Characters: Mycroft, Sherlock, Q, Mummy, *mumbled voice* several extended family OCs
Warnings/Triggers: death of a parent, underage smoking, bittersweet, very vague references to past domestic abuse
Word Count 6,880
Summary: A family reunion takes place at the beach house in Nice, six months after Siger's death. Mycroft takes his first holiday in seven years, and the family tries to find a new normal.
Author's notes: Set in the Trio 'verse, post-'Carry On'.
I'm really, really, really sorry about all these OCs. I really am. I can't help myself. I'm sorry. They just sort of...showed up, and I made the mistake of letting them in, and now they're using all the hot water and eating all my food. Please send help.
This is the weird result of aelfgyfu_mead's comment of wanting to see the Holmes brothers in bunk beds at the beach house. I started one story, but then got distracted by this idea, and now 7,000 words later, here we are. There are bunk beds, though. I did manage to get them in.
Mycroft hadn't been on holiday since he was fifteen. That was the age at which Mummy deemed him old enough to spend a week on his own in Lincolnshire and able to handle any emergency that might arise. At that age, the thought of a week on his own was preferable to one spent in the company of his brothers. Then he'd left home, and even though Mummy extended the invitation to him each year, he'd been too busy to come along.
This year was different for two reasons. The first was that Father was dead, and Mycroft felt that being with his family was perhaps more important than it had been before. The second was that it was Grandfather and Grand-maman's 50th Wedding Anniversary, and a sort of family reunion was planned at the beach house to celebrate. It coincided with the half-term school breaks, which meant all the grandchildren could attend. It was a very rare occasion to have everyone together, and Mycroft didn't want to be be the only one who didn't show up.
The beach house had new planters in front of it, but otherwise was the same as when Mycroft had last seen it, seven years earlier. He'd forgotten that he liked it here. He didn't care for anywhere but London, but this little patch of France had always been very relaxing and peaceful. Peace wasn't important to him, normally. This year was a little different. This year, a little peace would be nice. It had been six months since Father died, and the pain was dull instead of sharp, but nothing felt normal yet. Not to him, at least. It was perhaps time to start a new normal.
He pulled his hired car up next to Mummy's. She and the boys had already been there for a few days; Mycroft had only planned a short trip for himself. The member of parliament he was assistant to wouldn't function on his own for much longer than that, and there were votes coming up for which the correct one was vital. Mycroft needed to be there to provide guidance.
Mummy opened the door of the house as Mycroft got out of his car. He shouldered his overnight bag, and came up to meet her.
“Oh, my word! Look at you,” she said, poking at his stomach. “You are melting away, my love.”
“Not quite,” Mycroft said. “I have a way to go, still.”
He'd started his weight loss regime after Father's death. The family physician had examined all three sons, and concluded that Father's heart defect was not obviously present, but recommended an annual test be done to make sure it didn't develop. He'd also suggested to Mycroft that losing weight and lowering his cholesterol and blood pressure wouldn't go amiss. With a father dead at fifty-one, Mycroft had decided to take the advice.
“I hope you're doing it in a healthy way,” Mummy said.
“Yes,” Mycroft said. “I am using the tried and true method of diet and exercise.”
“I never thought I'd see the day,” Mummy said. She kissed his cheeks. “You look very handsome. I'm glad you've come. I hope you get a chance to relax.”
“Are the boys here?” Mycroft asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Then I very much doubt it.”
“Wow! You've lost a ton of weight!” Trevelyan said, upon Mycroft's entering the beach house.
Sherlock looked over from the sofa. “You're still fat,” he said.
“Sherlock, tiens-toi bien,” Mummy scolded.
“It's a fact,” Sherlock objected.
“Not all facts need to be voiced,” Mummy said.
Sherlock shrugged and stuck his nose back in his book.
“How much weight have you lost?” Trevelyan asked.
“Around five stone,” Mycroft said.
“Wow,” Trevelyan echoed.
“And how much have you grown?” Mycroft asked. Trevelyan had finally hit puberty, and seemed to be growing at a pace now.
“Three inches,” Trevelyan said.
“You're still short,” Sherlock said, helpfully.
Mummy clicked her tongue at him, and he sunk lower down on the sofa, until his head disappeared. Mummy bit her lip to keep from laughing at him, and busied herself in the kitchen.
“You're perfectly average sized for your age,” Mycroft said. “You have plenty of growing to do before your plates fuse.”
“I'm not the shortest in my year, so I don't really care,” Trevelyan said. “I just don't want to be the shortest.”
“You come from a good stock of tall people,” Mycroft assured him.
“That's a lie. We have no idea how tall the gypsies were,” Sherlock said.
