Disclaimer: Why is nothing ever mine? Sherlock doesn't belong to me unfortunately, but give me time :-) *Wishes on a passing star*
"Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
tho' they come from the ends of the earth!"
-The Ballad of East and West - Rudyard Kipling
Mycroft Holmes turned to face the stairwell. His little brother was calling out again. He was always shouting for someone. Sometimes, he would need someone there so desperately that sometimes he would cling to Mycroft's arm until he promised to stay, and then other times he would scream at him to get out. Today was a day when Sherlock would need him. And tomorrow would probably be a day when he would not.
Taking a bowl of chicken soup with him, he walked upstairs.
"Mycroft," the voice was smaller as Mycroft ascended the stairs towards his brother's room. This house had memories, Mycroft could tell. The house was a little too creepy for him with all it had seen, but as for his little brother, there was something about his little brother that creeped Mycroft out too. The boy didn't seem to mind the house too much, and Mycroft sometimes caught him sat in one of the many empty rooms, sitting face to the wall, talking. But when Mycroft asked him who he was talking to, he just said: "The walls"
"The walls?" Mycroft usually said, "Do they listen to you any better than I do?" Sherlock usually looked uncomfortable at this point. "You don't listen to me at all Mycroft"
"I would if you talked to me" Mycroft would say. Sherlock never said anything after this. Usually, the exchange ended here and Mycroft would have to leave. Perhaps this was what worried mummy so much. Maybe she thought it was strange that Sherlock made friends with the things that haunted the walls.
Walking up the last few stairs, he went down the hall to Sherlock's room. The boy was sat up in bed, looking sickly and pale. Sherlock was always a very sickly child. He was ill all the time and was pale and frail looking. As a younger child he had had Tuberculosis but had pulled through, but he had never been particularly healthy to begin with.
"Mycroft," he said gently, "I don't feel well". Sherlock was usually the type of child to cover up his illness, usually preferring to go to school than stay at home with mummy and Mycroft. Mummy had grown to dislike Sherlock more and more over the past few years.
"I don't want to go to school Mycroft," Sherlock whined, "The other kids are teasing me". He had been complaining of this for many weeks now and Mycroft couldn't ignore it. Sherlock was…different and well, other children just didn't like different. And as Mycroft looked at him, he did look terrible, flushed, even though he was normally pale as death, and when Mycroft put his hand to his forehead to test for a fever, he was burning hot.
"You don't look very well" Mycroft said, shifting as he sat on the edge of Sherlock's bed.
"They laugh at me" Sherlock said, "They said that I'll die soon if I don't get better."
"And why would they say that? You're perfectly fine as you are". Sherlock looked unhappy. He knew he was different, and Mycroft suddenly regretted saying that he was 'fine'. To be honest, Sherlock wasn't 'fine'. It was probable that Sherlock would never be 'fine'.
"They call me a freak" Sherlock said, "I'm not a freak, am I Mycroft?" Mycroft shook his head. "You're not a freak Sherlock," he said and he meant it. Sure, Sherlock was unusual, but he wasn't any stranger than the rest of the Holmes family. And he wasn't a freak. He felt a familiar anger build up inside him.
Sherlock seemed to shy away when he saw Mycroft's hands curl into slow, tight fists and he seemed to shy away even more when he saw the familiar, unrestricted anger that sometimes took his brother. It had only ever twice been directed at Sherlock and Mycroft had since learned his lesson from it. Sherlock however had always feared that side of his brother even though, for the most part, it was usually directed at other people and especially, Sherlock noticed, at those particular 'other people' that hurt Mycroft's younger brother the most.
He had first seen it when father had still been at home. They had been having dinner in the dining room and it had been a silent affair until father had seen the ring of light purple and yellow bruising that surrounded Sherlock's right eye.
