Characters: John, Sherlock, Mr Holmes
Word Count 2, 683
Summary: Sherlock Holmes consults an expert for his case, and John meets the head of the Holmes family.
Author's notes: Yes, this is an AU of an AU. It's not technically joonscribble's fault, but she certainly did nothing to prevent it from happening. We were talking about what Mr Holmes would be like with his grown-up sons, had he lived, and here we are. This is tentatively the first of three shortish stories, one for each brother. The story is not sad in and of itself, but in a sort of 'what if' fashion, might come off a bit bittersweet.
I started with Sherlock, as I thought he'd be the most changed by Mr Holmes living. I think he'd be just slightly warmer and caring. Slightly.
Set in the Trio 'verse.
I'm sorry I only write AUs (and AUs of AUs) these days. I need Series Three, I just keep writing increasingly weirder things. Someone might need to take my keyboard away.
Sherlock had been staring at a piece of paper for thirty-six hours straight. On it was a mix of letters in pure gibberish which had been found at the scene of a robbery. Sherlock had solved the robbery, but the person apprehended wasn't willing to talk about the gibberish. Sherlock was convinced it was a code that had instructions for the next crime to be committed and, to that end, had been trying to crack it.
It wasn't going well.
Thirty-six hours straight was almost literal. John had only seen him stop briefly for a three-hour nap on the sofa, during which he repeatedly mumbled about ciphers and Caesar and algorithms. He was obsessed. John had suggested more than once that maybe it was just gibberish, but Sherlock wouldn't be deterred.
“I know ciphers, John,” he said. “This is a cipher.”
As thirty-six hours crept onwards into thirty-seven, John thought he may have to soon intervene, but he wasn't sure how. Destroying it probably wouldn't help--Sherlock would have copies and had probably etched it onto his brain by now. He could maybe drug him into unconsciousness and make him get some proper sleep, but he'd still go back when he woke up again.
No, the only solution was to wait it out.
“All right, that's it,” Sherlock said, tossing a handful of papers off the kitchen table.
“What's it?” John asked.
Sherlock did not respond. He got up and went to his bedroom, emerging a few minutes later fully dressed. Then he simply left the flat.
“Sherlock?” John called. “Where are you--bloody hell.”
He grabbed his coat and hurried after Sherlock, catching up with him just in time to throw himself into the cab as it was speeding off.
“What's going on?” John asked.
“Shh,” Sherlock said. He had the code in his hand and was still staring at it.
John wondered where he could get some sedation. It would be tricky. He'd need to steal it from somewhere. Maybe Stamford would help...
The cab slowed down about ten minutes later, and Sherlock hopped out while shoving some money at the driver.
“S'too much, mate,” the driver called.
“Keep it!” Sherlock yelled over his shoulder.
John hurried to keep up with him. They entered a large block of flats, a building of an old vintage and very elegant furnishings. There was a pleasant lobby with a helpful looking concierge behind a desk.
“What are we doing?” John asked.
“Consulting, I told you,” Sherlock said.
“No, you didn't,” John said. “You said 'that's it' and got up and left the flat.”
Sherlock frowned. “Well, I thought I told you, that's the same thing."
“No, we've discussed how if I can't physically hear what you're saying, I can't know it's been said,” John replied.
Sherlock waved his hand as though John were a fly buzzing around him. He made for the lifts.
“Hello there, Mr Holmes,” the concierge said, cheerfully. “I haven't seen you in yonks. How are you, young man?”
“Fine,” Sherlock said, polite but succinct. “You should get some proper gel insoles, they'll help your bunions.”
The concierge looked down and by the time he looked up again, Sherlock was in the lift.
“Er, hi,” John said, with an awkward wave. He entered the lift behind Sherlock, just as the doors were sliding closed. The lift went upwards immediately. “He seems to know you well.”
“I imagine he does,” Sherlock said. “He's worked here forever.”
“Why would he know you?” John asked.
“Because I spent a lot of time here as a child,” Sherlock replied.
“Why?” John repeated.
“Because my family owns the penthouse."
The lift dinged and the doors opened onto a little hallway with a door at the end of it. Sherlock used a key to open it and entered the flat beyond, calling out a hello as he did.
“Hello?” Sherlock's voice called back.
Well, obviously not Sherlock's voice. That would be impossible. But something that sounded very much like Sherlock's voice.
“Sherlock, who exactly are we here to consult?” John asked.
Sherlock grinned. “My father.”
John followed him down the hallway in stunned silence. Surely Sherlock Holmes didn't have a father? Surely Sherlock Holmes had been assembled in a lab from spare parts, and they'd forgot to put the heart in. Sherlock Holmes didn't have parents.
