“We are not only our brother's keeper; in countless large and small ways, we are our brother's maker.” - Bonaro Overstreet
Mycroft can recall the first time it happened with ease; ten years old, settling down at the foot of his bed with an old book that he’d been meaning to read for quite some time. He can definitely recall the moment his three year old terror of a brother made his way into his room, black, messy curls sticking up in all directions. In the vain hope that if he ignored him, he would simply vanish, Mycroft turned back to his book and tried to block out the shape of Sherlock drawing ever closer from his peripheral vision.
Though it was obvious at this point that his brother was nothing short of a genius (well, obvious to Mycroft anyway), it was a continual worry to his parents that there was something ever-so-slightly wrong with him. Other parents would proudly wax poetic about their little darling’s flourishing conversation, laughing when their children tried to join in adult conversations and smiling when small mistakes were uttered. Sherlock however, had never even mumbled a single word. They had arrived at the point where nursery staff would ask politely if they might have a word with Mr and Mrs Holmes about their son, hinting gently that they might want to have someone take a look at him. Mycroft wasn’t worried, of course. It should have been clear to anyone that instead of Sherlock being unable to speak, he simply had no desire to do so. He seemed perfectly content to wander around the grounds of the Holmes estate (often accompanied by a worried looking nanny or some such), occasionally poking at some odd thing he would find on the ground.
A light touch to Mycroft’s knee drew him back to where he’d drifted off to; glancing down at Sherlock’s bent head. A frown etched itself into his brow at this point, for that was something else his parents had noticed; Sherlock’s aversion to any kind of contact. He shrank away when anyone tried to hug him or place a soft kiss to his forehead, only Sherlock’s piercing gaze put a swift end to any thoughts his parents had about autism or something similar.
His small brother (so, so small) planted himself down next to Mycroft and looked up at him expectantly, his hand still resting on the crease of Mycroft’s knee where he was sat cross-legged.
“It’s on the anatomy of birds,” Mycroft informed his brother, directing Sherlock’s gaze to the book in his lap.
He wasn’t expecting a response, at least not a verbal one, but was still surprised when Sherlock’s hand lifted itself from his knee and stroked down the open page. Peering at his brother’s face, Mycroft could only describe the expression he saw there as reverent.
“You do seem to have a certain fondness for animals these days.” If by fondness he meant dragging in corpses of hedgehogs and crows every few days, staring at them intently until someone took them away from him, and ordered him to, quite thoroughly, wash his hands.
An almost painful sound erupted from his brother’s throat then, a half-cough, half-choke of a gutter, before Sherlock turned his almost otherworldly face up to him and said, “Read.”
What else was Mycroft to do but just that?
The entire volume was covered that night, hours swiftly passing between chapters as Mycroft’s smooth voice echoed through the room. Sherlock fell asleep in his brother’s arms then, an almost-smile quirking his lips up at the corners, Mycroft’s hand running through his curls.
It was a few days later when Mycroft walked into the kitchen to find his younger brother sitting cross-legged under the table. He didn’t even have to think about it as he clambered in there after him, leaning his back on one of the sturdy table legs and opening his arm out wide, Sherlock settling in the crook of his arm nicely. He met those soft, grey eyes with his own and said, “Read.”
Thank you so much for your kind reviews! I’m thrilled that you like it, and here’s the second instalment that I promised.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
‘A sibling may be the keeper of one's identity, the only person with the keys to one's unfettered, more fundamental self. ‘-Marian Sandmaier
The second time Mycroft recalls it happening was on the eve of Sherlock's fifth birthday. An extravagant dinner that had taken hours upon hours of preparation had been practically inhaled by the Holmes family in seconds (by everyone except Sherlock of course; the meal was his mother's idea), and Mycroft was lounging back in his seat, belly warm and full, contemplating whether it would be worth it to take a plate of leftovers from the kitchen to his room. He'd definitely have to wait for a few minutes at least before he could move though, leg-work really wasn't his thing.
