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Title: The Magnificent Division
Recipient: [personal profile] meredydd_writes
Author: [redacted]
Characters/Pairings: BBC Sherlock / Elementary / Dr. Who / Cabin Pressure; Mycroft/Lestrade; Greg Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, Mary Morstan, Molly Hooper, Sally Donovan, Joan Watson, Carolyn Knapp-Shappey, Arthur Shappey, Mycroft Holmes, Anthea, Sherlock Holmes, John Watson
Rating: PG (violence, implied BDSM)
Warnings: Violence, aftermath of torture, implied BDSM, bees. Some talk of menstruation.
Summary: If you want something talked about, get a man. If you want something done, get a woman.
Word Count: 9200



***

When Mycroft Holmes disappeared between his home and Whitehall one evening – his car found at the end of an alley and his driver slumped over the wheel with a single gunshot to the temple – DI Lestrade had several options he could follow, when he found out what had happened via Sherlock’s call. In order of their sensibility, he could:

Continue to perform his duties as best he could and leave the situation up to the experts.
Take some personal leave and spend it pacing at home, gnawing his fingernails down to stumps, whilst leaving the situation up to the experts.
Head to Baker Street in person and shout at Sherlock to bloody fucking DO SOMETHING in his vast influence as the disgraced junkie younger brother of the missing unofficial operative – and then get shouted at by John trying to soothe a bawling Rosie, whilst Sherlock sulked in his chair under house arrest and the experts handled the situation.
Bloody fucking DO SOMETHING himself.

DI Lestrade was not a stupid man, despite the fact that his mental acumen resembled that of a goldfish alongside the missing man’s (trust him to fall hard for someone who seemed composed of pure intelligence). True, a few people at the Yard had whispered about him walking around with a brainless lovesick expression for the first few weeks after he and – well, he might have been distracted but he was not stupid. Even near-paralysed with fear for the fate of the vanished man, the police inspector was still able to triage a situation.

Number one was impossible, unless the definition of “perform his duties” included staying curled in a foetal position under his desk.

Number two would translate into drinking and drugging himself into a stupor.

Number three… he winced and wriggled a finger in the ear that had been nearest John and the iron-lunged toddler … already done, and Sherlock had provided a lamentably thorough explanation of exactly how much shite he was in with Mycroft’s peers, who all solemnly swore to throw him back into solitary confinement if he stirred from Baker Street for the duration of the investigation. Sherlock was apprehensive, of course, but no doubt his brother’s past had inured him to these incidents. These days he also had two other people’s welfare to take into account. So number three was out.

And number four only produced a blank in Greg Lestrade’s mind. He simply couldn’t begin to wrap his mind around what to do.

He headed down the stairs from 221b. But instead of walking out the door he kept walking downstairs, and knocked at the door of the small basement apartment; he needed not the smartest person in that building but the wisest one.

Mrs. Hudson gave him a cup of tea and listened as Lestrade poured out his anguish to her across her kitchen table.

The landlady pursed her lips. “So. The reptile has warm blood after all.” She eyed Lestrade. “If you must know the truth, Inspector, I loathe that man. But you love him, and you’re a good sort. So you want to do something?”

“Anything.” Greg leaned forward on his elbows, his tea untouched. “If there’s any way I can help.” He knew something about her past, the people with whom she’d associated, the kind of life she’d led in her youth.

Hudson leaned forward herself, forefingers together and pressed against her lips, and her eyes sharp as daggers. “This might be good for you – it’ll break you out of your regular routine if nothing else. I think a retrieval operation is doable.”

Retrieval – a rescue mission? Lestrade stared at the older woman. He, DI Lestrade who had no desire to go any higher and couldn’t begin to keep up with the machinations of ordinary police politics?

Hudson continued as if she didn’t notice his reaction. “You’ll need capital, a team, and a plan. And you’ll have to keep this from the official investigation at the same time that you’re keeping your intentions from whoever did this.”

He blinked. He’d come for a friendly ear, and suddenly he was part of a commando raid.

The three words stuck out. Capital. Team. Plan.

Lestrade’s shoulders slumped and his head dropped. That was it, then. It was over before he’d started. Capital? He had none. He had a team, but he couldn’t ask his New Scotland Yard squad to do this. And a plan? If he could make a plan he wouldn’t have come here. Greg Lestrade could organise police teams, investigate, put two and two together, look at the evidence and draw conclusions, allocate resources, and handle the mountains of paperwork required in his division in the organisation. But the political and government circles in which the elder Holmes brother travelled were several pyramid charts above Greg’s orbit – far past his ability to take in and deal with such matters. So anything Lestrade could think of doing would be the equivalent of running out onto a battlefield stark naked and unarmed, yelling challenges at the enemy. Mycroft was right – he was an idiot. Oh, don’t look like that, Gregory, I once called Professor Hawking an idiot and he agreed with me…

The warm dry hand on his made him look up.

Hudson smiled – not her motherly beam but the steely smile of a woman in a boardroom. “You eat a whale one bite at a time. The money’s no problem, trust me on that. Now the team. What’s one of the most important traits in a good leader, Detective Inspector?”

“Delegation,” he replied almost immediately. “You have to be able to let your people do their work unsupervised, let them gain experience, and trust them to do the job you know they can do.” The way he knew Sergeant Donovan would handle her own squad and get the job done. Lestrade felt a pang. He’d hated to see Sally leave, but she’d gotten a better offer from another branch of the service – and the enigmatic way she described them made him wonder if his newfound connection with Mycroft had had anything to do with this move.

“Exactly. So you’re not going to come up with the plan. That’s the strategist’s job. You’ll also need a good marksman of course, unless you’re very good with a gun.” At his head-shake Hudson continued. “Also, someone who understands espionage and subterfuge. A few specialists in other categories. I can handle the bankrolling and the team assembling. Let me get the word out, and at midnight tomorrow meet me in Speedy’s.”

