Six AM, Mycroft was left for the last time.

Blinking in the sunlight. He held his head, heavy with thoughts, and looked around, confused. there were tears coursing down his face, and he was racked with sadness but couldn't understand why. Again, he down the street where something had once perhaps been. Nothing was left.

He was barefoot on a stranger's doorstep and very much alone.

Wiping the tears away, Mycroft blushed and turned back to the sunlight. He knew the way home, if he followed the path. Though, before he left he whirled again, checking the empty air for something.

Finding nothing, he began home with coll concrete under his toes, whistling 'Chopsticks' and watching for rain.

It all happened very quickly.

From across the orchard, John could see the red-headed boy in the tree, climbing higher and higher. His white-faced companion called up from the safety of ground, telling him to go further. nailed to the spot, John's sight was stapled to him, Further up the bark, the red-headed boy climbed, grasping at the branches, pulled his great length up after.

There was a solitary apple at the top of the tree. The first ripe one in the orchard.

Now, the red-headed boy was laughing, pulling himself up another stairway of branches, tearing the white of his school-shirt, snagging his tie on the forked wood. Up and up he went never sparing a glance back down, all fifteen feet feet, and increasing.

The apple was within grasp.

The boy below called up again to him, tilted on his toes and grasping the bark, staring up. Nervously, the red-headed boy pushed at the higher branch, testing it for strength. It seemed to pass, and he heaved to it, letting it take his weight.

The sound of a snap shook the entire tree.

Followed by falling.

Before he could blink, John was watching the red-headed boy tumble limply through the thick of branches, catching his clothes, tugging his hair. The thump of his body against the wood dampened the howling of his white-faced companion.

When the red-headed boy came to the ground, his skin was bloody and peppered with debris. There was a long gash that ran below his left ear, weeping into the copper of his mane.

"Mycroft!" The white-faced boy screamed, falling to aid his brother. Before the words 'I'm a doctor' could spring to John's larynx, he choked.

The picture froze.

The next time John saw him, he was older, about fifteen, and so very beautiful. Slipping through the gap between boy and man awkwardly, in constant surprise of his gangly limbs. The sporadic growth spurts during that age. His hair was darker, too. No longer so plainly ginger, but dark, copper in the light.

Mycroft at fifteen never spoke unless it was drawn out from him, his mind constantly somewhere else. It was summer when John was in the orchard, finding his bearings, before spotting the teenage beneath one of the trees, eating an apple. There was a pink on his cheeks, perhaps from blush, perhaps from sunburn. It was terribly endearing.

When John came to sit with him, Mycroft closed the book wordlessly and makes room. Strange to say, the boy looked nervous. He regarding John with timid eyes, and a delicate clearing of the throat. No smile, no laugh. Just the ghost of recognition.

"I wasn't sure if you were real," Eventually, Mycroft admitted it with a shy laugh, closing his eyes. When he opened them they found John right away, checking to see if he was still there. Which he was. It earnt another tiny smile.

"Why?" John couldn't tear his eyes from Mycroft, too gentle a creature to be real, too quiet and tender.

"I had concussion." Protesting weakly, Mycroft reasoned, "There was a strange man in the orchard who cleaned me up. He worse a cableknit jumper. It doesn't sound very real to me," His words were not bitter, but sad, and John knew from his eyes that he didn't blame John. How that such a boy had come to the conclusion was odd. again, John looked at him, looked at his rouge cheeks and knew from that smile that mercy's eyes must have been blue, too.

"You're-" And John wasn't sure if he should say it, so he did. "You're very beautiful, Mycroft," But the sound of Sherlock calling out to the orchard caught them both out. Mycroft wasn't looking up, obviously rebuking John's comment.

"You should go," He said, but his eyes betrayed him.

Nobody called Mycroft beautiful.