Sherlock breezed past a large living room and pushed a door that was already ajar. It opened into a small office, the walls forming an almost perfect hexagon shape. A grey-haired man was sat at a desk, and he turned when they entered.
John had several thoughts upon seeing him, including: 'well, there's Mycroft's nose' and 'he must be the reason they think it's normal to dress like they do' and 'I don't think he likes me'.
John could see a lot of Mycroft's features in him, but they were arranged in a more traditionally pleasing manner, sort of like an aged Shakespearean actor. Handsome, maybe, but more in a distinguished way. His eyes were very dark hazel, too dark to really get much of a feeling of thoughts or emotion. Just a twinkle of sarcasm that felt dangerous.
“Well, this is unexpected,” he said. He definitely shared the timbre of Sherlock's voice, though it was more RP and gravelly. “To what do I owe the honour?”
“I have something I need you to look at,” Sherlock explained. “If you have a minute?”
“I do,” Mr Holmes said, with a nod. “More than one, even. Why don't we go to where there's more room?"
Sherlock pushed past John to get out the door. Mr Holmes followed. He was tall, a good two or three inches on Sherlock. He had broad shoulders and was built more sturdily than Sherlock or Mycroft. If he was a bit shorter, he might have been overweight, but it settled on him as merely solid.
“You must be Sherlock's soldier friend,” he said, over his shoulder. “Something Watson, isn't it?”
“John,” John said. “John Watson.”
Mr Holmes walked backwards to shake his hand. “Siger Holmes."
“Nice to meet you,” John said.
“Mmm,” Mr Holmes grunted, as though he hadn't decided on it yet.
They went into the living room, which was also a dining room, and Mr Holmes sat down at the table there. Sherlock put a photocopy of the code in front of him, and Mr Holmes pulled a pair of glasses from the pocket of his waistcoat and perched them on his nose.
Sherlock explained what it was and how he'd come across it. “I know it's stacked,” he said. “But after the first layer, nothing I've done works.”
Mr Holmes stared at the paper for several minutes. Sherlock stood with more patience than John would have expected. “You've made a good start,” he said, eventually. “There's nothing wrong with your work.”
Sherlock visibly relaxed at this, and John realized he had been worried about being wrong.
“Have you run it by Trevelyan?” Mr Holmes asked.
“I put it through one of his programmes, but it didn't help,” Sherlock said.
“Who's Trevelyan?” John asked.
“My younger brother,” Sherlock said.
“You have a younger brother?” John said.
“Yes, shh,” Sherlock said.
Good lord. Another Holmes. That was a daunting concept.
“Well, we'll have to use our brains then,” Mr Holmes said. He pulled a pen from his pocket. “I suggest you sit down. We will be here for awhile.”
Sherlock pulled out a chair next to him and sat down. Mr Holmes started scribbling.
“Why didn't you tell me you had another brother?” John asked.
“I don't know,” Sherlock said. “Presumably because it wasn't relevant to any conversation we've had.”
“How much younger is he?” John asked.
“Three years?” Sherlock said, uncertainly.
Mr Holmes made a noise of confirmation.
John considered Sherlock as a middle child and found it made almost everything about him make sense. “What does he do?”
“He's a government drone,” Sherlock said. “He works with computers.”
Mr Holmes looked up from his work. “Does he ever stop talking?” he wondered.
Sherlock smirked. “No, but if you ignore him he sometimes goes away."
“Can he make coffee?” Mr Holmes said.
John was about to retort that, of course, he could make coffee, he wasn't an idiot, but Mr Holmes looked his way and he saw a twinkle in his eyes, buried very deep. He was being teased.
“I think I can figure it out,” John said.
“Well then, you're good for something,” Mr Holmes said, very deadpan. “Go to it, then...er...James?”
“John,” John corrected.
“Yes. The kitchen is at the end of the hall. Black, no sugar.”
John poked around the flat while he was on the move. It was an unusual looking place. London flats had a tendency to be hacked and carved out of spaces, but this one had been done by a person who hated squares. With the exception of the kitchen, every room he stuck his head into was an odd polygonal shape.
He found everything he needed for coffee and brought it back out to the living room. Mr Holmes peered into his suspiciously before taking a sip, then nodded in satisfaction. Neither he nor Sherlock said thanks, they just launched right back into their conversation.
“There doesn't appear to be any internal consistency to it,” Mr Holmes said. “So, what I would suggest is that there is a rule we're unaware of, such as 'every third letter swaps four places instead of two', or maybe even a code book to decipher it.”
“Does that mean you can't do it?” John asked.
His heart almost stopped beating at the withering look he received.
“No,” Mr Holmes said. “It means we need to think harder.”
He stood up abruptly and left the room. John nearly ducked as he passed, afraid he might be punched in the face.
