Find My Love

Banner by Chestnut NOLA

Banner by Chestnut NOLA

Danny Holt has two options, believe and accept what he’s been told over the course of his torment by a nefarious government agency or continue his search for the truth. Though he’s been persecuted by a force he doesn’t understand and has no defense against, Danny is not ready to accept defeat. With the fire of his love for Alex still all consuming and the danger of pursuing the truth greater than ever, Danny needs an ally. Will the great detective and his blogger take his case? 

Title: Find My Love
Author: Chestnut NOLA
Beta: xphil98197
Fandom/Genre: London Spy/Sherlock (BBC)
Relationship(s): Danny Holt/Alex Turner, Sherlock Holmes/John Watson, previous John Watson/Mary Morstan
Warnings: Canon level-violence, explicit sex
Word Count: 37,844

Prologue:

His keys clattered on the floor followed by the slump and slide of his body against the front door. He couldn’t stop shaking. The burn of tears that had been behind his eyes for hours now finally couldn’t be halted. He put a shaking hand over his mouth to keep the keening cry building in his throat from escaping. He knew they were listening, watching. They’d been watching him for months. He now knew they’d been watching and listening since the beginning.

The image and thumping sound of her body flying over the bonnet of the car sliced through his brain. She’d been dead before she even hit the pavement behind the car as it sped away into the late morning fog. She was dead and now he was truly alone. His love was dead. Scottie, his only ally, was dead, and now her, his only channel to expose the truth. The only link he’d still had to his love. They were all gone and he was on his own.

Still trembling and weak at the knees, he got up off the floor and moved through the comfortingly familiar rooms of his best friend’s house, now his home. He crawled into Scottie’s bed, shoes and all, hugging a pillow to his chest to muffle his weeping. His grief had been ever present for weeks, his fright at what had been happening to him a hard weight on his shoulders.

His harsh breaths eventually eased with the rising surge of rage that was building within him. He wasn’t fucking done! They had no right to persecute him, to torture, and harass him. They’d made him a victim, a scapegoat using his love, his sexuality and the mistakes of his past against him at every turn. They were going to fucking pay, he decided.

Wiping the tears off his cheeks, gazing unseeing through the large windows in the bedroom that highlighted the woods where Scottie had been murdered, Danny made a decision. If they thought her death would make him back off, they were incredibly wrong, but he needed help. Lying in his best friend’s bed, the solution came to him with Alex’s beautiful face in his mind. He knew of another brilliant mind, and Danny calmed as the solution flittered through his head.

All he needed to do was convince the great man to take his case.

Chapter 1:

The early March winds picked up as Danny approached the quaint, brown bricked terrace house situated in the middle of the block. The smell of fresh coffee and savory foods was wafting by his nose, emanating from the little café next to the plain black door. The brass numbers and small letter, 221B, glinted in the low light of the late morning. Nerves were skittering under his skin; if this didn’t work, he didn’t know what he’d do.

He didn’t have to wait long for his knock to be answered by an elderly lady who had a sweet smile on her face. She looked like any grandmum he’d ever seen pictures of, from her short graying brown hair and blue-gray dress down to her sensible shoes. He’d never had one of his own that he could remember, but if he had he’d have liked her to look like this lady. Her warmth and sweet nature was evident on her face and form.

“Yes, dear?” she asked.

“Ah, h-hello,” he stuttered, before gaining control of his voice. “I was hoping Mr. Holmes was available?”

“Awe, love,” she said, her light hazel eyes were soft with concern gazing into his own. “You’re in a bad way aren’t you? Come in, come in, both of the boys are in.”

“Thank you, I’m Danny,” he said, taking her hand in his for a soft shake before allowing her to pull him into the warmth of the house. He was a bit shocked at her perception. He’d not realized the stress he’d been under was so noticeable on his face.

“You can call me Mrs. Hudson, dear,” she smiled with a pat to his hand. “Just head up the stairs and I’ll get some tea brewing for you. You look like you could use a cuppa.”

Danny stood at the bottom of the worn steps for a moment watching her bustle down the hall to another door. He was so jittery, he wasn’t sure a cup of tea was going to help. He ran his hand along the rough olive green patterned wallpaper as he slowly made his way up the creaking seventeen steps to the top of the landing. The door was open, but he stopped to give it a soft knock, rather than just enter uninvited.

“Please, come in,” John Watson said, when he moved into view to beckon him into the flat. Danny knew John Watson was a doctor and a war veteran and he looked younger and a bit thinner than he did in the papers. He estimated the man was about forty, shorter than him, but solid in muscle and bone. Danny shook his small hand, the warmth and firm grip of it pleasing to his numb fingers. “I’m Dr. Watson.”

“Danny,” he returned. “I’m…”

“Someone who’s come into some money recently, judging by the discomfort you have with your new coat, dress trousers, and shoes. Not use to wearing a tie either,” the low voice was like a gunshot in the quiet room. “Trying to look professional to meet with me, rather than be comfortable in your usual garb of well worn jeans, trainers, and jumper. John has a jumper fetish too, though I still don’t understand his obsession with knit wear.”

“Sherlock,” John scolded with a frown at the man, crossing his own mauve jumper clad arms across his chest.

Sherlock Holmes was just as exotic and intimidating as he looked in the papers, sitting in a leather chair in front of the cheery blaze in the hearth. If Danny could describe someone who looked like an aristocrat, Sherlock Holmes would be the epitome of noble, with his public school accent, slim build encased in a smart navy suit, and pale patrician features highlighted by his sharp cheekbones, prominent nose, and dark hair. Piercing sea blue-green eyes were laser sharp on him, like Alex, he thought for a moment. Then the sadness surged within his chest again, a heated reminder of his loss.

Hands under his chin, he asked with a raised brow, “And you are?”

“Danny… Danny Holt, Mr. Holmes,” he replied, his body deathly still under the man’s scrutiny.

Those eyes lit when Sherlock burst out, “Ah, you’re the boyfriend of the man found in a trunk a several months ago.”

“Sherlock!” John barked. “Please sit, Mr. Holt.”

Danny stood stunned for a moment. He wanted to take offense for the way Holmes had so casually stated his knowledge. But, after being with a somewhat aloof and obtuse genius for eight months, he had a feeling that Sherlock Holmes probably didn’t mean to verbally slap him in the face with the statement. He needed the man’s help, so he let it go and tried to settle the clench of dismay that had taken root in his stomach.

He took a chair facing the fire and said, “Danny, please Dr. Watson. Yes, I need your help. My partner, Alex Turner didn’t die as the papers said. He was murdered, and I need your help to prove it.”

John sat himself into a comfortable worn plaid chair to Danny’s left. He met Holmes’ gaze with a firm one of his own. He had nothing to be ashamed of, not the fact he was gay, and not about any assumptions made by the detective about his situation. His relationship had been called into question for the last time; he was not ashamed of it, or of his love for Alex.

“I’d seen the articles about Mr. Turner’s death in the papers,” Sherlock said, a bit subdued under Danny’s glare. “Unfortunately at the time I was otherwise occupied by another issue, so I hadn’t paid much attention to the tabloid accounts.”

The detective’s gaze had turned to John who, to Danny’s surprise, was frowning into his lap, avoiding his friend’s gaze.

Turning back to the detective, Danny said, “Everything the papers said about how Alex died, about me, and our relationship was a lie, Mr. Holmes. None of it is true.”

“It doesn’t surprise me to hear you say that, Danny,” John stated. “Sherlock and I have been on the receiving end of the tabloids’ sensationalism ourselves, but to print outright lies is a serious accusation.”

“Because the government made them,” he replied, clutching his hands together in his lap to stop the urge to fidget under Sherlock’s stare. “The government doesn’t want anyone to know what Alex was working on. To keep it secret, they killed him and have crucified me and our relationship in the press to keep me from exposing the truth of what really happened that night.”

“You’re talking about a cover up, a conspiracy,” Sherlock stated.

“Yes, I am,” Danny said fiercely. “I didn’t know everything about Alex, but I do know he loved me, and I loved him. I knew what kind of man he was, and he is not the man the papers have made him out to be. He’s not the type of man they worked so hard to convince me of. They made a mistake; they thought I was too stupid not to see through their lies. He was mine and I was his, and our love for each other was real.”

The conviction of his words resonated within him for the first time, since he’d admitted to Scottie that he’d not known Alex at all. Now, months later Danny, even with all of the evidence of the lies Alex had told him, he knew in the core of his being that he had known Alex as deeply as a person could know another. The lies didn’t make Alex’s feelings for him any less real than they’d been. It was a relief for him to finally realize that.

Sherlock’s eyes glittered with interest and intrigue, “Well, Mr. Holt. Tell me who Alex Turner was and start at the beginning.”

Danny took a deep breath; relieved they were going to listen to him. It took over two hours to recount everything that had happened during the course of his relationship with Alex, the night he’d found the body in the attic, and his search for answers. If Mrs. Hudson hadn’t continued to supply copious amounts of tea, Danny’s voice would have given out long before he was finished. It had been difficult to keep from weeping during the story. He’d been unsuccessful in stopping the tears on more than one occasion, but he’d mostly kept it together to get the words out. Sherlock and John had kept silent during the tale, with the odd question thrown out here and there. The squeeze of John’s hand on his shoulder during his recounting of finding Scottie’s body less than ten weeks ago had grounded him enough to get the words out. Sherlock’s intermittent pacing had also helped to keep him distracted from letting his grief interrupt his words.

“How long ago was Mrs. Turner killed?” Sherlock asked, again seated in his chair.

Danny wiped a stray bit of dampness from his cheek, “Eight weeks ago. I went back to see her again after Scottie’s death, to confront her. She told me what happened that night to Alex, but at this point I really don’t know if what she said was the truth or not. So many people have lied to me in the last four months; I can’t take anything at face value anymore. I do believe she was being honest with me, to an extent. She was willing to go to the police with me that morning, to see Detective Taylor, and hopefully others at the Met. They would have had to listen to her side of the story at the very least. She was his mother and was at Alex’s flat that night.”

“Did the police investigate the hit and run?” John asked.

“They took my statement at hospital when I was being treated for shock,” Danny replied. “I didn’t tell them anything beyond what happened. I’ve basically been blamed for her son’s death, as far as the police are concerned, and I didn’t want to get into that with them that day. I did expect them to be at my door the next day or so after they looked into it and found Alex’s case file. But, I’ve heard nothing from them since.”

“Well, that’s telling,” John said with a raised brow at his friend. “Isn’t it Sherlock?”

“Hmmm. Alex Turner must have known what he was researching was dangerous to have left you a clue to find the USB drive with the code,” he replied, ignoring his friend’s question. “I would have thought that the Secret Service, if that’s who is actually behind all of this, would have been more thorough in their search of his flat.”

“Yes,” John cut in. “They set up the laptop with the BDSM videos for you, but didn’t pull it apart. Strange that.” “

“Incompetent,” Sherlock continued with a raised brow at his friend for the interruption. “Also, if they already had access to his research and code, with the program up and running, why would they kill him? According to Mrs. Turner’s recounting of the events of that night, they used his work against him. They already had it, so why would they kill an asset like Alex Turner is one of the many mysteries of your tale, Mr. Holt. It makes no sense. Almost all of it.”

“To me, a program that is basically a lie detector isn’t all that advanced,” John piped in again. “Granted, it would be useful for interrogation in a military or police setting.”

“John! Brilliant! The code has to do more than that!” Sherlock’s burst out, his countenance lit with excitement before he surged out of his chair to start his pacing again. “It makes sense they would try to keep the truth from you, by making it seem like Alex was into BDSM. His mother even tried to convince you of it. They already knew, and used the fact that he couldn’t tell you whom he really was, against you and probably hoped the knowledge of his lies and omissions would keep you in line. The fact you didn’t believe their ruse was a problem, hence the use of the police, papers, and HIV as a weapon against you to discredit your relationship. Then they found out you did have a copy of the code, and needed to get it from you. The machinations used against you since the police first arrested you, indicate they may have had an inkling that Alex had given you the code before they could interfere.”

“But what was the whole point of it? All of it!” Danny said, his breath hitched with the tightness in his chest. “If they were that worried I wouldn’t stop, why haven’t they just killed me?”

“They made such a sensation out of Alex’s death,” John added. “I would think your death so soon after might have alerted someone else within the government that something was going on. The papers said Alex was MI6, the death of his boyfriend so soon after, even if it looked like a suicide, would have been very suspicious.”

Sherlock nodded, “They miscalculated when they gave you the keys to his flat. They probably hoped after your confession the night before he disappeared, you would just accept that he’d broken off your relationship. They’ve been watching and listening to you from the beginning, threatened by your relationship with their asset. They would have known you went to your friend about Alex’ lack of contact, so they needed to have you find his body and hope you accepted their version of events.” There was admiration in Sherlock’s eyes as he stated, “You didn’t, and you didn’t back off.”

A small grain of hope started to build within Danny’s chest at the detective’s obvious approval. Sherlock’s questioning of the facts, as Danny knew them, were swirling around his brain and reflected some of his thinking on what had happened. The detective was right; almost all of what had gone on since Alex disappeared didn’t make any sense, unless there was more that his lover’s research and work could do.

“So, will you take my case, Mr. Holmes?” Danny asked.

Sherlock’s lips curled into a half smile and John was looking at the detective with anticipation in his navy blue eyes.

“Yes, Danny. I’ll take the case,” he said, holding out his hand for the first time to shake Danny’s.

The bottom dropped out of Danny’s stomach with his hand encased in those long pale fingers. The great weight he’d had tightening his shoulders for ages eased a bit under the pair’s commitment. They believed him, and they were going to help him. Without Scottie’s warmth and support these last two months, Danny had been floundering, alone. So alone, the burden of his situation had become unmanageable with no one else in his corner to believe him, to help him.

“Thank you,” he returned, his relief was obvious in his voice.

Sherlock released him to head back to his chair, “Now, let’s continue the…”

The click of footsteps, and the clinking of china, interrupted the detective as Mrs. Hudson entered the flat with a tray.

“Mrs. Hudson, we don’t need any more tea!” Sherlock barked, flopping into his chair in a huff that took Danny aback a bit.

“Sherlock, don’t take that tone with me!” Mrs. Hudson challenged. “You boys have been grilling poor Danny for hours now, and it’s past luncheon. The poor thing, and you need to eat.”

“Ta, Mrs. Hudson,” John said as he got up to help her with the loaded tray, clearing a table by the window that was piled with papers. “I was just thinking of ordering some take away soon.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Hudson,” Danny said, rising to help as well, and before long the fragrant aroma of homemade split pea soup and fresh crusty bread rolls wafted throughout the room. His stomach gurgled in anticipation when he sat down with John at the table, and he realized how hungry he’d become since he’d choked down a small breakfast of plain toast that morning.

“Now, Sherlock don’t sit there and pout,” she scolded. “Having a bite to eat won’t interfere with your discussion.”

Sherlock opened his mouth, but John cut in before the detective could respond to Mrs. Hudson’s rebuke. “Sherlock, you can either sit there and be quiet while Danny and I eat, or you can come over here to eat and continue to talk. Your choice,” he said, his voice firm with command.

The detective made a disgusted sound, but arose and stomped over to the table, collapsing into a chair in a fit of pique. He was fascinating to Danny, like an overgrown child not getting his way. John just ignored the detective’s antics with a curve to his lips to start doling out the soup into their bowls. Danny felt Mrs. Hudson give his shoulders a squeeze before she smiled down at him, and left satisfied she’d gotten her way.

The soup was delicious, he’d not been eating well enough for weeks and with his HIV status knew he needed to change that. John gave a satisfying hum after the first taste of his own, while Sherlock reluctantly began eating his portion after receiving an unyielding raised eyebrow from his friend.

“It’s been two months since Mrs. Turner’s death. Why did you wait to come to me until now?” Sherlock asked.

Buttering his roll, Danny replied, “I was hoping if I laid low that the surveillance I’ve been under would ease. I know they have my house and computer bugged, and probably my car, as well. But, I couldn’t wait anymore to come to see you. It probably hasn’t been long enough for them to stop paying attention to me. I’m sure they know I’m here now.”

John handed Sherlock a buttered bread roll, “You’re very brave, Danny. Not many people would have continued to seek answers after what you’ve been put through.”

“I can’t just let this go. Alex, Scottie and even Francis need justice. I need your help,” he replied. “If you hadn’t taken my case, I would be out of options.”

“Are you sure Alex worked for MI6?” Sherlock inquired.

“No, not really,” he said. “Scottie seemed to think it was MI6, but Professor Marcus said he’d tried to discourage Alex from working with GCHQ. Alex’s stepmother was MI5, I think. So no, I’m not really sure what agency Alex was working for, or which agency killed him.”

“I have a government contact I can use to find out more about Alex and his work,” the detective murmured.

Danny’s heart fluttered. “Are you sure you can trust them, Mr. Holmes?”

“Sherlock, please,” he replied with a languid wave. “I have to trust him, he’s my brother, Mycroft. Though I do hate asking him for favors, he’ll lord it over me for ages. But, in this case, intelligence gathering at the level we need is his specialty.”

“I hope you’re right, Sherlock,” Danny said. “They’ve killed three people in four months, just to keep Alex’s research secret. I’m scared that coming to you and John with this will put a target on your backs.”

He’d thought long and hard about the danger since the idea of contacting Sherlock Holmes had come to him trembling in bed eight weeks ago. He knew he could be signing not only his own death warrant, but John and Sherlock’s as well. If either of them were killed because of him was a consequence he’d accepted, but he knew the guilt would be devastating. Hopefully, it wouldn’t come to that. Sherlock and John were high profile individuals, often in the media and with a fan base that was astonishing. Danny hoped their celebrity would keep them safe.

Sherlock waved away his concern, “John thrives on danger, and my brother is a powerful force in the government, between the two of them it would be extremely unwise for whoever is behind this to harm either of us.”

“Besides, danger seems to follow Sherlock like a bad penny, Danny,” John smiled. “If you’re game, so are we.”

Sherlock scoffed at his friend’s statement, but amusement and satisfaction were glittering in those strange, pale eyes. For the first time in four months, Danny could feel an honest to god smile pull at his cheeks. He liked these two men. He liked them a lot, and after sitting with them, telling them his story, and sharing a meal, Danny felt reborn. His grief for Alex and Scottie was ever present, but hope, optimism, and a belief in Sherlock Holmes soothed some of the coldness in his being, a dense coldness he’d lived with for so long.

The clinking of spoons, finishing the last of their meal, accompanied their silence for a time. It was amusing to see John pushing his friend in subtle ways to eat. The detective just gave his friend the occasional huff of displeasure, but ate anyway without much grace to Danny’s eyes. Their dynamic was different in Danny’s experience, the closeness they seemed to share, a bond that he’d never had in his life until Alex. Even then, his and Alex’s relationship had still been so new at the end that comfort with each other had still been developing, slow and sure. He’d of course shared a strong bond of friendship with Scottie, but John and Sherlock’s relationship seemed even closer. He didn’t think they were lovers, at least not yet, but he could see the potential of it between them.

John pushed his bowl away as he asked, “You’re sure that you were infected with HIV by whoever is behind Alex’s death?”

“Yes,” he nodded, his throat constricting at the reminder, but met John’s eyes. “I’ve been safe since that night when I was nineteen. Alex was a virgin, and we were always safe when together. I haven’t been with anyone since, and the detective who interviewed me indicated that the nurse who took my blood when they arrested me might have done it. She interviewed him, she said he was afraid, and then her superiors questioned why she was interrogating him. She couldn’t pursue it or the case further. I guess she was receiving a lot of pressure to drop it. She was scared the last time we met.”

Sherlock sat back in his chair; his hand came together under his chin again. The gesture seemed unconscious to Danny, something the detective did when he was thinking.

“The virus can’t live outside the body for long,” John murmured. “There wasn’t enough time, between your arrest and the time you had the test done for HIV, for antibodies to build up to show a positive result.” Sherlock’s gaze swept over to take in his friend. It was like Danny was at a tennis match, watching the silent back and forth conversation between them in the expressions of their eyebrows, cheeks, and lips.

The conversation over, John focused on him, “Danny, I’d like to take you to St. Bart’s to have another test done.”

Danny’s mouth opened and closed, stunned mute for a moment before he stammered, “O… Okay.” Something had been agreed to between the pair, but Danny couldn’t fathom why they’d want him to get tested again. “If you need to.”

“Yes, I do need to have the test done again, under the supervision of someone we trust,” John replied.

Oh, oh! Danny’s eyes widened as he glanced between them. They thought that maybe the diagnosis had been faked! He tried to tramp down the hope that it could be so; he’d accepted his HIV status. The support group he’d started going to had helped him to acknowledge that he was going to have to live with the virus the rest of his life. It was too much to expect that he could possibly be negative, but Danny supposed that the follow-up test could have been manipulated. The burn of tears welled in his eyes, but he didn’t let them fall when John gave his hand a comforting squeeze. He just nodded in return, and took a shaky breath that helped him steady his emotions again.

Sherlock pulled Danny out of his head when he spoke, “Danny, you said that the copies of Alex’s research you had were destroyed. Was the last paper copy you gave to Mrs. Turner the only one you had left?”

Danny pulled a serviette to him before plucking a pen off the windowsill shaking his head no while he replied, “Yes.” Then he pushed his message to the detective.

They are listening.

“Well, that’s a shame,” Sherlock replied before handing the serviette to John, who gave a nod as he read the message. “I think we’re done for now, come back tomorrow.”

“Come on, Danny,” John said rising from his seat. “Let’s head to Bart’s. And you, Sherlock Holmes had better be here when I get back.”

Sherlock huffed rising from his seat at the table, “Fine, but don’t be long!”

“Thank you again, Sherlock,” Danny said, pulling on his coat. “I’ll come by first thing in the morning, if that’s alright.”

“Hmmm,” was all the acknowledgement the detective gave; he was back sitting in his chair in front of the fire with his hands under his chin.

****

Come to Baker Street at once, bring file on Alistair Turner. SH
3:25 PM, Thu. March 10
TO: THE QUEEN

Sherlock smirked when his mobile immediately vibrated in his hand, merrily playing God Save The Queen.

Already en route to Baker Street. MH
3:25 PM, Thu. March 10
FROM: THE QUEEN

Chapter 2:

Redbeard was by his side, a friendly support watching Sherlock build Danny’s room with a wiggle to his behind while he sat next to his friend. The presence of his childhood friend, his fingers resting on that noble Irish Setter head, steadied Sherlock to begin placing his impressions and knowledge along the room. John was there too, his soft company outside the door waiting.

The data of Danny’s account flew onto the walls, threads starting to connect them together and the man’s image, sitting forlorn in an overstuffed chair in the middle of the room. Waiting. Waiting for Alex to come back to him. Waiting for justice. He was a beautiful young man with his dark flyaway locks and mossy green hued eyes. A gentle person, slim and pale, but strong. A good person to his core despite the disadvantages his upbringing had brought him. Lonely too, like Sherlock had once been and hoped to never be again.

