Disclaimer: Still only in dreams.
A/N: Thanks to everyone who's reviewed so far, you've been awfully kind. I'm glad everyone seems to have liked this story, and I hope you all like the epilogue too. The moment I was mostly done with the story I knew I wanted to write this extra scene, but it didn't seem to fit right with the rest, nor did it seem sufficiently self contained to stand on its own, so it's an epilogue!
Warning, as before, for mentions of child abuse, though if you've read this far, you already know that.
John was told he could go into Mycroft's office and suddenly he felt his resolve crumble slightly. Ever since The Event, as he still called it, there had been one question nagging constantly at the back of his mind, why did no one help Sherlock?
The detective had been so young and yet so apparently alone, and every time John remembered that helpless begging, the heart-breaking pleas and the desperate requests for explanations, he became enraged. It was so wrong, so utterly and disgustingly wrong, yet the worst part was that Sherlock seemed uninterested in broaching the subject again. He'd been able to internalize his memories once more, through whatever method of suppression he used, which also annoyed John to no end, and now, several weeks later, everything was 'back to normal'.
However, Sherlock's return to business as usual did not ease John's anger. How could someone do that to their own child? How could they simply lock him up, and for what reason? He knew Sherlock could not have been an easy seven-year old given that he was an extremely difficult thirty-five year old, and his parents must have had a hard time controlling him. That, however, did not give them the right to merely shove the boy into a confined space for long enough as to cause long lasting psychological trauma.
The problem for John, now, was that other than Sherlock, there were few people he could go to in search of answers. The Holmes family was long gone except for the two remaining sons, and John was very determined to voice his outrage over Sherlock's treatment. Thus, he had called up Mycroft and explained to him, in as calm a voice as the soldier could manage, that he needed to talk to him about his brother; that he needed some answers and that he wouldn't stop pestering the older man until he folded.
John had made his demands and had been taken by surprise when Mycroft sighed on the other side of the line and swiftly gave him a date for an appointment later that week. To say that John was shocked by his quick agreement was an understatement. His dealings with both Holmes had taught John that he needed to stand his ground and be particularly firm if he was to get a say in anything, so the politician's unprotested agreement came completely out of left field, leaving him confused and apprehensive.
As he stepped into the expensively decorated office, John couldn't help but think that somehow he was way out of his depth. Up to this point he had been so certain he was going to read Mycroft the riot act, confront him about Sherlock's childhood and demanded retribution, in what form, he hadn't worked that out yet. But Mycroft's imposing presence was intimidating. All that kept John from bolting out of the door for his own safety were Sherlock's whispered please of 'Let me out' and 'I promise I'll be good' that continually echoed hauntingly in the ex-soldier's ears.
With this firmly in mind, John strode up to the politician, gave him a curt nod by way of greeting, and stood with his arms crossed, a look of measured disapproving anger set on his face. It seemed to be lost on the politician.
"Doctor Watson, what a pleasure. This is the first time you've come to me without the need for subterfuge."
"You mean without you kidnapping me." John replied sharply.
"Kidnapping implies a plan to gain a ransom from you, and I've never done so."
"Let's cut the crap, Mycroft. Do you know why I'm here?"
Mycroft smiled tightly. "I take it has to do with the events of last May, when you, Sherlock and two of the Met's finest found yourselves trapped in a most uncomfortable situation."
"Then you know all about it."
"I read the reports, although they were done with the outmost taste, which left me with a very vague picture of what happened. However, it is not difficult to infer, particularly from your visit, that Sherlock's claustrophobic episode revealed some distasteful secrets about him."
Mycroft's calm tone was annoying John to no end. How dare he act like this was an everyday common occurrence! How dare he make little of Sherlock's suffering!
"Distasteful Mycroft? They're downright appalling! So you don't have all the facts of what happened? Then allow me to enlighten you!" John was finally working himself into the righteous and vengeful anger that had made him pick up his mobile and call Mycroft in the first place.
"Sherlock was begging, Mycroft, begging! to be let out." Somewhere in the back of his mind, the doctor registered that Sherlock would probably be very unhappy John had gone to Mycroft and revealed these things to his older brother, but John didn't care. His closest friend had been hurt irreparably and someone had to be made responsible.
"He kept asking why he was locked up, what he'd done. There was no mistaking the child's voice in those pleas, nor the abuse they conveyed. And before you ask, I did confront Sherlock about it and he told me that it was your father who did this awful thing to him, and that neither you nor your mother did anything to stop it!" By this point John was pacing up and down in front of Mycroft's desk shouting off the top of his head.
"Where the hell were you, Mycroft, when your little brother was being locked up by that bastard? For all you say about caring for Sherlock, you sure have a strange way of showing it!"