Greg Lestrade was still sick with fear for Mycroft. But he left the sanctum of Baker Street feeling a little better.

***

Lestrade went home and cleaned his flat top to bottom, trying to get a little control back in his life, and unable to banish the thought of what kind of powerful enemies Mycroft Holmes had made, and what was very likely happening to the man even now.

You knew this day would come. You knew and you went ahead and asked him out anyway. Which one of you was more surprised when he agreed? He’d looked a bit poleaxed himself.

And every time he tried to chastise himself for that move, and to ask himself why he’d done it… the smile that came to his face every time he thought of that first date, even now, was the answer. And when he remembered what happened after the date, the smile acquired teeth.

Torture can be survived. It takes a lot to kill a human being. He’s been carefully trained to withstand – all sorts of things. Even I helped with that. With such comforting thoughts, and making himself eat and nap at several points, Lestrade got through the day and the one that passed, until midnight loomed as he emerged from the Baker Street station.

Speedy’s metal window covers were down, but the door opened when he turned the knob; it was unlocked. The only light was over the table nearest the counter, where a group of people sat, Hudson among them. The policeman in Lestrade opened his mouth automatically, sotto voce though it was. “That’s not safe, someone could break in.”

“And they’d get the hell out when they saw they were outgunned.” A short-haired blonde woman clad all in black patted her shirt pocket.

For a moment Lestrade only looked at the woman whose wedding he’d attended, whom he’d known as Mary Watson, nee Morstan. Crack shot. Espionage. Experience with commando raids. …Dead. Oh hell, nobody seemed to be as dead as he thought. Probably some more spy-stuff to fake that too. “Your daughter’s doing well,” he said.

“So my contact tells me. Let’s stick to business.” Morstan nodded to Hudson.

“Greg, you know the rest of the team, for the most part.” Mrs. Hudson gestured to them as if she introduced guests at a tea social.

He did. Holy hell, did he. They were all people he knew, except for one. And they were all women. They met his flabbergasted stare with amused looks of their own.

“Greg.” Molly Hooper smiled. He managed a nod. Good to have a team member who knew her way around a human body.

Sally Donovan grinned. She wore a trim black uniform and a red beret; a circular patch on her right shoulder bore the logo from her new squad, some place with the acronym U.N.I.T. “Thought you could use some help on this one, Greg.”

He smiled for the first time since the disappearance. “I couldn’t ask for better help, Serg – er, Donovan.”

"It’s Lieutenant now,” Sally said with understandable pride. “I got promoted for what I did when – something happened that none of you should remember.” The others groaned and nodded; this was clearly not a new conversation for them.

More cloak and dagger, with some kind of weird X-Files vibe to it. But she shone with assurance, so she’d made the right move even if it was NSY’s loss. “I’ll take your word for it, Lieutenant Donovan.” He faced the one person at the table he didn’t know.

The stranger, a woman with long black hair and a direct gaze, held out her hand. “Joan Watson.” An American accent, with the brassiness of a New York City dialect.

“Watson?” Greg laughed a little as he shook her hand. “Funny coincidence--“

“Yes, I’ve been told by everybody,” Watson said. She nodded to the door. “I picked the lock to get us in. I have a few other talents as well.”

“We’re all here now,” Hudson said as Lestrade seated himself between Donovan and Hooper. “Molly, your report?”

“I examined the driver’s body. Name George Trevelyan. Male Caucasian, 32, brown hair brown eyes, midlevel assistant who’d drawn the job for that day, poor bastard. Nothing extraordinary about the bullet, Sally – plain old .38 round direct to the temple.” Hooper handed out glossies for everyone to peruse. “I have the pictures Sherlock took of the car and its locale before they dragged him away and put him under house arrest.” She smirked. “Apparently swirling around a crime scene in a big coat and saying nasty things about the investigators doesn’t work at this level – not when his main protection from their wrath is the subject of the investigation.”

Everyone chuckled and even Greg managed a little smile as Molly passed out the photos.

“I’d heard he made some really awful dig about the lead investigator’s sex life,” Donovan said, spreading out her photos. “Why am I not surprised.”

Morstan smiled with no humour in it. “Because that’s exactly how you get on the good side of a woman who’s worked her arse off to earn a position of authority in a man’s world – call her a slut.”

“I’ll thank him for the photos when I bring up his tea,” Hudson said. “Back to work.”

"This was done by experts.” Molly spoke as everyone bent over the pictures. Greg scrutinized the photos, trying to stay in police mode. “The tyre marks show that the car was herded into the alley and that’s when the driver was dispatched. Few marks at the scene other than those like any other one-car collision, except for the bullet. No reports of disturbances so they used a silencer, and no sign of a struggle so Holmes was either taken at gunpoint or drugged. My money’s on drugged.”

“What about the scratches on the walls?” Mary pointed on the photos. “Not here, higher. Someone was clinging to the walls or rappelled down from above.”

“There’s a couple of things make that mark that can vertically climb,” Sally added. “Not necessarily from this planet.” She was deathly serious, Lestrade realised. “There are ways to track them.”

“We’re armed enough to take on whoever or whatever took Holmes,” Hudson said; she nodded to Morstan, Donovan, and Joan Watson, who smiled. “And we’ll be perfectly safe from scrutiny with just a little precaution. Options.”

Mary Morstan ticked them off. “We disregard option one, which is stay out of this,” to a murmur of consensus from everyone including Lestrade. “Option two, we go to the crime scene. Donovan and Watson deploy their trackers, we locate where they’re holed up with Mycroft and pass the word to the official investigators.”

“Smartest move to make,” Donovan said. “And dead boring. Next.” Lestrade blinked at the change in his methodical, staid police sergeant.

“Option three, same procedure to locate them, then we hack into their equipment and screw with their minds till they dump Mycroft somewhere. Option four, ditto ditto, but we stage a raid on them and retrieve Holmes ourselves.” Morstan shrugged. “I could use a good dangerous run.”

