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Title: Like a hell broth, bubble and boil, chapter 1
Rating: Gen (may change)
Warnings/Spoilers: None (likewise may change)
Pairings: Merlin/Arthur, Sherlock/John, Mycroft/Lestrade
Summary: Somehow a mysterious man giving Lestrade a bunch of flowers is not the worst part of Mycroft's week or that fic where Merlin is the baby of the Holmes family
A/n: Title from MacBeth and Arthur is 7th in the line of succession for those that are wondering.


Lestrade is first one to stumble across him, if the word stumble can be used to describe a completely orchestrated meeting.

Sundays off meant two things to Greg, peace to watch the 4pm premiership kick-off which he did without fail even if it was just Sunderland Vs. Wigan and a relaxing stroll through the park beforehand to the pub on the other side. His return trip usually took him the same route but not always. This time he followed the more circuitous path through the park that put an extra ten minutes on his walk.

This is the same route that took him past the swings which had a sole occupant. A man twisting around in circles until the two rusted chains had wrapped around each other. They creaked in warning.

"That's going to snap," Lestrade called across to him.

The man- now that he could see his face he knew that he was older than he looked- pursed his lips, leaned back further until his torso was nearly horizontal to the ground, studied the chains and said, ""No."

"No?"

"No."

Lestrade rolled his eyes, "Right, that's enough of that. Clear off." It was a student, must be- university was a second childhood these days.

The man made an "awwww…." noise and lifted his feet so the swing could uncoil. When it did, he jumped off the seat, took two staggering steps to the left and then straightened himself. He snatched his coat off the ground, cradling it in his arms and walked towards Lestrade. "I've got a present for you," he said cheerfully.

"I'm a copper," Lestrade told him, hoping to nip anything in the bud.

"I know, you walk like one." He reached into his coat and pulled out a bunch of thistles wrapped in something that looked like ivy with white flowers, geraniums, carnations, roses and several more flowers he couldn't identify. "Here! I hope you like them." He shoved them into Lestrade's hands and raced off before Greg had a chance to tell him to piss off.

He sighed and looked at the bunch unhappily. "I hope there aren't any evil bees in them," he said aloud. (He had been a closet X-files fan before he met Sherlock but found soon after that he couldn't stomach difficult genii in both real life and his TV viewing. Even so he still maintained a healthy fear of the black oil.)

It was too random an event not to have any significance so he decided to take the laughingly poor excuse for a bouquet home with him. Somehow, he knew, Sherlock was to blame for this.

*****

It wasn't Sherlock to blame. The blame originally lays with Mummy and Mycroft Holmes Sr, the current Mycroft and Sherlock's woe begotten parents.

If one were to be academic about the situation.

In the more literal sense, blame could be equally shared by the economic climate, British airways and the surprising discovery of a meth lab in an ancient Mayan temple which made the retrieval of a pricy artefact all the more dangerous. That, and Merlin had had a fight with Arthur.

Really, it was all Arthur's fault.

*****

Greg left horrible bouquet on the kitchen table when he got back. On Tuesday evening they had wilted a bit but hadn't moved an inch when Mycroft breezes in for a sorry-can't-make-dinner-governments-to-interfere-with kiss.

Mid-way through the kiss, he spots the bouquet and pulls back from Greg with a frown.

"Where did you get these?" he asks carefully.

Greg glances their way, he knew they'd cause trouble. "Dunno, just some student in the park handed them to me and ran off."

"I see…" he advances on the table and picks up the bouquet, hand wrapped in his handkerchief. He chuckles. "The Victorians used flowers to send messages, Greg. Floriography was extremely popular at one time."

Lestrade sighs, he knew he shouldn't have taken the thistles. University students sending him death threats with flowers, he'll never live this one down.

"So what message is in these flowers then?"

"Interpretation can be difficult," Mycroft lies, "I may need to confer with Sherlock."

He has no intention of doing so; instead he plans to keep this under wraps from everyone, including Sherlock, until he can ascertain the meaning of the bouquet. So it is unfortunate for him that just about this time elsewhere in London, John Watson just returned from a milk run with an identical bunch of thistles under his arm and Sherlock is soon to be on the case.

*****

Sure enough, just as he had tasked his assistant to hunt down the whereabouts of certain individuals and makes his excuses to Greg he receives a text.

