Warning: This story contains mentions of death (human and animal), mourning, sickness and unspecified terminal illness
Contains John/Mary and is Mycroft-centric
This is also on my Wattpad account (alienmademeslowdance)
Sherlock adjusted his pirate hat and picked up his wooden sword, his dog Redbeard sitting faithfully at his side, tail wagging. A few people, including his eldest brother, had informed him that he was too old for such silly games as pretending to be a pirate. Sherlock promptly ignored each and every one of them, declaring them to be his archenemies and telling each to walk the plank before running away, wooden sword in hand.
Speaking of his eldest brother, there he was right now, walking out of the house.
"Redbeard," Sherlock shouted, pointing his sword at his archenemy. "Attack!"
The dog ran at the boy's command, leaping at an unprepared Mycroft who was sent toppling to the grass with a loud thump. "Ugh, Redbeard, no," he halfheartedly chastised him.
Redbeard returned to his master after locking the elder boy's face multiple times, tail wagging and tongue hanging out.
"Good boy," Sherlock chuckled, kneeling down and patting him as the Irish Setter licked his cheeks. "Clever boy, Redbeard."
Mycroft grumbled as stood up, face red. Sherrinford, the middle brother, was standing at the front door, his own face red due to holding back his laughter.
"Oh, you both think that's funny, do you?" Mycroft said in that tone that clearly said 'run'.
Both younger brothers took the hint and ran inside, Mycroft and Redbeard on their tail. All four screeched to a halt when their father appeared in a doorway, an unreadable look in his eyes.
"Why don't you go help Mummy in the kitchen?" He said, removing Sherlock's hat and placing it in the boys hands.
Sherlock squinted at his father for a moment in an attempt to deduce the reason for his strange behaviour, but his observations were cut short when Sherrinford tugged on his shoulder. The two left the room, the elder brother looking backwards for a moment to give a nod to Mycroft, whose eyes were full of guilt but whose appearance otherwise was stoic.
Mycroft knelt down to give the poor dog a pat before looking up at his father, who gave him a nod, then he returned his attention to Redbeard. "I'm going to miss you, you wretched animal. I'm sorry I waited until your last day to say it, but it has been a good last day, hasn't it?" He whispered. "Sherlock will miss you a lot, but don't you worry, I'll look after him for you. One day he'll understand, I'm sure."
The dog licked him on the cheek and the boy gave him a final pat. His dad attached the lead to Redbeard's collar and the three walked into the kitchen.
"Sherlock," their father addressed the youngest son. "There's something we need to tell you."
"What's wrong?" The boy asked as he observed Redbeard's leash. "What is it?"
His father and mother knelt beside him as his mum explained. "Sherlock... Redbeard is... going away."
Skeptical and worried, Sherlock looked between the two of them. "Where?"
"We're... taking him away to a nice place," his dad elaborated. "A beautiful farm in a nice, happy valley where he can roam free, as a dog like him should."
It took a while to calm Sherlock down with stories of where his dog was going, but eventually the boy said his goodbyes to the dog before his father took him away to this 'happy valley'.
"You can take my umbrella," Sherrinford offered.
"Nonsense," Mycroft replied, adjusting his coat. "You need it more than I do, and besides, you really shouldn't go alone"
His brother shook his head and forced the umbrella into Mycroft's hand. "Nonsense," Sherrinford mimicked. "I'll be fine." He walked away as he spoke, not leaving any opportunity for further objections.
Both Mycroft and Sherlock shook their heads at him before they too turned and walked away, the elder holding the umbrella above their heads.
That afternoon the two of them had returned home and sat by the fireplace as they awaited the return of the middle brother. At least, that's what they'd intended to do, but when the clock struck nine and Sherrinford had not come home, they all decided to go out searching for him.
When he was found, it was too late. Their brother was soaked to the bone and his temperature was dangerously low. He'd twisted his ankle badly on a root in the forest and had taken meagre shelter under a tree. The rain had been so heavy that, when it made its way beneath the branches, it still retained a fair amount of force and still froze Sherrinford as the icy drops coated him entirely.
Weak coughs and sneezes escaped him occasionally as his brothers attempted to warm him up on the journey back home, and they continued to grow weaker. He was lost before they could make it back.
Sherlock broke down as his parents attempted to remove him from the car where Mycroft still held their lifeless brother. Mycroft's lips wobbled no matter how much he tried to still them, and his eyes swam with tears that drifted down his cheeks when he could no longer hold them in.
Mr Holmes held his wife and youngest son in his arms as they sobbed, while Mycroft gingerly picked up Sherrinford and walked inside. He made his way to his brother's room and set him down, even tucking him in as though he were just sleeping.
