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There Are Always Exceptions

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      “Oh…”

      “Hm?”

      “Awwww…”

      “Gregory?  What are you humming about?”

      “Look and see.”

Mycroft strolled to the window overlooking their small patio and shocked Lestrade with a feral hiss delivered near the DI’s right ear.

      “What the fuck was that!”

      “I despise cats.”

Lestrade turned to his lover and had to admit the look on Mycroft’s face was exactly what he would expect if Mycroft hated something.  If that look was ever aimed at a person, hopefully, the poor bastard knew well enough to run fast and far and forever…

      “Why?  It’s such a cute little cat.”

      “They are disdainful, prideful, contemptuous, pompous creatures."

      “You’re saying they steal your act.”

      “Precisely!  Wait!  No, certainly not.  How ludicrous.”

      “Poor Mycroft having his thunder stolen by a fluffy ginger kitty.”

      “I am not amused.  And they are filthy creatures.  Always coating themselves with saliva, trailing their wastes through the home…”

      “Uh, they lick themselves to groom and I think they clean their feet and bum, too.”

      “And where do you think the poisonous materials from their so-termed bums are deposited after they are licked away?”

      “Uh…”

      “Their fur!  They bathe themselves in excrement and the dull-witted believe they are fastidious creatures!”

Lestrade patted his overly-excited partner on the shoulder and now-nowed him until Mycroft’s lips relaxed from their rather savage grimace.

      “It’s ok, love.  The evil beast is just out looking for mice, not screwing open the sewerage pipe to flood your lovely house.”

      “You jest, Gregory, but they are pestilence incarnate.”

      “And here I thought they helped bring down the pestilence, but you do have a better head for history than I do.  Must have been something else, like cheese wheels, that they slaughtered so we caught a bad case of Black Death from all those flea-ridden rats.”

      “If the creatures had not evinced such a malevolent disposition, they would not have met the executioner’s axe.”

      “Yeah, that’s the ticket.  Little bastards being all witchy… how about a cup of tea?  Tea always makes you feel better when the witches are acting up.”

      “Your humor escapes me.”

      “We’ll try to catch it while the kettle boils.”

__________

      “Gregory.”

      “Mycroft.”

      What are you holding in your hand?”

      “Um… a saucer.”

      “Wonderfully vague and criminally damning.”

      “That wasn’t vague!  In my hand is one saucer.  Not plural, so I should have said saucers and not a brick so I should have said brick.”

      “Yet, you charmingly ignore the existence of the material in the saucer.  The white, liquid substance.”

      “But that’s not in my hand, is it?  The saucer’s in my hand.  The milk is in the saucer.  You’ve got to be specific with a cop.  We deal with hard facts, you know.”

Not even Lestrade’s brilliant, cheeky grin could spare him Mycroft’s glare.

      “You are feeding Leviathan.”

      “That’s its name?  Now, I feel bad because I was calling her Maggie.  Poor little thing must have been confused.”

      “Gregory Lestrade!  I am most displeased.  Most displeased, indeed.”

      “Come on, Mycroft… she’s just a sweet, little cat.”

      “Balderdash!  However, at least I shall have my well-deserved vengeance as it will likely suffer unending gastric torment from your stolen repast.”

      “What?”

      “Cats do not generally tolerate lactose, despite popular myth.  The writhing spasms alone shall be worth enduring it on my grounds.”

      “No!  God, you’re a nasty git.  You leave Maggie alone, you villain.”

      “I am not the one delivering the means of her suffering.”

      “I’m being generic.”

      “No, I do not believe you are.”

      “Anyway…”

Lestrade upended the saucer into his mouth and drank the milk with a slight shudder at the lukewarm temperature.

      “… that was all for me.  I don’t know what you’re going on about, getting your blood pressure all up there so you have a stroke.”

      “A fate that would likely find my corpse being fed to your familiar.”

      “And we’re back to witches!  You have a problem.”

      “Who is currently unshaved, with only a scant few minutes remaining before we are to leave for our lovely dinner.”

      “Shit, you’re right.  I’ll…. I’ll meet you at the car.”

      “You are not fooling me with your nonchalance, Gregory Lestrade.  Kindly leave our refrigerator unmolested in my absence.”

      “You have to admit, it does have a sexy plug.”

      “We shall be having words over appetizers.”

