Mycroft Holmes was distracted. He was sitting in his darkened office staring at the same sentence in the book he had been trying to read for the past half-hour. All his attempts to concentrate seemed feeble. Stray thoughts kept hijacking his train of thought. That is one thing he always envied his brother, his ability to concentrate with laser like focus. Sherlock had many faults but none of them were of concentration. Even as a boy he would get lost in his mind, loosing track of time, seeming to forget his own body as he wandered through his thoughts. Leaving Mycroft to watch over him, keep him safe from people who would take advantage of his distracted state. When they were younger Mycroft would physically watch over his sensitive little brother. Reading or studying while Sherlock wandered. Of course Sherlock always needed lots of protecting, their mother called him a "sensitive boy", prone to angry fits or crying over the oddest things. Mycroft felt duty bound, as his older brother, to teach him to control his feelings and watch over him.
When they were separated by boarding school, Mycroft had to find new ways to protect him. Learning how to project power through informants and bodyguards. Initially Sherlock didn't really notice or if he did he didn't seem to mind. Eventually though he came to resent Mycroft's help, came to see it as meddling. Of course that didn't stop the elder Holmes, he just became more covert in his methods. It became almost a game between them; Mycroft spying, Sherlock trying to stop him. Indeed, he often wondered if his great abilities at his job weren't due to all the practice he had on Sherlock. He smiled at the thought. Sherlock would like to take credit for his successes.
But his successes were not the root of his distracted mind. No it was his failure and the anticipation of finally putting everything right that had him on edge. Mycroft had spent a lifetime protecting his brother from bullies, opportunists, pranksters, drug addiction, and women. But when Sherlock needed him the most he had failed. He had given James Moriarty everything he needed to tear down Sherlocks life. He hadn't understood, he hadn't seen or hadn't wanted to see.
Not that it's an excuse but since Dr. John Watson had entered Sherlock's life Mycroft had worried less and less. With John by his side Sherlock didn't seem to need as much protection. Dr. Watson stabilized him, normalized him and protected him. From the very beginning John instinctively understood Sherlock, looked out for him, and seemed to genuinely care. It was a rare combination and Mycroft felt at ease, only rarely worrying about his brother, able to focus on matters of state. He became complacent and Moriarty had preyed on that complacency. If Sherlock had been more ordinary, less brilliant, he really would be buried underneath six feet of earth.
The thought made him shudder. He could still remember the call from John.
"Yes" Mycroft had answered smoothly.
"Gone. He…St. Barts…I couldn't. Oh God. I couldn't." He sounded hysterical.
"John. What has happened?"
"They won't let me…not family. You need to get here."
"Where John? What is going on?" a cold dread had begun to settle in the pit of his stomach. "Where is Sherlock?"
But John was no longer there, he had hung up. Mycroft's heart began to pound. He had the call traced, discovered John was at St. Barts, and instructed his driver to take him there. They pulled up near the bus stop and Mycroft was stepped out to a small police circus. He briefly recognized DI Lestrade and a few others from his squad. But his eyes were transfixed by the large puddle of blood on the concrete. So much blood and no body. As he pushed towards the entrance he heard the words "suicide" and "freak" but he didn't stop to listen. He had to find John or Sherlock.
In his rush inside he almost knocked over Molly Hooper. She vaguely registered in his brain. She worked in the morgue, she worked with Sherlock.
"Mycroft." it wasn't a question she knew him, was possibly looking for him "Come with me."
She turned and walked away, only turning around once to make sure he was following. She led him down to the morgue and the dread began to build in his body. He tried to tell himself that they were only going to her office but the blood and Johns hysterics told him they were going to see a body. Perhaps Sherlock would be examining the body when they arrived.
Outside the double doors she stopped and turned to him. Mycroft took a good look at her face. She had been crying, a lot. She was very upset. This woman who associated with death everyday had been shaken to her core.
"I want to warn you that both of them are pretty gruesome sights. You don't have to identify Ji... the…the other if you don't want too but as his closest available relative you will need to ID Sh..Sherlock." Her words crashed in upon his head. He blinked unsure of what he just heard. "Sorry. Sorry. What? Sherlock?"
Molly's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh. I am so sorry. I thought. I mean didn't you talk to the police? Oh. I am so so stupid." tears leaked out of her eyes. She looked up at him and whatever she saw there made her wrap her arms around him. Pulling him into a tender hug. Any other day, such familiarity would never be permitted, he would have pulled away and made a caustic remark. But instead he wrapped his arms around her, took a deep breath and let out a sob. They stood there for a long while, long enough for Mycroft to recognize the hallway and to remember the words he had said to his brother in this very spot that fateful Christmas.
As Sherlock tried and failed to project an uncaring attitude about Ms. Adler's death.
Mycroft had said "All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage." As his own heart broke he felt the truth of these words.
