Title: Courting is Over – part 5
Author: Ariane DeVere
Word count: 8261 (parts 5-7 inclusive); 21,627 in all
Warnings: Major character deaths (offscreen) (allegedly), discussion of injury to and mutilation of bodies by explosion in part 7
Light-touch beta thanks to verityburns. Any glaring errors are all mine.
Back to Part 1
Sarah had known that it would be a nightmare blagging her way into Mycroft’s office but she had hoped that it might be a little easier than this. As far as she could guess, she had been having this discussion with the gentlemen on the reception desk for at least fifteen minutes and, as yet, there was no sign of either of them relenting and picking up a phone. However, although two security men had arrived shortly after she had walked into the building, they were so far staying a long way from the desk and were just keeping an eye on her. She hoped that, provided she didn’t raise her voice or start showing any other signs of anger, they would simply continue their watching brief.
“He’s expecting me,” she said to the receptionists for the umpteenth time. “And no, I don’t have an appointment but believe me, he knows I’m here and he knew I was coming hours ago. I just need a few minutes with him, and I can’t leave until I’ve seen him.”
“Mr. Holmes is in meetings all day,” one of the men told her yet again. His voice was becoming rather sing-song with the constant repetitions. “He cannot be disturbed and I am unable to let him know that you’re here.”
“He already knows I’m here ...” Sarah started again but then looked round as an elegantly-dressed woman walked across to the desk and smiled at her politely.
“Doctor Sawyer, I’m Mr. Holmes’ assistant,” she told her.
Sarah turned towards her, registering the BlackBerry which she held in one hand. “Are you Anthea?” she asked.
The woman’s eyes flickered briefly and she smiled fondly. “I was ‘not-Anthea’ to John, yes,” she said. Her gaze became reflective for a moment, then she turned her eyes to Sarah’s again. “So yes, do call me Anthea. But I’m afraid that under no circumstances will Mr. Holmes be able to see you today. I’m sorry, but he really is too busy.”
“OK, that’s fine,” Sarah said and turned as if to leave the desk, then swung back towards not-Anthea while gesturing to the entrance. “I’m just going to sit on the steps outside and start howling loudly, and I’m not going to stop until the press arrive.”
She looked round warningly at the security men as they took a few steps towards her. “My friend already knows that if I don’t call her soon, she should start sending reporters here.”
“And what precisely would they report if you weren’t here?” asked Anthea calmly.
Sarah dipped her chin and peered over the top of her imaginary glasses at her. “I do know what this place is, you know,” she said. “Do you think Sherlock wouldn’t have told me during one of his many griping sessions about his brother? I know what it’s supposed to be, I know what it really is, and I know that you don’t like attention from the press, so you can either have me dragged away and locked in a windowless room for the rest of eternity, or you can let me see Mycroft for a few minutes.”
She slowly took a step closer to Anthea, holding her hands out to her sides to make it clear that she wasn’t being physically threatening. “Please,” she said quietly. “I’m not here to have a fight with him. I want to try and make amends, and it’ll take no more than five minutes but I absolutely have to see him.” She gazed at the other woman, letting her see her desperation. “Please,” she said again.
Anthea studied her silently for what felt like at least an hour but might have been no more than six seconds. Trying not to squirm, Sarah locked eyes with her and attempted to convey both her trustworthiness and her need.
Finally Anthea sighed.
The previous day Sarah had been to Baker Street for an afternoon with Mrs Hudson. The older lady enjoyed writing letters and so the two of them corresponded on a regular basis, Sarah always feeling a little guilty when – in response to Mrs Hudson’s carefully handwritten letters – she saved time by typing her own replies. Now at last she had found a free afternoon to pay a visit, and while it was painful to look up the stairs and remember the good times she had had in the upper flat, she still felt a comforting sense of coming home.
As Mrs Hudson led the way into the ground floor flat she told Sarah that the new tenants – who had answered her advertisement within twenty minutes of her card being pinned up on the notice board at the local supermarket and who had barely glanced around the flat before handing over the deposit in cash – were a quiet couple who she didn’t see or even hear very often. However, their rent always arrived on time and when she had taken a peek inside the living room about a week ago after they had gone out, the place was very tidy. She let out a trembling sigh as she filled the kettle and put it on the hob. “It’s not the same,” she said, “and I felt so guilty about it, but I didn’t have a choice but to let the flat out again. I needed the money, you see.” She took a tissue from her sleeve and blew her nose. “Mycroft came round and supervised the removal of everything that belonged to Sherlock and John, did you know?”
Sarah nodded. Harry had phoned in some distress after receiving a call from Mycroft inviting her to the flat to look through John’s possessions. The girls had spent a long time arguing because Harry didn’t want to see or have any of her brother’s stuff and, despite Sarah offering to go with her or even in her place, Harriet had dug her heels in and refused to budge on the issue. Sarah had tried without success to persuade her that she would regret her decision later. She could only hope that Mycroft had put John’s property into storage somewhere in case Harry changed her mind in the future, but she hadn’t been able to bring herself to phone him to ask.
Mrs Hudson made a pot of tea and toasted some currant buns for their lunch and they had a bitter-sweet afternoon reminiscing about the boys, laughing as they shared their experiences and feeling the inevitable sadness as they couldn’t help but let the conversation drift around to the funerals. Sarah spoke about how touched she had been by the actions of the homeless network, and Mrs Hudson sighed and reached up her sleeve for her tissue again.
