Disclaimer: Do you even have to ask?
A/N: This idea suddenly popped into my head and I cannot, for the life of me, understand why there aren't more stories about this. It might just be that I'm going through some sort of Mycroftwhump phase. It might be a bit disorganised because I wrote it in a rush. Either way, I really hope you guys like it.
[I don't know why Fanfictionnet keeps losing my story. It keeps disappearing, for no good reason.]
My Brother's Ghost
Mycroft entered his office practically making a beeline for his desk. He had just finished a video conference with the head of Interpol regarding the handing over of the body of one Colonel Sebastian Moran, who had been found dead in a nondescript location out in the London suburbs. Neither the high-ups at the international organization nor British Government officials like Mycroft knew how in the world the high-profile criminal had ended up dead in Sutton of all places, but they were all fighting for rights to the investigation. Moran had been a national security risk, not only for his dealings with the criminal mastermind Moriarty, but for his own personal private enterprises throughout Europe and Britain. Sometimes a hand for hire, sometimes the second in charge of the more secret organizations, whatever he did had attracted the attention of every special intelligence agency, and they wanted him now.
Mycroft pretended it didn't bother him, and he tried to justify his interest in Moran by saying that since the ex-Colonel was a British citizen they had the right to lead the investigation, but deep down he knew he wanted him for his own personal sense of justice. The politician didn't normally allow himself such sentimentality, but this was a man who had worked under James Moriarty, and if it was up to Mycroft, he would have every single member of Moriarty's organization tortured and hanged.
For three years he had tried to pretend he was detached from it, to say that any reasons behind sending this tactical unit to this country in Europe, or focusing time and effort into weeding out a remnant cell from the organization, hadn't been born out of a desire to avenge his little brother. But this was Sebastian Moran, whom Mycroft had discovered had been one of the snipers Moriarty sent to kill John, Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade. It had not been difficult for the older Holmes to deduce that Sherlock had committed suicide to protect his closest friends and everything that Moriarty had set up in order to force him to do it. Since then Mycroft had had a growing hatred toward the ex-soldier.
And now he was dead, and Interpol wanted to discover who did it, how and why, and Mycroft wasn't prepared to give it to them. He had already been denied the privilege of shooting the bastard himself (not that he would have been able to anyways, given his position), but he'd be damned if he wasn't allowed to find the person or persons responsible and personally shake their hand and give them an impressive medal. He would protect whoever had done it; hell, he'd hire them.
Mycroft crossed his office, physically and emotionally (although he would deny it if asked) tired. He sat down in his chair with an exhausted sigh, and swiveled it to face the desk when his heart jumped to his throat.
Sitting across in a chair in the corner was Sherlock Holmes.
Mycroft's eyes widened fractionally although he remained as still as if he was carved in stone. To anyone else his face would seem impassive and controlled, but Sherlock noted how the blood drained out of his brother's face and how his fingers tightened marginally around his chair's armrests.
In his mind, Mycroft was having an internal battle between what his senses were telling him and what he knew to be true.
Sherlock Holmes was sitting in the corner, passively staring at him, said his eyes.
Sherlock Holmes is dead, his massive mind reminded him.
His little brother was in his office!
His little brother was dead, he'd seen his corpse himself!
His brother, Sherlock, was right there, looking at him, gauging him, deducing him probably, and breathing right there!
But he was dead and buried; he'd jumped off a building and died, all because of a maniac and because of Mycroft himself; he was dead!
"Hello, brother dear." said the man with his brother's face.
Mycroft remained silent, stiff as a board, paralyzed by the conflict in his mind. His brain ran through the possibilities, through the scenarios that would allow for and explain how his little brother could possibly be sitting in his office.
As the politician saw it, there were two possibilities: either Sherlock was alive, which was impossible given that he'd personally seen the younger man's corpse on a slab when he'd been forced to go to the morgue in order to identify him, or Sherlock wasn't alive.
When you eliminate the impossible… How many times had he heard Sherlock triumphantly state those words?
Mycroft knew for a fact that Sherlock was dead and had been so for three long years, which meant that whatever was sitting in that chair could not possibly be Sherlock Holmes. And yet it was obviously not an impostor. Mycroft knew his brother's appearance to the last detail, so much so that the younger man had never been able to fool him with any of his clever disguises. It was doubtful, then, that anyone else would be able to deceive him with a lookalike.
The elder Holmes' mind raced through its calculations. Two more possibilities arose from the previous conclusion: either it was some sort of apparition, which Mycroft's mind quickly dismissed as impossible, or it wasn't truly there, which opened an entirely different can of worms.
