Characters and/or pairings: Sherlock, Mycroft, a brief cameo from Mummy Holmes
Warnings, kinks & contents: None
Length: 1350 words
Spoilers: Of a kind, for 3.02 and 3.03.
Summary: Mummy and Daddy are away for the weekend, but neither Holmes brother is as happy about it as you might expect. Or: that time Mycroft gave caring a go, and it went surprisingly okay. Childhood trauma, lots of snark, the Holmeses being terrible at feelings.
In Loco Parentis
None of his calculations, he was beginning to realise, had ever included Sherlock as a variable.
“The poor boy’s in such a state,” Mummy whispered, as she encaged him in one of her relentless hugs. “Barely been out of his room since. I do so hate to leave him like this, Mikey, but we just can’t bunk off now. Tickets are all booked, and Father’s old school friend promised he’d be putting us up afterwards.” She gave Mycroft a conspiratorial nod. “Can’t think half the people there really know what those actors are droning on about, but I confess some of the time I’m not entirely sure myself. Give Sherlock lots of love from us, won’t you?”
Mycroft suppressed a reflexive grimace at the word love and nodded, assuming his most fatuous expression. As ever, it slid past both parents without comment, so that he was left smirking inanely towards the front steps while the car pulled away outside.
His luggage safely stowed in the guest bedroom that had once been their nursery, he tiptoed down the back way to the kitchen, treading with exaggerated caution as he passed Sherlock’s door. There was no advisory note from either parent, but Mycroft had had the family cookbooks down pat by the time he was three, that shelf being the easiest to access in the whole house.
Croque-monsieur felt like a safe bet. He located two boxes of eggs in the breadbin – his father’s system for the unloading of grocery bags remained one of life’s eternal mysteries – and began to clear space while the oil heated up. The blue-rimmed tumbler that had accompanied Sherlock at every Sunday lunch for the first eight years was still on its accustomed shelf; Mycroft ran a dishcloth around the interior before setting it down.
By and by the sound of bacon in its pan had the desired effect. The steps started hesitantly at first, then descended in a rapid patter, evidently before their source could have a change of heart. Mycroft gestured towards the door with his spatula. “Good of you to join us. I’m in charge for the weekend. Just a flying visit, I hope you’ll be delighted.”
His brother rocked slightly on the balls of his feet, bare toes cramped and waxen after hours in the same huddled position. There were deep, bruised circles beneath his eyes, and when it finally emerged his voice was thin and somehow distant, as if he were a survivor buried under rubble and Mycroft was aboveground, straining to hear him.
“I knew you were back. You always flick the latch on the hall door when you walk in, and it always creaks.”
“There you are, then. Do take a seat; I shall be serving in one minute.”
Sherlock’s gaze flitted from floor to table, settling on the place that awaited him. The hollow-eyed mask that had characterised his features from the moment of entering did not quite preclude a scowl.
“I’m not a baby, Mycroft.”
“Prove it. Sit down and finish your supper without grizzling, and then we shall see if you’re ready for a big-boy glass.” Mycroft kicked a chair out from under the table and pointed at it. Underneath the sullenness, Sherlock’s expression was one of intense focus, as the grief in him warred with ever-increasing appetite. Finally he perched on the edge of his seat, knees drawn up close and both hands slack on the tablecloth. When Mycroft slid the cutlery down, his fingers curled around it automatically, like an infant grasping a new plaything. “Eat,” Mycroft prompted, and was rather taken aback at the alacrity with which his brother obeyed.
They made it through the bulk of the meal in silence, marking time by the clink of metal on porcelain. At length Sherlock unhooked his feet from around the chair legs and gave a long, trembling exhale. The sound appeared to come from some infinite, newly-opened fissure of emotion, and Mycroft shuddered, certain of what was to follow yet helpless to prevent it.
“They held Redbeard down so he wouldn’t bite.”
The more uncharitable part of Mycroft’s mind was becoming convinced that Redbeard was the lucky one in this whole sorry affair. “Mm?”
“It was a compound solution of secobarbital sodium and cinchocaine. I asked the man who did it.” Sherlock chased a morsel of croque-monsieur around his plate with an index finger. Mycroft felt like upbraiding him for table manners, but there was something about the hunch in those shoulders that told him the jibe would have little impact tonight. Instead he whisked the plates away and scraped the remnants into the kitchen bin, making as much noise as possible in an effort to deter any further remarks. Behind him, the thin crushed voice piped up again regardless.
“He was in the safe bit of my head before, and now he’s not. Now he’s with all the dark and dusty stuff, and I don’t want to throw him out but I can’t put him back. How do I put him back?”
With an effort, Mycroft returned to the table. “I think you should wait a while. He might get back of his own accord.”
The silence resumed, more determined now without the meal to head it off. His brother sat gazing at the spot where his plate had been, with only the occasional slow blink to indicate an ongoing thought process. Mycroft was on the verge of abandoning the whole endeavour when the trance finally cleared, to be replaced by Sherlock’s usual questing look.
“If one injection can kill a dog, how many would it take for a human to die?”
“Do you know, the issue never occurred to me. Why don’t you borrow Mummy’s library card and get the bus into town tomorrow, see if you can’t find something about it?”
Sherlock heaved another of those bone-deep sighs. “Not allowed on the bus by myself any more, remember? Not since-”
“-since your impromptu five-hour trip to Manchester. I remember.” Mycroft pinched the bridge of his nose, wondering if this was what all grown-ups felt like in the company of children; grey and exasperated and faintly idiotic. “They only took the one car; we’ve still got Nana’s old Ford parked down the street. I’ve never driven manual before, but give me twenty minutes with it in the morning.”
There was an abrupt scraping noise as Sherlock rose. For one hideous moment Mycroft thought that he might be in for his second embrace of the day, but instead the boy put a hand to his own curls, mouth puckered with distaste.
“I feel horrible.”
Somehow, Mycroft managed to roll his eyes without actually rolling them. It was a skill that had taken him many years to perfect. “That, Sherlock, is why we have a bathroom. You may recall it- it’s just down from the den you’ve been hiding in this past fortnight.”
Sherlock absorbed this information with a barely perceptible nod. As he reached the doorway another thought struck him, and he addressed it to the empty hall beyond, loud enough for Mycroft to hear. “It’s not going to hurt like this again, is it?”
Of course it will, you foolish maudlin little child, Mycroft’s uncharitable space whispered, but his mouth said, “Not if I can help it. Sleep well, Sherlock.”
“Hm.” The familiar light footsteps started their retreat, taking the stairs two at a time now. Mycroft waited by the back door until the rush of bathroom taps could drown out his movements, and then stepped out into the night to begin wrestling with Nana’s car.