It didn't take long for Sherlock to snap and the eldest brother became increasingly concerned for him every day. A week after the funeral, the four of them sat at the kitchen table, none saying a word as the silence ate away at them. In the quiet they heard breathing, growing heavier, and soon realised that it was the youngest Holmes. He was glaring down at his porridge, nostrils flaring as he bent his spoon with his bare hands.
"It's not fair," Sherlock grumbled and tossed his spoon on the table. Mrs Holmes jumped at the sudden clanging of the object as Sherlock stormed out of the kitchen and out of the house.
"Sherlock, no!" His brother called after him. "Sherlock, come back!"
Sherlock had already run out of sight when the elder Holmes had made it outside. He ran out of the garden, searching for any trace of the curly-haired boy but finding none.
"Oh, Sherlock," he breathed, holding his hands to the back of his head as he panted. "Please, no."
It was a couple of days later when they received a call. Sherlock had been found, a police inspector informed them, and it wasn't pleasant. He'd been discovered with drugs in his system and was aggressively refusing to comply with anyone who wished to take him in. Mycroft had volunteered to help as soon as he'd heard and drove straight away to his brother.
"Sherlock," he said, taking off his jacket and sitting at Sherlock's feet. "What were you thinking?" He reprimanded him gently.
Mycroft stayed seated by his high little brother, an unspoken promise in the air that he would always be there for him, to pull him out of the darkness. They continued to talk, making promises to each other in the midst of their shared grief, until Sherlock was ready to return home.
Sherlock trudged into the room, annoyed at having been called away from his goddaughter and her parents. "What is it, Mycroft? I was busy."
Mycroft sighed and gestured to a chair where Sherlock sat down at his brother's silent request. The elder brother say down in a chair as well and rubbed his temples.
Sherlock's brow furrowed as he observed the action, his eyes then drifting to his brother's sleeves. He wasn't wearing a jacket, only a white shirt with a vest over it, and both sleeves had been rolled up. Through only one was rolled up to his elbow, and the other was halfway down his forearm. Mycroft didn't seem to notice as he inhaled and looked up at Sherlock, his hair dishevelled and his tie loose.
"Sherlock, I have some news."
"Oh? Bad news I see."
"Yes, brother mine. Very bad." Mycroft ran a shaky hand through his hair and took a few deep breaths.
"Some government secret loose? Missile codes again?"
"No, Sherlock, I -"
"You really should take better security measures, Mycroft."
Mycroft began to glare at Sherlock but the younger remained undaunted. "Sher-"
"And of course you need me to solve the case. That's why you dragged me here."
"I'm dying, Sherlock!" Mycroft spat out bluntly, but then he continued, calm though dejected. "This isn't just some problem you can solve, brother mine."
Sherlock was speechless, unblinking and unmoving. After a minute of nothing, during which his brother also remained silent, his eyes began to dart back and forth, without really looking at anything, and his breaths became shorter and quicker. "I-I need to go," he muttered, turning and leaving without so much as a glance at his big brother.
When the door slammed shut, Mycroft leaned forward in his chair, elbows on his knees and face in his hands as a few unrestrained tears made their way through the gaps in his fingers. "Oh, Sherlock," he whispered into the empty room. "I'm so very sorry."
Sherlock walked all the way back to his flat, not even bothering with a cab and ignoring Mycroft's private car. He clenched and unclenched his fists the whole way, but that was the extent of the external display of the emotions that welled up inside him like a thundercloud threatening to release its rain at any second.
Mrs Hudson almost greeted him as he stormed into the building and up the stairs, but instead she let out a few quiet and concerned words before Sherlock slammed his door. At that point, in his rage, Sherlock turned on the science equipment in his kitchen, pelting it all at the walls and listening to the satisfying smashes. When it was done he stood in the middle of his flat, his breath heavy and shaking, and his cheeks coated in unnoticed tears. He thought he could hear Mrs Hudson coming up the stairs, listening in, so he went to his room and slammed his door to indicate that he wasn't in the mood to explain his behaviour.
Mrs Hudson phoned John out of concern for him and his family but the doctor insisted that he was fine and hadn't a clue as to why Sherlock did what he did beyond the detective having received a call from his brother and having to leave suddenly. John then phoned Mycroft who gave a vague explanation of what had happened, leaving out the true reason. He informed him that he'd said something to make his brother upset and left it at that. John expressed his concern to him and volunteered to check in on Sherlock but Mycroft declined the offer, insisting that he stay home with his family while he handled it. This was something he had to do alone as he was, after all, the cause.
Mycroft pulled down his sleeves, straightened his tie and cleared his throat before walking into the building. Mrs Hudson stood at the foot of the stairs, looking up, and turned only when she heard the door close.
"Oh, dear," she said. "He's upstairs. I don't know what's happened."
"Not to worry, Mrs Hudson," he consoled her, kissing her on the head with uncharacteristic tenderness towards the landlady. "I can assure you that everything will be fine."
