Title: I Don't Do What You Tell Me
Author: Jessie Blackwood
Pairing: Mycroft Holmes/Greg Lestrade
Fandoms: Sherlock
Rating: AO
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are not my characters, they are public domain. Anything that resembles Sherlock BBC belongs of course to Mr Moffat and Mr Gatiss and is theirs alone. The plot is mine. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is otherwise purely coincidental.
Note: Written as part of the Mystrade Summer Gift Exchange for starfish-are-stickers on tumblr, so I hope you like it, love. Well, I hope you love it actually but I'm never sure about my own abilities. What began as a 5000 worder ended up nearer four times that with the potential for more chapters. So, watch this space, as it were. Enjoy.
Summary: Greg doesn't do what Mycroft tells him any more. He is his own man, with his own mind, he's never been anyone's yes-man and he isn't about to start now. Mycroft better just get used to it.


Chapter 1: Confrontation

Gregory Lestrade slammed his hands down on the polished surface of the huge mahogany desk, tension radiating through his body as he loomed toward the man sitting calmly on the other side. He stared Mycroft Holmes down from across the aged wood, his angry glare daring the elder Holmes brother to say any more. Mycroft regarded him coolly, his gimlet-eyed gaze fixed on the detective inspector where the man stood in front of him. Gregory had refused his polite invitation to sit. Mycroft knew that the chill in his own demeanour was evident. He was in his element, confident in the formal setting of his oak-panelled government office, and he did not appreciate anyone defying him. "After that last fiasco..." Lestrade was saying, throwing up his hands in angry exasperation, "...I have no idea why you couldn't go yourself. For God's sake, bloody Baskerville of all places!"

"You know why," Mycroft said succinctly. His mouth compressed into a firm line, corners turning down in distaste, while his eyes had that warning glitter known to have had lesser men quaking where they stood. It had zero effect on Gregory Lestrade, however, a fact Mycroft noted with interest and filed away for later consideration.

"I know what you told me," Lestrade countered swiftly, "but for someone who professes to worry constantly about his brother, are you seriously expecting me to believe you couldn't have backed out of it? You want me to believe that these negotiations with some foreign diplomat possessed of an unpronounceable name from back-of-beyond-istan were so delicate that you were really the only one who could handle it? Jesus, the government must be severely lacking capable personnel if you're the only one who could have dealt with it."

"I am not the only one who could have handled the situation," Mycroft replied curtly. "I remain, however, one of only three who had any chance of success, and the other two are still abroad."

"You're the one with Priority Ultra security clearance and you should have been the one who stirred his arse to go help his baby brother. In my opinion, I think it was more a matter of not wanting to confront your brother and foisting it off on me." Greg did not like the way Mycroft was looking at him. The man's eyes had narrowed. Greg was reminded strongly of Sherlock when he did that, poised to deduce something he would find uncomfortable or embarrassing.

"You were scared..." Lestrade seemed quite agitated, Mycroft observed, scrutinising him carefully. "Even armed with the weapon I signed out to you, you experienced something that was outside your experience. You have yet to allow me to fully debrief you and as such are quite remiss, but whatever happened out there something...terrified you..." His eyebrows drew together in a frown as he analysed his deduction, inwardly surprised that Lestrade had experienced such an emotion.

"Yes, thank you for drawing that to my attention," Greg replied sarcastically before Mycroft could say anything else embarrassing. "You got my full report, as much as I was prepared to tell you anyway, and I defy anybody affected by that gas not to have been out of their mind with fright. Of course, you never get scared, do you? You have people who protect you from the front line stuff, so there's no earthly need for you to get involved. What would you know?"

Mycroft suppressed a smirk. If only Gregory knew about his early days as a field operative. Mycroft was on intimate terms with fear in all its forms and knew well the degree to which terror could inhabit the human mind. For Gregory to suffer it though, that was a surprise. The man was without doubt courageous; Gregory had sometimes been brave to the point of stupidity in the course of his career. "I think you'll find that a minor position such as mine does not put me in the front line..."

"Minor position, my arse!" Greg interrupted. "Minor government officials do not possess Priority Ultra clearance. The trouble with you is you're so damned all-powerful you're far too used to being able to get your own way. You get other people to do your dirty work for you! Well, you need to learn who you can order around and who you can't, and from now on, Sunshine, I'm one of those on your list of people who don't dance to your tune; so stick that in your pipe and smoke it! I seriously cannot believe you would put work before family..."

"You did." The words were like a slap in the face. Greg just stood there, mouth agape. The colour drained from his face and he swallowed on a suddenly dry throat. It took him a moment to find his voice again.

"How did you...?" Of course he knows, this is Mycroft Holmes, for God's sake. "How dare you?" Greg said, his voice husky. "That was...below the belt."

"You deny it?"

"No, I don't...but that's not the point. . . It was just. . . bloody unkind and unwarranted."

"Why, considering you just accused me of the same indiscretion? I believe the colloquial euphemism is kettle calling pan black?"

"Fuck you!"

"By all means resort to base language in order to make your point, Inspector. Profanity is the linguistic crutch of the inarticulate and the weapon of the witless."

"Don't start quoting Mark Twain at me, you...you poncy bureaucratic git! I am not completely illiterate and I am also not open to any more of your misdirected attempts to protect your brother by proxy. I am not one of your minions!"

Mycroft took a moment to contemplate Gregory's choice of the word minions. It wasn't something he had considered before. Did he have minions? Part of him considered it an appealing prospect, part of him considered he might run into all kinds of bureaucracy from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs if he tried it. Even he wasn't above their jurisdiction, despite being able to secure their services from time to time. Mycroft dragged his attention back to what Gregory was saying.

"If I choose to protect your stupid twat of a brother then I do it because I'm his friend, not because you order me to!" Lestrade snapped at him.

"To my knowledge, he doesn't have friends," Mycroft suggested mildly.

"Well, there you'd be wrong, Mr-I-control-all-the-cctv-cameras-in-London. He has at least three friends that I can name and now he has John Watson to watch his back, he doesn't even really need me anymore either...or you for that matter."

"Jealous, Inspector? That isn't like you." Mycroft was glad that looks could not kill, otherwise the glare he received would have had dire consequences, for both of them.

"All I'll say is this. If you're hell bent on stepping in, then for God's sake, this time make your peace with him and go do it yourself! Some of us have a proper job to do!" He flung himself away from the desk, marched to the door and wrenched it open. Greg disappeared through it and attempted to slam it pointedly behind him.

Mycroft watched Lestrade turn and storm out of the office. He didn't call the inspector back. Mycroft wouldn't demean himself, despite feeling a small pang of...something. It had been so long since Mycroft Holmes had regretted anything that at first he didn't recognise it. Then it came to him that it was actually regret that he was feeling. He mulled it over a while, letting it settle into his mind that yes, he actually lamented saying the words, regretted seeing the stunned look of hurt in Gregory's eyes before he had found his voice to reply. He had to admit he hadn't expected his words to hurt the man as much as they obviously had. Has something else happened, Mycroft wondered, something to add to Gregory's stress and make him more susceptible to barbed comments? He did not take long to come to a conclusion concerning that line of enquiry. Sherlock, he thought. His brother could be rather taxing and there was a high probability that he had pushed Lestrade beyond his usual tolerance limit. Mycroft sighed and pressed a button to summon his assistant. The business of the day must carry on regardless of personal concerns.

Several times during the next hour Mycroft found his attention wavering. He knew it was out of character but his thoughts were drawn back time and again to his inspector. And when, thought Mycroft, did Gregory become my inspector? On reflection, their trouble seemed to stem from the fact that both of them possessed an unerring ability to bring out the worst in each other. From the instant Mycroft had made the mistake of 'kidnapping' the Inspector to ask him his intentions toward his brother, Gregory had it in for him. Mycroft knew he could hardly blame Gregory for that. He had seriously underestimated the Detective Inspector on several levels. For one thing, there was no other man who could cause so much turmoil in Mycroft's thoughts and demeanour. Gregory was an independant man, with his own opinions and feelings and moral code. He was nobody's yes-man, he did not kowtow to authority if he disagreed with it, and he was possessed of a stubborn streak a mile wide. His tenacity had brought results but it was honestly no surprise that he had not risen through the ranks as quickly as a man of his ability and experience might have expected to. The same things that obviously didn't endear him to his superiors—his air of confidence, stubborn tenacity and outspoken independence—were what drew Mycroft Holmes to Gregory Lestrade like a moth to a flame.

Glancing over Lestrade's personnel file some months ago (Mycroft had told himself it was a simple background check, nothing more) had revealed the detective inspector to be an educated man. Despite not having the academic achievements or high IQ of the Holmes brothers, nor the privileged upbringing they had enjoyed, Lestrade still had a university degree and had worked hard to attain his present rank in the Metropolitan Police. He was no idiot, despite Sherlock's constant jibes. He was not the most diplomatic of men, but one always knew where one stood with him. Mycroft was left in no doubt as to where he stood with Gregory right now though. To say his standing wasn't very high was something of an understatement.

Thinking back over their history, Mycroft found himself going over everything that had happened from the first moment he had laid eyes on DI Gregory Lestrade, analysing every detail from the first sighting to their present situation. He did not shy away from the details, even the somewhat embarrassing ones. Like Mycroft's ill-timed and ultimately futile 'kidnapping' of the Detective Inspector. Prior to that they had only ever seen each other across a crowded crime scene. Up close and personal, Mycroft had been forced to accept some inescapable things about the Detective Inspector.

For one thing, nobody had informed Mycroft that Gregory Lestrade was terribly good looking. He was much younger than his hair suggested. The premature silver strands gave him the air of an elder statesman, someone reliable and responsible. Someone edging toward retirement. Not so. Gregory Lestrade had achieved Silver Fox status before his forty-sixth birthday. Of course, there were other things that added to his attractiveness. Gregory's eyes were the really arresting feature about him. Mycroft allowed himself the pun. Intense and deep dark velvet brown, Mycroft repeatedly saw them in his dreams. However, one of the most compelling things about the Inspector was that when threatened, cornered, confronted or otherwise compromised, Gregory Lestrade was a force to be reckoned with. Nobody else had ever managed to fling Mycroft Holmes across the bonnet of his own car and cuff him before his bodyguard could react. Also, when faced with six handguns all pointed at his head, the owners of which having materialised from nowhere, all Lestrade did was growl, menacingly.

It might have been at that point that Mycroft...well, he would never admit to falling in love, full stop. Mycroft Holmes did not do love. Certainly not the hearts and flowers kind. He would never admit to falling in love with a man who could restrain him so successfully either, nor would he ever admit to possessing more than a passing interest in someone who seemed to resist his efforts at intimidation...but...it might well have been that moment that Mycroft realised he had gained a worthy adversary, not to mention someone who captured—and held—his interest. It was certainly at that point, when he was uncuffed, suitably restored to neatness and facing, by contrast, a rather ruffled Lestrade, that Mycroft deemed it necessary to explain who he was and what he was doing. Something prompted him to smooth the ruffled feathers, despite feeling as though those feathers belonged to a rather irate eagle that was about to stoop and rip his throat out.

There was a moment a few weeks after this awkward introduction when Lestrade had spotted Mycroft in the corridors of Scotland Yard. Mycroft was by that time uncomfortably aware that he had succumbed to the charms of the man he had sought to overawe. Lestrade had actually made a point of going over and intercepting him. "Mr Holmes, nice to see you again. How are things?" Mycroft had jumped at the sudden appearance, although very few people would have known that. Greg saw it, the slight tensing of muscles in a fight or flight response that lasted less than a millisecond before the mask of polite indifference was in place again.

"Why, Inspector Lestrade. A pleasure, as always." They shook hands cordially, as if the precipitous kidnapping had never happened.

"Likewise. So to what do we owe this honour?"

"Oh, interminable meetings, bureaucracy, policies...I am sure you're aware of it all."

"Aren't I just? So how is your brother?"

"Sherlock is...being difficult. It is becoming harder and harder to keep him safe."

"Well, he's his own man," Gregory had said firmly.

"A self-destructive one if he is not cared for."

"Even so, he's an adult, Mr Holmes. He's well over the age of consent..."

"I am aware of that, inspector, but my brother is a special case."

"If you want my opinion, which probably you don't, but you can have it anyway, Sherlock doesn't need you breathing down his neck quite as much as you do. Give him space, Mycroft," Greg suggested gently. "Step back a bit. I know it's hard, but sometimes the ones we love are the ones we can't save. Someone else has to manage that for us."

That gave Mycroft pause because it sounded as if Gregory had spoken from experience. "It seems that your interest is having a positive effect upon him in any case," Mycroft offered. "For that I am grateful." Lestrade was scrutinising him carefully, listening to every word. Mycroft had ploughed valiantly on, but the inspector's gaze was disconcerting. "If your association with him proves profitable to his well being then I can only stand back and let things take their course..." Gregory had let his eyes wander as if he were assessing the physical attributes of the man in front of him. "Sherlock already seems more alive..." Gregory's gaze travelled down, lingering on a point south, then moved back up to Mycroft's face, that piercing gaze fixing on Mycroft's once more. "More like himself than I recall seeing for too long a time." There was a pause during which Mycroft glanced down, his own gaze travelling south. When his gaze moved back up, there was a knowing expression in Gregory's eyes. Mycroft watched as Gregory smiled suddenly, a wicked grin as if he had suddenly understood something. Mycroft collected his thoughts and attempted to replace his mask of supreme indifference. "Did I say something...?"

"Nope, everything's fine." Gregory had met his slightly puzzled gaze with his trademark grin, showing teeth. "Why, Mycroft? You seem a bit out of sorts yourself. Are you alright?" Mycroft had brushed the comment off with one of his customary rebuffs but, from that point on, Gregory had never let a moment go by when they were within proximity of each other to offer him a teasingly suggestive and sometimes downright filthy smile...

Despite those eyes, that hair and that filthy smile the detective inspector could adopt at the drop of a hat—and he did it whenever he saw Mycroft watching him from across the crime scene tape—Mycroft resisted the urge to give in and suggest wildly inappropriate things to the man. From the outset, Gregory had quite accurately assessed the man before him and pinpointed a weak spot. He had obviously seen the widening of the politician's pupils as Mycroft had tried vainly to interrogate someone who obviously attracted him. Gregory knew and understood Mycroft's interest and strategically worked it to his advantage. It was another aspect of the Inspector's personality that Mycroft could only admire. He was an excellent judge of people and exploited everything he knew and learned about them. It explained his success with Sherlock.

If he believes he can understand me though, he has another thing coming, Mycroft thought. He will be disappointed if he thinks he can either seduce me or persuade me to care. Caring is not an advantage, definitely not. Alone did not simply protect him and his brother, it protected everyone around them. So Mycroft resisted the pull of silver hair, brown eyes, bravery, bravado and bare-faced cheek. Yet why does it become so much harder every time we meet? It made Mycroft irritable and when Mycroft was irritable he responded with biting sarcasm. Lestrade eventually responded to that with defensive aggression. If anything, since that moment, they had grown more antagonistic toward each other until now, when things seemed to have come to a head. On top of that Gregory's teasing had worn thin and Mycroft's indifference to his flirting seemed to be having some kind of frustrating effect in return. Neither man seemed to be able to surmount the mental barriers they had created. Which has lead us both to this, Mycroft considered, leaning back in his chair as the office door shut heavily on Gregory Lestrade's exit. And I have no idea what to do about it...


The door closed with less than the satisfying bang Greg had hoped for. It was heavy and ponderous and closed with more of a desultory thud. Typical governmental response, he thought sourly; slow, heavy and resistant to force. He glared at it resentfully, jammed his hands in the pockets of his overcoat and stalked down the corridors of power with his shoulders hunched defensively, feeling wretched inside. Mycroft had been right, despite how cowardly the verbal attack had felt. Greg was guilty of putting work before family and now his marriage was well and truly over. The two week holiday the Lestrades had taken to try to patch things up had proved an unmitigated disaster. Far from patching things up, they ended up arguing about her indiscretions and whether she was willing to tell the PE Teacher to fuck off. She wasn't. A week into their holiday she told him it had all been a huge mistake to think they could salvage anything and she was going ahead with the divorce. She had cited his neglect and irreconcilable differences. She had even taken an earlier plane home, leaving him to follow on his own a few days later. He had arrived back to an empty house, most of her things gone. Barely three days later, Mycroft had seconded his services and sent him to Devon to make sure Sherlock was safe. It had been a better option than staying at home.

That had been nearly four months ago. He was left rattling around the big house, his hopes and dreams in the dirt. They thankfully had no children—her decision, not his—and the big Victorian terrace seemed empty and terribly lonely. Mr PE Teacher had wanted her to move in with him and she had done so, coming by every so often to pick up something she had forgotten. From the outset Greg had changed the locks on her, not to be spiteful but he wanted things done to his convenience, not hers, and he had no wish to meet his replacement, never mind let the bastard rummage through his stuff. Greg knew he would have to move out though. It was inevitable the house would have to be sold; he had no money to buy her out of her share.

A no-nonsense man in a dark suit—so obviously Whitehall security—let him out into the outside world, holding the door for him politely, and Greg stepped out of the innocuous Victorian terrace of government offices, breathing in a deep breath of late summer evening London air; a heady mix of distant petrol and ozone tang, the fresh scent of cut grass warring with overflowing waste bins, outflanked by dozens of flowers in beds, window boxes, hanging baskets and overall a vague city smell generated by thousands of people all going about their daily business regardless of each other. It was the smell of summer in the city; familiar, grounding, the scent of home.

Crossing the road to his car he had every intent of putting as much distance between him and that stupid arsehole of a Holmes as he could. Greg paused by his car, fished his phone out and sent off a quick text, then climbed behind the wheel of his BMW and put the key in the ignition. His phone binged as he was about to switch on.

Meet you at the Beehive in ten then. JW


Greg leaned back and watched John Watson sink half his first pint appreciatively. "That was good," John said, placing the glass back down. "So, what's the matter? Desperate for a drink, come for a pint was rather indicative that you need to talk. So, out with it, Greg. What's happened?"

"Thanks for leaving Sherlock at home."

"Oh, no thanks necessary. He's incubating something vile in a petri dish. You know how he is. He absolutely has to make copious observations every half hour for the next six hours because a man's alibi depends on it, apparently. So, it's just us." John watched him expectantly.

"I got the decree nisi this morning," Greg blurted out, then grabbed his own pint and sought solace in its depths.

"So it's official then."

"It's not the Absolute yet but that's rather a formality at this point."

"You knew this was coming though?"

"Oh yeah, I knew. It's just...I've not had the best of days. I just needed a friendly face..."

John smiled and lifted his pint. "Here's to the single life."

"I thought you didn't want to be single?"

"I don't but I've not got the best track record with women, have I? Sherlock is the biggest cock-blocker known to mankind."

"Maybe you should try men?" Greg suggested with a smile and John regarded him with a wry grin.

"No offence, Greg, but there's only one man I might try and he's oblivious, so I rather think I'm on a hiding to nothing there."

"Jesus, John, I was joking. You mean you and him...Have you ever...?"

"Well, no...we haven't...I mean...I've never said anything..." John's voice trailed off and he pointedly studied his glass.

"You want to, though? If you got the chance, you'd go for it?"

"Oh, God, yes." John looked up sharply and fixed Greg with a look. "How about you? Now Laura's gone, would you...with a bloke?"

"I had a boyfriend when I was at college. Everybody just assumed I was gay but they were wrong, really. Truth is, I've never labelled myself."

"So what happened today that was so bad?"

"Bloody Mycroft, that's what."

"What did he want? He kidnap you again?"

"No, just invited me to come to his office. Truth is he just wants someone to spy on Sherlock again. He hasn't heard from him in months. He's worried, apparently. Sherlock is not answering his texts and neither apparently are you. He's given up with the cctv cameras, Sherlock disables them so often. Why the fuck can't he just visit? What's preventing him? Never stopped him before..."

"I think that might have been me, actually. He's kind of persona non grata at 221B at the moment. I threatened to shoot him if he set foot in our flat for the foreseeable," John smirked. "He obviously believes me."

"Why? What did he do?"

"Oh, don't ask. It's what he didn't do. He didn't apologise, that's what."

"What for? You and I both know Hell will freeze over before Mycroft Holmes apologises."

"I don't mind if someone insults me. Water off a duck's back to me, but Mycroft called Sherlock a liar. Now, we both know Lock can be rude, irritating, annoying, stubborn and pig-headed, not to mention frustrating and exasperating and he could probably convince the Pope that he was the Messiah if he wanted to..."

"He's not the Messiah..." Greg began, a grin spreading across his lips.

"He's a very naughty boy!" they both finished together and dissolved into laughter.

"Yeah, but...at the end of the day, in this case, Sherlock wasn't to blame," John continued, staunchly. "He wasn't lying and he wasn't trying to be deliberately annoying. However, Mycroft didn't believe him and one thing lead to another and even when Mycroft found out that Sherlock was telling the truth he didn't offer any kind of apology. Believe me, I did not appreciate the shouting match I walked in on."

"Typical Holmes. Do this, do that, go there, come here...No remuneration and no acknowledgement, just...some divine right to your obedience. Well, fuck him! Fuck them!" Greg snapped. "I told him he could stick it, I wouldn't do his dirty work for him any more."

"You did what? Oh, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that one. His face must have been a picture."

"Yeah, it was, but I've probably done myself no favours. It's pretty certain now that I won't see DCI before I retire. Mycroft bloody Holmes has the power to make my life hell and quashing my promotion prospects is probably the least he can do. All he has to do is murmur in the right ear and I might even find myself on the end of a suspension and a disciplinary hearing."

"What on earth could they get you with? And exactly what did you say to him? Did you make him angry?"

"If he was, I couldn't tell. I was probably angrier anyway. No, I just told him that after the Baskerville fiasco I wouldn't do it again. I accused him of putting work before family..." John's low whistle cut the air. "That's not the last of it. He said it was kettle calling pan black and I'd done that as well."


"Yeah, well, he was right. I did put work before family..."

"Greg, you never had a family to put work before. You told me your wife never wanted kids, and when she made her position clear, you started to work longer hours because you couldn't see the point in going home." Greg nodded. "Rightly or wrongly, it wasn't all you, Greg," John said. "Mycroft had no business attacking you like that, he doesn't know all there is to know about your situation. Or you, for that matter. You know, for a diplomat with his experience, he can be bloody dense sometimes."

"Same can be said of me though, John. I don't know the whole situation with those two. I know they had one messed-up childhood and Mycroft tried to be a parent before he was old enough to shave. Whatever else happened, I know nothing about it. It doesn't help that I am attracted to him...God help me..." Greg stared into his glass rather than meet John's eyes but the doctor was silent. Greg finally looked up and frowned. "What?"

"Sherlock was right then," John said. "He said he thought you were attracted to his brother and when I asked why he wouldn't tell me much more than the fact that he'd seen you watching Mycroft from across the crime scene tape. It was obvious to anyone with half a brain, he said. When I said it always looked to me as though you both hated each other and as such it was a long way from obvious to me, he did The Look again."

"The Look?"

"Yeah, The Look. You know, when he thinks you're being unusually dense, he does The Look. When he thinks you do know but you're just not bothering to observe."