Mycroft's heart thumped wildly in his chest at the revelation; he almost wished it was a ghostly apparition of his brother sent to haunt him somehow; the truth was so much more disturbing, and yet it wasn't particularly surprising to him.
No, indeed, his entire life he'd suspected and dreaded this day. Ever since he and Sherlock stood at the foot of the long winding staircase of the Holmes' home and saw their mother wheeled out by a pair of orderlies, never to see her again, he'd dreaded this day. Ever since their father had informed them, coldly and without any reservation, that their mother had died in that far-off institution, driven mad, he'd dreaded this day. Ever since he'd seen Sherlock's own bouts with depression and his futile battle to silence his mind, not to mention Mycroft's own inability to silence his, he'd dreaded this day.
It was still a shock, as he arrived at what appeared to be the only logical conclusion, his mind whirling at fantastic speeds to deliver its verdict upon itself, and Mycroft couldn't help the wave of fear that coursed through him in that instant.
"Aren't you happy to see me?" said the echo of his brother, and Mycroft didn't know how to respond. Should he ignore the hallucination? Should he acknowledge it? Was even thinking about it pulling him deeper into his inevitable madness? And if so, what did it mean? Would he, with his superior intellect, be able to function as he always had despite the fact he was m-? He couldn't even think the word.
He'd been so careful, so cautious about his mental health, about controlling his mind and cataloguing every detail, being aware of the minutest elements that were stored there; had it all been useless?
Should he embrace it?
That thought flitted through his conscious suddenly and Mycroft had to take a moment. He'd never thought about that possibility. Should he be happy that at least he would get to see his little brother again, in some form?
And yet, could he live with himself being aware of his own condition? If he hadn't realized that Sherlock couldn't truly be there, then perhaps it would not be so objectionable, yet knowing he was only a product of his mind made the apparition abhorrent; a blatant indication of his brain's descent into m-.
Across from him, Sherlock frowned in consternation, and Mycroft almost congratulated himself on the level of detail of his hallucination, though he knew he shouldn't be surprised.
"Mycroft? Surely I haven't shocked you this much."
The politician closed his eyes as he attempted to ignore the vision of his little brother. Releasing his death grip on the chair, he suppressed the impulse to clutch his hands to his eyes and instead he glanced down toward the papers on his desk, staring blindly at the documents while dozens of possible courses of action crossing his mind in an instant.
He thought about everything he knew regarding psychosis, about the stresses that can be placed on the mind before it cracks, and about the meaning of the incorporeal manifestations produced because of it. The elder Holmes prided himself in knowing his own subconscious well, in compartmentalizing the random and inconsequential bits of data his mind stored, be it factual or emotional.
Still, the current situation called into question his mental control, and raised the question of whether his seeing a vision of Sherlock of all people was significant. It seemed unlikely it could be anything else. Sherlock was his only brother, his younger brother at that, someone he had been meant to protect and guide. He had failed utterly at this task; ever since Sherlock was young he'd been unable to keep him safe, which ultimately resulted in his unfortunate death. It was then unsurprising that his mind would select this person to manifest Mycroft's insecurities and fears. Who better to deduce and haunt the genius than his genius brother?
The hallucination approached the desk, apparently wary of Mycroft's lack of response, and the politician still refused to look it straight in the face.
"Come now, Mycroft. Are you that angry I fooled you? You weren't meant to figure it out; I always knew I could beat you if I needed to."
What did that mean? wondered Mycroft's mind.
'Angry that he fooled me' might imply I believe I lost against Sherlock. But I don't believe I won anything at all. Do I subconsciously hold a grudge against him? Am I angry that he died because I was incompetent? 'Figure it out' could very well mean Moriarty's trap.
This and more Mycroft sat engaged in analyzing, his heart-rate not yet returning to its normal rhythm.
"Mycroft! Will you not even acknowledge me? I should have gone to Lestrade first! He at least would say something, or damn well look at me. Better yet, I should have chosen John first, although I'm sure the doctor will faint at the sight of me. Still, it'd be better than this!" Sherlock's outrage was evident in his voice.
Perhaps Sherlock would have been better protected if Scotland Yard had also been employed in keeping him safe, or if he'd given John more tools with which to help Sherlock. Mycroft knew his brother was in danger yet he allowed him to continue chasing after the psychopath that wanted him dead.
Mycroft glanced upward momentarily to look at Sherlock, and the detective saw the apprehension and doubt reflected in his gray eyes.
"Mycroft… what's wrong?" Sherlock had not seen so much emotion in his brother's face in years, decades even, and it snapped him out of his triumphant gloating.
Mycroft appeared to have reached some kind of decision in his head, because he now looked at Sherlock with resignation.
