Greg had expected surprises when he got involved with Mycroft Holmes. Some of them were amusing, like the favorite pajamas with a star pattern that made Mycroft look like a wizard. Some of them reminders of the dangerous life he led, like learning the various locations of firearms in most of the rooms of the house. Some of them were sad, like Mycroft telling him about a lover he’d lost.
But of all the things he learned, Greg was perhaps most surprised to find out that Mycroft had a dog. Mycroft had never struck him as a pet person. If anything, perhaps some fish, or an aloof cat. If he’d thought of a dog he’d have assumed only the finest pedigree. But no the first time he’d come to Mycroft’s home he’d been greeted by an old dog of indeterminate breed, brown and silver haired, making her way slowly down the hall towards them.
Mycroft had smiled and held out his hand. She nuzzled him and he pet behind her ears. “This is Ramadi. She’s a good dog.”
“Most dogs are,” smiled Greg, giving her a rub himself.
Ramadi had followed them through the house as they retired to the sofa and, eventually, went upstairs to sleep. She’d curled up in a dog bed near Mycroft’s side falling asleep when they did.
As Greg spent more time with Mycroft, he spent more time with Ramadi too. He could see Mycroft’s gentle affection for her. Sometimes Greg would bring her treats and she would wag her tail at him. It was clear Mycroft was making her last years of life comfortable and well cared for.
One afternoon Greg was doing some tidying when he came across a photo album. Curious, he opened it, expecting perhaps some family pictures. Instead he found page after page of dogs. Old dogs, sometimes in twos and threes, but more often alone. He recognized the background in some of the pictures as this same house. Greg sank to a seat as he looked through the book.
Mycroft slipped in as Greg reached the last page, a picture of Ramadi already in it’s place. Greg rubbed his eyes and looked up at Mycroft. “You had all these dogs?”
Nodding, Mycroft sat next to him and took the book, flipping back to the first page. “I was in my early twenties and I was feeling alone. Distrusting human companionship, I went to the animal shelter instead. Most everyone was cooing over the puppies or the more active dogs. Henry was sitting quietly by himself, just watching. I asked about him and found he was a senior and had been there for several months already. I took him home with me, and I could tell he was just happy to have a human. He passed less than a year later, I went back to the shelter, and came back with Rita.”
Mycroft smiled sadly. “I knew I wouldn’t have much time with any of them, but I also knew that I had the power to make their last days good ones. Most of them simply wanted affection and a warm place to sleep. The shelter called me a few times when they had an old dog that was near to being put down, and I’ve always taken them.”
Greg leaned over and kissed his cheek. “You’re an amazing man, Mycroft.”
He gently closed the album. “All lives end, all hearts are broken,” he said softly.
“And you’ve loved every one of them,” said Greg.
Mycroft inclined his head and stood, putting the album back on a shelf. Ramadi looked up at him, wagging her tail.
He sat next to her, rubbing her head and speaking quietly to her. Greg kissed the top of his head and went out to see about dinner. Dogs were probably better at keeping state secrets too.
Later that night they lay together in bed. Mycroft curled into Greg and he kissed the top of his head. “Mycroft?”
“You deserve love too, you know that, right?”
Mycroft sighed. “Despite your earlier declarations, I don’t think I’m quite, as you say, a good man.”
Greg tilted up his chin and kissed him soundly. “You’re a man doing your best. Like we all do. I love you.”
Mycroft smiled softly. “I love you too.”
Greg kissed him again and cuddled him to his chest, feeling Mycroft sigh and relax.
Greg seemed to move in almost by accident. He started keeping things at Mycroft’s, then more things, then spent most nights. When his lease was up he finished moving things over. Living with Mycroft felt as natural as breathing.
Ramadi was good for him as well, he found. On nights when Mycroft worked late, he and Ramadi would curl up in the study to wait. Greg would pretend to not watch the clock. Ramadi would keep his feet warm. Sometimes Greg would talk to her too.
One evening, after a particularly rough few days on a case, he opened the door and didn’t see Ramadi. His heart skipped, but then Mycroft was there, taking his coat. “She’s fine. Sherlock is with her,” he murmured.
“Oh,” said Greg softly.
Mycroft took his hand and led him to the study. Greg knew Sherlock had been having a few bad days.
