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All the Queen's Men

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“John, is that necessary?” Sherlock asked from the door way as he watched his partner tuck his gun into the waist band of his trousers.

They were only going out to celebrate Harry’s birthday, a gun seemed excessive unless John was keeping something from him. It wasn’t the first time that thought had crossed his mind.

In the two weeks since Willa and John had presented Sherlock with the adoption papers. John had been more vigilant than he’d been even in the days following the birthday present incident in January. He was compulsively checking and locking the doors at night, sleeping with the camera feed to Willa’s room pulled up on his mobile and wearing the gun almost every time they went out.

Then there were the texts.

At first Sherlock had thought he was imagining things, imagining hearing John’s phone vibrate in the middle of the night, because John wasn’t restricting his access to the phone. He never snapped or snarled when Sherlock used it instead of crossing the room for his own. Then Sherlock had most certainly heard a text alert and when he went to investigate only twenty minutes later no text was to be found. John was deleting them. So he did what any perfectly paranoid partner would do, he stayed up for three nights in a row waiting for another text to come in.

When John’s phone finally vibrated on the third night, Sherlock gingerly reached over and snapped it up.

+44 7700 900651
So many flowers at this time of year.
I especially love the roses.
Will you buy me some?

Sherlock had feared cheating at first, a thought that had been crawling in the dark recesses of his mind since John had gone to Wales. Except John was barely leaving the house for anything other than work and on the rare occasions he left alone there was never any sign of infidelity. John certainly never seemed any more pleasant after he got back.

So after talking himself out of a blind panic Sherlock had begun looking at the message for codes. It certainly wasn’t a skip code and after some examination there didn’t appear to be any hidden meaning behind the words.

When John had woken and looked at his phone, message still displayed on the screen as unread, he scowled and shoved it face down on the night stand. John then turned and snuggled closer into Sherlock, complaining that he didn’t want to get up.

Mycroft had given him a devastating blow later that afternoon. The number was from a burn phone.

So yes, John was most certainly keeping something from Sherlock.

John pulled the back of his cardigan over the gun. “Probably not.”

“Then why are you bringing it?” Sherlock pushed.

“Because I’m paranoid.” John said simply and walked over to him. He pulled Sherlock down by his collar and kissed him. “You knew that.”

Sherlock returned the kiss albeit a little reluctantly. “It’s a Benihana, hardly a hotbed of crime.”

John sighed and pulled back clearly exasperated. “Sherlock.” His tone was warning.

“What about not wanting your gun around Willa? It’s practically become a part of you.” Sherlock continued, not caring how irritated he made John now. Worst case scenario was he would get angry and ask Sherlock to stay home, not exactly the worst thing in the world.

John pushed by him. “Because I’ve been thinking and I think it’s best if I keep it on me when we’re out. Are you telling me it wouldn’t have been useful at the park?”

Sherlock followed John into the kitchen. “Would you honestly have shot a man in broad daylight in front of your daughter?”

That brought John up short, Sherlock nearly collided with his back. “Not fatally.” He said eventually. “And our daughter. Not just mine anymore.”

Sherlock narrowed his eyes at John, he knew what he was doing. John had been absolutely delighted to discover he could effectively halt all trains of thought by referring to Willa as Sherlock’s daughter or even their daughter. It was a dirty trick and John used it constantly the first week. There was something about the idea that Willa was now his daughter as well that Sherlock’s mind could not fully process.

He was getting better at ignoring it though which was why it didn’t work this time. “That’s not the point John.”

John shrugged as if to say worth a try. “Sherlock I’m paranoid, alright? You know I’m a worrier, this is me worrying. Let it go.”

Sherlock had absolutely no intention of letting it go right up until he heard the sound of sandals descending down the wooden stairs.

Seconds later Willa rounded the corner carrying her hair brush and plastic box of hair ties. “Papa, will you do my hair?”

Sherlock cast one last glare at John, who wasn’t facing him to notice, before looking at Willa and nodding. “Of course.” It was entirely possible that as long as she prefaced a question with ‘papa’ he would have great difficulty telling her no. He was worried she would catch on to that.

Sherlock hadn’t admitted it to John, though he suspected he knew, but he enjoyed fixing Willa’s hair. There was something therapeutic about doing her hair for him and she enjoyed it too, nearly purring when he brushed it. Both she and John could brush it and make passable pony tails but it was only Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson who could tame it into anything resembling order.

“We’re going to be late.” John warned from where he was leaning against the counter watching them, there was a small smile touching his lips.

Sherlock shrugged. “And yet it’ll be a miracle if your sister gets there before we do.”

Willa tilted her head back to look up at him. “You have to be nice to Aunt Harry, it’s her birthday.” She scolded.

Sherlock tried to push her head back down so he could finish. “That’s a stupid rule.”

“We were nice to you on your birthday.” Willa said and stubbornly refused to move her head.

Sherlock sighed. “No, you were nice to me on your birthday. Now look at your dad so I can finish.”

Willa listened then and dropped her head back down.

~~~~~~

John made faces at Willa to make her giggle while Sherlock finished fussing with her hair. She returned them with a few of her own that made John grin broadly. 

The pressure of the gun in his lower back was a constant reminder that no matter how wonderful everything felt just then, it was all just smoke and mirrors.

His happiness wasn’t fake, he’d never been happier than he was in this moment. Even at his ‘happiest’ with Mary, just after the wedding when they’d found out about their daughter, he’d never even come close to this. The closest he’d come was the feeling of those months with Sherlock before he jumped from the roof. But being with Sherlock, being his partner in every way, and watching him fully grow into being Willa’s papa was truly one of the best things he’d ever done.

But there was a dark cloud over his head, one he wasn’t willing to share with Sherlock because he didn’t want to dampen the utter joy the other man was feeling lately. There would be a time, somewhere in the near future where he would have to tell him but now it wasn’t necessary. For now, though, he would bare this on his own.

Not that Sherlock hadn’t noticed, of course he’d noticed he was Sherlock bloody Holmes it would have been worrying if he hadn’t.

“Are we ready?” He asked as Sherlock took a step back from the chair.

Sherlock nodded.

Willa jumped up and ran into the bathroom to check her hair in the mirror. John winced as the sound of her sandals echoed off the tile. It was only mid-June but he’d finally given into her pleas to wear the horrible things. She hated the routine of shoes and socks, taking them off as soon as she could which made winters difficult, so when the weather began to creep just the slightest bit towards warm she would beg John for her sandals.

John gave in of course, there were bigger battles to fight than whether or not it was appropriate to wear sandals every day from June to September.

As Willa came out of the bathroom, gave Sherlock a little nod of approval, John realized that Sherlock had been watching him the whole time with a guarded expression. John tried to smile reassuringly at him but Sherlock didn’t return the smile.

“Let’s go!” Willa shouted at them from the doorway, as if she hadn’t been the whole reason they were still at home.

John chuckled. “Alright, alright.”

They took a cab to the Benihana in Chelsea, it was closer to Harry’s flat, and only managed to be ten minutes late. As Sherlock had predicted Harry wasn’t even there yet. John scowled at the sidewalk and checked his phone, there were no texts warning that she’d be late. John decided to text her to see if she was even going to bother showing up.

Are you coming?

“Can we go in?” Willa asked three minutes later, growing impatient and possibly hungry.

John shook his head. “Not yet, your Aunt Harry’s not here.”

Willa let out a moan of exasperation. She grabbed Sherlock’s hand and began swinging it in an effort to amuse herself. Sherlock allowed her to do so.

Yes! Sorry be there in five.

John rolled his eyes at the text. “She’ll be here in a few minutes.” He announced to Sherlock and Willa.

Sherlock nodded as Willa began to intricately weave around under his hand.

Five minutes turned into ten and by that point Willa had gotten Sherlock’s phone off of him. She had downloaded almost as many games to his mobile as she had to John’s. John was relieved when Harry rounded the corner.

He hugged her as she got to them. There was no warmth or particular fondness in their hugs, they were perfunctory. Simply the easiest way for John to determine the state of her sobriety. It wasn’t that John didn’t like his sister, he did when she was sober, but they had never been the hugging kind of family. Their parents had been the same way, reserved in showing their affection. It was why John hugged Willa and Sherlock every chance he got.

Harry was sober today.

“Hello John.” She greeted as they stepped back from one another.

John noticed that Sherlock was standing in front of Willa, he nodded at him and then Sherlock stepped aside. Willa was oblivious to it all, still playing on Sherlock’s phone.

“There’s my favorite girl!” Harry called and darted at Willa as she realized she had passed John’s inspection.

Willa looked up from the phone and cried. “Aunt Harry!” Sherlock skillfully saved his phone from meeting an unfortunate end by plucking it from Willa’s hands as she jumped up to give Harry a hug.

Willa didn’t understand why they only saw Harry a few times a year instead of the frequency in which she saw Mycroft or even Molly. John knew one day he would have to sit down and explain the addiction to her but for now, at six, Willa didn’t need to know those details. John would tell her about it when she got old enough that her own predisposition towards addiction became something she needed to be aware of.

After everyone greeted each other, Harry and Sherlock remaining cordial but icy as ever, they went inside.

“How does it feel to be old?” John teased his sister as they chose their seats. Willa insisted on sitting next to Harry, then it was John and finally Sherlock at the other end.

Harry scoffed. “I’m not that much older than you.”

John smirked to himself and looked down at the menu. Harry was always sensitive about getting older, once she passed twenty-five birthdays were only fun if you didn’t remind her of how old she was getting. Turning fifty was certain to be causing some mild crises but John couldn’t resist tormenting her, he was a little brother after all.

“I don’t think you’re old Aunt Harry.” Willa said sweetly. Harry made an ‘awe’ noise and hugged her niece from the side.

“Well you’re certainly getting older.” Harry told her. “Your hair makes you look at least ten.”

Sherlock snorted, apparently unable to keep his mouth shut any longer. John was impressed it had taken him this long.

Willa preened, pleased with the compliments. What was it about children always wanting to be older than they were? “Thank you, papa did it.”

Harry’s eyebrows merged with her hair line. “Papa?”

John cursed himself for not thinking ahead and warning Harry about the adoption. He hadn’t really planned on telling her until they had a date for when it would become official. He hadn’t thought about the fact that Willa had completely stopped calling Sherlock by name.

“Sherlock is adopting Willa.” John announced hoping he sounded casual about it and definitely not nervous about how Harry would react to the news in a public setting. Sherlock’s body tense by his side, anticipating the outburst.

Harry’s mouth had dropped open in surprise. “A-a-adopt?” She spluttered out.

“Yes, adopt.” Sherlock answered, his words clipped and sharp.

Harry looked to John, her eyes wide. “John it’s been what? Six months? Really is that enough time-”

“I want him to adopt me.” Willa interrupted suddenly, she was obviously worried about the sudden tension. Willa would never understand why anyone would find problem in Sherlock adopting her.

“Of course you do, lovely, that’s very nice of you.” Harry said and awkwardly patted Willa on the back. She let the subject drop then but the look she gave John warned that their conversation wasn’t over.

John’s mobile chose that moment to chirp.

+44 7700 900651
We need to talk.

John pursed his lips together.

No, I’m busy

+44 7700 900651
John, I’m serious. Come find me in the park.
John?
If you won’t come to me, I’ll come to you. Do you think that’ll go well?

I’m not home, out to dinner with family.

John turned his phone off after sending his final text, he didn’t need to worry about anything other than getting through this evening.

~~~~~~

Harry watched as John argued on his mobile. She knew he was arguing, John’s eyebrows always went down and together when he was pissed at someone and since they hadn’t actually gotten to their own argument, for once the look wasn’t being directed at her. She also noticed how Sherlock watched John from the corner of his eye. Was there trouble in paradise already? And yet here they were trying to tell her that letting this psychopath adopt her niece was a good idea.

Harry Watson was a lot of things. A drunk, a cheater, and a quitter (though perhaps not where it counted) but being unobservant wasn’t one of the things she was known for.

She’d been standing on the sidelines watching John and Sherlock’s relationship since the beginning of it. She’d always known Sherlock Holmes was dangerous but her little brother, who seemed to be able to overlook everyone’s faults but hers if course, was blind to it. He’d allowed Sherlock to take up his whole life over a decade ago and she’d known it wasn’t good then.

She hadn’t been necessarily happy when the bastard had committed suicide, after all he’d made John watch him do it. John had been a mess but at least he’d been free from his manipulative partner, and no matter how many times John denied they were together there was no other word for it. It had been Harry’s sofa John had first slept on when he found he couldn’t live in a flat with a ghost. John had gone on to meet that lovely nurse at his clinic and Harry had truly thought his life was finally back on track, that he’d be able to forget Sherlock Holmes.

Right up until the day the bastard had revealed he’d tricked them all.

John had stayed with Mary even though Sherlock was back, sure he was indulging in Sherlock’s insanity but he was still managing to have a decent life. He got married and when John told her Mary was expecting Harry had been thrilled for them, John had always wanted children. That was the last time she had seen John until Willa was over a year old. John hadn’t told her exactly what went on only that Sherlock was gone, most likely forever and that Mary had left him and the baby as well.

Harry couldn’t blame the woman, John was always so obviously in love with Sherlock from the moment they met that competing for his affections must have been exhausting.

Sherlock coming back had made Harry sick with worry but she’d stamped it down after seeing how happy it made John. Six years was a long time, surely Sherlock would have changed. Except he hadn’t, he was still a psychopath except now he’d been dragging her niece around in it as well as her brother. She’d hoped John would have more sense than to allow Sherlock this close to Willa but as always John was blinded where Sherlock was concerned.

He’s adopting her.

+1-408-820-3655
I know

John’s letting him adopt her.

+1-408-820-3655
I know and it’s unacceptable

I know!

+1-408-820-3655
I’ll deal with it.

Alright.

“I’m starving.” Harry announced perhaps a bit too loudly and clapped her hands together. John’s face twisted into something he might have imagined was a smile.

Willa, being her precious and precocious self, pointed at the menu. “I want the prawns.” She declared.

John dropped the smile. “Willa that’s-”

“Fine.” Sherlock interrupted with a grin. “Have whatever you like.” He looked meaningfully at both John and Harry, as if to say that directive was meant for them as well. Sherlock had clearly not been raised to understand the value of money.   

Harry could hear the lecture about food costs stuck in John’s throat. John who looked at anything more than twenty pounds and died a little on the inside. Yet when Sherlock told Willa she could have anything John swallowed down his typical arguments.

Willa got her prawns and Harry ordered the black cod because she knew her brother, or more specifically her brother’s partner, would be paying. Willa was delighted by the sheer amount of fire involved in the preparing of their food and Harry loved watching her niece being enraptured by anything.

Harry hadn’t necessarily wanted children of her own, she knew that her maternal skills were lacking, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t madly in love with Willa. Clara had wanted children badly and sometimes it was enough to convince Harry she felt the same. Those were the months that she’d give up drinking and tried so hard to remain sober. Obviously staying sober wasn’t something she excelled at and after some time Clara gave up, not just on children but on their entire relationship. It was why Harry cheated, not that she’d ever try to justify it to anyone that way, but the thrill of being wanted was enough to tempt her.

She hadn’t deserved Clara and she knew it had been her own hand that had ruined her life, which was why the only people willing to celebrate her fiftieth birthday with her was her brother, his deranged partner and her niece.

Halfway through cake, Willa insisted on singing and the staff helped even while John and Sherlock looked seriously pained, Harry’s mobile vibrated against her leg.

+1-408-820-3655
Five minutes, take her to the loo.

Why?

+1-408-820-3655
Because I asked you to.

Harry frowned at the message.

“Is everything alright?” Sherlock asked, he was watching her in that way that made her feel entirely transparent.

Harry nodded and repocketed her mobile.

John was watching her too now, because he took everything Sherlock said as law. Harry swallowed down a large gulp of her water, desperately wishing it was wine. “Just a text I wasn’t expecting.”

Harry didn’t like the way the text sounded, it was odd of her to ask for anything other than pictures from every visit and copies of the ones John bothered to email her. Harry didn’t mind doing that because she knew how stubborn and pigheaded John could be. If he perceived that he’d been wronged by you it was entirely in his character to pretend you didn’t exist, Harry suspected the only reason he’d never disowned her was simply because they were the last of their family. Without her he would have no relations, other than Willa of course, and John was always sentimental.

Willa finished her cake with minimal mess and as she wiped her hands Harry stood. “I’m going to pop into the loo before we’re finished. Willa do you need to go?”

Willa shook her head. “No.”

John sighed. “Go, Willa.” He ordered just like any good parent who’d watched their child guzzle down two full glasses of soda during dinner.

~~~~~~

Willa didn’t actually have to go but she also knew if she protested Daddy would get cross with her. So she stood and took the hand Aunt Harry held out for her. Willa frowned when she noticed they were sweaty.

She liked Aunt Harry.

She was very pretty and looked a lot like Daddy, only shorter and with longer hair. She didn’t smell as nice though, she smelt very strongly of perfume and sometimes of the wine Daddy liked to drink. Willa occasionally tried to figure out if she’d be short like Daddy and Aunt Harry or if she’d grow tall like Papa. Right now she was shorter than most of her classmates. When she had told Daddy this he smiled and stroked her hair telling her it was because all the Watsons were short.

She’d used his phone that night to look up what determined a person’s height. Not that she didn’t believe Daddy but he always said that sometimes even he got the answers wrong and it was good to double check. He hadn’t been wrong that time though.

Willa held tight to Aunt Harry’s hand as they weaved between tables towards the loo.

There was no one else in the restroom when they got there and Aunt Harry pushed her into one of the littler stalls. Willa rolled her eyes even though no one could see her. Why did grownups push children around like they didn’t have any idea how to find the toilet?

As she was finishing up she heard Aunt Harry’s voice. “Sorry mate, you’ve got the wrong room. Bit too much to drink, eh?”

“No I think this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.” A man’s voice answered. Willa frowned because this was a woman’s restroom.

“I’m sorry?” Aunt Harry asked, her voice had gone all high pitched, it made the hairs on the back of Willa’s neck stand up.

“Where is she?” The man asked.

Willa cracked the door on the stall just enough to see him, the man’s back was to her so he didn’t see.

Aunt Harry hadn’t answered but her eyes darted to Willa and Willa took a step back. Aunt Harry looked worried and Willa was now worried as well. Why was Aunt Harry scared of this man?

A woman came into the room then and she did see Willa but she smiled kindly at her. She was very pretty with long brown hair. “Hello, love, it’s alright come here.”

Willa didn’t move.

“Willa don’t.” Harry snapped anyway. “Now I don’t know who the hell you are but you need to leave.”

The man shook his head. “Angie sent us.” He had moved to the side and was looking at Willa.

Willa didn’t like it, everyone watching her. She wanted to scream, Daddy had told her to do that once. If she was ever scared like this and he wasn’t around she was meant to scream. She kept trying to open her mouth but why wasn’t her voice listening? Why couldn’t she make herself scream?

“Angie?” Aunt Harry asked and she took a step towards Willa, the man held out his hand and stopped her.

“I’m sorry Mary sent us.”

“What? Why would she do that?” Aunt Harry went to push past the man’s hand anyway.

“Of for god’s sake.” The man cursed and reached behind him.

Suddenly he hit Aunt Harry over the head with a gun he’d pulled from his trousers. Willa had seen Daddy’s gun a few times and he always told her she was never ever to touch it. Aunt Harry fell to the floor.

Willa went to scream, she could feel it in her throat, but then the woman’s hand was over her mouth. “Jesus, Cole.” She cursed.

Willa tried to bite her and she kicked out as the man came closer, he pushed her legs aside easily.

“Hush, we’re not going to hurt you.” He said as he pulled a white needle from his jacket pocket.

Willa tried to scream louder and kicked at him more. Her screams were muffled by the woman’s hand still even though it was slipping as Willa fought.

“Hurry up.” The woman said and she dug her fingernails into Willa’s cheeks.

Willa couldn’t see well, there were tears in her eyes and everything had gone blurry, but there was a sharp pain in her arm. She shrieked as something cool pressed into the spot he had stuck her.

“Shh, it’s alright love.” The woman whispered even as her nails continued to dig into Willa’s cheek.

Willa kept kicking but then her legs began to feel weird, like when she was swimming. Her head got dizzy too.

“There you are love.” The woman said and then she slid her hand away. “That wasn’t too much was it? Angie’ll kill us if we hurt her.”

Willa’s entire body felt like she was under water. She wanted to scream but her body wasn’t listening again. The whole world spun when the man took her from the woman. He carried her the way Papa did sometimes when she was tired, with her legs around his waist and her head on his shoulder.

“She’ll be fine.” He said, his voice sounded far away. Willa didn’t understand why, his mouth was right there.

She tried to say something but it came out mumbled, her mouth not moving the way it was supposed to.

“We need to go.” The woman said.

Willa tried to lift her head as they walked out of the restroom but everything was so heavy.

She was so tired and her eyelids wouldn’t stay open.

She let them close as they turned away from the dining room but still she tried to stay awake.

She couldn’t call out for Daddy or Papa but she could still wiggle her toes. She managed to open her eyes just enough to see her right sandal land quietly on the rug behind them.

