Disclaimer: Written for pleasure, not profit. I don't own the songs or the characters.
A/N: Post TGG fic loosely inspired by my favourite Elbow album, hence the title.
21/06/11: Now editing; apologies for any extra alerts that go out.
"One day we'll be drinking to the Seldom Seen Kid..."
'Grounds For Divorce,' Elbow, 2008.
The Seldom Seen Kid
Prologue: The Seldom Seen Sherlock
Mycroft Holmes, aged twelve, was engrossed in an excellent book on the economics of South America when he heard his mother's frantic calls.
He sighed deeply; sometimes, having a brother could be very inconvenient. Sherlock's predictable vanishing act was about due, but he had been hoping to finish the chapter on Uruguayan fiscal policy before the inevitable interruption.
Nonetheless, he dutifully marked his page and stepped out of his obsessively neat bedroom into the wainscoted corridor, along which his mother was checking every door anxiously.
"Oh! Mycroft, have you seen Sherlock?"
"Not since luncheon, Mummy. Would you like me to find him for you?"
"Oh, thank you, darling," she gushed in relief. "I know he always turns up eventually, but I just get so worried… and there's so much else I need to do…"
"Don't worry; I'll dig him out of wherever he's hiding and make sure he's in a fit state for the guests."
"Oh, you're such a good boy, Mycroft. Do make sure you check in the chimney first, there's a dear; I don't dare have the drawing room fire lit until I'm certain he's not up there again."
"Yes, Mummy." Despite his promise, Mycroft immediately returned to his bedroom as she bustled away to prepare for tonight's dinner party. Carefully, he replaced the book into its allotted space on the vast, full-wall bookshelf before he spoke to the empty room.
"I sincerely hope that you haven't made a mess in my wardrobe, Sherlock; because if you have, I will have to lie and tell Mummy that I found you in the chimney, and you know how it upset her last time." Silence.
"Really, you are being exceptionally childish," the older brother chided, feigning disinterest. "Don't pretend you aren't in there, or I shall have to go to the effort of dragging you out."
"What gave me away?" A high, childish voice asked, the sulky tone obvious even though it was badly muffled by the antique oak wardrobe.
"Every time you climb through my window via the pear tree, you leave smears of dirt and lichen on the window sill."
"I do not!" Sherlock protested, with all the vehemence of a five-year-old certain they are right. "I always bring a damp sock with me to clean it off."
"Yes; a sock soaked in hand soap from the guest bathroom, which has a very distinctive lemony aroma. And as the wardrobe is the only piece of furniture in my room large enough to conceal you for several hours in anything even approaching comfort, and I smelled the lemons when I returned to my room after lunch, it seemed a logical deduction."
"If you knew I was here, why'd you let me sit in this stuffy wardrobe all afternoon?" He demanded petulantly.
"Well, it kept you out of Mummy's way while she was preparing for the party; and also ensured that I knew exactly where to find you when the time came to get you ready. It was a very good effort, though." Mycroft tried very hard to sound encouraging rather than condescending; Sherlock was very sensitive about his age.
"I suppose you left the sock in the tree before lunch and as soon as we were excused from the table, you ran through the kitchen door, climbed the tree and forced the window. I'm quite impressed that you managed to get yourself comfortably sequestered in my wardrobe within the two minutes and thirty-five seconds it takes me to walk upstairs. And of course, hiding in a room which had been continually occupied all afternoon would make it the very last place Mummy would think to look."
"Next time, I'll hide in a place no one would think to look," his brother mumbled darkly.
"Really; I don't see why we have to go through this performance every time. Social gatherings are not the worst events in life."
"I don't want to go to stupid parties! They're so boring!"
"What have I told you about limited vocabulary, Sherlock? Five synonyms for boring."
"Dull, tedious, dreary, banal, uninteresting: boring," he recited scornfully. "I don't know how you can love them so much."
Mycroft restrained a sigh as he turned to regard the polished oak wardrobe door that concealed his highly antisocial little brother. He was probably closer to Sherlock than anyone else, even Mummy; and yet his brother still preferred to remain alone in a cramped, dark wardrobe than emerge into the pleasant, spacious room and Mycroft's company. The last time Mummy had a party, it had taken Mycroft all night to coax him down from the chimney; and he'd only come down then because his brother had threatened his mould-growing experiment with a large bottle of bleach-based toilet cleaner.
