Title: However Improbable, I Promise, This is the Truth
By: Jessie Blackwood
Pairing: Sherlock/John, Sherlock/John/Lestrade & Mycroft/Lestrade
Fandoms: Sherlock
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Characters owned by the BBC, Messrs. Moffat and Gatiss. Love your work, guys. I don't own anything except perhaps the notion behind this story. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental and unintentional.
Warning: M for mature adult themes, two men in love, and so in my traditional heart this is true 'slash' - a non-canonical pairing within a fandom.
Note: This is based on my favourite of all Sherlock Holmes quotes. When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth; even when it is right in front of your eyes and you're guilty of missing the obvious.
Summary: After John Watson is hurt, his thoughts are conflicted and he hits the bottle. Sherlock finds that for all his skills he misses the obvious. When something is in plain sight it can make it more difficult to see. This is Johnlock, turning into Mystrade.


"John?" The loud voice came as a shock in the silent bedroom, even though it was muffled by being on the other side of the door. John Watson opened an eye and wished he hadn't. Hazy recollections of the previous night came back to him slowly. The dark room, himself alone with his thoughts, pills and a bottle of whisky. Single malt too. Good vintage. Oblivion in a bottle.

"John!" Same voice, a little more insistent. "John, it's gone midday. Are you alright?" Alright? No, I'm not alright, he wanted to scream, but he wanted to scream what do you care? even more. But he didn't. Resentfully, he glared at the wall as it were to blame for his misfortune. His arm, where the bullet had grazed it, was aching. No, amend that, it was hurting. Like hell, actually. His head even more so. "John, either come to the door and let me in or I will break it down!" Damn it all.

"Am fine!" he lied, hoping it would work, knowing it wouldn't. Maybe he didn't want it to. If he was honest... He was realizing he wasn't honest with himself much these days. There was a pause. He'd only slurred his words a little bit. He was undecided on whether he ought not to slur them at all or slur them a bit more.

"Well, clearly you're not fine otherwise you would let me in. So, let me in. Right now, John." The voice was dispassionate, emotionless, but still quietly insistent. He wasn't going to let this one go easily. Ignoring the voice, John closed the offending eye again and tried to sink back into the stupor he had been rudely awakened from but it wouldn't come. Sleep evaded him.

"John, I won't ask again. Let me in, now, or I break this door down."

"What do you care!" Silence. Finally. He hadn't enjoyed raising his voice though. His head throbbed, the blood pounded in his temples, his neck muscles had seized up. He felt like vomiting. Not a good idea. His roiling stomach threatened to overcome his strength of will, which was about nil right now.

"John, there is only one person I care about right now." Now that was a surprise. Conversation stopper, that one. Sherlock did not care. He didn't do emotions. He was, in his own words, "a high-functioning sociopath" and, in Watson's medical opinion, displayed symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome. He didn't have friends, as he had spat out to Watson during the Baskerville case.

I only have one... The words rang in Watson's head relentlessly. One friend. Him. Captain John Hamish Watson, RAMC. He opened his eyes and stared regretfully at the wall.

"Watson, get this door—" the door opened, startling Sherlock with it's suddenness. "—open. Oh..." Sherlock didn't usually startle but he had honestly not expected Watson to open the door and certainly, for all his deductive skills, he had not foreseen the man standing there looking both vulnerable and ill on the threshold of his room, dark circles beneath his eyes and a feverish glint in them. The doctor blinked in the light from the hallway, squinting a little.

"What d'you want?" Watson's tone could only be described as churlish and that wouldn't really do justice to the way he spoke those few words. He loaded quit a bit of venom into them; enough, say, to kill a horse had the dosage been real. Sherlock's eyes narrowed and he peered past his one and only friend into the dark room beyond. There was the distinct smell of alcohol-whisky, single malt, 25 years old-and other less savory smells. The windows were closed, the room had not been aired and John had not bothered to wash. Sherlock resisted the urge to wrinkle his nose and frowned, his delicate brows meeting in the middle. Watson looked shocking. There was a slight tremble his right hand as he held the door open-Sherlock couldn't see the other one properly, it was tucked away in a sling, but if it had been his left hand, Sherlock might have discounted it as part of the previous trauma from Afghanistan. John had his head down, shoulders hunched a little—tension in the trapesius muscle of the neck and shoulders probably brought on by the excessive absorption of alcohol and resulting dehydration—whole body posture defensive. He stank too; thankfully only of stale sweat, but it was not right for John. He was always clean, always clean-shaven, always practical. Personal hygiene had slipped, always a bad sign. Of course, he was injured, possibly feverish-flushed complexion, photophobia, muscle pain—and the alcohol would not have done him any good at all. He would, of course, lack the energy required to take a bath. Sherlock could forgive him due to his suffering, but he could not and would not forgive him for putting himself at risk, yet again.

John could hardly see in the bright light, after the soothing darkness of his room. He was irritated and went about proving that Sherlock wasn't the only one who could be obtuse when he wanted to be. He wanted to be left alone to suffer in silence, to feel sorry for himself without being guilt-tripped about it, but that was a pipe dream. Judging by the immovable stance of the man who faced him, he would have a hard enough time convincing him to go away.

"Can I come in? I..." Sherlock stopped, uncertain how to continue. He wasn't good with people in the first place. Dead ones were fine. They yielded up all sorts of useful information without contributing a word from their own lips. Live people were fine when they shut up and didn't talk incessantly, but caused all kinds of other problems the moment they opened their mouths. He could ignore them, he was practiced in it, unless he wanted something from them. But sick people left him confused. He had no idea where to start with them, he had no trite words of comfort or condolence, nor did he have any empathy. He battened any feelings down tight in favour of cold hard deduction and thus he was most certainly not used to this friend business. Despite knowing that John was one. His friend. His only friend. Hadn't been lying when he had said that.

John hesitated to reply. Sherlock asking to come in and not pushing past without regard for his wishes? He blinked, confused. "Who are you?" he asked and saw the brief flash of something— uncertainty?—in those grey eyes. "Where's Sherlock and what have you done with him? You've obviously kidnapped him and replaced him with a clone." Watson scowled and turned to go back in the room, intent on seeking his bed. He felt terrible. "The Holmes I know doesn't care," he shot back over his shoulder.

"That's not true, John." Sherlock found his voice again, albeit a little husky. "Why else would I be here? To enquire of your availability to join me for cocktails? A round of Bridge maybe? To discuss the weather? I haven't laid eyes on you for two days. Well, 35 hours and-" he checked his watch "—forty three minutes. This is ridiculous."

John sighed. He was too tired and dispirited for verbal sparring. His small sigh and the slump of his shoulders gave him a crestfallen appearance. Sherlock frowned. "What's wrong? You've not been yourself since...well, I'm starting to...to worry, about you..." Sherlock was worried? Now John was convinced he had been kidnapped and replaced by a clone who looked identical to the consulting detective but had no idea how to behave convincingly. Possibly kidnapped by aliens... Maybe by mad scientists. That admission—"I'm starting to worry about you"—was unheard of. However, it did not change the situation.

John was exhausted. He was a mental wreck. He was a physical one as well. Never mind Sherlock showing his feelings, right then John Watson would have given anything not to feel the out-of-control emotions tumbling through him. He wanted to run screaming in the opposite direction but he was just too tired. He had so nearly been killed. A couple of inches to the right and he probably would have been. The bullet would have hit him in the chest, most likely ricocheting like a high velocity ping pong ball inside his ribcage, swiss-cheesing his heart and lungs, not to mention pulverizing his internal organs with hydrostatic shock. Pleasant thoughts. He made it to the bed and sat back down, battling down the nausea.

Close brushes with death had happened plenty of times before, so what made this time so spectacularly different? He had, after all, come much closer to it than this. This should class as a mere flesh wound to his bicep, but was rapidly turning into the straw that broke the camel's back. He clambered back onto his bed and lay there, gazing unseeing at the dark ceiling, in pain. By that point in time he was making little distinction between mental and physical discomfort.

"John?" Sherlock came over to stand by the bed, dragging the bedclothes up to cover the man and stop him from getting cold, then he loomed over his friend and frowned down at him. "Tell me what's wrong?" While he spoke, his eyes were flicking elsewhere, noting the abandoned cup of...something, possibly tea, on the bedside table, a rather impressive growth on the congealed surface. That was something else John was fastidious about, always drinking his tea and never leaving the dirty cups about.

"It won't change how I feel."

"Talk about it."

"I can't."

"Why?" Sherlock gazed intently at him as if he might deduce the reason by observation alone, although knowing him, he just might manage it. "You're embarrassed," he declared. "There is a slight blush to your skin, just above your pajama jacket collar." Delicate fingers twitched the cloth of his collar aside. "Not down to the fever, that flush just appeared. You're exhausted, that much is evident. You haven't bothered washing, which might be what is causing your embarrassment, but I would hazard a guess it's something else. You've been drinking—whisky to go by the smell. That would suggest to me that you are seeking to escape something. Why not merely give yourself a sedative? You could have asked me, I would have helped you administer it if you so wished. It's not like I don't know how, after all." Sherlock received a glare for that but he ignored it. "John, you've been in scrapes before that have done more damage but... something is different about this one. You're experiencing something new, something you've not felt before. So what does John Watson experience that is new to him? Guilt? That's not new. Regret? You have some new motivation..."

"Leave it be!" The anguish in John's voice was a surprise. "Please?" A plea. Close to the nail with that last observation then.

"So, you regret something? Done or not done, I wonder," Sherlock carried on, relentless. He saw the flicker in John's eyes and Sherlock's delicate brows drew together again, almost touching across the bridge of his nose. "Ah, something not done but you feel a need to complete before you die..."

"I'm an open book to you, aren't I?" The voice was weary, resigned.

"Pretty much, but then, pretty much everyone is. You knew that though. Why has it started to trouble you now?" Sherlock was met with silence. "Because I'm going to deduce something you don't want me to know?" Sherlock's brain was whirling. What did John Watson not want him to know that was so damned important? What secret was he trying to keep? He wasn't seeing anyone at the moment. That last woman... What was it that he felt he needed to do? Probably something unsaid, some opportunity that would be missed. What a conundrum. Sherlock smiled. Something to keep him occupied for a while... Unraveling the mystery that was John Watson. He stopped, gazed at the man on the bed. John was ill, that much was evident. Had he taken his antibiotics? Sherlock inspected the strip of pills on the bedside table and rapidly calculated that, knowing when they were prescribed and how many he was supposed to take, he had missed four. Good job on one level, considering the alcohol would have rendered them well nigh useless. "John? You've missed taking four of these pills."


"You need to take these. You of all people should know that." Cool fingers rested briefly on his forehead, brushing the short fringe away from his damp skin. "Your temperature is elevated, you're suffering pyrexia. Are you in any pain?"

"A little..."


"If you know so much, why ask?"

"It's the polite thing to do. Why are you being so bloody minded?"

"I'm hung over and I've been shot... Oddly enough that can make a person more than a little irritable."

Sherlock laughed at that. "Not lost your sense of humour then."

"Who said I was laughing?"

"John, you're a doctor. What would you do if one of your patients did this to themselves?"

"Hopefully they wouldn't be so bloody stupid," John snapped. "I can't take painkillers or antibiotics until the effects of the alcohol have worn off. Another twelve to twenty four hours, otherwise they won't work, or at the very least their usefulness would be impaired. At worst they could induce side effects. I know what I've done to myself," he admitted softly, with a forced smile. "I've been a naughty boy and I'll just have to take the consequences. It's hurting—a lot actually—but I'll just have to manage that."

He looked defeated, Sherlock thought, but this wasn't a minor-setback-get-back-on-the-horse-that-threw-me sort of scenario. John looked lost, betrayed and any one of a number of undefined but negative emotions. Sherlock pondered the conundrum. John was sliding into depression, but the great consulting detective was at a loss to surmise what had triggered it. This was exactly why he remained detached, distanced himself from destructive and negative emotions. They got in the way, they messed with one's head, they insinuated themselves into one's brain and lurked there, like a computer virus, interfering with one's work and one's state of health. The doors in Sherlock's brain began to close, shutting one after another on the emotion that threatened to block out his powers of reasoning. And the harder he tried, the harder it became. Desperately he slammed them, every last one of them, barring them against the insidious onslaught of the need to care. He had a friend. The truth, the absolute truth of it was that he—the great Sherlock Holmes—had to care, or he would lose the only true friend he had ever had.

For a moment, he weighed the possibilities, and, Sherlock being Sherlock, teetered on the edge of whether or not it was worth tempering his intellectual judgement with that of retaining his one and only... no, not friend. Soul mate. John Watson might be many things—infuriating, frustrating, and exasperating to name only a few. Yet he was also loyal, funny, compassionate and caring. He would make any woman a very good husband; he was a loving, gentle, sarcastic and... with a shock, a piece of the jigsaw fell into place. He would make any woman a very good husband. That's the bottom line, Sherlock thought. He didn't want John Watson to make any woman a good husband, he wanted John to be his husband, his friend, his soul mate. Sherlock's eyes slid shut. Oh. My. Good. God.

"Sherlock? What's wrong?" John was looking at him strangely.

"Nothing," he replied and forced a smile.

"Now I know there's something wrong. You don't smile like that..."

"I do smile, I smile all the time..."

"Yes, but not like that!" John retorted.

"Like what?"

"Like there's... something bothering you. Like you've thought of something to tell me that you know I'll hate. You're like my mother."

"Your mother?"

"Yes, she had that smile when my rabbit died and she didn't know how to tell me. I already knew though. She didn't know that. She was all for protecting me from the worst, trying to soften the blow. Truth to tell, it didn't do any good. I was upset and would have been whatever way she had told me. If you have to impart bad news, then do it simply, honestly and with respect. There is no other way." John's eyes betrayed his feelings. He was expecting the worst. "So, what's so bad you can't just come right out and tell me?"

That I want you, John, you above all others, to have and to hold, for better or worse? Sherlock sighed. I want us to be together. How do I tell you that? You'd run a mile and I would lose you. You're always so fond of telling people you're not gay, that we're not together. You mention it in passing, you affect unconcern-it's no big deal, you're not a homophobe, you want people to know you care and you're concerned and you couldn't care less if they are gay-but you hate the very idea that anyone should think it of you. You and your labels; nice little pigeonholes for everyone and everything, categorise and organise and file. That's what you do, you're a doctor, you diagnose illnesses and assess injuries and carefully triage every one you deal with based on the available data. That's how you work.

That's why we're alike; we assess, we judge, we diagnose the problems, the patterns, the threads in the tapestry, the interconnecting links and the six degrees of separation. We establish the links and draw the possible conclusions from the evidence. You might diagnose malaria because a woman has just returned from a holiday hotspot and is displaying a fever, headache, chills, diarrhoea, nausea. I divine that a man died by being hit with his own boomerang because a car-not his own-backfired in the middle of nowhere and took his attention away at the crucial moment. No matter the details, we each accomplish the same thing, in the long run. And yet... I deal with grey areas. I look at possibilities, potentials, permutations. There are infinite possibilities and combinations so I tend not to label. Labels are useful in their way but they pose limitations where there are non. When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. I deal with improbabilities on a daily basis.

"Sherlock? Sherlock!" John was agitated. His friend was not responding, merely staring off into the middle distance in some kind of trance. Damn it all, he is downright impossible sometimes but he's my friend, John thought, and I love him, and despite the frustrations, I need him, I need him like the breath in my lungs, like the blood in my veins, but if I spoke of it, he'd run a mile and hide. He doesn't do emotions. They get in his way. They're limiting, superfluous, painful. Proof of life. Sadly John turned to the wall and hid his face. Presently, he heard the door close as Sherlock left. That hurt worst of all.


The strains of a violin wafted on the night air. John lay in his bed and listened to the lament. It was haunting and beautiful and it made his heart ache. He hadn't heard it before. He wondered if it was something Sherlock had composed that evening or if it was just John's ignorance of violin music that made it sound unfamiliar to him. Oh, he might recognise a Mendelssohn concerto when he heard it, but this... Whatever it was, the tune was lovely, the playing artful and accomplished. He was content to lie there and doze as the music provided a soundtrack to his current state. When it stopped, he was disappointed.

The trouble was he wanted to hear more; every night, every day, whenever he could. He wanted to live at 221B forever, and he knew that was impossible. Sherlock was an accomplished musician, a brilliant man, and John Watson knew he paled into insignificance next to him. No woman would ever come as close to John as Sherlock had. With a shock, John knew it to be absolute truth. No woman would ever come close, because no one ever could, be they male or female. Moreover, he would never let a woman get close because he couldn't. It was already too late. No wonder they had never lasted more than a few dates. They were competing with a dream.

The door was open when Sherlock pushed it with his shoulder and hip. He carefully manoeuvred into the darkened room and put his burden down on the table near the bed. John looked as if he was asleep, the eyes closed, face serene.

"I like your playing."

"Thank you." Sherlock was unfazed by the fact that John was awake. His breathing had not been that of a sleeper. "You need sustenance. I brought you some soup and tea. Nothing special, just tinned. Mrs Hudson managed to heat it through without mishap." Sherlock sat down on the bed and laid a napkin across John's chest. "No, stay still, I'll feed you."

"There's no need—"

"Nonsense, there's every need. You're not well, one hand is trembling, the other is out of commission. You barely managed to hold the door open earlier, so I very much doubt that you could hold a spoon effectively. This is one less thing to worry about."

"Sherlock, why are you doing this?"

"Because you're...you need help...Let me help you, John? Please?"

John relaxed back onto the pillows again. "I'm perfectly capable of feeding myself, you know. I'm not disabled, just wounded." He waved his good hand. "Look, I'm capable—"

"I beg to differ."

"And just who is the doctor here?"

"It hardly matters if the doctor in question is not facing the truth!" John glared at him but chose, wisely, not to say anything more. "Besides, you took a bullet meant for me. How do you think I feel?"

John pretended to think about it. "Oh, I don't know. Guilty? Responsible? You mean you actually care?"

"Damn it, yes. I care. Now, can we get on?" Sherlock brandished a spoon.

"So you figure by helping me, you pay off your debts?" Sherlock stopped, spoon half-way to the bowl he had picked up and uncovered. He looked away. "I'm sorry," John said. "I hadn't meant that to come out the way it did."

"That's alright. You're probably delirious." It took John a short while to realize that he was actually joking.

"Was that... meant to be funny, Sherlock? Are you having a joke at the expense of a sick man?"

"Probably." The two men locked their gazes on each other. Afterward, they were never sure who chuckled first but both ended up shaking their heads in exasperation. Sherlock offered up the full spoon and John obediently opened his mouth to receive it. Sherlock was careful, watching John for any sign of distress or discomfort. He didn't eat much but it was enough and Sherlock did not force the issue when John held up his hand in mute appeal to stop.

"Still feeling a little dizzy," he said softly. "Think I've burdened my stomach enough. I need sleep."

"You need a bath."

John paused, not sure if he'd heard correctly. "Did you say bath?"

"Yes, John. It is my painful duty to inform you that you smell. Sweat and male musk only smell good on a washed body. You'll not stand a hope in hell with...anyone if you don't keep clean."

They smell good to him? Do I smell good? John wondered if Sherlock was admitting to what he thought he was admitting to. Couldn't be. Seriously? Doubtless it was simply that it was a small observation to encourage him not to be antisocial in his personal hygiene. But a bath? He shuddered. He never took baths, not any more. A shower, now that was fine. But a bath...

"John? John! What's wrong? John, talk to me..."

"What? What's the matter? I—"

"John, you're shaking. What on earth is the matter with you?" Sherlock ran back through possible triggers for John's PTSD. It had to have been verbal, there had been nothing else. You need a bath. Was that it? John has some issue... "What is it about bathing that you hate?" He saw John physically jump at the mention of it. "Surely you wouldn't object to me helping you with that? Or do you have privacy issues?" A minute shake of the head was all he got.

"Shower, I'll shower."

"John, you cannot stand in the shower for that length of time, and besides, I cannot support you unless I'm in there with you and...I doubt you'd appreciate that." There was no response. Sherlock frowned at that. Whatever the problem was with the idea of bathing, it was overriding everything else, all other possible responses. There was no twitch at his mention of being in the shower together, despite the almost immediate and unwelcome thoughts that it triggered in Sherlock himself. "If you're embarrassed about your scars..." Again the small negative twitch of the head. Scars. Was that it? "Let me see, why else would you not only hate the idea of a bath but feel physically repulsed by it? Negative associations with bathing. From Childhood maybe? No?" Again the shake. Sherlock observed John's convulsive swallow. The idea was making him feel physically ill. A stress response. Interesting. Time to push a little. Not too much, but a tiny amount, just to confirm something. "John, what's the first thing that comes into your mind when I mention the bath?" Eyes squeezed shut, John shook.

"Drowning," he moaned softly.

"Drowning? Have you almost drowned in the bath before?" A small almost imperceptible nod. "But not when you were a child? So it wasn't a childhood accident?" The negative shake again. Sherlock sighed. He had better things to do than play twenty questions. "Did someone try to drown you?" Ah, now we're getting somewhere. This time his whole demeanour changed. John's eyes were haunted as they turned to gaze at him. Sherlock could have kicked himself. "John? Were you ever... captured? Held against your will? In Afghanistan maybe?" Where else, after all. There was a long pause before John would meet his eyes again. There it was, the tiny nod. So there it was.

"Freezing cold, the water... made to... to strip..." Here we go, confession time. "We went to bring in some casualties but we were intercepted by a patrol, pinned down with gunfire. The rest of the lads were separated from us, then a car bomb went off and destroyed the vehicle we'd been using. My orderly, Murray, he got me out, but we were surrounded. They took us hostage..." As if the floodgates had opened, the story poured out. They had been lucky, held for less than forty eight hours before they were rescued, but in that time... Sherlock sat unmoving, listening as John described being thrown naked into a bath of freezing water and held under, nearly drowned and brought out to have questions about troop movements shouted at him. Then he would be held under again until he answered. "I didn't tell them anything because I didn't know anything." The treatment had gone on far too long, and he had been left freezing on the floor of his cell. They were rescued a few hours later, but the damage had been done. Hypothermic and wounded during the rescue, John had begun the steady decline in health that had led to his being invalided out and pensioned off.

"Come on," Sherlock stood.


"The bathroom. You still need a bath and this won't go away."

"I can't! Don't ask me to, please Sherlock, I—"

"John, do you trust me?" Watson stared at him. Uncertainty played across his features. Then he nodded, once, but firmly. "Good, then understand this. I will not let you fall. I will not let you drown but if you don't face this, then it is always going to haunt you. Do you understand?" John nodded. "And please don't tell me that this is not the conventional therapy. I do not work conventionally as you well know..."

"Sherlock? I...I don't care how you propose to do it, I just don't think I'm strong enough for this..." There was real fear in John's voice. He got up and stood by the bed, stoic and brave, back straight, but he looked as if he were walking out to face a firing squad.

"Well, if you're not able to face a bath yet, then you do need to shower." Sherlock paused. It was the one place he had desired to be with John for so long. He had fantasized about this, the perfect opportunity to get what he wanted, to be legitimately close to John, to hold him and support him and now it came to it, he could no more take advantage of the situation than fly. His sigh was heavy and resigned. What should he do now?

"Sherlock...I...I appreciate what you're doing, you know." He was rewarded with a rare smile and a nod. "But I don't think a shower is a good idea though. I might slip."

"I know... sponge bath then?"

"Why are you so damned obsessed with me being clean? I'm too tired for this shit!"

"I'm sorry, John. I just thought it would help you feel better, that's all."

"Well, if I was well enough, it might but not right now. It's all too much effort. My head is pounding, I ache, my arm hurts."

"I'm sorry. Get back into bed. I'll leave you in peace."

"No...I'm sorry too. I didn't mean to be rude or ungrateful, it's just that...I'm..." John took a shuddering breath and sat back down on the bed. "I'm near breaking point." He ran his good hand shakily through his sandy hair, unable to meet Sherlock's eyes. "I am going to lose you."

"Lose me?" All Sherlock got in reply was a mute nod. "How? I warn you, I am rather difficult to lose."

A bark of laughter escaped but it was hollow. "I'm too emotional for you," John suggested. "I'm losing control of myself. Look, Sherlock, I have a confession to make to you... I must make it, but I can guarantee no good will come from it. The saving grace is that I won't have to carry the burden anymore."

"John, what the deuce is wrong with you? What confession?"

"I love you!" The words fell into the air like blessings, but they could have been bricks as far as John was concerned.

Sherlock froze. Had he heard correctly? His ears were playing tricks...but no, they were fine. John suddenly choked and began to cough, doubled over in pain with it. Sherlock was at his side in an instant, supporting him with an arm around his shoulders, waiting the storm out, letting it pass. He impulsively tightened his grip, mindful of John's injury but holding the man close to him, stroking his back in soothing motions.

Eventually, John realized that the arm around his shoulders belonged to the man he had just, foolishly, declared his love for. God, he must be delirious. He could blame it on that, he decided. He tried to extricate himself but Sherlock held on firmly. "Oh no, not letting you go now."

"What? I...what?"

"Hmm, you must still be feverish." The back of a gentle hand, cool fingers soothing to his brow, laid briefly on the hot skin. "You're not making any sense."

"You're still here."

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"I don't know. Might have something to do with me being stupid and telling you that...that I..." He faltered. He really didn't think he could say the words again.

"That you love me?" Sherlock was smiling.

"Please, don't mock. This is the stupidest thing I've ever done. I mean, why would you be interested? You're straight, you could have any woman you wanted."

"Except the only one I might be remotely interested in and that's only because she was the most intelligent woman I've met in too long a while. John, you are my friend. Why would I not be interested? Oh yes, because I'm straight...hmmm, that could be a problem. If it was true. Which it isn't. Although as I said before, I don't like labels, they limit one's potential. Do you really? Love me, I mean?" There was a look of wonder on his face that John did not expect to see. "Do you?"

"I must, I guess." Question is, is it returned? Sherlock was looking at him a little oddly.

"I can't believe it," he said softly. "Of all the things, John, I never saw this coming. Would it surprise you to know, I've thought about this moment a lot?"

"Worried I would proposition you?"

"No, not worried. Hoped, John. I hoped you would. You are my friend, John Watson. My best friend. I love you back, have wanted to for a long time. I'm sorry, we've wasted so much time." John gazed back at him, unable to quite believe his ears. Was Sherlock saying he loved him back? For answer, Sherlock leaned toward him, closed the gap between them and laid his lips on John's, exquisitely gently. A mere brush, but it set John's blood on fire. He moaned softly into the kiss, his good arm coming up to wrap around Sherlock's waist. They sat together like that for what seemed an age, neither wanting to move. "Besides, why is it so improbable that I could love you? You will not apply my precept," he said, shaking his head. "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"

"I guess I thought it was impossible, so I eliminated it."

Sherlock chuckled and pressed John back to the bed. "You need rest. This has been traumatic for you. Can I get you anything? Do anything?"

"I think I need to sleep. Feel like shit."

"I'll leave you in peace—"

"No! Don't go! Please?" John sighed and pulled back the covers in mute appeal. Sherlock took one look and balked.

"John, are you sure?"

"I've never been more sure of anything. Please. Stay with me?"

"Alright." He began to take his clothes off, acutely aware that John was watching him. Sliding into bed, clad in nothing but his boxers, he fitted himself alongside the man who had just opened his heart to him. There was an audible sigh as Sherlock's skin touched John's. Their eyes met from a few inches distant. It was John's turn to press a kiss to Sherlock's cheek, a brief touch, nothing more. "Go to sleep," Sherlock ordered and smiled as John rolled away and pushed back against him. A warm arm slid around him and drew John close, and a hand played with his hair, the delicate touch gentle and distracting. Spooning, they each relaxed into the warmth and comfort offered by the other. In moments, they were both drifting, worn out by the emotional stresses.


The little things are infinitely the most important.

If Mrs Hudson thought it odd that her two lodgers spent the afternoon in Dr. Watson's bedroom, she kept her own counsel, as per usual. She really liked the pair of them and in her opinion, they ought to just get on with it and accept that they were a couple. Her nephew was bisexual and honestly, he was a lovely boy, bright and polite and well-balanced. She didn't hold with those people who would have a go at someone because they were gay, she had plenty of gay friends and there wasn't a bad bone in any of them; except perhaps Alex and he could be a little bitchy now and then, but honestly, he was a nice man when you got to know him.

She bustled about, tidying the place, tut-tutting about the body parts in the fridge and the strange smell lingering in the study, but she said nothing. It was all part of having Sherlock as a lodger. She had to admit—secretly to herself of course, it didn't do to admit everything in front of that young man—that he was quite the most unusual and most exciting man she knew. He had gained a bit of notoriety the previous year and then fallen from grace but he was coming back, gradually building his reputation back up. Of course, she had never believed any of the garbage the tabloids had thrown at him. Sherlock was a lovely man, if a little tactless—well, frankly, a lot tactless—but he had...difficulties, and she understood. In fact challenges would be a better word. Take Moira's boy for instance. He was dyslexic, he had trouble writing words on a page but he was bright as a button and quicker off the mark than she was, and such a polite young man too. She smiled at the memory. He called her Auntie Marie for some reason. There were lots of people nowadays who were challenged in their own way, weren't there? A lot of them were a lot nastier than Sherlock Holmes.

