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Summary: Mycroft's closest companion shows great bravery. 
Rating: G
Word Count: 3170

Written for this prompt:
http://sherlockbbc-fic.livejournal.com/4076.html?thread=11931628#t11931628


I've told it all at the debriefing, but if you want to hear the story young'un, then I'll tell it again. You definitely need to understand what you might be getting into!

It's more than protection detail, you have to understand that. It isn't just about the rain.

It's about being in tune with your employer, about being there for him to do whatever needs doing. If he wants to show the world he's calm and in control then I am there the right height, furled neatly,handle at just the right angle, weight distributed evenly, tip firmly planted, taking his leaning weight with no sign of strain. The proper swing to show irritation or joy, even the right tension and weight distribution for self defence. All part of the job for a really good operative.

So there he was eating out that night, and I'm waiting for him. Closed but unfurled because it really doesn't do to furl up when wet, unless you have to. But only lower class brollys sit about indoors all open for the world to see! I'm a James Smith Solid Stick, I know how to behave.

Hell of a night that night, nearly an inch in 3 hours, so I wasn't alone. Usually it's just me or a couple of acquaintances, similar design and training, because you don't see the hoi polloi on a dry day. To hear some of the old boys tell it, used to be you couldn't tell if it was raining or not till you got close enough to feel the damp as everyone of any breeding had a decent umbrella. But nowadays if it isn't actually bucketing I'll be all on my own, with not even a walking stick for company.

He does like the place were were at, goes there a lot, but really it isn't what you might call high class. No proper stand for one thing, if you aren't slouching against the wall getting dust marks all over your handle you are dangling from a hook trying to keep yourself decently furled and not expose your ribs to all and sundry.

Since the storms started they've added a couple of plastic buckets, so there I was jammed rib-by-fabric with all sorts. I mean really!

There were those deformed little folding things with short ribs and not a proper shaft between them, and half of them not even a decent colour. There was even a tartan one in the other bucket, miles from any golf course, how it could sit there without blushing I don't know. And that's not all! There were... whisper it... working girls there too, right in with us. Company names on them bold as brass! Even furled you could tell they were no better than they should be and there was one of them flaunting her ribs as though this was a drying room!

So anyway, there I was, slowly drying out, taking the time to relax. You have to in this game, you never know when you'll get home or what the work will be. Never furl when you can relax your fabric, never relax when you can open. Words to live by!

There are those who praise individuality, and say it's easier to find your own if it stands out, but a man who can't tell his own brolly by the grain of the handle or the way it furls doesn't deserve to have one. Breeding will tell I say, umbrella or owner.


So when a strange hand touched my handle, I thought it was some parvenu who mistook me for his own, not that there were any other James Smiths there you understand, but some people can't tell by the first touch, so I expected to be put down as soon as he realised his mistake.

But he didn't! I was being stolen!

I knew what to do, naturally. Have you been on the course yet? No? Well they'll teach you how to spring open, how to change your weight, how to go for an eye or catch on the door frame. Have to be fit of course, and it's damned hard on the ribs, but learn it and practice it because you will need it one day.

Now this was no ordinary thief this one, because he was wise to the usual tricks. He knew he wanted me, he had big strong hands, and he knew how to use them. He had me out of that bucket, one hand right round my ribs holding them tight to my shaft, and me clamped under his other arm as though I was in a vice. I shifted my weight, I turned my handle, I tried to get my ribs free until I damn near tore a seam, but to no avail.

This was not good. He knew how to deal with a me, and that meant he knew what he had. He knew who he had. And there was only one reason for him to take me.

Now most brollys aren't privy to much. From the stand in the hallway to the seat on the train, to the railing at the foot of the hatstand. Maybe overhear something on the train, or a bit of a natter with a greatcoat, but on the whole an umbrella doesn't need a security clearance.

But you and I young'un, we are different. Like I said before, it's isn't just about the rain. I've heard things in that office, I've seen things on his phone, I've been present when coups have been organised and wars avoided. I've helped him convince terrorists they have to find another way, I've been part of his negotiations with the Americans so often I even had one of them try and lure me away to work in the Pentagon!

So I knew he knew what he had, and what he had was information locked up inside 2 foot 10 of ash and nylon and steel.

Now I won't pretend lad. No point. There's no one, no matter their wood, who wouldn't be scared. Some oak walking stick might go on about toughness but they splinter same as any of us if the knives come out. The key is to not let the fear take over. Brace your ribs, flatten your fabric, and keep your eyes open for whatever you can turn to your advantage.

He walked off fast as you please, no one taking any notice of someone with a perfectly good umbrella who wasn't opening it to deal with the rain. Some people wouldn't notice if Fred Astaire was dancing on the ceiling! He stood under the awning for a moment then a car came up and he jumped in. The car took off and before he fastened his seatbelt he had me tied up tight. Two velcro straps and my tip jammed into some
polystyrene and I wasn't going anywhere.


I listened best I could, hoping I'd get some idea as to who they were and where we were going, but they weren't the chatty sort and I was too low in the car to see anything out of the windows.

Didn't take long before we were out of that car and next thing I know I'm tip up on a table with a clamp around my handle holding me firmly. Not so much as a bit of rag to cushion the jaws either, you can see the mark still. It hurt, but I was sure that was just the start of it.

So this weaselly looking bod comes up, sits down, and looks at me. I wait him out, not that I have any choice in the matter.

He said "Now, it will all go easier with you if you just cooperate. Can't be too comfortable clamped up like that and those velcro straps are going to crease you if they stay on much longer."

I said nothing, he'd have to do better than that!

"You are a fine specimen. Don't come better than James Smith. Be a terrible shame if we had to get heavy with you..."

Then it all changed, he suddenly put his head right close and growled "Listen sunshine! You are going to tell us what we want to know. You can do it the hard way or we can do it the easy way, up to you."

And just to show he was serious, he gave my fabric a hell of a twist, against my normal furl. Talk about creasing! He rotated it hard against those damned velcro straps and I felt them scuff my nylon and I was worried I was going to feel a rib-pocket go he pulled so hard.

But it was going to take more than that to make me talk!

He ran his fingers down my fabric and it was all I could do not to rip a seam myself trying to get away from his touch. He laughed a bit and said "Oh we have plenty more for you, just wait."

"Now" he said "we can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is you answer our questions. The hard way is we use this and then you answer our questions."

He held up a bottle and I felt my fabric shrink. Bleach!



Not only would it streak me some horrible uneven shade of grey making me unfit for even the golf course, it would weaken my fibres, meaning I was likely to split the moment I felt a breeze.

The bastard was threatening to cripple me!

Now this is the point young'un. If I wanted an easy life I'd be some commuter's companion with a nice quiet round from home to office and back, about the only danger being pigeons. Or belong to some retired gent only going out when I absolutely have to, otherwise dozing in the stair cupboard all day long.

But I chose this life, I volunteered. Just like you did. And this is where we earn that place in the heated office, the chats to the lovely young Singapore Silks during trade talks, this is where we pay back the money spent on our training.

I"m proud of my profession, I'm the one he relies on to support him and protect him. And it doesn't matter if it's a summer shower or clamped to a table by some lowlife with a bleach bottle, it's all the same. It's what I'm here for.

So I just straightened my fabric as well as I was able under the straps and resolved to make not a sound. He could dye me fuchsia and attach bloody tassels to every second rib, I know my duty.

Now I wasn't just sitting idle in all this you understand. Escape is a duty, and I wasn't about to sit around feeling sorry for myself. If I could get out of that clamp then it was all bets off. Even velcroed up there was a chance!

So I wriggled and pushed, and I reckoned there was some give. It was going to hurt like hell and mark me up, but what was the alternative? now if he'd only take those damn straps off...

Anyway, he uncaps the bottle and wafts the fumes towards me. The smell was enough to twist your ribs, really it was. I ignored it though, because if he took the straps off, I was going to go for him. Eyes, throat, dammit even a tip into his foot would be better than sitting here waiting to be recoloured!

Now he wasn't completely stupid. He wasn't going to give me a free go at his face, he had hold of my ribs tight enough when he took the straps off, and used his other hand to control my slider. I was wise to that though... and jammed!

Now you take a lesson from me young'un, jamming might sound easy but it means distorting your shaft, and it puts a lot of strain on you. If you are doing it because some thug is pushing on your collar for all he's worth then you won't hold him for long and you risk a sprung rib when you have to let go. I didn't want to hold him for long, I just wanted him to push hard enough that when I let go he'd be off balance and not ready for a rib where it hurts.

