Summary: Mycroft does care about his younger brother, even if he has an odd way of showing it. Which is why John finds himself on the end of another one of the elder Holmes's bribery attempts after he finds out about the progression of their relationship. S/J
AN/ Post-TGG, and set during the establishment of Sherlock/John, and kind of tied into the overall series of oneshots I've written about these two – the masterlist is on my profile page, but really you can read through them in any order, considering how lacking in any semblance of structured chronology I am in writing them. :-)
John had had a feeling all day that something was going to happen. Just... something. A thrum at the back of his head, a predilection towards checking over his shoulder in case somebody was following him. It wouldn't be the first time that such a thing had happened, and the fact that Moriarty was still out there did not escape his attention. The doctor wasn't as inclined to all manner of genius deductions as Sherlock was, but he had been building up a certain level of observatory skill through his close dealings with the detective, and as far as he could tell, no shadowy men with guns were tailing him, no strangers followed him down the street as he walked from the practice through the Strand and used his Oyster card to get a bus back to Oxford Street. He almost smirked to imagine whether his stalker, should they come to fruition, would be willing to trail him through the Tesco's frozen food isles, which he would be going through before returning home.
The something wasn't an explicitly bad nor an inherently good feeling, it was just a niggling sensation in the back of his head. John had learned to trust his instincts, noted them and accredited them with the more positive leanings of his survival rate. In Afghanistan they had saved his life more than once, and in the London battlefield with Sherlock they served a similar service of telling him when it was a prime time to stop Sherlock running off to do something stupid. It didn't work, warning the world's only consulting detective against doing something, but primal instinct at least forewarned him before something major and possibly fatal happened. So, trusting his gut feeling, he knew that something, whatever it was, was coming, like a storm that had been brewing overhead in dark clouds for hours before it actually started raining.
John knew that that the something was about to rear its head halfway through his walk back up Baker Street from his visit to the nearby supermarket, his shoulder straining with the weight of the plastic shopping bags, his mind admittedly on more mundane matters, such as the extortionate outrage he had had to endure of paying for the plastic bags ( Five pence each! He was internally still fuming. Five pence for one sheet of plastic! It wasn't as though they were expensive, but it was the principle of the thing; he had no choice but to buy them, couldn't have rejected them, as it wasn't exactly practical or possible to carry the shopping back using just his arms).
This, on some level, he decided as he muttered and grumbled under his breath, had to be Sherlock's fault. If not for the plastic bag toll then for the fact that he had to restock their supply of food in the first case. Honestly, he thought to himself irritably, for a man who appeared to rarely eat at all, who had the thin gangly starved-for-his-art look down to perfection, Sherlock could certainly clear out the fridge of edible food with little bother at all (half-decomposed fingers and heads from Bart's for the testing of saliva coagulation post-mortem notwithstanding). And then it was expected of John, as the main breadwinner – or sole earner when the criminal classes had a few quiet weeks – and the only one of them who took the slightest bit of interest in maintaining some domesticity stability, to have replaced it all with more stocks of frozen or microwavable meals (if there wasn't eyes in there again) by the time Sherlock had his next food-hoovering session.
When he sighted a sleek black car parked on the double yellow lines outside his flat John almost let out a sigh of relief, followed by a faint sinking feeling. A black car. Inconspicuous, but with the buffed effect of appearing as though it rarely saw a fleck of dirt longer than an evening, new numberplate suggesting at it being a new model just brought out. No expense spared then. Even without the tinted windows restricting his view of the occupant, John fancifully imagined that he could almost see 'Anthea' inside on the back passenger seat, tapping away at her Black Berry with the same diligence and concentration with which with a composer tapped out the notes of a scale.
Black cars, Black Berry tapping assistants, and the fact that the door to 221b Baker Street was already open when John gave it a hopeful kick with his left foot, wobbling precariously on the remaining leg – he hoped 'Anthea' wasn't watching – , both arms taken up with holding rations of digestives, a loaf of bread, PG Tips and milk (the essentials in Baker Street) meant only one thing.
Mycroft was visiting.
Giving the car a long suffering look – silently hoping that they'd get a ticket for parking there – but assigning himself to the inevitable (the something could have been something much worse than the British Government dropping by), John's suspicions were realised when he finally reached the door into his upstairs flat, slightly breath-less at the exertion of having to carry the bags up what he had always considered too many stairs – it was only seventeen, but still.