She put the kettle on and decided that she should take the boys some tea. After all, John wasn't well and Sherlock... well, Sherlock never usually refused tea. Food, yes, tea, no. So she pottered about, collecting the tray and laying it neatly—Sherlock liked some things neat even if his life was disorderly—and found some biscuits. She checked the oven; the roast was cooking perfectly. She would ask if they would like some while she was there.


A knock on the bedroom door roused John Watson from a comfortable slumber to find Sherlock's unruly dark curls on his shoulder, dark lashes in repose on his cheeks and a beatific smile on his full lips. John ached to kiss that mouth, to feel the softness with his own. He had missed the man so much during their enforced separation, more than he had ever thought he could. The knock came again, interrupting his train of thought.

"Sherlock!" he nudged the man lying against him, arms and legs wrapped around him protectively. "Sherlock!"

"Uh?" Sherlock grunted, then came awake abruptly, eyes struggling to focus. "What? What's wrong?"

"Don't panic, it's only Mrs Hudson," John hastened to reassure him. "It's alright, Mrs Hudson," he called out, attempting to extricate himself from the arms around him. "Won't be a minute. Sherlock! The door..."

"Ah, right." Not quite awake, Sherlock rolled upright, sat for a minute trying to get his bearings and then stood, walking only slightly unsteadily to the door. He was dressed in nothing but his boxers. On balance, John thought, knowing Sherlock Mrs Hudson was lucky he had that much on. Not that she could complain. He was a beautiful man...

Rubbing his tired eyes and running a hand through his tousled curls, Sherlock flung open the door.

"Afternoon, dear, I brought you both some tea," she said, unfazed by his state of undress.

"Thank you, Mrs Hudson, you are an angel in disguise." He smothered a yawn, took the tray from her and she simpered a little, succumbing to the flattery. Then she peered past him to where John still lay in bed.

"How are you,dear? Feeling any better?"

"Thank you, yes. A bit sore but nothing I can't manage." He watched Sherlock pad to the table and put the tray down. Oh, my God, the man might be lean but he had a beautiful arse.

"Well, you take care of yourself. I have a roast in the oven, I'll bring you some later, shall I? Meat and two veg, dear?" John nodded, smiling, but biting his lip in an effort not to laugh at the unintentional double entendre. "Sherlock, you be a good boy and look after him," she continued, oblivious. Then she paused, looking at them fondly. "You two... you look..." she paused, struggling for words.

Sherlock shifted his attention onto her. "Tired?" he suggested.

"...right together," she finished with a fond smile. Then she turned and was gone, as quickly as she had come. Sherlock stared after her, mouth open slightly.

"Well, no hiding it now." John smiled, content. For some reason, it didn't disturb him that she obviously thought they were now together. He glanced at Sherlock as the man came back to the bed. He was slender and lithe; he moved like a dancer. Too thin, for some tastes, John thought, but not for his. The man was sensual, cat-like, and like a cat he was sometimes aloof to the point of callousness. Underneath, though, was a willing heart, a sharp intellect, a basically good nature, delicacy of touch, attention to detail and finesse in all he did.

Sherlock was unique. He would laugh at the pointlessness of that analogy, probably citing that a person's DNA made them unique anyway and the statement was thus meaningless because even identical twins were not guaranteed to possess the same DNA pattern. He would probably cite more appropriate words, like unparalleled, matchless or incomparable, maybe even eclectic and possibly eccentric, but he would be pedantic about the whole thing. John knew what he himself meant anyway. Sherlock was unlike anyone else he had ever met.

"What are you smiling at?"

"You. Who else? We're the only ones in the room," John pointed out. "I like smiling at you, you deserve to be smiled at. You make me smile."

"Why, exactly? Am I funny? Is there something you should tell me, John?" He sat on the bed, a small frown pulling his eyebrows down. On closer inspection, John could see that Sherlock's eyes were blue-green, rather than grey. They were slightly slanted, another feature that lent him a cat-like air. There was a glint of humour in them, a sparkle in the depths. John's smile widened in response and then he looked away, suddenly embarrassed.

"Sorry...I just don't know what to say."

"Then don't say anything," Sherlock replied, leaning close. John felt the soft exhalation against his cheek and held his breath. Sherlock's lips, those perfect 'cupid's-bow' lips, infinitely soft and kissable, almost brushed John's as Sherlock spoke softly, his voice gentle. "John, we'd better drink this tea before it goes cold..." He dodged the hand that John tried to swat him with, chuckling, and paced back to the table. "Shall I be 'mother'?" he asked and John frowned.

"I'd as soon not get into Oedipal complexes thank you very much..."

He could be so damn infuriating, John thought, watching the man go through the motions of pouring tea and adding milk and sugar. He was deft in all he did, economical of movement and graceful with it. With surprising strength he helped John to sit and propped him up against the pillows before handing him his tea. Watson was much improved for the rest, a good three hours uninterrupted sleep. He sat sipping his tea and watching Sherlock as he sat on the bed, watching John.

"John," Sherlock had that tone of voice that said John wasn't going to like what was said next.

"You want me to take that bath, don't you?"

Sherlock's eyebrows rose. "Very good, what brought you to that conclusion so fast?"

"Your eyes, your expression, your tone of voice. They have that intonation that conveys the message that I won't like what you are going to say. Since there is only one thing on my horizon at present that I might not like you saying, I deduced that it must have something to do with what we spoke about earlier."

Sherlock actually clapped him. "Very good, John, we'll make a consulting detective out of you yet. Well, maybe a consulting detective doctor."

"How about Forensic consultant?"

"Ah yes, CSI Baker Street?"

"Measuring the velocity of a biscuit, maybe?" he held up one of Mrs Hudson's digestives and mimed hurling it like a Frisbee. Sherlock actually smiled at that. "I was thinking more along the lines of mapping the splatter pattern of Mrs Hudson's washing up liquid?"

"You already shot her wall."

"Well, it threatened me," Sherlock murmured. "What was I to do? Be intimidated by a wall?"

"Well, you drive me up the wall anyway. Maybe it's pissed off at you for doing that."

"Hmm, well, maybe it'll scrawl RACHE* on it's surface and poison me with asbestos."

"I don't think there is any in this building."

"Do not under estimate the cunning of The Wall. It would give Moriarty a run for his money."

"Moriarty's dead."

"So is the wall, and did that stop it?" Sherlock was grinning like an idiot now, their banter getting more and more ridiculous as time wore on.

"We are sure that Mrs Hudson didn't drug this tea, aren't we?" John asked, taking an experimental sniff. "I mean, our humour is reaching hitherto unknown depths of obscurity and we're finding each other funny."

"Maybe that's what people in love do?" Sherlock answered, a shy glance from those eyes piercing John's heart. It took his breath away.

"Maybe they do. I wouldn't know. Never properly been in love before, not the really-and-truly, forever kind."

"You haven't?"

"Nope. You?" Sherlock shook his head slowly. "Well then, there you are, you see? It's for us to find out, explore, encompass, develop..." Their eyes met. "Scary, isn't it?" he said.

"I think it's wonderful, actually. An amazing adventure into the unknown. Each an explorer in his own psyche." Sherlock tipped the cup and drained the dregs of his tea. Then he set the cup down carefully and regarded John with a serious expression. "An adventure waiting to happen," he said. "The Game's afoot! For better, for worse..."

"Richer, for poorer...?"

"In sickness and in health..."

"Damn it, Sherlock, we've not known each other five minutes..." John was wary, wondering where this conversation was leading.

"We've known each other a long time, John, long enough. Remember that. Life is too short. You said so yourself. After I came back?"

"I know. I also know you shun relationships. As a rule."

"Not this one, definitely not with you. Let's see where this goes." John nodded, not trusting himself to speak. "You trust me?" Sherlock asked again and John nodded, although he didn't trust, not really. I have trust issues, but Sherlock knows that. After he had returned post Moriarty's demise, John had been angry and vowed he would never trust him again. But that had, as ever, lapsed. He did actually trust Sherlock, amazingly, after all that had happened, if he was honest with himself. He trusted Sherlock to keep him safe, any way he knew how. After all, he had faked death in order to protect John and Mrs Hudson and all the others that little git Jim Moriarty knew about. Which was pretty much everybody, after all.

"Right then. This bath," John said resolutely and let out a shuddering breath.

"Yes, John. I told you, I won't let you drown and I won't let you fall. I promise you of both those things." Sherlock got up and left the room, and pretty soon, John could hear the water in the system being run. He turned cold, broke out in a cold sweat, tried to calm his racing heart. He was home, in England, London, 221B Baker Street, not that cellar in Afghanistan, not held against his will...

"John, John, talk to me, come on. Bloody hell, John, if just hearing me running the water will trigger this... Come on, let's get you up. That's right, lean against me. Come on, one foot in front of the other. You're safe, I've got you." He kept up the litany of supportive words, an arm around John's shaking shoulders, all the way to the bathroom. The big, old-fashioned porcelain bath was full and steaming, frothy with bubbles.

"It's hot, it's soothing, all ready for you. Nobody will hurt you here, John." Gentle fingers kneaded the tension from his shoulders. "Come on, let's get you undressed." Sherlock's nimble fingers worked at his dressing gown knot and undid it. He slipped the blue and white striped garment carefully off the captain's shoulders and let it fall. Sherlock eased the sling from around John's neck and off his injured arm—John gritted his teeth but it wasn't actually as painful as he'd expected. Manageable, at least.

Sherlock admired John's body in the bathroom light. He was stocky, solidly-built, strong—when he was well—and nicely muscled, but not heavily. His chest was dusted with soft hair, leading enticingly down his stomach in a treasure trail that disappeared enticingly beneath his waistband. Sherlock's eyes drank in the sight and he leaned in to taste the man, dropping a kiss on his good shoulder. He slid to his knees and John's breath hitched in his throat as Sherlock leaned closer and made his intent known.

"I want to know you, John, every inch of you." Gentle hands, warm and sure, ran down his ribs to the band of his pajama pants. Agile fingers eased them off and they fell to the floor to pool around John's ankles. He stepped out of them, kicking them away. The hands on his hips almost burned against his skin. He bit his lip and moaned, softly, carded his fingers through Sherlock's hair and encouraged him closer.

As Sherlock had surmised, all thoughts of freezing water and being half-drowned had fled Watson's mind. Thoughts of what he would like to do to the man currently engaged in trying to change his memory of bathrooms—and not doing too bad a job of it—filled it instead. Sherlock pressed his lips to John's hip bone in a lingering kiss, promising much more, then he stood, smiling at his friend's dazed expression. Quite when John was guided into the water he wasn't sure, but with a suddenness that made him jump he felt the heat strike against his skin.

"There, that's it," Sherlock was saying, handling him firmly, holding him as he sat down in the hot water. "I've got you. Relax now, there, you're in." The warm arm around his shoulders held him tight. Sherlock had meant every word of what he had said. He held John firmly, murmuring a constant litany of soothing words, grounding him, reminding him that he was safe and warm...and loved.

Sherlock was engaged in doing something new. He was intrigued with himself and analysed his own reactions in detail. Quite simply, this was a new experience in a life he had thought was devoid of new experiences. He had figured that nothing new existed in his world. He had been proved wrong again. He was caring for someone else. As he applied a soft cloth to John's skin, washing away the sweat and lingering tiny patches of blood that the nurses had missed when cleaning him up, Sherlock was surprised that he was quite enjoying caring for another living soul. He had never allowed himself to get this close before. Certainly not to another man. While he hadn't considered himself homosexual, it was only because he hadn't actually considered himself as anything so specific. He hadn't bothered to label himself. It wasn't that he didn't find both men and women attractive, he didn't usually look at people that way in the first place. To him people were a bundle of facts; where they had come from, where they were going, what their job was. He studied the minutiae of trace evidence gathered in a few moments, telling him everything from a penchant for popcorn to a lack of cash, a holiday in New York to whether they had arrived at 221B by bus or taxi. He observed. That's what he did. And he did so now, only the person under his scrutiny was himself.

By the time Sherlock had finished with him, John was drowsy, warm from the heat and soothed by the attention. The bubbles had dissolved and the heat was dissipating and it was time to get him out and dried off. Again, John was surprised at the strength in Sherlock's grasp. He was lifted up, guided out and onto a pile of towels on the floor, strategically placed so Sherlock could sit on a stool with John sitting between his legs. He towelled the short fair hair dry with gentle massaging as John leaned against his knees, content to doze against him. "There now, that wasn't so terrible, was it?" He was rewarded with a contented snore.

*reference Study in Scarlet. Rache is German for Revenge.


"It was worth a wound; it was worth many wounds; to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask."

He was drifting contentedly in and out of sleep. He felt warmth behind him; solid dependable warmth from a familiar lean body whose arms were wrapped loosely around him. John also felt wonderfully clean, smiling at the memory of Sherlock's tenderness and care throughout his bath. He had shown a hitherto unknown side of himself, the part that could care deeply for another person. It isn't that Sherlock can't care about someone else, John found himself thinking. It's a mistake to think that of him. It was rather that he shied away from it, from the pain such relationships could engender. Emotions got in his way, stopped his agile mind from thinking clearly, made him vulnerable. Obviously the people Sherlock cared for were worth all that, and for someone like Sherlock to admit that, those few he thought of as friends must mean an awful lot to him. For John Watson, the thought that he came top of that list was humbling.

John also became aware of something else as he lay there, something rather insistent. Frankly, it was something he was unable to ignore, pressed rather hard against his backside as it was. Sherlock was sprawled behind him, oblivious to his own rather impressive erection. John exhaled a sigh and pressed back against him with a soft groan. He lay like that for as long as he dared, then rolled over within the circle of Sherlock's arms to study the sleeping man before the frustration got too much. What he saw almost took his breath away. Sherlock looked appreciably younger in sleep. John studied the closed eyes, their soft dark lashes against his pale cheek, the eyes themselves moving beneath the lids as he dreamed. His pale skin was smoothed over those high cheekbones, relaxed and free of any taught lines of concern or thought. There was a small smile on his lips. He looked calm and content. Pity to wake him really. John hadn't believed it was possible to watch someone else sleep. He had previously consigned that to the kind of trashy romance novels that his sister had toyed with for a time. He had picked one up once, read a couple of pages and wondered how many women could be taken in by such drivel. Now, though, he found himself observing the rise and fall of Sherlock's chest, the long fingers, narrow wrists and soft dusting of hair on his arms. The small details that made up Sherlock Holmes were suddenly very, very important to him.

"Sherlock?" John nudged him gently but there was no response. "Sherlock?"

"Hmm?" John smiled at the incoherent grumble and leaned close, planting a gentle kiss on the man's nose. "Hmph...wha'?" Sherlock opened his eyes and for a fraction of a second, surprise registered in the pale blue-green. John knew his own smile must have been soppy but he still could not quite believe he had gained a lover. Scratch that, they hadn't made love yet; although, if what he could feel was anything to go by, that might be an imminent event.

"Hello there. Are you...feeling okay?"

"I think so, except some bloody idiot keeps waking me up." Sherlock yawned and ruffled John's hair affectionately. "How are you holding up?"

"Well, the hangover isn't as bad now. I maybe need something to eat and to get those pills inside me. Although..."


"Well..." John strategically nudged his body against Sherlock's. "I thought perhaps food was the last thing on your mind right now."

"Ah. Yes..." Sherlock's eyes were intense, pupils dilated.

"Why, Mr Holmes," John said, reached out his good hand and pressed his fingers over the rapid pulse beat just beneath Sherlock's jawline. "You seem to be exhibiting an increased heart rate. Are you sure you're feeling quite alright? What other symptoms do you have?" He allowed his fingers to run teasingly up the side of Sherlock's face, along his cheekbone, tracing the shell of his ear.

"Oh, I don't know..." Sherlock murmured. "Breathlessness, high blood pressure, chills. I have butterflies in my stomach...maybe I'm coming down with something?"



"Yup, ah-huh. Didn't you know? Doctors take an exam to see if they've mastered that word, it's a prerequisite." Sherlock smiled. "I think, Mr. Holmes, that in all probability you have a terminal case of love sickness and there's only one cure that I'm aware of."

"And that is?"

John smiled and affected a professional air. "You'll need a hefty dose of making love on a daily basis, I'm afraid, to be taken as and when the need arises. You'll also need constant care and treatment will need to start as soon as possible."

"Then there's no time to waste. I'm in your hands, doctor," he purred. "I'm sure you'll be gentle. Your bedside manner is impeccable."

Hard put not to laugh, John leaned in and pressed his lips to Sherlock's again. He was rewarded with an enthusiastic response, a lithe tongue demanding entry to his mouth, hands cradling his face gently. They both moaned into the kiss, softly, almost desperately.

"Oh God," John groaned softly. "What you do with your tongue should be illegal..." Long fingers snaked around his neck to hold John in place as Sherlock's mouth sought his again for another scorching kiss while his other hand roamed across the smooth skin of John's ribs. John pulled back a little, despite the hand behind his head, and buried his face in Sherlock's neck, placing hot open-mouthed kisses along the pale throat, moving upward to the man's ear. The hand on the back of his neck slid up to card through his hair. Sherlock gasped as John's lips fastened onto his earlobe, suckling gently. Sherlock's hand dropped lower and it was John's turn to gasp as the long fingers curled and cupped him through the soft material of his pajama bottoms. Sherlock squeezed gently, applying just enough pressure to make John moan and fling his head back into the pillow.

"Oh, God, that's good." His eyes sought Sherlock's in the semi-darkness. "You are so beautiful, you know that?

Sherlock paused, slightly taken aback by the comment. "Nobody has ever thought of me that way before."

"Has no one ever said anything? Never?" John was surprised. "Well, I think you are." Sherlock was beautiful; that narrow face with its high, sharp cheekbones, those slanting blue-green eyes, and floppy dark curls framing the fair skin, and that mouth, lips that just begged to be kissed. In fact, John wanted to do that now and wasted no time proving it. He pushed Sherlock down and leaned close, tongue swiping across Sherlock's lips, demanding entry again.

Warmth had blossomed in Sherlock's chest at the complement. He was not used to praise concerning his appearance. No one had ever said that to him, nobody had ever told him they considered him to be attractive. He would have thought it irrelevant though. What he looked like didn't really matter to him. He smiled, a soft curve of lip that lit his face and a certain softness to his eyes that made him look a little shy. He opened his mouth eagerly when John kissed him, giving no resistance. He knew what it was to want, to need, and it was raw-edged and almost desperate. So long alone, his mind screamed, but no more, not any more. He knew deep inside that he was loved by a very generous man who was capable of great courage and boundless affection and no matter what happened, if anything should take John away from him-although his mind shied away from that thought-still nothing could take away the gift John had given him; the precious gift of self-worth.

John's fingers gently traced the line of Sherlock's jaw and down his neck. He loved Sherlock's skin; warm, soft, a smooth creamy velvet under his fingers. John longed to be in greater contact with it. He kicked off his pajama trousers and pressed closer, hooking one foot around the back of Sherlock's leg for leverage, tugging them both closer, but his eagerness was curtailed by a sudden pain in his arm that stabbed downward and had him gasping. Sherlock was immediately all concern and jumped away from him. "John? What's wrong?"

"Damn!" John exhaled forcefully, recognizing the warning for what it was. "Damn... hurts..." he held the injured limb and grimaced. "Sorry..."

"Nothing to be sorry for. If it's hurting, you must stop." A protective hand slid over his.

"I don't want to." The reply was almost petulant. Sherlock grinned.

"Now who is being a brat?" he said with a smile. "Don't run before you can walk." He stroked his fingers through John's fair hair. "Relax, stupid man." John huffed but allowed himself to be drawn into a warm embrace. He snuggled into Sherlock's shoulder. He frowned, puzzled. Although a tactile person by nature-John had been brought up by loving parents who had encouraged him to hug and be hugged-he did not, absolutely not, snuggle! He hadn't snuggled since he was a child. Yet here he was cuddling, and enjoying it, with a man! He sighed, and snuggled deeper into the warmth and comfort offered by the arms around him. Sod it, he thought, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

"We have plenty of time," Sherlock was saying. "There's no need to rush." One hand strayed, massaging across the contours of John's stomach soothingly. The hand dropped south and took control. "Relax," Sherlock commanded gently. "Let me do the work." John was still being held close, cuddled into the crook of Sherlock's arm but his other hand was stroking and squeezing and encouraging John to hardness, cradling him as he arched back into the bed, hips lifting to the gentle assault.

"Oh, uh...that's... God, that's...so good..." John's words stuttered with pleasure, breath coming in gasps and pants as the pressure built. Sherlock's hand moved skillfully, twisting a little on the down stroke, the swipe of a thumb across the glans, long fingers sliding down to cup and squeeze his balls with just enough pressure to elicit another moan.

"John, I love it when you moan for me." The words were purred into his ear, and then Sherlock nipped at his earlobe, breath hot on the skin on his neck. For answer, John moaned into the kiss that followed. Sherlock's lips were warm and soft as his tongue probed, tasting and teasing. "Now come for me, let me see you." It was too much. The thought of those words on Sherlock's lips was enough, together with the handling, to spill John over the edge too soon. He jerked, hips lifting, a pearly stream coating Sherlock's fingers moments later.


Much later in the evening, Sherlock dragged himself out from between the covers and threw on John's dressing gown. "Be back in a minute."

"Where are you going? That's my robe..."

"To get mine, stupid doctor..." Sherlock rolled his eyes. He padded out of the room and disappeared. John lay quiescent, fighting the urge to laugh. He was happy. He couldn't believe it; Sherlock felt the same way about him that he felt about Sherlock. They loved each other. Well, time would tell. There would most probably be trouble ahead, but while there's moonlight and music and love and romance, as the song went, they would face the music together. And quite possibly dance. The thought of dancing with Sherlock made him pause.

Sherlock chose that moment to bound back into the room dressed in his red brocade dressing gown, a garment that went almost to the floor and for a tall man that was no mean feat. John realized he loved that dressing gown; it fitted the man perfectly, showing off the tall elegance of the spare figure beneath it.

"What?" Sherlock asked, holding the blue-striped dressing gown for John as he levered himself out of bed.

"You look...good, that's all. I can't believe you're mine." Sherlock smiled at that.

"Yours. Yes, I must be, mustn't I?" He found John's slippers and fitted them on his feet. "Although I'm surprised at you. Yours implies ownership. Do we own each other, in your mind?"

"Not at all. It's less a question of ownership and more one of companionship, isn't it?" John suggested. "I have a question, though," he murmured.

"I'm sure you must have more than one."

"What happened to "I'm married to my work"?" John paused, smiled and frowned at the same time. "You stated it very clearly when we first met, you made it abundantly clear that you were not up for a romantic attachment."

"Oh, that. People change. Always worth remembering, John. People change. You've changed. You're not the person you were when I first knew you, in a good way, of course. Neither am I, since I met you." Sherlock's eyes went a shade darker. "You're different. For some reason I haven't quite worked out yet, I would go to Hell and back for you. Nobody else has ever made me feel this way...Why you, John?"

"That's what love does, I guess."

"So what will you tell Sarah?"

"Why should I tell her anything?"

"Oh...no reason, I just thought you two were... you know...seeing each other. From time to time..."

"We were. Past tense. She found someone else. Last I knew they were off to Toulouse together."

"Hm, nice place. We should take a holiday, you know. Italy is nice."

"How tolerant of gay men is it though?"

"We can't choose a destination solely based on that, otherwise our choice is dramatically limited. We don't have to declare it, do we? Besides, you're not gay."

"I'm in a relationship with a gay man... not gay is a bit of a moot point, don't you think?" John asked. "Still, it would be nice to relax a little, somewhere warm maybe."

"Cardiff, we could relax in Cardiff, there's this nice little B&B I know..."

"Cardiff? Second to Manchester for annual rainfall. Not that warm as far as I know. How about the south of France?" They continued to banter all the way to the dinner table. Mrs Hudson was pottering about when they arrived, setting the table and fussing over the forks.

"Hello boys. How are you feeling now, John?"

"Not too bad, thank you." John slid into his seat, eyeing the food. "This looks good, Mrs. Hudson."

"Thank you, dear. So, Sherlock, how are you? I hope you're looking after John like I told you?"

"On top of the world," Sherlock admitted, sliding into a seat. "I'm trying to look after him but he does have a stubborn streak a mile wide. Must apologise for the lack of clothing. He has an excuse, I don't. Rather, I do but I'm not sure you want to hear it at the dinner table."

"Tact, Sherlock? That isn't like you," John commented, smirking just a little.

"What do you mean, isn't like me? I'm perfectly capable of tact. Just because I choose not to use it, doesn't mean I don't know how."

"Oh, give the man a chance," Mrs Hudson said with a grin. "You don't have to worry, Sherlock. I quite understand. I am, after all, a woman of the world and what you get up to in the privacy of your own rooms is nothing to do with me. Although you make sure John is up to it, he looks worn out..."

"Mrs. Hudson, we've not been 'up to' much," John protested. "I'm not strong enough for much right now."

"I believe you, dear. It's him I don't trust." She flashed them a knowing smile and began to serve the food.

The doorbell chose that moment to ring loudly. "Oh, for goodness' sake, who can that be?" Mrs Hudson went to the door and peered out, then she opened it and stood back to let the caller in, muttering something in passing. A baritone voice replied but it was too indistinct to hear. A familiar figure hove into view moments later.

"Lestrade!" Sherlock jumped up and almost dragged the man to the table. "What can we do for you?"

"What can you do, you mean?" John muttered. "You can leave me out of it until I'm fit enough."

"Have you eaten, Inspector?" Mrs Hudson asked. "You're welcome to join us."

"Thank you... I...um... Are you sure?" He was eyeing the food up like he hadn't eaten for a week. Sherlock was looking at him in that way again, John noticed. He was assessing him, head to toe, analysing, concluding.

"Are you quite alright, Greg?" Sherlock asked gently. "Isn't it a bit late to still be at work?"

"What? Yes... I'm fine." He gave a nervous laugh. "Why shouldn't I be? I've finished work for the day... thought I'd call in on my way home, you know...See how John is, how you both are..."

"Well, as you can probably see, he's knackered, I'm not, but it's good to see you. Here, sit down and have a plate. Mrs Hudson's roasts are famous." The four of them ate in silence, Sherlock shooting looks across at John as they ate, watching Lestrade as he put away twice what they were eating. Mrs Hudson liked to see a man enjoy his food, and plied him with as much as he could eat. He grinned and murmured a joke about never knowing when you would see the next meal. Underneath the bravado, though, there was something else going on. Even John could see the nervous tension in the taught line of Lestrade's shoulders and back.

When Mrs Hudson cleared away the pots and the men were shooed into the living room, Sherlock took a seat on the couch and tucked his feet up. John drew them across his knees, rubbing Sherlock's leg gently. Lestrade watched the exchange, eyes widening with surprise. "Are you two...?" he looked from one to the other with curiosity. John smiled and Sherlock nodded. "Well, I'll be...When did this happen then?"

"Only today. Finally realised we can't do without each other," John admitted. "Life's too short, Greg. After Moriarty..." John fell silent and looked at Sherlock who smiled a small, private smile meant for John alone.

"Oh my God, this is going to be priceless," Greg said, forgetting his own problems in the wake of this major piece of news. "I cannot wait to see Donovan's face. Or Anderson for that matter."

"I know I would like to be there," Sherlock said softly. "Probably John would as well. After all, it is our business."

Greg smiled. "Next time I call you in then?" he suggested.

"Now, what brings you here? You're got a problem, a personal one, and for some reason, you want to speak to us."

"How do you know it's personal?" John asked, glancing at Sherlock as he lay there studying Greg intently.

"Simple. If it had been urgent, he would already have said so. If I had been summoned, which I haven't, Lestrade wouldn't have waited for us to finish dinner, much less join us. So, he stayed for dinner, which obviously means the matter is either not urgent, or it is personal, not police business. I surmise that he has been wearing the same shirt for longer than two days. I happened to see you three days ago, Greg, and you were wearing the same clothes. Your hair looks rumpled, and so do said clothes. You've also not had as close a shave as you normally do. You have bags beneath your eyes, indicative of lack of sleep, induced by anxiety of some kind. I suspect three days but I'm not completely sure. Since it is not police business or you would have said so, I surmise it is personal. So... you've not been home for a while. Marital problems?"

