Title: Winter's Tale
Author: Jessie Blackwood
Pairing: Mycroft Holmes/Greg Lestrade
Fandoms: Sherlock
Rating: AO
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are not my characters, they are public domain. Anything that resembles Sherlock BBC belongs of course to Mr Moffat and Mr Gatiss and is theirs alone. The plot is mine. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is otherwise purely coincidental.
Note: Happy Christmas to my lovely friend, Krekta, and to all of you lovely readers out there. Fluff will follow soon, promise.
Summary: Nearly Christmas, and Greg is not feeling well and also finding it difficult to get home, although he isn't looking forward to his first Christmas alone after the divorce.


If I hear that bloody song once more... Greg had really had enough of Christmas already and the day hadn't even arrived yet. He sniffed, feeling the familiar burn at the back of his throat. He coughed experimentally. Great, I'm coming down with something. He exhaled a huge sigh and set himself off coughing for real this time. Bastard of a Christmas! Okay, so it's only Christmas Eve but still...

Every radio station was blaring Christmas hits but if anybody else played Winter's Tale, Fairytale of New York or Mistletoe and Wine once more...well, he already felt like screaming. Once upon a time he had actually liked songs like that. Now, though, all they did was stir up old memories, and with those came the resentments. "Why should the world take notice of one more love that's failed?" sang the tinny voice over the radio. Why indeed? Greg frowned. Grumpily he had to admit that not all the lyrics fit. He wasn't sure if theirs had been 'a love that could never be'. After all, his marriage could have worked, but the lyrics were right when David Essex sang "though it meant a lot to you and me." It had, to both of them. There had been something there once. They had loved each other, once upon a time. That was the tragedy, he supposed.

"What's the matter, sir?" Sally was standing at the door and he hadn't heard her arrive.

"Nothing, why?" Greg wasn't about to admit that he wasn't looking forward to his first Christmas alone.

"Just the look on your face, that's all. 'Tis the season to be jolly', after all. I don't believe looking like the Freak just showed you up again is supposed to be part of it."

Greg patted his chest. "Not feeling fantastic, I think I must be coming down with something..."

"Go home then, Boss. Get yourself a hot Toddy and go to bed," she suggested.

In his younger days, before Greg had gone all out for promotion, he and his wife had been happy. Sure enough they had been through their share of ups and downs just like any other couple; disagreements, arguments, not seeing eye to eye, but that was all part of it, wasn't it? Back before either of them really had much clue about marriage, never mind about what a copper's life would come to mean to the wife waiting at home (wondering if her husband would come home late, or sometimes even come home at all), before then it was safe to say that it had even been idyllic. He had been romantic, bringing her flowers or chocolates or other little gifts, leaving little love notes attached to the fridge door, posting love letters that would arrive in the morning mail when he was at work. Something had gone awry as soon as his promotion to sergeant had come through though. It had meant longer hours as he was working on bigger cases and then...then she had no longer been interested in listening to him talk about work. She had begun to shut down, unwilling to listen to the grisly details. No one could exactly blame her, he thought. Some of the cases he had dealt with over the years had been terrible; mutilations, serial killings, dead kids, blood splattering the walls and the floors so badly it had been sticky underfoot... Greg sighed. He was on a Murder Investigation Team, part of Homicide and Serious Crimes; it was what he did, what he was good at. What a wonderful thing to think about at this time of year, he considered. It was no wonder it had gone from bad to worse, though. While he had wanted to protect her from it, venting the worst of his issues to a counsellor instead, he had grown to resent that she didn't seem to want to help him at all.

"Thank you, Sally. I was just about to suggest you lot get off home. I've got some stuff to do but frankly, it can wait until after the festive season. Go home, be normal, put your feet up..."

She snorted. "Hardly. I'm heading home for the holidays. Six cousins, their partners, ten kids, four aunts and uncles, grandparents, and my mum...and I'm still single." She rolled her eyes at him.

"So you'll need the extra time for wrapping presents. Get gone." She hadn't required much persuading.

"We're going to the pub, sir," Jones had said. "Want to come?"

"No, thanks, Alan, but I think I'm coming down with something. I feel shit, frankly. I've work to finish, then I can go home and put my feet up with a clear conscience, a good brandy and a couple of paracetamol for company. Looking forward to the peace and quiet actually. Now go." He had only been half-fibbing about how he was feeling. Greg could feel his headache worsening. Frankly the whole idea of Christmas wasn't appealing any more anyway, not on his own.

He sniffed and coughed, cursing the moronic felons who had showered him with germs last week. It was starting to feel like it might be turning into Flu'. He hadn't been sleeping well and with the decree nisi going through, being a free man wasn't all it was cracked up to be either. Sally had seemed to be trying to hook him up with every eligible female on the force. Several had come by the office in the last week, on the premise of handing over Christmas cards to Sally. Greg shook his head. It didn't take Sherlock's insight to deduce they were checking him out. He ignored them all, playing the antisocial hand, taking a leaf out of Sherlock's book and treating them to a blast of short temper and irritability. Sally looked exasperated. "Don't worry, Sally," Greg had commiserated, his voice carrying a slight snark. "Look on the bright side. You never had so many lovely cards before."

So here it was, Christmas Eve. If he allowed the others to go early, then it was because he was being nice, wasn't it, not because he wanted to be alone? There were some loose ends to tie up which were a good excuse to stay. Why bother going home early, after all? Not like there's anyone there to greet me. Greg glanced out of the window to see snow blowing almost horizontally outside the glass, the predicted "turn for the worse" in the weather looking as though it, too, was taking the piss. Not only would he be spending Christmas alone, at home, but he would have to drive through a white-out to get there. Assuming he could actually get through it all safely.


Well, wasn't this just adding insult to injury? Fucking useless excuse for a car! Greg knew it was idiocy to walk home in such bad weather but there were suddenly fewer options that would enable him to actually get home. There isn't much else I can do, he thought morosely, putting his collar up against the wind. When he had finally called it a day and gone down to the car park it was to find that his car wouldn't start, and that was the icing on the bloody cake. Late Christmas Eve and his car had packed in. Fan-bloody-tastic. The lads from the police garage had all gone home, there was nobody else around to ask. It was still snowing, the gritted tarmac was freezing fast, the snow had laid a few inches in a few hours. Greg called the roadside recovery company.

Two hours, three crap coffees and one irate phone call with a lot of swearing in it later the recovery company finally turned up. Well, one man in a van did.

"Sorry, Squire. Was called south of the river. Traffic's proper gridlocked over the bridge. It's this bloody snow. I should'a put a pony on it being a white Christmas. I'd'a been quids in there..." Greg listened with barely concealed impatience, valiantly trying to tamp down his temper. The man slid into the driving seat and tried to turn the engine over. Of course nothing happened. He tutted and lifted the bonnet, poked about in the engine for a while, then went back to his van to rummage in his tool kit. When he came back he asked some questions, tested some things, then poked about a bit more. "Sorry, Squire. Nothing I can do."

"What? What do you mean, nothing you can do? I need to get home!" Greg stared at him in horror.

"Sorry, Guvnor. It's your alternator fan. The belt's sheared and wrapped itself around the blades. You need it towing to a garage. Can't the lads 'ere do anything?"

"Nobody on duty tonight," Greg said flatly. "It's Christmas."

The man merely nodded and started putting his kit away. "Sorry, Guv, but there's nothing more I can manage. I haven't got the parts in the van to fix it, it's a specialist repair."

"Well, can you get me home?"

"Sorry, Guv. Not allowed to. Your insurance only covers roadside assistance."

"Can't you...I dunno, patch it up enough to get me home?"

"Look, Mate, it's not a quick repair job, I'm afraid. It's a proper mess."

When Greg asked if he could get a lift home, even part way there, the driver said he wasn't allowed to give customers lifts, company policy. Greg had a good idea that the man obviously just wanted to get home, like any sane person on Christmas Eve. Who can blame him, Greg thought?

He checked his watch. After all that faffing around, it was late, nearly 10.40pm. The underground had stopped running over an hour ago. He called the three cab firms on his phone, one didn't pick up at all, the other two quoted at least an hour's wait. At least. There might be buses still working but they would be on reduced service at best. It took him two buses and a long walk on a normal working day anyway, which was why he drove or used the tube. Damn, might as well walk it and hope to pick up a black cab. He was not spending Christmas Eve night at the Yard and if he did there would be no public transport tomorrow anyway. Maybe there would be a stray taxi he could bribe into taking him across the river.

The snow had stopped and he took the decision to start walking. Despite the fact that he wasn't really dressed properly for this he was still determined to try. It was hard going, but there were lights and Christmas trees and decorations in windows and a few people going home late like himself, laughing and lurching along through the snow, half-drunk already but disappearing into pubs for a last minute top-up. Greg watched enviously but it was his own fault. He had been offered such an opportunity and had refused. Maybe it was the company. He could only stand so much of Anderson and Dimmock and Gregson and Jones. Maybe he didn't want to share his Christmas with them as well. Going to the pub might have been a way to get a lift home though, he thought. No, he was too bloody proud. He didn't want to be beholden to any of them. Besides, if past experience was anything to go by they would start asking uncomfortable questions or trying to get him a date with random women at the bar. Then there was the whole embarrassing thing of getting a lift which would mean inviting them in and the place was a mess and he had nothing to drink and it was bloody obvious why his wife wasn't there anymore because he was a sad old man who loved his job more than he had loved her. Bollocks!

Scowling, he continued stubbornly on. As if that wasn't enough, it began to snow again. Eventually walking degenerated into trudging. His feet were cold and wet and he was losing the feeling in his extremities. He thrust his hands in his pockets and huddled deeper into his scarf but it didn't improve matters. He wondered about calling on Sherlock at 221b but he doubted he would be that welcome. Not to mention he was miles away and decided against walking twice as far as need be. Besides, what could he do? They didn't have a car and Greg knew he would most probably end up sleeping on the sofa.

So he trudged on as the weather got worse and the snow began to fall in earnest. The wind was getting up, hurling the blizzard of fat flakes into his face, blanketing everything including his hair and shoulders and soaking his coat. His toes were beginning to hurt and his throat wasn't far behind. Every taxi he saw, and there weren't many, was carrying someone. One pulled over a few yards ahead but someone else jumped in before he could get there. Besides, in these conditions it was hard to see anything, never mind a taxi. The drivers wouldn't be able to see him very well either. He kept going but the trudging was turning into something harder. Shapes moved past him, whether people or not he had no idea. The snow and the dark and the cold began to bite at him. He wondered where he was. He had to go another few hundred yards before a street sign told him he was way off. He was in some little garden surrounded by Victorian houses of which there were dozens in London. Must have missed my turning a long time ago.

He crossed the road, looking for the right way out of the square, aware that he was now beginning to shiver. Shit. He took shelter in a random doorway for a moment, looking at the whiteout and considering that this had been a serious miscalculation. His throat felt raw, he could feel himself getting hotter despite the chills, and his nose was even more stuffed. His cough had developed into something that a consumptive Victorian heroine would have been proud of. The virus was making his nose run, and his head was throbbing. He had been taking paracetamol and drinking vitamin C all day but it looked like this would be the straw that broke the camel's back. Melted snow trickled down his neck and he fancied he could hear it sizzle on his overheated skin. He dragged his phone out and dithered underneath a lamp post. Like bloody Lily Marlene, he thought. Or a prostitute. Although any prostitute out on a night like this had to be certifiably crazy. The pool of light did nothing to warm him up.