Sherlock was sitting miserably in his own seat opposite, arms on the table, cradling his head; probably thinking of ways that he could sneak past Mummy up to his room. Mycroft smiled slightly at the memory of his mother telling a slightly overactive Sherlock to 'please sit down or there won't be any experiments in the house for a week'.
Mycroft placed his hands under his chin, palms together as if in prayer, and began to think over his plans for school, or more specifically, how he could speed up his time there and move on to more interesting endeavours; the work really was pathetically dull and easy, and he often found himself muttering ‘bored, bored, bored’ under his breath whenever he did the homework. So, closing his eyes, he settled down further in his seat and started planning. He could always get onto one of those ‘special student’ programmes, where gifted children can skip entire years. The idea was dismissed almost as quickly as it’d come. No, it wouldn’t do to draw any unwanted attention to himself, it would probably be easier in the long-run if he just kept his head down and worked through the monotony. Mycroft never could figure out the appeal of being in the spot-light, preferring to stay in the background without the added drain of a public image to constantly uphold. He could already tell that Sherlock would have no such limitations.
It was only a few minutes before he noticed that something wasn't quite right. He did a simple calculation in his head and determined that just over ten minutes had passed. That was at least two minutes over the time Sherlock could be expected to sit still in any one place before wandering off to find something more interesting to do. He really did feel sorry for his mother sometimes, having to be on guard for Sherlock at all hours; he was an absolute nightmare when guests were invited to the estate, their mother often claiming that Sherlock was unfortunately too ill to attend and had to stay huddled up in bed instead. Mycroft knew his brother loved those evenings, for as long as he was quiet and didn’t disturb the guests in any way, he was free to do what he wanted. Quiet he most certainly was, but that didn’t always equal clean. It was usually left to Mycroft to clear away the destruction his brother caused; puddles of goodness knows what staining the carpets and clothes strewn about everywhere.
His eyes opened and they were met with a twin, grey pair across the table, and he quickly noticed that they weren't the only mirrored image. Sherlock was sat silently with his hands under his chin and a slight frown between his brow as if in deep thought (well, as deep a thought as a five year old Sherlock could slip into anyway). Mycroft moved his hands up so that his fingers were resting against his lips. A few beats later, Sherlock did the same, his gaze now focused solely on his brother's hands.
"What are you doing, Sherlock?"
"What are you doing, Mycroft?"
He bit back a smile, hoping fervently that his younger brother couldn't see the curve of his lips behind his hands.
There was a long pause in which Sherlock seemed to digest the information, before he leant back in his chair, placed his hands under his chin, and closed his eyes. This time, Mycroft couldn't quite fight the grin that followed his brother's antics.
Just then, their mother came into the room, balancing bowls of dessert in her arms. She placed them carefully on the table, smiled at Mycroft, smiled at Sherlock, and then performed one of the best double-takes in Mycroft's memory. She looked to Mycroft, and he could read the unasked question in her eyes: 'why on earth is Sherlock still sitting at the table? How is it that he hasn't already wandered off or set fire to something?' Mycroft only shrugged slightly in reply, turning to look once more at his unnaturally quiet brother.
"You're still here, then?" Their mother asked, looking a tad worried, truth be told.
Poor choice of question. Mycroft winced on his mother's behalf; if she was waiting for a reply, she definitely wouldn't get one from that; Sherlock hated rhetorics and thought it was a waste of energy to answer questions to which people already knew the answer. They were quite similar in that respect, although Mycroft generally had the social grace to reply anyway, whereas Sherlock had no such compunctions.
Mummy tried once more. "What are you doing, Sherlock?"
The idea for this one came to me from a moment in 2x3, just the positioning of Mycroft’s hands right at the end and it got me thinking that Sherlock probably wouldn’t have had too many people to look up to in his childhood, being so far out of everyone else’s league, so the person he’d be most likely to emulate would be his older brother, Mycroft.
