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The more Mycroft watched John Watson, the more Mycroft despised him. John’s record – his reputation across three whole continents – was laid out long and clear, and Mycroft fumed every time he watched his little brother and John out together, on camera, and Sherlock failed to notice.

The two of them were sitting together in a cosy, little restaurant now. Mycroft tapped his fingers against the desk impatiently as he watched the monitors. Sherlock was fiddling with something on his mobile. As Mycroft watched, John asked about it and then, oh so smoothly, reached over to gently clasp his fingers around Sherlock’s wrist so that John could glance at the screen.

Mycroft’s own fingers tightened on his desk when John failed to release Mycroft’s brother immediately after the intolerable invasion of Sherlock’s personal space. In fact, Sherlock was smiling at the scoundrel: that shy, hopeful smile he’d shown Mycroft as a young boy when Sherlock had done something he’d hoped was clever and wanted praise.

And John delivered the praise, in spades. The restaurant was loud enough that Mycroft couldn’t pick up the sound, but Mycroft could read lips well enough to decipher the “Brilliant” upon John’s lips. It was John’s favourite compliment to whisper, like a serpent, in Sherlock’s ear. Sherlock’s cheeks flushed, and he lowered his eyelids. Dear god, he was actually flirting back with the rake!

John rose and sat down on Sherlock’s side of the booth, ostensibly to see the screen of Sherlock’s phone better. They were only inches apart now, sharing each other’s space. John’s arm slipped around Sherlock’s back, and he leaned in close behind Sherlock so that John’s breath was against Sherlock’s ear. They were all the moves of a classic player.

But Sherlock did nothing but smile idiotically to himself and let John sidle ever closer. Mycroft felt his teeth grinding.

With his free hand, John pointed at the screen, at the same time leaning closer so that he was more tightly wrapped around Sherlock’s body. Their thighs brushed on the bench. Sherlock’s cheeks darkened, and he turned his head to look at John. John froze for one moment, giving Sherlock ample time to become aware of how their lips were mere hairsbreadths apart. And then, slowly, John leaned in, Sherlock’s eyelids fluttered closed, and…

Mycroft couldn’t take it anymore. He remotely set off the restaurant’s fire alarm.

***

Sometimes, when Mycroft needed a break from worrying about affairs of state, he reread all the testimonies from John’s past lovers. They painted an inescapable picture. John was slick, natural, and unpresuming. He came across as such a nice man, and his victims were smitten before they knew what to do with themselves. He was such a gentle, considerate lover, that his exes were actually deluded into believing that they were the ones who had been doing the pursuing all along.

And then, inevitably, John grew bored and moved along and always, always left his former lovers heartbroken, while John continued seemingly untouched onto his next conquest.

John Watson was a womanizer. And a manizer. And Mycroft didn’t want John Watson near Mycroft’s precious, innocent (well, with regard to emotions, anyway) baby brother in any way whatsoever.

But John was living with Sherlock, their beds together in the same flat, with no supervision (aside from Mycroft’s secret surveillance). It was the worst situation imaginable.

Today, John had acquired one of those game device things and was showing Sherlock how to use it, seemingly to distract Sherlock from his interminable boredom. Mycroft saw right through John’s ploy, of course. John had used a similar technique with Tracy, two years before. Mycroft had the reports all memorised by now.

As Mycroft watched, Sherlock did something to end the game and threw his controller aside in disgust. That, of course, was when John slipped in from behind, pretending to “guide” Sherlock through the game.

“You’re trying too hard,” John laughed, free and easy, his chin tucked over Sherlock’s shoulder. “Just take it nice and slow.”

Sherlock shivered in response.

John’s arms were wrapped around Sherlock’s body, his hands over Sherlock’s as they held the controller together. “It’s a little tricky, I’ll admit. You have to get the timing…just right.”

“John…” Sherlock breathed.

Oh, yes, John had done this all before. Mycroft knew the aftermath, however. And, whatever John’s past lovers had felt, it would be nothing compared to what Sherlock suffered when he was dumped. Sherlock didn’t know how to function with people. Sherlock would be destroyed if John took him and then tossed him aside. Sherlock would never recover from it.