“This. All this is way past my pay grade.” Lestrade kept his voice level and stuck his hands under the table in case they shook a little. He really shouldn’t be part of this, he was too involved with the victim, this was a bad idea. “I negotiate with bank robbers holding hostages, not armies holding treasuries.” He looked around the table at the women who returned his frank stare. “Why do you need me along on this at all?”

“Better than sitting at home worrying, isn’t it?” Mary grinned with more than a hint of shark. Lestrade reminded himself that this was someone who’d gone to a crack house whilst 7 months pregnant. “You’ve got a level head and an understanding of slow steady police work, so you won’t go running in to do something stupid. We could actually use some muscle on the team – I know you play football so you’re in shape. Some other talent of yours may prove useful as well. And admit it, you’d love to take a swing at the bastards who did this.”

He couldn’t argue with that.

“Danger is one thing. We plan to avoid idiocy,” Joan Watson said. “I don’t want to trade one of our corpses for the hostage’s – let alone more than one of ours.”

“But no moral objection to trading their corpses for Mycroft’s, if necessary.” Mary grinned again.

Joan shrugged. “Not really. As long as no one expects me to take a life.”

Molly smiled at Joan. “Nor me. Once a doctor always one, yeah?”

Doctor. Watson. He was really down the rabbit hole here, in a Wonderland full of Alices.

Mary looked around the table. “Do nothing, pass on information, sabotage, or direct action. Verdict?”

All the hands went up for number four.

“All right,” Morstan said. “Step one.”

***

The alley was still cordoned off and guarded by two expressionless mountains in blocky suits at the tape barrier heedless of the rain pelting down on them, though it was two days later and in the wee hours of the morning. When one bent to read Donovan’s ID she spritzed him with something (while Joan Watson did the same to the other fellow) that made them straighten up with no expression and wave them through.

Greg whistled soundlessly. The Force in a spray can.

“Sally can’t talk about her work,” Hudson said. Lestrade nodded; he was dating someone like that.

Mrs. Hudson, Molly and Mary sat beside Greg in Hudson’s apartment, also looking at the screens that showed what the miniature cameras disguised as Joan’s suit buttons picked up. They looked for all the world as if they were watching a reality show together on the telly.

“The organization seems to be a good fit for her.” Mary smiled mirthlessly. “She also got promoted a hell of a lot faster than she was in the Yard.”

Greg bit back a reply; a private organisation or one with a black-ops budget could afford to pay better and promote faster than the police, and Mary knew that. But there was truth there too, about delays in deserved promotions due to the toxic atmosphere in the office that had helped push Sally out the door; she’d always preferred doing her damn job to soothing the ruffled feathers of white male higher-ups who liked and rewarded ‘brassiness’ in policemen but called that same trait ‘bitchiness’ in police women.

Donovan and Watson's torches played over the deserted alley in the rain as they came to the site where the car had been. The viewers saw more of the same scratches on the brick walls, three to four vertical parallel scratches that repeated about every six feet up the wall toward the roof.

Mary touched her headset. “Crampons for boots, for rappelling work. This one probably isn’t E.T.’s fault, Sally.”

Sally didn’t speak but they saw her nod before Joan’s button cameras. She brought out a device that looked like a Smart Phone and waved it over the scratches as if taking more pictures.

“Where did the cameras come from?” Greg asked the strategist.

“Joan says she works sometimes with an anonymous group of computer hackers that call themselves ‘Everyone.’ Apparently they like testing her ability to find their bugs and spy-cams, and if she finds them she gets to reprogram and keep them.” Mary pursed her lips. “Not sure if our government is aware of them yet.”

Donovan had stepped back from the scratches and Joan stepped forward so that the viewers saw the wall close up. And nothing happened for a few minutes. Torchlight flickered over the walls and ground; cars went past the alley on the periphery of the little cameras; a bug flew past the lens, looking enormous up close. Again, no speech, but Joan made a thumbs-up.

“Got a lead?” Mary asked into her mike.

Joan’s fist bobbed in imitation of a nod; American Sign Language for “yes.”

“Okay. Back to the cuckoo’s nest.”

A lead? Greg felt his heart lift and then plummet in dread once again. “Maybe a bloodhound would help,” he said, trying to lighten his own mood.

“Joan’s got something better,” Molly said.

“And there are ways to mask scent even from bloodhounds,” Mary added. “They may or may not have used them. But they can’t mask what Joan’s allies can track.”

From above their heads came a fitful cry as Rosie woke up in 221b. Mary flinched, and focused on the information on her phone Donovan had just sent, her lips in a thin line. Lestrade realised that she was in the same building with the husband who still mourned her death, and her toddler daughter. It really wasn’t his place to ask. But he doted on his brother’s kids (and Mycroft tolerated them); he couldn’t imagine what she was going through. “Would you like…?”

“I’ll look in on her when this is over and she’s asleep. They still think I’m dead. Everyone’s safer this way, especially her.” Mary’s eyes glimmered a bit more than they had but her face was set. Greg nodded, a lump in his own throat. The code word Morstan used for their headquarters made sense now.

"It’s almost three,” Molly said. “There’s a couple of places near Bart’s that do 24-hour takeaway.”

“No need. I’ve enough in the fridge for sandwiches.” Mrs Hudson rose to make tea.

Finally, something he could do. Unless his hostage-negotiating skill or his ability to play football was going to come in handy during this operation… Greg joined Hudson to throw together a meal for the troops.

When both women returned everyone ate and drank first, sitting where they could find a place when the chairs ran out (six adults filled that tiny apartment). Even the tea wasn’t able to keep the sand out of Lestrade’s eyes; how long had he been up?

“Nothing out of the ordinary from the scratches,” Donovan reported. “No reason not to assume human agency, Mary. Watson?”