Redbeard gave him a soft woof to gain his attention.

“Ah, the Queen has arrived, hasn’t he?” Sherlock said leaning down to give his friend a kiss on the top of the head. “Look after Danny for me, will you? I’ll be back soon.”

Sherlock pulled himself out of his Mind Palace in time to see Mycroft sit himself down in John’s chair, his umbrella ever present at his side. His brother looked good in his charcoal gray three-piece suit, healthy. He’d been working out more lately and Sherlock was going to have to find out why that was, once the case was done. Perhaps, his brother had finally found a love interest? It was a delicious thought, full of potential for teasing and torture from Sherlock. When dealing with Mycroft, he needed every advantage he could get.

“Spying on me again, Mycroft?” Sherlock greeted with a raised brow. “Am I going to have to tear apart the flat to find all of your bugs and cameras? You know how that upsets Mrs. Hudson.”

“Good lord, Sherlock,” he replied, rolling his eyes. Sherlock tried to keep the pleased smile off his face at Mycroft’s irritation. “I promised, I would no longer put surveillance in your flat, and I have not. I did not; however, promise not to monitor your comings and goings, and that of your clients. CCTV is an excellent tool for such.”

“Good, file,” he ordered holding out an imperious hand.

Mycroft gave him a put upon sigh as he handed the thick file he’d brought with him over, “Alistair Turner, age twenty-eight, was a cryptographer for GCHQ based in London, though he occasionally was required to travel to ‘The Doughnut’ in Cheltenham to meet with his superiors at headquarters. He was brilliant, on par with you or I intelligence wise. A great asset and his loss has been felt, his projects stalled without anyone comparable to take them over.”

Sherlock briefly skimmed the file in his hands, but he would take the time once his brother left to study it thoroughly. He did focus on the image of Alistair ‘Alex’ Turner in the file. Not traditionally handsome with the sharp bone structure to his face, but the asymmetrical features together were pleasing to the eye combined with his thick chestnut hair and sky blue eyes. He could see why Danny had been enamored with him at their first encounter.

He closed the file in his lap to address his brother, “What was Alex working on, Mycroft, that got him killed?”

“I don’t know, yet,” Mycroft replied with a frown. “His work focused on compromising maths, cryptanalysis, and linguistics. My office looked into the events of his death four months ago and the investigation and conclusions reached of a couple experimenting with sex and drugs gone wrong seemed, at the time, true and above board. Of course, it is always a concern when an asset of Alistair Turner’s caliber begins a relationship with an unknown; however, it seemed harmless enough after the initial inquiry. We looked into Mr. Holt’s background and while a bit of a troubled young man initially, he was deemed a non-threat and therefore a non-issue. Obviously, there’s more to the story, if Mr. Holt is to be believed.”

“I believe him, Mycroft,” he stated. “If I hadn’t still been laid up in hospital and then dealing with Magnussen and Mary, I would’ve taken notice of the case when it happened.”

“Hmmm, perhaps,” Mycroft mused. “In any case, if MI5 or MI6 was involved in the death of a GCHQ analyst, it is a delicate and dangerous situation. I would rather you let me look into it and deal with it, if Mr. Holt’s accusations prove to be true.”

“No, Mycroft,” Sherlock said and stood abruptly the file clenched in his hand, a bit agitated at his brother’s continued mother henning and obsessive need to keep secrets. “Danny needs closure and public justice, not your brand of dealing with problems secretly. No law abiding citizen of this nation should be a target for the government to use, or murder, to forward an agenda of some sort.”

“Even for the sake of national security, Sherlock?” Mycroft said.

“No, absolutely not and if you didn’t agree with me, you wouldn’t be here,” Sherlock challenged. “I’m asking you to help me with this, but even if you won’t, I’ll not stop my investigation.”

He forced himself to sit back down and still his transport under the grim stare of his older brother.

“Also, Mycroft. If there is that much corruption in one of the agencies to pull off such a high profile murder, then the danger of having Mr. Turner’s research in such hands is unsettling,” Sherlock said. “You work with these agencies, these people. I have to believe that corruption at such a high level would be dangerous not only to me, John, and Danny at this point, but to you as well. Who can you trust?”

“We must be subtle, Sherlock.” Mycroft was playing with the handle of his umbrella; his one tell that Sherlock knew showed his discomfort. “Or at least, I’ll need to be subtle in my inquiries, since that is not your strong suit.” Sherlock let out a snort of agreement; his brother’s long windedness was trying at times. Mycroft soldiered on despite the interruption, “I work with the heads of GCHQ, MI5, MI6, and Defense Intelligence on a daily basis, Sherlock. However, I’ll see what my people can find out for you about Alex and his research. I agree, that corruption at the highest levels of government cannot be tolerated. But, do be careful in this, little brother.”

“Thank you, Mycroft,” Sherlock replied. “I know I don’t say it often to you, but your support is appreciated. I’ll keep you apprised of any information I find about the situation, as well.”

“You’ve changed so much the last few years,” Mycroft said, before raising a haughty brow at Sherlock’s scoff. “And in some ways you’re exactly the same. How is John getting on now? It’s been what, a month, since he moved back to Baker Street?”

“It’s only been two months since she left, he’s still angry, depressed,” Sherlock replied, avoiding his brother’s gaze to look into the fire. “I’m not sure how to help him, emotional upheaval isn’t really my area of expertise. I’m still not sure he’s fully forgiven me for letting him think I was dead.”

And for being obtuse enough to think letting John see him fall, see him ‘dead’ on the pavement outside St. Bartholomew’s was just fine. He was an idiot in so many ways when it came to John. He had many regrets over the last few years, but that one, and not looking under the surface of Mary were his two biggest. She had been right about one thing; he didn’t know anything about human nature. At least anything that wasn’t related to death or criminal activity.

“Surely he has, he’s back at Baker Street for one,” Mycroft replied. “He quit the surgery to come back to live and work with you, Sherlock. To me that’s very telling.”

“Hmmm, perhaps,” Sherlock mused. “He is picking up a few shifts a week at St. Bart’s in the A & E now, just started a few weeks ago. I’d much rather he didn’t, but he wants to keep his medical license.”

“And he can’t be in your pocket all the time, it wouldn’t be healthy for either of you,” he said. “When are you going to tell him you’re in love with him, Sherlock?”

“Mycroft!” Sherlock surged out of his chair, unable to stop his pacing. He wanted to run and hide at the question his brother had so bluntly asked. He’d hadn’t figured out what he’d been feeling since the Baskerville case was romantic love until he was alone on his quest to take down Moriarty’s network. It had hit him on a hot night in Tangiers how much he missed his friend, the image of that stout and solid presence stark in this Mind Palace, beautiful and full of warmth. His heart had surged in his chest pulling him out of his private mind space in shock, and then the regret at what he’d done to John had hit him, hard. He’d been devastated by the stupidity of his arrogance, his reliance on his intellect alone to determine the course of the future for himself and John without his friend’s opinion. It had been a terrible night of trembling internal confrontation and self-flagellation.

“Calm down, Sherlock,” his brother said, worry in his tone. “Obviously, you’re not ready to talk about this yet, and hopefully, someday you will be, with John.”

Sherlock stilled, looking out the window down to the crowds on their nightly commute home. He worked to control his agitation; he hated to show weakness to his brother. It was bad enough he’d seen Sherlock in the throws of multiple cocaine overdoses in his youth, and more recently on the plane that was to take him to his doom. His punishment for killing, Magnussen in cold blood, but he’d needed to protect John. He’d do anything for John. John was his greatest vulnerability, terrible and wonderful at the same time.

“He’d leave me for good if he knew, Mycroft,” he confessed softly.

“Sherlock, you don’t give John enough credit. He wouldn’t leave you, because of your feelings. He’s come back, even after all that has happened to him because of you,” Mycroft replied just as softly into the air of the warmth of 221B. “He wouldn’t have left you at all, even with his many girlfriends, if we hadn’t miscalculated with the fall.”

“No,” Sherlock shook himself, turning to return to his seat. Mycroft words were too much for Sherlock, giving him an inkling of hope that John would stay with him always, as his friend or perhaps more. Mycroft’s blue eyes were patient, waiting on his. “What did you say to me at the wedding? ‘That’s what people do, they get married,’ John would have eventually left, whether it was Mary or some other woman. He still might not stay, and I don’t want to talk about it anymore. And besides when did you become so well versed in talking about feelings anyway?”

“I’ve changed a bit too, Sherlock these last few years,” Mycroft stated. “I should take my leave, we both have work to do.”

Sherlock aborted his brother’s shifting to stand, “Before you do, any word on Mary?”

“No,” Mycroft shook his head, settling back down into John’s chair with a sigh. “She’s a CIA trained assassin and knows how to hide. She’s also brilliant; it will be difficult to find her. If we can find her at all.”

Anne Gwen Rachel Adams, A.G.R.A a rogue CIA agent, and former wife of Dr. John H. Watson was a danger Sherlock needed to deal with if he could.

“Well, we know she wasn’t on Moriarty’s payroll, have you had any luck finding out who hired her to get close to John?” Sherlock asked.

“No on that front as well, I’m afraid,” he replied, fretting with the handle of his umbrella again. “I don’t like leaving loose ends like this.”

“The only thing she could have been after, enough to fake a pregnancy for months, is information on me or you, Mycroft. And you are the better target,” Sherlock stated. “She was very good, and I didn’t look beneath the surface of her when I should’ve.”

“Sentiment,” Mycroft agreed. “We both failed John with sentiment, and you almost died because of it, a dangerous emotion to be sure.”

“Hmmm, any follow up on who broadcast the Moriarty message?” he asked, too many loose ends on that front as well. Though, he sometimes thought that perhaps Mycroft had done it to keep him from going on a suicide mission. His brother’s coddling of him was epic enough for him to do it.

“No,” Mycroft raised a brow before his eyes slid away from Sherlock’s rising from his seat. Ah, that was telling, he thought. It would be so satisfying to prove it was Mycroft and rub his nose in it. Unfortunately, his brother’s secretive nature and work were difficult for Sherlock to infiltrate, so he doubted he’d be able to pursue that train of thought further. “Well, I’ll take my leave and keep you posted on what I find out.”

“Mycroft,” he called, his brother halting in the doorway. “Watch your back.”

The elder Holmes nodded and replied, “You as well, Sherlock.”

****

“Thanks for taking the tube,” Danny said following John through a staff door at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. “I don’t take cabs anymore.”

John smiled softly at him, “After what you told us, I don’t blame you.”

“Dr. Watson,” a bright female voice called. “I don’t think you’re scheduled today?”

“No, Emily,” John replied with a smile to the nurse. She was about his age, pretty of African descent, smiling and pleased to see the doctor. “I’m just here to do some lab research today.”

“Unless a major accident happens,” Nurse Emily replied.

John shook his head in amusement, “Yes, unless that happens. I’ll see you later, have a great day.”

She gave him a little wave clutching a patient chart to her chest. Danny looked back and saw she was still watching them as they headed to the lift. He couldn’t really blame her for being enamored with Dr. Watson. The man had presence, and was so affable it was impossible to dislike him.

“Sherlock, would hate that,” Danny stated once they were in the lift.

“Hate, what?” John asked a bit befuddled.

“Taking the tube,” Danny fibbed with a smile. He wasn’t going to point out the nurse’s crush. Particularly since John seemed to have no idea he was an object of affection. Best not mess with that hornet’s nest, at least until he had more information about John and Sherlock’s relationship.

John chuckled, “No, Sherlock definitely doesn’t have the patience to deal with the commuting masses of London. He spends an obscene amount of quid on cabs, luckily the business brings in enough to cover the cost, or I’d have to do something about it.”

“We haven’t talked about fees yet, John,” Danny said. He figured the cost was going to be great, but Scottie had basically set him up for life. He’d had no idea his friend was going to do that in his will. He’d given Danny everything he’d had; it had stunned Danny after the funeral, when the will was read. He’d been the only one called to hear it. God, he missed his friend so much, the wound of his death ached in tangent with the wound left behind by the death of his lover. Somehow, he’d continued to bear the loss of each of them. Some days though, he really didn’t know how he did it, and often wondered if the grief he bore would ever stop festering.

The lift dinged and he followed John down another long corridor into a well stock laboratory.

“Don’t worry about it, Danny,” John said, pulling him out of his head. “Sherlock has an unusual way of billing clients. If the case is ‘boring,’” the air quotes were accompanied by a smile. “Then Sherlock charges through the nose, or if he actually dislikes the client then he’ll also charge them quite a sum even if the case is a challenge. Income also comes from the website regularly. I’ve got him organized enough to do consulting deductions for simple queries on the site, so a standard fee is charged for those. I’ve also got him on the consulting role for the Met now, so when he’s called to a crime scene, or to look at a cold case, he gets a standard fee and hourly rate.”

“And my case?” Danny asked, amused at John’s organizing of Sherlock’s professional life. It seemed, from his brief time with the detective, that Sherlock wouldn’t be interested in the everyday mundane tasks of seeing payment for his services.

“Ah, well, your case is not ‘boring’ and there’s danger involved, justice to be served, and he likes you,” John said waving him to a stool before he started putting on latex gloves. “Those are the kinds of cases that make Sherlock thrive and keeps the wanker from getting bored and hard for me to handle. So there’ll be no charge for our services on this one. I should thank you actually, a bored Sherlock is an absolute nightmare to deal with.”

Danny smiled at him as he sat on the stool. His hands were shaking a bit and he tried to still them, but the anxiety at having the test done again was crawling under his skin, so he had little success in stopping the trembling. An attractive little petite brunette with a long braid over her shoulder came into the lab. She was wearing a doctor’s lab coat and her name identification badge said, Dr. Molly Hooper.

Smiling shyly at him, she addressed John, “Hi John, Sherlock said you had some urgent lab work that you needed help with today? A new case, is it?”

“Molly, thanks for coming,” he replied with a snap of a glove around his wrist. “This is Danny, and yes, he’s a new client as of this afternoon.”

She held out her hand to him, which he took when he murmured a shy hello back to her. Up close, she had soft brown eyes and her facial features were delicate with small smile lines around her mouth and eyes. Danny figured she was in her early thirties, probably just about three or four years older than him.

“Danny’s case is very sensitive, Molly. We need someone we trust to do the tests and monitor them, so there will be no chance of them being tampered with,” John said. “Of course any costs incurred can be billed to Sherlock, as usual including your time.”

“John, you know it’s my pleasure to help. What kind of tests need to be done?” she asked giving John a little pat on the back.

“HIV,” John replied. It took everything Danny had to make himself meet and keep her gaze. The stigma of HIV and the fear of it still hit him hard most days. It had only been about three and a half months since he was diagnosed. Molly gave him a soft smile, her countenance supportive rather than pitying, and Danny thought she must be a strong and empathetic person inside.

“The rapid screening test will take about fifteen to twenty minutes, John. Did you want me to run the Western Blot and HIV RNA?” she asked.

“If you’re willing, Molly,” John replied readying a needle and multiple glass vials on a tray for the blood draw.

“I can probably get the Western Blot done in just over an hour, but the RNA will take until tomorrow,” she replied. “You’re worried it will be tampered with if it’s not watched?”

“I know it’s a lot to ask, so if you can’t do the RNA tonight, I can try and reschedule,” he said.

She gave him a pat to his arm and started to glove up herself, “It’s fine, John. Luckily, I’m off shift tomorrow, so just make sure Sherlock brings some of that Belgian chocolate I know he has squirreled away in the flat next time he comes in.”

“Will do, I know his hiding place,” John chuckled, giving her a wink. “Danny, Molly’s worked on cases with Sherlock even longer than I have. You can trust her, she the chief pathologist here at the hospital, and she puts up with Sherlock Holmes on a regular basis.”

“It was a pleasure to meet him,” Danny said.

Molly did a bit of a double take, “Really? That’s not what most people usually say.”

Danny couldn’t help but smile at her, “He reminds me of someone I use to know. He was a genius too, though he didn’t huff and stomp around like a child when he didn’t get his way.” His smile dimmed a bit at the end, his heart clenching in his chest the way it always did when thinking about Alex.

Molly’s laugh was drowned out by John’s snort as he swabbed Danny’s elbow. “He does that a lot. Mrs. Hudson always threatens to have a chat with his mother about it, but she hasn’t yet. Oh, to be a fly on the wall if that conversation happens. Sherlock is the baby in the family, and I have no doubt he was spoiled rotten.” John’s continued chuckling distracted Danny enough that he hardly felt the prick of the needle.

“We’ll get the blood drawn first, and then just a prick of a finger for the rapid test, and the bloodletting will be done for the evening,” John murmured.

“Thank you,” Danny whispered. John’s eyes met his for a moment before he nodded and continued his work. Molly was picking up and labeling the vials as each was set on the tray. The whole procedure only took a few minutes, and with a plaster applied to his inner elbow, Molly took the vials to another area at the far end of the lab.

John pulled off his gloves to apply a fresh pair. The prick to Danny’s finger was only a second, but it took him back to that night. His breaths started to hitch and tears were prickling in the corner of his eyes. Squeezing his hands hard together, he worked to get control over his emotions. That control had never been his strong suit though, so the wetness welled in his eyes, blurring the room.

A strong hand grasped his, “It will be just fifteen minutes Danny and the Western Blot will confirm the findings in just about an hour. I’m also having Molly do a full panel on you, to see if there’s anything else going on.”

Danny shakily wiped the wetness off his cheeks one handed and clutched John’s fingers tight, thankful for the warmth and strength of his grip.

“I was a regular reader of your blog, John,” Danny started, his voice thick from the tension. He needed a distraction, now. “And I’ve kept up with it. I figured they must of known I was a fan long before now. So, I decided that if I suddenly stopped reading it, it might have raise a red flag.”

John kept his grip on Danny’s hand while he hooked a foot around another stool to pull it over to sit.

Smiling he asked, “What do you think of it?”

“It’s brilliant, and your adventures with Sherlock are so much fun and exciting to read about,” he replied. “It was upsetting when I thought he was dead. Are you still angry with him for putting you through that?”

“Yes, I’m still pissed off about it some of the time,” John said, biting his lip. “But, I’ve been working to get past it. Though occasionally, it is really difficult not to dwell on the past.”

“How can you forgive him after he had you watch him kill himself in front of you?” he asked, he’d been curious about that for quite a long time, and he remembered how angry he’d been at Alex during their soul-mate discussion at the beach. Though in thinking back on it, he’d been more sad that Alex thought the way he did, and angry at himself for looking foolish in front of his genius lover’s eyes.

“Danny,” John caught his gaze. “I trust Sherlock Holmes with my life, but not with my heart, yet. He lied to me and omitted information during that final case, rather than allow me to support him, or at least give him my opinion on his plans. But, I know he did it all to protect me, and the other people he cares about.”

“You’re still angry though,” Danny stated softly. “Is it harder to forgive him because of the lies, or because of what he put you though?”

John was contemplative for a moment. “My anger with him, since he came back, has been because he didn’t trust me. So letting go of it all and forgiving him is still a work in progress. He let me grieve for two years, which was terrible thing for him to have done to me.” John’s breath hitched a bit before he whispered, “But, I was also so damned relieved he wasn’t dead.”

“Do you think you’ll ever get past what happened?” he asked, wondering if he’d had a second chance with Alex, whether he’d have held onto his anger at the lies his lover had told him.

“I also try to keep in mind that Sherlock Holmes is brilliant,” John returned quietly with a soft smile. “And because he’s brilliant, he’s an obtuse git where other people’s feelings and emotions are concerned.”

“Alex was much the same way,” Danny said softly, relaxing at hearing John’s wisdom. It was true, Alex had often been flummoxed by Danny’s emotions.

John gave his hand a squeeze and cleared his throat, frowning, “I honestly don’t know where all that came from.”

“Did you talked to Sherlock about everything that happened, when he came back?” he asked, aborting John from releasing his hand.

“No,” John returned staring at their entwined fingers.

Danny tightened his grip on his new friend’s hand before saying, “I think you should. You might not have the chance in the future.”

Those dark blue eyes searched his face for a moment, before giving him a nod and letting go. Danny hoped John would take his advice, he didn’t know either of the pair very well, but he could see they needed to address many things between them. John had had a second chance at having his friend back, and Danny hoped they didn’t waste the opportunity to settle things between them.

He took a tremulous breath and straightened in his seat when John came back to him. At least their conversation had distracted him enough to get his feelings briefly under control. John held out the results. His breath whooshed out of him and he burst into tears. Mortified at the display, he slapped his hands over his eyes.

“Shhh, easy now,” John murmured before pulling Danny into the warmth of his arms. “It’s negative. We’ll have confirmation in just a little while, to be sure.”

Danny collapsed into his arms, clutching the softness of his jumper clad back with tight fingers. John standing next to the stool took all of his weight hugging him tight, pulling Danny even closer, allowing him to burrow into his neck and shoulder. Words of comfort and safety were whispered into his ear. The warmth of him, those words, and the steadfastness of the embrace allowed Danny to release his penned up grief for the first time.

****

He was negative. It was still surreal to him that the tests had come back negative. He’d been living with the diagnosis so long he could hardly process the truth of the results. And John. John had held him for the longest time, allowed him to soak his shoulder with his tears, not pulling away until Danny was ready to let him go. He was exhausted, but the feeling of rebirth he’d experienced in 221B Baker Street with John and Sherlock’s belief in his story continued to swell within his core. It was amazing, the optimism that he might be able to finish, get justice for his loved ones, was hovering over his shoulders now. The ache of despair he’d been living with for what seemed like ages was now easing a bit. It was wonderful.

His keys rattled in his fingers as he unlocked his door. It was late, almost ten o’clock, and Danny was ready to sleep, he was so tired. The comforting scents of the wood smoke from the hearth, floor polish, and Scottie’s lingering cologne greeted him as he locked the door behind him. With a flick of the light switch, Danny made his way down the hall. The scuff of his shoes on the floor stopped abruptly at the state of his living room, the echo of the sound lingering to accompany his horror at the sight that greeted him.

Danny fumbled to get his mobile out of his pocket, the music of numbers being pressed loud in the silence.

“Sherlock Holmes,” the detective answered.

“They’ve been in the house,” Danny greeted, his voice tight.

“Danny?” he replied, the languid voice now clipped. “What’s happened?”

“It’s a mess, Sherlock. The house has been ransacked,” Danny said, panic rising as he took in the state of the room.

“Are you alone?” he asked.

“I… I don’t know,” Danny replied, his eyes were darting around the shadows in the corners. They were empty; no one seemed to be there.

He heard shifting and rustling on the line followed by a distant murmur, “John, call Lestrade and his team.”

