A/N This story can be read as a continuation of my earlier story, Go Fish, but it's not necessary to read them together. It starts off with a flashback but then returns to the present. This story is definitely AU but it encompasses events through The Sign of Three.
Mycroft knocked on his brother's door but received only silence in response.
"Sherlock, you can't stay in your room forever. Mummy says—"
"Go away, Myke."
"Mycroft, Sherlock. My name is My-croft."
"Fine, go away, MYCROFT."
Ignoring his brother's protests, Mycroft pushed open the door and went inside.
The bed was empty.
As Mycroft surveyed the room, he found Sherlock sitting in the chair by the window, knees pulled up to his chest. His red eyes and tears-stained cheeks indicated that he had recently been crying, although he was clearly making an effort to reign in his emotions.
Mycroft sat on the foot of Sherlock's bed and waited silently until his younger brother finally began to speak.
"I begged Mum and Dad not to let the vet take Redbeard away, but they did, and now he's gone and never coming back."
Sherlock sniffled once before adding, angrily. "I hate this. It's not fair!"
"This is just how thing things are, little brother. The East Wind comes for us all—"
"I don't care! Redbeard was my best friend. My only friend—all the other children think I'm strange, but Redbeard never cared. He slept at the foot of my bed, and came with me when I went on walks, watched as I did my experiments—"
Sherlock stopped talking as his eyes began to water and his voice started to crack.
"Sherlock, as you grow up, you will come to realize that there is very little to be gained by becoming emotionally invested in this kind of thing. You'll be better served to divert your attentions to more productive pursuits—like your studies, or even your little science experiments. Caring and sentiment will only hinder you as you make your way in the world."
"Is that what most people do?"
"No, Sherlock, but you and I, we're not most people."
Mycroft stood up, and added, "Now, go clean yourself up, and after supper, we'll finish our Latin-to-French translation of the Aeneid."
Mycroft walked into 221B Baker Street without knocking, only to find his brother lying on the couch, staring up at the ceiling.
As soon as Sherlock heard the footsteps coming up the stairs, he knew it was his brother. He considered ignoring Mycroft in the hopes that he would take the hint and disappear, but that hadn't worked the last ten times he tried it, so he decided to go with the direct approach.
Without bothering to sit up, Sherlock said, with clear disdain, "What are you doing here, Mycroft?"
"Is it really so hard to believe that I would want to pay my younger brother a friendly visit?"
Now Sherlock sat up, just so he could look Mycroft in the eye when he answered.
"Always so bitter," Mycroft responded, with a tight smile. "Anyway, it just so happens, I came here today to bring you a present."
Sherlock looked around the room dramatically.
"Is it invisible? You don't appear to be carrying anything on your person. Unless your presence is supposed to be my gift, in which case, I hope you kept the receipt."
"Very funny, brother mine." Mycroft said, although he didn't look particularly amused. "Your present will be arriving shortly."
And at that moment, Molly entered the flat with a large cardboard box in her arms.
"Hello, Molly," Sherlock greeted in a neutral tone, before turning back to his brother.
"So you've brought me a box? How very thoughtful."
"Don't be dense. Your present is in the box."
Taking her cue, Molly set down the package, reached in, and brought out a small, squirming bundle of fur.
It was chestnut brown with black markings on it's face and back—floppy ears, large paws—a long, clumsy tail—and a deep, trusting, eager gaze.
Molly looked so pleased that Sherlock wanted to vomit.
"He's really very friendly. Would you like to hold him?"
Without waiting for a response, she deposited the puppy into Sherlock's arms, too quickly for him to protest.
He wasn't sure if that was just Molly being Molly, or Molly being clever and disguising it under her usual unassuming awkwardness.
An interesting development. Sherlock filed it away for further consideration. But for now, he turned his attention to the mass of fur in his arms. In contrast to the obvious discomfort of the person holding him, the puppy seemed perfectly content, and without hesitation, licked Sherlock on the chin affectionately.
The expression on Mycroft's face made it clear that he was torn between amusement and disgust.
Molly just looked giddy.
"Oh, see, he likes you! Isn't he wonderful? I've always wanted to get a dog, but it's so hard finding a flat that allows them."
Yes, the perfect excuse!
"Mycroft, I really don't think Mrs. Hudson will approve of me keeping a dog."
"Your landlady regularly allows you to perform dangerous experiments in your kitchen and shoot holes in the walls. Do you really imagine she'll object to you acquiring a pet?"
"To be fair, she's never particularly pleased when I use the wall for target practice."
"Well, be that as it may, I've already spoken with her, and she has no objections."
"How—fortunate." Sherlock replied in a tone that implied it was anything but.
"Yes, I thought so."
Sherlock sighed loudly, and set the puppy down on the floor, eyeing it carefully as it started to wander around the flat, exploring its new surroundings.
"So what exactly is it?"
"A dog. I thought that would be fairly obvious, even to you, Sherlock."
"Very funny, Mycroft. I meant the breed."
"According to my sources, it's a bloodhound and German shepherd cross."
"A mutt, really? How very unlike you."
"Actually, Ms. Hooper is responsible for finding this particular specimen."
When Molly took that as her cue to speak, both brothers were somewhat startled. They had forgotten she was still there.
"There was a litter of puppies—I heard about it from someone at Bart's—and I just, um, I thought he would suit you."
At Sherlock's skeptical expression, she continued.
"Shepherds—they're loyal, protective, intelligent—and then a bloodhound, good at tracking, tireless in pursuit of a scent, willful, at times rather loud—"
Sherlock gave her a sharp look to stop her before she went any further.
