, but the panic she felt was very real. Playing this role wouldn’t be very hard.



 

Chapter Text



Out on the pool-deck, Sherlock Holmes had not come to Camden Sports Center alone, and he didn’t come unarmed. Or unprepared. Mycroft had witnessed Judith’s kidnapping and called them after he’d heard from Greg Lestrade asking if she’d left Baker Street. Apparently, she had never made it home. Sherlock had wasted no time putting a plan into motion to get Judith back safely. And that planning had led them to this moment. To the pool-deck in Camden, with a memory-stick full of stolen plans. And a foolish hope that this wouldn't backfire on all of them and get everyone killed. John Watson and Greg Lestrade had both accompanied him, all but insisting on coming along when the explained his plans to them. And right now, Sherlock was glad to have some company. 

 

“Brought you a little getting-to-know-you present,” Sherlock called out, announcing himself. “Oh, that’s what it’s all been for, hasn’t it? All your little puzzles; making me dance – all to distract me from this.” He gestured with the memory stick, obtained for them by John Watson, then began to turn in a slow circle while he waited for a response. He had terms for this exchange. The pen-drive for Judith Watson’s safety. Wherever she was, he held the ransom-price in his hand. And he would settle for nothing less than her safe return, in exchange for those plans. If she had been harmed, the deal was off. 

 

While his back was turned to the pool, a door opened halfway down the room. Sherlock looked over his shoulder, still holding the memory stick aloft. A slight figure walked through the door and into the pool area, wrapped snugly in a hooded jacket. Far too warm for the deck. It was a woman. Was it Judith? She turned and looked at them, and Sherlock recognized her right away. Oh, Christ, it was Judith! Moriarty had her! God knew what they’d done to her!

“Evening.” Judith’s voice was soft but strong, despite a nervous waver, “This is a turn-up, isn’t it, Sherlock?”

“Dio.” He whispered, shocked, “What the hell…?” 

“Bet you never saw this coming.” Sherlock heard a heartbreaking sound from Greg, who had rushed from the Pembroke Mews flat he shared with Judith once he realized what had happened to her. But none of them dared move, afraid of what might happen.

 

Finally, Sherlock made a move. A daring move, he started to walk slowly towards the calm hostage. Judith pulled open her jacket to reveal the bomb strapped to her chest and Sherlock felt a deep dread.. From somewhere in the upper gallery, a sniper’s laser immediately began to dance around over the vest as Judith blinked a subtle S.O.S. message that he would have missed if he hadn’t been looking at her eyes. Behind him, Greg and John both made the same noise. They were familiar with the soldier-in-distress signal, but seeing it from Judith was heartbreaking. And there was absolutely nothing any of them could do right at this moment. 

“What…would you like me…to make her say…next?” Sherlock continued to move towards her but he looked for anyone else who might be in the pool-deck with them.

“Stop it.” He snapped. Someone was feeding Judith her words. That made him so angry.

“Nice touch, this: the pool where little Carl died. I stopped him.” She tried not to cringe as she listened to the next words. “I can stop Judith Watson too.” She looked down at the laser point on her chest. “Stop her heart.”

“Who are you?” Greg demanded loudly. A door opened at the far end of the pool and a soft male voice with an Irish accent spoke from that direction, drawing their attention away from Judith.

“I gave you my number. I thought you might call.” Sherlock turned towards the new arrival, who walked out into the open. He looked familiar, but Sherlock couldn’t place him, this sharply-dressed man with immaculate hair and a murderous look on his face. With his hands in his pockets, he casually began to stroll alongside the deep end of the pool, heading towards Sherlock’s little threesome.

“Is that a British Army Browning L9A1 in your pocket…or are you just pleased to see me?” He asked with a grin. Sherlock pulled the pistol from his waistband, taking careful aim at the madman.

“Both.” He growled. The man stopped and looked back at him, unafraid.

“Who are you?! And know if you hurt Judith Watson, your head is mine!” Greg snarled, held at bay only by his discipline, years of training in hostage situations, and John’s hand on his shoulder. John, who could make a perfect kill-shot at a hundred yards without a thought for it, who held his service-weapon in one hand while restraining Greg with the other. 

“Jim Moriarty. Hi!” The besuited madman introduced himself. Sherlock tilted his head as he looked more closely at the man. Why did his name sound familiar? Where would Sherlock have heard it before? Had they met somewhere and he simply didn't remember?

“Jim? Jim from the hospital?” He began to walk alongside the deep end again. Sherlock brought up his other hand to support his aim. Not that he really needed it, it was a precaution. 

“Oh. Did I really make such a fleeting impression? Jim bit his lip as if disappointed. “But then, I suppose, that was rather the point.” He turned just as the sniper’s laser flickered over Judith’s upper chest. Sherlock briefly turned his head towards Judith.

“Don’t be silly.” Jim rolled his eyes at the unspoken question, “Someone else is holding the rifle. I don’t like getting my hands dirty.”

“A madman with a conscience.” John snarled. “I’ve heard crazier stories.”

“I’ve given you a glimpse, Sherlock, just a teensy glimpse of what I’ve got going on out there in the big bad world. I’m a specialist, you see…” He looked surprised, as if he had only just realised the connection. “…like you!”

“Dear Jim. Please will you fix it for me to get rid of my lover’s nasty sister?” Jim grinned as he recognised the TV show and catchphrase that Sherlock was quoting. “Dear Jim. Please will you fix it for me to disappear to South America?”

“Just so.”

“Consulting criminal.” He shook his head, “Brilliant.”

“Isn’t it?” Jim grinned at them, “No-one ever gets to me – and no-one ever will.”

“I did.” Sherlock cocked the pistol. “We did.”

“You’ve come the closest.” Hands in his pockets, Jim shrugged, “Now you’re in my way.”

“Thank you.”

“Didn’t mean it as a compliment.”

“Yes you did.”

“Yeah, okay, I did. But the flirting’s over, Sherlock…I’ve shown you what I can do.” Jim looked at them, “I cut loose all those people, all those little problems, even thirty million quid just to get you to come out and play.”

 

Judith’s eyes fluttered closed, the strain of the stand-off getting to her. It hurt to see someone with so much training, so much discipline, caught between the ultimate rock and a hard place.

“So take this as a friendly warning, my dear. Back off.” He smiled.

“Although I have loved this – this little game of ours. “He put on his London accent for a moment.

“Playing Jim from I.T.”

“Playing gay.” He switched back to his Irish accent. “Did you like the little touch with the underwear?”

“People have died.” Greg snarled, and Sherlock wasn’t sure if it was coming face-to-face with the man behind the latest string of cases they’d been working on or the fact that he had snatched Judith as his final victim that had them all in such a bad mood.

“That’s what people DO!” Jim screamed the last word, his personality changing in an instant.

“We will stop you.” Sherlock said softly, “And if you’ve hurt Judith Watson, we will end you.”

“No you won’t.” He calmed down again.

“You all right?” Sherlock turned to Judith then. She deliberately kept her gaze away from them, presumably having been given instructions earlier about not talking to them. Jim walked forward again and reached her side.

“You can talk, Jude. Go ahead.” Refusing to specifically obey Jim’s orders, Judith met Sherlock’s eyes and nodded once. Sherlock took one hand off the pistol and held out the memory stick towards Jim.

“Take it.”

“Huh? Oh! That!” He strolled past Judith and reached out for the stick, grinning. “The missile plans!” He took the stick from Sherlock’s fingers and held it up, looking at it. Behind him, Judith was murmuring to herself, perhaps trying to keep herself focused, perhaps winding herself up to take action.

“Boring! I could have got them anywhere.” He nonchalantly tossed the stick into the pool, leaving Sherlock and the other two in shock.

 

Seeing an opportunity, Judith rushed forward and slammed her full weight against Jim’s back, wrapping one arm around his neck and the other around his chest. Sherlock backed up a step in surprise but kept the pistol raised and aimed at Jim.

“Run!” She growled, looking over his shoulder at them. “Just run!” Jim laughed, delighted. Only a psychopath would think this was funny.

“Good! Very good.” He grinned at them. Sherlock didn’t move, still aiming his gun at Jim’s head but now a little anxiously, wondering what action the hidden sniper might take if one of them made the wrong move.

“If your sniper pulls that trigger, Mr Moriarty, then we both go up. But we both know he won’t, don’t we?” Judith said savagely, and he saw sparks crackling around them. Wait, hadn’t Judith been in hand-cuffs earlier? Had she…had she used her magic to free herself while the rest of them hadn’t been paying attention?

“Isn’t she sweet? I can see why you like having her around.” Jim quirked an eyebrow, “But then people do get so sentimental about their pets.” Grimacing, Judith pulled him even closer, the bomb now sandwiched between them. Jim scowled at her.

“They’re so touchingly loyal. But, oops!” He grinned briefly at Judith, then looked towards Sherlock and the others. All three of them were armed and fully prepared to take action.

“You’ve rather shown your hand there, Doctor Watson.” Something had just happened, Sherlock had caught a glimpse of red light in the corner of his vision, and Judith’s expression had softened into horror. He shook his head slightly. This wasn’t out of their hands yet. He just had to play the next move very carefully.

“Gotcha!” Jim chuckled as Judith released her grip on him and stepped back, holding her hands up to signal the snipers that she wouldn't try anything else. Jim glanced round at her, then turned back towards Sherlock while brushing his hands down his suit to straighten it. He lowered his hands and stood calmly in front of Sherlock.

“D’you know what happens if you don’t leave me alone, Sherlock, to you?”

“Oh, let me guess: I get killed.” At this rate, he wouldn't put it past someone with Jim Moriarty’s skills and resources.

“Kill you?” Jim grimaced, “N-no, don’t be obvious. I mean, I’m gonna kill you anyway some day. I don’t wanna rush it, though. I’m saving it up for something special.” Jim shook his head briskly.

“No-no-no-no-no. If you don’t stop prying, I’ll burn you.” He shrugged and turned around, “Well, I’d better be off. So nice to have had a proper chat.” Running against the clock, Sherlock did something brash. He raised the pistol and took very careful aim.

“What if I was to shoot you now – right now?”

“Then you could cherish the look of surprise on my face. ’Cause I’d be surprised, Sherlock; really I would.” Jim looked over his shoulder and wrinkled his nose, “And just a teensy bit disappointed. And of course you wouldn’t be able to cherish it for very long.” He turned away from them again.

“Ciao, Sherlock Holmes!” Looking back at Sherlock with some distaste, he walked away calmly. Sherlock slowly stepped forward to keep him in his sights.

“Catch…you…later.”

“No you won’t!” Jim’s voice was high-pitched and sing-song as he opened the door Judith had come out of earlier. The red glow of the sniper-sights disappeared then, letting them breathe a bit easier.

“Shoot the bastard, Sherlock!” Greg hissed behind him, “Or I will!” Jim disappeared from view and the door closed again with a loud bang.

 

None of them moved for a few seconds, their guns still aimed at that door, then Greg moved out from behind Sherlock.

“You two go get Moriarty.”

“I’ll get Moran. He’ll be easier to find.” John growled, opening a portal to a different part of the building, “You get Moriarty. If he’s gone, just come back, Sherlock.”

“Roger that.” He checked his weapon and went after Jim Moriarty. You didn’t threaten people like that and just walk away from it!

 

Sherlock searched everywhere he could think of in the building, but Moriarty was in the wind. And as much as he wanted to find Moriarty, he knew that it was more important to stay with Judith. Calling an ambulance probably wouldn't be a bad idea. Retrieving his phone, Sherlock blind-dialled a number he had long ago memorized and had on speed-dial. The phone only rang twice before it was picked up. Thank God for dependability he took for granted.

“I have Moriarty under full surveillance, we’ll know if he sneezes. Never mind if he tries to leave the city.” Mycroft’s voice was calming to Sherlock, which he needed and appreciated just at the moment. “The Met has been alerted and I have reinforcements en route to your location.”

“Thank you, Mycroft.” Sherlock couldn’t be sorry if his voice crackled, if it was barely a whisper.

“Be strong, little brother.” His brother counselled. “For Jude.” Mycroft wasn’t one for nicknames, Sherlock knew this had hit MI-6 hard hearing his brother use Judith’s nickname.

“Meet us, Mycroft. At the hospital.” He begged. “Or here. In Camden.”

“Of course I will, Sherlock.” And that was the last he heard before the dial-tone buzzed in his ear. Confident that he was completely alone, Sherlock put both hands to his face and sobbed. It was adrenaline, fear, and ultimately relief. But he had no control over his emotions right now, and he couldn’t be bothered to care.



 

Chapter Text



The door closed behind Sherlock Holmes and Jim Moriarty, and John Watson’s portal crackled and sealed once he was through. Greg Lestrade didn’t move for a few seconds, his gun still aimed towards the door, then his gaze drifted across to Judith Watson. Right. He shoved his pistol into the hip-holster on his duty-belt, then dropped to his knees in front of Judith and started unfastening the vest.

“All right?” He asked gruffly, hoping to god she hadn’t been hurt tonight. Judith tilted her head back, breathing heavily, trying to reorient herself. Her face was white and he suspected that she was on the verge of a break-down.

“Are you all right, Judith?”

“Y-yeah, I’m fine.” She looked down at him and helped him with the vest, fingers shaking. Once they had unfastened the vest, Greg jumped up and went around behind Judith, starting to pull off the jacket and the bomb vest as one piece. There was something off about this, but adrenaline wouldn't let him think rationally until she was out of that damn bomb-vest.

“I’m fine.” She whispered as Greg continued tugging at the jacket and vest. It was hard for him to catch his breath. He’d seen the worst of his nightmares tonight, and they had somehow survived the madness.

“Greg.” She was trying to get his attention, but he was too focused. Finally he managed roughly strip the jacket and vest off Judith’s arms.

“G-Greg!” He still wasn’t listening. He could hear her, but he was so focused. Greg bent and skimmed the items as far away along the floor as he could. He’d worry about that later. Judith was alive, shaken and going into shock, but she was alive. That was more than he could have hoped for when he realized that she had been kidnapped and somehow talked Sherlock into letting him come along.

 

 ***

 

Judith staggered as Greg stripped off the parka and bomb-vest.

“Jesus.” She reached up and pulled the radio earpiece from her ear, breathing heavily as delayed shock began to hit her. That vest was a dummy-vest, she knew that, Jim knew that, but her body had reacted as it would in a real bomb-threat situation. Greg looked at her for a moment, then hurried towards the door. Probably to look for the boys. Judith’s knees buckled and she staggered against the nearest support, the edge of one of the changing cubicles.

“Oh, Christ.” She turned and dropped down into a squat, bracing her back against the cubicle’s edge as she blew out a long breath and tried to calm herself down. Greg came back in, having apparently seen no sign of anyone outside. He started to pace up and down near Judith, hyper and distracted.

“Are you okay?” She leaned her head back to watch him.

“Me? Yeah, I’m fine, I’m fine. Fine.” He turned to Judith, wide-eyed and breathless. “That, er…thing that you, er, that you did – that, um…” Greg cleared his throat, “… you offered to do. That was, um…good.”

“I’m a soldier, Greg, unquestioned self-sacrifice is part of my job.” She murmured. “I’m glad no-one saw that.”

“Hmm?”

“You, ripping my clothes off in a darkened swimming pool.” She shrugged, “People might talk.”

“People do little else.” He looked down at her, then grinned. “Especially where the two of us are concerned. You know there’s two betting pools running right now at work?”

“Two?!”

“One for us, and one for John and Sherlock.”

“Oh, god.”Judith snorted, laughing at the absurdity of the whole mess, and leaned forward as she prepared to stand up again. Her legs wouldn't work, and she groaned.

“Bloody hell.” 

“Should I call the bomb-squad?”

“Do you need them?” She blinked. He pointed at the bomb-vest and parka. She sighed, wishing her hands weren’t shaking.

“Oh, Jesus.”

“I don’t care if it’s a dummy-vest or not, I don’t want to look at it again.” He pulled her to her feet, “What did they give you?”

“Almost six milligrams of Ativan. And I definitely feel it.”

“Woozy? Nauseous?”

“That’s one word for it.” She felt her right leg give out, “Fuck.”

“I’ve got you.” He put one arm around her and called in over his radio for an ambulance and a bomb-disposal team. Both were already en route.

“Mycroft.” They said in unison, with a great deal less of the usual spite. Sometimes, Mycroft Holmes could be downright useful. This mess was definitely one of those times.

 

By the time back-up arrived, Judith was sitting in Greg’s car, dozing off. The minute the ambulance arrived, Greg handed her over to the paramedics and gave a full account of what he knew about the situation. To say the team was startled would be tame. John and Sherlock returned from tracking down Moriarty while Judith was in the ambulance. Moran was with them, she was kind of surprised to see her former commanding officer. She also wondered how much trouble Jim was going to be in because of this. It wasn’t often Judith could make so many people look so worried.

 

She heard a muttered curse from the medic to her right and turned her head.

“What’s wrong?”

“You’re bad enough you should be taken in.” He frowned and rubbed two gloved fingers along the underside of her arm, “Can’t get a line started, and lord knows you need one! What did those bastards give you, anyway?”

“Ativan. Enough to knock down a bull.” She flexed her fingers, “I think I can help you, though.”

“How?”

“Former Army medic, couple of tours in Afghanistan. Best site to place a line is here.” She touched her fingertip to her skin and watched it go translucent, revealing the networks of veins.

“Oh, you’re one of those sorcerers! Useful trick that is.” The medic looked at her as he placed the line, “Yep, that’ll do the trick. You’ll feel better in a bit.”

“Are you going to take her in?” Greg asked from the street, where he was talking to Moran and the boys.

“We probably should. She’s showing symptoms of an overdose, she shouldn’t be conscious right now with the volume of drugs in her system right now.”

“Take her in. We’ll be in right behind.”

“Got it, Inspector.” The medic looked at Judith and narrowed his eyes, “You don’t want a ride in, do you?”

“Only family gets that.”

“Greg.” Judith forced her eyes open, wishing she felt better. Sherlock and John looked at each other behind Greg’s back and John gave him a shove. The medic gave Greg a hand and helped him settle on the bench.

“We’re taking her to Saint Bart’s. Follow on if you want.”