Lestrade sighed heavily and nodded. "She gave me an ultimatum a week ago. Either I reduced my hours or she suggested I find a hotel. Just to give us some space." He almost spat the word out. "I can't reduce my hours. It's impossible. Not right now, at any rate. We're snowed under. We've a serial killer out there as well three unrelated assaults and one rape on top of those and the DNA trace doesn't match anyone on our databases. How the fuck can I reduce my hours short of having heart failure, which I think I might be headed for...?"

"Space isn't a bad thing," John offered. "unless that's not what she...means..." He decided not to pursue that line. Greg looked shattered. "Look, why don't you get some rest? You can crash on Sherlock's bed if you like."

"Is that an order, doctor?" Lestrade took a deep breath and let it go slowly.

"You want me to make it an order?"

"Greg, you can stay with us. Go get your bag. I know you brought it with you." Sherlock stared at him and raised an eloquent eyebrow. "Well, it's obvious to a blind man you don't have anywhere to sleep. You look like you fell asleep at your desk last night. You've obviously washed in the men's rest room. For God's sake, listen to us, will you?" Lestrade dropped his gaze and seemed to be fighting his emotions. Then he nodded once and went back down the stairs.

"I think he needs a few days off," John commented, concern in his voice.

"You heard him, he can't."

"Then he's going to make himself ill. You can see it, Sherlock. He's not a well man right now..." John cut short his diatribe as Greg appeared again, carrying his suitcase.

"Are you sure about this, guys?"

"Yes!" two voices replied forcefully and in unison. "You can have my bed, Greg," Sherlock said. "You should get some proper rest, otherwise you'll make yourself ill."

"I can't do that to you," Greg insisted. "No, I'll take the couch..."

"Greg, relax," John said. "Sherlock isn't using his bed at the moment. Sherlock...and I... we...um... he's sleeping with me, so his bed's free. I also think I ought to give you the once-over, to make sure you're okay. Will you agree to that?" Greg looked like he was going to protest then thought better of it and nodded, mute. John removed Sherlock's feet from his lap and unfolded himself from the couch. "Come on, I'll show you where things are. You can get settled in. I'll find clean sheets and pillowcases for the bed and you can get some rest. You look like you need it. Sherlock is right, you're not sleeping well, if at all."

"Not very well, no. How could you tell?"

"Elementary," Sherlock muttered. "Dark circles under your eyes and you look like you slept in your clothes. No one can sleep well fully dressed. Doesn't take a genius to deduce that."

John scowled at him in mock anger. "Sherlock, I can do without your diagnosis, thank you." His flatmate childishly stuck his tongue out and John sighed. "You are such a brat sometimes. Come on Greg, he's obviously getting bored." Sherlock reached for his violin as they walked out the door and presently the strains of Bach could be heard filling the flat. "Not too loud," John commanded and the volume dropped a little, the strains shifting to those of a lullaby.

"So, how are you holding up?" Greg gave John a pained smile.

"Truth? I miss her, but I'm not sure if I miss her or if the idea of being alone scares the shit out of me." John smiled and patted his shoulder reassuringly.

"It's probably a bit of both." John rummaged in his bag and brought out stethoscope and blood pressure cuff. "Take your shirt off, Greg," he instructed and watched as Lestrade sat on the edge of Sherlock's bed and tugged off his tie.

"You have no idea how much I appreciate this, John." Lestrade's voice was slightly thickened with emotion. He was fighting for control and winning, barely. "Just somewhere to sleep... knowing friends are close by..."

"That's okay. You are a friend. We don't abandon friends in their hour of need."

"I know," Lestrade's voice cracked and he cleared his throat. "This is a bit above and beyond though."

"Not at all. You can stay as long as you like, unless we fall out in which case you might find you're sharing the bed with a tall and rather annoying brat..." Greg actually chuckled. Their eyes met.

"You really do love him." It was a statement, rather than a question.

"Yes, yes I do..."

"But you're not gay...are you?"

"Nope. Not gay. Probably bisexual, but not gay. He's the first man I've ever loved. The only one, come to that. Properly loved, I mean. Anyway, it's not men, exactly. it's just him, it's...well, it's Sherlock..." He shrugged, unable to articulate it any other way.

"Well, I'm happy for you." John paused. Whatever he might have expected, it wasn't that.

"Thank you. I think. Now, let's see what your blood pressure is doing..."


"How is he?"


"Is that a medical term, doctor?"

"Layman's terms. I wasn't sure you'd understand..." He was barely suppressing a grin.

"Stupid doctor," Sherlock snapped, eyes dancing. John laughed.

"Is that your best defence?" he asked. "You prat. To answer your question, Greg is exhausted, grieving and lonely. I can identify with him there. All in all, he needs some rest and more than a little TLC. I've put him to bed and given him a sedative. He'll hopefully sleep well tonight and tomorrow, we'll see what we can do to start putting him back together."

"Grieving? She's not dead, is she?"

"From the neck up, maybe," John commented acerbically, then shook his head. "The break up of a relationship is a form of grief, you know. For a detective, you have very little grasp of human emotions."

"Sociopath, remember?"

"Bollocks," John retorted inelegantly. "I've never believed that. You're not thick. You understand people's motivations, why not their emotions?"

"I was never one to become mired in them, so I don't understand what all the fuss is about."

"Then you should, since motivation and emotion are bedfellows."

"How come when you say that word, it sounds sexy?"

"What word?"

"Bedfellows..." Sherlock quirked an eyebrow, suggestively. John rolled his eyes.

"Come on, I need my bed. Not done healing here."

"John, are you alright?" Sherlock was suddenly all concern and wrapped an arm around him, guiding him to the stairs.

"I'm fine," he said, but didn't try to extricate himself. "Just tired. I need to get some rest too. I'll be no use to Greg unless I do, nor you either come to that."

"Come on then, up the stairs. Not going to be accused of neglecting my..." Sherlock paused. "What are we exactly? Are you my boyfriend now?"

"Lover," John said firmly. "I'm not exactly boyfriend material, more...lover, friend, soul mate?"

"Soul mate, I like that. Yes, that will do. Soul mates, you and me, together." Sherlock smiled, satisfied and pushed John ahead of him, up the stairs to their room.


"The features are given to man as the means by which he shall express his emotions, and yours are faithful servants."

The fact that John had hit on calling them soul mates of his own accord gave Sherlock that warm feeling in his gut again, a feeling that he was rapidly becoming familiar with. Unusually, he actually found that he was enjoying the experience. However, unlike previous instances when a thing had become familiar and therefore usual and therefore boring, this feeling had so far proved unwilling to follow a normal pattern. Being in love with John Watson was not a normal course of events.

Sherlock had never been one to follow social convention. He knew he was viewed by others as a crass, opinionated, socially inept boor and by a precious few as a loyal dependable friend, but either way, he had never been bothered by the opinions of others. He simply knew he was exceptional at what he did. Yet he was bothered about John's opinion of him. From the start, John had vocalized his amazement and—yes—awe, at Sherlock's skills of deduction. He was profoundly affected by Sherlock's mind and how he used it. Sherlock knew other people reacted the same way, but John actually let him know, he said it aloud, openly admiring for Sherlock's benefit. Somehow the action was both endearing and silly. Sherlock didn't require praise. He had arrogance to spare, the outward revelation to the world that Sherlock knew he was right, the supreme self-confidence that came from accuracy. The fact that John voiced his admiration was... well, it felt good, in a way Sherlock was having difficulty analyzing as to precisely why.

John brought him back down to earth, he grounded Sherlock with a bump, unafraid to show his soul mate the areas where Sherlock was lacking, and, moreover, John Watson expected Sherlock to follow his leadership there. He more than made up for Sherlock's lack of social graces. He was a gentleman; polite, kind, friendly, approachable and charming. Except when he was angry or in a hurry or frustrated, and those instances were mercifully rare. Something about John Watson made Sherlock want to do what he expected of him. The sign of a good leader, Sherlock thought, regarding the man as he slept beside him in the big bed. He must have been an exceptional army captain, never mind doctor. With a shock, Sherlock realized he knew little or nothing about John's life in the military, beyond the details of his being shot, invalided out and being an army surgeon. He had shown his own little bit of arrogance—confidence in his own abilities—to Sherlock's question concerning whether he was any good. The memory made him smile. John was a brave, loyal, slightly reckless man if given the opportunity. Mycroft had been right when he had neatly pinned down the fact that John's PTSD wasn't the result of what the war had done to him, it was the result of the fact that he missed it. He couldn't adjust back into civilian life very well, it was too tame. He missed the action, the adrenalin rush, of dealing with emergencies that relied on his split second actions to respond to, of life and death decisions made in the heat of battle. While John would not inflict unnecessary pain on anyone, while he wouldn't wish some of what he'd had to deal with on his worst enemy—with the possible exception of Moriarty—he missed being the one to deal with it. He missed being in the center of the danger. He missed the challenge it threw at him.

He wasn't irresponsible; Watson could never be accused of carelessness or actions that were completely rash and without forethought. Could he? To some degree his taking on Sherlock as a lover could be said to be rash, impetuous and ill conceived. Some people—Sherlock considered Mycroft might be one of them—were bound to think exactly that. On the whole, though, John Watson's decisions were based on careful consideration of the available facts, even though he might not have as many at his disposal as Sherlock.

John stirred, coming awake gradually, a process Sherlock found himself watching again. John was beautiful; tawny hair; skin that had faded a little now from the tan Sherlock remembered from their first meeting, but still a healthy tone; blue grey eyes; good muscle definition beneath those shirts and jumpers he habitually wore. He was very conventional in what he wore, he fitted in with an everyday ordinariness that Sherlock found amazing. John camouflaged very well. He hid himself in plain sight but no one could ever accuse him of being unfashionable. Somehow he just blended into the scenery. The perfect foil for Sherlock who knew he stuck out through shear inability to do anything else. When he disguised himself he did so as well as he did everything else. Thus, chameleon-like, he would be unrecognizable, but it was necessary for him to adopt a disguise to be rendered invisible. John seemed to be able to accomplish that anywhere and any time.

The eyes opened and took in the man sitting beside him—knees drawn up and laptop balanced upon them—recognition blossoming in the grey-blue depths.

"Morning," he murmured, then he moved, shuffling over to bury his face in the crook of Sherlock's leg at the top of his thigh. John inhaled deeply, sighing the breath out slowly, savoring the scent of the man beside him.

"John, what are you doing?" Sherlock stared down at him, impassive, but his eyes danced with curiosity.

"I love your scent," John replied simply. "You smell gorgeous. Didn't you know?"

"I do?"

"Yes. To me, you do."

"Oh. Right. Well..." Sherlock wasn't sure how to reply. "Sniff away, if you like. It's...rather nice, actually." He allowed a small smile to play on his lips.

John dragged himself into a sitting position and turned to face Sherlock. "Put that away," he ordered, voice gentle but manner brooking no argument. Sherlock flicked him a glance. "I won't tell you again." John was in command-mode. Sherlock obediently closed the laptop and slid it to the floor. Then he faced John with an exaggerated air of patience.

"What do you want, John?" he asked.

"You. I want you." John's voice was suddenly husky with desire, with need. He moved again, only faster this time, one hand snaking round Sherlock's neck to pull him in close, the other sliding up his chest to cup his throat and chin, holding him in place. Sherlock gasped at the domination behind John's actions but the gasp was swallowed as John's mouth closed over his, his tongue demanding entry. The move was aggressive and demanding, controlling, and Sherlock stiffened a little, slightly nervous of this new side to his lover, even as it aroused him.

A subtle shift in John's demeanor was all the evidence John gave that he had registered Sherlock's reaction. Even though he didn't let up in his approach, his hands relaxed their grip ever so slightly, the thumb on Sherlock's neck moved to soothe, stroking a little. He felt the man swallow, felt the Adam's apple move under his palm. Sherlock's eyes were darker, pupils so far dilated they were almost black. John dropped his hand to stroke down over the shoulder and arm, back across his chest, thumb nail raking over a peaked nipple. Sherlock gasped into the kiss, whole body jerking in response to the stimulus. His own hands came up, grabbing John's shoulders, pulling him close. John's hand dropped and found its goal. Sherlock moaned as John palmed his erection, strong fingers wrapping firmly around the shaft and drawing up, then down, thumb lingering on the tip, wiping the drip of pre-cum and slowly smoothing it across the glans. In his arms, Sherlock trembled, bit his bottom lip in a effort to control himself even as John's actions were making that increasingly difficult. Watching his lover, John reveled in Sherlock's responses, determined to pay him back in kind for the care he had shown the previous night. Disregarding himself, John focused on the man he now guided to lie down on the bed.

He bent low, inhaling the musk of Sherlock's warm skin, feeling as if he would never get enough of it. He nuzzled, kissing, working his way lower. He flicked occasional glances to Sherlock's face but the man had his eyes closed, head back on the pillow, arms above his head, gripping the bed frame. John smiled a small predatory smile, aware that his lover was about to find that his carefully constructed control was about to vanish. He slid his hands down, ignoring a warning twinge from his arm. It felt a lot better today but he was all too aware of it even as he vowed silently that it would not get in the way of what he was now about to do. He slid downward, repositioned himself between Sherlock's legs. Hands gripping the man's narrow hips, he closed his mouth on the head of Sherlock's cock and suckled. A loud moan, louder than John had been expecting, erupted from Sherlock's mouth and his hips bucked upward. Ruthlessly, John held him down, taking more of his length into his mouth, allowing it to hit the back of his throat. Another moan reached his ears. God, he hadn't anticipated how noisy Sherlock would be. He grinned and hummed and felt Sherlock jerk again. Looking up, he could see Sherlock's hands where they gripped the bed head were white-knuckled with tension. His eyes opened, dark and heavy lidded, lust-blown pupils regarding John with wonder in their depths.

John let him go with a final deep pull and repositioned himself closer. "Up for this?" he asked and received a mute nod in reply. "Promise I'll be gentle. Might hurt though..."

"Doesn't matter. I trust you, John." The simple assurance was like a slam in the gut. It took his breath away. Locking eyes with his soul mate, John nodded once and then reached for the lube on the bedside cabinet. "That must be a perk of being a doctor," Sherlock mused.

"What must?" John asked as he slicked himself up, aware that the punch line to Sherlock's thought would probably be an obtuse one.

"You know exactly where my prostate is." John laughed, he couldn't help himself. Might have known. "You could kill two birds with one stone and examine it for me, while you're there, you know, if you've got a minute..." For answer, John ran a slicked finger down the gluteal cleft, pressing gently. Sherlock's breath hitched, body stiffening.

"Relax," John ordered gently but firmly. Sherlock's hands returned to the bed head and his breathing deepened. "That's better," John encouraged. He laid one hand to Sherlock's skin above the pubic bone, pressing him gently to the bed. He slipped a finger inside and Sherlock moaned again, taken by surprise. A second followed the first when John felt he was ready, the doctor's training making him go slowly and carefully.

A jolt of pure pleasure went through Sherlock's whole self as he felt the touch inside his body. John was being so gentle and caring it nearly brought tears to his eyes. He wanted to move, to squirm, to take more and faster, the urge to be... taken, to be made to feel, almost too much. He tried to arch into it, but was held down. "John..." he gasped. "I need to... to move..."

"You need to relax. Take a deep breath... Go on, in...?" John received a glare but Sherlock complied, taking a deep breath. "And out... let it go, slowly. There. And again," John instructed, waiting while he was obeyed. "Now keep that up until I tell you otherwise."

"Yes, sir..." Sherlock muttered, slightly sullen, then gasped again as John's fingers moved, stroking him. This time, they kept moving, small circles inside, sending pleasure spiraling up his spine. He reached down, desperate to touch himself, only to have his hand slapped gently aside.

"Not yet," John said softly. The care in his voice nearly stopped Sherlock's breath. "Breathe," John murmured. "Don't forget to breathe." His smile was achingly sweet and tender. The look in his eyes...

"Marry me..." The whispered words were out of Sherlock's mouth before his head could put a break on his wildly swirling thoughts.

"What?" John paused, then chuckled. "Ask me again when we're done. Asking a bloke to marry you when he's got two fingers shoved up your arse is asking for trouble, don't you think?" Sherlock stared at the wonderful man above him for a heartbeat, then he laughed, tension breaking inside him. In that moment, John withdrew his hand, moved close, hefted one of Sherlock's legs higher, and pressed the advantage of surprise. The next moment, John breached him, sliding inside as easily as if they'd been doing it forever. Sherlock suddenly felt impossibly full, eyes raking down John's body to where they were joined, an unguarded expression of wonder and a little fear within them. John's hands were stroking down his thighs, soothing and arousing all at the same time. He pushed forward and Sherlock let out a stuttering breath.

"Alright?" John asked, watching him. Sherlock nodded, biting his lip again. "Good, because I aim to fuck you into this mattress until you forget your own name..." Sherlock groaned at the words, hips flexing upward. John smiled and pulled back, thrusting forwards almost immediately. He set up a rhythm, dropping forward to place his hands either side of Sherlock's shoulders, leaning in to kiss him softly at first, then more deeply. His hips snapped forward, driving deep, savoring Sherlock's answering moan. Christ, he thought, it isn't going to take long...

John was suddenly conscious of the subtle shift in Sherlock's awareness, aware that the man was losing himself to the moment. Judging by his face he wasn't going to last much longer either. Sherlock's hand had dropped down, taking himself in a firm grip, eyes on John's face as he did so. John smiled his approval and snapped his hips forward again, almost aggressively. Sherlock rose to the challenge, meeting each thrust with his own, driving back as John thrust forward. The pressure gradually built, intensified, and John watched Sherlock's carefully constructed control leave him, watched as he lost all semblance of command over his body, over his mind, moaning, crying out with the overwhelming assault on his senses. John's hand covered the long fingers, guiding and encouraging, bringing him to completion as he lost the ability to do so on his own. John could feel his own climax getting closer, the sight of Sherlock's back arching, his head flung back, muscles taut as bowstrings as he came was enough to finish him and he thrust hard, emptying himself into the man beneath him, the man he loved above all the rest of the world.

The door clicking shut alerted John, seconds later. Alarm coursed through him, wondering when the door had opened, how long whoever it was had been watching. Sherlock was blissfully unaware, drifting in a post-coital haze of endorphins. John padded to the door and peered out, in time to see Sherlock's bedroom door close. Ah. So that's who it had been. Relief flashed through him although, on balance, he wasn't sure who else it might have been. He was unbelievably glad it hadn't been Mycroft, on one of his impromptu visits, although with the CCTV in their flat, Mycroft probably already knew. John listened, aware of... something. He wasn't sure what he was hearing. Also aware that he wasn't in a fit state to go investigating, he retreated back into the room and to the sink in the corner, rinsing a facecloth out and wiping himself down, making himself half-way presentable. He dragged a robe on, hearing a murmur from the bed. Sherlock was drowsy but curious. "Where you going? Can't we... you know, cuddle?" John grinned, leaned over and kissed the sweaty forehead.

"We were watched. Greg..."

"Greg?" Sherlock roused at that revelation. "Why? What the fuck was he doing?"

"Not sure, that's what I'm going to find out." Sherlock nodded and collapsed again.

"Fine, bring him back and we'll cuddle together..."

The knocking roused Greg from a troubled doze. What he had seen... hot as hell and so... he shivered. Wished he could have joined them. He was frustrated, after a week without her. His heart felt like it was shrinking, shriveling; he was in pain, grieving, and lonely. He wanted closeness with someone, anyone, just to feel connected. He was scared out of his wits at facing life alone. He had no one to talk to, to offload his concerns with. Joan had been a sounding board, practical and wise, someone he could express his deepest fears to and who wouldn't turn away. But he had neglected her. He couldn't blame her for backing off. She had been there for him but he hadn't been there for her...and now... Oh God, those two. He had gone looking for someone to talk to, to ask advice, and hearing the noises... What had possessed him to open the door, to intrude?

Oh, he had entertained ideas of exploring his sexuality, now that he and his wife were separated, but he had absolutely no idea where to begin and the very idea terrified him. He could have gone looking for a prostitute but that would have been more than dangerous. If he was caught... No, not worth it. He could imagine the headlines. He was between a rock and a hard place with a hard-on to end all hard-ons now.

The knocking got louder. John's voice came through the door. "Greg? Let me in, please? We need to talk."

Levering himself off the bed, Greg walked on unsteady feet and opened the door. John Watson stared back, looking pissed as all hell.

"Were you watching us?" Greg cringed and retreated into the darkened room, seeking his bed for safety. John followed him in, frown deepening.

"Sorry," Greg offered, his voice rough.


"It wasn't...intentional. I was just looking... for you...someone to talk to..."

"Did you never hear of knocking?"

"It would have disturbed you..."

"Damn right it might, but this disturbed me more. What possessed you? How long were you there?"

"Not long... I... sorry, I'm sorry. I'll leave you be, I'll find somewhere else to sleep..."

"Like hell you will. Greg..." John exhaled and paused, working out what to say. "Greg, are you gay?"

"No... I...don't know..."

"Did you like what you saw?"

"Don't, John... I'm sorry, okay...?"

"It's not okay, Greg. Did it do anything for you?" John's voice softened.

"Yes... alright? Yes, it damn well did! I'm jealous of you both, you know that?" Anger surfaced, warring with the shame. "I'm scared, John. I don't know how to face the future without...someone... alone. I... can't..." his voice broke and he turned away. Hands, warm and firm, gripped the tops of his arms, spun him back. For a man on the short side, John Watson was surprisingly strong.

"Greg Lestrade, I am not sharing this house with two idiots. Come on." Greg found himself towed out of the room toward John's. He resisted.

"No... you..."

"Greg, relax. Nobody is about to hurt you, but you need company and I want my bed. If the mountain cannot come to Mohamed then Mohamed has to go to the bloody mountain." He opened the door. The bed was empty, covers turned down, but with no sign of Sherlock. The noises of someone washing reached John's ears. Sherlock was naked in front of the sink, sloshing water. He grinned. The curtains were still drawn but the side light was on, the room bathed in a soothing glow.

"Get into bed," John ordered.

"What? But..."

John pointed at the bed. "Get in," he ordered, brusquely. Greg shot him a helpless look and obeyed.

"I wouldn't argue," Sherlock said, applying the towel vigorously. "He's in soldier-mode. When he's like this, there's no reasoning with him." He and John grinned at each other and John made a move to get into bed beside Greg.

"What are you doing?" Greg was alarmed.

"Getting into bed with you. What does it look like? Sherlock, hurry up, I'm cold."

"Alright, I'm coming." He threw the towel onto a bentwood chair and walked unhurriedly to the bed, getting in the other side, Greg between them. Frankly, Sherlock thought, the poor man looked trapped.

"Now, lie still and relax," John said. "It's still too early in the morning to think. We all need sleep, and then we'll decide what to do with you." He wrapped a warm arm across Greg's midsection and hugged him close, his hand rubbing soothing circles.

"It's alright, Greg." Sherlock's warm breath tickled his neck. "We'll look after you. Just relax and sleep easy. We'll be here when you wake."


"Because Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and I think one day—if we're very, very lucky—he might even be a good one." Lestrade, Study in Pink.

Lestrade was pretty sure he was dreaming. He woke as the sun streamed through the curtains from the wrong angle, he had been sure the window was behind the bed. He turned, squinted into the bright light and realised he wasn't alone. But what were Watson and Holmes doing in his room...? Oh, yeah. Not his room. Memory returned and he cringed back into the bedclothes in embarrassed silence. How the fuck could he face either of them now?

"Are you sure about this?" John Watson's quiet, gentle voice carried to Lestrade's ears.

"Of course I'm sure, John. Never been surer. More sure... Whatever..."

A sigh, probably John's, then... "Won't it get in the way of your...deductions? What about the cases, Sherlock? The cases come first, isn't that what you always say?"

"If it was anybody else, John, that would be true. Honestly... it isn't, not any more. You mean more to me..." His voice became brisk. "I've got to do this right, though."

"Sherlock, there's never a right or wrong way... well, okay, maybe there is, but it doesn't matter..."

"Of course it matters, John!" Sherlock's reply was exasperated. "This is a momentous occasion. It has to be done properly. In front of witnesses. He'll do, and so will Mrs Hudson. Frankly they'd never forgive us if we didn't."

A pause, and then... "Alright. I'll leave it to you. If you want to do this..."

"I do. Believe me, I do."

"Shouldn't that be my line?" A chuckle that was definitely John's.

"Not yet it shouldn't. I haven't even asked you yet." Lestrade opened his eyes to see the pair of them standing together at the foot of the bed, barely inches apart, looking deeply into each others' eyes. Then they kissed, a gentle coming together of lovers and friends and... Greg's eyes teared up, he couldn't help it. The moment was tender, unguarded and... God, he was going soft in his old age. But the fright lay just beneath the surface, the sheer terror the thought of being alone engendered in him. He was looking at something good, he knew, something worthwhile, and something which threw his own lonely situation into stark relief. If only things had been different between himself and Joan.

"He's awake," Sherlock commented without breaking eye contact with John. Greg turned away, curling in on himself, vulnerable and fighting panic, eyes screwing shut on the scene in front of him.

John turned as Sherlock pointed out that their guest was awake but in time to see the man curl away from them as if he'd been hit. "Greg? Are you alright? Damn..." Sherlock saw John's expression alter and followed his gaze to see Lestrade trying to burrow into the bedclothes, whole body defensive, as if he were in agony. Both men moved simultaneously, John heading for one side of the bed, Sherlock the other. "Greg? Come on now, easy there..." John eased Lestrade onto his back, coaxing and encouraging him to move into a position where the doctor could see to assess him. "Greg, can you hear me? Are you in any pain?" A violent shake of Lestrade's head was the only reply and he fought his way out of John's hands. Puzzled, the doctor glanced up at Sherlock to see an expression of concern drawing his brows together again.

"I think he saw us," Sherlock observed. "Could be the problem. He's under stress from his break-up, he's exhibiting symptoms of grief and he's just witnessed us in a rather... well, a tender and affectionate moment?"

"Or he could be physically ill. I'm a doctor, and I need to be certain of my diagnosis. Greg, talk to me? Are you feeling ill?"

"No... no, I'm not sick..." The man's voice sounded strangled.

"Okay then, what's the matter? Can you tell me?" John had methodically taken Lestrade's pulse, peeled back each flinching eyelid and peered intently into each eye in turn, laid the back of his hand across Lestrade's brow and let his eyes roam over the rest of the man as he did so. "Is Sherlock right?" Lestrade nodded and looked away, stricken.

Sherlock indicated with his eyes that he wanted to talk to John out of earshot so they retreated to the far side of the room. "Panic attack?" Sherlock suggested, his voice low.

John nodded agreement. "Most likely. He's hurting, stressed... Understandable really."

"What can we do?"

"Reassure him, make him realise he's not alone. I think I might just sedate him again, give him something to calm him down. He's in a delicate state mentally, but we can handle this with him, he'll get through it. He's got us to take care of him."

"Can he stay? Would you mind?" Sherlock asked.

"Why would I mind?" John was looking at him as if he was nuts. "He's our friend. He never lost faith with you, you know. Oh, he had to follow orders but he never once gave up on you. I'm not about to give up on him either."

"Good. That's settled then." Sherlock went back to the bedside and climbed in again. "Take it easy, Greg, you'll be alright," he said gently. "You're safe here with us." He laid a comforting hand on Lestrade's shoulder, squeezing gently, exchanging an understanding look with John. "We won't let you down."

"Greg, you can stay here with us for as long as you need to," the doctor reassured. "We'll make sure you're not alone. No pressure, just take it one day at a time. At the moment, you're off balance, nothing is certain, but you are safe, you hear me? You're safe here, with us. Nobody is judging, no one will pressure you, nobody will hurt you. You got that?" Greg nodded, unable to form a reply. "Now," John became brisk again, every inch the doctor looking after his patient. "I'm going to find my bag, I'm going to give you something to calm you, then you're going to rest. Sherlock will stay with you until I come back. No stress today, got that? I'll call Scotland Yard and speak to someone for you, I'll explain that you're staying off work for a week..." Lestrade tried to rise, opened his mouth to complain, but John was used to stroppy patients and forestalled him with a hand on his chest. "No, Greg. No arguments. Let someone else take the strain for a change. The world won't end because you took some time off. I'll be back in a few minutes."

Greg watched him go and turned to Sherlock who was still sitting on the bed regarding him with an unreadable expression. With that face, he ought to be a world class poker player, Greg thought. "What are you thinking?" He was appalled at the tremor in his voice.

Sherlock smiled. "Only that with three of us living here, life will never be dull."

"Wait a minute. You're not proposing I stay here indefinitely, are you?"

"Why not?" Sherlock smiled. "The doctor, the copper, the consulting detective? Three men in a flat. Jerome K Jerome would be proud. Perfect mix if you ask me, which you're probably not, not that it matters anyway because the decision has been made for you so you can do what you like, your choice, although I would recommend you stay, but nobody cares what I think anyway..." Sherlock ceased his litany and Lestrade sighed, grimaced and pressed a hand to his stomach.

