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“Lestrade,” Greg said as he answered the phone, walking towards a crime scene. The next words had him stopping in his tracks and biting back a groan. “I’ll be right there.” Sally was watching him and he gave her an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, Chris got into a fight at school. I’ve got to go get him.”

“Go on,” she said, waving him off.

Greg gave a nod and hurried back towards his car. If things had gone differently he should have been up for Inspector himself. As it was, he felt like he was lucky to still be a Sergeant with all the time he’d missed. Luckily, Sally understood his situation and considered him too valuable to lose. And he was glad she’d made Inspector; they’d worked together for quite a while.

Gritting his teeth, he drove towards the school. At least his ex was continuing to pay for the kids education. That seemed like all the alpha was willing to do. She’d barely even seen them once the divorce was final, moving to Edinburgh to ‘start over’. Probably shacking up with every omega that smiled at her, he thought uncharitably..

Greg swallowed back his anger. That wouldn’t do Chris any good. He was ten now, had seen more of their fights, knew better than his siblings just how much she’d walked out of their lives. Cherie was six, and quiet, and seemed determined to do her best at school. Paul was three, and sometimes he’d crawl into bed with Greg and cry because he missed his father. Greg never really knew what to say to him, just held Paul and promised that he’d never leave him like that. Dropping him off at daycare in the mornings was still difficult. Despite the love of his job, if Greg thought he could afford it he’d quit right this minute to make sure he could take care of his kids.

But that was impossible. She wasn’t paying that much support after the school costs. Lots of omegas had to carry on after a divorce or loss of their alpha, Greg knew he wasn’t anything special. Still, sometimes he missed her as much as Paul. Alice might have been a shit alpha, but she was all he’d known.The first heat after she’d left had been entirely miserable, but at least he was on suppressants to reduce how often he had them.

Reaching the school, Greg parked and got out, steeling himself as he approached the office. The headmaster had decided the divorce was all Greg’s fault and didn’t like him. As long as Chris didn’t get kicked out though, things would be okay.

**

"I do believe that will be all, gentlemen and lady," Mycroft said, standing as the meeting concluded. Anthea met him at the door, with a folded message. Mycroft arched a brow and took it, reading quickly. "Ah," he said. "I'm afraid I must seek your pardons. Something has come up." He nodded as they waved him off politely and ducked away.

"Is the car waiting?" Mycroft asked, fighting the urge to rub at his temples.

"Yes sir."

"Very well."

Thirty minutes later, Mycroft was striding into his son's school. Reid looked up guiltily from the stool in front of the headmaster's office, flanked by a brown-haired child perhaps a year younger. Mycroft graced Reid with a disappointed look, but it softened to concern as he noted the black eye forming. He sighed and swept into the small office, surprised at the omega arguing vigorously with Mr. Danteson. The headmaster was not known for his easy personality, and Mycroft hadn't observed his more....contemptible personality traits before, but it seemed as if today might turn into that day.

The omega glanced at him, but continued his argument. Mycroft allowed himself to deduce. Single parent like Mycroft himself, alpha not dead as Belle, but gone instead. The omega was tired, lines and grey hair showing the stress he was under. Clothes indicated he'd come directly from full time work, a police officer, Sergeant judging by the identification hanging from his belt and the fit of his shoes.

Definitely the parent of the other child outside, but the small chain with birthstones he wore showed him to be the mother of two more.

Mycroft shook his head and cleared his throat. Enough of this. "Excuse me," he said. "Might I get a proper explanation as to why I was called away from a rather important meeting for a simple fight?"

“Mister Holmes,” said the headmaster. “Your child was injured. I’m afraid this is not the first time that Miss Lestrade’s progeny has caused trouble at this school.”

Greg looked up and was surprised that the other man was alpha. Red hair and sharp blue eyes seemed to take in everything at a glance. A posh suit showed he belonged here more than Greg. Most alphas wouldn’t step in to trouble with their child, leave that to their omega, especially at this school. So probably a single parent as well.

