A/N: Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at /works/389704 this May.
The one time Sherlock wanted his brother to actually be there, he wasn't.
It wasn't Mycroft's fault, however. After all, Sherlock didn't tell him that he was still alive.
But he didn't actually expect for his brother to actually diewhile he was away. That complicated things.
He stood there, pretending to be some dignitary from some foreign unpronounceable land, staring at his brother's prone figure in the casket. Sherlock breathed slowly, constantly checking his emotions to make sure they weren't getting out of hand.
They weren't. He mostly felt nothing, felt numb, and for once Sherlock decided that that was a bad thing. He turned from the body crisply, trying to push from his mind the images of his brother in a small box, lying there looking like he was sleeping (although he isn't, he isn't Sherlock he's dead), wearing that formal white tuxedo that Sherlock had always liked on his brother (not that he'd ever admit to it).
Anthea approached him, not knowing who he really was, and started telling him the cold facts of how Mycroft died. Thrombotic stroke, she said, entirely unexpected. Sherlock remained passive, and struggled not to correct Anthea. That was impossible. Mycroft had a medical check-up twice a year, and the last time Sherlock borrowedthe results from his brother's desk, he was perfectly healthy. No impending clots or dangerous plaques, not even hypertension, as was usual in their medical history.
Sherlock suspected foul play, but as much as he wanted to, he couldn't investigate this. He was supposed to be dead, damn it, and not here at his brother's wake.
His face still passive, Sherlock nodded at Anthea, and turned to sit somewhere in the back.
He didn't expect to end up sitting next to Dr. John Watson. John had hidden his emotions behind a mask, but seeing as it's Sherlock, and that he'd lived with the man as his flatmate and best friend for years, it was like it wasn't there. Sherlock could observe various emotions, ranging from remorse to anger dance behind the façade.
"Did you know him?" Sherlock asked before he could stop himself. He flinched at this. Remorse and sentiment were, he could feel, breaking down his defenses. Trust that it would be John who'd break his impassiveness. The man didn't even have to say anything.
John nodded. "He was…" The doctor thought for a moment. "A friend's brother. A friend, too, I suppose." John turned to look at Sherlock, who angled away. "How about you? Foreign dignitary, used to be close to him - well, as close as anyone can get to Mycroft Holmes, I suppose, yeah?"
"How did you know?" Sherlock asked, unable to keep pride from his voice. His doctor was observing, he was learning.
John shrugged. "From the way you're dressed, foreign dignitary isn't a far-fetched idea. As for your relationship, you lingered longer by the casket than most of the other visitors here, as if you were saying good bye. And the way your shoulders have been slumped since earlier indicates regret." John winced, and looked at Sherlock. "I'm sorry. I'm usually better at comforting people than this. Did you know him well?"
More than you'd know, John. "Not as well as I should." Sherlock said, truth spilling from his lips before he could do anything about it. He was coming undone. Sentiment. Emotions. Feelings. It shouldn't feel so new, so alien,but it did.
John smiled. "Yeah. If his brother was here, I imagine that's what he would say as well."
Sherlock raised an eyebrow, and turned to John. "Oh?"
John nodded. "I think so. And I think he would be slightly, just slightly, annoyed that his brother died. He'd think it's… inconvenient." A bitter smile spread across his face. "A very Sherlock way to admit that he misses and loves his brother." John sighed, and corrected himself. "Missed. Loved."
"Past tense, Doctor?"
"They can banter and ignore each other in heaven, now." John provided as an explanation. He stood up. "Well, I best be off."
Sherlock wanted to stop him. He wanted to stand up, rip off the annoying cover on his face, and announce to his best friend that he was alive. He wanted to grab John in a hug and cry like the child he felt like he was right now because his brother just died and surely, surely, for once he was allowed to show and feel emotions.
He shook a little, forcing his feelings back under control.
"Sir, how did you know I was a doctor?" John said, turning back. "I never introduced myself."