“Sherlock?” John’s cheek brushed Sherlock’s far too intimately to be accident.

Mycroft was already on the phone. It was a trivial problem, really, not worthy of Mycroft’s notice. But Sherlock did seem to enjoy the petty matters of everyday crime, and this was an emergency, goddamnit!

Across the room from where John was about to steal away Sherlock’s heart, Sherlock’s e-mail chimed with a new message. Sherlock instantly snapped from his overwhelming (vulnerable) boredom at the prospect of a potential case and hopped over the coffee table to check on it.

John slumped back in the armchair they’d been sharing and looked dreadfully disappointed by this turn of events.

“Take that, you cad,” Mycroft chuckled to himself in relief.

***

The greatest challenge Mycroft faced was that John had insinuated himself into every aspect of Sherlock’s life. A lesser man might have slipped, even for a moment, and that would have been all the opportunity John needed to pluck Sherlock’s cherry. Fortunately, Mycroft was not lesser men. Mycroft had a calling.

Mycroft had received this calling when he was only seven years old, but he had always taken this duty most seriously.

“Mycroft, meet your baby brother, Sherlock,” Mummy had called Mycroft into her room immediately after her return from the hospital. In her arms, she held a bundle of swaddling, which was making unusual gurgling noises.

At the time, Mycroft had been very young and busy bugging the neighbors’ phones. “Can’t this wait until later, Mummy?” he’d asked.

Mummy had gestured for Mycroft to come closer and then, almost nervously, settled Sherlock into his arms. “Being the elder brother is a very important job,” she instructed Mycroft. “You have to protect Sherlock, keep him safe always. It’s your duty to look after him.” She smiled softly and ruffled Mycroft’s hair.

Mycroft had gulped. It hadn’t been often that Mummy had smiled those days, especially given how often the police came round to liberate Mycroft from various forms of blackmail material he’d acquired to use against his schoolmates. Rotten police, Mycroft had thought to himself. One day I shall rule them all…

Of more immediate concern, though, had been… “Will this make you happy?” Mycroft had asked earnestly.

Mummy had just smiled fondly at him and nodded and even called him her angel, which she hadn’t done much since Mycroft had got old enough to reach the computer keyboard and hack into foreign countries’ national defense systems.

Mycroft had taken his duty seriously from that day forward. Who else would have bought Sherlock full-body, padded, protective gear when he first learned to crawl? Or a bubble when he first tried to walk? Or threatened every single child in their neighborhood and, later, Sherlock’s schools with the death of their beloved family pets, if they even dared so much as look at Sherlock? Or, as Mycroft grew older and more influential, invested millions in CCTV so that Sherlock’s every waking second was spent under the loving watch of some surveillance camera?

Mycroft had done everything physically possible to protect Sherlock, and still Sherlock insisted on putting himself in constant danger. From the time two-year-old Sherlock learned escapology enough to free himself from his human bubble right up through Sherlock’s deliberate – mocking – escapades with drugs right under Mycroft’s cyber-eye, Sherlock had undermined Mycroft at every turn.

But Mycroft would not allow it to happen this time. Mycroft was invested in Sherlock’s safety to the point that, heaven help him, he was even willing to talk to Sherlock.

Sherlock, naturally, tried to throw Mycroft out the moment Mycroft stepped into 221b. However, Mycroft had carefully planned his attack for a time when Sherlock had no case and was curled up in his armchair in a petulant ball. Sherlock would have had to get up to throw Mycroft out, and they both well knew the likelihood of that.

“Sherlock, listen to me,” Mycroft pleaded, while Sherlock did his best to drown out Mycroft’s words with discordant notes on his violin. “I only have your best interests at heart.”

Sherlock glared at Mycroft, like that statement was somehow infuriating and not the expression of genuine, brotherly devotion that it was.

At least Mycroft had Sherlock’s attention now. “These,” Mycroft laid down a series of files before Sherlock, “are John’s past lovers.”

Sherlock made a disgusted noise. “It’s none of your business.”

“It is very much my business, because it is your business,” Mycroft corrected. “Do you see how many victims this Doctor Watson has seduced? You must know you’re next on his list.”

