Title: Semper Fidelis
Rating: Probably an R
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Angst, partner betrayal, PTSD in this chapter.
Summary: Written for a kinkmeme prompt: Moriarty frames John and "Anthea" of betrayals which cause both of the Holmes brothers to cut them off. Cue BAMF!John and BAMF!"Anthea" doing their best to clear their names. Both het and slash; Mycroft/Anthea and John/Sherlock.
(Title page by mabivia)
Anthea woke to the smell of frying fat. She blinked as she sat up, taking note of the position of the sun through a slit in her curtains –she’d slept late, though considering what time she’d fallen asleep, that wasn’t much of a surprise.
She stretched, finger-combed her hair into something approximating an orderly state, and ambled into the kitchen. John was at the stove, bent over a frying pan, and looked up as she entered.
“Figured you’d be waking up soon,” he grinned. “You had eggs, and your bacon was still in date, so…”
“It smells wonderful,” Anthea said. “I’ll get out the plates.”
They ate at the small table, and Anthea wondered if she was the only one chewing slowly in an effort to prolong John’s stay. She didn’t think so, because even after he’d finished eating, John made no move to put his plate away, just crossed his cutlery and drummed his fingers on the edge of the table.
“You know you need to leave at some point,” Anthea said, just because she thought they were both in danger of forgetting, of making excuses for John to stay just one more night. Which would become another day, then another week, and before they knew it they’d be unable to function without each other.
“I know,” John sighed. “I need to see Harry, and that’s just for starters.”
Anthea nodded. John had called Harry after they’d been released from the hospital – a very short conversation that had consisted of him telling her that they weren’t fugitives any longer, that he was okay, and he’d explain everything when he got back to London.
Anthea didn’t envy him the visit.
“And then it’s back to…” John trailed off and shrugged, letting the gesture indicate Baker Street, Sherlock, and everything that involved.
“Do you think your stuff’s still there?” Anthea asked – not to be spiteful, but because she was genuinely curious.
“If he’s thrown any of my clothes out, he can buy me new ones,” John huffed. “God knows he must be wealthy enough, if he can hand over a thousand pounds with no notice.”
He sounded rather bitter, and even though she knew he hadn’t meant it as a slight, Anthea felt the sting of his words. Sherlock had given John money from his own pocket, while Mycroft hadn’t even bothered to give her a gun.
Granted, she had her own funds and her own weapons, but it still rankled.
“I’m surprised he didn’t show up on the doorstep this morning to drag you back,” she made herself quip. “He did know you were only planning on staying one night, didn’t he? Or did he turn up while I was asleep and you chased him away?”
John shook his head. “Sherlock didn’t come – he hasn’t even texted. It means he’s definitely feeling guilty, because the only time he gives me space like this is when he knows he’s done something wrong.”
“I would have thought he’d be the type to pester you until you forgave him.”
“Actually he’s pretty good about giving me time to calm down. Probably because he knows I’m not going to listen to any apology otherwise.”
Anthea laughed, but it sounded forced even to her own ears. On the table, John’s hand curled into a light fist.
“I should probably get my things,” he muttered.
“Yeah,” Anthea sighed. “I’ll help you.”
John did his very best not to think of anything on the cab ride home – he didn’t usually approve of cabs when the tube would work just as well, but the thought of all those people around him, crowding him, pressing against him was just…no. Not happening.
He wondered idly how long it would be before he felt comfortable in a crowd again, before he wouldn’t feel the prickling need to look over his shoulder and ensure no one was following him.
He was reaching into his pocket automatically before it occurred to him that he didn’t have keys. He hoped the police hadn’t taken them, or if they had, that they’d be willing to give them back – it would be a bit of a bother to get new ones made.
Then John told himself to stop procrastinating and knocked on the door.
It opened so quickly John wondered if Sherlock had been lurking in the stairway, waiting for his knock.
“I don’t have keys,” John blurted. “Anymore. I don’t have keys anymore.”
Sherlock blinked, looking slightly bewildered, as if he’d been expecting John to say something very different. And just like that, everything suddenly teetered on the brink of becoming horribly awkward.
“John!” came a loud, utterly joyous explanation.
Sherlock was shoved to one side and then John found himself with an armful of Mrs Hudson and trying to quell the urge to shove her backwards.
