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Pressure Points Started by: Sherlock on Jul 06, '19 05:38

If he realized what he was getting himself into when he accepted this assignment to England to talk with Sherlock Holmes about several cold cases and one James Moriarty, Inspector Bryant would pistol whip every officer in the station and jam their badge down their throats.

He sure as hell didn't sign up for the nightmare that would unfold beginning at 221B Baker Street.

He stood and took a look around the flat. A sagging sofa, God-awful wallpaper, he stepped closer – were those bullet holes? He counted at least three, no four. A yellow happy face. A kitchen table that looked like a makeshift lab bench. The place was a total mess, books and newspapers spread out everywhere, but he had a feeling that was exactly how Sherlock liked it.
 John Watson is ex-military, still carries himself like an officer. Why doesn’t he tidy this place up? Not allowed, I bet.

He went looking for the washroom. It was next to the bedroom and he stood at the door, listening to John and Holmes argue.

“I am getting up, John. I am not receiving visitors in my bedroom like the consumptive heroine of a Victorian romance novel.”

“Then lay off the bell and take the bloody pills.” He sounded more frustrated than angry.

"If I agree, will you help me to my chair? This visit is the first interesting thing that’s happened in ages. I may have been shot, but I will die of boredom if I’m forced to lie here much longer.”

“Fine. You win.” John said. “You always bloody win.”

There was a silence and he angled herself so that he could just see into the bedroom. John was sitting on the edge of the bed, a glass of water in one hand, a pill bottle in the other. He handed the glass to him and shook two large white pills out of the bottle.

“I’ll take one. Two, and my brain will be thick as molasses.”

“Jesus, Sherlock –” He shook his head and put one pill back in the bottle.

John watched him swallow the pill, took the glass and set it on the bedside table. They sat quietly for a moment. “You promise me, the minute the pain is too much –”

He felt like a voyeur then. He turned away quickly and went into the washroom.

 

He took his time, wanting to give Holmes time to get settled. When he returned, John had cleared away the tea and Sherlock was sitting in the leather chair wearing sweat pants and a faded white t-shirt under a blue silk bathrobe.

He didn’t know anyone still wore silk bathrobes.

Thinner than his pictures, paler too. All cheekbones and unruly dark hair. Blue eyes dulled by the pain meds. Needs to shave. Bare feet. Holds one arm against his chest. Like he’s literally trying to hold himself together. Is he aware that he’s doing that?

He could hear John in the kitchen running the water. Probably making more damned tea. He walked over to Sherlock and held out one hand. He ignored it. “Mr. Holmes. Inspector Daniel Bryant. RCMP Cold Case Unit. Thank you for seeing me.”

“Sit.”

Instinctively, he left the armchair to John. He dragged one of the chairs from the desk and positioned it between Sherlock and the armchair. He went to retrieve his notepad from his bag by the door.

“I said sit down.”

He bent to pick up his bag.

“If you need your notes, then you’ve already disappointed me.”

He turned to face him. “I don’t. But if you feel the need to bully me, Mr. Holmes, then I’m the one who’s disappointed.” He left the case by the door and sat down.

The barest hint of a smile flashed across his face. “It’s Sherlock.”

Holmes 1, Bryant 1. Not that he was keeping score.

He took a breath and began to tell him about the Member of Parliament from Alberta who was murdered more than ten years earlier in the parking lot outside an office building in Ottawa.

Did he have a name? A wife? A mistress?” Sherlock prompted.

“Peter Goodale. The wife was Lucy. No children. No mistress that we know of.”

“For God’s sake, John, stop hovering over me and sit down.”

“No one saw or heard anything.”

“Deliberate.” He shifted in his chair and winced and held his arm against his chest. John made a move to get up, but Sherlock shook his head and John sat back down.

“The investigators concluded it was an attempted carjacking. The unsub – unidentified subject – must have shot Goodale when he resisted, got scared and ran off. He still had his wallet and keys.”

“And what piqued the RCMP’s interest after all time?” John asked.

“The Cold Case Unit – that’s me and three other detectives – we review old cases, re-contact witnesses. We rerun old results, looking for new hits, that sort of thing. Sometimes a case is reopened because someone comes forward with new evidence. Other times, if the case is high profile enough, it gets reviewed every few years. That’s how I came into this one. I didn’t have any expectations, really, I was just going to interview his family and friends – but then it got weird.”

Sherlock’s eyes were sliding shut. He stopped talking and looked over at John, wondering if he should continue.

Surprisingly, it was Sherlock who kept the interview going. "This is coming to a point soon, I hope.”

Bryant told him about Goodale’s receptionist who was on the list of people he wanted to interview. When he went looking, he discovered that the receptionist had vanished a month after the shooting. Her parents told him that she’d been badly shaken by her boss’ murder and wanted to get away. They paid for a plane ticket to London, which she never used. They never heard from her again. They hired a detective who found no trace of her.

“And that’s when it gets really interesting,” he said, leaning forward in his chair.

“Oh God, I hope so,” Sherlock sighed. With great dramatic flourishThe more bored he acts, the more interested he is. Good to know.

Bryant went on. “I learned she had a boyfriend. None of her friends ever met him, and only one remembered his name. Even then, it was a common enough last name. This friend recalled that he worked for the government in Ottawa. Not exactly helpful – it’s a government town. I spent two weeks going through personnel records until I found him.”

He stood and went to his bag. “I need to show you something.” He rustled through some papers and pulled out a single sheet.

He walked back to Sherlock and handed it to him. It was a copy of a Health Canada ID card. A small black and white staff ID picture. Senior systems analystLestrade must have told him this was why he was here, but he still saw something like surprise flash across his face. “And now it’s an 8,” he said.

He had no idea what he meant.

“What is it, Sherlock?” John asked.

Sherlock was stopped by a coughing fit that became progressively more violent. John circled behind Sherlock’s chair and leaned over him, one hand supporting his chest while the other held his back.

"It'll pass in a minute, just try to relax—” He was obviously in considerable pain, but it appeared that the panic of not being able to breathe was overriding everything else.

John looked over to Bryant. “Fetch a glass of water,” he said. “Please.” John continued speaking softly to Sherlock. "It's all right. Breathe slowly. That’s it. Good." He kept talking until the worst seemed to be over. He took the glass from Bryant and held it to Sherlock’s lips.

“Watch him for me,” John said. He disappeared into the bedroom and came back with a syringe.

Sherlock shook his head wearily, but John said, “Enough.” He lifted the sleeve of Sherlock’s robe and injected the contents of the syringe into his arm.

“Let’s go.” He bent and wrapped one arm around Sherlock’s back and under his arm and helped him stand.

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Bryant followed them down the hallway, ready to help. He stood at the door and watched John ease Sherlock back into bed. Sherlock was quickly losing the battle to keep his eyes open and his words were beginning to slur. “John, another pillow.”

John left to fetch the pillow and Sherlock crooked a finger at him. He walked over to the bed and leaned down. He was struggling to keep his eyes open, “The girl who disappeared – what was her name?”

“Anna. Anna Ashcroft.”

“Of course – Moriarty – I should have –” he said and then closed his eyes again. “Say nothing to John yet.”

John returned with a pillow tucked under one arm. “He’s asleep,” he said, trying to hide the disappointment he felt.


In the living room, he checked his watch. Just past one. “John, that restaurant downstairs? The sign said they do sandwiches. How about I get us a couple? Compliments of the Canadian taxpayer.”

He hesitated. Glanced down the hall towards the bedroom, then nodded. “Yeah, all right.”

“Any requests?”

“Roast beef, maybe. And get one for Sleeping Beauty in there. Ham and swiss. No mustard. I doubt he’ll eat, but we can try.”

“Sure. I’ll be right back.”

There was something going on between John and Sherlock that he couldn’t put his finger on – probably nothing to with Moriarty, but it left him with the unsettled feeling that he was missing something important – like watching a movie filmed through a dirty lens.

The sandwiches were good, the potato chips interesting, the coffee sublime. They sat at opposite ends of the couch, paper towels spread across their laps like plates. They talked, safe subjects like British weather and American culture. John asked about the RCMP (no, we don’t all ride horses) and how detective had never been his first choice – he’d been accepted to medical school in Montreal, but dropped out during his first year – family issues, he explained. A few years later, he saw a recruiting ad for the RCMP in the back of a running magazine and signed up as a lark.

