Title - Everything Is Chess (1/1)
Author - earlgreytea68
Rating - General
Characters - Mycroft, Sherlock
Spoilers - Through "The Hounds of Baskerville"
Disclaimer - I don't own them and I don't make money off of them, but I don't like to dwell on that, so let's move on.
Summary - In which Sherlock asks Mycroft for a favor.
Author's Notes - This came somewhat out of nowhere. Well, it came out of the Sherlockathon. And a lot of thinking about Mycroft. I have made up the family background canon to suit my own purposes. And, as always, thank arctacuda for being a partner in speculation.
There are many people whose lives can be explained using manuals. Or, at least, they're capable of deluding themselves into thinking that they are. They buy magazines whose glossy covers are emblazoned with headlines promising them "tips" on various miscellany. They diagnose illnesses on websites, they devour television shows that tell them what's "in" and what's "out," they buy books with ridiculous titles purporting that genders come from different planets. They read and listen to all manner of mindless babble, and they imagine that what they take from this is some sort of logical, prudent guidance. That there is a path being pointed to them, an obvious way.
My life has never been the sort of life that can be explained by a manual. To be honest, I would never wish for a life so simplistic and dull as that. Have you ever sat down and explained the rules of chess to someone? I hate explaining the rules of chess. Because what the rules of chess will never tell you is how to win. That's something you either know or don't know. I have always known. I don't say that to be immodest. It is just that I have always known. Life is a vast chessboard. You can try to read a manual, you can teach yourself the rules, but it will not help you win. What you'll realize is that, whilst you were studying the rules, I'd beaten you six moves ago, you just never heard the checkmate I whispered in your ear on the way past.
Everything is chess, just on differing scales. My mother taught me that. It was my mother who was the strategist of the family. Running a large estate, you know, requires strategic skill equal to that of a general on the battlefield. I watched my mother as a child. She used to play games of chess against herself, in the middle of approving seating plans for the dinner parties and firing and hiring domestic help and wheedling charitable promises out of acquaintances for the various causes she'd chosen. She would play chess and she would tell me, twirling a pawn between elegant fingers. Everything is chess, Mycroft, she would say, and she would place the pawn down, deliberately, with a heavy, satisfying thunk against the board. The sound of decision-making is the sound of a pawn against a chessboard. I never remember a time when I didn't know the rules of chess. And I barely remember a time when I couldn't win. It was only ever against my mother that I couldn't win.
Everything is chess, Mycroft. And she was right about that. Negotiating schoolboy diplomacy at Eton was nothing but an arrangement of pawns and bishops and rooks, all with their rules of movement, but the rules were just the way you knew how to win. And global politics are nothing more than schoolboy diplomacy on a larger scale. Nothing more than the chess game in my mother's drawing room, larger-than-life-size, and the pawns make a slightly louder sound as they land against the board.
The only times I have ever wished for a manual have involved Sherlock. Sherlock is the only thing I have ever looked at--in my entire life, on this entire planet--and not known immediately how to win. Which I suppose is somewhat acceptable, as I suspect I fulfill the same role for him, and somehow, through the mutual unease we provoke in each other, we have reached an uneasy detente. Still. When my mother taught me everything is chess, Mycroft, I wish I knew whether she was including Sherlock in the "everything."
Oh, I don't know. I think, on the days when I think about it, that Mummy never knew quite what to make of Sherlock, either. It's the same way I think she didn't know quite what to make of Father. Father thought more like Sherlock: a brain made for science, still endlessly tempered by philosophy. A personality in love with order and logic, with figuring out the why and the wherefore, and veering constantly, inevitably, into flights of fancy to get there. There is imagination in Sherlock, huge untapped reserves of it. I found him exhausting when he was a boy, when Mummy died and he was suddenly my responsibility, when I asked him what he wished to be, and he answered, A pirate. A pirate. What, pray tell, is one supposed to do when the person in one's charge tells one that he wishes to be a pirate? I told him he had to go to Eton. Pirates don't go to Eton, was what he told me, and that, I suppose, was unfailing logic, as was my unfailing logic, which was that Holmeses do. And the Holmeses aren't pirates.
But who am I to know this? I am very unlike my father, and, anyway, I barely knew him. I wish Sherlock had known him. I think Sherlock may have benefited from an influence more like him, more capable of withstanding the twists and turns of that convoluted, leapfrogging head of his. But Father died before Sherlock could walk, and before I was old enough to have untangled him, and that left Mummy and me, allied in our chess games and equally bewildered by the Holmesian side of our family. Maybe the Holmeses were pirates. Somewhere back in our scrubbed-clean family history, didn't we all start out as pirates? And what are pirates, I suppose, but strategists in the end? They are also playing a chess game, just, if I'm to be honest, a slightly more fun one than the ones I get to play.
This is what people would tell you, people who have just met us: That Sherlock and I are very much alike. That we are very similar. My great secret is that I know we are not. We both may be clever--cleverer than average--but we are clever in different ways. It is, I think, the great secret that I have kept even from him.
