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Symbiosis

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A certain person wondered why
I wait all week for you.
I didn't have the words
to describe just what you do.
I said you had the motion
of the ocean in your walk,
and when you solve my riddles
you don't even have to talk."

— Maya Angelou (I Shall Not Be Moved)

 

 

When he is five (precocious, clever, stubborn) Sherlock develops an obsession with dissecting frogs. It's the first of many, and Mycroft - older, already able to swim - lingers around the edges of lakes trying to catch them for him.

"No, a bigger one than that!" Sherlock calls from beyond the reeds (a safe distance Mycroft put him at, insisted he mustn't move or there'll be no toads for anyone) and grumbles when the jumping, squirming, frightened frog is eventually put into his hands. The bottoms of Mycroft's trousers are wet and his hands are slimy, but Sherlock pays no heed to either of these things. "This isn't really good enough," he says.

Mycroft gives him the look that says 'You're very close to pushing it too far' and Sherlock knows when to keep his mouth shut.

As they walk back to the house, Mycroft's feet squelch in his shoes. At this point he's still willing to be an enabler. After all, no one ever died from dissecting frogs.

When he is six, Sherlock discovers sugar. Mycroft stops at the village shop every afternoon on the way home from school to buy him a mixture of the brightly coloured jelly worms and foam shrimps. In the end the other boys stop waiting for him at the gate to walk home with but it's of no consequence really; Mycroft has already evaluated that he doesn't need them for anything practical. They do talk such inane rubbish too. He's already keeping in with them in the mornings so that when it comes to the time for electing prefects he can count on their vote, but other than that he doesn't need them. He gets home early and sneaks in through the kitchen, where Mrs Whitstable is always waiting with the biscuits she's made especially for him, then he goes to sit in the front room by the fire. Sherlock is always waiting - whether for his sweets or Mycroft, Mycroft isn't sure - and they complete the crossword between them, timing themselves on the grandfather clock. Each day they try to beat their personal best, but are always finished before supper.

Mycroft watches Sherlock's teeth rot slowly in his head but weighs up the pleasure to decay ratio - they're baby teeth anyway, he'll get a new set soon and they can take greater care of those ones when they come along.

Besides, it is vaguely amusing when the front ones drop out and Sherlock refuses to come out of his room for an entire weekend because of the embarrassment.

Mycroft is the only person he'll let in to see him and they stuff themselves further with sweets, both of them grabbing at handfuls procured from the kind lady at the village shop until they both feel heartily sick.

He's somewhat disappointed when Sherlock's obsession with sweets dies off. For a while they had an obsession in common.

When Sherlock is seven, he joins Mycroft at the bigger school. He makes no friends and they spend their lunch times reading in the library, one packed lunch between them because Sherlock has decided he doesn't need food whilst he's working. Mycroft hates giving his sandwiches away but he breaks off pieces and refuses to let Sherlock start a new chapter unless he's eaten some.

Sherlock grumbles, but they reach a compromise. The librarian finds she has no way of stopping them dropping crumbs over her volumes and despairs, quietly.

When Sherlock turns eight, he becomes obsessed with disappearing for hours on end. Mycroft is the only one he tells where he's going, and Mycroft duly tells Mummy when she worries but pretends to Sherlock that he hasn't. Sometimes he also follows him, a safe distance behind, to make sure he's okay.

Mostly Sherlock takes a book and is just trying to find some peace, but Mycroft still worries. It becomes a familiar state of existence.

Sometimes Sherlock acknowledges that he knows Mycroft's there - if he's feeling genial enough - and he lets him sit with him whilst he reads. But other days he tries to lose him, just to be difficult, and finds new, ingenious ways to shrug him off.

It's fine though, because there is a girl who lives on the edge of the village called Cara (sweet, blonde, friendly - Mycroft finds her utterly dull) and sometimes Mycroft pays her in maths tuition if she keeps an eye on Sherlock for him. She can see the old oak near the stream (Sherlock's favourite hiding place) from the bottom of her garden so when she reports back, Mycroft helps her with her algebra.

He can't see any losers in this particular arrangement.

When Sherlock is nine, he develops an obsession with reading people. It's one of the only obsessions he's had that never really goes away, and it changes him just a little bit. He's never quite the same Sherlock after that.

