Mycroft Holmes considered himself to be a sensible, reasonable man. It would just not do, in his line of work, to be prone to the kind of histrionics that certain other Holmes men indulged in on a regular basis. Mycroft observed, evaluated, and when a response was called for he would always look for the proportionate one.
Not this time though. What Mycroft was looking at right at this moment could not be smoothed over by means of a proportionate response.
This – Mycroft cringed a little at the cliché, but then he thought, oh what the hell – was personal.
Mycroft's hand, without all that much input from Mycroft's brain, moved to gently brush sweaty curls away from his sleeping brother's forehead, careful not to irritate the swollen, discolored flesh around his eye and cheekbone. Sherlock did not stir, he was too deeply sedated.
Mycroft sighed. Sherlock. Wild, brilliant, impossible Sherlock. Troubled, self-destructive Sherlock. Mycroft still remembered that one time he had threatened and bullied his brother into seeing a therapist. It had taken Sherlock nine minutes to make the woman run from the room in outraged, sputtering indignation. He had been eleven years old at the time. That was the day that Mycroft had given up on trying to change him and decided that the world would simply have to deal with Sherlock Holmes as he was. Mycroft's job would be to watch over his little brother as best he could, as discreetly as he could. Whether Sherlock liked it or not.
Oh how he had failed.
A noise from the door of Sherlock's hospital room startled Mycroft from his musings. John Watson, checking to see if the coast was clear yet. When Mycroft had arrived he had found the doctor sitting by Sherlock's bedside, hand on Sherlock's arm, thumb drawing circles on Sherlock's skin, over and around a bandage hiding one of the nastier cigarette burns from view. Watching, waiting. Every sense focused on the man in the hospital bed before him, waiting for a twitch, a change in breathing. One look from Mycroft had sent him scurrying from the room, muttering something about needing a cuppa, right now.
Apparently the good doctor had found some backbone in his tea because he stepped into the room and cleared his throat.
„He's not likely to wake up for a couple of hours yet."
Mycroft didn't turn around. „Then why are you here, doctor?"
John gave a dry, mirthless chuckle. „Because he might. You know how he likes to be contrary."
„Oh, you have no idea. Have tea with me sometime, doctor, let me tell you some childhood stories."
„Yeah, maybe not such a good idea. Can't have him thinking I'm consorting with the enemy, I'd never hear the end of it." John smiled. Then sobered. „Mycroft?"
„You're taking care of this, right?"
Mycroft smiled a smile that had left MI5 field operatives wanting their mummy.
„Right. Stupid question. You're taking care of this."
On his way out Mycroft passed Sherlock's landlady bustling in, chattering like a demented chipmunk about toiletries and pyjamas and John needing to eat and was that scary brother in here just now, he's even stranger than Sherlock isn't he?
Mycroft walked out of the hospital, umbrella in hand, purpose in his stride.
Time to take care of this.
The origin of the whole mess had been the body of a thirteen-year-old Thai girl found in a dumpster behind an office building in Canary Wharf, which Sherlock, in the space of a few hours of frantic running and texting, had traced back to a prostitution and child trafficking ring operating out of an unremarkable semi-detached home in Croydon. The neighbors, of course, hadn't noticed a thing. Lestrade's people had stormed the house, arrested everyone inside, taken a few young girls of various Asian and Eastern European nationalities into protective custody, all's well that ends well. If it weren't for the head of the ring, a former bouncer and hired muscle with delusions of criminal mastermind grandeur by the name of Mick Carrick. Mr. Carrick had gotten wind and gotten away. And he had known who was responsible for his lucrative operation being razed to the ground. And he had, apparently, taken exception.
Later that same night, Sherlock had been snatched off the street.
It had taken Scotland Yard almost forty hours to find him, and if it hadn't been for Mycroft throwing the full weight of the surveillance machinery at his disposal into the fray, it would have taken longer. And it would have been too late. When they did finally find him, in a storage locker in an abandoned warehouse near the docklands, he had been hypothermic, dehydrated, concussed, and in shock. As it later turned out, he had also been well on his way to dying from blunt abdominal trauma.
Mycroft couldn't quite decide which had been worse, the terror of not knowing where Sherlock was and if he was even still alive, or the knowledge that he had literally been beaten within an inch of his life and that, but for the grace of fortunate timing and an excellent surgical team, Mycroft would be planning his brother's funeral right now.
In any case, Mycroft Holmes did not take kindly to being frightened.
And he intended to communicate his displeasure to the responsible party in no uncertain terms.
Back in his car, Mycroft fished his phone out of his coat pocket and pressed speed dial 1.
"Anthea, status report, if you please."
