Nicky was perched somewhat precariously on the top of the wooden ladder steps in the Library. Sherlock decided that in the series of events that had unfurled so far that weekend the one most likely to have Mycroft blowing up a small country would be his son falling off of a ladder.
"Nicky, I think you should come down from there."
"All the good books are on the top shelf. I can't reach." He pointed to an old leathery book with Animal Dissection in gold on the spine.
"That was one of my favourites as well." Sherlock gently lifted the boy from his perch and reached up for the book. He opened the book at a rather gruesome picture of a Gorilla. Nicky's eyes widened for a moment.
"It's Victorian. They thought the best way to find out how things worked was to cut them open. It still is really."
"They cut me open to find out how I was broken. Is that the same thing?"
"I suppose it is in a way. Yes. It's all research."
"But they usually do that with dead people. To find out how they died?"
"Yes." Sherlock was holding very tightly to the reins of the conversation, he really didn't want to incur his brother's displeasure.
"I don't want them to cut me up when I die, but Mummy says that if they do they might be able to help other people. I suppose that would be all right? Doctor Hooper could do it, she'd be nice to me even when I'm dead. Daddy doesn't know. He'd get upset about it." Nicky turned the page to a picture of a frog, fully dissected. Sherlock looked at his nephew. It was a strange feeling to be sitting with Mycroft's son, the son he had named after his dead friend. He looked a lot like his father in many ways and Sherlock was suddenly struck by the thought that if he had been the older brother, what might have become of both of them.
"Sherlock? You're squishing me!" And Sherlock looked down to find he was hugging his small nephew very tightly.
Mycroft remembered everything that had ever happened to him. Every event. Every conversation. Every moment of every day for almost the entirety of his life. It would make a lesser man mad. In some ways it was why he had resorted to cutting off his emotions. It was one less thing to remember. And now he thought on all of it. Each shovelful of dirt that had been heaped into Nick's grave, the sand and stones and earth until the coffin and its precious contents had been gone from sight. Each shovelful that had been removed from the grave of Augustus Holmes until the tiny white coffin was revealed. A discoloured pearl in the darkness.
He remembered every word his mother had ever said to him. She had never once said she loved him. There had been love in this house, but never from his parents. It had been Mallin who had taught him to ride his first bicycle. It had been Mrs Mallin who had wiped away the blood and tears from his face when he had been beaten. It had been Mrs Patmore who knew what his favourite cake was and that he didn't like tomatoes or asparagus. It had been Nicholas who had held him tightly in the back of the car when his arm had been broken.
The one thing Mycroft would not remember though was his Grandfather. Gabriel Mycroft Holmes had died shortly after his second Grandson was born, and shortly before his eldest Grandson was executed. He had held baby Mycroft just once, sat in his armchair in the room that was now Mycroft's study, noting the wispy red curls and copper lashes and wishing the boy better luck with his temper than he'd had. And very briefly the baby had opened his eyes and Grandson and Grandfather had looked at each other. Just once.
"You my darling boy will be King of them all." Those were the only words Gabriel had ever said to Mycroft in their short acquaintance. And Mycroft didn't remember them.
What Mycroft did remember, and had no idea why was a smell. The smell of cigars and lavender and oranges. Strangely it was why he found the Diogenes Club so appealing, when he could sit in one of the leathery chairs with no one bothering him and allow the familiar strange scent to wash over him. He had no idea it was the scent of his Grandfather.
Mycroft looked at Gabriel's portrait. He'd probably been a few years older than Mycroft was now, elegantly dressed in black, with his red hair turning to snow. One hand clutched an ornate walking cane, reminding Mycroft of his own umbrella, the detail was amazing, almost photographic. Right down to the ring on Gabriel's finger. It was an unusual design and Mycroft wondered what had happened to the ring. Perhaps his Grandfather had been buried with it? He looked more closely.
The gold ring was large, a signet style, the background silver, cut with a cross, and a red rose. Fit for a King.
Mycroft remembered everything that had ever happened to him. Sometimes he wished he could forget it all. He rang the bell and a few moments later Arthur Mallin appeared in the library.
"Yes My Lord."
"Mallin, please could you ask Mr. Gray to join us? And then if you would be so good as to tell me the truth you've been hiding all these years."
"Very good My Lord." Mallin bowed as he left the room.
Mycroft turned back to the portrait of his Grandfather, a just for a moment thought he caught the faintest scent of cigars in the air.