It's all perfectly innocent, he kept telling himself, but a thick folder of glossy images, culled from hours of CCTV footage, indicated otherwise.
It had started out innocently enough. When Sherlock started working with the Met, Mycroft ran background checks on anyone with whom he'd have contact. All standard procedure.
When Anthea had brought in the resulting files, he'd been completely captivated by a certain Detective Inspector Lestrade. And so, over the next three months, he'd scanned the CCTV footage - all of it. Sherlock has more contact with him than anyone else, I just need to make sure he's… not a threat. He captured photographic stills from the footage; good ones. For reference, he told himself.
When he issued orders that the camera outside Mr Lestrade's flat (and the one across from his favourite take-out place) be upgraded to something with a higher resolution, even his flimsy justifications fell apart. I'm stalking this poor man. But what use was it, running the country, if you couldn't abuse your power every now and then?
The footage indicated a fairly inactive social life: bachelor, long work hours, and more Indian take-out than was probably good for a person. No romantic relationships. His only social activity seemed to be an occasional trip to the pub with Dr John Watson - oddly enough, only ever on Wednesdays.
And that was all he'd been able to find out, even with his extensive connections.
Clearly, more drastic measures were needed.
He brought up the search engine on his computer and typed in 'Gregory Lestrade.' A lot of the results came back from a site named tumblr. Never heard of it. That, in itself, was disturbing. He felt like he had a fairly good grasp of online information sources.
Many of the tumblr links contained images - images of DI Lestrade at crime scenes and press conferences. He already had some of them, of course, but these seemed to be of better quality - press images, perhaps. Well, that's to be expected. He's a handsome man; I'm sure I'm not the only one with an eye for him.
He scrolled through the tumblr search results and froze. There, on the screen, was a drawing - of him and Lestrade. The DI had him pushed against a wall and was sliding his hand underneath Mycroft's waistcoat.
He hadn't told anyone else about his little infatuation, certainly nobody with artistic inclinations. The features though - it was definitely him, and definitely Lestrade.
He looked at the account name. MystradeDoodles.
No, it can't be. He chewed on his lip until it started to hurt. Who the hell is this person, and why are they drawing Lestrade and me in compromising situations? It could be blackmail, I suppose, but how can they even know I have any feelings towards him?
"Anthea, I need you to find out everything you can about someone named MystradeDoodles."
"This afternoon. No, within the hour. It's a matter of national security." I can't be blackmailed by something that hasn't even happened. Still, best to figure out what's going on.
Twenty minutes later, he was in a car, speeding towards an address in the suburbs of London.
Doods was in the middle of drawing a manga-inspired Lestrade when the doorbell rang. She frowned. I wasn't expecting anyone.
When she opened the door, she nearly fell over. It was someone dressed exactly like Mycroft. It was amazing - the best cosplay she'd ever seen. They'd gotten every detail correct, right down to the tailored suit and the umbrella. And the piercing blue eyes and half-scowl. A little too correct. Wait, what?
"Um, yes? Sort of."
"Well, is that your name or not?"
"It's, um, a code name."
Mycroft nodded. (It certainly seemed to be Mycroft, as much as it made her head hurt to think about that possibility.) "Yes, a code name," he said, "I can understand that, given the circumstances. May I come in?"
Doods looked behind him, half expecting to see someone filming the entire thing. Perhaps it was some sort of odd 'behind-the-scenes' footage.
"Well, may I?" Mycroft regarded her with an inquisitive, slightly dangerous look.
"Of course, um, yes. Please come in. Would you like some tea? Cake, perhaps?"
His eyes lit up at the mention of cake. "Well, I'm here to discuss some matters of national security, but I don't see that tea and cake would do any harm, thank you."
"I'll just get the tea started, I'll be back in a sec."
"Ms, er, Doodles…"
"Just 'Doodles' is fine."
"Alright. Doodles, I'll get to the point. I found some rather odd drawings on the internet. They involve me and a certain Detective Inspector. And your first name - Mystrade - it seems to be a combination of our names."
"Yes…" she answered, defensively.
"Why are you drawing us together?"
"Well, um… some of us think you'd make a nice couple…?" she replied, trailing it off as a question.
"What do you mean, 'us'? There are more of you?"
"Well, some of my friends."
Mycroft scowled. "Well, I suppose that's less important at the moment. What I really want to know is what gave you the idea that I might be interested in Mr Lestrade? More to the point, how do you even know who I am?"
"Well," she answered, "you do hold a minor position in the British government. I try and stay up on that sort of thing."
His scowl deepened. "And what makes you think I'm interested in him?"
"It's just, um, random speculation on our part, really." She started to think that the less she said, the better. "Cake?" she said brightly, and held out the tea-tray, hoping it would distract him.
"Thank you," he said, giving her a tight smile.
He sipped his tea in silence and polished off the cake with the utmost delicacy. Wiping his lips with a serviette, he focused on her once more.
"Well then, to business. These drawings: I'd like to see them. All of them."
"Alright," she said nervously, and made her way to the studio. She pulled a stack of envelopes from on top of her Mac and began to spread drawings across the table.
Mycroft's eyes widened. "You're certainly… prolific. That one," he pointed, "it looks like my brother and Dr Watson."
"Well, yes. That's because it is."
"How do you know my brother?" he asked, suspiciously.
"He works with Lestrade," she answered.
"Right, of course."
Apparently, this was easier if she just went with it and ignored the painful twisting sensation in her brain.
"So, show me everything you have. Especially the one with Lestrade's hand underneath my waistcoat," he said.
She blushed slightly. I knew that one would come back to haunt me. She dug around in the envelopes, finding every Mystrade drawing she'd ever done.
Mycroft started flipping through them with great interest.
"This one - it looks like we're both at the Diogenes Club. How do you know what it looks like?"
"The what club?" she asked, innocently.
"Nevermind," Mycroft said, and moved on to the next one. "And here - we appear to be having a picnic next to a waterfall. Why? And what's Sherlock doing there?"
She wasn't sure if spoilers were allowed or not.
"Er, it looked like a nice spot for one? And Sherlock needs to get out more?"
"Hm. Right. Good Lord, what's this?" He'd stopped at the picture of him and Greg on a motorbike.
"You're on a motorbike together."
"But what on Earth are we wearing? And why is our hair like that?"
"You're punks. Fighting zombies."
"Well, the zombie part was obvious," he said with a wave of his hand.
She breathed a sigh of relief as he moved on to the next picture, and then nearly died when she realised which one it was.
"Why are we in bed together? And why is my hair pink?"
"And your nails," she helpfully pointed out, and then realised that might have been a mistake.
He just stared at her, incredulously.
"Well, Lestrade got shot, and you agreed to let him paint your nails to cheer him up. But he dyed your hair pink, too. You just woke up and found out. That's why he's laughing."
"But why are we in bed?"
"Well?" he pressed.
"Because it's your bed?" she answered, tentatively. "We thought you'd make a good couple. It seemed only fair that you'd share a bed."
Mycroft looked increasingly nonplussed with each passing second.
"Well," he muttered, "I can't say I disagree. Still, it's highly unusual…"
He stopped mid-sentence, caught off-guard by a completely different type of image - a life study, done in charcoal. "Oh."
It was Lestrade, seen from the back, with his arms above his head in a stretch. His jeans barely covered the firm cheeks of his bum.
"Oh," Mycroft said again. "This is him, isn't it?"
She nodded. Mycroft seemed dazed; completely lost in the picture.
Looks like we were right to ship them, she thought.
"It's really quite extraordinary," he said in an awed voice.
She wasn't sure if he meant the picture or Lestrade's body.
Finally, he shook his head, as if to clear it, and moved on to the next one - the one where Lestrade had him pressed against a wall with his hand slipping underneath his waistcoat. "Ah, this one," he said fondly. "I must say," he murmured, "the likenesses are excellent. You're very good with suits."
"Thank you," she smiled, glad that he was pleased about it and not scandalised.
As he turned to the next picture, her hand flew to her mouth in horror. She'd forgotten about that one. Lestrade was on his knees, and Mycroft was pressed face-first against the wall in ecstasy, wearing a riding outfit. Well, half of a riding outfit. And Lestrade's tongue… Oh, hell. One livestream too many, that was.
She glanced furtively at Mycroft, who was too entranced by the picture to even notice.
"I'll take them all."
"Excuse me?" she asked, not quite understanding.
"The pictures. I'm buying them all. I assume you don't have a problem with that," he added, with only a hint of menace in his tone.
"Um, no. Of course not," she replied quickly.
"Excellent." He removed a bank-wrapped stack of one hundred pound notes from his inside suit pocket.
The writing on the paper band read 'Five thousand pounds'.
Five thousand pounds?
"I trust this shall be adequate compensation?" he asked.
She nodded, mutely.
"I'd also like to purchase any further drawings, for a similar sum. In fact, I insist on it."
"Of course. And the content…?"
"Anything you wish, my dear," he said with a smile. Glancing at the last one, his grin got even wider. "Anything at all."
On the drive back to London, he found a small framing shop. He stopped in, dangled a large sum of money in front of the proprietor, and walked out two hours later with every drawing matted and framed. Then he phoned Anthea from the car and had her clear his schedule for the rest of the afternoon.
