Chapter 18: Together Again
Once they were well on their way, Mycroft reached for Naomi's hand and twined their fingers, keeping mostly silent throughout the ride. There were still a few things that needed to be done if they wanted to return to the Temple any time soon, and he organized such things inside his head accordingly. People needed to be checked on, transport needed to be arranged.
They arrived at the proper location a moment later, and he squeezed Naomi's hand before docking the speeder and climbing out. He spared a quick glance Naomi's way and for himself, just in case his brother was awake when they arrived. "Just beyond that turn down there," he told her.
Naomi smiled at him, giving him one more tender look before they had to go back to their usual behavior. Once at the proper door, she knocked once and then unlocked it, leading them both inside. She gave Natasha a brief smile, her eyes flitting down to the sleeping form of Sherlock. She could feel John and Molly in the back room, both sleeping as well. And for good reason, it had been an exhausting couple days, both emotionally and physically. "Natasha, you should get some rest." She said quietly. "Is there anything else we need to know?"
Natasha inhaled deeply and shook her head. "No," she said quietly. "John took care of him before he went to bed. He just needs to rest." Her eyes flitted down to Sherlock for a brief moment and she reluctantly, but tiredly, moved off the bed. "Molly brought food and water," she gestured to the table. "Should be enough for all of us."
"Then Naomi's right, you should get some rest," Mycroft told her. "We'll take it from here."
Natasha nodded once, sparing another look for Sherlock before moving towards the door. Bathing would be first, but at least a short nap would follow soon after. "Let me know if you need anything."
"We'll be fine. Go sleep." Naomi said, making a shooing motion with one hand as she loosened her cloak with the other. Time to tuck in, get things figured out.
Mycroft kept his cloak but stepped up to the bed to look over his brother. His very much alive brother. "I think," he began quietly, "that I'll go out and see about a carrier to take us home." A small sigh of relief made it past his lips and he turned on the spot. "If there's anything you need while I'm out, Natasha has a comm link. I'll be back as soon as possible." He called with a brief wave as he slipped out the door.
It was several hours later by the time Sherlock even stirred, blinking open clear blue eyes and trying to bring the world into focus. His first thought was how warm it was, the next, the fact that his body didn't feel like it was going to fall apart. All good signs. He let out a little groan, pushing himself up to a sitting position. His eyes fell on the only other person in the room, Naomi, who was sitting at the table with a data pad.
She glanced up at him, looking him over quickly. "Everyone else is asleep. Running on nearly five hours now. Mycroft is out securing a transport, should be back any moment." She paused, eyes sweeping over him again. "You're looking better."
"Feeling better." Sherlock agreed, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. Catching himself before he fell off of it. "Relatively."
The door opened a moment later and Mycroft stepped through with a flourish of his grey cloak. "I returned our stolen speeder and sold the other, but we now have a ship to take us home," he announced. "Whenever we're ready, of course."
Sherlock let out a breath, running a hand through his messy curls as he looked up at his brother. "Hi." Nearly awkwardly.
Naomi otherwise ignored Sherlock, her eyes on Mycroft as well. "Probably should do that sooner rather than later. I've contacted the Temple, gave them the basics and promised a full debrief when we returned." She paused. "How was the situation with the people?"
"They're coping," Mycroft told Naomi, "and I did find the Prime Minister amongst the chaos. Now that everything's been taken care of he's more... compliant, than he was before." He removed his cloak and threw it on the bed. "He's taken charge," he concluded, before turning towards his little brother. "Sherlock, hello," he said in an equally awkward tone. "How are you?"
"Better." Sherlock said, wrapping the blanket he'd been draped in a little tighter around his shoulders. "Much better." He paused, trying to get his still foggy brain into working shape. "Look…I suppose I should have told you I could do that…for logistical reasons of course." For it didn't really cross his mind that Mycroft would have mourned his loss. "Moriarty had to be stopped, and that was the best way…"
Mycroft observed him for a moment before approaching. "It would've been better if I'd known," he began cautiously. "And not only for logistical reasons." There was a pause, but there was little hesitation. It was only Sherlock and Naomi with him in that room and he trusted them both. Completely. "Your loss... would break my heart." With those words out of his mouth, he straightened his posture and cleared his throat. "But we'll talk about it later. As Naomi mentioned, we should leave as soon as possible."