Sherlock’s voice was loud again in his ear, pulling Danny back from his search, “Is there a room you can lock yourself in?”

“Yes, the loo in the front hall,” Danny slowly started to back away from the storm of upended furniture, strewn papers and books.

“Get in there and lock the door, John and I are on are way,” Sherlock said, and Danny could hear the clatter of the pair heading down the stairs in the background. “We’ll be there in thirty minutes, do not open the door for anyone other than me or John.”

The lock in the small half-bath clicked and Danny sat on the closed lid of the toilet, his eyes watching the doorknob.

“Ok, I’m in the loo,” he replied, trying to still his panicked breaths to better hear the detective.

“Stay there,” Sherlock ordered. “Tell me everything you saw when you came in and stay on the line, we’re coming.”

Danny clutched the phone in a tight grip, “Okay, the house was dark when I came in…”

****

Sherlock watched John shut the door to his bedroom and make his way to his chair, dropping down across from him like a marionette whose puppeteer had released it’s strings. It was late in 221B, going on three in the morning and his friend was tired, wearily rubbing his eyes. Sherlock was still buzzing with energy after investigating the havoc that had been wrought on Danny’s home. The young man’s relief at opening the loo’s door to Sherlock, had quickly been reduced to a complete loss of poise. He’d been so frightened and pissed off, the emotions warring from one to the other so quickly that Sherlock thought John would have sedated him, if he’d had access to a sedative to do so. Luckily, John had handled comforting their client with surety and tact. He readily admitted to himself that John was much better at those sorts of things then he was.

“He’s passed out. His test was negative, Sherlock,” John said. “Both of them.”

“Hmmm, either the nurse that tested him was a plant of some sort and they faked the results, or they infected him with something else in the weeks prior,” Sherlock said sitting back in his chair. The tips of his fingers rubbing his chin, a staccato rhythm of sensation he often employed to help organize his thoughts when his mind swirled out of control.

“I have Molly doing a full panel on him,” John replied, slouched with a hand under his chin. His blogger could barely keep his eyes open. “I think maybe they did the latter. Any number of things could give a false positive HIV test. The cytomegalovirus and mononucleosis can live for a protracted period of time outside the body. All they would have to do is place some contaminated saliva on a doorknob and wait for him to rub his eyes or mouth. He told me he had flu like symptoms when the police released him that second time. The timeline fits that they could have infected him the first night the body was found, or in the days afterward. Two or three weeks aren’t enough time for HIV antibodies to build up to show on a rapid test, but CMV can, and mono at four weeks.”

“We won’t know for sure until Molly calls with the results tomorrow,” Sherlock stated. “You should go to bed, I’m not meeting with Lestrade until eleven tomorrow morning, so plenty of time for you to sleep in a bit.”

John’s eyes were soft and half-mast, contemplative with his fist smooshing the side of his face. Even sleepy and disheveled, Sherlock found John to be an attractive presence in the room, a comfort in the quiet of their domain.

“What are we going to do, Sherlock?” John murmured giving him a slow blink.

Sherlock didn’t need John to clarify his question, “Danny can no longer be alone, it’s too dangerous. He’ll need to be with one of us at all times, and for the duration of the case, I think he should stay with us.”

“I take it, you’re on the sofa for the foreseeable future,” John said, a slow, pleased grin curled his mouth.

Sherlock gave his friend a snotty glare for his humor and an aloof sniff, which only made John’s grin widen. The secret pleasure of making his friend smile at him settled deep and pleasant in his stomach.

“Go to bed, John. You’ll be useless tomorrow, more so than usual, if you don’t get some sleep,” Sherlock stated with a raised brow.

“Git,” John said with an affectionate smile.

Chapter 3:

Harsh breaths in his ears, murmurs of rapture and loving words, the clutch of hands hard on his flanks as he rode his lover. He gazed down in awe at the abandon on Alex’s face, the beautiful concentration on those gentle features, those sky blue eyes dark with arousal and fascination on his face and body.

Gasping and hard, Danny awoke abruptly from the dream, his skin was still tingling with the phantom pressure of Alex’s large hands on his flesh, the remembered feeling of Alex inside him. Soft keening cries were bursting from his throat with the image of the last time they’d made love. It was painfully stark in his mind. His heart felt like a vice was squeezing it tight, he missed Alex so much. Lying in Sherlock’s bed, Danny muffled his sobbing in the pillow beneath his head.

Images of their time together, a looping film, was a deluge in full-Technicolor in his head. Danny could swear he could still smell the lovely musk of Alex’s skin in his nose, his broad palm tenderly wrapped around Danny’s own. The pain of his loss was battering against his heart and mind, almost as bad as in the days after Alex’s death. It was stark and fresh, agony biting within him, and he still wished he could have told Alex that nothing mattered but the love he felt. He’d meant what he’d said to Scottie all those weeks ago, any lies Alex had told him didn’t matter in the least compared to how much Danny loved him. And perhaps it was a stupid, horrible notion, but Danny knew that if soul mates did exist, then Alex had been his.

“Danny?” Sherlock’s voice was muffled through the door. “Are you alright?”

Mortified that the detective had heard his crying, Danny tried to control his voice, “Yes… yes, I’m fine, Sherlock. I’ll be up in a minute.”

Sherlock didn’t respond, but Danny heard him move away from the bedroom door. He sat up on the side of the bed, breathing deep and wiping the dampness from his cheeks. Controlling his emotions with Alex still in his mind’s eye took effort, and his limbs were still trembling when he stood.

His overnight bag was empty, someone must have put his things away while he was asleep. Opening the wardrobe, he was struck by its ruthless organization, Sherlock’s bespoke suits and shoes were almost military in their arrangement. Opening the chest of drawers, he found his clothes, their layout just as precise within two drawers. His socks, rolled tight, in order like a battalion of miniature soldiers made his smile wiry. So much like Alex, Sherlock was, he thought. The chaos of a genius mind, obsessively controlling its environment. Sherlock’s room was immaculate, and Danny wondered at the pristine condition, compared to the homey mess that was the rest of 221B Baker Street, with its science equipment spewed all over the kitchen table; papers, books, and files on every other surface in the flat. He’d made the effort to be more tidy himself after he and Alex had started their relationship. He’d kept it up in his new place, though he’d never be as compulsively neat as Alex had been.

He set his clothes for the day on the bed, but decided he’d see if he could use the shower this morning. Heading into the kitchen, his nose was struck with the scent of cooking bacon and baked beans, the ambrosia of a hot breakfast being made by Mrs. Hudson’s form in front of the hob.

“Awe, love,” she said at him over her shoulder. “How are you feeling?”

Danny knew his eyes were probably rimmed red from his cry, “I’m okay, Mrs. Hudson, just feeling a little hungover from yesterday’s excitement.”

“Well, grab yourself a cuppa. The kettle’s just boiled and there’s coffee ready,” she replied pointing to a carafe on the counter. “We’ll get some breakfast into you in just a bit and you’ll be feeling better.”

Danny smiled, “I think coffee it is for me this morning, tea just isn’t going to work.”

“Cups are in the cupboard above, dear. Just sit yourself down at the table with Sherlock and relax,” she said, her eyes were soft with worry as she looked at him.

“Thank you, it smells delicious,” he replied, helping himself to the dark brew.

Sherlock was dressed, fully suited and bright eyed; his soft dark curls still damp on the ends from a shower. Danny wondered if the detective had slept at all, and then remembered how Alex would sometimes get up in the night. Danny had found him on more than one occasion, doing maths equations on the living room floor in just his pants, with papers strewn around his legs. He figured active genius minds needed a constant outlet for their thoughts, and could understand John’s complaint about the trouble Sherlock could get into when he was bored.

Sitting down, he said, “I’m sorry I took your bed.”

“I don’t sleep much when I’m on a case,” he said, waving Danny’s concern away before going back to perusing the newspaper in his hands.

The paper was lowered at the shuffling sound of a sleepy John Watson in a green and white striped dressing gown, blond hair stuck flat to the back of his head, en route toward the kitchen. His focus was completely on the electric kettle on the counter, though he did give Mrs. Hudson a peck on the cheek as he passed by. Danny turned back to address his own need for caffeine, and noticed Sherlock was riveted on his flatmate, his opal eyes hungrily raking up and down John’s form. That focused observation was telling to Danny. He hadn’t been sure before, but now he was. Sherlock definitely had an attraction to his friend, and an fervent one at that. Danny secretly smiled into his cup. John was completely oblivious to Sherlock’s adoration. It would be cute, if it weren’t tragic as well. Danny had gotten the impression in the last twenty-four hours that Sherlock was in many ways like Alex. He’d probably been lonely often in his life. That he found it difficult to get close to people, to be intimate with another person.

“Morning, Danny did you sleep?” John said, sitting at the head of the table.

“Yes, I did. Thank you for putting me up for the night,” he replied. “It’s going to take me ages to sort the house out.”

“About that, Sherlock and I discussed it last night, and we believe you should stay with us for the duration of the case,” John said.

Danny’s eyes widened, “Really? You think that’s necessary?”

“It’s obvious after last night, that whoever is involved in Alex’s death is getting nervous,” Sherlock rumbled. “Doubly so, since you’ve brought me into the investigation, and I have no doubt that after yesterday, they know I’ve involved my brother as well.”

“We don’t think you should be left on your own,” John cut in. “At least until the case is done. You can have Sherlock’s room, he really doesn’t sleep when he’s on a case, at all.”

Danny looked back and forth between the pair and realized they were deadly serious, worried for his safety.

“Okay, if you think that’s best,” he murmured. “Will I have to stay in the flat all the time?”

John shook his head with a smile, “No, we just want you to be with one of us at all times.”

Danny nodded leaning back when Mrs. Hudson put a plateful of food in front of him. She ran a hand through his hair at his thanks. They were quiet while she finished doling out their plates.

“I’ll leave you boys to discuss your case. Danny dear, if you need a cuppa and a chat, just come down anytime. Sherlock, put your paper away and eat,” she ordered.

Sherlock let out a put upon sigh at her glare, but did as he was told, and Danny couldn’t help but grin at the detective’s irritation at Mrs. Hudson’s mollycoddling. He thought the three of them were well aware that Sherlock enjoyed the attention, and his absurdity was all for show. She waved away John’s thanks as she headed out the door.

“Sherlock,” he started, a bit hesitant to push, so focused on his plate. “Did you find out anything new yesterday?”

“I found out from Mycroft that Alex was a cryptographer, a code breaker for GCHQ. He wasn’t a MI6 spy in the traditional sense, as your friend Scottie assumed. According to my brother, Alex’s projects have all halted with his death. He’s looking for more information though, to see if he can verify Mrs. Turner’s account of that night.”

“What does your brother do in the government?” he asked. He was extremely wary of anything to do with the government, and Mycroft Holmes’ engagement in the case made him nervous. And now that he’d gotten over last night’s fright, he was still pissed off that his living space had been ransacked again, as well.

“Sherlock says his brother is the British government, Danny,” John said, adding with a raised brow. “And he’s never told me what exactly Mycroft does.”

Sherlock was moving his food around his plate, and Danny swore he could see the cogs turning in the detective’s head. The intense internal focus was something he often saw in Alex when they were together and quiet.

“My brother is the chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee,” Sherlock stated, and John started choking. Sherlock just raised a brow at the interruption and continued on, his voice laced with satisfaction at his friend’s shock. “The heads of MI6, MI5, GCHQ, and Defense Intelligence report to him. He basically oversees the intelligence and security services, as well as directs their priorities.”

“It’s been four and a half years, Sherlock!” John burst out red in the face and hoarse from clearing his windpipe. “And now you finally tell me!”

“Yes, well… I was waiting for you to figure it out yourself,” Sherlock said, the ends of his lips quivering, fighting not to smile at his friend.

John snorted shaking his head, “Unbelievable.”

Trepidation surged within him, “Are you sure you can trust your brother, Sherlock? I would think if he’s in such a position, he’d know exactly what’s gone on in the agencies he directs.” The fact that Mycroft Holmes’ position was such a powerful one and interwoven with the very agency or agencies that had been tormenting him for months was unsettling.

“My brother, as brilliant as he is, is not omnipotent, Danny,” Sherlock replied, his countenance serious. “Corruption can take many forms and, more often then not, be extremely subtle. Mycroft keeps his fingers well within the intelligence pie, but he can’t know everything. Of course, he sometimes thinks he’s omnipotent, which makes him completely insufferable most of the time.”

Danny nodded, but said gravely, “I’m putting my trust in you, Sherlock. It’s difficult after everything that’s happened to me.”

“I do trust my brother in this, Danny,” he replied. “Mycroft is steadfastly loyal to Queen and country, and with this tangled web we do need his assistance. He’s also my big brother and loves me to distraction, and can’t keep his immense nose out of my business. Since I’m involved, he’ll be militant about my safety, and in turn yours and John’s.”

“Okay,” he said. “I just hope you’re right.”

“You’ll find, Danny, that I’m always right,” Sherlock stated with an arrogantly raised eyebrow.

John scoffed, “You wish. What are our plans for today?”

“Yes, I’d like to help with the investigation if I can,” Danny piped in. The grief he felt would probably never be burned away, but perhaps if justice could be served for Alex and Scottie, it wouldn’t continue to blaze so bright in his heart.

A sinking feeling moved through his stomach with Sherlock’s reply, “I doubt at this point, you’d have anything to add to the investigation. If you and John need something to do, go pester Molly for the results of the last blood test. Oh! And bring me back some things for my experiments.”

“Sherlock,” John scolded. “Danny and I are not bringing back body parts for you on the tube!”

Danny blinked at the statement, “I really want to be involved, Sherlock.”

His opal eyes glittered in excitement, Sherlock nodded and winked, as he said, “No, Danny.” Then he handed over a folded piece of paper to him. “I’ll be heading over to see Lestrade and keep him from investigating the break in at your house further. It’s too dangerous to involve anyone else in the case.”

Danny smiled as he read Sherlock’s precisely scrawled orders. Go with John to interview Professor Shaw. Find out what other applications Alex’s research can be used for. I need you to retrieve the copy of Alex’s research you still have. Stay with John, and we’ll meet back here at Baker Street this evening.

I’ll go to the Met to interview Detective Taylor, bring Lestrade in on this, and look at the case files for Alex, Scottie, and Francis.

John, bring your gun.

“I do need to go back to the house to get some more clothes to stay,” Danny deflected and handed over the note to John, who read it thoughtfully while munching on his toast. He was relieved he could help, and elation at the prospect of assisting with his case started to thrum under his skin.

John raised a brow and nodded before folding and pocketing the note.

“We’ll head over to the house, then St. Bart’s,” he said. “Molly should be done by the time we get there. Oh and I should tell you, if you get hungry while you’re staying with us, you may want to forage for food downstairs at Mrs. Hudson’s.”

“Why?” Danny said, taking a double take at Sherlock’s smug grin.

John rolled his eyes, before shaking his head in consternation, “Let me tell you about the dangers of opening our refrigerator…”

****

“Lestrade,” Sherlock greeted.

“Christ!” the Detective Inspector swore, jumping up straight in his chair. “Must you do that?”

Sherlock smirked, “Do what?”

“The quiet lurking,” Greg Lestrade replied, irritable. “You’re like a bloody ghost.”

“I would think a veteran officer such as yourself, would be more observant, Lestrade,” he said, pleased as punch with himself for startling his friend, as usual. It never got old or less entertaining.

“Yes, well… I’ve been up all night, Sherlock,” he replied.

“Oh? And what about the rest of the time?” Sherlock needled.

“Shut it and sit down,” Greg ordered rubbing his eyes.

The DI did look like something the cat dragged in this morning, his brown-gray hair was standing on end, and the dark bags under the man’s eyes looked like tiny teacups under the brown orbs to Sherlock. He had to admit, even exhausted John never looked this bad—mostly delectable—in his opinion.

“You can’t be here to finish up the paperwork from last night,” he stated.

“No, of course not,” Sherlock returned. “Did Anderson’s team find anything?”

Greg shook his head, “No, despite the mess there wasn’t any evidence left behind. Overall it was a pristine crime scene, not even a bloody speck of dust was left to find. Unusual that.”

Sherlock crossed his legs and addressed the observation, “Not unusual if MI5 or MI6 had a hand in it.”

Greg’s eyes widened, “Really? You’re working on a case involving the intelligence services?”

“At least one or the other, I’m not sure yet,” he said. “Corruption and a cover-up at the highest levels of government.”

“I looked up your client, Danny Holt,” Greg said. “The name was familiar, his boyfriend was found dead in his flat not long ago. The intelligence services is involved in that?”

“As well as the deaths of Scott Wendell Collins and Francis Anne Turner,” he replied softly. “Alistair Turner’s stepmother. I need to look at the case files for all three, Lestrade.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t just hack into our system and retrieve them yourself,” Greg said, his voice wiry. “And yes, I know you do that on a regular basis and if I could catch you at it, you’d be in holding overnight in punishment.”

Sherlock couldn’t keep the smirk from gracing his face, but he’d admit to nothing.

“I need to look at the files,” he voiced. “I assume the intelligence services have access and are monitoring the Met’s databases.”

Greg raised a brow, “So you want the paper files? Is the case that dangerous?”

“It is,” he rumbled. “So much so, they’ve killed three people that we know of, terrorized Danny Holt for months, and pressured one of your detectives to drop the Alistair Turner investigation.”

Greg picked up the phone on his desk, “Donovan, I need you to pull the paper files for Alistair Turner, Francis Turner, and Scott Collins. Have the file clerk look up the case numbers in the database, don’t do it yourself, and bring them to my office.”

He listened for a moment before hanging up with a thank you. The phone being cradled was a bell of doom. Sherlock knew after today, there was no going back or stopping the momentum of the case. His life and John and Danny’s were going to get quite complicated. They had to tread carefully, everything they did from here on out could be deadly for any of them. A sense of foreboding scuttled along the edges of his mind, but Danny’s grieving that morning had touched him deeply. Sherlock had also found love, but before he could claim it, his stupidity had caused its loss. Now his love was back, but the claiming of it wasn’t going to be simple, even if it was possible. He needed to earn John’s trust again, and stopping his lies and omissions, along with finally divulging who Mycroft actually was to the government was a good start.

“You need to bring me up to speed, Sherlock,” Greg stated.

“No, the less you know the safer you’ll be,” he replied. “Accessing the files is dangerous enough, but what you don’t know can’t be used against you. What’s on public record will have to be enough for now, Greg.”

Sherlock rarely used Lestrade’s first name, but he needed the DI to keep his nose clean of this case, as much as he could. He was only going to bring the man into it on the surface. He needed access to the Met, it’s records, and resources to a certain extent, but the DI couldn’t know everything, particularly anything about the research Alex was doing for the intelligence services.

“I need to talk to Detective Constable Taylor, Greg,” he said. “Can you call her, please?”

Sherlock waited patiently while he made the call, and the door was opened by Sally Donovan. The DC’s dark eyes raked over him for a moment before handing the case files in her arms to him.

“Sherlock,” she greeted. He raised a brow at her willingness to give him the Met’s files directly. “There is nothing on file for a Francis Turner. I had the clerk check twice, so I was only able to retrieve the other two for you.”

“Donovan,” he returned. “Thank you.”

“Anything else you need?” she asked.

“No,” Sherlock replied. She nodded and took her leave. The two of them had seemed to come to some sort of understanding since his return, though he was still a bit in the dark about it. According to his blogger, she understood and acknowledged that Sherlock was as good at what he did as he’d always claimed. The clearing of his name and thwarting the bombing of parliament had cemented how wrong her assumptions about him had been. They were more professional with each other now, not friends, but the animosity between them that had made them more like enemy combatants than colleagues was gone. John was still surprised Sherlock made the effort to be civil to her, but he’d grown up a bit with his time away and the mistakes of his return. His arrogance still as natural as breathing for him, was tempered somewhat now.

“Taylor’s on her way. Did she say there’s no file on Francis Turner?” Greg asked hanging up the phone.

“Yes, I only have Alex and Mr. Collins’ files here,” Sherlock murmured. “When we’re done, can you find out if any Jane Does were logged anywhere in the city morgues eight weeks ago, on or around December 28th? My client witnessed her death in a hit and run accident. She was definitely dead, and he was treated for shock at London Bridge Hospital that day.”

“I’ll see if I can get a look at your client’s hospital file, as well,” he nodded. “From what little you’ve told me, if I were a betting man, I’d figure I wouldn’t find a patient record for Danny Holt on the day in question.”

“No, you probably wouldn’t,” Sherlock agreed.

“Sir,” a voice called, accompanied by a soft knock, and Greg waved the woman into the room. She was about Greg’s age in her middle forties, with brown hair and eyes, attractive. Her countenance looked weary, tired, not getting enough sleep; owned a white longhaired cat and had two—no three—children in their early teens, Sherlock deduced in seconds. She had the harried look of a busy, working mother that had had difficulty getting her kids off to school that morning.

“Detective Constable Taylor, I’d like you to meet Sherlock Holmes,” Greg said rising from his seat. “He’s working on a case that you may be able to assist with.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” she replied, wary holding out her hand.

“Detective,” he rumbled, releasing her hand to get done with the societal niceties as quickly as possible, and waved toward her the other chair in front of the desk. It was always so tedious to have to take the time to properly greet people, though he made a better effort of it now than he used to. John was a bad influence in many ways, Sherlock mused. His blogger’s politeness had infected him thoroughly, and he still hadn’t decided on whether that was a good thing or not. It seemed that John still scolded him, as much as he always did, so Sherlock’s attempts at civility and patience with the masses was a futile exercise on his part.

Sherlock got right to the point, “I’m investigating the murder of Alistair Turner.”

Her eyes widened furtively, glancing between him and Greg. It was telling, her alertness, the tense clench of her hands in her lap.

“That case is closed,” she said slowly.

“Not to my client, Mr. Holt, it’s not,” Sherlock stated.

Her posture relaxed somewhat, “Danny came to you?”

“Yes, he did,” he replied.

She smiled down at her hands, “I knew he wouldn’t let it go.” She returned her gaze to Sherlock, her expression earnest with equal amounts of hope and worry. “I took the case as far as I could, Mr. Holmes. The pressure placed on me, forced me to stop and close the investigation. I probably don’t have anything else, other than what’s in the case file, and my belief that Danny was telling the truth, to help you further.”

“Then all I need is one question answered,” he explained. “Who was pressuring you?”

“Chief Superintendent Campbell,” she said.

****

“That fucking coward!” Danny erupted, stopping students passing on the path in their tracks.

John pulled his trembling form off to stand behind a large tree. “Easy, Danny, take some deep breaths.”

The burn of frustration was welling within him, and the only thing keeping tears from falling were his hands pulling at his hair, harshly.

