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Lessons Learned, Part 2 of 2 (Sherlock)

Title: Lessons Learned
(4th in the Sofie Series)
Author: Morgan Stuart
Fandom: Sherlock
Disclaimer: This universe does not belong to me; I'm just an appreciative visitor. I make no profit from this fan work.
Description: A hostage situation at 221B Baker Street proves that not all dangers come from Moriarty.
Historian's Note: This is the fourth story in the Sofie Series, which begins with "Mouth of Babes" and continues in "Facing Forward" and "Sentry Duty." This takes place after (and indirectly refers to) the Sherlock episode "The Great Game."
Acknowledgements: Tremendous thanks to those of you who expressed interest in another story in the Sofie Series, as well as the generous and patient community members at sh_britglish.
Warnings (Highlight to Read): Graphic violence and language.

Read Part 1 here.




For several heartbeats, no one spoke.

John ordered his thoughts. The young man with the mole, Tommy, was the least concern; he held his knife like he was half-afraid of the thing. Leave him 'til last, then, or to Sherlock, if John could manage to free him. Eddie and his gun posed the greatest threat, with the blond a close second.

If John had the chance to move, he would have to take it without hesitation – and, quite likely, without concern for mercy. He'd always rather subdue than kill, but only dead men posed no certain threat, and the stakes were too high for half measures this morning.

These men's plans for Lestrade left no room for mercy, after all.

"You were on the wrong side, but you always had a sense of honour, Eddie, I'll give you that." Lestrade licked his lips. "I need your word, your oath, that these men go free if I cooperate."

"Lestrade—" John couldn't help himself.

"I am trying," Lestrade said, very softly and very slowly, "to limit the number of corpses in this flat at the end of the day. For God's sake, let me do my job." For a moment he shut his eyes, and John noted the telltale twitch as Lestrade's fingers flexed open, only to close around nothingness.

None of the rules applied, did they? The conventional wisdom about hostage crises dictated buying time, keeping the leader talking. But with Sofie hiding, so very vulnerable – hell, with Lestrade completely ignorant of where she was, what had happened to her – the only course of action, in Lestrade's eyes at least, seemed to be for him to take it on the chin, to play out the scene as swiftly as possible so the bastards would leave.

To offer himself up for all of them.

John's muscles cramped at the sheer injustice of it.

His eyes roamed the room. Bloody hell, he thought, could that clock be correct? Had it truly been less than twenty-five minutes since Lestrade and Sofie had first arrived at 221B?

How soon before they could expect help? Mrs Hudson had invited the men in without a fuss, so the police and security teams who routinely observed the flat had no reason to be concerned. The footage of the men from the CCTV cameras would raise no red flags for Mycroft's people, because the facial recognition software would fail to yield any matches with Moriarty's known contacts. And even if, as John sometimes suspected, Mycroft had bugged the flat itself, there had to be some kind of delay between the recordings and their analysis.

Mrs Hudson had been gone only a handful of minutes, certainly not long enough to have the cavalry here in full force in the immediate future.

They were, for all practical purposes, alone.

"They stay for now," Eddie told Lestrade. "When you and I are done here, assuming you've behaved, I'll leave them alive and untouched. My word on it."

Fixing his eyes on a bare patch of wall, Lestrade nodded.

John shifted, gathering himself, only to feel Tommy's hand settle on his shoulder in warning.

"Over there and on your knees then, lad," Eddie ordered Lestrade. "Take your shirt and vest off first, and then put your hands behind your back."

It was an agony, witnessing the surrender of a man whose every instinct was to fight.

"This needs to look good. Not a quick bullet to the head," Eddie said, and John wondered if he imagined it, a hint of grudging regret in the words. "Can't make it too easy on you, can I? After what you cost me?"

"S'pose not," Lestrade said, his fingers working the buttons of his shirt. He was distancing himself, John could see, detaching from what was about to happen. John had observed such behaviour in fellow soldiers in Afghanistan – particularly with the Special Forces, as teams prepared for missions from which return seemed unlikely.

"I'd like to think that this will hit your people hard," Eddie said conversationally. Any brief spark of regret, if it had ever existed at all, was now frozen beneath a layer of impenetrable ice. "The way your sting hit mine."

John gritted his teeth. All the more reason to make certain Eddie never knew about or gained access to the little girl under the sink.

"Hate to disappoint you," Lestrade said, "but there's no one at home for me."

Technically speaking, this was true, John knew. Sofie lived with her grandmother, didn't she?

"You're wearing a ring," Eddie pointed out.

"My wife died years ago. If you insist on hurrying along our reunion, well… to be honest, I can't say that I object entirely. Considered it myself, once or twice over the years."

Lestrade draped his shirt and vest over the arm of the sofa.

"What few friends I have will likely feel relief as much as sadness – bit of a safety hazard, you know, being mates with a man who perpetually wears a target on his back. As for the Yard, before my body's cold they'll have me replaced by someone younger and faster and smarter. Someone with the sense to do things by the book.

"My closest colleagues might miss me, but they'll also get promotions out of the deal – silver linings and all that."

These matter-of-fact observations came too easily to Lestrade, John thought, to represent fiction composed on the spot. John twisted his hands in his bonds, simply for the welcome distraction of the pain at his wrists.

"If you're looking to make all London weep," Lestrade continued, "I'm not your target. But that's not the point, is it?"

"No. No, it's not."

Naked to the waist, Lestrade went down on his knees, training his eyes once again on the wall.

"Tie him up," Eddie commanded.

The blond slipped his weapon into his belt, withdrew a zip tie from his jacket, and went to secure the detective inspector's hands. Tommy drifted a step closer to watch. Then another.

