Title: Loneliness and The Great Goose
Summary: AU where the Watsons and the Holmes switch siblings. A fic for mojoflower because she’s having a tough day. I’ve been sitting on this for a while and today seemed a great day to pull it out, it’s unbetaed, so be strong if you come across any problems, I just wanted to get this up. I hope it’s comforting enough!
It is hard being Mycroft’s little brother.
John thinks that if his life was a book or a story or something that had been organized and laid out beforehand that John would have been an older brother and Mycroft would have had a baby brother that was better at being younger. John wants to protect and defend, his natural inclination was to strike fear into bullies and wipe away tears. But when you’re the baby brother it isn’t generally appreciated, especially with a big brother as self-conscious and brilliant as Mycroft.
When John was five (and spelling it with no e) and thought that Mycroft was the smartest person in the whole world except maybe Mr. Roberts at school (he still thinks this, without the Mr. Roberts part) and the best brother ever and loved him with all his little five year old heart, Mycroft would walk him to school holding his hand. Three of the big boys came and said mean things that made John feel scared and got into a pushing match with Mycroft which they won, leaving Mycroft stunned on his backside on the pavement.
Mycroft was always best with words.
John had attacked; leaving his stuffed giraffe on the ground and took down one of the boys using surprise and his elbows and tiny fists and his hard head. It had been mostly luck in that the boy probably didn’t want to be seen whaling on a little boy.
The boys ran off awkwardly, but Mycroft wouldn’t hold his hand anymore or look at him the rest of the way to school. John had cried when he realized Mycroft wasn’t going to hold his hand, not understanding until he was older how embarrassing it was to have your five year old brother accidentally knock over your bully. It only happened once. Mycroft was, is, a ruthless defender, but that morning seemed to hang over them for ages.
If John had been Mycroft’s older brother there would have been no threat to the power dynamic.
When they are young Mycroft has a sort of revelation, that it would be better if John was not his brother. That he had someone else instead. Not because Mycroft doesn’t love John. He loves John very much. Too much. That comes, he suspects, from hiding in the cupboard in the dark with the tiny body of his baby brother cradled against his chest while his father beats his mother. Father was of course taken care of, Mycroft is extraordinarily clever at taking care of things, and now the mental folder with the word father written in contempt across it is filed away never to be worried about again.
But he remembers that had hid in the cupboard at least twice a week as a child, sometimes more and hated his Father and sometimes less letting Johnny suck on his fingers with wide baby eyes. As if Mycroft could tell him what to do, keep him safe, Here I am Mycroft, just your little brother, your own baby brother. I’m at your command.
Which is why it is with such earthshattering horror, one day at the park, Mycroft’s mind vomits to the front of his brain, I wish he wasn’t my brother. Because usually when an enormous hissing goose attacks a small child nearly half its size (John was always small) the usual response of the child wasn’t to leap on top of it and try to wrestle it to the ground.
I’ll never be able to protect him, he thinks as he stares with his mouth hanging open at small child and enormous, slightly panicky goose. If I watch him for every second of every day forever and ever, I’ll never be able to protect him. John will always run toward danger.
Which thought is followed by oh no, oh no, ohno ohno ohnononoJohn John John Johnnygetoff get off it’ll hurt you.
John isn’t sure what to make of his new brother, which is his old brother in clothes worth a small car. Mycroft was always so clever, but he was also safe and warm. Long careful fingers against the curve of his head as John pressed his face to the thick weave of Mycroft’s thrift shop jumper. Mycroft’s voice so thick with layers of tone and meaning, reading Churchill or Chaucer or Shakespeare to him. Now he looks… kind of scary, too rich. He doesn’t sound like John any more, he sounds like someone who went to a school for people who owned estates. But it’s the same brother that shakes his head and says, I worry about you John,</i> constantly. Extra emphasis on that last word. John is pretty sure he’s the only student in his class that is slowly learning to spot surveillance teams and hidden cameras, although Mycroft’s people are getting better which makes him increasingly paranoid. It makes John happy, to have someone to rely on, but also rubs him the wrong way because he doesn’t go wandering blind into oncoming traffic, now does he?