Sherlock’s cheeks flushed slightly. “There’s nothing unusual about taking a series of lovers.”

“Nothing unusual?” Mycroft protested. “Just think about it. As if taking just one person to bed weren’t vile enough. But a dozen, Sherlock! Two dozen! Letting them all…touch you.” Mycroft made a face. He could barely even say the words aloud. “It’s repulsive.”

Sherlock looked equally put off by the idea of encounters with dozens of strangers but then shook it off. “That is what people do.”

“That isn’t what you or I do,” Mycroft insisted. “How do you know that’s what people do?”

“John assures me.” Sherlock waved the files off like they were nothing. “I’m confident you could pick anyone and find a similar trail of former lovers.”

“Oh, John assures you, does he? Then it must be true!” Mycroft tried not to lose his patience. “Can’t you see that it’s all part of his scheme to seduce you?”

Sherlock glared again. “It is,” he said icily, “perfectly within the standard deviation of human behavior. If you ever bothered to turn on the telly, you’d see.”

“The…telly?” Mycroft sneered in disgust. “My god, Sherlock, when did you start watching that contraption?” Mycroft gestured vaguely in the direction of the monstrosity without daring to look it in the eye. “Haven’t I warned you that that’s where we put all the subliminal messaging? Please, tell me you haven’t been watching it Saturday evenings.” Mycroft paled. “That’s when all the brainwashing goes on, you know.”

Sherlock’s violin made a screeching protest. “If that’s all, you can leave at any time, Mycroft.”

“Sherlock,” Mycroft pleaded, “I’m only trying to open your eyes to that, that…lothario!”

“‘Lothario’?” Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “Go away. You’re boring me.”

“Do you know what John Watson’s type is like? It won’t just be the once. He’ll want it from you again and again. Perhaps even multiple times a day.”

“Yes, because you’re such an expert in this sort of thing,” Sherlock said snidely.

“I had my PA look it up,” Mycroft confessed.

“Well, in that case…”

Mycroft still couldn’t figure out how his adorable, baby brother had got so hostile. It seemed like one day Sherlock had been perfectly compliant with Mycroft’s efforts to protect him, and the next Sherlock was screaming “Leave me alone!” at the top of his lungs. They had been baby Sherlock’s first words, actually.

“You are letting sentimentality impair your judgment,” Mycroft warned. They were the cruelest words a Holmes could say, but Mycroft desperately needed to get his point across.

Sherlock’s eyes flashed, and he looked ready to explode into another of his childish tirades at Mycroft, but at that point the object of their heated debate arrived.

“I got the vinegar you needed,” John announced, clomping up the steps, “and takeaway.” He paused in the door when he saw Mycroft sitting opposite Sherlock. “Oh, Mycroft. Um, nice to see you again.” A blatant lie. “I suppose. Care for some tea?” John glared at Sherlock. “You did offer him tea, right?”

“Mycroft,” Sherlock snapped, “was just leaving.”

Mycroft rose. There was no point in finishing this conversation now that the lecher had returned. “I am serious about this, Sherlock.”

Sherlock’s violin responded with a peevish agitato.

***

That night, Mycroft watched as his little brother and John watched some dreadful film, obviously designed to lower the collective IQ of the general public and keep them in line with the government’s policies. They were sitting side-by-side on the sofa, and halfway through Sherlock – as any reasonably intelligent person must – began to fall asleep.

Sherlock leaned to one side as he did so, until eventually his cheek came to rest on John’s shoulder. John, who had actually been absorbed in the mundane nonsense, looked at Sherlock in surprise before slipping an arm around Sherlock’s shoulders and cradling Sherlock’s sleeping body in his arms.

Sherlock murmured in his sleep and snuggled closer to John’s warmth. John paused for a moment, almost as if mocking Mycroft, and then pressed a tentative kiss against Sherlock’s hair.

John pulled back almost immediately, but he had a giddy, self-satisfied smile on his face now as he held Sherlock tightly.

Mycroft snapped the handle of his favourite umbrella in two and then managed to destroy an entire small nation.

***

If Sherlock refused to see reason – and heaven only knew that had been the story of his life, to date – Mycroft was left with only one option: John Watson needed to be disposed of.