“I don’t remember ever deciding to be a doctor, everyone just assumed because I liked helping people, so I went along. Sherlock accused me once of always letting other people decide what I want. Not that he ever let me choose.” There was something in his expression he couldn’t read. Regret, maybe. He stood suddenly and headed down the hall. He heard the bathroom door close and the sound of running water.

The second the thought formed in his head, he knew he was right. It made a crazy kind of sense. John’s in love with him. And what did Sherlock do with that information? Took a header off a rooftop in front of him. Let him grieve for two years. Let him marry someone else.

And I thought I had relationship issues...


When John didn’t come back, he cleared away the sandwich wrappers and chip bags. He tore a page from his notebook and scribbled a note, “Will call later to make another appointment. Thanks. Bryant.”

On the sidewalk, he hailed a cab and headed back to the hotel.

He’d called home that he “got nothing.” But sitting alone in his hotel room later, writing up his notes, he realized that wasn’t strictly true. Sherlock’s reaction to hearing the missing girl’s name – Anna Ashcroft – was strange. As if he’d suspected something and her name confirmed it. And why had he sent John out of the room first? And why was it impossible to find a decent food in this town? He tossed the take-out menus back in the desk drawer.

He jumped when the hotel phone rang. “Hello?”

“Daniel? It’s Greg, Greg Lestrade.”

“Hi,” he answered cautiously.

“No, I’m not calling to cancel,” he said. “Thought you might like some company – fancy coming out?"

He hesitated. Looked around the empty room and the room service menu lying on the bed. There were worse things than having dinner with Greg Lestrade.

“Sure. If you let me pick your brain about Sherlock Holmes.”

“Slim pickings, I’m afraid.” He was a terrible liar. “Pick you up downstairs... in an hour?”

“Okay.”

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Greg was charming and attentive – he asked about Canada (yes, lots of snow) and Bryant asked about Britain (yes, lots of rain)He explained hockey (puck, stick, net, rinkand Lestrade attempted to explain cricket (ball, bat, wicket, pitch).

“Stop. Please. I will never understand.”

“It’s not that hard. Really.”

“I swear you’re making it up.”

He shrugged and smiled. “Guess you have to grow up with it.”

“Do you play?”

“Used to. No time lately. And my knees tend to be angry with me for days after. You’re dying to ask about him, aren’t you?”

“Is it that obvious?” he said, a little embarrassed.

“No, you’ve been very patient. Go ahead. Ask.”

“So what’s the deal with Sherlock Holmes?”

Greg snorted. “No one has ever put it quite like that before. Let’s just say Sherlock is like cricket– too complicated to explain over dinner. He’s the smartest man I ever met, brilliant really. People generally don’t know what to make of him – like the newspapers – they had fun building him up, and had even more fun knocking him down. But he can be a heartless bastard too. How he did that to John, I’ll never – truth is, I missed him when he was gone, and I’m glad he’s back.”

“You know I think James Moriarty had something to do with the murder I’m investigating?”

“Yeah, I read your report. But Moriarty’s dead, has been for more than two years now.” He shook his head. “You’re chasing a ghost.”

“The victim’s family should know who murdered their son. And what about the girl who went missing after the murder? I’m sure her disappearance is connected to Moriarty. What about her family?” He thought about mentioning Sherlock’s strange reaction to finding out him name, but decided against it. “What if this girl wasn’t just another one of Moriarty’s victims, what if she worked for him? What if she still works for him? I’m only asking if it’s possible Sherlock missed something.”

“Sherlock doesn’t miss things.”

“Everyone does. Even the world’s only consulting detective.”

He arched one eyebrow.

“I’ve been reading John’s work.”

“Don’t believe everything you read –and don’t expect too much from Sherlock right now.”

“So everyone keeps saying. Can I ask one more question?”

“I’ll have to start running a tab.”

“I’ve seen the way John looks at Sherlock. Are they –”

He laughed. “Even more complicated than cricket. I stopped trying to figure them out a while ago.”

“Fair enough. None of my business anyway.”

Lestrade eventually drove Bryant back to the hotel. He parked in front of the hotel and held up his warrant card when the doorman told him there was no parking there. “Sorry, sir.”

“I’ll pick you up at half nine tomorrow,” he said. Bryant looked confused and he added, “9:30. Take you back to Baker Street.”

“Was this John’s idea?”

“Don’t ask. I have no idea what he’s up to.”

“Makes two of us. Thanks for the company, Greg.”

“My pleasure.”

Bryant watched him drive away and tried to fight off the sinking feeling that he was in way over his head.

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Back in his room, Bryant grabbed the folders on Sherlock again. About his “miraculous” return from the dead, entire articles devoted to theories about how it was done. A series of interviews given by his fiancée. (Really, Sherlock? A fiancée?) He scrolled through stories that claimed he was a fake, twice as many that claimed he wasn’t. He felt a surge of pity, he knew how much those stories must have irritated Sherlock. How much they must have hurt John.

Everything always came back to John.

He found his articles and scrolled down to the last entry he’d read about the Baskerville case. He wandered around the pages, reading about their other cases (not quite convinced the stories were entirely factual), until he got to the one about John’s wedding. Tried to get on with your life after Sherlock, did you? And how did that work out for you?

There was a few wedding photos. The ladies wore large hats and for some odd reason John and Sherlock were dressed identically.

The bride was what he expected – not beautiful, not young – mid-thirties probably, attractive in that straightforward, familiar kind of way. The bride and groom looked genuinely happy. So how did John end up living back at Sherlock’s only a few months later?

Bryant went through the pictures again. Sherlock wore the same expression in most of them – a tight smile that never quite made it to his eyes.

He looked again at Mary Morstan’s smiling face. Did you have any idea what a minefield you were stepping into?

Bryant closed the folders and turned out the light.

He lay in the dark, mentally planning the next day’s interview with Sherlock. He’d start with Anna Ashcroft – see if Sherlock had really recognized her name or if the drugs had made him loopy. He had several pictures of her that he could show Sherlock including a few graduation photos from the University of Ottawa. Not that he expected him to recognize her – she’d disappeared more than ten years earlier – and she wasn’t particularly memorable, just attractive in an ordinary sort of way like Mary.

Like Mary.

Exactly like Mary.

Bryant reached over and turned on the bedside lamp. Sat up and opened another folder and found the pictures of Anna Ashcroft. He found John’s articles once more and pulled up a wedding picture of Mary. Placed it side by side with Anna’s graduation picture.

The hum was back. Only this time it was more than a hum – it was an electric storm that had every neuron firing.

John Watson had married Anna Ashcroft.

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Bryant stood on the sidewalk outside the hotel at 9:30 the next morning watching for Greg’s car. He was tired – he’d spent most of the night trying to convince himself that Mary Morstan wasn’t Anna Ashcroft no matter how similar they looked – it was just too much of a coincidence. And he didn’t believe in coincidences. But if it wasn’t a coincidence, what series of unlikely events would end with Moriarty’s ex-girlfriend marrying Sherlock’s friend? Boyfriend?

He knew Moriarty had gone to great lengths to destroy Sherlock. Was Mary part of his plan too? And if she did work for Moriarty, why would she stick around after Moriarty died? Kate had stitched together a dozen different scenarios, each more farfetched than the last.  

There is not enough coffee in the world for this.

A car squealed to a stop in front of him. A man – 30ish, missing the second button on his shirt – stepped out and turned to look at her. He didn’t look pleased. But you’re the type that’s never pleased, aren’t you?

He pointed a finger at Bryant. “Are you Bryant?”

“Inspector Bryant. Yes.” He gave himself points for not giving in to the urge to say And who the hell are you?”

“Get in. I’m the lucky one who gets to play chauffeur today. Why you can’t take a bloody cab... “

The front seat was littered with empty coffee cups and old papers. Bryant had started to collect them when the man shoveled them all to the floor with one sweep of his hand. “Mind where you step,” he said.

“And you are?” Bryant asked in as polite a voice as he could manage.

“Sargent Donovan. Lestrade got called away, so he told me to fetch you and take you to his lordship’s flat.”

