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Dear Friends and Enemies

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There was not a time that Gregory Lestrade could remember when he did not want to be a police officer. Not that he failed to consider the matter fully before he joined the force, rather, when he did think it through, he couldn’t think of anything he would prefer to be. When he had first entered the force as a newly minted constable, he had known what it would be like, he had known it would be hard. And it had been hard, but going into it knowing how bad it could be had given him something many of his fellow officers never achieved. Perspective.

Lestrade’s first interaction with the metropolitan police had not been positive. People rarely saw the police when a crime had not been committed, and whether they were the victim or the offender often made little difference to how the police were received. Nobody liked the police, not where he had grown up, at least. Either they were people who targeted teens and those living in lower income areas, or they were people who would ignore crimes against members of the ‘lower class’. He had grown up on a council estate in eastern London, where crime had been high and income low. A healthy distrust of the police had been ingrained in him from birth.

Lestrade had been nine years old when he met his first police officer. PC Pearson had responded to reports of shots fired in his neighbourhood and had the unfortunate responsibility of informing Lestrade, his sister, and his mother, that his father had been killed. He vividly remembered being confused and angry, not angry that someone had killed his father, not angry that they couldn’t catch the person that did it. No. He was angry that his father had died and left them without a source of income. Michael Lestrade had cared very little about his family, he wasn’t abusive but he was, for all intents and purposes, absent. If he wasn’t absent in body, he was absent in mind, drunk 90% of the time and silent the other 10. Elizabeth Lestrade had bad luck. She’d gotten pregnant while still in high school and had married a man who stopped caring after less than five years of marriage. She wasn’t a bad mother, but she wasn’t one of those mothers who would have done anything for her children. Greg had learned at a fairly early age that he had to take care of himself, and his sister.

PC Pearson took Lestrade aside after informing his mother of his father’s death. The young constable told him that he didn’t have to turn to crime to help his family, told him to apply for government aid. PC Pearson had given him another option and, as angry as he had been at the time, he had listened. No matter how many crimes he saw unsolved in his community, how many of his friends and peers had been arrested, Lestrade had never stopped believing in that other option.

His home life had been rather good, considering the circumstances. His mother had worked to support them and he had received all the love he required from his little sister, Alice. They helped each other, taught each other, and eventually they moved out of their mother’s house and rented a crappy little flat together while he trained to be a police officer and she worked nights as a bartender to pay her way through university. Even while they were dirt poor, living in a dump of a one-bedroom apartment, sleeping on the floor because they didn’t have enough money for furniture, he had never stopped wanting to be a police officer.

He had been through hard times, harder than the ones he was experiencing at that moment, and that made his reaction all the worse. Lestrade was beginning to wish that he had never become a police officer. He had been divorced for a year, his daughter was in a serious relationship, he was up to his neck in paperwork, in the middle of a baffling, disturbing and downright depressing case, and his ‘consulting detective’ was incommunicado.

An Iraq war veteran had gone missing and his entire family, including his 8-year-old daughter, had been savagely murdered, gutted, and left in a public park. He wanted so desperately for the man to be innocent, and alive, but he couldn’t ignore the evidence that all pointed directly at the missing man. Lestrade and his team had been looking for two days and they still had nothing on his whereabouts, no leads and no ideas. Except one. Donovan had found an entry in the man’s diary from the day before his disappearance; he was due for a physical therapy session at one of the local hospitals after an accident had exacerbated his old war injury. Usually, he would have sent Donovan or one of the PCs to interview the people at the hospital, but this case had affected him in such a personal way, and he was going insane stuck at his desk doing nothing, so he chose to go personally.

The entire physical therapy department at the hospital was full of patients, each one of them working hard to overcome whatever injury they had sustained. It was sort of beautiful, the best kind of beautiful, to watch the amputees walking, or the seriously injured working through the pain to achieve whatever mobility they could. It certainly gave him some perspective, something he had never been lacking previously but was in great need of at this point. He talked briefly with the therapist in charge and was directed to the far corner of the room where a fairly short, blonde man was wincing and doing exercises with his left arm.

“Excuse me?” he asked when he got close. “I’m Detective Inspector Lestrade, would you mind if I asked you a couple of questions?”

The man twisted so he was facing Lestrade and looked him up and down twice before nodding. “What about?”

“Thomas Hall.”

“Why do you want to ask about Tommy? What’s happened?”

“He is missing, and possibly connected with a serious crime. We need to find him and talk to him.”

“Whatever crime you think he committed, he didn’t do it,” he said firmly, his voice strong and vaguely commanding.

“What’s your name, Captain?” Lestrade asked.

“John Watson, 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, RAMC,” he said automatically. “Wait, how did you know I was a captain?”

“You’re wearing ID tags and you used a command voice. With your approximate age, it was a fair assumption to make,” Lestrade replied. “I just want to find Tommy first, before anything else.”

“He didn’t do it.”

“What makes you so sure?” he asked gently.

“He was injured in Iraq almost five years ago, lost his foot to an IED. Ever since he was invalided home, he has visited the returned veterans living in London. Every. Single. One. He visited me the first day, only a few hours after I had come to London. He told me to get off my arse and get my PT done so I could regain mobility and start doing things. He gave us all hope. I didn’t know him well, but when he was hurt in that car accident, I trained with him. He is a good man, and whatever you think he did, he did not do it.”

“I can’t prove that without him,” Lestrade replied evenly. “Can you tell me anything, anything at all relevant? Where he might be, any enemies he, or his family, might have had?”

“I told you, I don’t know him well. All I know is that the guy who ran him over is going to prison because of his testimony. It was a hit and run, he was lucky to have survived. He got out on parole last week.”

“Do you know the name of this man?”

“I don’t know, but Tommy filed a police report, it should be in there.”

“Okay, thank you Captain Watson, you’ve been very helpful. I’m sorry to have interrupted your session.”

“I was done anyway,” he said, putting his towel into his backpack and grabbing a metal cane from the wall beside him. “I’ll walk out with you.”

They walked silently through the white corridors of the hospital and out into the cool autumn air. The silence wasn’t at all uncomfortable. In fact, it was rather calming for Lestrade, who was used to chaos and screaming and constant noise. They didn’t speak until they reached the street.

“I’m going this way,” Watson said, gesturing in the direction of the underground.

“Where are you going?”

“Home, why?”

“Come on, I’ll give you a lift. I’ve got my squad car.”

“While I appreciate the sentiment, Detective Inspector, I am perfectly capable of walking,” he snapped.

“I realise that,” Lestrade replied nonchalantly, “but I thought it might save you some time.”

“Don’t you have people to find?”

“I do, I’ve already texted my team the information you’ve given me. It’ll take at least half an hour to find the reports, and another hour or so to assess whether or not he is a threat. And paperwork, of course. So much paperwork. I’m not needed there, not just yet,” he replied, then decided to address the elephant in the room and get it out of the way. “You don’t need my pity and I don’t have any to spare. You are working hard to retain mobility and that makes you someone to be admired, not pitied. Never pitied. I wanted to talk to you, in the car, because I think I might be able to help you get back on your feet in London.”

Watson studied him with sharp blue eyes for a long moment before asking suspiciously, “how?”

Lestrade smiled. “My sister lives near a clinic, here in London, and she’s friends with one of the doctors who works there. She’s taking maternity leave in a couple of weeks and they haven’t been able to find a replacement for her. It’s temporary, and only part time, but it’s something and I thought it might help you supplement your income.”

“I…” Watson began, then, after taking a deep breath, looked Lestrade directly in the eyes. “You’re serious. They’d offer it to me? A broken old soldier with a psychosomatic limp and PTSD?”

“You’re a doctor,” Lestrade replied. “None of that stuff changes your training. It will be boring, and I wish I had contacts in a hospital or something interesting, but I don’t. Please, just think about it.”

“You’re being awfully nice for someone who met me less than an hour ago,” Watson said, still looking suspicious.

“I was having a bad day. You helped with my case and I like you. The clinic just popped into my head.”

“All right,” he said eventually. “Give me the address and I’ll go.”

Lestrade took out his notebook and a pen and jotted down the address and phone number from where he had stored them in his mobile, then ripped out the page. Watson took it, folded it, and put it into his pocket.

“Give me your phone for one second,” Lestrade said, holding out a hand. Watson took it out of his jacket pocket and handed it to him cautiously. Lestrade slid it open and added his work number into the phone. “If you have a problem, you call me. Okay?”

“Yes, okay,” Watson replied. “I’ll be going now.”

Lestrade handed him back the phone and took out his car keys. “Take care, Captain.”

“You too, Inspector.”

And they went their separate ways.

***

Lestrade looked up from his depressingly large pile of paperwork with tired eyes and smiled when he saw Mycroft Holmes leaning casually against the doorjamb, left hand gripping the ubiquitous umbrella. When Mycroft didn’t smile back, he straightened in his chair and put down his pen, preparing for bad news or an argument of some kind.

“Mycroft,” Lestrade said, gesturing for him to sit. “What is the problem?”

“I’m afraid I will be unable to meet with you for some time, there is a,” he paused for a moment before continuing delicately, “situation out of the country.”

“So you can’t make it for coffee tomorrow?” Lestrade asked. He was genuinely disappointed because, despite what Sherlock said of his brother, Mycroft was an entertaining friend.

“Not tomorrow, nor the week after, most likely. In fact, I expect to be out of London for at least a month.”

“Okay,” Lestrade replied. “And you want me to keep him busy?”

“I have left several matters for him to deal with, he is unlikely to get overly bored. However, if you do come across something he would be interested in…”

“Of course,” Lestrade replied. “I’ll give him a call right away if I get anything interesting while you’re gone.”

“Thank you, Lestrade,” Mycroft replied, but his posture did not relax and there was a tightness in his eyes that made Lestrade nervous.

Lestrade grabbed his post-it notes from his desk and quickly penned a short note in his messy, but legible, handwriting. Then he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a single chocolate, wrapped in a fancy black box and tied with a thin, dark purple ribbon. He tossed it gently to Mycroft, who caught it with a bemused look, then handed him the post it note. Mycroft blinked twice and looked back up at Lestrade.

“I’m not sure I quite understand,” he said carefully.

“Neither do I,” Lestrade replied easily. “I don’t know what has you so tense, but I do know that you work too hard and you don’t have enough friends.”

“I don’t have friends, Lestrade, I have allies and enemies,” he replied flatly. “Holmeses don’t have friends.”

Lestrade rolled his eyes. “We are friends, Mycroft. We’ve been friends for at least a year. We meet for coffee almost every week, you complain about your job, I complain about mine. You complain about your brother, I complain about my ex-wife. I tell you funny stories about work, you laugh. You got my daughter her first job out of university and I returned the favour by not arresting your arse of a brother when he stole my warrant card last week. We are friends.”

Mycroft blinked twice again. Analysing Mycroft’s eyes seemed to be the only visible way to gauge his reactions to anything. As far as Lestrade could tell from four years of acquaintance, two blinks meant confusion, a blink a fraction longer than usual meant anger or frustration, and Mycroft’s version of an eye roll was briefly looking up and to the right.

“I see,” Mycroft said after a moment’s pause. “So you have given me your private mobile number because we are friends?” The way he said ‘we are friends’, a little slower than the rest of the sentence, with his mouth very carefully forming the words, made Lestrade think that he had never before said those words together. And that was more than a little heartbreaking.

“Yes. I only use that phone for my daughter and my sister. If you have any problems, or if you want to talk while you’re gone, to ask about Sherlock or just to talk, I’ll answer.”

“You never let your other phone ring out, why is this number necessary?”

“It just is. That number is for personal things. It’s more likely to be free, because I get a lot of work related calls and sometimes Sherlock spams my work number when he’s bored.”

Mycroft looked down at the fluorescent yellow sticky note, then back at Lestrade and held up the chocolate. “And this?”

“It was my sister’s birthday yesterday. I bought her some fancy chocolates and a couple of books, and I saw a flavour that I thought you would like. When I was a kid, me and my sister used to buy each other little gifts, just small things, nothing at all expensive. Things that had reminded one of us of the other, we called them ‘random appreciation presents’.”

“I believe you mean, ‘my sister and I’,” Mycroft corrected automatically.

“Of course, sorry, grammar police,” Lestrade said with a smile. “Anyway, I thought you could do with a random appreciation present of your own. I can’t imagine Sherlock is big on gifts, and you seemed stressed last week.”

“I do not eat sweets,” Mycroft said, somewhat tersely.

Lestrade looked at him with a sad sort of half-smile. “You should know that you don’t need to diet, you never needed to diet. I wouldn’t lie to you. You can eat whatever you want, and if you want to diet, that’s your choice, but if you want to eat a chocolate for once, that would be a good one to eat.”

“What flavour is it?”

“Why don’t you give it a try?” Lestrade asked. When Mycroft opened his mouth to object, he added, “please?”

