Disclaimer: Many people have made this wish, so I'll throw my own bid in there just in case. "Dear Santa, please bring me the rights to Sherlock Holmes this Christmas." There, now until he does, I don't own anything.
A/N: This begun as just a hurt/comfort fic and somehow turned into a character study. How did that happen? I blame the plot bunnies. It should be classed as AU, at least for the second season. It would kinda fit in either before or after 'Scandal' (probably after), but there is no specific timeline. Also, not slash, unless you really squint (and especially not Holmescest at all, just in case).
Hope you enjoy, let me know what you think ^_^!
Because I Care by Amaya Ramiel
John was away visiting his sister. Well, he had used the words 'I have to go pay Harriet a visit' instead of 'I'm gonna go visit Harry', which Sherlock knew meant he was going to spend the weekend trying to get her to sober up. She had gotten pretty bad during the last two weeks, drunk dialing John almost every night, and John's guilty conscience wouldn't let him rest. In the end, he packed up a bag, made his announcement, and left. Before he did, however, he made sure to give Sherlock basic survival instructions.
"You will eat at least two meals per day, preferably three."
"Pointless." Sherlock had responded, without moving from the couch on which he was currently spread.
"I don't care if you think it's the most sodding useless thing anyone could ever do, you'll do it. I mean it Sherlock, two meals! You'll go to bed, and sleep for at least eight hours. You can do it all in one go, or you can split it at different times during the weekend, but you'll do it, understood?"
"Boring." He snapped back, focusing more on studying the cracks in the ceiling than in John's instructions.
"You'll do it, or so help me, I will knock you out myself. You'll remember to close the fridge door. If I come home and all our food has gone bad, I'm going to be angry."
"You're angry already." Sherlock stole a glance at the doctor before returning to his perusal of their ceiling.
"So you'd better not make me angrier, right? If you get the urge to do an experiment, you will not set any part, section, portion or bit, however small, of our flat on fire. The flat includes the kitchen, living room, bathroom, both our rooms, stairs, and Mrs. Hudson's entire flat. Also, please try not to leave any toxic or poisonous chemicals out."
"Aren't you leaving yet?" He interrupted with a sneer.
John sighed deeply to stop himself from exploding at the consulting detective; he had enough to worry with Harry, after all.
"You can manage those basic things, right? You're capable of it, I'm sure. Eat, sleep, don't let our food rot, don't set the building on fire. Simple."
The detective didn't give him any signs that he was paying attention and John suppressed another sigh. John looked at Sherlock for another moment, before running a tired hand through his hair and adding in a low, soft tone, "Please Sherlock, you have to take care of yourself. I can't do it this weekend, please. I can't come back to find you half-starved and breathing in a cloud of noxious gasses again. Not if I'm going to be spending three days with Harry. Please, promise me you'll try."
Sherlock had reluctantly agreed; at least, he'd agreed to John's face. That didn't mean he had to actually do it.
He sort of ate on Friday evening and had a piece of toast the next morning, and he took some brief one-hour naps that Friday night, and on Saturday afternoon. His pride and stubbornness had dictated that he make a hearty effort to ignore John's requests, but by Sunday, even he had to admit that he was hungry and tired. Maybe listening to John would have been a good idea, but he simply didn't feel like going through the effort of making something to eat, nor the effort of going out to a proper restaurant. As Sunday afternoon wore on, Sherlock finally gave in and settled for something down the middle, some takeout. Grabbing the first menu he could find, a shabby-looking one for some Asian food place, Sherlock phoned and ordered some random food.
An hour later Sherlock lay curled on the sofa, clutching his stomach tightly. The room was beginning to darken, but he wouldn't have been able to get up to turn the lights on even if he wanted to. One cramp after another hit him, making his stomach twist painfully each time and leaving him out of breath. As he lay there, too weak to move, he suddenly heard the downstairs door open followed by heavy footsteps up the stairs. The young man briefly entertained the thought that it might be John, returning earlier than predicted even though the steps sounded too heavy to be those of the doctor. Instead, his hopes were dashed when he saw Mycroft standing on his doorway.
Sherlock would have groaned in frustration if he could have. As it was, the only sounds he would muster were breathless whispers.
"I see John was wise in calling me, it seems you can't take care of yourself after all." In the half-light gloom of sunset he could see his younger brother's shape curled up on the sofa. Mycroft could see Sherlock's eyes looking at him, although the young man didn't move from his curled up position.
"Sherlock, are you too lazy to even get up and make yourself something to eat? Surely, the concept of food does not escape you, otherwise you would never have reached your twenty-eighth birthday, so why you constantly opt for forgoing food until you collapse is baffling to me."
The figure on the sofa didn't give him any reply, if anything it curled up even tighter into a ball of long legs and arms. Huffing in annoyance, Mycroft turned on the lights and headed toward his brother to shake him roughly for being an ass. However, now with the light turned on as he approached Sherlock, Mycroft noticed the layer of perspiration dotting his brother's skin. His black curls were plastered to his forehead, and his breathing was sharp and irregular.
Quickly dropping his umbrella on one of the chairs and swiftly crouching beside him, Mycroft had sudden flashbacks to years before when every day he had dreaded finding Sherlock in a drug-induced stupor or worse.
"Sherlock, what have you done? What did you take? You've been clean for over two years now, what have you done?" Mycroft's words would have sounded calm and controlled to anyone who didn't know him well, but even in his pain-addled state Sherlock easily detected the frantic, slightly desperate tone in his brother's voice.
Mycroft's hands were on Sherlock's face, gaging his temperature and checking his pupil reaction to light. He was just about to grab Sherlock's arms, which were still clamped tightly on his stomach, to check for needle injections when a soft whisper stopped him.
"Didn't.." Sherlock inhaled sharply as moving his diaphragm to form words put unwanted pressure on his pained stomach.
"Didn't what?" the annoyance in Mycroft's voice was palpable.
"No drugs." Sherlock was able to utter, before the words turned into a low groan, his body instinctively curling into itself even more as another wave of pain, this time accompanied by nausea, hit him again. Sherlock pressed his face onto the cushions, his mouth half-opened as he panted desperately.