Knocking the door in with his good shoulder – it too was unlocked – and heaving his burden inside, he was greeted by the sight of Mycroft Holmes, perched on the green and red tartan chair to the left of the fireplace, umbrella clasped in both hands as his eyes moved from studying the mess of the room with a scrunched up expression of distaste, manifesting itself in a slight jaunty raise of an eyebrow and a faint disapproving look (Sherlock had been experimenting again, something about entropy; which apparently gave him an excuse to throw around papers to try and replicate a state of chaos, something John wished he hadn't managed to such a genuine degree all over the living room floor). His look however, changed to a genial smile when he saw that John had arrived.
"John" Mycroft welcomed him with a regarding charm, despite the fact that it was the older Holmes brother who was the guest. "It's been too long"
"Mycroft" John gave a wary tip of the head, nodding to the man with a mustered greeting, and made his way immediately into the small kitchen to the side to drop off the bags and allow circulation to be restored to the strained tendons of his fingers. Mycroft made no offer of helping with the bags, or made any attempt to get up, but John didn't expect him to, so decided to ignore the man who was the British Government as best as he could, to find some refuge in being as polite but distant as he was able. There was something about being effectively kidnapped and taken to an abandoned warehouse immediately after coming into contact with somebody's brother that added an element of concrete distrust to a relationship.
John hoped that Mycroft wasn't here to try and bother Sherlock over a case again; whether of 'national importance' or not. The detective always got antsy when his brother showed up, torturing the strings of his violin more than necessary until the elder Holmes left, and it was John who had to deal with the muttering aftermath that was not openly expressed discontent of being patronized by his brother – yet again – but to John was just as obvious through the way he treated things with more force, slamming them down and being more short than he usually would. The fact that he riled Sherlock up to such an extent and therefore made John have to deal with it made more than enough reason for the doctor to not look forward to the man's visits.
"Sherlock's over at Scotland Yard" He called out to Mycroft "He'll be a while, so you might want to come back later." He filled the kettle up from the tap and flicked the switch to start it boiling "Tea?" he offered.
"No thank you John" Mycroft replied courteously from the living room, appearing to have settled enough to be staying a whole longer, and sighing in defeat, knowing he'd have to put up with the British Government for a while longer, John removed only one cup from the cupboard – the one he favoured after Sherlock had used the others to store different types of plant-distilled poisons – and deposited a tea bag inside ready for steeping.
He would have been quite contented to hide in the kitchen until Sherlock showed up, but after a moment, deciding that not only was it was not very civilised to openly ignore Sherlock's big brother, he also wasn't going to be made feel uncomfortable in his own home, with an inward sigh John moved back out into the main living area, seating himself in the chair unfortunately positioned right opposite Mycroft. It wont be long, Sherlock'll be back soon, he consoled himself.
"Actually," Mycroft continued, brushing an imaginary bit of dust from his knee and smoothing any creases on his trouser leg, glancing up at John again and giving one of those quick little smiles that he was so practised in "I was hoping to talk to you"
"Oh,... er, alright" John replied, wondering whether exiting the conversation now could be achieved in a subtle and non-obvious way. There wasn't much more he could say, and no escape strategy was forthcoming, so he just kept quiet and hoped Mycroft wouldn't be too long. The man did enjoy the sound of his own voice, and John wanted to enjoy his tea in relative peace before Sherlock returned. "What about?"
Mycroft leaned back slightly, settling himself into the chair with one leg rested over the knee of the other, twiddling with his umbrella handle for a second before fixing John with a serious look. "I want you to leave"
"I'm sorry, what?" John enquired, questioning whether this was an opportune moment to laugh nervously and excuse himself from the conversation "This room?"
"No, no" Mycroft gave a distracted wave of his hand as though impatient, his expression one of of 'do I really have to explain this fully?'; it must have been a Holmes familial trait, John mused, for it seemed to be one of the few things that the two brothers had in common "This house. I want you to move out, and find new lodgings"
John paused, squinting his eyes slightly in a frown before cocking an eyebrow "I already live here"
Mycroft had put on that smile of his, the pastiche of human connection, something which John had always considered made him look more dangerous, like a shark grinning in the moments prior to eating its prey "Come, come, doctor, this place cannot be cheap to rent, even with your army pension and benefits. There are plenty of other good lodgings that are much more financially suitable to your purposes, and close enough to not have to move jobs from that practice of yours"
"And why..." John blinked, inclining forward and clasping the hands resting on his knees together, a mechanism Sherlock had once noted as being something he did when facing something he wasn't quite sure how to deal with. So, he went for the easiest, most rational option; asking. "...would I want to leave here?"