“We’ll have to wait till at least midday for my squad to finish their work and get back to me,” said Joan. “The Queen is asleep right now.”

The Queen. Lestrade gaped at Joan Watson.

Joan smiled at Greg as the others grinned (Molly snickered). She raised her hand to her left ear and lowered it slowly. A large honeybee lay on her finger, motionless. “This queen, Inspector.”

Ah. Not the one in Buckingham Palace. This American Dr. Watson had a pet bee and somehow that made sense these days.

“When she wakes up she’ll head for the hive box on the roof and transmit her information.” Joan lifted her hand and set the bee on her ear again. “The workers will fan out seeking the pheromones she picked up from the site – they’ll still be there even after the rain and the time passed.”

“And we’ll track the workers,” Lt. Donovan concluded. Lestrade had no bloody clue how.

“Okay.” Morstan checked her watch. “We regroup at Bart’s at noon. Molly’s office has a screen. Till then.”

All but Mrs. Hudson left the flat as soundlessly as they’d arrived, and spread out along Baker Street to find cabs.

Martha Hudson hugged Greg as he got up to go. “He’s a reptile. But he’s your reptile. We’ll find him.”

Mycroft had once called him a goldfish. Goldfish, reptile – they were a proper menagerie weren’t they?

Greg realised that he was actually exhausted enough to sleep properly now. He pondered the whirl the night had been as he gave the cabbie the address and sat back. Six of them all together – seven if you counted the Queen. And his job in the team of commandos was to make the sandwiches and worry about his missing lover.

He smiled a little. So this is what it feels like to be The Girl in an action film.

***

The daytime rendezvous was different from the midnight assembly in more ways than venue. Donovan wore a button-up slate-blue blouse and black trousers, bent over what looked like an ordinary iPad on Molly’s desk; Molly was in her lab-coat, holding court and presently cursing over two remotes for the screen on the wall as Sally fiddled with some cables. Hudson was in one of her house dresses, Morstan wore a pastel blue dress and black heels, and Joan Watson cut an elegant figure in her top-skirt combo and high-heeled boots. Last night Mary and Sally would have turned heads in their gear; today the entire squad could have blended in with Tesco shoppers without drawing attention. Lestrade himself felt less slovenly now that he’d eaten, slept, showered, shaved, and donned clean clothes.

Molly’s wall telly flickered to life, to a sound of satisfaction from everyone. A map of London showed on the screen. It was covered with little red speckles as if Georges Seurat had flicked a paint brush at it.

“Showing up loud and clear.” Sally grinned. “Joanie, give your girls an extra batch of sugar water as a thank-you.”

Joan smiled. “I think I can leave out the isotope this time.”

Bees. Those red specks were bees. Greg shook his head. “I didn’t know bees could be trained.”

“These bees can,” Watson said. ““They’re a new species. My partner breeds them.”

Greg refrained from asking if this Dr. Watson's partner was named Sherlock Holmes too. That would have been ridiculous.

The speckles were clumped into two large red blotches connected by a faint trail of specks like glitter suspended in water. One site was the spot on the map where the alley was, and the other – ah Christ.

“They took him to Heathrow.” Mary didn’t sound surprised. “A midnight flight, or drugging and stowing him as cargo.”

Greg gripped his chin tight with one hand and clenched his other fist on his belt to keep them both still. Mycroft could be anywhere now, undergoing anything.

“They can’t have done it all on their own,” Sally said, her voice blessedly cool and uninvolved.

Mary nodded. “Someone at that airport had a hand in this.”

“A hand,” Joan Watson added, “covered with pheromones.”

“They wouldn’t be all over the airport.” Molly waved at the screen. “The bees would cluster right where they left. We go there…” and she looked down at her white coat, and over at Joan Watson.

“As doctors to treat the bee stings from the freak swarm,” Joan finished.

“Good one. You’ll need a nurse to assist you.” Mary pointed. “Lestrade.”

Greg started and looked around at everyone. “Me? I don’t know any nursing.”

“Just hold our stuff and look helpful as we go through the patients.” Molly nodded. “You’ll know the precise moment when we need you. An orderly will find some scrubs to fit you as well as a lab coat for Joan.”

***

The airport manager was relieved to see them. "It’s mostly the crew that were out on the tarmac. Never seen this many bees, it’s one of the oddest things I’ve seen.”

“Funny what a swarm will do,” Watson said. “Is there an office we can use?”

The room was next to some noisy pump or equipment, and they had to raise their voices to talk to the bee victims that trailed into the office one by one; Hooper and Watson dispensed analgesics, removed stings, and asked about allergies. Lestrade provided swabs and syringes as needed.

But when a big blond behemoth yelled in pain, and Watson said “That’s him!” Greg let go the tray and flew after the running man, tackling him just outside the office door – and not without a considerable scuffle given the man’s weight and musculature. Now I know why they brought me… Lestrade looked up at the startled visitors, realised he was still in his nurse scrubs, and said in a disgusted tone, “Flu shot. Come on, you big baby.” Everyone laughed as Lestrade frog-marched the hulking suspect back into the emptying office. Hooper closed and locked the door as Lestrade pushed the suspect into a chair. A closer look at the mulish fellow (his ID badge revealed him as George Carter, a member of the ground crew) revealed stings all over his arms, neck and hands; the bees had homed in on him. Joan Watson touched her left ear and nodded; the queen bee must have returned to her perch after ID’ing the perp by giving him a stab (as a queen she could sting repeatedly without harm to herself, so she’d been in no danger there).

“Let’s not lie to each other, George Carter,” Watson said without preamble, her flat New York accent adding menace to the proceedings. “You helped move a prisoner in the last 24 hours. We’re trying to find where he was taken.”

“You’re cracked,” Carter sneered at the Chinese-American woman, and added a racist word that had Lestrade clenching his teeth.