"Sherlock," he had said in that usual stern, uncaring tone that defied any resistance (a voice that Sherlock had always been deeply afraid, yet respectful, of), "What happened to your face". Sherlock's father was usually left Sherlock alone, disinterested in him, but there was those nights, and often days, when Sherlock hid from his father, hiding because he knew that the last time father had been so drunk he had beaten Sherlock black and blue with his belt until he had cried and Mycroft would have to drag father off of him. Fearing what might happen if he didn't tell the truth; Sherlock lightly touched the bruise with his fingertips, as if trying to hide his shame from mother and Mycroft, who were now looking at him intently, mother's expression a mix of amusement and malice, Mycroft's a mask of concern and worry. "One of the other boys at school," Sherlock said quietly, "hit me". He had seen Mycroft's fist curl tighter around his cutlery at this, his hands shaking angrily. Truth be told, it had been more than one boy, and they had done a lot more than just hit him. Truth be told, it had been three boys and he had been kicked, hit, taunted and spat on at one point, when they had finished.
"How dare they?" Mycroft had thought, "How dare they even touch my little brother?" He had sworn that day that he wouldn't let them get away with it. And he swore it every time Sherlock got hurt. He would never let any of them get away with it. Anyone who ever messed with Sherlock Holmes would have to go through Mycroft Holmes too. In the end he had eventually framed the boys responsible for cheating in mid-way exams and they had been temporarily expelled for four months. Once he had traced who they were of course, however, to Mycroft's great sadness it had not been difficult. Word had spread fast about who had beaten up Sherlock Holmes and to Mycroft's anger, people seemed to be enjoying the news, sneering that the 'freak' had had it coming. That he deserved it. Mycroft had seen many children taunting Sherlock about it at school, had even seen someone punch him when he tried to retort, to which Mycroft had immediately retaliated with a faked letter home from the Headmaster, as he seemed to hold Sherlock in as much distain as the children did. Mycroft also noticed that Sherlock was usually alone in the playground too, often refusing his brother's companionship, Mycroft's own friends beginning to say how weird 'that kid' was.
Sherlock had seen Mycroft's anger after that of course but he always remembered especially the times when Mycroft had uncharacteristically turned it on him. He had seen Mycroft turn his fury on father before, but never had he turned it on Sherlock, never, not until the day father had left and Mycroft had seized Sherlock by the collar and dragged him so close that their noses were only inches apart, and he had yelled at him ferociously, leaving Sherlock backing up against the wall in fright and regret for whatever he had done to infuriate his brother so. Mycroft always regretted it after though. He regretted telling Sherlock that it was his fault that daddy had left and that his father had never even liked him. He regretted it when he told him that it was his fault that mummy got sick and that it was his fault that she tried to kill herself. He always said sorry afterwards of course, always retracted all those hurtful words that he'd said but he never stopped feeling guilty when he thought of it. Sherlock on the other hand would pretend that it had never happened and wouldn't ever speak about it. He'd never stop talking to Mycroft and he would always act grown up, even when Mycroft knew that he wasn't. And the worst thing about it was that Sherlock would never deny the things that Mycroft told him, and that was what made Mycroft feel the guiltiest about. That he had only voiced out loud what Sherlock was thinking. That he really did believe all those things that he told him when he was angry, and perhaps he believed all of those people who called him names, even if he didn't show it. And that made Mycroft all the angrier when they called him a freak.
Now however, as Mycroft sat on the edge of his bed, Sherlock still cringed as his silently seething brother took a deep, shaky breath in an attempt to calm himself.
"How about this chicken soup then Sherlock? You need to eat something." Sherlock saw his brother's falsely cheery demeanour and still drawn back into himself, afraid of reawakening any more talk about his classmates, he took the bowl but, returning to his usual, falsely uncaring façade, gave it a disapproving sniff.
"I don't like chicken soup," he said, laying it down next to him. Sighing, Mycroft swirled the spoon in the soup. He knew that Sherlock had a very good inclination of the rules of the house, even if he didn't always obey them, but Mycroft had been avoiding the topic for some time now. Sherlock probably already knew what he was about to say, but he had to make sure.
"Sherlock," Mycroft said, not looking up from the bowl, "You do know what you have to do if you stay home from school, right? I'll be here too, but… you're going to have to stay at home as well". Sherlock's wide, terrified eyes met his as he looked up.
"Mycroft, no, please!" he said, sitting up, but descended into a terribly painful sounding fit of coughing that reminded Mycroft terribly of what he knew whooping cough to sound like, and Mycroft had to make him lay back down into bed before he let him continue.