Mycroft watched and waited, and finally the opportunity arose. Mycroft sent four of his best, most discreet men and silently hoped that, one day, Sherlock would forgive him.

Fifteen minutes later, John Watson stalked into Mycroft’s office, completely unscathed. Mycroft hadn’t the slightest clue how John made it past security, but Mycroft’s PA looked as harried as Mycroft had ever seen her.

“You have a problem with me?” John demanded, getting right up in Mycroft’s face. His hands were clasped behind his back – at ease, seemingly harmless – but Mycroft broke into a sweat at the thought of what John was capable of doing with those hands before security arrived.

“Let’s not be hasty,” Mycroft laughed nervously and retreated behind his desk.

“Hasty. Really? I would have thought the assassins you sent would fall under that category.”

Mycroft glanced at the door. What was taking security so long, anyway? “Perhaps we can just keep this between the two of us.”

“No.” John pretended to consider it. “No, I really don’t think we can.”

“I can offer you money.” Mycroft leaned forward on his elbows on his desk, more confident now that he had the physical barrier protecting him. “Name your sum. Or I could even get you redeployed, if you’d like. Afghanistan, Iraq, take your pick. Surely, Sherlock isn’t worth all this hardship for you?”

“Sherlock isn’t wo—!” John started to yell, caught himself, and continued in a much calmer, but no less dangerous, tone. “Don’t try to tell me what Sherlock is or isn’t worth to me.”

“He doesn’t need you in his life, Doctor,” Mycroft spat. “He got along just fine before you.”

John smiled a dangerous smile. “That’s not exactly what I’ve heard.”

“I am perfectly capable of taking care of my baby brother!” Mycroft insisted, insulted.

“Yeah, well, no offense, but you might have better luck if you backed the fuck off from time to time.” John’s eyes flashed in a way that was quite alarming. What could possibly still be holding up security? “Are we done here, then?” John demanded. “No more of your nonsense?”

“I’m not just going to sit back and let you take my brother from me,” Mycroft sulked, just a little.

“Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s Sherlock’s choice to make, not yours.” John flashed Mycroft a disarming smile, with teeth behind it. He moved to leave. “Oh, and by the way,” he paused at the door, “if you’re looking for your men, I left them out with the rest of the rubbish from 221b. It’d probably be best if I never saw them again. Have a lovely afternoon.” And he was gone.

Mycroft adjusted his trousers. For just a second there, Mycroft had felt a strange stirring like he’d never felt before. For a moment, he contemplated whether Sherlock was actually on to something with this John fellow.

And then, just as quickly, Mycroft shook the thought off.

***

Of course, Mycroft didn’t agree to John’s terms at all. Mycroft had merely neglected to inform John of this fact directly. It was standard politesse, after all. Certainly not cowardice.

In fact, Mycroft now spied on 221b more closely. One didn’t reach the position Mycroft had attained without being acutely aware of changing circumstances, and everything – from the cut of John’s newest trousers to the number of test tubes Sherlock kept in the fridge – pointed to an imminent sexual encounter.

Mycroft still had the government to run, of course (as well as several other governments). He couldn’t watch Sherlock all the time, as much as Mycroft might wish to. He also couldn’t delegate such a grave responsibility. The thought of even Mycroft’s most trusted agents watching Sherlock so intimately made Mycroft’s skin crawl.

Mycroft kept the surveillance cameras on in the background, however, as much as was physically possible, which was how one night while he was on the phone with one of his high-ranking operatives in China, he noticed that something was wrong. Mycroft frowned at the video feed while, in the background, his brain filed away all the intel his operative was imparting. The scene looked innocent enough: Sherlock collapsed upon the sofa and John across the room reading a journal.

Mycroft zoomed the camera in. As he’d thought, the journal was the same issue John had finished the previous week. Mycroft switched the zoom onto Sherlock, and sure enough Sherlock had the exact same cut he’d made shaving last Thursday.

Mycroft held back the urge to panic and checked the other cameras throughout the flat. Sherlock’s bedroom was normal, the kitchen was normal, the bathroom was normal, and John’s bedroom was…

Mycroft abruptly hung up on his operative.