“No,” Mycroft said, placing the box back on Lestrade’s desk. “I’m afraid I cannot.”

“Okay,” Lestrade said, more than a little disappointed. “I guess you have to go, then. Be safe, whatever you’re doing.”

Mycroft stood up, collected his umbrella, and turned to the door. He paused for a moment and, without turning back, spoke.

“You may think we are friends, Lestrade, but I think it would be best for everyone if you ceased believing that.”

“I’m afraid I can’t,” Lestrade replied firmly. “I can’t turn it on and off, it doesn’t work that way, and besides, there is no harm in having friends, Mycroft.”

“Caring, Detective Inspector Lestrade, is not an advantage,” he said coldly, and opened the door and walked away before he could hear Lestrade’s reply.

“You’re wrong.”

Lestrade was seriously considering running after Mycroft, but his personal mobile rang before he could. He checked the caller ID and smiled when he saw it was Alice, his sister.

“Hey, Ally,” he said with a smile, turning to look out the window and trying to forget his confusing, and frankly upsetting, conversation with Mycroft.

“I’m at the clinic,” she began.

“Are you okay? Is everything alright?” he asked quickly, straightening in his chair as if to brace for bad news.

“Everything is fine, Greg. When you reach 40, they make you get all these annual tests. I was just doing them, and believe me, you do not want me to describe them. Anyway, Dr Carlson is off on maternity leave and I have a new Doctor. Doctor Watson, a lovely man. He said that he was recommended the job by a policeman and I thought, ‘no, it can’t have been Greg’, but was it?”

“Yeah, I met him a few days ago on a case. A bad one,” Lestrade said. “He helped out. Quite a bit, actually.”

And he had. Tommy Hall had not killed his family, he had been fished out of the Thames less than half a day after his conversation with Watson, and a security camera had caught the car that dropped the body off on tape. They had found the car abandoned a block away and eventually matched the fingerprints inside to the man that had run Tommy Hall over. He had confessed after less than an hour with Donovan – the woman was ruthless when children were involved. He had killed Tommy Hall and then his family to cover up the crime, hoping everyone would assume that Hall had committed suicide after the murder. If Watson had not told Lestrade about a possible motive, the police probably wouldn’t have bothered to look closer.

“He seems lovely, he just went to get the vaccination for my flu shot, he’ll be back any minute.”

“You shouldn’t be on your phone while in an appointment, Ally, that’s rude.”

“Always the older brother, Greg,” she scoffed. “He doesn’t mind. Oh, here he is now. You don’t mind, do you Doctor Watson?”

Greg could only just make out Watson’s muffled response of “who are you talking to, Mrs Graham?”

“My brother,” she replied.

“Is it very important?” he asked. “I do have to finish your check up.”

“Not very important, no. But you might know my brother.”

“It’s unlikely, Mrs Graham. I am new in London.”

“My brother is a policeman, Detective Inspector Lestrade.”

“Lestrade?” Watson asked. “I do know him.”

“My brother wants to speak to you,” she said.

“Wait, Alice!”

“Hello?” Watson asked.

“Hello, Doctor Watson. Sorry for my sister.”

“I saw the news,” he said sadly. “About Tommy.”

“I’m so sorry, Doctor Watson. I had hoped that he would be alive.”

“I told you he didn’t do it.”

“I believed you,” Lestrade replied. “How’s the job going?”

“This is my first day, but everyone is very nice and it’s fairly easy work, comparatively speaking. I can’t thank you enough for telling me about it. I’m not sure I would have taken the initiative to find a position if you hadn’t made it so easy.”

“I’m glad I could be of assistance.”

“Would you like to head to the pub, watch a game or something? As a thank you,” Watson asked. “I haven’t any mates in London, and no family, apart from a sister I’m not close to.”

“I’d like that, it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to have a night out with a mate who isn’t my brother-in-law. My sister, as you can see, is a little too close.”

Watson laughed and said, “I can see that. Are you free tomorrow night?”

“Should be, yeah,” Lestrade replied after thinking it over for a moment. “But the job can be a little unpredictable.”

“How about I give you my number and you call if you get held up?”

“Okay,” Lestrade replied, reaching for a pen and paper and writing down Watson’s mobile number as he read it out before farewelling him and getting back to work, resolving to have fun and forget about Mycroft’s odd behaviour for a while.

It wasn’t that Lestrade didn’t have friends, because he did, but most of them were workmates and it was sometimes difficult to keep the line between professional and personal relationships in tact. It wasn’t easy to follow someone’s orders at work if you’d had to carry them home, roaring drunk, the night before. Lestrade’s first DI had been a little too friendly, and that had an incredibly harmful impact on the professional capabilities of the team, not that any of them had actually liked the man. Lestrade was friendly with his team, but he maintained that professional distance as much as possible. He was also very friendly with Mark, Alice’s husband of almost 20 years, but he’d never quite gotten over the whole ‘he’s having sex with my sister’ thing, so the relationship wasn’t as close as it could be.

Most of the friends he’d made in high school had ended up in prison. One of them he’d had to arrest personally, and friends he’d made over the years had married off and started doing ‘couple activities’ which he’d been excluded from as soon as he’d divorced his ex-wife. His daughter was wonderful and incredibly intelligent, but he would always be her father first. It had never been his goal to become her friend. Erin was probably the best thing that had ever happened to him, but she had her own life, a new job that demanded most of her time, and no longer needed him in the same material way she had when she’d been a child. He missed the days when it had been so easy to be her hero, when she had needed him as much as he needed her. Lestrade wasn’t sure if he could count Sherlock as a friend, when in reality he felt more like the infuriating man’s father than his friend. With Mycroft out of the country, Lestrade could finally see how much time he had reserved to spend with him, and how empty his calendar would be without him. Perhaps his new friend, Dr Watson, would be able to fill those spaces, and not deny their friendship in the process.

Chapter Text

Of course, nothing in Lestrade’s life ever turned out like it was supposed to. Instead of meeting a new friend for drinks and a game, he was stuck hunting down a particularly uninspiring murderer who had been rude enough to kill his wife on the day Lestrade was supposed to be clocking out early. He sent Watson an apologetic text as soon as he got the call, but didn’t get a chance to check his phone for a few hours while he was on the case. When he finally found a spare second, he checked his messages.

Don’t worry about it, I understand. Tomorrow? JW

Again, I am so sorry. Tomorrow sounds great. GL

It had been far too long since he’d had a proper break. After the divorce, there hadn’t been much point in going home to an empty flat. That might have been a little bit pathetic, but at least he had put in enough hours to have the afternoon freed up without complaint from his DCI.

The murder may have been spectacularly unoriginal, but the murderer had been fairly difficult to find, and by the time they’d caught him and completed the paperwork it was 4pm the next day. He signed the last page with a flourish and grinned to himself as he collected his things and closed the door to his office. It was a Friday and he was going home early, seeing a friend for drinks, and it looked like he might even get the weekend off. It was a good day.

“What’s got you so happy?” Donovan asked as he walked past her desk on his way to the stairs. “Have you got a hot date?”

“No, not that it’s any of your business, but I’m going to the pub with a friend.”

“A friend, or a friend?” she asked cheekily.

“Just a friend, Donovan,” he replied firmly.

“You’re not too old, Lestrade,” she added, although she looked sincere.

“It’s not a date,” he repeated. “But I’ll keep that in mind. You have a good weekend, Donovan.”

“You too. Have a good time on your not-date.”

He laughed and continued on his way out of the building. It was still light when he emerged, and it was utterly confusing for a few moments. He never finished work before six, he hadn’t done so since Erin had started high school more than 10 years prior. He supressed a ridiculous urge to skip to his car, but he did hum as he drove back to his flat, a drive that took less than 10 minutes when it usually took almost an hour in traffic. When he got home, he puttered around in the kitchen for a while, making himself a sandwich and a cup of tea before sitting down at his scratched dining room table to eat. Once he was done, he checked the time and called his daughter.

“Dad?” she answered almost immediately. “Is something wrong?”

“No, nothing is wrong,” he replied quickly. “I haven’t called in a while and I got off work early today.”

“You never get off work early,” she said, her voice vaguely accusing.

“I know, but I did today. I’m meeting a friend for drinks later, and I already had to cancel on him once already, so I took the afternoon off.”

“It’s about time you started dating again.”

“Why does everyone think it’s a date? He’s my friend, and I barely know him.”

She sighed and said, “dad,” in a way that only daughters could. It was sort of exasperated and loving at the same time with clear undertones of “sometimes you can be so stupid”. He liked that tone, not that he’d ever admit to it.

“Enough about my sex life,” he said quickly.

“What sex life?” she quipped before he could continue.

“Stop with the cheek!” he said, laughing. “I wanted to ask how your girlfriend was going.”

“Penny? She’s good. Still around.”

“Am I going to meet her any time soon?” he asked. “It’s been almost a year. I’m not that scary.”

She was quiet for a moment before replying carefully, “You are a bit, though.”

“I’m not going to scare her away, not deliberately. You’re a clever kid, Erin, I trust you and you trust her. I just want to know her, when you’re ready to introduce us.”

“Okay, I’ll talk to her about it later.”

“Thanks, Erin.”

“So whose this friend?”

“He helped out on a case last week. I don’t know why I have to keep explaining this to people. I do have friends,” he huffed.

“Not that many. The only ‘friend’ you ever talk about is that Sherlock idiot, or Uncle Mark.”

“I told you about Mycroft. The brother. He’s the one who helped you get your job,” he said, a little defensively. He wondered when the dynamic had shifted so dramatically that he was defending his actions to her.

“I’ve never met the guy, I figured you were making him up. I mean, come on, dad! He sounds like a Bond villain, or maybe a superhero, I can’t decide which.”

“He is real. He’s Sherlock’s brother, he works for the government… sort of. He is actually my friend.”

“Ooooh,” she said. “Someone sounds a bit too defensive. Should I be meeting this Mycroft?”

“Why did I ever have children?” he asked with a groan.

“We can put that on your long list of bad decisions.”

“Says you. Do you remember your goth stage? I loved the black lipstick, especially when it got on your teeth, and the dyed black hair with patches of brown. I have a couple of wonderful photos of that period, I might send them over so you can show them to that girlfriend of yours.”

“Don’t you dare. I know where you live.”

He laughed. “Fine, I won’t. I’ll have to go soon, to meet my friend, but we should have dinner sometime this week.”

“Okay, but only if you promise to cook. I’m sick of pasta.”

He tutted. “I taught you how to cook, Erin. There are no excuses.”

“It’s too much effort to cook a proper meal when it’s just me. Don’t tell me that you always make a full, balanced meal when you come home from work, because I won’t believe you.”

“I don’t, not at all, but that’s hardly the point,” he said exasperatedly “But I’ll cook when you come over, it’ll be nice.”

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen you,” she said. “The new job is fairly hectic.”

“I know, I do read the emails you send me, and you call often enough. It sounds like they’re really appreciating your work.”

“I’m a new grad, they’re giving me a lot more responsibility than I expected. I suppose I did do a bunch of internships over the last few years.”

“You’re an amazing architect, Erin, new grad or not.”

“I’ll put that as a plaque on my wall next to my degree, ‘My dad says I’m a great architect’, I’m sure it will go down well,” she said dryly.

He laughed. “I really do have to go, Erin. I’ll text you about dinner, probably a Sunday night.”

“Okay, I’ll see you soon then.”

“Bye, Erin.”

He quickly showered and changed into casual clothes of black jeans and a green t-shirt, before pulling on his jacket and walking to the pub. The pub that they had chosen was about a 10-minute walk from his flat, and only three stations from Watson’s bedsit. It was a nice place, cosy and a little noisy, but not overcrowded. They had decent beer on tap and surprisingly good whiskey for a reasonable price. He arrived about 15 minutes early and ordered a round, setting up a tab so he wouldn’t have to worry about settling the bill if he got a little more than tipsy.

He wasn’t a big drinker, he remembered all too clearly how his father had acted when on the stuff, but he wasn’t afraid of becoming an alcoholic. He had a daughter to think about, and a sister too. Even though Alice had been a legal adult for more than 25 years, he still felt a sense of responsibility for her happiness and welfare. He assumed it was a result of him being the oldest, and all those years he had looked after her while she looked after him. The day she had gotten married was the second happiest day of his life, eclipsing his own marriage (which should probably have been an indication of problems from the outset) and only being beat out by the birth of Erin.

Lestrade walked over to the corner booth that had a clear view of the bar and both exits/entrances. He was a cop, and he couldn’t turn off all that the job entailed. He couldn’t stop watching and evaluating. He couldn’t stop watching for the glint of a knife or the twitch of a drug addict, and as much as he tried to turn it off for the sake of relaxation, he had found it to be pretty much impossible.

