I watch under my eyelashes as Endicott plies his razor with meticulous strokes over Sherlock’s face. Sherlock’s undercover persona was impressively convincing but it is a pleasure to watch the re-emergence of his usual austere beauty.
I hope I am not naïve enough to imagine that Sherlock has returned to England merely to help defeat a terrorist attack at my request. In fact, I foresee an awkward conversation about a certain Dr John Watson in my very near future. I have chosen not to keep close tabs on Dr Watson over the past two years. I did feel it appropriate to be kept notified of where John has been living, and of any atypical financial transactions. The latter proved justified when a large amount of money was flagged as having been spent by John in a relatively upscale jewellers. Knowing the pedestrian proclivities of the general populace, I kept an eye out for any notable dinner reservations – and I have discovered that John has booked a table tonight, at a restaurant that is also rather upscale for John's tastes.
On the whole, I did rather approve of John’s influence on my brother. However, I still feel that my decision to send Sherlock against Moriarty's web alone was sound. The thing is, I know Sherlock. I am aware that two years ago it would not have taken very much for him to realise he was in love with John. I am acutely aware of the risks of that. Quite apart from the fact that an emotionally compromised Sherlock would never be working to his best ability, I am probably the only person who knows just how vulnerable Sherlock is to heartbreak. Tennyson was an idiot. It is perfectly possible to keep love at bay – life can be cool, clean, not messy – there is no pain in that. Having someone and losing them is unbearable. I would do anything to spare Sherlock that anguish. I have been encouraging his emotional detachment since he was a child weeping over a beloved pet. I sincerely hope that the time away from John's influence and company will have removed the danger. But however much Sherlock has moved back away from the life of the heart, and returned safely to the life of the head, I do still fear for his mental health on learning of John's transferred affections.
Perhaps it would be as well to make a… further small step to position Sherlock more firmly at my side. Not that it would be any kind of hardship on my part. Just looking at the lean sprawl of my brother under the barber's ministrations, white skin against black satin, is an aesthetically delicious exercise.
Anthea steps into the room and holds up a suit and shirt for Sherlock – another layer of Sherlock’s armour to be returned to him. Sherlock tilts his head back to see and nods his approval. I come forward and take the suit from Anthea.
“Thank you. Could you fetch the files?” I don’t need to specify further; Anthea nods before I can complete the sentence and turns to leave. “Ah, and Anthea? Could you give us a few minutes? Thank you.”
I turn back to deposit the suit across my desk. Endicott is just finishing up, wiping the last traces of shaving soap away with a damp cloth and stroking a little of my own Floris No.89 aftershave balm over the sleek planes of Sherlock’s face.
“Thank you Endicott. You may go,” I murmur. The barber gathers his things and departs after Anthea, pulling the door shut behind him.
Sherlock stands and slips the black robe from his shoulders. I study him for a moment. "Good to see you looking back to normal."
Sherlock raises an eyebrow. "I hardly think either of us is normal, Mycroft."
"No indeed," I purr. I could hardly have asked for a better lead in. I step right into Sherlock’s space, and slide fastidious fingertips across his cheek, skin still slightly humid from the shave. “Endicott has done a good job.”
“Do any of your minions do anything but?” Sherlock asks.
“Not more than once,” I say.
This close, I can feel Sherlock’s faint huff of laughter against my face. We hold eye contact for a moment, so close that our gazes flick from eye to eye. Slowly Sherlock’s expression blanks. I tilt my head in slowly and ghost my nose along Sherlock’s jaw line, breathing in the smell of my aftershave balm and his skin.
“A very good job,” I murmur. When I draw back a little, the blankness has become tinged with… inquisitiveness? fascination? Certainly nothing to cause me to stop. I curl a hand around Sherlock’s side, over the fine-grained skin in the tender hollow below his armpit. The bruising over his ribs has faded to an ugly thundercloud, dirty yellow and purplish grey. I imagine I can feel the different texture of the bruise, that I can map the edges of pain solely by touch.
Sherlock is watching me closely. I press my thumb into the bruise. Sherlock hisses. “I knew you were enjoying it.”
I shake my head. “There is no pleasure for me in watching you in pain, brother mine."
"Your brother I may be, but I am not yours," Sherlock snaps.
I fold gracefully down to kneel before him. "No," I muse, "but I think you could be." I glance up at Sherlock. One of his hands locks tight in my hair, dragging my head back away from him. I let him move me. His grip and his eyes are steel. He stares down at me. "Not remotely normal," he says eventually, no inflection to his voice at all. Usually I have no problem reading him, but in this moment I find I have no idea what he is thinking
"No, neither of us," I remind him. After a moment, I add, “You haven’t said no.”
The pause this time is longer, and edged with something complicated. Then Sherlock’s expression clears. “Who could say no when the British Government has gone to its knees for them?”
Oh Sherlock. Still thinking in terms of one-upmanship, so used to trying to compete with me. I can’t help but smile.
Sherlock releases my hair, his hand falling away to his side. I open his fly, very slowly, let him watch my fingers working. I know he's proud of his hands, rightly so, and mine are similarly long-fingered and well-shaped. I’m sure he will appreciate the visual. Tight black boxers, some sort of silky bamboo jersey, are sleek over his hips. He’s only half hard yet. I wonder if he is thinking in terms of propriety. It seems unlikely when it comes to Sherlock, but he knows, of course he knows, that this is not what all the rest of those normal people do.
I press my open mouth over the soft weight of him, and ah, there, he thickens under my parted lips. Quicker than I might have expected, had I thought about this before. I ease his trousers and underwear down to his thighs and take him fully into my mouth, for the sheer haptic pleasure of feeling the supple soft-hardness swell to fill my mouth, becoming hotter and heavier on my tongue as I suckle gently. I am good at this, I know, but usually I am performing this particular act, with its intricate power dynamics, on some exquisite but anonymous young man. Certainly it is not at all the same fellating my (exquisite) brother. Goodness knows the power dynamics between us are quite complicated enough. Luckily, muscle memory carries me through my moment of distraction. Sherlock is breathing fast, his abdominal muscles taut, as I snap back into focus on what I am doing. The merest ghost of teeth, and he comes, completely silently. I swallow for the sake of expediency, and stand.
“Thank you, brother mine,” he says, very softly.
He gestures to my groin. “May I?”
It’s tempting. This was more arousing than I had anticipated. But no. I think it might be prudent to let him believe he owes me something. It unbalances him so. (Oh. I am still thinking in terms of competition myself. Annoying not to have unravelled all my own motivations beforehand.) “Not this time. We should get on.”
If he notices the suggestion that this might happen again, he doesn’t mention it. I cross to the desk and pass him his suit. Once he has changed his trousers, I go and unlatch the office door. By the time Sherlock is smoothing the crisp white shirt into the waistband of the trousers, Anthea has slipped back into the room with the files. Sherlock seems unaffected, nothing in his manner to hint at what has just happened. Although – perhaps his gaze is a little softer than usual when he asks me to put him back in London. As if I would do anything else. London is where he belongs.
Sherlock pulls his suit jacket on. “And what about John Watson?” he asks.
Ah yes. Nice normal John.
I wonder if I have done enough?
Well. Time will tell.