John’s bedroom contained the exact pattern of scattered clothing that it had last week. A looped feed. It hadn’t been that way an hour ago. Which meant that John was making his move right now.

Mycroft switched the camera feed to the CCTV cameras outside 221b. Those, at least, Sherlock would have much more difficulty tampering with. As Mycroft had anticipated, the curtains were fully pulled in the living room, whereas on the fake, interior feed, there was a small gap between the curtains on the far-left window.

Mycroft switched the external camera’s mode to thermal infrared. There were no warm bodies in the living room. Mycroft panned up to John’s bedroom.

A choked gasp of horrified indignation escaped Mycroft’s throat at the sight of the two, orange outlines wrapping around each other on the bed. He had known what to expect, but… How could Sherlock?

Mycroft activated the laser microphone outside, since the bugs in John’s bedroom only turned up white noise, just in time to hear:

“You’re certain?”

John’s tone was so courteous, so accommodating. Why hadn’t Mycroft positioned a sniper on the opposite rooftop again?

“Yes.” Sherlock’s voice sounded addled by emotion. “Yes.”

On the infrared camera, the shorter orange outline mounted the taller orange outline.

Mycroft rang Sherlock’s mobile. And his e-mail. And the landline.

The taller orange outline simply lay back compliantly, ignoring the sudden buzzing in the background.

Mycroft rang John’s mobile, too, just for good measure.

The shorter orange outline reached for the blue nightstand, and Mycroft was about to breathe a sigh of relief when, instead of grabbing the mobile, the orange hand picked up what looked to be a small bottle of some sort of oil instead.

Mycroft did something he had not done in years and swore he would never do again. He ran.

***

Only when Mycroft was nearly to Baker Street, cursing at his driver to hurry, did he realize that he’d left the earpiece in.

Which, in turn, meant that all the horrors Mycroft had been envisioning were actually happening.

“J-John, I…” Sherlock sounded so lost. Mycroft had never heard him that vulnerable in all his life.

“Shh,” John coaxed Sherlock, as sibilant as the snake-in-the-grass he was. “How’s that?”

“Oh, god!” Sherlock cried.

Faster, damn you!” Mycroft shouted at his driver.

The cacophony in Mycroft’s ear grew louder and more incoherent. John was making pleased, little noises now, and the only thing that stopped Mycroft from ripping out his earpiece and crushing it in his bare hand was that he couldn’t leave his baby brother alone with that monster.

There was a crescendo right as Mycroft’s driver turned onto Baker Street and then foreboding silence. Mycroft strained his ears and could barely hear the sounds of heavy panting, followed by some soft murmurs.

Seconds later, Mycroft’s driver screeched to a stop outside 221b. Mycroft ran, for a second time, this time up those bloody seventeen steps that Sherlock wouldn’t stop blithering about. He was huffing by the time he reached the top and pulled the key that he technically wasn’t supposed to have from his pocket. He unlocked the door, stepped inside, and was immediately faced with John Watson wearing nothing but socks and Sherlock’s unfastened dressing gown hanging over his shoulders.

“What are you…?” John began in surprise and some alarm.

He immediately yanked the sides of Sherlock’s dressing gown closed, but not before Mycroft had ample time to assess the measurements of his brother’s new – oh god, it made Mycroft queasy to think it – lover.

“You have no respect for privacy whatsoever, do you?” John tried to scold Mycroft. Even through that, though, John couldn’t stop an absolutely inane smile from flitting across his lips. Obviously quite proud of his latest conquest.

Mycroft wanted to give him a sound thrashing there and then, but more important was, “Sherlock!” Mycroft pushed John to the side to be dealt with in due time, ran up the next flight of stairs, and flung the bedroom door open wide.

“Mmm, John,” Sherlock murmured, “come back to bed. It’s cold without y—” Sherlock opened one lazy eye, spotted Mycroft, and cut himself off mid-word.

Mycroft gaped. Sherlock looked as through he’d practically melted into the mattress. The duvet covered his lower limbs, but everything above the waist was completely naked and covered in love bites. Sherlock’s hair was in disarray, his lips were swollen with kisses and smiling about it, and his eyes were glazed and unfocused. And, most horrifying of all, Sherlock hadn’t deduced that it was Mycroft coming up the stairs rather than John.