When he was a child, people chose his intellect over his face. Easy to do, as he was a bright spark. Then, Sherlock was born and he fell into the shadow of his beautiful, sharp-featured razor-witted sibling, with dark hair and blue eyes. Mycroft didn't mind, for he loved his brother very much. Silently, he sank back into himself, and chose not to speak.

All the time that Mycroft was at school, only one boy ever paid him a compliment. By which time Mycroft rarely spoke comfortable with people, and blushed redder than velvet. Not that he was embarrassed alot, but his face was white, and the colours found eachother gracefully on him.

The boy had told him that Mycroft had a lovely blush, and every time it was said, Mycroft would turn pink. He wasn't used to it. They would pass eachother notes in class, and sit together in French classes. Mycroft always spoke to him in French, because he was too nervous to say 'je t'aime' in English.

Eventually, the habit fell away, and the boy became a stranger. no more summers in the French room, no more whispers of 'mon cheri' whilst blushing. Sherlock started the following term, and the boys lusted for him. The more beautiful, forward of the Holmes brothers. Mycroft was glad for him.

But he never spoke French again.

It didn't help that Sherlock was at the front of every family photograph. before which, Mother would fret for many moments on Sherlock's dark curls, or his bright eyes and soft lips. He wore his suit with such grandeur. Mycroft would tug at the cumbersome fringe of his then-copper hair.

Oddly enough, Sherlock never noticed, and though he could be such a brat, wanted nothing more than to please his brother. To impress him. As some do, Mycroft flattered him, did everything he asked. defended him to the truncheon of a housekeeper, Ms. Trenchard.

Only once did someone ever spare the comment for Mycroft.

And he couldn't understand it. .

Later, at sixteen, Mycroft watched for John in the orchard in April, when the rain came down.

He arrived late in the evening, beneath the blossom tree, soaked and perfect, and Mycroft could contain himself no more. Even wet, john's jumper was warm, and his arms were safe. Mycroft wanted to fall into them and never hear another word on the matter.

"I waited for you," He shivered under the heavy grey sky. He shook when they kissed, just the once, but never more true. John's eyes were focused on his, and he tasted warm and familiar, like old spice and exotic air, of the glow of an anarchists jumper collection.

"Mycroft," John whispered the name like it was something secret; and it glowed like a sunken fire. "Let me see you," and they were wrenched apart by the request, John drinking in the sight of Mycroft, feverish.

He was more of a man now, his hair darker, only traces of red still there. His growing had, to a large extent, halted, and the bambi limbs of the previous summer had gone, leaving a tall boy with soft arms. His cheeks were still pink, though, definitely not sunburn.

"You look-" and Mycroft was blushing now, hiding his face by looking down, waiting for the words. They greeted him as equals. "You look so beautiful, Myc," John pushed the hair from Mycroft's face, searching the merciful blue eyes and longing for those soft, pastel lips. A scar below Mycroft's left ear reminded them both that it was real.

"You should-" Mycroft doesn't want the compliment, though. He doesn't deserve it. "You should see Sherlock. He's so-" John leant in, to steal Mycroft's lips again, but didn't go all the way.

There was a hand separating them.

Mycroft's hand on John's heart.

It needed to be real. Mycroft didn't want to wake up in a world where John didn't find him in the orchard. Where he didn't have someone to look forward to. To love. To spend his reverence on.

"I want to see you, Mycroft. You're so bea-" The word drove Mycroft insane.

"Stop," He said weakly, his face pink and hot, the rain feeling as if it evaporated on his skin. John looked on silently. "Please," Again, more defeated. "You might not see it now, but I'm not beautiful."

"But-" John was silenced.

"You wont want me." Mycroft was angry, and confused, and bitter with himself for not being beautiful. He made a liar out of John. "You'll wake up one day and see my face, and-" A sob threatened to break his will. "-you'll feel differently."