"If you haven't taken any drugs, then what in the world is wrong with you?"
Taking a couple of deep breaths, Sherlock whispered hesitantly, "Don't know."
Another moan escaped his lips; his stomach had started clenching and doing the most distressing back flips, making Sherlock quickly clamp his mouth shut for fear he would throw up.
"Well, you must have done something. A person doesn't get sick from just anything. Unless it's your appendix… from the way you're clutching your stomach I take it you're in considerable pain.''
Sherlock's scathing reply was lost as another wave of nausea hit him. He breathed sharply through his nose, trying to regulate his heartbeat and keep calm. It wasn't working.
More gently than would have been expected, Mycroft tried to push his brother unto his back, so that he could inspect him better. Sherlock protested, but he lacked the strength to put up much of a fight. As Mycroft turned him and lowered his legs, another cramp twisted Sherlock's insides, eliciting a cry from him. He tried to suppress it, his embarrassment at being seen in such a condition by his brother monumental, but the pain was too much.
"Shh, Sherlock, I just need to find out whether it really is appendicitis. If it is, we need to get you to a hospital soon." Mycroft's gentle words would have surprised Sherlock at any other moment. At the moment, however, he could barely string two coherent thoughts together much less process half of what his brother was telling him.
Tentatively Mycroft placed his hands on his brother's abdomen, gently pressing down on the lower right half. Sherlock whimpered slightly, his breathing still strained and irregular, but he didn't voice any further protests. Mycroft noticed that his skin was very warm even through his thin shirt and it worried him. Moving his fingers slowly to the left, Sherlock's distress increased mildly, but it was when Mycroft's fingers strayed upwards again, toward his stomach that another involuntary cry escaped Sherlock's lips.
His head was thrown backwards against the seat, a deep moan resounding in his chest, even though he kept his mouth tightly shut.
"So, not appendicitis. That's good. Whatever it is, it has to do with your stomach. Perhaps a virus or the flu. I refuse to believe this is because you haven't eaten properly. After all, you go on for days on end without food."
Sherlock tried to twist back to his original position, and Mycroft carefully helped him, patting his back reassuringly.
"Have been in contact with anyone who's sick?"
Sherlock didn't answer him, instead concentrated on breathing in and out through his nose. Moving around had doubled his nausea, and he was trying very hard not to puke in front of Mycroft; it simply would not do. He knew his brother had seen him in far worse situations before, but that was while being doped up and flying higher than a kite. He hadn't done anything today to warrant Mycroft's disappointment in him, his stubborn pride told him. He'd even submitted to John's instructions, in his own way.
"Come now Sherlock, did you receive any visitors or go anywhere where you came into contact with someone who was sick?"
"Nnn" Sherlock shook his head once, his stomach clenching again, almost making him retch. He had to get to the bathroom somehow, he couldn't keep this up much longer.
Moving as little as he could, Sherlock extended his hand toward Mycroft, slowly uncurling and trying to get up. His vision swam circles around him, and his brother quickly grabbed a hold of him to steady him.
"What are you doing now, Sherlock?"
The detective hated having to rely on Mycroft for help, but he knew he wasn't getting to the bathroom any other way. Indicating to his brother to help him up, he nodded toward the bathroom door.
"Ah, perhaps a bucket would be more convenient?" Mycroft said, although he did help Sherlock to his feet, supporting most of the thin young man's frame.
Sherlock's eyes snapped open for a moment to send a subdued death glare to his brother.
"Perhaps not" Mycroft conceded, "but your pride will be your undoing, Sherlock." He said offhandedly, and Sherlock wanted nothing more than to tell him to sod off, but that would imply opening his mouth, and he didn't think that would be a good idea without a toilet nearby.
Mycroft practically carried Sherlock to the bathroom, thankful for once for his brother's significant substandard weight. The moment he placed him in front of the toilet, Sherlock's knees gave out and he vented the contents of his stomach into the bowl. The elder Holmes ran his hand in circles over Sherlock's bent back, an action that once again reminded him of his young brother's darker days. Because of this, he was unsurprised when the moment Sherlock was able to breathe for long enough he shouted at him to get out.
Mycroft closed his eyes, "Sherlock," he started.
"Get out!" the young detective growled. His fingers clutched the porcelain bowl so tightly his knuckles turned white, and there were tear tracks down his cheeks brought on by the pain and effort of throwing up.
Mycroft sighed, "As you wish." He'd give his brother the privacy he wanted.
Reluctantly, and with no small degree of difficulty for he wasn't as young as he used to be, Mycroft got up and exited the bathroom, the sounds of Sherlock's continuous retching echoing against the tiled walls.
He headed for the kitchen to make some tea, hoping that it would perhaps sooth his brother's upset stomach, when he spotted the empty paper boxes of the takeout Sherlock had eaten earlier that day. Rummaging through the various packets, Mycroft sighed deeply in resignation. He didn't need to examine the contents closely, he could easily deduce what had happened.
Turning back to the bathroom, the elder Holmes wasn't entirely surprised to find his brother curled up on the tiled floor shivering and moaning softly.
With more patience and caring that most people would have thought him capable of, Mycroft lowered himself to the ground and raised Sherlock's head so it would rest on his lap, gently running his fingers through his dark curly hair. He remembered having done this years before, when Sherlock was detoxing, and although he knew the younger man didn't appreciate it, Mycroft couldn't help but offer it.
In any case, Sherlock was too weak and in pain to protest, and Mycroft noted that his fever had risen slightly. With another sigh, and resisting the urge to roll his eyes, he addressed his brother.
"Sherlock, do you know why you're sick?"
The thin frame in his arms shivered even more, curling in on itself in an attempt to stop the painful cramping. Mycroft felt Sherlock shake his head hesitantly, and he closed his eyes, shaking his own head in disbelief at his younger brother's uncharacteristic obliviousness. But then, Mycroft realized, he shouldn't be surprised that Sherlock didn't know what was wrong with him since he seemed incapable of being aware of his own body's needs and requirements. Of course the daft detective didn't think he needed food, and even when he did, he didn't pay any attention to what he put in his mouth!