Mostly though, Mycroft misses most of this obsession because he discovers one of his own - when Sherlock is nine, Mycroft is fifteen and he discovers sex.

It's not something that comes as strong to him as it does to other people, he knows, but certain aspects of it are rather hard to ignore. Like most boys his age he has no practical experiences, but for a little while it distracts him somewhat. He goes through a period where he tries to deny it, but he's always been more at ease with the human aspects of his own body than his little brother has, so he eventually comes to accept that some things are inevitable. He deals with it and moves on, concedes that it's clearly just a new part of his mind from now on, and it becomes a little bit easier after that.

But only a little bit, because of course it coincides with the start of Sherlock's people reading obsession. And his brother is nothing if not adept at everything he does.

"You've begun acting very strangely recently," Sherlock tells him over a particularly challenging game of chess. Mycroft has never had such an interesting opponent, but he still usually wins. He has six years extra practice, after all.

"Have I really?"

"Yes. You have something on your mind that you refuse to share with me."

Mycroft watches the familiar pattern of furrow lines appear on his brother's forehead as he regards him and feels - out of nowhere - an immense, sudden sadness. He has spent the last eleven years knowing every one of his brother's moods, and this - heartbreakingly - is no different.

"This is your last chance to tell me what it is," Sherlock says. "I shan't ask again."

Up until now there has been a tandem - nothing quiet like the blissful nine months of the sweet sharing, of course, but still a tandem - and Mycroft feels a crack appear, the first parting of the ways.

Sherlock waits for him to speak. The chess lies mid-play between them.

There's no point in him denying it, of course, Sherlock knows him like a twin would. And of course there's absolutely no way of telling him. He's nine years old. A genius, but still nine years old.

"I can't tell you, I'm afraid."

There is a moment of silence between them in which Mycroft expects to hear the tinkling of glass breaking, but then suddenly it's gone. Sherlock shows no emotion on his features, simply looks back down at the chess board and considers his next move.

But Mycroft sees the subtle new set of his shoulders. And when Sherlock looks back up and says, "Your move," he also sees a faint gleam of hardness in his eyes that wasn't there before. It hits Mycroft in a way very little ever has done before. It's the first time he realises he's no longer a child (fifteen - he supposes he's lucky to have got to this age) and this, he knows, is a new kind of hurt. One that takes a long time to get used to.

But he too shows no emotion, schools his features into something Sherlock will be familiar with, though of course they both know one another - and their dynamic - well enough to know that something irrevocable has changed.

The next morning when Sherlock takes a book from the library and sets off down through the village, he turns sharply on his heel when he reaches the sweet shop and narrows his eyes at the figure a supposed safe distance behind him.

"Go away, Mycroft," he says, and his tone sounds cruel.

It's so shocking that he actually lets him go.

It's the first time Mycroft spends an afternoon not knowing where Sherlock is.

------------

When Sherlock turns ten, he becomes obsessed with the Second World War. For a period of eleven months he gathers every piece of information about every battle fought and constructs models of all the major planes used in air combat.

With his pocket money, Mycroft buys him a Junkers 88, a Hurricane and a Spitfire. They spend hours putting the pieces together, both of their hands sticky with glue where they slot the wings in and wait for them to dry. Mycroft paints, because he has a steadier hand than Sherlock, and Sherlock tells him all of the statistics for each craft, including how many planes were felled in the sea, over land and lost to fire. He also knows the numbers of men lost, and the profiles of all the major aces. He doesn't idolise any of them, merely repeats the facts as they are.

He also learns about the Blitz, about the precise number of fire engines used during each evening and how many buildings were lost or badly damaged. He never talks about the Blitz spirit or the songs sung down the Tube, and when Mycroft tells him he just looks at him listlessly and says, "Oh, dull."

This - surprisingly - is one obsession Mummy can get in on, and she takes them both to an aircraft museum one stifling, summer afternoon. The girl from the edge of the village - Cara - had asked Mycroft to a picnic earlier that morning and Mummy had told him he should go, that she and Sherlock would be fine by themselves, but he'd said no. He stills finds her just as dull, and he wants to see the aeroplanes - not so much the crafts themselves, but Sherlock's reaction to them - and there isn't any competition.

Mycroft tells her gently, no thank you. She doesn't bother him again.

The inside of the museum is wonderfully cool and the air is breathable away from the crashing heat outside. Mummy is more interested in the plight of the women on the home front so she lets them wander away from the smaller displays and over to the major aircraft, looking fragile but dangerous behind the black velvet ropes. To Mycroft they seem like dormant great beasts, resting their old age away.

Sherlock is fascinated with the engines and he explains how each rotor works. Mycroft doesn't care, but he likes listening to him, and knowing where he is, and knowing that he's occupied with something sufficient for that brain of his. He lets his little brother ramble on long after Mummy has indulged them and gone to wait in the adjoining cafeteria.

In the gift shop Mycroft buys Sherlock a Messerschmitt 109, the only one left from his collection, and in the car on the way home Sherlock is too impatient to wait so they put it together right there on the back seat, fingers touching whilst they hold the wings in in place of glue.

Sherlock still doesn't look at him the same way as he used to, even after the 109.

When Sherlock turns eleven, he gets his first science kit.

He's been conspiring to blow things up in chemistry classes since he was seven, of course, but now Mycroft regularly finds him with sulphur stained fingers and smudges of charcoal on his face.

This is another obsession he never really lets go of, but this one seems to mutate, get more gruesome as he gets older. Mycroft isn't really surprised.

In Sherlock's eleventh year, Mycroft is made Head Boy at school and already runs the pupil newspaper. He schedules choir practices and gets the final say on school plays (though of course he never acts in any of them) and the walls of his bedroom are suddenly covered by lists of names - who's doing what in which department. Sherlock doesn't share this obsession, and no longer spends hours lying on Mycroft's bed with him whilst they read, but they still do the crossword every afternoon when they get home. Mycroft collects his biscuits from Mrs Whitstable in the kitchen and these days Sherlock makes comments about him being a glutton, but they still always find themselves in front of the fire, calling out cryptic clues.

Some months earlier - Mycroft isn't sure when - it changed from trying to beat their personal best each day to trying to beat each other. Sherlock keeps a score of points, and is strict about who wins and who loses. Sometimes they lie on the carpet together, Mycroft with the crossword held high over his head and Sherlock's arm pressed tightly against his and they battle it out between them fiercely. Mycroft still looks forward to this time of day best and they still both ignore any callers to the door, but something shifted long ago now.

It never stops bothering him.

When Sherlock is twelve years old, Mycroft goes away to university.

Sherlock never really forgives him.

--------------

He doesn't miss his own bed, or the colour of the garden in spring, or Mrs Whitstable's biscuits. He doesn't miss Mummy, or visiting the village sweet shop, or the soft, repetitive tick of the grandfather clock in the sitting room.

But he does miss Sherlock.

Oxford is beautiful in the autumn and Mycroft walks the river path around the back of the playing fields, down towards where the boat teams train and stands on the bridge. He writes letters to Mummy and tells her how well he's settling in, but he never writes to Sherlock. And Sherlock never writes to him. Mycroft is polite to people, and pleasant, but he never likes any of them. Some of them are useful, but not very interesting. He always does his crosswords alone, these days.

One morning when he's stamping his cold feet waiting in the quad, a boy called Evans approaches him and tells him Professor Quinney wants to see him.

That's how Mycroft joins the government.

-------------

On the day Sherlock turns thirteen, Mycroft is busy interviewing IRA sleeper cell members. He dispatches one or two, and doesn't realise until very late exactly what the date is. He telephones home from the office they've given him in London during breaks in term. It's not exactly what he'd liked, but it will do. He has something much more grand in mind, which at this point he knows he'll have no trouble getting.

Mummy answers the phone.

"He's upstairs in his bedroom, darling," she says. "We never seem to see him anymore, since you left."

Her voice calls away in the distance and Mycroft imagines the fierce roll of his brother's eyes, the sullen set of his mouth when he's determined. After a few moments, with more calling in the background, Mummy comes back on the line.

"He says he's too busy; I suspect he's sulking for some reason or another. He's become such a sulky boy."

Mycroft spends a few moments longer making polite chit-chat just to please Mummy, then pretends to be called away.

He doesn't sleep that night, and not really properly for a little while after.

When he goes home for the summer, Mycroft finds a new creature in Sherlock's place - sharper, harder, more independent than his little brother. He immediately stops using all of his past experiences as a reference and finds he's going in blind. They speak amiably when Mummy is in the room, and then when they're finally alone, the first thing Sherlock does is sneer.

"The secret service, Mycroft? How dull and predictable."

Mycroft glances down at his suit. Of course he would know, of course. Possibly from the folds on his waistcoat; he should have worn another.

"I occupy a minor role in the - "

"I'm sure," Sherlock says, and when he tilts his head just like that and looks away it's like an instant dismissal. Mycroft feels a sting across his chest as though he's been hit, but says nothing.

"And how are you? How is school?"

Sherlock's eyes are hard and jagged and for the briefest of seconds Mycroft feels a madness to grab him and hold him still and look inside him like they used to on wet afternoons. He wants to check if his little brother is still in there.

"Like you care," Sherlock replies.

It's the first time Mycroft has ever felt on the outside of Sherlock. He knows about basic symbiosis, understands the methods and principles involved; the result of a symbiotic relationship separated, however, are results never been seen.

From that point on things change more than Mycroft ever thought they would.

------------

When Sherlock is fourteen, he becomes obsessed with the Carl Powers case in the papers. He points out to anyone who will listen that the boy's shoes were missing, but no one is really too interested. He writes to the newspaper, but his letter is studiously ignored, as are his second, third and fourth.

When he lies in bed at night he wishes (privately, secretly) that Mycroft were here. Mycroft would listen.

Sherlock considers phoning him, telling him about the shoes. Mycroft would see it too, instantly, that this is a flaw in the story. Probably only Mycroft in the world, who would see this one too.

But in the end he doesn't.

Sherlock doesn't like asking for help.

In Sherlock's fourteenth year, Mycroft is in his second at Oxford. He meets a stunning, persistent girl called Evelyn, who is tipped for big things in the law. She becomes the first person Mycroft has ever slept with, though she doesn't amuse him greatly, and his desire for sex isn't particularly high. He could do without her but she is unfailingly convenient. For some reason she makes him miss home more than ever, possibly because this false closeness reminds him of real closeness - real closeness long gone.

He kisses her slowly, carefully, and his body does the rest.

In that second summer home, Sherlock watches him walk through the door, goes to look away and then sharply looks back. Mycroft thought he'd hidden all obvious traces but... some people can read underneath your skin. Sherlock looks at him strangely - more hurt than he has ever been, and after that he doesn't even struggle to be civil in front of Mummy.

When Mycroft goes back to Oxford for the new term, he is glad to be away.

-----------

When Sherlock is fifteen, he successfully deduces the identity of the thief who steals the television from the staff room at school. He tells Mummy, though it's hardly the job of running the government, and she pats him on the head in a condescending manner. He breaks her heart twice with his behaviour, but she never says a word.

When Sherlock turns sixteen, he ignores all of the letters his brother sends him asking him to visit his new London flat. He gathers them into one great pile and burns them in the fireplace on a cold winter afternoon as he sits and does the crossword by himself. The grandfather ticks away in the background, but Sherlock barely hears it over the roaring in his own ears.

He has absolutely no idea why he feels so angry.

------------

At the age of seventeen, Sherlock comes rather late to sex.

It happens in the summer, just after the end of school. Mycroft has been home for two weeks (taking a long, extended break; he can do that now he's in charge) and he practically watches it happen. He isn't surprised that it's taken until now; Sherlock's brain reaches conclusions faster than most other people, but there are still some things he's slow at.

Mycroft knows this because he is too.

One morning he wakes up early and finds Sherlock stuffing sheets into the washing machine in the kitchen.

"Is everything alright?"

Sherlock glares at him, presumably just for being there. "Fine." They are still at open hostilities. Mycroft has learnt to deal with it - to a certain extent - by now.

"Can I help?" The door of the washing machine is slammed, dials turned. "Did you put the softener in?"

Sherlock's finger hovers of the start button. He's never been very practical; able, yes, but too lazy to learn the things that don't concern him. "What do you mean?"

Mycroft crosses the kitchen to his brother, feet cold on the stone flooring that hasn't yet been warmed by the sun from the window. He retrieves the fabric softener from the laundry cupboard. "This, in the top drawer there. Not too much."

He tries not to take over, not to condescend. He watches as the taut, pulled lines in Sherlock's shoulders shift as he reaches for the bottle, their fingers brushing as he does so. Mycroft wants to touch him, has to dig his nails into his palms not to.

This is something new he's discovered this time since he's been home. It alarms him slightly, but explains things too. It's another thing he's trying to come to terms with. Sometimes he thinks nothing would surprise him between himself and Sherlock.

"Thank you," Sherlock says. It's grudging, like the words taste like ash in his mouth. Mycroft remembers the little boy who used to eat jelly worms with him and tries not to sigh.

"Would you like tea?" He asks, mostly just to get Sherlock to stay. They've been avoiding each other until now - mutually this time, since Mycroft first walked into the study upon arriving home and found Sherlock lying gracefully on the couch, all long limbs and painful, sharp cheekbones. He's been trying not to look, since then.

"I have better things to do," Sherlock announces, clearly trying to appear lofty. But really he's embarrassed, obvious from the angle of his chin, the high colour of his ears. Sherlock forgets that Mycroft was there when he was three, supposed to be potty trained but found in a puddle on the landing.

He disappears from the kitchen and Mycroft is left, two cups already out.

He listens to the kettle boil, testing his patience.

The days, oddly, are the most comfortable despite the fact that they stretch out ahead of them. Mostly they're spent in the garden, where Sherlock is usually hidden beneath the parasol, reading a book. Mycroft tries his hand at some gardening, reassured by the fact that he can look up and see him there, safe. He's started to worry Sherlock's body will take over that sane, rational brain of his and he'll just get into bed with the first half decent person that he sees - once or twice Mycroft felt like doing that, in the first few months, and Sherlock has always been the more unreliable of the two. If he wants something, he doesn't think about the consequences. Mycroft gets a thick, heavy anger in his stomach when he imagines Sherlock getting into bed with someone unsuitable.

With anyone, actually.

Anyone who isn't him.

It's unusual, of course. But then it's always been unusual. Different. Mycroft thinks society doesn't count, here in this house. Perhaps he's getting used to the idea a little too easily.

Perhaps now he's actually acknowledged the desire in his brain, it's a slight relief.

In the evenings, things are very different though.

Mummy likes them all around the table, which means chit-chat, despite the fact Sherlock is now seemingly glued to his book and brings it to the dining room with him. There is a tense, sharp edge to him and he ignores everyone else as much as possible, but often Mycroft catches him looking at his book without reading. Ten minutes, Mycroft counts, that he spends on one page. His eyes are glazed and gazing at the text instead of flickering carefully over the words. Mycroft wonders what he's thinking about, biting his lip and making it red like that.

He swallows hard himself, concentrates on the pattern on the china, refuses to think.

And then in the sitting room afterwards, Sherlock spread out on the couch. Mycroft raises his eyes over the top of the newspaper and watches him, back arching as he shifts to get comfortable. There is something cat-like about him, something fluid and beautiful that Mycroft never sees in himself. He wonders how they came from the same genetics, Sherlock with his poise and charisma (drawing people to him even if he does immediately push them away) and Mycroft feeling clumsy and uncoordinated. Sherlock fascinates him, though now it sparkles in a way it never did. It draws Mycroft's eye even when he knows that's the last thing it should do.

He knows that this has a danger about it that very little else does. It gives him an itch beneath his skin.

He's so busy thinking that he doesn't realise Sherlock is now watching him too. For a second there is an unreadable, cool look leveled at him, then Mycroft smiles tightly, looks back down at his newspaper. He remembers to scan the words left to right, in case Sherlock is watching him. The words manage to blur before his eyes, however.

----------

That summer it is almost unbearably hot, right from the first few days of July.

Mycroft finds him almost impossibly easy to read, now that he's looking for it - the flush in Sherlock's cheeks, the blown, embarrassed pupils when he has no control over it. He keeps touching his mouth too, and it's like a study in body language that Mycroft finds it impossible to look away from. He barely says a word one morning when Sherlock chastises him relentlessly over the breakfast table for some tiny thing or other. He remembers that feeling of self control on edge constantly and just lets it go, listening to the coarse, impolite words that logically mean very little.

It upsets Mummy, Sherlock's outburst, but Mycroft watches him storm out moments later and accepts that possibly it's all just a process, something he needs to get out of his system.

He just hopes Sherlock's brain catches up with him some time soon. Quickly, before their entire symbiosis is in tatters.

----------

It is a warm, heavy Wednesday afternoon when something first happens. Sherlock is sitting on the bench swing beneath the shade, feet up on a lawn chair when Mycroft finishes his gardening. He can feel his shoulders beginning to burn despite the sun cream, and he stands up straight, hands pressed into the base of his back to ease the ache where he's been kneeling all afternoon. He feels sleepy from the sun, ready to collapse somewhere quietly, escape the world.

When he sits down on the bench swing, he doesn't expect Sherlock to flinch away so quickly.

Mycroft breathes out slowly, ignoring the slight. He shuts his eyes, rests his head back on the swing and tries to diffuse his frustration. He is still reminding himself that Sherlock is struggling with this when -

There is a knee carefully pressed against his.

Mycroft shifts, returns the pressure and feels a dark, hot leap in his stomach when a calf moves next to his.

It's hardly anything, barely there at all and yet there is a sensation like electricity all along his skin. When he opens his eyes he finds Sherlock has his screwed shut, tightly, resolutely. Testing the water, Mycroft lets his foot fall to the side, resting against Sherlock's. When he shifts his toes, curling them gently, there is a short but obvious exhalation of held breath beside him.

It feels like static in the air until -

The house doors fly open across the garden and immediately Sherlock curls away, puts as much space between Mycroft's body and his own.

It's like a physical pain.

But then Mummy is in the garden telling them all about the funny turn the postman has just had whilst delivering a parcel and the heat feels like it might suffocate Mycroft altogether.

-----------

After dinner, they all retire to the sitting room.

It's stuffy from being shut up all day but someone has flung the windows wide and whilst they sit reading or filling in the crossword, the sounds of late evening flood inside the house. There is a blackbird outside on the laurel bush singing clearly and Mycroft remembers why he enjoys being out of London.

He is just turning the page of his book when Sherlock reads a crossword clue aloud. It takes a few seconds but then he looks up and meets Mycroft's eyes, stare hard and challenging like he's daring him to back out.

Swiftly, Mycroft replies.

It doesn't take them long to get the whole thing done between them (Mycroft times it on the grandfather, much faster than when they were children) and the sounds of them working in harmony clearly please Mummy.

After that there is an odd kind of truce until bedtime, a tentative, careful air between all of them. Mycroft catches Sherlock watching him three times, but each one he looks instantly away when caught. It has his nerves tied in knots by the end of the night.

Behind the safe, closed door of his bedroom, Mycroft removes the thin cotton shirt that has been sticking to his back all evening from the humidity. He considers showering for a second time that day but the lure of his bed is too much, covers thrown back and off until he's lying there blissfully still, waiting for sleep. He thinks of work, coping resiliently without him, the office thundering on despite his absence. He could get used to not being needed, thinks of the silence of the Diogenes Club and wishes for the briefest of moments he was there.

The door handle to his room is so silently opened that Mycroft almost misses it, save for the click the lock makes as it eases back shut. He turns quickly in bed, sees Sherlock standing there in front of the quiet fireplace and the noise of his own heartbeat flares in his ears.

"Sherlock," he says, though his brother doesn't exactly answer, just steps around the bed as though he's utterly meant to be there and climbs in beside Mycroft on the mattress.

It's been years since they stopped needing actual words, anyway.

There is a hard sort of defiance in Sherlock's eyes again, the type he wore earlier as though daring Mycroft to ignore him. It sparks a fierce curl of something like pride in Mycroft's chest and he realises there is a reason he has always been jealous of Sherlock's reckless determination. He's grateful one of them has it, even if it's not him.

When he curls up closely against him on the bed, Mycroft can feel the unfamiliar sensation of body heat. It flips his stomach and he watches carefully as Sherlock glances at his mouth, licks his lips and then - hesitantly - leans in to kiss him.

Mycroft has to remind himself not to just reach out and grab.

Sherlock is clearly learning as he goes, and Mycroft angles his head slightly, just to make it easier for him. It's slow at first, slow and exploratory, and he waits for Sherlock to nudge against his open mouth before he introduces the swipe of his tongue, just to show how it's done. Sherlock picks up where he left off and suddenly they're kissing, heatedly, and Mycroft can feel the need coming off him in waves. It's that too-fast, desperate kind of feeling that he remembers well, and he lets Sherlock push him back down against the cool of the sheets, taking his weight easily.

At some point he realises he must have parted his legs because Sherlock is now lying between them, arching into Mycroft like a lithe cat. His hands slip down Sherlock's shoulders, along his back and into the base of his spine to pull him flush and closer as they pant against one another's mouths. The warmth of the room seems to close in around them as Mycroft bites at his bottom lip and Sherlock groans, sharp and cut off like he wasn't expecting it. He drives his hips down further, crushing them together through their flimsy pyjama bottoms (matching, gifts last Christmas from some auntie or other who always gets them the same in case there is rivalry - as though they can't create that all by themselves) and Mycroft raises his knees, plants his feet so that he can arch upwards too, matching the action.

Sherlock breathes against his mouth at that, as though in agreement as their kisses lose all sense of coordination. The arms either side of him keeping Sherlock upright seem to fail and he falls down onto his elbows, burying his face in the side of Mycroft's neck as he does so, noise in the back of his throat raw and involuntary. Turning his head to the side to kiss at the pale whorl of his ear and moving up into his hair, Mycroft slips his hands down into the waist of Sherlock's pyjamas, rocking him encouragingly for a moment before sliding thumbs underneath his hips and lifting him up. When Sherlock raises himself, Mycroft edges his pants down and away until he's blissfully naked.

Feet kicking the last of the pyjamas away at the base of the bed, Sherlock manages to raise himself up again on his hands until they're looking intently at one another. There is a brief, unexpected moment of stillness after all their frenzied movement and all Mycroft can hear in the quiet of the room is their matching, uneven breathing. Sherlock sounds as though he's been running a race and Mycroft considers the possibility of the room spinning away from him. He lifts his chin slightly until Sherlock reaches down and carefully kisses him, soft and precise and achingly long. Sherlock's hips under his fingers dip slightly, trying to roll against him, and Mycroft reaches around to touch him.

At the feeling of fingers grasping him, Sherlock stutters their kiss. He lets their foreheads fall against one another and lets his nose touch against Mycroft's, butting him carefully as he rocks his hips slowly, pushing himself into Mycroft's hand. He's achingly hard and all Mycroft can hear is the staccato of his breathing. He feels as though he's hanging onto his own control by a thread as his hips rise instinctively, demanding attention, and whilst keeping his eyes on the trembling, determined set of his brother's bruised lips, Mycroft uses his free hand to push his own pyjamas down just enough so that he can touch himself too.

When he realises what is happening, Sherlock's eyes flicker open and he glances down, watching his brother's hands curled around the both of them. He clearly falters, caught by the sight and then he's kissing Mycroft again, harsh and fast as the rhythm of his hips snaps up and then he is coming, hard and messy over the both of them. The silent catch of his breath and then the quiet groan finish Mycroft too, following him quickly until they're both sprawled and messy, Sherlock collapsed on his shoulder.

Mycroft waits until his breathing is more even before he reaches down and kisses the top of Sherlock's head. He gets a swift bite to the collar bone in return and his body shudders with the sensation. Sherlock does it again in response.

"I can't sleep in this heat," Sherlock says, rolling onto his back beside Mycroft on the pillow. His leg curls up underneath the familiar calf he was resting against this afternoon and his voice is neutral for the first time in months.

Mycroft leans up on one elbow, moves in to gently kiss the exposed skin of Sherlock's neck and after a second or two a lazy hand winds into his hair. Something inside him relaxes that had been tensed for a long time. He moves up over the fine point of Sherlock's jaw and reaches his mouth, being kissed thoroughly in return.

"Shall I run us a bath?" Mycroft asks. Sherlock's eyes as they meet his seem unguarded. For now.

"Yes," Sherlock replies. So he does.