John hitched up his shirttail and groped for the knife.

"It's a shame to hear it, though,” Eddie mused. “You had such a promising start. How old were you when you first infiltrated my circle? Just a pup."

"Twenty-seven." Lestrade sounded distant, disinterested, as if he spoke from half a world away.

"Blimey, you're nearly fifty," Eddie said. "You should be running Scotland Yard by now."

Without warning, Sherlock spoke: "While I am disinclined to agree with a criminal who is preparing to commit homicide in the middle of my sitting room, I must say, Lestrade, you do deserve better. But not only in the way our captor assumes."

John froze in shock, knife secure in fettered hands, as all eyes turned toward the consulting detective at his side. All eyes but Lestrade's.

"As a nemesis, this man is utterly incompetent," Sherlock complained to his audience. "His planned actions will not result in his desired outcomes – thus leaving him a failure, Lestrade dead, and me out a rather expensive rug."

"Sherlock—" John breathed.

"I'm sorry: leaving John and me out a rather expensive rug. Mrs Hudson will make us pay for it, you know. But John's practically penniless, so I expect it's on me."

"What," Eddie blurted, "the fuck?"

My sentiments exactly, John thought.

Drawing a breath, Sherlock began to hold forth: "As I understand it, Eddie was badly disgraced twenty years ago when the Carletons learned that his right-hand man, known then as 'Geoffrey Lewis,' was, in fact, an undercover police officer – the same officer who helped to engineer the sting that brought down a substantial portion of their operation. Whether Eddie had been duped by or was in league with this policeman was immaterial to the Carletons.

"Now Eddie believes he can prove his loyalty and buy a future for his son with the syndicate by killing said officer, who is now known to be DI Greg Lestrade."

The blond wrenched Lestrade's arms behind him and secured them with the tie. When the young man straightened, he stared at Sherlock, hands curling into fists at his side.

"Your plan," Sherlock continued, now speaking directly to Eddie, "will do nothing of the sort. For one thing, the death of one of Scotland Yard's own will concentrate police attention on the Carletons, putting their so-called business in the greatest jeopardy it's faced since that very sting two decades ago. Why do you think they never went after him themselves?"

Eddie grew several shades paler. Lestrade continued to stare at the wall in front of him.

"For another," Sherlock said, "your choices ultimately disprove your loyalty. You came here today without an exit strategy for yourself or" – Sherlock looked to each of the two younger men –"your nephew and godson, neither of whom currently has a serious criminal record. Somehow I doubt they planned to throw their lives away for your son Seth, but that's exactly what you've betrayed them into doing.

"At worst, they'll be killed; at best, they'll be caught, implicated in the premeditated murder of one of London's finest, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. They will most certainly not, as I assume they hoped, secure the lasting appreciation and patronage of the Carleton syndicate."

An inarticulate sound of protest came from Tommy, who glanced back and forth between his captive and his mentor, as if attempting to follow an especially energetic tennis match.

"The syndicate fancies itself an extended family,” Sherlock explained. “You, Eddie, have proved willing to trade two family members for the sake of another. Seth, conspicuous by his absence, has proved willing to let you do so. Those aren't the values that inspire confidence in people like the Carletons. If any of you do survive today, I doubt the syndicate will allow you to live for—"

With several long strides, the blond crossed the space to Sherlock and backhanded him. Sherlock rocked with the blow, huffing, barely keeping his seat.

"Shut your face," the young man growled.

John worked the knife, slashing both his fingers and his shirt before gaining purchase against the plastic restraint.

"Uncle Ed?" Tommy's voice was a suspicious whine. "What did he mean? What's he saying?"

"Don't listen to 'im," the blond said, when a visibly troubled Eddie failed to answer. "He's tryin' to get under your skin.

"And you," the young man continued, pointing his knife at Sherlock. "Next time I use this instead of my fist."

"Sherlock." Lestrade kept his eyes in front of him. "Thanks for trying. Really. But it's not worth it. Other things are more important."

Like Sofie, John supplied, hearing the implied message. Like you.

Lestrade took a measured breath. "Let it go."

"Uncle Ed, I don't—" Tommy protested.

"Good God." Eddie sighed raggedly, as the full implications of Sherlock's words appeared to hit him all at once. "A man can't catch a break, can he?"

Lestrade glanced up at him. "You're asking me?"

For a wholly incongruous and surreal moment, the two shared a bleak and wintry smile.

John seized the distraction as his opportunity to reach behind Sherlock and fold the knife into his flatmate's fingers.

Sherlock gave a slight nod of thanks, sending blood from his nose and lip dripping down his cheek.

Odd, John thought, that Sherlock's attention seemed to have wandered from such a tense scene. He appeared to be staring at the window.

“Wait, I don’t—”

“Quiet, Tommy,” the blond growled.

"I've come this far," Eddie said after a pause. "That counts for something. It has to." His hand shot out, twining into Lestrade's short and silvering hair. "Last words?"

Lestrade's tongue darted out, moistening his lips. He blinked. "Sherlock, John: thank you. For everything. You both know what to say, and who to say it to."

"That's all?" Eddie asked.

A tight nod. "Just get on with it."

"All right, then." Eddie brought the Beretta down in a wide-swinging arc, striking Lestrade above the ear, and then he caught the slumping man in the chest with a powerful kick.

"Tommy, think," Sherlock was saying, urgent and low, half-rising from his chair. "Whatever you decide to do this minute…"

One of us has to live through this, John told himself. We can't allow Sofie to climb out of that cupboard to find all of us dead.

Yet even as the thought crossed his mind, John was on his feet and moving, as fast as his limping speed could take him – unarmed, directly toward a man with a gun and a man with a knife.

