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You cannot libel the dead

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15 (swearing, preslash)

Spoilers: for The Reichenbach Fall

Betaed by the wonderful Zauzat

Summary: Mycroft's hiding in the Diogenes Club after Sherlock's death, but someone's coming to get him.


Officially, Mycroft's on compassionate leave; unofficially, his superiors are attempting to decide whether he will ever be allowed to work for the civil service again in any position more exalted than tea boy. If indeed he doesn't end up in prison for some breach of the Official Secrets Act. He sits in the Diogenes Club all day and writes, covering sheet after sheet in longhand. Writes the story of what Sherlock has done for his country. It cannot be published in his own lifetime, but perhaps in a hundred years people will understand that his brother was a great man.

Or perhaps not. Because though no-one has phoned him for weeks – who among his former colleagues wants to talk to a pariah? – in mid July a text message silently arrives:

I need to see you. Lestrade

They'd been on first name terms before...when Sherlock was alive. Mycroft had hoped Lestrade had been coming to consider him as a friend, not simply as an unavoidable complication in his working life. But Mycroft hasn't dared speak to him since then, or not more than a mumbled few words at the funeral. It won't help the DI's position to be seen associating with Sherlock Holmes' brother, he knows that.

He texts back clumsily, his fingers slipping on the buttons: What is this about? MGH.

The reply from Greg – Lestrade - is immediate:

Got some property to return. You lent me something for my trip down to Dartmoor. GL

Mycroft's had always presumed that if anyone came after him it would be John; Lestrade hadn't seemed to suspect anything at the funeral. But it's probably easy enough to guess from where Kitty Riley got some of her information, even if John hasn't spilled the beans by now. And Greg's career - his life - has been wrecked by Sherlock's death as well. Not surprising what a broken man might decide to do, he supposes. Mycroft texts back the location of the club and waits for the inevitable.

***

When Lestrade walks into the back room of the Diogenes Club he looks weary but calm. Probably that's how a good man looks when he's come to execute justice, Mycroft thinks.

"Good afternoon, Inspector," he says, standing up. It's only by keeping this whole thing formal that he can survive. Well, of course, the point is he's not going to survive. It's only by keeping it formal that he can avoid begging for mercy. "I believe you have something of mine."

"A gun," Lestrade says. "An illegal handgun. You gave it to me and sent me down to Devon and told me to look after your brother. Been holding onto it ever since, wasn't sure what to do with it."

"And now you know." Mycroft raises his chin. "Where would you like me to stand?"

"What?"

"I would find it easier if I did not have to watch," Mycroft says, and he knows his voice is trembling, but he goes on, because he has to say this. "I am grateful, in some ways. I would do it myself, but I'm afraid I don't have much in the way of guts. Well, obviously the normal amount, as we shall see in a moment."

Lestrade has his hands on his hips and is staring at him like he's just sprouted an extra head.

"What the hell are you talking about? Are you drunk, Mycroft?"

"No, this is merely nerves. I am not used, I am afraid, to facing death with equanimity." He finds himself wanting to close his eyes, so he does not have to look into the beautiful brown gaze of his executioner. Who takes one final look at him and then exclaims loudly: "Christ Almighty! Fuck you both, you defeatist bastards."

Mycroft can speak seven languages and he can't think of appropriate words in any of them. But it doesn't seem to matter, because Lestrade is now demonstrating his complete fluency in Profane English.

"I have not sodding well come here to kill you, you pathetic bloody twat. Isn't it bad enough that that fucker Sherlock tops himself, which is the shittiest thing he could possibly have done? Do you think it's gonna make everything better if your stupid bloody brains are plastered all over this posh carpet as well, you selfish wanker?"

"So why are you here?" Mycroft asks, blinking slightly.

"To clear your bloody brother's name," Lestrade says, and fishes in his pocket, produces a pistol, and hands it to Mycroft. "And to give you your sodding gun back. Because the Professional Standards Unit is digging around, and I'm in deep enough shit already without them finding this."

"I can only apologise-"

"I don't want apologies! I don't want you killing yourself. I want you to get off your arse and start protecting your brother's reputation."

Mycroft stares at the gun, and then puts it hastily down on a handy side-table. He'll have to ask Anthea to dispose of it, if he can still get hold of her. But first he has to deal with Lestrade – Greg. If only he knew what to say. Best perhaps, to keep it simple.