Watson didn’t so much as change expression. “You got threatened or bribed, or both. We can check your bank records easily enough. But if you get ahead of this, it’ll look a lot better at your trial. Or do you prefer to take on all of the guilt for kidnapping a government official, when your information will save you from a life sentence?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Yank.” Carter flexed a few muscles, trying to physically dominate the women in the room even handcuffed to the chair. “And I’m not bloody talking.”

Greg met Watson’s eyes - Want me to try? - and at her head-shake he nodded and did nothing. Joan looked over at Molly and nodded.

Molly bit back a smile before her face settled into distress. “Ugh, you had to mention blood didn’t you? Can we hurry this up? I’m cramping something awful today.”

The man cringed, disgust on his face.

“Sorry to hear that,” Joan Watson said, for all the world the solicitous medical colleague. “Is it fresh flow or just in big clots now?”

“Jesus, stop that!” Carter cried, a mountain of macho muscle shrinking into a chair as dread warred with terror and nausea on his face. “Don’t talk about that, Jesus Christ!”

Oh. Brilliant, Lestrade thought over his own squeamishness.

“Honestly, the pad’s no use,” Molly continued as if she hadn’t heard him. “I need a sandbag to hold it back at this stage, it’s like the lift scene in The Shining.”

The guy was turning green. His shoulders heaved and his wrist-cuffs rattled as he tried in vain to cover his ears.

“Ugh,” Watson said sadly. “I swear, someday I’m just gonna hang a bucket between my legs and have done with it.”

George Carter shook, twisting in his chair.

“And the worst part is when you’re sitting on the loo scrabbling around for the tampon string,” Molly added mournfully, “your fingers all slippery with blood, hoping you get it out before you take a sh–“

“All right all right I’ll tell you just stop talking about that!” George shrieked in as high a pitch as the whining pump next door.

The Tampax advertisement ended immediately.

Molly put on a radio headset and Joan Watson produced a small recording device. “Tell us what happened.”

Carter talked, Molly relayed to Mary, and Lestrade kept his face expressionless as their prisoner described the three men – two holding up a doped-up third – who’d smoothed over a kink in their travel plans with a thick wad of notes. They’d taken Mycroft aboard a small charter plane headed to Warsaw.

“He’ll rat us out,” Greg said when they uncuffed Carter and he fled.

“No he won’t. That wasn’t just antihistamine in his shot.” Molly packed up her stuff. “Sally calls it ‘retcon.’ He’ll go right back to work thinking he just came in here for a booster, and he’ll still be there when the official investigators pick him up in their own sweet time. Pity we have to keep a low profile; we could have detained him while checking his phone.”

Joan Watson held up a SmartPhone. “We can look through this once Sally or Mary unlocks it. I picked his pocket.”

The door opened. “We’ve got transport,” Donovan announced as she walked in. “Charter flight, Mary’s ironing out the details, Martha will be here in an hour. Here’s your stuff, Jenny, Karen. Tom.” She winked at Lestrade as she handed him a carry-on bag like the one she’d just given Hooper and Watson. Toiletries, change of clothes, water bottles, food – and in the side-pocket was a passport with Lestrade’s face and the name Thomas Gregory.

Lestrade felt his mouth curl up into a smile as the adrenaline raced through him. At that moment he could indeed have run naked onto a battlefield, smeared with woad and yelling his head off, and regretted nothing.

***

The plane was a little 16-seater thing, the sort of jet that rich people hired for trips to private islands; their team took up a third of the interior. The plane’s owner was a formidable mountain of grey hair and jowls (her last name a hazard of hyphens; she’d apparently been repeatedly married) who insisted on coming with them; the steward was a very eager young man who prattled about having seen camels and polar bears in their natural habitat in the same week (both of which he classified as “brilliant”); the pilots were amusing and competent as they relayed information about the trip for the 4-hour duration of the flight (“On your left, for those who missed seeing the architecture of Amsterdam and the identical architecture of Berlin, you will see the still more interchangeable architecture of Poznań”).

At the start of the flight Mrs. Hudson chatted in the back of the plane with the multi-hyphened owner, Mary slept, Sally worked on Carter’s phone, Joan read a book about blood-spray patterns, Molly listened to music, and the queen bee drank sugar water amid the swarm of workers in her glass frame under Joan’s seat. Lestrade tried to do something similar but only wound up staring out the window, feeling abandoned. Somewhere between Amsterdam and Berlin he suddenly realised why; he’d been unconsciously expecting Sally or Molly or one of the other women aboard – one of his teammates – to comfort him, to listen to his fear and worry, to bolster his spirits. Would he have expected the same sort of hand-holding if everyone here had been men? …Well, possibly John Watson if he were here, they were good at commiserating with each other about their respective infuriating Holmeses. But John had to deal with a sulking baby at home – as well as a growing toddler. Greg’s own amusement cheered him.

“I’m in,” Donovan said.

Mary was awake instantly and leaning over her seat to look at the screen. Everyone else stayed seated but leaned toward the lieutenant. (So did the plane’s owner and the steward, to Greg’s dismay.)

Sally didn’t bat an eye at their eavesdroppers as she reported to the squad. Lestrade thought of the spray that got her past the guard, and the shot that would erase Carter’s memory of his interrogation. No wonder she didn’t care. “Next to last two calls from burner mobiles, no point tracing those, they’ll be chopped up in a skip by now.” Sally tapped here and there. “One to his bank, what a clever lad, there goes his denial. Let’s see if he had enough self-preservation instinct to cover his arse by … there we are.”

“He took photos.” Watson didn’t ask a question.

“Three of them.” Donovan swiped and enlarged. “Obviously done as surreptitiously as possible, they’re off-focus and lopsided. But one of them has a good three-quarter profile of one of the men holding Mycroft.”

Two dark head-shaped things in that picture. One with a bit of highlight to suggest facial features. The other was slumped over but recognisable enough to make Greg’s heart pound with fear.