Sally walked over to the black sedan that pulled up next to the crime scene. The window rolled down to reveal a young woman typing on her Blackberry.
"You can't stop here," Sally said brusquely.
"My employer needs to speak with Detective Inspector Lestrade," the brunette said. "It's a matter of national security." She flashed Sally some credentials.
Sally walked back to Greg, shaking her head. "There's some woman in the car over there, says her employer needs to talk to you."
"I'm sort of in the middle of something. Let her wait."
It took about five minutes before the brunette left the car and strode decisively over to them. "My employer doesn't like to wait."
"Well," Greg said, "I don't know you, or your employer, and I'm certainly not getting into some unmarked car."
"It's important; it concerns Mr Holmes."
"The Freak?" exclaimed Sally. "Maybe you should go, Greg. I told you he'd go too far one day."
"My employer also mentioned that he could get your entire division moved from the third floor up to the sixth floor - the nice, airy refurbished one."
Well, that's interesting. Most people know where I work, but not many know where my office is.
"I assure you, you'll be safe, Detective Inspector." She showed him her credentials: MI5.
"Alright. Sally, have one of the cars follow me and wait outside. If I don't phone once I'm inside, have them come in after me."
"Fine," she said, then added, "but if the Freak lost it and killed someone, you're buying me lunch."
"Fair enough," he said with a sigh.
The brunette smiled and returned to the car, not looking to see if Greg followed.
Greg sank into the plush leather seat of the car and hummed his appreciation. It's a step up from what I drive, he thought.
It didn't take long to reach their destination - a townhouse in Kensington.
"The door is unlocked, take the stairs to the second floor," the young woman said.
All very cloak and dagger.
He walked back to the car behind him. "Five minutes, right? If you don't hear anything, come and find me."
He opened the door and entered what appeared to be a very well-appointed personal residence. On the left side of the hallway, a set of stairs led to the second floor.
As he went up, he noticed a series of framed pictures lining the stairwell, all drawings. He glanced at them, noticing how out of place they seemed amongst the staid furnishings in the rest of the house.
He looked at one more closely and nearly tripped up the next stair. What the…?
The picture appeared to show him, having a picnic with another man and… Sherlock Holmes. The other man looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn't place him.
"Mycroft Holmes," said a posh voice from the top of the stairs. "I'm Sherlock's brother."
That's it! I knew I'd seen him somewhere. He'd shown up at a crime scene once and argued with Sherlock about something or other.
He took in the other drawings as he walked up the stairs. Him in punk kit, standing next to Mycroft, who was wearing… a mohawk and a cut-off t-shirt? This is just surreal. And then there was one with zombies and a motorbike. All of them somehow featured him with Mycroft Holmes. Except for one… a charcoal drawing that looked remarkably like he would if he were twenty years younger.
"I'm not sure if I should be flattered or terrified, Mr Holmes. Did you draw these yourself?"
"No, they were done by a talented artist who seems to fancy us in a relationship. I was unaware of their existence until today."
Who on Earth would try to set me up with Sherlock's brother? "How did you find them?"
"Well," Mycroft answered nervously, "I must admit I was searching for you on the internet. The CCTV footage wasn't terribly useful."
"You're stalking me?" Greg asked, incredulously.
"Well, I thought it would be wise to gather more information before I asked you out to dinner. I thought I'd have a better chance."
"Christ. You're worse than your brother," he muttered. He reached the top of the stairs and gave Mycroft a long, hard look. "Cuter though."
Mycroft raised his eyebrows in surprise.
Greg tipped his head. "Wait. Did you say dinner?"
"Yeah, alright. Just a sec." He got out his mobile and called off the proverbial hounds.
"Did you just agree to have dinner with me, Detective Inspector?"
"Call me Greg, and yes, I did."
"You aren't upset about the stalking?"
"Never had anyone stalk me before. Quite flattering, really. CCTV footage, eh? How long have you been doing this?"
"Three months," he said, with an embarrassed smile.
Greg looked impressed. "MI5 has the time and inclination to stalk me for three months? What'd I do, forget to return a video or something?"
"No, it was more of a… personal project."
They were halfway through a very decadent piece of chocolate cake at a wildly expensive restaurant when Greg gave him a cheeky look. "So, did you find anything interesting about me on the internet?"
"We have a nickname."
"The two of us. The artist told me people refer to us as 'Mystrade,' although I don't quite understand how or why we have a following. She also had some extremely creative ideas about our activities; some of them quite indecent." He sounded rather pleased with himself.
Greg gave him a lewd grin. "Did she draw any of them?"
Mycroft just smiled and motioned to the waiter for the check.