Chapter 1: appeared to me your mind drifting
thanks to radio_silent for the banner :]
Mycroft Holmes was annoyed, but not surprised to see out of the corner of his eye the green light signalling a new text message. He preferred not to text, and those who were not privy to that information where also not privy to his personal contact information. Sherlock, then. With a tired sigh he set down his book and regarded the message.
<wwhy isn.t doctrp hwp pn?>
He wasted a whole two minutes staring at his mobile. It was from the Detective Inspector Lestrade's number—he would have wasted another moment double checking that had he not just called the number a few hours prior. And he hadn't bumped into his charming younger brother since then, so the text was, if not from the DI, at least from his phone. But why would he be texting him at—a quick glance at the wall clock—half one and with such poor spelling?
<I am afraid I do not know, Detective Inspector. Should Doctor Who be on at this hour?>
Before he was able to pick up the book again, the green light was back.
<want ti wacth now wahta re yu doin>
In all his other dealings with the man, Mycroft had found Lestrade to be of above average intelligence. His manner of speech was rough, but educated. He had received only two text messages from him before tonight, but both had been grammatical. Clearly this was someone else in possession of his phone, or DI Lestrade was not in full control of his mental capacities. It wouldn't be below Sherlock to pull a stunt such as this, but after the last case, Dr. Watson would be keeping him home tonight. Very tired—he was a hardworking man with little time to spare for sleeping, this was a possibility—or intoxicated.
<Perhaps if you cannot wait for a scheduled broadcast, you ought to consider investing in some DVDs.>
<you slways talk si funy mycruft?>
Inebriated. When Mycroft and Greg had spoken early today, the quality of Lestrade's voice was off. Mycroft initially had explained that away as being a product of a stressful case that had required stressful interaction with his brother. But now as he reflected on it, there was less of the caring exasperation that Sherlock typically invoked in the detective, and more of a broken resignation. The case had been solved and the culprit was in custody before there were more victims, so it wasn't work related. Oh. The wife. Even if he hadn't known Sherlock, Greg would have known his wife was cheating. Would have known for a few months, at least. Something new, then. Something to cause resignation. They would not be continuing efforts to save the marriage. So he moved out. No, she felt guilty (she was guilty) and moved out. Leaving Lestrade an empty flat to go home to. And no one to stop him from becoming intoxicated on a Tuesday night.
<How much have you had to drink, Detective Inspector?>
<mnames greg. no tmnuch flats metpy>
Not much, indeed. He always had beers in the fridge—but no more than a six pack. His wife didn't drink at home, unless they had company and wine was purchased for the occasion. It's unlikely that all six bottles were there. He may have had a pint or two before going home though. No matter, he hadn't enough to be in danger of more than embarrassment.
<Gregory, can I do anything to be of assistance?>
Gregory. Mycroft liked using first names. He could affect intimacy or exert power by asserting a right to someone's given name. But he had grudgingly come to respect the detective and had therefore kept to his title. Pity a drunken allowance could not be assumed after sobriety returns.
This time, Mycroft had to wait a few minutes for a response. He pretended he wasn't fretting, just a bit, by trying to read his book. He never turned a page.
<im o k thankss>
Greg Lestrade woke up with a thud by falling off his sofa and immediately he wished he hadn't woken up at all. His mouth felt fuzzy and his stomach nauseous. Somewhere—the bedroom he no longer shared with his wife, his brain helpfully provided—a terrible beeping sound pierced the otherwise silent morning and aggravated what was turning out to be a pretty horrid headache. After taking a moment to focus on his breathing, he pulled himself up with the help of the coffee table and shuffled into the bedroom to shut off the alarm. Going back to sleep wouldn't help, but being late to work would make everything even worse. He'd have time for a shower or a cuppa. Waltzing into Scotland Yard reeking of stale beer and cigarettes—bollocks! he'd been smoking again and too drunk to really enjoy it—was not an option. A shower then, as hot as he could stand and as fast as he could manage.
He managed to make it there only 2 minutes later than usual, and before any of his direct superiors. He left the light off in his office—the gentle glow of his computer screen as much as his eyes could handle comfortably. On the one hand, it would be nice to have a busy day. Lots to do and no time to think. On the other hand, he just wanted to curl into a ball and cry—scratch that die—and busy days were usually Sherlock days. He loved Sherlock, but wanted to avoid any brilliant deductions about himself for as long as possible, if not longer. Luckily his darling wife (almost ex, but not quite. What was he supposed to call her now? And how fast could the divorce papers go through?) had waited until he got home last night to break the news. Pregnant. Decidedly not with Lestrade's child. When was the last time they'd been intimate? But if Sherlock walked in now, he'd surely know more about the situation than Greg himself knew.
"Oi! Lestrade! You in there?" Greg winced at how loud the young constable could be.
"What is it, Johnson?"
The door opened—cautiously—apparently Greg sounded as impatient as he felt.
"Some bloke left you this, sir" Johnson offered, to Greg's relief much quieter now. He had a paper coffee cup and a small pastry box. It looked like a note was taped to the box.
"Don't know. He didn't leave a name. But there's a note?"
Greg grabbed both the box and the cup from the officer and dismissed him. No need to pester for an answer he wouldn't be getting when he could just open the note, huh? Before risking a taste of the coffee he ripped the envelope from the box. Nice paper—cream coloured. Matching notecard inside. Handwriting a bit poncy, but familiar, and in an ink colour he couldn't name—something between grey and blue?
I thought you could use some breakfast. I would have sent over a Full English, but I assume you can only handle the dry toast after last night.
MH. Mycroft Holmes? How did he know about last night? Of course the Holmes brothers know everything. Shite. Does Sherlock know now too? Well, it's a bit weird to be sending him breakfast, but also unlikely Mycroft would be poisoning him. And he was right about the food—Greg wasn't even sure he could handle the toast just yet. The coffee though? The cup was from a café up the street that he sometimes visited and always enjoyed and he hummed a bit as he took a sip. Milk, no sugar. Sometimes it was nice to know people who knew everything.
A thank you would be appropriate, so he pulled out his mobile and scrolled through names until he got to the M's. Mycroft Holmes was the second of two (after Mum).
<Mycroft, don't know how you know everything, but thanks for the breakfast. It's perfect.>
Mycroft had to force himself not to smile when he read Greg—no, DI Lestrade was too drunk to mean to let him call him Greg—Lestrade's text. He was in the middle of a meeting that was dull enough for him to be checking his mobile and not cheery enough to be allowed an uncharacteristic grin. He tapped out a quick response while prepare to disagree with the ambassador.
<It is my job to know everything, Detective Inspector>
Chapter 2: a leaf falls on loneliness
Greg notices the texts he sent last night and survives his first sober night as a single man.
this chapter is dedicated to the lovely Sarà... happy birthday! :]
chapter title from the tragically beautiful ee cummings poem:
Greg filed the last of his paper work before he checked his phone again. Not long after he had finished his coffee, a case had come in. A quick, simple case that didn’t necessitate consulting any consulting detectives, but one that took his mind off of everything else. It was exactly what he needed. He slumped in his desk chair, feeling the best kind of tired, and grabbed his phone as he chewed on the last piece of toast. He was somewhat surprised to see that he had a new message from Mycroft. He knew from Sherlock that Mycroft didn’t care for texting, so he had expected the politician to just pocket his thanks.
Unfortunately, when he opened the new message, he opened the whole thread of texts. Seeing an unfamiliar and ungrammatical text from him to Mycroft, he scrolled through every text the two men had ever exchanged. It was, until last night, limited to two texts from Greg that Mycroft never responded to. Both concerning the recreational activities of the younger Holmes brother.
Mycroft Holmes[It is my job to know everything, Detective Inspector]
[Mycroft, don’t know how you know everything, but thanks for the breakfast. It’s perfect.]
[im o k thankss]
Mycroft Holmes [Gregory, can I do anything to be of assistance?]
[mnames greg. no tmnuch flats metpy]
Mycroft Holmes [How much have you had to drink, Detective Inspector?]
[you slways talk si funy mycruft?]
Mycroft Holmes [Perhaps if you cannot wait for a scheduled broadcast, you ought to consider investing in some DVDs.]
[want ti wacth now wahta re yu doin ]
Mycroft Holmes [I am afraid I do not know, Detective Inspector. Should Doctor Who be on at this hour?]
[wwhy isn.t doctrp hwp pn?]
[Mycroft, does Sherlock have any allergies?]
[Found Sherlock. Taking him to Bart’s]
Nothing to drink tonight. Nothing to drink ever again. Bugger bugger bugger. What must Mycroft think? Can’t be too bad, he sent the coffee over. Unless that was pity? Shite. Pity might be worse than thinking him a fool. The office suddenly turned uncomfortably warm and Greg noticed he was shaking. He had to leave. Rising suddenly, he was a bit dizzy, but managed to collect his things and hurry out the door. When he made it to the pavement, he took a few deep breaths. He didn’t think he could face the crowds on the tube, but if he walked home he could drop off for takeaway. Curry and no lager, because Gregory Lestrade is never drinking again.
By the time he made it home, Greg had calmed down considerably. His hand was steady as he turned the key to his flat door and he held it all together until he made it to the kitchen and realized he’d bought enough food for two. It was okay. He wasn’t going to want to cook tomorrow, either. It would be good to have something to eat besides tinned beans. With a sniffle, he filled a plate and took it to the coffee table—the kitchen table with only one place setting felt sad. Sure, he’d eaten countless meals there alone, but that was always because he was home late or his wife was out (perhaps fucking some other man, he did not remind himself). But now he lived by himself. Every meal here would be by himself. Maybe he should sell the kitchen table? Or perhaps set fire to it.
He ate quickly and sipped at glass of apple juice while trying to find something worth watching on the telly. This was normal. Quiet. No screaming, that was nice. He wasn’t sure what he was watching, but the couple on the screen was too cheery so he turned it off.
Nobody knew yet at work, and that was good. Except that everyone was acting like everything was normal and he’d love it to be normal but it wasn’t normal at all. Maybe it wasn’t good to come home every day knowing that your wife wasn’t satisfied with you, but at least that had been normal. How do normal people survive this? He tried an internet search of “how to not die when your wife leaves,” but maybe he hadn’t worded the search quite right because there was no help. Maybe he could talk to someone. But who? Nobody at work. Not yet. John? No, Sherlock would know and then everyone would know. If only he had kept in touch with his friends after the wedding and he acquired “our” friends who were now her friends. He could call his family—God knows he didn’t call often enough, and they’d be supportive—but he couldn’t face his parents and their perfect marriage and his feeling like he’d failed at their dream for him. He didn’t really talk about his feelings with his siblings. He made a mental note to give them a call when he thought his voice wouldn’t falter on the phone or he could handle his brothers’ ribbing.
Mycroft Holmes. He wasn’t a friend, exactly. They barely knew each other. But Greg knew that he was caring (at least for his brother) and he already knew about the failed marriage and really how much more could he embarrass himself?
[Sorry about the texts last night. I might have been a bit pissed.]
Greg busied himself clearing away dishes while doing his best to not wait for a response. He cleaned up the mess of bottles and crisp packets from the night before. He didn’t hear the beep that signalled a new text, but he checked his mobile twice to make sure he hadn’t missed the sound and increased the volume, just in case. After a shower and change into pyjamas there was still no response.
That’s okay. Mycroft’s a busy man. An important man. Who had probably blocked his number after the series of not-at-all important texts he had already received.
It wasn’t very late, but Greg was tired after too many nights of not enough sleep so he cleaned his teeth and crawled into bed. The bed was too big, too cold, too empty. He glared at Lydia’s pillow and when it didn’t submit he threw it off the bed and started to cry.
Greg wasn’t sure how long he’d been lying there, but he jolted back to awareness when he heard a beep. He wiped his eyes and read the name with a grin before opening the text.
[I might have noticed. Do not be concerned, Detective Inspector.]
Not the sort of text that screams "we're mates! You can chat with me!" but also not the sort that sounds upset. But maybe they could still be friends? He'd have to get him to stop calling him by title though. Detective Inspectors don't pass their evenings crying in bed. Greg nervously typed and deleted and typed again his response.
[Right. Well, thanks. And you really can call me by name, you know.]
[I did not want to take liberties, Gregory. Are you feeling better this evening?]
Greg chuckled at the formality of his full name. He couldn’t really picture Mycroft calling him Greg though. Probably more likely that Greg could get away with calling him Myc.
His response took longer to compose than Mycroft’s had. I’m fine was a lie, and wasn’t he texting because he needed to talk to someone who knew he wasn’t fine? Not that he could fool a Holmes for long. I feel worthless came off as a little too needy though and would end up making Greg feel like more of a mess than he already did.
[Not really. More sober though]
That would work. An honest response, but not too emotional.
Mycroft didn’t quite understand why the Detective Inspe—Gregory was sending him the text messages. They had barely exchanged them before, and in their conversations they never strayed from topics of cases or his little brother. Obviously the texts last night had been a mistake. He had been glad to be of assistance; he respected Gregory and appreciated the concern he showed for Sherlock. Although he was surprised to be sought out again, he would continue to play whatever role it was that Gregory needed him to play.