They peeked into the study. Sherlock was curled up on his side on the floor, petting Ramadi and speaking quietly to her. Ramadi’s chin was on his elbow and she seemed to be watching his face.
Mycroft drew him back and kissed him, leading him into the kitchen where John was making supper. John gave them a wave and went back to what he was doing.
“It helps,” said Mycroft as they took a seat.
“Yes, I can see that. And I’m glad.” He picked up Mycroft’s hand and kissed his knuckles.
Mycroft’s eyes darted to John; Greg knew Mycroft still wasn’t quite comfortable with showing affection in front of people.
“It’s your house,” said John, without looking at them.
Greg smiled. “I think he’s picking up mind reading from Sherlock,” he said quietly.
Mycroft chuckled. “If only all talents could be passed along by exposure.”
By the time dinner was ready, Sherlock and Ramadi had joined them. Ramadi stayed by Sherlock’s feet and they spoke about lighter things, none of them mentioning the upset still lying like a ghost on Sherlock’s features.
John and Sherlock went home not long after supper. Ramadi saw them out, then came back to Mycroft. He scratched behind her ears. “Good girl.”
Greg leaned over and kissed him. “Good big brother.”
Mycroft shrugged. “I need to do some work,” he said, taking Ramadi into his office while Greg finished up the dishes.
A week or so later, Greg got home late from work. He was tired, but still smiled as he heard Ramadi approach. He blinked, seeing something hanging from her collar.
“What do you have there, girl?”
Greg sat on the floor and gently freed the small box, giving her pets before opening the box. He realized it was a ring box, but instead of a ring there was a note. “Come to the garden.”
Feeling tears well up already, Greg clutched the box and headed for the back door, Ramadi close on his heels. The light was on, and he opened the door slowly.
The entire patio was festooned with flowers, air thick with their perfume. Mycroft had been sitting with a book, but at the door opening he slipped down to one knee.
“Oh my God,” said Greg. He froze in the doorway until Ramadi nudged his leg, wanting to go out with him.
Greg stepped out. “Yes, Mycroft. Christ.”
Mycroft smiled at him. “Not even going to let me get out my speech I’ve been working on for two weeks?”
Greg gave a watery chuckle and sat down next to him. “By all means, go on.”
Ramadi sat and watched them as Mycroft declared his love, his desire, and his promise to spend the rest of his life with Greg.
Greg watched him slide on the ring, then gathered him in his arms, kissing him deeply, heart full to bursting with love.
A month later they were married on that same patio, in a small ceremony attended only by their closest friends. Ramadi was the ring bearer for that too.
Only a week after the wedding, Greg took a call from Mycroft at work. His new husband’s voice shook as he gave him the news that Ramadi had passed some time that morning. Greg left his job, hurrying to Mycroft’s side.
They did what they needed to do, and Greg held Mycroft as he wept. Mycroft finally swallowed and looked up at him. “I must admit, this is easier with you here.”
Greg kissed his temple. “You never have to go through this alone again.”
“You’re okay with getting another one?” Mycroft searched his face.
“Of course I am. Whenever you’re ready.”
Mycroft kissed him and curled into his arms. Greg rocked him gently, rubbing his back, being the support he’d promised to be.
A few days later, Mycroft held Greg’s hand as they walked into the shelter. The staff clearly knew him, expressing their sympathy, bringing him back past the puppies and the young dogs chasing their tails.
“This is Lady and Tramp,” the worker smiled fondly. “They came in together and wouldn’t be separated. Belonged to a woman who recently passed, her children couldn’t take them.”
Mycroft let go of Greg and moved gently towards the pair. Tramp moved in front of Lady, clearly a bit protective, but after a few moments he relented.
After giving them a minute or two together, Greg joined him. Mycroft sat on the floor, for once not minding his suit. Lady rest her head on his leg and looked up at him with big eyes.
“Of course we’re taking them, right?” asked Greg.
They brought the pair home and that evening Greg took a picture of Mycroft sitting with them. That was the photo he slipped into the album a few days later. After all, Mycroft, should be in here too, with the dogs he’d loved and cared for. It was hard, loving and losing, but Mycroft had done it for years. No matter what he might claim, Greg knew that Mycroft’s heart was giant and warm, and beat for those he cared about.
Greg closed the album and put it back into it’s place. Old dogs needed love and sometimes, if they were very lucky, people found it too.