Collecting Strays: Of Trust and Vices
A/N: And heeeere is one of those sequals I mentioned. Nothing but fluff, here, really, but I'll try to fill in some of the story gaps. Once again, I hope KCS doesn't mind if Alfie shows up in later chapters. ^_^
Rating: T to be safe
Chapter One: Of Nightmares
Sherlock doesn't scream. He never has, not since the first time he ever suffered these nightmares. But John has become hyper-aware and alert with two troubled boys in his midsts, and when he hears footsteps on the stairs he knows Sherlock's awake. He sighs, pushing up on an elbow as Mycroft's voice sounds from outside the door in a low whisper.
He stands, pulls on a robe, and is outside of the bedroom in moments. The boys are on the way back to their bedroom, Sherlock clutching a glass of something and Mycroft just behind, wrapping a blanket around his baby brother's shoulders. He stops when John appears, and Sherlock instantly ducks back, nearly loosing his glass.
"Easy." He whispers. "I didn't mean to scare you. You two alright?"
"Fine." Mycroft says, but his hand is protectively on Sherlock's shoulder. Even now, after months, Mycroft is wary of him. He wants to trust- John can see that much- but he's simply been through too much and is far too used to watching out for his younger brother and himself. "He just had a bad dream."
John sighs. That hasn't gotten any better.
"Want to talk about it?" He asks the younger boy gently, and instantly Sherlock falls back behind Mycroft. Normally, he is the most outgoing of children-he speaks like an adult, speaks to adults without flinching, exploitative and inquisitive and independent to the point of it being dangerous. (They've had him go missing no less then two times already, with Mycroft finding him once stuck in a tree and John the other time locating him making friends with a stray dog about four streets from anywhere familiar.)
But at night, after a dream, (or rather when it comes to anything personal) he instantly shrinks away and retreats like a beaten pup.
"No." He says, bluntly. "I just-I'm fine."
"Are you certain?" He asks, pitching his voice low. "It's okay not to be."
Sherlock just shakes his head again, and Mycroft hasn't removed his hand, so John backs off.
The second time it happens, John wakes up when they're on the way downstairs, rather then back up. He finds them in the kitchen, Mrs. Hudson presenting them both with warm milk and snacks. She glances up when he comes in, and he's shocked to see tear streaks on her cheeks.
She holds up a finger for silence, and then, when she can, makes her way to him in the doorway.
"Poor darlings," She whispers. "Those poor little darlings."
"What happened?" He asks, which is something of a redundant question, because what hasn't happened to those boys? But she takes a deep breath and steadies herself, running her hands down her front.
"Mycroft was having trouble getting to sleep," She explains, "and foolish me convinced him to come down and help me make him up a snack." Here John winces slightly- Mycroft really needs to stop using food as a crutch, the boy'll be overweight if they don't watch him- "And?"
"And, I should have listened to the poor dear." She looks at the pair, talking quietly at the table. Mycroft is showing Sherlock something, their heads close together, talking softly and gesturing as his younger brother watches with avid attention. "He insisted Sherlock would be frightened if he woke up alone, but I had no idea-"
"How bad it would be?" He finishes for her. "I've experienced it myself."
"He didn't make a sound, that's the worst of it." She replies. "Just appeared down here and made a dash right for Mycroft, like he hadn't seen him in months. And his brother, he dropped down right to one knee and opened up, and got Sherlock all huddled up in his arms like a kitten. That little one was crying, Doctor, without so much as a sound. Most uncomfortable sight you've ever seen, that silent crying."
John nods with a frown- he's seen that, too. "It's as if he's learned how to. Been taught how to remain quiet. And, come to that, I don't think I've ever seen Mycroft in tears, not since Sherlock was hurt."
She nods. "He just stood there, shaking like a little leaf, for minutes. Took us the better part of an hour to get him to calm down, and then to unlatch from Mycroft's shirtfront. He's absolutely terrified of being taken away from his brother."
"And Mycroft is terrified of loosing him, which makes me think it's happened before." John sighs. "But for the life of me I can't get them to tell me when or why."
From the kitchen, Sherlock suddenly clambers down from the chair and approaches. He darts in between John and Mrs. Hudson, grinning as if nothing in the world was wrong.
"Did we wake you up?" He asks, looking mischievously upward.
"Mm, no." John kneels, opens his arms, and Sherlock willingly crawls into them, letting himself be lifted. "But it's late, and you should both be asleep. What woke you?"
"Just a dream." Mycroft is the one who answers, from where he's cleaning up a spill that explains Sherlock's mischievous glance. "It's just a dream-"
"He's been having those."
"It's nothing." Mycroft picks up the cup, sets it down, and extends a hand. Instantly Sherlock wiggles free and moves from John to his brother.
"When it's something," John murmurs, watching Sherlock carefully, "you both know you can let me know."
