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BBC Sherlock

Rating 12: Non-explicit het

Summary: All that remains for Sherlock to do is get out of hospital and into Appledore

Many thanks to Kalypso for betaing

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

It's not getting into Appledore that's the problem, Sherlock decides. Magnussen will invite them in, just to play games with them. It's getting out again safely that's the problem. He spends days scribbling plans, constraints, scenarios down. Puts in POLICE and then crosses it out. He can steal one file, but what about all Magnussen's other victims? Lord Smallwood may deserve to be charged, but there are doubtless other people who ought not to be. He writes down INTELLIGENCE instead and then adds, reluctantly, beneath: a.k.a. MYCROFT. He needs to double-check that he's right about the back-up copies.

"Pity the Appledore vaults don't have a self-destruct mechanism, like Irene's phone," he says and a familiar voice beside him replies:

"What?"

When he looks up he realises John has been sitting at his bedside for at least an hour.

"Busy?" John asks, putting his book away.

"Working out what to do next."

John smiles. "I'd say getting out of hospital would be the ideal move. Preferably before Christmas."

There are advantages to John's limited mind sometimes. He's not paralysed by the thought of Magnussen, is he? Just focusing on the immediate problem.

"It's nearly Christmas?" Sherlock asks, because it's hard to keep track of time when every day is the same.

"It's November the sodding 20th and they've put tinsel up already."

Sherlock had wondered about that, actually.

"Why do I need to be out of hospital by Christmas?" he asks.

John grimaces. "I've worked in hospitals at Christmas. The staff always make a special effort to cheer the patients up."

"Oh god. Right, Operation Christmas Escape starts here. Though if I get out I'll be dragged off to my parents for a celebratory family event."

"And what's so wrong with that? I've met your parents. They're nice people."

John's asking for retaliation, isn't he?

"John, you told me your parents were living overseas and that was why you never saw them–"

"And?"

"And it turns out that they had retired to the Isle of Wight. They came to the wedding and I don't think you said more than twenty words to them all day. And eight of those were 'Glad to hear the ferries were running OK.' "

John bites his lip. "It's not...it's not that we don't get on, just we have absolutely nothing to say to one another. When I give them my excuse each year about how I won't be able to make it home for Christmas this time, I can practically hear the relief over the phone.”

Sherlock has to admit, the phrases John Watson and Isle of Wight don't sit easily together. "So what are you planning to do?"

John shrugs. "If you're still in here, kidnap you for the day and we'll find somewhere to go."

"And if I've escaped before then?"

"Dunno." His face creases in thought. "I suppose I'd been thinking this year I'd just be at home with Mary, but..."

There's something different in his voice when he speaks of Mary this time. Oh, of course, sentiment.
It shouldn't make any difference to how you feel about your deceitful wife whether it's Christmas or any other time of the year, but it does to most people. Sherlock remembers that with Lestrade.

He can't do without John. It's impossible. And John can't delete Mary, doesn't want to. So Sherlock’s going to have to say something, isn't he? Give John the push towards the solution that he has already unconsciously decided on.

"John, you want to be with Mary," he announces. "It's time to stop this dragging on. You have to tell her you forgive her, because you obviously do. And preferably in time for you to ask her what she wants for a Christmas present, so you don't get her anything as terrible as last year's necklace."

As expected, John's immediate focus is the irrelevant details, giving Sherlock's main message time to sink in.

"She said she liked that necklace," he protests.

"Yes, after a pause of at least eight seconds after unwrapping it. And when you've asked since then when she's going to wear it, she's probably told you she's saving it for a special occasion or she's meaning to buy an outfit it'll go with."

"She doesn't like the necklace I got her," John replies unhappily. "Even though she said she did."

Reminding John that Mary doesn't always tell him the truth possibly isn't Sherlock’s best tactic, is it? He hurriedly adds:

"Yes, but to be fair, you didn't like it either, did you? Clearly you just got it at the last moment because you'd gone shopping for lingerie, hadn't remembered what Mary's bra size was and couldn't deduce it."

"Don't...just don't tell me you are able to deduce my wife's bra size," John says, and Sherlock gives him one of those looks, and suddenly they're both laughing, almost unstoppably.

"What I probably can deduce," Sherlock says eventually, "it what Mary would like as a present this year, so you can leave things almost to the last moment, if really necessary. But you do have to say something to her."

"I don't know what to say." John's retreating to the practical difficulties now, which is a good sign.

"Then you need to sit down and work it out, in writing if necessary. For all our sakes.” He's just about to say, You should ask Lestrade for some tips: he's good at writing speeches, when he remembers that John may not want Lestrade to know he's married to a former assassin.