Watson arrived exactly on time and spotted Lestrade almost immediately, but did not make his way over to the booth until he had scanned every inch of the room. It looked like Lestrade wasn’t the only one with habits he couldn’t break. Watson looked tired, but happier than when they had first met. His limp seemed to have improved in that time, too, which seemed like an indication that his mental health was also improved. Lestrade stood up and greeted Watson with a firm handshake and a pat on his good shoulder.

“How’s work treating you?” Lestrade asked as he pushed Watson’s pint towards him.

“Well, quite well. It’s good pay, nice hours, close to home. It’s perfect. I can’t thank you enough for suggesting it to me,” he said seriously.

“It’s the least I could do. I had no idea that you’d be meeting my sister,” Lestrade chuckled. “She can be a bit of a handful sometimes.”

“When she told me she was your sister, she made a lot more sense, actually. You are quite alike in many ways. You even look similar. Maybe it’s the hair.”

He smirked. “Don’t let her hear you say that, she has been fighting her husband to let her dye it, but he says he likes the silver look.”

“I call it aging gracefully,” Watson said, running a hand through his own subtly greying blonde hair and grinning.

“Of course,” Lestrade agreed with an answering smile.

“It looks like you’ve had a bit of a difficult week.”

“What makes you say that? Do I look that awful?”

“No, not at all, but you did do something to your back, probably pulled a muscle,” Watson replied. “I’m a doctor, I can’t really help seeing that kind of thing.”

“Fair enough, you’re absolutely right. It’s funny, really, you reminded me of someone I know for a second there.”

“Really? Who?”

“He’s a consultant for the Met In an… unofficial capacity. I work with him on occasion for the really hard cases, the weird ones and the serial killers. He must be the most intelligent man I’ve ever met, well, apart from his brother. He could tell you everything about your life, from your profession to your sexual orientation to your childhood traumas, by looking at you for a second. He’s an absolute dick, a brilliant dick, but a dick nonetheless. He knew my wife was cheating on me before I did and didn’t hesitate to inform me, in a spectacularly tactless manner in front of half my team. I think he was surprised when I actually listened to him and confronted her about it. He told me she would do it again, and I believed him. He sees things that most people don’t notice and makes these absolutely insane ‘deductions’ that are always right.”

“He sounds brilliant,” Watson said. “Awful in some ways, but brilliant.”

Lestrade looked more than a little surprised. “That’s not what people usually say.”

“I imagine it wouldn’t be. Is he just an arse for the sake of it?”

“I think he got used to people making fun of him for it and just stopped caring and removed his verbal filter,” Lestrade said with a shrug. “I have a team member who hates his guts. In fact, most people dislike him immediately when they first meet him.”

“Did you?”

“Not exactly,” he said with a wry smile. “He was pretty messed up when I met him, on some heavy drugs and so skinny. It was sad, and once I realised just how clever he was, it made me angry. All that potential, you know? I guess it triggered my parental instincts.”

“Really? You don’t exactly seem the paternal type.”

“Hey! I have a daughter, I can be paternal. Just ask her, she hates it.” He chuckled as he remembered Erin’s teen years. In hindsight, it was amusing, but at the time it had been awful.

“How old is she?” Watson asked.

“Almost 24,” Lestrade replied, smiling fondly. “I remember when she was a kid, she was so small and fragile. Did you ever want kids?”

“At one point, yes. But now? No. Definitely not,” Watson replied firmly. “Until I can take care of myself, I’m staying away from that.”

“You’re doing well, Dr Watson. Really well. You’ve got yourself a job, you’re getting out of the house, doing your PT, even making friends. It was always going to be a slow process, but you’re handling everything well.”

Watson looked surprised. “I guess I am,” he said slowly. “I never thought of it like that.”

“You’d better start thinking of it like that. If you keep thinking of the big picture, you’ll just depress yourself, because you can’t see how you can get there. ‘Look at the road, not the horizon’, that’s what my first DI told me when I was a trainee. I told him it was touchy feely bollocks, but it is actually a good way to go in some situations. You have to remember that you aren’t the person you were when you left, and that’s probably not a bad thing.”

Watson took a deep breath and looked down at his pint. “This is a bit heavy for the first beer, don’t you think?”

“Probably, but we’ve already established I have some paternal instincts that aren’t going away any time soon,” Lestrade replied. “Best get used to that.”

“Thanks,” Watson muttered, obviously uncomfortable but genuinely grateful.

“No problem. Now, tell me something good, a fun story.”

“A fun story?” he asked incredulously. “I don’t really… well, maybe there was this one time.”

“Go ahead.”

“Well, we were at base and one of the young guys, Collins was his name, gets a package from home, from his mother no less. Want to take a guess at what was inside?”

“I couldn’t begin to imagine.”

“Two bottles of the strongest vodka I’ve ever come across, a deck of cards, a digital camera and a note.”

“Is this going where I think it’s going?” Lestrade asked, already laughing.

“Probably. The note said, basically, that we were to play strip poker and send her the pictures to prove that Collins was having a good time in the army. It was a little odd, and Cole had to answer a lot of questions. We called him mummy’s boy for the next two years.”

“Did you do it? Play strip poker?”

“Oh yes, the entire unit played. It was an excellent team building activity,” Watson said seriously, before grinning and continuing. “Luckily, I’m surprisingly good at poker, although my saving grace was probably my tolerance for alcohol and the fact that I was wearing shoes and socks at the time, not everyone was. I got to keep my pants and trousers on, which was nice. He took pictures and everything, sent them right off to his family, although we censored them. Last I heard, he was in England, actually.”

“I would pay good money to see those pictures, excellent blackmail material right there. Did it cheer his folks up?”

“Yeah, I reckon it did. Apparently he was always a bit of a joker and they thought the army would stifle him, beat down his personality. It didn’t, although our unit was a lot better than most. He served one tour and got out, with all our blessings. He wasn’t made for combat, but I think the army did mature him a little.”

“You should go find him. I’m sure he’d appreciate seeing you, and knowing that you got out okay, too.”

“I don’t want them to see me like this,” Watson said, his tone a little bitter and full of something akin to self-loathing.

“I already told you, Watson, there’s nothing wrong with you. You are not to be pitied, because you don’t need it. He’s probably worried about you, and the rest of your unit, too. You should talk to him.”

“I suppose you’re right. It’s hardly fair that I’m triggering all those paternal instincts, you must be less than 10 years older than me.”

“You’re only, what, 38?”

“Yeah.”

“Then 10 years is accurate enough, I’m 47.”

“You had your daughter young,” Watson remarked.

“Yeah, I guess. I had been working for a long time, and my ex-wife and I married young. She wanted the security and I loved her, so we got married. She had Erin two years later.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, when did you get divorced?”

“The divorce was finalised almost 18 months ago, but we were in trouble long before that. She wasn’t the right kind of person for me. She could never deal with my job, even though I was around often enough to take care of Erin. I was willing to work on it, she wasn’t. She got remarried less than six months after the divorce was finalised.”

Watson winced. “That must have been a little difficult.”

“I guess. The divorce wasn’t all that bad, to be honest.”

“Are you going to start dating again, find another woman to try it out with?” he asked, leaning back in the booth.

“I don’t think so, and for the record it could be either a man or a woman if I were to start dating again,” Lestrade said casually, deliberately trying to sound like it wasn’t a come on, because it wasn’t. Watson was a wonderful but fragile man who, while not unattractive, Lestrade was more interested in being friends with.

Watson, to his credit, didn’t even blink. “Fair enough, mate. I shouldn’t have assumed anything. That was poor form. I myself have been known to play for either team, although as a general rule, I prefer women.”

“It’s fine, you didn’t know. I seem to remember there was a rather pretty doctor at that clinic.”

“Yes, there is. I’m not really interested at the moment, though, although she’s made it fairly clear that if I were to offer, she wouldn’t say no. I want to be secure in myself before I do anything, even casual sex.”

“That’s very mature of you, Watson.”

“Please, it’s John, you’re making me think of my dad.”

“Then call me Greg, not many people do these days,” he replied. “Are your parents still around?”

“Sadly no,” John said, smiling softly. “My mum died of heart failure before my first deployment and my dad followed five years later from a stroke. There wasn’t anything anyone could have done to help either of them. They were wonderful people, and I do wish that they were still around. Their deaths sent my sister, Harry, into a downward spiral of alcohol abuse. Her wife left her last month, actually.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. If she’s resisting intervention, there’s not exactly much you can do for her, apart from to keep trying. But that’s got to be hard.”

“It is, but she’s my sister. I may not be close to her, emotionally speaking, but she’s my family. I have to try.”

“You’re a good man, John.”

“You got me a job after less than an hour’s acquaintance, and listened to me ramble on about my life. I’d say that you’re a good man, too.”

“Maybe. Or maybe I was just lonely.”

“Yeah? Why’s that?”

“One of my closest friends has been acting very strangely. He won’t even admit that we’re friends, even though we’ve been friends, proper friends, at least a year. He went out of the country last week and his job is pretty dangerous, so I’m worried. That’s all.”

“Who’s this friend?”

“Mycroft. He’s the conceited consultant’s brother. Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes are the cleverest men in London.”

“Well he sounds like a bit of a twat, to be honest. It seems like you’re a keeper, as a friend, I mean. Why would he deny that? Real people have friends.”

“Not Holmeses, apparently. I’m going to have a proper chat with him when he gets back, whenever the hell that happens to be.”

“Well, I appreciate your kindness and not-pity, even if he doesn’t.”

“Thank you. So do you have any more semi-naked army stories?” Lestrade asked, wiggling his eyebrows.

John burst into laughter and Lestrade saw all the stress leave the doctor’s face as he started to ease into the anecdotes, remembering the good things about his time in Afghanistan again. John’s anecdotes were hilarious, the man had a natural sense of comedic timing and as he relaxed further into the conversation, the laughter came easier and the good memories eclipsed the bad. Stories about skinny-dipping, ill-advised bets, and hiding porn from the superiors diluted the bad ones of death and blood and pain. That night, Doctor John Watson, former Captain of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, began to heal.

Chapter Text

Lestrade was not at all ashamed of his sexuality, he had never hid it from anyone, but it had been rather unimportant when he was married because he was faithful. Fidelity was important to him. Obviously it was considerably less important to his ex-wife. He had made a promise to her and he was not the type to make promises lightly, nor was he the type to forget those promises. Now that he was single again, he was a little more open about his equal interest in men and women, and his colleagues at the yard had picked up on that. No matter what Sherlock might have said about them, they were moderately intelligent people, and most were trained detectives. Hiding anything in a room literally full of detectives was like trying to hide an elephant in a smart car: you couldn’t get in the door without someone noticing, and the entire experience was uncomfortable for everyone involved. Besides, it wasn’t his intention to hide it in the first place, so it was a moot point.

It had been a very long time since he had been the focus of gossip for the Yard’s rumour mill, and he wasn’t used to the extra attention. He was also somewhat baffled by the contents of the gossip he had overheard. His developing friendship with John Watson was creating a lot of interest. It wasn’t that John wasn’t attractive, but Lestrade wasn’t attracted to him. They’d connected almost immediately on a platonic level, but there was no spark to create any manner of romantic or sexual connection. It didn’t help quell the rumours that John Watson was exactly the kind of person Lestrade valued, and his colleagues knew that. John was strong but not arrogant, intelligent but not superior, and wonderfully, exquisitely kind. John was the sort of man who inspired greatness, no, not greatness, goodness. Lestrade knew better than most how much the world needed a little goodness. Just because Lestrade respected John, didn’t mean that he also wanted to fuck him. Emotions don’t work like that.

What Lestrade really didn’t understand was why similar rumours had never circulated regarding him and Mycroft. It seemed to him that his friendship with Mycroft could be more easily seen as more than it was than his friendship with John could.

While he was open about his sexuality, and didn’t much mind the gossip, it was a little awkward. Especially considering he was trying to make a new friend, a friend who he wasn’t interested in sexually. If he had been given time to reflect on the issue, he would have said that it was kind of sad that people couldn’t form close friendships without other people assuming they were having sex. But, as it was, most days he barely had time to eat breakfast, let alone reflect. Any time that wasn’t spent at work was spent calling or emailing his daughter, or sleeping, apart from those few precious hours a week he spent with his friends. Two hours on Sunday mornings, when he didn’t have a case, were dedicated to his sister, a few hours on Friday nights or Saturday mornings to John, and the periodic lunches he had with Donovan during the week. Mycroft hadn’t called, or even texted, since he had left the country, but Greg still sent him a text message every week. Only one and only once a week, always the same message.

Stay safe; call me when you get back. GL

He had sent four of those text messages before he got a reply.