He gestured towards the house, a fat, steaming tear erupting from his eyes. He wiped it away with shame, but continued. "Sherlock is beautiful. He's so beautiful and clever, John. And I can't-" He was falling now, into John's warmth, putting his mark back on. The ribbons were tattered from where he'd worn it so long. A whisper pierced the rain.

"I can't ever give you that,"

Mycroft came home for summer in the middle of July with Sherlock. There was a party. People danced and sang, and some even kissed. Mycroft did none of those. When there was a quiet moment, he slipped away from the kitchen, and out to the garden pool. Leaved floated around in the water, only a few.

Alone, he abandoned the need for shoes and dipped his ankles into the cool blue water. Things seemed so much simpler. So caught up in the swirls and eddies, he didn't see the water's reflection.

And was promptly pushed into the depths. Though, he emerged laughing.

John wasted no time following him, abandoning a layer before dropping himself into the water. He advanced on Mycroft with an enormous smile, finding the boy's waist, pulling him close enough for their lips to meet, clumsily. It was perfect.

"John," He murmured into the surrender of another kiss, so taken with the hands, and lips. The water was cold but he was delirious with comfort. "I thought you had-" He looked down again, and flushed, ashamed to have doubted.

"Changed my mind?" John grinned. "I couldn't wait to see you again." And began making his point by punctuating it with soft, easy touches. "Still ginger," They laughed, all nerves. "Still shy," A kiss on the nose. It was the oddest thing, and for a second, Mycroft's head dipped below the water and bubbles rose in the swirling green water.

"Still beautiful," Before Mycroft could interject, a wave of water washed over his face. John swam away, eager not to be reprimanded. They found eachother eventually, clambering out in soggy clothes, drowned and alive, spirits soaring.

John spoke again.

"I think I could fall in love with you," He said, messing the wet straggles of Mycroft's copper locks. The boy was grateful for the contact, and tried his best to take the compliment with grace, blushing. "I always liked the smart ones," Mycroft hid his smile.

"The beautiful ones,"

The copper-haired boy sat at the piano. It was October.

Dust was fastened along the wood of the lid like a blanket. The keys were yellow and well-used despite it's perfect tune. This was because, often, the housekeeper at the time would tend the strings. She didn't play, but appreciated it nonetheless.

With great nerves, Mycroft lifted the lid and blew gently on the keys, watching great scatterings of dust depart. He pressed middle c with great trepidation, only to find a solid note greeting him like an old friend.

So he began with his favourite piece: fur lise.

The flow of the melody and melancholy of it made him pensive as he continued, adding trills onto the higher notes. He rarely ever played anymore; Mycroft didn't consider himself to be very good at all, and Sherlock's violin was more interesting to Mother. Though, sometimes, playing was more of a release than crying.

Wordless, the piece carried itself.

As the melody progressed, his ornamentation grew more complex, with more regular and specific use of dynamics, and the pedal. He hammered way at the notes with such passion, and was so very flustered when it was over, shocked to hear a lonely set of hands clapping from behind him.

"Encore," It was John's voice he heard so beautifully, and Mycroft was so glad to hear it. John took up seat on the other half of the stool. With his face turned he kissed Mycroft soft and true on the lips, and began to play. It was a soft and simple melody.

It was 'Chopsticks'.

Mycroft's hand wandered to the keys with knowledge but lack of practise, and they laughed into eachother's lips and the tune became more difficult. They never looked away from eachother, Mycroft pink with joy, and embarrassment, John grinning at him.

The piece ended with an enormous effort on both accounts not to be outdone.

"I have something for you," John said, and the promised of his words was enticing. He leant down by the stool and revealed a traditional umbrella. Polite as ever, Mycroft thanked him, and fussed over the meticulous stitching and dark fabric. It was handmade; he could tell. "Something to remember me by,"

Had John changed his mind?

Mycroft didn't sleep for weeks afterwards. every waking our, he watched at his window, waiting for John to come. but he didn't arrive in the snow, or the frost. When the fog came, Mycroft watched with watering eyes, but no man emerged. He carried the umbrella with him always, in case of rain, or in case of John.