Further action was preempted by the arrival of a large black vehicle that whispered to a halt alongside him less than a minute later. This one was a large 4x4, still black and sleek, but obviously possessed of an overdrive capability to allow its tyres to grip pretty much anything, snow drifts and sheet ice included. The door opened and Greg caught a glimpse of black umbrella. Mycroft Holmes leaned forward and took in Greg's condition at a swift glance. Greg tried, and possibly failed, to keep the relief from his expression, despite the irony of the situation; being rescued from a blizzard by the Ice Man himself...

"My dear detective inspector, the weather conditions have you at a disadvantage, do they not? Please allow me to offer you a lift?"

Greg was not going to stare a gift horse in the mouth, absolutely not, not even if said gift horse was the British Government itself. He climbed gratefully inside. The relief was almost overwhelming. Greg had not realised just how worried he had been. The interior of the plush vehicle smelled of expensive leather, warm and reassuring. In the corner, ever present umbrella clutched in one hand, sat his saviour, Sherlock's brother. Greg felt monumentally embarrassed for allowing himself to get into such a predicament and for dripping melted snow all over the posh seats. A hand towel materialised in Mycroft's hand and was passed wordlessly to Greg. The bloody thing was actually warm too. Greg applied it to his face and hair, trying to take off the worst of the wet and reveling in the small comfort it gave him. "Thank you, Mr Holmes," he found his voice to say. "I hope you know how much I appreciate this."

Mycroft smiled, an actual honest-to-God friendly smile. "Please, call me Mycroft," he said warmly. "This is certainly not a strain upon my resources. I was on my way home myself when your predicament came to light so your timing could not have been better. How are you feeling now? If I may be so bold, you do look a little careworn. Are you quite alright?"

"Yeah, I will be," Greg said, sniffing dramatically, carefully not enquiring as to how his predicament had come to light. "Sorry," he wheezed. "I've been staving off a head cold all week." A crisp white handkerchief appeared a moment later in a similar way to the towel. Greg wondered briefly what else Mycroft Holmes might have up his sleeve.

"Keep it," Mycroft said and Greg nodded his thanks and blew his nose rather loudly. "Do you need a doctor?"

"Course not, no, I'll be fine," Greg protested. "Cough, slight fever, chills... I really just want to get home and relax, go to bed..." He flexed his aching shoulders and grunted softly with the effort. "I'll be okay with some painkillers and hot tea."

"You are very late. Did something keep you back?"

As if you didn't know, Greg found himself thinking but said nothing. "Just finishing some stuff up before I left, then my car wouldn't start." He sighed. "Recovery truck didn't turn up for a couple of hours and then the mechanic said he couldn't repair the car, it would need a garage and of course everywhere is shut for the holidays now. Couldn't even ask the guys in the police garage to have a look, they'd all gone home too. Then the bloke refused to give me a lift, said his insurance didn't cover carrying customers. Too late to get the tube and there weren't many cabs. Haven't seen a bus either." He forced a laugh. "Wouldn't know which one to get anyway. Always use the car..."

"You didn't call Sherlock?"

"Why should I? He doesn't have a car and I didn't want to have him come rescue me. I do have my pride."

"And yet, you accepted a lift from me," Mycroft purred, putting his head on one side as if trying to work out Greg's motivation on that one.

"I have my pride, but I'm not completely daft," Greg defended. "The conditions out there are...a bit not good, to say the least." Mycroft nodded agreement. "Okay, I know it was stupid to try walking so far really. I'm not equipped for a polar expedition!" Thankfully Mycroft chuckled politely at his lame joke. "I honestly should have known better. People have ended up with hypothermia and frostbite for less, but...I really wanted to just get home."

"And unfortunately those same conditions are unlikely to let up anytime soon. The bookmakers will be disappointed tomorrow. They will all have to pay out for a white Christmas. So is your wife expecting you?"

Wow, Holmesy, way to go with the leading questions. Greg's brow furrowed. He wasn't sure what to say. Does Mycroft not know what's happened? Greg knew he would be surprised if Sherlock hadn't told his brother all the juicy details, but then, was his marital status of interest to either of them, beyond its value as an "I told you so" cautionary tale? "Er...no," Greg said quietly. "She...um... she's with... with her mother." If Mycroft detected the lie, he was careful not to deduce otherwise, unlike Sherlock who had no compunction in airing Greg's dirty laundry in public and would have had no hesitation in pointing out that his wife had in fact shacked up with the PE teacher and was doing very nicely, thank you.

"You have separated at last," was all Mycroft said, stating it as fact, he wasn't asking. His voice was devoid of emotion too, he spoke as if it were a simple observation.

"Divorced now, actually," Greg admitted. "We split—amicably— about eight months ago." For some reason Greg felt the need to emphasis the fact that the separation was agreeable to both of them and they hadn't argued about any of it. It was as if they were both too tired of their situation to care. Besides, she had found someone else, someone who was— according to her—there for her, wherever there was. Greg had thought he had been there for her, rather more than she was there for him at any rate, but obviously she hadn't shared his opinion.

"Your first Christmas alone then?" Mycroft sounded slightly scandalised.

"Yeah... just another day, really. Why?"

"Gregory, nobody should be alone during the festive season." Mycroft said it as though replying to a child.

"Aren't you?" Greg shot back.

"My point exactly. Allow me to spirit you away to spend the holiday with me."

"Eh?" Greg wasn't sure he'd heard correctly.

"Come home with me, and then I can see that you're properly looked after."

"But look at me, I'm not very well. You might catch it..."

"Nonsense. While I am touched by your concern, I have prudently had my flu inoculation and I do have a rather robust constitution anyway. I also think this may just be an upper respiratory infection, not influenza. Besides, you would certainly not be in my way and that means that two people will not be alone for Christmas."

"I couldn't impose..." Greg refused even as he yearned to say yes, to have some company if nothing else.

"Yes, you can. In fact, I won't hear of you going home alone. In your condition that would not be safe at all." Mycroft leaned forward, then he paused, turning to look at Greg, apparently waiting for him to agree to his own kidnapping. Greg sighed and rolled his eyes, then he nodded once. Mycroft smiled and rapped on the privacy screen between themselves and the driver up front. "James, my house if you please, post haste. We're kidnapping Detective Inspector Lestrade for the holidays."

"Very good, sir," the chauffeur replied as if he heard admissions of kidnap from his employer every day. Maybe he does, Greg thought, and that's a bloody scary thought.


The car pulled up alongside the kerb outside a large white townhouse somewhere in Belgravia. The porch was one of those large enclosing square affairs, like something out of Downton Abbey. The driver got out and came around to open the door, doing his best to shield the two men with a huge umbrella on their short journey across the two yards of pavement to the porch. The door was opened by a slim young woman clad in the typically neat black uniform of maid's everywhere. She smiled at her boss and took his coat.

"Welcome home, sir." She looked expectantly at Greg and he shrugged his own rather wet coat off and handed it over. She smiled at him kindly as he stood there dripping on the mat.

"Thank you, Janet. Detective Inspector Lestrade here will be joining us for the duration of the Christmas holiday. Would you ask Mrs Lewis to sort out a guest room for him? Give her my apologies for the short notice and please let her know that the Amber Room will be more than suitable." The girl nodded, tucked Greg's coat with Mycroft's over a slim arm and hurried off.

A huge Christmas tree dominated the oak-panelled hallway, festooned in rather patriotic red, white and blue baubles, draped with a tasteful amount of silver tinsel. Tiny lights winked between the boughs. Festive garlands of greenery were draped over strategic bits of architecture and more strings of lights adorned the windows. It looked so very un-Mycroftian that curiosity got the better of him. "Who put all this up?"

"Oh, my staff," Mycroft explained. "They adore the festive season and I don't want to be a Scrooge. They look after me too well for me not to allow certain...liberties." He paused, regarding the decorations with a smile. Greg wasn't sure if he wasn't hallucinating. This was a very different animal from the Mycroft Holmes Sherlock looked on as his nemesis. "Come along," Mycroft was saying. "You should have a drink to warm you while the housekeeper gets your room ready and then you should probably get a bath, warm yourself up properly. Or a shower, if you prefer. All the bedrooms have ensuite facilities. You can soak at your leisure. Cook will have retired for the night but I am going to arrange for food to be sent to us. What do you prefer? Chinese? Cantonese? Thai perhaps, or Indian? What about Italian?"

"At this time, on Christmas Eve? Where on earth will still be open?"

"Oh, don't concern yourself with that. I have my resources. Now, your preference?"

"Thai or Chinese, please. Antidote to turkey."

Mycroft showed Greg into a room that was obviously a living space, dark wood panelling and mullioned windows bespeaking a certain Victorian Arts and Crafts style. A huge flat screen television dominated one wall, a few choice pieces of antique furniture were placed strategically here and there, and comfortable leather sofas and armchairs were gathered around the fireplace, a real fire crackling in the grate. Heavy velvet drapes covered the windows, effectively shutting out the cold and the dark. It was opulent, cosy and intimate all at once. Greg admired the various paintings on the wall while Mycroft poured them both a glass of something expensive. Unless he was mistaken, and Greg was the first to admit his knowledge of art was limited to whatever had sunk in at school, which honestly wasn't a lot given his attitude at the time, he was viewing honest-to-God original paintings of the variety usually only seen on the walls of the National Gallery. In one particular one that caught his eye the ladies looked a bit Jane Austen and the pastoral landscape was overshadowed by clouds and trees. Mycroft came up beside him and handed him a cut crystal tumbler with a generous amount of amber liquid sloshing around inside.

"It's a Vernet," he said, rather proudly. "Our three times Great Grandfather."

"Wow, really?" Greg smiled. "My family is part French too, you know. Great Grandad on my dad's side, hence the name. Not so famous though." He took a sip from his glass to find it was very good single malt. "Oo, that...that's good." It burned a fiery trail to his empty stomach. "Better not have too much, though. I've been taking painkillers, and I've not eaten since lunchtime."

"A regrettable habit, Gregory. However, as you well know I also work in a job that places burdensome demands upon me. Anthea is often the one to remind me to eat at the appropriate time." Somewhere a small bell chimed and Mycroft looked up. "Your room is ready," he said, reaching to take the glass from Greg's hand. Their fingers brushed and a small tingle shot down Greg's spine at the touch. Their eyes met, Mycroft's guarded, Greg's curious. "I suggest you settle in. Janet will show you the way. Refresh yourself and then it is my hope that dinner will be with us."

Greg tore his eyes away and nodded. "Yes, okay, right then...Where is it?"

Mycroft smiled and opened the door. Janet was waiting patiently outside. "Janet, Inspector Lestrade requires his room please. I shall see you later, Gregory."

Upstairs, the door Janet opened for him gave into a frankly huge and very well-appointed bedroom done out in shades of dark blue, amber and gold, with comfortable furnishings and antique brass fittings. Dark velvet curtains similar to those in the room downstairs were drawn against the snow storm outside. There was a new soft fleece robe laid out on the bed, accompanying a new set of pajamas, and a pair of slippers sat on the floor beneath. Greg was nonplussed but grateful. He had no idea why Mycroft would go as far as this to make him feel comfortable and welcome. This smacked of more than just a day's worth of forward planning.

Greg undressed and threw on the soft robe, then he went to investigate the bathroom. He found a room the size of his bedroom at home, equally as comfortable in temperature as the bedroom. Glossy green-glazed tiles covered the lower half of the walls, the upper half painted a neutral cream. The quarry-tiled floor was warm from the underfloor heating and fluffy towels were absorbing the heat from a radiator rail. A shower sat in one corner behind its curved screen of frosted glass. A rectangular white enamel sink and old fashioned toilet with an overhead cistern and chain completed the set. Greg rarely bathed, preferring the speed of a shower in the mornings, but the enormous white enamel bath that stood on brass ball and claw feet in the middle of the room beckoned to him enticingly. He turned the hot tap full on and steam began to fill the room. He sniffed a couple of the bottles of bubble bath, chose one scented with cinnamon and oranges and poured a generous amount under the gushing tap. Sinking into the hot water, he couldn't suppress a soft grateful moan in response to the pleasure of it as it soothed his aching muscles and warmed his toes. The chills were dissipating but tiredness was catching up on him.