“That fucking pompous arsehole!” he raged, John’s hands were steady on his biceps, but Danny wasn’t ready to calm down yet. He wanted to stay furious, he needed to be angry. “That sanctimonious fucking twat!”

“Danny,” John cut-in.

“Fuckwit!” he yowled.

John’s chuckling seeped through the raging haze, “Are you done?”

“No!” he burst out. “Does Sherlock have the talent to ruin the fucking dickhead’s credit?”

“Probably,” John replied, smiling softly at him. “If he doesn’t, I’m sure he knows someone who can.”

“Good, add it to my bill,” he requested. “That fucking narcissistic arsehole was never a mentor or friend to Alex.”

“No he wasn’t, I got that,” John agreed. “More along the lines of a jealous rival.”

“Fucking cockwaffle,” Danny returned, finally getting his breath back. John pulled his fingers out of his hair and waited out Danny’s temper. John Watson was one of the most patient people Danny had ever met, and he could see why it was easy for him to deal with Sherlock Holmes on a daily basis. This was the third or fourth time the doctor had had to deal with Danny’s emotional turmoil, and yet, he was as supportive, calm, and tolerant as the previous times Danny’s emotions got the best of him. It was amazing.

Breathing deep, Danny felt the heat in his cheeks and the burning behind his eyes recede a bit, “Sorry, sorry.”

“It’s fine, Danny,” John said, giving his shoulders a final squeeze before he released them. “You’re fine, it’s all fine.”

“Thank you, it’s just with everything that’s happened and all the lies I’ve been told, I was hoping he’d changed his mind about helping,” Danny said, his temper still close to the surface. “I should’ve known he wouldn’t after he came to Scottie’s funeral reception and said he was done. Fucking prick. And we didn’t get what we needed.”

“Come on, it’ll be dusk by the time we get to your little hideout,” John said with an encouraging tug to Danny’s elbow. “I’ll bet you fifty quid, that Sherlock will be able to figure it out once he has a look at Alex’s research.”

“I hope so, it’s just… No one really knows how all this feels,” Danny fumed. “To be lied to, to have my boyfriend and best friend murdered, to be persecuted in the press, and have no one believe me until now. Until it was too late for Scottie.”

“That’s not true, Danny,” John voiced, kindly. He hesitated for a moment, then nodded to himself. “Let me tell you about my CIA trained assassin wife, who faked a pregnancy, and almost killed my best friend. It’ll keep us entertained while we ride all over the city on the tube.”

Danny raised an incredulous brow, “I wanted to ask about her, but was waiting for the right time.”

John’s sad smile was jarring. “I would say, Danny, that you’re probably the only person in London, who could possibly relate to my situation. Even Sherlock can’t possibly comprehend my feelings on the matter, unless I swatted him over his obtuse curly head with them.”

****

“You came home and she left a pregnancy suit for you to find?” Danny said in amazement, John’s story was just as convoluted and dangerous as his own.

“Yep, sitting up on the sofa like a bloody torso from a corpse,” John replied, ducking under the metal sheet to follow Danny into the warehouse.

“How did you not know?” he asked.

“I told you I stayed with Sherlock during his recovery. Well, Mary and I weren’t together for months, and after we made up at Christmas, she’d told me she’d had a recent scan,” John said, frowning as the walked past rows upon rows of pipes and equipment. “I was so excited that we were having a girl, but at that time Sherlock was locked up for killing Magnussen, and I wasn’t in the right place to be intimate with her. Of course, she avoided any unnecessary touching, but I was so distracted by Sherlock’s situation I didn’t even notice.”

“Up here,” he pointed at the end of the pipe over his head. “And she left soon afterward?”

“Yes,” John said standing guard while Danny climbed up precariously to unscrew the pipe where he’d hidden his stash of documents. “The night Sherlock was called back with that Moriarty transmission business. I went back to Baker Street with him, while she headed home. She was gone when I got back later that night.” He shook his head, the disbelief evident on his face as if the memory of coming home to an empty house couldn’t have possibly happened. “Though, she would’ve had to leave soon anyway. She wasn’t pregnant, so the ruse was going to be discovered at some point.”

“So she’s in the wind,” Danny stated. “That’s the saying right?”

John smiled, watching him place the papers in his coat, “Yes, we haven’t been able to find her yet, but it’s only been two months, and I’m sure at some point she’ll turn up.”

“What will you do if she’s found? Confront her?” he asked as they headed back through the dank space, the smell of mildew was heavy in the air.

“I have no idea,” John replied with a rueful shake of his head. “You haven’t seen it yet, but I do have a bit of a temper. So there’s no telling what I’d do, but I would like to see her rot in prison for the rest of her life. Sherlock almost died three times because of her.”

“Thank you for telling me all that, John,” Danny said, it made him feel better about his circumstances—not that he was happy that all that had happened to John Watson of course—but he did have someone who could relate to his own torment. It must’ve been awful for John to believe he was going to be a father and then have it taken away in an instant. “Why do you think she did it?”

John held the metal sheet out for him to go through, “I don’t know for sure…”

Danny twisted to looked back when his voice trailed off, but was grabbed and thrown to the ground before he’d turned all the way. John grunted on top of him as consecutive loud pinging noise reverberated through the metal. John pushed him harshly, scrambling to press him to the brick wall alongside the opening.

“Fuck!” John burst out. It took a minute and a few more pings for Danny to realize they were being shot at. “Come on!”

John grasped his arm and they moved as one deeper into the building.

“Danny, call Sherlock,” John ordered, his gun in hand. “Now!”

Danny followed him quickly back into the darkness and pulled out his mobile.

“Danny?” Sherlock answered.

“Sherlock! We’ve been shot at,” Danny panted as he ran.

“Where are you?” he barked. Danny could already hear his quick steps on the pavement.

His heart was in his throat when he answered, “25 Sutton Place, Hackney.”

John pulled him down behind some equipment, a wall wet at their backs. His eyes widen when his mobile was taken by a bloody hand.

“Sherlock, call Lestrade. We have a sniper across the street,” John said, then paused listening. He grunted a bit with Danny’s hands fumbling with his coat and shirt. “We’re fine, hunkered down deep in the building, we’ve got cover. Just get here as soon as you can.”

He ended the call and Danny said, looking at the blood on John Watson’s side, “You’re not fine!”

“It’s just a graze, leave it,” John ordered pulling his coat back down. “We need to stay silent until the cavalry arrives. I’ll be fine.”

“Okay,” he whispered. John was a doctor and a soldier, and Danny hoped he was right.

Chapter 4:

Danny’s heart had finally stopped racing with the arrival of Sherlock and the police. He and John had hunkered down behind cover with just their quiet breathing and the dripping of condensation from the pipes around them in their ears. The danger for them was extreme, but John’s fearlessness in the face of it had worked to keep Danny calm in the silence. John had saved his life and then kept him safe; his focus and fortitude was completely on keeping the danger from touching Danny. He had no experience at being in the crosshairs of a gun, and the terror of his situation, even as bad as it was before with the assassination of Scottie and Francis, had never been so close. He’d been a scapegoat, now, the fact he was a target for extermination, crouching beside John Watson in the chilly dark, had finally hit home.

“Anything more to add, Danny?” Lestrade asked, pulling his attention away from Sherlock’s hovering over John by the ambulance.

“No, that’s all I know, Detective Inspector,” he replied. The weight of Alex’s research in his coat, he kept to himself.

“Alright, just sign off on your statement and we’re done,” he said.

Danny finished up with the DI before making his way over to John and Sherlock. The paramedic was working on John’s wound the blood along his left side had soaked through his shirt and the top of his jeans. The wet slick of it was a garish red in the bright light of the ambulance. Sherlock was vibrating, the combination of his long dark coat, dark hair, and white skin made him seem vampiric, watching the medic like a hawk. Danny wondered if an explosion of Sherlock’s distress was going to erupt soon.

John grimaced, “Sherlock! The crime scene isn’t going to deduce itself, I’m fine. You’ll want a look at it before the coppers start collecting evidence.”

Sherlock just gave him a sniff and a final glare to the medic before swirling around, dramatic with his coat flaring out behind him, marching toward the warehouse across the street. John was grinning watching his posh friend in a bit of a strop.

“You’d better go with him, Danny,” John said. “He always needs a buffer between him and the coppers. He’s liable to get arrested for his cheek if he insults them from here to Sunday.”

“He won’t mind?” Danny replied. He was curious to see Sherlock at work.

“No, he enjoys having an audience,” John smiled. “Particularly one that likes him.”

“Alright, I’ll see you in a bit, John,” he murmured. He received a nod and then an encouraging wave to get moving. He really needed to thank John sometime tonight for saving his life.

The warehouse across from his hideaway was just as dilapidated, dark, and musty as it’s counterpart. The interior was more open though with a mezzanine up to the second story windows, a rectangle of four sides overlooking the cavernous room below. Danny quickened his steps to keep up with Sherlock’s long strides to the rickety staircase at the far end of the room. Constables and forensics in their white suites were spread out, slowly searching with torches. Others were setting up lighting, though they had yet to make it to the mezzanine level. Sherlock his eyes on the floor, passed them by without a glance or acknowledgement, but no one yelled at either of them as they made it to the staircase. They were more familiar with the way Sherlock worked than Danny was, so he just tried to keep up to that great coat ahead.

Sherlock slowed once he reached the top with his torch already spanning back and forth along the floors and walls, stepping carefully. He stopped and pulled Danny toward the wall away from the railing.

“Foot prints,” he said. “Do you see them in the dust?”

A second torch was put in his hands and he did what Sherlock did, finding the tread of boot prints in the dust.

“I do see them, they’re quite small,” he replied.

“Good observation,” Sherlock stated. “What do you think?”

Danny crouched down closer to study the prints, “Well, the stride isn’t long either, so either it’s from a very small man, or a woman.”

“Excellent, quite right, Danny. Now we follow them to where they stop, and we’ll find the place the shots came from,” Sherlock said. “Stay to the side, don’t disturb the prints, step where I step.”

“Alright,” he murmured. Danny watched the detective closely and followed his instructions to the letter, not wanting to make a mistake. They slowly worked their way around to the front wall of the mezzanine. Looking behind him, Danny noted the forensic team was also following their lead, with team members placing numbers on yellow plastic marks as they went. A ginger haired, bearded man closest behind him gave him a nod to keep going.

Sherlock stopped his advance a quarter of the way along the side of the building. Streetlight made a futile attempt to pierce the decades of grime on the windows, though hopeful rays did show through the odd broken pane. Danny could see that the strides shortened even further, as if the assassin was in a hurry before ending in front of a window directly across from the metal sheet covering the opening of his hideout.

“The line of site is perfect from here,” Sherlock said. “If John hadn’t caught the laser site and pulled you away, you’d be gone, Danny.”

He shuddered, horror skittering down the back of his neck at Sherlock’s matter of fact words, raising the short hairs on his nape. Looking out to the target doorway across, he knew, the detective didn’t mean to be callous. Danny could see that Sherlock’s concentration on the scene was absolute. He probably didn’t even realize he’d spoken out loud.

“Anderson, I doubt you’ll find finger prints,” Sherlock called, he had something small in his hand he was using to study the window frame. The ginger haired forensic tech carefully moved around Danny. “There’s gunpowder residue you can collect. This is the window the shots came from, I’m only seeing boot prints and a knee print on the floor.”

“I’ll dust anyway, maybe we’ll get lucky,” the man replied.

“Unlikely,” Sherlock scoffed.

It was fascinating to watch the detective work, and almost funny seeing him bend and crouch, crab walking along the floor. Danny could see now that he had a small magnifying glass in his hand, working in unison with his torch. Danny stayed out of the way observing, but something, a smell was tickling his nose a bit. It was out of place in the musty scent of the building.

“Sherlock,” he called, waving Sherlock back to him. The detective had gone straight and still after reaching Danny, his eyes closed. “Do you smell it? It’s like cologne or perfume.”

Sherlock’s nostrils flared and his eyes popped open in shock, gasping, “Claire-de-la-lune!”

****

The lateness of the hour followed their exhausted steps into 221B. The warmth and coziness of Sherlock and John’s flat welcomed them with the happily burning glow of the fire, and the soft luminescent of a few lamps. Danny heeled off his trainers and removed his coat, placing Alex’s research on the coffee table, before curling up on one end of the sofa. John had disappeared up the stairs, his steps slow but steady and Danny figured he was probably a bit sore from the graze along his side. It hadn’t been deep, but John did think the impact of it had cause a cracked rib. Sherlock hovered in the doorway for a moment, his eyes on the papers on the table before removing his Belstaff and suit jacket. He made his way over to a cupboard in the kitchen and returned with three tumblers and a bottle of scotch in his hands.

Danny gratefully accepted the drink, the sharp burn down his throat and the heat of it settling in his stomach was a wonderful feeling after being in the cold of the crime scene for so long. The fright of almost being killed was still crawling under his skin, an itch that wouldn’t go away.

“Sherlock? John and I changed trains so many times, and doubled back multiple times, I didn’t think anyone would have been able to keep up with us,” he remarked. “They didn’t find my hideout the two other times I went, and I wasn’t as good at tangling up my route before.”

The detective was pensive with his drink in hand, sitting in front of the fire. He’d not said much of anything after identifying the scent of the perfume lingering in the air, and John had been giving him concerned looks the whole way home. Even DI Lestrade, who’d dropped them off, had given Sherlock the side eye a few times on the drive. Danny still didn’t know Sherlock well, but the excited buzz he’d seen in the detective at the crime scene wasn’t there anymore. He was quiet, almost subdued.

“They probably didn’t make much of an effort before. You weren’t a true threat until now.” Sherlock replied. “The assassin is either very good, or she had help. Probably somebody tracking and reporting to her your movements via the CCTV system.”

“She?” John said coming back into the room. He’d changed out of his bloody clothes and was now adorned in a gray long sleeved t-shirt and navy blue sleep pants, with thick socks on his feet. “You think the assassin is a woman, Sherlock?”

“I think it’s Mary, John,” Sherlock answered, his low voice tense and apologetic, those opal eyes deliberate, meeting his friend’s.

John stopped by his chair, his back was to Danny, but his posture went from relaxed to almost a military bearing in a second. It made Danny sit up as well. He only knew of one assassin that was named Mary.

John took his tumbler and gulped down the whole glass of scotch. Clearing his throat, his eyes on pouring more amber liquid in his glass, he asked, “How do you know?”

“Small foot prints and the smell of her perfume, Claire-de-la-lune,” Sherlock explained.

John gulped down another swig, before hurling the glass into the fire with a shout, “Fuck!”

The crash of the glass breaking resonated in the air, fractured, a metaphor for the breaking of John’s placid nature. His hands trembling, John was rubbing his face when Sherlock softly said, “John, sit… please.”

Heeding his friend’s quiet demand, John sat, hands still on his face with soft swear words tumbling from his lips. Danny got up and retrieved another glass, pouring all three of them another draught before sitting on the floor between the pair. He wanted to touch and provide comfort to John, but wasn’t sure such a gesture would be welcomed at this point. With the warmth of the fire on his hands and face, Danny stayed quiet, waiting.

“I guess the odds that there would be another female assassin who wears the same perfume as Mary are pretty slim,” John stated softly, his eyes seeking the answers from his friend across the fire.

“Minute,” Sherlock agreed. “Whoever hired Mary to get close to you, John, is the same person responsible for Alex’s death and the actions against Danny since. They are both linked and I know, at this point, we must conclude that in some fashion everything is connected to my brother.”

“You don’t think your brother’s behind all this?” Danny asked.

“No,” Sherlock replied, looking down at Danny with a firm shake to his head. “It’s someone who is working against him, that’s the connection. Alex’s research is the final piece they need to move against Mycroft, I’m sure of it. I’ll know more once I take a look at Alex’s work. Lucky for us, you’ve kept it safe Danny.”

“It has to be someone very high up in the chain of command in MI5 or MI6, Sherlock,” John said, staring into the fire. Danny could see he was still fighting to control his temper. “Working off the grid a bit by bringing in a hired gun like Mary, and there will probably be others.”

“Yes, and they have the means to orchestrate a sensational murder, plant evidence, and use the Chief Superintendent of the Met to legitimize their work,” Sherlock added.

“Campbell?” John’s eyes were wide on his friend. “The wanker whose nose I broke during the kidnapping case?”

Sherlock’s lips quivered, but his eyes remained serious when he replied, “Yes, he was putting pressure on Detective Taylor to close the investigation of Alex’s death.”

Danny’s heart fluttered in his chest at Sherlock’s words. There were too many people involved, too many with positions of authority, and he knew the danger for them all was only going to get worse.

“Do you trust the police, Sherlock? DI Lestrade?” he asked.

“Greg’s a good egg, Danny,” John replied. “He’s not a dirty cop.”

Sherlock nodded in agreement, “Lestrade is trustworthy, Danny. I’ve worked with him for almost ten years, I trust him as much as I trust my brother.”

Danny looked away from Sherlock, sipping his drink with his eyes on the fire, thinking. He could only hope that Sherlock was right about all of this. He didn’t know DI Lestrade from Adam and hadn’t yet met the detective’s mysterious brother, Mycroft. He’d placed his trust in both John and Sherlock, so had to see it through no matter the outcome. He just hoped he hadn’t made a huge mistake by bringing them into his investigation. At least, he knew a bit more about Alex now than he had before. That was something at least.

They were quiet for a few moments, finishing their drinks, and Danny noted John seemed to finally have his temper under control. He could understand, and relate to the doctor’s rage. Lies and betrayal had been the timekeeper of his life for months.

“Scottie told me that our story, Alex’s and mine, was written long ago. My mistakes, the stupid things I did, were used to help them kill him.” Danny couldn’t keep the regret from his voice.

“Danny, you can’t blame yourself for loving Alex,” John said, his voice deep with assurance squeezing his shoulder. “No more than I can blame myself for loving Mary. Both of us fell in love with someone who couldn’t be honest with us, and that’s no fault of ours.”

He gave John’s hand on his shoulder a pat. He appreciated the doctor’s words, but he knew deep in his soul that his relationship had helped to speed along his lover’s demise. Nothing could change that.

“I know everything in the attic had been staged,” Danny spoke. “Is there a way to prove it, Sherlock?”

“The blood was planted on the sheets,” Sherlock replied with a nod. “Studying the images of the crime scene, and then the sheets in the lab afterward. The blood formed smears, which would be in keeping with perhaps a round of rough sex. However, underneath the topical smears, blood drops had formed first. That wouldn’t be the case if they weren’t planted at some point after the sheets came to the evidence lockers at the Met. Also, there was no evidence of semen, skin cells, nails, hair, or any other biological materials besides the blood that would normally be found after coitus.”

“My sheets were the only thing missing in the flat after the break in,” Danny reported. “And I’d just laundered them that morning. The blood they took after my arrest, they used that on the sheets. Didn’t they?”

Sherlock nodded, approval at Danny’s conclusion on his face before he picked up his phone.

“What’re you doing, Sherlock?” John asked, watching with interest as the detective texted on his mobile.

“Homeless network,” he said, with a distracted wave of his hand. “We now know that Mary might still be in London. If she’s involved, which I don’t doubt, we should be able to find her.”

John was frowning down at his hands, “I knew, after she shot you, she was dangerous. She’s a psychopath, isn’t she?”

“And a talented mimic, John,” Sherlock stated. “If I’d looked closer beneath the surface, I would’ve seen it.”

Danny gave John an encouraging nudge to his leg, and the doctor’s gaze fell on him in question. They were finally talking about the elephant between them, or at least one elephant, there seemed to be quite a few. Danny raised his brow, and gave him another encouraging squeeze.

“I think I’ll take myself off to bed,” he said rising from the floor. “Please keep Alex’s research safe, Sherlock. It’s the last copy.”

Sherlock, his eyes questioning nodded, “I will.”

“Why didn’t you?” John said, his voice a hushed accompaniment to the closing of Sherlock’s bedroom door.

With the buffer of Danny now gone, Sherlock hoped he didn’t completely bollocks up in the coming minutes. Perhaps they’d both been avoiding discussing Mary, the Fall, and Sherlock’s return for too long. Sherlock knew he’d been avoiding it, but he really didn’t know how to even start the discussion. Sentiment, feelings, John’s and his own, were not really his strong suit. He’d always felt too much, had too much information in his brain, and felt too much sensory input from those around him. The overstimulation could only be curtailed by his ferocious attention to detail; it was why his talents lay in deductions, the study of the evidence, experimentation, and the order of putting the pieces of a puzzle together. His exceptional working memory and ability to process vast quantities of information ruthlessly organized within his mind. His Mind Palace kept his memory, the stimulation, from completely overwhelming him. Of course, it made him a bit of an odd duck with his withdrawal from the everyday social interactions everyone else thought so important.

He got the feeling that Danny Holt was one of the few members of his acquaintance that actually understood why he did the things he did. And he’d always thought John had been aware of his issues as well. How else did John Watson put up with him all the time?

“Sherlock,” John said, exasperation in his tone.

Damn! He’d gotten lost in his head again. Not good, definitely a bit not good.

“I was wrong, not to really look at her, John,” he started, slow, gathering the words into a coherent whole within his mind. “But, the way I came back… I didn’t want to hurt you further than I’d already had. I was an idiot for putting you through my death, for not realizing how badly it would touch you. I was so stupid to not expect you’d moved on in my absence. I couldn’t look at her and see. If I did, if I saw that something was wrong, how was I going to tell you? How would you have believed me? You were in love with her.”

“I did, I loved her very much,” John replied, and Sherlock closed his eyes at the soft words. “But, I loved you too, you know.”

Startled, Sherlock looked at his friend, really looked at John Watson. His handsome face with the firelight glinting off his blond hair, John was relaxed now. The rigidness of his earlier shock and anger drained away.

“You… you loved me?” Sherlock whispered.

“Of course I did, of course I still do, Sherlock. You’re my best friend,” John replied, the little thrum of hope in Sherlock’s stomach disappeared at his words. “Even when you came back as you did, I was so angry with you. You let me grieve for two years, but I was so relieved you were alive, that you were back. You put me through hell though, Sherlock. You didn’t trust me, and to this day, I still don’t know why.”

John was his friend, his best friend. It was all Sherlock could hope for, he knew. He wanted to keep John in his life, close, but he needed it to be John’s choice as well. Gathering his swirling thoughts, Sherlock knew the words he said next needed to be right.

“John, as you know, I can be a bit arrogant.” John snorted in agreement at the statement. “I thought keeping you and everyone else in the dark about Moriarty’s end game would keep you all safe. I can get a bit overly focused at times, believing my intellect is the best way to deal with problems, rather than accepting anyone else’s advice or help. I kept things from you, lied about what was happening, not because I didn’t trust you, but because I thought my way was the only way to keep you safe. I didn’t even realize how wrong that was until six months into my mission to destroy his network.”

