Mycroft’s eyelids fluttered open, revealing a sky that burnt blue. The position of the sun told him that midday had passed. He grew aware of the heat in his head, at his temples and on the fierce bruise that curled over his cheek. He must have fallen asleep. Had he caught the sun? What had he been dreaming of? The memory alluded him. The only clue left was a residual feeling of panic.
He reached a hand down beside the sun lounger and felt the almost liquid sensation of grass between his fingers. There was something so distasteful about mixing heat and bad dreams. If only he could daydream something delicious. He closed his eyes and imagined a figure, coming towards him through the trees at the bottom of the garden. The figure put his hand just to the side of Mycroft’s head, placing his body…
The lounger whined with the weight of an extra person. Mycroft kept his eyes closed, feeling the body collapse beside him and wriggle into a comfortable position. Sherlock propped a book close to Mycroft’s head.
“When did you get home?” Mycroft asked.
That word, ‘home’, acted like a catalyst on them both. Mycroft sunk comfortably into it, forgetting that he had a life and a house of his own in the city. Sherlock, on the other hand, bristled.
“About an hour ago,” said Sherlock, smoothly, “Does mother know how you got that bruise?”
“Of course she knows. You meant to ask, ‘Did I tell her?’”
Sherlock bent his head to his book. There were no more questions from him. Mycroft knew he was figuring it out for himself; noting how old the bruise was, what might have caused it, where Mycroft had been before coming back to mother. Mycroft wished that Sherlock would just ask him about it. But he also knew that if he had found Sherlock with a bruised face he would be doing the exact same thing. They were both so bad at communicating and they knew each other far too well.
The sound of Sherlock turning pages became a lulling rhythm. Mycroft didn’t even guess that Sherlock wasn’t reading. He lay on the cusp of sleep until the page turning stopped. Then he felt the lightest of touches on his tender cheek. He imagined Sherlock’s interested gaze as he assessed the injury. He was figuring out everything that hadn’t been ascertained in the first glance. Sherlock could read a bruise. He could read his brother too. There had been cases in the past that might relate to this one. Little brother knew how Mycroft liked men who would treat him roughly.
“Don’t,” said Mycroft.
Sherlock’s touch disappeared immediately. Through heavy-lidded eyes, Mycroft could see Sherlock’s face droop close to his own, as if preparing to kiss his cheek.
Sherlock sat up, got to his feet and walked away.
Mycroft opened his eyes to the sky. He had missed his chance. There had been many possibilities in those few seconds, when Sherlock’s face had been a hair’s breadth from his own. He could have said something. He didn’t know what, but he knew there must have been something he could have said to make things right. From those magical words, more would have followed. So many questions and confessions and reassurances that would have healed their wounded, strange relationship.
The chance had been missed. Mycroft sadly accepted what it had turned out to be. Another failure in communication.