Six - Returning
Mycroft shot a glance at the clock and sighed, leaning back in his plush leather chair to try and rub the exhaustion from his eyes, already knowing the attempt to be futile. The feeling - the corrosive, always expanding hollowness - hadn’t left for even a moment since-
With a heavy breath, Mycroft set his pen down and began flexing his trembling fingers. Psychogenic, stress-induced tremors. A psychosomatic reaction so utterly ironic, Mycroft couldn’t help the dry, broken chuckle from escaping his lips.
‘It’s all true. Everything they said about me. I invented Moriarty.’
He’d watched the footage before, of course, in complete and shocked disbelief. For the first few times at least, until the truth, ugly and oppressing and clawing at his tightening chest, had started to creep in. The dozens, hundreds of times after that were penance. After all, it wasn’t every day one had a direct hand in killing one’s only remaining brother.
‘I’m a fake. Nobody could be that clever.’
“You could,” Mycroft said bitterly, an exact echo of the muted John on the screen to his left.
‘This phone call, it's... it's my note. That's what people do, don't they? Leave a note.’
One single call is all he would have needed. He would have been there, he would have helped if only he’d known. But then again, how could he fault the man for his lack of trust after everything that had transpired in the days, no, in all the years before?
Mycroft, always on top of even the most chaotic of situations, always three steps ahead and always prepared except for the one time it would have counted the most.
Shaking himself out of his unhelpfully distracting mental self-flagellation, a feat growing more and more difficult each time, Mycroft turned off the video and switched to the news.
The absolution came two years too late for the right person to see and if he would have cared one way or the other was debatable. More likely he’d have called everyone believing and following Moriarty’s deception out for the imbeciles and enormous waste of his precious time they undoubtedly were.
Mycroft smiled. To think he honestly missed the sneered insults, hurled in every possible and impossible direction in a voice dripping with disdain and defiance.
The live feed was still showing the outside of New Scotland Yard, overflowing with reporters and spectators waiting for the press conference to commence. Apparently everyone and their grannies had decided to show up for the occasion, wanting a front row ticket for the spectacle of the year; the announcement of Sherlock’s innocence and revelation of Moriarty’s admittedly very neatly laid out plans.
Vultures, the whole lot of them.
It wasn’t much, setting the record straight once and for all, not nearly enough. And it had taken time, over twenty-three months of digging, searching and negotiating in order to unearth every last scrap of evidence proving James Moriarty to be real and exposing Richard Brook as the fake he was.
Him, the fake, not Sherlock. Never Sherlock.
The feed changed again, now switching to a camera inside the conference room, pointing at the newly reinstated DI Lestrade, standing confidently behind the podium, a triumphant smile tugging the corners of his mouth ever so slightly upward.
Gregory Lestrade. Loyal until the very end and beyond, working himself down to the bones for the past two years to right his own wrongs, to try and make up for that ill-timed and jealousy-fuelled arrest leading to his almost-son’s demise.
They all felt it, that sensation of drowning, the guilt threatening to pull them under. Mycroft, Gregory and John, the government, the law and the soldier. Each one haunted by the same ghosts, all of them united by their cause;
To bring justice to the memory of Sherlock Holmes.
And tonight all their hard work, all their struggles and fighting were finally going to pay off.
So, Mycroft thought with a small but for once entirely sincere smile, Gregory had every right to look as smug as he did standing there in front of those reporters and camera crews.
He righted himself again and shut off the news, already well aware of what would be relayed and having sent one of his best agents to record the whole thing for later inspection. Gregory and John had tried to invite him along, had insisted he should be there, but Mycroft simply couldn’t bring himself to do it.
Because while both John and Gregory felt they had made mistakes in those last few faithful days before Sherlock’s fall, they weren’t the ones responsible. The choice to bring Sherlock in had been mostly out of Gregory’s hands by that point and John had only left the detective’s side to go rush home to their supposedly injured landlady, to assist a friend.
And even if they had acted differently, it would not have mattered, of that Mycroft is sure. The arrest had merely accelerated the spreading of those unfortunate rumours about the detective, it hadn’t started them. Ms Riley’s article, published the morning after that incident, would have had the same effect if Sherlock hadn’t already been standing on that damned roof by then. And had John not left for Mrs Hudson, Sherlock would have found another way to get rid of his friend, to send him away.
There was absolutely nothing they could have done to change the events of that day, to prevent Sherlock from leaving.
Mycroft, however, had gambled and lost. Gambled with his brother’s life for the slim chance of gaining something of value to use against the master criminal. The Intel Moriarty handed over to them had been useful, that much isn’t debatable, but the cost was much too high.
The sound of someone at his front door pulled Mycroft out of his thoughts. He frowned, reaching for his phone to check for any missed messages and found none. There was a highly limited number of people with unrestricted access to his London flat and all of them were extremely unlikely to come by at this precise time.
His personal assistant was at the conference on very strict orders, she wouldn’t leave without Mycroft’s permission or informing him, in case of an emergency. So were Gregory and John, at least as far as Mycroft was concerned.
Gregory he’d seen on the live feed earlier, there was no doubt about the Inspectors current whereabouts. And John, he wouldn’t miss this for the world. The man had suffered and grieved more than Mycroft would have believed possible for someone having lost a friend, even such a close one as Sherlock had apparently been. He’d always suspected there to be more between his brother and the doctor, not necessarily anything sexual, but most definitely a deep, profound and mutual love.
But John would not come by unannounced, the occasions on which he’d visited Mycroft at his home could be counted on one hand - the last memorable one being the one year anniversary of Sherlock’s death. They’d sat together in absolute silence, sharing their misery and most of a bottle of thirty-year-old scotch, both trying and probably failing to hide their wet, red-rimmed eyes.
Mycroft could hear the key being turned in the lock and hesitated, uncharacteristically undecided about what sort of action to take. Had any of the people carrying one of his keys been hurt or taken, he would have been alerted immediately. They wouldn’t lend their keys to anyone else, Mycroft trusted them that far which was the whole reason why they had the keys in the first place. One of them could have lost theirs, but they were ordinary, nondescript keys that could belong to any flat or house in London or anywhere else in the country.
So, however unlikely, the person now entering his flat was someone familiar and not a threat.
Holding his breath, Mycroft waited and listened. The person in the hall closed the front door and then wavered for just a moment before slowly making their way toward the study. They either knew the layout of the flat or had simply seen the light from his desk lamp and monitors.
With a few rapid blinks, Mycroft gathered himself again, opened the secret compartment of his file cabinet, took out his handgun - just to be on the safe side - and was about to call out when-
Everything stopped. There was a loud rushing in his ears, he could feel cold sweat on his neck and hands, his mouth dropping open almost comically.
The voice was closer now, the person standing in the door to the study but not coming inside. Mycroft didn’t look up. He couldn’t. This wasn’t possible, wasn’t real, and if he went and looked, the sheer ridiculousness of the situation would either be confirmed and there wouldn’t be anyone there, or-
Uncertainty. The voice was full of it, questioning and vulnerable, quivering and unsure. But also deep and warm and oh so familiar.
There were steps, the person was walking closer until they came to a stop right next to Mycroft, a gloved hand reaching out and grabbing the arm of the chair. Mycroft’s own hand shot out, closing over the other person’s, if to hold on or shove it away he wasn’t sure.
Which was how they remained for several long moments, suspended in a near trance, neither daring to take it any further. Mycroft was trembling with the need to turn and look, yet found himself too afraid to do so, however illogical it was.
In the end, it was Sherlock’s infamous impatience which took the decision out of both of their hands.
“Oh, for the love of-“ the detective huffed, yanked at the chair and slid to the floor all in one long, elegant move. “Mikey,” he croaked, his hands coming to rest on the man’s knees as he blinked up at his brother with those impossible eyes, shining with unshed tears of relief, relief to be back. To be home.
All Mycroft managed in reply was a whispered “Lockie,” before his arms shot out completely without his permission, pulling the younger man against himself. He felt Sherlock’s arms wriggle free from where they were trapped between them only to wind around him and squeeze back and Mycroft was lost, burying his face in his brother’s hair with a choked-off sob.
“Don’t cry,” Sherlock demanded instantly, the commanding tone prompting a wet chuckle out of Mycroft. “I’m being serious, Mycroft, stop it. You don’t cry. I don’t... I don’t know how to-“
“It doesn’t matter,” Mycroft breathed through his tears and kissed the top of Sherlock’s head, then tipped it back to press his lips to the other’s forehead. “It doesn’t matter.”
Sherlock squirmed a bit, although mostly for show, and wrinkled his nose in mock-disgust. “When did you get so sentimental?”
“Believing to have killed one’s brother does that to a person,” Mycroft said dryly and Sherlock froze for a moment before the realisation hit him in full.
He surged up and threw his arms around the man, burying his face in Mycroft’s neck. “I never blamed you,” he mumbled into Mycroft’s skin, hands bunching up the back of his shirt.
“You have every right to,” Mycroft countered and tightened his hold on Sherlock, carding soothing fingers through his now much longer curls. “I am sorry, Sherlock,” he sniffled inelegantly, kissing whatever of his brother was near enough to reach. “I am so incredibly sorry for what I did-“
“I thought I’d be the one apologising,” Sherlock laughed tiredly, trying to burrow closer still despite the fact that there was hardly a hair’s breadth of space between them left.
Mycroft chuckled back, unable to help himself. “Dull,” he shrugged, causing Sherlock to snort in amusement.
“Indeed,” Sherlock agreed.