“Oh, yes, that's true,” Mycroft agreed. “I'd forgotten about the gypsies. He blends in so well.”
Trevelyan sighed, and Sherlock shot Mycroft a conspiratorial look of amusement at the inside joke. Then Sherlock remembered that he didn't like Mycroft, and the petulant look returned. Mycroft felt the moment was something of a breakthrough, however. Sherlock had been so volatile since Father's death, and for a reason Mycroft couldn't fathom, the majority of his anger seemed to be directed towards him. He suspected it was something to do with usurping Father's role in the family, as the most severe reactions occurred when Mycroft did anything remotely fatherly, like invite him to lunch on his birthday or inquire into his studies. He had to tread carefully around him.
“Where's Grand-maman?” Mycroft asked.
“She's off collecting shells for a project,” Mummy said. “She wanted to catch the tides. Grandfather is in his room, you should go in and say hello, once you're settled.”
“I will,” Mycroft said.
He took his bag to the bunk room, where Sherlock and Trevelyan were already well set-up by the state of it. Sherlock's side of the room was a hopeless mess, while Trevelyan's side was neat as a pin. Mycroft set his bag on the bunk under Trevelyan's, and changed into something a bit more appropriate for beach going.
“I hope you didn't touch any of my things,” Sherlock said, as Mycroft passed through the living room on way to see Grandfather.
“I did not,” Mycroft said. “It's all precisely where you left it.”
“I'm not sleeping with you over me, either,” Sherlock said.
“I have set myself up on Trevelyan's side of the room,” Mycroft replied.
Sherlock pouted, having nothing to which he could object. Mycroft carried on to the master bedroom, and out of the minefield. He gave a knock on the door and was given leave to enter.
Grandfather was up in one of the armchairs, reading the newspaper. “There's Frater Magnus,” he said, warmly. “I've had Fraters Medio and Minor around, but I do like it when the full set are here.”
Mycroft grinned, stepping forward to shake the outstretched hand.
Grandfather was one of his favourite people. Mycroft suspected he'd probably been a spy in the war. He never had any confirmation of this, it was just a hunch from various things he'd heard over the years. He'd met Grand-maman then, and Mycroft, once more through hunches only, thought she might have been a member of the French Resistance. Grandfather spoke half a dozen languages without accent, was uncommonly clever, knew something about everything, and played three instruments. He was a character out of an Agatha Christie novel; one of those bluff, old-fashioned Englishmen who had largely gone out of fashion now.
“How are you feeling?” Mycroft asked.
Grandfather waved a dismissive hand. “I'm surviving, my boy,” he said. “Let's not get started into that rot.”
Around the time Sherlock was born, Grandfather been in a bad car accident, and ruptured several discs in his back. He now walked with a cane, and was in pain for much of the time. He was still a character, though, and Mycroft liked him just as much, even if he wasn't quite as up to adventures as he had been before the accident. It made Mycroft feel bad for Sherlock and Trevelyan, who had never had any adventures with him.
Mycroft took the seat opposite him when Grandfather waved him into it. “Are you prepared for the invasion?” Mycroft asked. “All six grandchildren here at once. I'm not sure we've ever done that before.”
“I'm looking forward to it,” Grandfather said. “I like to count all my chicks and feel proud. I have a nice little flock, you know. A nice little row of pictures on my mantle.”
“I hope we can all get along,” Mycroft said. “We Holmeses aren't socializers.”
“It'll be good for you, to have the clan around,” Grandfather said. “Good for Dora, too. You all need a bit of family.”
Mycroft nodded. “I suppose so,” he said. “Do you think she's...all right? It's so hard to tell.”
“She's carrying on,” Grandfather said. “She's lost a little spark, but she had plenty to begin with. It's early days yet. We can't expect any of you to bounce right back. How are you doing?”
“I'm fine,” Mycroft said. It had become a reflex, so that he didn't even think about it when someone asked. He was fine, always fine. “I feel very helpless.”
“So do I,” Grandfather said. “I couldn't even get down to the funeral.”
“We all understood that,” Mycroft assured him. “There wasn't much to it, anyway. Mummy and I agreed on that. I just kept thinking how angry he'd be. If he were capable, he'd have been furious that we were all sitting there, saying nice things about him.”
Grandfather gave a soft, warm chuckle. “You're probably right,” he said. “He was an odd chap. I liked him.”
Mycroft smiled. “Me too.”
“Oh mon Dieu! Qui est ce beau garçon?” Grand-maman exclaimed, when she came back with her shells. “T'es maigre comme un clou, Mico.”
“That's a bit of an exaggeration, Mamie,” Mycroft said.