“Ask for Doctor Stamford when you get there. He knows Jude. He’ll make sure she’s well taken care of.” John said grimly. That was the last she heard of them, the door were shut and they got underway. She dozed off along the way, and didn’t wake up again for several hours.

 

***

 

Greg Lestrade wasn’t sure what time it was, or even really what day it was, when he was pulled from a restless sleep by a hand on his shoulder. He groaned and pressed one hand to his eyes.

“What time is it?”

“Half-four. Here.” A paper cup was pressed into his hands, he drank without question. Sherlock Holmes was the one waking him up this time, not one of the nurses or the assigned physician. He glanced towards the window, where he could see a bit of light. Looking at his watch told him it was four-thirty am. On a normal morning, he’d be getting ready for a run right now. Instead, he had spent the past three nights sleeping on a cramped waiting-room couch, stopping by between shifts at work, hoping for some sign of life.

 

Whatever Jim Moriarty had done to Judith Watson, she was in bad shape. She had lost consciousness during the ride from Camden Sports Center to Saint Bart’s and hadn’t woken up yet. But she didn’t want for visitors, there was almost always someone at her bedside, even outside of regular visiting-hours. He was the most consistent visitor, John and Sherlock were also very regular, and he had seen Sebastian Moran twice.

“Who’s with her right now?”

“I’m…not sure. I think it’s her friend from New York. Her teacher.” Sherlock nudged him over and he sat up to give the lanky detective a bit more room.

“New York? Who does she know from New York?” He took a gulp of hot coffee, “You didn’t get this from the canteen, did you?”

“Stopped for it on the way in. Hospitals and police-stations always have the worst coffee.” Sherlock sighed. “She’ll come back, yeah?”

“I think so.” Greg ruffled his hair with his free hand, “Well, fuck.”

“Moran says Moriarty’s gone.”

“He’d know, too, wouldn't he?”

“Moran loves Judith, she was one of his best, one of his favorites. No matter if the man responsible for hurting her is his own psychotic boss, no one gets away with putting the Watsons in danger like that.” Sherlock sipped from his own cup, “Your partner’s a rather dangerous woman, Inspector.” Greg snorted. Yeah, he knew that, thanks.

“Sorcerer, soldier, medic, sniper.” He shook his head, “A woman of many talents, and thank god she’s on our side of the law.” Greg had never been afraid of Judith, and until she gave him a reason to be afraid of her, he wouldn’t treat her as a threat. She kept his house safe from the physical and the metaphysical, he wasn’t going to alienate her without damn good reason.

 

After finishing the coffee, which really did help wake him up, Greg headed for Judith’s room. He knew without question that the man sitting at her bedside was no one to be trifled with. The way he dressed was outlandish, almost like something out of a fairy-tale. There was something about him that reminded Greg of Sherlock, but he wasn’t sure what it was, exactly. He let the door close quietly behind him and leaned against the door to observe. It was quiet for a few minutes, the tense silence only broken by the beeping of the monitors and the soft murmuring of the man at Judith’s bedside.

“bhautik duniya ke lie meree aavaaj ka paalan karen. aap kaaphee lambe samay se phans gaya hai. apane mitron aur parivaar ko tumhaaree jaroorat hai.” That wasn’t English, he didn’t know what it was. But whatever he had said to Judith, it had an effect none of them had been able to get out of her.

“What did you do?” Greg stood at the foot of the bed and watched a spike in her vitals. She was coming back.

“Good morning, Detective Inspector.” The man raised his head, aware of Greg’s presence in the room probably before he’d said anything, “I found her hiding in her subconscious mind, that’s all.”

“What language were you speaking just now?”

“Hindi.”

“Oh! One I don’t speak fluently.” He rubbed his face, then remembered his manners. “Sorry, I don’t think we’ve met before. I’m Greg Lestrade, Judith’s partner.”

“A tame word for what you really are to her.” The man got to his feet and turned to face Greg, who was struck by how much like Sherlock Holmes this man looked! It wasn’t him, but damn he could have been a Holmes!

“Oh, my god!” He gasped, “Sorry!”

“For what?”

“Oh my god, you look like…Christ you look like someone I know!”

“Sherlock Holmes?”

“Eh, yeah. Sorry.” He cleared his throat, “You’ve heard that before, I take it?” God the man could be a relative!

“Stephen Strange. It’s a pleasure to meet you finally, Inspector Lestrade.” He had a mild accent, American for sure. “The Watsons speak well of you, and often.”

“Oh, that’s it?” Greg sighed, raking shaky fingers through his hair, “You’re her teacher, yeah? The one from, uh, Kamar-Taj?”

“Teacher is a word, we’re both students.”

“What brought you to Kamar-Taj, if you don’t mind me asking?” He’d heard about Strange, but never gotten a name for him.

“My hands. My story’s a bit longer than that.”

“I’ve got time.” He shrugged. Sherlock came in to take his turn and held the door for Strange.

“You’ve got this, Sherlock?” Greg asked, despite knowing damn well the answer was yes.

“I’ll let you know if she wakes up.” Sherlock smiled as he waved them off. “Did you guide her back, Stephen?”

“I did what I could. The rest is up to her.” Strange said quietly as Greg followed him out into the hallway.

“That’s more than anyone else has managed.” Sherlock looked strangely pensive, “Thank you, for everything you’ve done for Jude.”

“I’m happy to be useful where I can be.” Strange took Sherlock’s hand in his for a moment. Something unspoken passed between the two men before Strange turned and looked at Greg as he walked away down the hall. Greg shared a look with Sherlock as he followed Strange.

 

They walked a ways together, not saying anything, but the silence was not uncomfortable. Whatever questions he had would only be answered if he was brave enough to ask.

“So?”

“My hands.”

“Your…hands?” He frowned. Strange held up his right hand and Greg looked at it. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong, but a closer study brought up something that made him ache.

“Oh, Jesus! What happened?” He very carefully took Strange’s hand in both of his, “Christ, man!” A broad network of scars crisscrossed Strange’s hands, he could see where the tendons had seized and caused the fingers to curl. It was painful just to see.

“I lost the use of my hands in an accident. I shouldn't have survived at all, I don’t think.”

“Jesus! My hands are shaking thinking about it! You worked with your hands, I take it?”

“A bit.”

“What’s your name? Strange?”

“Stephen Strange.”

“Your name sounds a bit familiar, like I’ve heard it before, seen you somewhere.” He studied the other man. “What did you do before your accident?”

“Neurosurgery. Worked out of Metro-General Hospital until…this.” Strange wiggled his fingers for emphasis.

“Oh, wait! I know who you are!” Greg suddenly recognized the man at his side, “Jesus, Doctor Strange! I thought you looked familiar! You spoke at a neurology conference here in London last year.”

“You remember that?”

“I worked the conference, of course I remember! You were brilliant, actually. A bit smug, but you knew your business.” He sighed, “I would say I’m sorry, you’ve kind of lost everything you spent years working for.”

“I was in a dark place at the beginning. Spent every dime I had to my name looking for answers.”

“And you found them in Nepal. Kamar-Taj seems to be a haven for the lost souls.”

“They wouldn't take me at first. I spent nearly a whole day sitting outside their door, begging them to let me in, to teach me.”

“Well, if you’re anything like Sherlock Holmes, who’s one of the pranciest know-it-alls I’ve ever met, I can’t say I blame them.” Greg smirked. “But you’re one of the smartest men in the world, what could you possibly learn from them?”

“More than I thought possible.” Strange gave him a sly look. “Magic doesn’t alarm you.”

“I’ve seen too many weird things on the beat for something as simple as the existence of magic to surprise me. But it’s not simple. I’ve seen the spells Judith and John can summon, the things they can do.” He ruffled his hair and chuckled. “Wow.”

“Wow?” An eyebrow went up at that exclamation.

“Of all the places and all the people in the world, Saint Bart’s Hospital and you.” Greg had to shake his head in wonder. “From medicine to magic. What a trip!”

“It was certainly trip.” Strange grinned, “You’re a good one, Lestrade. Holmes and the Watsons are lucky to have you.”

 

After walking the grounds of the hospital together for a while, they returned to Judith’s room to find that John had arrived. He stood outside with Sherlock, chatting in low tones. It didn’t seem anything had changed while he and Strange had been out, but that was alright. Strange didn’t stay much longer, of course, but Greg had the feeling it wasn’t the last he’d see of the unusual man. After a few words with John and Sherlock, Greg took the bedside-watch and waited for Judith to wake up. Or at least until he got another call and had a reason to go back to work. Even if he didn’t want to.



 

Chapter Text



Judith had no idea how long it had been since the incident at Camden Sports Center, but she did not wake up alone once she regained awareness of the physical world. Trying to protect herself after the stand-off at the pool, she had taken refuge in her mind. Stephen Strange had come to London for the sole purpose of pulling her back to the physical world, and she was grateful for that. When she resurfaced to the sound of steady, strident beeping, she knew she was in a hospital. She remembered Stephen telling her that. Judith forced her eyes open, blinking into dim low-light. After-hours, well after visiting-hours for certain, but she wasn’t alone in the private hospital room. It wasn’t John, or Sherlock, or Strange at her bedside. It was Greg. He looked terrible, like he hadn’t slept in weeks. How long had she been out? Judith moved fingers, toes, stretched stiff muscles, and contemplated waking Greg up. But he looked peaceful in his sleep, she didn’t really want to disturb him. But this was someone used to sharing the same bed with her, attuned to her every nocturnal twitch and shuffle. He would be on hair-trigger alert. If her breathing changed, he would know. Sure enough, his posture changed, stiffened, and she waited for his eyes to open. Judith smiled and touched his hair, tapping his temple. When he moved his head, she let her fingers slide down along his cheek and jawline, noticing the stubble there.

“Hi.” She whispered, voice hoarse with disuse.

“Mm? Oh! You’re awake!” He shoved up on his elbows, rubbing sleep from his eyes, “Hi! Oh, god, you’re…back! You’re back!” It wasn’t just sleep he was rubbing out of his eyes. Judith was not surprised that this made him cry. She sighed and rubbed the back of Greg’s neck, ruffling the longer hair there. He needed a haircut again, and a good razor. It didn’t look like he’d shaved in a few days. He’d showered, his hair was clean and she smelled the body-wash and shampoo he used, but he was wearing the same clothes he had worn the night of the pool stand-off. His clothes were clean but rumpled, he’d worn them for a few days after washing what had to have been a horrific pile of dirty laundry.

“How long was I out?”

“It’s April 11th, you went out on April 1st.”

“Ten days?”

“Ten very long days.” He held her hand in both of his, “I’ve been here every single day, too.”

“Sleeping here, by the looks of it.” She smiled, coughed on a dry throat. Greg straightened and picked up a cup of water on the side-table, helping her drink.

“Thanks.”

“Christ, you’re mad to think I’d leave you here! I only leave for work or to take a shower and check on the cats!”

“But you didn’t do it by yourself, did you?”

“No, God, no.” He sighed, “No, John and Sherlock have kept me company. Mycroft was here twice, and your friend Strange came by once.”

“I remember his visit.” She smiled and rubbed the wrinkle between his eyebrows, “I’m not dead, Greg.”

“No, I know, I know. Christ, I was worried about you!” He cracked a smile, “Guess I’d better go find the doctor, eh?”

“Do you have to?”

“Them’s the breaks, love.” Greg squeezed her hand and kissed her on the cheek as he got up and went to the door. He wasn’t gone very long, and returned with Mike Stamford in tow. Now that she was awake, she was one step closer to getting out of here. She could go home soon. And she missed home. She missed her routine, she missed waking up next to Greg, she missed her cats.

 

***

 

After The Great Game, Jim Moriarty disappeared and things quieted down in London for a while. But Judith knew the peace couldn't last, so when the London Sanctum was destroyed by rogue Master Kaecilius and his Zealots, she took John and headed for New York. But trouble had come to New York, they found the Sanctum under attack. Daniel Drumm had been killed already by the Zealots, but they weren’t too late to help Stephen Strange defend the Sanctum from the fate of the London Sanctum. When Stephen was wounded, Judith took him to safety and sent John on to Hong Kong to warn Master Wong that Kaecilius and the Zealots were preparing to execute the stolen spell and Hong Kong was next. New York still stood, but having failed to take down one of the three Sanctums, she didn’t think Kaecilius would let Hong Kong stand. She would worry about that later, she had to focus on keeping Stephen alive. For that, she had help from his friend fellow surgeon Christine Palmer.

“So, uh, who are you?” Palmer whispered as they worked over Stephen’s unconscious form.

“Just a friend. Judith Watson.”

“Oh. Nice to, uh, meet you?” Palmer looked nervous as they shook hands.

 

When Stephen suddenly popped out of the Astral Plane to guide Palmer, Judith couldn't help her own startled jump. But when he suddenly warned them to “Keep me alive, will you?” and disappeared back into the Astral Plane, Judith just shot him a dirty look.

“Bloody tosser. What a show off!” She rolled her eyes and looked at Palmer, who bent to her work. Stephen flat-lined, but they brought him back to normal rhythm with a crash-cart. Judith had been tracking the Astral fight and realized that shocking his physical form boosted his energy and power in the Astral Plane. So when he poked his head out again, excited, and told them to boost the charge and hit him again, she took the paddles from Palmer and looked up at Stephen before he disappeared again. He winked and vanished. As soon as the defibrillator was charged, she placed the paddles and hit Stephen’s body with a higher current. The lights flickered and all of the machines died.

“I…think that worked!” She murmured. A moment later, Stephen regained consciousness with a flailing gasp.

“He’s alive.”

“Oh my god!” Palmer whimpered. They got busy stitching Stephen up while he explained to Palmer just exactly what it was they did at Kamar-Taj, but how Judith didn’t actually live there at the moment.

“Where do you live?”

“London, actually.” She grinned at the pretty doctor, “My brother lives on Baker Street, I live behind the Kensington Police Station.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a Detective Constable with The Metropolitan Police Service. My brother’s a doctor, currently out of work by his own choice.”

“Is your brother a…wizard, too?”

“Yes.”

“Oh. That’s nice.” Palmer nodded, her expression overwhelmed.

“You should come and visit us sometime, we’d love to have you.” Judith smiled, “We rather enjoy having guests. Well, my brother, my flat-mate, and I do. Sherlock could really care less. He kind of hates people.”

“Sherlock? Sherlock Holmes?”

“Only one of him in the world, thank god.”

“Oh.” Palmer just nodded faintly.

 

Once Stephen was patched up, they headed back to the Sanctum, where they found the dead Zealot who had pursued Stephen into the Astral Plane and tried to kill him.

“I like her.”

“Hmm?”

“Doctor Palmer. She’s cute.” Judith smiled at Stephen, “Any attachments?”

“Uh, no. Don’t think so. We dated, but not…seriously.”

“Ugh! All the good ones are always taken!” She rolled her eyes, “Come on, we’ve got work to do.”

“Wait, you’re not…” Stephen stared at her as she headed for where they had left Kaecilius.

“Swing both ways when the fancy strikes me, Doctor Strange!” She looked over her shoulder, “We can talk about my sexual orientation after we handle Kaecilius!” And speaking of swinging, she caught him slinging a gorgeous red cloak around his shoulders.

“Nice cape.” She teased. He rolled his eyes as he led the way up the stairs, where they found Kaecilius gone. The Ancient One and Mordo were there, though, and Stephen confronted The Ancient One with the knowledge Kaecilius had shared with them about where she got her eternal youth from. She didn’t deny anything, but she didn’t admit to it, either. Mordo laid into them for confronting her like that, when he said they had no right. But their argument was cut short by the return of the Zealots. The following confrontation ended with the escape of Kaecilius and the Zealots, and the death of The Ancient One.

 

Judith was pacing the ruins of the Map Room in Kamar-Taj, waiting for Stephen to come back, and knew the worst had happened when she saw the tears on his cheeks. But the current trouble with the Zealots kept her from offering him any consolation. She found John in Hong Kong, and they stood witness to Stephen’s risky bargain with Dormammu. As the city continued on its way around them, it’s citizens unaware of what had just happened, they watched as Mordo decided it was time for a crusade.

“Jesus. Is one normal day really so much to ask for?!” John muttered, “Can I go home now?”

“I didn’t expect you both to stay and help.” Stephen looked at them, “But I’m grateful. You can go back to London.”

“What about London Sanctum? Kaecilius destroyed it.”

“Rebuild it. Hong Kong and New York remain standing.”

“We’ll do our best.” Judith smiled at him, “Don’t be a stranger, yeah? We’re a couple thousand miles separated, but don’t forget to visit.”

“I won’t forget. Go home, be with your loved ones and families. Rebuild when you have the time.” Stephen took her hands, “You, though, Judith, take care.”

“I will. I know. Don’t worry about me.” She shook her head, “And if you don’t buckle down and ask Doctor Palmer out on a proper date, I’m going to steal her.”

“She deserves so much better than me.”

“Be that better, yeah? For Christ’s sake, I’m dating a Detective Inspector! I think you can handle an A&E surgeon!” She smiled at him, “Never mind that John’s dating the world’s only Consulting Detective!”

“What a strange family.”

“Yes, we are family now. Don’t ever forget that, alright?” Judith did something very daring and closed the little bit of distance between them. “Call or drop by if you need something. New Scotland Yard or the house on Pembroke Mews, and Baker Street for John. Be well, Stephen.”

“Be well, Judith.” He held her still by the shoulders and, with two amused witnesses, he kissed her. Well, maybe he was rubbish with wooing, but definitely not with kissing. A bit like Sherlock.

“Oh, damn.” She muttered, “Doctor Palmer doesn’t stand a chance!”

“Like that?”

“Uh…yeah!”

“Oh, for God’s sake!” John rolled his eyes, “Sometime this century, please! Hurry up or I’m leaving without you, Jude!”

“I think you can go, Doctor Watson.” Wong mused, chuckling, “Your sister will come home soon.”

“Yeah, we’ll see about that.” He headed for a sling-portal open to Baker Street, “Don’t mess with my sister, Strange, she’ll do me the honours!”

 

Judith would have said something but made do with a dismissive, slightly obscene gesture because Stephen had decided that there were better things to be doing than talking. She had tried to push him towards Palmer, but that seemed to have backfired on her as she found herself following him through another sling-portal back to New York. His apartment had a spectacular view of the city, not that she was really paying attention to it. Sleeping with Stephen was a lot like sleeping with Sherlock, a bit of guilty fun that you couldn't really feel that sorry about after the fact because life was too short and really, they didn’t get much beyond cuddling.



