Jim asks questions. Innocent, curious questions that send bile shooting into Mycroft's mouth. Questions like "What do you do?", "How many brothers and sisters do you have?", and "What was I like before?"
He tries to tell the truth, but it's harder to reconcile the past than he expected. Differentiating between Moriarty-The-Psychopath and Jim-His-Friend is even harder. The light giggles and flirtatious laughter are an unnerving, albeit innocent, reminder of the man that lays hidden under the surface.
But it is when he is angry that Jim displays the buried vestiges of psychosis that made him infamous. Such fits are few and far between, but they are awe inspiring in their destruction. Mycroft has lost a fair amount of china to those rages. So much, in fact, that his PA has whole sets stored away in the event of a cataclysmic row.
Tonight is one such night.
"Why won't you just tell me the truth?" a china cup soars across the room and smashes into a thousand tiny splinters.
He sets his own cup down in its saucer, places it on the table, then leans back and crosses his legs at the knee. He'd been expecting a blow up. Jim had been simmering for days now. "You'll have to be more specific, I'm afraid," he steeples his fingers in front of him.
"Who am I? Why won't you tell me where I'm from or who my friends are or let me out of this bloody flat?"
"You know who you are. As to the friends, would it make a difference? None of them came to see you while you were…incapacitated. One might think you didn't have any."
A saucer dovetails through the air. "Then let me out so I can make new friends!"
Mycroft sighs and bows his head a bit. He wanted Jim to have a life – the man became insufferable when cabin fever struck – but he needed to take care of some things first. He wasn't worried about Moran. The Colonel had seemed to be half in love with Jim on his worst days and was unfailingly loyal. There was no doubt in his mind that Moran would do everything to protect Jim, whether Jim remembered him or not. He wouldn't be surprised if the two had been…intimate at one time or another.
No. It was his other, more insidious contacts that had Mycroft worried. It was the ones who would hurt Jim, take advantage of him, kill him, that made Mycroft start locking doors and windows like Anne Frank and install hidden cameras in his own home.
Once they were gone he would be happy to allow Jim to roam the streets and byways of London – with a tail, of course – but until then…
"You know I can't."
"Jim. Please. We've discussed this. Just give me time. I promise it won't always be like this."
Hurling the entire tea tray at the fireplace Jim lets out a roar of frustration and stalks up the stairs. Mycroft sighs and remains where he is. The past year and a half has been hard on them both, but he has learned how to handle Jim's fits. He used to follow him, try to force him to see things his way, and make him see reason. This resulted in more broken china and Mycroft storming off in a manner not befitting a man of his age.
Now he knows to leave Jim be. Without a catalyst his anger and frustration will wear off quickly and he'll become more reasonable.
And so Mycroft cleans the mess he left behind in his wake, cooks and eats dinner, and does a bit of light reading (See: Calculates the precise way to end a particularly annoying foreign official).
It's near midnight when he ascends the stairs and passes by his own room on his way to Jims. Opening the door he steps inside. It's a pretty picture indeed. Jim lays shirtless, blankets pillowing around his waist, moonlight streaming in through the window eliminating his pale skin.
He perches himself on the edge of be bed and watched Jim feign sleep. How had he become so lost in this creature he'd helped remake? For he had helped make him, as surely as if he'd stitched together the pieces of Jim's soul, he had made this man. He was no longer objective, he knows that much. He's lied to the higher ups, telling them Jim was unconsciously giving him the information, using every successful assassination his minions as an excuse to keep then man with him longer.
Was he any better than the others who would use Jim's condition for their own purposes? Had he not done the same? He places a hand on Jim's face and turns it towards him. Jim opens his eyes.
"I just need more time," he says, and Jim nods, all the fight gone out of him.
Jim's hand reaches up and settles itself on top of his own, thumb caressing his knuckles in a soft gesture. He threads his fingers through Mycroft's' and draws his hand down, over his bare chest, until it rests over his heart. He reaches out to bring its twin closer.
There are questions Jim never asks. Mycroft sees them reflected in his eyes at times when he thinks Mycroft isn't looking. It's murky territory there; dark waters run deep with swift currents and dangerous undertows he knows he can drown in.
The edge of his finger brushes against one dusky nipple and Jim arches into his touch.
Oh, but what a lovely way to die.
He leans down for a kiss and Jim's lips part in expectation.
…But Sherlock's memory looms in his mind like a dark cloud, and whatever else he may become, he will always be Sherlock's brother.
And so he pulls away, removes his hands from Jim's burning flesh, and tries not to feel guilty when he sees hurt and confusion flicker in those dark, pathless depths Jim calls eyes.
He slips into the hallway, closes the door behind him, and (not for the first time) curses the fates for the tangled web they've made of his life. Would that things were different and he could have what Sherlock had had in John, no matter how fleetingly it had lasted.
But even now he could hear his brother's voice in his head. 'You want to have your cake and eat it too? Tsk, tsk, tsk.' The insult stung from beyond the grave.
He locks himself in his study, pours himself a glass of brandy, and stares out the window at the stars.
"I wish…." He closes his eyes and wills it to be true.
But if wishes were horses, we all would ride.