Chapter Three

When Molly got up next morning, the door to the spare room was still closed. She eased it open a crack, just enough to take a peek inside, to make sure Sherlock was alright. He was on his side, his back to the door, so she couldn't see his face but she listened for a moment and was reassured by the slow and steady regularity of his breathing. She closed the door quietly and continued on to the bathroom. Before setting off for work, she wrote a note saying to help himself to anything he wanted – adding 'Just the food, not the furniture' - and left for the day. Sitting on the bus, she ruminated on the evening before.

She was glad he had opened up to her a little bit. It was probably as much as he could safely manage, given his weakened state. Delving any deeper into the cess pool that was the role his family appeared to have played in both Victor's death and Eurus's incarceration would likely have sent him straight back into shock. And, of course, there were others in his life to whom he would probably rather talk – Mrs Hudson, for one, and John Watson, of course. Even Greg Lestrade. He was a good listener and could possibly give Sherlock some perspective with regards to the law.

When she arrived home, that evening, she honestly expected him to be gone but, on opening her front door, the first thing she saw was his Belstaff still hanging on the coat stand. And she could smell…cooking? After removing her own coat and hanging it beside his, she made her way down the hall to the closed sitting room door. Pushing it open, she was greeted by a sight she never thought to see - Sherlock in her kitchen, sleeves rolled up and a tea towel slung casually over one shoulder, standing at her induction hob, stirring something in a pot.

A small voice of caution reminded her that he might be boiling eyeballs or thumbs or something similar, as part of some bizarre experiment but then she recalled that she had not given him any spare body parts lately so that was unlikely, on this occasion. Her gaze switched from the pot to his face, just as he said,

'No, Molly, it's not eyeballs. It's soup. Broccoli and Stilton soup, to be exact…or, rather, it will be once I add the Stilton. Would you like a cup of tea?'

'Love one,' she replied.

ooOoo

'This is delicious,' Molly enthused. 'Where did you learn to make soup like this?'

They were perched, side by side, on bar stools at Molly's breakfast bar 'peninsular', as the estate agent had described it on her first viewing of the house.

Sherlock appeared to weigh his reply.

'Well, I could tell you that I trained as a Cordon Bleu chef for a case…but that would be a complete lie. I found the recipe on the BBC Good Food website,' he said, with an impish grin. 'Honestly, anyone who can follow a recipe can cook.'

He seemed in brighter spirits, today.

'And this is just the starter,' he added, inclining his head towards the lower of Molly's two ovens. 'There's a fish pie finishing off in there.'

'My, you have been busy!' Molly exclaimed.

'Busier than you think,' he replied, sobering immediately.

She waited with bated breath to hear what else had occupied his time that day.

'I spoke to a human rights lawyer.'

Molly was fully aware of the enormity of that statement.

'You're going ahead with it, then?'

He met her gaze.

'I promised Eurus that I would bring her home. I have to do this. Oh, and by the way, before I forget I must tell you I've disabled the webcams in your security system.'

'You have?' Molly replied, slightly caught on the back foot by this sudden revelation.

'Yes,' he replied. 'From now on, total information blackout is essential. If Mycroft were to get wind of what I'm up to, he would, I am absolutely sure, destroy all records pertaining to Eurus – medical, psychiatric, everything – before we could subpoena them. And your security webcams are just too easy for him to access. So, I'm sorry about that.'

'OK,' she replied, still a little bewildered. But that was nothing unusual where Sherlock was concerned. 'Do you think the government will release the records from a top-secret place like Sherrinford?'

'My lawyers seem confident. And, as an insurance policy, my hacker friend, Craig, is going to get them for me, anyway. I'd rather have legal access, obviously. The hacked copies might be inadmissible in court.'

My lawyers. He said, 'My lawyers'.

'So, you've actually engaged these lawyers?' Molly ventured.

'Oh, yes,' he replied, emphatically. 'Ready for the main course?'

Molly watched as he busied himself about the kitchen, clearing away the soup bowls and spoons, taking the fish pie out of the oven and placing a generous helping on each of two plates, that had been warming in the top oven. He carried them over, placing one in front of her and the other in his place.

'Bon appetit,' he said and began tucking into his helping with gusto.

'Thank you, Sherlock,' said Molly. 'I really appreciate you doing this.'

'No, Molly,' he replied, his fork pausing half way between the plate and his mouth. 'This is me thanking you for allowing me to abuse your hospitality all these weeks, while my flat has been uninhabitable and, especially, for taking care of me last night. I can't think of anyone who would have put up with me for so long…'

'Don't do that,' she said, tears starting in her eyes.

Sherlock's face fell and his heart went with it. She was upset. He didn't know why, only that he was the cause. He had planned and executed this whole 'meal' thing to thank Molly for her kindness and forbearance, not just over the last six months but for the entire duration of their acquaintance. It was a paltry effort by comparison to Molly's enormous contribution but it was genuine and heartfelt. And yet, somehow, he'd managed to cock it up. What an idiot! Seriously, if he couldn't get something as simple as this right, what chance did he have of ever managing anything even remotely romantic?

'I'm so sorry, Molly…' he began.

'No!' she exclaimed, cuffing at her cheeks to banish the offending tears. 'Please, Sherlock! Stop apologising. You've done nothing wrong.'

'Then, what…?' He was so confused.

'I'm fine, really. I just…' Molly took a deep breath, using the respite time to order her thoughts then turned to him and took his hand – the one not holding the fork – in hers.

'Don't put yourself down, Sherlock. There are plenty of people out there…' she inclined her head to indicate the world outside '…who will be more than happy to do that for you. You don't need 'putting up with'. You're good company and…an excellent cook! I absolutely love having you here. You're welcome any time.'

Having said her piece, Molly released his hand and turned back to the fish pie. Sherlock, still at a loss as to what exactly just happened, resumed his meal, also.

The rest of the evening passed without further incident. Molly insisted on doing the washing up, since Sherlock had not only cooked the meal but actually gone out and bought all the ingredients, too. They talked about neutral subjects, avoiding any mention of Eurus, Mycroft or, indeed, any member of Sherlock's dysfunctional family. Molly told him about a particularly interesting post mortem examination she'd carried out that day and he told her about a particularly bizarre case he's once solved, involving a man with red hair and a gold bullion heist. At bedtime, they said good night and parted on the landing.

But they both lay awake, in their separate rooms, long after they'd turned out their bedside lights.

ooOoo

Next morning, Sherlock heard the front door close as Molly left for work. He rolled out of bed and stood at the window, watching, until she turned the corner and disappeared from sight. Then, with a long exhale like a slowly deflating balloon, he leant forward, resting his head on the wall that framed the window. But, almost as quickly, he stood up straight, squared his shoulders and was all business. He showered, dressed and left the house, walked to the main road, hailed a passing cab and gave the driver an address in Lambeth.

The cab pulled up outside a row of Victorian terraced houses in a leafy London square. Sherlock climbed out of the cab, strode up the path of one of the middle terraces and rang the doorbell. It was answered by a tall, rather over-weight young man, with wild, curly hair, a round, cheerful face and wireframed spectacles.

'Hello, Sherlock!' he exclaimed, brightly.

'Hello, Craig,' Sherlock replied, rather abruptly, eager to get to the point of his visit. 'Any luck?'

'Oh, yes!' Craig declared, not remotely put out by Sherlock's manner. 'A huge great, fat dollop of luck! You're going to love this!'

Craig turned and led the way down the long hallway of the former railway cottage, one of several built around the square in the 1870s to house railway men and their families, leaving Sherlock to close the front door and follow on behind. He caught up with his hacker friend in the back parlour, sitting in front of an array of computer screens, each one displaying line after line of code which was completely meaningless to Sherlock.

'What am I going to love?' he asked.

'Well,' Craig replied, 'the new governor of this Sherrinford gaff, shall we say he's not exactly cyber savvy? He's made the rookie error of using his very insecure private email address at work and forgotten to log out afterwards. So…' tapping a few keys while he spoke, '…I've been able to access his email account and, through that, I've learned his top security access code to the entire Sherrinford system!'

Sherlock jumped in the air, clasping his hands together, and performed a little impromptu victory dance then turned and clapped Craig on the shoulder to show his appreciation.

'So, what have you found?' He was eager to hear.

'Well, to be honest, not much yet, but…' and this was obviously a big 'but' '…so as not to arouse suspicion, I've used the governor's seniority to authorize my own access code – I just made up a name and I'm routing through loads of IP addresses so it can't be traced back to me – but that means I can root around in the database any time I like and not just when the governor's on duty.'

'That's fantastic, Craig,' said Sherlock, a little less enthusiastically than previously, 'but what have you actually found so far?'

'Well,' said Craig, who apparently began every sentence with the word 'well', 'just for starters, I've managed to unearth the actual architectural plans – the original drawings – for the underground unit that you say your sister lives in.' He brought them up on one of the screens. Sherlock recognised the panopticon that Eurus knew as home. 'The institution itself is quite old. It was built during the Napoleonic Wars, actually, to 'process' suspected spies and revolutionaries, though I'm not sure how much actual processing went on, to be honest. Torture, more like. Anyway…'

Craig did have a habit of rambling on so Sherlock had semi-muted him and was scanning the plans for anything that jumped out at him and, suddenly, there it was…

'There!' he said, pointing at some script in the bottom right corner of the diagram. 'Look at that date.'

'Yes, that's what I was about to say,' said Craig. 'They started building the level where your sister lives, thirty-four years ago.'

'Yes,' Sherlock replied, 'when Eurus was only three years old.'

Was that when Uncle Rudi hatched his plan? Sherlock wondered. When Eurus was barely out of nappies? Because this unit was definitely built specifically for her. The guards at Sherrinford had told him so, that very first time he went there. So, had Rudi already singled Eurus out as an asset, valued only for her role as 'secret government weapon', all that time ago? And then what? Used his influence over their parents to build this myth around Eurus that she was a dangerous psychopath, just so that he could have her for himself? The deep-seated residual anger that had been building inside Sherlock over the last six months, since he first began to suspect his uncle's culpability in Eurus's fate, suddenly flared white-hot. a rage so powerful, it threatened to consume him…

'And I thought you might be interested in this.' Craig was still blethering on, oblivious to Sherlock's emotional crisis. 'It's not about your sister, it's about another Holmes. Mycroft? Does that name ring a bell?'

Sherlock's focus was instantly diverted back to the room.

'What about Mycroft?'

'It looks like some sort of report, a psychological assessment or something like that.' Craig replied.

'An IQ test?'

'Erm, no, not an IQ test, I've had a few of those myself. No, this looks more like a personality profile…'

Sherlock was scanning the document over Craig's shoulder, speed reading, picking out random words – 'remarkable', 'quick-witted', 'perspicacious', 'keen'. Yes, that sounded like Mycroft. But what was this? 'Eager to please', 'ductile', 'pliant', 'suggestible', '? That didn't sound like the Mycroft he knew. He needed to study this document in full.

'Can you give me a copy of that?' Sherlock asked. 'And the architectural plans, too?'

'Already done, mate,' said Craig, with a grin, gesturing with his thumb to the printer, chattering away in the corner of the room. 'Hard copy.'

Sherlock nodded his appreciation. Electronic copy was far too risky.

'Excellent work, Craig,' Sherlock murmured, gathering up the sheets of paper and rolling them into a tube to slip into the deep inside pocket of his Belstaff.

'There is something else,' Craig remarked, almost casually.

Sherlock turned back to the hacker.

'There's a file here…' Craig pointed to an icon on the main screen, '…it's enormous.'

'What's in it, do you know?'

'I think it's videos. But there are hundreds of them. Maybe even thousands.'

'Can you access them?'

'Oh, yes, but it'll take me a while. They're heavily encrypted, many layers of security. And I have to be careful not to attract attention. If I spend too long in one session, it might be noticed.'

'Whatever it takes,' Sherlock assured him. 'You're doing a brilliant job. I really appreciate it.'

'Anything for you, mate. You saved my arse.'

ooOoo

Sherlock exited the Victorian terrace and crossed the road into the tree-lined square, taking out his phone and speed dialling his brother.

'Sherlock, where have you been?' Mycroft demanded. He didn't sound much like the Ice Man these days.

'Don't be ridiculous. You always know exactly where I am,' replied Sherlock, acerbically.

'Mummy was very upset, yesterday,' Mycroft declared. 'That dreadful woman accused her of murder!'

'I know, Mycroft, I was there, remember?'

'Well, she's very disappointed in you. She expected more.'

'More what?'

'More family solidarity, of course.'

Sherlock scowled.

'I need some information.'

'What sort of information?'

'You told me and John that you and Eurus were professionally assessed many times…'

'Yes, I did…Look, is this really the best use of your time at this precise moment?'

'Whose idea was that?'

Mycroft paused, for what reason, Sherlock couldn't be sure. But at last, he said,

'Uncle Rudi, of course. Who else? Mummy and Daddy would never have thought of it, would they? You know that.'

'And how old were you when you were first tested?'

'Oh, I don't know…ten? Eleven? Remind me why this is so important?'

'And Eurus…how old was she?'

'Sherlock, this really is…'

'Just answer the damn question, Mycroft!' Sherlock barked, losing what little patience he had left.

'She was three, I believe. Yes, I was eleven; she was three.'

'And you were deemed 'remarkable' but Eurus was 'Beyond Newton'?

'Indeed. 'An era-defining genius'...'

'What about me, Mycroft? What was my assessment result?'

'Don't be ridiculous, dear boy,' Mycroft gave a huff of laughter, completely devoid of humour. 'Why would Uncle Rudi bother testing you? You were never particularly exceptional.'

Sherlock was silent.

'What? You're not jealous, are you?' Mycroft scoffed. 'Is that what this is all about? I'm sorry if your fragile ego is bruised, Sherlock, but the sad truth is that Uncle Rudi was never remotely interested in you. You were so frivolous, always running around with wooden swords, playing silly make-believe games. He found you rather dull.'

Sherlock cut the call. He sat down heavily on a nearby public bench, under a copper beech, nauseous at what Mycroft had just confirmed.

There but for the grace of God, he thought and it turned his blood to ice. But it also hardened his resolve.

The pieces of the puzzle were sliding into place.

Let Mycroft think he had hung up in a huff at being 'rejected'. It would help mask the scent of his true intent.

ooOoo