Though it’s a shame they can't get anyone else involved. However much he may dislike Christmas cheer, some kind of event to be organised is just the kind of thing to help the reconciliation. A few moments of privacy to stumble through heartfelt phrases, and then the distraction of other things to do, so you don't have to keep on talking to one another. His mother's ability to remember that the potatoes need peeling or the milk jug scrubbing has saved many an awkward but necessary emotional encounter from complete meltdown.

His mother. Of course. Christmas, sentiment, Mycroft – can't moan about associating with assassins, can he, probably has his own stashed away somewhere – happy marriages, decreased security, probably a skeleton staff even at a country residence.

John is staring at him, so Sherlock hands him a few sheets of blank paper.

"Right. You need to work out what to say to Mary and I need to work out how to give my big brother poison for Christmas. Though not a fatal dose, unfortunately."

***

Sherlock knows how to make it work now. Not just how to get into Appledore, but how to deal with the vaults. But he has to take John with him this time; he can't leave him behind again. Sherlock can't save Mary and everyone else and not let John help him do it. Which means he also has to get Mary out of the way.

"I've got a plan to get into Appledore," he tells her, as she sinks wearily down in the chair beside his bed. "But it's potentially dangerous."

"Who for?" she asks, which shows the right priorities.

"John and myself, mainly. But also possibly for you and the" – he mustn't say foetus – "baby."

She thinks for a moment, unconsciously fiddling with her wedding ring. Then she smiles ruefully at Sherlock. "We've not got any better options, have we? And it's John's baby."

"I never doubted that," he replies in surprise.

"And mine. The poor thing hasn't got a chance. She's bound to take stupid risks, it's in her genes. What do you need me to do?"

"I can't tell you the details yet, I need to talk to someone first. But I hope John and I are going to Appledore after Christmas. I'm sorry, I may be going to get your husband killed." He knows he shouldn't be smiling at this point, and finds that he is anyhow.

"Like John needs help doing that," Mary replies, smiling back. "I can't stop him, and I won't stop you." She pauses and then adds, more slowly: "Just promise me one thing, Sherlock. Don't get John put in prison. Because if you did–"

"You'd never forgive me."

"You'd never forgive yourself. How long do you think John would last in prison?"

He's literally never thought of that. Not even when he and John were sharing a cell together. Admittedly he wasn't up to much thinking at that point...

"I've always presumed it would not be that much worse than boarding school," he says hastily and then remembers that John went to a comprehensive.

"And you thought you could escape, didn't you?" Mary says, and her smile is brittle now. "Come on, Sherlock, I bet you read POW stories as a kid. First thing you gonna do is start digging a tunnel."

"A little too Count of Monte Cristo. I was planning riots instead. John was in the army, he could survive."

She nods. "For a while, yes. A fixed term sentence, he'd have the discipline to keep going. A life sentence, though, no way out ever...it'd break him, wouldn't it?”

She understands John, doesn't she? Almost as well as he does, sometimes. And now she's looking at him, waiting for his response...

"Oh," he says. "You're expecting some tactless joke from me about marriage also being a life sentence, aren't you?"

"Pretty much," she says, and he suddenly has to ask her the one question he doesn't know the answer to.

"You said you wanted me to like you, so that I'd be willing to help you. But why do you like me?"

She smiles at him as if he's the stupid one. "Because John loves you and you make him happy. What's not to like about that? In small doses, obviously."

One small stray piece of the puzzle clicks into the pattern.

"You weren't deliberately ensuring that John stayed away from Baker Street?"

"Course not. I told John we ought to come and see you, but he said he was too busy doing up the flat. He got obsessed with getting things ready for the baby over the summer. Once it sunk in properly that he was really gonna be a father, he was terrified, so he started trying to organise everything, just like you...never mind. But it was a good job you distracted him with your drug-taking.”

Typical John. Decides to do what he thinks someone normal would do and drives himself round the twist attempting it.

"I promise I won't get him imprisoned when we go to Appledore," Sherlock says. "If the worst comes to the worst, I'll say he's my hostage."

Mary gives him a hard stare. "The police aren't gonna fall for that again, are they?"

"Probably not. In that case I'll say that I didn't tell him what I was planning, that I was keeping him in the dark all the time."

"Yeah, they'll probably believe that."

"But in that case," he says, "I can't tell you what's going to happen either, Mary, any of it. I can't let you know things that I don't tell John. So are you ready for whatever may happen?"

She's silent for a few moments and Sherlock follows her gaze as she thinks. Lingering on her wedding ring – the risks to John. Followed by an instinctive glance down at her swollen body – what's best for the baby? And then he sees her eyes travel, almost unwillingly, towards himself. Not his face, but the right side of his chest. The blue pyjama jacket currently hiding the scars of the hole she made in him. She stares as that and he watches the emotions play over her face, now the mask is finally removed – guilt, anger, determination, hope. And then she raises her gaze to meet his and says:

"I guess all three of us are just going to have to trust you, Sherlock."
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