“Oh god,” Mycroft gasped in horror. “He’s fucked you insensate!”

Sherlock, for the first time since he’d mastered speech, didn’t have a snide, witty rejoinder prepared for Mycroft.

Mycroft couldn’t bear to see Sherlock like that and, just as abruptly as he’d arrived, fled from Baker Street as far and fast as he could.

***

Mycroft had always turned his nose up at colleagues who coped with the pressures of the job through alcohol. And then he subtly manipulated their positions out of existence. This was the first time Mycroft had understood, just a little, what drove them to drink.

Mycroft stared down at his fourth pint – Pints! Just look at what Sherlock had reduced him to! – and took a long, unsatisfying drink. The beverage was foul, but it did succeed in disabling some of Mycroft’s higher brain functions, and for the first time in his life, Mycroft was happy to have those functions disabled.

Of course, Sherlock found him.

Mycroft paused, backed up, and thought through that again. No, not ‘Of course, Sherlock found him.’ Of course, Sherlock would know where he was. But Sherlock certainly wouldn’t go out and find Mycroft. Sherlock never did that. Sherlock did everything in his power to be as far from Mycroft as possible, while still inhabiting the same city.

“You can’t be here,” Mycroft proudly informed what he was now confident was his own drunken hallucination of Sherlock. Mycroft frowned when he realised he’d, apparently, drunkenly hallucinated John, as well. Mycroft would have to recondition his subconscious to generate more pleasant hallucinations in the future.

Or, more horrifying, this wasn’t a hallucination at all.

“You’re drunk,” Sherlock sneered.

“You had sex,” Mycroft said in an identically disgusted tone.

“This is stupid. I’m leaving.” Sherlock turned to go. John caught his arm at the last moment and whispered something in Sherlock’s ear. With a weary sigh, Sherlock turned back to Mycroft. “I have been informed that we need to talk.”

“You had sex!” Mycroft repeated incredulously.

“Yes,” Sherlock agreed, “I did.” With obvious reluctance, he reached out and grabbed Mycroft’s elbow. His eyes darted to the tables in the back.

Right. Spies everywhere. Must be discreet. Where’s my security detail? Mycroft achieved sobriety enough to locate his driver stationed strategically several paces away. Mycroft nodded to his driver and then to Sherlock. Coincidently, five minutes later Mycroft, Sherlock, and John were seated at a table in the far back of the pub, and all the other patrons who had been sitting in their general vicinity had simultaneously concluded that it was time to call it an evening.

Mycroft took some minor comfort in the fact that the rest of world still bent to his whims, even if Sherlock refused to.

Mycroft and Sherlock sat opposite each other awkwardly, not saying a word, until John nudged Sherlock in the side. Even now, John fit himself in far too close to Sherlock’s side for Mycroft’s taste. Hadn’t John violated Sherlock enough for one evening?

Sherlock looked dreadfully uncomfortable but finally said in a clipped tone, “Yes, right. I had sex.” He cocked his head to one side as if something had just occurred to him and flicked his gaze to John for just a moment. “We had sex,” he amended.

A hint of a smile curved his lips. It was echoed on John’s lips. Mycroft thought he might be sick, although that might have been partly due to all the alcohol he’d imbibed.

Why?” The word came out in more of a whine than Mycroft intended. If for no other reason than that, he swore off inebriation permanently.

Sherlock gave him a level, serious look. However dazed Sherlock had been earlier, he was in possession of his full faculties now. Mycroft had so rarely received Sherlock’s undivided attention that it was almost alarming to have it now. Sherlock was actually looking at Mycroft instead of merely railing against him.

“I did it,” Sherlock annunciated clearly and perhaps a bit cruelly, “because I wanted to.”

Mycroft didn’t understand. He and Sherlock were alike. “I don’t understand,” Mycroft said. “We’re alike.”

Sherlock’s lips twitched like a bubble of happiness was rising within him. Next to him, John reached over under the table and covered Sherlock’s hand. Did they honestly believe that Mycroft was so intoxicated that he wouldn’t notice their display of sentimentality? It was all so distasteful.

