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Mycroft's eyes crept open, protesting at the bright sunlight streaming through the half-opened curtains.  Whoever was operating the jackhammer inside his skull was exceedingly rude, he thought grimly.  He hadn't had a hangover like this since his university days.  He saw the glass of water and two paracetamol tablets sitting on the night table, and gratefully took them.  The cool water helped alleviate the feeling of cotton wool on his tongue, and he hoped the paracetamol would soon quiet the painful pulsing in his head.

Slowly, he looked around the room.  This is not my bedroom.  Where the hell am I?  he thought with alarm.  At least he didn't wake up to a stranger beside him.  Small comfort there.

He realized that not only was he in a stranger’s bed, he was completely nude.  His boxers, socks, and shoes lay on the floor beside the bed, and his suit was hung up neatly on the back of the closed bedroom door.  His wallet and phone lay nearby on the top of the dresser. 

Moving carefully, so he wouldn't jar his aching head more than absolutely necessary, he rose from the bed and walked into the loo.  He saw a pale man with mussed-up hair and blood-shot eyes staring back at him from the mirror.  With a sigh, he splashed cold water on his face and smoothed his hair down as best he could.  The reflection was somewhat improved.  He returned to the bedroom and got dressed.

He listened at the door for a moment, and heard someone lightly humming, and dishes clinking. Someone is here, he thought.  I can only assume it's the resident of this flat, who apparently brought me home last night. 

He had very little memory of the night before, except that he was with Sherlock and a number of his brother's friends, celebrating some occasion.  It was of little consequence now. 

Well, I might as well face her, he thought, and quietly opened the door.  When he saw the figure moving around the small kitchen, he froze.

"Well, good afternoon, Mycroft," Lestrade grinned.  "Tea and toast?  I expect you're a bit under the weather."

"Y-y-yes, please. Thank you, Lestrade," Mycroft stammered, clearly quite perplexed.

A cup of mint tea and a plate of dry toast appeared before Mycroft, as he took a seat at the small table. 

"Lestrade?  So formal!  Last night, I was Gregory.  I prefer that, actually."

"Ok, then... Gregory.  Thank you."

"For the British government, you certainly look confused, mate.  What do you remember about last night?"

"Well, um... I remember meeting Sherlock and John at... I think it was the Criterion Bar?  Several others were there, too - you, of course, and Ms. Hooper...  I remember a glass of perfectly awful sherry, and some greasy fried food... and cake.  Was it someone's birthday?" Mycroft trailed off, rubbing his temples.

"Oh, wow, you don't remember much, do you?  Let me fill in the blanks for you.  Yes, it was a birthday party.  John's.  You had several glasses of that 'perfectly awful' sherry - I think you finished off the bottle, in fact - and chased them with two very large pieces of cake."

Mycroft groaned.  No wonder he felt horrible.

Lestrade suppressed a laugh and continued.  "So, yeah, you were pretty pissed*.  Thank God we were able to keep you away from the karaoke machine, and mostly off the dance floor…  I’m sure that video will end up on YouTube the next time you get on John’s nerves.  It was late, so I assured Anthea I would make sure you slept it off somewhere safe and not face-down in some alley, and sent her home.  Once the party started to wind down, I hailed us a cab.  Luckily, you were still on your feet, so I managed to fold you into the cab and bring you here.  I hadn’t thought to get your address from Sherlock, so I figured you could crash on my couch for the night.  You stumbled in, dropping your clothes all over the place.  I followed you, picking things up, and by the time I caught up with you, I found you starkers, passed out on my bed."

Dear Lord, could this get any worse...

"Don't worry - your honor and mine are still intact.  I threw the blankets over you, and I slept on the couch.  You were pretty lovey-dovey in the cab, though - couldn't keep your hands off me.  Cabbie probably thought we were a couple of newlyweds.”  Lestrade said with a wink.  “I'm flattered, but I prefer my dates a little more sober."

Mycroft held his head in his hands.

"Sherlock says alcohol lowers the inhibitions.  I'd say your inhibitions were in the negative numbers last night.  Hopefully, that's not what it takes to make you act on what you really want," Lestrade leaned in closer.  "Maybe we could get together for dinner sometime, and see where that takes us?"

Mycroft nodded slightly, finally meeting Lestrade’s amused gaze as he sipped his tea.

Today is going to be a long day.  He texted Anthea. 


 

Anthea smiled knowingly as Mycroft slid silently into the back seat of the black sedan.  He sat stone still, eyes closed.  Right now, his hangover must be killing him, she thought.  A single glass of sherry would make my head pound the next day – he’d polished off a whole bottle.  And that sugary cake…

Mycroft broke the silence.  “No.”

“Sir?”

“I slept alone.  Or more precisely, I passed out alone.  All perfectly innocent.”

“I didn’t ask.  Not my business.”

“Yes, but I can hear the question from here.  You’re thinking too loudly.”

Anthea giggled. “Still, not my business.”

“Clear my calendar for this Friday, and make a dinner reservation at Gillray’s for 7 o’clock.  For two.”

Anthea raised an eyebrow.  Lestrade certainly is a handsome devil, she thought.  Mycroft could do worse

Mycroft opened one eye, catching Anthea’s reaction.  “I would like to thank the good Detective Inspector for rescuing me last night.”  His eyes closed.

She nodded.  The remainder of the ride home was blissfully quiet, save Anthea’s fingers tapping her phone.


In his office, Mycroft spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening trying to focus on the stacks of paperwork covering his desk.  Nothing that required a lot of thinking.  The jackhammer in his skull was finally silent, but his thought processes were still a bit fuzzy.  Anthea dutifully kept his water pitcher filled, and brought him some more mint tea to settle his angry stomach.

It’s been ages since I’ve been that drunk, he thought.  Now I remember why – the aftermath is certainly… unpleasant.  Definitely need to avoid that in the future.  Or at least, refrain from drinking entire bottles of bad sherry.

His mobile chirped. 

Feeling any better? GL

Yes, thank you.  Are you free Friday evening? MH

The phone was silent for a few minutes.

I am now.  What do you have in mind? GL

I would like to thank you for last night.  A car will pick you up at your flat at 6:30.  Jacket and tie required. MH

I look forward to it.  GL

Mycroft sat back and let out a deep breath.  Well, the stage is set.  Let’s see where this takes us, indeed.

Chapter Text

Friday afternoon, Lestrade glanced at the clock on the wall - 5 o’clock.  “Hey, Donovan, can you take care of the rest of this paperwork?  I‘ve got plans tonight.”

“Hot date, boss?” Sally grinned.

“Well… I guess… or something.  Not really sure, to be honest.  I’ll owe you one.”

“Sure.  Glad to see you’re finally having a social life.  It seems like you’ve been working late every night since she moved out.”  Had it really been a year since she left him for that PE teacher?

Lestrade shrugged. “You are just better company than crap telly, Donovan.  At least sometimes.”  He grabbed his jacket and walked out the door. 


Lestrade shuffled through his closet, finding the least thread-bare of his ‘going to court’ suits - the dark grey suit he wore the day his divorce paperwork was finalized.  He looked at the white dress shirt hanging alongside it, deciding it could do with a quick steam, so he hung it off the door while he took a hot shower, scrubbing away today’s foot chase through the alleys and bins of London’s seedier side.  He ran a comb through his short hair, had a quick shave, and grabbed a navy blue tie on his way out the door, where Mycroft’s car had just arrived.

The driver opened the back door, and he got in.  To his disappointment, the back seat was empty.

“Mr. Holmes will be meeting you at our destination, sir,” said the driver from the front seat, seeing Lestrade’s expression.

“Right, then.  Do I get to know where we’re going?”

“You have dinner reservations at Gillray’s, sir.”

Lestrade’s eyes widened.  Not a cheap date.


Lestrade walked into the restaurant, and was immediately led to Mycroft’s table, in a quiet back corner.

“Good evening, Lestr—, I mean, Gregory.”  Mycroft said, as Lestrade took a seat.  “I trust you didn’t have any trouble?”

“Nope.  Your driver was right on time.”

“Good.  I hope you don’t mind, but I took the liberty of ordering before you arrived.”

Lestrade was surprised.  “No problem.  But how did you know what I would want?”

“You forget, Detective Inspector, who my brother is,” Mycroft replied, with a twinkle in his eye.

Lestrade nodded.  “Seems hardly fair, that you have a spy on your side.”

“Perhaps.  Of course, you could get information from him just as easily.”

“True that.  I guess I just didn’t think of it.”

They shared some appetizers, including a delightful red wine poached pear dish.  Lestrade hadn’t had that before, but it didn’t look too difficult to make.  He enjoyed spending time in the kitchen now, without a nagging wife to distract him.  Stop that, Greg.  Don’t let her ruin your evening out, he thought to himself.  Sally was right.  He had spent far too much time moping at home, or at the office, and needed to start living again.

“I am happy you were able to get away from the office,” Mycroft said, interrupting Lestrade’s train of thought.  “It seems you have been putting in a lot of extra hours of late.”

“Yeah, well… I have nothing better to do.  At least I’m not alone at work.”

“Surely, you have friends other than my brother to spend time with?”

“Not really.  Work friends don’t count.  My life is pretty dull.  The kids are with my ex – I’m lucky to get regular phone calls.  You know how teenagers are – ‘Dad isn’t cool.’  Actually, I hadn’t had anyone over until… you stayed that night.”  Lestrade blushed slightly, and concentrated on the food in front of him.

“I am surprised, Gregory.”

“Call me a little gun-shy, but after the divorce, I didn’t want anyone close.”

“Understood.  How long as it been?”

“She left a little over a year ago.  Divorce was final a few months back.”

Mycroft looked at Lestrade.  He definitely has a sad look about him.  The divorce took a harsher toll on him than he probably realizes. 

The waiter arrived with their meals – a medium rare sirloin with peppercorn sauce for Greg, and a medium fillet with red wine sauce for Mycroft, and two glasses of cabernet.  The steaks were both perfectly done, and delicious.  They ate mostly in silence, occasionally talking about Greg’s work with Sherlock and John, and what little non-classified work Mycroft could share.  The relaxed laughter was pleasant.

Their meals nearly done, Mycroft spoke.  “A toast, then.  To new friendships.”

Lestrade looked up to see Mycroft smiling at him, holding up his wine glass.  He raised his glass as well.  “To new friendships.”


After dinner, Mycroft’s car was waiting for them. 

“At the risk of sounding forward, may I invite you back to my home for a drink?  If you would prefer not, I can have my driver take you back to your flat directly.”  Mycroft asked, trying to hide the tiny spark of hope in his voice.  He truly enjoyed spending time with Lestrade.

“Sure.  An after-dinner drink sounds fine.  Sherry?” Lestrade laughed.

“Perish the thought!” Mycroft feigned horror. “I won’t be having sherry for a very long time, I’m afraid.”

“That’s probably a good plan.  But it sure makes for an interesting evening.” 

“As you said, it lowers my inhibitions,” Mycroft smiled, lowering his voice.  “That is something I can do without chemical aid, if I set my mind to it.”

Lestrade wondered if he should worry.

Chapter Text

“You live here?  Alone?  This place is huge!”  Lestrade asked incredulously.

“It’s a family home – we’ve had it for generations.  Our parents used to live here, but found with all their travel, a smaller flat was more manageable.  Sherlock could live here, too, if he wanted.  I can’t imagine for the life of me why he prefers his dingy little Baker Street flat.”

“To hear him tell it, he finds you an annoying, pompous arse.”

“The feeling is mutual, I assure you.  I said he could live here, not that I wanted him to.”

Mycroft walked down the dim corridor, and opened the double doors to the study.  There was a roaring fire in the fireplace at the far end, so the room was comfortably warm.  Both men shed their suit jackets, hanging them on nearby chairs.  On the table was a bottle of cognac and two glasses, as well as a tray of small tarts.  Mycroft poured drinks, and handed a glass to Lestrade.

“I baked the tarts myself this morning,” Mycroft said, offering one to Lestrade.  “Lemon meringue.  Try one.”

