Greg spent fifteen years of his life as a married man, during which he never cheated. He and Susan separated almost two years ago and Greg hasn’t had sex since then. It’s sad but it’s true. The saddest part is that it doesn’t bother him as much as it would have only five years ago. Reaping the dubious benefits of mature age, that’s him.
He still enjoys sex…he thinks. He can’t quite tell, because the trips his right hand makes to his groin tend to be few and far between. He’s never been too taken by the whole jerking off thing anyway. He is positive his libido is all right; he just doesn’t go ‘there’ when he’s tired or kind of depressed. (Not in the clinical sense of the word. More like going through the motions, not exactly miserable but unable to call himself happy on account of the thin grey filter the world seems to have acquired.)
The extent of his post-marriage romantic life stretches to buying a petite, moderately attractive woman a drink a few months ago, to no end. Oh, there was also that free coffee from the criminally young-looking barista two weeks after Susan moved out. At least in Greg’s memory the coffee was a freebie because the guy liked him, and not because Greg looked like someone who could use a coffee and a smile right at that fucking instant. Mostly he hopes he didn’t look like a homeless person.
While he and Susan were together he got a lot of attention from women, especially at the start of the marriage. Maybe it was age—he was closing on thirty at the time—maybe it was the case of everyone drooling after you when you were unavailable, but the truth is he’s never had to fight them off with a stick the way he did back then. It’s baffling. He’s no Romeo. True, in his youth he had his moments, but his popularity was always more with the boys. It was again the kind of thing that worked universally: he knew guys found him attractive and that made him confident, so in turn they found him even more attractive. Greg went to some clubs, loosening up properly, and there was attention. He could see himself in his mind’s eye: dancing in his tight t-shirt, twenty-two years old and so damn fit that okay—he would have fucked himself in the back alley. He remembers the inviting, reckless grin bursting on his lips, especially for the lanky, shy-looking boys…The place in him where that rare type of grin used to live has gathered some patina, but the memory of himself back then is quite vivid and gives him a flicker of hope that it’s not all buried under a pile of middle-aged rubble.
A couple of years after what he likes to call his ‘wild days’ his career took off, which changed things dramatically. He was never a regular on the gay scene but back then, he’d had to become extra careful for all kinds of reasons. Another year later he met Susan; they got married in due course and then it was the women who were all over him. Greg has never been the kind of guy to lap it up, but he isn’t made of stone. He enjoyed the flattery and even let his gaze flash in appreciation from time to time, let a compliment slip out in words or in wiggling eyebrows. No woman ever came close to Susan and no woman pressured him, either. Harmless back and forth was all there was. Exclusively women. Guys virtually stopped noticing him as soon as he fell for his wife. His marriage shut down the gay tap of attention and opened wide the straight one. But that lasted only a few years—the first five, to be precise, when things between him and Susan were good. He can’t say women stopped noticing him after that, but at times it felt like they did.
So in light of his life experiences it would be accurate to say that at forty-six he feels a bit out of his element in the romantic department. Fuck that, no point in sugar coating it: a few months ago he was so clueless about flirting, especially with his own sex, that they could have used him as a dummy on a ‘Flirting for Gays’ crash course. Oh, he wasn’t pathetic nor—it’s important to stress again—was he all that bothered. He’s a Detective Inspector in Scotland Yard, so when realization hit he told himself he'd figure it out. He was just a bit baffled, that was all, because he was pretty sure sending a relative stranger a pound of fine sausages at his workplace wasn’t the way things were done back in the day.
Then again the sender was Mycroft Holmes, so all bets were off.
When Sherlock first mentioned his brother, Greg was chewing gum. It nearly fell out of his mouth. He’d known Sherlock for over three years and had never even thought of Sherlock as someone having a family or any other close relationships. Greg hadn’t known anything about Sherlock’s personal background, really, other than the hard to miss fact that he was a drug addict. Oh, and there was that reference to a synthetic poison that led to revealing Sherlock had read Chemistry at University, but had dropped out.
There was more to Greg’s dismay. Sherlock had had a single child written all over him from the moment they’d met. Despite the fact that he was over thirty, Sherlock still had the aura of a precocious child about him; one who was a bit precious, too, as well as entitled, sullen, and incapable of understanding the meaning of the word ‘no’. A brother just didn’t fit in with all that.