Mary nodded. “Good enough to use facial-recognition software.”

“Oh, that’s brilliant!” the steward gushed over Donovan’s shoulder.

“Arthur, dear, go make yourself useful and bring tea for everyone,” the owner said in an exasperated tone.

“Right-o, Mum.” The steward disappeared aft, and the mystery of how the feckless fellow got his job was solved.

Sally produced her iPad (or whatever it actually was) and waved it over the phone resting on the drinks tray, swiping and tapping. The screen of her device chattered, brightened, showed the blurry head-shaped thing, expanded it, and sharpened in a flurry of pixels. A man’s head, with a distinctive nose and a shock of brown hair. More screen lines homing in on all the facial features, more chatter. And there was a man’s head filling Donovan’s screen as clearly as a mug-shot. Mary’s own phone was up and snapping a photo of the face, running it through her own database. “Makary Zubek,” Morstan and Donovan called out simultaneously.

“And he’s got a nice neat list of known boltholes.” Mary scrolled down her dossier. “Of course they won’t be stupid enough to keep Holmes there, but Zubek should know where they’ve moved him once we find Zubek.”

“This isn’t going to involve people shooting at my plane, is it?” The owner sounded as if being fired upon was merely one of many annoyances in running her business.

"It shouldn’t,” Watson said. “We’d prefer to rescue our target with as little bloodshed as possible.”

“All you have to do, Carolyn, is keep your plane on standby at the airport, fueled up and ready to leave at a minute’s notice. We will do our very best to notify you in enough time to fire up the engines.” Mrs. Hudson gave a tight-lipped cobra smile at her fellow older woman. “Let that pilot of yours know that any attempt at one of his get-rich-quick schemes will lose him his entire, very generous, share of this job – and that’s if he’s lucky enough to avoid falling afoul of the men we’re hunting.”

Carolyn’s grin was as sharky as Mary’s.

“Three boltholes, six of us,” Mary said, tapping on her phone to send the addresses to everyone. “We pair up to find Zubek when we touch down, armed with unarmed. I’ll go with Molly, Joan with Sally, Martha with Greg.” With no more words she leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, and was dozing in seconds.

Lestrade did his best to set his thoughts aside and put his seat back. He might not be able to sleep but he would need to rest.

***

It was past dusk when they landed at Warsaw – all the women sighing and complaining like office mates on a disastrous package holiday – and between the spray and whatever was on Donovan’s ID and their very British ordinariness they got through Customs without attracting attention. They hired three cars (the credit cards also bore their false names) and fanned out in Warsaw proper.

Lestrade went with Mrs. Hudson, only to find the cellar under the tailor shop empty and musty with disuse.

It was Joan and Sally who found and subdued Zubek in a flop above a gymnasium, and called the others together. Operation Red Tidings worked as well here as at Heathrow; Sally’s Polish was good enough to go into graphic detail about her menstrual cramps until the captured man blurted out the location of their prisoner to shut her up. They dumped him off at the nearest police station as a courtesy to prevent his colleagues exacting retribution for snitching and then piled into the largest of the compact cars for the raid. Lestrade and everyone else clung for dear life as Mrs. Hudson tore through the streets like Steve McQueen.

“Slow down unless you want the frame to break!” Joan shouted.

Hudson dropped her speed by possibly 5 kph while swerving along the riverside, and nearly clipped a cursing dockhand working the midnight shift.

When a factory building loomed ahead, lit only by the sparse yellow of sodium-vapour light, Hudson killed the lights and pulled over under a bridge. “That’s the one.”

Everyone else piled out of the car, reaching for their gear and opening their duffels to get their black clothes out. For a moment Greg stared at the abandoned monument to communism that looked like a decrepit castle – or a monarch’s elaborate tomb. Someone was alive in there; someone had to be alive in there.

When everyone was dressed for the raid (Mrs. Hudson stayed in the darkened car) Mary attached a device to her back that resembled a high-tech fishing-reel motor; Joan Watson slung a pack across her back and touched her ear; Sally inventoried her own weapons. Molly rummaged in her pockets and nodded. Greg gripped the baton he’d found in the bag given him, and thought of the skulls inside that fortress.

“You go on foot from here. Call me when it’s time,” Hudson said.

The five headed for the warehouse, staying in the shadows and the brush alongside the road.

They halted 500 feet away. “Three lookouts, from the heat signal,” Sally said, binoculars to her eyes. “Gate, wall, smokestack. They’re just standing there. Body language says they’re bored.”

Mary had her gun out. “I see the wall and gate guys. The third is behind the smokestack.”

Sally pulled out her own ordnance. “I’ve got the smokestack. On three. One, two.”

Two whining shots from Mary’s silenced pistol, and a strange squeak as Donovan’s rifle ejected what looked like a light blue streak like a firefly. The two figures slumped even as the firefly whipped around the smokestack and vanished from sight. A blue light flared from behind the smokestack like a tiny fireworks display and was gone.

“He’s down too.” Morstan handed the binoculars back to Donovan. “Thank God he didn’t drop his rifle.”

“He’s just stunned,” Donovan said, sliding the rifle back into her back-scabbard. “But he’ll stay stunned for a couple of hours. Run.”

All of them did, tearing across the empty space. The gate was a plain old iron padlock gate; Watson whipped out a pair of picks and had it open in 30 seconds. Lestrade ran past the slumped man Mary had shot through the eye. Christ, the die was cast now… Watson dealt with the locked door of the factory the same way as the gate, though it was a completely different lock.