Naomi watched Mycroft throughout the encounter, her eyes flitting to see the brief moment of surprise on Sherlock's face. She rolled with the change of subject, the Holmes brothers would talk out their issues at another time. "I went to check on the other three, I'm nearly certain John will be sleeping through the next day. He's done far too much healing over the last couple days than someone his age should. Both Natasha and Molly are sleeping as well, but I'm sure we can wake them up any time. We'll have time and space to rest again on the way back."
"I'll go." Sherlock said, standing up from the bed with a little wobble. Bare feet on the wood floor and blanket wrapped around his shoulders, he slowly made his way into the dark room that the three other members of their team slept. John was curled up in the usual way in one bed, looking completely exhausted even as he slept. Sherlock's hand went out and he ran it once through the fluffy blond hair, his thoughts drifting to what his death would have meant for his padawan. He dismissed that quickly, moving away to the second bed, where Molly and Natasha were sleeping. He very nearly smiled at the relaxed pair, just happy that they were both alive as well. He hesitated, but simply leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to Natasha's forehead, running a hand through her loose red hair. "Natasha?"
Natasha's eyes fluttered open and her lips quirked into a sleepy smile she was barely aware of. "Sherlock," she said, more than asked. "What's wrong? Do we need to go out for something?" There was a brief pause where her mind worked on finding answers to those questions itself, and she reached out to touch the blanket wrapped tightly around him. "Can't really go out wearing this," she teased quietly.
"You undressed me in the first place. And I wasn't going to change into clean clothes with Naomi and Mycroft watching." Sherlock retorted with a smile to match hers. "We've got transport home, it's time to get ready to go. They want to leave as soon as possible."
"Alright," Natasha replied with a little yawn. "I'll get ready first and wake Molly up in a few minutes," she told him, very carefully sitting up in bed so she wouldn't wake her padawan. She lowered her feet to the floor and stood, giving him a brief once over while she stretched. Her lips twitched into another smile. "Need help?"
"Getting dressed? That I think I can handle on my own. This time" Sherlock said quietly, shifting away from her. "Don't try to wake John, last time he even did half the healing as he did this time, he slept eighteen hours straight."
"I won't," Natasha promised, sparing a brief look at John over her shoulder. Inevitably, she found herself smiling a bit again. "You should be proud of him," she whispered as she moved away to ready herself. "This mission wouldn't have been half as successful without him."
"I am." Sherlock said after a moment's hesitation. "He saved you, me, and Naomi, and helped rescue Molly. I'm more than proud." He paused. "Can't take credit for most of that though, that's all his own."
Natasha reached out and briefly touched his arm as she brushed past him. "You two are your own people but you make each other better," she replied. "Just like you and I make each other better." She gave him a light squeeze. "You should tell him," she suggested as she let him go. "That you're proud, I mean. He'll appreciate it."
Sherlock smiled briefly, glancing down at his sleeping padawan as he followed her out of the room. He'd deduced that Naomi had cleaned and dried his clothes, and he said a short 'thank you' to her as he grabbed them from the table and slipped into the refresher. A few minutes later, and without much ceremony, he'd dressed and cared for himself. He barely gave his mirror reflection another glance to see a pale bruised face, and came back out to the scene in the main room, tossing the blanket back to the bed.
