Mycroft remembered the clang of the door as he shut it behind him. He remembered the tap of his shoes on the floor, how every sound was magnified in this makeshift jail cell in Baskerville. And he was sure he'd never forget, when Jim Moriarty turned around, not the sight but the feel of that leering smile.
"I was hoping you'd come," Moriarty said.
And Mycroft had the strangest sensation that suddenly he was the prisoner here, and not the other way around.
Mycroft remembered the moment when he first received the news. Or read it, to be exact. The bright bold headline of every paper. One day late. No one had told him.
It was strange, he'd thought at first, how no one had called on him, as next of kin, to indentify the body. Something Sherlock had arranged pre-mortem with his wide array of connections, Mycroft was sure. But it never crossed his mind that this was to prevent the knowledge from him that Sherlock was in fact alive. Mycroft always assumed instead that it was one last childish blow. They may have been siblings, but Sherlock wanted to prove that they had never been brothers. He knew Mycroft would want a last look, so Sherlock did all in his power to deny him of it.
Sherlock had always done convoluted things to ensure that Mycroft was unhappy. Convoluted, highly intelligent, slightly insane.
Even when dead.
But Mycroft did remember reading it. He was in the Diogenes Club, so he wasn't allowed to make a sound. They would have thrown him out had he reacted, so he put his head in his hands instead and steepled his fingers, like Sherlock had.
He was a Holmes, so he wasn't supposed to have the capacity to cry.
Mycroft remembered those convoluted schemes, even from when they were children. One of his earliest memories was their little supper-table rendezvous. Sherlock had always found Mummy's portions far too large, and for Mycroft they had never seemed nearly enough. So Sherlock devised a furtive conspiracy to pass some of his food to Mycroft under the table when Mummy wasn't looking. The two were still young enough that they were on speaking terms, and they carried out their nefarious plot together.
With both deductive brains, they were unstoppable.
In retrospect, Mummy must have noticed something was going on. Sherlock was skin and bones and Mycroft was getting pudgier by the day. But she didn't say a word, maybe because it was nice to see the brothers getting along. And though she surely knew, at the time, the Holmes boys felt like they were getting away with murder.
"For the last time, James, I am not going to tell you anything about my brother," Mycroft said calmly, standing above Moriarty with hands folded over the handle of his umbrella. "No matter how many computer codes you have, I will not hand over to you Sherlock Holmes."
"Touching, isn't it?" Moriarty's mouth twitched slightly, the ghost of a smirk, and he raised his hand as if to lightly brush against something no one could see. "How strongly the normal people care."
"I'm hardly normal, James," Mycroft replied with a tight, patient smile. "You know as well as I do that I can deduce just as well as my brother."
Moriarty turned to him, eyes big in mock-surprise, like he was mocking a child. "Oh? You're smarter than normal people, is that it?" He flicked his hand in Mycroft's direction, and though it was feet away, Mycroft still flinched. And Moriarty might as well have been Richard Brook the actor from the way he could make his voice project. "BIG DEAL!"
"No, Mycroft Holmes." Moriarty dropped his voice to a whisper, leaning forward slightly so that Mycroft leaned in too. "What separates normal people and people like me is feeling. Your brother and I don't feel for anyone, as I'm sure you know. You like to pretend you're the same as us, and for the most part, kudos, it's almost true." He tilted his head slightly to one side, giving Mycroft a look that was just pitying enough. "But you've made one fatal mistake."
Moriarty was still a yard away, but it was like he was whispering the words into Mycroft's soul.
"You care about him so much."
For as long as he could remember, Mycroft had kept up the valiant charade that he truly didn't care. But somehow Moriarty made it impossible—and unnecessary—to pretend.
Mycroft remembered the exact moment when Sherlock had decided he loathed him. Sherlock didn't like anyone of course. He was difficult to his parents, a smart-ass to his teachers, and he had no friends. But he wasn't openly hostile to anyone. Those he regularly scolded for their idiocy weren't smart enough for him to feel anything for them. He didn't love or hate.
Mycroft supposed that made him special.
Mycroft remembered the day their father died, and how the neighborhood bullies beat Sherlock's face into the ground anyway.
He remembered how they would make fun of him too, when he stood up for Sherlock. He was the fat kid after all, and easy insults were what they preyed on. But even if they picked on him, at least they'd leave Sherlock alone.
But he also remembered the day when Sherlock stood up from the dirt, after the bullies were gone, and glared Mycroft straight on.
"I don't need your help, okay?" Sherlock spat the words. "I don't need anyone!"
And he'd run, all the way home.
Mycroft would have gone after him, but even if there was some chance of catching up, he knew there was nothing he could say.
Now, I don't need anyone just seemed like another cruel slap in the face, and an even more obvious lie.
"It's all right, Mycroft Holmes." Moriarty breathed the words across the room, and they beat their wings like cold butterflies. "I understand. I don't want information so I can hurt your baby brother." He took a step closer, and then, when Mycroft didn't move to stop him, another. "I want to help you."
