AN: Hi there! This is going to be the last of my second whump upload. I may do a third, depending on feedback and inspiration, but for now this will be it. This is number 5 of the second lot and 10 overall. It's going to be very angst-y, 'playing' with a situation with which I am personally familiar.
It's been postulated already by some particularly empathetic writers that Sherlock and Mycroft's poor relationship is thanks to Mycroft 'failing' his younger brother when they were children in some sort of abuse situation. Those fics are what inspired this, and if you believe you're one of these writers, please feel free to let me know and I'll credit you here. NB: I remembered the two fics! Largely thanks to the honour of getting a review from one of the authors! The two main inspirations were: 'What I never did for you' by never-to-see and 'The Mind Palace Minotaur' by Not Poignant.
Sorry if the narrative voice seems…odd in this. I don't really have the time to go into a big, multi-chapter fic to do the situation and story justice, but obviously I didn't just want to do a cursory summary. I opted, a little experimentally, for a hybrid fairytale feel, with a dash of the awkward, analytical tone I always get from the Holmes brothers. It just seemed to fit.
Another important thing I have to say, is if you're in this situation or one similar, whether you're 'Sherlock' or 'Mycroft', you're still a victim, whether or not you're the one getting physically/emotionally hurt. It will be confusing, and it's not your fault. Your best option is to get in touch with child protection. They don't necessarily have to get involved, but it's often nice to have someone to talk to. If you're in the UK I'd strongly recommend Childline on 08001111 or on their website (google Childline and you should find it.)
DISCLAIMER: Remarkably I don't own Sherlock, or any of the franchise. I do own all my original ideas and characters however, so do not steal.
I'll mostly be keeping track of their ages in the story as it goes on, but obviously Mycroft and Sherlock are children here.
If you'd asked someone who'd known the Holmes brothers, who saw past their unnerving, ruthless intelligence, past their tricks and their games, and simply saw them as the children they were, then that someone would tell you that the two were as different as they were alike. If such a person existed in the Holmes' childhood, they'd have gone on, to describe the endearing, if, at time, exasperating mischief of the younger brother, his remarkable courage, his insatiable curiosity about the world, about the mechanics of life, how things worked. They'd have contrasted this with the older brother who, they'd have no doubt, was just as brilliant, but was more interested in people, in playing his little power plays and watching them fight among themselves. Indeed, overall, they'd have surmised, Mycroft preferred to sit back and watch the world go by, whereas Sherlock was always throwing himself in head first thanks to his ravenous appetite for discovery. They may, perhaps have noted with a brow furrowed in concern, that Sherlock was often confused by people. He did not understand them as easily as his brother, and this led to frustration at himself, only aggravated by the gap between he and his peers intellectually. They would speculate that in spite of his claims to the contrary, Sherlock probably did want a friend or two, quite desperately, someone with whom he could share his experiments and adventures, even if they didn't necessarily keep up with him. As it was, Sherlock was incredibly lonely, and though he tried very hard to stubbornly keep up his enthusiasm, as he got older, and became more and more alienated, this person may say, sadly, that they worried his difficulties with people were crushing his true, playful, fierce nature.
Of course, such a person did not exist in Sherlock and Mycroft's lives. This was part of The Problem.
The Problem first reared its head three weeks and two days after Sherlock's fifth birthday. The little boy had decided to venture out on a particularly ambitious expedition in which he planned to memorise the species and position of every tree in the wood stretching behind the gardens of the Holmes Estate. The little boy had given his elder brother no end of worry searching for him, but in the end Mycroft had had to stop and settle for waiting at the edge of the wood. He knew Sherlock would make his way back, he knew the wood like the back of his hand. When dusk fell, Mycroft had felt he had no choice but to tell Mummy Holmes, who'd scolded him gently for not having gone with his brother and then settled to wait with the boy, getting them both a blanket and a torch.
Together, mother and son sat waiting on the steps to their patio, looking out over the woods at the far end of the garden, waiting for Sherlock to come home. An hour and a half later, he'd manage to time it (accidentally of course) in perfect synchronization with his father's coming home. Father Holmes, when he came home, had had a long stressful day. He also had an important 'family' dinner with some strategically political friends, and he needed to look good. When he discovered that, instead of getting ready and being the exemplary hosts they normally were, his wife and elder son were in the garden, Father Holmes was furious. When his five year old son stumbled out of the woods, covered from head to toe in mud and sticks and leaves, triumphantly carrying his school bag, Father Holmes had reached a point where he could hardly believe his eyes. When he considered that that bag, expensive and now ruined, was probably filled with rocks, sticks and animals in varying stages of decomposition (because his younger son just had to be a freak), Father Holmes lost control.
