Sherlock is six years old the first time he crawls into Mycroft's bed instead of his mother's after a nightmare. He is small for his age, and would be thinner than he is if not for the remaining layer of what his mother adoringly calls "baby fat" as she pinches his cheeks hard enough to make him wince. His hair is a shock of black against his round, pale face, his eyes a light grey under dark eyelashes. Mycroft, however, is much different from him in nearly ever aspect possible, a spitting image of their father but for his brown hair. Mycroft is tall and almost imposing even though he's not quite what Sherlock considers an adult just yet (thirteen years old, more than he can count on his fingers, and that seems like so much to him sometimes), and that means that when Mycroft stands close to him, he feels protected.
There is a seven year difference between him and his brother. It's not a very large number (one hand and two fingers from the other) but it's enough to make him feel safe without pushing the line into making him feel threatened.
Sherlock's nightmare is stupid, and he knows it even as he pads down the hallways in his socks, which threaten to make him slip on the hardwood floor. Still, it is enough to scare him, and when he creeps into Mycroft's room, he doesn't hesitate before hoisting himself up onto his brother's bed and wiggling his way under one of those heavy arms. Mycroft murmurs in his sleep but just tightens his hold, and Sherlock buries his face into Mycroft's shirt and just listens to the solid, steady heartbeat in his chest for what must be at least ten minutes.
He doesn't go to Mummy because Mummy frightens him. Mycroft has never frightened him.
It is two o'clock in the morning, and Sherlock feels safe.
Sherlock is seven the first time asks.
"Tell me about Father."
They are seated in the study, where Sherlock is currently drawing a picture of a their family (though the clouds in the background don't look at all like real clouds; they're straight and aligned, each cloud's end touching the next cloud's beginning) and where Mycroft is sitting at his favorite desk studying something dull and insufferably grown-up. Mycroft doesn't look up from his work - a large book, about 230 pages thick, or at least it seems large compared to the books Sherlock himself can read. But he does answer, in his own way.
"Why?" Answering a request with a question is Mycroft's fashion. Sherlock finds it to be painfully irritating.
"I never knew him. I've only seen the photographs Mummy keeps in her drawin' room." He had thought it to be a fairly obvious reason. Sherlock had been five years old when Father died; that was a whole two years prior to the present, and Sherlock has an insatiable curiosity for what the man must have been like. The photographs are all of a man Sherlock can barely remember, and who looks strangely out of place when placed next to a mother Sherlock recognizes. Tall, blonde, plump and with a condescending expression on his face, his arm around his wife. Around Sherlock's mother.
Mycroft does look up now, and it takes only a few seconds for him to lean back and rummage in the pockets of his jacket for his watch. It's a pocket watch, like the kind the men in the old movies carry, and Mycroft always carries it on a long chain. He unhooks it and passes it to Sherlock with careful fingers. "This was Father's," he explains. "You can deduce what you're looking for."
This has always frustrated Sherlock because, as Mycroft puts it, it is a gift passed down to them from their father, and a gift that Sherlock has yet to perfect and hone. Their father had been a tradesman, nothing important though his political influence was apparently quite impressive, but Sherlock doesn't see why the art of being able to read someone's life story would be an important aspect in anything to do with trade. Still, he takes the watch, handling it a bit roughly at first because Mycroft hisses, "Careful!" harshly enough to make him flinch.
Carefully, he looks it over. "I..." Ashamed, quietly, "I don't see anything."
"Don't see. Observe. When is it dated?"
Suppressing a sigh, Sherlock pushes at the dial until the lid springs open, the date engraved on the inside. "1887," he replies. "This must have been one of our great-great-grandfathers' watch." Mycroft gives an approving smile, homework abandoned for the time being to simply watch. (Or observe, he corrects mentally.) "It's old, but it isn't scuffed like some of your things are... so people have been cleaning it. Taking care of it so it doesn't wear out. It's prolly really valuable." (Sherlock's vocabulary is impressive for his age and he knows it. He prefers big words - it makes him feel superior to his peers. Though at times, his childish accent does have him slurring some of his speech.) "Passed father to son. Sentimental."