I have returned. MH

There was nothing else. No ringing tone of a call, no knock at his office door, just a single message. That shouldn’t have made him smile, but it did. Mycroft had sent him a text message to his personal number. He took that as an awkward sort of apology, and counted it as progress. Just as he committed himself to romantic relationships, Lestrade also committed himself to platonic ones, too. He was Mycroft’s friend, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to stop trying to get through to the man just because he had received a somewhat frosty reception. He lived in England, he could handle a little cold. Tenacity was not something he had inherited, as seemed to be the case with the Holmeses. He had learnt to be tenacious when he was a teenager. He had grabbed what he wanted with both hands and never looked back, and that had served him very well in his personal life, as well as in his career.

Things had been a little tense at the Yard for the past few weeks. There had been a couple of stabbings and half a dozen hit and runs in an ongoing bout of gang-related violence, and there was little they could do about it. It was hard for everyone involved, and nothing interesting enough for Sherlock. Lestrade routinely checked up on the frustrating genius, even when they did not require his assistance for police business, partly because he felt a sort of responsibility for him, and partly because he was afraid of what Mycroft would do to him if something happened to Sherlock. Perhaps he was also terrified of disappointing Mycroft, he had a feeling that people often disappointed him and he didn’t want to be one of them. Usually all he did was make sure Sherlock wasn’t sticking a needle in his arm or blowing something up and then leave, but not before Sherlock ordered a cup of tea from him. Most of the time, he would oblige.

Sherlock’s Montague Street flat was dark, dank and a little mouldy, but it had been that way before Sherlock had moved in. The old pipes groaned ominously, the windows all painted shut, and the landlord was an unemployed ex-con with anger issues. In short, the place was a dump, but Sherlock refused to take any money from Mycroft, and refused to touch the family money he inherited upon his father’s death, so the place was all he could afford. It was a true wonder that the landlord hadn’t kicked him out yet, due to the strange smells and loud bangs of Sherlock’s many, varied, experiments. Or even the strange, discordant playing of the violin when he was perfectly capable of making beautiful music. Lestrade suspected that the landlord’s tolerance had something to do with evidence Sherlock may or may not have found, indicating a breach of parole, but he was willing to turn a blind eye to that because if Sherlock got kicked out of his flat, he would invade Lestrade’s. Ethical? Probably not. Necessary? Definitely.

When his team wasn’t around, Sherlock generally refrained from making deductions about Lestrade. He didn’t need to impress the Detective Inspector and he had nothing to prove. Their interactions were almost civil when they were alone, sort of familial. They would talk, not for long, and it seemed like Sherlock actually cared enough to ask Lestrade how his week had been, as opposed to deducing it. He wasn’t a different person when they were alone, but he was softer, less caustic and more tactful, if only by a small margin. Lestrade understood perfectly why Sherlock felt the need to be rude to everyone on sight, and it made him sad and angry. Not at Sherlock, but at the world that had forced him to be like that, the world that had sharpened his tongue with hate and made a brilliant, troubled boy isolated. Sherlock might be guilty of being a bit of a prick, but he had a reason for it. While Donovan’s dislike of Sherlock was founded, in some ways her treatment of him facilitated his treatment of her, not the other way around. She was a wonderful person, and a talented police officer, but even good people were prejudiced in some way.

The day that John Watson visited him at work was the loudest gossip day of the past five years, Lestrade was absolutely certain. He looked up from his paperwork, it seemed as though he was always doing paperwork, and smiled when he saw John leaning on his cane in the doorway. Even though he was a little bit disappointed that Mycroft wasn’t there instead, he was still genuinely happy to see John.

“Afternoon,” Lestrade said. “Is everything okay?”

“You skipped out on the pub on Friday, I figured you were busy and could do with some coffee.”

“You are a lifesaver, John Watson,” he said fervently.

“I was,” John replied with a shrug. “Now I just tell anxious mothers that their children have a cold, not the bubonic plague. Not to mention the surprising number of people who come in with the clap. I should start handing out condoms like sweets.”

“It might not be quite what you’re used to, but that doesn’t mean it’s not at least a little worthwhile.”

“I know,” John replied, sighing. “It’s taking me longer than I thought to adjust to civilian life.”

“Thanks for the coffee. Why don’t you take a seat, I’m not too busy for a chat.”

“Had any fascinating cases lately? Not that I’m trying to live vicariously through you at all.”

“Nothing interesting, just a lot of death. Gang shit. Although I think Gregson landed a strange one, I should tell him to call Sherlock.”

“I heard a bunch of constables and a forensic tech talking about him while I was waiting for the elevator. I would have thought this would be one office where gossip wouldn’t be an issue.”

“Are you kidding me? It’s the worst. I worked for a few years at a fast food place with a bunch of 14-year-old girls and it was much, much better than here. Everyone knows everything about each other. If they don’t notice it themselves, they get the ammunition from Sherlock, the bastard.”

“The army was actually very good at keeping down the gossip, probably because everyone told everyone everything. The trust was necessary and there wasn’t time to gossip about someone’s personal life. If you wanted to know, you just asked.”

“Sounds nice,” Greg said with a sigh. “Everyone here is under the impression that I’ve started dating again. They won’t shut up about it.”

“Is that why everyone is staring at us through the windows?”

Greg scowled. “Probably. God dammit.”

“I’m not offended. Actually, I’m rather flattered they think I could keep your attention.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You can’t be blind to the fact that you’re rather attractive, Lestrade.”

“And? So are you.”

“Hardly.”

“We really need to work on your self esteem,” Lestrade countered dryly.

John opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Come in,” Lestrade called.

“Sir,” Donovan began, “we have a case.”

“Right, okay. Sorry, John. Thanks for stopping by, I’ll see you on Friday night?”

“Of course.”

Donovan cleared her throat pointedly.

“Right, sorry,” Lestrade said quickly. “Sergeant Sally Donovan, this is Dr John Watson, he’s a friend of mine.”

“Lovely to meet you, Sergeant Donovan,” John said politely.

“So this is the boyfriend?”

“We’re friends, Sally. Nothing more.”

“Just friends,” John reinforced firmly.

“Oh… okay, then,” she said slowly. “It was nice to meet you Dr Watson, but the DI and I have to get going.”

“Sure thing, nice meeting you too.”

Donovan turned and walked out of the room, Lestrade following behind as he pulled on his coat. He turned just before he crossed the threshold and rolled his eyes in John’s direction. John smiled in return and Lestrade slipped out of the office.

“I gotta say, sir,” Donovan said cheekily. “Your ‘not-boyfriend’ is a looker.”

Lestrade just laughed.

It was amusing, but also incredibly frustrating, how many times that week he’d had to tell people that he and John were friends, nothing more. In a way, he was flattered, much like John had professed to be, but mostly he was just vaguely annoyed. It didn’t help that he had tried to reach Mycroft, considering he was back in the country at that point, but the calls went to voicemail and the text messages remained unanswered. There wasn’t exactly much he could do about it, either. He didn’t know where Mycroft lived or where he worked, and he wasn’t about to ask Sherlock for that information. He wasn’t quite that desperate. Not yet.

Lestrade was finally able to organise a meeting with his daughter about a month later, although her girlfriend wasn’t there. He really wanted to meet Penny, and had done for almost a year, but it was Erin’s choice to make, not his. He was a fairly good cook, nothing fancy or complicated, but he enjoyed it. He baked a chicken and leek potpie and made a salad while he waited for Erin to arrive. Erin Lestrade wasn’t always as punctual as Lestrade would have liked her to be, usually arriving sometime between five and 35 minutes late. When he really wanted her to be on time, he would sometimes tell her a time that was half an hour earlier than when the event actually began, but this wasn’t an important dinner, so he didn’t bother.

Erin looked quite a bit like her mother, but she reminded Lestrade almost painfully of Alice when she had been around the same age. Erin was outgoing and loud, with shoulder-length curly hair and deep brown eyes. She often wore pin-up style dresses in bright colours, and had a quirky sense of style. Erin and Penny made for a striking couple, from the pictures that Lestrade had seen. Penny was shorter than Erin with long black hair, deep caramel-coloured skin and brown eyes. Penny seemed to favour darker, natural colours, but they had similar styles of dress. They looked happy together in all the photos Lestrade had seen on Facebook and he was certainly happy for them, but it was tinged with a slightly immature feeling of being left out. He pushed away the feeling when he heard the doorbell ring, exactly half an hour after the time he had asked her to come. Of course.

Erin was standing sheepishly behind the door, wearing a cobalt-coloured dress and combat boots, her coat hanging open and her cheeks pink from the cold, or possibly from running from the station to Lestrade’s flat.

“Am I late?” she asked.

“Always,” he replied with a grin, hugging her tightly anyway. “Hey, kid.”

“Hi dad,” she murmured into his shoulder. “Something smells good.”

“Come on in before you freeze your arse off.”

“Fine, yes, I am coming.”

He left her to hang up her coat and went to the kitchen to remove dinner from the oven. Lestrade had always had a fairly good relationship with his daughter, partly because he had regulated his hours – as much as a police officer’s hours conceivably could be – so he could spend more time with her as a child. It had been hard, and it had pushed back his advancement to DI by almost five years, considering his arrest record and performance reviews, but he knew it was worth it. He had never even thought that it would have been better any other way. He had worked more hours after she was old enough to entertain herself, once she had entered high school, and very quickly made rank. The delay bothered him a lot less than an estrangement from his daughter would have. Family came first. Erin had been a little bit of a difficult teenager, not overly rebellious beyond the usual, but the brooding and bitchy stage for a few years in her mid-teens had been tough on Lestrade, and on his ex-wife.

After Erin had moved out and gone to university when she was almost 18, their relationship had gotten much closer, to his surprise. One might expect the distance to negatively affect their relationship, but she called and emailed more often than she would have talked to him if they were living in the same house. They both enjoyed her monthly visits to London, and as Lestrade and his wife drifted apart, his daughter drew closer. He was certain that Erin was fully aware of her mother’s infidelity, and that put a huge strain on that mother-daughter relationship. As their child, Erin had tried not to take sides in the inevitable divorce, but, while she remained on speaking terms with her mother, it was obvious she didn’t approve of the infidelity. Erin was smart enough to know that her father wasn’t blameless in the divorce, he did work long, unusual hours, but she shared her father’s loyalty in commitments and had made that clear in her interactions with her mother.

The conversation during dinner focused mainly on work, both Erin and Lestrade’s, and it seemed as though Erin was attempting to avoid personal topics. He had known her all her life, so it was hardly difficult to see that she was trying to work up the nerve to say something important and probably emotional. As a family, Lestrades were not especially good at talking about their emotions, and she was decidedly not an exception.

He cleared away the dishes and brought over some coffee. She fidgeted with the cuff of her cardigan’s sleeve and he sighed.

“Tell me what’s on your mind,” he said gently. “You’ve been tense all evening, it can’t be that bad, kid.”

“I hate it when you do that,” she muttered, taking a sip of coffee to avoid having to speak.

“Come on, you want to say something, so say it. It’ll be easier if you just put it out there now.”

“I…” she began softly, before clearing her throat and looking him directly in the eyes. “I want to move in with Penny.”

He smiled widely. “That’s great, kid!”

“It…” She paused. “It is?”

“Of course it is!” he replied. “I’m happy for you. It is a huge commitment, but I trust that you’ve thought about it, and talked about it with her, and decided that it’s the best option for the two of you. If you’ve done those things, then I can have no objection, can I?”

“But… you haven’t met her,” she said cautiously.

“I know,” he sighed. “It’s not my place to order you to introduce us. I want to meet her, even more so now, but it’s always your choice.”

“I thought… I thought that maybe you could meet her at the housewarming party?”

He grinned at her with real, unadulterated happiness. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Thank you,” he breathed, moving around the table to hug her tightly. She was still seated, so it was a little awkward, but Lestrade couldn’t bring himself to care overly much about that. She hugged back, her arms around his waist and her head pressing uncomfortably against his ribs, but he still counted it as the best hug he’d ever received. He pulled away after about a minute and sat back down. She was blushing slightly, but looked happy.

“The party is next month. We found a lovely apartment near both our offices and it’s fairly cheap, we can comfortably afford it together.”

“I have to buy you something nice, what do you need?”

“I don’t really know? My apartment was pre-furnished and Penny’s is tiny, she has a desk and a sofa, that’s about it.”

“Well there’s no way I’m buying you a bed, that’s just too awkward for me,” Lestrade joked, enjoying her blush. “Why don’t you ask her what she thinks and get back to me? I have a few things in storage, from my grandparents, stuff that my mum didn’t even know about. I have no use for that kind of thing, but maybe you’d like some of it? I think there are a couple of nice pieces, like an old antique dining room table set and a few old wingback chairs. I don’t know if you’d prefer something more modern, but there’s no space for it here.”

“I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to take anything if you wanted them,” she said uncertainly. “You probably won’t be living alone for much longer.”

“Is that a stab about my old age, missy?” he asked. “I’m not yet old enough to require a helper.”