"Sherlock, you have managed to get food poisoning. It's very clear that's what you've gotten, given your current state and the piles of questionable empty takeout on the kitchen table. Certainly you must have realized that something was off, didn't you?"
Sherlock shrugged the shoulder that wasn't pressed against the floor, his eyes still closed shut and his breathing still thin and harsh.
"John said to eat." he whispered softly.
At first Mycroft wasn't sure he'd heard him correctly. Was his brother admitting at having done something because someone else told him to?
"Yes, brother dear, the good doctor did advise you to eat, however I doubt he intended for you to make yourself sick. Why didn't you make something? There's plenty of food in the fridge."
The detective merely whimpered embarrassingly, and tried to keep himself from trembling too badly. He hated being coddled by his brother like this, hated being on his bathroom floor, with his head on Mycroft's lap, whimpering and moaning, and he hated being sick but he was in too much pain to do anything about it. The worst part was he knew it was entirely his own fault. He could have cooked some food, or gone out to a proper restaurant to eat, but he had wanted to prove John wrong, so he had done things stubbornly and in 'his own way'. And when he finally gave in and did what John said, after a fashion, it had all blown up in his face. Life, he decided, was most definitely unfair.
Another wave of nausea hit him suddenly, and he quickly tried to sit up so he could reach the toilet bowl. Mycroft put his hands around his thin torso and pulled him upright gently but quickly, just in time for another bout of retching. This time Sherlock didn't tell him to get out; he was too tired and weak to say anything. Instead, he let Mycroft hold him up when his arms became wobbly, and he didn't complain when his brother ran his fingers through his hair, getting his damp curls out of his eyes. Still, Sherlock hated every second of it. He hated his own weakness, and Mycroft's uncharacteristic kindness.
It was far too reminiscent of his drug days when he had been forced in the end to accept his brother's help. Mycroft never threw it in his face directly, but there was always that smug smile afterwards, knowing Sherlock had had to resort to him, reluctantly as it might have been, and it annoyed Sherlock to no end. He didn't want his brother's help, and yet he couldn't deny it was needed.
Sherlock's stomach settled into a dull throbbing but manageable pain, and he was able to stop throwing up for the time being. He was panting hard and his eyes remained shut tightly as he tried to hold himself by his arms which were trembling unsteadily. He felt Mycroft lean him backwards against the wall, and he remained there propped up while the elder Holmes silently fetched a glass of water for him.
On his return, Mycroft found Sherlock beginning to tilt towards the floor, so he quickly crouched on the tiled floor again, holding his younger brother up, and bringing the glass of water to his lips.
"Come on, Sherlock. You need to keep hydrated, or else it will be worse for you. You're going to be throwing up constantly for the next twenty-four hours or so, and it's best to have something in your stomach to throw up other than just bile."
Sherlock opened his eyes and attempted to send a glare Mycroft's way, but his eyes couldn't effectively focus on his brother's face. Reluctantly, he accepted the offered water, and even raised a limp hand to try to hold the glass.
Once the water was drunk, Mycroft maneuvered Sherlock's weak boneless body so that he rested more comfortably against his chest, running his fingers through Sherlock's thick curls absentmindedly.
Sherlock could feel that dull throb coursing through his stomach, beating in tandem with the headache pulsing behind his eyes. Shame was evident on his face as he pressed his aching head against his brother's chest in an attempt to find some comfort. He didn't want to have to rely on his brother, he didn't want to appear this weak and stupid, and he didn't want to draw any comfort from the elder Holmes. It was embarrassing; they weren't supposed to care for one another. Sherlock had learned this the hard way as a child, and yet here was his older brother, taunting him with gentleness.
Mycroft saw the way in which Sherlock refused to look at him, and detected the red tint of embarrassment that colored the detective's cheeks, knowing it had nothing to do with his current fever. They were such a strange family, Mycroft knew, in comparison with others. Neither of their parents had been caring people, and growing up neither child had been encouraged to show affection for the other.
Sherlock had sought it though. He had been an inquisitive child, Mycroft remembered, as he continued looking down at his brother curled up against him. Sherlock's body still shivered slightly, but his breathing was evening out, and the politician knew he was beginning to fall asleep. Casting his mind back, Mycroft went through his memories and sighed in regret because he knew exactly why Sherlock felt so reluctant and ashamed in accepting his help.
Yes, Sherlock had been a very curious child, about anything and everything. It wouldn't be until he was a teen that he would become selective about what he deemed interesting and important enough to be archived in his massive mind. Before that, Sherlock would spend endless hours in textbooks, literature books, dictionaries, and encyclopedias, outside in the garden studying the world, or inside doing all manner of experiments. Yet his mind wasn't content with merely experiencing the physical world; in his innocence, everything mattered to young Sherlock. As such, he was a very expressive child, constantly smiling and laughing because the world was his playground and it filled him with constant information.
Mycroft remembered how Sherlock used to cling to him and his parents, hugging them suddenly just for the experience and pleasure of doing it, and he also remembered the patient but cold pats his parents would give him before sending him on his way. Their parents were never cruel, but they weren't capable or interested in showing affection, and Sherlock soon grew frustrated with their indifference.
This meant he would come to his older brother, all smiles and giggles, wanting recognition, encouragement and affection, and Mycroft would tolerate Sherlock's hugs and touches, although he would not return them. He faintly recalled having had similar impulses when he was very young, but he had quickly learned that that was not the Holmes' way. As an older brother, he had therefore felt an obligation to rid Sherlock of his clinginess.
Mycroft was distracted from his musings by Sherlock's unconscious moans, his body curling on itself as his stomach rebelled even in his sleep. The politician tightened his grip around Sherlock, running a hand slowly up and down Sherlock's back in an attempt to soothe the distressed detective. His shivering had increased, and Mycroft could feel the heat radiating from the young man's body. He knew he would have to wake Sherlock up soon and find him some medicine, but for the moment he allowed his brother to rest, however little that could be.