Again, thank you so much for your reviews; it’s nice to know that someone out there likes these stories. A couple of you have suggested fantastic ideas for future chapters and I’ll try and get round to as many of them as I can.
‘Til next time!
A/N Sorry for the delay in getting this chapter to you, I’ve been handed essays to do like nobody’s business. This week will be a bit packed for me so I have to find extra time to write, so there will probably be another couple of days before I can get the next chapter up.
I hope you enjoy this one either way!
Every time Sherlock tripped and scraped his knees (or more likely, plummeted from an unfortunately unstable tree branch), it was his nanny who patched him up afterwards. She would alternate between grumbling and fussing over him, whilst all the time Sherlock would be plotting his next adventure. A stinging antiseptic would often be applied, followed by a small bandage wrapped around the injured limb (Sherlock's parents had learnt the hard way that plasters never stayed on for longer than five minutes before Sherlock was picking it off to examine the wound underneath).
Every time Sherlock would get injured, his parents would see to it that he was patched up and dealt with accordingly. What they didn't see, was Sherlock's quiet retreat into his brother's room afterwards. Mycroft would take one cursory glance over him, before beckoning him over to sit on the foot of his bed whilst he fetched his own first-aid kit from one of his drawers. Usually, there was very little said between the brothers during this time, when Mycroft would take off the bandage, treat the wound to his own satisfaction, and tie the material back on (generally a lot looser than Sherlock's nanny did, meaning that his brother's arm or leg wouldn't actually drop off). Though sometimes, Mycroft would ask his little brother what he was doing before the accident took place, guiding Sherlock through it and encouraging a deeper level of analysis, and by the time Sherlock will have finished his tale, his injuries would have been seen to, leaving Mycroft to listen indulgently until Sherlock ran out of steam. Sherlock would always leave these sessions with a small smile, the one that he reserved solely for his brother, despite the irritating stinging sensation that he knew would stay with him for a few hours under the firmly secured bandage.
That's how it always was in the Holmes household; Sherlock getting himself into scrapes and Mycroft quietly cleaning up after him. So when Sherlock came into the house one miserable autumn evening, expecting to find his brother curled up with a good book in his habitual armchair, but instead found the room cold and empty, Sherlock felt his stomach drop. At the tender age of six years old, he had already seen his fair share of sickness; be it in films that he was much too young to see (but stole away to watch anyway) or in the hideously detailed text books that he was known to read. A whole barrage of different illnesses flashed through his mind at that point; one that was serious enough to necessitate Mycroft shifting from his much-loved routine, but not so serious as to warrant a hospital visit. Before he knew it, he'd raced up to the door to his brother's room, hand raised to turn the handle. He paused though, taking a deep breath. As long as he stayed this side of the door, he could still pretend that Mycroft was indestructible, untouchable his fearsome protector. Shaking the pointless thoughts aside, Sherlock drew himself up and opened the door, unsurprised to note that the only light in the room was coming from the lamp beside Mycroft's bed, the bed in which he was currently bundled in. As Sherlock got closer, he realised that he couldn't actually see anything of Mycroft apart from the tuft of dark hair sticking out in the top of the cocoon shape his brother had constructed out of his duvet.
A pained groan sounded from within the mass of sheets, and Sherlock hurried over to his brother's side, mindful not to make any noise for fear that he'd make him worse.
"'Lock, is that you?"
Sherlock didn't know what else to say, frightened by the fact that his brother couldn't immediately recognise that it was him in the room, Mycroft who knew the precise footfalls of everyone who lived on the estate, and who could tell everything and more about a person within seconds of meeting them. Yes, something was definitely wrong with his older brother.
"Don't come any closer, just go and get Mummy, alright?"
Mummy had been gone for two days on business and wouldn't be back until the following evening. Mycroft knew this. Sherlock didn't understand how Mycroft could forget something like that, so he reminded him.