 

Chapter Text



 

After all of the madness that took her from Kathmandu to New York to Hong Kong, Judith resettled into her normal routine. She and John started the lengthy, laborious process of rebuilding the London Sanctum. Aside from a few rather interesting cases that landed in John and Sherlock’s laps, the remainder of the year was strangely uneventful. Which was fine with Judith, she had never been too fond of non-stop casework. They celebrated Christmas at 221B Baker Street with a small party that was only disrupted when an old case was re-opened and they received evidence that Irene Adler was back to trouble the boys a bit more. Judith did not involve herself, even John told her to stay clear. That little bit of excitement came and passed and they moved on.

 

Judith and John split their time between their regular jobs, rebuilding London Sanctum, and spending whatever spare time they had left at Kamar-Taj continuing their education in the mystic arts. She heard from Stephen Strange by emails and phone calls but didn’t see him much. Which was unfortunate, but they were both acceptably busy with their respective careers and lived on completely different continents. And Judith maintained her relationship with Greg. He was her normal in a very bizarre world, and she desperately needed normal.

 

It was quiet until March when Greg informed Judith that she was getting two weeks off for an over-due vacation.

“Where are we going?” She asked, knowing it was fifty-fifty he would actually tell her anything really useful.

“Somewhere warm, and far away from here.” Hmm. Looks like he was going for vague this time.

“How far?” She looked up from packing. Most of what they’d been packing was for very warm weather.

“Try four thousand miles for size.”

“Four…what?!” Judith straightened, “Which direction?”

“West.”

“Four thousand miles west of London, in March? Is this a trip you had planned earlier?”

“And like hell was I going to pass on a chance to get away from this mess for a while.” He waggled his eyebrows at her, “And since the ex got herself permanently black-listed, I’m taking a very desirable alternate.”

“Oh, you’re terrible!” She laughed, “Where are we going?”

“Not telling.”

“I can still find out, you know.”

“And there’s the bit of you that screams Holmes to me.” He rolled his eyes, “You know, you don’t always have to know everything, love. A bit of surprise is good for a soul.” She sighed and shook her head, but she left it alone for now.

“Can I get a hint?” She asked sweetly as she packed up the new swim-suits she had gone shopping for with Sally, Adrianne, and Melissa just last week. It hadn’t been for this specifically, but as soon as she’d told Sally that she was apparently getting two weeks off to go…somewhere nice, the Sergeant’s eyes had brightened and she had made Judith promise to pack them and a few other items in her wardrobe that didn’t get the use they deserved. London in the winter was a dismal place for having some warm-weather fun.

“Mm. No.”

“You’re terrible.” She shook out a sundress, “It’s obviously very warm where we’re going, possibly an island somewhere.”

“Getting warm.”

“Four thousand miles gives us…the Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic territories.”

“Oh, stop!”

“Alright, I’ll stop. I like surprises.” She leaned across the bed and gave him a kiss, “I’m sorry, that was mean of me. How are we getting there?”

“Mycroft’s taken care of it.”

“Which means the use of the Cessna, and either a helicopter or a private boat. Excellent.” She chuckled, “Nice having friends like Mycroft Holmes, yeah?”

Very nice.” He smirked as he came around the bed, “You don’t get sea-sick do you?”

“No, sir.”

“Didn’t think so. And I know you tan up beautifully.” Greg’s smile turned wicked and she had enough sense to close up the suitcase and move it off the bed before she ended up on the bed.

“You’re really looking forward to this vacation, aren’t you?”

“Of course I am. Well, it’s more that I’m looking forward to spending time alone, away from our phones, with you.”

“We don’t get much time together, do we?” She ruffled his hair, “When’s the flight leave?”

“Hmm. Time’s quarter after seven. We have a nineteen-hour flight to San Juan.” He frowned thoughtfully, drumming his fingers against her collar-bone, “The jet’s on stand-by, all we really have to do is show up.”

“When do we leave?”

“We can fly out tonight at eight, or tomorrow morning first thing.” He shrugged and kissed her, “All up to you, my dear, lovely, Constable.”

“Oh, not anymore, I’m not.” She murmured, remembering something she’d gotten done today. For once, it had nothing to do with friends or relatives getting involved. She had done it herself, earned it herself with hours and hours of diligent hard work proving herself worthy. And for once, even James Roben didn’t have anything to bitch about. Puzzled, he pulled back and looked at her, eyes narrow.

“What?” His voice was nearly an octave lower. If she’d been booted from The Met, he would have been the first to know, not the last. Judith cocked an eyebrow. The papers were in her pocket and her badge had been switched out to reflect her new post. She had promised Sally a round at the next Yard Pub Night to properly celebrate. That, it seemed, would have to wait a while.

“You were out on a case this morning while I was in the Swearing Room again. Small group, not nearly as many people for family and friends.” She smiled and rolled them, “Sally made it, though, and my brother came with Sherlock.”

“You didn’t!” His face lit up, “You did?!”

“Yep.”

“Oh my god! Jude! That’s amazing!” He pulled her in for a kiss, “Oh, you brilliant, sneaky thing you! That’s what’s had you girls tittering all week! I completely blanked it!”

“I wanted to surprise you.”

“Oh, I’ll say you did!” Greg grinned, “Oh, we are definitely leaving tonight! Come on! The sooner we get there, the sooner we can celebrate this little milestone of yours! A year, Jude!”

“A bit over, I was working for The Met six months by this time last year.” She smirked, pushing him off. They collected their bags and made a few calls. John and Sherlock were going to watch the cats while they were gone and John showed up at the same time the car did. While Mycroft’s driver, Andre, loaded their luggage into the boot, John took the pet-carriers for Queenie and Rocket.

“Have a great time, you two! God knows you’ve earned it!” He hugged her, “Let us know when you get there safe, yeah?”

“Of course we will.” Judith smiled and kissed him on the cheek, “You just keep Sherlock out of trouble, alright? We’re out for two weeks.”

“I’ll do my best, I make no promises.” He looked her over, “You’ve got your sling-ring?”

“Never leave without it.” She promised. She hadn’t left home without her sling-ring or her Browning. Experience in both worlds had taught her to be prepared for everything. Violence of any kind was unlikely where she was going, but it was better to be prepared than caught off-guard.

“Browning?”

“Holster, back waistband.” She smirked, “Really, John. You have to ask?”

“Habit, love. Pure habit. Enjoy, will you?”

“Plan to! Granted you lot don’t call us back before we’re due, yeah?”

“We’ll try not to.” He smiled and held the door for her, “I’ll get the kiddos back to Baker Street, then. Take care of my sister, Greg, alright?”

“Don’t I always, Doctor Watson?” Greg just raised an eyebrow and she rolled hers as John closed the door once she was in.

 

Andre took them out to the London City Airport Jet Centre and they boarded the waiting Cessna 650 Citation III that Mycroft Holmes had offered them for the duration of their trip. She slept for most of the nineteen hours they were in the air, sleeping through at least one of their two layover stops. She slept through the stop they made in Madrid to refuel, and most of the overseas flight from Madrid to Miami. They watched the sunrise in Miami, and ate breakfast in San Juan, catching a chopper-flight from San Juan to their final destination.

“Alright, now will you tell me where we’re going?” She bugged him over the mic on her headset. It blocked out most of the rotor-noise of the Airbus H145.

“Nah. You’ll see when we get there!” He just smirked at her from across the way. Shaking her head and wondering why the element of surprise was so important to him, she looked out the window as they flew over open water. It was clear, and so many shades of blue. She hadn’t been in the islands long, but her hair was already starting to curl with the humidity and she felt that griminess of the saltwater in the air. It was a sort of stickiness, but she didn’t mind it at all.

 

Thirty minutes later, the pilot announced their final approach and she looked out as they flew low over a gorgeous island. She recognized it, but from a memory of many, many years ago.

“Oh my god!” She pressed one hand to the glass, “That’s Virgin Gorda!”

“You’ve been here before?”

“No, not here, specifically, to another island!” She grinned at him, “Oh, god, I never thought I’d get to come back here!”

“Who did you come with?”

“Who do you think I came with?” She raised an eyebrow.

“The Holmeses?”

“Yep. Kind of kidnapped John and me one summer, spent four weeks down here, it was amazing!” She bounced in her seat a bit, “We explored Virgin Gorda, the lower bit of it, but we visited this resort a couple of times. I’m fairly certain it’s changed, and help me if anyone here remembers! I only came that once!”

 

She watched, giddy, as they circled a special helipad dock and touched down gently. Resort staff stood on hand, and she was offered a hand to the dock by a man in a white Havana button-down and pressed khakis. A golf-cart taxi shuttled them to the lobby building, where they were able to check-in and hand over their luggage. Room-keys and welcome-packets were handed over and Judith was twitching with excitement by the time they headed for their “room”. She remembered the little villas and was thrilled when they got a Reef Room. It didn’t take long for their luggage to arrive, and the first thing she did was grab a swim-suit and change.

“Somebody’s awfully excited.” Greg teased as she headed for the wrap-around veranda once she had changed, “Where are you off to?”

“Exploring! Where do you think I’m going?!” She looked over her shoulder at him, taking in the sight of him in a pair of grey swim-trunks and not much else. “Why, did you have a different idea?”

“No, but your energy is infectious.” He followed her out, “You’re like a little kid right now, I’ve never seen you so excited. Or so relaxed.”

“This place is amazing! It’s gorgeous, it’s quiet, we’re thousands of miles from our jobs. You kind of jumped this on me last-minute, and I love it!” Judith turned to Greg, “I love you for it. I really do. You didn’t have to bring me.”

“I wanted to. I don’t regret a minute of it.” He pulled her into a kiss that had her gone weak in the knees.

“Oh, I did that?”

“Prat!” She teased, “Not nice, sir!”

“Oh, it’s sir now, is it?” He grinned. Judith rolled her eyes. She squeaked when he went for another kiss, this one harder than the last. They ended up back inside, Judith giggling as the mattress bounced under her weight. They didn’t get very far before the sound of a phone ringing interrupted them.

“Jesus, are you kidding me?!” She groaned, “Halfway around the fucking world, and he still manages to be a buzz-kill!” She found her phone and answered it.

“What, Sherlock?”

“Oh. I wasn’t actually expecting you to pick up.” He sounded so smug.

“You called me, moron! You can’t possibly have gotten into trouble in the past twenty-four hours, yeah? What do you want?”

“Oh, I was just checking in to make sure you arrived safely.”

“Yes! We’ve arrived safely, thanks! Now, shoo.” She snapped, “We’re busy, not to be bothered unless in the direst circumstances. And your boredom does not count!” She hung up on Sherlock, silenced her phone, and tossed it aside.

“Git. I can’t imagine what time it is there, nor do I care. That was terrible timing!”

“Ah, but it didn’t quite kill the mood, yeah?” Greg just smiled at her, picking up where they’d left off when Sherlock had decided to very inconveniently call them. Judith tugged on the elastic of his waistband, eager to make the most of this vacation. Back home in London, there was always a danger of being interrupted by either work or their consultant duo, but that wasn’t so much of a problem on Virgin Gorda. Two weeks away from the bustle and chaos of London would be splendid.

 

***

 

It occurred to Greg Lestrade that he had known Judith Watson for nine years, had been in a relationship of some breed with her for almost a year, and yet, he had never had a chance to see her outside of anything remotely related to work. This trip to the British Virgin Islands was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see her in a neutral atmosphere. The Judith he saw while they were on Virgin Gorda was child-like and giddy, eager to try everything. But one thing she insisted on, even though they were away from London, was their morning routine. It was glorious to run to the top of Great Hill and Gorda Peak to watch the sunrise, even though trail-running was quite a bit different from what they were used to, they adapted quickly. There was a certain tranquillity to the way of things on the island, and he wasn’t really looking forward to returning to the madness of London.

 

About four days into their trip, Greg suddenly realized that Judith’s happiness was something he wanted to be responsible for for the foreseeable future. He wanted to be the one to give Judith stability, a home, the understanding and compassion when things didn’t go quite to plan. He wanted to celebrate with her, suffer, laugh, cry, live, and love with her. In plain words, he wanted Judith as his wife. It was just that simple and so ridiculously complicated.

 

One morning, while she was off working on getting her Basic Keelboat Certification, he planned out his next move. He didn’t have a ring, it wasn’t something he’d come here to do anyway. But he had the feeling if he asked the right people, he’d find what he needed. He knew Judith’s ring-size, so that was the simple part. Going to the front desk, he begged the pretty clerk for help.

“Of course, sir! What can I do for you?”

“This is going to sound a bit silly, I’m afraid, but, uh, I seem to have come up with a plan but don’t have anything to do with.” He looked around, double-checking for any sign of Judith. She was out on the water at the moment, so he was safe. “You see, I, um, I was hoping you could point me in the direction of somewhere I could find a, eh, ring of sorts?” God, he was stumbling. The clerk studied him and he groaned.

“Bloody hell. If Sherlock could see me now, he’d laugh until it killed him.”

“Perhaps you’ll get help at the boutique, sir? It’s a rather small selection, but…?” The clerk smiled sympathetically.

“I didn’t have this planned when I got here, and that’s just the rub of it.” He rubbed his forehead, “I’m a complete fool.”

“Oh, no you’re not! Here, follow me!” The clerk came around the desk after a whispered word to her coworker, who’s eyes lit up, and he tagged along tamely until they reached the tiny gift-shop. It wasn’t perfect, but he crossed his fingers he would find something there that would do the trick. It was Friday, which meant that Judith would be getting her certification in a ceremony at five, and if he knew Judith, which he did, she would complete the course-work and spend the rest of the day honing her skills. So that gave him tonight, tomorrow on their morning run, or tomorrow night on the Stargazing Cruise.

 

As he had suspected, he didn’t find anything at the small shop, but word had gotten around fast and the store-clerk passed him a card. It led him to a shop in Spanish Town, on the south end of the island. One of the water-sports instructors, a local islander, had heard about his troubles and offered to give him a ride down to Spanish Town on his ferry, which he ran on an as-needed basis. And Greg was much in need. He checked his watch and marked the time. Judith was still in class.

“How long will it take to get to Spanish Town and back?” He heard voices and realized that the practical half of the test was about to get under-way. Judith caught sight of him by the water-sports shack and peeled off.

“Hi!”

“Hey, you.” He pulled her in and kissed her, “Off to finish the job?”

“Yes, I am.” She beamed at him, “What about you?”

“No real plans. You think you’ll stay out after the test?”

“Mmhm. I want to take one of the boats out to Eustacia Island and get some manoeuvring practice in after the test.”

“Miss you for lunch, then?”

“Mm, sorry.” She smiled shyly, “God, I haven’t seen you at all this week!”

“You saw me on Wednesday, and every morning when we run, yeah?”

“Well, when you put it that way.” Judith rolled her eyes, “Can I trust you by yourself?”
“Yes, ma’am.” No, she really couldn't, but she didn’t know that. Someone shouted for her and she kissed him before running off.

“Coming!”

He waited until the group was out on boats and turned to the instructor who had offered him a ride, “How long?”

“You need to get back before five. She’ll be out on the water until about three. I can get you there and back in time.”

“Oh, god, thank you.” He heaved a sigh of relief and made sure he had his wallet and the card. He had both, so off they went. The water was calm, so the trip down didn’t take too long. When they tied up at the ferry docks, he was relieved to find a taxi waiting. He handed the driver the card and told him where to go, “I need to go there.”

“Quick, sir?”

“Please.” He couldn't help thinking he hadn’t been nearly this nervous about asking Claudia to marry him and realized that Claudia hadn’t made him as happy. Seeing Judith just…it made him happy. Even in the middle of a gruesome crime scene, she made his heart jump. Seeing her in the office, if it was busy with paper-work or on her way to get somewhere, he loved to watch her. Thinking about her made him smile, made him blush, the idea of being able to go home at awful hours and she would be there, no matter how bad it had been that day, was a relief. She knew his struggles, she endured them right alongside him. And he knew she felt just the same as he did, for all the times he caught her watching him at a scene, or spent time watching her and enjoying the sneaky little blush she got when she caught him.

 

Quiet nights when they got off at reasonable hours, take-away and bad telly, snuggling with each other on the couch, making room for the cats when they got sick of being ignored. Long nights when they didn’t even leave the office, working to close a case that just wouldn’t work itself out properly. And proper nights out when they could go to Angelo’s for dinner, or he got a chance to unwind at Maroush and watch her work her magic for crowds of appreciative patrons, all while knowing she was all his, and he was the lucky son of a bitch who got to take Judith Watson home at the end of the night.

 

When he reached his ultimate destination in Spanish Town, he thanked the cabbie, asked him to wait, and rushed into the little, nondescript store. A kind old man named Magnus owned the place, and Greg almost cried with relief when he got a look at the wares. “Oh, this is perfect!”

“Not every day I get a call from my niece telling me some nice Brit needs my help.” Magnus beamed at Greg, who was shaking with nerves, “I won’t ask what I can do for you, son, it’s all over you. Lucky girl you’ve got, son.”

“I’m the lucky one. She’s more than I deserve.” He would never say that Judith deserved better, he knew she hated it when he did that. She had been there from the beginning, and wasn’t going to leave soon. He couldn't live without her, it hurt to think about it.

“Those are always the best. What’s she like, this lucky girl of yours?” Magnus guided him through the shop, and he spilled out everything he knew about Judith. Everything she had done for him and for the city of London, never asking for anything in return. From him, all she wanted was a roof over her head, a warm bed, and reliable support. He wanted to give her more than that.

“Well, then, you’ll want to give her one of these.” Magnus stopped him and held up a small display-tray. There were only a few rings on it, and he recognized them right away.

“Claddagh.” He lifted one from the tray, “Oh, this is exactly what I wanted! Everything said in a ring!” He had written Judith’s ring-size on the back of the card that had gotten him to Magnus’s shop, and he flipped the card over to compare the size written down to the selection available. He knew his ring-size by heart, wouldn’t ever forget it, but hadn’t worn his band since Judith and Sally had pinned his vengeful, stupid ex-wife to his desk and taken her down without much of a fuss.