“I meant a significant other, dad,” she replied with an eye roll. “Obviously.”

“I don’t have a significant other. There’s no one in my sights, either,” he replied, possibly a little too quickly, but the response was ingrained after a few weeks of Yard gossip.

She quirked an eyebrow incredulously and he sighed. “No, really. I’m happy enough with my friends, Erin. I don’t need a romantic relationship in order to feel whole.”

“Well, no,” she said easily. “But it would be nice if you had someone.”

“Don’t turn into one of those people,” he groaned, but clarified when she looked confused and slightly offended. “You know, the people who are nauseatingly happy in their relationship and just want everyone else to feel just as happy, so they try and set all their friends up so they can see the light and do couple-y things with them while dancing happily in fields of wildflowers. Those kind of people.”

She laughed. “You’re a little insane, you realise that?”

“That is totally your fault. Well, you and Sherlock. I swear all my grey hairs come from you two.”

“I’m not going to set you up with anyone, or force you into considering a relationship when you aren’t ready for one. That would be kind of gross to do, anyway, you’re my father. I can’t imagine setting you up with people from work, like, ‘hey, James, I have a dad about your age, want to go out with him?’ That’s too much awkward, even for me.”

He laughed. “I guess that was a little harsh of me. I’ve been dodging questions like that for the past fortnight and it’s driving me insane.”

“Why are people even asking about your love life? Isn’t that unprofessional?”

“Well, yeah, but I’ve been hanging out with my friend John quite a bit, and people just assumed that because I’m single and bisexual, I’d be interested in him romantically, which is vaguely insulting. Just because I’m bisexual, doesn’t mean I want to screw every person I come across who happens to be attractive and single. Bisexuality does not equal promiscuity.”

“So there’s no… I can’t believe I’m asking this, but there’s no spark?” she asked, looking about as comfortable as he did, which was not very.

“None. I’m not interested in him like that. We’re friends. He’s quickly become one of my best friends, despite only having known him a short time.”

“And he’s not interested?”

“He prefers women.”

“All right then,” she said easily. “Is there anyone else? Anyone you’re remotely interested in.”

Lestrade was honestly surprised when his mind went straight to Mycroft Holmes. He had known Mycroft for a long time and had never thought of him in a sexual way. He had to admit that he had known very little about Mycroft’s personality in three of the four years he’d known him, and his divorce hadn’t been final until three years in, so it was understandable that he hadn’t thought about any sort of romantic relationship with Mycroft. Now that he was thinking about it properly, he was surprised that he hadn’t realised how attractive Mycroft actually was, and more importantly, how attracted to Mycroft he was. Perhaps he had mistaken those fonder feelings for the feelings common in friendships. It had been a while since he’d made a new friend that wasn’t family or work related, until John had come along, but now that he had a frame of reference, it was clear that his feelings for Mycroft went a little beyond mere friendship. They hadn’t started out that way, but the end result was the same, a sort of slow burning attraction that was both incredibly frustrating and wonderfully comforting.

“Huh,” he said aloud, “Maybe there is.”

Erin looked interested, but decided not to say anything. “Well, if you want to talk about anything, or anyone, give me a call.”

“Right,” he said, still a little distracted. “Thanks.”

After a couple of seconds of awkward silence, the conversation restarted and they moved on to more comfortable topics, like politics and religion. Anything was more comfortable for Lestrades than emotional conversations. Before she left, he received an actual printed invitation to her housewarming party, which he put on the fridge, and the date was entered into the calendars on both of his phones. He wasn’t going to forget something that important. Overall, he counted the evening a success as he watched his daughter walk to the underground station through his living room window. When he went to bed that night, he was smiling.

Chapter Text

Lestrade remained consistently cheerful for the next few days, despite the somewhat baffling realisation that he might be a little attracted to his consulting detective’s frustrating older brother. While the realisation was unexpected, it didn’t exactly impact his life overly much, and being attracted to someone didn’t necessitate action on that attraction, or even outward acknowledgement of it. It was entirely possible to remain attracted to Mycroft without any repercussions, beyond a little sexual frustration and possibly some awkwardness in future interactions. The situation had not yet reached the stage of unrequited love, although Lestrade was fully aware that it could very quickly reach that stage.

It was one of societies most pervasive untruths that it was impossible for someone to be sexually attracted to a friend without ruining the friendship. Friendships are always complicated, but as long as the dynamic of power and emotion is decidedly equal, it is possible to remain good friends, even best friends, with that attraction present. Of course, the removal of that balance, from either end, usually results in a failed friendship. In the case of a friend-to-lover situation, the balance itself should not change, but rather the intensity and type of feeling involved. In other words, each party should be equally interested in that type of relationship for that to work. Unrequited love is, by definition, an imbalanced romantic attraction in a relationship, so as long as Lestrade was able to avoid that particular fate, his friendship with Mycroft should remain largely unaffected.

Lestrade viewed romantic relationships as a kind of intensification of friendship. Much of the same emotions were involved with love and loyalty, being among the most important aspects of either kind of relationship. Of course, there are significant differences between platonic and romantic love, but the loyalty remains remarkably similar. For these reasons, Lestrade had always found it easier, and more rewarding, to be friends with his partners first, before adding a romantic component.

The realisation did bring to light some interesting ideas, such as the possibility that his feelings for John could eventually change in a similar way, but the circumstances were quite different. For one, his friendship with John had started after his divorce, which allowed him the freedom, in his own mind, to pursue someone other than his ex-wife should he wish to. Furthermore, he had seen John outside of work situations almost from the outset, something he had not done with Mycroft until during his divorce process, which removed any obligations of professionalism that might have made him, consciously or not, decide against acknowledging any attraction to John.

All in all, he decided, after very little self-reflection, that he was not sexually attracted to John Watson, and that his attraction to Mycroft was real but manageable.

Having cleared up his brief inner turmoil, he smiled when he received a call from John while overseeing a crime scene that appeared to be a suicide. That was until he saw that John had called his work phone, the number he had given John for emergencies only. His personal phone was for family and friends, and his work phone was for murder and Sherlock.

“Hello?” he answered, trying not to sound too worried while signalling to Donovan that he had to take the call.

There was no answer, only muffled, scratchy noises like the phone was being jostled inside a pocket. He was about to hang up and mark it down to an accidental pocket dial when he heard voices and paused.

“Where are you taking me?” a voice that was unmistakably John’s asked.

There was a reply, but the background noise was too loud for Lestrade to make it out.

“Who kidnaps someone from a busy London street, even if it is at night? If you weren’t carrying, I would have just knocked you out and ran.”

Lestrade’s stomach dropped. It certainly didn’t sound good. He backtracked and asked Donovan for her phone. She looked confused, but handed it to him. He half-jogged to his car and slid in, putting the phone on speaker and setting Donovan’s to record. He spared a moment to think that the kidnappers must have been fairly stupid to kidnap him without patting him down for any sort of communication device. He put the two phones on the dash and took out his personal mobile, ready to call in a response team and Sherlock once he had confirmation of an approximate location, because until then, there was literally nothing anyone could do. London was a big city, and there were thousands of places to take someone by car. Lestrade didn’t even know where John had been taken from, there were too many variables, even for Sherlock. He took out his notepad and took notes, how long John had been in the car, any distinguishing noises he could hear, but he got very little before the car stopped and a door was opened. Limping footsteps, the metallic and rubbery click of the cane. So John was mobile, and probably not restrained in any way, otherwise he couldn’t have used his cane. The footsteps echoed, so he was in a large room, probably concrete, most likely an old warehouse of some kind.

“Have a seat, John.”

Lestrade had not been expecting to hear a voice he recognised echoing around the warehouse where his friend had been taken. He was so surprised that he actually dropped his pen.

“I’d rather stand, thanks,” John replied, his voice devoid of emotion and absolutely fearless. His soldier voice.

Lestrade recovered quickly from the shock and used his mobile to call Mycroft. He smiled at the loud ringtone that echoed around the warehouse, interrupting the dramatic scene.

Mycroft didn’t answer the phone, he continued talking after cutting off the call. "What is your connection to Detective Inspector Lestrade?”

“Excuse me? Who the hell are you and why do you want to know?”

“I worry about his safety. Constantly," Mycroft said, ignoring the question entirely. “Therefore, I am willing to pay you a meaningful sum of money to cease your relationship with him.”

Lestrade felt sort of like he had stepped down, only to find that someone had removed the staircase, so there was nothing beneath his feet. He was off-balance and confused. The only thing he could think was, ‘this couldn’t possibly be happening.’

As Lestrade tried to focus and push through the confusion, the conversation in an anonymous warehouse somewhere in London went on. "Greg can take care of himself. If you truly knew him, then you would know that. He's a police officer, for god’s sake. What makes you think I am a danger to his safety?”

"Dr John Watson of the fifth Northumberland fusiliers. Decorated war veteran, invalided almost three months ago after being shot in Afghanistan. Your therapist believes you have posttraumatic stress disorder. She's wrong. You’re under significant stress right now and you are perfectly fine. You miss the war, and that makes you dangerous, quite possibly unstable, and an entirely ill-suited companion for a loyal and law-abiding police officer."

“Who the bloody hell are you and how do you know that?”

"I am... an acquaintance."

"Well that's helpful, isn't it? Greg is technically ‘acquainted’ with every criminal he puts behind bars. I don't trust you, and you shouldn't underestimate him, or me."

“I would advise that you take the money and return to your life as it was before his interference.”

"Look, you posh arse. Either let me go, or continue to threaten me. Only one of those options is wise. You made a mistake in kidnapping me. I can handle one mostly unarmed man, and his armed assistant and driver, and even if I couldn't, Greg certainly can. You are making enemies of dangerous people. So let me go. Now!"

"Do not presume to threaten me, Dr Watson. You have no idea who you are dealing with."

"Why don't you tell me, then? Frighten me. Go on. Tell me who you are so I can be suitably unimpressed and get on with my day.”

“It is none of your concern who I am.”

“Then tell me what you want.”

“I want you to stay away from him, as I have already stipulated,” Mycroft replied, his voice cool and controlled but utterly, terrifyingly sincere. The kind of sincerity that might end in someone’s untimely death. Lestrade was not prepared for that voice, or for his reaction to it. Mycroft continued, unaware of Lestrade’s audience. “He is unfailingly kind. However, your influence on him can hardly be beneficial. What have you given him in return for his efforts on your behalf? What do you bring to the relationship that he could not have received elsewhere? You are a significant danger to his mental and physical wellbeing, so I would advise that you stop taking advantage of his kindness and let him go.”

“At the moment, you could be one of two people, from my information, but I find that it doesn’t overly matter who you are. I have one thing left to say to you.” John paused for dramatic affect and Lestrade could hear him walking, his even footsteps echoing in the large empty room. Psychosomatic limp, indeed. “Fuck you.”

And then the sound of footsteps came again, and the sound of a car door opening.

“Dr Watson,” Mycroft called out, his voice eerily echoing. “I will not permit you to leave until you assure me that you will stop taking advantage of Detective Inspector Lestrade.”

“A man who, by your definition, is an ‘acquaintance’? Do you care so much for all your other acquaintances, Mycroft Holmes?”

There was a significant pause, and Lestrade knew Mycroft well enough to know that he was surprised, a rare occurrence indeed. Eventually he replied, “If you know who I am, you know what I will do.”

“No, I know what you can do. What you will do is nothing. I’m sure Greg really doesn’t appreciate you interfering in his affairs when you refuse to be his friend.”

“What Lestrade doesn’t know could fill libraries,” Mycroft sneered. Lestrade should have been immune to that kind of insult after working with Sherlock for so many years, but he had never heard such a thing come from Mycroft’s lips, and he found it hurt far more than it should.

“Oh, you are in so much trouble,” John said cheerfully. “Good luck with that, Mycroft Holmes. You’re lucky he doesn’t carry a gun.”

“But you do,” Mycroft said.

“Oh, it’s far too late to try and threaten me into silence,” John said. Muffled fumbling noises followed as he reached for his phone in his pocket and, Lestrade could only assume, held it out. He would have paid good money to see Mycroft’s face but, sadly, he had to content himself with the verbal reply alone.

“Delete the recording,” Mycroft replied. His voice was still even, but there was something different, something slightly off. Mycroft was afraid. Of what, Lestrade wasn’t entirely certain.

“Far too late for that,” John repeated flippantly. “I’m afraid you’ll have to deal with the consequences.”

And the line went dead.