The next time it's not Sherlock at all.
John gets home late, shivering inside his coat and hurting, inside and out. Death is always a hard thing to take, but when it's a small child, and all you can picture is your own children....or child, the one you had before, the one you couldn't save-
He shakes his head once, hard.
When it was that situation, it was always worse. The little boy had had raven hair and pale skin, and been thin and small, and while his eyes had been blue, not gray, they'd been such a light blue as to be close enough. A drunken cab driver, a little boy, a dark night; the child had been dead even before John had gotten there. The sobs of the parents still rang in his ear-
Those weren't phantom cries of a tormented mother and father. Those were real, muffled sobs, the sound of someone trying hard to stay silent.
Fear piercing his heart, and his own pain and aches are forgotten as he launches up the stairs, the boy's names on his lips. He staggers when he gets up, leg buckling, and falls into the wall. The thump, combined with his calling and the stampeding herd of wild animals he sounded like coming up those stairs should have woken the entire house; that no one comes makes his heart race.
The sobs have stopped.
He pauses in front of the door to the sitting room-where the sound was coming from- and pushes it open, gently.
The teen is curled in a chair near the fireplace, not the Holmes he was expecting to see, a blanket pulled up around his knees and his face hidden. He's in night cloths, and his shaggy black hair is a rumpled mess around his head.
"Mycroft." He says, tenderly and the boy doesn't even move. He approaches, slowly, and when he puts a hand on the boy's shoulder there is a violent flinch.
"Leave me be." Comes the growled reply. "Go away."
"I can't do that." He crouches, carefully, one hand still on the boy's shoulder. "What happened?"
"It's just a dream. Go away."
"Go away! I don't want to talk to you, I don't want to talk about it, I just-want-you-to-leave-me-alone!" His head comes up, tear streaks down his cheeks, gray eyes normally so cold and calm now aching and dark. "Leave us both alone and stop trying to-to-"
"To what?" John stays quiet and calm, sensing how close to the edge this boy is hovering. His chest is heaving, and he's torn between leaning into John's hand and moving away from it. "To help? Mycroft, you don't have to keep this private. It's nothing to be ashamed of, crying. You've been through a lot these last few months, and there's more to come. It's natural. Even healthy."
"I need to go back." Mycroft has shoved his hand off at last. "Sherlock can't wake up alone."
"We're not done here."
"He can't be alone." Mycroft stands, pushing John's chest away. "I just didn't want him to see. He can't ever see."
She was a beautiful woman, Mary Morstan. Proud, intelligent, strong, clever and charming; a perfect match for John Watson, everyone who knew them both said so. He met her nearly a year after returning from the war, and they were married not long after. Inspector Gabriel Lestrade, one of John's close companions, had stood as the best man, and in fact most of the Yarders had been present for the wedding, as John had become a police surgeon and knew most of them personally.
They were so happy; so happy together, with each other, even with the sometimes dangerous profession he had. So much so that he'd never thought he could get even more content with his life. Not, that is, until she'd told him.
"John," She'd told him, her grin mischievous, "Would you ever want to pass your name on? John jr?"
"There's a thousand 'Johns'," He replied absently, not really paying her his full attention, not at first. "I'd never do that to the poor boy."
"Oh." A pause, a giggle. "What about 'Mathew', then? I've always liked that name. Or, if it's a girl, something like 'Rose?' It's rather common, itself, but such a pretty name."
"Rose is a lov-" He stopped, blinked, turned. "Wait. Why are you-"
Another giggle. "I'm surprised at you, John. A doctor unable to tell when his own wife is pregnant."
He felt a touch light-headed. "Pregnant? You?"
"No, John, my moth-ah!" She shrieked as he scooped her into his arms, laughing helplessly, her own joining in harmony. "John, put me down this instant! John Watson! Watson! Watson-Watson-"
And his eyes snap open.
He gasps, feeling wetness on his cheeks, his breath shuddering in his chest. Sherlock is staring at him from the side of the bed, gray eyes wide, clutching the bed cloths.
"Sherlock." He gasps softly, closing his eyes once. "What are you doing in my room?"
Instantly the boy shrinks back, physically retreating towards the door. "I'm sorry." He apologizes swiftly. "I didn't mean to wake you up. But you were mumbling, and crying, and I didn't-"
"Why did you come in in the first place?" His voice is rather more brisk then he wants it to be. But that dream, that cruel, wonderful memory, has left him raw and open. It's only the night after the horrible mess with the boy and the cab driver, the night he found Mycroft in tears.
Another step back.
"I didn't-you said-" He's biting his lower lip. "I-"
If John had been more awake, or less vulnerable, or perhaps both, he would have seen the self-conscious nerves in the gray eyes. He would have swept Sherlock into his arms and gone down to get a drink and let the boy talk or cry or even sleep in the room with him.
