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Bullpup Press
A Creative-Writing House


Ch. 1    Ch. 2    Ch. 3    Ch. 4    Ch. 5    Ch. 6    Ch. 7    Ch. 8    Ch. 9    Ch. 10    Ch. 11    Ch. 12    Ch. 13    Ch. 14    Ch. 15    Ch. 16    Ch. 17    Ch. 18    Ch. 19    Ch. 20    Epilog


Event Horizon: Chapter 20

by

Carole Manny & Lynn Walker



"Well, that's another dragon slain," Mycroft said. "How does one keep track of that? Notches on the bedpost? Or perhaps blog posts are the modern update."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Sherlock looked cross.

"Elizabeth Camden," Mycroft said. "Your 'Mary Watson.'"

"I didn't 'slay' her," Sherlock said. "She killed herself. And she was no dragon."

"Wasn't she?"

"No."

"She was James Moriarty's personal assassin and bodyguard. Isn't what that what dragons do? Protect the throne?"

"Sentiment doesn't suit you, Mycroft. Neither do extended metaphors."

Mycroft considered him briefly, then said, "Well, and so John's home from hospital."

"Yes. He's home."

"How is he?"

"Better. She didn't use hollowpoints. The surgeon said it made a difference."

"Oversight?"

"Deliberate. They're too effective. She wasn't planning mercy killings."

"Charming. But in any case I meant psychologically."

Sherlock frowned. "He's fine psychologically. Obviously."

"Are you sure?"

Well, he was. "Of course I'm sure. Why wouldn't he be?"

"He shot his wife, Sherlock. That has…consequences."

"She was never his wife. Not in any real way. He knows that now. Besides, she was trying to kill him. And me." When Mycroft looked sceptical he added impatiently, "He's stronger than you think."

Mycroft stared at him for a moment, then said indifferently, "Have it your way." After a pause he said, in an entirely different tone, "Sherlock: Now that you know about my association with the countess, perhaps you'll make every effort to forget it."

"I'd certainly like to."

"And if you could impress upon John the value of silence-"

"Well, we were going to post about it on Facebook, but perhaps we'll just gossip between ourselves while we eat ice cream from the carton and braid each other's hair. Believe it or not, Mycroft, he's not interested in your personal lifeany more than I am."

"And yet he eagerly trailed along when you decided to harass her about an intensely personal matter."

"Mmm…Not exactly."

"Not exactly what?"

"'Harassing' the countess was his idea."

"I beg your pardon."

"To be strictly accurate, his idea led to harassing the countess, but that's close enough for government work."

"I apologized for using him to punish you," Mycroft said, deeply chagrined.

Sherlock laughed. "Don't take it so hard, Mycroft. People much stupider than you have underestimated him. You're in good company."

"So are you."

"That's what I meant."

Mycroft's phone vibrated then; he glanced at it, typed a brief reply to a text, then looked up. His brother hadn't left and showed no sign of being about to do so. "Why are you still here?" he asked impatiently. "Oh, dear God. You don't want to talk about your feelings, do you?"

"No. I want to talk about yours."

"I don't have any. Go away."

Sherlock smiled. "You were right."

"I always assume so. Goodbye."

"You were also very wrong. Caring's not an advantage. Except when it is."

Mycroft sighed and rubbed his forehead. "It works for you, Sherlock. It doesn't work for me."

"It could."

"Why do you think that you know me better than I know myself?"

"I don't." He peered more closely at Mycroft, making a big deal about it. "But then, I don't have to. You are human? I have it on good authority that there are some universal constants involved."

"Ah, yes. You've been learning at your master's knee, have you? You're an amateur, Sherlock, with an amateur's overconfidence in his own powers. The explanation you're looking for is very simple: Iphigenia Killick was and remains a rich and potentially powerful woman. I formed an alliance with her, just as I have with dozens of other influential people, in order to advance my work here."

Sherlock smiled with an irritating, knowing complacency as though Mycroft hadn't spoken. "So you're saying the launch window is closed."

"I'm saying that it was never open." He made a face. "Where do you get these strained analogies? Is there an app?"