"What do you want?" His voice was sort and tired.
"What do you mean what do I want? I've just effectively come back from the dead, I thought at least you'd be mildly interested"
"Ah, you expect some interest from me. Very well, you have my undivided attention. I cannot ignore you, evidently, for you are very persistent and insistent. So, do you have some important revelatory piece of information to deliver or do you plan on haunting me for the rest of my life?"
Sherlock stared at his older brother in stunned bafflement, his brain stuttering for a moment, reassessing the entire situation. Was Mycroft having him on? Was it a joke? No, he could see the defeat in his brother's eyes, in his shoulders, in his entire posture. He'd noted how the politician had practically dug his fingers into his leather chair, and he could see the slight layer of perspiration coating Mycroft's forehead.
Opening and closing his mouth several times, Sherlock finally asked: "You think I'm a ghost? Really Mycroft, have you turned superstitious in the three years I've been gone. How marvelously sentimental!"
Mycroft sighed, not caring at this point that he was speaking to empty space.
"If only you were a ghost." His eyes went back to his desk, wondering whether perhaps the vision would get bored and leave him alone to contemplate his insa- no, he couldn't think that word either.
"What? Mycroft… are you… what's… are you well?" Sherlock hesitated, entirely unaccustomed to asking such a question, especially of his brother, The Ice Man.
"I-" the word choked unexpectedly in Mycroft's throat, and Mycroft brought his hands together against his mouth, in a pose reminiscent of Sherlock's own thinking one. Eventually he brought them down, his face calm and impassive once more.
"I'm hallucinating my dead brother in my office… I am fairly certain I am not well. On top of that… I am speaking to said hallucination, which is likely inadvisable, yet I cannot seem to contain myself."
Sherlock couldn't help but gape and stare like an idiot. He'd formulated several scenarios for the various peoples he'd reappear to. Lestrade would probably scream a lot, he might punch him, which was 21% possible, he might hug him, which Sherlock had to admit was even more likely than punching him and stood at 63%, and he might do a combination of all three, the most likely being scream and hug him. Mrs. Hudson would probably break into tears and embrace him, chiding him for worrying them all so much, and John… Sherlock had thought John would be the more difficult to predict. The man could almost do anything; hell, he might even shoot him and then fix him up just so that he could shoot him again. Sherlock was seriously preparing himself for pain from the doctor. He'd even considered this very scenario for John; having to prove his 'realness' to his best friend.
But this, his brother thinking he was seeing things, was definitely not on his list of possibilities.
"You think you're hallucinating?" repeated Sherlock in disbelief.
Mycroft sighed again, and Sherlock wondered what had made his older brother look and sound so wearied and fatigued and whether his death had anything to do with it.
"I suppose this is the moment when the hallucination tries to convince me he is real. I am not in the mood; I have had enough insight into my own head for one afternoon, so if you would kindly disappear for some time while I evaluate the situation, I would be very grateful to my own twisted psyche."
Every argument that Sherlock might have thought of at that moment flew from his mind.
"Mycroft… this is ridiculous."
The politician chuckled mirthlessly at the thought of his own hallucination pointing out the absurdity of the situation. Perhaps the vision wasn't aware it was a vision; maybe it wasn't there to tell Mycroft something directly but indirectly, by continuing this illusion of being his brother.
Sherlock, on his part, considered his sibling for a few seconds, both intrigued and wary about the situation. How much had Mycroft changed in the past three years? The former detective had kept appraised of the events in England during his three year hiatus, making sure to keep up-to-date with Mycroft's own chase of Moriarty's organization so that he could use that as a cover and smokescreen for his own endeavors. How tiring had it been for the politician? And how much had Sherlock's death affected him.
The younger man had not given much thought to whether or not Mycroft would miss him; he hadn't even believed that the cold man was capable of grieving for him, even slightly. Apparently he was mistaken. But grief would not drive a person like Mycroft to conclude 'insanity' as the foremost logical reason for your brother coming back from the dead. No, this bespoke of something else, something deeper and better hidden.
"How long have you feared going insane?"
Sherlock saw his brother's eyes widen and saw him swallow before tentatively answering, presumably to avoid a second emotional display.
"Always," was the almost dismissive answer, "but the question is whether I am… or not."
"You think you're hallucinating." Stated this time, wanting to hear Mycroft's explanation for his conclusions.
Mycroft was silent for a few seconds, gaging how much he should say, what it meant, before deciding to continue.
"Yes, but the cause of it that escapes me. Is it… m-madness…" Mycroft tried to hide his hesitant acknowledgement but Sherlock's observant ears heard it clearly, "or merely a product of too much recent stress and not enough rest? Is it temporary… or permanent?"
