Assault Mycroft, or go to John? In the red haze shrouding the world, the choice seems impossible.

But when movement returns, Sherlock is clearing the doorway and across the room in three strides, lowering himself gingerly onto the sofa next to his curled up, shivering flatmate. John fists his left hand weakly into Sherlock's shirt, transparently grateful for a supportive presence. Bare to the waist, it's all too obvious what his last few hours have been occupied with. John bruises slowly, but the welts and marks decorating his body have begun to blossom indigo.

"Mycroft." The word distorts in his throat, barely recognizable as human speech, but he doesn't so much as look up. Choice made between violence or succor, he has no attention to spare from the task of stroking John's sweat-spiked hair back from his forehead. Light as moth-wings his fingers trace John's injuries, testing depth and severity, assuring he should be here and not in a hospital.

The sightless hate being directed at him seems to not to faze Mycroft in the least. "I am truly sorry it had to come to this." His regret is honest and despicable. Sherlock's stomach torsions. "Doctor Watson is a good man. He did not deserve this. But you will insist on tempting fate, Sherlock."

Speech fails in the face of this kind of rage. If John's hand in his shirt weren't holding him in place, Sherlock would be on his feet and beating his brother. Quite possibly to death. He's by no means certain he could bring himself to stop. He leans down to John's eyes, a balm of murky blue. "You're saving his life right now, you know," Sherlock murmurs, just in case he would prefer otherwise.

John only looks up at him, hurt and sad and steady. Does that mean he knows? That even after this, he's protecting the sanctity of life? Or is he simply exhausted beyond the point of caring?

In a rare moment of jaw-dropping lack of foresight, Mycroft speaks instead. "John knows that it's for your own good."

Sherlock snarls aloud and whips around, snatching and throwing the heavy glass paperweight from the coffee table in a single smooth motion. Mycroft dodges, deceptively nimble for a man who lives at his desk, but he won't avoid Sherlock, who is in the process of following the paperweight over the table when his lunge tears John's fingers from his shirt. The loss of contact is unbearable. Momentum killed, he drops back onto the sofa like his puppet strings have been cut.

Mycroft withdraws to a more prudent distance, watching from one side of the fireplace while Sherlock pulls John's hand into his lap to grip and stroke it. Sherlock can't tell which of them he's comforting. "God damn you, Mycroft." No one has spoken that oath so utterly in the spirit it's meant in over a century. His words are made of venom instead of air, and he hopes they eat out Mycroft's eyes. "You and your fucking games." The hard consonants crack with satisfying precision in his mouth. He enunciates each one into its own bullet and lets fly. "You don't control me. And if you ever touch John again, I will kill you."

"No, Sherlock. You won't." Sorrow and sternness mix in that mobile voice like he's someone's parent, like he has the right, as though anything could excuse taking John and hurting him. The bitterness is too much. Sherlock is sucking cyanide. He could commit arson on Mycroft's house. Blood isn't enough to slake his temper. Blood and fire, though—that might just about do it. What a pity he doesn't have some semtex.

He tries to hide in John, drawing his hands over the contours of his red-striped back in warming sweeps, soothing them both with physical contact. But escape is hopeless.

"Sherlock." He has spent 35 years being conditioned to pay attention to that particular tone. "Understand that this outcome is controllable by you. This need not happen if you don't insist on meddling in things that don't concern you." The umbrella clacks two times on the brick of the hearth, betraying Mycroft's agitation. "I have a nation to look after. If you tangle yourself in those affairs, I cannot protect you, and you will endanger millions of people. I am not playing games. If this is the only consequence you will heed, then it's the one I will use. And if it will keep you from getting yourself killed, then John will let me."

Having had his say, Mycroft allows silence to fall across them.

"Are you done?" Sherlock asks after a moment. Of course he is. Confirmation is only a matter of form. "Then get out."

Mycroft goes, with a solemn little nod to John that again makes Sherlock want to scoop his eyes out for daring to look at them. John stares back, silent, shaking and watchful.

When they're alone, Sherlock gathers John up to tuck him, close and careful, into his lap, and swaddles them both in an afghan. He feels very cold, except where he holds John snug against him.