Title: A Guilty Man

Author: starjenni

Disclaimer: Don't own anyone.

Pairings: Sherlock/Mycroft brotherly love, Sherlock/John epic friendship.

Warnings: Guilt, grief, obsession, anger.

Rating: T


Word Count: ~3000 words.

Summary: Sherlock goes to Mycroft for his assistance, and they settle some scores.

He knows that Sherlock isn't dead. Even when they tell him there's a body and that John saw him fall, saw him hit the ground, Mycroft knows Sherlock isn't dead. The whole idea is completely preposterous. He goes home and sits and waits, wondering if he is wasting his time in doing so, if Sherlock will even come to him at all.

He wouldn't blame him if he didn't.

A couple of hours later, a tramp turns up at the door and presses the buzzer. Mycroft takes one look at him and buzzes him in, then goes to meet him at the door, wishing he didn't suddenly feel so sick.

The door opens and though the tramp is filthy, wearing old, baggy clothes and has a cap pulled low over his forehead, only one person in the world could have those eyes.

Mycroft finds he can't make eye contact with Sherlock for more than two seconds. He stands back and waves him into the house, and Sherlock pulls off his cap, stands in the hallway awkwardly.

There is no sign of any head injury of any kind. He is perfectly fine, perfectly intact from head to toe. He looks around the hall as if it is the most interesting thing he's ever seen, as if it is the crime of the century.

Mycroft closes the door. His heart is racing, but he learnt how to disguise such emotions when he was six.

"I didn't think you'd come," he says.

Sherlock has his eyes fixed on the staircase when he says, "I wouldn't have if there was any other option."

He alights the stairs, clearly intent on a shower. Mycroft lets him go.

Sherlock comes back down a little while later, wearing the spare suit that Mycroft had laid out for him in preparation. He looks completely normal, as if he hasn't just had to tear up everything he loved and worked for because of his foolish older brother.

Mycroft pours them sherry. They sit down by the fire. He knows Sherlock is angry with him, because he hasn't made any taunts up to this point. His face doesn't show a single emotion, but that is more telling than he knows.

"You told Moriarty," Sherlock says, after a short silence. "You told him all about me." His voice is level.

Mycroft swirls the sherry in his glass. "I never imagined it would come to this."

"You told," Sherlock says, and his voice sounds a little less controlled now, "the only consulting criminal in the world all about me, and you never suspected that it would lead to my downfall? You are clever enough to have made yourself indispensable to the entire British Government, and you never even guessed?"

Mycroft says quietly, "I guessed. But I hoped I was wrong."

Sherlock continues as if Mycroft has never spoken. "I've lost everything. I have lost my entire reputation, my entire career is out of the window, I have lost my home, I have lost Jo - " And all the air leaves him as if he has been punched in the stomach. He sits back in his chair, face suddenly closed, eyes dull.

Mycroft realises, suddenly, that this has made their already tentative relationship utterly irreparable. Sherlock was the only thing that really mattered to him, and he could never say exactly why, and now it is gone. He might as well be in Sherlock's place for all that he has now.

Now would be the right time to apologise, but his mouth can't form the words. The Holmes family were never any good at apologising.

"You did it on purpose, didn't you," says Sherlock coldly.

The accusation brings back all Mycroft's powers of speech. "What?"

Sherlock looks at him, eyes like ice. "You did it on purpose. You couldn't bear that I make an attachment to anyone else but you, you thought John had usurped your place, you were angry that you couldn't manipulate me so effectively anymore, like you could when I was five, so you told Moriarty everything, so that I would be ruined. You did it all on purpose, you knew exactly what you were doing, don't expect me to think you made a mistake, because you never make mistakes."

There is a moment - just a very small one - where Mycroft can't breathe, where he thinks maybe he won't breathe ever again, and the thought shouldn't be a relief, but it is.

And then air comes rushing back, and he is alive again.

He puts the sherry very carefully down on the side table, noticing the slight tremble in his fingers. "That's what you think, is it?" he says very calmly.

"It's what I know," Sherlock snarls. "You're obsessed with me, I've always known it, it's quite obvious. Well congratulations, it worked, I have nothing left and because of that you have once more become necessary to me. Now you can control me as much as you like." He stands up and puts his hands on the armrests of Mycroft's chair, leaning forward so closely that Mycroft can see every nuance of rage in his eyes. "I hope you're happy," he hisses, and then stands up again abruptly, walking out of the room.

Mycroft sits by the fire for a long while, until the trembling stops.

He comes down into the dining room the next morning to find Sherlock has laid out a huge map of the world all over the dining table and is plunging coloured pins into bits of Europe. He doesn't look up when Mycroft comes in, but he says, "The only way I can go back is if I destroy Moriarty's entire web. He'd have had a second in command, someone ordered to kill John and the others if I mysteriously rose from the dead. So I need to get rid of all of them, everyone who was involved. I need to finish it all off, and you're going to help me because you feel guilty and it's the least you could do, frankly."