Greg smiled. "I know that look. Been on the receiving end plenty of times. So did he tell you why he thought that?"

"He wouldn't elaborate. One thing he did say though..."

"Which was?"

"He said he thought Mycroft was interested in you too..."


"Why don't you come back to ours?" John suggested after his third pint. "I figure you ought to take time out before you go home. You okay to drive?"

"Yeah, not over the limit yet," Greg said, fishing his keys out. "Although a coffee might not go amiss." He paused and regarded John across the table. "I know Mycroft is interested in me, John. He gave it away once and I spotted the tells so I always jerk his chain a bit whenever I see him. I've not forgiven him myself really. Sherlock doesn't think it's genuine, does he?" he said. "Isn't Lock jerking your chain, considering he'd expect you to tell me?"

"I did see Mycroft watching you once, when we were leaving a crime scene."


"And he looked very...thoughtful."

"Is that all? Probably wondering how he could legitimately have me locked in the Tower," Greg said with a chuckle. "More likely he was trying to work out how useful I could be to him. That is how he works, after all. Truth is, our banter is wearing a bit thin. We're both in danger of hating each other every time we meet these days."


"Anything wrong, sir?" Anthea had repeated her last statement twice and Mycroft still wasn't listening.

"Hm? Oh...no, nothing that cannot wait. You were saying, my dear?"

"Sir...Permission to speak frankly?"

Mycroft frowned and nodded, puzzled. The poor girl seemed quite agitated.. "Granted," he prompted when she hesitated.

"I repeated myself," she said. "Twice. Just now, when I was trying to give you the information you asked for. You didn't hear me, sir. Something is bothering you and you have to face the Argentine ambassador this afternoon. Sir...I don't want to be presumptuous but...what on earth is bothering you so much that you're not concentrating sufficiently to hear what I'm saying to you?" Mycroft studied her for a moment but she continued before he could open his mouth to explain. "You saw Detective Inspector Lestrade this morning. I can only presume that the problem lies there. Other than that, you haven't had any other appointments or phonecalls and no text messages. You haven't had time to check your emails either. You even scheduled lunch with him, an event which I have to assume is cancelled because I am reliably informed he left at a little before twelve. Banks saw him out. CCTV places him leaving this office looking somewhat angry a few minutes before he left. So...I can only assume something went wrong which has left you rather distracted. Now, in the interests of continued harmony with Argentina, and also making sure your reputation is kept intact, I would be neglecting my duty if I didn't draw this to your attention. I am also offering to help, sir. If I can. So...please, would you tell me what happened?"

Mycroft was momentarily floored by Anthea's outburst. It definitely wasn't like her. Was he really so affected? For her to be so vocal he must have been. The poor girl looked as if she was waiting for a reprimand. "Sir?" Her voice was tentative.

"Anthea," Mycroft said gently. "My apologies. I did indeed have a rather...disappointing interview with the detective inspector. He did not see things my way at all. I..." Mycroft paused. "Things were said that were regretful, on both our parts. He left before we could finish our interview." Anthea put her head on one side and raised an eyebrow. Tell me more, that eyebrow said, but Mycroft was completely sure his problems were not for her ears, Argentina or no Argentina. He had considered, very carefully, all angles of his conversation with Gregory. He had hoped the man would agree to help him, to report to him on Sherlock's health and involvement in cases, on how well he and John were getting on, how their relationship was fairing. Mycroft had thought it not an unreasonable request considering John's hostility the last time he had visited. He had not expected the backlash of Gregory's anger though, his stubborn refusal to do as Mycroft wanted. John's injunction the last time they had met still stung, and while he believed that the doctor was not stupid enough to succumb to the urge to shoot him if he set foot again in Baker Street, he had let himself believe that he was giving them both breathing space. The inescapable fact was that Gregory was correct; Mycroft was forced to admit to himself that he had been hiding behind others, asking them to do his work for him, rather than forcing himself to confront the issues between himself and his sibling. He had been thrown on the defensive when Gregory had confronted him with the truth and had, to his cost, lashed out verbally.

Anthea was obviously still waiting for more details. Mycroft fixed her with a quelling look but it did no good. He rolled his eyes and frowned. "We...disagreed, or rather, he did," Mycroft explained succinctly. "I asked him to do something for me that he found rather...detestable, I fear."

"The detective inspector has quite a high degree of integrity," Anthea observed. She moved to face him and placed the folder of information on the desk. "Sir, may I suggest I reschedule your meeting and cite an unavoidable emergency? I can invite the ambassador to dinner tomorrow night on your behalf. You will then have the afternoon to read the information you asked for, and call the inspector."

"Why would I call him?"

"Oh, I don't know, to apologise?" she suggested, innocently.

Mycroft was nonplussed. "Why would I do that?" This was precisely why he didn't share the details of his personal life with anyone, particularly her.

"Bridges," she said, gently. "You should offer the white flag first, build some bridges, get him back on your side again. You're the diplomat, sir, not me."

"What would be the advantage in such a move? It is tantamount to assuming responsibility, to confessing guilt..."

"It's the noble thing to do, of course. Besides, the detective inspector would appreciate it. You do want him back, don't you?"

"One cannot get something back that one never lost to begin with." Mycroft chose to ignore the veiled meaning behind her words. She was a woman, and as such, even the Snow Queen tended toward the romantic. He knew that was what the rest of his staff called her, but he also knew she could wax poetic and read romances during her break time, admittedly BDSM romances but romances nevertheless.

"No, but one can acquire something that otherwise might slip from one's grasp," she said with an exasperated shrug. Mycroft regarded her for a moment before fixing her with a raised eyebrow. "Go see him?" she suggested.


On arriving back at 221B, John paused as they walked across the road from where Greg had parked his car, suddenly wary. "Hello, I think we have a visitor..."

"Oh? Who?"

John sighed and shook his head. "Judging by the black car outside our door, I'd say the Iceman cometh."

"Iceman? You mean...Mycroft?"

"Yeah. You didn't know that's what all his employees call him? Behind his back, of course. Nobody calls him that to his face. More than anybody's job is worth." John trudged up to the door and let them in. "And judging by the frosty silence, I'd say he's been here a while."

Sure enough, both brothers were sitting opposite each other, facing off in total silence. Sherlock was cradling his violin possessively, using it like a shield. John looked from one to the other and cleared his throat. "Evening, gents. To what do we owe this...invasion, Mycroft? I see you didn't take my warning to heart?" Mycroft's eyebrow twitched as he turned to look at John but nothing else was forthcoming. "Not come to beg forgiveness then? Plead with your brother to forgive you? No, thought not. It's a good job I've had a few tonight. I wouldn't be able to aim straight. So, anybody want tea?"

Hanging back from entering the room, Greg heard Mycroft answer in the affirmative but there was nothing forthcoming from Sherlock. John disappeared into the kitchen and banged around finding the tea things and putting the kettle on whilst obviously trying not to dislodge any experiments on the kitchen table and work surfaces. Greg hovered by the door until Sherlock acerbically commented on his reluctance to join them.

"Do set foot through the door, Lestrade," he said, testily. "You do not have to be invited in before you can cross the threshold."

"Sleep all day, party all night, never grow old, never die...You can't repulse me with garlic either." He could see by the blank look that Sherlock had no idea to what he was referring. "Thanks, Sherlock, but John already invited me. You're a bit late." Greg had seen Mycroft try to cover a sudden head movement as if startled that he was there. Had he not realised that Greg was with John when the doctor had come in? Maybe not. He was sitting with his back to them, facing Sherlock off. Greg turned to the elder Holmes and nodded. "Mycroft. Acting on my recommendation then?"

"I am merely paying my brother a congenial visit..." Mycroft began but was interrupted by his brother who jumped on the suggestion.

"Recommendation? What did you recommend to my brother, Lestrade?" Sherlock's interest was peaked. "A new diet maybe?"

"Sherlock, your brother is not fat, in case you hadn't observed. He's the correct weight for his height, unlike you, you skinny git. You need to listen to John when he says you should eat more and get more sleep..."

"Boring..." Sherlock uttered petulantly.

"It won't be boring when you collapse at a crime scene."

"Pft," Sherlock made a dismissive noise and plucked his violin strings.

"Don't!" Greg snapped. "I'll thank you not to resort to murdering that instrument or I will arrest you for disturbing the peace."

"You wouldn't..."

"Try me," Greg growled, warningly. "I've had one hell of a day and it isn't set to get any better..."

Mycroft listened to the familiar bickering for a short while, surprised that Gregory had actually defended him. During this time John appeared and dispensed tea quietly, navigating carefully between the warring factions with the delicacy of a diplomat, taking care not to get in the firing line, at least until he had delivered the supplies. The tea, when Mycroft sipped it carefully, was perfect; just the way he liked it, sweet enough without being too sweet, not too strong, not too milky. He marvelled at the way the doctor was magnanimous enough to make his tea just the way he liked it, despite the fact Mycroft had ridden rough shod over John's earlier injunction not to visit again until he could manage not to upset everyone. Unless the doctor had spiked it with something unpleasant, maybe? A laxative perhaps, or maybe arsenic. Mycroft followed John with his gaze as the soldier left the war zone, retreating to the kitchen until things had died down a little. Not until Lestrade, in disgust, had backed away and retreated to the kitchen as well, did the doctor emerge, re-entering the arena cautiously. By that point, Mycroft had experienced no ill-effects so he felt it safe to consider that he might have escaped the doctor's wrath.

"So, how was your day, Sherlock? Experiments go alright?" John enquired, pleasantly. For a moment, Sherlock looked perplexed as if he had no idea how to answer, thrown off balance by the question that seemed to have come out of left field. He nodded tentatively and then, seeing that John appeared genuine in his interest, launched off into a detailed explanation of every result he had procured that afternoon. Mycroft watched with something akin to amazement as John soaked it all up, nodding and humming in all the right places, even finding his own questions to ask as Sherlock described everything in detail. Gregory was still curiously absent, however. Mycroft turned his head to see where he had gone, but it seemed he was still in the kitchen, staring out of the window across the back yards.

Once the tea was consumed, Mycroft considered his next move. "That was...pleasant. Thank you, John." Mycroft got up and gestured with his mug. "I shall return this to the kitchen, then I shall take my leave..." He moved before John could offer to take the mug for him and went into the kitchen, seeking the sink. He stopped in the doorway, halted by the sight of the man in front of him. There was tension in the set of Lestrade's back, hands gripping the edge of the sink as if to hold him up. Mycroft moved to the side, unwilling to spook the man, but determined to place his mug in the sink and then leave as fast as propriety would allow. He saw Gregory's head move fractionally as he caught sight of Mycroft, then the man stepped back a little, out of Mycroft's way. That was when Greg's plan hit a problem as his back contacted the table, rattling the glass test tubes, racks and tubing. There was a troubled look in the depths of the dark eyes.

"Do be careful, Lestrade," Sherlock called from the lounge. "Do not disturb my experiments, I spent all day setting those up!"

Greg glanced at Mycroft, who rolled his eyes at his brother's exclamation. Greg sighed, and Mycroft met his eyes, and for a few seconds Greg was treated to a genuine empathic smile before it was replaced with Mycroft's usual emotionless demeanour. Greg felt absurdly disappointed.

"I should be going." Mycroft said gently.

"Me too," Greg admitted.

"Has something...You are alright, Gregory?"

The use of his first name was a surprise. "I'm fine." Damn it all, he knew he had hesitated a fraction too long. Mycroft's eyes narrowed.

"Gregory, I do wish you would confide in me..."

"Why should I, Mycroft? It's my business..."

"So something has happened." Damn. Bloody man, Greg thought. As bad as his bloody brother.

"Oh, for Heaven's sake," came Sherlock's petulant voice. "Lestrade's divorce papers came through, didn't they? Decree nisi probably. It's too soon for the decree absolute. You're free of her, Lestrade. You ought to be pleased. Now, if the two of you would simply admit the truth, you would both be infinitely happier. You, Lestrade, can move on and you, brother dear, might stop it with these clandestine visits to check up on me."

"Sherlock," came John's warning grumble.

"What? I already told you it was blatantly obvious..." Sherlock was ramping up now, oblivious to his audience's sensibilities. "My brother obviously admires and is even attracted to the detective inspector and simply does not possess the subtly or the wherewithal to indicate his interest. You only have to see the way he looks at our dear detective inspector...What?" he demanded. "Lestrade has never labelled himself. Why should he mind? I should think I would be doing them both a favour..."

"Little brother, I am perfectly capable of making my own advances, if I so desired. Gregory here has no interest in me, quite the opposite in fact..."

"Your brother is right." Greg suppressed Sherlock's attempt at matchmaking with a glare. "Give it a rest, Sherlock! I think both of us are more than capable of actually expressing ourselves to each other, if we wanted to, which we don't, so your help is not needed, thank you. Now, I really have to go. Thank you for the tea and the company, John. Sherlock, I'll see you Monday, you still have to give us a statement from yesterday. Mycroft, nice to see you again. Goodnight." Greg made his getaway, exiting out the door and down the steps before anyone could move. He was already pulling his BMW into the traffic as he saw Mycroft in his rear view mirror just coming out of the door of 221B, pausing to glance his way before sliding into the comfort of the large vehicle waiting at the roadside for him.

Greg made it safely home under the radar, both Mycroft's and that of the traffic police. He wasn't over the limit but he knew he was close. It wouldn't look good for him to be pulled over and breathalysed anyway. His key turned in the lock and he stepped in, hanging his coat in the hall and toeing off his shoes before walking into the kitchen for a drink. He filled a glass with a generous measure of his good brandy (a Christmas present from his mum) and collapsed on the sofa, stretching his legs out as he finally relaxed. Flicking the tv on he decided to channel-hop for a half-hour before heading to bed. He needed to unwind after that little encounter.

Chapter 2: Lion's Den

It had been a regrettable meeting that morning. Greg was disgruntled by it sufficiently that it left a sour taste in his mouth and disappointment in his heart. Sherlock was painfully right. Greg actually did like Mycroft; the man's adherence to old-fashioned values, his suave sophistication and elegance, his hair... Mycroft actually had a good sense of humour too, on the very rare occasions when he let it show. Trouble was, Greg had no idea how to bridge the gap between them. He could not simply backtrack and pretend nothing had happened.

A knock on the door made Greg swear. That could only be one person. Not at this hour, he thought. Please? Greg ignored it, turned up the television and settled back into the sofa's comfort. He took a deep pull at his drink and closed his eyes, letting the spirit burn a comfortingly warm path to his stomach. Bloody Holmeses...

Knock. Knock.


"Bollocks!" Greg snapped. Okay, that last one was enough. The man was laying siege to his personal space now. The threat of invasion warred with his desire to see Mycroft again, to talk to him, be with him... Greg put down his glass and stalked into the hall. "Who the fuck is it?" he shouted.

Mycroft heard the shout and wondered if he hadn't pushed things too far. "Gregory? If...if this is a bad time..." The door was flung open and Gregory stood there, all 5'11" of solidly-built intimidating policeman. One swift glance gave Mycroft all the details; bare feet planted securely on the tiles (he has such nice feet, not too large, nice toes...), shirt sleeves rolled to his elbows, arms folded (such pleasantly strong arms), shirt neck open (dark hair on his chest enticingly peeking through). "I am sorry to have intruded," Mycroft said, dragging his attention back to the matter in hand and carefully not meeting Greg's eyes. "I can return at a more congenial hour. It was...remiss of me..." Mycroft risked a quick look up and for a moment Gregory regarded him with a frown, then he seemed to deflate, shoulders slumping a little in defeat.

"Oh, come in, you're here now," he growled, then he turned and walked away down the hall. "Close the door behind you," he called over his shoulder. "Give it a hard tug, it's on a bitch of a latch." He missed the glance Mycroft cast behind him and disappeared, not waiting to see if he was being followed. He threw himself down on the sofa again and grabbed his brandy. He heard the door snap shut and wondered if Mycroft had actually gone, but then he finally appeared, standing in the door as if he didn't know what to do with himself.

"I hope that my brother's misguided attempts at matchmaking did not offend you," Mycroft said carefully.

"Nope, it would take more than that to rile me. I'm used to him. Besides, he's partly right, isn't he?"

"Is he?" Mycroft's voice had taken on a slightly strangled tone, although he covered it well.

"Well, I mean..." Greg turned and fixed Mycroft with a look of his own. Sherlock wasn't the only one who could cast a particular look at people. "I haven't ever labelled myself, he's right about that. What I get up to behind closed doors is of no concern to anybody, as long as I don't compromise my work, my reputation or my self esteem. Just because I was married to a woman doesn't mean I don't like men."

"I...understand that..."

"Well? Was he right about the rest?" There was an uncomfortable silence. "Look, Mycroft, I have no idea why you are here, but you obviously have a reason and it was probably because of what your brother said back there. Now if I'm mistaken, then I apologise but you know I am not going to change my mind about spying on him for you, so what was your intention in coming here? If you have something to say, then spill. Otherwise, I would quite like to get to bed. I've had a long..and trying...day and it's late."

"Gregory, I..." Mycroft's voice died. Then his mouth moved but no sound came out. He shut it with a snap, frustrated. Swallowing past a sudden dryness of the throat, Mycroft tried to make himself understood. "Was Sherlock right? Have your divorce papers come through?"

Greg nodded grimly. "This morning. Decree nisi, as he said."

"I am sorry." There was a pause. "Truly," Mycroft added. "You did not need my antagonism on top of that." Seconds passed that felt like hours.

"Pardon me?" Greg leant forward. "Did I actually hear that right? You're apologising?" Greg asked slowly. "You? Mycroft Holmes? Apologising? Well, fuck me, Hell has frozen over."

"I am not entirely without sensibilities," Mycroft snapped back, stung. The look Gregory gave him was unreadable. "I...do not find...sentiment either familiar or navigable. I have rarely felt the need to apologise, for anything. Every move I make is calculated for the maximum probability of success. I do not take risks unless they are assessed and adjusted, I seldom regret anything. However..." Mycroft shifted uncomfortably. "With regard to your good self, I regretted...behaving as I did. It was unconscionable of me to irk you in such an underhanded fashion, especially not on top of something that was obviously traumatic for you. I had neither reason nor justification, Gregory. Please...forgive me. I...you do not realise what effect you have upon me."

Greg realised he was sitting with his mouth agape and he shut it with a snap. He could not believe he was listening to Mycroft Holmes attempting to apologise and explain himself. "I will not ask you to watch Sherlock for me again," Mycroft continued. "You are correct. I should shoulder the responsibility and man up, as you like to say..."


"No, Gregory, let me finish and then I shall leave you alone. The plain fact is that Sherlock does not respond well to me, unfortunately, but perhaps I should make more effort. As you so rightly pointed out, he also has the good Doctor Watson at his side now, so I should perhaps feel a little more at ease." Mycroft took a breath and launched into another observation before Greg could respond. "As to the rest, yes, Sherlock was right. I do admire you, Gregory Lestrade. You do a sterling job and you have saved my brother from himself more than once, for which I am eternally grateful. You will probably never know how thankful I am for that, but my observations of you indicate that you are a proud man who possesses a high degree of integrity and nothing I could offer would be an acceptable form of repayment because you are merely doing your job..." Mycroft sighed softly and smiled a little stiffly. "Sherlock does have friends, I was wrong about that. You are a good friend, Gregory. I hope you continue to be so, despite Sherlock's lack of finesse and tact in certain circumstances. So...unless dinner would be an acceptable form of remuneration, then I will not insult you nor demean either of us by offering more. I mean it, though, Gregory. I am sorry." Mycroft tried to smile. "I shall bid you goodnight, Detective Inspector."

So Mycroft reverted to the formal address, putting distance between them again. The sea change was so unexpected Greg simply sat there, belated realising he was in danger of missing the moment. Greg launched himself off the sofa, hurrying down the hall after his guest. For once he found himself blessing his troublesome front door latch. If it hadn't proved to be such a bitch, Greg might have been too late but Mycroft had his hand on it and was struggling a little. Greg reached over, his hand covering Mycroft's own and preventing his leaving. Their eyes met again, Mycroft's searching, Greg's open and unguarded. "Okay," Greg found himself saying.

Mycroft's frown deepened. "Okay?" The word sounded wrong coming from a Holmes, particularly this Holmes. "To what do you refer?" Mycroft asked carefully.

"I'm accepting your offer. You suggested dinner as a means of...remuneration, and I am saying yes. So, how about it?"

To his credit, Mycroft manfully repressed the urge to blurt out an unguarded acceptance. He nodded instead. "I shall be in touch then," he said gently. "Goodnight, Gregory. Sleep well."

After a moment's pause, Greg obligingly tackled the latch himself, opening the door and releasing his guest who exited silently. Closing the door quietly behind Mycroft's departing back, Greg leaned his head against the wood and allowed himself a small smile.


It was a week before Mycroft contacted Greg again. Greg was sitting in on a meeting with his DCI and two other DIs and by the looks on the collective faces everyone was finding it intensely boring. The bing of his text therefore had him fishing his phone out to check the sender before giving the content a quick read.

Friday 15th, Scott's. 7.30 for 8. I shall send a car. MH

Scott's? Greg frowned. He might have known Mycroft would aim high. Greg wasn't even sure he had a suit for the occasion that wouldn't make him look like a poor relation.

"Are we keeping you?" The DCI looked a bit irritated.

"No, sir. Sorry. Text, sir. Mycroft Holmes..."

"Mycroft Holmes? The interdepartmental liaison for the Home Office? What's he doing texting you?" The implication was that Greg was not high enough up the ladder to warrant Mycroft's notice, let alone a text of all things.

"Met him in the lift a few days ago, sir. I'm acquainted with his younger brother and he was asking how Sherlock was getting on as one of our consultants."

"What did you tell him? I hope you were singing his praises."

"Of course, sir. He's actually getting on quite well really. Nothing to be concerned about."

"That's not what I heard. Make sure you are seen to be cooperating fully, Lestrade. Understood?"

If only you knew, Greg thought. "Certainly, sir. The elder Mr Holmes has so far been nothing but complementary."

"Good. For the loveof God, keep it that way. And do your best to rein in our consultant, won't you? We don't want any incidents."

Greg nodded and smiled, thumbing a reply.

Acceptable, pending work commitments of course. Look forward to it. GL


Greg saw him three times over the course of the next ten days and Greg was fairly sure Mycroft had done it deliberately. After all, the crime scenes he turned up at could not all be on his way home, they were situated too far apart geographically for that to be true, despite not knowing where the man lived. Sherlock had said he had an apartment somewhere in Belgravia but greg didn't know where. Maybe Mycroft was monitoring him on cctv, although that seemed unlikely. Unless he had one of his minions monitoring him on cctv. Sherlock might also have sent a helpful text to his big brother. The third time the car appeared, Greg was surprised. They were in the docklands, near the river, in a dismally lit, wet and cold back alleyway. It was not the sort of place for a black limo to turn up.

The dark car slid alongside the kerb, drew level and whispered to a stop. Greg couldn't even tell whether the driver had switched the engine off. He watched the man get out and open the back door. Mycroft stepped into the early evening cold and drew his coat about his shoulders with an air of distaste. Sherlock finished his declarations and stamped over to talk to his brother, leaving John and Greg staring at the body.

