Characters: Mycroft, Sherlock, Abby, John, Gladstone, Mrs Hudson
Warnings/Triggers: none, apart from some implication of stressful school years
Word Count 4,525
Summary: Mycroft pays a visit to Baker Street on Hallowe'en and discovers a doctor princess, an unwelcome dog, and, perhaps most frightening of all, a brother who is nice to small children.
Author's notes: Set in the Abby 'verse.
Just total fluff, I don't even remember what inspired it, except that I don't feel like Mycroft has enough to do in this verse, and I had an idea of Abby celebrating Hallowe'en. So, here, have some brotherly bonding and a small toddler in a costume. Thanks to joonscribble for chattering with me and inspiring Abby's choice in stickers.
Mycroft straightened out the knocker on the door to 221B and rang the bell. Once that was accomplished, he unstraightened the knocker so as not to incur any teasing from Sherlock. He'd like to think his ability to let it lie improperly was a testament to his lack of OCD, but he did recognize that his compulsion to correct it, even for a few moments, was probably not a normal reaction. Living with Sherlock made one strive for order wherever possible to counteract the cloud of chaos that surrounded him. Perhaps he was trying to instil order by osmosis.
Mrs Hudson answered the door, greeting him with a warm smile he rarely received from anyone else, save his mother. She was holding a bowl of sweets.
“Oh! I thought you might be one of the kids going guising,” she said. “Or, what do they call it now? Trick-or-treating.”
“I'm afraid I left my costume at home,” Mycroft said. He waved off the bowl she offered him with a murmured regret. “Do you get a lot of children here?”
“More and more each year,” Mrs Hudson said. “Usually just the little ones who live around here. All the American telly, I suppose. You're here to see Sherlock?”
“Yes, what's the current climate?” Mycroft asked.
“It's quite a fair day,” Mrs Hudson said. “He has a project to work on, so he's happy. If you need something from him it's a good time to ask.”
Mycroft thanked her and went on his way upstairs. Large sections of the house had been painted recently, the walls on the first floor matching exactly to the previous colours. He could see from the marks on the windows in the living room that Sherlock was without a case—he'd been pressing his face up to them in hopes of spotting an oncoming client. John Watson's laptop rested open on the table by the windows but John wasn't there. Sherlock was sitting in the kitchen, using a metal detection wand to examine what looked to be a frozen ham.
“Forcing Mrs Hudson to let you in is a sneaky way to get access to me,” he said, without looking up.
“I didn't force. I was invited,” Mycroft replied. “I knocked. If you didn't want me to be let in you could have answered the door and not forced her to limp out to do it herself.”
“She's not limping, she had a cortisone shot two days ago,” Sherlock replied. “Her gait is no longer antalgic. Don't guilt trip me. What do you want?”
“Nothing. I'm here for a friendly discussion,” Mycroft said.
Sherlock flicked sceptical eyes up to look at him for a moment. “I'm busy.”
“Why are you attempting to find a... ring? In a ham?” Mycroft asked, taking a guess on what might be inside based on the empty ring box and the size of the incision.
“Because the bracelet didn't fit,” Sherlock replied, in a matter-of-fact voice that reminded Mycroft of his three-year-old self explaining why he'd turned all the books on the lower shelves of the library with their spines facing inwards. 'I couldn't reach the high ones'.
Mycroft elected not to pursue that line of inquiry further. He inched toward a chair and placed himself in it, hoping if he didn't make any sudden movements Sherlock might not eject him from the building. “Where's John?” he asked.
“Is he not there?” Sherlock said, looking over to the table. His brow furrowed as he thought and then he raised his eyebrows with triumph. “He went to get Abby from school.”
“Ah,” Mycroft said. “How is she enjoying it?”
“She seems happy to go,” Sherlock said. He sounded bewildered. “But it's only baby school. They still approve of creativity and eccentricity then. I imagine it will be different when she goes to proper school.”
“Are you...worried about that?” Mycroft asked, certain he must have misinterpreted Sherlock's tone.
'Woop-woop' went the metal detector.
“No,” Sherlock said. He cocked his head back and forth, deciding. “I don't know. I don't want it to happen. Is that what worrying is?”