"The thing is," he says, staring down at the beige carpet, "that I take full responsibility for Sherlock's death, DI...Greg."

There is a long silence. When Mycroft finally looks up Greg is running his fingers through his hair, and silently mouthing obscenities. Then he moves to plant himself right in front of Mycroft, ramming his hands into his pockets, and says, in a taut voice: "If this is a confession, then you go along to a police station right now, and explain how you managed to pull it off. But if this is just you feeling guilty about Sherlock having committed suicide, then stop it, you stupid tosser."

"I-"

"You know who killed Sherlock? Sherlock did. Nobody made him go up there on the roof, nobody made him jump off, at least that I've heard."

"I drove him to his death."

"How?"

"Ask John."

"Oh Christ," Greg shouts. "I am not having this. It's why it all goes sodding pear-shaped every single time, like down on Dartmoor. Because you and Sherlock do not tell people what they need to know. Well, I've had enough. I'm not leaving this room until I finally get some straight answers about why Sherlock ended up diving off the roof of Barts."

Mycroft opens his mouth to say: I'm afraid it's more than my job's worth, and then shuts it hastily again, feeling a bit dizzy. He no longer has a job to protect, or the nation's secrets to keep. It's only habit that's keeping him quiet now. That and the fact that Greg is standing just that bit too close to him, though Mycroft's brain hasn't entirely decided yet if that's a threat or a promise.

"I'm sorry," Greg says abruptly. "I shouldn't be yelling at you. For God's sake, sit down before you pass out." He heads for the collection of decanters. "What do you wanna drink? That is if there's anything drinkable here."

"The port is vintage and the scotch is a tolerable, if unexciting, single malt," Mycroft says, sitting down, trying to compose himself, to regain at least a hint of his normal suavity. Greg returns with two large tumblers of whisky and hands one to Mycroft, before sitting down opposite him.

"OK," he says. "So have a drink, take some deep breaths, and then what I want you to do is tell me exactly what you remember happening...Mycroft."

Greg had just been just about to call him "mate", Mycroft thinks, as if he was a suspect. A suspect in the death of Sherlock Holmes. His own hands are trembling on the glass, he notices; Greg's are rock-solid. A good man to make a confession to, if only he knew where to start.

And then Greg looks at him and asks: "What did you do that may have led to Sherlock's death?"

Mycroft finds himself staring at the carpet again, as he mumbles: "I...gave Moriarty certain pieces of information about my brother."

"Moriarty?" Greg says. "You mean the black-haired Irish fucker in the fancy suit?"

"Yes," he replies. When he looks up, Greg is just sitting there quietly, as if breathing requires some concentration.

"You weren't sure?" Mycroft asks at last. "You thought maybe the story was true, that he was just an actor?"

"I didn't see how he could be," Greg replies slowly. "John said Rich Brook was the man who strapped him into a bomb-jacket last year, and if anyone's likely to be able to tell the difference between a murderous psychopath and a children's TV presenter, it's John. But a second opinion's always useful."

"Rich Brook is really James Moriarty," Mycroft says rapidly, "He is the most dangerous man I have ever met and I told him about Sherlock."

Greg looks him carefully up and down. "What did you get in return?"

"What makes you think I got anything?"

"Because you're Mycroft Holmes, and getting you to hand over any piece of information is like drawing teeth. What did you get from Moriarty?"

It's surprisingly easy to explain this bit in the colourless language of a briefing.

"He had a secret, a very valuable secret. I can't tell you what it was, but the codename for it was the Aladdin formula, and its possession was of vital strategic importance to this country. We caught Moriarty and we attempted to extract the formula. We failed, but I was able to gain a little information from him in exchange for talking about Sherlock."

"No," Greg says, folding his arms, and leaning forward. "That's not how it was. I think you're missing a bit out of your story. Because I'm sure you have people who can be very persuasive about giving up secrets. Not to mention stuff like that hallucinogenic fog down in Devon. Give Moriarty a whiff of that and I imagine he'd have told you whatever you wanted to know."

Mycroft carefully assesses the sturdy, tough figure opposite him. Greg isn't brilliant in the way the Holmeses are – were - but over the last year he's realised that he is sometimes remarkably shrewd. And able to be discreet about important matters.