But then Greg gave it a bit of a thought and figured it could actually explain Sherlock’s constant need of attention. Apparently Sherlock was the younger child. ‘Mycroft’ was six years older and worked for the Government. The extraction of those two bits of information had been accompanied by the kind of demeanour that conjured up images of toys being thrown out of a pram. Greg had to guess that there was no love lost between the brothers, which would also have explained the three-year-period of silence on the existence of Mycroft Holmes.
He arrived at two conclusions following this discovery. One, that Sherlock’s parents must have had issues that had affected their boys. (You’d had to have issues to name your children Mycroft and Sherlock.) Two, that Greg might have had to consider emigrating. He was quite alarmed by the possibility of another…special individual like Sherlock walking the British Isles.
Greg tried to bring up the subject again the next time he saw Sherlock, keeping his endeavours as subtle as possible. It wouldn’t do if he was acting like a nosey teenager, he thought—he had his reputation to uphold and he was still hoping Sherlock’s brush with Greg’s maturity would one day have a beneficial effect on the young pest. Plus, the chances of getting anything out of Sherlock, once Sherlock sussed out that was what was going on, weren’t very good. The bastard was secretive when no one was even looking at him; he was never going to spill under pressure.
Sherlock met Greg’s attempts at inconspicuous interrogation with sardonic body language and a comment to match. When Greg told him in some genuine alarm that he wondered whether Sherlock’s brother was anything like him—ensuring that Sherlock caught exactly what Greg meant by that—the reply should have put his mind at ease.
“I’m nothing like my brother.” There was a lingering, unspoken ‘Thank God’ in there.
Greg’s mind was not put at ease. He continued to be alarmed, only now he wasn’t sure why. He was also definitely more curious.
Sherlock didn’t mention Mycroft again for the best part of two years. Greg’s curiosity waned when there was nothing to feed it. From time to time he would remember that his unofficial, brilliant helper had a life beyond their encounters at crime scenes but ironically, Greg himself had no such thing, so his focus was firmly on work. Sherlock’s was, too, but from a different angle so that was sort of how they clicked together. Greg respected him. He also had to be quite thick not to appreciate what Sherlock’s brain and obsessive nature meant for Greg’s career and for the rate of criminals brought to justice across the country. More importantly, Sherlock was a genius who had decided to solve crimes instead of commit them. Despite what some people thought on the topic of Sherlock’s personality and its perceived psychopathic tendencies, Greg never lost sight of the fact on which side of the net Sherlock was playing. Yes, he was a veritable fruitcake; an extraordinary personality that made Greg question who the hell Sherlock really was, siblings included. But there were no answers and Greg didn’t want to push. Nor did he really care that much.
The second time Sherlock mentioned his brother was a bit over a year and a half ago. What brought it on was some scandal in the papers about breach of privacy. Someone well-known had been taped, or filmed, or something. Greg wasn’t interested enough to pay attention to details—he had a double homicide case fresh on his hands. He made a passing remark on the scandal in response to Anderson’s own passing remark, then Anderson left after Sherlock told him he, Anderson, had mislabelled his second bag of evidence. (Turned out Sherlock wanted him out of his hair so he’d sent him on a wild goose chase. Then he groused that no one wanted to work with him.) They were in the victim’s house. Sherlock was crouching in a corner of the lounge, examining a photo album with his back to Greg. He spoke without looking over his shoulder.
“You do know my brother has you under surveillance?”
It took a moment for Greg to reply, mostly because he had no idea why anyone would bother to have him under surveillance.
“Has he? Why?”
Sherlock stood up, but still didn’t turn around. “Because he’s controlling and interfering.”
“Okay,” Greg dragged out slowly. He frowned. “Is he using a PI? I haven’t spotted anyone.” Another thought occurred to him. “Hang on. I’ve known you for years. Why now?”
“It’s not only now,” Sherlock replied distractedly, lowering his head to squint at various items on a cluttered shelf. “He’s been doing it ever since he found out you weren’t going anywhere.”
At that point Greg was a bit thrown. His silence must have said so, because Sherlock finally gifted him with a quick glance. “I don’t see why you’re surprised.”
“Well, because I didn’t—I’m not exactly used to being on the other side, you know. Usually I’m the one who goes around checking people’s backgrounds.”
Sherlock went on looking at things without a reply. Greg stood there with his hands in his trouser pockets, mulling over this new bit of information. He felt a prickling of discomfort at the idea of an invisible eye on him. He was about to ask Sherlock whether Mycroft just confined himself to Greg’s work hours, what with Sherlock being connected to Greg through work, when it hit him there was a bigger picture to this.
“What do you mean he’s got me under surveillance?” he exclaimed; he admits he wasn’t at his quickest. A quiet, resigned ‘Oh God,’ floated from Sherlock, but Greg continued to be treated to the sight of his back.
“He can’t just do that,” Greg persisted. “It’s not that simple to have someone under—”
“It is to Mycroft,” Sherlock interrupted. “He’s got the resources and the power, and unfortunately he answers to no one. Well, in the interest of accuracy to hardly anyone.” Sherlock turned quickly, the stretch of his lips childish. “It makes him even more insufferable.”
Greg narrowed his eyes at him. “You said he worked for the Government.”
Sherlock just lifted his eyebrows. When Greg continued staring in expectation, Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Your point being?”
Greg spread his arms. “Well,” he started, uncertain. Sherlock had made it sound like his brother was just another cog in the system.
“Mycroft is the Government,” Sherlock said, and he looked damn serious, too. “He’s the Police and the secret service, and whatever other pathetic official bodies this country believes itself to have running. Some unofficial ones as well. He’ll deny it, of course,” he added with a casual wave of hand, probably in response to Greg’s incredulous expression. Because come on, as if!
Their conversation was interrupted by something, Greg can’t recall what. What he can recall very well is that it wasn’t continued. He’d tried to bring up the topic the following couple of times when he met Sherlock, but Sherlock either acted as if he was deaf or pulled grimaces of such exaggerated boredom they beat his usual pretty impressive samples.
Then about six months ago Greg noticed that his workload had begun to change. It was no longer close to suffocating as it used to get sometimes; he got to travel from time to time, sent off to work on cases that weren’t his division. Sherlock was invariably there, too. Soon other things changed as well: for instance, Greg hasn’t investigated a case connected with some of those dangerous underground groups for about twelve months, with one exception. He’s very rarely worked murders in really dodgy areas. Conversely, back then he noticed that he seemed to get orders to go and check out something, only to find that it was some peculiar case of jewellery theft, of which there wasn’t an official open investigation. Again, Sherlock was the bonding agent. Once or twice Greg ended up feeling quite miffed, when in retrospect he’d summed up his role as that of Sherlock’s babysitter.
After due consideration, an explanation for these changes presented itself: the whole Sherlock babysitting thing, the more interesting, challenging cases Greg found on his desk, the travelling, they all had to be the powerful Holmes the elder looking after his little brother. Unless Sherlock had been a drama queen, claiming all those things about Mycroft back then. (Greg still feels he was justified to have thought that an option.) He tried to sniff around him for more info, but the response continued to be zilch.
Greg let it go. For a while he was self-conscious, wondering whether he was being watched at various places, most notably in the bathroom. He also wondered about the eye that was watching him. Bloody hell, paranoid bastard, indeed, that Mycroft Holmes! Greg was not impressed. He remembers thinking that the guy couldn’t be very smart, not about people, because anyone with two brain cells would have figured out very early on that Greg was not going to put Sherlock in danger. Sherlock did a damn good job of that himself. If anything, Greg tried to watch out for him, as much as he could. Why Mycroft Holmes would still have him under surveillance was beyond him.
When one cold winter evening John Watson appeared at Sherlock’s side, Greg didn’t spare him more than a bemused thought. He would have never guessed the short, plain-looking guy with the limp was to become a permanent fixture in Sherlock’s life and thus by proxy in Greg’s. He never guessed he’d end up calling John his friend and thinking he was the only person the notoriously cold and aloof Sherlock Holmes deeply cared for. It wasn’t just a lack of foresight on Greg’s part. At the time he was too busy with the mysterious murder of the serial killer who’d pushed four people to suicide.