“It suits you,” Grand-maman said. “You look more grown up now. Or perhaps you are just more grown up now, yes?”
“Perhaps,” Mycroft said. “What's the project?”
“I have vision of a nice wreath for the door,” Grand-maman said, making a frame with her hands. “Yes. I woke up this morning, and I said, 'this is what I will do today'. It is always good to have a plan for the day. Sherlot, are you still bored?”
Sherlock peered over the sofa, suspiciously. “Maybe,” he said. “Why?”
“I need to clean these shells,” Grand-maman said. “You can help.”
“I will get the bleach.”
“But I don't--”
“And we will sit outside on the porch.”
“Mamie, I don't--”
“And we will work on them. Viens, mon coco.”
Grand-maman opened the screen door and floated serenely onto the porch. Sherlock kicked his legs up and down a few times, before standing up, and declaring to the room, “I am too old to be a rooster.” Then he went out onto the porch.
“I didn't realized you'd learned that from her, Mummy,” Mycroft said.
“Oh yes,” Mummy said. “She's the master at it. Just like a steamroller. She's kept him moving since we arrived. It's good for him.”
Mycroft took a seat on the vacated sofa. Trevelyan was fiddling with his portable PC--a Christmas present. Mycroft and Mummy had both done as much research as possible to ensure he received the best, most advanced one. Trevelyan had a great interest in technology, and Mummy was always keen to cultivate whatever interest her sons had.
“How is it holding up?” Mycroft asked him.
“It's brilliant,” Trevelyan said. He looked over at Mycroft, hopefully. “Do you want to see the programme I've written?”
“Of course,” Mycroft said.
Trevelyan moved over to sit on the sofa, and Mycroft sat through a demonstration of which, truthfully, he had no understanding . The programme itself seemed basic, but Trevelyan was very pleased with himself about it, and a quick glance at the coding showed Mycroft there was far more to it than he would have thought. A basic function seemed to take a massive amount of coding to achieve.
“It's just like learning any other language,” Trevelyan said. “And I'm good at that. So, it wasn't hard to learn. It's just making it do what I want that's the harder part.”
“You seem to be well on your way,” Mycroft said.
“I'm better at it than Sherlock is,” Trevelyan said.
Mycroft knew that was a very important thing. He had no older brother to follow, but he did remember Sherlock's delight when discovering he was better at something than Mycroft was. To have two high-achieving brothers must make it even harder to find one's niche.
“Better than I, as well,” Mycroft said. “Is this something you've learned at school, or did you teach yourself?”
“I found a book,” Trevelyan said. “The PCs at school are ancient.”
“Most things at school are ancient,” Mycroft said. “Even the professors.” Trevelyan grinned. “And how is the rest of school? I heard you've been having headaches.”
Trevelyan shrugged. “The nurse says they're migraines,” he said. “I'm not dying or anything.”
“Have you had your eyes checked recently?” Mycroft asked.
“Yes, and the doctor gave me weaker prescription,” Trevelyan said. “My eyes are getting better. I thought it might help, but it didn't. I don't think there's a reason. Father had them, too, Mummy says.”
“Yes, he did,” Mycroft said. “They can be brought on by stress, I believe.”
Trevelyan shrugged again. “I can't really help that,” he said.
“You can attempt to de-stress,” Mycroft said. “If it's school that's causing you stress, you may need to be less diligent. I know you've worked very hard this year. You needn't. You are a bright young man, and will do well even if you aren't so involved with your studies.”
“No, I like it,” Trevelyan said. “I like school. I like working. It's...helpful. I like the distraction. I want to work hard.”
Mycroft was very sympathetic to that. The harder one worked, the less time there was to think. “All right,” he said.
Trevelyan gave him a little smile. “It's okay,” he said. “I went through all this with Mummy already. I'm not without parental guidance, My. You don't have to do it.”
Mycroft smiled back. “Very well,” he said. “But I am here, if you need me.”
“Yes, Mycroft,” Trevelyan said, patiently. “I know.”
Mycroft didn't like free time. He was never good at having fun, and free time was just a long stretch of not having anything to occupy himself with. He tried sitting on the deck, and reading, but found his mind wandering to what he could be doing if he were at home. It seemed a waste to be here doing nothing.
Sherlock helped Grand-maman wash her shells, and then she went inside to put them to use. Sherlock stayed on the steps afterwards, watching the waves. Mycroft wanted to engage him, but couldn't think of way to do it without antagonizing him.
“Stop staring at me!” Sherlock snapped.
Apparently he didn't have to engage to antagonize him. Lovely.
“I'm sorry, I'll avert my gaze,” Mycroft said.
“I'm am so tired of being stared at,” Sherlock said.