“And Mycroft’s part in the plan?” John said. “Not letting anyone else in on it?”

Sherlock fidgeted a bit, “Mycroft did help me, and he did suggest that it would just be the two of us and his people to deal with the situation. In many ways, and I hate to say this, Mycroft is similar to me. He relies on his intellect and his secrecy to do what he thinks is best for queen and country, and to a smaller degree, the people he cares about. We both agreed that we’d miscalculated in taking the actions we did.”

It was quiet between them, Sherlock’s words resonating in the air. John seemed to be contemplative, his eyes back on the fire, musing on Sherlock’s words. He did need to say one more thing though, and knew it would be the most important thing to come out of his mouth this evening.

“I’m so sorry, John,” he murmured, making the effort not to avoid his friend’s gaze as he spoke. “I’m sorry for the grief I put you though, and I’m sorry I lied to you. I promise never to lie to you again.”

“That’s a really big promise, Sherlock,” John replied. “Not sure you can realistically keep it.” Sherlock’s gut clenched, he’d failed. “How about this, you promise not to lie to me or omit information, when it’s about the work, or when it involves my safety, or the people we love. No more secrets, even if you think it will hurt me in some way, or believe I can’t handle the truth as you see it. The rest, we’ll deal with as we’ve always done.”

“Alright,” Sherlock agreed with a nod.

John smiled, “Besides, I know you have a slipper full of cigarettes squirreled away in here and when I find your stash, they’re going in the rubbish.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Sherlock scoffed, waving his hands at his friend. They stared at each other for a moment, before bursting into a fit of giggles. The humor, and his friend’s admiring gaze, allayed the last of the tension between them.

Their chuckles died down and Sherlock couldn’t help but say, “I’m glad you’re back, John. In Baker Street with me.”

“I’m glad too, Sherlock,” he replied. “I missed you so much, even though you can drive me up the wall most of the time.”

“Just keeping you on your toes,” Sherlock said, a fluttering in his belly at his friend’s words and grin had him pressing a hand surreptitiously to his abdomen. He did hope that fluttering feeling wasn’t going to be a continued recurrence. It was most distracting. He was in love with John, but John wasn’t in love with him. He needed to keep that in mind.

“Do you still love her?” he asked, and then wanted to take the words back immediately.

John contemplated the fire for a moment, “No. You almost dying by her hand, and then killing to protect me destroyed the last of my feelings for her. I almost didn’t go back to her, but there was a baby to think of that I couldn’t abandon.”

Sherlock’s eyes widened in shock, and he really had no idea what to say to his friend.

John continued on staring into the fire rather than at Sherlock, “I never did figure I’d become a father. I always thought, and still do think, I don’t have the temperament for it.”

“That’s not true, John,” he said. “You’re one of the most patient and kind hearted people I know. I’m sure you would’ve made an excellent father.”

“Perhaps,” John muttered. “Except, I seem to have a need for danger that’s always been within me, Sherlock. Probably not the best recipe for being a good father, but I would have given it a go regardless. I struggled with accepting the pregnancy while I was away from her. It was one more thing on top of everything else at that time, and I almost broke under the pressure of it.”

“I’m sorry, John,” Sherlock added again, hoping the words would help his friend.

“When I accepted it, I was excited, but scared out of my mind,” he replied, then he looked to Sherlock. “Now, after everything, I’m incredibly relieved.”

“That’s good… good,” Sherlock stammered. “Isn’t it?”

John smiled, it widened as he watched Sherlock fidget under his gaze. “Yes, it is, and you’re hopeless at this kind of stuff, Sherlock.”

Affronted, Sherlock sniffed, “Well, you’re no better at it than I am.”

“All too true, but at least I admit it,” John stated.

“Are we done with talking about our feelings, John?” Sherlock erupted, his hands waving again in a fit of pique at his friend.

“God, I hope so,” John laughed. “We’re both horrible at it.”

Sherlock nodded, “Mycroft’s worse at it than both of us, though. Perhaps if he could express his love for me better, he wouldn’t be such a pain in the arse most of the time.”

John’s carefree smile at his words sent that damn fluttering to alight in his stomach again.

John added, “Danny’s the only man I’ve ever met, that actually embraces his emotions. We could learn a lot from him, I think.”

“Perhaps,” Sherlock agreed. “He was very observant at the crime scene tonight, even after almost being killed. He seems to work well under pressure.”

“Looking to replace me as your assistant?” John joked.

“Actually, I’ll have to observe him some more,” Sherlock said, thoughtful. “But, he might make a good backup assistant when you insist on working on sick people at Bart’s.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” John responded and Sherlock could tell, he wasn’t at all offended by the notion. “He could keep me in the loop, and you out of trouble.”

Sherlock huffed, “Go to bed, John. You’re getting maudlin.”

John, chuckling stiffly rose from his chair, “Get a few hours sleep in tonight, Sherlock. Don’t spend the whole night in your Mind Palace with Alex’s research.”

Not making any promises, Sherlock said. “Sleep well, thanks for looking after Danny and yourself tonight. It could have been a terrible evening, otherwise.”

“Too true,” John acknowledged. “Goodnight, Sherlock.”

“Night, John,” he replied, watching his friend head up to bed. A weight he’d not known he’d been carrying seemed to be gone now. Perhaps expressing the occasional feeling wouldn’t be so bad in the future. Though, Mycroft couldn’t know, he’d be teased endlessly about embracing sentiment, and his brother was already unbearable most of the time now.

****

Sherlock stared at Alex Turner’s research in shock. Spread along the floor and walls, the puzzle and danger of it had coalesced in his mind after hours of contemplation. If Alex’s work was ever completed and used by the wrong hands, it would destabilize the status quo of the intelligence community. Not just the secret intelligence services of the United Kingdom, but allies and enemies alike. The enormity of the work’s potential to change the spy game, to change the world, was alarming.

Sherlock’s eyes widened as he realized that whoever was behind this would have made a gigantic mistake in killing Alex Turner.

Chapter 5:

The hushed silence of the Diogenes Club enveloped Danny in its arrogant embrace as he followed Sherlock with John at his side through the corridors. The privileged opulence of the place and the men within it was a stark reminder of the gentlemen’s club Scottie had taken him to. The secrets, unspoken in the space and between its members resonated in the air, a foreboding fog that Danny felt as he walked through it, out of place and unwelcome. This place was not for the average Londoner, so obvious in the eyes of the old men glaring at the trio following a tuxedo-clad servant. If Danny had been a canine, he would swear he could literally feel his hackles rise at the perusal. It made his chin go up and his feet stomp on the marbled floor. Luckily, he’d worn his brown oxfords with his normal jeans and jumper this morning, they made a lovely grating tip-tapping in the silence. The old codgers’ increased glowering at the noise was extremely satisfying.

John grinned at him and increased the press of his own steps on the floor, a ringing accompaniment of two normal blokes in the posh confines of the upper-crust of society. Sherlock just glanced back at the pair of them with a smug smirk and a raised brow, amused at their antics in the cathedral to men of power that was the Diogenes.

They were escorted into an expansive office library type space, all aged wood and old books, with a tall slim figure in a navy blue pinstripe three-piece suit waiting to greet them.

“Good lord, John,” the man complained. “Must you? With the stomping?”

“Nice to see you too, Mycroft,” John replied, unrepentant.

Mycroft Holmes was some years older than Sherlock, with ginger hair and a hawk-like nose. Danny didn’t think they looked much like brothers, except for the air of sophistication that encased both their beings, and perhaps a similarity in the lines of their profiles, combined with the blueness of their eyes.

“Mycroft, you have news?” Sherlock asked.

Mycroft rolled his eyes, saying, “At least formally introduce me to Mr. Holt, Sherlock. Some social niceties should not be ignored.”

Sherlock snorted, “Mycroft, Danny, Danny, Mycroft.”

The hand waving between them was exasperated and would have been amusing if the circumstances of their meeting weren’t so serious.

“Mr. Holmes,” Danny greeted holding out his hand.

Mycroft took it in his for a firm shake, “Mr. Holt, you’ve stirred up quite a bit of trouble.”

“It needed to be done,” he replied with a nod.

“Agreed, I have some information to impart,” Mycroft said, releasing Danny’s hand. “Follow me.”

Mycroft pulled out a mobile and pressed a few buttons, and with a beep a bookcase along one wall swung open with a hydraulic hiss. They followed him through the opening down a cement-encased stairwell, and the locks of the door engaging behind them with a loud clunk was sinister to Danny’s ears.

“All very Winston Churchill of you, Mycroft,” John stated when they arrived into a large office like bunker space.

“Ah, yes,” Mycroft said. “I forgot, you’ve not been down here before, John. This space is secure from surveillance and listening devices. We can talk freely here.”

Mycroft sat at a large ostentatious desk, waving Danny into one of the chairs set across from it. Sherlock took the second seat, with John standing at parade rest behind him. The slap of the papers containing Alex’s research made the weight of the cylinder around Danny’s neck feel stifling. Sherlock had scanned the papers over night, and each of them had a USB drive with electronic copies on them. Danny had made sure Sherlock deleted the copy on his hard drive before they’d left Baker Street. The only way to keep Alex’s research safe was to have it on his person; the danger of another ransacking was too great to leave any loose copies lying about.

Mycroft pulled the papers toward him with a raised brow, “I hadn’t realized you still had a copy of Alex’s work, Mr. Holt.”

“It was need to know, Mycroft,” Sherlock cut in before Danny could respond. “And I’ll be taking it with us when we leave.”

“This case has made you quite paranoid, Sherlock,” Mycroft said flipping through the papers. “Though, I don’t blame you after last night’s events.”

“What’s your news?” Danny demanded, tired of the chitchat.

Mycroft’s blue-eyed gaze was just as sharp as Sherlock’s, though the color of them more average compared to his brother’s. Danny, his irritation still acute from walking through the hornet’s nest of the club above, lifted his chin at Mycroft’s study of him. He refused to be intimidated by anyone, anymore. He’d had enough with the bullshit he’d been fed by the government all these months, and now someone in his government was trying to kill him. Mycroft Holmes was government, and Danny didn’t trust him at all, regardless of Sherlock’s faith in his brother.

Pushing the papers back toward Sherlock, Mycroft sighed, “I have two MI5 agents in custody that were present the night Mr. Turner was interrogated in the attic of his flat. The CCTV footage of the street and building were erased, but they didn’t remove the footage of the surrounding streets. Facial recognition was able to identify five agents there that night. I’ve brought in two so far, since we need to be subtle. They’re both registered as taking leave according to MI5’s personnel documentation, and won’t be missed for a few weeks. The others I currently have under surveillance.”

“Did they corroborate Mrs. Turner’s account of the events of that night?” Sherlock cut-in.

“They did,” Mycroft said gravely, capturing Danny’s eyes with his own. “With the addition that Mr. Turner was removed from the trunk, and taken out of the flat. Alive.”

A high-pitched buzzing resonated in Danny’s ears that final word ‘alive’ howling in his head. He couldn’t get any air, the squeal of Mycroft’s words were reaching a crushing crescendo. His heart was racing hard within his chest, pounding against his ribs. The dead eyes that had peaked out of the trunk weren’t Alex’s; the stench of the decomposing body hadn’t been his lover’s beautiful flesh. It wasn’t Alex; it wasn’t Alex, the swirling mantra resonated in his mind. The room was blurring at the edges, with the fog of the chant shouting in his head.

Hard hands gripped his shoulders. The distant voice of John Watson was trying to push past the repetitive voiceless screaming.

“Breathe, Danny. Breathe,” John’s tenor skittered past Danny’s ears. “Sherlock, he’s having a panic attack, just give it a minute.”

A rumbling baritone was a background accompaniment to the high-pitched screeching in Danny’s eardrums. The room was dimming; the faces surrounding him were a vortex of colors and sounds. There was a steady thumping under his palm, and Alex’s face, in his mind’s eye, flashed in sequence to the soft bumping against his skin.

Danny concentrated on that thumping beat, and as he did, John’s navy blue eyes came into focus, followed by his voice.

“Breathe, Danny. Breathe with me,” he said. Danny worked to do as his new friend said and the air started to slowly come back into his lungs. “That’s it, breathe with me. You’re alright just breathe. Good… good, Danny.”

The hazy blur of the room started to sharpen, and Danny was finally able to take a full, trembling breath. John’s hands were on his shoulders, squeezing in time to his breathing. Danny’s hand was on that jumper-clad chest, John’s heartbeat steady and strong under his palm. He relaxed under John’s hands and his lungs finally did what they were suppose to do.

“There you go,” John said, softening the grip on his shoulders.

“Sorry, sorry,” Danny gasp, embarrassed at his display.

Sherlock was hovering over John’s shoulder, bat-like in his dark coat and Mycroft was standing tense behind his desk.

“It’s fine, Danny. A bit of a shock for you,” John replied. Danny gave John’s chest a pat and the doctor released him from his grip, though he still remained crouched on his heels in front of Danny. “You’re alright now?”

Danny nodded and John slowly stood with a squeeze to his hand.

He looked to Mycroft, his voice still breathy, “Do you think Alex is still alive, Mr. Holmes?”

Mycroft nodded as he sat back down, “I do believe he might be, Danny. Though for how long, I can’t know. The closer we get to the head of the snake, the more likely he could be killed.”

Danny closed his eyes, Alex wasn’t dead, and the thought started his heart racing again. He wanted to cry, the relief was so great, but he needed to control himself. They weren’t going to get anywhere if Danny had a full-blown breakdown. Alex needed him; he kept that thought in mind and reined in his emotions. He could have a good cry and a strop once they were back at Baker Street, if he still needed to.

Sherlock sat back down as well, though his eyes were wide on Danny, as if his client was going to spontaneously combust, or was still likely to faint. He addressed his brother with one final side-eye at his client, “Do the agents in custody know his location?”

“No, though we’re still working on them,” Mycroft replied. “The fact that Mary has been contracted out on this, indicates to me that the operation has moved beyond any of the agents involved. I’m hoping the surveillance of the other three will give us a location, or at least help us identify who is orchestrating all of this.”

“Whoever’s doing this, they’re working against you specifically, Mycroft,” Sherlock stated. “You’re the target.”

“I know, and it all stems from MI5,” he agreed. “My people have looked at MI6, as well as GCHQ and Defense Intelligence. They’ve found nothing in those agencies.”

“Do you have any idea of who the boss is, Mycroft?” John asked, standing behind Danny. He appreciated the grounding hands John had on his shoulders.

“I believe I do, but without proof, I can’t say at this point in time,” Mycroft replied, he cut Sherlock off before he could speak. “If I’m wrong, the accusation could have serious repercussions not only for me, but the intelligence services as well. If I can confirm my suspicions, I will let you all know. For now, I have my people monitoring the individual and either we rule them out or confirm my conjecture in the coming days.”

“Was Alex’s research really that dangerous to this person?” Danny asked. “That they would do all of this to what? Remove you from your position?”

“It’s not just about Mycroft, Danny,” Sherlock said. “Alex’s research, if he could finish it, would undermine spycraft as we know it. Not only would Britain’s intelligence community be affected, but the Americans, the Russians, Chinese, Israelis, allies and enemy governments would no longer be able to hide their covert operations. It could also be used to more easily spy and target government officials, whether within the UK or not. Gaining leverage on individuals within governments that in the wrong hands could have devastating effects in the future.”

“So it wasn’t about the lie detector,” Danny muttered.

“No,” Sherlock shook his head. “That seems to be the initial phase of Alex’s project. A very useful product to be sure, but not something that would cause such great alarm.”

“Sherlock, you’ve studied Alex’s work,” John said. “What can it actually do?”

Sherlock captured his brother’s gaze, “If in the proper hands and restrained, the application, beyond decoding speech patterns, would be able to ferret out encrypted messages within all types of mundane electronic communications around the globe. Everyday words in emails, texts, voice mail, and social media platforms would be analyzed for encrypted messages. It would identify terrorist and criminal activities, not only as they occur, but also give ample warning of plans that have yet to be implemented. An extremely useful tool to prevent terror attacks, as well as assist in the removal of organized crime enterprises, such as human trafficking or arms dealing.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad, Sherlock,” John said.

“No, not at all,” Sherlock agreed and Danny could see there was a private conversation going on between the brothers.

“That isn’t the danger of it, John,” Mycroft said. “The use of Mr. Turner’s work could include intelligence gathering on not only hostile governments, but our allies as well. We could find out, for example, what intelligence the CIA has gathered on any number of operations. The work of Interpol, Israeli Mossad, the Russian FSB, China’s Ministry for State Security, Saudi GIP, etcetera would be completely open. That’s what makes Alex’s work so dangerous.”

“The covert online history of individuals and governments would be an open book to anyone who implements Alex’s research to its full potential,” Sherlock stated.

“Professor Shaw said it was a person’s online DNA,” Danny said. “The lie detector applied to speech would be the end of lies.”

“I believe that the speech component was just the first stage,” Sherlock said. “The second, to be fully what you just described, would be applied to all electronic communications, even the hidden messages being transmitted in the Dark Web wouldn’t be immune.”

“My friend, Scottie wanted to prove it worked,” he replied. “That’s what got him killed, isn’t it?”

Sherlock nodded, “Alex’s work is brilliant, Danny. After looking at the data, I can conjecture that he was getting close to finishing, and that night in his flat was a test to see if the initial stage of his programming and code worked, as it was suppose to. That was the catalyst for the ruse of his death by whoever is orchestrating this, they want him to finish his work and keep it to themselves. With its use, they would gain immense power within the government, removing rivals and gathering leverage on others to be applied as they see fit.”

Danny nodded. It made sense, and he wondered it Alex had known how dangerous his work would be perceived, whether he would’ve finished it, and allowed it to be used to ferret out more than the activities of terrorists and criminals. Danny knew that Alex had been extremely naïve in many ways. Perhaps that was his downfall, the naivety to trust that his work would be used only for good, to prevent more terrorist attacks, to help take down human trafficking rings, and to protect people around the globe. It wouldn’t surprise him if that was the case.

“There may have been another motivation for that night,” Mycroft voiced. “Alex submitted a request that you be brought in to sign the Official Secrets Act.”

“What?” Danny exclaimed.

“Mr. Turner wanted to be able to tell you what he really did for a living. Who he actually worked for,” Mycroft continued gravely. “The justification, a future civil partnership or marriage. To you, Danny.”

****

The love he’d been defending all this time, had been true, and now he was waiting. They were all waiting. Waiting for Sherlock’s homeless network to find Mary, and hopefully locate where Alex was in the process. Waiting for Mycroft to gather more intelligence, identify the head of the conspiracy, and possibly identify where Alex was being held. Just waiting, and the two days since the meeting at the Diogenes had been caustic for all of them. It was too dangerous for any of them to leave the flat and provide an easy target, especially Danny.

Danny’s emotions had rioted in his head after the meeting, and he’d wavered between crying uncontrollably and keeping it together by thinking about Alex still being here, alive. The possibility of seeing his lover, to feel his warmth and passion. To have a second chance to be with his love again, and hold him tight in his arms. Mrs. Hudson’s mothering and John steady support had helped over the ensuing hours. Even Sherlock’s frankly ridiculous behavior had assisted to distract Danny from the waiting to a certain extent.

Sherlock had spent hours in his pajamas and dressing gown on the sofa, his large white feet up in the air on the arm of the sofa, his hands pressed together under his chin. John had said he was in his Mind Palace, and then explained what that was to Danny. He wondered if Alex had a similar place in his mind to sort his memories, and keep all of the information in his head organized. Danny hoped he’d get the chance to ask him. He’d like to ask Alex many things if he got another chance to see him again.

Once Sherlock had come out of his trance, he’d been insufferable, experimenting on grotesque things in the kitchen, fussing at all of them, and pacing uncontrollably around the flat. Finally, John Watson had had enough, and ordered his flatmate into the bath to get cleaned up and dressed. Once that was done, John had stipulated that Sherlock would set up the whole case on the wall and connect the dots with John and Danny’s help. They would have a visual of the events and the people involved and possibly make a final connection to the mastermind behind it all.

Sherlock of course had huffed, stomped, and carried on like a child, but didn’t outright refuse John’s orders. Now he and Danny were playing gin rummy waiting for the detective to finish his ablutions. Sherlock had been banned from playing all card games with them the day before, after trouncing Danny, John and Mrs. Hudson at poker. The detective was a card counter and the stakes had been Belgian chocolate, the spoils of which ‘the git’ had squirreled away somewhere in the flat.

Danny placed a card on the pile, “John?”

“Hmmm?” the doctor replied, his eyes on his cards with a frown.

“You do know that Sherlock’s gay, right?” Danny stated, now that they had a moment alone, he’d decided now was as a good time as any to find out more about John and Sherlock’s relationship.

He liked them both, and he really didn’t know if John was even aware that Sherlock was in love with him. He thought back to Scottie’s statement when he’d met Alex that first time. That he was a ‘hopeless romantic’ and Danny knew it was true. If he could help the pair see they were in love with each other, he would happily stick his nose in their business to get the job done.

John’s eyes slowly rose above his cards, his expression completely gobsmacked.

“What?” he sputtered.

“I think you heard me, John,” Danny smiled.

John’s mouth was opening and closing like fish for a moment before he regained his voice, “How do you know?”

“The way he looks at you when you’re not looking,” he replied. “He’s in love with you.”

John’s cards fell out of his hand, the fish imitation was ongoing before he coughed out, “You’re not taking the piss, are you?”

“No, of course not,” Danny answered with a frown. “I wouldn’t do something like that to you, John.”

“Sorry, sorry,” he cleared his throat. “It’s a bit of a shock to hear you say that, Danny. I always figured if Sherlock was anything, he was asexual.”

“He’s definitely not asexual,” Danny confirmed. “I know my gay obtuse geniuses.”

John shook his head, “I’ve known him for over four years, granted two of those I thought he was dead, but I never saw him have a relationship with anyone, man or woman. Or any interest in a romantic relationship either, except when it was a fake one for a case.”

“If he’s anything like Alex, he probably hasn’t been in a relationship before,” Danny deduced. “Or if he has, it probably ended badly.”

“And you think he’s in love with me?” John said, his tone stern.

“I know he is, I’ve seen it,” Danny nodded. “How do you feel about him?”

“I love him, he’s my best friend, Danny,” he explained.

Danny thought this conversation was like pulling teeth; John was so entrenched in his assumptions. Danny nudged John’s hand on the table when he asked, “But are you in love with him too? That’s the question, John.”

“I don’t… don’t know,” he stammered. “I’ve tried not to think about him that way for as long as I’ve known him.”

Danny gave him a cheeky wink, “Maybe you should start thinking about it.”

The bathroom door opened and a cloud of steam following Sherlock in his bespoke armor interrupted them.

