V. Interlude I: The Abominable Bride
There were multiple reasons why Sherlock Holmes attempted to avoid his brother, Mycroft, at all costs. He was interfering, he was a know-it-all, and he had a bit of a god complex. He enjoyed playing the enigma and it wasn’t until Sherlock had been sober for nearly a year that he discovered, by accidental deduction, that Mycroft had a wife.
His original thought had been housekeeper, but that was wrong. A housekeeper would not fold a man’s handkerchief in elaborate Japanese origami only to tuck it away where it couldn’t be appreciated. Mycroft would never hire a Japanese woman as he would view it as a failure to Queen and Country. Ergo, the folded handkerchief must come from a source that appreciated Japanese culture—which led him to the conclusion that Mycroft had a wife.
There were, of course, deductions to support this theory. Mycroft was getting thinner. A housekeeper would feed him up. A wife would keep him on a diet with proper incentives.
Then there was the ring. It was rose gold—a choice that Mycroft would never make aesthetically for himself—and he wore in on his right ring finger. Curiouser and curiouser. Sherlock had deleted all information regarding marriage customs from his mind palace, but a quick look at his mobile informed him that Protestants sometimes wore their wedding band on their right hand, so as to differentiate themselves from Catholics.
Mycroft couldn’t care less about religion, so he was making a statement. Was his wife formerly Catholic? Quite possible but unlikely given the Japanese angle. Could he be using the small little tradition to prove love for Queen and Country? More probable. Was he using this cultural phenomenon to camouflage that he was married from overly inquiring minds (Sherlock being just one example)? Most certainly.
There was also the evidence that Mycroft had failed to mention it. Either he wanted to hide her away (and Mycroft would never actively marry someone he was ashamed of; everything he did was with purpose) or it was a powerplay with Sherlock in some way.
Sherlock knew how to get his answer: he telephoned Mummy.
Of course, once he had information in hand, he intended to leverage Mycroft in some way or other. He naturally agreed to a weekend down in Sussex when Mummy suggested it so “the family could be together again, as we should be.”
Something niggled at the back of Sherlock’s mind. Something about Redbeard. He shoved it away again and then deleted the emotion.
Turning back to the matter at hand, Mummy fortunately didn’t extend the invitation to his flatmate, John. She at least had some decency to accept his answer of “I’m married to my work” whenever she brought up future grandchildren. Mummy also didn’t make wildly inaccurate assumptions just because Sherlock found another human being tolerable enough to share a flat. At least it now seemed that Mycroft had made himself the obvious candidate to make that absurd notion of grandchildren come true.
When John came home and found Sherlock’s latest experiment in the oven and declared they had to go out to eat, Sherlock didn’t mention that anything was out of the ordinary. He’d lost interest in that particular experiment anyway and was about to start identifying hand soaps that had just a whiff of honey.
Sherlock had detected the scent on Mycroft no less than five times in the past twelve months. He had mistakenly deduced that Mycroft’s sweet tooth was once again making itself known and had commented on his weight. Mycroft, on each occasion, had only smirked, not bothering to deny it.
The now obvious conclusion that the scent came from something other than honey sweets (and with the clear knowledge that Mycroft had married some housewife) pointed to perfume or soap. The latter was much more likely given the scent. Women never sprayed themselves with honey unless demented or they had some sort of honey addiction. The scent, whenever Sherlock caught it, would suggest neither.
He did not think about honey when he sat down in his usual table at Angelo’s and didn’t bother to correct the man when he put down a small, lit candle on the table.
John must have nattered about something, but Sherlock only picked at his food, and then trotted back to Baker Street, not complaining about his lack of interesting cases as he had something much more intriguing to occupy his mind.
“Oh,” Mrs. Hudson greeted as they came in. “You have a visitor, Sherlock. I just brought her some tea.—Just this once. I’m not your housekeeper!”
“Client?” John asked, a little chipper.
“I hope not,” Mrs. Hudson demurred, looking momentarily thoughtful. “She seems far too neat to have a crime that needs to be solved.”
Sherlock took a deep breath and tried to center himself. “John,” he told his flatmate without bothering to look back as he climbed the stairs, “get rid of our guest.”
He opened the door and stopped when he saw the tall figure of a woman, neatly and elegantly dressed, sitting on his couch while holding a beaker in her hands. Her hair was long and an unusual shade of auburn, her face smattered with freckles, and her lips were a natural shade of deep pink that Sherlock found disquieting. She also was wearing a rose gold wedding band on her right ring finger.
He took all of this in within the time it took her to turn to him, her blue eyes alight with warmth but hesitance. She was approximately thirty years of age. She had grown up in comfort if not privilege. Short nails, manicured herself, only the lightest of polishes. She obviously let her natural beauty show through instead of relying heavily on cosmetics. Her skin was smooth and looked soft—honey milk then, if not soap. Sherlock deduced that she must have grown up in a family that respected natural rather than chemical products. This would not only include soap and cosmetics, but also the diet. It would explain why Mycroft was losing weight if she had placed him on a natural menu—meant to enhance good living and perhaps not detract from simple pleasures.
The styling of a Japanese origami in a handkerchief would go along with this—she perhaps studied Japanese culture and its various positive uses in the culinary. She might have even traveled there at some point.