Now, though, he's exhausted and barely able to make sense of anything, and can't stop himself before he's snapped, "What, Sherlock?"
"Nothing. Never mind." The boy whispers, and slips out of the room. He's barely two minutes gone before John comes more awake- and realizes what he's done. Sherlock came to him- for the first time, Sherlock came to him, of his own free will, wanting help and support- and John had snarled and barked, too caught up in his own memories and pain to see the boy needed.
"Wonderful, John." He mutters, running a hand over his face. He pushes out of the bed and pads out of the room.
"Sherlock?" He calls, softly, tying a rob around himself. "Sherlock, lad, I'm sorry-" He enters the sitting room, looks at Sherlock who is sitting on the couch under the window. The boy jumps when he comes in, turning his wide gray eyes to John.
"Mycroft always says I've got the manners of a child raised by wolves." He says, very softly. "But you wouldn't answer and then you were crying and saying some woman's name, over and over. I thought-"
"Sherlock, no." John takes a seat next to the boy, tentatively wraps an arm over his shoulders. "I've said that my room is always open to both of you, and if you need me that I'm here. I made a lier of myself tonight, it seems."
"But I just- came in-"
"Sherlock, if I mean you to stay out of any room in this house, I'll tell you why and lock the door if I must. Otherwise, this is your home now, as much as it is mine. I adopted you because I wanted you as family, not because I had to. Why were you coming in, anyway?"
"I had a bad dream." He whispers in admitance, "And Mycroft wouldn't wake up-"
"Wait, Mycroft wouldn't wake up?" Both boys are incredibly light sleepers.
" 'S why I came to get you." A shrug. "He's alright, but he always wakes up, and he won't-"
"Alright." John runs a hand over his face. "Alright. Sherlock, let's go check on Mycroft, and then we'll tend to you, okay?"
"I don't need to be tended to-"
"I've already said I want to, Sherlock." He reaches out a hand which Sherlock takes, and leads the boy back to his room. He knocks once, then pushes open the door. Mycroft is sleeping peacefully on the boys' shared bed, and Sherlock bounces up on it on his knees.
"Sherlock Holmes!" John hisses, but Sherlock ignores him and begins to rather rudely shake Mycroft. It does take a disturbing amount of time for Mycroft to stirr; but just at a glance, it simply seems to be exhaustion. He rolls over as John approches, eyes slit open.
" "Lock? Doctor?" A soft yawn, and he sits up, rubbing a hand over one eye. "What?"
"Mycroft, for heaven's sake." John checks for a fever- none, and his hand is batted away. "You nearly gave your younger brother a heart attack."
"I did?" More awake now, and reaching for Sherlock. "Sherlock, I was sleeping, how did I frighten
"You wouldn't wake up." Comes the shy whisper. "You always wake up."
Guilt flashes in Mycroft's eyes, and John sighs.
"Okay, boys, I think we need to have a meeting." He says, very seriously.
"Now?" Mycroft says, pushing back the covers. Despite his growl, his arm is around Sherlock's waist, and he's pulled the boy against his chest.
"Yes, now." John folds his arms over his chest. "We can do this right here. Get comfortable, boys."
Mycroft leans back on the headboard, still clutching his younger brother, who twines his arms around his bigger brother and watches.
"Now." He says. "Listen to me, both of you. I understand that you are both used to being alone with only each other to rely on. But those days are over now- truly, they are." He takes a deep breath. "I told Sherlock and I'll tell you, Mycroft, that I did not take you into my home because I had to. I did it because I wanted to. We have a long road still ahead of us, boys, and you have got to learn to start trusting me. Which means no more hiding when you have a problem, or a nightmare, and no more keeping things from me. You can come to me. For anything."
Sherlock lifts his head up.
"What about you? You were having a nightmare."
"That.....wasn't a nightmare." He takes a shuddering breath.
"If you expect us to tell you everything, you can't hide things from us." Mycroft says, watching him feircly.
"I don't and I'm not." He snaps back. "If there are things you're not ready to talk about, I understand that. But you don't have to talk about anything. You can just let me know you had a bad night of it, and I'll see if I can help you get back to sleep. Or stay up with you."
"You didn't anwser me."
He lets out a shuddering sigh. "And that is something I'm not ready to talk about." He says, very quietly.
The sounds of a nightmare ring out through the house, a small voice crying out in fear and pain. It continues on until another, deeper voice rolls over the top of it, soothing, comforting.
Bare feet on floorboards.
The creak of a door.
A new voice.
More soft footsteps.
Mrs. Hudson finds them in the sitting room the next morning, John in a chair and the boys curled on the floor, smiling contentedly, Watson's soft snores causing the two semi-awake boys on the rug helpless amusement.
The peace and stillness is broken when Sherlock decides leaping onto John's lap to wish him an exuberant good morning is a fantastic idea.