[Do you need to talk?]
Of course Mycroft already knew that Gregory needed to talk. He wouldn’t have been sending him messages if that weren’t the case.
[Yeah. Maybe not about this yet. I don’t know.]
Mycroft should have expected that sort of response. He knew all too well the queer sorts of needs a relationship’s end could inspire—a simultaneous need to talk about the situation at hand and to ignore the situation at hand.
[Perhaps you should get some rest now. Contact me when you want to talk and I will make myself available.]
Greg let out a relieved breath. Sure, he should be talking but even thinking about it was too much right now. And hadn’t he already been tired when he first got in bed? He’d get some sleep and talk to Mycroft later and maybe they really would become mates and he wouldn’t have to tell anyone else anything and they’d notice his missing wedding band or they would wait until Sherlock told them all what idiots they were for not noticing. And eventually he’d be okay enough to face his family—at least by Christmas.
[You’re probably right I should do. Goodnight, Mycroft]
Chapter 3: pity this busy monster, manunkind, not
Sherlock is called in for a case, but takes time to deduce Greg.
Once again title is ee cummings.
Thanks to all who have been reading! (and special thanks for kudos and comments! you all are sweet :] ) Next chapter will be up ASAP because I know this is a rough place to leave you.
“Lestrade, I see you’ve finally had the good sense to leave your cheating wife. Now let’s see what evidence you lot haven’t managed to destroy yet.”
Greg had been able to wait almost a week before calling in Sherlock. He liked to think that he wouldn’t let the fear of embarrassment prevent him including him. No one on his team got on well with Sherlock and they were a capable team. Not every case needed the world’s most socially unaware consulting detective to save the day. And the cases this week that came through were all the sort that they could solve efficiently. Until Friday night.
Friday night brought a gruesome murder along with an untraceable letter threatening repeat that left one of his younger officers too shaken to work on the case.
It was good for Greg, because he loved his job (more than his wife, Lydia had complained) and the more he concentrated on work and helping people, the less he was able to sit around feeling sorry for himself. He certainly would prefer that there were no murderers, no violent crimes, no crimes at all. But tonight started The First Weekend Alone, and if it weren’t for work, he’d be moping. The immediacy of the threat meant a night spent at Scotland Yard with brief naps in shifts alternating with the strongest coffee their machine could manage.
As soon as it was light out on Saturday, several officers headed back to the scene to see if they could find more evidence that they’d missed by torchlight the night before. They weren’t lacking in evidence but nothing quite fitted together. By midday on Sunday there were still no leads. Greg was trying to ignore the headache that had set in when Donovan asked if “the freak” would be joining them soon. If she was ready to suggest that they might need Sherlock’s assistance he should have already contacted him.
Twenty-two minutes after texting Sherlock the address and a promise that this was interesting enough for him to leave the flat, Sherlock and John appeared. Sherlock greeted him with the not-quite-accurate deduction of his relationship status.
Greg ignored the bitter feeling that aroused and instead pointed to where Anderson was working “Sherlock. The body was found in there. Take a look around and then I’ll get you a copy of what we’ve got so far.” Unfortunately, something in that let Sherlock know that he hadn’t been totally right, and instead of moving on to the crime, Sherlock decided to solve Greg first.
“Oh. No. YOU didn’t leave her. Why not? I told you she wasn’t faithful.”
“Sherlock…” both Greg and John warned. In his defence, Sherlock looked genuinely confused. John dragged him off mouthing an apology to Greg as he went.
Greg glanced around before deciding how embarrassed to be. Donovan was trying her best to avoid looking at him. She definitely heard. Anderson was closer than she was. Great. Between the two of them, by Monday morning there wouldn’t be a soul left in London who didn’t know about his aborted marriage.
No longer than 5 minutes later, Sherlock was back and spouting off the killer’s shoe size and favourite board game and was ready to see the body and letter. Greg left with him and spent a precious few minutes alone in his office with another cup of coffee.
Between the interviews his team had done and whatever Sherlock gleaned from the evidence, by Monday morning they had the name and address of the killer and Monday afternoon they had a confession. Now that the excitement had died down, Greg noticed whispering around the office that quieted down whenever he walked by. John tried to talk to him, but he sent him away with Sherlock and locked himself in his office until it was permissible to leave. As he walked out, he still caught bits of their gossip. Lots of speculating as to why Lydia had been cheating on him with theories ranging from work hours to his hypothesised impotence, and even more pitying comments: “poor thing.” He blinked hard and increased his pace to get out of the building as quickly as possible.
Greg worked himself into a right state as he made his way home. He was angry and sad and if he saw Sherlock Bloody Holmes right now he’d punch him square in the face, consequences be damned. If he saw anyone else he knew, he’d probably start crying. Without anything else to occupy his mind, he replayed the whispers and averted eyes from work and the last big fight with Lydia and he thought about the empty flat representing an empty life. He would have done whether or not Sherlock had revealed his shame to the world, but it was nice to shift a small portion of the blame to someone else. As soon as he was in the flat he slumped into a chair in the front room and pulled out his mobile.
<your brother is a git>
Mycroft called Anthea and had her verify that his schedule would remain clear for the rest of the evening, barring global catastrophe, before responding. He hoped that Gregory would want to talk tonight. After exerting so much energy to take care of his younger brother with Sherlock fighting the whole way, it was… refreshing to be sought out by someone outside the political sphere.
<A congenital condition, I’m afraid.>
Greg snorted at the reply and quickly typed back.
<any hope for a cure?>
<The prognosis is not good, but there is always hope. I assume that he deduced your situation?>
<and with an audience. how much can I drink before I’m an alcoholic?>
<If you’re concerned, you probably are not close enough to worry.>
<nothing here anyway. might head over to the pub. bad idea?>
<I haven’t any beer, but if you would like to meet and talk, I can provide wine.>
<ok you know my address right?>
<Of course. I will be there in a half hour.>
Half an hour. That would give Greg time to shower. He'd had a quick rinse off and a clean shirt at the Yard, but he hadn't had time for a real shower since he was last home Friday morning. He took his time. He had just towelled his hair and pulled on a jumper when he heard a sharp knock at the door.
Greg was glad to see Mycroft, but a bit nervous. They had only spoken for reasons other than work or Sherlock for a week now, and they hadn't spent any time together. He offered the best smile he could.
“Wine glasses, Gregory?”
“What? Oh, right. I’ll grab them. Opener too.” A bit more than a bit nervous. He let Mycroft pour the wine to avoid disaster. “Uh, can I get you anything?” He now realized that he had next to nothing left in the kitchen and could only offer a shy “tea?”
Mycroft laughed softly and handed a glass to the other man, shaking his head as he did. “No, the wine is sufficient. Shall we take it over to the sofa?”
Greg bit his lip and nodded.
Chapter 4: it may not always be so
Mycroft comforts Greg after his bad day. Greg and Sherlock discuss Sherlock's public deduction.
edited to fix copy-paste error (4:25pm EDT 06.17.2012)
For all that he wanted to be getting totally sloshed, Greg was hesitant drinking his glass of wine. It was good—that Mycroft bought it meant it was probably the best wine he'd ever had. Sending drunk texts was embarrassing, but now he was presented with the opportunity to embarrass himself royally, in person. So he stared at the wineglass, avoiding his own eyes when he caught a fuzzy reflection of himself on the red surface. He looked nothing better than pathetic and if he kept this up he'd be in tears. Again.
Mycroft quietly observed his… friend. He didn't have many friends. His job required that he have a pleasant working relationship with many powerful people, and they occasionally would share meals or theatre tickets with one another, but never feelings. The man sitting beside him was nothing close to a necessary political connection, but he was intelligent and reliable and kind. Precisely the sort he would prefer in a friend. Though it was unfortunate that Gregory was hurting, Mycroft was a bit thrilled at the idea that the two could become friends through this.
He gently placed a hand on Lestrade's shoulder, which resulted in a startled jump followed by him pressing back slightly into Mycroft's touch. Mycroft rubbed little circles into his arm and carefully removed the glass from his hands, setting it next to his own on the table in front of them.
"Mycroft?" Greg's voice was so soft that Mycroft nearly missed it.
"I think I'm going to start crying again."
"That's quite alright."
Greg turned to meet Mycroft's eyes, half-expecting some look of derision or disgust. He found instead an open face of concern. And that pushed him over the edge. He tried to wipe the tears away before they'd even fallen, but that quickly turned out to be a lost cause. Mycroft moved his hand from Greg's shoulder to wrap his arm around the trembling man and pulled him close. Greg turned into the embrace and buried his nose in Mycroft's chest. Mycroft held him tight until the shaking stopped and then loosened his hold to trace lazy shapes on his back.
"It's not Sherlock's fault," Greg whimpered.
"Still a git."
"You know everything?"
Greg chuckled at that and sat up a bit, but still clung to Mycroft.
"I didn't know how to tell people. Should thank him."
"Maybe. But you should have been able to wait until you were ready."
It was true that he didn't want everyone to know yet. He wasn't sure when or how he'd have made the announcement, but it would be silly to try to keep it a secret forever. To be honest, he was surprised that nobody had noticed earlier that he had taken his ring off—he knew that he'd been nervously rubbing at his suddenly bare ring finger.
"Do you still need to tell anyone else?"
"Family. Lydia can tell our—her—friends."
"Do you have reason to believe that your family will be unsupportive?"
"No. Well. They'll be supportive. It's just. How do I tell them that I'm a complete failure? Don't want to disappoint them, y'know?"
Mycroft carefully considered his response. He did know about the fear of disappointing. But he couldn't imagine why Gregory thought he was a failure. His soon-to-be ex-wife was in full possession of the blame here.
"I do know. I don't think I ever stopped disappointing my father. But you aren't a failure at all, Gregory.
Greg hid his face back in Mycroft's shirt as tears threatened again.
"I thought I was a good husband. I work a lot, but she knew that going in. And I loved her!"
There was nothing Mycroft could say that wouldn't sound empty, and he knew that Gregory needed anything but empty words right now. So he instead just offered a "mmmm" to let him know he was listening and continued to rub his back.
Greg took a deep breath before continuing.
"I knew she was cheating. Even before Sherlock told me last year. Tried to ignore it. Tried to be better. So she wouldn't want someone else. So she wouldn't need someone else. Couldn't do it. Not good enough. And now everybody knows"
"Gregory, that is not what everybody knows. Everybody knows that you're a kind, compassionate, loyal man. Everybody knows that Lydia took advantage of your caring nature. Everybody knows that she wasn't good enough to respect you or your marriage. They have been talking amongst themselves about this, yes, but to try to guess what is wrong with someone who would leave you. If you don't believe me, have me and Sherlock come in and deduce it from your team."
Greg shook harder now, but with laughter. Mycroft returned the smile Greg gave him when he finally made eye contact again, and raised a questioning eyebrow. When his giggling stopped, he offered an explanation.
"Can you imagine? Me bringing in both of you, with no case, and letting you have free reign to deduce everyone around? Any goodwill towards me you could find would be gone after that!"
"Then in that case, you will have to trust me."
Greg wasn't quite ready to stop blaming himself. It had to be at least partly, if not mostly, his fault that he couldn't get his wife to stick around. But Mycroft spoke confidently and soothingly so he relaxed into the embrace and muttered a quiet "okay." They sat quietly, Mycroft still rubbing his back, and soon Greg was asleep against Mycroft. Mycroft listened to his breathing for several minutes before carefully moving him so that he was lying on sofa, found a blanket to arrange over Gregory, and quietly slipped out the door.
Greg woke feeling much more rested than he had any right to, having spent the whole night on the sofa. Undoubtedly the cry and cuddle were the cause, but he tried not to think about the previous night too much—the more he thought about it the more he felt embarrassed for crying all over Mycroft.
Now he was sitting at his desk sipping at a cup of coffee and working his way through some paperwork. He hadn't had much trouble from the other folks in the office—just some pitying looks that he was able to ignore. Despite that, he kept the door closed to avoid hearing any chatter. Halfway through the first report, there was a sharp knock on the door. "Come in!"
The door opened slowly to reveal a sheepish Sherlock. "May I come in, Lestrade?" Greg couldn't help laughing. "I just said that, Sherlock. Close the door and come sit down."
Sherlock sat at the edge of his seat and opened his mouth several times before speaking.
"John has informed me that it is a bit not good to deduce personal information about you in front of your team."
"It is my understanding that an apology would be appropriate now."
"That would be appreciated, yeah."
"I'm sorry, Lestrade."
Sherlock was watching him nervously, like he had something else to say.
"Well come on, out with it. What else?"
"Who's not what?"
"Everyone here" Sherlock gestured outside Lestrade's office. "They are not thinking less of you."
"What? Did Mycroft talk to you?"