A knocking on the door woke him some indefinable time later. His skin was wrinkled from being in the water too long and he sat up with a start, creating a bow wave that nearly overflowed the bath. The door opened and Mycroft stuck his head around it. He suppressed a smile. "I thought you might have drowned. Are you alright?"

"Yes, thanks. Tired. Dozed off..." Greg actually blushed, he was embarrassed to note. He covered by scrubbing his face with wet hands to wake himself up. He was glad he was mostly covered by the bubbles.

"That's fine, take as long as you wish but the food has arrived. It is ready when you are. Apologies for disturbing your ablutions. I was a little concerned in case you came to harm."

"No, that's fine, thanks. I'm okay. Won't be long." Greg started washing himself off with soap and a flannel and scrubbed at his damp hair as Mycroft beat a retreat. He did not see the flush to Mycroft's cheeks that had nothing to do with the heat of the bathroom.

Greg unwrapped the set of sleep clothes—they really couldn't be called pajamas—when he emerged, damp but a lot warmer, from the bathroom. The pants were soft brushed cotton, but the t-shirt top was jersey knit, flowing over his chest and showing every bump and bulge he had, which at his age wasn't necessarily a good thing. However, the dressing gown hid a lot of what the pyjamas revealed. The slippers fit, leaving Greg wondering when Mycroft had snuck in and taken his measurements. He towelled his hair dry and yawned, forcing himself to go eat something and not keel over on the bed to simply sleep.

When he arrived in the hallway downstairs, the lighting now muted, Greg stood there feeling lost. Janet was nowhere in sight and he had no idea where to go. Suddenly a door opened. "Ah, there you are," Mycroft said, pausing slightly to take in his guest's pajama-clad form before beckoning him in. "Do come along before all this gets cold..."

A number of boxes and packets littered the long mahogany table in what must be the dining room. Greg couldn't help noticing that the boxes all had Savoy Hotel printed on the side. "What would you like?" Mycroft asked. "I understand if your appetite might be a little suppressed but you should try to eat something."

"I know. That's why I'm here and not in bed," Greg explained with a smile. He picked up a container. "I wasn't aware that the Savoy Hotel had a takeaway service." Greg had envisioned Mycroft calling on some open-all-hours cafeteria that serviced MI6, but not this.

"Oh, it doesn't." Mycroft's smile was smug. Greg was absolutely certain he detected a mischievous glint in his eyes as well. "The Head Chef is a personal friend," Mycroft explained. "He owed me a small favour."

Greg could not suppress an eye roll at that revelation. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised. Mycroft spent his entire life making connections, garnering favours and forging alliances. Like his brother, he was charismatic, charming when he wanted to be, but unlike Sherlock, Mycroft could be diplomatic where Sherlock was tactless, he was commanding where his younger brother was simply irritating. Right now, he was looking rather dashing in a dark blue silk waistcoat with a gold watch chain arrayed across it, his jacket off, the pale blue of his shirt sleeves exposed and cufflinks glittering in the overhead light. His grey trousers and dark shoes completed the ensemble and made Greg feel rather exposed. He huddled into his gown and hunched over the table.

"In answer to your question, anything will be good, thanks." He chose that moment to sneeze several times, thankfully into the handkerchief Mycroft had given him earlier. At least he'd thought to shove it in his pocket before he came down. The velocity of the last one jarred his head and made everything throb. He emitted a soft groan and held his head in his hands.

"How awful do you feel?" Mycroft's tone was concerned, actually loaded with sympathy. "I must admit you are not looking your best right now, Gregory."

"I dunno, I'm aching and tired. Really Mycroft, I'll be fine."

"You should have some paracetamol. They should make things more bearable for you. There's a packet there on the table." Greg blearily peered at the table and located the packet; it was hiding behind one of the two steaming mugs that were already present and Mycroft pushed one toward him and offered the sugar. Even his mugs were elegant; white bone china, almost hourglass in design, a delicate willow pattern and gold line around the rim. Greg spooned a generous amount of sugar into his tea and stirred, his actions slow and deliberate. Mycroft tutted softly and took possession of the box of paracetamol, prized two pills out of the blister pack, then handed them over to Greg with that warm smile still carefully in place. Greg ignored the accidental brush of fingertips across his palm as the pills changed hands. Dutifully, he swallowed them and chased them down with the tea. "Ah," he sighed appreciatively. "Now I feel a bit more human."

A plate of food appeared in front of him and Mycroft sat opposite, fork in hand. "I'm honestly glad you agreed to come," he said, a little awkwardly but sincerely.

"I'm honestly glad I did," Greg grinned and yawned. "Sorry, been a hell of a day."

"So I can see." Mycroft tucked into his food, watching as Gregory forked a mouthful of chicken rice and chewed.

"This is good. Are you seriously telling me you got the Savoy Hotel's Head Chef to make you Chinese food?" Mycroft only smiled and savoured a piece of sweet and sour, chewing thoughtfully.


Greg was shaken gently awake as the church bells let them know it was very early in the morning. He jerked upright and found Mycroft's restraining hand on his shoulder. "Be calm, Gregory. It's quite alright. You dozed off and I didn't have the heart to move you." He was lying along the sofa in the sitting room. A blanket had been draped across him, he noted.

"Damn, sorry. What time is it?" They had retreated to the comfort of the living room once they had finished eating, which didn't take Greg long. Despite his determination to eat, he really had very little appetite.

"Very early. Somewhere close to Matins on Christmas day."

"Christmas day? Bugger..." He looked at Mycroft who seemed quite alert. "Don't you sleep?"

"Of course I do, although I typically do not need more than three hours. You on the other hand..."

"Damn, I didn't buy you a present..."

Mycroft smiled at the small outburst and shook his head. "Worry not, Gregory. Oddly enough, the fact that you are here is gift enough. I seem to have spent rather too many Christmases in a solitary fashion. Come on now though, you need your bed." An arm snaked around his shoulders and he was helped to his feet. Greg had to admit to himself that he was feeling dreadful. "I think you should stay a few days," Mycroft was saying. "At least until you feel well enough to go back to work. You are rather pale, and your temperature is up. I rather think my earlier diagnosis was a little premature. Come along to bed." Greg was guided along to his room with a firm hand held supportively under his elbow. They walked slowly, and Mycroft steadied him gently when he wobbled slightly. Once they were inside Greg's room, Mycroft pulled the covers of the bed back and then solicitously helped Greg take off his robe. Mycroft eased his guest into bed and expensive Egyptian cotton slid cooly again Greg's hands as he settled back against soft pillows.

"That...feels really good," Greg admitted, relaxing against the comfort. Much, much better than his own bed would have been with its lumpy mattress and cheap 300-count sheets.

"Sleep if you can, I'll be up for a while yet and then I'll only be in the next room. I have Christmas wishes to extend to certain corners of the Commonwealth that rely on being up at this hour. I'll check on you later but in the meantime call if you need anything."  Greg nodded and closed his eyes. Sleep sounded like a very good idea.

He surfaced several times during the night, once hearing Mycroft speaking quietly but urgently into his mobile phone. He drifted in a semi-conscious stupor, unable to pull himself out fully into wakefulness. He must have made some noise or other, because Mycroft came close to the bed and then sat down on it, murmuring something soothing. Some time later Greg surfaced enough to hear a voice that was familiar but he couldn't quite place it. He felt hands on him, moving his clothing aside, and a slightly cold touch against his skin. He squirmed but a firm hand on his shoulder stilled him.

"It's okay, mate, try to relax. You'll be okay."

"How is he?" Mycroft's voice, worried.

"Heart rate is fine, his blood pressure is within normal parameters. Temperature is on the high side, but my guess is he's compounded all this by working too hard and ignoring the symptoms, again." The tone sounded affectionate but slightly exasperated. "No, it's okay, you did the right thing...keep an eye on him, just in case. If he gets worse, call 999 but right now I'd say what he needs is to sleep it off..."


Greg woke to full daylight, although the heavy curtains kept it muted, thankfully. He lay there quietly for a long time, wondering at the weird dream he'd had. However, when he tried to move he found he ached abominably. His nose was still stuffed and his throat still sore. He glanced over at the clock to find it was nearly two in the afternoon. A small packet sat near the clock, with a note, which said "To Gregory. Merry Christmas. Thank you for saving me, M." Greg frowned. He had thought it was the other way around. He opened the box and grinned. Inside were a pair of silver cufflinks, shaped like old-fashioned Derby handcuffs, a small crystal stone in the lock of each one. Mycroft had a very unexpected sense of humour.

Greg lay back into the warmth and comfort of the pillows wondering if Mycroft would mind very much if he stayed where he was. He didn't really fancy getting up, never mind getting dressed. He only had his stale work clothes to get dressed in anyway. Hardly a way to spend Christmas day. As if on cue, the door opened. Greg cast a curious look at the strange man who stood framed in the doorway. He had to be in his sixties at least, and carried himself with dignity. He was clad in an immaculate dark grey suit and a dark green apron, and was carrying the kind of tray that hotels and hospitals serve breakfast in bed on.

"Good day, sir," he said, his baritone voice soothing on the ear. "My name is Bennett, Mr Holmes' butler. He sent me along with your breakfast. He felt certain you would prefer to remain in bed on account of your indisposition. You had quite a disturbed night, I am afraid. May I offer you the complements of the season, sir?"

"Thank you," Greg replied, bemused by this turn of events. "Same to you."

The butler—Bennett—nodded and smiled and deposited the tray on a nearby table, then made his way to the bed, seemingly unphased by the presence of the man in it. He held out a hand and silently offered to help Greg sit, then arranged his pillows behind him and settled him back, making sure he was comfortable before retrieving the tray, deftly unfolding its legs and settling it over Greg's knees. There was a plate of cooked breakfast—scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and tomatoes—kept warm under a metal dome which Bennett removed with a flourish. A little rack of carefully trimmed triangular pieces of toast sat behind the plate, not a trace of crust left in sight. A small pot of butter curls and another small pot of marmalade sat conveniently nearby. A small cut-crystal tumbler of fresh orange juice sat beside a steaming cup of tea, a tiny sugar bowl nearby, and to finish the effect a little white china vase with a single red rose—seriously, where does Mycroft get red roses at this time of year?—had been placed behind the teacup.

Bennett took the napkin and unfolded it, spreading it over Greg's lap. "Will that be all, sir?" he intoned and Greg nodded.

"Yes, thank you, Mr Bennett. Oh, could you give Mr Holmes a message?"

"Certainly, sir," Bennett replied.

"Tell him... would you inform Mr Holmes that I'll see him later? I don't feel really able to get up... to rise just yet."

Bennett smiled warmly. "Of course, sir. Should you require anything, do not hesitate to call me."

"Call you? How?"

"There is a button on the wall, sir, just there." Bennet showed him the little brass button on the wall to the left of the bed. "It rings near the kitchen, sir. Just press it once and either I or the Cook will hear you. When you are finished with your tray, please press the button and I will come post haste to remove it. Will there be anything else, sir?"

"What? Oh, no, nothing else, for now. Thank you." Greg watched as Bennett withdrew discreetly, wondering what made a man choose such a profession.

Despite the appetizing food, Greg couldn't make himself eat more than a few mouthfuls. He was, if anything, feeling nauseous. He forced himself to drink the orange for the vitamin C, and the tea, knowing he needed the fluids, and managed a piece of toast with marmalade, but he couldn't face more. He needed painkillers and more sleep. He pressed the button after only ten minutes and Bennett appeared shortly thereafter and removed the tray. "I'm sorry, Mr Bennett, it was lovely but I've not much in the way of an appetite."