He immediately dialled Mycroft’s number. There was, predictably, no answer, so he left a voicemail message. It was difficult for him to decide between the several strong emotions that had been brought forward by the conversation he had overheard. John’s loyalty to him was admirable, and made him feel an odd sort of personal pride in his accomplishments, whereas Mycroft’s unique brand of loyalty made him feel, simultaneously, infuriated and confused. It also made him feel vaguely protected, and that only served to make him more furious. He was angry with Mycroft for assuming he had the right to protect him, and at himself for feeling that way in the first place. That kind of protection was neither warranted, nor welcome, but Lestrade had a nagging feeling that, had the circumstances been different and the threat to his safety been real, he would have approved of Mycroft’s interference, and that made him feel stupid and weak.

This built-up emotion and confusion was expressed, rather predictably, as anger, which was clearly expressed in his voicemail message to Mycroft.

“I have no idea what gives you the right to interfere with my life, and threaten my friends, when you have been stubbornly silent since you got back. Under no circumstances are you permitted to frighten away my friends, and, considering you won’t reply to this and will continue to ignore me until you want something from me, I will be forced to take drastic action. Making an enemy of John Watson was not wise and you have managed to seriously piss me off.”

Immediately after he finished leaving the message, he called John.

“Come on, pick up!” he muttered into the phone. “Pick up!”

“Greg? Did you get that? If I had known it was just that arse, I wouldn’t have bothered you.”

“Are you okay?” he interrupted John, quickly. “You very nearly gave me a heart attack!”

“I’m fine, weren’t you listening?”

“Of course I was,” he snapped. “But you were just kidnapped from the street and taken to an abandoned warehouse to be interrogated by a posh twat with a huge ego and a fondness for the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. I would imagine that would entitle you to a little mental fragility at this point. Heck, I’m feeling fragile right now, and I wasn’t even there.”

“True, I am feeling a little… shaken, I suppose. Just an adrenaline crash. I’m heading back to my flat now, I took a cab from the warehouse.”

“I am…” Lestrade took a calming breath before he continued, “so sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it, mate. It’s not your fault that your friend is an overprotective dick with the resources to do something like this, although I don’t think I’m going to be forgiving him for this any time soon. I don’t appreciate being labelled as unstable and dangerous, or being threatened.” John let out a shaky breath. “I’m a little more than angry right now.”

“I’m sorry. I am going to kill him! This is not okay! This is not good on so many levels, I don’t even know where to start.” Lestrade pushed a hand through his hair in frustration and tried to resist the urge to punch something, or someone.

“And what are you going to do about it? What can you do about it?” John asked, anger leaking into his tone, poisonous drops of hurt pride and anger creating the foundations for a monumental grudge. Lestrade inwardly groaned. Having his two best friends at odds was sure to create massive issues in the future, and this first interaction had already proven that a Mycroft-John argument could be catastrophic for both men, and probably for anyone within a block of the row. From this point, he had to hope that both men where aware of the concept of mutually-assured destruction. It was clear that Mycroft was in the wrong, but getting a Holmes to admit that he was anything less than infallible was impossible, and John wouldn’t let go of his animosity without a direct and sincere apology. It gave Lestrade a headache just thinking about it.

“Easy. I find out where he is and go kick his well-dressed arse until he realises the error of his ways.”

“I thought you didn’t even know where he lived?”

“I don’t, but everyone has a weakness, John, and his has a name.”

“I think most people’s weaknesses have names,” John observed. “Anger, Pride, Arrogance, Greed.”

“Sherlock,” Lestrade cut in.

John laughed. “And which one is he?”

“How about all seven,” Lestrade said dryly. “Except, perhaps, lust.”

“You don’t paint a very appealing picture of this friend of yours, Greg. And having met his older brother… well.”

“I wouldn’t judge Sherlock based on Mycroft,” Lestrade said. “They’re very different. Although, you did sort of catch Mycroft at a bad time, in his defence.”

“I was going to say that I didn’t understand why everyone seems to dislike this Sherlock so much. I mean, yes, he sounds like a dick, but he’s just so clever. You can hardly blame him for seeing things that other people don’t bother to. He could be a little… more discrete about it, but it’s natural for him to want to share his talent with the world,” John argued, rather passionately.

“You’ve not met the guy, John, but I am inclined to agree with you on most of those points. He is a great man, although perhaps not a good one,” Lestrade replied. His words reminded him of his observations regarding John’s character, the kind of man who inspired goodness. If you paired John, the inspirer of goodness, with Sherlock, the epitome of greatness, you would have a formidable team.

Lestrade was called back to the crime scene, so he finished his conversation with John and handed Donovan back her phone, after sending the recording to his phone and deleting the original.

Once the crime scene had been documented, and the very strange lack of evidence catalogued, he clocked out and went to visit Sherlock.

Sherlock had been preoccupied with an experiment when Lestrade walked in, he had stopped bothering to knock a long time before that, and since Sherlock was too busy to acknowledge his existence, he made him some tea in a moderately clean mug and set about shifting papers off the armchair so he could sit. For this matter, he had time to wait. He placed the papers as neatly as he could on the coffee table beside him, but they toppled and spread out on the floor around him. He cursed under his breath and bent down to pick the pages up before they became a casualty of one Sherlock’s experiments, or his neglect of normal housekeeping.

Most of the papers had Sherlock’s distinctive handwriting on them, marking down observations in experiments or cases, but there were a few more official-looking pages. He couldn’t help but see the three letters, marked URGENT, opened but discarded. They were eviction notices, the last of which clearly stated that Sherlock was to be gone by the end of the month.

“Sherlock,” he said reprovingly. He didn’t bother to ask because he already knew the answer, so he stated, “You’re being evicted.”

“I was aware. I had hoped to change my landlord’s mind, however, he will not be swayed. Speaking of, if you look in the garbage outside my flat, you might find some interesting evidence.”

“Christ!” Lestrade muttered. “Are you even looking for another place? You can’t just crash at my flat.”

“I have been making enquiries among my former clients, in hope that I might find a place with rent low enough for me to continue to live alone with enough space for my experiments. It is not looking very good, so far. I have found a wonderfully situated flat in central London for a very reasonable price, but I still cannot afford it without a flatmate, and who would want me for a flatmate?” Sherlock asked absentmindedly.

“Shit,” Lestrade said loudly. “If you can’t afford it, you could live somewhere other than London.”

“In what universe would that be considered a good idea?” Sherlock asked caustically. “You are proving to be just as stupid as the rest of them, Lestrade.”

“Enough. Now, I know you’re stressed about this. I’ll see what I can do, I might be able to find you somewhere cheap to live.”

“Thank you, Lestrade, you may leave now. I am in the middle of a very important experiment. I will most likely be at the lab in St Barts for the next few days, very busy, so don’t bother me with your insipid cases.”

“I did actually come here for a reason,” Lestrade said.

“I told you, I don’t want any of your cases.”

“It’s not case-related, although there have been some interesting suspicious deaths recently. Two at least, three if I’m right, but the other DIs aren’t being very forthcoming with the details of their investigations, because they’re afraid of the media outcry, so there’s not much I can do.”

“I told you, I’m not interested.”

“I actually came to ask you something completely unrelated.”

“I don’t have all day!”

“Where does Mycroft live?”

That actually made Sherlock look up from his experiment. “What?”

“Your brother,” Lestrade repeated. “Where does he live?”

“Why do you want to know? How is it that you don’t know? Why do you want to know now?” He asked each question without pause, firing them off one after the other.

“Can’t you deduce it?” Lestrade asked sarcastically.

“Mycroft has done something that is not generally socially acceptable, and you are more than just angry. You’re furious, you feel violated in some way. Has he attempted to spy on you? No, it involves a friend, or possibly family. Oh, he really is in trouble, isn’t he?” Sherlock said gleefully.

“Shut up, Sherlock,” Lestrade said as evenly as he could. “Can you please just tell me his address?”

“If I do, will you promise to take a video of his reaction while you yell at him?”

“No.”

“Well that’s no fun,” Sherlock said, but he still reached for a scrap of paper, wrote down an address and handed it to him.

“Thank you.”

“It’s my pleasure, literally. It will be very entertaining to mock Mycroft about this. If I’m lucky, I might get a couple of months of taunts out of this one simple conversation. You give too much away, Lestrade, for those who only bother to look.”

“Don’t tell me,” Lestrade said quickly. “I don’t want to know what you’ve figured out, I need to go talk to Mycroft and you have a bad habit of giving me information I don’t especially want to hear.”

“It’s true.”

Lestrade softened his voice, he had a feeling that he knew what Sherlock would have said if he’d been permitted to. “I know.”

Unfortunately for Lestrade, but fortunately for Mycroft, he was detained by his DCI before he could leave the next day. He was forced to give an impromptu press meeting after the papers had gotten wind of the odd series of inexplicable apparent suicides. He didn’t even have time to savour the feeling of being right about something before he was hounded by the journalists. He wasn’t even remotely prepared for the questions, having only worked on one of the three crime scenes so far, but he was the most experienced DI in public cases, thanks to Sherlock, so the case was given to him. Lestrade was good at his job, excellent even, but he did not feel comfortable addressing the press, and he tended to say stupid things. He was amazed that they still made him do the statements, with his track record.

When everyone’s mobiles came up with the text message “wrong” during his statement, all he could think was, ‘so much for not being interested.’

After that debacle, he resolved to talk to Sherlock in person about being such an arse. Immediately after his conference, he checked his mobile to find several messages from John.

I think someone got murdered a few floors above me. The police are here. Maybe I should move.

Yep. Definitely murder. I saw them take out the body.

I need a new flat, this is the third murder in the area in as many months.

I just checked online, I can’t afford any of this shit.

Maybe I should get a flatmate, but then again, who would want me as a flatmate?

Lestrade smiled, despite the train wreck of a press conference, and replied:

You’re the second person to say that to me today.

Who was the first?

Chapter Text

“You were being very cryptic on the phone, why exactly are you leading me through the bowels of the hospital towards the labs? Should I be worried?”

“There’s someone I think you should meet.”

“I haven’t been back in years. I trained here, did you know that?”

“No, I didn’t know. What do you think?” Lestrade asked as he opened the door and gestured for John to enter.

“Very different from my day,” John replied.

Sherlock was leaning over a microscope, examining a specimen. He didn’t look up when they entered, but Lestrade saw him glance sideways to see who it was.

“Can I borrow your phone, Lestrade?”

“I don’t trust you with my phone, not after that stunt you just pulled.”

John looked between Lestrade and Sherlock and smirked. He pulled out his own phone and handed it to Sherlock.

“Use mine.”

“Afghanistan or Iraq?”

“Eton or Harrow?” John countered.

Lestrade resisted the urge to laugh. He should have known that this interaction wouldn’t turn out quite as he had expected it to. John was not a normal kind of man, and Sherlock was about as far from normal as you could get.

Sherlock narrowed his eyes. “Afghanistan,” he decided firmly.

John studied Sherlock for a second longer. “Harrow.”

“Army doctor recently invalided after being injured in combat in Afghanistan, although your therapist thinks your limp is psychosomatic, quite correctly, I’m afraid. You have a brother with a bit of money who is worried about you, but you won’t go to him for help because you don’t approve of him. Possibly because he recently left his wife, more likely because you disapprove of his drinking.”

“Well, that’s just brilliant,” John said, his voice completely free of sarcasm. “But two can play at that game, Sherlock Holmes. I might not be as good at deducing things as you are, but I’m not bad. Would you like me to give it a shot?”

Sherlock looked briefly at Lestrade, who smirked and looked away, before inclining his head.

“You were recently a heavy smoker, but you’ve quit in favour of patches sometime in the last three to six months. You broke your left arm between the ages of 10 and 12, your right ankle at about 14, and your right pinky finger about two years ago. You have a superficial laceration from less than a week ago on your left bicep.”

“You are deducing my medical history?” Sherlock asked incredulously.

“How am I doing?”

“How do you feel about the violin? I play in the middle of the night, and sometimes don’t talk for days on end. Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other,” Sherlock said by way of an answer. Lestrade took that to mean that John was frighteningly correct. It was interesting to see Sherlock put up against someone who was just as observant as he was, in markedly different ways, but still. The exchange was fascinating.

“Flatmates?”

“I recently told Lestrade that I must be a difficult man to find a flatmate for, and now here he is a few days later with a friend clearly recently out of military service. It wasn’t a difficult leap.”

“Brilliant,” John said.

Sherlock blinked like he was trying to figure out if that was a compliment or an insult. He must have decided on the former, because he smiled – grinned, actually – and got up.

“7 o’clock, 221B Baker Street. I must dash, I think I left my riding crop in the mortuary,” he said over his shoulder as he flounced out of the room, pausing only to wink on his way out.

John turned to face Lestrade. “Sherlock Holmes,” he said flatly. “You think I should be Sherlock Holmes’ flatmate?”

“I actually do,” Lestrade said seriously, although he was smiling. “He isn’t a particularly good man, John, but he is a great man. You have a startling ability to inspire goodness in people, and this world with a good Sherlock Holmes would be considerably better. Not only that, you’re so bored with your life, you find it so unbelievably dull that I’m worried you’ll do something stupid just to liven it up. It’s always going to be your decision. It’s going to be dangerous and probably not particularly comfortable, knowing Sherlock, but I think this is what you’ve been waiting for since you got back. You certainly won’t be bored.”