Mycroft approaches the table. "That could take years," he says quietly.

"Yes, well, I have no other choice," Sherlock snaps. His hand is shaking when he forces another pin into the map, and probably into the expensive wood of the table underneath it as well.

Mycroft says, "Why did you tell John you were a fake?"

"To make my death easier to handle," Sherlock retorts shortly - his shoulders are tight and his entire posture says that John is the last thing he wants to discuss. "And to make the story of my death more believable to Moriarty's people."

"You knew he wouldn't accept it."

"His not accepting it will just reaffirm it to the world."

"He was so angry, when he found out about my mistake."

Sherlock digs a blue pin into France. "It wasn't a mistake," he says coldly.

Over the next few weeks, Mycroft and Sherlock work on pinpointing all of Moriarty's people all over the globe. It is not fun work, not even when they are using their brains to their fullest extent, shooting back and forth theories and ideas, because it is clear Sherlock doesn't want to be there at all, that he doesn't wish to be working with Mycroft, or talking to him, or even looking at him. Sometimes he sits in the chair by the fire in the evenings, and he will not say a word, he will just stare into the flames with a terrible look of pain on his face, and Mycroft knows that he is thinking of John and missing him.

There is nothing, Mycroft thinks, that is going to repair this gap between them. There is absolutely nothing he could do. Sherlock always wanted a reason to hate Mycroft, and now he has a perfect one. He will never forgive his brother. Not Sherlock Holmes. Not ever.

Mycroft was planning on saying nothing, on letting Sherlock believe whatever he wants, but he finds himself suddenly breaking his silence one afternoon, when they are discussing the possible location of Sebastian Moran.

"You're wrong," he says suddenly.

Sherlock - pin poised above India - looks up and says, "No, your Intelligence said - "

"Not about this." Mycroft looks at the map. "About me."

Bits of Sherlock's face freeze, sliding together like icebergs. "No I'm not," he says flatly.

Mycroft smiles, but there's no joy in it. "I made a mistake, Sherlock, but that was all it was. It is not as complicated as you seem to think. I had a choice between putting you in danger or putting the entire British nation in danger. Moriarty had information that could save many lives, and he was willing to give this information for a few apparently meaningless facts about your childhood. I knew he was up to something, but I thought - I hoped - that I could be there to head it off or help you when the time came. I underestimated him and his intelligence, and I made a mistake."

Sherlock says nothing, but neither does he walk away. Mycroft says, "Why would I ever have wanted you to leave John? When he has done so much for you? That man has made you, Sherlock, and he has made you far better than I ever could have. I am not so controlling that I cannot let you go to someone better than me. I am not that selfish."

Sherlock stares at him. Mycroft looks down at the map. "India is correct, that is what my Intelligence confirmed."

Sherlock continues to stare at Mycroft, pin held aloft. "Would you do it again?" he asks, voice a bit unsteady. "Would you do it, knowing what your actions would create, would you still give Moriarty the information about me?"

It is a terrible choice, to be made to choose between Sherlock and the nation. They are the only two things in the world that Mycroft cares about. He will never care for anything else, he knows he won't. And he would care for Sherlock even if Sherlock attempted to cut him out of his life completely. As he might do, when all this is over. Mycroft wouldn't be surprised. He thinks he would deserve it, actually.

"I don't know," he says. It is his honest answer. He continues, "I know you think it is impossible for me to be wrong, or to make a mistake, but I assure you it is not. And when I make a mistake, it destroys so much. We play such high risk games, we gamble with such odds, that when we make mistakes - you and I - they can bring about catastrophe. This mistake is unavoidable and irreparable, and I know I have no right to say this, and you have no right to believe me, but I am sorry."

Sherlock's face has turned entirely immobile. Mycroft finishes, "For what it's worth Sherlock, I am so sorry."

There is a long, still pause, and Mycroft wonders if Sherlock is going to say anything at all, then instead he goes back to the map, plunging the pin into India, and they carry on as if nothing has been said at all.

The next time Sherlock thinks of John, the next time he goes quiet and still by the fire and there is that pain on his face, Mycroft gets an idea. He goes into the other room and calls 'Anthea', and the idea becomes reality in a matter of hours.

The weeks crawl by and steadily the map gets filled up with different pins, different names, different people. Sherlock catalogues each one, puts all the information into his mind palace, sits for hours in silence collating it all. He is - if it is possible - even more energised about this case than any other he has ever been given. This is not the most complex case he has ever had, but Mycroft knows it is the one where he has the most at stake. If he wins, he gets to go home. That is all there is to it.

Very soon it is almost done, and Mycroft is busy preparing travel documents for Sherlock, arranging matters so that his fake identity is perfect. Sherlock dyes his hair ginger and cuts it, and it looks truly bizarre.

Mycroft doesn't want it to end. It hasn't been an enjoyable experience at all, but once it is over, it is over, he is sure. He and Sherlock will keep in contact whilst Sherlock is away, keeping track of all the movements of their little pins, but after that, when Sherlock has won and Sherlock is home, he is certain his little brother will never speak to him again.

He will have to go on in his life without Sherlock, and the worst part about that is that he has a horrible feeling there isn't much in his life without Sherlock. There certainly won't be much worth living for, but then there never was.

He will miss him.

It's the day before Sherlock leaves, and it could be Mycroft's imagination, but the two of them seem to tiptoe around each other even more than they have done already. It is an entirely new feeling, but Mycroft gets the impression that Sherlock is being careful with him. They have never had to be careful with each other before. Not ever. That has been the cornerstone of their relationship. Sometimes it was the only reason they ever spoke to each other.

They are poring over the map one last time, memorising it all, when Sherlock speaks.

"It wasn't just you," he says.

Mycroft glances at Sherlock, but he is staring fixedly at the map. "Sorry?" he says.

Sherlock shrugs, tracing the outline of the UK with a finger, for all the world like a young boy. "I wasn't all your fault," he says. "It was me too. I boasted, I - I showed off too much, I was too dramatic. It was all a big act, and I let it go to my head. I insulted so many people, unnecessarily, so that when it came to it there was hardly anyone to stand up for me. If I had been - sensible - " He flicks the map with his fingers, frowning in thought.

Mycroft says slowly, "Yes, but I didn't exactly help matters."

"You lost." Sherlock looks up, and they meet eyes for what feels like the first time in ages. "That's all that happened, you lost against Moriarty. I almost did too. I still might, if I don't manage this. He died, but he didn't lose by dying. Because I've got nothing, Mycroft, and that's as much my fault as yours. He was better than us. That's all."

Sherlock's hair might be ginger and different, but his eyes are all him. You can't disguise that sort of pull, that sort of quick intelligence. "So stop being all guilty," he finishes, sounding more like himself than he has for ages, all irritated, as if Mycroft's feeling awful is purely selfish and is causing him physical discomfort. "You go all humble, and its creepy."

For the first time in a while, Mycroft feels like smiling. He blinks instead, and nods, and they get on with memorising the map, but the silence is a little less loaded now.

Thank God for John Watson, Mycroft thinks. Without him, Sherlock wouldn't have even considered the option that he could have been in the wrong. Without him, Sherlock would never have tried to think of Mycroft and of what he might be feeling. John has helped Sherlock in so many ways, and Mycroft can only hope and pray that he might continue to do so one day.

In the evening, Mycroft waits until Sherlock has gone silent and pained by the fire, then leans forward and gives him the file that he and 'Anthea' rustled up weeks ago.

Sherlock gives Mycroft a quick look, then opens the file. It is filled with photographs of he and John, taken by Mycroft's surveillance team on various days in various months, doing normal, boring things such as walking down a street, or sitting in a cab, or eating Chinese in that horrible little restaurant they both coveted. It is pictures of the two of them; sometimes John is looking at Sherlock, sometimes Sherlock is looking at him, sometimes they are looking at each other, sometimes they are happy, sometimes they are arguing, sometimes they are contemplative. Whatever they are doing, however they are looking, they are always side by side.

Sherlock goes as still as a rock when he reaches the last photo. It is Mycroft's favourite; it was taken while they were in a cab, and whilst Sherlock is staring out of the window at the passers-by, John is staring at Sherlock, and the look on his face, so full of admiration, and adoration, and pure love (and it doesn't matter what form it's in, because it's love, it's love), makes the photo.

Sherlock looks at the photo for a long, long time.

"Just in case you ever needed reminding about why you were doing it," Mycroft says quietly.

Sherlock nods, but says nothing. He looks dangerously close to crying, so Mycroft tactfully goes up to bed and leaves him to it.

The cab comes at half four the next day, and Sherlock is all packed up, stiff-lipped and ginger. They hover by the door like a pair of idiots.

"Thanks," Sherlock says finally. He sounds entirely ungrateful, but Mycroft can read through that easily enough. He nods.

"Anything you need, just ask," he says, the words formulaic and stiff in his mouth.

Sherlock nods. "I know," he says, and then he moves to pick up his suitcase…and then he stops again.

He looks at Mycroft.

"I know," he says again, more gently, and then he reaches forward and clasps Mycroft's hand in his, and the touch makes Mycroft freeze like ice, because he doesn't want this to be goodbye, he can't bear it.

Sherlock squeezes Mycroft's immobile hand. "Until we meet again," he says, and Mycroft looks at Sherlock and knows he really means it, that he has forgiven him, that he will see him again, that Mycroft's life will continue to have meaning.

He wants to say so many things, but the time has run out, and Sherlock is letting go of his hand and getting into the cab, and the cab has already driven away before Mycroft has his wits back.

It doesn't matter though, he thinks, as he retreats back into the now empty house. After all, he can say them all next time.