Bennett smiled and nodded. "You have no requirement to apologize to me, sir. If I may, I would respectfully suggest that I fetch you a carafe of fruit juice and another of water. I believe that plenty of fluids are required in this instance."

Greg smiled and nodded. "Good idea. Paracetamol too if you have any." Bennett returned in minutes with a packet of paracetamol tablets and the promised carafes. The butler poured out a glass each of juice and water and then withdrew again. A while later, Greg was dozing when there was a soft knock on the door. It opened and Mycroft put his head around, smiling when his eyes met Greg's.

"How is sir feeling?" he asked, one corner of his mouth quirked in a smile. "Bennett gave me your message."

"Sir is feeling pretty crap, thank you."

Mycroft's expression turned sympathetic. "May I come in, Gregory?"

"You need to ask? It's your home."

" While you are here as my guest, this is your room. Of course I need to ask. Anything else would be inappropriate, not to mention most disrespectful."

Greg smiled. "'Course you may come in," he said. "Seriously glad of the company."

"Is there anything you need?"

"Didn't you know, I seem to have acquired a butler for that now. There's a little button on the wall here for summoning purposes." That elicited another smile from Mycroft who sat down on the end of the bed and regarded his guest with interest.

"Well, you seem to be in possession of your faculties, Gregory, which leads me to believe you are over the worst. However, after last night we can't take things too much for granted...."

"What about last night? I had the weirdest dream."

"I came to check on you last night...well, this morning, actually, but I couldn't wake you. Frankly, I thought you were delirious. However, Dr Watson assured me everything was within acceptable parameters but we should keep an eye on you, just in case."

"Mycroft, tell me you didn't drag John out on Christmas day? It's a virus, that's all. Annoying, a bit inconvenient, but not much in the grand scheme of things. All I need is paracetamol, fluids and sleep, that's all. Honestly, there was no need to disturb anyone on Christmas Day."

"I think you would agree with me had you seen yourself earlier..."

"So it wasn't a dream then?"

"Do you recall anything?"

"Not much, no."

"You were moaning in your sleep, and when I tried to rouse you, you did not respond. I initially called John for advice but he said if I could send a car, he would make a house call. Considering your incapacity, I'm glad he did. You had me worried for a while."

"Worried? About me?"

"I see you find the notion absurd..."


"I suppose, all things considered, I should not find that so much of a surprise."

"I...Mycroft, forgive me, but you're not really the demonstrative sort."

"There's nothing to forgive, Gregory. The flaw lies with me. I had hoped that you might see beneath the veneer, even a little, but..."

"Your veneer is a bit opaque, you know. I'm a policeman, not a psychic. I can't read minds."

"I think you will find a psychic reads the future, you require telepathy for mind reading. However the point is a little irrelevant for you are not in possession of either skill. Unless you've been hiding your light under a bushel again."

"Again? When did I do it before?"

"Since you proved to be such a father figure to my brother. You are a capable man, Gregory, hidden behind your own veneer of ordinariness."

Greg was definitely not capable of processing that one. He huffed a sigh. "Sorry, Mycroft, really. I should be grateful for your care and concern. It's a bit overwhelming, if truth be known. I'm not used to being looked after like this. It's just a bloody virus." Somehow, even that protest sounded weak to his ears.

"Well, John said I must call if your condition deteriorated..."

"You are categorically not to go disturbing him again, do you understand me? I'll be fine." For a split second Mycroft looked rebellious. The resemblance to his brother was so uncanny that Greg couldn't help the grin that split his face. "God, you two are so alike sometimes, it's scary."

Mycroft frowned, momentarily caught off balance. "What on earth made you say that?" Mycroft enquired.

"For a moment there, you looked just like Sherlock. Just when he's about to object to something I've suggested." Greg grinned. "Sorry, My', I just... sorry."

"No, please, do not be sorry. It's quite alright. Sometimes I am afraid I fail to see any likeness whatever. Sherlock and I are very different people."

"You're brothers. Same blood. Not so different, after all."

"Most people would not agree, Gregory."

"Ah, well, I dunno if you'd noticed but I'm not most people."

"Oh, yes, Gregory. If I noticed nothing else, I did notice that." Mycroft smiled, then frowned, trying to process what he had heard. "What did you call me, just then?"


"A few moments ago, when you apologized."

"Er...might have called you My..." Greg had a moment of embarrassed silence.

"Nobody has ever contracted my name like that, not even Mummy." Mycroft said it wonderingly and Greg didn't know if it was because Mycroft was surprised that nobody had ever done it, or that he had never actually realised that they hadn't before this moment. "I always wanted mummy to call me by my full name. She named me Mycroft, but insisted on calling me Mikey, which I hate. I always suggested since she named me Mycroft, that she at least try to struggle to the end of it."

"Sorry. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you—"

Mycroft held up a hand to forestall further apology. "Gregory, stop apologising. It is quite alright. I am not offended."

"Oh, well then, that's good... that's fine. Won't do it again though."

"I said I wasn't offended, Gregory. Maybe I didn't make myself clear. I don't mind it, in fact I find...I quite like it, from you. Whilst it is not something I would expect you to call me, I find I am curiously pleased that you obviously feel comfortable enough to do so. However, I would appreciate it if you could restrain yourself from calling me that in public..."

"Oh, Good God, of course not! I would never...I mean...no, I won't call you that. When we've ever met before I hope you notice I always refer to you by your last name."

Mycroft nodded. "I admit, I had noticed. You never fail to treat me with your unique brand of humour and professionalism and for that I am profoundly grateful." Mycroft paused, considering something. "I do not intimidate you, do I, Gregory?" This last was more of an observation rather than a question.

"Er... no, not really. I mean, you are intimidating, downright bloody scary, actually, when you want to be, but I'm not... well, not really scared by you, if you see what I mean. I mean... Oh, God. I'm not making myself clear, am I? My head is fuzzy as hell and I can't think straight. I mean, while you are a very intimidating and scary person, when you want to be, I am not unduly intimidated by you. If you threatened to bang me up in a deep dark cell and throw away the key for some reason, I believe that you would be able to do so but I also know that you would have a genuine reason for doing so. You tend not to be someone who just does something for no reason, or for spite, so I don't behave as if you'd do that just because you dislike my tie or something. I'm confident I can face you and speak my mind without you reacting like a despot and having me carted off and beaten up. Does that make sense?"

Mycroft was genuinely smiling in amusement now. "It is quite alright, Gregory. You make perfect sense to me and you are quite correct. I would have to be provided with a watertight reason to lock you away before I chose to do so. Thank you for your honesty."

"Good, because I don't think I understand myself right now. I think maybe I need more sleep. Oh, thank you for the present, by the way. Inspired." Greg smiled.

"My pleasure, Gregory. I would agree with your assessment that you should rest now. If you want anything, Bennett showed you the call button I believe?"

"Yes, he did."

"Don't hesitate to use it then. Sleep well." Mycroft left quietly.


It was early evening when Greg surfaced again, unable to say he felt better but at least right then he felt no worse. He realized he felt somewhat abandoned though, lying in the dark, listening to the quiet sounds around him. Somewhere muted music was playing, carols and seasonal orchestral music, filling the air with a christmassy ambiance, yet here he was ill in bed. It made him feel like a child.

Tentatively he sat up, noting with relief that the world stayed steady on its axis. He risked throwing off the covers and swinging his feet to the floor, staying still until he was sure he was going to be alright. He reached for the dressing gown and tugged it on, fitting his feet into the soft slippers. He paused, considering his situation. Mycroft Holmes, powerful public servant and (on paper) a minor minister to the Crown, was in this house, having rescued the detective inspector and brought him home. It made Greg feel slightly like a bird with a damaged wing, or a neglected fox pup; something to be saved and looked after and petted and set free again once the damage had healed. Unless... Is Mycroft really interested in me beyond the convenience of being able to effect a rescue and have me keep him company? Or was this his opportunity to make a move? Greg shook his head gently. As if. Although, considering the truths that had been recently revealed...

"Gregory? What are you doing up?" Mycroft looked surprised and concerned when Greg shuffled in the doorway.

"I was feeling lonely," he replied, feeling like a child with a pout on. Mycroft's expression softened and Greg was graced with another warm smile, 'laugh lines' crinkling the skin near his eyes. He patted the sofa seat beside him.

"I was about to watch television for a while. Would you care to join me?" He picked his pocket watch out of his waistcoat pocket and examined it. "Dinner will be served in little under an hour. Would you be feeling up to eating something?"

"Actually yes, I am a bit hungry. I wouldn't miss Christmas dinner, Mycroft," Greg said in mock surprise that he could even hint at such a thing. Mycroft chuckled and settled back into the sofa cushions. This was a wholly different animal from the professional Iceman facade that Greg saw across the top of a black car at crime scenes. Mycroft was relaxed, despite being dressed in his customary suit even when relaxing at home.

"You're not...expecting company, are you?" Greg just thought it would be prudent to check. Anyone Mycroft might consider friend enough to have them drop by on Christmas Day would probably not be expecting a snotty pyjama-clad old man sitting on the couch. How to feel mightily out of place, Greg thought.

"No, why?"

"Well, you're at home, but you've bothered with a suit? I didn't want to give anyone a nasty surprise..."

"Oh, I see. No, be reassured I am not expecting guests. I went out earlier, to call on my brother. Compliments of the season, and all that."

"Like I believe that." Mycroft sighed and Greg regretted the momentary pain that flashed across his eyes. He had not meant to cause him upset.

"I do care about him, Gregory," Mycroft hastened to assure him. "Even as he rejects my...concern, I cannot turn my back completely. He is still my brother. I have spent a lifetime caring about him, worrying that he would self-destruct before he was thirty. Now he has John, and as long as he has John he doesn't need me." There was a bereft look in Mycroft's eyes then, a vulnerability that Greg wasn't sure how to deal with. Mycroft was the consummate actor, after all. It might be for show but something pricked his senses; there was a ring of truth to the words and the wistful pain behind them. Mycroft didn't look like he was creating plausible stories.

Greg Lestrade considered himself a pretty good judge of people, it had served him well in the past, and nothing about how Mycroft was acting right now hinted at dissembling, certainly not following on as they did from earlier revelations. Okay, we'll run with it for now, he thought. Give him the benefit of the doubt.

"Besides, there is nothing about you that would give anyone visiting me a nasty surprise, Gregory. I cannot imagine why you would think that."

"Well, I'm ill, I've got a virus. I'm snotty, I look rough and I don't feel fit to grace anybody's couch. I'm bothered you might catch this too. Why are you not concerned that you might catch it?"

"Firstly, I believe I did remark to you that I am quite robust where colds and flu are concerned. Second, I also told you I have just had my annual flu shot. I live in hopes that it will work. Third, you are perfectly fit to grace my couch, as you so elegantly put it. In fact I may say that nothing has graced my couch of recent date more than you have, Gregory."

"Now I know you're lying, or deluded," Greg said.

Mycroft smiled. "I am a lot of things, Gregory, but deluded is not one of them. Nor, in this instance, am I lying. I enjoy having a distinguished, empathetic, not to mention compassionate man such as yourself gracing my home. I wish you to know that I have great respect for you, Gregory Lestrade. You are in a difficult job made all the more so by my brother and yet you rise to the challenge and bring him into your confidence and your crime scenes." Mycroft studied him intently. "You give him purpose, Gregory, a challenge, something to keep him from inevitable destruction at his own hand. You have nothing to be ashamed about. Between you and John you have made certain with your respective skills that I am still in possession of that most enviable of commodities, a living breathing baby brother. I am in your debt, Gregory, not the other way around." Mycroft paused a moment, seeming to collect himself. "If anything happened to Sherlock... Well, in all truth, it would quite simply break my heart. You are currently in a spot of bother and we all have those at times, therefore I am more than happy to help. Consider that I am merely chipping away at the debt that is mine."