"I underestimated you," Sherlock said.

"No, little brother. You over-estimated me. You always have."

"Ugh," Sherlock said with a scowl. "All this random sentiment should come with a warning label. Can't you pass a law?"

"I'll see what I can do."

Sherlock considered him a moment longer, then dropped it. "What about Janine?" he asked.

"No sign of her," Mycroft said. "But I have people looking."

"I handed her to you on a plate, Mycroft," Sherlock growled irritably.

"Yes, you did. Your little ruse worked. Well. Batrachotoxin on a pen. One has to admire the elegance of the idea."

"Wish I'd thought of it." Mycroft scowled. "Oh, don't give me that look," Sherlock said disgustedly. "Anyway, John beat you to it."

"To what?"

"'The Talk.' Murder bad. I get it."

"Sherlock, if I thought you were only now coming to that realization I'd turn you in myself, and I suspect John would do the same." He paused, then said more seriously, "I do regret pushing you to the point where you thought it was your only option. Or should I say, to the point where you stopped thinking at all. If John hadn't been there…Well. Perhaps he's best factored in to your schemes after all."

"You think?"

"Of course the fact that you insist on caring about him is what made you lose your head in the first place."

"Mycroft."

"The Russian sniper was apprehended, however," Mycroft said, just as eager as his brother to change the subject. "He's being…interviewed as we speak."

Sherlock wasn't interested. He clapped his hands down on the arms of the chair and stood. "I'm leaving."

"Thank God."

"The last time I left John alone with Mrs. Hudson too long all her mindless wittering made him bleed internally." He paused in the doorway with his hand on the lever. "Oh, and Mycroft?"

"What now?"

"When you see her this afternoon, do give Janine my regards."

ooooo

Mycroft had just tapped his computer to wake it when Anthea knocked at the door. "Lady Ruffner to see you, sir," she said.

Mycroft was already standing when Anthea showed the countess in and stepped around the desk to greet her. "Lady Ruffner," he said with a bow, impeccably correct as always, and shaking her proffered hand. "Welcome. Do come in. Sit down, please. How may I be of service?"

"Iffy. And you can stop with the bowing and scraping, for a start," she said pleasantly. "Sit down, for heaven's sake, and don't pretend you don't know why I've come."

"May I offer you a drink?" he asked.

"You certainly may, but I'll get it myself," she said, and as she dropped ice cubes into the tumbler she held the glass up in a 'do you want one?' gesture.

"No, thank you," Mycroft said.

"I just passed your brother on his way out," she said, by way of opening the conversation as she sat down. "Your famous brother." She laughed at his expression. "You look like you're chewing a lemon, you know. Is it a dangerous job, being a detective?"

"It is the way Sherlock does it," Mycroft sniffed. "Lady-" She stopped him with a look and he corrected himself. "Iffy. I know why you're here and I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am that Sherlock invaded your privacy in that unconscionable way. He never learnt of you through me and if I'd known what he intended I can absolutely assure you that I would have stopped him."

"Well, then it's a damned good thing you didn't know, isn't it?" she said, and he blinked in surprise. "Mycroft. He gave me and a lot of other people a way to stand up to a monster. How can that be a bad thing?" He started to say something, but she cut him off. "That was rhetorical. It's impossible for it to be a bad thing, and I think you know that." Her expression softened a bit. "In any case I know very well that you weren't the one who brought me to his attention."

"Then who?"

"Aunt Angela, of course," she said.

"Of course." He'd been standing this whole time but now he sat down as well.

"I love my husband," she said. "I love my children-all three of them. Yet I spent two decades being terrified of exposure and letting that fear colour my enjoyment of all my time with them. We don't have that long in this life, Mycroft. We certainly don't have enough time to waste it being afraid of cowards. I owe your brother and his friend an enormous debt of gratitude, and so do all the others Magnussen held under his thumb. That includes you." She tipped her drink toward him, then sipped from it.

The thought of owing bus fare to Sherlock and John was displeasing in the extreme, but he couldn't think of a thing to say in reply that wouldn't sound petty.

"Robert wants to see that they're properly recognized," she added. "He thinks of nominating them for the QGM."

