Mycroft Holmes sat in the uncomfortable metal chair in the Parisian hospital, hands folded neatly over his ample stomach, his watery grey eyes closed to the world and all around him. His breath slow and his face unresponsive, the casual observer might think him in deep sleep.
In reality, Mycroft was very much awake, his mind burning with the friction of an unstoppable force meeting an unmoveable object, impossible but formidable opponents duelling in the question of the ages.
And was that not the prefect description for Sherlock Holmes? An unstoppable force? His brother believed so. Not even a plunge from the top of a waterfall had ceased his heart or his drive. The very thing he survived, his own death, became the immoveable object, however. Not being able to contact his grieving friend, not being able to hear his real name, the beginnings of questioning his own existence to the point that he either believed he could survive such a massive intake of his drug or did not care if he lived through it.
Mycroft did not want to believe his brother had attempted suicide. Simply because he did not want to believe it, however, did not mean he was not considering it a possibility. He was no fool, he knew how entangled the heartstrings of his brother and Dr. John Watson were. They had been comrades-in-arms for years, had shared a living space when no other man would tolerate a household with the detective in it, and had placed one another's lives in the other's hand with pure, unwavering trust.
Now Dr. Watson was alone, without wife, without friend. Perhaps in learning of his loneliness, the solitude of Sherlock's own false life had come crashing down upon him. Occasional visits and bi-monthly letters from his brothers, midnight meetings with agents he might never see again… It could wear upon even the self-proclaimed heartless brain.
The so-called auditor was beginning to contemplate his own involvement in the tragedy of errors. The missions for the government had been a suggestion, not an order. He and Sherlock had agreed that London was not yet safe for him, and both knew that the younger brother could not simply sit and twiddle his thumbs for god knows how long.
But there had been delay after delay… Perhaps it would have been safe for him to come back earlier, just maybe… But Mycroft had fretted so, had perhaps tilted the odds towards the more dangerous spectrum because of his relationship to the would-be target. No matter how old they were, no matter the titles and fame each had garnered for themselves, Sherlock was still his little brother and there was still an overwhelming sense of duty in Mycroft to shield him as much as possible from the forces of evil.
He had held such feelings since his brother had been born, but had only be permitted to act on them after the fire.
Toys in the attic, I am crazy.
At first his mother, Sherlock's, not Mycroft's, had prevented him from so much as talking alone with his brother. The two had different mothers; either Sherlock had never mentioned that to Watson or the doctor had tastefully left it out of the detective's memoirs.
Personally, Mycroft believed his mother had been prettier. Pieced together memories and photographs showed her as a slightly plump woman, her weight carried well on her tall but traditional frame. Her hair had been blonde (that he remembered clearly), and her eyes a wonderful shade of blue (that his father had needed to tell him).
Rachael Holmes had died when her son was not yet four in horribly timed childbirth, the child old enough to make her bleed in excessive but too young to survive.
His father had married a beautiful but sharp-faced local woman by the name of Katherina, a woman already widowed once by a London lawyer, her inheritance after unknown debts forcing her to return to the despised small town. A boy quickly followed, premature but healthy (some muttered about town that he was healthy because he was not as premature as some fictional dates of conception would imply, but of course one could not prove such a thing).
Katherina had made several things clear to Mycroft. She was not his mother and he was not to treat her like one. She did not like him, she had heard the stories about the village that he was far too wise for his age, that there was something horribly odd about him. She also made it perfectly clear that her child would be "the" child, that he was merely a practise run.
His father was barely home enough to question his new wife, and not nearly strong enough.
Mycroft had not been deprived; far from it. Anything he requested, his father gave him. He built his own little kingdom in the never-used attic of the house, in his bedroom, and in the small room between his door and the shaky ladder to the attic. He rarely left this tight little loop of existence, the servants taking him his meals or serving him before dawn or long after the set of the sun.
The boy was a quick learner. When he ventured from his strict, meek routine he was the object of a vicious beating, perhaps coupled with a slew of insults. He was lazy, fat, good for nothing. A gift from the Devil, an evil creature with brains to entice the innocent. His mother had been a Jew, a common Jew.
He only spoke back once. He stated that Katherina herself bore the traditionally Jewish nose. He had been raked across the face with her horribly manicured nails. Mycroft later realized only luck had prevented him from being blinded.
He did not antagonize her further after that. He had all he needed; he would stay within his place. That did not always work.
Truly gone fishing.
The bitch had nearly drowned him; there was no nicer way to say it. Even at fourteen he had possessed such callous, outright crass thoughts among beautiful theorems and formulas.
He had forgotten to lock the attic trapdoor, that had been his only crime. He locked it only out of habit of protecting his tiny space of power, for not even the servants went up there without good reason, and the servants never meant him any harm.
Sherlock had gotten up there and cut himself on a scalpel. He had come running to his mother, a wicked story far too poisonous for one his age. Evil brother had attacked him, that was all the woman heard.
Mycroft had been held under in her washing basin until his lungs has nearly burst for want of air. He believed only his nosebleed had saved him. She would have easily killed him silently without that streak of blood that would betray violence. She was such a strong woman, a smart woman, too, and she knew there were crimes that could not be gotten away with.
Two weeks of his life were wasted recuperating, yet his curses so rarely fell upon the little devil behind his foreboding mother. He was little but a well-trained lapdog.
They must have taken my marbles away…
Many years had passed in the lives of the Holmes brothers since the elder had been fourteen and the younger had been seven. More important, many events had passed.
Another man might distrust another who had crossed him so audaciously, even as a child. Mycroft would entrust his life to his little brother, and Sherlock would as well (and for much of the past three years often had). There had been much catching up on lost time after The Fire (Mycroft thought it deserving of capital letters as to distinguish such a monumental event from a fire in an empty warehouse or a fire burning meekly in the hearth). Their father had died shortly afterwards, an unrelated intestinal disease that had made quick work, and the debtors were quick to swoop to the warm carcass, legally so. Katherina Holmes had ran up amazing bills in her time as the squire's wife.
Mycroft salvaged what he could of the estate, more than most any man could. He was keen at budgeting and with a weaselled rise in pay courtesy of Her Royal Majesty's government, he was able to put his little brother in a fine London school. He could not afford board, however; they shared a tiny but modern apartment, and after several minor clashes and one major row, they settled into each other's patterns; Mycroft's adoration of them and Sherlock's complete lack of one.
And now he might die. The thought rattled the great man more than the trumpets of war. He had survived Sherlock's death once, but he was not sure if his mind could handle twice. And if it was by his own hand… His heart would forever remain in France, where he had kept his baby brother nestled away for far too long.