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It Takes All Sorts

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ycroft Holmes was a gifted little boy.  He'd known it from the time he was three years old.  He was clever and cunning in a way most toddlers just simply weren’t; after all, he could look at a person and just know how to get them to do what he wanted. It was instinctual, almost, and most adults didn’t even notice his manipulations.  How could they believe a toddler to be capable of such subterfuge, after all?

 

Take the nanny, for instance. She was a childless widower who took up the profession to delude herself into thinking that the children she cared for were her own.  As a toddler, he couldn’t quite diagnose her mental affliction so elegantly as all that, but it was enough to simply notice her tendency to call him “my darling,” and “my dear boy,” or other such motherly endearments.  It was enough to observe that when he deliberately called for her or appealed to her maternal instincts (by calling for her when he was alone, or intentionally pricking his finger so she'd have a wound to tend, etcetera) he was quite likely to get extra sweeties after supper.

In the case of the cook, things were even simpler. Mycroft noticed early on that the man was fond of a certain drink that came in big, dark-coloured bottles.  After drinking this liquid, the old man's face would get ruddy and he'd fall asleep in front of the woodstove, leaving his bounty of delicious pastries free for the sticky-fingers of a certain ginger toddler.  After a bit of reconnaissance, Mycroft procured a key to the cabinet where Father kept his dark-coloured bottles and started leaving them out for the cook to find; ensuring a steady supply of liquid for the cook and a steady supply of raspberry scones for Mycroft. (Well, until the cook got fired that is.)

Practice made perfect, and by age four Mycroft could play any adult in the room as beautifully as his mother played the violin.  Unfortunately, being still just a toddler back then, the ends to his means had been quite lacking in ambition—he was content only to get out of his naps and score extra sweets from the nanny and the cook. Even despite his unique talent, Mycroft couldn’t yet understand how different he truly was.  Not even when his parents would exchange strange looks, or when his nanny would whisper in his ear at night, “Sh-sh.  Such a special child you are, my Mycroft.” Not yet.  Not then.  

 

 


  

The beginning of the end of this misinformed opinion came with the beginning of school.  Being in constant contact with “regular” children gave Mycroft a reference off of which to form a new opinion—he wasn’t anything like a normal child.  He was cleverer, yes, but it was more than that … there were strange things happening to him that he had only just begun to notice.

The first major incident occurred about three weeks after he’d begun primary school.  The class had got a pet rabbit named Peter, whom the teacher had brought in after they’d read the famous Beatrix Potter book.  Every week, a new little boy and girl would be allowed to take Peter outside for recess when the weather was warm, to exercise him (under the watchful eyes of their teacher, of course.)  The third week it was his turn, along with a girl named Martha.  They carried him out to the playground and proceeded to watch him hop around, sniffing and chewing on grass.  It was quite dull. 

Suddenly, loud barking was heard.  A nearby woman, out walking her dog past the schoolyard, lost control of the beast as it rushed towards the fence, eyes set on Peter.  The poor rabbit was so startled he took off, zipping past the playground and disappearing into the overgrown field behind it.  Mycroft and Martha immediately took off after him, the girl shrieking out Peter’s name while Mycroft just complained silently about having to run anywhere, least of all after a stupid rabbit—he disliked rigorous exercise.

Out in the field, Mycroft logically suggested they split up in order to cover more ground, and Martha agreed—so each child started walking in a different direction, calling out the rabbit’s name. 

“Peter,” Mycroft called half-heartedly, kicking a little rock in front of him. He was incredibly irritated, still feeling a bit winded from his unappreciated workout. “Peter, come back at once!”

Mycroft started when a rustling came from a tuft of grass about two meters away, and then the little brown-spotted rabbit had hopped out, resting on his haunches and giving Mycroft an expectant look. The young boy relaxed, and then put on a stern expression.

“There you are,” he said.  “That wasn’t very nice of you, hopping off like that.  I had to run after you.  I don’t like to run.”  Part of him knew it was rather silly to be talking to a rabbit, but the other part of him was quite cross and therefore didn't care. Obviously, he wasn’t expecting a response—so when Peter deliberately cocked an ear, like a human would cock an eyebrow, Mycroft kept on, a bit startled and a lot curious.  “What if we hadn’t found you?  You’d be stuck out here.” 

Peter flicked his whiskers as if he were brushing aside Mycroft’s concern.  Here is nice. 

Mycroft blinked.  Perhaps he was just imagining it ... he opened his mouth again. “Well, you say that now, but where would you sleep when it got dark?”  

The rabbit dug his paws into the ground, creating a little indent in the soil.  I would make a burrow here.  

Mycroft definitely wasn't imagining things. He was actually holding a conversation with a rabbit!  Though Peter hadn't spoken in actual words, Mycroft had somehow understood the meaning as clearly as if he'd had.  How strange! 

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mycroft responded.  “The sawdust in your pen is much softer than the ground.  Plus, it’s warmer inside the classroom.  You’d get too cold out here, and nobody would feed you.” 

Peter nibbled on a blade of grass. I do like being fed.

“Yes, well there you have it." The civil conversation had drained the shock from Mycroft and left him with an odd sense of normalcy.  Perhaps other children experienced this too ... he'd have to gather more data.  "Now, do come back with me, please.  Recess will be over soon and I don’t want to get into trouble.”  

And so, Mycroft had walked all the way back to a stunned Martha and Mrs Bentsworth, who were watching the little brown-spotted rabbit hopping along obediently behind him with dropped jaws. 

“How are you doing that?” Martha asked loudly.

“Doing what?”

“Making him follow you like that!”

Mycroft looked at Peter. Tread cautiously, his mind warned.  “I’m not making Peter do anything.  I asked him nicely.” 

His teacher had looked at him strangely and Martha had accused him of concealing carrots in his coat pocket, but it wasn’t long before the whole situation had been forgotten.  Except, that is, by Mycroft, who found himself wondering quite often if it was cleverness that allowed him to communicate with a rabbit, or if it was something else altogether.

 


 

The second incident quickly followed the first, followed by a third, and then a fourth—a pair of his father’s eyeglasses remarkably repaired themselves before he could confess to breaking them.  That stupid Peter Rabbit kept interrupting him during quiet time, demanding why they weren’t taking him outside anymore (to which he’d hissed, “Because it’s winter and it’s too cold!” and then got in trouble for being noisy).  And it wasn't just rabbits that were suddenly boisterous conversationalists—any animal or bird he made eye-contact with had something to say. (The fish he'd encountered remained thankfully silent.)  But the most alarming instance was when he’d accidentally dropped his prized leather-bound dictionary.  Instead of falling and becoming ruined in the slushy snow, it had hovered a few inches in the air before floating back up and into his arms.  He'd been frozen in place for about ten minutes after that.  

Pretty soon strange incidences became too numerous to count. As more and more unexplained events kept occurring around him, Mycroft decided that the only way he was going to keep his head was to ignore them altogether.  So he put the eyeglasses back without saying a word.  He quickly bagged his dictionary and kept walking.  He ignored Peter and all his animal friends as hard as he could.  It was easy enough to convince himself, with enough effort, that all the episodes had logical explanations, and when he knew more he’d be able to understand exactly what those were.  

 

 


 

When he was seven, Mycroft’s mother decided it was pointless for the live-in nanny to be employed full-time, with Mycroft attending school.  So she kicked the older woman out of her rooms in the estate and greatly reduced her hours.  Now, she only came in the afternoons when Mummy and Father weren’t at home; and since Mummy rarely left the house, Mycroft suddenly found himself quite frequently alone.

He didn't like it.

He was not an imaginative child; he could not think up satisfactory adventures to have in the back garden, or make-believe any suitable friends for himself.  (He did try once, to quite lacklustre results.) Instead, Mycroft read books by himself and took walks around the garden unaccompanied and generally did not see another living soul until supper, when Mummy and he would gather around a large table and make abysmal small-talk (if they talked at all.) Then it was off to bed, alone, where Mycroft would try to fall asleep even as the staggering pressure of utter silence pressed in on him in the dark.

He tolerated this new isolation for as long as he could—and then decided to take matters into his own hands. One windy October afternoon, after returning home from school, Mycroft strode into the library where he knew his mother would be, draped across her favourite settee and reading her usual noir crime novel. 

“Mummy,” Mycroft began after they had exchanged affectionate greetings, “Lately I have felt quite lonely.” 

“Oh, dear,” his mother replied airily, setting aside her book.  “That isn’t a good feeling to have.” 

“No.  I’m not fond of it.” 

Mummy looked thoughtful.  “Perhaps we should invite some of your schoolmates over for tea.  Do any of them live close by?” 

Mycroft didn’t want to tell his mother how little he could stand the other children in his class—so he opted for a quick dismissal.  “No, Mummy, that’s not quite what I had in mind.  A more lasting solution would be for the best, don’t you think?” 

Virginia Holmes steepled long, graceful fingers under her chin, thinking hard.  “Hmm.  Well, it is your birthday soon.  Shall I buy you a dog?  Or a rabbit, perhaps?” 

Mycroft’s mind flashed immediately to chattering, annoying Peter Rabbit from his kindergarten classroom, and couldn’t quite stop himself from grimacing.  “Definitely not,” he replied. 

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re looking for, darling.  I want to help you, of course I do, but I will need more data.  What do you have in mind, Mycroft?” 

Mycroft locked his big green eyes on his mother and said quite plainly, “I would like a sibling.” 

Virginia Holmes smiled at Mycroft, though it was a sad smile.  She took her son’s hand in both of her own, and said kindly, “Oh, darling child.  I’m sorry you’re so lonely, and I know how much you would love a sibling.  But I just don’t think your father and I could give you one.  He is away so often, you see, and I—I’m not as young as I used to be.  I wouldn’t have the energy to raise another stubborn little Holmes child.” She giggled and kissed her son’s hand gently.  “No, I think it’s perfect just the way it is—three Holmes in all the world.”  She began to go on again about Mycroft selecting a pet, but the small ginger Holmes had stopped listening. 

He already knew his mother didn’t want another child, the same way he could tell that she didn’t love Father very much, and could read the guilt over Mycroft’s loneliness in her droopy, sad eyes.  But Mycroft also knew that he could reverse this mindset of hers.  After all, he’d been practising on his classmates for the last three years, honing his skills in manipulation, ready for just such a task—he was going to change his mother’s mind.  With a simple string of words and a concentrated look into her eyes, he was going to push his desires into her head and make her give him what he wanted. 

It had taken him a while to suss out exactly how to work his unique ability.  Many trials and errors had gone into discovering the three simple steps it required: 

Step one; lock gazes with the victim.  This induced in the victim a trance-like state that could be easily broken if Mycroft so much as blinked.

Step two; attach a particular emotion onto a statement or command.  This part was the meat and potatoes of his gift—without emotion, his words were just a sentence, powerless and cheap.  It was also the part that was the trickiest for Mycroft to master since emotions, in general, were not his strong suit.  Moreover, the statement had to be said out loud; though Mycroft maintained hopes that in the future it could remain a silent thought.

Step three; transfer the thought (with attached sentimentality) into the victim’s mind, using the eyes as doorways into the body.  This step was hard to describe, and harder to perform.  There was a physicality to it that had to occur, a material transfer of intent that could be felt and experienced by the victim.  This step took Mycroft the longest to discover—before then, his gift had often failed him, causing him all sorts of grief when the victim would come out of their reverie and demand to know what he was playing at. 

It was easiest with children, who were generally very impressionable and changeable.  Adults were trickier.  They were much less fond of change, had more stubbornness and inflexibility.  Mycroft often found their iron wills simply too strong for his influence—he had to resort back to data gathering and craftiness to achieve his goals. 

But his mother was sad and unhappy, and Mycroft knew her will would melt like butter under his fingertips. Together, with these three steps, Mycroft knew he could get whatever he wanted from her, whenever it suited him to have it.  And today … well, today Mycroft wanted a sibling.  

Virginia Holmes was startled into silence when Mycroft climbed up onto the settee with her, gently reaching for her face with his two smaller hands and guiding it to look straight into his eyes. 

“Mycroft, darling, what’s—“ 

“Mummy,” Mycroft said, enunciating very sharply, never allowing himself to blink even once.  “You are very lonely.  The house is too quiet and sad.  You should very much like another child to fill up the empty spaces.”  As he was speaking, Mycroft took every lonely thought he had ever had in the last four months and bundled them up tight in his chest, creating a dense ball of negativity that nearly choked him with its intensity. Contained within that ball was a tiny point of light—Mycroft’s hope for a new baby and the gregarious future it would bring him.  It travelled up through his throat and out of his mouth, whereupon he pushed it, along with his words, into the eyes and mind of his mother. 

Virginia’s pupils dilated and she gave a little gasp as all that sentiment hit her at once.  Her gaze stayed locked on her son’s, who watched as her mind sorted through all the information, categorised it, and assimilated it into her own schema (overriding where necessary.)  He waited until her pupils contracted again before he finally blinked and pulled away, moving off the settee and standing in front of her as if the whole episode had not occurred. 

Virginia blinked, looking confused, and met Mycroft’s gaze. 

“Yes, Mummy?  What were you saying?” Mycroft inquired politely. 

Virginia blinked again, and then a wide smile broke out upon her face, lighting up her eyes in a way Mycroft hadn’t seen a smile of hers do in a long time.  “Mycroft, darling, that is a wonderful idea.  I am very lonely, and this house is too quiet and sad.  I would very much like another child to fill up the empty spaces.” 

She informed Siger Holmes of her desire that very evening, with Mycroft sitting at the end of the table trying not to look too pleased with himself.  Three weeks later, he was given a kitten for his birthday, whom he named Peter in a fit of good-humored nostalgia.  Nine months later, he was given a baby brother, whom his parents named Sherlock. 

And Mycroft adored the both of them. 

  


 

The years that followed were some of the brightest of Mycroft’s life.  He had a curious, wonderful little brother whom he loved dearly.  He had the nanny again, whenever he wanted her.  He had Peter to curl up with on cold nights, and Sherlock too when he was older.  His strict, overbearing Father was away on business more than ever.  The only downside was his mother’s declining health, after the birth of Sherlock.  But still, the overwhelming positives were enough that Mycroft didn’t feel too guilty about that.

His abilities were stronger than ever.  At the start of his 4th year, he’d managed to make the entire school board decide that ten-year-olds should have student-run officer elections and government.  (Mycroft, of course, was elected class president.)  By the end of the 4th year, he’d managed to purposefully move a pen from one side of his dining room table to the other, without having to touch it at all. 

He felt powerful.  He felt untouchable.  He began to have dreams of a brilliant life in politics, a life where he made the rules; became the unseen, omnipotent force driving all the prominent political figures.  A god amongst regular men. 

 

And then, when he is eleven, Mycroft’s perfect world—the perfect vision he had of himself—literally comes crashing down in his back garden in the form of a man claiming to be a wizard.