"Great," he ground out through gritted teeth. "Now my IBS is playing up. Sorry... I feel sick." Sherlock helped him up and dragged a robe over his shoulders.

"Come on, lean on me. Let's get you to the bathroom..."

John returned to an empty bedroom. "Sherlock? Where are you?" He poked his head out of the room again and scanned the hallway.

"In here." The call came from the bathroom. "A little help here?"

"What's wrong now?"

"Him." Greg was bent over the toilet, retching.

"Ah. Okay. Does this mean I have to revise my earlier diagnosis?"

"IBS..." Greg croaked, miserably.

"Let me be the judge of that," John answered. "You finished? Come on then, let's get you to bed and settled."

Together, they helped their guest back to bed, in Sherlock's bed this time. John insisted on examining him, making certain there was nothing else that might be underlying the sickness. Sherlock watched from the doorway as John methodically and carefully examined his patient, his easy smile and gentle bedside manner belying the steel Sherlock knew lay just below the surface. For all his gentleness and care, John could be both stubborn and tough when he wanted to be. Sherlock reflected that this quiet man was underestimated by almost everyone he met, with perhaps the exception of Sherlock's brother, Mycroft. John Watson was ex-RAMC for God's sake, something people tended to overlook in their dealings with him. They tended to forget that he had been a front-line medic, an army surgeon used to putting people quite literally back together. He both saved lives and took them away, a dichotomy that Sherlock knew he would never tire of exploring where his life-mate was concerned. And Watson was going to be his life-mate, his civil partner if he absolutely had to call it that. Sherlock wanted to make that step, to be able to call John Watson his, and for John to know that the obverse was also true, that Sherlock's heart and soul unreservedly belonged to John.

John rapidly assessed his patient, giving him a thorough and detailed physical examination. Sherlock offered to leave but Lestrade shook his head and reached to grasp his hand, big capable fingers entwining with Sherlock's longer slender ones. Lestrade held on, grip tightening when it looked like Sherlock might pull away. Sherlock ended sitting on the other side of the bed to the one John was working from, attempting to stay close but out of the way. Besides, it gave him the best vantage point to watch John work as well as comfort his friend at the same time.

With something approaching delight, Sherlock sat quietly and observed John's mind working, watched as he drew conclusions and saw the analysis going on as the examination progressed. His fingers touched, pressed and palpated. His eyes observed every reaction, every nuance. He listened to every reply to every question he put to his patient, asking more questions, modifying his conclusion as he went. Sherlock had never had occasion to see it in such detail before but right there and then in that room, he saw very little difference between himself and his doctor. Watson asked questions, analysed, examined, experimented and drew his diagnosis from every possible source of information open to him. Sherlock had once accused John of seeing but not observing the details in front of him. Watching him now, he wondered how he could ever have come to that conclusion. His attention to detail within his own sphere of expertise was just as meticulous as the consulting detective's. Never again would Holmes underestimate his friend and lover. He revelled in the fact that they were more alike than Watson knew.

"So what's your diagnosis, doc?" Lestrade's fingers tightened ever so imperceptibly on Sherlock's. Sherlock smiled faintly and gripped a little tighter in return.

"You're suffering from stress and exhaustion," John said gently. "A combination of bad diet, lack of sleep, and work-related pressure on top of emotional stress I should think. Designed to defeat any of us, really. You're human. Physically, you appear to be in reasonable shape. I'm fairly certain you've got no underlying physiological problems apart from irritable bowel which, under the circumstances, isn't surprising. You're experiencing very understandable anxiety though, and if it isn't dealt with now, you'll very possibly slide into depression. The best thing you can do is to take these few days, relax as much as you can, try to eat well and at the right times, get some exercise and, when you feel stronger, you and Joan need to talk. I'm no counsellor but in my opinion, you need to resolve this and move past it, sooner rather than later. Either go back to her or move on. Get marriage guidance, counselling, whatever you two need, but whatever happens, you should know you have a place with us here."

"I couldn't impose on you both..."

"Why not? We're both in agreement. We've discussed it, we've both agreed that you can live with us," Sherlock was adamant.

"What about Mrs Hudson?"

"What about her? She's a sweet lady, she'll agree," Sherlock sounded confident.

"Enough for now, Greg," John said firmly. "The last thing you need is something else to worry about." He reached down and rummaged in his doctor's case, finding the things he needed. "Now, I'm going to give you something to calm you down. That panic attack before was a warning, a heads-up. I'm not going to put you to sleep, just alleviate the anxiety for you, you okay with that?" He watched Lestrade's nod and smiled. "Promise you, Greg, we'll look after you."

A conspiratorial and affectionate smile crossed Sherlock's face as he watched John in his element. Sherlock was oh, so proud of him. As he watched, Sherlock realized that, of all John's features, he loved the doctor's hands. John's were smaller-fingers shorter and stubbier-than either Sherlock's or Lestrade's, but those fingers were deft and sure. Unable to take his eyes off him, Sherlock watched intently as John prepped a syringe, drawing fluid into the barrel, peering at it with those gorgeous blue eyes, his gaze intent and focused. He murmured a reassurance to Greg and glanced up, his gaze happening to meet Sherlock's. His soft smile widened and he gestured with the hypodermic.

"Is this the point where I can joke about feeling a little prick?" he asked. Greg groaned and laughed. "That's more like it. It's good to hear you laugh. Okay now, sharp scratch..." Sherlock unconsciously braced himself. "There, all done." John patted Lestrade's shoulder although the man hadn't even flinched. "Now just take it easy and let this work. You'll probably feel drowsy and relaxed, just let it happen. What?" John asked, catching Sherlock's proud gaze.

"Nothing. I... I just like watching you. I forget how... professional you are."

"I should hope I am." John shrugged and shook his head. "Whatever floats your boat," he added as he began to pack things away in the same meticulous manner. Sherlock considered that flinging the word "stupid" at John had been both unwarranted and inaccurate. He wasn't stupid, he was about as far from stupid as anyone could possibly be, he just didn't see the world like Sherlock did, but then, nobody saw the world like Sherlock did, not even his own brother. Sherlock knew he simply didn't pick up on all the signs that people sent out, didn't understand all the messages, subtle and otherwise, that people were broadcasting. He had once described himself as a high functioning sociopath, having researched it at length, but John had called it Aspergers, a degree of Autism but without the attendant learning difficulties.

"It's called a spectrum disorder, because it affects people in many different ways," he had explained, patiently. "The myriad of differences make the diagnosis difficult at best. It's a form of Autism, but a high functioning one. Seriously, it's no surprise that you're only able to maintain a few friendships as a result. It's probably all your head can cope with. After all, those friendships have been painfully built up over time, haven't they?"

Everything John had said made perfect sense. There were other indicators. Sherlock experienced anxiety if one of his routines got disrupted but would shoot off to a crime scene at a moment's notice on a whim without a contrite bone in his body. He often disregarded people's feelings and would say things that were hurtful without fully realising the consequences. John was used to it, as were Molly and Lestrade and Mrs Hudson by now. Donovan would never excuse him, and neither would Anderson, but only because they didn't like him. They never would. He threatened them, he was far cleverer, but honestly, he hoped they were not stupid enough to want to be like him.

Sherlock was glad he could maintain these two friendships above all. He looked fondly between the two men, from Lestrade's pepper-and-salt hair to John's tawny blond, between brown eyes and blue, both ruggedly handsome men in their own way. He knew that he was what would commonly be classed as effete or aesthetic; lean and angular, with his narrow face and sharp features. His almond-shaped green eyes were so pale as to be disconcerting. He never considered himself to be attractive, which was why it was a surprise that John had said he considered him to be so. Molly had also thought so, probably still did, but it had taken him the devil's own time to realise it. Trouble was, she would never be attractive to him except as a friend, something he had valued more highly since she had agreed unreservedly to help him 'disappear'.

"How are you feeling now, Greg?" John was observing his patient closely.

"Relaxed," Lestrade admitted. "Warm... safe. Very, very safe..." Lestrade's smile was a little dopey and Sherlock grinned at John. "You both make me feel safe..."

"Good. Close those eyes then, and we'll leave you in peace."

"No. Do you have to? Stay with me, please?"

"Greg, you need the peace and quiet. I'll get Sherlock to play his violin for a while. You'll be able to hear it if we're downstairs. You'll know were not far away."

"I'll play you something soothing, Greg. How would that be?" Sherlock suggested, patting Greg's shoulder as he climbed off the bed.

"Okay... Hey," the sleepy, slightly-slurred voice called as they reached the door. "I love the two of you..."


"What did you just give him?" Sherlock was grinning as they walked downstairs. "No, let me guess. It had to have been a relaxant, something that would break down his inhibitions. Sodium Pentothal?"

"Yup, Thiopental. Just enough to relax him, not knock him out. He'll fall asleep on his own."

"The truth drug," Sherlock observed, with a little more relish than was comfortable for John.

"It's supposedly been used in interrogations, yes," John agreed carefully. "It weakens the will, makes patients compliant and chatty. It also reduces anxiety which is why I've given it to Greg, to mitigate the stress he's under."

"It's illegal to use it in interrogations anyway," Sherlock said. Does he sound disappointed? John wondered as Sherlock added "Classed as a form of torture apparently."

"It doesn't guarantee a confession, and it it makes people vulnerable to suggestion, that's why. It makes them open to encouragement but it's not reliable. People can mix up fact and fantasy while under the influence so we're taught to ignore anything that might be said by patients who have been given it. I'd be surprised if you didn't know that though, the things you do know. And no, you can get that look off your face, you are absolutely not taking advantage and questioning my patient. He's our guest, not to mention friend, and you are not to question him about anything, you got that? That's why I'm going to sit with him, not you. I don't entirely trust you."

Sherlock pouted. "John, the very idea. I'm hurt." but he understood John well enough to know that was going to be a line he couldn't cross. "Alright, John. I understand. Promise."

Sherlock sounds serious at any rate, John thought, although he could never be one hundred percent sure where Sherlock was concerned. "You leave him alone, you got that?"

Sherlock nodded. "I promised, didn't I? What he said was rather...nice, though. I didn't know that was what Greg felt about us."

"As I said, anything patients say while under the influence is unreliable and very often prompted by their emotional state. He's vulnerable, we're helping him. Don't read too much into it." Then John's mouth curved upward in a wide grin. "It was quite sweet though, whether or not he meant it. I like the man. I can't say I'd be unhappy if he came to live with us permanently."

"Nor me," Sherlock admitted. "I don't have enough friends to warrant refusing him." He fixed John with a piercing gaze and grabbed him round the middle, hugging him lightly. "How are you, John? You're not done healing yourself and you're already having to care for someone else." Sherlock scrutinised his lover's face carefully. "You're holding up, but only just. You're tired and you're hiding it again. Wish you wouldn't, John."

"I'm fine, honestly," John replied. "Yes, I'm tired, but I'm managing. Thank you for asking though. I honestly expected you wouldn't notice."

"I know you, John. Other people might be a mystery to me but you... I'm familiar with you."

"Good. I aim for you to become a lot more familiar with me." He grinned and received an answering smile as Sherlock picked up his violin and began to play a light and soothing composition of his own. John fixed himself and Sherlock a cup of tea and then made a move to the door.

Sherlock paused in his playing. "Let me sit with Greg," he said. "I promise I won't interrogate him. Honestly, I'm not an idiot, John, and you should get some more rest. I do not want you falling sick because you were trying to do too much for someone else."

John paused and frowned. "I'll take first watch then," he said. "I'll stay with him for an hour, then you can come up. How would that be?"

"Acceptable. I'll see you later."


Greg was already asleep when John opened the door, gentle snores emanating from the bedclothes and only a tuft of grey hair showing above the duvet. John took a seat on the chaise facing the bed and switched on his e-reader, immersing himself in The Hobbit. Strains of Mendelssohn reached his ears as Sherlock changed tack with his playing. Peace settled on the house once more. If the future cradled the three of them like this, then John knew he could be content. If only fate didn't take a hand in screwing things up for them, as he knew it probably would. As Bilbo took a chance in his adventures, John Watson knew he was taking a big chance with his two housemates. Trouble was, like Bilbo, he knew he wouldn't have it any other way.

When Sherlock quietly opened the door to the room, he heard the soft snores from the bed and smiled. John was also asleep, his face peaceful and body relaxed. He was on the chaise, sprawled along it, one arm across his chest, the other hanging loosely by his side. Sherlock smiled indulgently and went to find a blanket.


Mycroft Holmes: What's he like to live with? Hellish, I would imagine.
Watson: I'm never bored.

Two days later, Sherlock dashed in to the living room and peered round the door, seeing Greg sitting on the couch watching Jeremy Kyle on the television.

"Where's John?" Sherlock demanded, impatiently.

"Out, fetching milk. Since you emptied the fridge of it, again." Greg leaned back and yawned. "Be back in a few, I should think. He went about—" he glanced at his watch "—fifteen minutes ago. How on earth does that man live with you?"

"Same way you do. Carefully. Right then, yes, okay..." Sherlock ducked out and then back in again, just as quickly. "How are you, by the way?" he demanded.

"Me? I'm fine. You saw me only this morning. It's been, what, two hours? I'm doing okay. No need to worry about me."

"Alright then, just thought I'd ask. Not planning on going anywhere before John gets back are you?"

"No. I'm waiting for John to fetch the milk so we can have a cuppa."

"Good. Don't move then." Sherlock dashed out and Greg heard his feet pounding on the stairs. He shook his head in exasperation and smiled. Sherlock was up to something. Plain as the nose on your face.

He flipped channels, annoyed with the ASBO-waiting-to-happen and his stupid girlfriend who swore blind she hadn't known she was pregnant by his brother. He wondered where the chat show dragged these people up from. No wonder there was so much crime. Those two lowered the IQ in the room just by breathing. He sighed, recalling Sherlock's non-too-polite way of referring to Anderson in the same way. Greg's reverie was shattered as Sherlock dashed back in to the room, looking furtive.

"Not back yet then?" he asked, unnecessarily.

Greg resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "No, he isn't. Doubtless you'll hear the door open when he does. You usually do," he said patiently. "Sherlock, relax. You'll wear a hole in the carpet." Sherlock had taken to pacing the floor.

"Where is he then?" he demanded. "He's late. Anything might have happened..."

"Sherlock, calm down. He's not late. There's probably a queue, because it's lunchtime. Some people actually do eat when it's their lunchtime, you know. Oh, for Christ's sake..."

"I can't calm down, Lestrade!" Sherlock snapped. "This is important, it's... this is... life changing... I..." John picked that moment to arrive back. The front door opened and Sherlock launched himself out of the room.

"Like a rat out of a trap." Greg muttered. He got to his feet just as John came in the door, bundled inside by Sherlock, trying to avoid bumping the Tesco bags against the door frame.

"Alright, alright, let me get this shopping put away. Where's the fire?"

"Damn the shopping! This cannot wait. Where is Mrs. Hudson?"

"Downstairs, as usual. You want me to ask her to come up?" Greg suggested.

"Yes, please, do. This requires you both...Oh, bloody hell, now what?" for the doorbell had rung imperiously. "If that's my brother..."

"If this is Mycroft, then it'll kill two birds with one stone," John offered, deducing what Sherlock was in a fuss about. Sherlock appeared to consider this, then nodded once, and took himself off to the couch, falling heavily onto it with a groan of frustration.

It was indeed Mycroft Holmes, a slightly surprised look on his face as he was shepherded into the room by both Mrs. Hudson and Greg Lestrade.

"Brother dear?" He enquired smoothly. "I am sure you'll enlighten us as to what all this is about?"

"Mycroft, how good of you to join us." Sherlock sounded anything but welcoming, but he rolled to his feet and stood facing John, who had wisely dumped the shopping without putting it away and come back into the living room. "Yes, and thank you for coming up, Mrs. Hudson. Fact is, I have something I want to ask John. It's important...and I wanted you and Greg to...well—" he shrugged "—to act as witnesses, really. At least, I think this is how it's done... never having done anything like this before, I wouldn't know, but I can make an educated guess...I..."

"Sherlock?" John said softly, gently pulling him back on track.

"Oh, um, yes... John." Sherlock fumbled with something in his pocket. He took a deep breath. Then he took another. Abruptly he dropped on one knee and looked up at John, his expression turning soft and vulnerable, almost shy. "John..." it was barely a whisper. "John, I hold you in very high...regard, you must know this. I... please," Sherlock reached out and took John's hand in his. "I'm asking you to... would you, please, please marry me, John?" There was absolute silence. Sherlock swallowed. John stood breathless and captivated. He wanted this moment to stretch out into infinity. He wanted it to last forever.

"You're sure?" John asked softly, fingers stroking along Sherlock's jawline. Sherlock blinked and nodded, for once biting back the retort that had been itching on the end of his tongue, fingers tightening on John's hand.

"Hate to admit it, but I'm not sure of anything right now," he said softly. "And yet, I'm more sure than I've ever been that this is what I want... please say yes, John. I...I don't think I could survive without you now, but unless you say something soon I might experience myocardial infarction right here and now."

"On one condition then," John said softly, a smile tugging the corner of his mouth up. "No more heads in the fridge." Then he grinned and nodded, drawing Sherlock to his feet. "Of course the answer is yes, you Pratt." He was tugged into a hard embrace. Sherlock fumbled with the small box in his pocket which proved to contain a ring—a plain narrow white-gold band set with a single square diamond flush to its surface—and placed it on John's ring finger. John drew out a small box of his own then, and placed a similar ring on Sherlock's finger, this one set with a single pale green sliver of jade of a shade matching his eyes. Sherlock smiled softly and pressed a kiss to John's lips. "I've been waiting for you to ask," John said softly. "I figured you would want to be the one to ask me first?" Sherlock smiled and nodded.

"You deduce correctly, John," he murmured and pressed a kiss to his lover's lips.

"Oooo!" Mr. Hudson squealed softly, clapping in delight.

"Well, this is a turn-up..." Mycroft looked as if he didn't know what else to say.

"Well done, fellas." Greg came over and clapped them both on the back, shook their hands and offered his congratulations. Mrs. Hudson insisted on hurrying off to get something to toast them with and Mycroft's face was a study. It was worth it for that, John thought. He had rarely seen the man speechless.

"Did you come to be annoying or was there something you wanted?" Sherlock challenged but without the usual bite to his tone. Mycroft sat down, waiting for the furor to die before answering. Greg took a seat opposite and regarded the unsmiling man. John excused himself and went to help Mrs. Hudson and Sherlock, without excusing himself or waiting for Mycroft's answer, dashed off after John leaving the two men alone. Mycroft looked distinctly uncomfortable, Greg thought.

"Surprised you, did they?" the DI said into the silence.

"Indeed. My little brother is fond of such occurrences. However, I have to admit that this one is probably the best decision he has made in all his years. I do not doubt that Doctor Watson will be good for him."

"They look good together. Are you...alright with that then?"

"Alright with it?" Mycroft focused on the man opposite him. "Of course. Nobody has ever frowned on a Holmes batting for the other side, as it were. I myself..." he paused, weighing up his decision as to whether to reveal personal details to this policeman or not.

"You too?" Greg prompted.

"I bat for both sides, Mr. Lestrade."

"Please, call me Greg."

"Greg," Mycroft inclined his head in acknowledgement of the familiarity. "Why limit myself? It has come in useful in my line of work."

"Which is? What do you do exactly, Mr Holmes?" Mycroft stared at him for a few seconds until Greg shifted a little uncomfortably.

"If I told you that, I would have to kill you," he said smoothly, the merest hint of an amused smile on his lips. "and please, call me Mycroft. You are my brother's friend and colleague in his endeavors, after all."

"I'd better mind my own business then. I wouldn't want to cause you to do anything rash..."

"Oh, it wouldn't be rash, believe me. The decisions I make in the interests of National Security are never rash."

"National security? So you work for the Government then?"

"Greg," Mycroft said warningly. "I am sure our relationship will be much more comfortable if you cease your current line of questioning." He smiled, rather warmly, and Greg's stomach flipped. Holmes' eyes fixed him with a riveting stare. "Doubtless they will be wanting a civil partnership," Mycroft's tone had dropped a few degrees in warmth. "That will be a headache to keep quiet."

"Looks like they already have one of those..." The joke fell flat. "Wouldn't know," Greg added hurriedly. "This is the first I've heard." Which wasn't strictly true. Lestrade remembered the half-heard discussion on waking a few mornings ago. Now he knew what they had been talking about. Mycroft was undoubtedly the icing on the cake though. Perfect timing, Greg thought.

John and Sherlock came back in to the room with Mrs. Hudson. She was carrying a tray laden with glasses. "I'm sorry, all I could find was a sherry. It's not a very good one either..."

"Mrs. Hudson, it doesn't matter," John said kindly. "It's perfect." The glasses were handed out and Mycroft deigned to take one, sniffing experimentally as if preparing himself for the worst.

"To Sherlock and John," she said. "Good health and good luck. Congrats, boys."

"Congratulations," Mycroft offered and everybody clinked glasses and drank. It wasn't a very good sherry but nobody minded. Mycroft kept his opinion to himself anyway.

John cornered him soon after. "So, why did you come over? Bored at the office?"

"Contrary to popular opinion, John, I am concerned about my little brother. I do like to check up on him sometimes. Besides, Mummy was asking after him. Doubtless you will want to break the news to her personally?"

"Er...well, of course. We'll need to tell her..."

"You'll probably have to goad Sherlock into it then. I think it would be a good idea to come for lunch on Sunday. You can tell her then. I'll send a car for you at eleven. Good day, I'll see myself out." He paused, then stepped back and slipped something into John's hand. "Would you...give this to Greg for me?" His eyes slid to where Greg was in conversation with Sherlock and Mrs Hudson. "Tell him I'll be in touch." John watched him go with an odd expression of curiosity in his eyes, opening his hand to see a business card in it, Mycroft's personal mobile number underlined in one corner.


"Has he gone, the stupid prick?"

"Sherlock! He is your brother..."

"I know. He's my stupid prick of a brother..."

"Yes, well... So, when will you tell Mummy then?"

"Mummy? Oh, my God, Mummy..."

"That's okay. We've been invited to lunch on Sunday. You can tell her then. Mycroft is sending a car at eleven."

"Damn him," Sherlock snapped. "He's trying to manipulate me again..."

"Sherlock, he's your brother and he's family. Besides, you were planning on telling your mum weren't you? Weren't you?"

"Yes, just... on my own time, that's all. I wish he wouldn't interfere."

"Well, look at it this way, I'm way more nervous than you. She's my prospective mother in law. How scary is that?"

"John, she'll love you. You're a war hero, after all. And a doctor. I've bagged myself a medical man, she's bound to love you."

"Just wish I had your confidence."


"He did what?"

"Asked me to give you this, said he'd be in touch." John passed the small white card over and grinned. "I think he's taken a shine to you," he said.

"Damn the man, who does he think he is, 007?"

"M, maybe. 007, no. He's more George Smiley, you know?"

"Is that what he does? He's a bloody Spook?"

"God knows. All I know is he can arrange dark cars to pick you up at all hours and bring you to abandoned warehouses or gentlemen's clubs to talk shop with him, he can arrange surveillance that would have your lot wetting themselves, he knows everything there is to know about the people who interest him and he has friends in the highest places imaginable. You do not mess with men like Mycroft."

"So why is he interested in me?" Greg frowned. "Oh God, he admitted he bats for both sides..."

"He what?"

"You know, he's bisexual... We were talking while you were getting the sherry. I asked him if he was alright with the two of you and he said nobody had ever frowned on a Holmes batting for the other side. When I asked, he admitted he bats for both. He also said he thought this was the best decision Sherlock had ever made."

"He did? High praise indeed."

Greg turned the card over in his hand. "Does he want me to call him?"

"Don't think so. He said to tell you he'd be in touch."

"Oh fuck..."


"What am I supposed to dress in?" John called from the bathroom. "I want to make a good first impression!"

"Try a suit then. She's always liked her men to be dressed in suits..."

"I only have one."

"Use that then."

John emerged from the shower, hair wet and spiky, to find Sherlock already dressed in one of his casual suits. Black as usual. It was quite sinful how he suited black. The dark purple shirt was open at the neck and he was relaxing on the sofa in his usual 'prayer-pose', fingers steepled beneath his chin. He glanced up at John as the captain loomed above him and fended John off when the captain bent to drop a kiss on Sherlock's brow.

"Damn it, John, you're dripping wet..." John chuckled.

"You don't normally complain." Sherlock snorted derisively. "So, a suit, hm?" John said. "Hope the bloody thing still fits."

The car—a sleek black expensive something, the make of which escaped John completely—turned up promptly at 10.55. The chauffeur, James, opened a door and Sherlock slid into the warm comfort of the leather upholstery, John close behind him. They sat and watched the London suburbs slide by, John trying to work out which direction they were travelling in and taking note of the signs they passed. Eventually the car left behind the heavily congested streets, leaving the suburbs behind. It passed through several typically English villages, all stone houses and manicured grass. Most were also possessed of a village green and a market cross, a small medieval church and obnoxiously neat window boxes and rose bushes around doorway trellises. There was an abundance of clinging ivy and oak trees, miles and miles of hedges and something very touristy about it all. Trouble was John couldn't help thinking that tourists might be the last thing the parish councils would welcome round here, cluttering up the place and leaving litter about. He smiled and Sherlock frowned questioningly.

"Very touristy," he said. Sherlock made a face and they both chuckled.

"We're nearly there," Sherlock said. "The Manor is through the next chocolate box and turn left at Dysneyworld." John laughed.

"Are you telling me Mycroft didn't arrange this picture-perfect veneer then?" he asked.

"Oh no, didn't I tell you? It's his hobby. When he's not saving the world and stopping international incidents, he's on the committee for the Floral Village of the Year..."

"Oh, my God, Sherlock..." John's voice died as he clapped eyes on The Manor for the first time.


"Well, it's impressive, isn't it?"

"I suppose..."

"You grew up here?" The estate was one of those 18th century parks that looked about as real as it was possible for a carefully designed landscape to get.

"Sort of, if you discount large chunks of my life spent away at boarding school..." Sherlock looked around carefully as if seeing the place for the first time.

Clusters of huge trees shaded paddocks with fluffy white sheep in them. "Does Mycroft arrange for the sheep to be specially cleaned as well?" John wondered aloud, eliciting a laugh from his Fiancé.

The car approached down the long drive, the sun shining down on golden stonework set in miles and miles of lush green grass, with lots of those remarkably clean sheep. They got out of the car and John just stood there looking around him. The peace was absolute. Somewhere an aircraft droned but it faded into nothing. A few of the sheep bleated. The wind rushed through the trees. Then someone cleared their throat and they turned to find Mycroft coming down the steps toward them, arms open wide in welcome.

"John, Sherlock, a good journey I trust? Come inside and meet mummy..."

Lady Holmes was as beautiful as she was gracious. She had striking good looks and John found himself charmed. Sherlock had already called her and explained, preempting his brother. John had forced him not to text, which he had been about to do, insisting that this was one call he had to make the proper way.

"Locky, darling. How are you?" For an undemonstrative person, Sherlock hugged his mother much harder and more genuinely than John had expected him to and she returned the gesture. When they parted, he looked genuinely softer and a little shy. "So, you must be John," she turned her striking green eyes on him and opened her arms. "Let me meet the man who has captured my little Locky's heart." Admiring eyes took in every detail and John felt more exposed than when he was under Mycroft's scrutiny. She hugged him, welcoming him into the family and drawing him with her into the sitting room, an elegantly manicured hand through the loop of his arm, asking him all kinds of questions. "So, I gather you're a doctor?"

"I am."

"And ex-military too? A captain, no less."

"For my sins." She laughed prettily and he joined in politely.

"So tell me how on earth did you meet?" and John was happy to launch into telling her about his chance meeting with Mike and how he and Sherlock had moved in together. Their easy conversation lead them all into the dining room and there was no doubt she held court easily and lead the conversation effortlessly. Sherlock and Mycroft were 'her boys' and she was obviously proud of both of them. Lavinia—she asked him to call her that quiet early on—regaled him with tales of both Sherlock's and Mycroft's childhoods until they were all laughing easily with a camaraderie that John found surprising. Even Mycroft managed to swallow any discomfort he might be feeling about such revealing tales and smiled throughout.

Lunch was a grand affair, with plenty of food. There were light salads and quiches, meats and pâtés and crackers, crisp wines and iced water.

"Now, I suspect you will want a civil partnership?" John exchanged a glance with Sherlock. He had a 'here it comes' look on his face.

"That's what we planned, yes. Something quiet though."

"The last thing John and Sherlock need is a huge affair with paparazzi and the tabloids juggling for exclusive rights," Mycroft said firmly. His tone brooked no argument, even with 'mummy' and judging by the look on Lavinia's face she knew it too.