"Oddly enough, I'm telling you the truth, Greg," he replies. "Well, we did try a few things that aren't in the Queensbury Rules, but we didn't dare push Moriarty too far. The only copy of the formula was locked in his brain; if we damaged him, it might be lost for good."

"Fair enough. So you had to keep him alive and no crazier than he was already."

"I can't even say I managed that. I fed his obsession with Sherlock. And then I released him." Mycroft stands up, goes over to the bookcase, starts moving round the volumes of Gibbon's Decline and Fall so that they're in the correct order. Delaying the statement that is still so raw it hurts to say. "I had to choose between my brother and my country and I chose my country."

He's half-expecting more yelling at this point, but instead, Greg simply says wearily: "Oh God, you are a melodramatic tosser sometimes, aren't you? You released Moriarty because you couldn't crack him, but you thought Sherlock could."

"Yes," Mycroft says, turning round. "We were desperate for the Aladdin formula, and I decided the risk was worth taking. And I thought it was a manageable risk."

"Even though Moriarty's a killer?" Greg's voice now is thoughtful, calm. John had lost his temper long before this point, but Greg's still trying to follow the argument. Mycroft decides it's time to be honest, to speak the words that previously only his conscience has heard.

"If Moriarty had wanted to kill Sherlock," he says, "he could have done so long ago. His aim, I suspected, was to frame my brother for some crime, get him sent to prison. I presumed that he would be unable to make any such charges stick. And if he did, I had a back-up plan."

"Springing Sherlock out of jail?" Greg says, almost smiling.

"Nothing so crude. It would be straightforward to obtain a royal pardon, given that a little while ago Sherlock solved a rather delicate matter."

Greg is definitely smiling now: "This is the recording of Prince Harry and Irene Adler, isn't it?"

"What?"

"Well, that was who I thought was involved, when I read John's blog entries about going to the Palace. I had a bet with Sally; she reckoned it was Prince Charles." His smile abruptly vanishes.

"You were both wrong," Mycroft says softly, "but then so was I in my plans, and I had far less excuse."

"Sit down," Greg says. "Sit down and look at me, and tell me. What happened?"

Mycroft does what he's told, and then tries to work out how to explain. How to get to the simple core of the complex trap Moriarty set up.

"It didn't occur to me at first to link up the Sun's exposé with Moriarty," he says at last. "I'm afraid I rather discounted all their talk about forthcoming revelations as hype. And even when I finally got all the details, realised who Rich Brook was, I didn't think his plan would work. The idea that Sherlock had committed all those crimes was ridiculous, provably ridiculous. And our libel laws are very strict; Sherlock could have sued the Sun for a substantial sum."

"But some of the mud would have stuck."

"It's more than that. It was only afterwards, after he'd...done it, that I realised. Sherlock couldn't face a libel trial. He knew what was likely to happen in court. What had happened the last time he appeared in court."

"Oh fuck," Greg says. "The crown jewels trial. He came across as an arrogant git, and earned himself a spell in the cells. Yeah, I could imagine the jury finding against him in a libel case on those grounds alone."

"It wouldn't just have been him," Mycroft replies, and gulps down the last of his whisky, because now he's getting to the truly diabolical bit. "They'd have called you as a witness, because you were the investigating officer on the pips bombing last year, Moriarty's first alleged appearance. And then they'd have brought up the Bruhl case, the fact that you're suspended pending an investigation into misconduct."

"So the defence barristers would have smeared me."

"And the newspapers are free to report such allegations without having to substantiate them, as long as they don't say they are true. And, of course, you wouldn't have been the only witness, or even the main one..."

He stops and waits and sees the wince as Greg works it out.

"John," Greg says. "John Watson in a witness box. Oh, God help us, that would be a car crash, wouldn't it?"

"Dr Watson finds it hard to talk openly about personal matters, and then he loses his temper and is tactlessly blunt. He's a poor liar. He has a documented history of mental health problems. A clever barrister could shred John and his reputation, and Sherlock would have to sit there and watch him being destroyed in public."

"Was that why Sherlock jumped?" Greg asks. "To save John?" He takes a few more sips of his whisky, staring at the tumbler, and then looks up, with the steady brown gaze that Mycroft is coming to adore and says: "Coz if so, that was a fucking stupid decision."

"Yes," Mycroft says. "You cannot libel the dead. People, most people, believe that Sherlock is a fake precisely because he killed himself."

"So why did he do it?"