"Really?" Greg said, looking down with a frown. "No ID and he can still tell from her coat that she's a sales rep from Newcastle?"

John smiled. "Doubtless, Sherlock's got his reasons."

"He always does but I wish he'd bloody share them with me. "

"My brother has his own methods, as you know. Doubtless he will make you a full statement," Mycroft said, having walked up behind them. Sherlock was hovering in the background. "Inspector," Mycroft said. "I should like a moment of your time, if you please."

Greg looked at him and frowned. "What, now? We're in the middle of a crime scene, Mr Holmes. I'm working..."

"I am aware. This is...important. I do need to speak with you. Please?" He indicated the car and with a glare, Greg gave up and went to sit inside. The comfort and warmth were welcome though, however short a time he would be experiencing them. Mycroft followed him inside and once the door was closed, swivelled to face him. "Gregory," he said, softly. "I do not want you to think I am avoiding you, or ignoring you, but...I am leaving the country for an indefinite period of time."

"Leaving...? You mean, going for good?"

"Not at all," Mycroft was prompted to reassure the man. "England remains my home. However, I am taking a leave of absence, a sabatical if you will, to America to act as consultant for my counterparts over there. I will be incommunicado for a while, unable to answer my texts or my voicemail. I do hope you understand."

Greg weighed Mycroft's words, reading between the lines. "This is dangerous, isn't it?" he said, his voice flat.

Mycroft lifted his chin a little and put his head slightly on one side. "Danger is relative."

"So that's a yes then."

"I'm afraid so. During my time there, you should direct any queries through Sherlock. He does know how to communicate with me, should the need arise."

"So what are we looking at, weeks? Months?"

"Does it matter?"

Greg opened his mouth and closed it again. After all, they did not have anything that could remotely be called a relationship. Yet... "Yes, it does. I've grown to look forward to our disagreements," he said.

Mycroft gave him an odd look and nodded. "Myself included," he admitted. "While I am gone... I trust you will look after yourself, Inspector?"

"You can bet on that," Greg said with a smile. "You do the same, okay?" Mycroft nodded his agreement. "So this is what was so important?" Again the nod. Greg grinned. "Well, thanks for letting me know. Sorry we'll miss that dinner."

"That is why I wanted to talk to you. I thought it would be a little remiss of me if I left without paying my debts. Would dinner be acceptable tomorrow night instead?"


The following afternoon, terrorists hit London again. The calls came through for all available staff to be on standby an hour before Greg's shift ended. At first everyone thought it was a repeat of 7/7, and everybody was on standby, the minutes ticking by, all available televisions on to receive the breaking news. It was an attack, apparently, on one of the embassies where several MPs and diplomats had been meeting in secret. Four guards were dead, two people wounded, one critically. One corner of the building—a solid mid-Victorian mansion—had been demolished by bomb damage. CO19 and the SAS had been mobilised but by the time they had arrived, MI6 operatives on the ground had successfully suppressed the threat and handed over to the SAS to clean up and secure the site. Of course, the public were told it was a terrorist attack on one of the diplomats and it had been thwarted by the police. The Anti-terrorist department were all over it so nobody else was needed and Greg finally got to leave two hours late.

My deepest apologies. I have been unavoidably detained. I shall not be able to make our appointment. Anthea will call to reschedule. MH

Greg stared at the text resentfully. Bugger it. It looked as if the events had caught Mycroft up in them. No doubt he was required to smoothe the way considering the attack had happened on British soil. Ah well, probably better out of it. It was a stupid idea, thinking they might have something between them. They were poles apart and in any case Mycroft would be gone to the US in a few days. Greg knew he might not even get to see him before he left. Although, he had been looking forward to being taken out for a meal, especially to a swanky restaurant like Scott's. Greg picked his coat off the back of his office door and left quietly. He was late and badly in need of a drink. He considered texting John again but his phone binged again as he waited for the lift. Fishing the phone out of his pocket, Greg peered at the screen and nearly dropped it.

Meet us at Barts. Mycroft admitted to hospital. SH

Chapter 3: What about us?

Hospital? What the...? Greg dashed out of the lift on street level and hailed a cab, thoughts in a turmoil. It took forever to reach Barts—there were diversions due to the attack—during which time he fired off three texts to Mycroft, none of which received an answer. When he arrived he used his ID to discover Mycroft's whereabouts and managed to find the surgical wards without going wrong once. Sherlock and John were in the waiting room when he got there. Two black-suited men turned to look at him, regarding him coolly as he approached. One held a hand up to stop him but Greg waved his ID and Sherlock's shout of "Let him through, he's with me," made the man nod and stand back.

"What the fuck, Sherlock? What happened? How is he?" Greg demanded.

"He's in surgery at the moment," John volunteered while Sherlock turned emotionless eyes on Greg, a frown drawing his brows together. He left it to John to explain. "It appears Mycroft's car was ambushed."

"Ambushed? Bloody Hell, he was caught in that attack this afternoon? What happened?"

"Terrorists. He was leaving some important diplomatic meeting or other, they targeted his car. His security think they were after one of the ambassadors, not Mycroft. The driver was killed..."

"What about Myc'?"

"One bullet grazed his shoulder, one went through his right upper arm. He was bloody lucky really. He has some good men on his team. All the terrorists were either killed or captured, they got the whole sorry tale out of one of the survivors."

"How is he then? Any news?"

"Not yet. We're playing the waiting game." John went over and sat down, easing himself into one of the horrible plastic chairs.

"Sherlock?" Greg said. "You okay?"

"Caring is not an advantage, Lestrade," he murmured. "I find that I do, however, care..."

Greg hid his own worry, clapped a hand on Sherlock's arm and nodded. "Yeah, I know. Bit of a bugger, isn't it? Welcome to my world, mate. You're human after all. Join the club." He went over and sat down beside John. "You want me to go hunt for coffee? I know they make God-awful stuff here but it's probably better than nothing."

"Fetch me tea then," John said. "I was in the army, I can drink just about anything short of battery acid."

Greg grinned and looked across at Sherlock who was now staring out of the small window. "Oi, Sherlock, you want tea?"

"If you mean the pitiful excuse for what passes for such a beverage then...yes, alright, just don't forget the sugar. Four or it won't be palatable."

"Sherlock, you usually only have three," John protested.

"Yes, John, but this is an exceptional circumstance, as I am sure you should agree. Hospital tea is not for the faint hearted."

"I don't mind it, as a rule."

"Yes, John, but you are a doctor and by now, you should be immune to such things." John grinned and chuckled his agreement.

Greg returned with three cups of a moderately hot, moderately palatable drink that the café lady had assured him was tea. It resembled the stuff in the stories his Gran had told him about the NAAFI during WWII, tea so dark and strong it could probably have been enough to strip paint but it was wet and warm and sugary and right then, Greg didn't care. He was tired, work-rumpled and hungry, worried—actually worried—about Mycroft and he was damned if he would sit there, twiddling his thumbs in awkward silence on an uncomfortable plastic chair in a generically bland NHS waiting room with only dog-eared copies of Hello magazine to read.

As he came back, he saw a doctor chatting to Sherlock and John, obviously outlining Mycroft's condition. He paused, waiting respectfully at a distance. John saw him and came over, taking his tea and simultaneously bringing him into the conversation. The doctor looked curious and Sherlock said "Detective Inspector Lestrade. He's fine, Greg, probably being allowed home tomorrow."

"So soon? Can we see him?" Greg asked.

"Yes, but I don't advise questioning him tonight..." the doctor said.

"No, of course not. That's not why I'm here," Greg said, quickly. "I'm not here in a professional capacity. I'm here as his...well, his friend," he admitted.

"Just take us to him. Please," Sherlock tacked on as an afterthought. The doctor looked at them with an assessing stare.

"It's okay, I'll stay here," John volunteered. "You don't want too many people around the bedside," he said and the doctor looked relieved.

"Follow me then," the doctor said and set off. When Sherlock didn't move, Greg grabbed the detective's arm and pulled him out of the room.

Mycroft's eyes were closed when they arrived. His arm was heavily bandaged and supported in a sling across his chest. He looked pale. An IV drip was secured in his other arm, and he was either faking sleep or simply still under the effects of the anesthetic. The doctor left them with the admonition not to tire or distress his patient.

"If anyone does any upsetting, it will be my brother," Sherlock declared.

"Do lower your voice, brother dear," said the bored voice from the bed. Mycroft sounded weary, strengthless. "Gregory? What on earth are you doing here? Did Anthea not text you?"

"I got a text from you," Greg said. "Then your brother sent me one saying you were here, so I came right over. How do you feel?"

"I have felt...better," he admitted.

"You were lucky," Greg said. "What happened...sounded horrendous." For a brief moment, Mycroft's eyes met his and Greg knew he was far from alright. Underneath the rigid emotional armour Mycroft habitually assumed, beneath the facade of calm assurance, there was a shaken, hurt and terribly lonely man. Well, nobody was going to be left alone if Greg could help it. "Look, why don't I come stay with you for a few days?" he offered, completely on impulse.

Mycroft stared at him, a look on his face that was impossible to read. "Stay with me? Why on earth would you do that?"

"Yeah, you know? Anthea is okay but she doesn't strike me as the sort of girl who is used to looking after anybody. I've been there, done that. I can fetch and carry, make dinner, that kind of thing. Keep you company, make you cups of tea? Try me?" He grinned, then plonked himself in the only seat in the room, pulling it close to the bed. "I've nothing to stop me, nobody at home, as well you know. In fact, you could come home with me, if you liked. Change of scene? You never know, might do you good."

"I shall secure professional nursing staff to look after my needs, I already have staff to care for me at home." He noted the disappointed look in Gregory's eyes. "Gregory, I couldn't possibly..."

"Yes, you could, Greg insisted. "Islington isn't Belgravia but it's comfortable. What do you say? I've got all mod cons you know; television, internet, radio. My toilet is even inside the house."

Mycroft paused as the words sank in and then smiled, despite himself. "Gregory, you surely do not need to worry on my account. I would be in your way..."

"I'm not and you wouldn't. Well, I won't need to worry if you agree, will I?"

Mycroft mustered a dramatic sigh. "You are worse than my brother," he said, but there was something in his voice that sounded suspiciously like relief.

So, twenty four hours later, Greg guided Mycroft Holmes into the big Victorian terrace he still called home. He hung up his coat and toed off his shoes and turned to help Mycroft get his coat off. He hesitated before hanging it up. That coat was likely worth more than his car. It would probably not appreciate being hung up in the hall. Mycroft voiced no objection when Greg finally hung the coat so Greg figured it must be alright, at least for now. Either that or Mycroft was too tired to care. Greg helped Mycroft down the hall and installed him in a comfortable chair in the living area. The kitchen was separated by an archway from the main living space, so Greg could see his visitor as he went into the kitchen to brew them some proper tea.

"You okay?" he asked. He saw Mycroft's nod. "I'll make us tea and then take you up to bed. The doctor at the hospital said you needed rest and plenty of it. Is that acceptable?" Again the nod. Greg went back into the living area and stood in front of his guest. "Mycroft? It's alright to talk, you know. What's wrong?"

"Nothing, I'm merely tired."

"You're a crap liar when you're tired, you know."

"I am not lying, Gregory. I am tired."


"There is no and."

"As I said, crap liar." Greg went back into the kitchen and proceeded to make them two mugs of tea, one with sugar, one without. "So," he said, conversationally, coming back into the living room, "What's it to be? Thumb screws? A whip? The rack?"

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"Torture, of course. How else am I going to find out what's wrong with you?" Greg sat down facing his guest and fixed him with a stern look. "Your turn, Mycroft. I would like you to confide in me. Talk to me, express how you're feeling before it all gets too much and you try to top yourself."

Mycroft managed a weak laugh. "Top myself? I assure you, nothing was further from my mind. Besides...is that not physically impossible?"

"Liar, crap..." Greg said, then grinned. "And that was a truly terrible joke, for which I will punish you. Now, quit it with the lying, okay?"

"I am not lying," Mycroft replied testily.

"No, of course you're not. You're merely omitting the truth, Mr Holmes. Ah, don't worry. I'm not about to force it out of you at gunpoint. You need rest. Come on." He stood up and helped Mycroft to his feet, then took Mycroft's good arm by the elbow, managing to carry both mugs in his other hand, fingers looped through both handles at once. They made it up to the bedroom, but Mycroft was flagging by the time they were through the guest room door. He sank gratefully down on the bed and allowed Greg to put the mugs down and then help him off with his clothes. Greg was careful and gentle, easing things off slowly and efficiently, making sure he was comfortable every inch of the way.

"You don't have to do this, Gregory," Mycroft said softly."You are not part of my staff..."

"I know."

"Really, this is..."

"Never mind what it is. It's what friends do, Mycroft."

"I don't have any."

The bald statement made Greg pause. "Beg your pardon? What do you mean, you don't have any?"

"I do not make friends, Gregory. I have staff, not friends."

"That is impossible. There is no way that you don't have any friends...Really? Seriously?"

"Yes," Mycroft nodded. "Friends are a liability, and a commodity sadly lacking in my life. I neglect them, forget them and treat them rather rudely and not how they deserve to be treated. So I tend to lose them, quite frequently. If, indeed, I have them in the first place."

"Careless of you." Greg finished the business of undressing with the man's shirt. As it slid off his back, Greg stared, then a smile blossomed across his lips. "Are those...freckles?" Greg grinned, and absurdly, Mycroft blushed.

Warm gentle fingers brushed across Mycroft's skin at the back of his neck, moving down his spine. Mycroft shivered at the touch. He was unprepared for how good it felt. "Alas, I am afraid they are," he admitted. "I was born with ginger hair and fair skin, so naturally I freckle." He sighed a little dramatically and looked down at the covers.

Greg smiled. There was a dusting of freckles across the pale shoulders and a light line of ginger brown hair across his chest which lead down his stomach to disappear under the band of his underwear. Mycroft wore neat white cotton shorts, the soft fabric hugging his arse nicely in Greg's opinion. For both their sakes, Greg didn't insist he take them off and Mycroft didn't ask him for help to do so. Greg assisted him into the nattily striped cotton pyjamas that one of his minions had fetched from Mycroft's flat and once he was thus attired, Greg held the covers for him to swing his legs up and into bed but Mycroft shook his head. "I need...the bathroom, please."

"Now? You don't want to rest first?" To Greg's eyes the man looked about ready to collapse.

"I need the bathroom. Please, Gregory."

"Okay then, come on." Greg helped Mycroft to stand and assisted him to walk across to the ensuite. "You...um...you need any help with...you know?"

"No, Gregory, I am not that incapacitated. If I get into difficulties I shall call."

Greg nodded and left him to it, partially closing the door for privacy. Eventually he heard the toilet flush and the tap turn on.


"I'm here. What do you need?"

"Just your shoulder to lean on. I managed my ablutions successfully, but I admit to having reached my limits."

Greg smiled and took Mycroft's weight against him and lead him gently back into the bedroom. The man lay back against the pillows with a sigh of relief. Greg positioned another cushion at an angle beneath the elbow of his bandaged arm to support it and then tugged the duvet up. "You should take some more pain meds," he suggested. "You'll get a better night's sleep then."

Mycroft nodded. "If you would be so kind, they're in my bag," he said. Greg fetched them, with a glass of water, and pried them out of their foil, handing the required dose to his patient. Mycroft swallowed them without complaint and settled back.

"You want I should stay? Until you drop off..." Greg suggested, but Mycroft shook his head.

"I have monopolized your time severely already, Gregory. Please, I will be fine now. Get some rest."

"Goodnight then," Greg said, and let himself out of the room.


Two am slid past and Greg rolled over, wondering what had woken him. He lay and listened to the night noises; the distant rumble of traffic, the creaks of the house settling, wind in the trees outside his window. A dog barked and someone shouted at it to be quiet, then there was silence again. There it was, a distinct moan. Moments after, another followed it. Greg got up and grabbed his dressing gown, padding across the landing to the guest room. He opened the door softly to see Mycroft caught in a nightmare, thrashing about under his covers. Greg wondered what he should do. If he woke Mycroft, doubtless the man would apologise, insist on going home or at the very least he would refuse to admit that there was anything wrong and bottle it up. So...

Greg carefully peeled back the covers on Mycroft's uninjured side, shed his dressing gown and sat on the bed's edge, swung his legs up carefully and lay down beside Mycroft. He pulled up the covers, slung an arm across the injured man and pulled him close, murmuring soft soothing nonsense and stroking his stomach gently. Eventually the thrashing and moaning ceased and Mycroft stilled, subsiding into sleep again. Greg was far from sleep right at that moment though. Mycroft's warm body against his had wakened something dormant, something lusty and unfulfilled. He pressed close and felt the soft rush of warmth through his body as he thrilled with the closeness, the contact. God, how he had missed simply being close to someone else. Mycroft nuzzled, actually nuzzled closer to him and sighed softly; contented, safe and soothed. Greg closed his eyes and willed himself to relax, enjoying the feelings and the moment.


Light crept beneath the curtains, waking Greg with a sudden jolt. Damn, he hadn't meant to stay so long. He had intended only to make sure Mycroft settled again. He opened his eyes to see the solid form of the elder Holmes slumbering peacefully beside him. He was on his back but comfortable, injured arm still in place in the sling. Greg felt slightly bent out of shape, but content. Mycroft needed his sleep and Greg had managed to make sure he got it. He slid out of bed before Mycroft could wake and made for the door but there was a movement behind him and a snuffle and Mycroft woke, obviously distressed, his blue eyes focusing on Greg standing feet away from him. Immediately Greg dashed back, grabbing his hand and holding on, anything to ease the vulnerability in Mycroft's eyes.

Mycroft regarded their joined hands for a moment, then smiled, a little shakily, his fingers moving to grip Greg's gently. "It's alright, Mycroft," Greg volunteered. "You're safe, you're in bed, in my house, with me..." No, that did not come out as planned, Greg mentally slapped himself. "I meant...you're in my bed..." No, fuck it, that turned out wrong too!

"Gregory, do not fret yourself." Mycroft's voice was tired, but calm, even amused. "I do understand and...thank you, for your care, for...everything."

Greg sat on the bed and regarded Mycroft with concern. "How are you this morning?"

"In one piece, I believe. Did I...disturb you, during the night? Were you watching me?"

"Well, technically, no. I was asleep..." Greg said, chagrined.

"So you did watch me?"

"Sort of..." Greg admitted and Mycroft arched an eyebrow eloquently, obviously requiring clarification. "I was in bed...with you. I fell asleep though," Greg confessed softly. "I heard you moaning, you see. You woke me up so...well, I came to see if you were alright and...well, you were having a nightmare and thrashing around and I didn't want to wake you, so I...I got into bed with you, and held you...Sorry," Greg said, blushing slightly.

"My dear Gregory, there is no need to be sorry," Mycroft said. "I am touched that you cared enough about me to want to help. I am sorry if I taxed you when you were already tired. I had no desire to do so. In fact I did try to simply put you off, getting Anthea to text you. I thought it would work but my dear brother had to throw a spanner in the works."

"Well, I'm glad he did," Greg said firmly. "I would have been upset if you hadn't told me. You were nearly killed..." Greg sighed, and stared at the floor. "I want you to know...I would have taken that hard...if you had been..."

"Gregory, we barely know each other."

"Mycroft, you're a feature of my life, regardless of how well we know each other. Besides, your brother seems to think we like each other. Can't disappoint the kid, now can we?" Greg smiled and Mycroft, he was pleased to see, gave a wan smile at his witticism.

"Sherlock is hardly a child...although he always seems to act like one." Mycroft sighed and tried to relax. The bed was warm and in truth he had no energy to get up, never mind object to his situation. Although, Gregory should not be inconvenienced by his presence. Mycroft was about to open his mouth and say something but Gregory beat him to it.

"Yeah, well, that's younger brothers for you. His heart is in the right place, even if he struggles to understand people." Greg regarded his guest with a smile. "Look, you can stay as long as you need to, Mycroft. There's nobody here to object. I'm at work tomorrow but then I'll be off until Monday so you'll have me for the weekend. Maybe by then you'll be well enough to go home, but I don't want you to feel you have to go. I like the company, believe me. Look, you had a disturbed night so get some more rest. I'm going to go make breakfast."

When Greg got back with the tray, Mycroft was in the bathroom. Greg set the breakfast things down and sat on the bed, waiting patiently. He refrained from asking if the man needed help, knowing that he would prefer privacy. It was one thing helping him undress but another invading his ablutions. Presently, Mycroft appeared at the door looking a little grey and Greg jumped up and carefully guided him back to the bed. "I would make a crack about you looking like fifty shades of grey here but it might not be appreciated."

Mycroft actually chuckled. "Really, Gregory, I had expected better of you. I look more like Dracula than Christian Grey right now."

"Mycroft, please don't tell me you actually read it?"

Mycroft looked at him oddly. "Thankfully, no. Anthea was reading it. She happened to abandon it one day and I leafed through it out of curiosity. One does have to keep abreast of current trends, after all. Ignorance is no excuse even though that book was certainly not to my taste. I merely wished to see what had captivated all the ladies at the department and caused it to be such a best seller."

"Hm, well, I could have told you that. Lots of kinky sex and a good looking bloke involved." Mycroft nodded, although he looked slightly pained. "Not into the whips and restraints yourself then?"

"Alas, no. Although I am reliably informed it can be liberating to give over control to somebody else, I doubt I could sufficiently surrender my trust."

"Well, the wife was never that adventurous and I've never felt the need. I like my sex uncomplicated." Greg directed one of those suggestive grins at him again and, despite his exhaustion, Mycroft's body seemed to respond to Gregory's lascivious smile of its own free will. He shivered, then sighed and closed his eyes. "Mycroft?" The voice was soft. "Myc'?" Mycroft opened his eyes and stared at Gregory who was looking at him with concern. "You okay?"

"Yes, thank you. I am...fine. Really, just a little tired."

"You should eat something. Then you need to take more pain meds and your antibiotics. After that you can rest again."

"Thank you, yes." Mycroft was aware that Gregory watched him as he ate, sitting unobtrusively nearby, reading his paper and flicking glances at him the while. Eventually Mycroft finished and regarded Gregory with a watchful glance.

"What?" Greg asked.

"Nothing. I was merely considering my situation."

"What situation? America?"

"Among other things, yes. That shall have to be postponed, indefinitely. I was also thinking of...other things though. Things of a more pleasant nature, I assure you, Gregory."

"Oh. That's...good, then. Fine."

"I find it feels good to be cared for, to be looked after by someone who wants to do so."

"You told me you have people who can look after you."

"I have plenty of people competent enough to administer to my needs but no one who does so out of...out of a desire to look after me. I have nobody who would care for me for friendship's sake."

"Well, I care about you..."

"How can you though, Gregory? We really do not know each other."

"I know enough. Besides, that isn't the point. You're in need of being looked after and I'm happy to do so, so where's the problem?"

"None, I suppose. Although I am imposing on your good nature."

"You can stop that as well. You cannot be imposing if I invited you. It's an impossibility. Shut up and eat your cereal."