"I understand perfectly, Mikey," Lavinia Holmes said firmly. "That is why you must have it here, the orangery would be perfect. We'll keep it to fifty guests, give or take a few, the reception can be in the dining room and we'll not tell a soul. How would that be? Everyone can come and stay here, we have plenty of room. All I ask is that you let me arrange it?" There was an almost childlike eagerness in her hopeful tone. "When I had the boys I thought there would be no opportunity for me to have such fun. After all, it is usually the bride's family who arranges the marriage. But here you are, both boys."

"Mummy," Sherlock warned. "Nothing too fancy, please?"

"You leave it to me, dear," she said. "When have you ever known me to be less than elegant and tasteful?" Looking at her, John could feel his fears evaporate. Lavinia was the epitome of style, elegance and grace.


"This could be an unmitigated disaster," Sherlock snapped on the ride back.

"Why? If she wants to arrange it and it'll give her pleasure, what's your problem?"

"She'll make a grand affair of it, when all I want is to say the words and have done."

"You know what, Sherlock? I agree with you. There's no way I would want a grand affair in a magnificent country house with a banquet laid on and a wonderful backdrop of the Holmes estate in my wedding photos... oh no, definitely not for me...very boring."

Sherlock fixed him with a glare. "Do I detect a hint of sarcasm in your tone, John?"

"I don't know? Do you? It's just we're not all inured to it, Sherlock. We didn't all grow up with such...grandeur around us. Can you blame me for wanting a little luxury, a little magnificence in what is to be the biggest day of my life so far?"

"You're saying this is what you want? A big affair with lots of guests and tedious speeches and too much food and—God forbid—the ubiquitous party where everybody tries to act half their age and loses half their IQ into the bargain?"

"It's called having fun, Sherlock, and yes, I am saying essentially that I would like all that...but if you really don't, well, that's fine as well. After all, I'm marrying you, not your mum..."

"Thank you for that image, John. I am scarred for life now." John laughed and reaching over, grasped Sherlock's hand where it rested on his knee, threading their fingers together. Sherlock looked down at their clasped hands and sighed. "Oh alright, John, if that's what you want. But can we please bow out before the disco?"

"Oh no, we stay to the bitter end...I want to dance with you."

"I don't dance."

"Like hell you don't. It's traditional. First dance goes to me." Sherlock groaned again. "Now what?"

"She's bound to want to make me wear a stupid morning suit and a top hat... I hate hats!"

John's grin got even wider. He couldn't help himself. "Are you saying you wouldn't wear a hat for me?" he tried to sound hurt and made a valiant effort to keep his face straight, which was difficult.

Sherlock glanced over, trying to decide if he was fooling or not. "You know I wouldn't wear one for you," he said. "You love me, and you know I hate wearing them. Ergo, you wouldn't ask me to wear one in the first place." He grinned triumphantly. "Game, set and match to me, I think."

John rolled his eyes. "You are such a child sometimes... Lockey."

"You wait while we get home, John Hamish Watson," Sherlock purred. "Then I'll show you how much of a child I am..." His eyes were dangerous. "This child is going to fuck you into the mattress. This child is going to suck you off until you can't remember your own name. This..." he grabbed the hand that held his and pulled, pressing the fingers to his groin.

"Alright, alright, I give in! I take it back..." John knew when he was beaten. Beneath his fingers Sherlock was hard. There was nothing childish about that.


A Three Man Problem.

He was running, calling her name, shouting it, but no sound came out, nothing he did made any noise and she walked away from him, careless, oblivious. He ran, faster and faster, but he could not catch up with her. She turned a corner... and vanished...

"Joan!" he cried, and was woken up with strong hands holding him and a familiar face hovering above him, a concerned pair of eyes staring into his from a few inches away.

"Greg? Wake up, you're safe. You're here with us. Take it easy..." John Watson held him, eased him back against the pillows and he remembered where he was in a rush. It had been a dream, that was all, but it felt horribly like a premonition. He was shaking, hyperventilating, sweating... "Relax, you're safe now..." Greg was nodding, trying to tell John he was alright, gasping around the words. "Greg, it's okay." John grabbed his wrist, practiced fingers pressing against the radial pulse. Lestrade's breathing was returning to normal. He swallowed and nodded.

"Sorry," he rasped.

"What for? You had a nightmare. Not your fault. Not a surprise either considering the stress you've been under. Just take it easy."

Since Sherlock had dropped on one knee and proposed to John a few days ago, life at 221B had been, well, pleasant. Greg Lestrade was happy for them, even if he had no clue as to how he fitted into the mix. He still had to face talking to his wife in the hope that she wouldn't become his ex-wife but somehow, every time he went to pick up the phone, his resolve wavered. The nightmares didn't help. He was getting less and less sleep, even though the rest from work and the regular meals were doing wonders for his general health.

"Greg," John leaned over into his field of vision. "You've been off work five days now. You need to think about whether you can get back to work, maybe seeing your own doctor, finding some counselling maybe."

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

John laughed. "No, you're not 'nuts'. You're stressed and you have marital problems. You're not alone in that. I see people like you every damn day. Hell, I've even been on the receiving end. Sometimes it helps to talk to a complete stranger, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it helps to talk to a friend or a family member. My point is though that you need to start getting your head around it all. You and Joan need to talk. Don't think I haven't seen you pick the phone up and then drop it again. Greg, the next step takes courage, but you have that in spades, you just need to realise it. There's only one person can do this and it's you." John sat back, regarding the man with an encouraging smile. He had developed a closer bond with Greg over the last few days and wanted the best for him. "You're doing fine. Your health has improved a lot. Now pick up your phone and call her. Arrange a meeting. Somewhere neutral would be good; coffee shop, bar, whatever. You could bring her here, Sherlock and I can arrange to be somewhere else for a while. But it needs to be done, Greg. Nothing will improve unless you make the move."

Agreeing, Greg had dialled. He got the predictable voicemail message and left a plea for Joan to call him so they could talk. He threw the phone on the bed and sighed. "Okay, you've tried. You've made the first move. Now leave her to call back." At that moment an insistent knocking on the front door interrupted them. "Probably a case," John speculated.

"I thought I was the only one who passed him cases?"

"I'll get it!" they both heard Sherlock shout. His footsteps receded on the stairs.

"I have a blog, don't forget," John reminded him. He had only spent every night for the whole time Greg had been staying engaged in updating it. He was writing up the case notes for public consumption in an effort to supply Sherlock with work. "Contrary to popular opinion, people do actually read it. At least, it garners more interest that his website. The Science of Deduction? I mean, analysis of different types of cigarette ash? Like that was ever going to capture people's attention. My blog is far more interes-"

"John?" Sherlock's voice interrupted. "Could you come out here please?" The request was casual but John recognised the slightly sharp edge, designed to have him react quickly.

"Stay here, where you're safe." John reassured. "I'll be back in a moment." Greg watched him go, anxiety warring with curiosity.

"What's the matter?" John found Sherlock with Sally Donovan at the entrance to the sitting room. "What's happened?" Sally Donovan raised mournful eyes to him and John suddenly knew something was very, very wrong.


"...so we need him to come do the identification." Donovan said gently, a cup of tea balanced on her knee as she sat on the couch and regarded the men with a concerned frown. "She was his wife. The nearest family she has is in South Wales. Dental records will take time. Unless...did either of you ever meet her?" The two men shook their heads.

"Not me," John said.

"I saw her once, at a distance; plain little woman, remember wondering what he saw in her..." Sherlock said and received an elbow in the ribs. "Ow, John... what was that for?"


"Well, I'm not saying it on front of him," Sherlock protested. "Anyway, she was plain. Small, plain, mousy... Joan, even her name didn't stand out...What?" because John was looking pointedly at him.

"Er...member of the Small Plain People With Boring Names group in the room here..."

"Oh, John, really," Sherlock scoffed. "You are neither small, plain, nor boring, so shut up."

"Well, could you ID her?" Sally asked impatiently, trying to bring the conversation back on track.

"Doubtful." Sherlock shrugged. "As I said, I saw her only once, and that was at a distance. Besides," his eyes slid to meet John's gaze. "My track record with identifying dead people is dubious to say the least. Those people I tend to think are dead are sometimes not as dead as I'd like them to be."

"Well, how is Greg? Is he up to this?" Donovan was worried. Despite everything, she liked her boss.

"Not sure," John replied. "He's not in bad physical shape but mentally, I think he's still on rocky ground. This needs breaking gently..."

"What does? I'm not made of glass, John." Greg stood in the door, wrapping sherlock's long blue robe around himself and putting a brave face on but looking as though he were dreading hearing what Donovan had to say.

"Sir?" Sally Donovan stood up. "I'm sorry, but I said I'd do this because I knew you..."

"Thank you. So, what's wrong?"

"It's Mrs Lestrade, sir. Joan, your wife..." Sally didn't know what to say. Now it had come to it, she did not know how to tell him. John opened his mouth to speak but it was Sherlock who moved first, took Greg's arm and guided him to a seat.

"Sit down, Greg." He squatted between Greg's knees once he was sitting and fixed the man with his pale gaze. "It's about Joan... there's been an accident. She was in a taxi, heading to the railway station." Sherlock's voice was gentle, careful. "The brakes failed, it lost control... Head on with a lorry."

"Oh God" Greg's face had lost what little colour it had. "How is she? Which hospital...?" but the words died in Greg's mouth as he registered John's expression. The doctor shook his head slightly and Sherlock reached out a comforting hand and squeezed Greg's shoulder.

He felt rather proud of himself. He had learned this from John, about giving comfort. At least, this felt like the time to offer such a gesture. "I'm sorry, Greg." He made his voice as gentle as he knew how. "She died at the scene." John had also taught him the correct intonation on delivering bad news, slightly lower and slower, implying sincerity. Sherlock might have had to learn how to say such things, but at least he knew that he genuinely meant them. He liked Lestrade.

Lestrade looked up at Sally. She nodded in confirmation, her eyes tearing up despite her previous resolve and Greg allowed his own eyes to close, pain etched across his features. "I'm really sorry, boss, but we need formal ID on the bo... on Mrs. Lestrade, sir. Would you...?"

"We'll come with you, Greg," John offered. "Unless there's anyone else we can call?"

"No, I'll do it." He stood, looking oddly vulnerable in pajamas and Sherlock's dressing gown. "I'll go get dressed. Can you wait?"

Sally nodded. "Of course." She watched him muster his dignity and walk out. Nobody said anything until they heard his footstseps overhead in the bedroom.

"Fuck it," John swore, rubbing at his eyes. "Now he'll blame himself. Damn it, he tried to call her just now. Where was she going, do you know?"

"Not the exact address, but she had three suitcases with her and a train ticket to Swansea as well, in her bag."

"Her mother," Sherlock supplied. "I remember Greg telling me once. Joan's mother lives in South Wales. I would surmise when a husband and wife separate, the wife will, more often than not, go to stay with her mother. He probably has her number somewhere. Although I have no idea what Joan's maiden name was."

"Then I'd better contact South Wales constabulary. They can break the bad news."

"No... I'll tell her." Lestrade walked back into the lounge, throwing his shoes on the floor and his jacket across the back of a chair. "I have her number somewhere." He sat down and proceded to pull on his socks.

"Don't go without us," John ordered, heading to the stairs.

"You know, guys, I can do this. You don't need to hold my hand."

"Greg, no. You don't have to do this alone." Sherlock stood in front of him. The man who did not do emotions was now facing off the man whom he had accused on more than one occasion of wearing his heart on his sleeve. "I won't let you do this to yourself."

"Do what? Do what, Sherlock?" Greg was getting angry.

"Haul yourself over the coals like this. I can see you doing so. This was not your fault."

"She was going to her mother's, wasn't she? Wasn't she?" he insisted.

"We think so, yes. That doesn't make this your fault though."

"Then whose fault is it exactly?"

"Nobody. Greg, she was the one gave you the ultimatum. She was the one who pushed you away."

"Because I made her..." Greg sat down heavily. "I wasn't there for her. She never let me down and I let her down badly. I wasn't around. I can't say sorry now. We parted on bad terms and now it's too late..." He put his head in his hands and wept.

Molly was her usual uncertain self when they arrived at the mortuary. She looked unhappy, cornering John and pulling him to one side. "I need to warn you... She was bashed about in the crash. Her face was pretty badly disfigured. I've tried to make her...well, presentable, but she's still...messy. Sorry."

"Let me see first then," John suggested and Molly nodded, unzipping the bag. John peeled it away and frowned. All told, she didn't look too bad. He had seen much worse. Hopefully seeing her would give her husband closure at least. John was relieved she didn't look too disfigured. The left side of the back of her head was mangled though. The left cheekbone was broken, the eye socket cut up.

"Her left eye was dislodged and... well, damaged, but I repositioned it, put it back," she whispered to him and he nodded.

Thankfully Joan's eyes were closed. John replaced the flap and said "Greg, come on." John motioned him over. Greg made it to the trolley and Molly uncovered Joan's face again reluctantly. Greg felt John grip his arm hard, and he looked down. His heart lurched painfully, despite being forewarned. It was definitely her. He nodded, once, and Molly quickly replaced the cover. He had begun to shake, and Sherlock guided him out. Despite his resolve, Greg looked pale and sick. He paused to lean over a sink near the door, trying to control his breathing.

"Massive internal damage," Molly said quietly once she was sure Greg was out of earshot. "She bled to death, John. Pelvis was broken, right femoral artery severed. We both know it would have been quite quick. She would have been unconscious from that head injury too. I wouldn't like to say for certain which injury actually killed her but she wouldn't have known much either way. You can tell him that."

John nodded, smiled tightly and gripped her arm gently. "Thank you, Molly."

"How is he?" There were tears in her eyes, threatening to brim over.

"He's... fragile," John said. "As you would expect."

"But he's safe? He's with you two, isn't he?"

"He's with us, yes. We'll look after him. Come over, if you like. You're always welcome. You should know that."

Molly smiled. "Oh, you don't need me interfering. You and Sherlock will look after him. I'd just be in the way... He doesn't feel anything for me. I'm not even a friend."

"Molly, that isn't true. We both know Sherlock is... complicated but you helped him. He is grateful despite not being able to articulate it, but Greg... I'm sure he thinks of you as a friend as well. I know I do, anyway, stuff those two."

She chuckled at his matter-of-fact-ness. . "Thank you...John."

He smiled. back "Anytime. Thanks again, Molly, I'd better get after them."


The funeral was somber, the sky grey and rain-laden. For all her quiet and somewhat shy demeanor, there was no shortage of mourners. Joan had been loved by her family and well-liked by her friends and acquaintances. Her mother had made the trip from Swansea with her two younger sisters and their families to support her. Joan had corresponded with them all regularly. The ladies from the local WI were in attendance, because Joan had been an active member. Donovan was obviously there to support her boss and represent the division. The couple's immediate neighbours were also in attendance. Sherlock and John accompanied Greg until they arrived at the crematorium and then handed him over to his foster mother, Margaret. She was a motherly woman in her 70s but she took hold of Greg's arm and guided him inside with stoic support. John hung back, unwilling to face going in again. Sherlock frowned, then made the connection and a gentle hand slipped under John's elbow.

"I'm here," he said quietly, sliding his hand down John's arm to lace with their fingers together. "Come on, we need to do this for Greg." He guided John in through the doors, his arm wrapped supportively around his fiance.

Afterward, Greg stoically shook everyone's hand and then allowed himself to be bundled into a taxi and taken home. He had refused Margaret's offer to come stay with her, excusing himself by saying he had already made arrangements. He was quiet the entire ride. John kept glancing his way, as if to reassure himself that the man was still there, still with them. When they got home, Greg went inside willingly enough, allowing himself to be guided like a child. He stood in the living room, looking lost. "What am I going to do now?"

John ached for him. He knew that lost look all too well. He had seen it in the mirror almost every day since Sherlock had 'died'. Only he hadn't had anyone to care about him. Sherlock helped Greg take off his coat and John guided him to a seat, squatting between his knees and fixing him with a concerned look.

"Greg, we're not going to tell you what to feel or how to behave. Grief takes people differently. We're not going to tell you to be strong or to be calm, or not to cry. That's up to you. If you need help with anything, we're here. You can stay here with us, you can use Sherlock's room..."

"I can't tell her I'm sorry." Greg's eyes were haunted. "If we'd not had this...disagreement, she'd still be alive..."

"Greg, you can't know that. This is not your fault," John said. "We've been over this before..."

"Can't know that either..."

"Lestrade, she gave you the ultimatum," Sherlock said, surprisingly gently. "Right or wrong, all this was from her perspective, not yours. You cannot second guess how someone will behave. She knew you were a career policeman, she knew you did long hours, she married you anyway. She perceived the fault was yours for all those long hours, because she wanted something from you that you couldn't give, never mind how much you might have wanted to. The fact that she died in a taxi on her way to the train was chance, nothing more. She might have survived that crash; people do. The circumstances were simply not in her favour..."

Anger flashed across Lestrade's face and he shot to his feet. "I let her down!" he almost yelled. "Don't tell me this was all her fault!" John stood quickly and intercepted him, facing him down, despite being a half a head shorter than the detective inspector. The army captain rose to the fore.

"Greg! Sherlock is trying to help. Now I said we wouldn't try to tell you what to feel but don't expect us to sit by and watch you punish yourself. Friends don't do that."

"So we are telling him what to feel," Sherlock murmured, almost sounding amused.

"Fuck it, Sherlock! Now is not the time..." John complained. Sherlock shrugged, not a wit apologetic. "Damn your logic..." John said pointedly.

"Well, either we are telling him what to feel or we're not," Sherlock said simply. "I, for one, don't want him to suffer any more than you do, but if we tell him non of this is his fault, we ARE telling him what to feel. Or rather what not to feel. In this case, not to feel guilty."

John sighed heavily. "Okay, forget my last, completely useless statement, Greg. We are telling you not to feel guilty. Okay, end of story." John turned to Sherlock and shrugged. "Not that it will work. If he's decided to haul himself over the coals, there's nothing you or I can do about it. I'm a doctor, not a psychiatrist. Just don't expect me to like it." He stood up, intending to leave, but a hand on his wrist arrested his movement. He looked down to see Greg's hand on his sleeve.

"Don't go. I'm sorry, John... I...I don't know what to think any more. Sherlock is probably right but I feel like I let her down when she needed me. I can't help that. She needed me to be there for her and I wasn't. Simple." He shrugged. "No going back now though. I can't undo it. She's dead. End of story." He looked dejected and sat back down on the sofa. John flopped down beside him. "You've been great, guys," Greg added. "Proper friends. I don't know what I'd have done without you. Just...thanks, for everything."

John smiled. "Any time, Greg. You've been there for us. Just returning the favour."

"I think I'd like to go to my room now... get some rest. I'm not good company right now."

"I can give you something to help you sleep," John suggested. "If you need it..."

"Let me try on my own. If I can't, I'll come find you."

"Okay. If you're sure. I'll come up and check on you later then." Greg nodded and walked out, heavy tread on the stairs.

"You think he'll be okay?" Sherlock asked. "Not suicidal?"

"I don't think so. I'll go up to the loo in a mo, though. I'll make sure then. Put the kettle on?" Sherlock nodded and went into the kitchen.

When John went upstairs a few minutes later he could hear the obvious sounds of sobbing coming from Sherlock's room. He hovered outside the door, waiting and worrying but not wanting to intrude. Presently the sounds ceased and soft snores reached his ears. Concluding that Greg had dropped asleep, John crept downstairs again.

"What's wrong?" Sherlock knew there was something on seeing John's face as he came back into the living room. He had been gone a while longer than it took to pee.

"Greg. He's... grieving. You know," John was clearly uncomfortable.

"Ah. Is he alright?"

"He's asleep. God, Sherlock... " John leaned against the door and ran a hand through his hair. "it just...brings back memories, okay? Only I was lucky, you came back to me." His expression was bleak. Sherlock immediately came over and crowded him, arms winding tightly around his back, pulling him into his chest, face buried in his hair. "Joan isn't coming back..." John muttered.

"You believed I wasn't. Oh, John, I am so sorry. I'll never be able to make that up to you, will I?"

"No, maybe not. But that's something I accept and you have to live with. You did what you thought best." Sherlock pulled John closer and murmured soothing nonsense and stroked his back. "Greg is...lost without her," John mumbled into Sherlock's shoulder. "Now he can't say sorry. I know how hollow it is, saying it to someone you think is dead. You can't get closure, you can't get a reply, you don't know if they've forgiven you or not. You have to hope but you don't know. My bloody therapist thought I needed to do that when you 'died', to say things to you that I hadn't said. What's the point of that when you don't...can't get an answer?"

"I see your point, John. I heard you at the grave side," Sherlock admitted softly. "I was there, the first time you went. It tore me apart, watching you. I think that's when I knew, that's when I realised what you meant to me. I wanted so much to say something but...I couldn't risk it. I knew Moran was out there, just waiting for me to show my face. He didn't believe I was dead and he was the most elusive. If I'd shown my hand you'd have been taken out by a sniper's bullet and I...I couldn't let that happen. I have never felt so alone, so God knows how you felt. I deduce that Greg feels the same way now..."

"I never knew you were there..." John pulled back a little and looked into Sherlock's eyes.

"I didn't want to load that on you too. I hope you understand why I couldn't show myself. If Moran had got wind of my status he wouldn't have hesitated. There were a couple of times I thought I'd blown my cover but he never found out about me. So I travelled, seeking out the network subtly. It both helped and hindered me that Moriarty kept his little terrorist cells separate. They didn't talk to each other. It made them bloody hard to find but when I did I was able to take out three without the others knowing. Then I found Moran again and I took him on." Sherlock's voice was steel and his eyes silver in the low light. He was holding John firmly and protectively, his voice hard-edged but everything about him fluidly metallic, a hard shining shield between John and his adversaries.

"We need to give Greg something to care about, but you and me," John shrugged. "We're... we're new at this. We've hardly found each other again and now we have someone else in the mix."

"We're good, John. I love you and you love me, we know that. What more do we need?"

"Oh, I don't know, some space? Time to get to know each other? Time to ourselves?" John fretted against him, restless and uncertain.

"John, relax. If Greg joins us in our fledgling relationship, who cares? We'll love him too. Someone once told me that love does not have boundaries, John. It is infinite. We have enough and to spare. We'll care for him, love him and give him a home..."

"He isn't a dog, Sherlock. You're making him sound like Lassie."

Sherlock grinned. "No, he's more your dependable border collie. Unfortunately the job of annoying talking animal goes to Anderson, police sniffer dog extraordinaire. Lestrade is more your Rin Tin Tin? K9 maybe?"

John shook his head, exasperated. "You and popular culture don't mix, you know that? My advice would be to leave off the analogies. Look, I know we'll be there for him when he needs us, but honestly, I have no idea if it'll be enough. It's doing my head in as it is."

"We'll just have to wait and see what happens. Deal with things as they arise, take one day at a time, work with available data and experiment to acquire more." Sherlock smiled. "Whatever happens, Greg is our friend and we won't let him down." Sherlock was eyeing him slyly. "Talking of available data..."

"What, Sherlock?"

"I proposed to you a few days ago."

"I noticed. I believe I said yes."

"Yes you did, but I need more data..."

"Data? What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Exactly. That's what I'm talking about. A good fuck."

"Pardon? God, you pick your times. Is this really appropriate? Greg lost his wife today..."

"And you're upset, yes. I was interested to see whether I could cheer you up."

"Oh, you were, were you?" John shook his head. "And how are you proposing to do so?"

"Well, by fucking you. If... you don't object..." Sherlock's eyebrow quirked. "Not a good time? Have I acted inappropriately?"

"Well, maybe, maybe not. Yes, it probably would cheer me up. Having regular sex with you is giving me a feeling of well-being previously unsurpassed by my other relationships. How's that for a bit of data?"

"Hm, interesting. Thank you, John. I'll file that away for later. Right now, I want to get naked and fuck you into our mattress, if you'll allow. In the interests of my experiment to see if I can cheer you up with sex, of course."

"If I'll...? oh, I'll allow alright. In fact you'd better make this good. Right now, I want to forget today." Sherlock grabbed his hand and lead him upstairs.


It was no good. Greg had woken from a fitful sleep, aware that he was alone, awake and not under the influence of any mind-altering substances, which was, frankly, a pity. Especially given the noises coming from John's... from their bedroom. He was so fucking lonely. Part of him regretted not being able to have the chance to reconcile with Joan. Part of him was guiltily relieved that he wouldn't now be able to. He had come to accept that their differences had probably made them both somewhat to blame for the break up. It was misfortune that the accident had robbed him of the chance to make it up to her though.

Greg was nothing if not pragmatic. He would get through this. Somehow. People did. Hundreds of people, every day. He himself had delivered the dreaded news on more than one occasion. He would mourn his loss, regret things, remember the good times, then move on. He couldn't live here though. Not in such close proximity to those two. Their togetherness threw his single status into stark relief and it hurt. He sighed. Anger flashed though him. Why did she have to go and die now? Self-pity replaced the anger in a flash. He was so alone. He had been lonely before she left, knowing they were growing apart, refusing to acknowledge it. He longed to connect to someone, to have someone understand him, accept him for what and who he was. Joan had married him but she hadn't really know what it would be like, being married to a career copper.

Guilt welled up in him. He hadn't exactly been sympathetic there either. Now he was a widow, and single, but he wouldn't be able to find himself a partner any time soon. Not if he wanted to meet someone with a view to seeing them again anyway. He might manage a few one night stands maybe, in places where his face wouldn't be recognised. He would have to blag it. No woman in her right mind would take him on so soon after his wife's death. He would be 'on the rebound', or they would think he wasn't capable of loving someone if he could forget his last wife so quickly. He might play the sympathy card, and make a friend out of it, if he could keep it in his pants for long enough. Nothing to stop him making a friend and advancing the relationship along in about a year.

A year, his mind screamed? How could he stand to be around someone like that and wait that long? Well, old son, it's not like you got much bedroom activity lately anyway, part of him considered. He and Joan hadn't made love in months. He had wondered if she'd just lost interest. She had never been that enthusiastic anyway and lately had looked positively relieved when he hadn't pursued the matter. Maybe that was his fault. Maybe he had just missed the signs of their marriage breaking down. He would never find out now. He got out of bed, intending to go down and make a cup of tea to sooth his nerves until his flatmates had finished...what it was they were doing, and he did get as far as the landing... then stopped. He turned to look at their bedroom door. It wasn't properly shut. He wondered about that. Were they deliberately leaving it open in case he should need them? Or was it just exhibitionism, considering John, and presumably now Sherlock, knew he had spied on them that night. The open door only made the noises easier to hear of course; their soft cries and murmurs, the noise of the bed creaking...

Oh God, that night still haunts me, he thought. John, such a rapt look on his face, driving hard into Sherlock's body... and Sherlock... Oh bloody grief, one long lovely arch to that lean pale body as he took the pounding, one elegant leg draped across John's shoulder, his head tipped back... Greg broke out in a sweat. His breath shuddered out of him. Dear God, I can't think about that now. I'm not a voyeur. He ran a hand through his short hair and tried to bring his breathing under control. He was hard. Dear God, he was aching with it. He had been without a physical relationship for much too long not to respond to the auditory assault.

Joan had never been adventurous in bed either. When they were younger, she had been full of energy but she had always held something back. Certain things had disgusted her, he knew. Blow jobs were beyond her. It was as if she loved him, she loved marriage, and she loved being a housewife, but disliked the bit about conjugal rights. So he had strayed, when the chance arose, but only for the odd one-nighter. He was never desperate enough to pay for it and risk his career, and he always came back to Joan; solid, warm, dependable Joan. She had been his mainstay, his rock. He was always careful, discreet. He had no desire to bring any shame down on her. She didn't deserve that. Nobody ever thought of him as anything but dull in the relationship department. He was boringly, comfortably married, so far as any of the rest of the Department knew, yet he could give Anderson and Donovan a run for their money and they didn't even know. He allowed himself a grim little grin. Yes, he had kept his liasons quiet, hadn't bragged, had just kept his head down and satisfied himself where he could; a pretty WPC on a conference, a nice lady in a bar one friday night across town when he was 'working late', a young man in a student club looking for an older man with experience for his first time. He justified it by telling himself-who am I kidding?-that he wasn't putting undue pressure on his wife to give him something she couldn't. While that was true, he knew he could just have been a better bloke and forgone the temptation. Then he sighed. No use kidding himself with that either. He wasn't a 'better bloke' and although he was a good copper, not a bent one, he was also realistic. He knew he was neither hero nor angel, he was human.

He guessed that was why he liked Sherlock. Sherlock Holmes-The Freak-accepted him for what he was, a marginally bright copper who fuelled him with interesting cases. Beyond that Sherlock never judged or asked or probed. He just accepted. Greg just stood there outside their door for who knew how long, torn between embarrassment, resentment, loneliness and desire. Eventually his eyes closed, he slid down the wall and he began, even more embarrassingly, to weep again.


