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A Study in Patience (The Independant Variable Remix)

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His brother is dead. Mycroft is, of course, informed of this fact mere moments after Sherlock's typically melodramatic plunge from the roof. The expediency hardly matters a whit, save as opportunity to stop and take the briefest of moments to sigh and pick up his phone.

There won't be a text, of course. If the scene went the way Mycroft expects that it did, then Sherlock wouldn't have had any time. No matter, he can easily deduce what his brother has in mind. He always has.

There are certain responsibilities inherent in being firstborn to a family such as theirs. The obvious ones of title and inheritance are hardly more than middling concerns to a man of Mycroft's stature. He leaves such matters in his assistant's most capable hands so that he might focus on other, more important affairs―of which there are many.

He is a Holmes and, however much his younger brother might play at eschewing familial bonds, so is Sherlock. However else they might allow things between them to become, they have always had certain understandings between them. Drumming fingers against his desk, Mycroft considers the plan they have sketched between them, woven beneath snide texts and frosty emails, and feels something that lessers might term apprehension.

Mycroft Holmes is a man who appreciates variables in a theoretical fashion whilst, in practice, controlling them to the nth degree. By contrast, Sherlock's enthusiastic embracing of their possibilities is positively maddening. Particularly when he is forcing Mycroft to embrace them as he is now.

There are far too many of those variables in Sherlock's plan, and yet...

He has always had an innate understanding of his position and what is expected versus what needs be. Long before Mummy placed the squalling bundle that would be Sherlock into his arms, murmuring of care and support, Mycroft had accepted the responsibilities that had befallen him.

Granted, he had not imagined they would be so byzantine in nature or, worse, unpredictable.

He leaves his office, schooling his features into the appropriate approximation of shock and sorrow. "In retrospect, I likely should have."

 

*

Alive, James Moriarty was an inconvenience and an embarrassment. In his more generous moments, Mycroft might have termed him a nuisance. For all the promise of his intellect and his occasional moments of genius, the man was a disappointment.

It's been years since they had a proper adversary, one who could properly keep up. Mycroft had, privately of course, hoped for a decent challenge for once.

Yes, alive James Moriarty was very much a disappointment, but in death there is, at least, the promised redemption of an opportunity. "We shall soon see, shall we not?" he asks quietly, standing over the man's corpse.

Mycroft regards the man with disinterest as Miss Hooper whisks about behind him. For all Sherlock's disdain, the woman goes about her business with admirable focus, considering she is both committing fraud and possibly violating any number of her personal ethics to help them. He really ought to give consideration to hiring her (a person of her profession is, on occasion, extremely useful to have on staff) and makes a note to do so later.

Right now, certain responsibilities are raising their fraternal heads.

"Really, Sherlock," he says, looking down at his brother's bruised and bloodied face. "Was this the best you could manage?"

Sherlock's eyes flick open, disdain instantly settling upon his features. "Under the circumstances? Yes." He sits up, moving so carefully that Mycroft is uncomfortably reminded of numerous A&E visits that had been part and parcel of Sherlock's pharmaceutical flirtations. "John?"

"Alive and well," Mycroft says. "All but one of the would-be assassins have been captured."

Sherlock takes the bag he holds out, rummaging through the change of clothes that Desdemona (the name of the day, he believes) had procured from a charity shop nearby. "As expected."

"Yes, as expected." Mycroft produces his mobile, turning it so Sherlock might see the face on its screen. "Colonel Sebastian Moran." Moriarty's answer to John Watson and the very literal man behind the monster.

Sherlock takes in the report, reads it quickly, and then turns away. "Yes."

This would be, Mycroft knows, where some would wish his brother good hunting. He says nothing of the sort. Sherlock would not hear it even if he did.

"Before you do, however, there is a small matter that needs seeing to." While he has deduced Sherlock's reasoning, Mycroft is not particularly thrilled with the necessary deception where John Watson is concerned. The depth of the man's grief will most certainly put proof to the lie, which is moderately useful, but Mycroft would have much rather have seen him here at Sherlock's side.

Infinitely more reassuring when he contemplates the course which lies ahead.

Sherlock nods. "Yes, there is." He sets down the clothing, hands smoothing the worn fabric of the trousers until he finally meets Mycroft's eye. "Several of them, and all will be well in hand."

There is a request in those words, and the expression on Sherlock's face is as close to a plea as Mycroft's ever heard from him.

He looks at his brother. Sherlock stares back. If they were anyone other than who they are...

 

*

They are not, of course, and he makes his promise in the silence between them instead.

*

Mycroft leaves St. Bartholomew's with two things. One is a rather ludicrous attempt at a last will and testament (though, to be fair, he supposes it is vintage Sherlock to handle things this way) and the other is a family heirloom he's not seen before today.

It is a rather delightful piece of engineering. Holding the mourning locket up before him in the car, he surveys it with interest. "Almost impossible to see."

"What, sir?" Desdemona (no, Erecura today, it is past midnight after all and she has been quite prompt about that lately) asks, drawing her gaze from her mobile.

"The mourning locket."

He presents it for her perusal without further elaboration. She is a brilliant woman; he would accept nothing less from someone in her position, and it takes her only marginally longer to see it than he did.

She turns it this way and that, weighs it in her hand, and then looks at him. "Hidden microchip?"

"Oh, nothing quite so mundane." Mycroft takes back the locket. "I must give my little brother credit. The engineering involved is truly impressive."

The locket is not overly large; the idea that there is a tiny device within it capable of wireless communication and immense data storage gives much credit to technology's advancement and his brother's ingenuity.

And paranoia. For as much as it will contain the entirety of his quest to dismantle Moriarty’s organization, it will also keep John's coordinates easily accessible to Sherlock wherever he might be.

Quite clever, really, hiding such a powerful piece of technology inside such a delicate antique.

Mycroft returns it to his pocket with a sensation that just might be pride.

*

John is shattered, of course. Mycroft knows the sensation well, but it is still frustrating when the man eschews all attempts at communication (even ignoring Philomena's request that he attend the reading of the will) and thereby denies him the opportunity to carry out Sherlock's request. It's almost worrying.

Mycroft has waited on people before, of course. It's rather tedious, but it is John and Mycroft has promised. He's taken John on as his responsibility and―he frowns, settling into Sherlock's chair and staring into the empty flat. John is a peculiar variable, the one he's not quite been able to work out.

Oh, deducing the man is easy enough. He is a shockingly simple sort that way, but that's the great trick of John Watson. Easy enough to sort out when examining his component parts; put him into action at Sherlock's side and find yourself faced with the greatest of mysteries.

Nothing about the two makes sense and Mycroft smiles at that. It's so refreshing.

*

Days pass without any sign of John's return to the flat. Days become weeks, turning Mycroft's habitual visits into a ritual of sorts. Each day, he visits the flat with the mourning locket (and its hidden cargo) tucked into his suit coat pocket.

For the sentimental, the flat might feel empty, cold, but Mycroft is not sentimental. Never has been. The flat is empty because its inhabitants are elsewhere and cold because no one requires it be anything else.

Simple, that.

He takes his seat in Sherlock's chair to wait and resolutely does not enjoy the knowledge of Sherlock's certain irritation were he to know. He doesn't wait long each day, an hour or sometimes two, time passed with his mobile and paperwork. The locket sits atop Sherlock's hastily scrawled will and the folder of his assets beneath it, ignored whilst Mycroft listens for John's step.

It's a month before he hears it. The gait is slow, plodding, and yes, there is the unsteady hesitation that suggests John's leg is about to give him trouble again.

John has finally come home.

Mycroft lifts his head and touches the locket where it rests, preparing himself to play a role. John will not take the locket easily and it will not do for John to realize there is more to it than simple grief.

It is not difficult to imagine how this conversation will go; John is grieving. Moreover, he is broken-hearted and angry. He won't want to hear any of it, but Mycroft must make him. Sherlock's estate matters little, it will be looked after for John if John won't do it himself, but the locket...

Whatever else happens, Sherlock has made the request. Mycroft will see it through; he schools his features as John steps through the door.

As expected, he looks anywhere but at the chair where Mycroft sits. Unexpected, though, is the weight that Mycroft feels when he speaks.

"Doctor."

John.

Mycroft watches him turn, reading the pain writ large in every line on the man's face, and breathes deep.

Surprising, really, just how much this actually hurts.

"What are you doing here?" John asks, his hand grasping at the air. It's little more than a faint flick of the fingers; John likely hasn't even noticed, but it's enough to tell the tale.

Mycroft tries to smile. "Waiting for you."

*

The text arrives mere moments after Mycroft closes his eyes. As always, Sherlock's timing is impeccable.

Thank you

Mycroft holds the phone before him, staring at the screen and the unfamiliar words so bright in the dark. He thinks of John's face, the bitterness in the man's voice when they'd spoken and his inability to notice the peculiar way Mycroft had spoken.

There's no way to explain that to Sherlock, not now, but perhaps he doesn't need to.

Be advised. Dead men don't text.

The reply to that comes swiftly.

This one does.

Dropping the phone onto the polished wood of the table, Mycroft closes his eyes with a smile.

Variables.