“Mmhm.” Magnus smiled, “She’s not gonna be your first, though, is she?” He had noticed the faded band of pale skin on Greg’s left ring-finger.

“Nope, but she’s definitely going to be my only.” He studied a very simple ring, a band of silver engraved with the Claddagh symbol and simple Celtic knotwork. Judith was a very practical woman, and not at all flashy. He wanted to give her a ring she could wear all the time. The band had a mate, part of a his-hers set, and a quick check of the sizes had him wondering if his luck was really that good! No, he didn’t have time to wonder. He looked up at Magnus and picked up both rings.

“These will do.”

“I thought you might pick those.” Magnus just smiled at him and set the tray aside. “Anything you want to add to them?”

“Inscriptions?” He narrowed his eyes.

“Nothing extra for you.” Magnus’s smile widened a bit and he worried his lip for a moment. He had the chance to personalize these rings. But what on earth would he put down?

“Do you have a piece of paper?”

“Of course.” Magnus slid a note-pad across the counter to him and he scribbled down three words, careful to make sure they were legible: Mo Anam Cara. Gaelic for My Soul Mate. Handing the note-pad to Magnus, he let out the breath he hadn’t been aware of holding.

 

The transaction was smooth, and Magnus gave him a box for Judith’s ring. Greg wore his out of the store, a happy, welcome weight on his left hand that had been missing for a while. It would definitely take getting used to, but he was looking forward to it. Wearing his, he knew he would give Judith hers tonight. Or…sooner, perhaps?

 

By the time he got back to the resort, it was nearly five. He saw the boats coming in and ran back to the room after thanking Bix, who had driven him down to Spanish Town, and paying him for the trouble even though he said he didn’t need anything.

“Listen, you did me a favour. I owe you.” He said as he handed the man the money, “Please?”

“Alright. Be happy now, yeah? Make her smile.” Bix looked pointedly over his shoulder. Greg heaved a sigh of relief, checked his watch, and started to run. He hid the box very carefully when he got back to the room and took a shower, taking care not to lose his ring, which he laid down on a towel, folding the cloth over it to conceal it just in case Judith came up while he was busy.

 

He was fast in the shower, getting dressed in casual khaki slacks and a white short-sleeved button-down. As he buttoned up his shirt, his phone rang. It was a text-message, thankfully. From Sherlock.

 

What do you think you’re doing? – SH

 

Absolutely nothing I should need your permission for, Holmes. – GL

 

He texted back snippily.

 

You’re not the one that matters, so fuck off and leave me be. – GL

 

And give John his phone back, you git. – GL

 

Boring. – SH

 

NOW, Sherlock! – GL

 

He shook his head as he finished getting dressed. His phone rang again with a call incoming and he answered it as he found his shoes and pocketed the ring-box.

“Yes?”

“Show me!” It was John, thank god.

“You really need to stop Sherlock stealing your phone, John.” He chuckled, “You want a picture?”

“Yes, of course I do! When did this hit you?!”

“A couple of hours ago.” He checked his phone as it pinged again, this time with a message from Judith asking him to bring down some clothes for her so she could use the showers in The Bathhouse, she wasn’t going to have time to come back up to the room.

“I did not come here planning to do this, you know?” He quickly pulled down a white sundress and a pair of silver flats. He tossed the clothes and adequate small-clothes into a small bag and headed out.

“Oh, it’s fine, Greg! My god, it’s all fine!” John sounded giddy, and it made him giddy all over again. He fished the box from his pocket, and snapped a quick picture that he sent to John, and Sherlock for good measure because he knew he’d hear about it if he didn’t.

“What do you think?”

“Oh, it’s perfect! Lovely, well done!” John was excited, he could hear it from here, “Where did you find it, Greg?”

“A little place in Spanish Town.” He finally hit the walking-path, “Listen, I’ve got to go. Don’t let Sherlock ruin this, please?”

“Oh, god, no! Of course we won’t! No!” He could just see John shaking his head, “Good luck, Greg! See you when you get back!”

“Thanks. God I’m going to need it.” He sighed and pocketed his phone, absently patting the box as he broke into an easy trot. Greg went down to the Sailing School, where Judith’s class had gathered for the ceremony. Some of them had shown themselves in street-clothes acceptable for dinner, while others, like Judith, had come in off the water with minutes to spare and had barely taken the time to put their gear away. It was short and fairly informal, but seeing the pride on each of the students’ faces for accomplishing something like this made him happy. Well, he was already happy, but it didn’t hurt.

 

The small, informal reception following the ceremony was short-lived but cheerful as the students mingled and chatted. Judith was absolutely glowing, her good mood was infectious. Clad in board-shorts, a vest, a flattering two-piece swim-suit, and an unfastened PFD vest, her hair wild from salt-spray and wind, she still commanded the room. The Watsons were good at that, he’d noticed. Watching her mingle, Greg tried to reconcile that this kind of energy and personality was all his to do with as he wished. All he had to do was ask nicely.

 

At one point, he caught her eye and hefted the bag with her change of clothes in it. She brightened up and excused herself from the cluster of students she had been chatting with. He kept his left hand in his pocket as he passed the bag to her.

“You were out there for a while, yeah?”

“Oh, it was amazing! I’ll take you out some time, it’s such a thrill!” she hugged him tightly, neither of them minding that she got him a bit wet, “Keep yourself busy while I was gone?”

“Oh, yes, I did.” He smiled and kissed her, “You’d better hurry, love, or you’ll miss dinner!”

“Yeh, I know!” She gave him an elbow and snagged the bag from him, “Too hungry to miss dinner tonight.” He sent her off to The Bathhouse to take a shower. While he waited for her to come back, he took the box out, cracking it open to look at the ring.

 

When she emerged ten minutes later, she wore the sun-dress and flats, her hair was braided loosely down her back, and her smile was blinding. He slyly pocketed the ring-box without her seeing it, and careful to conceal his own. She would catch on eventually, she was pretty damn smart after all.

“Oh, so your brother called earlier.”

“And what did the dastardly duo want?”

“Just checking in.” He chuckled, remembering that conversation, “I guess they haven’t blown up Baker Street yet.”

“I suppose that is something to be grateful for, yeah?” She rolled her eyes, knowing very well the sheer volume of trouble Sherlock was capable of getting into just by himself, never mind John.

 

As they headed to The Clubhouse for dinner, Judith leaned against him, grinning and giddy.

“What’s up?” He asked, thinking up about a hundred different answers of his own.

“Just thinking.” She wrinkled her nose in that way of hers, “You’re hiding something.”

“Hiding something? Hiding what?”

“What’s in your pocket?” She eyed him sideways.

“Wallet, phone.” He shrugged, “Basic things.”

“Wallet’s in your back pocket, phone’s in your right, but what’s in your left pocket?” Oh, she was smart alright. Not that Greg was surprised. He chuckled and let go of her long enough to fish the box out of his pocket.

“Got you something. Went down to Spanish Town to get it.” He pulled her onto the damp boardwalk, out of the way of anyone on the foot-path.

“Oh, so you did leave!” Her eyes were bright as he handed her the box. “What’s this?”

“I didn’t come down here for this, Jude, but you know what they say about coincidence.”

“The universe is rarely so lazy.” She studied the box, “What is this?”

“Open it.” He watched her eyes. “Tell me what you think?” She turned the box over in her hands, studying it, and the look on her face changed as she opened it and found the ring.

“Oh my god.” She looked at him, “Is this…?”

“Exactly what it looks like.” Greg cradled the box with one hand so it wouldn’t accidentally get dropped as he went down on one knee, wondering if the tremor he felt was in his hand or if they were both shaking.

“Jesus, Greg!”

“Please say yes?”

“What, were you expecting me to say no?!”

“A little bit. Damn sure that’s gonna fit.” He let her pull the ring out, watching her eyes widen as she caught sight of the inscription and read it to herself.

“So, Judith Watson, will you make me one of the happiest people in London and give me the honour of changing your name?”

“Oh my god, yes! Yes! Of course, yes!” She breathed as she slipped on the ring, which did fit perfectly, “You sneaky bastard! Does my brother know about this?!”

“Yes, he does.”

“Thank God.” She took his hand, “Oh, you got the other one! It’s a set! Lovely!”

“You wear one, I wear one. And one ring only, this will do for both.”

“Oh god!” She was almost in tears, he was in tears, and a great weight had gone from his shoulders. Kissing her had always felt right, felt natural, and now he got to do it whenever he wanted to, anywhere he wanted to. Now that she was a Detective Sergeant, and well on her way to taking a new name if she wanted it, he could do just about anything he damn well pleased. And thank you.

“Can I take you to dinner?”

“Of course you can! You clever, sneaky thing, you!” She got up, hauled him to his feet, and they went to the restaurant, where beaming staff showed them to a small table just for two people. Dinner was amazing, as it had been every night they had been here, but everything seemed to taste better tonight. Happiness had a funny way of changing your perspective on things.



 

Chapter Text



The rest of the trip seemed to pass in the blink of an eye and yet it took an eternity for their final day to come. Greg and Judith returned to London relaxed, giddy, and very tan. But no sooner had they gotten home than Mycroft was calling on them to dispatch to Baskerville Research Facility, a top-level Ministry of Defense base located in Dartmoor just a few miles outside of Grimpen Village.

“I can’t begin to imagine the kind of trouble John and Sherlock are in if we’re being sent to Baskerville.” Judith shook her head as she got dressed in clean, pressed fatigues. Greg was packing a few days of clothes for them and looked up at her.

You’re the one he’s sending to Baskerville, I’m just along for the fun.”

“Still.” She sighed. The fatigues had been stiffly starched to regulation standards, and itched a bit. She had the feeling this whole mess had been pre-planned, she had come home to find the uniform laid out on the bed, everything from smock to boots, freshly laundered and starched. She was a bit grateful she hadn’t found a dress-uniform laid out, that would have been awful.

 

Once they had repacked for a short jaunt into the countryside, they took a hired car to Dartmoor. Their destination was a small airfield, where a chopper was waiting for them. The flight out to Baskerville didn’t take long, but landing was a bit tricky since the base was on complete lock-down when they arrived. Judith rolled her eyes and picked up a harness and belay-rope.

“Get me to drop-altitude! Now!” She barked at the pilot as she suited up.

“The base is on lock-down, ma’am! No one lands, no exceptions!”

“And I can have Major Barrymore transferred with one word to his superiors! Get me to drop-altitude right now, Corporal, or it’s your tags I’m taking! Are we clear on this?” She snarled, showing her credentials. The poor pilot couldn’t get into position fast enough, apologizing for the misunderstanding. She kissed Greg before she kicked the rope out and jumped, and as soon as her feet were on the ground, she unhooked from the belay and shed the harness.

 

A nervous corporal met her and explained things. Sherlock had used Mycroft’s ID to break into Baskerville and had gotten caught. Judith planned on getting answers, but not out of the Baker Street duo. She headed for the main lab compound, swiping in with her own ID, entering overrides to gain entry, and caught up to the gang that had stopped Sherlock and John a few yards shy of the exit. She saw one of the researchers coming up on the group from behind, but as soon as he saw her and registered her uniform, he ground to a dead halt, face nearly white. Sham inspectors was bad enough, but the real thing was even worse. And she wasn’t here on pleasant business.

“ID unauthorised, sir.” Some poor corporal was talking to the base’s highest commanding officer, Richard Barrymore. A few privates held John and Sherlock at bay. The two were rather calm, all things considered, she saw the annoyed tension in her brother’s shoulders.

“What?”

“I’ve just had the call.”

“Is that right?” Barrymore turned to Sherlock and John. “Who are you?”

“Look, there’s obviously been some kind of mistake,” John said carefully. Barrymore held out his hand for Sherlock’s ID card, which Sherlock gave to him. He looked at the card and then up at Sherlock.

“Clearly not Mycroft Holmes.” Barrymore sneered, completely unaware of Judith’s presence on-base. This might actually be a bit of fun.

“Computer error, Major.” John had a notebook out and was writing in it, dead calm and very serious about the whole mess, “It’ll all have to go in the report.”

“What the hell’s going on?!” Barrymore snapped.

“It’s all right, Major.” Judith inserted herself and also announced herself, “I know exactly who these gentlemen are.” The change in dynamic was glorious and sudden and perfect. Everyone under the rank of Major immediately stood at attention, the guards took two steps back, and she had her credentials out as Barrymore turned on her like a snake on its prey.

“Who the hell are you?” he hissed. “And what are you doing on my base?!”

“Lieutenant-Colonel Judith H. Watson, late of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and Special Forces.” She pocketed her credentials as Barrymore’s eyes widened in alarm and returned a hasty salute, “I don’t think I need permission from the likes of you to go where I like, Major Barrymore. Let alone a place like Baskerville Research Facility.” She looked around.

“Corporal, do something about that alarm.”

“Right away, ma’am!” The poor corporal rushed to silence the claxons, white as a sun-bleached sheet. Barrymore might be scary, but Judith could be down-right frightening. After all, she hadn’t reached Lieutenant-Colonel by being nice all the time. Not that she took any great pleasure in putting stuffy senior officers in their proper places, but this once, she didn’t mind giving Barrymore something to worry about.

 

 ***

 

John Watson was no idiot, or a coward, but he had to admit that his sister could be one very scary woman when she felt like it. His only consolation was knowing that her temper was not turned on him. After somehow gaining access to a locked-down facility, Judith had shut down Barrymore with a few words and a withering glare that would have brought Mycroft Holmes to his knees. Then she had instructed Robert Frankland to see John and Sherlock safely on their way. Frankland had given them his card after some awkward banter, John knew they hadn’t seen the last of him.

 

It wasn’t until they had driven from Baskerville to Henry Knight’s house that he realized the past forty-five minutes had actually happened. Sherlock had some damn crooked ideas about things, which was how he found himself hunting Sherlock and Henry down on the foggy moor in the dark, hoping to God whatever was out here didn’t come after him. It didn’t, but he lost track of Sherlock again after a ghost encounter in Dewer’s Hollow. Taking care of a frantic Henry Knight, John didn’t get back to the inn until many hours later, and looking for Sherlock got him a sight to behold. J

 

udith had returned from Baskerville and the two sat across from each other by the fire, caught up in a tense discussion. He could see Sherlock’s hand shaking as he lifted a glass and frowned. Was Sherlock having a panic attack? Not that he blamed the man, but Sherlock didn’t have panic attacks, he was too…organized, too strict for that kind of thing. He sighed and headed to the bar, god knew he needed a drink. Let Judith take care of Sherlock, and God bless her if she got him to talk. Bloody git was so wound up he wouldn't make much sense to someone who had no idea what they’d been up to. But Judith was a soldier, and she had probably seen things just as weird if not weirder than whatever was running around the moors after dark. He knew for sure they’d seen stranger things as sorcerers, and he wondered briefly how things were in New York. It had been a while since he’d heard from Stephen Strange, but he knew the brash American was doing well.

“Make that two, his drink’s on me.” A familiar voice spoke over his shoulder and John grinned as two pints were set on the bar-top.

“Evening, John.”

“Greg.” He shot his future brother-in-law a sly grin, “So, I don’t need to ask what kind of trouble brought you out to Dartmoor.”

“You owe me a few hours of sleep, mate.” Greg grumbled, nicely tanned from his vacation, “It’s only because your sister’s got a scary side to her that I didn’t complain about it too much. Is she like that often?”

“Not usually, no. I mean, she can be, but not usually.” He snorted, “Lord you missed a show-down at Baskerville.”

“Not that I minded. Could have done without the armed escort, but the dogs were nice enough.”

“Of course you liked the dogs!” He snickered, “Pretty sure Judith could do anything she wanted in there and they’d let her. I’m not exactly sure what she said to Barrymore, but she scared the subs into straight order.”

“Oh, don’t act like you didn’t enjoy pulling rank in there.” Greg elbowed him, “Liar.”

“I didn’t deny it.” He sniffed. Raised voices indicated trouble and he looked over to see Judith on her feet, the same light in her eye that he had seen at Baskerville as she took down Sherlock.

“Oh, Jesus. She’s going to lay him out.”

“Probably could use it. What’s his problem?”

“Saw something out on the moors. Some massive hound or some such thing.”

“Like the telly?” Greg looked at him sideways, “That enormous dog people carry on about?!”

“Poor Henry Knight saw something out there, and I’m dead certain Sherlock saw the same thing and just won’t admit he’s scared.” John shrugged and they watched as Judith said something in a low tone to Sherlock, turned on her heel, and walked away from him. Whatever she’d said had struck a nerve, Sherlock was pale again.

“Oof. You asked her to marry you?”

That doesn’t scare me, believe it or not.” Greg muttered, “Not something I’m going to regret anytime soon.”

“Brave man you are.” He took a gulp of beer as Judith reached them. Without a word, she took Greg’s glass and emptied it, setting it on the bar-top and signalling for another.

“That didn’t go well, I take it?” Greg was gentle with his sister, who was in a bit of a foul mood.

“He’s scared to death, but he won’t admit it!” She spat, “Whatever he saw out there, whatever thing is out on the moors, he saw it and it scared him! He can’t process it and that bothers him!” Gary set another three pints on the bar-top, guessing rightly that they might do well with a refill.

“Thanks, Gary.” John smiled at the man. Gary just nodded and went back to serving customers. Judith drained hers with a speed that had won her many drinking-contests in their Army days, setting the empty glass down with a thud and turning from the bar. She didn’t care for anyone who might be watching as she took a bit of her mood out on poor Greg, who didn’t seem to mind much.

“You two keep an eye on the git, will you? I don’t need babysitting, just make sure he doesn’t do something stupid.”

“Yeah, no problem!” He watched her leave the bar, “Uh, where are you going?”

“Somewhere quiet.” Judith walked through the sling-portal from The Crossed Keys to Mount Everest. As the portal closed behind her, he looked at Greg, who eyed the closed portal warily.

“Where’d she go?”

“Mount Everest.”

“Like, uh, the Mount Everest?”

“Hmm.” He finished his beer, “She’s rather fond of going up there when things get a bit hot like they did tonight.” 

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Greg just looked annoyed. John just patted him on the shoulder.

“When we start again in the morning, you might find this interesting.” He fished something out of his coat pocket. “Something I saw this morning but didn’t think much of it until I realized the discrepancy.” He had taken a receipt for a few hundred pounds of meat, which was a bit odd for a vegetarian restaurant. Something was up, and he was willing to be there was a direct link between whatever was out on the moors and the orders of meat at The Crossed Keys.