Mycroft twirled his umbrella again, eyes not meeting John's, his tone having assumed a conversationalist edge, like the sort of salesmen that were one of John's many pet hates; the ones that called in the afternoon from somewhere in Delhi and asked him about his financial affairs and attempted to sell him life insurance "It would be...beneficial to you. I would of course grant you a small bursary for your troubles"
John gave an exasperated sigh, leaning back again into the chair "What is it with you thinking everything is about money?" Mycroft at that gave a barely noticeable quirk of his eyebrow, as though he really hadn't expected that line of bribery to work anyway, bearing in mind it hadn't been successful the first time either.
The doctor continued, "The thing is... I rather like living here. And up till now you've never had a problem with me lodging with your brother. So why" John stressed that word in particular, finding it the one of most importance "do you suddenly want to see the back of me?"
For a moment, the man did not look up, but when he did after a tangible pause, there was a sharp gravity in his glance, hidden behind layers of politeness, immediately noticeable and generally was designed to be an expression that would be enough to make most men flinch. Fortunately for John, he wasn't most men. You couldn't be when you lived with Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock shot him that look when John had moved one of his 'incredible important for the advancement of science' experiments from where it had been cluttering up the kitchen table, so John had more than enough practice conditioning himself to ignoring such a glance.
"It has... come to my attention recently" Mycroft spoke finally "that your relationship with my brother has evolved from what originally was a simple flat sharing agreement."
Shit, John thought. So this what this was about. And while it did not make him reassess his priorities or stance on the matter whatsoever; because this was still his flat, where he lived, and Mycroft had absolutely no business interfering in what went on between him and Sherlock, it did make him consider with a certain glint of uncertainty to what lengths would Mycroft's protective attitude to his brother go. John had been on this end of the conversation before, having to prove himself a worthy partner to his date's father or (usually elder) brothers, but this was Mycroft Holmes. The British Government. A man who involved himself in foreign election, a walking influence to whisper in the ears of major world powers. John was very aware that the man could probably make him disappear to some dark hole half-way across the world, a cell with no key or something else suitable nightmarish, and no-one would be any the wiser about his location.
Mycroft continued, painfully calm about the whole thing "While I have no issue with this transition per se, and of course, I would like to see Sherlock happy as much as I imagine you do, I would rather you left now to avoid any difficulties that might arise through this"
John furrowed his brow"What do you mean, 'difficulties'?"
"Now don't be churlish John" Mycroft gave him an approximation of the smile his counsellor used to give him when they broached the topic of trust issues "We both know that my brother is rather... uninformed regarding matters of such a personal nature. And with you making up a considerable part of his personal and private life, I doubt he would be able to deal with both you as a distraction and the cases he is involved in"
"I'm a distraction?" John refrained from saying a rather loud and unnecessary 'bollocks', instead giving a small laugh, appearing to surprise the elder Holmes, for he glanced at the doctor curiously. John just quietly marvelled that for such a secretive man, he could be so obviously bad at lying. Mycroft was good, don't get him wrong, but apparently when it came to his brother, John could see through his deception unnecessarily well "No, that's not it at all is it? I might not be as good at reading people as Sherlock, but I doubt that even you are just worried about your brothers use-fullness in any cases you might want to send his way. You want to protect him, don't you?"
Mycroft stiffened, and his eyes assumed a darker shade, but he conceded none the less "I see your association with my brother has allowed for a development of your observations. As you put it, I am concerned over my brother's welfare. I have known Sherlock for the whole of his life John, much longer than you. He is incapable of successfully sustaining a normal romantic attachment, and as such I recommend you sever ties with him before he hurts you"
"You mean before I hurt him." John cut in quickly, face unreadable. He didn't even have the energy to be irritated that he was getting a lecture in what he should and shouldn't do by his partner's – he couldn't say boyfriend, it made him think of the fleeting romances of his teenage years, and that image would have somehow cheapened what there was between him and Sherlock – older brother, but felt it necessary to defend his position "You know, I don't think you give Sherlock the credit he deserves. You underestimate what he is capable of doing."
John clenched one of his fists, promising himself that he wasn't going to get angry over this. Honesty, he felt was the best policy here. And if Mycroft didn't like it, well, John could always resign himself to spending the next few decades trapped in a foreign lock-up. Maybe if he left Sherlock clues, the man would eventually track him down "Mycroft, you might be his brother, but as I understand it, you haven't lived full time with him since he was eleven, and you left for university. And despite what you're probably going to cite as evidence of your involvement in his life, keeping surveillance on him isn't interacting with him. Sherlock's a good man, perhaps better than you give him credit for. I knew what I was getting into when this began."
