beautifulside: Dr. Watson (watson)
[personal profile] beautifulside
Title: An Evening With Mycroft
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes (books)
Pairing: None/Gen
Rating: PG

This was my story for Yuletide in 2008. I've done some minor editing (it lacked a beta). You can find it in its original form here at the Yuletide archive or at my AO3 account.



Some weeks after the case of the Honorable Ronald Adair, and the both shocking and joyful revelation that came with it, I found myself alone in the Baker Street rooms, waiting for my friend to return from his current clue-seeking mission.

My immense joy at the revelation of Holmes' survival had buoyed me for some weeks, but now I found myself sliding into the melancholia that had been such a constant companion of late. The combination of Holmes' death and my own sad bereavement within a space of a few years had taken its toll, and now, having had some time to mull over the details of Holmes' reappearance, my joy commuted itself into doubt and self-flagellation. Why did Holmes think me so undependable, to leave me in the dark for three years? Did he have even half the regard for me that I held for him, or was I simply a convenient ear; a pet that could speak?

With such black thoughts filling my head, I had scarcely noted the sounds of someone entering our dwelling, and so when a large figure suddenly appeared before me, I must admit that I started rather strongly.

"Good evening, Doctor Watson."

"Mycroft! My dear fellow, how are you?"

"Much the same as always. I take it that Sherlock is out, but is expected back within the next hour or so?"

"Indeed."

"Then I believe I shall trouble Mrs. Hudson for some nourishment, and wait for Sherlock to return."

"Is there some message you should like for me to convey for you," I asked, knowing of Mycroft's dislike of breaking both his normal orbit and routine.

"Kind of you to offer, but unnecessary. It would be simplest to wait."

I admit that again I fell to a black mood, as it appeared that Holmes' brother did not even trust me to convey a simple message. I must seem a useless simpleton; a court jester to a pair of princes.

"Forgive me, Doctor, but you seem troubled."

I prevaricated briefly, but Mycroft's clear grey eyes looked right through me; he could probably see everything within me laid bare. For the first time in my life, I cursed the wonderful skills this pair of brilliant brothers had developed. Why could he not accept my excuses and leave it be? He continued to look at me calmly, an immovable object who could not be bothered with societal niceties. I could not see my way to confessing my doubts and my fears; my tongue stalled in my mouth.

"I take it that you are feeling rather... unsettled by some recent conversations," he began for me, with a delicacy that surprised me. I merely inclined my head.

"Doctor, you should not take Sherlock's comments personally. Circumstances in life have made him into a person that cannot believe the job is done right unless it is done personally. His unequaled intellect has made this a self-fulfilling prophecy again and again.

"In fact, and this brings me to my purpose, I myself have failed him in the past. You have been told, of course, of my reluctance to ever actually perferm any of the actions of detection. I prefer my role as arm-chair conjecturer."

"Holmes informed me that your powers were far superior to his," I hastened to add. To my surprise, Mycroft chuckled.

"To Sherlock, I shall always be his elder brother, and to some extent, this fact colors his vision. Pure mental exercise is quite a different thing than actual detection. I have simply spent far more time engaging in such practices. If my brother had lived life such as I, I have no doubt he would be equally proficient, if not the sharper.

"The theoretical detective is quite handicapped by his sedentary position. He cannot see all the evidence, cannot perfectly visualize every detail, and does not get the opportunity to analyze every involved personage. In fact, the arm-chair detective can quite easily lead himself (and, as it follows, others) down the wrong path."

Mycroft stopped here for a time, and I nodded encouragingly, not quite sure where he intended to go from this point. The silence continued a moment longer, and I wondered if it was possible if the elder Holmes was attempting to gather his courage.

Mrs. Hudson interrupted at that moment, bringing tea and sandwiches, and Mycroft busied himself with his comestibles.

Having consumed a rather impressive amount, Mycroft let out a sigh. I peered at him, trying to imagine what was bothering the normally balanced man.

"I have led Sherlock quite wrong before, and in this most particular case, nearly cost him his life." He looked at me again, and I was shocked to see something that looked like shame hovering about his countenance.

"You see, Dr. Watson, my acquaintance with Professor Moriarty far pre-dates Sherlock's."

I was stunned to silence, but desperate to hear further details. "Acquainted? How so?"

"It is a rather long, occasionally mortifying tale, but the bare bones are these: I came to know Moriarty some years ago, due to his rather brilliant mathematical work. I was impressed by his genius and his dedicated, detached logic. It was around the time he had first gotten into trouble with his University. I found myself annoyed that a rather minor institution would take it upon themselves to rid itself of such a genius for what I imagined were very minor infractions.

"Sherlock, of course, would have investigated said infractions carefully, and undoubtedly, drawn very different conclusions. I, however, saw only his mathematical work and his detached personality (something I understand quite well), and needed know nothing else." Mycroft trailed off again, and his eyes turned inwards. His reflections seemed to pain him, or at least to affect him as much as anything ever could.

"I shall never forgive myself for this, but I took it upon myself to provide some assistance to the apparently mistreated genius. My government work provides me with many contacts. I offered Moriarty the advantage of my connections, patted myself on the back for a job well done, and never looked back. I have no doubt that the man exploited these connections during his rise to criminal mastermind." Mycroft closed his eyes and paused for a long moment. "In a small way, I provided stepping stones on his rise to infamy."

I blustered a bit, trying my best to reassure Mycroft that he could not have known, and that his own actions must have been quite minor.

"I thank you for your kindness, Doctor, but the facts are simple. I did not see the man for what he was, and even helped him on his way. I never bothered to keep track of him, for I believed I could not possibly be wrong about his personality or his motives. It took Sherlock's initiative to uncover a truth that never should have been allowed to occur." Mycroft smiled, but it was not an expression of any pleasure or joy.

"My assistance to Sherlock after he faked his death was not because my brother trusted me more than you, but because I had some small inside knowledge about Moriarty's beginnings, and because it was my responsibility to help bring down the criminal force that, in a small way, was partly my fault. My assistance to him was out of both necessity and penitence."

I cannot recall what words I spoke to my friend's brother after this revelation, but I must have stuttered something that wasn't completely imbecilic, as Mycroft's face cleared slightly, and he patted me on the arm.

"Sherlock relies on you more than anyone else, and trusts you to the extent that he is capable. My dear Watson, please, blame any lack of trust on me, and on all the people who have failed him in the past. You do not fall into that number, and you should not blame yourself for our mistakes."

Mycroft rose to his feet, and began gathering up his things to go. I found myself embarrassed, touched, and lacking in any appropriate words. I felt quite the fish out of water, and stared blankly at my friend's elder brother.

Finally, just as Mycroft was exiting, I remembered the original reason for his presence. "Didn't you have something you wanted to tell Holmes?"

He smiled cunningly at me. "It was not to my brother that I wished to speak." He placed his hat upon his head, and with that, he was gone.

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November 2011

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