Greg just stared. He couldn't take his eyes off Mycroft. After that little homily, Greg was stunned at Mycroft's admission. "It's..." He swallowed and tried again. "It's okay," he said quickly, although it sounded a little lame. "I mean...I was just doing my job, you know? Sherlock was...out of control, it's true, but there was something. I saw something in him." Greg was finding it difficult to answer Mycroft, to sort his thoughts, then he chuckled. "He reminded me a bit of myself when I was younger, you know. Nearly off the rails and no idea what to do about it. I've seen countless kids in similar circumstances. The fact I nearly went wrong myself means I understand them, but Sherlock...there was something different about him, something unique... I knew he was a special one."

"Special, yes." Mycroft smiled and nodded. "Not many people see that though. All through school he was labelled, but never correctly; ADHD, Aspergers, Autistic...In truth I think they did not know what was unusual about him, and sought to label him in order to make him somebody else's business. Nobody wanted the responsibility of taking him on. He has risen admirably above such labels, although he was...damaged in the process I believe. Yet he proves himself to be unique every chance he gets, which does him no favours sometimes."

Greg frowned and shook his head. "Sherlock is a genius. He's flawed and brilliant and hard to live with but underneath, he's basically good. One day, hopefully, he'll show us that he can be."

"I share your belief and hope, Gregory. In fact I could count on the fingers of one hand and still have a few left the times someone has seen that. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being one of them."

Greg blushed at the praise for something that obviously meant so much to the man beside him and ran a distracted hand through his short hair, ruffling the salt and pepper strands. He settled back, feeling uncomfortably aware of his half-dressed status and Mycroft's immaculate appearance. He was feeling less and less inclined to stay up as time passed; he was starting to ache again, his sinuses were stuffed and throbbing, his head was fuzzy and his eyes felt heavy and itchy.

"Think I might go back to bed, lo... er... Mycroft. I'm not... not really up to this any longer." Uncomfortably aware that he had nearly slipped and called Mycroft love, Greg decided he was too woolly-headed to risk his mouth doing...saying, saying, do not think about doing anything with your mouth, you prat...of saying something without his head's approval. He stood up a bit too quickly and wobbled, grabbing the back of a chair to steady himself.

"Gregory, do take things carefully." Mycroft rose quickly and placed a supporting hand beneath the detective inspector's elbow and guided him to the door. "I'll see you back to your bed. I'll have Bennett call on you when dinner is ready, but if you do not feel up to it, then please say so."

Greg nodded and allowed himself to be aided back to his room. It felt good to lean on Mycroft's arm as they walked the short distance, regretting that he had pushed himself into too much, too soon. Despite his physical discomfort he was enjoying the intimacy, the pretence of Mycroft caring for him. It was something he had missed someone doing for him so very much, he was startled to realise just how much.

Once installed back in his warm bed, Greg felt much better. It was good to relax in comfort, despite his stuffed head and aching limbs.

"I shall have Bennett bring you more painkillers, you look as if you need them."

"Thanks, but..." Greg stopped himself. He had been about to ask why Mycroft couldn't do it himself, to keep him company, but then decided it was rather selfish of him considering they were in no way involved and barely knew each other. Instead he smiled bravely and closed his eyes. "Thanks. I'll just get some rest."

"You do so, Gregory." Mycroft closed the door quietly as he left. The elder Holmes was nothing if not observant, more so in fact than his little brother. It was, however, the ability to put those details together in context and with the appropriate emotion so as to extrapolate a meaning from them that was the true skill. He had not missed the catch in Gregory's voice, the hitch in his breathing, not to mention the near invisible tells of body language that conveyed to him that Gregory was trying to appear brave in the face of his desire to not be left alone. He had also exhibited clear signs of being comfortable with Mycroft's help, secure enough in his presence to relax and drop his guard.

"Sir?" Bennett was waiting for him.

"Ah, Bennett. I wonder..." Mycroft stopped, considered and nodded. "It's alright, on second thought, I shall do it. I wonder, after dinner, if you would appreciate the night off? It is Christmas, after all."

"Sir is very kind. I shall be happy to spend a quiet evening in my suite with a mince pie and a glass of brandy, but should you require anything, you will call, won't you, sir? If you require help with Mr Lestrade, for instance?"

Mycroft smiled and nodded. "If you insist, Bennett, although I think we can do without you for one night."

"Very good, sir. Dinner will be served in a half hour's time."

"Would it be possible, Bennett, to have dinner served in Mr Lestrade's room? I think he shouldn't be out of bed again tonight."

"Certainly, sir. Shall I lay a small table near his bed?" Mycroft nodded and Bennett withdrew.

"Here you are, Gregory. I decided I should be the one to fetch you your painkillers," Mycroft announced softly, walking into the room with a barely suppressed flourish a few minutes later. He stopped and smiled. Gregory was asleep, face cuddled into the pillow, snoring slightly. He looked much younger in repose, relaxed and serene. After carefully placing the pill box on the side table, Mycroft reached to pull the covers up over Greg's exposed shoulder and could not resist resting a gentle hand on the man's arm, a comforting press of warmth designed to comfort and reassure, even in slumber. He reflected on the many times he had used such a gesture on Sherlock, not to mention countless times that had lacked the depth of meaning it now held for him. Mycroft also knew that he would never be able to do it to his Gregory without some feeling, without sentiment, behind it. Such was this man's ability to undermine his defences and worm his way into Mycroft's very core.


Greg woke a while later to the gentle sounds of someone moving about in his vicinity. Whoever it was managed to move quietly enough that he might have been there a while without waking the inspector, although Greg knew he was ill enough that a herd of elephants stampeding through there might not have woken him. It was Bennett. The butler had just positioned a small table near the bed and was busy laying it with a crisp white cloth, a festive table runner, a single place setting and silver cutlery. A small vase with a white winter rose and a sprig of holly was meticulously placed on one corner, and two cut-crystal glasses were positioned with military precision nearby. It looked like an intimate dinner in a high class restaurant.

"Bennett?" Greg queried. "What's all this then?"

"Ah, good evening, sir. How does one feel tonight?"

"Actually not as bad as I thought I might," Greg admitted. The rest had done him good. He sniffed and struggled to sit. Bennett was immediately by his side offering a supporting hand under his elbow and adjusting his pillows. Once he was settled, Bennett placed a fresh box of tissues on the bed beside him and then went back to arranging the table. "So what's the occasion?" Greg asked again.

"Mr Mycroft wishes to dine with you, sir, but he did not think it a good idea to expect you to rise from your bed again. Therefore, he requested that I lay a table in your room, so that you could dine together without disrupting your rest. Assuming you wish to eat something tonight?"

"Not really but I suppose I should."

"I shall see what might be done in that regard, sir. Meanwhile, Mr Mycroft suggested that Sir might care for something simple, chicken soup perhaps?"

"Thoughtful of him."

"Mr Mycroft is nothing if not thoughtful, sir." Bennett smiled benignly.

"Soup would be good, I guess. Thank you."

"I am reliably informed that chicken soup has unusual restorative properties, sir. I shall return soon. Is there anything particular that you need right now, sir?"

"Not at the moment, thanks." Bennett nodded and withdrew, closing the door quietly behind him. The next person to appear was Mycroft. The man knocked and popped his head around the door again, waiting to be invited. Greg waved him inside.

"Do you feel any better for your sojourn in bed, Gregory?"

"A bit, yeah. Still feel a bit shit though. Maybe you could call John tomorrow? Get the two of them over for drinks?" Such a thought was obviously new to Mycroft who smiled thoughtfully and nodded, considering silently.

"It would kill two birds with one stone I suppose. It would make the journey worth their while."

"Christ, it won't kill you to spend some quality time with your little brother, My. He's actually not that bad. Whatever happened between you two anyway?"

Mycroft sighed and sat down at the table. "I happened. At a time when Sherlock looked on me as an enemy, rather than a friend. He needed a parent and we had none. Father died and mother...She took it very badly. She had to spend some time in hospital, and naturally it fell to me to care for Sherlock as he was still underage. I was 20, he was 13. It was either that or have him taken into care and that would have killed him. So he had to suffer me trying to parent him, which was far from successful."

"Well, you tried. Kids don't come with a training manual, My, and you were only 20, barely an adult yourself. At least you tried to prevent him suffering a worse fate."

Mycroft sighed and smiled a small somewhat vulnerable smile. He opened his mouth to say more but Bennett arrived at that moment and Mycroft schooled his expression into blandness again while the man served him turkey and all the trimmings. Greg was interested to note Bennett served him a small bowl of thick chicken soup, with a side plate of much smaller portions. A single roast potato, a spoonful of mashed, a small slice of turkey, one ball of stuffing and three small carrots nestled together on a small plate; Christmas dinner in miniature. A generous glass of crisp cool fruit juice accompanied the meal. Mycroft, however, was drinking wine with his.

It was obvious to Greg that whether by Mycroft's design, Bennett's common sense or a combination of the two, Greg himself was benefiting from their care. He found he was touched by their thoughtfulness. Once Bennett had withdrawn again, Greg fixed Mycroft with his attention again. "So, tell me to piss off if you want, I don't want to distress you, but what on earth happened for Sherlock to hate you so much?"

Mycroft sighed dramatically. "It's water under the bridge," he said. "Past, gone. It doesn't upset me as much now. Sherlock was nothing if not difficult. He was trying to find his own identity, and failing, miserably so. He was bullied at school, he hated it, wanted me to sign the forms to change schools. I couldn't. I wasn't his legal guardian. Our mother was still responsible for him even though she was ill. He didn't understand of course. He dashed from one thing to the next, mercurial, never stopping, assimilating everything he could. He defied diagnosis of any disorder, even though the school referred him to several behavioral experts. I tried to understand, to be there for him, to contain him a little and protect the world from him, thereby protecting him from the world, but it didn't work. He railed at the restrictions, the rules I tried to impose. I'm not saying I did the right thing, far from it. I was terrible at it, and I knew then I would be a terrible father, unable to control my own children with any degree of success, so I gave up on that future, and concentrated on Sherlock and my own studies. Mummy eventually got better and I went back to pursuing a career, but the damage was done." Mycroft sighed and sipped his wine. Then he replaced the glass on the table carefully and stared into the middle distance, a frown pulling his brows down. "We are very close in nature, my brother and I, very close in our make-up," Mycroft observed. "Our minds struggle to process the vast amount of sensory input the world has to throw at us sometimes. For myself, I channeled my mental faculties into politics and the problems of government; of diplomacy, of negotiation, treaties, trade agreements, bridges and links and networks. Sherlock found drugs. In a desperate bid to find clarity and focus, he found the opposite, and that, my dear Detective Inspector, is where you found him, all those years later. Found him and dragged him out, albeit metaphorically kicking and screaming..."

"Not so metaphorically sometimes," Greg interjected and Mycroft nodded, his frown somewhat pained.

"Yes, well, you gave him purpose, a reason not to self destruct, and discipline; rules he had to follow in order to achieve his goal. For that I am in your debt."

"You're not indebted to me, Mycroft. I did what I did because it was right, okay?" Greg was uncomfortable with the praise. "I wanted to save him, because he was worth saving. Now, you've managed to save me and if there was a debt, which there wasn't, it would have been paid several times over. So there..." They completed the meal in silence, but it was at least a companionable silence. Greg finishing much faster than Mycroft but he sat quietly, sipping his juice and waiting patiently. Closing his eyes, he drifted, warm and drowsy, lulled by the warmth of the room and the calm quiet presence of his host.