Mycroft swallowed again, feeling his throat constrict, which distressed him even more, although he kept it under control this time. It wouldn't do to break down in front of his own hallucination; he didn't know how that would cycle back into his psyche.
"Mycroft, I'm afraid I must inform you that I'm permanent, not because you're mad, but because I'm. quite. real." said Sherlock pointedly.
Mycroft rose suddenly from his desk, his hands clenched into fists atop the various papers and documents, evidently trying to stop himself from slamming them against the wood in anger at himself. Mycroft, unlike Sherlock, did not give in to bouts of rage or to temper tantrums, he did not raise his voice when things did not go his way and he most definitely did not hit things when he was enraged.
"You are not real. You cannot be real!"
Sherlock couldn't believe this was Mycroft. He places his hands on the desk as well, and leaned over so that he was face to face with his brother. The older man stepped back quickly as if scorched, and Sherlock saw the barely contained fear in Mycroft's eyes.
The politician began pacing behind his desk, keeping the piece of furniture firmly between himself and Sherlock.
The younger man was becoming exasperated. He ran his fingers messily through his hair in desperation.
"Why can't you accept that I'm alive?" He would have screamed it at Mycroft if it wasn't for the fact that he didn't want to attract anyone's attention at that moment.
Mycroft visibly flinched as he turned around to face Sherlock, keeping his voice down to a whisper even though it resounded loudly in Sherlock's ears.
"Because you're not! I saw you! I saw your crushed body, my little brother's body, on a table, in the fucking morgue! Because it's my damned fault, and I accepted that fact three damned years ago!"
The older man was left panting from his sudden and unexpected outburst, seemingly shocked at his own behavior and revelation just as much as Sherlock was.
"Mycroft, … I'm here… it.. it was not entirely your fault. You know I'm to blame just as much." The words tumbled out of Sherlock's mouth, his usual eloquence leaving him entirely in the face of his brother's confession.
A huffed laugh escaped Mycroft, and the hysterical edge to it wasn't lost on Sherlock
"Is that what this is? Am I trying to stop myself from feeling guilty? Is my subconscious trying to comfort me now? I'm more screwed up than I feared!" Mycroft all but spat in Sherlock's direction.
Sherlock felt like a dear before headlights; no, he felt like a child being screamed at by an angry desperate parent.
"Mycroft.. I'm alive." He whispered, suddenly fearing that Mycroft wasn't believing him at all. Sherlock couldn't comprehend this; he could not understand how his brother could doubt himself, his mind, to this extent.
Mycroft, on his part, had stopped. All of his remaining energy had been spent in that final outburst and now he was simply looking at Sherlock sadly.
"How I wish you were… you cannot believe how much I wish that, Sherlock… what I would give…" his words caught in his mouth again, fully aware that there was nothing he could do to bring Sherlock back, nothing except this pathetic illusion.
Walking slowly around the desk Sherlock approached his brother tentatively, afraid of what was going on in his brother's mind, and fully aware of how both of their minds were capable of reasoning. If he had thought that he was going crazy, he would have attempt to reason away his hallucinations. Failing that, he would flee deep into his mind and perform a frantic assessment of everything, locking up doors and corridors, putting all information regarding the perceived insanity under strict quarantine, in an attempt to protect his mind.
He knew he would do this and so knew what his brother would be thinking of doing the same. Therefore he approached Mycroft slowly, not wanting to scare him, for Sherlock knew Mycroft was scared, more scared than the politician had probably ever been in his life. Sherlock felt something twist painfully in his chest at the thought.
"Mycroft" Sherlock said softly, stretching a hand out to clasp Mycroft's shoulder.
"Don't… don't please… I just need some time.. to process this." Mycroft's voice was small, and it sent a cold wave through Sherlock.
"You don't need to process anything. You're not insane, not yet at least, but… you'll damage your head if you start making countermeasures when there's nothing wrong. I'm alive, allow me to prove it to you first." Sherlock kept his voice low and steady.
Mycroft hesitated and then addressed his little brother softly. "I.. you must realize this is not a simple thing you are requesting. I can either accept you are an illusion and begin shielding my mind against you, build mental barriers and create ways to inhibit your presence, or keep talking to you, keep acknowledging you're there, which might drag me further. If you're not real, which you cannot be, allowing you to prove you're alive might be irreparable."
Sherlock felt a chill go through him at Mycroft's calm words. It was his turn to swallow nervously.
"Would you rather mess with your mind or be stuck with me forever?"