"Absolutely not," he said instantly, startled out of his usual diplomacy.

She frowned. "Why ever not?"

"Screw down your ashtrays," he muttered.

"Sorry?"

"Iffy, you might just as profitably reward a baby for soiling itself. The baby will mess regardless and it won't understand why you're praising it. In any case, Sherlock and formal occasions…He can't operate a tie, and Dr. Watson is still labouring under the misapprehension that corduroy is current."

She laughed. "Well. Perhaps I can suggest that Robert arrange some sort of private thank-you."

Mycroft sighed with relief. "That would be much wiser," he said. "But if in fact you really want to impress him you'd be better advised to give him an axe murderer's spleen in a pickle jar."

She laughed again, although she didn't really follow him, but then she composed herself. "She's beautiful, Mycroft," she said with no segue. "Giving her up was the biggest mistake of my life, but I think we can be friends now, she and I. You kept her safe from that man all these years," she added. "I'd like for you to meet."

"That would not be a good idea," he said firmly. Then, when she looked surprised he added more gently, "I am not a good influence on children."

"She's a young woman now."

"She's a beautiful, accomplished, happy, and well-adjusted young woman now. The last thing she needs is an introduction to someone like me."

"How can you say that?"

"Iffy. I can say it because of Sherlock. I was an appalling big brother to him. At every turn, where I could have mitigated his weaknesses, I managed to amplify them. If it were not for Dr. Watson the mistakes I made with my brother would have destroyed him by now. I mean that literally. You must trust me on this," he added, when she looked shocked.

She looked into his face, her expression searching and thoughtful. "I'll tell you what I think, shall I? I think your brother is a brave, resourceful, brilliant young man and that he didn't get that way by having a prat for a big brother."

He didn't have the heart to tell her that was largely because of him that Sherlock was also remote, ruthless, calculating, intransigent, and dangerous. "He got that way in spite of me."

She looked at her watch. "Your PA said that you have an important meeting in a few minutes. I'll go. I really just came to ask for your forgiveness."

"Granted," he said instantly. "For what?"

She looked down at her hands and all her characteristic insouciance vanished. "A moment ago I said that life's too short to be afraid of cowards. Well. It's also far too short to waste it being cowards ourselves, and I've only just realized that very recently. It was wrong of me to ever ask you to assume the burden of my-well, of what I thought at the time was a mistake. It was even more wrong because…Because I took advantage of you. Back then I…I went about a lot of things-most things-in a very wrong-headed way. There was a desire for conquest, if you see what I mean, but nothing deeper. I didn't have any thoughts of…friendship. It was shallow and wrong and cruel, and while I'm not vain enough to assume that you consider that a loss I know that I threw away a chance for something very important. You are a better and more honourable creature than I will ever be, Mycroft. I didn't give you the respect you deserved, and I will always be sorry for that."

"Apology accepted, of course," he said with a smile. "But it's unnecessary. In any case I'm afraid that you very much overestimate not only the benefits of prolonged association with me but the rigour of what you call my 'burden.'"

"I doubt that," she said. She put down the drink, picked up her purse, and stood. He stepped around the desk to see her out. She paused in the doorway and he automatically put out his hand to shake, but instead she kissed his cheek.

"You're a brave, good man, Mycroft," she said. "Now let yourself be happy. It doesn't hurt as much as you think."

ooooo

The cell door creaked open and Mycroft Holmes stepped into the room. Eyed the prisoner, observed the red marks on the detainee's wrists where the handcuffs chafed; that was inevitable when the chains were fixed to the wall at a point too high to allow sitting down.

"Good afternoon. My name is Mycroft Holmes. I trust you slept poorly, Miss Hawkins?"


– End Chapter 20 –

Ch. 1    Ch. 2    Ch. 3    Ch. 4    Ch. 5    Ch. 6    Ch. 7    Ch. 8    Ch. 9    Ch. 10    Ch. 11    Ch. 12    Ch. 13    Ch. 14    Ch. 15    Ch. 16    Ch. 17    Ch. 18    Ch. 19    Ch. 20    Epilog



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