He remembers the night as if it was yesterday, an element of the picture being Sherlock and this new bloke John talking to some people in the distance next to a black car. They were some hundred feet away and anyway, Greg barely cast them a glance from the inside of a police vehicle. What he saw were a man and a woman. The man was tall and the woman was next to him but off to the side, not really taking part in the conversation, head bowed. They were both wearing dark clothes, seemingly quite formal, but that last bit was only on retrospect. Greg’s head was too preoccupied to spare them more than a registering thought.
It was when the black car—long and sleek—slid around the corner that it occurred to him he might have just caught his first glimpse at Sherlock’s mysterious brother. Greg’s regret that he hadn’t gone to have a better look was short but palpable.
When Greg finally met Mycroft Holmes it was as if the universe had decided that after years of denying him the opportunity it would rub Greg’s curiosity in his face by letting him look at the man, up close and personal, for nearly nine hours straight.
As far as first impressions go, Greg is still miffed for the one he must have left. The universe had started its mockery by dropping Mycroft Holmes on him when Greg was really not at his best. He’d spent the night out in the pub, mostly chatting to John. They were in the middle of the Veronica Havisham case and it was the kind of case that got to Greg. The girl was seventeen and by all accounts perfectly lovely—the poster girl for all bright young ladies with a promising future. Hers was cut short. She was found strangled in Hainault Forest and Greg remembers how he just wanted to get the person who killed her, then have the press move on and go and salivate elsewhere. Sherlock was consulting, John was following him everywhere and Greg was carrying out the investigation—all quite typical.
Until Sherlock got himself assaulted and robbed, the stupid wanker. Because after all what made more sense than going on your own to a crime scene in the middle of the night, especially when said crime scene was in a poorly lit area of Hainault Forest?
That same night a young lad from the pathology team in Barts was celebrating his birthday so Greg had gone to his do. He liked George, and John had struck a friendship with him too, so there was more than one reason for Greg to want to have a pint. John was a decent bloke; as far as Greg was concerned he was the best thing that could have happened to Sherlock and he doubts he’ll ever come to revise his assessment.
Greg got home around midnight. He had just shrugged off his shirt and taken some preventive hangover measures when he got a text message from John, telling him about the assault. He was not entirely surprised by the news. How Sherlock had managed to avoid assault by then was a mystery to Greg, if only for Sherlock's interactions with nice, normal people who weren’t law-breakers—Sherlock had the kind of effect on a lot of them that threatened to turn them into ones. However, John’s sensible influence was beginning to bear fruit and that scare Sherlock had had with the whole pool business had made him appear somewhat…more grown-up. Well, so much for that.
A minute after John’s text Greg’s mobile rang. The number was unknown. He answered and was greeted by a polite, melodic voice that said, “Detective Inspector Lestrade? This is Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s brother. I’ve just been informed that he was a victim of a crime...I believe you’re aware?” Greg muttered some sort of confirmation, already buttoning up his shirt. He can’t recall what it was that Mycroft said afterwards, but the end result was that he’d invited himself over to pick up Greg.
This was how a mere quarter of an hour later Greg was sliding onto the back seat of an expensive black car coming face to face with Mycroft Holmes for the first time.
His first impression was of someone who didn’t just look like a gentleman, but was one; the awareness of it as natural to Greg as the sight of his own face in the mirror. Which is where the embarrassment came in, because against that, Greg offered himself at a moment when he had all the charm of a loaf of stale bread. He hadn’t even found a freshly laundered shirt, and despite the fact that his mouth was tingling with the handful of mints he’d thrown in to counteract his beer breath, he still felt as if he would like to sew up his lips and risk opening them only after twenty-four hours of quarantine. The one thing that should have saved him from feeling too self-conscious was that he had already shifted into work mode, the job at hand even more of a focus for the keenness Greg felt about finding the bastards who’d hurt his helper. Sherlock was an annoying prick, but he was Greg’s annoying prick—figuratively speaking.
But as soon as he entered the damn car he found his work mode powering down with alarming speed. His self-consciousness was back with a vengeance, although at the time Greg’s thoughts pulled him in too many directions for him to be able to pin it down to its rightful source, not to mention to notice it at all. He was too busy noticing Mycroft Holmes.