“Is he capable of making friends?”

“Yes,” Lestrade said firmly. “I would count him as a friend, of sorts, but most of the time I feel more like his brother or father than his friend. He doesn’t need someone to tell him what he can and cannot do, he has me and Mycroft for that. He needs someone to trust, someone to turn to and someone to call him out when he’s being a twat. If you chose to live with him, he’s not going to let you go. He’s selfish and starved of the kind of attention he actually wants. I don’t have any previous examples, but I’d be willing to bet he won’t let you date, either.”

“So you aren’t asking me to do this? And you didn’t suggest this because you want a babysitter for him?”

“Of course not. He could be good for you, John. You need some excitement, otherwise you’ll go insane. But he could also ruin you. I don’t know, but I know that you deserve the right to decide for yourself.”

“The way you describe it…” John paused. “I’d basically be his wife, but without the sex.”

“You could think of it like that,” Lestrade laughed lightly. “But I would say you’d be more like his live-in business partner and best friend. Of course, I have no idea if he would be at all interested in sex or a romantic relationship or both. It’s possible, but that’s not the point right now.”

“He could ruin me,” John said, like he was agreeing with Lestrade. “Do you think he will?”

Lestrade studied John for a long moment, noting his military stance and conspicuous lack of leg injury, but most of all he noticed the renewed hardness in John’s eyes. He noticed that the haunted look was missing, as were the dark circles under his eyes. He was fractured, but not broken. John had started to heal himself and he hadn’t required anyone else’s help to do it. It was entirely possible that John would have been crushed beneath the sheer presence and harsh intelligence of Sherlock Holmes had they met before, but a mere two months had changed him. John knew, after those two months, that he could be alone if he chose to be, that he didn’t need someone else to ‘fix’ him. Maybe Sherlock could stop the limp and the nightmares, but John had shown to himself that he could have done it alone, and Lestrade thought that made all the difference.

“No.”

There were very few people who were equipped to handle Sherlock Holmes, but Lestrade thought John Watson would turn out to be the best of them.

***

Lestrade knew, while bounding up the stairs to 221B Baker Street, that he was interrupting John and Sherlock at a bad time, but death waited for no one. Lestrade had always known when he was out of his depth, and the media on this case was making it even harder to get anything done. The pressure was building and he hadn’t been on the case for long enough to even have formed a theory on the matter. He was out of his depth. Hell, he was drifting in the middle of a storm above the Mariana Trench. This case obviously involved intrigue beyond his capabilities and, running the risk of overextending this metaphor, he didn’t have the skill to dive down deep enough to find the truth.

So he interrupted John and Sherlock at a pivotal moment in their evolving friendship to ask for Sherlock’s help. And, never one to resist a puzzle, Sherlock came. Never one to resist danger, John accompanied him.

It was gratifying to see John working with Sherlock on the case, to see Sherlock’s face when he realised John’s interjections of “fantastic” and “amazing” were entirely without derision. It was nice, but Lestrade couldn’t help but notice that in setting up John and Sherlock’s friendship, he was being pushed down a peg from John’s best friend to his plain friend. But they were both so much happier. John was laughing without restraint and Sherlock was actually smiling, so he couldn’t bring himself to resent the decision he’d made to introduce them.

Lestrade was still happy with his decision by the end of the case, despite the dead serial killer on the living room floor of 221B Baker Street. He was clever enough to know that it was highly unlikely the killer had been murdered by a criminal enemy of some description. He was also aware that John had the skills, the time, and the inclination to have shot the cabby. He chose to ignore that and focus on the fact that John had gotten what he wanted. A little excitement was good for him. Probably.

When Lestrade looked up from taking Sherlock’s statement, wilfully ignoring the similarities between the person he described and his friend, and saw Mycroft, something strange happened. That attraction that he had clearly noticed and attempted to deal with came back in full force. He saw the way Mycroft was staring at Sherlock. He looked worried, angry, and scared, in a very Mycroftian way. His emotions were not obvious, but Lestrade could see them, and they made him feel awful. He felt guilty for not protecting Sherlock, not because he thought Sherlock required protection, but because he wanted to protect Mycroft from those feelings. And in that moment, Lestrade realised that sexual frustration and attraction were not the only emotions he’d ever felt for Mycroft. Lestrade was protective of Mycroft, he cared about him in a way that was somehow different to the ways he cared for John. These feelings weren’t more intense or more important, but they were definitively different. He was firmly entrenched in some good old-fashioned unrequited love, or perhaps not love, not yet, but so alarmingly close that Lestrade felt a sudden urge to sit down and have a panic attack. If he had been in high school, it might have been labelled a ‘crush’. Accompanying his urge to breathe heavily into a paper bag was the urge to call his sister, and his daughter, in that order. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have the time to call them because Mycroft was there, and he hadn’t forgotten what he’d done to John.

This sudden insight into his feelings didn’t stop him from being absolutely furious with Mycroft. Once Sherlock had finally put together the pieces to notice that the shooter had, in fact, been John, and given him a vague excuse so he could go and talk to him, Lestrade made his way over to Mycroft. Perhaps Sherlock was in shock, it certainly took him long enough to realise what had happened. Lestrade was too angry to care. His reaction may have been a bit stronger than usual because he was annoyed at himself and a little emotionally off-balance. Mycroft stood by his car as he approached, but he was watching John and Sherlock so he didn’t see him.

“We’re going to have a talk, Mycroft,” Lestrade said icily when he got within earshot.

Mycroft looked a little surprised, but ignored his opening statement in favour of his own. “What I want to know is why John is moving in with my brother. If he needed accommodation, would it not have been better for you to take him in? Sherlock does not share his toys.”

“John is not a toy. He is my friend. You are going to apologise to him, properly, and stay out of his personal life with Sherlock.”

“Sherlock is all-encompassing. He will not take well to your romantic relationship with his flatmate,” Mycroft said, still looking off to the side where John and Sherlock were now visibly giggling.

“My… what?” Lestrade spluttered. “So that is what this is about? I have never had romantic feelings for John. We aren’t dating, we’re friends. I introduced him to Sherlock because they’ll be good for each other. You might be amazing at observing things and deducing much in the same way as Sherlock, but you’re shit with emotions. Your brother is lonely and John is bored. They’re perfect. It’s a friendship made to give me a heart attack, but it will make them happy.”

Mycroft blinked twice. “I… see. I may have made an error. It is possible that Dr Watson deserves some kind of,” Mycroft made a face, “apology.”

“Wait, wait!” Lestrade said incredulously. “You threatened John, called him unstable and dangerous, because you thought he was my boyfriend?”

“While it was based on an incorrect assumption, my logic was sound. If he was scared away, or if he had taken the money, he could not even begin to deserve you. If he responded correctly, he would have proven to me that he was capable of deserving your affection and I would have rescinded my objections.”

“You would have ‘rescinded your objections’? What the fuck, Mycroft? You are not my father or my brother, so you have no right to give the ‘hurt him and I will break you’ speech, or threatening speeches of any kind.”

Mycroft looked down. “I assure you,” he addressed his shoes, “that my feelings in the matter were not at all familial.”

“Really not the best way to prove that you want to be my friend, Mycroft,” Lestrade said angrily. “You always have to do things the hard way. You should have just eaten the fucking chocolate.”

“Greg?” John said cautiously from behind him. “Is everything okay?”

“Greg? Who is Greg?” Sherlock asked.

“That’s his name, Sherlock. How the hell do you not know that?”

“Is it?”

“Yes!” Lestrade snarled, completely losing his grasp on his control. “I am so done with you Holmeses. You just can’t understand emotions at all. You’re both supposed to be my FRIENDS and you refuse to acknowledge that and insult me at every turn. This is just not fucking worth it, Mycroft. You don’t give anything in return and I’m out of things to give. It’s not worth all the pain and the self-reflection and the fucking blue balls, so just leave me, and my friends, ALONE.”

John took an actual step backward in an attempt to get away from Lestrade’s sudden anger and Sherlock looked at him carefully, obviously deducing what he was upset about. Oddly enough, Mycroft did nothing. He stood there, didn’t even blink, just looked at Lestrade. He didn’t seem to be looking for a reason, he was just looking, and it was disconcerting. Before Lestrade could take a full breath to start yelling again, Mycroft turned slightly to face John.

“It appears I owe you an apology, Dr Watson. I misinterpreted your motives, and perhaps my own. Will you accept my apology?”

“How is it that you know John? Why are you apologising?” Sherlock asked sharply, turning his deducing eyes to them. His eyes widened and he grinned. “Dear brother,” he mocked. “You do have an unfortunate habit of putting your overly-large nose where it is not wanted, but you are so rarely wrong.”

By the end, Sherlock was positively gleeful and Mycroft’s hand was white as it gripped the handle of his umbrella far too tightly. A sure sign that he was angry, or embarrassed, probably both.

“Sherlock,” John said reproachfully.

Sherlock didn’t look at John, and he didn’t apologise, but he also didn’t say anything further, which was a pretty clear indication that he was listening to John. After such a short acquaintance, John Watson had managed to do something Mycroft couldn’t do in more than 30 years, and Lestrade couldn’t do in five. Lestrade wasn’t sure if he should be impressed or terrified.

He was too angry to continue his conversation with Mycroft, and too distracted by his emotions to think clearly enough for an argument with a Holmes. As soon as he wrapped up the case, he called Alice.

“Greg?” she asked worriedly. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he said quickly. “I just… wanted to talk.”

There was a long pause. “Who is he?”

“What makes you think this is about someone in particular? What makes you think it’s a he?” he asked accusingly.

“Erin talks to me far more than you do. I’m the cool aunt.”

“You’re the only aunt,” he countered.

“That’s beside the point, Greg. You called me. You have something you want to talk about, so talk,” she practically ordered.

“Fine, it is about a guy,” Lestrade acknowledged.

“Erin thought as much.”

“His name is Mycroft,” he continued, ignoring her use of his own daughter against him. “We’ve been friends for a while, I told you about him last time I came for dinner.”

“And you’ve suddenly realised you want to shag him,” she said. It wasn’t even a question. Lestrade was beginning to question the wisdom of starting this conversation.

“Essentially, yes, but it’s a little more complicated than that.”

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “Erin did say, I just didn’t believe her. So emotions are involved? My Greggie has gone and fallen in love!”

“Shut up,” he said. “It’s not love. It’s just a…” He struggled to find a word that wasn’t ‘crush’, because if he used that term he would never hear the end of it.

“Crush?” Alice supplied gleefully. Too late.

“Shut up,” he said again.

“I don’t think it’s an insubstantial emotional connection, Greg,” she said, her tone suddenly serious. “You very rarely commit to something less than wholeheartedly. You’re a bit of an all or nothing kind of guy.”

“I don’t know, it feels so sudden.”

“I doubt it actually is. You’ve been a bit slow on the uptake. In most of your romantic relationships, you’ve been more than half in love before you even realised you were starting to fall.”

“I might have… sought out his company since the divorce. But I thought that I just…”

“Needed a friend?” she finished for him, again. It was sometimes frustrating to have a sibling that knew him so well. “So, what changed?”

“I made friends with John.”

“And you realised that you act completely differently around this completely platonic friend than you do around your less than platonic friend.”

“Stop doing that! It’s beyond creepy.”

“There’s nothing I can say to you that you haven’t already thought of. You’ve been interested for a while, but you didn’t think too much of it because you were distracted and you weren’t ready to face your feelings. Now you are, so what are you waiting for?”

“If I knew the answer to that question, I would currently be naked and having a great deal more fun. Also, I have no idea if he’s interested.”

“You’ll figure it out, Greg. Give yourself a bit of time.”

His call to Erin was considerably less helpful.

“I need your advice,” he began, not pausing to give her time to interrupt. “I’m not sure how to handle it. Basically, I suddenly realised that I find my friend Mycroft amazingly attractive, and I feel like I should have noticed this before.”

“OH. MY. GOD!” she squealed. “THAT’S GREAT, DAD! YOU HAVE TO BRING HIM TO MEET ME!”

“I’m not going out with him,” he corrected quickly. “I just think I might be interested.”

“You have to go for it, dad. It’s been way too long since you were in a relationship.”

And the conversation went downhill from there. He ended up hanging up on her while she was laughing hysterically, but the conversation did make him smile. He loved his daughter.

Lestrade didn’t see Mycroft for a month after the cabby incident, and he was glad for the time to regroup his senses and just think for a while, even if he found himself thinking, ‘I should tell Mycroft about this,’ at least once a day. After some serious reflection, which he hated, he found that he agreed with Alice. He had begun to feel something more than friendship for Mycroft after he had found Erin her position at the architect firm, without Lestrade having to ask and without asking for anything in return. Unfortunately, Mycroft was rather good at catching Lestrade at bad times.