“Mycroft was really moved when he saw them standing by the side of the road,” she said, dabbing at her eyes. “He’d been so quiet all morning and when he wouldn’t ride in the car with you I was really worried about him. I thought he was angry with you girls after you made him agree to your plans for the funeral, but I thought it would be such a shame for him to drive to the service alone and that’s why I went with him.” She blew her nose and tucked her tissue away. “But then I realised that he wasn’t angry, just hurt that he couldn’t take his brother home.”
Sarah opened her mouth but Mrs Hudson hurried to reassure her.
“Oh no, I don’t mean you did the wrong thing. I don’t think even Mycroft feels that way any more. He really approved of John, you know, and he understood why you wanted them to be together. No, he wasn’t angry at all; he was just sad and quiet.”
She sighed and fell silent for a moment, but then giggled. “I think he was a lot more annoyed when I found him upstairs about a week later. This was before I re-let the flat. It was absolutely pouring with rain and I was drenched when I got home, but I could hear someone moving about upstairs and thought it must be him, but I went up to check. Well ...” She put her hand over her mouth as she chuckled so hard that she couldn’t speak for several seconds. Finally she managed to pull herself together a little. “I never expected to find him standing there with no trousers on!”
Sarah gaped at her and then cracked up at the mental image. Mrs Hudson joined in her laughter but finally managed to tell the rest of the story.
“His car had broken down a couple of streets away and rather than wait for the replacement to arrive, he left his chauffeur and walked the rest of the way but it was so windy that even that big umbrella he always carries didn’t keep the rain off and his trousers got soaked, so when he realised I was out he let himself in and decided to take them off and dry them in front of the oven. He was so embarrassed when I walked in ...”
She disintegrated into giggles again. Sarah grinned at her.
“Oh, please tell me he wears sock suspenders,” she begged. “I can just imagine him wearing them.”
Mrs Hudson straightened her face and tried to look prim. “I will never tell,” she said but the twinkle in her eye set them both giggling once more.
The rest of the afternoon passed quickly and Sarah was surprised when she glanced at the clock and realised how late it was getting. The women bade each other a fond farewell and Sarah promised to visit again soon and then made her way to the Tube station.
The dry voice in the back of her mind which sounded like Sherlock first began murmuring to her during the journey home, prompting her over and over again to remember something important. However, it wasn’t until she had got home, had a shower and some dinner and was sitting on the sofa watching the late evening news and idly reflecting on her visit that she suddenly sat bolt upright, flailed around for the remote control to mute the volume on the television and then stared blankly at the wall for several minutes. As the voice urged her onwards and her thoughts began to fall into place, her eyes widened and she got to her feet, walked calmly to her windowless bathroom and then shut herself in while she sobbed, shouted silently at herself in the mirror and eventually found herself sitting on the floor in the corner of the room with her arms wrapped around her head, barely able to cope with the thoughts which continued to bombard her. It was a long time before she was able to pull herself together, wash her face, bathe her eyes and leave the bathroom, and she went straight to bed and pulled the duvet up over her head. She had no idea whether she was being monitored after all these months – and if so, whether it was by the good guys or the bad guys or how much monitoring was involved. All that mattered was that they didn’t see just how distressed she was.
The next morning she got up early, ate a quick breakfast and then left the flat and began her journey to the memorial gardens.
Sarah had been shown into Mycroft’s office twenty-seven minutes ago. The security men had made a big point of searching her handbag carefully and demanding that she take off her jacket so that they could go through its pockets. She knew that she wouldn’t even have been allowed into the building if they had suspected that she might be carrying anything dangerous and so the search was simply an attempt to unnerve her. She didn’t bother explaining to them that after almost a year of living in the Holmes-verse – not to mention the revelations she had had the previous night – she was way past the point of being unnerved by much that happened to her, and had submitted to the searches without protest.
Finally one of the security men led her along several interminable corridors, walking too quickly and making her trot to keep up with him. She scampered along behind him without complaint and eventually he opened an office door and stood aside for her to enter the room. It was entirely the wrong shape for a one-person office – long and narrow and with a dark wooden desk placed about halfway along its length. The room was not well lit, the illumination coming from standard lamps in the corners of the room and from desk lamps rather than overhead lighting and therefore leaving the centre of the room rather gloomy. All other furniture around the walls was equally dark and imposing and Sarah realised that this room had been designed for just one purpose: to make any visitor feel uncomfortable. This was confirmed by the single chair in front of the desk to which the man gestured her. Although it was well padded, the back was curved in such a way that it wouldn’t support you properly if you leaned back and the arms were too high and would probably put an awkward strain on your shoulders after a while. She suppressed a snort as she sat down and looked up at the security man serenely.
“Mr. Holmes will be with you when he’s free,” he told her. “Please wait here.”
He turned and left the room without waiting for her reply. She hadn’t intended to give him one anyway. Instead she settled down as comfortably as she could in the chair and waited quietly, resisting any temptation to fidget or to try to shift into a better position. She was utterly certain that she was being watched on camera and she was determined to outwait her observers, even though she occasionally had to bite back a smile as her evil side nudged her to get up and deliberately start rifling through the papers on the desk just to see what would happen. Before she could succumb to the urge, Mycroft finally came in and closed the door behind him, then walked across to his desk with his eyes fixed on an open folder which he was carrying. Ignoring her, he walked over to the front of his desk and stood with his back to her, continuing to read – or pretend to read – his file.
“Sarah,” he said without looking round. “How nice to see you again. Do excuse me one minute more.”
Sarah fought back the desire to comment that he hadn’t seen her yet and just waited patiently. At long last he put down the folder, turned around to face her, leaned back against the desk and folded his arms.
“What can I do for you?” he asked.