"Dinner parties are a necessary evil, Sherlock. We cannot always do only that which we enjoy."
"Why not?" Was the sulky reply.
"Because, occasionally, we must take other people into account. Mummy likes to throw dinner parties, so we must be well behaved when they occur to please her."
"But I hate them; being forced to dress up and be polite to people like Mr Hansen and Mrs Collins who think because I'm young I must be stupid. Last time she came she brought me a colouring book!" From his tone, Sherlock clearly considered this the equivalent of a slap in the face with a duelling glove. "And you tried to make me say thank you!"
"It was a very nice gesture on her part, considering what you did to her Labrador when we visited her."
"It had fluffy bunnies on it, Mycroft!"
The outrage in his brother's voice made the older boy's lips twitch, but his voice was perfectly even when he replied. "Yes, I remember seeing the charred remains on the compost heap."
"Stupid thing wouldn't even burn properly," the younger complained. "When I have my own house, I am never, ever going to throw a dinner party, unless it's out of the window." His tone changed from scathing to questioning as a new thought occurred to him. "Why do people say they throw a party, anyway? It's not logical; 'throw' doesn't mean 'host'."
"English is not a logical language, Sherlock," Mycroft said smoothly, his mind whirring to pull an explanation out of the air. He never liked to admit ignorance, no matter how minor. "I believe it stems from the fact that 'throw' is a synonym for 'pitch', as in pitch a tent or marquee. Technically, I suppose the phrase only applies to garden parties, but people rarely take notice of technicalities in colloquialisms."
"Well, they should," Sherlock sniffed haughtily, accepting his older brother's word without question.
"But they don't. Honestly, Sherlock, if you expect to get anywhere in life you must learn to tolerate and make allowances for ordinary people."
"Why should I? They never make allowances for me."
"There are a great deal of allowances made for you. Perhaps if you were more understanding of the people who do so, they would return the favour. Now, do you intend to get out of the wardrobe and make Mummy happy by getting changed for dinner, or must I pull you out by force and make a mess?"
"I'd rather stay where I am."
"Are you certain? I know for a fact that she's serving Pavlova for dessert."
There was a pause as Sherlock considered this.
"Oh, very well." Mycroft smiled at the grudging agreement, quickly wiping it from his face as the wardrobe door swung open to reveal a pale, skinny five year old blinking his grey eyes against the light, his dark curls hopelessly tousled. "I suppose if I don't go, you'll eat my portion and get even fatter."
"No personal comments, Sherlock; or you'll be sent to bed long before pudding is served."
Mrs Collins smiled at the two boys (thankfully, she'd only brought wine and flowers this time), her expression faltering slightly when she laid eyes on the younger one, standing sulkily behind his brother. "Mycroft, Sherlock; my, you're both getting so big. I'd hardly know you. How old are you now?"
"Twelve, Mrs Collins," Mycroft answered smoothly. "And Sherlock is five."
"Five already; it feels like only a few months ago that I was knitting you little hats and booties. Such a shame your mother and I don't meet up more often."
"Yes, I can see that you're very busy with Mr R…" Mycroft's foot came down firmly on Sherlock's toe. "Ow! Mycroft, you trod on me!"
"Oh, I am sorry, Sherlock; my foot slipped. May I take your coat, Mrs Collins?"
Later, after Sherlock had been sent rather hastily to bed (although he had made it to the Pavlova; the chemistry of meringue was one of his recent fascinations) most of the guests breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief.
Mycroft, his seven extra years and reliable politeness allowing him to stay up an extra hour, observed an increasingly inebriated Mrs Collins groping a very receptive Mr Redgrave's leg under the table.
There is something to be said for a seldom seen Sherlock, he mused fondly to himself, knowing his acerbic little brother would be absolutely incapable of not pointing it out to the whole party. Particularly as Mrs Redgrave and Mr Collins are not only both present, but entirely oblivious. Honestly; looking after my brother is going to become a permanent occupation if he can't even recognise perfectly good blackmail material when he sees it…
D'you think the boys sounded a bit too old here? I just can't make myself write Sherlock without using Queen's English, even as a small child. All feedback gratefully received.