Because what is one to do, really, when one is still only a boy oneself, fresh at uni, suddenly tasked with the raising of a little brother one barely knows and has seldom considered? What is one to do when one has never been able to delude oneself into thinking there are manuals for this sort of thing? Everything is chess, Sherlock. This is what I taught him. But that was my lesson. I don't think, upon reflection, that it ought to have been his.
I underestimated his ability to develop attachments. I have him, I had assumed it would be enough for him to have me. But he has always chafed against that, always been rebellious and resentful. And, as his circle of friends grows larger, it grows more and more difficult to keep the pawns in place. Dr. Watson is easy enough, I've come to trust him as an ally in the keep-Sherlock-safe chess game. And Inspector Lestrade has proved useful enough as well. But I have made errors, I am aware of that, in the reading of my brother's psyche. Especially recently. The entire Irene Adler debacle was my fault, a miscalculation on my part, borne of impatience and uncharacteristic misreading of the board. Well, of my brother's board, which perhaps is less uncharacteristic than I would like.
I wonder sometimes if it would startle Sherlock to know that I consider the objective of our particular chess game to be his happiness. I think that it would. I know that it would on days like this, when he calls for a favor. "Hello, brother dear. How are you? Listen, I wonder if you might help me out, I need some access to Baskerville. Actually, all access to Baskerville. For, ooh, I don't know, say, a day or so." He asks this, and I listen to the fake sweetness of his voice, and I know he does not expect me to give it to him, or at least not without extracting something in return, and it's true that ordinarily I never would, and I know I am upsetting the rules of our particular chess game, but I do not reply unthinkingly. To the contrary, I reply with as much purpose as I have ever said anything. "Yes," I say. "You can have twenty-four hours. For you and John, I assume?" He is silent. "Well," I say, to get him off the phone, "I'll ring--" "What's wrong?" he says, which I knew he would. "Nothing," I tell him, which was what I knew I would say when he asked. "Mycroft," he says. "Don't be dramatic," I say, and hang up my phone.
"We need to get my brother and Dr. Watson access to Baskerville. Unlimited access. For twenty-four hours," I say, to whichever assistant happens to be nearby.
"When, sir?" he replies, incredulously.
"As soon as you can. Now," I answer, absently, and he leaves the room. My mobile trills a text alert, and I glance at it. Not over. SH
I slip it back in my pocket and regard Moriarty's face, through a one-way mirror on which has been scratched the letters S H E R L O C K.
"Everything is chess, Mycroft," I remind myself out loud. Caring is not an advantage.
Oooh, first person Mycroft. Fascinating.
I'm very picky about my Mycroft, and I adore this.
For some reason it reads just a bit young to me, not entirely sure why. Still, it worked for me quite well and I loved how you wove the recent canon into it.
As I was writing this, I was like, "You're doing first person Mycroft, are you *insane*?" I'm glad you thought it worked!
Maybe it does read young? I think Mycroft's in a situation here that he hasn't been in since he was young (making a major mistake), so maybe I felt like that was coming out in him?
This comment is a bit of a rehash from what I said before, but I really love how you tied the new episodes in in small ways, and the overall voice, and the line: "The sound of decision-making is the sound of a pawn against a chessboard." I think your Mycroft is my favorite fic Mycroft (as I said before, maybe because he is exactly the Mycroft I would have written if I knew how). And I especially admire how you make him both cold and caring at once. And those last two lines...
I don't think I can handle today. Can I just skip to the bit where I get to watch the new episode? Ah well, I guess I'll spend the time strategically arranging boxes of tissues around the condo, ironing my mourning clothes, and surveying the liquor cabinet.
Awww, thank you. My Mycroft is *my* favorite fic Mycroft, too! What a coincidence! ;-) I find him a huge challenge to write, because I feel like I have to be careful not to make him too...emotional? But I am enjoying hinting at the emotion.
I couldn't handle Sunday. And then I couldn't handle Monday...
Oooooo! I haven't seen the second episode yet but this was a very interesting introspective of Mycroft!
I love how you interpret both their differences and similarities. Also the fact that there is an almost unwilling affection - but there none the less - between them.
I also loved that you were easily able to crawl inside of this very complex character's head. Bravo!
Thank you! I love Mycroft, and I love the way this show has done Mycroft. I love that you really do get the feeling that he loves Sherlock, behind everything else he might feel about Sherlock. And a conversation with a friend had us thinking about their differences and similarities. This story grew from there.
Mycroft is *so* tricky. I think that's why I love him so much. There are so many different ways to read him. I like to think that he loves his little brother, he just doesn't have the sort of personality where he's going to be effusive about it. I really do think he is, just by character, a bit cold and stiff and formal, and I also tend to assume he had a lot of responsibility thrust upon him at a fairly young age and so he hardened as a result. But that's my reading of him.
And yeah, I also think that Sherlock is very different from him, that they share the same harsh intelligence, but that, by character, Sherlock is *not* cold and stiff and formal, he's really the opposite of that, but Mycroft's influence kind of stunted that growth.
That's what I think, so that's what I decided to come up with here.
And I think Mycroft made a huge mistake letting Moriarty go, and knew it, but was at a loss as to how to fix it, because mistakes aren't something he really knows about.