Listening to him was like watching a movie with sub-titles. You always knew what he was thinking.

“I could have taken a cab.”

Donovan snorted. “Yeah, that’s what I said.”

Donovan drove to Sherlock’s with both hands gripped tightly on the wheel, cursing at everyone who got in his way. More than once, he started to say something to Bryant but stopped, as if he’d promised someone that he would behave.

A long twenty minutes later, they pulled up in front of Speedy’s. “Here you go, then.” He turned to look at Bryant. “He’s not what everything thinks he is. He may not have invented Moriarty, but he’s still hiding something. Top of the list is who shot him. Ask the freak that.” Donovan pulled at his shirt self-consciously, closing the gap caused by the missing button. “Of course no one listens to me,” he added bitterly.

Oh, but they did, didn’t they? And look how well that turned out.

“Thanks for the ride. Tell Greg I can take a cab later.”

“So it’s Greg, eh?” He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, okay.”

Bryant got out and started to walk away but Donovan called him back. Bryant stepped around to the driver’s side and Donovan handed him a paper bag through the open window. “I forgot to give you these. Tell John he owes me two pounds fifty.”

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Mrs. Hudson sent Bryant up with a message to tell Sherlock that the tea was coming.

“Inspector Lestrade picked up John quite early, so it’s just you and Sherlock today,” Mrs. Hudson said. “Something to do with a new case, I expect. I had to push him out the door, poor dear, he hates leaving Sherlock alone.”

“You’re late,” Sherlock said when he entered. He was back in the leather chair. “And you brought coffee. Excellent.” He held out one hand and he reluctantly handed it over. Different t-shirt, different sweatpants. Same dressing gown. Clean-shaven. Eyes clear – either no meds or no pain. Probably not both.

“Sorry. My ride was – “

“Stop apologizing. It’s an appalling habit you have. Where are my biscuits?”

He held up the bag. “Mrs. Hudson says the tea is coming.”

“So is Christmas.”

Bryant handed him the bag of cookies and he opened it, looked inside and groaned. “Sod it. Who let Donovan buy the biscuits?” He dropped the bag on the floor beside his chair. “I despise macaroons.” He looked at him. “Not sleeping?”

“I slept.” Bryant pulled over a chair from the table and sat between Sherlock and the empty armchair.

“Not enough. You’re trying to hide the evidence of a sleepless night. No doubt spent wondering why I recognized Anna Ashcroft’s name.”

Was he always this annoying?

“I have some theories,” Bryant said.

“I’d be disappointed if you didn’t. While I was away –”

“Really? That’s what you call it? Being away?” Bryant was pretty sure that’s not what John called those two years. He probably shouldn’t have said it, but the man had just stolen his coffee.

He ignored him. “I spent some time in Ottawa. Do you know The Scone Witch?”

Bryant nodded. It was only two blocks from his apartment.

“Excellent tea shop. I recommend the lemon scones.”

“Why were you in Ottawa?” Why was anyone, really?

“I knew Moriarty lived in Canada – primarily Montreal and Ottawa – for several years before he moved back to England. He was a contractor then – murder for hire, extortion, that sort of thing. But he got bored. The smart ones always do.”

Bryant was about to answer when Mrs. Hudson appeared at the doorway with the tea. “I brought some biscuits too. Shortbread.” She looked at Sherlock and smiled indulgently. “Sherlock loves his biscuits. Don’t you, dear?”

“I was shot, Mrs. Hudson, not lobotomized.”

“Pity that,” she grumbled. She turned to Bryant. “I’ll be downstairs if you need anything.”

Bryant poured tea for himself and placed two cookies on a saucer for Sherlock. He set them on the table beside his chair and tried not to stare longingly at the coffee cup.

He took his time with the cookies. When he was done, he brushed the crumbs carefully from his t-shirt. He could almost see the wheels turning in his head. Finally he said, “I traced Moriarty to the same government job you did. It’s reasonable to assume he was contracted to kill Peter Goodale. That’s all I know.”

“If you know that, then you probably also know it had something to do with the private member’s bill he was planning to introduce in Parliament. The bill would have restricted mining rights. When he died, so did the bill.”

He looked pleased. Like he’d passed some kind of test. “Well done, Inspector Bryant.”

“But it’s still only a theory. I was never able to find any evidence to support it.”

“I might be able to point you to several rather incriminating money transfers and letters to a numbered company in Ottawa from a relative of the owner of the mining company. It was called Wild Rose Resources, I believe.”

As much as Bryant needed Sherlock's help, he didn’t like that he’d made the offer sound conditional.

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Sherlock lifted one hand to scratch his nose and winced against the pain. He closed his eyes and took long slow breaths. Bryant noticed the faint sheen of sweat on his forehead.

“Do you need to take something?” he asked.

He ignored him. His breathing slowly returned to normal and he opened his eyes. “I’m fine.”

Bryant resisted to the urge to feel his forehead for a fever. What was it about Sherlock that alternately made him want to hug him and smack him? Is this how John and everyone felt on a daily basis? “Can we keep going or do you need a break?”

“I’m fine,” he repeated. “John will be back soon. Let’s move on, shall we?”

“OK. Anna Ashcroft.”

“A name on a list of Moriarty’s associates. Nothing more – I never sussed out her connection to Goodale. Something came up and I moved on.”

“You never went back?”

“It was winter. I don’t do cold well.”

“And you never investigated further?”

“There was nothing to investigate. Moriarty made a clean break when he left Canada. I saw no reason to return. And there were other, more pressing matters.”

Bryant leaned forward. “And you never saw Anna Ashcroft’s picture?”

He shook his head impatiently.

“You had no reason to believe that Anna Ashcroft was the shooter in Peter Goodale’s murder? Or that she continued to work for James Moriarty after he left Canada?”

“Inspector Bryant, this is beginning to feel more like an interrogation than a consultation.”

Bryant took the two pictures from his bag. One of Anna, one of Mary. The quality wasn’t great, but they’d serve his purpose. He handed them to him and waited for his reaction.

He would have made an excellent poker player. If he wasn’t looking for it, he would never have seen it. The slightest intake of breath, a small narrowing of his eyes. But it confirmed what he suspected – he didn’t know. At least not for sure.

He handed the pictures back to Bryant. “Well done, Inspector.”

“Does John know?” Bryant guessed he didn’t.

It always came back to John.

He hesitated and Bryant knew he was deciding how much to tell him, what percentage of truth to insert between the lies. “That his wife was Moriarty’s girlfriend and likely his accomplice? No. He found out sometime after they were married that Mary was not what she appeared to be. She told him that her real initials were A.G.R.A., but that may have been a lie too. I didn’t know about her connection to Moriarty. Not until yesterday.”

Sherlock leaned forward. “What do you plan to do with this... insight about Mary? You must know you’re not the first person who has stumbled upon the truth?”

“Stumbled? Really?”

He rolled his eyes. “I shall retire the day a simple search replaces the science of deduction.” Arrogant bastard.

“I have files, you have your brother. Same difference.”

His self-satisfied smile faltered. “How do you know about Mycroft?”

It was Bryant's turn not to answer.

“Did John leave her when he found out? Poor John, he finds out his wife is not the good woman he imagined her to be – and then you get shot. How did he find out, by the way?”

Sherlock said nothing.

“And then you get shot...” Bryant repeated. Greg had said Sherlock couldn’t – wouldn’t – identify the shooter. Bryant stood and busied himself with clearing away the cups. He thought better when his hands were occupied. Sherlock’s eyes followed him.

It always came back to John.

Bryant went still and felt the pieces sliding into place. He came back into the room and sank into John’s chair. “Oh my God. It was Mary, wasn’t it?”

Sherlock held up one hand, like he was trying to stop an oncoming truck. Only it was too late.

“Mary tried to kill you. Because you found out. And now you’re protecting her.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Isn’t it?”

“Mary’s pregnant.” He said it painfully, like the words were shards of glass tearing his throat apart.

“Oh, for crying out loud.”

That was when Bryant and Sherlock noticed John standing in the doorway watching them.

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“Welcome back,” Sherlock said. He made no move to get up.

