The first time Mycroft visited his father on a weekend off from Oxford was also the last. This was entirely Sherlock's fault.
An uncomfortable silence had fallen around the dinner table. They had already exhausted the topic of Mycroft's classes at university and now Sigur Holmes was clearly struggling for something to say. He very rarely saw either of his sons and had little in common with them.
Mycroft reluctantly chewed a mouthful of soggy beans, wishing Sigur would just give up and start clearing the table. He chanced a glance at Sherlock. The boy was glaring at his dinner plate. He was apparently too old to start playing with his food but too young to actually consider just forcing himself to eat it. He looked skinnier than he had a few months before. Mycroft worried that Mummy wasn't making him eat.
Mycroft cleared his throat and gave Sherlock a significant glance, nodding toward his dinner. Sherlock transferred the glare to him.
"So, Mike, meet anyone interesting at Oxford? Any girls?" Sigur had finally landed upon a possible topic. A very ordinary topic, yes, but Mycroft wouldn't fault him that. Sigur was very ordinary, after all.
Mycroft opened his mouth to tell his father that yes, he had met plenty of interesting people at Oxford, though most of them were male and his teachers, and also to remind Sigur that it was "Mycroft now, please" but Sherlock spoke first.
"He likes this boy called Craig."
And that was dinner.
The worst bit, Mycroft thought later, while he was sitting in the guest bedroom, pretending that he wasn't avoiding everyone else, was that it wasn't even really true, not in the way Sherlock meant it. Craig was interesting, intelligent, and a good conversationalist. He spoke Portuguese fluently because he had lived in Brazil for several years and he had promised to teach Mycroft. They spent hours talking about books on history and culture. Given enough time and paper, Mycroft imagined they could figure out the world or at least give it a damn good try. So in that way he did like Craig.
He also thought Craig was very attractive. He sometimes found himself staring at the other young man just taking in the visual and completely ignoring whatever it was he was supposed to be paying attention to. He had imagined in some detail the various things he would like to do with and to Craig, given the opportunity. This much he knew was perfectly normal and to be expected.
He did wonder whether it was normal that he still wouldn't describe this as liking Craig in the way Sherlock meant. There were a number of things he wanted very badly to do with Craig, but none of them were squishy romantic things, the things that made Sherlock pronounce "like" with the scoff of a still-too-young boy.
Mycroft wondered whether Sigur was a bit right and there was something wrong with him. Not the defect that Sigur meant, of course, but some other, more fundamental one. But then, he'd always been so much smarter than almost everyone he knew, everyone except Mummy, and he was only slightly smarter than Sherlock. Maybe this was just another result of that.
Sherlock stomped into the room, interrupting Mycroft's reflection. It seemed like he was always stomping nowadays. He'd started it over the summer.
"How do you like school?" Mycroft asked.
Sherlock collapsed onto the other bed and grumbled into the pillow. "Hate it."
"What about your classmates?"
"Hate them too."
Mycroft sighed. "Is there anything at all you do like?"
"You look a bit taller than you did in August," Mycroft tried.
"You look fatter."
He gritted his teeth. "Sherlock."
"I don't want to talk leave me alone you're stupid!" He shouted and turned over to face the wall.
Mycroft decided that reading would be a more productive use of his evening.
Naturally it wasn't until hours later when he'd turned the lights off and was nearly asleep that Sherlock attempted conversation again.
"Why do you like Craig?"
Mycroft considered pretending to be asleep, but he knew he wouldn't fool Sherlock. "He's very smart and interesting. Why did you tell Sigur?"
He heard Sherlock move slightly. A shrug, perhaps. "I don't know."
"Yes, you do. Why?"
A pause, then: "Because it's stupid. I heard you talking to Geoffrey at the station."
Mycroft groaned. He had indeed been talking to Geoffrey about Craig, without realizing Sherlock was there. That didn't really explain what Sherlock was angry about, though.
"That explains how you knew. But why tell Sigur? Because he would be angry, too?"
Sherlock huffed. "I guess. I don't know."
"Well, I wish you hadn't. Breakfast is going to be awkward, but at least we'll see Mummy tomorrow," he said, trying to lighten the mood.
Sherlock was having none of it. "It's because you're stupid, Mycroft."
"Stupid" was Sherlock's childish go-to insult for any occasion and Mycroft was getting tired of hearing it applied to everything so liberally, especially to himself, as he was demonstrably not stupid at all. He just wanted to go to sleep. He wished Sherlock would stop being so difficult, but he always had been and likely pigs would fly before he ceased. "How am I stupid, Sherlock?"
The reply was muffled, likely mumbled into a pillow. "Because you want to have sex with this Craig person."
Mycroft gave up on diplomacy. "Sherlock, that is not stupid and there's not a damn thing wrong with it either. It's completely normal!"
This earned him a couple beats of silence. "I don't care that you're gay; I figured it out ages ago. I just thought you were smart, like me."
He sounded almost teary, but Mycroft decided he didn't care. "Goodnight, Sherlock, I'm going to sleep."
The next morning, no one was talking to each other. Breakfast was indeed awkward. Mycroft was still angry with Sherlock, but less so than he had been the night before. He mulled over some of the things Sherlock had said, trying to get a better grasp on what the problem had been. Twelve was a difficult age, even without Sherlock's tendency toward the dramatic.
Later, while they waited for Mummy to pick them up from the train station, Mycroft considered broaching the topic again. He wasn't sure what to say, which was annoying because he rarely had this problem. He tried to imagine what he would have wanted to hear when he was twelve and trying to figure himself out. He probably would have preferred an instruction manual over anything else, but then, try as his brother might to deny it, he had always been the more rational one.
"Look, I don't know why this thing with Craig makes you so angry—" Sherlock made a weird growling noise in the back of his throat but Mycroft continued, undeterred. "—but it probably has very little to do with either Craig or me. Whatever it is, you'll figure it out."
Sherlock stared at the road for a few minutes. "What if… you said it was "completely normal." What if I'm not? I don't care," he hastened to add. "Just, what if?"
Mycroft felt he needed to tread carefully. "Completely normal"—what meaning had Sherlock taken from that phrase he quoted back at his older brother? That any deviation from what Mycroft had defined as normal was therefore not? Given Sherlock's hobbies and interests, Mycroft didn't think he cared much about being normal. He thought over everything else Sherlock had said last night, especially after the comment about being normal. I thought you were smart, like me. Like me.
"There are many different kinds of normal, Sherlock, and if none of them fit you, then we'll make up a new one."
"It doesn't work that way."
"Yes, it does." I'll make it.
"You're stupid, Mycroft." For once, it was fond.
"Guilty as charged."