The young blond aimed a savage kick of his own at Lestrade's unprotected ribs. The sound of the impact of unyielding boot against fragile flesh and bone, of Lestrade's choked pain, propelled John forward.

He was a pair of strong, well-trained hands clenched around a blond-haired skull. He was the twist and crunch and give of a cleanly-broken neck. Taking up the dead man's knife even before his body hit the floor, John became a leap and thrust and gush of bright red blood at Eddie's throat.

Everything else – the door, the windows, the shouts, the urgent rush of newcomers – was confusion.

***

"Easy. You're safe. Sofie's safe. Don't move. Easy. Let me get your hands free." Even, ordered words echoed in John's head, and after a moment he recognized them as his own.

Under John's capable fingers, Lestrade ceased his struggling and managed a shallow breath. Then another.

The gore-slicked knife sliced through the zip tie cleanly, and John eased Lestrade's arm toward his battered chest.

For some minutes, nothing else mattered to John but his patient. Not the blond corpse on the rug beside him. Not Sergeant Donovan, looking furious as a blood-drunk Valkyrie, kneeling beside a dying Eddie as if she hoped to hasten his final few steps toward the afterlife. Not even Sherlock, his cheek streaked with crimson, looming over a bound and half-weeping Tommy, Mycroft standing tall and ashen at his elbow.

John helped to turn Lestrade, shifting his bare torso ever so gently, and braced him as the man retched up a mouthful of bile and blood. "Concussion. Possible skull fracture. Broken ribs. Possible compromised lung due to displaced rib fractures," John recited, litany-like, to the gathering circle of paramedics.

"Please." Lestrade wheezed his plea. "Don't let her" – a harsh breath, positively grating – "see all this."

"No," John agreed, wiping blood from Lestrade's brow before it could drip into the man's eyes. "She won't. It'll be fine. We'll take care of her."

"Thank you, Doctor. We can handle it from here." John nodded and sank back on the rug to let the professionals do their jobs. He blinked, momentarily dazed at the number of people in his sitting room. Quite a few of them seemed to be wearing stab vests from the Yard. And were those half-dozen men there with Mycroft paramilitary troops?

He felt absurdly blessed to be part of the focus of such ridiculous overkill.

There was something he needed to remember. Something very important indeed.

Then, "Sherlock!"

How did the consulting detective arrive at his side so quickly, swifter than a thought, while still so unsteady on his feet? John wanted to reach up a hand for assistance, but he feared toppling Sherlock over instead.

"Sofie. Knock on the cupboard. Under the sink. Tell her who you are, before you open the door. She's armed."

Sherlock nodded.

"And Sherlock: she can't see any of this."

"Of course." Then he was gone.

By the time John was standing again – someone tried to wrap a blanket around his shoulders, and he nearly gave in to a fit of the giggles; couldn't they see his hands were perfectly steady? – Sherlock was heading toward the kitchen, his coat tucked under one arm, John's cane hooked over the other.

John threaded through the crowd to follow him.

Mycroft's personal assistant leaned against the threshold to the kitchen, typing furiously on her Blackberry. She didn't look up as she said, "Be sure to knock on the cupboard door and identify yourself first, or you'll get skewered. She means business."

Sherlock paused, John just behind him.

"You know about Sofie?" Sherlock asked.

The young woman glanced up at that. "Who do you think organized this entire operation?"

The flatmates stared at her.

"She's been texting Mr Holmes and Detective Sergeant Donovan ever since the moment she was alone under the sink. Mrs Hudson's been very helpful with eyewitness information these last few minutes, but the joint forces were already mobilised and en route before she was ever released."

"How much did Sofie hear?" John had to force out the words.

"Enough," she said. "Enough to be scared for her father and for the two of you. But not enough to lose her wits – and, believe me, she has plenty."

"Freak!" came a call, and they turned to find Donovan approaching, mobile in hand. "Make this any more difficult than it has to be for that little girl, and I'll see to it you're a permanent high tenor."

For once, Sherlock did not rise to the bait.

Seconds later he was kneeling before the cupboard door with John.

He rapped on the door. "Sofie? It's Sherlock. John's here with me. May we open the door now?"

"Please, Sherlock!"

Curled into a knot, one hand clutching the knife and the other her mobile, Sofie squinted against the light. Dried tear tracks showed on her cheeks.

"Daddy?" she asked.

"He was wounded, but he's going to be just fine," John said quickly. "The paramedics are tending to him now."

"I want to see him," she said.

"Soon," Sherlock agreed, as John helped her to swing her cramped legs out onto the floor.

"Oh, your face," she said to Sherlock. "Wait." Handing Sherlock the knife, Sofie shrugged out of her backpack. She tucked her phone into its depths and pulled out a small packet of pre-moistened antibacterial hand wipes, as precise as any member of the forensics team at a crime scene.

Sherlock inclined his head without a word and allowed the child to wipe the blood from his nose and cheek and chin.

"Oh, John, you're even worse!"

"No, no, the blood's not mine," he said, wincing at the mess on his shirt.

"But your hand." Clearly uncertain how best to help his hurts, she offered him a second wipe, which he accepted with thanks and wrapped around the shallow knife lacerations on his fingers.

"Sofie," Sherlock said, "We need to get you out of here, so we can follow your father to hospital. It's best if you don't see the sitting room, so we'll carry you out."

"Why? What can't I see?" She bit her lip.

"There are two dead bodies on the fl—"

"Sherlock," John said.

"Bad guys?" she asked.

"Bad guys," John agreed.

