Title & Link: Best Seat in the House
Pairings & Rating: Sherlock Holmes/John Watson, Sherlock Holmes & John Watson,
Warnings/Content Notes: Graphic Violence, Physical Abuse
Title: The Macallan 1926
Pairings & Rating: John Watson, Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes, PG
Warnings/Content Notes: None
Summary: A fine and rare vintage, lasting longer than wine, the Macallan 1926 was aged in the barrel for 50 years before being bottled. No colors or water was added, so the dark color comes only from the oaken casks in which it has lain. The Macallan is unfiltered, so that each dram retains the characters of the French oak.
John waited until the door slammed below, then threw back the duvet and rose out of his bed. Opening the wardrobe, he critically eyed the clothing he had set aside the night before. He took out a different shirt, pondered, set it aside. Perhaps everything would be clearer after he bathed.
The water was plenty hot, and John took his time, standing with his back turned to the spray, easing the knots in his shoulders. Thank god for shower heads where you could set the spray. Pure heaven.
Shower completed, he slowly and carefully shaved, for a change using Grandad's straight razor. Today was not the day to miss a patch with a cheap packet of razors from Sainsbury's. From shaving, a bit of Sherlock's herbals cented toner - grimacing first at the sting, then at the realization he might be giving a falsehood through its use. Well, maybe that was all to the good. He checked himself carefully in the mirror; no shaving cream in the folds of his ears or on his neck, no unsightly hairs peeking out of his nostrils, no eyebrows springing out of their assigned places. The trim he'd gotten on Monday was still sharp and he smiled at himself. Yes, yes he did look...good.
Given that Himself was likely to be busy for a few hours yet, John didn't bother with his bathrobe, instead eating toast in the kitchen with just his towel around his hips. His coffee was a little strong, but that was all right. Fortification for what was to come.
Back upstairs, he re-ironed his shirt and re-polished his shoes, in that order. He dressed carefully, making sure everything was sharp and correct. Watch, wallet, phone. Ah, phone. A single text from an unknown number.
It was time.
Downstairs and then down the stairs, he took one last look in the new hall way mirror Mrs. Hudson had had him install and deemed himself acceptable.
Appropriately enough the day was dark, the kind of day where the sky was ominous with low, storm-dark clouds, where icy rain threatened more with each passing second, where the damp made one's very bones chill. There was a car waiting for him, the ubiquitous black hansom cab.
The driver met John's eyes in the rear view mirror - dark brown, straight eyebrows below a neatly cut hairline. John settled in for the ride, thinking of nothing in particular. He knew what he was going to say, the rest…he would have to play by ear. Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, if anything it was an enjoyable risk.
London slipped by.
Sometimes John still felt as out of place here as he had in Afghanistan. Oh, he knew what the score was, and how the place worked (more or less); part of him even loved it. And yet. In the deepest part of him there was a longing for...what, he didn't know. What he did know was that whatever it was he was missing, London was not part of the solution. Or something like that, he couldn't chase the feeling into anything concrete. Ella had once said there was a secret, hidden place inside of all patients, a place to find that missing bit. He wasn't so sure that wasn't therapist talk for something non-sensical...hell, what did he know about that any more. He should probably cancel his future appointments, in truth. She never asked him about the important things, and he never volunteered. It seemed to him that if a therapist didn't have you sussed in the first hour, he or she probably wasn't worth your time.
He was sure that last bit made sense somehow.
The car pulled up in front of the building and stopped. As John stepped into the street he glanced back at the cab - the driver gave a grave nod. John tugged down his jacket as he walked to the front door and rang for entry. Somewhat to his surprise, it opened without hesitation.
Inside, John was shown the way to the visitor's room. He bypassed the traditional decoration; walls painted dark green, with portraits of long unknown men famous only in these rooms framed in gold and gilt. Drapery in crimson with gold, tasseled tie backs allowing only the slightest gap where daylight might find a way through.
