It is in a hot summer night when Mycroft Holmes is fifteen that he decides to come out to his parents. It is a decision that has been working its way up into his consciousness for months now, but strangely enough it is his little brother who gives him the decisive nudge.
Not that Sherlock is in any way aware of what is going through Mycroft's head. No, right this moment his brother is burrowing in under Mycroft's arm, still sniveling a little, the sharp angles of his five-year old body uncomfortable and bony against Mycroft's side. Mycroft gently moves Sherlock's hand from where it is resting on his left breast – Sherlock has no sense of decorum and it is not a body part he is comfortable being reminded of.
“Nightmare?” Mycroft asks. It's a pretty safe bet, but he has read somewhere that it helps children to talk about their bad dreams. Sherlock, who isn't big on words, just nods against him and Mycroft decides not to force it. Forcing Sherlock is seldom a good idea.
They simply lie there in Mycroft's bed for a bit, and Mycroft has just finished a mental outline for his history paper, when Sherlock suddenly sits up and looks down at him.
His hair is a mess and his nose is running but his face is deadly serious as he asks: “Why are you never afraid of anything?”
Mycroft flinches, the question is appallingly well timed, tugging at his conscience. He decides to be honest.
“I'm afraid of things, too, Sherlock.”
“Of what?” Sherlock's eyes have narrowed suspiciously and if Mycroft had been toying with the idea of feeding him some sort of age-appropriate story about fearing the neighbour's dog, he gives it up immediately. Even at five, Sherlock is smarter than most adults he knows.
“I'm frightened of talking to Mummy and Father at dinner tomorrow.”
Sherlock looks puzzled. Their parents aren't too bright and tediously conventional but, on the whole, not particularly scary.
“Why, did you do something wrong?”
The question is innocent, the confusion sincere, but Mycroft still has difficulty swallowing as he shakes his head. He knows that he has done nothing wrong but he still can't help the dreadful feeling of guilt at the disappointment his parents are going to experience tomorrow. He sternly tells himself that Sherlock does not do well when people around him start emoting and tries to compose himself.
“No, I didn't do anything wrong. I just.... I have to tell them something about myself they will not want to hear.” Sherlock cocks his head to the side questioningly, a gesture left over from the time he mostly talked in sign.
“I want them to call me Mycroft,” he explains, “I want them to acknowledge that I'm a boy.”
Sherlock looks more confused than ever.
“But Mycroft is your name.”
Mycroft almost laughs at that, feeling an unexpected surge of affection for his little brother. It is true, here, behind the closed doors of his bedroom he has always been Mycroft. At least for Sherlock and himself. “Yes, but you know that Mummy and Father call me Bellamy, right?”
Sherlock shrugs. “We call Mummy "Mummy" and Father "Father" but Mrs Herringford calls them Mr and Mrs Holmes.”
“This is....slightly different. I don't want you to call me Mycroft because you're my brother, I want you to call me Mycroft because that's my name. And I want them to call me that, too. And people at school, when I go back after the holidays. I want them to say “he” when they talk about me and know I'm a boy.”
Sherlock lies down again, nestling back into the crook of Mycroft's arms with a “harrumph” that sounds slightly disappointed. He yawns.
“That's easy then,” he says sleepily, “just tell them.”
Mycroft sighs. He doesn't think his parents will agree.
His parents do not take it well.
Mycroft has prepared himself, he has a pile of books and medical journals with the relevant articles carefully marked, but his father still turns deathly pale while his mother starts to weep silently.
Sherlock sits in his chair, watching the spectacle with his mouth hanging open until Mummy remembers his presence and sends him from the room because “this isn't fit for children's ears."
Later, as Mycroft paces in front of his open window, trying to get a handle at his impotent rage, Sherlock silently slips into his room. He curls up on the window seat, knees drawn up to his chest, watching Mycroft walk back and forth.
Finally he says: “Why are they so angry?”
Mycroft can feel his mouth twist in disgust. “They think I am doing this to spite them,” he finally says, “and they're afraid that I am not, because that would make me a pervert and them the parents of one.”
Sherlock, thankfully, doesn't ask what a pervert is. But then, he has a tendency to read the OED from front to back when he's bored, so he probably doesn't need to.
He chews on his lip for a bit before looking at Mycroft with furrowed brows and saying: “You have always been a boy. They're just being stupid!”
With that, he jumps up and runs out of the room, his naked feet pattering on the wooden floors as he retreats into his own bedroom.
Mycroft stays in front of the open window for a long time, looking out over the moon-lit lawn. He thinks that Sherlock is right but that he is still only fifteen. His parents might be stupid but he still has to live in their world.
Sherlock helps him observe. They go to the swimming pool – even though his mother wrinkles her nose and tell him it is both common and unhygienic – and to the park and try to figure out just what it is that men do. For a small boy with limited social skills, Sherlock is remarkably good at picking up on tiny details Mycroft might have missed on his own: The way men will usually sit facing each other in cafes instead of next to each other, the way they tilt their heads less in conversation, how they spread out their limbs and their things to claim space.
For Sherlock, this is a fun game and Mycroft is both happy to have the company and glad that he somehow managed to find a way to interest his brother in other people – if only as an observer. For Mycroft, this is deadly serious.
Every time he walks into the gents' at the swimming pool, his heart beats frantically under his improvised binder. He concentrates on putting into effect everything they've observed, taking long, confident strides, keeping his head up but avoiding eye-contact. Men don't communicate when using the loo.
He gets funny looks, once or twice, but the longer he practices the less he seems to stand out.
He practices walking at home in his room, Sherlock eying him critically from the floor where he is reading a botany book.
“Well,” he asks, finally, “what do you think?”
Sherlock thinks for a moment and then shakes his head. He gets up and walks up and down, swaying drunkenly from side to side.
Mycroft raises one eyebrow. “Nobody actually walks like that.”
Sherlock just shrugs and goes back to his book.
Mycroft shakes his head but tries it out in front of the mirror. And really, once he lets his shoulders and hips move with him a little more, once he widens his stance and takes up more room with his whole body – it begins to come together.
The only person at school who understands is Mrs Evans, the sociology teacher. She listens to him carefully and always apologises whenever she slips up on the pronouns. Mycroft loves her more than is probably healthy.
One might argue that he became interested in politics to please Mrs Evans – and one would be wrong. During his observations with Sherlock, Mycroft realises that people are thoroughly fascinating but, on the whole, oblivious. He begins to experiment, pitching his voice higher and lower, purposefully altering his body posture, and observes the different reactions he gets.
As a boy, it is easy to charm elderly women into giving him access to their houses and all kinds of information, especially if he pretends he is doing a community survey. He could easily have robbed any number of houses in the neighbourhood and is appalled at how easy it is to steal identities. He doesn't – boring – but that is hardly the point. When he presents as female, tears and flirtatious glances turn out to be his most effective weapon, especially against men. His ability to manipulate people, to take one glance at them and know how he can make them do what he wants them to, gives him a quiet satisfaction.
At school he is always studiously and explicitly male – his classmates have a hard enough time remembering his name as it is. Here, he learns to judge the power structure of a group with a single glance, to always know who is watching him, to subtly tweak the existing dynamics and web of relations in his favour. He carefully observes who wields power and how, how leaders are chosen and disposed, how the most effective rumours are constructed.
It starts out as the simple imperative to survive in an environment where he is seen as freakish and discomfiting, where he upsets people's ideas of themselves so much they start to hate him. In the end, it becomes a game he plays for entertainment. Sherlock has his violin, Mycroft has people.
By the time he starts university, he has had top surgery and become very adept at power games. He is never officially elected into office in any capacity but he sees to it that everybody, from the leader of the Student Union to the Chancellor is “willing to take his advice."
Uni is also where he meets Claire. Claire is working towards her PhD in engineering and she doesn't have a political bone in her body. She is smart, has a distinctive and unconventionally beautiful face, and Mycroft finds her wonderful and fascinating.
He takes her out for dates, to concerts and exhibitions, and then lightly kisses her on the cheek when they part, unsure of how to proceed.
In the end, he invites her to his parents' house for a weekend.
His parents' attitude towards him is, while not outright supportive, at least grudgingly accepting by now. Mycroft attributes a lot of that to the fact that he managed to find an artist in their town's tiny community of radicals who was willing to sell him T on the sly. It had taken several months of stalking some of the more drug enthusiastic boys in his form but it had been well worth it in Mycroft's opinion. In the middle of his last year of school, his voice had finally started to drop perceptibly and a meager but obvious layer of stubble had appeared on his chin. His parents, who are studiously avoiding learning anything about his condition, had nevertheless found it increasingly difficult to address him by his female name. He has no idea how they are making sense of his transformation – maybe they assume he has mastered an obscure branch of the dark arts – but right now all he cares about is the fact that they are gone for the weekend.
Claire is delighted by the ancient grounds and sprawling mansion. It is Sunday afternoon and they are just coming back in for tea, when he finally decides to explain his situation to her.
“I....I don't understand.” She is biting her lip in confusion and has taken a step back from him, crossing her arms protectively in front of herself.
“I was born as a girl but I now I am a man.” It's a horrifyingly inaccurate description of his situation, of course, but one he has found useful when explaining himself to people.
She shakes her head. “I...just. Um. I'm not sure....” Then her eyes open wide. “Wait, are you telling me you're a lesbian?”
“No, he is telling you he is a transsexual man. Didn't you listen?” Mycroft has no idea where his brother suddenly came from, he seems to materialise out of thin air. Standing next to Mycroft, the look he directs at Claire is both annoyed and disdainful. “Why do people have to be so stupid? It isn't a hard concept to grasp.”
Mycroft wants to be furious at Sherlock for inserting himself into a conversation that is very much none of his business, and for ruining any chances at explaining things to Claire while she is still willing to listen, but he is honest enough to realise that these chances seem to be small in any case.
Claire looks from him to Sherlock and back again and then covers her hand with her mouth. She shakes her head and begins to walk, leaving them standing in the middle of the gravel path.
Sherlock looks at him curiously as Mycroft tries very hard not to show any of the anger and hurt he is currently feeling.
“Why do you care so much?” Sherlock finally asks. “Caring is not an advantage.”
Mycroft turns on his heel, gravel crunching sharply and walks off as quickly as he can before he does the unthinkable and hits Sherlock. He fumes for a long time and then decides that his brother is right. The only thing caring does is slow you down and make you vulnerable and Mycroft Holmes has no time for either of these things. He has things to do and places to be.
He stops dating after this. His sex life, interestingly enough, becomes much more enjoyable once he starts telling people upfront that he is not in it for the emotional commitment.
“Your brother used to be a woman?” John's voice has gone high, almost hysterical on the last word. Sarah, next to him on the sofa, rolls her eyes in an exaggerated fashion that makes Sherlock like her a little more.
He heaves a sigh. “No, John, Mycroft has always been male. It just took society some time to realise it.” Really, he had expected better from John, who is currently opening and closing his mouth like a demented guppy. Then John's eyes go wide.
“Hang on, has he had surgery? Or does Mycroft actually have a – ”
“John!” Sherlock's voice has gone sharp with annoyance because really, it would be nice if every once in a while somebody could deviate from this tedious script. “I am not talking about my brother's genitals. Ever! And neither will you! It is none of my business and it is certainly none of yours!”
John is still staring at him, eyes wide, his face a textbook picture of shocked surprise, but Sarah has clearly had enough.
“For God's sake, John,” she says as she gets up and grabs her handbag. “Read a bloody book and get over yourself, will you? And call me when you are less of a transphobic arse.” With that she is gone, which is a pity, really, as she has just gone up several notches in Sherlock's estimation.
It takes John some time to wrap his head around the concept and Sherlock is finally reduced to getting out the box of books he keeps under his bed for this explicit purpose.
A week later, John has made his way though most of the box and has apologised to Sherlock and, apparently, to Sarah for being an “insensitive berk”. He has even asked Sherlock several questions that show he has managed to get over his initial fascinated surprise and was able to re-learn basic human civility where people's privacy is concerned.
Mycroft comes by and John behaves just as he always has: Offering tea and then retreating to his room to leave them to bicker in peace. Mycroft still knows, of course, indicating this by raising a carefully tweezed eyebrow, but neither of them feel the need to talk about it.
It is several weeks later, as they are sitting at the breakfast table and John is reading the paper, that he suddenly looks up at Sherlock and says: “Wait, if Mycroft is trans – does that mean, when The Gender Recognition Act passed, that was him? “
Sherlock looks up from the article on blood stain analysis he is reading. “What? Oh, yes, that. That was Mycroft. He was quite unbearably pleased with himself.”
John's face shows the look of slowly dawning understanding Sherlock likes so much. “The Parliamentary Forum on Transsexualism? NHS coverage? GIRES?” he asks. “Oh my God, the transwoman winning Big Brother?!”
Sherlock just smiles smugly and goes back to reading his paper.