Lestrade looked blankly at Mycroft.  “You cook?  Don’t you have ‘people’ for that?  A staff?”  He took the tartlet and popped it in his mouth.  Heavenly.

“Of course, but there is nothing like making something like this yourself.  Cooking is a relaxing hobby.”

“I agree.  Now that I’m living alone, I try to do it a little more often, when I find the time.  Of course, most of the time I’m lazy, and just pick up Chinese or Indian take-away on my way home from the office.  Terrible for the waistline and wallet, but a hell of a lot faster and easier.”  Lestrade laughed.

“Oh, cooking for myself can be just as bad for the waistline.  I don’t make sweets like this very often. I have a certain... weakness... for sugary treats.”

Lestrade smiled, thinking about the assault on John's poor birthday cake last weekend. “Then I sincerely thank you for making them for this occasion.  They are greatly appreciated.”

“You are most welcome.”  Mycroft settled into one of the leather armchairs, and motioned for Lestrade to sit in the other one.

They sat quietly, staring at the fire.  Lestrade glanced in Mycroft’s direction, only to find that he – not the fire - was the subject of Mycroft’s observations. 

Mycroft spoke.  “You intrigue me, Gregory.  I enjoy conversing with you.  And…” he hesitated, “I find you very attractive.”

Lestrade blushed.  “You’re not bad looking yourself, Mycroft.  And underneath your stern exterior, I can tell you're a big softie.  Don’t worry – I won’t tell anyone.” 

“Heavens, no.  Not that anyone would believe you if you did.”

They sat in silence again.  This time, Lestrade spoke up.  “May I kiss you, Mycroft?”

Mycroft stared at Lestrade.  “I… um… would very much like that.”

Lestrade set his now-empty glass on the table and rose, walking to Mycroft’s chair.  He bent down, and softly kissed Mycroft on the lips.  Mycroft trembled.

“You are shaking like a leaf.  Relax.  I’m not going to hurt you.”

“It’s just that… I’ve never done anything like this before.”

Lestrade raked his fingers through his hair nervously.  “Really?  You mean with a man?  Or with anyone?”

“With anyone.”

Lestrade’s expression softened.  “Well, I guess I get to be the expert, then, since I have.  Just relax. We'll go slow. OK?”

Mycroft gulped down the last of his drink.  “Yes.”

Lestrade stood up, put Mycroft’s empty glass on the table next to his own, and walked around behind Mycroft’s chair.  His hands settled on the younger man's shoulders, and he began gently but firmly kneading the tightly knotted muscles, forcing them to relax.  Mycroft’s eyes closed and he groaned, enjoying Lestrade’s ministrations. 

“Is this good?” Lestrade’s voice in his ear startled him.

“Yes,” He sighed.

“I’m glad.  Why don’t we get the shirt out of the way?  Massages are much better on bare skin.”

Mycroft sat frozen for a moment, so Lestrade reached over and loosened his tie.  Suddenly, he snapped back to reality, unbuttoned the shirt, and carefully removed it and the tie, laying them neatly across the ottoman.  Lestrade’s warm hands were once again on his shoulders, melting away the tension and fear.

“You were right.  Much better on bare skin,” Mycroft murmured, eyes again closed.  Lestrade chuckled.  His hands lightly stroked Mycroft’s neck, and played through his hair.  Mycroft shuddered at the touch.

Mycroft’s eyes flew open when Lestrade’s hands left his shoulders, only to close again as Lestrade walked around to the front of the chair, resting his hip on the arm.  “I’m a bit heavy to sit on your lap, I think, but this will do,” Lestrade explained.  His fingers under younger man’s chin, Lestrade lifted Mycroft’s lips to meet his.  Lestrade’s tongue teased and opened Mycroft’s lips, deepening the kiss as he moaned in surprise. 

Lestrade pulled back, “Still good?”

Not trusting his voice, Mycroft nodded enthusiastically.  Lestrade smiled and returned to kissing him, gently stroking his bare chest, sending shivers through him. 

Lestrade backed away, leaving Mycroft flushed and gasping.  “Maybe we can find somewhere in this huge house that’s more comfortable than an armchair in the study?” Lestrade asked.

It took a moment for Mycroft to collect himself.  “Yes, of course.  My room is upstairs.”  Mycroft nervously took Lestrade’s hand, and led the way.

Chapter Text

Lestrade's mind boggled about the size of the house, and Mycroft's suite was no different. Hell, I think this suite is larger than my flat! he thought to himself.

Mycroft stopped in the middle of the room, unsure what to do next. Lestrade looked up at his tall friend, and pulled him down into a kiss. Mycroft softened, and tentatively put his hand on Lestrade's cheek. Lestrade smiled to himself, and broke the kiss. "Sit on the bed."

Nervously, Mycroft sat down on the edge of the king-sized bed, his back ramrod straight, his hands folded in his lap. Lestrade took off his shoes and climbed onto the bed behind him and resumed the shoulder massage, extending it down the taut muscles in Mycroft's back. He leaned into Lestrade, his eyes half-closed, humming his pleasure.

Lestrade's lips grazed the back of Mycroft's neck. "Lie down. On your back."

Mycroft kicked off his shoes and slid up the bed, resting his upper body against the mountain of pillows.

Swinging a leg over, Lestrade straddled Mycroft's stomach, and began massaging his upper arms. Occasionally, his hands would drift lightly over Mycroft's bare chest and neck, sending chills down his spine. As Mycroft shuddered with the sensation, Lestrade leaned in and kissed him urgently, nipping at his lower lip, pleased at the response his touch elicited.

Lestrade slid down, straddling Mycroft's thighs and reaching for his belt. "Do you want me to keep going?"

"Yes," Mycroft's voice trembled.

Deftly, Lestrade unbuckled the belt and slid it out from under them, tossing it to the floor. He quickly turned his attentions to the button and zipper, and in one quick movement, slid the trousers out from under Mycroft's hips and to his thighs. Another quick shift of his body weight, and the trousers were on the floor with the belt, leaving Mycroft gasping for breath in nothing but socks and boxers.

The boxers were just barely doing their job, Mycroft's erection straining valiantly against them. Lestrade's hands travelled up Mycroft's thighs and along his sides and stomach, his fingers tracing the waistband of the boxers. His soft touch avoided the obvious, driving Mycroft almost to the point of begging.

Lestrade stopped. After a moment of stillness, Mycroft opened his eyes questioningly. "Just enjoying the view," Lestrade purred.

Mycroft cleared his throat, trying to steady his nervous voice. "You know, Gregory... it occurs to me that you are somewhat... over-dressed for this occasion. May I remedy the situation?"

"I thought you would never ask!"

Mycroft reached up and made quick work of Lestrade's shirt and tie, leaving his strong chest bare. He ran his fingers lightly along the muscles, as Lestrade's eyes closed with pleasure. He pulled Lestrade down, planting light kisses along his neck and shoulders, gently sucking and nipping. "Mmmmmm... You're a quick study," he breathed.

"I have an outstanding teacher," Mycroft replied, and let his fingers continue to wander as Lestrade moved down, kissing and licking his way to Mycroft's navel.

Lestrade shifted, and as quickly as the rest, the boxers came off and joined the other clothing on the floor, and he softly brushed a single finger along the length of Mycroft's cock. Mycroft arched his back, crying out at the touch. Situating himself between Mycroft's trembling thighs, Lestrade put his tongue to work, carefully licking his way from base to head, his hands firmly holding Mycroft's hips in place. His warm breath caused Mycroft's breath to hitch, his eyes squeezed shut in ecstasy.

Taking his hands off of Mycroft's hips, he wrapped one hand around the base of Mycroft's cock, and closed his mouth over the head, his lips holding it tight as his tongue swirled around it. Mycroft's hips jerked, silently begging for more, thrusting fervently against his hand and mouth.

"Mmmmmm... Oh, Greg... Oh, yessss..." 

Mycroft's hand was on the back of Lestrade's head, and Lestrade responded to the light pressure by removing his hand and taking Mycroft completely in his mouth, his tongue rubbing the entire length.  The sensations were too much for Mycroft. He thrust deeply, his orgasm overtaking him in a rush. Lestrade swallowed, and held him until Mycroft relaxed, the pleasant after-glow obvious on his features. He moved alongside Mycroft, and lay his head on his chest, listening to the now-slowing heartbeat. Mycroft gently lay an arm around his shoulders.

"Wow. That was... incredible, Gregory."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's been so long, I was afraid it wouldn't be very good."

Mycroft looked at Lestrade. "But you were married..."

"... to a woman. For 20 years. I haven't been with a man in probably 25 years. It's good to know some skills you don't forget." Lestrade's eyes sparkled.

Suddenly, Mycroft became aware of the hardness in Lestrade's trousers, pressed up against his leg. "But what about you? Don't you need... relief?"

"Nah, that's the end of today's lesson. Next time, OK?"

"OK, Professor," Mycroft smiled. "Next time."

Chapter Text

Lestrade woke just as dawn started to stream through the window. Stretching, he brought himself back to the here-and-now: he was lying in a huge bed, in a huge room, in a huge house, curled up with a lightly-snoring Mycroft Holmes, after a pretty damned incredible evening. As much as he wanted to luxuriate in the scene, he had to drag himself out of bed to cover the Saturday shift he volunteered for, and he had to be at work by 9am. He really needed to go home to shower, change, and if at all possible, wipe the silly, satisfied smile off his face. Well, two out of three would have to suffice, he grinned, as he grabbed his shirt and tie. He gave Mycroft a light peck on the cheek, and left the room, closing the door quietly as he left.


Sally Donovan arrived around 10am, finding Lestrade on his third cup of bad cafeteria coffee and his second stack of paperwork. "So how did last night's plans go, boss?"

"Better than expected," Lestrade smiled secretively.

"Do tell..." her eyebrow raised.

"Now, now... a gentleman never kisses and tells, Donovan."

"I realize that. But I'm asking YOU."

Lestrade laughed and threw a ball of paper at her. She dissolved into giggles, and went to her desk. His mobile chirped.

You left early. MH

Had to work this morning. Sorry. GL

How about lunch at my place tomorrow? I'll cook. GL

I will bring the wine. Red or white? MH

Surprise me. See you at 2 o'clock. GL

He started flipping through the stack of files. I didn't really want to deal with Sherlock today, but if it gets this file off my desk...

Any progress on the Presbury case? GL

John and I will come by your office after lunch. SH


 

"I swear, Lestrade. This case was a 5 at best. Hell, Anderson could have probably figured this one out on a bad day!" Sherlock yelled as he stormed into the office.

Donovan looked up from her desk. "Well, good afternoon to you, Freak."

"Hello, Donovan," Sherlock replied with saccharine sweetness. "I see Anderson is home playing house with his wife today, and you were so bored at home with your three cats that you came to work, so you could impress the boss with your 'work ethic'."

Donovan huffed.

Sherlock disappeared into Lestrade's office with a swirl of his coat, John close on his heels, and the door closed.

Donovan rolled her eyes. "Drama queen."


Lestrade looked up from his desk. "Good afternoon, Sherlock. What do you have for me?"

John dropped the file on Lestrade's desk. "All business today, Greg?" he asked.

"I have a lot to do, and I'd really like to get on with this. I'd like to get out of here early... I have a personal life, you know."

"No, you don't!" Sherlock interrupted. "You haven't had a 'personal life' in months."

"Believe it or not, I am seeing someone. So let's get this work done so I can GO HOME!"

Sherlock and John both gaped at Lestrade.

"No kidding?" John stuttered. "That's great, Greg! Is she anyone we know?"

Lestrade stared intently at his desk - anything to keep from looking John in the eye. "Um... no."

"You're lying," Sherlock said, glaring. "You're a terrible liar, Lestrade."

John could almost see the gears in Sherlock's head turning as he tried to puzzle out the truth. Suddenly, John figured it out - surprising because it appeared Sherlock had not.

"OK, well, Greg, we're going to head home. Drop us a line if you get him a case that's an 8 or better, OK? Not sure I can deal with the pouting again." He hooked Sherlock by the arm and dragged him out of Lestrade's office, under protest.