Mycroft tensed, a shadow crossing his face "Regardless of what you think of my interactions with my brother" he said coldly "I still care a great deal for him. And as you will no doubt remember, I was there at the pool after Moriarty's little game. I was able to witness first hand the extent to which his emotional well-being is tied into your welfare. He may profess the label of sociopathy, but I am well capable of imagining what it would have done to him if he had lost the one man he had allowed so close to him. If you were to decide to terminate this relationship, I can also imagine the reaction it would cause in him"
John heard the whistle and click of the kettle boiling in the kitchen, switching itself off, but he didn't get up, all thoughts of a cup of tea forgotten for the moment.
"You really think I would ever knowingly hurt him?" He asked Mycroft seriously.
The man did not answer the question directly, the trait of a good politician "I'm offering you the chance to leave now." he said "It would be better for you to cut this off now. I will be able to deal with the aftermath it will cause in Sherlock, but the longer this continues, the more he will allow himself to open up to another human being. You and I both know from the incident at the Pool that attachments are dangerous things. I have no desire to take away from him what makes him truly happy, but nor do I want a repeat of him of his youth, where he turned to the artificial high of cocaine to help him deal with the demands of his intellect. I am well-aware, and thankful that you have weaned him off both the narcotics and the odious habit of smoking that he regularly turned to. That I doubt would last should you decide to break this off."
Mycroft sighed, and a faint glimmer of a tired concern made itself present for a moment "John, you know my brother. You know he does nothing by halves. He throws himself into things with the whole of himself, such is the obsessive nature of his personality. It makes sense that his attraction to you should also possess him to extremes." Mycroft's eyes flashed dark "I am warning you now, doctor, should you ever break his heart and hurt him, I promise you there will be not a place in London or anywhere else that I would not find you"
John resisted the urge to swallow, in little doubt that the British Government was deadly serious.
"If I ever did that," John replied slowly "I would turn myself in on your doorstep and save you the bother of searching. It still doesn't change my mind. I'm not going anywhere"
"Don't make me order you"
"It'd make no difference"
"I could force you to"
John shrugged, refusing to cower away from Mycroft's piercing gaze "You could" he admitted "But if hurting your brother is what you want to avoid, you wont. I doubt he would take kindly to his brother involving himself in a relationship he has engaged in of his own free will"
"You really wont leave him?" Mycroft's look was unreadable, quieter now.
"If one day he decides he's finally bored of me, realises how normal and dull I am and sends me away, I will go. But I will go on his terms, not yours, and until then, I fully intend to stick around."
Mycroft frowned, looked like he was about to say more but a low baritone voice from the doorway interrupted him.
"I think that's a definite answer, Mycroft. Now I believe your business here is done"
Sherlock strode into the room, long black coat still on, unbundling the scarf from around his neck, the irritation all too clear on his expression; displayed in the tight set of his mouth and the narrowing of his eyes. John wondered how much the detective had heard of their conversation. He didn't doubt, knowing the man long enough, that Sherlock had probably waited several moments loitering on the stairwell before making his entrance at a prime point to do so. The man was always one for dramatics.
"Sherlock" Mycroft straightened, his friendly welcoming smile returning at the sight of his brother, perhaps scenting a confrontation in the air and wanting to avoid it as best as he was able "John and I were just having a friendly chat"
"You manage lying as successfully as the numerous diets you have attempted in the past six months" Sherlock shot back, and John was somewhat surprised to see the first vestiges of a tense smouldering anger in the detective's body language "I do not appreciate you meddling in my affairs, especially when you invite yourself into my home and attempt to bully John into going along with them"
"Sherlock, it's ok." John glanced over at the man, wondering how it was that he was the one being coerced by Mycroft, but it ended up him having to calm the detective's quick fired temper when it came to his brother. The man turned to face him, his body not losing any of its sharp edges, but notably calming at the placating expression on the doctor's face "He's just trying to look out for you"
"I would rather he did it in a manner that does not involve jeopardising my relationship." Sherlock growled out in clipped tones, but some of the anger seemed to have ebbed out of him even as he focused his laser glare on his elder brother.
"Well, he was just about to leave, weren't you Mycroft?" John stared at the man pointedly, "He's got some more international elections to rig. Smaller countries to terrorise." Mycroft didn't rise to the sarcasm, but decided that he had done all he could here, and stood, leaning on his umbrella. John stood too.
