It was his 39th birthday (he wasn't entirely sure; perhaps he should calculate it later), and he didn't have anything planned. At least, he was not supposed to have anything planned, but he had seen looks from his colleagues and underlings, and to a lesser extent, his assistant who usually went by the name Anthea, that spelled out surprise party. It was a decent attempt, he surmised, to make him feel more appreciated by the people who worked for him, as though he was a regular human being. Which he wasn't.
He would much more appreciate having a day off on his own birthday than have some form of 'working' party. It would not happen, of course—the country does not stop just because Mycroft Holmes lived a year more.
Mycroft only hoped the gathering would not be as much of a huge disaster as usual, since he had been told by his personal physician that his blood pressure had been concerning lately, as it spiked and dipped with questionable frequency. He was told he needed to keep away from stress. He raised an eyebrow, bit his lip to keep from snickering, and simply nodded.
And so today, he stood in front of the office door, sighing at his workers' pathetic attempt to surprise him. He must remember to tell them that complete silence from an office is very suspicious, and that if they truly wish to surprise him they should have kept everything working smoothly as it is, or at least, make him hear sounds that convey as such.
He braced himself for the enthusiastic scream of 'surprise!' as he opened the door, and his employees did not disappoint.
Mycroft pasted on his best smile, the one that even Anthea could not tell was fake. She presented him with a gold rimmed mug that stated 'World's Best Boss', saying that everyone chipped in to make sure it was bone china lined with real gold and that the letters were actual gold threads. Mycroft didn't really know what he was going to do with the expensive, sentimental, but quite frankly atrocious gift, and decided it was something that he could finally leave in the employee break-room and not be afraid of someone else using. Not that he had to, of course, since he had his own mini-lounge in his office when he needed to relax for five minutes. But in any case, he knew that camaraderie was good to build with his operatives, and it would be good for him to 'mingle' every once in a while. Not only did it satisfy his workers' sense of fulfilment at pleasing their boss today, but also, the feeling that their employer watches their moves with either approval or dissatisfaction—even though he wasn't exactly there—helps with their overall performance. Somewhat. There were quite a number of employees that he'd had to reassign or fire because they could not handle the pressure.
Someone brought out a cake, and Mycroft glared at it in half disdain and half want. It seemed to be a white chocolate caramel buttercream cake that looked like a file folder, decorated with sugar and gum paste umbrellas scattered on top. 'Happy Birthday, Sir!' was scrawled on the file folder label.
It looked sinfully delicious, and Mycroft sighed. Would it be better to just try a piece, for posterity's sake, or to stick to his low-sugar diet for health?
He glanced at Anthea, who frowned back at him. Mycroft raised an eyebrow towards the cake, and Anthea shrugged. She wasn't the one who'd bought it, no. Mycroft looked pointedly at the paper plates and forks, and Anthea smiled and winked. So, she approved of splurging for today.
Well. It was his birthday, after all.
They lit the birthday candles, and with a wide, fake grin, Mycroft blew on it. 'Hurray!'s rang out in the office. Before someone could take away the cake and slice it, however, someone shoved the cake onto the floor unceremoniously. The whole office fell into a shocked silence.
Mycroft watched the cake topple onto the floor. He watched the frosting smear on the white tiles. He watched a man's foot stomp in it twice, thrice, and once more.
Mycroft looked up at his brother, and sighed. "Thank you, Sherlock," he said with equal parts resignation and sarcasm, and an underlying query.
He glanced at his brother's ever loyal friend hovering in the background, trying to fade into the wallpaper. John looked sheepish, guilty, and mouthed 'Sorry' at Mycroft.
"Ah, happy birthday," he managed. "Apparently, our birthday gift is ruining your party."
Sherlock rolled his eyes, and stared at Mycroft. "Do you know who bought the cake? Does anyone?" His little brother glanced around the room, eyes settling on Anthea. "Sloppy, very sloppy."
Anthea took a step forward, kneeled just beside the ruined cake. She ran a finger through the frosting, and pinched the sponge. She took a sniff. "Poison," she pronounced, and looked helplessly at her boss, then turned to Sherlock. "How did you—we didn't suspect anything, there was nothing indicating anything, this was a purely office affair, no one knew - "
"Your excuses are pathetic and abhorrent, though understandable. There is a certain dearth of competence in this world, and even you, Anthea, aren't perfect." Sherlock looked through the room. "Mycroft's security team should have known that someone in this office have not been as faithful as they should be, but of course, said security team isn't above suspicion." The detective walked through the silent office, running his eyes over every employee and agent, as if assessing their loyalties in one glance. And knowing Sherlock, he might as well have been. "That is why my dear older brother asked me to look into it. He had his own suspicions, and wanted someone outside of his small unit to investigate." Someone he trusted more than anyone else, especially over those he simply pays to guard his life. Sherlock and he might not see things eye to eye, but at the end of the day, they were family.