"Yes, of course..." Mycroft trailed of, his voice sounding so painfully fragile.
Sherlock didn't know what to do. Should he fetch someone? No, Mycroft would be hugely disappointed in him when he recovered to find out that a multitude of people had seen him in such a state; it was probably bad enough that Sherlock had seen him like this. So he needed a plan. Sherlock looked around the dimly lit room for inspiration and his eyes were drawn to the densely packed bookshelf on the far wall. He shot a glance to the pile of sheets his brother was hiding under and then made his way over start his search, his hands immediately reaching for one of Mycroft's many medical journals. He flicked towards the back, the symptom checker, and began to read, his forehead creasing in concentration as he tried to translate the medical terminology into actual practical use. All the journals began by suggesting that a list of all the symptoms be made for ease of analysis, so Sherlock dragged the heavy book over to Mycroft and bent down next to his head. He reached a hand out to his brother's cheek, checking for any sign of an elevated temperature, and only gained a groan from Mycroft and a clammy hand swiping futilely at his face.
"Mycroft, stay still, I need to diagnose you." Sherlock admonished, reaching towards him again.
"What? ’Lock no, if you're so desperate to help-" a cough "-then why don't you go and make a hot lemon drink or something, hmm?"
Sherlock's face scrunched up in disgust (a look that Mycroft has repeatedly assured him is quite unbecoming of a young boy) remembering the unfortunate moment last year when their mother was playing nurse and thought it would be a splendid idea to make a honey and lemon infused drink to make him feel better. It very much did not; evidenced in the retching that immediately followed. Sherlock didn't understand everyone's continued campaign into convincing him that the drink would make him feel better, or that it tasted better the second time. Fools. Sherlock decided then and there to make it his mission that everyone knew his disdain for the drink by the end of the year. He smirked in thought before another weak cough drew his attention back to his brother.
"Or tea, tea would be just fine."
Sherlock frowned again and pulled the blankets away from Mycroft's head, exposing his sweat-beaded forehead and slightly glazed eyes which were struggling to stay open long enough to glare at him.
Sherlock mentally added these symptoms to the ever-growing list in his mind and proceeded to place the back of his hand on his brother's forehead, just to double-check his temperature.
"Yes, yes fine. Although I don't really think a hot drink will help you very much considering you have a fever."
"It will pass. Either bring me a drink or let me sleep."
Sherlock decided to forgo the tea but settled for gathering a jug of water and filling it with ice-cold water from the tap in Mycroft's en suite, placing it carefully in the middle of the bedside-table along with a clean glass. He was about to do exactly what his brother had suggested and just leave him there to wallow in his illness alone, but then he recalled the moments when Mycroft had re-bandaged his injuries or stayed up with him all night even after Mummy had long-since fallen asleep at his bed-side.
Decision made, Sherlock scrambled into the other side of the bed, making sure to jolt his brother as little as possible, resting his back against the sturdy headboard and stretching his already ridiculously long legs in front of him. Mycroft turned on his side to face him (with an unreasonable amount of effort too, Sherlock thought) and humphed in resignation, a flash of a smile gracing his tired features.
"Mummy will be ever so cross if you end up coming down with something, Sherlock."
"Mummy will be cross with me anyway, the chairs in the kitchen don't have legs anymore."
Mycroft thought that his brother looked stupidly proud of himself in that moment.
"Mm, you're probably right."
He was already beginning to drift off again, but he reasoned with himself that as long as Sherlock sat in bed beside him, he couldn't wreak havoc around the rest of the estate, which seemed the marginally safer option.
Sherlock tentatively placed his hand in the mess that was Mycroft's hair; sticking up in all directions and slightly damp with sweat. Carding his long fingers through the short strands, Sherlock heard his brother's breathing deepen and eventually even out in sleep, completely dead to the world. Gently reaching over the lump that was his older brother, Sherlock took hold of the medical journal and settled it down into his lap to read, his thumb tracing soothing circles into the side of Mycroft's skull. He thought it might be nice to sit in the quiet for a bit before Mummy came home and inevitably started shouting.