"Obvious." Mycroft sounds bored, and now rests his temple on his fist, his elbow against the arm of the chair. "You're avoiding the topic of Father. What do you know about Father from looking at the watch? Look closer. You'll find what you're looking for, Sherlock."
Once again he finds himself staring intently at the object as though the answers will unfold before him. They won't. He knows that. His eyebrows knit in frustration but then he does note something. It's small and nearly insignificant, but it's there.
"Scratches around the dial where you go to wind the time." But this makes no sense. That wouldn't be where one would drop the phone; it must have come from hands. "Why?"
Mycroft quirks a small smile. "He went to wind the watch once a night, but his hands were shaking. Father was a drinker, Sherlock. You never see a sober man's watch with those scratches, and you never see a drunk's without them."
Sherlock feels himself pale at the thought and he hands back the watch as quickly as thought it has physically burned him. There is a short silence between them and the upsetting nature of the situation must read clearly on his face, because in the next moment, Mycroft is asking,
"Have I upset you?"
Sherlock's mouth thins and he shakes his head once. This is quite enough for one evening, and he proceeds to gather his drawing of Mummy and himself, and retreats to his bedroom instead.
When Father had first died, Mummy hadn't even cried. In fact, Sherlock didn't remember seeing her cry until the funeral, when she had sobbed quietly to herself as they watched the coffin lower six feet into the ground.
("Did you know," Mycroft whispers to him one week after the funeral service, "that originally they buried Latin children six feet underground so as to avoid their resurfacing? A silly myth. In reality, it is to prevent organisms from eating at the body, as well as a prevention of bringing the body back to the surface during a flood.")
Mummy is the strongest woman Sherlock knows, but then again, Sherlock doesn't know very many women other than Mrs. Wexler and Mrs. Hamilton who sometimes come by the house for tea. He has never seen her cry since the day of Father's funeral, and her insistence of perfection is something that Sherlock also sees as strength. He has never questioned her need for him to be perfect, because he assumes that all parents desire perfection from their children. Mycroft is perfect, so he should be too. It doesn't matter that the task is difficult to the point of near impossibility, because there's something the matter with him, mentally. He knows it even as a child; he doesn't function the way that the rest of society seems to.
Which is why he should have expected her to be angry when he refuses to bathe.
"Sherlock." Mummy's presence is looming and harsh in the doorway, the light from the hall making her outline sharper and more intimidating. He looks up from his bathwater, which has gone murky after the bubbles have all popped. "Our guests will be arriving in half an hour. How long have you been sitting in the tub like this?"
Without hesitation, Sherlock responds. "One hour, twelve minutes, six seconds." And then corrects, "Eight seconds now."
She doesn't appear to be amused by his attempt at a joke. "Don't you want to be clean?"
"If I wanted to be clean," he says simply, "wouldn't I have cleaned myself already? And not insisted that I was perfectly clean enough before?"
He should know better. Sherlock is eight now, perfectly old enough to bathe himself, to take care of himself the way a normal individual would. He knows when to brush his teeth and when to scrub the dirt and mud from his skin. But today, he doesn't feel like bathing. He's clean enough without using hot, soapy water to wash away the germs and the filth. He's a child; shouldn't it be healthy for him to get a bit dirty playing with Mr. Sherman's dogs?
But his mother will have none of it. He hears her mutter "Oh, for Christ's sake," a rarity for her, and she steps forward in heels too tall for the arches of her feet (her calf muscles are shortening every time she wears those, he wants to point out), at such a clipped pace that he flinches before she's even close to him. Mummy kneels down on the ground, careful to avoid dirtying her dress on the bathroom tile. "Wash up now. I won't have the Hartworths look at you and think I can't take care of my children. This is ridiculous."