Sherlock didn't answer. He tried to ignore John, who walked back to him, scrutinizing Sherlock from head to toe. "No, it's impossible. Ignore me. I apologise." John said. He stepped backward, and turned again. John quietly slipped out the doors.
Oh sod it.
"Doctor." Sherlock said as he caught up with John. They stood awkwardly outside in the halls, and John turned.
"You're supposed to be dead, you know." John said, matter-of-factly. "You're not supposed to haunt your own brother's wake." He smiled a little. "Although, I suppose, it is so youthat you did, anyway, yeah?"
Sherlock breathed slowly. This was going to be easier than he thought.
John knew. John knew.
He almost rushed at John in a hug. "John, John, John…" He repeated, unable to form any other words at the moment. He felt his walls slowly come down, slowly break.
John stood there, rather awkwardly at first, and he looked shocked, as if he didn't believe what was happening. The man however, slowly relaxed, and embraced Sherlock. "It's all going to be fine," John started. He sounded like he was having some sort of difficulty forming the next word that he was going to say, but he managed anyway. "Sherlock."
Sherlock sniffed. Tears spilled from his eyes, but for once, he didn't care. "I could have warned him, John. They were after you, after Greg, after Mrs Hudson… They would have been after him too."
"You couldn't have known." John said. "You're not… all-knowing, Sherlock."
"I should have told him, anyway. He should have known." Sherlock tried to get his everythingunder control, his shoulders shaking with the effort. "My fault, I suppose, as it usually is when Mycroft gets harmed."
John shook his head, rubbing comforting circles into Sherlock's back. "You couldn't have known. Stop blaming yourself, Sherlock."
Sherlock nodded at this, and he slowly relaxed. He disengaged from John's hug. John gestured at a bench near them, and they sat down. "It's all going to be fine." John said again, reassuringly.
Sherlock sighed. "This will create a lot of complications, not only in our government, but everywhere else, as well." He said, trying to stick to the facts that did not affect him. He had finally succeeded in slamming a lid down on his emotions again, locking it down in an overly protected vault.
"I know." John merely said quietly. "I'm sorry, Sherlock."
Sherlock gripped John's hand tightly, but John didn't flinch or protest, even if his knuckles were already turning white. "I didn't even get to say goodbye." Sherlock said. He felt tired, always felt tired, after he expressed anything like that. John's hand represented some untapped reservoir of strength that he didn't want to let go of, so he didn't.
"He can still hear you."
"Don't be an idiot, John. He can't. He's dead." Sherlock said. He glared at John now, who remained stoic under the intensity of his gaze.
John sighed. "Just pretend, Sherlock. Pretend he can. What would you tell him?"
"I suppose, I'd apologise. Express my sentiment, care. Tell him…" Sherlock trailed off, and John looked at him pointedly.
"Tell him what?"
"That I loved him." Sherlock smiled sadly. "He was my brother, after all. Even if I 'hated' him, even if we had our differences…"
John nodded, and gave Sherlock another hug. Sherlock sank gratefully into it. "Thank you." Sherlock said. "And I'm sorry. I should've told you I was… This isn't how I planned to tell you I'm still alive."
"It's fine, Sherlock." John told Sherlock, his voice just filled with reassurance that Sherlock couldn't resist believing anymore. For once, it did feellike everything was just going to be fine, despite everything that was happening.
After this, Sherlock knew he had to leave again. After this, he knew John has to pretend that Sherlock is gone so they would all be safe, at least, until Sherlock's finished.
After this, Sherlock knew he would be away from his blogger, his best friend again, even if they both have already suffered enough for a year.
But he was grateful for this moment, anyway. Sherlock needed this. He needed it badly. He needed to see John, needed to let go, just for one moment, he supposed, to feel something for once.
He was glad that he went to Mycroft's wake, after all.
His brother, even whilst dead, knew how to help him. And help Sherlock, he did.