They’ve both had just enough wine to be slightly inebriated and they’re tangled in sheets, the curtains open and the light of a full moon illuminating them just enough. Mycroft is sufficiently distracted, but he becomes aware that John is measuring his heartbeat by feeling each of the twenty pulse points that he’s able to reach. It strikes Mycroft as being terribly intimate, and he is also astonished by a rather sobering reality: this is one of the few times that he is able to exist in the moment. So much of his life is spent anticipating and planning and staying one step ahead. Minutes with John are stolen.
Mycroft wants to ask, suddenly, but dismisses the thought as maudlin.
John still has his ardent admiration for Sherlock’s deductions, and, though his exclamations are fewer and lesser, he still isn’t shy about expression. Their’s is a friendship that has been tested and come out stronger each time, and it’s one that Mycroft respects although he envies it.
He has always trusted his own observations, but it’s a dozen times before he files it away in a safe place, the looks of appreciation that John freely offers, his complete lack of shyness at the way he takes his hand or lets his admiration show in his eyes that anyone can decipher.
Somewhere after the hundredth time Mycroft truly begins to think it may be worth the risk, but it still feels so fragile.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Stage I, caught and treated early, in a person younger than 35, has a very high survival rate. Sherlock has all the right levels of hemoglobin and lymphocytes and white blood cells, and he recovers, returning to his usual insufferable self within months.
Mycroft repeats this to himself. It’s on a constant loop until the moment he allows himself to break down. John has his arms around him, somewhere in the midst of the simultaneous relief and terror, Mycroft has the sense of being anchored, and there is a vague reminder that this is what makes a seemingly ordinary man extraordinary.
But he’s not thinking clearly, muddled with emotion.
The seventeen steps to 221B may as well be seventeen-thousand, but the dread of returning to his empty house outweighs his exhaustion. Sherlock is playing the violin and the music pulls Mycroft through the door.
Sherlock stops, bow poised above the strings. “John would want you to wake him,” he says and returns to his playing.
Mycroft really does try to settle himself next to John as silently as possible, but the man blinks sleepily and pulls Mycroft closer after one brief, assessing look.
Mycroft buries his face in the area between John’s neck and shoulder, and ponders. The paradox has to be solved. John Watson deserves better than to be married to someone who can’t even begin to tell him what’s wrong, who must carry secrets constantly. But John understands, which is the rub, because that is exactly what Mycroft needs.
He decides he’ll sleep on it.
It’s not the first time that Mycroft has returned to his home to find John sprawled on a sofa, asleep, and it’s not the first time that he takes the time to drape a blanket over him. It is perhaps the hundredth time that he sits in an adjacent chair and simply watches John sleep.
It is, however, the first time that Mycroft has-observed certain realities.
John Watson is the personification of irony; a veritable catalyst of strength and extraordinariness wrapped in a small, unassuming frame. This has sat at the periphery of Mycroft’s knowledge, but is only now making its way into his consciousness.
Before John Watson, living was an imperative, his twenty pulse points needing to register because he was a cog, a wheel in the machines of the British government and keeping-Sherlock-Holmes-alive. Now living is a desire, his twenty pulse points thrumming along steadily.
Mycroft Holmes is a coward, because he does not wake John, does not dare to choose to believe that he is doing anything besides living within a cocktail of brain chemistry, biological reactions, and philosophy, because he is not like John, not brave enough to admit that he needs.
Normally, Mycroft is grateful for the silence of the Diogenes Club. But just the averting of government crises used to be cause for appreciation of the quiet moments, and it’s apparent now that all those moments are now absent of something important.
The appropriateness of the shattering of the quiet by that something important is frankly eerie.
“Holmes,” and Mycroft somehow knows that, when he turns around to see the man who dares to defy the traditions of the club, he will find his John looking slightly rumpled, defiant, and reckless.
He has to force himself to turn slowly.
“I was so alone before that name came into my life. But don’t you think for a moment that your brother should get all the credit.”
It really is the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to him.
John is in front of him in a few strides, down on one knee, taking Mycroft’s hands. “The answer is yes.”
“I haven’t asked any questions,” Mycroft can’t help the smile that twitches at the corner of his mouth.
“I deduced it,” John answers wryly, and leans in to claim Mycroft’s mouth. In the twenty seconds before they’re both bodily removed from the club, Mycroft concedes, acquiesces, forfeits, surrenders, and triumphs.