A/N: this is set shortly after "A La Fin Du Monde". I do not own, nor do I profit from.
It wasn't often John wished Mycroft would visit.
He always felt slightly uneasy with his brother-in-law in their flat, not least because he could never actually predict Sherlock's reaction to the elder Holmes. Sometimes, Sherlock would be civil and speak, sometimes he'd ignore Mycroft, with the occasional pointed jab, sometimes a passing comment would spark a row that rivalled the ones Harry would pick with John when she'd been drunk and irrational and angry at him to mask hurt and disappointment in herself.
John would welcome a row right now. He had a feeling it would make Sherlock feel more like Sherlock.
He wanted to believe he understood what Sherlock was going through, because John had been there losing Harry, and Sherlock was his husband, but he did not. He knew he didn't, because there were so many more things going on here. John and Harry had never gotten on. He'd loved his sister, even when she made it nearly impossible to do so, but he had never liked her a great deal. They didn't have much in common and never really had, and he hated the way she'd treated people, particularly her partners, especially Clara, who had been so good to her, who had tried to hard. John still remembered how indifferently Harry had given him the phone Clara had given her, with the engraved message on the back.
Sibyl, on the other hand.
John shook his head to himself.
Had he only known William, none of this would have made sense. Until he'd met Sherlock's father, John considered that his own father had been cool and aloof, and this had not really bothered him, because he'd grown up thinking that was just the way fathers were. John's father had never been unkind or spoken harshly to him – to Harry, yes, but she'd been the one who'd taken up staying out all night, coming home trashed – and had often had a gruff sort of pride in John, in his good grades, in his acceptance into medical school, in his decision to join the army, in his promotions. Occasionally he'd even smile, once in a rare while.
William, on the other hand, was like a stone statue, and John had so rarely seen him display anything other than cool reserve, as if everything was some sort of mild inconvenience. He didn't actually think ill of his father-in-law, but was a bit baffled by him. He supposed William was probably equally as baffled by John, who was far more used to the brashness of soldiers and the complaints and gripping and cursing that came part and parcel with army life.
Sherlock seemed fairly indifferent to his father as well. John was certain that buried beneath all of those layers of disinterest, they probably did love each other, but would probably be surprised if they had to identify and name that emotion.
There were very few people Sherlock loved.
John was sure Sibyl was right at the top of the list, perhaps vying for first place with John himself. Upon meeting Sherlock – and Mycroft, frankly – he'd formed a very different picture of the woman who would become his mother-in-law, and found it to be quite wrong. He'd expected a female equivalent to William but had found a woman who, behind the restraint and the removed upper class veneer, loved both of her sons deeply and well. A woman who'd done everything she could with two genius children – being quite intelligent herself, of course – one who was much more decorous and the other who was, well, Sherlock.
Sherlock had loved her back with a ferocity that had initially surprised John, until he realized she was probably the one person who actually simply wanted him to be happy in whatever way he could find that happiness, even if it was unconventional (but all right, not through drugs, although this was reasonable). In that, she had something very much in common with John.
It had been two weeks since they'd returned to London from Buckinghamshire and Sherlock was being Sherlock and had thrown himself into his work and John gave up arguing the whole point. He'd let himself cry once, and that had probably been not entirely consciously or by choice, and he was making a point to eat when John did but still sleeping less than he normally did now and John had awoken once or twice in the middle of the night to find him gone. On walks, he'd say, when he came back. John believed him, because he never even so much hinted at the smell of cigarettes and had never really been one for using alcohol as an escape. There were always drugs, but John was a doctor and knew the signs. Sherlock had offset all of this anyway after the first walk by peeling off his coat and rolling up his sleeves and showing John his arms without comment, which had actually made John angry.
"I didn't think you had!" John had snapped.
"Yes, and now you know," Sherlock had replied calmly, rolling his sleeves back down, re-buttoning the cuffs. "And you can share this with Geoff when he gets suspicious and jumpy about it."
And John had stupidly assumed this meant Lestrade knew what had happened, which was a mistake.
He was angry at himself for jumping to this conclusion – Sherlock would surely be disappointed in him as well, because he'd made this judgment based on no evidence – and he was angry with Sherlock for not making this clear, and angry at Lestrade for just plain not knowing.
For the case.
John was getting used to wealthy homes now, although Sherlock told him he still stared with shock, so he tried not to. It was less difficult to do so now, because the body of the woman, in her early sixties, was commanding his attention. She was well dressed, quite fashionable for someone her age, John thought, but he didn't really know that many women in this age range, excepting Mrs. Hudson and his mother, was actually about a decade older. And they weren't well-off philanthropists with busy social calendars full of charity events and fundraisers and meetings with high-ranking politicians to try and sway government policy.
Vaguely, he wondered if she'd ever crossed paths with Mycroft at one of these events.
She'd been shot. The good thing about gun deaths is that they were easy to diagnose. It was hard to confuse it with anything else. He felt he was not actually needed.
Sherlock circled the crime scene, the victim's sitting room, or parlour, or whatever the rich called it. It was an unusual mix, to John's mind, of elegant and tasteful and obviously expensive furnishings and a shocking clutter of framed family photographs covering the marble mantle, scattered here and there on table surfaces. John watched Sherlock examine these, frowning, chewing on his lower lip pensively, then wander into another room.
John and Lestrade had followed, John not bothered by Sherlock's silence – he was bound to be a bit more restrained right now. He wished he'd realized Lestrade had been confused by it.
Sherlock had gone into the victim's office and was leafing through her day planner, flipping the pages easily despite the blue latex gloves covering his hands. He paused every so often, making a note on his phone, then stepped back, holding his phone up a bit, checking something. John and Lestrade waited.
Sherlock rang a number.
"Oh, yes, terribly sorry to bother you. I'm trying to reach Lacey Kennings. It's her step-brother, Max. I know she's got an appointment with Mister Lakewood, but her phone's off and it's a bit of an emergency you see and – sorry? She isn't? Oh, when – oh last Tuesday, of course, silly of me, really, I apologize. No, no, it's fine, please, don't bother. Yes, it's my fault, thank you again, yes, good-bye."
He rung off and looked up at Lestrade.
"It was the daughter."
Lestrade looked slightly surprised, then resigned and disappointed, that typical detective's look. It must be depressing, John mused, to be constantly disappointed with humanity.
"Mrs. Kennings had been meeting with her lawyer recently, but you'd have heard if there was some sort of scandal or problem, either personal or with one of the charities she supports. The first of these meetings, almost two weeks ago, reads 'meeting with Richard for Will', but although 'Will' is capitalized, it's not a person, it's her actual will. She has a tendency to capitalize nouns because she's German and the habit translated into English for her. There are a number of mentions of events with her children in here as well, including her two step-children. Since you told me her husband recently passed away, I suspect his will left everything to her and she was in the process of changing hers to redistribute everything all three of the children, not just her biological daughter.
"The photographs in the sitting room indicate that she was close to both step-children, but I notice a distinct lack of photographs that are of only her biological daughter, Lacey, and the two step-children. Max and Mary, however, do appear in photographs together, so there's likely some animosity between Lacey and her step-siblings. If Lacey felt she was being robbed of her mother's inheritance, particularly since a good portion of the money comes from her biological father, then she would want to ensure that the will was not finalized. Mrs. Kennings had another appointment for later this week and nothing," he tapped the day planner, "past that. So this was Lacey's last chance. She'd have tried to reason with her mother beforehand, tried even meeting with the lawyer, and, this having failed, took matters into her own hands. Arrest the daughter and you will find gunpowder residue on her fingers and clothing and likely the gun stashed in her flat or car."
Lestrade took all of this in stride, but John was still impressed and said so.
"It was laughably simple," Sherlock replied. "And we are done here."
He snapped off his gloves and strode out, not so much as glancing at his husband or the DI on the way past.
"Shit," John muttered, not missing the steely expression in Sherlock's grey eyes, the tightness in his jaw.
"What?" Lestrade demanded and John turned to him.
"Not exactly the best case for him right now," John sighed. "I'd better go after him."
"Wait, John, what are you talking about?"
John, having taken two steps towards the office doorway, stopped and turned back, feeling a heavy sensation in the pit of his stomach.
"You don't know?" he asked, the heaviness replaced by the numbness of denial.
"Know what?" Lestrade demanded.
John closed his eyes for a moment and sighed.
"His mum died of a stroke, almost two and a half weeks ago."
The shock on the DI's face was genuine, sharp and sudden.
"Go," Lestrade said.
"Yeah," John agreed and hurried after Sherlock, finding him already outside, leaving the building in which the late Mrs. Kennings owned the penthouse suite. The doorman held the door deferentially for John who didn't have time to give a customary "thank you" because Sherlock was hailing a cab and climbing in. He did, at least, hold the door for John, who slipped in beside him.
The cab ride home was silent, John watching Sherlock until Sherlock turned and stared at him with equal intensity, making John feel inexplicably uncomfortable. He was probably reading every little shift in John's expression, the doctor thought. He sighed and wrapped a hand around Sherlock's, who didn't pull away, but didn't really return the embrace, either.
When they got home, Sherlock sat himself in his chair and picked up a book he'd been reading. John hovered near the door, uncertain, then sighed.
"No," Sherlock replied, not taking his eyes off of his book. John sighed again, raking a hand through his hair. But he dropped it, because he could see how much self-restraint the detective was exercising, in the way he held himself a little too rigidly, in the tension in his jaw, the forced steadiness of his left hand when he turned a page.
"All right," John said, with acceptance in his voice, because he didn't want to start a row, but he didn't want to go into the kitchen without saying something, without indicating that he wasn't ignoring Sherlock by letting him be alone.
