Mycroft leans back carefully in his chair, leather edge close to the wall but angled to avoid his painting of the queen. (He certainly does not want to leave any marks). He flips a page in the report in his hand and glances at the clock on the wall, hands pointing toward 10 and 7 sadly meaning the time is 10:35, not 7:50. Mycroft pinches the bridge of his nose and shifts so his chair returns to straight.
Mycroft quickly dials the extension for his outer office. "A-?"
"Sir?" her voice replies, perfectly clear.
"Send off Richardson's report now, I've read enough."
Mycroft glances at the report in his hand then places it down on the desk. "How quickly can you do a read through?"
"Quick enough, sir."
Mycroft smiles. "Very good."
Mycroft moves to switch off the conversation then A- clears her throat. His hand pauses and he waits. He hears the careful click of her blackberry, her thumbs faster than conventional typing.
He waits two seconds then, "Yes, my dear?"
"You asked me to remind you about Sherlock."
Mycroft drops his hand flat against the wood of his desk. "Oh yes, of course." He looks at the clock then drums his fingers once. He can spare five minutes. "Requisition a new tap for Sherlock's mobile, will you?"
"Of course, sir."
Mycroft clicks the speaker off then reaches into an inside pocket of his coat and pulls out his mobile phone. He taps the touch screen to contacts, 'ICE,' and his finger hovers over 'Sherlock.' He purses his lips then smirks. Just because Mycroft loves his brother and worries about his well being in all things does not mean the occasional slight annoyance to the younger Holmes does not also bring him some amusement.
Mycroft scrolls through his contacts and clicks 'Dr. Watson' instead. Send.
Mycroft inspects his nails, bit long, as he listens to the phone ring. The call barely completes the second ring before Mycroft hears the click of lines connected and a muffled curse followed by an indefinable clatter. Mycroft rests his hand on his thigh, obviously there is something going on at 221B, yet again.
"Mycroft." John snaps, voice clipped as though he can barely manage the task of speaking into the phone. "If you're calling about the fight, Sherlock is fine."
Mycroft stares straight ahead at the bookcases lining the wall across his office, clicks his teeth once, then presses his phone against his shoulder with his ear. His hands spring to life – left hand yanking open the top drawer of his desk with all the reports from the day and right hand tapping the mouse pad of his laptop, fortunately still on his desk, bringing up his e-mail.
"I see," Mycroft speaks slowly, stalling for time, "and by 'fine' I assume you mean 'with injuries not severe enough to require attention by a physician?"
There is a pause on John's end – police logs, suspicious activities from their agent in the Manchester office, twenty pages of CCTV monitoring. Mycroft's eyes switch to his computer and he scrolls through e-mails – prime minister, parliament vote, Russia, India, prime minister again, Norman asking about cricket, 'you in, Holmes?'
"Well," John says after twelve seconds, "I am a doctor."
Mycroft frowns. "So, 'fine' would be 'not life threatening' then?"
"Right – Sherlock, stop!"
"Just hang up the phone, John!" Sherlock snaps perfectly audibly in the background. "He has no idea what you are talking about."
"I'm more concerned about you mov –"
"Barely a cut."
"You need stitches!"
Mycroft raises his eyebrows slowly as their spat continues, reaching A-'s morning report forty e-mails back and he pulls his phone away from his ear, switching to speaker phone. Mycroft checks his voicemail, checks his texts, nothing and puts his phone down on his desk. Mycroft feels the urge to fire someone start as a prickle in his finger tips.
"Dr. Watson," Mycroft intercedes over John's description to Sherlock of the severity of his wounds, "it behooves me to admit this but my usually reliable network of surveillance…" Mycroft clears his throat. "Should I say 'polite attention' to my brother's movements has failed me – what fight?"
Sherlock makes a loud 'hmm' noise clearly meant for Mycroft to hear – satisfied confirmation of his correctness. Mycroft sneers at no one.
"Do tell Sherlock, 'I told you so' is an ugly remark."
"I… uh, yes," John stammers and Mycroft can see the exchanged faces of John's surprise and Sherlock's smugness all too clearly.
