It was a bit of a drive, and then more than a bit of a hike, but they were on holiday, and Greg had finally taught Georgie how to hold on while on a motorbike. Of course he had Georgie back in his ball on the motorway, but on the track leading to the head of the trail, Georgie was crouched on the back of the bike, grinning with his tongue lolling out. Greg kept it under 40 kph.
“What do you think?” Greg asked, parking the bike. Georgie jumped off and ran about, barking and rolling over excitedly, coughing out a few flames. “Hey, now! Save some of that!”
They hadn’t been out training in ages. There was work, for both them. Maybe Greg was a little too proud of his Growlithe, but Georgie was the best behaved Pokemon in the entire division (and possibly the Met). There were comments about how he hadn’t evolved yet, but he was young, even if Greg wasn’t. It certainly wasn’t that Greg spoiled him: Georgie could follow orders better than half the PCs, and just as good as the other half.
“You’re a good boy, aren’t you?” he asked Georgie now, and added, “Heel!”
Georgie was instantly standing at attention, ears cocked and eyes bright. Greg shook his head and tucked his hands into his pockets, unable to keep from smiling. “You’re the best.”
They headed into the forest together, keeping an eye out—there were supposed to be a few Nidorans around, which would serve as good opponents. But only for the normal moves Georgie knew; Greg didn’t want to practice his fire moves until they were away from the more flammable areas. There was a cave not two miles down the trail that would do the trick.
Georgie let out a joyous bark and dashed after a streak of brown—a Pidgey, and Greg winced. “Come on back!” he called, and Georgie stopped immediately, though his ears drooped and he looked back at Greg sadly. “Don’t give me that. Those things swarm.”
“Speaking of,” a voice said, and Greg whirled around. There was a man carefully climbing out from a clump of pine trees, fending the branches off skillfully with an umbrella. “You might want to turn back. There’s a swarm of Beedrill up ahead who will be waking up in a few minutes. I don’t know that they’ll send scouts this far south, but better safe than sorry, yes?”
“You attacked a swarm of Beedrill?” Greg asked incredulously. Georgie nudged his leg and Greg quickly made the sign for calm; Georgie settled and sat by his side, understanding that they weren’t about to battle this man.
“They attacked first,” the man said mildly. He was wearing a suit, albeit an outdoorsy one, Greg noticed with increasing bemusement, and had no trainer belt.
“Well,” he said awkwardly, and looked down at Georgie. Bright and eager and ready to go, but definitely not ready to take on a swarm of angry Beedrill. “Thanks for the warning. We’ll—”
Before he could continue, a chill swept over him. Over all of them; Georgie growled and looked upward intently, and Greg saw his breath plume in the suddenly frosty air just before a bit of snow fluttered into view.
“Allumia,” the man said with fond exasperation, and a beautiful blue bird alighted in the tree he’d just pushed past. It tilted its head and stared at Georgie, who was sitting still and upright, his tail wagging violently with excitement.
“That’s an Articuno,” Greg said, completely stunned.
They walked back together, after Mycroft had introduced himself three times and Greg had stared, slack-jawed, at the Articuno for two solid minutes. Georgie stayed at Greg’s side, though his eyes tracked Allumia in her elegant sweeps as she flew ahead.
“I was on business in Switzerland,” Mycroft was saying. He swung his umbrella as he walked, watching its arc rather than his Pokemon, whose wings were still causing bright snowflakes to flash into existence before melting under the bright sun. “She isn’t mine, you’ve realised.”
He said it easily, like he believed that Greg had. Greg, in fact, had not realised that, and his mouth was hanging open yet again. “But—she’s not? She’s just following you around for fun?”
Mycroft shrugged. It was a ridiculously elegant move in him. “For whatever reason, she stays with me. I think our relationship would be damaged irreparably if I attempted to catch her.”
That made sense, and Greg looked dubiously at the legendary bird gliding in front of them. “Yeah, okay.”
They walked in silence for a bit, and then Mycroft said, “Your Growlithe is a beautiful specimen. Male, I assume?”
“Yeah, Georgie,” Greg said, and laughed as Georgie looked up at him. “Yes, you. He’s a Pokemon officer. We aren’t carrying our warrant cards today, though.” He grinned cheerfully at Mycroft.
“You are both a credit to the Met,” Mycroft said, and they were at the trail head, with Greg’s bike in view. There was a car there now, too, a shiny black one, complete with driver.
“You must be a credit to something more exciting,” Greg said, feeling a bit stunned again. He should have been ready for it; business in Switzerland? But he wasn’t, and he felt suddenly awkward in his jeans, heading for his dusty bike. He coughed and shook himself, and held out his hand to Mycroft. “Thanks for the warning, again.”
“It wouldn’t have been kind of me to let you walk into a problem I created,” Mycroft said, and shook his hand firmly. It was a warmer grip than Greg had anticipated, and he was aware, to his dimly-sensed horror, that it was a grip he didn’t quite want to let go of.
Then Georgie barked, sharp and impatient, and Greg turned to find him already perched on the back of the bike, wagging his tail and grinning his fuzzy grin.
“All right!” Greg called to him, and turned back to smile at Mycroft. “Bye.”
“Until next time,” Mycroft said smoothly, turning to his own vehicle. Greg dug his helmet out of the bike’s box and jumped as Georgie barked sharply. Then he felt the chill, and looked up to find Allumia swooping in, and settling delicately on his seat—except for where her talons dug into the leather.
“Hey!” Greg cried out, but the bird had cocked her head and was scrutinising Georgie, completely ignoring him.
“Allumia,” Mycroft called out urgently. “Greg, don’t let him battle her.”
“Why would I do a daft thing like that?” Greg demanded, and reached out to pick Georgie up. Allumia let out a loud, trilling call, surprising Greg into taking a step back, and then very delicately teased a tuft of Georgie’s fur back from his eyes.
Greg looked at Mycroft, who looked back at him. He probably looked equally blank and confused, Greg thought, and they both turned to look at their Pokemon again.
Georgie barked impatiently at Allumia, who only trilled at him once more. Greg put his hand on Georgie’s back, meaning to calm him, and found himself square in the sights of a suddenly aggressive Articuno.
“Allumia!” Mycroft shouted. The chill bit at Greg’s skin and he started to back away, blinking furiously at the sudden stinging cold, when Georgie gave a sharp bark and snapped his teeth shut mere inches from Allumia’s beak.
It would be a bit melodramatic to say that Greg’s life flashed before his eyes. Georgie’s did, though, and he made an instinctive and stupid reaction: he called Georgie back into his Pokeball before he could possibly lose his partner to a pissed-off legendary. Mycroft’s hand closed over his wrist a moment later.
Rather than get angry—or, rather, angrier, Allumia reared back, looking startled and then distressed, and trilled anxiously, her talons making a horrific mess of the bike’s seat. Mycroft let go of Greg and reached out to her, crooning, “Allumia, darling, it’s all right. Georgie’s fine. Greg, send him out, won’t you? She’s worried.”
“She’s worried?” Greg echoed. His hand curled around the small Pokeball protectively.
“Bring Georgie back,” Mycroft commanded, and it spoke to Greg’s muddled state that he obeyed without questioning, enlarging the Pokeball and opening it.
Georgie reappeared, barking happily, though he stopped and stared comically as Allumia gave a loud cry of greeting and hopped down from the bike, knocking Mycroft back with a sweep of her wings. She settled in front of Georgie, who was sitting very still. As Greg and Mycroft watched silently, she teased the lock of fur at his forehead again, and Georgie’s eyes crossed as he tried to watch.
“Good Lord, she’s in love,” Mycroft said, sounding completely horrified.
Greg bit his lip, and then said, “Georgie.”
Georgie turned immediately, wagging his tail excitedly. Allumia was regarding Greg once again with suspicion, and then with fear when Greg held up Georgie’s Pokeball.