They meet for lunch once a week and now there’s also a black car that parks nearby and a tall broad faced assistant that seems to haunt Mycroft with a little notepad at the ready. The assistant is off having a sandwich or something while John and Mycroft try with perfectly straight faces try to make each other laugh loudly in the middle of a posh restaurant. Not everything has changed after all. It’s always been hard with Mycroft but now he’s like a brick wall. A brick wall that knows everything about him. He’s struggling to keep them tied together, not the watcher and the watched, but the big brother that explained the solar system and the baby brother that listened in awe.
“I was accepted for St. Bart’s study abroad to Mexico,” he says, giving Mycroft a steady look.
“That’s very far away. They have diseases there.” Mycroft has feelings about diseases, and not fuzzy ones. He also has feelings about fuzzy things, which he expressed when he saw the sink in John’s student housing in perfect horrified public school tones.
“I know, that’s why I’m going. We’re offering medical aide. I’m not going to go around licking petri dishes. Or patients.”
“I don’t like it,” Mycroft says in his, that’s final voice. John clenches his jaw at his brother fiercely.
John ends up going, but St. Bart’s team seemed to have acquired an ex-army doctor that had an uncanny ability to show up at random times to check on John. He chose not to comment on that, it was a compromise. He doesn’t like to think about what minor position his brother holds that allows him to have ex-army doctors on call to babysit his little brother. He writes home in one of his letters, don’t let them turn you into anything you don’t want to be, you’re already perfect.
In Mycroft’s letter back he draws a picture of himself looking smug and floating down the margins with an umbrella like Mary Poppins. Practically perfect in every way.
Mycroft isn’t sure what to do with his new brother, that is to say, the identical brother, but with the addition of having made his way through most of the female company at St Bartholomew’s. His staff had a large piece of poster board in the break room with a large graph with a list and tallies. They had made bets. When he had found out about his team’s pride in his brother’s prodigious (which he meant on both counts) love life he had shut down the betting but had felt a certain warmth. He was pretty sure it still happened informally from time to time, but that couldn’t really be stopped. Gone was the pudgy faced child that so obediently ran around fetching things for Mycroft while he read. The little boy that would put his hand in Mycroft’s pocket. Who believed Mycroft could do anything, that Mycroft did everything right.
“So,” he says. “Alice.”
“No,” John replies. “Absolutely not. Don’t tell me you’ve kidnapped her already. I really like her.”
Mycroft gives him the look that he knows John finds disconcerting, the head tilting one; John clenches his jaw at him. He hates the jaw clench. John was still upset about the kidnapping of Mike Stamford. What did John expect Mycroft to do about the fact he was living with an unknown person? That there was an unknown person in the same room as John when he was vulnerable and asleep and open to attack? John was so clever, but Mycroft was so much smarter, Mycroft saw every potential danger to his sweet trusting baby brother. It wasn’t like he had done any lasting harm; Mike Stamford had agreed to leave his bedroom again.
“I would complain about the surveillance equipment I found in my room, but at least it means I’m catching some of it. Your need to observe me constantly would cause me more than a little disquiet if I didn’t know you. It still worries me though. You’re going to fret yourself into an early grave. I’m fine.”
He starts to protest, but that would fall terribly flat. He’s been grooming himself these past years to let nothing that comes out of his mouth fall flat. “I care about you John. You’re my brother.”
When John was born Mycroft had hoped that he would be smart like Mycroft was. So that Mycroft wouldn’t be alone. But John was perfect in so many other excellent ways. He had such capacity for forgiveness forgetting all of Mycroft’s little frustrated jibes, his borderline mental disorders. Such capacity for fierce love. Mycroft wasn’t sure sometimes that something wasn’t deeply wrong with him. That John wasn’t his last lifeline away from the kind of sociopathy that [folder filed, marked done] seemed to thrive on. John and Mycroft were the heart and the head, polar opposites. Taking care of John was the only way Mycroft knew of tying them together.
“Of course I’m your brother, but I’m also a grown man. You’ve got enough on your shoulders. Look at what they’ve done to you. You’ve put on weight, you look… grey. You need to let yourself relax, be happy. If you get to try to put your foot down with me I’m certainly going to put it down with you.”
“You can’t order someone happy.”