"I'm not sure," Mycroft says, and that's almost the hardest thing. He and Sherlock may not get on, but he's always understood him, in the way no-one else could. And now it's not just that he's lost his brother, but that all Mycroft's memories of him seem fragile, unsubstantial. "I think it's somehow connected to the Aladdin formula, but I haven't worked out how. Because that was Sherlock's real focus, of course." He waits to see if Greg can make the obvious deduction.

"Oh, I see, you mean if he could get hold of that...he proved he wasn't a fake," Greg says and Mycroft nods gratefully. "That was bigger than the Bruhl case."

"Far, far more important. And if he had obtained what we wanted, well, we couldn't have made his role public, but he would have been offered a knighthood for services to the crown. He might even have been prepared to accept it this time. We'd have found a gallantry award for John as well. And then, it wouldn't really matter what the papers said. Sherlock might not be at liberty to talk about the case, but people would be able to draw their own conclusions about his prowess. Her Majesty's government doesn't give awards to fakes and fantasists."

Mycroft can almost see Greg's thought processes, as he considers, and then rejects, making a joke about Jeffrey Archer. Instead, he simply says: "So you think Sherlock wasn't able to get that formula?"

"I think it was more," Mycroft said slowly. "That he somehow realised he couldn't get hold of it. But I still don't see why Sherlock reacted so badly. Why he didn't just focus on the crimes he could solve."

"It's the cases you almost crack that drive you insane," Greg says quietly and it's as if Mycroft's seeing him as he really is for the first time. Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade, who spends his life trying to solve crimes, just as Sherlock does. Did.

"Why those cases?" he asks, and Greg frowns as he tried to work out his reply, his hands gesturing unconsciously, as if somehow trying to transmit his thoughts by sign language.

"A lot of crimes are straightforward, bit of digging solves them," he says. "And some you know right from the start you're not going to get anywhere; that you just have to go through the motions and shrug it off. It's the ones in between that are tough."

"The ones you think you can solve, but you can't."

"It's bad enough if you know what happened, and you can't prove it. That's like banging your head against a brick wall," Greg says. "But there are ones that are worse than that."

"Tell me," Mycroft says urgently, and Greg stops and rubs his neck and looks at him as if he hasn't properly registered him before.

"One of my first ever cases as a DI was a jewel theft. A diamond necklace stolen from a woman called Rachel Verinder, during a birthday party at a country house turned hotel. One of the staff, a chambermaid called Rosanna Spearman, behaved very suspiciously, and I was convinced she was guilty. I followed her and tracked down that she had a cache of stuff hidden in the grounds, so I arrested her. And you know what I found in that cache?"

"Not the necklace, I take it?"

"A camera containing photos of a woman called Frances Blake, Rachel Verinder's cousin, wearing the necklace.  Blake had got stoned that night, "borrowed" the necklace from her cousin's room to wear, and then found Spearman to take pictures. After which, Blake had wandered off outside, leaving Spearman holding the camera. Blake then managed to lose the necklace, went off to bed and didn't remember a thing in the morning."

"This was confirmed?"

"Yes," Greg says, nodding, "we found another witness and we even struck lucky; we retrieved the necklace by dragging a lake in the grounds. So, officially we solved the thing. But you know what?" he adds earnestly, jabbing his forefinger at Mycroft. "For a month after that I made a complete hash of every case I was given, even the straightforward ones."

"In reaction to that?"

"I couldn't...I couldn't trust my own judgement. I was second-guessing every theory I had, every conclusion, even the most obvious ones. Because maybe there was some angle I hadn't thought of. No, it was more than that. Maybe I didn't understand about the world at all. I hadn't realised that Spearman was trying to protect Blake, not hide her own crimes. I was seriously thinking about getting a transfer out of CID."

"There was no point in carrying on, if you no longer believed in your own abilities. How did you overcome this feeling?"

"My DS was a big help. Sergeant Jack Cuff, his name was. He'd survived forty years of being in the Met, thousands of jokes about handcuffs and was coming up to retirement. He said what you always needed on a case was someone to talk to you could trust. Someone sceptical, but who didn't bear grudges. So they'd point out the holes in your argument, if there were any. But if you got it right they'd be pleased for you."

"If you do find someone like that, it sounds more helpful than talking to a skull," Mycroft replies cautiously. "That just grins if you get things wrong."

 Greg swallows some more of his whisky. "It's not always easy getting the right person, of course."