      “Oh, lucky me.”

__________

      “Gregory.”

      “Mycroft.”

      “Your hands?”

      “Are at the ends of my wrists.”

      “Are behind your back.  Show them.”

      “Ummm… no.”

      “What are you doing with your hands, Gregory?”

      “Scratching my bum.”

      “Scratching involves motion and your arms are not moving.”

      “I’m grabbing my bum.”

      “That is not something one is likely to do.  However, given it is your bottom, which is breathtaking, I would assume that if you did choose that particular action, your countenance would not be contorted into such a guilty expression.”

      “I’m shy.”

      “No, you are dissembling.  Present your hands.”

Lestrade sighed and put out his hands for Mycroft to inspect.

      “One pet food tin and one tin opener.  You are apprehended without the possibility of denying your guilt.”

      “I absolutely can deny my guilt.  The criminals do it all the time.”

      “And they, hopefully, meet with the same result as you.  A verdict to your detriment.”

      “Mycroft… it’s just a little tin of cat food…”

      “That our hard-earned specie has funded.  For a demonspawn that I am not pleased to learn is still lurking in the shadows of our home.”

      “First, the cat food probably costs the equivalent of one second of your daily wages, so don’t plead poor to me.  And you sound like you’re waiting for her to leap out of the dark to attack you when you sneak outside for a cigarette!”

      “It is entirely within the realm of possibility.”

      “You’re loony!”

      “And you are continuing to encourage the presence of that creature!  If you had not persisted in feeding the horrendous thing, it would no longer be here for this discussion to have any relevance.”

      “One little tin of food, love.  She was so skinny when I first saw her and… a little food in her belly and she’s looking a lot better.  And she comes right up when I go out there.  Really, Maggie’s very friendly and loves to be petted and…”

      “Because it knows you possess food!  Do not mistake her actions for affection, Gregory.  It is survival… one does not bite the hand that feeds if one wishes to continue to be fed.”

      “You’re just jealous because Maggie likes me.”

      “I most certainly am not.”

      “Yes, you are.  Possessive as a pirate with his gold.”

      “Rubbish.”

      “One little kitty rubbing on my legs and you get all angry-eyed and raving about demons.  And witches.”

      “Gregory… I love you beyond anything in this world and I cherish you just as grandly, but may we agree that the adoption of a pet is not a decision that fits with either of our lifestyles and, at least, my temperament?”

      “I didn’t say I was adopting her.  Maggie’s a free woman.  She can come and go as she pleases.”

      “Oh… then what exactly is the purpose of the blanket I noticed inhabiting the on-its-side, sturdy plastic box in the sheltered space under the shrubbery?”

      “Weasel trap.”

      “I am now suffering a headache.”

      “I’ll bring you some aspirin, love, just as soon as I take a little stroll with my cat food and check for prowlers.”

      “Why trouble yourself?  Perhaps the weasels will dispatch them.”

      “It’s a possibility.  Weasels may be small, but they’re wiry.”

__________

      “Go away.”

      “Meow.”

      “I am attempting to enjoy a moment of sunshine and fresh air.  Please abandon your attempts to disturb me.”

      Meow!”

      “Apparently you are too stupid to realize that I am not Gregory.”

      “Meow?”

      “If you are hoping for some form of greeting you are to be grossly disappointed.”

      “Mew?”

      “That was not an effective argument to promote a change of my opinion.  It is exceedingly evident why you roam the streets homeless.”

      “Hiss!”

      “I beg your pardon!”

      “Meow?”

      “That is better.  I am not an unkind individual, Margaret, however, I do not permit any organism to demonstrate such gross disrespect.  Ask the Treasury Chancellor if you require an example of my position on the subject.”

      “MEW!”

      “Yes, it was quite the surprise for him, as well.  Now, make yourself absent from my property and remain absent until such time as I am lowered into my grave surrounded by weeping loved ones.  And Sherlock.”

      “Hiss!”

      “Oh very good.  That is at least one attribute I may place on the positive side of your tally sheet.”

__________

      “Gregory.”

      “Mycroft.”

      “Where is the piece of fish that remained from last evening’s meal?”

      “I have no idea.  Swam away, maybe?”

      “Gregory!  That was a perfectly prepared piece of sole that I was greatly looking forward to consuming for my lunch!”