Turning back to his recollections, the elder Holmes thought back at how he had succeeded in alienating Sherlock from himself and from the world. Despite the fact that his younger brother had been such a happy child, he had always had trouble relating to people. That seemed to be a curse all Holmes shared, and it accounted for Sherlock's instinctual need to understand and experience emotions. Mycroft remembered the moment when, as a naïve teenager himself, he finally told Sherlock to stop being the way he was. He had done it with all the self-righteousness and certainty of an eighteen year-old and with all the cruel sense of superiority of being a child genius. He had explained to his baby brother that caring was a disadvantage, that he was shaming his family with his shows of affection, that he should learn to concentrate on the things that mattered, and that most of all he needed to grow up.
And the eleven-year old had stared at him, taken his rejection and his instructions, combined with his parents' years of indifferent behavior, and closed himself off to the world. He accepted that caring was a disadvantage for it certainly had been for him. He had cared deeply for his family, reveling in his own feelings and what they revealed to him, and Mycroft had thrown it back in his face with mocking disdain. The brothers would barely speak with each other for another decade, and it wasn't until Sherlock almost succeeded in killing himself by drug overdose that Mycroft realized how much he did care.
Never before, since closing off his own feelings as a child, had Mycroft been forced to acknowledge that he cared. Not until he had seen Sherlock convulsing and seizing had he realized that all he had thought was wrong. But it wasn't until he tried, for the first time in his life, to offer Sherlock comfort during his rehab that he realized the extent of his mistake. His brother had shouted and lashed out at him, and told him to get away from him. Mycroft had told Sherlock to let him help and the younger man had laughed and sneered at him, telling him that his 'empty affections' were unneeded and unwanted. Sherlock hated him, and Mycroft had realized with shock that it hurt.
The politician suddenly snapped out of his thoughts as Sherlock's whimpers increased in volume, his trembling hands clenching on Mycroft's clothes unconsciously. Mycroft placed a hand on his brother's face, brushing away the few errant tears that had fallen without his knowledge, and noting how much warmer Sherlock's skin had become. Sighing, he set to waking Sherlock up.
"Brother dear, you need to wake up now. I need to know where the good doctor keeps the medicines. That's it, Sherlock, wake up."
It wasn't difficult to rouse the detective from his fitful slumber, as the pain in his stomach had obviously not let up enough for him to fall into a deep sleep. If anything, the detective seemed even more tired than before, which Mycroft credited to the fever coursing through his body in addition to the upset stomach.
Sherlock's eyes were slightly dazed when they focused on Mycroft's face, before they widened and Sherlock twisted his body swiftly so that he faced the toilet once more, just in time to empty his mostly-empty stomach into the bowl once more. As before, Mycroft aided in holding Sherlock upright, wrinkling his nose as Sherlock brought up more bile and stomach acid than anything else. He needed to get some marginal food into his brother before he succeeded in hurting himself.
When Sherlock collapsed against him, Mycroft carefully leaned him against the wall, inquiring again after the doctor's medicine cabinet.
"While I could easily find it myself, it would be quicker and more productive if you told me where John keeps his medicines." He had already deduced that it was unlikely John kept the in the bathroom cabinet, given that he lived with a former drug-addict, and as a doctor, he wouldn't make things easy for Sherlock. That said, he also knew that there was a high percept of probability that Sherlock knew where John did keep them.
Breathing harshly, Sherlock answered hoarsely, "First aid kit,… back of right hand… bottom drawer."
"I'll be right back. Do try to survive without me."
Sherlock didn't have enough energy to respond, preferring to concentrate on making his stomach stop its cartwheeling, so Mycroft left the bathroom and headed for the doctor's bedroom.
He found it mildly entertaining that John didn't lock up his room, even though he would be absent for three whole days. Evidently he knew that if Sherlock wanted to get into his room, there would be no stopping him, so he shouldn't even put up an effort. The politician also noted in passing how bare and impersonal John's room looked, revealing the doctor's ever-present military habits. Crossing the room Mycroft saw that the only evidence of a personal touch were the newspaper clippings John had carefully cut and tacked up to the wall beside his mirror. The clippings were of different cases he and Sherlock had solved, and included pictures of them being photographed by paparazzi and journalists. The elder Holmes would have liked to have had time to contemplate this aspect of John's psyche a while longer, but he knew he couldn't very well leave Sherlock alone for long periods of time.
Opening the bottom right hand drawer of John's dresser, Mycroft dug around the back of it and quickly found the first aid kit. The politician could almost hear John's thoughts as he hid it, wanting to keep it away from Sherlock but also reticent about hiding it so well it would defeat the point of a first aid kit, finally placing it at the back of his dresser even though he knew Sherlock could find it easily enough. The doctor was probably banking on the hope that Sherlock wanted to stay clean and that he would be able to tell John's reasons for hiding it which would thus detract him from using anything inside for experiments or recreation.
Rummaging through the box, Mycroft quickly found a packet of ibuprofen, and hurried back to his brother's side. Back in the bathroom Sherlock had tipped to the floor awkwardly and brought his legs up close to his chest as he clutched his midsection again while shivers coursed through his thin frame.
"Oh, Sherlock." Mycroft rushed to the young man, picking the abandoned glass and quickly refilling it with water on the way. His knees protested when he lowered himself to the ground once more, but he didn't give it any considerations. Placing the glass on the tiled floor, Mycroft gathered Sherlock into his arms again, slowly as to cause the young man the least amount of discomfort possible. Sherlock's posture and silent resignation reminded the politician so much of the child Sherlock had been, and of the troubled young man he had become in his younger days.
"Here, Sherlock. This will help with the fever and the muscle pains, but I'm afraid to give you more than just half of the standard dose. I don't want to risk upsetting your stomach even more. Once you stop vomiting and are able to eat something I'll give you some more, alright?"