"Also, he's really cute." And with that, she directed her attentions to the puppy who was currently smelling the floor at her feet. "Aren't you? Yes you are! You're such a handsome boy, such a good boy—"
"Thank you, Ms. Hooper," Mycroft interrupted loudly, "You can leave now."
"Yes, of course, so, um—do you want—should I take him with me, or do you plan to keep him?"
At this, Mycroft looked to Sherlock, who shrugged nonchalantly, and replied, "Leave him for now. I'm sure I'll find some use for him."
At Molly's alarmed expression, Sherlock clarified.
"No need to look so horrified, Molly. I'm not about to perform experiments on a puppy." At least nothing permanently damaging, Sherlock added silently.
Molly somehow managed to look embarrassed and amused at the same time.
"Yes, well, I didn't think—"
Mycroft interjected, "Goodbye, Ms. Hooper. Thank you for your assistance."
"Of course, I'll just be going then."
Before leaving, she bent down to the floor and gave the puppy one last scratch behind the ear, smiling as he gave her a friendly lick on the cheek.
Once she had gone, Sherlock turned back to his brother.
"Did you put her up to this, Mycroft?"
"I may have mentioned that I was considering getting you a companion, but this particular animal was entirely her idea. Although I must admit, he does seem a fitting match for the man who fancies himself the world's only consulting detective."
At that moment, Sherlock noticed the puppy making its way toward the kitchen, where Sherlock was still in the process of conducting several highly combustible experiments. Without thinking, he ran over and scooped the dog off the floor, bringing him back to the living room where he then set the puppy down in the seat formerly reserved for John.
With that particular crisis averted, Sherlock returned to his earlier line of questioning.
"Okay, Mycroft, so what is this about?"
"I told you, it's a present."
"You're not in the habit of giving me gifts."
Mycroft paused, seeming to consider his words carefully, before beginning to explain himself.
"I've become increasingly concerned about your well being in the wake of your former flat mate's nuptials."
"I'm doing just fine, Mycroft. I don't know what you're referring to. Just this morning I was studying the corrosive effect of acid on—"
"Don't lie to me, Sherlock. Your little charade may be enough to fool Dr. Watson, but your attempts to obfuscate the truth will not work on me. I knowyou, little brother."
At Sherlock's challenging look, Mycroft specified.
"I know you in a way they never will, because—well, because I helped to make you the way you are."
"That's a rather pompous statement, even by your standards, Mycroft."
"Make no mistake, that is not something I take pride in. Rather, it's a burden of responsibility that I feel I must bear."
"Mycroft, I really can't imagine where you're going with this. I'm—"
"Fine. Yes, so you've said. And yet, your response to John marrying and moving on with his life has been to barricade yourself in this dismal flat, ignoring any and all attempts to draw you out."
"And how can you criticize me for that, Mycroft? You're the one who always told me, 'Don't get involved, Sherlock. Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock. Sentiment is a chemical defect—'"
"This is exactly my point. It's true that I have said all of those things, but it has come to my attention that perhaps, in this matter, in regards to you, I was wrong."
Mycroft's expression made it clear that this admission him cost him quite a lot.
"You see, when Redbeard died—"
Sherlock stiffened at those words, but Mycroft continued talking as if he didn't notice, even though he almost certainly had.
"—I saw how much pain it caused you, and all I wanted was to take that pain away. I was your big brother, supposed to protect you from the world—and so I told you to cope the one way I knew how. To isolate, to compartmentalize, to separate yourself from the emotional attachments that plague other people."
"But Sherlock, you and I are not the same in this regard, and I regret trying to make you believe that you should turn your heart to stone. I truly thought I was protecting you, but in the end, I'm afraid I did more damage than any loss ever could."
As Sherlock spoke, his eyes continued to follow the dog who was had jumped off the chair and returned to amiably exploring the flat. "So is this your way of trying to undo that damage?"
"I suppose that's one way to look at it, yes."
"What other way is there?"
"Like I said, Sherlock, it's a present. Something that I'm giving to you in the hopes that it might bring you some measure of comfort and pleasure.
"Because you're my brother, and I cannot bear to see you suffer."
"I'm not suffering, Mycroft."
"Then what do you call this? You've refused all of Lestrade's assignments—
"They were boring," Sherlock said dismissively.
"Even the locked room murder?"
"Oh, yes—that. I wonder if Lestrade ever solved that one."
"Of course he didn't. It never actually happened. I staged it to get you out of this godforsaken flat, but apparently even that wasn't enough to move you."
Sherlock didn't say anything in response, and they both stayed quiet for several long moments.
When Mycroft eventually broke the silence, his voice took on a carefully casual tone.
"So, do you plan on keeping him?"
"Perhaps," Sherlock replied, as he sat down on the couch, and patted the cushion next to him. The puppy, who had previously been sniffing a patch of floor nearby, happily took his cue, clumsily scrambling up onto the seat.
Mycroft watched the interaction closely, and then asked, "What will you call him?"
Sherlock paused for a moment, considering. He looked down at the puppy who had settled onto the couch cushion beside him and currently had his head resting on Sherlock's knee. As Sherlock watched him, the puppy returned the gaze, tail gently wagging.
Finally, Sherlock replied.
A/N I hope you enjoyed this little story. I did my best to keep everyone in character despite the fluff. I'm planning on posting a short sequel at some point soon. As always, reviews are greatly appreciated!