Title: Stradivarius and Grace
Characters: Sherlock, Mycroft (gen or pre-slash)
Rating: PG-13 (mentions of substance abuse and strong language)
Summary: Five moments in Sherlock's life, with or without the Stradivarius that Mycroft gave him.
Note: Many thanks to krazykoodles for beta reading/Britpicking and to asukajude for technical assistance.
"You had a Stradivarius!?" John is having one of those skull-in-the-fridge moments, he can tell. "You had a Stradivarius and you couldn't afford to rent this flat by yourself?"
"I believe the keyword here is had." Sherlock says, one hand on the bow but eyes still staring at the fresh bullet holes on the wall. "Besides, not all Stradivarius instruments can be a Tennant or a Viotti. I'm afraid that one had too much wear and tear on it to bask in the self-aggrandizing glory that is Sotheby's."
"But even thena Strad!" John pauses as something apparently awful sinks in. "Dare I ask what you did with it?"
He doesn't answer. The bow slides across the strings, careful and slow. He can feel the physical resonance of that glorious sound, like laughter under a full red moon.
It echoes in his head still, unrelenting.
"You bought him a Stradivarius?" Mummy didn't sound all that surprised, despite the question's tone. "Mycroft, darling, you shouldn't have."
But Mycroft had a gift of talking his way out of trouble, and two kisses on the cheeks later their mother was already fussing over the older son's long trip home from Oxford, the extravagant Christmas present completely forgiven.
Thus Sherlock came into possession of his first 4/4 full-sized violin. At the age of eleven, he cared more about the "full-sized" part than the name of the maker. The instrument was old, though he could live with that. The scroll didn't look nearly as elaborate as the string of other violins he'd had, which was just fine. There was an obvious scratch on the spruce top, but Mycroft showed him the back of the sound board, and it was an unusually rich colour, like it was distilled by the ages.
"Mummy said you shouldn't have bought it for me," he mused before settling into the chinrest. "How did you pay for it?"
Mycroft gave him a lopsided grin. Sherlock knew, then and there, that he would never be able to pry a straight answer out of his brother.
"Who says I had to pay for it?"
Despite its unassuming appearance, this particular Strad had breathtaking depth and sound penetration. It was meant to be played loudly, with concentration and fanatical fervour. Some violinists referred to their instruments as their ladies, but Sherlock knew it was no lady in his hands. No, better to name it something masculine, something dear.
After he reached a certain age, Sherlock raised hell with his Strad and Beethoven for a while before moving on to Paganini. Then he grew bored with both composers and began to improvise his own music. His teacher did not look upon this with approval, so Sherlock stopped taking lessons altogether.
He took to playing in the garden gazebo, especially when it rained and poured. It gave him a stirring satisfaction to feel the violin vibrating beneath his bow, his own notes soaring above the roaring waters.
Alone as he was, Sherlock was invincible, in those moments.
"I gave you a Stradivarius." Mycroft said, looking at him.
Sherlock loathed his brother's new method of questioning, loathed how it threw accusations at him while pretending everything was normal and perfectly under control. He itched to rip that veneer of respectability off Mycroft and let out everything that had somehow gone to rot between them.
"So you did, brother mine," he dragged on the cigarette, inching closer to blow the smoke right into Mycroft's face. Mycroft didn't blink. The bastard. Barely one year in Whitehall and he'd already picked up all the government officials' nasty habits. What's next? Desperately colourful socks matched with horrible ties?
Mycroft waited for the smoke to dissipate.
"Sherlock." Still so unfailingly patient, as if talking to a ten-year-old. "The Stradivarius. I would like to know what happened to it, if you please."
Sherlock took another drag and pressed the stub into the heavy curtains. All this smoking and all the drugs hadn't killed his sense of smell yet, because he could still make out Mycroft's bland aftershave from this distance. It was utterly inoffensive and it made him want to tear at something.
So he did.
He slapped one hand on Mycroft's shoulder. His brother didn't flinch, didn't even bother acknowledging it with those dark eyes.
Sherlock smiled and leaned forward again.
"Fuck you and fuck your Stradivarius."
It's more instinct than deduction, but the first moment he sees that violin case lodging about on the sofa, he knows Mycroft has pulled another one on him. Some things never change, despite everything else.
He would march into the dining room and demand an explanation from his brother right this minute, but there is the devil himself, leaning against the door frame and wearing that smirk like it's his favourite pair of cufflinks.
Sherlock narrows his eyes. He's not going to open up that case. Not in front of Mycroft.
"I rarely say this, Mycroft, but you are unbelievable."
He sits down on the sofa, staring at the case. He is almost afraid to see the thing inside.
"It's been ten years," Sherlock hears himself saying distantly. And it's in that exact moment the reality of it all sinks in. He had parted with it ten years ago, never expecting to long for it, never expecting to recover the lost grace.
"For you, perhaps." Mycroft says from the other end of the room. "I've been keeping it for this past decade. Well, Mummy has, to be exact. But you know."
The sentence takes a second to hit him.
"Yes, you did." Mycroft cuts in smoothly. "And it was most troublesome that you did. I recovered it, however, as soon as it was sufficiently discreet of me to do so." His brother wrinkles his nose as if at an unsavoury thought. "Mummy would never let me hear the end of it if I didn't. Besides, if you truly wanted to dispose of it, you should have tried a lot harder."
"Is that a dare, Mycroft?" He can't help jumping on that. He can't. He'd take anything to stop himself from feeling so pathetic right now, like a puppy rolling on the floor belly up. This is ridiculous.
Mycroft only grins. "If we are really going to try this making up business, Sherlock, I think we need to do away with all this baiting at each other."
There might be an apology there, but he can't be sure. Either way, Mycroft is gone before he can formulate a dignified and completely non-childish answer.
Sherlock opens the case.
His Strad smiles back at him, slightly more weathered but a thousand times more beautiful than the replica in his memory. The wood is solid, if slightly smelling of disuse. He caresses the pegbox, the lower bout, the neck, and the strings. And all he can think of is, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Even for the flawed parts.
He turns the violin over, knowing what he would find on the back of the sound board.
A scribble by a child's hand, left in the most inconspicuous of places.
A name that the years haven't been able to erase.
A/N: Deartháir is Irish for "brother".