Greg isn’t the kind of person who gets fascinated. Shocked, interested, curious, yes. Fascinated, no. He spent five minutes in Mycroft’s company and he was so fascinated it felt like a punch in the gut, but sort of suspended in time. Minus the pain, too, because Greg might have failed to recognize it for what it was, but he knew the experience wasn’t unpleasant.
The man he met was prim and dressed in formal clothing. He was supremely self-mastered, subtly intimidating and in a way that had a lot to do with the instant fascination, he was also sort of…adorable. Greg has never, ever found things adorable, German Sheppard puppies notwithstanding. It’s just not his way. Objectively, he knew that there was nothing actually adorable in a long-nosed, stuck up man wearing a three piece suit in the summer, but there you go. And Greg hadn’t even seen the freckles yet.
During the next few hours it turned out that Mr Holmes (as Greg called him, of course) had connections and resources beyond anything Greg had at his disposal. He wasn’t flashy about using them, but it was a bit like his very posh upbringing: it wasn’t in your face, but you only had to stop to think about it and it crushed you with its obviousness. Greg would like to think that he did well himself, both at the crime scene and at the subsequent interviews. He awards himself points for picking up that one of the muggers was gay but moreover, for figuring out that his flatmate was his lover, and one the mugger definitely wanted to impress. There was a thick gold watch on the boy’s wrist but there were no tan lines at all. His arms were brown from prolonged exposure to the summer sun, so that bracelet was a brand new acquisition. Soon Mycroft and Greg were waking up the owner of the pawnshop where a barter deal had taken place a couple of hours earlier: Sherlock’s watch for the vulgar looking one. Greg still remembers Mycroft’s deadpan comment on the exchange as being rather unfair, murmuring something about no accounting for taste. Something about the intonation somehow managed to convey he wasn’t talking only about the watches. It was startling to be in the presence of a Holmes who stopped and noticed people, then commented on them in some depth and—this at least wasn’t surprising—accuracy.
Perhaps Greg should have been more startled at how effortlessly he picked up on what Mycroft meant.
They were parting outside the police station in the morning when Greg realized a couple of things. One of them was that in broad daylight Mycroft’s face revealed itself to be graced with a smattering of freckles that made Greg itch to lick his thumb and see if he could lift them off Mycroft’s skin, much like tiny bits of confetti. The urge had struck him with both its power and its whimsy, making him shove his hands in his creased trouser pockets.
The more important thing he discovered was that he had no wish to part with Mycroft. Eight hours and Greg was very tired and hungry; he no longer just looked, but felt like stale bread, yet he did not wish to part with Mycroft. They’d done the job that had brought them together and it was as if Greg now wanted Mycroft for himself. At the time it didn’t come out quite as suggestive as that in his head; he attributed it more to curiosity rather than the oblique interest he was feeling. But regardless of the reason, the result was that they went to have breakfast together. Greg asked Mycroft to breakfast. Mycroft stood there, looking at his umbrella as if this was the first time he’d seen it. No eye contact, nothing open or inviting, but again Greg just interpreted his demeanour without effort: Mycroft was awkward. Why that was Greg wasn’t sure. He went with the obvious answer which was that Mycroft’s natural habitat was plush rooms with fifty foot high ceilings, in a post code area of very limited range, mostly SW1 if Greg had to guess. His regular companions were hardly unimportant policemen who were at that stage of their lives where they had a fair number of mornings feeling like a forensic bag of gruesome evidence and let’s not get started on some nights. The upshot of it was that you became a bit thick-skinned and asked all kinds of people who were way out of your social circle come and eat with you.
On the way to the café Greg’s entire perspective on their little situation had undergone a complete transformation.
He realized that Mycroft was checking him out. That way. He stole glances at Greg, his nostrils twitched in embarrassment when he spoke to him, his voice undulated. He kept touching his own sleeves, lapels, his face—all gestures completely unnecessary. His eyes alternated between glowing while they roamed Greg’s features and jumping away and down, accompanied with a discreet gulp. Mycroft probably thought he was being all secretive about it, but Greg could see it so plainly that Mycroft might as well have licked him in the middle of the street.
