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Sacrifices (3/4)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15: high angst levels, slash, really not-good Sherlock

Spoilers: none

Previous parts at marysutherland.livejournal.com/6271.html and marysutherland.livejournal.com/6527.htm

Summary: Mycroft knows grownups don't die of love. Which is probably just as well, now Sherlock has managed to break up his engagement to John.


The one camera he'd been allowed inside 221B covers the front door and part of the kitchen, as the two most likely danger zones. Mycroft manages to hold out until the afternoon, but then he can't help himself watching the silent, slightly grainy images obsessively, even though he should be concentrating on Qatar. John has finally got some of the stains off the wallpaper since he's last observed the flat, hasn't he?

All he's seen of John so far is him making a cup of tea, and then disappearing off camera again. He looks normal. Then he comes back into shot briefly as he goes to do the washing up. Mycroft is now squinting at his ex-fiancé's back, half of his back, on a security camera, trying to deduce the state of his mental health. This is not sensible, especially since he's not sure if John was still capable of washing up before the break-up, so he isn't actually going to be able to make any useful deductions.

Sherlock bursts through the front door, tugging off his coat and scarf, bouncing round happily, obviously calling to John. John emerges from the kitchen, looking upwards, soberly, into Sherlock's face. Starts a conversation, hands behind his back, there's a determination in his stance that Mycroft hasn't seen for weeks, the reminder that's he a soldier. And a manic grin is spreading across Sherlock's face, no, that's inaccurate, he looks like an ecstatic angel, only with pumping fists. And then...

Then, you can say that Sherlock kisses John, but not if you know precisely how John deals with someone who's six foot or more. Because then you know from the angles that it's at least as much John kissing Sherlock.

Mycroft's hand is so unsteady on the mouse that it takes him several goes to close the window for the feed. He rapidly pulls up the form that will authorise the ending of internal surveillance on the flat. And then after that, he searches for the one to deregister an interest, because if the Service knows what is happening in your personal life, they're not too concerned about why.


 The hardcopy surveillance reports on Sherlock still appear daily on Mycroft's desk, as they have for years, because he still wants to check personally that they are properly shredded. It's just that now he shreds them without reading them first, which may be ludicrous, but does save a certain amount of time. Then, a couple of weeks later, Anthea appears in his office carrying a DVD.

"Sorry to disturb you, sir," she announces," but there's a problem with some evidence for the Conroy gang. The Met have got some of our footage, but they're panicking it's a mixtape."

"Surely we have clever young men down in our IT labs who can demonstrate to them that the material hasn't been tampered with?"

"Yes, but DI Lestrade says they're probably the clever young men who cut the thing together in the first place. He says if you give the tape the all-clear, he'll run with it."

"Remind me again about the incident," Mycroft says, and know that she's mentally logging that he ought to have know the details already, and is possibly slipping.

"Suspected people traffickers, holed up in a factory in Deptford. They didn't have enough evidence for a warrant, so Sherlock and John went in as ferrets."

"My brother-" Mycroft tails off, because if he shows he didn't know Sherlock was involved in the case, that'll be another black mark. "Is it because of him that the Met are panicking?"

"It is, rather. Our footage isn't from a fixed camera, you see, he co-opted one of the surveillance team. He got him to focus on their planned escape route, so he could get some clear shots of their chasers' faces."

"He was planning to go in and provoke these people, and then run off on a pre-determined course? Is he completely insane?"

"That's really for you to say rather than me, isn't it? Sherlock has been the Met's ferret quite often before now, you know."

Mycroft hates the term 'ferret', because it misleadingly suggests that the person infiltrating somewhere with suspected criminals is the aggressor, that he's just going to be flushing some harmless rabbits from their burrows. He'd prefer the term 'sacrificial mouse': the mouse runs in, gets the cat to chase them out of the house, and there you are. As the police know, once you're chasing after someone in London, actually, once you're running in the streets of London, there's always something you can be arrested for. The problem is whether the cat gets to play games with the mouse before the police intervene. Especially since there are two mice this time, one far less experienced, and though John's got a lot of stamina, he's not really a sprinter. Still, presumably if either of them had ended up in hospital, he'd have heard about it before now.