Mayflowers, Thistles, Begonias, Carnations, Roses and Geraniums -SH.

Yes -MH.

Are you talking about me behind my back? ;) –EH.

Stop this nonsense -MH

What is the meaning of these bouquets? –SH.

Aren't you happy to hear from me? –EH

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE EARL OF WESSEX? –MH

What is the meaning of these bouquets? –SH.

No answer is forthcoming on either front.

"What's wrong?" Greg asks, "or is it some official secrets thing that you can't tell me?" There are rather a lot of those.

Mycroft clenches his jaw and wishes, not for the first time, that he is an only child.

"The earl of Wessex may be dead," Mycroft admits. He had it coming too Mycroft will bet, not that he will be telling anyone that- not outside the family circle anyway.

"That sounds like an official secrets thing."

Mycroft huffs out a laugh. "My brother may have killed him."

Lestrade blinks. "Sherlock wouldn't…well not unless he had a good reason…"

"No," Mycroft agrees, "Sherlock wouldn't. Emrys might though."

"And Emrys is?"

"Emrys Holmes, the young man you encountered in the park."

Lestrade leans against the back of his sofa, "There are three of you," he says faintly.

"I'm afraid so."

*****

In 221b Baker Street a similar conversation is occurring, only with more running and magnifying glasses.

*****

For once, his assistant comes up empty handed. Emrys boarded a plane in Mexico, had a stopover in the States and from there proceeded to London. The records indicate that he was on his own for the duration of this trip. She can't find any information about his movements in Mexico or whether he had any company there. The Earl of Wessex remains unaccounted for. His last known whereabouts were Sri Lanka, three weeks previous when he was in the company of one Emrys Holmes.
If Emrys is still in London, he's gone to ground and none of Mycroft's best efforts can unearth him. Sherlock's half-heartedly searching, interested in discovering the meaning of the flowers but just as interested in pissing Mycroft off by not helping.

It's the sort of no-win situation that means that Mycroft has the unfortunate duty of relaying the unpleasant news to the Palace. Or he would, usually. The fact is any man that turns his own younger brother over is not much of a man at all. So Mummy tells him when he rings to see whether his youngest sibling has decided to visit the ancestral manse.

"He's visited and gone, Mycroft," Mummy told him in a tone that said why haven't you visited?

"I see, he didn't perhaps mention the whereabouts of the Earl of Wessex, did he?"

"Hmph, the Earl could be dead in a ditch for all I care. The things he said to my Emrys! I tell you Mycroft, it's a sad day for the crown indeed when men like that represent it."

There's the implicit command to avenge the Earl's slight on your brother and our family.

Contacting Mummy may have been a miscalculation on Mycroft's part.

"How's Sherlock?" she asks after a brief pause. He doesn't visit either hangs in the air. The identity of the favourite child has never been in doubt.

"Sherlock is well, Mummy. He's currently trying to decipher the meaning of a message that Emrys left for us."

Mummy chuckles, "Yes, he told me about that. It's good to see you all playing so nicely together."

*****

Tuesday is grey and wet- the type of grey and wet that is a specialty of the British Isles.

Mycroft doesn't even bother to arrange an out of the way warehouse to converse in with John. He simply has his assistant pick him up and whisk him off to the nearest acceptable eatery.

John is much happier to see him this time than others.

"I gather you know why you're here?" Mycroft says as John takes a seat.

John's smiling. "I think so. Given the way that Sherlock's been going around the bend over a bunch of weeds it made sense that you'd pop up soon."

"He's had no luck with deciphering the message in the bouquet then?"

"No," John leans back in his seat, arms crossed, "he hasn't. This other brother of yours? He got some sort of special hatred of Sherlock?"

Mycroft sighs and sips his tea. "No, that's not the case at all. Consider this situation as one where Sherlock's found a playmate that can keep him interested and probably doesn't involve murder."

"Probably?" John says, looking like he's sorry he had to ask.

"Yes, which brings us to the matter at hand. My youngest brother is good friends with…an important individual and since Emrys' arrival back in England, that same individual is missing."

"So you think that your brother came back to England to kill someone?"

"No, I think that my younger brother killed Prince Arthur, Earl of Wessex in some cesspool in Mexico and the fled back to England to be coddled with tea and biscuits by Mummy."