Greg had relied on Sally Donovan, hadn't he, Mycroft thinks, till Moriarty spooked her. Made her lose her confidence in telling what was true and what was false, so she'd rushed off unthinkingly to her superiors. Best not to mention that, not to say that in the end you were always on your own. For the race is run by one and one and never by two and two. And if you could think faster than anyone else, weren't you better on your own like that? Not bogged down by another's slowness, having to be patient with idiots. Was that why Sherlock had stepped off the edge of the roof, because it was simpler, less boring than having to justify his actions to his intellectual inferiors?

No – suddenly it's obvious, as if talking to Greg has somehow opened a stuck door in his mind. Not anger driving Sherlock, but despair. He has a sudden vivid memory of the Coventry Project fiasco a few months ago. Irene Adler seducing Sherlock into helping her, and then calling his bluff. He'd panicked then, hadn't he? Been willing to hand over millions for Irene's phone, sight unseen. Because he wasn't sure he knew what he was doing any more, had lost faith in himself. Once you got off balance, you kept on stumbling.

By now his head is in his hands, images blurring together. That evening at home, sitting in his shirt-sleeves drinking brandy, and incessantly rechecking the text from Moriarty about the plane, stupidly hoping it might somehow dissolve into non-existence. Irene Adler smiling at him later that night and saying she wasn't going to play fair. And his brother coolly handing the unlocked phone back to him, as if they were a team. If Sherlock hadn't saved him then, cracked Irene's code, Mycroft's reputation within the Service would have been destroyed forever. And then the last scene, the one he can't forget, however much he tries to, here in the Diogenes. John leaning forward in his chair and telling him, with a quiet, intense anger, that he had given Moriarty the perfect ammunition to destroy his brother.

 John had walked back out to find Sherlock, and Mycroft had thought it would still be all right. That Sherlock had John and that would be enough for him. But it hadn't been, had it? Sherlock had sent John away from Barts, with a transparently fake message. Surely he hadn't already decided to kill himself then? How could a man – even his own brother - feel such despair and yet not show it? But maybe it had come later. Maybe Sherlock had gone up on the roof to think, to plan, to look down at the London he knew so well and talk to it. And somehow hadn't got the right answer. But why?

"Why did he do it?" he asks and realises abruptly that he's said the words out loud. And that Greg has got up and is coming to stand beside him, bending awkwardly over him, reaching out to hold his shoulder.

"We don't know," Greg says. "It's always like this after a suicide, wondering: could I have done something different? And even if we could, it probably still wouldn't have changed much. All the stuff left unsaid, all the mess Sherlock chose to leave behind."

There's pain in his voice as well, and Mycroft says abruptly: "It hurt you, didn't it? The messiness." Because maybe, if he can just think about someone else, he can avoid losing himself in the labyrinths of his own mind, the way Sherlock must have done.

"You know one of the first things I thought, when I heard about him jumping?" Greg replies. "Who's gonna solve the Bruhl case now? And I know it was selfish of me, it was so much worse for John, and for you. But that was what I thought."

"He didn't solve the case?" Mycroft asks hastily, because it's one thing thinking about someone else, but it's quite another when his body is belatedly over-reacting to the fact that Greg's hand is on his shoulder. A weak part of his mind is now wanting to snuggle up to that hand, and he's not sure whether lust is a common symptom of grief, or whether there is something seriously wrong with him. Focus on the problem, he tells himself, distract your mind.

"I thought Sherlock found the Bruhl children-" he goes on rapidly.

"He didn't solve it enough," Greg says, and to Mycroft's disappointment, stands up stiffly and goes off to get himself another drink, as if it's back to business. "Do you want anything more?"

"No," Mycroft replies hastily. This is far too fraught a situation to let more alcohol cloud his judgement. Focus on the problem, not on Greg. "What was left to do?"

"We'd got the kids back. Sherlock said it was Moriarty who was responsible, but he didn't have any proof. He didn't give us anything to go on, that was the thing. Maybe he was baffled as well but...this is Sherlock. He's always got half a dozen theories, and he didn't come out with any of them."

"Was that why there was suspicion of his involvement?"

"It was everything. He'd been his usual obnoxious self, completely callous about the kids. He'd done one of those lightning-fast deductions that just could not be right, and yet was, like a conjuring trick. And then Claudette Bruhl started screaming when she saw him, wouldn't say why. And Sherlock treats it all like it's just some bloody move in a game we're too thick to understand."