“If you two are done wasting your time playing cards, we can get started,” Sherlock commanded with a raised brow at the pair of them.

Danny smiled at Sherlock’s continued strop; the detective was entertaining, even when he was being insufferable. He and John cleared their cards from the table, and Danny ducked his head to hide his smile at the assessing gaze John Watson was giving his flatmate.

****

The wall of connections was coming along nicely, and Sherlock had to admit, Danny had been very helpful connecting the dots with him. John as usual asked questions that helped Sherlock’s thoughts to coalesce, finding additional connections. In looking at everything, it was becoming hard for Sherlock to believe that Mycroft had not been aware of what Alex Turner had been working on. As Danny’s friend Scottie had once said to him, ‘we’re not working against one intelligence agency, we’re working against them all.’”

He acknowledged that he could be reading too much into the case, the danger it presented to his friend, and their client ever present in his mind, possibly clouding his judgment. Either way, once this was done, for good or ill, Mycroft needed to clean house at all of the British intelligence services. Rogue government operatives needed to be ferreted out and removed. If they could get to Alex, get him back alive, his work had the potential to help them do that.

The three of them were standing in front of the wall, the threads numerous in swirling patterns that didn’t seem to be patterns at all.

“Did Lestrade have any luck finding Mrs. Turner’s body, or the escort that talked to Danny?” John asked.

“No, not yet,” he replied and waved his hand at the mess in front of him. “Looking at this, I’m inclined to think that every thing done to you, Danny, is a smoke screen to put you off.”

“It still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it,” Danny agreed.

“Molly’s final blood test proved you were infected with mononucleosis, which caused a false-positive HIV test,” Sherlock continued. “They must have infected you very early on after Alex’s disappearance, or even before, planning for the possibility you wouldn’t accept the facts you were given. Even the American’s warning to you and the HIV medication you were given. I doubt he was actually American. Accents can be faked quite easily, as we know.”

“Yes, Mary’s accent was spot on,” John agreed. “Any actor worth his salt can do many types of accents.”

“If what my brother says is true,” Sherlock started a bit hesitant to place suspicion on his sibling. “That he wasn’t aware of what Alex was working on, then the supposition that the various intelligence agencies knew about it and wanted to keep it hidden is another part of the cover-up to deflect from the truth of who’s behind all of this.”

“It would be hard to believe Mycroft didn’t know what was going on, Sherlock,” John said, his voice grave. “Unless, the whole situation is less complicated than it’s been made to look.”

Avoiding John’s statement, Sherlock sat himself in front of the fire, watching Danny pin up the images of the various agents involved Mycroft had identified. He needed to think. This situation was too dangerous for the three of them to deal with alone. He needed Mycroft’s help, though admitting that to himself stuck in his craw a bit.

John sat down across from him, his eyes sharp on Sherlock’s own. John had been appraising him with his gaze all night, and for the life of him he couldn’t deduce what his friend was thinking during the quiet moments he’d caught John’s study out of the corner of his eye. He of course enjoyed the attention and admiration, always had, particularly from John. But, this was different in some way. The awareness of those dark blue eyes on him had prickled under his skin all night. It was irritating that he was too distracted by the case to figure out what was going on with his best friend.

“Sherlock,” Danny’s strained voice pulled him away from John’s gaze. “I… I know him.”

He was holding a picture in his hand; a subtle trembling in the limb caused the edges of the papers to vibrate. Sherlock almost tripped over John as they both surged out of their seats and bumped into each other. Moving close, Sherlock saw the image of a gray haired man in his early sixties. He knew who he was, having met him on numerous occasions through Mycroft. That Danny, a man with no connections to London’s elite would know him should have been impossible.

“James Carlisle, the head of MI5,” Sherlock said, taking the picture from Danny and pinning it to the top of the mess on the wall.

“How do you know him, Danny?” John asked pulling him away from the image and the wall with his hands. Danny was taking deep breaths obviously trying to control his emotions, which Sherlock appreciated. He’d been helpless in Mycroft’s office when he was sure Danny was going to faint. Luckily, John new how to deal with people and had staved off the panic attack. Sherlock admired Danny’s ability to embrace his feelings, though he was at a loss in the face of them.

“He was Scottie’s friend at the club,” Danny said haltingly. “He told that joke. The one about the intelligence services of various countries agreeing. Scottie said that we were working against all of them, not just MI6.”

Sherlock drew a circle around Carlisle’s face and connected it to Francis Turner’s; from there he connected it to the five agents in Alex’s flat that night, the ‘American,’ the escort, Chief Superintendent Campbell, and then to Mary. Francis’ image in turn was connected to Alex’s.

“Mrs. Turner had been so desperate to use her son to regain her position in MI5 that she’d exposed Alex and his work to someone with the means to take them both by force,” Sherlock deduced. “I don’t believe any other agency really knows anything about the extent of what Alex was working on.”

“It’s not a government conspiracy at all,” Danny hissed.

Sherlock looked to him and John, two normal blokes who were extraordinary in different ways and said, “No, it isn’t.”

****

Danny was shook roughly out of a sound sleep; startled, he came to swinging with a yell.

A grunt and a thump of a body falling off the bed brought him fully awake. Peering over the side of the bed, Danny had to laugh at the sight of Sherlock sprawled on his back on the floor in his pajamas and dressing gown, his curls a wild halo on his head. The detective’s wide-eyed shock at ending up there was evident on his face.

John’s giggling in the doorway followed Danny’s. “That was very elegant Sherlock, I’ll give you a eight out of ten for the arm wheeling.”

“Shut it, John!” Sherlock barked.

“Are you okay?” Danny asked glancing at the clock on the bedside table. The time was three-am. “Did I hurt you?”

“I’m fine,” he replied with a sniff. Smiling, John held out his hand to pull his friend off the floor. “Come on, Danny.”

The pair of them headed into the loo. Rubbing his eyes, Danny followed finding Sherlock opening the faucets in both the bath and the sink. The rush of water was loud in the small space.

“What’s going on?” he asked. Sherlock reach around him to close the door.

“I have a location,” Sherlock murmured.

Danny’s knees grew weak, and he sunk slowly down to sit on the edge of the tub. His heart clenched in his chest. They’d found Alex.

Chapter 6:

“Where,” he asked, hushed. He wanted to shout, to scream, to tear out of Baker Street as if a devil was on his heels to go to Alex. To bring him home. Danny griped the rolled edge of the claw-foot tub tight, he needed to be calm; they had to make plans to keep his love from being killed when they finally came for him.

“A house in Waltham Forest,” Sherlock replied. He gingerly put the toilet seat down and sat primly at attention. John just rolled his eyes, and sat himself on the floor with his back against the door.

Danny exclaimed, “He’s been in London all this time?”

He felt like he was going to vibrate out of his skin, the wait of the last two days had been dreadful, but now that he knew they were close, it was just excruciating. He just wanted to go, to go get Alex, now.

“He might have been at that location all this time, or they might have moved him around,” Sherlock said. “We’ll only know for sure once this is all over.”

“What do you know, Sherlock?” John asked. The soldier, to Danny’s mind, was slowly overtaking the doctor. John on the surface was calm, collected, and dispassionate, but an aggressive tilt to his blond head belied the composed façade. The inner working of a soldier preparing for the fight, and Danny was relieved to see it.

Sherlock pulled out his mobile to hand to Danny. “Slim caught sight of Mary in Walthamstow, and with Bill and Nora, shadowed her to a house on Belle Vue Road.”

The image was a crisp close up of a brown haired woman in front of a two-story, semi-detached brick house. She was pretty, but not drop dead gorgeous as female spies were often depicted in espionage films. She wouldn’t stand out in a crowd, and Danny figured her natural camouflage served her well as a professional killer.

“So we can’t know for certain Alex is actually in the house, can we?” Danny asked handing the phone to John.

His eyes were on his flatmate when Sherlock replied, “No, but I think it’s safe to assume he probably is. If he’s not, then we’ll still be closer to locating him if we can bring in Mary and anyone else assigned to the house alive.”

John was frowning at the image. It hit Danny abruptly that Mary had been his wife not too long ago and as harmless as she looked, only a few nights ago she’d tried to kill him. He couldn’t imagine what John must be feeling, staring down at the woman he’d loved, who’d betrayed him, and had almost killed his friend.

Returning the phone to Sherlock, John cleared his throat, “Did you contact Mycroft yet?”

“No, we need to discuss this situation between ourselves first,” Sherlock replied, and Danny could tell the detective was trying to deduce what John was thinking in that moment. His opal eyes were flitting back and forth over John’s features, and Danny wondered what his deductions concluded about his friend. “My homeless network is keeping an eye on the house, they’ll alert me if there’s any change.”

“If Alex is there, how difficult do you think it will be to get him out?” Danny asked. “Do we have to bring your brother in on this?”

“Danny, I don’t blame you for being wary,” John remarked. “But look at us? All we have is the three of us. A doctor, who was once a soldier, a smart mouthed detective – and yes Sherlock stop flapping your hands at me—who granted has some spycraft skills, and you. You don’t even know how to defend yourself and I’m certain you’ve never touched a gun. Mary is a trained CIA assassin, and God knows who the others in that house are.”

Sherlock was glowering at his friend, “What John is trying to say, in a very long winded fashion is that we’re going to need help. I know you don’t trust my brother. You’ve done an admirable job investigating on your own since Alex’s disappearance, but we’re going to need resources to extract Alex that we just don’t have. Believe me, if I could keep Mycroft’s long nose out of this business, I would. We really don’t have a choice.”

“What about Lestrade, Sherlock?” John inquired. “He’d be able to put together a tactical unit fairly quickly.”

Sherlock frowned, “I don’t want to involve Lestrade in this mess more than I already have. Also, remember Chief Superintendent Campbell might be involved in some fashion. It would be difficult for Lestrade to keep the operation under wraps.”

“I need to be involved, Sherlock,” Danny insisted. He didn’t trust Mycroft Holmes; the man was government, as high up in the chain as it was possible to be without being the Prime Minister, or the Queen. Sherlock’s brother was the sovereign of Britain’s intelligence services and Danny had no doubt that Alex, and his work, were assets that Mycroft Holmes would want to exploit in some fashion. He needed to be there, to make sure Alex wasn’t going to be buried away again for the government’s use. “I refuse to be cut out.”

A slow, almost evil grin took over Sherlock’s face, “Well, my brother isn’t going to be pleased that John and I intend to be on the front lines for this. Having you in the mix as well will annoy him to no end.”

John aborted a giggle with a snort before he sobered. Prying Danny’s hand off the tub and giving it a squeeze, he said, “I promise you, you’ll be there on the ground with us. You won’t be able to storm the fortress, but we’ll find a job for you to do.”

“Thank you,” he murmured. They were right; he wasn’t equipped with the skills needed to take down assassins, or even to break into a bloody house for that matter. If he was there though, he could watch, learn and keep his eyes open. If Alex was in that house, Danny was going to be there when they got him out.

“We’ll have to go see Mycroft tomorrow at the Diogenes,” Sherlock said. Then with a wink at Danny, “Wear your oxfords.”

Danny smiled, “The old codgers are just going to love that.”

****

No movement,” his brother’s voice was curt in his ear and Sherlock couldn’t remember a time when Mycroft was nervous about anything. “You have a go, team two is in position at the rear.”

It had been an hour since Mycroft’s people had cut power to the neighborhood. If the assassins in the house investigated, they’d find news of a blown transformer via the electric company. The lack of power not only darkened the neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning, but would also bypass any electronic security or surveillance measures installed.

Mycroft had brought in his four most trusted agents, and of course had argued viciously with Sherlock about his, John and Danny’s involvement in the operation. But, between the three of them, they’d overruled The British Government. His brother’s face, red with temper at Sherlock’s determination to do the mission without his help if he had to, was most satisfying.

Armed with comms in their ears, body cameras on their chests, and silencers on their guns—no need to wake the neighbors if it could be avoided—they moved as one on silent feet to the front door. Their dark clothes meshed seamlessly with the shadows of the hedgerows and brick fences around them. It took a bit longer than Sherlock would have liked to pick the numerous deadbolts on door, three in all. Standing back, he allowed John to take the lead position with Mycroft’s unnamed female agent behind.

We’re ready at the back,” a voice whispered in his comm.

Captain Watson was in full force and had been involved, much to Mycroft’s chagrin, in the planning of the op. Sherlock trusted his brother, but Danny’s paranoia might have rubbed off a bit, because he was cautious in regards to the agents taking part. He knew John was suspicious too, and would be watchful in the coming minutes.

John looked back, his countenance fierce with his gun up and ready, gave him a nod before quickly and quietly opening the door. Sherlock followed close behind, moving into a room to the right while John swept down the front hall. It was very dark, though some illumination from the dawn was seeping through the curtains. Sherlock made sure to check the shadowed corners, avoiding the sparse furniture as he moved through the rooms on the first floor. Their agent would stay stationed at the entrance, with another from the second team at the back. They didn’t want any of the hired guns to have an exit. Mycroft’s people were good, he couldn’t even hear the second team’s movements, but knew they were heading up to the second floor.

He moved through a double parlor, meeting John back in the hall. The tense lines of John’s face were in stark relief in the low light. His jaw was clenched when he shook his head in the negative at Sherlock’s inquiring brow. There didn’t seem to be anyone on the ground floor, though Sherlock couldn’t imagine that four well-trained wet workers would all be asleep upstairs. John signaled him to follow, and they made their way to a door underneath the stairs. The lack of resistance was jarring, and Sherlock’s heart started racing in his chest, apprehension acute with his hand on the doorknob.

“Shit,” Sherlock could barely make out John’s whispered word. It was pitch black after the first few steps leading down into a basement. They turned on the torches attached to their gun barrels. The light would make them obvious targets, but the need for it outweighed the danger.

Old stone walls were close to their shoulders as they made their way down the narrow steps. Sherlock kept an eye on his back, his breaths loud in his ears in the enclosed space. John stopped where the steps turned a corner, and Sherlock moved opposite and slightly behind as best he could with a nod to his friend. John swiftly rounded the corner with half his body, his gun, and torch sweeping quickly before he pulled back.

“A electronically sealed door at the end of the stairs,” he whispered. “There’s no one guarding it.”

Sherlock checked up the stairs behind him again, before they moved together down the rest of the steps. A cement surrounded metal door greeted them at the end of the last step, obviously a newly installed room of some sort with an electronic lock. With the power out, there was no way for Sherlock to bypass it.

He clicked his radio, “Mycroft, we need the power back on.”

Acknowledged, power coming on now,” Mycroft said, and light flooded the space.

John moved to cover his back while he pulled the panel off the wall. Ah simple, he thought, pulling out the wiring. A spark, then a tumbling clank of the locks releasing followed in quick succession. Sherlock allowed John to take his front position again, both of them at the ready with their guns. There was little room to move out of the way if there was a weapon aimed at them from inside. He didn’t like feeling exposed, and John’s tense shoulders in front of him, the muscles bunched to spring into action, caused a spike of additional adrenaline to zoom through his transport.

John signaled Sherlock to move to the right before erupting into the room. Their movements seamlessly in sync, almost choreographed with John to the left and Sherlock to the right. It was all a bit anticlimactic, there were no bad guys in the room, only one Alex Turner, barefoot in jeans and a white long-sleeved t-shirt, his hands over his eyes on a small bed along the far wall. Alex was still blinking from the sudden brightness, his hands and ankles were cuffed, and attached to a long chain sunk into the wall.

He stood abruptly gasping, “Sherlock Holmes!”

“Alex is here, Mycroft,” Sherlock said.

Is he alright?” Danny’s voice came through the comm, almost earsplitting in volume.

Sherlock eyeing the new scars around Alex’s wrists and ankles replied, “He’s in one piece, Danny.”

“Danny’s here?” Alex asked, his blue eyes widening.

“Sherlock, get your lock picks out, and get him out of those cuffs,” John ordered. “We need to get moving.”

Sherlock holstered his weapon and pulled out his kit, moving in swift strides to immediately starting to working on the cuffs around Alex’s wrists. He realized as his tools clicked on the metal, that he’d automatically responded to John’s Captain Watson’s voice. If they weren’t so short on time, he would’ve liked to ponder his reaction to it, but they’d heard nothing from the second team.

“Mycroft, status of the others?” John requested.

They have two in custody, the Serb and the Italian,” Mycroft responded. “One agent is down. No sign of Mary, or the American from team two.

“We didn’t see them either,” John said. “They were here before we came in, so tell your people to stay on their toes.”

“Danny’s here?” Alex asked again, his pleasing tenor quiet in Sherlock’s ears.

Sherlock glanced up briefly from his work on the cuffs, “He’s a few streets away in the surveillance vehicle. You’ll see him soon.”

His eyes swept around the room, briefly taking in the equations in black that filled the cement block walls. The room had a toilet, a sink in one corner, and a desk with a laptop on it along another wall. All together, Alex Turner seemed to have been chained in this room for the last four months. Sherlock didn’t even want to contemplate the tortured isolation Alex must have been experiencing.

The handcuffs came undone and he moved on to the ankles, saying, “Keeping busy? Do we need to take that laptop with us?”

“No,” he replied. “The equations on the it are complete rubbish. The walls are millennium problems to keep me from going mad.”

Sherlock startled fumbling a bit with his tools when gunfire erupted overhead.

Sherlock, John, my agent at the door has been taken hostage and the other is wounded,” Mycroft snarled. “They are making their way to you. The second team is unable to get off the second floor. I’m pulling in agents from the perimeter, ETA ten minutes.”

“Fuck,” John hissed, at the ready with his gun aimed on the doorway.

Sherlock couldn’t agree more with his friend’s assessment of their situation. The cuffs finally released under his hands, and Sherlock pulled his own gun out covering Alex with his body. Though defenseless, Alex gathered the cuffs and excess chain in his hands, his body stiff and ready behind Sherlock. They were easy targets, but the narrow stairs wouldn’t allow their enemies to maneuver easily. The entrance was a bottleneck, and Alex’s prison a trap, with no way out.

Movement was heard on the stairs before Mary’s voice rang out, “I have your agent in front of me, John. You start shooting, you’ll hit her first.”

Shuffling awkward steps clattered before Mary emerged into the room, a gun to the agent’s dark head in front of her. She was pushing the agent forward with her weapon, and a hand around the restraints holding the woman’s arms behind her back.

“Back up, John,” she ordered and John complied for a few steps, but his gun was steady on his target. His eyes were savage with hatred on her. It stunned Sherlock, who had only ever seen that look directed at one other person before, Moriarty.

The American, who was actually another disavowed CIA agent, followed her into the room. His gun was trained on John, when Mary turned her gun away from her hostage, pointing it directly at Sherlock. She was aiming it at his head when she shoved the woman to her knees.

“Put down your gun, John,” she said. “You too, Sherlock.”

When John didn’t comply, Mary demanded, “Put it down now, or this time I’ll shoot him in the head, and I won’t deliberately miss.”

John let out a slow breath through his nose and slowly complied. Sherlock followed his lead, keeping his eyes on Mary. The black hole in the middle of the barrel of her gun was at eye level, keeping pace with his movements. It was a bit disconcerting. He could only hope that Mycroft’s agents could get them out of this predicament alive. They were cornered without options for the moment.

“Good, now we’ll be taking Mr. Turner with us,” Mary dictated. Alex’s hushed ‘no’ behind him was barely audible. “And if you behave yourselves I might not kill you.”

“Why did you get close to me, Mary?” John asked, brows lowered. The stalling was good; it would give Mycroft’s people time to get them out if they could. His blogger was wily fellow and Sherlock knew if an opportunity arose to disarm Mary and her colleague, he and John would take it together. “Why the relationship in the first place?”

The smirk on Mary’s face when she replied was grating, “Moriarty’s network was being dismantled piece by piece, and my employer suspected that Sherlock was not actually dead. He’d been waiting for years for an opportunity to get access to the inner circle of Baker Street. Catching your eye and gaining your trust got me close to you, to Sherlock, and in turn close to Mycroft.”

A pair of scuffed trainers were stepping silently down the stairs. Alex shifted behind him, the soft clinking of the chains in his hand covering any sound from Danny. John could see their client too, Sherlock noted.

“And the fake pregnancy, did you do that for fun, to torture me?” John barked, his voice deliberately strident.

“Sherlock came back and there was a chance you’d go back to him. I couldn’t let you, I needed you to stay with me.” Mary replied, taking her eyes off Sherlock to glower at her former husband.

Sherlock was tense, ready for any opening Danny could give them. He could see the American was becoming impatient with the chitchat, his eyes darting from John to Sherlock to Mary and back to John again, assessing.

“I loved you,” John declared.

“You loved him more, John. You’ve been in love with him all along,” she argued, disgust apparent on her face. In that moment, Sherlock realized that Mary had some sort of romantic attachment for John, regardless of her mission. And she hated Sherlock with a passion a psychopath rarely would experience. She had no intention of letting them go, she was going to kill them.

Sherlock’s muscles tightened under his skin as Danny silently raised a hand behind them.

“Oi!” he shouted.

Sherlock didn’t hesitate, ducking low and forward toward Mary. There was a fire in the top of his shoulder as his hands grabbed her gun arm, but her limbs were already spasming in time to the clicking of the taser Danny was using on her. The gun came out of her slack hand as she fell to the floor. He swirled to train the gun back on the American, just as John knocked the man out cold with a well-placed punch. The chain in Alex’s hands was pulled tight around the man’s legs on the floor.

The clicking finally stopped, and Danny stood over Mary’s unconscious twitching body with a ferocious light of satisfaction on his face.

Sherlock!” Mycroft burst over the comms.

“We’re fine, your people can come in now,” Sherlock acknowledged.

“Danny,” Alex whispered.

His client’s green eyes were radiant, taking in the vision of the lover he’d thought dead for the last four months. Danny didn’t say a word in return. Dropping the taser, he flew across the small room into Alex’s arms.

****

Danny kept a tight grip on Alex’s hand, wading through the melee of reporters stationed outside of 221B Baker Street with Sherlock and John at their backs. With the gunfire, the police had been called and the press had soon followed. Mycroft had still been working to get the four assassins into armored vehicles while the paramedics stabilized his three wounded agents for transport when the first news van pulled up. The cameras had been rolling before he could get Danny, Alex, Sherlock, and John out of the house. Danny had no idea what spin Mycroft would put on Alex suddenly coming back from the dead. If the yelled questions as they pushed past the horde were any indication, they all knew who Alex was. Of course, both their faces had been splashed all over the tabloids for weeks after Alex’s supposed body was found, and with Sherlock and John’s presence at the scene, the journalistic frenzy was massive.

Danny had refused Mycroft’s request to take Alex into custody as well for debriefing, and after some hushed words with Sherlock in the hallway, he’d allowed them all to go back to Baker Street. He knew that they wouldn’t be able to put off Sherlock’s brother for long, but for now he was with his lover and with the sweet presence of Mrs. Hudson crushing Danny to her bosom, and the warmth of the flat embracing them, it felt like coming home.