The place was sullenly lit with yellow lamps and smelled of rust and water, old concrete, old steel. Everything echoed; they moved silently, gliding their feet rather than stepping. Down concrete stairs and a rusty handrail toward the part of the factory closest to the river. Yeah, a room here would make a good holding pen for prisoners, with the Vistula providing an obliging dumping site for any inconvenient bodies. One wrong move…

Voices ahead, echoing like the dripping water. Angry voices. Voices in Polish only; no familiar English tones. Was it an interrogation, or were they angry with each other over killing a wanted prisoner? Greg felt very cold inside; he had never killed anyone, but he would have no trouble sending someone halfway there tonight.

Donovan put down her binoculars and showed a spread hand. Five. Then one finger, lying on its side, wiggling. Five goons, one prisoner. Mary nodded, and gestured to Joan Watson. They moved back up the stairs away from the cellar.

Donovan, Hooper and Lestrade stayed in the stairwell around the corner from the angry voices, and waited. The night dragged on interminably; perhaps four or five minutes passed.

Another noise began to join the angry voices. A hum. A low, familiar hum. And then cries of pain, shouts and what was clearly profanity. A door banged open and the yelling was louder as they ran. So was the hum of the bees among them.

Three ran toward them, looking for the stairs. One fell to a blue-light bang from Donovan. Lestrade grabbed one man by the shoulder, whirled him around and struck his baton across the man’s cranium with all the rage and fear he’d been sitting on for four days, dropping him. The third sank to the floor and Molly straightened up with a syringe in her hand, smiling at having hit the vein just right.

Nothing between them and the room but bees. Lestrade ran toward the open door, heedless of the cloud of buzzing insects around him and the stings landing on his face.

A body dropped from the ceiling just in front of Greg as he entered the room. The man’s neck bent at a grotesque angle and his exposed skin was peppered with bee stings; the insignia on the man’s coat indicated that he was likely the leader. Mary hung upside-down from her rappelling line like a bizarre light-fixture where she’d seized him from above. Bees still flew humming out of the ceiling vent.

Mycroft was in a metal chair in the middle of the room, unshaven and haggard-looking, his eyes closed and his breathing shallow. He was breathing. His wrists and ankles were cuffed to the chair’s arms and legs, and the bruising and burn spots on his naked body were consistent with those left by electrodes. He needed the key he needed the fucking key –

Mary dropped to the ground from the ceiling vent and Joan Watson slid down the line after her in a cloud of bees. Joan dropped to her knees with her lock picks and the cuffs were gone in seconds.

Greg caught Mycroft as he slid bonelessly to the ground. “We’ve got you, you’re safe, it’s over.”

“Code of Conduct,” the man whispered, his voice ragged. “Code of Conduct.”

Code of Conduct, Mycroft. When I give the word you can speak. Until then you are silent. Speak and it’s a dozen of the best. Speak twice and I ignore you for the entire evening. Understand, boy?

Yes, Master.

Repeat it for me.

Code of Conduct, sir.


“I said nothing, sir,” Mycroft whispered into Lestrade’s groin, wavering on his knees. “Code of Conduct.”

“Good boy,” Greg whispered, tears rolling down as he stroked his lover’s filthy hair back into place. “Such a good boy.” That was how he’d survived – pretended the torture sessions were a scene where Lestrade had forbidden his bottom to divulge a word.

“Sally and Molly are at the gate,” Mary reported, touching her headphone. “Hudson’s coming. But we need that last – “

All of them looked at the noise outside the half-open metal door, as the last man, the one they’d missed and who must have backtracked to a storage locker, threw something small and metallic into the middle of the room and seized the door to bolt it on the evidence. The item clanked as it hit the ground. A grenade.

Greg let go of Mycroft and leaped at the projectile, foot back, and kicked it into a pinpoint drive straight into the horrified captor’s face just as the door slammed shut. The pain hit his foot all at once and he yelled just as the BOOM outside shook the room and bent the door. Oh Christ he’d broken something, oh shit shit shit that hurt, oh my god he’d just kicked a fucking grenade like it was a fucking football what the hell was he thinking –

The four of them were in a huddle on the ground as debris fell around them. Mary shouted something complimentary that Greg couldn’t understand over the pain, but his arms were tight around Mycroft and Mycroft was alive and they had him and they had to get the hell out of there before more of these bastards showed up.

“Can you move!” Morstan shouted at him over the noise of the debris falling and settling.

“Yes!” Lestrade yelled back. “Yes,” gasped Mycroft.

The metal door was bent nearly in two and there was a stench of explosive and charred meat in the air. They pushed past and headed out. Greg bit back a cry as he hopped and hobbled his way up the stairs. “I’ll give you a painkiller for your foot when we’re in the car, and something for the stings,” Watson called where she was assisting Mycroft; bees had settled all over her, no doubt calmed from the queen’s presence on Joan’s person, and the American Dr. Watson had sustained not a single sting in the onslaught.

Pain step pain step pain step and outside. The car and people yelling. More pain, pushing in, and more stings. Seven adults crammed that little car full. By the time Lestrade registered that reality the factory was long gone. “Carolyn!” Hudson shouted into the phone Molly held as she careened along the roadway. “Get the plane started! We’re done!”

“Oh, brilliant!” cried the steward’s voice over the connection. “Mum, they did it!”

“Give me the phone, idiot boy!” the plane’s owner snapped. “And go wake up Douglas and Herc!”

Of the return flight Lestrade remembered nothing, nor did any other of the team nor their rescued target – they all slept like the dead for the three hours and change return to London.

***

“Two broken toes, Greg.” Sally smiled. “That kick saved four people. David Beckham would be proud.” Lt. Donovan had sustained the same bee-stings everyone save Joan had gotten in the raid but had otherwise emerged unscathed.

Lestrade hobbled down the hospital corridor beside his former right hand, getting used to his walking cast. “Well, I’m grateful I was able to do something besides make sandwiches and look pretty. But I’m also looking forward to investigating homicides and filling out paperwork again.”

"It is a comfort after dealing with something nasty. I’m just glad there were no tentacles involved this time.” She laughed at his double-take. “And no, I can’t talk about it.”