John looked back and forth between them. “Someone tell me what’s going on.” His voice was calm but Bryant could hear the anger simmering beneath the surface. “One hour, Sherlock. I leave you alone for one hour...”

Sherlock started to answer, but John pointed a finger at Bryant. “And you! You wanted to talk about Moriarty, you said. Just a few questions, you said. So someone please tell me why you’re throwing my wife’s name about. This was supposed to be about Moriarty. Because apparently there can never be too much bloody Moriarty in our lives.”

“Sit down, John,” Bryant said quietly.

He shook his head. “I live here! Don’t bloody tell me to sit down in my own flat!”

Sherlock arched one eyebrow at that.

John glanced over at him. “Oi, you. Shut it.” He sat on the sofa. Folded his arms. Tapped one foot. “Go on, then. Tell me why you are discussing my wife..."

Bryant took a long breath. “Moriarty had a girlfriend when he lived in Ottawa. I – we – think he recruited her there and brought her back to England with him. I think she helped him kill Goodale. I suspect she went right on working for him afterwards. Her name was Anna Ashcroft.”

“Nice story. But it’s got nothing to do with Mary,” John said. Bryant recognized that tone – it was the same one used by every relative of every victim he’d ever had to break bad news to. (You’ve made a terrible mistake, Officer. My daughter will be home any minute. You’ll see.)

“Her name was Anna, John,” Sherlock repeated. Slowly. Deliberately. “Anna Ashcroft.”

“Yeah? So? What’s that got to do –”

Bryant picked up Anna’s graduation picture. Sherlock shook his head but Bryant handed it to John. “This is Anna.”

He stared at it a moment, one finger tracing the outline of Mary’s smiling face. Then his face crumpled, his features collapsing in on themselves. “Oh God.”  He leaned forward and buried his face in both hands. “Jesus, Sherlock...”

He sounded sorry and tired and lost and undone.

Sherlock slowly pulled himself out of his chair and moved to sit beside John on the sofa. It left him sweating and breathless and Bryant knew from the way he was holding one arm tightly across his chest that he was in considerable pain.

You love him, don’t you? Enough to forgive him for his wife’s sins. Or maybe this is just your way of doing penance for your own.

Bryant left them sitting there and headed downstairs. Surely Mrs. Hudson had something stronger than tea to offer. He’d kill for a glass of wine and a smoke. Not much chance of that, he guessed.

Bryant ran a hand through his hair, squared his shoulders and knocked on Mrs. Hudson’s door.

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“Live and let live, that’s my motto.” Mrs. Hudson lifted the bottle of Jameson’s, but Bryant shook his head and held his hand over his glass. It would have been the third of what could only be called liberal pours and he didn’t need to sit in Mrs. Hudson’s kitchen getting hammered, when he knew the real action was going on above their heads.

“Wish my grandmother could have been so open-minded.” Bryant sighed, glancing at his watch, at the door. He could hear muffled voices and heavy footsteps coming from upstairs.

Mrs. Hudson poured a bit more whiskey into her own teacup. “Well, when you’ve seen what I’ve seen...”

“You mean with Sherlock?”

“Oh my, no. They’re dears, the both of them. Mind, Sherlock could do with more space in his head for manners, and less in the fridge for body parts, but I wouldn’t have anyone else upstairs.”

“Body parts?”

Mrs. Hudson ignored Bryant, lost in her own thoughts. “It was difficult, when he was... gone. Didn’t think John ever would come out of it. And now he’s... life is full of surprises, isn’t it?” She looked up at Bryant. “Though I’m sure you’ve heard a bit of that... nasty business... with Mary...”

Bryant wondered how much whiskey it would take before Mrs. Hudson would tell him everything. Everything he knew at least. “Yes, that’s why I’m here. Partly.”

Mrs. Hudson frowned. “Yes, well, I shouldn’t be gossiping.”

“You’re not. You’re concerned for the boys and you want to help them. I want to help them too.”

Mrs. Hudson pushed away from the table and stood, pulling her sweater tightly around her. “You don’t even know them. And I know when I’m being interrogated – if I learned anything at all from my husband. But you’re a smart one. You’ll get it sorted out without my babbling on and on.”

Bryant knew he had just been shut down by a pro.

“Live and let live, eh?”

Bryant heard voices in the stairwell – he stood and rushed out of Mrs. Hudson’s door and down the hallway. He didn’t want John leaving before he could talk to him.

He looked up and John was standing on the landing. He was turned round, looking up.

“World’s worst timing, Sherlock,” he shouted. “Too bloody late.” He turned and headed down the steps.

Bryant stood at the bottom of the stairs to block his way, one hand on the bannister, the other against the wall. “We have to talk.”

“Get out of my way.”

“Not until we talk.” He wondered if he could smell the whiskey on his breath.

“John,” Sherlock said from the top of the stairs. “You’re acting irrationally.” His voice was low and shaky.

Bryant kept his voice as calm as he could manage. “Actually, John, I think it’s perfectly rational to be angry, to want to confront Mary and make her tell you the truth.”

He was rewarded with a withering stare.

“Get out of my way” He huffed with frustration. “Now.”

“No. Look, no matter how pissed you are at him, at me, at Mary, you can’t go off like this. Are you trying to get me killed?” Melodramatic, he knew, but not totally farfetched. Sherlock had the scars to prove it.

“A bit low, don’t you think? Even for a copper?” He shook his head and sagged down on the steps.

Bryant let go of the bannister. “We both know I can’t really stop you. Not forever. Probably not even for an hour. But we need to talk about what will happen if you show up and throw Moriarty in Mary’s face.”

“She’s my wife.”

“And you’re a self-righteous bastard who can’t make up his mind who he wants to be with. Your wife shoots your boyfriend and she’s still your wife. How does that work exactly?” Bryant regretted the words the moment he said them. He was supposed to be calming him down, not pissing him off.

“He’s not my – it’s complicated.”

Bryant threw up his hands. “God, how does he stand it?” He realized that Sherlock had gone very quiet. “Sherlock?”

When there was no answer, he leaned down and grabbed John by the arm. “You need to go upstairs and make sure he’s all right.”

Bryant saw him hesitate, but he stood and turned back to face the stairs. “Sherlock?” he shouted. When Sherlock didn’t answer, he swore loudly and took the stairs two at a time. “Sherlock!”

He made it to the top a millisecond before Bryant did.

“Goddammit,” Bryant muttered when he saw.

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Sherlock lay crumpled on his side on the floor outside the door, one side of his face painted the color of blood. Only it wasn’t paint, was it?

John knelt down and leaned over Sherlock. He lifted one of Sherlock’s hands and felt for a pulse. Bryant saw something like a ghost pass over John’s face.

“Should I call 911?” Bryant asked him.

He looked confused. “Oh, you mean 999. No, not yet.” He lifted Sherlock’s head and felt for what was causing the bleeding. “He’s got a gash on the side of his head – more blood than real damage, I’d wager.”

Sherlock opened his eyes and squinted at John. “Decided to stay?” He tried to sit up, but John held him down with one hand against his shoulder.

“You’re going to have buy Mrs. Hudson a new carpet. What happened?”

He touched his forehead. “If the blood is any indication, it appears I’ve cut my head.”

“That’s the result. What happened?”

“I was standing and then I wasn’t. I must have hit my head on the door jamb on my way down.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Of course it bloody hurts. Everything hurts. Help me up.”

John took one arm and Bryant ducked under the other shoulder and they carried/dragged a shaky Sherlock to the sofa. John walked into the bathroom and came out with towels and a first aid kit.

“I bet you’ve got your money’s worth out of that.”

John ignored Bryant and set the kit on the coffee table, opened it and busied himself with unwinding gauze and ripping pieces of tape. Bryant saw that his hands were trembling and he knew they were as far from okay as possible.

Sherlock grabbed a pillow and curled himself around it.

“Scissors,“ John barked and held out his hand.

Bryant jumped a bit at his tone. Looked down into the kit. No scissors.

“Scissors, now.”

Bryant just stared at him. “Saying it twice won’t make them appear. Where do you keep scissors?”

“Left cupboard, third drawer down,” Sherlock voice was raspy. “Ouch, that hurts.”

“Hold still. I’m going to put in a stitch.”

“No, you are not.”