John was panting hard after his rant, staring straight at Mycroft with nothing but disgust and hatred. He was so sick and tired of people treating Sherlock like crap, always thinking he was a psychopath that deserved all the ill-treatment he got, but to think that it had started when he was merely a child was beyond imagination.
Mycroft took John's wrathful words with an air of controlled calm. His face was impassive, and yet there was something under the surface that bespoke of emotions being kept tightly and expertly under control.
Slowly and collectedly, Mycroft rose from his seat and walked over to his liquor cabinet, taking out two tumblers, filling them with an amber-coloured liquid, and walking back to John, silently handing him one of them.
With the same composure Mycroft resumed his place in his chair and motioned John to do the same. There was something unsettling about the politician's behaviour and for a moment John thought the man looked much smaller than he really was, as though he'd folded into himself momentarily, very like his young brother had done several weeks before.
"I normally do not… spare a thought to what others think of me, except for my political reputation, which I am required to maintain. But as I know Sherlock will not explain this to you, I will do you the courtesy of giving you more details than I would typically be inclined to reveal. I am not even certain of how much Sherlock remembers, and how he remembers it, and while it should not bother me whether you have formed an incorrect vision of my place in this story, it does. Because I care for my brother, it does."
John was staring intensely at Mycroft, almost afraid that he had come in the first place.
"My father was not a caring man, he was not a loving person." Mycroft began, with an air of detachment born of years of having sifted through his memories and catalogued them carefully. "He believed in maintaining a certain, shall we say, code of behaviour in our home, and reacted… unpleasantly whenever he perceived that that code had been breached. The first time he hit me I was barely five years old. I had taken my birthday present, a bicycle, and disassembled it to see how it worked. I had used his tools, which I discovered later I had no permission to use, and dismantled the thing all over my room. When Father discovered what I had done he hit me, hard."
The politician's voice was calm and collected as though he was recounting the process of making morning tea. John felt that same constriction in his throat he'd felt when he's seen Sherlock trembling and crying in that cramped furnace; this was not going the way he thought it would.
"He never explained what I'd done wrong, and it wasn't until many years later that I even realized what the problem had been. My father was not a vocal man; I think he believed in learning by doing, or learning through punishment. By the time my little brother was born I had already been treated to several 'lessons' by our father, including his favourite method of correction, locking me up in a small closet in the basement of our mansion.
"You must understand, doctor, that someone of my intellect cannot be contained that easily." The manner of Mycroft's words did not sound boasting, but simply matter-of-factly.
"I needed to understand the world, and the only way I knew of doing that was through reading and experimenting, so I got into plenty of trouble with my father for the messes I caused. I did not understand what made him angry at the time, no more than I did not understand that what he did in turn was wrong as well, or rather, so much worse.
"When Sherlock was born I was… very happy. I loved my brother, as I still do, and I spent most of my free time with him, teaching him all that I knew. It didn't take us long to realize that Sherlock's intellect was just as vastly superior to that of normal people as mine was, and we revelled in understanding each other. But the one thing we could not understand was our father and why he treated us like he did.
"Yet, somehow being the two of us together, it was easier to… endure Father's punishments. Often he would lock us both in that closet, but we'd keep each other company with mind puzzles and the like. But when I was fifteen I was accepted into university. I'd been skipped several years, and when the opportunity came, I was encouraged by everyone I knew, including my father, to take it. It meant I had to leave Sherlock, who was only seven, almost eight, alone with our father.
"Two things of note happened during my time away. First, I learned the way the world worked. That is clichéd, but it's true. I came to understand that my father was wrong, that he had no right to treat us as he did. I also came to realize the extent of my abilities, and the power I could have. But when I returned to our home, I discovered that Sherlock had not been as safe as I had hoped. While I had had seven years alone in which to become used to our father's methods, Sherlock, I realized, had been partly shielded by myself. He didn't know what it was like to be alone under Father's rage and he suffered for it.
"I was eighteen and Sherlock was eleven when I informed our Father that if he ever laid another finger on the two of us, especially Sherlock, I would make his life a living hell. I had already amassed powerful allies at university, and was starting to build my political connections. I knew I could make him disappear, if not with the finesse with which I could do it today. Needless to say, that stopped the bastard, but by then I had… lost my little brother." Mycroft's voice was hard and cold.
"I've never been able to forgive myself, and despite what you may think, I do take responsibility for it. Our father's treatment pushed Sherlock into a black hole of misery where he was in constant battle between his brilliant mind and his feelings of inadequacy. Eventually it made him turn to drugs and into his self-destructive lifestyle, both of which I have made it my task to stop and survey closely. So, if you need someone to blame, and I am certain that is what you came to achieve today doctor, then by all means continue to blame me, but never, not for one second, believe that I do not have my brother's best interests at heart."