"Are you going to watch the tape now, sir?" Anthea asks. "Or do you need any more data first?"

He can hardly ask if it's going to have a happy ending before he takes a look, so he takes the disk and starts running it on his computer. An anonymous roof top, presumably of some office block, the camera panning round, searching through the pattern of moonlight and shadows, then a brief glimpse of the sky. Almost like an establishing shot.

"It's Sid Paget, isn't it?" he says, and Anthea nods. Surveillance by an arthouse director manqué, no wonder the Met are suspicious. He doesn't know sometimes why they put up with Sid: well, except that he can watch a closed door for a whole eight hour shift and not lose focus, as long as there aren't any nice reflective patches of engine oil around.

For five or ten minutes the film really does begin to resemble an arthouse feature, with nothing but slightly shifting patterns of light and dark. Then a couple of racing figures burst into the shot, one lean and dramatic, the second shorter and sturdier. They race across the rooftop, and vanish. And then their pursuers appear, and the zoom accurately picks out each one of the four faces as the men hurtle along the roof, before heading down the ladder at the other side. Sid may not win an Oscar for this one, Mycroft thinks, but he should be eligible for a performance related pay award.

Another few minutes of nothing but rooftop, and then two shadows detach themselves from the shadows of the parapet and uncoil themselves into Sherlock and John. It's an old trick and a dangerous one: if they'd been spotted, all that the surveillance means is that Sid would get a summons to the inquest. As always, it's even more dangerous because Sherlock hasn't camouflaged his face, though at least John has. But they've beaten the odds this time, though John is still flicking glances around to make sure they're safe and...oh God, he knows that expression on John's face. And John's gloved hands are fumbling at his belt now - why the hell doesn't Paget stop the camera? And  then Sherlock's gloves are in John's hair, pulling up his head, and the smile on John's blackened face is so broad it's a wonder Sherlock's lips can cover it.  

Mycroft forces himself  to sit and keep on watching, as the man he loves and his own brother have vigorous sex on a London rooftop. Because the first thing that the surveillance teams are taught is that computer memory is cheap and information valuable. And because, although he is Anthea's boss, she also has other people she takes instructions from. It's a set-up, of course, but it isn't for the moment worth contemplating who's trying to do what to whom. Other than the obvious, of course. And at least John and Sherlock are quick about the whole thing, John dressing afterwards in a scramble that's all too familiar.

"Tell Lestrade that the tape's genuine," he manages to say at the end, "and that if the second half ever gets out, he's finishing his career in the British Transport Police."

"Very good, sir."

Mycroft doesn't know if the next bit is what his masters want to hear, but never mind.

"And, given the pressure on government finances currently, I don't think we can justify any more surveillance on my brother. He seems to have everything well in hand."

"I understand. I'll get it stopped immediately."


It is the memory of John's smile that drives Mycroft half mad for days, as if it would be fine for him to be with Sherlock as long as he was unhappy. Mycroft spends hours repeatedly working out plans for the rendition of men to Algerian jails, copying and recopying the notes in his normally meticulous handwriting whenever the biro smudges. Because he obviously cannot type such notes up, which would leave a record: besides, they have to go to the recipient handwritten in ballpoint pen.

He also gets the CIA to replace the hard drive of his home computer, so that the pictures of John are gone. The polite young Hispanic man who does it looks slightly warily at Mycroft, especially when he asks Mycroft to destroy the drive physically, and Mycroft's hand with the hammer comes down again and again, as he remembers a lock splintering in the warehouse.

He realises then that the funny looks he's getting will translate into discreet enquiries by the Americans, and that any of the more flamboyant reactions to the end of a relationship – heavy drinking, one night stands, the abduction of Sherlock – will threaten his job. He still has the option of lower-level behaviour of course:  pining, moping, sulking. But to what end? It won't make him feel better, so is there any countervailing benefit to anyone else? Sherlock would probably be pleased if he knew that Mycroft was suffering; John might, perhaps, not be. So that is no use. And the rest of the world will not care. Grief is only romantic in the young and attractive; balding, middle-aged men should not expect to find and keep love.  Probably some of his acquaintances would find his situation funny.

 He can't expect support or sympathy from others: he must take care of himself. But it is far harder than he expects this time. He coped with his father's death, with Janet running away, so why is this taking so long to start to heal? Put it as a problem and the answer is clear. Part of him is still expecting, hoping, that John will come back. So there's always too much food around, in case John turns up and is hungry. Books bought that John might like to read. And when Mycroft wanders the streets of Richmond at night, it's not just insomnia, but the unconscious thought that John might be coming to see him, but has somehow got lost.

It is not going to happen. It is easier to tell himself that John, his John, is dead.  The tough, funny, oddly gentle man who likes, liked, Humphrey Bogart films, and hot baths, and curling up in Mycroft's bed making silly jokes after sex. He can grieve for that John now as lost, draw on the memory of him and his strength to help Mycroft's own resilience. It is, after all, not just the British army that keeps going whatever the situation: so does Her Majesty's government. There is still a bed reserved for Mycroft in a nuclear bunker somewhere, though unfortunately, probably not a comfortable one.

It's a psychological trick, an illusion, of course, to imagine that John is dead. That the man called John, forever running over the rooftops after Sherlock, is not the same person, just a dangerous stranger, desperately seeking thrills, with no time to slow down, find comfort, give comfort.  But even though it's an illusion, it somehow gives Mycroft just enough of a toe-hold on his own life to become able to function again, start rebuilding himself. Which is just as well, because despite giving up the surveillance, it isn't long before he has to hear about John Watson again. Lestrade calls, demanding to know if Sherlock has got John onto drugs. Mycroft listens with momentary alarm, but is then able to point out acidly that symptoms of irritability, tiredness, and inability to concentrate probably just mean than John is now addicted to London.

Sherlock is harder to deal with. Common decency would stop him turning to Mycroft for help ever again. Unfortunately, Mycroft hasn't even attempted to train him in that. The text arrives early one damp  October morning:

Arrested in Seething Lane Garden. City of London police, not Met. They insist we need a solicitor before talking. Send one immediately, bored here. SH

Mycroft texts back, because he's definitely not prepared to speak to Sherlock.

Where are you? Is John with you? MH

Bishopsgate. John arrested with me. City lot have worse tea and conversation than the Met. How long are you going to be? Or do I sort this out myself? SH

Tell John's he's an idiot. Someone will be there ASAP. Don't provoke extra charges before then. MH

Knew I could count on you. Probably not eligible for  a knighthood now. SH


It was bizarre that even now Sherlock apparently didn't understand the connection between Is John with you? and Someone will be there ASAP. That he did not - could not? – recognise what he had done to Mycroft, how it was still affecting him. It was just as well that he didn't, thought Mycroft. It was bad enough having to do things for Sherlock because he was Mycroft's brother. It would be worse being made to do things for Sherlock because he was John's...theatre of operations. John wasn't dead of course, however much it might have helped him once to imagine that. Not dead but fearfully changed. Unlike Mycroft's feelings.

He didn't call John an idiot the next time he was arrested. To get arrested instead of Sherlock was an occupational hazard of associating with him. To get arrested protecting Sherlock was nothing less than he'd expect from John. To keep on getting arrested alongside Sherlock – for trespass, vandalism, outraging public decency – spoke of a recklessness that would one day end in disaster. It was easier to fall into bad habits than escape them.