"John was quite the proper ninja." Sherlock leaned in, as if to share a delightful secret, and whispered, "You should have seen him. Unarmed, he snapped one's neck, and then he stabbed—"

"Sherlock! Not good. More than a bit. Inappropriate in the extreme, in fact."

"I knew it." Sofie's faith shone in her eyes. "I knew it, John. Thanks. For helping Daddy."

"Anytime," John said, humbled. "And thank you, for texting the good guys."

"It was an emergency, so I'm allowed," she explained. "That's what my mobile's for."

"Right you are," John said.

He became aware of a great deal of movement behind them, and he turned to see the paramedics rising to their feet, preparing to bear Lestrade on a stretcher between them.

Recalling the words Lestrade had spoken about what his death would (or, more to the point, wouldn't) mean to those around him, John was seized by the sudden conviction that the man should have a friend at his side, now of all times, while he was wounded and in pain.

"Sherlock…"

"Go on. You're the medical doctor. It's fitting that you're with him. I've got Sofie. We'll follow and meet you there."

With a squeeze to Sherlock's shoulder, John went to Lestrade.

***

Mycroft, bless his near-omniscience, already had anticipated John's desire to ride in the ambulance and made the necessary arrangements.

As John waited for the paramedics to load Lestrade and secure him inside the vehicle, he leaned against its reassuring bulk and treated himself to a few deep breaths of air. The adrenaline crash, when it came, would be dizzying, but for now John Watson felt far, far better than anyone who had become a hostage in his own home, witnessed his friend's almost-murder, and turned two captors into corpses had the right to feel.

The panda cars, the police tape, and the milling personnel all felt like peace, somehow, despite the fact they represented its opposite.

And then the front door opened, and Sally Donovan held it wide, waiting. She wore a singularly baffled-appalled-moved expression on her face, as if she'd just seen an angel, or met the historical Jack the Ripper, or spotted the Loch Ness Monster and the Eye of Sauron doing shots at the pub with the Queen.

Through the open door hobbled Sherlock Holmes.

John knew all too well that Sherlock had not once made it down the stairs without assistance since the explosion.

He was half-bent like a withered crone from a child's fairytale, steadying his balance with the cane designed for John's slighter height. His cheeks were colourless save for a burgeoning bruise, his lips a tight line, his face slick with sweat from exertion.

His coat hung over his right shoulder and chest – and, John realized, Sofie Lestrade, tucked tightly against Sherlock's side, carried in his slender arm. All that was visible of the child beneath Sherlock's coat – his cape, John corrected himself, thinking of Sofie's description of the man – was her hands.

One curled around the back of his neck. The other rested against his chest, above his heart, thumb and index finger extended in her best approximation of a Star Wars blaster gun.

Sherlock elbowed aside several offers of assistance as he made his way toward Mycroft's black sedan. Of course, the physician in John fretted at the strain the consulting detective had placed on himself, but any fool could see that this was something Sherlock had chosen to do – had needed to do – on his own.

Despite his obvious frailty and struggle, or perhaps because of it, Sherlock was the very portrait of fierce dignity.

Was it any wonder that John would follow this man anywhere?

As Sherlock approached the car, security team members seemed to materialise out of thin air, clearing his path and opening the door for him. Before he climbed in with his burden, his eyes searched the scene and found John's.

They nodded to one another. A shared moment of communion.

A heartbeat later, a paramedic called out that Lestrade was secure and the ambulance was ready to depart. John scrambled in and assumed the place they had made for him at Lestrade's side.

The detective inspector was in no condition for conversation, panting shallow breaths behind his oxygen mask, eyes wide and slightly unfocussed. Fortunately he did not seem to be in any immediate respiratory distress. John groaned to himself in sympathy anyway, knowing that each breath with those ribs had to be torture, and that Lestrade could receive little for the pain until his head wound was thoroughly examined.

When John put himself in the man's direct line of sight, Lestrade blinked in obvious recognition.

"Sofie's right behind us, riding with Mycroft and Sherlock," John said. "Sally's securing the scene. Everything's fine."

Lestrade attempted to nod, went still with a groan as his head protested, and then tried to smile instead.

"Jesus," he huffed.

"Yeah," John agreed.

Nothing else needed to be said.

***

The waiting room deserved a revolving door.

In the course of an hour and a half, they saw Mycroft, his personal assistant, Mrs Hudson, and three police officers and two members of Mycroft's staff whose names John never learned. Somehow, through fleeting snatches of conversations and reports, John patched together enough details to understand that he owed Mycroft Holmes his life.

Apparently two separate snipers had secured Eddie in their sights as he opened his attack on Lestrade. At the last possible moment, Mycroft had instructed them to hold their fire, a decision that nearly – and, John reasoned, quite understandably – sent Donovan into an apoplectic fit.

Before Mycroft could explain that he anticipated an imminent Watsonian rescue attempt, John had taken Eddie down. John's desperate lunge, of course, had put him directly in the snipers' line of fire.

Well, John thought. Huh.

He filed away that information for some future time when it would fascinate him more and freak him out less.

The last to arrive was a somber Sergeant Donovan, carefully balancing four lidded and logo-bearing cups. She made her way to Sofie, went to one knee, and set the drinks on the floor before her.

"I come bearing cocoa," she announced with solemnity, and offered a cup to the little girl.

"Thanks, Sally," Sofie smiled. Her red-rimmed eyes glowed with pleasure.

"Anything for a hero," Sally answered. "How are you holding up?"

"I'm okay."

"'Course you are." Extending a second cup toward John, Sally said, "Tea."

"Oh. Yes. Um, thanks." Just the way he liked it, too.

"Sherlock," she said.

With a raised eyebrow, Sherlock replied, "Sally."

