A/N: This story contains spoilers for the first two episodes of season 3. It's set the night of John and Mary's wedding. The ending of that episode made me so sad, that I wanted to do something to make it feel a little less bleak.

Update 2/28/15: Thanks to the lovely Blackie-Noir, this story now has been translated into Spanish! You can find it in my list of favorites or check it out here: s/11075765/1/Vete-a-pescar

Sherlock could not help but notice how still and quiet the night was. He hated it.

He also hated this cab which smelled vaguely of stale cigarette smoke, and the moon which was just barely but not quite full in the sky.

But what Sherlock really hated was the empty flat that he knew awaited him.

For the first time in a long time, he thought longingly of the oblivion that a carefully calibrated syringe could bring him—the power to forget, to divorce himself from this day, if only for a little while.

But no, he couldn't—not now, not again. The risks were too great. His work, his brain, John—

Before he could go any further with that train of thought, the taxi driver pulled up outside 221 Baker Street.

After he paid the cab fare and as he prepared to go inside, Sherlock noticed the door knocker centered just so and realized that he was about to be greeted by a most unwelcome visitor. He thought about turning around and going somewhere—anywhere—else, but he could not predict where his treacherous feet would take him, not tonight.

Besides, he could use someone to vent his frustration at, and Mycroft always did make for good target practice.

For the second time that day, he whispered to himself—into battle—and then he entered his flat, where the fire was already burning and Mycroft was sitting in John's chair.

Sherlock could feel his blood starting to boil.

"Back so soon, Sherlock? I thought you would still be out enjoying the festivities."

"Go to hell, Mycroft. What are you doing here?"

"Since when do I need a reason to pay a visit to my dear younger brother?"

"Why not just watch surveillance footage of me like you usually do? It would save us both the discomfort of conversing."

"Come now, Sherlock, this is much more personal. We don't do this nearly enough."

He waited a couple moments before adding, "So, how's the happy couple?"

Mycroft always did know just what to say.

Sherlock grabbed the closest projectile—a mug still half-filled with stale tea—and threw it against the wall.

Mycroft didn't even flinch.

The mug smashed against the wall at the spot right between the eyes of the bright, yellow smiley face. Sherlock found that leering expression particularly repulsive this evening.

"You always did have quite the temper."

Next time, Sherlock vowed to throw it at his brother's head.

"Perhaps you should consider getting a dog. Much less likely to run off and get married."

Clearly Mycroft has no sense of self preservation.

He then added, "Or maybe a cat might be more in line with your caretaking abilities."

Sherlock had nothing to say to that, so instead he stood up and started playing his violin—loudly and violently—in the hopes that it would be enough to drive Mycroft away.

But his older brother just sat serenely reading the newspaper—pretending to, at least—as if he couldn't hear the deafening squeals of Sherlock's purposefully cacophonous performance.

When it was clear this tactic wasn't going to work, Sherlock set down his violin, flopped down on the couch dramatically, and covered his face with the Union Jack pillow.

Maybe, if he controlled his breathing carefully enough, Mycroft would believe he had fallen asleep.

"It's only ten o'clock, Sherlock, and you slept a solid four hours last night. By my estimation, you have at least another six hours of consciousness left to suffer through."

Damn him.

Sherlock decided not responding was the better part of valor.

After a few more, long, tedious moments of silence, Sherlock threw the pillow across the room, and sat up sharply, facing his brother who was still pretending to read that stupid newspaper, as if he didn't already know everything that was in it, having been responsible for orchestrating at least half the events being reported.

"Sherlock, if you have something you'd like to say, you're going to have to use your words. I could probably read your mind if I chose to—you always have been remarkably transparent—but I'm really not in the mood to indulge your childish fit."

Fine. Time for a brotherly chat, then.

"Mycroft, why did you have to bring me back when you knew I would be coming home to this?"

That wasn't what Sherlock had been planning to say. Granted, that question had been circulating in his head for weeks now, haunting him, eating away at him, but he had never meant to give voice to those particular thoughts.

He prayed that Mycroft would take the easy way out and dodge the question, but luck was not on Sherlock's side tonight.

"What else would you have had me do, Sherlock? Would you have preferred I let you rot in a prison cell in Eastern Europe? Or were you hoping to disappear into some crack den for the remainder of your life?"

Mycroft continued without waiting for an answer.