"Gregory, are you alright?" The voice seemed to come from way off and Greg smiled and yawned and opened his eyes to see Mycroft standing by the bed, looking concerned.

"Wha's matter?" he slurred, sleep fogging his brain.

"Dinner is over, everything is cleared, I wanted to make sure you were alright before I retired to bed myself. You dozed off again, but it's quite alright," Mycroft hastened to reassure him as Greg's expression changed to consternation.

"Damn it all, I missed your company."

"No need to fret, Gregory," Mycroft said, his lips quirking up in another smile. "You need your rest. Time enough to chat when you are feeling better, if, indeed, that is what you would want? Now, go back to sleep. I have invited John and Sherlock over for tomorrow afternoon and John has agreed to give you a check up. Would you like a hot drink before you sleep?"

Greg shook his head. "No need," he said sleepily. "Goodnight, love..." His eyes were closed and he heard the door close on Mycroft's exit before he registered what he had said. "Shit," he murmured to himself, before drifting off.


When Boxing Day dawned Greg still felt snotty but the aches had mostly disappeared and he had to concede he was feeling much better; maybe not raring to leap out of bed and run a marathon but at least capable of sitting in front of the television for a while. His temperature was stable and his headache gone and he wolfed down the breakfast Bennett brought him a half hour after he had roused. Mycroft turned up, fully clad in dark gray three piece and a suitably festive tie (green with little holly sprigs), a short while later. He was obviously in a rush but made the time to give his guest apologies for his absence.

"Good morning, Gregory. I have to go out for a while. Needs must while the devil drives. There is a small crisis in the middle east but it shouldn't take long to resolve. I should be back in time for Sherlock and John's visit later. Rest easy and feel free to use the living room as you wish. The television has on-demand available, should you wish to watch a film or sport or something. There is a computer in the study if you want to access the internet and Bennett will be at your disposal for the morning. Just ask him to assist you."

"Thanks, My. Give 'em Hell for disrupting your Christmas."

Mycroft smiled. "Little hope of that, I'm afraid. They do not celebrate as we do."

"Ah well, I hope it isn't too taxing anyway." Greg was careful not to mention of his slight faux pas of the night before and neither did Mycroft. "Make sure you stay safe."

"I shall. You too." Mycroft exited with minimal fuss and a whisper of the door as it shut behind him.

Bugger... Greg realized he had actually been looking forward to some quiet conversation and getting acquainted, although the elephant in the room would have to be addressed, unless he said nothing and if Mycroft mentioned it, he could just say he'd been asleep and didn't remember. Unless...Some part of him actually wanted to discuss it, to say more than that, truth be known.

He lay in bed for a while, content to relax and let his mind drift. Eventually though he was driven to get up because he needed the loo, so he went for a long hot shower, soaking the final aches away. When he came back to the bedroom it was to find fresh clothes—soft dark tracksuit bottoms and a soft navy polo shirt—on the bed laid out for him, and a steaming cup of tea by the bedside. He smiled, unused to the service, but rapidly realising he could get used to it. He sat back on the bed and sipped his tea, then when it was finished, he went in search of the television.


Greg woke slowly, still warm and drowsy, although a dull light was still filtering in through the curtains, a dirty grey illumination that really should not have been awarded the title of Daylight. It looked to be early afternoon or so, confirmed by the clock on the mantle which said it was one fifteen. Memories of Christmas Day rose nicely in his mind as he lay there, chasing the gloom of the day away. It had, frankly, been one of the best Christmases Greg could recall, despite being ill. Moreover there was the promise of something more, if he played his cards right. He smiled and rolled over and came up against the flaw in his plan. He wasn't in bed, he was on the squashy leather couch in the living room and he rolled right off and onto the floor.

"Bollocks!" he swore, as he landed on the thick pile of the rug. Not so bad a landing then, but embarrassing. He was also tangled in a rug that hadn't been there before. Someone's been in and found me then?  He wondered briefly if Mycroft had returned. More likely it was Bennett. The man took his role as caretaker seriously. Greg struggled to stand just as the door opened and he covered by flapping out the blanket and folding it. John was standing there, grinning.

"You fell off, didn't you?" He asked.

"Happy Christmas to you too, you bastard," Greg replied. "You tell Sherlock and I'll bloody murder you."

John held his hands spread placatingly. "I won't, I promise..."

"Lestrade, my dear brother tells me..." Sherlock glanced up from his phone as he strode in the door and paused at John's back, taking in the scene in front of him. Eyes narrowed, he looked at John. "He fell off the couch?" he suggested.

"I didn't say a word," John defended, looking at Greg apologetically.

"It's obvious," Sherlock declared. "You've only just woken up after falling asleep on the couch. Your hair is sticking up on the left side where you've been lying facing the television on the wall. You woke and rolled, your clothes are twisted. The natural progression of such a move is to fall off the couch."

"Thanks for that. How to make me feel like an utter twat."

"Sherlock..." John warned mildly.

"I am merely stating the truth..."

"One of these days you are going to learn about being tactful."

"Tactful? Tact is lying to save someone's feelings. It's still lying, John. Graham has nothing to be ashamed of. He has been ill. It is quite common for someone in his condition to feel disorientated and thus fall out of bed. You have done so before and so have I..."

"It's Greg, you arse," Greg snapped just as John opened his mouth to speak.

"Enough, Sherlock," the doctor said quietly but firmly and even Sherlock got the hint and shut up.

It was quite funny though, Greg thought. He chuckled and shook his head. "Okay, okay, you're right. Not worth getting worked up about." He smoothed his hair down. "Has Mycroft got home yet?"

"Not yet. He texted me to tell me he would be slightly delayed," Sherlock said, brandishing his phone. "But where Mycroft is concerned, that could mean anything from half an hour to a fortnight."

"The Butler let us in," John explained. "I can take the time to check you over though, mate," he said, dropping his bag on the floor by the couch. "Get your shirt off and let's have a look at you."

Ten minutes later John had examined Greg to his satisfaction and pronounced that nothing seemed majorly wrong, just the usual effects of a virus. "Plenty of fluids, light meals little and often, paracetamol and plenty of sleep, Greg. The usual," he said, patting Greg's knee reassuringly.

Greg watched him putting his stethoscope away and smiled. It was reassuring, being the focus of John's skill and care. "Thanks, by the way," Greg offered. "For coming out yesterday?" he added when John raised a quizzical eyebrow.

"Oh, no problem, mate. Friend in need and all that," John said. "Besides," he added, leaning in conspiratorially, "I think Mycroft was panicking a bit."

Greg chuckled, and John joined in, but as luck would have it, Mycroft chose that moment to breeze through the door, full of apologies about middle eastern idiots interrupting the festive season. Greg and John rapidly schooled their features to seriousness, while Mycroft welcomed Sherlock and then John with complements of the season almost in the same breath. Oddly enough, Sherlock said nothing but seemed to be on his best behaviour.

Mycroft was relieved that nothing major seemed to be ailing his guest. "That is very good news. Thank you for your time, John. I am sure Gregory is reassured."

"I am," Greg agreed. "Thanks for that, John."

"No trouble, I'm glad to help. Just take things easy, Greg. You should be fine by New Year."

The next couple of hours was spent in companionable chat between them all, over drinks and snacks in the living room. It wasn't long before Greg had to retire though. He was shattered, and said so.

"Get to bed then," John ordered. "Get your rest."

"Doctor's orders, Gregory. You cannot ignore those."

"Okay, okay, I know when I'm beaten. Goodnight, Sherlock, John. Stay safe." He went back to his room with their good wishes echoing in his ears. He fell into bed with a sigh. So comfortable. He let his eyes drift shut, listening to the muted sounds of people around him, eventually drifting to sleep with the sound of violin music coming from somewhere.

Mycroft finally saw Sherlock and John into the car at a little after 10pm. He watched as his chauffeur manoeuvred the 4x4 away from the kerbside and out into the snowy road, letting the vehicle disappear around the street corner before closing the door. He was halfway back across the hall when the lights went out.

"Oh, bugger," he swore gently, and froze in place. He listened carefully, assessing the situation, waiting for...yes, there it is. There was a soft whir and a few clicks as the emergency backup generator in the basement kicked in. The lights came back on, but not as brightly. Mycroft knew that the house was now in a secure lockdown and the emergency lighting was the only thing back on line aside from the alarm system. There would be no power wasted on heating. His phone vibrated in his pocket.

"Holmes," he snapped. "Well, it's about time. What took you so long? This call should have been made the moment the electric went down..." He huffed an annoyed little sigh as he listened to the apologies and explanations on the other end of the line. "Thank you, Yes. Yes, I'm fine, but the system will need resetting... What? Don't tell me you can't send someone until tomorrow..." Mycroft sighed, dramatically. "I don't care if it happens to be Christmas. One of my guests is not well. I need the heating back online.... Very well. I will expect you to arrive then, not a moment later or heads will roll." He hit the button to terminate the call with more force than than was strictly necessary.

"Is anything wrong, sir?" Mycroft turned to see Bennett on the stairs.

"Apparently, we have a power outage at the local exchange. I am reassured that no one has attempted to breach our defences, there are no assassins at our walls, we only have our weather to blame, but although the energy company is on it, the job is still likely to take them a few hours. Anthea is on her way, but my immediate concern is Gregory. He needs to keep warm..."

"I shall put a kettle on the gas hob and make up some hot water bottles, sir. That should tide you both over. The gas is still functioning, providing I light it with a match."

"Excellent idea, Bennett. Please do that." Anthea chose that moment to text and Mycroft turned his attention to answering her request for a status update.

Greg roused in the early hours, restless and a bit uncomfortable. He moved, turning over, and came up against something unexpected; a living, breathing something that was lying beside him under the covers. Greg frowned as Mycroft's eyes opened and he stared back, watched the realization hit the man as awareness came into the blue eyes; awareness of the probability that he had done something very, very wrong. 




Greg was amazed at just how much emotion one small syllable could convey. He heard regret, guilt, shame, fear and desire in the sound, watched those same emotions chase each other through the man's eyes in a millisecond. There was also care and concern there too, almost hidden as they were by the dominating fear that he'd done the wrong thing. In the next second, Mycroft tried to back away, attempting to untangle himself from the blankets and vacate the bed. Greg shot out a hand to stop him, fingers closing on Mycroft's arm.

Greg didn't think, even for a moment. He simply sat up and closed the gap between them, pressing his lips to Mycroft's in a chaste kiss, wanting to wipe out the doubts and show the man how he felt, to thank him for everything and leave him in no doubt that Greg appreciated all of it, every thought and action, even finding him here, in his bed, like this. He felt Mycroft stiffen and freeze in shock, then begin to relax against him, giving in to the feelings coursing through his body and mind. Greg pressed his advantage, winding his arms around the man beside him, pulling him even closer. "Gregory," Mycroft gasped, pulling away a little, stiffening up, resisting the arms that held him. Greg reluctantly let him go.

"Damn, sorry, I'm sorry. And there I was saying how I didn't want you to catch anything..."

"What? No...please, do not concern yourself with that. I claim full responsibility. I just ....I never intended for this to...to...I should go..."

"Hey, it's okay," Greg soothed. "I'm sorry... Did I get the wrong idea?"

"I only intended to keep you warm," Mycroft tried to explain. "There was a power failure after you went to bed last night, and the house went into lockdown..."


"A security measure, in case someone should try breaking in. If the electricity is compromised, the entire circuit is disrupted which results in all ingress points being sealed to prevent incursion. Shutters and the like."

"Oh, right. Everything's okay, though? I mean, it was just a power cut?"

