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fic: Mosaic

Title: Mosaic
Author: fengirl88
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Pairing/Characters: Sherlock/John, Mycroft, Mummy
Rating: R for themes
Warnings: implied past sexual abuse, implied incest, traumatic memory
Disclaimer: They're still not mine. An image here is adapted from Peter Dickinson's The Last House Party; spoilers for that novel.
Summary: The last picture from before everything changed, or that's how he used to think of it. But if what Watson says is true, something had almost certainly changed before that. He looks for the signs, though he doesn't know what he's looking for.
A/N: Sixth in the series that begins with Invasion, Reconnaissance, Reveille, Ambush and Intelligence.
Thank you again to blooms84, ginbitch and kalypso_v for beta and support; to marysutherland for helpful conversations about the direction of the story as a whole, and for suggesting documentary evidence should figure in this part; and to shefa for continuing encouragement.


The photograph's in the third drawer down; he's not the sort to display such things on his desk and even if he were it wouldn't be this one. Too painful. He keeps telling himself he should get rid of it, doesn't do any good to dwell on these things, but he's never been able to do it. Maybe he was keeping it for this.

His parents' silver wedding anniversary. The last picture from before everything changed, or that's how he used to think of it. But if what Watson says is true, something had almost certainly changed before that. He looks for the signs, though he doesn't know what he's looking for.

“Those are your parents?” Watson asks.

Mycroft nods. “About a month before it happened.”

He's surprised at his own image; he'd remembered himself as already overweight, but he doesn't look it in the photograph, though he's already tall for his age. The weight must have come later. Probably a reaction to it all: not just the death, if you could ever say “just” about something like that, but what it meant and what followed. The grief of knowing that relationship could never come right. Finding himself the man of the family, overnight, at fifteen. For what that was worth.

Sherlock looks beautiful, centre stage as always. Their father's favourite. No matter what Mycroft did, it made no difference to that. He'd envied the easy closeness they seemed to have, the private jokes, the public displays of affection. Knew he wasn't supposed to mind, too old to be treated like a baby, but he still did. With Mummy doting on Sherlock as well, he'd felt left out, awkward, unlovable. That feeling wouldn't change for a long time. Not even after the accident, when everything else had changed.

Sherlock was in the nursery when Mycroft finally reached home, occupied with one of the latest Airfix models he and Daddy had made. Daddy had never done anything like that with Mycroft, had seemed bored at the very idea, but he and Sherlock would spend hours together, poring over instruction sheets covered in numbers, gluing the fragile parts together, carefully painting the intricate constructions.

“Sherlock,” he said, not knowing what else to say.

Sherlock looked up at him briefly, blankly, then returned to what he was doing.

“Are you all right?” Mycroft said, thinking what a stupid question that was. Mummy had told him over the phone how it had happened, that it was Sherlock who'd found Daddy. The thought of it was so vivid Mycroft had thought for a moment he was going to faint, leaning against the Headmaster's desk and gripping the edge of it to steady himself.

Sherlock looked surprised. “Why wouldn't I be?”

“Mummy said you must have had a shock,” he said hesitantly. He didn't want to stir things up if, against all the odds, Sherlock really was all right; but how could he be?

“That was yesterday,” Sherlock said, snapping a piece of plastic. “His head was all bloody.”

Surely it wasn't natural for a child of eight to be so calm. Even if Sherlock wasn't like any other child Mycroft had known. But maybe he'd already turned it into some sort of detecting game. That would be like him, and certainly less surprising than this apparent indifference.

“Do you know how it happened?”

Sherlock looked up again, rather wearily.

“It was an accident,” he said. “Boring. Could you go away, please? I'm busy.”

For the first time Mycroft looked properly at what he was busy with. He'd thought Sherlock was re-gluing something that had come loose, but realized with a start that he was actually dismantling the model, carefully and painstakingly removing propeller, tail, wings.

“What are you doing? I thought the Tiger Moth was your favourite.”

Do go away, please, Mycroft,” Sherlock said. “I want to finish this by teatime.”

Mycroft left him sitting on the floor next to a growing heap of model parts, oblivious to the world.

After the funeral, he'd tried to talk to Mummy.

“Is Sherlock all right? He seems – odd.”

He didn't know how to explain it, felt stupid for saying it, but couldn't get rid of the feeling.

“He's had a shock, darling,” Mummy said reprovingly. “Of course he won't be quite his usual self.”

“He just seems so – detached. I thought – ”

“Everyone responds to these things in different ways,” Mummy said firmly. “Sherlock will be all right. He's got me to look after him, and you. You'll always look after him, Mycroft, won't you? Promise.”

“Always,” Mycroft said, though his throat was so tight he could hardly speak. “Do you think he should – see a doctor or something? After what happened?”

Mummy looked almost angry, though he didn't know why.

“Darling, I know you're only trying to help, but please don't interfere. What Sherlock needs now is just to be left in peace so that things can ...”

Go back to normal?, Mycroft thought wildly. How was that supposed to happen? But he didn't argue. He knew that wasn't the way to deal with Mummy, not if you wanted to get anywhere.

He looks again at the photograph, Sherlock leaning against Daddy and holding that same model aeroplane. Mycroft had always thought Daddy and Sherlock were holding hands in this picture but he sees for the first time that Daddy's hand is wrapped around Sherlock's wrist. Mycroft is standing next to Daddy, but they don't touch; and Mummy's the other side of Mycroft, which looks odd somehow, though he'd never thought about it before.