Gently turning Sherlock's torso so it was more vertical than horizontal, Mycroft placed a pill in Sherlock's hand and let the younger man swallow it himself. He would allow his brother to retain whatever level of dignity he could, despite their already embarrassing situation. He picked up the water glass, and tipped it slightly against Sherlock's lips, although the detective tried to hold the glass as well with a trembling hand.
Placing the empty glass farther away on the floor, Mycroft lowered Sherlock to his lap once again, mildly worried about Sherlock's current state of silent compliance. It was as though his brother had retreated within himself, shutting himself off from his surroundings. Mycroft wondered whether it was simple embarrassment, or whether it was something deeper. Sherlock was so very complicated, he decided.
"Sherlock, you'll be alright. It's just food poisoning. Inconvenient, but not troubling." The elder Holmes knew Sherlock was aware of this, but he couldn't just ask 'what's wrong?' A lifetime of detaching himself from feeling and from being sympathetic to other people's feelings didn't vanish instantaneously. He had been trying to be more aware, for Sherlock's sake, during the past couple of years, but it was still difficult, especially given his brother's distrust and hatred of him.
He brought his mind to the present once more, glancing down at the young man on his lap. Sherlock's eyes were opened, and he seemed to be struggling to understand something. Slowly, Mycroft ran his fingers through Sherlock's hair encouragingly. His brother had something on his mind, and he might as well say it before he upset himself further.
"Sherlock?" The politician frowned, wondering what was going through the detective's mind.
"Why?" came the whispered, almost hesitant reply.
"Why what, Sherlock?"
"Why are you doing this?" Sherlock's question was even softer than the previous one, as though fearful to even ask it.
"He is so tired and weak he can't stop himself from asking, as he normally would. He wants to know why I don't simply mock him and leave him to fend for himself." Mycroft realized.
He knew what Sherlock was asking, but the worst part was that he knew it was his fault his brother couldn't understand why Mycroft was being so caring. It hadn't been until after Sherlock's rehabilitation that Mycroft had realized what he had done to his younger brother. By telling him that feelings were a disadvantage, he had succeeded in making his brother divest himself of his emotions. Sherlock had soon declared himself a sociopath, learned all the traits of sociopathy and incorporated them into his behavior. The more he distanced himself from people, the more unstable and frustrated he became, so he dove into his studies, focusing his need to know solely on information and facts. He became cold and unpleasant, making certain that no one could get near him. However, this caused some sort of riff in Sherlock's mind; a void that he couldn't understand or fill. And then he turned to drugs.
He later told Mycroft that his reason for taking them was merely as part of his 'studies into the world'. Mycroft deduced in the end, however, after seeing the effects of the drugs on his brother, that what Sherlock had been seeking was a way to replace his loss of emotions; a way to feel something. Of course, Sherlock would never admit to this, even if he was aware of it consciously, because after all 'caring was wrong and weak', as Mycroft had said. That is why he couldn't accept or understand his older brother's help now; Mycroft's show of 'caring' couldn't be real, because he had said it was weak, therefore there must be other reasons for it.
These had been the conclusions Sherlock had reached, and Mycroft knew he had driven him to it. While the politician was discovering how wrong he, and their parents, had been, Sherlock was losing himself even faster. Mycroft couldn't completely disagree that feelings weren't advantageous, but neither could he deny that they couldn't, and perhaps shouldn't be 'deleted'.
Despite his upbringing, despite all his time spent ridding himself of unnecessary emotions, despite what he had told Sherlock, Mycroft had found himself caring deeply for his younger brother, and regretting what he had done.
Now Sherlock was asking 'why?', and Mycroft wasn't sure where to begin.
"Because, dear Sherlock, I care." he whispered back. For all his massive intellect, he found it difficult to express these ideas. Although he had come to the conclusion that he did care, and that he couldn't separate himself from that, he was still struggling to understand it; over thirty years of coldness and indifference were difficult to overcome.
Sherlock's frown had deepened, and Mycroft was aware of the stiffness in Sherlock's body, be it from confusion, annoyance, pain or anger, he was uncertain.
"You're lying to me." He concluded, refusing to look at Mycroft, and the elder Holmes knew that if Sherlock was strong enough he would have long ago left his embrace.
"No, I'm not. I care. I've realized that much."
"Yes, it probably is, most of the time. I.." Mycroft faltered, "I… don't understand it entirely, Sherlock." Mycroft could hardly believe what he was saying. While he had vowed he would take care of Sherlock despite the mess he created in his youth (or maybe because of it), he had never considered talking about it with his brother. The Holmes didn't talk, not like this. The last time Mycroft spoke of feelings he had almost broken Sherlock. When he began realizing his mistake during Sherlock's drug addiction recovery he had been too confused and inexperienced to explain his change of views. Now, a few years later, he still wasn't certain he was capable of explaining.
Mycroft sighed and rested the back of his head against the wall behind him, and searched for words.
"I've always thought feelings were a weakness one must work hard at eliminating. Mother and father certainly believed it, and I tried to teach it to you in turn." Mycroft was speaking very softly, and for the first time in his life, Sherlock detected uncertainty in his brother's voice.
"After… when you almost overdosed three years ago I… I felt… I was afraid, I think. Not for my reputation, or the family name, not for the paperwork and the repercussions, I… I was afraid for you. Afraid I would lose you.
"I realized that I liked seeing you happy and alive, and I suddenly… well I suddenly realized what I had done to you." Mycroft shook his head; his thoughts were incoherent and random. This was why caring was a disadvantage, but it didn't mean it was avoidable.
"Don't." came the whispered word.
Mycroft's hand ceased its stroking, frozen in place by his brother's plea.
The young detective's breathing was harsh and his trembling had intensified, but whether due to his physical state or Mycroft's words, the older man wasn't sure.
"Why are you doing this?" he asked again.
Mycroft's eyes widened in shock; Sherlock still thought he was tricking him, lying to him and pretending to care, and how could he not, Mycroft reasoned, give everything he had said and done in the past.
"Oh Sherlock, I did this." Mycroft spoke mostly to himself, not knowing what he could say to prove to his brother that he wasn't lying.