"You can't go to school like this Sherlock," Mycroft said, stroking Sherlock's hair empathically, "And there really is nowhere else that I can send you". His little brother shuddered violently as if a breeze had just come in through the open doorway.
"She hates me Mycroft," he said, his voice sounding crushed and hopeless, "Please don't make me stay with her". Mycroft gave him a sympathetic frown. "She doesn't hate you," he said softly. But inside, he wasn't so sure. Mummy had become ever more disdainful of Sherlock as the years had gone on, and he wasn't entirely sure that he hadn't been right about the attempted suicide being not Sherlock's fault.
"Please Mycroft," Sherlock pleaded, "I won't ever be sick ever again, I'll try, I promise! Just please, please, don't make me stay at home". Mycroft felt his heart wrench at his little brother's impossible promise.
"I don't think even you can stop yourself from getting sick," he said, ruffling Sherlock's sweat dampened hair. "It'll be fine" he said in a falsely cheery voice, "She probably won't even ask to see you" He handed him the chicken soup once more. "Eat up," he said, "I'll be back to check on you soon, okay?" And with that, he got up to leave.
"Mycroft?" Sherlock said, his voice small and scared.
"Um… can I borrow your coat?" Mycroft gave a little laugh. Sherlock had always loved that coat, it had been his uncle's. Sherlock had always admired his uncle, who had been a very well respected man in the war. It usually gave Sherlock a little bit more strength at times when he was sick like this, even though it was usually Mycroft's.
"Yeah, I'll go get you it". He left the room and closed the door quietly, not wanting to make any loud noises, in case it aggravated his brother's condition. He sighed. He just hoped that his mother didn't realise Sherlock was at home today.
Sherlock spent the rest of the day in bed, keeping warm, huddling the coat close to his chest. He was cold, and in no mood to do anything but sit and shiver, but as the day wore on, he felt himself puffing louder, cringing each time in case mother heard him. Eventually, he knew that he would have to ask Mycroft for some more medicine, whether he liked it or not, for risk of having mother hear his croaking cough.
Silently, he slipped out of bed, his bare feet touching the wooden floor, thankfully not making too much of a creak. Creeping to his door, he looked outside his bedroom, scanning the hallway for signs of life, but seeing none.
"Mycroft?" he whispered, not wanting his mother to hear his soft calling, "Mycroft?" His voice was nothing but a whisper, but yet it bounced off the walls loudly and he heard something stirring in the room by the staircase. He froze, holding his breath, cringing as his own whisper seemed to echo and die in the cold, empty hallways, withering in the few rapt moments of silence that followed. Stolen by the ghosts in the haunted walls, Sherlock remembered his brother's stories of lost children in the house that he had told to scare him when he had been bad, like when he had set off a chemical time bomb in the pantry to see how far the noise went underground. He had pretended not to believe him, but he wasn't sure. If the walls stole children, would they steal him too? Would they take his voice, like they took all of those other people?
"Holmes". Sherlock felt his heart miss a beat. The voice seemed to crack the walls of the ancient house, and Sherlock felt as if they were closing in on him, squeezing him. He knew only one person who called him Holmes. He didn't like it either, the reason she called him that. When father left, and mother had nothing but contempt for him for leaving, she had taken disgust to the Holmes name, the name of his father, and had since called Sherlock always by his last name. She had said how dirty the name was, and that only horrible little creatures like Sherlock deserved such a name, at which Mycroft had stopped her with an indignant 'Mother!". But by that time, the damage had already been done. Sherlock never allowed anyone to call him Holmes.
He gave a whimper, the noise dying in his throat as he heard the voice again, splintering the silence like a crack of a whip.
"Holmes", it said, louder and more defined than before. More angry, Sherlock thought. He hopped from foot to foot for a moment. He really, really didn't want to see mother. But then there was that voice again and he felt like he had been struck.
"Holmes!" It said, the voice contemptuous and cruel, and Sherlock scuttled across the hallway to the door obediently. He heard the rasping of breath behind the door and he swallowed the painful lump beginning to form in his throat. Hesitantly, he reached out a hand, and then, closing his eyes as tight as they would go, he pushed open the door.