“Is it a frequent event?” Mycroft asked.
“Yes,” Sherlock said. “Everyone is watching me. Like I need watching.”
“Perhaps, if there are a number of people with that belief, it isn't that far off,” Mycroft said. “I'm sure we're all concerned about you.”
“But I'm fine!” Sherlock said. “I'm fine. And I don't want people to ask me how I am, because I'm fine.”
Yes, Mycroft was completely convinced of that fact.
“I'm sure you are,” Mycroft said. “But it also perfectly acceptable not to be fine.”
Sherlock turned to glare at him. “Stop watching me,” he said.
Mycroft closed his book and stood up. “Very well,” he said. “But you can't be on your own forever, Sherlock. Hiding from the world--pushing them away, it won't make you any more fine.”
“I don't need to be more fine,” Sherlock said. “I am as fine as I can possibly be.”
Now there was a truth. They were all as fine as they could be. Which, perhaps, was not always very fine.
Mummy's side of the family, the Mycroft side, were great puzzlers. Crosswords, seek-and-finds, mazes, search-a-words, cryptics, acrostics; they loved everything with an element of problem solving. No matter where they were residing, London or France, there was always a jigsaw puzzle on the go. At the beach house, there were two currently being worked on. One on the coffee table, and one on the island in the kitchen because, at 9000 pieces, it didn't fit on the coffee table.
The evening was spent with the family working on these on and off, each person wandering in and out of the both the room and conversation. Mycroft was not a great jigsaw puzzle lover. He preferred his puzzles of a more intellectual nature, which required little physical effort. Mental maths, and Father's ciphers, and theoretical problems that he could find solutions for and send others out to do the work. Sherlock and Trevelyan, ironically enough, had more of the Mycroft love for physical problems. Sherlock liked problems that he could manipulate while he solved them; he was very much of the 'let's see what happens if I do this' mentality. Trevelyan liked to make big things out of small things.
When working as a trio, the puzzle came together rather quickly. Mycroft was out of practise as being part of the trio. Sherlock and Trevelyan were an efficient duo, and it took some time before Mycroft was helpful, and not just in the way.
Sherlock was mostly silent; Trevelyan chatty. Trevelyan was very careful around Sherlock, and Sherlock was unkind to him in a way that Trevelyan seemed to find comforting, or take as a sign of affection. Sherlock needed to be treated with kid gloves, Trevelyan needed to be treated as normal, and they seemed to recognize that in one another. Mycroft tried not to interfere, and moved back and forth between the two puzzles, more comfortable with Mummy and his grandparents, who chattered away in that odd, careless mixture of French and English they favoured, as though the two languages were interchangeable and it didn't matter which one you were speaking at any given time.
Grandfather and Grand-maman were the first to bed. Trevelyan followed much later. Mummy followed him, and then it was just Sherlock and Mycroft. Mycroft went to bed when he realized Sherlock was trying to outlast him. Sherlock arrived fifteen minutes later.
Trevelyan snored softly in the bunk above Mycroft's. When they were little, sharing bunks was a nightmare. No matter where they put Sherlock, he would find a way to bother them. When Trevelyan was still very small, Mycroft would wake up with him lying between him and the wall, using him as a human shield.
Mycroft thought Sherlock would have outgrown this, but the paper ball flung at his head was proof that he hadn't.
“Sherlock,” Mycroft murmured, warningly.
“I was aiming for the bin,” Sherlock said.
“Don't lie to me, it doesn't work,” Mycroft said. “Go to sleep or lie still.”
Sherlock fidgeted for several minutes before settling down. Mycroft closed his eyes.
“Trevelyan has been ill a lot lately,” Sherlock said, in a quiet voice. “It's annoying.”
“I see,” Mycroft said.
“I don't think I'm doing it right,” Sherlock said.
“Doing what right?” Mycroft asked.
“I don't know,” Sherlock said. “Aren't I supposed to be...?” His hands cast shadows on the wall as he waved them around helplessly. “I don't know how to be...I think I should...I don't know. Never mind.”
“I'm not worried,” Sherlock said, after a minute. It was a defence. “I'm not worried about him, or anything. “
“All right,” Mycroft said.
“But...you're...better than me,” Sherlock said. “At...never mind. I'm going to sleep.”
“I'm looking out for him,” Mycroft said.
“Whatever,” Sherlock said.
The next day was the big family reunion. Mycroft really felt it was a terrible idea. They were none of them good at being a family or good at being sociable. Being sociable while being a family would be a challenge of epic proportions.
Breakfast was laid out on the island, working around the puzzle pieces. Slices of French bread, and little pots of jam. Mycroft got some cottage cheese from the fridge, and took it and cup of coffee out to the porch.