“Oh, lovely. That’ll do, when we figure out what in hell’s name is going on around here.” Greg rolled his eyes. They found an empty table for two and sat down to talk a bit.

“You tied her down, but you never set rules about monogamy for your relationship.” John was thinking about Judith, “Is that going to change?”

“Nah.” Greg shook his head, “I don’t want it to change, she doesn’t want it to change. All I did was give her a choice, she said yes to it, but she is allowed to change her mind. She’s too important to me for that kind of thing to turn us over.”

“And the chances of her jumping into a stranger’s bed a bit slim anyway.” He sighed, “God help us, Greg, Judith’s run off to Nepal and Sherlock is all moody.”

“Well, we can get some kind of work done.” Greg raised an eyebrow.

“What kind?”

“Phone’s ringing, dear.” Greg indicated John’s phone, which buzzed as Sherlock tried to get his attention. He opened a text message attachment. It was a camera-phone image of someone he was a bit familiar with.

“Oh, that’s, uh, that’s Henry Knight’s psychologist.” He studied the image, taken inside the dining-room, “What’s she doing here?”

“Dunno. You can find out, though.” Greg grinned, “You’re always rather good at that, yeah?”

“I could try.” He narrowed his eyes, “If you’re not too tired or busy, could I bother you to go out and look for the source of a morse code message I thought I saw?”

“Of course! Got nothing better to do with Judith gone who knows where!” Greg tapped glasses with him, drained his, and got to his feet. John showed him on a map roughly where he’d seen the lights out on the moor. While Greg went in search of flashing lights, John went to charm Louise Mortimer. With any luck, one of them would get something useful done tonight. He felt bad for Judith and Sherlock, wondering how long Judith would stay on Everest, and if anyone would think to go looking for her out there.

 

***

 

Judith had abandoned Dartmoor for Nepal, and that without a second thought for the matter. Sherlock was being difficult, unwilling to admit that he had been scared. He had seen something out on the moor, but what he might have seen was uncertain. John thought he might have seen the infamous Ghost Hound the locals talked about, that haunted Henry Knight, but there was no real telling. At the moment, she sat on a snow-covered ledge on the north slope of Mount Everest, watching the swirling snow as it gusted around her on the winds. The Ancient One had once told her that it took twenty minutes for a human body to go into shut-down in this place, two if they were in shock. She had been here for roughly an hour and despite feeling a bit chill, she felt fine. A crackling sound got her attention and she raised her head. She smirked, knowing damn well who had come after her up here.

“You’re getting slow.”

“And you’re going to freeze up here. What on Earth are you doing?”

“Getting away from your British doppelganger. He’s being a prat right now and I don’t need to put up with it.” She leaned her head back and smiled at Stephen Strange, who didn’t look much different from that last time she’d actually seen him, “Been a while, yeah?”

“I don’t know what you’re into, but you’re coming back with me.” He took her by the hand and pulled her to her feet, “Come on, you.”

 

Judith chuckled and let him lead her back through the sling-portal. It was much warmer in Sanctorum, naturally, but Stephen could be a worry-wart when he felt like it. Judith found herself bundled in a dressing-gown and two blankets, relegated to the couch in front of a roaring fire, a mug of something hot shoved into her hands.

“And don’t you move from there until I say.” He scolded. Judith snickered and sipped the hot tea.

“Yes, Dad.” She rolled her eyes, “An hour on Everest is not going to kill me, you do know that, yeah?”

“I don’t care. You can’t do that without warning someone!”

“You found me, didn’t you?”

“Because your brother called me! Jesus, Judith!”

“Alright, I’m sorry.” She sighed, properly humbled, “I had to save John and Sherlock from a military inquiry. That wasn’t my idea of fun.”

“Which explains your uniform.”

“Oh. Yeah.” She coughed, draining the rest of her tea. It had been spiked with something. Brandy, most likely. “You’ve never seen me in my Army kit, yeah?”

“Not once. I’m used to your Met uniform. You’re still working for them?”

“Yes, sir.” She smiled, rolling her eyes as her mug refilled itself. “Got a promotion a couple weeks back, actually. You can imagine how happy that made my boss.”

“Knowing what I do about your Superintendent, not very.” Stephen wrinkled his nose, “But Inspector Lestrade would have been thrilled.”

“That’s a word for it.” Judith smirked.

Two mugs of tea and fifteen minutes wrapped in blankets in front of a warm fire did the trick to get Judith warmed up properly. Once Stephen was satisfied with her she kicked off the blankets, folding them over the back of the couch and laying the house-coat on top. Standing by the fire-place, she looked out the massive windows of the Sanctum’s penthouse.

“You seem well-settled in here.”

“It serves the purpose.” He shrugged.

“How’s Doctor Palmer?”

“She’s well, busier than anyone has a right to be.”

“She’s an A&E doctor, of course she’s busy!” Judith chuckled, “She’s a sweet girl.”

“Far too good for any of us.” Stephen sighed and kicked at the fire-place surround.

 

Judith couldn't help making comparisons again between Stephen and Sherlock. They were the same height, the only difference between them was their accents, hair-styles, and what they did for a living. They both had a fondness for dramatics, and slightly ridiculous clothing choices. They could talk faster than most people processed a single thought, and were both much smarter than anyone deserved to be. Reckless, careless, but aware of their loved ones. She was pulled from her train of thought by a soft metallic clatter. Stephen had found her id-tags. He read them to himself, smiling.

“What?”

“You’re…what, in your early thirties?”

“Thirty-four this June.” She shrugged, “Why?”

“Thirty-four, with…how many years of service to the British Army? Fifteen years? You were seventeen when you entered service, weren’t you?”

“Went into the Army Foundation College three months after I turned sixteen, I went to full service the next year and kept going until 2009.” She shrugged, “That was my life for so long.”

“And police-work seemed a natural next step for you.”

“I like my job, the people I work with.” She couldn't help twisting the ring on her left hand, one that laid a subtle declaration to anyone who bothered to pay attention. Stephen noticed and took her hand. As soon as he saw the ring, his eyes lit up and he looked up at her.

“He asked you?”

“While we were on vacation. He didn’t plan it at all, really, but it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen him do. He went for so long married to a woman who didn’t love him, and the divorce almost ruined him.”

“You were there through it all and you’ll be there for the rest. You know, those vows have a completely different meaning for the likes of you and Lestrade, don’t they?”

“I didn’t ask for it, but we’re keeping our relationship open. I’m not going to do to him what Claudia did, I can’t. I’ve been burned before. But…”

“Always a few trusted partners on the outside you can turn to.” His smile was soft, wistful almost. If she had to put a word to it, wistful was a good one. Judith tugged on the collar of his surcoat and pulled him down until they were a breath apart.

“My trusted partner on the outside.” She took a deep breath, “You’re not my brother, or his boyfriend, you’re not my fiancé, you’re…something completely different.”

“Is completely different a bad thing?”

“No, not at all.” Judith smiled and finally got the contact she’d been wanting since she’d followed him home to New York from Mount Everest. “Christ you’re good at that!” She murmured as they broke apart to catch their breath. He chuckled and played with the collar of her smock.

“You sound surprised by that.”

“Well, usually I’m not lucky enough to be on the receiving end of things like this.” She leaned against him, stretching up on tip-toe to steal another kiss. Not that Greg was bad at this, oh Christ no, but it was different with the likes of Stephen and Sherlock. They were careful with her, always, knowing she belonged to Greg.

 

Judith couldn't stifle an annoyed sound when they heard a low claxon. Someone had come to Sanctorum, probably looking for Stephen.

“Oh, this had better be good.” She muttered. Stephen chuckled and they went out to the atrium balcony to see who had come to Sanctorum for reasons unknown to them.

“Stephen?” Oh, it was Christine Palmer. Judith looked at Stephen and chuckled.

“Shouldn’t she be at work right now?”

“Just past two, she’s on her lunch break.” Stephen smiled and they watched Christine come into view in the atrium. She wore a heavy coat and snow-boots over her scrubs, bundled up against the weather as best she could be. Judith sat on the railing, feet dangling over the landing.

“Hello, Christine!”

“Oh! Judith!” Christine hadn’t been expecting her, judging by her expression, “What are you doing here?”

“Getting away from my brother’s idiot flat-mate.” She smiled as Christine came up the stairs, “I got them out of trouble and he had a funny way of saying thank you.”

“So you came here, to New York?”

“This is my second stop.” She hugged the sweet-natured physician, “It’s good to see you again, Christine. You still need to visit London.”

“I will! I promise!” Christine looked at them, “How long are you here for?”

“I can’t stay long, I left my brother and Sherlock in Dartmoor with Greg Lestrade.”

“Well, surely you can stay long enough for lunch?” Christine offered a winning smile. Judith chuckled and looked at Stephen, who shrugged.

“Well, if you insist.” She smiled and hopped from her perch. They left Sanctorum for a nearby cafe, which Stephen insisted on paying for.

“Come visit me in London and I’ll return a favour,” Judith said over lunch. She had last eaten nearly twenty-four hours ago, and her New York friends had noticed.

“Do you usually forget to eat, Judith?”

“When I’m busy, which is all the time? I’ve gone seventy-two hours without food before.” She shrugged, “But if you think I’m bad, you haven’t seen the way Sherlock eats.”

“Or doesn’t.” Stephen rolled his eyes. Judith chuckled.

 

After a late lunch, Judith said goodbye to Christine, who had to go back to work, and spent the rest of her afternoon with Stephen. They visited Kamar-Taj and practised a bit, Stephen worked her on temporal spells. The manipulation of time could be very handy in certain circumstances, as they had seen at Hong Kong, but he did tell her to feel free to call on him if she didn’t feel comfortable executing a spell like that on her own. And it was the kind of spell she would only know if it had worked when she executed it. She was afraid to practice that kind of spell without a reason to do so. It was a kind of magic she wasn’t comfortable using, especially without the Time Stone, and generally steered away from any practice of it without the guidance of a Master.

 

***

 

Returning to Dartmoor the following afternoon, she caught up with John and Sherlock laying out their plans with Greg to find out once and for all what was running around the moors after dark. Those plans were cut a bit short when Doctor Mortimer called in a panic to tell them that Henry Knight had taken his pistol and disappeared. She was afraid he was going to try to kill himself or someone else. They tracked Henry to Dewer’s Hollow, where they managed to talk him down from killing himself, but found themselves in serious trouble when the Hound appeared to them.

“It’s the fog!” Judith shouted, covering her mouth with her sleeve, “It’s the fog, don’t breathe in! Don’t breathe!”

“Too late!” Sherlock muttered. They all looked to the top of the Hollow where the Hound stalked them, eyes glowing red, teeth bared in a sinister snarl. Judith stood back-to-back with Greg, she did not miss the slight jump when they touched. She reached down and patted him on the hip.

“Both eyes open, Greg, both eyes open.” She murmured. Suddenly, she felt him turn and heard a gasp.

“My god!”

“Steady on, Inspector.” She kept her voice steady, her hands were not shaking as she took aim at the monster that perched some few feet above them, prepared to pounce. Greg fired blindly as the monster came down closer to them, but Judith did not flinch as he fired right over her shoulder. She squinted, shook her head to clear it, and took straight aim. A few steps to her right, John opened fire at the same time. They took down the monster, venturing up to investigate once they were sure it was safe to do so. The creature turned out to be nothing more than a giant dog. Which explained a few things they had noticed.

 

But as they stood around the corpse of the dog, Judith’s hearing caught footsteps.

She swung around towards the source of the sound and saw someone standing behind them. Raising her gun again, she took very careful aim. She didn’t want to kill this one. She knew she’d made the shot, she heard him cry out. But he was gone in a flash.

“This way! Track him!” She led the charge into the forest, and they chased down the perpetrator. Judith did something a bit risky and used a spell to bring down the runner. It was Doctor Frankland, of all people, who had a perfect excuse for why he’d done all those terrible things to Henry and his father, and a really bad one all at once. But they didn’t get much in the way of answers once Frankland took off again and ran straight into the base’s minefield.

“Frankland, stop!” Judith yelled just as his foot hit the pressure-pad. “Oh, Christ.” She and John both heard the click, the soft ticking. He’d hit a pressure-pad dead-centre. It wasn’t the first time they had seen a man blown up by a land-mine, and it wasn’t likely to be the last. When the mine exploded, she ducked the cloud of smoke and fire, the debris. Getting their heads on straight, they collected Henry Knight and headed back to town.

 

After leaving Henry at his house, put down with a heavier than usual dose of a sleep-aid, they returned to The Crossed Keys Inn and went to bed themselves. John had out four doses of the same sleep-aid he’d given to Henry, they each downed two glasses of cold water, took the aid, and fell into a fitful, uneasy sleep. Judith ended up sleeping on the floor of the room she shared with Greg, listening to him toss and turn as nightmares of their experience in Dewer’s Hollow plagued his sleep. By the sound of things, John and Sherlock weren’t doing much better in the room next door. Finally, desperate to get some peace, she climbed up on the bed behind Greg and put an arm around him, her hand resting over his thundering heart.

“Calm down, love. Sleep in peace tonight.” She murmured, kissing the soft skin behind his ear. He moaned in his sleep, rolled over, and pulled her into a stifling hug that relaxed a bit as she rubbed the back of his neck and sang to him. She sang Sios dhan an Abhainn until they both fell asleep, at roughly the same time.

 

The next morning, they ate breakfast together and parted ways with John and Sherlock, who had a bit of an argument about something that had happened at Baskerville while she had been in New York with Stephen and Christine. Time to put this bit of madness behind them and move on to resuming a normal routine. Whatever “normal” was for them.



 

Chapter Text



Getting back to London, Judith and Greg settled back into a familiar routine, with Judith keeping an eye out for suspicious activity. They had a problem with Jim Moriarty, who had decided he was bored and wanted to play a bit. Judith pulled Sebastian Moran to look after him and share whatever he found out with them. Between March and October, they kept an eye on the feisty, clever criminal mastermind. In September, a jury passed down a verdict regarding his breaking into the Tower of London, the Bank of England, and Pentonville Prison all on the same day within a few minutes of each other. They were able to keep eyes on him until October 10th, when he suddenly disappeared for a month and nine days. Judith spent more time than ever learning temporal spells, watched over by Stephen Strange. She wasn’t sure what was going to happen to Sherlock, but if she could keep him from doing something outrageous, she would be happy to do it blind-folded.

 

After a case took a steep turn to the right, Judith found herself standing in James Roben’s office with Greg and Sally. Word had gotten out that Sherlock was a phoney, guilty of every crime he was credited with solving, but they had taken hold of the situation and the three of them were going up before Roben. They had to make it look like it was their idea, their words that were circulating in The Met. If friends were the first ones to say it was all a conspiracy, that Sherlock Holmes was a true psychopath and a dangerous liability, it would be better for him.

“Prove your loyalty to The Met, then.” Roben glared up at them, “You bring that…that psycho in, and maybe you’ll get to keep your jobs!”

“We’ll do our best, Chief.” Judith looked at Greg and Sally, “But that precludes us getting to him before Moriarty talks him into committing suicide.”

“I want that bastard in custody as soon as possible, do you understand me?!”

“Yes, sir, we understand.”

“You have twenty minutes.” Roben snapped, dismissing them. Judith nodded and departed to fetch the keys to her Rover. She rounded up three constables and followed Greg and Sally over to Baker Street. Greg sent her a text to let her know that he had Sally and Anderson, and he’d called Baker Street to warn the boys.

 

By the time they arrived, they had a good half the Yard in tow behind them. It didn’t take long to shut down Baker Street and less time to get inside. With Sally and Greg at her back, she knocked on the door of 221 Baker Street with the handle of her torch.

“Police! Open up!” She called. One hand on her side-arm, one hand on her torch, she waited for Mrs Hudson or John to open the door.

“Sally, any movement upstairs?”

“Sherlock’s up there.”

“He knows we’re here, and what we’re here for.” She knocked again, “Met Police, come to the door!” The door opened for them, but they were blocked from immediate entry by Mrs Hudson, who’s eyes widened as she recognized all but Anderson and the constables at the door.

“Here on business, Mrs Hudson.” Greg murmured apologetically as they stepped into the house and he waved Judith and Sally up ahead of him.

“Don’t barge in like that!” Mrs Hudson snapped, angry with so many police in her house. “You can’t be here!”

“We’ve got proper warrants, Mrs Hudson,” Judith called back, coming to a halt halfway up when she found her way blocked by her brother.

Have you got a warrant?” He demanded of them, “Have you?”

“Leave it, John,” Greg warned, handing over a copy of the warrant in question.

“Really!” Mrs Hudson huffed, “Manners!”

 

They got past John, who watched in dismay as they advanced carefully on the open door of the flat. Inside, they found Sherlock shrugging into his coat.

“Sherlock Holmes, I’m arresting you on suspicion of abduction and kidnapping,” Greg said calmly, sadly, as Judith put Sherlock in a pair of cuffs.

“He’s not resisting,” John complained, loudly, as she hooked her foot around Sherlock’s and pulled his left hand back in order to finish securing the hand-cuffs. He wasn’t resisting, he had been waiting for them and was prepared to go quietly.

“It’s all right, John.” Sherlock looked at John, who paced the room nervously.

“No, it’s not all right! This is ridiculous!” John looked at Judith, who just raised an eyebrow at him but said nothing. “He’s not resisting.”

“Get him downstairs now.” Greg waved them out once she had Sherlock securely cuffed. She had done him a favour and put him in protective cuffs before applying the handcuffs to prevent him from getting the bracelet-abrasions common in wearing hand-cuffs for any amount of time. Judith spun Sherlock and marched him out the door, handing him off to one of the constables on the landing. As he went down the stairs quietly, he winked at her. She returned the wink with a subtle tip of her head and stayed where she was. At the top of the stairs, John, Greg, and Sally stood in the hallway and just inside the flat. She saw Anderson there, too, and clenched her teeth in annoyance.

“Greg, you know you don’t have to…” John was trying to plead Sherlock’s innocence, but they had their orders. And exceptionally good acting. This hurt Greg, it hurt all of them.