~~~~~~

“We could leave if Harry and Willa would just get back.” John said as he impatiently checked his watch for the third time in the last fifteen minutes. He never understood females and their ability to spend half an hour in the toilets.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure she’s just interrogating Willa about the adoption.” Sherlock said with a small smirk.

John sighed and shook his head. “Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of.”

He wasn’t worried about what Willa would say. She’d tell everyone and anyone who listened how excited she was that Sherlock was going to legally become her Papa. He just didn’t think it was appropriate for Harry to be seriously second guessing the decisions he made as a parent.

Sherlock’s smirk dropped and he reached out to grab John’s hand, no doubt to assure him that Willa would proudly tell Harry off about it, but a woman shrieking from the back of the building interrupted.

“Oh god, someone call 999.”

Sherlock was on his feet less than a second before John was. They both darted towards the back of the restaurant, it was where the restrooms were. Where Harry and Willa were.

The woman looked at Sherlock as they reached her. “Help, I think she’s been attacked.” She pleaded.

John barely glanced into the room before shoving Sherlock aside and darting in. Harry was lying, crumpled on the floor, a small stream of blood running down the side of her face. She was unconscious.

He slid to his knees, ignoring the pain from impacting on the tile floor, and scrambled up to Harry’s head. Her pulse was perfect, she’d just been knocked out.

“Jesus, Harry.” John cursed as he worked to lay her out flat on the floor. “Come on, Harry wake up.” He shouted even though he knew it was no use.

“John, Willa’s not in here.” Sherlock told him, his voice had gone cold and clinical.

John jerked his head up and looked around, realizing for the first time that his daughter wasn’t hiding in one of the stalls. “Fuck.” He cursed and climbed back up to his feet.

Sherlock had disappeared already and John shoved his phone into the woman by the door’s hand. “Call an ambulance.” He instructed.

Sherlock hadn’t gone back into the dining room and John turned the other way to follow him. John spotted the small pink sandal lying in the middle of the hall as he turned the corner. “Sherlock?” He shouted not able to see the man. As he reached the end of the hall there was an exit. John shoved the door open.

Sherlock was standing in the middle of the alley spinning in circles.

“There wasn’t a car.” He shouted at John before bolting towards the street. John didn’t even think, he just chased after him.

He found Sherlock on the sidewalk spinning in circles looking on the edge of a panic attack, just like the one John could feel building in his own chest. Every heart beat was painful and he wasn’t allowing himself to listen to the part of his brain that kept screaming out for his daughter. If he did, if he succumbed to that blind panic, he wouldn’t be useful anymore. They’d no doubt have to sedate him and he’d end up in an ambulance.

“I can’t…” Sherlock said. “There’s nothing, I can’t…” He wouldn’t finish his sentences but John knew what he was saying. There were no clues on the street, just dozens of people walking past looking on in concern at the increasingly agitated man spinning in circles.

There were sirens in the distance, growing louder by the second, no doubt the ambulance coming for Harry. John inhaled sharply, ignoring the ever-growing desire to just give into his own terror.

“Sherlock.” John snapped, several people around them jumped.

Sherlock stopped mid circle.

“Sherlock call Mycroft. Now.” John growled as he balled his fists and turned back towards the restaurant. He needed to do something, needed to keep doing something, and at least with Harry he could focus on being a doctor.

~~~~~~

Mycroft was lounging on the sofa in the library, his very worn copy of ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ in hand. Gregory was at the other end of the sofa with his laptop balanced on his knees, their legs were entwined in the middle beneath a blanket. Gregory was absentmindedly brushing one of his feet along the outside of Mycroft’s thigh.  

Mycroft’s love of Agatha Christie novels was a secret he was prepared to kill for in order to keep it out of Sherlock’s knowledge. The only person on Earth who knew about it was Gregory and he never teased, he would just get a goofy smile on his face whenever Mycroft grabbed a well-worn book from the shelves. Mycroft lived for that smile, it was the one that told him Gregory Lestrade was madly in love with him for reasons even he had not managed to comprehend.

The children were with Deborah, Mycroft had managed to rearrange the state of affairs in the world so that there were no imminent disasters that needed attention, and for now no one had managed to get themselves murdered in Gregory’s jurisdiction so they were enjoying a quiet night in together. In a few minutes Gregory would bore with his random scrolling through Facebook and turn his attention to Mycroft. With any luck in about twenty minutes Roger Ackroyd’s murder would be forgotten in favor of snogging on the sofa like teenagers.

Just as he was considering how to speed up the process his private mobile began ringing on the table behind him. Mycroft reached for it because, as much as he didn’t want to spoil their lovely night in, there were only a few people who had the privilege of knowing his private number and with one of them sitting across from him the number dropped drastically. He sighed when he saw Sherlock’s number blinking on the screen.

“As always, fantastic timing, Sherlock.” Mycroft muttered to himself as he thumbed the call button. “Brother dear, to what do I owe this call?” He asked in the sickeningly sweet tone that he knew Sherlock abhorred, Gregory grinned down at his laptop.

“Mycroft, help.”

If it wasn’t for the fact that Mycroft knew every facet of his brother’s voice he would have hung up the phone instantly declaring it an imposter. Sherlock sounded lost and young again, and those two words were enough to convince Mycroft that something very very wrong had happened.

“Sherlock, what’s happened?” Mycroft asked as he swung his feet off the sofa. At his tone Gregory was instantly on alert, closing the lid to his computer.

Sherlock inhaled shakily on the other end, trying to regain his composure. “Willa’s missing.” He said, his tone regaining some of its normal qualities. At those words Mycroft was up on his feet though his heart seemed content to sink into the pit of his stomach.

There was a click and then the call disconnected.

Gregory was hovering behind him looking increasingly worried.

“Willa’s missing.” Mycroft repeated to him as he crossed the room for his work phone that was charging at the desk.

Gregory immediately started moving. “Where are they? Home?”

Mycroft shook his head. “No, Harriet Watson’s birthday is today. They would be in Chelsea at the Benihana restaurant.”

“I’ll go there and call the station on the way and you…” Gregory paused, he was worried and throwing orders out like the Detective Chief Inspector he was. “You find her.” He finished before decisively crossing back over toward Mycroft.

Mycroft reached out for Gregory before he got to him. Gregory pulled him into a fierce kiss before moving away just as abruptly and then jogging back out of the library.

~~~~~~

There was a police scanner built into every single one of their cars and this fact allowed him to slide into the Mercedes coupe they rarely used. Greg often suspected that the scanners would pick up a lot more than the Scotland Yard channels if he knew what codes to push in but right now all he needed was the London emergency channels.

Chelsea was on the other side of London from their house but Greg hadn’t chosen the Mercedes just for fun. He pushed the engine over 200 KMH safe in the knowledge that no one would ever pull this particular vehicle over.

Despite his speed it still took time to reach the restaurant and by the time he pulled up the ambulance had disembarked with a fifty year-old female patient who had sustained a head wound inside. The roads were blocked by the sheer number of patrol cars that had pulled up so Greg just rolled to a stop behind one of them. He pushed into the crowds and flipped his badge at the lowly PC who moved to stop him.

John was surprisingly easy to spot, standing at military attention just outside the restaurant door. His face looked like it had been set in stone, jaw closed so tight Greg thought he could hear the bones crunching under the force.

“John?” Greg called to him as he approached. John didn’t acknowledge him. “John?” He repeated

John didn’t jump but his head whipped around quickly, Greg could tell he was wound tighter than piano wire. “Greg, Sherlock thought you would come.” If words could have marched in an orderly fashion from one’s vocal cords the ones coming from John’s lips would have.

Greg nodded. “What’s happened?”

John turned and brushed passed another PC who looked too afraid to stop him. He did make an aborted attempt to halt Greg but either he recognized him or he was too terrified of getting his head bitten off to actually try. Greg flashed his badge either way to reassure the man that he had rights to be here.

“Harry was pistol whipped.” John said in the same clipped tone as he marched towards the back of the restaurant that was now empty. “She was coming around as the ambulance pulled out.”

Greg swallowed and allowed a gap to form between he and John before he asked. “And Willa?”

John’s entire body ticked with energy but he didn’t turn or lash out. “She was no longer in the restaurant by the time someone found Harry on the floor.”

There was a crowd of cops blocking their path but John shoved through them mercilessly, Greg followed in his wake.

“John, tread lightly you’ll contaminate the evidence.” Sherlock’s voice warned just as John stepped into the woman’s restroom.

Greg paused outside the door, there wasn’t enough space for him to enter as well without brushing up against surfaces. He imagined that was why there was a queue of cops and forensic officers waiting behind him.

Sherlock was stripped down to his shirt, sleeves rolled up and he was bouncing from surface to surface with his magnifying glass. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to his movement but Greg new better than to question him and doing so right now might end with John finally snapping. He could see the shadow of the hand gun John owned under his sweater. Greg wasn’t that stupid.

“She fought.” Sherlock announced suddenly and finally stood still.

“What?” John asked before Greg even had a chance.

Sherlock snapped the magnifier shut. “There are light scuffs on the stalls, not from regular soles but from the foam sandals she was wearing.” He explained and pointed to what appeared to be a random spot on the cubical door. “Smeared hand print here.” He pointed to the divider. “She reached out at one point to try and pull herself away.”

Greg made mental notes of where Sherlock was pointing so he could direct forensics there. “So someone knocked Harry out and-”

“At least two people.” Sherlock corrected.

“Alright how’d you get that?” Greg asked carefully.

Sherlock glared at him. “We didn’t hear anything.”

“Alright…?”

“Someone was covering her mouth. Since she was fighting, she certainly would have screamed.” Sherlock said coldly.

Greg nodded. “Alright so one person held her and the other one knocked out Harry.” He repeated trying to get a picture of what had happened. “So how’d they get her out without an entire restaurant noticing?”

Sherlock’s arm snapped out and he pointed to something under the sink, both John and Greg crouched to get a look at it. It was the plastic cap from over the top of a hypodermic needle. “No one notices people carrying out a sleeping child.”

“She was drugged.” John said breathlessly. A broken noise escaped his throat, he stood so quickly and ran by Greg that he nearly toppled him to the ground.

The noise John had made seemed to rip Sherlock out from wherever he’d been and his face crumbled. “John.” He called and also ran by Greg.

Greg sighed and recaptured his balance. He turned to the sea of gridlocked people lining up behind him. “Alright, get to work!” He yelled and despite this not actually being his crime scene, everyone listened.

He took his time, watching as everyone began to fall in place and get back to their jobs. To most of these people Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were legends they’d heard about since they were too young to even be on the force. Everyone was having difficulty knowing exactly how to handle a situation in which these men weren’t legends but instead distraught parents who’s coping mechanisms were always shit.

Greg turned to go find John and Sherlock in an effort to make sure they were okay and hadn’t somehow managed to raze half of London in the five minutes since they’d disappeared.

“Sir, one of the witnesses gave this to me.” A young DS called over to him, she had a mobile phone held in her outstretched hand.

Greg reached for it and raised his eyebrows at her.

“It’s one of theirs, sir.” She explained to him as she handed it over.

Greg looked down at the mobile and nodded, at least now he’d have a somewhat valid reason for seeking them out.

~~~~~~

Sherlock found John leaning against the wall of the alley, emptying the contents of his dinner onto the dirty street below him.

“No.” John held out his hand to stop him from coming any closer.

Sherlock stopped instantly, even with his own mind in raging turmoil he knew better than to push a distraught John Watson. That could very seriously end with himself in the hospital and that would only be if John was practicing self-control.

“John I’m sorry.” Sherlock said, it was scarcely a whisper over the never-ending sound of sirens and people milling about on the street.

John had finished retching but both hands were on the wall in front of him, bracing himself. He was breathing heavily, one step away from a panic attack. Sherlock stood back and watched him silently.

“They drugged her.” John’s broken voice came after a minute of silence. “She was terrified and they stuck a needle into her and drugged her.”

“John.” Sherlock said softly. He wasn’t even sure what to say to that, the mental image of what had been done to Willa was too much for him to look at too closely.

John whirled around his face written over with rage. “She was terrified and they stuck a needle into her and drugged her.” He shouted.

Sherlock braced himself as John marched towards him, preparing himself for the hit he knew was coming. He wouldn’t dodge it, John had every right.

John stopped short, toe to toe with Sherlock. “She was terrified,” John started again but his voice broke, it was Sherlock’s only warning to reach out as John collapsed. “She was terrified.” John repeated again.

Sherlock held him up and pulled him to his chest.

 John was sobbing, face buried in Sherlock’s shirt. Sherlock could feel him whispering the words over and over even though he couldn’t hear him. There were no words he could offer John now. Nothing he said would make this any better. Willa was missing, there was nothing he could do to change that and despite the fact that every part of him wanted to join John, to collapse with him in the filthy alley he knew that wasn’t an option. They couldn’t both break down at once.

He stood rubbing John’s back for minutes until the door to the restaurant squeaked open. Lestrade pushed his way out of the door and he stopped short at the scene before him. Sherlock watched him over the top of John’s head, he was holding John’s mobile in his hand.

“One of the guys said this is yours.” Lestrade said, not moving from just outside the door.

Sherlock nodded and held out a hand. John was slowly pulling himself together, Lestrade’s voice having drawn him back from the pit of despair he had been crawling into.

“It’s mine.” John said after a few more moments, his face still effectively buried in Sherlock’s shirt.

Lestrade took this as a sign to carefully approach them. Sherlock wanted to protest as John stood straighter and pulled away from him, he’d been unaware that comforting John had been a comfort to himself, but he kept quiet. He compromised by following John, one arm still around him.

“Have you two given statements?” Lestrade asked as he handed John his phone.

John shook his head as Sherlock nodded.

“Sherlock yelling at them isn’t exactly giving a statement.” John admonished. He should have sounded exasperated but instead he just sounded flat. Sherlock wanted to shake him until he sounded like himself again.

“Alright, listen you two, go find whoever is in charge. Give them statements.” Lestrade instructed them, speaking over Sherlock’s protests that it had been a functional statement. “You two cannot do this, you can’t be running this show. I shouldn’t even be here but I knew you two would try and take over. So I’m here to tell you it can’t happen.”

“Are you kicking us off this case?” Sherlock asked incredulously.

Lestrade scrubbed a hand over his face. “This isn’t a case, Sherlock.”

Sherlock let go of John, about to go over and argue with Lestrade. This had to be his case, he couldn’t just be expected to sit at home and twiddle his thumbs like some no brained civilian. There was zero chance this was just some ‘random’ kidnapping, that his daughter had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their lives did not allow for such coincidences. No, there was no doubt in his mind that Mary had finally made her move.

“Sherlock, stop.” John said and placed a single hand on his chest. It was enough to keep Sherlock from moving forward.

“We’ll make our statements, Greg.” John told him, there was an undercurrent of steel in his tone, replacing the horrible flat affect from earlier. “And we’ll clear this scene but we won’t just wait at home.”

Lestrade dropped his hands and he looked resigned. “I bloody well can’t stop you.”

~~~~~~

Harry waited in the quiet of the room she’d been placed in at the hospital. The doctors had come and gone, checking her head and then ordering stitches. It had only taken two to close the wound on the top of her head. Then they had left her, without word as to whether she would be discharged soon.

She’d come around in the ambulance just before they left the restaurant. John had been standing just outside talking to one of the paramedics but he hadn’t noticed that she was awake. None of the doctors or nurses seemed to know where Willa was or what was going on.

It was nearly nine now and it had been twenty minutes since someone had last been in to check on her. Harry didn’t like the quiet, it made her whole body itch with discomfort which did nothing to help ease the knot of guilt that had wound its way around her gut. After what seemed like an eternity there were footsteps outside of her door. Harry sat on the edge of the bed waiting for the person to come in. She wanted to scream when Sherlock entered first but then John was right behind him.

They both looked like they had aged ten years in the past hour and a half.

“Willa?” Harry asked.

John paused and swallowed, balling his fists at his side. “She’s missing.” He managed to get out.

Harry felt her mouth fall open. “Oh god John I’m so sorry-”

She began apologizing but John held up his hand. “No, you didn’t do anything. You haven’t got anything to be sorry over.” He insisted.

Harry wanted to vomit.

John didn’t know. He still hadn’t realized what she’d been doing all these years, how she had caused this. She bit on her lip to keep the confession inside. John would murder her if he found out regardless of the fact that right up until tonight it had all been innocent. He wouldn’t see it that way, all he would see was the betrayal and he would kill her. She wasn’t joking and she didn’t think that Sherlock would do anything to stop him, in fact he might help.

She shivered at the thought.

“How’s your head?” Sherlock asked. He was looking at her that way again and she quickly silenced all the racing thoughts. She knew logically he couldn’t read minds but if he had even the slightest idea of what she’d done he would no doubt tell John and John would believe him.

Harry shrugged and played with the hem of her shirt. “Two stitches, not much damage. Head wounds bleed a lot.” She told them and idly rubbed at a dried spot of blood on her blouse. She hoped it was her blood, she hadn’t seen what they’d done to Willa.

Certainly, they wouldn’t have hurt her bad enough to make her bleed, it had to be Harry’s blood.

“Have the police been in?” John asked and he came over and began inspecting the wound on her head.

Harry didn’t protest, this might be the last time John was ever near her willingly if he found out.  “No.” She told him after he stepped back, he seemed satisfied with the work of the A and E doctor.

“What happened?” Sherlock asked before John even had a chance.

Harry quickly decided to tell them the truth about that, after all Sherlock would be able to tell if she were lying to them. That would only make him suspicious of her.

“We were in the toilets. She hadn’t come out yet and this bloke came in the room.” Harry began, still rubbing at the blood. “Told him he had the wrong room but he wouldn’t leave. Said he knew exactly where he was and he asked me where she was.”

“Willa?” John asked.

Harry nodded. “Then this woman came in and she saw Willa and was talking to her, asking her to come over. I told her not to and then… I don’t know, this,” she gestured to the wound, “I guess.”

John let his breath out through his nose. “It’s alright.” He wasn’t very good at being reassuring. “What did they look like? Anything you noticed? Birthmarks, scars? Anything.”

“The man, he was American and he was maybe that one’s height.” Harry answered and pointed at Sherlock. “Brown hair, white. I didn’t really look at his face. She was Irish, I think, taller than me but shorter than the man. Dark brown hair, very pretty.”

“Irish?” Sherlock asked, his head lifting up like he had an idea. Harry nodded and watched as Sherlock tore his phone from his pocket. Both John and she waited as he did whatever it was he was doing.

Suddenly there was a phone thrust under her nose. “Her? Was it her?” Sherlock asked.

Harry looked down at the photo. It was older and the woman had her hair pulled only partially up but it was definitely the same woman. “Yes… wait, hold on, I’ve seen that photo before.” But before she could look at it any longer Sherlock handed the phone to John.

“Janine?” John cried out as he looked at the picture.

“Wait, Janine?” Harry asked suddenly realizing where she’d seen the photos before. “Oh my god.” She glared at Sherlock. “From the papers. You’re bloody ex?” She yelled at him. 

Sherlock rolled his eyes at her and pierced her with a glare that made her feel like an insect. “She was Mary’s maid of honor at the wedding.”

Harry crossed her arms over her chest. “So you’re ex attacks me on my birthday and kidnaps my niece? How is that okay, John? Don’t you see what he’s done?” She shouted, standing.

“Enough!” John bellowed and shoved Sherlock’s phone back in his hands.