Mycroft swallowed. "James, you simply cannot help me. I have no use of a consulting criminal."
"Oh, no, Mr. Holmes. You have me figured out all wrong." Moriarty put on a pout, a quite obviously fake expression of pain that somehow still felt real. "I don't want to be your consulting criminal." He was inches away. "I want to be your friend."
Mycroft opened his mouth.
"I'm going to die of boredom," Sherlock had often complained, sprawled across the couch of their manor and then the one at 221B.
"Don't be stupid, Sherlock." Mycroft would smirk slightly, lightly fingering a cup of tea or the wood of his umbrella. "No one has ever truly died of boredom."
Sherlock would look up at him with the most pitiful of expressions and shoot back an insult. Fat. Stupid. Queen. The usual banter that wasn't supposed to hurt, because he wasn't supposed to care.
But once, Sherlock had said something else.
"No one's died of boredom, I know that." He was lying with his head over the armrest of the couch, head upside-down. He saw Mycroft inverted, saw the whole world opposite of anyone standing on their feet. "But people have committed suicide."
Mycroft remembered this moment well, and he hated himself for it more than anything else he'd ever done combined. Forget dismantling entire nations. Mycroft Holmes's biggest regret was when he'd quietly chuckled and taken a sip of his tea.
"Don't be silly, Sherlock. You're not going to commit suicide."
And he was standing on the edge of a building and he stepped over the edge.
Months later, he stepped over the edge and he fell.
Mycroft was staring. Not at Moriarty, but at the name conjured up by Moriarty's words.
"You know you want to."
And this time, Mycroft spoke.
Mycroft remembered how he'd gotten his umbrella.
He was standing in the rain, cursing his forgetfulness when it came to practical matters, like remembering something to protect him from the rain. Years afterwards, because of moments like these and how much he despised them, he would become the man who never forgot a thing. Whose paperwork was always impeccable and on time. Whose suits were always pressed and perfectly clean.
Now his was getting drenched, swallowed up by the rain.
Sherlock stood beside him at the bus stop, grinning and aged thirteen, resting on the folded dark umbrella as if it were a cane.
Mycroft remembered scolding him. "You're going to catch your death, Sherlock. Why would you bring an umbrella if you're not even willing to use it?"
Sherlock had smirked under his mop of black hair. "I brought it to torment you, of course. I don't need an umbrella. Who cares if I'm wet or not? It's a useless thing to worry about."
Mycroft had sighed. "Sherlock. Please. You know I worry about you."
Sherlock had laughed in his face. "You just don't want your stupid school uniform to get wrecked because you're vain and a sissy. But here, if it's so important to you." And he had shoved the umbrella at the startled Mycroft before walking away. "I'm not going to use the stupid umbrella, so why don't you take it?" And then, the customary joke at his expense: "If it'll even cover your girth, that is."
Mycroft had stood and watched him walk away, lost through the rain. Where was he going? Instead of using it for its intended, Mycroft found himself leaning on the umbrella as Sherlock had, as something to support him and not let him fall.
Years later, he still carried the old thing around. It was maybe the only thing about which Sherlock didn't tease him.
Didn't used to tease him.
He didn't talk about Sherlock because he wasn't thinking of the consequences, or because he wanted the code more than he wanted to save his brother. He talked because Moriarty was truly the only one who would listen.
It was therapeutic, in a twisted way. Moriarty was a brilliant actor, chuck-full of forged sympathy. How it must have been so hard for Mycroft, growing up with a brother like him. How it was okay, how he was allowed to feel things here, how Moriarty cared. And Mycroft knew he was lying. But it was so nice, for once, to even have someone pretend.
Mycroft wasn't talking about Sherlock. He was talking about himself.
But when you're the brother of Sherlock Holmes, there isn't much else about yourself to say.
Mycroft remembered how he wasn't supposed to wish every day for Sherlock, who had dedicated his life to Mycroft's torment. He woke up every morning remembering wispy dreams of Sherlock resurrected, like Jesus rising from the grave. Though Mycroft wasn't really the sort to believe in such things.
He couldn't remember ever wanting anything more.
Mycroft blamed himself for Sherlock's death. No matter what anyone said, he always would.
John remembered the funeral.
Standing next to Mrs. Hudson, fresh tears springing at his eyes. Using his cane.
And there, across the crowd, he remembered seeing Mycroft. In a fresh, virtually new black suit and black tie. Head lowered. Gaze down. And between his hands the slick wooden handle of an umbrella Sherlock had given him, once upon a time.
John hadn't seen Mycroft since Sherlock's death, he realized. The man was different now. Mycroft's size had always been prone to violent fluctuations, but John couldn't help noticing that he seemed to have lost an awful lot of weight in a very short period of time. Mycroft looked thinner than John ever remembered him being. Pale. Frail. He was gaunt. And yet somehow familiar.
He looked like his brother.