"John..." The voice, Sherlock's, hissed in his ear. John was thrusting deeply and slowly, totally caught up in the moment. "John!" the voice was more insistant. John's eyes dragged open and he groaned softly, his body torn between the need to listen to the urgency of the voice and his desire to finish the job and collapse in deep and total mind-numbing bliss.

"What?" he moaned.


"Stop? What's the matter?"

"Sh! Just listen, will you? Just...stop." Sherlock had a hand on his shoulder and a death grip on his hip. John did as he was bid and stilled, but opened his mouth on another moan. Sherlock immediately clapped a hand over John's mouth to silence him.

"Mnph!" he glared at the man beneath him who just glared back and jerked his head toward the door. As the fog in his brain cleared, John became aware of the sound outside the door. He frowned.

"Come on," Sherlock commanded and heaved him off and out of bed.


Through the miserable haze of grief and self-pity that had settled uncomfortably on his shoulders, Greg became aware that he wasn't alone. He had slid down the wall, head buried in his arms which rested on his bent knees, oblivious to anything expect the tumultuous pain that ratcheted higher every time he tried to control it and stop the flood of tears. A storm of grief had it's hold on him, shaking him to his core. It was as if the floodgates had opened and nothing he could do would appease it. It terrified him even as it almost felt good to let it go. A hand suddenly gripping his shoulder almost gave him a heart attack. He jumped and cried out.

"Woah, easy there! Relax, Greg, take it steady..." John Watson was crouching beside him, looking into his eyes, his face a mask of concern. Greg became aware that Sherlock was on his other side, he could feel the warmth from his skin, he was so close.

"We heard you," Sherlock explained. "We came to see if you were alright, which obviously you're not, or you wouldn't be collapsed against the wall, crying like a baby..."

"Sherlock!" John snapped. "There's no need to embarrass him." He sounded angry.

Greg sniffed and took a shuddering breath which threatened to start a fresh wave of sobbing. "It's...it's alright...I... I can't...help it...sorry..."

"Hey, hey," John's voice was soothing and warm as he dragged a hand through man's short hair and then wrapped an arm around Greg's shoulders and pulled him close. "Take it easy, we're here. You're not alone." His hand rubbed soothingly across Lestrade's back, attempting to calm him. Sherlock had a hand gripping his other shoulder gently.

"I wasn't trying to embarrass you," he muttered in defence. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. Very natural reaction in grief. I was just..."

"Shut up, Sherlock," John said, exasperated. Sherlock took the hint but huffed in annoyance.

Greg became uncomfortably aware that both John and Sherlock were stark bollock naked and very, very close. He made an inarticulate sound of distress and tried to pull away but John was strong and held on. "Woah, mate, calm down. What's the matter?"

"Just...please, leave me alone..."

"Why? What's wrong? Come on, tell me..." John stared him down, his curious gaze loaded almost unbearably with compassion and kindness. The doctor in him needed to know, to understand and to help. All it made Greg want to do was hide.

"You are." Greg ground the words out through gritted teeth. "Both of you...I could hear..." his voice failed. He turned to John and felt his bottom lip tremble again. "You two have each other, and me, what have I got? God," he seemed to fold into himself again, vulnerable and trembling. "Look at me," he held shaking hands out in front of him. "I'm wrecked. I'm bloody terrified. I can't live like this. I can't be alone again."

"Come on, up you get," John encouraged gently, helping Greg stand. "We need tea, now. Sherlock, go put the kettle on. Make us all a cup, preferably hot and sweet. Kitchen, everybody, now," he ordered, obviously back in soldier mode, as Sherlock put it.

When they were seated around the kitchen table, a mug of tea in front of each of them, John reached and laid a hand over Greg's, stroking the knuckles with his thumb. "Okay, in your own time, Greg. Talk us through it?" John encouraged. He watched the man take a deep breath. "When were you so alone that it's had this effect on you?"

"I was orphaned when I was six," Greg admitted softly. "Both my parent's died in an RTI. You have to understand I was in a kids' home until I was 13. I was out of control. If it could be done, I did it; drugs, booze, cigarettes. I was a mess. Then Mike and Marge came along. Mike was in the Met and he pulled me up short, he made me see what I was. Nothing. That was it, I was doing...nothing. Nothing of interest, nothing important, nothing with any ambition. I was alone, I was addicted, I was...killing myself."

"So what happened?"

Greg laughed humourlessly. "He took me to the morgue, showed me what might happen if I kept on with the self destructive behaviour. There was a kid there not much older than me, his head was a mess, bottom half of his face was missing. He'd been shot, some gang-war killing. There was another, he was younger. He'd overdosed on heroin. That was my future, Mike said. If I kept going I'd be joining them within a year or so. But he told me it was a waste. He told me he wasn't going to let that happen. It didn't have to happen. I said..." Lestrade's voice caught in his throat and he nearly choked, but he coughed and cleared his throat, held up a hand to warn away help and mastered his emotions. "I said he could have had any kid in the orphanage, there were others more deserving than me, better behaved, more good looking. You know what he did? He laughed. And then he said something I've never forgotten." Greg paused, thoughtful and a little sad.

"What was it?" John prompted gently.

Greg glanced at him, then took a sip of his tea. "He said yes, he could, if he wanted to. He said he could have chosen any kid in there, but he also said that they were the ones who didn't need him. He told me years later that on that particular day he had seen something in me that reminded him of his own son. The kid, David, had died two years before, caught in the cross fire from a local gang fight. Mike told me he would do his best by me, he would show me support, he would try to be the father I had lost. He didn't want to take the place of my dad, just make sure he didn't let either my mum or my dad down in taking care of me." Greg smiled at the memory. "It wasn't easy. We both fought, often, but he won, in the end. They both did, because they both had faith in me. When he died last year I lost my guide." He paused in his naration, quiet and sad. "Joan had faith in me too. She could see everything other people couldn't. Now she's dead and I've lost my compass as well. Everybody I love, they leave me alone. I've no one and nothing. I cannot be nothing again, John. Ever. I can't..." He folded, head in his hands. John was surprised to see that it was Sherlock who reached for him this time.

"Greg Lestrade, you listen to me. You are not nothing. You are something special, something else entirely. You are a deviously clever man, one of the Yard's best. I never say it, but you are one of the few who make my life bearable. You believed in me, despite the odds being stacked very heavily against me. You supported John. You are worth more than the rest of the Yard put together. Don't ever let me hear you say you are alone. As long as there is breath in my body, you will not be alone. Do you hear me?" He was aware that both Greg and John were looking at him strangely. "What? I mean it. Every word. Because I don't allow myself the luxury of indulging in emotive behaviour, it doesn't mean I don't have some ability," he said defensively. "And what I lack, I learn. I have a good teacher..." He smiled at John. "I can't say I don't have friends any more either. I have two now. And my new friend needs me, needs us. I cannot and will not ignore that."

"Greg," John added. "We weren't lying when we said you can live here with us. Whether you become part of our relationship, that's up to you. But we're here to help get you through all of this. We won't let you down."

"That's decided then. You're staying," Sherlock took Greg's hand in his. "Come on, upstairs."

"Upstairs? Why?" Greg had a sudden flash of insight as to where Sherlock was taking him.

"I would have thought that was obvious, even to you, Greg," Sherlock said softly. He leaned in close and his hand strayed, those long pale fingers trailing a line down Lestrade's chest, through the dark dusting of hair, nails raking south. Dear God... "Come with me." That voice was pure velvet, soft and seductive.

"Guys, I can't... can't do this..." Greg balked. Breathing hard, he stepped away, putting distance between him and Sherlock. "Not today...I just...can't. I...I know I want this, just..." he closed his eyes, shook his head, raked a hand through his hair. When he opened his eyes again, John was smiling at him sympathetically. Sherlock had a slight pout. "Look, don't get me wrong, I appreciate the offer, I really do. But no. I buried her today, for God's sake. If I do this...It's like I'm betraying her memory." He doubted Sherlock would understand. This was an emotional reaction and probably way out of his sphere.

"You don't want to associate the first time you have sex with us with the day of your wife's funeral?" Sherlock supplied, proving his perception was undiminished.

"Okay, so you do understand."

"I can see your reasoning, I'm just not sure I can empathise with it."

"It just doesn't feel right," Greg admitted.

"That's illogical. Sex is a stress release, it will both make you feel better and help you sleep, both things you are in need of right now. Physiologically, you're turning down the best way for you to relax right now."

John sighed. "Sherlock, it's an emotive thing. If it doesn't feel right to Greg to jump in the sack with us less than 24 hours after burying his wife, on the same day even, then it won't do him any good emotionally, even though, physically, the benefits might make it worthwhile. This time the emotions override the logic."

Then it was Sherlock's turn to sigh. "Oh, very well, I can see you won't be swayed. Come on then," and he took hold of Greg's hand again and dragged him toward the stairs.

"But..." Greg began but was hushed by Sherlock who held a finger to his lips.

"Bed, with us, to sleep," sherlock emphasised. "You might be allowed to refuse sex but you are not going to be allowed to refuse company. Come on."

Greg let out a gusty sigh and fought a sudden surge of emotion. He won, barely. Warm hands gripped his waist and John came up behind him. "Told you, we won't tell you how or what to feel. This goes at your pace, not ours." Greg smiled at him.

"Thanks, it's appreciated, John, truly. You don't think I'm nuts, do you?"

"For not wanting to do something your heart is obviously telling you is wrong? Hell, no, of course not. You do what you feel is right, Greg. Nobody can ask fairer than that."

When he woke the following morning, he couldn't at first place his whereabouts. He didn't want to open his eyes and spoil the moment by letting the day intrude, so he lay there, listening. Two sets of breaths, close by. Warmth at his back and his front. Street sounds, the wind, a dog barking, a phone ringing. Daytime sounds, ordinary, muted. He risked opening an eye. He was facing the dark curls at the nape of Sherlock's neck. Therefore by a process of elimination, the warmth behind him had to be John. A mix of emotions rushed through him, the primary one being relief. Not alone. They had promised him, he would never be alone again. He wondered at that. How on earth could anybody promise that? But then, this was Sherlock, and Sherlock had promised him no more than was in his power to give. "As long as it is in my power," he had said. It was enough.

On reflection, there were worse things than living with his two best mates. Although, Greg figured, it might prove to be like living with a very tall, very demanding toddler where Sherlock was concerned. He reached out and let his fingers capture of curl of dark hair, feeling it's silky texture as it curled like a living thing around his knuckle.

"Good morning, Greg" Sherlock murmured. "How are you today?"

"Okay, I guess."

"That sounds disappointing. I had hoped we all might... find some distraction..." Sherlock rolled onto his back, stretched like a cat and yawned.


"Oh, for heaven's sake, Greg. Must I spell it out for you?"

"Spell what out?" Greg's voice shook. Sherlock rolled to face him and regarded him for a long moment, his expression blank. Then those seductive lips curled in a small, carefully constructed smile. He leaned forward, breath ghosting over Greg's neck as his lips brushed the shell of his ear. "You're hard, Greg," Sherlock murmured. "You think I haven't been feeling it pressing into my arse all morning? You're in need. That much is obvious." Sherlock drew back a little so that they could look into each other's eyes. Sherlock noted in his peripheral vision the blush creeping up the man's neck. "I would gather you've probably not had sex in a while, months maybe. That's hard to bear. I know how much." Cool fingers brushed gently along Lestrade's jawline. "You were away on a conference before Christmas, so that might well have been the most recent time but somehow, I doubt it. I don't know if you've met anyone since. I know that you've...played away, as they say, before. You remove your ring. Don't think I didn't notice it wasn't visible after that conference. Cast your mind back to the case that John dubbed The Study in Pink. I recall that you flinched when I made my observations concerning Jennifer Wilson's ring. I didn't understand why then, but I do now. Like hers, yours is clean on the inside, dirty outside. You remove it when it suits you. Of course, you didn't want it obvious you were married. It doesn't go down well with WPCs. You forgot to put it back on that first day back, remember? You never usually take it off, Greg. Unlike Jennifer Wilson, though, you are not a serial adulterer," Sherlock said gently. "You loved your wife, you always came back to her, and you didn't do it often."

Lestrade was looking at him in shock. Trust Holmes to pin him down so transparently. Sherlock modulated his voice, speaking gently and more quietly. All the while he was speaking his restless, graceful fingers were delicately touching and stroking and mapping Greg's skin. "Regardless of the motive, John caught you watching us. It upset you. Then we found you last night, out there on the landing, in an emotional mess. You must have just heard us again. We left our door open in case you needed us, but we weren't being particularly quiet." Greg's eyes slid shut. "We upset you, because we have some things that you don't currently possess; a relationship, companionship, regular sex and above all, love. My point, Greg, is this. We do love you. Maybe not in the way we love each other, but it's no less real. John may have told you this, but the fact of the matter is that I find relationships difficult, I don't see the signs people send out, I miss social signals. I can observe the details of a crime scene and know everything there is to know about someone in the first minutes of meeting them, but I am far from fluent in body language. I hate social functions, I dislike the social niceties. Social, social, social, I hate social. I am not sociable. Although, with you, I want to be. I want to be with you the way I am with John. You make me feel safe, Greg, like he does." Sherlock actually looked shy. Greg smiled. He looked much younger when he smiled like that.

"Thank you, Sherlock. Coming from you, that is a very great complement. I'm not sure I can live up to it, but...I'll give it a go."

"You are very welcome to stay with us, and share our bed, if that is what you want," Sherlock added. "You're our friend." He lifted Lestrade's hand and kissed the fingers, then cocked an eyebrow questioningly.

Behind him, John was sitting up, short hair towsled with sleep, a smile on his face. They were both looking at him, both waiting. He must look like a right muppet. What do you do when your two best mates proposition you? It was obvious that John wasn't averse either or he'd have protested, said something to divert things at the very least. "Take your time," John said into the silence, offering him an out. "You need more rest as it is."

"What I need is a pee," Greg replied, levering himself up. "Ugh, my mouth tastes like something crawled in there and died. I need the bathroom, and then, when I get back..." He smiled, grabbing a dressing gown. "You can distract me all you like."

Sherlock went to work on him almost as soon as he got back through the door. Long fingers stroked down his arm, moved away, then settled in the small of his back, guiding him toward the bed. "No strings, Greg. We just want to help," Sherlock said gently. "Let us do the work." Greg realised he was shaking when Sherlock pushed him onto the bed. Somehow Sherlock divested him of his dressing gown in one smooth move before his arse had contacted the bed. John jumped up to sit behind him and leaned back against the pillows piled against the headboard, pulling Greg gently back against his warm chest, both arms wrapped around him. The doctor held him in a reassuringly secure grip, non-threatening, supportive rather than restraining. Greg allowed his head to fall back against John's shoulder and warm kisses pressed against his skin, making him shiver. He tipped his head to one side to give John greater access and fisted his hands into the sheets as John licked along the line of his neck, right up to his ear. He drew the lobe into his mouth and suckled, then flicked his tongue around the shell. Greg was hyper-aware of John's erection hard beneath him, pressing into his back. "If you keep...doing that...I'm not going to...to last..." Greg stuttered.

"You don't have to," Sherlock purred. "You need this, Greg. Just relax into it. We won't let you fall."

Sherlock's hands gripped his hips, holding him hard against the bed. John's hands were on his shoulders. God, he hadn't realised just how tight with tension he was. It was so good to feel John's knowledgeable fingers releasing the knots, he melted under the doctor's ministrations. Those warm fingers then snaked around the front, stroking the skin of his throat, sliding confidently over the Adam's apple and up to grip Greg's chin, tipping his head up and back, holding him exposed and vulnerable. Sherlock leaned in and placed a row of wet, open-mouthed kisses down his throat, licking and tasting. John slid his hands down Greg's arms and back up to his shoulders again, fingers mapping muscle and bone, ridge and furrow. They slid higher to card soothingly through his hair, dragging fingertips down again over his throat. That grip, those wonderfully strong fingers, altered slightly, made him feel taken, held, restrained, as if any lingering guilt was being taken from him in the subtle control John was wielding. He felt wanted, desired, even though he was not the one giving everything. Sherlock's mouth trailed south, capturing each peaked nipple and swirling across it, teeth nipping each hard nub gently before he moved further south.

An embarrassingly needy and rather strangled groan escaped Greg's throat. His hips lifted in a plea for release.

"What do you want, Greg?" John whispered in his ear. He trembled and felt John's hands grip a little more firmly, supportively.

"Everything, anything..."

Sherlock chuckled and bent lower. Fascinated, Greg watched as the dark curls bobbed down and suddenly his erection was enveloped in wet heat; Sherlock's tongue was doing...oh God, that... Greg moaned again, long and loud. Too soon he felt the familiar tension building in his belly, he had never been this turned on in his life. He had never had anything like this done to him before. He had never been in a threesome, despite the odd fantasy, and then his mind had supplied two women, not two men. He thrust upward, desperate for the friction. He wanted more, much, much more.

Greg envied John and Sherlock their complete lack of inhibition with each other, their appreciation of each other's bodies and needs. He still held onto a blushing embarrassment at what he was doing. That they were both prepared to give so much of themselves humbled him.

Sherlock chose that moment to completely blow Greg's mind and sucked, hard. He swallowed around the cock in his mouth and sucked it deeper... Lights exploded behind Greg's eyelids. He moaned and his whole body jerked and arched as he lost the battle and came, hard. The release was so intense he nearly blacked out. John's arms tightened, holding him from rolling off the bed. He felt Sherlock swallow, although the sucking and licking didn't stop as Sherlock seemed determined to lick him clean. Small aftershocks thrilled through him, his muscles wouldn't obey him and he lay against John, chest heaving as he fought to fill his lungs with oxygen which suddenly seemed in short supply. Gradually he came down off the high to find that John was still holding him firmly, arms wrapped around his torso, and Sherlock had laid down beside them both, pale eyes watching with amusement. John tipped Greg off into the middle between them.

"Get some sleep, Greg," he instructed softly.

"What about you two...?"

John yawned and smiled. "We can wait. You need rest now. Close your eyes and don't worry about us."

Greg felt a hand soothing his arm and Sherlock leaned in and placed a chaste kiss on his cheek. "Get some rest, Greg. We'll be here when you wake. You're not alone. You won't be alone again." Faced with that argument, Greg closed his eyes. He was asleep in minutes.


How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mycroft?

"I think I'll go back to work tomorrow." Greg made the announcement quite happily. It was a fortnight after Sherlock had proposed to John; while Greg was honestly not that eager to get back, he wanted to take his mind off missing Joan and he had to get out of the flat. Sherlock—although he loved the man in some unusual way—was beginning to drive him mad. He had begun to wonder how the hell John even put up with him.

Sherlock seemed to be sticking to the bargain of no more heads in the fridge but had entered into no such agreement where other body parts were concerned. When Greg found the petri dishes—oh God, not going there—one morning he decided it was high time he absent himself or he might actually say something they would all regret. He didn't confront Sherlock head-on but decided to tell John about it; he left the house with the sound of John's indignant voice ringing in his ears as he demanded Sherlock's presence to call him on it.

By the time Greg got home that evening the petri dishes were gone, all seemed peaceful, and Sherlock had a satisfied smile. If Greg didn't know better, he might have suspected Sherlock of putting them there deliberately in order to kill two birds with one stone; the incident had prompted Greg to make the decision to return to work so he would thus be out of the house and back to feeding Sherlock interesting cases, and it was obvious to a blind man that the resulting argument with John had ensured Sherlock benefited from the inevitable make-up sex that followed.

"So how do you feel about it all then?" Molly had provided an ear when he needed it. He had retreated to see her when the situation at 221b had gone beyond a joke. She provided tea and sympathy and her tentative but often wise advice. She was too frequently overlooked, he thought, wallflower that she was. Too shy for her own good.

"John's been quietly encouraging, as usual. He isn't pushing me, but I know that the doctor part of him is taking care of me. He's keeping a close eye on how I'm coming through all this." Molly smiled.

"That's what John is good at," she said softly. "Mending people, putting them back together." Greg nodded. He often wondered who put John Watson back together but if he thought about it he knew the answer already, if he was honest. Sherlock was more than partly responsible for that, even if he did have some social difficulties. His love for the doctor was obvious and John seemed to draw strength from their relationship. Besides, Sherlock was learning from his doctor as well; it seemed to benefit them both.

"Don't get me wrong," Greg said with a shrug. "While I'm happy they're getting hitched, I still don't know how I fit in to it all." He didn't admit it to Molly, but Greg was quite happy about the sex—regular, usually mind-blowing sex—that he was now getting, both men being generous to a fault.

"Maybe you just do. Don't sweat the small stuff, Greg," she said with a shrug. "If they're happy for you to stay, then why don't you? After Joan... well, you know. You're not attached anymore... Oh, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that..."

"No, no, it's fine. I'm okay." He smiled to reassure her, even though the words had unintentionally hurt. "I am unattached now, you're perfectly right... So why am I worrying?"

"Well, you're hardly intruding on them if they're the ones who invited you and if it doesn't upset them..."

"Yeah, well, I don't know how long things will last like this. I mean, it seems like it's a novelty at the moment. They're taking care of me, and I'm happy to fit in somehow and stay with them until something else turns up—if it ever does..." Greg's eyebrows drew together and his eyes lost focus as he considered the future. "It's nice to be cared for but I can't help wondering if they resent their life being intruded upon so throughly. If not now, then later, when they've had time to think about it. I can't deny staying with the two of them has been good for me. My anxiety's receded, the nightmares have lessened, but I think it's high time I went back to work. The longer I take, the harder it gets." Greg knew that it was time to face his colleagues again.


"Morning everybody," Greg called as he walked into his office. Heads turned, there were a few casual greetings, the odd stare—someone new who didn't know him until it was pointed out who he was by a superior—and Sally was first into his office, offering her own greetings.

"Good to see you back, Boss." She greeted him with a genuine smile. "You been away? I called round at your house a few days ago but you weren't there, and you haven't been answering your texts."

"Er...yeah. Family thing. Sorry, no phone signal," he lied. "My Mam wanted to see me. Not been home for a while. It was past time that I went."

"So how are you?"

"I'm okay. Better for being back. So," he rubbed his hands together. "What we got on? Bring me up to speed?"

"I'll go get us some coffees and I'll bring the case files in."

The morning passed quickly. He reviewed the files and managed to make some suggestions on possible links and lines of inquiry. Frankly, there was nothing much of interest. Fuck, I'm beginning to sound like Sherlock. He sifted through the incident reports, the reams of notes and the witness statements, cross-referencing and asking questions until his stomach—now used to regular food—grumbled with neglect. "Let's get some lunch and we can pick up later. In fact, after lunch, get yourself over to the hospital and ask Mr. Burlington about his financial affairs, particularly those lump sums he was receiving between August and October last year... Might throw some light on things. I know he said they were gifts from his mother but let's check them out again anyhow. See if you can pull up whether they came from the same source or if they were all cash payments." Oh yes, the game—as Sherlock is wont to say—is on.

All told his first week back went better than he could have hoped. He settled back into it all like he'd never been away. Then he got the first text.

My dear Detective Inspector, there is a matter I would like to discuss with you, shall we say over dinner? Friday, 7pm for 7.30? I'll send a car. MH

Greg reread the text three times. "Bugger," he muttered. John had told him that Sherlock's brother had been interested when they had first met. Mycroft had even gone so far as to leave Greg his business card. Now here was the proof. Mind you, dinner wasn't a disagreeable prospect. If what he knew about Mycroft was true, it was bound to be expensive and it was about time he started enjoying himself. The thought of having dinner with Mycroft Holmes—The British Government—was more than a little scary, though. He was also, technically, with John and Sherlock now too. He wasn't sure how they would react to this. As a result, Greg had no clue how to reply, so he didn't.

There was another text waiting at lunchtime.

I hope I wasn't presumptuous. If you don't wish to meet, then please do not agree for my sake. I merely thought it would be a pleasant interlude. MH

Greg frowned. He was puzzled as to why the man should consider him to be worth his attentions. Almost as soon as he had finished reading that text, a third one arrived.

My dear Detective Inspector, I won't bother you again, you have my word, but I do hope you are alright. Work must have been busy for you. Could I perhaps entice you to dinner simply to say thank you for looking after my little brother? I feel I have neglected to show my appreciation of your efforts throughout the last years. It really is quite remiss of me. Do let me know. MH.

Greg sighed, smiled and decided it couldn't be too much of a hardship, wined and dined by someone with Mycroft's money and connections.

Okay, okay he texted back. You got me. As long as work doesn't get in the way.

Splendid, came the reply seconds later. See you on Friday.I'll send the car to 221b at 7.

Greg spent the rest of that week wondering what he had let himself in for.

"At least you won't have to make him take you somewhere expensive," Sherlock said. "Mycroft likes to impress. It's a first date, so he'll probably take you to Henri's. Very exclusive and very intimate."

"Just enjoy yourself, Greg." John smiled and patted him on the back.

"You guys are okay with this? I mean, I am supposed to be with you..."

"You are if you wish it, but you are allowed to do what you want. I mean, we're not about to stop you enjoying yourself," Sherlock answered.

"This is your brother, Sherlock..."

"So I hope your intentions toward him are honorable, Greg," Sherlock deadpanned, most surprisingly.

Greg huffed a laugh and shook his head. "What about his intentions toward me? This is the British Government we are talking about here. I have no idea what he's going to do. You are impossible, ?Lock."

"So people tell me. Seriously though, you probably won't be able to gauge how he feels until the second date. He always takes people to Henri's first. It's intimate, quiet, discreet and he's a friend of the owner. If he takes you on a second date, that's the clincher. The more exclusive the place, the more he likes you. Mycroft will choose intimate and expensive if he really thinks something might come out of this. Expect flowers, chocolates and/or wine. Under that stiff exterior my dear brother is a bit of a romantic..."

"Wait a minute... How often has he done this?" Greg was imagining a string of lovers but Sherlock smiled.

"Not often, don't worry. To my knowledge, precicely three times. The first one was a diplomat who disappointed him when he proved to be a two-timing bisexual with the IQ of a newt. The second was a minor conservative politician who ran scared of being 'outed' when he started his rise to power and the third..." he paused. "The third hurt him rather badly. You should ask Mycroft about it." He refused to be drawn further and Greg concluded that it must have been bad to warrant Sherlock's silence. He usually liked nothing better than goading his brother and drawing attention to his shortcomings but Sherlock's reaction hinted that something about the incident disgusted even him. "Just... don't hurt him, Greg."

"Nothing was further from my mind, 'Lock. That's not my MO," he reassured. "So, should I take anything...?"

"He's invited you, so he won't be expecting anything. However, he does like those exclusive little macaron things from Ladurée in the Burlington Arcade. Bit expensive though..."

"Yeah, well..." Greg grinned. "Not like I can make do with chocolates from Tescos, is it?"


Friday came quicker than expected. Greg's second week had flown by and he had made a special effort to get his work finished and done with so he could be out before 5pm. He was unlucky, as his boss caught him just as he was putting his coat on; he wanted a run-down on Greg's progress and how he was coping. He tried to keep it succinct and reassuring, but the man was full of ill-timed platitudes and reassurances and he had difficulty extracting himself in order to escape.

He dashed into 221B and went straight upstairs, dived into the bedroom and shed his clothes, almost running into the bathroom for a shower. Greg had the fastest shower in history, buzzing the electric razor over his chin as he tried to dry off with his other hand. He emerged to John's shout that the car had arrived.

"Damn it, what the hell do I wear?"

John came upstairs and joined him in the bedroom. "Where's he taking you?"

"I have no idea. I'll assume Sherlock knows his brother well enough to be right about this intimate little place called Henri's, but beyond that, I have no clue."

"Okay, so...do you want to get laid on a first date?"

Greg spluttered laughter at that and then stared at John with a frown. "Christ, you're being serious..." He passed a hand over his still-damp hair and sighed. "I have no idea. I mean, I don't really even know the man...."

"Well, you can go for sexy and elegant or you can go looking like you're desperate." The doctor grinned. "Knowing Mycroft I think he'd appreciate elegance."

"Thanks to you two I am not desperate," Greg replied, his handsome face lit with a grin. John was struck by just how good-looking Greg Lestrade was, those deceptively soft, chocolate-coloured eyes regarding him with affection and amusement.

"So, dark suit with dark shirt and tie to match?" John suggested. "What have you got?"

"Yeah, how about this?" Greg dragged a formal charcoal-grey suit out and laid it on the bed, then rummaged through a drawer.

"That dark blue silk..." John suggested. "You need something to complement your hair, something to bring some colour to you. You got a waistcoat? Perfect," he added as Greg held up the results of his search. "All I can say is Mycroft Holmes is a very lucky man..."