Tall, well over 125 centimeters without the heels. Eight and a half stone, if that. Whyever Mycroft had decided to marry her, she was certainly easy on the eyes and would be sophisticated in any setting he placed her in.
She stood, only a moment having passed, and implored, “Please don’t send me away. I’ve been dying to meet you.” A tentative smile hovered over her lips and she reached out her hand. “I’m—”
“Yes, yes,” Sherlock agreed, waving off her hand and taking off his coat with a flourish before sitting down in John’s usual chair. “I can deduce who you are.”
John, who had been hovering in the doorway, looked between them in curiosity. “I don’t know who you are.” He came over and offered his hand, which Mycroft’s wife took. “Dr. John Watson. Ignore Sherlock. He believes he knows everything.” This was said with a bit of a lighthearted scoff and it was evident that John was flirting again.
Usually, Sherlock didn’t bother to notice or bother to interfere when John was flirting with an attractive (or less attractive, as it sometimes happened) woman, but the woman standing in his living room was Mycroft’s bride of less than three years but more than eighteen months. That was certainly curious that Mycroft had kept the information secret for that long. What was surprising was that Mummy hadn’t said a word until Sherlock had directly asked within the first twelve seconds of their earlier telephone conversation.
“Indeed,” Sherlock’s sister-in-law agreed. “Mycroft mentioned.”
She said it so casually, as if it were run of the mill for her.
John was obviously surprised and took her in again, inaccurately deducing that she was Mycroft’s latest assistant. “Oh, of course,” he added, taking his own seat. “What can we do for Mycroft today?” He smiled at her dopily and Sherlock rolled his eyes at his obvious ploy.
She had now sat down as well and shifted, a little uncomfortably.
“Mischa’s not an English name,” Sherlock mentioned, “but I detect French and Eastern European in your accent. Possibly Baltic.”
Her eyebrows rose in surprise and then she nodded, linking her hands over her clothed knees. The beaker had been placed on a side table earlier. “Yes,” she agreed. “I was born in Lithuania but my parents died in one of the socialist uprisings,” she hesitated a bit, her eyes moving over the left ever so slightly as she thought. “My aunt and uncle took me in when I was just a girl. We lived in Paris.”
Sherlock stilled for a moment and took her in manicured nails again. “You’re a member of the aristocracy, aren’t you? Titled. No wonder Mycroft married you.”
At this she openly laughed, changing her whole face from simply pretty to radiant. “I imagine it’s one of the reasons, yes. I have no delusions about the man I married.” This was once again admitted casually, but there was some other—deeper—emotion beneath it.
(John was sputtering where he was sitting, now finally catching on. At least he hadn’t been drinking tea. That would have been embarrassing—for him—in front of a third party.)
“And I doubt he had any about you. Did you give the child up for adoption?” Sherlock could tell by the way she rested all of her weight on one foot, as if she was used to—at some point—carrying a child in her arms. Also, a woman’s neck never lied about that sort of thing, no matter how much honey milk you might bathe yourself in.
(John was now staring at him as if Sherlock had made the most unfortunate remark. Mischa, however, if married to Mycroft must surely be used to it.)
She blinked once, not startled exactly, and nodded.
After a brief moment of silence, she was the one who reopened the conversation, stating her purpose:
“I deduced as much,” Sherlock huffed. “We’re all going down to Sussex for the weekend.”
Nodding again, she responded. “Good. Mycroft needs to take some time off. He does work so terribly hard sometimes and I like him to relax at least once every three or four months.”
Sherlock huffed in amusement. John’s eyes were still wide as he looked between the two of them. “Well, then,” he decided. “Mummy should be pleased.”
She glanced between them now and stated, carefully, “I understand you’re married to your work.” She didn’t wait for him to answer before adding, “I have a brother like that.”
“Oh?” Sherlock inquired, wondering at the pieces beginning to fall together and the lisp of warmth in her tone when she mentioned him. “And what does he do?”
“Surgeon,” she told him promptly and then looked down at her hands, lost in thought for the smallest of moments. “Quite good, from what our aunt tells me. Then again,” and here she looked up, “I wouldn’t know. It would be unethical for him to practice on me.” The words were direct but no less thoughtful.
“Was he at the wedding?” Sherlock asked, turning slightly as he took in the slight blush to her cheeks at the question.
“No,” she responded. “His attention was occupied elsewhere.”
Curiouser and curiouser, then. Mischa Holmes possessed secrets, potentially interesting ones, and all surrounding her unnamed brother. Her abandoned child was merely a sidenote, possibly to be deleted when he needed room in his mind palace.
“I suppose he has your father’s title,” Sherlock mused, sitting back.
Her eyes now sparkled. “Indeed. But hardly useful in America, I’d imagine.”
Sherlock hummed and filed the information away.
It was nearly two years later, filled with family gatherings and cases and the joy of The Work, when Sherlock stood on the top of a building with his mobile to his ear. “Do you have a name?” he demanded into it and the person on the other end gave it to him. Sherlock closed his eyes in relief and then nodded. “A deal is a deal, Moriarty.” He hung up.
A second later he was dialing John, his dearest friend, and confessing he had faked everything, that Moriarty was a construct of his ego, and he couldn’t go on.
Then he jumped, filing the name Klara Lecter away in his mind palace for future consideration.
The game, as they say, was on.
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