John threw a roll at him and Mycroft couldn’t stop the small snerk that escaped him.
It is impossible trying to get into the military at first.
“Do you have any idea how close we are to war every day. Every day we’re this close. I cannot have you on the front lines.” Mycroft has this gift of having so many layers to him that not even John can see down to his skin anymore. Except for moments like this where he’s dangerous and furious and controlled and a scared older brother flashing around and around like a multicoloured strobe light so that John can see down to the heart of him.
“Mycroft,” John said very slowly. “I’m going to join the Army. This is something I need to do. We’re not even at war right now; I’ll be patching up bumps and bruises somewhere, seeing the world, treating flu bugs on military bases.”
“I could take you to see the world if you’re interested in that,” Mycroft sounded a little desperate, which is to say he sounded almost normal for a regular human being. They hadn’t exactly been very close these past few years what with John embracing the world of medicine and the world of medical students with equal gusto and Mycroft slowly informing the British Government that he was rather in charge now, thank you for watching the shop, but that was enough now. But John still knew his brother.
“I want to join up. I need-” what did he need? He could feel it twisting and shifting through him, but he didn’t have a name for it, what he was longing for, it wasn’t order, or structure, not quite, it wasn’t danger, or belonging. It was-
“Alright,” Mycroft said, his voice sounded so hollow. He knew what John meant, he had seen it before, he sounded so sad John almost recanted. “Alright. Fine. Alright. I’ll just make sure Britain stays out of war. I should never have read you Churchill.”
“Can I come over tonight? Just to talk or… Just like old times, I can regale Clara with tales of your daring do.”
Mycroft let out a small little huff of sound. “She’ll like that.” He had seen the way Mycroft checked her out and the way she had returned the look when she thought no one was looking. They were practically living with each other anyway.
“The two of you need to get married, seriously, she wants you.”
“John!” Mycroft squawked.
“You sound like a goose,” John laughed.
“Please,” Mycroft begged. “Don’t mention geese.”
It was impossible trying to get his heart beating again at first.
John. John always knew how to keep them together. Whenever the tie seemed tenuous to Mycroft, John found a way for them to connect, to make that connection tighter. He couldn’t lose John. It was not on the table.
“Sir?” Amelia asked. She had managed to still look glamorous after he had called her at two in the morning to arrange a flight immediately to Afghanistan. He didn’t want to know what he looked like. He couldn’t even talk to Clara about it because she was in that blo- No. Fixating on it didn’t actually help anything. Calm thoughts, calm and in control. She was in hospital, just in hospital, a few routine tests and then home again for tea. No obsessive brooding necessary.
“Transfer all my meetings for the next five days; I trust my staff can take the weight.”
“Sir, Fuentes only agreed to meet because you said you were going to be there personally.”
“Fuentes can go to hell,” he was practically running to the plane. So much for calm and in control.
There was a long shocked pause from where she jogged beside him. “Yes sir,” she said finally.
He paused at the bottom of the stairs to the plane. “Have someone send new roses to Clara’s room and tell her I’ll call her as soon as I can.”
“It’ll be taken care of sir,” she moved like she was going to lean forward, but decided to stay where she was instead, her thumbs moving rapidly over her blackberry.
Mycroft paced, frantic, frantic, frantic until he was sitting in a small Army hospital in Afghanistan, holding a hand that was so small, too small and weak. None of the energy, none of the natural force of life. He took the small hand in his long one and held on.
Held on tight to his baby brother.
It was good that Mycroft was there when they told him he wasn’t going back, they were shipping him home.
“I didn’t-” Mycroft started.
John squeezed his fingers, face as still as a funeral mask. “I know. I know.”
It was good John was able to be there for Clara’s funeral. Mycroft stood very calm and serene. Having John there made it almost bearable.
“I can’t-” Mycroft said later that night crying into John’s shoulder, the right one, not the shot one.
“I know,” John said, squeezing the back of his neck gently.
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- ulffy said: Gah. Why?! I now have another story which I need desperately to update. And is John a Holmes? And why would the parents who named ‘Mycroft’ suddenly go for ‘John’ and those who gave ‘Harriet’ decided ‘Sherlock’ is what we need? Just more, please.
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