Chapter 1: The Survivor
Cool cloth on his forehead is the best Mycroft can do for Sherlock's fever. His resources have dwindled from the full force of empire down to a rotting cottage. A lucky find, with its well and outdoor w/c. Luckier, some previous squatter's leavings: a lighter, a pot noodle sealed and uncontaminated.
The mighty, Sherlock had said, when last he was lucid, have fallen. Sherlock had watched him trying to cook the pot noodle without setting the container, or the house, ablaze. He'd laughed.
No longer lucid, Sherlock mostly calls for John, sometimes Mummy. Mycroft flips the cloth, cooler side against skin. Sherlock's eyes open. "John should," he complains. "Where's John?"
Sherlock knows-- knew. "Gone," Mycroft tells him, again.
Sherlock's eyes close. "John does that," he says. "Goes away, when he's... angry with me. But he'll come back. He comes back."
Sleeping, Sherlock doesn't ease. His breathing harshens. He sounds like he can't last the night, but Mycroft thought the same last night, and the night before.
Mycroft half-dozes in his chair.
The door bangs, creaks, gives. Dark brown smell and peeling skin, the small figure in the doorway limps grotesquely forward, reaching. How like Sherlock to insist on being right in such an inconvenient way, Mycroft thinks as he stands, picks up his chair to swing. John has come back.
Chapter 2: The Negotiator
John's at attention in the corner, eyes round and hard, staring at the screen, lips thinned to nothing, jaw grinding almost imperceptibly. It's slightly distracting, but evicting him would be excessively difficult.
Onscreen, Sherlock's head snaps to the side and he grunts. John's breathing catches, harshens.
"Point taken," Mycroft says lightly.
"If you try to find us... "
It goes on for some time, ugly threats, a fair number of punches to Sherlock's increasingly bloodied face. Mycroft watches: wall, chair, fist, cuff, shadows, video artefacts.
"If you -- "
This time Mycroft interrupts. "I'm rather busy today. Would you care to name your price?"
They do. It's absurd, a number to negotiate down from.
John's breath stops. The kidnappers go silent. Even Sherlock, -- he denies this later -- widens his eyes briefly before blinking his understanding.
"Of course. You have my beloved brother. An untraceable transfer of funds will take approximately fifty minutes."
A few more threats, for the form of the thing, and then they switch off.
Mycroft sends the address off to the waiting team.
"Right. That's fucking amazing. Later you can tell me how you figured it out," John says.
"Go now, if you're joining the extraction team."
"I'll bring him back," John promises.
"Please do. It would be inconvenient to have to sell Bedfordshire."
Chapter 3: A Boy On a Diet
His teachers talk about emotional eating, but that isn't accurate. He's gained weight since the divorce, but only in proportion to the inch he's grown since then. Mycroft's always been a fat boy. Just because everyone else is emotional over his eating doesn't mean he needs to be. Cake is for savoring, not crying over.
Mother dates Charles for six months. Everything seems fine. Charles isn't intelligent, but that makes him different from Father, which is good.
The first time Mother leaves them with Charles, Mycroft is on his best behavior.
Sherlock's best behavior isn't very good. He sulks, refuses to eat, but Charles just smiles.
That's nice. And Charles is a good cook. Mycroft takes more chips.
"More?" Charles sighs, "You could be a lovely little boy like your brother, if you stopped eating like a pig. Look at Sherlock."
Instead, Mycroft looks at Charles looking at Sherlock. They'd look a lot alike, if Mycroft were skinnier.
After the disaster of Father, Mycroft knows better than to try telling Mother.
He is hungry, when the teachers all congratulate him.
He is hungry, when Charles tells him he is a handsome boy and smiles and grips Mycroft's newly-skinny arms.
He is hungry. And Sherlock is safe.
He is hungry, but every day he says, "No thanks, I had a big breakfast."
Chapter 4: The Wizard
The exorcism takes two days. Officially, it's impossible to remove a living man from a succubus' influence. Mycroft pulls together aspects of rituals for binding demonic forces, soporific potions, fertility rites, and works them all into the seventh protective dodecahedron. Sherlock curses him, spasms, screams, and finally ejaculates: first blood, then ichor, then blood again.
The succubus shows him a beautiful face, with two trailing tears, whispers, "Please."
Then she is gone.
"Fuck," Sherlock whimpers.
Mycroft can see his brother, alone in his body for the first time in years. He lets himself collapse.
It's weeks before Sherlock is back on his feet, longer before Mycroft is capable of the least spell again.
He believes Sherlock's promise: "No more succubi." And yet, Sherlock is vulnerable, will always be. Next time, Mycroft might fail.
So, when he is strong enough, he takes up his scrying bowl. "Show me the greatest danger to Sherlock," he commands, hoping for a glimpse of a carriage, a bullet, a tumor.
In the bowl is a fair-haired man. Unassuming, small, wearing a soldier's uniform; but Mycroft knows how easily a warlock or demon can hide his power.
Sherlock recovers enough to insist on living on his own again.
The night he moves out, Mycroft performs a small ritual of air, to correct the path of a bullet.
Chapter 5: The Man From the Ministry
Mycroft's position in the Party would have been enough to shield Sherlock. But when John Watson turned terrorism homeward, Sherlock -- stupid, stubborn -- followed him into the proletarian zones.
Mycroft's duty was harsh.
"The people will never revolt, Sherlock. Take that as an axiom."
Sherlock was achingly thin by then, grey. Red-rimmed eyes glared. "Piss off."
"I enjoy talking to you, Sherlock. Your mind resembles my own," he shrugged, "except that you happen to be insane."
"It won't be easy, to cure you. It needs great powers of reasoning. But you're worth the trouble."
Sherlock mostly screamed, after that, grew thinner, greyer. It took days before he spilled the trivial details -- plots, imaginary revolts, John. Nothing unknown, but necessary for Sherlock's recovery.
Afterward, Mycroft's arm round him, teeth chattering, he clung like a baby. Now he would see: pain came from outside, and Mycroft would protect him.
Mycroft would save him. Close, now. Very close.
"Do it to John! John! Not me! I don't care what you do to him! But not me! Please, not me!"
Mycroft saw to it that they met again, afterward.
"I sold you," John blurted.
"Obviously," Sherlock said, and turned aside. "So did I."
Sherlock was saved. Good. Mycroft's first loyalty was to the Party, but still, he loved his little brother.