"Yes, sir."

"Oi, watch it," Greg warned. "Flippancy also loses you brownie points."

"I was unaware I had any to lose."

"Of course you do. You got some for coming home with me, allowing me to help you. You have massive amounts for apologizing to me. You even got some for doing as you're told."

"To what use does one put brownie points? I was never in the Brownies, as far as I recall."

"One can use them for lots of things. You can redeem them for privileges, like being the first to use the bathroom in the morning or getting me to make you a cuppa." Greg was smiling at him, gently teasing. Mycroft nodded warily, unused as he was to such an interaction. "On the other hand," Greg was saying, "I get some for looking after you, for making you tea, probably humungous amounts for forgiving you."

"How much can one ask for?"

"That would depend."

"On what?"

"On the nature of the favour. So, care to elucidate?"

"You are beginning to sound like me," Mycroft observed.

"Don't you have anything in mind you'd like to ask for?" Mycroft was thrown. He had nothing he could immediately think of, despite a small nagging voice in his head which would like to suggest something highly inappropriate.

"I have to admit defeat," he said softly. "I cannot think of anything I require of you...Nothing comes to mind that you are not doing already for me." Mycroft raised his eyes and looked into the soft brown gaze that stared back. "What about...about you, Gregory? Is there...?" Mycroft paused, a nervous thrill running through him. "Is there anything you wish to request of me?" Greg's eyebrows rose and his mouth curved up in a cheeky smile. If there was one thing Mycroft loved about his Gregory, it was that smile. It lit his face, made him more handsome than ever. It was a smile that could melt Mycroft Holmes' resistance like a blowtorch on ice.

"Let me see?" Greg was thinking. "I think...yes, there is something..." He leaned forward and Mycroft's breath hitched. "How about a kiss..." The silence is deafening, Greg thought regretfully. Not altogether unexpected, however. Maybe it was too much too soon but Mycroft had relaxed around him, his demeanour affable and even affectionate. He watched Mycroft's eyes slide shut. He waited for the rebuff, the inevitable rejection.

Mycroft's exhale was not a sigh, absolutely not, it was merely an expelling of his breath a little too hard. Gregory's request, while not altogether unexpected, was still enough to knock him off balance. He was not, after all, the kind of man who many would consider when choosing a mate. He was not safe, nor was he a simple man. He might be erudite, charming, elegant and suave but when it came to a relationship, he foundered among the rocks of his inexperience. He was intimidating and disinclined to encourage fraternisation. In short, he was difficult to understand, never mind get to know. Mycroft had never considered himself ahead in the looks department either. His nose was too long, and while kind folk might term it aristocratic, those who were distinctly not kind would refer to it as a beak. His hair was ginger, his skin fair to the point of pallor and he was covered in freckles, and while he had to work at maintaining the optimum weight—he tended to fat if he was neglectful which was one of Sherlock's favourite barbs—Mycroft was still slightly heavy, despite the tall frame which hid it well.

"I'll take that as a no then," Greg ventured, when the silence and the closed eyes continued for longer than was strictly necessary. Mycroft's eyes—a gorgeous shade of blue, Greg found himself realising—immediately flew open and fixed on Greg's with an unreadable expression.

"No," he replied a little too quickly. "I...that is to say...I did not mean to discourage you, Gregory. It would be...acceptable. Honestly."

"You sure?"

Mycroft nodded and his eyes slid shut again in anticipation. When Mycroft felt the gentle pressure on his lips, his eyes flew open in surprise, despite knowing it was coming. Greg was just withdrawing, a thoughtful smile in place. His eyes were warm and sincere, there was no hint of repulsion or doubt in them, just a lively curiosity.

"How was that?" Greg asked, curiosity evident in his tone.

"It...was..." Emboldened by Gregory's obvious enjoyment of such a simple act, Mycroft decided he could take a small risk. "I must confess..." he lifted his head, his chin jutting a little, issuing his own small challenge. "I found it a little brief...I can hardly form an accurate opinion based on such terse data..."

"How about this then?" Greg leaned in and pressed their lips together again. This time he swiped his tongue across Mycroft's lips, tasting. A small gasp met his touch and then Mycroft was kissing back, almost desperately. Greg responded to the eagerness with a desperation of his own as though his own personal dam had just burst its banks.

Hands came up to cradle Mycroft's face, warm hands that felt so good on his skin. He moaned softly into Gregory's mouth. The detective inspector pulled away gently and Mycroft's eyes opened, seeking the reason why he had broken contact. Gregory's smile was triumphant and he stroked a thumb along Mycroft's jawline.

"That was... interesting," Greg admitted. "However, you need rest. I'll be downstairs if you need me, just shout."

Mycroft watched him leave, frustration bubbling just below the surface. How dare the man ignite the flame and then just walk away! Damn him, his Gregory was an impudent tease. He must have driven his teachers mad at school. Mycroft tried to relax, despite the insistent ache that the kiss had inflamed. The door opened again and Gregory stuck his head back around the wood. "And if you're very good, you can use those brownie points for another kiss later?"

"Gregory, would you...stay the night again? I find I am much soothed by your company. I would not want to disturb your sleep again and...having you near..."

"I hear you," Greg replied. "Maybe you'd like to sleep with me tonight? My bed is bigger," he offered. "Not to mention more comfortable, of course." Oh but there was promise in those words.

"Of course," Mycroft echoed. "Thank you, Gregory. I find I am much in your debt..."

"Nah, this is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship, mate," Greg replied. "Now, Mr British Government, do as you're told. Earn those brownie points."

"Yes, sir." Closing his eyes, Mycroft dozed off, lulled by the warm words and the sensation of lips against his own that he could still feel if he concentrated hard enough. 

Chapter 4: Declaration of Intent

The morning dawned bright and cold. Mycroft realised in frustration that he had slept through any involvement Gregory might have had with his rest. He was also absent from the bed although there was a rumpled bit where he must have slept. The door opened and Greg poked his head in and smiled. Mycroft stared sleepily up at him. "Morning. Got to get to work. How are you?"

"Did you sleep with me, last night? I fear I missed my chance to move into your bed..."

"By the time I got back you were dead to the world so I left you to it. You must have needed it, you didn't wake up all night. I've let your PA in, Anthea, or Athena, or whatever her name is today..."

"Anastasia today, sir," she said, sweeping past him. "The morning papers, sir." She laid them on the bed.

"Oi, Annie, get him his tea and his pain meds, luv," Greg ordered. "I won't be pleased with you if I find you've not been paying proper attention to his needs. Don't work him too hard either. He needs rest. The fridge is stocked, you can find food for the both of you in there. There's Earl Grey in the cupboard above the kettle, bread in the box next to the kettle. He likes his toast done lightly with plenty of butter. He didn't get any dinner last night so off you pop and make him some breakfast. Here," Greg tossed his spare keys to her. "Just in case you need them, the yale lock is the front door, the clunky thing is the back door. Have fun, kids. No rowdy parties while I'm gone."

Anthea looked at Mycroft as the door closed. "He's quite the whirlwind, your detective inspector," she commented.

Mycroft smiled. "A tsunami, I think. Gregory ripples along on the surface until he is met with a barrier and then he merely rises up and surmounts it as if it does not exist. He is quite the accomplished knight in shining armour, Prince Charming battling through the briar rose to save Sleeping Beauty."

"You've never struck me as Sleeping Beauty, sir."

"Oh, good God, no. I am rather more like the fearsome ogre sent to prevent his arriving at all. I am no beauty, that is certain."

Anthea—Anastasia—smiled. "I think you do yourself an injustice there, sir," she said. "Mr Lestrade sees something in you that he likes. There's definitely more to the detective inspector than meets the eye."

Mycroft merely smiled and said nothing, dragging the first of that morning's papers toward him. Better get started on them, or this could take a while.

As he systematically read the papers cover to cover, Mycroft found his thoughts returning to Gregory's comments concerning the house. The divorce was unpleasant but Gregory was facing his separation with his customary courage. An idea began to form in his mind, but he would have to approach things carefully. Gregory was a proud man, and offering to do what Mycroft was thinking of doing would be met with refusal, Mycroft was almost sure of it. Much like offering to take him to dinner as remuneration for dealing with Sherlock. Nevertheless, his intent was that his Gregory should not be inconvenienced or discomfited, no matter what happened.


The sound of his key in the lock was the best sound of Greg's day. He threw his briefcase on the hall chair, hung his coat up, kicked off his shoes and slid his feet into his slippers. God, that feels good. He chuckled. Since when had he turned into his dad, he wondered? He shuffled through to the kitchen but there was no evidence that anybody had even been in there. They were good at tidying up if they had.

He made tea in a proper teapot, Earl Grey for them both, hearing what sounded like Classic FM on the radio wafting downstairs. A tray was quickly loaded up with crockery, sugar, milk in a small jug and a plate of biscuits. It was at that point that he realised his only radio was still sitting on the kitchen counter. Upstairs, tray in hand, Greg was met with violin music wafting through the door. Sherlock was in full swing, playing a chopin number if Greg was any judge. He ignored Greg's entrance and carried on playing. Bearing the tray to the dressing table and setting it down carefully, Greg realised that there was no sign of either John or Anthea. He sat down and waited patiently for the music to eventually flourish to a stop. When it did, Mycroft opened his eyes and there was a contented smile on his face.

"Gregory?" he said, surprised. "I had no idea you were home."

"I see you have your own entertainment," Greg replied with a grin. "Hello, Sherlock. Would you care to stay for tea?"

"Not for me, thank you." Sherlock placed his violin in it's case with care. "I'll go now your paramour is here, brother dear," he said, although his tone lacked its usual snark. "You will shortly have enough entertainment that you won't need me anyway."

"Sherlock..." Mycroft sounded tired.

"Oi, watch it," Greg warned. "Treat your brother kindly, 'Lock. He's fragile."

"He won't break," Sherlock said with a smile. "Not now you're here, anyway. I must get home. John will be cooking dinner."

"Oh, really. Under the thumb now, are we?"

"Nothing of the sort," Sherlock snapped, pouting. "No, I merely like the food he cooks. Now, if you both will excuse me..." He whirled away and made off downstairs. "I'll see myself out." They both listened to the bang of the front door and Greg sighed.

"Like a bloody force nine gale, your brother; whips in, blows things over and leaves."

Mycroft smiled. "It seems to be a day for weather analogies. Anthea drew a similar likeness to your good self."

"Me? What did she say?"

"That you reminded her of a whirlwind. I prefered the similitude of a tsunami..."

"Hidden depths?" Greg suggested.

"Something like that. I believe I suggested that you had a particular talent for surmounting obstacles that are placed before you."

Greg chuckled. "Sherlock-shaped ones, you mean?"

"He was actually very kind, today. He played several pieces to entertain me, at least one that he knows I care for. For him, that is both kind and revealing."


Mycroft nodded. "He cares, but does not care to show it. His playing for me is his way of saying he is concerned about my welfare."

"Several pieces, hm?" Mycroft nodded again. "Well, it sounded very good anyway. Like having your own personal virtuoso. I thought you had the radio on."

Mycroft chuckled. "I shall tell him how you rate his performance."

Greg laughed. "God, no, don't do that. He'll either get a swelled head or he'll hate me for it. Anyway, how are you feeling this evening, love?"

"I find I am tolerably well, despite being disabled. My incapacity did not significantly impair my abilities, except I am right handed and as such, I had to dictate my letters and emails for Anthea to transcribe."

"Letters? You still write letters?"

"I do indeed. There is nothing quite like a hand-written letter to convey a point. If the person reading it is subtle enough he can tell by the wording and even the nuances of pressure that the writer has employed with his pen exactly what his feelings and thoughts were as he wrote. Graphology is quite revealing about the writer as well. I much prefer a letter written by hand. One can tell so much more from it."

Greg poured the tea and handed it over, tugging his chair nearer the bed. "I'll have to write you one sometime, then you can read my nuances. So how was your day? I hope you didn't overdo it."

"Anthea was quite insistent that I not tax myself unduly. Never fear, she is quite assertive when she wants to be. She has worked hard today so I must include a bonus in her pay this month, she deserves recognition for her support."

Greg smiled and sipped his tea. "So what do you fancy for dinner?"

"Oh...something simple? I confess to not feeling very hungry."

"Then you should get some more rest. Close your eyes, try to sleep. I'll rustle up some omelettes, how would that be?"

"That would be acceptable, thank you, Gregory." A chuckle made him open his eyes. He frowned. "Is something wrong?"

"You, calling me Gregory. Nobody has done that since I was younger."

"Ah, you prefer the infinitely shorter and less suitable Greg?"

"Well, most folks call me that, yes. What do you mean by less suitable?"

"Gregory suits you perfectly. It is distinguished, the name of a worthy and intelligent person. Greg is by comparison ordinary, forgettable. You are neither ordinary nor forgettable."

"I'm not?"

"No, you are not. In fact...you are one of the most extraordinary people I have ever had the honour to know." Greg had no answer for that one. He simply stared. "Gregory, please. Sherlock is right, I admire you...a great deal. You possess the qualities of honour and integrity, qualities that are in short supply these days. You have patience, you are gentle and kind, compassionate..." Mycroft looked down at the duvet and tugged it ineffectually up a little with his good hand as if seeking distraction. Greg leaned forward and covered the hand with his own. Mycroft stared at it for a moment, then laced their fingers together. "I find I have been rather remiss myself, Gregory. I have not treated you with as much respect as I should have, nor have I been very...kind to you. Both of these things you deserve perhaps more than I do. You have opened your home to me, given me sanctuary..."

"Hang on a minute," Greg interrupted. "You weren't exactly running from anything."

"Granted, but you should understand that this is a haven for me. I could have been at home, but mummy would have driven me mad with her fussing. I might have been comfortably situated in my flat in Belgravia but likewise, my address is know to my superiors and I am subject to interruptions by people who know me, at all hours of the day and night, despite Anthea running interference for me. Here, in your house, I am safe from such intrusions."

"And quite right too. You were injured in the line of duty, Mycroft. For Gods' sake, you do deserve some time off," Greg protested. "Couldn't you have stayed in the hospital though? You've got private healthcare, haven't you?"

"Yes, I have but...that is where I made a strategic choice. I prefer your company to a protracted stay in hospital any day. I have doctors I can call on in the event that I should require advice, not to mention John Watson, who is discretion itself as well as a more-than-competent surgeon. Do not fret yourself unduly."

Greg grinned and nodded. He unlaced their fingers and stood up. "I'll go make us dinner. You get some rest now. And Mycroft..." Greg paused by the door. "Glad you like my company."


"Please tell me you're not working tomorrow," Greg said, as he was clearing the dinner plates away. "I know that the world doesn't stop for you but it's the weekend. Anthea needs a day off. I'm not at work, thankfully. You got my undivided attention, if you want it that is. I can always go and fetch you the morning papers if you want them."

"That would be more than acceptable, Gregory." Mycroft swung his feet out of bed and into his own slippers. "It's alright, I need the bathroom."

"Okay. There you go," Greg held his dressing gown helpfully as Mycroft attempted to slide it onto his good arm and drape it around the other side. He helped Mycroft to his feet and steadied him. "There now, you need me for...anything else?"

"No, thank you, Gregory. You've been more than kind but I do not require anything more."

"Okay then, I'll leave you in peace. You want to transfer to my bed tonight? Before you fall asleep?"

"That would be acceptable, I shall await your return."

"Fine, I'll just load the dishwasher and make some tea."

Mycroft eyed the shower but his arm was still too painful to move. He desperately wanted to be properly clean but he would need help and he was not sure he wanted the help that Gregory would no doubt offer. The man was kind, and it was a sin that he had never been allowed to become a father. Mycroft could easily imagine Gregory with children at his feet, loving them and caring for them. Gregory was naturally caring, despite the hard edges he had developed as armour against his work and the dregs of humanity he dealt with every day. He was still compassionate, his humanity intact, but at that moment, Mycroft had no desire for Gregory's compassion. He wanted....well, it was better not to think of what he wanted.

"What's the matter?" Gregory was standing at the door, watching him. "Sorry to intrude. You managing okay?"

"I am fine," Mycroft murmured. It came out sharper than he'd intended although Greg ignored it and hooked an arm through his.

"Okay, this is me doing my best not to fuss you," Greg said cajolingly. "Come on then, my bed is calling."

Mycroft allowed himself to be lead unprotesting to Gregory's bedroom, a light airy room just down the landing from the guest room, but larger, obviously the master bedroom. Gregory left him just inside the door and went to the tall windows, tugging floor length drapes across them to blot out the dark street beyond. At once the dark claret-coloured curtains made the room warmer and more intimate. Mycroft sat on the bed's edge looking uncomfortable. "If this is making you feel awkward, you don't have to sleep here you know," Greg said.

Mycroft looked up and shook his head. "No, really, it is fine," he said, but it came out listlessly. He tried to smile to counteract the effect but it got lost somewhere.

"Go on, get in then," Greg encouraged and Mycroft swung his feet up. Greg settled the covers over him. It was then that Mycroft realised he was going to be treated to Gregory undressing in front of him. Alarm thrilled through him. He hadn't expected this. He didn't know what he had expected Gregory to do, but it wasn't a virtual strip show in front of him. Greg unfastened each button carefully, teasingly slowly, his eyes on the man in his bed, almost deliberately provocative. He shrugged his shirt off one arm and then the other, revealing a dusting of dark hair across his chest, his stomach still flat if not as firm as it might be, but given his age and his job he was in reasonably good shape. Mycroft was at once rather envious. Gregory was fairly broad through chest and shoulders and his arms were, if not muscular, at least strong and well defined. Mycroft cleared his throat although his mouth had dried. "Are you...deliberately trying to..."

"To what, Mycroft?" Greg grinned. He relented when he saw Mycroft's obvious distress. "What's wrong? You don't like what you see?"

"Not at all, Gregory...I...Oh, how can you possibly...?"

"Possibly what? Mycroft, what's the matter, love?" There was silence for quite a while, during which time, Greg sat on the bed, eager to know what Mycroft was getting so distressed about. Eventually, Mycroft opened his eyes and fixed Greg with an unhappy stare.

"I wish you wouldn't do this," he said softly. "You must know how I feel. About you, I mean. You have to understand..."

"Understand what?" Greg's voice was gentle, encouraging.

"I'm not sure what I can give you, Gregory. This is...new to me. I do not have the experience with romantic liaisons that you do..."

"Hey, I'm not that easy, you know..." Greg's smile evaporated as Mycroft's expression remained blank. "I meant that I haven't had many romantic liaisons myself. Been married for a long time."

"I did not mean to imply..."

"I know, I know. I just...look, Mycroft, whatever you think I know, then you can think again. I'm not used to any of this either."

"At least you have had relationships, Gregory. I have had no relationships! None whatever. I do not have either the time nor the ability to navigate the nuances of such an alliance. I am well versed in political liaisons, diplomatic negotiations and the chess game of governmental power. When it comes to matters of the heart I am woefully inadequate and you will find me so. I...part of me...some small part wants so much from you. I want...things, things I never let myself want before. I want you here, in this bed, with me. I want to...do things." Mycroft blushed beet red and looked away.

Greg grinned, and then sobered. This was distressing Mycroft and it wasn't right, it wasn't right at all. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. "Mycroft, look, listen to me," he said, reaching to gently take Mycroft's face in his hands. He made the man look at him, sitting down beside him on the bed. "I'm sorry if I was teasing you. I...want things from you too. I suspect we want the same things. You're not well though, and I am not taking advantage of you. You're vulnerable right now, you're tired, in pain, you've been through a very traumatic experience. You should talk things through..."

"Gregory, I have been through what happened and reconciled the events in my own mind. I have faced fear before, which is what you do not seem to understand. You once accused me of not knowing fear, of being protected. That maybe true now, but believe me, it was not so in the past. I was a field agent, in my younger days, a spy no less. I have had my fair share of excitement and terror. These days my work is accomplished from behind a desk but I am none the less acquainted with traumatic experiences. I have been trained to deal with such happenings. You are one of the very few to have seen behind my mask. I am human, after all, subject to all the failings that are natural when one confronts one's mortality head on. I survived, this time. It was a random encounter that I lived through, another of life's...my life's experiences. If I crave your warmth and love, then that is the human part of me too."

"As opposed to what, the inhuman part?"

"The part that does not allow me to feel. The part that rejects closeness, love and attachments of any kind to keep me, and others, safe. Yes, Gregory, safe. From those who would target me through those I care for. Why do you think I keep such close watch on my brother? If we do this, then you are encompassed by that threat as well. I am not sure I can subject you to that, I am not sure I can lose you..."

"Damned if you do, damned if you don't, is that it?"

Trust his Gregory to pin things down effectively and succinctly. Mycroft nodded unhappily. "You understand," he said softly.

"Mycroft, I can't change your mind. Only you can do that. But if you don't risk anything, you don't get anything. You've lost and they've won regardless. I would give everything for a month of true love than a lifetime of longing for it."

"How can you say that?"

"It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Never heard that? Famous saying, no idea who said it. Point being, your life means nothing unless you experience everything, including those dangerous emotions that can hurt like hell or make you higher than a kite. I would rather I had loved my ex-wife and lost her than never had the experience. I don't regret marrying her because we did love each other once, we got married for a reason, no matter that things haven't worked out. You don't run away from love because you might get hurt. That's just stupid." Mycroft was looking at him as though he'd never seen him before. Greg shuffled uncomfortably. He had never said so much about his own feelings before. Not even to his ex-. There was something wrong with that too.

"Gregory, you once said something I found...intriguing. You told me that sometimes the ones we love are the ones we can't save. What did you mean?"

"Oh, that. Well, yes, I guess I meant that no matter how much you love someone, you're sometimes too close to that person to see the signs, to see what's going wrong with them."

"So you did speak from experience?" Mycroft prompted.

"In a manner of speaking, yes. Me and the wife...I didn't see what was happening with her, I ignored her needs and she left me. What else is there to say? When you accused me of putting work before family..."

"Which I regret intensely..."

"...you were right. I did. John likes to tell me I had no family to put before work anyway. The wife didn't really want kids and I found out the truth of that only a short while ago. She lead me to believe she couldn't have any kids. She lied to me, she was taking contraception all the damn time. She said she was scared to tell me in case I broke things off with her. Mycroft, I wasn't an ogre! I don't know why she would feel that way. That's what I meant. I never knew how she felt, I never thought she would be scared to tell me. For God's sake how did I miss that?"

"People can be very obtuse," Mycroft said gently. "The fault was likely not yours. She was just very good at keeping her secret. I imagine she thought like any man you would put progeny before love. She made a gross miscalculation, and now she has made her bed and must lie on it, as my dearly departed grandmother would have said." He smiled sadly. "I am sorry you were mislead so badly. Would you have left her?"

"No, of course not." Greg was scandalised. "I loved her. I was disappointed, of course. I always wanted kids, I had suggested adoption but she deflected me about that too. When she finally told me, yes, I was angry, of course I was. The suggestions I made, it all made me feel like a right fool. I was hurt she felt she couldn't tell me, I was confused and bitter and it didn't help our relationship one bit but I tried, really tried, but I'd distanced myself too much by then and she'd already found a lover who was Mr Perfect so I had very little chance."

"Ah, Gregory, do not fret yourself. That is past and gone now. It would only hurt you to go back over things and regret the past and you told me that you didn't regret your marriage to her. Is it not time to move on, do you think?"

Greg glanced across at the man in his bed. He huffed out a breath and shook his head. "Where to? I'm not sure what's left..."

"Me?" The word was a little quick to leave Mycroft's lips. For all that he calculated every move for the maximum probability of success and did not take risks unless he had assessed and adjusted his plans, something about Gregory made him want to throw caution to the wind, to act rashly and forget he was the upright government minister. "However, I appreciate that I am not..."

"Do not continue that sentence, Mycroft Holmes!" Gregory's voice had lowered in pitch to a growl. He was angry and Mycroft was knocked off balance again. He stared at Gregory as the man's expression altered to one of fierce disapproval. Mycroft was reminded of a particularly nasty German Shepherd he had once encountered guarding the royal party. Despite the brute being on a leash and mastered by its police handler, the beast's demeanour was ugly and Mycroft was actually glad he was not on the wrong side. He suppressed a highly inappropriate smirk imagining Gregory as a police dog and schooled his expression into one of meek acceptance.

Greg put on his fiercest glower and watched as Mycroft's expression changed to one of bewilderment. "Do not put yourself down again," he ordered, his tone as severe as he could make it. "Frankly I am sick of hearing your self-deprecating excuses why I couldn't want someone like you. We all know I'm a power-hungry gold-digger, so where's your problem?" It was entertaining watching Mycroft take in his words. He must be distracted, the seconds it took and the less-than-smooth response to his words. Mycroft flinched, and frowned. "Sorry, that was a bit crass," Greg admitted. "I meant the bit beforehand though. Do not tell me how unattractive or how inexperienced or how friendless you are, ever again, understand? I find you very attractive, as it happens. I love your old-fashioned correctness, your immaculate taste in suits and your hair..." Greg smiled. "Your eyes are a gorgeous shade of blue, you can be very witty and erudite and charming when you want to be, and frankly I find the prospect of spending time with you, like this, and maybe more when you're feeling better, as something to be looked forward to, to get excited over. I just want you to be aware that I am not that experienced. One boyfriend at college and a wife for twenty years doesn't really prep you for the minefield of relationships. And for both our sakes, let's not be stupid about this. We cannot flaunt it to the world, we both work in biased workplaces, we both know the prejudices, we both know the odds that it'll affect our promotion prospects, despite your status and power, it would all vanish in an instant with a word in the wrong ear." Mycroft nodded, quietly processing Greg's words. "Given that, I still want to try, with you. If you'll have me, which you seem to want to?"

"As ever, you are wise to consider it, Gregory," Mycroft murmured. "You are the voice of reason when I might otherwise act in a very out-of-character fashion." He smiled, warmly. "The answer, my dear, is yes, but it is somewhat redundant as we are retracing old ground. We have both laid our cards on the table more than once."

Greg nodded. "So...where do we go from here?"

"Wherever you want to go, Gregory. I am, as it were, in your hands."

Greg smiled. "Yes, you are." He leaned forward and captured Mycroft's face in his hands again, pressing their lips together gently. "And I'm in yours, so let's see where this takes us, shall we?"

Chapter 5: Miscommunication

Greg returned home on the Tuesday to find Mycroft getting into one of his Saville Row suits, with the aid of a stranger. The man was just seating a black sling under Mycroft's arm when Greg opened the door.

"Oh, sorry..." He took in the scene with a frown, noting the packed bag and the overcoat slung across the bed. "And just when were you going to tell me you were leaving?"

"I'm sincerely sorry, Gregory." Mycroft did look contrite, and somewhat uncomfortable, Greg had to admit, but it was a bit of a facer. "I received a phone call early this afternoon, something has come up which I am required to attend. I sent for Mercherson, my valet, to help me. I did not want to disturb you at work."

"Already? Mycroft, you're barely recovered from the attack..."

"I am able to function properly, I am almost healed. It isn't a significantly taxing job, but it is necessary and no, I am not at liberty to discuss it. Please do not be angry..." Amazingly, his eyes held such a pleading look, Greg relented. Damned Holmeses, they could wind everyone around their little fingers...

He sighed and nodded. "Can't stop you, can I?"

"This should take no longer than two days. If you would allow...could I return here? I find I have...grown accustomed to your company. At least, I would like to complete my convalescence."

"You know you should be completing your convalescence here and now, don't you?" Greg said, concerned.

"Yes, I know. However, Queen and Country," he said, head on one side. "It's alright, Mercherson, you can put my bag into the car. I shall be down shortly." The man nodded, hefted the bag and went out, nodding to Lestrade as he passed. Mycroft closed the distance between them and looked down at Greg as he stood there in his own bedroom, looking a bit lost. "I really am sorry, Gregory," he said sincerely.

"So am I. Why tonight? I was looking forward to cooking for you and sharing the bed again."

"As I said, I am sorry. Please do not think I am not missing that too. I shall hope to be back soon and in the meantime I hope you will take good care of yourself."

"You too, Myc'. You too." Mycroft smiled and bent to kiss his detective inspector gently. Greg responded in kind and then Mycroft was picking up his coat and heading out. The house seemed very empty without him. Greg was back to kicking his heels alone, wondering for the umpteenth time what on earth he was doing.

Two days passed slowly, and no word came from Mycroft. Greg fired off a text which wasn't answered, then another that same evening. Nothing. It rolled into the third day, and then a fourth, and then Greg sent a text to Sherlock. He was slightly surprised when there was no answer there either but it wasn't like that hadn't happened before. Day five rolled around and Greg had begun to worry. He sent a text to John and was surprised when there was no answer to that one either. The day dragged by and he eventually decided to actually visit 221B. Mrs Hudson answered the door and apologised but told him nobody was home. She thought John had gone to visit his sister but she wasn't sure where Sherlock was. That was odd. Greg decided to call John who finally picked up on the third ring.

"Okay, what the fuck is going on?" Greg asked, bluntly.

"What's the matter, mate?"

"Where are you?"

"I'm at my sister Harry's place for a few days. Sherlock's gone with Mycroft somewhere. Why?"

"Somewhere? Where is somewhere?"

"I...um...I'm not... Why?"

"Two days, John. Mycroft left Tuesday night, seemingly called away on some very necessary mission or other--before he was well enough, I might add--telling me it would only take two days. This is day five, he is not answering his texts, neither is Sherlock and now nobody is at Baker Street either. So what gives?"


"Ah? You know something then?"

"I might."

"John? Come on, mate. If you know, tell me?"

"I...don't think I can. Look, if I tell you they're both okay, and haven't left the country, would you take that as all I can say?"

"No, but it's going to have to do, isn't it? After all, I don't have anything I could call a relationship with either of them, do I?"

"Hey, hang on a mo, calm down, Greg..."

"You know, I'm a bit sick of being used and not trusted, you know that. Mycroft I can understand ...a bit, but Sherlock...Look, tell you what? When you see either of them, just tell them I've had enough, okay? If I can't be trusted to tell me where they are or what they're up to, then I cannot be arsed to give Sherlock cases or give aid in somebody's hour of need again, okay?" He cut the call. He knew he should apologise to John. He had let his anger get the better of him. He needed to burn off some steam so he grabbed his overcoat and went out for a walk.

Lately it seemed all he did was do stuff for everyone else. Who is there for me? He felt a bit guilty insofar as he knew John Watson was his friend and was always there for him but John was Sherlock's man, in every way. They could at least have trusted me with their whereabouts, he thought petulantly. If it was nothing to do with him, he would leave them alone. I'm not pushy, for god's sake. He had thought he might be trusted with more than this though.

It was no surprise that a sleek black car drew up alongside him a scant twenty minutes later. It pulled into the kerb and Anthea got out. "Not interested," Greg snapped, marching past.

"He sent me to fetch you," she said, looking a bit awkward.

"You have no idea how big the fuck is that I currently do not give," Greg snapped back. "Why didn't he come himself then?"

"Detective Inspector, please...This is a little...difficult. I appreciate how you must be feeling but...look, he didn't need to send me, you know. This is a family matter and strictly speaking, you two do not have a relationship and therefore it might be deemed none of your business."

"He told me two days. It's now five and neither of them are answering their mobiles. Even John won't divulge where they are. I might be a little out of order here but common courtesy dictates he could have called me, sent me a text, something to say he'd been delayed, even if he couldn't tell me any more." He stalked back toward her. "So either you tell me, or he can go to hell."

For a moment, Anthea seemed to struggle with her conscience. "It's their mother, Detective Inspector. She's dying, again..."


"Just get in and I can explain..."


"Periodically, their mother begins to fail," Anthea explained as the car moved off. "Her health is not good at the best of times and it starts to fail, then she rallies, then fails again, then rallies, then fails...During which time, Mycroft usually attends her for a couple of days and if things get dire, his brother is summoned. One day it will be her last, but her condition fluctuates. She's in her seventies and she has all manner of health issues. Now she has a DNR, and it looks as if it might be the end this time. Her doctors have said it is unlikely she'll pull round given that her kidneys and her respiratory system are failing. However, she's a tough old bird so it might take a while. Sherlock went there yesterday, Mycroft won't leave now until he sees a significant change. They're not particularly close to her but she is still their mother."

"I see, I think. So it might really only have been two days?" Anthea nodded. Greg sighed. "Don't tell me what an ass I've been. I think I can kick myself."

"Don't feel bad, sir." Anthea levelled her cool stare on him. "Literally nobody knows when Lady Holmes will cast off her mortal coil, and so far this has happened six times since Christmas. Never quite as bad though."


They arrived at a very palatial Georgian house on the outskirts of London, set in its own grounds and harbouring a very healthy amount of greenery around it for a town property. Greg was escorted to the library and left to wait in the ponderous silence that seemed to blanket the whole house. He was staring out across the lawns toward a tree border two hundred yards away when the door whispered open. Greg turned in time to see a butler bringing a tray in. He was closely followed by Mycroft Holmes, looking irritated. The butler withdrew and Mycroft stared at Greg.

"So, little bit longer than two days..." Greg began in order to break the heavy silence.

Mycroft's answer was a curt nod. "John Watson gave me to understand you were a trifle put out I had not contacted you."

"Damn right. You said two days. No word, nothing. You were injured, Mycroft. You still are. Could you just not have texted me with an update? Something, anything to tell me you were okay?"

"Gregory... We are...not in a relationship."

"That is bloody obvious," Greg replied. "When Sherlock went missing too, I wondered what trouble you were both in. John professed to know nothing."

"And even when he said we were fine, you wouldn't accept that," Mycroft said bluntly.

"Tell me why I should?" Greg challenged.

"Because John is your friend and you trust that the information he would give you would be truthful."

"Can't argue with that, I guess."

"And yet you still feel put out that you were not taken into our confidence."

"Mycroft, it would have been nice to be...confided in, I guess. I wouldn't have insisted on accompanying you, I would just like to have been told. I would have offered, but I wouldn't have pushed. I thought we were going to see where what we had was going to take us, which implies that we were starting something, even if we both don't know what to call it."

Mycroft did not miss the past tense in Gregory's words. Had. Ah well, he thought. It wouldn't have worked anyway. Gregory is demanding, hard work, he needs to be trusted and included and it is so much easier not to have to do so, not to try navigating the minefield of emotional baggage in order to placate a lover. Mycroft huffed irritably.

"I guess this is too hard for you, hm?" Greg challenged. "A proper relationship, with me? Considering someone else, their feelings, their emotions...?"

"I admit it is...challenging."

"Hang on a minute, though. You can't, can you? Both of you are bloody stunted in the relationship department because you don't approve of sentiment, do you? Well, I am sorry to have opened my heart and my home to you, Mycroft. My mistake. My problem if I was worried about you, if I like you enough, feel enough for you to be concerned about your welfare. You know, when I look at you I actually do see someone worth taking the trouble for but the problem is, you cannot have your cake and eat it. You have to give something back and you have no clue how to do that, do you? You might as well tell Sherlock too, because doubtless he won't have John too long either, considering Doctor Watson loves the stupid SOB. Considering you couldn't apologise to your own brother either, even when you knew he wasn't lying... You have no bloody idea, do you? Well, I reckon I'm better off out of it." Greg stalked past him to the door. This time, this one did make a rather more satisfying bang than the other one had. Greg immediately grew contrite, however, remembering there was supposed to be a dying woman somewhere in the building, and he virtually crept to the main door and let himself out. He stood there and wondered how the hell he was going to get home. He checked his pockets for his wallet. He had that and his phone, he could call a taxi and then get a train... He set off walking back toward civilisation. He was not surprised that this time he wasn't stopped.

Sitting on the train on the way back into the city he wondered if he'd been too harsh. Mycroft hadn't even attempted to stop him or refute what he was saying. Greg shook his head and stared out at the gathering darkness. It was late by the time he arrived home. He sent a text to John and presently the phone rang.

"Okay, what went wrong?"

"I fucked up, John."

"Evidently, but those two are enough to try the patience of saints. Sherlock actually rang me, you know. Ranting about you saying I was leaving or something."

"That...was my fault."

"Okay, why? What the fuck did you say?" John sounded resigned.

"You're being very understanding about this..."

"I live with Sherlock. I know what he's like, and I also know his prick of a brother. So, what happened?" Greg told him, every sorry detail. "I see. Didn't let the man get a word in then?"

"Actually, he never said anything more to me and when I left, he didn't try to stop me."

"Stupid prat. I meant Mycroft, not you," John hurried to reassure him. "Sherlock was in a right fritz when he called. He never calls, as you know, but this was obviously too important for a text. So whatever you said obviously worried him."

"I...um...sorry, John, I may have let something out of the bag..."


"I told Mycroft you loved Sherlock."

"Ah. Okay. Well, now I understand the reason for the meltdown. You're right though, I do."

"Yeah but I was out of order..."

"Maybe, but honestly, Sherlock was quite...sweet in his own way." John chuckled.

"How so?" Greg asked.

"He was quick to reassure me he would do the shopping from now on, and he would make sure he cleared away his experiments so I could cook dinner."

"What's this, a back-handed complement?"

"Maybe. Don't be too down about it, Greg. I never told you not to say anything, after all. Sounds like you lost a bit more than me back there anyway."

"Oh, not to worry. Plenty more fish in the sea." He stifled a yawn. "I'm for bed. See you tomorrow for a drink?"

"Okay, I'll text you."


Mycroft stood staring out of the window, watching the rain stream down illumined by the lights from the city beyond. He reflected on the things Gregory had said before he left, things Mycroft found difficult to comprehend. He regretted his actions and his words again. He smiled grimly. Regret was becoming a familiar feeling to him now. Behind him the door opened and Sherlock came in, swooping upon a chair and throwing himself into it.

"So, she's finally gone. It was quite quiet in the end."


"It almost seems unreal."

"I know. She's done this so many times before. It is understandable."

"What happens now?"

"In what way?"

"This house, her money. What do you intend? After all you are the heir."

"I think the house needs to be sold. It should fetch a good price. Let us face it, brother dear, neither of us would want to take on the cost of running it. It burns money. The staff alone..."

Sherlock nodded and shot to his feet with restless energy. "It was where we grew up..." He was clearly wrestling with sentiment and emotion and not having the easiest time.

"I know. Sherlock..."

"Could I have..." He stopped.

"Yes?" Mycroft prompted.

Sherlock was fighting himself, trying to find the words. "Her golden locket, the one I gave her for her 50th birthday." He paused, thoughtful and sad. "It was the one present I ever got her that she liked. I wanted to put a lock of her hair in it..."

"Sentiment, brother?" Sherlock glared, challenging, but Mycroft only smiled. "I shall see to it," he said gently. "If that is what you wish." Sherlock nodded and flounced out. Mycroft smiled and then thought about Gregory. He was owed an explanation, at the very least. He got out his phone.


Sleep wouldn't come. Greg lay in the bed which was now too big and missed Mycroft's presence like he remembered missing Laura's. It was too raw and too much. He finally got up and made himself tea and huddled into a blanket on the sofa, idly flicking through crap early-morning television and wondering what a shit day he was going to have at work. His phone binged. He reached for it and pressed the button. One message, from Mycroft.

I felt you should know, Mummy passed away at 2am. I owe you an apology, I was not myself and have not been since the doctors told us she was beyond help. I handled things badly for which I am sorry. MH

Greg reread the text twice and then frowned. So she had died, and reading between the lines Mycroft was somewhat shattered by her death. Enough to be off balance with his behaviour. Greg sent a reply.

I apologise too. I was out of order, shouting like that. After all, you don't owe me anything. GL

Common courtesy demands I at least inform you when I am about to break arrangements made with you. Please do not feel sorry for me. MH

Of course I feel sorry for you. Your mum's just died. You're still human, Mycroft, even if you and Sherlock think that caring is not an advantage. Doesn't mean you don't. GL

I fail to understand how you could be so sympathetic considering my behaviour. MH

That's why I'm sympathetic. You're not your usual self, Mycroft. You've had a bereavement. It's usual to feel this way. Come home here when you feel able. GL

Mycroft stared at his phone. Gregory constantly surprised him and he found he was actually looking forward to returning to the man's home. It would take time to implement the plans here. He needed to see the solicitor and allow him to send everything to probate. He would have to speak to the funeral home and arrange the interment.

"Sir?" Anthea was at his elbow, cutting across his thoughts.


"The ambulance has arrived to take your mother's body to the morgue. She'll require a post mortem, but the doctor thinks there isn't any problem. I'll speak to the funeral arrangers tomorrow and get them to collect her remains for you. Any preference for a coffin? Something grand? Oak with brass fittings?"

Mycroft nodded. "Anthea, there is no need for you..."

"There is every need, sir. You should be resting. Take Mr Sherlock home and then go on to DI Lestrade's house. I can find you there tomorrow and we can arrange the funeral together. Just tell me what you need. You can email me a guest list. I'll arrange the notice in the newspapers. Your appointments are cancelled due to a family bereavement, you have compassionate leave granted and I have called your solicitor with all the details. The coroner assures me the report on your mother will be done by tomorrow. He'll contact me with the details for the death certificate. I shall register her death for you at the register office."

"Anthea, it is three in the morning."

"Yes, sir. We all need some sleep and I shall see you tomorrow." She came down to the car with him, instructed the driver to take them both home and stood back. "I'll supervise things here. You can rely on me, sir." He knew he could. He nodded and got into the car.

I have been sent home. Can I claim sanctuary? MH

Greg looked at the message and smiled.

Waiting for you. Bed's warm. GL

Chapter 6: Bedfellows

It was early when Mycroft woke again. Dawn light was just beginning to filter under the curtains. Probably not yet five am. It was Sunday, which meant a day of rest for both of them and Mycroft sighed in relief. His arm was much less painful after so many days to heal. He could move it with the minimum of complaint from his abused muscles. His own doctor had rebandaged it with a lighter covering, although he still insisted Mycroft keep the sling on, if only to protect the limb from accidental use and knocks. He glanced down at Gregory where he lay beside him, still asleep. The ghost of a smile crossed Mycroft's lips. How could this man be so generous, not to mention patient? Last night, Mycroft had been glad to relinquish Sherlock into John's care and come straight to Gregory's house. Quite unbelievably he had found the respite he required; the warm comfort of a soft bed, warmer arms and no questions asked. He still felt quite sure that he didn't deserve the man lying beside him.

"Stop thinking," Greg muttered, his voice husky from sleep. "I know you're sitting there, watching me. Stop thinking how you don't deserve to be here..."

"You've been learning from Sherlock it seems, or you are developing hitherto unknown psychic powers."

"Bugger that, I know you." Greg rolled onto his back and let out a sigh. "Stop hauling yourself over the proverbial coals, Mycroft. You cannot help your mum passing away." He looked up and his eyes narrowed. "How do you feel this morning?"

"I find I am well enough. You must not worry unduly about me, Gregory. I find I am disturbingly unaffected by mummy's passing. You must remember we have been expecting this since the Spring. She has been ill since January and it was inevitable she would not survive the year. We were not close, she had distanced herself somewhat more toward the end than even during our childhood. I find I am regretful not about her death but about her life, about what she did not...could not give us."

"Understandable, I guess. I had a loving family, and I can't imagine not having had that support. Still, you didn't turn out too bad."

"I beg to differ, Gregory. It had a detrimental effect on both her sons. We grew up inured to emotion and quite of the mind that it was neither essential nor desirable to feel anything. In fact in my case, as you well know, I have done my brother no services to reinforce the epithet that caring is not an advantage. I am afraid you were quite painfully right about us. We are both emotionally stunted creatures and quite how we seem to have ended up with kind, loving partners, I am afraid I cannot say."

"So, I'm your partner? Really?" A slow, somewhat satisfied smile spread across Greg's face and he lifted both arms and laced his fingers together behind his head.

"Yes, Gregory. That is how I think of you now. I do hope you find it acceptable?" Greg's satisfied smile told Mycroft he thought it was perfectly acceptable and Mycroft breathed a mental sigh of relief. "John is a patient, generous man and quite the foil for my brother, while you..."


"You are a compassionate man, Gregory. Patient, kind, caring, and you see something worthwhile in me, of all people." Mycroft shook his head a little. "I command governments, I make treaties, I speak with prelates and diplomats and ambassadors and politicians the world over. I oversee my country's interests in foreign fields, it's continued safety and security, but all those things pale in importance to you, my dear."

"Me? I'm ordinary. I'm just a common or garden bloke, Mycroft."

"I do not think of you as ordinary, Gregory. To me you are exceptional." Mycroft paused to admire the body stretched out on the bed; broad chest dusted in soft dark hair that he ached to scratch his fingertips through, the strength of character in Gregory's face, his muscular arms and heavy thighs, grey hair that begged to have fingers run through it, the dark eyes that looked right into him... He opened his mouth but no sound issued.

"Well, this bloke happens to think you and he should do a little bit more than just talk..." Greg adopted his filthy smile again and ran a hand up Mycroft's leg, from knee to thigh, gratified to hear a soft gasp. "Not that I don't appreciate what you're trying to say to me. I am very glad you feel like that, about me, I mean. I've never had anybody who saw that in me and it feels good. However, I think it's about time to put your money where your mouth is and tell me what you want."

"In what way?"

"Do I have to draw diagrams? What exactly do you want from me? I can't continue to share this bed with you forever, Mycroft. Not unless you're going to let me have my wicked way with you. It's getting far too frustrating, just lying here, beside you, fantasising...."Fantasising about the soft creamy skin peppered with freckles, the soft auburn hair that frankly begged to be mussed by fingers dragging through it, the long elegant legs and big hands with long elegant fingers...  His wank fantasies had been fuelled more than once by visions of dark blue eyes and auburn curls...

"Ah, I see..."

"Hope so."

"What, pray, are you fantasising about?"

"Oh, lots of things. How good you would look in silk boxers for one thing. Black ones. How good you will feel in my arms, the scent of your skin, what your cock tastes like...need I go on?"

"No, not at all..." Mycroft sounded a little strangled and Greg chuckled.

"What's it to be then?" Greg asked.

"I was rather hoping you would guide me in that, Gregory. I fear I am not familiar as to the next move in this...strategy."

"Jesus. You make it sound like political manoeuvring. It's sex, Mycroft, not Game of Thrones. Okay then, how about this? Like I said what seems like aeons ago now, we see where this takes us. You and me, together. How does that sound to you?"

"Frankly terrifying," Mycroft shivered but Gregory only smiled.

"How does it make you feel?" Greg wanted to know.

"I think I am experiencing euphoria, terror and quite possibly confusion in equal measure."

"Good, that makes two of us then," Greg grinned. "Apart from the confusion. I'm really not confused about this. I know exactly what I want."

"What is that, then, Gregory?" Mycroft's voice sounded like it had dropped an octave and acquired a husky note that Greg found quite erotic. "What do you want?"

"You," Greg said succinctly. "I want you, Mycroft. I want you naked, on your back, beneath me, my skin rubbing against yours, my hands all over you. I want to whisper in your ear everything I'm going to do to you and feel you squirm. I want to kiss you senseless and fuck you into this mattress, Mycroft." Greg's voice had turned breathy and soft. Enticing. "Now, does that meet with your approval?"

Mycroft nodded, dry-mouthed. "That...would be...more than acceptable, Gregory..."

"Good." Greg sat up and struggled with his boxers. He kicked them off and turned to face his companion. "You up to this? Your arm's not too painful?" Mycroft shook his head and Greg smiled. "Let's get those pajamas off then, shall we?" A wicked grin graced his mouth. "Do you want some help?" Mycroft nodded again and suddenly Greg's hands were all over him, gently removing his sling, undoing his buttons, then skimming beneath his pajama jacket and lifting it off, mindful of his injured arm. The hands stroked down Mycroft's chest to his pajama pants, sliding under the waistband and easing them down, over his hips and off in one smooth move. Greg paused to allow himself time to fully appreciate what he was looking at.

Mycroft's own eyes widened at the incendiary look that Gregory gave him, so loaded with desire Mycroft was momentarily rendered breathless with surprise. Gregory swooped in and kissed him, taking his mouth in almost desperate need. Mycroft could not help but respond, their tongues teasing each other, plundering and tasting and demanding. "Top or bottom?" Greg asked with a breathless chuckle.

Mycroft frowned. "I have no idea. I'm not familiar enough to enlighten you. You favour...top?"

Greg nodded. "Oh yeah, but hell, I don't rightly care at the moment. Whatever floats your boat, Myc. Mind you, probably better if you stay on your back with your arm the way it is. Don't want to hurt you."

"Please top then, Gregory. Guide me."

"With pleasure..." Greg was suddenly above him, moving between Mycroft's thighs and settling with his weight carried on his hands to either side of Mycroft's shoulders. He bore his hips down to press against his lover, feeling their erections align and stroke against each other, delicious pressure sending spikes of pleasure down his spine. Mycroft gasped and threw his head back, arching beneath him, surprise and desire warring for dominance in his expression. Greg chuckled and pressed himself closer, dipping to claim Mycroft's mouth again in a scorching kiss, tongue delving and exploring and tasting like he belonged there.

Greg rocked back on his heels and allowed his hands to stroke down Mycroft's sides to his flanks, across his stomach, pausing to tease each nipple to hardness, then leaning back in to tongue and suckle each small nub until Mycroft was whimpering softly beneath his ministrations. Greg leaned forward again, aligning their cocks and continuing the frotting, watching Mycroft to make sure he was enjoying their encounter. The last thing Greg wanted was to disappoint his partner and while he was happy for them to have penetrative sex, it was too soon. Not a good idea while his arm was healing. This...this was fine, this was more than fine, and despite it being years since Greg had done this with anybody, he knew he could get off on it. He only hoped Mycroft would. He need not have worried though. It wasn't long before Mycroft was panting and arching and clinging to Greg's arm with his good hand for dear life. He threw his head back and moaned, the sound travelling right to Greg's gut. Mycroft's whole body spasmed and he came rather forcefully, a hoarse cry ripped from his throat, eyes squeezed shut.

A warm wetness spread across the skin of Greg's stomach as he rode out his own intense orgasm, his own fluids mingling with Mycroft's moments later. Gasping, groaning softly, Greg's movements slowed, his body jerking with little aftershocks. Immensely satisfied, he huffed a soft breathy laugh, gazing into Mycroft's eyes, watching the British Government slowly come back to himself. Greg bent and kissed him, putting as much tenderness into the press of his lips as he could. "There now, was that acceptable?" he asked, when he broke the kiss.

Mycroft couldn't speak, he could only nod, his mouth turning up in a smile. When he did finally find the words, his voice was hushed, awed. "That was...incredible," he said breathlessly. "Oh, Gregory. Thank you..." Arms wrapped around him and held him close, cradled, kisses pressing against the skin of his good shoulder.

"You are amazing," Greg said. "Bloody fantastic. Mycroft, never tell me you are not worth anything ever again. That was...Jesus..." Greg laughed, a joyous sound. "I can't find the words." He fixed Mycroft with a look. "We need a shower. You up for one? Can you manage it?"

"Together?" Mycroft suggested. 

"Wouldn't have it any other way," Greg replied, removing his weight from Mycroft. He got up off the bed and disappeared into the en suite. Moment's later, Mycroft heard the rush of water. "Come on then, the water's warm," Greg called. "You've still got one good arm you can use to scrub my back..."

Chapter 7: Marry Me a Little, Love Me Just Enough

Act 1, Scene 1

The Policeman finds that dating the British Government can be well nigh impossible:

Greg had known it would never be easy, having a relationship with anyone in a career like Mycroft's. Over the next few weeks they made appointments for dinner, then lunch, then drinks, yet every time either one or the other of them would text to cancel, citing the irresistible chains of work and duty holding them back. With Mycroft it was usually a late-running meeting or a security crisis, with Greg more often than not some serious crime that had just risen its ugly head calling him to the scene. Before he even knew what was happening, month's end had rolled around and Greg realised they had seen neither hide nor hair of each other for more than three weeks. More irritating had been the infrequency of their communication, not to mention the impersonal nature of it. There were no calls for a quick chat, no goodnight texts, nothing personal at all, and he knew he was as much to blame for that as Mycroft.

This isn't going to work, is it? GL

He had to wait a half hour for a reply and then it looked like Mycroft had neither read the first text or taken in his meaning.

Apologies. Unavoidably delayed. Diplomatic crisis again. Please forgive. Promise to call later. MH

Bugger, Greg thought. This definitely isn't going to work.

Come to my place for supper? We should talk. GL

He and I, we mean well, we just never get a break, Greg considered regretfully. What on earth would happen if we were properly together? Any sane person would have thrown in the towel ages ago, and not prolonged the agony. But since when was I sane, he thought morosely. He was missing Mycroft, actually honest-to-God missing the infuriating man. No, he isn't a man, Greg thought, he's a Holmes. There's a difference. Damned if I can think of one but I know there's one somewhere. Something to do with being genetically superior. Or just messed up. Greg had no idea which it was. He left his office, calling goodnight to Sally, and heading toward the lift. He checked his phone. Still no reply. When he reached his car, his phone was still silent. Greg threw open the door and flung himself into the seat, then jammed his key in the car's ignition and turned it. And turned it. Nothing.




Act 1, Scene 2

The British Government comes to a shocking realisation.

Dear God, what have I done? Mycroft sat behind his desk staring at his phone again with a look of utter shock on his face. Does Gregory want to end our fledgling relationship? Where have I been not to have seen this coming? Mycroft looked across at Anthea (Alice today) and his expression must have been alarmingly open because she immediately put down her Blackberry and fixed him with a concerned look.

"Sir, is anything wrong?"

"Dear God, Anthea, I'm losing him!"

"Losing who, sir? Did you forget it's Alice today..."

"No, I did not forget, Alice. Gregory...DI Lestrade. I have a horrible feeling that he wants to end our relationship..."

"Well, you haven't seen each other in four weeks, sir."

"Four weeks? Have I seriously had no time to even meet with the man?"

"Very little, sir. So, may I suggest you get on the phone to him now and make it up to him."


"Oh, flowers, chocolates....engagement ring...!" She smiled slyly.

"Anthea!" Mycroft was shocked but his PA only smiled sweetly at him.

"Well, sir, why not go meet with him now? I can clear your schedule, although you must meet the MP for Manchester Central at 5.30pm. You told me to remind you that it is a fixed point, whatever you might have meant by that."

"I meant that it is an unchangeable event, Alice. Nobody can alter it. It must happen, considering the potential for disaster in the local by-elections. The man is a loose cannon."

"I understand, sir. You would still have plenty of time to meet with the Inspector for a drink. Shall I call his division? I can have him seconded to you for a few hours..."

"Heavens, no, An...Alice. He would despise me for it. The Detective Inspector is nothing if not honourable and a tryst based upon such a flimsy excuse would not endear me to him. He takes his work very seriously, and I cannot mock him for it." Alice nodded and put her head on one side.

"After work then?"

"We'll see."


Act 1, Scene 3

The Policeman is lonely but there is nobody at home:

Walking home wasn't his favourite occupation but every cab he saw seemed to have someone in it or was claimed before he could reach it. He was damned if he was taking the bus; he hated the things. The Tube would be packed as well. He pulled his coat around him and marched along, trying to ignore the ache in his heart as well as the ache in his feet. The ache in his feet would have been easier to bear had there been a lightness of spirit that came with seeing one's friend at the end of a hard day. Yet there was no one at home to alleviate a bad day with warm arms and tea and commiseration, and in all likelihood there never would be. Greg could understand why his wife had left, considering how little he had been around toward the end of their relationship. The same thing was happening again, made worse by the fact that both of them were in similar demanding jobs.

He half expected the black car to roll up alongside and the door to open and his...what, his lover? Mycroft had called him his partner. His partner to be there, ready to whisk them off to a posh hotel for a late dinner... When it didn't happen, Greg realised he was more than a little disappointed. He finally arrived home footsore and weary, despite being able to hop a bus for part of the journey, despite his hatred of them. He was ready to do no more than collapse into bed and bugger getting any dinner. He threw his coat on the back of the chair, made his unsteady way to the bedroom and shed his clothes into an untidy heap on the floor. He dragged the duvet aside and crawled underneath it, asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Greg woke before dawn, tossing a little before exhaling a heavy sigh and lying on his back, staring at the ceiling. He was more than a little lonely. He had liked having Mycroft live with him, had enjoyed another person in the house, invading his space. He had enjoyed sharing his bed too, a warm body beside him, something to comfort and receive comfort from. At that moment, acute loneliness made him feel as though he would never have anyone like that again. Well, at this rate he wouldn't. He should ditch the elder Holmes and make himself available again. He wasn't a child, and he wasn't ugly either. He deserved somebody in his life, although he was damned if he knew who would put up with him. Mycroft would, a small rebellious part of his mind said firmly, because Mycroft understands. Greg told the voice to shut it and tried to go back to sleep. He failed miserably.


Act 2, Scene 1

In which the British Government fails to catch his policeman:

It seemed as though everything was conspiring of late to keep them apart. Mycroft had found out that Gregory was walking home due to his car's breakdown and had sent a car to pick him up but the car got stuck in traffic, made immobile because a lorry had broadsided a car in a one way street. Mycroft had promptly despatched another car, but by the time it was in range the man in question had arrived home and Mycroft hadn't the heart to disturb him. The following day a triple homicide had kept the inspector away from his office for the better part of the day, chasing leads, interviewing suspects, working with his team. Mycroft was himself detained by a rather stubborn minister who had not believed in the tactics Mycroft was trying to advise him to use in his diplomatic dealings with the Saudis. The talks had gone wrong and now he was trying to lay blame, the imbecile. Mycroft quietly despaired and retreated to the Diogenes, leaving the man's personal secretary to sort him out.

By the end of the week, Mycroft had reached the end of his tether. It was now or never. He would go to the policeman's office, with his apologies, and take him to dinner whether he willed it or no. Pleased with his plan, Mycroft called his favourite restaurant and reserved a table for two.

"Greg, this is Timothy. Tim, this is Greg Lestrade, my boss." Sally shoved the young man forward. "Tim's new," she said. "He's with Forensics," she added, a parting shot on her hasty exit.

"So..Tim..." Greg glanced up to where the young man stood nervously in the doorway. He sighed. "Don't tell me, she put you up to this, didn't she?" The young man, bright ginger hair flopping over his eyes, nodded and grinned sweetly.

"Sorry, she kind of twisted my arm. Said I had to meet you. Actually, I can see what she meant..."

"Hm? How so?"

"She said you were a bit of a silver fox."

Greg barked a laugh. "That's our Sally." He checked his watch. "You fancy a drink?" Tim nodded and smiled.

Mycroft took a car to New Scotland Yard, following the well-remembered route to the floor where Gregory's office was located. He stepped out of the lift...just as Greg and Tim were stepping in.

"Oh..." "Mycroft? What...?" Greg jammed his hand on the lift door to prevent it closing. Mycroft stepped back inside and Greg let the doors slide shut. Mycroft's eyes flicked from him to Tim and back, a slight frown drawing his brows together.

"I was...on my way to speak with you."

"You were? Right-o. Why didn't you call?" Greg hit the ground floor button and glanced at Mycroft. "You going to ground too then?"

"I...suppose so. I was...well, about to ask..." Mycroft paused. "Never mind. You have company. It can wait."

"Okay. Sure. If you wish. You want to drop by tomorrow, discuss it?" Greg wasn't sure but he thought Mycroft's shoulders had slumped just a tiny bit. Maybe he was imagining it.

"I am afraid I shall be occupied tomorrow. It was nothing, really." Mycroft smiled a little stiffly. A few people joined them, effectively cutting off the conversation. It gave Mycroft time to see the shy smile on Tim's face, the way Greg smiled back. He forced a smile. He was obviously too late. I have lost him. The lift touched ground and they all made to leave it, hampered somewhat by the press of people.

Greg murmured to Tim who nodded and moved off in the opposite direction, then he made his move and intercepted Mycroft before the man could bolt. "Oh, no you don't!" Greg headed him off and guided him to one side of the lobby. "Mr Holmes, we need to talk..."

"No, we definitely do not need to do anything of the kind, Gre... Inspector. Now, if you don't mind..."

"Mycroft, is this because of my text?" Mycroft's eyes met his but uncharacteristically, Mycroft looked away first. "Well, I'm sorry but it isn't like we've managed to get together for anything meaningful over the last month, is it?" Greg asked.

Mycroft's gaze shifted to the young man waiting for Greg on the other side of the lobby area. "Who is he?" Mycroft asked, watching Tim standing there, looking hopeful.

"Tim Winters, new Forensic Tech. Why?"

"I just...nothing."

"Bollocks, Mycroft. You're jealous..."

"I am not jealous." Bitter anger rose up, threatening to drown him. "I...I came to see you, to ask you to dinner...We've had such a run of bad luck lately and, to my cost, I had not realised how much time had passed. When my PA told me how long it had been, I was frankly appalled, and I desired to take action but I see it has come...just a little too late. Checkmate, Gregory."

"Action? Mycroft..."

"Yes, Gregory. Action. I...I realised I was not making enough effort to meet with you, to give you my time, considering how we felt before...before this, but it is increasingly obvious that my lame gesture is ill-timed. You have already moved on, I see."

"And it wouldn't be justified? Bloody hell, Myc, I can't wait forever." Greg felt his own anger rising. "I've missed you, a lot, actually. I went home to an empty house, and an empty bed. I know you weren't with me long but I...I really did miss you."

"Did?" Mycroft said sadly. "I am sorry, Gregory. Truly. I was about to make a rather foolish gesture to try to rectify the situation but I...I find myself outflanked and outmanoeuvred by someone half my age. Really, I cannot compete. He looks nice, and he obviously finds you attractive. The best man won, Gregory. I should go."

"Mycroft!" Greg's hand shot out and pinned the immaculate shoulder to a convenient wall. "Don't. Just...Do not play the martyr in this. It's not just your fault. Things have stepped in my way too. It's just the luck of the draw." Greg let him go. "So what was this foolish gesture going to be then?"

"I...I would rather not say, not now. It is neither right nor appropriate."

"Bugger that, Mycroft. Tell me..."

"No! Leave me that, at least. This is neither the time nor the place. I envisioned a quiet dinner, good conversation, intimacy... So no, I will not sully the memory of my plan with an inappropriate reveal in these circumstances. Go enjoy yourself, Gregory. Let him make you happy." Mycroft deftly disengaged from Greg's grip and was gone, out the door to his waiting car. Greg watched him go.

"Greg?" Tim was standing there, looking worried. "Anything wrong?" Mercifully, right now the new lad had no idea who the man was who just left. Greg took a while to answer and when he did it was plain he was far from comfortable.

"I'm...I'm sorry, Tim. I...I should have said...."

"What, that you had some posh totty in the wings? Wouldn't be the first time a guy's done that to me..."

"Tim, no, please. It's not like that. I kept waiting for him until...well, I could have been waiting forever, you know? I thought I was ready to move on... I guess I just didn't move far or fast enough. Look, I'm sorry but I can't keep you dangling..."

"You're not. Come out for that drink, and talk to me. Just that, a nice chat over a pint. Two mates. I need a mate, Greg. Probably more than I need...anything else right now."

"Okay then. That would be good."



Act 2, Scene 2

 In which the policeman reveals his true feelings.

The pub was quiet, and they took a seat at the back. "So," Tim fixed him with a look. "Who was the posh totty then?"

"That..." Greg took a deep breath. "That was Mycroft Holmes."

"Holmes? Relative of Sherlock's?"

"You know him?"

"I read Dr Watson's blog all the time." Tim blushed and buried his face in his pint.

"Really? What do you make of it?"

"It's interesting. Sherlock Holmes seems to have a flair for forensics; he sounds like a bit of a handful though. You've worked with him, haven't you?"

"Yeah, a few times. He's not actually so bad. Takes a bit of getting used to and a bit of tolerance but...he's brilliant, really. Nobody like him, except perhaps Mycroft, his brother."

"What's the brother like then?"

That took Greg a while to think about. "Posh, as you said. Immaculate, really, every time you see him. Makes me feel like a poor relation. He's also smarter than Sherlock, if that's possible, but...he never looks down on me or belittles me. Never." Greg smiled. "He's not very good with this stuff, really. Neither of them are. Stunted in the emotional department..." Greg took a swig of his pint. "He can be very kind though, generous and quite...I dunno...considerate, really. Romantic, too, although his idea of romance is the full-on thing. Some people would settle for a dozen red roses, a box of chocolates and maybe a nice meal somewhere. Mycroft will buy you a dozen rare rose bushes and have them planted in your garden by a royal gardener, get a Ritz chef to cook you dinner at home and have a master chocolatier turn up to make the damn things for you for dessert."

"No expense spared?"

"Damn right. Generous to the point of idiocy is Myc..." Greg sighed. "I dunno, am I a twit to have ditched him? I am, I know it. He's witty and erudite and charming and generous and...actually, he's sexy too, but you don't need to know that..."


"He's everything I could want..."


"He's...What? Damn, sorry. Here I am rambling on..."

"Not a problem. But..." Tim smiled. "You need to tell him how you feel, not me."


Tim's smile broadened. "Your voice when you talk about him, your face when you're remembering him. You look...smitten, you know? You should tell him, though. He needs to know, Greg. You're kind and funny and I am rather disappointed, because he's had all that from you and he still has it if he wants it."

"Tim, you've been a good bloke to listen, you know?" Greg reached and squeezed the young man's hand. "You're bound to find someone." Greg chuckled. "Someone younger than me!"

"Greg," Tim said, protesting. "Don't do yourself down. You're not over the hill yet." The two men shook hands. "See you next week then, Greg," Tim said, shrugging his jacket back on. "I meant what I said. Mates, yeah?"

"Yeah, thanks to you too, Tim. Mates it is then. Listen, John joins me for a pint sometimes. John Watson? Of blog fame? You should come too, you can meet him. He's a great guy when you get to know him."

"I'd really like that." Tim stood up and grabbed his coat. "I should be going. Listen, tell him... everything. He's a lucky man. Goodnight, Greg," and he was gone with a wave and a good natured grin leaving Greg sitting there, a little bit stunned.

Oi, you Posh Totty, cm out and have adrink, to shelebrate...celebray...have fecking fun! GL

Mycroft glanced at his phone with a frown. Gregory seems a little...inebriated. Obviously had a good time with his date then. Mycroft nearly didn't answer, although he considered the text again and frowned. Has Gregory had a good time? Is he on his own now? Mycroft checked his watch and frowned. A bit early in the evening. "Anthea? Can you locate Inspector Lestrade's phone for me?"

"Certainly, sir. Tracking now," Anthea said, fingers flying across her blackberry. "He seems to be heading in the general direction of his home, sir. He's walking down the High Street."

"See he arrives safely, would you, my dear?"

"Yes, sir." Fingers flew over keys again. "I've set Davis onto it, sir."

"Thank you." Mycroft pondered the text. He sighed.

I think you would be better served going home for the night. Get some rest. MH

It took all of five minutes for Greg to answer, and when he did it was again slightly incoherent.

Yup, goin home for a kip. FYI didn work out with Tom. Tim, thas is name. Timmm. nice kid, but no. Not goin to werk. Hes a kid. Am too stuck on you, you basterd an he knewit. GL

Mycroft frowned as he translated the garbled text. It had probably taken Gregory five minutes to type that much. So, the Inspector hadn't gone home with the young man, despite the obvious attraction. Mycroft's heart did a funny little jump and his stomach flipped as he read the last sentence. He forced himself to stay detached for the moment.

You should get some rest. Think things through in the clear light of morning. MH

Shhhh, bein follered. Hopes one of yours. Bit of alright too. Might invit im in.

"Anthea, you did say you had assigned Davis to the Inspector?" Anthea nodded. Mycroft frowned. Davis was certainly not one of the more attractive people on his payroll. Beer goggles indeed.

If the man is short, in his forties and balding, with a scar over his left eye and bearing a resemblance to a pit bull, then yes, it is one of mine, as you so eloquently put it. If my description does not match, please tell me urgently. MH

Nope. S'fine. Matches perfict. Ta, Myc. Apreceeated. GL

An i like pit bulls. Nice doggies. GL

Mycroft rolled his eyes. Tell me when you are home. MH

Nearl there. Why dyou wanna no? GL

So I can be easy in my own mind that you are safe. MH

Wadyou care anways?

Ouch, that hurt, Mycroft thought. Although he could not condemn Gregory for his feelings. If only the world had been kinder to them both. Mycroft paused. Then his fingers flew over the keys and he pressed send before he could stop himself.

Because I miss you too. MH

He was more than slightly disappointed when Gregory did not answer.

"Davis reports that the Inspector is now inside his house and that his door is locked, sir. He's safe for the night," Anthea reported impassively.

"Thank you, Anthea. Time to call it a night too, I fear. Off you go home. I shall be fine now." He watched her nod and gather her things and leave quietly. Then he took himself to his own bed and tried not to think about sharing it with the man at the other end of the texts.