“How does your dad know so much about ciphers?” John asked, once he'd waited to make sure he wasn't about to be attacked from behind and then waited a bit longer to be extra sure.
“He used to work for GCHQ,” Sherlock explained. “As a code breaker.”
“GCHQ,” John echoed. Blimey. Another thing that made sense. Government and solving puzzles. That certainly fit the family trade.
Mr Holmes reentered a moment later and sat down again, a pad of graph paper in one hand and a sort of loupe in the other. He ran the loupe over the code and stuck his eye down on it. “Sometimes you can see erasure marks or hesitation on handwritten codes,” he explained. “Writing in code is difficult. People start one letter and fix it to the correct one. That is a J.”
Sherlock looked through the loupe, and his expression was a mix of annoyance, horror, and respect. “I thought it was a faulty pen which needed to be gone over again,” he said, in a sort of confession, as though this was a terrible crime.
“It's been hidden by the loop of the B, but you can see where the line is very slightly thicker,” Mr Holmes said. He was correcting, but not scolding. “You'll know for next time.”
Sherlock nodded, still looking chagrined. “J is part of this layer, then,” he said. “The author was translating from another piece of paper and copied the letter instead of changing it. So, if that's J, then we can extrapolate...it can't be a direct Caesar, because it's not consistent. So...is it a Vigenère?”
“Let's find out,” Mr Holmes said. “We'll assume the three letter word here is 'the' and start from there. If that fails, we'll try 'and' and so on. Three letters should be enough to help us figure out the key word. It might be easier to work backwards from one word and then apply it to the rest.”
They both set to work with a piece of graph paper, making tables and scribbling away. John was smart enough to keep his mouth shut while the work was happening, choosing to just watch the interaction between father and son.
It was very interesting to see Sherlock as someone's child, because, for the first time, John saw him in a beta instead of an alpha role. He wasn't in charge here; Mr Holmes dominated the room, a job usually reserved for Sherlock. Their dialogue was matter of fact, and occasionally blunt and argumentative, but John still felt like there was affection there. It wasn't the normal kind; Mr Holmes wasn't expressive in it, but every time Sherlock showed him his work, he read it and considered it and corrected or accepted it with a patience that John could see him working at. And because he was working at it, John knew Sherlock was an exception. Which made him important to him. It was obvious that John could just pretty much fuck-off, though not maliciously, just because he wasn't important. He didn't matter, so there was no patience for him.
The second layer of code-breaking took three hours. The third layer took two. John spent most of this time making coffee, because that was as much as Mr Holmes trusted him to do. He turned the telly on very low in the background and attempted to lip-read his way through Countdown and Deal or No Deal . He refused to do the same for Hollyoaks and switched over to a Poirot rerun. They were just gathering in the parlour for the denouement when John became aware of a stir of excitement at the table. The words were starting to be actual words.
“That's G so that has to be--”
“C, yes, which makes that--”
“'Can'. And so--”
“That' and 'now'.”
“Which makes this--”
“Rosenbloom,” both men said, together.
Sherlock pulled out his mobile and started typing. “It's a jeweller's,” he said. “In Hatton Garden.”
“Does that make sense?” Mr Holmes asked.
“Yes, perfect sense,” Sherlock replied. “John, ring Lestrade and tell him that there is going to be a robbery tonight.”
John was happy to do something that didn't involve coffee grounds and dialled Lestrade's number, explaining the situation.
“I'll let the Flying Squad know,” Lestrade said. “And I'll meet you there to...er...liaise. You know, make sure they don't kill Sherlock.”
John relayed the information, minus the last part. Sherlock was glowing with accomplishment, and Mr Holmes looked openly amused at his excitement.
“You were very helpful,” Sherlock said to him.
“It was a nice challenge,” Mr Holmes replied. He held out a hand and Sherlock shook it. “Good luck.”
“Thanks,” Sherlock said. “Er, good to...work with you.”
“Likewise,” Mr Holmes said.
Sherlock put his coat on and John followed him to the door, with an awkward wave goodbye to Mr Holmes, who just stared at him like he'd never seen him before.
“So, that's your dad,” John said, in the lift.
“Yes,” Sherlock said.
“He's scary,” John said.
Sherlock laughed. “Yes.”
“What about your mum?” John asked.
“Oh, she's far worse,” Sherlock said.
“Are they still together?” John said.
“Yes, why?” Sherlock said.
“Well, she's not...there,” John said. “Most married people live together.”
“She's in France. Father doesn't like France, so he goes over at the weekends,” Sherlock said.
“Your family is weird,” John said.
Sherlock nodded, in a matter-of-fact fashion. “I really don't know why you were expecting they wouldn't be.”