Warning: Spoilers for The Reichenbach Fall. Turn back and avert your eyes if you haven't seen it!
Disclaimer: Characters, situations, backstory etc all not mine, and this is not written for profit.
To Play The Fool
Mycroft passed through the lingering mist at a smart pace, the tap of his umbrella unconsciously marking time against the path.
Need to talk. Not here or at your wretched club. Tomorrow, 8am, the park. S.
Urgent, secret assignations in public locations – his little brother did so love to be dramatic.
'The park' was a nostalgic nod to their childhood. After devouring every espionage thriller he could get his seven-year-old hands on, Sherlock had become obsessed with being taken to feed the ducks at the Serpentine. Unlike other children and their simple delight in watching the birds, he had reasoned it was a likely place for secret rendezvous and concluded that feeding the ducks would allow him an innocent excuse to loiter and eavesdrop on whispered exchanges.
A teenaged Mycroft had been tasked with Sherlock-sitting for the summer holidays and had obligingly spent hours half-reading next year's school textbooks while fielding his little brother's theories about every pair of suspicious-looking characters to pass by each morning. Most had turned out to be likely adulterers with the odd drink-sozzled politician and journalist thrown in for luck, rather than spies, but it had been valuable practice for Sherlock's fledgling skills of observation and deduction.
Mycroft could scarcely believe that was now almost thirty years past; distant memories that somehow refused to fade.
On this morning the path wound its way towards the lake and the mist was clearing as the weak January sun rose in the sky. He knew where to go.
At the same old spot he saw a familiar silhouette standing at the edge of the water and joined it to look out at the small group of ducks, fluffed up against the cold, idling just off-shore. Mycroft reached into the pocket of his coat and drew out a small paper bag, silently offering it to his brother. Sherlock gave him a mildly sardonic look, but after a moment of reflection the bag was accepted.
Sherlock silently eased the leather gloves from his pale hands to begin tearing the bread into small pieces. Mycroft kept his gloves on, and his non-umbrella hand was returned to the empty pocket for warmth as he resumed the vigil over the lake.
Any hopes he had for this perhaps being an unlikely catch-up chat were dashed by his brother's flatly unemotional opening word.
"You may continue to deride the work I do, Sherlock, but we do keep… individuals of concern… such as James Moriarty under surveillance and I do occasionally glance over the reports." He shot a reproachful glance at his brother. "We know what he's up to."
"You know what he wants you to know." Sherlock shot back. "He's preparing for something – to launch himself into the public consciousness. He won't give away how or what or when until it's too late to do anything about it."
Mycroft wondered if Sherlock knew how much they had on the man; what years of work contributed to the detail nestled in the file that occupied the second drawer of his desk. But a few indirect phone calls and the brief incident at the swimming pool – that was all the time in the world for Sherlock to draw his own conclusions. Which contained more of the truth?
"Well you have had the good fortune of meeting him face-to-face," Mycroft conceded, watching as the ducks moved lazily through the water towards the drifting pieces of bread being cast into the water. "He is very taken with you, brother dear…"
Sherlock gave a scoffing laugh and threw more bread into the water. "He's fixated."
Without access to the intercepted surveillance footage of 221B Baker Street, he could only know the half of it. What would dear Doctor Watson think about the secret cameras being discovered there of all places? At least maintenance of the 'official' cameras in the public living areas gave an excuse to sweep for more nefarious bugs.
Mycroft merely gave a dry smile in response.
"His fixation is the only way to bring him down," Sherlock stated flatly.
Mycroft's smile melted away into a frown as he turned to watch the bread being shredded into ever-smaller crumbs, his brother staring off into middle-distance.
"He's fixated particularly on me – on bringing me down, corrupting me somehow. To become the dark side of the coin that he feels we both are."
Mycroft turned away with a forced chuckle, skewering his brother's typical melodramatic take on the situation with levity.
"Sherlock, have you been reading too many comic books again? You always did love…" He was interrupted by a tight grip on his arm, spinning him back around to the unsmiling face before him.
"I'm quite serious Mycroft," Sherlock was looking almost bloodless in the cold air and the breadcrumbs were now abandoned on the ground. Mycroft wanted to chide him to put his gloves back on – he knew the circulation to his hands had never been good – but he felt strangely drained for so early in the morning.
"I know," he agreed tiredly.
"He wants me, so he shall have me. Knowledge is power – I'll give it to him." Sherlock paused, dropping his grip. "Or rather, you will." Mycroft was beginning to see where this was leading. "Bring him in for one of those pleasant little chats the security service like to have from time-to-time and make him think he's squeezing you to barter information about me."
"Tell me about your latest criminal scheme and I'll tell you anything you care to know about the object of your obsession, the inside scoop on Sherlock Holmes?"
Mycroft shook his head, running through scenarios and coming up with several unpleasant ways this could end.
"He won't be curious about your first words and which was your favourite subject at school – he'll want information he can damage you with, sordid details." Mycroft looked away with an expression of distaste. "You're quite aware that I know more sordid details about certain aspects of your life than I would care to. It would hardly be beneficial for someone like Moriarty to gain access to any of that information, particularly given your recent increase in profile. The tabloids would have a field day…"
Sherlock gave a bitter laugh. "No-one cares what the newspapers say, Mycroft. But giving him what he wants will draw him out, make him over-confident. He'll think he has power over me."
He quietly marvelled at the naiveté of one whose work did not revolve around the world of politics and reputation, while a tightness grew in his chest that his brother felt it must come down to this – to barter away parts of himself as fuel for a madman's obsession
"And won't he? You know there's no reason why any information provided to Moriarty has to be accurate…" Mycroft suggested, predicting little chance of deflecting this idea now his brother had set it in motion.
"He would know. If there was even the tiniest suggestion of fabrication, he would know, and then the chance would be lost." Sherlock's voice was urgent with the importance he saw in this plan. "The trap has to be correctly baited. He's a predator, and the flesh and blood have to taste real. They have to be real."
"A charming metaphor," Mycroft commented, the wry smile not meeting his eyes. His little brother cast in the roll of a goat tethered to a tree, waiting for the circling tiger to approach.
He supposed that made him the man looping the rope around the goat's neck.
Mycroft gripped his umbrella a little more firmly and walked a few paces away from the lake, pausing to see Sherlock still stood at the edge looking back at the water, surrounded by his fallen crumbs.
"He promised to 'burn the heart out me'." His brother's voice was steady and resolved. "I'm not going to just stand back and watch that happen to any of them."
Mycroft found he had nothing to say in response.
After the call he'd received from his brother earlier that evening, the presence of an agitated John Watson waiting for him in his club was not unexpected.
The encircling angry red mark around one wrist hinted at the brief story he'd got from Sherlock of the night's activities.
A recent prolonged rush of adrenaline had not yet subsided, but he was flushed with anger rather than with fear or panic.
Mycroft predicted this would not be their most cordial of chats.
"Your own brother and you – blabbed – about his entire life to this maniac?"
He could hardly begin to defend his position in Sherlock's grand scheme now, when things had become unravelled so far so quickly. Not thirty minutes earlier he had faced the rapid-fire delivery of the most ridiculously far-fetched idea he had ever heard – and yet his brother's logic was infallible. They had both underestimated how far Moriarty was prepared to go, to what levels he would sink and drag Sherlock tumbling down with him.
It was clear now that those close to Sherlock were in even more danger than he was, while they both lived and the obsession could continue.
Moriarty could not be removed without all those in his pay joining him in a single blow – an impossibility. Time was necessary to track them one by one.
There was only one way to win Moriarty's game, and that was for Sherlock to lose.
Later there would be practicalities to deal with, and he understood that Sherlock was starting with a contact – friend – at Bart's Hospital. Apparently Ms Hooper was now another friend. It had momentarily baffled Mycroft to sit back and realise just far how his brother had come since meeting Doctor Watson – the very idea that he would have more than one friend to rely on in such a situation would have once been the most absurd part of the whole plan!
But right now, Mycroft found himself with the unenviable task of setting in motion his brother's most important work and building the foundations of the lie Sherlock would construct for the man sitting before him, and by extension the rest of the world.
It was not difficult to play the shamed brother; the cold and reserved strategist who had weighed up loyalty to his brother and the interests of the nation, and chose with his head rather than his heart.
After all, Sherlock aside, that was his usual response to such scenarios.
"Moriarty wanted Sherlock destroyed and you have given him the perfect ammunition."
The Doctor was filled with such righteous anger on behalf of his friend. Such loyalty.
Mycroft recalled the loyalty he'd shown at the very beginning; barely eighteen months ago.
With the detachment of long practice, he followed through the scenario laid out by his brother and concluded that it was quite likely to destroy John Watson.
But John was the key to Sherlock's plan – he had to believe, and to grieve, truly. The man broadcast his emotions with every inch of his face and body, voice and movement. He would be watched.
Just as before, the flesh and blood – the emotions – had to taste real. Had to be real.
The man before him was now standing, still barely holding back the quiver of anger and rapidly-draining adrenaline. Mycroft doubted he would see him again for some time. Perhaps at the funeral…
"John," he began, unable to express even a morsel of what he would like to say – to thank him for accepting and believing, and continuing to believe in his so often troubled younger brother, and for the positive changes he had assisted him in making.
"I'm sorry," he said with resigned simplicity.
John gave him a disbelieving chuckle and shook his head, as if barely believing his nerve to try to apologise at a moment like this, and strode towards the door.
"Tell him would you…" Mycroft added, as he watched John walk away to have his faith and heart broken by his little brother.
End Note: Not the most polished work ever but we are only 24 hours post-Fall and I needed to get something down to begin to work through some theories about how Mycroft might have been involved in a longer Holmesian plot, because the initial "blabbing about Sherlock's lifestory in exchange for next to no information about imaginary codes" just wasn't something I was buying... this is just one quick idea of many!