Lestrade hadn’t seen Molly in nearly two months—since before Sherlock’s death—and, running into her at the morgue, he realized that was odd. He used to see her all the time. But maybe that was just because she knew he often came with Sherlock attached, and she went out of her way always to see Sherlock.
At any rate, he was taking a sip of coffee and waiting for the medical examiner on duty when Molly literally ran into him, spilling his coffee all over his hand, sleeve, and shirt. Luckily, it had been lukewarm coffee. But it had been a decently clean shirt.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “I’m so sorry.” She looked up at him and said, looking a bit shell-shocked, “Inspector Lestrade.”
“Greg,” he said, patiently, because he’d told her a million times to call him Greg and she almost never did.
“Greg. Right.” She blushed and tried to help him mop up the coffee on his shirt, but, because she didn’t have anything to mop up with, she just sort of ineffectually brushed at him. “I’m so sorry.”
He stepped away from her useless swiping, hoping not to offend her, and said, kindly, “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
At which point Molly burst into tears and Lestrade realized that it should have occurred to him that, if anybody was going to take Sherlock’s death harder even than John, it would have been Molly. Which was no doubt why he hadn’t seen her in two months: She’d been avoiding him and the memories he must conjure.
He wished there were somewhere for him to put his coffee cup with his meager amount of remaining coffee, but there wasn’t, so he awkwardly balanced it and pulled her against him while she sobbed. “There, there,” he said, feeling only slightly like an idiot. “It’s okay.”
“I’m—so—sorry,” she hiccupped. “I don’t mean to cry on you like this. Now you’re soaking wet.”
“To be fair,” he said, “that’s mostly from the coffee.”
This provoked renewed wails in her, so it probably hadn’t been the right thing for him to say.
The new sergeant that had been assigned to him, a fairly green kid named Colin, came around the corner and stopped short at the tableau. Lestrade made a helpless gesture with the hand holding Molly to him and Colin backed away, disappearing around the corner again. Lestrade scowled at the spot where he’d been standing.
“I’m so sorry,” Molly said, finally, backing away from him and wiping her eyes and determinedly not looking at him.
“Don’t be. It’s fine.” Lestrade felt in his pockets, as if a handkerchief were suddenly going to appear there. He had never carried a handkerchief in his life. He bet Mycroft Holmes carried handkerchiefs. Probably monogrammed ones.
“Are you here for something?” she asked, gathering her composure but still not looking at him.
“Are you the ME on duty?”
“You’ve got a body of mine.”
“Can you give me two minutes?” she asked, and, without waiting for his reply, darted into the morgue.
Lestrade sighed and looked in chagrin at the splotchy damp mess on his shirt. “Colin!” he bellowed. “At least bring me a paper towel or something!”
Colin meekly arrived with paper towel, and Lestrade blotted up some of the coffee but that only seemed to make the stain worse. Lestrade thought again of the always impeccable Mycroft Holmes. He could perfectly envision the wince he would make if he saw the state of Lestrade’s shirt.
“You’re just going to have to put on a new shirt, sir,” Colin said, helpfully, as if that were a viable option at the moment.
“Do you have a new shirt for me, Colin?” asked Lestrade, exasperatedly.
“Then shut up,” he said, crossly, and decided two minutes had passed and it was time to invade Molly’s morgue.
Molly had her clipboard out and her back to him. “Sorry. I see this now. DI Lestrade. Yes, this one’s yours.” She pulled the sheet off of one of the bodies.
Lestrade glanced at it. “I’m assuming the cause of death is the gunshot wound?”
Lestrade looked at her in surprise. Her head was still bowed over the clipboard. “No?”
“The bullet wound is post-mortem.”
“Someone shot him after he was already dead?”
Molly nodded and made careful notes on her clipboard.
“Then how did he die?” asked Lestrade, studying Molly instead of his corpse.
“Drowned?” Lestrade did glance at the corpse at that. “But he was found in his office. Sitting behind his desk.”
Molly looked at him for the first time since the coffee and weeping incident, a quick bright look that darted away from him as soon as she realized he was looking back at her. “Well, he drowned.”
“Interesting,” mused Lestrade. He wanted to say that it was the sort of thing he would have called Sherlock about. He wanted to say that he thought he might call John about it, that John might like it. But he didn’t want to start Molly on a fresh crying jag. He thought it best if he kept it quite professional. “Well, thanks for the information. Colin, can you get the full report from Molly?”
“Inspec—Greg,” inserted Molly.
Lestrade looked at her in surprise.