"I didn't know what you liked, so I ordered the darkest, bitterest, most pointlessly pretentious thing on the coffee menu. Seemed fitting."

She held out the cup, and he accepted it. He took a sip that could only be called dainty. And then he smacked his lips.

"Sergeant Donovan, with accurate deductions such as this, you may one day earn that title of detective that you wear."

She stared at him. "Right."

Like an afterthought, she said, "Your flat will be a right mess for a while – not that you'd notice the difference. And your sitting room rug is a lost cause."

Sherlock snorted.

John couldn't shake the notion that some kind of détente had been reached. He filed away that information, as well.

***

The ribs would mend.

None of the tests or scans revealed complications from the concussion, although the doctors wanted to keep the detective inspector for observation a while longer. It seemed highly probable, however, that Lestrade had escaped the Beretta with only temporary side effects: blurred vision, sensitivity to sound, and one hell of a headache.

"Hey, Sweetheart," he croaked, as John helped Sofie onto the bed, careful not to jostle the man too much.

"I was scared," she confessed, with quivering lips.

"So was I," he admitted. "But you kept your wits and carried on. I'm so very proud of you, my brave girl."

With a sniffled, "Poor Daddy," Sofie buried her head on his shoulder for a brief, explosive, and cathartic cry. Lestrade stroked her head and slurred reassurances that he would be fine. When the storm had passed, and more than one adult had wiped eyes as discreetly as possible, Sofie sat up again, announcing, "I feel better now. And I really need the loo."

Sally confirmed that it wasn't beneath her professional dignity to serve as an honour escort.

Sofie paused on her way out the door to hold up her phone and say, "Gran texted. She'll be here in ten minutes!"

Once Sofie and Sally were gone, Lestrade muttered, "Whoever said that your flat was the safest place in London is an idiot."

John snickered.

"It will be safer, after this," Sherlock said. "Mycroft is already generating a new set of protocols—"

"—yeah, and the Yard will respond, as well," Lestrade said. "God, the paperwork."

They lapsed into their own thoughts for several moments.

Sherlock broke the silence with an abrupt announcement: "I loathe hospitals. Thought I'd never be released this last time. And where do I go for my first proper outing from the flat? To hospital. Dull."

He was looking distinctly worn, John had to admit.

"Go on, then, Sherlock." Lestrade made a shooing motion, and then blinked and squinted at the consulting detective. "All… ah, three of you. When she gets back, Sally can drive you home. She can take your statements there, as well."

John sighed. "For a moment I'd forgotten our home is also a crime scene."

Like a child on Christmas morning, Sherlock began to glow. "Yes, it is, isn't it?"

"But there's no mystery to solve," John pointed out. "You already know what happened. You were there."

"True. Still. There's the ambience." After some thought, Sherlock added, "And my experiment is still in progress. It requires attention. You must clean up the mess you left on the table, John."

John shook his head, hiding his eyes in his hand. He glanced up to find Lestrade regarding him with a knowing and rueful look.

"Do you need anything? Does Sofie?" John asked.

"We're good. If Julia's coming, she'll take care of Sofie."

"We'll check with you later, see how you're doing."

A grin. "Thanks, Doctor." After a beat, more soberly, "For everything. Both of you."

"One question, Lestrade," Sherlock said, rising none too steadily and draping his coat over his arm. "Whatever happened to the chocolate éclairs?"

"That is your question? Seriously?" John asked. "All that's happened today, and you're thinking about the éclairs?"

"I never got mine. I wanted it."

"I stopped and ate them on the way, once I knew you were tied up," Lestrade said. "Sure, your life was in immediate peril, but they were bloody good éclairs. Couldn't let them go to waste, you understand."

Folding his arms over his chest, Sherlock waited.

"Made a spontaneous donation to members of your Homeless Network, didn't I? The ally of my ally is my ally, too, right?"

Sherlock straightened a bit, clearly pleased.

"And we need all the allies we can get," John nodded in approval. "Although it seems we can mark one threat, at least, off our list today."

"Not your list, mate," Lestrade noted.

"Our list," John repeated.

"The biggest name remains, and there will be more to add, I'm sure," Sherlock said. "But in the meantime, there's éclairs on the way home."

"Sherlock. Priorities." John indicated his own torso. "Besides, something about being splattered in dried blood puts me right off pastries."

Sherlock smirked. "No, it doesn't."

"Fine. Fine." John knew when he was defeated. "No, it doesn't."

As they retreated, John paused at the door and lifted his hand, gratified to see a weary but genuine smile on Lestrade's face. "We'll find Sofie and say goodbye. Ring you later. And Lestrade—"

"I know. I'll be careful. You, too."

With a nod, John followed Sherlock down the hallway.


THE END

Sequel: Read the sequel: "After All."

Vital Stats: Originally written in September 2011.

Originally written for this prompt as part of the "Fall Back Into Sherlock" Fest at sherlockmas.

Comments

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shefa
Sep. 21st, 2011 01:56 pm (UTC)
*flails

*cries

*adores

I just. I just. Good lord. I adore them. You've kept Sofie fierce and yet appropriate to her age. Brilliant. Sherlock, omg. The AMBIANCE. Lestrade. GUH. Never have I loved Lestrade more. And BAMF John and ashen Mycroft. And Sally. I know, I know, I'm just listing them all. I can't speak. I will email you later with more words... just know this is still sitting, warm, in my chest.

Okay. I hate to be the one to inform you, but I'm about to duct tape you to the keyboard so that you do nothing but WRITE. I'm sure you understand.