I really am so sorry for the stupidly long gaps between chapters. Trust me, I’d rather be writing this than any number of essays that have been forced upon me. I haven’t given up on this and I intend to keep this going until I can’t think of any more scenarios (which could be a while), but I can’t make any promises as to how frequently this gets updated. Bummer, right? Anywho, thank you so much for your kind reviews, it makes me feel like this whole thing has a purpose now that it has an audience, so I’ll try to update more frequently if I can.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.” - Marc Brown.
“This is ridiculous.”
“What is, Sherlock?”
“This; just standing around looking silly with all my shirt buttons done up being forced to smile at Father’s friends.”
Mycroft hid a smile behind his sleeve.
“Yes, speaking of, there hasn’t been much smiling on your end for quite some time now.”
He nodded pointedly towards the next couple entering through the doors of the estate, handing overly-fluffy coats to the doorman and laughing in an exhaustedly high pitch.
“Yes, alright, brother dear,” was the muttered reply.
The sound of high-heels approaching like cracking glass resonated around the hall, stopping in front of the two boys. Mycroft’s gaze followed the deep cobalt shine of the shoes up to a face framed with an abundance of blonde curls, done up in an elegant bun. He returned the smile that beamed down at him, rather more sincerely than his little brother, no doubt.
“You must be the Holmes boys then!”
He nodded politely.
“Marcus and Sherlock isn’t it?”
Before Mycroft had even opened his mouth to correct her, she’d moved her gaze towards Sherlock, who was resolutely staring at his shoes, not even attempting to give the impression of interest.
“Golly, I haven’t seen you since you were a little one. How old are you now, hmm? Five, or so, yes?”
“Yes, of course! Silly me! Well, you know how time flies and all that.”
“Wen, dear, we really can’t keep Mr Holmes waiting any longer.”
Sherlock turned towards his brother, and mouthed, “Wen?” both eyebrows raised and his lip curled in distaste. Mycroft made an internal note to rid his younger brother of that expression as quickly as possible, but dutifully replied with, “Wendy.” The ‘idiot’ at the end of the sentence went unsaid, but Mycroft was quite sure that his brother would hear it anyway; if the answering frown was anything to go by, his suspicions were correct.
The rest of the evening passed in an uneventful lull, introductions to spouses and long conversations about what everyone had been doing since their last meet up. Mycroft spent most of his time keeping a subtle eye on Sherlock and on more than one occasion, forcefully pulling him back whenever he attempted to try his hand at pick-pocketing (“I’ve been getting better”, “I don’t want to know”). When the evening was drawing to a close and not even the prospect of tying everyone’s shoelaces together (“just to see what would happen”) could keep Sherlock awake, Mycroft endured the last few minutes of tedious, but necessary, conversation before dragging his brother upstairs, though not before being enthusiastically informed of his father’s weekend trip with Mr Huckvale (Mr ‘Wendy’).
The next couple of days flowed by without intrigue, a little bit of helping around the estate just to stave off the boredom (and occasionally persuading Sherlock to lend a reluctant hand, as well), along with over-long midday meals which had a rather impressive number of courses. It was on the evening before his father was due to return that Sherlock approached Mycroft.
“Mrs Huckvale isn’t colour-blind is she?”
Mycroft closed the book he was reading and regretfully set it down next to his bed, he could tell that he wouldn’t be able to read from it for a while.
“Well then she must just be stupid.”
“Stupid is rather a harsh term, Sherlock. She certainly isn’t one of the great minds of our generation but I fail to see what she has done to warrant your attention over the many other guests we’ve had over this weekend.”
Sherlock plonked himself down in the middle of Mycroft’s floor.
“Her earrings. The blue doesn’t match the dress she’s wearing, but we’ve already seen her in a pair this weekend that would go perfectly well.”