Mycroft coughed. ”Greg, please—”
“Return,” Greg said, and Georgie was back in his Pokeball again, and Allumia was dancing in distress, the air growing chilly again. “Oi! Allumia. You.”
“Oh dear God,” Mycroft said, hiding his face behind his hand.
Greg ignored him, and held up the Pokeball. “He’s safe, all right? Watch.” And he brought Georgie out again, earning himself a confused look from his poor Growlithe, and a trill of joy from the bird. “Now watch again. Georgie, return!”
He did it twice more, before Allumia seemed to understand that Georgie was safe in his Pokeball and stopped crying, although she definitely didn’t like it when Georgie wasn’t visible.
“Are you training my Articuno?” Mycroft asked, crossing his arms.
“Yours?” Greg returned, as Georgie curled up by his feet and Allumia danced ever closer, fascinated by the way Georgie’s tail wagged more excitedly the closer she got. “I thought she just followed you around.”
“I’m not so sure she won’t be following you around now,” Mycroft sighed. “Allumia. If I leave, will you behave yourself and find your own way home?”
“No! You can’t leave her with us!” Greg protested, and frowned when Mycroft smiled at him. “And you can’t leave without giving me your number.”
Mycroft’s eyebrow rose delicately. “I beg your pardon?”
“Do you think I’m letting you get away with that?” Greg demanded, pointing at his bike. “She’s your responsibility, and she damaged my bike, and that isn’t an inexpensive fix, Mr. Just Wandering About Switzerland.”
“What a shame,” Mycroft said, and pulled his phone out of his pocket. “I can give it to you now, if you wish.”
“I don’t have a pen.”
Another eyebrow raise. “You have your phone in your pocket.”
Greg bit his lip again. “It’s not charged?”
“You don’t know how to add contacts?” Mycroft asked, though it wasn’t really a question. Greg rolled his eyes hard and handed the phone over with bad grace when Mycroft held out his hand, smiling again.
Allumia didn’t follow Greg and Georgie home, thankfully. Although Greg had had to keep Georgie in his Pokeball to prevent said occurrence, which left Georgie grouchy for the rest of the afternoon. They settled together on the sofa at last, Greg stretched out and Georgie sprawled over his torso, watching some ridiculous drama on the telly and dozing.
All in all, not a terrible day. Greg resolved to ride out to the trail again tomorrow, and let Georgie have his day. The housework could wait another week or so.
That was what he thought, until he woke up from a dream about getting lost in Tesco’s ice cream selection and found Allumia curled up on his feet.
Georgie made a questioning sort of whuffle as Greg dug his phone out of his pocket, and shook his sleepy head. ”Hush,” Greg told him, but Georgie looked over at Allumia and barked excitedly, and then she was awake, too. They tumbled together to the floor, Georgie letting out a yelp when she landed on his tail.
Greg tried to rub some warmth back into his feet as he scrolled through his contacts, finding “Mycroft Holmes” and punching the button just a bit viciously. It rang twice, and went to an automated voice mail; no personal touch there.
“I’ve got your bird,” he said, not bothering to give name or number. Allumia looked at him, and Georgie stiffened suddenly and gave a sharp bark—visitor. The knock on the door was polite but crisp, and just a shade impatient, and how one could manage to say all that in a knock, well. Greg disconnected and raised his voice. “It isn’t locked.”
“That’s hardly an invitation,” Mycroft called back, and Allumia trilled and started preening Georgie’s ruff. Georgie lay down so she could do so, though his eyes remained trained on Greg.
Greg sighed, feeling rather put-upon, and stomped over to the door. Georgie barked at him, wagging his tail; enjoying the theatrics, no doubt. Mycroft was waiting patiently when Greg swung it open and stood aside, holding out his arm. “Please, do come in.”
A smile flickered at the edges of Mycroft’s mouth, and he gave a polite nod before he stepped inside. “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.” Greg shouldered past him with a friendly sort of roughness, and was pleased when Mycroft didn’t give an inch. “Your bird.”
“Allumia,” Mycroft said, with fond disapproval. “This is breaking and entering.”
Allumia shot him a superior look and went back to nibbling at Georgie’s ear. Georgie yawned and then settled his head on his paws, blinking slowly up at the two humans.
Greg sighed and scratched at his eyebrow. “Well. Before my mum’s Kadabra can alert her to my failings as a son and homeowner, can I offer you anything? Tea?”
“No, that’s quite all right,” Mycroft said, and Greg elbowed him. The expression he got in return was priceless. “What was that for?”
“Have some damn tea,” Greg ordered, “and sit down. They’re going to play for a bit and we’re going to have to decide what to do about it.”
Georgie scrambled up the narrow path, then turned to regard Greg cheerfully, tail wagging and tongue hanging out in a cheerful grin.
“Oh yeah,” Greg said, breathing hard as he tried to get a secure hold on the slippery rock. “Rub it in. You have claws.”
They’d made it out to the cave at last, and according to the map, they were a few twists and turns from their destination: a small underwater reservoir where Georgie could practice his fire moves without causing damage.
There were gyms in the city, of course, but Greg didn’t like them. Too much of a competitive feel, where the goal was to evolve as fast as possible. He wasn’t about to subject Georgie to any of that, young as he was. There was already pressure from the Met to get a Fire Stone and evolve Georgie now, rather than wait for him to grow naturally, as Arcanines were more impressive than Growlithes.
The passage opened up and Greg sighed with relief. He didn’t like the close confines of the cave, although he appreciated that little had been to open it up: there were deeper areas that were pretty much inaccessible to humans, and wild Pokemon could still thrive there. Not that there weren’t Zubats enough in the areas trainers could reach; Greg had enough guano on his shirt to prove that.
Georgie barked and scrambled to the water’s edge, sniffing at it carefully before taking a cautious drink. Only Goldeen were listed as living in this part of the cave, but you never knew.
“Right, let’s start with Ember,” Greg said, tucking his hands under his arms. Georgie gave him a rather irritated look before doing the simple attack, creating a controlled burn: in police work, used most often for preventing someone’s charge forward.
So he wanted something more interesting, did he? Greg laughed and called out, “Flame Wheel!”
This attack worked as containment: the flames spun into a neat circle around Greg, about waist-height, and then grew until the flames were reaching up to his shoulders. They were far enough away that Greg felt warm, verging on hot, but wasn’t harmed. And he tested Georgie further by putting out his arms, and was pleased to find the circle widening quickly, but carefully.
“Good boy!” he called out, and the flames died down. Georgie wagged his tail but remained focused, waiting for Greg’s next command.
The next move was one they’d only just started working on together. There were suspects who would try to have their Pokemon attack officers, and it was the job of Police Pokemon to subdue them while the humans went after their own. Georgie, being a Fire and Normal type, wasn’t very strong against Rock type Pokemon, who wouldn’t be scared off from charging with a few flames. Georgie would need some power behind him if he were to stop, say, a Rhyhorn.
“Georgie, use Flamethrower!”
Georgie reared up and managed, with a throaty roar, to produce a terrific gush of flame that petered out within seconds, leaving the poor thing coughing and whining pathetically. Greg flopped down next to him and pulled him into his lap, saying softly, “Hey, it’s all right. You’re all right. Good boy, Georgie. Good try.”
Georgie coughed and wriggled out of his arms, wagging his tail as he went back to the pool, drinking enthusiastically. Greg half-turned to watch him, unable to keep from grinning. ”Going to try again?”
That earned him a bright, cheerful bark.
“Sir?” Sally asked, knocking on the open door to Greg’s office even as she lounged against the jamb.
“Probably no,” Greg said absently, still looking around his desk. “Have you seen my calendar?”
“Gregson has it; he’s updating your appointments,” Sally said helpfully, and grinned when Greg groaned. “They’ve approved Yvette.”
“What?” Greg stared at her, and then his brain caught up with his ears and he smiled widely. “Congratulations!”
Sally laughed, and ran a hand through her hair. “Thanks.”
