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Holmes comforts (1/4)

BBC Sherlock

Rating: 15 (whole story) - slash

Spoilers: none

Summary: this is a companion piece to Tastes (http://marysutherland.livejournal.com/4346.html) giving the same story from Mycroft's point of view


At 42, you were only middle-aged if you were going to live to be 84, and Mycroft knew the genetic and lifestyle odds were against him. More than half his life over, and what had he achieved? A great deal in some ways, he supposed. He wouldn't go down in the history books, but that was precisely the point. The normal, the boring, didn't interest historians, but they were his speciality. All the complex manoeuvres of his work weren't important for their own sake: the aim, as anyone who looked at the wider picture could see, was to keep things stable, predictable, stop things happening. A rearguard action by the forces of order against the forces of chaos, the ones that wanted to build an allegedly better world on the foundation of broken laws and piles of corpses.

Twenty years trying to make sanity prevail had taken its toll. His health and his temper had both suffered, and as for his personal life, that had been the most drastic sacrifice. In theory, his sexual orientation wasn't a problem: in practice, after Blunt and Burgess and the rest, his recruiters made it plain that some of the more interesting jobs required men who were "sound". Mycroft closed the closet door that he'd tentatively started to open at Cambridge, and looked for a wife.

He'd been clear to Janet what sort of a marriage he was looking for, and since her concerns were to stay in Berkshire, maintain her social position, and have minimal physical contact, they'd got on well for years. She preferred dog breeding to straight sex, which Mycroft thought was fair enough. It had been inconvenient, however, that she'd run off with a judge at Crufts shortly before their twelfth wedding anniversary. The divorce was straightforward, especially since there were no children. Mycroft had accepted that as one of Janet's conditions, and secretly he'd been relieved. There were aspects of genetic inheritance he was pretty sure he didn't want to risk exploring, so it was probably safer that he had no children. Technically had no children.

One of Mummy's more irritating claims was her repeated statement that "the worst day of Mycroft's life was when Sherlock was born". And it was irritating because it was factually inaccurate. The seven year gap between them had been too large for Mycroft to feel threatened by his baby brother, rather than protective, and his toleration had survived the rampages of the three, four, five year old boy with the lightning smile and the lightning mind. It had been fascinating to watch his personality develop then. It was only at around six or seven that the real difficulties had emerged. When Sherlock started displaying the behaviour that was varied labelled as 'high spirits', 'conduct disorder' and 'viciousness'. When it became unmistakeably clear that the brilliant, charming boy also possessed the dangerous combination of an iron will, fearlessness, and an inability to put himself in the shoes of others.

Sherlock's parents and assorted consultants had wasted years, or so Mycroft considered, on arguing about the precise diagnosis and causes of Sherlock's problems, and on grandiose therapeutic interventions. It had been left to him to provide practical training to Sherlock on how to survive school, university and the world outside without getting beaten, expelled, or imprisoned. If Sherlock was a high-functioning sociopath nowadays, it had been largely down to Mycroft.

He'd had some successes. Sherlock was no longer an arsonist, and the vandalism and theft were now minor problems. He'd trained Sherlock to remember that dissections were to be limited to things that were already dead, and in the strict rules about the acceptable treatment of live animals. He'd got Sherlock off the wrong drugs and onto at least some of the right ones. He'd been less successful on other aspects though, and sometimes even Mycroft's commitment to taming the force of chaos that was Sherlock had weakened. But beyond even the utilitarian argument that Sherlock dead or unhappy would cause more grief than Sherlock alive and content, there was an unbreakable bond. Not so much love, as the eternal commitment to protection that he'd somehow absorbed from being the elder child. There were times when it seemed to Mycroft that primogeniture was an entirely reasonable compensation for being landed with a younger brother. There were even times he felt sympathy for David Miliband.

His experiences had honed his negotiation skills, of course. Once you'd had the patience to get a nutritional meal into a eight year-old fussy eater who could vomit at will, even the Argentineans started to seem reasonable. And over the years, he had made a surprisingly useful set of contacts from people he'd first met when bribing them not to take proceedings against Sherlock. Mycroft reminded himself sometimes that it had become slightly easier over the years: the situation with Sherlock had become, if not stable, at least predictably unstable, he could often foresee the disasters now and turn their edge. His diaries provided solid evidence of Sherlock's increasingly frequent moments of near responsibility. And Mycroft's own self-control had developed even further - the only craving he had left was for sugar. Or so he'd thought, till John came along.