“Don’t try to interfere, or I shall arrest you too.” Greg snapped, poking her brother in the chest for good measure, “And that for hindering police operations.” He turned and left the room. John turned to Sally who was standing near the door.

“You alright?” He asked lowly. Sally shook her head. This whole mess had made her sick, but she wasn’t about to show that to anyone else.

“Oh, I said it.” Anderson looked smug as he walked into the flat.

“Mmm-hmm?” Sally wore a quiet, deadly expression as they listened to Anderson.

“First time we met.” The forensic specialist sneered.

“Don’t bother.” John huffed.

“‘Solving crimes won’t be enough. One day he’ll cross the line.’ Now, ask yourself: what sort of man would kidnap those kids just so he can impress us all by finding them?” Mrs Hudson gasped. Just then the Chief Superintendent walked in. Judith followed him up the stairs.

“Donovan. Anderson.”

“Sir.”

“Got our man?”

“Er, yes, sir.”

“Looked a bit of a weirdo, if you ask me,” Roben said derisively, rolling his eyes as John turned towards him. “Often are, these vigilante types.” He had been looking around the living room but caught John staring at him.

“What are you looking at?” He snapped. Sally’s eyes widened and she lowered her head as John started to move. She knew what was coming and couldn't bear to look. Judith knew exactly what her brother was planning to do and quietly took another pair of handcuffs from Sally since hers had been given up for Sherlock. They weren’t going to stop John from taking a swing at the Chief Superintendent, not right away. If anyone deserved a good shot at James Roben, it was definitely John Watson. And he could get away with it, Judith and Sally could not. 

***

When James Roben walked out onto the street from 221B holding a handkerchief to his bleeding nose, gathered personnel were rather alarmed by the sight of him.

“Are you all right, sir?” A nearby constable asked, concerned for the Chief Superintendent’s safety.

“I’m fine!” He hissed, looking anything but. “These people are all absolutely cracked!” 

“Yes, sir.” Maybe not, but all anyone could do right now was say yes and mind their own business.

 

Nearby, Sherlock had been leaned against the side of a police car, facing it. John was slammed up against the car next to him and to his left. Sherlock looked across to him with an amused expression on his face.

“Joining me?”

“Yeah.” John huffed, “Apparently it’s against the law to chin the Chief Superintendent.” Not that he seemed terribly sorry for trying. Sherlock snickered. Good old John, standing up for Sherlock’s honour.

 

Behind them, Judith unlocked the cuff on Sherlock’s left hand and transferred it to John’s left wrist, chaining the boys together and collecting the hand-cuffs they had used to restrain John until they could get him to the street. Sherlock looked over his shoulder, watching what she was doing and where they were standing as she hooked the hand-cuffs to her duty-belt and pocketed that cuff-key.

“Hmm. Bit awkward, this.”

“Huh.” John gave the pair of hand-cuffs a dismal shake, unable to help a grin, “No-one to bail us.”

“I was thinking more about our imminent and daring escape.” He looked down at the radio lying on the dashboard of the car they were leaning against. That radio hadn’t been there a moment ago. A plan started forming in his head, a risky, potentially fatal plan. But he was as good as dead anyway, right, if Moriarty had his way? What difference did it make if it was now, at the hands of The Met, or later?

“All units to two-seven.” The dispatcher’s voice sounded a bit too loud.

“What?” John looked round at him. Where were they? Sherlock looked round to get an idea of things. Oh, there was Greg Lestrade, Sally Donovan, and Judith Watson was behind them. That radio was Greg’s. There was no way he had simply forgotten his radio. This was Greg’s car, the silver BMW he drove when he wasn’t in Judith’s Rover, which was parked at a bit of an angle nearby. That was Greg’s radio, and he felt something in his pocket. Judith had just dropped a key into his trouser pocket. Handcuff keys. The keys to the exact set of handcuffs he and John had been locked into.

“All units to two…” The radio squealed as the dispatcher spoke. Rapidly Sherlock reached through the open window of the car with his free hand and pressed down on the Talk button after confirming Judith’s location behind him, she stood to his left. A high-pitched squeal of feedback broke the quiet commotion on the street. Greg, Judith, and Sally all three ducked and pulled their ear-pieces as the feedback ripped through their radios. Sherlock reached behind him and pulled Judith’s pistol from the holster with his free hand. It was too easy, she had snapped the holster and left it open for him. She knew he was going to stage an escape and they were helping him. Their jobs, already at risk, were now in serious jeopardy because of his next actions. John gasped in surprise at the rapid turn of events as Sherlock took careful aim at the nearest few officers.

“Ladies and gentlemen, will you all please get on your knees?” He called bluntly. Nearby, Greg had recovered a bit and wore an expression that screamed: “Oh, for fuck’s sake!” What was an escape without appropriate dramatics? Of course, no one reacted very quickly, and he fired twice into the air to get the point across.

“Now would be good!”

“Just do as he says!” Greg yelled, gesturing for everyone to get down, and slowly the gathered police began to kneel.

“What’s your next move?” John whispered hoarsely as they began to back away slowly.

“Do you trust me, John?”

“What?!”

“Do you trust me?”

“Christ, Sherlock!” John looked frantic, but Sherlock could see that he still trusted him, never mind the madness of their situation. He nodded. John took a deep breath.

“Just-just so you’re aware, the gun is his idea.” Good, John.

“I’m just a…you know…” He faltered, hoarse with anger, but those watching thought it was panic. Sherlock knew better and took over smoothly, promptly aiming the pistol at John instead.

“…my hostage.” He said gruffly, taking control again. John gasped. So did the others. Judith, Sally, and Greg shared a puzzled look.

“Hostage!” John whispered, “Yes, that works – that works! Just don’t get me killed, you moron!”

 

They continued backing away from the kneeling police, carefully backing around the corner.

“So what now?” John murmured as they finally stepped out of sight of the gathered personnel.

“Doing what Moriarty wants – I’m becoming a fugitive. Run.” He turned and started to run. Back at the cars, they heard the Chief Superintendent yelling orders.

“Get after him, Lestrade!”

“Good luck with that.” He muttered and looped the loose chain between their hand-cuffs around his wrist. “Take my hand.”

“Now people will definitely talk.” John grabbed his hand and held on tight.

“As if they do much else?” He couldn't help a mean chuckle. Sirens approached at the junction ahead of them. Sherlock swerved to his left and dropped the pistol in the process. It clattered to the ground.

“The gun!” John hesitated. Sherlock got a quick look at the approaching car and made a split-second decision.

“Leave it!” He pulled, “That’s Judith! She’ll pick it up! Keep going!” He shoved John down a side alley as the police car raced straight across the junction. They ran down the alleyway and reached high railings blocking their way. They got separated for a minute until they figured out how to get John over the railings.

 

After that brief delay, they stayed together, dodging the police at what felt like every turn. It got a bit more interesting when they encountered one of the assassins posted around Baker Street. They didn’t get any answers from him, but a copy of The Sun led them to Kitty Riley. Sherlock had some strong words for that woman. Before they set off to hunt down the reporter who had tried to convince Sherlock she was a fan and a friend, when she was in truth neither, Sherlock fished the hand-cuff keys from his pocket and got them free. It didn’t take long and he left the hand-cuffs into a secure spot before he texted Judith on where to find them later.

 

Roger that. Where are you going? – JW

 

Kitty Riley’s place. She owes me answers. – SH

 

Riley? Kitty Riley? Reporter for The Sun, just wrote a kiss-and-tell by Richard Brook? – JW

 

You know her, then? – SH

 

I was on duty the day of the trial when you testified. I remember her very well. – JW

 

Remembered and didn’t like her, apparently. Sherlock smirked and pocketed his phone again.

 

It didn’t take long after that to reach Kitty Riley’s house, break in, and wait up for her to get home. About five minutes before she got home, he saw Judith’s Rover pull up and nodded.

“I don’t think this is going to end quite the way Moriarty wanted it to.”

“Just don’t do anything stupid? Please?” John paced behind him, “Don’t lock me out of whatever you plan on doing?”  When he caught sight of Riley coming up the footpath, he sat down to wait for her. John sat next to him.

“If I do something stupid, I won’t do it because I wanted to. Don’t believe anything I might say or do once we go our separate ways.”

“Where do you expect me to go?”

“Haven’t decided yet.” He leaned over and kissed John on the cheek, “Please don’t get mad at me, John.”

“I’m not mad at you, but if you get yourself killed and forget to tell me something before you do, then I’ll be mad at you.” John reached between them and took his hand, “And don’t forget, son, you’re engaged to a bloody sorcerer, good luck sneaking anything past me.”

“There is that.” Sherlock chuckled. God bless his John. And woe to Jim Moriarty and his alter-ego Richard Brook, if they were, in fact, the same person and not, say, identical twins. God help them if that was true, and he wouldn’t put it past Moriarty to do something like that.



 

Chapter Text



Judith Watson sat her post outside of Kitty Riley’s apartment for half an hour, keeping company with Sally Donovan and waiting for something, anything to happen. She had dozed off when Sally suddenly cursed.

“Fucking mother of Christ! Is that him?!”

“Who’s what?” She sat up straight, “What’s up, Sal?”

“Who is that?” Sally pointed at someone coming up the street towards Riley’s apartment and passed over a pair of binoculars, “Am I imagining this or is that Jim Moriarty?”

“Uh.” She looked through the binoculars at the man walking towards the apartment, “Fire up the laptop really quick.”

“For what?”

“Look up a name for me. I need a comparison-image for Jim Moriarty and Richard Brook.”

“Got it.” Sally got to work and she tracked the unassuming man wearing denims, a white tee-shirt, and a cardigan, with two days of facial-hair and messy hair. It looked like Jim Moriarty. Just as Sally pulled up the comparison-images, he caught sight of her car and came to a startled halt. Time to see if she was right about this. She stayed where she was and looked at the images Sally had pulled up.

“Fucking bastard, it’s him!”

“Are you sure about that?” Sally murmured.

“Ninety-eight per cent.” She narrowed her eyes, “Let’s see what he does.” To his credit, and fairly certain he knew which Met car was hers, the man known to the public as Richard Brook spent a while studying the Rover before he went inside.

“He’s about to get a really nasty surprise.”

“Oh God. Why can’t we arrest him?!”

“Because we don’t have probable cause.”

“Oh, bullshit!” Sally rattled the paper at her, “What is this!”

“Be patient, Sal.” She murmured.

 

Sure enough, they didn’t wait five minutes for a call to come through on the radio for a potential domestic disturbance called in by neighbours.

“Any units available in the area are required to respond.”

“This is Alpha-Seven-Ten-Echo, we’re in the area and on location to respond.” She called in to Dispatch, “We’ll handle it, Dispatch.”

“10-4, Alpha-Seven-Ten-Echo.” Dispatch came back, “Any sign of the fugitives?”

“Not for an hour, Dispatch. We’re still looking, though. If Holmes and Watson are out here, they won’t stay hidden for very long. We’ll be ready when they move.” She clicked off, clipped her radio into place, and got out. She checked her Browning and they approached the house carefully. With her Browning in one hand, Judith knocked on the door with her torch.

“Met Police, open up!” She called out loudly. There was a commotion inside, she heard John yelling at someone, and looked at Sally, who nodded and stepped up to the door.

“Miss Riley, open the door or we’ll break it down!” Sally shouted. The door was flung open by Kitty Riley, who took one look at them and brightened.

“Oh, finally!”

“One of your neighbours called Emergency Services, Miss Riley.” Judith said calmly, “Has anyone been hurt in your house?”

“No, ma’am! But, I’ve got two fugitives in my living room and they’re threatening my house-mate!”

“Mmhm. We’ll see about that.” Pushing the door open with her foot, she stepped into the living-room. “Step out, please, and don’t cause a scene.” 

“Judith!” John and Sherlock were as genuinely surprised to see her as Brook. She put herself between the Baker Street detectives and their unlikely target, who was either very good at acting or genuinely afraid.

“You two have made my job hard enough, so shut up!” She snapped at the boys, who fell silent. Brook whimpered, covering his head as if afraid of physical violence.

“Jesus, John! What did you do to him?!”

“Well, I didn’t hit him, bad as I wanted to!”

“But you scared the soul out of him.” She sighed and held out one hand to Brook, “I don’t think he’s lying to us about who he is.”

I do! You know how clever Moriarty is, Judith! My god, he tried to kill you a year ago! He tried to kill you!”

“I didn’t! I swear I didn’t!” Brook cried, grabbing hold of Judith, shaking so hard she was shaking. “I don’t even … I swear I didn’t do anything!”

“Hang on. I can solve this real quick.” She fired off a text to Moran, received an affirmative, and heaved a sigh of relief.

“What did you do?”

“Texted your boss’s handler. Jim’s with Seb Moran right now, you can stay here if you want.” Judith looked at Brook, who was white as a sheet. “Are you going to be okay? I can call a patrol to sit on the flat if that would make you feel better about your own safety.”

“Stop him.” Brook shook his head, “Stop my brother, please. Before this gets worse and someone dies.”

“Brother?” Sally frowned, “Wait a minute, is Jim Moriarty your brother?”

“Yes.”

“Jesus.” Judith blew out a slow breath, pacing the living-room, occasionally glancing out the window to the street. She pulled her phone from her pocket and dialled a number. It rang through a few times, and she listened for any sign of that phone ringing in the flat.

“Brook, where’s your phone?”

“Right here.” He held out a quiet phone to her, let her see that it wasn’t doing anything.

“Then, I’m right and my brother owes you an apology.” She waited while the call rang through and put the call on speaker-phone, “But I am not above hunting this moron through London tonight.”

“Well, well, hello, dear Watson!” Jim Moriarty sounded very chipper for the hour. Judith raised an eyebrow and looked at the boys.

“Hello, Jim. Where are you at the moment?”

“At my place. Why? Is something wrong?”

“It might be.” She heard a moan from Brook and turned to catch him as he fainted, “Oh, for…Jesus Christ!”

“I've got him, Jude.” Sally came over to help.

“Jim, I’ve had a long night no thanks to you.” She said bluntly, turning back to her phone call.

“I’m sorry, my love. But I can’t resist a good game!”

“I don’t like it when my friends are threatened like this, Jim, and you know that.” She helped Brook sit down and left Sally to look after him for a while. She needed to focus on this phone call. John and Sherlock were sufficiently scared into behaving themselves, and Kitty had so far cooperated with them.  

“By the way, I have Richard Brook with me. I thought you should know we found him.”

“Brook! Where in God’s name did you find him?” He didn’t sound as surprised as she thought he should. Not that she was surprised, he was such an odd individual it would actually be more of a shock if he did show some genuine emotion.

“Kitty Riley had him. She’s using him to smear Sherlock’s name in the papers.”  She looked at the unusual gathering of people in the room. “But I figure that’s sort of exactly what you want.”

“Riley?”

“Yes. Kitty Riley.” Judith didn’t have time to put up with false ignorance. “You know who she is, Jim. Don’t play dumb.”

“Oh, wait a minute! Isn’t she that hack journalist with The Sun?!”  Well, that was pretty telling. The look on Riley’s face was priceless. So much for sweethearts. Judith had to wonder what, exactly, Riley had been promised in exchange for her services.

“Oh, so you don’t think any better of her than Sherlock does?” She chuckled, “So, I have two very interested detectives sitting in Riley’s living-room right now.”

“Ah hah.” She heard Jim chuckle, “Hello, boys! Sorry for the chaos! But not really.”

“Moriarty, you fucking bastard!” John snarled, “I swear to god if you make one false move I will end you!”

“Temper temper, Captain Watson! I mean no harm!”

“Then call off this fucking ridiculous game!” John was pacing now, “We’re already the most wanted men in London!”

“Jim, just a friendly reminder.” Judith squeezed Brook’s hand, “You’re the one at a disadvantage right now. We have Brook. He won’t come to harm as long as I’m here, but as soon as I leave, his life is at risk. You know my policy.”

“Oh, you are such a kill-joy!” Moriarty sounded like a pouty child, “Would you actually stoop to holding my brother hostage?”

“Yes!” Three of them said it in unison. Judith and Sherlock weren’t likely to inflict harm on Brook, but that didn’t mean John would play nice.

“You’re a dead man either way come morning, Moriarty. I was nice to you, I played by your rules, I let you play your games, but when you messed with the Holmes brothers and got violent with my family, those rules changed. This my game now.” She narrowed her eyes, “I will stop you if it is the last thing I do in this life. Do you understand me?”

“No need for violence or threats, dear Watson. I know when I’m beaten.” He gave a rueful chuckle, “Never thought I’d be beaten at my own game, let alone by a woman.”

“That speaks to your arrogance. Sherlock learned that very same lesson in a very similar manner.” She glanced at Sherlock and John, “Interesting that it was Irene Adler who took down Sherlock Holmes, and John Watson’s unassuming sister who brought you to your knees, Jim Moriarty. See you in the morning.” She hung up on him then, pocketing her phone with a casual air.

“Jesus.” Someone breathed.

“Remind me never to get on her bad side,” Brook whispered hoarsely. A call came in from Headquarters asking for an update on the situation, she informed them that everything was in order and no arrests had been necessary. She ended the radio-call before Riley’s indignant outburst reached them on the other end. Judith silenced the reporter with a glare that had withered stronger people than she.

“Another word out of you, Riley, and the coldest corner of Siberia won’t be the worst place I can think of sending the likes of you. Shut. Your. Mouth.” Riley did just that, her teeth closing with an audible clack. Brook whimpered, John and Sherlock just looked at each other, a bit alarmed, and Sally nodded approvingly. The last time the boys had seen this behaviour from Judith, she had been tearing down Richard Barrymore during the Baskerville base.

 

They didn’t stay much longer once their business had concluded. Leaving the house ahead of the boys, Judith called for a patrol to take their place and sit on the house until they were relieved by another team. By then, John and Sherlock were out of sight. She had words with the patrol that responded, keeping her attention split between the house across the street and the constables before her.

“Listen, I don’t care if it’s coming, going, or otherwise. Any activity out of that house, and you let me know, do you understand?” She said bluntly. “If Kitty Riley leaves that house, if her guest leaves that house, if anyone comes to call, I want to know. Names and stats of any visitors, am I clear?”

“Yes, ma’am!” The pair saluted shakily. It was very clear that tonight was a bad night to question their superiors, more than a few jobs were at stake tonight. Judith and Sally were on the short-list, with Greg one step ahead of them. Satisfied that things were under control at Riley’s house, Judith returned to the Rover and made a call to Mycroft.