Eventually the show of sentiment had gone on long enough. Mycroft came back to himself and settled his Iceman mask on his face. He wiped his eyes, pushed Molly Hooper away, with a quiet "Thank you Ms. Hooper." Then he strode into the morgue to face his brother one last time.
But it hadn't been the last time. Mycroft only mourned his brother for 24 hours, not even long enough to get properly drunk. His brother had appeared on a night, much like tonight, a smile on his face and an intricate plan to put in motion.
Impulsively he had hugged him, needing to feel his solid flesh to know he was actually alive.
"Yes. Yes." Sherlock said, clearly uncomfortable with the uncharacteristic show of affection. He had remarked on Mycrofts disheveled state, seemingly flattered at how much his brother cared for him. But also focusing in on other things.
"Mycroft, do you have a girlfriend I am unaware of?"
"What? Of course not, why would you think that?" Mycroft looked around the room and over his own body trying to understand what Sherlock had seen. A glance down at his shirt revealed mascara and tear stains from Molly Hooper. "Oh." He color slightly remembering his loss of control. He looked up at his brother's inquiring eyebrows. "That is from Molly." Sherlock's eyes narrowed.
"Molly?" He seemed confused. So Mycroft attempted to explain
"Yes. Molly Hooper, she works at the morgue at St. Barts, she took me to identify, your-I mean- the body." Sherlock's eyes rolled
"I know who she is Mycroft." he sounded exasperated "What I don't know is how she did that to your shirt." He seemed offended. Normally Mycroft wouldn't answer his question, would come back with a witty phrase. But the last 24 hours had stripped him of his customary emotional defenses. He shrugged.
"She is quite upset about your death. She could see I was also upset. She hugged me, we cried, she left this mess." he gestured at his shirt. Sherlock didn't seem to believe him, seemed almost upset.
"I don't know why Molly would be crying."
"Well obviously, your death really upset her. She must, for some unknown reasons, miss you." Sherlock gave a half-smile before seeming to brush it all aside. "Yes well. That's not important. Lets get on to business."
And they did get on with business for the last year and a half they had systematically ripped apart Moriarty's network and rebuilt Sherlock's reputation. For Mycroft it was an atonement, a way to fix all he had ruined. It was hard work and it was all about to be over. Tomorrow Sherlock would officially join the land of the living and with all that hanging swimming through his head it was no wonder he couldn't get through a page of his book.
He heard a board squeak outside his door and he looked up in surprise. He wasn't expecting company.
The door swung open and revealed Sherlock. He was dressed once again in his long coat and scarf, his hair restored to its black curly shag. Over the last year he had taken on many disguises so it was almost shocking to see him looking like himself again.
"Mycroft" he said by way of greeting before sitting down.
"Sherlock." He responded with a bow of his head. "You are looking well."
"Quite" he said with a smile. They stared in silence for awhile, Mycroft waiting for Sherlock to explain his presence before realizing he wanted to be asked.
"To what do I owe this great honor? Last minute adjustments to the press announcement?"
"No. I have decided I want to visit a few people, in person, before the announcement tomorrow."
Mycroft nodded. The request was not completely unexpected.
"Of course. I thought you might. I have been keeping tabs on them as you asked." Mycroft picked up his phone to check the information for Sherlock. Realizing as he did so that this was the first time Sherlock had actually asked for it. He had spent the last year and half cut off from his friends, like he really had died. Maybe it was to protect them or protect himself from emotional entanglements, Mycroft wasn't really sure.
"Ah. Yes. Here it is. Mrs. Hudson is in her flat and will probably be there all night. Detective Inspector Lestrade is on shift at Scotland Yard, might be tricky getting to him. And John is preparing for his Thursday dinner date with Molly. I can text you the restaurant location if you like. It can be unpredictable what time they will finish." Sherlock was blinking rapidly, a sure sign he was confused.
"Sorry. John has a dinner date?"
"Yes. As I said, with Ms. Hooper. She works at St. Barts…" Sherlock cut him off.
"I know who Molly Hooper is! Just cause everyone else seems to forget about her doesn't mean I do!" he bit the words off carefully.
"Of course." Mycroft responded demurely unable to understand Sherlock's outburst. Sherlock's eyes narrowed at his words, as if trying to decipher a hidden message. "John certainly hasn't forgotten her. They have spent a lot of time together" Mycroft added the information casually but something told him it was important to his brother.
"Well then. I will go." Sherlock stood as he spoke taking a few steps and resting his hand on the door knob before turning and asking, almost as an after thought. "Have you seen Ms. Hooper?"
Mycroft knew his brother well enough to understand that this question was not a casual one. Somehow Molly Hooper was important to Sherlock. After only a short pause he answered.
"I actually ran into her a few weeks back. Quite literally, she nearly knocked me over." Sherlock smiled at the description.
"And was she well?" he asked again
"Honestly, she looked a bit tired and worried. We didn't really talk, it felt… uncomfortable."
"Yes, well you have that effect on everyone." Sherlock said in parting.
Mycroft smiled as the door closed happy to have his annoying little brother back at last.