The door creaked as it opened, moaning its despair already as Sherlock poked his head around the door. The room was darkened, and shadows were dancing on the walls. In the bed, a shadow was sat upright, watching him with beady eyes. He gulped a little, trying to swallow down as much far as he could, as if it was something tangible that he could touch. He opened his mouth a little, his tiny vocal chords struggling to make a sound other than a whimper.
"Ye-yes, m-mother?" he said, stumbling over the words. The figure laid in the bed seemed to smile, almost like a lion spotting its prey and it lifted one hand to beckon the tiny, shaking figure of Sherlock towards it.
"Come here, now, Holmes." The voice said. It was deceptively sweet and kind, the kind of voice that would melt butter, but so threatening in its nature that Sherlock had to force himself not to take a step back.
"Come here Holmes!" the voice commanded and Sherlock made a little "eep" noise as he scuttled forwards.
"Yes mother" he said, crossing the room. The figure nodded its approval.
Sherlock's mother was a blonde haired woman, so dissimilar to Sherlock and Mycroft that it seemed almost improbable that they were related. They had both received their hair colour from their father, and only Mycroft had received his mother's eyes, Sherlock's own remaining the colour of a pale London sky, much like those of his uncle. His mother was shorter than the sizes to which her sons would eventually grow, even in their late teens they were a good few inches taller than her, and her face was round and practically flawless, Sherlock's own being more sharp and angulated. In fact, she passed very little to her sons in any way shape or form, refusing to even see them unless necessary. She blamed him. She blamed Sherlock for his father, for her illnesses, for everything she could imagine. Any possible way, any conceivable reason for torturing her son; she would take it in an instant, if only for someone to blame. She remained in her room most of the time, in bed or at her dressing table, becoming ill often and never wishing to see a doctor. Sherlock observed that she had lost weight since father had left and she looked gaunter than he had ever seen her. He hesitated
to come near her, hovering by her bedside table.
She gave him a smile as he drew closer, and Sherlock cringed. It was a fake, almost sadistic smile, the kind of smile a predator gives its prey as it lures it into a trap. Sherlock gulped.
"Now, now, Holmes, are you not at school today?" she asked sweetly. To anyone else Sherlock would have said "Obviously". To Mycroft he would have told him to mind his own business.
"No mother" he said, not hesitating. Hesitating was bad when talking to mother. She would pounce on the soonest moment she could, always searching for the weakness in whatever she found.
"Oh, tut tut tut Sherlock, you need to go school you know. You need to give mummy peace and quiet, or she won't get better". To anyone else, Sherlock would have snorted and replied that they shouldn't be referring to themselves in third person. He sniffed a little.
"Sorry mother" was what he said instead. There was a little silence and Sherlock felt himself growing ever more uncomfortable in the darkened room. Then, mother's smile seemed to widen and she beckoned him closer until he was right by her bedside. She could see his form quaking, the wide eyes looking pleadingly into hers and it was the closest Sherlock Holmes had ever come to actually begging.
"Do you know why I am so thin Sherlock?" she said, lifting up an arm from under the bed covers and holding it up so that it was visible to him. Sherlock visibly paled, his eyes not leaving his mother's, except when, for one short moment, they flitted to the thin, skeletal-like arm before they flitted back to his mother's piercing eyes as they bored into his.
"N-no mother" he said, his rapid breath catching in his throat as she smiled midway through his stammered sentence. She turned the arm once, then twice to either side, looking at it in interest. Sherlock licked his lip in one rapid, nervous movement; he could see his mother's arm being slowly appraised from his corner of his eye.
"It's because of you" she said, finally in a nonchalant tone. The statement was simple, nothing more than stating a fact, but it made the breath catch in Sherlock's throat again.
"You," she continued, "make me sick". She leaned in close to hiss at him. "You make me physically ill, just to look at you". Sherlock froze and felt that familiar clot in his throat.
"You should never have been born," she growled, venom in her voice, "You were a mistake. An accident. A sick, twisted, ignorant accident."