“Ah, a fellow early riser,” Grand-maman said. “Usually it's just me up at this hour. Look at your little breakfast. Pauvre, Mico. You could spice it up a bit. I'm respectful of your diet, but it needn't be so boring.”
“It's fine,” Mycroft said. “Thank you.”
“I hope you are not harming yourself,” Grand-maman said. “This weight loss of yours, it is not from stress?”
“No, it's from my deciding to become healthy,” Mycroft assured her. “I'm not stressed.
“Pfft,” Grand-maman said. “You have been biting your nails, the toe of your left shoe is scuffed from you bouncing your foot, and you have a crease in your brow from frowning.”
“The crease would have formed anyway,” Mycroft said, with a smirk. “I've always frowned.” Grand-maman shot him a Look. “I'm fine. It has been a number of months, now. I'm fine.”
“Distance from the event doesn't always lessen the impact,” Grand-maman said. “You will feel it, still.”
“I do,” Mycroft said. “And I can handle it. Please don't worry about me, it's your anniversary. We're here to be celebratory.”
“I can do both,” Grand-maman said. “I am very talented.”
“So am I,” Mycroft said.
Aunt Thea and Uncle Guillaume arrived in the late morning, with the cousins in tow. Aunt Thea was two years younger than Mummy, and very similar in appearance. They both had the strong Vernet features that Sherlock had inherited. In fact, Mycroft thought Sherlock looked more like Aunt Thea than he did like Mummy. Guillaume was her second husband, the first she had divorced when Mycroft was very little. He had only a vague memory of him, and a childish one at that. All he recalled of him was that his three-year old self had declared him to be a 'bad man'. He also seemed to remember Father forcibly removing him from the house, once. Memorable because Father so rarely lost his temper. He was apathetic toward the world, annoyed by it, but genuine anger was unusual. It was a cold sort of anger, a dangerous one, and oddly comforting. It made you feel safe, because you knew that he would never let anything happen to you.
Mycroft missed that feeling, a little.
Guillaume was a far better partner, if a bit odd, even for this family. He had the look of constantly waiting to be asked a question to which he didn't know the answer. He was a sweet sort of man, however, very thoughtful and carefully-spoken, and confused, as though he wasn't ever sure how he'd arrived where he was or what he was supposed to be doing while he was there.
“My goodness, you're a tall one,” Aunt Thea said to Mycroft, giving him a gentle hug. “I thought you'd stopped growing the last time I'd seen you, but you've sprung up again. You're as tall as Thad, at least, and he's quite the giant.”
Thaddeus was Thea's oldest, a product of the first marriage, but adopted by Guillaume and bearing his surname. He was two years younger than Mycroft, and was, in fact, very tall.
“Been a while,” he said to Mycroft, shaking his hand.
“Indeed,” Mycroft said. “How is Edinburgh treating you? International Relations and Law, isn't it?”
“Yes,” Thaddeus said. “I hear you've joined the dark side. Conservative, really?”
“I have no political affiliation,” Mycroft said. “I go where I see opportunity. I'm happy to cross the floor if necessary. Are you aiming for the Foreign Service?”
“That's the plan,” Thaddeus said.
“Contact me when you've graduated,” Mycroft said. “I should be able to put a good word in.”
Guillaume gave him a confused greeting next, as though he was only guessing at Mycroft's identity. Then came Lysander, who belonged to Thea and Guillaume, and was six months younger than Sherlock. He gave Mycroft's hand a cursory shake, and went over to Sherlock on the sofa to say a hello. Sherlock had so far ignored the arrivals, but accepted the greeting from Ly with something bordering interest.
Sophronia was the last in, 9 years old and the only girl.
“Hello,” she said, primly. “I'm Sophronia.”
“Yes, I remember,” Mycroft said.
“I don't remember you,” she said. “So, I thought I should make sure we were clear.”
“Quite clear,” Mycroft assured her.
It took a while before everyone had greeted everyone, and there was much handshaking and hugging and chattering. Then Mycroft heard a sound he hadn't heard in quite some time: Sherlock's laugh.
Trevelyan and Mummy both looked over as well, just as surprised as him to hear it. He was laughing at something Lysander was doing or saying.
Perhaps this reunion wouldn't be as bad as Mycroft had imagined.
Grand-maman's face was obscured by her camera for most of the day, something everyone was used to. They all ignored her as she crouched and bent and turned and hid and stood on tables to get the angle she wanted. She preferred her subjects unposed, so it was best not to look, and carry on with what one was doing.
All the grandchildren ended up outside by the early afternoon. Lysander was very dogged about engaging Sherlock, and did so with a cheerful, happy countenance that Sherlock didn't seem to find too annoying. They sat in the porch chairs and played chess on the table.