He couldn't now remember what he'd thought, felt about John at their first meeting. No, that was inaccurate, and he had to be accurate. He had now overlaid his memories of the first meeting with so much other data that he could no longer be sure of his original impressions. Too many hours in the privacy of the locked study in his Richmond house replaying the footage, reading his notes from before meeting John, after meeting him. None of them revealed whether he had really recognised John's qualities immediately, as he should have done. Whether the tall, slightly shifty stranger that he saw on the screen really had been planning to do entirely inappropriate things when he'd touched the war hero's hand, or whether he'd just dreamt that in the weeks afterwards.

He'd rapidly had to repress his impulses towards John, of course, lock them up securely, because it was all too clear by the next time they met that John had fallen under the spell of Sherlock's charm. Mycroft had put a brave face on it, but he'd known the waste of a good man that would follow. John would be killed – an accident on Sherlock's part, but the accidentally dead weren't any less dead – or maimed. Or he'd be sucked into a hopelessly devoted masochistic passion, become a male version of Molly, all unrequited love and lust. Mycroft had never bothered to work out why Sherlock was asexual. As a child, Sherlock had shown an instantaneous and unbreakable antipathy to such varied things as lettuce, ballpoint pens, and Wales; there was no point in wondering why sexual activity didn't appeal to him.

It had been a pleasant surprise to find that John had more of a sense of survival than you'd expect from a man who got himself strapped into a bomb jacket within three months of meeting Sherlock.  Sherlock had not driven him to suicide, drink, madness, or most forms of murder. John had even, so he claimed to Mycroft, persuaded Sherlock to eat lettuce, as long as it had a few slug holes in it to analyse.

That was the other pleasant surprise for Mycroft, that he now had an effective channel for communication with Sherlock via John. He was sure that Sherlock had intended it as an insult, and Mycroft dutifully carried out a few token manoeuvres in response.  But actually it was delightful to talk to John rather than Sherlock, and even Sherlock's snide comments acquired a certain wry charm when delivered in John's deadpan tones. And it was so helpful for forward planning if he had some basic information on Sherlock.


"I've told you before, I'm not informing on Sherlock," John had said at one of their early meetings. "It doesn't matter what you offer me."

"I thought Sherlock would want you to take the money," Mycroft replied. "You could always feed me the odd piece of dodgy information if it'd appease your conscience."

"I do not inform on people," said John doggedly. "I'm not getting involved in your little games with Sherlock."

Trust issues, of course, thought Mycroft, and said: "Very well, but can you just tell me one thing before you go? In your considered opinion, is Sherlock currently happy?"

"Happy?" said John, as if this was an unfamiliar word.

"Content, satisfied. I know these are probably difficult concepts to relate to Sherlock. So perhaps we could just start with less impossible to live with?"

"Why do you want to know whether Sherlock's happy? Mycroft, you're not actually concerned about Sherlock, are you?"

"As I've told you before, I worry about him all the time. But there is also the purely practical aspect that if Sherlock is unhappy, lots of other people tend to end up being unhappy as well."

"Why don't you just get all your surveillance team to tell you the answer?"

"Because they are from the British security service and thus peculiarly bad at identifying their own emotional states, never mind someone else's . My network is entirely adequate for telling me where Sherlock goes to in London and who he meets. It is singularly poor at telling me whether he's liable to contract scurvy, or is sleeping in the bath again."

"How did you guess, deduce that?" John asked.

"My dear John, it is, er, clear that you have neither showered nor cleaned your teeth this morning, which given your habits suggests an extreme reluctance to go into your bathroom. I'm sure you're capable by now of removing or ignoring almost anything that could be located there, except possibly my brother. Also, as I've said, he's done it before."

"Do you know why?"

"He found the running water soothed his insomnia, but we had to put a stop to that because of the drought orders. I discovered that a reasonable alternative was ice cubes on the sheets and a tape of sound effects. They probably have something on CD now, I'm sure I could find you something, if you were interested."

John momentarily had the look of someone longing for a nice simple war zone, but then he seemed to come to a decision.

"If you could give me tips sometimes on things to look out for, do, that would be handy," he said. "And in return, you don't actually need daily reports about what he's eaten and whether he's had a bowel movement, do you?"

"Nothing like that," Mycroft smiled. "Just the occasional reassurance that Sherlock's not likely to end up in hospital or a clinic any time soon. And, obviously, that neither are you. Sherlock never really learnt to play nicely."

"I'm not sure I did either," said John. "OK, I can do that."


Mycroft thought that John had come to enjoy their intermittent meetings as well. He suspected it was a relief sometimes to talk about cases afterwards, the things that couldn't go on the blog. And it was probably easier for John to discuss Sherlock with someone who would neither call him a freak, nor refuse to believe the more bizarre of John's tales.

By now, Mycroft had his own more unfortunate physical impulses under control: he was no longer missing whole sentences of John's in distraction at the angle of his jaw-line. Given that John was straight, a platonic crush might have been allowable, but it was still foolish. Besides, if he focused solely on the physical aspects, he would miss the simple pleasure of talking to someone ordinary. No, not ordinary, John wasn't that. But he was a man who could stay mostly sane in the midst of a mad world, and that was a rare quality.

It was because he had come to admire John, as well as long for him, that he was...disappointed when the surveillance revealed some of the less savoury aspects of John's private life. John was leading a double life, was he, getting off in seedy bars with men, while dating women? That was a concern, especially if it was a side-effect of associating with Sherlock. He was going to have to dig a little deeper.

Several weeks and some very discreet enquiries later, there was the faint trace of a pattern, if nothing conclusive. The good news was that it wasn't the strains of being Sherlock's flatmate that was driving John to this kind of recklessness. The bad news was that it was a habit of much longer standing. A dangerous habit. Mycroft supposed it was inevitable that anyone who could cope with Sherlock must have some psychological quirks. John wasn't the first gay in denial to end up in such patterns of behaviour – if Mycroft hadn't been so determined, he might have gone the same way himself – and as a doctor and a soldier, John could probably take care of himself in such encounters. But it placed him definitely on the side of the unsound, and thus taboo for Mycroft.

 Which was probably just as well. If John had been gay but respectable, it would have been very tempting to try and seduce him, despite Mycroft's inadequacies as a seducer. It was hard to be confident of your appeal at the best of time when you were past forty, your hairline was receding and your waistline expanding. It was almost impossible to expect anything but disaster if you would inevitably end up being compared to Sherlock.


It had been on his last date with a man that Mycroft had fully realised Sherlock's danger to his love life. A summer day in Cambridge, and he'd been about to take Greg punting, Greg with his long blond hair, and lazy eyes, and generous mouth. Mycroft knew a quiet place on the river to head for, and then he was going to teach Greg to punt, which might require a little help with positioning Greg's body. But just when they'd been about to leave Scudamore's, Sherlock had suddenly appeared, scrambling into the punt and grinning happily at the pair of them, as he sat cross-legged on the cushions.

"Where are we going?" Sherlock enquired. He'd been, what, 13 then, Mycroft thought, shooting up, but his voice not yet quite broken, able to switch from seven to twenty-seven in a moment.

"You're going back to school right now," said Mycroft. The sole disadvantage of Cambridge was having Sherlock in the same city. Maybe he should have taken that scholarship to Yale.

"The Perse don't want me there, "Sherlock replied cheerfully. "I've got hand, foot and mouth disease, so I'm not allowed to go to school and infect them."

"And what about us?"

"It's not a big deal for adults, it's really just the titchy kids they worry about. And I'm not that infectious anyhow."

"Foot and mouth disease?" said Greg, smiling at Sherlock. "Don't we have to shoot you and burn your body?"

"Hand, foot and mouth. Coxsackie A16," Sherlock said, emphasizing the first syllable of 'Coxsackie'. "I feel fine, but I have spots in some very strange places, do you want to see? And I have to keep sucking things to ease my sore mouth." Sherlock was giving Greg a look that was a lot more knowing than it ought to be, Mycroft thought.

"Sherlock!" he barked, "Pick up a paddle and make yourself useful, because that idiot to our right is just about to ram us."

Sherlock had given the happy smile of a child, and gone back to charming Greg in an entirely innocent way. Which hadn't stopped Mycroft breaking up rather spectacularly with Greg that evening, and starting to wonder how a gay man found a wife. He'd picked the sensible option that time, sacrificing shadowy hopes, unrealistic dreams, for something solid and definite, with prospects. He wasn't going to let his feelings for John reverse that decision.


Part 2


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 17th, 2010 08:09 pm (UTC)
Gorgeously written!
There were even times he felt sympathy for David Miliband. made me LOL!
The description of teenage Sherlock breaking up Mycroft and Greg was understated but heartbreaking.
Really looking forward to the next part.
Oct. 19th, 2010 10:08 am (UTC)
I'm afraid there's going to be quite a lot of heartbreak, particularly in the third story, when Sherlock proves to be a far more ruthless younger brother than even Ed Miliband, but I promise you a happy ending eventually.
Oct. 17th, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC)
oh that Sherlock! sympathy for Mycroft here.

"As a child, Sherlock had shown an instantaneous and unbreakable antipathy to such varied things as lettuce, ballpoint pens, and Wales; there was no point in wondering why sexual activity didn't appeal to him." loved this!
Oct. 19th, 2010 10:11 am (UTC)
However, under John's influence, Sherlock has already been prepared to come to term with lettuce, which Mycroft should realise is not a good sign. (The ballpoint pens also re-emerge fleetingly many thousands of words later, but I'm afraid that's the last we're going to be hearing about Wales).
Oct. 22nd, 2010 08:11 am (UTC)
I adored that part too. The antipathy to ballpoint pens especially - I have Sherlock down as fountain-pen fetishist.
Nov. 21st, 2010 10:43 am (UTC)
Oh my, oh Mycroft! This is now my favorite incarnation of my favorite elder brother, and I might not be able to write about him again. You got so many layers of sweetness, sadness, and humor into this one story. Of course primogeniture is reasonable compensation, even the Argentineans, John longing for a war zone, the pens, lettuce, and wales, of course Mycroft would love how John maintains his sanity amidst a mad world. . . Just all the details were perfect. And the writing so compelling I don't want it to end, so am glad there's so much more . . .
Nov. 21st, 2010 05:16 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you're enjoying it, but please don't stop your own version of Mycroft. I can't remember whether I've left comments on your Mystrade fictions, but I've enjoyed them a lot, especially Mycroft's alarm at eating on a kitchen table that has been used for other purposes, and the tenderness of 'Grand Alliance'. I think that's one of the great things about this fanfic community, that it is able to sustain a number of plausible different versions of characters (some of my other fics show Mycroft in a far less favourable light).

If there are any specific details from these stories you want to riff off, however, please feel free to - I've taken other people's work as a starting point for some of my fics as well.
Nov. 22nd, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC)
definitely agree--the variety of versions of each character is wondrous in this fandom! I can't really write a sinister Mycroft myself, but I've read a couple that I liked very much. Doling out your wonderful tales to myself all this week, and loving it. The only thing I can't bring myself to read is beloved character death--otherwise, eager to see where everything goes.
Nov. 26th, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
Lolita!Sherlock messes with your relationship... x( Poor Mycroft, even though I'm an avid Sherlock/John shipper, I'm on Mycroft's side right now. :(
Nov. 27th, 2010 07:56 am (UTC)
Oh, this is wonderful. Sherlock really has been a thorn in Mycroft's side for ages, hasn't he? VERY eager to see where this goes!
Jan. 7th, 2011 02:39 am (UTC)
There were even times he felt sympathy for David Miliband.


As a child, Sherlock had shown an instantaneous and unbreakable antipathy to such varied things as lettuce, ballpoint pens, and Wales; there was no point in wondering why sexual activity didn't appeal to him.

Jan. 16th, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
to nothing-to-read (lj) (weekly)
User nothing_to_read referenced to your post from to nothing-to-read (lj) (weekly) saying: [...] marysutherland: Holmes Comforts - Mycroft, John, Sherlock, PG13 [...]
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