The visitors room was, ironically, modern and new in pale woods, chrome vases, butter yellow leather sofas and love seats, white curtains on the windows and several pink floral displays suggesting acknowledgment of the existence of women. An attempt, no, more of a pretending, however misguided, that flowers would set women at their ease. As if it weren't already clear they were unwelcome.
John was offered a drink from the sidebar, but politely declined with a shake of his head. He didn't want to stay here any longer than he had to, in all honesty. He also declined the offer The Times as well as Le Monde, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Die Welt and quite frankly, a rather insulting overture of the Daily Mail. Why they hadn't started with the Mail was, perhaps, a sign he was going up in the Club's estimation. Or maybe they were just having a joke at his expense. Not for the first time, not for the last.
What he wanted to do was fidget. What he allowed himself to do was take a slow turn around the room, every now and again stopping at a window to see the view. One window showed an empty street, a rarity in this part of London, especially at this time of the day. Another faced an equally blank brick wall, not even the sky visible beyond. Yet a third overlooked a yard, a white van parked in the middle of it, two men in tan overalls laughing heartily at a third approaching with take-out cups.
On his second go-round, movement in the mirror caught his attention, and he swung round, hands behind his back.
"John," said Mycroft. "To what do I owe this visit?"
"Oh, I think you know," John watched Mycroft sit down, the yellow leather somehow not clashing with the olive of his suit, not even with the subdued red stripe running through it.
"Do I?" Mycroft casually crossed one leg over the other, clasped his hands together on his lap and eyed him from head to toe. "Should I call security?"
John suppressed a laugh. This was so not funny it was almost funny. The feeling persisted, though, and finally he couldn't contain his grin. "Really?"
Mycroft conceded the point with a nod. "I don't know how you co-opted my man, but I'll certainly find out and stop the rot."
"Here's a clue," said John, tamping down his temper. Oh, he did enjoy the way Mycroft's eyes narrowed. "It's not good enough to check your Security's training and former placements, not in your line of work. Better you discover who they trained with in the first place."
But you didn't observe. John took a moment to congratulate himself on surprising Holmes, elder, then drew his attention back to what needed to be done. "I'll not ever do that again, Mycroft. You went too far. Don't force my hand."
There was the slightest noise behind John - goddamnit how had he let himself sit facing the wrong bloody way - and a gentle puff of air which had him tensing for action before the the rattle of china and the scent of freshly brewed tea hit his hindbrain. He relaxed. Minutely.
"I would have ordered coffee," said Mycroft, side-eyeing the silver set with all its accoutrements as it was placed on a nearby sidetable. "But felt it might have been unwise."
Yes, because John was such a loose canon, one had to always watch his behavior and not encourage quirks deemed unacceptable outside in so-called polite society. He accepted his cup without milk or sugar or lemon. No need when he wasn't planning on drinking it anyway.
"I'll take your criticism under advisement. Is there anything else?"
John carefully put the tea on the low table between them. "Don't start something with me you can't finish."
One of Mycroft's eyebrows lifted.
"Like I said," answered John calmly. "Don't force my hand."
"Or what," scoffed Mycroft. "You'll set all of your little friends on me? Don't be ridiculous, John. I'll weed them out like picking fleas off a dog."
"Perhaps you should consider what you need in all those pies your fingers are in. How easy - or not - it is to call upon support when you need it, to ensure eyes look the other way. I can count on it. Can you say the same?"
Now Mycroft truly seemed to understand what John was saying. His face grew grave. "The Army will do as its told."
John smiled. "Will it, though?"
A small silence fell. His mood having lifted, John retrieved his tea after all, took a sip and found it as pleasant and perfect as expected. Hmm, maybe under other circumstances he would enjoy it more, but he had other things to do today, including getting home so he could change before Sherlock returned.
"So long as we understand each other," said John, getting to his feet. For once, he looked down on Mycroft, wondering not for the first time what it was that drove him to be a complete and utter bastard. Yet one whose chosen loyalty was to his country, rather than for himself. Perhaps that was where the satisfaction was, being the spider at the center of the web. Like Moriarty…sort of. Whatever the difference was between the two men, John was glad of its existence, otherwise he would be dead twice over by now. "Good day, Mycroft.
With his peace said, he headed straight for the door.
"John, it was a danger night," offered Mycroft.
John snorted softly, briefly turned back to Mycroft. "For him or for me?"
When no answer was forthcoming, he left Mycroft to ponder his next move.
Outside, the grim weather had cleared to something altogether more bright. The same cab as before pulled up and John got in, didn't speak until they were well and truly away from the Diogenes.
The driver caught John's eye in the rear view mirror. "How'd it go?"
"Better than I expected, to be honest," said John, loosening his collar ever so slightly. "You?"
"No trouble. A few glances in, bit of a check on the number plate, couple of photos. Nothing I can't handle."
"You're still leaving tomorrow?"
"Aye, it's the golden sands of the Legion for me."
John shook his head in admiration, eyed the long legs of the beauty at the crosswalk. "Can't believe you haven't had enough, yet."
Hodge chuckled. "And I can't believe you can take this civilian life."
"It has its benefits," most of which were in the form of tall, dark, and brilliant.
Hodge glanced over his shoulder at John, which made John nervous, seeing as they were going around a corner. "I guess it is easier to get the birds, but a little bit of fanny every now and then isn't better than dodging bullets."
"Further proof that you're insane," said John, laughing. "Seriously, though, thanks."
"Of fucking course, mate. You need anything else, you just call."
He doubted he would, but it was nice to know the option was available.
Thirty minutes later he pounded up the stairs of 221B hoping against hope Sherlock was still gone. His quick peek into the kitchen proved Sherlock was absent, so he continued on up to his room, unbuttoning and unbelting as he went. He undressed in a rush, hanging up his uniform coat and trousers, shoving his shoes into the armoire as quickly as he could. Didn't matter right now that it wasn't proper, he would iron at a later date. On with jeans and red button-down and brown jumper and back to the living room with his book.
One chapter and cup of coffee later, John was happily ensconced with Sunday's puzzle when Sherlock swept in. Glancing over, John was glad to see Sherlock looked refreshed, rather than deep in thought. Ever since the incident, Sherlock had been...John hesitated to think Sherlock was being overprotective, yet there was something not quite right. Something had changed between them. More solicitous, perhaps.
"John! Pack a bag, we're going to Alnwick."
John dog-eared his page and stood, gave an almighty stretch that made his back crack. "I assume you don't mean the castle."
"What do you take me for, a tourist?"
John snorted a laugh and grabbed his go bag from under the desk. He opened it and made a fast check of its contents before tucking the book inside, too. "Am I going to need boots? Stupid question, it's Northumberland, of course I'm going to need boots...let me just dash upsta - christ!"
Sherlock had crept up behind John in that silent way of his, looming over John with flaring nostrils and narrowed eyes. Well, John had made a game attempt -
"You've been to see Mycroft."
"How do you even do that?" wondered John.
"Why did you see Mycroft?" Sherlock leaned closer, forcing John over the desk, almost to the point of losing his balance.
"We had a little chat, yeah."
"Oh, y'know," said John nervously, ducking out from under Sherlock. "This and that. When are we leaving?"
It was useless to dissemble when he used that tone of voice. With a sigh, John turned to face the proverbial music. "Look, I just had to go talk to him about a thing."
"The - what he did to you. To make me. To make me work for him again."
O-ho, 'again'? "It's fine, we worked it out."
Sherlock frowned. "He'll only look for the next opportunity to use you against me."
Shrugging into his jacket, John pondered what else to bring. Scarf, definitely a hat, gloves were already in the bag. "Let him just try. I think he'll find it more difficult than he expects."
"You...you have some trick up your sleeve…whatever you said, he believed you absolutely," said Sherlock in admiration. "What is it? Will you tell me? Not here, obviously. But, you will?"
John smiled slightly. "Ready?"
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