“What was it about?”
Sherlock ignores the voice in the doorway. He draws his knees closer to his chest and cradles his drink in both hands, watching as the brown liquid catches the light from the fireplace and glows a soothing amber. Mycroft comes into the room and sits beside him on the sofa.
“You have an annoying habit, brother dear,” Sherlock growls when it becomes apparent that Mycroft isn’t leaving, “of sticking your nose into matters that don’t concern you. Though perhaps you can’t help it, seeing as your nose is abnormally large.”
“You are my brother,” Mycroft says without hesitation. “This most certainly concerns me.”
Sherlock snorts and takes a deep swallow of the burning liquid. “Come now, Mycroft, it’s just us. No need to keep up pretenses. The only reason you agreed to help arrange my death was because you didn’t want to handle every Christmas dinner alone for the foreseeable future. Am I wrong?”
“You betrayed me.”
“Come now, Sherlock, there’s no need to be so dramatic about it.”
“I am dead now,” Sherlock says, very slowly so as to not confuse the other man, “because of you. Because Moriarty had a plan and you played right into it. You were had, Mycroft; surely you can see that.”
“There were lives at stake. We needed him to talk.” Mycroft shifts and leans back against the sofa, crossing one leg serenely over the other. “I am sorry, brother, but it was necessary to divulge certain information about you. The lives of many are infinitely more important than the life of one. That’s a lesson you know all-too-well now, isn’t it? Your three friends would have died so that you could live. But even you saw that that was intolerable.”
“The situations are different,” Sherlock hisses, fingers tightening reflexively around his glass. “I chose my path, and only because you made Moriarty’s plan possible. He wanted to destroy me; you gave him what he needed in order to accomplish that. And tell me, how many lives were saved from the information you gleaned from him?”
Mycroft says nothing. Sherlock finishes off his drink and reaches for the bottle to refresh it.
“I think that’s quite enough, don’t you?” Mycroft murmurs, but he doesn’t try to stop him. Sherlock snorts.
“And you are the expert on moderation, are you?” he retorts, eyes flicking pointedly to Mycroft’s waistline. He takes a long swallow of the drink - number four or five now; he’s not sure, but it’s Mycroft’s expensive liquor and he’s going to damn well finish off the bottle - and says, “I was falling.”
“You asked what the nightmare was about.” Sherlock takes another sip and repeats, “I was falling.”
“You did fall.”
Sherlock nods absently and mentally adds it to the list of everything that’s gone wrong.
His life’s work has been rendered useless.
He’s a fraud - or believed to be one, at any rate, and to him they are one and the same.
He saw two men gunned down before his eyes and walked around for hours with their blood on his clothes and in his hair and in his mouth.
He’s suspected of kidnapping of two children.
John watched him die.
John is alone.
Lestrade is likely on the brink of losing his job.
ground getting closer and closer and too fast, it’s too fast, slow down, fuck -
He comes back to himself with a jerk and hurriedly finishes off the rest of the drink in his glass. His hands tremble as he reaches for another and he has to physically bite down hard on his lower lip in order to stifle the helpless noise that threatens to escape from his throat, because the fact remains that he stepped off a ledge and plunged six stories without a guarantee. They had a plan, of course, and a backup, but the likelihood of either succeeding had been slim at best. His body is now a map of purpling bruises and a network of lacerations covers the right side of his face, each mark a stark reminder that he should be dead.
The bottle and the glass are pried gently from his grip. Sherlock tucks himself deeper into the borrowed jumper he’s wearing and presses his forehead to his knees, blocking out all light in an attempt to get his mind to quiet. Sensory deprivation. Sometimes he’s lucky, and the darkness will serve as switch to turn off his mind. Other times it does nothing more than heighten his other senses and the observations continue.
His ears prick at the sound of footsteps above them - live-in maid, middle-aged woman, getting up for a glass of water. From down the corridor comes the sound of a clatter - butler knocked into an umbrella stand - and two floors away there’s a soft bark - new dog, three years old, large breed -
A hand comes to rest on his head and Sherlock jerks at the unexpected contact. Fingers card through his hair and he is five, six, seven years old, crawling into Mycroft’s bed after yet another nightmare. And Mycroft is twelve, thirteen, fourteen, hugging him close and chasing away the phantoms. Mycroft makes it better; makes him better.
But then Sherlock is nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, and the shadows are closing in and the illusion is shattered, because Mycroft doesn’t fix him then. Mycroft can’t fix it; can’t fix him.
But someone else does.
And right now this is wrong, all wrong, and the arms that tonight encircle his shuddering body aren’t the ones he wants. Mycroft smells of ink and leather and cologne, expensive and isolated and wrong wrong wrong. He should smell of coffee and takeaway; of freshly-laundered cotton cut with the faint, sharp scent of tobacco from a cigarette smoked earlier in the day on the sly, even though he insists that he’s quit.
The arms around Sherlock now should be warm and bare, because Lestrade prefers his shirt-sleeves rolled up to the elbow, and the chest he now has his face pressed against should be firm and unyielding, because Lestrade doesn’t look it from the way he dresses but he’s solid; powerful.
The voice that murmurs into his ear is telling him to, “Calm down, Sherlock, it’s all over,” when really it should be saying, “Hush, sunshine, I'm here. You're all right.”
He never even got the chance to say goodbye.
Sherlock wakes hours later, cocooned in a vast and unfamiliar bed. It takes some moments for his sleep-laden limbs to work their way out of the confines of the quilt he’s been wrapped in, and eventually he’s able to free a hand and reach for his mobile. It’s sitting on the bedside table beside an untouched glass of water and a small envelope; curiosity overcomes him and Sherlock reaches for the envelope first.
A small, folded square of white cloth drops onto his chest when he opens it, followed by a small slip of paper.
I am sorry, brother dear.
Sherlock frowns and unfolds the cloth. It appears to be nothing more than a handkerchief, but -
- and then the smell hits him, freshly-laundered cotton with a hint of tobacco and a tinge of melon, the same scented hand soap that Lestrade keeps in his kitchen -
Sherlock brings the cloth to his face and breathes. For a moment he is twenty-five, twenty-six, in the throes of yet another round of withdrawal from the drugs. He spends his days looking for a distraction from the tedium and his nights bent over the toilet, his body rebelling against him while Lestrade sits patiently by with a glass of a water and a hand on his back.
And then Sherlock is twenty-eight, twenty-nine, and his days are still spent looking for that ever-elusive thrill but his nights are spent in Lestrade’s arms; peaceful, for the first time that he can remember.
He drifts off once more, but this time with Lestrade’s handkerchief clutched in his hand and the well-worn scent of the older man filling his senses.