“Then it will get infected.” John pressed an alcohol swab against Sherlock’s head. “And you’ll have a scar.” John laid his hand on Sherlock’s chest.

Sherlock put his hand over John’s. “No!”

A smile slipped across John’s face. “What I thought. Now hold still.”

Bryant rolled his eyes. He turned and walked into the kitchen. Found the scissors under a box of microscope slides and a badge case. He opened the case. Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade. He wondered if Lestrade knew Sherlock had his credentials. He wondered why he didn’t walk downstairs, hail a cab, and catch the next flight out of Heathrow. Oh yeah, his career.

Bryant walked back into the room and handed John the scissors. He took them and turned his attention to Sherlock. He quickly stitched the gash and covered it with gauze and tape. He shined a light into Sherlock’s eyes and grabbed his wrist, checking his pulse. Pressed the back of his hand against Sherlock’s forehead. “You’re warm. Maybe we should restart the antibiotics.”

“For god’s sake, John, just give me the shot.” Sherlock shifted uncomfortably.

“I can’t – I need you awake for a few hours. Nothing stronger than paracetamol.” John picked up the needle and the tape and put them back in the kit.

“I don’t have concussion. My brain is in stellar shape as usual. Ask me anything.”

“Were you always such a complete ass, or did I never notice?”

“There is no good answer to that.”

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“Sure there is. The fact you don’t know the answer only proves my point.”

“This is your childish way of punishing me, isn’t it? I won’t beg for it, you know that.”

“Yes, you will.” John gave Sherlock a look that was almost a smile and Bryant knew they weren’t talking about morphine any longer. Sherlock’s tumble on the landing, the blood, that long moment between scared to death and just scared had done what an hour of talking could never do.

“Let’s get through the next few hours. If you don’t show any signs of a concussion, you’ll get the morphine. Otherwise, you’re going straight to A&E.”

John walked into the kitchen, washed his hands. Reached under the sink and pulled out a bottle. Splashed some quickly into two glasses, walked over and sat opposite Bryant in his chair.

Bryant took the glass and held it in his hands. Stared at it. Looked up at John, who was looking at Sherlock, who was looking at him. Great. “So I guess this is the part where you two tell me the plan.”

John frowned. “What plan?”

“The plan that lets me wrap up this mess in a way that doesn’t get me fired or killed by your wife.” Bryant laid the glass on the table without taking a sip.

“Killed? Don’t you think you’re overreacting?" John sat up straighter in the chair.

Bryant nodded toward Sherlock. “Am I overreacting?”

“Christ.” John drained his glass. “Sherlock, a little help here.”

“I will be happy to discuss how this works but only after you give me what I want. I can’t think.”

“In an hour. And a half-dose. Take the edge off without putting you to sleep. Deal?”

“Half an hour.”

“Fine. Half an hour.”

They all stared at the clock on the mantle.

After ten minutes, John moved to sit by Sherlock, Bryant went to the washroom, and Mrs. Hudson brought up a large tray of tiny sandwiches that looked as if they’d been made for, and possibly by, children.

After twenty minutes, Sherlock had nudged John off the sofa so he could lie down, sideways facing the wall, his knees pulled up against his chest like a small boy.

After thirty minutes, Sherlock turned and held out one arm. “Now.” And with far less bravado, he added, “Please.”

“Yeah, all right.”

Fifteen minutes later, Sherlock felt well enough to use the toilet and change his blood-stained t-shirt. He walked back from the bedroom, leaning heavily against John, and settled into his chair. John grabbed a glass of water and set it on the table beside Sherlock.

“I’d rather have the brandy.” He pointed to Bryant's untouched glass.

“No bloody chance. You’re dehydrated and refuse to eat anything but the occasional biscuit, which is no doubt why you collapsed. So drink it.”

Sherlock raised one eyebrow and John added, “If you want your next dose anytime today.”

Sherlock drank. He wiggled the empty glass at John, who took it from him and set it on the coffee table, and moved to his chair. Sherlock sighed and looked at Bryant, who sat on the sofa (which he was now beginning to think of as the balcony seats)

Sherlock sat straighter in his chair and steepled his fingers. “There are seven possible outcomes to this plan. Each with its own probability.”

“Sherlock,” John warned. “Don’t.”

“Only seven?” Bryant looked at his watch. “Okay. What are they?”

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“John’s military background, although useful on countless occasions, can be an impediment during this initial planning stage.” Sherlock frowned and touched his forehead. “Do you think these stitches are too tight?”

“Maybe your head’s just too big,” John snapped.

Sherlock ignored him and continued. “He’s trained to look for the quick in and out. A coup de main, if you will. A swift and lethal response when a more measured approach is called for.”

“You’re talking about my wife.” John’s face reddened.

Sherlock never took his eyes off Bryant. “My main objective was, and always is, to keep John safe.”

“I’m sitting right here.”

“And there is nothing that I won’t do to obtain that objective.”

Bryant squirmed under Sherlock’s stare. He felt like this was somehow all his fault. He didn’t like it. “And how’s that working out so far, eh?”

John stood and walked toward the kitchen.

“John,” Bryant called after him. “I’m sorry, but come on – if I didn’t figure it out first, someone else will. Maybe someone already has and I’m doing you both a favor.”

“John, sit down,” Sherlock said.

John turned, his hands fisted at his side, his chest heaving. He spoke soft and low. “Unless one of you says something, anything that makes bloody sense, that actually points to a way out of this, I am going to see my wife.” He held up his hand as both Bryant and Sherlock opened their mouths. “No, you don’t get to talk. It’s my life, Sherlock. I have to fix this somehow. My way.”

“It’s our life,” Sherlock said.

Both Bryant and John looked at Sherlock.

“Our life, John. Plural. Whether or not you choose to acknowledge it. Mary never changed that. No matter how hard you pretended otherwise. You know my feelings.”

Bryant rolled his eyes. He was going to die in London. Probably in this flat. Probably on this sofa. Because these two idiots. He looked up and John had crossed the room and was standing above Sherlock’s chair.

“So what are we going to do?” John said quietly.

“I was trying to tell you.”

“So, tell me.”

Sherlock sighed. Rubbed his head. “First we must all agree that the most important part of this plan – any plan – is that Mary not know about Inspector-“

“Bryant – please.”

“Must not know about Bryant – his presence in London.” Sherlock sat up a bit straighter. “The second aspect is that you, John, must move back in with Mary.”

Both John and Bryant stood and spoke at the same time.

“Are you bloody kidding me? You just said you wanted to keep me safe –“

“Really? This is your plan – Jesus, this is -“

Sherlock closed his eyes and continued speaking in a low voice. “It is imperative that Mary believes that her secrets are safe, that you have forgiven her.”

“Not bloody likely.” John spit out the words. “I can’t...”

“I will supply Bryant with enough information for his investigation – I believe I can point him toward Moriarty’s source in his MP’s murder – so he can go home. He will leave any reference to Anna Ashcroft’s current whereabouts out of his report.”

Bryant shook his head. “And what about you?” He looked at Sherlock. “And what about the next person who comes through that door with information about Mary? It’s going to happen sooner or later. What are you going to do then?”

Sherlock closed his eyes. Bent over and rested his elbows on his knees. “Something about a bridge, crossing a bridge... please.”

Bryant watched John’s anger drain from his face and he knelt in front of Sherlock. “What is it?”

He put his hand on Sherlock’s knee and Sherlock leaned his head against John’s shoulder. John rubbed Sherlock’s back and said something Bryant couldn’t understand. Sherlock murmured something back and suddenly Bryant became very aware that he was superfluous. He watched as John nodded and carefully pushed Sherlock back in his chair and stood.

“He's done for today.”

There was no answer. It was not a request. It was a dismissal.

Bryant weighed his options. Stand and argue. Nothing had been decided. The minute he left, John could be out the door to Mary and she’d be dead before morning. But he watched as John took the syringe and gave Sherlock a shot, rubbing his arm. He wasn’t going anywhere.

He looked at his watch. 5PM. He walked down the stairs and out the door.

The black sedan was still parked in front of 221B. He’d noticed it earlier when he’d looked out the window while waiting for Sherlock to change. As he closed the door behind him, the back door of the sedan opened and a man – tall, well-dressed, familiar – stepped out.

“Inspector Bryant? Might I have a word? In private?”

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“Is Bryant still downstairs?” John asked.

“Heavens, no. He left almost an hour ago,” Mrs. Hudson said. She was collecting the dirty cups and glasses and plates scattered about the flat. “How is he?” She glanced down the hall toward the bedroom. “He gave me quite a fright. You both did. So much carrying on.”

“He’s sleeping and I'm sorry about the carrying on.” He picked up a plate. “I can do the washing up.”

She paused, a cup and saucer in one hand, and looked at him. “Yes, all right.” She handed him the dishes and her expression changed, hardened somehow and for a moment he imagined he saw a different Mrs. Hudson, the one who hadn’t always been a kind landlady. “You’d do well to clean up all your messes, young man.”

He knew she wasn’t referring to the dirty dishes. “Well, yes. Of course.” He felt like a schoolboy caught cheating. “I’m trying.”

“Good.” Her features softened, and her hand went to her hair, smoothing it. “Listen to me, going on about things I’m sure you think I know nothing about. I best be off.”

He set the dishes on the table and kissed her quickly on the cheek – she reminded him of his mother sometimes, the fussing, the endless pots of tea, the backbone of steel. Only his mother never once smelled like weed.

He was grateful for the washing up. It gave him a chance to think about something besides the soap opera that passed for his life lately. If Bryant had accomplished nothing else, he’d made him see how completely messed up it all was. He’d been pretending – to himself, to Mary, to Sherlock, that they could continue living in this bubble indefinitely. He needed to make a decision.  

After everything was washed and dried and put away, the floor swept, a week’s worth of newspapers collected and arranged on the floor by Sherlock’s chair, he climbed the stairs to his own room. He wanted to lie down, close his eyes and sleep for a very long time.

The room depressed him. The bed was unmade, the old blanket and single pillow lay across the sheets like an afterthought. After Sherlock had died (John had never learned how to switch out “died” for “fallen” in his head), he’d stripped the walls, packed his boxes, drawn the curtains. Moving back into this room had left him with the odd feeling of falling back in time. Back to the wrong time.

Truth was, in those final awful/amazing months, he’d spent most of his nights in Sherlock’s bed, not this one. They’d danced around the truth for more than a year before they finally found themselves where everyone else thought they’d been all along. And because it had been so long in coming, so hard won, John had made the same mistake that all romantics do. He thought it would last forever.

And eighteen months later he met Mary. She had pursued John with a devotion that both flattered and frightened him. She was funny and smart. She learned quickly when to hover, when to let him be, and made room in their lives for his grief. She made it easy for him to love the person she was pretending to be.

After Sherlock was shot (he was fond of this particular passive tense, to think of that night as when Mary shot Sherlock felt too much like his own heart was being torn in two), he moved back to Baker Street and into his old room.

He’d told Mary he needed to take care of Sherlock, he needed time to think. She said she understood. She said she would wait. That the baby was teaching her to be patient. She told him she loved him. She told him she was sorry. He’d wanted her to be more specific, but the words had caught in his throat like shards of glass. She sent him an envelope every fortnight now – copies of the bank statements, bills she’d paid, bills he needed to pay, the baby’s first scan. Too early to tell the sex. Too late to consider an abortion. Cancelled cheques were his only form of communication.

No one had mentioned Magnussen, although no one was naïve enough to believe it was over. John thought of these past few months like half-time, each team strategizing how to approach the final period. And now there was Daniel Bryant, wandering onto the pitch with no clue about the dangerous game being played there.

He changed into a clean jumper and went downstairs. Washed his face, combed his hair, brushed his teeth. He kicked off his slippers, and walked barefoot down the hallway towards Sherlock’s room. In the near darkness, he could see Sherlock was still asleep, sprawled out, one arm hanging over the edge of the bed. He coughed and half-turned onto his side, and his face looked calm and for a moment John let himself forget everything bad that had ever happened to them.

Later he and Sherlock would talk and argue and plan and in the end, he’d agree to whatever daft scheme Sherlock came up with. He always did. He knew now that he’d wasted months trying to make a choice that had been made a long time ago.

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The well-dressed man (he’d yet to introduce himself) tapped the dark glass that separated them from the driver and the car pulled away smoothly from the curb.

“Inspector, didn’t your mother ever teach you that it is unwise to get into cars with strangers?”

“Yeah, but you’re not exactly a stranger, are you, Mr. Holmes?”

Surprise flickered across his face. “Then you know why we need to talk.”

“I have no idea. But I’m sure it will involve more tea.”

“You are a terrible liar, Inspector.”

“I’m actually an excellent liar. But I really have no idea why you want to talk to me. Or why we have to have this conversation here. Unless this is a kidnapping. Are you kidnapping me, Mr. Holmes?”

“Hardly,” he said. “We almost never kidnap anyone anymore.” He smoothed an invisible wrinkle in his trousers. “Shall I get to the point?”

“Go for it,”

“You will wrap up this little investigation of yours and go home. Surely there must be a miscreant moose somewhere in Canada that needs your attention.”

Bryant leaned forward and tapped on the glass, trying to get the driver’s attention. “Stop the car.” He looked at Mycroft. "Stop the damn car.”

“He can’t hear you.”

He reached for the door handle and tugged it. The door was locked. “Goddamn it.” Bryant leaned back in the leather seat. Crossed his arms. Uncrossed them when he realized he looked like a petulant teenager. Tried not to punch Mycroft in his self-satisfied pasty English face. “Okay, you win. Go for it.”

“Your investigation into the murder of Peter Goodale has led you down a dangerous path. Mary Morstan is – ”

“How the hell do you know about that? Did Sherlock –”

“—not to be approached. Her name will not appear in any report.”

“She shot Sherlock. Why doesn’t anyone care about that?”

“My brother is reckless.”

Bryant felt a surge of pity for Sherlock. “Why are you protecting her? I can’t imagine you’re doing this for John.”

He raised one eyebrow. “Dr. Watson has nothing to do with this.”

“Then why is no one arresting her? Attempted murder is still a crime here, isn’t it? Not to mention all the jobs she did for Moriarty.”

Mycroft sighed the sigh of a brilliant man surrounded by idiots. “Mary Morstan did not work exclusively for James Moriarty. Over the years, she accepted other freelance assignments. Usually for private contractors, and less frequently for government agencies that needed to distance themselves from actual events.”

“Is that your fancy-assed way of saying the British government didn’t want to get its hands dirty?”

Apparently the man never answered a question. “Her name was not always Mary Morstan. Since there had never been a reason to us to meet, we – I – did not make the connection until it was too late.”

“So you’re afraid if she’s arrested, she’ll talk. I can’t believe I’m going to ask this, but why haven’t you –” Bryant hadn’t seen enough spy movies for this conversation. “—do what you people do? Remove her?”

“Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Someone else knows Mary Morstan’s history. Names, dates, locations. Someone in a position to do a great deal of damage.”

“So this has nothing to with John and Sherlock?”

“Only peripherally. Although my brother will always assume that he is the epicentre of any situation.”

Bryant leaned back against the leather. Closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. His head hurt. He believed Mycroft – mostly – but it still didn’t make sense. He was missing something. The night Mary shot Sherlock – no one talked about that...

Mycroft was still talking. “So we have an understanding then.” It wasn’t a question. It was never a question.

“Yes.” Bryant nodded. “Yes. Fine.”

“Excellent.” He reached in his jacket pocket and handed him an envelope. “I’ve taken the liberty of arranging your flight home. You will leave tomorrow morning.”

The car pulled up in front of his hotel. “Have a pleasant evening, Inspector Bryant.”

Bryant opened the car door. He stepped out and watched the car pull away. “And screw you too, Mycroft Holmes.” Bryant made his way quickly up to his room and reached for the phone and dialing a familiar number.

“Yeah?”

“Greg? It’s Daniel. Daniel Bryant.”

“Everything all right?”

“Not exactly. Look, it’s too hard to explain on the phone. Can you pick me up at my hotel? I need to ask you some questions. About the night Sherlock was shot.”

There was a silence and Bryant knew he was working out an answer. “Yeah, all right,” he said finally. “Give me half an hour.”

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“You’re a terrible liar.”

Bryant laughed. “You’re the second person in an hour to tell me that.” 

“Really? And the first?”

“Mycroft Holmes.”

He sat back. “Bloody hell, how did that happen?”

“You know him?” Before he could answer, he added, “Of course you know him. Our little visit was interesting. I got the distinct impression he sees himself as Sherlock’s keeper.”

“He does. Did. At least until John came along, anyway.”

“What’s his deal? Some secret government agency?”

“I don’t ask. Mycroft and I don’t do a lot of talking.” A ghost of a smile crossed his face and he saw his cheeks color.

Bryant tried not to let his surprise show. “Seriously? Mycroft Holmes?”

Greg shrugged. “You said you had questions, Daniel. About Sherlock.”

This was the part he wasn’t sure about. How much did he trust Greg Lestrade? He’d been straight with him – as far as he knew. And what he knew for sure could fit in a goddamn teacup. This case was a giant maze and he still hadn’t figured out who was at the center of it. And if he and Mycroft Holmes were – well, whatever they were...  he decided to throw it all up in the air and see where it landed.

“I told you what I want to know – the night Sherlock—”

“Yeah, got that one – the night he was shot. I just thought you’d have more specific questions.” Greg loosened his tie and sat back. Waited.

“They taught us that, too.” Bryant smiled. “Make the suspect feel at ease, like you’ve got all the time in the world.”

Greg smiled and sat up straighter. “It works. Usually.”

“So?”

Greg pulled a folded sheet of paper from his jacket pocket. “Here. The only copy of the only report.” He slid it across the table. “I’ll need it back, though.”

Bryant unfolded the paper and saw that it was an incident report. Similar to the hundreds he’d filled out in her career. Only this one looked like a child had taken a black marker to it.

Call to 999 was received at 19:35 from inside the CAM Global News building on Ropemaker Street, London EC2. Male victim, identified as... (the name was redacted) with GSW to chest was transported to A&E, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. Second victim... (also redacted) with head trauma declined treatment and transportNo weapon found at the scene. No suspect identified by either victim. File transferred to (redacted) at request of... The rest of that line was blacked out. No further investigation required. Bryant looked up at Greg. “And?”

“And, you know the rest.”

The rest. Loaded sentence in this town. “So, Sherlock got shot at CAM – I recognize that name.” He sifted through a maze of vague memories until he found the right one. “I saw a story about a CEO last year. Michealson?”

“Close. Magnussen. Charles Magnussen.”

“What was Sherlock doing there?”

“A case, I reckon.” 

“You reckon? Jesus, you are full of information. Who was the second victim?”

He stared into his glass and Bryant thought he wasn’t going to answer. “Magnussen.”

What had Mycroft said? Someone else knows Mary Morstan’s history. Names, dates, locations. Someone in a position to do a great deal of damage. Was the someone else Magnussen? If he’d threatened to expose Mary, she wasn’t likely to sit back and do nothing. But where did Sherlock fit in? It couldn’t be as simple as Sherlock being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Didn’t Mycroft tell you any of this?” Greg took another drink of his beer.

“What do you think?” Bryant tried to not let his irritation show. “He gave me a ride around the park and a plane ticket home.”

Greg rolled his eyes. “He can be... a bit dramatic.”

“Must run in the family.” Bryant sighed. “This is crazy. You’re all so busy trying to protect each other and yet she...” Bryant watched Greg’s eyes grow wide. “Sherlock’s trying to protect John. Mycroft’s trying to protect Sherlock. And Mary apparently. Who are you trying to protect? Mycroft?”

“Mycroft Holmes can take care of himself.” Greg leaned forward. “Listen, Daniel, it’s complicated.” He shook his head. “And if you must know, I’m trying to protect everyone. So take whatever information Sherlock gave you about Moriarty and go home. Forget about Mary Morstan.”

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Bryant stared at Greg, disappointed. “I didn’t take you for the type that gives up that easy.”

“It’s not giving up. You can’t do anything about Mary. Don’t give her a reason to do something about you. Sherlock got lucky. The next person might not.”

“Really? This is Scotland Yard’s official advice? Don’t piss off our criminals?”

Lestrade's face colored and he slammed the glass down hard on the table. “Enough!” he said loudly enough that the couple at the next table turned to stare. “You stumbled into this mess. Only it’s not your mess, is it? It’s Sherlock’s and John’s. Let them deal with it.”

Bryant leaned back, closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “I need something stronger.”

Greg nodded and pushed away from the table.

“Scotch. Neat. A double.” 

He brought two glasses back from the bar and set them on the table. Bryant stared into his glass and said nothing. After a few minutes, the scotch began to warm the places that Mycroft Holmes had turned cold. Greg was right – he would never have enough evidence to prove Anna Ashcroft had anything to do with Goodale’s murder. He should take what Sherlock had offered – the evidence of the money transfers, the letters – and go home. Clearing the high profile murder of an MP would finally get him that transfer to Toronto. Plus a commendation from the PM, most likely.

What was wrong with that? Bryant swallowed the rest of the scotch and made a decision.

Leave Sherlock and John and Mary and Mycroft bloody Holmes to work out their own problems and hopefully they didn't get themselves killed in the process.

It was a sensible plan from whichever way he looked at it. Greg was right. Sherlock got lucky. Would lightening strike twice if Bryant found himself in the same position? He suddenly did not want to find out especially if everyone's behavior was anything to go on.

“How do I get to Heathrow from here?”

“Now? Just like that?” He looked pleased, like he’d just won the office pool.

“Sorry to disappoint you. I have to meet someone. They're coming in tonight at 10. But you’re right about the case. I’ll get the details about the money transfers and letters from Sherlock tomorrow and head home in a day or so. It’ll have to be enough.”

“I’ll drive you,” he offered. “I’ve got nowhere else to be.” 

Bryant wondered how long it would take him to tell Mycroft he was leaving. “You’re sure?”

“Why not?”

“Okay. Let me pay for the drinks then.”

On the way to the car, Bryant asked, “I don’t suppose you know any jewelry stores that are still open? And roses, I definitely need roses.” 

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Greg kept up a steady stream of small talk all the way to the airport. The engagement ring had made him nostalgic. He told Bryant how he’d proposed to his first wife, who was in love with all things Scottish, on a trip to Edinburgh. How she proved it two years later when she left him for the new office manager at the insurance company where she worked. He had transferred to London from Inverness and had a brogue so thick, every time he spoke, Greg expected to see sub-titles running across his chest.

“She was always after me to wear a bloody kilt,” he said. “Amazing the barmy things you do when you’re in love.”

“And wife number two?” People only referred to their ex-wife as their first wife if she were followed soon after by a second. “How did you propose?”

“Over dinner in a posh restaurant. Very grown up. Very sensible. She was everything Denise wasn’t. Which was a good thing.” He paused. “For a while, anyway.”

“And now?”

“Now I have a daughter. Who deserves a father who can manage to get her bike fixed before she outgrows it.”

“And Mycroft?”

He laughed. “I have no idea. You might say I scratch his itch. And some nights, when he’s feeling generous and no new wars have broken out or Sherlock hasn't started something, he scratches mine. Nothing more to it than that.”

Bryant wasn’t sure whether he believed him. Whether he believed it himself. He checked the time. Fifteen minutes until the flight landed. “Are we almost there?”

“Yeah, ten minutes at the most.”

Bryant turned to look at him. He really didn’t know him, but he was going to miss him. He was genuinely a good person. “Thank you. For all of this.”

A few minutes later, Lestrade pulled up in front of the airport. “Wish me luck.”

“She’s a very lucky girl, your Chloe. Tell her I said so.”

“I will. At least once a day. Good-bye, Greg.”

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It was dark when John woke up. He turned to check the time. 9:30. 

He’d slept for almost four hours. In Sherlock’s bed. Not that Sherlock had noticed.

DammitSherlock. He was supposed to be watching for signs of a concussion, not letting him sleep for four hours.

“Stop thinking.” Sherlock sighed and pulled the sheet off his chest. “I need a shot.”

John turned and felt Sherlock’s head. The stitches had held. “How do you feel?”

“Like I need a shot.”