Greg gulps down some of his whisky and looks across ruefully at Mycroft. "And OK, so it was a move in a game we were too thick to understand. But if Sherlock had given us something - anything – I could have held the line for a few more days at least. If I'd had some answer to give to Sally...to DS Donovan and the others more than: We just have to trust him."

"He gave you nothing?"

"No, I suppose that's not fair," Greg says, putting his glass down. "I mean he got the kids back, and everything up to then seemed on the level. He found footprints of the kidnapper at the school, St Aldate's, where the guy had trodden in some linseed oil, and from the residues Sherlock was able to deduce the factory location. He said the kidnapper must have got into St Aldate's on the last day of term, when everyone was being collected, milling around. He was working on the case; it was only after the girl started screaming that he seemed to lose interest."

"No," Mycroft says, as he feels the lights click on in sequence in his mind, illuminating the whole pattern. "That was when he realised what Moriarty was playing at."

"What do you mean?"

Mycroft doesn't have the breath control to do a Sherlock-style speech, but then he's striving for clarity, not just to show off.

"Moriarty rarely commits crimes personally," he begins. "He prefers to let others do it for him. Besides, however many people they may have been at St Aldate's on that day, he would still have stood out. He is the wrong age and class to be a parent, and has the wrong attitude to be a competent chauffeur. And he hardly looks the kind of reliable individual that a successful school would hire. Furthermore, anyone with any experience with illegal activities would have recognised that he had something oily on his shoes and would have been aware of leaving footprints."

"So who was it doing the kidnapping?" Greg asks.

"Surely there is one obvious answer to that?" Mycroft says, and then realises that he is in danger of channelling the more obnoxious side of Sherlock. "What I mean is, the most plausible initial hypothesis is that Moriarty hired someone to impersonate Sherlock. For one thing, it would surely appeal to his warped sense of humour. Sherlock is alleged to have hired a fake Moriarty; Moriarty really does hire a fake Sherlock."

"And that would explain why Claudette Bruhl was so traumatised," Greg says. "That's brilliant."

"It's fairly straightforward, I would have thought."

"So what we need to do," Greg says eagerly, "is start looking for Sherlock impersonators." And then his face falls, and Mycroft finds himself automatically standing up and going over towards him. He realises just in time that cheering up a policeman who's just remembered that he's been suspended should probably not include attempting to hug him.

"Fuck," Greg adds. "There's not much I can do while I'm still suspended." He looks hopefully at Mycroft, which Mycroft would normally welcome. Unfortunately however, he's not able to give Greg what he wants.

"I'm afraid my resources are very limited, as well," he says, as he stands nervously in front of Greg. "I am also, well, not suspended, but without access to my normal sources of information. And I am singularly hopeless when it comes to practical investigations."

"You don't need CCTV, you don't need to be good at fieldwork," Greg says. "You've got everything you need just here." He reaches out and gently touches Mycroft's forehead. It's an odd, intimate gesture, and Greg himself looks slightly confused as his hand comes down. As if he might possibly want more from Mycroft than just his mind. And then Greg says softly: "Solve it for me, Mycroft", and Mycroft understands exactly why Sherlock became a detective.

He closes his eyes, the way Sherlock does sometimes when he's thinking, and it's as if the answer is written on the inside of his mind, just waiting to be read off. "The man who impersonated Sherlock will be dead by now. Probably killed very soon after he'd taken the children to the factory. Moriarty didn't require him to carry out the murder of Max and Claudette, he had the poisoned sweets for that."

"But why would he kill him?"

"To prevent him revealing Moriarty's role in the plan. It's the gaping loophole in Rich Brook's story. Sherlock is supposedly a murderous psychopath, but Brook and Kitty Reilly take no security precautions whatsoever to evade him. Moriarty wasn't going to have his accomplice be tempted to go to the police or the press."

"So what we're looking for is a dead man who looks like Sherlock?" Greg says, in his normal pragmatic way, and then Mycroft sees it. Well, not all of it, but enough; enough to know that perhaps the impossible should not have been eliminated after all.

"What have you got?" Greg asks, as Mycroft stands there silently, screwing up his closed eyes in concentration. The details still do not fit, but that can come later, and that was why it was Barts, of course. As Irene Adler knew, what you need in these cases is someone to manipulate the DNA samples. How was it done:  do the renovations fit in somewhere (scaffolding, nets, safety-devices?), precise placement of John, how long would it take to set something like that up?