“We are alike,” Sherlock agreed, addressing Mycroft once more. “But John is the exception.”

Mycroft understood that even less. John was perfectly ordinary: dull-witted, boring, perhaps a bit more reckless than the average person, but still entirely insignificant.

“Not,” Sherlock cut in on Mycroft’s thoughts, “to me.”

John coughed, released Sherlock’s hand, and nudged Sherlock again.

Sherlock sighed and hesitantly reached across the table to take Mycroft’s hand instead. “Mycroft. Please.”

Mycroft was rendered speechless. It felt as though he’d been waiting his entire life for Sherlock to just ask something of him, but did it have to be this?

“Mycroft?” Sherlock blinked.

And perhaps it was because Mycroft was still tipsy, but he thought there was some deeper meaning in that blink. It looked like, for the first time, Sherlock might actually be concerned for Mycroft. Sherlock might actually care.

Mycroft’s throat felt unaccountably dry when he asked, as he had all those years ago to Mummy, “Will this make you happy?”

Sherlock blinked some more. And Mycroft thought he was sober enough to read that Sherlock was having a similar realization: that Mycroft cared for him in return. “Yes.”

“Fine,” said Mycroft.

“Fine,” said Sherlock.

“Fine,” said Mycroft again.

“Fine,” said John.

“Good,” said Sherlock.

“Just one thing,” Mycroft ventured.

“Yes?” Sherlock asked warily.

Mycroft looked back and forth between Sherlock and John. “What was it, you know, like?”

“Hey!” John objected.

“Sticky, sweaty, and smelly – just as you’d imagine,” Sherlock answered.

Hey!” John turned on Sherlock, looking even more outraged.

“Also close,” Sherlock said in a softer tone. “Very close. That part was…good.”

John’s expression softened, and he took Sherlock’s hand under the table again.

“Although I’m not sure I’d be willing to undertake that multiple times a day,” Sherlock conceded.

“Up to four or five, according to my research,” Mycroft informed him.

“What are you—? Four or five? I’m not seventeen anymore!” John sputtered.

Sherlock and Mycroft shared a conspiratorial smile, and then Mycroft signaled to his driver that he was leaving. Otherwise, they might have got stuck talking about their emotions – Mycroft shuddered to think of it – all night.

***

Mycroft left Sherlock alone for two whole days after that ‘incident.’ It was the longest he had ever done so. Admittedly, the first morning it was entirely due to Mycroft’s headache, and after that Mycroft had been catching up after an entire unheard-of evening off.

As soon as he had the world under his thumb once more, however, Mycroft’s first point of action was to have his driver abduct John off the street on his way home from the surgery.

“John,” Mycroft sneered at John from the car seat beside him.

“Mycroft,” John sneered back.

“I just wanted to make one thing clear.”

“That you’ve got a little-brother complex? Yeah, I figured that one out already.”

Mycroft scowled in his most menacing manner. Foreign agents had wet themselves under the force of that scowl. John just looked bored. Nevertheless, Mycroft pushed forward with his threat: “You will make an honest man of Sherlock now.”

John looked taken aback at that. “A bit of a turn-around, isn’t it?” he sounded puzzled.

“I am here to see that Sherlock gets whatever makes him happy. For some unfathomable reason,” Mycroft looked John up and down distastefully, “he believes that thing is you. Therefore, you will make him the happiest man alive.”

“Right.” John blinked. “Fine. You win. I’ll just go do that, shall I?”

Mycroft smiled smugly. It was good to know that his intimidation techniques still worked in some situations. “Also, I’ll be giving Sherlock away at the wedding.”

John blinked some more. “I’m sure he’ll be fascinated to hear that suggestion.”

Mycroft gestured for his driver to pull over outside 221b and let John out. John gave Mycroft an insouciant wave and went inside. Mycroft counted slowly to twenty before he received a text:

Over my dead body.
SH

In the end, it didn’t matter that Mycroft had lost this last round. There would always be another game with Sherlock, and this one – Mycroft thought, smiling to himself – he would most certainly win.