A while later, Lestrade's phone chirped.

It's not a 'she', right? JW

Sherlock is starting to rub off on you, mate. GL

Do we know him? JW

Yes. GL

You going to say who it is? JW

Meet me at the pub at 4 GL

John stared at his phone. Two hours. This was going to be interesting.


When John walked into the pub, he found Greg sitting in a booth, two pints in front of him.  "I ordered you one. I think you might need it. I know I do."

John slid in, "That bad, hm?"

Lestrade took a long drink. "Right. So, you and Sherlock know the man I'm seeing."

"So you said. I'm not going to lie... I'm a little surprised that you're seeing a man..."

"I've always had the interest. Never acted on it while I was married, of course. I played a field a bit when I was in school, though."

"OK, well, to each their own. So who is the mystery man?"

Lestrade set down his pint and took a deep breath. "Mycroft Holmes."

John choked on his drink, nearly dropping his glass in the process. "WHAT??"

"You heard me."

"Christ, Greg!" John grabbed a handful of napkins to mop up the spilled beer, and shook his head. "So how did this... thing... get started?"

"You remember how piss-drunk Mycroft got at your birthday party last weekend?"

"Yeah, that was damned entertaining. Still have the video of him trying to dance."

"Well, he slept it off at my place - totally innocent, mind you. Last night, he asked me out to dinner, then back to his place for drinks... and the rest, as they say, is history."

"Wow. Whirlwind relationship."

"Yeah, took me by surprise, too. We're taking things slow, but we've really hit it off."

"Sherlock is going to figure this out, you know.  He hasn't yet - he's probably calling every woman in the London phone book right now - but he will.  He'd probably take it better if he heard it from you, or Mycroft."

"I'm sure as hell not going to tell him.  I'm not sure I want to be in the same timezone when Mycroft tells him, even."

"We always see how protective Mycroft is of his little brother, but Sherlock is just as protective of Mycroft, if not moreso."

"Yeah, not sure I want to meet that side of Sherlock."

"You're not as dumb as you look, Greg," John grinned. "Really, I'm happy for you. You deserve to be happy after the last few years you've had."

"Thanks, mate." Lestrade smiled.

The two men finished their drinks in silence.

Chapter Text

Lestrade checked the clock on the stove. It was 12:30pm. He'd thoroughly cleaned and vacuumed the flat yesterday, and even dusted for the first time since his wife moved out. The kitchen was clean, and the table set. He'd assembled the lasagna last night, so it would be ready to put in the oven at 1 o'clock, and done shortly before Mycroft was supposed to arrive. The salad was chopped and in the refrigerator, ready to serve.

I don't know why I'm so nervous about this, he paced around the living room. He's coming over for lunch. I don't need to impress him. Why do I feel like a teenager waiting for his prom date?

Because he matters to you. It felt good to be able to think that. It had been months since he was willing to let himself feel for someone else - he was happy she hadn't ruined that for him permanently. I hope Mycroft feels the same.

Just before 1 o'clock, he put the lasagna in the oven, then went to get himself ready. He took a long, steamy shower, forcing himself to relax. Afterward, he pulled out his straight razor and gave himself a nice, close shave. At the closet, he took a moment deciding on what to wear, finally choosing a pair of faded jeans and a pale yellow t-shirt.

At about 1:45, the doorbell rang. There stood Mycroft, holding a bottle of wine and wearing a big smile. "Good afternoon, Gregory. I hope my early arrival isn't a problem."

"Of course not, Mycroft. You're not that early. Lunch should be ready in a few minutes, in fact. Come on in."

Mycroft came in, and Lestrade looked around outside. "Did your driver drop you off?"

"No, I drove myself. My car is the red SUV on the corner."

"I didn't know you drove. I always see you riding around in the back seat of your black sedans."

"I don't drive often, but I like the freedom of being able to do so once in a while."

Lestrade closed the front door, and followed Mycroft to the living room. He took the bottle of wine and set it on the kitchen counter.

"Blue is a good color on you," Lestrade said, noting the light blue polo shirt Mycroft was wearing. "And I definitely approve of the black denim." He raised an eyebrow.

"Well, it wouldn't do for your neighbors to see a minor government official frequenting your house twice in as many weeks, now, would it? Let's call this my disguise," Mycroft winked.

"And a good one, I'd say. Not that you don't cut a handsome figure in your three piece suits, but I'm a simple man. Tight jeans and t-shirts work for me, too."

"Duly noted."

"Of course, you could show up naked and that would work for me," Lestrade said, chuckling.

Mycroft blushed furiously. "Then the neighbors would definitely talk."

"True that. Best go with the denim, then."

Lestrade pulled Mycroft into a kiss, lingering for a moment, then releasing him with a whine. "As much as I'd love to snog you silly right now, domesticity calls. I need to pull the lasagna out of the oven and let it cool. Why don't you open the wine? We can start with the salad."

"Sounds lovely."

The two men busied themselves in the kitchen, pouring wine and putting food on the table.


"You really are an excellent cook, Gregory," Mycroft said, as they tucked into the meal.

"I can't take all the credit. It's my mum's recipe. Easy to throw together the night before, and just pop it in the oven when you're ready. Came in handy on nights there was no time to make a big production of dinner, which was most of the time. Single parenting is busy work."

"I can imagine."

"We didn't do a lot of desserts, though, sad to say. "

"Then we can complement each other well. You are in charge of meals, and I will take care of desserts." Mycroft smiled widely.

"Sounds like the perfect arrangement to me," Lestrade laughed.


Lunch finished, Lestrade started gathering up the dishes. "Let me help with that, Gregory," Mycroft rose.

"Nonsense. You're my guest today. I can handle a few dishes."

"Please, Gregory..." Mycroft pleaded.

Lestrade sighed. "I just can't say no to you. Fine. I'll wash, you dry."

"You can't say no to me? Interesting," Mycroft grinned wickedly, picking up the dish towel.


The kitchen cleaned and food put away, the men headed to the living room. "You want some coffee? " Lestrade asked.

"Yes, please - two lumps and cream."

Lestrade ducked back into the kitchen and poured two cups of coffee, added cream and sugar to one, and carried them back into the living room, setting them on the sofa table. He sat down on the couch next to Mycroft, snuggling into his shoulder.

Mycroft reached over and lifted Lestrade's lips to his, kissing him gently. Lestrade returned the kiss, then pulled away. Mycroft's face fell.

"Let's talk. Seems we hardly know each other, even though we've known each other - through Sherlock and John - for years."

"Very well," Mycroft said, picking up his cup of coffee and sipping. "What would you like to know?"

Lestrade saw the glint of gold on Mycroft's right hand. "Interesting ring. What's the story behind it?"

"It belonged to our ancestor, Siger Holmes. When his first wife died, he kept her wedding ring, though he kept it hidden from his second wife - from whom we are descended - for many years. The memento has been passed down the generations. My father gave it to me several years ago, and I've worn it ever since. As an added benefit, it keeps potential suitors at bay," Mycroft smiled. "Though it didn't seem to work on you."

"That's because I knew you were unattached. And you did encourage me, after all." Lestrade winked.

"Yes, I suppose I did."

"Seriously, though. What are we doing?" Lestrade asked. We might as well get this out in the open and define it. "Are we a couple? Exclusive? Or just friends with benefits?"

"Gregory, " Mycroft began. "I'm sure you've gathered by now that I'm not really the promiscuous type. I have no interest in looking for other partners. I would like to spend time with you. I would like to be friends - " Mycroft stumbled over the word, "... and more... with YOU." Do I even know what a friend is?

Lestrade looked at the younger man thoughtfully. "I'd like that, Mycroft."

"I completely understand, of course, if my inexperience - as either a friend or a ... lover... is a problem..."

"I'm an outstanding teacher, remember? As long as we trust each other, and go slowly, everything will be fine."

"I am amenable to that."

Lestrade put his arm around Mycroft's shoulder, and kissed him lightly on the neck. Mycroft shivered, and smiled.

They sat quietly on the couch for several minutes, when Lestrade broke the silence. "So I spoke to your brother yesterday afternoon... he and John are helping me out with a case. Seems my 'good mood' surprised them."

Mycroft raised an eyebrow.

"I may have... let slip... that I was seeing someone. I didn't mention you directly, of course, but they both knew I was hiding something. John was the one who figured out the person I was seeing wasn't a woman - not Sherlock. When I talked to John later yesterday afternoon, Sherlock was still stewing on the name of the woman I might be dating."

"Interesting. Sherlock has always had trouble deducing me. I guess he can't deduce things related to me well, either."

"My concern is, he will figure it out eventually, and, well... he's a bit unpredictable. "

"Quite so."

"I'm not sure if he'll be happy, angry, or indifferent."

"Nor am I, but a case could be made for any of those, I think."

"I think you should tell him, sooner rather than later. "

"You said yourself, he's unpredictable. He very well could react violently. He's done it before, you know. If you're feeling brave, ask him about Reykjavík sometime," Mycroft mused, rubbing his jaw at the memory. He had just caught up with Sherlock in Iceland, and set into lecturing him about his plan, and how just because the plan had worked did not mean it wasn't reckless. The next thing he knew, Sherlock was standing over him, eyes blazing with rage, shaking out his hand, having landed a solid right hook on Mycroft's chin, dropping the taller man like a felled pine.

"Brave? When it comes to Sherlock? You're talking to the wrong guy. He's a good man, but he scares me to death sometimes."

"So you think we'll be best able to deal with any negative reaction if we control the timing and environment in which it occurs? That's a reasonable course of action, actually. I will call on him tomorrow. Perhaps you and John can meet at the pub after work?"

"Sounds like a good plan to me. I'll text him."


The surgery was unusually busy today. Mornings were for walk-in patients, and it seems a strain of the flu was going around. Everyone was coming in feverish, coughing, and wheezing. John felt like he had washed his hands every 5 minutes all morning, and he still didn't feel clean.

"Do I have any appointments this afternoon, Sarah?"

"Just a few - regular patients. I can take them, if you like. Why don't you head home early?"

John's phone chirped.

Want to grab a pint after work? GL

Sure. What time? JW

I can be at the pub at 2:30 GL

Deal. See you then. JW

"That sounds like a good idea, Sarah. Thanks for covering. If things get too exciting, you can always call me."

"I doubt it'll be anything I can't manage."


After the bell rang the fourth time, Mrs. Hudson opened the door to find the elder Holmes outside. "Good afternoon, Mr. Holmes. Can I help you?"

"I am here to see my brother. May I come in?" Without waiting for her answer, Mycroft brushed past her, ignoring her protests, and headed up the stairs. He found Sherlock sitting in his chair, deep in thought.

"Hello, brother mine."

Sherlock blinked. "What do you want now, Mycroft? I was purposely ignoring that infernal doorbell. I bet Mrs. Hudson let you in."

"Well, she opened the door, but I can hardly say she welcomed me."

"She doesn't like you."

"Many people don't like me. Or you, for that matter."

"I have no need for people to like me."

"While I have long held that caring is a disadvantage, I have recently discovered that it does have its place," Mycroft said, his demeanor softening.

Sherlock's eyes widened, his shocked voice barely above a whisper. "What?"

"I have recently determined that some things can be... improved... by adding that element. Interpersonal relationships can make life much more tolerable."

Sherlock slowly rose. "WHAT?"

Mycroft looked at his feet, feeling for all the world like the shy, awkward 14-year-old.

He took a deep breath, and focused on his brother. "You have always worried that I was lonely. I assure you, I am not. I have acquired... a friend."

Sherlock looked horrified. "A friend? Who?"

"Yes, a friend. Someone about whom I care a great deal. Someone I have known from a distance for some time, and have recently become close to."

"WHO? Give me a name!"

Mycroft steeled his resolve. "Why?"

"You don't need friends," Sherlock sneered. "You have ME. You have your WORK.  For GOD'S SAKE, you ARE the British government!"

"You have John."

"That's different. John is my blogger. He is an integral part of my work."

