Summary: Takes place post-Fall; Mycroft has been run-ragged with Diamond Jubilee security nightmares and finally takes a break to address some ongoing issues in his childhood home.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, I'm just having harmless non-profit-inducing fun with them.
Mycroft didn't know who had first concocted the idea of a four-day long mass celebration for the Diamond Jubilee, but some time soon he was going to find out and have them painfully educated in the error of their ways – possibly stringing them up by their thumbs with their own bunting. Joining them would be the genius who came up with the security risk induced by hundreds of thousands of unvettable revellers descending onto London's streets while Her Majesty and two-thirds of the royal family were almost literal sitting ducks displayed for all to see on a slow-moving barge. A barge for heavens sake. While the rest of the country celebrated and waved tiny flags at anyone or anything with even the most tangential royal connection, Mycroft had been struggling to recall a time before this mammoth security headache had settled painfully behind his eyes.
By some small miracle, helped by a superhuman effort from the nameless and faceless staff in his department, as far as the British public were concerned the whole Jubilee weekend had gone without a hitch. The newspapers were gratifyingly full of nothing more than the expected gripes about the poor weather and inane BBC coverage, along with photographs of half the country decked out in bunting and novelty headgear drinking Pimm's in the rain. The half-dozen lone extremists and the terrorist cell hoping for worldwide headlines and immortality had been picked up in good time without any media fuss and were being quietly processed under the anonymity of the Terrorist Act procedures.
Now, as night settled over London and street cleaners began tidying away the sodden detritus of a thousand street parties, Mycroft sat heavily in one of the wing-backed chairs he kept in his office for more informal meetings and loosened the top button of his shirt as a concession to the lateness of the hour. He had poured himself a congratulatory generous measure of very old and very fine Laphroaig single malt, and sipped at it slowly before resting his glass on arm of the chair. The Prime Minister might have spent the weekend appearing at street parties and nibbling on cucumber sandwiches with the masses, but the work of government continued unabated and Mycroft still had security files to review, instructions to issue and foreign dignitaries to coerce or intimidate accordingly before he could even think about going to bed. But he conceded that maybe he wasn't as young as he once had been and that back-to-back twenty-hour days had become that bit harder, and as he rubbed at his aching temples he allowed his eyes to close for a moment.
Other than dutiful but brief filial visits to take tea with Mummy on the third Sunday of the month, Mycroft rarely found the time and opportunity to get down to Sussex to visit his childhood home. But he carried with him the rich smells of beeswax furniture polish on old dark wood, the heady mustiness of a library full of leather-bound books, steaming tea taken black with very thin slices of lemon and the sickly heavy scent of the trailing honeysuckle that covered the rear walls of the manor. He breathed those scents in deeply now, searching the pocket of his waistcoat for the surprisingly small golden key that fitted so precisely the lock of the forbidding door before him. In reality the door had always been plain honey-coloured varnished wood but in his mind it was painted a deep blood red, and he had to stretch up to reach the lock as though he was only the height of a small child. It was frankly less than subtle on the part of his subconscious, but Mycroft had long ago chosen not to question why it had made these inaccurate alterations to the house – in his experience psychoanalysis, particularly of oneself, was a distinctly overrated activity.
The great door unlocked itself with a sharp click and slowly swung open, revealing the interior of the house from his childhood. Rain pattered against the windows and low lamps were lit along the hallways. On these visits it was always an overcast and drizzling day; a day for children to stay indoors and build a den together in the library, fight as pirates in the drawing room or play hide and seek in the many shut-up rooms of a house that had been built with the needs of a large family and an even larger staff in mind.
There had been a time when he thought the house would never be full – that he would never have so much to store that he would had used even the attic and the cellars, and have knowledge bursting out from the eaves. Theoretically he could have grafted on extensions and modernised his earlier filing systems – digitised and defragmented the storage of earlier memories and facts. But when he left for college he had turned his back on many childish things, and it seemed somehow more appropriate to prepare his mind for a career in government with a new, more efficient system set amongst the dreaming spires. This new system had retained its usefulness. Even in an age of smart phones and instant access to electronic files anywhere in the world, he called upon his own personal Bodleian Library on a daily basis. Until recently the house was relegated to a mausoleum of childhood nostalgia, visited sparingly and furtively.
His footsteps echoed through the silent house as he walked across the entrance hall, reacquainting himself with the framework for a childhood of memories. He spared only a fleeting glance down the far corridor at the door to his father's office – painted a deep, gloss black that again did not reflect reality. He was faintly surprised his subconscious hadn't bricked it up to hammer home the message a bit further, but this wasn't the time to go picking over the bones of that particular element of his childhood. The room that he needed was upstairs, but as he slowly began to climb the grand staircase he felt every one of the years that separated him from this time; a sense of bone-deep weariness that in recent months he had begun to suspect he would never be free from. He paused, tracing his fingers over the scorch mark marring the smooth oak of the handrail – a relic of one of Sherlock's more flammable childhood experiments.
After what seemed like a lifetime of climbing he reached the top floor of the house, where their childhood bedrooms had been. The door to his room was ajar, and he could see the expanded bookshelves and cupboards that he had kept his early schoolwork and projects on. It was tempting to go in and sit down on his childhood bed to take a short nap in the familiar surroundings, then to pour over his books and maps of the world and once more look up the cities and rivers that had fascinated him when he first began cataloguing his knowledge and experiences. But instead he turned to the adjacent room, and its firmly shut door.
