The only one ever to learn to the truth is John Watson.
Well – to say that he learns the truth is, perhaps, an inaccurate statement. There is not a turn of phrase for what he does, for having the structure of the truth, the facts, explained to him after he has not only grasped the implications but understood them for so long that he accepts them. It is not a situation that Mycroft has ever quite encountered before.
John Watson seems to have a habit of surprising even the Holmes men. That, Mycroft could tell even without his own brand of knowing.
“He isn’t normal, is he?” John asks, a wool-edged silhouette in the dark of the apartment as he and Mycroft stand on either side of the couch, staring down at the man who is currently at the center of both their minds: Sherlock, all loose dark hair and bruises swelling starkly on his skin.
“Has it really taken you this long to notice?” Mycroft asks, folding his twitching fingers, annoyed with himself. It’s hardly an unusual observation, strange though the circumstances are.
“Not what I meant.” John’s eyes glint in the dark, and his weight shifts; he would be folding his arms if he didn’t have one hand pressed carefully against Sherlock’s shoulder, as if holding on to him will ensure his well-being. Very few people are inclined to touch even Mycroft, handsome though he knows that he could be if he wanted.
And John is a doctor with Sherlock’s trust, a dangerous paradox to be sure. Sherlock’s trust, and when Mycroft brings everything of himself to bear on the man, he finds that it is well deserved. He grows frustrated so easily with human weakness, with individual stupidity, most of all with their inability to simply see, that sometimes he forgets that they have their strengths as well. John is not anywhere near perceptive enough to have guessed the truth, but he senses its essence, and that deep-seated understanding (one that developed out of self-defense, out of a faith that gave significance to iron and an inborn instinct to recognize and be repulsed by things more powerful and dangerous) no more threatens his loyalty to Sherlock Holmes than the rise of mountains threatens the tectonic plates beneath.
Mycroft very often forgets that humans are not the only ones who have overwhelming weaknesses to balance out their strengths.
John’s hand does not leave Sherlock’s shoulder for so much as a moment as Mycroft folds the truth out in the darkness, the bones of the facts and their implications and the central truth that Sherlock does not and should not ever understand.
When it’s over, John just nods, and quietly smoothes back Sherlock’s hair: a gesture he has carried with him since his childhood, something that his mother used to do for him even when he was far too old to gracefully accept a mother’s comfort. Mycroft has become entirely attuned to him in the past few hours, and suddenly he wonders whether it was for Sherlock’s benefit or his own that he broke his mother’s – geas, perhaps. Commandment. Something more ingrained than any rule, at any rate.
He cannot quite bring himself to block it all off, to limit the presence of Sherlock and John to just what he can see in the spilled glow from the streetlight, and so he braces himself on the back of the couch and simply knows. Sherlock is healing well now, and the doctor’s sense confirms, and John Watson was a fine dancer once, before the war. Mycroft never learned to dance himself, but he doubts that he would need anything so mundane as lessons, and suddenly he knows that if he and John had met at this spot and at this hour a thousand years before, there would not have been this exchange of secrets. Instead, he would have stretched out his hand and smiled as he now does over boardroom tables ,or a close cousin to it, like a vicious guard dog’s snarling as compared to a wolf’s. A few faint notes of music would have drifted out from behind the moon, and no thought or sound of sin would have prevented the two of them from dancing lightfooted across the grass, across and under it and down, down to where the sciences and medicines are no more applicable than the laws of gravity would be without mass. Mycroft wonders if he would have handed John off to Sherlock, once that mad dance whirled under the hill, or if they would have kept skittering across the stone themselves. He wonders if John would have accepted blasphemy as easily as he accepts impossibility; he wonders whether Sherlock’s violin perhaps now worked like that ancient song.
He doubts it.
His phone buzzes in his pocket, a harsh indisputably modern sound anchoring him solidly in the here and now, and it’s John who jerks his head up.
“You can go, if you have to,” he says. “Don’t let me keep you.”
Mycroft nods, pulling his phone out without taking his eyes from the figures on the couch. John glances between the brothers and smiles, a modern doctor’s smile with genuine certainty behind it.
“No need to worry,” he promises. “I’ll take good care of him.”
Mycroft’s smile feels rough, unpracticed, but it doesn’t matter in the dark. “Yes,” he says, “I have absolutely no doubt that you will.”
When he leaves, it is with a sense that he has bargained and bargained high, that he has given up something tremendously valuable and secured something even more important. What, he isn’t sure, but he hasn’t told a single lie tonight.