Greg pushed the door open easily; it wasn't even latched. First sign of a problem. Mycroft always locked his house up tight and set the security alarms.
Anthea was right--her boss had not only fallen off the wagon this time, he'd been run over by it. When she'd called, Greg had forced himself to get dressed and leave his flat for the first time in days. He knew she'd never have asked if it wasn't a dangerous situation.
Greg suspected Mycroft had started drinking again during that mess with the Adler woman. He had lost face with the Americans over that one, according to Anthea. From what Greg could piece together, there'd been some nasty business with Jim Moriarty that took him deeper into the bottle soon after--maybe during that dog-in-the-dark case. Then there was Sherlock's suicide. None of them had been able to soldier through that one without falling into black holes of despair--not even John, the professional soldier. But over the past weeks, he'd seen both John and Mrs. Hudson trying to get their sense of direction--their compass points--set right again. Greg watched and admired them, and told himself he had to do the same. Someday.
Greg hoisted Mycroft to his feet and dragged him to the bedroom. Shoes off. Jacket off. Everything else could wait until tomorrow. He brought in a cool, wet flannel to wipe Mycroft's face and hands, and he seemed to respond to the touch.
Greg thought of his kids, when they were young and subject to all those strange fevers and viruses kids pass around. He remembered how they'd wanted him to rub their backs and tell them stories until they fell asleep. He could tell one that was familiar--a fairy tale or a favourite book--but then he had to make one up as well, something not too scary, something comforting--preferably with talking animals.
Mycroft stirred and opened his eyes. His face contorted and he rolled away, waving Greg off. "Leave me alone. Get out of my house. No one asked you to come here. I didn't ask you to come here."
Greg wasn't going to point out the hundred times Mycroft had asked him to come to his house, had flirted and leered and offered Greg his own key and "perfect discretion." Greg had got over the initial shock pretty quickly, and it had become a game. Greg knew Mycroft had a sizable crush on him, and Mycroft knew Greg was straight. After awhile, Greg reckoned that Mycroft teased and made lewd comments as a slightly warped way of leveling the playing field between them, giving Greg a small sense of power in their conversations. Certain requests Greg could always say no to. The other requests--those related to Sherlock--the D.I. had no power to refuse.
Greg covered Mycroft with a blanket and sniffed around the private library, dining room, and sitting room looking for bottles. He found seven empty and four still mostly full. He dumped them all down the kitchen sink and then set the bottles in the recycle bin. He was about to call Anthea to ask whether she'd come over and stand watch, when he heard coughing and choking noises coming from the bedroom.
"Oh bloody hell, Mycroft, you've made yourself sick." Greg helped the thin, convulsing shadow of the man he knew get to the bathroom and out of his stained clothes. Then he changed the bedsheets while Mycroft stood by shivering in his underwear, refusing to let Greg help him into pyjamas, but too unsteady to get into them on his own.
"I thought I told you to get out of my house, you idiot. This is none of your concern. Just leave me alone."
Greg silently pulled back the duvet and shoved Mycroft to the bed, where he immediately collapsed and gathered the covers around his trembling body.
Greg was picking up the soiled clothes and putting them in a heap in the hallway when he heard a choking sound again. When he laid his hand on Mycroft's neck, he felt heat and sweat. His body was vibrating with sobs Greg could barely hear, muffled as they were by the thick feather pillows.
Jesus Christ. What the hell should he do now? Mycroft would have Greg's head on a pike if he called a doctor--even if it was John.
He knew something of what Mycroft was feeling--he'd been feeling the same sense of loss and rawness inside. An emptiness that didn't yet seem quite real, but that he knew would only expand with time and could so easily consume him, as it seemed to be consuming Mycroft. God, Greg had looked at his phone fifty times today, hadn't he? Expected to see a text from Sherlock. But there would be no more texts, would there? How much worse must it be for Mycroft, his brother. The man who'd been looking after Sherlock for more than thirty years--Greg had only had that privilege and burden for half a dozen.
There really was nothing he could do or say that would make things better--make Mycroft feel that he could survive a day without a massive anesthetic to dull his senses, dull his hyper-awareness. He and Sherlock were the same in that way, but both of them had beat their addictions. Mycroft had been sober for nearly fifteen years. Greg couldn't let him surrender that victory now.
His mobile buzzed and he pulled it out of his pocket, whispering, "Yeah. Lestrade."
"How is he?" Anthea's voice broke sharply.
"Not good. I think I can get him to sleep, though. Do you want to come over or get someone else?"
"Greg, please--could you stay the night? He's impossible for anyone else to handle when he's like this. I won't be able to stop him if he wants another drink--and he'll sack anyone on the staff who tries. Please--just for tonight, and then I'll come over and we'll sort things out in the morning?"
"Sure. Yeah. I'll see you in the morning. I'll cuff him to the bed if I have to. You know he'd enjoy telling everyone at the Yard, if I did that." Anthea laughed and let out a sigh of relief, then said her goodbyes, after agreeing they'd meet at nine the following morning to work out a strategy.
Greg took off his jacket, shoes, and socks and crawled into bed next to Mycroft. There were still a few gasps and coughs, but he seemed to be settling down a bit, though not calm enough to sleep yet. He lay with his back to Greg and occasionally reached out to touch the D.I.'s arm, confirming he was still there.
"Don't worry, Mycroft. As this is our first time sleeping together, I'll be gentle."
Greg smiled when he heard a soft, quick huff of laughter from the other side of the bed. He carefully moved his hand to Mycroft's shoulder before slipping it under the duvet and stroking his back with the tips of his fingers. He heard a quiet exhale of breath and then more rhythmic inhaling and exhaling.
In a gravelly whisper, Greg began the story: "So, Mycroft, not many people know this, but Molly Hooper's cat isn't just an ordinary cat. Nope. His name is Toby and I've had a lot of very interesting conversations with him. That cat has been on adventures all over London--and a few in Cardiff as well. One time, he found his way to the circus . . ."