Mycroft stares at the phone as though through it he can see a video feed straight into the flat. From the intense silence Mycroft measures John is mouthing something to Sherlock or vice versa. Mycroft presses his finger tips together with pinkies flat on the desk, and counts five beats.
"The fight, John?" Mycroft coaxes.
Sherlock scoffs a laugh and Mycroft hears a scuffle.
"Sherlock, no. Stop! He's just concerned, he –"
"Concerned about organizing a clean up operation, no doubt. Leave me to my business, Mycroft!"
"He didn't say that!" John barks. "And you started it. Maybe he's right to –"
"I certainly did not 'start it!'"
Mycroft grips the arms of his chair and swivels it to the side. Sherlock was always such a child after any sort of fight – complaining about being patched up and pouting at the usual uneven odds against him during such events. Mycroft glances at his phone and imagines Sherlock attempting vainly to steal John's mobile.
"I can access CCTV logs to elucidate my knowledge of the event you are vaguely referring to, John." Mycroft raises his voice, yet again cutting through the flat mate squabble. "But it would certainly reduce my time spent searching if you would simply inform me…"
"Oh yes, inform –"
"Shut up, Sherlock!"
Sherlock sighs loudly followed by the sound of Sherlock most likely collapsing into a chair. Mycroft then hears a sudden hiss of pain.
"Did you forget you were slammed against a wall?" John hisses. "Repeatedly?"
Mycroft's eyes widen. "What wall?"
John sighs. "It's… it's a long story, Mycroft."
John makes a choked sort of noise and says nothing for a moment. "Well, we went out to a pub for the night…"
"Will you let me?" John snaps. "And take off your shirt; I have to see your ribs." Mycroft raises his eyebrows. "So –"
"Come on, Sherlock. You haven't left the flat in two weeks."
"One week, five days."
John crosses his arms. "Fine but you still need to get out."
Sherlock only rolls over so he lies face down on the couch, voice muffled into the cushions. "Unnecessary. Nothing outside of this flat entertains my interest."
"How do you know if you –"
"I have no case."
"If you don't leave the –"
"Nothing roaming among the alcoholic herds of –"
"We are going to the pub!"
Sherlock stops speaking and slowly curls into a ball as if trying to wedge himself as tightly as possible into the corner of the couch. John stands his ground and waits.
Suddenly, Sherlock sits up straight facing the wall. He tilts his head like the wallpaper is now very interesting.
"Shocking," Mycroft interjects then sits up and clicks his mouse pad, beginning to compile a list of pubs. "I would have expected more drama."
"Mycroft, you are the one –"
"Two weeks of moping isn't enough drama?"
Mycroft breathes out slowly through his nose and checks camera locations near the pubs on his list, estimates how many views, how far Sherlock and John may have really traveled – likely only within a five kilometer radius of 221B.
"I have no desire for –"
"Desire is not the point, Sherlock, you just –"
"I just what?"
"You just whine and moan and act like –"
Mycroft clears his throat loudly. "I believe you were recounting the evening's events not running a marathon of squabbling?"
"What an imaginative word, Mycroft – ow!"
Mycroft feels himself smiling in time with John through the phone lines.
"Tape it down, Sherlock, it'll help." The tone of John's voice changes to the unmistakable sound of one on of speaker phone. "Yes, Mycroft, little drama. I dragged him out and to the pub…"
"Does it matter?"
"For my surveillance, yes."
"We went to an unspecified pub."
Mycroft frowns. Sherlock's influence on John is clearly beginning to show in newly unhelpful ways.
"Pint please." John holds up one finger then looks at Sherlock. Sherlock only frowns. "Come on," John urges, "you have to get something."
"I do not."
"A cranberry juice."
Sherlock raises an eyebrow at John's mocking tone. "Gin and tonic."
John's smile freezes. "Really?"
Sherlock raises his eyebrows higher and just stares at John. John blinks and turns back to the bar tender who looks slightly perturbed. She cocks her head at John and he nods.
"Uh, yeah, what he said."
"You thought I was more inclined to beer, perhaps?" Sherlock asks.
"Actually, I guess I hadn't really thought about it."
John rolls his eyes. "Well, we're here now, so may as well enjoy yourself."
Sherlock sighs. "John, that phrase is ridiculous beyond analysis."