John was stunned into silence, his eyes wide and frozen and his arms gripping the armrests with white knuckles. With a shaky breath, John attempted to calm his frayed nerves, running a hand through his hair and reaching with the other one for the abandoned tumbler, drinking it straight in one gulp.
"Lord, Mycroft! I… I didn't.. I mean.. I.."
"You didn't know." The politician filled in for him.
"I didn't imagine!" John hissed, not sure whether his anger was gone or simply on hold, soon to be magnified in the name of both Holmes brothers.
"It.. where was your mother in all of this?" John asked in outrage.
For the first time a shadow of what might have been described as pain momentarily flashed across Mycroft's face.
"She…" he hesitated uncharacteristically, "She was not a strong woman, neither physically, emotionally nor… mentally. She had constant bouts of depression, and lasting episodes where it was like… her mind floated away." Mycroft wasn't sure why he was telling John this, he'd only intended to tell him about his own abuse at the hands of his father and let John make whatever other connections he wished. He had never spoken to anyone about his mother, not even Sherlock, who likely did not remember her well at all. But John's eyes were so kind and for the first time the anger in them was not directed at him but for him, that while the politician knew he should scorn pity, he couldn't stop the stream of words that tumbled from his lips.
"I believe we, Sherlock and I, inherited our minds from her, as it certainly wasn't our father," Mycroft added with disdain. "Years later I discovered writings from when she was younger, when her mind was still largely intact, and she was brilliant. She could have been so much, but she died an unknown genius, driven mad. She was so kind and loving, yet so sad." His eyes had drifted far away, losing his strenuous control over himself for a few seconds.
"She loved us, that I know, yet her mind simply refused to be aware of our plight. She died before I went to university when I was thirteen and Sherlock six." He finished softly; he hadn't thought about his mother for a long time. John's disbelieving whisper brought him back to the present.
"It's just… so wrong."
Mycroft raised a perfect eyebrow. "Was it better when you thought only Sherlock had been on the receiving end of our father's attentions?"
"What? No! It wasn't better, but it sure is worse now! I should apologize… I'm-"
"Don't bother doctor. I do not need your apologies, I only need you to understand."
"I just thought… you're older than him, and he's always resented you so much… so I just thought.." John shook his head from side to side to try to organize his confusing thoughts.
"You forgot that I was a child at one point as well and that what happens to one child normally happens to the other in most families. However, your erroneous conclusions stemmed from a fervent desire to protect my brother, for which I thank you." There was a finality to the elder Holmes' words.
"I trust this meeting has been sufficiently enlightening, John. Please continue looking after Sherlock, I appreciate it deeply."
John breathed in deeply, his mind less confused and angry than before, but his heart in more turmoil than he expected to find.
"I'll do that. Take care Mycroft." He said standing up and regarding the elder Holmes one final time.
"And you doctor." Mycroft's gaze had returned to the papers and documents scattered on his desk, signalling that the meeting was well and truly over.
Silently John made his way through the door and out of the building, anxious to get back to Baker Street and to his friend. He wouldn't tell him of the meeting with his brother, and John was confident enough in his self-control that Sherlock wouldn't suspect anything out of the ordinary. He didn't want to burden the younger man with the truth yet, not when he was still working through his own demons. Someday, however, John might feel inclined to tell Sherlock to visit his brother, and to actually listen to him for a change. He didn't know how he would do it, but he'd work on it. For now, all he could do was fulfil his promise to Mycroft and keep the young detective as safe as he could.
In his office, Mycroft raised his head up from documents of foreign affairs and international scandals to look vaguely around his room. Normally he would push aside all thoughts of family and caring aside for they were disadvantageous in the political life he lead, however after recent events he allowed himself the slip. Silently he picked his drink and sipped at it slowly before unlocking his private drawer in his desk and taking out an old picture he kept underneath everything else.
The picture held an image of his brother, taken when he was five and Mycroft was around twelve. They were sitting in the garden, matching slight grins on their faces as they struggled to school their faces into scowling frowns, a foreshadowing to their adult lives. In a moment of sentimentality Mycroft raised a finger to his brother's almost smiling face before hiding the picture once more, locking his desk, and resuming his demanding political duties.
A/N: I wrote this in a bit of a rush, so if there are mistakes and inconsistencies, feel free to point them out. My first Mycroftwhump! (sort of). I think I'm starting to enjoy exploring Mycroft's and Sherlock's childhoods and the reasons behind their behavior. I hope you enjoyed it; don't forget to leave your comments as they feed the plot bunnies! Cheers and until next time, AR.