“Are you alright, love?” she said with another squeeze before releasing him. “I saw the kerfuffle on the telly.”

Danny had fallen in love with her since almost from the first moment they’d met. She was the mother he’d never had. Smiling he said, “Everything’s okay now, Mrs. Hudson. This is Alex, my partner.”

Alex was pale and stiff, but took Mrs. Hudson’s hand when she offered it. He thought perhaps Alex was over stimulated after being isolated in that horrible room for so long. Danny couldn’t stop looking at him, or touching him. It was still a shock that Alex had been alive all this time, and Danny just wanted to get his lover alone so he could stare at him, and hug him for hours. The need to feel his love’s warm living flesh, to see the life in those blue eyes was overwhelming. It was going to be a long time before he let Alex out of his sight again.

Mrs. Hudson smiled, pulling Alex close to give him a hug. He couldn’t help the grin at Alex’s wide-eyed confusion at Mrs. Hudson’s back patting. Alex would get used to it, Danny was sure.

“Poor love, I don’t know what’s happened, but you look like you could use a cuppa at least,” she said. “Danny, take your man up to the flat, I’ll be along with some tea in just a tic.”

Danny tugged on Alex’s hand, pulling him up the stairs to the flat, while Mrs. Hudson twittered at Sherlock and John. Sherlock’s rolling eyes at her fussing were reassuring, and so normal to Danny now. John gave him a wink as he pulled Alex up the stairs. Mrs. Hudson and John Watson’s unshakable belief that tea was the solution to every problem was comforting.

Alex was taking in the mess that was 221B, then stood still, studying the case information on the wall while Danny hung up their coats. He led his lover around the coffee table to sit on the sofa with him. Danny found his fingers lingering over the fresh scars on Alex’s wrists, the marks smooth with the rose hue of recently healed wounds. The pleasure he’d felt electrocuting Mary within an inch of her life would be disturbing if he let himself think of it too long. The bitch deserved it and much more, Danny thought, looking at the blemishes wrought on his lover’s white skin.

“I’m alright, Danny,” Alex murmured. In the light of the flat, his eyes were so blue caressing Danny’s face. Those large warm hands in his made his heart clench in his chest. At some point, he knew he was going to cry all over his lover, but Danny swallowed the lump that had built in his throat. He needed to keep it together until they could be alone.

“I’m just so happy you’re alive,” Danny whispered.

Alex’s grip tightened, his beautiful low voice was musical to Danny’s ears, “You didn’t know?”

He shook his head and tears welled in his eyes; he couldn’t curb them. “No, I found a body in the trunk in the attic of your flat two weeks after you’d gone missing,” he said. “They made me believe it was you.”

He was pulled into Alex’s arms, and Danny nestled in close to his lover’s neck. The scent and heat of him was such a relief that Danny couldn’t help but clutch him closer. He felt a hand running through his hair, accompanied by soft kisses to his brow. Closing his eyes, he let the tears silently fall, reveling in Alex’s touches.

“I’m so sorry, Danny,” he said, hushed. “I didn’t know.”

His breaths hitching, Danny just shook his head. He couldn’t speak, the torment of his grief was still too fresh, overwhelmed that the torture was finally over.

A clattering on the stairs was all the notice they received before Sherlock burst into the room, John hot on his heels.

“Sherlock! You arse! Get your coat and shirt off, now!” John barked, pulling a chair out from under the table by the window. “Sit!”

Danny pulled away slightly, wiping the tears on his cheeks, his voice was hoarse when he asked, “John, what’s going on?”

John was helping a grimacing Sherlock remove his hip-length coat. His frown fierce as he griped, “My idiot best friend was shot by Mary again, and didn’t tell anyone.”

“Oh, don’t fuss, John,” Sherlock complained, working on the buttons of his shirt. “It’s just a scratch.”

The deep furrow of torn flesh in the muscle of the joint of Sherlock’s neck and shoulder wasn’t just a scratch. Blood was still seeping slowly in small rivers down Sherlock’s torso. John was swearing a blue streak under his breath as he examined the wound. His muttered expletives followed him as he stomped through the kitchen and into the bath.

Sherlock sat primly with a raised brow at his friend’s return with a substantially sized medical kit in his hands.

“Stubborn arse!” John spewed.

“John, your foul mouthed tourette like syndrome is unnecessary,” Sherlock replied.

“Shut it, you git!” the snap of latex gloves accompanied John’s response. “I can’t believe you! This needs bloody stitches.”

“Oh, Sherlock,” Mrs. Hudson scolded over the clinking of the tea tray she was carrying. “Will he be alright, John? Shouldn’t he be taken to hospital?”

“Hospitals are a waste of my valuable time, Mrs. Hudson,” Sherlock scoffed. “Besides, why go when I have a perfectly qualified physician at home.”

“Yes, he should’ve been taken, but I’ll take care of it,” John growled. “And he’ll have a manly scar as evidence of his idiocy.”

Affronted, Sherlock huffed, before slumping in his chair in a fit of pique.

“John do you need any help?” Danny asked, watching the doctor start to clean the wound. He gave Alex’s hand a squeeze, his lover was agog at the bedlam Sherlock had caused.

“No, I got this, Danny,” John replied, holding a wincing Sherlock still under his hands. “Thank you, though.”

Danny prepared Alex some tea under Mrs. Hudson’s watchful gaze; smiling, she looked between them and quietly left them alone.

“Is he always like this?” Alex whispered.

“Yes,” Danny smiled. “Takes a bit of getting use to.”

“Mr. Turner, I know you’re very tired,” Sherlock said, flinching with the hypodermic needle John was using on his flesh. “I assume you’ve been looked after by just the four individuals holding you in the house, but did anyone else come see you in the four months you were there?”

“You can call me Alex, Mr. Holmes,” he replied, haltingly.

The cadence and hesitation of his words were so familiar to Danny, the pause of a genius mind who was use to carefully weighing every word he spoke. That was a significant distinction between the two brilliant minds currently occupying 221B. One reserved, soft spoken and quiet more often than not; and the other, whose brain to mouth filter was frequently broken, rambunctious, and deafening on a daily basis, though he too was often silent when walking the halls of his Mind Palace.

After a lengthy pause, in which Sherlock’s eyebrow continued to rise, Alex continued, “Yes, James Carlisle the head of the Secret Services came soon after I was brought to the house. He wanted me to finish my lingual encryption work for him. Then I didn’t see him again until about a week ago, though I’m unsure of the date. Time had no meaning in that room.”

Pulling a stitch tight, John said, “That was around the time Danny came to see us.”

“You refused to do his bidding,” Sherlock stated.

“No, I complied,” Alex returned, taking a sip of his tea.

Danny said, “But, you told us that the work was all rubbish!”

Sweeping a hand down Danny’s back, Alex’s lips curved softly. “It was. I finished, but it’s all up here,” he said, tapping his forehead. “He wouldn’t know that the maths I was doing were wrong or right. I did get the sense that the woman knew I was stalling, and I figure she finally told him.”

“What did he want, Alex?” John asked, taping a dressing over Sherlock’s wound.

“He threatened to kill Danny if I didn’t give him the completed work within the week,” Alex murmured, his breaths hitching. Alex took his hand again, gazing down as his fingers softly played with Danny’s. “I couldn’t let him have it, and there was no way out of that room. I tried many times to get away; they finally resorted to cuffing me to the wall a few months ago. I’ve been frantic the last few days trying to figure a way out.”

“Hmmf!” Sherlock’s reply was muffled under John’s hand.

“Sherlock,” John chided, unmoved by Sherlock’s glower above his hand. “Think about it for a second.”

Those opal eyes expanded, and he gave his friend a slow blink. John removed his palm with a nod, “Go get another shirt on.”

It took Danny a few moments watching the exchange before he realized what Sherlock was probably going to blurt out. Alex didn’t need to know right now that Danny had almost been killed a few days ago. The emotional upheaval of finally being out of that prison was going to be hard enough on his lover. There was going to be a lot of talking in the days to come, many things his lover would have to be told. Danny was determined to make sure Alex would be well enough mentally to handle the many revelations that would come. He was also resolved that he, not Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock, John, or anyone else would be the one to tell him what had been happening during his captivity. Alex deserved to hear the truth from him, and him alone. The lies, the subterfuge were finally over.

Chapter 7:

Alex was bathed in the golden glow of the late afternoon sun coming from the window; the door’s quiet click shutting behind him sent Danny’s heart skipping in his chest for a few beats. They were finally alone, and it wasn’t a dream. Alex was here, alive and whole. The miracle of it was surreal after so long, the anguish of the last months were still close to the surface. His dreams would change now, he hoped. The recurring images of imagining his love trapped, dying in that trunk, would be the last vestige of this horrible business, though Danny knew he’d never let those images fully burn away from his mind’s eye. They would be there, deep within his mind, a reminder that sometimes things were not as they seemed.

Danny took Alex’s trembling hands in his. They reminded him of the first night they’d been together. Of Alex’s trepidation at being intimate, their talk in the bath of his decision to be alone. Alex had been alone for months, and Danny desperately wanted to assuage that loneliness again. Their foreheads met, and Danny’s eyes closed, it was sublime to feel the heat of Alex’s skin against his own. They stood quietly basking in each other’s presence with the sun heating the backs of their necks.

He pulled back after a time, Alex’s eyes were damp with unshed tears and Danny took in the planes and angles of his face. He smiled softly, admiring Alex’s prominent nose, he’d missed seeing that Roman nose. Lifting himself up on his tiptoes, he brushed his lips against Alex’s. A first kiss, soft and chaste, much like their first kiss in his messy bedroom, the first night they’d been together.

Alex deepened the kiss pulling him close, almost frenzied, with his large hands clutching in his hair and Danny melted into the passion of it. The familiar taste and scent of Alex in his mouth and nose caused him to sag against his lover, and the relief of being in Alex’s arms, of feeling that heartbeat against his own was overwhelming.

Alex pulled back with a gasp, burying his face in the join of Danny’s neck, embracing him tighter. Tears started to burn behind Danny’s eyes at the damp feel of Alex’s against his skin.

“I missed you so much, Danny,” he whispered. Alex’s breaths were hitching, his body trembling under Danny’s palms and his own tears silently fell at his lover’s words.

Danny tightened his arms around his beloved. “I missed you too, more than you know. I love you.”

He pulled Alex away a bit and wiped the tears from those sharp cheekbones before gently leading him to Sherlock’s bed. They tangled together face to face, sharing a pillow and Danny’s hand slid under the back of Alex’s t-shirt. The grounding of his lover’s warm skin covering the hard muscles underneath was a balm, more evidence that Alex was here with him, alive and unharmed.

Alex was delicately touching the tips of his fingers over Danny’s forehead, eyelids, cheeks, and lips, those dark blue eyes following the workings of his digits mapping Danny’s face. They curved around his ear, then held for a moment on the pulse point of his neck.

The tickling caress of Alex’s fingers pulling out the cylinder from around Danny’s neck kept him still for his lover’s study.

“You found it,” Alex said, testing the weight of the piece.

“That night, I found the body. I remembered what you told me,” Danny replied.

“What’s happened to you, Danny?” he asked. “Tell me… everything.”

Searching Alex’s eyes, Danny knew that what he had to tell him would be crushing, and he could only hope his lover could handle the truth of what had been done.

“Did you know… how dangerous your work was,” he asked. “Did you know, you were in danger?”

Alex pressed his forehead against Danny’s when he replied, “I was doing my job. I’m a cryptographer, and I knew that my research would be dangerous in the wrong hands, but I never imagined that it would be so alarming that it would be taken by force, or covered up.”

“Sherlock believes Francis told the wrong person about it,” Danny said, haltingly. “That she was desperate to regain her position in MI5, and made the mistake of trusting Carlisle with the information.”

“That seems a logical assumption,” Alex sighed. “My stepmother’s ambition was always evident, what she wanted from me was always on the surface of our interactions. I should’ve realized I couldn’t trust her with the knowledge of what I was doing. I’m so sorry I had to lie to you, Danny. I couldn’t tell you who I worked for, and as far as my parental situation goes, Francis and her husband were for all intents and purposes dead to me by the time I met you.”

“None of this is your fault, Alex,” Danny said with a squeeze of his lover’s hand. “I know you wanted to tell me, that’s enough. But, I don’t want there to be any secrets between us in the future. I know you can’t necessarily talk with me about your work, not that I’d understand it anyway, but if there comes a time when you think there is danger coming, I need you to tell me from now on.”

“I promise you, I won’t keep you in the dark any longer,” he replied, fierce. “The Official Secrets Act be damned. I know I can trust you with anything, Danny.”

“Thank you,” he whispered. “I need to tell you everything, but I need you to know that Francis is dead, they murdered her in front of me two months ago.”

Alex’s eyes closed tight for a moment, before he captured Danny’s gaze with his own. “Start at the beginning.”

The words came slowly. The weight of them pressing, and lingering, in the air above and between them. Danny started with the night Alex didn’t answer his door, taking him through everything, his investigation, the HIV diagnosis, the meeting with Shaw, Scottie’s involvement and death, and ending with his decision to go to Sherlock with his case. It took hours to go over everything; Alex was horrified at what had been done to Danny, and grief stricken for him at the death of his best friend. Words of apology tumbled continuously from his lover’s lips, and Danny tried to keep Alex’s guilt at bay throughout the telling. Alex had nothing to feel guilty about; his work might have been the catalyst for the events, but none of it was Alex’s fault, regardless. He didn’t think he was very successful conveying that, since he’d been unable to stop intermittently crying during parts of the tale. They were both victims, and he knew it would take time for them to accept what had been done.

Their voices were both hoarse by the time Danny had finished. He’d yet to tell Alex about almost being executed by Mary, but that information could wait for another day. Alex still had to debrief with his employers, and they needed to find out what course of actions were going to be taken. Justice was still pending, and they both agreed to work together to make sure the whole thing wasn’t covered up by Mycroft and his people.

They were practically nesting in each other’s skin; so close with little air between their bodies. Danny could see that Alex’s mind was racing with all that he’d been told. That internal focus hadn’t changed, and Danny smiled at the thought of having his distracted genius back in his life.

Alex’s eyes came back into focus on him as he said, “The escort listed on the wall. He told you he’d taken me back to his place for sex. It’s not true, Danny. I’ve only ever been with you. He was a waiter at the restaurant, and he did spill a drink on me, but I just went home to change. He didn’t remind me of you at all. I have never wanted to be with anyone else but you.”

“The whole time he was telling me about his night with you,” Danny smiled before softly kissing the side of Alex’s nose. “All I could think was that he was lying, that what he was telling me couldn’t be true. It wasn’t you he was describing at all.”

He received a soft, relieved smile in return, then Alex nuzzled closer playing with Danny’s hair at the back of his head. Danny just breathed his lover in, peaceful and quiet together, enjoying the soft touches he’d missed so much.

“I’m sorry I ever told you to see other people,” he said, one of the regrets he’d had since Alex’s disappearance was pushing him to be with another. Alex was hard to get to know, so introverted and silent, but he shouldn’t have let his own lack of confidence creep between them. “I was just worried you were settling on me. I’ll never be able to keep up with you intellectually, and was worried you’d get bored with me. I’m not very interesting in the big scheme of things.”

Alex cupped Danny’s cheeks between his palms, his eyes earnest, and not a little bit desperate when he said, “Danny, you are my first in everything. The first person I’ve been in a relationship with. The first person who’s accepted my strangeness without reservation. You’re the first person to really care about me, to understand me. Even my own biological mother wasn’t able to do that.”

Danny’s chest clenched at his lover’s words, and the tight feeling continued to build when Alex continued, “Shaw was wrong, that you had no concept of whom I was intellectually. You knew, even if it was only instinctive, and it didn’t matter to you. My intellect is part of who I am, but it’s just a part of me. You saw the rest of me when no one else did, and that’s what mattered the most.”

Alex kissed him softly, murmuring against his lips, “I don’t need you to keep up with my mind. You’ve given me warmth and light in my life. I never lonely when I’m with you, even when I get lost in my head and we’re not talking.”

“You saw me too,” Danny replied, hushed the tension in his chest easing. “I’ve always surrounded myself with people, but none of them looked beyond the surface. You did the day we met, and I can’t regret that regardless of what’s been done to us. But from now on, if there’s a problem we’ll deal with it together. Yes?”

Alex’s fingers were supple running down the side of Danny’s face. “Yes, we’ll deal with it together,” he smiled.

He could tell Alex was as tired as he was. The emotional upheaval of the day was catching up with them, but Danny wasn’t ready to fall asleep yet. He just wanted to stare at his lover a bit longer, and Alex seemed to feel the same. It was quiet in the room, just the shift and press of their bodies cuddling. The mingling of their breathing, and the low murmurs of John and Sherlock talking in the other room the only sounds to break the muted silence. For the moment, all was right in Danny’s world, and he savored the feeling.

“You’re not smoking,” Alex rumbled in his ear.

“No,” Danny smiled. “I quit about six weeks ago. Everything was so out of control, and it was the one thing I could control, so I quit cold turkey.”

“I didn’t mind it, you know,” Alex replied.

“I know, but it’s not healthy. I do miss it, and I’ll probably fall off the wagon more than once until it sticks,” he said with a wiry smile.

Alex let out a small-pleased sound, “I love you.”

“I love you too. Tomorrow we stick together,” Danny replied capturing Alex’s eyes. “We stay together and I don’t care if Mycroft Holmes and the intelligence services like it or not.”

Alex lips curled, “Protecting me?”

“After everything that’s been done to you, you need it, love,” Danny stated.

Alex pulled him in close, taking Danny’s lips in a heated kiss. Danny figured they were in agreement of the plan, and he let the passion of the kiss take him away.

****

His shoulder ached, and John wouldn’t give him anything stronger than Paracetamol for it. Though, anything stronger would affect his ability to think, so he’d not protested as loudly as he could have. His bare toes were warming by the fire, when John handed him a glass of scotch. After being in his Mind Palace for a few hours, the burn of the drink was welcome. All of the details of the case were finally organized, and scenarios for taking Carlisle into custody with the evidence they currently had were ready. Not that Mycroft would need it, but Sherlock preferred to be prepared in any case.

It had been going on early evening by the time Sherlock emerged from his mind. He’d been able to sneak in his bedroom for his pajamas and dressing gown, and if he was honest with himself, to check that Danny and Alex were all right. They’d been sound asleep, wrapped in each other’s arms on top the bedclothes. The sight of them like that was beautiful, and Sherlock hovered a bit over them, wondering what it would be like to do that with John.

Focusing on his flatmate sitting across from him, he asked, “Where have you been?”

“Getting Mrs. Hudson up to speed on the case,” he smiled.

“Gossiping,” Sherlock stated with a wave.

John snorted, amused before sipping his drink. After John’s strop about Sherlock’s injury was appeased, he’d settled down to his normal, affable self. Sherlock had had time to review their confrontation with Mary in the ensuing hours, and he couldn’t get a read on John’s feelings about her declaration that John was in love with him. It was grating that his intellect often failed him when faced with the gentler emotions; he was much better with understanding the darker elements of the human psyche.

John seemed perfectly content and at peace sitting across from Sherlock enjoying the quiet in front of the fire. It was annoying. Sherlock watched John watching his uncontrollable fidgeting, his lips curving into a delighted smile, entertained by Sherlock’s discomfort.

“Are we going to talk about what Mary said!” he erupted, irritated.

“Yes,” John’s said, his grin reaching epic proportions.

Sherlock squirmed when John remained silent, just staring with those dark blue eyes bright in the firelight.

Gulping down the last of his drink, he plunked the glass sharply on the table beside him. Frowning he caved under the pressure, bursting out, “Well? Are you in love with me or not?”

He just wanted to sink into a black hole to disappear, with his brain to mouth filter on the fritz as usual. God, John made him a complete idiot sometimes. It was horrible.

“She was right,” John replied, sober. “I love you, and I’ve been in love with you for a long time. I just buried it, didn’t think of it, because I didn’t believe you felt the same. Even when I thought you were dead, I couldn’t recognize my feelings, and still function.”

Sherlock sprawled back into his chair, his tension released at his friend’s words.

“I do love you too, John,” Sherlock confessed, still exasperated. “I’ve been in love with you for ages.”

John’s eyes were crinkling in the corners with his smile. It was much too attractive in Sherlock’s view, no wonder John’s bed was only cold when he wanted it to be. Though, John’s humor at the situation was disturbing in Sherlock’s opinion. At least he finally knew that his blogger loved him back. Sherlock was determined not to become a lovesick wreck, or at least not on the outside. Mycroft’s glee when he found out Sherlock was finally in a relationship, with feelings and sentiment, was going to be colossal. He did not look forward to that day. Well, if John actually wanted a romantic relationship with him, of course.

“So… ,” John said.

Sherlock raised a brow, “So?”

John rested his cheek on his fist, curiosity alight in his gaze, smiling. That smile was going to kill Sherlock one day. “Have you ever been in a relationship?”

“No… ,” Sherlock fretted, his toes started to wriggle on the carpet with his discomfort.

“Why not?” John asked, his brow raised. He wasn’t at all surprised, Sherlock deduced. Nor was he judgmental, as many individuals in his life had been when they found out.

“People are idiots, John,” Sherlock huffed, perturbed. “You know that, and I’ll admit I’m not the easiest person to be around.”

John snorted in agreement, “No you’re not, but you’re worth knowing, Sherlock. Have you never even considered it before now?”

John’s words made him warm inside, so he answered his friend honestly, “Once in university with a friend, Victor. He seemed to be a bit like you, tolerant of my behavior anyway. He appeared to like being around me, but none of it was true in the end. Luckily, I hadn’t gotten so far as to even share a kiss with him, before I ended our association.”

“You don’t want to talk about him, do you?” John asked, though his words were more a statement of fact than an actual question. John Watson knew him so well, it was at once wonderful and frightening.

“No,” he replied, looking into the fire. He’d not intended on saying anything further on the subject of Victor, but the words flowed regardless. “Perhaps one day.”

“Okay then,” John nodded.

They were silent for a little while, contemplative, but comfortable with each other. Sherlock was trying to work out what to ask next, not sure how to move the conversation forward without it being awkward for both of them. It was a losing battle in the end.

“Have you had a relationship with a man before?” he blurted. Obviously, talking about feelings was going to be a work in progress for him.

John looked down in his lap when he replied, “I’m no stranger to sex with men as a form of stress release and closeness, but… it’s been years.”

“I knew it! Afghanistan!” Sherlock interrupted.

He received an eye roll, as John persevered, “So no, not a proper relationship.”