“Sit down, Harry.” He snapped at her, she obeyed. “There are things you don’t know about. That you don’t need to know about but Janine taking Willa has nothing to do with whatever relationship she and Sherlock had over six years ago.”

Harry wondered what the hell John was talking about ‘things she didn’t need to know’. She was about to argue with him but he was already turning away from her. “We need to tell Greg.” He said to Sherlock, his tone softer with him than it had been with her.

“Let us know when the police have spoken to you.” John told her before sweeping out of the room, Sherlock hot on his heels.

~~~~~~

Sherlock had quietly followed John from Harry’s hospital room. There was something about Harry’s story that bothered him. She hadn’t been lying when she told them what had happened, things had likely gone exactly how she said.

It had been her nervousness though, the constant toying with the hem of her blouse. It wasn’t the kind of nerves someone had after being attacked or even the nerves of an alcoholic needing a drink after a stressful situation. Whatever had been bothering her was something bigger than that, the way she’d seemed surprised when John had reassured her everything was alright. She hadn’t been expecting John to offer her comfort. John and Harry might not have been close but there was no way John would blame her for something like this. John was more likely to blame himself and self-destruct while trying to pinpoint exactly what he could have done to change things.

Harry hadn’t been expecting John’s comfort because she thought he knew something that would make her at fault.

But what had she done to make her feel that way? She hadn’t been faking that she didn’t recognize Janine, she honestly had not known the woman until they’d mentioned her name. Though, she had been extremely quick and relieved to point the finger at Sherlock and try to assign the blame to him.

Harry felt guilty for having done something.

John stopped short outside the hospital and pulled his phone out to call Lestrade.

“Greg,” John said into the phone. “Do you remember Janine Hawkins from my wedding?”

Sherlock pulled out his own mobile as John filled Lestrade in on what they’d just learned.

Janine Hawkins. She’s involved. – SH

Noted. – MH

Anything? – SH

Nothing. – MH

They could be leaving the country. – SH

All flights from Heathrow have been delayed since 8.
Her photo has been distributed to the Border Forces – MH

CCTV? – SH

Being reviewed now. – MH

Sherlock growled at his phone and barely resisted the urge to slam it against the wall. John was watching him, having finished his conversation with Lestrade.

“Mycroft has nothing.” Sherlock admitted and John’s shoulders immediately dropped and he tilted his head up towards the sky. He was desperately blinking away tears.

“Greg is letting everyone know about Janine and they’re sending someone over now to speak to Harry.” John said after regaining his composure.

“Listen, John, I believe...” Sherlock started to tell him about his suspicions of Harry but movement from across the street caught his eye. A homeless man was making his way down the road, oblivious to them. “Oh, I’ve been so stupid.” He spat and pointed at the homeless man’s back.

John looked over and then he nodded in understanding. “Go.”

Sherlock didn’t move, he’d been expecting John to come with him. They only had to speak to a few people in order to get the word out. “Come with?” He asked.

John shook his head, he was rubbing his thumb absently over the darkened screen of his mobile.

Sherlock’s heart clenched when he looked at the black screen, he knew what picture was just one button away from lighting up. Willa and Mrs. Hudson had recently emptied her camera’s memory card onto the computer and then proceeded to email John over two hundred photos. John had instantly set one of the three of them from Willa’s birthday as the background of his lock screen. He’d recently started saying that he needed a new picture of the three of them because that one was nearly six months old.

“No, I need to go tell Mrs. Hudson. No one’s told her.” John said and he sounded distant. “She doesn’t even know yet.” He repeated, his voice cracking.

Sherlock closed the gap between him and pulled John into his arms. John instantly wrapped his around Sherlock’s waist and buried his head in his chest, a mirror of how they had been earlier in the alley behind the restaurant.

He wanted to reassure John that they’d find her soon, that everything would be alright again and as soon as she was home they’d take a new photo of the three of them for his mobile.

He couldn’t force the words out because he’d promised not to lie to John and he couldn’t be sure that they would find her soon. Janine’s involvement solidified the fact that Mary had a hand in this, the woman appeared to be the Anthea of the criminal world, always the right hand of the most powerful person in the room.

John pulled out of the embrace first and he reached up to stroke Sherlock’s cheek. “It’ll be alright.” He assured Sherlock instead. “We’ll be fine.”

Sherlock nodded and turned his head so he could press a kiss to John’s palm. “I’ll find her.” He promised because that was one thing he was sure of, he would find Willa.

John smiled weakly at him. “I know you will. So go, go talk to your people. When you’re done come find me at home, alright?”

~~~~~~

John watched as Sherlock’s back disappeared down the street, chasing after his network of the homeless. As soon as he was no longer in site John turned and walked towards the main road to hail a cab. It took a while but eventually someone stopped for him. John climbed into the back and directed the man to Baker street.

As they drove John opened his phone and went into his conversations. There were three messages he’d ignored when he turned on his phone, Willa and Harry had only just gone to the bathroom and the messages hadn’t seemed urgent at the time.

+44 7700 900651
Does he know?
Fine. Text me when you’re done. This is urgent.
You owe me dinner.

John hit the reply button.

Where are you?

No answer came by the time the cab pulled up to Baker Street, John had been compulsively checking his phone during the entire ride. He paid the cabbie and stood on the sidewalk, looking up at the building before him.

He didn’t want to go in. He knew what waited when he did: all of Willa’s things and an empty flat to remind him she wasn’t there. He took a deep breath and willed himself to take a step forward. He didn’t have to go upstairs, someone really did need to warn Mrs. Hudson what had happened. She was family and deserved to learn it from them and not when the police eventually came around.

John paused at that thought and looked up and down the street.

There was a distinct lack of police even though the DI who had taken their statements had instructed them to go home and wait, that someone would be around to check on them shortly. John wondered how much of the absence of police was from Greg and Mycroft’s involvement and how much of it was because Sherlock had effectively screamed at the entire force about their incompetence. He sincerely hoped it was the former.

Walking into the foyer wasn’t terrible. There were none of Willa’s things down here to remind him and John kept telling himself not to think of it. He couldn’t let himself think of it because he’d already broken down twice this evening, both times Sherlock had been forced to catch him and right now he was out using his resources to try and find their daughter. John needed to suck it up and do his part.

He knocked on the door and waited.

He could hear Mrs. Hudson puttering around on the other side, the clink of china as she no doubt put down her cup of tea to come answer.

“Oh hello, John.” She greeted as she pulled open the door, she was in her dressing gown and slippers. “How was your dinner?”

John had to remind himself to breathe. “Willa’s missing.” It fell out of his mouth in a rush, blunter than he’d planned on telling her, but then how do you tell someone that your child has been kidnapped?

She took a staggered step backward and held onto the wall, the shock written across her face. “What?”

John stepped in after her. “At the restaurant, someone attacked Harry and took Willa.” He cursed himself for the tremor in his own voice.

“Do you know who?” Mrs. Hudson asked and she pushed off the wall, recovering from the shock.

John went to shake his head but he realized that it wasn’t necessarily true, they had a very good idea who was behind everything. “Harry recognized Janine Hawkins and we’re fairly confident this is Mary’s reaction to the adoption.”

Mrs. Hudson reached forward and yanked John to her, she was surprisingly strong given her age, folding him into a hug. “Oh John, it’ll be alright. She’s a bright girl and I’m sure half the country is already looking for her.” She reassured him and rubbed a circle into his back.

John nodded into her shoulder and gave her a tight squeeze back. “Mycroft’s been made aware.”

“Exactly, we’ll have her back in no time.” Mrs. Hudson said and gave a quick nod as if agreeing with herself. “What can I do?” She asked.

John shrugged. “I expect the police will be by soon, I didn’t think it was something you deserved to learn from them.”

“Thank you.” She said as she reached up and patted his cheek. “Where’s Sherlock? You’ll both be needing some strong tea.”

She clearly wasn’t asking, as she was already disappearing into her flat towards the kitchen. “He’s out with the homeless, putting out the word about it.” He found himself feeling a bit calmer in this woman’s steadfast presence, his voice was more even now.

“Come have a seat, I’ll make you tea while we wait.” Mrs. Hudson ordered from the kitchen and John obeyed.

They had just finished the first cup of tea, generously dosed with amber liquid pulled from beneath the cupboards, when John’s phone finally went off.

+44 7700 900651
With a client. Are you done?

You need to come to Baker Street.

+44 7700 900651
Are you sure?

No but come anyway.

+44 7700 900651
When I’ve finished here.

~~~~~~

Willa’s head hurt worse than she could ever remember it hurting before.

She raised her hand to her head expecting to feel a bump. She didn’t know why her head hurt, or why everything was moving so much. It felt like the room was spinning or she was spinning, something was spinning.

“Alright she’s waking up.” A woman’s voice told someone, Willa was certain she wasn’t talking to her.

Willa convinced her eyes to blink open and looked around.

She was lying on a bed somewhere. The room smelt horrible and Willa could see mould growing on the wall. The mattress smelt even worse and Willa focused on breathing through her mouth. There were no sheets on the mattress and a spring was digging painfully into her shoulder.

“Hello, lovely, are you alright?” The woman asked and she leaned over so Willa could see her without moving her head.

Willa felt like she knew this woman though she was certain she’d never seen her before. Déjà vu. That’s what Daddy had said was the feeling of having experienced something before even though you really hadn’t. Willa had never had déjà vu before.

She nodded at the woman’s question and winced as the pain made her head hurt even more.

“Headache?”

Willa didn’t want to nod but her mouth felt dry and sticky so she did anyway.

“Alright I’ve got some water for you.” The woman said and she picked up a small paper cup.

Willa didn’t want to drink, she didn’t know who this woman was, but her mouth was so dry and her head hurt. The woman didn’t seem bad, she was talking soft and was trying to make Willa feel better. Her hands were even gentle as she helped Willa sit up so she could drink properly.

Willa noticed a man standing in the corner of the room looking out the window. His back was to them and Willa saw a gun sticking out of the back of his trousers. She must have made a noise because the woman shushed her and held the cup back up to her mouth.

“It’s alright love, that’s Cole and he’s not going to hurt you. Right Cole?” The woman asked, her voice was hard at the end like she was warning him he’d better agree with her.

Cole turned his head to look at them. “You don’t give me problems, kid, and I won’t give you any.” He spoke like a tourist.

American. Papa had taken her out and asked her to identify all the tourist’s accents a few times, they went out a lot when Willa’s arm had broken. The last time they’d gone she’d gotten over seventy-five percent of them right. Papa had looked so proud when she’d done that. She was certain Cole was American but Papa wasn’t around to ask.

Willa drank down the entire cup of water without noticing it and the woman took it away with a soft smile.

“There’s a good girl.” She cooed and pet Willa’s hair. Willa wanted to pull away, she didn’t like it when strangers touched her.

The woman wasn’t American, she was definitely Irish.

“Where’s my daddy?” Willa asked and she tried to remember.

They’d been at the restaurant with Aunt Harry for her birthday. Papa had let her order prawns and didn’t even complain when she hadn’t finished them. She remembered taking Aunt Harry’s hand to go to the bathroom but she couldn’t remember anything after that.

Why couldn’t she remember how she got here?

The woman didn’t answer. “My names Janine but for now you can call me Janey.” She said instead.

Willa frowned. “Where are we?”

“Stop asking questions.” Janine snapped, her voice suddenly sharp.

Willa kept her mouth shut and she couldn’t help but glance over at Cole and his gun.

Janine saw this. “Yes, that’s right. You need to be good and that means no more questions. Do you understand now?”

Willa nodded and bit her lip. She wanted to cry but she was afraid if she did they would hurt her.

“Now.” Janine sighed. “We’ve got to do something about your hair. Have you ever been to a salon?” She was trying to sound nice again.

Willa shook her head. Nana trimmed the ends of her hair sometimes but Daddy had always said he liked her hair long so she’d never gotten it cut before.

“Really? Well then you’re in for a treat.” Janine said and she stood up off the mattress and walked over to a chair, there was a bag on it. “We’re going to have our own salon right here.” She continued as she dug through the bag. “Would you like that?”

Willa didn’t, she liked her hair the way it was but she was too afraid to tell her no.

Janine turned around holding a small black plastic box and a green box with a woman with brown hair on the front. Hair dye Willa realized after a moment, Aunt Molly had dyed her hair once using dye like that. “Alright come on then, like a good girl.” Janine told her and jerked her head.

It took Willa a few tries to stand, her legs felt rubbery and every time she stood the room spun just a little. Once she could stand Janine led her across the room into a bathroom.

The bathroom didn’t look any nicer than the other room. Parts of the wall were peeling off and inside the sink was black even though the rest of it was supposed to be white. There were jugs of water sitting along the side of the bath tub. Janine put her things down in the sink and grabbed Willa by the shoulders steering her to sit on top of the closed toilet lid.

“Take off your dress.” Janine told her.

Willa shook her head without thinking about it.

Janine just sighed like she was done with her. “Alright, whatever. Ruin it, it’s not like we won’t throw it out in a little.”

She began pulling out Willa’s hair ties and then undoing the braid Papa had put in just before they left. Janine then opened the black box and pulled out a brush. She wasn’t as nice at brushing Willa’s hair as Papa was, even Daddy did a better job, and when she was done Willa’s entire scalp hurt from having her hair pulled.

“Well there’s no use in dying the whole thing.” Janine said to herself.

Willa saw her pull out a pair of scissors from inside the box, she bit her lip and looked down at her knees. She closed her eyes after watching as the first bits of her hair fell to the floor, the tears came anyway.

~~~~~~

Letting herself into Baker Street she noticed that the door wasn’t locked, for someone who seemed paranoid of the outside world and the threat that it posed to his daughter, John Watson was being extremely careless.

She frowned as she climbed the steps, there were three voices coming from above. One John, one Sherlock and the other she didn’t recognize but it was another man. It was far too late for 221B to be entertaining visitors, even those of the client variety. She’d heard that since the introduction of the little princess into their detective agency that they were entertaining those guests down stairs. She wondered what John was possibly up to.

She didn’t worry though, John was far too noble to ever harm her but even she had a few needles worth of protection hidden inside her hand bag. One could never be too careful where Sherlock Holmes was concerned.

“We’ll have to tell Molly,” John told someone, he was tired.

“At this point you might want to think about alerting the press.” The unknown man’s voice answered him.

“Alerting the press is never a good idea.” She announced walking into the room.

John let out an exasperated sigh and to her left a tea cup slid out of Sherlock’s hands. He fumbled with it, spilling tea all over the rug, but he managed to keep the cup from shattering on the floor.

“Why are you here?” Sherlock growled, his eyes narrowing at her.

“Oh you don’t know?” She asked in mock surprise, one hand coming up to rest over her heart. “Oh John, I’m hurt, you haven’t told him?”

John dropped his head into his hands. “Irene, just sit down and shut up.” He ordered and rose from his chair.

“I’m sorry who is this?” The third man asked, Irene recognized him as someone she’d seen in photos with Sherlock.

“Irene Adler.” Sherlock spat but he’d turned his venomous gaze towards the back of John’s head, like it would give him the answers John wouldn’t.

“And you are?” Irene asked and ignored John’s orders to sit down, she extended a hand towards him.

“DCI Gregory Lestrade.” The man answered and curtly shook her hand.

“He’s also very married to Mycroft.” Sherlock interjected finally tearing his eyes away from John.

Irene smirked. “I’d heard someone managed to melt your brother down, I can now see why.” She winked at Gregory Lestrade and he colored but took a step back.

“Why are you here, Irene?” Sherlock repeated through clenched teeth.

Irene finally sat down, intentionally choosing Sherlock’s chair. She wasn’t surprised the dumb thing was still here after all these years, John probably would have gone completely mental on anyone trying to take it from him. “I don’t know. Shall we ask John?”

“I invited her, Sherlock.” John admitted and stood, turning around with his hands up trying to placate the irate detective.

“Hold on I thought you were dead.” Lestrade said suddenly as if finally connecting her to who she was.

Irene smiled passively. “I do wonder, Detective Chief Inspector Gregory Lestrade, how often that phrase is said inside this quaint little flat?”

“Irene, shut up.” John snapped, having given up trying to pacify Sherlock. “She’s missing.”

Irene looked between the three men and realized what John was saying. She felt terribly for John and Sherlock. “When?”

“Three hours ago in Chelsea.” John informed her. He then closed his eyes and braced himself against whatever emotions he was feeling.

Irene had taken it upon herself to follow both John and Sherlock’s exploits after she’d ‘died’. They were much more fun than any television programme. She never claimed to have big brother’s skills of tracking and monitoring but her job put her in positions to illicit favors from some other very powerful people in the world.

She’d known, of course, who innocent little Nurse Mary Morstan was. Jim had been so terribly fond of her and her skills as an assassin. She was very surprised when Sherlock didn’t object once to the little farce that had been John and Mary’s wedding, surely he’d been able to see right through her. Then again, Sherlock was always so blind when it came to John, love did that to a person.

Irene had been dying to show up to the wedding just to watch how it went. She’d had to settle for the reports that trickled out and Sherlock’s dramatic hijacking of John’s blog. John and little Miss Mary’s honeymoon had been the first time Sherlock had responded to her texts since his death had been revealed a hoax.

It had been difficult to keep track of Sherlock when he was exiled, difficult but not impossible. She knew too many high-ranking men and women to make anything truly impossible to her.

John had been much, much easier to follow.

Even when he and that adorable little girl had been hiding away from her mean and evil mother. When they returned to London they lived such a simple little life and Irene enjoyed watching them from afar. She could ignore them for months at a time and when she came back everything was just the same. Yes, Willa Louise would have grown a bit and her brilliant little mind had learned a thousand new things but everything else was same. Same little flat, same little routine and same little John who was only half of himself without Sherlock around.

When Sherlock had returned, oh then things had gotten so much more interesting.

Irene had always known, from the moment she met Sherlock Holmes and John Watson that they would come to this. Unfortunately for them it had taken them a decade to get that simple fact through their thick skulls.

She knew things weren’t going to be easy for them, with mummy dearest in the background pulling strings, but she had never wanted it to come to this. So when she’d been innocently entertaining guests in California and heard rumblings that Mummy Mary was none too pleased when one of her pets had gone missing, last seen running the fool’s errand to London, she’d dug a little deeper into their messes.

Sherlock and John couldn’t just live their lives in quiet bliss, of course. They had to make headlines constantly, from their adorable little holiday on Valentine’s Day to the numerous high press cases. Missing of course from every story, every picture, was the little princess herself. Irene sometimes wondered if Mummy Mary would have left well enough alone if they’d just blogged about the child once in a while.

Doubtful.

When their cases began attracting attention Irene had tethered herself to Europe, listening as big bad men bent one by one under Mummy Mary’s demands. Most of those men came to her because, as horrible as it was criminality was still such a misogynistic field, the men who willingly bent under Mary wanted to be bent under Irene as well.

As it turned out she was none too pleased to discover that Sherlock had resumed his life at 221B and he and John were very obviously carrying on with one another. She’d moved Cole Gilbert into London in February after their getaway and then in March came Janine Hawkins. That was when Irene felt stepping in was necessary, Mary only used Janine when things became personal.

She’d found John at his conference in Wales. He’d been less than thrilled to see her, but not surprised.