Mycroft was deathly quiet for a long time going over the two options in his mind. It was a difficult decision, one that he could not and would not take lightly. But if Sherlock was right, then the repercussions could spiral him down something even more chaotic. Accept Sherlock couldn't be real, and run the risk of damaging his mind with necessary but extreme measures, or give him a chance, and risk being unable to rid himself of Sherlock afterwards.
Staring straight at his little brother, Mycroft made his decision.
"I would prefer you to be alive… and… I suppose, your ever-present spirit haunting me for the rest of my life would not be an entirely objectionable scenario, provided certain measures were taken."
"Deal." Sherlock said, a half-smile threatening to appear on his face. "I'll prove I'm real and agree not to bother you too terribly if I'm in fact a hallucination, which I'm not, by the way."
With that Sherlock strode over to Mycroft's desk and pressed down on the intercom buzzer. Instantly Mycroft's secretary walked into the office and stopped dead at the sight of Sherlock Holmes. She recovered quickly, as any secretary to the most powerful man in the British government should, and though sneaking glances at the younger Holmes, addressed the politician.
"Was there something you needed, sir?"
Mycroft's face and posture were the epitome of control and emotionlessness.
"Yes, would you please get the file on my brother?"
"I assume you will be wanting to reclassify Mr. Holmes' deceased status." She stated.
"Indeed, that will be all."
With that, Anthea turned around and walked back out through the large oak doors.
"Satisfied?" Sherlock spread his arms like a magician after his final and most difficult trick.
Mycroft's façade came down the moment Anthea walked back out of the room, although only those who knew him well would have noticed the difference.
"Not entirely, that is to say, I'm much more inclined to entertain the thought that you are alive than I was before, although there is the possibility I imagined that entire scene."
"Ridiculous. Why would you hallucinate her? She's not dead, and you would not have progressed so far down the mythical rabbit hole as to imagine such complex scenarios.
"Be glad Mycroft, I'm alive." Sherlock added gently, as he never had before.
Mycroft had to admit to himself that he was currently going through another form of turmoil entirely different from the one before. He was not completely convinced that he was sane, yet the evidence was compelling, and the politician found himself experiencing a rush of euphoria and happiness that he wasn't quite prepared to deal with. Add to that the fact that he had just gone through very intense stress, the older Holmes felt oddly faint.
"Mycroft, I think you'd best sit down."
Sherlock's deep voice cut through the haze in his mind.
"I do believe you're right. Sherlock… one of these days you very well might give me a heart attack."
Mycroft sat at his desk once more, waiting for his heart to settle to a moderate state.
"Perish the thought. That would be… not good."
Mycroft raised his eyes to look at Sherlock, seeing him circle the desk to stand in front of him again.
"I'm alive." Sherlock bit back any sarcastic remarks, reticent of his usual jibes.
"I… this is good, Sherlock." said Mycroft in his calm, collected tone of voice, but Sherlock could hear the 'I'm very happy for this' loud and clear in his words, which shouldn't have surprised him, but it still did. He felt he owed his brother a response.
"I was forced to take this course of action. It was the only way to bring down the entire organization." Sherlock explained, but Mycroft heard the subtext of 'I'm sorry I hurt you. I tried my best.'
His heart-rate was back to normal, and he was beginning to accept, more and more, Sherlock's presence, his real flesh and blood presence.
"I will have to reanalyze many of my cases in light of this. Will you be going back to consulting?" Sherlock understood the implied 'You did well. Do you need my help further?' and he hesitated with the knowledge that this was likely the most heartfelt conversation the two of them had ever held.
"I need to make my presence known to the others, but I wanted you to know first. I'll give you a detailed explanation soon."
Mycroft almost gasped at Sherlock's words. No, they'd never spoken like this to each other; without insults and hurtful comments, without ridicule and mockery, without bribery and blackmail. Both brothers believed the earlier events would be the most prevalent of the evening, but this brief conversation would be the most changing.
"I'll await your return then. I imagine you'll be wanting to rush over to your friends to deliver the good news. Do try a bit more tact with them, especially John. The good doctor hasn't been doing so well… none of us were." He added under his voice.
Sherlock gazed at his brother, seeing him as his brother, tired, older than he was, and caring. When did that happen? The thought came to his mind, and he filed it away for later contemplation.
"I'll be back, Mycroft." He said before turning around and heading for the door, knowing Mycroft would want some time alone now to reflect on the evening.
"I'll set a meeting." Sherlock nodded as he crossed the room.
"Sherlock." The lanky detective had his hand on the doorknob when his brother called him again, and smiled at Mycroft's words.
"This is good."
A/N: There you have it. Like I said, I think the ending might have been slightly rushed, but let me know what you think. Thanks for reading! ^_^