"Heathrow, sir. The fake passport that was picked up this morning from that backroom forgery workshop in Notting Hill raised a silent alarm in Terminal 5 twenty minutes ago. Mr. Carrick is booked on BA253 to Grand Cayman, under the name of Michael Carter. Airport security are instructed to keep their distance and our people are standing by to take him into custody as soon as you give the word. Basically, he's already under arrest, he just doesn't know it yet."
"Excellent, my dear, word is hereby given. Have him escorted from the airport quietly and taken to the warehouse. And have someone call Scotland Yard in exactly one hour and inform DI Lestrade where he can pick up his murder suspect."
Mycroft leaned back in his seat and gazed out the window with a little smile that might have been considered pleasant at first glance.
The fly was in the net, and the spider was feeling peckish.
Mycroft was standing in the middle of the warehouse, waiting patiently, when the car bearing Anthea, two bodyguards, and Mick Carrick rolled in through the gate. The bodyguards, every inch the walking cliché in black suits, sunglasses, and guns marring the fall of their jackets, got out first, then one of them reached back and pulled Carrick from the car by the scruff of his neck. They dragged the struggling and swearing man to the chair waiting in front of Mycroft, pushed him down on it, and took three steps back.
Anthea, in the meantime, was leaning against the car, eyes and thumbs attached to her Blackberry.
Mycroft took a moment to observe the man as he sat there, looking around himself, his five available brain cells obviously working overtime to assess his new circumstances. Well over six foot tall, more than twice Sherlock's weight in bulging muscle. Sherlock was capable enough of defending himself in a physical altercation, but against that, he hadn't stood a chance. Mycroft felt his rage boiling up again, and he let it.
He coughed politely to attract the man's attention, and gave him a friendly smile.
"Mr. Carrick. Or is it Mr. Carter? I do get so confused sometimes. Well anyway, Mr... let's go with Carrick for the sake of expediency, shall we? I've been so looking forward to making your acquaintance."
"Who the fuck are you then?"
"Normally I'd say that's not important, but I suppose in this particular case an introduction might be in order. My name is Mycroft Holmes. You see, we have a mutual acquaintance. The name Sherlock Holmes rings a bell, I believe?"
Carrick's eyes shifted around, looking for an escape route. The bodyguards smiled identical thin-lipped smiles. "Never heard of him."
Mycroft's smile, and voice, grew a hard edge. "Oh let's not be facetious, shall we? You see, I visited Sherlock in hospital this morning, and I'm reliably informed that you are the one who put him there."
Sneering, Carrick growled "Little faggot got what he deserved. Shoulda kept his nose outta my business, is what I say."
"Yes well, I keep telling him there are more worthwile careers open for someone with his intellect than pursuing slimy scum like you, but there you are. Younger siblings, they just never listen, do they? Now, I'm not naive, Mr. Carrick. I am well aware that my brother has chosen a profession that will put him in harm's way on a regular basis and that he is bound to get hurt, but you, my friend, you really, really have gone too far."
Carrick pretended to ignore him, but he wasn't very convincing.
"But really, that's all water under the bridge, let bygones be bygones, et cetera et cetera. No, what I wanted to talk to you about are your travel plans. Really, Mr. Carrick, the Cayman Islands? How bourgeois. Oh, by the way, before I forget to mention, that golden parachute you've been expecting to find at the end of the rainbow? Your little numbered account? You don't know it yet, but you have anonymously donated every penny to various worthy charities. Very commendable, I'm sure."
Now he had the man's attention. "You're lying. You can't do that, how could you do that?"
Mycroft smirked and called "Anthea, can I do that?"
Anthea looked up from her Blackberry and gave him a peppy smile. "Well no, sir, actually you can't. You have me to do that sort of thing for you. Children in Need, Doctors without Borders and the Rainforest Foundation are all throwing parties today."
"There, you see? Anthea can do that."
Carrick growled and jumped out of the chair to throw himself at Mycroft. He didn't get very far before the bodyguards had him immobilized. "You fucker, what've you done with my money, I don't believe a fucking word.."
"Shut. Your. Mouth." Mycroft screamed and moved forward, looming right in Carrick's face.
Carrick's mouth snapped shut with an audible click. The bodyguards pushed him back into his chair.
Mycroft took a step back. "There now, that's better, isn't it.", he said, back to his previous, pleasant little chat between friends, tone of voice. "Let's all mind our manners, shall we? There is a lady in the room, after all."
Anthea looked up from her blackberry and waved a cheery hello.
"Yes, hello, dear. Now, where was I?"
"My money." Carrick growled.
"Oh, yes, well actually no, your money, which is no longer your money, is not really the issue here. You see, since that little holiday plan of yours is now off the table, I wanted to suggest some alternatives. Now, you look like an adventurous sort of man to me, Mr. Carrick, so I was thinking perhaps Columbia or Bolivia? The coca plantations are said to be lovely this time of the year. Of course, the cartels tend to be a bit oversensitive when it comes to people strolling through their fields, but you wouldn't object to a spot of running for your life, would you?"
Carrick went bug-eyed. "You're bloody insane you are, you can't.."
"Or", Mycroft interrupted, "I could have you dropped off right in the middle of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, does that sound like fun? Or if you'd prefer something a little more relaxing? You see, our American friends have this perfectly delightful little thing called rendition. All I'd have to do is whisper in their ears about your terrorist affiliations and the next thing you know, you'll have yourself an all expenses paid spa retreat in a Moroccan prison. The Americans might have a few questions for you while you're there, but you won't mind that, will you?"
Carrick's face was now devoid of all colour. His mouth was doing a goldfish impression.
A loud crash from the door broke the tableau, and Mycroft looked up to see DI Lestrade striding into the warehouse, Sergeant Donovan and a swarm of Metropolitan Police officers in his wake. Seeing Mycroft, Lestrade froze in his tracks and raised his hand to hold back his entourage. Mycroft acknowledged him with a nod.
Then he turned back to Carrick.
"Or", his voice was down to a silky, sing-songy whisper now, and the pleasant expression on his face could have made a great white shark turn tail. "Or you could find yourself waking up from a deep sleep right in front of a police station in Turkey with heroin in every pocket. I can go on. If you let me think a little, I'm sure I can come up with two dozen more hell on earth places to dump you where your life expectancy is somewhere in the vicinity of fifteen unpleasant minutes. And trust me when I say that it is within my power to dump you wherever I please, whenever I please."
Carrick jumped backwards, chair and all. "Oi!" he yelled in the direction of the amassed police force gathered by the entrance. "You lot! That insane bugger over here's threatening me!"
Lestrade snorted. "Us lot? We're not even here, we'll be arriving in about five minutes."
"Do please save your breath, Mr. Carrick." Mycroft snapped. "Now, here's what's going to happen. The nice Inspector over there, who is not actually here yet, will arrest you and charge you with the murder of Pakpao Phueng, attempted murder of my brother, procuration, trafficking in human beings and, I suppose, a few other things. And you will go to court, and you will go to prison, and you will sit in your little prison cell for the rest of your miserable existence thanking your lucky stars that I am a reasonable man. Are we quite clear on that?"
Carrick was shrinking into his chair, bug-eyed and goldfishy again.
"And if you ever get out, and if you ever get within a hundred miles of my brother again, be it personally or by proxy, rest assured that I will know, and that I will find you just as quickly as I've found you today, and then, my dear Mr. Carrick, you will wish you were never born. Are we clear on that as well?"
Carrick made an inarticulate, spluttering noise. " You bloody fucking son of a motherfucking..."
Mycroft's fist crashed into Carrick's face with the force of two days of unmitigated fear and anger. The man, chair and all, flew back and crashed into the concrete floor.
For several moments, nobody moved, nobody spoke, not a sound was heard other than Mycroft's harsh breathing and Carrick whimpering.
Then, "Ow!", Mycroft yelled, "that hurt!"
Lestrade burst out laughing and motioned his people forward to put handcuffs on Carrick while Donovan read him his rights. "Honestly, is the entire Holmes family mad, or is it just you two?"
Mycroft shook out his aching hand. "I do apologise, Inspector. I suppose I shouldn't have done that."
"Well, no, you really shouldn't have. Then again, technically, you were never here, therefore technically, that never happened. And don't pretend that it didn't feel good."
Mycroft grinned, radiant and, for the first time in what felt like weeks, carefree.
"Oh hell yes."
And they all lived happily ever after. Well, no, they didn't, but they went back to as close to normal as they ever got.
Mick Carrick got his trial, and he got his prison cell, and he thanked his lucky stars every day.
Sherlock started driving the nurses insane almost from the moment he first opened his eyes, and they were glad to see the back of him when he was released and sent home to recover. And then he proceeded to drive John insane because he was bored, bored, bored and impossible to confine to his bed when he'd much rather play with toxic substances and unappetising body parts in the kitchen or watch crappy daytime telly. Mycroft visited often, and they fell back into their usual, comfortable snarking and sniping routine.
Truly, he bounced back remarkably well. And when he would jump at loud noises and sudden moves, as it was unavoidable that he would, and when he would wake up screaming some nights, as was equally unavoidable, and when he would, every now and then, stop talking in the middle of a sentence and start trembling instead, he had John to calm and settle him. He had John to hold on to.
Thank god for John Watson. Mycroft couldn't say that often enough.
Really, thank god.