Act 3. Scene 1

The Policeman Takes Matters Into His Own Hands

Greg stared at the texts from the previous night, groaned and swore. Oh, God, did I really text him those messages? The undeniable truth was yes, he had. He had to have been off his face last night. Must have been hammered not to have remembered all of it, but... Mycroft's replies are...concerned. And the final line... quite revealing. So, Mycroft missed me too? He assigned me a minder as well. A gesture like that from Mycroft was a significant event. He worked through that morning with only half his concentration on his work. At lunchtime, he went out. He came back late from lunch and sat back down at his desk without a word to anybody and sent off a text. Then he waited.

Act 3, Scene 2

The British Government Takes Matters Into His Own Hands

Mycroft worked through his morning routine with only half his concentration on his work. At lunchtime he went out. He came back late and sat back down at his desk without a word to his assistant and sent off a text. Then he waited.

Neither man knew that their mobile phones pinged with a text almost simultaneously. Greg grabbed his phone and frowned. The text was certainly not a reply to his text. It seemed as if they both had the same idea. Greg had invited Mycroft to dinner at the same time Mycroft had invited him. Greg had suggested Angelos, Mycroft had offered the Ritz. Sorry, Angelo, Greg thought.

It looks like our invitations crossed in the post. Would you prefer your choice or mine? MH

Your idea is better than mine. GL

On the contrary, maybe yours would be more intimate. MH

Yeah, but Angelo might blab to your brother. GL

Point taken. I shall send a car. 7 for 7.30? MH

Best make that 8 for 8.30. Tough caseload. Although I have no idea what to wear? GL

Leave that to me. MH

You scare me sometimes. ;) GL

Anthea tells me ;) means you just winked at me. MH

Got to keep up with modern methods of communication, Myc. It's called an emoticon. GL

:p MH

Anthea's doing, not mine. MH

She scares me a lot. GL

You have no idea. I shall see you later, Inspector. MH

Not Greg, but Inspector. Greg was about to get affronted but then decided that maybe Mycroft was maintaining a formal tone because he was at work. The general tone of the texts had been light hearted. Definitely unusual. Ah well, no good reading into it. He'd find out soon enough. He was equal parts elated and terrified. There was a hell of a lot to talk about.

Chapter 8: Marry Me A Little, part II

When he got home, Greg was met with a black car outside his house, with a driver who got out and handed him a suit bag. The man nodded and said pleasantly "You have just over an hour before we need to be off, sir. I'll be in the car."

"Thanks," Greg replied, wondering how in the hell whatever was in the bag was going to fit.

It did. Greg didn't know whether to be thankful or creeped out at how Mycroft knew his measurements. He showered, then teased his silvered old-man's hair into spikes, then flattened it again. He thought it might be better to appear more Kingsman than aging punk rocker tonight. Actually, the overall effect isn't too bad, he thought as he caught sight of himself in the mirror. He might pass for some elder statesman... Jesus, I look more like a politician than a policeman. Although, there might be a hint of 007 in there, but then again...Nah, retired maybe, drawing his pension...007 with a bus pass...

The driver remained professional, holding the door open for him, but Greg wasn't sure if he'd seen...something flicker in the man's eyes. Approval? Must be dreaming. He got in, sat down and immediately began to think that Angelo's might have been the better option. He felt faintly ridiculous, done up like this. It wasn't him. He was in formal dinner attire, black tie, the full works. The lights of London flew past his eyes but he wasn't seeing them. They pulled up in front of the Ritz and the chauffeur opened his door. Greg didn't move.

After a half-minute or so, the chauffeur peered inside. "Sir? Are you quite alright?"

Greg sighed and slumped in his seat. "No, I'm not. Look, this is going to sound stupid but...take me home again, please. This...it's not me. It's..." Greg shook his head, unable to find the words. After a moment, the driver shut the door and moved back around to the driver's side. The door closed with a finality that Greg found troubling. However, they didn't go anywhere. Minutes later, the back door opened again but the driver hadn't moved. Greg looked out to see Mycroft peering in, a concerned expression on his face. "Gregory? Are you quite alright? Michael informs me you are...feeling uncomfortable?"

"Snitch," Greg muttered, seeing the driver's face in the driving mirror. Was that a smile? "No, I'm not alright," he admitted.

Immediately Mycroft got in and shut the door. "What ails you, Gregory? Are you feeling ill?"

"No, I'm..." Greg paused, seeing the look on Mycroft's face; part worry, part curiosity. "I'm just..." he gestured to himself, "...not right," he finished.

Mycroft stared, then nodded, then rapped on the screen between themselves and the driver. "Drive, Michael, please," he called. "Not far, just around the block a few times." He slid the window shut and turned to Greg as the car pulled out into the evening traffic. "Now, Gregory. Speak freely. What on earth is the matter?"

"This, Mycroft. Me, like this. It's not...me. I'm...I'm not..." he fell silent, unable to summon up an adequate reason.

"Not comfortable?" Greg nodded at the suggestion. "I think I understand, but I have to refute your reasons for feeling discomforted. I must say you look... amazing, Gregory. Truly. You..." Mycroft fell silent, just looking, openly admiring. "You are sure you are not ill?"

"No, I'm fine, honestly. I just feel a bit ridiculous. This isn't me, Mycroft, and I dearly wanted you to see me tonight, not me pretending to be something I'm not."

"Gregory, you are always true to yourself. It is something I admire about you. You are nobody's yes man, you do not kowtow, and you are never given to empty flattery. There is no earthly way I cannot see the real you, no matter what you might be wearing. You could wear a clown suit and I would see nobody but the real you. So...Let us go and have our meal, and let me apologise more fully for the transgression I have perpetrated in allowing our fledgling relationship to nearly capsize and sink without trace. Let me just enjoy your company tonight, for however long it lasts. I simply wish to be with one of the most handsome men I have ever had the pleasure to know. Please?"

Greg looked at the hopeful expression and sighed, dramatically. "Alright, but we need to talk..."

"And talk we shall, after dinner." On cue, the driver pulled back into the roadside in front of the Ritz and got out to open the door for them both. Mycroft turned back once he was out of the car and extended a hand to help his partner. He was firmly sure Greg would be his partner by the end of the evening. He would see to it. He could entertain no other outcome.

Greg allowed himself to be cajoled into accompanying Mycroft, who he had to admit looked stunning in his own evening wear. Greg weathered the curious looks a few guests were giving them, but Mycroft either ignored them completely or smiled and nodded, taking Greg by the arm and directing him gently to the restaurant. They were greeted by an imposing Maitre D' who bowed and greeted Mycroft like an old friend, guiding them to the back and to a secluded alcove. There were candles, and flowers on the table, and everything shouted money in an "if-you-have-to-ask-how-much-things- cost-you-shouldn't-be-there" way.


"Gregory, stop worrying about the cost," Mycroft murmured, as soon as the Maitre D' had gone and menus were in their hands, "and that was not in any way shape or form a clever deduction. Richer men that you have adopted the same expression on seeing this menu, believe me. This is my treat, and we will talk, I promise. I merely want us to relax and have a nice time, to enjoy some fine food and wine in good company without worrying about the elephants in the room queueing up for our attention!"

"The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings..." Greg recited, smiling. "And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings."

Mycroft smiled back, and his gaze dropped to scan his menu. "And with that poem in mind, I think I might try the oysters."

Greg shuddered. "Sorry, Myc. Not for me. Slimy and... no, just...no."

"Why, Gregory, I am surprised. They are supposed to be an aphrodisiac."

Greg grinned despite himself. Mycroft was flirting. "Pigs might fly indeed..."

"I hope not, Gregory. Sincerely, I hope not."

Dinner passed all too quickly. Despite the amazing food and Mycroft's masterly and erudite conversation, suddenly they were being served coffee and the evening was drawing to a close. "We still haven't talked, Mycroft," Greg said pointedly.

"I know. That's why I had a suite reserved for us..."

"You did what?" The incredulity in Greg's voice was plain, and Mycroft winced at the volume.

"Gregory, please, a little restraint? hear me out," he urged, quietly. "The suite has two bedrooms and a shared sitting room. I have taken the liberty of providing night attire for you, and we can have a private night cap in comfort. We can talk for as long as you like, in private. Then we can retire to our own separate beds to sleep, and come together for breakfast. I have also taken another liberty, I'm afraid."

Greg's frown was forbidding. "Go on," he said, carefully controlling his voice. "What else have you done?"

"You and I have the weekend off," Mycroft said, gently. "I believe this discussion of ours will last a while and we might very well be fatigued on the morrow and thus not at our best. I want you to understand how I feel, Gregory, how much I have invested in us. I have already made one grievous mistake. I do not intend to make another. I want nothing to get in our way, not even our work. This is about us." Mycroft's voice took on a passionate quality with the last few words. "As such, I want us to relax and know we have no demands on our time or our minds for the next few days..."

"Myc, it's not about..." Greg paused. "You need to learn some communication skills, love. Not to mention respect. Otherwise, we have nothing. No foundation, no nothing. Why did you not ask me about your plans first?"

Mycroft looked completely flummoxed. "I merely thought we would be better served if we retired to somewhere comfortable and private and a suite was the only option to give us two rooms to enable us to...remain separate. I've had it swept for listening devices. It's clear. We can speak freely."

"Jesus, Myc. This is your life, isn't it? I mean...if we resolve this...it'll be my life too..."

Mycroft nodded, soberly. "I'm afraid so, Gregory. Unavoidable I'm afraid, with my profession." Mycroft looked a bit wistful. "I'm sorry if it bothers you. Shall we go on up? Or... maybe you feel there can be no reconciliation? After all, by not consulting you I have yet again transgressed."

Greg sighed, then fixed Mycroft with a glare. "Of course I don't think that! Well, I do about the not consulting me bit, but the rest, no, I'm not ready to give up just yet either. However, there are a lot of things we need to thrash out. I mean, you have some serious relationship skills to learn here. I'm well aware I'm no saint in that area either but it looks like you've never even had to learn in the first place." Greg pushed his seat back and stood up. "Come on then. Let's see what happens. Lead on."

Mycroft stood up carefully, trying to conceal his relief at Greg's acceptance, as the man fell into step with him as they walked unhurriedly to the lift.

Chapter 9: Navigating Emotional Waters

Once inside the lift, Mycroft pressed the button for the fourth floor. Greg leaned back against the lift wall and regarded his lover, seeing a deeply vulnerable and unsettled man in front of him. He watched Mycroft try to avoid his gaze, while trying not to appear obvious about it. Such nuances of expression and body language were all the tells that Greg required to know how much this was affecting Mycroft. For that, at least, Greg could forgive him a little for his overriding need to be in control.

Once the lift doors slid shut, Mycroft seemed to relax a little. The amount was so infinitesimal Greg doubted anybody short of himself or Sherlock would have noticed. The fact that he knew the man that well was no small thing in his opinion. He had learned a great deal about the Holmes brothers over the years, but finding things out about Mycroft was difficult and if the man didn't want you to know it was next to impossible.

"This really is about as far from easy as it's possible to get for you, isn't it?" Greg said, breaking the silence.

Mycroft finally bestowed his gaze on Greg and the blue eyes were contemplative. "Seriously, Gregory, you have no idea how much this disturbs me. Security measures and practicalities of logistics, they are second nature to me, essential even. I of all people cannot afford to take chances. However, face me with relationship issues, put me in a place where I have to take chances and I flounder. I am not a very good prospect for anybody really..." He focused on the lift buttons and Greg watched as one elegant finger traced the crisp edge of the brass surround. Mycroft kept his eyes on that instead of continuing to look at Greg. ""My life revolves around high security, I am virtually married to my work, I place Queen and Country in front of virtually everything else that is important to me..."

"Everything except Sherlock," Greg suggested.

"That's where you are not completely correct, Gregory. Everything except Sherlock and you and it disturbs me how much I want this—whatever it is between us—to work. Caring is not an advantage, I still maintain that, but it is, however, something I no longer want to deny myself. I want to care about someone and, perhaps more significantly, I want to be cared about in return. But I..." He stopped, and took a breath, letting it out slowly.

The lift pinged. The doors slid open. After a moment's hesitation, Mycroft stepped out and turned, waiting, effectively silenced concerning what he had been about to reveal. Greg followed. Again there was the slightest relaxation as he did so. Relief that I'm still with him? Greg wasn't sure.  The two men progressed to a door which was flanked by two more men in dark suits. Most likely armed, Greg thought. That fact did not surprise him. He was more surprised that he wasn't bothered by that. The men nodded respectfully to Mycroft as he opened the door with a swipe card to let them both in. The guards stayed put outside.

Greg's eyebrows rose almost to his hairline as the palatial rooms were revealed. Beyond that door lay pure luxury. The first room was subtly illuminated to enhance its features, pools of light falling on key areas creating an air of welcoming warmth and opulence. Greg watched as Mycroft strode immediately to the drinks cabinet and poured them both a decent measure of something amber-coloured and obviously expensive. He offered one of the glasses and Greg took it, loosening his tie even as Mycroft did the same.

"This is a bit...ridiculous, Myc. I mean..." Greg took a decent swig of the contents of his glass and murmured appreciation as the single malt burned a fiery path to his stomach, calming his nerves somewhat. "Look at us, we're grown men. We're not the sort to discuss our emotions and open our hearts to each other...It's just...not done!" he mocked gently, lifting the glass in salute.

"I know." Mycroft was sympathetic. "Most women seem to possess the enviable talent of being able to discuss their inner feelings at the drop of a hat, with anybody, while we men flounder and stutter over it all. Very well then, allow me to break the ice as it were, because I have been rehearsing this in my head all day." Mycroft took another gulp of his whisky. "Gregory," he began. "I do hope you understand the meaning of what I just revealed to you? It took me less than three hours to learn Serbian when I knew I had to go rescue Sherlock, but this... I have been rehearsing what to say to you all day. All day, Gregory." Mycroft shook his head, eyes closed, resigned to his fate. When he looked up, however, he was focused again. "First, let me establish a few details. Although your text messages suffered from your...shall we say, inebriation, they made sense to some degree and I am also very accomplished at reading between the lines. Inebriation also relaxes the inhibitions and allows one to voice feelings one would otherwise not have revealed. You said it did not work out with Tom? Tim? May I be privy to what occurred between you?"

"I'm not going to go into too much detail but I don't really mind you knowing. Any other time we might well have..." Greg shrugged. "...you know, hooked up? But we didn't. I felt too old for him for one thing..."

"Pish, you are not old."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence but shut it and listen, Myc. It doesn't change how I feel, here, inside." He tapped his chest, then took another hefty gulp of his drink. "I am too old for the lad. He's not even thirty, for Gods' sakes. Besides, something didn't feel right. We ended up as mates, nothing more." Greg chuckled. "He then spent time telling this sad old man here that I should tell you exactly how I feel about you. So there you go, I'm still single."

"I am sorry for my actions, Gregory. I was...coming to ask you something, to take you to dinner and...probably make a fool of myself into the bargain. I'm glad I did not, but I am not glad that you were unhappy."

"Apology accepted. No harm done really."

"I'm not sure that is entirely true."

"What were you going to say, you know, in the lift? You said you wanted to care about someone and be cared about, but.... But what, Myc?" He watched as Mycroft paused, rerunning the conversation in his head for a moment. Then he nodded.

"The simple truth of the matter is this, Gregory. I am nearly forty six. I am single, on the cusp of middle age, looking at retirement in a few years. I want to enjoy the time I have left to me..."

"Woah there!" Greg interrupted. "I don't ever want to hear you say it that way again."

"Say what again, Gregory?"

"That...that fatalistic sentence! Time I have left? Bloody hell, you sound like you expect to die soon! Seriously, Myc, do not do that to me." Mycroft was looking at him as though he had grown another head. "I mean it. Makes it sound like you've been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Time I have left? Hopefully you'll have decades, Mycroft, decades. If anything, I'm not getting any younger either but I've got best part of seven years on you so don't start sounding so...I dunno...so depressing about it."

"Gregory, I was not trying to sound depressing. It is a fact of life that neither of us is getting any younger. I simply want to spend the...remainder of my allotted time with someone who understands me and my profession and everything that comes with it, baggage included. You have your own baggage and your own professional problems which means that the probability of you understanding mine is quite high. Neither of us is at liberty to discuss every detail of our days, nor do we wish to. We...we fit together, rather well if past experience is anything to go by. We..." For a moment, Mycroft got lost in the dark brown eyes Gregory turned on him, the soft gaze of encouragement and the small smile...Dear God, that smile. Mycroft swallowed and added thickly "I have no wish to think on the probability of my finding another compatible partner, Gregory. The odds are not in my favour. Quite apart from my job and my lifestyle, the circles I move in and the restrictions placed upon me by my role, I also know I have an awful lot to learn with regards to making a relationship of his nature work. In my defence I am a quick learner, and if I transgress it will be upon you to correct me, to teach me, and I have no idea if you would be prepared to put up with any of that..."

"Mycroft..." Greg paused and it was his turn to marshal his thoughts as he gazed on his potential partner, standing there looking rather less collected and calm than he was used to seeing. "Look, Myc, this is where we started. You might be a quick learner with regard to languages and etiquette and politics but where relationships are concerned, you don't learn, you must have some kind of a mental block! You've made the same mistakes more than once, which is very unlike you. That I do find hard to put up with."

"I admit to a certain..." Mycroft frowned, trying to order his thoughts. "A certain reluctance to change, I suppose you could say. I am set in my ways and while I find learning anything new a challenge, usually quickly and effectively accomplished, changing my already well-established routines is much harder. How might this be effected, have you any thoughts on the matter?"

"I have plenty," Greg replied. "Whether you adopt any of them, well, only you can tell me if you'd be okay with that. You obviously want to make this right otherwise you wouldn't be asking but asking is one thing, doing another."

"Saddly you are correct. I have never had to accommodate anyone else in my life, apart from my brother."

Greg regarded him silently for a long time before he spoke, and when he did it was measured and firm. "Right then, number one. You have to learn not to expect me to do what you tell me to any longer. Stop expecting me to just fall in with your plans, no matter how logical they are or how much sense they make to you. Ask me first, yeah? All I ask is a bit of respect, Myc. Treat me like an equal, even if you don't believe I am. Swallow your opinion or you might as well kiss this goodbye right now. I have my own mind, and my own life, and my own right to choose what I do with it. You will give me the choice, okay? I'm not a bloody goldfish, Myc, despite your brother's opinion."

Mycroft's smile was a little crooked. "Ah, but you are my goldfish, Gregory," he said gently.

"Not unless you can promise me that you'll do your very best not to order my life for me, despite that over-inflated ego of yours where your brains are concerned. You might be smarter than your brother but you are not wiser. Unless you start to understand the way I tick, unless you can let me carry on being me, there's no point to continuing with this."

"What can I say, Gregory? How can I reply? I have to convince you that I...that I will do this for you."

"I'm not helping you with this one, love. That is for you to tell me. I require an answer, and make it good." Greg stood firm, almost glaring at Mycroft, waiting for his response.

Mycroft knew when the chance for compromise was past. Greg needed this from him if they were to move forward. Inwardly he was near panic, uncertain how to respond, beyond promises he might not manage to keep and that wasn't any use at all. He took a deep breath and let it go slowly, trying to slow his hammering heart rate, his nervousness. He hadn't been this nervous since University.

"If I promise nothing else, Gregory, I will promise you that I will try. I am not sure if I can do as you wish, because...I am not sure I can change. In future all I can say is that I shall ask you before I make plans that involve us both, is that sufficient?" He watched Greg for any response and got non. "I am...on treacherous ground. I do not know what I can offer that will not sound...trite, overworked and empty. I do not make empty promises, Gregory. I dare not. If I say I will change, if I promise you the moon, I will most likely fail, and failure is not an option I will allow myself. Not where it concerns you and our relationship."

"Mycroft, I am not expecting you to be perfect. That would be a bit hypocritical, when all's said and done. I am far from perfect as it's possible to be sometimes. I have done some stupid things, things I regret mightily. Can't go back and correct them now though. I have to move on and hope I learned something along the way. We will both fail, we will argue, we will fall out and make up and move on. But, and it is a big but, neither of us can disregard the other one's feelings, ever. Once we do, we might as well forget this whole thing."

"I concur. I am merely terrified that I will do something to drive you away..."

"That's a risk, and one you will simply have to take. That's what relationships are, Mycroft. Risk, and hard work. 'Course, they also have mutual respect and friendship, but risk is inevitable and hard work keeps it going. If you rest on your laurels, then you can kiss it goodbye.".

"As ever, you are wiser than I."

Gregory grinned at him. "At last someone acknowledges that I know my shit."

"Of course you do. I never doubted that much. I have a thought, however. Your desire for us to be communicative with each other in all matters pertaining to the other. It rather precludes throwing surprise parties..."

Greg snorted a laugh. "I have nothing against the occasional surprise party, Mycroft. However, parties are one thing, arrangements that directly affect my life are another thing entirely."

"Understood. However, there is one area that is non-negotiable, I'm afraid. If at any time I believe your safety or security to be compromised, then things shall be different. If such should occur then I will not hesitate to act to protect you, including making plans without consulting you first, not to mention putting those same plans into action with or without your consent. Can you accept that? I will always act to protect those I love and you cannot stop me from doing so...

"Just as long as you accept that I can do the same, and will, if it is within my power to do so. I have as much right to protect you as you do me. Understood?"

"Understood and accepted, Gregory. That is only fair, and it is not without merit that you might be able to effect such, so...we are agreed on that score."

"We seem to be, yes." Something suddenly seemed to occur to Greg as his expression changed. "Hang on. Did you just say something about protecting the ones you love? Does that mean...?"

Mycroft smiled crookedly and he ducked his head in a rather self conscious way. "My dear Gregory. If we enter properly into this relationship, you must understand I do nothing by halves. You may not be quite as loved and cherished right at this precise moment that you deserve to be. After all, we don't fully know each other yet. However, I aim to rectify that and...well, let's just say those I love come first in my life. If push comes to shove then I would lay down my life to protect theirs. The fact of the matter is that I do have feelings for you, Gregory, albeit fledgling ones."

Greg felt stunned by the intensity of the sentiment. Stunned but not deflected from his goal. "Actually that brings me to your casual invasion of my privacy."

"How so? I mean, how have I accomplished this? I do not intercept your mail, nor do I hack your computer, or bug your phone calls. I have not even installed cctv in your flat, despite having thought about it!"

"So how in hell do you know what size clothes and shoes I wear?"

"Ah, I do admit a little subterfuge there."

"So you admit you're guilty as charged then?"

"On that score...maybe." Mycroft had the grace to look a little contrite. "Expedient, however. I took note when I spent time in your home, that's all. I simply took the time to check your clothing labels and note the accuracy of those labels in the cut and fit of your attire. You do have a tendency to wear things that do not flatter you, Gregory Lestrade. Despite the labels, adjustments here and there would make a startling difference to the way you present yourself."

"You saying I look scruffy?"

"Not at all, but you are a handsome man. You are tall and imposing, and you do take care of the body beneath the clothing. You deserve to show yourself in the best light possible. Which is why I would take pleasure in...advising you on your choice of attire... and I would also take pleasure in gifting you articles of clothing more suited to your colouring and frame. That is why I sought information on your clothing sizes."