"Yes, of course. Nothing more sinister than the effects of the inclement weather on a local electricity grid, that was all. Unfortunately the power company took rather longer than expected to effect repairs. I brought you hot water bottles but when I checked on you later I found that you were shivering..." He watched incredulously as the smile widened on Gregory's face. " I...I considered it would be best if...if we...well, shared a bed...Considering my bedroom would also be cold..."

"Then I should thank you," Greg said.

"It was my intent to be back to my own bed before you woke...I had no desire to place either of us in a compromising situation..."

"Well, then I'm glad that you stayed. And you haven't, not really. Well, I don't feel compromised."

"You don't? You mean...you don't mind?"

"Do I look like I mind? Why should I?"

"Because...well, you're...were...married...to a woman..."

"Not exactly happily," Greg replied. "However, gender had nothing to do with it. We separated because she'd had enough of me, not because of my sexual orientation. The divorce is nearly complete so the marriage part is a bit moot too. We gave it the requisite separation first but she's happy with her PE teacher. We tried to work it out but..." He shook his head. "She's not coming back." Greg couldn't pretend he was unaffected though. He fell silent and watched Mycroft's expression cycle through a few more emotions as the man sat there on the edge of the bed trying to process Greg's words. "I really don't mind you being here, Mycroft. In fact, I want you to stay." Greg dared to reach out and lay his hand on the back of Mycroft's hand, warm fingers gentle against his skin. He trailed his thumb across Mycroft's knuckles, then leaned in and kissed him again, this time on the cheek.

Mycroft turned his head, one eyebrow lifted in quizzically. "Gregory...Trust me, I won't catch your flu," he insisted.

"You might. Look, Mycroft, some friend I would be if I risked your health. That wouldn't sit well with me at all and I'm really too close as it is."

Mycroft sighed and then nodded. "Very well, I shall bow to your judgement. However, am I correct in my assumption...would you be open to...a relationship, between us?"

Greg smiled at Mycroft's hesitancy, even now still unsure of his ground. "If you'd like us to give it a go, Mycroft, then I'm happy to try. Might be best to...well, to leave any...intimacies until I'm, you know, well enough..."

"Of course, Gregory, that should go without saying. However, that should not stop us...canoodling?"

Greg laughed. "Is that what you call it?"

Mycroft blushed and stammered an apology. "I...I am sorry, Gregory. I am sometimes a little old-fashioned in my outlook."

"Nothing wrong in that. I sometimes prefer Mr Darcy to Mr Bond anyway." That teased a smile out of the man sitting beside him so he raised his hand again and stroked Mycroft's cheek, allowing his thumb to stroke across Mycroft's lips. "Are you absolutely sure you want this too?" Greg reached out and offered an arm, and was gratified when Mycroft shifted to lie back down and settled within the circle of his embrace. He tightened his arm around Mycroft and the man laid his head on Greg's shoulder.

"It is quite alright, Gregory," Mycroft admitted, resting his hand on Greg's chest. "I have admired you for a long time."

"You have?" Greg watched Mycroft trace a random pattern with his fingertips across the t-shirt covering his chest. His touch was light, gentle.

"Of course, but you were happily married, or so I thought. I would never have done anything to damage that. You... you mean far too much to me."

"Why? I mean...beyond my usefulness as your brother's minder...What am I to you, really? An experiment? A teacher? I have no idea what the hell a man with your status would see in a working class lad like me."

Mycroft scoffed, and Greg felt him tense under his arm. "First, let me address the matter of you being, as you put it, my brother's minder. That you most certainly are not. You have cared for him in the past, but he has John Watson for that now. Second, you are definitely not an experiment, Gregory! If you are willing to teach me, then I would be more than grateful. I am lacking in experience of intimate matters, and you are a compassionate dedicated man with a generous helping of integrity and humour."

"Now you're just embarrassing me..."

"It's the truth. I see these things in you every time I lay eyes on you." Mycroft's lips quirked into an impish smile. "Not to mention the fact that you possess status as a silver fox of some note. I am not your only admirer, Gregory."

Greg laughed. "Me? A Silver Fox?"

"Of course," Mycroft smiled. "You have quite the following at the Yard, Gregory. Are you the only one who does not know this?"

"Honestly, I have no idea what you're talking about, apart from my colleagues trying to set me up with every available female they know." Greg frowned. What have I missed? Was something going on behind his back at work? Mycroft smiled, knowingly.

"The ladies on the force are quite discerning, not to mention one or two of the men as well. They're running a little list of their top ten who fall into the silver fox bracket. You are currently their number two."

"Me? You're kidding. Who happens to be number one then?"

"DCI Wetherby, I believe."

"Bob Wetherby? Well, I'm flattered. He's at least eight years younger than me, so I can't be doing badly."

"The next nearest is DI Hook..."

"He's 48 and he's a charmer, so no surprise there. So I'm beating Hooky, eh? Wonders will never cease. And you know all this because..."

"Why, Gregory. I make it my business to know these things."

"Yeah, I can believe that," Greg admitted, mouth curving in a wry grin. "It's Anthea, isn't it? I bet she works undercover to make sure you keep abreast of the situation... "

"Anthea is most definitely an invaluable asset to my office."

"She certainly is," Greg agreed. "Anyway, bet you're the top of the list in your office."

"Regrettably I figure on no one's list, Gregory. I am ginger, despite a certain dark hue to my locks. I freckle, and moreover my features are rather too sharp for attractiveness. I have a rather prominent nose and my hair is receding. I am rather lacking in features that would pin me as desirable..."

"Nah, can't believe that. I think you're too bloody scary and they don't want to risk your wrath by putting you on their wish lists."

"Either I am too scary, as you put it, or I am simply not attractive enough to capture anyone's following."

"Well, you've got mine." Gregory's cheeky smile lit his face but his meaning was sincere. Maybe there is a God, Mycroft thought. At least, something was on his side; to have this...adonis, there is no other descriptive word suitable for the perfection that is Gregory Lestrade...in his bed, and to be in bed with him and not have him complain or run away or throw him out, and to cap it all, to have said Adonis hint at attraction? Reality had taken a sideways tilt and Mycroft had to be witnessing a parallel universe. That was the only explanation because such things did not happen to him. He did not believe in luck or coincidence; the universe was rarely so lazy. Such a one as he spent life alone, not wedded to the most perfect of partners...

"You," Greg said, "are overthinking things. Stop it."


"Stop. It," Greg repeated. "Won't tell you again. I can see that big brain of yours busy finding reasons why nobody likes you or finds you attractive. Stop it, because you're gorgeous. At least you are to me, and honestly, Mycroft, I don't want anyone else finding you attractive. You think I want competition?"

Now I'm going deaf. Mycroft was certain he hadn't heard correctly. The thought that Gregory found him attractive was whizzing around his brain vying for space with the thought that Gregory did not want competition where that attraction was concerned. Exclusivity then? Oh my... "Gregory, would you...I mean, am I correct in thinking...you want...you...?"

"You know, I bet they're in awe of your eloquence when you sit in on all those diplomatic talks and treaty negotiations..." "

Blast it, Gregory, I did tell you plainly that I am not au fait with relationships!" Mycroft burst out. "It is not my forte, and I am far from being well-versed in the nuances of interaction between potential mates. I have no idea how to proceed. I am floundering on the rocks of my ignorance in such matters..."

Greg smiled. There was honesty in the tirade and just a little desperation cracking the facade. "Easy, Mycroft. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to tease you..." Mycroft huffed and looked a bit lost. Greg reached out again and cupped his cheek gently. "How do you want to proceed? You want us to go further?"

"I would like us to at least try, provided you wish the same."

"Of course I do, Mycroft."

"Then I believe we have successfully negotiated our treaty."

"Treaty, hm? Wasn't aware we were at war..."

"Rather more of a trade agreement, I would have thought."

"Exchanging goods and services?" Greg chuckled and Mycroft smiled.

"If you wish, although it might be considered more of a cultural exchange."

"Now I know you're taking the piss. Cultured? Me? I prefer fish and chips and a pint to a swanky dinner and the opera. I'm afraid that's not really my division."

"Dear me, Gregory, I can see this is going to be very educational, on both our parts. You can acquaint me with your choice of greasy spoon and I can introduce you to Madam Butterfly."

"Madam who?"

"It's an opera."

"Right, I can see I have a lot to learn."

"I shall enjoy being your teacher, Gregory, as much, I think, as I shall enjoy also being your student."

Greg rolled his eyes. "Tell me what after I've taken you for fish and chips on a Friday night in Islington."

"Is that a date, Gregory?"

"It can be, if you want it to be. Piss poor date compared to the Savoy and the Royal Opera House though."

"No matter, I accept."


"Really. I would be with you, which would make it perfect no matter what we do."

"Flatterer. Okay then, you're on. So, treaty signed?"

"Signed, sealed and delivered. In my experience, such occasions are usually marked with a celebration of some kind."

"Well, in my world we simply go down the pub for a pint."

"That is where your world and mine differ considerably," Mycroft observed. "I sense another cultural exchange coming on. I have not been the inside of in a public house in decades."

"Nah, course not. That doesn't surprise me. You poncy lot favour wine bars, don't you? Or your club." "

The Diogenese? Of course. One cannot find such a well-stocked bar and cellar anywhere else in London, not to mention its restaurant. That is second to none. Of course, there is also an abundance of silence. A balm for the chaos of one's everyday existence."

"And here's me thinking that a good single malt was all you needed for that," Greg deadpanned. "That or a good shag." Despite their easy banter and close proximity, the offers of dates and intimacy, the suddenness of the suggestion caught Mycroft off guard. He had found himself entranced by the dark brown eyes gazing at him with warmth and humour. He had once scoffed at the description of eyes that danced, but here was a man who owned just such a thing, a pair of brown eyes that twinkled with such cheerful audacity...and then that statement, said without inflection, a simple stated fact, with the barest hint of mischief. To hear him plainly state his preference to...intercourse... Mycroft clamped his mouth shut on a response. He would not risk being reduced to opening and shutting his mouth like a goldfish and then babbling nonsense, and he was in serious danger of doing just that. What is it about this man that he can reduce me to mush just by opening his mouth? Mycroft watched as doubt crept into Gregory's expression and he frowned.

"Sorry, Mycroft. That was crass of me..."

And kindly do not direct those soft brown eyes and that contrite puppy gaze on me, Gregory, that is patently not fair! "Please, Gregory...you are only being yourself... Oh, Damnation, no, no, no..." Mycroft stuttered. "That's not what I meant at all. I..."

"Mycroft...stop..." Greg began to laugh. Mycroft's expression was priceless; horror at the unintended insult, warring with amusement at his own faux pas. It was music to Greg's ears when Mycroft suddenly joined in, a surprisingly deep and spontanious belly laugh that had Greg renewing his mirth and clinging to the other man for support, despite the fact they were both still prone in bed. Had they been standing, Greg was sure they would have ended up on the floor. They subsided, eventually, gasping for breath and staring at each other from inches away. Suddenly, neither man seemed to know what to do next.

"Let's...take things...naturally," Greg suggested. "You know...let whatever is going to...develop, well, let it develop..." he waved a hand, searching for the right words.

"I believe that the phrase you are looking for is in its own time?" Mycroft suggested helpfully.

"That's it exactly. In it's own time. Couldn't have said it better myself. I'm still not well. My stamina isn't great...You understand? Do you mind if we...well, do what I suggested and leave intimacies until I'm properly well?"

"I am fully supportive of such," Mycroft agreed, trying not to look as relieved as he felt. "However, I think we both need to sit down and talk things through, preferably alone. I perceive issues arising from a partnership such as this that prudence suggests be talked through fully and honestly..."  