"But I bet you're going to anyway."
"'Here now so may as well enjoy yourself' it is a blanket statement which has no real meaning. Yes, of course, it is an attempt to cheer the recipient of the statement, to inspire a positive outlook on whatever non favorable situation or place the speakers are in but it is useless and close to patronizing." Sherlock pulls off his scarf and lays it on the stool beside him. "Would you tell me to enjoy prison if I was there because 'I may as well'?"
Their drinks arrive and John takes a large gulp of his beer then knocks his glass back on the bar top. "Yes, I would!"
Sherlock clicks his teeth together and slides his drink toward himself, absently stirring it with the straw.
"Well, Sherlock, why don't we –
"As much as I enjoy the sound of your voice, Dr. Watson, I believe there is a point to this story which culminates in my brother's abuse at the hands of… I assume angry pub patrons?"
Sherlock makes a noise half between a whine and scoff in the background.
Mycroft finishes narrowing down his search to three bars and brings up the feeds from the appropriate cameras. He starts the time index at 7 PM just to be safe and lets all six feeds scroll through the hours across his screen.
"All right!" John grumbles, tone clearly meant for both Holmes brothers which Mycroft refrains from commenting on. "Give me a minute, Mycroft."
"You've had several."
Sherlock laughs in an obviously manufactured way. "Found the correct establishment yet, Mycroft?"
"Oh god, I should have just left you there!" John groans. "Stop moving!"
"Really, John, now who is being dramatic?"
"I do have better things to do than suture your head!"
"Like what?" Sherlock hisses.
Mycroft sighs and leans back in his chair again. "Why do I bother?"
"Here!" John shouts and there is a noise like falling metal, probably scissors. "Cut fixed and you're not bleeding into your eye. So, stop complaining about drama when you look like the sore end of a Bond film!"
"John, that is –"
Mycroft considers just hanging up and not caring for once. Obviously John has matters in hand. Sherlock patched up by a warzone doctor is highly appropriate. However, he cannot just let it go.
"My patience is wearing thin," Mycroft says as Sherlock begins to go on a tirade about brutish behavior in the average male.
John seems to decide to ignore Sherlock in favor of the phone call. "Well, Sherlock, as you know he does, started detecting –"
"– all the other people in the pub."
"That one there has recently broken up with her significant other; over done mascara to hide recent tears, fresh nail polish, red in the necklace, obvious tweezed eyebrow –"
"You can't see that from here."
Sherlock takes a sip of his drink. "That one." He points and John shoves his hand back down on the bar. "That man – obvious serial dater, no longer than one month and he's moving on."
"Shadow on the ring finger?"
"I did not say serial husband."
John chugs back some of his beer. "So… jacket stain? Trouser stain?"
Sherlock snorts and drinks more of his gin. "Phone."
"Stains on his phone?"
Sherlock rolls his eyes. "That was deliberately obtuse."
John grins and taps the bottom of his beer on the wood of the bar. "Excellent deduction."
Sherlock smiles slowly and chuckles once. John grins back, happy to have finally pulled some amusement from the man. Sherlock finishes his drink and slides the glass away toward the inner edge of the bar. John glances up to try and get the bar tender's attention.
"And our bar tender," Sherlock begins as she looks up and over at them, "is a disgruntled writer who hates everything about this pub."
"Keep your voice down," John hisses. "She doesn't look like she hates it."
"Haven't noticed the glare going with that smile?"
"Maybe it's just for you."
Sherlock makes a derogative noise and folds his fingers together. "Doubtful."
John rolls his eyes and finished his beer. The bar tender tilts her head at him, 'another?' John nods with a winning smile and points to Sherlock as well.
"Now," Sherlock starts again and John turns to him, "the blond man there…"
"Okay, Sherlock, stop." John raps the bar top.
Sherlock frowns as the bar tender brings them their second round. John scoots Sherlock's gin and tonic toward him and picks up his own pint.
"Why don't you turn your brain down one notch, pull back that 'must analyze all people' instinct and relax." He pauses and takes a drink. "As much as you can."
Sherlock pouts ever so slightly.
"This long winded story is going to culminate with a jealous or insulted boyfriend, isn't it?"