"But he is your friend. My friendship with Gregory does not change anything between -"

"Gregory? As in Lestrade? You and Lestrade are friends?"

Mycroft sighed. "Yes. We are friends. Close friends."

Sherlock's eyebrows shot up. "Close friends?"

"Yes."

The answer finally dawned on Sherlock. "So when Lestrade said he was seeing someone... he meant YOU?"

"Apparently so."

"You are having a romantic relationship... with Lestrade?" Sherlock's emphasis on the words showed his distaste.

"Yes."

Sherlock flopped back into his chair, his head in his hands. "Unbelievable. I never thought I see it."

"What? That I'd have a romantic entanglement?" Mycroft huffed.

"No, that Lestrade would want to be with someone like YOU."


John walked over to Lestrade's table, and sat across from him. "So what's up?"

"What do you mean? I just thought we should get a pint and chat." The corners of his lips started to turn up.

"I know you better than that, Greg. I know a diversion when I see one."

"Because Mycroft needed to have a chat with your git of a flatmate. I figured we should BOTH be out of the line of fire."

"Well, hell, " John laughed. "Why didn't you just say so? I don't want to be there for that anymore than you do!"

Relieved, Lestrade smiled broadly. "I wonder how big the tantrum is going to be."


Mycroft sat on the couch across from Sherlock.

"I would have worked it out." Sherlock sulked.

"Perhaps. I just saved you the trouble."

"The problem with caring, dear brother, is that it is followed by pain. I will not abide your pain."

"You do not need to. If there is pain, I will accept it. Until then, the enjoyment is pleasant enough."

"I WILL NOT ABIDE YOUR PAIN!" Sherlock bellowed.

"THE DECISION IS NOT YOURS!" Mycroft's voice rose to match his brother's.

The brothers stared at each other in silence, both sets of icy eyes flashing angrily.

Slowly, Mycroft rose. "I expect your blogger will be home from the surgery soon. Do have a good evening."

As he walked out the front door, he pulled out his phone.

He has been informed. MH

Lestrade's phone chirped.

How did it go? GL

I suggest caution, if the subject arises. MH

"Jesus," Lestrade mumbled.

"Message from Mycroft?" John asked. "How did it go?"

"If I'm understanding this correctly, not well."

Chapter Text

Greg unlocked the front door and walked into his flat. It was good spending time with John over a couple of pints and fish and chips. Luckily, he didn't have work tomorrow, since he had worked Saturday and cleared some of the files off his desk this afternoon, so he didn't feel obligated to get home early and get some sleep.

He walked through the living room to the bedroom, hanging his jacket on the door hook. As he loosened his tie, Sherlock spoke, "You really should get a better lock, Lestrade. I was able to pick this one in under a minute."

Lestrade spun around. "Christ, Sherlock, you scared the hell out of me. What are you doing here?" he said nervously, turning on the living room light to see Sherlock standing there, leaning against the kitchen door.

"I think you know," the deep voice rumbled.

"Humour me."

"My dear brother has decided you are worth his sentiment," Sherlock spat. "He is wrong."

Lestrade rested his hands on his hips. "I think your big brother can decide that for himself."

"Caring results in pain. I cannot allow that to happen to Mycroft."

"I care about him, too. I'm not going to hurt him. Besides, even if I broke it off right now, it would hurt him."

Suddenly Lestrade flew backward, Sherlock's arm pinning his neck to the wall. Normally, he could fight his way out of a scuffle with Sherlock. He was strong for his age, but a bit stockier than his opponent - but tonight he was much stronger and faster than Lestrade had ever seen.

Sherlock leaned in close and growled, "The longer he cares about you, the more pain you cause. This must stop now." He pressed hard. Lestrade sputtered, his hands clawing ineffectively at Sherlock's arm as it squeezed his windpipe.

"Sherlock, what in the hell are you doing?" John's voice rang out from the front door. He rushed forward, planting his shoulder hard into Sherlock's rib cage and knocking him off-balance.  Lestrade fell to his knees, rubbing his neck and gasping for breath. Sherlock fell heavily by the wall.

"Bloody hell, mate! Where did you come from?" Lestrade looked at John.

"You're welcome," John quipped.

"But how -"

"Mycroft called me after we left the pub... said this might be a 'danger night'. When I got back to the flat and Sherlock was gone, I figured he might be here, and in a bad way. Based on what I just walked in on, I'd say I was right."

"He's ... HIGH?"

"And angry. Bad combination."

"No kidding."

John turned to Sherlock, who was sitting on the floor in the corner, brooding. He knelt down in front of his friend. "What did you take, Sherlock?" he asked sternly.

Sherlock looked up at him, eyes bloodshot. He twitched. "Just cocaine.  And a little bit of morphine. Just to help me focus."

John sighed. "Focus on killing Lestrade because your brother likes him?"

Sherlock growled, and started to move angrily toward John. There was an audible click, and he looked up to see the black barrel of Lestrade's gun pointed at him. "Sherlock, don't..."

He slumped back against the wall, glaring at the two men.

"It's OK, Greg," John waved Lestrade off. "I think he's going to behave. Aren't you, Sherlock?" John tried to make his voice calm, hoping desperately that he was right. Lestrade looked at him questioningly, but reholstered his gun. "Let's get you home, Sherlock."

Sherlock took John's outstretched hand and stood up. He turned to Lestrade, his eyes flashing his drug-fueled rage. "Know this, Lestrade. I can guarantee you a slow, painful, UNSOLVABLE death."

John put his arm around Sherlock, and started to lead him out the door to the waiting cab. "You didn't see anything, Greg. I'll take care of this."  Lestrade nodded, and shut the front door behind them.

He collapsed on the couch. "Damn, I need a drink."


Sherlock paced around the flat, looking about like a caged animal. "I need to go OUT, John!"

John busied himself moving his chair, using it to block the closed door to the flat.  Mrs. Hudson wouldn't likely be coming up this late, and he wanted to at least try to make sure Sherlock couldn't get out if John fell asleep.

"No, you don't. You need to come down. You will stay here until I'm convinced you're sober. Do you want some tea?"

"No, I don't want tea," came the angry retort. "Where's my revolver?"

"You know how Mrs. Hudson gets when you shoot the wall, even if it has it coming. Don't make me restrain you."

"You wouldn't."

John cocked his head to one side with a smile. "Wouldn't I?" He held up a pair of handcuffs.

"HRMPH!" Sherlock flung himself onto the couch in frustration.

This is going to be a long night, both men thought, though their reasons were wildly different.


The doorbell jolted Lestrade awake. The sun was shining, but it was still early in the morning. His neck ached, both from last night's encounter and from the fact he'd slept sitting up on the couch, a very awkward and uncomfortable position. His glass of whiskey was still sitting on the sofa table, untouched. He scrubbed his face with his hands, and stood up. "Just a minute!" he hollered to his visitor, as he made his way to the door.

Standing outside his flat was a very stricken-looking Mycroft. As soon as the door opened, Mycroft slipped in, closing the door behind him. He wrapped his arms around Lestrade, burying his face into his neck.

"I got John's message this morning. Damn Anthea for letting me sleep. My brother is an idiot. I apologize," he whispered.

"Your brother is a hot-head. A jealous hot-head."

Mycroft leaned back, looking surprised. "Jealous?"

"Of course, he's jealous. He's always had you all to himself, right? Now he has to share."

Mycroft's eyes misted a bit. "Well, not always..."

Realizing they were still standing in the entry way, Lestrade gently put his arm around Mycroft's waist, and led him to the living room. They sat on the couch, and Lestrade turned to him. "Tell me."

"It was about 15 years ago, when I was just finishing university, and Sherlock was just starting. He and I shared a flat in Elsworth while we attended classes at Cambridge, and I would drive us to classes each day.

There was a lovely young woman in my philosophy class. Beautiful dark hair, piercing blue eyes, and a mind as sharp as a whip. We were working on our final thesis project - the Philosophy of Domination - so we were spending a lot of time together for a few months, researching and writing. She would even occasionally sleep on the couch at our flat, since she lived closer to Oxford though she attended classes at Cambridge as we did, and our research would often extend into the early morning hours. Both Sherlock and I considered her a friend, and later, she was my confidante. She put a lot of effort into trying to attract my romantic interests, but... well... I wasn't interested in her that way, and she seemed to accept that. I told her of my attraction to a young man in another of my classes - Victor. I knew, however, that he was an unattainable goal, since he was decidedly NOT interested in men.

Not long after, she seduced Victor, and made sure I knew it. Not only that, she told Victor I was lovesick over him, and after classes ended, Victor and several of his friends cornered me, and rained down fists and feet on me until I was curled up on the ground, begging for mercy. She just stood to the side, watching, egging them on. I was undone - I had trusted her, even cared for her, in my way - and she betrayed me.

Afterward, I managed to limp back to my car and drive myself home. Sherlock was terrified - it was really the first time he'd seen the aftermath of such violence. I did my best to calm him. I didn't tell him about Irene's involvement that night. The fact that she stopped calling on us after the final project was completed looked normal, and I never bothered to explain more.

The physical injuries faded after a few weeks, but the damage done lasts to this day. I've kept everyone at arm's length, trusting no one. Even Sherlock. I have been afraid to feel, because my feelings are what let her hurt me so deeply. And worse, I started to impress on young Sherlock that caring is a disadvantage, that it leaves one vulnerable.

About 5 years later, I saw an article about Victor - he had been killed in a plane crash. Sherlock must have seen the look on my face, and asked me about him, so I told him the whole story - including Irene's part in it. The coldness in his eyes frightened me. When the Palace requested his services on a case that involved her, I hesitated, but he was able to handle it better than I expected. I have to wonder if he 'deleted' his memories of her."

The two men sat silently, Mycroft relieved that he'd said his peace, and Lystrade still absorbing it all. Then he looked deep into his friend's sad eyes. "Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me that, Mycroft. You can always trust me." He cupped Mycroft's face in his hands, and softly kissed his forehead. "You are safe with me. You matter to me."

Mycroft swallowed and nodded. "Thank you, Gregory."

Chapter Text

Lestrade walked into the cafe and looked around. Seeing the tall man sitting uncomfortably at a table, he walked over and slid into the chair across from him.

"Good morning, Mycroft."

"Good morning, Gregory. I took the liberty of ordering you a cup of coffee. I can't imagine why you prefer that over tea with breakfast."

Lestrade smiled. "Most mornings, I need more caffeine than tea is going to give me, Mycroft. It's not bad, really. You should try it more often."

The waitress came by for their breakfast orders - eggs and toast for Lestrade, and raisin scones for Mycroft - and left them alone again.

Mycroft lowered his voice. "When will I get to see you again, dear? My bed has been dreadfully cold lately." He reached his hand partway across the table.

Lestrade reached out, lazily stroking the top of Mycroft's hand. "How about tonight?"

Mycroft frowned. "Tonight's not good - I will be very late working on the Slovenia issue. Tomorrow night?"

"That works for me, love. Dinner? My turn to bring the wine?"

"Yes. And bring a bottle of that scotch you enjoy," Mycroft smiled.

"Why, Mr. Holmes, are you going to get me drunk and take advantage?" Lestrade tried to look shocked, but the smile in his eyes took away from the effort.

"Rest assured, Detective Inspector," Mycroft purred, "I only plan to do one of those things."

Lestrade shook his head, his cheeks now a vibrant pink. "I've created a monster."

Both men struggled to regain their composure, as the waitress returned with their meals, and fresh tea and coffee. Lestrade hadn't realized how hungry he was until the smell of the food hit him.

"So, how is Sherlock doing these days?" Lestrade asked between bites. "I haven't heard from him or John for a couple of weeks."

"Detox is going well," Mycroft looked into his teacup, as though the answers to life were there. "John, Molly, and Mrs. Hudson are keeping track of him, now that the immediate danger has passed. I expect he'll be itching for cases again soon."

Lestrade put his fork down and looked at Mycroft sternly. "You know full well that's not what I was asking about. Have you spoken to him? Seen him?"

"No. I don't think that would be wise."

"He may not have been entirely rational, but he was angry with me, not you."