So I suddenly freed and his hand shot up, and I was flying open like something belonging to Mary Poppins. I jerked hard sideways in the clamp and strained to aim a rib and he realised what I was doing and tried to grab me but too late! A raking cut up the cheek and I got him in the eye! That rib was twisted something awful though as it hit, and I think that's when I strained the seam.

I jerked and swayed again, and could feel the clamp gouging my handle, I never want to feel something that hurts like that again. I thought being banged handle first against a jammed steamer trunk lid was painful, but I'd take that any day over dragging myself out of that clamp.

But I was out and I was free and he was howling like a banshee, and holding his face with blood everywhere. It wasn't until later that I found I'd knocked over the uncapped bleach bottle and got some on my outer circumference, didn't feel it then.

So anyway, there I am out of the clamp, and unstrapped, but with that rib the way it was there was no way I was going to be able to furl. And that meant any rolling would be pretty damned uncontrolled.

But I had a moment to breathe and think. I had no idea what happened to the bods from the car, no one had come to hear what the screaming was about, and weaselface was still sobbing by the table.

The question was... when would I be missed? I'd been fitted with the tracker of course, in my position that's a given, but someone had to be looking for me, and I had no idea whether I'd been taken during mains or as late as the cheese platter. I decided the best course of action was to furl up as best I could, even if that meant even more damage to rib and seam, and roll outside. In the dark my people could find me but the kidnappers couldn't.

So I tensed against the pain, closed as much as I could, and tried to get vaguely cylindrical. Let me tell you, it's damn hard to order your fabric when you've a bust rib and you can feel more than one seam is gapping! But I got as close as I could and I started to move.

I braced myself for the drop off the table, the bounce made me see stars I can tell you. I was disoriented, couldn't tell where I'd landed and so didn't know where the door was. I think, to be honest, it was all getting a bit much for me. Some brollys might be able to heave themselves out of a clamp with no effect and feel a broken rib is no worse than a fabric crease, but me I was finding it damned hard to focus.

Now I tell you, if it was in a story you wouldn't believe it. No fiction writer would have the rescue team turn up then, the poor hero would have to roll outside picking up gravel and glass shards and getting wet and cold.... But truth is stranger than fiction and before I could work out which direction the door was in, the door burst open and there he was!

Now he's my employer, and I'm not one to presume on the relationship, but we've been working together a long time. Good times and bad, wet and dry, casual clothes and full mess dress. I've sheltered his brother when called on, I've gone tip-to-face with bods who've tried to take him out, I've sat quietly by his knee when he's been staring at the telephone waiting for it to ring to tell him it's all been for nothing and war has been declared.


So when he came in behind his bodyguard and saw me and picked me up, I admit I was damn glad to see him, and I was perhaps not as professional as I might have been. I should have squared up handle and furling tie, I should have insisted on giving him a situation report and been ready to debrief right then. I should have been at attention, handle to hand, tip properly planted, ready for duty.

Instead, and don't you dare breathe a word of this to anyone young'un, I just leant on him. And he understood I tell you, he did. He picked me up so carefully and looked me over. He saw the handle damage first, and he touched it so lightly I hardly felt it, didn't hurt a bit.

Then he carefully eased me open to check the rest of me. He saw the broken rib of course and I tell you the look on his face. Made it all worth while. He cradled me and turned to where his people had secured weaselface and when he saw the bottle of bleach spilled over the table, I could hear him hiss. "Take him to the secure facility." he said "I want to know who he works for and what he was after. " And then he added "And no need to find a doctor tonight."

Then he carefully closed me again, gently easing the collar down and smoothing my fabric, being careful of the rib and the seams. He wraps his own handkerchief around the gouges in my handle, it just broke me up. My fabric relaxed, my handle turned to lie more comfortably in his hand. he could have asked anything of me then.

And do you know, I think I could have asked anything of him.

The following morning he took me to James Smith for repairs. They pointed out the bleach mark, and said that given the whole fabric would have to be replaced it wasn't worth it but he wasn't having any. He said if they couldn't fix the colour than Fox or Swaine Adeney could! Well that got them on their mettle alright, and you can hardly see the scar. The clamp marks are mostly polished out, and the new rib's a perfect match. I'm still a bit creaky though, so if it's a really nasty night out you might get called on until I'm fully fit.

So there you go. Hell of a night that eh? But you learn from it young'un. Keep your wits about you and never give in!

But the real moral is this. With a good man, it's never just man and umbrella. It's a partnership, and there's nothing better in the world.


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