Lestrade woke, at first, slowly. It was drowsily warm, in a very pleasant sort of way, and he listened to the soothing crackling of a fire in a fireplace.
He didn’t have a fireplace.
He sat up with a start, finding himself in Mycroft’s drawing room. It was dim and shadowy, heavy twilight outside the windows. Someone had lit the fire and thrown a blanket over him. The rest of the room was deserted, and the house was quiet. He could hear the fireplace, and the ticking of a clock from somewhere, and nothing else.
Lestrade stood gingerly, thinking as he did so that sleeping in an armchair, even a very comfortable one, was not the most intelligent thing he’d ever done. The fact that it was Mycroft’s armchair, he thought, made it somewhat worse. He had bigger things to worry about than the crick in his neck.
He walked to the front hall and considered calling for someone, but the vast silence of the house seemed too oppressive for him to do that. He moved cautiously down the hall, listening, and eventually picked up the murmur of a voice, which grew louder and became clearly Mycroft’s, as he reached the back of the house.
Lestrade wasn’t sure what you would call the room where he found Mycroft. A normal person would maybe have said it was a den or a home office, but it was too enormous to be seriously called that. A library, maybe, Lestrade thought, as it was lined with books. There was another fireplace, with another fire, and Mycroft was sitting behind a heavy, ornate desk, on the phone.
Lestrade hesitated in the doorway, but Mycroft caught sight of him and waved him in, so he walked carefully into the room, dodging around a couple of antique tables and chairs to get over to the windows on the other side of the room, which looked out onto a back garden. The back garden had a string of fairy lights. Lestrade thought this was the most incongruous thing he had ever seen.
Mycroft kept speaking into his phone, words and sentences Lestrade didn’t understand. Lestrade listened without bothering to try to follow the thread of it. He felt utterly blank, which was something of a relief given that his mind had been overwhelmingly full before he’d fallen asleep. He decided against forcing himself to wake up enough to think. It was a bit nice to stand in this absurd room, listening to what was probably the world’s most important telephone call, admiring fairy lights, and not thinking.
“Sorry,” said Mycroft eventually, and Lestrade realized he’d hung up and was speaking to him. “Your nap had an ill-timed conclusion.”
Lestrade turned to look at him, but he still had no idea of anything he could say, so instead it occurred to him that it was warm in the room and he’d never taken off his coat. He shrugged out of it and glanced around, wondering if Mycroft’s butler was going to appear.
“Throw it anywhere you like,” Mycroft said. “I know that’s what you’d prefer, anyway.”
Lestrade settled it over the back of one of the room’s chairs, then sat in another of the room’s chairs, facing Mycroft’s desk. The desk was big enough to serve as a dining room table in a normal house, Lestrade thought, and there was not a speck out of place on it. There were only two piles of paper, both of them perfectly square and arranged exactly in line with the corners of the desk. Lestrade regarded the neatness and said the stupidest thing he could possibly say. “When you used to leave notes on my desk, did you deliver them yourself?”
“No,” said Mycroft, slowly, and Lestrade didn’t blame him for sounding like he didn’t know what to make of the question, because it was an idiotic question.
“Good,” he said. “I’d hate to know what you’d say about the state of my desk.”
“What about you makes you think that I would ever suspect your desk was anything other than a towering mess?”
Lestrade paused, thinking. “My breathtaking competence as a detective inspector,” he decided, finally.
Mycroft laughed, and pushed slightly backward in his chair, away from the impeccable desk. “Did you tell him?”
Lestrade looked at him, met his eyes, and said, “No.”
There was a long moment of silence before Mycroft said, gravely, seriously, “Thank you.”
“What exactly is Sherlock’s plan here?”
“Moriarty’s gone. Moriarty’s web is not. His plan is to ferret them out, everywhere they are, and get rid of them. Until he knows all of you are safe.”
“I don’t think he’s thought that far ahead.”
“For a man with a great mind, it doesn’t seem like the best plan.”
“I’m not sure dead men necessarily make good plans.”
“What do you think of the plan?”
Mycroft considered. “I think…I think I couldn’t talk him out of it. And I think I didn’t see another option. At least, not another one that I could orchestrate in time for everyone to make it through safely. And it wasn’t the sort of chess game where I was willing to sacrifice a rook for the sake of the king.”
“He’ll come back,” said Lestrade. “He’ll come back, and he’ll be completely bewildered when John is furious with him.”
“Yes,” agreed Mycroft. “He will. But tell me honestly: Do you really think John is going to be furious with him for very long?”
“No. John will be furious with us.”
Lestrade drummed his fingers on the arms of the chair he was sitting in. He listened to the fire in the fireplace. He held Mycroft’s gaze. He thought. “I want to know everything that’s going on with Sherlock.”
“That will be impossible. He’s not very forthcoming. I’ll tell you everything I know, though.”
Lestrade considered, then nodded. “Fine.” He paused. “I’m still furious.”
