Hiding in my room, safe within my womb,
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

Paul Simon, "I Am a Rock"

Mrs. Hudson's texts normally irritated Mycroft Holmes. When he paid off the mortgage on 221 Baker Street in exchange for her vigilance, he hadn't expected to receive an endless stream of nonsense.

Sherlock finally ate something from his daily tea tray. I think it was one of the cranberry-orange scones.

He's talking to the skull again. If he'd leave the flat for more than a few minutes, I'd bin the dreadful thing.

Smelled something dreadful in 221b today. Popped in, and found Sherlock microwaving something he says is just a cow's foot. Do cow's feet have fingers?

Messages like these tempted Mycroft to cancel their arrangement, but he refrained because aging landladies were better than his camera system when it came to spying. At least she was keeping him apprised of Sherlock's activities, no matter how trivial.

On Christmas Eve, he received a message that made him glad he'd kept his temper in check.

Mr. Holmes, please come quickly. I'm afraid that Sherlock is going to hurt himself.

Mycroft knew that his younger brother had been depressed ever since Victor Trevor ended their long and stormy relationship in mid-December. Sherlock rarely opened his heart to anyone- his own family had never enjoyed that privilege- but when he did, his devotion was obsessive. He would lavish the object of his affection with attention and gifts, and in general treat them like a vital extension of himself. He craved their company like he once craved cocaine, and fretted during periods of separation.

That had definitely been the case with Victor Trevor. "He's the heart I don't have," Sherlock had confided to his brother during one of their rare dinners together.

Mycroft frowned. "You have a heart, Sherlock."

"I have a mass of muscles in my chest that pumps blood throughout my body. I don't have a heart."

Mycroft hadn't liked that response, nor had he liked Victor, a medical student whom Sherlock met at Bart's. He'd spotted the danger signs only days into the relationship: the other man never stayed the night at 221b (according to Mrs. Hudson), and refrained from holding Sherlock's hand in public.

"He's just shy," Sherlock protested when Mycroft finally expressed his concerns. "He's not out to his family yet."

"He's not shy about wearing the clothes and platinum watch you bought him, though."

"Mind your own bloody business, Mycroft! You just don't want me to have someone in my life."

A week after that confrontation, Victor left an envelope in Sherlock's mailbox. It contained his key to 221b and a note severing their relationship. He never did return the expensive gifts; he probably needed them to impress the giggling redhead Mycroft saw him with at Harrod's the following day.

Mycroft tried to check on his younger brother in the aftermath, but Sherlock remained in his flat with the curtains drawn, refusing to open the door to anyone except Mrs. Hudson. She advised Mycroft that he looked "sad and thin, but doesn't he always when he's not with someone? Anyhow, he just sits there in his chair, playing the violin at all hours."

On Christmas Eve morning, Mycroft dropped by at Baker Street on his way to the office, but Sherlock, predictably, refused to see him. After calling, "Sherlock, I'll be at the Diogenes Club at eight for dinner if you want to join me," he left.

The morning went by uneventfully, and at noon he dismissed his staff (even the faithful and ever-present Anthea) for the holiday. After a few more hours of work, he closed up the office and was en route to the Diogenes when Mrs. Hudson's alarming text reached him. Mycroft's heart jumped and he ordered his driver to take him to Baker Street instead. The last time he'd gotten this type of frantic summons, Sherlock's uni roommate had found him on the floor of his dorm room, half-dead from a cocaine overdose.

Mrs. Hudson was standing in the doorway when he arrived, wringing her hands.

"Oh, Mr. Holmes, I'm sure he's going to do something terrible. I heard him stomping about, and when I went in to see what the matter was, he screamed at me to leave. I'm honestly frightened to go back in there. A few minutes ago I hard him crying. And Sherlock never cries!"

Mycroft dashed past her and took the steps three at a time. He was about to kick the door to 221b in when Mrs. Hudson called up the stairs, "I unlocked it for you, Mr. Holmes!"

He turned the knob and went inside, praying that her yelling would not alarm his brother into doing something rash.

The flat was dark and freezing. The first thing Mycroft saw was the curtains on one of the sitting room windows fluttering. They partially concealed a dark shape perched on the ledge. Mycroft knew what –who - it was when a deep voice, weak with despair, muttered, "Can't take it any more. I'm tired. So tired. I just want everything to stop. Please? Make it stop?"

The shape leaned forward, in the direction of Baker Street and a potentially lethal fall.

"Sherlock!" Mycroft lunged toward the window, but his brother was already in mid-air.