Trevelyan curled up in the wicker chair with his laptop. Sophronia wanted to swim, and tugged and begged Thaddeus to come with her, until he agreed to supervise. He sat on the porch steps, and Mycroft sat next to him. She danced in and out of the waves, and did pirouettes and turned cartwheels and handsprings in the sand, and did courtly dances with an imagined partner, resembling a fairy in her own world.
“Do you suppose it's genetic?” Thaddeus asked.
“What?” Mycroft said.
“Being odd,” Thaddeus said. “I don't know if you've noticed, but we're a bit odd.”
“I have noticed,” Mycroft said. “And I suspect it's very much genetic. Which side do we blame, do you suppose? Mycroft or Vernet?”
“Vernet,” Thaddeus said. “Bunch of bohemians, weren't they?”
“Yes, I believe so,” Mycroft said. He pulled out a packet of cigarettes, and offered one to Thad, who accepted with a murmured thanks. “I've never known if I should fight against the instinct to be odd, or accept it.”
“That's the question,” Thaddeus agreed. “At least we have parents who support our oddities.”
“They are the cause of our oddities,” Mycroft said. “I would hope they would support them.”
Thaddeus flicked some ash from his cigarette. “I'm sorry about your father,” he said.
“Thank you,” Mycroft said.
And that was all that needed to be said on the subject. Mycroft appreciated Thaddeus' recognition of that. They moved on to politics, and Thaddeus became very impassioned about the TEU, and Kuwait, and Thatcher.
“You really don't care about any of it, do you?” Thaddeus said, when Mycroft failed to rise to any debate.
“No,” Mycroft said. “I don't. Politics holds very little interest for me. It's merely a means to an end.”
“And what's the end?” Thaddeus said.
“I'm not sure yet,” Mycroft admitted. “But I suspect you'll know when I get there.”
Lysander lasted quite a while before Sherlock shooed him away. He left good-naturedly and engaged Trevelyan, who wasn't used to being treated kindly by someone of Sherlock's age. He kept staring at Ly as though he were a unicorn or something else unfathomable.
Mummy and Aunt Thea had a wonderful time together, and it was nice to see Mummy so animated again. She had played the part very well over the last eight months, but seeing real animation made Mycroft notice the cracks in her fake animation. Grandfather was right, she had lost some spark. But they all had, he thought. They would get it back. He hoped.
Lunch was a big, loud affair, spread out from the kitchen into the living room and out on the porch, everyone trading places and moving in and out to visit with one another. The Archambault side seemed more used to it than the Holmes brothers were. Meals were very sedate in the Homes household. But they weren't as French in the Holmes household.
There was showing off after lunch. Sherlock played his violin, and Sophronia showed some of her ballet skills, and Lysander played guitar. Trevelyan and Thaddeus were both pianists and without instruments, and Mycroft had little skill in any of the performing arts. He didn't think a declaiming of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' was quite what the situation called for. Aunt Thea borrowed Sherlock's violin, and she duetted with Mummy on her viola. “The Divine Beauty Will Save the World!” by Jean Sibelius, if Mycroft's classical knowledge served him correctly. Grandfather and Grand-maman were both delighted with this.
Grandfather finished the performance part of the day with a lively jig on Sherlock's violin. Sherlock quickly reclaimed his instrument, and put it away in its case, and placed it on his bed in the bunk room, just in case anyone else had any ideas about touching his things.
Overall, it was a very nice day, but in such an exhausting way that Mycroft sincerely hoped it would never happen again. He suspected everyone felt much the same, as, after Grandfather's tune was finished, everyone mutually broke away and did their own thing for an hour or two to decompress from so much togetherness. Mycroft, Guillaume, Thaddeus and Grandfather sat on the porch, but did not speak to one another at all. Grandfather smoked his pipe, and everyone else smoked their cigarettes.
Grand-maman demanded a proper group photo before the sun set, and everyone gathered on the porch steps. She set up her camera on a timer, and posed everyone how she wanted. Everyone said 'oustiti' and the photo was taken, and then the party was over. It was a two hour drive back to Hyères, where the Archambaults lived in the summer. Guillaume didn't like to drive in the dark.
“Look after your maman,” Aunt Thea said to Mycroft. “And convince her to come and visit me. I've been working away at it, but she doesn't want to be too far away from you boys.”
“I'll support your cause,” Mycroft promised. “And I will most certainly look after her.”
Aunt Thea kissed his cheeks. “Let someone look after you, too,” she said.