“As I told Miss Lestrade,” the headmaster continued. “I do believe no less than a five day suspension would be the correct punishment.”

“Not with exams coming up,” growled Greg.

"I understand your reasoning headmaster, but I'm sure that both children would prefer not to be suspended," Mycroft said smoothly. "Miss Lestrade? Would you be appeased if your child were to write a letter of apology and they both were made to associate until their differences are solved?"

Greg was surprised at the generosity. “That would be acceptable. Thank you.”

"Very well. Headmaster, you will see both Reid and Miss Lestrade's child here tomorrow." Mycroft swept out, sure the omega would follow. "Reid, it's time to leave."

Greg followed him, looking at Chris. “You’ll need to apologize to Master Holmes.”

"But mum-"

"I started it," Reid broke in, head down. "I'm sorry, Father. The headmaster didn't ask me."

Mycroft raised a brow. "Very well. No violin lessons this week. And you will write an extra essay."

Reid looked up in shock, but his arguments died on his lips at the look on his father’s face.

Greg looked at his own son. “Still, Chris, you know better than to hit someone.”

Chris shuffled his feet nervously, glancing at Mycroft. "He said that...." He trailed off, and mumbled something, glancing at Reid.

"I didn't mean it cruelly, even if it’s true! And you hit me and you should NOT do that," Reid said, voice filled with self righteousness.

"Enough," Mycroft said. "Miss Lestrade, would you care to share the punishments we've worked out?"

Greg sighed. “Chris you will write an apology to Master Holmes. And you two will be spending time together until you can get your differences worked out.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Mister Holmes, perhaps you and Reid would join us for supper?”

"That would be lovely, but perhaps tomorrow night?" Mycroft asked over the looks of sheer shock the children were sharing. "I was called away from a rather important meeting," he continued, looking pointedly at Reid.

“I understand that.. Six?”

"Very good," Mycroft said. "Shall we exchange contact information?"

“Yeah.” Greg pulled out his mobile. “Should I text you my address?”

"Yes," Mycroft said and rattled off his number. "I will speak with you tomorrow. Shall I bring anything?"

“If you care to bring something to drink, you can. I’ve got two others, six and three.”

"Yes, of course. Do take care." Mycroft beckoned Reid out alongside him, rucksack in hand.

Reid dragged his heels as they went to the waiting car, expecting his father to bring him low with that sharp tongue he had.

"Stop scraping your feet," Mycroft ordered as the driver opened the door for them. "What on earth were you thinking? A fight, Reid?"

“I didn’t expect him to swing at me,” he grumbled.

"That is not an excuse," Mycroft replied as they began to drive. "What exactly did you say to him?"

“I deduced that his father left them and moved to Edinburgh.”

"I've warned you what will happen if you do that," Mycroft said. "You know people will react badly."

“I know,” he said quietly.

"You'll be apologizing properly tomorrow night," Mycroft said. "And straight to your room tonight. Rosa will be watching you."

“Yes, sir.” Reid looked out the window.

**

"This is bull shit," Chris said, stomping along behind Greg. "I can't believe you're going to ground me!"

“Language! You know better than to hit someone. You’re lucky the headmaster took the option so you don’t miss your exams.”

"It doesn't matter," Chris said, practically throwing himself into the car as they got to it. "You didn't even ask about what he said! He wouldn't stop talking about dad!"

“What did he say?” asked Greg as he buckled up.

"Never mind," Chris said, burying his head in his arms. "You don't care anyway."

“Of course I care, Chris. I’m trying to do right by you and your siblings.”

"Then why did you make dad leave?" Chris mumbled. "Make dad come back. I miss her."

Greg came to a stop light and closed his eyes, praying for strength. “I didn’t make her leave,” he said softly. “I miss her too, but she made her choices.”

"I want to live with her," Chris muttered. "I wanna go to Scotland."

“I’ll talk to her, but she said she didn’t want full time custody of any of you. Do you want to call her when we get home?”