"And if I had told you to come home sooner, would you have agreed to return before you had completed your self-imposed mission?"

Sherlock chose not to respond to that question, either.

"I brought you back when I did because I knew you wouldn't come any sooner, and I feared that if I waited any longer it would be too late."

"Too late for what, Mycroft? John had already moved on by the time I returned."

"Think about it, Sherlock. What if you had waited until after John had been married? After they had their first child? Would he have been so forgiving of your deceit, so quick to accept you back into his life then?"

"I didn't have a choice. Moriarty had to be stopped. I had to—"

"I know, Sherlock. And John knows that too. But knowing doesn't change the events that have transpired. At least this way, you still have a chance to find a place in his new life, even if things could never be the way they were before."

Mycroft then added in a softer tone, "Besides, very few of us truly get to be masters of our own destinies."

Mycroft's words were so well-reasoned, so apt, that Sherlock could do nothing but rail against them.

"I don't care—I did what I had to do, what you asked me to do."

Sherlock punched the couch cushion with his fist.

"Just leave me alone, Mycroft. That is what I know—how I know to be. I have the work, and the work is what matters. I'm not like those other people. I don't need what they have."

"Come now, Sherlock, we know there's more to it than that. True, you may be capable of walling yourself off in this disaster of a flat, but is that what you really want?"

Mycroft hesitated before continuing.

"You are not a machine, Sherlock, as much as you might wish it to be otherwise—nor should you seek to become one."

"Where is this coming from, Mycroft? What happened to 'caring is not an advantage'?"

"Caring is not an advantage—but it can be a virtue."

"Then why don't I feel virtuous? When I saw Mary and John tonight, and the wedding, and the people—dancing, laughing—I wanted to destroy it all."

"And did you act on that impulse?"

Pointless question. Mycroft already knew the answer, which meant he just wanted to hear Sherlock say it.


"Why not, if that's what you wished?"

"Because John deserves whatever happiness he can find, even if that life takes him away from me."

"Exactly—a remarkably selfless impulse."

"You say that as if it's a good thing."

"Maybe it is."

"Mycroft, you are making even less sense than usual tonight."

"Or perhaps you are being uncharacteristically dense."

"Uncharacteristically? Implication being that I'm usually more mentally astute? I think that's the nicest thing you've ever said about my intellectual capabilities."

"Not true. When you were ten, I remarked that you were starting to show signs of something akin to intelligence."

"I don't remember that."

"Yes, well, it's possible you were not in the room when I said it."

That was enough to draw an amused laugh from Sherlock before he caught himself and returned to a carefully neutral expression.

Still, he felt the tension in his body lift just a bit, and on impulse, asked his brother, "Would you care to join me for a round of cards?"

"I don't know Sherlock—I still have several important matters regarding the latest developments in Tehran to attend to, and then there's that little affair in Istanbul."

"Oh come now, afraid that you'll lose?"

"Sherlock, this is a game left entirely to chance."

"If it's all about chance, then how come I always win?"

"Fine, one round—but then I really must be off."

"Yes, I know, you're so important that England will fall without your constant, undivided attention."

"Remember, Sherlock, sarcasm is the last refuge of a weak mind."

"Ah, back to the insults, then."

Without another word, they both settled in their chairs, and Sherlock dealt the cards.

"You first, dear brother."

"Age before beauty, Mycroft. I insist."

Mycroft sneered in response, before making his first move.

"Do you have any threes?"

"Go fish."

Several rounds later—Mycroft refused to stop until he had defeated Sherlock at least once—Mycroft had his coat in hand, but before departing, Mycroft turned to Sherlock, to deliver one last parting shot.

"I know you dislike change, but don't trouble yourself too much about this new development. There will always be room for you in Dr. Watson's life."

"Goodbye, Mycroft," Sherlock replied, with emphasis on the goodbye. "Try not to undo all your hard work today by demolishing a pint of ice cream before bed."

"Goodnight, brother mine."

And with that, Mycroft headed out of the flat and into the night, where his driver and personal assistant awaited him.

Sherlock would never admit it—not to himself, and certainly not to Mycroft—but he was glad he had not come home to an empty flat tonight. And even though he was alone again, the silence no longer felt quite so dark and oppressive.

A/N: I hope you enjoyed this story. Any and all reviews will be deeply appreciated!