Greg grinned. "Okay, we'll talk, when and only when I'm better. I'm still a bit woolly-headed, so Prudence can sit on her suggestion for a while."

"Gregory...I was referring to the virtue, not a person..."

"And I was joking." Greg smiled as the realisation crossed Mycroft's face. "Oh, just shut up and give me a hug?" Greg watched Mycroft smile indulgently and both men wrapped their arms around the other and held tight. Eventually, content and warm, both of them drifted back to sleep for what was left of the night.


Greg woke a few hours later coughing feeling stomach and chest muscles complain under the strain. He eventually rolled to lie on his back, out of breath and feeling exhausted, only to realise there was nobody in the bed with him. Disappointed, he stared at the ceiling and sighed heavily.

"Oh, but that was another of your careworn sighs, Gregory. Am I to understand from such a weary exhalation that you are feeling no better?" Mycroft negotiated his way through the bedroom door carrying a tray laden with what looked like breakfast paraphernalia, including a steaming tea pot. He looked...different somehow. More relaxed.

For a moment, Greg toyed with saying something sappy like better now you're here, but he decided against it. Mycroft wasn't necessarily the overly sentimental type, despite his significant sympathy and support for his guest. "Not too bad, I guess," he replied instead, aiming for honesty as he studied his...what? They were not lovers yet. Significant other? That made him smile. "Just a bit worn down, that's all. You okay?"

"I'm perfectly fine, thank you." Mycroft put the tray down on the table and turned to face him. "Would you be up to joining me in partaking of some breakfast? You should endeavor to keep your strength up."

Greg swung his feet out of bed and reached for his robe. "It all smells great, but I need the loo. Be back in a tick." Greg made quick use of the ensuite but caught sight of himself in the mirror as he washed his hands and grimaced. "God, I look bloody awful," he muttered, scrubbing his face with his hands. Several days worth of stubble scratched beneath his palms, there were dark shadows under his eyes and every wrinkle was thrown into stark relief by the bathroom light. He was badly in need of a shave and that was the least of it.

"Gregory, what on earth ails you?" Mycroft was on his feet so fast when his dear Gregory exited the bathroom he nearly tipped his chair over, but the man looked terrible; grim-faced and unsteady on his feet. "Do I need to call John? You look as if you have suffered a relapse."

Greg felt a firm hand beneath his elbow and he found himself helped solicitously to a chair at the table. "It's okay, I'm alright. Just saw myself in the mirror, that's all. Jesus, I look ill, My. What on earth do you see in me?"

"Is that all? Gregory, you are bound to look a little worn..."

"A little?" The incredulity was clear. "Look at me. Even I would cross the street to avoid me. I look like a tramp."

Mycroft huffed a sigh and suppressed a wry smile. "Alright then," he conceded. "Maybe you do look a bit more worn than I suggested, but I was trying to be polite, and encouraging. Gregory, you are still in recovery. Of course you will look less than your best yet, and bathroom mirrors are the least flattering of any reflective surface in the known world, but none of that matters. It is not a permanent change. Besides..." an elegant eyebrow arched upward, accompanied by a very uncharacteristic cheeky smile "...I think it gives you a somewhat rakish air." Mycroft squeezed Greg's hand. "When you feel up to it, I shall call my barber and he will spruce you up. He is a master of making one feel human again. Until then, pay it no mind. I do not."

"If you say so." Greg watched as Mycroft busied himself pouring tea and serving him his breakfast. "What's all this then? Did you give Bennett the day off?" he asked casually.

"I am quite capable of serving us breakfast, Gregory," Mycroft said reproachfully. "Bennett is out of the house, pursuing his shopping duties, so I took it upon myself to bring you breakfast in bed. Besides, I have it on my list of achievable goals that I make you breakfast as often as I can."

"Oh, you do, do you?" Greg grinned. "Well, I am being spoiled. This is nice." He accepted a cup of tea and sipped experimentally. Perfect. "Something else occurred to me, Mycroft. This is grand, really, but what about my work? I will need to return to my job sometime soon."

"Again, that is not necessarily a problem right now. I would prefer it if you took the proper amount of time to recuperate, but I do understand that your work might not be sympathetic to an extended period of sick leave, certainly not without the requisite medical forms. Now, while I can have my own doctor effect that for you, it might be simpler to have Anthea contact your DCI. Until further notice, your services can be seconded to MI6, namely to my department, about which you will not be at liberty to discuss, may I add. Official secrets and all that, so there should be no awkward questions. So, you may relax, recuperate here, and help me with my research for a week or so, then you can return to work, feed them some believable poppycock about having been consulted by MI6 concerning some anti-terrorism protocols and then carry on where you left off. How would that suit?"

Greg stared at him incredulously. "You devious bastard!" he murmured, more in respect than anything else.

"Thank you." Mycroft acknowledged the epithet as a complement and sipped his tea. "Do I take that as an affirmative?"

"Research, hm?" Greg prompted.

"Of course, Gregory. If you want a reason, I find I am in need of an interdepartmental liaison to foster goodwill and increase the entente cordiale between MI6 and the Metropolitan Police. I will need to consult an expert to suggest how that might be encouraged." There was a wry edge to his voice which made Greg smirk.

"Foster goodwill, hm?"

"Oh yes, indeed."

"Expert, eh?"

"Of course. You have years of experience under your belt, and as such, I find you are admirably suited to the role. Your skills in diplomacy are exceptional. Your infinite patience with my brother is testament to that. I need look no further for potential candidates, Inspector. You fulfil all the requirements listed in the job description."

"There's a job description?"

"Most certainly. I believe it cites diplomacy as an essential requirement, not to mention exceptional negotiation skills, at least five years experience of dealing with demanding personnel and the ability to maintain an air of professional detachment when faced with a grown man throwing a temper tantrum. All of which I have seen you display at some point or another in the last few years. So, would you be interested in such a prestigious role, Gregory?"

"That has to be the weirdest job description in history."

"An unusual role requires a unique person, I find. Besides, if I am to effect the best outcome with regard to the relations between our two departments, then I require someone with singular talent."

"Entente cordiale, mon cher?"

"Mais oui, mon coeur," Mycroft said without missing a beat, his smile genuine. "Alors, allez-vous prendre l'emploi?"

"Oui, mais il ya une condition."

"Oh? Et qu'est-ce que ce serait?"

"Tu," Greg murmured. "Tu est mon désir, mon bel homme." He watched Mycroft blush and smiled. "Didn't you guess I could speak French then? Considering I let slip that I have French ancestors?"

"Gregory, I find I am learning something new about you every day. I will never get bored with that, mon renard argenté."

Greg laughed. "Did you just call me your silver fox?"

"Of course. If the cap fits..." Mycroft chuckled. "So, can I tell my superiors that you'll take the job? Having a foreign language under one's belt is also advantageous and it appears you have more than one. Your ability to converse fluently in Sherlock is more than satisfactory under the circumstances."

"My ability to speak that particular language is rudimentary at best but I'm finding practice makes perfect. I'll do my very best to foster good relations, Mr Holmes. Just give me chance. Can start right now in fact." He leaned in and snaked a hand around Mycroft's neck, pulling him close for another kiss. Then Greg paused, pulled back and looked Mycroft in the eye. "Hang on. Superiors? Are you serious? Since when did you have superiors?"

Mycroft chuckled. "Gregory, you of all people should know I am merely a minor servant of the Crown."

Greg smiled. "I know, you have access to the Nation's security via your laptop and Priority Ultra Clearance at Baskerville. Of course you have a minor position."

"I actually do have superiors, you know. Well, I have...colleagues," Mycroft amended. "A few whose counsel it becomes necessary to seek whenever the more difficult decisions are required. It is not prudent for the powers that be to see one person making the decisions all the time. It worries them and then they try to legislate against it. Tiresome but there you are. Otherwise, I am pretty much autonomous. However, even I have to abide by British Law. Otherwise, what is my purpose?"

"Good enough for me," Greg said and leaned in again, savouring another—far less chaste—kiss this time. "How's that for entente cordiale?" he asked, when he pulled back.

"We'll make an ambassador of you yet," Mycroft smiled.

Greg choked back a laugh. "And a Joyeux Noel to you too...I'll be fetching out the Ferrero Rocher¹ next."

"Ugh, I hope not. I am somewhat ambivalent where nuts in chocolate are concerned."

"Ah, you're a purist then?"

"Not necessarily. I simply think nuts are nice...Gregory, please!" Mycroft admonished the man, exasperated at the innuendo Greg's cheeky grin and eyebrow wiggle suggested.

"Okay, sorry," he said, looking not one wit contrite.

"As I was about to say, I like nuts, and I adore chocolate, just not in the same confection."

"I adore Turkish delight," Greg said."Just for the record, in case you were stuck for a romantic gift...And my middle name is Jonathan, you know, in case you were looking for baby names..."

"Baby names? Why would...oh. Gregory, are you suggesting...? Good Lord, I find that a little forward..."

"Who knows what the future might bring, Mycroft?" Greg flashed another cheeky grin.

"Isn't it a bit early to even be joking about such things?" Mycroft asked.

"Well, everybody needs a goal in life," Greg replied. "Oh, Goodness sake, Myc. Loosen up. I am joking. Nevertheless, if you don't have some ambition you never achieve anything. Now, where were we? I believe we were exploring the entente cordiale?"

"And I was about to explore my scrambled eggs, before they turn cold," Mycroft scolded him gently. "Come now, Gregory, eat something. We'll have plenty of time to explore our fledgeling relationship after breakfast." Greg grumbled something. "I beg your pardon, Gregory? I didn't quite hear you."

"I said, you teasing bastard!"

"I aim to please," Mycroft forked a mouthful of egg and chewed, a little primly, but his eyes told a different story. Greg could see the thinly veiled mirth beneath the surface. He laughed and shook his head, then applied himself to his food, watching Mycroft eat.

"You should get some more rest, Gregory," Mycroft was saying. Greg realised he had been drifting again, dozing comfortably in his bed again after finishing his food.

"Wha...?" he sat forward a bit quickly and reeled, dizzy.

"Careful, my dear, don't move too fast."

"I know." The reply came out a little sharply and Greg was immediately apologetic. "Damn, I'm sorry, sorry. I'm a bit...I dunno, scratchy..."

"Most convalescents are," Mycroft said understandingly. "I perceive you have particular issues with being immobile for any significant length of time. However, while I applaud your desire to get back to work, you do need to make sure your body rests properly and takes on the correct nourishment, otherwise you will not recover as quickly as you wish to. Now take heed and rest. There is plenty of time."

"Plenty of time for what?"

For a moment, Mycroft looked a bit confuddled, blinking like a thoughtful owl, but he rallied and smiled encouragingly and said "Anything you like, my dear. I was merely stating that there is no rush; no demands upon your time, no pressing engagements, no need to hurry over anything. That was all. You can rest and recuperate to your heart's content."

"Only on one condition."


"Yeah. I'll rest on one condition."

"And what would that be?"

"You sleep here, in my bed, with me."

"You want me to sleep with you? What, now?"

"Yes, My. Keep me company. You just said there are no pressing engagements."

"Well, I..."


Damn it, Gregory, you are turning those appealing eyes upon my person again! "Well...I dare say...I don't suppose I would be averse..."

"Look, I did say I wasn't up to any...shenanigans, until I was better. I meant it. I promise to keep my hands to myself..."

"Well now, that's rather a pity," Mycroft murmured quickly.

Greg blinked, speechless for once. "Bloody Hell, Mycroft..." he said when he did find his voice. Mycroft smirked and picked up the tray. "I shall be back soon, Gregory. Rest easy until I return." Then he was gone through the door, taking the tray back downstairs.

"Cock tease," Greg murmured, before closing his eyes again.


Next part of Winter's Tale.