Mycroft Holmes felt trapped, a feeling so foreign to him that he at first didn't realize that the invisible snare around his neck was being pulled until The Woman was standing in front of him. All because he had put Sherlock in her way, believing that his little brother would be able to handle her. So very wrong of him to believe that. He would have felt so disappointed in his brother if it weren't for the disappointment in himself. So many hours of work only to be destroyed in seconds by his own brother who didn't know better, but should have.
"You have no idea how much havoc I can cause and exactly one way to stop me. Unless you want to tell your masters that your biggest security leak is your own little brother."
Mycroft hadn't tasted a defeat like this ever, and Sherlock had never messed up a case before, not even during his time as a drug addict. This was beyond humiliating.
"We have people who can get into this." It was a rather futile hope, he was trying to cover up a defeat so obvious that it hurt even to think about it.
"I tested that theory for you. I let Sherlock try it for six months." The Woman was confident, she had already taken precautions for everything. Mycroft didn't have to turn his head towards his brother to notice the disappointment of failure in his posture. His heart sank, Sherlock hadn't been able to deduce a four letter password in six whole months. The fact alone was baffling, but now even more so critical when Mycroft himself clearly needed it the most.
"Sherlock, dear, tell him what you found when you x-rayed my phone." Mycroft glanced towards his brother.
"Four additional units wired inside the casing, I suspect containing acid or a small explosive. Any attempt to open it will burn the hard drive." Mycroft let the mask slip for a slight second, he had to hide his face behind his hand to stop her from seeing it.
"Explosives. It's more me." The Woman added after Sherlock's short summary. Her gaze when she held his was showing exactly how true that was. Nothing would suit her more perfectly.
"Some data is always recoverable." He wouldn't take that chance.
"Take that risk." Her eyes dared him to take it anyway.
"You have a passcode to open this. I deeply regret to say, that we have people who can extract it from you." Mycroft had barely finished what he said before Sherlock opened his mouth due her request.
"There will be two passcodes, one to open the phone, one to burn the hard drive. Even under duress, you can't know which one she's given and there would be no point in a second attempt…"
"He's good, isn't he? I should have him on a leash. In fact, I might." Mycroft had to make a decision, even if she wanted his brother on a leash, she had him so much harder tied down right now. He had national security on his shoulder this very moment and he had already let Sherlock pull the carpet under him once.
"We destroy this then, No-one has the information." It was a 'rather safe than sorry strategy', but if it was the only option he would have no other choice than to take it.
"Fine, good idea. Unless there are lives of British citizen depending on the information you burn."
"Telling you would be playing fair. I'm not playing anymore." A tight smile grazed her lips, a smile of a winner who takes nothing for granted until she got what she wanted. She reached inside her purse and took out an envelope handing it to Mycroft.
"A list of my requests, and some ideas about my protection once they're granted." Mycroft already dreaded what he might find in the envelope and true to her next words he wasn't disappointed.
"I'd say it wouldn't blow much of a hole in the wealth of a nation, but then I'd be lying." His eyebrows seemed to wish their way to the top of his head. Her kind of protection was horrendously more than average and the bill to go with it.
"Imagining you'd like to sleep on it."
"Thank you, yes." It physically hurt to say thank you to that Woman.
"Too bad." Mycroft took his eyes off the price tag of her protection and bored his gaze into her. Sherlock made some sort of mirthless snort from his corner of the room.
"Off you pop and talk to people." The woman was relentless and Mycroft was wearing thin. He leaned back and steadied himself against the chair's back rest.
"You've been very thorough. Wish our lot were half as good as you." Mycroft did rarely make compliments, but this woman deserved it to the fullest. She had them in her hand by those leashes she oh so loved to talk about.
"Very, very close, but no." Sherlock said. Suddenly standing up, Mycroft saw the fire in his brother's eyes again. Sherlock had found something.
"You got carried away. The game was too elaborate, you were enjoying yourself too much."
"There are no such thing as to much." The woman clipped in. But Mycroft saw a tender spot Sherlock always seemed to enjoy stomping at, soon one was to be discovered in this woman too.
"Oh, enjoying the thrill of the case is fine. Craving the distraction of the game I sympathize, but sentiment? Sentiment is the chemical defect found in the losing side."
"Sentiment? What are you talking about?"
"Oh dear God. Look at the poor man. You don't actually think I was interested in you? Why? Because you're the great Sherlock Holmes, the clever detective in the funny hat?" Mycroft watched them both in their elaborate tennis match of words behind his neutral mask that years of a career in politics had given him.
"No." Sherlock leaned close to the Woman's ear and Mycroft lost what his little brother was saying. But it didn't matter what the younger Holmes had said when he took up the phone that caused Mycroft so much stress. Mycroft knew now, he was going to get that information. Sherlock had finally cracked the code.