Lestrade had been trying to figure this out himself. “Because it was one thing, when we were playing chess with each other, for you to keep secrets. It was another thing, when we were playing chess with each other, for you to keep secrets.”
Mycroft stood and walked around to the front of the desk, leaning against it and crossing his legs and arms and looking down at him. “I am always going to have secrets,” he said. “You can’t take them personally.”
“I can’t shake a sense of being…played. Truthfully, it occurs to me that you’re apparently so good at seduction that I didn’t even realize that was what was happening until I’d already been seduced. You can understand my…caution.”
Mycroft’s eyes were inscrutable in the gleam of the firelight. “I was playing you,” he said. “In the beginning. You knew that. And you were playing an aggressive game, showing up at the club in the middle of the night and making wildly personal accusations.”
Lestrade winced a bit. “I was—”
“I know exactly what you were doing. Forgive me for playing an aggressive game in return, but you left me no choice, and I know you know that.”
Lestrade said, slowly, “The opening isn’t what I fault you for. It’s how you played the middle.”
“I didn’t play the middlegame,” said Mycroft. “You did.”
“I haven’t been—” Lestrade began to protest.
“The day of Donovan’s transfer, when you rang me and asked to see me, and then you came to my office and you paced around ranting at me…I had never intended to see you ever again. I thought I’d checkmated you, and we were done. It was fiendishly clever of you to re-start the game on me that way.”
“But I didn’t—”
Mycroft spoke over him. “Because what happened that day was that I realized I was going to miss you. And then I couldn’t…just…miss you. I had won. And then I foolishly let you have a re-match. And you’ve been outplaying me the entire time. I’d lost before I even had the opportunity to develop my first pawn.” Mycroft paused, as if he expected Lestrade to rush in with something, but Lestrade merely watched him. “You have never realized, this entire time, what we were playing for. You are right, in a way, to accuse me of manipulation, to be suspicious that I had an ulterior motive every time I did anything that I did. I did have an ulterior motive, of course I did, I always have an ulterior motive. You just never suspected of me the correct ulterior motive in this case. And that’s why you’re furious. We’ve been playing different games, I think, and I didn’t realize it, and I’m sorry for that. But it never occurred to me that you didn’t know, all along—how can you not have known? My ulterior motive, for everything after the moment in your flat, was that I wanted you.”
Lestrade knew he was supposed to say something in response to this. But his heart had stopped beating properly and he was preoccupied with a curious sensation of light-headedness. This, he thought, could not possibly be happening to him.
“Are you going to say something?” Mycroft asked him, finally, lifting his hands in a gesture of surrender. “We’re at endgame now, you know. It’s your move.”
“I…” said Lestrade. He tried to see it as a chessboard, tried to figure out which pieces he had left to play, but he couldn’t possibly. His mind was a muddled mess in which nothing was very clear except for Mycroft Holmes saying, My ulterior motive was that I wanted you. It was as if nothing and everything made sense to him all at once. “I have no idea what to say.”
“This is the part where you say you’re flattered, but you don’t think of me that way and wish to remain friends. I’ve seen the movies.”
“No, you haven’t,” said Lestrade.
“I’ve read about the movies,” Mycroft amended.
“I…” said Lestrade again, and stared up at him, in his ridiculous three-piece suit, and the reason for the tangle of his thoughts was suddenly glaringly evident to him, because he was using all those thoughts to cover up the one thought he hadn’t let himself think before this. And now that he cleared away all of the frantic covering-up, he was astonished that he hadn’t noticed it before, sitting there all that time, waiting for him to dig deeply enough to uncover it and admit it. “I think it’s possible I’m in love with you,” he heard himself say, in amazement.
“You are in love with me,” said Mycroft. “I’ve known it for ages. I’ve been waiting for you to discover it for yourself.”
“Liar,” said Lestrade.
Mycroft smiled at him.
The text came after Mycroft had pushed away his breakfast plate and was combing through the Sun for sightings of Sherlock. He had concluded the Sun was the sort of publication likely to be the first to publish sightings of a supposedly dead person.
He glanced at the phone when it chirped and pulled it over to him. You’re dating Lestrade. I just wanted to make sure you knew that.
Mycroft smiled and was about to ring Sherlock back when Greg shouted his name from the top of the stairs, as he was wont to do.
“Have you hidden my badge again?” he shouted. “It’s so incredibly childish of you when you do that, you know.”
“Don’t pretend,” Mycroft called back to him, “that you ever have any idea where you leave anything of yours.” Which was true. Greg left behind him a neverending wave of detritus. Mycroft tried to be stern about this, but this was the danger when the object of one’s affection knew he was safely adored: That object of affection lost all motivation to improve. And knew, moreover, that if he learned to be neater, Mycroft would be heartbroken to come home to a house lacking the presence of a slew of items Greg had randomly discarded.
Mycroft heard Greg mutter something in response, which made him smile. He glanced at his watch and decided he had time to assist Greg in locating his badge before work. And, at the same time, decided against wasting time ringing Sherlock and waiting to leave him a message. He texted, because it was quicker.
Yes. I know.