She was finally looking at him, looking calm and determined. “I’m okay. I really am. You startled me, but I’m totally okay.” She smiled a brittle, shattering smile.
“Good,” he said, because he didn’t think it wise to point out that she obviously wasn’t okay.
“Just didn’t want you to think I wasn’t,” she said, smile still plastered on.
“Not a bit,” he assured her, automatically.
“And I’m sorry about your shirt.”
“I have others,” he promised her, and glanced at Colin. “Colin, can you get the report, please?”
“Yes, sir.” He bustled up importantly to Molly, who reached for the report with hands, Lestrade noted, that were shaking.
The envelope was sitting on his desk when he came back from a coffee run the following day. Heavy, expensive stationary, propped against his keyboard. Completely blank, no address. Lestrade noticed it immediately upon re-entering his office and stopped in his doorway, staring at it.
“Colin,” he called. “Where’d this envelope come from?”
“What envelope?” Colin called back.
“The one on my desk.”
Colin came to stand next to him in the doorway, regarding the envelope. Then he shrugged. “I don’t know. Want me to see what it is?”
He started to head toward the envelope, but Lestrade said, “No, no, I’ll handle this, it’s fine.” He hurried past Colin.
“You sure?” Colin said.
“Yeah, I’ve got it.” Lestrade put down his coffee, picked up the envelope, and looked at Colin. “I’m all set,” he said, pointedly.
Colin got the hint and left his office.
Lestrade turned the envelope over, half-disappointed when it wasn’t sealed with wax. He found his letter opener and opened it and pulled out a heavy piece of cream stationary on which was written, in a neat, precise hand, Drink tonight? –M
Lestrade stared at the note for a long time, trying to decipher it. If Mycroft wanted to have a drink, why didn’t he just ring him? He had his number. He probably had every number Lestrade had had since his birth. It seemed unnecessarily byzantine. Then again, that seemed fitting. Mycroft would have to do everything as dramatically as possible, including going out for a pint. Or a Scotch, Lestrade supposed.
Ringing him to say that yes, tonight was fine with him, seemed like too normal a thing to do.
Lestrade opened a new document on his computer and typed into it, Yes. Your club? 7?
Then he deliberately took Colin with him to interrogate more closely the wife of the man who had drowned behind his desk.
When he got back, there was another envelope on his desk with another note. 7 is fine, but I’ll send a car for you. –M
Lestrade sighed, shook his head in something like the exasperation interactions with Sherlock used to cause him, and closed the document on his computer.
Mycroft set out Scotch. He rearranged the pieces on the chess board out of the game he’d been playing against himself and back to setup. Then he dealt with a pesky bit of government instability that had struck—quite rude, after all his careful negotiations. Then he sat down to wait.
The knock came eventually on the front door, and Mycroft stopped musing into the fire and stood up to open the door on Greg Lestrade, looking typically rumpled and saying, “Hi.”
“Good evening,” Mycroft responded. “Won’t you come in?” He stepped a bit to the side, to indicate welcome.
“Thanks.” Lestrade stepped through the door. “There was no blindfold this time.”
“This isn’t a top-secret location.” Mycroft paused. “Well. It isn’t a top-secret location to you. May I take your coat?”
Lestrade shrugged out of it and handed it to Mycroft, who turned, walked down the hall, and handed the coat to the butler he was making stay out of sight. He thought Lestrade would not appreciate having a butler hovering around him.
When he got back, Lestrade was still standing in the front hall, head tipped at a suit of armor. “So what’s this place, then?”
Mycroft was surprised by the question. “My house.”
Lestrade looked at him, and for a moment he looked startled. Then he glanced back at the suit of armor and said, “Of course it is.”
Mycroft didn’t know quite what to make of that, which irritated him a bit. He changed the subject. “Scotch?”
“Yes,” said Lestrade, and followed Mycroft into the drawing room.
Mycroft poured out Scotch and handed it across to Lestrade. “It’s just occurred to me that I’ve never once offered you water with your Scotch.”
Lestrade shook his head. “I don’t take it with water.”
“Good,” said Mycroft, and sat with his Scotch. “Won’t you sit?”
Lestrade sat and sipped his Scotch absently, his eyes taking in every corner of the room. “You inherited this?” he asked, head tipped back a bit as he examined the frieze on the ceiling.
“We both did,” Mycroft answered.
“Well, it’s…” Lestrade finished his examination of the room and met Mycroft’s eyes. “It’s very nice.”
Mycroft smiled. “You’re very polite.”
“I have never been accused of that before,” Lestrade deadpanned.
“You don’t like it.”
“Well, no, but we’ve established already that my decorating style is…”
“You don’t have a decorating style,” Mycroft pointed out.
“Fair enough. Anyway, it suits you.”
“It’s needlessly dramatic. That’s you to a T.”
Mycroft chuckled. “You didn’t like the notes? I thought you would appreciate the notes.”
Lestrade settled into the chair, stretching his legs toward the fire in the fireplace. “You were just showing off with the notes.”
“Of course I was.”
“You know, the more I get to know you, the more similar you get to Sherlock.”
“Most people would say the opposite.”
“Most people weren’t friends with Sherlock Holmes.”
“You won’t goad me into that again.”
“I wasn’t goading you before.”
“Yes, you were.”
“Maybe a little bit. But I’ve already apologized for it.”
“How’s your new sergeant working out?”
Lestrade considered the fire. “He’s very…earnest.”
“A telling adjective.” Mycroft sipped his Scotch.
“Well, he’s had a few ideas, and they’ve been…a bit clever.”
“Have they been correct?”
“What’s clever about being wrong?”
“I think he’ll get there in the end. We finally have an interesting case, so he’ll have a chance to prove himself a bit.”
“The man drowned at his desk?”
“Yes, the man drowned at his desk.” Lestrade looked from the fire to Mycroft, amused. “It’s very difficult to tell a story with you. You know the punch line before I begin.”
“Sorry,” said Mycroft, not really sorry. “Do tell your story.”
Lestrade shifted a bit to face Mycroft more. “Do you know what happened?”
“To the man at the desk?”
“No. Then again, I haven’t thought about it. I was just told that you’d received that particular murder.”
“Who told you that?”
Mycroft looked at Lestrade and sipped his Scotch. “Tell me what you know so far, and I’ll tell you what I think. But I warn you, I’m not really much of a detective.”
Lestrade shook his head. “Not just yet. I’m going to try to figure it out on my own first. Well. With John. I thought I’d call John in. It’d cheer him up a bit, I think. And, now that my king has been protected and all that, I think I can get away with sneaking a civilian onto the case.”
“Well, if you get into trouble, do let me know.”
“Do you think I’m going to spend the rest of my career calling you whenever I get into trouble?”
Mycroft looked at him in surprise. “Why wouldn’t you?”
“Can I ask you something?”
Mycroft’s guard went up. “That depends,” he replied, slowly.
“It’s just that you seem mysteriously capable of doing basically everything.”
Mycroft smiled at Lestrade without humor. “So why couldn’t I save my brother?”
“I understand that, past a certain point, things began to be inevitable. But before that…Moriarty was after him, you said. Moriarty wouldn’t rest until…So why didn’t you have Moriarty killed?”
Mycroft looked into the fire. He could think of a million different answers to that question. Because, in his head, he’d had a million different reasons to play the board the way he had. And none of them mattered, because he’d played the board wrong. “I should have,” he said, and finished his Scotch. He looked back at Lestrade, who had a bit of Scotch left in his glass. “Can you stay for another? I thought we could start a game of chess.”
Lestrade looked startled. “You thought we could what?”
Mycroft tipped his head, confused by his reaction. “Chess.” He gestured toward the board. “Literal chess, instead of metaphorical chess. For a nice change of pace.”
Lestrade looked at the board, then back at Mycroft. “There’s something you should know.”
Mycroft lifted an eyebrow.
“I don’t actually play chess. I’ve never played chess. I just said that because…”
Mycroft couldn’t help it. He laughed. He laughed harder than he could remember laughing in a very long time. And, when he was done laughing, he refreshed his glass of Scotch, topped off Lestrade’s, and did something else he hadn’t done in a very long time. He said, “I’ll teach you.”
Sherlock’s text came in the middle of breakfast with the Queen. She narrowed her eyes at the breach of protocol, and Mycroft waited until the meal was over before checking it.
You’re dating Lestrade. I just wanted to make sure you knew that.
Sherlock no longer signed his texts. Mycroft had told him not to. Just in case.
Mycroft sighed and phoned Sherlock and left him a message. “No, I’m not.”
His phone chirped at him again. Yes, you are.
Mycroft sighed again and phoned Sherlock again and left him another message. “No, I’m not. You don’t even know what dating is.”
Yes, I do. It’s what you’re doing with Lestrade.
Mycroft shut the mobile off.
When he turned it back on that night, it downloaded a single text. Careful. He’s the most dangerous one.