Sherlock begins to laugh and cough at the same time.
"Sort of… well… How did… that's an easy one, is it?" John says.
"Very." Mycroft watches the video feed in the top right of his screen as John holds open the door for Sherlock at 9:04. "But I suppose I should let you finish."
The other end of the line is silent for a moment except for a weak sort of giggling from Sherlock.
"He's just upset he never gets to surprise us," Sherlock supplies.
Mycroft smiles slightly at Sherlock unintentionally putting the two of them on the same side, even if it is just for John's stories. Mycroft will take what ever bare scrap of brotherly affection he can get.
Mycroft clicks off the irrelevant feeds on his laptop and leaves the two angles of the appropriate pub to finish through. Sadly, there is no camera inside the meaningless establishment but Mycroft has no doubt John will continue to tell the tale including how they were thrown out. The added visual will be nice to have.
"Well, if you want to hear the rest…"
"He adores hearing about me bleeding."
"You'll bleed more if you keep moving about like that!"
Mycroft picks up a pen and flips open his date book, need to find a time to meet with his CCTV team; he has to be able to put some sort of tracker in for when Sherlock appears on camera.
"Do continue, Dr. Watson."
John sighs heavily and something clunks onto a table. "Fine. Well, somehow Sherlock ended up flirting with a woman."
Mycroft's pen stops moving.
A strawberry blond woman suddenly slides up to the bar as if she's been running, knocking Sherlock in the shoulder.
"Excuse me!" She squeaks toward the bar tender, not Sherlock.
Sherlock's face twitches. John peers around Sherlock to check out the woman for a moment; close to his height, chin length hair, looks like her eyes are blue but it's hard to tell in the dim light.
"Come on…" she whines, leaning over the bar, still trying to garner the bar tenders notice. She groans. "I just want a beer."
Sherlock's fingers drum once along the side of his glass and he glares at the bar top. John watches Sherlock and tries to think of something quickly to distract Sherlock before the poor girl bears the brunt of Sherlock's social 'skills.'
"Just one beer," She insists again and Sherlock whirls around.
"No, Sherlock," John tries to say, reaching for Sherlock's arm.
"What do you want?" Sherlock asks her. She blinks in surprise, eyes coasting up and down Sherlock, who sitting still appears tall. "What drink?" He asks again.
"Oh, uh, a pint – a beer – any beer… just…."
Sherlock swivels around again, raises his arm, "Jessica?"
The bar tender stops in the middle of speaking to a pair of men in front of her further down the bar and snaps her head around in surprise. John notices with eyes now more attuned to the things Sherlock looks for that she is not wearing a name tag. Jessica's mouth falls open a little but before she can speak Sherlock breaks out the 'believe me' smile.
"Jessica, love, my friend Penny here is just dying for a pint and I know those two chaps in front of you are only taking up your time trying to decide what they want, when they already know it's two Heinekens, so they can stare at your chest." Jessica backs up a step and Sherlock shakes his head at the two men now also staring. "Mind giving them the cold shoulder in favor of Penny, here?" He winks.
John stiffens, ready to jump up and get in between Sherlock and the two men, when Jessica laughs. She waves a hand at the pair and walks down toward their end of the bar.
"When you put it like that." Jessica stops at Penny. "What do you want, dear?"
Sherlock turns back to John as Penny orders her drink, face impassive again. John shakes his head in surprise.
"You were about two words away from starting a fight just now."
Sherlock takes a sip of his gin. "Hardly."
"So, you knew my name from my credit card and you knew hers from those two guys down the bar?"
Sherlock's eyes widen slightly and John tilts his head. Sherlock turns to regard Penny, still standing at the bar beside him. He purses his lips as she stares levelly back.
"Only way I can see." She flashes her visa card then slips it back into her pocket. "I had it out under my hand on the bar and somehow you saw it in one glance."
"Yes." Sherlock raises an eyebrow. "And Jessica from –"
"–Reading their lips," Penny finishes.
"So, then they flirted for about ten minutes."
Mycroft blinks hard. "Excuse me?"
"I did not flirt."
"We talked about biology."
"Your humor is boundless, John."