Sherlock felt something twist in his stomach and he felt the urge to throw up. Accident. Mistake. He could remember when his father had spat those words at him in his drunken stupors. His mother watched him closely now, revelling in every flinch that her mistake made when she spoke to it.
"To think, I was given this as a child." She grinned sadistically at his full-body flinch. "You are a disease. A worthless, useless contaminant."
Sherlock shook his head rapidly. God, why did his eyes feel hot? It felt like they were stinging. And they were blurry too, they stung like Hell, he couldn't see. "I'm not- not worthless" he said, his voice merely a squeak.
A resounding slap filled the room as his mother's hand struck him, his cheek blazing as he stumbled back, shocked.
"Don't you dare talk back to me!" she cried and Sherlock whimpered.
"Yes, yes, I'm sorry, I'm sorry mother" he said, clutching his blazing cheek.
"You have no right! You're not worthy to even talk to me, and don't you forget it!" She was angry now, angrier than Sherlock had seen in a long time and it scared him. He felt like running, running off to anyone, Mycroft even, anything to get away from her. But he was frozen, frozen to the same spot beside her bed.
"Spittingimage of your father" she hissed, growling out each syllable as if it hurt her entire body just to speak of him, "Always so arrogant, so cock-sure of yourself. Even have his face, filthy, ugly, repugnant little creature he was. You're his spitting image". Sherlock shrank from her anger and for once in his life wished Mycroft was there. He'd sort it out. He'd stop her, he'd make it go away, that shrieking, painful noise that seemed to rush in his head every time she spoke to him.
Sherlock yelped as his mother grabbed the collar of his pyjamas and pulled him close to her so that her mouth was right next to his ear. All too late, Sherlock realised that he had yelled out Mycroft's name. For help. To come save him. He swallowed convulsively as his mother sneered, making him flinch violently. Please, he begged silently, please don't say it, please.
"There's no one here to save you Holmes" she sneered. He whimpered, shaking his head desperately. No, please, please don't say it.
"And there will never be anyone here to save you. Who would want you? Who would want you when all you do is rip, and steal and destroy. Do you want that Holmes? Do you want to destroy people, do you want to hurt them?" she sneered. Sherlock shook his head frantically.
"Then never kid yourself. There will never be anyone who will want to save you Holmes. You will never be loved. Never be cared for. Don't deceive yourself to the contrary". Sherlock felt the tears streaking his face and he shook his head. No, no, it's not….it can't, can't be true. That's not how things are supposed to be. Please. Please God. Please. He felt himself being pulled closer and now she was close enough to whisper into his ear.
"Do you think, even for one moment in your life Holmes, that there will be? That there could be?"
He tried to say yes, he did, but the words didn't come. He shook his head. She shifted a little.
"And do you think that you deserve that? Hmm?"
No, please, don't. His head shook despondently. There would never be anyone. There could never be anyone that amazing. So amazing that they would touch a disease like him and come out unscathed. So how could there ever be someone so unimaginable that they would stay with him? That could heal him? His mother smiled.
"And why is that Holmes? Why will no one ever come to save you?"
Sherlock blinked back hopeless tears. He knew the answer. "Be-because… I made you sick." He said simply, trying everything not to say the words she wanted to hear. She made a clicking sound.
"But why else, Holmes. Hmm? Why else?"
Sherlock took longer to think about this one but the words were already there, waiting, well-rehearsed, well known…well believed.
"I-I'm nothing" he said, his voice a whisper that echoed around the walls as if they were laughing at him, "T-there's no one to love me… because there is nothing inside me that could ever be loved." Nobody could ever be that perfect that they would give up the rest of their life… to be with me. To beat my heart for me.
His mother nodded slowly and let go of his collar, smoothing it down. "Perfect" she said, letting him go. He straightened slowly, his eyes averted and downcast, tears streaming down his face.
"Never forget that Holmes" she said, her sweet, kind, smiling demeanour back again. Tears streaked slowly down his face, as if they too were slow and sluggish in their sorrow.
Over 6 billion people lived in the world. Sherlock bowed his head. Couples, families, friends. And yet, there was no one for me.
"Sherlock? Sherlock?" Sherlock raised his head to look towards the door. That was Mycroft calling. He turned to his mother. She gave him a smile and the message was clear. Even your own brother would leave you if he had the choice Holmes.