      “Can’t help you, love.  You can smell my breath if you’d like to check I didn’t eat it.”

      “I should check your fingers, you thieving blackguard!”

      “It would have overcooked when you reheated it anyway!  You know how you get with overcooked fish!  Do I need to remind you about the chef you had to un-deport, because you got a little over-excited and I couldn’t get your mobile away from you fast enough?”

      “I have no memory of the event.”

      “I have lots of memory of men in sunglasses showing up to drag the poor bastard out the back door of his restaurant.  How close was he to an airplane when I finally convinced you that you weren’t the King of England and couldn’t kick around the peasants because your fish was dry?”

      “You are obviously experiencing a mental event of some consequence.  Let me escort you to the sofa where you might relax for a moment and regain your faculties.”

      “Maggie wouldn’t care about overcooked fish.”

      “The cat is a philistine.”

      “Really?  She looks British to me.”

__________

      “You’re fine, Mycroft.”

      “The cat attempted to kill me!”

      “She was simply chasing a bug or something.  It’s not her fault you got spooked when she jumped out of the shrubs, shrieked like a little girl, lost your balance and fell on your bum.”

      “I shall take legal action!”

      “I’ll find you a good solicitor.  One who specializes in loonies.”

      “You will be named in my suit, Gregory.”

      “Oh good.  I’ll make a note to get new clothes for my court appearance.”

      “You are in need of a replenishment of undergarments.”

      “Did you bin my pants again?”

      “They were in tatters.”

      “Then stop grabbing them with your teeth!”

      “My appetites cannot be denied, my dear.  And I believe I would fancy the flavor of Egyptian cotton for the next week or so.”

      “We’re going shopping now, aren’t we?”

      “I would not mind sampling a wonderful amuse bouche before we find a replacement for my lovely lunch.”

      “Never been called an amuse bouche before.”

      “And I shall ensure that you enjoy your new appellation as much as will I.”

__________

      “Gregory.”

      “Mycroft.”

      “What is that?”

      “Looks like… a bird.”

      “I believe that is a woefully incomplete description.”

      “Fine, it’s a dead bird.”

      “No… that does not yet present an accurate depiction of the tableau we are witnessing.”

      “It’s a dead… half-bird.”

      “Very good.  Somewhere this poor sparrow’s head lies languishing while we gaze upon its lifeless lower half.”

      “At least you didn’t step in it.”

      “Why would you even consider it a prudent idea to place that mental image in my mind?”

      “It was the shock.”

      “Remove that… victim… from my doorstep.  I am going to have a brandy.”

      “It’s 9:00 am!”

      “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

__________

The first tap had Mycroft’s eyes open and his senses on full alert.  The second tap had him on his feet, holding the firearm he kept in the small beside table, because (1) tapping on an upper-floor window did not signal happy events and (2) his lover was not at his side.  Creeping cautiously towards the window, Mycroft surveyed the area, decidedly not yelping when the pebble bounced off the glass directly in front of his nose.

      “Gregory!  What in heaven’s name…”

      “It’s Maggie.  Please, love… come down.”

The elder Holmes brother could not miss the thick layer of concern in his partner’s voice and did not waste a moment throwing on his dressing gown and slippers, to race down the stairs and out the rear door.

      “Gregory, what is the matter?”

      “I don’t know.  I was having a hard time sleeping and came down for a cup of that herbal tea you like in the evening.  I was going to sit outside to relax a bit and when I got out here I heard a noise… I think she’s in pain.  She won’t let me touch her, that’s for certain.”

Mycroft squatted down next to Lestrade and peered into the infernal makeshift cat hut his lover had erected in their lovely patio.  At the very back was the cat, peering back with a look of perfectly blended fear and pain that he had seen on his fair share of human faces over the years.

      “I believe you are correct.”

      “What are we going to do?”

      “I am open to suggestions.”

      “If I pick up the whole box, that shouldn’t hurt her as much as trying to grab her body, right?  And maybe she won’t be as scared with her blanket and toys right there with her.”

      “Toys?”

      “Just a… little plush mouse and fish I bought the other day.  She’s laying on them, I think.”

      “I see.  And what are you going to do once you have the box in hand?”

      “Find an animal hospital.  I know it’s late, but… that won’t be a problem, will it?”

Such large and pleading eyes… his Gregory never asked for anything.  Not a single thing requiring money or influence… if there was not an appropriate facility nearby that was open for patients, there would be and the staff would be more than happy to give his lover and his… charge… their full and undivided attention.

__________

      “Mr. Lestrade?”

The DI leapt out of his chair in the small waiting area and used the momentum to propel him forward towards the man wearing the lab coat and carrying a clipboard.  Mycroft followed behind to provide any necessary support.  The ride to the veterinary hospital had been fraught with tension and many piercing sounds that had his dear Gregory moaning in sympathy and a soothing presence was likely to be necessary.

      “Yes?  Is she ok?  There’s nothing really wrong with her, is there?  Just a… standard cat problem that goes away with a nice injection and a bit of rest?”

      “Mr. Lestrade, do you know what your cat was doing before you noticed she was in pain?”

      “She’s… she’s not actually our cat.  It’s more that… you see, it’s like this…”

      “She’s a stray that has settled in your area.  You feed her and she stops by when she wants a visit.”

      “Yeah, that’s about right.”

      “That’s fine.  I was just hoping that you could provide any details as to why the animal is suffering from injuries typical of a blunt force encounter.”

      “What?”

      “The damage is consistent with what we would see for a collision with a vehicle like a fast-moving bicycle…”

      “There aren’t many cyclists in our area. Especially at night.”

      “… or from a kick.”

Mycroft grabbed his partner’s arm to steady the noticeably shaken man, then took his own step forward to face the vet.

      “Are you saying someone assaulted the feline?”

      “No, because I don’t know for certain, but the pattern of trauma is one we see an unfortunate number of times.  It’s not uncommon, sir, for a stray to be ill-used by people with, shall we say, a lack of empathy for living creatures.”

Holding Lestrade’s hand in both of his and rubbing it gently for comfort, Mycroft gave the vet a small nod and took a moment to clear his throat.

      “And the prognosis?”

      “Cautiously hopeful, I’d say. You got her here in time to keep her from doing any additional damage to herself and that drastically improves her chances.  The x-rays show there are rib issues to deal with and she’s suffered a very nasty bruise to the hip.  I would wager there’s some internal bleeding and there could be organ damage, but until we look a little deeper, we won’t know for certain.  However, with enough rest and care, she should heal acceptably.  Are you… do you know someone who can care for the cat while she recuperates?  I know you agreed to pay the medical expenses, but I need to know if the patient will be looked after if we release her.”

      “Margaret will return home with us for her recovery.  And… shall she be undergoing surgery?”

Lestrade stared at his lover, who was studiously avoiding his gaze.

      “I’d like to take a look inside, if you give me permission.  There may be no internal problems besides the ribs, but I’d rather not take the chance.”

      “Very well.  Permission is granted and… would it be an undue strain to take care of any… reproductive issues… while we have the opportunity?”

      “I don’t expect it would be.  She’ll be with us a few days anyway, so we can monitor for any unexpected problems due to the additional procedure.”

      “Excellent.  Then, do not let us keep you any longer, for I am certain you are anxious to put this particular patient, as they say, to bed.  Is there benefit to our remaining or should we return home?”

      “There’s no reason to stay.  If a need arises, we’ll call you.  Regardless, you’ll hear from us as soon as we have news one way or the other.”

The vet walked away from the waiting area and Lestrade took a few deep breaths before giving Mycroft a long, firm hug.

      “Why would someone want to hurt a sweet little cat?  If I find out who did it, they’re going to have more than a kick to the ribs to worry about.”

      “There, there Gregory.  Your energies are best reserved for other pursuits.  However, if it makes you happy, we shall make tidy donation to the RSPCA to help other unfortunate animals who have not someone such as you to provide them with assistance and affection.”

      “I’d like that.  Thank you, love.  Really… thank you for everything tonight.  And… I suppose it’s a smart idea getting Maggie spayed.  I’ll start looking now for a good home for her after she heals up and having that taken care of will make things easier.  I don’t… I don’t like the idea of her living on her own anymore.”

The resignation in Lestrade’s voice drew Mycroft forward like a magical lasso and only a kiss from his dejected lover’s warm lips was able to break the spell.

      “Then it is fortunate that she shall not.  However, I will expect you to reimburse the household accounts for any damage perpetrated on our home due to claws, teeth, bodily fluids or general misbehavior.  And the matters of hygiene shall be yours to tend to, also.”

      “What?  Mycroft, are you saying we can keep her?”

      “It would make you happy and that is truly the only thing that matters to me in this world.”

      “You’re willing to live with cat hair on everything to make me happy?”

      “I had forgotten about that particular failing of the feline species.”

      “Want to change your mind?”

      “I shall purchase for you a lint brush and one of those smaller vacuuming devices they delight in promoting in the television advertisements.”

      “I knew there was a reason I loved you.”

      “I am a very inspired shopper.”

This time it was Lestrade who took a kiss and spared a moment to simply gaze into the cool, calm blue of his Mycroft’s eyes.

      “I love you, Mycroft Holmes.  Not a day goes by that I don’t thank every one of my lucky stars that I found you and that you agreed to have a raggedy old copper like me.”

      “And I thank mine that I have been blessed with the most noble and vivacious of men to grace my life and give it meaning.”

      “So, time to go?  There’s a few hours until I have to be at work and I think a good man, a good bed and a good time will fill those hours nicely.”

      “Gregory, my dear… I believe you read my mind.”

      “Just one of my many talents.”

      “And shall I expect to experience the others once we return home?”

      “You start making a list and I’ll see what I can do.”

__________

Four days later

      “Here you go, Maggie!  This is the inside of the home you’ve been haunting.  You’ll be down here on the ground floor for awhile, so there’s Mycroft’s study… off limits to you, young lady… that way is the kitchen, that door is for the dining room, there’s the sitting room… there’s a few rooms over that way for guests… now, the vet said you’d probably like a nice quiet place all for yourself right now, so you’re going to get one of those lovely rooms.  So, if we take a look… Mycroft.  What have you done?”

      “I have no idea to what you are referring.”

      “Where’s the box I put in here?”

      “On its way to a recycling center, I presume.”

      “And what is that?”

      “Nothing to concern yourself about.”

      “That’s a fucking… settee!”

      “Oh very good… excellent recognition of classical furnishings.”

      “It’s got scrollwork!”

      “A few minor flourishes, at best.”

      “It’s cat sized!”

      “Which is appropriate for a cat.”

      “And… what the hell?”

      “Hmmm?”

      “Those are outfits.  Cat outfits.”

      “Merely a few bits of outerwear.  The veterinarian did say we should take care that Margaret should not be subject to any inclement weather for some time to promote her best health.”

      “You bought the cat rain gear.”

      “In a lovely tartan pattern.  She is rather ginger, so it is amusingly appropriate.”

      “A cat in a mac.  Wonderful.  And I suppose… yes, there it is.  A little harness and leash.”

      “Exercise, Gregory.  She will require gentle exercise during her recovery and a small constitutional in the evenings is certainly not amiss.”

      “I bet you had catnip planted out on the patio, too, didn’t you?”

      “I shall not be accused of facilitating a substance abuse problem.  Retract your slanderous accusation.”

      “Where is it?”

      “There are two bundles in the hydroponic herb harden in the kitchen.”

      “Perfect.  And how many toys did you buy?”

      “A scant few.  But note, your beloved fish and mouse have been given a privileged position on the bed.”

      “Settee.”

      “A multi-purpose object.”

Lestrade looked around the palatially-appointed room and burst out laughing, much to his passenger’s irritation, prompting a gentle ride down to the floor to be released to begin her exploration.

      “This is amazing, love.  A wonderful welcome-home surprise for our little girl.  Who… Mycroft?  Where’d the cat go?”

The two men looked around and, noting the open door, exited the room to check the other areas of the house.

      “Oh… there she is.”

      “Ah… I was not given to believe she would be able to leap to such a height for quite some time.”

      “Got all the way up to your knick-knack shelf.  Right next to that little statue.  Just out of curiosity… how much is it worth?”

      “A similar, though slightly less pristine specimen recently sold at auction for £8000.”

      “Really.  That’s nice.”

      “Indeed.”

      “Maybe if we just stand here and be very, very still, we won’t startle her.”

      “Your reasoning appears sound.”

      “Good.  That’s good.  Think someone will notice if we don’t show up at work tomorrow?”

      “Let us simply hope they do not knock loudly when they come to investigate.”