Lysander offered his school address in Scotland to Sherlock, in hopes of correspondence. Sherlock didn't refuse it, so there was a chance he might comply. Sophronia gave Mycroft a formal curtsy goodbye, and Thaddeus promised to get in touch once he'd left school.
Grandfather had to go straight to bed after so much activity. Grand-maman went to see to him, leaving just the Holmes in the living room.
Mummy took several big gulps, and tried to leave the room, but not quickly enough. She had tears running down her cheeks, and Sherlock and Trevelyan rushed over.
“I'm fine,” she said, waving them away. “No, I'm fine. I'm just very tired, and I've had a very good day. I'm very happy.”
Sherlock looked hopelessly lost at this pronouncement. “You're crying because you're happy?” he said.
“Yes,” Mummy said.
“But...you're crying,” Trevelyan said, as though this should really settle any argument.
“It was nice to have fun,” Mummy said. “It's hard to explain. I'm fine, really. Please don't worry.”
Sherlock and Trevelyan looked to Mycroft for confirmation of this. He gave a nod to reassure them, and gestured with his head for them to leave. They did not need to be asked twice. They went straight to the bunk room to hide.
“Oh dear, I wanted to do this in private,” Mummy said. She took the handkerchief Mycroft offered. “Thank you, Mico. I'm fine.”
“I know,” Mycroft said. “It's all right. Please cry if you need to, I understand.”
“I'm overtired,” Mummy said. “And it was nice to see everyone. I've felt a bit as though...it was nice to have a good time.”
“I understand,” Mycroft said.
The door to the master bedroom opened and Grand-maman stepped out. “Est-ce qu'elle pleure déjà?” she asked.
“Oui,” Mummy replied, with a laugh.
“I saw it coming,” Grand-maman said. She sat down on the sofa and patted it for Mummy to come and sit with her. “You come and cry, Dodo. It will be good for you.”
Mummy sat down, and Mycroft slipped off into the bunk room.
“She's fine,” he said, to his brothers.
“She's crying because she's happy?” Sherlock said, still sounding as though he couldn't fathom it.
“Yes,” Mycroft said. “Sometimes that happens. We'll leave her alone. Did you have a good day?”
“It wasn't awful,” Sherlock said, which Mycroft deemed to be quite positive.
“I didn't mind it,” Trevelyan said.
“I hope we never have to do it again,” Sherlock added.
“Yes,” Mycroft said. “My thoughts exactly.”
Mummy was back to herself by the time Mycroft awoke in the morning. Even more herself than before her crying jag. She was up early with him, and seemed more relaxed, and certainly not all of the spark was back, but she was more alight than before. She gave him a kiss on his forehead when he came into the kitchen, and offered to make him breakfast.
“I bought a grapefruit, I thought I could do something nice with it and give you some flavour,” she said.
Mycroft consented to the idea, and settled down at the island while she worked. The puzzle had been completed the day before, when everyone was around to work on it. All 9000 pieces safely in place.
“Did I upset the boys very much?” Mummy asked, while she worked.
“I think I managed to explain it to them,” Mycroft said. “Sherlock was more confused than upset, I believe.”
“Poor Sherlock,” Mummy said. “I worry about him. He's such a powder keg. I think he needs to explode properly, but he won't let himself.”
“I've seen him explode,” Mycroft said. “Multiple times.”
“Those are...sparklers,” Mummy said. “He needs fireworks. He's very angry, and he has every right to be. I want him to give some of it up. He's just like your father. If he isn't able to fix what he finds distressing, he just gets angry at it. There's no fix here.”
“I want to do more for him,” Mycroft said. “I'd like to help him. But everything I do makes it worse. I don't know much to push.”
“He'll come around,” Mummy said. “You are someone to be angry at. You're just a figurehead. He can't do it with me, because I need to be looked after. Treveyan needs to be looked after. But you are Frater Magnus. You're always fine. So, you can be the target.”
Mycroft hadn't thought of it like that. “It's a sort of compliment, then,” he said. “I'm the one who can take it.”
“Indeed,” Mummy said. “I'm afraid it's one of the downsides of being the oldest, my love. All the responsibility is on us.” She patted his hand. “Don't let it overwhelm you.”
“I'm fine,” Mycroft said.
“I know,” Mummy said, with a little smile. “Aren't we all?”
When Sherlock and Trevelyan awoke, they were unceremoniously kicked outside, along with Mycroft, so that Grand-maman and Mummy could put the beach house back together after the previous day's festivities. Mycroft suggested they go for a walk, and Trevelyan readily agreed. Sherlock stayed silent, but once Mycroft and Trevelyan were on their feet, followed along.