Greg's hands come up and land on Mycroft's shoulders. "Gimme what you've got," he says insistently, and Mycroft opens his eyes to meet Greg's intense brown ones. Instinctively he pulls away, his heart pounding, and he knows it's too late and that light bulbs are going on in Greg's head as well. Mycroft walks away, staring up at the windows; they're put so high up on the walls that it's almost like being in a prison, the light can get in, but there's no way of seeing out, getting out. He waits for Greg to come after him, or to walk away, but there is silence behind him. And then Greg's voice comes, slow, measured:

"You've got to trust me, Mycroft, or we'll never get anywhere."

Mycroft stands by one of the bookcases and gazes at it, trying to calm himself. It would be easier if Greg would just leave; he desperately hopes he won't.

"I don't know for sure," he says, with calculated ambiguity.

"Then tell me what you feel." He's obviously not the only one who's not sure what conversation they're having now.

Mycroft decides abruptly that he's not ready to talk about himself. And besides, it's not the most important thing at the moment. But does he dare reveal the other secret?

"I have an idea about the case," he says, still not looking round, "but I might be wrong."

"Tell me," Greg says. "It doesn't matter if it turns out you're wrong. I'm not keeping score; I never have done."

"But if I'm wrong it will hurt both of us. It's the cases you almost crack that drive you insane, you said so yourself. The ones where you keep on hoping-"

"Tell me, please. Just give me something."

Mycroft turns round, props himself against the bookcase, tries to find the effortless tone that has sustained him and his brother through so many years.

"If my hypothesis about the Bruhl case is correct," he says, wishing he had his umbrella to play with, "that means we have two dead Sherlocks. Surely that seems an excessive number to you? To apply what one might call Occam's cut-throat razor, corpses should not be multiplied beyond necessity."

Greg is now giving him a hard stare that suggests he's rapidly reconsidering whether he wants anything to do with him. We show off in the hope of impressing people and we simply drive them away. And then we tell ourselves that they're just envious of our brilliance and not repulsed by our arrogance. Mycroft takes a breath and says, as simply, as truthfully as he can: "I think it's possible that Sherlock may have faked his own death."

Greg's jaw drops and then he swallows and mumbles: "How?"

"If the possibility of there being a dead look-alike of him occurred to me, I'm sure Sherlock would have thought of it," Mycroft says rapidly. "Perhaps as soon as Claudette Bruhl started screaming. A plausible explanation for his silence on the topic, if he was still trying to work out how to use this information.  And look at the final hours of his life. He goes to Barts, he tricks John into leaving him alone there and the broken body of a man looking rather like my brother is then produced. In a place where Sherlock has easy access both to the equipment required to fake DNA samples and to possible accomplices."

"Sherlock jumped off the roof. John saw him jumping off the roof."

"I don't know the details of how it was done. I don't know if it was done. These could all be the fantasies of a bereaved man, unable to accept his own guilt for his brother's death."

"Yeah," Greg says, and grins. "On the other hand, if you're looking at motives, Sherlock faking his own death because it's part of some excessively clever scheme sounds a lot more in character than Sherlock killing himself because everybody now hates him. OK, so how do we prove it?" And then he bites his lip, and adds. "Scrub that, let's not get ahead of ourselves. How do we get evidence that either confirms your theory or demolishes it?"

He wants me to be Sherlock, Mycroft thinks with sudden terror, and I'm not.

"I don't know," he says. "I normally have...people to do those sorts of investigations."

"So do I," Greg says. "Well, we haven't got them, but we probably couldn't trust then anyhow. OK, let me think...if I start with the Sherlock lookalike end, that's probably best. Easiest bit to investigate unofficially. And if I can get somewhere with the Bruhl case, that's a big help in getting my suspension lifted."

"How can we hope to do this?" Mycroft demands. "It's impossible."

"It'll take a bit longer then," Greg says, and he's still smiling. "But I've got nothing else on at the moment."

Logic tells Mycroft that they're wasting their time. But logic isn't much use when dealing with an unstoppable force like Gregory Lestrade. Mycroft looks across at him, and it's as if Greg can read his mind, see all his doubts.