"Mhm," Chris said. He waited a few minutes then spoke again. "Reid said she didn't want me. Why...why doesn't she want me?"

“She doesn’t want any of us. And I don’t know, Chris. We had some trouble a few years ago, I thought things were better, and then she did this. I don’t know why and I wish I had a better answer for you. I always tried to be good to her and you kids.” Greg was dangerously close to tears, but tried not to show it, though his voice cracked a little.

"I just wanna go home," Chris said and curled up on the seat, closing his eyes to avoid tears.

Greg reached over and squeezed his knee before focusing on the road

**

"Mum, why is this guy coming over?" Cherie asked grumpily, crossing her arms as Greg darted around the kitchen trying to tidy and cook.

“His son and Chris need to get to know each other better, so they don't fight any more. Be a sweetheart and set the table, please?”

Cherie sighed, but did as she was told. Paul came up and tugged on Greg's pant leg, wanting to be picked up just as the doorbell rang. Chris sat in a huff on the sofa, staring at the door, wordlessly refusing to answer.

Taking the food off the stove, Greg picked Paul up and held him on his hip as he opened the door. “Good evening,” he said with a tired smile. “Please, come in. This is is Paul, and this is my daughter Cherie.”

Mycroft smiled at him and held up a bottle of wine and a bottle of lemonade. "Good evening. I've brought drinks as requested. Reid, come along now." Cherie and Paul were both blond, taking after their father’s looks, as evidenced by a family picture on the mantel.

Reid slunk in behind him, eyes on the floor.

Greg set Paul down and took the drinks. “Supper is ready, won’t you come join us?”

"That would be lovely."

They proceeded into the dining room, and Mycroft directed Reid into the seat beside Chris. "May I help?" he asked Greg.

“You can pour the drinks if you like. The cups are in that cabinet. Chris, help Paul into his booster, will you?”

"Yes mum," Chris said and hopped out of his chair. He helped Paul up, but Paul slipped and banged his knee. He began to cry, reaching out for Greg.

“Shh, it’s okay,” said Greg, picking him up and rocking him gently. He shot Mycroft an apologetic look as he settled Paul in his booster and kissed his knee. “All better,” he said with a smile. Leaning over, he kissed the top of Cherie’s head and then Chris’s.

Reid gave Chris a grumpy smile as they settled around the table. “Thank you for coming,” said Greg.

"Thank you for inviting us," Mycroft said. "Might I enquire as to your line of work? Police force, yes?"

"Yes. Scotland Yard. Only a Sergeant, though."

"I'm sure you're quite good at your job," Mycroft said, granting Greg a smile.

“Thank you.” Greg liked the way he looked when he smiled. “What do you, Mister Holmes?”

"I occupy a minor position in the British government," Mycroft said, glancing at Reid as the boy snickered.

"Sounds important," said Greg, ignoring the snicker. He leaned over to help Paul with his food.

"Is it super secret stuff?" asked Cherie.

Mycroft smiled at her. "At times," he said kindly. "How old are you my dear?"

"Six. I'm in year two."

"Ah, very good. And do you enjoy school?”

"Yes. Mr. Turner says I'm an advanced reader."

“That is excellent,” Mycroft said. “And your maths skills?”

“Not quite top of my class, but Mommy got me a book so I can work on it.” Cherie smiled at Greg. He smiled back, finished with Paul’s food and picked up his own fork.

“Your mother takes rather good care of you, doesn’t he?” Mycroft asked, glancing at Greg.

Cherie nodded. “But he’s tired a lot.”

“It’s fine, Cherie,” said Greg. “I don’t mind taking care of all of you.” He gave Mycroft an apologetic look. “I’m very grateful for my family.”

“As am I,” Mycroft said, looking over at Reid. He and Chris had progressed from staring balefully at each other, to whispering. Reid looked apologetic and Chris looked stressed, but they were speaking, only to stop as they noticed eyes on them. “Are you two getting along now then?” Mycroft asked.

“Yes, Father,” said Reid.

“Very good. There may be hope for them yet,” Mycroft said, addressing Greg.

“Yeah. Chris, if you want to take Reid to your room after supper that’s fine.”

“Oh…” Chris looked doubtfully at Reid. “I share with Paul, so you can’t mind his toys. And you can’t make fun of my legos or my stuffed bear.”

“I won’t, I promise,” said Reid.

"I come too?” asked Paul.

Chris frowned. “Ugh. Paul, you’re a baby. Mummmm….”

“Don’t call your brother a baby,” said Greg. “Paul, I think he’d like to spend time alone with Reid. We can put on some cartoons, okay?”

Paul pushed his food around, mushing his vegetables. “Oh-kay,” he said quietly, sighing.

Mycroft hesitated, then smiled at Paul. “If you like, and your mother doesn’t mind, I can read you a story.”

“Okay,” said Paul again, giving Mycroft a shy smile.

After dinner, Chris and Reid disappeared. Mycroft found himself reading a story handed to him by Cherie, with Paul edging closer and closer to him as Greg cleaned up the kitchen. He blinked in surprise as Paul eventually gave up the pretense of shyness, curling into his side with quiet sigh.

Greg rubbed his face as he finished cleaning up and poured himself another small glass of wine. He stepped into the doorway and froze in place at the scene. Paul was curled up against Mycroft, who’d put one arm around the small boy. Cherie was on his other side, not quite leaned in as far, but paying rapt attention to the story, though she’d heard and read it plenty of times. Greg blinked back tears and retreated into the kitchen, leaning against the counter as he finished his wine alone. Mycroft seemed like a good man and a good alpha. There wasn’t a wedding ring, so he assumed he was raising Reid alone. He wondered what had happened to his omega, but asking would be prying. Reaching one hand up, Greg rubbed at the faded ghost of his bond mark. He didn’t expect to bond again, after all, he didn’t have time for anything but work, taking care of the kids, catching a few hours sleep, and doing it all over again.

“Miss Lestrade?” Mycroft asked, stepping quietly into the kitchen. “Are you all right?”

Greg blinked back the tears. Mycroft must have caught the distress in his scent. “Fine,” he said, putting on a smile. He could see Cherie and Paul peeking around the corner. “Cherie, take your brother and get ready for bed. He can sleep in your room until Reid and Chris are done.”

“Okay,” she said, looking between the two of them before taking Paul’s hand to lead him upstairs.

Paul broke free of her grasp, ran over, hugged Mycroft’s leg, then darted back out and running up the stairs.

“Sorry about that,” said Greg softly. “He’s really missed his father.”

“It’s quite fine,” Mycroft replied. “I’ve nearly forgotten what it is like to have pups at such a young age running about.” He hesitated before making up his mind to continue. He’d refused to open Greg’s file, despite the almost burning need to do so. “Your alpha. Do you mind if I ask what happened?” Mycroft said. “Or is this perhaps a conversation best suited to a night with far more wine to be consumed?”

Greg gave a soft chuckle. “It’s fine, but I hope you don’t mind if I pour myself another glass. She left. We’d….had problems, but I thought things were better. Then she left us. The divorce was finalized over the summer. Your omega?”

“Dead,” Mycroft said curtly. “Apologies. I should have realized I would open myself up to such a question. But yes...she died about a year ago.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” said Greg sincerely. He glanced to make sure no little ears were listening. “Things between us weren’t great for a long time, but I was willing to try for the kids. She wasn’t, didn’t even ask for custody, though she’ll get some visitation next summer and maybe the holidays. It’s been hard on them, I’m certain that’s why Chris acted out like he did. I’m trying, but I can’t be here as much as I’d like. I just try to make sure that they know they’re loved.” He looked at his wine glass and set it aside. “I’m sorry, I’m probably rambling. I just haven’t had anyone to talk to about any of this. Not really.”