"And you committed those to memory?"

"Yes, of course. You take a 17 and a half inch shirt collar, 42 inch chest...32 inch inside leg, size eleven shoes..."

Greg sighed and started chuckling. "I suppose I should be flattered you did that. Although I should take exception to your opinion on the way I dress."

Mycroft's eyes closed. "Yet again, I manage to insult where I should complement."

Greg chuckled. "Oh, don't worry, Myc. I can't say you're wrong. My dress sense is a joke at NSY. However, if I turned up looking like you, the cat would be well and truly out of the bag."

Mycroft smiled and turned contemplative. "I have never wanted to do this before, for anyone. You are the very first person about whom I wanted to know such things, never mind with a view to actually buying you clothes." He sounded faintly scandalised.

"And now I suppose I should feel special."

Mycroft was once again the recipient of Greg's cheeky grin. "Of course you should, because you are. Gregory, nobody has ever done this to me before. You have no idea how I felt when I saw you with...that boy. He is younger, better looking, obviously interested in you. I could not compete, on any score. I knew that not even my power or wealth would sway you, because you are a man of integrity and honour who is not and never has been lured by such things."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that exactly. I'm more than open to a bit of luxury, Myc."

"But you are not open to bribery, Gregory, and nobody can sway you from the right course of action, from justice, from the truth of the matter..."

"Grief, Myc, I am not a saint. I've looked the other way a few times..."

"Yes, but times where justice was served, no doubt, rather than the law. You have never taken a bribe, nor committed a crime yourself. You are a man of your word, which is rare these days. You are also compassionate and altruistic. You would not have dealt with my brother as you did were that not the case."

"I dealt with Sherlock the same way I would have dealt with anyone going off the rails, but he was...is special, unique. It would have been a terrible shame to lose that."

"But he is my baby brother, Gregory. He is my vulnerability, my weakness, because I love him so much it would break my heart were anything to happen to him. And you were his saviour before John came along. You are the reason he is still alive to love John and help find serial killers and solve your murders and help you in your quest to make the streets safer..."

Greg started to laugh. "Hang on, where's my cape? I feel my superhero powers tingling..."

"Honestly, Gregory! Please, I am trying to make a point here."

"Sorry, love, do go on."

"My point being that I hope you can see that I was...gutted, Gregory. I actually hurt. The awful thing was that I knew it was my fault. I ignored you, I missed opportunities to see you, to call you, even to text you a simple goodnight. Anthea had to inform me that it was four weeks since we had even seen each other! How in any universe is that right and proper?"

"Yeah, well, don't beat yourself up over it, love. I was as much to blame. I was a bit...well, scared I guess, in case you rejected me. I hadn't a clue if you really didn't want to continue our...whatever it was."

"Well, I did. I do. Anything, Gregory, I will do anything you desire to make this work."

"Woah, hold on there a mo. Once again, you have to expect me to do the same thing, love. This isn't one-sided, as I keep trying to point out. Tell me you know that. I want you to tell me if you feel that I've sidelined you or ignored you or used you or anything negative at all. Okay?"

"Alright, I will. I promise, Gregory. Will that reassure you?"

"It will. I promise too. Now... we have to see how this goes. No rushing into things. Let's start small. I know I want you in my life, Mycroft, there's no question of that, but let's just feel our way carefully. We've a lot to work through. I know you mean what you say, but proof is in the pudding. We have to do what we say we'll do. Is that acceptable?"

Mycroft nodded once. "More than acceptable. Essential, Gregory. I agree."

"So, ground rules, yes?" Mycroft nodded, so Greg ploughed on. "Number one, we don't rush things. Let's take this easy, okay?" Again the gentle nod. "Two, we both don't make plans that involve each other without consulting the other one first. We are equals, friends, lovers and we're on the same side."


"Unless the other is threatened, in which case we agree we will do whatever is in our power to protect them, with or without consent?"

" That is only fair. However, I will offer a slight addendum. We shall both of us do our utmost to seek consent before acting, depending on the nature of the threat and the level of danger we might be facing?"

Greg grinned and nodded. "Typical attention to the fine detail, but yes, can't say fairer, I guess. Okay, so, next, we make time for each other, even if it's a simple text, right?"

"Also agreed."

"No secrets beyond those we have to keep for matters of national security or confidentiality, okay?"

"Again, agreed. That is only fair."

"Honesty, about everything. How you feel about something, whether or not something is acceptable to you, if you're tired, ill, whatever, honesty with each other."

"Without hesitation, Gregory. I will tell you if I am compromised and cannot discuss something but I shall inform you of every detail that I am able to. Does that suffice?"

"No hiding behind that, though. No lies, Myc. No hiding behind the 'National Security' card." Greg had on his serious face. He pursed his lips, holding Mycroft's gaze with his own. Mycroft found he vastly prefered the cheeky grin, or the loving passion, although this expression was weighted with the gravitas the man could turn on when he wanted to be taken seriously. It had its own appeal. "In return, I also promise not to hide behind the 'Confidential Information' card. Okay?"

"I rather think that my security clearance is higher than yours," Mycroft observed. "Therefore my being able to cite the 'National Security' card is statistically more likely. After all, I can probably access all files that you are privy to but the same cannot be said for you. Priority Ultra clearance has its advantages." Mycroft winked slowly which elicited a delightful laugh from his lover. "If I have one 'ground rule' that I wish to make of my own, Gregory, it is to hear your laugh at least once a day. It should be written into our list and promised upon forthwith, that we should attempt to make the other laugh, to lighten the mood, at least once a day, no matter our circumstances."

"I wholeheartedly agree on that, Myc. Sense of humour, very important that. Agreed."

"Anything further, my dear?"

"I can't think of anything right now. As I said before, proof is in the pudding, as my Gran used to say. Time will tell. Right now, I'm for a nice hot bath in a very decadent bathtub, with bubbles, plenty of bubbles..."

"You do not want a tour first? This suite has some interesting features..."

"Oh, okay then. What?" for Mycroft had adopted a slightly guilty expression again. "In the interests of honesty, I should admit to something else, Gregory," he said softly.


"Yes. I confess I really wanted to show off a little, to give you some comfort, some opulence to enjoy. That was a large part of my reason for securing this suite."

"You didn't have to go to all this trouble, you know. You must get to enjoy this kind of thing every day if you want to..."

"On the contrary, Gregory. The high life gets somewhat stale and devoid of substance after a while, it pales before a more...honest style of living. This world...my world, can be very shallow sometimes. People are forever disappointing in their lack of character, made up for by too much money and a sense of their own importance, and I have to suck it up and behave in a deferential manner because that is what is necessary to the situation at hand. This," and he indicated the surroundings with a sweep of his hand, "is something to be enjoyed on occasion, to be revelled in and mocked for its own lack of substance, like Cinderella going to the ball. None of this is real. Sometimes the thin veneer of respectability hides a very rotten underbelly."

"That's cynical, Mycroft, but I unfortunately have to concur."

"You are not a naive man, are you, Inspector? I don't doubt the sights you have witnessed could put much of the dealings I have day-to-day to shame."

"I suspect the stuff I see is more tragic because for the majority of the time it's happening to ordinary people, as often as not committed by ordinary people."

"I deal with National Security, you deal with our back yard. I sit across tables and deal with people who pull strings. We are puppet masters, I and my colleagues."

"Although what you do has an impact on the real world, my world,and I know you're mindful of that."

"Perfectly. If I misstep then the consequences are far reaching. My arena is global, with potentially global effects, while yours is local."

"A local town, for local people..." Greg did not expect Mycroft to make the connection but the man smiled.

"We'll have no trouble here," he replied, offering a gentle smile. "That's exactly it, Gregory. You protect and defend the people, I look after our country's interests in foreign fields. We both signed on to guard Queen and Country, did we not?"

"Indeed we did, but we can't do that unless we care for ourselves and each other, you and me, together. That okay with you?"

"Yes, it's okay," Mycroft said softly, the word sounding odd coming from his lips. "So, a tour of the facilities, so you can choose which bedroom you would prefer, and a nightcap. Tell me what would you like and I shall call room service."

"Nice cup of hot cocoa would go down a treat. Yeah, I know, I'm getting old..."

"On the contrary, I think that is a capital idea. Two cocoas, with some ginger biscuits, coming up." He reached for the phone and issued their order to Room Service, then Mycroft went to the door and told his minions to expect its arrival. When he returned, Greg had shed his jacket and loosened his tie and had collapsed onto an ostentatious four poster bed in the cool aquamarine and gold bedroom. Mycroft leaned on the door and smiled at the vision of a happy Gregory lying prone on the quilt.

"Forget the tour, Myc. This is just fine."

"You look..." Mycroft bit the words back, before his mouth could ride roughshod over their agreement.

"What's matter, Myc?"

"Nothing. I just...well, you want to take this slowly, I'm tired, we both have no map to guide us through the minefield of our relationship, so I decided not to say something, that is all, just in case I ruined our negotiations."

Greg laughed. "Obviously that means you don't want to give up on us?"

"Heavens no, not in the least. I was merely maintaining your wishes, that is all. To take this as it comes." He smiled, but it was a bit forced.

"And I'm not stupid, you know."

"I know. I was about to say, you look a lot younger when you relax, when you are at ease."

Greg chuckled. "Bit difficult with hair like mine."

"Hair like yours, Gregory, is one of the things I find most attractive about you."

"Then you're addled."

"Thank you for that medieval assessment of my wits, my dear."

"No problem. I have many more where that came from."

"You are also...very desirable, you know. Very much so..." The arrival of Room Service with their cocoa cut Mycroft off from saying more, and Greg levered himself up off the bed. He was treated to Mycroft's back view answering the door, and he mentally gave himself a shake. He finds me desirable? Bloody Hell. Who am I kidding? he thought, admiring Mycroft's back view. Take it slowly? What bullshit am I spouting now? I don't want to take this slow, I want to be swept off my feet. I want to end up breathless from the chase. He collapsed back in the bed with a heavy sigh.


Greg jumped, startled by Mycroft's close proximity. "Yes? What?"

"Cocoa?" Mycroft held out the cup and Greg took it, although the cup rattled gently on its saucer.

"Thank you...Er...Mycroft?"

"Yes, my dear?" He sipped elegantly from his own steaming cup, his eyes on Greg over the porcelain rim.

"I lied..."

"Lied? How?"

"Damn it all, Mycroft, I must have been nuts when I agreed to take it slow. I want no such thing! I know, I'm sorry, but..."

"Neither do I," Mycroft said quietly.


"I said, neither do I, really. But my head says my heart is too fragile to rush things. I want to sweep you off your feet, my dear. I want you to do the same to me, to take me to your bed, to..." Mycroft shivered, and looked terrified. "I want to take up where we left off, those weeks ago. I want to return to that."

"I would, if you asked. I would never hurt you, love. Ever. Honest. I want you to woo me and let me woo you back, I want you to love me and let me make love to you in every way possible but once we start, we won't be able to stop. I have no idea how bad that might be?"

"How could it be bad?"

"Too much, too fast, too intense, too...everything. Far too much to handle, for either of us. We need more nights like this; more conversation, more companionship, more...I dunno, more understanding I guess."

"Sherlock and John do not seem to have taken it slowly."

"We're not them, nor are they having a perfect time either, not helped by your brother's impatience. John's steadier but still..."

"Once again, I am in awe of your ability to understand the finer points of relationship issues."

"Agony Aunt Greggy, that's me." Greg grinned again, carefully placed his cup down and then held out his arms. "Come here."

"Beg pardon?"

"I said, come here. Lesson one. Hugging. I'm an affectionate man, Mycroft, get used to it." Greg stood and took Mycroft's cup from him, setting it down near his own. Then he turned and held out his arms and Mycroft took a tentative step forward. He felt Greg's strong arms engulf him in an embrace, pulling him close, setting his face to Mycroft's shoulder. The policeman was a couple of inches shorter, but he was also bulkier and Mycroft found himself relaxing into the solid comforting warmth, his own arms coming up to return the embrace. He felt Greg smile against his cheek.

"We need lots of this, you got that?"

"Yes, gregory. I agree."

"Good." Greg turned his head and found Mycroft's mouth and kissed him gently, soft and chaste and reassuring. "So...if we have the day off tomorrow..."

"I seconded you to my department for three days. I cannot avoid a meeting I have with the Secretary of State for Defence tomorrow evening, but otherwise Anthea scheduled my weekend free."

"Good. Then I'm inviting you out, Myc. A little trip out tomorrow. That okay with you?"

"More than...okay, Gregory. Where are we going?"

"Mystery tour. You trust me?"


"Really? Because if you didn't, I wouldn't actually be surprised. I mean, early days and all that."

"Nonsense, Gregory. I trust you with my brother's life, why shouldn't I trust you with mine?"

"Wow, really? I'm...well, flattered I suppose. Thank you. Thank you, love." Greg leaned in and kissed him again.

"We breakfast here, and then take me home for a change of clothes. You might do to change too."

"What do you recommend?"

"Something for outdoors, but relaxed, casual?"

"I am breathless with anticipation."

Greg grinned again and nodded. "Okay then, as long as that's the only reason you're breathless. I think we better get some rest. Wake me up at nine?"

"Very well." Mycroft retrieved his cocoa. "I will bid you goodnight then, Gregory. Sleep well."

"You too, Mycroft. Sweet dreams." Greg watched the door close and then began to undress. He wanted that bath and the en suite was beckoning.

Chapter 10: The Key to My Heart

Breakfast was the best Greg had ever tasted. It was full English, with proper leaf tea, in a tea pot, china cups and everything. They sat in the window, at a small intimate table, properly laid with a pristine white tablecloth, silver cutlery, and a small vase with flowers in. Their knees brushed against each other companionably and Mycroft was reading the morning paper with a domesticity that Greg found comfortable. They had both rested very well indeed, despite, but more possibly because of, the emotional upheaval.

"So, where did you have in mind to take me today?"

Greg ignored the immediate innuendo that leapt into his mind. "I told you, Myc. Mystery tour. Oh, Bloody Hell, do you need your minders with us?"

"I rarely go anywhere without them."

"Okay...But are they going to insist on an itinerary, you know, like a royal visit?"

"Quite possibly, but I do not need to be 'in the loop' as it were. You can tell them and they will maintain radio silence if that is what you wish."

"Oh, okay then. I guess...Is it in your power to take a country walk without being shadowed then?"

"Possibly not, but as a rule, my 'minders', as you put it, do not intrude. They are merely close enough that should the unthinkable happen they have the optimum chance of averting disaster." Mycroft smiled. "However, you are with me, so they may feel your presence is sufficient."

"Sufficient for what? Hell, Myc, am I your new bodyguard then?"

"Heaven forfend, Gregory. You are not armed, are you?"

"Bloody Hell, no I am not. Do you need me to be?"

Mycroft gave it some thought. "A precaution only, maybe," he suggested. "I do, however, suggest it might be advantageous..." Mycroft looked up to meet Gregory's eyes. "You are not comfortable with that? I know you are more than competent where firearms are concerned."

"It's not that...It's just...That's not my reason for existing, Mycroft. I am not your bodyguard, I am your partner. I will do it, but not because I'm on your close protection team. I do, however, want to protect you, which is why I will carry, if you think it's right for me to do so." Greg sighed, shoulders slumping a little. "It's just something else to get my head around, I guess. I have to accept the fact that it is needful around you."

"I admit I hate it too, but I would rather have the ability to retaliate in circumstances that would warrant such, rather than not. Something you should know about me, I routinely carry and I am more than competent with a firearm. I dislike the necessity but after 9/11 the rules of engagement have changed. Nothing is impossible these days."


"Very well then, I will arrange for the appropriate certificates to be issued and permissions granted. You will require further training and a full medical..."

"Bloody Hell, you do nothing by halves, do you? I'll presume this means you want me to carry all the time?"

Mycroft sighed. "That does not meet with your approval, does it?"

"Not really. I'm not a shoot-first-ask-questions-after kinda guy, but if you think it's advisable, then...I guess I'll have to be okay with it. I'm not daft, Myc. I do understand the need, it's just...a facer, I guess. I leave that sort of thing to SCO19 as a rule but I do know how to shoot. I just do not want anything to happen to you and now I can't ignore the fact that you face that level of risk every day."

"My choice, I'm afraid. However, it is not your choice. You can decide not to, you know. In the interests of honesty and openness and...entente cordiale." Mycroft allowed himself a small smile.

"I know, thank you." Greg shovelled up the remains of his sausages and swiped a piece of toast across the beans to soak up the sauce. He caught Mycroft watching and hesitated. "Sorry, I'm acting like I'm in a transport cafe, not a five star hotel."

Mycroft chuckled. "On the contrary, it is rare that I see someone relishing their food so much. The kitchen staff should be ecstatic."

"Well, that was perfect, Mycroft. The best breakfast I've had in ages." Greg caught Mycroft's gaze again and smiled. "Made the more so by the fact that I'm sharing it with you."


"Every time."




"So this was your idea." The wind ruffled Mycroft's hair and Greg grinned from his seat in the stern of the boat.

"Is this okay with you?"

"It is...very pleasant, yes. Unusual, if I may say."

Greg leaned back and saluted Mycroft with his beer. "I just thought we should get out somewhere. You and me, together. Gav's always pestering me to come for a ride, aren't you, Gav?" The man at the stern turned and grinned. "I phoned him and asked if I could bring a plus one and here we are. Don't fret, Myc. We can get some alone time later. Relax, enjoy the view, and we'll rendezvous with your minders when we tie up in Richmond. There's a great pub there, we can get lunch and go for a walk. Twickenham isn't far away, we could catch some rugby..."

"Ah, rugby, now I do have to say I quite enjoy watching that."

"League or Union?" Greg asked, eyes narrowing slightly.

"Union of course, Gregory. I'm surprised you have to ask."

Greg grinned. "Hear that, Gav. At least he isn't a heathen!" There was a distant bark of laughter from the man at the helm.

"God forbid," Mycroft replied. "I can at least watch the Six Nations with a clear conscience." He sat down beside Greg and watched the river slipping by. Greg was watching him, drinking in the fine profile and the man's dark blue eyes. Mycroft caught Greg watching and smiled.

"You should smile more often," Greg said gently. "Takes years off you."

"Gregory...That thing I was going to ask...When I met you and... Tim."

"Yeah?" Greg sat forward, turning to face Mycroft, making their exchange more private.

"I know you said we should take things slowly, but...we scarcely see each other as things stand. I would not wish for the same situation to recur...So I wondered..." He fished in his pocket and drew out a small packet. He gazed at it for a moment and then pressed it into Greg's hand. "I had this made for you." Greg frowned and took the small packet, opening it. Out fell a yale key, bright and newly cut. "I wanted to give you the key to my home, so you can come and go as you please. So we might enjoy each others' company of an evening, even if it is simply to say hello and goodnight..."

"You want me to move in?"

"Well, not exactly. I...The plain fact is I would love you to feel that you could live with me in a shared home. I want you to feel welcome, to feel that you are able to come over anytime, use the place as your own. I have no objection to your moving in if that is what you wish but I anticipated that you would feel it is a little early for such. Eventually, maybe...when you feel settled, when...and indeed if...something happens between us that develops into something more permanent. Until then, I want you to feel like you belong, without pressure to give up your own space. It will be somewhere to come if you want company, if you don't wish to sleep alone. I have, of course, added your biometric details to the database. Thumb print and retinal ID are also required in order to access the premises, but you will need the key as well..."

"Myc...Mycroft, this..." Greg was lost for words. "Are you sure?"

"Gregory, if I wasn't sure I would never have given you the key in the first place. Please, just...know that you are welcome and that I want you in my life. If this key helps convince you of that, well, all to the good. All I ask is you call or text me first, simply to let me or my people know. I may be out of the country, or late, or overnighting somewhere. That should not stop you, but it is wise to let my staff know, all the same. They have been instructed that you will henceforth be a feature of my life and that if your key turns in the lock, they are to welcome you the same way they would welcome me, warmly and respectfully, whether or not I am there. Because I do want you in my life, Gregory."

"Good, that's...very good. Thank you, Mycroft. It's more than I expected."

Mycroft smiled. "You are very welcome, Gregory." He watched the man turn the key over in his fingers thoughtfully, then he fastened the key to his key ring and stuffed it back in a pocket.

"I'll have one cut for you too, for my place. We should both feel welcome in the other's home after all. You know you can crash at mine any time you want. Mycroft..."

"Yes, Gregory?"

"I know I said I wouldn't do what you told me to any more, but...right now, if you demanded a kiss, I wouldn't say no."

"Really, Gregory?" Emboldened, Mycroft leaned a little closer. "So if I said that you absolutely must express your gratitude for my gesture with an appropriate demonstration of affection, because by your own words you are an affectionate man, you would obey me unequivocally?"

"Of course. Just say the words."

"Very well then. I find I require an appropriate gesture from your good self that conveys to me your abiding appreciation of my generosity. What could you offer me?"

"Oh, I can think of plenty, but right now, none of it can be done in the back of a boat in full view of the riverbank, or in front of my mate over there, he'd disown me! Soooo...come 'ere." He reached and took firm hold of Mycroft's jacket and pulled him close. Their lips met in a firm kiss, which left Mycroft in no doubt of Gregory's feelings.

"That was...just the ticket," Mycroft replied, somewhat breathlessly. "I am left in no doubt of your sincerity, Gregory."

"There's more where that came from, Myc."

"If you're sure..."

"I've never been more sure of anything, Mycroft." Greg's dark eyes fixed on him, and Mycroft felt his heart melting.

"I know you said you wouldn't do what I told you to any more, but what about a request instead of an order?"

"That depends."


"The nature of the request, of course."

"So if I asked you..." Mycroft paused. "If I wanted..."

"Yes?" Greg prompted gently.

"If I wanted more than just a kiss..." He watched Gregory smile, a soft smile of the type he was fairly sure nobody had ever directed at him before. "I know we talked about taking things slowly..." Mycroft gazed out across the water, focusing on nothing in particular.

"Yes, we did, and neither of us wants to, I know that too. We'd both love to get carried away by all of this, but...we both know that would be risky. Look, for now, let's just enjoy the day, and we can discuss it again later. Yes?"

Mycroft sighed and nodded. "If I am impatient, Gregory, it is fuelled by an urgency instilled in me by too much knowledge concerning the way of the world. I know how fragile life can be, how transient. It is merely that I do not wish to wait so long that something rears its ugly head to make me regret not going faster."

"Appreciated, love. I do understand. I work in serious crimes, remember? I know exactly how transient life can be sometimes but, and it is a but, sometimes we have to take a deep breath and be patient, because the consequences might be more damaging than rushing into something. Let things run their course, at least to begin with. Okay?"

"Very well. I bow to your common sense, Gregory. Although I wish it to go on record that I am not presently satisfied with the situation..."

"From the man who agreed with me last night and said his heart was too fragile."

Mycroft huffed then grinned, guiltily. "Hoist by my own petard?"

It was Greg's turn to grin. "Certainly not the first, won't be the last." He leaned in and kissed Mycroft again. "Trust me, we'll be fine, love."