Mycroft let a silence settle around them, knowing that his brother wouldn’t have to be prompted into continuing if only he waited long enough.
“Why would she wear the light blue pearls when she has a perfectly good pair of dark blue ones?”
The elder Holmes brother allowed himself to indulge a little, smiling fondly down at Sherlock.
“Think, Sherlock. Why wouldn’t she wear the dark blue pearls?”
“I don’t know, that’s why I’ve come in here to talk to you!”
Mycroft could sense his brother’s growing frustration, more at himself for not understanding than with Mycroft however, so he pushed himself up off his perch on the bed and settled down in front of his brother.
“I don’t know!”
“Yes you do. Think. Talk me through it.”
Sherlock frowned and breathed in deeply to get rid of some of his growing anger, unclenching his fists and looking at Mycroft seriously.
“She wouldn’t wear them if she didn’t have them anymore.”
“Good. Why wouldn’t she have them?”
“If she’d lost them.”
Mycroft nodded in encouragement but that only made the frown between Sherlock’s brows grow deeper.
“If she’s lost them, why wouldn’t she have just told Mummy? She’d get everyone to find them and then she wouldn’t have to wear the pair that doesn’t go with anything.”
“If you’d lost something important, Sherlock, why wouldn’t you want anyone to know?”
“Embarrassment? But what would she be embarrassed about? Apart from looking like a fool she’d get her expensive earrings back…”
“So not embarrassment of losing them, but..?” Mycroft prompted carefully.
“Embarrassment of finding them? I don’t understand.”
Sherlock pounded his fist into the floor and stared sullenly into the distance. Mycroft reached for his brother’s hands and gently uncurled them.
“Why would she have taken the earrings off in the first place, Sherlock?”
“At night. When she was getting ready for bed.”
“So if she’s lost them, they’d be somewhere in her room, correct?”
“I suppose so… yes.”
“ But you wouldn’t be ashamed of someone finding them in your own room, would you?”
Sherlock shook his head, deep in thought.
“So what can you deduce from that?”
“That… she hasn’t lost them in her room?”
“She didn’t take them off in her room?”
Sherlock looked up at him suddenly, a spark in his eye.
“She didn’t sleep in her own room.”
Mycroft beamed proudly at his brother.
“Precisely. She hasn’t asked for help because she doesn’t want to draw attention to the fact that she wasn’t sleeping in her own room. More specifically, that she was with someone else, in someone else’s room.”
Mycroft patted his brother on the knee and rose from the floor, heading straight back for his book, when his brother’s determined voice called out behind him.
“We have to tell Mr Huckvale.”
“What good would that do, Sherlock?”
“He needs to know where his wife’s been this weekend! It’s probably not the first time, and probably won’t be the last.”
Mycroft pressed his thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose like he’d often observed their father doing when explaining things to Sherlock. Now he knew why.
“Think of what would happen if you told him; at worst, divorce, which would lead to a distinct lack of respect at his work. His position demands authority and no man who’s been replaced by a mere gardener-“
“-you knew it was the gardener all this time!”
“-would garner the necessary respect. At best, a frosty marriage; both parties miserable and ashamed.”
Sherlock stomped over to him, a look of pure righteous indignation carving a place in his features.
“So you’re saying we just ignore it then? That’s stupid.”
Crossed arms and a disbelieving look.
“That would be stupid.”
And so it was that Mrs Wendy Huckvale opened a parcel one Tuesday morning containing a pair of familiar deep blue pearls, along with a note written in carefully printed ink which said, “These were found the other day by a maid in one of the guest bedrooms and I offered to figure out to whom they belong. I was, of course, stumped. Praise be to knowledgeable gardeners. Yours ever, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes”.
I just really liked the idea that Mycroft taught Sherlock everything he knows and that it was him that really honed Sherlock’s reasoning skills. Hit me with a review if you liked it.