You tell yourself it doesn’t matter. Because in the end, it doesn’t.
You are at home on Christmas Eve, alone in your expensive flat—just the way you like it, thank you very much—, in front of the fireplace with a glass of expensive wine in your hand when your phone rings. At first, when you see your brother’s name, you wonder if you’ve had one too many drinks. But you’re Mycroft Holmes, you don’t get drunk, and so you must be seeing the caller ID correctly.
“Dear Lord, we’re going to have Christmas phone calls now, are we?” you drawl. You tell yourself that you were just fine before, even though you were secretly hoping that you it could be a normal call between brothers. It isn’t, of course. “Have they passed a new law?” you ask as you get up to go look out the window at the snowing sky.
“I think you’re going to find Irene Adler tonight,” Sherlock says without preamble.
You frown. “We already know where she is,” you remind him, as if he needed reminding. “As you were kind enough to point out, it hardly matters.”
“No,” he replies. “I mean you’re going to find her dead.” Sherlock hangs up without another word.
You scowl at the phone, as if it is the mobile’s fault that your brother is like that, but tuck it away in your pocket before turning your eyes to glance out the window. It looks like it is going to be a white Christmas. How quaint, you think, vitriolic, but you settle back into your chair in front of the fire.
That’s as close to Christmas phone calls you and Sherlock will get. Never a word of well wishes or cheer, merely business, nothing more, as if you two are simply reluctant business associates.
It is Sherlock’s fault as well as your own, but you cannot help but wish he would be grateful for you for once in his life. Just once—that is all you’d want. Just once.
It doesn’t matter, in the end. It doesn’t matter at all.
He’s right, as it turns out.
Christmas morning finds you and him in the morgue of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.
“The only one that fit her description,” you tell him, “I had her brought here…your home from home.”
He ignores you as always. “You didn’t need to come in, Molly,” he says instead.
“It’s okay,” the mousy mortician replies quietly. “Everyone else was busy with…Christmas. Er, the face is a bit…sort of, bashed up, so it might be a bit difficult.” She pulls the sheet back, revealing the corpse’s bruised, broken, and, indeed, bashed up face.
“That’s her isn’t it?” you ask.
“Show me the rest of her,” Sherlock says to the girl. He takes one sweeping look at the body before nodding. “That’s her,” he declares and turns to leave.
You remain for a moment, curious about his tone, but tell the girl, “Thank you, Miss Hooper.”
The mortician looks at you, confused. “Who is she?” the girl asks. “How did Sherlock recognize her from…not her face?”
She has something of nonsensical feelings for your brother, despite how frequently he uses her and tosses her away without a second thought, without a hint of acknowledgement. Pity is all you feel for her at the moment.
Your eyes glance a last time at the corpse but you give a polite smile and nod to her before following Sherlock out of the morgue.
He has, surprisingly, waited outside, obviously thinking. You wonder if he actually…felt something for the dead woman. Going by his demeanor, you are beginning to think so. Old worries and fears surface. A plan follows.
You don’t smoke. Not really. Occasionally you’ll join a smoker if you need to speak with them; it creates some sense of commonality. For this reason you pull out your rarely sought after pack of cigarettes and draw out one. Walking up from behind your brother, you offer it to him. “Just the one,” you say.
His eyebrows contract as he looks at it. “Why?”
You give him a dry smile. “Merry Christmas.”
He glances at you in suspicion but takes it and you produce your lighter. “Smoking indoors, isn’t this one of those…law things?”
“We’re in a morgue,” you snort as you light his cigarette. “There’s only so much damage you can do…. How did you know she was dead?”
He avoids your questions, instead looking through a set of door, through which several people are gathered—family and friends of patients, you assume. “Look at them,” he says abruptly. “They all care so much. Have you ever wondered if there is something wrong with us?” he asks.
You don’t reply for a moment, lost in a memory of a five year old Sherlock asking you a very similar question. “Is there something wrong with me, My?” You had scooped up the young boy, held him close despite his protests, and reassured him. “There is nothing wrong with you, Sherlock. Nothing.” That was the age of trust and friendship between the two Holmes siblings. That was the time when he would beg you for hours until you relented to play pirates or policemen or whatever other game with him. That was the age when he knew that you loved him—would do anything for him.
For you, little has changed. For Sherlock, well…There are days when you even wonder if he knows you honestly do love him.
Finally, you draw yourself back to the present and reply.
“All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock.”
You speak from experience, though you’d never say. It is a lesson you learned from him, after all, the last part, at least. Caring for him, you learned over the years, leads only to difficulty, disappointment, and pain. It isn’t easy to show you care at all, but when you do…it hurts your hidden, guarded heart for your efforts to be thrown back in your face. Some days you wonder how much he cares—if he puts up with you because of genuine love or if only for the tactile advantage it is to have him as an ally.
He continues on, muttering some criticism of your cigarettes, before walking away.
You are surprised, though, when he wishes you a merry Christmas over his shoulder. You catch yourself in time to reply, “And a happy new year.”
You call John as soon as Sherlock is out the door. You are glad, again, that Sherlock found someone who actually does more than simply putting up with him, someone who genuinely, loyally cares. You know that he won’t let you down when it came to your brother.
He is in safe hands.
“I’m not talking about the MOD man, Sherlock, I’m talking about you!”
You spit the word, so furious you can barely restrain and hide it, but it slips into your voice for a moment before you control it again.
He gives you a confused look.
“The damsel in distress,” you sneer, composure returned. “In the end…are you really so obvious?
“Because this was textbook,” you tell him honestly. “The promise of love, the pain of loss, the joy of redemption…then give him a puzzle and watch him dance.”
Emotions flit across his face—annoyance, confusion, distaste—before he finally replies, “Don’t be absurd!”
“Absurd?” you repeat. “How quickly did you decipher that email for her? Was it the full minute or were you really eager to impress?”
“I think it was less than five seconds.” Miss Adler appears behind Sherlock, confirming your worries.
Your eyes close in regret for a moment. “I drove you into her path. I’m sorry.”
And you are. This is, ultimately, your fault. You should have predicted this outcome. It was so obvious that Sherlock would never simply drop the challenge of deciphering the mystery that was Irene Adler. But you didn’t know that he’d be so enchanted by her spell.
“I didn’t know.”
“I can’t take all the credit,” Miss Adler later says. “I had a bit of help.” You look to her inquiringly, but you already know the answer. She glances to Sherlock. “Oh, Jim Moriarty sends his love.”
“Yes,” you reply with a frown. “He’s been in touch. He seems desperate for my attention.”
“…Thank God for the consultant criminal,” she finally says, sitting down on the table. “Gave me a lot of advice on how to play the Holmes boys. Do you know what he calls you?
“The Iceman,” she drawls, smirking, and looks to Sherlock, “and the Virgin.”
Moriarty has both Sherlock and you right then. On all accounts, but one. The ice, as he’s apparently termed it, does not envelope your heart. It is merely a wintery shield, an icy veneer that you wear, that you’ve worn since you were a teenager.
You, though you never show, do have emotions. This is the reason you are greater than Sherlock, you hypothesize. He blocks it out, denies their existence with a self-diagnosis of ‘high-functioning sociopath’, certain that it only is grit in the cogs of his great mind. You do not block it out. You embrace it, accept your emotions, but hide them. In a way, it is only a weakness when it comes to Sherlock and you. You have a soft spot for your brother—who seems to have been your beloved baby brother only yesterday—but that only makes it worse, in the end; it only hurts more.
You understand emotions, experience them, relate and empathize with people. This is what separates you and Sherlock.
You are simply more adept than anyone realizes at hiding your thoughts and emotions.
Not even Sherlock sees past it, even though you’ve always hoped he would.
In the end, it is all a lie.
When Irene Adler confronts you with the conundrum that is the temptation of her insurance, you have no choice but to make a deal. So you concede defeat, allowing her to give you her demanding list of suggestions.
“Here you are,” you finally say. “The dominatrix that brought a nation to its knees.” You nod in acknowledgement. “Nicely played.”
A plan has already formed in your mind. Simplicity in itself: betrayal.
You are the British government, so Sherlock insists on saying. Once that information is in your hands, there is no way that you will simply allow her to walk away from this. There is no rule that will hold you to your word, no rule that could really stop you.
The instant she baited you with ‘what if the lives of British citizens depended on it?’…that was the instant your word was planned on being broken. Your duty is ultimately to the British people above all else—above the law, above emotion, above all else except one single item.
Sherlock, then, beats her at her own game. He cracks the passcode, using whatever attraction there is between them against her. When she breaks down and pleads, Sherlock walks away from her, from the temptation of danger…you, for a moment, have never been prouder of your brother. He leaves her to you, to throw into a jail or to simply leave without protection. You take the phone and drop her off, uncaring of what happens to her.
It leads to your other lie.
You visit Baker Street months later with a package of lies. You lie to John Watson, deceive him into lying to Sherlock that Irene is in witness protection in America, and tell the doctor that the Woman was captured and killed in Pakistan.
“I was thorough, this time,” you reassure him. “It would take Sherlock Holmes to fool me. And I don’t think he was on hand, do you?”
It is a double bluff all in one.
You know the truth, of course. He went and saved her, again, but left her and would never see her again. But you allow him the thought that she is safe in that only Sherlock knows the truth.
It is all a lie.
He lies to you, you lie to him. He fights with you, you fight back. He insults you repeatedly, but you say no reply to those, not usually.
Sherlock always doubts your motivation, but it is always to protect him, even when he thinks otherwise.
All he does is prove you right.
“Caring is not an advantage.”
You tell yourself it doesn’t matter. Because in the end, it doesn’t.