Mummy is obsessed with appearance. That much is obvious to him from the way she has dyed the gray from her spiraling black curls, and the amount of makeup that she wears on her high cheekbones. She is worried that her friends will judge her. But Sherlock doesn't want to bathe, and doesn't see why he should.
"I don't want to."
His mother's face hardens. "Sherlock." Her warning tone. He has never heard it from any other adult but her in his entire life. "Do as I ask. This is the last time I shall ask you nicely."
In a moment of defiance that he can't quite explain, he scoops up a handful of water and splashes the front of her dress, delighted to hear her horrified gasp.
It's simply bath water, and it will dry within the half hour she's waiting with no evidence to show for it. That doesn't matter. Mummy reaches over and takes a fistful of Sherlock's curly hair.
"Look what you've done!" He doesn't have a choice but to look as she yanks him toward her, even though he whines in protest. "Do you see what you've done to your mother? Is that any way to treat your parent?" His eyes squeeze shut in pain and she shakes him once. "Answer me, boy."
"N-no," he whispers. "No, Mummy."
Sherlock Holmes is terrified of his mother because he can remember a time when they weren't like this. He can remember being smaller, before the funeral, coming to crawl into bed with her and Father and feeling that warm safety come over him. Now whenever he hears the click of her heels, he runs the opposite direction. She is not his mother any longer; she is an animal uncaged. And he knows what's coming before it even happens, as her hand tightens harder in his hair, her long nails scraping against his scalp.
He won't bathe, so Mummy is doing it for him.
In one swift movement, he feels himself shoved beneath the surface of the bathwater. It laps over the sides of the immense tub, and he opens his mouth to scream, but no noise comes out, just a large bubble. The soap in the water stings his eyes and he thrashes under her firm hand. His own hands come up, fingers hooked, blunt nails scrabbling for purchase against her wrist until she releases him, and that one breath of air has him choking, spluttering for breath. Not for long. Under again, shoved down with both hands down, her fine jewelry be damned. He can't breathe; his chest is tightening, his limbs struggling to push up against her. Each time he surfaces for that one intake of oxygen, she holds him under again, scrubbing at his hair beneath the water.
It is a painfully long time before her hands release him for good, and he drips and shakes and gags as he chokes on the water in his lungs.
"Get dressed," his mother hisses as she pulls the plug on the bath. "And for God's sake, be a man and stop blubbering."
Sherlock hadn't even realized he started to cry, but now tries in vain to keep the tears from his eyes as he coughs up mouthfuls of water. He shivers and pulls his knees up to his chest, crying softly into his kneecaps.
He hardly notices when someone puts a towel over his shoulders, and he can do nothing more but lean into his brother's arms.
Sherlock is nine years old and in his fifth year of school when he receives a note from a certain Alice Cutting.
At first, he has no idea what is and is not appropriate. He has no interest in girls - yet, people tell him, though he highly doubts any interest could grow in something like the female sex from what he's seen of them thus far. They're all blitheringly stupid, though in all fairness, the boys tend to fare no better. He's smarter than his entire class and he knows it. His interests merely lie in particular subjects rather than on knowledge as a whole. Still, when he finds the note tucked into his desk as they return from lunch, and when he reads it over, he is unsure at first as to the proper action to take.
Alice Cutting is young. She has older siblings, one she is particularly close to, a brother. She's bright but distracted, and now he can see why. Sherlock doesn't find her to be offensive to him in any manner, but he's also not as fond of her as she would obviously like him to be. No, he doesn't want to be friends, nor does he want to hold her hand or... do whatever it is that teenagers do when they are alone. His hands crinkle the paper in thought long before he manages to formulate the words he needs to tell her off.
"Perhaps you would receive far better marks on participation," he says as he hands her the note back, "if you focused on the lesson rather than on boys."
She goes home in tears.
Mycroft is furious with him, but even so, Mummy doesn't hear a word of it. He's grateful for that.
v. we all float on
Mummy dies when Sherlock is eleven years old. Heart failure, is what the doctors tell his brother, and Sherlock is not sure she even had a heart to fail her. He doesn't weep at the funeral service, just as he hadn't wept at his father's. This time it's not lack of knowing her that keeps him from becoming tearful, but rather a bitter hatred of the woman and her methods of raising her children. She was a despicable woman, as he's slowly come to figure out. So he doesn't grieve, doesn't pass through the stages of grief that are scrawled in every textbook he can imagine on the subject. He doesn't mourn her death, but rather embraces it. She is no longer in his life, and he is immensely thankful for her absence in his life. It means no more bruises, no more marks to hide from the other students. Nothing more to be ashamed of.
Mycroft is a different story.
The boarding schools Mycroft had tried to send him to wouldn't take him. He was a persistent problem in his old schools, apparently, a continuous troublemaker for his previous teachers. It isn't his fault that he's smarter than they are. Mycroft is eighteen, attending Oxford University, and in no fit shape to parent, or at least he argues as much when Sherlock eavesdrops on a hushed conversation between his brother and the family financial adviser. The other schools apparently describe Sherlock as being "difficult" and "emotionally troubled," and Sherlock feels his heart sink coldly in his chest with the overwhelming worry that he will be shipped to a government-assigned home.
But Mycroft is quick to claim guardianship of him before he is willing to let that happen.
So they live together in the same house, with the same set of silverware and the same fine China, the same white carpets and tall glass cabinets. The only difference is that there's no Mummy here to guide them, to punish them and tell them right from wrong, perfect from imperfect. Mycroft doesn't speak to Sherlock for a week after the funeral, and though Mycroft stands tall and acts as though things are normal, the pointed silence and the slump in his shoulders is enough to give him away.
At night, when Sherlock is reading with his lamp on, he can hear Mycroft's soft sobs from down the hallway and feels a burning need to go to him and help somehow. He doesn't; he wouldn't know what to say anyway.
The week ends, the next week begins, and while Sherlock is seated on the floor of the living room with his playthings, Mycroft comes up to his sitting form, leans down, and promptly begins packing the toys away into a large cardboard box clearly marked 'TRASH' in black sharpie.
"What are you doing?" Sherlock is calm at first, but his panic rises when Mycroft remains silent, wordlessly using a roll of duct tape to seal the box shut. "Mycroft-- What are you doing? What are you--?! Stop it. Stop it, wait, those are my--!"
His brother pushes him. Mycroft has never pushed him this way before, knocking his thin form sideways onto the carpet as he stands, box in hand, starting to make his way outside. "I'm throwing them out."
But why? The question burns on his lips but instead all he can do is trip to follow him, pulling at the back of his shirt defiantly. "Stop it! Those are my toys! My pirate ship is in there, I made it myself, don't throw it out!" Sherlock kicks and pulls all the way out into the garden and down the pathway, and then to the large gray bin that sits against the curb. "No!" Sherlock grips Mycroft's wrist to try to prevent him from throwing them away, but his brother once more shoves him aside as easily as swatting away a fly. Sherlock falls to the ground, looking up at him, at the tears in Mycroft's eyes.
"You're eleven years old now!" Mycroft shouts. "You're practically an adult. In some countries, you would be married off already. Your stupid little pirate fantasies and pretend games won't bring Mummy back, and they won't--" His voice breaks, and Sherlock is speechlessly staring up at him, mouth open. "I won't have you acting like a five year old under my care. Don't you see? She isn't coming back. I'm-- I'm Mummy now, and this-- These toys..."
He can't seem to find the words, and instead of explaining, he merely throws the entire box of stuffed animals and piracy paraphernalia into the rubbish bin. There are tears freely running down Mycroft's face; Mycroft who never shows any emotion other than slight boredom, Mycroft who closes himself off to the world to protect himself. Mycroft who is Sherlock's rock of an older brother. Crying. It's something powerful that Sherlock isn't sure he can handle.
Sherlock remains seated in the driveway of the house even when Mycroft goes back inside.
Sebastian Wilkes is smart. Not as smart as Sherlock is, but that is a difficult thing to accomplish, and so Sherlock is willing to give him this, just this once. Mycroft doesn't like Sebastian and he honestly doesn't blame him for that, but Sebastian... doesn't ignore him and doesn't seem to hate him, so that's an improvement on the social life Sherlock never thought he would have.
Sherlock considers them to be friends while they attend Cambridge together. (Oxford's rival; he chose this school on purpose.) It's his second month at the school and already Sebastian seems to have taken a liking to him, going so far as to corner him in the corridor in order to get him alone, asking him to parties and events that Sherlock wouldn't normally go to. He doesn't like social gatherings but he wants to appear impressive to Sebastian and so he agrees, just this once.
They have been friends for three months now. Sebastian is shorter than Sherlock but he's much more handsome, according to the gossip that Sherlock tries to avoid listening to. Sebastian has a new girlfriend every few days, has slept his way through half of the women in the neighborhood, but he has good marks in his classes, so Sherlock doesn't judge him. It's none of his business who is sleeping with whom, and so he keeps to himself, usually. It's difficult, however, to keep to himself at this party where the lights are flashing and he can barely concentrate on his own thoughts.
"I don't like it here," he tries to say over the music, but Seb ignores him, pressing yet another drink into his hand. He's had two already and is feeling lightheaded from them in a way he isn't sure he appreciates the way everyone else seems to. Sherlock isn't a drinker and that's likely affecting his ability to hold his alcohol properly. He sways unsteadily, but Seb puts an arm around his shoulders, a wicked grin on his face as he begins to lead him back toward a crowd of boys and a cloud of smoke. "No, stop-- Seb. I don't like it here."
"You will, you will," Sebastian promises, but Sherlock can't believe him. The other boys are suppressing smiles and giggles but still Sherlock is unaware. He just knows that he's mildly drunk and that one of the other boys is having some sort of laughing fit in the corner as Sebastian hands him an object he at first doesn't identify because of his blurring vision. "Go on, genius. Tell us what it is."
Sherlock squints, brings it closer to his eyes in the flashing lights. "A hypodermic needle," he responds, rather uncomfortably.
The circle of boys laugh again. He doesn't understand what's happening.
"Yeah, okay." Seb leans in closer to him, pushing at the side of his head until he leans dangerously sideways and has to balance himself with one hand against the floor. "What'sin it, stupid."
"Oh." They should have just said that's what they wanted to know. He's lightly pink now but begins to inspect closer. Finally it clicks, and he says stiffly, "Cocaine. A liquid cocaine, not the powder I would have expected at a party setting."
He can barely hear himself over the music, but he can certainly hear the giggles as Sebastian shouts into his ear, "You ever tried it?" Sebastian certainly hasn't, he can tell that from looking at his forearms. It's quite easy to tell a junkie at first glance, at least to him. Sebastian isn't one. He's merely a bully and a bit of a drunk. Sherlock wonders why Sebastian so desperately wants him to try it when he hasn't himself.
Seb smiles. "Would you like to?"
No, he wouldn't like to. But before he can even argue, he has the group of laughing boys holding him down with encouraging phrases, nodding their approval and promising him it's safe. He does believe it's safe, but he also believes it's terribly addictive if done incorrectly. Sherlock doesn't want to be an addict, and he doubts anyone goes through life searching for substances to becoming addicted to. Still, when the needle slips under his skin, he hisses lightly but doesn't complain too much.
It takes less than ten minutes for the drug to take effect, and he is left feeling better than he has ever felt before in his entire life.
Two days later, Sebastian pretends he doesn't exist when he asks for more.
Mycroft knows what has happened to him the second Sherlock comes home for vacation, and he has never heard his brother so angry and so worried in his life.
"His name is Victor Trevor. And we aren't dating."
It started when Victor's dog had ran right between his legs in excitement and Sherlock had fallen down the stairs, breaking his leg on the bottom step. Sherlock was in the hospital for a short time, and Victor brought him flowers (home grown) and get well cards (hand made) as an apology. Victor's visits had gone from five minute conversations to hours long talks, to joking with each other in a manner that most would consider distasteful ("If this rots and the hospital is forced to put me down, I want you to have my skull as a constant reminder that your beast is what managed to get me in the end." It became a quick inside joke between them that whomever died first, the other should inherit their skull). Immediately, Sherlock knew that Victor was a better person in general than Sebastian, though it still took more than seven visits before Sherlock agreed to be friends.
Mycroft glances up from his lunch to look Sherlock over with a knowing smirk. "Ah, I see." The comment about when Mycroft was going to meet Sherlock's special someone threw him off guard, and it had taken him a while to figure out exactly what Mycroft was referring to. Victor wasn't his boyfriend. Merely a friend. "Then you won't object to me meeting him?"
Sherlock stiffens in his chair, drops his fork onto the plate. "You can't. I won't let you." Mycroft merely rolls his eyes. "Don't give me that. You know precisely why I won't. You'll scare him away."
"This childish feud between us is humiliating, Sherlock. You're eighteen now. You should know I have no intention of sabotaging your... relationships."
The pause before the word makes him scowl. "It isn't a relationship. He's my friend."
Which makes Mycroft scoff lightly. He knows that Mycroft thinks he's incapable of having friends, but that's obviously not true. Sebastian had been a mistake, he'll admit that now. But Victor likes him. "He is. I don't see why you keep insisting that we have a romantic attachment."
Mycroft leans forward on the table, elbows resting on the tabletop and fingers coming to lace beneath his chin. It's very flamboyant and very effeminate but Sherlock says nothing about it. "If Victor were a woman," he says, but then frowns lightly and seems to change his mind. "If you were a woman--"
"Why am I the woman in this scenario?"
"Because you were the one receiving the flowers and being courted. Now hush." His brother gives him a playfully stern look. "If you were a woman and yet everything else was the same - Victor bringing you flowers and hand made cards, inviting you to meet his parents - would you not agree that this is dating behavior?"
Sherlock pauses, thinks about it. He's unfamiliar with the world of dating and romance, and prefers to keep his distance from it. However, he does offer a feeble and hesitant, "Yes..."
Mycroft smirks, victorious. "Then I don't see how this is any different."
"Because I am a man, and Victor is uninterested in men."
The matter is a simple one, he thinks. They're friends. They go out to dinner sometimes, to movies. Victor tells him of his hobbies, and sometimes when Sherlock plays the violin, Victor will sing for him. They are attached at the hip in only ways that best friends are. They aren't romantic, and they aren't a couple. But Mycroft's smirk hasn't faded, and Sherlock is beginning to feel incredibly foolish.
"Admit it, little brother." Mycroft takes a bit of his steak, carefully cut, just as Mummy taught them. "Victor Trevor is in love with you."
Sherlock's heart jumps into his throat and for a long moment, he forgets how to breathe.
Mr. Trevor, Victor's father, is dead.
Sherlock has solved the issue of the initials that he didn't recognize (J.A., the initials of Mr. Trevor before he had changed his name), and has as well solved the issue of their employee, Hudson, attempting to blackmail the family. It was a complicated affair, which of course is why he loved it, though now that it's over and Hudson has escaped, Victor is weeping at the edge of his bed and Sherlock sits awkwardly beside him, unsure of how to comfort him.
It isn't as though he himself hasn't lost parents before. His father passed when Sherlock was five, his mother when he was eleven. He is an orphan now, in all technically, but he doesn't consider himself to be one because he has Mycroft. Victor doesn't have anybody left; no family and no friends outside of Sherlock himself. When Victor turns to lean on him and press his face into his shoulder, Sherlock stiffens uncomfortably at the very close proximity, and reaches an arm around to awkwardly pat his back.
Social situations are really not his forte.
"Victor..." His voice trails into silence and he wraps both arms around him now, pulling him in closer. Victor complies and it's awkward, and uncomfortable, and he feels altogether out of place suddenly. Mycroft's words are ringing in his head at the exact time they shouldn't be, and Sherlock wonders if he should kiss him. The thought makes him freeze and makes his heart pound doubly fast not out of excitement but out of fear. Sherlock has never kissed anybody before, and frankly doesn't plan to. He likes Victor, and he could even love him, but he isn't attracted to him. He feels no desire to kiss him or even to continue holding him this way; Sherlock enjoys his space more than most, and this is pushing it too far.
The words are a hollow ringing in his mind now, over and over, and Sherlock licks his lips.
"Mycroft tells me you're in love with me."
It is evidently the wrong thing to say, because after that visit, after listening to Victor deny it up and down, Sherlock never sees him again. He blames Mycroft for the loss, and in the months after losing Victor's friendship, he can do nothing but turn to his cocaine bottle and grieve.
Victor Trevor dies two years later in a hospital as a John Doe. He had apparently been dying slowly of a brain tumor that nobody had known about save for Victor and Victor's private physician. It had been Victor's voice to keep it from his father and from Sherlock, and Sherlock cannot help but feel offended and betrayed. The doctors at the hospital where Victor passes on only know to contact Sherlock because he was one of only two photographs in Victor's wallet. It's a simple photograph of the two of them at dinner, both of them smiling bright and leaning into one another, with a caption reading "Dinner with Sherlock Holmes xxx".
So Sherlock is called in, and on the slab covered in a white sheet is Victor Trevor. It is as though he's merely sleeping, rather than stone cold dead; the same messy ruffles of dark hair, the same light stubble on his chin, and the same peaceful expression on his face. Sherlock's heart aches in his chest, but Mycroft is with him for support, with a hand on Sherlock's upper arm as a reminder that he's here.
"Yes," Sherlock says as he clears his throat. "That's Victor Trevor. He was a friend of mine."
"A close friend, evidently," the mortician lightly jokes. Sherlock doesn't find it funny and she does fall silent after a moment, covering the body back up.
"Wait." The woman pauses, looking to him expectantly. "I would like to keep his skull."
There's a silence amongst the three of them so thick that one could cut it with a butter knife. The woman looking to him in shock, Mycroft looking nearly embarrassed next to him. But Sherlock just remembers those jokes made in Sherlock's own hospital room, that when one of them died, the other would get their skull. He doesn't plan on backing out of that promise anytime soon.
Mycroft needs to exert some of his political influence to get it to happen, but a week later, Victor's ivory skull is is on his bookshelf and grinning at him with too white teeth and staring at him with wide, empty sockets.
In Sherlock's entire life, he and Mycroft have embraced only a handful of times. Sherlock doesn't count when he was too little to know better, nor the times he had crawled into Mycroft's bed for comfort. He counts only the times when both brothers were awake, aware, and willing to actually bring themselves to hug. As adults, it has never happened. As teenagers, once. As a child, Sherlock has received but a few hugs from his brother, and he had once preferred to keep it to that minimum number, especially after the mess with Victor.
However, when Sherlock returns from the grave, Mycroft is the second person he visits, the second person to know. John, of course, is the first, and Mycroft surprisingly doesn't begrudge him that. Instead, there is merely a moment of silence. A look between them as Mycroft's umbrella clatters to the floor and his eyes widen comically in a rush of emotion that Sherlock hasn't seen since the day he threw out the box of toys.
"Hello, brother," he says, and instead of punching him, or screaming at him, or scolding him, Mycroft pulls him forward in the tightest and most welcome hug that Sherlock has ever known.