“All the others accounted for?”

Donovan nodded. “Watson and her bees are already back in New York, Joan says to give her regards. Hooper’s in the morgue and the boss is babysitting at 221.” Sally gave a quick glance as they approached the hospital room, to make sure of no eavesdroppers, and dropped her voice a touch. “And our phantom is away again. When she’s finished getting rid of the ties from her old life she can come back from the dead.”

“I’m beginning to think nobody is really dead,” Greg said sourly; his foot still throbbed despite the painkiller. “If this keeps up we can disband Homicide.” They paused outside the door. He smiled at her. “Thanks for the help, Lieutenant. And for whatever you did involving the tentacles.”

“Good luck, Chief.” Donovan headed out as Lestrade entered the private room.

Mycroft was sitting up in his bed and testily exchanging words with Sherlock – a change from the days Lestrade remembered, when the younger sibling was in the hospital bed recuperating from an OD and the elder Holmes was castigating his behaviour. Save for the bandages on his injuries and an IV bag to counteract the days of deprivation, Mycroft seemed in good shape from his ordeal. John sat in a plastic chair surveying the visit with a long-suffering expression. Anthea stood by her boss’ bedside with her arms folded and a look of pique despite her otherwise-professional demeanour – and Lestrade realised that she must have headed up the official investigation into her boss’ disappearance and been a step behind Hudson’s squad the whole time.

Both stopped their argument as Greg approached. “Football injury, Greg?” John asked, standing to offer him a chair.

“Yeah, you could say that. I was working off some stress and overdid it.” Lestrade winced as he gratefully took the seat. “Can’t imagine why I was stressed.” John patted his fellow Holmes in-law’s shoulder in sympathy.

“And all for very little, Inspector.” Mycroft gave Lestrade his thin public smile; there were still a few medical people just outside the open door. He waved the hand not attached to the IV line. “As you can see I was retrieved with little cause for alarm.”

“I hardly call electroshock, malnutrition and dehydration ‘little cause for alarm,’” Sherlock snapped. "It’s a wonder your idiots didn’t show up just in time to retrieve your corpse.” Anthea glared at Sherlock, which he returned; only then did Lestrade realise that she’d been the lead investigator whom Sherlock had slut-shamed at the crime scene and who had ordered his house arrest.

“As always, Sherlock, you misrepresent my staff. I know for a fact that the best people were on the case.” The tone was in Mycroft’s usual supercilious manner. Lestrade was too tired and achy to react. “I doubt that my captors were the same fellows I feared would be awaiting you – these men wished to hold me for ransom as well as interrogate me for information. Fortunately I’ve been abused by a better class of bastard than this. At no time did I feel compelled to end the proceedings.” Greg restrained a shudder at what that laconic phrase implied. “Now if you will excuse me, brother mine, I wish to debrief the local constabulary before I rest.”

“I’ll bet you do,” John muttered and Greg pinched back a grin. “Come on, Sherlock. We have to rescue Mrs. Hudson from the terror of 221b.”

“Oh very well,” Sherlock sulked, and followed John. Greg watched them close the door behind them as they left.

“Well done, Detective Inspector,” Anthea said.

Lestrade turned around, startled. Both his lover and the attache had an odd little smile.

“Mr. Holmes has briefed me about his captivity and retrieval,” Anthea continued. “Most of you were amateurs. But you could all work together, which is invaluable. You also knew when not to act, which is as important as knowing when to act decisively. UNIT is known to us, and we don’t interfere with their work, but it eased my mind to know they had a soldier on the case, with the bonus of being someone who had worked with you before. No loss of life on your side, and superficial casualties. Exemplary work.” With another nod of approval she exited to stand guard outside and give them privacy.

“Well, Gregory?” Mycroft’s voice was a touch warmer. “Your first taste of field work. What do you think?”

Lestrade exhaled, and winced and looked at his foot. “I’m really, really happy to leave this up to you lot from now on.” He grinned, mostly to watch Mycroft’s eyes brighten at the expression as they always did. “I really was a goldfish among sharks out there.”

“A goldfish with a wicked spiral punt.” The smile Mycroft returned was nothing but warmth now. “But now you see why I loathe legwork. The uncertainty of it,” said with a moue of distaste.

Greg pursed his lips. “Harder to play chess when you’re on the board yourself, is that it?” He caught the hand that had swung out to give him a cuff and turned it to kiss the wrist bandaged over the handcuff galls. His voice dropped to a whisper. “You scared the hell out of me, baby. Please try not to do that again.”

After a long pause, Mycroft spoke. "It was inconsiderate of me to give you such a fright.” Holmes’ voice had dropped to a drawl that echoed in Lestrade’s groin.

Greg kept his head down to hide his grin this time. His own voice had dropped into a baritone that made the hand he held tremble. “And you will pay for that, my boy. When these are off,” he tapped one bandage, “I’ll remind you who is the only person permitted to make a mark on you.”

“Yes, sir.” The whisper of the bottom. “Code of Conduct.”

“Good boy.”

***

Rosie Watson flung the little beanbag. It landed dead-centre on the big red X on the wall three feet away, causing a little honking sound. She squealed and clapped her hands.

“Clever girl.” Mrs. Hudson gave her a biscuit.

“She’s really come along.” Mary beamed at the tableaux from her seat at the kitchen table. “You’ve done wonderfully with her, Martha. She’ll be outshooting her old mum when she’s 10.” Her face fell a little and her smile was sad. “I hope I can finish this up and come back into her life before then.” At a soft beeping she glanced at her wristwatch and exhaled. “Damn, they’ll be here in fifteen. I’d best go back to being dead.”

Martha picked up the baby. “Till next month. Keep yourself safe.”

Mary blinked hard as she gave Rosie a kiss and hair-stroke. “Watch over your da-da for me.”

“Da! Da!” Rosie waved her hands. Her mother was already gone.
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