John's got that look of wide eyed incredulity on his face. "My life," he mutters. Then his army training and general stoicness reasserts itself. "So what do you want me to do about this?"

"Get Sherlock to find him."

John raises an eyebrow. "And you can't ask him because?"

Mycroft does not have time for this. "You know what Sherlock is like- any requests I make are ignored, at best. He has long questioned the need for a constitutional monarchy and doesn't particularly like the Prince since he feels that he stole Emrys from him as well."

"I see. How do you feel about the Prince?"

"He's an upstanding young man and a good influence on Emrys."

"No wonder Sherlock hates him."

"Be that as it may, this matter needs to be cleared up and quick. It's already gone on long enough."

"Sherlock told me about you calling 'Mummy'. If Sherlock can't find him and all the CCTV in the world can't, then maybe he's not going to be found." John looks smug.

Mycroft continues to wish he was an only child.

*****

Mrs Hudson has a good deal more luck discovering Emrys' whereabouts than Mycroft does.

She's upstairs scolding Sherlock over the mess in the kitchen and making him tea when a man with blond hair bursts into the flat, shouting "Where's Merlin?!" over and over again.

This, along with his general look of someone who has spent the better part of a fortnight traveling via donkey means that it takes her rather a long time to recognise him as HRH, the Earl of Wessex, Prince Arthur.

It takes Sherlock no such time and he's already sneering at him before his foot hits the top step.

"Where is he?" Arthur snaps. He's not particularly fond of Sherlock either.

"Where's who?" Sherlock asks, being deliberately obtuse.

"Merlin! Where is Merlin?"

"Trapped inside a tree somewhere or so the legends say."

"Oh!" That would be Mrs Hudson recognising her royal guest. Arthur turns in surprise, grasping a knife he'd pulled from his jump boots- he hadn't seen her in the kitchen. "Your highness," she gasps, "what are you doing here?" She has to sit down. Arthur lowers the knife and tucks it into his belt.

"Now look what you've done," Sherlock snaps but makes no move to help. Arthur gently guides her into a chair.

"Are you alright? Would you like some water? Or some tea perhaps?"

"Do you know how to make any?" Sherlock inquires.

"Do you?" Arthur shoots back and turns his attention back to Mrs Hudson. "Are you sure you're okay?"

She nods, still looking awe-struck.

It's about this time that John appears.

"Ah! John good," Sherlock says when John pauses to take in the scene in the flat. "This is Prince Arthur. He's recently done me a great favour."

"Oh?" John says when he senses that Sherlock's waiting for him to ask what favour?.

"Yes. He's no longer going to be my future brother-in-law. It looks like he has done me the great honour of removing himself from that equation, much to the joy of everyone else as well."

John doesn't see the Prince move but Sherlock does. It doesn't help him though, the Prince is quicker and he manages to catch Sherlock with a blow along his left cheek before Sherlock can get out of range. Sherlock is lucky that the prince has decided to fight with fists and not his knife.

"You deserved that," John says. God knows anyone that even considers marrying into the Holmes family deserves a go at Sherlock. John's happy to let things continue this way but Mycroft appears out of the blue and spoils the moment.

"Mycroft," Arthur greets cordially from the floor where he's got Sherlock in a headlock.

"Sire," Mycroft returns as he surveys the damage to the flat. The violin is unscathed but that's about it. "Sire, I'm sure my brother deserves his current predicament but perhaps we have more important things to discuss?"

Arthur grudgingly relents and 'accidentally' thumps Sherlock on the back of the head with his elbow as he gets to his feet.

Mycroft glances towards the kitchen, "Some tea perhaps, Mrs Hudson?"

She nods, "I'll have to go downstairs to get some cups…none fit for royalty up here."

Arthur raises his hand, "No, don't stand on any ceremony on my account." He gestures to himself, "I'm fine with whatever you have."

Mrs Hudson smiles at him, "Even so dear, I'd be happier giving you something out of my kitchen, most of the mugs up here have had body parts in them at some stage."

Arthur smiles ruefully, "I'm familiar with the Holmes' particular eccentricities."

Mrs Hudson nods and disappears down the stairs.

"Where's Merlin?" Arthur asks.

"Merlin?" John says aloud, confused.

