“John stares blankly at the detonator in his hand. He knows he will never live to be eleven or twelve or thirteen. He deserves to die, but the man standing next to him doesn’t Sherlock doesn’t deserve this.”
Summary AU – The British Empire spans the globe: her greatest threat is not foreign enemies but domestic terrorists, killing in the name of freedom and independence. Mycroft Holmes leads the grim war on terror and Sherlock is his best secret agent: cold, calculating and obsessive, who is hell-bent on destroying the militant rebels until one explosive day when he meets a child soldier named John
Rating PG-13Genre Adventure/Action, Kidfic, Espionage, Romance, Dark,
Characters Sherlock/Irene, Sherlock&John, Mycroft/Anthea, Lestrade, Sally Donovan, Anderson, Moriarty
Length 40,000+ 16 Chapters
“Mr Sherlock,” said Angelo with more enthusiasm than was strictly necessary, “come in, come in!”
“Just spaghetti, and make it quick,” said Sherlock, not bothering with any niceties: his long-term friend and food provider was used to this brusque manner.
Angelo rushed into the kitchen to give his staff the order, then hurried back with a candle for Sherlock’s table.
The small Italian restaurant felt warm and homely at this time of night. Couples and families occupied most of the seats, chatting and laughing. Bunches of dried herbs and vegetables hung around the walls as decorations, giving the establishment a rustic ambience that Sherlock enjoyed.
“It’s my vain hope that you’ll bring your date back,” explained Angelo as he placed the candle in the centre of Sherlock’s usual table by the window.
“She wasn’t just my date, she was also my colleague,” snapped Sherlock, but Angelo merely answered him with a superior smile.
The spaghetti appeared with lashings of Bolognese – which Sherlock hadn’t ordered – but Angelo refused to leave him alone until he had eaten the entire plate.
“You need to build your strength up. I have this feeling I’m not going to see you again for a while,”
“You’re right,” replied Sherlock curtly as he reached for his wallet, which was, as usual, fervently rejected.
“You don’t pay here, Mr Sherlock. You need to eat well or you’ll fade away.”
Sherlock suppressed a smile at that phrase: his life as a spy had always been lived in the shadows. The ability to fade into the background or fade into another persona was second nature to Sherlock. Over the years, as he became more consumed by his hunt for Moriarty, Sherlock had begun to wonder whether the lines between their personalities were already blurring and fading.
“Good seeing you again, Angelo,” said Sherlock quietly.
“You are always welcome,” the Italian replied with gusto.
Sherlock stepped out into the cool summer night and braced himself against the lashing wind that felt like it still contained icicles from Siberia. This British summer was proving to be as temperamental as the last, with days of scorching sunshine followed by squalling gales and torrential rain. Tonight, the biting wind made walking unpleasant even with a long winter coat and scarf. Sherlock plunged his hands deep into his pockets and hurried home as fast as possible.
By the time he turned the corner onto Baker Street, he already knew he was being followed. A dark shape flitted at the edge of his vision, sometimes disappearing for long moments in a vain attempt to convince him that it was just his imagination, or paranoia. The sparse, dim glow of the street lamps illuminated very little of the dark street, and between the patches of light, sinister shadows shifted and weaved as Sherlock hurried along.
When he finally reached 221B, he fitted his key into the front door and pretended to fiddle with the lock. It was an old trick he still used occasionally to fool would-be assassins into thinking that he was in a vulnerable state.
The attack came from the right as he knew it would, a wickedly sharp blade slashing at his carotid artery. It missed by a wide margin but was instantly followed by a roundhouse kick to his thigh. He blocked the assault with his right hand, jabbing the keys into his opponent’s calf muscles. A hand gripped his hair painfully, pulling him backward onto the pavement and leaving the front door of 221B gaping half open.
Sherlock twisted gracefully, using his feet to pivot and pull his centre of gravity downward to regain his balance. They were almost facing each other when a well-polished red stiletto heel came flying at his groin. Mindful of his duty to continue the Holmes family line, he kicked out at the attacker’s other leg, which for a split second was supporting all her weight. She lost her balance – but instead of tumbling backwards onto the street, she threw herself forward, knocking both of them into the hallway of 221B with a resounding thud.
Mrs Hudson, Sherlock’s ever-present and ever-fussing landlady, ran out from her flat in a state of panic – which soon subsided when she saw just who was lying on top of him. “Can you please do this somewhere else?” she asked, though her exasperated tone showed she had already given up hope either of them was ever going to listen.
“I’m sorry, Mrs Hudson,” said Irene smugly, “I just can’t keep my hands off him.”
Half an hour later, the kettle had boiled and Irene was curled up in one of his armchairs, wearing his dressing gown. Her luxurious, thick brown hair was drying in the heat from the fire, and Sherlock relished for a moment the remembered sensation of running his hands through those smooth, silky locks. Even a decade after their first meeting, he still thought of Irene as the woman: the only woman who had ever enraptured his mind and captured his heart.
She held out her hand for a cup of Earl Grey, and Sherlock passed it to her in silence.
“How was Beirut?” she asked with a knowing smile. “I heard you caused quite a commotion.”
“The Egyptian Prime Minister refused to listen to me and consequently lost his life. The human gene pool is much better off now. When did you get back from the Congo?”
“This evening. Thought I’d drop by and see if you’ve replaced me, seeing as I’ve been gone for so long,” Irene said, leaning forward in her chair with a wicked glint in her eyes that did terrible things to Sherlock’s cognitive function.