"As much as I'd like to linger, other more pressing matters have my attention" Mycroft glanced over at John, holding out his hand. John proffered his own, not tentatively, a straight backed soldier stance as Mycroft shook his hand in farewell. The man who was the British Government studied him with a curious little smile on his face "I apologise for taking up so much of your time, and I do hope you will forgive me for the insinuations against your character, John. Perhaps you are a better man for my brother than I first suspected" His eyes flashed, some of their usual dark light tinting them "But if you ever do anything that should change that opinion of you, I warn you now there will be consequences"
John nodded shortly, letting him know he understood, having well expected some form of parting threat from the man. Sherlock however tensed up again, eyes glaring like daggers that did not move from his brother. He appeared as though he was brimming over with unspoken cutting insults regarding the man's dietary habits and overall intelligence – it was nice to see that even between two of the countries most smartest men, something as petty as sibling rivalry still found itself present.
"Sherlock" Mycroft nodded a brisk goodbye to his younger brother, reading the situation well enough for him to know to keep a sizeable distance between the two; Sherlock did look rather more irate regarding his visit than was usual, and passing a final glance over to John, the man exited out of the door, closing it with a click behind him.
As soon as the man had left, Sherlock released the breath he seemed to have been using to reign in his anger.
"Stupid brother." he muttered, unbuttoning his coat with an unnecessary ferocity, flinging the item over the back of the tartan chair "Stupid, idiotic brother."
"Well, he's gone now, so stop bothering yourself about him." John said tiredly, not wanting to have to cope with Sherlock's fuming over his brother without the back-up of a cup of tea.
Sherlock however, was not done, and rounded on John, seemingly having found something that had bothered him in the doctor's conduct. The irritation faded, and instead, John was left with a hurt expression. Sherlock rarely showed it so noticeably, preferring to sulk over on the sofa, so it was something that particularly struck John, made him pay express attention to the man
"Why would you think I'd ever get bored of you?" Sherlock asked, and his eyes had softened, grey sliding from sharp into something more emotional, like worry, like concern "You really think I'd leave you just because I thought you were dull?"
John sighed."Sherlock, I am dull" he replied honestly "A normal, plain human being. It makes sense that at some point it is a plausible possibility that you'll get bored because you've finally figured me out"
"No" Sherlock's voice was edged with a definite defiance "I wont. And I do not understand how you can believe yourself to be at the level of others. You are different." Sherlock moved closer to John "I can't solve you. And if I have to spend a considerable number of years puzzling over why you invoke in me such a level of emotional reactions, I will gladly be content with never uncovering the answer. And regardless of what Mycroft – " Sherlock bit out the name with obvious discontent " – thinks, I am perfectly capable of understanding the nuances of human emotion. And I know that you are mine, for as long as you would have me"
John smirked, unable to help himself "That might be a while then"
"That idea pleases me considerably"
"Your brother really brings out the possessive side of you, doesn't he?" John smiled, a fond expression on his face.
Sherlock gave a raise of his mouth in his own approximation of what was a decidedly wicked grin, and John found his lips suddenly stolen by a kiss. Deep, smouldering, the tension in John's shoulders after his confrontation with Mycroft melting away as he pressed in closer, losing the gaps between them. When he surfaced for air again, Sherlock's expression had shifted into something more comfortable, obviously having had disregarded his brother's visit for the time being.
"The kettle's boiled if you want a cuppa" John offered, directing his gaze towards the kitchen.
Sherlock's eyes were dark, the glint in his eye almost predatory. "My dear doctor," he said smoothly, tone so low it was almost a hum. John had some idea about what he was hinting at "why would I want a cup of tea when there are so much more interesting things I can partake in?"
With a decisive motion, John was silenced again from with any complaint he may have had (and really, he could barely form a coherent thought, much less voice any displeasure at the turn of events) by another kiss – and Sherlock was very very good at them, from the shear amount of first hand evidence John had regarding the matter – this one heated, loaded with intent and meaning and dominant ownership, Sherlock's possessive streak shown in the way he crowded John's body, so close that if John had opened his eyes from when he had automatically closed them as a soft groan escaped his lips, the visage of Sherlock would have been blurry, out of focus, everything just reduced to the sensations of touch, of feel. The kiss deepened, Sherlock's lips softening, pushing against his with more purpose, John well aware where this was leading by the way Sherlock's hand had started trying to unbutton his shirt.
And as John gave himself into it, he decided that if this was the reaction garnered in Sherlock every time the British Government showed up on their doorstep, Mycroft really ought to visit more.