“Not quite,” Mycroft said. “What has you concerned?”
Sherlock shrugged a shoulder. “I don't want her to be...” he made a squeezing gesture with his hands. “Stifled. I don't want her to be forced to change because they don't know what to do with her. Education destroys children.”
Mycroft, who had seen his brother go from a happy, energetic, brilliant child to an angry, self-destructive, bitter one within two years at school, rather agreed with that. The school system was not designed for children like Sherlock. It wasn't until John had arrived in his life that Mycroft saw any glimpse of that child again. He wasn't sure if Abby Watson was quite as precocious as his brother had been. He didn't spend enough time with her to know.
“The schools we were sent to weren't equipped to handle your brain,” Mycroft said. “Mummy and Father sought to provide us with a good education that would challenge us. It suited my way of learning, but not yours. You were too bohemian. John and Sarah will choose an appropriate school for Abby, I'm sure. Have they started applying?”
“How should I know?” Sherlock said.
It seemed he wasn't that worried about Abby's education, then. Which was a relief to Mycroft, who wouldn't know what to do with a brother who worried. Worrying was Mycroft's purview.
“What are you here for, anyway?” Sherlock said.
“I've come to talk to you about Christmas,” he said.
Sherlock frowned. “Is it soon? I thought it was still autumn,” he said, glancing out the window.
“It is,” Mycroft said. “But Mummy would like to know our plans. I thought a face-to-face discussion might be more productive than you ignoring my e-mails.” Also, he liked to get a good, proper look at Sherlock every so often.
“I usually go to John's for a few hours on Christmas Eve or Day,” Sherlock said. “I haven't been invited yet, but I usually am so I would operate on the assumption I won't be available for one of those days. And I'll need a few days to recover afterwards. Possibly a week.”
Weep-weep-woop went the metal detector.
“Shall I pencil it in tentatively for December 31st?” Mycroft suggested.
“Yes, fine, but you'll have to remind me,” Sherlock said.
“Agreed,” Mycroft said. “I'll make sure Mummy is amenable.”
“Yes, fine,” Sherlock said.
Mycroft had never found anything this easy in his life. He wondered if he should press his advantage and see if he could engage Sherlock in other topics of conversation in regards to how he felt about things. As soon as he had the thought, he realized he cared very little about what Sherlock felt about most things so long as he was not reacting in a hazardous manner to those feelings.
Brotherly bonding would have to wait until Christmas.
“Are you going grey?” Mycroft asked, squinting at Sherlock's forehead.
“Yes,” Sherlock said. He did not seem to have any positive or negative feelings toward this. “A little.”
“I hope we won't match,” Mycroft said, touching the streak at the front of his head that he'd inherited from his father.
Sherlock's nose wrinkled. “I've always prided myself on the fact that, despite our shared DNA, we look nothing alike,” he said. “I'll be upset if we're going to start this late on in life.”
“It's a horrifying thought, I agree,” Mycroft said.
“I'll make a conscious effort to deactivate my melanocytes in a different pattern,” Sherlock said.
Mycroft gave him a stern look. “See that you do.”
Downstairs, the door to 221 opened and four pairs of feet sounded on the stairs—one pair small, one pair large, and two pairs clawed. Abby Watson bounded into the living room wearing some sort of Hallowe'en costume, took one look at Mycroft, and turned and ran out again. Gladstone ran in after her, took one look at Mycroft, and let out a low growl.
“You have such a way with all living things,” Sherlock commented.
“It's a gift,” Mycroft agreed.
“What's wrong, Abs?” John asked, on the landing. “Is Sherlock doing something scar—oh, hey Mycroft.” Gladstone growled again. “Gladstone, no.”
“Good afternoon,” Mycroft said. He smiled at Abby, who had her face hidden in John's leg. “Hello.”
Abby peeked out at him. Gladstone gave another growl.
“No,” John said, more sharply.
Gladstone let out a barely audible, final growl, as a protest. Sherlock chuckled under his breath.
John crouched down and brought Abby out from hiding. “Abby, this is Mr Holmes. He's Sherlock's brother.”
“We've met before, but I don't suppose you remember,” Mycroft said. She'd certainly grown in the year since he'd last seen her up-close. “You coloured a rose in for me.”
Abby looked to John, uncertain.
“You're wearing a very pretty frock,” Mycroft tried. He wasn't quite sure what her costume was meant to be. She had on a white coat and a tutu dress, with a stethoscope around her neck and a thermometer in her pocket. Her hair was plaited into a bun and she wore a tiara. The tooth fairy, perhaps? She didn't have wings, but she did have a wand. Or perhaps it was a sceptre. “Are you a princess?”
Abby nodded. “I'm a doctor princess,” she said, shyly.
“Ah, royalty with a vocation, how novel,” Mycroft said.
Abby cocked her head to the side. “What's your costume?”
“Mycroft is in costume as a corrupt government official,” Sherlock drawled from the kitchen.
“If you take a proper look, you'll find I'm wearing my non-corrupt trousers,” Mycroft corrected.
“Ah, yes, a costume, of course,” Sherlock replied. “How silly of me, you're going as something you're not.”
“It is Hallowe'en,” Mycroft said, blithely. “Are you going trick-or-treating, Abby?”
Abby looked at John again.
“We don't really like the idea of her knocking up strangers for sweets,” John said. “Her pre-school had a fancy dress party today, so we let her dress up for that, and she wanted to show Uncle Sherlock her costume before she changed, didn't you, Abs?”
“Uncle Sherlock,” Mycroft murmured, floored by the thought of Sherlock being considered anyone's uncle.
Abby nodded and scooted carefully past Mycroft to enter the kitchen. She wrapped her arms around Sherlock's legs and pressed her face into his thigh. He reached down without looking and patted her head as though she were a puppy.
“Happy Hallowe'en,” she said.
“Mmmm,” he said.
“Look,” she said, stepping back and raising a finger with a plaster on it.
Sherlock glanced down. “Yes, well you shouldn't have touched the hob while it was still hot,” he said, unsympathetic.
“We learned an important lesson about hot and cold, didn't we Abs?” John said.
“Beans taste yucky with sore fingers,” Abby said, solemnly. “You have to wait until Mummy gives them.”
We-ep-we-ep-wooooop went the metal detector. Gladstone's ears went back in discomfort. Abby stood on tip-toe to see what was happening.
“Are you making dinner?” she asked.
“No, I'm doing an experiment,” Sherlock replied. “I'm assessing the reactivity to metal as the ham defrosts. The wand tells me if there's metal in the ham.”
Abby lifted up her sceptre. “I have a wand!” she said. “It makes people better. It's science.”
“No, that would be magic,” Sherlock said. “You'd have to use something more quantifiable if you're trying to treat patients.”
Abby took out her thermometer and waved it at him. “Oh no, you have a fever,” she said, sadly. She waved her wand. “All better!”
“That is not how thermometers work,” Sherlock informed her.
She reached into the pocket of her lab coat and pulled out a sheet of stickers. “You were brave! You get a treat.” She selected a pink, glittery star, and stuck it on the hem of his shirt. She was utterly delighted with this and put her hands over her mouth in glee. “Yay!”
Sherlock rolled his eyes, chuckling with what Mycroft would almost say was good nature.
“Pretty creepy, isn't it?” John said, taking a seat on the coffee table. Gladstone moved to sit in front of him, still watching Mycroft closely.
“He's certainly improved since I last saw them together,” Mycroft said. “He was floundering then.”
“I don't know what's happened,” John said. “I figure he must like having that big a fan around to adore him all the time. And I sort of think he might be studying her for science.”
“I wouldn't put it past him,” Mycroft said.
Abby returned to John, skirting around Mycroft again. She gave him a side look and played with her stethoscope.
“What's that you have there?” Mycroft asked. “Is it a necklace?”
Abby shook her head. “Stethoscope,” she said. She looked to John for reassurance before adding, “I'm a doctor.”
“Of course, you're carrying on the family tradition,” Mycroft said. “Do you like looking after people?”
Abby nodded. She ventured over. “This is my coat,” she said. “Sometimes it's a doctor coat, but it's a science coat, too. For science.”
Mycroft had the unfamiliar sensation of warmth in his stomach.
“Do you like science?” he asked.
“Yes,” Abby said, with a firm nod. “It's fun. Sherlock teaches me.”
Oh dear, yes, quite a warm feeling now. Not unpleasant, just different. He'd always considered her the closest thing he was going to get to a niece, but, other than ensuring her welfare, he'd never thought about her much. She seemed to be a lovely girl.
“I see,” Mycroft said. “And who teaches you how to be a doctor?”
“Mummy and Daddy,” Abby said. She removed her stethoscope from around her neck. “I can check-up you.”
Mycroft could feel both Sherlock and John's amused eyes on him. There was an unspoken rule that said that if a child wanted to play pretend with you, you indulged them. He smiled his consent and she put her stethoscope in her ears and placed the bell on his chest. She moved it around and looked thoughtful.
“You have a good heart,” she said.
Sherlock snorted loudly in the kitchen and Mycroft shot him a brief warning look.
“My cardiologist doesn't quite agree with that, but I'm glad to have a proper check-up,” Mycroft said.
Abby pulled her stickers out again. She looked through them with careful contemplation. Mycroft felt John's stare and lifted his eyes to question him.
“Sorry,” John said, shaking his head clear. “S'just a bit creepy when you're nice to her, too. Not really what I was expecting.”
“Talking to a small child is not very different from talking to a politician,” Mycroft explained. “One of them is unreasonable and has the intellect and maturity of a toddler and the other is a child.”
John gave a small laugh. Abby had made her sticker selection now. Mycroft could see they were of the 'Hello Kitty' variety. He thought that's what it was called; it wasn't something he encountered regularly. Abby stuck the sticker to the handle of his umbrella and looked pleased.
“She has a brolly, like you!” she said.
“Lovely,” Mycroft said, lifting the umbrella to examine the sticker. “Not quite the air of intimidation I usually cultivate, but it does add a certain aesthetic.”
Abby giggled. “You use silly words like Sherlock.”
“We're related,” Mycroft said. “I taught him his silly words.” He pointed to a sticker on the sheet. “You should give that one to Sherlock. He likes pirates. He used to dress up and pretend to be one when he was your age.”
Abby's face lit up. “Sherlock likes pretend?” she said.
“Oh yes, Sherlock loves pretend,” Mycroft said, grinning toward the kitchen where Sherlock was glaring back.
“Daddy, Sherlock likes pretend pirates,” Abby said.
“I heard. That's pretty cool, huh?” John said, also grinning. “I bet he'd play with you if you asked nicely.”
“I hate you both,” Sherlock announced. He pointed at Mycroft. “Especially you. Why are you still here?”
“I have an appointment with Her Royal Highness Dr Watson,” Mycroft said.
Abby had gone to rummage through her rucksack and now pulled out a little plastic container with a fairy cake in it and some other treats. “Sherlock,” she said. “I brought you a yummy cake. It has purple on the top. Sherlock likes purple.” She fumbled with the container and John opened it and took out the cake for her. Gladstone stuck his face in the container. “No, Gladstone. The cookie is for Daddy.”
“Oh, brilliant,” John said, taking it out and biting into it. “Thanks, Abs.”
She smiled and brought the fairy cake to Sherlock. Sherlock ignored it. “You should give it to Mycroft, he loves cake,” he said. “He once ate all his birthday cake by himself.”
Mycroft sensed his cheeks were flushing slightly and felt the need to clarify, “it wasn't in one sitting.”
“The cake has a web on it,” Abby said, as though it should be more enticing that way.
“I don't want it,” Sherlock said.
Abby's face fell. “Okay,” she said. “I'm not sad.”
Mycroft and John both turned their faces away to laugh. Sherlock was barely keeping a straight face himself.
“Fine,” he said. “Here.” He took the cake from her and put it on the table.
Abby beamed. “Let's play pirates,” she said. “I can be a pirate. I know how.”
“I don't have a costume,” Sherlock said.
“Gramma can make you one!” Abby said. “She maked my costume.”
“I have taken the fairy cake, I will not play pirates,” Sherlock said, firmly. “And the past tense of make is made.”
Abby pouted. John stepped in and redirected her attention toward some play time on her own, pulling out a colouring book and crayons from a drawer in the coffee table. Mycroft realized it was a drawer specifically for her and he wondered how often she came to Baker Street.
“Dogs can't have chocolate,” John called to Sherlock, who looked to be about to feed his fairy cake to Gladstone.
Sherlock frowned and placed the fairy cake back on the table. Abby didn't notice this, she was working on her colouring.
“Is she headed for reception next year?” Mycroft asked John. “Or are you going to send her when she's older?”
“No, we're going to send her,” John said. “If we can get her in anywhere.”
“Do you have a preference?” Mycroft said.
“We'd like to get her in where Molly's husband teaches,” John said.
“That's an excellent school,” Mycroft said. He'd done extensive research into Alexander Thornton when he joined Sherlock's social circle.
“She's bright enough,” John said, defensively.
Mycroft raised an apologetic hand. “I didn't mean to imply that,” he said. “I merely meant it was a good choice. Is there a waiting list?”
“Yeah, but we're pretty far up it,” John said. “They only take about twenty or so kids each year. If she doesn't get into next year's class there, she'll definitely get in if one of the kids decides to move elsewhere. So long as she passes the interview. But it's mental, looking for places. It's like we should have been applying before she was born.”
“I'm sure it will be fine,” Mycroft said, making a mental note to see how St Vincent's managed their waiting lists. Abby was indeed bright enough to pass their interview from what he'd seen. He might be able to increase her chances of getting one.
John's phone rang and he went into the hallway to answer it. Dr Sawyer, from the warm tone his voice had taken on. Abby looked after him, concerned, and then returned to her colouring when she realized he wasn't leaving her alone. She chatted to herself about what colours she was choosing, and what she was colouring, and what the characters in the book were doing, or their life stories. Mycroft found it rather fascinating to listen in.
“This is a purple crayon. Red and blue make purple. I like purple. I will colour the kitty purple. The kitty is playing with his wool. Gramma plays with wool. She makes hats. I like this kitty. He has a friend named George and they visit school and eat treats on Hallowe'en.”
Sherlock came out to sit in his usual chair, stepping past Abby with Gladstone at his heels. The dog placed himself as a defensive barrier to Sherlock and Abby, presumably in case Mycroft decided to attack. Sherlock pencilled in some notes in a book.
“You need glasses,” Mycroft remarked, as he watched Sherlock squint down at the paper.
“I do not,” Sherlock replied.
“You can't see.”
“I can see.”
“You should see an optometrist.”
“I don't need to see an optometrist.”
Abby lifted her head and watched them. “Are you Sherlock's daddy?” she asked Mycroft.
“Sometimes I feel that way,” Mycroft replied.
“He thinks he is,” Sherlock said, at the same time.
Abby considered these answers for a few moments. “Do you love Sherlock?”
Sherlock stared with wide, horrified eyes at the question. Mycroft felt that his face probably looked similar.
“Erm, yes,” Mycroft said. “I do.”
Abby beamed. “I love Sherlock,” she said, as though this were an exciting coincidence. “And he loves me.”
Sherlock did not look like he loved her very much at that moment.
“Do you love your daddy?” Abby asked Sherlock.
“Mycroft is not my father,” Sherlock said. “And I do not love him.”
“That's mean,” Abby said, in a scolding voice. “You should say 'sorry'.”
“No,” Sherlock said.
“You should say 'I love you',” Abby said.
“No,” Sherlock said.
Abby looked at Mycroft with the air of a long-suffering parent. “Sherlock is a bad boy, sometimes,” she said, making a gesture that was a perfect mimic of John when he was nearing the end of his patience.
“Yes, I've noticed that,” Mycroft said. “Although I believe 'frequently' might be the better word.”
Abby stood up and went to Sherlock's side. She rose to her tip-toes to look at notes for a moment before tugging on his sleeve to get his attention.
“I always know you're here. You don't need to tell me,” he said.