*administers duct tape... rigs up provisions so you can stay here a good long time (bwahahahahaha)

*waits patiently for more stories

<3

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capt_facepalm
Sep. 21st, 2011 02:43 pm (UTC)
This was such an enjoyable read! I really like this 'verse and hope you will continue to write stories in it. Well done you!
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks a million! I'm so glad you liked this. It's great to know there's interest in more stories in this 'verse, too. I really appreciate your reading and leaving such kind feedback.
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errantcomment
Sep. 21st, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
The rest of it was great, but I gotta say, your Mrs. Hudson was just amazing. Seriously, brilliant characterisation. Made me so happy.

Thanks. ^^
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much! I'm so glad you liked her characterization. Without Mrs Hudson and her clever, timely warnings, this would've been a very, very short story indeed! I do adore her and her personality. No wonder she's one of the few that Sherlock allows to get close.

I really appreciate your reading and your leaving such kind feedback! Thanks.
keladry_lupin
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
That was a fantastic conclusion to a terrifying situation. I'd forgot about Sofie's mobile, so I thought the boys were on their own. Didn't doubt John's badassery for a second, though, and he followed through, too.

*makes a donation to shefa for your provisions* Write more, please!
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much! I really, really appreciate your kind words. I'm delighted that you liked this. :) And I appreciate your encouragement and support!
methylviolet10b
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
That ear-shattering sound you just heard was me SQUEEING in delight over the conclusion of this fic. So VERY well-written and beautifully paced, it was tense and touching and scary and weirdly funny in places (in the right way). And woot for Sofie and her mobile! I had guessed that would come into it. :-) Your John, Sherlock, and Lestrade were awesome, as usual, and your Mrs. Hudson and Donovan...oh oh oh. Perfect!

I'd babble more, but you already captured my reaction perfectly: She wore a singularly baffled-appalled-moved expression on her face, as if she'd just seen an angel, or met the historical Jack the Ripper, or spotted the Loch Ness Monster and the Eye of Sauron doing shots at the pub with the Queen.

BTW, you and I need to go to that pub, stat. I owe you a drink or three. ;-)

Brava!
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, you've made me such a happy camper! I can't even begin to thank you properly. I'm so, so happy you liked this. I'm especially glad that you liked Mrs Hudson and Sally Donovan, as well as our wonderful "usual suspects"...

If you find that pub, let me know. The first round is on me! ;)
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poetic_self
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
You really like to put us (and Lestrade!) through tough times, don't you? *L* Worth the wait, though, and as usually, I like the characterisation in the small things, say, different kinds of hot drinks and Sherlock being his snobby self even then.

Thanks for sharing! :)
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC)
Ah, yes, we always hurt the ones we love, don't we? ;)

Seriously, I'm so glad you liked this, especially the small details of the characterizations. (It really helps me to know such things worked, so I'm most grateful for your comments!) Thanks so much for reading and for your kind feedback. I really appreciate it!
hannibal_topaz
Sep. 21st, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
love this series!
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so glad to hear it! Thank you very much.
maggie_conagher
Sep. 21st, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC)
Just what I always wanted. More Sophie.

Lestrade is the dad and friend we all wished for, and yet he's also perfectly in character and canon.

I like how you've kept their recovery time more realistic. I am worried about Sherlock but it's actually more accurate to what a real life bldg falling on a real life person would be like.

All three men played to their strengths, and yay for Mrs. Hudson's quick thinking as well. BAMF! Mycroft as well, but his thinking side saved John.

I cry so easily over these. There's so much tenderness. I think it's a little bit of Wizard of Oz.

While I won't beg or hold you captive, I would appreciate more about Sophie whenever you are able.
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 10:43 pm (UTC)
I'm so very glad you liked this!

It means a lot to hear that Lestrade seems in character and canon.

Sherlock is a bit of a mess; he had some tough injuries (especially his hip), but I don't think he's done himself any favors by being so single-minded in his pursuit/research about Moriarty, either. So I think his state of mind has played into his recovery, too. I'm glad it seems realistic to you.

It's wonderful to hear that the characters seem to be playing to their strengths (which was a goal of mine), and it tickles me that Mrs Hudson and Mycroft worked for you, in particular.

Aw, I'm sorry for making you cry, but at the same time I'm really happy that you find these stories to be moving, and that you're interested in more. You can't imagine how much I appreciate your kind words and your encouragement. You've made my day. Thank you for reading, and for your generous comments!
solara_karrde
Sep. 21st, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC)
OH BRAVO! Awesome ending! Great lines! BAMF!John AND BAMF!Sofie! My day is complete!
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, yay! I'm so happy you liked it! Now my day is complete, as well! Thanks so much for reading and for your lovely feedback.
kari77
Sep. 21st, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
Wow. I mean ... honestly, what do you say about such perfection?

It's not a secret that I'm absolutely in love with this verse. And this part is no exception. My goodness, I think I forgot to breathe more than once while reading the second part, and my heart was pounding in my throat. The tension! The angst! The BAMF!ness of everyone involved, especially Sofie and Ninja!John and Superhero!Sherlock with his cape. And the believable bonding moment between Sally and Sherlock ... aw, so many favourite moments.

Your writing is, as usual, rich, descriptive, simply marvellous. Seemingly understated lines hit you right into the guts. The image of the barely recovered Sherlock carrying Sofie, was both heartbreaking and -warming at the same time, and something that will stay with me for a while for sure.

And last, but not least, Lestrade. He would do anything to protect the people he cares for. I know it was mostly an act for the bad guys, but just to be sure: a lot of people care about you and would miss you. Get well soon, you wonderful man. (Alright, I know, he's fictional, but still ... ;-)

Can't thank you enough for continuously sharing your talent with us, but I'll try. Thank you!

morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 10:59 pm (UTC)
Oh my, you can't imagine how much your kind words have thrilled me. Thank you for your kindness, and for your ongoing encouragement about this 'verse.