He was ten minutes late but there was no one else in the car as he was whisked off and no comment was made by the driver. They drove steadily through the evening traffic and crossed the city into the more exclusive—and expensive—center. The car pulled up outside a formidable stone-built edifice with an imposing pillared portico. Moments later Mycroft emerged, looking dapper in his black pinstripe and dark wool overcoat, the ever-present umbrella tucked under an arm. He was accompanied by a black-suited duo who were looking anywhere but at him. Bodyguards, Greg surmised. One of them reached to open the car door for him.

"Gregory," Mycroft said, reaching to grip the other's hand in greeting as he slid into the seat beside him. "I'm so glad you could make it." His voice was a soft purr but it was nevertheless slightly deeper than Greg had remembered. His eyes roamed over his guest with undisguised appreciation.

"Thank you for the invitation," Greg replied. "Although I was honestly not sure I could make it. Work has been hectic, you know? We're very busy."

"Oh, believe me, I do. I can appreciate that, I assure you. Work is always vexing and Scotland Yard's finest are always busy. Anyway, you are away from the office now. Let's not talk shop." That's me told then, Greg thought. No talk about work on a date. He watched as Mycroft turned to the front of the vehicle and rapped on the window. "Henri's," he said, proving Sherlock right, and sat back, tugging the seatbelt across his lap. "It's a small place, but I know the owner. Very exclusive and very quiet. We won't be disturbed. They do an amazing guinea fowl cooked in hay..." They drove away in silence.

"I must say, Gregory..." Mycroft paused, studying him. "You don't mind if I call you Gregory, do you?" he asked.

"Nope, not at all. Most people call me Greg though, but if you want to call me by my full name I'm not going to stop you. What shall I call you? Mycroft? Do you mind me calling you Myc'?"

Mycroft's smile was warm and reflected in his eyes. "Not at all. I find it rather...nice, actually. Nobody has ever tried to shorten my name." And survived, Greg heard in his head. He swiftly suppressed a smile.

"What, never?"

"No, never. Although Sherlock used to call me Cwoffy, when he was three, which became Mycroff-without the T-as he grew older. He could never pronounce my name very well when he was little."

"I'll bet he was a sweet kid."

"He was, to look at, at least. He was fairer then, curly hair, pale eyes, and giggles. He used to giggle so much." Mycroft smiled sadly at the memory.

"What happened?"

"Our stepfather happened," Mycroft said and tried to change the subject.

"Mycroft, would you...tell me, please? I don't want to dredge bad memories but it would help me understand Sherlock better. And believe me, I need to understand Sherlock better. Did...did your father abuse your little brother?"

"Our biological father died when Sherlock was three. Mummy met and married a man who was twelve years her senior when I was eleven. He became a wicked stepfather of sorts and Sherlock was never good enough for him. I was sent to boarding school, to Harrow. Sherlock stayed at home and suffered. I think he never forgave me for not storming home and rescuing him. Mummy never saw the damage our new father did to Sherlock. I suppose I knew but I couldn't do anything. I was too young. Sherlock begged me not to leave him but there was literally nothing I could do. I confided in my housemaster, and he tried to bring in the authorities but our stepfather was a clever bastard. They found no complaint and I was punished for causing trouble. I saw Sherlock withdraw into himself more and more after that. He has not completely forgiven either me or mummy for it."

"What happened?"

"Oh, when I left to go to university Sherlock was eleven and due to go to Harrow himself. By then the damage was done. He was a withdrawn child, unhappy and lonely. His Aspergers went undiagnosed and unsupported. I visited as much as I could but I felt helpless. I vowed I would never feel so helpless again. I knew then that I would make myself indispensable to whomsoever I worked for. I knew I wanted power, enough power that I could use effectively to make sure justice was done. Eventually our so-called father met with an accident; he died when the brakes failed on his car. He was three times over the legal limit. Serendipity, I feel."

"And how much of a hand in that did you have?" Greg regretted the words the moment they left his mouth but Mycroft's face betrayed nothing, very much as if it was an everyday occurrence to have detective inspectors asking him if he were complicit in murder.

"Very little, as a matter of fact," he replied conversationally. "I wish I had, if only to be able to tell Sherlock that I had protected him. I was contemplating severing the man's break lines myself but I never got the chance. The universe provided that opportunity."

"So that's why Sherlock is the way he is?"

"Hardly. He is autistic. Aspergers. He lacks the ability to pick up on social mores and conventions. He is high functioning, he is a genius, but most geniuses are flawed in some way. Sherlock is no exception. Our stepfather was not to blame for his Aspergers, merely for neglecting him and treating him like a whipping boy. Sherlock suffered the verbal abuse and it damaged his already fragile self-esteem. John has been very good for him in that regard."

"You shouldn't blame yourself too much you know," Greg said, his voice gentle. Mycroft was struck by his compassion. He smiled a little painfully and nodded.

"I don't anymore. Sherlock still does, a little, but he's largely let it go now too. It was a long time ago." Mycroft sighed softly and manfully shed the miasma of bad memories. "Anyway, I was about to say, you are looking particularly fetching tonight, Gregory. That shirt, it really does suit you." There was nothing to say that Mycroft was being anything other than sincere. If Sherlock were there, no doubt there would be a lot of eye rolling going on. But Sherlock wasn't there and Greg suddenly found himself enjoying this. He smiled and was gratified to see Mycroft smile back. "Oh, I brought you something." Mycroft held out a small ribbon-tied paper bag. Inside were a dozen hand-crafted chocolates. "I thought you might have a sweet tooth, Gregory. So I got you some liqueurs."

"That's... nice." Greg smiled, touched by the gesture. "Thank you. Very much. Talking of which..." Greg fished out the small bag of macaron and handed it over. Mycroft's eyes narrowed and a small smile blossomed on his mouth. He peered inside and frowned in mock exasperation. "Gregory, you shouldn't have. Honestly. These are my favourite. How on earth did you know?"

"Not hard. I asked Sherlock."

"You... asked Sherlock? Well, well. Thank you, Gregory. These are excellent. So sweet of you."

Henri's was a small and rather intimate place. They were shown to a booth at the back, and Mycroft ordered what sounded like a rather expensive bottle of wine and steepled his fingers before him in a gesture so reminiscent of his younger brother that Greg couldn't help but smile.

"You have a rather attractive smile, Gregory. I hope you don't mind me saying so."

"Why would I mind?"

"Oh, because you might be somewhat put off by the homoerotic suggestion that I find you attractive." Mycroft's smile was amused.

"No chance, mate. Complements are few and far between, I grab ?em when I can." Mycroft's amusement deepened. "It helps if I find my dinner date attractive too," Greg added.

"I must agree with you... oh."

"Yes, I find it helps considerably." Greg grinned. It was the first time he had seen Mycroft slightly off balance.

"And do you?"


"Find me...attractive?" His voice had diminished to a husky uncertain whisper.

"Yes, I do." Greg threw caution to the wind. What the hell, he thought. If this is what happens in the next stage of my life, then at least I should be happy about it. "Mycroft, I'm enjoying this, believe me. I'm grateful too, but I think we have some things to talk about."

"What things?"

"Us, you, me." Could he see a hint of worry in Mycroft's eyes?

"In what way?"

"Cards on the table. We should be honest with each other. I like being wined and dined and romanced, and I like that you're interested in me. I'm flattered, really..."

"I sense a but in your tone, Gregory."

"Technically, I'm in a relationship."

"With my dear brother and his fiancé, yes, I know. So they object to us meeting like this?"

"No, they don't. Otherwise I wouldn't be here. I do not betray my friends, Mycroft."

Mycroft smiled and nodded. "You are an honourable man, Gregory. I know you would never do that. They know about our date then?"

"Yes, they do. They're happy for me to date you, if I want to. I really don't know where I fit into what they have, or even if I do..."

"They love you in their own way. Sherlock is protective of you, as is John."

"Dunno why. I'm nearly ten years older than John and he's five years Sherlock's senior. I'm an old man..."

"Gregory, you are far from old. You are distinguished, experienced, in the prime of your life..." Mycroft's smile was positively suggestive. His eyes lingered on Greg's. What Greg saw there was a revelation.

"This could seriously compromise both of us," Greg said. "We should be careful..."

"How so?"

"Your work and mine. You work for the Government. Hell, Sherlock tells me you ARE the British Government when you need to be. Me, I'm a lowly copper... but I still have my dignity. Dating a man is still a big thing for me. There are still people out there in the Force who are unreasonably prejudiced."

"Gregory, don't worry your head about me. I, for one, have thought things through, even if you haven't on this occasion. My superiors are well aware of my...proclivities. There has never been any mention made of it. It does not affect my work, so it has no bearing on it. Should anything come of this—whatever it is—between us, then I expect to make an honest man of you, and besides, you could consider taking early retirement."

"Bloody hell, I have no idea what I would do with myself if I retired early. I can't think about that yet." Greg paused. Something nagged at him, something about what Mycroft had just said. "Hell's Bells. Are we talking civil partnership here? We haven't even had starters..." Greg chuckled. Going by Mycroft's eyes, though, he was being deadly serious. "Christ, you're not joking, are you?" Mycroft simply smiled and sipped his wine.

The evening went much better than Greg had expected; the food was perfect and their conversation fluid. Mycroft conversed with practiced effortlessness, coaxing responses from Greg with the ease of the accomplished diplomat. They ate, talked, laughed and shared thoughts and even confidences with easy grace. When Mycroft called for their bill and paid with a platinum card, Greg tried not to let his eyebrows rise on sneaking a peek at the total. He knew Mycroft was wealthy; no matter the salary he must be earning, neither brother was destitute. While Greg knew he was nowhere near the genius at deduction that Sherlock was, it didn't take a genius to deduce that a man with Sherlock's wardrobe was far from poor. That Belstaff coat was worth more than a grand for starters, not to mention the tailored shirts and figure-hugging suits he habitually wore. God knew what Mycroft spent on his own perfectly tailored suits and expensive shirts.

Mycroft wouldn't—thankfully—hear of him contributing anything toward the meal. Greg was glad of that, for despite the offer he made there was no way in Hell could he have afforded a fraction of the amount. Mycroft smiled as if to say he understood that the offer had been made to appease Greg's pride. He wasn't stupid. Mycroft well knew that on his salary Greg was far from being able to afford it. He waved aside Greg's protests and smiled very warmly indeed.

"My treat, Gregory. This is our first date after all. I hope the first of many. When shall we do this again... assuming you would like to?" The question caught Greg off guard. He had been feeling disappointment that the evening was coming to a close and was more than a little merry. The food had gone a long way to prevent him suffering any ill-effects from the alcohol but it hadn't protected him completely. He was happy, for the first time in too long a while. It had gone straight to his head. He looked surprised, though, when Mycroft posed the question.

"I have no idea..."

"You do want to do this again... don't you?" Mycroft sounded slightly worried, as if anticipating a rejection. Greg smiled.

"I'd love to. I've really enjoyed tonight. I just don't know when I'll be free again."

"No matter. Text me?" Greg nodded. "Come along, then, Gregory. Your carriage awaits." Mycroft shrugged on his overcoat and headed for the door, Greg in his wake. They stepped out into the cold air and Mycroft guided him to the car that waited patiently. The driver held the door open and Greg relaxed into the comfort and warmth of the leather-scented interior. Mycroft seemed to sit closer on the way back. "Would you...be open to the suggestion of a nightcap before you return home?" he asked casually. Greg didn't want to appear too eager but he jumped at the chance.

"That would be great," he said, reaching out an impulsive hand and laying it on Mycroft's knee. Mycroft looked at the hand, blinked and looked back up into Greg's eyes. Greg withdrew it hastily, thinking he had made a mistake, but Mycroft frowned and held out his hand. Tentatively, Greg placed his hand in Mycroft's and the man laid Greg's hand pointedly back down on his knee.

"There was no need to remove it; I liked it where it was," Mycroft admitted. Greg looked at the floor, out the window, anywhere but into Mycroft's eyes. He was not sure he was ready to see what was in them but he left his hand where it was. He knew he was in no state to make considered judgements but Greg was content. All this was happening to him, because someone found him attractive and appreciated him for himself. He was not going to give that up in a hurry.

In no time, they were pulling up outside a block of up-market 1930s apartments which had obviously been immaculately restored. Somehow the image fit the man who lead Greg past the security desk and guided him into the lift and up to the top floor.

The suite was decorated tastefully with minimalist furnishings and clean architectural details; thick burgundy carpets and plump chesterfield sofas furnished the living room. Glass and black granite and chrome decorated the kitchen. Cream marble, green tiling and brass fittings adorned the bathroom. Greg was suitably impressed. He was also more than a little intimidated—there was more money here than Greg would ever see—but he was determined not to let it show. He sat and allowed Mycroft to make coffee for them both.

"You've got a lovely place here," Greg offered on his return.

"Soulless, I'm afraid," Mycroft admitted a little warily. "It lacks a certain...life? I don't use it as often as I should."

"It's beautiful. Refined..." Like you, he thought but refrained from saying. "Are these original features?" Greg allowed a finger to trace the straight lines and angles of a glass Art Deco door handle.

"Throughout. All original. The designers are to be commended."

"Yes, they are. Not like my place. Original 1960s semi-detached bungalow. Not at all inspiring, a box made of bricks. Rather soul destroying in fact. It was home though." Greg tried not to let the sudden unwelcome wave of grief show. That house had been a home, there had been warmth and love and... Greg swallowed the hard knot of grief that threatened to close his throat up and make his eyes wet. He desperately tried to hide it. This was not the time. His eyes slid shut.

"Gregory, I do understand." Mycroft's voice was unexpectedly soft. "It's been less than a month. I know you and your espouced were...shall we say, estranged, but don't expect too much of yourself." A gentle hand came to rest on his shoulder.

"I don't. It just...catches me... now and again. I..."

"Greg," Mycroft smiled. "I know. Please don't feel you have to justify yourself. Not to me, anyway, and please, don't try too hard either. I am an amazingly easy man to please." The warm smile melted something inside of Greg's chest. The grief unraveled and he relaxed. "Come into the kitchen and we'll see about that nightcap."

"Don't you have servants to do that for you?"

"In my apartment? Heavens, no. I can do some things for myself you know." The smile was genuinely amused.

"I'm a little drunk. I hope you aren't going to take advantage of me..." Greg grinned. "Because I might say yes...."

"Gregory, I would never do that. That would be both unfair and unethical. Besides, Sherlock and John would kill me, and while I find their values rather quaint and somewhat antiquated, I know a serious threat when I see one."

"Aw, damn. You mean this evening is really only going to end in coffee?" Mycroft blinked and frowned.

"Why? Would you want it to end differently?"

"Yes, of course. I was hoping for a bloody good shag with a great looking guy..."

"Well, I fear that leaves me out then, although don't let me stop you. It's Friday night, doubtless somewhere will still be open..."

"Myc'," Greg said gently, catching his arm. "I meant you, you daft fucker..." Their eyes met and Mycroft's eyebrows rose slightly. He opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out. He shut it again with a snap. "Sorry, didn't mean to be coarse..." Embarrassment flushed Greg's face a shade of pink that his colleagues would have been amused by, but Mycroft seemed not to register it. He sighed and smiled.

"Gregory, do you really mean that?"

"Of course I do. I wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it. I might be a bit drunk but I'm still capable of thought. Might not be rational thought exactly, but I can at least form an opinion. If I hadn't thought you were good looking, I'd not have gone out with you in the first place, so there." Mycroft was looking at him oddly.

"Are you in work tomorrow?"

"It's Saturday. I am supposed to get one day off a week. Why?"

"We could picnic? The park? I could send a car..."

"That would be nice."

"I don't feel right about taking advantage of you tonight. I wouldn't want to risk you feeling regretful the morning after..."

"Why would I?"

"That's what drunk people do. They go home with someone, have meaningless sex and then spend the rest of their lives regretting it and resenting the person they slept with. Testing out your sexuality is not something to do when drunk and not in complete control of one's faculties. I do not want that to happen to you, Gregory."

"Why should it? I'm under no illusions there, Myc'. I know what my sexuality is, thank you, and I don't have any doubts about it. I'm bisexual. I like the boys as well as the girls, and I'm actually quite happy with that. I'm free and easy, mate. No attachments. Nothing, nada, zip, zilch, whatever; I am footloose and fancy free. Who I choose to sleep with is no concern of anybody and if I choose you, whether or not I am a little far gone, that's my business...and yours, obviously. Besides, if you and I had sex it would not be meaningless. Why, would you regret it?"

"No, of course not, but I am not the one in question here, nor am I three sheets to the wind." Despite himself, Mycroft smiled.

"What? Don't you dare laugh at me..." Greg's voice took on a disgruntled tone.

"Oh, Gregory, I am not laughing at you. I find you adorable, that's all. You are handsome, distinguished, honorable, kind... everything I could want from a potential lover. You are intelligent, trustworthy, not to mention honest. What more can I say? I am, I fear, more than a little in love with you already." A blush was rising across Mycroft's complexion. He ducked his head and wouldn't meet Greg's eyes. "Would you...?" he croaked and cleared his throat before continuing. "Would you be open to continuing our relationship to see where it might lead?"

"Open to... We have a relationship?"

"I had hoped this would be the start of something." Mycroft was rewarded with a slow smile spreading across Greg's mouth.

"Okay, Myc'. Let's do this. Let's see where it might lead. I can't promise you a bed o' roses though. My job might very well be the death of my personal life, never mind me."

"You are certainly not alone in that. Let us cross that bridge, as they say, when we come to it." Greg nodded and yawned. "Would you consider staying the night?" Mycroft asked. "I have guest rooms, you could sleep your inebriation off and tomorrow we could go on that picnic?"

"Bugger the picnic," Greg said. "You know what I want to do?" Mycroft shook his head, mute. "I want to go to bed with you, now. I want to share your bed, hold you close and sleep. I don't want to be alone tonight. Tomorrow, I think I might like to make love to you, with no regrets... and then we could go on the damn picnic. How would that be?" He was gratified to receive a warm smile from Mycroft and the press of warm lips against his own.


In which an agreement is reached between the Detective Inspector and the British Government...

Something woke Greg in the dead of night. For a moment he was disoriented, then he remembered where he was: Mycroft's bed. Ah yes. Mycroft. Greg rolled, and then realised he was alone. The bed was cold. Frowning, he sat up, wondering where the man had got to and why he was up at this time. He listened but couldn't hear anything that would tell him where his bedmate had gone. The toilet didn't flush, the ensuite light wasn't on. He swung his legs out of bed and stood, intending to go in search of Mycroft, when the door opened and a figure stood silhouetted in the moonlight from the landing behind him. "Mycroft?"

"Gregory, you're awake," Mycroft's voice was low as befitted the hour. "I'm so sorry. I had no intention of disturbing you, but I couldn't sleep. I get like that sometimes." He was carrying a small tray bearing two cups. "Although I did bring tea for both of us. In case."

"In case of what?"

"In case I woke you. God forbid that you feel you have been thoughtlessly ignored." Greg smiled and leaned down to switch the bedside light on as Mycroft closed the door and approached with the tray. He set it down on the nightstand and got back into bed, his glance flicking over to Greg as he stood there. "Please, Gregory, do get back in before you get chilled," Mycroft suggested. "Before I get too distracted." Mycroft was rather conservatively dressed in striped cotton pajamas whereas Greg was nude. Not having brought an overnight bag with him, he had nothing to sleep in. The invitation to stay had been rather a surprise, after all.

Mycroft lifted the duvet and patted the bed encouragingly. Greg slid back under the covers, thankful for the warmth. There was a nighttime chill in the air, despite the central heating, and he accepted the tea Mycroft offered with enthusiasm. They sat there in silence, sipping the welcome warmth, each sliding surreptitious glances at the other.

"So, Myc'..." Greg paused and sighed gently. "You know, that doesn't sound right."

"What doesn't?"

"Calling you Myc'. You're a Mycroft, not a Myc'."

Mycroft smiled wistfully. "Crofty was my nickname at university. Not many people used it though. I didn't exactly inspire the intimacy. I suppose you could call me Croft, if you feel the need to shorten my name."

"I don't need to, but it's... well, it's intimate..."

"And you wish to be...intimate with me, Gregory?"

Greg finished his tea and set the cup down. "Yes, Mycroft, I would very much like to be intimate with you." He leaned in closer, eyes locked on Mycroft's. "In fact, it's probably safe to say I would like to be as intimate as possible." He took Mycroft's empty cup and placed it safely on the nightstand again, the movement having placed him in perfect proximity to kiss the man. Greg shifted a little toward him and smiled. "I take it you have no objections?" Mycroft said nothing but shook his head, expression serious. "Good." Greg's lips pressed gently against the warmth and softness of Mycroft's mouth, anticipating a reaction. He was a little concerned when he got nothing in return and pulled back a little. "Everything alright?" Greg frowned, searching Mycroft's eyes for some clue.

"Yes, everything is... fine," Mycroft responded a little too quickly.

"Mycroft, you...you have been...," Greg searched for the right word. "You have been intimate before, haven't you? With a man? Sherlock said you'd had a couple of partners."

The blue eyes grew hard for a moment. "Oh, I've had relations before." Bitterness crept into Mycroft's voice and Greg found he didn't like the sound of it at all. "However, I am not entirely certain you could call them either successful or satisfying." Greg found himself the subject of Mycroft's intense gaze. "I'm sorry, I'm disappointing you," Mycroft said softly. "No doubt you anticipated someone more experienced."

He sounds so vulnerable, Greg thought, hearing the uncertainty in the normally confident voice of this powerful man. In matters of an intimate nature, it looked as if Greg were the experienced one. Oh, the irony, he thought. Considering he had only just begun to have sex with men himself, now he was the teacher here? Well, it sounded as if he was the one with experience of any kind, full stop. At least he had been married for a time. A close relationship wasn't beyond his capabilities. Greg smiled softly and reached out a hand, stroking along Mycroft's jawline, sliding across to trace his lips with his thumb. "You are... very attractive," Greg said, allowing his voice to drop to a husky growl. "In a completely dangerous and powerful way. You intoxicate me."

"I do? That's very flattering, Gregory." Mycroft studied him, eyes narrowed in consideration and disbelief. "You fascinate me, too. But don't think to use my weaknesses against me. I'm not like my brother, I do not underestimate your intelligence."

"Hey!" Greg's voice was sharp. "Don't let your insecurities colour your judgement. I am not like your previous partners so don't tar me with the same brush before we've even started here." Mycroft's eyes widened slightly in surprise. He had never heard Gregory's anger before and certainly not directed at him. The man wasn't cowed or intimidated by him. He gasped, a soft intake of breath, barely noticeable, but Gregory had noticed. He smiled, suddenly, eyes dancing. "And you can stop testing me as well. I won't kowtow to you and I won't kiss your arse. Well," he paused, grinning. "Not unless you ask nicely."

Mycroft laughed. It felt as though a tight band of tension around his chest had been suddenly released. "I'm sorry," he said, suddenly. "I'm a product of my experiences and my...insecurities. As are we all. I don't tar you with any brush, Gregory. Did Sherlock tell you what happened with my previous liaisons?"

"No, he didn't. Well, he told me there had been three that he knew of and that the last one had hurt you very deeply. He didn't...wouldn't tell me how." Mycroft nodded and then, quietly and carefully, he started to explain.

"He was Italian," he began. "Oh, I don't hold that against him, I have nothing against Italians in general. I find them to be altogether too emotional and very volatile, but they are charming people. He was a Marchese, a Marquis, a diplomat, from an old Italian family. He was quite beautiful, and very romantic and very generous."

"So, what went wrong?"

"First you must understand I was much younger, more...susceptible to flattery and charm. I'm not proud of that. Giuseppe was everything I could have wanted, he was romantic, generous, charming, kind. We shared so many interests. we both had an appreciation of the arts; opera, Renaissance painting, Rachmaninov, Chopin..."

"I like Chopin," Greg murmured, receiving an interested glance from his companion.

"He took me to dinner often," Mycroft went on. "We went to the theatre, the races, we walked around the National Gallery and the Tate together, we went to exhibitions, receptions... To be seen with him was noteworthy. He introduced me to so many useful people." Mycroft sighed. "We were together for nearly a year, but in that time we did no more than...well, we managed a few fumbles in the dark, nothing more. He had a charming way of holding me at arms length. Sherlock was at University at the time and hadn't met Giuseppe. So I took my beau home for Christmas and that's when it happened..."

"What did?"

"Sherlock. He took one look, that's all it took. He asked me if I knew Giuseppe wasn't gay."

"Was he right?"

"I brushed him off. I honestly thought he was being deliberately annoying. He never really forgave me for leaving him in that cold emotionally-starved family of ours when I chose to go to University and we were coldly polite to each other back then. So he decided to tell me, in front of Mummy and several family friends that Giuseppe was married."

"And was he?"

"He denied it of course. But sherlock went on to point out the signs. The indentation of a ring on the ring finger of his left hand, several other salient points that it pains me to remember. It was all true." For a moment Mycroft looked a little lost and sad. "Sherlock thought he was saving me from political suicide. I thought he was a hateful little beast for airing my dirty laundry in public but if he hadn't done what he did it is probably safe to say I wouldn't be where I am today."

"So, what did you do about Giuseppe?"

"Oh, I employed someone to track him, to tap his calls. It all revealed a double life. He tried to apologise, to get me back. He promised he would leave his wife and all that rot. So I threatened him with exposure if he didn't slink back home and leave me alone."

"Did he?"

"Oh yes, I made sure of it."

"You must have been devastated."

"It certainly wasn't one of the happier times of my life. The incident lead to some serious trust issues. I haven't trusted anyone enough to let them close to me since then..."

"That's a long time to be alone. Why now? Why me?"

"Because...I don't know. Gregory, there is something about you that inspires me to trust you and it's against my better judgement."

"I'd better be careful then. I don't aim to break whatever trust you have in me. I promise you, Mycroft, I will not let you down. I made that mistake with Joan, my wife," he added, seeing Mycroft's questioning glance. "I'm not proud of myself for that. She and I... I let her down, badly. I wasn't there when she desperately needed her husband and I should have put her first. I was too wrapped up in my career. It's too late for me to make amends there but I won't make that mistake twice. So... where does this leave us?"

Mycroft studied him, thoughtfully. "I should very much like to pick up where we left off. If you feel able to."

"Why wouldn't I? None of this has altered how I see you, Mycroft. We're none of us perfect and I wasn't lying when I said I found you attractive." Greg reached out a hand and ran it down Mycroft's arm in an attempt to comfort and reassure. The dark brown gaze met the blue one.

"I must admit to a certain attraction to you too." Mycroft was studying him again, but this time his gaze was roaming over Greg's body. "You are nicely proportioned, quite broad through the shoulders and chest, and your..." Mycroft's line of sight dropped, before he closed his eyes, swallowed, and blushed, a flush rising up his neck.

Greg smirked. "My what?" he asked, watching the blush deepen.

"Your... thighs... you have strong legs..." Mycroft's voice was unsteady.

"Yes, I do. What are you imagining, Mycroft?" he took one of Mycroft's hands and placed it on his thigh, covering it with his own and lacing their fingers together. He urged Mycroft to move his hand, stroking it up and down. "Mycroft, what do you like?" he asked.

"Like?" Mycroft sounded puzzled.

"You know? Hand job? Blow job? Mutual wanking, what? I mean, I don't mind if you don't want to go all the way, but I know this is a first date and I'm not so hot on experience with this stuff either. I've been married for nearly eighteen years but that was to a woman and my dating skills are a little rusty, not to mention that I've only just started where guys are concerned. You'll have to tell me what you want and what you like, I'm not psychic."

Mycroft stared. His mouth dried. He had never been good at talking about intimacies like this. "I... I'm sorry, Gregory, I don't...don't honestly know. As I have told you, I haven't dated either for a long time now. I was never expert at it then. I can wine and dine and entertain, but this is the part that I am woefully ill-equipped to deal with. I want it, I want you, but I'm afraid I usually scare potential partners away before it gets to the bedroom..."

"Well, you haven't scared me off yet. Talk to me, or better yet, touch me, show me." Greg leaned in and pressed his lips to Mycroft's again. This time he persisted and pressed his tongue to Mycroft's teeth, teasing. The man's mouth opened and Greg slipped his tongue inside along the side of Mycroft's tongue. He felt the man gasp as well as heard his indrawn breath. Greg smiled into the kiss and slid a hand into Mycroft's hair, tugging on it gently. He pressed his hand to the back of Mycroft's head and pulled him nearer, tongue stroking and teasing. Greg was gratified when he felt Mycroft move closer, felt the prominent erection pressed into his hip. That's the way, he thought in satisfaction.

"Is this alright with you, Gregory?" Mycroft asked when they pulled away for a moment.

"It's fine... Mycroft, don't you know?" He received a mute shake of the head.

"As I said, I'm not experienced..."

"You're doing fine. You feel...amazing. Get your pajamas off, though. They're passion-killers are those." Chuckling, Greg slid a warm hand under the offending pajama jacket and stroked the soft skin of his lover's chest and stomach. A soft moan escaped Mycroft's lips and he hastened to undress himself but Greg stilled Mycroft's hands and took over, the man was shaking so much.

Gently, patiently, kissing every inch of skin revealed, Greg laid Mycroft bare before his gaze. Once that pale torso had been revealed—skin as pale as Sherlock's, Greg thought to himself, although peppered with freckles—he dipped to taste again, to kiss and nip and nibble the feast laid out before his gaze. He fastened his teeth onto one nipple and teased the little bud, hearing Mycroft's gasp of pleasure. He sucked hard, felt the man bucking up into his touch. He attacked the other nipple with the same enthusiasm, nipping and encouraging it to hardness, sweeping his tongue across it. Then he worked lower, tasting and teasing the reactions out of the man. When Mycroft realised what Greg planned, what he was preparing to do, he stiffened. Greg looked up and saw...fear, in his eyes? Puzzled, Greg raised an eyebrow and paused. "Are you okay with this?"

Gasping, Mycroft screwed his eyes shut and nodded. "Yes, thank you, Gregory." Greg smiled. He was so damn polite about it all.

"Sure? I don't want you to have regrets tomorrow morning."

"I'm sure...very, very sure... It's just...I have no parameters for this, no data to compare it with." Mycroft was shuddering under his touch, his whole body arching and trembling with need.

"You sound like your brother," Greg said with a smile. He suddenly felt very powerful and very humble. That Mycroft wanted this from him, wanted what appeared to be one of his few positive experiences of sex with him, he realised that he held this man's fragile heart in his hands. Greg knew he wanted to make this both special and rewarding for both of them. He bent to his task and gently took the very tip of Mycroft's penis in his mouth, tongue swiping across the glans before he sucked, softly. The man shuddered beneath him, uttered a little mew of need and bucked his hips. "Shh," Greg murmured gently, reassuringly. "It's okay, I won't let you fall." Greg took him deeper, sucking harder, gaze flicking up now and then to check Mycroft was alright. He was. At least, if his expression was anything to go by he was. Greg held Mycroft's hips down, trying to hold the man still. Fingers raked through Greg's hair, tightening convulsively. As he suckled, Greg slid the fingers of one hand back between Mycroft's legs, massaging gently, eliciting another moan. Soon now, he thought. Any moment... now. With a cry, Mycroft's body arched and the fingers tightened painfully in Greg's short hair. Greg's mouth flooded with salty fluid and he swallowed, licking and lapping and sucking until there was nothing left. Mycroft relaxed heavily, aftershocks shuddering through him as he lay there bonelessly. Grinning, Greg moved back up the bed and gathered the man into his arms, kissing him lazily.

"You didn't..." Mycroft was about to point out the one-sided nature of the encounter but Greg interrupted.

"Shh, this wasn't about me. That was for you, Mycroft." A hand reached weakly up to pet his cheek and Mycroft's eyes slid shut.

"Thank you, Gregory. I...That was... incredible. Thank you, so much..."

"Pleasure. Come on, get some rest. It's late." Greg reached to switch off the bedside lamp.

In the darkness, Mycroft laid his head on Gregory's shoulder and allowed himself to relax into the arms that held him. He could hear the solid, grounding thump of the man's heart in his ear and the reassuring squeeze of his arm around Mycroft's shoulder. Never in his life had he felt so complete. That scared him more than he was inclined to admit. The worst bit was that Gregory Lestrade had no idea just how much he already meant to Mycroft Holmes.

Since the first time Mycroft had laid eyes properly on the man in Sherlock's living room he had been attracted to the detective inspector on a level he had been unprepared for. Gregory Lestrade was a big man, 5' 11" of solidly built alpha male. With his broad shoulders and substantial frame he was every inch the traditional British policeman. He wasn't just brawn though, he had a university degree, despite his ordinary upbringing on a council estate. He had advanced up the ranks with ease, passing exams and cracking cases, some quite high profile.

One might drown in those dark brown eyes, Mycroft thought to himself, or be intimidated by their coldness. By all accounts, when DI Lestrade was interviewing felons, they were known to cower. Mycroft shivered at that thought. Gregory was very obviously a man after his own heart. His pepper and salt grey hair was also quite soft, and nice to run his fingers through. Gregory's facial features were strong and pleasantly balanced, his air of confidence compelling. Another point in his favour was that he wasn't afraid of Mycroft either. He wasn't afraid to touch him or to speak his mind. With something of a shock, Mycroft Holmes came to the realisation that he had found somebody whom he could respect.

Mycroft had known of Lestrade for a long time. He had seen him at a distance at crime scenes, heard his name bandied about by the Met's senior officers. They considered him to be a good copper, honest and hardworking. When Sherlock had made the connection with him, Mycroft had checked him out, gone through his files, had MI5 pull everything they had on him. There was nothing untoward, no problem with his record, nothing even remotely shady. He was a clean copper, simply that. He had been one of the few to be able to get through to his wayward and struggling little brother and Mycroft was not about to forget his involvement in Sherlock's survival. Gregory had given Sherlock cases, but only on condition he sober up and get off the drugs and the booze. Sherlock had listened.

Gregory had been in line to be fast-tracked toward Chief Inspector until Sherlock's ill-timed and disastrous run-in with Moriarty. Even now, it seemed that the mud had stuck though. Sherlock had cleared his name, had even gone back to consulting on crime scenes, invited by the top brass even. Gregory Lestrade had been cleared of all involvement, had his rank and status restored to him, and yet he had been overlooked for promotion since then. Now he knew him better, Mycroft was considering how unfair that was. He fell asleep with the thought that he really, really needed to put a word in someone's ear about that.


Greg groaned as his phone woke him from a very nice slumber in a very comfortable bed. He rolled and grabbed the mobile off the night stand, realising Mycroft was nestled against his back, one long arm draped across Greg's ribs. "Lestrade," Greg snapped by way of greeting. "This had better be good, Sally..." He listened as Donovan filled him in, then sighed heavily. "Okay, I'll be there. Send a car for me, would you? Chalfont House, Belgravia. Yes, go ahead. You know the drill." He rang off and stared morosely at the ceiling. 8.30am. Damn it all, why today? Resigned to having to go into work on his day off, Greg swung his legs out of bed and stretched, unkinking his back. He looked back regretfully at a now-fully-awake Mycroft. "Sorry, that was work. There's been another murder. Looks like the same MO as the those two last week in South Ken'. I have to go."

Mycroft smiled. "It's fine. Far be it from me to interfere with your work, Gregory."

"This might not take long; I'm not staying any longer than necessary, not on my day off..."

"I rather think this will take longer than a couple of hours though, don't you?"

"Sorry about the picnic. Another time?" Greg watched Mycroft nod and then he got up and went into the bathroom to grab a shower.

A slight ache manifested behind Greg's eyes; he was frustrated at the intrusion. He had been looking forward to a relaxed morning of rare luxury, making love to a certain Holmes brother again, and hopefully having him reciprocate this time, but it was obviously not going to happen. He sent a quick text to Sherlock requesting his presence. It might just get this wrapped up more quickly. He added the possibility of a serial killer to the message which he knew was sure to entice the reclusive detective into the daylight. He felt like David bloody Attenborough after some unusual species sometimes; hunting that rare and elusive animal, Consulens Curiosus Holmesii. The Latin was shaky but it had never been his best subject at school.

Mycroft had pulled on a rather gentlemanly, paisley-pattern dressing gown and was waiting by the door when Greg emerged from the bedroom, dried, dressed and with his hair still damp. "You've not had breakfast. Will you be alright?"

Greg smiled at the concern for his wellfare. "I'll catch something on the hop, usually do...Listen, what shall I do? Text you? I mean..." He swore. "Damn, it was a great night last night. Thanks, Mycroft." Greg grabbed the man's hand and squeezed, unsure what to do. "I'm sorry about this... really. There's nothing I would rather do than stay..." He lifted a hand and cupped Mycroft's face. "I was looking forward to seducing you again..." He smiled a little sadly and looked away. A hand lifted his chin and then Mycroft's lips were on his, pressing gently. Surprised, after a second's hesitation Greg pressed back with a groan. A chuckle escaped the British Government's lips and Mycroft pulled away.

"Go," he said softly. "Come back tonight, if you're free?"

"Sure. I'll call you."

"Do. I can send a car..." He watched a little regretfully as Greg lifted a hand in farewell as he stepped away and walked down the hall to the elevator.


Man Down.

"Very patriotic of you, Anderson."

"Pardon?" Anderson glared at Sherlock with undisguised dislike. In Sherlock's wake, John frowned, wondering what his fiancé was angling at this time.

"Union Jack boxer shorts," Sherlock said with a smirk - the twist of his lip could in no way be classed as a smile. "Very patriotic." Anderson's eyebrows shot up to his hairline which was no mean feat considering how far it was receding. Sherlock's smirk widened.

"You couldn't possibly know... " Anderson blustered but it fell on deaf ears.

"So I'm right then?" For a moment, Anderson glared at him with something close to contempt, then he nodded, frustrated. "I didn't quite hear you," Sherlock prompted. Anderson's glare intensified and Lestrade tried unsuccessfully to hide his own smile.

"Yes, alright!" Anderson snapped. "You've had your fun. Go on, off you go and gloat. Very funny..."

"Thank you," Sherlock replied and watched as Anderson swept out, his colleagues barely hiding their glee. Even Donovan was struggling not to laugh. "And don't even think of contaminating my crime scene!"

"Even more than you have already?" Sherlock's parting shot was ignored.

"Really, Sherlock," Greg said mildly. "You should have a little more respect." His rebuke lacked any vehemence though. "Go on, how the hell did you know?"

"Oh, Lestrade, please. It was obvious." Sherlock grinned and prowled the crime scene.

"Not to me it wasn't."

"His flies were very hastily done up and not to the top. You can see enough to make a guess at the design. Obviously been at it with Donovan again."

Greg barked a laugh and wondered—very, very, briefly—if he should tell Anderson that his clothing was in disarray. Then he shook his head. Sometimes, even he felt as though Anderson deserved it.

"So, how was last night?" Sherlock tried—and failed—to be casual about it. Greg grinned at the unsubtle question.

"Last night was great, actually. We dined at Henri's, as you suspected. Your brother took me home for a nightcap and before you ask, it's none of your business what we got up to."

"You stayed over though..." Sherlock's eyes had narrowed with suspicion. "You haven't changed your clothes..."

"Yes, I did. He has a nice bed..."

"Ugh...Greg, I do not want the sordid details. He's my brother, for God's sake."

"Then don't ask." Greg grinned and John smiled patiently.

"So," Sherlock changed the subject. "Where's the body?"

The apartment upstairs was not the man's home address, that much was clear. It was empty for one thing, and for another, the place and the man just did not fit together. The flat was shabby, run-down, peeling paintwork and damp in the corners, in a cheaper district more used to drug crime and burglaries than men who owned Beemers and wore Rolex (not fake) watches.

"The house has been empty for two months according to the landlord," Greg offered. "There's no sign of forced entry, the windows are barred on the outside and they're all locked shut on the inside. There are no fingerprints, no footprints, no sign of anything other than him." He pointed to the dead man on the floor, sprawled in an ungainly heap on the middle of the carpet."No ID yet. There's a wallet but no driver's license, no photos, nothing but eighty quid and a Tesco receipt for a bottle of whisky and a magazine. There's a key in his pocket, fits the front door."

Sherlock went to work, examining closely, sniffing the body and the air, peering intently at the clothes, the hair, the room. John followed, occasionally examining something Sherlock indicated and nodding in agreement or quirking an eyebrow questioningly. Most of their conversation was completely silent and not for the first time, Greg wondered how they did it. It was like code.

The dead man—mid-thirties, not short of a few quid (well-dressed, Rolex watch, platinum Am-ex card), recently been abroad (natural tan disappearing below his shirt collar), possibly unmarried (no ring, no indentation from one)—was sprawled in the dead centre of the empty room. It was reminiscent of the Study in Pink but this time, thankfully, there was no pink. "Any thoughts?" Greg asked. Sherlock opened his mouth to speak when there was a sound from upstairs.

Greg looked up sharply. "Who the fuck...? Nobody better be roaming around up there..." He went to the door and peered out, shouting down the landing for whoever it was to show themselves and get themselves downstairs again, now.

"I didn't hear anyone go upstairs," Sherlock observed. "In fact, unless they went up before we arrived, I'm certain nobody went past this room..."

Greg was frowning as he went to the door. "Donovan! Get up here." There was the sound of running feet on the stairs.


"Noises from upstairs. I thought you cleared the place. Is anyone up there we know about?"

"Sir? We cleared the place completely," Donovan was looking at him as though he was crazy. "Everybody had orders to vacate the place so the SOCOs could get in, then our pet Freak arrived and you three came up here."

"Is there an attic?"

"Yes, sir. There's a loft conversion, but it was empty, we checked. Nobody in the rooms upstairs either, it was clean. Two bedrooms, no furniture, nowhere anyone can hide."

"Well, it isn't empty now,, so unless the rats have clogs on, somebody is up there. I suggest you get it checked, immediately. Where's the access?"

"Stairs at the end of the landing, sir," Sally replied.

"Donovan, call for backup before you go up there," Greg ordered and saw her nod as she went out. "So," he said, turning back to the matter in hand. "Any ideas?"

"Well," John said, "the eighty quid is still in his wallet and his Rolex is still on his wrist, probably rules out theft as a motive." Sherlock glanced up and nodded.

"He was murdered, that much is clear though, surely?" Greg suggested.

"Nothing is clear yet, Greg," Sherlock replied. "There's a knife wound in his back, but no knife. He was killed here, there's enough blood on the floor around him to confirm that. Was this door open when...?" A sudden cry stopped him, followed quickly by crashing and a series of dull thumps.

"What the Hell is going on out there?" Greg spun toward the door. The noises sounded overly loud in the quiet house. The three of them exchanged a look, then everybody was moving at speed.

Sally was in a heap at the base of the stairs at the rear of the landing. Lestrade took one look and moved on past, dashing up the stairs. He called urgently for back-up on his radio, requesting an ambulance as he took the stairs two at a time, leaving John, as the only medically qualified man on site, to do what he did best and deal with the wounded. Sally stirred as John checked her over. Her skinned knees, bloodied cheek and unfocused eyes told him all he needed to know. "She must have fallen down the stairs," John suggested. "Or she was pushed. Either way, she struck her head hard enough to knock her out... Right wrist broken I think. Sherlock, I need you to stay here with her, keep her warm. She might have spinal injuries or neck damage, so keep her still if she wakes. You can do that, can't you?"

"Yes, of course I can, but where are you going?"

"After Greg," John said. "He's on his own up there." He dashed off up the stairs. With a long-suffering sigh, Sherlock shrugged out of his big coat and laid it over Sally, tucking her in. Moments later he heard feet thudding along the landing and two burly officers dashed past with barely a glance. Anderson was hard on their heels and fell to his knees beside Donovan. "Oh, God, tell me she'll be okay!" Sherlock grabbed him by the collar without preamble, forcing the man to meet his eyes. "She's unconscious, broken wrist and possible spinal injury. DO NOT move her, Anderson, you understand me? If she wakes, then keep her still. At all costs, do you understand? Lestrade has called for an ambulance, they should be here soon. I have to get up there..." and he was gone.

John found Lestrade standing there motionless in the centre of the room. He was facing off a man in his twenties whose clothes had seen better days. His eyes were manic, he looked as if he were on something. He was waving a knife, a wicked-looking blade that was frighteningly long and thin, at Greg's chest. John skittered to a stop, panting, uncertain what the next move should be. Greg never took his eyes off the man. John realised that he was speaking, trying to talk him down. John waited, shifting to position himself slightly behind Greg. Surreptitiously he loosened the Sig in its holster positioned in the small of his back on the belt of his jeans. Since Moriarty, Mycroft had given John a license from the Home Office to carry the weapon, an army issue Sig Sauer P226, a gift to help protect both of them from any remnant of Moriarty's web. So far he hadn't been required to draw the weapon. This, however, looked like it might be one of those times. He didn't draw it completely, just made it ready. Then he waited. He had to give Greg time.

The sound of running feet put paid to that idea. Nobody could ignore the noise they made. Then everything bad happened simultaneously. Two armed policemen ran up the stairs. The Killer swore and lunged. Without hesitation, John pulled the gun and fired. When people say that everything slows down and can be seen in slow motion, John understood the sentiment. Every action was etched clear on his memory. Suddenly he was back in Afghanistan, seeing his comrades pinned down by Taliban fire and unable to move. Everything slowed. He saw the killer's face as the bullet hit, surprise and hatred on his face for a fraction of a second before death wiped expression from it and his eyes went glassy and unfocused. He collapsed, to his knees, then to the floor. John was still sighting down the gun, arm extended, chest heaving, eyes wide. He heard the policemen shouting for him to put the gun down, but all he could see was Greg, turning slowly to face John with a horrified look in his eyes.

Sherlock made it up the stairs after them, sliding to a stop as he took in the chaotic scene in front of him. The two armed officers were pointing their guns at John, and he in turn was putting his gun carefully on the floor, hands where the men could see them. Sherlock ignored this and barged past them all in time to catch Greg as his legs gave way under him, lowering him to the floor. He was careful to avoid the knife handle protruding from Greg's ribs. Then Sherlock was shouting for John to get over there and help. It took too long. The police were intent on securing the scene and that included trying to take John into custody.

"Damn it, just look, will you! My wallet, inside pocket, now please," John was saying as the men kept him covered with their G36s. One of them fished into his pocket and withdrew the wallet, flipping it open.

"Fuck me," he said, examining the card and showing it to his companion. They both looked sick for a brief moment before the one holding John's wallet actually saluted and said "Right, sir. What do you need?"

"Go get me the best first aid kit you have and fetch it back here as fast as you can fucking move," he snapped, pocketing his wallet again. "You," John stabbed a finger at the other man.


"Get down to the ground floor and be ready to guide the paramedics up here when they arrive. Get on that radio as you go and shout for another ambulance. Tell Control we'll need a trauma team ready at the hospital when we get there." The man ran off and John moved quickly to assess his patient.

The knife was in deep and John had seen the blade. Greg was breathing with difficulty. "Okay, Greg, we've got you," John said, dropping to his knees beside the fallen man. "Try to relax, we'll have you fixed up in no time flat, okay?"

"Hurts..." Greg gasped, gripping Sherlock's hand in a vice-like grip.

"I know, Greg, I know," Sherlock said, squeezing back. "Just trust John, he knows what he's doing." John's gaze met Sherlock's very briefly before he was tugging Greg's coat out of the way and examining the wound. Sherlock did not care for what he saw in John's eyes.

The knife had angled up, between the ribs, puncturing the lung and missing his heart by what looked like millimeters. "The knife is currently plugging the wound, so he won't bleed out if we don't remove it. I don't know how close it is to his heart so we must be careful not to move it. I need something to apply pressure..." John stripped off his jacket and laid it over Greg's legs. Off came his jumper and then he tugged his shirt off as well. "Tear that up," he ordered, tossing the shirt to Sherlock before pulling his jumper back on again.

Sherlock let go Greg's hand, flipped out his own pocket knife and began ripping, handing the pieces back to John who wadded them and packed them around the knife handle. He leaned down, applying pressure, ignoring his patient's groan of pain. "Sorry, Greg," he muttered. Sherlock grabbed Greg's hand again and shuffled nearer his head, talking to him, reassuring him, keeping up a litany of observations and remarks in order to distract him. He realised it was as much for his own benefit as for Greg's.

Greg's hand tugging on his brought him down low enough to hear Greg's voice which had reduced to little more than a whisper. "Mycroft...seeing him...again, this evening..."

"Shh, don't talk. I'll tell him. Just relax, Greg." Sherlock flipped out his phone and sent a brief text.

Greg seriously injured, come at once, SH

"God, sherlock, who the hell are you messaging? Is now really the time?" John complained.

"Mycroft, of course. Greg was seeing him again this evening. I think he needs to know, don't you?" John sighed and nodded, returning his attention to the task in hand. Sherlock's mobile pinged.

Which hospital? MH

Will txt you when we know. SH

We'll pick you up. MH.

Moments later a rapid response paramedic showed up following the policeman John had asked to fetch a first aid kit. He was now carrying the paramedic's bag instead. Sherlock withdrew a little to give the paramedic space. John introduced himself and they conversed over Greg as he filled the man in on the DI's condition. The paramedic introduced himself as Lee and assessed Greg for himself, noting his responses, the job John had already done on the wound, the requirements to stabilise his patient. John deferred to him and Sherlock was left wondering why.

"Lee is in charge now, Greg is his patient," John explained, seeing Sherlock's quizzical look. "He has to assess the patient for himself and inform the ambulance crew of what to expect. He doesn't know me from Adam, I could be some idiot off the street, and I have to leave it to him to make the judgement calls here. The sooner I do, the faster it'll be that we get Greg to hospital."

"That's stupid," Sherlock said. "Anyone with half a brain can see you know what you're doing."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence but remember we're not all as gifted as you. Greg is in good hands. Stop worrying and keep talking to him." Sherlock watched the two medics working and felt lost. He had no clue where first aid was concerned. He knew several basic medical procedures, such as stitching wounds and giving injections, but that was it. He could be practical, he could do what he was asked, fetch and carry, observe and report, but the rest was best left to John. He felt the fingers in his tighten and he looked down at Greg with what he hoped was a reassuring smile. He heard the words tension pneumothorax, hypoxia, shock. None of it sounded positive.

Lee handed John a sealed bag with tubes and a syringe and other bits and pieces, then proceeded to cut Greg's clothing away. He attached electrodes to his patient's chest and hooked him to a mobile heart monitor. Sherlock watched as John stripped Greg's arm and expertly inserted a cannula in a vein while the paramedic proceeded to insert a chest drain. John hooked an IV line to the cannula and gave the saline bag to sherlock to hold up.

"He decided to trust you then," Sherlock said grudgingly.

"He knows his stuff," Lee replied. "An extra pair of competent hands is always useful. There are precious few of them out there, believe me, and contrary to Dr Watson's observation," Lee said pointedly, "I do know who he is. I've read his blog." Sherlock smiled grimly at John who was busy preparing another syringe.

This will help with the pain," John said, fixing it into the port on the cannula. He depressed the plunger carefully, and slowly. "Morphine, but I need to give it slowly or it might make him sick," John explained. Sherlock nodded. The policeman had covered the body with a tarp, and Lee shot a questioning glance at them.

"He's the one who stabbed Greg," Sherlock explained. "This is a crime scene."

"He's dead then," Lee said.

"Should hope so," John replied. "I shot him."

"Christ, I thought you were a doctor?"

"Ex-army," Sherlock said proudly. "John is ex-RAMC. Doctor and soldier. Besides, the man was a serial killer."

"Christ," Lee said again. "You weren't kidding on your blog. Remind me not to get on your bad side..."

The EMT's arrived and Greg was carried down to the ambulance and rushed to Bart's. Sherlock sent a text to Mycroft but a sleek black car had arrived by the time they emerged from the house.

"Tracked your GPS signal," Anthea explained as the two men got in. They barely had time to fasten their seatbelts before the driver floored the accelerator and committed several traffic violations within the first hundred yards. Mycroft was sitting there looking composed, although Sherlock knew his brother well enough to see he was as worried as he'd ever seen him look.

"How is he?" Mycroft asked. John told him, without sugar coating it.

"Serious. He was stabbed in the chest and the knife is in deep. It could be close to his heart, I can't tell. It's punctured the lung, collapsed it. That's what the chest drain was for. Trouble is, the knife is still in there. While it's plugging the wound, it's also stopping the wound from being properly sealed." John went on to outline procedures, possible outcomes, the dangers. "He'll need a CT scan when he gets there so we can see where the damage lies..." John stopped and fixed Mycroft with a determined expression."Mycroft, you've got to get me in there. I want the chance to save him."

"I'm not sure I can, John... My jurisdiction doesn't stretch half as far as you think it might."

"Bollocks. Mycroft, this is Greg!" Mycroft flinched. John held out his left hand. "If you're at all unsure of my competency, look, steady as a rock."

"John, it's not that..."

"Good, it had better not be. Mycroft, I'm ex-RAMC for God's sake, I'm a trauma surgeon. I was inventing the surgical techniques on the front line that the NHS now use as standard. If I can't do this, no one can. What have we...what has he got to lose?" Mycroft spared him the briefest of glances and then whipped out his mobile. He hit speed dial and there was an almost immediate response. He spoke low and quickly, insisting.

"Can you?" Sherlock asked. John took a deep breath.

"I have no fucking idea, but I'd rather it was me fucking up than anyone else. I need to do this, 'Lock. Greg needs me..." Sherlock nodded once.

Just as Mycroft snapped his phone shut the driver stopped the car outside the A&E. They got out and a harassed-looking doctor clad in scrubs came over to whisk John off. "I pulled in a few favours," Mycroft called after him. "Don't let me down, John."

"It's not you I'm scared of letting down," John said before he followed the man down the ramp and into the hospital.


The next few hours were interminable. Sherlock was restless, bored and pacing the floor. They had been guided to an open plan waiting area further up the corridor from the operating theatre, little more than an alcove fitted with ugly plastic chairs and a coffee table strewn with last month's magazines. Mycroft was sitting still as a rock on one of the chairs, horrendously uncomfortable things in a mind-numbingly cheerful orange. His calm exterior belied his inner turmoil. He hadn't expected this to affect him so badly. True, he had been attracted to Gregory for a while, he had felt something tug at him when he had looked into the man's beautiful brown eyes and seen that smile. They had made love the once, and Gregory had been so... Mycroft breathed in deeply, as quietly as he could so as not to alert his brother that there was anything wrong. He did not want fuss. He stiffened his bottom lip and closed his eyes, looking for all the word as though he were deep in thought. It was, after all, a habitual pose.

Neither man said anything. Sherlock continued to pace until he noticed Mycroft's hand resting on his umbrella. It was shaking, the fingers white-knuckled as he gripped the handle. Sherlock moved silently across and sat next to his older brother, observing the stiff shoulders and rigid expression that anyone else might think were the relaxed outward calm of a perfectly composed man. Sherlock knew differently though. Mycroft was terribly worried. That meant that his brother was in deeper with the man John was trying his best to save than Sherlock had believed him to be.

"So, caring is not an advantage?" Sherlock ventured softly.

Mycroft sighed. "No, it isn't," he agreed, a little stiffly. "But that doesn't mean that I don't."

An arm slipped around his shoulders, comforting and warm. Surprised, he turned his head to look but Sherlock was staring the other way. Mycroft allowed himself a small sad smile and said nothing. Sherlock continued to startle him. Just when he felt the gulf between them was irredeemable, some small action on Sherlock's part would bring it back from the edge of the abyss. Mycroft allowed himself to lean against his brother just a little bit, not enough to cause him inconvenience, but just enough to find comfort.

Nurses came and went, the sky got lighter, the hospital woke up. A nurse found them to tell them that the surgery would probably take a few more hours and they should go home. The hospital would call with news. They refused. Sherlock was the first to say no, and Mycroft was silently grateful. He would not have been able to leave. Anthea arrived back a scant half-hour later, complete with a bag on her shoulder containing a thermos of real tea and some sandwiches, her ever-present blackberry clutched on one hand—Sherlock was convinced that if anyone wanted to get it off her it would have to be surgically removed—and the morning newspapers tucked under the other arm.

Mycroft said barely a word to Anthea before she left. Sherlock noted that their communication was largely non-verbal and consisted of looks and small gestures, a code of sorts, just like he had with John. Bar for his brother's interest in Greg, sherlock would have assumed that he and Anthea were a couple. He had at one time thought that very thing. He supposed they were, of a sort, though. They worked together constantly, day in, day out. It should be no surprise then, that they acted like a couple. When she had gone, Mycroft tried to distract himself by scan-reading the papers for information. It was his morning ritual and while usually he would have prefered to have been sitting at his breakfast table, he had made do with the substandard hospital coffee table instead. For want of something to do, Sherlock read the papers as well.

The morning wore on. Exactly 127 minutes later, according to Sherlock's watch, a door opened further down the corridor and John walked through it. Both brothers looked up and took in the weary figure as he leaned back against the wall. He hadn't bothered to change, he was still wearing scrubs, the pale green cotton making his sandy blond hair and faded tan seem darker. Sherlock had never seen John dressed like that before. He looked... amazing. If the situation hadn't been so dire, Sherlock would have found the image heroic, despite his disbelief in the existence of heroes. Both the brothers stood up to receive the news but John didn't move, simply stood there. His shoulders were slumped; he looked defeated, exhausted and about ready to collapse. As they watched he seemed to fold in on himself, sliding down the wall to a crouch, burying his face in his arms, his shoulders shaking. Horrified, Mycroft shared a stricken glance with his brother before they both rushed down the corridor to get to John.


Next part of However Improbable, I Promise, This is the Truth.