Yvette, Sally’s Ninetails, would be one of a very few students in the Pokemon Police Academy that weren’t Growlithes or Arcanines. While Greg agreed with the majority opinion that Growlithes were best suited for the work, he had been hoping for the best for Sally and Yvette these past few months. They’d been training so hard.
“You’ll start a trend,” Greg teased. “No one’s going to want boring old Arcanines after this.”
Sally stopped, her mouth dropping open in shock. Greg didn’t have to turn around to see; he could feel the cold seeping in through the window. “Oh, for heaven’s sake,” he muttered, and started hunting through the papers covering his desk for his phone.
“That’s—there’s an Articuno outside your window,” Sally said, her voice stilted.
“I’m aware,” Greg said curtly, and added, “Pick up, you bastard,” as he dialed Mycroft’s number. He turned at last and waved at Allumia, who was pecking at the window. “Hold on! Let me—Mycroft, hello. Your bird’s here again.”
Someone in the hall was shouting, “There’s an Articuno outside!”
“You can see it here!” Sally called back.
“Sally!” Greg yelped, and rolled his eyes hard as people began to flood into his tiny office. Allumia fluttered away from the window, and then gave a powerful sweep of her wings and flew up and out of sight.
“I take it Allumia wants to play with Georgie today,” Mycroft said innocently, though Greg could barely hear him over the excited chattering of his coworkers.
Greg shooed everyone out of his office and pulled the blinds before opening the window and allowing Allumia to come in. She landed on his shoulder, talons ripping his jacket and pinching his skin hard, but he hardly noticed as the chill she carried with her settled about him.
She was shaking a little, and Greg murmured, "Hey, it's all right," and stroked her chest carefully. She let out a small trill and resettled her feathers, ducking her head to nibble at his fingers with a gentleness he'd only seen her use with Georgie.
"Here, why don't you--" Greg looked around, and then pulled his chair over. "Sit over here, and I'll get Georgie out to play, shall I?"
Allumia fluttered delicately to the chair and perched on the low back while Greg got out Georgie's Pokeball. Regulations had it that Pokemon were to stay in their Pokeballs while in the building, to prevent dominance battles and to decrease traffic and wear. But this was a special case.
Georgie let out a bark as he rematerialised and Allumia trilled joyfully, joining him on the floor and allowing herself to be licked and snuggled.
"Sir!" Sally called through the door, and Allumia was jumped back, trilling anxiously and looking to Greg for assistance. He came to the obvious but somehow shocking realisation that she was shy.
"Yeah, Donovan?" he called, edging past them and motioning for Georgie to guard Allumia. Georgie went into guard stance in front of her, shielding her from sight.
"Any chance we could get you to explain why there's an Articuno in your office?"
"Later!" Greg called back, and then yanked the door open an inch. The corridor was still crowded with people, and Greg hissed at Sally, "It's shy, all right? If you lot don't shut up, we're probably going to end up with a blizzard in here, at best."
"Shy?" Sally repeated incredulously, and then shook herself before Greg could even begin to glare. "Right. I got it." She turned and Greg shut the door gratefully, even as she began to clear people away. "All right, you heard him. Give the legendary bird some space. I can't believe I'm saying this. Keep it moving, please--"
Greg leaned back against the door and looked down at Georgie, and at Allumia's long tail feathers. "Braving the city day after day to play with your friend. You poor thing."
Allumia hopped around Georgie to stare at him with her head cocked, responding to the kindness in his tone. Greg slowly knelt down and held out his hand to her, and couldn't help but smile when she approached and nibbled his fingers again. "Beautiful bird," he sighed, and then laughed as Georgie butted against his other arm, demanding to be pet as well. "All right!"
He settled back against the door and let them both rest on him, Allumia's chill counteracted nicely by Georgie's warmth. He'd even dozed off when the knock came at the door--unmistakably the knock of one Mycroft Holmes.
Allumia was sleeping on top of Georgie, who was curled up in a little ball of fur near the door. Tiny snowflakes fell from her wings and melted on Georgie's fur, sparkling before they evaporated, creating a strange but beautiful shimmer around the two of them.
"She is a solitary Pokemon," Mycroft said diplomatically, and Greg rolled his eyes.
"Yes, fine, I'm an idiot." Mycroft started to protest and Greg waved him off. "Hush, you. She's a solitary Pokemon who's bonded with my Growlithe, and we're making her miserable by being in the middle of London."
"We did tentatively agree to outings in the countryside on weekends," Mycroft said, and now his tone was delicate. Perhaps, if Greg kept this rolling, he could unlock debonair and devilish as well.
Or perhaps he needed more sleep. "Yeah, well, she's not waiting for the weekend, is she?" he asked pointedly.
"No, but need she?"
Greg stared at Mycroft, who was leaning against the desk in such a manner that he reminded Greg of Allumia, perching on the chair. Controlled and powerful and oddly out of his depth. "You want me to take Georgie out to the trail after work? Mycroft."
"Not quite that far," Mycroft said, looking at him sideways and from under his lashes. "I've an estate--an old house in the country. It is technically my brother's as well, but he hasn't left London in years."
Of course there was an estate. Greg sighed. "You drive there nightly?"
"I do." Mycroft was watching Allumia with a fond little smile. "She's more comfortable out there. I never expected... I had a Seel, growing up, but I wasn't much of a trainer."
It was this tiny moment of vulnerability, this intimate detail offered without thinking, that swayed Greg. "I suppose once or twice in the week wouldn't hurt. I can't have her showing up here again." He shuddered to think of his office being invaded daily by people eager to catch a glimpse of an Articuno.
"Thank you," Mycroft said, very softly.
The drive wasn’t terrible, especially as the weather was nice again and Mycroft’s directions were from Greg’s flat, rather than the office. He grabbed the bike and, when he was on country roads, brought Georgie out of his Pokeball to enjoy the ride.
It wasn’t a ride he’d enjoy in rain, but he and Mycroft had agreed that Allumia would respond better to a set schedule, so every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday or Sunday, depending on schedules and whether Greg wanted to train, they’d take a trip to the Holmes’ estate--if work allowed, of course. It was a shorter commute than Greg had expected, at least: in just under an hour he caught sight of the place.
He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, had hoped it wouldn’t have wings, and was only slightly appeased in that it wasn’t quite large enough to be a mansion. It was still big, far too big for one person and probably too big for one family, and built of a beautiful creamy stone.
Allumia swept suddenly overhead, and Greg shook his head at the rainbow she inadvertently created as the snowflakes she shed melted and shimmered in the warm afternoon. Georgie barked once in excitement before remembering his manners and subsiding.
Greg slowed to a stop and let Georgie jump off before pulling his helmet off, staring hard at Mycroft as he approached. “Did your family used to take tea with the Darcies?” he asked.
“The de Winters were more our style,” Mycroft answered smoothly, lifting his eyebrows. “Though our own feuds were less spectacular. Welcome.”
“You won’t think less of me for not getting the reference,” Greg said, with just a hint of a question.
“Not at all.”
Georgie was already running along the drive, barking up at Allumia, who was swooping low to tease him with her tail. She banked right and rose, leaving Georgie to stare after her with his tongue hanging out, panting hard.
“Do you want to supervise, or can I tempt you inside with a cup of tea?” Mycroft asked, though his eyes were focused on two Pokemon as well.
“Tea and something to eat, as promised,” Greg said with emphasis.
Georgie caught sight of them walking in, after Greg had stowed his helmet, and barked before giving chase. Allumia called out after him and flew to the door, bringing a chilly wind with her as she settled, more or less gracefully, on Mycroft’s shoulder--Greg had wondered about the bit of leather padding in the jacket, but understood it now.
Georgie took off, racing down the hall and back, darting into rooms and making a high-pitched yelp here and there as Greg and Mycroft got ahead of him. He jumped up on Greg’s leg and ran away again, investigating sounds in the kitchen as Mycroft led the way past. The yelp from in there wasn’t Georgie’s.
