"You sure you don't want to talk about it?" Lestrade said abruptly, turning to face him.
"It was an obvious case of self-defense. You can't blame yourself."
"I don't," Sherlock said tonelessly, looking back out the window.
"Right, then," Lestrade said, obviously disbelieving him. "Here we are. Baker Street."
John was on holiday. Doubtless he'd hear and hurry home, though. He'd want to talk about it, too.
"Would you mind very much," Sherlock asked, "taking me to Pall Mall?"
Sherlock hadn't been in Mycroft's house in months. It hadn't changed, not even in the small ways that usually called out to Sherlock whenever he returned to a place after an absence. It was still absurdly quiet. Quiet in all ways; the walls blocked out sound as if they'd been ensorcelled to do so, the décor was spare modern, if still chosen with an eye to comfort, even the colors were subdued.
Sherlock could remember quite a few scathing remarks he'd made on the subject of the house. Another one of Mycroft's carefully controlled environments, as if he were a potted plant that couldn't survive on its own, or an actor lost without an elaborate stage-set to play off. Now, he was grateful for it. He felt as if he were carrying something explosive around in his chest, and he needed to be very still not to set it off. He'd encounter no unexpected vibrations here. After only a cursory rifling through Mycroft's papers, he sank onto a minimalist leather sofa and drew his knees up to his chest.
It really had been self-defense, and in front of a detective-inspector to boot. There'd be no court case. There was nothing to worry about. He'd only killed a man.
And he wasn't worried. That was the problem. He liked to think of himself as indifferent to so many of the petty concerns that distracted lesser minds, and a reputation for callousness saved you an immense deal of time. So he'd never cultivated or indulged the softer sentiments. But he'd assumed, he'd always assumed, that there were certain places in him where his feet would touch bottom. Where he would care.
That, it turned out, had been wrong.
"High-functioning sociopath" had seemed such a clever thing to say of himself. Now he felt like a child whose face actually had frozen that way. He ran his thumb over his lip and closed his eyes. What now? He knew by heart the biographies of 252 serial killers and 79 other criminals who fit the profile. Also, 34 major world leaders of the past two centuries (data was unreliable, further back). None of the possibilities, as he examined them meticulously, were appealing.
After a while of this, he heard the faint rustle of cloth that meant that Mycroft had come into the room.
"I've been here three hours," he said, without opening his eyes.
"Regrettably, you were not my only visitor of state today."
Sherlock scowled. He hated the way Mycroft could make him look ridiculous by pretending to take him seriously. As if Mycroft didn't take himself more seriously than anyone else in the world.
"There won't be a prosecution," Mycroft said, after a pause. "The Crown isn't interested. No pressure was even called for."
"Do you think I was actually worried about that?" Sherlock snapped.
"No. If that was your concern, you wouldn't even have bothered calling. You would have simply assumed that I would take care of it."
"Now is not the time, Mycroft."
Mycroft sighed. Sherlock heard him cross the room to the sofa and sit. He jerked his limbs in tighter against himself.
"I'm sorry, Sherlock."
Mycroft wasn't even going to try to persuade him that he was wrong. Of course not, Sherlock thought grimly. Like recognizes like.
"How long have you known?"
"Oh..." Mycroft said dismissively.
"A very long time, I'm afraid."
Sherlock let his eyes open a crack and peered at Mycroft. His gaze was downcast; he was obviously half-lost in his own thoughts.
The other children had always been afraid of Mycroft. Sherlock remembered learning the word sadist at ten, asking Mycroft if that was what Mycroft was. "No," Mycroft had said, judiciously. "That would imply that it matters how they feel."
And Sherlock had felt envious.
"Did something happen to us? Was it something I deleted?"
Mycroft shook his head. "I suspect it just is, Sherlock."
Sherlock shut his eyes again, and abruptly found himself bunched up against Mycroft's shoulder, holding onto his arm for dear life. Mycroft smelled, as he always and miraculously did, like nothing at all. The fine cloth beneath Sherlock's fingers was smooth as glass, difficult to get a purchase on. Sherlock ground his teeth into his lip.
Mycroft reached over with his other hand and drew Sherlock's head down to his shoulder. His grip was cool. There were at least three ways he could kill Sherlock from this position; that thought was profoundly steadying. "You're not going to set off on a killing spree now," he said.
"How do you know?" Sherlock whispered.
"I never did," Mycroft said. "And you, little brother, are better than me."
"Better than you?" That was a first.
Mycroft was silent for a minute. Then he said, "It bothers you. It's never bothered me."
"Oh." Sherlock calculated. Fifteen, he thought, though that was a suspiciously round number, and with some of the extended trips abroad he couldn't be entirely sure. He had a long way to go to fifteen. "Then what do you do afterwards?"
"I have a good meal and I go to bed, content that a problem has been solved."
"I'm not hungry."
"I'm not sleepy, either." He was just...unwilling to move.
Mycroft touched his cheek with the backs of his fingertips, feather-light. "Of course not."
Sherlock heard his own breathing slow, felt Mycroft shift a little to take more of his weight.
"You're not going to try to recruit me now, are you?"
He felt the faintest tremor of mirth in Mycroft's shoulder. "Dear boy. No. You're totally unsuitable."
And that, more than anything, made him feel safe.