"I know my little brother."

"Well, you have to talk to him sometime. You're family. He'll cool off."

"Perhaps. He will come to you eventually, too. You're his source of challenging cases, after all."

"Actually, I think Driscoll is going to be working with him for a while. I don't see a reason to yank on the tiger's tail, if you know what I mean. What matters is that Sherlock keeps his mind occupied, right?"

"A wise choice, Gregory. I hope this Driscoll person has even half your decorum when dealing with my brother."

"Oh, Driscoll's been warned," Lestrade chuckled. "She's going to give her very best effort into not punching your brother in the nose."

Mycroft's eyes widened. "SHE? Oh, to be a fly on the wall when they meet..."


John met Molly at her office door. "Where's Sherlock?"

Without looking up from her paperwork, she replied "Down in cold room. He needed to check on Mrs. Clarke's fingertips."

John nodded, and headed down to the morgue. There he found Sherlock at the examination table, scrutinizing the fingers of a disembodied hand.

"Hello, John. Is it your turn now?" Sherlock mumbled. Not hearing a response, he stood up and looked at the man. "You know, It's been nearly a month.  I am perfectly capable of handling myself. You and Molly don't have to treat me like the object of a post-marital custody agreement."

"You're lucky I even let you out of the house, Sherlock, after last week's little stunt. I should have sent you to that pricey rehab clinic in Switzerland for a month."

"Last week's little STUNT?" Sherlock's emphasis made him sound like a petulant child. "You were holding me PRISONER in my own FLAT. I needed cigarettes - which is still a marginally socially-acceptable vice, mind you - and you refused to bring me any. Is it MY fault you left the fire escape unattended?"

John scowled. "Who would have thought you would climb out the bedroom window in your pyjamas and walk barefoot to the newsstand for cigarettes?"

"To my credit, I DID come back. So what is the problem?"

"We are just looking out for you, Sherlock. You know that."

"Well, I wish you would stop being so suffocating about it."

"Fine," John said. "How about we stop by New Scotland Yard and see if they have anything interesting going on?"

Sherlock looked at John warily, but with a gleam in his eye that reminded John of a kid at Christmas, "That sounds... agreeable," Sherlock said slowly, carrying Mrs. Clarke's hand back to the drawer containing the rest of her.

John knew that Lestrade generally had Tuesdays off, but just to be sure, he wanted to text him.

You at work today? JW

Several minutes later, his mobile chirped.

No - day off. What's up? GL

Nothing. Sherlock and I wanted to visit NSY. JW

Ah. Check in with Driscoll. Might have something for him. GL

OK, thanks. JW

I can certainly understand why Lestrade is avoiding Sherlock, John thought to himself. I wonder how long it will be before Sherlock doesn't want to string Lestrade up?

John's phone chirped again.

Pint later? GL

Can't tonight. How about Thursday, when Sherlock's with Mrs. Hudson? JW

It's a plan. Just say when. GL


Sherlock fairly floated into the office at New Scotland Yard. He was looking forward to meeting this new DI Driscoll. He wasn't sure he could deal with Lestrade right now, after all that had happened.

"Good morning, Detective Sergeant Donovan! Lovely day, isn't it?" Sherlock beamed. His unnatural cheeriness set Sally on edge. She looked critically at John.

The DS leaned close to John and asked "What the hell did you put in his tea this morning, Watson? He's certainly happy today. It's weird, even for him," she whispered roughly. John winked and walked away, laughing.

John walked up to DI Driscoll's office, and politely knocked. Sherlock scowled. "We can just walk into Lestrade's office. Why are you knocking?"

"It's the polite thing to do, Sherlock. We don't want to alienate the man before we've even met him!"

Sherlock huffed. The door opened, revealed a slender, dark-haired woman with glasses. "You must be Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson. Please come in."

John and Sherlock stood there for a moment with their mouths open. "Detective Inspector Driscoll?" John asked, as they cautiously walked into the office.

"Thomasine Driscoll. Most people just call me Tommy, though." She reached out to shake Sherlock's hand.

"Interesting," Sherlock as he took her hand, clearly evaluating her. "Because you are in a stereotypically male position, you are willing to use a stereotypically male nickname."

"Sherlock, stop it," John said under his breath.

Sherlock ignored him. "I see that you married, though - while you don't wear your wedding ring on the job, the tan line on your left ring finger tells me you wear it off work. Probably even when you're gardening, judging by the state of your fingernails."

Driscoll stared at him, dumbfounded.

"Yes," John interrupted. "He's always like that. You get used to it."

"Greg warned me, but damn, he's impressive. I can see why Anderson and Donovan thinks he's annoying, though," Driscoll said with a smile. "Come on - take a seat. Let's look through some of these files, and see if we can find something you can work on."

Chapter Text

It was about 10pm Thursday night when John finally texted Lestrade and headed over to their favorite pub. Sherlock was being particularly obstinate tonight, but luckily, a big pasta dinner always made him sleepy, and between John and Mrs. Hudson, they got him off to bed. For not being their housekeeper, the older woman certainly enjoyed cleaning their flat, and quietly busied herself with the task. "You run along, dear," she said to John sweetly. "I'll manage him for a few hours."

John nodded, "Thank you, Mrs. Hudson. I won't be too late. Call if you need me." She nodded, and returned to washing dishes.

Mrs. Hudson may be a slight thing, he thought, but she certainly can put Sherlock in his place. I sure wouldn't want to get on her bad side, he grinned.

Lestrade was sitting in a booth not far from the door. When he saw John, he stood up and walked toward him, clapping him firmly on his good shoulder. "Hey, mate! I've missed you!"

John beamed. "I've missed you, too, Greg." They walked back to the booth and took their seats. "How are things going with you and... Mycroft?"

"Just fine. We spend a lot of time together, when we're not up to our eyeballs in work. Very happy, both of us. Sex is good, too," Letrade grinned mischievously.

John choked. "Good, that's... uh... good," John stammered, as the waitress brought their pints. He took a long drink, trying to erase that mental image, as Lestrade chuckled.

"So we chatted with Driscoll today. She's given Sherlock a handful of case files to look over. Some of them look promising."

"Good to keep the git's brain occupied."

"You did manage something I thought I'd never see."

"What's that?"

"Sherlock was surprised as hell to find out 'Tommy Driscoll' was a woman. He was actually speechless for a full minute."

Lestrade grinned slyly. "Yeah, I thought that would be fun. Mycroft wished he could have seen the look on Sherlock's face. Hell, so do I."

They both laughed.

"Once he got over the initial shock, it went well. I don't think he likes her, though."

"Of course not. He doesn't like anyone. Except you. And Molly. And maybe Mrs. Hudson, but I think he's more scared of her."

John grinned. That sounds accurate. John turned serious. "He likes you, too, Greg. He's just... conflicted... right now."

"Yeah, I know. He'll come out of it soon, I hope, for Mycroft's sake, if nothing else."

"He's shut Mycroft out, too?"

"Yeah. I can tell it's starting to wear on him, but it's not like I can fix it. The ball is firmly in Sherlock's court on that."

"He'll never admit he was wrong, you know."

Lestrade nodded and took another drink. "He doesn't have to. He just has to be willing to move past it. Mycroft and I are. But Sherlock is going to have to make the first move."

"Understood," John drained his glass. "Well, I actually need to get back. I promised Mrs. Hudson I wouldn't be gone long. You never know when he'll wake up."

"Let's get together again soon, with or without the git, OK?"

"Will do, Greg. Say hello to Mycroft for me."


John returned to 221B shortly after midnight and quietly entered. When he reached the top of the stairs, he found a clearly exasperated Sherlock draped over the couch, one arm hanging over the end near the desk. "John, thank God you're here. Will you tell this mad woman I have no intention of escaping tonight?"

Mrs. Hudson called from the kitchen, "Then you shouldn't have tried to climb out the window, dear."

John snickered, realizing that Mrs. Hudson had handcuffed Sherlock to the heavy wooden desk.

"Mrs. Hudson, now that I'm back, can we go ahead and take the handcuffs off him? I'm pretty sure I can keep him inside for the rest of the night." The older woman came into the living room and deftly unlocked the cuffs, slipping them back into her apron pocket.

"Well, then, I'll be off, John. I need my beauty sleep. I made some chamomile tea for you boys. Get some rest!" She headed downstairs. John waited to hear the click of her door, then turned to Sherlock, who was sitting on the couch, rubbing his previously-bound wrist.

"You must have been hell on babysitters, Sherlock."

"I never had a 'babysitter' - I had Mycroft."

"That explains a lot, actually." John chuckled. "Speaking of Mycroft, when did you last talk to him?"

"You know the answer to that question," Sherlock replied darkly. They had not spoken since the night he told Sherlock about his budding relationship with Lestrade.

"Don't you think you ought to talk to him?"

"Why bother? He doesn't listen to me."

"Why bother? Because he's your brother. Which is also the reason he doesn't listen to you. And the reason you never listen to him. It's what siblings do.  God knows I never listened to Harry."

"I never listen to him because he's a pompous, annoying arsehole."

"...said the pot to the kettle..." John mumbled, though Sherlock still heard it. "Look, Sherlock. Talk to him. Nobody needs to apologize. You don't need to approve of Greg. Just talk to him. He's your brother, and as much as neither of you wants to admit it, you need each other."

Sherlock's eyes narrowed. "Did he put you up to this?"

"No, I haven't talked to him, either. To be honest, I didn't want to get in the middle of... whatever this is. But Greg is starting to worry about him - says it's starting to grate on him."

Sherlock stiffened at the mention of Lestrade, but then looked thoughtful. "I will consider it. For Mycroft's sake."


Mycroft woke early as usual, and tried to slip out of bed without waking Lestrade. And failed.

"Where're you going, love?" he mumbled.

"Just going to the loo, then putting on a kettle for tea. I will be right back, dear," Mycroft whispered in his ear.

"Mmm... better be," came the sleepy response.

Mycroft grabbed his dressing gown, took care of his needs in the loo, and padded downstairs to the kitchen. He started up the kettle, and put a pod in the single-cup coffee maker he'd bought for Lestrade. Brilliant little device, he thought. Perfect for a household that occasionally needs a cup of coffee.

He hummed to himself as he prepared a tray of fruit and a few pastries for breakfast. When the kettle was ready, he poured himself a cup of tea, and turned on the coffee machine, which churned out a cup of coffee while his tea steeped. He put the cups on the tray and carried it back upstairs to his room.

Lestrade was propped up on one elbow, waiting for him. Mycroft sat down on the edge of the bed, and set the tray between them, handing Lestrade his cup of black coffee.

"Coffee? You made coffee for me?" Lestrade was amazed, and took a sip. "Correction - you made good coffee for me?"

Mycroft sniffed. "Yes, I can make coffee, dear. I bought one of those single-cup machines, so you could have whatever coffee your heart desires. Maybe that will entice you to stay here more often." Mycroft winked.

"I don't stay here for breakfast, Mycroft." Lestrade grinned.

"Are you sure? You do tend to think with your stomach."

"Not always." Lestrade put his hand on Mycroft's thigh, gently stroking it.

Mycroft's phone chirped.

"What now..." he mumbled, reaching for the infernal device. His eyes widened in surprise - it was a text from Sherlock. He playfully smacked Lestrade's hand away so he could concentrate on the phone. Lestrade pouted.

Good morning, brother dear. SH

Can we talk? SH

"It's Sherlock!" Mycroft whispered roughly. Lestrade was equal parts surprised and relieved - John pulled it off. I have to remember to buy the next round at the pub, he smiled to himself.

Certainly. Name a time and place. MH

Queen Mary's Rose Gardens. Near the gates. 2pm. SH

Agreed. See you then. MH

Mycroft looked at the clock. It was 9am now. More than enough time, he smiled at Lestrade lustfully.

Chapter Text

At 1:50, the black sedan pulled up at the black and gold gates of Queen Mary's Rose Gardens.  Mycroft collected his thoughts as the driver walked around the car and opened his door.  "I will text when I am ready to be retrieved."  The driver nodded, got back into the car, and drove away.