It was a simple wooden door, of regular size, with a basic lock that would take the same key that unlocked the house itself. On the door were signs that seemed to shimmer in and out of focus – a twee nameplate decorated with Peter Rabbit drawings reading Sherlock's Room, a torn sheet of paper aged with cold tea to look like a treasure map, with a young child's imperfect handwriting declaring that this room was for pirates only ('no Mycrofts allowed'), a hazardous materials sign tacked up next to a skull and crossbones, with EXPERIMENTS IN PROGRESS written across it in large letters. Mycroft hesitated on the threshold for a moment before firmly turning the key in the lock and opening the door.
"Nice of you to bother visiting, brother dear," Sherlock sneered from his huddled position on the child-sized bed. He was enveloped in his shroud-like coat and radiated with the boredom of confinement, glaring at Mycroft in a painfully familiar way.
"Some of us have actual work to do, Sherlock," Mycroft retorted, immediately regretting that he'd let himself be pushed into petty bickering when the conversation had barely started. He mollified his tone accordingly. "I'm sorry I haven't visited recently but I've been rather pressed for time of late."
"Oh yes, garden parties at the palace no doubt – a scone to eat for every year of dear Liz's reign, you wouldn't miss that for the world!" Sherlock scoffed. "Save me a glass of Pimm's – oh no, don't bother actually, being dead I wouldn't get the full benefit."
Mycroft came very close to snapping something about who's fault is that then, but stopped himself with a sigh. He tried to recall why putting Sherlock here had once seemed like a good idea.
"Why am I here, Mycroft?" Sherlock was looking him accusingly, and Mycroft reminded himself that since Sherlock was a construct of his own mind this sort of exchange was to be expected. "No, I don't mean why am I here at all – you've obviously got some unexplored fraternal guilt and grief issues to work through despite all that caring isn't an advantage bullshit you used to spout at me – I mean why am I here, shut in here?" Was it his imagination or did Sherlock look genuinely hurt? "When we were younger you never used to keep me out of the rest of the house."
Mycroft walked across the dismantled toy-strewn carpet, pushed aside a collection of model bird skeletons that they had once used to memorise the anatomy of different species of birds and sat next to Sherlock on what little space was left of the bed. His brother was still looking at him like he'd just taken his chemistry set away.
"We grew up, Sherlock," was all he could think to say. "We grew up, and I went away to school, and you grew up even more when I wasn't here. By then I'd taught you how to make your own house – only you insisted overdramatically as usual that it was a palace – so you didn't need to use my house anymore, and I shut this room away."
"That admirably fails to answer my question, Mycroft," Sherlock growled as he nudged him with one foot. "Why can't I come out? I don't want to be shut in here with no one to talk to. Why did you put me here, in a dusty old house you barely ever visit?"
"Make a deduction, Sherlock," Mycroft replied rawly, refusing to look at his brother.
"Well boo-hoo," Sherlock mocked, jumping up off the bed and stalking across the room to search through his bookcase of medical textbooks, bristling with indifference. "Just because I'm dead and you feel guilty doesn't mean I should be the one to suffer."
"Selfless to the last, little brother," Mycroft said archly, pushing back down on the bubbling conflicted feelings that had been threatening to surface.
"More selfless that you'll ever know," Sherlock replied cryptically from under a raised eyebrow, and Mycroft cursed his wayward subconscious from continuing to interfere in what should be a perfectly straightforward process. He'd obviously be optimistic to think that dealing with his brother might be easier when he was just a construct of his own mind.
"I need to get back to work, Sherlock," he said, getting painfully to his feet. "But I will try to visit more frequently – the sooner we can work through some things, the sooner you'll be… free to go."
Mycroft turned towards the door but found his sleeve caught by Sherlock's bone-white hand.
"Don't shut me in, Mycroft. Please."
He stared into his brother's eyes, reading a pain he wasn't able to fully comprehend, and bowed his head.
"I can't put you with my work, Sherlock, not where I'll have to see you all the time. I can't… not yet." He took a searching breath and lifted his eyes. "You can have the run of the house though, and I can do a bit of rearranging – since I don't need them as often anymore, I've been meaning to move John's files to an archive section, and the house is as good as anywhere."
"It won't be like having him actually here, Sherlock, but you might like to look over the old case files he wrote…" Mycroft hesitated again, "…maybe keep abreast of what he's up to. If you want to."
Sherlock's thanks were wordless but he felt them no less profoundly as they shared a silent goodbye, and Mycroft wondered whether he was feeling the first stirrings of a step towards resolution with his brother. He left Sherlock's door open as he headed back down the stairs and out of the main door of the house, but he locked that great door securely with the golden key that he replaced in his waistcoat pocket. Everything had its time.
Back in his office, Mycroft opened his eyes with a sigh and ceased rubbing at his sore head. He swallowed down the rest of his scotch in a gulp and stood to return to his desk and the emails and files that had been waiting for him. Once he had finished, he would check in with the reduced security detail that kept a subtle watch on Dr John Watson – just to reassure himself that the good doctor was as well and functioning as could be expected. It was really the least he could do.
Author's Note: I personally prefer post-Fall theories that involve Mycroft being aware that Sherlock isn't dead, even if he wasn't aware when the fall itself happened, but that just didn't quite fit with what I ended up writing. So sorry Mycroft - I was kind of gratuitously making you suffer here for my own creative ends... :-(