Mycroft was not fond of surprises; they usually entailed either having to feign surprise, hide disappointment or – more often than not – an irritating combination of the two, resulting in awkwardness and bad-feeling between all parties concerned. And so, it came as a huge relief when Greg began talking about the plans he had for Mycroft’s impending birthday celebrations.
“I’ve had emails back from everyone,” Greg chattered happily, ineffectively wiping the soap off the plates as they were passed to him, “and most people are coming. Everyone important anyway. And John and Sherlock are happy to have it at theirs – well, John’s happy and Sherlock’s as happy as he ever is – I figured you’d be fretting about the post-party clear up instead of actually enjoying yourself if we had it here. Oh, and Mrs Hudson’s actually insisting on providing the nibbles-”
The mention of ‘nibbles’ had Mycroft wincing inwardly. ‘Nibbles’ was synonymous to finger food, and finger food meant crumbs and grease. Why they couldn’t simply go out for a nice, civilized meal , just the two of them, was beyond-
Handing him another dripping plate, Mycroft made the crucial mistake of glancing at Greg’s expression – all pleased and proud of himself for coming up with a good idea – and any thought of being annoyed melted away into warm affection. “It sounds lovely,” he murmured, planting a chaste kiss neatly upon Greg’s lips. “Thank you for telling me, love.”
“Yes, well,” Lestrade placed the undried plate on the dish-rack, “last year’s fiasco is still fresh in my mind.”
“The less said about that, the better, don’t you think?” Mycroft snatched the tea towel from Greg’s hand and began re-drying the crockery.
Hmphing half-heartedly, Greg moved furtively behind Mycroft and slipped his arms around his waist. From this particular angle, being a good two inches shorter put Greg at, what he considered to be, a great advantage, being at perfect neck-nibbling height.
Mycroft squirmed, a delightful shiver running down the length of his spine. The plate nearly slipped. “Gregory, behave yourself.”
Lestrade’s answer to this was to give a low chuckle and rise up slightly on his toes, lips ghosting across the already-raised hairs on the back of Mycroft’s neck before arriving at the sensitive spot behind his ear. “Don’t want to,” he breathed, tightening his grip on his boyfriend’s waist as he felt Mycroft’s knees begin to buckle “Of course, if you really insist…” he stepped back with a smirk, hands thrust into his pockets – the absolute picture of devilish innocence. And yes, there was such a thing – Greg Lestrade was the infallible proof.
Discarding the useless tea towel, Mycroft span round with a frustrated half-whine of, “Gregory!”
Lestrade laughed as Mycroft grabbed the front of his shirt, taking great pleasure in the fact it was so easy to bring the British Government to its knees. Metaphorically, of course.
Despite the absence of the dreaded element of surprise and despite the fact that it gave Mycroft the excuse to dress up, it was still a battle for Greg to deliver him to Baker Street; having been delayed in the office for several hours later than normal because of a row that had broken out between the Chinese and Russian diplomats, all Mycroft wanted to do at the end of the day was lie on the sofa with a large bowl of chicken Supernoodles and a Baileys hot chocolate. Having to be sociable was right at the bottom of the list of Things Mycroft Holmes Wanted To Spend His Birthday Doing.
The things one does for love, he thought bitterly, ducking into the taxi. Perhaps his brother had the right idea after all...
“Cheer up, you grumpy sod,” Lestrade chided, sliding in beside him. “It’ll be fine once you’ve had a glass of wine.”
Mycroft scowled, face turned stubbornly towards the window. “I wish you’d let me provide the wine. Sherlock’s taste leaves much to be desired and Doctor Watson’s even less.” He sniffed loudly, “I feel it rather unfair that I am not even allowed to choose the manner of my own inebriation, Gregory. Particularly considering my aversion to such events...”
Greg shot him a withering look and patted his hand firmly. “Mycroft, my darling my love, whether you remain persistently crabby or not, your nearest and dearest are gathering together in your honour so you might as well have a good time. There will be cake,” he added with a look.
Mycroft considered this thoughtfully then, turning his head just a fraction of a degree to the left, “What kind of cake?”
“I know Mrs H’s doing a chocolate and a vanilla, Sherlock mentioned something about Molly bringing a carrot cake-”
“Miss Hooper? Why has she been invited?”
“-aand I think Dimmock’s bringing Éclairs.”
Mycroft shifted, turning his body so that he could look Lestrade in the eye. “Gregory?”
“Might I enquire as to why you have invited your associates to my party?”
Greg shrugged, nonchalant. “Numbers.”
The impulse to smack him was difficult to resist.
As Greg had correctly predicted, a couple of large glasses of Echo Falls Merlot later and Mycroft did began to – grudgingly – cheer up, although not before he had insisted upon a plate and cutlery before going within ten feet of the nibbles. Even Sherlock seemed to be making an effort to be nice to him, which was almost a pity seeing as Mycroft had formulated quite a collection of witty and biting retorts that were now obsolete. Still, having just about come to terms with the fact that Sherlock’s new-found amiability did not, as he had first suspected, mask anything sinister, Mycroft found that that it made quite a pleasant change. Quite disconcerting initially, but pleasant nevertheless. As he surveyed the abundant selection of puddings, Mycroft wondered idly how Greg and John had managed to coerce Sherlock into behaving himself or, more to the point, with what. The price can’t have been insignificant; he actually seemed to be trying to tolerate Molly’s inane conversation, Mycroft noticed with an amused smirk as he glanced over to where she had cornered him.
Despite the fact that it was his birthday and, therefore, his party, nobody was paying Mycroft any particular attention beyond the usual pleasantries that came hand in hand with such occasions. Not that he was complaining; there were barely a handful of people whom he would consider more-than-an-acquaintance and the thought of any sort of fuss from anyone other than Gregory was utterly abhorrent to him.
He sighed, swirling the dregs around the bottom of his glass before throwing the contents down his throat and trying not to taste it. At least tomorrow was Sunday.
Mycroft started as a hand clapped his back – Lestrade had snuck up beside him with a satisfied smile, like a puppy who had just done its business in the right place and was waiting for a gush of approval. Deciding that he definitely needed to work on his ability to resist his boyfriend’s tricks, Mycroft nodded and forced a smile. “It’s wonderful,” he assured him without a single trace of irony.
Although Mycroft was particularly gifted at being able to convincingly bullshit his way through anything and everything, Greg Lestrade was not fooled. He wound an arm around Mycroft’s waist, inhaling the scent of coconut as the taller man laid his head upon his shoulder with a weary, “Can we go home soon?”
It had barely gone ten; they hadn’t even been there an hour.
“Are you not having a good time?” Greg asked gently, planting a kiss right in the centre of Mycroft’s crown.
“I’m shattered,” came the plaintive response. “And the wine has finished me.”
- “Love, everyone’s here for you,” Lestrade reminded him in, what he had intended to be, an encouraging tone.
“Gregory,” said Mycroft patiently, raising his head and looking the detective inspector straight in the eye, “I don’t know half these people. I appreciate the effort you have gone to on my behalf,” he added as Lestrade started to look hurt, “but actually, what I really want is to just go home. With you. And I highly doubt that anybody will even notice our absence.”
Instead of either arguing or relenting, Greg shifted awkwardly. Mycroft’s glared at him, suspicions aroused. “What?”
Lestrade raised a challenging eyebrow. “What?”
“Don’t be petulant.”
“Who’s being petulant? I’m not being petulant!”
Mycroft’s lips tightened into a thin line, expression hardening. “Look,” he hissed, “I am already exhausted, I don’t have the energy for a row. I am going to call Anthea, who is going to take me home, and you can either come with me or stay here. It’s entirely up to you; I’m past the point of being able to care.”
A hand reached up into his jacket, searching for his phone. He was prevented, however, from reaching it by Greg’s own hand which had seemingly shot out of nowhere and clamped itself around his wrist.
Mycroft stared. “Gregory, what-”
But Gregory didn’t seem to know what; he was holding Mycroft’s wrist aloft, as though not quite sure what to do with it now that he had it. They looked utterly ridiculous and Mycroft, to his mortification, could feel people’s attention beginning settle on them. Maybe it looked as though they were having an arm-wrestle... Not even slightly.
Mycroft tried to twist his wrist, testing Greg’s tenacity. There was not even an ounce of give. It was like being caught in a badger trap. His pulse quickened beneath the other man’s finger tips.
The underlying babble of party-chattered had almost completely died away.
Mycroft could feel the heat in his face rising; this was unbearable. “Gregory...” a delicate balance between a plea and the threat. As much as he was loath to create anymore of scene than there already was, Mycroft was beginning to expect that that the use of force might be necessary.
Lestrade licked his lips, eyes flicking across the faces of everyone around them as though coming out of a trance. “If I let go,” he said unsteadily, “you won’t run, will you?”
“For god sake-”
“It’s just...you can’t leave. Oh shit...” seeing Mycroft’s jaw clench even tighter, Greg ran his other hand fretfully through his hair. “This was not how I had planned it,” he muttered, more to himself than anyone else, then, taking a deep breath and gathering his wits, “Fuck it.”
Mycroft had even greater aversion to being confused than he did to being surprised; this was not a good birthday.
“Look,” Greg was saying, bringing his other hand up the one of Mycroft’s he was still holding, “I love you, I didn’t expect to – in fact, it was probably the last thing I expected, but I suppose that’s what makes it so right,” the inflected question made them both frown. Greg’s hand closed gently over Mycroft’s. “Anyway, yeah... and I know I haven’t got the greatest track record in the world but then again, who does? Not that I’m saying, you know, that you don’t deserve better or that you should settle for second best, of course you do but you’re with me and I am by no means the world’s greatest partner, so what I’m trying to say is-”
“Gregory, are you trying to break up with me?”
“No! God...no. Nothing like that,” Lestrade assured him. “What I’m trying to say, is that I’m pretty shit and you could definitely do better but I don’t want you to so, if you want to settle for...me, then that would be something I would very much like, if you want to. But you don’t have to obviously.” Throughout the eloquent discourse, Greg was trying (with some difficulty) to wiggle the worn gold band from Mycroft’s finger.
Mycroft frowned, too focused on trying to make sense of this peculiar situation to even consider trying to prevent the apparent robbery which was now taking place. The fact that no-one else seemed at all perturbed by Greg’s behaviour didn’t even occur to him.
Having finally separated it from Mycroft’s finger, Greg slipped the ring into his back pocket. “I know you don’t like surprises,” the detective inspector gabbled on, shifting his gaze just a fraction to Mycroft’s right cheek, “and I know this has been a disaster but here we are and there we go.”
Mycroft blinked, expecting the rest of the speech but, apparently, that was the conclusion.
Releasing him, Greg took a step back, arms folded, and waited to hear what Mycroft had to say to this.
“Here we are and there we go?” Mycroft repeated, understandably perplexed. “What on earth does that even mean? What did any of it mean, for that matter? Why did you steal my ring? Give it back!”
Steeling himself, Greg reached again into his pocket and drew out the ring before reaching out, taking Mycroft’s left hand in his and slipping the band neatly onto his finger, chewing his lip as he studied Mycroft’s face.
The younger man regarded the ring with a creased brow. “This isn’t mine-”
Mycroft’s head shot up. “Pardon?”
“Marry me,” Lestrade repeated earnestly. “That’s what I’ve been trying to say... what I think we should do...”
“You want to get married-”
“As in a legally binding contract and a wedding-”
Greg gave an awkward shrug and a lopsided smile. “If you fancy it.”
Mycroft studied the new band now adorning his finger carefully, twisting and wiggling it as thought it were under intense questioning. The outcome seemed to please him. “You knew my ring size.”
Correctly translating this as ‘I forgive you for throwing me a terrible party and not letting me sleep,’ Lestrade almost laughed with relief. “Is that a yes?”
Feeling more than slightly overwhelmed and not trusting himself to open his mouth, Mycroft’s reply was to nod emphatically and breach the gap between them, burying his face in his favourite place between Greg’s neck and shoulder. Lestrade’s arms encircled him, nuzzling his hair with the tip of his nose.
Mycroft’s grip on Greg’s shirt tightened instinctively as his inherent shyness was sparked off as a synchronised cheer went up, the guests of Baker Street relieved to finally break the anticipatory silence that they had held for so long.
“I hate you,” Mycroft mumbled into the soft cotton.
He felt low vibration of Greg’s deep chuckle in his chest and a hand travel soothingly up his back to the base of his neck. “I love you too.”
Sherlock gave it ten minutes before going to his brother’s rescue.
“Smoke?” he suggested quietly with a furtive nod towards the door as Mycroft’s hand was shaken by Mrs Hudson for the fifth time.
Happy to bear the brunt of the tide of well-wishers, Lestrade shared a quick kiss with his new fiancé and waved the brothers away.
The night was still and the street was empty as Mycroft and Sherlock sat down on the front step of 221B. Leaning against the railings, the elder Holmes raised his face to the sky and let out a long, deep breath, allowing all the thoughts and feelings to wash through him until they slowed down enough to make sense of.
“Here.” Sitting cross-legged beside him, Sherlock passed his brother a lit Mayfair.
Mycroft accepted it with a nod of thanks, inhaling deeply. “You knew,” he stated, admiring the plumes of smoke before they dissipated.
“Of course. Where do you think Lestrade found out your ring size?” Sherlock gave a sideways glance, “Everyone knew, that’s why they’re here.”
Mycroft smiled wryly. “In retrospect it seems so logical...” he shook his head, “and yet, completely surreal.”
Reaching over, Sherlock stole the cigarette from Mycroft’s hand and took a drag. “Are you pleased?”
“Yes,” came the certain reply. “Very.” Mycroft lowered his gaze once more the ring, an irrepressible smile playing upon his lips as he admired it. “I’m surprised you are, though. Do you not think me incredibly foolish?”
Sherlock gave a short laugh. “Oh yes. But then I think everything of that category is superfluous. However, I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that, whilst something may be redundant to me, it is not always so for others.” He smiled warmly and handed the half-smoked cigarette back to his brother, “I am happy for you.”
Mycroft turned his face away from Sherlock, focusing hard on a street lamp down the far end of the street. It meant more than he thought it would to have his little brother’s blessing, and he would never have expected to receive it. The nerve in his throat twitched with the effort of restraining a particularly stubborn lump of something.
Sherlock shifted slightly and threaded an arm through Mycroft’s in an uncommon display of warmth, placing his hand on top of the other’s and giving it a reassuring squeeze. “You’re lucky, you know.”
Mycroft gave Sherlock the end of the cigarette with a contented smile. “I know.”