Natasha had bathed and dressed after Naomi had dismissed her before, so there was very little to do except freshen up and wake her padawan. Molly acknowledged her instructions with a sleepy nod, and Natasha couldn't help leaning in to press a kiss to her padawan's forehead. For what felt like the hundredth time, she wondered what she would've done if she'd lost her but it was illogical to think of that then. She was fine, if a little bruised from her time with Petrovich. It was taking Natasha a considerable amount of control to let that go but she knew she had to. With time, perhaps. Another kiss pressed to Molly's forehead and she slipped out into the main room to join Mycroft, Naomi and Sherlock. "Molly's getting ready," she told the rest of them as she sunk down onto one of the beds, Mycroft and Naomi having occupied the other two seats. "Everything's all set?"
"For the most part, I believe," Mycroft answered from his chair. "The locals have been taken care of, and transport has been secured. Naomi spoke to the Council earlier as well."
"We'll be debriefed about the events of the mission." Naomi replied, standing from her seat. "But they did not seem displeased that we had to kill both Moriarty and Petrovich. Circumstances led to it." She reached for her cloak, shutting off the data pad. She gave Molly a fond smile when the padawan walked into the room.
Sherlock put his hands on his hips, his brow pinching in slight concentration. "I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to think, talk, and rest on the trip home. I'm ready to get off of this planet."
"Then let's go," Natasha said, pulling Molly towards her to quickly braid her long hair. Her padawan's eyes were still trained on Naomi and Natasha could almost see the gratefully happy expression on her face. She suppressed a smile. "There's not much to pack, so I'll gather the few things we've still got with us now." She gave Molly a pat to let her know she was done and her padawan darted over to Naomi for what was a characteristic display of affection for her, but perhaps not for anyone else. Without much ceremony, Molly threw her arms around the Jedi Master and gave her a hug. Natasha ignored the interaction and stood. "Anything else?"
Mycroft tore his eyes away from what was happening just beside him to address Natasha. "No, I think that'll be all," he answered. "We'll all do the same and meet back here."
Naomi was a bit surprised, but took it in stride. She smiled fondly and wrapped her arms around the much shorter padawan and squeezed her just a tight as she was being squeezed. "Hello Molly."
"I think I can carry John." Sherlock said, already reaching for his lightsaber, which had been put on the table. He clipped it on his belt and moved back to the back room, saying over his shoulder. "He's not very big, and it's not that far."
Natasha spared Molly and Naomi a last look before turning to follow Sherlock into the room. Mycroft sat back in his chair, once again turning his attention to Naomi and Molly. He bit back an amused smile.
"Hello Naomi," Molly sighed, letting go of her a moment later with a bit of an embarrassed smile. "I'm... I'm glad you're alive."
"And I'm glad you're alive as well." Naomi replied back, squeezing the young girl's shoulder with a fond smile. She felt a bit at a loss for words, the events of the last couple days all streaming together. "And if you need to talk about what happened, you know where to find me."
"Yes, I know," Molly nodded quickly. "And I might... eventually... it's just all a jumble right now." Her eyes darted to Mycroft and she straightened her posture. "I'm going to help Natasha pack," she announced, but quickly hesitated. "And... thank you," she concluded, smiling one more time before darting out the door and into the next bedroom.
Sherlock slipped into the bedroom, coming up next to the bed. Without much ceremony, he leaned over and scooped John, and the blanket he was wrapped in, up. John had always been easy to carry, and Sherlock had a sentimental flashback to when John was much younger, and much shorter. He gave Natasha a small smile, almost sure she knew what he was thinking. If there was any a time for sentiment, it was after events such as this. With that smile, he moved back to the main room. "Ready?"
Between her and Natasha, they made quick work of packing their things with Natasha pausing only once to look at Sherlock as he snatched his padawan into his arms. Molly hadn't missed the slight smile on her Master's face, but had quickly returned to her appointed task. A few minutes later, they were back out in the main room, all packed up and ready to go.
"Ready," Natasha answered Sherlock, ushering Molly towards the door when Mycroft rose to his feet.
"The cruiser is just beyond the edge of the city, but fortunately for us that's very close now," he announced as he opened the door. "So off we go."
They made their way to the cruiser with very little trouble, getting various curious looks from the denizens. Gossip about the six cloak wearing strangers must have spread quickly. Sherlock paid them no mind, just concentrated on holding his padawan and keeping himself moving.
Naomi had taken the lead with Mycroft, walking close to him as they weaved their way to the edge of the city. The cruiser was smaller than the one they'd taken from the Temple, but it would do. She could fly nearly anything, and enjoyed it. The ramp lowered as they approached, closing behind them once they were all aboard. With a quiet word to Mycroft, she headed immediately for the cockpit to ready the ship.
Once they were aboard, Sherlock moved on to the sleeping quarters, three small rooms, two bunked beds each. He carefully placed John on a lower bunk, tucking him in and straightening up with a quiet contemplative look. Turning off the light on his way out, he slipped out to find Natasha and Molly.
Mycroft followed Naomi into the cockpit after everyone had gone their separate ways, and leaned in to place a brief kiss on her cheek. "Are you alright? That was some rather... odd behavior from Natasha's padawan."
Naomi smiled against his kiss, her hands still working to get the ship ready for take off. "Molly thought I died trying to save her and spent the night being abused and taunted by Ivan Petrovich. She also lacks skill when it comes to controlling emotion. I figured that was a completely normal response for her."
"Perhaps," Mycroft allowed, moving over to the seat next to her. "Odd that it was directed towards you, I suppose. I'm aware she admires you, and harbors affectionate feelings for you, that much is obvious." He smiled a little. "But I've always thought her fear, or perhaps respect is the proper word, would keep her from ever showing it to you."
"Like I said, it must have been the circumstances." Naomi said, putting her hands on the controller and lifting them up off the ground. "If I'm being honest, I really didn't mind….I missed it. A padawan comfortable around me."
Mycroft properly settled into his seat and fixed his eyes on what lay beyond the window in front of them. "Circumstances," he repeated. "Emotional reactions always puzzle me, I'll admit, but I believe you're right." He paused and turned to look at her. "You still won't take another padawan?"
"I've thought about it." Naomi said, making the necessary calculations as they left the atmosphere. "But at this point…I'm not sure we could continue…this, if I did." She paused. "It'd be much more difficult to say the least. So at this point, no, I don't think I'm going to take another. I enjoy the classes I guest speak for, and these missions with Molly and John. But that's enough for me."
"True," Mycroft agreed in a thoughtful tone. "I wouldn't want to keep you from something that makes you happy, however," he added a second later. "Or something that gives you satisfaction, as much as I so prefer having you all to myself." He glanced over his shoulder and flashed her a fond smile after making sure no one was within earshot. "My love for you is not the selfish kind."
Naomi smiled as she usually did when he said something like that, soft and lighting up her eyes. "You make me happy, and I'm not going to give that up. I find enough satisfaction where I am now." After pushing the series of buttons to send them into hyperspace, she reached for his hand. "My choice is not made without thought."
Mycroft took her hand in his with a soft, relieved smile. "Good," he said with a short nod. "In that case, I am happy as well." He gave her hand a squeeze. "I don't know if I should find Sherlock now or wait until after he's rested."
"That's your choice." Naomi said, bringing his hand up to kiss. "Just don't keep putting it off. I think he needs to know…that you care about him. Sooner rather than later."
"You're right," Mycroft agreed, giving Naomi's hand another squeeze and rising to his feet. "I think I'll do that now, if he's still up and about." He leaned over to pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Thank you, darling," he said quietly, and a second later he was slipping out of the cockpit.
Natasha and Molly had put away what little they'd carried away as soon as they'd entered the room before Molly had once again collapsed on the bottom bed. Natasha sat beside her on the edge of the mattress, gently pulling her padawan's hair out of her braid and running her fingers through it. It was only Sherlock stepping through their door that pulled her attention away from the task. "Hey," she said quietly. "You know you should get some rest too, don't you?"
"Yeah, I will once we're in hyperspace." Sherlock said, looking her over quickly. He crossed his arms and leaned against the doorframe "Probably for a good long while. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
"I'm fine," she assured him, leaning over to make sure Molly was asleep before rising off the bed and walking over to where he stood. "Just feeling a little uncharacteristically sentimental, but that seems to be the order of the day with this mission." She turned off the lights in the room and came a little closer. "What about you?"
"I'm alive." Sherlock said quietly, barely resisting the urge to slip his hand into her soft hair and pull her closer. In the dim light, he could just make out her features. "That's something, isn't it? Otherwise…I'm alright. Processing…everything, I suppose."
"That is something, I prefer it when you're alive," Natasha agreed in a half whisper, reaching up to his crossed arms and lightly tracing her fingertips over one of his hands. "When we get back to the Temple," she said after a short pause. "After we've been debriefed and everything's settled." She stilled her hand. "Come find me."
Sherlock nodded, unfolding his arms. He used a hand to cup her cheek, gently running his thumb over her cheekbone. "I will, I promise."
Natasha closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. Right then it would've been easy to say the words. Too easy and too tempting, but a cruiser full of Jedi simply wasn't the right setting. So instead, she opened her eyes and turned her head to kiss the palm of his hand. "I'm holding you to that promise, Charming."
Sherlock took his hand away, giving it a confused look, trying to understand that behavior. He rubbed it a bit in a nervous habit and straightened. "Well then. I might…go get some rest. I'm sure you need it as well."
Natasha studied him for a moment, trying to pinpoint his reaction. Confusion? Dislike? Perhaps she'd crossed a line? "Right," she said after a moment, pulling her hands back and clasping them in front of her. "Go," she ordered. "I'm staying up for a little while longer."
"Thank you." Sherlock said, not moving to leave just yet. "For saving my life, having my back…and not reacting violently when you learned I faked my death." He very nearly smiled. "I missed you."
Natasha did smile and in the way she reserved for all of three people in the entire galaxy, but mostly one in particular. "I missed you too. More than you can imagine," she replied. "And you're welcome, but you really don't have to thank me for any of that." Her smile turned mischievous. "Except maybe about reacting violently, that one took a lot of effort. I'll accept thanks for that."
"Well you did very well. I like a kiss better than a punch any day." Sherlock said, smiling with her finally. They'd talk that later, for the moment he felt Mycroft headed their way. Picking up his hand again, he ran a thumb along her jawline. "We'll talk later." He said and winked at her, pulling away to greet his brother in the dimly lit hallway.
Mycroft stopped just a few short steps away from his brother and clasped his hands behind his back. "Brother dear," he greeted. "I trust everything is in order with Natasha and your padawans?"
Sherlock glanced as the door to the room shut and nodded. "All sleeping, or almost sleeping now." He looked back at his brother. "Understandable considering…and I'm nearly ready to go do that myself. But I have a feeling you want to talk."
"Not for very long," Mycroft assured him quickly. "I suppose I just wanted to make sure you're truly... alright." He paused. "Your death, or near death more accurately, came as quite a... shock." He cleared his throat. "I wasn't prepared for it."
"We're Jedi, Mycroft. Shouldn't we always be prepared for death?" Sherlock asked, lacking the usual snark, much to his own surprise. He looked down for a moment. "I'm sorry."
"Prepared for death, yes," Mycroft conceded with a small nod. "But not prepared for your death," he added. "You're my brother, and as I mentioned before... your loss would break my heart." He cleared his throat again. "That's... all I wanted to say. There's no need to be sorry."
Sherlock met Mycroft's eyes again, attempting to understand this…familial sentiment. "While I was not planning on dying, I was prepared for it. Relatively. Aside from the hole it'd leave in my padawan's life, my partner's…and evidently, yours as well." He paused. "I'm just not sure how I'm supposed to respond to that…I didn't know."
"There's no need to respond," Mycroft assured him quickly. "I simply wanted you to... know. Right, then," he stretched to his full height. "Now that that's settled, off you go."
"And now I do know." Sherlock crossed his arms again, unconsciously straightening as well. "You care about Naomi too, don't you? In the more than a mission partner way."
Mycroft hesitated, casting a brief look over his shoulder at the cockpit just beyond the hallway before turning back towards his brother. "Yes," he said quietly, all too aware Sherlock wouldn't bring it up if he hadn't observed more than his fair share of things over the years. "She's... my best friend."
Sherlock just stared at him, expression impassive. "Curious." He said after a moment. "But not altogether unexpected…and I only know a part of what you'v been through together." Another pause. "Is it wrong? This…caring? Both for a brother and a friend?"
"I'm not entirely certain," Mycroft admitted after another short pause. "I reason that as long as I - we - don't lose our balance because of it, there is nothing wrong with it. Naomi and I, specifically, have an understanding. The Order comes first." He paused again. "Of course, should anyone else hear of it they'd likely disagree."
"Don't worry, I'm not going to go blabbing your secrets." Sherlock assured him quickly. "I'm not that cruel. We are brothers after all." He took a second to process the theory of keeping balance, and the priorities they must have had. If it's worked for Mycroft thus far…it could work for him. So he nodded his head at that conclusion. "Anyways…thank you. I suppose."
"No need to thank me, I should be thanking you instead," Mycroft replied, giving him a curious once over before he half turned to return to the cockpit. "Let me know if you need anything."
"Right. Will do." Sherlock said. In truth, he was still sorting through this whole mess. From nearly dying, to Natasha's response, to Mycroft's brotherly compassion, too many emotions for him to handle at once. He needed sleep. Maybe that would help. Giving his brother one more nod, he turned and headed the other direction, slipping into his bedroom quickly and quietly. He needed to think, as well as sleep. Seconds later, he was curled up in the top bunk, and sleep claimed him before he could do any serious thinking.
Mycroft slipped back into the cockpit with Naomi and took up his previous seat. "Well, I've talked to him," he told her. "And you were right, he knows." He sat back. "Naturally, he won't say anything, but then I didn't think he would."
"Good." Naomi turned her seat to face him, her legs crossed and her hands folded in her lap. "Because I'm going to be having a conversation with Natasha about something similar." She paused. "The feeling her life Force gave off through the whole ordeal of Sherlock's supposed death, especially in those moments of vulnerability…it was very familiar. If you understand what I mean."
"I think I do." Mycroft turned in his chair to face her, in much the same way she had. "You think she harbors feelings for my brother, similar to the way you... harbored feelings for me." He paused. "I'm not sure if my brother's capable of the same... but then some might say I'm not capable of it either."
"And I'd like to talk her through either response, should she choose to divulge her feelings for him. Because…" Naomi smiled slightly, and then quoted herself from years ago. "..they are both horrible options. And she should know she's not alone. Is that alright with you?"
Mycroft smiled a little and nodded once. "Yes, it's perfectly alright with me," he assured her. "I'm sure she would appreciate the guidance and, considering the circumstances, wouldn't think of revealing what she learns about you and me." He paused again. "Even without current circumstances, I think. She's always been private about what she knows, save for my brother."
"Seems similar all around then, doesn't it?" Naomi said with a soft sigh. "Not that unexpected. Sometimes I wonder if the Code is right, if the Order has the correct mindset when it comes to things like this." She shook her head. "It matters not, I suppose, we cannot change it. And I am more than ready to curl up in your arms and sleep."
"I've often thought the Order has taken it to extremes, but you are correct. It matters not." Mycroft rose to his feet and offered Naomi his hand. "Let's go to bed, then. You can speak to Natasha after we're all rested."
Naomi took his hand without hesitation, grateful that everyone else on board was sleeping so they could indulge in the more physical signs of affection. She let him lead her to their room, barely giving the two bunks a second glance she let go of his hand and started stripping down. A few minutes later they were curled up together on the bottom bunk, drifting off to a much needed sleep.