Mycroft straightened his waistcoat, and strode through the gates, taking a seat at one of the benches near the entrance.  His umbrella rested against his knee.  He tried to relax, closing his eyes and enjoying the pleasant scent of roses wafting over him with the breeze.

"Ahem."  Mycroft's eyes shot open, to find Sherlock standing in front of him.  "Good afternoon, brother mine," Mycroft stammered.  "You caught me by surprise.  My apologies."

"It's fairly easy to surprise someone who is sitting on a park bench with his eyes closed, dear brother," Sherlock frowned.  "Let's walk."  Sherlock turned down one of the rose-lined paths, toward the lake.

Mycroft rose quickly, catching up to Sherlock and matching his pace.  When they reached the lake, they found a bench and sat in silence, watching the geese on the water.

"How are you?" Sherlock asked.

Mycroft replied, "Oh, goody - now for the small talk.  I am fine."  His voice fairly dripped sarcasm.

Sherlock rolled his eyes.  "John told me that Lestrade was worried about you.  That my absence was a problem for you.  Is it?"

"To some extent, yes.  You know how I have always worried about you, Sherlock.  Your little 'diversion' was disconcerting, and not just because of what you could have done to Gregory.  Because of what you nearly did to yourself."

Sherlock blinked.  "What?"

"Tell me you wouldn't have fallen right back into your old habits, if you'd left Gregory's flat alone.  Tell me you wouldn't have gone underground to avoid police scrutiny.  Tell me I wouldn't have found you in some back alley within a week, drugged out of your mind, or worse.  Look me in the eyes and tell me that."

Sherlock looked at his hands folded in his lap.   Mycroft's demeanor softened. 

"You have always been teetering on the edge, between emotion and reason.  You medicate when you can't maintain the equlibrium.  I've seen that kind of rage in you before.  It frightened me."

Sherlock, his voice barely more than a whisper,  "Maybe if you hadn't..."

Mycroft's temper flared.  "If I hadn't what?  Coddled you so much as a child?  Covered for your teenaged indiscretions?  Made sure you were taken care of when your 'recreational activities' got out of hand?" he replied angrily.

Sherlock looked at him in shock.  "I was going to say 'gotten involved with Lestrade,'" he said slowly.

"I was wrong," Mycroft sighed.  "Sentiment is not weakness.  Sentiment gives balance.  It enhances life's meaning far more than emotion or reason can separately.  I regret that I have led you down the wrong path."

Sherlock's eyes widened.  Mycroft admitting he was wrong?  Who is high this time?

"To find someone who wants to spend time with me not because of what I can do for him, but because he actually enjoys my company is not something I ever expected to happen or even dared hope for.  Trust me when I tell you that what happened before, will not happen again.  You do not need to protect me this time."  Mycroft put his hand on Sherlock's shoulder, turning him so they were looking at each other.  "Please... let me have this." 

Sherlock met his brother's pleading gaze, then turned back to stare across the water.

"Fine."

Mycroft raised an eyebrow.  "Fine?"

"Yes, fine.  I will stay out of it," Sherlock responded curtly.

"Thank you, brother mine."  Mycroft stood, gave Sherlock a brotherly kiss on top of his curly locks, and left.

Sherlock stared blankly at the black swan on the lake, retreating to his Mind Palace for some research.


Sherlock started with a newspaper article from 10 years ago. 

A recently-licensed private pilot departed out of London Elstree Aerodrome at 10:45am in a rented Cessna 172R for a day trip.  Approximately fifteen minutes after takeoff, the pilot contacted the tower, indicating that he was having engine trouble, and was returning.  In executing a turn, the pilot lost control of the plane and it spun into a nearby field, where it burst into flames on impact.  The pilot, a young man name Victor Adams, did not survive.  There were no other injuries. The CAA is investigating the incident.

Sherlock looked at the copy of the CAA report - something he had found in Mycroft's desk a few weeks after the incident. Given Mycroft's nascent involvement with the British government, finding such a report wasn't at all out of the ordinary.

Final determination:

Aircraft make/model: Cessna 172R

Craft Service Records:  Reviewed and verified;

                Last service: 842 flight hours

Flight hours recorded at last checkout: 858

Cause of accident: Catastrophic engine failure.  Oil pump malfunction.  Crankshaft failed due to lack of oil. 

Contributing factor: Pilot inexperience

"Interesting," Sherlock mumbled to himself.  "How does the oil pump get damaged without it being caught in the regular servicing of the engine?  They are pretty meticulous on the upkeep of rental craft."

His mind drifted back to when he and Mycroft were sharing the flat near university.  Mycroft had long-since graduated, but since the flat was convenient for them both, he remained there while Sherlock continued to take classes.  Mycroft decided to take a course to obtain his private pilot license at a well-known flight school in the area.  

Sherlock remembered coming home one evening to find Mycroft poring over books on small aircraft engine maintenance.  "Perhaps once I have a license, I can consider purchasing a small plane for us, Sherlock.  Wouldn't it be grand to just pick up and leave for a weekend in Italy to tour museums, or to Switzerland for some skiing?" That was the explanation - if one owned a plane, it stands to reason one should know how to maintain it.

Or damage it...

A smile crept slowly onto Sherlock's lips. Oh, well played, dear brother.  Well played.  I never thought you the vengeful sort, but it seems I have misjudged.  You can handle yourself well.

A sudden pain in his knee jarred Sherlock back to the rose gardens.  The black swan pecked him again, its black eyes staring up at him.  Sherlock shooed it away and rose, beginning a leisurely walk back to Baker Street.


As Mycroft headed toward the gate, he pulled out his phone.

I am returning home. MH

Did it go well? GL

I believe so. I will see you shortly. MH

Just as he was about to send a text to his driver, Mycroft noticed a black sedan pull up. He must have seen me walking out, so I wouldn't be stuck waiting for him. 

The driver parked, and stepped out to open the door for him.

As he slipped into the back seat, Mycroft saw a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye, then felt a stinging sensation in his shoulder. He turned to see... Irene Adler.  Holding a now-empty syringe.  He looked at her in horror. 

"Now, sweetheart, don't fret. You're just going to take a little nap while my friend drives us to our destination," she cooed, gently stroking his cheek.

Mycroft was unsuccessfully fighting off panic, as his body went limp and his eyes began to droop. He felt Irene reach into his pocket, removing his phone. "We should start the breadcrumb trail for your little brother, don't you think?" With that, she opened the window and dropped his phone on the street.  It bounced, finally coming to rest near the curb. The window closed and the car began to move.

 

Chapter Text

The street outside the rose garden gates was empty.  Collar flipped up and hands in his pockets, Sherlock had turned toward Baker Street, when he heard a distinctive ringtone.  He stopped.

That sounds like Mycroft's phone...  He looked around slowly, not seeing his brother anywhere.  His eyes happened to glance down, and see a bright light near the curb.

He hurried over to it, and bent down to pick it up.  He looked at the phone.  This is Mycroft's phone!

Sherlock's heart rose to his throat.  Mycroft's phone was almost permanently attached to him.  There was no good reason to find it laying on a public street.

The phone continued to ring.  Blocked number.  I might as well answer it.  "Holmes here," he responded curtly.

A soft female voice responded.  "Oh hello, Sherlock.  Big brother needs your help."

Sherlock did not recognize the voice.  He struggled to keep his anger in check, and snarled, "WHERE IS HE?"

"Now, now, Sherlock, that would be playing fair."  The voice took a darker tone.  "I don't play fair.  Not anymore."

"WHO IS THIS?"  Sherlock's thoughts spun through a veritable catalog of faces, voices, and names, to no avail - his emotions were getting in the way.

The caller continued sweetly, "I have missed the Holmes boys so.  I do hope I get to see you soon, too."  The call disconnected.

Sherlock stared blankly at the phone.  A photo appeared on its screen - a single dark rose.

Seeing no cabs in the area, Sherlock turned toward Baker Street, and broke into a run.


His shift at the surgery was finally over, and John decided to head over to the grocery on the way home - as usual, they were out of milk.  His phone chirped.

JOHN CALL ME. GL

If panic can be expressed via text, that was it.  John stopped outside the store and called Lestrade.

"What's up, Greg?"

"Have you heard from Mycroft?  He should have been back an hour ago."  John could hear fear in Lestrade's voice.

"He was meeting Sherlock at the Rose Gardens.  Maybe he's still there?"

"No, he texted me that he was on his way home, a little after 2:30pm."

John's phone chirped.  "Hang on, Greg."  He pulled the phone from his ear and checked the screen.  It was a message from Sherlock.

Mycroft in danger.  Baker Street.  NOW.  SH

John put the phone back to his ear.  "Greg, I just got a text from Sherlock.  Something about Mycroft being in trouble.  I'm going to meet him over at Baker Street.  Meet us there?"  John wasn't sure if this was a good time for it, but the two of them were going to have to pull it together and get over their issues for Mycroft's sake.

"I'll get there as fast as I can."  Greg disconnected the call, grabbed his jacket, and headed to his car.  He could get from Mycroft's house to Baker Street in under 30 minutes.  Under 20, if he turned on the sirens.

John messaged Sherlock.

On my way.  So is Greg. JW

John hurried to the nearest Tube entrance.


John arrived at the flat, to find Sherlock nervously pacing the living room, his Belstaff whirling each time he turned.

"Sherlock, what is going on?" John asked.

"WHO was I talking to?" Sherlock mumbled to himself.  "I know that voice... just can't place it..."

"SHERLOCK!"  Sherlock stopped and stared at John.  "What is going on?" John repeated.

"Someone has Mycroft.  The only clue I have is this," Sherlock showed him the photograph.  "A black rose.  Traditionally symbolic of death or hatred."

"OK.  One could conclude that whoever sent you that picture hates Mycroft, and/or plans to kill him?"

"Obviously, John."

"If they planned to kill him, why contact you at all?  Maybe Mycroft is not the target, but the bait?"

"Hm.  Also highly plausible," said Sherlock thoughtfully.  "They had to know I would come after him."

John continued.  "Unfortunately, black roses are very easy to produce - any fresh dark rose in a vase of diluted black ink will turn black over time.  The picture is less a clue than a statement, a threat."

"Indeed."

The front door opened.  "John?  I got here as soon as I could," Greg called out, taking the stairs two at a time.  He came to a sudden stop at the door.  Sherlock froze mid-step, and locked eyes with him.  "Lestrade," he said darkly.

"Sherlock..." Lestrade responded nervously, then steeled his resolve.  Differences be damned - it's time to work.  "What do we know?"

John sat in his chair, pencil poised over paper, ready to take notes.  Sherlock resumed his pacing.  "Mycroft left the lake by Queen Mary's Rose Gardens at approximately 2:30pm."

"Right - I got a text from him about 5 minutes after that, " Lestrade noted.

Sherlock continued as though Lestrade had not spoken.  "I left the park 45 minutes later - 3:15pm.  When I exited the gate, I found Mycroft's phone laying in the street.  He would never give his phone up willingly, and certainly would never leave it behind.  Conclusion: someone rendered him unable to prevent them taking it and leaving it behind."

"Has anyone contacted Anthea?" Lestrade asked.

"I... hadn't thought of that.  John, can you pull her number from Mycroft's phone and -"

"I'm on it," Lestrade said, rapidly pulling up Anthea's contact information on his phone.  Of course he has Anthea's number... he's involved with my brother.  You're slipping, Holmes.

Anthea, Lestrade here.  Where is Mycroft? GL

Her response was thankfully fast.

Driver is waiting for pickup text.  Should be at Queen Mary's Rose Garden with Sherlock. A

"Shit," Lestrade mumbled.  "Someone must have duped him into thinking they were his driver.  His driver is still waiting for him to text for a pickup."

Sherlock is at Baker Street with John and me.  Mycroft's phone found outside Rose Garden gates. GL

Initiating search-and-rescue protocols.  Last contact? A

He texted me at 2:35pm.  Phone found at 3:15pm. GL

Keep in contact as details emerge.  I will do the same.  A

Just as Lestrade was about to slip his phone back into his pocket, it chirped again.