"I thought I was right, all those years ago, I thought I was right, but I was so wrong. I told my kid brother to stop feeling and he did… and now I know I was wrong but I can't fix it. I keep making it worse… I.. I'm sorry Sherlock.
"You were so much stronger than I…" The realization hit Mycroft suddenly, "You resisted our parents influence for longer than I did. I didn't question their lack of attention and affection, instead I embraced it. But you resisted, until I broke it by force." Mycroft could feel Sherlock trembling against him, although his fever had gone down marginally.
"I'm a sociopath… I don't care…" Sherlock shook his head, but quickly stopped with a small cry as the movement upset his stomach further.
"You weren't always. You were such a happy child, inquisitive, bright and affectionate… in a house of emotionless people." Mycroft scoffed at how things had been. "Don't you remember?"
Sherlock felt like someone was driving a hot poker into his gut while making his head spin around in circles. Yet his attention was focused on his brother's words. In his pain-addled state all Sherlock could feel was confusion; part of him wanted to believe Mycroft, the small part that he normally silenced and ignored, while the bigger rational part of his mind told him that it couldn't be true. He couldn't remember being any way other than how he was, but at the same time he couldn't think why Mycroft would be showing him such kindness and saying these things if they weren't true. What did he stand to gain?
Before he could continue this line of thought, Mycroft's soft confessions continued.
"You were always smiling and laughing, always running up to mother or father or myself, offering hugs and kisses. You would often try to get me to do experiments with you, or play your strange games. You were awkward with people, yes, but you weren't cruel or mean-spirited. It was… like you felt euphoria and happiness just from experimenting with your own range of emotions, the same as you got from all of your other experiments. And I… I made you get rid of it."
Sherlock's eyes were wide opened and he panted with exertion. His stomach was clenching painfully again, throbbing almost constantly, but it was his mind that was shocking him the most at the moment, as images and memories sprung to the surface in a rush.
"I remember." he gasped suddenly, although his words quickly turned into another gasp of pain. Speaking in spite of it, Sherlock continued, "You said.. it was wrong… it was dangerous. You were so angry… and disappointed… I couldn't… I just wanted…" Sherlock cried out again, his body curling in on itself even more.
Mycroft understood what he meant, nonetheless. Sherlock, only eleven years old, had admired his older brother, trusted him implicitly and had only wanted him to be proud of him.
"I was wrong." He whispered again; he actually felt ashamed. "I was eighteen and foolish, and I was wrong."
Sherlock's trembling continued. He wasn't cold anymore, the fever having gone down, but the cramps in his stomach were relentless. He considered his brother's revelation, trying to compare it to his own vision of himself. For over fifteen years now he had been in constant contradiction with himself, feeling he was missing something, but being unable to explain it. Instead, he had worked hard at suppressing even that feeling, throwing his mind solely on the work.
"It doesn't matter anymore anyways." Sherlock managed to get the sentence out in one go.
Mycroft resisted the urge to tighten his grip around Sherlock knowing he would hurt him if he did.
"No, don't you see. It does matter. It still matters. If I could realize I cared, then so can you. You are already much closer to it than I've ever been. I think you've been searching for it all this time, even as you tried to suppress it. Especially during these past few months-"
"Up." Sherlock's words interrupted Mycroft as he gestured for the older man to help him get up.
Without hesitation Mycroft wrapped his arms around Sherlock's upper body and pulled him up into an upright position. Sherlock helped as much as he could, although his limbs were aching painfully.
He was just in time to vent his stomach again into the porcelain bowl, his back trembling with each convulsion. Mycroft took the chance to refill the glass of water and have it readily at hand, returning swiftly to Sherlock's side in order to hold him up if and when his strength failed him.
Sherlock was barely throwing up anything, but his stomach wouldn't stop clenching, trying to empty itself even more. Tears were running down the sides of his face, and a sob escaped his lips the moment the pain in his stomach subsided just a little.
"Shhh, Sherlock. I know it hurts. It's alright." Mycroft whispered smoothing words as he leaned his brother back against him and saw him wiping his tears away embarrassedly. He handed Sherlock the glass of water, making sure to keep a hand underneath the glass as Sherlock brought it to his lips in case it should slip.
"I hate this." The detective's deep voice was raw and weak.
"Yes well, I don't imagine anyone enjoys getting food poisoning." Mycroft sighed, "I really wish you'd take better care of yourself. I know you care about John, and you care about his opinion of you."
Sherlock's head snapped sideways to look at Mycroft's face and he winced as his head protested the treatment.
"Yes, Sherlock. That's what I was going to say earlier. You have a far better hope of regaining your feelings and emotions, should you wish to do so, than I do. The fact that you've allowed John to get so close is indicative of this."
Sherlock began to shake his head, but Mycroft cut him off.
"You don't have to pretend with me, little brother. In the same way I realized that I cared for you the moment I found out you'd overdosed, you are realizing how much you care for the good doctor. The event at the pool with that psychopath Moriarty is proof enough. John was in danger wasn't he? And you were afraid, not for yourself but for him."
"Caring is still a disadvantage." Sherlock replied weakly and Mycroft swallowed reflexively.
"Yes… but perhaps.. it is inevitable… and maybe it's also important."
"How?" Sherlock moaned deep in his throat and tried to lean forward. Mycroft wrapped one arm around Sherlock's chest, holding him against him, and carefully placed his other hand on his brother's stomach. Putting just a slight degree of pressure, he gently and cautiously rubbed soothing circles against him. Sherlock inhaled sharply and Mycroft felt a shiver run through him before Sherlock melted against him, his eyes closed in comfort.
"I've seen how… vibrant you've become. You're thinking is clearer, and the track record for the cases you've solved has increased significantly since John's been in the picture. You're happy because you care, and it shows in your work." Mycroft's words drifted to a whisper.
Sherlock's breathing had evened out, and the older man knew he had fallen asleep once more. Moving deliberately slowly, Mycroft lowered Sherlock closer to the floor, so that he would be in a more comfortable position, while making sure to maintain applying gentle pressure to his abdomen.