“John… you know I’m not good at sentiment,” Sherlock said; he truly hated admitting to any failings, but knew he needed to be honest with John. “Intimate relations are foreign to me, and a romantic relationship, I’ll admit, is a bit daunting to contemplate. I’m sure I’ll be complete rubbish at it. I don’t want to change our friendship or damage it. It’s more important to me than you can possibly know.”

“Our friendship is important to me too, Sherlock,” John replied, clearing his throat. “Very important and it’s a bit too soon… after Mary for me. That doesn’t mean, I don’t want to give it a go though.”

“Oh good… good,” he exhaled, his diaphragm seemed to be in spasms at the moment, the fluttering of the muscles increasing the longer he sat under John’s gaze.

“We can take our time,” John said, his glittering stare laser sharp, gauging Sherlock’s response. “Go slow until we’re both comfortable, and ready to take that step.”

Sherlock relaxed at his friend’s words, though he did perceive a slight bit of disappointment when his stomach muscles relaxed as well. Not that he wanted to be ravished tonight, but perhaps a bit of affection wouldn’t be uncalled for. They would go slow, slow was good, and hopefully when the time came, Sherlock’s transport would cooperate enough to relax and not be too over stimulated. He didn’t want their first time to be a complete disaster, and that was unfortunately a possibility.

“Slow,” Sherlock agreed, contemplating the fire. “Slow is good.”

John rose from his chair with a contented air about him.

“Goodnight, Sherlock,” he murmured.

He turned to acknowledge the end of their conversation, and found Dr. John H. Watson’s lips pressed soft against his own. The kiss was chaste, but John’s lips were heated. Combined with the scent of his clean aftershave and the musk of his skin, Sherlock’s diaphragm clenched hard before releasing into ample, trembling vibrations.

John released his lips with a soft smile and hovered over him, blue eyes full of warmth running over Sherlock’s face.

“Fascinating,” Sherlock spouted.

Satisfied, John gave him a wink, and Sherlock admired the magnificent buttocks and form of his future lover retreating to bed. Fingers under his chin, hands pressed together, his lips curled, and he took himself to John’s room in his Mind Palace. Redbeard would no doubt be interested in recent developments, while Sherlock organized his memories. Perhaps he needed to expand John’s space to include a bedroom for future carnal activities?

****

“She wants to talk to John,” Mycroft said, coming up beside Sherlock.

He scoffed, “Well, John has no desire to speak with her.”

“Evident from his absence, I see,” Mycroft replied.

“The case is finished, and he was needed at Bart’s today,” he explained. Besides the color of her hair, Mary hadn’t changed in any other fashion, except the façade of the loving wife and friend was gone. Her face was like stone on the other side of the one-way glass, she was still, staring at the door to the interrogation room, waiting.

“She doesn’t have any leverage, so there’s no need for John to be involved with the interrogation,” Mycroft acknowledged. “The American’s are coming in to speak with her in a few days.”

“You’re not going to let them take her, are you?” Sherlock asked.

“No, she’ll stay in prison here, where I can keep an eye on her,” he answered.

Sherlock relaxed at his brother’s words, he didn’t trust anyone else to keep Mary contained. She was too talented an assassin to be given over to anyone else’s care, particularly the Americans.

“Any news on Carlisle?” he inquired.

Mycroft sighed, “He was found by his housekeeper an hour ago in his study, dead; suicide, or so it seems. My people are going over the scene now, I’ll know more in a few hours.”

“Well, with Alex’s extraction, he had to know we were closing in,” Sherlock stated. “It was only a matter of time.”

“Yes, and the money trail we’re following is exposing quite a few of his dealings,” Mycroft replied, his voice laced with smug satisfaction. Sherlock was just happy that it wasn’t directed at him, yet. “We’ve found links to a number of Moriarty associates within his former human trafficking rings. It’ll take time to untangle everything, but with Mr. Turner’s help, the work will go much faster.”

“It seems Mary was telling the truth, with Moriarty’s network in disarray, he was probably concerned his involvement could be exposed at some point,” Sherlock murmured.

“Yes, obviously your little two-year mission tipped him off a bit,” he replied. “Chief Superintendent Campbell was being blackmailed. He wasn’t corrupt initially, but the threat of exposure of an affair with a minor kept him in line. He’s been removed from his post, and is being assessed for prosecution.”

“John will be pleased,” Sherlock smirked. “How’s the debrief with Alex and Danny going?”

Mycroft frowned, “Mr. Turner just finished his statement, and currently Mr. Holt is going through his.” His brother pinched the bridge of his nose, huffing in frustration. It pleased Sherlock to no end to see the annoyance pouring out of Mycroft. “Mr. Holt is an aggressive fellow when a loved one is in danger. He outright refused to separate from Mr. Turner, so they’re giving their statements together. And his rebellious behavior seems to be rubbing off on Mr. Turner, as well. The pair of them are stuck like glue to each other.”

“Can you blame them, Mycroft?” Sherlock smiled.

“No, their behavior is not surprising,” he replied.

“Thank you for giving him the taser, by the way,” Sherlock said.

“Well, he took out one of my most highly skilled agents with a sucker punch to the bollocks,” he replied, shaking his head in amazement. A low cuckle escaped Sherlock, he’d not known about that and couldn’t wait to give John the news. “There was no way to keep him from going in, and I couldn’t give him a gun. He’s never even touched one before, and could’ve shot you by accident.”

Sherlock sobered, “What will happen with Alex’s research?”

“He’ll continue his work with GCHQ, it’s too valuable a tool not to let him complete it,” Mycroft voiced. “I’ll bring the situation to the committee, and we’ll put together a team with members from all the agencies under Mr. Turner’s supervision. It cannot be misused, so checks and balances will be put into place. Mr. Turner will report directly to the committee on the project.”

“Good, and MI5?” he asked.

“I currently have the Chief of Staff in place to take over as the new head,” he frowned. “She’s come up clean so far, but I’ll keep an eye on it, and my people are working to ferret out any others involved with Carlisle’s activities. We’ll get it cleaned up properly.”

Sherlock knew his brother would get it all sorted. It’s what Mycroft did, and his talents were the reason he was practically The British Government. At least, Danny and Alex, and even himself and John, could put this nasty business behind them. It was a relief to see Mary in custody, the specter of her would no longer hover over 221B Baker Street.

“How will you spin the news of Alex’s return from the dead?” Sherlock asked; the horde of journalists camping outside the flat was annoying.

“I think it should come from you, Sherlock,” Mycroft replied. Surprised, Sherlock took in the contemplative light in his brother’s eyes. “With Carlisle dead, and a public trial unnecessary, I believe we can say that Mr. Turner came across some information about Carlisle’s financial dealings with the baddies.”

“Baddies? Mycroft?” Sherlock needled.

Mycroft gave him a sniff, “Well, it’s a term Mr. Holt used a number of times during our time together in the surveillance van. Anyway… we can spin the purpose of Mr. Turner’s abduction, so that it looks like Carlisle wanted him to use his encryption talents to hide the money trail of his dealings. That way, Mr. Holt gets the basis of the truth out to the public, without exposing Mr. Turner’s real work.”

“Clever,” he said with a raised brow. He’d give a statement to the barbarian horde, with John at his side tonight. Get the ball rolling, and keep the vultures at bay for Danny and Alex.

They watched as two interrogators entered the room, Mary’s demands to see John Watson getting shriller the longer they ignored her request.

“She seems very amorous about John for a psychopath,” Mycroft stated.

“Hmmm,” Sherlock agreed. “I think John’s talents at coitus can be blamed for her obsession.”

Mycroft snorted and tapped his umbrella. A distraction when he asked, “Did you and John discuss Mary’s revelations?”

“Yes,” he muttered. Mycroft’s smug face was irritating, as was Sherlock’s uncontrollable blush. His transport always seemed to fail him whenever John was involved.

His cheeks got even hotter when Mycroft said, “Mummy and daddy will be so pleased.”

“Mycroft!” Sherlock erupted, horrified. “Don’t you dare tell them anything!”

“Oh, I won’t… until the time is right,” he said with a wink.

****

Danny slipped off his trainers, after disarming his new state of the art alarm system. Mycroft’s people had installed it, and any alerts would go straight to his offices and to Danny, Alex, and Sherlock’s mobile phones. Following his lover into the house proper, he was relieved to see that Mycroft’s people had done a great job of setting the house to rights since the break in. He’d been assured that all of Carlisle’s surveillance equipment had been removed as well, though, just to be on the safe side, he had decided to get Sherlock to snoop about the place soon.

They were finally alone, after days of being around so many people. Of course they’d had some quiet time in Sherlock’s bedroom, but neither of them had been ready to be more intimate at the time, and weren’t comfortable to do more than share some soft kisses in Sherlock’s bed. Danny knew they’d both needed the time to just be together again, and in between the stress of debriefing and dealing with the press, it had been wonderful to be with Alex again.

Alex was perusing the living room, taking in everything in his quiet way.

“If you’re not comfortable here, we don’t have to stay,” Danny said.

Raising his hand to Danny, Alex smiled softly, “I’m fine, I don’t really care where I am, as long as I’m with you.”

Danny allowed himself to be pulled into Alex’s arms, sighing against the skin of his lover’s neck, basking in the closeness of Alex’s strong body wrapped around him. Large hands in his hair tugged him up for a kiss, and Danny gave himself over to it, finally free to fully express his desire. Supple and sure, Alex deepened his kiss, capturing Danny’s tongue, worrying his top lip, pulling Danny in closer to feel his want, to feel the passion Alex had for him. It made Danny feel alluring that he could make such a hyperactive mind slow enough to embrace the carnal nature of the body under it’s control. It was incredibly arousing.

They were both panting softly, breathing in each other’s hot breaths when they separated minutely.

“I want you so much, Danny,” Alex whispered, and a shiver ran through Danny’s frame at that low voiced rumble.

Smiling softly, he took Alex’s hand, “Come on.”

The afternoon light bathed the warm wood of Danny’s modern styled bedroom in golden tones. Alex barely took the furnishings in before taking Danny’s lips again in a fevered kiss. They were both hard and the feel of his lover’s heated cock against his own sent a thrill of lust clenching low in Danny’s groin. Alex’s large hands grasped his buttocks, pulling him in tight, the rub of their hot flesh caused Danny to arch and gasp. Suckling kisses made their way down his throat, and the pleasure of it had him mindlessly squirming in Alex’s arms.

Pulling back in concert, they fumbled with each other’s clothes, desperate. Alex’s eyes were black, pupils blown taking in Danny, who could only imagine that he was a mess of wild hair and flushed cheeks to his lover’s eyes. Alex lost a few buttons on his shirt in Danny’s desperation, but finally seeing the beautiful porcelain skin of his broad chest, having it under his palms, was worth a few buttons in Danny’s view. His own jumper fared no better with a loud rip up the side from Alex’s frenzy.

“Sorry, sorry,” he panted.

“Don’t care,” Danny murmured against a pink nipple, before taking the bud into his mouth. Alex arched, his hands buried themselves in Danny’s hair, tugging desperately.

Danny smoothed his hands over the front of Alex’s trousers, taking in the feel of his erection, the heat and breadth of it so welcome after so long. Opening the flies quickly followed and soon, Alex was bare from head to toe, and Danny couldn’t stop his hands from smoothing over all of that warm, living skin, lingering on his lover’s beautiful ribs, flanks, and thighs.

“Fuck! Danny,” Alex swore.

He couldn’t help the giggle that escaped him at hearing his proper genius boyfriend’s rare profanity. His laughter was silenced by Alex’s lips pressing hard with frustrated ardor against his. Danny enjoyed the sweltering heat of it. He gasped as Alex picked him up by his flanks and bore him down onto the bed, blanketing his body with his own hard, muscled form. He cradled his lover with his slim hips, humping up senseless against that hot naked cock, pulling Alex down hard, with his hands full of firm, smooth buttocks. Danny just wanted to devour Alex, he was so desperate with his cock and skin tingling, with the pulsing pressure of release building in his core.

“Enough,” Alex yelled hoarsely, pulling away and pressing Danny’s wrists to the bed beside his head. Despite mewling in protest at the restraints, Danny’s want became almost unbearable, gazing at the fierce desire on Alex’s face. It was the hottest thing he’d ever seen. Alex was flushed red down past his chest, holding Danny’s uncontrollable writhing form down and away from him. He’s so beautiful, Danny thought. Pressing his wrists hard, Alex ordered, “Stay… stay.”

Danny took some deep breaths and nodded, relaxing, though, the unconscious twisting of his hips couldn’t be stopped. Alex kissed him softly again, before releasing him to move down to address the issue of Danny’s trousers and socks. The rest of his clothes were skimmed off, and the cool air washing over his prick made him bow off the bed under Alex’s gaze.

“You’re so beautiful, Danny,” Alex said, hushed. Crawling up from the bottom of the bed, his lips brought supple, feathery touches brushing up Danny’s thighs.He squeaked a bit when his balls were nuzzled and sucked into a hot mouth, and he had to pull his lover away from his aching flesh with his hands.

Panting, he growled, “I love you, but if you make me come before you’re in me, I’ll be very cross with you!”

Alex’s smile was carefree as he moved up to kiss the pout off of Danny’s lips. They pulled and shoved each other fully on the bed, their goal difficult to reach with more deep kisses exchanged between them. Danny finally pulled away to fumble in his bedside drawer for the necessities, and had to close his eyes to concentrate on finding them when his nipple was captured for a hard suck.

He took Alex’s mouth again, smoothing his hand over his lover’s prick, the skin soft and flushed a rosy hue under his fingers. Alex had one of the prettiest cocks Danny had ever seen, and he’d seen a lot. Sizable and perfect for sucking, Danny had a lot of plans for that gorgeous prick later, but right now he just wanted to have Alex inside him. A more leisurely and sensual fucking could happen later. They had time now.

Alex groaned in his ear, giving him a lovely nip to the neck, responding to Danny’s strokes on his cock and balls. Danny smoothed the condom on, so ready to have Alex he’d forgotten the lube until the coolness of the slick was brushed over his hole. Two fingers breached him in quick succession, and the burn of it was delightful. Panting, he laid back under his lover, watching Alex watching him. The brush of fingers against his prostate sent him almost to the edge with a gasp, the sharp pleasure of it rippling inside and out.

“I’m ready… ready,” Danny murmured, pulling Alex in for another kiss, spreading his legs wide and high along his lover’s sides. Danny clutch Alex’s bum at the feel of the blunt pressure of his lover’s cock against his hole, urging him inside.

They both cried out at the breaching, Alex delving deep into Danny with one smooth thrust. His hands were in Danny’s dark locks, his body undulating, moving smoothly in and out. It was divine, the pressure of release building, the fullness inside combined with the slick of his pre-cum smoothing the rub of his cock against Alex’s hard stomach. Murmurs of loving words were in Danny’s ears, in between the warm wetness of Alex’s mouth on his. The relief of feeling Alex in his arms, in his body, was building in time with the aching climax that was soon to come. Danny could feel the burn of tears in his eyes, the wet heat of them running down his temples.

It didn’t matter that they weren’t going to last, just having the taste of Alex in his mouth, the sweet, sweat sheen musk of his skin in his nose, and that hard muscled form surrounding him, in him, was enough.

Epilogue:

A screeching violin, accompanied by the clattering buzz of Danny’s mobile, woke him abruptly from a sound sleep.

Fumbling to grasp the menace at his bedside, he groaned, “I really need to change that text alert.”

“Hmmm,” was Alex’s sleepy reply, as he wrapped a strong arm around Danny’s waist, pulling him close.

“He does realize I live in Hempstead Heath,” he huffed, blinking at the bright screen. “And that it’s four in the bloody morning.”

Alex’s only reply was to start playing with the fuzzy trail of hair below Danny’s belly button. Danny relaxed against his bedmate, smiling. Alex had always had an obsession with the downy hair below his navel, often playing with it absentmindedly while he got lost in his head when they were lounging together.

Crime scene, British Library, 96 Euston Rd. 30 minutes. SH

4:05 AM, Wed, June 16
FROM: SH

“John at Bart’s today?” Alex muttered, smoothing his lips over Danny’s nape. “No classes for you today?”

He smiled, “It’s funny how you can remember all sorts of things that have to do with numbers, but my class schedule is beyond you.”

Alex’s ‘sorry’ was followed with a soft kiss on his cheek. Danny rolled over grinning at his lover’s sleepy face.

“Don’t be, it’s cute,” he replied, thumbing a quick response.

1 hour
4:08 AM, Wed. June 16
TO: SH

Danny kissed the sweet curl at the corner Alex’s lip, snuggling closer. The squalling violin immediately interrupted Danny’s contemplation of five more minutes of snuggling.

30 Minutes. Bring realistic representations of the human penis for oral intercourse instruction. SH
4:08 AM, Wed. June 16
FROM: SH

“Good lord,” Danny raised a brow at the order, showing Alex the text. “Sherlock’s going to make me go dildo shopping for him. He must think we have a whole array of sex toys in the house. No doubt, we’ll sit down at the kitchen table so I can instruct him on the proper techniques of giving a good blowjob, while Mrs. Hudson serves us tea.”

“Well, it would be unseemly for Sherlock Holmes to be photographed in a sex shop purchasing the phallic equivalent of John’s penis,” Alex laughed. “Besides, you’re an excellent teacher.”

Danny smirked, his thumbs stroking over the screen. Alex’s phrasing was classic.

Need dimensions of subject to get an accurate phallic representation.
4:09 AM, Wed. June 16
TO: SH

He cut off the third screech before it got too far into its rendition of a caterwauling cat.

20.32 cm in length, 5.08 cm thick. SH
4:09 AM, Wed. June 16
FROM: SH

Danny’s eyes widened, he showed Alex the screen. His lover’s startled raised brow made him grin.

Lucky Boy!
4:09 AM, Wed. June 16
TO: SH

The courtship of Sherlock Holmes had taken almost six months of negotiations, or more rightly, six months of the seductive powers of Dr. John H. Watson, to calm Sherlock’s nerves about the physical aspects of a romantic relationship. Danny and Alex, with Mrs. Hudson ‘in cahoots’—as Sherlock bemoaned—had watched the pair’s relationship progress, occasionally offering their ‘unsolicited’ advice when they felt the need. The doctor and the detective were still the best of friends, Sherlock was still hard to handle most of the time, and John still had the patience of a saint. The warmth of their friendship was ever present, but with subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, gestures of affection becoming effortless between them. Neither of the pair would ever be as open about kissing or holding hands around others, as Danny was with Alex, but Danny found the soft skim of Sherlock’s fingers along John’s nape or the affectionate squeeze of John’s honey toned hand on one of Sherlock’s big bare porcelain feet—when he was in a strop on the sofa—quite erotic to glimpse.

The week prior Danny had had the pleasure of being present for the aftermath of the sexual consummation of John and Sherlock’s relationship. It still made him smile to remember Sherlock’s wild hair and sleepy countenance flopping face first with a groan on the sofa, Danny and Mrs. Hudson’s morning chat interrupted by a petulant order for tea, emphasized with a languidly waving hand. John had come out of Sherlock’s bedroom shortly after, though he was bright eyed, showered, and shaved, with a bounce in his step. Grabbing a quick cup of tea to take with him to Bart’s, he’d given the pair of them a wink, and with a final caress to Sherlock’s foot, had headed out the door. It had taken quite a bit of time before Sherlock was fully coherent, after his first night with John in his bed, to get back to their current case. Though, his sloth-like state had given Danny ample time to organize his case notes, and finish up his guest post for John’s blog, while he waited.

The violin interrupted his cuddling again, and with a sigh he fished his mobile out of the bedclothes.

Tell Alex, Thai Food, 7:00 Baker Street. We’ll be working late.
4:20 AM, Wed. June 16
FROM: SH

“It’s for you,” he grumbled, handing Alex the phone.

Giving Danny’s bottom a soft rub, Alex grinned, “Come on you, grab a shower while I get the coffee and breakfast going. I can drop you off, with plenty of time to come back home to get ready for the day.”

Danny groaned as his space heater left their warm bed, but the view of Alex’s splendid posterior helped to pull him out of his nest.

****

The lights of the police cars reflected off of the yellow tape cordoning off the entrance to the library in the early morning mists. Danny could only assume the crime scene was actually inside the massive building. DC Donovan and the ginger haired crime scene tech Anderson were waiting by the tape. Danny didn’t see Sherlock, being summer the detective’s cape-like coat was in the wardrobe for the duration, so the flare of the fabric that usually helped him to locate his friend in the melee was absent.

“I’ll see you later tonight,” Alex said, his blue eyes were soft, caressing Danny’s face. “Have fun today, but be careful.”

“I will,” Danny smiled, content.

He had a home, a direction in his life now that he’d never had before. He still missed Scottie terribly, but Alex’s willingness to listen to Danny’s stories of his time with Scottie helped to soften the grief he was still dealing with. He had new close friends in John and Sherlock, he was learning a lot about investigative techniques as an assistant to them on their cases, and he was enjoying his part-time studies at the university immensely. Though, Sherlock’s derision at Danny’s choices to study creative writing and poetry, aka ‘the humanities’, was epic on a regular basis. Like John, he knew the detective was all bluster most of the time, and quoted poetry to Sherlock in retaliation when needed.

And he had Alex. Their relationship was all that he’d hoped for in those first few days, the first blush of possible romance he’d expounded about to Scottie. It wasn’t all sweetness and light, of course. Like any couple, they had to work to communicate, particularly when Alex got a bit too immersed in his head, but they were both willing to work on it. And it pleased him, and was a bit of a relief, that he was no longer Alex’s only friend. John and Danny’s two geniuses had become quite close in the ensuing months, bonding over all sorts of things Danny couldn’t comprehend. They were two very different personalities, but similar in many ways too. Sherlock’s irascible nature helped to bring Alex out of his silent shell. Their chess battles had become legend in 221B Baker Street, with neither of them actually winning a game yet.

His lips met Alex’s soft and supple, a ‘have a good day’ kiss.

A sharp knock on the window from an agitated detective interrupted them. “Danny! Stop snogging your husband, we have a case!”

They grinned against each other, pulling back Danny said, “Good morning, Sherlock.”

All he received in response was a huff, and Sherlock’s back, as he swirled to stalk back to the crime scene. Sherlock’s swirling was definitely less dramatic without his coat, Danny thought, chuckling.

Alex’s grin was that lovely, little curling, sedate smile that Danny knew meant his love was laughing hard inside.

Cupping his husband’s cheek, he said, “I love you, see you later?”

“Seven o’clock Thai food at Baker Street,” Alex acknowledge, pulling Danny in for one last kiss.

He was loved, truly for the first time in his life and it was glorious.

The End.

_______________________________________________________________________

Find My Love was written during the April 2016 Rough Trade Writing Challenge, hosted by Keira Marcos.

My thanks to the lovely and talented, xphil98197 for beta’ing my work.

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