Granted, he’d let Sherlock touch him, and he and Anthea had been practically draped over each other just last night…but he’d often initiated that contact, and when he hadn’t he’d at least been expecting it. This – sudden physical contact without invitation or signal – was making his spine stiffen like it was being torqued.
And it was Mrs Hudson, one of the few people he could pretty much guarantee wouldn’t hurt him. John breathed deeply and evenly, and made himself hug her back – at least that way he’d have some kind of control over it, and it did seem to dull the wild panic clawing at the back of his skull.
“I’m so glad you got that mess sorted out,” she said, drawing back and making a little fluttery motion with her hand that suggested she wanted to smooth John’s hair but was restraining herself. “And it’s good to see you’re not too badly off. Now maybe he’ll stop smoking.”
John was fighting the urge to grin – Mrs Hudson was taking it in stride, but then as long as it didn’t involve damage to her flat, the coming of the apocalypse probably wouldn’t make her turn a hair – until that last word.
“Smoking?” he echoed, glancing at Sherlock, who suddenly seemed very keen to avoid looking John in the eye.
“Oh yes, the whole flat stank of it, it was just awful,” Mrs Hudson nodded, with a certain gleam in her eyes that reminded John of Harry when she was deliberately getting him trouble. “But I’ll leave you to settle back in – have you got all your things back, yet?”
John knew that the police would probably have taken some of his belongings as evidence, maybe all of them, but he preferred not to think of their inevitable retrieval. It wasn’t that he bore Lestrade or any of them a grudge, not really – if the evidence had been good enough to fool Sherlock then it must have been masterfully done – but still, the thought of having to walk into New Scotland Yard to get his laptop and clothes back…
“They’re upstairs,” Sherlock said quietly. “I brought them back when…when it became clear they weren’t evidence of any crime.”
“Right.” That was one less thing to worry about, at least. “Um, thanks.”
Sherlock still wasn’t looking at him.
“I’m going to go upstairs,” John said at last.
Sherlock nodded curtly. “Fine. Good.”
“Sherlock…you’re standing in front of the stairs.”
Sherlock blinked, as though he honestly hadn’t realised that, and John heard Mrs Hudson giggle. Sherlock didn’t actually move, of course, just turned so John could slide past him and followed him up to the flat.
The flat looked...well, it looked hideous, but it was home, and there had been a time when John wasn’t sure he’d ever seen it again. Just crossing the threshold made something in him relax, and he took a moment to soak in all in. Even the lingering smell of cigarettes (which Sherlock seemed to have tried to cover by opening all the windows).
John rarely lay on the sofa – that was Sherlock’s ‘thing’, and John just didn’t have it in him to sprawl all over furniture like some prima donna – but this time, he wanted to indulge. To immerse himself in being back in England, in London, being home, after days of wondering if he’d live the rest of his life as a fugitive and then hours of thinking he wouldn’t have a ‘rest of his life’ and then two weeks of trying not to think about it at all. The leather sighed as he collapsed into it, the ceiling was still sporting that brown stain from some failed experiment Sherlock refused to tell him about and just for a moment, John could convince himself that all was right with the world.
He toed off his shoes and socks – he’d never been the kind of person who threw off their shoes as soon as they were through the doorway, but now he found he didn’t like wearing them, not when he didn’t have to. But then, razorblades in shoes were probably enough to put anyone off footwear for a while.
“You were tense,” Sherlock said quietly. “When she hugged you.”
He made his way to the window and stared down at the street, as though he suspected some horrible crime was taking place in the sandwich shop below.
“The brain’s not designed to forget pain,” John sighed. “He might have had me for only two hours-” he thought he saw Sherlock’s hand twitch at the word ‘only’, but he couldn’t be sure “-but trust me, I’ll be having nightmares about it for a long time yet.”
He shrugged, hearing the leather sofa squeak slightly against his shirt. Sherlock turned around, as though he was about to say something but then went suddenly still, the way he sometimes did when he had a revelation. John didn’t speak, wondering what stumbling block Sherlock’s mind had just leapt – he seemed to be staring at the end of the sofa, and John propped himself up on one elbow to try to see what had caught Sherlock’s attention.
Then he realised that Sherlock wasn’t staring at the sofa – he was staring at John’s feet and the prominent pink scars that crossed their soles.