Mycroft considered the sleeping form of his little brother, amazed by how much he found himself caring for him. He hoped Sherlock might one day forgive him for what he had done, and might one day even show that he cared for Mycroft as well. In the meantime, he could only hope to make Sherlock believe that he was sorry, even if he couldn't forgive him. He had to find a way to stop his brother's self-destruction, because he couldn't contemplate a world without him.
For the next several hours Sherlock would come in and out of consciousness. Mycroft would help him up to use the toilet, and would fetch him water afterwards, and even some tea later on. Eventually the politician fell asleep, his head thrown backwards against the wall, and half of Sherlock's body curled up on his lap.
That was how John found them on Monday morning when he returned to Baker Street. The doctor came tiredly up the stairs. His weekend had been murder, but at least his sister was sober at the moment, although for how long he couldn't tell. He had made her promise to call him the moment she felt like she needed a drink, and he was somewhat confident that she would, at least for a couple of weeks.
Heading directly up to his room to drop his bag, John discovered his First Aid kit lying opened on his bed. Apprehension settled heavily in his stomach, and he quickly rushed back down the stairs and into the living room.
The room was empty and just as disorganized as it had been when John left on Friday.
The doctor was just about to call out for the detective once again when he noticed the bathroom door was opened and the light was on. Silently praying that he didn't find an injured Sherlock Holmes passed out on the bathroom, John approached the door way and peered inside.
He didn't know whether he should be more worried about what he did find inside.
Mycroft Holmes was sitting on his bathroom floor in one of his designer suits, his head tilted back against the wall, his mouth hanging slightly opened and emitting a light snore in a very undignified manner. Sherlock, in the meantime, lay curled on the floor, his upper body almost entirely resting on his brother's lap, his hands clenched in Mycroft's now crumpled expensive suit.
John was debating whether or not to wake the Holmes brothers, when they roused on their own.
"Gentlemen, I take it you had a weekend about as eventful as my own."
Sherlock and Mycroft's heads snapped towards John's direction at his words.
"Ah, doctor, you've returned. How is your sister?"
"About as well as can be expected. How long it will last, who can say? What… happened here?" John gestured with one hand.
Sherlock had carefully lifted himself off of Mycroft's lap, a light blush coloring his cheeks. Mycroft immediately began to check his brother while responding to the doctor's question.
"Sherlock's suffered a little bout of food poisoning."
"What?" John was instantly at Sherlock's side, surprising Mycroft a little.
"Are you alright? When did this happen? What did you eat? Did you leave the fridge door opened again?"
John was peering into his eyes, checking for pupil dilation, and placing a hand on his forehead to determine whether he had a fever.
Sherlock grabbed John's wrists gently, prying them away from his face, "I feel better, although it feels like I've been run over by entire London Underground. It happened yesterday. Apparently I had some bad takeout. No I didn't leave the fridge door opened. Happy?"
John shook his head, "You're an idiot."
Sherlock smiled slightly, "Then I'm in good company."
"Well, let's get you to the couch, you'll be more comfortable there. You don't seem to be nauseous, which I take it is the reason you spent the night in the bathroom?"
Sherlock nodded carefully. He wasn't nauseous, but he hadn't been exaggerating when he said he wasn't feeling one hundred percent. There was still some discomfort in his stomach, and his head felt oddly heavy.
"Are you alright there, Mycroft?"
John had noticed the older man trying to get up, but spending an entire night sitting on the floor evidently hadn't gone down well.
"I shall be alright, doctor." Mycroft was struggling to get his knees to bend and take his weight properly.
John and Sherlock shared a knowing look. The detective nodded silently, and John got up to help Mycroft.
"Come on, I imagine your legs must be cramping badly about now. You just need to get the circulation flowing again."
John wrapped an arm around the older man's back and waist and pulled Mycroft's arm around his own shoulders, carefully lifting the man to his feet. Mycroft chocked back a pained gasp as his cramped muscles stretched and his knees protested loudly.
"My apologies John, this is most embarrassing."
"Hey, I spent the last three days tending to my sister between her couch and her bathroom. My knees and back didn't appreciate that treatment either."
Slowly John led Mycroft back to the living room and carefully deposited him in Sherlock's chair.
Heading back to the bathroom John found Sherlock had risen from the floor and had sat on the rim of the tub.
"Let me guess, you wanted to make your triumphant return to the living room on your own, right?"
Sherlock smiled sheepishly, "At least I'm not passed out from starvation and noxious gases. Those were your stipulations, were they not?"
"I'll add food poisoning to the list next time."
As with Mycroft, John placed an arm around Sherlock and gently helped him to his feet. While Mycroft had only been stiff from his prolonged stint on the floor, Sherlock was stiff, sore, weak, and still in a little pain, which meant John had to take it slower with him. Despite this, Sherlock managed to remain upright and barely leaned on John for support.
When they got to the couch John gently lowered the detective into it, noting Sherlock's sigh of relief as he laid himself back on a horizontal position. He tried to turn on his side, but John stopped him.
"That's fine at first, but now that you're feeling better you shouldn't curl up on your stomach. It'll put unnecessary pressure on it. I'll get you a warm water bottle, ok?"
John patted his shoulder and Sherlock nodded, remaining on his back.
"I think you should also try to eat a little. Do you feel up to it?" Sherlock nodded again, closing his eyes tiredly. Even though he'd managed to sleep for at least a couple of hours straight, his body was exhausted.
"Mycroft would you like some breakfast as well?"
The politician had been watching the exchange between the doctor and his brother intently, conforming what he already knew about their close friendship. Yes, Sherlock cared for the doctor as much as John cared for him, and as much as Mycroft cared for his brother.
John's question brought him out of his deductions.
"Yes, that would be most welcome. Although I'm afraid I must be going soon. There are people who will be wondering where I've been all night, even though I did leave instructions that I was not to be disturbed."
"Is toast and tea alright then?"
"That sounds lovely."