I'm so glad the tension worked for you, as well as the BAMF!ness. It's also great to hear that the moments between Sally and Sherlock seemed right.

I couldn't shake the vision of Sherlock carrying Sofie - and, more to the point, Sally and John witnessing it - so it does my heart good that this seemed fitting to you.

Gah, I love Lestrade. (Fictional? What do you mean, fictional? LOL.) I'll gladly join the queue for those who'd like to prove to him that he's valued and cared for!

I'm so grateful for your heartening and supportive feedback. Thanks so much for reading. It means a lot to me!
linguini17
Sep. 21st, 2011 05:43 pm (UTC)
Another fantastic part of the series. I will say, though, that this:

"What few friends I have will likely feel relief as much as sadness – bit of a safety hazard, you know, being mates with a man who perpetually wears a target on his back. As for the Yard, before my body's cold they'll have me replaced by someone younger and faster and smarter. Someone with the sense to do things by the book.

"My closest colleagues might miss me, but they'll also get promotions out of the deal – silver linings and all that."


is the toughest to read of anything in any of the stories so far. What's happened to Lestrade to make him so certain? Is John going to work on it? Did Sherlock notice or does he think it was all a ruse? Did Mycroft or Sally hear any of it? *heart breaks*

And Sophie! OMG, she's so brilliant, in every way. She's going to grow up just like her Daddy, lucky girl.
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 11:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so glad that you liked this! Thank you.

Gah, that section broke my heart to write, honestly. I think part of it was contrariness, trying to point out to his would-be murdered that his death wouldn't have the impact Eddie might've wanted. And I think that part of it was sheer exhaustion, at having come so far (as a policeman, as a father, as a man) only to have everything snatched away so pointlessly. And I also think he was trying to deny to himself how much it would wound Sofie, to lose not only her second parent, but her Daddy.

But I do see him as a fundamentally lonely man, isolated by his work, both by its irregular hours and its innate horrors, and I think most of that was genuinely heartfelt. (Despite the fact I believe both Sherlock and Sally, in particular, would be quite devastated to lose him - a common point that may be at the heart of their feud, I think.)

I trust John to step in, more than anything, but I think Sherlock is also learning (thanks to John) to be more human in his interactions. I don't know how much Sherlock credits what he said, but I think John takes it very seriously, indeed. Good point about Mycroft (a man who respects few and yet truly respects Lestrade) and Sally hearing. Hmmm...

I'm thrilled that you like Sofie. She is a lucky little girl!

Your thoughtful and kind feedback is so very, very appreciated. I can't thank you enough.
mrs_tilford
Sep. 21st, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
First of all - A great sigh of relief.

Secondly - Well done!!

And, hopefully - more Sophie tales, at your convenience, of course.
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
Yay for sighs of relief!

And oh, thank you for your kind words. I'm delighted that you liked this, and I'm really happy to know there's interest in more stories in this 'verse. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I appreciate it so much.

Now if I can just stop staring at your lovely icon... ;)
(no subject) - mrs_tilford - Sep. 21st, 2011 11:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
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mazaher
Sep. 21st, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyessssssssss...!
I think I'm in love with Lestrade now. Also.
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 11:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, YAY! I'm so pleased this worked for you. Thanks so much.

There can never be enough Lestrade love. Of this I am convinced. :)

I appreciate your reading and commenting. You've put a big smile on my face!
thesmallhobbit
Sep. 21st, 2011 06:56 pm (UTC)
I would have commented sooner, but I had to read it through all the way again, and then my favourite bits for a third time. Sofie was great, so much like her dad. And Lestrade was brilliant. And ninja!John who also sees the need for Lestrade to know that people do care for him. Oh, and Sherlock's continuing relationship with Sofie and Mycroft's foresight which meant John didn't get shot in error. You have described a wonderful bunch of characters.

More Sofie would indeed by awesome. *Checking whether machsefa has sufficient duct tape*
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 11:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow! I'm delighted that you enjoyed this! Thank you so much for your kind words. You've really made my day. I'm so glad to hear the characterizations worked for you, especially ninja!John and his concern for Lestrade.

It's also great to know there's interest in more from this 'verse. I appreciate it. And I fear the duct tape. ;) LOL!

Again, thank you!!!

(Deleted comment)
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so glad you liked it! Thanks so much for reading and for commenting. I'm really tickled that you liked them all, but especially Sofie. :) I appreciate it.
brighteyed_jill
Sep. 21st, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
You brilliant, brilliant heart-messer-wither! This was delightful. All the characterization was thoroughly satisfying, and I love seeing the supporting characters shine, too. I love seeing John and Sherlock deal with a crisis that isn't all about them, while still being their badass selves. I was on the edge of my seat for the whole confrontation, and it's possible I got a bit misty-eyed there near the end. Really, really lovely.


Oh, also, a typo, I believe? John nodded and sank bank on the rug . Should be "sank back," yes? /typo police
morganstuart
Sep. 21st, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so pleased that you liked this! It's especially good to know that the characterizations of the secondary characters worked for you. I really did love the idea of this not being all about Sherlock and John for once, so I'm glad that scenario seemed fitting. And it's good to know the tension was appropriate, and you found the ending to be moving.

Honestly, you've totally made my day. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and to leave such encouraging feedback! It means a lot to me.