John had definitely been living in the world of Sherlock Holmes for too long because not once did he blink at the fact that she was essentially returning from the dead. They’d been texting regularly ever since (it was so nice of someone in that house to text her back) and even met up a few times when Irene had news to give him.

~~~~~~

“Why were you trying to get me to meet you tonight? John asked, resolutely not looking at Sherlock.

Irene sighed. “I was trying to warn you that she knows about the adoption but I think you know that now.”

Sherlock lifted his head. “You two.” He stated, feeling particularly dense not a feeling he was used to. “Have been working together about Mary?”

John nodded and looked away from Sherlock, he was obviously feeling guilty from the way he now glued his eyes to the floor. “For how long?”

“What? You can’t deduce it?” Irene asked with a smirk. There had been a brief second, not even a minute ago where Sherlock had felt she might be looking out for someone other than herself. When John had told her that Willa had gone missing her face had fallen just enough that Sherlock wondered if she was feeling sorry for them and what they were going through.

“April.” John answered giving Irene a dark look. “When I was in Cardiff, she approached me at a pub.”

“She’s who you’ve been texting all this time.” It wasn’t a question, nothing John had to answer. Sherlock had figured out it was Irene from the moment she stepped into their flat looking smugger than the cat that ate the canary.

John nodded anyway. “I was hoping you hadn’t noticed.” He said more to himself than anyone.

Sherlock just felt insulted. “Oh do give me credit John, I am the world’s only consulting detective after all.”

“Then why haven’t you asked me?” John asked finally looking up from the floor.

“Because I didn’t want to know. You were getting texts, obviously from a female, at all hours of the day and night that you were deleting.” Sherlock shouted at him. It was only after he’d said it that he realized that was the true reason he hadn’t confronted John. He’d never really been able to convince himself John wasn’t being unfaithful.

John took a step back like he’d been struck. “You thought I was cheating? Jesus, Sherlock, what is wrong with you?”

“Me? You’ve been going behind my back and meeting with the one person in this world you can’t stand more than Mary.” Sherlock growled.

Irene was still in his chair watching them argue like it was a sporting event. Lestrade was in the corner looking for all the world like he wanted to just slip out the door but didn’t trust that John and Sherlock wouldn’t try and kill one another.

“Me? That’s your problem with this? You let me believe she was dead for a decade!” John shouted clenching his fists, Lestrade took one step towards them.

“You told me she was in America!” Sherlock shot back.

“Alright enough!” Lestrade shouted and stepped between the two of them. He put his back to Sherlock and placed a hand on John’s chest. “You two fighting about her isn’t going to give us anything. And you,” Lestrade said and pointed a finger at Irene, “stop winding them up, this is serious!”

Irene smiled placidly at them, Sherlock growled at her while John pulled away from Lestrade and stomped into the kitchen. Sherlock heard the sounds of tea being made violently and he took a breath to calm himself. “Why are you even here, Irene?”

“Because, Sherlock, women of power are always aware of other women with power.” Irene answered and she tilted her head to peer past him into the kitchen.

Sherlock scowled at her. “So you’ve decided to make Mary your enemy?” He asked and stepped into her line of sight. He might be furious with John but he wasn’t about to let her wind him up to doing something he might regret.

Irene let out a laugh, it was fake and overly dramatic. “Oh Sherlock you misunderstand me, it isn’t Mummy Mary I’m interested in. The woman with the most power, right now? It isn’t her and it isn’t me.”

“I’m sorry what?” Lestrade asked sounding utterly confused, it was a common trait of his.

“John’s only just figured it out. Haven’t you John?” Irene called into the kitchen. “Of course I had to help him along to the notion. Have you figured it out yet Sherlock?”

Sherlock ran through the list of every woman connected to the case.

“Oh my god you are all such men.” Irene spat in disgust as she stood up. “You’re taking me too literally Sherlock. Woman, female, girl they’re all interchangeable.”

“Willa?” Sherlock asked suddenly understanding where Irene was going with this.

Irene nodded with a half smile of amusement.

“What the hell do you mean?” Lestrade asked her. “She’s just a child.”

Irene sighed and rolled her eyes. “DCI Lestrade, the girl isn’t just a casualty in her parent’s bitter custody battle. Who in this world has the power to bring not only the great Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson to their respective knees but also bring the entire British government and, I would bet, a very substantial portion of the NSY to a grinding halt?”

“Willa’s not a pawn.” Sherlock protested and he pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling the pressure of a headache building behind his eyes.

Irene folded her arms over her chest. “No, I agree. But in this game, Sherlock, there is no king, only the queen.”

Chapter Text

There was something electric about being in the same room as Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler. It was electric, the kind of electricity that you could feel halfway across the room as it raised your hair and made your veins tingle. It was the kind of electricity that set John’s nerves on edge and left him with the itch to punch something, anything.

They were so perversely obsessed with one another. The constant need to outwit, outdo, and even out speak one another. It seemed like a lifetime ago, the first time they’d met, John had mistaken that obsession for lust, for attraction, and not just the compulsive need to always be right.

John knew better now.

Everything was just a bloody competition between them, just as it had been between Sherlock and Moriarty. In this room sat the two smartest people in the world, but one of them was just the smallest bit brighter. And no one knew exactly who it was, them least of all, and so they competed.

There was nothing sexual about it, or at least there wouldn’t have been had it been possible for Irene to exist in a space without making it sexual. With her present, every moment felt like one long and elaborate game of foreplay.

Typically, Sherlock and Irene in a room left John feeling uncomfortably aroused because he’d be the first to admit that their displays of wit ridiculously turned him on. Today though, he had no time or patience for them. He had no time to sit back and enjoy the peacocks strutting about fanning their impressive plumage of intelligence.

Because his daughter was missing.

For over six hours now.

John had been forced to keep his hands busy for fear of who he would strike when the time came and he lashed out. He was currently making his second kettle of tea since Irene had arrived in order to distract himself from their ridiculousness.

There had been police milling in and out of 221B for what seemed like forever, though it’d been less than an hour since the first DS had arrived. They had started off asking pointless and redundant questions to the point John had been ready to channel his inner Sherlock. To scream at them about how vapid they were being.

A particularly young DS had asked them to write up a list of any people who might wish to harm them. This had gotten Sherlock’s attention from whatever argument he’d been having with Irene. He’d just stared at the boy like he’d lost his mind, speechless by his stupidity.

John had broken into a fit of hysterical giggles because, really, a list? A list would even begin to cover it. A file perhaps, or maybe a whole god damn filing cabinet.

Greg, sensing the danger the DS had put himself in, had pulled him aside and given him what John recognized as the number to Mycroft’s office. Where there possibly was an actual filing cabinet containing the numerous threats to John and Sherlock.

After that, Greg had stood in the doorway intercepting officers and either answering their questions himself or directing them elsewhere. John truly wasn’t sure where they were being shooed off to, but the only important thing was that they were no longer near him.

Six hours.

John hadn’t ever not known where Willa was for more than a few minutes. Before Sherlock, there had possibly never been a moment where he couldn’t have told you exactly where she was. Since Sherlock had come back, John had relaxed because surely if Willa wasn’t with him then she was definitely off with her Papa getting into trouble.

This was different, though. Sherlock and Irene were in the next room having a pissing match, and Willa was… somewhere. Nowhere. John didn’t know.

The sound of something shattering only vaguely permeated the thick cloud of fog that had taken up residence in John’s head but he ignored it. He couldn’t be arsed to give a damn about things breaking. Not when his entire world had begun to crumble.

Why should he have to care about anything else?

“John,” Sherlock’s voiced called out to him a tone that said this wasn’t the first time he’d said his name.

John couldn’t answer, not right now. He couldn’t look Sherlock in the face and hold onto the tattered remnants of his composure. He’d promised himself that there’d be no more break downs. No more panicking. He needed to keep it together for Willa because falling apart would do her absolutely no good. It certainly wouldn’t get her home any sooner, likely distracting Sherlock from being able to see that one vital clue that they all knew was out there, somewhere.

Because that was what would get her home. Sherlock. Not hysterics or prayers, Sherlock and his deductions. They were what would bring Willa home, and once again, John would owe Sherlock his life.

“John.” Sherlock’s voice was closer now, somehow he’d managed to move directly in front of John without him noticing.

Sherlock carefully took John’s hands and pulled him away from the counter. The contact was enough to bring John entirely back to the real world. He looked down and startled, surprised to see blood staining both of their hands where they met. A small droplet welling up and then falling to the floor.

“You’re bleeding,” John mumbled, realizing why Sherlock had been calling him. He wondered vaguely how the mad genius had managed to hurt himself this time.

Sherlock was uncommonly gentle when he grabbed John’s wrists and turned his palms upwards. Speaking softly when he said, “no, John, you are.”

“Oh.” John was surprised to see that he was correct. The blood coming from several cuts on his own hands.

He looked around to see what had done it, he hadn’t noticed. There, at his feet, was a teacup lying in pieces with the saucer shattered in a halo around it. A noise involuntarily tore itself from his throat as he pulled his hands away, fully intending to reach down to see which cup it’d been.

Sherlock quickly and carefully recaptured John’s wrists. “No, it’s alright. Just a cup, not yours,” he soothed.

It was only after Sherlock had bodily shoved John to the sink and ran his hands beneath the tap did John finally, finally, feel the stinging of his wounds.

“Fuck,” he hissed and yanked his hands away again.

Sherlock didn’t move but fixed John instead with a pointed stare.

“No, I’m alright. I’ve got it now.” John said as he began picking out the broken shards of porcelain from his skin.

Sherlock, clearly doubting John’s competency as a doctor at this point, frown and asked, “are you sure?”

John ignored him in favor of focusing on continuing to clear his wounds of debris. At least it gave him something to do, something to focus on other than the world around him.

As soon as the wound was clean Sherlock manhandled him around the shattered cup and into his chair. He disappeared and then reappeared a moment later with John’s medical kit in hand. When John reached for it, Sherlock batted his hand away gently. “Let me,” Sherlock insisted.

John was quick to give in and held his hands out for Sherlock.

For a moment, all Sherlock did was give John an odd look before he pulled out the disinfectant. He was quiet as he set to work, his talent in triage had increased over the years and he was able to stitch and bandage nearly as well as John could.

He looked around only to discover both Greg and Irene were still there, both watching them. Greg’s face was written over with concern and exhaust, but Irene’s was impossible for John to decipher. His hatred of her flared in his chest.

“Why are you still here?” He bit out.

She shrugged and rose to stand behind Sherlock, who was still kneeling in front of John’s chair. He was now wrapping John’s right hand carefully.

“You asked me to help,” she reminded.

“Now, I’m asking you to leave.”

She gave a short chuckle. “Go away, Irene. Come here, Irene,” she mocked him, “which is it?”

She then leaned forward, hands coming to rest on Sherlock’s shoulders. It was a rather obvious display of dominance and they all knew it. John knew better than to let her goad him, and yet it was working exactly as she hoped.

He inhaled. 1...2...3 and reminded himself that hitting her was not going to help anything, his hands or the situation.

“I want your help when you have some to give,” he bit out in a terribly measured voice, “but right now you have none to give and are doing nothing but making me very, very annoyed.”

A bit of Captain Watson crept into his voice, knowing well enough that would leave The Woman irate. Sherlock also heard it and his hands stumbled for a moment before he remembered himself, though a small smirk had formed on his lips. Whether from John’s voice or the fact that he was done with the bandaging, John wasn’t sure.

There was a pinched look on Irene’s face and she huffed. “I’ll go, as you wish, though I expect you want me to find your daughter for you while I’m away?” Her hands were still on Sherlock’s shoulders.

John hadn’t even had time to think of a retort before Sherlock was up and whirling around so he was nose to nose with her. “Irene,” he growled low, “if you could please focus on something other than yourself right now, that would be helpful.”

It took just a moment too long before she remembered herself and laughed in the face of Sherlock’s rage. “Fine, I’ll look for her, but I won’t be sticking my neck out for nothing,” near the door she paused and turned to narrow her eyes at John, “you will owe me, John Watson.”

With that last warning, she left.

~~~~~

The mirror was broken, glass splintering up to the top with bits missing to reveal the black parts beneath. The lights in the bathroom didn’t work, nor did any of the other lights in the building, at least that she’d noticed. In the other room they were using a small generator to power the few works lamps scattered about. She’d shut the door but a faint light was still spilling in from the space beneath it and some from the street lamps, filtered through the filthy window.

Will could just barely see herself in the mirror, mostly undistorted, but only if she stood near the left corner. She barely recognized herself though.

Janine had cut and cut at her hair until the ends of it didn’t even brush her shoulders, the floor beneath her was still carpeted in the fallen locks. Willa hadn’t been able to control the sniffling as she watched the first strands of her hair fall away. She’d tried though, telling herself she was being silly, it was hair, and it would grow back.

Once Janine had been content with her work, she grabbed the box of hair dye and started on that. It had smelt awful, and Willa had been forced to breathe through her mouth.

“Will it work?” Cole had asked as he watched from the other room, Janine was still working the dye through the ruins of Willa’s hair.

There was a tug, she had assumed Janine had shrugged. “I dunno, but it’s better than leaving her like she was,” she said from above her.

Willa had to bit down on the desire to protest that there’d been nothing wrong with the hair her hair had been before. She’d like her hair like that, everyone always talked about how pretty it was, but more importantly, that was how Daddy and Papa knew she looked.

Once Janine had finished with the dye she and Cole had gone to the other room, Willa caught a glimpse of the gun Cole carried tucked into the back of his trousers. She sat by herself for forever, still perched on top of the toilet lid. When they began talking again, she cautiously got up, seemingly forgotten for the moment. She took her chance to inspect the room she’d been left in.

There was a single window in the room, opposite the toilet, and Willa realized she couldn’t be seen from the other room when she stood at it. The handed was rusted and the wood and paint crumbled when she touched the sill.

There was nothing below the window, no fire escape or even a roof. Nothing but a four-story drop. Even if she could get the window open Willa realized there was nowhere for her to go, which was probably why they’d decided they could leave her alone. Dejected, she returned to the toilet and sat, listening to the far away sounds of sirens.

Willa wondered if they were looking for her, neither Cole nor Janine seemed concerned though.

She knew that Daddy and Papa would know by now that she was missing even though she really didn’t know how long she’d been gone for. Willa hoped Aunt Harry was alright and had been able to tell them what had happened. That way Papa could start deducing and find her.

He was the world’s greatest detective and surely with Daddy’s help they’d be able to find her.

After a while of assuring herself they’d find her soon Janine came back in. “Let’s see your hair,” she said cheerfully.

Willa bent over the bathtub as she was told, watching the woman out of the corner of her eye. She grabbed one of the jugs of water and turned back to her. “It won’t hurt if you keep your eyes shut,” she warned.

Willa nodded, accidentally knocking her chin off the edge of the bath, before squeezing her eyes shut.

Janine tried talking to her again after she’d rinsed out all the dye and scrubbed her head with shampoo that somehow managed to burn Willa’s eyes even though she’d never opened them. She was roughly scrubbing her hair with an old towel when she exclaimed, “oh look at that, you’ve got some curls.”

Willa just stared at her knees.

With a sigh, realizing she was getting the silent treatment, Janine tossed the towel onto the floor. “Fine, have it your way,” she said and turned and left the room.

Willa followed her back, not knowing what they wanted her to do. Cole was back at the window again.

Other than the door to the bathroom and a handful of windows, there was only one other exit in the room. A door on the other side, past both Janine and Cole. Willa knew there was no way she’d be able to get out that door without them catching her.
“I need to pee,” she announced glancing between them.

Janine, who’d been saying something to him, turned midsentence, “fine, go on. Just pour water in when you’re done, won’t flush otherwise.”

Primitive. Papa’s voice echoed around in her head. He’d once said that about the toilets at a shop when the didn’t have an automatic flush.

She was halfway to the bathroom when Janine called out to her. “Here, change while you’re in there,” she handed a pile of clothing off to Willa.

Nothing special, just a plain pink t-shirt a few sizes too big, a black pair of leggings, some knickers and a thin pair of socks. Willa was surprised when she realized that everything, other than the shirt, was in her size. They seemed to know a lot about her.

Willa decided to press her luck when she went into the bathroom and closed the door. Act like you’re supposed to be doing it. People won’t question you if they think you know what you’re doing. Papa told her that once too, Daddy had made a grumpy face at the lesson. But it worked, neither of them came and demanded she open the door. They were trusting the fact that Willa had nowhere to go.

She quickly used the toilet and changed, still uneasy of the fact that there were strangers on the other side of the door.

She was gathering up her own clothing when she had an idea. She might not be able to go anywhere but her clothing might.

She quickly grabbed the sweater she’d been wearing and went to the window. Carefully she dug her fingers into what was left of the handle and pulled up. The window didn’t budge at first so she pulled harder, flakes of paint and wood chipping away at her efforts. When it finally gave it did so with a squealing so loud to her own ears that Willa paused, waiting for someone to come investigate the noise.

To her surprise, no one came.

She carefully pushed the sweater through the crack until most of it was out the other side, hanging down from the window. Holding it in place, she bent down and scooped up a small pile of her hair and stuffed it into the sleeve still on her side. Cautiously Willa slid the window down until the shirt was pinned, the noise wasn’t as loud this time, then she poked at the fabric until none of it was showing on her side.

Willa hurried away from the window, eager not to get caught, and balled up what was left of her clothing. As she passed by the mirror again she caught sight of herself in it. She pushed up on her toes and looked carefully. It was unnerving not to know the person looking back at you in the mirror.

Her face may still have been the same but in the dark bathroom, she looked like a totally different little girl.

Willa stuck her tongue out at the girl with the short dark hair, which seemed even shorter now that it was mostly dry. The girl stuck out her tongue back.

Willa choked on laughter she felt bubbling up, still tired and a little disoriented. They’d been trying so hard to make her not look like herself, not look like Daddy anymore, but they’d only managed to make her look more like Papa instead.

Janine pushed the door open just then and smiled, though it didn’t seem friendly. “What do you think?” She asked.

Willow dropped her heels back down and tried to scowl at Janine. “I don’t like it,” she said before holding up the ball of her clothing. “What am I supposed to do with these?”

Janine gave a half shrug before nodding toward the bathtub, “put them in there and then come out. I have water for you.”

Willa did as she was told, taking care to make sure the bundle stayed rolled up so no one would notice anything missing. She also took a quick moment to kick around her hair so they wouldn’t see that she’d taken some.

When she came out of the bathroom Janine was waiting by the bed with a plastic cup in her hand. Willa sat down and took the cup as it was handed to her. One of the work lamps shined down into it and she could see specs of white things swirling in the water. Whatever they wanted to give her hadn’t completely dissolved yet.

“Drink it,” Janine ordered, her friendly tone was gone again.

Willa wanted to throw it, or dump it, anything but take it but she was sure they had more. Probably even more shots so she realized there was really no choice. She drank quickly, trying to ignore the grit as it passed over her tongue.

Once she was done Janine refilled the cup with more water, this time there was nothing crushed into it so Willa drank it more willingly.

It seemed like almost no time before the cotton feeling returned to head and limbs grew so heavy she could no longer sit up. Janine stood the entire time watching her, even after Willa had given up fighting and laid down she could still feel her watching.