Mycroft raps his desk with his knuckles so it can be heard through the phone. "I believe you just used the term 'flirt' and my brother in the same sentence which cannot possibly be accurate."
Sherlock groans loudly. "You have no idea of my sexual proclivity, Mycroft!"
"Nor does anyone else."
Mycroft pauses the CCTV feed as John suddenly appears hurriedly exiting the pub on his screen. No need to get ahead of the unfolding melodrama. Tapping his fingers on the desk again, Mycroft crosses his legs and runs one hand through his receding hair.
"It was flirting," John answers definitively.
"If so it was certainly not intentional or reciprocal on my part!" Sherlock hisses in pain. "And that – ah… that should be noted."
"Shh, Sherlock," John's voice takes on a soothing tone and Mycroft can clearly see John hovering over Sherlock like a mother hen. "I told you to stay still."
"Flirting or not," Mycroft continues, "I gather we have reached the violence portion of this never ending story?"
"You asked what happened!" John insists.
Sherlock whistles. "So ungrateful, Mycroft?"
"Like you, dear brother?"
Something crashes and Mycroft knows Sherlock just threw a book at the phone. "I am in pain!"
"You two are ridiculous," John mutters in a way which implies it was meant to pass unnoticed.
"I heard that," Mycroft says at the same time as Sherlock.
John barks a laugh. "Oh my god, well anyway, since Sherlock was… indisposed…"
Sherlock scoffs and Mycroft leans back on his chair legs. If he listens carefully Mycroft hears an under current of annoyance, perhaps jealousy, in John's tone with this portion of the narration. Mycroft makes a mental bookmark on that.
"I mingled around the pub for a bit," John continues, "chatted up this girl… and when I came back in ear shot at the other end of the bar I heard Sherlock say something like 'I would certainly not bother to do something so ridiculous –'"
"It was 'I have no interest in anything as ridiculous or unnecessary as that,'" Sherlock interrupts.
John sighs and Mycroft hears the scrape of chair on wood. "Thank you, Sherlock, the point is then she slapped him."
Sherlock's head whips around and he stands up in the same instant. His sudden movement puts Penny off balance and she falls back, knocking into the wall with a bang and a yelp.
"Ow! Jesus!" She shouts.
"Oi!" Suddenly a man with short hair and a beer in his hand appears beside Sherlock. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Sherlock stares back, nonplussed. "I believe you should ask her that."
"Hey!" She snaps. "You're the one who was rude. I liked you thirty seconds ago!"
The man moves a step closer into Sherlock's personal space. "So you smack her around for it?"
"I did no such thing." Sherlock holds his ground.
The man cocks his head. "Sure doesn't look that way."
"Well, clearly you think jumping in and saving the 'damsel in distress' even though you are not involved will win you points to maybe get in a good shag at the end."
The minute the word 'shag' escapes Sherlock's lips the man punches Sherlock in the face, knocking him back into the bar with an audible crack. Sherlock groans and rebounds off the bar, using the force to slam the heel of his palm into the offenders chest pushing him away. Penny jumps out of the line of fire as Sherlock stumbles forward off balance from the first blow. The man recovers first and catches the side of Sherlock's jaw with another punch. Sherlock whirls to the side, a small splatter of blood from his mouth then plants his weight and hits the other man in the stomach with his shoulder. However, the other man is bigger, harder and takes it better than Sherlock only sliding backward a step.
All of this seems to happen in ten seconds before John is running across the remainder of the bar toward them.
"Sherlock!" John shouts.
Sherlock's eyes dart toward John, distracted for an instant then a glass bottle shatters against the side of Sherlock's head and he falls.
"Hit a woman and insult me, you deserve more than that!" The man shouts and hauls Sherlock up off the floor.
"Oi!" The bar tender shouts, "break it up!"
The man slams Sherlock against the nearest wall so two vintage beer signs hanging on it fall down. Sherlock groans audibly and knees the man in the thigh, just shy of his groin.
"Bastard!" The man snaps.
"Get off…" Sherlock mumbles, blood coating the side of his head now, hands clutching at the man's arms.
He slams Sherlock against the wall again, punching him in the stomach as well. Sherlock sags slightly in the man's hands and John finally reaches them. John yanks with full force at the man's shoulders at the same time as a few other bar patrons, pulling the two apart so Sherlock crumples to the floor. The man shakes them off but still stays close enough to loom and seem intimidating.
"Back off!" John snaps, putting himself in between them, then kneels down over Sherlock. "Sherlock?"
Sherlock peers up at John, blinking awkwardly as blood runs into his one eye.
"You all right?" John runs his fingers along Sherlock's jaw checking for breaks. "Come on, Sherlock, speak. You alive?"
"I am breathing," Sherlock rasps finally.
John laughs and leans back on his heels, one hand still holding Sherlock's face. "Why do you do these things?"
"Well," Sherlock coughs painfully and smirks, "I have you now to save me."
"And then, much to my surprise, you were not thrown out of this pub, merely walked out."
"I…" John sputters. "Well, it was a bit of a rush out. How did you –"
"Do we look marvelous on the video, Mycroft?" Sherlock pipes up. "Find a good angle?"
"There is no need to be confrontational, Sherlock."
"Right…" John still sounds slightly perplexed at Mycroft's far reaching knowledge. "And then I brought him back here for a patch up." John clears his throat awkwardly. "The end."
"Wonderful narration, John." Mycroft pulls his notebook from a drawer then flips to an open page. "Now, what exactly was the extent of my brother's injuries?"
Sherlock sighs loudly.
"Ah, well," John begins, "it really is all right now, he –"
"I will determine if he is all right as you say or if he should be sent to hospital."
"I am a doctor, Mycroft."
Mycroft writes 'check John's credentials and school history' at the top of the page. "Of course, John, however –"
"Enough!" Sherlock's voice snaps suddenly in the background.
Mycroft hears a yelp, a crash, and the sound of ear hurriedly pressed against mouth piece as the speaker phone clicks off.
"Mycroft, call John again and I shall tell mummy what really happened to her antique copies of The Iliad and The Odyssey."
Mycroft's hand stills and he stares hard at the phone. He sees Sherlock's mouth turning up slowly into a smug smile from here and grits his teeth. He swallows once, puts down his pen then picks up his phone, switching it off speaker.
"I thought you were saving that particular piece of information for 'something special,' as you put it?"
There is a pause then, "John is special."
Mycroft hears something fall and a half hysterical laugh from John. "Wait, what?"
"Good bye, Mycroft," Sherlock says, firmly enunciating each word.
Then the line dies.
Mycroft tips the phone away from his ear and purses his lips. He drums his fingers once on his desk then puts down his phone.
"Hmm, interesting," Mycroft mutters to himself.
Sherlock rarely uses the word 'special' let alone calls another person that. Of course, John is the only person Sherlock has shown any sort of interest in beyond those related to crime in a long time. So, logically, John would be the only person Sherlock would ever refer to as special. Special as someone whom Sherlock lives with; special as someone who Sherlock finds some sort of quality in; special as someone who can actually tolerate, possibly even like him? At this rate there really will be a 'happy announcement' in all their near futures.
What would he get as an engagement present? Could there be anything both Sherlock and John would like which would also not end up ruined by Sherlock?
Mycroft quickly dials on his desk phone.
"A-, do a search for popular engagement presents this year." He glances at his laptop screen for a moment. "Oh, and look up medical – no, too ridiculous. Flowers perhaps? Hmm… no need to get ahead of one's self."
"Never mind, just compile a list of suitable engagement presents to save for a later date."
"Is someone engaged, sir?"
Mycroft picks up the receiver and knocks it back in the cradle, hanging up. He turns to the computer, deletes all the relevant CCTV files of the event of the evening, makes a note in his personal date book (SH – Altercation) and locks every drawer in his desk, laptop away in the middle drawer. He stands, picks up his phone and strides from his office.
The next morning when Mycroft visits Baker Street to check on how Sherlock is healing, he finds Sherlock and John curled together asleep on the couch. They breathe quiet and even, bandages still secure on Sherlock's temple; Sherlock with his head on John's chest and John with his arms protectively wrapped around Sherlock.
Mycroft scrolls through his Blackberry and marks matching cuff links and champagne as the top of his gift idea list.