“Good morning, dear sister.”

“Apologies for the hour, Mycroft, but I need your help.”

“Of course. What can I do for you?”

“You know everything there is to know about Moriarty. Not that I’m ignorant, but I need whatever you can give me on Richard Brook. If he’s a real person or a fabrication.”

“Brook?”

“Richard Brook. Apparently an actor.” She chewed on her lip, “They’re saying he’s the one hired by your brother as part of an elaborate scam.”

“Christ, you’re not talking to Kitty Riley, are you?”

“Refuse to on principle, but her story’s about to blow up headlines in London. If Brook’s real, he’ll need protection.”

“From which side?”

“Both, at this rate. I guarantee you John would have given this guy a shiner if he had the chance. I’m dying for a reason to arrest someone who’s actually guilty of a crime, but he’s not my target.” She rubbed her forehead and looked at her console clock, “Jesus Christ, it’s half-two! Mycroft, help!”

“I’ve sent along what little we have of Richard Brook. He is both real, and a fabrication.” Mycroft sounded tired, not that she blamed him at all, “Good luck to you, and please take care of my brother.”

“Of course. Thanks, Mycroft.” She hung up with Mycroft and pulled up her email server. There was one email from Mycroft, which she opened and downloaded right away. Once the email had downloaded, she touched base with Greg, who told them to find a place to bunk down and get some rest. If he needed them, they would know. Judith decided to head for Baker Street, Sally had no opposition to that idea.

 

It was quiet as they arrived, and she dismissed the on-duty patrol that was sitting on the flat. They were the only two cars left on-scene this long after, everyone else had been dismissed and either gone back to the office or gone home.

“We’ll keep eyes on the place in case they come back.” She said, “Get back to base.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The pair of constables saluted and took off. As soon as they were out of sight, Judith looked at Sally and let out the breath she’d been holding for what seemed like hours.

“Well, come on. Let’s get inside.” She pocketed the keys and locked up once Sally was out of the car. Getting into Baker Street was simple, and they were careful not to wake Mrs Hudson. Clearing 221B didn’t take long, there was no sign the boys had been back at all since their break for freedom earlier. But no sooner had they cleared the place than Judith saw movement on the street.

“For fuck’s sake! What are they doing here?”

“They must have figured it was safe to come back.” Sally was kicking off her boots. Judith groaned and picked up their discarded hi-vis jackets, hanging them where John and Sherlock’s coats hung on normal days. She stacked their armour-vests and boots at the end of the couch and headed for the stairs as she pulled off her jumper. The front door opened and closed quietly, she heard murmuring voices and listened to their footsteps on the stairs.

“Jude?” John called softly, “Sal?”

“Up here, boys!” She kept her voice down as she sat down on the stairs until John and Sherlock had appeared and gotten into the flat, following them in. “Kicked the on-site patrols out not long ago. You’re safe here until notice.”

“Christ, what a fucking crazy night! Are you two okay?” John hung his jacket before collapsing on the couch as Judith locked the door.

“We’re good.” Judith watched as Sherlock circled the flat like a wolf circling its den, “I think Richard Brook is exactly who he says he is, and Jim Moriarty’s a fucking madman to put someone at risk like that.”

“Isn’t that what he does, though?”

“Hmm.” She yawned, “I don’t know about you two, but I’m beat to hell. I need a few hours of sleep before the next level of hell splits open.”

“You’re not sleeping out here, or up in my old room.” John heaved to his feet, heading for the back bedroom, “Come on, girls. Sherlock, you too.”

“Yes, sir.” Judith looked at the other two and smiled. Sherlock’s bed was big enough for the four of them, they’d shared it before in more peaceful days. Before Moriarty. Stripping to pants and vests or tee shirts, they curled up on the bed together, sleeping in a familiar tangle of bodies and sheets.



 

Chapter Text



They slept undisturbed from about three am until seven-fifteen, discounting the cats joining them at four, which was later than Judith or Sally usually slept. But since they were technically on watch-duty to sit on Baker Street until orders came to them otherwise, it didn’t matter if they slept in a bit. John fixed breakfast for all of them, and they went over the information Mycroft had sent her regarding Richard Brook. It was as she had suspected. Richard Brook was a real person, but everything else about him was fabricated. Well, almost everything else.

“Looks like you owe someone an apology, John.”

“I’ll apologize to him, but forget about Riley.”

“Don’t worry about her. I’ll get her on a few minor charges. Blackmail, slander, libel, defamation of character. A few things.”

“Can you actually do that, though?”

“If she won’t, I will!” Sally took a deep sip of coffee, “Happy to! She basically sold out for spite’s sake because Sherlock told her where to shove it!” Sherlock made a dismissive gesture.

“Hardly worth my time, and nothing I am sorry for.” He rolled his eyes as he paced the kitchen.

 

After breakfast, they snuck out of Baker Street. Getting to Saint Bart’s didn’t take long, and she checked in with Greg to let him know that she and Sally were on-site at the hospital if he wanted them to take a patrol there.

“Yeah, if you wouldn’t mind. I take it you girls got some sleep last night despite the excitement?”

“Yes, sir. And we never disturbed Mrs Hudson. I’m not even sure if she knew any of us were home last night.”

“Better the two of you than someone else. Another patrol sat on the house last night, reported all quiet. Told ‘em you two were on the inside keeping an eye out from there.” Greg sounded tired, “Any sign of the boys?”

“Why do you think I asked for Saint Bart’s, Greg?” She looked into the back seat of her car as they arrived at the hospital. Getting through the gate separating the hospital from the street was simple and Greg warned them to be alert. So far as he was aware, they were the only Met presence at the hospital and he would try to keep it that way. “We’ll be in touch, yeah?”

“Take it easy, kids. It’s a risky thing you’re doing.” He chuckled, “How’s John?”

“Taking it like a champ. We’ll get through this, Greg. Don’t know how, but we will.” She pulled the keys from the ignition and got out as she hung up with Greg after exchanging goodbyes. It was quiet as they entered the hospital and made their way down to the chemistry lab where Sherlock and John had spent hours on cases or just for the hell of keeping Sherlock out of trouble at Baker Street.

 

Judith and Sally patrolled the hospital inside and outside alike, keeping eyes on the boys and looking out for any sign of Moriarty’s people. Judith touched base with Moran, who clarified that he had been with Moriarty all night the previous night. That just made her angry regarding poor Richard Brook.

“Does he really not care about collateral?! My god, my brother almost destroyed Brook!”

“That’s what he wanted.”

“Fucking Christ. Would it make me a terrible person to hope something goes wrong today and Moriarty gets a taste of Karma? I can’t stand this!”

“You weren’t my best because you had a weak constitution.” Moran was stable, providing a distant anchor-point for Judith’s imbalance, “Do you remember what I told you during The Great Game? The first time we met on the train to Saint Bart’s?”

“Sort of?” She made a face, “A lot has happened since then, Seb.”

“I told you to treat the situation like you’re on a covert mission. Remember how you acted, what you did, what you said.” His voice was soothing in her ear and she closed her eyes, taking and releasing a deep breath, “Those same principles apply today. Calm your mind, calm your body, this is an operation now. Do not worry about yourself or any of your loved ones. Everything will turn out as it should.”

“Thank god for you, Seb.” She leaned her forehead against the steering wheel of her car, “Should I look into getting Richard Brook to safety?”

“Where would you take him?”

“I have no idea.” She looked out the windscreen at people coming and going on business, unaware of the drama unfolding behind closed doors. “I don’t trust anyone from The Met and I have to be on the streets to keep eyes on Sherlock and John.”

“You clever girl.” Moran chuckled, “I trained you well, yeah?”

“Everything I didn’t learn from MI6, Seb, I learned from you.” She sat back and drummed her fingertips on the wheel. “I never regretted those lessons, look where they’ve gotten me?”

“You have this under control now, Lucifer. See the mission through to its end.”

“Yes, sir.” Judith sighed and hung up with Moran. This could end well or poorly, and she wasn’t really sure who had control anymore.

 

Sally came out a bit later and hopped into the car.

“Everything good out here?”

“Yep. We’ve got work to do.” Judith finished what she was doing and looked over her shoulder.

“Where are we going?”

“Kitty Riley’s place.”

“For what?” 

“I need to get Richard Brook into safe custody as soon as possible.”

“Do you have someone to watch him? You know we can’t take time out to do it ourselves.”

“Worst case we put him under a 48-hour hold until this blows over. Jail might actually be the safest place for him today.” She started the car and headed for Kitty Riley’s house.

 

When they got there, they were not surprised to see a silver BMW sitting out front.

“There’s Greg.” She murmured as they parked behind the BMW. Making sure she had her Browning and her handcuffs, she waited for Sally. They joined Greg, who looked like he hadn’t slept at all since the show-down at Baker Street, and approached the house. 

“Met Police, open up!” Judith knocked on the door with her torch. There was a commotion inside, she looked at Sally, who nodded.

“Miss Riley, open this door or it’s coming down! Open the door right now!” The door was pulled open by Kitty Riley, who took one look at them and frowned at them.

“Um, can I help you?”

“Step out of the house, Miss Riley.” Judith said calmly, waving the woman out, “We’re looking for Richard Brook.”

“He’s not here.”

“Don’t lie to me, Riley. He was here last night, and if he’s left this house without me knowing, I will search every dark corner of this city to find him.” She handed Riley over to Sally and pushed the door open with her foot, looking around, “I have Mr. Brook’s safety in mind which is more than I can ever say for you.” The flat was quiet, it looked empty, but she cleared it and found Brook in the bedroom. As soon as he saw her, registered her uniform, his eyes widened.

“You’re not going to hurt me?”

“No, Mr Brook.” She held out one hand to him, “And I have strong words for the people who did this to you. Were you hurt at all last night?”

“No. I mean…I don’t think so?” He took her hand, “Why do you look familiar?”

“I was sitting on this house last night when you got home to find you had some unwelcome company. I was the one who responded to your neighbour’s call to Emergency Services. I’m very sorry my brother tried to take it out on your head.”

“Oh, wait! You’re Judith Watson!” He smiled, “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you before! I should have known, you’re the sweet one!” No one who knew more about Judith than her name called her sweet. She could be downright brutal. But the sentiment was not misplaced.

“Come with me, Mr Brook, I’ll keep you out of trouble. And don’t worry about getting caught by anyone.” She led him out of the bedroom and out of the house after putting him in handcuffs, “The cuffs are for your safety and ours.”

“But Moriarty…he’s smart. He knows everything.”

“You’ll be safe until this is over, just do what you're told and keep your head down.” She ushered him out of the house and looked around as Greg held the back door of the BMW open for them, “Take a seat.”

“Thank you, oh god, thank you for this.” He sat down quietly and she closed the door on him, calling Moran to report in on the situation.

“Well done, Lucifer. Keep him off the streets until the coast is clear.”

“That’s the plan, sir. I’ll be in touch.” Hanging up, she looked at Greg.

“Head for base. I’ll come along. Sally’s got Riley.”

“No kidding she’s got Riley!” He shook his head and she slid into the front seat, “You kids are fast, you know? All quiet on your fronts?”

“Yes, sir.” She smiled and leaned across the console as he started the car, “All quiet and waiting for the storm to break.” He smirked and took a quick kiss.

 

It was quiet as they drove back to base, and she got Brook booked into holding. If anyone was surprised to see him, they didn’t say anything. Once Brook was secure, she went to help Sally book in a very confrontational Kitty Riley, who didn’t seem to realize or care how much trouble she was actually in.

“How long do we need to watch him?” Greg asked quietly as they regrouped.

“Until I get back to you regarding Jim Moriarty’s status. For now, he’s on our side.” She looked over her shoulder as she got ready to leave, “I don’t trust the Moriartys, but I have no reason to treat Richard Brook like a criminal. That could change, but for now, I need to protect him.” She reclaimed her Rover with Sally and took back her post at Saint Bart’s.

 

Just before noon, things started happening. Judith was walking a short patrol when she suddenly saw John come tearing out of the hospital in a fit. She had picked up a call over the radio for shots fired on Baker Street, so she had a pretty good idea where he was going.

“John!” She called him back, “Get in! I’ll drive!”

“What happened?!”

“I don’t know, they’re calling shots fired but nothing beyond that. Get in!” She radioed Sally, told her to stay with Sherlock.

“Don’t let him do anything stupid, Sally! Stay on him!”

“Roger that! Where are you going?”

“Back to Baker Street. Be back in a few!” She took off for Baker Street, lights and sirens on, and they made the twenty-minute drive in easily half that.

 

Pulling up at 221 Baker Street, Judith had her Browning out and ready, thumb on the safety. John was right behind her as she tried the door. It had been locked from inside. John used his house-key and she shoved her weight to the door, throwing it open. The door banged against the wall and she sprinted through into the foyer, skidding when she caught sight of Mrs Hudson standing at the base of the ladder on which one of Moriarty’s assassins was perched. Neither of them had heard Judith and John’s noisy entry, but Mrs Hudson caught sight of them and her eyes widened.

“Oh! What are you two doing home?!”

“Mrs Hudson, are you alright?!” John grabbed her by the arm, “You shouldn’t be out here!”

“John, get her inside.” Judith put herself between her brother’s landlady and the ladder, “I’ll take care of this one.” She slid on her sling-ring and opened a sling-portal onto the slopes of Mount Everest. Before the assassin could react, she shoved her full weight against the ladder and toppled it. He pitched through the portal into the snow-field on the other side and she sealed the portal before he hit the ground. The ladder crashed against the wall, but that was one threat minimized. Her radio squawked and she took a frantic call from Sally.

“He’s gone, Jude! I lost him!”

“Get eyes on Sherlock, Sally! Do it now! Find him! Get back to me when you’ve got eyes on him! We’re on our way back right now!” She yelled as she took off for the door.

“John! Move! Mrs Hudson, stay inside.”

“What’s wrong?” Mrs Hudson came out of her flat, a little frantic. “Has something happened to Sherlock?”

“I’m not sure, Mrs Hudson. As soon as I know something, I will let you know.” Judith looked at her landlady as she held the door for John. “Do not answer the door for anyone you don’t know!”

“You two be careful out there!” Mrs Hudson called, following them to the door.

“Sherlock is a complete moron! Can I take a shot at Moriarty?” Her brother snarled as they returned to her car and made a ten-minute trip back to the hospital. They parked alongside the Smithfield Ambulance Station and abandoned the car, running towards the hospital. Judith could only hope they weren’t too late.

 

***

 

Sherlock Holmes stood face-to-face with the only man who had ever given him a reason to worry about himself or any of his loved ones. Jim Moriarty was everything he could be without friends. That scared him. In a sudden movement, Sherlock grabbed him by the collar of his coat with both hands and spun him around so that Jim’s back was to the drop. He stared into his face and then shoved him back one step nearer the edge. Jim looked at him with interest as Sherlock’s breathing became shorter.

“You’re insane.” He snarled, almost beyond reason.

“You’re just getting that now?” Jim blinked at him, almost disappointed. “Oh, you are a slow one, Mr Holmes.”

 

Sherlock shoved him further back, now holding him over the edge. Jim whooped almost triumphantly and gazed back at him with no fear in his eyes, holding his hands out wide and committing himself to Sherlock’s grasp. This man was completely mad!

“Okay, let me give you a little extra incentive.” Sherlock frowned. Extra incentive to what? Jump? What did Moriarty think he had on Sherlock that he could use as leverage to keep Sherlock from dropping him off the roof of Saint Barts?

“Your friends will die if you don’t.” Jim’s voice became far more hostile. This wasn’t a game anymore.

“John.” His first thought was for John Watson. Dear, sweet John Watson, who had stayed at his side through every mad adventure he’d managed to drag up for them, never doubting him for a moment, trusting him to keep them both alive. Trusting Sherlock, London’s most-wanted would-be criminal, to hold a loaded gun to the side of his head and take him hostage.

“Not just John.” Jim whispered, “Everyone.”

“Mrs Hudson?” God bless his sweet landlady for putting up with Sherlock, John, Judith, and Sally. All of the grief the four of them gave her and all she ever did was love them.

“Everyone.” Jim’s smile was delighted and sickening. “Three bullets; three gunmen; three victims. There’s no stopping them now.” Furious, Sherlock pulled Jim back upwards to safety. Jim stared into his face.

“Unless my people see you jump.” Something in Sherlock’s chest tightened, and the words swirled in a menacing echo in every corner of his conscious mind: “You can have me arrested; you can torture me; you can do anything you like with me; but nothing’s gonna prevent them from pulling the trigger. Your only three friends in the world will die... unless…”

“...unless I kill myself – complete your story.” He looked at the madman who had completely turned Sherlock’s life upside-down with almost no effort at all. But how much of it was really Jim Moriarty’s clever dirty-work and how much of it was Sherlock just...giving up and playing the game Moriarty so desperately wanted him to play? And why couldn’t he shake the feeling that there was something Jim either didn’t know or had forgotten about? Something about his little hit-list. What was it?

“You’ve gotta admit that’s sexier.” A matter of personal opinion.

“And I die in disgrace.” He was staring across the street.

“Of course.” Jim said in a matter-of-fact tone that annoyed him so much, “That’s the point of this.” They looked over the side and saw that someone had stopped at the benches near the bus stop below them, and several other people were in the vicinity.

“Oh, you’ve got an audience now. Off you pop.” Those were either Moriarty’s people, or those were his people, getting into position and waiting for his signal.

“Go on.” Sherlock slowly stepped past him and up onto the ledge.

“I told you how this ends. Your death is the only thing that’s gonna call off the killers.” Moriarty wasn’t even looking at him anymore, “I’m certainly not gonna do it.”

“Would you give me...one moment, please; one moment of privacy?” He looked down at Jim, who watched with sickening anticipation. “Please?”

“Of course.” Jim moved away across the roof. Sherlock took several shallow anxious breaths, then he stopped breathing for a moment as his brain kicked into gear again. He lifted his gaze and his expression became more thoughtful. After a bit, something occurred to him and he started to laugh.

“What?” Sherlock continued to laugh, unable to help himself.

“What is it?” Jim demanded angrily. Sherlock half turned on the ledge, smiling as he glared back.