"Who are you?" Arthur says, not looking too pleased to be interrupted.

"This is Captain John Watson, formerly of the British Army and currently Sherlock's roommate."

"How unfortunate for you," Arthur replies.

"Yes, quite." Mycroft agrees.

"So, Merlin?" John asks, knowing it is best to do it now before the conversation speeds on to different topics.

"It's an affectionate nickname, John, for my youngest brother. Emrys is an ancient name for Merlin," Mycroft says, since Arthur doesn't look like he is going to offer up the information.

Mrs Hudson appears with the tea and smiles delightedly when Arthur offers to help.

"No, no dear, that's fine," and she does the rounds.

"So," says John, when it looks like no one else is going to break the silence, "what happened?"

Arthur glances at him shrewdly, "Oh you know what Holmes' are like, if something doesn't suit them…it's their way or no way."

"You're a member of the royal family," John feels obliged to point out. Sherlock smirks.

"And I get none of the respect that my station warrants," Arthur says wryly. "Not that Merlin ever gave it anyway. I'll not go into the particulars…needless to say we had an argument and I'd like to apologise."

"Must have been some tiff," Mrs Hudson says, "To make him run all the way back to London."

"Yes, well," Arthur replies lamely, "this is really our private business."

Following some gentle hints about informing the Palace about his well-being from Mycroft and Mrs Hudson, Arthur agrees to leave with Mycroft before continuing his search.

"You're very quiet," John says as Mrs Hudson bustles about, tidy up. Sherlock has barely said a word since Mycroft had stepped foot in the flat. It had been notable, to John, at least.

Sherlock glances up from where he's tapping out a text.

"Oh!" says John.

"What?" says Sherlock, looking affronted.

"You're hiding him, aren’t you?!"

Mrs Hudson stops her tiding and stands at the arm of John's chair.

"Are you hiding your brother Sherlock? That's not very nice, the prince is all in a tizzy looking for him!"

"When did you become so transparent Sherlock?" the young man that's suddenly standing in the door of Sherlock's bedroom asks. "You were able to keep a secret once."

Sherlock sighs, "John, Mrs Hudson, my brother Emrys. Of course, you've already met John"

Emrys grins, which is the first non-Holmes thing about him and strides over the shake their hands.

"Nice to meet you, Mrs Hudson and it's nice to be properly introduced to you John." he says. Non-Holmes thing number two.

His clothes would be non-Holmes thing number three. John can't imagine that Mycroft approves of a Holmes dressed in clothes that are within the spending budget of a student.

"Such good manners," Mrs Hudson says approvingly, "pity your brother didn't get any."

"Which brother?" Emrys asks cheekily.

Sherlock, meanwhile, looks disgruntled in his dressing gown.

Mrs Hudson titters. "You know that Prince of yours is looking for you."

Emrys nods, "Yes, I gathered. I'm not ready to talk to him just yet."

"Or ever again," Sherlock interjects.

"So you're hoping anyway," Emrys replies dryly.

Sherlock doesn't answer. He glances at his phone.

"That from Mycroft? They figure out that I'm here?"

Sherlock rolls his eyes. "Of course. Arthur isn't going to, is he?"

"That would be my cue to leave then," Emrys says apologetically. "It was nice to meet you, Mrs Hudson and you again, John."

"I'll be in touch," he calls over his shoulder to Sherlock as he walks out of the flat.

Sherlock hops to his feet as soon as the front door closed.

"Right, I'm getting dressed. Mrs Hudson, I advise you to go next door to Mrs Turner for a few hours. John and I are going out."

"Why?" she calls after Sherlock as he disappears into his bedroom.

"In about ten minutes every agent in Her Majesty's Service will be scouring the building for clues on my brother's whereabouts. It'll be disruptive, I imagine."

"Ah, I'd best head out then."

"Yes, I think that would be best. John, you might want to take your computer, I'm sure it'll be confiscated otherwise"

"You know," John says as he grabs his laptop and Sherlock comes striding out of the room, "You bloody Holmes' are all the same. Always have to know more than everyone else, always have to have the last word and always act like complete and utter pillocks!"

Sherlock looks smug, "Come on, John. There's a new game at hand!"

"One that's going to get us locked in the tower of London," John grumbles as he pulls the front door shut.



AO3

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