"I do hope so. I've never seen him like this."
He pressed his lips together and looked up as she had. "Have some tea, Mrs Hudson," he said as he made his way up the stairs. "I'll handle it."
Mrs Hudson nodded and went to do as he had said.
He didn't knock but the sound of glass being pushed by the door announced his presence to the flat's sole occupant, who heard it from his bedroom and pressed a pillow against his ears to block it out. Mycroft didn't call out and didn't even go looking for his brother. Instead he cleaned up the shattered lab equipment and sat down in John's former armchair.
It was three hours before Sherlock came out to see his brother, dressed in pyjamas with a blanket wrapped around him. Mycroft was just sitting there silently with a book in his hands.
"Treasure Island?" Sherlock asked, taking a seat in his own armchair.
His brother nodded in the affirmative and set the book aside. "Your favourite."
"I remember when you bought it for me."
"After you threatened me with your wooden sword. Then when that didn't work you told me you'd suffocate me in my sleep with your scarf.
The two laughed at that for a few moments but quickly fell silent again. Sherlock's eyes stayed locked on the book as his vision blurred. "There must be some way to..."
"I'm afraid that it cannot be solved, brother mine. Not even by us."
Sherlock closed his eyes as tears began to overflow from them. "I can't..."
Mycroft could take it no longer and in an outburst of strong, brotherly compassion he stepped over to his baby brother and pulled him into his arms. Sherlock gripped his vest and began to sob silently as Mycroft rubbed his back gently. They stayed like that until after the sun went down and Sherlock's tears had dried.
"I can't lose you too," Sherlock whispered as Mycroft pulled away. "I still miss Sherrinford."
"I know," Mycroft replied softly. "I do too."
"Don't go. Just please... don't go."
"I'm right here, William."
Sherlock calmed down a little more at the sound of his real name and let go of Mycroft's vest. "I'm tired," he whispered, holding his blanket tighter.
"I'll read to you until you fall asleep."
Mycroft turned on the lights and sat back down in his chair, picking up Treasure Island again. He gave Sherlock a reassuring smile and started to read until his little brother drifted off. "Squire Trelawney, Dr Livesey, and the rest of the gentleman having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island..."
Eventually, months later, he knew he had to finally tell the others, beginning with 'Anthea' (as John called her, though Mycroft knew her real name). She had promised to organise a good funeral for him and even shed a couple of unexpected tears. Mycroft had held her for a minute before they continued in their usual manner.
Then he decided to tell the others all at once, except for his parents. Greg and Molly sat in silent shock. John and Mary showed more concern, though much of that concern was also for Sherlock, who they knew would be struggling more than he showed. Mrs Hudson had cried and even hugged both Holmes boys before going to make tea (which they knew was to distract herself). Mycroft wondered how the woman would have reacted if it had been Sherlock instead of him.
When he went to see their parents, Sherlock had decided to go with him (partly to offer support for his brother, but mostly out of fear that his brother would pass away without him being there, and so he was determined to stay by his side). Mummy Holmes had cried, holding her eldest son in a warm, firm embrace until long after the tears had stopped. Their father shed a few tears but was determined to show strength in this dark time, offering a shoulder for Sherlock to lean on, which the youngest Holmes son accepted passively as though he were a young boy again.
Sherlock took on the unlikely role of housekeeper during their stay, providing warm tea and biscuits, tissues and even cleaning from time to time. He was, however, always casting glances at his brother, who seemed weaker yet more relaxed than he'd seen him in years, even laughing as their father told terrible jokes and their mother showed him photos of young Sherlock and Sherrinford.
It was on the fifth night at the Holmes house that Mycroft announced that he would go to bed early, without giving a reason, kissing Mummy on the cheek as she hugged him goodnight. Mr Holmes gave Mycroft a small pat on the shoulder before Sherlock pulled him into a sudden hug.
Sherlock could hear the true meaning of his words in his tone and hugged him tighter, one stray tear falling down his cheek.
Mycroft cast one more glance over his family, the three of them looking at him with sad understanding in their eyes, before he turned and walked to his bedroom.
Mycroft laid down on his bed that night, looking around the room that had barely changed since he'd moved out. The soft moonlight that shone through the window illuminated everything with a hauntingly beautiful glow; from the knight figurines on his shelves, to his various books on science and history, to the photo of him, his brothers and Redbeard that hung on the wall opposite his bed.
He could hear his brothers footsteps just outside his door, shuffling on the spot before he moved on to his own room. The sound of Sherlock's violin drifted to him in the still and solemn night, Mycroft's favourite piece being played to him as a final lullaby. His eyes drifted shut to the music, a long overdue and peaceful smile on his face as he fell asleep...
And just like that, in the middle of the night, Mycroft Holmes was gone.