 

~~~~~

Sometimes it seemed that the only time Mycroft came to Baker Street was when he was the bearer of bad news. Usually, it was regarding the proverbial sword hanging above his or Sherlock’s or even John’s neck. This was the very first time, though, that the sword had swung around to threaten Willa.

Of course, given who her family was Willa was born into a state of danger, but this was different. This was an actual physical danger she was in, not something theoretical or abstract. This was the very first time she stood below the sword and one of the few times in his life that Mycroft truly felt powerless.

Despite the hour the windows in the flat above him were brightly lit, a stark contrast to the neighborhood surrounding him where nearly everyone was asleep. He could even see movement from above though he couldn’t exactly make out who’d just been shuffling past the window.

A silence greeted Mycroft when he pushed open the door to 221 B, regardless of what he’d seen from the outside.

Silence did not belong here, it was an omen of terrible things. Things such as Sherlock’s faked death or his exile.

At the beginning of his familiarity with the flat Mycroft was confident that it would never know such a thing as silence. Sherlock was always winging about something (usually Mycroft) and John, so eager to please in those days, would be following him about trying to find the neutral ground between Mycroft and his younger brother. As time marched on John worried less about pleasing Mycroft and the noise became jokes cracked at his expense.

It didn’t honestly bother Mycroft, their little jokes, instead he was pleased that Sherlock was finally experiencing a sense of comradery that he’d never gotten to as a child. Besides, if he’d ever really gotten fed up with them John was an easy enough man to remove. A man with a military career and several dealings with MI6.

It would have been nothing to place a gun back into John’s hand, wave a paper in his face, and ship him off to parts unknown. But Sherlock was so taken with the little doctor that he allowed their friendship to grow. Because even if some of it was at his expense, Mycroft enjoyed watching Sherlock experience the joys and tragedies of friendship.

More recently it had been the sounds of Willa that brightened the flat, her laugh most of all. She’d been barely a year old the very first time she’d laughed properly for Mycroft. Back then she’d been an endless supply of giggles for her father and even Mrs. Hudson, both of them willing to make fools of themselves just to earn them. Mycroft, at the time, hadn’t been willing to lower himself to that level. So instead, her first giggle for him had come from a simple sneeze.

She’d laughed so hard she’d fallen back on her bottom, red coloring her cheeks.

She reminded him of Sherlock at that age, perhaps because he’d had little to do with any other babies. Even then, when Mycroft was eight and found his little brother mostly tiresome, a giggle from the little boy had always managed to coax a smile onto his face.

Mycroft may have decided she was his to protect that day, not just on some promise to Sherlock but because he wanted to.

Realizing that he hadn’t actually moved into the building any further than the entrance Mycroft shook his head, placing the now melancholic thoughts where they belonged.

Sherlock, it seemed, had been the one he’d seen moving through the window. He was pacing about the living room, every so often stopping and glancing out a window. He was waiting for something, Mycroft wasn’t sure what though. John, on the other hand, was seated in his chair, only his eyes tracing Sherlock’s route around the room.

Gregory was on the sofa with his head tipped back to rest against the wall, looking utterly exhausted and seriously troubled. Despite his eyes being closed Mycroft could tell he was awake, monitoring both John and Sherlock by the noises they were or weren’t making. Mycroft’s long-rumored dead heart squeezed at this because long ago he’d vowed he would do everything within his considerable power to keep this man as happy as he could.

Yet another thing he was failing at.

“Well, what do you have?” Sherlock demanded impatiently even though he hadn’t bothered to spare his brother a glance.

Mycroft held out the only thing he had to offer, a small black memory stick. “This is everything from this evening,” he admitted.

Sherlock, in one fluid motion, snatched the stick from his hand and strode over towards the desk. Mycroft just barely suppressed the urge to sigh at his brother’s impertinence and instead sank down onto the sofa. Gregory, whose eyes still hadn’t opened, reach over and grabbed his hand with surprising accuracy. Mycroft laced their fingers and then returned the squeeze Gregory gave him.

“Did you know Irene Adler was also not dead?” Gregory asked after a beat, finally opening his eyes and lifting up his head.

Mycroft winced slightly before nodding. John, from across the room, let out a disgruntled huff.

“Right, so I’m always the last to know. Funny how that all works,” he snapped.

Mycroft did sigh this time. “I was only made aware of Miss Adler’s miraculous survive about three years ago,” he informed the other man.

“Really?” It was Gregory this time and he sounded properly surprised.

“As it turns out I do not, actually, know everything,” Mycroft admitted sourly.
Though for his discomfort Gregory flashed him a cheeky smile. It was short lived though as Sherlock chose this moment to huff at them in annoyance.

“Well I do hope you’ve managed to bring us something useful,” he bemoaned finally sliding the memory stick into the computer.

Mycroft didn’t want to admit how little he knew he’d actually given his brother so instead he opted to warn him. “She’s clever, Sherlock. This isn’t some bumbling fool we’re dealing with, this is a woman who has already successfully duped us all.”

~~~~~~

Sherlock glanced over his shoulder at Mycroft’s warning, his heart sinking further. He’d known when his brother first came in that the news wasn’t great, or at least it wasn’t the new Sherlock was looking for. Mycroft would undoubtedly have come in gloating if he’d found substantial evidence of Willa’s whereabouts, he would have been positively insufferable if he’d already located her.

Sherlock would have welcome his brother’s smugness for the next decade over having found something out before Sherlock if it meant they would have Willa back tonight.

“What do you have, Mycroft?” John asked Sherlock didn’t have to look behind him to see he had risen from his chair and was moving across the room. John wasn’t a fool, he would have already reached the same conclusion Sherlock had.

“Surveillance from the streets outside the restaurant,” Mycroft told him.

Sherlock glared at the computer screen as it seemed the loading bar refused to move, he made a note to tinker with the processor; clearly, something was wrong with it.

When the files did finally come up Sherlock noticed that the first dozen or so in the folder were nothing more than stills taken from a surveillance camera. He immediately turned to glare at his brother.

“The only camera pointed anywhere near the alley only took a photo every two seconds,” Mycroft cut him off before he could accuse him of withholding information.

Sherlock scowled and turned back around, sour that his brother had reasonably thwarted his attempts to pick a fight. John, growing impatient, reached around him to open the first photo. Sherlock was distracted, just for a moment, by the bandage still wrapped around John’s hand. It was still perfectly tight and the bleeding had stopped, there really was no reason for him to be as distracted by it as he was.

John, oblivious to Sherlock’s split attention, began scrolling through the pictures. With a small shake of his head, Sherlock returned his focus to the screen… back to the case, though he allowed John to continue the navigation.

At 7:29:24, Sherlock noticed, just at the edge of the frame, a familiar woman. At 7:29:26 Janine Hawkins, or whatever her actual name was, had appeared entirely on screen as she emerged from the alley. Relatively little had changed with the woman in the last six years, a little older maybe but quite recognizable. In the next frame, Janine was in the same spot but her head had turned, she was clearly deciding which direction to go. It was in this one that a man was barely visible from the shadows of the alley. Despite the distorted image Sherlock could see a shape, Willa, on his shoulder hanging limply.

A sharp inhale from over Sherlock’s shoulder and John ripped his hand away like the computer had shocked him. He’d spotted Willa too.

Sherlock took over scrolling and before the timestamp had even switched to 7:30, about five minutes before John and Sherlock had even realized Willa was missing, the three of them headed off the left side of the screen.

The next few files were only seconds long CCTV footage tracking glimpses of them as they made their way down the streets.

Sherlock’s blood began boiling as he watched each of the short videos. Not a single one of the dozens of people they passed had even looked twice. Everyone just saw a sweet family heading home after dinner, the little one exhausted. No one noticed that Willa had only one sandal or that her head was being jostled about in a manner that would surely have woken any other child.

Not a single person notice how wrong the scene actually was.

About five blocks, and a handful of cameras, from the restaurant Janine and her partner stopped briefly just barely in view of the camera. Janine turned and spoke to the man carrying Willa, they were obviously waiting for something. It didn’t take long until a small sedan pulled up next to the curb and they climbed inside.

Janine went in first and then

the man did something and just for a split second Sherlock saw something that may help them. As he passed Willa into Janine he was careful with her, cradling her head and gently sliding her legs in before climbing in himself. Sherlock replayed the video again to ensure he’d seen what he thought he had.

“What do you see, Sherlock?” John asked after the second replay.

“This man,” Sherlock said turning to look at John, or rather his chin for as close as they were, “he’s being careful with her, or at least more than we’d expect. He’s clearly uncomfortable with the fact that she’s a child.”

From the sofa Mycroft made a sound, both John and Sherlock turned their heads to look at him. “I agree,” he conceded, “we’ve been running him through facial recognition software, starting with the American’s database given what Harriet had said.”

John straightened up so abruptly that he shoved Sherlock’s chair into the desk. “So this is all we’ve got to go on?” He was agitated, “bits of useless video and a polite kidnapper?”

Sherlock looked up at John. He wanted to say something to calm him down, to reassure him. To remind him that sometimes the littlest details were the ones that solved the case. But he was worried it might set John off even more.

Mycroft took over that job for him, thankfully. “John, this is more than you had ten minutes ago.” He reminded him in a placating tone.

Perhaps maybe not thankfully, Lestrade even cringed.

“And it’s shit!” John roar and stalked over towards Mycroft.

Mycroft outwardly appeared unconcerned by John’s aggressive movements, though Sherlock knew his brother well enough to know when he was worried. It was Lestrade who sat up straighter, mouth drawn into a line. Sherlock was loathed to admit it but it was clear the detective was prepared to defend his husband, even from one of his oldest friends, and that was… not nothing.

“They’re still in London, John,” Mycroft told him sounding bored, “we have faces and a car to look for. That is more than we might have hoped for.”

John glared down at Mycroft, his fists clenching and unclenching. “It’s not enough,” he hissed.

“But,” Sherlock began quietly, “it gives me somewhere to start looking.”

John turned to Sherlock the anger draining from his face, leaving him distressingly blank, “fine.”

Sherlock couldn’t take his eyes off John, worried, though he tilted his head towards his brother and Lestrade, “which I’m going to do as soon as my brother leaves.”

Lestrade got the hint first and started moving, he sat up and patted Mycroft’s knee. “Let’s go find some coffee,” he said before standing. Then, in a move that was either exceptionally brave or foolish, he walked around and stood in front of John. “I’m going to call my people and see if there’s anything new. I’ll let you know either way.”

John gave a short sharp nod, mouth set into a thin line. “Thanks, Greg.”

“Always, mate,” Lestrade said and started moving towards the door once Mycroft had gathered himself to rise.

At the doorway Mycroft paused, “I am doing my best, John.” His voice was uncharacteristically soft before disappearing down the stairs with his husband.

Sherlock watched as John let out a sigh that seemed to cause him to deflate. He turned back towards Sherlock. “What are you going to do now?”

“I’m going back to the restaurant and follow their route,” Sherlock told him.

“To where?” John asked, this time sinking down into his chair.

Sherlock paused, he wasn’t quite sure where one would hide out when kidnapping a young child. But he did know they would still be in London, there hadn’t been enough time to get out of the city before the police had been alerted and Mycroft had more or less locked down the country.

Though he didn’t know precisely where they were heading, Sherlock did know that there were only a handful of neighborhoods to choose from. The kinds of areas where no one asked questions or spoke to the police about strange happenings. It was still much too extensive a list to give to John.

“I’m not entirely sure,” he answered finally, “but the car stopped somewhere, and someone must have seen something.”

“Right, so now I’m useless,” John said, dropping his head into his hands.

Sherlock blinked, for a moment, confused. “Useless,” he parroted.

“This, the waiting and the figuring it all out. This is you, Sherlock,” John gestured towards him with one hand, head still resting on the other. “Drawing conclusions from less than five minutes of CCTV footage, this is you. My daughter’s been kidnapped and I’m bloody useless.”

“John...”

“No,” John interrupted before Sherlock had a chance to assure him that wasn’t true at all. “No,” he repeated, softer this time, “give me someone to fight, or shoot at, or run after and then I’ll be helpful.”

“So then you’ll just sit here all night,” Sherlock snapped.

John looked up properly, surprised by Sherlock’s tone. “Yes.”

Sherlock walked over to the coat tree, grabbed John’s jacket, and threw it at him perhaps more violently than he’d meant to. “Sitting around here getting drunk with be of no use to Willa, come with me, be useful.”

John stood, jacket still bundled in his hand, and seemed to consider for a moment. “Fine,” he said, still clearly annoyed.

 

~~~~~~

It was nearly three in the morning and Harry couldn't sleep. Hadn't been able to get even some much as twenty minutes with her eyes shut.

Harry, unlike John, had never been able to fall asleep just anywhere. At least sober. Drunk she could, and often did, pass out where she stood waking up several hours later where she'd fallen. Sober, she was relegated to lying on her side looking out as the night passed by her window. The nurses and doctors didn't help either.

Of course, that wasn't their fault, they were concerned about the nasty blow to the head she'd taken. They were only coming in every hour or so to check her vitals and perform, what she'd been told were, standard neurological tests. Harry wasn't sure, but she thought John might have told them about her drinking history since they seemed overly cautious with her. She couldn't remember if being an alcoholic would affect a concussion. It's something she might have known long ago but had slipped away as she drank.

It wasn't just the foreign bed or the constant parade of people in her room that were keeping her awake. It was the guilt too. Gnawing away at her insides to the point she didn't know if she was nauseous from the concussion or the guilt.

There was also the fear, not helping matters anyway. If John found out, though more than likely it was a 'when,' he'd have every right to do whatever he wanted to her. She'd betrayed him, badly. Even she saw that now. But it wasn't just John anymore, she's also betrayed Willa, and that was where John would gather most of his righteous fury from. He'd no doubt take the time to make her feel smaller than a cockroach, less desirable too, before very possibly ending her life.

She didn't mean to betray Willa or even John for that matter. It was all just supposed to be harmless. A little bit of innocent information here or there and the occasional photo. It all seemed so… harmless at first.

Of course, there had been the thank you donations into her account every time she sent off a text, and yes, maybe that should have tipped off that things weren't exactly on but how was she to know it was going to become this?

Harry had contemplated sneaking away from the hospital, leaving London, so that by the time John realized she'd had a hand in all this she'd be out of the country. All fanciful thoughts because she knew though that there wasn't anywhere in the world they wouldn't come looking for her.

The shrill ring of the hospital phone jerked Harry from her thoughts, her heart sinking. Only John knew where she was, she couldn't imagine a 3am call being good. She hoped for the best and prepared for the worst as she reached out to answer the phone.

"Hello," her voice wasn't as steady as she'd hoped.

"I heard you got a little bump on the head."

Suddenly Harry knew there was someone a thousand times worse than John on the other end. Mary. She'd only ever spoken to the woman about five times during all the years of knowing her, but there was no doubt as to who it was.

"What have you done?" Harry hissed only to realize her hand had risen to cover her mouth in an attempt to calm her breathing.

"Me? I haven't done anything. Why, Harriet? What have you done?" She was entirely too calm sounding for someone who had just kidnapped a child.

"I didn't do this!" Harry shouted before remembering herself and where she was. She took a deep breath and lowered her voice, "this was you, I know it."

"You agreed to this."

"It was only meant to be photos, texts, not… this!" Harry hissed into the phone.

"Do you think if you keep saying that, that maybe John won't destroy you?"

Harry inhaled sharply, surprised at how accurately Mary had been at guess what she'd been up to. "He won't," she said even though she knew differently.

A cold, hollow, laugh rang down the line and it made Harry's spine tingle.

"I married him, Harry. I know just what he's capable of, and now with Sherlock back by his side, there'll be no one to stop him."

Harry opened her mouth to protest once more but found she didn't even have the strength to dispute those claims because she knew it was all true.

"Now I need to go. I'm rather busy at the moment but I wanted to remind you, Harriet, that if you tell John anything it won't just be his gun you're running from. Are we clear?"

"Y-yes," Harry agreed, her voice shaking.

As soon as she spoke the line went dead, dial tone ringing in her ears.

She lost it then, her ability to keep the great weight of it all in her stomach. She didn't even have time to stand before she was leaning over the bed, retching. The hospital phone dropping down to the floor, even then she could still hear the tone.

After several moments the dry heaving finally stopped and Harry managed to crawl back into the bed. Hitting the call button, she allowed herself to sink back into the pillows and cry. Mostly for herself, she was dead either way now, so she was entitled to some self-pity. It was likely no one else was going to cry for her when the time finally came.

~~~~~~

Greg watched as Mycroft paced in front of his desk, one mobile wedged between his shoulder and ear with another being furiously pecked at in his hands.

It was the fact that Mycroft was pacing that was the worrying part, Greg had seen him juggle several devices at once more times than he could count. Except in the past, all of the feats of multitasking had been performed behind a desk, never pacing the floor.

Greg was fairly confident in the fact that he was probably the only person on Earth to have ever seen Mycroft Holmes in such a state. This knowledge caused a little bit of warmth to invade the chill that had been residing in Greg's insides since they'd found out that Willa was missing.

Mycroft was comfortable enough with him (as he should be seeing as they'd been married for over two years) that he was allowing Greg to see him at his most vulnerable. As the man who cared deeply for his family, for his niece and her fathers, and felt he needed to be the one to right this wrong. It made Greg want to get up from his seat and force Mycroft to stop pacing, to bury his face in his neck and assure his husband it'd all end up alright. Sherlock always came out on top, and god willing, this would be no different.

He didn't though because, at this moment, Greg knew that they all needed Mycroft as his best. Not distracted by his sentimental old fool of a husband. Now was not the time to be thinking of his own wants and needs when his niece was out there somewhere not with her fathers.

There really wasn't much for him to do here though, he was itching to get out on the streets but knew there wasn't a place for him there either. Greg was absolutely chaffed to admit that any useful information on her whereabouts would come from Sherlock or through Mycroft's office, not through the Yard. Still, he was texting constantly asking for updates on the case, the responses were all the same. Which was to say absolutely nothing of use.

If they were at home Greg could have found a way to occupy himself, to feel useful. Whether that was making tea or pacing around his own bedroom. Hell, he'd probably feel more useful in the near-empty flat Mycroft insisted on keeping because it was nearly center between their offices. So instead of being able to find something to do, Greg was forced to sit on his hands and watch his husband try and control the world.

No sooner had Mycroft put down the mobile he'd been talking on than one of his assistants knocked at the door. Seemingly, becoming aware of himself Mycroft settle himself into his seat behind the desk before calling the person is.

The woman who walked in was gorgeous and probably about half his age. Greg was always somewhat amused by the fact that nearly every one of Mycroft's assistants were pretty women. The kind of women Greg wouldn't really mind having wait on him hand and foot. In the beginning, during the early stages of their courtship, he may have been a bit jealous and more than slightly suspicious of this fact. Over time he'd come to realize his darling husband would have little knowledge of what to do with a naked woman aside from handing her a coat.

"Surveillance report on your brother, sir," she said, holding out a single piece of paper towards Mycroft.

Mycroft took the paper, not bothering to look up from the laptop he was now navigating. He glanced at the sheet for a few moments before putting it down, returning his full attention to the computer screen. Greg waited with eyebrows raised for the update.

"Aside from being a few thousand pounds short by dawn and having walked most of London, there's not much to see," Mycroft said finally after he realized Greg was waiting on him.

"Nothing new?" Greg asked though he'd already gotten his answer.

Mycroft shook his head, and for a second, even in the presence of company, he looked sad. "You may go, Jessica," Mycroft said finally.

She gave a short nod and turned to leave, but before she reached the door, she turned to Greg. "Would you like anything, Detective Lestrade?"

Greg shook his head, "I'm good," he lied. He was dying for a coffee but always felt out of place asking for something from one of Mycroft's assistants.

"My husband would like a coffee, black," Mycroft informed her as she reached the door.

Greg raised an eyebrow at that, though he couldn't help but smile a little at Mycroft's perhaps excessive use of the title husband.

"You do," Mycroft told him once again focused on the laptop screen.

"Yeah," Greg relented, "but it's not necessary since she's obviously doing just as much work as you are. I could have gotten it."

Mycroft's lips turned down into a small scowl. "No," he said simply, "you're more useful here."

Greg sighed and leaned back into the chair, recognizing when an argument wasn't worth having. After all, that was

as close to 'I need you here' as he was going to get from Mycroft.

The coffee helped distract him from the oppressive silence and the feeling of uselessness for a while but eventually, the cup was empty. No sooner had he drained the cup, though, did the feelings crawl back up into his throat. He couldn't help but think of John and Sherlock wandering London all night looking for their daughter. He loved Willa immensely but knew whatever he was feeling now, John and Sherlock were going through it tenfold. He didn't even know what he'd do if it were Addy out there missing.

That thought at least gave him something to do. Pulling out his mobile, he sent a text to David, even though he hoped he was asleep, and updated him (nothing) and asked for him to pass his love onto Addy.

He managed to sit still for approximately another two minutes before the urge to do something overwhelmed him. So he stood up from the chair and walked over to Mycroft who was once again wholly immersed in his devices. Despite seemingly being in his own world Mycroft tensed when Greg walked around the desk, but that was the only indication he gave of being aware.

Ignoring all the warning signs that said 'go away,' Greg stepped behind Mycroft's chair. The back was low enough he was able to put his hands on his husband's shoulders and begin rubbing them in a futile effort to relieve him of some of the tension.

"Gregory, this is not helpful," Mycroft said even as he leaned back into his touch.

Greg shrugged and continued, thumbs pressing firm circles into the base of Mycroft's neck, "it is for me."

"How is distracting me helpful for you?" Mycroft asked, turning his head in an attempt to look back at him, a halfhearted scowl affixed to his face. Greg was having none of it and removed a hand to gently push Mycroft's chin until he was looking forward again.

"It's distracting me," Greg clarified.

"And you need distracting?"

Greg snorted, "desperately."

He could almost see the gears in Mycroft's head working until suddenly he nodded, "carry on then."

~~~~~~

She was riding her bike around the boating lake at the park, it was fun since she hadn't been on her bike since she'd broken her arm. Papa was nervous about her rebreaking it even though Daddy had said she was well enough to ride again. She could hear them talking to each other behind her, when she felt brave enough she turned and could see them just behind her. They both smiled at her before turning to each other and talking again. Willa thought it was funny because even though it was very warm out Papa was wearing his big jacket.

Willa laughed at her silly Papa to herself, about to call out to him and tell him he was being odd, but her bike began to wobble. She focused on gripping the handlebar tighter and steering it straight. By the time she got the bike under control, she realized she was going frightfully fast, and every time she tried to hit the brakes they wouldn't work, she just kept on going.

She could hear Papa shouting at her to slow down and to stop, she tried to tell him she couldn't but she was so far away now that he couldn't hear her. She turned to look at them, Daddy was racing after her now but he wasn't going fast enough and she kept getting further and further away. Soon enough she couldn't even hear them anymore.


She didn't care now if the bike crashed and she broke her arm again, anything would be better than this, so she lifted her hands off the bars.

Willa started awake. She struggled to open her eyes, they were still so heavy, but when she did she could just make out the sun rising above some of the buildings outside her window. Not her window, she remembered and gave up struggling to keep her eyes open, the tears stinging at her eyes anyway. Her entire body felt too heavy, and besides moving her arm, she couldn't get it to do much she wanted. She wondered why she was awake since her body clearly wasn't ready to be up.

"Why this?" Cole asked, rather loudly.

"Because you were told do," Janine answered from somewhere near Willa.

They were arguing, she could tell by their tones, but it didn't seem like they'd noticed that Willa was awake. She now kept still on purpose so they wouldn't stop talking, maybe she could figure out what they were going to do.

"Yeah, I was told I'd have to do a lot of things, but not this!"

"Do you want me to call her and tell her you're refusing?" Janine spat out, she was nearly yelling now.

Cole made a funny noise, "would you do it?"

"Yes," Janine answered shortly, "if I was told to. It's not like you won't be paid for it."

"It's a child," Cole insisted, sounding upset.

Janine laughed, but it wasn't a funny laugh, it made Willa's stomach roll and not feel right. "There are millions and millions of kids, you need to get over it."

"Really? That's your justification? That there's more? What about her parents?" Cole was pleading now, but his voice was getting closer to Willa and Janine.

"How many people have you killed?" Janine snapped, and the bed near Willa's feet bounced. "Were they all soldiers?"

It was very quiet for a while and Willa nearly fell back asleep. She was almost there when Cole growled out, "fine."

He left, stomping out of the room angrily, Willa could hear his footsteps down many of the stairs. Janine was quiet after he left and this time Willa really did fall asleep again.

It seemed she'd only been asleep a few minutes when Janine was roughly shaking her awake. Willa's eyes weren't as heavy this time and she blinked them open at Janine, it took her a moment to realize that room was much brighter than last time.

"Get up," Janine ordered.

Willa managed to sit up this time, but her arms and legs still felt wobbly. Cole was back in the room, his lips were pulled together in a very thin line and he wouldn't look away from a spot on the wall. She only barely remembered the conversation from before, her sleepy head making it feel more like a dream than something that really happened. Whatever he'd agreed to do was making him very upset.

Looking around the room Willa realized she'd been back asleep for a while as the room was now nearly bare. All the work lamps and the generator were missing along with all the other little things they'd had with them. Aside from the mattress, the only things in the room were three big orange plastic jugs.

Janine stepped in front of her holding a silver foil packet and a bottle of water. When she held them out to Willa it took her a moment to realize she was being given her breakfast. Obediently she took it and managed only to wrinkle up her nose a bit when she realized that they were cherry pop-tarts.

"Oh just eat it," Janine snapped apparently having noticed Willa's unhappiness.

The food kept sticking in her throat and she wanted to gag. She'd always hated the taste of artificial cherry, so much so she'd thought she hated cherries. She thought that up until last summer when Daddy had taken her to the beach. They'd stayed in a little cottage right by the shore, and one dad Daddy had bought a small basket of cherries. He'd chased her around playfully until she agreed to try one.

She'd realized she loved the real ones.

Daddy then taught her how to spit the pit out really far into the sand. Their afternoon had been spent having a pit spitting contest to see who could get them to go the farthest. That had been the happiest she could ever remember Daddy being, at least before Papa came to live with them.

Tears were stinging her eyes once again as she remembered their beach trip. Daddy's eyes had crinkled up as he laughed when she'd puff out her cheeks really big before spitting. Papa had talked about taking them all on holiday again so he could do those things with them.

As soon as she was done Janine pulled the trash from her hand and handed her a pair of trainers. They were a little too big but Willa didn't say anything about it. As she put them on, she looked at Cole again. He hadn't seemed to have moved since when she first woke up, he was still only looking at the wall and nowhere else.

"What are we doing?" Willa dared to ask once her shoes were on. By now her head didn't feel as fuzzy and her arms and legs were almost back to normal.

Janine, who'd been in the bathroom, reappeared. "We're going for a ride," she said simply, "go use the toilet quick."

Willa nodded and went, realizing they weren't going to tell her anything else. Once she was done Janine took her hand and pulled her out into the hallway near the stairs. They stood watching as Cole finally moved and grabbed one of the big orange jugs. He too went into the bathroom but Willa quickly realized he wasn't dumping the jugs down the drain, a brownish puddle began trickling out under the door. He came back into the room and grabbed the next canister, dumping it all on the mattress where she'd slept. By now the smell had reached Willa's nose and she gasped.

It was petrol.

Instinctively she took a step back trying to put more space between her and the liquid.

"Oh, aren't you clever," Janine said, but it didn't sound like a compliment. She gripped Willa's hand even harder to keep her from going anywhere else.

The third jug of petrol was emptied all over the floor, some of it splashed onto the walls, of the room. Once it was finished, only then did Janine half pull Willa down the stairs. They only stopped right before a door, Willa could hear the sounds of a street on the other side. Janine let go of her hand for a second and leaned down so she was looking right into Willa's eyes.

"I'm trusting you to act like a big girl," she warned, "if you scream or cry when we go outside I will shoot you. Do you understand?" As she said this she pulled open the purse she was carrying and in it Willa could see a tiny silver handgun.

Swallowing down the urge to cry, Willa nodded.

Cole's

boots were heavy on the stairs again, this time because he was running. "Let's go," he said as he brushed by them to the door, not even stopping.

Janine grabbed Willa's hand and pulled her after him, "come on, we have somewhere to be."

 

~~~~~~

“Sir,” Jessica called as she pushed open the door to Mycroft’s office just a crack. She hadn’t knocked but everyone knew the fastest way to find oneself unemployed was by barging into his office without an invitation.

“Come in,” he told her. Mycroft knew the lack of knocking meant there had been some kind of news on his niece.

Jessica came in quickly, carrying yet another sheet of paper. Just one again.

“Yes, what is it?” He asked tone just on this side of impatient.

“Miss Watson became ill and extremely agitated around three this morning,” Jessica explained as she handed the paper to him. “We looked into it after it was noted in her chart and found she had received a phone call to her room moments prior.”

Jessica was very studiously not looking at Gregory as she spoke.

Gregory had given up his vigil less than a half hour before after some, perhaps inappropriately timed, snogging. At the time neither of them had been receiving any new worthy of alert, so there had been no point in both of them being awake given that it had been nearly 24 hours since either of them had slept. He was currently sprawled out on the leather sofa in Mycroft’s office, his mobile resting on his chest.

Though now that there was something that might have been news Mycroft found himself loath to wake his husband. He wasn’t honestly sure if the phone call was actually news, perhaps it had just been an empty update paired with a concussion that had set Harriet Watson off.

He glanced over the paper and realized the number didn’t make sense to have been John or someone else who could update Harriet. According to the information they’d pulled on the number it belonged to a cell phone that had been purchased in China.

“Was the phone line tapped?” Mycroft asked after he had finished reading.

Jessica pulled her bottom lip in between her teeth and Mycroft sighed, that would be a no then. “Why?”

“We didn’t think Miss Watson was involved,” Jessica answered, her voice quieter than usual.

Mycroft pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. “Well obviously she is involved as she was the one with the girl when she was taken,” he reminded ever so carefully, “has she called John or Sherlock at all?”

Jessica shook her head.

“Pull her phone records, see if this number has ever been in contact with her before,” Mycroft ordered as he shoved the paper back towards her.

Jessica took the paper and seemed to ignore his irritable tone with her. “For how long, sir?” She asked.

“Six years,” Mycroft said more sharply than he’d meant to but he held any apologies and watched her until she began to turn. “And please make sure someone is trying to track this number,” he called out as she reached for the door.

Gregory stirred on the lounge and Mycroft instantly regretted raising his voice. He’d decided that there was no reason to wake his husband until he was sure there was something to tell him.

Mycroft couldn’t imagine Harriet Watson being the one to receive a ransom call for Willa and even if she did it was unlikely that she’d forget to inform anyone else about it. If this wasn’t just some innocent call and an injured woman, which he was slowly beginning to doubt was a possibility, then she was certainly involved in Willa’s disappearance. Mycroft just wasn’t entirely sure how she’d fit into the entire thing.

He’d had Harry looked into shortly after John had moved in with Sherlock and he’d had her looked into more closely just before John returned to London with Willa. She was mostly unremarkable as far as people went. Three years older than John with a petty criminal record stretching back into her early teens, no doubt her form of rebellion against their father.

Originally it had been vandalism and minor shoplifting but as she’d gotten older and found herself in the world of alcohol she’d found herself arrested for more and more things. But still, the most serious offense had been assaulting a police officer as he attempted to secure her a ride home one night after she’d gotten excessively drunk.

She’d fallen into the bottle early, barely into her teens. She’d somehow managed to get into university but failed out in her first term. She never went back and instead spent her life shifting from shop positions to temp agencies and then back again. She’d met her future ex-wife in 2000, the relationship had been rocky from the start, but Clara had stuck by her through two stays in rehab. They eventually married in 2005 while John was home on leave, him being one of the few people to attend their wedding. The divorce came four years later after alleged infidelity on Harry’s part.

After the divorce she moved into the bottom of a bottle, only working when the situation got dire and John refused to help her out. Only in 2015, after an ultimatum issued by John, she managed to maintain a functional level of alcoholism in order to be able to see her niece, this included a steady job.

She had no contacts to anyone even remotely connected to Moriarty or Mary Morstan (Mycroft still hadn’t managed to discover her proper name). She only got into trouble when she drank, hardly a career criminal.

A very pedestrian tragedy that some might have deemed a worthwhile story, but one Mycroft found tedious. Though he wondered if that dullness had caused him to overlook something.

He tried not to think very hard on that and forty-five minutes after her last visit to his office Jessica knocked again.

“Yes?”

“Miss Watson has never communicated with that number before, Sir.” Jessica began informing him even before she was entirely through the door. “The number is registered to a disposable phone that was sold in Chengdu, China.”

Mycroft frowned at the news.

Jessica continued to read from the file she was holding, this time it truly was an entire file. “But since January of 2012, she has been in semi-regular communication with a mobile phone from Santa Clara, California.”

“How regular?” Mycroft asked, holding out his hand.

Jessica closed the file and handed it to him, “three times a year at least.”

Mycroft looked over the first page. Even if he wasn’t looking at the exact texts the dates they were being sent were extremely telling. Text every year right around the beginning of January, the beginning of April and finally the middle of June. Scattered in between these telling dates were a few random messages. This year there had been three messages exchanged on Willa’s first day of school.

Mycroft because quickly scanning through the actual copies of the texts, the messages even more damning.

2 April, 2016 22:03
Willa’s walking now.
Very independent, wanted to get down and run around the restaurant.


6 January, 2017 21:14
She’s still just a wee thing.
Knows hundreds of words though! Talked my ear off all evening.

7 September 2020 12:08
She’s started school.
Some posh place too. Not sure where John’s getting the $. Doesn’t seem to actually work.
She looked excited about it though.


Harry had been filling someone in about Willa’s life since the very first time John had allowed her to come visit them. There was suddenly no more room for doubt in Mycroft’s mind as to Harriet Watson’s involvement. He was also very sure who the person she’d been texting was.

“Run Miss Watson’s bank records, please.” He instructed suddenly more angry than he could remember having been in a very long time.

Jessica must have heard it in his voice because she nodded and scrambled out of the room without another word.

Mycroft took a few deep breaths and stood. Walking over to Gregory he leaned down and gently shook his shoulder. Gregory stirred just a bit, his eyes still closed.

“I have news,” he said as softly as he could manage.

This was what got the other man’s eyes to open. “What is it?” He asked even though his eyes weren’t even focused yet, a response learned after years of constantly being on alert as a detective.

“It looks like Harriet Watson has been relaying information regarding Willa to someone for the past five years,” Mycroft said as he straightened up, his anger returning.

Gregory sat up at this news and began scrubbing at his face. “Shit.”

Mycroft nodded in agreement.

“Mary?” Gregory asked, taking a moment for his brain to catch up to the possibilities.

“I believe so.”

“Shit,” Gregory repeated.

“My sentiments,” Mycroft agreed.

~~~~~~

John was more exhausted than he’d been in a very long time. He’d been up for well over twenty-four hours at this point and was relying solely on adrenaline and caffeine to keep him upright. He was beginning to feel the adrenaline ebb away, draining from him with every person they spoke to that had no news on anything related to Willa. So it was a good thing they were needing to stop every half hour or so to refresh their coffee supply. By this point it was possible that John had ingested a near lethal dose of caffeine.

Sherlock was a bit away speaking to an older man with a rather obvious case of scabies. John was all too happy to lurk in the background sipping as his coffee and observing. He made a mental note to send Sherlock’s coat off for fumigation as soon as they had the time. Meaning just as soon as they’d found their daughter.

Sherlock was awkwardly trying to avoid shaking the man’s hand (at least he’d noticed) when John’s phone began ringing. His heart did a funny thing where it simultaneously rose in his throat, fluttering like a panicked bird, and sank into his stomach like a stone. He tried to ignore the feeling as he switched the carrier in his hands and went fumbling into his pocket to get it.

Mycroft.

“Yeah?” John answered he was far past pleasantries.

Mycroft inhaled on the other end before speaking, the bird in John’s throat died and joined the stone in his stomach. “You might wish to meet us at the hospital your sister is in,” he said eventually.

“Why?”

John demanded, Sherlock had turned and was watching him now.

“I have not received any information in regards to Willa’s whereabouts,” Mycroft told him, almost as an afterthought.

“But...” John encouraged.

“But,” Mycroft confessed, “I have received information that suggests Harriet may know more about this situation than we’d first believed.”

John only noticed his right knee giving out when Sherlock, who’d been inching closer every second, was forced to catch his arm to steady him. “What?” John hissed after a moment.

“I believe it would be best if we question Harriet,” Mycroft continued.

“Mycroft,” John warned, “you need to think about what you’re saying.”

“I’m quite aware of what I’m saying, John,” He said tersely, “but I’m still saying it. Will you meet us at the hospital?”

“Yes,” John bit out before stabbing at the little red button on his screen. Sherlock was looking at him with concern, hand still on John’s arm.

“We’re going to the hospital,” John told him as he pulled away, heading for the nearest road.

Neither of them spoke during the entire cab ride to the hospital. John didn’t dare open his mouth right now, certainly not in the back of a cab. He wasn’t sure what the cause of Sherlock’s silence was especially since he hadn’t explained what was going, but he was grateful for it on some level. Sherlock being quiet meant he didn’t have to answer and that was going to keep him from appearing insane, even it was for just a few more minutes.

Mycroft and Greg were waiting for them just outside the lift on Harry’s floor, both of their mouths fixed into a grimace.

Sherlock cut in front of John, hand out and gesturing for Mycroft to hand over the file he held at his side. John wondered if Sherlock had been messaging Mycroft in the cab and already knew what was going on.

Mycroft handed the file over to Sherlock but was looking to John. “The evidence is all there.”

John stepped into Mycroft’s space, ignoring the way Greg shifted uncomfortably beside him and the way Mycroft determinedly would not be cowed. “Are you sure? Because this is my sister and I know she’s got issues but I’m not about to go in there-”

“John,” Sherlock interrupted John’s tirade, forcing him to look at him. “The evidence is… compelling.”

“Compelling?” John repeated.

Sherlock nodded and held out the file, ever so hesitantly, “she’s been receiving payment.”

A bark-like laughed echoed down the hallway and from the way everyone, including some of the nurses, were looking at him John realized he’d been the one to make the sound. “Jesus,” he groaned and scrubbed a hand over his face.

Sherlock dropped the arm he’d been holding out, realizing John didn’t actually want to see the proof of his sister’s betrayal.

John narrowed his eyes at him. “How?” He spat, “how didn’t you notice?”

Sherlock jerked back, offense written all over his face. Greg even made an aborted motion to come between them.

“I can tell you if she’s been drinking, John,” Sherlock said eventually, “but there was no way I could know what she was doing, I don’t even think she realized what she was doing.”

John felt just a bit guilty beneath all the layers of rage and despair so he drew away from the others. “Fine,” was all me managed before stalking down the hall towards Harry’s room.

Predictably the other three followed after him quickly.

John shoved the door open into Harry’s room with far more force than necessary. She started at the noise and all it took was for their eyes to lock for just a second and John knew, without a doubt, that what Mycroft had been saying was true. Harry was sitting in the hospital bed but when John had entered one hand crept up to worry the necklace she wore. Her eyes were wide and she was very obviously afraid of him (rightly so). He could feel the rage building in his chest at an alarming pace.

“What did you do?” John hissed at her.

He stepped forward to the end of her bed and very intentionally wrapped his hands around the plastic foot board. His fingertips found the rigid plastic of the joint and he dug them into it. That little bit of pain was the only thing keeping him grounded, the only thing keeping him from lashing out.

“What do you mean? I didn’t do anything?” Harry insisted but John could see that her heart was in her protests.

“Don’t,” John growled at her, “don’t you fucking lie to me right now.”

Sherlock brushed against him as he came into the room and went around John so he could sit at the foot of the bed. Harry suddenly couldn’t decide which one of them to watch so her eyes began flickering back and forth between them rapidly.

“Why?” Was all Sherlock asked and John stared at the back of his head incredulous to how the other man could sound so calm.

Harry sniffled pathetically, a single tear running down her cheek. “It was just texts.”

John had to look away, not because he was feeling remorse, but rather because if he watched her facade any longer he might just let go of the footboard and strangle her.

“And pictures,” Sherlock said as he took a piece of paper and waved it towards her. John couldn’t really see the paper but he saw enough to recognize some photos from Willa’s second birthday.

“Yes,” Harry agreed, sounding like a child, “and pictures.”

“Who approached you?” Mycroft asked from behind John. It was first he’d noticed that Mycroft and Greg had followed them into the room.

Harry looked up, seemingly just as surprised that there were other people in the room too. “I don’t know.”

“Lying,” both Sherlock and Mycroft pronounced in unison. Any other time John might have been amused and pointed it out, but not now.

~~~~~~

“You were threatened,” Greg said as soon as he realized it. The other four people in the room turned to look at him as if they hadn’t expected him to speak up. “That’s why you got so worked up earlier,” he explained.

Harry looked startled and actually pushed herself further up the bed as if she could get away from them. “How’d you know about that?”

If Greg had to pinpoint his exact purpose in this room right now, he would have to say it was as Harry Watson’s reluctant protector. It wasn’t that he actually wanted to protect her, but he worried that if he wasn’t here, there was a very real possibility that Mycroft wouldn’t do anything to prevent John and Sherlock from killing her.

“What were you threatened with?” Mycroft asked, toying with the handle of his umbrella looking for all the world as if he were bored. Greg knew better.

Harry didn’t answer, just watched them all with wide eyes.

“Your life then,” Sherlock pronounced instead.

Mycroft sighed and quickly traced on the square tiles on the floor with his umbrella before glancing up at Greg. “Tell us everything and I will do my best to keep you alive,” he said after turning back to look at Harry.

Greg knew that promise came not from the good parts of Mycroft’s heart but from the part of him who felt Greg didn’t actually know what he was capable of and wanted to keep him in the dark.

“What?” Both John and Harry asked at the same time.

“Try? You’ll try,” Harry laughed breathlessly. “Try? Why the hell would I tell you anything for that?”

“Because,” Mycroft said, shifting his glance towards John, “the other options are even less favorable for you.”

Harry swallowed at the implication and even Greg looked away. This whole thing was turning to utter shit.

“She called me,” Harry said in a small voice a few moments later.

“Who?” John demanded.

“Mary,” Harry clarified. “She called me just after Willa’s first birthday. She said she’d tried to reach out to you, but you wouldn’t have any of it. That you wouldn't even speak to her. She said all she wanted was to know how she was doing and maybe a picture when I had it.”

“So, you just gave it to her?” John asked, incredulously. “You decided ‘oh to hell with, John’ and just gave it to her?”

Harry looked distraught. “No! But I know how you can be when you think someone is wrong you just don’t give in. You’re so stubborn and-”

Greg cleared his throat as John’s face was turning an alarming shade of red. Harry was doing a piss poor job of defending herself. Insulting John was a surefire way to get him, or Sherlock, to strangle her than it was to get them to see her side.

“The money didn’t seem odd to you?” He asked, once again, everyone looked at him surprised.

If he weren’t so tired Greg would be annoyed. Everyone in the roomed seemed to be forgetting that he was a detective and damn good one too. There was a time in his life when his husband didn’t practically run the government and his brother in law wasn’t a slightly mad ‘consulting’ detective.

Harry shrugged, finger twisting around a gold chain she was wearing. “Well… yes,” she admitted finally.

At just that moment Greg’s mobile began vibrating in his pocket. He ignored it for a second, assuming it was a test, but it continued to go. Once he fished it out and saw that it was work he shuffled over into a corner, not really comfortable enough to leave everyone unsupervised.

“Lestrade,” he answered.

“Sir, this is DS Meyer.”

“Yeah?” Greg asked, letting just the slightest bit of his irritation seep into his voice, he really didn’t have the time for asinine calls.

“You’ve asked us to alert you to anything suspicious, sir,” Meyer told him sounding nearly as annoyed. “We’ve gotten a call from the fire brigade about a suspicious fire they put out in Peckham this morning.”

“What makes it suspicious?”

“Fire took out just the top floor of an abandoned building, said it was intentionally set with an accelerant. Did some questioning and some of the neighbors reported seeing lights up there the past few nights, except there’s no power running to the building and there was nothing up there.”

Greg rolled the words around in his mind before deciding, “yeah, alright, I’ll come out. Text me the address?”

“Yes,

sir.”

Mycroft was openly watching Greg as he turned around after finishing the call, the other three were involved in a sort of dark staring contest. He cleared his throat. “There was a suspicious fire in Peckham,” he announced.

Sherlock turned slightly in his seat. Whatever they’d been discussing while Greg’s back was turned didn’t seem to have improved John’s temper any.

“Took out the entire top of an abandoned building, said it was lit on purpose. Reports that there’d been activity up in that room lately.” He explained.

“And you think this has to do with Willa?” John asked, finally letting go of the footboard for the first time since they’d entered the room. Greg hadn’t realized how tightly the other man had been holding it until he watched the blood return to John’s knuckles.

Greg shrugged. “Could be,” he offered, “an intentional fire set to an empty room in an abandoned building.”

“At this point, every lead is worth following,” Mycroft chipped in.

Harry was, wisely, choosing to be very silent at this moment.

John and Sherlock exchanged glances, clearly having a silent debate as to whether or not a fire across the city was worth looking into.

“If you wish to go with Gregory, I will finish taking Miss Watson’s statement,” Mycroft volunteered in an uncharacteristically helpful way. Greg narrowed his eyes at his husband but didn’t say anything.

Both Sherlock and John rode in the back of Greg’s car, he felt more than a bit like a cabbie and at any other time he would have told them as much. But both men were on edge and running on even less sleep than he was, there was also the possibility that at least one or both men were armed.

Greg had known John for eleven years and Sherlock even longer and he’d truly never seen them this unwound. There had been a few incidents, like when Sherlock jumped off a damn building or John got married, that had come close, but this was something way beyond even that.

~~~~~~

Sherlock was summarily, unimpressed with the crime scene in Peckham. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting when they arrived, but he’d known what he’d hoped for. A single tiny piece of evidence to point him in the right direction. As of right now, he didn’t know whether the fire was even connected to Willa’s disappearance. Should he include the entire scene as evidence or discount it as some other crime that had occurred last night.

John seemed just as dismayed by the whole room. Lestrade was lingering a floor below talking to some people, no doubt smoothing feathers and giving them time to look around.

There wasn’t much to look at though. Parts of the ceiling had come down in the room and there was water damage everywhere. The only feature in the room that might have been worth anything was the mattress but that had been burnt so severely all that remained were the metal coils sticking up.

Even the bathroom had been charred. The fixtures had all been blackened by the smoke.

Sherlock wasn’t ready to dismiss the fire as unrelated though. The extent of the damage was so severe whoever had set it was definitely trying to cover up something. And since there was little actually in the room whatever they’d been trying to hide was something more than a drugs lab. It was still possible that Mary’s cronies had set the fire to cover up physical evidence of Willa having been there, but it was just as likely that someone else was trying to cover up something unrelated.

Sherlock hated the feeling of not knowing, of not being able to tell John definitively that yes, this was to do with Willa.

“Sherlock?” John asked from his spot in the doorway of the burnt out room.

“I...” Sherlock began as he glanced about the room again, “don’t know.”

At his admission John’s shoulders slumped and Sherlock instantly felt guilty.

He was supposedly the greatest detective alive and he was absolutely useless. Nevermind that he’d once found one of the world’s cleverest criminals, or that he’d taken down entire organized crime networks and escaped alive. Here and now, in this room, Sherlock Holmes was absolutely useless.

Outside of Hadeon he’d never been able to find a solid lead towards finding Mary and because of that their daughter was missing. All he had now was a demolished room and some melted petrol jugs, even he had to admit that there were limits to his own brilliance. So once again, he wasn’t able to find a single clue, nothing, that would even tell them they were on the right path.

But once again, the lack of clues was drawing him in making him doubt that this wasn’t just a random thing. The entire building had been emptied, for several days it appeared judging by the amount of dust that had settled in the rooms on the lower floors. An abandoned building of this size would certainly have been a homeless camp.

Sherlock pushed past John and leaned over the rail, he could just barely make out Lestrade’s head in one of the halls below.

“Lestrade,” He bellowed, causing several people to jump.

Lestrade just sighed and walked towards the rail and looked up questioningly.

“Has there been any reason to clear out this building before now?” He yelled down.

Lestrade pressed his lips together and seemed to think about it before shaking his head. “Not that I can think of, we’ve just been letting these places slide lately. We sweep out the squatters and they just set up somewhere else.”

“What is it?” John asked, suddenly at Sherlock’s side.

“We’ve been asking the wrong questions,” he said going for the stairs.

John instinctively followed as Sherlock pounded down the stairs. “What do you mean?” He called.

Sherlock stopped suddenly and gestured into one of the rooms on the floor they were on. Inside was several dirty mattresses and a few piles of garbage. “Why was there no one here?”

“Someone made them leave you mean?” John asked as he peered into the room.

Sherlock nodded, pleased that John was catching up, “exactly and when we find out who it was we’ll be able to determine if it’s connected.”

It wasn’t much but Sherlock was thrilled for anything, a tiny scrap of information. Now they just had to go out and find one of his homeless contacts who’d know why the camp from this building had been forced to leave if it was the Yard’s doing.

“Oi!” Lestrade bellowed as Sherlock and John hurried past him. “Where are you going?”

“Out!” Sherlock yelled back, even though they were already near the door.

“Wait!” Lestrade yelled after them, “you can’t just go...”

Whatever else he might have been planning to say was lost to the wind as Sherlock and John emerged onto the street.

Aside from a single fire truck left to make sure the fire was properly out the rest of the presence on the street was police. Most of the residents of the neighborhood had retreated back into their houses. Some, Sherlock could see watching from behind their curtains. There would be little chance of getting anyone to talk in this area. So he turned to go behind the building, hoping to catch sight of anyone who might be willing to talk with them.

Unfortunately, the excitement near the front of the building seemed to have scared everyone off. Sherlock quickly wracked his brain trying to decide where everyone might have gone.

“Sherlock,” John said from somewhere behind him, he was close enough that Sherlock wasn’t worried about losing him.

“Not now, John,” Sherlock said absently as he looked up and down the alley deciding which direction to go.

“No,” John said again, “wait.”

“John, we have a lead,” Sherlock reminded him, a little impatient with John.

“No,” John said and suddenly grabbed Sherlock’s arm and pulled him back a little. He wasn’t looking at Sherlock though; instead, he was facing the other direction looking back towards the building. “What is that?” He said before letting go of Sherlock’s arm and pointing up.

Sherlock followed where he was point and blinked, a few time actually, surprised at what he was seeing. There was something hanging from one of the rear windows of the building. Some of the water from the hoses had dampened it and caused it to cling to the side, but it appeared otherwise intact.

~~~~~~

John was the first one back into the building, this time leaving Sherlock to follow behind. Where Sherlock gained an advantage through longer legs John persevered with sheer will as he took the steps two at a time.

Greg nearly tried to stop them, only having seen two people racing up the stairs not even five minutes after they’d tried to leave. Once he saw who it was though he threw up his hands. John wasn’t sure but he might have been following them, the echo of footsteps seemed louder after they passed. He didn’t care to turn and look.

He wasn’t even sure what had made him turn and look at the building, after all they’d just spent nearly an hour inside and Sherlock hadn’t come up with much. Maybe that was what made him look back, he couldn’t stand watching Sherlock both literally and figuratively spinning in circles in some alley.

He may not have been Sherlock but it seemed an odd thing something remaining intact after someone had gone through all that trouble to burn down the building.

Even though John reached the top floor first, Sherlock was the first to orient himself and went flying into the remains of the bathroom. John followed.

Sherlock struggled with the window for a moment, the wood was warped and blistered from the fire. His fingers turned black and paint and wood chipped off onto the floor but it wouldn’t budge. John let him work for approximately another minutes before he made up his mind, not that he honestly put too much thought into what he was going to do next.

“Move,” he barked.

Sherlock complied quickly and just as soon as he was out of the way John drove his fist through what was left of the glass. Sherlock made an odd sound from next to him but didn’t say

anything else.

“What the hell?” It was Greg finally having caught up with them just in time to see John punching out a window.

John, of course, ignored him and set to work peeling back the glass until there was enough space that he could reach out and grab whatever was hanging off the side of the building. He struggled a moment, part of the cloth pinned beneath the wood, but after pulling a bit more, it came free.

There was no longer a single question as to whether or not this fire had anything to do with Willa.

In his hands, damp and slightly singed on the one sleeve was the sweater he’d made Willa wear out to dinner. As he held it up something slipped out of the one sleeve, Sherlock managed to grab most of it before it hit the ground. It took a second to realize he was holding hair, John grabbed the sleeve it’d come out of and sure enough there was more stuck inside.

“What’s that?” Greg asked, eyeing them up.

“Hair,” Sherlock said softly before turning back into the room.

He stood under one of the patches where the ceiling had collapsed and the noonday sun was shining through. John watched as Sherlock held up the clump he’d saved from falling to the floor. The sun bounced off of it highlighting the blonde and red, it was a shade John could have recreated from memory. Anything he might have wanted to say died in his throat as John realized he was staring at a clump of his daughter’s hair.

“Sherlock,” Greg asked, taking over for the sense that seemed to have left John’s mind.

Sherlock pulled out the magnifying glass he carried and examined it, ignoring both of them. John was still holding tightly to the sleeve where there was no doubt more of the same hair tucked inside.

“It, uh, it was cut,” Sherlock said his voice was rough with emotion, “scissors probably.”

John was sure whatever pieces of his heart that were intact shattered at the look on Sherlock’s face.

It was a silly thing getting so upset over cut hair, especially given the rest of the circumstances, but that was their thing. Every morning now they could be found at the table where Sherlock brushed and did Willa’s hair while they talked about what they were going to do that day. At night Sherlock would pull it out of whatever style she’d worn that day and brush it, often for much longer than was necessary. Willa never once complained though, she was always too busy describing her day or reading out loud from a new book that had magically appeared on her desk overnight.

“It’s hers then,” Greg asked again because John’s voice was failing him. The detective was most likely unaware of the significance Willa’s slightly unruly main had for her and Sherlock.

Sherlock nodded, “yes, so is the sweater.” He sounded far away, too busy staring at the locks of hair he was holding even though he'd probably gotten everything he needed from it.

John heard Greg walk out of the room, but he didn’t care to find out where he was going.

“Sherlock,” He said, surprised at how rough his own voice came out.

Sherlock looked up, unshed tears shining in his eyes. “They... they cut her hair,” he told John after a while. “Probably so she wouldn’t match the pictures that we have of her.”

John already knew why they would have cut her hair but he allowed Sherlock to explain it to him nonetheless.

“Alright, John,” Greg said as he reappeared in the room. He now had on gloves and was carrying an evidence bag, a few more police had followed him up the stairs. No doubt forensics ready to go over the place since it had been determined that it was somewhere Willa had been. They were all dutifully waiting behind him.

“I need that,” Greg told him gesturing to the sweater he was still holding.

John was reluctant to hand it over but he knew he had to. He carefully placed it into the evidence bag that Greg held out taking care in folding in the sleeves so that the rest of the hair didn’t fall out.

Greg closed the bag and handed it behind him. Evidently, he’d been elected the one to deal with them exclusively. A new bag appeared in his hand and he took a step towards Sherlock, “Sherlock.”

Sherlock’s head snapped up as the whole time he hadn’t stopped staring at the hair in his hand. He instinctively clutched it to his chest and shook his head. “No.”

“Sherlock,” Greg’s voice was a warning now.

Sherlock shook his head again. “It’s contaminated now,” he reasoned, “there’s more in the sweater that’ll be of more use for forensics.”

“Alright fine,” Greg sighed, realizing when he was trying to fight a losing battle. He instead handed the evidence bag to Sherlock who took it and after having put the hair into it, rolled it up and placed it in his pocket.

“Why would they do that though?” Greg asked, obviously waiting for Sherlock to offer some kind of explanation.

“What?” Sherlock’s brows knitted together as he tried to follow Greg’s line of thought.

“The hair, in the sweater. That’s not normal,” Greg explained.

Sherlock sighed and rolled his eyes, almost back to his non-sentimental self, “that’s because they didn’t do it.”

“Willa,” John gasped, realizing what he was saying and suddenly understanding (once again) why Sherlock thought they were all stupid.

Sherlock nodded.
~~~~~~

Cole Barnes had been born and raised in Hoback, Wyoming. A tiny scrap of nothing in an even more vast state of nothingness.

He’d been just seventeen in 2001 and with the same righteous fury that most American’s seemed to carry at the time he’d enlisted in the army on his eighteenth birthday in the spring of the following year. It seemed like every boy from his graduating class was going straight from the ceremony into basic training. It had made him proud.

He was one of the lucky ones. Noticed early on in basic for his steady aim and true shot. They’d sent him off for sniper training where he earned some of the highest marks. He’d been so ridiculously proud to call home and tell his mother all about his budding skills as a marksman. He’d been only a fraction less proud two years later sweating his way through the Afghan desert in full armor.

When his contract had come up four years later Cole had thought nothing of signing on for another four years. That decision had changed his life in ways he couldn’t have even imagined.

He was approached upon returning to Afghanistan by men who wore very expensive suits and looked like they’d never even touched a gun, let alone fired one. They were pulling together a team, they told him. A small handpicked group of men from the various armies to be commanded by Colonel Sebastian Moran. They didn’t have to say anything more to convince Cole, as soon as he’d heard about Colonel Moran he was in all the way. Moran was a legendary sniper who was rumored to have never missed a single shot, even while in training.

Moran was the only Brit but there had also been a Frenchman, two Germans, a Canadian and one other American besides Cole.

After a few weeks he began to get the distinct feeling that the reason for such a mixed team was that the missions they were running were a little less than approved. He didn’t care though, everything seemed to be for the right reason. Moran never questioned the orders either.

For eighteen months they ran back to back successful missions until the day their luck caught up with them. Three men died and Cole had taken two bullets to the gut. He’d nearly died on the way to the hospital and then again during the surgery to remove the bullet that hadn’t passed through him. He’d been shipped out to Germany to recover until he was well enough to be sent stateside.

The night before he was to be sent home those same men appeared in his hospital room. He was threatened, not just with a dirty record but with his life, if he spoke to anyone about the missions they’d run.

Cole had returned to Wyoming with medals to spare and a deep sense of rage. How dare they threaten his life when they’d been the ones to put him in those places? How dare they tell him to shut up and go home like a good dog?

He’d spent the next year wallowing in his rage, pushing everyone away and drinking himself stupid every night. He was arrested almost monthly for various offenses but every single time he appeared before a judge his service history was looked at and he was let off out of pity. It only pissed him off even more.

During one such arrest, his life took another bizarre turn. Colonel Moran showed up, in person, and bailed him out even though Cole didn’t even know how even begin to try and contact the man.

“You’re angry, Barnes, we all are,” Moran had reassured him while shoving several cups of coffee at him. “But you’re a soldier and we carry on, but now I’ve got a mission for you.”

That ‘mission’ was how he’d ended up in London kidnapping a child with a psychotic bitch. Not that anything was ever such a straight line, that meeting with Moran had been over a decade ago but it had put his feet onto this path. There was probably more blood on his hands now than there had been during his entire military career. There was blood there that he’d never expected to have and for the first time in a very, very, long time he was uncomfortable with what he’d done.

His jobs since Moran had pulled him from that holding cell had become less and less sniper work and more and more close combat, even assassination and a smattering of unarmed civilian kills, but never before a child. At least never directly a child.

Do it as quickly as possible, he’d been told, don’t hurt her.

Her neck had been so small under his hands, he’d only really needed one, and he’d been able to feel the violent tremors wracking her body as she’d known was he was going to do. Her spine had made the same noise knuckles did when he twisted her chin sharply. He’d never again be able to hear someone crack their fingers without remembering the way her neck had felt under

his fingers.

She was dead immediately. He was a terrible person, evil probably, but he’d been efficient and precise. She hadn’t felt a thing besides fear. As he lowered her onto the ground he’d felt compelled to correct the awkward angle of her head, not that anyone would know once he’d finished with the rest of his task.

Carve her up, make her unrecognizable had been his next instructions.

Most people don’t realize that even though the heart had stopped beating that blow will flow freely from the body, especially immediately after death.

He’d started with her fingertips because he couldn’t bear to look at her face. He wasn’t squeamish, he’d done this sort of thing to dozens of corpses over the years but this was something he’d never done to a child. Her skin was so thin and fragile, pulling off the fingerprints was no unlike skinning a fish.

And there went any chance of him ever enjoying seafood again.

He’d never admit it to Janine, or anyone else, but when he’d gone after her face (with a sledgehammer, oh god the noises her skull had made), he’d gotten sick, twice. She’d just laugh at him and call him a coward until he got mad and went after her with a sledgehammer to shut her up. After dealing with the hell that had been her face, carving up the rest of her had been straightforward enough. Straightforward, not necessarily simple or easy.

He hadn’t wanted to do it. He really had tried to talk sense into Janine, telling her that killing the girl was one thing but desecrating the corpse was somehow worse. It was disgusting. But Janine, so unfailing in her loyalty to Angie, had never once questioned her judgment. She spoke about her the way Catholics spoke of the Virgin Mary.

She’d threatened to call Angie right there and tell her he wasn’t following orders.

That was the threat that got him to comply. His life was on the line now, but not just his. Angie wasn’t known for simply extinguishing you, she’d pick off everyone you loved in the most brutal and terrifying ways before she pulled the trigger on you. There were rumors that some people who had betrayed her were still alive but had gone completely nuts after what she’d done to them.

He knew better than to risk that sort of wrath.

So he killed the girl and disfigured her just as he was told.

They’d been oddly specific about where he was to dispose of her body: on the south bank of the Thames just past the Waterloo Bridge. He’d even been sent photos of the exact location. Typically when you were dumping a body you wouldn’t leave it in such an open spot, even if you were looking to make a statement. Doing that in an area that open was a risk for the person doing the dumping (him) especially if they were forced to do it during daylight light he’d been.

Luck, or maybe not, had been on Cole’s side once again. Not a single person had spotted him as he carried the girl’s body to the river bank.

~~~~~~



Mycroft had… questioned Harriet for half an hour after everyone else had gone running out before returning to the office. Even though there had been an officer in the hospital Mycroft decided it was best to put one of his own people at her door, to make sure nothing she said or did went unnoticed.