Sherlock’s hand stretched out, like he wanted to touch John, but was waiting for some kind of permission.
“It could have been worse,” John said quietly. “If there’d been a sharper angle on the blades, they could have cut deep enough to damage my tendons, which would have meant lots of complicated surgery and months of recovery time.”
Sherlock swallowed, and the expression he was wearing was quite close to the lost, almost-hurt look he’d been wearing back when John was in the Swiss hospital. “John, I-”
“Oh god, stop being so apologetic,” John groaned. “It’s giving me the willies.”
It was also making resentment prickle along his spine. He refused to be pitied or treated with kid gloves – he was…well, he wasn’t fine, but he was getting better, Moriarty hadn’t destroyed him. John had killed Moriarty before the consulting criminal had even had him for a full day – if this was a game, he’d won – so there was no reason for Sherlock to look at him like that.
“Just…come here,” John muttered, leaning forward to grab Sherlock’s still-outstretched hand and tug him towards the sofa.
“What are you doing?” Sherlock asked as John leaned up and pushed Sherlock into a sitting position behind him.
“If you’re going to brood, you might as well be useful,” John muttered, settling his head on Sherlock’s lap.
He guided Sherlock’s hand up to his head and left it there, stroking his fingers down the tendons in Sherlock’s wrist before pulling away. John closed his eyes, breathing deeply to take in the scent of leather and Sherlock (and more than a hint of smoke, but he was doing his best to ignore that), content to luxuriate in the feeling of finally being home.
He wasn’t really expecting Sherlock to keep sitting with him – maybe for a minute or two before he remembered some crucial experiment and rushed off to the kitchen – but just as John was beginning to doze, he felt long fingers carding through his hair, stroking lightly.
After two days of lying around eating far too many sweets and watching far too many brainless action movies (and spending the entire movie thinking she and John would have solved the storyline’s main crisis much more efficiently), Jane was starting to feel up to going outside again.
And starting to feel like she wanted to be Jane again.
She’d called John, of course, and been called by him at almost all hours. Which wasn’t entirely healthy, but Jane told herself it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. She’d resisted the urge to storm Baker Street, and John had confessed he’d had to stop himself from coming over to her place as well, but that they could resist the impulse was a good sign.
She was thinking about going to the bakery a few streets down and getting something warm and sugary, then maybe going for a walk. She was confident it was going to be a good day…
Right up until she opened the door to find Mycroft on her front steps.
He was carrying a briefcase and dressed in his usual suit, and to anyone else he would have looked perfectly composed, but Anthea knew better. His tie was off-centre – just a little, but it showed he’d been fiddling with it – and he was holding the briefcase in front of him with both hands, like a shield.
Jane resisted the urge to smooth her skirt or check that her hair was in place, adopting a brusque, irritated tone.
“What do you want?”
Mycroft cleared his throat. “I want you to know you are under no obligation to return-”
For a moment, Jane considered slamming the door in his face – he was here to talk about work?
“-and if you choose to resign your position, I’ve ensured your severance package is…generous.”
Jane blinked. This was…well, it wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it was certainly unlikely. Where was Mycroft going with this?
“Generous?” Jane repeated, trying to buy time to think.
“You will never have to work again,” Mycroft said quietly.
Jane shook her head, more in confusion than any true rejection of the offer. She’d promised herself that she’d come to some resolution regarding Mycroft, but she’d planned on a formal, distant meeting or perhaps phone call, one she could anticipate and control, not for Mycroft to show up in person on doorstep, obviously nervous. She needed more time to think, dammit!
She genuinely didn’t know whether she wanted to take his offer or not, and that was what most unsettled her. Jane had always known what she wanted, always, and to not to know was disconcerting.
But there was something she did want to know. “Why didn’t you talk to me?”
Before he’d made her a fugitive. With anyone else, she might have needed to clarify that, but not with Mycroft.
“Because you would have convinced me,” Mycroft replied immediately. “I knew that if I let you explain…it wouldn’t matter how much evidence I had, or how comprehensive it was.”
Jane knew how much it meant that she could have persuaded Mycroft to ignore evidence. In some ways, she could also understand why he’d been so reluctant to dismiss it – how many powerful people had fallen into the trap of ignoring suspicious behaviour from the person they were sleeping with? But she didn’t know if it was enough to even attempt reconciliation, let alone carry them through it.
“I’ll think about it,” Jane said, with more composure than she was feeling.
She held out her hand for the briefcase, making sure her fingers didn’t touch his as he passed it over.
Mycroft didn’t swallow or shift, but Jane knew he was searching for something to say, some way to prolong their interaction. It must have been difficult – he knew she’d see through all the usual ploys.
“Do you want some coffee?” Jane asked.
A slight flicker of Mycroft’s eyelids was the only signal that she’d surprised him. She’d surprised herself, really; Jane had felt an impulse to invite him in, but she hadn’t expected it to be strong enough for her to actually do it.
She stood back to let him step over the threshold, wondering if she was making a mistake. Still, she could always throw him out.
Jane had made coffee then sat down at the table to read through the documents Mycroft had brought. She’d wondered if she’d feel comfortable paging through the papers with him in front of her, but he’d been very quiet, only speaking to thank her for the coffee.
She could say that in his favour – at least he knew when to shut up.
And he hadn’t been kidding; she really wouldn’t have to work again. In addition to the kind of retirement package usually given to CEOs of multinational companies, there was a note stating that if she ever wanted to return to her previous job, the position would always be available (along with several others on offer that had a similar role but no direct contact with Mycroft).
The language was all very carefully couched to induce no sense of pressure or expectation. It was just a range of choices, offered without any hint of coercion, and exactly what Jane needed.
Sometimes she really hated it when Mycroft did that. Other times she loved it, and Jane wasn’t quite sure what this one was.
She glanced up at him, trying to catch his gaze, but he was staring into his coffee cup like it was the latest report on Sherlock.
Some part of Jane was ready to walk away, to take the retirement package and be done with Mycroft and everything to do with him. Another part remembered everything they’d been to each other and was reluctant to give up on it…but was she willing to do that for a man who didn’t trust her?
No. Absolutely, unequivocally, no.
“I do trust you,” Mycroft said abruptly, and Jane very nearly gave into the temptation to swear – having her thoughts read like that could be charming (it meant he was paying a lot of attention to her) or irritating and right now, it was definitely the latter.
“No, you didn’t,” she snapped. “Yes, I know you have your own insecurities, and the self-worth issues of you and your brother alone could send a dozen psychiatrists into early retirement, but the reflection of that is you not trusting me or respecting me enough to think that I know my own mind.”
Jane broke off and set her teeth, breathing deeply through her nose to collect herself. This was why she’d never fallen in love with anyone before Mycroft – because it made you irrational and impulsive and took away all ability to control yourself.
And that was her sticking point – that years of loyalty and love could be overturned in an instant. She simply couldn’t afford for that to happened again; there was only so much she could take.
Mycroft’s hand had tightened on his cup. “I take it this is…goodbye?”
It was tempting. To call it all off, to throw Mycroft out of her house and go back to the way she’d lived before…
But – almost against her will – Jane remembered the way it felt to wake up in the morning with someone beside her. She remembered the way Mycroft would look at her when he thought she wasn’t looking, like she was everything he’d ever wanted but had never dared to wish for. She remembered that it seemed she was the only one Mycroft relaxed around – she’d never heard him swear except when they were alone – and how it felt to have someone love her that much, the deeply.
It hadn’t been the first blush of love, they were well past that, to the point where it had calmed into something like, well…normality. Her name was Jane, she did the kind of work that you couldn’t talk about at parties, and she loved Mycroft and he loved her.
And god help her, she still did. Enough to try again.
“Do you want to get some lunch?” she asked.
Mycroft actually started, a visible near-flinch before his eyes snapped up to her face.
Jane knew he could read everything on her face – she wasn’t making any effort to hide it. Mycroft blinked, as if he wasn’t quite convinced of what he was seeing, and the tight line of his shoulders slowly relaxed.
His smile was so wide it looked almost unnatural on his face. “I would love to.”
At least the face-reading thing went both ways – she could see how much it meant to him that she was willing to try again. And maybe somewhere down the line Jane would decide it wasn’t worth it, but really, wasn’t that true of every relationship? Here and now…it might not be good, precisely, but it was getting better.
She was happy. And for now, that was enough.
AN: As usual, thanks to my fabulous beta, ginbitch!