Over time the memoires would fade.

He didn't want to forget.

It was February and raining when he found his man. The torrential downpour had soaked John though and through, but he was ushered into the old barley enclosure, away from the rain. They were both shivering and cold, and so needy. Mycroft was sick with the fear that he wouldn't see John again.

Barely a boy of seventeen, he asked so much of John.

"Please," He said, determined to his last. "Before the rain stops,"

And John had been so careful, and so reluctant. They made love on the carpet of hay, all broad easy touches of 'je t'aimes' whispered. Gasps and moans in the hammering of the rain outside, with only the heat of eachother, and that feeling that things were ending.

And afterwards Mycroft hid his dignity beneath his coat, and they stayed besides eachother, silent for a while. John's eyes never left Mycroft, filled with contentedness. As if he really were as beautiful and worthwhile as he'd sought to prove.

"I'd very much like to marry you," Somewhere between joking and seriousness, the statement was staples to John. Mycroft looked up at him with the greatest want and smiled.

"They'd never let us," He whispered, not upset. Really, the idea of breaking away from convention was comforting. To know that it wasn't what nice, well-brought up boys did made him thank John. His lover shifted and pried a plain gold band from his index finger.

"Here," John said, handing him the metal, "It's not legal, but it means something,"

Mycroft slid the metal onto his ring finger, but on his right hand.

And vowed never to take it off.

Mycroft was on the cusp of eighteen when his heart was broken.

"You'll forget me," John promised him.

It was the last time he'd see him like this. They were alone on a doorstep, somewhere in town. The sun was climbing above the rooftops, and Mycroft's heart was boiling in his chest. He bit back his tears.

"Stop it," Angrily, he spat the words out. "John, I love yo-"

"Mycroft, please," John held Mycroft's tear-stricken face in his hand and looked away. No more blushing; only crying. It was the last time he would ever get to admire the view, and he drank it in.

The lustre of his hair was still a dark copper, and his eyes were still merciful and blue. The immature pink of his face was gone, leaving him looking aghast, and sun-deprived. There was a ring on his right ring finger, and a gash below his left ear, and tin moles on the inside of his thigh, and-

They kissed for one last time, regretfully in the sunrise, and Mycroft was sobbing, heaving, dying inside. At least he would die in the arms of a lover. For without John he was-

nothing. Not beautiful, not smart, not talented. Without John he couldn't even play 'Chopsticks'.

"I'll come back for you," John's last promise was thick with tears. He wiped Mycroft's away, and loved him a better man.

Six AM, Mycroft was left for the last time.

It's years later when Mycroft plays the piano again.

He's alone in between meeting and when the instrument catches his eye, he can't help but sit, and play. He leave room on the stool to his left, and begins slowly with Beethoven.

When he's finished, he hears solitary applause. then, a presence next to him.

The man is smaller than Mycroft and blonde, with gentle eyes and a kind heart.

"I wonder," He says, beginning to play the first few bars of a piece Mycroft has long since forgotten, "Do you still play?"

At least, that's what he says. What he means is-

Rain pelts outside. John takes his lips again.

He tastes warm and soft and true, like old spice and exotic air, of the glow of an anarchists jumper collection. John tastes like the apple at the top of the tree, and like the sunlight of summer. He tastes like the dam of rain, and the smell of warm hay, showered in post-coital bliss. Like the chlorine of the old swimming pool.

Like John.

Mycroft blushes, and his eyes go down. John cherishes the look. He's seen it through many years and now, it looks at it's most radiant. Mycroft will always be the gangly child beneath the apple tree. Or the younger child falling from it. He'll always be soaking with rainwater, or pool water, hidden under an umbrella, lying besides John in the straw.

"Now, you remember?," John asks him, and Mycroft understands him, nods to hear the famous words.

"You're beautiful,"