"I thought you could use some help," Mycroft said, casually leaning against his umbrella.
I had to look away at the street for a minute so I didn't do anything rash, like lash out. Or cry. We hadn't met alone since he'd told me about the ammunition he'd given Moriarty. "Been spying on me. Right. Perfect. Come on in, then." I turned around, leading the way up the stairs.
He didn't follow right away, hesitating in the doorway. I turned about to see. He looked crestfallen. I have a weakness for Holmeses, and I felt I could forgive him in time, so I drew in a breath and said, "Come on. I could use the help. Mrs. Hudson'll be in later, too."
We made quick work of the sorting and packing. Everything was less difficult when he was there, even if we barely said a word. When I spoke, it was mainly to give him directions at first. When he spoke, it was to make idle comments about the things we were packing away.
"I gave him that skull, you know."
Okay, well, that one surprised me. I couldn't picture Mycroft touching a skull, much less giving one as a gift.
Mycroft leaned in close to me. I could practically feel his breath on my face as he whispered, "I nicked it."
I swallowed. Mycroft Holmes has a general appreciation for tradition, propriety, and the rules, but I often forget that he also makes his own rules. And if he was going to need to nick a skull to keep Sherlock occupied, well, he'd do it.
Mycroft had already turned back to sorting through Sherlock's clothes. He'd offered to take care of donating them, and I thought that sounded great. Taking care of Sherlock's possessions was such a draining task. Mycroft was doing well, for his part, even though he's not really an Iceman all the time. Sherlock turned him into a hot-blooded man of action who'd either fight Sherlock or fight for him, no matter what.
"You ever nick anything else for him?"
Mycroft chuckled, turning back to me. "Yes. Anything I thought would amuse him that I also thought wouldn't be missed. I wasn't perfect." He shrugged. "I aim for perfection, but I'm as common as anyone else. Sherlock was too." He quirked his lip fondly.
Mycroft and I shared a reminiscent smile and thought of Sherlock, or at least I did.
"Yours, I assume?" Mycroft was suddenly holding up my dog tags.
"Oh yeah, that's right," I said. Mycroft was eyeing the tags strangely, drawing...conclusions. "Er, if you're getting any ideas...don't. He wanted them for a disguise. Apparently, they...worked well," I finished lamely.
He folded up the chain and placed the tags in my palm, his hand lingering slightly as he went to pull away. "I'll bet you look handsome in uniform."
A thrill went through me, and I tried not to smirk flirtatiously, but Mycroft Holmes brings out the worst in me. I took a deep breath and curled my hand around my tags to steel myself. "Been told that, yeah," I said, then glanced away. I absently slid the tags over my head for want of something to do in the silence that was crushing me, but I realized that was a mistake when I tried to go back to sorting through Sherlock's things and Mycroft didn't.
He just sat there, staring at the way the tags glinted, his fine mind far away.
"My face is up here," I joked, and he slowly met my gaze. He swallowed.
"So you and my brother never...?" He left it at that.
"No." I laughed a bit. "You don't know? You can't deduce that from the, ah, floorboards in his room or something?"
He shook his head with one of his small, honest frowns. He swallowed again, and my eyes caught the movement of his throat. "This statement is also going to prove I'm not perfect, but I'm rather glad you didn't."
I felt heat move through the air from his gaze into mine, warming me. "Right. Uh. Should we finish sorting, do you think? Aren't you busy?"
"I'm as busy as I care to be. Would you like to go to dinner?" he glanced down at the tags again.
"Would this be as a, um...?" I left it there, nervously grabbing my tags into my hand again, the chain straining.
"A date, yes." His eyes followed the movement of my hand on the tags. "I know where your face is," he said with a smile. "I just happen to like you in dog tags and a jumper."
I tried to force myself to focus, on dinner, on my jumper, and not on the sound of his voice. "Should I change, if we're going to go out somewhere? Probably some place complicated and stuffy."
He raised an eyebrow, meeting my gaze again. "You accept, John?"
"As a matter of fact," I said, "I do." I cleared my throat. "Let's be clear, though. I'm not very good at dating. I have a bad memory for personal details, Sherlock takes too much of my...." I stopped abruptly, my mouth going closed. Oh. Right.
Mycroft's arm was around me. "It's alright." The voice he used would have soothed any frightened child. "I'm no real winner. I work too much and I'm overprotective."
I shifted closer, resting my head on his shoulder. "That's fine," I said. "It's all fine."