"We can give it a try at least," Greg says, and spreads his hands - his ringless hands - wide. "I've got nothing left, so there's everything to play for. Much like you, I guess. So, you can stay here where it's quiet and safe or..." He pauses, waiting for Mycroft.

"Or I can come with you," Mycroft says, walking towards him, "and take on the world. Keep buggering on."

"Something like that," Greg replies, as they walk together out of the Diogenes Club.


Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
pillow_face
Feb. 28th, 2012 10:11 pm (UTC)
To quote Arthur, brilliant! Poor Mycroft thinking Gregory is on a rampage xD Still love your dialogues and actions between them.
Also "the Aladdin formula" Iseewhatyoudidthere
thesmallhobbit
Feb. 28th, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
This was great. I loved the twists and turns as Mycroft works through the possibilities and Lestrade encourages him and thinks through the problem as well. And especially Mycroft's expectation that Lestrade was going to shoot him and Lestrade's colourful response.
mirabile_dictu
Feb. 28th, 2012 10:55 pm (UTC)
Oh my god, this is stunning. And it brought tears to my eyes. Clever and heart-wrenching; how do you do that?
uwsannajane
Feb. 29th, 2012 02:35 am (UTC)
Oh, so well done. I love watching these two trying to find the missing pieces, and coming so close.

Hope. Hope is nice.
(no subject) - shehasathree - Feb. 29th, 2012 03:25 am (UTC) - Expand
penguineggs
Feb. 29th, 2012 08:11 am (UTC)
Ooh, lovely.
zauzat
Feb. 29th, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
Just as lovely read the 2nd time round.
kalypso_v
Mar. 1st, 2012 03:29 am (UTC)
I like Mycroft's carefully controlled sense of melodrama versus Lestrade's determined common sense. But I hope there are more episodes to come!
marysutherland
Mar. 9th, 2012 07:25 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it - it was fun to write, though I'm a bit startled when I realised it was essentially one 6,000 word scene and that I couldn't find any obvious way to post it in parts. I don't have the time and energy at the moment to write a sequel - and it's harder to write something when you know it will be comprehensively Jossed. But I might come back to this at some point.
queenofshallow
Mar. 13th, 2012 06:38 pm (UTC)
This is really very clever!
How do you think of the litle back story details that raise this story above the average?
I love the interplay between Lestrade and Mycroft and the way you held back just enough for me to want to say:

MORE PLEASE...There MUST be more

marysutherland
Mar. 18th, 2012 04:27 pm (UTC)
At some point I may write more, but I'm not yet sure how to take the detection side of it further. If I can think of a way to do that that won't end up being comprehensively Jossed, I may do so. But I'm pleased you enjoyed the detail of this.
alina_kotik
Mar. 13th, 2012 11:15 pm (UTC)
It's a very well written story with plausible development. The slow birth of hope is thrilling, and Mycroft's reactions are beautifully desribed.
marysutherland
Mar. 18th, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC)
I realise I went a bit over the top having 6000 words of s single scene, but having worked out one possible complex solution to the problem of Sherlock's death, I wanted to try and take it slowly, get the sense of feeling towards the truth. I'm pleased you liked the result.
fengirl88
Mar. 14th, 2012 06:24 am (UTC)
I liked this very much - in lots of different ways (including at one point MOONSTONE SQUEE).
marysutherland
Mar. 18th, 2012 04:36 pm (UTC)
I have tempted you into reading post-Reichenbach fic - my success is almost complete! You're the first person to comment on the Moonstone homage (or slashy rip-off, to be more accurate). I was trying to think of a case Lestrade could have been involved in, and it seemed such a nice one to do. Though I still haven't worked out how I can somehow do a BBC!Sherlock version of the scene in the Women in White where Marion overhears Count Fosco's evil plans but is too delirious to prevent him carrying them out.
trista_zevkia
Mar. 14th, 2012 08:50 am (UTC)
Brilliant! And I hope the show's explanation is as good as yours, if not yours!
marysutherland
Mar. 18th, 2012 04:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your comment. After what they did to get out of the Series 1 cliffhanger, I have no idea how they might work this one out: but it'll probably be even stranger than this fic.
miss_variety
Mar. 19th, 2012 12:50 am (UTC)
Oh this is brilliant. Well thought out and executed. Really enjoyed reading this :D
snarryfool
Apr. 20th, 2012 01:04 am (UTC)
That was just plain excellent. Thank you.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )