Chapter 1: Chapter 1
It had been a long, long day and Mycroft was tired.
Twelve hours of endless strategic meetings with other men holding ‘minor positions in the British government’, pressing telephone calls, and a last-minute appointment with the Foreign Secretary’ to boot, made him feel every weary bone in his body. After barely managing to pause for a hasty sip of tea and a quick unfulfilling sandwich between two consecutive meetings during lunch hour, everything he could think of now was a long, hot shower and a nice, warm bed.
Tomorrow, the crown would need him back at full power, ready for another long hard day of work, but for tonight he was off duty. He needed rest, urgently so, which was why he had told Anthea not to disturb him unless Buckingham Palace was under siege or similar emergencies of that nature presented themselves.
He tipped his head back and sighed in content as the hot water rained down upon him, engulfing him into a wonderful, damp cloud of steam. The aching knots in his neck, back, and shoulders slowly began to unwind under the hard stream of water and he revelled in the marvelous feeling for a few minutes. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy the feel of the tedious day being washed away, dissipating in the drain, before he grabbed a bar of soap and began to thoroughly, almost clinically, wash his body clean.
Being a meticulous person, Mycroft very much appreciated feeling clean. He was also a very vain person, a weakness that he was painfully aware of, but he justified his obsession with wrinkle-free suits and perfectly polished shoes with his job and the image he had to project that came with it. Even when he was on holiday, he wore expensive button-down shirts and tailored vests. He just wasn’t the type for woolly jumpers or even casual shirts. He would look ridiculous in them and he wouldn’t care for them.
He was used to the stiff cotton or the occasional silk or satin. The uncommon textures didn’t itch him anymore, feeling more like a second skin to him nowadays.
Finished with cleaning himself and also washing his meagre crop of hair, he got out of the shower, towelled himself off, and slipped into a pair of pants as well as his favourite robe, a silk maroon one that had been a gift from Mother. She knew his taste and he smiled when he remembered the way she had fussed around him last Christmas, showering him with dozens of pairs of new socks that he didn’t need, treating him as if he was still her young ten-year-old instead of the fully grown man that he was today. He didn’t mind it. She meant well. She always did and that was what counted, right?
He sat down on the generous couch in his sitting room, clad in his robe and slippers, and turned on the TV to watch the eight o’clock evening news while he hungrily devoured a quick dinner of beans on toast. It was a simple meal, one that most people would have been surprised to see him eat, but he had loved it since he had been a little boy and he had never lost the taste for it. Sometimes, he was sick of the pretentious, expensive meals he inevitably was served during the many meetings and conferences he attended: they were always too small, too unfulfilling and he found himself disgusted by the strange tastes more than often, although he always managed to smile and clear his plate, pretending everything had been delicious. That’s what was expected of him, so that’s what he did. He had manners after all.
The news didn’t tell him anything that he hadn’t known before and that was how it was supposed to be. He liked to watch them anyway because he liked to get the perspective of a ‘normal’ person, so to speak: how the daily ups and turns, natural catastrophes, and especially political developments, were portrayed to them. From the position that he was in, it was easy to forget that there were millions of people out there, who were influenced by what he and his colleagues did, every second of the day, every single day and he thought it important to get some outsider’s perspective, just to not lose the connection.
His work was important, and he was very good at it, he knew that. But in his heart, he knew that if he were one of the ‘common people’, he would want to get as much insight into national (and international) politics, as possible, especially because he, being one of the people with insight, knew how much went on behind the scenes without the public knowing.
His dinner was gone, and he felt full and satisfied. He turned the TV off and grabbed his current guilty pleasure, a top-ten-level spy novel, from the coffee table. Unfortunately, he very rarely got the time to indulge himself like this. His evenings were usually spent working his way through a day’s worth of paperwork, a tedious side effect of his position. Not that Mycroft minded it very much, he was good at it, had always been good with papers. But it was always so very much, and although he worked through them efficiently and quickly, there always was more, an endless mountain of documents, reports, and statements that needed to be seen through and signed. He would sit at them for hours, sometimes while listening to Beethoven, Bach or Chopin – or sometimes, when he was in quite the good mood, Louis Armstrong or Billy Holiday – while going through them until his eyes drooped, and he was finally forced to go to bed. He liked working and he had no problem with his 80 hours+ weeks.
But on occasions, he needed some time off and this was one of these days. He had spent the whole day negotiating with potential business partners about the particular details of an upcoming contract. They hadn’t managed to come to a satisfying conclusion despite Mycroft bringing forward his best arguments and his most charming compliments. Needless to say, he was frustrated and tired, made worse by the fact that he would have to start all over again tomorrow.
So this evening he would put work aside and divert himself with random, ridiculous James Bond-reminiscent literature. He would never admit to anyone that he liked reading them. He would be terribly embarrassed if anyone ever found out, and he had sworn Anthea to secrecy. God forbid that Sherlock ever discovered this little secret of his, he would never hear the end of it.
He scowled as he thought of his wayward little brother. It was the perfect way to ruin his evening, but he knew it was hopeless now that these unwelcome thoughts had entered his mind.
The paperback in his lap already forgotten, Mycroft leaned back against the back of the couch as the unpleasant memory of his last encounter with Sherlock once again flashed through his mind.
It had been a dirty back alley and Sherlock had been just as dirty. Dirty clothes, dirty hair, dirty face. His skin sallow and sunken in, sweat on his brow, the usually bright blue eyes half-lidded and blood-shot. As soon as he had seen him on the screen, dressed in shabby rags, huddled in a corner with one of the most known dealers in the whole district, Mycroft had given the orders to retrieve him, jumping into the limousine together with his men without a second thought.
Sherlock had been livid with fury when they had pulled him away from the other shady individuals on the scene. He had screamed at Mycroft to leave him be, that he was ruining everything, that he wasn’t actually using, that he was on a case, but Mycroft had turned a deaf ear. He had heard it all, so many times. He wouldn't allow Sherlock to do this all over again. To him. To Mother and Father. Not today. Never again.
When Sherlock had begun to fight his men with some of that outlandish baritsu moves of his, Mycroft had made a quick decision, giving the order to sedate his brother, even though he was loath to do so.
It had been hard, seeing his brother crumble to the ground as the needle was pulled out of his bare forearm. He had managed one last disbelieving glare at Mycroft looking down at him before he had lost consciousness. Mycroft had watched dispassionately as they had carried his brother’s limp body down the street and deposited him into the car, feeling completely justified in his actions, although there was an annoying pang of guilt because of the forced sedating.
Well, needs must, as the saying went.
Unfortunately, he had been wrong. After they had tested him, it turned out that Sherlock had told the truth. There was not a trace of any kind of dubious substances in his blood. Not even a little bit. Nothing. Nada. He had been completely clean.
Sherlock had outright refused to accept his sincere apologies. After he had woken up hours later in one of Mycroft’s many safehouses, still dazed and wobbly on his long legs, he had shoved Mycroft away with trembling hands.
“Just stay away from me, Mycroft, “the brat had snapped at him. “Why are you always meddling in my affairs? Go away, go pester some of your minions, but leave me the hell alone!”
After yelling at each other for what seemed like an hour, Mycroft had thrown his arms into the air and then got right into Sherlock’s personal space.
“Alright, brother! Have it your way!”’ he had said through gritted teeth. “I’ll leave you to your own devices. Just don’t come running to me when you’re in trouble and in need of help.”
Sherlock had just smirked in a very condescending manner. “Won’t happen. Now piss off.”
Seething with anger, the kind of anger only his infuriating younger brother managed to make him feel, Mycroft had turned and left, slamming the door behind him and leaving Sherlock to find his way home by himself.
That had been a week ago. Since then, he had reassigned the men watching CCTV footage of his brother to other duties. He hadn’t seen him or heard from him since then. He had no idea what he was up to, if he was out on a case, where he went, who he met. Nothing. If his brother didn’t want to be watched, Mycroft was happy to oblige him. His resources could be put to better use, it was shameful to let them get to waste observing and protecting a man that was behaving like a child, a man whose ungratefulness knew no bounds.
Yes, Mycroft had made a mistake, but he had apologized. Also, Sherlock could not really blame Mycroft for his actions, could he? After everything that had happened a few years ago, after that almost fatal overdose in the end, how could he resent Mycroft for trying to prevent that from happening again? From trying to protect him? Once you’re addicted, you’re addicted for life. It’s a fact, and Sherlock knew it, so why did he give Mycroft such a hard time for his unfortunate, if not believable behaviour?
How dare he turn up his nose at Mycroft like that?
Let the man have his way, see if anyone cared.
A weary sigh escaped him. At least that’s what he was trying to tell himself. A whole week had passed by, and he was getting more and more restless. He couldn’t help it. Somehow, not knowing what Sherlock was doing, how he was, was getting under his skin. All his life, he had watched over his little brother. He had babysat him at the playgrounds, had played silly games with him to convince him to eat his spinach, had grudgingly agreed to help him with his youthful experiments in his laboratory when he was still inexperienced and trying to understand how it all worked.
When Sherlock had left their parent’s house to study at university, Mycroft had always kept an eye on him from afar. He knew when he had a test due and what marks he was given. He knew his friends – or lack thereof – he knew what boys he had kissed and which people had burst into tears because of him. Only when Sherlock had dropped off the face of the earth for three whole months, when Mycroft had not been vigilant enough, had he learned that there were limits to his capability of keeping his brother in check. Sherlock was stubborn. He was proud and he hated to be caged in. It had taken him an almost fatal overdose, his thin arms riddled with needle marks and three months of rehab, to get his point across. Mycroft had acknowledged his brother’s sharp wit and doubled his efforts in watching over him. Getting the position in government had certainly helped with his resources.
Sherlock’s harsh words that day had hurt. He was loath to admit it, but he was too intelligent and too self-aware not to recognize the tearing knot of resentment in the pit of his stomach, growing like an ulcer, adding to the already considerable amount of nauseating anxiety within him.
Sentiment. A sign of weakness. A waste of time. Yet unfortunately, he was not free of it, despite what he tried to convey to people around him, starting at his employees, extending to business partners and collegues, and ending with Sherlock.
Speaking of Sherlock, he knew the time had come where he had to know how he was. Now that he was sitting here, ought to be enjoying a restful evening, something which he very rarely could, he found himself aching with the need for information concerning his brother.
Was Sherlock well? Was he sleeping? Eating? He could be in the hospital, injured while on a case…
Rolling his eyes at himself, Mycroft gave in to his urges, grabbed the phone from the coffee table, and quickly dialled a number.
“Yes, Mr. Holmes?” came Anthea’s strong yet soft voice.
“I need you to gather today’s CCTV footage of my brother’s whereabouts and bring them to me.”
“As quickly as you can, please.”
Five minutes later, a firm knock on his door announced his PA’s presence and she strode in, still clad in an immaculate ensemble of wrinkle-free blazer and skirt, her make-up still looking perfect, as if she had just applied it. She had an IPad in her hand and he could see that the video on it was paused.
“Yes?” he asked, a little impatiently, as he looked at her from his position on the couch, his back rigid, his shoulder squared back.
“He’s not left the flat today, “Anthea said.
“Not at all?” he asked in surprise.
“Has anyone been to visit him?”
“Hm.” Mycroft rubbed his jaw with stiff fingers, quickly running through some theories. Maybe Sherlock had just finished a case and was now doing the sensible thing, deciding to take a day’s rest after chasing after criminals for days on end.
“Doctor Watson is with him though, isn’t he?”
Anthea hesitated for a millisecond, then her features smoothed over again. “No, he isn’t, Sir. He has taken the train to Manchester two days ago, apparently, there is a conference he has to attend.”
Although Mycroft had ordered Anthea to get everyone appointed to Sherlock off the job, his PA still knew these facts about his brother’s flatmate – colleague, friend, lover? – and he was grateful for her efficiency.
“When is he due back?” he asked thoughtfully.
“In two days, Sir.”
Worry was starting to spread inside his stomach, creating a burning, twisting knot, and Mycroft swallowed, willing the unwelcome feeling away.
“She’s away, too, Sir. Visiting her sister this week.”
“So Sherlock’s all by himself and he hasn’t left Baker Street all day, is that correct?” His tone was getting sharper, but she didn’t show any sign of unease. She was used to it.
“There is something you should know, Sir.”
He studied her face, raising his eyebrows slightly. “What’s that?”
She hesitated for a split second, but then quickly resumed her perfectly guarded expression.
“You should take a look at a recording from one of the Southwark cameras from yesterday evening. It involves your brother.”
“You’ve taken a look at the CCTV footage, although I directly ordered you not to?”
She looked at him without blinking, unafraid to meet his pointed gaze. “That’s right, Sir.”
He shook his head, somewhat impressed, and waved her over with an impatient flick of his hand. “Show me.”
Theoretically, he should be outraged that she had ignored his orders. But when he took a look at the video on her IPad, he was damn glad that she had.
He watched the quickly changing images, skilfully edited together, as his little brother chased after a figure all dressed in black through dark back alleys somewhere around Globe Theatre. Standard procedure. The dramatic manhunt ended in a showdown at Southwark Bridge where several police cars and armed officers were awaiting them, cutting off the criminal’s exit route. Mycroft watched in horror, as the cornered man jumped off the bridge in a desperate attempt to escape, and Sherlock, stupid, reckless idiot that he was, jumped right after him.
Never mind that he could have broken his neck on the way down, but it was November and London had been especially cold these past few days. Icy rain had poured down during the day, rendering the streets slippery and muddy. It was a wonder neither Sherlock nor the criminal had slipped and broken something under these conditions.
Mycroft’s fingers were gripping the armrest of the sofa, as he waited for the camera to switch to another one. He watched with a mixture of relief and anxiousness as they fished Sherlock and his catch out of the Thames where the captured man was struggling underneath the merciless hold of his brother, an unforgiving smirk on his pale features. That one officer Sherlock always had a row with, Sergeant Donovan, dragged Sherlock to the waiting ambulance car, where they forced several layers of thick wool blankets over his thin shoulders and a mug of steaming tea into his hands. Mycroft thanked the Heavens above for the Belstaff coat Sherlock had been wearing, the thermal layers in the heavy wool the only thing saving his brother from a bad case of hypothermia. He could see Sherlock angrily swatting the paramedic’s hands away when they tried to take his pulse and he rolled his eyes at this usual display of his brother’s stubbornness and stupidity. Typical Sherlock, always the drama queen, couldn’t be bothered with simple things like general health. Did the man think he was invulnerable, immortal even? The way he blindly raced after criminals, seemingly uncaring for the dangers lying ahead of him, it certainly seemed that way.
After some more bickering and angry gesturing from Sherlock and some shouting from Sergeant Donovan, the ambulance drove off, the detective still in it, where the Sergeant had shoved him inside and closed the door before he could escape.
So he had been forced to go to the hospital. Good. That was at least something. But who knew if his brother had not jumped out of the ambulance as soon as they had stopped in front of the hospital, or if he had evaded the doctors’ hands before they could treat them?
Damn. Normally, he would be informed about all this.
“Where the hell is Greg Lestrade?” he spat out angrily. “Why hasn’t he told me about this?”
Anthea shifted on her feet. “He’s on sick leave. Apparently, he has the flu.”
“Great, that’s just … great.”
Shaking his head in growing frustration, Mycroft watched the last part of the recording in which the shivering form of his brother got out of a cab at Baker Street, his damp hair still clinging to his head, and disappeared behind 221 B’s front door. The time stamp on the right corner of the screen told him it had only been forty-five minutes since his fall into the Thames.
Oh, God. Just as he’d feared.
The conclusion of it all was that Sherlock had been inside all day, after having fallen into the icy cold Thames yesterday and no John and no Mrs. Hudson were there to take care of him.
“I thought about informing you, “Anthea informed him then, a hint of regret in her voice. “If he hadn’t shown his face by tomorrow morning, I would have alerted you to the circumstances.”
“It’s alright, Anthea, “Mycroft said as he set the IPad aside, “you weren’t even supposed to know about all of this.”
She remained silent and Mycroft rubbed his eyes wearily as he contemplated what he should do now.
He couldn’t just ignore this. Despite everything, this was his brother, he needed to make sure he was alright. It could be that his brother was just resting after a hard day’s work, as he was prone to do after solving cases. On the other hand, he could have caught a cold, which seemed quite likely after his unfortunate tumble, and his brother was not known for taking care of himself, even if his body practically begged him for much-needed rest.
Still hesitant to go through with his decision, he got off the couch and started to pace the living room, clenching his jaw, flexing his fingers anxiously.
Was he utterly mad, to feel worried about this, or was there some justification behind his brotherly concern? If John had been there, or maybe even Mrs. Hudson, he would probably still have worried, but he would have left it till tomorrow and checked his brother’s current well-being, within the rightful limits of discretion of course.
But they were not with Sherlock, and as the seconds ticked by, Mycroft realised that he could not leave it like that. His brother had fallen into the Thames after all, he could have hurt himself without anyone even knowing about it. Stubborn git that he was, he would probably endure the pain in silence rather than call a cab to drive to A&E. Knowing his interfering brother would get a whiff of him being there and trail after him to nag him about his health would also enforce that notion. No, he would rather sit in his flat all day and ignore whatever ailment was tormenting his body.
Sod it. His brother would have to deal with his interference this evening, it couldn’t be helped.
“Sir? Should I fetch the driver?” Anthea was studying him in her typical calm manner, although there was a hint of concern underneath her professional tone. Although he was embarrassed to admit it, his assistant knew him very well and she was accustomed to his constant worrying over his petulant baby brother.
“Yes, “he said, and he nodded to himself, in a defeated manner, “yes, I think that would be best.”
“Right away, Sir.”
Without saying another word, she left.
Shedding his comfortable dressing gown with a regretful sigh, he quickly re-dressed himself in a clean dark-blue three-piece-suit, grabbed his phone, and made his way down. As expected, his personal driver Clark, as well as Anthea, awaited him at the end of the stairway. Within seconds, they were inside the black Limousine in front of his house, heading for Baker Street.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
The house was completely dark when he approached the door approximately ten minutes later. A quick flick of the wrist from Anthea and he was inside, climbing the stairs to apartment B, careful not to make any noises if possible. He didn’t want to alert his brother to his presence if it could be avoided – which it probably couldn’t. Still, he needed to check the perimeter first before he would announce himself.
No light shone through from under the flat’s door, and Mycroft frowned. Was Sherlock really sleeping already? A quick look at his Breitling told him that it was only nine o’clock. Then again, his brother didn’t function like normal people. He would catch a few hours of sleep whenever it suited him, which could be in the midst of the day, a thing so absurd Mycroft would never be able to understand it.
Alright, so he’d go in, find his brother snoring on the couch and then leave again. A quick in-and-out, he could do that. It would soothe the nagging concern lingering in the pit of his stomach, and maybe, if he was very lucky, he would still be granted a few hours to himself before he would once again turn his gaze to political squabbles and strategic Cabinet meetings tomorrow.
The door creaked when he pushed it open and he froze, suddenly expecting Sherlock to pounce on him and send him away with a snarl and a curse. Nothing of the sort happened, the apartment stayed still.
He held his breath as he took the first step inside. The flat was completely dark, and his eyes needed a minute to adjust themselves to the lack of light, although the moon shining through the windows, casting gloomy shadows throughout the room, helped.
Quite as able as Sherlock to make deductions, if not more so, he let his eyes roam over the room, drinking in the bits and pieces of information it offered him.
Chaos reigned within the room. Newspapers lay scattered on the coffee table, read in a hurry by an army doctor who had to leave for his train. Crumbs of toast on the worktop lay next to half-conducted experiments, there was still a slide of something under the microscope. Sherlock had been in the middle of an experiment when something had grabbed his attention, leading him to leave it unfinished.
A knitted afghan lay crumpled on the ground next to the coffee table, signifying a person lying on the couch and dropping the blanket when they stood up and left. A large indentation hinting at a long lean figure was still observable in the dark brown leather, indicating that it had not been long since it had been abandoned.
Sherlock was nowhere to be seen.
Mycroft cocked his head to the side and tried to listen for any sounds, but there weren’t any. He was just considering if taking a look in his brother’s bedroom was too much of a risk when the sudden noise of a loud cough sounded through the apartment.
He froze, scowling when he realized how awful that cough had sounded. So he had been right to fear about Sherlock’s health. That sounded like a nasty cold and Mycroft almost groaned in exasperation.
Perfect. This was just perfect.
Sherlock was going to be even more difficult than usual and he would most definitely refuse to let Mycroft take him to a doctor.
Whatever horrid scenario awaited him, Mycroft could not avoid it entirely. He needed to take a look and assess the situation.
Preparing himself for a very unpleasant conversation, Mycroft made his way to Sherlock’s bedroom, stopping in front of it for a short last moment of peace and quiet. After taking another long, deep breath, he slowly opened the door.
At first, he couldn’t see anything in the darkness but then he saw the outline of a person lying beneath the heavy eiderdown, and he exhaled in relief. Sherlock was apparently sound asleep, despite his coughing.
He continued forward, towards the prone figure lying on the bed. Dark, messy curls spilled out from under the covers and it was all that he could see. Trying to avoid having to shake his brother’s shoulder to wake him to see how he was, he leaned forward and tried to get a better view of his face. But it was concealed underneath the covers and he suppressed a groan of frustration trying to rise in his throat.
He couldn’t leave without a full assessment of his brother’s condition. For that, he needed to touch him, which almost certainly meant that he would awaken.
So be it. Let the drama begin.
He reached out to place a hand on the pale forehead hidden beneath unruly hair, expecting long thin fingers to swat his hand away at any moment, but that didn’t happen. As soon as his hand touched the forehead, he sensed it was burning hot and he closed his eyes at the unavoidable conclusion.
Sherlock had a fever.
He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, as he contemplated his next steps. There was no way he could avoid stepping in now, thus actively meddling in Sherlock’s affairs, once again. It was remarkably unfortunate that Sherlock had decided it was a good idea to jump into a freezing river in the middle of November, especially on the rare occasion that both his best friend and his landlady were inconveniently absent to help him through the inevitable aftermath. Now it would befall Mycroft to take care of this mess.
Stepping away from the bed, he quickly typed a message to Anthea who was waiting downstairs. She confirmed his request within seconds, and he put the phone away again, resigning himself to staying and waiting.
He perched himself on the edge of the bed, fighting the urge to bury his face in his head because God, he was tired.
But then the door opened and he raised his head in surprise when he saw Anthea standing there, and a man he knew very well, his face calm but wary, right behind her.
He arched an eyebrow, half in question, half in disbelief, and she met his gaze calmly.
“I called Dr. Brentley as soon as you decided to come here. He was made aware of the situation beforehand.”
He should have known his smart assistant would have anticipated this situation and he should probably thank her for her quick thinking. But he didn’t offer any gratitude or praise nor did she expect any. A small tug at the corner of his lips on his end was met with a matching one on her side and that was all.
“Dr. Brentley, “he said quietly, as he stepped forward and shook the man’s hand. “Glad you are willing to offer your services this evening.”
“Always a pleasure, Mr. Holmes, “the doctor replied with a small polite tip to his brow. “So I’ve heard he’s fallen into the Thames?” he asked as he inclined his head towards Sherlock’s prone form on the bed.
“I fear so.” Mycroft stepped aside to give the doctor space at the side of the bed. “I was hoping you could give me a quick assessment of his condition.”
“Of course.” Dr. Brentley sat down beside Sherlock, opening the black medical bag he had taken with him.
Mycroft and Anthea watched in silence as the doctor carefully took Sherlock’s pulse, his temperature, and listened to his lungs, frowning at the coughs that slipped out of his sore throat. Sherlock barely stired during the examination, only moaning pitifully when the cold head of the stethoscope was placed against the burning skin of his chest.
“How bad is it, Doctor?” Mycroft eventually asked impatiently. Could the man not do his job a little faster? He had known the doctor for a long time, had enlisted his services regularly, and always appreciating the man’s cool professionalism. Why was this taking so long?.
At long last, Doctor Brentley sat back with a heavy sigh.
“To be honest, Mr. Holmes, he could be better.”
“What does that mean? For Heaven’s sake, man, speak.”
The doctor raised an eyebrow at Mycroft’s urgent, almost impolite tone but didn’t comment on it further.
“His pulse is racing, and his temperature is 39,3°. There is fluid in his lungs. I’m quite sure he has pneumonia.”
Gritting his teeth and swallowing down a curse, Mycroft turned his head away from the doctor.
Heavens, just what he had needed. Why did he always end up in such situations? It simply wasn’t fair.
He sighed and slowly massaged his temples with his fingers, closing his eyes as the start of a nasty headache was starting to make itself known.
“So?” he asked, as he eventually opened his eyes again, addressing Doctor Brentley once more. “What do we do?”
“Well, he needs antibiotics. I can prescribe those for you, of course, you would have to check for the nearest on-duty pharmacy at this time of the night…”
“Anthea will get them at once, what else?” Mycroft snapped and the doctor hesitated for a second, seeming a little surprised at the lack of composure in the usually so calm Mycroft before he continued.
“As a precaution, he should be hospitalized. His fever is on the rise, I fear, and his coughs are quite bad. He’s getting enough oxygen for now, but that could worsen as well.”
“Is it absolutely necessary for him to go to the hospital?”
“Well, you could let him stay here, I guess. But he needs to be monitored at all times, his temperature, heartbeat, and breathing, all of it. He needs to stay hydrated. If there is a significant decrease in his condition, if the fever rises above forty degrees for instance, or if he cannot breathe because of the coughing, I would recommend hospitalizing him. If he stays like this and someone is with him, he can stay here.”
Mycroft’s thoughts raced as his gaze returned to his restless brother in the bed. If this had come at any other time, he would have his brother transported to the hospital at once. Maybe if John had been here to care for Sherlock, he would have agreed to leave his brother in the good doctor’s care. But John wasn’t here and it would make sense to get Sherlock into a hospital where he would be monitored at all times, provided for in all matters.
Yet, somehow he was hesitant to give the order. After their recent altercation, their relationship was shaky at best, possibly completely ruined at worst. Doing this to Sherlock now would mean making it even worse, even if it was the best course of action, the most reasonable thing to do in favour of Sherlock’s heath. But his brother could be disappointingly small-minded sometimes, stubborn and blind to reason and Mycroft was sure, he would resent him for doing this to him. Sherlock hated hospitals and he would hate Mycroft for forcing him into one just for ‘one measly cold’, as he would put it.
The alternative was for Sherlock to stay here, while someone watched over him. With John gone and Mrs. Hudson, too, that didn’t leave many options. He could of course order Anthea to stay here, Dr. Brentley, or any other one of his many employees. He knew that they could be trusted as they were his employees, they were paid well and they were competent. They would do everything to keep Sherlock safe and inform him at once if his condition worsened in any way.
But he didn’t want any of his employees to look after Sherlock.
He would do this himself.
Chances were that Sherlock would wake up and throw Mycroft out but he would take that chance. He could always send Anthea or someone else in or hospitalize Sherlock after all. But for now, he would stay here and look after his brother. The way he seemed right now, he wasn’t exactly in a position to protest Myroft’s decision. He hadn’t even woken up while being examined, a fact that made Mycroft almost nervous.
“Thank you for your assessment, Dr. Brentley, “he said, turning to the other man again. “If you would be so kind as to stay available for medical advice should I need it…?”
“I’ve been told I’ll be staying in the Mable Arch Hotel tonight, just a few streets away, thanks to your generosity, “Dr. Brentley said with a small smile. He was used to highly unusual procedures like this and didn’t seem surprised at the way the situation was being treated. “I’ll have my phone right next to my bed, call me any time you need me.”
With another small nod, Dr. Brentley scribbled something on his quickly produced prescription block and handed it to Anthea.
“Try to give him as much water as possible. I would advise giving him some ibuprofen to reduce his fever a bit, give him a chance to rest. If he complains of a headache the ibuprofen will help too. I have prescribed cough medicine in addition to the antibiotics but I would commend using them only if his cough worsens dramatically, making it impossible for him to sleep. Keep him warm, he will probably complain of being cold. As I said, if his fever rises above forty or if he is unable to breathe, call an ambulance immediately. If there are any other questions, contact me.”
“Once again, thank you, doctor.”
Dr. Brentley left and Anthea did as well, heading to the pharmacy she would find at this time of night with the additional task of acquiring Mycroft’s recent reports on China to keep him occupied during the night.
With another heavy sigh, Mycroft once again sat beside Sherlock. He watched in sympathy as another pitiful cough left his brother’s sore throat, which reminded him that his brother needed to drink something.
He went into the kitchen and fetched a glass of tepid water from the tap, as well as a package of Ibuprofen he found in the bathroom.
“Come here, brother mine, “he murmured, as he gently raised Sherlock’s head and directed the glass to his lips. “Drink this.”
Sherlock’s eyes didn’t open, but he moaned softly as soon as Mycroft touched him. “J-John, “he said with a small hitch in his breath, and Mycroft’s eyebrows arched as he realized that Sherlock thought that his flatmate was here with him.
“Yes, Sherlock, “he said on a whim and was grateful to see his brother obediently opening his mouth, allowing the water as well as the Ibuprofen to be poured down his throat.
He managed to drink half of the glass, then he coughed again and curled into himself, breathing heavily. Mycroft brushed some wayward curls out of his brother’s face and let him be.
Anthea returned fifteen minutes later, with the antibiotics and the reports she had collected from another employee meeting her at the pharmacy. Mycroft had some trouble getting Sherlock to down the pill with more water, as his brother groaned, trying to swat Mycroft’s hand away, but after a few more tries and a lot more coughing, he succeeded and Sherlock went back to his restless sleep.
Amazingly, he still had not woken up.
Mycroft resigned himself to a long night watching over Sherlock’s sleep and sat down on a chair next to the bed, the reports from China in his lap. He opened the front page and tried to concentrate on reading. After maybe thirty minutes, he was forced to give up. He was just too distracted by the constant shifting, moaning, and coughing from right next to him.
So he just sat there and watched Sherlock sleep. He held his hand, stroked his back when he was coughing as if his lungs were bursting and tried to give him water as often as he could.
It was exhausting and yet he did not leave his brother’s side.
At some point he looked at his watch, his eyes widening in surprise when he saw it was almost three o’clock in the morning. He thought about getting some rest himself. No real sleep, just a bit of closing his eyes, thus reducing stimuli to the brain, something he had learned to do early in his career, back when he was still doing legwork and measures like this were still essential. The couch next door was no option. For one, there was no knowing what kind of doubtful stuff had come into contact with it and he would get no rest thinking about it all the time. But he was also reluctant to leave Sherlock’s side. Even if he checked up on him every half hour, it would not be enough. Sherlock was just too vulnerable right now, his fever could spike any second and that was a risk Mycroft was not willing to take.
So he tried to make himself comfortable in the chair, resting his elbow on the armrest and resting his head on his fist. Closing his eyes, he tried to calm himself, trying to block out the constant thoughts of Sherlock, Sherlock’s not well, Sherlock is sick, Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock. What disturbed him most was the sudden pang of guilt working its way into his mind.
It was typical Sherlock to get himself into such a situation, helpless and in desperate need of a friend watching out for him, just when Mycroft had turned off surveillance on him, and the two souls he had unconsciously counted on to watch Sherlock in his stead were absent.
As if Sherlock was punishing him for taking such a drastic step. Even if Sherlock resented Mycroft for ‘stalking’ him, as he called it.
The moment Mycroft decided to stop doing it, Sherlock threw himself into danger. As if doing it on purpose.
It didn’t matter now. All that mattered was that Sherlock got well again.
It was disconcerting to see his little brother in this state. Seeing him now, lying there like that, cold sweat on his brow, dark shadows under his sunken eyes, Mycroft felt a little uneasy. It felt a bit as if he was betraying his brother’s trust (which he technically didn’t have), allowing himself to see him like that. Vulnerable. Helpless.
Sherlock would hate for Mycroft to see him like that.
He was just considering calling Anthea and asking her to watch over Sherlock in his stead after all when Sherlock suddenly started to stir.
“John. John, “he rasped from under the sheets.
He was still asleep, but he was becoming more restless with every second and Mycroft got up to sit beside him, taking his clammy hand into his own to calm him down.
“John. ‘m cold, “Sherlock was whispering just now, as he jerked his head from right to left. “S-so c-c-c-cold.”
Indeed he was shivering quite violently. Mycroft frowned as he felt Sherlock’s brow, angry heat radiating from his body but it only caused Sherlock to toss and turn even more.
“C-c-cold, John. P-please, “he gritted out through chattering teeth. His eyes were open now, Mycroft realized with shock, but Sherlock didn’t seem to recognize him. He grabbed Mycroft’s arm, trying to pull him closer. Something that sounded like a sob left his throat as he buried his face in Mycroft’s arm and Mycroft’s heart clenched at the unusual emotional display.
“P-please, “Sherlock whispered again, violent tremours running through his thin body, and Mycroft was at the end of his tether.
What should he do?
Blankets. He should get more blankets. Ah and a hot-water bottle. Yes.
“Sherlock, “he said quietly as he tried to disentangle his brother’s hand from his arm. “I’m just going to get some blankets so you’re not cold anymore.”
“No, no,” Sherlock whined as he buried his face into the pillow. Mycroft stared at him, genuinely dismayed to see him like that. Sherlock didn’t seem like himself, he was completely delirious. It was shocking to see this man, usually so quick and clever and incredibly intelligent, reduced to this - a helpless, almost childlike person, just a shadow of his true self.
“I’ll be back in a second, “he tried to reassure Sherlock but as soon as he pulled his arm away, Sherlock lunged forward and grabbed it again, shaking his head frantically.
“No! P-please, j-just stay. John, please.”
Oh God, he still thought he was John. Mycroft was shellshocked, sitting there completely still, at a loss for what he should do.
His eyes roamed over the shivering, wheezing form of his little brother, the thin long fingers wrapped around his forearm, the face he knew so well, pale and sunken in, closing his eyes again as he repeated his pleading for Mycroft/John to stay over and over again.
Taking a deep breath, Mycroft made his decision.
He took off his shoes and suit jacket and tossed them onto the chair. Before he could process what he was doing, possibly changing his mind again, he got into the bed and crawled underneath the sheets.
“Come here, “he whispered, and he dragged Sherlock’s shivering body up next to him. This was how he found himself lying on his back, propped against the big, soft pillow, with Sherlock curled on his side, and his head on Mycroft’s chest. The moment he was settled next to him, Sherlock calmed down. He was still shivering though and Myroft’s arm immediately went around his thinner, younger brother’s frame, pulling him closer and rubbing his back in soothing, slow circles to further calm him down.
After a few minutes and a few more nasty coughs, Sherlock’s body stilled, his breathing slowing down too. Mycroft released a breath he didn’t know he had been holding in as he finally realized that Sherlock had fallen asleep again.
Staring at the ceiling in the faint moonlight coming through the window curtains, Mycroft tried to come to terms with the situation he had managed to get himself into.
A couple of hours ago, he would have never thought this scenario possible. A couple of hours ago, he and Sherlock had not even been on speaking terms. Technically, they still weren’t. The last time they had seen each other, they had screamed at each other - or rather, Sherlock had screamed at Mycroft who had just made his usually cold remarks in return. The result was that they had practically sworn each other eternal hatred.
How had it come to this?
A fresh wave of guilt washed over him, nausea rising in his throat, and he gritted his teeth, trying to tell himself that this was alright, that he was not taking advantage of Sherlock in his fragile condition. He was trying to help him, for God’s sake.
It was highly disturbing that Sherlock was so sick that he wasn’t even able to tell that it was not John who was by his side, but his annoying, older brother.
If he woke now, fully conscious again, there would be hell to pay.
Still, Mycroft did not find it in his heart to leave Sherlock’s side again. Even if he knew that this was probably a bad idea. Sherlock would blow a gasket if he found out what happened, and he would probably renew his vow never to see Mycroft again. Which would break Myroft’s heart all over again. Alternatively, he could ridicule him, for giving in to sentiment. The one thing that was only found in the losing side.
Mycroft sighed heavily and froze when his movement caused Sherlock to whimper in his sleep, resulting in another bout of violent coughing.
“There, there, “he said awkwardly as he stroked his brother’s trembling back, trying to get him through the coughing, hoping that he wouldn’t wake up, his heart pounding in his chest.
He didn’t and Mycroft relaxed as soon as Sherlock fell quiet again.
Sod it, he thought. Let him wake up. Let him mock me or shout at me. I was only trying to be nice for once and if he cannot see that, he is beyond reasoning…
Closing his eyes, he nodded to himself.
Having now made his peace with the current situation, Mycroft allowed himself to absorb more of the information surrounding him. Just like his petulant younger sibling, Mycroft was a master at observing and his brain gradually began processing the available data in the quiet darkness in which they now lay.
Too thin, his brain told him as his hands stroked down the length of Sherlock’s lanky back. He had always been a fussy eater and Mycroft found it hard not to resent him for his lack of appetite and his apparent inability to put on weight. He himself was always on a diet nowadays although he was hardly overweight as Sherlock always loved to imply. It was just that he was not as gifted in genes as Sherlock was. He had to work hard to stay fit, unlike others.
But now, Sherlock seemed even thinner than usual, his arms almost scrawny, the bones in his back protruding more than usual and Mycroft swallowed as he told himself that he was being ridiculous. Sherlock was far from underweight, he was fine. John who was as worried about Sherlock’s lack of appetite as Mycroft took great pains in getting some food into the detective while he was on cases, during which he carelessly tended to simply stop eating. Mycroft was actually very grateful for John doing that, he would be forced to step in if the good doctor didn’t.
He absently stroked through his brother’s unruly curls and found that they were a little longer than usual. He had skipped his last haircut then. That was a little unusual, maybe he had been caught up in cases too much.
At last, he looked down, daring to look into his brother’s face, peaceful now in his sleep, apart from the occasional rough cough. The medicine seemed to be taking effect then, which was a relief.
Sherlock looked ill. Yet he still managed to look handsome, with his sharp cheekbones, his smooth alabaster skin, the full, slightly parted lips, and Mycroft chided himself as the familiar green-eyed monster of envy reared its ugly head again.
He was suddenly propelled back in time when a childhood memory unexpectedly appeared in front of his inner eye.
It had started when Sherlock had entered secondary school. He had been ten years old and Mycroft seventeen. His brother had been a gangly, awkward kid that spent all of his free time in the library or his makeshift laboratory. He didn’t have many friends and he became the target of many cruel jokes at the hands of his classmates at school.
Sherlock never talked about it, even when he sometimes returned home with a bloody nose or a bruised cheek. But Mycroft would see the barely concealed pain, the helpless rage, the growing self-hatred burning in his stormy blue-green eyes.
On those days Mycroft would take his hand and lead him into the bathroom where he would clean him up, tend to his wounds without a word. Sherlock had nightmares too, bad ones. Mycroft heard him crying softly in his bed and his heart ached for him but he didn’t know what to do.
At some point, Sherlock started to slip into Mycroft’s bed after especially intense nightmares. It wouldn’t happen very often, maybe once every two weeks or so, and just like the treating of his wounds, they never talked about it.
Sherlock would slip under the covers, lay his head on Mycroft’s chest, and fall asleep again. Mycroft would stroke his back, just like he was doing now, and leave in the morning before Sherlock woke up again.
They had never been very close as kids after the first few years, what with the large age gap and their sophisticated upbringing, forcing both of them into hobbies and duties their parents chose for them, making it almost impossible for them to spend any time together.
But in these moments, when Mycroft tended to Sherlock’s wounds or pressed a shivering Sherlock close to his side, stroking him into a peaceful slumber, those moments had felt as if there was nothing that could break them apart. The two of them against the rest of the world.
It had stopped when Mycroft had turned eighteen and left for university. They had never shared such close intimacy again.
It was painful, thinking about these old memories, and Mycroft swallowed down a lump in his throat as he pulled Sherlock closer, an image of their younger selves clear before him, a ten-year-old Sherlock crying in his arms as he allowed his older brother to comfort him.
It was an odd contrast to now where Sherlock lay in his arms in the same position as when they had been kids, but this time his brother did not know in whose arms he lay.
At this moment Sherlock whimpered and coughed, the most wretched sounds torn out of his throat as his thin body shook against Mycroft’s.
“Shhh, brother mine, “Mycroft heard himself whispering, and he sighed in relief when Sherlock indeed did calm down. He huffed, irritated at himself. What a ridiculous picture he must make right now.
The phone on the bedside table suddenly blinked and he managed to reach out and grab it without disturbing Sherlock in his sleep.
It was a message from Anthea.
Doctor Watson on his way back to London. Will arrive at approx. 7.
Mycroft snorted and put the phone back down again. He should have known that the good doctor would return home as soon as he heard that Sherlock was seriously ill. That man had serious issues, he couldn’t stay away from Sherlock, especially when Sherlock was unwell.
Once again, he wondered about the true nature of Sherlock’s and John Watson’s relationship. He had watched them evolve from flatmates/colleagues to best friends in a matter of mere months and if he had harboured suspicions regarding Watson’s true motive behind getting close to Sherlock, they had been dismissed insofar as he now was certain that John wouldn’t want any harm to come to his younger brother. John Watson really cared for Sherlock. He would do almost anything for him. Mycroft knew it, saw it in the hardness of his sharp blue eyes, the clench of his hands when he observed Sherlock in distress, the relieved little laugh that left him when Sherlock had made a rude remark and was being his usual obnoxious self.
Sherlock seemed as infatuated with John as the doctor was with him, and Mycroft was glad that his brother had finally found somebody who he could call a friend, a best friend even, even if it also caused the occasional appearance of jealousy within him. Even though he wished it were otherwise, he knew he wanted him and Sherlock to be closer as they actually were, and he couldn’t help but resent John Watson for taking that spot beside his brother, providing him with friendship and safety and care. All the things that Mycroft wished he could give to Sherlock, but couldn’t. Well, at least he tried to give him the latter things, unwanted though as they might be.
Were they lovers, too? Mycroft didn’t know. There hadn’t been any cameras in 221B for a while now, so Mycroft couldn’t be sure. They didn’t seem to be from what he could see on CCTV, but who knew? However it was, it was hard for him to picture his younger brother in love with another person.
There was so much...just so much about Sherlock he didn’t know.
Would he ever get to know him again? Like when they were kids?
At some point during his brooding, Mycroft drifted off.
He was awoken by a soft tug at his shoulder and he jerked awake. Anthea was standing above him and her clear, sharp eyes were without judgment as she looked at the two of them lying side by side.
“What time is it?” he asked, suppressing an undignified yawn.
“Half-past six. Doctor Watson will be here soon.”
Gently, Mycroft disentangled himself from his brother’s side and tried to ignore the pitiful moan from Sherlock as the warm body beside him disappeared.
He sat up and took the glass of water from Anthea. He could see that it was for him as she had another in her other hand, so he drained it and brought the other one to his brother’s dry lips.
A quick check of the temperature told him that the fever had dropped to 38,5°, which was still too high for his liking. But Doctor Watson would take care of it for him now. He had seen Sherlock through the night, what happened now wasn’t up to him anymore.
He found himself stroking through Sherlock’s damp curls and cleaning his sweaty face with a wet washcloth as they waited for Watson to show up.
Finally, they could hear the apartment’s door open, footsteps approaching fast and then the door opened, revealing a slightly dishevelled John Watson. He hadn’t even taken his jacket off and Mycroft suppressed a small smile at the sight of him.
Doctor Watson’s eyes were hard, his brow furrowed, his lips pressed tightly into a thin line as he hurried to Sherlock’s bed, sitting beside him after barely acknowledging Mycroft and Anthea with a curt nod.
“What have you done to yourself again, you mad git?” he mumbled as he stroked over the sharp cheekbone before his hand wandered down to his neck to take his pulse.
“His fever has dropped a little but I fear it’s not over yet, “Mycroft explained calmly. “Please make sure that he is alright, Doctor Watson.”
John barely looked up from where he was fussing over Sherlock. “Yeah, yeah, of course, “he said absently.
“You should know that Sherlock thinks it was you who stayed with him during the night,“ Mycroft said as gathered his reports from the chair.
“What? Why?” John looked up, genuinely puzzled.
“He was barely conscious, to the point where he was delirious and he did not recognize me. It would be best if you didn’t tell him the truth. He wouldn’t like it. I’m sure you understand.”
John studied him with a calm, if not surprised face. “I do, “he said slowly. “Alright. If you wish.”
He quickly briefed the doctor about Sherlock’s state then: antibiotics, his general condition during the night and Dr Brentley’s previous assessment.
“Please keep me informed on his condition,” he said eventually as he put on his suit jacket and turned towards the door.
John nodded and turned towards Sherlock again. Mycroft left and Anthea followed swiftly, leaving Watson to take care of Sherlock from here on.
One week later one of the cameras on Regent Street caught Sherlock and Doctor Watson stepping out of a cab and meeting Lestrade at Picadilly Circus. Apparently, they were working on another case.
Sherlock looked well enough. Tall, lanky, and elegant as usual, dressed in the trademark Belstaff coat. His movements were maybe not as quick as usual, his gestures not as swift, his face maybe a tad paler, but apart from that, all seemed back to normal.
Mycroft smiled to himself as he watched Watson guide Sherlock back into a cab by his elbow, the other hand at the small of his back, the gesture tiny but very protective. He knew from the expression on Sherlock’s face that the doctor would get an earful for that, Sherlock didn’t like to be mollycoddled, not in public at least.
He still hadn’t heard from Sherlock. He knew that Sherlock would be aware of the cameras tracking his movements once again. Surprisingly enough, there had been no insulting texts demanding to leave him alone, so his brother seemed fine with the current development. He was sure that Doctor Watson had kept his word and not told him who had taken care of him the night he had been ill with fever.
Mycroft was glad. It was better that way.
He caught himself remembering that night he had been allowed to hold his brother in his arms again many times.
He wished Sherlock would call already, demand his attention, demand his help for one of his silly cases. Despite himself, he longed for them to meet up, bicker, and insult each other. Good old times.
As of yet, it had not happened. But it would sooner or later, Mycroft knew.
Everything would be just as before.