Thanks also so much for the catch! I really owe you one. I've made the edit, and I'm most grateful for your keen eye!
bluerosefairy
Sep. 21st, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, excellent resolution. I'm really glad that someone (i.e. Sofie) had some brains in that house and knew the best thing to do was to text the police and Uncle Mycroft. Good girl. I LOVE Anthea in general, so her and Sally warning Sherlock off was lovely. And John IS a ninja, and I love Sherlock's glee in informing Sofie of that.

Lestrade dealing with the crisis hit my competence-kink right on, but oh, he breaks my heart with that speech that no one would miss him overmuch. John's right, you don't come up with something like that on the fly. I hope he knows - or that he's beginning to learn - that he's got people who love him.

Brava, darling. This was fantastic.
morganstuart
Sep. 22nd, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, I am so very happy that you liked it! I'm particularly pleased that you liked Anthea and Sally warning off Sherlock, and Sherlock bragging on John's ninja BAMFness.

Lestrade broke my heart a bit as I wrote this (and I do love competent!Lestrade, so I'm very pleased that worked for you, too).

I hope he knows - or that he's beginning to learn - that he's got people who love him.

Me, too. I trust John to save the day, every time - both on his own, and in the way he's helping Sherlock to become a good man (and, as part of that, to show he values others). I also figure it can't hurt Lestrade to realize that, when he was down on his knees waiting to die, he ended up having one seriously massive rescue party come to save him. :)

Your kind and encouraging feedback means so much to me. Thank you!
kholly
Sep. 21st, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)
They were, for all practical purposes, alone.
I got about here and decided what I wanted to have happen and it took every ounce of will power to just read it through and not skip ahead to see if I'm right.

OMG Lestrade needs a hug. (And that's before he gets the shit kicked out of him.)

The young woman glanced up at that. "Who do you think organized this entire operation?"
YAY!!! That's exactly what I wanted.

"I didn't know what you liked, so I ordered the darkest, bitterest, most pointlessly pretentious thing on the coffee menu. Seemed fitting."
Perfect.

I love this series.
morganstuart
Sep. 22nd, 2011 02:01 pm (UTC)
I'm so delighted that you liked this story and that you continue to like the series as a whole. Thank you!

Lestrade does, indeed, need a hug.

It tickled me that you wanted Sofie to be the hero, and she was! I couldn't resist it. After all, that mobile was for emergencies. ;)

And I'm also really pleased that the Sally-Sherlock moment about the coffee seemed fitting.

You've put a huge smile on my face. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comments!
sheffsfic
Sep. 21st, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC)
Excellent, great fun - ditto on loving ninja!John and the Sally/Sherlock detente. (is there a tiny continuity error? Lestrade seemed to be tied up before he undressed and was then, er, tied up?)
morganstuart
Sep. 22nd, 2011 02:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, thanks a million! I'm so glad you liked it, especially ninja!John and the Sally-Sherlock moments. I couldn't resist some Sally snark on Sherlock's possible taste in beverages. ;)

And I really appreciate your helping keep an eye on the continuity issues. I'm always so grateful for any catches of slip-ups! In this case, I don't believe Lestrade was bound before he took off his shirt, but the young blond did frisk him as he entered, to make sure he was as unarmed as he claimed to be, which may have caused the confusion. (He also took his time in binding him, once ordered to do so, because Sherlock sort of stole the show with his pronouncements about Eddie's incompetence.) Thanks for keeping me honest!
ascendant_angel
Sep. 21st, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC)
There are not sufficient words to describe the awesomeness of this, it is beyond words. Let me instead fall to my knees before you and worship you like you deserve.
morganstuart
Sep. 22nd, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
Oh my. *gets teary-eyed* You just can't imagine. Thank you so much for your generous words! I'm thrilled that you liked this.
twisty_ties
Sep. 22nd, 2011 12:30 am (UTC)
Yaaay! Lovely - you write suspense very well!

kay I know I keep focusing on this but - Sofie. Sofie. She might just be my favorite OC ever. Such a brave girl - but what else would you expect of a Lestrade?

My only complaint? You've now got me craving éclairs. Damn you. =P
morganstuart
Sep. 22nd, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you! I'm so happy you liked this, and that the suspense worked. And of course I'm especially tickled that you like Sofie! :)

I did the same thing to myself with the craving for eclairs. ::headdesk:: I still haven't had any! If you get one first, please have a bite for me.

And thanks, so much, for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it.
karadin
Sep. 22nd, 2011 12:45 am (UTC)
Great story, thank you!
morganstuart
Sep. 22nd, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked it! Thank you for reading and commenting! I really appreciate it.
(Deleted comment)
morganstuart
Sep. 22nd, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)
Yes indeed! :) Thanks so much for reading and commenting.
ddizzy
Sep. 22nd, 2011 01:07 am (UTC)
Seriously, I don't think you realize how much we absolutely LOVE this 'verse you've created with Sofie. And your writing skills--extraordinary. Your characterizations, descriptions, dialogue, plotting--top notch. I hope you never tire of writing the Sofie Series. Thank you so much for the pleasure you've given us!
morganstuart
Sep. 22nd, 2011 03:00 pm (UTC)
This just means the world to me (and puts tears in my eyes). I can't thank you enough for being so supportive and encouraging about this 'verse. I'm continually amazed and thrilled that others could be interested in these tales, and your feedback really warms my heart.

Thank you also for your generous words about my writing, which have made my day.

It's good to know there's interest in more from this 'verse.

Thank you for the happiness you've given me by reading and sharing your kind comments!
tiercel
Sep. 22nd, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
Now where'd I put that link... aha! Meerkats!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/niftyknits
morganstuart
Sep. 22nd, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)
Oooh! Meerkat love! The awesomeness! Thanks for sharing this.

Edited at 2011-09-22 02:53 pm (UTC)
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