He piled the dishes on the counter – he had left them a bit longer than usual and had some catching up to do, and turned on the tap, waiting for the water to warm up, then filled the sink, clattering some of the dishes into it and squirting in a generous amount of dish soap. He set himself to the chore, in part to distract himself, but kept an ear cocked toward the living room.
After several minutes, he heard Sherlock get up and start moving around, going upstairs for a few minutes, coming back down, opening a closet, setting things on the table, either the coffee table or the dining room table, John couldn't tell. He was glad Sherlock was doing some work, at least, even if it meant he was ignoring everything else. Even as a doctor, John had never believed fully in the vaunted benefits of time off; he knew precisely what too much of that could do to a person, when boredom set in and the mind began to chase itself around with grief and anger.
He heard the faint strum of a finger being run over violin strings and felt a flash of relief – Sherlock hadn't played his violin once since they'd got back that John knew about. John waited for some familiar music, but none was forthcoming, although he supposed it was a good step that Sherlock had even taken out the instrument at all. He let out a sigh and drained the water, running a fresh sink, because it had gotten too grimy. The sound of the tap muted the sound of whatever Sherlock was doing, and it wasn't until he heard the splintering of wood that John realized something might be very wrong.
He shut the tap off without thinking and hurried back into the living room, stopping short. Sherlock was putting the hammer from John's toolkit down, calmly, on the coffee table.
He'd snapped all the strings with a pair of pliers, cut out the bow strings with scissors and broken it in half, probably by hand, and smashed the instrument itself with the hammer, using the claw to widen the holes he'd made.
And he'd timed it with John doing the dishes, when John could not properly hear him.
Without looking at John, he rose and went into the dining room, leaning against the window frame, his head pressed against his forearm, looking out at the city.
John stood, numb with shock, with no idea as to what he should do.
The shattered violin sat silently on the coffee table. John blinked, hoping this was some horrible dream, but it was still there when he reopened his eyes.
He found himself moving suddenly, going up the stairs to the spare bedroom and pulling out the child's violin that Sherlock had brought home from the manor. It was, John had learned, the first violin Sibyl had ever given him, and he'd learned to play it under her tutelage, the one thing in which they were on even footing, in which Sherlock's bemused mother found her son could slow down, that they could actually understand one another.
John had no idea what Sherlock intended to do with it, and he believed, really believed, Sherlock wouldn't destroy this. But he wasn't about to take that chance, because he also knew that Sherlock would never forgive himself if he did damage this tiny instrument in a moment of grief or anger.
He took it down to Mrs. Hudson's flat, knocking on her door. She smiled at him when he opened it and John managed a smile back.
"Can you store this for me? Please?" he asked.
She gave him a surprised look and he could see her about to ask why, but something in his expression must have stopped her. Instead, she nodded, giving him a patient and motherly look.
"Of course, dear," she said.
"Thanks," John said, giving her a peck on the cheek.
He went back upstairs. Sherlock hadn't moved.
"What do you want me to do with this?" John asked carefully.
Sherlock shrugged his right shoulder.
"Bin it," he said tonelessly. "It's broken."
John felt a bit broken as well as he cleaned up all the bits carefully into the case and then snapped it shut, closing his eyes briefly and letting out a silent but shaky breath as he did so. Then he steeled himself and found his keys, taking the case with the ruined violin downstairs to the trash bin out back.
He waited another nine days before buying a new one.
It wasn't the same, of course, but a very close modern approximation; he hadn't been Sherlock's flatmate then partner then husband for seven years without making it his business to know about Sherlock's most cherished possession. It had cost, made by one of the best modern Italian companies, but they'd never been lacking for money and certainly weren't now. John had paid extra for a shortened wait, as well.
He picked it up from the shop on his way home from work on a day he knew Sherlock would be at the morgue. In the store, he watched as the salesperson, clearly an expert and a musician himself, checked the instrument and tuned it and tried it once, producing a clear, echoing note, then returning the violin almost reverently to its case.
It made John feel a bit cold, remembering the last time he'd seen a violin handled, how harshly it had been treated.
At the flat, he left the violin on the dining room table. He felt like leaving it on the coffee table would be almost accusatory, but he still wanted Sherlock to see it. John opened the latches and looked at it again. Inside the lid of the case, a small brass plaque was engraved with the words:
To Sherlock, all my love, John.
He closed it again and left it there and went out for a bit, meeting up with Mike Stamford for a few pints. When he got home, the violin was still where he'd left it and there was no sign of Sherlock. With a sigh, John got washed up, changed, and climbed into bed, breathing deeply and slowly, getting himself to relax.
Sometime in the night, when he was just too deeply asleep to force himself to wake up, he felt Sherlock climb in beside him and settle down. The next morning, he awoke alone, which was not that surprising or unexpected, since it happened on a fairly regular basis.
There was a small sheet of note paper on Sherlock's pillow. John reached for it tentatively, then smiled at the message scrawled on it in Sherlock's handwriting.
Thank you. Love, SH
He listened to strains of violin music, but maybe it was too soon. Maybe it was enough that Sherlock had an instrument again. The rest would come, with time.