“Georgie, come!” Greg commanded, and was answered by a sharp bark and another cry, though this one was disappointed. He appeared with a bit of sauce on his face and a great big Growlithe grin.
“Looks like someone’s been making friends with Alicia,” Mycroft said. Georgie stopped and sat with them, and tried to lick the sauce from his face.
“I’m not going to make any excuses for you,” Greg told him. Georgie cocked his head and stared up at Greg, and then closed his eyes in bliss as Mycroft took the initiative to scratch behind his ears. “Don’t encourage him!”
“It’s entirely too difficult not to,” Mycroft said, and Allumia chirruped as if in agreement.
“You are a disgrace to your profession,” Greg told Georgie sternly. While normally this would yield a bit of shamefaced hiding, today Georgie yawned widely and wagged his tail, staring up at Mycroft with big, adoring eyes.
“I think you’re going to have to accept that we’re going to spoil him terribly,” Mycroft said as the cook, a young woman with sparkling brown eyes, peered out of the kitchen.
“Should I set this out in a specific location, Mr. Holmes?” she asked, holding up a bowl of water. “And does he need anything for supper? Or dessert?”
Georgie jumped up on the bed and licked Greg’s face from chin to hairline in his usual enthusiastic morning greeting. Greg cried out and tried to fend him off, jerking awake too late (as always) to prevent a good slobbering.
“You’re a monster,” he told Georgie after he’d managed to roll and pin him to the duvet. Georgie panted, tail wagging and eyes bright.
It was, as always, just the wrong side of 6 AM. Not even a late night out at the Holmes estate could stop Georgie from upholding his schedule. Greg dragged himself from bed, not bothering to tend to himself until he’d let Georgie out into their bit of garden and gotten his kibble ready. Special Fire Selection, with a rearing Rapidash on the front.
“Sally’s bringing Yvette today!” he called out to Georgie, who barked once from the garden and then came trotting in, ears up and tongue lolling. Greg took a moment to scratch behind his ears. “I talk to you so I don’t have to talk to myself, you know that.”
When he left off, Georgie shook himself briskly and set to eating his breakfast. Greg yawned once more and headed for the shower, his own routine beginning.
The office was buzzing with gossip the second he walked in, and Greg listened carefully for reactions to Sally’s partner. From where he was standing, it was mostly positive, although there were a few of the opinion that Sally was just trying to make a name for herself. But no one seemed to care that Yvette was a Ninetails rather than an Arcanine from a policing standpoint.
Dimmock and Sally were in his office, waiting with coffee and pastries. Greg swung the door shut behind himself and offered a quick “ta” before flopping down in his chair.
“To a good first day?” Sally said, holding up her cup. Greg and Dimmock joined her in the toast, although Dimmock looked fairly grim.
“There’s some talk over in Gregson’s team about restrictions,” he reported, gesturing for Greg to grab whatever pastry he liked. Dimmock wasn’t much of a pastry fan. “Muttering about Plant and Psychic types again.”
Psychic type Pokemon were very much restricted in police work, as no one wanted to have to prove that a suspect hadn’t been coerced into a confession. Psychic types weren’t allowed in any police building for that very reason--and Plant types, used quite a bit by the military for sleeping powder attacks, were likewise considered a public relations nightmare.
“That’ll blow over,” Greg predicted, spilling some powdered sugar on himself and looking down at it with resigned irritation. “It always does. Ninetails is fire, anyway, and we have a few Rapidashes and Ponytas, and at least one Charizard that I’m aware of--”
“Mounted division and Kasey is the only other non-Arcanine,” Dimmock interrupted, though his tone was mild. “Gregson’s shouting them down as we speak, but this is more than a ripple.”
“Yeah, you used to be our hold-out, with Georgie,” Sally added, and sighed. “Your team is going to get a reputation.”
“Whoa, hey, hold on a minute,” Greg said, sitting up. He pointed the donut at Sally. “You’re not planning to transfer, are you?” He turned to Dimmock. “You’re not planning to take her?”
“If we spread out the less, ah, traditional Pokemon, this might blow over faster,” Dimmock said, and had the grace to look embarrassed. “Sorry, Greg.”
“Everyone’s just going to have to get over it,” Greg declared, putting the donut down. “Sally, you’re not transferring. Dimmock, worry about your own damn team. And as for you--!” He pointed at Gregson, who had just opened the door and was leaning in.
“Shut up,” Gregson told him. “I know you didn’t take my chocolate donut. It’s hard work, screaming at idiots.”
“Thank Christ you take them all on your team,” Greg said, pushing the box closer to the far edge of the desk.
Gregson snorted. “Like I trust Daddy Lestrade or Darling Dimmock to mold those bastards into shape. Hallo, Sally. All’s well, but Yvette better live up to her legend.”
“Her legend?” Sally repeated, and shot a wide-eyed look at Greg.
It was raining, so--as they had agreed--a big, black, chauffeured car stopped to pick up Greg before it would carry on to an office building ten minutes along to await Mycroft Holmes. The driver was a very pleasant young man who introduced himself as Kavin and his cheerful Nidoran as Fen.
“You can have Georgie out in the car, I was asked to inform you,” he said, and winked. “Alicia packed him a snack.”
“His ears are burning,” Greg murmured, and ducked into the car. It was very strange to sit in the back and have the door shut for him, but he was distracted by the little red treat bag with a drawing of a Growlithe on it. “All right, you.”
Georgie materialised with an attentive bark, sitting up with ears at attention, but his work manners fell by the wayside when he noticed the bag. Greg had to laugh when Georgie scrambled into his lap, panting and whining hopefully, and completely undermining his plan to demand good manners before his snack.
“I bet you can smell what this is and who made it,” he said, tipping the bag and letting three small treats in the shape of bones fall out. Georgie barked and pounced, trying to get all three into his mouth and drooling everywhere.
“You’re disgusting,” Greg told him, affection softening his voice so much that Georgie merely wagged his tail before hopping off his lap confidently, taking his bones to the floor to chew all three at once with his eyes closed in bliss.
When Mycroft at last joined them, Greg greeted him with a mock-gruff, “This isn’t going to work, you know.”
Mycroft paused for a moment, then continued his graceful entrance and nodded his thanks as Kavin shut the door after him. “Of what am I being accused?” he asked mildly, but the quirk of his mouth if not his language itself showed he was ready for the joke.
“There’s no way you’re luring Georgie away from me,” Greg told him, lounging back in the seat and crossing his arms. “We’re partners.”
Georgie, pausing in his messy mastication of the treat, barked an affirmative.
“Why would you think we’re trying to lure only Georgie away?” Mycroft asked, arching his eyebrow.
Greg arched his own back. “Because I didn’t get a bag of treats.”
Mycroft turned toward the window and Greg grinned at him, noting that he was covering his mouth with his hand--trying not to laugh. Greg had definitely won that round.
Neither of them had work that went according to the clock, and Greg was on the phone with Sally, directing a line of investigation, while Mycroft was scowling at his own phone and typing something with a viciousness that was quite unlike him.
“You all right?” Greg asked when his conversation had ended.
“My brother is being himself,” Mycroft said, jabbing the send key. He let out a huff of irritation and looked over at Allumia, who was preening Georgie. They were cuddled together on the cushions adorning the wide bay window in the study, Georgie licking at the rivulets of rain streaming down the glass. A strange pastime, but a harmless one, so Greg had never bothered to tell him no.
“He in politics, like you?” Greg shifted in his chair. He wasn’t quite sure what it was Mycroft did, but it was sufficiently high enough in the pecking order that he didn’t need to know.
“I’m in government, not politics,” Mycroft said, a bit waspishly. He winced and rubbed at his forehead. “My apologies. He tends to have that effect on me.”
“Sounds like a charmer,” Greg said, and smiled when Mycroft winced again. “Not in the same work as you, then. Not nearly diplomatic enough.”
That surprised a laugh out of him. “Not in the least!”
They smiled at each other, and the moment stretched, for the first time since they had met. Greg blinked and Mycroft dropped his gaze, looking down again at his phone. This would be the time to continue his line of inquiry, figure out what it was the brother did, but.
He didn’t want to. The silence between them was soft, but subtly charged, and patter of the rain, the rise and fall of the wind, made it seem dreamlike. Greg watched Mycroft fiddle with the phone, maybe even honestly type out a message or reply, and found himself captivated by the grace of his long, thin hands.
Mycroft gave a polite cough, and looked up with a quirked, half-smile. “Perhaps we should have dinner?”
Greg knew what he meant--that they should amble to the kitchen and see what Alicia had crafted today--but his stomach flipped nonetheless and a jolt of warmth had his face flushing.
This was, well. It should have been embarrassing, but it was suddenly difficult to spare any attention from Mycroft, who was rising slowly and carefully from his seat.
“Greg,” he said, with just a hint of a question.
“Sounds good,” Greg said, his voice low and scratchy. Christ. But the reaction was nice; a hint of colour on Mycroft’s cheeks, and a delicate bobbing of his Adam’s apple.
Georgie whuffed at him, and that broke the spell: Mycroft turned away, and Greg jumped to his feet. Georgie was wagging his tail, ears up and head cocked to the side, but Allumia was giving him a look of deepest disgust. He barely resisted the urge to tell her Mycroft didn’t need help preening.
They’d lost Saturday to a case, and most of Sunday, when Mycroft called to warn Greg that Allumia was getting restless. “Is there any chance at all you can break away?” he asked, though there was little hope in his voice.
“This isn’t going well,” Greg said helplessly, spying Georgie sniff at the dried bloodstain on the wall. “Oi! Guard!”
Georgie sprang back into attention, stalking over to stand guard in front of Greg, ignoring the disdainful look Yvette sent him. Those two hadn’t been getting along very well--to be honest, Yvette wasn’t bonding with anyone. She was cool, aloof, and quick to snap at the other Pokemon police officers; if she hadn’t been so good at protecting crime scenes, Greg might have thought to complain.
“Surely you must sleep sometime,” Mycroft said, starting to sound desperate. “Greg, please, she’s keening. Listen.” And there was a high-pitched, warbling wail of distress, pained enough to make his heart ache. “Please. She’ll be in London tomorrow if you don’t come out tonight, and she’ll be stressed enough without having to cope with the city.”
“All right, tonight,” Greg said, rubbing at his eye with his free hand. “We’ll be there. Late. We’ll have to stop for food, and we’ll be heading to bed the second we get there.”
“I can have a car--”
“I don’t know when this is going to be over,” Greg said, not wanting to interrupt but he really did not have the time. “We’ll see you later.”
Mycroft’s voice sounded a bit stilted and confused. “Yes, later.”
“Bye.” Greg hung up and motioned for Georgie to follow as he stomped his way over to Anderson, fully intent on getting this scene finished up before seven, or at the very latest eight.
But they didn’t leave until after ten, even with Sally taking the brunt of the necessary paperwork, and Georgie was exhausted, having stayed awake and on guard to show he was more mature than Yvette seemed to believe. Ninetails tended toward aloof and proud behavior, Greg knew, but he also knew that Georgie had been backsliding into puppyish habits lately, spoiled as he was at the Holmes estate. It was probably good that Yvette was demanding more of him, and after a case or two she’d probably settle and become more comfortable with the team.
With all of that, it was no wonder they both staggered into the house and nearly collapsed in their host’s arms.
“Straight to bed,” Mycroft said firmly, taking Greg’s coat and shooing Allumia away from her curious prodding at Georgie, who was lying flat on the floor with his paws over his head. “Up the stairs and to the right--Allumia, the green room, please. Show them?”
And he scooped Georgie up in his arms, cradling him carefully, and nudged Greg along with a bump of his hip.
Greg managed to get his jacket off--he hadn’t worn a tie to a scene in ages--and sat down on the bed, fully meaning to get his shoes off, but he ended up staring at them until Allumia chirped at him, and hopped from her perch on the back of a chair to the floor. She walked carefully to his feet and began pecking at the laces with precise but gentle stabs of her beak.
“Allumia,” Mycroft said reprovingly, dropping Georgie onto the other side of the bed. “Tend to your friend, and I will tend to mine.”
“That’s not necessary,” Greg protested, and tried to wave Mycroft off, but Mycroft got a grip on his ankle and yanked up, making Greg fall onto his back on the bed with a yelp.
“I made you drive out here when you were exhausted. Allow me to assuage my guilt, please.”
Greg didn’t answer; he was already half-asleep, his eyes closed and his breathing starting to even out. Mycroft had his shoes off in a moment, and manhandled him into lying on the bed with his head near the pillows, though Greg resisted being tucked in. Georgie curled up at his side and Allumia pushed her way into the gap left between Greg’s side and arm.
“What a pretty picture,” Mycroft said, his voice warm and amused.
Greg cracked one eye open and caught the pensive, somewhat wistful expression on Mycroft’s face. “Join in?” he invited, yawning hugely in the midst of the question. But he succumbed to sleep and didn’t hear the answer, if there was one.
Greg woke up at some nebulous point in the night, as Allumia wriggled away from his shivering body and positioned herself on Georgie’s side. He sank back into sleep as he warmed up, though he was never entirely awake.
Then there was bright sunlight streaming across his face, and a Growlithe and an Articuno tumbling over his legs.
“Oi!” he called after them, wincing at the scratching in his throat. Georgie paused, looking back at him, before chasing Allumia the rest of the way to the open window. She gave a trill and launched herself into the air, leaving a chill breeze in the room. Greg shivered and hopped up, watching Georgie watch his friend, ears perked up and tongue hanging out.
“Come on, you,” he said, and scrubbed at his face. “Let’s get you out and then see what we can find for breakfast, hey?”
He was wearing his clothes from yesterday, and in realising that, he paused, wondering if they had time for breakfast before driving back to the flat for a shower and change. He couldn’t avoid going back to the office. Who had he left in charge of the scene? He couldn’t remember.
Georgie barked sharply, pawing carefully at the door and giving Greg an impatient look. “Right, yes, outside,” Greg sighed.
The first storey hall opened to a small balcony at the end, which had an old, somewhat intimidating stair that led to the grounds: old, crumbling stone steps that were narrower than Greg would have liked. They didn’t bother Georgie at all, and he went rocketing out into the garden, pausing here and there to sniff, before ducking under the trees and disappearing from sight.
“Good morning,” Mycroft said softly, and Greg turned to greet him, closing one eye against the bright slant of the sun.
“You’re dressed already?” he asked incredulously, stepping forward into the shade of the house. Had Georgie slept in for once? “What time is it?”
“Almost six,” Mycroft said, and shrugged. He stepped away from the door, out into the pleasantly cool air. “I rarely sleep more than four hours.”
“Is that healthy?” Greg required six to function. He could get through four days of less sleep before he was good for nothing but propping doors open.
“It seems to be.” Mycroft hesitated, staring out over the grounds. “Alicia isn’t here today, and while the kitchen is fully stocked, we don’t have any prepared food for Georgie.”
A shimmer hung in the air, and Greg looked up to see Allumia flying high overhead, and heard Georgie’s excited bark. “Let’s see what we can rustle up while they’re playing.”
Mycroft led the way to the kitchen, where coffee was already brewed, the rich scent of it hanging in the air. Georgie went bounding by the windows, jumping and rolling in the grass, and Greg grabbed a mug for himself before going to the refrigerator and peering about for anything that would sate his hungry partner for the drive home. He could actually eat there.
“We have steak and fish, I think,” Mycroft offered, and Greg turned, swallowing a large mouthful of coffee.
“Goldeen or ‘karp?” Greg hesitated, then shook his head. “Better not to let him. Just, all-around.” Wild Pokemon, of course, hunted each other, but it was better that partners or pets weren’t allowed unprocessed meats. Georgie was required, at times, to restrain smaller Pokemon with his mouth, and it was better not to give him a taste for it.
Mycroft nodded, subsiding, and Greg pulled out a few carrots and a head of broccoli. They wouldn’t do Georgie any harm, and would keep him full enough to get home without whining. He could, of course, put Georgie back in his Pokeball, but Greg didn’t want to connect the ball to any negative experiences, like hunger.
“You’re very careful with him,” Mycroft observed as he pulled out a cutting board.
Greg shrugged, grabbing a chopping knife. “You want a good partner, you have to train him up right.”
“That sounds like good advice in many areas of life,” Mycroft said, stepping up behind Greg and catching his hand. “Shouldn’t we rinse the broccoli first?”
Greg lifted his eyebrow, aware of the warmth all along his right side, where Mycroft stood. They weren’t touching except for where Mycroft’s hand lingered on his, but try telling that to the prickling skin up and down his arm.
“Right,” he said at last, and the roughness there could be attributed to sleep. Mycroft moved away, but not before tracing a vein in Greg’s hand with his finger.
Heat raced up his spine, and why couldn’t he be showered and have time for this? Greg closed his eyes and breathed out slowly. Another time. This could wait for another time. He turned to make some sort of comment, to tell Mycroft so, and was met with a warm, firm kiss.
Greg pushed Mycroft away immediately, but didn’t let him go far, having dropped the knife and broccoli and grabbed his wrists. “I don’t have time for this,” he said, and yanked Mycroft closer when he tried to back away. “No! No, listen. I don’t have time and I haven’t showered, I haven’t even cleaned my teeth. Why did you have to do this now?”
“I apologise,” Mycroft said stiffly, his face pale and tight, and Greg muttered a curse under his breath before pulling him close again, kissing him hard, but close-mouthed.
“I’m coming back tonight,” he said in a low voice after breaking away, pulling back mere inches. He couldn’t stop staring at Mycroft’s mouth, and the warmth was all through his body now, insistent and sweet. “I’ll text you, let you know my ETA. If dinner works out, lovely; otherwise we’ll have breakfast. And I’ll bring a damn toothbrush and a change of clothes.”
The colour crept slowly back into Mycroft’s face, and he nodded, relaxing into Greg’s grip. “That sounds far more respectable than sacrificing a day’s work to lust,” he said mildly, but he must’ve known it would make every nerve in Greg’s body twang.
“Help me?” he said, just a trace of desperation in his tone. Mycroft nodded in acquiescence and they worked together silently, Mycroft rinsing the broccoli and handing it to Greg to be chopped. From the garden came the sound of Georgie barking again, and he tumbled into Greg’s line of sight, squirming onto his back in the grass and batting his paws at Allumia’s low-trailing, feathery tail.
“We’ll be back tonight,” Greg said again, with conviction.
“You’re staring at the clock,” Sally observed, adding a belated, “sir.”
“Have you talked to his sister-in-law yet?” Greg asked, ignoring the statement and pretending to be very interested in the initial forensic report. It didn’t work. When he dared a peek, Sally was still staring at him, her eyes narrowed.
“Got a hot date?” she asked, and nearly dropped her coffee as the blush swamped Greg’s face, too fast for him to hide it behind the file. “Oh my God, you do. Dimmock!”
“Shut up!” Greg cried out, jumping up and going for the door. Unfortunately, Sally beat him to it, leaning out and gesturing frantically for Dimmock to hurry in.
“What is it?” someone shouted from farther back; DS Hopkins, Greg realised with dismay, the second biggest gossip in the department.
“Sally, if you want to keep your job, shut up!”
“--has a date!” she finished, and then looked at him with wide eyes. “I’m sorry, sir; I didn’t hear that. Were you threatening my career?”
“I’ll do more than threaten,” Greg said, but Dimmock was there, grinning and motioning for them to step back into Greg’s office.
“You’ve a date, I hear?” he said brightly. “Need someone to keep an eye on your team tonight, then?”
“You’re not taking my case,” Greg said, and slunk back to his desk. “Shut the door, will you? Everyone’s decided to stretch their legs.”
Sally snorted, but shut the door after sharing a thumb’s up with someone. Dimmock sat on the edge of Greg’s desk and beamed at him.
“So, Mr. Articuno?” he asked, and laughed at Greg’s horrified stare. “Oh, come on, Greg. Toby’s already planning your stag party.”
“You’re all a bunch of bridesmaids, aren’t you,” Greg said, too thrown to really understand what was happening. They’d been expecting this? They’d just been waiting for confirmation? Didn’t they have any hobbies?
“Look, if you need a favour, I can be on call for your team,” Dimmock said with a nonchalance that was completely belied by his ever-growing grin. “And really, they’re competent enough to handle an evening on their own.”
“We can handle it, sir,” Sally added helpfully, and smiled when he turned his incredulous gaze to her. “It is Articuno man, isn’t it? Very good taste, sir.”
“You could definitely do worse,” Dimmock agreed.
“Stop,” Greg finally managed, and hid his face in his hands.
“Should have come out with it before I brought Yvette in,” Sally said, with no sympathy whatsoever. “So what’s the plan? Dinner and the theatre?”
“Charity ball and champagne?” Dimmock put in.
“Snogging in the back of a limo?”
“Stop!” Greg said again, surfacing to glare at them both. “It’s none of your business!”
“We just want to help,” Dimmock said, trying to sound hurt, but he couldn’t stop grinning.
“We don’t want you to muck it up,” Sally added.
“I’m a grown man, I can manage a simple dinner date,” Greg said, and then hid his face again at the delight shining in their faces. “Oh, Christ.”
“Restaurant?” Sally demanded.
“Yours?” Dimmock said.
Then they both asked, together, “His?”
What he wouldn’t give for Allumia to crash this little party right now.
There were a few leads to follow, but Greg left them to Sally, mostly to get her out of his hair. He couldn’t do much about Dimmock, or the people he was cheerfully informing of Greg’s date, but that wasn’t too bad. He held out until four, when Gregson was due back.
He wasn’t sticking around to hear the particulars of the planned stag party.
“Can’t believe this,” he muttered to himself, and decided against letting Georgie out until he got home. He’d just get nervous, feeding off of Greg’s agitation. Better to let him out after Greg had had a chance to calm down.
At the flat, Georgie materialised with his usual sharp, attentive bark, and then laid his ears flat and tried to climb up on top of Greg. “Oi, relax!” Greg admonished, laughing, but he knelt down and pulled Georgie into a hug, breathing in the comforting wood-smoke scent of his fur. “You’re a good boy, Georgie.”
Georgie made a satisfied little rumbling noise, deep in his throat, and then licked Greg’s ear.
“Hey!” Greg protested, laughing harder. He pushed Georgie away and wiped at his ear, which made Georgie dart for the other ear. Greg caught him and wrestled him down, until Georgie yipped his surrender and squirmed away, heading for the kitchen. “Okay, early dinner--just this once!”
But he was feeling more cheerful, and could even bring himself to shower and shave without hiding from his own gaze in the mirror. If he pretended they were meeting for Georgie’s sake, for Allumia’s, then he might be able to get through this without falling all over himself like a teenager.
He could reconcile himself, almost, to the idea of dating again. He could just about convince himself that this could work, with Mycroft Holmes. But then his brain would stutter, and he’d remember the scene from that morning, only that morning! And there went his composure, entirely.
He cleaned his teeth twice, and spent a precious twenty minutes going through his wardrobe, feeling like an idiot the whole time. In the middle of it, Georgie bounded into his room and jumped on the bed, rolling around in the pile of maybes.
“You’re a treasure,” Greg told him, but relented and scratched behind his ears when Georgie gave him a long, sad look.
“It’s not my fault. I’m too old for this. Why didn’t anyone tell me I would get to be too old for this?” Greg rubbed at his own hair fitfully, heading back to the closet. There was a fairly nice jumper in there somewhere, if he hadn’t used it as a toy or towel for Georgie.
If he could just resolve to treating it like any other night at the Holmes estate, he’d be fine. If he could convince himself for even a minute, just long enough to get dressed and into the car, too late to turn around.
“He was willing to kiss you over breakfast, and you wearing the same suit as the day before,” he reminded himself, and had to smile at Georgie’s coincidental but perfectly timed snort. He turned around and found the chubby ball of fluff chewing on one of his few ties.
“You’re a menace!” Greg cried out, before sitting down on the floor and laughing until his stomach hurt. Georgie jumped down and pawed at him, tongue lolling, tie forgotten.
“The green jumper and blue jeans,” he said, staring up at the ceiling. “Doesn’t matter if you chew them up. Thank you for helping me with this difficult chore.”
Georgie whuffed at him, and then started vigorously scratching his ear.
They arrived at the Holmes’ estate just before six, and Greg realised then that he hadn’t texted ahead with his ETA.
“But I did make very sure my teeth were clean,” he muttered, wondering if he ought to dig his phone out now. Luckily, the dilemma was cut short by the sight of Allumia diving from on high, and Georgie barking frantically and pawing at the door.
“Georgie, calm!” Greg ordered, and reached across to open the door for him. Georgie was off immediately, barking and chasing after Allumia, who had flown back up and was turning wide, lazy circles. Mycroft was standing at the door, watching her, as Greg got out of the car.
“I’m sorry!” Mycroft called out as Greg shuffled over, trying to stay hidden in his overcoat. Mycroft was wearing yet another suit, this one a dark, lovely blue, and Greg was very conscious of his jumper and jeans.
“What for?” Greg asked, and paused an awkward few steps away.
Mycroft nodded to Allumia, his expression distant but not displeased. “I’m afraid she’s, well. Acting out, because.”
He smiled quickly, meeting Greg’s gaze, and Greg’s self-consciousness fled--or, rather, changed into something pleasant, something more grounded in his skin, in the heat sweeping from his toes on up.
“Yeah, well,” Greg laughed, and moved closer, watching the delicate flush spread along Mycroft’s cheeks. “Same here. Georgie’s been bouncing off the walls a bit.”
They went into the house together, leaving the door open for Georgie and Allumia to follow at their leisure. Greg shrugged his coat off without thinking, and in turning to ask Mycroft where he should hang it, he found Mycroft staring fixedly at his arse.
“Eyes up here,” Greg said, but that didn’t help; when Mycroft’s gaze met his, Greg’s voice dried up and he couldn’t do much more than stare back as Mycroft drew closer.
The kiss was as sweet as the one that morning; sweeter, when Greg responded, opening his mouth and wrapping his arms around Mycroft, crushing their bodies together as Mycroft’s hands tangled in Greg’s hair. A few short, incidental tugs, and Greg was growling into the kiss, helplessly, nails digging futilely at Mycroft’s jacket.
Mycroft drew back first, with one last delicate press of lips to Greg’s gasping mouth, and said, breathless and apologetic, “I didn’t make dinner.”
“What?” Greg said, staring at his mouth.
“I suppose we could--”
Greg grabbed him by the tie and lapel and pulled him into another kiss, gasping and twitching helplessly when Mycroft tugged at his hair again--Christ, that was gorgeous, it sent a thrill all through him.
“Order something in,” Mycroft finished, and drew back, holding Greg at arms’ length. “May I add that this is a lovely colour on you?”
“Yeah?” Greg said, and stared down at himself. The green jumper, right. “Not under-dressed, am I?”
The other meaning of the phrase hit them both almost immediately, and Greg swallowed hard at Mycroft’s low murmur of, “I wouldn’t say that.”
There was commotion at the door, and they turned to find Georgie sliding along the hall floor, having bounded in and landed on an unsecured rug. His eyes were huge, his ears up, and he remained seated, absolutely still, as the rug slid to a stop.
“Trust him to appear if there’s any talk of food,” Greg said, and had to laugh at the wounded look Georgie gave him.
“I hope that your case is proceeding well,” Mycroft said carefully, while Greg tried to figure out the internet on his phone. “There’s--no, you’ve closed the browser again.”
“I give up,” Greg said, and handed the phone back. “You choose something. I don’t care as long as it isn’t fish. Or lots of beans. No curry, either.”
“This is why you wanted to look in the first place,” Mycroft reminded him, but began looking at their options. “No fish at all, or not mainly fish?”
“Dare you to have a pizza and a beer with me,” Greg said, and grinned at the way Mycroft’s lip curled. “No, the case, well. It’s going.” He felt a sudden itch in his fingertips, to text Sally and ask her how it was going, but even if it wouldn’t have been abominably rude, she would never let him live it down. Consequently, neither would the rest of the Met.
“Ongoing, then?” His voice was light and casual, but Greg knew what he meant.
“I work with detectives,” he said sourly, and went to inspect a bookcase. “Gossipy, matchmaking detectives.” He looked over his shoulder to Mycroft, whose eyebrow was delicately raised. “They call you Articuno man.”
Allumia trilled from her snug curl around Georgie, who was chewing on a new, Pidgey-shaped toy, one of several that had begun accumulating at the Holmes’ estate.
Georgie and Allumia had followed them to the study, which had become, over time, Greg’s favourite room in the house. It was the room that most reflected Mycroft, in its comfortable elegance and surprisingly tidy mess of papers and books. The other rooms were for guests; this one was for him.
“Articuno man,” Mycroft repeated, attention diverted back to his phone. “Fair enough, I suppose. You’re generally known as Georgie’s trainer.”
Georgie thumped his tail, gnawing contentedly on the faux Pidgey’s beak.
“What are our options, then?” Greg asked, running his finger down the spine of book whose title was in Cyrillic.
“Hm? I thought you wanted pizza and beer.”
Greg looked at Mycroft sharply, and then grinned, because Mycroft had removed his jacket and was working on his cuff links.
“Let me help you,” he said, and joined Mycroft at the desk, keeping his focus on the links rather than acknowledge the slight part of Mycroft’s lips. The simple silver cuffs were cold and slick, and he took his time to avoid dropping them.
The silence between them thrummed, and Greg kept his gaze steadfastly on the cuffs, collecting them in his palm to drop, with a gentle brush of his knuckles, into Mycroft’s trouser pocket. And then he looked only at Mycroft’s tie, slowly and carefully working the knot loose.
He felt Mycroft lift the edge of his jumper ever so slightly, to explore the belt loops and button of his jeans. Pulling gently, he drew the tie from around Mycroft’s neck and wound it around his own left hand, the silk shimmering in the low lamplight.
“This,” Mycroft whispered, and tugged at the hem of the jumper. Greg shivered, but dropped the tie, watching it land in a loose coil at their feet, and lifted his arms. He wore a simple, white button-up shirt underneath it, and felt almost indecent, brought down to one layer.
Perhaps Mycroft felt the same. Greg looked up enough to see his adam’s apple bob, and couldn’t have fought the compulsion to press his lips to it to save his life.
Mycroft sighed, leaning back on his desk and wrapping his arms around Greg, working the shirt out from being tucked into his jeans, while Greg continued to kiss and nip at his throat--gently, but with no intention of stopping any time soon. He hooked his fingers into Mycroft’s trousers, ready and willing to assist in tugging his shirt out of place as well.
Greg heard but didn’t process Allumia’s trill, as he tucked his nose under Mycroft’s ear to breathe in a teasing hint of his cologne, and therefore wasn’t prepared for Georgie to butt his head against the back of Greg’s leg.
“What?” he said, and looked down into the big, accusing eyes of his partner. Seeing that he had Greg’s attention, Georgie barked once and sat with his ears up and head tilted. “He, ah, wants to play.”
Mycroft rested his head on Greg’s shoulder. “I suppose I oughtn’t have given Alicia the night off.”
“You what?” Greg blew in Mycroft’s ear, so that he sat back up and Greg could stare at him properly. “Why?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Mycroft said, and hooked a finger through one of Greg’s belt loops to pull him closer. “Perhaps I meant to seduce you?”
Greg leaned closer, grinning. “Oh, did you?”
Georgie barked, and jumped up to paw at Greg’s hip, before spinning around in a circle and looking up hopefully at the two men.
“He was stuck in his ball all day,” Greg said, sneaking a look at Mycroft.
“Mm,” Mycroft agreed, his mouth stern but his eyes sparkling. “I suppose this is going to be a theme?”
“I usually wrestle with him at night,” Greg said, starting to chuckle.
“He sleeps in your bed, too, doesn’t he?”
“Do you have a problem with the way I treat my partner?” Greg demanded, and kissed Mycroft once more, a quick peck on the mouth, before stepping back to direct his attention to Georgie. “Georgie, where’s your friend?”
Georgie barked, and then ran to Allumia, who was still sitting near the window, watching them all with a quizzical expression. Georgie sat down next to her and looked proudly back at Greg and Mycroft, tongue lolling.
“Good boy,” Greg praised, and looked at Mycroft--who was smiling, affection showing clearly in his face. “We’ll play before dinner, tire him out, maybe.”
“It sounds worth the attempt,” Mycroft allowed.
As it turned out, Mycroft had texted his PA and she arrived not thirty minutes later with pizza and beer.
“You’re not seriously going to eat this with me,” Greg said, trying to smooth his hair into some semblance of order after rolling around on the floor with an overly energetic Growlithe. Anthea, as Mycroft had introduced his PA, was very noticeably not staring.
“I believe you dared me,” Mycroft said, peering into one of two boxes Anthea had brought. “Spinach?”
“Healthiest on the menu, sir,” Anthea said, and apparently finished cataloguing everything about them, as she added, “Should I acquire anything else?”
Greg mouthed “acquire” to himself as Mycroft answered, “Thank you, Anthea, that will be all. Enjoy your night.”
“You too, sir,” she said, with a very quick, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it wink at Greg, handily destroying his notion that she might be a robot. “Good night.”
They brought the pizza and beer to the sitting room, where Allumia and Georgie were waiting, with one short detour to the kitchen for a bottle opener. Mycroft went to build the fire up a bit, to counteract the chill seeping in from the open French doors, through which Georgie continually jumped in and out.
“When do you suppose he’ll be ready to sleep?” Mycroft asked, grabbing a slice of pizza.
Greg set to work opening the beer. “Oh, I don’t know, another two hours if we can keep him running around, maybe?”
They both turned to look at Georgie, who had pounced on the Pidgey toy and was growling, faking left and right, trying to get Allumia to play with him. She was staring at him, her head tilted to the right, wings tucked up primly.
“I don’t know--” Mycroft began, but burst into laughter when Allumia suddenly dropped her disinterested facade and stole the toy with one neat, fast jab of her beak, leaving Georgie to yelp in indignation. He then pounced on her, the two of them rolling over and knocking into furniture, the Pidgey finally being squished with enough force to let out a few frantic squeaks.
In their distraction, Mycroft took the opportunity to grab Greg’s belt loop and pull him closer, stealing a kiss flavoured with pizza and beer, and punctuated with Greg’s bright laugh.
“We should be watching a match,” Greg said, and laughed again when Mycroft rolled his eyes.
“Aren’t we?” he asked pointedly, gesturing to where Georgie had successfully stolen the Pidgey and was trying to get outside with it.
Allumia hopped carefully to the doors before she took off, sending a powerful and freezing wind sweeping through the room. Greg took the opportunity to tuck himself under Mycroft’s arm, sneaking an arm around Mycroft’s waist.
“This isn’t exactly what I expected,” Mycroft said into the sudden silence.
“I’ll bet it’s better,” Greg said, and took another bite of his pizza.
Chapter 6: epilogue
Greg made a soft, grumbling noise and flailed his arm back, trying to keep the warm body behind him from leaving. Georgie, curled up at his front, gave a sleepy whimper, and Allumia’s whistling stopped. Greg cracked an eye open to see her lift her head, directing an accusing gaze over his shoulder.
“I’ll stay, then,” Mycroft said quietly, and lay back down, settling his arm over Greg’s waist again.
“Yeah, you will,” Greg murmured, closing his eye once more and grinning. But as Georgie settled back into his soft, rumbling snores and Allumia’s sleep-whistling accompanied him, Greg found it difficult to actually drift off again.
“How do you stand it?” Mycroft whispered, his breath warm on Greg’s ear.
“Hm?” Greg opened his eyes again. Allumia’s head was tucked back under her wing, her chilly aura keeping the bed from becoming too warm with the four of them tucked into it. “Usually there’s no one whistling.”
There was no clock, but he knew it was early, far too early for him to be awake. Five something, he was sure. Pale sunlight crept in through the windows, sneaking around the branches that curtained them naturally from outside. He could hear Pidgeys and Spearows competing in their morning cries, the sudden patter of a Grass- or Insect-type falling out a tree, bouncing from branch to branch, all the way down.
“Thank you for lending me some pyjamas,” Greg whispered. Mycroft’s hand, which had been caressing his side in slow, gentle passes, stilled for a moment, and then continued. “And for letting us stay.”
Mycroft laughed quietly. “You have an open invitation, both of you.”
The question hung in the air, and Greg turned, despite Georgie’s muffled, sleeping protest, to lay on his back and meet Mycroft’s soft but searching gaze. He looked young in the morning’s slow, syrupy sunlight, leaning on his elbow, his other hand tracing lazy patterns on Greg’s belly, now, having worked the pyjama shirt up just enough to allow it.
“Whenever, and for as long as you like,” Mycroft said at last, and kissed Greg once, a slow, sweet kiss, full of promise.
Georgie grumbled and kicked at Greg’s side, but he didn’t notice, pulling Mycroft down into a fuller embrace. It wasn’t until Mycroft yelped, sitting up and putting his hand to the back of his neck, that Greg noticed Georgie was awake and alert, wagging his tail hopefully.
“Cold nose?” Greg asked, warring between amusement and disappointment.
“Considerably,” Mycroft said. “I blame you,” he added, speaking to Allumia, who had hopped to the far edge of the bed and was preening her tail.
“Well, now that we’re all awake,” Greg said, poking Georgie and laughing at his indignant face, “we should probably have some breakfast.”
Allumia trilled and hopped to the floor, making her way carefully to the French doors. Mycroft followed to let her out, and Georgie tumbled after him, leaving Greg to stretch luxuriously on the large, comfortable bed.
“I thought you said breakfast,” Mycroft reminded, his voice a bit rough, and Greg grinned at him, wriggling in the silky sheets. Allumia and Georgie were calling to each other, romping about in the early morning chill, and Greg made no protest when Mycroft joined him again, sliding back under the sheets.
“Five minutes max,” Greg warned, sliding his hand up under Mycroft’s pyjama shirt.
“Criminal,” Mycroft murmured, but set to making the most of it.
Not seven minutes later, in the kitchen, setting out Georgie’s breakfast and watching Mycroft preparing their own, Greg said, “For as long as I want, you said? What’s to stop me from moving in, then?”
Mycroft looked up from the waffles he had just topped with cream, licking the tip of his index finger where it had smeared. “Naught but the commute, I’m sure.”
“So you’ve succeeded, then,” Greg said, sauntering over, and stealing a strawberry from Mycroft’s plate. He wrinkled his nose at Mycroft’s raised eyebrow, refusing to make a show of eating it.
Mycroft shook his head, but smiled. “In what?”
“Luring Georgie and me away,” Greg said, and took his plate to the table, where he could watch Georgie and Allumia still tumbling together in the grass.