"No? Why would Mycroft talk to me? It's obviously what you're worried about. You've been looking over at the door every thirty seconds this whole conversation."
"Oh. Right. Is it worth asking if you're sure? Right, of course you're sure. Thanks."
"Text me when you have something interesting for me, Lestrade."
Sherlock looked much more himself as he bounded out the door, and Greg felt a bit more himself too. He should probably address the other Holmes, now.
<thanks Mycroft. sorry for snivelling.>
Chapter 5: ordinary wind is winding
Greg's life starts to get back to normal and he spends some time with his friends.
Thanks all for continuing to read! And special thanks to those who have left kudos and comments!
Greg didn't get a response from Mycroft.
Mycroft had worked all day with no breaks to make up for the time he took off to be with Gregory. It was 3am before he felt comfortable leaving the office. He checked his personal phone and grimaced when he saw he had missed a text from Gregory. He knew that his friend was in a delicate state, and he regretted not having checked earlier. He was accustomed to leaving any personal matters at home, with the exception of emergencies which he would be notified of through other channels. He would adjust that, when possible, for Gregory. It was too late now to risk responding to the text. If Gregory is sleeping, he needs the rest and it would be inexcusable to wake him. If Gregory is not asleep, this could turn into a long, potentially emotional conversation and it would keep him from getting the rest he needed. The nature of the text did not necessitate a response, Mycroft decided. Responding could, in fact, produce an undesirable effect of reminding Gregory of something that would embarrass him. "Don't worry, you weren't snivelling" would be a lie, and anything else would just highlight the fact that he was witness to the detective inspector having an emotional release. If he had needed anything else from Mycroft, he would have mentioned that in his text, or sent another one.
Greg rather assumed that he would get some sort of response. He was accustomed to his new friend sending some sort of reassurance, or witty retort, or acknowledgement of some kind. Not necessarily right away, so that he didn't respond that day was disappointing, but not unexpected. Mycroft was busy, and didn't like to text, and there wasn't anything urgent in the text. Greg went about his life, working a bit longer than he might have had he still had a wife at home, but more or less back to normal. That his friend didn't respond the next day was bothersome. Maybe he really had scared Mycroft off with his snivelling. Three days passing without a response and Greg assumed he wasn't going to get one at all. He tried not to assume anything beyond that.
When he got a text from John Watson, he was glad no one was there to see how his face fell at seeing that it wasn't Mycroft. He knew that John was concerned about him, and he was grateful for that, but he and John weren't all that close. They got on fine, but they didn't share much personal and the thought of the doctor prying into his life over a lager was not a pleasant one. But perhaps this could just be John's way of finding an escape from his and Sherlock's flat and he really could go for a couple pints and a game of darts. Greg hadn't been out in too long, so he typed back an affirmative response.
Before Greg could even sit down, John brought up Lydia. Not just an escape to the pub then. He excused himself to order a pint of bitter at the bar. When he returned, John was looking at him expectantly.
"Look, John, I appreciate it. I really do. But the last thing I want to do right now is talk about it. Can we talk about something else? Anything else."
Shock flashed across John's face before he could control it. Sherlock had made out like Lestrade was totally falling apart and had no one to turn to. That wasn't the whole reason he'd suggested a night out to the detective—he needed away from Sherlock's experimenting for a few hours-but he did figure that Lestrade could use someone to talk to. How was he managing on his own? Maybe Sherlock had it wrong.
"Right. Sorry. Just if you want to talk about it, that'd be fine."
"Darts? By the time I finish the lager I'll be rubbish."
Greg happily accepted and was pleased to discover that he still had a decent arm for the sport. John claimed his loss was due to the war injury, so they agreed to play another round, this time opposite handed. Greg won again, and John suggested a return to the table and more drinks. Greg bought the drinks and John started in on a story about whatever body part he'd come home to this week. It was all surprisingly pleasant and both men agreed that they should do it again soon.
Greg was still grinning when he walked into his flat, wondering if John would be ever able to use his toaster again and thankful that he didn't have Sherlock Holmes as a flatmate to leave experiments in his cookware. He had all but forgotten that he had been waiting on a text from the elder Holmes brother. He was thinking of little, in fact, beyond a shower and falling into bed. He nearly made it there. He was cleaning his teeth when his mobile rang. He rinsed his mouth and prayed he wasn't being called back in to work before he squinted at the screen. Mycroft Holmes. That he wouldn't have to change out of his pyjamas was certainly the only reason he answered so cheerfully.
"Hello Gregory. You sound well."
"Uh, yeah, I guess I am. Just beat John Watson pretty soundly at darts."
Greg laughed awkwardly. Did Mycroft call just to chat?
"So, uh, what's up? Or did you phone just to see if I sound well?"
More awkward laughter.
"Well, that was certainly one reason. I also wanted to see if you might be amenable to dinner."
"I might be."
Mycroft was pretty sure he heard a smile in Gregory's voice. That was a nice change.
"Tomorrow evening, after work? I can pick you up."
"Uh, yeah, sure."
"Good. I will see you tomorrow. Goodnight, Gregory."
Greg stood outside Scotland Yard and reached in his pocket for a fag while waited. He completely blamed his relapse on Lydia and swore he'd be back to the patches as soon as he finished this pack. Before he could light up, the door to the sleek black car in front of him opened and he realised that he wouldn't be having a wait for his ride. He replaced the cigarette in the pack and the pack in his pocket before sliding in the backseat next to Mycroft and being faced with a greeting he didn't know how to perform. He wasn't sure that they were quite the hugging type. Yet, his mind added hopefully. Offering a handshake would be distancing, though, and he wanted to be friends. He compromised with a shoulder squeeze and a grin.
"Mycroft, your timing is incredible."
"I apologize for preventing you from smoking. If you would like, we can wait."
"No. I'm quitting anyway. Was quitting. Will be quitting. So, what's for dinner?"
Dinner was at a quiet Italian restaurant, a bit nicer than Greg would frequent but the sort of place he might take someone for a special occasion or to impress them. Conversation was kept light and Greg was pleased that Mycroft avoided making the same mistake that John had. Neither man especially wanted to talk about his work, so they bounced from topic to topic somehow making it from the weather ("No, Mycroft, we aren't talking about the weather. We live in London. We both know it's awful.") to exchanging brief anecdotes about their respective families. Greg learnt that a young Sherlock had once banned garlic from the Holmes family kitchen in hopes that vampires would show up. In return, Greg offered a story about him convincing his little sister that their house was haunted.
Mycroft was rather enjoying the evening and allowed himself to split a piece of tiramisu with Gregory in order to extend the dinner. When the bill came, Greg tried to pay half but Mycroft insisted that it was his invitation so he would be paying. Greg vowed to invite Mycroft next time.
Back inside Mycroft's car, they picked up their chatter again.
"Do you always have someone drive you around? I'd feel like I was in my parents' backseat if I was driven around all the time."
"Sometimes I drive. Would that make you feel more comfortable?"
"No, I like it sometimes. I was just curious."
The car slowed to a stop outside Greg's flat and Mycroft got out to walk him to the door.
"Thanks for dinner."
"It was my pleasure."
Mycroft looked a bit awkward now, as he chose his next words and Greg pulled out his keys.
"I am glad to see you doing better now, but if you do want to talk I am available."
Greg smiled and decided that now a hug would be appropriate. He muttered a "thanks" into Mycroft's shoulder as he tightly embraced him, then opened the door to his flat.
Chapter 6: nobody loses all the time
The papers were signed and Greg finally calls his parents.
Thanks for reading, all! And sorry for the delay this chapter--real life and all that.
"Well, it's official."
Mycroft didn't need to ask to what 'it' referred. Gregory had been holding a tight-lipped smile since he walked into the restaurant. Not to mention he had been at coffee with the man when he signed the papers. Gregory had wanted him to skim through the documents to ensure that he wasn't getting cheated in this stage, too.
He could have offered some words of condolence or encouragement, but they had been through all of that over the past few weeks. Mycroft instead lifted his glass. "To new beginnings" Greg let out a short laugh and raised his beer.
"S'pose I've got to tell the family now."
"Not immediately, but it would be merciful to do before they purchase Christmas gifts."
His mother does always fret over what to get for Lydia since no one in Greg's family really got to know his wife. He could imagine her getting upset over having to needlessly go through that.
"Okay, then maybe I'll wait a few months"
"They could start shopping soon."
"It's only March!"
"Some start Boxing Day."
Greg snorted. "Not my family. Though I think some of us have started Boxing Day for the Christmas that just passed. But I'll ring this week."
Mycroft raised an eyebrow in an expression that told Greg he knew exactly what 'this week' meant, and what chance there was that the Lestrade family would be hearing of Greg's marital status in the next seven days.
"Well, I'm getting pissed tonight, but I don't have to be in tomorrow so I have plenty of time to call then."
"Would you care to engage in your self-destructive behaviours at mine, or do you prefer returning home and sending me text messages under the delusion that I control the broadcast schedules?"
"Self-destructive? Got me a new friend, didn't it?" Greg sounded more hesitant than he had intended. Greg had grown attached to Mycroft, but still wasn't quite sure where he stood with the man.
"It has, indeed." Mycroft studied Gregory's face carefully. He wouldn't point out the insecurity he saw there, but would be mindful of it in the future. "But your new friend is one who will worry when you become so inebriated that you do not remember what has happened."
Greg suddenly felt awful. He had been feeling awful about the situation and embarrassed about his behaviour in response, but until now hadn't thought at all about what it was doing to other people.
"Gregory. I am very glad that you did send me those messages. And I understand imbibing alcohol to cope with the pain. I would simply feel better if you were not alone when you did it. So come over and you may help yourself to my liquor cabinet, as much as you wish, but please try to stop before you become sick on anything nice."
Greg laughed. He was certain that Mycroft didn't own anything that wasn't nice.
"What if I do?"
"Then I will clean you up and put you to bed and tomorrow I will glare at you most fiercely."
"Sounds fair. Okay, let's go."
Mycroft took Gregory's coat after they walked in the door of his flat and hung it and his own in the closet by the door. His umbrella was placed neatly in its stand. Before making their way to the front room, where they spent most of their time together when at Mycroft's home, Mycroft cautiously spoke.
"Gregory, it is still early enough to phone your family tonight."
"Mycroft, I said I'll call tomorrow."
"You will feel better if you get it done tonight."
"And what will you do? I can't come over here and ignore you."
"I need to take care of some emails anyway. Go to the library and call and when you finish I will be waiting for you here with drinks and we can watch some terrible television you like so well."
"Okay, okay, I'll phone now. Be back soon."
"Take your time."
Greg slipped into the library and closed the door. This should be a sitting conversation, so he sat in the leather chair that made him feel a bit more powerful whenever he sat in it and dialled on his mobile. He hoped there would be no answer, but after the second ring he heard his mother's bright greeting.
"Hi mum, it's Greg."
"Greg! What's wrong?"
"Why does something have to be wrong? Can't I just call?"
"I would love it if you would but you don't, Gregory. Spill."
Greg took a deep breath before speaking, but it still came out a whisper. "I got a divorce, mum"
"I'm sorry. I tried to hold it together. She cheated, but I tried to be better. She left anyway."
"Greg, don't be sorry. When did this happen?"
"Initial paperwork went through today. She left a month ago."
"Gregory! Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"I don't know. Mum, it was hard. I didn't want to disappoint you and da"
"Disappoint us? Greg, I'm not disappointed in you. I'm worried about you. Have you been talking to anyone? You know how you get."
"Yeah, I've a friend here. He's been helpful"
"Good. Have him give you a hug from me."
"Okay, mum. Is da there? I should tell him too."
"Yes, you should. I'll get him the phone. Goodnight, Greg. I love you."
"Love you too"
"Gregory. Your mother tells me you have news?"
"Hi da. Yeah, I guess I do."
"You and Lydia finally pregnant?"
Greg and his mother both cringed.
"No. Lydia's gone, da. We're getting a divorce."
"God, Greg. I'm sorry for the joke. How are you holding up?"
"S'okay. I'm holding up okay, I guess. I'm sorry."
"What are you sorry for, son?"
Greg heard his mother in the background "tell him to stop apologizing!"
"Did you hear your mother?"
"Yeah. I just should have done better. Wanted a marriage like you and mum."
"Did you hit her?"
"Were you having an affair?"
"No. But she was."
"Then it's not your fault."
"My fault she wanted to cheat" Greg was sure he sounded like a child whinging now.
"No, it isn't. Try to remember that."
Greg and his father remained in comfortable silence until Greg remembered he was at Mycroft's and Mycroft was waiting for him.
"Da, I'm over at a mate's house. I should get off the phone now."
"Okay, Greg. Call if you need us. And would you visit sometime? Your mother would love it."
"Yeah, I will. Soon."
"Goodnight. Love you, son."
"Love you too, da"
Greg pressed the end button and slid his mobile back in his pocket, but remained sitting for a few minutes before leaving the library and finding Mycroft, who was half lying-half sitting on the sofa waiting for him. He squeezed himself in the remaining space and glared.
"Is there a problem, Gregory?"
Greg decided to take more space by force, and curled himself around Mycroft with his head resting at Mycroft's ribs and Mycroft's arm wrapped loosely around him. "How did the call go?" "Fine. My mum says that I should have you give me a hug from her." "Is that what this is?" Mycroft pointed to their unorthodox seating arrangement. "No. This," Greg exaggerated the same hand movement as Mycroft "is me getting comfortable for the crap telly you promised."
"I promised you a drink as well, but you have rendered me unable to move to fetch it."
Greg turned to look at Mycroft's face, trying to read whether or not the man was comfortable. Mycroft seemed relaxed, but Greg knew he was good at controlling his expressions. Greg decided to assume the best since he could hardly be blamed for missing signs of irritation that were invisible to the non-Holmes eye.
"I think I might be able to handle the night sober, actually. Can you reach the remote?"
Mycroft handed the remote to him. He flipped through several channels before settling on something that looked promising. They made it through two episodes and halfway through the third before Mycroft noticed light snoring. Mycroft hated to not finish things, so he watched the rest of the episode then turned the television off.
Either he shifted in doing so or the sudden silence woke Greg up. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, trying to wake up more. "Should go home." His voice was deep and slurred by sleep.
"Gregory, it's half-three and I have a terribly underused guest bedroom. Stay here" Mycroft's voice was gentle, but firm. Greg didn't bother arguing—it was late and he wanted nothing more than to crawl into a bed.
"My, you are a saint."
"Sorry. Mycroft. Mycroft, you are a saint."
"No, 'My' is fine. Just unexpected."
"Okay. Good. Lead the way."
Mycroft went to his own bedroom first and came back with a neatly folded pair of pyjamas which he handed to Gregory before taking him to the next room across the hall. He pointed out the en suite with towels and soaps next to the shower and the spare toothbrush and paste above the sink. He asked if Gregory needed anything and got a sleepy response in the negative. He started to walk away, but stopped to hug Gregory first.
"This is from your mother," he explained.
"Thanks, My. G'night."
"Goodnight, Gregory." Mycroft left a light kiss on Greg's forehead and slipped out of the room.
Chapter 7: guilt is the cause of more disorders
Mycroft is away from the country and in his absence Sherlock starts wondering about his brother's feelings.
"What are you doing at Lestrade's?"
Mycroft was waiting for Gregory to return to the flat with their dinner. He had been presented with a stack of DVDs and instructions to pick one out for them to watch while he picked up the takeaway. He selected a film quickly and decided to use some of the 22 minutes he estimated remained before Gregory returned to check in on his brother. He now feared that he would regret that decision. He would not have guessed that Sherlock could identify the flat by the background noise. Gregory did have an unnecessarily loud clock on the wall though. And he supposed the noise of the heater had taken a while to get used to.
"That is not relevant, but Gregory and I are friends."
"Since when do you have friends?"
"So defensive, brother dear. Since you asked so nicely, yes, I am still clean. No, John has not come to his senses and moved out. As you already knew."
"I don't know everything, Sherlock."
"You may as well. Hanging up now, Mycroft. Don't enjoy your dinner too much."
Sherlock considered calling out for John to tell him what he now suspected. His brother fancied Lestrade? He was calling him by his given name now, not referring to him by title as he had any other time Lestrade had come up in conversation. That would be expected if they were friends, but the fondness with which he said the name was less expected. And there was something in Mycroft's voice as he said 'friends'. Something that spoke of a longing that Sherlock preferred to pretend his brother was incapable of. So he wanted them to be more than friends. Maybe he didn't even know that himself, and doubtless was unaware that it was being revealed in his tone or he would have masked it. Or tried. Sherlock was quite good at deducing his brother—he had practice, after all.
Mycroft returned his mobile to his pocket with a groan he would not have permitted himself had he not been in private. His conversation with Sherlock went about as well as every conversation with him went, but it was still frustrating. He wondered what Gregory's conversations with his brother were like. He went into the kitchen and grabbed the dishes they would need for dinner, setting them up on the table in front of the telly and replacing the DVDs that he didn't choose and inserting the disc he did choose in the player. He checked his email twice. When he heard Gregory's key in the door, he returned to the kitchen and pulled out two lagers, opening them both.
Greg was grinning when he walked over. "My, I could kiss you. I remembered that I was out of beer just when I was walking in the building. You, sir, are fantastic. How did you know?"
"Perhaps I just fancied a beer and wanted to ensure I would have one?"
"Uh huh. I'll just pretend to believe that then." Greg took his place next to Mycroft on the sofa and did peck him on the cheek. "Thank you." He grabbed one of the beers and took a swig.
"You are welcome. But as I said. I bought them for me. Thank you for getting dinner"
"Mmhmm. So, what are we watching? I hope it goes with Thai."
Mycroft just raised an eyebrow and pressed the play button.
"Interesting choice." Greg told him around a mouthful of noodles as he recognized what film Mycroft had started playing.
"I'm sorry, I haven't seen the film adaptation. Is it not good? We can watch something else."
"No, this is good."
"Then why interesting?"
"Because I felt like I had to comment on your choice?"
"Well, I found it interesting that you own The Importance of Being Earnest."
"Because I felt I had to comment on your selection."
"Okay, point taken. But I really don't know."
Mycroft stared at him for a moment, after which Greg was sure Mycroft knew even if he didn't himself. But he said nothing and they returned focus to the movie and dinner. At some point after their plates were set aside, the two shifted so that they sat flush to each other and by the end of the movie Greg's head was on Mycroft's shoulder.
"No, Gregory, I have to be going now. But I've stocked my refrigerator as well as yours, so next time at mine?"
"Yeah, I look forward to it."
And he had been looking forward to it. But after saying that, he walked Mycroft to the door, exchanged goodbyes, and hasn't heard from him since. That was 9 days ago. They had been in the habit of communicating in some fashion at least every two days, usually daily. And for the past two months they had met up once or twice a week, every week. They both had busy jobs, but it was unusual that Mycroft wasn't responding at all to texts. A "sorry I'm busy" would have been welcome. Well, annoying, but less annoying than being ignored.
<Have you heard from your brother lately? GL>
<Thankfully, no. Lost your new friend already? SH>
Well, at least he knew he wouldn't be revealing his friendship to Sherlock. He thought about asking how he figured it out, but decided to just accept it and be glad to not have to think up a reason to be asking after the man's brother.
<Seriously Sherlock. It's been more than a week.>
<He does that sometimes. SH>
<Should I be worried?>
<Mycroft is the most dangerous man I know. Be worried for whoever is keeping him. SH>
Greg waited another week before asking again. Sherlock was working a case with him and he barely managed to wait until after they had caught the killer.
"Lestrade, I am quite certain that he favours your company over mine. You will hear from him before I do."
"Okay. Uh, if you do hear something though?"
"I will probably ignore him."
"And contact you immediately."
"Thanks. You're really not worried?"
"He is often out of the country for work. He is often unable to communicate during those times. I have no reason to believe this situation is different from any other time."
Greg sounded about as sure as he felt, and he knew Sherlock probably thought he sounded pretty pathetic. But he wasn't used to friends dropping off the face of the Earth. And Mycroft was there for him when he needed it, so if he wasn't okay now, Greg wanted to return the favour. After Lestrade walked away, Sherlock tapped out a text to his brother. It seemed that Lestrade was just as fond of Mycroft as Mycroft was of Lestrade.
Three days later when Mycroft was finally home he turned on his personal mobile to find 17 text messages and two voicemail messages from Gregory. With the exception of the first two which suggested times for their next movie night, they were all variations on "Where are you? Are you okay?" He had finished all his paperwork on the plane and would not be expected at the office tomorrow, so he sent text response.
<I'm sorry, Gregory. Work took me out of the country. Are you available for dinner tonight?>
He was also surprised to find a single text message from his brother.
<Mycroft, we need to talk. SH>
Assuming that Gregory responded in the affirmative, he would still have time to drop by 221B Baker Street for a chat with Sherlock before dinner. He took a car there immediately to see what was so important that his little brother was coming to him.
"Please tell me you have contacted Lestrade."
"Hello to you, too, Sherlock. Now what is this about?"
"He has been pestering me the whole time you've been gone. He hasn't been sleeping well. Worried sick, quite literally."
"Oh, this is good. You haven't noticed yet? I do believe that the inspector returns your feelings."
"And what feelings would those be, brother?"
"You know exactly what I'm talking about."
Mycroft had previously avoided analysing his feelings for his friend, because he couldn't imagine them being returned and because he was quite happy with the status quo. Now that Sherlock had brought it up, he was replaying his last few encounters and found that Sherlock's supposition was perhaps not as baseless as he would have first thought. That did not stop him from glaring in response. He felt uncomfortable in his brother's presence, knowing that Sherlock knew every thought going through his head. He was glad to get the text he could use as an escape.
<Where and when?>
"As lovely as this has been, I'm afraid I must be going now. Goodbye, Sherlock." He turned and walked out of the flat as quickly as possible. Sherlock spoke up before he was out of earshot.
"Please be careful with him. He's the only one at Scotland Yard worth working with."
"The only one who will work with you, you mean?"
Mycroft hurried out to his waiting car and spent most of the ride home planning dinner. He couldn't read Gregory through his messages, but he anticipated that he would be upset. That, combined with two and a half weeks away from home, made him decide to stay in. Takeaway or something he could quickly cook, then.
<Whenever you are available. My home. I'll pick you up.>
<No I'll meet you there in 40>
Now that he knew that Mycroft was okay, Greg was peeved. He had gone between feeling ignored (maybe he was being annoying to Mycroft) to being worried (Mycroft wasn't responding because he couldn't respond because something was wrong) over the past three weeks and now that he had heard from Mycroft he settled on Mycroft didn't respond because he didn't want to. If he thought logically he could almost convince himself that that was a ridiculous notion, but he couldn't shake it. So he refused the ride and hoped that walk to the tube station would calm him down.
Chapter 8: now is a ship
Mycroft and Greg chat and both have to face their feelings for the other.
Mycroft was somewhat relieved that Gregory didn't want the ride. He would have gone in the car this time, because Gregory would prefer that and he could tell without Sherlock's help that his absence had not been taken well. But he needed the time to cook dinner and he realised being away meant he had little left in the refrigerator. He settled on preparing what he would have done tonight had he not been expecting company—the vegetables shoved in the back of the freezer along with some pasta. It would not be an impressive meal, but he doubted that mattered much. His diet while he was gone had been abysmal and he suspected the same was true for Gregory. With the table set and food being kept warm, he poured a few fingers of whisky and tried to not stare at the door expectantly.
Greg knocked on the door and decidedly did not fidget while he waited for it to open. When Mycroft opened the door, Greg looked him over carefully trying to ascertain whether Mycroft was in some way injured. "If you're okay, I'm going to have to be upset with you." Greg locked eyes with Mycroft and asked "you are okay, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am okay."
"Are you upset with me?"
"Gregory, if I were cross with you, you would know it."
"So you didn't want to respond." Greg was biting his bottom lip nervously now.
"I responded as soon as I got your messages. Now come in and eat and let me do my best to reassure you."
Greg hesitated, but allowed his coat to be taken away to be hung up and followed Mycroft into the kitchen. Dinner was simple and completely perfect after a lunch of coffee and crisps. Mycroft had yet to start reassuring, but instead had chatted idly about the book he had lent Greg (Greg had finally finished it) and the new bakery he thought they should try (he heard the scones were excellent) and by the time they had finished eating Greg was wondering if that chatter was meant to be the reassurance. But after clearing away their plates Mycroft poured them each another glass of wine and suggested that it would be more comfortable to move to the sofa and Greg knew that this was going to be addressed and he felt fully embarrassed now. He really had no reason to send as many messages as he had.
"I have to make an effort to keep my personal life separate from my work life." Greg was glad that he was sitting beside Mycroft and didn't have to look him straight on now. "I had some negotiations to attend to and typically I do not keep my personal mobile phone during such trips. Prior to befriending you, I had no reason to expect any personal communication from anyone outside of my family. In the event of an emergency I would be notified. I was mistaken to have not informed you that I would be away. I was mistaken to have not considered that you would attempt contact while I was gone. I apologise, Gregory."
Greg bit his tongue to stop him from letting out a "that's okay." He instead closed the space between them and turned in to face Mycroft.
"Sherlock tells me that you asked him about me, too."
"Why would you be sorry?"
"I'm being too needy."
"No, you are a caring individual and I appreciate your concern. I should have anticipated it and prevented you from having to worry so much."
"I sent you a lot of texts."
"I was away for a lot of days."
"I… yeah. You were. I still feel ridiculous."
"I would have worried if you were gone three weeks without telling me."
"You would be able to find out where I went."
"True. Unless my brother was behind it. He might be able to sneak past me."
Greg giggled at that. "Can I tell him you said that?"
Mycroft glared. "Please don't. He just might try it."
"Next time I have to be away, I will make sure that you know."
"Thank you, My." Greg curled into Mycroft's side, because being relieved that he was okay was a lot more comfortable than being upset that he hadn't contacted him.
Mycroft stared down at him and seemed about to say something, but swallowed the words. Instead of speaking, he brought a hand up to Gregory's cheek and leaned down to drop a kiss to his lips. Greg returned the kiss and it was slow and gentle and Mycroft thought it was a much better way to say what he wanted to. Until Greg pulled away and looked up with panic in his eyes.
They both spoke at once.
"I'm sorry, I thought."
"I'm sorry, Mycroft, no, I can't."
The blood drained from Mycroft's face and he wished that the Earth would swallow him then and there. But Gregory had shifted so that his face was buried in Mycroft's waistcoat and clung to him tightly as if he was afraid that Mycroft would leave. And Mycroft was embarrassed enough that he desperately wanted to leave. He knew that he wouldn't though, not with a man in his arms who was used to being left. So instead he held Gregory back just as tightly.
"Is this going to be a problem?"
"Of course not. I overstepped. I would be grateful if we could pretend I didn't do that."
Greg said that he would do that, but he couldn't. They watched a movie and Greg stayed where he was—pressed up against Mycroft, because that was normal for them. The whole time he wondered how much it bothered Mycroft to be rejected and cuddled at the same time. Greg has no idea what movie they watched.
Mycroft behaved exactly as he had at every other movie night the two had shared. At least outwardly. He was secretly calculating the likelihood that Gregory's continued presence was to protect Mycroft's feelings. He fretted about the probability that Gregory would want to discontinue their friendship. . He thought about the fact that for a moment he was certain that Gregory had wanted to kiss him. Mycroft has no idea what movie they watched.
When they noticed that the movie was over, Mycroft drove Gregory home. It was late but after his trip he had a few days with minimal work, barring emergencies, so he didn't reach for a sleeping pill when he found himself unable to fall asleep. He turned on the kettle and pulled out the chocolate shortbreads from the cupboard and wondered what life would have been like if he had remained an only child.
Greg knew it was too late to call when he got home, so he waited until morning to ring his brother. He had already broken the news of the divorce to him. While Mycroft was out of town he finally accepted a dinner invitation and when his eldest niece had asked him where Aunt Lydia was his brother saw him break a little. So after dinner he and his brother went out for a few pints and Greg told him everything. Peter had been upset that he didn't hear about this until months after it happened, but was glad to know that Greg had a friend to take care of him. Greg admitted that he had been too embarrassed to tell him and he got smacked in the back of the head. He had promised to phone Peter first the next crisis, but didn't think one would come up so soon.
"Oi Greggie! You DO know how a phone works. What's the crisis?"
Greg was silent for too long.
"There really is a crisis, isn't there?" It was not a question.
"Not really a crisis. Small problem."
"A small problem that has my baby brother calling me before noon on a weekend."
"Remember that friend I told you about?"
"Yeah. Bloke with the funny name."
"Mycroft. He kissed me."
"Why is this a crisis?"
"Okay, why is this a small problem?"
"I may have freaked out after."
"Why? You've dated guys before."
"It's not that."
"What is it, then? To be honest, when you talked about him last week you sounded like you fancied him."
"You did. Is that the problem?"
"I couldn't date him"
"Because I wouldn't be able to meet his needs. He should be with someone who can." Peter didn't have to ask what that meant. He was the only one Greg had talked to about his sexuality, or lack thereof.
"What if he wants to be with you?"
"He shouldn't. He deserves better."
"Oh, you have it bad, Greggie. Maybe he doesn't want better."
"Aren't you supposed to tell me I'm the best or something?"
"Call mum if you want to hear that. Oh, and I talked to her yesterday and she says if you don't come visit soon, you're getting written out of the will. I bet she'd love to meet Mycroft, too."
"I will kill you if you tell her about him."
"Seriously, Greg. If he's important enough that you're coming to me, think about it."
"Not too late?"
"No, but don't wait too long."
He couldn't have stopped thinking about it if his life depended upon it. He had a day off and nothing to do that would occupy his mind. So he did laundry and thought about it. And he cleaned the flat and thought about it. He ate his favourite curry and thought about it. He washed the dishes and thought about it.
Early evening left him a spotless flat and a conclusion. He fancied Mycroft Holmes.
Chapter 9: i have found what you are like
Greg follows his brother's advice and has a conversation with Mycroft.
thanks for reading, everyone! you're all the best.
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Coming to the conclusion that he fancied his friend was not as helpful as Greg thought coming to a conclusion ought to be. It should have helped that Mycroft seemed to fancy him back. It didn't. It meant that they would both be disappointed instead of just him. Unless his brother was right. Regardless, he was pretty sure he couldn't just pretend he didn't have feelings. Mycroft would find out and he had a feeling that Mycroft wouldn't react well to dishonesty. Greg was almost as afraid to how he would react to the truth. If he didn't talk to him tonight while he had time to spare he would likely worry himself sick.
<free tonight?> Greg had to remind himself to breathe while he waited for a response.
Mycroft was surprised to have Gregory messaging him so soon after last night's fiasco. He hoped it wasn't because something bad had happened.
<I can be. Is something the matter? MH>
<no. can you come over?>
Mycroft sighed. At least if there was some kind of emergency, he would probably be able to take action to make things better. If 'nothing' was wrong it was probably about last night and he couldn't do anything to fix what he had already done. He had hoped that if Gregory was going to do it, he would remove himself from his life quietly. Meeting him would make it more painful. But, a small hopeful part of him reminded, it would also give him the opportunity to convince Gregory that their friendship was still viable. He was frustrated that he had misread the situation and the price could be a friendship he was content in. His feelings extended beyond the confines of a friendship, but he didn't need more than the friendship.
<I will be there at 8 MH>
Greg spent the time rehearsing what he'd say and imagining how Mycroft would respond. Even in his anxiety he couldn't picture an outcome in which they did not remain friendly towards one another. Unfortunately he pictured many outcomes in which they did not remain friends with one another. He was quite attached to the relationship they currently shared and the thought of losing that pained him. He tried to read an abandoned novel he had found while cleaning, but he hadn't turned a page in the last half hour. There was a knock on the door at 7:59. Did that mean Mycroft was eager? Was that a good sign?
Mycroft spent the time glaring at the reports he had taken home and trying to come up with a strategy for tonight. If he could prevent wars, he could prevent a disastrous end to this relationship. It would be just another round of diplomacy. Soon he gave up the pretence of working and just paced. When he could no longer wait anymore, he left home and was standing outside Gregory's door at 7:44. For fifteen minutes he perfected a cheerful countenance and confident stance which fell as soon as the door opened.
When Mycroft walked in the door, he did it looking every bit the man walking to his execution. Greg didn't look much better, but he managed a smile in greeting and offered a drink.
"Tea? Something stronger?"
"Tea is sufficient, thank you."
Greg wasn't sure what to do with himself as he waited for the kettle to boil. Mycroft watched him set out the cups and teapot and opened his mouth twice to say something but stopped himself both times. By the time the tea was steeped and poured, the silence was unbearable. Greg motioned for them to sit down and Mycroft took what had become his spot on the sofa.
"Mycroft. Remember that thing we said we'd pretend to forget happened?"
"Yes." Mycroft picked up his cup of tea and took a sip to avoid being expected to say more.
"Yes, I know, you said that. That is okay."
"No, I mean, I can't forget."
"I am sorry, Gregory." What was left of Mycroft's hope deflated. They wouldn't be able to revert back to their friendship. Maybe there would still be something left to salvage.
"I rather liked it."
"You…oh." Mycroft found it suddenly much easier to breathe.
"Do you mind if I?" Greg started to lean into Mycroft. Mycroft set his tea down and wrapped an arm around Greg in response.
"Would you be okay if we stayed like this?"
"I am quite comfortable."
"No. Would you be okay if our relationship stayed like this?"
Mycroft looked down and saw a pleading in Gregory's eyes, but he could not tell what answer he was pleading for. He hoped he gave the right one.
"Yes. I would be okay."
"I didn't say 'but'."
"No, but I heard it anyway."
"But I would be amenable to deepening it."
Mycroft wanted to be happy, but the panicked look on Gregory's face was burned in his memory. "You were terrified last night."
Greg didn't deny it.
"I scared you."
"No! Look, Mycroft. I really like you. I was glad that you kissed me. But I was scared because I know that if you wanted to kiss me, you're probably going to want more. Unless I'm a crap kisser."
Greg blushed. "Heh. Thanks. Anyway, I didn't know what to do. I still don't, not really. But I thought about it and we get on so well and maybe what I can offer could be enough?"
"Gregory, what are you talking about?"
"I… Mycroft… You are very attractive."
Mycroft was suddenly angry as he came to a realisation. He pushed Gregory away.
"But you aren't attracted to me. You aren't repulsed enough by me that you couldn't kiss back, but you aren't attracted enough for it to be arousing. You didn't trust me when I said that we would continue our friendship after I attempted to make it something more. You want to keep me around so you tried to trick me into thinking that you shared my feelings."
"I do share your feelings."
"Are you attracted to me?"
"Sexually?" Greg's voice wavered.
"I'm not sexually attracted to anyone."
"A 'no' would be sufficient. This isn't about me being jealous." Mycroft's words were crisp and icy.
"This isn't about just right now, Mycroft. I'm not attracted to anyone, ever."
"You're not. So you're…" Things were slowing clicking together in Mycroft's brain.
"Something like asexual, I guess, yeah." Greg stared at his feet, wary of Mycroft's glare.
Mycroft, however, was no longer glaring. He was looking down at his hurting friend and shamed that he had caused the pain.
"I apologise, Gregory. I was out of line."
Mycroft held his hand out and Greg took it without hesitation, interlacing their fingers.
"S'okay. Think we can work something out? Can we still be friends?"
"Of course." He rubbed his thumb across the back of Greg's hand. "Come over here, I believe that I am quite done with my idiocy for the night." Greg slid back to his spot and tucked himself back under Mycroft's arm.
"Would you believe I came over here tonight with the sole purpose of convincing you to not end our friendship?"
"You know, you were part right though. I did think about trying to trick you."
"Trick me how?"
"I didn't want to tell you about the whole sexuality thing."
"Do people tend to react poorly when they find out?"
"Uh, before tonight, only my brother's found out." Greg was speaking into Mycroft's waistcoat now.
Mycroft heard the unspoken "Lydia did not know" and "nobody I've dated has known." He was flattered. "Thank you for telling me." They sat in a now comfortable silence until Mycroft's curiosity won out.
"Is it just sex that you cannot do?"
"It isn't really a can't do. Everything" he gestured to his crotch "still works. Lydia and I were trying for kids for a while, even. But I'm not going to get the same thing out of it that you would. Mostly I get pleasure out of pleasing my partner. I mean, some stuff feels good, but I'm not going to have the… drive behind it. It's not going to be something that I need."
"What do you need? What do you want"
"Well, I wasn't lying when I told you I liked kissing you." Mycroft offered him a quick kiss to the side of his mouth.
"And you've noticed that I like cuddling?" Mycroft hummed in agreement. Greg continued, "Okay, well, physical affection in general is nice." He started again, but hesitated. "And…"
"What is it?"
"I know I'm not the most satisfying partner. But the idea of you with anyone else… hurts."
Mycroft had almost forgotten how broken Gregory had been when they first started spending time together. And now he saw that not only did it still bother him, but that he still blamed himself and expected it to happen again. He held him tighter and spoke softly.
"I accept those terms. May I take you on a proper date next week?"
Chapter 10: sort of really really kind of afraid
Greg visits his parents. Both Greg and Mycroft get anxious about their upcoming date.
Elaine Lestrade was pleasantly surprised to open the door to find her youngest son on the other side. She recovered quickly and ushered him inside with a hug and a kiss. Greg didn't often visit, but he had two days off in a row and yesterday had been spent doing every chore he could think of around the flat and he couldn't think of any way to spend today other than fretting over his upcoming date. He hadn't been on a date in over a decade! Sure, he and Mycroft had already been to dinner and shows and coffee and lunch and tea and anything else that they could possibly do on their date. But they had never called it a date and so now that it would be a date, he was allowed to be nervous.
"Hi Mum, sorry I didn't phone first. If you're busy I can go."
"Gregory Lestrade. Don't you dare leave. I'm finishing up lunch, and I'm putting out an extra setting for you, so you're staying. Now go find your father and tell him it's ready."
Greg collected his father and the three of them sat down to eat. Elaine made sure there was constant chatter—she chided Greg for not taking care of himself ("You look tired, Greg. Have you been sleeping? Have you been eating?") and updated him on the goings on of their neighbours and distant relatives. It was all very normal and that normalcy felt wrong. He ate quickly and wondered if maybe he should have not come.
When they finished, Greg started to take care of the dishes. Elaine tried to take the job from him, but he refused. He needed to feel helpful as much as he needed the mindless task to relax him. Elaine shared a glance with her husband. He walked over to the sink and put a hand on Greg's shoulder to get his attention.
"I'm going to the other room to read, but when you're done here would you join me?"
Greg wiped his hands on his jeans and headed to the living room feeling like he was a little kid in trouble.
"Come on in, Greg."
Charles Lestrade set down the book he was reading and folded his reading glasses on top of it. He was seated in the large armchair by the window and just enough light was still coming in that he hadn't yet turned on a lamp. Greg walked a few paces closer but remained standing. Charles tried to make eye contact, but Greg avoided it.
"How have you been holding up?"
"Fine." Greg's response was sharper than he had intended.
"I know what you've been through. It's okay to not be fine."
"No, you don't! You and mum are happily married. You've been together forever. You don't know at all." Greg was nearly shouting now, and his eyes were wet.
"Gregory, get over here." Charles spoke firmly and shifted over in the chair so that there was now room for another to sit next to him. He motioned for Greg to do so. After a moment of defiant stillness Greg walked over and fell into the spot. He was sobbing before his father's arms could wrap around him.
When the tears stopped, Greg tried to pull away, but the arms holding him tightened. "Da, I'm too heavy, I'll move."
"You are not. You'll always fit in my arms. No matter how much you thought you outgrew it when you were a teenager. "
"I don't deserve it." But even as he said it, he relaxed again and leaned into his father.
"I don't care if you do. But for what it's worth, I think you deserve it."
"Sorry for snivelling all over your shirt."
"Son, I've been worried at how little you seemed to react. I was afraid she had completely broken you. I don't like to see you in pain, but I'm glad to see that you're still feeling. That's worth having my shirt mussed up a bit. Now, why don't you try answering my question again. How are you holding up?"
"Honestly, I'm mostly fine now."
"You don't seem fine."
Greg didn't respond to that. Instead he focused on his breathing, matching it to the rise and fall of the chest he was leaning against. Eventually with some prompting he revealed what had been occupying his thoughts.
"Help me out here, Greg. What are you worried about?"
"I've got a date Tuesday. Is that too soon?"
"Too soon after ending things with Lydia? Well, as you kindly reminded me, I don't know what a divorce is like so…"
"Da! I am so sorry I didn't mean it really."
Charles shook with laughter. "I know, I'm just teasing you. Does it feel too soon?"
"Not really. I really like him."
He tensed when he realised he had said "him." His brother knew just about everything about him, but he hadn't ever had reason to come out to his parents.
"Gregory, why would you think I'm going to get upset about you going on a date with a man? I don't want to think about my sons having sex and that's the only time it matters what bits your partner has or doesn't have."
"Loves you the same as I do, son. Now tell me about this chap. Am I going to get to meet him?"
"Yeah, I think you will. If you promise to not scare him away you can come over for dinner next weekend? Unless I have to work a case."
"You haven't been on the date yet and you're already setting up a time for him to meet the parents. He must be special. Do you remember how long it took for you to bring Lydia around here? I barely met her before the wedding!"
"Yeah. Mycroft and I are pretty close already. He's been there for me through the divorce and everything. It's more like this is the first date we're calling a date."
"Good. I hoped you had someone around since I know you weren't talking to any of us. I look forward to meeting him. And it sounds like you don't need to be worrying."
"I'm scared I'll mess things up." He didn't say 'again', but they both heard it.
Meanwhile Mycroft sat in his office worrying over his plans for Tuesday. He had to be in for a meeting, but had more than enough free time to sit at his desk and torment himself. He had promised a 'proper date', but had no idea what that meant. He did a web search but found more results arguing for the proper format for recording the temporal date (this was absurd, of course, because it simply made sense to go from smallest increment to largest: day, month, year) than advice for romantic dates. Most of the ideas he had been able to come up with himself, he quickly dismissed as things they had done without it being a date, proper or otherwise. He let a whole pot of tea go cold before he came to the decision that the time of the meeting—no, date—necessitated a meal. So even though that was on the list of non-dates, he scrawled dinner on the leaf of thick paper labelled neatly at the top, Proper Date with Gregory. When Anthea came in an hour later with a fresh pot of tea and to tell him that the afternoon's phone call had been rescheduled, there was still nothing else on the page. She left with a gentle suggestion that he stop overthinking. As though he could."
Chapter 11: most magical maybes of certainly
Mycroft and Greg's first official date
Greg was glad to have a couple hours between work and his date with Mycroft. He had showered and shaved when he first got home and now he was standing in his pants in front of the closet, trying to decide what to wear. He knew that in all likelihood this evening would be no different from any other dinner they had shared—they were just changing what they called it. That didn't mean he couldn't try to look like the sort of bloke Mycroft would be proud to be out on a date with. He didn't think he was spending that long getting reading, but he barely had his shirt buttoned when he heard knocking.
Greg opened the door find Mycroft's face almost hidden by a bouquet of sunflowers. He grinned, but spoke hesitantly.
"You brought me flowers?"
Mycroft heard the hesitance and his own smile wavered for a moment before he could control his features.
"If you don't like them you can throw them away." Mycroft stepped into the flat and started moving towards the kitchen to bin them. Greg stopped him with a hand to his arm and took the flowers from him.
"No, I do! Nobody's bought me flowers before."
"Yeah," Greg shrugged. "I guess men aren't on the receiving end of flowers much?"
"I don't think of you as fulfilling the female gender role." Mycroft looked panicked as he blurted it out. He had thought bringing flowers would be a nice addition to the evening that made it clear that this was different from every other dinner they'd been to together. Flowers were traditional. He hadn't thought at all about the fact that his date was male and that that made flowers less traditional.
"In case you thought that was why I bought them"
"Right. Well, I didn't. I'll just put these in something and we can go?" Greg handed the flowers back to Mycroft while he grabbed a glass and half-filled it with water. There might be something better suited somewhere, but he wasn't up to rummaging around for it now. Mycroft had promised dinner and he was starving. He took the flowers back and put them in the glass. He looked over to Mycroft who looked markedly uncomfortable still, and favoured him with a bright smile.
"Thank you, Mycroft, I love them."
Mycroft let out a breath and returned the smile, a real smile this time. He motioned toward the door.
"The car is waiting outside."
When they got out to the car, Greg made to get in the back, but Mycroft opened the front door for him. He looked up at Mycroft questioningly—Mycroft was acting a little odd tonight, he could have just opened the wrong door. But Mycroft nodded so he got in and when he did he noticed that the driver was absent. He turned to question Mycroft, but the door was already closed and Mycroft was climbing in the driver's seat.
"You're driving us?"
"Yes, I thought you might prefer it."
Mycroft recalled the comment Gregory had made about him being driven around all the time, and hoped that it would be an appreciated gesture. Now that he was driving, he remembered why he so rarely did it himself. It was terribly stressful. He clenched his teeth and glared ahead.
Greg was carefully watching Mycroft out of the corner of his eye. He looked awful. Greg would have assumed that he didn't want to be there, but he had been the one to suggest it and Greg suspected that Mycroft Holmes was never anywhere he didn't have to be unless he wanted to be there.
Greg had been about to ask if everything was okay, but he stopped himself. Asking a Holmes a question with an obvious answer was never a good idea. Asking what was wrong would probably not be much better if he was hoping for a straight answer. He reached a hand over to rest on Mycroft's leg and changed his question.
"Where are we going?"
That was not the question Mycroft had been bracing himself for, but he found it much easier to answer.
"Japanese restaurant. I haven't eaten there yet, but it comes recommended."
Their table was ready for them when they walked in the door, and champagne flutes were filled as soon as they took their seats. Greg chatted nervously through dinner and was painfully aware that Mycroft was not talking much. He was only vaguely aware that he was eating and that the food was enjoyable. He was terribly uncomfortable. He wondered how much longer they would be there and hoped it wouldn't be too long. When Mycroft asked him if he wanted to order dessert, he refused.
"We can go back to mine. My mum sent me home with a whole cake when I visited—I'm going to need help eating it."
Mycroft raised an eyebrow, but requested and paid the bill. The ride back to Greg's flat was marginally less tense than the ride to the restaurant, but Greg was more uneasy now. Mycroft noticed, but said nothing. He started to offer his hand to Gregory, but pulled it back. He did not know what was wrong, and had no desire to make it worse. He was glad that he had not planned something for after dinner.
When they got inside the flat, Greg turned the kettle on and took the cake out of the fridge. It had been neatly wrapped when his mum gave it to him, but he hadn't put it back together so well so when he took the cover off the frosting was a bit smashed. There were already two slices gone and he sliced two more and put them both on a plate before halfway wrapping it up again.
"Do you want your own plate? I still haven't bought little plates."
"We can share." Mycroft's voice was smaller than Greg was used to hearing. "Go sit down—let me tend to the tea."
Greg paused a moment and regarded his friend, wondering if they had made a mistake. He grabbed two forks and carried them and the cake in to take a seat on the sofa. He couldn't tell if Mycroft wanted him gone, or was just wanting to make their tea. He closed his eyes against his growing headache, so he didn't see Mycroft's look of concern. He didn't look up until he heard Mycroft speaking softly.
"I didn't mean to send you away. I had assumed we were staying at the table."
Well, that answered that question. Mycroft was standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, seeming unsure if he should take his usual spot next to Greg or sit in the armchair. Greg held out an arm in invitation and Mycroft sank into the sofa next to him and handed a mug to Greg. He wrapped an arm around Greg, who snuggled into him, sipping the tea carefully. Neither spoke until the cake was crumbs and the tea gone.
"I fear that I gave you a poor example of a proper date."
"No, it was good."
"Then why didn't you enjoy it?"
"I was nervous."
"You still are."
"You are too."
Greg was glad that they were sitting as they were—he didn't think he could handle eye contact now.
"Don't want to mess us up."
"Neither do I."
"You didn't seem like you wanted to be there."
"I did want to be there. And I wanted you to enjoy it. Will you let me try again?"
Greg hated how… sad Mycroft sounded. Apparently he was just being cautious in deference to the unease Greg was showing. He nodded into Mycroft's chest.
"You know, we've sort of been on a dozen dates. We just didn't call them dates then. They were always comfortable."
"Would repeating one of those have been sufficient tonight?"
"Yes." Greg laughed and added, "I do like those sunflowers though."
"So if I bring you flowers, you'll consider takeaway and a movie to be a date?"
"Mmhmm. I would without the flowers too, though."
"What, then, is the difference between before and now?"
"Your chances of getting kissed have increased."
"I like that difference."
"Is it enough?"
"So this is going to be okay." Greg spoke timidly. He was too afraid to ask Mycroft if he was sure. "Yes." Mycroft spoke confidently and carded a hand through Greg's hair. Greg held his other hand tightly and was more certain when he spoke again.
"This is good."
Mycroft reclaimed his hand and tipped Greg's chin up, so that they made eye contact. "I believe you mentioned something about kissing me?" He smirked. Greg nodded and smiled before leaning into a kiss.
Chapter 12: remember so(forgetting seem)
Greg runs into his ex-wife and is glad she is ex.
So sorry this took so long--can I use moving as an excuse? Have a few extra words this chapter because you are all lovely people for waiting. Thanks so much for putting up with me!
Greg and Mycroft were having coffee together. That was not an unusual occurrence, but it was rather unusual that this involved both of them seated together at the same café at the same time. Often times their coffee dates were by phone, made up of a stolen five or ten minutes during which at least one of them was at work and sometimes neither of them had coffee. But this morning Mycroft had nearly an hour to fill and Greg was still waiting on that forensics report so they were both free enough to meet up.
Greg arrived at the café first—he had left almost before hanging up after Mycroft phoned him. He was doing little more than taking up space until he could move forward on this case and he couldn't move forward until he had all the information at his disposal. Since time was precious to both of them, especially during normal business hours, there was an unspoken rule between them that whoever was there first would order. Mycroft always knew what Greg would have ordered himself, even if that meant deviating from the usual. Greg was less skilled at anticipating the right beverage, but Mycroft always drank whatever he was handed so he hadn't done too poorly yet. Today he hoped Mycroft was having an espresso day. He ordered their drinks and as an afterthought added some nut filled pastry he thought that Mycroft would eat some of. If they were both out now it was unlikely that either of them would take lunch today.
Mycroft smiled when he reached the table. He had been accustomed to drinking his coffee alone and had yet to perfect the art of conversing whilst drinking. He managed when he had to for work related events, but Gregory tended to keep him fully distracted and left him with cold cups full of tea or coffee if they were lucky enough to have that long to talk. The espresso he would be able to finish in a few sips before it cooled and he would be able to get the caffeine he needed this morning. He grimaced against the bitterness when he took the first sip. The espresso had been inexpertly pulled, but it was a decent roast.
"I chose wrong again, didn't I? Sorry, My, d'you want me to get you something else?"
"On the contrary, this is what I would have ordered myself."
"You don't look like you're enjoying it. Masochistic?"
Mycroft just laughed and stole Greg's fork and a bite of pastry. The contrast between the sweet and bitter was excellent. Greg tried a glare, but he couldn't manage losing his smile. Mycroft returned the smile, and Greg was pleased to see that it was a real one.
Greg was in the middle of telling a story about the new constable that had the misfortune of working with Sherlock on his first day when Mycroft's mobile beeped. He stood up with a frown.
"Gregory, I'm sorry, I have to get to a meeting now. Would you like a ride?"
Greg looked down at his still half-full coffee cup and shook his head. "No, I think I'll finish this here and walk back."
"Are you still coming over for dinner this evening?"
"Am I still invited?"
Mycroft gave him a look that the Holmes brothers shared in common. It was easily translated as 'don't ask me stupid questions'.
"Let me know if you will be late. Goodbye." Mycroft leaned down to kiss Greg and walked out briskly. His phone was at his ear before he had walked through the door. Greg felt a goofy smile form on his face as it registered what that meant—Mycroft had left as late as he possibly could have done.
"Greg?!" Greg looked up in shock at the familiar voice. His ex-wife made her way over to his table.
"Lydia." He nodded in greeting, uncertain what was polite to do in this situation and whether or not he really wanted to be polite.
"So I was right." Lydia's tone told him that he probably didn't really want to be polite.
"What were you right about?"
"You being a queer."
The colour drained from Greg's face along with the smile.
"I'm not gay." He wasn't sure why it felt important to convince her of this. He was dating a man and he wasn't embarrassed about that.
"Don't try to convince me that was a woman."
"No, that's my… that's Mycroft. He's not a woman."
"And he kissed you."
"No wonder you were crap in bed. You were a little pillow biter the whole time." That was why he didn't want her to label him gay. His issues had nothing to do with her gender.
"Lydia, there are options beyond gay and straight. I am neither. Now please excuse me, I have to get back to work."
"You took a break for him?" There was an unspoken "you never took a break for me."
"No, he took a break for me." Greg was confident in that answer. He may have worked long hours, but the bulk of the reason that he didn't see as much of his wife as she would have liked was that those hours were irregular. And she would never have met him in the middle of the day just to see him for half an hour. He left without saying goodbye or finishing his coffee, struggling to keep anger in check.
Mycroft was almost barrelled over by Greg when he stood up to greet him. His nose was assaulted by the smell of smoke that lingered on Greg's clothes and in his hair. He was about to comment on that, but he was cut off before he could even start by a pair of lips crashing into his. It took him less than a second to know that something was wrong, but he was weaker than he would let on so it took another ten seconds before he felt hands working to unfasten his trousers and pulled away in response. He wished that he could pretend that he was as wanted as Gregory's kiss suggested, but he knew that to allow this to continue would be to take advantage of his partner. The expression of terror and sadness he saw on Gregory's face almost broke his heart. He offered a chaste kiss and tried to hold Gregory's sad gaze. When that proved too much, he pulled him into an unwilling hug.
"Gregory, you reek."
Greg struggled to move away, but Mycroft held him tighter. He still could have escaped, but he didn't want to. Mycroft may have refused his advances, but he still wanted him here. Greg stopped fighting and slid his arms around Mycroft to return the hug. While he was doing that, Mycroft slipped one hand into Greg's pocket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes. Two remained.
"How many packs before this?"
"Just that one. You sound cross."
"No, merely concerned. You had been doing well quitting. Let's go finish these. You won't want them around once you calm down."
"You could just bin them if you don't want me to have them."
"Do you want me to?"
"Then let's go. A walk before dinner."
Just outside the door, Mycroft stopped to pull out the cigarettes and his lighter. He lit one and handed it to Gregory. After a moment of indecision he lit the other for himself as well and started to walk.
"I do not." He blew a smoke ring that suggested that had not always been the case.
"I have been told that it would be best for my health to avoid doing so."
"No. Why are you smoking now?"
"Solidarity. And it has been a trying day."
"Can you talk about it?"
"Later. At the moment I'm more interested in hearing about yours." Mycroft held his free hand out and Greg intertwined their fingers.
"Nothing to tell."
"Nothing that would set you off enough to pick up smoking? And while I was quite flattered by the attention you paid me—that was rather uncharacteristic. Perhaps something caused both?"
"Ran into Lydia at the café just after you left. She saw you. Went off about me being gay. Not sure what that's about."
"May I conjecture?"
Greg hummed in agreement.
"She's regretting leaving you. Her PE teacher companion has not been faithful to her and she is realising that she has been comparing him to you and he has been losing. She is desperate to find some reason to fault you. You being gay would be enough to validate her decision to stray."
"How do you know all that?"
"I saw her approaching as I was leaving."
"And you did a Sherlock on her?" Greg smirked, but Mycroft frowned.
"Of course not. I taught Sherlock all he knows. You could say that what he does is Mycrofting. But yes, I was able to observe a few details." Very few, but he could stretch a bit if it would comfort the poor man.
"Could you tell if she really thinks I'm gay?"
"Is being perceived as gay going to be a problem for you? I imagine she won't be the only one to think that when she sees us together. I would prefer not to hide our relationship, but if you want me to keep us a secret I will. Just ask."
"No, I don't want that. I just hate that she doesn't believe me. And she didn't call me gay in the most polite words."
"I'm sorry. I wish you could have been spared that. That seems like sufficient reason for the nicotine fix."
Mycroft was no stranger to homophobic sentiment. He had been defiantly flamboyant for a few years in his youth and paid the price. It was a double blessing when he toned back a bit—he suffered fewer hateful comments and he was considered more seriously in his career ambition. He was not closeted in any aspect of his life now, but he no longer made his sexual orientation so obvious.
"Maybe. I had been doing well though. There's another pack in my jacket pocket. Will you take them from me when we get back? You can get rid of them or keep them for my next crisis."
Mycroft agreed, and waited a moment before asking the question that he especially wanted answered.
"I'm still curious about the issue of your… passionate greeting."
"Do I have to tell you or have you already figured it out?"
"I would prefer you tell me." He had not figured it out, not entirely. After several more paces of silence he squeezed Greg's hand in reassurance. They had nearly circled back and Mycroft thought it would be good to have everything settled before they were back at his flat. Unfortunately, it was already within sight.
"Why did it bother you?"
"Because you were obviously distressed and behaved contrary to what I understand to be your inclination."
"I wanted to prove that I could be enough for someone. I guess it didn't work."
"How long are you going to make me try to prove that I'm not Lydia?"
Greg felt like he'd been slapped. He stopped walking and regarded his cigarette in order to avoid looking at Mycroft. It was burnt nearly down to the filter, so he stamped it out.
"No, don't apologise."
Mycroft took back his hand to pull out his keys and continued walking, now a bit ahead of Gregory. When he reached his door, he held it open and waited with a tight smile. Greg hated that smile. He slid into Mycroft's side and wrapped his arms around him.
"Is this okay?"
"Of course." Mycroft returned the hug and pulled him inside, closing the door. "But do not think that I need anything that is uncomfortable for you to give. I do not need or want that. I just want you to trust me."
"You know, it isn't something I would be uncomfortable to give. Honest. For me it would be something like what sitting through crap telly with me is for you. But you were right to stop me today. Thank you."
"Surely nothing is as bad as the television you watch."
"You make so many sacrifices for me."
"But I will not sacrifice my dinner. I have a lasagne baking and it should be ready in three minutes."
They both were laughing when Greg followed Mycroft into the kitchen. Mycroft handed him a bottle of wine to pour and started serving their food. They ate in comfortable silence, broken only by Greg complimenting the dinner. Greg couldn't tell if Mycroft was blushing from the praise or was flushed from the wine.
After dinner Mycroft sat on the sofa reading with Greg tucked in to his side. He had always preferred reading in the armchair until Greg expressed his own preference to pass the evenings curled against him. Now Mycroft preferred the sofa any night that Greg was over. If he was reading anything that was not confidential Greg asked him to read aloud. Tonight Mycroft was reading some novel to Greg who wasn't listening to the words at all, but let them wash over him until it was a struggle to stay awake.
"Mycroft, can I stay here tonight?"
"You don't have to ask. But if you intend to share my bed I have to request that you shower."
"The smell of smoke will linger and we'll both end up smoking again."
"We both smoked today."
"And we've both quit again."
"Are you staying up long?"
"No, not long. I'll be in bed when you get there." Greg kissed him on the cheek and went off to what he now thought of as his room. He had been keeping some clothes and a toothbrush in Mycroft's spare bedroom for a few weeks now.
By the time he had showered and readied himself for bed Mycroft was waiting for him. Greg lay down on his side, but was immediately pulled to the middle of the bed. Greg humphed but snuggled against Mycroft eagerly. His head was on Mycroft's shoulder and he snuck a hand up his shirt to rest over Mycroft's heart. Mycroft trailed a hand up and down Greg's back.
When they were almost asleep, Greg spoke softly.
"Mycroft, you know, you've proved it already."
Greg thought Mycroft had already fallen asleep until he finally responded.
"So have you."
Chapter 13: and staggered banged with terror through
Greg set down his phone after calling in a takeaway order. An order full of things that Mycroft favoured made perfect sense until he saw a new text message flashing on the screen.
<Mycroft won't be able to make it tonight. –A>
He tried not to get upset. It was their typical date night—the one that had evolved out of their friendly movie night and had a spot on Mycroft's official calendar—so Greg knew that it had to be something very important that had come up. That didn't make it any easier. Maybe it would have if Mycroft had called. Or texted. Or contacted him in any way at all that hadn't involved his over-present PA. Greg understood that she was invaluable to Mycroft at work, but he wished that she would stay at work when he came home. Or didn't come home, as it were.
As he waited for the food to arrive, Greg packed a change of clothes and tonight's movie in an overnight bag and applied a fresh nicotine patch. If Mycroft wouldn't be coming over tonight, he would go to Mycroft's. It might be possible to salvage the evening and it would be easier to do if he was there whenever Mycroft finally got home.
Greg let himself in Mycroft's flat with the key that had appeared on his keyring last week. He hadn't yet had the occasion to use it. Their food was already getting cold and Greg had no idea when to expect Mycroft back, so he didn't bother waiting. He packaged up what he didn't eat and left it in the fridge for Mycroft and settled into sofa and put his movie in. He typed several messages to Mycroft, but erased all of them before they were sent.
Mycroft was quiet as he entered his flat. It was late and he had neighbours who would be asleep at this hour. The emergency meeting he had been called to as he was leaving work today, though largely successful, had been long and tedious and he wanted nothing more than a cup of tea and a few uninterrupted minutes to relax.
That he made it to the kitchen without noticing the sleeping man in the front room was proof of both how tired Mycroft and how accustomed he had become to having Gregory around. When he finally registered the slow breathing, he set down the kettle and returned to see his partner. He watched him for a moment while he decided whether to wake him or bring him a blanket and let him sleep. Greg had not intended to fall asleep. He was mostly sitting, but slouched over the arm of the sofa. If he were to remain asleep there he would be cranky and sore when he finally did wake up. But if Mycroft were to wake him now, Greg would be unwilling to go to bed until Mycroft did. And Greg had not been getting much sleep lately. Mycroft needed some time to allow his mind to slow down enough to sleep, but he had nothing pressing to do tonight. He could take a few minutes of conversation with Gregory and he would be able to sleep. And he would sleep better with his partner curled into his side, he though a bit selfishly. Decided he took down Greg's mug and dug out his herbal teas.
Greg shifted but didn't wake when Mycroft joined him on the sofa. His shirt had pulled free of his trousers on the side, and Mycroft kissed the exposed spot before pulling Greg to lean against him instead of the sofa arm. Greg whined as he woke and burrowed into Mycroft's shirt.
"Tea and bed?"
Greg looked up and considered the offer. He was rather comfortable as he was, but Mycroft's bed would be more comfortable. Assuming he could convince the man to join him.
"If you want."
Mycroft was not fond of mint tea. It was neither caffeinated nor calming to him and he felt vaguely like he was drinking warm mouthwash when he drank it. But he was terribly fond of Gregory who favoured the foul stuff. He had needed to completely rearrange his tea cupboard to accommodate them, but he now had both a tin of mint leaves and a box of mint teabags squeezed in after the liquorice root.
"What are you drinking?" Greg hoped the answer would be something that wouldn't keep him up. Although the two frequently managed to share a bed when Mycroft wasn't out of town, it wasn't unheard of for Mycroft to forgo sleep in favour of working.
Mycroft disliked chamomile as well, but it was an effective sleep aid. He explained as much to Greg, but Greg insisted that mint was just as effective and actually tasted good. Mycroft would have loudly disagreed, but the kettle whistled as he opened his mouth to argue. Greg clung to him tighter when he tried to stand up. Mycroft gave up on freeing himself and pulled Greg up with him. The walk to the kitchen served to wake up Greg a bit more, reminding him that he was to be upset with Mycroft. The sleepy affection on his face was replaced by a determined glare.
"Where were you?"
That wasn't quite what Greg wanted to know, but he didn't know how to express what he was feeling. Maybe Mycroft could deduce the I'm scared that you've realised I'm not good enough or the I hate when you don't talk to me yourself or at the very least the I'm in love with you and it hurts when you won't let me in.
Mycroft could read Greg well enough to know that there was something else he wanted to ask. He couldn't tell what it was, and that made him nervous. He spoke softly, hoping to calm his partner.
"You were waiting for me?"
"Yeah. You were supposed to come over tonight."
Greg tried to keep the whining out of his voice, and mostly succeeded. Mycroft caught it anyway, and raised an eyebrow.
"And I let you know that I would not be able to make it."
"No, Anthea texted me to tell me that you were busy."
Greg was upset, but he didn't want to admit as much. He chose a safer alternative and corrected Mycroft.
"Worried. You couldn't even contact me yourself."
"This is not the first time this has happened." It was, however, the first time that Anthea had been the one to cancel movie night.
"Not the first time I've worried."
"But this is the first time you have let yourself in."
Greg flushed. He had been a little worried about that. Using The Key for the first time.
"You gave me the key!"
Mycroft sighed. That wasn't what he meant at all. He gave Greg the key because he wanted him to start thinking of it as his home too. But Greg had ignored it to the point that Mycroft was thinking of asking if he had even noticed that it was there. It was odd for Greg to suddenly make use of it and Mycroft hated that he felt so uncomfortable about it. Greg's voice had been so defensive and there was a trace of fear in his eyes. Mycroft wrapped Greg in a loose hug and spoke quietly.
"And I was glad to see you here. I didn't want to cancel. I wanted to see you. And now I just want to know why you were so worried that you came over."
"I…I don't know. I'll just go."
Greg pulled away and started for his shoes and the door. Mycroft caught his arm to stop him.
"Because it's late. You're tired."
Greg considered. He was tired and it would be nearly an hour before he was in bed if he went back to his flat. He also didn't want to stay with Mycroft.
"Can I stay in the guestroom?"
Mycroft had to turn away so that Greg didn't see his face. He poured hot water over the mint tea bag in Greg's forgotten mug and dumped out the chamomile from his own mug. He had given up on the idea of sleeping and retrieved the tin of breakfast from the cupboard instead.
By the time his tea was ready, he had a strong enough grip on his emotions to hand Gregory his tea and bid him a good night. Greg thanked him and leaned up to kiss him on the cheek. It felt like a burn to Mycroft, and he was glad that Greg was already walking to the spare bedroom.
Mycroft was in his study about an hour later when he heard a strange noise coming from Greg's room. He put down his book and crept quietly down the hall. When he got to the door to the bedroom, it became obvious that Greg was sobbing. He wanted to go in and comfort him, but there was a closed door that he needed to respect. Besides, it was likely Mycroft who had made him cry. He sat on the floor with his ear against the door and listened, hoping to hear it stop.
Mycroft was accustomed to being able to manipulate the people around him. It was entirely disorienting to not be able to convince this one man to trust him. He pulled a small box from his pocket and opened it to stare at white gold band inside. He had to blink a few times to get rid of tears before he could see it properly. He had picked it up this morning and intended to offer it to Gregory this evening. He was glad now that he had to cancel. It was apparent that he would have been rejected. He stood up and made his way to his bedroom and threw the ring box in his sock drawer.
Chapter 14: stumbl i NgflounderpirouettiN g
Mycroft enjoyed silence. He could work in crowded coffee shops with whirring milk steamers and dreadful music. Or outside with the cacophony of traffic and people. He could tolerate noise, and he could work through it, it was just that he preferred places. Like his office, which had thick walls to block out unwanted sounds. Or the Diogenes Club with no noise beyond the breathing of the other members and the occasional shuffle of papers. His own home had been another of his quiet places, until Gregory had become a part of it. The Detective Inspector enjoyed—even required—what he called 'background noise'. If he didn't turn the television or radio on, he would make his own—humming or tapping out a rhythm with his fingers.
Mycroft has now come to enjoy a bit of noise at home. Especially when it's coming from his partner. The nights they aren't able to spend together Mycroft requires an extra seven minutes to fall asleep. The bedroom feels oppressively quiet without Gregory's soft snoring.
Tonight, however, he wishes for silence again. He had thought he could work through or fall asleep to any noise—he just preferred silence. He finds it impossible to do either when instead of snoring in Mycroft's bed, Gregory is sobbing in the spare one. He tried to block the noise out and read until Gregory quieted, but after half an hour he is still on the same page and if anything the whimpering has increased. He replaced the book to its shelf and slowly walked to the guestroom door, debating what to do. His instinct was to burst in and comfort his partner, but he knew that Gregory already didn't trust him as much as he'd like. He didn't want to tear away the security and privacy the room afforded. But he really couldn't stand to hear the pain any longer. He knocked sharply on the door.
Greg managed a "wha?"
"Gregory, may I come in?"
Greg wasn't sure what he wanted. He had originally come over wanting to see Mycroft, but sitting and waiting had made him anxious. He had convinced himself that when Mycroft finally came in he'd not be alone. But he had been alone and had been caring and if Greg let him in now he would undoubtedly continue to be caring and maybe Greg could actually get some sleep.
Greg got out a weak "come in" before he hid his face in the pillow again.
Mycroft opened the door and cautiously approached. Gregory was still shaking, but his sobbing had reduced to a sniffle. He sat on the bed and put a tentative hand on Greg's back. When he didn't turn away from the touch, Mycroft lay down and drew Greg into a loose hug, holding his breath until Greg burrowed into him.
"M'sorry," Greg mumbled.
"Crying. Being loud. Keeping you up. Being upset at you."
"Don't apologise for that. Tell me why you're upset. And it wasn't the noise keeping me up—it was knowing that you are hurting. Did I do something? Or not do something?"
Greg shook his head and clung to Mycroft tighter, as though afraid he would try to leave. Mycroft in turn held him tighter and kissed the top of his head.
"Gregory, talk to me."
"Do you want your key back?"
"It's your key, love."
Greg pulled back just enough to look Mycroft in the eye. When he couldn't read Mycroft's expression, he offered a slight, sceptical glare and laughed bitterly.
"What for? If you lock yourself out and want me to pop over to let you in?"
"In that unlikely instance, I would be appreciative of your assistance."
Greg started to free himself from Mycroft's embrace, and Mycroft panicked. He held Greg tightly to him and spoke desperately. "I would also like you to use it instead of knocking."
Mycroft thought that that explained his feelings well enough, but Greg did not seem to interpret the words quite as Mycroft had intended. He pushed himself away from Mycroft and sat up, preparing to leave regardless of the hour or his state of undress.
"You gave me a key… so that you don't have to open the door for me. Seriously, Mycroft? What the fuck?"
Mycroft sat up too, torn between reaching for Gregory and curling in on himself to hide the tears he knew would come when he was left alone. He compromised by trying again to communicate his feelings.
"No. I'm explaining myself poorly. I don't want you to be a guest h—"
His usually very patient partner, however, was less than eager to hear him out.
"So you magicked a key onto my key ring… to break up with me. Right. Of course. Sorry I wasn't smart enough to figure it out. You Holmeses do always have to spell everything for me."
Greg hastily pulled on his trousers and started to walk out. He was barely outside the bedroom when Mycroft mustered the courage to speak plainly the idea he'd been skirting around.
"Gregory, I want you to move in with me!"
Greg turned around, still fumbling with the button on his jeans, and studied Mycroft's face. Mycroft was too desperate to try to hide the fear he was feeling, and seeing that fear left Greg confused. He leaned against the doorway for support and opened his mouth a few times before managing to get anything out.
Mycroft stood up and approached Greg slowly, afraid that any sudden movements would scare him off. Taking a deep breath, he made eye contact and started in on a little speech—a modified version of the one he had been planning to give tonight with his ring.
"I have come to view my home as a place with you in it. It would mean… I would like for you to view this as your home, too. You won't feel at home if you have to request entry. I only mentioned it last night because I was surprised. I was glad to see you. I had assumed I wouldn't get to and it felt so right to have you here when I got home. But you were upset and I didn't know why. I still don't, not really."
Greg pulled his gaze from Mycroft to look down at his socks. There was a small hole in the left one. Hadn't he just bought these? No, he hadn't bought any since Lydia left. Mycroft just asked him to move in and yet he was still half-waiting for Mycroft to break up for him. Not that he wanted that, but Mycroft surely had plenty of prospects.
The silence was killing Mycroft. He assumed Gregory would have something to say. Anything. Preferably something agreeing to his proposal. Not the full proposal he had hoped to make but something to bring the man a little more fully into his life. He let a moment pass before he started to plead.
"I had assumed—no, I do—I, Gregory, please don't leave."
Greg looked up at that. Mycroft seemed genuinely distressed at the thought of Greg leaving. He could fix this and they could be okay.
"My, I don't want to leave." He shuffled closer and slipped his arms around Mycroft. "What did you assume?"
Mycroft pulled him into a tighter hug. "That we were—are—in a long-term relationship. The sort of relationship which leads to, among other things, cohabitation."
Greg nodded into Mycroft's shirt. "We are."
"Tell me why you were upset?" Mycroft's voice was soft and patient and it made Greg feel he sounded whiny and childish in comparison.
"Was there honestly no chance to call or text?"
Mycroft rubbed Greg's back. "I'm sorry. Anthea offered to let you know. It… seemed easier."
"What exactly was she letting me know? It sounded like you were occupied with some bloke in the gents'"
Mycroft's hands stilled as he tried not to react. He knew that Greg was upset and he could be patient with him.
"Or maybe Anthea was the one doing the occupying…"
Mycroft resisted the urge to force the once again trembling man from his arms. He was clearly hurting, still from his ex-wife's betrayal and now from fear. He tried to think if he had done or said anything to suggest to Greg that Anthea was anything other than another member of his staff.
"Do you really believe that?"
Greg refused to look up. He shouldn't have said that. He didn't really believe it. But he did believe that Mycroft would eventually want someone else. Not only was Greg a crap partner, but he was one who started in on the accusations as soon as he didn't get attention for the night. He burrowed his face in Mycroft's neck.
"Sorry, no. I, uh, it's just that Lydia did that. Had someone else—whoever she was fucking that week—text me that she wouldn't be home for dinner. I'm sorry."
Mycroft hated no one on the planet as much as he hated Lydia. He couldn't fathom purposefully doing anything to hurt the man in his arms, but she didn't seem to care about nearly breaking him.
"Shhh Gregory, I will from now on make sure that I'm the one contacting you. Unless it's an emergency and in that case I will tell Anthea to choose her words more carefully. But do not assume that I am being unfaithful."
"Not much to be faithful to."
Mycroft sighed. "Look at me, please."
Greg looked up with wet eyes and a terrified expression. Mycroft held his gaze for a moment before resting his forehead against Greg's.
"You are my partner, my best friend. I love you. I hate seeing you hurting." He kissed him softly. "Please try to trust me."
As soon as Mycroft pulled away, Greg let his head fall back on Mycroft's shoulder. His response was whispered.
"I want to. I love you. It's just hard."
"I know. Can I at least convince you to stay until morning?"
"Will you stay with me?"
"Yes, or you could come back to m—our bed."
When Greg woke up, he was a bit surprised to not only be in Mycroft's bed, but also still in Mycroft's arms. As his grogginess lifted, he remembered the accusations he had made.
"Good morning, Gregory."
Greg decided to pretend to still be asleep so he wouldn't have to face Mycroft just yet. He could wait until Mycroft left for work to 'wake up'.
"You're thinking too loud to still be asleep, love."
Greg cautiously opened his eyes to see Mycroft smirking at him. That seemed promising, so Greg risked a kiss to which Mycroft responded eagerly.
"Coffee?" Mycroft offered. Greg nodded and clung to a pillow while Mycroft slipped out of bed and headed toward the kitchen. When he smelled coffee he dragged himself out from under the covers and joined Mycroft at the kitchen table.
"My family wants to meet you."
Mycroft took a sip from his mug and pretended to not be surprised. "Do you want me to meet them?"
"Yes… well, if you want to meet them."
"Why wouldn't I?"
"I told them this weekend would be good. Are you still free?"
"My calendar has been marked 'weekend with Gregory' since you asked me to be available."
"Your calendar was marked for last night, too."
Mycroft busied his hands with spreading jam on his toast.
"Yes, it was. I should not have taken that meeting."
"I want them to like you."
"Do you think that they won't?"
Greg thought carefully. He didn't think that his family wouldn't like him, but he still wasn't sure what they would think.
"My brother is very protective. He'll be worse now after…"
Mycroft understood that. He felt the same way about his baby brother. "What can I do to impress him?"
"Nothing. Impressive things will make him suspicious. Just don't… not show up."
"Where are we meeting? They would be welcome here, of course."
"Thank you, Mycroft."
"So here? Good. But we will need to purchase a few things. Do they have any dietary restrictions? We shoul—"
"No, we're going to my parents'. I meant thanks for putting up with me."
"Then I have to thank you for putting up with me as well."