“Can we look at very small things in the mic'a'scope?” she asked, pinching her fingers to indicate something tiny. “I liked that.”
Sherlock looked up in surprise. “That was busy work so John could meet his column deadline,” he said. “It was a favour. I was compensated. You enjoyed it?”
Abby nodded. “It looks like pretty pictures,” she said. “The colours is pretty.” She raised her sceptre. “I want to see my wand very small.”
Sherlock put his notebook aside. “If you want to see your wand, we'll have to use a magnifying glass,” he said, reaching for a box on a nearby shelf. “Your wand won't fit on a slide unless we cut it up and do a cross-section.”
“No one is cutting anything,” John said, as he came back into the room. He looked at Sherlock with apprehension. “What's getting cut up? What's going on? What you doing to her?”
“Abby wants to use the microscope,” Sherlock said.
“Oh. No, that's okay then,” John said, relaxing.
Sherlock opened the box and pulled out a loupe. He took Abby's sceptre from her and put the lens to his eye, holding the sceptre up for a few moments, before attempting to show Abby how to use the loupe herself.
John looked to Mycroft. “When did he get all hepped up on science? How old was he?”
That was many years ago, before Mycroft even had the capacity to imagine that Sherlock would one day have greying hair and vision loss and the ability to tolerate a small child hovering around him.
“He would have been...three and a half, I'd say. We went to the Science Museum,” Mycroft said. “It was one of their summer programmes. Mummy thought I would like it, but Sherlock was the one ended up enamoured. Mummy let him look in one of the microscopes to keep him busy while I was doing the experiment and he was so delighted with it that he threw himself on the floor and screamed when it was time to go. Father Christmas brought him a little play one that year. I'm afraid it was all downhill from there.”
“I think I remember that,” Sherlock said. “The wrapping paper had holly on it.”
“That I don't recall,” Mycroft said. “I didn't store it with that level of detail.”
Sherlock looked thoughtful for a moment before returning to the present and correcting Abby's technique with the loupe. She'd already lost interest in the sceptre and was using the loupe to look at the chair, and Sherlock's face, and making pirate sounds as though it were a telescope. Sherlock scolded her and tried to get her to focus again. It culminated with her climbing up on his lap and pressing the loupe to his eye and making silly faces at him.
“If you aren't going to use it properly, I will take it away,” Sherlock said. He looked aghast. “No. I won't. Ignore that. I don't know where that phrase came from. No, I do know.” He pointed at Mycroft with a glare. “It's you. It's your fault.”
Mycroft decided it was time to take his leave. 'It's your fault' was a phrase that usually heralded the end of tolerance for his presence and the warm feeling in his stomach was quite sickening. It was like he'd entered a family film. Best to leave now before the atmosphere wore off on him.
“Yes, my apologies for all the years I attempted to keep you in line,” he said, rising. “It was rather a futile occupation, but I felt obligated to try. I think I'll depart.” He tipped his kitty-themed umbrella towards Abby. “It was a pleasure to see you again, Dr Watson. Thank you for the check-up.”
Abby turned on Sherlock's lap to smile at him. “You're welcome,” she said. “I hope you visit soon!”
“Don't visit soon,” Sherlock said.
“I won't visit soon,” Mycroft promised. “But it was nice to see you again, as well. Get your eyes looked at.”
“No,” Sherlock said.
“Don't worry, he has an appointment,” John said. “I've got the chloroform all ready for the kidnapping to get him there.”
“Chloroform doesn't work like that,” Sherlock said. “You'd be as likely to kill me as knock me out.”
“Well, hey, either way, we're looking at a good time,” John said.
Mycroft smirked. “I'll be sure to tune in for that,” he said. “I'll see you at Christmas, Sherlock. I'll let you know if the plans change.”
“Mmm,” Sherlock grunted, swatting him away.
Mycroft's last image of Sherlock that day was him bent over, holding the loupe to Abby's eye and the sceptre up for her to see, murmuring about the optical phenomenon of glitter's goniochromatism. It was all rather frightening, Mycroft thought, as he left 221, dodging a ghost and cat approaching on the pavement.
However, frightening was perhaps appropriate. After all, it was Hallowe'en.