Prequel to Speechless, Sequel to Gabrielle
Set when Sherlock is about 16 and Mycroft is 23
DISCLAIMER: I do not own BBC Sherlock or any rights to the canon. This is for pleasure only. Do not sue my ass.
CHAPTER ONE: Shadows
The young man slouched against the rough brick wall, struggling to catch his breath. He was not sure exactly how long he had been running, but his lithe body was not used to such athletic pursuits. He was a scholar, not an athlete. Well, more the one than the other at any rate.
As he wheezed gently, he reminded himself that he really ought to quit smoking. Perhaps then he would be able to breathe.
His ears pricked as he made out heavy footfalls approaching from the west. Dress oxfords. A man, and a man who took himself rather too seriously at that. Left-foot dominant. Tall, though not heroically. Gait much shorter than his legs required.
He smirked to himself, his storm blue eyes sparking with mischief. Best give the old boy the slip again, he decided, leaping onto the fire escape that hung above his head.
"Sherlock!" bellowed the young man who came running up below him, glaring at him with a hand raised to block the sun. "What the devil are you playing at? I've been scouring the city for you for three quarters of an hour already! Get down here and finish your Latin!"
"Latin is boring, Mycroft. I'm off to find something more productive." Sherlock grinned back at his brother, taking care to rain mud and other more unpleasant things from his shoes onto the older lad's grey suit coat.
Mycroft sighed in displeasure as he brushed the offending dirt from his shoulders. "I will cane you. Don't think I won't."
"You'll have to catch me first." And without another word, he took off across the rooftops, heading deeper into the urban jungle which was his playground.
Mycroft shook his head wearily, turning towards home. He whimpered slightly as he picked at the damp residue which remained plastered to his blazer. "Every time. I really ought to start carrying an umbrella. Then perhaps I'll have one suit left he hasn't stained."
As he knelt beside a dumpster in the back streets of Lambeth, lighting another cigarette to help him think, Sherlock Holmes drifted back to the day he'd begrudgingly agreed to move in with his stiff-backed older brother. It had been mother's idea, of course. She had always tried to persuade her sons to be more amicable towards each other, with rarely any good result.
This latest attempt was the most invasive, he thought bitterly. He was between terms at Cambridge, and should have been studying chemistry in his laboratory at Holmes Manor rather than being stuck pouring over musty old books with Mycroft in his stuffy London flat. He had a mind that craved adventure, and as quiet as the rural life was, at least there he'd had the freedom to pursue it.
Mycroft alternated between treating him like ash or like glass. He seemed convinced his brother would shatter on contact. . . Or that perhaps he would merely leave another curious stain on his immaculate person, Sherlock thought bitterly. Either way, something exciting had better happen soon, or he was liable to make it happen.
For his part, Mycroft could not for the life of him understand why his brother was so adamant about finding adventure. He had never entirely understood Sherlock, not when he was a mewling, grasping infant and certainly not now. . .not that he had stopped trying. Every time he thought he'd made a breakthrough, the boy would retreat farther from him. And he would lose patience, would shout and threaten, and nothing ever got better.
He did not want to yell at his brother. Mother had asked him to look after the boy, and so he tried. But Sherlock made it so hard to be kind.
He sighed, swirling his brandy about in a cheap glass snifter.
"I'll apologize when he gets home," he murmured to himself.
But Sherlock did not come home that night.
Or the night after.
Mycroft searched everywhere for him, his anger and frustration gradually becoming replaced by apprehension and worry. One night he could understand. Two began to smack of carelessness.
By the fourth day, he finally concluded that there was nothing more he could do on his own. After all, he was only a low-ranking government official, with barely enough clearance to fetch coffee. He needed help.
He sighed as he thumbed the worn napkin in his hand. How he hated calling her now, after all these years of avoiding each other. Well, he had been doing most of the avoiding. Caring was not an advantage, and she had made him care too much.
He dialed the inked-on number carefully. The phone rang three times before it was picked up.
"Hello?" replied a husky masculine voice. "Who is this?"
He clamped his eyes shut tightly, trying to collect himself. A man. So she had moved on. He sighed shakily.
"Hello. Is Gabrielle about?"
There was a brief snort on the end of the line and a few moments of silence before a new voice answered. This was softer, higher, and yet richer than the last. A voice he knew so well it echoed in his dreams.
"Mycroft, is that you? Whatever is the matter?"
"Sherlock, my brother. He's missing. I. . .I'm afraid."
"I'll send someone right away." And she was gone.
He ran his hand across his eyes, wiping at them until they were raw. He was relieved in a way that she was not coming herself. And yet. . .no, that was over now.
Now, Detective Sergeant Gabrielle Brown was perhaps his only hope to find his brother. That was all that mattered.