“What are you thinking?” Watson asks.

He must have been staring at the picture for longer than he realized.

“I don't know,” he says.

He'd wondered at the time if Sherlock had known something about the accident. Even wondered if Sherlock might have – had something to do with it was the nearest his mind could get to the idea. But he'd buried that a long way down, sealed it off with a steel plate after Mummy made him promise not to think about it, to do his best to forget it. He'd never put it into words, even to her; he'd assumed she knew what he meant when he asked if there'd been anything unusual about the accident.

He wonders now if she thought he meant something else altogether.

In the photograph, Sherlock already has that blank expression he'd thought was a sign of shock. He wonders when Sherlock started to look like that. He thinks he remembers a younger Sherlock laughing, excited about things, but maybe he's imagined that.

If Watson is right about this, when did it start? And how did it end?

The images overlap, one seen and one remembered. Sherlock holding the model aeroplane as Daddy holds his wrist. Sherlock sitting by the heap of dismembered parts on the nursery floor, steadily destroying the thing they'd made together.

It's like a Gestalt: something Mycroft sees but can't explain, certainly can't prove. And in all probability the truth of it is locked away in Sherlock's mind, deeper than Mycroft's own memories were in his.

He hears Mummy's voice again saying He's got me to look after him. Remembers her dry-eyed at the funeral, her face set and clenched, apparently emotionless. How strong she was, how controlled, making him feel ashamed of the tears that he struggled to hold back. He'd assumed it was grief she was holding in check. He's not so sure any more.


A list of military terms from 1943 defines "Mosaic" as "An assembly of two or more overlapping vertical aerial photographs".

Links to all parts of this now complete series are here:



( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 3rd, 2011 02:02 am (UTC)
Oh my god - the image of Sherlock taking apart the model plane is amazing.

This is an incredible story.
Apr. 3rd, 2011 10:05 am (UTC)
thank you very much - I wanted something like the image in Peter Dickinson (see disclaimer), but it took a while to find the right thing. I'm working on what should be the last part now, but it may take a while.
Apr. 3rd, 2011 07:24 am (UTC)
This is wonderful. Very restrained and yet such striking images of tightly-coiled emotions - Sherlock and the plane, Mycroft's weight. And you manage to get such creepy unease into the image of someone holding their child by their wrist rather than their hand.
Apr. 3rd, 2011 10:11 am (UTC)
thank you - I'm so glad you think so. and thank you very much for your help with this one. I knew what Mycroft had to remember about Sherlock, but not how to open up that memory, until you suggested that Mycroft might look for evidence in family photographs.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 3rd, 2011 10:12 am (UTC)
thank you very much - I am so glad you do. *hugs you back*
(no subject) - shehasathree - Apr. 3rd, 2011 08:19 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 3rd, 2011 10:14 am (UTC)
thank you very much - as I said to darthhellokitty, I wanted something like the image from Peter Dickinson (see disclaimer), but it took a while to work out exactly what it should be.
Apr. 3rd, 2011 05:18 pm (UTC)
I am speechless.every little detail is perfect, fitting in the bigger picture flawlessly.
I am amazed and eager to know how this is going to end (even if I do have a vague idea).
Thanks for writing this, dear!
Apr. 3rd, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
thank you so much for this lovely comment. I'm working on what I think is the final part now, though I may not be able to get everything wrapped up in one more instalment...

*hugs you back*
Apr. 7th, 2011 04:03 am (UTC)
I've just caught up and well, I'm floored.
Apr. 7th, 2011 12:50 pm (UTC)
thank you very much for reading and commenting. things will become somewhat clearer in the next part, which I'm writing at the moment.
Apr. 7th, 2011 09:57 pm (UTC)
Wow. This is both fascinating and heart-wrenching at the same time. I love the way you leave so much hanging silently between the lines, as if the reader, like Mycroft, needs to work out exactly what happened that day. I'd say this is a classic example of how writing should work: that you should show not tell. With Mycroft's memories, you've shown us a lot. I think it's very telling that Sherlock became emotionally withdrawn shortly before his father died and that he insisted on tearing apart all the models he and his father put together. It's also telling that their mother seemed to shut down as well, as if she had figured out exactly what was going on and what had happened the day her husband was killed.

What gets me about this story is that Mycroft is just as much a victim as Sherlock. His whole world is turned upside down when his father dies. Suddenly, he has to be the man of the family and put a tight lid on all the questions that must have been buzzing around in his brain. It seems to me that he buried that aspect of his past almost as deeply as Sherlock and that it causes him almost as much pain.
Apr. 7th, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC)
thank you so much - this comment pleases me more than I can say. the balance between showing and telling was difficult in this one (and is making the next part difficult to write as well), so I'm very glad you think it works here.

I'm also really pleased by what you say about Mycroft, because that's what I increasingly came to feel about him when writing this - both the brothers are damaged in different ways by what happens, and by their buried memories.
Apr. 14th, 2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
I've just caught myself up on all the parts preceding this one. This is incredibly heartrending, and I'm glad that Mycroft isn't the culprit; I don't handle fic where that's the case terribly well.
Apr. 14th, 2011 11:38 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I really wasn't sure when I wrote the first story, and for a while I thought he might be. one of the reasons it has taken so long to write these was my struggle to work out what I thought had actually happened. I'm trying to write the next part at the moment, which I had thought would be the final one, but I think there will be another one after that.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )


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