“It is quite all right,” Mycroft said. “I tend not to speak about Belle more than possible, but I know it must be even more difficult for you. If it will help you, by all means, feel free to speak to me about it.” He sat down at the table and smiled, wanting Greg to confide in him.

Greg took his glass and sat across from him. "Thank you. I'm not even that upset for myself. I'm more angry for the kids. I knew she was cheating for years, but I kept quiet about it. Maybe I should have taken Cherie and Chris and left, but then I got pregnant Paul and she said she wanted to make things work. That didn't even last a year after Paul was born. I think Chris knows some of it, he's observant." Greg sighed. "Then one day she tells me she's moving to Edinburgh. Alone." Greg remembered the anguish of that day. And the relief, that it was finally coming to an end, that he wouldn't have to wonder what his alpha was bringing home with her, didn't have to worry about coming home to stumble over a tryst, or worse, the pups doing so.

"And the children don't understand, because how could you tell them the truth?" Mycroft said quietly. "Even if you did, they wouldn't believe it. It's their father." His mind briefly flitted to his own troubles with Reid, the angry shouts of 'Ice Man' his son was so fond of employing.

"Exactly. And despite everything, I miss her too. It wasn't arranged, exactly, but our union was strongly encouraged. I think we only went into it at our family's behest."

"Belle and I had a similar arrangement. It wouldn't have been forced if we'd said no, but it was also strongly encouraged," Mycroft shared. "But she was a comfort to me. And I did..." He tried to search out the words he wanted, but at the kind look in Greg's eyes he gave in. "I did love her. Once in time."

Greg reached across and squeezed his hand in sympathy.

"Yes, well," Mycroft said, clearing his throat and standing. "Shall I collect Reid and be on my way?"

“I suppose it is getting late,” smiled Greg. “You’re both welcome to come another time.”

"That would be nice," Mycroft admitted as Greg stood and they walked down the hall. "I find I've enjoyed the company, even if our sons...don't?" Mycroft said questioningly as the door swung open. He couldn't help his smile at seeing Reid and Chris curled on the floor of a blanket fort, one stuffed bear between them, fast asleep. "Oh dear. Did we speak for longer than I thought?"

“Perhaps so,” said Greg quietly. “We could go to the park this weekend, if you’d like?” Maybe he was foolish to ask, but he found himself wanting to spend time with Mycroft. The fact that the pups seemed to like him didn’t hurt any either. And obviously Chris and Reid were becoming fast friends.

Mycroft frowned. "I am not sure if I will be able to get away from work or not. Perhaps for a short time on Sunday?"

“Picnic Sunday afternoon? You work the weekends as well?”

"I work a very inconsistent schedule, that often requires my time even on the weekends, yes."

“Ah. I understand that. Police work, you know.”

"Yes," Mycroft said, stepping into the room to pick up Reid. "If only Reid understood." He nodded at Greg. "A picnic would be lovely. Please allow me to prepare it. Is Regent's Park an acceptable location?"

“That’s fine. You can text me the time. And if you ever need someone to watch Reid, I’m sure Chris wouldn’t mind the company.”

"I have a system of sitters, but your offer is more than welcome. Reid needs the company. I'm afraid I do not have...friends. Not any with children."

"Well I'd be glad to spend more time with you and Reid," said Greg honestly.

Mycroft blinked. "Oh. Yes. I'd quite like that as well." He smiled hesitantly, shifting as Reid nuzzled into his shoulder with a sleepy mumble. "Must be going now. Thank you again." Greg walked him to the door, and Mycroft smiled again on his way out to the car, driver opening the door as he moved in.

The smile stayed with him all the way home, even as he tucked Reid into bed and then made his way to his own lonely room. With a sigh, Mycroft stripped down, and clambered into bed, thoughts of the evening dancing in his head. And he refused to take himself in hand, even as his mind drifted over to Gregory's smile, kind eyes, and appealing silvery hair. Not to mention the plush arse hidden away in plain, work worn trousers.