Once back in his own office, no word of news from anyone else, the lure of sleep had claimed him. It was rare Mycroft honestly went this long without sleep, even on his busiest nights he was usually able to catch an hour here and there. Falling asleep felt like admitting defeat like he was throwing up his hands and saying he couldn’t find Willa so he might as well nap. Logically he understood it didn’t make sense, but he couldn’t change the way he felt, no matter how hard he tried.

But exhaustion won out and as Mycroft lowered himself onto the sofa he hoped that when he woke there would be some kind of good news waiting for him.

The smell of coffee and takeaway Thai food was what eventually woke Mycroft, which was confusing as he knew he hadn’t ordered anything. He blinked awake to find Gregory placing those exact items on his desk, he was taking extra care to not actually put anything on the various papers that were stacked there. Mycroft’s heart stuttered for a moment in his chest, reminded how much he loved the other man.

“Hey, sorry did I wake you?” Gregory asked as he turned and saw him watching him.

Mycroft shook his head and sat up, attempting to smooth out his clothes. “No,” he said eventually, “I think it might have been the food.”

Gregory grinned, “good, I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s starving.”

With that, he set to work pulling out whatever he’d ordered.

“The fire?” Mycroft asked, feeling annoyed that he hadn’t stayed awake long enough to discover what the ruling had been.

“Mmmm,” Gregory had just popped something into his mouth. He quickly chewed and swallowed while waving his arms around as if that would help him do it faster. “She was there, found a sweater and some hair stuffed in a window. Sherlock thinks she put it there herself.”

“Really?” Mycroft wasn’t really as surprised as he sounded. He knew Reinette was a terribly clever girl and would no doubt try and leave as many clues behind as she could, it was the fact that the fire had truly been connected to her that had surprised him.

Gregory nodded, more food having gone into his mouth. “They cut her hair it seems, I put an issue out to the rest of the yard about that.”

“How much?” Mycroft asked as he finally rose and made his way over to his desk, before he grabbed a coffee he leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his husband’s lips, not caring about the sauce he’d just, no doubt, gotten on himself.

“What?” Gregory grabbed for his own coffee.

Mycroft sighed, only a little, “her hair, how much of it was cut. I have to let my people know too.”

“Oh,” Gregory nodded, “it’s got to be above her shoulders now, so a foot?”

Mycroft nodded and quickly sent off a series of emails updating everyone who needed it that Willa’s hair would be much shorter than previously described. Only then did he sit down and finally begin eating.

“How are John and Sherlock,” Mycroft asked once they were done.

Gregory slumped over at this question. “They’re… it’s rough right now. I don’t think either of them have slept.”

Mycroft knew for a fact that neither man had slept and caffeine could only keep one going for so long.

“We’ve got to do something about it,” Gregory continued obviously thinking along the same lines as Mycroft.

“I agreed, though I’m not sure anything short of a tranquilizer dart is going to get either of them to stop right now.” Mycroft wasn’t even sure that would work.

Gregory nodded, “I’ll try and talk to them, remind them that she needs them in top form.”

Mycroft didn’t argue, Gregory speaking to them would have a much better chance of working than if he were to do it. Sherlock, despite allegedly having been an adult for a very long time, was always reluctant to follow any suggestions Mycroft might ever give him. Except in the cases where things seemed dire, and while this certainly counted as a ‘dire’ situation, he doubted Sherlock could be reasoned with by himself.

Both men were probably going to need to be drugged in order to get them any kind of restful sleep. While that wasn’t something Mycroft necessarily wanted to do, it wasn’t something he was above. While Gregory distracted himself cleaning up Mycroft quickly sent someone out on an errand to get sedatives that he could easily slip into a drink. That was another one of those grey areas where he wasn’t entirely sure Gregory would be happy with him.

Once the rubbish had been cleared away, the two men settled onto the sofa together. Mycroft checked on the whereabouts of Sherlock and John, apparently terrorizing the homeless population of Peckham, while Gregory called into the Yard looking for an update on the forensics from the site of the fire.

Once that was cleared, Mycroft settled against his husband and closed his eyes again.

No sooner had Gregory fallen asleep and Mycroft had finally gotten comfortable did it seem both of their mobiles went off, almost at the same time.

Gregory cursed loudly as he had to push Mycroft up and get his out. Mycroft waited patiently for the barrage of foul language to subside before he answered his own.

“Sir,” came a voice from the other end of the line.

“Yes?” Mycroft asked, very very patiently.

“There’s been a body found along the banks of the Thames.”

“I don’t see how -”

“Sir,” the voice bravely interrupted him, “it’s a little girl.”

Mycroft’s mouth snapped shut audibly as the news registered. “Keep me updated,” was all he managed to say before hanging up.

One look across the room at Gregory and Mycroft knew he’d received the same phone call. He looked as though he’d aged several years in less than a minute, suddenly pale.

“I’ve got to go,” Gregory told him as he stood from the sofa.

“Gregory that’s hardly -” Mycroft began only to be cut off once again, only this time it was by a hand held up by his husband.

~~~~~~

There were about thirteen thousand things currently running through Greg’s head after a phone call like that. The most prominent being not her, please God, don’t let it be her loudly and on repeat, followed by an immense wave of guilt because that just meant it’d be someone else’s daughter. He didn’t need to hear Mycroft once again offering to let him sit back and have someone else do the dirty work, he didn’t get as far as he did in his career with that kind of thinking.

It was also bloody demeaning.

“I am going,” Greg said as firmly as he could manage, “and until we, meaning Scotland Yard, decided there is sufficient enough evidence no one is going to contact John or Sherlock, understand?”

Mycroft’s lips drew up into a line, clearly unhappy with being told what to do but he nodded anyway.

Greg nodded, mostly to himself before going towards the door. Just as he was about to exit he realized Mycroft was following him. He stopped short and turned around, forcing the other man to bump into him.

“Mycroft,” he warned.

Mycroft face became poker passive as he took a step back. “I am coming with.”

Greg went to argue but realized there was no point in it. Mycroft would no doubt find a way to be there; whether in person, through one of his spooks, or even via CCTV. It was easier just to meet him halfway than try and pretend if he told him to stay that he actually would.

“Fine,” Greg relented, and when he saw just the smallest bit of relief creep onto his husband’s face he held up his finger, “but, you will wait in the car.”

“Gregory,” Mycroft began pleadingly, but he seemed to consider his angle before sighing, “alright.”

Greg drove and Mycroft sat quietly next to him.

The block he’d placed on telling John and Sherlock about the body was as much because he was their friend, and family, as it was because it was procedure. He wasn’t going to tell them until he was sure it wasn’t her… or if it was.

There was a gaping black pit in his gut as he drove. The extent of the fire would have made sense if they’d murdered someone (her) in the room and were trying to hide evidence. It was the dumping of the body in such a place that made him wonder what the hell they were up to.

That was right up until he got to the location and an uneasy sense of deja vu settle on him.

“Bloody hell,” He cursed and hit the steering wheel as he parked, Mycroft looked over worriedly.

“The fucking security guard,” He explained by way of cursing even more. Mycroft actually looked confused so Greg took a deep breath and tried again.

“Moriarty… the bombs… the security guard...” Greg spat out random words until a look of comprehension crossed Mycroft’s face. “He was found here, right here,” he gestured out towards the banks were dozens of police were milling about.

He was out of the car without another word and halfway to the bank when he yelled out behind himself, “stay there,” knowing full well Mycroft was going to try and follow him. He didn’t care enough to make sure he stayed though.

That pit had turned into a gaping chasm of inky blackness and the chanting grew louder in his head.

Not her, please God, not her.

He understood why people weren’t supposed to investigate cases that they were connected to. Being objective was the furthest thing from Greg’s mind right now.

Not her, please God, not her.

He wasn’t supposed to be on this case, wasn’t meant to get information before anyone else. But he’d shoved himself in front, for John and Sherlock and Mycroft. Because he’d wanted to feel useful, now all he felt was bloody stupid.

Not her, please God, not her.

There was a canopy set up to prevent anyone from seeing the body and no one questioned as Greg shoved himself into it. All motion inside the tent stopped and everyone just watched him, Greg didn’t doubt he looked a state, he could feel the sweat forming on his brow already.

There in front of him, still on the ground, was the white tarp they used to cover bodies until they were taken away. This one was folded in half, the body underneath so small that it didn’t need the whole thing.

Greg took a deep breath, crouched down next to it and said one last prayer.

Not her, please God, not her.

He pulled back the tarp and it took every last ounce of training and desensitization to prevent himself from being sick. He quickly replaced the covering and stood, taking a moment for several deep breaths before looking around the makeshift room. All eyes were still on him.

“Take her to the morgue,” He ordered and then turned out from the tent.

There was no point in him being in there anymore.

He marched back up to the car a stretcher with a body bag passed him, and he slowed down once again to take a deep breath. Surprisingly he found Mycroft leaned up against the car looking absorbed in his mobile once again, Greg knew his husband’s shams when he saw them.

Seeing the mobile reminded Greg of something and he pulled his own out and quickly dialed the morgue.

“This is Lestrade, who’s on right now?” He yelled as he reached the car.

“Sir?”

“Is Molly Hooper on right now?” He repeated more clearly this time.

There was movement on the end of the line. “Yes, sir.”

“Pull her off,” Greg ordered immediately.

“Sir, I don’t think...” The protest came but Greg was having none of it.

“This is Lestrade, and I don’t give a fuck,” he punctuated the word with a punch to the roof of the car, “what you think, you need to pull Dr. Hooper off right now.”

After the voice, now cowed by his unusual display of anger, assented to his terms, Greg hung up and looked over to his husband who was watching him with a carefully neutral face.

“Gregory,” Mycroft ventured after a beat, “is it her?”

“I don’t know,” Greg ground out, barely able to get his jaw working to form the words.

“What?”

“I don’t know!” He shouted, “I don’t, bloody, know.” There was another hit to the roof of the car and Mycroft jumped.

Greg instantly felt guilty, he took another deep breath, “there’s… not enough to tell,” he struggled through the explanation.

“Oh,” was all Mycroft said though he looked paler suddenly.

~~~~~~

On her worst days, Molly Hooper questioned her ability to be a medical examiner. She knew she was soft, Aaron said it was one of the things he loved about her. That she could work and see such terrible things and still cry at homeless kittens. Normally she agreed, it was pretty spectacular, but some days she wondered if she wasn’t strong enough.

That was why she was at work, nearly a month before she was meant to come back from maternity and the day after her niece had gone missing, she felt as though she had something to prove. She’d thought about calling in and staying home cuddling Teddy but it just didn’t sit right with her, the fact that she could choose to stay home with her child while John and Sherlock were without theirs. So she’d come in.

In all her years of questioning her fortitude against the terrible things she saw daily, never once did she question her competency. So when she had been suddenly told that she was being pulled off intake duty it pissed her off. It was about ten times worse when she found out Greg, who technically had zero authority over her, had been the one to order her off.

She stewed in her office a while after Dr. Golden appeared, profusely sorry and obviously as out of the loop as she was, right up until she heard someone mention that Lestrade was in the building. She set off to find him and tell him exactly what she thought about him issuing orders outside his purview.

She was raring to go and have a good yell (finally release some of the stress she’d been holding all day) right up until the very second she saw him standing in the hall outside the morgue.

“Greg,” the nasty things she wanted to say to him died in her throat.

She’d worked with Gregory Lestrade for over a decade and there was only one time she’d seem him look this beaten down. It had been less than six hours after ‘Sherlock’ had jumped from the roof.

Greg looked up at her and she noticed that Mycroft was also there, looking a lot less put together than she was used to seeing him.

“I’m sorry, Molly,” was the first thing out of Greg’s mouth. “But they found the body of a little girl by the river.”

“Oh god,” Molly’s hand flew up to her mouth as she realized the gravity of the situation.

“You couldn’t be on,” Greg continued seemingly not noticing her distress.

All the anger she’d been feeling since they’d told her she was on paperwork duty left. “Is it…?” She couldn’t even finish the question properly.

“Gregory was… unable to determine,” Mycroft spoke up, an unusual amount of tenderness in his voice when he did.

Molly had to sit but there were no chairs in the hall so she settled for leaning against the wall, hand still up to her mouth. She closed her eyes trying to bring up images of Willa the last time she’d seen her, giggling as she’d told Molly that she’d asked Sherlock to be her Papa and just as quickly as she’d said it begging to hold Teddy even though he’d nearly outgrown her lap. She needed these images in her mind, not the ones that her years of seeing terrible things allowed her mind to conjure up at Mycroft’s words.

“Sherlock and John,” She looked up after a moment realizing that there was no way either of men would just stay home if they’d realized the body of a little girl had been found.

Greg’s lips pressed together and Molly already knew she wasn’t going to like what he had to say. “I don’t think they need to worry about it,” he explained carefully, “at least until we have solid evidence either way.”

Molly straightened up so quickly that something in her back actually popped. “How could you?” She asked

“Oh come on,” Greg snapped throwing his hands up in the air, “you really want them to spend the next few hours thinking their daughter is dead?”

Molly tamped down on the urge to yell back, “so instead you’d rather them find out that you knew and allowed them to walk around with false hope for how long?”

“We don’t know it’s her!” Greg yelled.

“Which is exactly my point!” Molly allowed herself to yell back this time. “We need to tell them that there’s a possibility,” she pleaded.

“It’s not worth it,” Greg snapped clearly not wanting to hear her rationale.

“How would you feel if it were Addison?” Molly’s voice was quiet but her words seemed to ring in the hall. It was a low blow but she could see the exact moment that it worked.

Greg’s shoulders slumped and he leaned back against the wall with his eyes closed. Mycroft, who had been watching the exchange with an unreadable expression took a step closer to his husband and rested a hand on his arm. Molly looked

away feeling terrible.

“Fine,” Greg said and slid his mobile out of his pocket.

Molly stepped forward. “No, I’ll do it,” she said softly.

Both men blinked at her, Greg’s thumb hovering over the screen of his phone obviously not having expected that she would make that offer. Honestly, Molly hadn’t expected herself to say that either. But she realized she meant it.

“I’ll call, John,” She continued sounding more sure of herself, “that way they won’t realize you’ve known for a couple hours already.”

Mycroft and Greg exchanged glances before Greg finally nodded, “alright.”

Molly took a deep breath and went back up to her office. She took a moment to find the picture on her mobile of Willa holding Teddy when he was only a few days old and then she dialed John’s number from the office phone.

“Hello?”

“John, it’s Molly,” She said softly not sure what she was going to say precisely.

“No news, Molly,” John told her, obviously mistaking her phone call for one looking for an update.

“John, they’ve just taken me off intake,” she continued even though she couldn’t bring her voice much above a whisper, “there was a little girl’s body found by the river.”

Getting those words out was possibly one of the hardest things she’d done. Listening to John’s choked half sob down the was a close second.

“They weren’t able to identify who it is but I think you should come down.”

There was shuffling down the line until Sherlock spoke, “Molly?”

She repeated what she’d told John, much quicker this time. Sherlock said they’d be down shortly before hanging up leaving her questioning if she’d made the right decision. Instead of heading straight down to Greg she went the back way into the morgue where she found Dr. Golden just starting to unzip the unsettlingly small shape in the body bag.

He jumped when Molly deliberately let the door shut loudly behind her but she refused to move from the doorway. Here she really couldn’t see anything taking place in the room.

“Molly, you’re not supposed to be in here,” he said as he zipped the bag shut again, obviously having figured out why she’d been taken off.

“Listen, I know but I need you to come right to me as soon as you figure out who this is,” She explained gesturing towards the bag.

He nodded and promised he would find her immediately.

She found Mycroft and Greg in nearly the exact spot she’d left them. This time she sat down on the floor and waited.

~~~~~~

Sherlock was the one to hail the cab and direct them where to go. John had all but disappeared when Molly had called them. The only thing left was the shell of his partner, worn and definitely battered, seemingly wholly unoccupied.

It didn’t escape Sherlock’s notice that John was limping again, his right knee buckling ever so often when he tried to walk normally. He’d seen it give out several times in the past day but this was the first time John had actually begun limping again. Sherlock didn’t know how to stop it this time.

The first time had been easy enough. Running him about London after a mad poisoner had done the trick but he knew this time it wouldn’t be as easy. Sherlock knew there was very little he could actually do to bring John back if their worst fears had been realized.

He tried not to dwell on it, it would do them no good.

Instead Sherlock did a very un-him thing and clung to the hope, however small, that the body lying in the morgue wasn’t Willa Louise Watson. That it wasn’t a little girl who had, less than twenty-four hours ago, happily told anyone who would listen that he was going to be her Papa. He allowed himself this irrational hope because without it he knew he’d be no better off than John was.

He nearly asked the cabbie to head towards Harry instead of the morgue. He was very willing to place John in front of her and let him do his worst, whatever that might be, just to coax the tiniest bit of personality from him. Right now the things he wanted to do to the woman who sold his daughter out was surely twenty times worse than anything John might imagine. Let John loose on her would almost be a merciful act.

But he kept his mouth shut all the way to St. Bart’s.

They found everyone in the hallway just outside the morgue. Molly and Lestrade were slumped together, seated on the floor and Mycroft was leaning against the wall. No one spoke as they walked in, Sherlock and the shell that was once John following.

“Has there been any news?” Sherlock asked Molly who only looked up at him miserably.

She shook her head.

Sherlock walked to the doors and this was what got everyone to react.

“Sherlock, stop.” Molly called out as she scrambled to her feet.

Lestrade was right behind her.

“I can...” the words stuck in his throat and he was forced to swallow twice before being able to continue. “Identify… her,” he managed to choke out.

The shell behind him wheezed.

“So can I,” Lestrade said stiffly, “just trust me on this, Sherlock, stay out here.”

It wasn’t just the tone of Lestrade’s words but from the way he just suddenly seemed to drain of color that kept Sherlock where he stood. His mind went in every direction at once until he realized Lestrade had tried to save them the pain of possibly identifying their daughter but had been unable to.

Lestrade, a man who frequently babysat Willa, who had watched her grow from an infant to the child she was, was unable to identify whether the body belonged to her or not.

There was a dull thud from behind Sherlock and when he turned he found John kneeling on the floor like a puppet whose strings had been cut. John claimed not to be as bright as Sherlock but had almost as quickly reached the same conclusion he had.

Molly was the first to get to him, “John,” she pleaded softly and grabbed his arm trying to help him up.

John struggled to stand until Sherlock, whose body finally caught up to where his brain was, reached down and pulled him up by his other elbow.

Molly cast a worried glance at Sherlock. “I’ll go find some chairs,” she was all she said.

Sherlock realized, as he was both holding John up and waiting for Molly to return, that Mycroft had been unusually silent. In fact he had even seen the infamous mobile make an appearance. He just stood, seemingly rooted to the wall, and stared at his shoes.

This entire thing was very wrong.

Twenty minutes later Molly appeared, followed by another staff member, carrying folding chairs. John was promptly deposited in the first one that was set out. Sherlock sat next to him. Molly took a seat next to Sherlock and Lestrade next to John. Mycroft didn’t move from the wall.

Sherlock was never particularly good with time. He understood it of course hours, minutes, seconds and all that but he was bad at being aware of the time. He didn’t realize it was the middle of the night until someone was howling at him for playing the violin to late, didn’t realize it was the middle of the day until Mrs. Hudson was nudging him awake with tea, and it was why sometimes when he promised to do something ‘in a few minutes’ it ended up taking him several days.

This time though, when he would give anything to be blissfully unaware of the time, he was able to count down every passing second.

An hour after they arrived Lestrade stood and walked to Mycroft talking to him in a low voice that Sherlock didn’t even both to try and listen in on. Mycroft said little back and stayed at the wall. After five more minutes Greg went over to Molly and asked her if she needed anything. He asked Sherlock and John the same question. Sherlock said no and John didn’t seem to have heard him.

Still, when Lestrade returned twenty-one minutes later, he was juggling five cups of coffee. He had a bag stuck between his teeth too.

He quickly handed out the coffee to everyone, holding John’s in front of his face until he finally took it, before walking back to Mycroft. Sherlock watched as he pulled the bag from between his teeth and then produced a cookie, which he shoved in Mycroft’s hand without even asking. Any other time Sherlock would have had hundreds of rude things to say but this time he was quiet.

It was thirteen minutes later that Dr. Golden emerged from the morgue and headed straight for Molly.