“Why would I replace something I don’t want?”
“…Because you’re a sexually frustrated bachelor in his thirties who makes up for his interpersonal anxieties by behaving like a petulant toddler at all times? Oh, and shall I mention your brother? But then we could be here all night….”
“I haven’t replaced you,” growled Sherlock, and sipped his piping-hot tea. The warm, heady aroma of his favourite blend provided a comforting anchor against the storm that was brewing outside.
“This is not just a social visit,” admitted Irene in a low voice, interrupting Sherlock’s thoughts.
“You’ve been tasked with infiltrating the LRA.”
Sherlock didn’t bother asking how she’d obtained that piece of information. Irene Adler had become one of the most renowned agents in MI5 since her defection from Moriarty almost a decade ago. Sherlock had been the one to recruit her, not just because she was as close to the criminal mastermind as any human could get, but because she fascinated him. They were so alike, yet so different. Even after ten years of deadly missions, secret escapades and stolen moments together, she still remained the most remarkable mystery he had ever encountered.
“You’re right,” he replied flatly, and continued to drink his tea.
“I’m going to be helping you out.”
Thankfully, that remark caught Sherlock in between sips; otherwise, Irene would have been treated to an amusing display of the man choking on his own beverage. “This is not an MI5 operation!” hissed Sherlock venomously. “I don’t work for those fools anymore.”
“Lestrade and Gregson have agreed with Mycroft to run this operation jointly. Having me working on this as a liaison was the best compromise we could come up with.”
“And I suppose they ordered you here to break the news to me?” snarled Sherlock, feeling inexplicably hurt at the idea.
“You really are a toddler,” replied Irene with equal measures of amusement and exasperation “They were going to tell you at the briefing tomorrow, but I thought you deserved to know tonight. …Well, I thought it would be a good excuse to visit you tonight.”
“You don’t need an excuse to visit.” Irene had a habit of treating his apartment as her own and had recently developed an annoying tendency to redecorate his personal space as she saw fit. The new coffee table and union jack cushion were entirely her doing.
“Mmm, but I do need a reason to stay all night.”
Sherlock had never been a paragon of British self-control, but the speed at which he crossed the room to envelop her was indecent even by his standards.
John awoke to the sound of water dripping through the cracks in the ceiling. He didn’t mind the noise, and it guaranteed them a steady water supply throughout the night – a luxury other platoons didn’t have.
The bucket was almost full, and John clambered out of his sleeping sack into the bitter cold air to drink some of the precious liquid. It always tasted slightly metallic, as the water corroded the iron rods inside the concrete. He imagined that the water on the surface world must taste very bland, since it came straight from a “reservoir”. John had once watched a TV programme about the water cycle, and he was fascinated by the way in which water was recycled: from the river to the trees to the air. It was a pity that the TV set had been moved to Company B. Now John had only a tattered pile of books, which he knew off by heart, to amuse him.
Murray was stirring in the space next to his, but Zero and Slightly remained unmoving, misshapen lumps under their blankets.
“Sarge,” muttered Murray as John slurped down the ice-cold water in the tin bucket, “are you really going to do this?”
“That dirty bomb.”
“Yes,” stated John, as though it were a universal truth.
“I don’t like it.”
Murray had a habit of thinking too much. Zero called it paranoia – probably because that was the only impressive-sounding word he knew – but John liked the way Murray thought twice about everything.
“Remember that drone we found near King’s Cross?”
“What about it?”
“Remember how the red light didn’t come on when it got within jamming range?”
“Just a problem with the drone, not our jammers.”
“I think it transmitted your picture before we fried its circuits.”
Now Murray really was being paranoid. The LRA had long since developed jamming equipment to prevent the drones from uploading anything more than images of empty tunnels when soldiers were around. This particular mission was the first time John had ever been specifically ordered to destroy a drone. Mostly the unmanned aircraft were left to their own devices to wander the tunnels. Five years of constant drone patrols had never once caused the Government forces to raid the Underground. Although it was a strange order, John knew better than to ask questions. Surveillance drones occasionally did get destroyed by cave-ins or old booby traps left over from the Second World War; losing one drone out of several thousand was hardly going to make the government suspicious.
“You’re worrying too much,” whispered John as he crawled back under his blankets. Some people might think his bedding smelt atrocious, but John enjoyed the strong, musty odour that he associated with sleep and comfort.
“But what if?”
“Then we would all be dead by now,” replied John calmly, “and we’re not, so obviously there’s nothing to worry about.”
“They’re biding their time up there,” muttered Murray, more to himself than to John, “they know we’re down here trapped like rats and they’re going to smoke us out.”
John didn’t bother to listen to the rest of Murray’s thoughts. His mission started tomorrow: a mission that would end the British Empire forever and bring freedom to the world.
Production Notes: Irene’s Backstory:
The basic premise is that ten years ago Moriarty first showed up on MI5’s radar as an up and coming terrorist leader. Sherlock, who had been seconded to MI5 by Mycroft after spending years wandering the continent on a massive drug binge, was sent to infiltrate Moriarty’s organisation. While there, he met Irene, who was working for Moriarty at the time.
They found each other’s minds mutually fascinating, and it was the start of a tempestuous relationship spanning nearly a decade. Their physical relationship started when she was still working for Moriarty, and Sherlock was posing as a new member of his organisation. Now they’ve mellowed out – sort of like an old married couple, but obviously much less confined by social norms. She stops by at his apartment between missions and helps to sort out his life.
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