“What did I miss?” Sherlock hopped down off the ledge and walked closer to Jim Moriarty.

““You’re not going to do it.” So the killers can be called off, then – there’s a recall code or a word or a number.” Now he was the one circling his prey. “I don’t have to die...if I’ve got you.” His voice took on a sing-song quality as he circled his nemesis.

“Oh!” He laughed in relieved delight, but it wasn’t going to be a very long relief for Jim Moriarty, “You think you can make me stop the order? You think you can make me do that?”

“Yes. So do you.”

“Sherlock, your big brother and all the King’s horses couldn’t make me do a thing I didn’t want to.” Jim rolled his eyes.

“Yes, but I’m not my brother, remember? I am you – prepared to do anything; prepared to burn; prepared to do what ordinary people won’t do.” He leaned in, getting into Jim’s personal space in a way he knew would make the other man uncomfortable, “You want me to shake hands with you in hell? I shall not disappoint you.”

“Naah. You talk big. Naah.” Jim shook his head slowly, “You’re ordinary. You’re ordinary – you’re on the side of the angels.”

“Oh, I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them.” He turned to the ledge and looked out. Below him, he saw a marked Range Rover pull into the round-about and stop next to the ambulance station. He had managed to shake a Met tail to meet Jim Moriarty on the roof, he was dead certain Sally Donovan had called Judith Watson once she lost sight of him. Now Judith had come back to Saint Bart’s, and he would be damned if John hadn’t followed his sister. Never underestimate the Watsons, it was usually one of the very last mistakes you had the misfortune of making. He had to keep playing along, just a while longer.

“No, you’re not.” Jim blinked, then closed his eyes briefly. Sherlock did likewise in an unintentional mirror movement. Jim smiled and opened his eyes again.

“I see. You’re not ordinary. No. You’re me. You’re me! Thank you!” He lifted his right hand as if to embrace Sherlock, but then lowered it and offered it to him to shake instead. “Sherlock Holmes.” They both looked down at the offered hand, then Sherlock slowly raised his own right hand and took it.

“Thank you. Bless you.” Jim blinked and lowered his gaze as if blinking back tears. After a moment, he raised his head and looked at Sherlock, leaning in to whisper something to him. The words he’s been waiting for: “As long as I’m alive, you can save your friends; you’ve got a way out. Well, good luck with that.”

 

He raised his eyes to Sherlock’s, grinned manically, and pulled Sherlock closer while he reached into his waistband. It didn’t occur to him how much trouble he was actually in until Jim shoved the barrel of a pistol into his mouth with his free hand and went to pull the trigger on himself. Shock settled in, followed by panic. Sherlock’s brain had shut down and he reacted on sheer instinct. Grabbing Moriarty by the hand, he pulled hard, fighting for control of the gun. The gun discharged between them, he felt a sharp pain in his chest. Adrenaline guided his body and he used his falling weight against Moriarty. There was a struggle, a release, and a yell. Sherlock didn’t feel anything when he hit the pavement. The broken body of Jim Moriarty broke some of his fall, but he was already dead by the time they landed. That sort of thing happened if you managed to get shot in the heart trying to be a hero.

 

***

 

When Judith heard the sound of gunfire above them, she skidded to a halt and looked up. Grabbing her brother, she pulled him out of the way. They watched, horrified, as both Sherlock and Moriarty fell from the roof. At the last minute, she thought to use a bit of magic to soften Sherlock’s landing, for all the good it did them. He was gone before he touched the pavement at their feet. Moriarty hadn’t survived the fall, and neither had Sherlock. One had died of impact-injuries, the other of a GSW to the chest. John held Sherlock, silent and whiter than a sheet.

“This isn’t how it happens.” She muttered, kneeling beside her brother to close Sherlock’s eyes, “This isn’t how it ends. Only one of them will die today, and it will not be Sherlock Holmes!”

“But…Jude, we can’t control temporal magic like that!” John wiped tears from his cheek, leaving a streak of red against his skin.

We can’t, but I know someone who can. Stay here until I come back.”

“Where are you going?” John asked hoarsely, trying to reconcile everything that had just happened.

“To get help. Stay with him.” She leaned down and kissed Sherlock on the forehead, “I’ll come back and save your life, Sherlock. You have an entire future ahead of you, I’ll give it back to you.”

 

Using a sling-portal, Judith travelled from London to New York. It was early morning in New York, roughly seven am, and she was desperately hoping that she wouldn’t be giving Stephen Strange a rude awakening. She hadn’t raised any alarms coming in and went to see if the Master of New York was awake yet or if she was about to give him a rude wake-up call. She really needed his help. But there was no sign of him in Sanctorum. Hoping to God he was in Kamar-Taj, she opened the doors to the Map Room and walked through by herself. Just as she’d hoped, there he was. He had gathered with Master Wong of Hong Kong Sanctum. There was no Master for London Sanctum yet, they were still vetting candidates. Judith knew she wasn’t expected in Kamar-Taj, but she needed help now from Stephen like she had never needed help before.



 

Chapter Text



As the claxon sounded for Sanctorum, Stephen Strange was not expecting the doors to open on Judith Watson, of all people. She had come straight from London, by the looks of it, she wore a rumpled, stained Met uniform. It took him moments to deduce that the blood on her uniform and hands was fresh and not her own. Her eyes were dark and haunted, as if she had seen something unspeakable.

“Judith!” He caught the gifted young wizard, “What happened?!”

“I thought you were in New York.” She sounded dazed, sad, “Stephen, I need your help. I need you to…Christ.”

“Whoa, whoa. Take it easy.” he caught her as she slumped, “What happened to London, Judith? Is the Sanctum safe?”

“It might be the only thing that is.” She looked at him, “It’s Sherlock. I need … to save his life.”

“Why do you need me?”

“Because you’ve mastered the magic of turning back time. I need you to do that for me in London.”

“That’s messing with fates already in motion, it shouldn’t be done,” Wong said carefully. Judith shook her head.

“No, I know, but you don’t understand. Only one of them was supposed to die! Something went wrong and Sherlock died.” She looked back at the door to London Sanctum, “Please, Stephen!” Begging was unnecessary, Stephen was willing to help. He was very fond of the Watsons and those attached to them. And Judith had a very reasonable request. This wasn’t nearly turn-back on the scale they had seen in Hong Kong all those months ago, this was at the most a few minutes. She could very likely handle it by herself, but the fact that she was reaching out to him for help proved that she knew her own limits and respected them. He would help her turn back the clock on a very personal tragedy and put things back to rights.

 

***

 

Desperate to set things right with recent history, Judith found herself standing on the street in front of Saint Bart’s at the exact moment everything had started going wrong. The only people aware of the moment time froze were Judith and John, and Stephen Strange. Up on the roof, she could see Sherlock and Moriarty facing each other. A moment’s patience paid off as Stephen Strange stepped onto the ledge. Time to make sure history didn’t repeat itself. She opened a sling-portal onto the rooftop and joined Stephen. John stayed behind on street-level. Once she had reached the roof, they turned time a bit more to watch just what went wrong. It was one thing to see the aftermath, their broken bodies on the street below, but it was something else completely to see the moment it had happened. Sherlock had tried to take the gun from Moriarty and only succeeded in getting himself shot.

 

After getting an idea of what had gone wrong, they turned back to the precise moment before Sherlock reached for the gun. Judith put her hand on Sherlock’s shoulder and leaned close.

“Don’t try to take the gun!” She whispered, “For all our sakes, Sherlock!” Time restarted and they watched from street-level. They heard the moment Jim Moriarty took his own life, and not three minutes later, John’s phone was lighting up with a call from Sherlock. Judith had her own call to answer from Seb.

“Seb!”

“Did Jim pull the trigger on himself?”

“Yes, he did!”

“Do not let Sherlock Holmes jump from that ledge! Whatever you do!”

“I wasn’t planning on it.” She breathed, “Although how you plan on making that possible, I’d really love to know.”

“You have a gift, Judith, that I can’t begin to understand.” Seb sounded a bit tense, almost sad, if she had to put a word to it. “Stop him, the only way you can.” Judith looked over her shoulder at where she thought Seb might be posted. There was only one thing he could be talking about.

“How long have you known?”

“Since last July. After all, it’s not every day some cultist yahoo attacks London, disappears, and you go missing right after.” He sounded muffled, “I’ve seen weird shit in my time, but magic was a new one for me.”

“And you never told anyone?”

“Why would I? Who would believe me?” He chuckled, a harsh, breathless sound, “Jesus Christ, Judith! You and your brother are two of the deadliest people in London right now, forget what Jim was capable of! You could level the city without blinking if you wanted!”

“That’s a bit extreme, Seb. We don’t have that much power.” She looked up at the rooftop and knew they were running out of time to fix things. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

“Why do you think I called you, my dear Watson? Stop. Sherlock. Holmes.” The line clicked dead and she watched the phone drop from Sherlock’s hand.

“Sherlock!” John yelled, one hand outstretched as if that would be enough to stop time. Stephen stopped time for them just before Sherlock took that fatal final step off the ledge, and they set up a series of spells to break his fall. Even if he had a plan in place, they couldn’t trust him to survive.

“Focus, John!” Judith hissed as they watched Sherlock plummet from the ledge, “Full focus! Don’t look away!”

“Not gonna happen.” Her brother muttered. They caught Sherlock with the safety-net of magic and lowered him to solid ground. The spells wrapped in around the troubled, disgraced consulting detective, and disappeared as soon as his head touched concrete. He was unconscious, and when they missed his pulse, John freaked out a bit. But cooler heads prevailed and Stephen took his pulse in his left wrist instead. He was alive but very death-like. A team of agents from Sherlock’s network disguised as hospital staff emerged and shuffled him off to the morgue.

 

***

 

Word had gotten out fast on the radios that Sherlock Holmes had been spotted on the rooftop of Saint Bart’s Hospital and committed suicide, so it didn’t take long for Greg Lestrade and James Roben to arrive with the sole purpose of identifying Sherlock’s body. John, Judith, and Sally were all waiting for them when they arrived, even Stephen had stayed behind to keep them company. Moran had gone to dismantle the London branch of the network to give them a head-start on some very unpleasant work. By the time their Met higher-ups arrived, Judith and John had both traded the clothes they’d worn the past forty-eight hours for the more unusual uniforms they wore as sorcerers. It wasn’t often they left the safety of the Sanctums or their own homes wearing the blue and grey outfits. In fact, they hadn’t ever left the privacy of the Sanctums and Kamar-Taj in anything except normal civilian wear and Judith’s uniforms. They were very comfortable wearing the unusual clothes, but this was the first time they had ever come out in public like this.

 

When Greg Lestrade reported to the Saint Barts morgue with the Chief Superintendent on the afternoon of November 20th, he tried to convince himself that what they were about to do was all formalities and one of his most trusted friends and valuable contacts was not dead. As they entered the morgue, Greg saw Roben falter and looked up to see what had gotten his attention like that. There was nothing terribly out of place that he noticed, the Watson twins stood by the doors with two others, Greg recognized Sally Donovan right away. And that’s when he realized that what he didn’t find unusual was very peculiar to someone like James Roben. For one thing, John and Judith were not wearing the same clothes they’d worn throughout this latest fiasco, but rather very simple, almost medieval clothes with a very obvious Asian influence in red and gray. He hadn’t seen Judith wear that outfit outside of the house before, and paused for a moment. Even when she executed magic, she always wore “normal” clothes, never the unusual outfits favoured by her peers in Kamar-Taj. He recognized the tall frame of Stephen Strange and heaved a sigh of relief.  It was interesting to see the Watsons with Strange, but it was very clear that they were comfortable not only with the arrogant yet charming ex-surgeon but with their budding skills.

“That’s not…!” Roben trailed off, gaping.

“Sherlock Holmes? No, sir.” Seeing Strange from behind had brought Roben to a dead halt, and Greg snickered. “That is Stephen Strange. Good friend of the Watsons.” He knew exactly what it was about the former neurosurgeon that had that precise expression on his boss’s face and couldn't help a mean chuckle.

“What on earth is he wearing?!” Roben had noticed that gorgeous red cloak Strange wore. Greg was pretty sure it was sentient but didn’t give much thought to an article of clothing that could think for itself. As they approached, he saw the cloak sway a bit and twist. He was sure that if it had been an animal, the thing would have raised its hackles and hissed at them. Well, to be more precise, it wasn’t him at all. It was Roben. Smart fucking cloak if it didn’t like Roben.

“I think you’d better stand back, sir. Let me handle this.” He murmured, putting one hand on Roben’s shoulder as the cloak rustled and twitched, trying to get it’s wearer’s attention. To let them all know that someone it didn’t approve of was coming up on their flank. He’d be an idiot in hell if he didn’t think the Watsons hadn’t already seen him. With one hand out as he would approach a stray, frightened dog, Greg came up alongside Strange, running his hand along the fabric of the cloak and smiling as it ruffled and settled calm again, wrapping around his hand for a minute. The damn thing liked him, for some reason.

“Oh, good afternoon, Inspector Lestrade.” Strange turned and smiled at him, that genuine smile Greg knew was saved for a very few lucky people in his even smaller circle of friends and social contacts.

“Doctor. I wish we were meeting on happier terms, but nothing for it, eh?” He glanced over his shoulder at Roben, who stared in shock, “Can’t say I’m sorry for the nasty shock my boss just got a minute ago.”

“Neither are we,” John growled, arms folded across his chest as he glared at Roben unnoticed. Oh, if looks could kill!

 

It was very clear in Roben’s reaction to the sight of Stephen pacing the hallway outside the morgue in his mystic garb, that it was the first time he’d set eyes on a legitimate sorcerer. He knew they existed, Judith’s arrest-records proved that pretty clearly whenever she came up with a take marked “Mystic/Metaphysical/Other”, but he hadn’t actually seen one in person. Most of the time they were very normal-looking, in nondescript civilian street-clothes, not drawing much attention to who they were and what they were capable of. And he had just come face-to-face with three at once, and three very irate and angry sorcerers to boot. Greg couldn’t say he was too sorry for the nasty shock.

 

With business to attend to, he went into the morgue and greeted a subdued, tearful Molly Hooper. He noticed that the sorcerers stayed outside with Sally, and figured that they had already seen the bodies. Molly stood behind two prep-tables, each one with a sealed body-bag tagged for the victims of the standoff. Greg hung back while James Roben approached the tables. He looked at both tables and tapped the left table.

“This one first.”

“Yes, sir.” Molly nodded and quietly opened the body-bag on the left-hand table.

“Lestrade.” Roben looked over his shoulder, “Call it.” Greg braced himself. He had no idea which body was on which table. 

“That’s definitely Sherlock Holmes, sir.” He didn’t need more than a quick glimpse, and he turned from the table, shaking his head, “I’ve known the man for more than a decade, you couldn't convince me this was a body-double.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Well, I saw him last at Baker Street, before he ran with Watson, and I think I’m one of the only people who knows how he got this scar.” Molly quietly turned Sherlock’s head and Greg pointed out a faint scar under his left jaw. Roben nodded, satisfied, and Greg signalled Molly to close the bag again. The second bag contained the corpse of James Moriarty, for whom Greg felt a special breed of hate.

 

Once both bodies had been identified, Roben took his leave. Greg followed him out. Roben didn’t stick around, it was obvious this whole affair made him uncomfortable, and the presence of three sorcerers who probably had his number didn’t help much. But Greg didn’t care for his boss’s comfort or, in this case, discomfort. The prick didn’t deserve a clear conscience after what had happened last night. As soon as Roben was gone, Greg let out an audible sigh of relief.

“Thanks for coming down, Greg. I’m so sorry.” Judith hugged him tightly. “I’m so sorry.” He felt a slight tremor in her frame and knew this was very hard on her.

“I just don’t get it.” He let out a slow breath, “Suicide doesn’t seem like something Sherlock would do, you know?”

“Hmm. He was a bit too fond of himself for that, but I guess not enough to fall for Jim Moriarty’s shill.”

“Now what?”

“Sherlock and Moriarty’s deaths go very public, and we figure out what in black hell’s name we’re going to do about Richard Brook.” Judith took his free hand, the cloak was getting very touchy on the other side. “And you have a new friend.”

“Y’know, I thought we were lucky this thing wasn’t a dog or a cat, I kind of expected it to hiss at us.” He rubbed the soft fabric between his fingers and smirked as it twitched. “Touchy thing, ain’t it?”

“I’ve been told it’s very picky.” Strange smiled, “But it doesn’t seem to mind certain people.”

“I am very fine being on it’s white-list.” He chuckled as the cloak wrapped itself around his hand. “Oh, whatever happened to Colonel Moran?”

“In the wind. He’ll surface when he needs to, but right now it’s better for him to stay under The Met’s radar.”

“As long as he doesn’t try to break Brook out of jail.”

“He wouldn't. Brook isn’t as important to him as Moriarty was.” John leaned his head back, far calmer than Greg would have been in his place.

“What happened, exactly? The dispatchers were a little vague on details.”

“He jumped.” Sally kicked her heel against the wall, “The bloody moron jumped from the roof, and made the rest of us watch! It was awful!”

“Oh, this ought to be a good one for the media.” Greg coughed. He didn’t stay long at the hospital, there was plenty of work to do back at The Yard. He took Judith and Sally back to the office, and if anyone thought it was strange that Judith was out of uniform, no one said a thing about it.

 

After getting some decent work done, Roben called them to his office and laid down terms for them. Judith and Greg were being offered administrative leave for their part in the fiasco, to which they said good riddance and packed out for three months away from the chaos. Not only were they getting paid by The Met, which was going to annoy a lot of people, but their income was being supplemented by the kindness of Mycroft Holmes. It wasn’t much, but more than he thought they deserved. On top of that, arrangements were made to continue paying Sherlock’s part of the rent at Baker Street so that John could keep living there if he wanted to.

 

Carrying two boxes each of personal effects, Greg left The Met with Judith at his side. They had left behind the keys to their respective cars, wanting nothing to do with their jobs between now and the day they returned to regular duty outside of occasional outings with their NSY peers for pub nights, so they took a taxi home. The first thing he did was take a shower and sleep for twelve hours. Practical concerns would be addressed when he had slept enough to make up for at least some of the lost hours, but not a minute before then. Whatever the future held, Greg would face it head-on and without fear.