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Lestrade leaned against the doorframe, surveying the crowd of elegantly coiffed and designer-labeled ladies and gentlemen cooing, giggling, clinking glasses. All in all, it was a handsome sight, he had to admit. Flowers everywhere. Little bites of salmon and capers and god-knows-what-shredded- green-foolishness-wrapped-in-paper-thin-pastry on silver trays.

Plenty of champagne. And a black-tie waiter who kept Harry supplied with Orangina and—thank you very much, young man—put a full crystal tumbler of perfectly aged whisky in Lestrade’s hand. Sherlock’s family certainly knew how to throw a party.

And John and his boisterous crew certainly knew how to enjoy a party. They’d taken over most of the parlor and were making themselves at home— sprawling all over Mummy’s fussy mahogany furniture as if they owned the place. Aunts, uncles, cousins, Harry and Clara (avoiding eye contact all day), army mates, and a dozen thoroughly pissed doctors and nurses. All trading jokes and tall tales about John’s romantic exploits from age five to thirty-five. Memories exaggerated more than a little, Lestrade reckoned, by all that champagne.

Lestrade swallowed the dregs of his second whisky and finally glimpsed Sherlock in the crowd. Towering behind Mike Stamford, forcing a smile or shrugging whenever someone directed a comment towards him. Jesus, how was the poor sod surviving this day? He’d clearly been desperate to bolt the instant the minister made his final pronouncement. But old lady Holmes and then a long line of well-wishers had refused to let him escape the ritual gauntlet of hugs and air kisses.

Lestrade did pity him. He really did. But, come on—the D. I. was only human. So he couldn’t help grinning at the sight of his consulting detective suffering in anguished silence. And he was going to have to deal with all these idiots for another couple of hours at least. Then the pair would borrow Mycroft’s car and driver for the trip home to London. And Lestrade would wager a month's pay that Sherlock would have his wicked way with a very eager-to-please John Watson before they were out of sight of the front gate.

Fuck. Lestrade realized he must’ve already overdone the whisky if he was standing there thinking about what Sherlock and John were getting up to on their wedding night. Lestrade caught Sherlock’s eye at last, and the D.I. raised his glass, nodding his own version of congratulations. Sherlock raised his glass with a smirk, held Lestrade’s gaze for a couple of seconds, and then nodded in return, before turning back to John.

Someone a little more sentimental might have seen gratitude or even affection in that nod. But Lestrade had given up trying to parse Sherlock’s winks and squints and hand-waving ye ars ago. Nor was the Inspector inclined to dwell on the sudden tightness in his own throat. His mind had just flashed back to John marching into the pub months ago for their usual Thursday night darts game. The doctor had sighed and presented the first draft of a guest list as yet another example of the stubborn and uncooperative attitude the genius was taking in all the wedding plans. An attitude that was sure to get them both drawn and quartered by Mummy and Mycroft, according to John.

On a long, lined sheet of paper, beneath the three dozen names and addresses John had carefully printed out, Sherlock had scrawled simply: LESTRADE. London.

The D.I. swallowed down the uncomfortable knot catching in his throat and decided he definitely needed some fresh air—or a cigarette—or both. He made his way into the serving area to nick a bottle of whisky, and then walked out of the kitchen door onto the lawn to explore the gro unds in peace.

He tossed his jacket and tie on an iron bench along the brick pathway that led down the hill past the rose garden to a shimmering pond. He watched a family of geese splashing and flapping in the early twilight haze. He pushed up his sleeves, then pulled off his shoes and socks and—what the hell—rolled up his trousers almost to his knees and stepped into the cool muddy water, breathing in the late summer scents of mown grass and ripening strawberries. He saw a tall figure in the shadow of a nearby tree, still in full wedding regalia—suit, tie, even a shiny dark blue waistcoat—despite the warm August afternoon. The man glanced towards Lestrade and then pivoted quickly as if to leave.

“Oh hey, mate, don’t go—I didn’t mean to disturb you. You were here first— and I can have a walk somewhere else . . .”

“No, no, Inspector. I should be getting back to the house,” said a familiar voice, as the man emerged from his leafy hiding place. “I’m meant to be helping Mummy host this little gathering, so . . .”

Lestrade laughed. “Mycroft bloody Holmes, is that you? Well, come on then. Stay here with me, why don’t you? We can both hide from the lot of them.”

Lestrade threw the other Holmes his broadest grin and beckoned him nearer. He felt he barely knew Sherlock’s brother even after all these years, but whenever they met they seemed to get on well. Had a common foe to unite them, he supposed. So why not share a drink and a chat for the occasion?

“Look here! I’ve managed to rob your Mum of a whole bottle of the good stuff, and I see an empty glass in your hand. Pity to waste it.”

Mycroft chuckled and made his way through the grass and ferns to where Lestrade had planted himself, ankle-deep in the water.

"All right, then,” said Mycroft. “Let’s toast John Watson, shall we?” May Dr. Watson enjoy a long, happy partnership with Sherlock. May he stay true and brave in the face of every monstrous adventure Sherlock forces upon him. And most important: Let’s hope he stops Sherlock from texting us in the middle of the night from this day forward.”

Lestrade snorted and poured the whisky into Mycroft’s champagne flute, then took a sip from the bottle himself. “Cheers and Amen!”

Lestrade closed his eyes to savor the velvety feel of the drink on his tongue and the afterburn in his throat. Then he looked at Mycroft and asked, “So what’re you doing here amongst the weeds and bugs? Not exactly the Diogenes Club, is it?”

Mycroft was silent. Just sipped his whisky and looked across the placid water, following the trail of a dragonfly.

Lestrade realized he’d tr ead on some of that top-secret upper-class nonsense, so he tried again. “What’ve you got there in your hand?”

“Just some stones I picked up out of habit. I used to collect rocks and fossils. When we were young, Sherlock and I came here almost every day. He captured insects and rabbits and frogs and . . . well, he always had penchant for anatomy and . . . dissection.”

Lestrade winced. “Spare me the details, please.”

Mycroft nodded and downed another swallow, turning the three smooth stones over in the palm of his hand. “I prefer inanimate nature as a general rule. Mountains and valleys are reliable, not likely to change or disappear— or at least not in a human lifetime. Quite a lot seems to be changing now, Gregory." Mycroft glanced at Lestrade and blushed. "I'm sorry--that was presumptuous. May I call you Gregory?"

Lestrade nodded and grinned. "Of course! Or Greg. Whatever you like. Better than 'imbecile,' your brother's name for me. But you were saying something about things changing?"

Mycroft smiled and waved his hand. "Oh it's not important. It’s . . . well, it’s all inevitable, I suppose.”

Mycroft cleared his throat and stepped onto a decaying tree trunk jutting into the water, obviously ready to shift the subject. “I always hoped I’d stumble upon something really exciting in all my digging out here —a dinosaur’s jawbone or . . .” Mycroft flashed Lestrade a mischievous smile that made the D. I.’s heart beat a little faster for who knows what bloody reason. “I remember when I was seven or eight I was sure I’d discover the entrance to a cave of crystals or some subterranean empire of mole men . . .”

Lestrade laughed. “'Course, now you’re all grown up, and you lead your own empire of mole men, don’t you?”

Mycroft pulled a tragic face and nodded, toeing off his shoes and socks and loosening his tie. “Yes, yes. But alas, my minions work mostly above ground. Blasted labour laws.”

Lestrade laughed again, laid his bottle at the edge of the pond and walked a little farther in. Water still three or four inches below his knees, he felt the tickle of mud oozing between his toes and tiny, smooth pebbles under his heels. He reached into the water to pick up a few mottled grey rocks, washed them gently, and then examined them, appreciating the weight and texture in his palm.

“Don’t know much about rocks myself—except for ducks and drakes.”

Dropping to a crouch and turning at a slight angle, Lestrade pulled back his right arm and threw the first stone with a quick snap of his wrist, sending it dancing across the surface of the water, in five light skips, before it disappeared with a plop.

“Brilliant!” said Mycroft, beaming like a schoolboy. I never learned to do that. I’m quite impressed with your skill, Inspe . . . Greg.”

Lestrade sloshed out of the pond towards Mycroft and scooped up a handful of flat, almost oval stones, then seized his host’s empty champagne glass, and placed it beside the half-empty bottle on a pillow of moss.

“Well, we’ll soon fix that. You’re going to learn right now. First, get that jacket and ridiculous waistcoat right off—you can’t possibly do anything bound up like that.”

Mycroft began stammering and backing away. “No, no. I . . . it’s not . . . I’ll keep my clothes on, thank you . . . need to go back to the house . . . very kind offer, I’m sure, but I don’t want to . . .”

“We don’t have all day, Mycroft. Sun’s starting to go down. Here, I’ll he lp you.”

Even as he tugged at the sleeves of Mycroft’s immaculate charcoal grey jacket, an annoying voice in Lestrade’s head was telling him this was a stupid thing to do, and he had no business flirting with Mycroft Holmes of all people. Don’t deny it, you git, said the remaining fully sober corner of his conscience—You know you’re thinking about getting off with him, and it’s not only daft, but also possibly suicidal.

With barely a whisper of friction, Lestrade pulled off Mycroft’s jacket and let it fall to the ground. Lestrade’s cock took notice of the tall, long-limbed man in front of him.

Stop it, insisted his stubborn conscience. No matter how fucking gorgeous that arse looks—it belongs to the British government, so don’t touch it. Before Mycroft could finish his grumbling about needing to check on the party, Mummy, and miscellaneous ot her excuses, Lestrade shoved his pupil to the water’s edge.

He gave Mycroft another demonstration: proper crouching technique, keep your eye on the far edge of the pond, hold your forefinger crooked just so around the stone, thumb on top, and don’t squeeze the life out of it! Flick it hard and low—it’s all about speed and angles. Mycroft followed the instructions—and sank six stones, one after another--plonk -- into the middle of the pond.

Lestrade combed his hand through his hair and stepped closer to Mycroft, who was still insisting he really didn’t have time to do this—and registering a hint of frustration in his ruddy face.

“You’re really just trying too hard, Mycroft,” said Lestrade, leaning in for a heart-to-heart coaching session. “Ever played football?”

Mycroft shook his head with a scowl. “Really, now, Greg. You're joking, I assume.”

“All right, then. How about polo? Cricket? Friendly game of darts?”

More emphatic head shakes. “Sherlock tells me you’re good at football, Inspector, but I’m not ‘sporty’ myself, which should be obvious.”

“Okay, okay. Let me think . . . oh, I’ve got it,” said Lestrade. This time, it was the D. I.’s turn to look mischievous.

He stood close by Mycroft’s side and placed a new stone in his hand. “Look out at the water, Mycroft, and feel the weight and shape of that stone. You keep trying to force things—by sheer will—to go where you want them to go.”

“I thought that was the point.”

“No. Won't work. Look at that rock you’ve got there. That rock has been trapped in the muck for who knows how long. It wants to get out and fly through the air. It wants to h op over the water, not just sink to the bottom for another thousand years. You’ve gotta just relax and let your hand and your wrist move naturally—then let the stone go flying off free and easy.” Lestrade was behind Mycroft now, almost whispering into his ear, hands on his shoulders, kneading them like a trainer preparing a boxer for the ring.

“Your body knows what to do.” Lestrade grinned. “Know what a really great shag feels like? When you stop thinking about it, and just let it happen? That’s the idea, okay?”

Mycroft took a sudden deep breath, swallowed hard, and nodded before pulling back and letting his stone fly across the water, managing two short skips before it sank. He let go a sharp squeal of triumph.

Lestrade cheered. “Beautiful! Now let’s go again.”

Lestrade inched closer behind Mycroft and took the man’s right hand in his own, lightly tr acing around the slim wrist, placing another flat stone in the middle of the hot, sweaty palm and closing Mycroft’s fingers around it.

Mapping the veins on the back of Mycroft’s hand with calloused fingertips and pressing the length of his body against Mycroft’s back, Lestrade just couldn’t see the point of stopping now. He wove his fingers between Mycroft’s, holding the stone so it wouldn’t fall, and marveling at how natural it all felt, how easily everything seemed to fit.

He was close enough to hear Mycroft exhale and feel a tremor.

Oh.

He was close enough to feel goose bumps rising on Mycroft’s forearms. Close enough for his chest to be warmed by the heat radiating through Mycroft’s linen shirt and silk waistcoat. Close enough to see a few grey hairs among the brown and ginger at the nape of Mycroft’s neck. Close enough to press his lips to that neck, the salty flavour blending with the memory of whisky on his tongue and making him thirsty for more.

Lestrade knew he was lost. He wanted nothing now but to feel this man arching and trembling beneath his touch. Wanted to swallow all the protests and excuses and replace them with yes and yes and yes.

Mycroft’s voice was drained of its usual smooth confidence. It was halting, tentative, reverberating low and dark. “What . . . what should I . . . Should I throw this one?”

Lestrade tried for a moment to come back to the here and now, answering, “Yeah, yeah. Let's just. . . let’s . . .”

The D. I. cradled Mycroft’s right hand in his, positioning the stone carefully beneath his student’s thumb. They practiced the motion, arms parallel, swinging forward and back, Lestrade just managing to stifle a moan each time Mycroft’s body swayed back into his.

Lestrade’s left hand, which had been resting gently at Mycroft’s waist, now moved around to the metal buckle of his belt. Thumb hooked around the buckle, Lestrade’s fingers reached out to trace the length of Mycroft’s erection through his trousers. As Mycroft’s breathing became shallower and faster, his muscles tensing, Lestrade pulled him into a tight embrace. He wanted the man to feel heat and desire pressing into him.

“Mycroft, I . . .”

But Lestrade realized he didn’t know what the hell to say. Didn’t think he should say the words pounding cease lessly in his head right now. Please, please let me fuck you. Let me make you scream and beg and come so hard you can’t see or hear or think. Please.

Lestrade began fumbling at Mycroft’s zip with his left hand and slid his right up to curl around the back of his collar, dragging it down to reveal more soft, pink nape, begging to be kissed. He pressed lips, tongue, and teeth to neck and back, desperately hoping this was what Mycroft wanted too.

The stone dropped back into the mud as Mycroft laced his fingers more firmly into Lestrade’s. And now there was a blurry riot of mouths and hands. Silver buttons and dark blue silk. Fabric tearing and falling. Skin on skin.

Mycroft finally kissed Lestrade—awkward, artless, and yet damn near perfect. He clutched at Lestrade’s sleeves, trying to stay upright, but failed spectacularly.

“Oh God, wait, Mycroft, wait!”

But Mycroft couldn’t and wouldn’t wait, so the two of them fell, half-naked and with a dull thud, onto the ground, bodies pressed into the grassy bank, struggling to kick away trousers and underwear. Christ, then there was Mycroft’s foot, slick with mud, sliding up and over to drag Lestrade on top. Lestrade felt he had barely got comfortable stretched over Mycroft’s lean, pale body, had barely got a grip on the man’s prick when it pulsed and emptied—thick and hot and exactly all and everything Lestrade wanted to feel at that moment. Mycroft’s face was buried in Lestrade’s chest as he cried out and surrendered, letting Lestrade pull him deeper into and through the orgasm. And suddenly Lestrade felt himself gasping and pleading and coming into the tight, sweet space between Mycroft’s thighs— the D.I.’s turn to be awkward and artless.

Damn. Next time, he promised himself, they'd do it properly. Rolling in the grass was for bloody teenagers, for fuck’s sake. Not someone as fine as Mycroft Holmes.

Moonlight had replaced the sun’s reflection on the water. With hearts at rest and breathing slowed, the men lay next to each other looking up at the stars spilling across a dark purple sky. Mycroft laid his hand on Lestrade’s chest tentatively and Lestrade captured it before it could be pulled away, before Mycroft could have second, third, and fourth thoughts.

The silence was comfortable somehow, almost as if—and Lestrade knew this was just plain wishful thinking—as if they were coming to an understanding about what had happened. About where this thing might lead. After a quarter of an hour, Mycroft spoke.

“I think perhaps we’ll both miss . . .” and he paused, shifting slightly and rubbing his thumb across Lestrade’s wrist, “those 3 a. m. texts. Neither of us will be his first call now, will we? Not that I ever was . . . unless no other possible solution was at hand, but still . . . everything feels a bit . . .”

“Like a new chapter? A brand new book, even? Not sure where the story’s going?”

Mycroft sat up and smiled, removing his hand from Lestrade’s and then looking towards the far side of the pond, where a breeze was setting the leaves on the willow trees fluttering. “Yes.”

Lestrade sat up too, and took Mycroft’s hand again, squeezing it between both of his own, looking into the darkness as well. “Best kind of book—a mystery. A hell of a lot more fun when you don’t know what’s gonna happen next.”

Mycroft glanced at Lestrade and lifted an eyebrow. “Hmm. I generally prefer to know precisely what is going to happen next.”

Lestrade pushed himself up off the grass, pulling Mycroft with him, so they were standing chin to chin. “Okay, then. Next: a swim.”

Mycroft still wore his shirt—sans cufflinks and more than a few buttons—so Lestrade removed it, kissing whatever tender places he had neglected earlier. Then Lestrade pulled Mycroft into the cool center of the pond, where they intertwined limbs and tongues in the dark, deaf to the buzz of the crowd in the distance finally sending John and Sherlock on their way.