“Are you in pain? John lifted himself onto an elbow. “Dizzy?”

Sherlock brushed John’s hand away. “I’m fine.” He struggled to swing his legs off the bed. “I require a cup of tea and a shot of morphine.”

John got out of bed and turned on the floor lamp. The pale yellow light threw long shadows across the floor. “I’ll get your tea. Stay there.” He turned and saw Sherlock watching him.

"What?”

“You were in my bed.”

“Yeah...”

Sherlock frowned. Pressed his hand to the bandage on his forehead. “My head hurts.”

“Let me look. Don’t touch the stitches.” He reached for Sherlock’s head and Sherlock grabbed his hand. 

“You were in my bed.” 

John tried to pull his hand away, but Sherlock held tight. John sighed. “Maybe I was making sure you were okay.” 

“Maybe?” 

John gave up the struggle and sat on the edge of the bed. “What do you want, Sherlock?” 

Sherlock scooted over a bit, giving John more room. “In order? Morphine, tea, maybe a biscuit...” 

He could see the smile hovering around Sherlock’s face. He didn’t know whether they were actually going to have a real discussion, or if Sherlock was playing with him. 

“I wasn’t finished.” 

“Course not.” 

“You were in my bed.” Sherlock raised an eyebrow. 

“I’m beginning to think you do have a concussion. You keep repeating the same thing over and over.” 

“It’s a significant thing. Worth repeating.” 

John bowed his head. Closed his eyes. Sighed. He didn’t want to play this game. The events of the past few days – months – had crushed him. Again and again. He didn’t think he had the strength. “Please, don’t,” he whispered. 

“Sorry.” 

“It’s just...” 

“I know.”

“Sherlock, I don’t think...” 

Sherlock looked at John. “The problem is you do think. Too much.” 

I think too much?” 

“You’re making yourself miserable, and by extension, me.” 

“Oh, now I’m making you miserable?” John stood up. “I'll go make tea.” 

Sherlock sighed. “John, please. I’m just trying to tell you I understand.” 

“What do you understand, Sherlock? Do you understand how insane all this is? Not only did my pregnant wife shoot my... you... but now we find out she was probably sleeping with Moriarty? And god knows what else – Christ, for all we know she was at the bloody swimming pool, hell, she was probably the one who was going to put a bullet through my head if you didn’t jump. Bryant is right – this is so bloody messed up.” 

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“Promise me something.” 

“What?” 

“Promise me this plan of yours will work.” 

“I promise.” 

“You can’t possibly promise something like that. You don’t even have a plan yet.” 

“But you just asked me to.” 

John sighed. “I know. I was just hoping hearing you say it would make me feel better. I can’t remember, was it tea and then morphine or morphine and then tea?” John walked toward the door. 

There was a smile growing on Sherlock’s face, and John felt it slide under his skin, scraping against the raw parts of him. 

Sherlock leaned back. “And biscuits, don’t forget the biscuits.” 


Sherlock claimed it was the tea, not the morphine that revived him. He wanted to stay up, so John made him comfortable on the sofa and promised him some case files in exchange for eating more than biscuits. They compromised on toast (2 pieces with butter and currant jelly), which he ate very slowly. He reminded John of a stubborn child, which wasn't far from the truth, being forced to finish his vegetables.

John handed him the files when he was done and for a while, the sound of Sherlock working while he tidied the kitchen made things seem almost normal. 

Later, John stood at the window, his back to Sherlock, and stared for a long time out at the night, trying hard not to think about Mary, or Magnussen, or how his life lay in pieces at his feet. John thought of these past few months like a ball of string unraveling, falling down an endless flight of stairs. He knew now that the only way to stop it was to get ahead of it and the only way to get ahead of it was to trust Sherlock. 

He was still standing there when a cab stopped in front of 221B. A man – familiar despite the darkness – stepped out of the back seat and slammed the door. He heard the bottom door open and close, followed by loud footsteps on the stairs. “Sherlock, I think we’ve got a visitor.” 

“I’m not taking new cases,” he answered without looking up.

John got to the door just as he started pounding on it. 

“For god’s sake, John. I’m trying to work.” 

He opened the door and Bryant stormed in. Anger had turned his fine features to stone. “Which one of you two English assholes told Mary about me?” 

John shook his head. “I haven’t spoken to Mary in months,” he said. 

“And you?” Bryant pointed a finger at Sherlock. “Someone told her I was here, that I was asking questions. Is this part of your great plan? Poke the sleeping bear with a stick. Only I’m the stick, aren’t I? Is this your way of keeping things interesting? Because god forbid Sherlock Holmes gets bored.” 

Sherlock closed the folder he was looking at. “I have no idea what you’re on about. I haven't left this flat since I was discharged from the hospital. Also if you won't act like an adult, I will not help you, and you can take your accusations right back to Canada.” 

John stepped between them. “Sit down. I’ll make some...” 

“I don’t want any god damn tea! I want the truth.” Bryant's voice cracked and for a moment John thought he was about to cry. 

“Okay, no tea. Just sit and tell us what’s happened.” 

Bryant turned, hesitated, and sank into Sherlock’s chair. “When Chloe didn’t show up at the airport, I called her. She never left Ottawa. When I asked her if she missed her flight, she had no idea what I was talking about. Someone set me up. If it wasn’t Mary, then who the hell was it?”

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“I will assume Chloe is your girlfriend, not your sister,” Sherlock said. “Siblings are usually more relieved than angry when plans are cancelled. In my case, at least.”

John shot Sherlock a warning glance.

“Maybe you should start from the beginning,” John said. He sat in his chair opposite Bryant and leaned forward and he felt oddly comforted, like he was one of his patients. “Is Chloe your girlfriend?”

“Don’t answer that,” Sherlock interrupted. “I need to be in my chair for this. I can’t possibly deduce anything from this sofa.” Sherlock extended a hand and waited for John to help him up. “Bryant, get one of the kitchen chairs and bring it in here.” He was enjoying this a little too much. How much morphine had John given him? 

Bryant closed his eyes and blew out a long breath. Resisted the urge to poke the bandage on Sherlock’s forehead. “Fine. But just so we’re both clear here. You’re a nutcase.” He turned to John. “You do recognize that, right?” 

“Yeah, but he’s my nutcase,” John said with a wide smile.

Bryant stared at both of them. What the hell had happened here since he left? They almost looked happy. They had no reason to be happy. Nothing had changed.

Unless...

“Oh, for crying out loud,” he said. “You two kissed and made up, didn’t you?”

Sherlock blinked. Blinked again. Cleared his throat. “John and I have reached an understanding. Kissed and made up is a gross over-simplification of a complex series of –”

John laughed. Bryant not heard that sound before. “Shut up, Sherlock.” He stood, took Sherlock’s hand and pulled him up and for a brief, stupid moment Bryant thought they were going to dance. Sherlock coughed and made a great show of rearranging and retying his dressing gown before limping to his chair and sitting down.

“I’ll get a chair.” Bryant grabbed the least uncomfortable looking one from the kitchen and dragged it noisily behind him. Set it facing their chairs and sat down. “And I will punch the first person who mentions tea.”

There was a quick knock at the door and before John could get up Mrs. Hudson entered the flat, carrying a tray. She wore a flowered nightgown under a pink chenille bathrobe. Fuzzy white slippers. “Working late, are we?” she said, looking directly at Bryant. It sounded vaguely like a reproach. “Thought you might like some tea.”

John took the tray from her, biting back a smile. “That’s very kind. Thank you. I hope we didn’t wake you.” He set the tray on the table beside his chair.

“You didn't.” She turned back to Bryant. “You’ll not be keeping our Sherlock up too late, I hope.”

“I am not a child, Mrs. Hudson,” Sherlock said.

“Of course not, dear. But you haven’t been well and –”

John took her arm and steered her towards the door. “Good night, Mrs. Hudson. I’ll keep an eye on him. No worries.” He closed the door behind her and leaned back against it.

"Thank you for your restraint,” Sherlock said to Bryant.

“Yeah, you should have seen the last person who laid a hand on Mrs. Hudson.”

Sherlock looked longingly at the teapot. 

Bryant threw up his hands. “Oh, for Christ’s sake – it’s already made, you might as well drink it.” 

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