After a curt word to the servants informing them to excuse the Holmes' family on his behalf to their guests and say that Mrs Holmes had been taken ill, Father Holmes seized Sherlock by the hair and dragged him inside, up to his study, ignoring the little boy's shouts of pain and surprise, and his uselessly scrabbling hands. Mycroft stood to go after them, suddenly, appallingly concerned, though for all his brilliance he couldn't understand why. Or rather, he didn't want to. Mummy Holmes stopped him with a light touch to his arm, her beautiful blue eyes shining, and told him to go read in his room.
Mycroft, with reluctance clinging to his skin like the scent of a fragrant oil, not quite substantial but certainly there, dragged his feet to his room, watching as his mother headed in the opposite direction.
Mummy Holmes, on her part, had gone straight to her husband's study, where she was appalled to find her five year old son crying and bleeding on the floor, his father's hand raised in a threatening promise of yet more violence. She stopped him, talked him down as best she could, and had one of the servants take Sherlock, shaking and crying and hurting, to his brother's room.
When his younger brother had, for once in his life wordlessly, curled up next to him in his expansive bed, holding onto Mycroft's jumper as tightly as his little hands would let him, Mycroft felt a cold serpent twist, up out of his gut and into his bloodstream, aching through him with each beat of his heart. Terrible times were coming, and Mycroft was perfectly aware of the fact. But back then, on that night, he shushed away Sherlock's tears, and stroked his lovely black curls, and held him fiercely close. That night he believed, with all his heart, that everything would be ok.
There is a reason, to this day, that Mycroft Holmes hates being wrong.
This was the beginning of The Problem. In the months following the First Incident, it became clear that Mummy Holmes was protecting Sherlock. It was also obvious to anyone who observed that Sherlock was very seriously shaken, and thus his fierce spirit, while not gone out, had been dampened significantly. However, in spite of this, for seven months, the First Incident was not repeated. Perhaps Father Holmes was a little cruel, a little more sharp than he ought to have been with his youngest child, but then, he'd always been that way. Mycroft, at 12 years old, began to hope in spite of himself that it was just a one off. That they would all be safe, and if not perfectly happy, as happy as they could be.
On the eighth month, however, things changed. Mummy Holmes was called away on a lecture tour of various parts of the USA. She'd be gone for three weeks. She could hardly say no, and she, like Mycroft, had begun to hope in spite of herself. She cared for Sherlock, more than life itself, but she had married Father Holmes. Sherlock was his son too. He'd be safe. In spite of this alleged confidence however, a niggling doubt led to her calling her elder son into her room, 13 now, and asking him to watch his younger brother. To use the remarkable skills he'd begun to exhibit in peace keeping and negotiating. To ask him to intervene, to keep his brother safe.
Mycroft promised he would, and there is a reason, to this day, that he hates being wrong.
Four days after Mummy Holmes had set out on her tour, Mycroft felt a creeping, crawling sense of something he supposed must be fear. Sherlock had not come into school. As delinquent as he was, the younger Holmes always came in for the morning at least. Today he'd not shown his face. The Problem was breaking into their lives once more. Mycroft excused himself from lessons and came back to find Sherlock, at five and three quarters, single handedly moving stones half as big as he was from one pile to another about twenty metres away in their garden. His little hands were scratched and tinged with blue, his young muscles trembling, his face streaked with tears and swollen red on one side where it had met with a particularly vicious strike.
Mycroft dropped his bag and his umbrella, running to take the rock from his brother's hand, questions bubbling up into his mind faster than the most vigorous chemical reaction. He was halfway to reaching the little boy when a heavy hand landed on his shoulder. Mycroft paused to look up into his father's thick set, handsome face. It wore a deceptively amiable expression which Mycroft abruptly realized he'd never trusted in his life. He asked what Sherlock was doing, and Father Holmes explained that he was teaching his younger son how to show willingness, duty, and effort. How he was scourging the laziness out of him with his 'gulag.' Mycroft recognized the word, a term for labor camps in the second world war. He felt sick. He asked if perhaps he could help Sherlock, learn the same lesson. Father Holmes smiled, the sort of smile that Mycroft recognized as a predator knowing it had all the power it needed over its quarry. His father pointed out that Mycroft had never shown the same reckless, anarchic tendencies as his younger brother, and unless he was willing to follow that path (a dangerous look, a none-too-subtly clenched fist) then he would come inside and make them both some tea.
Mycroft, at age 13, already understood how people worked perfectly, and part of this was knowing when he was beaten. If he gave up his Father's preference now, he'd have no leverage to help Sherlock when he really needed it. Much as Mycroft hated them, the facts remained that Sherlock would live through this punishment. The likelihood was there were more to come where his survival would not be so assured. Problem would not just go away. So Mycroft went inside, wordlessly, plotting and planning and predicting, and made his father his tea. And he sat inside, and he didn't touch his tea, and he watched as Sherlock continued to move the pile of rocks, and his love for his father became infected by his concern for his brother. As far ahead as Mycroft was in manipulation and pure intelligence, he still struggled with emotions. Not quite as much as his brother, but enough. This hardly helped him.
On day 6, Sherlock got into a fight at school. Well, it wasn't exactly a fight. At five years old, Sherlock was not yet able to defend himself. Still, since the other child vehemently insisted Sherlock had 'started' it, in spite of the uneven proportion of cuts and bruises, the teacher (who may indeed have been deduced by Sherlock one too many times) called in his Father and requested that he discipline his son regarding getting into fights.
Mycroft the thirteen year old had wanted to kill people before, but he'd never wanted someone to not only die, but disappear, vanish from existence, as much as he did this teacher (a certain Mr. Mallory) as he did when he heard what had happened. Instead he settled for informing the petty, stupid man's wife that he was having an affair and had been stealing from her bank account to fund his drug habit. Then he ran all the way home, in spite of his dislike of 'legwork.' Later, he would arrange an anonymous tip off to the local paper, the scandal would bloom, and would be ruined.
Then, Mycroft burst back into his house, begging the distraught looking servants to tell him where his brother was. They said nothing, apparently too frightened to do so (The Problem had taken its toll on them too), and Mycroft huffed in exasperation but began examining his surroundings with his sharp brown eyes, brain working at lightning speed as he deduced where Sherlock had been taken. He followed the trail to the cellar, but when he tried the door it was locked. Mycroft resisted shouting in frustration, instead pressing his forehead to the door and knocking gently.
"Sherlock? Sherlock...are you…are you in there?"
A small voice, more broken than Mycroft had ever heard it, said, quietly, "My?"
The elder Holmes sibling shut his eyes and crushed the impulse to cry. He needed to help Sherlock, not break down. He'd told his mother he would. He tried not to linger on his spectacular failure thus far. He could do this. He could fix things. This Problem didn't have to be permanent.
"Sherlock, are you…are you hurt?"
There was a pregnant pause, and then a mumbled whimper, so soft Mycroft could barely hear it. "Lots."
Mycroft forced down the nausea, and the grief, the anger and the guilt and the unsettling confusion. "Ok, Sher, do you have your lock picking kit? Do you know where it is?"
"I don't think you'll be needing that." Another frisson of that feeling Mycroft sincerely didn't want to identify as fear, and Father Holmes rounded the corner, smiling down at him. "Step away Mycroft."
"But father –" Stupid, this wasn't the right place to be negotiating, he needed better surroundings, better circumstances, this couldn't work. And yet he couldn't crush the bubble of concern as he thought of his brother locked in the cellar, small and sad and broken.
Father Holmes simply gave that smile, and shook his head, dropping one heavy hand onto his son's shoulder and leading him to the dining room. Mycroft forced himself to eat, but the food felt like dust in his mouth. Two days later, eight days into Mummy Holmes' trip, Mycroft was permitted to release his brother from the cellar. He'd never felt more lost, and Sherlock had never looked less like the tiny, laughing, reckless little boy he had been.
He was filthy, and his face was crusted with snot and blood. It was misshapen with bruises, and his shirt collar was ripped. His little neck was ringed with bruises, as was most of his pale skin. When Mycroft helped his brother change, he found the angry red stripes of where the boy had been beaten with a cane. It was at this point that Mycroft lost the calm, reassuring self control he had had, and simply looped his arms gently around his younger brother and wept softly into his matted black hair.
Sherlock sat there and let him, remaining incredibly, unnervingly quiet until he turned to his brother, pressing a small, wet kiss with his swollen, bloody lip to his big brother's cheek, and patting his back. "It's alright My."
This would be the biggest display of emotion that Sherlock would show for years. Mycroft would never forget it.
The next morning, Sherlock was running a high fever, unsurprising considering his being trapped in an unheated cellar without food or drink. Their private doctor was called in as a matter of urgency, and for the week it took Sherlock to recover, Father Holmes did nothing. He didn't visit his younger son, or give him the comfort he needed as he struggled through sickness and hallucinations, that was Mycroft, but then, the elder Holmes brother knew that that wasn't going to happen, and thanked whatever powers may be for small miracles. The Problem, at least for a while, was kept at bay.
Once he got out of bed, Sherlock took to spending all of his time in Mycroft's company, stumbling after his big brother like a quiet little shadow. It seemed to be the only place that little Sherlock felt safe, and Mycroft was more than happy with the arrangement. At least this way he could keep an eye on his younger brother, and if the trade off was a handful of chemical experiments sizzling away in the corner of his room, well, he'd survive.
However, Mycroft was more than aware that they were now in a danger zone. Finally, he could play his cards. Five days before Mummy Holmes was due back, Mycroft dressed smartly, the way he knew his father appreciated, seeing him as a good little gentleman. He brushed Sherlock up, kissing him gently on his forehead, unable to begin to understand the relief he felt at seeing his brother unmarked once more, and, at least physically, healed. Sherlock was distracted by one of his experiments, but Mycroft understood that, his brother had always been that way. He gently informed the little boy that he'd need to be as still and quiet as he could.
Over dinner, where Sherlock remained almost motionless, and impossibly well behaved for any five year old but a Holmes, Mycroft casually remarked on how impeccable Sherlock looked once more, on how relieved his mother would be at the fact, and at how it had taken around nine days for the marks to fade. Wasn't Mummy due back in five?
Father Holmes had stared at his eldest son, who'd smiled politely back and remarked on the delicious parsnips, knowing them to be his father's favorite. Father Holmes had nodded, mentioned that not a word was to be said to Mummy Holmes of recent events. That the freak (a sharp look at Sherlock, who had been staring resolutely at his food, and who, at this, began to tremble) would keep his big mouth shut and try not to be the whimpering coward he was. Mycroft quelled his anger, resisted the temptation to inform his father that Sherlock was the bravest, most intelligent, mature five year old he knew and that whether or not this was the case, at his age he oughtn't to be judged in such a way. Mycroft bit back the urge to comment that a man frightened of his two sons, the eldest of whom was thirteen, telling his wife about how he'd relentlessly beaten and mistreated his five year old was far more of a coward and less of a human being. Instead, Mycroft remained silent. Enraging Father Holmes wouldn't do any good. It would only make The Problem worse.
For the next five days, Sherlock was left alone, and although the little boy was a very long way from ok, he began to return to himself a little, running to show Mycroft bird's eggshells he'd found in the wood, and cataloguing different weeds in a cardboard tray he'd made in his room. He smiled, once, when Mycroft pointed out that Mummy was coming home soon, and just for a second, the elder Holmes felt that things would get better. Maybe they wouldn't be alright, but they wouldn't be…painful.
There's a reason, to this day, that Mycroft Holmes hates being wrong.
Mummy Holmes never came home. Her plane went down over the Atlantic. There were no survivors.
For exactly one month, Father Holmes confined himself to his bedroom and his office. He didn't wash. He drank and smoked a lot. He was silent, like a storm brewing. He didn't go to the funeral.
The servants helped, but essentially Mycroft was left to look after himself and his brother. Sally, their maid, taught him how to cook. He walked Sherlock to school and back, he took him to the funeral (Sherlock didn't cry, instead he sat on his mother's grave and asked Mycroft why he couldn't be with her yet. The little boy understood the death part, and that was probably what hurt most. Five year olds shouldn't be suicidal.)
At the end of the month, Father Holmes fired all the servants, instructing them to leave immediately. He got very drunk, and started to beat Sherlock. Mycroft tried to stop him and was knocked unconscious. When he came to, Father Holmes was looming over Sherlock with a broken bottle, screaming about how his wife's death was the fault of his son. Sherlock was bleeding and unconscious. Mycroft knocked out his father with an umbrella, knowing he'd not remember in the morning. Then he called their private doctor.
The man was called Dr. Forthrith. He was a traditional professional, and he didn't comment on Sherlock's state. Instead he gave stitches where necessary, bandaged him up and left quietly. When Mycroft and Sherlock were old enough to leave home, Forthrith would be arrested and disgraced for gross neglect and child abuse. For now, Mycroft didn't have that power, so instead he thanked the elder man and quietly wondered how he didn't seem to care. From this point on, The Problem escalated and worked itself into the boys' lives like a leech, sucking away their vitality, their emotion, their ability to care.
The years blurred past. Sherlock was regularly beaten, though Father Holmes learnt to hurt him only in places where the wounds were unlikely to be seen. Sherlock's mind continued to be brilliant, but he withdrew from society. He stopped searching out a kindred soul and resorted to alienating every human being with whom he came into contact. He consciously mutilated his own emotions, falling into his experiments and his puzzles. He got into fights, he sporadically failed at school. By the time he was nine, he'd grown past the shell shock of his treatment, that silent horror was hidden deep inside him. Instead a sort of fractured anger began to bare its teeth. He baited his father with comments, burning his clothes, rebelling.
This phase was ended when he was 10 and half. During the summer holidays, Father Holmes beat him half to death, then tied him up and locked him in the cellar for a week with three dog bowls of water. When Mycroft brought him out, Sherlock was less human than ever, less himself than he ever had been. He didn't smile any more. There was no gentle kiss and reassurance for his now seventeen year old brother. Instead he just sat there, letting Doctor Forthrith treat his wounds and regarding him with a sort of lazy loathing. He stopped eating and sleeping regularly. He broke things, but when Father Holmes was anywhere nearby, he was perfectly behaved, unnaturally so, like a machine wearing Sherlock's skin.
When Mycroft turned 18, he moved out. He wanted to take Sherlock with him, but the day he went to leave, Father Holmes outdid himself, locking Sherlock in a shed in the woods and forging a note that fooled his older brother into believing that the 11 year old wanted to stay and see if things got better when it was just he and his father. Mycroft found it hard to believe, but if it was his brother's wish…He couldn't help hoping, even after all these years, that The Problem would just go away.
Mycroft came back for every holiday, and Sherlock seemed fine, on the surface, though Mycroft couldn't quite eradicate a niggling suspicion in the back of his mind that this was merely an act. Still, he couldn't watch Sherlock when he wasn't there. He finished university when he was 20. Sherlock was 13. That year, Father Holmes tried to take his son apart.
The two of them were found in Father Holmes' office. Sherlock sported two fractured ankles, a shin snapped in half, a fractured pelvis, five broken ribs, a punctured lung, two dislocated arms, 7 broken fingers, a broken nose, 16 stab wounds and one bullet wound to his side. Father Holmes had put a gun in his mouth and fired.
In one way, The Problem was over.
Sherlock moved in with Mycroft and they sold the Estate, or Mycroft did, unsurprisingly, Sherlock had been left nothing in their father's will. Sherlock never spoke to Mycroft about what happened that night, about what had driven their Father to such madness, exceeding anything previous. Instead he healed mechanically, sped through secondary school and college.
By the time he was 18, he'd easily gotten a scholarship to university. In his second year, he dropped out. Mycroft by now could wield the power to have his brother watched 24/7, however, while the five years they'd lived together hadn't always been ideal, he saw no reason to keep Sherlock under surveillance, believing himself to have eradicated all possible bullies. The problem was Sherlock's deeply ingrained tendency to self destruction, something which Mycroft, unable to understand, did not think to consider.
When Sherlock was 27 he overdosed, having managed to hide an ongoing drug problem from his elder brother for more than five years. And there is a reason, to this day, that Mycroft hates being wrong.
Sherlock found crime, and detecting, and deduction. He found DI Lestrade and, aged 32, first met Dr Captain John H Watson, an army Doctor who'd served in Afghanistan. The longer he knew Watson, the more Sherlock began to thaw, the more he began to resemble the laughing, reckless five year old who Mycroft could barely remember.
Mycroft didn't know if Sherlock would ever fully heal, if he would even try to. He didn't know if Sherlock would or could trust John with the deeper secrets of his past. All he knew was that this odd, normal little Doctor seemed to be doing more for Sherlock than anyone ever had. That Sherlock finally had the friend that he'd needed all his life.
And Mycroft hoped to every deity he knew that he wasn't wrong this time.
Very angst-y, and maybe not quite enough to do the issue justice. I might write a sort of 'reveal' fic where John finds out, not sure (depends on how many of you are interested!). But hope you appreciated it. There is hope in the end!
Thankyou for reading