John was not dead, but Mycroft doubted he would ever be the same again. Of course, he wasn't the same either, but there was still a job to be done. The work went on: the politicians who couldn't tell an aspiration from an objective from a strategy. Or a good strategy from a bad one. The ones who still thought that invading countries starting with the letter "I' was a good move. That if 'something must be done' and they'd thought of something, it was therefore automatically a good idea to do it.

He smiled smarmily at Sarkozy and said things in French that he'd blush to say in English. He made contingency plans about ex-President Putin and President-over-his-dead-body Palin. And he told himself once again that what counted in the end was the greatest good of the greatest number. It was just unfortunate that his number never came up.


The pain didn't go away, but it was mostly manageable, except for the part that he'd still been deluding himself about. Telling himself that if he ignored the calendar, Christmas would not come. That somehow December 23rd would be followed seamlessly by January 6th and he would not have to go to Stow-on-the-Wold and spend Christmas with his family. He was tempted to provoke a crisis, prevent himself being able to go over, but that would be unprofessional.

Sherlock wasn't there where he arrived on the morning of the 24th, and for a moment he hoped he wouldn't be coming, even as he knew how much it would hurt his mother.

"He's coming later," she announced to him, when he finally enquired. "Said he'd be here when we got back from the midnight service. Of course I thought at first it was just an excuse to avoid that after last year. You remember, the argument with Professor Sharp about Quirinius. But I think it's not just that, because in his last text he said he'd be bringing a friend to stay, can you believe it? Do you know anything about her, Mycroft? She's not foreign by any chance, is she?  It's just for the catering I'm worried about, if there are things she can't eat."

Coming out on Christmas morning, thought Mycroft, this could be one of the low points of the Holmes' Christmases. Still, at least it gave him a few hours to brace himself for the sight of John again. He'd have liked to have several stiff drinks beforehand, but he was sure he was going to get asked to take the collection at the midnight service, "because people always give so generously when you look at them like that."

When they got back from the service, however, there was no Sherlock, no John. Just two large envelopes left on the kitchen table. Mycroft rapidly opened the one addressed to him, as his mother heated up some mulled wine for their night-time drink, and read the scrawled note inside:

Sorry, can't make it back from Ireland in time. Don't eat too many mince pies. Picture from Dublin enclosed. SH

He pulled out the glossy photo -  large, professionally taken, in the early afternoon, judging from the shadows. He squinted vaguely at the classical style architecture in the background: not the Government Buildings, as he'd  thought at first, but the General Post Office. Then, at last, he made himself look at the foreground. Sherlock, with his arm around John, in a pose that said Mine and You can't Photoshop this one away. Sherlock's smile was gorgeous and triumphant, John's stoical. Because of the relationship, or the suit he was in, or having his photo taken, or just the fact that Sherlock's arm was draped heavily over his left shoulder?

Mycroft was so absorbed by John's face that he hadn't been quick enough to take in the significance of the second envelope, and now Mummy was passing him the mulled wine, and sitting down herself, and pulling out her copy of the photo. Mycroft couldn't look. Gulping down the spicy wine, he buried his gaze in the photo he held, as if he could drag more information from it. But John was just as opaque to him as ever, and just as desirable, he could almost the feel of those tense lips on his...

"Mycroft," his mother said, "I think we do need to talk about this a teeny bit."

He forced himself to meet her eyes. There was no physical resemblance – she had always been small and soft and rounded - and it was only her sharp dark eyes that spoke of something beyond a little old lady now. Beneath all the fluffiness though, there was a harder, more practical core. She was not Mycroft's most dangerous opponent or relative, but sometimes one of the more disconcerting  ones.

"I, I'm sorry," he said at last, "I didn't know how to tell you."

"Well, I'd rather given up hope of grandchildren anyhow, and it's not poor Sherlock's fault he's homosexual," she replied. "No, I believe 'gay' is the term now, though I always find that a bit confusing. That is what it's about, isn't it? I haven't misinterpreted the photo?"

"No, you haven't. Sherlock and John, John Watson are...together."

"No wonder Sherlock didn't feel they could come to the service, which is silly, because the vicar is very understanding about that sort of thing. In fact, if they ever want a blessing, I'm sure something could be arranged." She paused. "Or is it not at that stage, is it something more, more casual?"

"I don't know about Sherlock's feelings," said Mycroft. "I think John is very...committed."

"That's good," she said. "I wouldn't want anyone who might break Sherlock's heart. Now tell me more. I know a little about John from his blog, but he's not a very expressive writer."

"You've been reading John's blog?"

"Sherlock's site linked to him and John does at least give a few more useful details of their activities than Sherlock's phone calls. John's a doctor and an officer, I gather, so presumably presentable, probably more so than Sherlock, I expect. You must know him a bit. What's he like?"

"A brave man," Mycroft said slowly. "Friendly. Kind. He was very good to me last year when I had some horrible stomach bug."

"A caring man, that's good. Sherlock needs looking after. And is he a good man, do you think, Mycroft? Sherlock really needs someone like that."

He was before he met Sherlock, thought Mycroft. But no, he mustn't be inaccurate.

"He's...a very loyal man, strong principles, perhaps a bit...reckless."

"Soldiers are often like that, I find," she replied, smiling. "I know your father never quite got over the fact that nothing in the rest of his life was as exciting as Korea. But I'm sure John and I will find lots of things to talk about. If I can just persuade Sherlock to actually bring him here, rather than back out at the last moment."

"You seem very...accepting of it," said Mycroft. "I thought it might be a shock."

"Well, we do know about these things in Gloucestershire," she said, "we're not complete country bumpkins." She paused, and looked quizzically at Mycroft. "And anyhow, I have spent rather a lot of years working out what to do if my son did finally tell me he was gay."

He knew he ought to say something in response. It was just that his mouth had abruptly stopped working. And his mind. And possibly his entire nervous system.

"I'm sorry," his mother said at last, "but I thought I ought to tell you I knew. I mean I understand you need to be discreet in the civil service, but it's been nearly ten years since Janet left you. "

"Janet told you?" Mycroft croaked out.

"I went to talk to her, because I was hoping you might be able to make it up, even after she went off with that horrible man and his horrible dogs. But then she explained about you being, you know, and I did see then that you really weren't going to be able to make a go of it. But the thing is, darling, it's all rather different now, isn't it?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, they've got regulations now, haven't they? So they can't sack you from your job just because of, of who you're going out with.  So I really think you should take advantage of that. Especially with John around."

"John? I, I, I-"

"I'm sorry, I'm not explaining myself very well am I? Networks. Homosexuals, gay people have networks, or so I've been told. So what I thought is that John will have some nice gay friends he can introduce you to, suitable ones. Don't you think that's a good idea?"

He didn't scream, or cry, or yell, he didn't even ask for more mulled wine. But something must have leaked past his defences, because when he belatedly started talking about being married to his work, his mother was instantly interrupting to say how silly she'd been, and that it was the mulled wine talking, and that they really ought to go to bed. She hadn't entirely lost her old expertise at skittering away from emotional landmines, and a couple of minutes later they were both heading upstairs in an outwardly calm state.


It was Easter 1916, and he was standing outside the Dublin GPO where the English were trapped.

"Army, police, detectives, the lot," said stocky, grey-haired Michael Collins, "We just have to wait it out, and they'll surrender. Let's not be childish here."

"Oh, but that would be boring, Mikey-boy," said Eamon de Valera, slim in his fancy suit, with his hair slicked back, and his wild eyes. "Mycroft's got a better idea for daddy, hasn't he?"

"Yes," said Mycroft. "They're going to die, that's what they're going to do. But we don't want our own men injured. So what we need is explosives. Incendiary devices on the roof, the place'll go up like a candle. Machine guns trained on the doors, no-one's going to get out alive."

"Burn the heart out of the building," de Valera giggled. "I like it."

Even as Mycroft watched, the rockets started, catching on the roof, the points of fire spreading, merging, till the flames coated the building in flickering orange, and the men inside screamed...

And Mycroft woke up and decided that burning down half a city because you were annoyed with your brother was excessive. And that it was time to get up, and go and have breakfast with Mummy, before helping peel the potatoes. Because it was Christmas Day, and the world did not come to a stop for his benefit, and he was mature enough not to expect it to.


Part 4


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 4th, 2010 11:12 am (UTC)
Arrrrrrggggghh! Bentham, you bastard! *shakes fist*

Absolutely heartbreaking! And beautifully written! But if Mycroft doesn't gat some solace soon I'm going round to UCL to have words with Mr B in person....
Nov. 4th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
Bentham's corpse does actually get a mention in the last part anyhow. (Obviously not a walk-on role, because that's only for fresh body parts).
Nov. 5th, 2010 11:35 am (UTC)
Bentham's body needs more fanfic love!! Wait...maybe not...

I am _so_ loving this!

Nov. 27th, 2010 09:08 am (UTC)
I suppose he could be paired with Lindow Man...
Nov. 4th, 2010 11:55 am (UTC)
painfully good, like the rest of this series. poor Mycroft.

mourning someone who's not dead is a very particular kind of misery which you catch beautifully.

like the arthouse surveillance, and Mummy's unexpected reaction.

counting on you for the promised resolution.
Nov. 4th, 2010 07:04 pm (UTC)
High angst levels indeed! You write Mycroft's pain exquisitely.
I hope things get better for him soon...
Nov. 5th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
Poor Mycroft. And poor John, too. I see so many ways that this could end so very badly, but I'll wish for a happy ending anyway.
Nov. 27th, 2010 12:34 am (UTC)

I can't even... Ugh damn Sherlock, damn him!!! I must confess that when I read that he and John kissed at the beginning of this part, I almost threw my NDS (on which I'm reading) to the wall. It's not fair, S/J is my absolute OTP but in this fic I hate it so much!! Poor Mycroft, he needs to elope with John, come to Mexico and live the rest of their lives happily, sunbathing on the sands of a Caribbean beach. Sherlock can go to hell or OD, whatever. x( Oh god I love this fic, it's wonderful! :)
Dec. 8th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)
Oh Mary - why'dyou have to make me happy with the Sid Paget reference and then dash me to pieces again?

Mycroft's take on politics; the dream, populated with the people he knows; the conversation with his mother.

It's too beautifully written for me to stop. Even though I know it doesn't get better - at least not until next Christmas.

Oh /Mycroft/ - why so /noble/?
Mar. 25th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC)
I have read the story but I feel this comment would make more sense here.

I don't think I have ever, ever wanted Sherlock to die, (in any fic other than this one... Sorry.), as much as I do right now. I feel some sort of giant blender he would mysteriously be pushed falls into would do the trick.

Regardless of my extremely high urge to kill Sherlock, this is an extraordinarily well written fic. You can definitely feel the pain of Mycroft's emotional hurts and your heart breaks with his and you can really feel everything he is going through. I wish I had the ability to write as well as you do. The ending was so tender I just wanted to wrap it up in bubble wrap just so it won't break in the future. Which is ridiculous because this story is fiction but I will have to point out once again that you are a wonderful writer and everything in the story, no matter how far-fetched, was completely believable and heart wrenching.
Mar. 26th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
I don't normally write Sherlock as quite so monstrous, but this is the peculiar callousness of the spoilt child, which this Mycroft brings out in him. It's always possible for the unreasonable to win out against the reasonable and moderate, which was I found it quite hard to provide a plausibly happy ending to the fic. Because it's only because Sherlock tires of John that the whole cycle of emotional blackmail doesn't start up again.

Inclidentally, there is a brief fluffy epilogue to Sacrifices here.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )