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Sacrifices (2/4)

Sherlock BBC

Rating: 15: excessive angst, violence, death threats, slash, swearing, really not-good Sherlock

Spoilers: none

Previous part here

Sherlock was the only person they'd told so far about the engagement. Mycroft was trying to convince himself that was because he needed to work out what to say to Mummy first, before going public. He knew it was really because he was waiting for Sherlock's next move. Sherlock congratulated them in a way that suggested he'd read a book of etiquette and almost understood it. After that, he'd waited for several days, until Mycroft had taken John off to start sorting out some of the paperwork, and then gone out and got himself stabbed.

You couldn't prove it was deliberate, thought Mycroft, but it didn't really matter if it wasn't. Their lives, all their plans, had been put on hold, nothing but sitting round in the hospital for days. The night they heard that Sherlock was going to pull through, an exhausted John had wept on Mycroft's shirtfront.

Mycroft hadn't cried about Sherlock, he'd never been able to. Instead he'd organised things: his own work, Sherlock's clients, the Met, John eating and sleeping. He carefully arranged his own visits to Sherlock so he was never alone with him in his private room, so that he wasn't tempted to attack him when Sherlock wore one of his more romantically wounded hero looks. Sherlock was ostensibly being a good patient, but Mycroft could still spot his games. So when Sherlock was discharged, he paid for agency staff to come into 221B, so John wasn't responsible for having to look after Sherlock. Mycroft though he'd covered everything, which proved he was slipping. Because on the evening that Mycroft insisted that John came to the pub with him for a quick drink, it had been straightforward for Sherlock to distract his nurse with a exploding egg in the microwave, rush downstairs,  supposedly to get Mrs Hudson's help, fall, and rip out half his stitches.

Mycroft didn't let John go back to 221B, because that was what you hired crime scene cleaners for, and he only gave John ten minutes at Bart's, long enough to confirm that Sherlock was alive, but not enough to alter that fact. And then he took John back to Richmond and let him drink himself half-senseless, as the most effective short-term way for him to cope. He didn't particularly worry even when a very drunk John had said that there were times when he wished Sherlock was dead, because that was as most an objective. But Mycroft made very sure that he stayed sober that night, because he currently shared the same objective, and if he did get drunk he was worried he might also end up with a strategy to achieve it.

Sherlock was going to be in hospital for as long as Mycroft could persuade the doctors to keep him there, but he didn't think there would be any more incidents for a while, even when he came out. There didn't need to be. Sherlock had shown his hand clearly: the only difficulty now was explaining it to John.


"It's blackmail, emotional blackmail," John repeats yet again, the rocking chair moving so fast that it groans. Mycroft resists the temptation to point out that correctly identifying a problem is only the first step of successfully solving it. "I'm not giving in to that kind of behaviour."

"No, because you have principles," Mycroft says. "But you're only the secondary target. I'm Sherlock's main target and he knows how to make me back down. Because I am a utilitarian and I don't have any principles that outweigh a dead brother."

"You can't let Sherlock win, or-"

"Or he'll try it again the next time? But if I don't let him have his way, there may not be a next time. Sherlock is prepared to risk his neck rather than accept us being together. There is no adequate method for deterring someone who's not afraid to die." I should have seen the possibilities from the start, he thinks, I should have a plan B right now and I don't.

"Not even Sherlock would be that stupid, surely?"

"My father decided when Sherlock was about ten that he was going to fix his fussy eating habits once and for all, show him that he couldn't always get his own way. He was furious that Sherlock wouldn't eat some sausages, so he said that Sherlock would get served nothing else till he ate them. Breakfast, lunch, tea, just that. Sherlock collapsed on the third day, and he was in hospital for several more. My father didn't repeat the exercise."

"And what did the bloody sausages think?" John yells. "I'm not anybody's property, I'm not willing to be your damn chew toy, or Sherlock's."

"No, you'd be entirely justified in leaving. Going somewhere far away from all the Holmes."

"And Sherlock would then kill himself." It's a statement, not a question, from John, and he can't lie to him now, or it's all over anyhow.

"You know Sherlock's ability to endanger his own life even when he's got you by his side. Without you, he'd barely even need to intend to die."

"But you wouldn't kill yourself if you lost me, would you?" John asks, and now it's the flat voice of someone who is far beyond all his normal emotional landmarks.

"No," says Mycroft, and wonders if people who know how to scream and sob find this kind of conversation easier.  He can hear himself sounding like someone discussing the Common Agricultural Policy, but it's the only way he knows to keep the situation under any kind of control. "I'm a practical man. Living without you would be hard, very hard, but a better outcome for all concerned than me being dead. Not romantic, I'm afraid, but there we are."

 "And similarly," Mycroft goes on in the silence that follows, because he has to make the situation clear, "I am not going to kill Sherlock for your sake, nor shoot you or have you shot, so that Sherlock cannot be with you."

John's head jerks back. Oh help, thinks Mycroft. I shouldn't have said 'have you shot', because it's reminding John of who I am, what I am. That he's not the only man who's been responsible for getting people killed before now. That this situation really could be lethal. He can see John's eyes starting to flick round the room in the old way, looking for an escape route, as if he could run away from this problem.. .and John's left hand curling to hide its shake.

"Would Sherlock kill me, in order that you can't have me?" John says at last, far too calmly. "Because that would put an end to this as well, wouldn't it?"

John risked his own life for Sherlock at the swimming pool. It really isn't a train of thought that Mycroft wants John to continue.

"Not an acceptable end, no, John."

"Why the hell not?" John suddenly yells, jumping up from the chair, glaring at Mycroft. "Aren't you always prepared to sacrifice anything for Sherlock?"

"Not people's lives. I told Sherlock early on that if he ever caused someone's death deliberately, except in self-defence, that was my limit, there would be no more protection after that. I do not accept that kind of violence from anyone."

"I killed that cabbie," said John defiantly, "that wasn't self-defence."

"A man who'd killed already, who was trying to kill again. That was entirely justified. But if you ever kill anyone who is not an immediate threat to you or someone else, I will not put up with that, not even from you, John. They may do things differently in Afghanistan, but when you are in my country, you play by my rules."

Oh God, he thinks, how did I get to this? Threatening John, when I all want to do is protect him. It's as if Sherlock's somehow released the toxicity in all of them, and they're drowning in its thick black ooze. He can't find the words to turn this around, and he's not sure John would be able to hear them anyhow. All he can do is state the simple, basic facts, the parameters they have to stick to, and hope that even John's blanking-out mind can take them in.

"I do not approve of violence. So I will not kill Sherlock, you or myself. Nor will you. Nor, if I can help it, will Sherlock. It is a god-awful mess, but I am not going to let it become a fucking Renaissance tragedy."

John looks at him, and looks at him, and looks at him. And at last mutters: "Better go back to Baker Street, see Mrs Hudson." And turns and trudges out.


You can see the situation as a simple game of chicken, thinks Mycroft, where all that counts is who backs down first. Or think of it as a variant of the Prisoner's Dilemma, where the urge to grab more just makes the outcome worse for everyone. But what it feels like is the judgement of Solomon. Two mothers competing for the same baby. The one prepared to give up her claim rather than allow the baby to be killed is the true mother. But John, of course, is not a baby, and Mycroft should not be trying to decide this for him. It is just that John has made his decision and it is unacceptable. John is killing himself.

It's not the flamboyant suicide threats of Sherlock, it's the slow ebbing away of the will to keep going, because there's no advantage in being a natural fighter if you don't know who to attack. Mycroft suspects John may have come near this when he first came out of the army, that he'd been dangerously close then to slumping into a kind of apathetic lethargy in which remembering to keep living, to keep breathing each day, was a rather tedious chore that you might eventually almost accidentally forget to carry out. But this is definitely worse. When Mycroft talks to John now, talks about the ordinary pleasant things that are the only possible subjects of conversation left for them, it's as if there's a vacuum between them, so that Mycroft's voice can't reach him. John's getting to the stage where he responds coherently only to orders, where he is, after all, becoming the Holmes brothers' chew toy, his body and his mind slowly shutting down, continuing only from force of habit.

I could give him back the will to live, Mycroft thinks. Tell him that Sherlock does not matter, it is not our business what he does, it is not our fault if he cannot cope. Say we are all that matter. It might even be the principled thing to do. But he is a utilitarian and he cannot fudge the calculations. If John stays with Mycroft, Sherlock will kill himself, or get himself killed, and John and Mycroft's relationship will not survive. You can't hack the arms off two people and expect them then to fall into a happy embrace. But if John leaves  him for Sherlock, Mycroft will survive, because grownups don't die for love. He wishes he can work the hedonistic calculus to come up with a different answer, but he knows he can't. Sherlock is out of hospital now, and at some point the whole vicious dance will start again. He needs to break up with John, and he needs to do it soon, before John breaks up.

Once he decides, the practicalities are horribly easy. He's spent months learning how to calm, soothe, comfort John. He had merely to reverse the process, to lean subtly on the pressure points, so that the relationship suddenly becomes a booby-trapped nightmare for poor John. To set them up for the final quarrel, for the inevitable moment when  John is so physically and emotionally frazzled that he cannot perform in bed. So that Mycroft can unleash the unforgivable line:

"What's wrong, John? Would it help if you imagined I was Sherlock, because I'm sure you'd enjoy that more, wouldn't you?"

Somehow, mercifully, his mind largely wipes out the details of the shades of horror and anger and guilt and despair in John's face. What he cannot forget is that John does not yell or swear. He sits on the edge of the bed for a moment, and then gets dressed and leaves, and it is only the slam of the front door that shows he is not an automaton.

Where is Solomon when you need him to put things right, Mycroft thinks. Because it is not fair, it is not fucking fair. And then he slowly gets dressed and heads to work, because if he expected justice from life, he'd have joined the bloody UN.


Part 3


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 29th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
Oh... that was...
He needs to break up with John, and he needs to do it soon, before John breaks up.

Once he decides, the practicalities are horribly easy.
had me welling up (not something I do v often)

It was gorgeous and heart-breaking and so perfect...
Nov. 1st, 2010 08:28 pm (UTC)
I'm glad it had an effect, but there's nothing like writing about utilitarianism to get you wondering whether there's something slightly perverse about using fiction to try and upset people (or indeed reading fic that makes you upset). But I guess if Bentham had to include the possibility of finding pleasure in pain in his calculations his head would have exploded.
Oct. 31st, 2010 12:05 am (UTC)
oh MYCROFT. and oh JOHN. and oh bloody Sherlock.

it is indeed a bad idea to take advice on dating from Jeremy Bentham.

eagerly awaiting the next part...

Nov. 1st, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid Mycroft has even more suffering to come in part 3, because no good deed ever goes unpunished. But I promise again that this once the reasonable will eventually win over the intransigent.
Nov. 26th, 2010 11:57 pm (UTC)
NOOOOOOO!!! D: Noooooooouuuuuuuu.... :( It's a freaking trap, arrrghhh. Sherlock's evil. Dx Will he grow up? Or will this be ruined? Sniff. I'll keep reading.
Nov. 27th, 2010 08:55 am (UTC)
OH GOD, this is really painful.
Dec. 8th, 2010 03:17 pm (UTC)
"...now it's the flat voice of someone who is far beyond all his normal emotional landmarks."

Ow - that twists the knife more than any amount of creaming and wailing.

"but when you are in my country, you play by my rules."

Well that pulled a desperate little smile out of me before you utterly destroyed me with the last few paragraphs.

Oh /Mycroft/...

Good job I'm working from home today. Explaining to UCL security why I smashed the glass on Bentham's cabinet and choked the wax head right off him would be tricky.
Dec. 9th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
You realise this is going to be my fanfic notoriety? The woman who provoked an attack on Jeremy Bentham's corpse (ginbitch was making threatening noises about him as well at one point in the comments to this fic).

But you are already near to making Bentham's wax head explode, by thanking me for having made you cry. Stick that one in your hedonistic calculus, Mr Bentham!

BTW, would it make you feel any more positive towards Mr B if you knew his unpublished work showed he had relatively enlightened views on homosexuality? Though possibly he should have rephrased the sentence on heterosexual intercourse in this that starts: 'If there be one idea more ridiculous than another, it is that of a legislator who, when a man and a woman are agreed about a business of this sort, thrusts himself in between them'.
Jul. 16th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC)
Reading whatever Mycroft/John fic I can find and this is one of the best ones in the fandom (and I would say most of them are really well written).

Those last few paragraphs hurt.
Jul. 17th, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC)
There's quite a lot of angst in my fics (usually before a happy ending), but this is one of the few where I've had to warn for excessive angst. But Mycroft and John are both so tough, in their own different ways, that you can put them through the wringer and they will still somehow keep going.

I've since done a rather gentler Mycroft/John fic (Half a Loaf) if you need something that won't hurt you.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )