Greg had always thought he loved children until he met Sherlock Holmes. To be fair, Sherlock wasn't exactly like any other child Greg had ever met. It was possible to have conversations about anatomy or psychology with him and forget his age completely, but it was also possible to run headlong into the wall of Sherlock's stubbornness and self-absorption and have to leave the room before he tore his own hair out in frustration. Sherlock helped with cases, but Greg was positive that one day Sherlock was going to be the thing that ran him right into an early grave. It was just how Sherlock was, all the time, and the absolute horror of it was that Greg would not trade one single, solitary moment of any of it, because without Sherlock in his life he wouldn't have Mycroft, either.
Greg wouldn't trade Mycroft for anything in the world.
Even when he hated him.
The thing was, Greg knew perfectly well that Mycroft was an alpha, with all the entitlement and responsibility that implied. He knew what it meant, in terms of Mycroft being the eldest child of the Holmes family line. He knew, completely and utterly, that Mycroft didn't actually have any choice in the matter: one day he would have to bond to produce heirs. Greg knew that.
Mycroft was the one who kept insisting it wasn't true. He insisted it right up until the day he bonded with John Watson with no warning whatsoever.
The first thing Greg threw at him was a shoe. The second was a lamp.
The lamp was more satisfying, especially when it smashed to pieces on the floor.
Greg's Dad had always been a proud supporter of the Beta Majority party, though he never let Greg or his brothers anywhere near the monthly rallies when they were growing up. When Greg was little he had thought they sounded like the most fun in the world, like Madame Tussauds and the seaside at Brighton all rolled into one, but even better because there were only betas allowed in. This, his Dad had always said, was how the whole country would be one day.
"But why can't we go?" Daniel had whined.
Roland Lestrade had banged his glass on the table and jerked his head at the woman behind the stove. "Your mother says you're not old enough."
"But why –"
"Don't think you're going to change my mind," their Mum had said. "You know it's not safe."
"But we'll be with Dad! We'll be safe!"
"Your Dad can't keep you safe when the whole place is raided, can he? Your Dad can't protect you from tear gas or pepper spray or rubber bullets, can he?"
"Why are they always raided?" Greg had asked wistfully, his chin cupped in his hands.
Their father had chuckled. "The police spread rumors that there are guns being given out under the cover of the political rally. The truth is they don't like so many betas being gathered in one place and reminded of how many of us there really are. It frightens them for the people to know who has the real power in this country. So they have to raid the rallies and bully the betas once more to restore order."
Of course, Greg had found out later that there were guns being given out at the rallies. Lots of them. By 2012, Beta Majority splinter groups had more firepower at their disposal than the IRA had ever had. It was only a matter of time before they used it.
It was one of the things that tended to keep Greg up at night.
The problem with the Yard was that the higher echelons were entirely alpha-run, and even though everyone complained about it nothing was ever going to actually change. Betas with any ambition at all and a talent for police work generally joined the ranks of Protectors with the Omega Taskforce, since that was the one place that alphas were, by necessity, excluded.
Greg had been offered a spot there when he was a budding young Constable, but he'd turned it down. Protector work had always seemed like glorified babysitting. There may be the occasional alpha trying to snatch a young unbonded, but most of it was tea and telly and trying to pretend you didn't realize a sixteen-year-old was having a furtive wank in bed when there was only a thin pane of glass between you. The Yard, on the other hand, was dirty and no sleep and criminals spitting blood in his face. It was reams of paper on his desk every morning and pillocks like Dimmock screaming because he'd not gotten the case notes that he'd needed in time. It was no respect from his superiors and even less from the citizens he was "helping," and yelling from all sides, constantly, and God, he loved it, he loved it, he loved it.
It was more than his career; it was his life, and it was the only thing that meant anything at all until he met Mycroft.
Mycroft had turned Greg's world upside down. Then he had gotten him sacked.
The night Greg was sacked he got drunk.
He'd stopped at a pub for a few hours, until the bitter taste in his mouth was replaced by stout. He hated stout, always had, which is why he drank it on the worst nights of his life. There was no point in ruining a perfectly good drink by association, after all. Stout was the flavor of his despair, and he had drunk it the night that Daniel had died, the night his Mum had rung him with her diagnosis, the night they'd pulled that nine-year-old beta out of the cellar, piece by piece by piece.
He'd drunk it the night he got sacked, until the street careened around him on the way home, back and forth and forth and back. He'd thought, in his confused drunken way, that that was an excellent idea, that he'd suddenly had his calendar cleared for the rest of his life, so the Navy was as good a thing to fill it with as anything. Anything was better than nothing, and if he thought about all the vast nothing he had he might have to go and drink more stout until they called his old colleagues to throw him in a cell, and wouldn't that be awkward?
When he'd gotten to his flat Mycroft had been there already, sitting on his sofa and watching Greg with his apology written all over his face. Even drunk Greg could read it, which meant Mycroft was really trying. That meant something, but Greg was too drunk to sort out exactly what with any reliability. He knew what he wanted it to mean, and that was enough.
"I got sacked," he explained thickly. And unnecessarily. He didn't bother asking how Mycroft had gotten in.
"I will have the situation corrected," Mycroft promised, standing to help Greg pull off his coat.
"It's not – it doesn't need correcting. It is correct. Sherlock is just a kid. He has no business at a crime scene. I've probably warped him."
"That is, I'm afraid, entirely impossible." Mycroft guided him down into the armchair and perched stiffly on the arm. His hand rested on Greg's shoulder. "You gave Sherlock a far greater gift than I ever managed to. Those crime scenes – the puzzles, as he likes to call them – represent one of the few things that has managed to hold his attention for more than a few months in his entire life. Sherlock has been tossed out of four alpha schools in the past year. Four. He was going mad with boredom at home, and you gave him something to focus on that he actually enjoyed. And he helped, did he not?"
"He helped," Greg admitted, somewhat sullenly.
Mycroft squeezed his shoulder. "You know perfectly well you didn't warp him."
Greg sighed, rubbing both of his hands over his face. "He's only ten, Mycroft."
"Eleven," Mycroft told him. "He turned eleven in January."
"Right. Well, that makes it all better, doesn't it? Eleven is worlds better than ten."
"Is sarcasm helping?" Mycroft sounded like he actually wanted to know.
"A bit," Greg told him. It was true. "Listen: I knew what I was about, bringing him on. I knew there'd be hell to pay if they found out. I knew it and I did it anyway, because he was your brother and I just – I wanted to impress you. That's honest, at least. I didn't know they'd actually sack me, but they were right to do it."
Mycroft was openly studying him, and Greg felt himself flush. He knew he must look a wreck. He supposed that at least if Mycroft broke things off he was already drunk. The chances that he'd break down weeping and begging at Mycroft's feet were only about thirty percent. Probably.
"I think we should talk about this more in the morning," Mycroft said finally. "Perhaps by them some of this martyr complex will have seeped out of your system. I'd blame it on the stout, but I know how much you like to take responsibility for everything around you. It's how I knew I could trust you with my brother in the first place."
Greg frowned at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Mycroft was already pulling him to his feet. "To bed, then. Everything looks better after a good night's rest."
Because drinking had never been said to raise anyone's IQ, Greg had gone without any protest at all.
His phone ringing on the nightstand woke him the next morning. Instead of reaching for it he pressed the heels of his hands over his eyes and tried to will it to stop. Had his ringtone always been so obnoxiously high pitched? How had he never noticed before?
He cautiously prodded one foot forward until he was sure that Mycroft wasn't curled beside him anymore, if he ever had been. Greg could vaguely remember being tucked into bed with a glass of water and Mycroft slipping off into the hall, the door closing behind him softly.
He removed his hands and cracked his eyes open, squinting into the darkness of his bedroom. Mycroft had pulled the blinds after putting him to bed, then. The man really did think of everything.
He reached for the phone in stages, nearly knocking it on the floor with clumsy fingers. The number was the Chief Inspector's, which was just about the last one he had expected to see. His brow knit as he tried to wake his brain up enough to understand. Was he being brought up on charges as well? Barlow had mentioned something about the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933, though at the time Greg hadn't taken it particularly seriously.
The message was succinct: "Lestrade, come by my office." The disconnect was particularly jarring, as if he had slammed the phone down.
Greg lay back on his pillow and tried to work out ways in which that message could be even less helpful or informative. There weren't many. What had to be said in person to someone who no longer worked for you? Greg had the mad urge to call Sherlock and ask what he thought it all meant, but he recognized it was not his best idea.
Taking a few deep, fortifying breaths, he stumbled off to the shower.
When he got to New Scotland Yard the first thing Greg noticed was that everyone was staring at him. Openly. It was unnerving. When he had been called into this same office to be sacked, everyone from the volunteer police cadets to the greenest constables had studiously avoided his eyes, as if his condition (terminal stupidity) had been catching.
Now it was completely the opposite, and he found his body half trying to close in on itself to avoid their gazes. Whatever he had done, everyone knew about it but him.
He rapped on the door smartly, cringing involuntarily when Barlow's irritable acknowledgement rang out loudly.
When he stepped inside, he thought he'd be greeted as he always was, with a grunt followed by yelling, Barlow crouched over his desk and throwing papers at him. Instead, something happened that Greg had never seen before: Barlow stood up to greet him and shake his hand, as if he were an actual person and not a Constable. Except, Greg mused, he supposed he was an actual person and not a Constable. Civilians had always ranked over officers in the CI's book.
"You asked to see me?"
Barlow's smile was grotesque, like he'd just eaten something rancid and didn't want anyone to know. "Lestrade, yes. Let's get right to business: I've been re-evaluating your case."
"My – you mean when you sacked me?"
"Yes, the unfortunate incident yesterday. It looks like – well. As things have turned out, we may have been somewhat hasty."
Lestrade closed his eyes, because he knew exactly where this was coming from. "Is that so?" he asked. He was going to kill Mycroft.
"We believe that – while crime scenes are obviously no place for children – there is something extremely valuable in teaching them how police work is conducted, so they can have pride in the force. That is, for some children, apparently a very important lesson. Keeps them on the straight and narrow, that sort of thing."
"Apparently," Greg echoed, his jaw working.
"And that really does outweigh the extremely unfortunate circumstance that we found ourselves in yesterday. Apparently the child is quite taken with all of it."
"Apparently," agreed Greg with a sigh.
Barlow cleared his throat. "Anyway, the long and short of it is that we'd like to have you back. No hard feelings." He offered Greg his hand, and Greg had to force himself to shake it. He simply didn't know what else to do – with his life, with anything, if he weren't part of the Met.
He was still going to kill Mycroft, though.
By the time he was quietly promoted to Sergeant six months later he didn't even bat an eye. By then he knew there was no point. He could never win against Mycroft in an arena where Mycroft got to make all the rules. He had to fix the game.
When Greg had invited Mycroft over for dinner he'd wanted to talk to him about Sherlock. In a way it was ridiculous, because they talked about Sherlock all the time: what cases Greg was letting Sherlock work on, Sherlock's new interest in cataloging perfumes and cross referencing the most common characteristics of their wearers, Sherlock's abysmal performance on exams of any type given to him by his tutors, and Mycroft's uneasiness about his future. They talked about Sherlock more than they talked about themselves, and Greg didn't think that was an accident. Sherlock was a safe topic, steered clear of the dangerous shoals of their careers or their relationship.
He was going to change that, and the idea caused more than a little tightness in his stomach.
He wasn't much of a cook, really, not of the sort of food that Mycroft was used to, but his dishes usually turned out edible enough, so long as he wasn't too adventurous. He thought maybe a little adventurous suited this particular occasion, however. He spent days looking for just the right recipe for what might be a fairly uncomfortable conversation, finally going back to the Italian book and the gnocchi he'd started with in desperation.
It was what Mycroft had ordered on their first proper date, and Greg had tried a bite of it for the first time and ended up eating more of it than Mycroft had. Mycroft had simply laughed and watched him with those blue eyes brimming with amusement, belying everything Greg had thought about him up until then. It was the very first thing that Mycroft had taught him, a deep and abiding love for gnocchi, and it had defined the dynamic of their relationship ever since. Mycroft would remember that night. Mycroft remembered everything.
Mycroft had stopped commenting on the building's broken outer door when Greg had told him matter of factly that it was easier to have Sherlock come up and pound on his flat than use the buzzer system; the few times that Greg had been out or in the shower Sherlock had buzzed fifteen or twenty of his neighbors, demanding to be let in. Inevitably this sort of thing happened in the middle of the night, and Greg was still buying rounds in the pub down the street to make up for it.
"So it was your doing then, the lock," Mycroft said, understanding immediately in that way that made Greg blink at him. "I hope it wasn't too difficult to break."
Greg shook his head. "Total Policing. It's amazing, the things you pick up at the Yard."
"The practical application of job skills should always be applauded. And of course discretion is the better part of valor, especially where Sherlock is concerned."
Greg looked at him sharply, but Mycroft only smiled.
"Do I want to know what he's up to this time? Or will it ruin my evening?"
"Let's not. It will certainly ruin mine. His genius for finding ways to cause me professional chagrin are truly astounding," he said dryly, and Greg took that cue to pour him a large glass of wine.
They sat in a comfortable silence, and Greg got to watch Mycroft visibly relaxing, shedding the cold formality he wore to shield himself from the world. He liked to pretend that he was the only person in the world who got to see Mycroft without his guard up, that his was something reserved only for him.
Maybe it was.
He licked his lips and began. "I was thinking that we have been seeing each other for a little while now, and things seem to be going well. Right?"
"Very well," Mycroft agreed.
"We spend quite a bit of time together."
"And I think," Greg said in a rush, "we need to tell Sherlock. About us. Before he figures it out for himself and thinks we lied to him."
"Well," Mycroft pointed out gently, "we did lie to him."
"It was more a sin of omission," Greg argued, "and only because we did it to everyone else as well."
"I'm not sure Sherlock would take any comfort from that. The last thing he's ever wanted to be is lumped in with 'everyone.' That would be the unkindest cut of all, I believe." Mycroft sighed and folded his hands in front of him. "But that is a secondary issue, anyway. Sherlock will most certainly take umbrage with us being together, but only because he will see it as further proof of my meddling in his affairs and trying to control all aspects of his life, presumably because I am evil and have an overabundance of time on my hands."
Greg chuckled. "He doesn't really think that, does he?"
"I can't remember a time when he didn't think that," he answered darkly.
"Then this would help. If we stress that he's the only one besides the two of us who knows, then –"
Mycroft sat back, his expression unreadable. "I see. You're not suggesting we make it public knowledge, then?"
Greg blinked at him. "Of course not. I know you're not – it wouldn't be particularly helpful to either of us, would it?"
"Do you think I'm ashamed of you?"
Greg was silent for a long moment. "Aren't you? I'm not upset; I know that you're an alpha and I'm a beta. If people know we're together they'll assume it's because you couldn't get an omega. It will make you look weak." He sighed. "You're starting a new career; you can't afford –"
"I can look after my own career," Mycroft said firmly.
"Yes, just like the way you let me look after mine," Greg replied, rolling his eyes. "I just mean that we're both relatively young and at the beginning of things. It doesn't look particularly good if people know me as an alpha chaser, does it? I have enough problems explaining about the 'outside consultant' that's been helping us with cases." He looked at Mycroft beseechingly. "If things are going very well, I'm happy not rocking the boat. Not forever, mind, but just for now."
Mycroft nodded. "I would like to revisit the topic sooner rather than later," he said seriously. "But I do agree that Sherlock should be told, however unpleasant that may be."
"I could do it," Greg offered. "It might be better if he hears it from me. Besides, he can't stay angry with me for long; how would he have access to cases?"
"You are extremely optimistic if you believe my brother can't demand a new case and tell you he despises you in the same breath," Mycroft cautioned him. "I do, however, like to think he reserves those tantrums for me alone. I appreciate the offer, but it's best if it comes from me. After all, he will always believe it is me who is trying to undermine him somehow, for all that you and I are in a relationship together."
Greg nodded sagely. "Tricked me into it, did you? You with your gnocchi and your giant alpha cock."
"Well, that was always the plan."
When Greg came back into the bedroom after sending Sherlock and John on their way Mycroft was sitting on the bed nearly dressed, his mobile pressed to his ear. "Yes, I need at least two teams. I'll meet them in five minutes. Of course." He hung up and looked at Greg.
"Should I have tried to keep them here?"
"My brother would've seen through that immediately. By the time they catch a cab at this hour the teams will be a block away. We'll escort John back to the safe house and I'll have a very long talk with everyone there, including my brother, about the innumerable dangers posed to an unbonded omega in London. And then I will refrain from screaming at Sherlock until my voice gives out, because I know it will never do any good."
"As long as you understand your limits," Greg said with a small smile.
"I thought I knew what trouble Sherlock would get into, but this..." he squeezed the bridge of his nose. "My brother has truly outdone himself." He reached for the jacket and tie he'd hung on the back of the door.
Greg leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "Call me when you get a chance. I'll be working early tomorrow." He glanced at the clock. "Today, rather."
"I will," Mycroft promised.
It took a long time for Mycroft to call.
When he did, Greg was at his desk, trying to track down the doctor that Sherlock had been so adamant he find. It was harder than he'd expected, and he thought he was probably going to have to go out and do the legwork on this one.
When the call did come, he was only too happy to answer it instead.
"Are you free tonight?" Mycroft asked. He sounded rushed, as if he were in the middle of ten different things. As always.
"Of course. Do you want to go out?"
"Actually, I'd like to meet you at your flat. Is that all right?" Mycroft sounded so tentative and unlike himself that Greg was immediately concerned.
"Yes, sure. Is everything all right?"
The hesitation before Mycroft answered told Greg everything he needed to know. "Oh my God. Is it Sherlock? John? Are you hurt?"
"We are all unharmed," Mycroft assured him. "I would prefer to explain it to you in person. Will seven do?"
"That will be fine."
Mycroft was gone before Greg could ask him any more questions, which Greg knew wasn't an accident.
The rest of the day dragged. Greg put off the legwork; that kind of thing tended to be rather unpredictable, time-wise, and Greg had a feeling this was not a conversation with Mycroft he'd want to turn up to late.
He didn't bother cooking or even opening any wine, but sat and waited and let his fear eat away at him as the evening came on.
At seven exactly, Mycroft knocked at the door.
When Greg opened it and saw the scotch, he knew it was worse than he'd though. It was good scotch. Great scotch.
Greg felt his heart plummet to the floor.
"I thought we might have a bit of a talk," Mycroft started.
Mycroft perched on the edge of the sofa, his body tense. He poured them both extremely generous doubles.
"There were some unforeseen events that –"
"Mycroft, I already know it's bad. Just tell me."
Mycroft downed his drink in one go, which Greg had never seen him do before. "Things did not go at all according to plan. The boys were picked up by persons of ill-intent as soon as they left. My team never managed to catch up with them. I then proceeded to misjudge the resulting situation."
Greg had sat for a moment, trying to figure out what Mycroft meant. It was impossible that he meant what he was saying, and this was Mycroft, so there were always layers and layers to peel away from everything he said anyway.
"The situation was not what I expected. I – I wasn't prepared for what took place." Greg could see what an effort it took for him to admit that, he could. If it were any other conversation he'd probably be running for his phone now, wanting to save for all prosperity the day Mycroft Holmes admitted that he'd miscalculated. He'd fucked up. But it wasn't another conversation, and Greg's entire body felt leaden.
"Sherlock?" he whispered. "John?"
"They're both unharmed." That word again.
"The ringleader, Moriarty. He saw a weakness in the omega system and chose to use us to exploit it. Considering the circumstances, it was extremely easy for him."
"You're doing it again," Greg warned.
"He forced John and I to bond," Mycroft said simply. "It wasn't what either of us wanted, but it's done."
Greg sat for a full minute, wrapping his mind around that. Then he calmly leaned down and picked up his trainer from the floor and threw it as hard as he could at a spot about six inches above Mycroft's head.
Mycroft must have known what he was going to do; had plenty of time to raise his arms and protect himself. He didn't. He knew Greg wouldn't hit him, much as he may have wanted to, or even wanted to want to.
"You selfish bastard. You complete and utter shite. If you wanted to bond, why didn't you just tell me? Do you actually expect me to believe some story about –"
"I didn't want to bond. You know that. Of all people, you know that." There was a pleading to Mycroft's tone that stopped Greg cold.
"I thought I knew that," Greg corrected quietly. "I certainly thought you would at least tell me first. I wouldn't have been –" he didn't say heartbroken because they both knew that would have been a lie, "– angry."
"I never wanted to hurt you," Mycroft said, and it was so trite that Greg lost his temper completely. That's when he threw the lamp, and this time Mycroft did have the sense to get out of the way.
By the time the bits of the lamp had been thrown in the bin, he felt better. He sat on the sofa, looked at Mycroft and felt his anger drain away. He knew it was unfair and irrational to blame Mycroft for something that was obviously not his fault, because yes, he could accept that it actually was not his fault, but it was impossible to deny the voice inside of him that insisted that Mycroft had had to want this. He was an alpha.
Greg poured himself another drink and put the bottle far away. As tempting as the idea was, now was not the time to get drunk. Certainly not on scotch, anyway. "You were always going to bond, though. I knew that much."
Mycroft refilled his own glass and seemed to study the shifting patterns of amber liquid for a long moment. "It was expected of me," he said quietly. "I've never wanted it for myself. Bonding has always seemed to be nothing more than the surrender of rationality to physical needs. Frenzy sounds like the ultimate horror."
"You don't actually think that."
Mycroft looked at him, surprised. "But I do, very much. Sherlock's even worse about it than I am. He swears he'll never bond, and he's stubborn enough to mean it."
"You've never had that luxury, though. As the younger sibling, he has more choice."
"Perhaps. It's true that if neither of us bonds the Holmes lineage will end with us, as so many venerable alpha lineages have died away in the past. I used to think that even bonding would be endured, to keep that from happening. I thought it was my duty."
"What changed your mind, then? Usually alphas want to bond more as they get older, not less. The drive is stronger, I've heard."
"I met you," Mycroft said quietly.
"Oh," was all Greg could think to say to that.
Mycroft looked at him steadily. "I would to think that it's not all ruined. I know things will be... difficult. For all of us. But I think, if there's even a chance –"
Greg sat back, thinking about that. "I'm not sure what that even means, honestly." He held up a hand when Mycroft started to speak. "I know I care about you, and I think you care about me. We have something here, and it's been easy and fun and good, but obviously that can't go on. Something else will have to take its place. It will take a lot more work, now, and that's not something either of us is used to. I don't know if we're quite up to it. I'm willing to – to see how it goes, though, if you are."
"I'm willing," Mycroft said immediately.
Greg nodded, relieved. "Right now, though, your first priority now needs to be John. He's only sixteen. He's probably never even had a proper date and now..." he spread his hands. "Is he all right with all this?"
"He seems to be doing as well as can be expected. We haven't yet discussed anything much in detail. I thought it best to let him settle in a bit first, get used to the idea, to the situation."
"That's probably a good idea. He seemed a nice enough bloke, when I met him. Maybe a bit bullied by Sherlock, but then there are few who aren't." He hesitated. "How's Sherlock doing?"
Mycroft's sigh was answer enough.
"Well, give him time. You know how he is."
"I can only hope he reserves his ire for me and leaves John well out of it. Sherlock has – had – developed quite an intense attachment to John. They might have become good friends."
"They still can. They can still become anything they like. Sherlock just needs time to work it out for himself."
Mycroft sighed again. His fingers played with the edge of his glass. "You know how stubborn he is."
"Of course I do. He reminds me of you."
"He's acting as if I took John away from him deliberately. As if it has always been my goal to steal the people he cares about."
Greg cocked his head. "You mean me."
Mycroft looked at him apologetically. "I think this may not be the time to tell him about our relationship."
Greg couldn't help but laugh. "No, I think you're probably right."
"We will, though? Eventually."
"Eventually," Greg agreed. "Yeah, we will."
Greg was on his fifth cup of coffee and still barely able to keep his eyes open when his phone rang. He and Mycroft hadn't managed to get any sleep at all the night before, though for once that wasn't because they'd been more enjoyably engaged. He pawed through the stacks of papers on his desk until he found his mobile, frowning at the name.
Sherlock sounded out of breath, his voice nearly drowned out by the sound of traffic. "Good, you're there," he said, without preamble. "I'm on my way to see you."
Greg's heart leapt into his throat. "Why?" He asked cautiously. "What's wrong?"
"That doctor's name that I gave you," he paused and Greg could hear him take a deep breath, "I need it back."
It took Greg a minute to even work out what he was on about. "Right," he said, trying to remember what he'd done with it. It all seemed like several lifetimes ago, that murder case.
"You still have it, don't you?" Sherlock sounded rather anxious. "You didn't arrest him; I would've seen it in the paper."
"I still have it," Greg assured him, even as he flipped through a few papers, trying to find where it had got to. "I hadn't managed to go and see him yet, ask him anything." He paused, realizing. "You're not going to go question him yourself, Sherlock," he told him flatly. "We've been over this –"
"That's not why I need it," Sherlock interrupted, irritable.
"Really." Greg didn't bother hiding his disbelief.
"Then what would you need it for?"
There was a long silence on the other side of the line.
"Right, then," Greg said promptly, "I'll just hold onto it, I think. Myc – no one would appreciate it if I had to arrest you for interfering in an active investigation."
"You wouldn't arrest me even if I were," Sherlock argued. "And I'm not interfering."
Greg didn't want to admit that he was probably right. The last thing any of them needed was the added stress of Sherlock behind bars, although the fact that he was working on cases as if nothing was happening otherwise had to be a good thing. He sighed. "Sherlock –"
"I need the address. I know it's on Jermyn Street but I don't remember the number. I didn't even think to look at it, there was so much else happening. Stupid, stupid." He sounded so aggravated with himself that Greg wondered if there was a full-scale tantrum in the works. Those were always best headed off at the pass, if he could manage it.
"Tell me why you want it, Sherlock," he prompted.
There was a long silence. Greg could make out the sounds of construction from Dacre Street through the phone – the same sounds he could hear more faintly through the wall. Sherlock was almost there, then.
"I need it for a friend," Sherlock finally said sullenly.
"You need –" Greg understood suddenly. "For John, you mean?"
He took Sherlock's silence to mean yes.
"Did he ask you to get him the pills?"
"Of course he didn't," Sherlock snapped. "But he wants them. He told me that once he was bonded he would want to suppress his heats."
"He said that?" Mycroft hadn't mentioned anything of the sort, and Greg had thought that would've come up.
"Right after he talked to the omega. He said he'd like to find an alpha that would let him."
Greg rubbed his forehead. "Sherlock," he said softly, "you don't know that he still wants to now that he's bonded. He might have changed his mind."
"He wouldn't have," Sherlock said confidently. "It would be in his best interest to do it."
"But that doesn't mean that's what he wants."
"Of course it does. And if he doesn't, then he should."
Greg had a sudden, awful image of Sherlock slipping the pills into John's food without him knowing. He took a breath. "Either way, it's something he and your brother probably should discuss, don't you think? I'm sure Mycroft has access to all sorts of safe, legal suppression methods."
"No," Sherlock said immediately. "My brother," he spat the word as something distasteful, "has done enough damage. I will never trust him anything important again, and certainly not this. This is all his fault."
"You know that's not true."
"I know it is true. This is how he's been my whole life. He's not taking John away from me; I won't let him."
"I'm sure he has no intention –"
"You don't know him," Sherlock said darkly, "I do."
There wasn't much Greg could say to that. He wondered what madness had made him think getting involved with either Holmes in any capacity had ever been a good idea.
"Getting the address from you was merely the easiest way for me to obtain it. If you won't give it to me, there are far less appealing methods at my disposal," Sherlock warned. "You really might have to arrest me then."
Being manipulated by a twelve-year-old was never the highlight of Greg's day. He just wished it happened far less frequently. "Fine," he said at last. "But I'm going with you."
He tried to study Sherlock unobtrusively on the drive over. For all intents and purposes he was the same boy that Greg had seen a week before when he'd shown Sherlock the crime scene photos from Holloway Road. There was the same intensity to him that there had always been, the same frustrating mix of child and adult that always made any interaction with Sherlock so unpredictable.
"Stop it," Sherlock said without even glancing at him. "I'm fine."
"Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?" he asked peevishly.
"It's fairly traumatic, being held against your will by men with guns. Most adults would be rather shaken up right now, so it's not utter nonsense that I might worry about how you're handling it," Greg told him patiently.
"They didn't hurt me. They didn't care about me at all! It was only Mycroft. Mycroft and John." The way he said it almost made it sound as if he were –
"Are you disappointed?"
"Don't be stupid," Sherlock sighed. "I took John into that situation. It was my fault. It should have been me that got hurt, not him."
That was, Greg thought with some wonder, more personal responsibility than he had ever heard Sherlock admit before. More, he had to confess, than he'd thought Sherlock capable of understanding, let alone admitting. "Well," he said, "you may have gotten John to London, but what happened there wasn't your fault. Or Mycroft's," he added. "I'm sure John agrees with that." He hoped John agreed with that.
"He keeps saying it's all right, that there are far worse people he could be bonded to than Mycroft. He keeps wanting to talk to me and asking me about the other murders I've solved. He's interested in those pictures I keep in my bedroom."
"It sounds as if he wants to be your friend. I'm sure that's a new experience for you, but it's not a bad thing, you know."
Sherlock's glare was half-hearted at best. "It's not about him wanting to be my friend. It's that he won't – I can't –"
Greg was quiet for a long time, trying to choose words that wouldn't make the bundle of energy beside him explode. "I know it's frightening, but you shouldn't think that every time someone gets to know you they'll decide they don't like you. I've stuck around, haven't I? And don't tell me that's only because you help with cases, because we both know that that's gotten me into far more trouble than it's worth. You do want him to be your friend, don't you?"
"He's kind to people," Sherlock said. "And he doesn't get upset with me."
That, Greg realized, was as much of an answer as he could hope for. "Then be his friend, and he'll want to be yours."
"I don't know how," Sherlock admitted.
"You're a genius," Greg told him. "I'm sure you'll sort something out. If he hasn't run screaming yet, he likely won't."
"You know, you're really not as helpful as you think you are," Sherlock sneered, but he settled into a thoughtful silence for the rest of the drive.
The best thing about driving a police car was that parking wasn't a problem. Sherlock insisted that he park blocks away, practically off St. James Square.
"If he sees the car or even suspects, he'll never sell me them, obviously."
"If you think I'm letting you go in alone –"
"That's exactly what you're going to do," Sherlock stated, getting out and slamming the car door.
"No," Greg said, getting out.
"What do you expect he's going to think, a young alpha and an adult beta showing up together? At least if I go in alone I can say that I'm hoping to bond, but the omega will only accept me if I let her suppress her heats, so I need the pills to show her. I'm obviously too young to be any part of a set up – he'll have to believe that."
"That," Greg pointed out, "is a horrible cover story. According to the omega John talked to, this doctor gives pills to bonded omegas who want to fool their bondmates, right? That's obviously not someone in full charge of his senses, or who puts a lot of value on his own life. He's practically begging the alphas to find out and come after him. There's obviously something going on there. An alpha, even a young one, who goes in there is not going to get the time of day, and might just get hurt for his efforts. At least as a beta I have a good chance of convincing the doctor to give me the pills for a suffering omega family member or something."
Sherlock snorted. "As if your family could possibly produce an omega."
"John's family is just as beta as mine," Greg reminded him, which actually appeared to shut Sherlock up, for once. "Besides, I hardly think John would appreciate it if you got yourself hurt trying to get these pills for him. Do you?"
With Sherlock left sulking in the car Greg set off, smiling to himself. He rather wished Sherlock had made a friend ages ago; it would have made controlling his more destructive behaviors over the last two years far easier.
Mycroft answered on the first ring, sounding surprised but, Greg thought, somewhat pleased as well. "I hope you haven't changed your mind about dinner."
"Definitely not. This is a professional call, I'm afraid."
Mycroft sighed. "What's he done now?"
"At the moment, he's meant to be sitting in my police car, waiting for me to go to a doctor of dubious nature and get John some highly illegal and possibly poisonous pills with which to attempt to suppress his heats. Whether he's actually doing that is anyone's guess."
"You're actually going to this doctor?"
"If I don't, not only will Sherlock try to get the pills himself, but he'll almost certainly do something really stupid while he's at it. Not to mention the fact that he'll never come to me for help again, or trust me with any of his schemes." Greg slowed down, looking at the numbers on the buildings. "It seems, on the whole, better to go and see what happens. At least this way we can bring the pills to the lab, give them a proper going-over before anyone tries ingesting them. I don't suppose John has said anything to you about suppressing his heats?" He kept his voice as casual as he could.
"We haven't yet discussed the issue. I think it's a good idea, if that's what he wants." He paused. "You know that I –"
"I know," Greg agreed. They would cross that bridge when they came to it. With any luck, it would be later rather than sooner.
"Regardless, if that is John's choice, then I can facilitate it far more easily than you putting yourself into a potentially dangerous situation."
"I know that, too," Greg told him. He'd stopped in front of a shabby black door and stepped back to take a look at the front of the building and any possible exit points. "But honestly, I think this is something Sherlock feels like he needs to do to make up for what happened. It's a bit cracked, of course, because it's Sherlock, but at least his heart's in the right place. I don't know that that's ever happened before, at least not that I've seen."
"Nor I," Mycroft agreed.
"Then he needs to be encouraged, even if that means I put myself in a potentially dangerous situation, as you say. I am a police officer, you know. I do know how to handle myself."
"I don't doubt it," Mycroft told him. "Just take care of yourself, all right? Don't get shot."
"I'll do my best," Greg told him, hanging up the phone. He wasn't always entirely convinced that his best was quite good enough.
Inside the flat-turned-office was just as shabby as the outside, not that Greg was surprised. There were a few omegas sitting in the tiny waiting room, all of them bonded.
Well. At least he knew he was in the right place.
He approached the rather muscled male beta receptionist, who looked up at him with some suspicion before returning Greg's wide smile.
"I'm here to see Doctor Gardner."
That obviously took the man slightly off guard, but his smile didn't waver. "Do you have an appointment?"
"I don't," Greg sighed dramatically. "I was told by a friend that he was the man to see, though. It will be quick, I promise."
"This is a referral? We can probably fit you in, but you'll have to wait," he said, frowning at the people already waiting.
"I don't mind at all," Greg said cheerfully, taking one of the clipboards with forms to fill out. He filled everything out for the name of Andrew Greyson and turned the forms back in with another bright smile before taking a seat. He picked up a magazine and pretended to read it while watching the rest of the room ignore him from the corner of his eye. After a few minutes he pulled out his phone and sent a quick text to Sherlock. I hope you're behaving yourself. This might take a little while – you might as well go and get some lunch. He didn't expect Sherlock to dignify that with a response.
Then he sent one to Mycroft. Not shot yet. Forced to endure the indignities of the waiting room, though.
He got an almost immediate response. If only you were an alpha. Apparently we wait for nothing.
Greg rolled his eyes. If you ask me, that's the trouble with you, right there.
I've heard it makes us pleasingly dominating.
It certainly makes you something. I suppose as a beta I just can't appreciate the true meaning of alpha-dom.
It is one of your less appealing characteristics, your desire not to be ordered around all the time. I don't know why I put up with it.
I give amazing head.
He put his phone away, opened up the magazine again and started reading it for real.
It took over an hour for him to be called into the office.
Doctor Gardner was a short, rather rotund beta in his late 50s or thereabouts, gone fully gray at the temples and beard. He looked confused when Greg came in. "Can I help you?"
"A friend of mine told me that you might be able to help me with a family problem I'm having."
Gardner smiled at that. "I can certainly try," he said gamely. "What seems to be the trouble?"
"My brother is an omega, and the alpha he's bonded to is – well, violent. I was told by a friend that you might be able to help. My brother is afraid to have children. He thinks suppressing his heats is the best way to be sure, but… well, you know how impossible it is to get proper medicines for that."
Gardner was already shaking his head. "I'm so sorry. I'm not sure who told you I could help with that, but those sorts of medications are all very illegal. No doctor of any standing could provide you with those. What I can give you are some brochures for counseling services. I'm sure your brother has read over his bonding contract, but getting a good solicitor in his corner if he does want to try to charge contract breach would be key. It's an extremely serious charge."
Greg tried to summon tears. "My brother has tried everything. She promised him that you could help. She said she took pills; that you gave them to her."
"Who said that?" Gardner asked sharply.
"Emma. Emma Starning. She promised." He pulled the shred of Chinese menu out of his pocket and showed it to Gardner. There was a long, tense moment as Gardner studied it.
"I see," he finally said. "When did she give him this?"
Greg had to think about it. "Two nights ago."
Gardner sighed. "Emma is a very valued patient. Stay here." He disappeared into the hallway. Greg sat tense, trying to be prepared for anything. When would he ever learn about back up?
When Garner returned, though, he merely handed Greg a plastic bottle of small white tablets. It was unlabeled. "There are some side effects your brother should watch out for: migraines, vomiting, severe abdominal pain. If he has any of those, he needs to come straight to me, not go to hospital." His eyes were cold. "Do you understand?"
"I'll expect him here in a month for a complete physical examination. The first month will be the most critical as his body adjusts to the hormones."
"Good. Did Emma discuss my fee with you?"
"No, she didn't." Greg had at least prepared for it, though. Still, when Gardner told him it would be £200, his heart did a strange sort of jig in his chest for a moment. Sherlock was bloody well going to have to pay him back; that was all there was to it.
He walked out with the bottle clutched in his hand. Mission accomplished.
The first street protest that Greg had ever had to police was a Beta Majority rally in Trafalgar Square. It was, in retrospect, a modest crowd; not many at all bent on death and destruction. Still, at the time it had been utterly terrifying.
Greg and the other constables, alongside the usual Police Support Unit personnel, had been given the task of kettling the main part of the crowd. Four or five years later it would've been a lot more difficult. That day the crowd didn't even have basic weapons, which was probably just as well. Greg wondered, as he always did when he saw Beta Majority events on the news, whether his father or brothers were there. He had a feeling that even under the layers of riot gear they would be able to recognize him, and they would single him out to scream at in the middle of the melee. Traitor, that would be the big one. They had always believed that betas who worked for the police were no better than alpha bootlickers, pathetic chasers who betrayed their own kind to grab the tiny bit of power the alphas dangled down at them.
In five years of working for the Met, he'd still never seen them. That didn't mean he'd stopped looking.
Sherlock had met him half a block from Gardner's office, practically jumping up and down in his impatience. He snatched the bottle of pills from Greg's hand and examined it eagerly.
"I'm going to bring them to the lab, have them run a chemical analysis," Greg told him. "The last thing we need is John getting ill from God-knows-what in these."
"I'm going to do the analysis," Sherlock said without looking up.
Greg shook his head. "It's a bit too important to leave in the hands of an amateur, I think. Sorry, Sherlock, but if these pills are not as advertised, we'll be treating it as a crime."
"You won't be arresting Gardner just for distributing the pills otherwise, then?"
Greg hummed thoughtfully. "I'd like to find another way to prove Ryan Burke committed that murder, if he did do it."
Sherlock snorted disbelievingly, handing the pill bottle back to Greg.
"We can't rely on the word of his omega – she'd never testify against him, and the doctor will just deny it all. It's not proof, Sherlock, but it does help point us in the right direction. If he went to her flat afterward, there must be some footage of that somewhere. I'm not looking forward to combing through it, I'll tell you that much, but that will be the place to start." He unlocked the car door for Sherlock, who shouldered past him without a word. "Otherwise… probably. If these pills turn out to be the real thing, we can't let that sort of underground system flourish. That's far too dangerous. If I knew about it and let it go on, it wouldn't just be me sacked this time. It would be me and you and John all behind bars, although they might put you in a nicer cell, since you're so young. You know that."
Sherlock had obviously stopped listening, so Greg simply sighed. "Do you want me to drop you back at the Yard, or do you want a ride home?"
"Home," Sherlock said shortly.
They drove the rest of the way in silence, with Greg watching Sherlock out of the corner of his eye. Sherlock quiet usually meant he was up to something. It was not knowing what exactly it was that made Greg nervous.
It was only when he'd let Sherlock out and driven all the way back to the Met that he realized the bottle was missing from his pocket.
The first time Greg met Mycroft he'd been awake for 42 hours and smelled like he'd just taken a bath in ammonia, mostly because he had, thanks to a drug lab set up in a council estate flat. He was still coming down from the adrenaline rush of the drugs bust, for once not stuck with the more substantial paperwork (it was impossible to escape from paperwork entirely; such was the life of the Constable.) It was the sort of day when he was utterly content with his situation in life: his job, his flat, his boyfriend (Michael; tall, blond, lovely). Everything in his universe felt aligned and perfect, or at the very least full of potential. He knew the feeling wouldn't last, that it was most likely the exhaustion talking and after a bit of rest he'd be back to his usual levels of cynicism and sarcasm, but he was determined to enjoy the good feeling while it lasted.
He was feeling so good about the world, in fact, that instead of just shooing Sherlock away his desk at New Scotland Yard as he normally would he offered him a ride home, despite it being in the opposite direction from Greg's own flat. He'd always felt rather sorry for Sherlock – the kid couldn't be any older than ten or eleven, despite his insistence that he was sixteen, and there was obviously no one at home who cared what he got up to, if the fact that he regularly showed up at the Yard in the dead of night was any indication.
It wasn't that Greg expected Sherlock's gratitude for his kindness – even Greg knew that some things were just impossible. Sherlock had hopped out as soon as the car stopped in front of a predictably posh address on the south side of Eaton Square without even a thank you.
When Sherlock was halfway up the walk the front door had been opened and a young alpha who had to be a few years younger than Greg himself snapped something at him that made Sherlock push past him with an air of indignation that Greg recognized immediately. That was the boy he'd been seeing around the Yard for months. It was somewhat heartening to know that he treated members of his family with the same contempt that he seemed to treat the entire Met.
The alpha had padded down the walk to Greg, dressed immaculately for six in the morning. Even the buttons on his suit jacket were buttoned. He smiled, and Greg smiled a little uncertainly back. Alphas, he had heard, were not like betas. Here was his first real proof.
The alpha looked him up and down, and Greg was immediately reminded of what he looked and smelled like; Sherlock hadn't commented but he knew that was because Sherlock wouldn't have thought it was important. The last thing he needed was to have an alpha laughing at him.
It was enough to ruin his good mood.
Luckily, there was no apparent amusement in the alpha's expression as Greg stepped from the car. Greg did notice his eyes widening slightly, but he extended his hand with perfect politeness.
"I'm Mycroft Holmes. I wanted to thank you for bringing my brother home. I trust he wasn't actually arrested?"
Greg shook his head, surprised. "Constable Greg Lestrade. No, of course not." He searched Mycroft's face but couldn't see anything but sincerity. "He spends a lot of time at the – at New Scotland Yard, discussing cases. He's given us more than a few good tips in the past few months. I thought – well, he said his parents approved of it."
Understanding flashed across Mycroft's features. "I see. I'm afraid I'm Sherlock's legal guardian, and he's certainly never mentioned anything to me. Not that I disapprove; frankly, I'm surprised he's been spending his time so productively. Sherlock's interests have always been rather… odd." He looked Greg over again so quickly that Greg almost missed it. "Would you like to come inside for breakfast? I'm sure you haven't eaten yet, and it would be nice to thank you properly for looking after him."
Greg was shaking his head before he'd even finished speaking. "I'm a bit of a mess, actually. I'd likely just stain the chairs. Getting home for a bath is probably the best thing I can do right now."
Mycroft seemed to draw himself up to his full height, his hands clasped together and held carefully in front of him. "Nonsense. Some fresh fruit can't hurt, and I would like very much to hear about my brother's interest in crime."
The problem with not being born rude was that it meant Greg tended to do a lot of things he didn't really want to. Sighing inwardly, he followed Mycroft into the house.
He did gratefully accept a cup of coffee. It was excellent coffee, as he had expected it would be.
"I hope Sherlock hasn't been bothering you, Constable Lestrade."
"Greg, please. And he's not. Honestly, he is helpful. Some of the things he suggests seem a bit off the wall, but he's usually more right than not. There are a few of us who tend to let him hang about, soft hearts that we are, and I have never had any cause to regret it."
"I'm glad. While I'm at Cambridge I've hired several people who are meant to look after my brother, but I'm afraid none of them have lasted particularly long. He himself was supposed to be away at school, but he's never managed to finish an entire term at any of the schools I send him to." He gave a weary sigh. "He deals very poorly with boredom, I'm afraid."
"I'm glad the Met is providing him with something of an outlet, then. It's probably better than letting him run amok at all hours on the streets." Greg tried to look Mycroft up and down surreptitiously. "You said you were at Cambridge?"
Mycroft just raised an eyebrow.
Greg flushed. "It's just– you look young."
"Not terribly. I'm seventeen."
Greg chuckled. "You are young."
Mycroft shrugged. "Perhaps. I started at Cambridge when I was sixteen; I expect Sherlock will start about then as well, if he chooses to."
Greg had rather thought that all alphas went to Oxbridge; it was expected. He was surprised Mycroft was making it sound as it Sherlock had a choice. "You don't think he would?"
Mycroft snorted. "Sherlock is far too used to having his own way. He's my responsibility and I do my best, but we don't have as cordial a relationship as many families. The fact that I've gone there might be enough for him to refuse to set foot anywhere near university."
"I'm sure that's not true. I had two older brothers growing up, and we did more than our share of fighting and that sort of thing, but I always did secretly worship them, too."
Mycroft gave him a rueful smile. "It's kind of you to say, but I find that my presence actually seems to provoke him to do more reckless and irresponsible things. It's one of the reasons I try to leave his care in the hands of others as much as possible."
"He's acting out?"
"Yes, to put it bluntly, although if anyone so much as implies that within Sherlock's hearing there will be hell to pay, I assure you. My brother has always needed to believe that his actions are totally his own, outside the influence of anyone else. He tends to take that to extremes: if you tell him to do one thing he will kill himself doing anything but; it wouldn't even occur to him that what you're suggesting is a good thing for him to do. That won't matter."
"He sounds like a barrel of fun to look after."
Mycroft's smile was tiny, but there. "I tend to spend the least amount of time at home as I possibly can. Without me to act against, Sherlock tends to be somewhat calmer. It seems best for all involved."
"I'm sure he'll grow out of it eventually."
Mycroft gave an amused snort. "That, I must say, is extremely unlikely. If anything, I fear Sherlock will grow even worse as he gets older. He spends nearly all of his time by himself, locked in his own head. I was rather like that as a child, so I know the effects that isolation can have. He is already too set in his ways, too unwilling to even consider compromise. Other people only exist for him in the abstract, in terms of what they can do for him. What he needs is to spend time around other people – people he likes, who are the only ones he might ever actually listen to."
"That doesn't seem like such a difficult thing," Greg said. "Doesn't he have any friends at all? Kids his own age?"
"I think that's pretty sad."
"Perhaps it is. Sherlock would never agree with you, of course. I believe he considers himself quite content with his situation, so long as I leave him alone."
Greg tapped his fingers on the table, trying to decide how to put his request. The last thing he wanted Mycroft to think was that he was making the suggestion for the wrong reasons. "Do you think it would be okay if I, I dunno, got him dinner and chatted with him about some of his theories every once in a while? Just so he had someone to talk to."
To his intense relief, Mycroft smiled, understanding. "I think that would be lovely for him, although you shouldn't expect that this sort of thing will keep his interest for very long. Sherlock's obsessions have been numerous, and they never seem to last."
"That's just as well. If he ever really got interested he'd be solving everything and the whole Met'd be out of jobs."
Mycroft had cocked his head and smiled. His eyes were roving Greg's face unabashedly. "I'm sure that's not true. There is much to be said for having, as you say, a soft heart."
It took him over three months to work up the courage to ask Mycroft out over the Christmas holidays. He never actually expected him to say yes. Well, Greg had thought, hanging up the phone, one date wouldn't hurt.