“You are discharging yourself against medical advice. Why?”

Lestrade paused from his efforts to pull his sleeve over the bandage on his right arm and sighed, loudly, before he stood up and turned around. His entire arm, from his hand to his bicep, was heavily bandaged. A suspect had pinned his arm between a wall and a skip after hitting him rather pathetically in the back of the knees with a cricket bat and pushing the skip against his arm while he was down. The injury looked far worse than it was, but the A&E doctor had insisted on bandaging the wounds to prevent infection. In reality, it was a series of shallow but long lacerations and a handful of deeper cuts. Lestrade was oddly proud of them. He had managed to subdue the suspect from his ground position, with his arm pinned, before backup arrived. It’s too bad that no one had been in the alley to see it happen because it involved a series of very impressive kicks and some serious core strength. Most of his injuries had been sustained in that sequence, but he got the guy, a particularly violent but not especially intelligent serial killer, so he counted it as a win.

“As it happens, I have a rather important engagement tonight,” Lestrade said through gritted teeth, partly because he was in a bit of pain, but mostly because he really wanted to punch Mycroft in his overly-attractive face.

“I believe serious injury counts as a perfectly good excuse for missing a date, even a first one,” Mycroft retorted, a little more angrily than usual. Mycroft liked to keep his tone even and icy at all times, but there was a definite heat to those words.

“I’m not skipping out of hospital to go on a date,” Lestrade growled. “It’s my daughter’s housewarming party and I’m supposed to be meeting her girlfriend, finally, and I can’t miss it. I can’t! I promised her I would be there.” He began to fumble with the buttons of his shirt, wincing as several of the cuts reopened. Only two had been deep enough to require stitches, the others left to heal naturally. The bleeding had stopped quickly enough the first time, but he could feel the new blood seeping into the bandages.

Mycroft reached forward and carefully pulled his hands away from his buttons, stepping closer so he could do it himself. He buttoned the shirt, leaving the top button undone, and ever-so-gently fixed the collar. Lestrade was certain that he had never before been so aroused by someone putting clothes on him.

“I saw,” Mycroft said, his voice that was usually so controlled reduced to a raw, broken whisper.

“You saw what?” Lestrade asked, whispering in turn.

“I saw the fight. With the murderer, the man who killed those people, the man who did this to you. I saw the fight. You kicked him into the skip until he passed out. I heard you scream in pain as they extracted you.”

“CCTV cameras don’t have sound,” Lestrade stated automatically.

“That’s what you think?” Mycroft asked. His laugh was hollow and made Lestrade’s hair stand on end.

“Why were you watching? Why then? Why are you here now?”

“You,” Mycroft began, pausing to clear his throat. “You wanted to be my friend and I told you something, do you remember?”

“You told me that caring wasn’t an advantage. I told you that you were wrong.”

“You showed me that I was wrong. You gave Sherlock and John a chance to be friends, even though you knew it would mean you would see less of John. You protected John from my interference, you risked your own life and safety to bring someone to justice, even though he never killed anyone you knew. You risked your career by hiding that you knew who killed the cabby. Everything you do, you do because you care, and you are, and always have been, the best man I have ever known. You are better than me, than anyone, so how can caring not be an advantage? Caring is your advantage.”

“Mycroft?” Lestrade asked softly. “Is everything okay?”

“No!” he snapped. “I watched as you were attacked. I saw you bleed.” He drew in a shuddering breath. He wasn’t crying, but there was something so desperate and pained in his eyes that Lestrade had to take that one step forward and bring his arms around him. He ignored the pain of his cuts and tightened his hold. Mycroft was only just taller than he was, but he leant his head against Mycroft’s shoulder, anyway. He rubbed small circles on Mycroft’s back with his left hand, like his sister had done when he was sick as a kid, and waited. Mycroft’s arms came up to pull him to his chest even tighter, and Lestrade could barely breathe, but he didn’t mind. The tightness in Mycroft’s shoulders lifted just slightly and that was worth it. The light brush of lips on the top of his head was unexpected, but not unwelcome. He remembered all too clearly the initial piercing jolt as the murderer pushed the old, mostly-empty skip onto his arm. The feeling of the metal, rusted into sharp edges, digging into his skin and slicing through the thin material of his shirt, the screws and old bolts and crumbling brick cutting deeper and deeper into his hand as he struggled. Most of all, he remembered the overwhelming feeling of being trapped. In that situation, he now knew that he would lash out, he would fight through the pain, and he supposed that was at least one good thing to come out of the experience. It was nice to feel like part of a whole, to feel comforted by someone who wasn’t a relative. It had been a long time since he had felt so safe in another person’s arms.

“Lestrade?” Mycroft murmured softly.

“Mycroft?” he replied, his breath ghosting across Mycroft’s neck.

“I’m sorry,” Mycroft said, exhaling loudly. “I should not have threatened your friend. I shouldn’t have tried to involve myself where I was not wanted. I was worried, yes, but I didn’t realise until much later the reason I actually did it.”

“Why did you do it?”

“I was jealous.”

“Because he is my friend, or because you thought he was my boyfriend?”

“Both,” Mycroft replied, his voice quieter than a whisper. “I wanted to be a good friend to you, the best, but I also wanted more. I wanted both. I still do, I know that now.”

“Why?”

Mycroft laughed. “Because you’re asking that question seriously, because you truly do not know how amazing you are. Because you use semi-colons in text messages, because you cared when no one else did, because you make me laugh and I want to know about your day, because you genuinely want to know about mine, because you yell so beautifully that I want you to be right, even if it means I’m wrong.”

“Stop.”

Mycroft trailed off and Lestrade could feel him retreating, but his arms stayed where they were.

“Would you like to come with me to my daughter’s housewarming?” he asked. “As my date,” he added, in case it wasn’t clear enough.

Mycroft didn’t answer.

“I mean, I know it’s a little intense for a first date, but, I mean, we’ve known each other long enough for it not to be an issue, right? And Erin can be a bit of a handful, but I really think you’d like her, if you met her, and I’m sure she’d like you too,” Lestrade rambled.

“Yes.”

Lestrade wouldn’t say that his daughter’s housewarming party was the best first date he’d ever had. It was awkward and confusing, too many people and too many things for him to be doing all at once. Surprisingly, Penny and Mycroft hit it off fantastically, which endeared him to both Lestrade and his daughter a little more with every interaction. Mycroft may have been overly formal and stilted with Erin, but she didn’t take offense, dragging him around the party and introducing him to her friends and co-workers as “my dad’s brilliant partner”. In Erin’s mind, Lestrade and Mycroft had been dating for at least a month, possibly as long as a year. She was very good with people and their emotions when she bothered to look close enough. Erin had announced to Mycroft that she already knew Lestrade was interested months ago, since she had last had dinner with her father, and Lestrade could see that was the case. Penny was much quieter than Erin, but she was confident and astoundingly clever. She truly loved Erin and actually respected Lestrade, which was a nice change. Although he spent more time that evening talking to people who weren’t Mycroft, they did share a few quiet conversations and some fairly intense eye contact, and that was good enough.

It might have been less awkward if he hadn’t insisted that Erin was not to know about his recent injury, spending the entire evening with his right hand in his coat pocket, trying to look like that was totally normal. She was far too busy with Mycroft and her other guests to notice, but Penny was remarkably more observant.

“You’re hurt,” she said quietly while they were in the kitchen, taking momentary reprieve from the masses.

“Don’t tell Erin.”

“Is it bad?” she asked, instead of automatically agreeing.

“Not really, just cuts and abrasions, mostly, with a couple of deeper lacerations. If I had been shot or stabbed, I certainly would have told her, no matter what the occasion.”

“Okay, I won’t tell her, Penny said, and he sighed in relief. “Until after the party,” she added sternly. He swore.

“Damn. I just don’t need her to worry.”

“She won’t until later, that’s the best I can do.”

“Good enough. I’ll be long gone by the time you get around to mentioning it, I can deal with her protective anger once I’ve rested some.”

She eyed him thoughtfully. “I admit that I’m curious, Mr Lestrade.”

“Just Lestrade,” he corrected. “What are you curious about?”

“Why haven’t you given me the customary ‘if you hurt her, I will do something nasty’ speech?” she asked, leaning against the kitchen counter.

“A few reasons,” he answered easily. “Most importantly, I trust Erin to make a good decision and recognise if she’s made a bad one. She’s old enough to think for herself and I trust her judgement. Also,” he paused, “do you really need me to say the words in order for you to get the message?”

She laughed. “I guess not.”

Lestrade and Mycroft left the party early, but Erin didn’t mind too much as they waved her goodbye and Mycroft guided him out of the room. He was too tired to argue when he was bundled into an unmarked, shiny black car, although he was surprised at their destination. Mycroft’s car took them to the hospital, where Lestrade was taken back to his room and forced to lie down by Mycroft himself. A nurse came in and hooked him back up to the machines and gave him a shot of some sort of antibiotic. Lestrade was battered, cut, and bruised, lying in a supremely uncomfortable hospital bed with wires everywhere. He shouldn’t have been at all comfortable, but he found that with the soothing sound of Mycroft’s breathing and his warm hand in his, sleep came easily.

Chapter Text

Their first date was his daughter’s party, their second a night in a hospital, and they continued this trend throughout their relationship. Their fourth date was a picnic in the rain, under Mycroft’s ridiculous umbrella, their twelfth interrupted by John being kidnaped, their twentieth by an armed robber. Their 25th involved a crazed bomber with a Sherlock obsession, their 34th a fist fight with an amorous drunk (don’t ask), and their 43rd, 45th, 52nd and 60th were interrupted proposals (the most memorable involving a gaggle of geese and an inconvenient pond). But the one that Lestrade remembered the best was number 75, exactly, and yes, he did keep track of them all.

Exactly two years after a fateful conversation containing refused chocolate, Lestrade was pulled from his growing mound of paperwork by Mycroft Holmes leaning on his umbrella in the doorway to Lestrade’s office. Lestrade hadn’t planned the date to start out this way, but he couldn’t help but smile at his partner’s fortuitous timing, and ability to subconsciously frame a picture perfectly.

He reached into his bottom drawer, pulled out a small black box wrapped in purple ribbon, and carefully tossed it to Mycroft.

“You remember this?”

“Yes,” Mycroft said. “I’m surprised you do, it wasn’t exactly an amicable conversation. I remember being a right twat that day.”

“Open it. If you insist, I can help you burn off the calories tonight,” he added with a lewd grin.

“I will hold you to your word, Gregory.”

Lestrade didn’t reply, just sat and waited. Mycroft’s moan when he tasted the fancy chocolate was certainly worth waiting for, but that wasn’t what Lestrade had been anticipating. That came a little later.

“Is this chocolate tea flavoured?” Mycroft asked while he licked his fingers a little obscenely.

“You should look at the label. I don’t remember exactly,” Lestrade said casually.

Mycroft looked back down at the box. Underneath where the chocolate had been was a small, fluorescent yellow post-it-note lying with the words facing downwards. He picked it up, after shooting Lestrade a confused glance, and stilled. Under the note was a plain silver ring. He blinked twice and turned the note over.

Will you marry me?

When Mycroft looked up again, Lestrade was on his feet, and on the right side of the desk, directly in front of him. He took the box from Mycroft’s hands and removed the ring, going down on one knee (because he was a little bit traditional). He asked the question again, out loud, because it seemed like a copout to let a note do the talking for him.

“Yes!” Mycroft half-yelled. “I’ve been trying to ask for months.”

“Me too!” Lestrade laughed, sliding the ring onto his fiancé’s finger with no small measure of pride.

“I was working up to it,” Mycroft said softly, and a little defensively. “The last time I tried didn’t end up going so well. Remember the geese?”

“You were going to propose?” Lestrade gasped and laughed simultaneously, so he could barely breathe. “I would have said yes, even after you fell into the pond. I love you even when you’re covered in slime and god knows what.”

Mycroft tried to glare but couldn’t bring himself to do it. He was too busy being happy and trying not to stare at the shiny ring on his finger. From the inner pocket of his suit, he brought out a black ring box and handed it to Lestrade without ceremony.

“I freely admit that I could not possibly beat that proposal, so I won’t try to.”

Once the corresponding ring was on Lestrade’s finger, they drew each other close and kissed. The kiss was brief, but the embrace lasted much longer as they each mirrored the pose they had made during their first hug. It lasted almost 15 minutes before they broke apart, smiling.

If half of Lestrade’s team was standing by the door when they broke apart, Lestrade never mentioned it, despite the whirling gossip surrounding his engagement, because, for once, he truly didn’t care about the gossip. He was unashamedly proud.

End