And Mycroft trusted him with his own life. Whether Mycroft trusted Sherlock with Sherlock's life, however, that's a different thing altogether.
Mycroft glanced around the room. He shook his head at Anthea. It wasn't her fault, since Mycroft never revealed to her any inkling of a threat, and since there wasn't anything highly sensitive that needed to be protected more than usual, no one was on high alert. Not even Mycroft, who really should have known better than to even consider trying out a cake without knowing where it was from.
He would have been dead by now, if it weren't for Sherlock.
The tension in the room burned hotter than a convection oven, and Sherlock whirled through the room, staring down anyone who dared move. As he approached the far left wing of the small room, however, someone suddenly stood up, and darted to the door past Sherlock, who was shoved into a desk with an loud oomph, his head hitting the corner rather hard. The detective collapsed like a sack of flour.
Everyone else in the office seemed partly too shocked to move, but it didn't matter. John Watson was quick on his feet, and he tackled the running employee before anyone else sprang into action. The rest of Mycroft's team fell out of their dazed looks at the thud of bodies on the floor and cuffed the man that John had just tackled to the ground. "I was waiting for it," John said in explanation as he ran over to Sherlock. The detective sat up, dazed, and he blinked at John as he crouched down.
"I'm fine, aside from a concussion. Fortunately, the table did not give me a laceration," Sherlock said. He held up a hand to gingerly touch the huge bump that started to form.
John sighed. "Ice, please," he announced to the room. "Yes, you got lucky. Come on, let's leave your brother to his celebration." John watched the activity that suddenly buzzed around the room, people in shock, people begging for their jobs, people trying to work and ignore whatever happened, people trying to clean the poisoned confectionary on the floor. "Or… not. Anyway, Mycroft, thanks for letting us crash your birthday party, and I will make sure that Sherlock drops by at your club tomorrow, when I'm sure that his minor concussion is indeed minor. We're sorry to intrude, and happy birthday."
Mycroft had remained in his seat the whole time, watching—observing—everything unfold. He smiled to himself. This was, by far, the best and most useful wrecking that his brother had ever done to any of his so-called parties.
He stood up, and everyone in the room froze and looked to Mycroft.
Clearly, he had many things he had to take care of.
The swelling had clearly gone down, Mycroft observed, as Sherlock sat in front of him. His little brother settled into the chair, and stared back at Mycroft with those bright blue eyes that always knew how to play Mycroft when they were little. Sherlock gave him a tiny head dip, and Mycroft handed him a glass of scotch. Sherlock ignored it.
"Did you find who he was working for then, Mycroft?"
Mycroft gave a slight nod. "Unfortunately, we found that he was contacted by someone from the inside, one of my, shall we say, rivals, against my position. It is rather inconvenient; it creates more paperwork and complications this way, unlike if he was merely one of Moriarty's assets."
"Moriarty's assets won't be as predictable," said Sherlock. "He would have played a better game than what your rival is trying to attempt."
"Of course." Mycroft sipped from his drink, and crossed his legs. "Sherlock, you know that your game with Moriarty, this risk we are taking… did you ever consider that we might not actually win?"
Sherlock gave a small smile. He folded his hands right on top of his lip, as if in a prayer. "Did you?"
Mycroft smiled in return, humourlessly. "I've put in safeguards, in case our plans do not work. We have considered every option we have foreseen, and I really hope that it would never come to the end that we have projected."
"I do hope so, as well," Sherlock said. He leaned forward. "I hope that the lines of code that you have been aiming for is worth all this, Mycroft. You know what is on the line, what of mine we have sacrificed."
"I know," said Mycroft. "I know. And I do hope that, as well. I do not want you lost, brother, and I will do everything I can to minimise the damages to be wrought."
Sherlock smirked to himself, and looked at the glass of whiskey he was now toying with in his hand. "You have always cleaned up after me, haven't you, brother." He sighed, and sipped. Mycroft offered him a cigarette that neither of them were supposed to have, and Sherlock accepted gratefully.
Mycroft handed over his own cigarette, and Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "Last match in the box, and I am in no mood to call for assistance."
Sherlock shrugged, and lit his cigarette with the embers of Mycroft's stick. He inhaled greedily. There was a lengthy, comfortable silence. It was, as they both knew, the calm before the storm.
"Will you do something for me? Think of it as a return for your favour. Or even, a birthday present."
Mycroft inhaled the last of his stick, and extinguished it in a nearby ashtray. "Sherlock, I would have taken care of them, even if you had not asked. Some things do not have to be said."
Sherlock gave a small nod. Gratefulness permeated the silence that followed. Some things, indeed, did not have to be said.
Sherlock Holmes leapt off St Bart's Hospital's rooftop a few days later.
A/N: Well that took forever. *apologetic smile* Sorry, between new job and Shwatsonlocked beta for story being busy as well, editing this chap has been a bit of a bitch. Thanks for you patience!