Don't worry, Greg.  We will find him. A

Lestrade just hoped they found him soon, and safe.

"So, what do we do now?" Lestrade asked John.

Sherlock flopped into his chair. "We wait."


Mycroft sat up groggily.  The couch was decidedly uncomfortable, not nearly large enough for someone of his frame to lie on.  It's surprising I didn't end up on the floor, he thought to himself.  He pushed the light blanket covering him to one side, and slowly surveyed his new environment.

It wasn't a surprise to see that the desk held no telephone, computer, or other communications devices.  The bookshelves nearly bare, though there were a few books and knick-knacks scattered on the shelves.

He pulled open the drapes to find himself in front of a solid glass pane, looking out over rolling green fields.   The sun just setting over the horizon.  Perhaps 6pm? he calculated.  Instinctively, he reached for his pocket watch to check the time - gone.  He sighed.  There goes my tracking device, too.  I estimate that I've been unconscious for approximately three to four hours.  That's a pretty wide search radius.

The room had two doors.  Cautiously, he walked to the door behind the desk, and opened it to find a small room, containing nothing more than a toilet and small sink.  Like the rest of the office, it was functional, not extravagant.  Closing the door, he turned and looked at the other door, knowing it should be the exit.  He walked to it and slowly tried the handle - locked, of course.  That would have been too easy.  His jacket hung neatly on the nearby coat rack, and his shoes were tucked under the couch.  He checked his pockets - no wallet, no phone.   He vaguely remembered his phone being taken.  He returned to the window, trying to remember the events leading up to the present.

The driver!  He was similar enough to the regular driver in appearance, apparently, but in retrospect, not the same man.  The chauffeur attire contributed to that oversight, of course.  Mycroft hadn't closely looked at the black sedan - it was black, with dark tinted rear windows, like the others.  That, apparently, was enough to pull off the disguise.  He made a mental note to add some subtle identifier to the vehicle fleet in the future.

Then, when he got into the car...  why had he not actually looked into the back seat before getting in?  Irene was well-hidden, wrapped in her dark coat, but the alabaster skin of her hands would have provided enough contrast so as to make her visible, if he'd only looked. 

Irene, he mused. I haven't seen her since... that night... He cringed at the memory.

Look what Hell complacency hath wrought, he thought grimly.


The men had restlessly paced Sherlock's flat for over an hour, occasionally stopping for a sip of tea (or in Lestrade's case, something stronger).  At one point, Mrs. Hudson brought up a plate of cookies, but none of them were interested in sweets right now.  

Lestrade's phone chirped.  He pulled it out of his pocket so fast he nearly dropped it.

Mycroft's tracking device located.  In the back of an abandoned vehicle near Aylesbury.  Sending photos now.  A

"Anthea's got something!" Lestrade exclaimed.  "They found Mycroft's watch.  Take a look at this," showing the picture to Sherlock and John, who had rushed to his side.

The first photograph was of a black sedan with tinted windows.  "That must have been the car that picked him up," Lestrade said.  "It sure looks like one of his, anyhow."  John nodded.

Then came the second photograph - Mycroft's silver pocket watch, sitting on a black leather seat alongside a bundle of puffy yellow wildflowers.

Sherlock took Lestrade's phone and studied the two photographs.  "Interesting.  More flowers.  What are those?"  Sherlock tried to zoom in on the photo.

John looked over his shoulder.  "I've seen those before - usually in fields of wildflowers, in fact."  He walked over to his laptop, and turned it on.  "Let me see if I can look it up."

John began typing.  "I'm surprised you don't have a catalog of flowers in that Mind Palace of yours, Sherlock," John commented.  "Or does that fall under 'unnecessary information' for you?"

"I know a lot about plants that can poison or heal, John," Sherlock mumbled. "The rest is trivia."

"Not this time."  John typed in search terms and scrolled through webpages.  "Here it is.  That looks like lotus corniculatus, commonly known as birdsfoot trefoil.  Regularly included in wildflower mixes in Europe.  Used as forage for livestock.  Contains a small amount of cyanide, but not normally harmful to humans.  Infusions can have a sedative effect."

"And like the black rose, unhelpfully common," Sherlock sighed.

At the same moment, Sherlock and John looked at each other, and spoke simultaneously, "But what does it mean?"  John's eyes shot back to the computer, as he brought up an article on the meanings of flowers.

Sherlock and Lestrade both looked over John's shoulders as the page came up, and John scrolled to the entry for birdsfoot trefoil. 

Lestrade's face fell.  "Now we have a motive.  Revenge."

Chapter Text

John put his hand on Lestrade's shoulder.  "Easy, Greg.  Like I told Sherlock earlier, if they wanted to hurt Mycroft, they would have.  Maybe he's bait - to get to Sherlock."

"That's not helping, John."

"Well, at the moment, it's the best I've got." John sighed, giving Lestrade's shoulder a squeeze. 

"Thanks, mate."

Sherlock sat in his chair, hands steepled in front of him, deep in thought.  "I know that voice..." he whispered.

Lestrade raised an eyebrow, and looked at John.  "He's talked to someone?"

"Yeah.  Mycroft's phone was ringing when he found it.  He answered it.  The woman on the line told him that Mycroft 'needed him'.  He's been rattling the voice around in his head ever since...  he can't put his finger on it."

Lestrade rubbed his jaw.  "So... we're looking for a woman who wants to get back at Mycroft for something?"

"Or get back at Sherlock for something."

Lestrade pulled out his phone and texted Anthea.

New information. Motive is revenge.  Kidnapper may be a woman. GL

Mycroft has a fairly significant list of enemies.  Not many women, though.  Will look into it. A

Thanks. GL

"Anthea will do some digging on her end.  In the meantime, let's go through your notes and see who we can come up with.  This would work better if we got him involved, wouldn't it?" Lestrade asked, nudging his head in Sherlock's direction.

"Let's narrow it down a little first.  Best to give him the pared-down version of the list.  He'll focus better that way."

The two men set to work going through John's files on recent cases.  In most of them, the woman was the one who ended up in jail, or was instrumental in putting someone in jail – those could be eliminated.  There were a few cases, though, where the woman was a jilted lover, but they just could not link those women to the Holmes brothers.


The office door opened, and Irene walked in, carrying a tray with tea and sandwiches.  She set the tray on the desk, and poured two cups, setting one in front of Mycroft.

Mycroft set down the book he was reading, and looked at her.  "At least you still have good taste in literature, Ms. Adler."  He had been passing the time by reading a volume of Shakespearean plays he found on the shelves. 

"Oh, please - it's Irene.  Surely, you remember my first name," Irene sniffed.  "I did try to make sure you wouldn't be too bored, all alone in my office."

"Your office?  We're not in London, and I know we're nowhere near Aylesbury."

"Your surveillance of my London office has been anything but subtle, my dear, and I haven't lived in Aylesbury in years.  Surely, you knew that."

Mycroft remembered that he had scaled back his surveillance of Irene over the past few years.  The London home was her workplace, not her home.  In university, she'd rented in a flat in Aylesbury.  He'd neglected to see where she had moved after...

"Aylesbury was becoming increasingly stressful - I was too easy to find there.  I needed a change of scenery, but still in driving distance of work, of course."  Irene looked at her fingernails absently.

Mycroft listened quietly, sipping his tea.

"I came back to London a few months after the Karachi incident.  A client recommended this little village as a good hideaway, and I've been here since.  It's peaceful, and still close enough to London for me to work when I'm needed."

Irene settled into the chair behind the desk.  “You see, Mycroft, I don’t think you quite grasp how much you boys hurt me.  When Sherlock unlocked my phone for you, I decided you needed to feel my pain.  I’ve expended a great deal of energy, and called in a lot of favors to bring this to a head.  I do hope your brother reaches the right conclusions soon.  I would like to thank him personally for my escape from Pakistan.  Things were a bit... rushed... at the time."

"It sounds as though your problem is with Sherlock, not me. Why do I need to be involved at all?" Mycroft huffed.  He disliked being a pawn in someone else's game.

"Oh, Mycroft, you have been involved all along.  Ever since Victor's 'accident'."

Mycroft caught the inflection in Irene’s tone, and looked at her.  How can she know the truth?  "What do you mean?" he responded carefully. 

"You know exactly what I mean.  We both know that was no accident," she spat.  "You couldn't have him, so no one could.”  She leaned back in the chair.  “Revenge does suit you, though.  I was impressed."

"That had nothing to do with you, Irene.  My grievances were with Victor alone.  If you were hurt, it was unintentional collateral damage."

"Forgive me if I don't believe you," she snapped.  "You knew full well we were involved."  She walked over to the chair where Mycroft was sitting, draping herself over his lap.  He sat stoically, unmoved.

She slipped her arm around his waist, and tucked a flower neatly into his waistcoat, holding it in place with her hand.  "One last tidbit for Junior," she whispered in his ear in a sultry tone, snapping a picture with her other hand.  She typed on the phone, and hit Send.


Mycroft's phone chirped, and John picked it up.  "Sherlock, another picture."

Taking the phone, Sherlock looked at the photograph.  Grey fabric, buttons - Mycroft's waistcoat? - and another flower, this time being pressed to the fabric by a delicate female hand with bright red nail polish, and ... the edge of a ring.  He looked at the ring more closely.

"I know who this is!" He jumped up, nearly knocking Lestrade and John over, as they had huddled around him to look.

John and Lestrade waited for the explanation they knew was coming.

"That flower is a narcissus poetica, also known as a poet's daffodil.  If you look up the meaning of it, John, you will find it symbolizes unrequited love. 

John checked the article.  "Yes, that's right."

"Of course it is, John," Sherlock mumbled.  " It’s found all over, but of note is that it’s a common wildflower in Pakistan."

John raised an eyebrow.

“Lastly, the ring on her pinky appears to be a Cambridge signet ring.  I believe the woman we are dealing with is Irene Adler.  "

Lestrade blanched.  "She's doing this because he didn't want her, some 15 years ago?  Getting her boyfriend to beat him up wasn't enough?"

A look of surprise swept over Sherlock's face.  Mycroft must trust Lestrade, if he told him about that night. 

"I don't think so.  The first flower was a black rose..."

Lestrade responded, "... so she's getting back at him because of Victor's death?  But that was an accident..."

No surprise Lestrade doesn't know about that.  Mycroft never admitted to it - even to me.

Sherlock deflected.  "She blamed Mycroft for it, in any event."

"OK... but how do we find her?" John interjected.  "I assume Mycroft keeps her London house under surveillance, so we would know if she were there."

Lestrade immediately started texting Anthea.

Need location on Irene Adler. GL

On it.  A

"Mycroft's people are working on it."

"So, Sherlock," John leaned on the desk, looking at his friend expectantly.  "I thought plants were trivial?"

"This particular plant, John, is highly toxic.  Even being exposed in close quarters to the fragrance can cause illness.  That's why I know about it."

John shook his head. That man has the strangest mental filing system.  "So why do you know it symbolizes unrequited love?"

Sherlock sighed, his eyes distant.  "I know something about that, too." 

Lestrade and John looked at each other, bewildered.  Now this is an interesting turn of events.

Chapter Text

Anthea looked through the stack of documents on Mycroft's desk.  With him missing, she had taken over his office - it was quiet, and she could research undisturbed.  I'm sure he won't mind.  It's for a good cause, after all, she thought to herself. 

Irene Adler had been a younger classmate of Mycroft's at Cambridge.  They had worked closely together in Mycroft's last year of school.  She had spent a significant amount of time around both Holmes brothers, because they lived closer to school than she did.

After university, Irene left her rented flat in Aylesbury.  She next showed up in London, and began her current profession, building her reputation and skills as a dominatrix.  According to Mycroft's notes, she provided "recreational scolding to those who enjoy that sort of thing." 

Anthea smiled to herself.  I know some people who would benefit from such attentions, even if they don't know it. 

Irene did very well in her chosen profession, and soon purchased a larger home in London for business use.  She also acquired a small flat in Wycombe, where it appeared she spent her off-hours.  Close enough to London for work, but far enough to be an effective respite from it. 

Irene was single, and apparently had never married.  In university, she was involved with a young man by the name of Victor Adams, a fellow classmate.  Victor was killed in a plane crash five years after leaving university.  No other romantic connections could be found.

Shortly after the plane crash, all records of Ms. Adler's private residence ceased.  Only her London business location was monitored now.  

That's unlike Mycroft.  Anthea wondered.  She had never known him to deliberately allow someone their privacy like that.  It was almost as though he were doing her a kindness, which was completely out of character for him.  She filed that information away in her mind. 

After the case involving the Palace and Moriarty, Ms. Adler ended up overseas, and was purportedly killed by a terrorist cell in Karachi.  However, that proved to be false, as a few months later she once again started appearing in surveillance video at her London location.   She had some involvement with a minor official from West Sussex who was going through a particularly bitter divorce.  It seems Irene provided some much needed testimony at the proceedings.  A month later, the minor official sold his real estate holdings in Ardingly... to Irene Adler.

Anthea closed the files on the desk.  She dialed Lestrade.  "Are you still at Baker Street?  Is Sherlock with you?"

"Yes - both Sherlock and John are here.  What do you have?" Lestrade answered.

"Put me on speaker.  It will save time."

Lestrade waved the doctor and the detective over, and pressed the speaker button.  "What is the status, Anthea?" Sherlock asked authoritatively.

"Irene Adler owns property in London, but that is closely watched.  She also owns a flat in Wycombe and one in Ardingly.  No surveillance on those locations."

"No surveillance?  Why the hell not?" John looked at Lestrade, exchanging a surprised look.  Sherlock's expression was completely blank.

"No idea.  Mycroft ceased all surveillance of her private residence shortly after Victor Adams' plane crash."

Anthea continued.  "The Wycombe flat was rented out to an American couple earlier this year, but is currently vacant.  The Ardingly flat has not ever been leased."

Lestrade's eyes lit up.  "The flowers!  Isn't Ardingly where Wakehurst is?"

John looked at him blankly, and Sherlock nodded.  "The Kew Botanical Gardens. Of course!"

Lestrade grabbed his coat and car keys, heading toward the door.  "Let's go, Sherlock!"

John grabbed Lestrade's arm.  "Greg - it'll be after 9pm by the time we get there.  Do we really want to do this in the middle of the night?"

"I want to end this as quickly as possible.  The longer we wait, the more risk."

"He's right, John," Sherlock added.  "We need to get to Mycroft as soon as possible."

The three men ran downstairs and climbed into Lestrade's car. 


Mycroft studied the board.  Irene was a decent chess player, and had definitely improved her skills since he taught her to play in university. 

The doorbell rang.  "My, my," Irene said sweetly rising from her seat.  "Seems your dear brother finally figured things out.  Took him long enough."

Irene left the office, quietly locking the door behind her.

She opened the front door to see Sherlock standing there.  His expression was dark.

"Good evening, Mr. Holmes.  Long time, no see."

"Good evening, Ms. Adler."  Sherlock pushed past her, his Belstaff swirling.

"Please... do come in..." Irene said idly, as Sherlock looked around the living room.

"Where is he?" he asked.

"Don't fret.  He's fine.  It's you I need to speak to, anyway."

"So speak."

"Do you remember Victor Adams?"

"Yes.  Your boyfriend, as I recall.  He and his friends beat my brother senseless.  Later, his plane crashed.  Is that all of it?"

"Your brother killed him, Sherlock."

"His plane crashed. 'Catastrophic engine failure'."

"You know I'm right."

"What does that have to do with me?"

"Mycroft needs to hurt."

Sherlock huffed.  "Revenge.  How boring.  You're better than that, Irene."

"Revenge feels good."

"So does this," his velvet baritone rumbled.  Sherlock moved in close to her, and lightly stroked her jawline with the back of his hand. Irene shivered and looked away from him, stepping back.  Sherlock followed her, and puts his arm around her waist, pulling her close.  He could feel her heat, and saw her pupils widen. 

He growled, "I'm so tired of you ignoring me."  His fingers wrapped into the hair on the back of her head, tilting her face to him, and he kissed her roughly.  Irene put her hands on his chest, as though trying to push him away, but her efforts were unconvincing, as she yielded to his silent commands.  He pushed her down onto the couch, never breaking the kiss, pinning her with his body.

Sherlock's grip loosened, and his gaze met Irene's.  "Do you know why Victor died, Irene?" he whispered in her ear, his warm breath sending shivers down her spine.  "He died because I told Mycroft he couldn't touch you.  He knew you were to blame for the beating, not Victor.  He wanted to get revenge on you, but I could not allow that."

"You always overlooked me.  I was just Mycroft's little brother, after all, and you were after him.  Too bad you weren't his type."  Sherlock chuckled, as his lips traced down Irene's neck, and she moaned with pleasure.  "I could have been your type, if you'd given me the chance.  Now you can see what you were missing."  He grabbed her wrists in one hand, holding them firmly. 

Irene's eyes widened as she realized she'd been outplayed, and that she didn't care.  She gave in.   "The dominatrix likes to be dominated.  Interesting," and he returned to abusing her lips, his grip on her hip tightening.


"I don't suppose Sherlock's been giving you lock-picking lessons?" Lestrade whispered to John. 

John chuckled.  "No, but maybe I won't need them." He lifted the doormat, finding a spare key.  "I was hoping she was this predictable," he mumbled, quietly unlocking the back door and opening it.  They slipped silently into the kitchen, and Lestrade drew his gun, just in case.

Walking into the living room, John and Lestrade are shocked by the scene in front of them.   Sherlock and Irene??

Sherlock sat up, leaving Irene fighting to regain her composure.  "John, Mycroft is here somewhere.  I would start with the room this key opens," he said, handing him a key on a gold chain.  Irene gasped, reaching for her necklace, only to discover it missing.  Sherlock had managed to snatch it from her while she was distracted.  Damn him!

"Lestrade, I hope you brought handcuffs.  If not, I'm sure Ms. Adler has a pair you could borrow."

Lestrade handed his cuffs to John, and took the key from him.  He wanted - no, he NEEDED - to find Mycroft.  John nodded, and walked over to Sherlock and Irene, cuffing her hands behind her.  He looked at Sherlock questioningly. "Are you going to tell me what's going on?" he whispered.

"Later," was the curt response.

John shrugged.  I expect it will be a damned good story.


Lestrade walked down the hallway, looking at doorknobs, until he came across one with a keyed lock.  His gun still in hand, he quietly unlocked the door and opened it.

The room was a small office.  He looked around the room, and relief washed over him as he saw Mycroft jumping up from the couch and rushing toward him.  He quickly reholstered his gun and wrapped his arms around Mycroft, holding him tight.

"I was so worried, Mycroft!" he buried his head in Mycroft's shoulder. "Are you OK, love?"

"None the worse for wear, dear," Mycroft held Lestrade close.  "Still a bit tired from the tranquilizer and a bit stiff from sleeping on this tiny couch, but overall, I am well.  I am glad to see you, Gregory," Mycroft said, gently kissing Lestrade on the temple.

They stood for several minutes, simply enjoying each other's closeness, when they heard Sherlock at the door.  "Ahem."

Lestrade started to step back, but Mycroft held him firm.  My brother is going to have to get used to this.  He looked at Sherlock.  "Thank you, brother mine."

"I would say you are welcome, but I only did part of the work." He nodded to Lestrade. "Your... boyfriend... deduced your location before I did." 

My boyfriend.  It sounds so... right.  Mycroft raised an eyebrow and looked at Lestrade.  "Really?"

Lestrade tried not to look insulted.  "Hey, now, I'm not an idiot!"  He looked at Sherlock.  "I figured you just let me have that one."

Sherlock grinned, "I admit nothing," he winked.  "I expect the local constabulary will arrive soon to pick up Ms. Adler, so you two may want to break this up for the moment." Sherlock turned and walked back to the living room.

Mycroft smiled at Lestrade.  "As much as I hate agreeing with my brother, he's right, Gregory.  A raincheck?"

"Definitely," Lestrade's eyes sparkled.

Chapter Text

It was well past 2am when Lestrade and Mycroft arrived at Lestrade's flat.  They had spent several hours recounting events with the local police force (the paperwork was tedious), and returned to London, dropping John and Sherlock off at Baker Street on the way home.

They walked in, Lestrade closing the door behind them. He grabbed Mycroft and pushed him against the door, kissing him aggressively.  Mycroft responded to Lestrade's insistent tongue with equal fervor, then pushed him gently away.  "Please, Gregory, I'm exhausted.  Can we just... sleep... tonight?"

A little crest-fallen, Lestrade sighed.  "OK, Mycroft.  But I cannot be held responsible if I'm overly clingy.  I was terrified when you didn't come home as planned, and we'd figured out you'd been taken."

"I'm sure I would have felt the same, if roles had been reversed.  Luckily, you and Sherlock managed to puzzle things out in just a few hours, so no harm was done."

"The longest 'few hours' of my life..." Lestrade mumbled.

Mycroft put his fingers onder Lestrade's chin, brought his face up, and spoke softly.  "It is the nature of my job, dear.  Sometimes, people are annoyed enough with me to make rash decisions.  Of course, today's events represent a major slip in security - mostly my own doing - and I will be taking steps to remedy that."  He planted a soft kiss on Lestrade's lips.  "I can't have you worrying over me constantly."

Lestrade smiled.  "So I can worry over you sometimes?" he asked playfully.

"I would be willing to accept that," Mycroft smiled.  "Now let's get some rest."  He hooked his arm around Lestrade's waist, and led him to bed.


"So you and Irene?" John asked, hanging up his jacket before settling into his chair.

Sherlock sat in his chair across from John.  "She was always more interested in Mycroft.  He, of course, had no interest in her, and that galled her to no end.  If only she'd observed..."

"... that his little brother was absolutely, head-over-heels in love with her?"

"In lust with her, John.  I was only 17 - lust is a far more accurate description."

John nodded knowingly.  "I can imagine she was a pretty young thing."

"And brilliant.  And she has aged exquisitely.  I noticed that when we chatted with her at her London home during the Belgravia case."

"You mean, when she walked into the room naked?"

Sherlock blushed, "She did?  I hadn't noticed."  He could barely contain his grin.

"And she thought you didn't know where to look," John snorted.  "So, why did Mycroft put a stop to the surveillance at her home?  You got very quiet when Anthea told us that."

Sherlock cast his eyes down.  "That, I hate to say, was my fault.  I told him to leave her alone."

John looked shocked.  "Why?"

"After the attack, I wanted him to distance himself from her, and from Victor.  I told myself it was for his benefit - to help him move on from the event - but really, I wanted him to stay away from her so I might have a chance.  Of course, his surveillance was the only way I could keep tabs on her whereabouts, so my solution had the opposite effect - I lost track of her entirely."

"Until the case."

"Yes, until the case.  The flame rekindled.  And I admit, I found her profession titillating, though submission has never been my preference."

"I can imagine that," John mumbled.  You are far too much of a control freak for that, Sherlock.

"In any event," Sherlock continued, "I seem to have cured myself of her.  She wasn't nearly the challenge I had hoped for."

John's eyebrows shot up.  "So you're looking for a challenge?"

Sherlock just smiled.


The following weekend, John and Lestrade managed to get the Holmes brothers out for an evening, meeting at the Criterion Bar.

“I would say this brings back memories, but I would be mistaken,” Mycroft grumbled.

Lestrade laughed, putting his arm around Mycroft’s shoulders.  “Don’t worry, love.  No sherry tonight.”

“Thank God.”

The waitress arrived with four glasses of champagne.  John and Lestrade looked at each other curiously, and then at Mycroft.  Mycroft immediately went on the defensive.  “Don’t look at me.  I didn’t order it.”

“I did,” Sherlock interrupted.  He picked up a glass, and the others followed suit.  Raising his glass in a toast, he said, “To new friendships," nodding to Lestrade and his brother.

“To new friendships, then,” the others chimed in.