Mycroft burst into the room with a clattering of the door. "Sherlock!" he cried, running to the small, shaking figure of his younger sibling. "It's okay Sherlock," he said, "It's okay, I'm here, it's alright". He crouched down to get on eye level with the younger boy, brushing away from of the boy's sweat and tear soaked hair from his face. "It's okay" he whispered again. He straightened up a little, seething eyes glaring at his mother who stared all too innocently back at him.
"Mummy," he began, refusing to back down to his mother, "What did you say to-"
"I said nothing. The boy just refuses to stop crying. It really is quite annoying, he's the most pathetic little creature you know" she said, cutting Mycroft off, her voice still as sweet as sugar. Mycroft tensed as Sherlock suddenly latched onto him, shaking, terrified arms wrapping themselves around his waist as he stood up against mother as if trying to ward him back.
"I will never know why your father stopped beating him when he was sober. Might have taken a bit longer, but it would have beaten some sense of place into the boy" she said matter-of-factly, the small smile beginning to creep across her face. Something whimpered from behind Mycroft, sounding almost like a lost puppy that had stood out in the rain all day and it took Mycroft a while to realise that it had come from Sherlock. Turning, he crouched again to eye level with Sherlock, holding him by each shoulder.
"Sherlock, go play on the landing for a bit okay? I'm just going to have a talk with mummy okay?" Sherlock nodded without hesitation and scuttled off, leaving Mycroft to breathe in a deep breath, his anger barely controlled behind incensed, murderous eyes.
"Mother," he said, his voice steady and even. He had not moved from where he was crouched, back turned to her. "What did you say to Sherlock?"
"I said nothing. He simply-"
"No! I will not hear of it!" Mycroft shouted, standing up and spinning around wildly in his anger, his eyes blazing in contempt. "You torture that boy every time you speak to him and I will not stand by and just let you hurt him any-"
"You forget your place!" mother cried
Mycroft felt his anger dissipate as his mother shouted the four words that he had predicted she would utter. The four words that ground upon him most, that cut him deepest. His place. Lowest in the ranks, powerless to help even his little brother. Useless to do even that. He bit his tongue as his stomach did a backflip. Powerless. Useless. Lowest of them all. He looked up at his mother for a moment and bowed his head again. She had won.
"Yes mummy" he said, his head still tilted down, "I'm sorry". He nodded his head and turned to leave.
"And don't forget to tell Holmes to remember what I said," his mother called after him. He stopped just short of the door, his hand already reaching for the door handle.
"Yes mummy" he said. He felt the handle click beneath his hand, and he stepped out, closing the door behind him. The walls seemed to still, watching, sneering and laughing at him. They had never been more ashamed, more disappointed with a tenant of the Holmes estate. Never so disgusted, Mycroft was sure. Worthless, they seemed to mutter, didn't even try to protect his brother. He shook his head, trying to clear it, but the whispers lingered in his head. He looked across the hall and there, sat on the top step of the staircase, was Sherlock, sat in silence, picking at loose threads in his pyjama bottoms. Mycroft walked over to him and with a hefty sigh, sat down next to him. They sat in silence for a moment, each thinking to themselves and dealing with the initial shock in deep, impenetrable silence. Then, Mycroft finally turned to his brother.
"You okay?" he said. Sherlock looked up at him. And burst into tears. Mycroft looked stunned for a moment as Sherlock wept, his small hands latching onto Mycroft's shirt and then burrowing his head in Mycroft's jacket, sobbing silently. Mycroft's heart softened and he pulled his arm around Sherlock, one hand holding him close as he wept into his jacket, his hands clutching his shirt as if Mycroft would leave if he let go. Mycroft put his other hand around him and drew circles on his back, letting Sherlock sob himself to sleep on his jacket. And he made himself a promise. He wouldn't be powerless to help Sherlock again, not ever. He'd climb the hierarchy, he'd get what he needed to keep him safe, and nothing would stand in the way of it.
"It's okay Sherlock," he whispered, planting a kiss onto Sherlock's dampened hair, "It's okay"