There was a small cove up the beach from the house, which had always been a favourite of the brothers when they were younger. It had a tide pool full of interesting inhabitants, and a giant rock that could be climbed if one was agile enough. They all headed towards it without consulting each other. Sherlock led the way, and Mycroft tried to pace himself to not let him get too far ahead, while also allowing Trevelyan to keep up with his longer strides.
Sherlock crouched down by the pool to take stock. When he was little, he would spend hours poking and prodding the residents, taking samples and asking questions.
“Do you remember that crab you made friends with?” Mycroft asked. “It used to sit there and let you measure it. What was its name?”
Sherlock shook his head, thinking. “Barbossa?” he said.
“Yes, Barbossa,” Mycroft said. “I think Grand-maman took a picture. I wonder if she still has it.”
Sherlock shrugged a careless shoulder.
“Is this a periwinkle?” Trevelyan asked, holding up a shell.
“Yes,” Mycroft said. “Littorina littorea, I believe. I didn't know I still knew that.”
“What's the thing they have called?” Trevelyan said. “That they use to scrape things?”
“Radula,” Sherlock said. “It's like an Aristotle's Lantern on a sea urchin.”
Trevelyan put the shell back on the beach. “I'm going up on the rock,” he said.
“Be careful,” Mycroft said.
He followed him over to spot him. Trevelyan was not the most graceful child in the world. He'd broken his leg once on the rocks around the beach. Mycroft stood ready to catch him, but he made it safely to the top. Mycroft realized, with his new found fitness level, he could probably join him.
There was one uncertain moment when he couldn't find a place for his foot. Trevelyan helpfully pointed it out, and Mycroft scrabbled up and took a seat next to him. The view was lovely, and the day was pleasant and cool.
“Are you leaving today?” Trevelyan asked.
“Yes,” Mycroft said. “Early this afternoon.”
“It was nice that you came,” Trevelyan said.
“Thank you,” Mycroft said. “I'm glad I did.”
“Do you think you'll come in the summer?” Trevelyan asked.
“I don't know,” Mycroft said. “It'll be the silly season, I suppose I could take some time off.”
“I think Mummy would like it,” Trevelyan said.
“I'll see,” Mycroft promised.
They sat in silence until Sherlock popped up, nudging Trevelyan over to make room for himself.
“I found a starfish,” he announced, holding it up.
“What horrible things are going to inflict on it?” Mycroft asked.
“I don't know yet,” Sherlock said. “It's dead, though, so it won't hurt. Father was always very adamant that we never take anything alive out of its habitat. It disrupts the ecosystem.”
This was the first time Sherlock had brought up Father of his own accord. Mycroft tensed up, terrified of saying something to set him off. Trevelyan had it covered.
“You like disrupting ecosystems,” he said, with a grin. “It's your favourite thing to do.”
Sherlock grinned back. “If you're good at something, you should hone it,” he said.
“It should be up to a fine point by now,” Mycroft said.
He could hear how it sounded scolding, and he hadn't meant it to. Sherlock looked ready to attack, but Trevelyan did something and Sherlock clamped down on his tongue. Mycroft didn't get a good look at what it was Trevelyan had done, but he had definitely sent some sort of signal. Mycroft thought the middle child was typically supposed to be the mediator, not the youngest. The thought of Sherlock as a peacekeeper was laughable.
Sherlock delved into his pocket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes.
“I thought I destroyed those yesterday,” Mycroft said.
“I took yours,” Sherlock said.
“I took them back,” Mycroft said.
“I took them again,” Sherlock said.
“I took them back again,” Mycroft said. “And I hid them.”
“I found them,” Sherlock said. “And, considering how much work I've put into it, don't you think I should be allowed to have one?”
“You are fifteen years old, Sherlock, and therefore still not of legal age to smoke in France or in England,” Mycroft said. “Your work ethic has nothing to do with it. You should perhaps put your determination to better use.”
“I'm on holiday,” Sherlock replied.
Mycroft chuckled, surprising Sherlock, who gave a huffed laugh in response. Trevelyan looked so pleased that Mycroft couldn't bear to stir up trouble again. Sherlock would just go back to school and smoke anyway; one more wouldn't do any further harm.
“Take one,” Mycroft said. “And give them back to me. Don't add thief to your list of crimes.”
Sherlock consented, and handed the pack over. Mycroft removed one for himself, and put the packet in his front breast pocket with the button, to make it harder for Sherlock to steal.
“Don't I get one?” Trevelyan asked, innocently.
“No,” Sherlock and Mycroft said, together. “You're too young.”
Trevelyan grinned a great wide grin. He settled on the rock, kicking his legs over the edge. There was a silence then, a contented one. Something close to normal. Maybe not the traditional normal, but the start of a new one. Something to build on.