John disappeared into the kitchen, wondering idly what exactly had happened last night. Mycroft was positively pleasant despite having spent what must have been a tedious night tending to his sick brother. John decided that a pleasant Mycroft was almost as scary as a threatening Mycroft. Dismissing his thoughts, John set about making breakfast. While the tea was brewing and the bread was in the toaster, John rummaged in one of the drawers and pulled out his water bottle. Filling it up with hot tap water, John returned to Sherlock's side.
"Now, don't fall asleep yet, Sherlock. I want you to eat a little first, ok?"
"I'm not asleep."
John smiled at the stubborn detective. "Is your stomach still bothering you? I've brought you the water bottle."
Sherlock opened his eyes and looked at John; he seemed to be pondering something, although John couldn't tell what.
"Thanks." He said, reaching for the hot bag, but John held it out of his reach.
"Hands off, I don't want you to burn yourself."
"I'm not a child." Sherlock pouted, and John ignored him.
"Here," John pulled the afghan throw off the back of the couch and draped it over Sherlock, gently placing the hot water bottle on the younger man's stomach and folding the afghan over it.
"There you go. How's that feel?"
Sherlock had closed his eyes again as the warmth and pressure on his stomach lulled him to sleep.
"Oy!" John poked him in the chest, "I said no sleeping yet. Now stay awake or I'll take it away."
They both knew it was an empty threat, but Sherlock smiled and did his best to stay awake.
John went back to the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with tea and toast, passing a plate to Mycroft and another to Sherlock before sitting in his own chair.
"You don't have to eat it all, but try at least half of the toast."
Sherlock complied. He did feel moderately hungry, although he was still wary of upsetting his still-tender stomach. Tentatively, he bit into the jam covered toast, relishing in having a taste in his mouth that wasn't stomach acid.
As they ate, John proceeded to question Mycroft about the previous night's events.
"So, what exactly happened last night?" John glanced at the older man over the rim of his cup as he took a sip of tea.
"There isn't much to tell. I arrived Sunday evening, as you had requested, and was dismayed to find Sherlock suffering from the effects of food poisoning."
"And you stayed the entire night, in our bathroom?"
John's astonishment showed on his face.
"I never would have pegged you down for the caring type, Mycroft."
Sherlock's gaze lifted from his plate and locked with Mycroft's across the room.
"He's my brother, John. I cannot help caring."
John smiled knowingly. He knew the Holmes brothers were constantly at each other's throats, even more so than him and Harry had ever been, and they had a turbulent relationship. He also knew both men had difficulties expressing and even acknowledging feelings. Yet he'd known from the moment that he'd met Mycroft that the man cared for his brother, in his own way. He also suspected that Sherlock reciprocated, but it seemed it was more difficult for the young detective to come to terms with it.
John could only hope that last night had brought them closer together, if only a little.
"Well, this has certainly been interesting and… enlightening. However, I'm afraid I do have to be going." Mycroft said while getting up from his seat.
John suddenly became aware that Sherlock and Mycroft were staring at each other intently, unable to break their gaze. Something had happened between them, John could tell, something had changed.
"I'm going to go wash these." He said abruptly, standing up and gathering the plates and cups and escaping into the kitchen to give the Holmes some privacy.
The moment John left Sherlock broke Mycroft's gaze, his eyes becoming guarded and uncertain.
Taking a deep breath, Mycroft crossed the distance between them and sat at his brother's side. He noted that Sherlock looked much improved compared to the previous evening. His face had regained some color, although he was still quite pale, and he was no longer trembling and shivering. There were bags under the young man's eyes, but those would fade once he had several hours of proper rest.
Hesitantly, Mycroft took one of Sherlock's hands in his, an action he had not done since his brother was a young boy.
"I meant everything I said last night." he whispered, knowing John was in the kitchen doing his best not to intrude upon them.
Sherlock kept his eyes averted and downcast, but he nodded in acknowledgement.
"Caring might not be advantageous, but I still do anyways, and I am… glad I do."
Mycroft placed his other hand under Sherlock's chin, encouraging him to look him in the eye.
"I love you, Sherlock. If you ever trust anything I say to you ever again, please let it be that. I may not be able to show it often, and we do have roles we need to play for our own safety, but never forget it, little brother."
Sherlock's eyes were fixed on Mycroft's, and he nodded again once. He would need time to process and analyze everything his brother had confessed, but he wouldn't dismiss it as he normally would.
Mycroft's hand lingered on his face a moment longer, before the elder Holmes rose to his feet in one smooth movement.
"See you around, Sherlock. Take care of yourself, and of that doctor of yours. Good day, John!" Mycroft called out, turning around, picking his umbrella and exiting the flat.
"Bye Mycroft!" John shouted from the kitchen, waiting for the sound of the steps on the stairs to fade away before returning to Sherlock's side.
The detective was in a pensive mode, confused but somehow pleased. Somewhere deep inside he felt the faint whispers of something he hadn't felt in a very long time, but he was a reluctant to name it for fear it would disappear.
"Are you alright?"
"Given the circumstances, yes, I think I am." John noted how Sherlock's voice sounded hoarse, and he made a mental note to add some honey to his tea later on.
"Are things alright between you and Mycroft?" They didn't seem to have been on bad terms, in fact they seemed downright civil to one another. John hoped this meant something was changing between them, for their sake.
The detective sighed. Where things alright between them? What did it all mean?
"I don't know." Sherlock looked up at John, a small frown marring his features, "but for the first time since I can remember, I don't think I hate him."
John smiled at the detective, seeing how his eyes were beginning to droop, even though he kept trying to hang on to consciousness.
"You know, I don't think you ever have." John whispered, and on impulse he ran his fingers through Sherlock's hair, making the younger man's eyes fall shut.
"Hmmm" was the only reply he got from the slumbering detective.
"Sleep Sherlock. You can think about it later. Sleep."
So Sherlock did.
A/N: I know Mycroft and Sherlock are a bit out-of-character, but I couldn't help myself. I also know its ridiculously long for a one-shot, but people seldom complain about that, so I guess it'll be alright. I apologize for any and all grammar mistakes, feel free to point them out and any other inconsistencies. Hope you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading! ^_^