It was there and then, with that very mental image, that the impish side of Greg’s character made a rare appearance, making him bite his lips at the thought of Mycroft literally doing something as ludicrous as that. Greg didn’t know the man at all, but he knew enough to be dead certain that licking people in public was as out of character for Mycroft as it was for Greg to watch a chick flick while sipping a pink martini and painting his nails red.
He still failed to question the source of such an impish fantasy— the licking, not the painted nails. Some detective he is.
In the smelly, working-men’s café Mycroft’s face was a true spectacle. Not only was he looking utterly out of place, the place was making him look utterly out of sorts. Greg could just picture Mycroft producing a lavender scented handkerchief and waving it in front of his face. Some of Greg’s amusement must have shown on his features because for the briefest instance Mycroft fixed him with a gaze that was as piercing as it was freezing. It made a quick dark shiver run down Greg’s back, not all that pleasant. It didn’t help his fascination one bit, though; neither did the next thing Mycroft did, which was to check out Greg’s chest and arms when he waved to the waitress to get her attention. (The unpleasantness had left without a trace at that one.)
Ordering food seemed somehow fitting after that look. Greg hoped the sleepy girl would remember his order, most notably his request to skip the sausages—the starting point of his elaboration on his great enjoyment of a good sausage. Mycroft looked at the expectant waitress with an empty expression that still managed a hint of stoniness about it. For the life of him, Greg couldn’t tell what the man was thinking but one thing was obvious: he didn’t intend to eat and that was something Greg took issue with. He insisted Mycroft ate; Mycroft declined. Greg dug in his heels a bit. It wasn’t about having his own way as he’s the first to admit had been the case too many times with Susan. No, it was entirely out of concern for Mycroft who’d spent hours and hours drinking only water and who looked downright pasty in broad daylight.
Mycroft made gestures so elegant and comments so eloquent that Greg felt like a villain for considering making him eat margarine and greasy bacon. Even pale and tired, Mycroft still looked like someone who’d stepped down from the pages of an olden, exquisite book. When the girl returned, Greg took a bold initiative and ordered some scrambled eggs for Mycroft, thinking them the most inoffensive item on the menu, then asked for real butter for the toast. He might have tried to flirt with the girl for the butter. Mycroft might have noticed. Greg remembers quite well the double jolt he felt at the sight of Mycroft’s wryly lifted eyebrow: firstly, because he counted it as scathing feedback on his flirting skills and secondly, because it then occurred to him the eyebrow might have been an obscure comment on Greg being all manly, taking charge and ordering for Mycroft, which was…well, jolt-worthy.
The breakfast turned out to be a very informative affair and not just because of everything Greg learned on the topic of British export of red meat. He was introduced to Mycroft’s ridiculous idea that he needed to watch his weight. Greg had to comment, his reaction so impulsive, it made him stammer like an inexperienced youth trying simultaneously to pay a compliment and hide the fact that it was one. Greg was a typical male, so at the moment his self-awareness wasn’t all that great. Only later did he realize that what he’d experienced was embarrassment at being caught noticing Mycroft’s appearance, and boy, was that an eye opener!
Not as big as the other one, though. The one where he got home at the end of that day and took a shower, randomly thinking he could do with a nice wank: knock himself out so he could sleep like the dead. Where he took himself in hand and it wasn’t really going all that well, even with the extra lubricant of the shower gel, the friction mechanical, his dick feeling like a body organ and not like an organic part of him. Where he closed his eyes and tried to come up with some fantasy: a pair of soapy boobs or a trail of bubbles running down a flat stomach to the thin strip of hair of an anonymous pussy. Where those images didn’t do anything for him, so he’d decided to call it quits, when his mind went on a wild detour as a result of which Mycroft’s face—nothing but his face, thinning hair immaculately swirled and flattened at the front—conjured up against the backdrop of Greg’s closed eyelids, making his stomach drop with a wild swoop, the tiles disappear from under his feet, and his semi-flaccid dick twitch like a living thing. That eye opener.
His orgasm wasn’t half bad. Okay, it was fucking great. His mind had been dizzied and perplexed by the sudden turn of events, uninhibited enough to dart into the territory of other images of Mycroft, testing, testing…and scoring each time. Because each time Greg pictured anything about Mycroft: his mouth turning into a displeased grimace, his cool blue eyes, his long freckled fingers, Greg’s arousal grew like a teenager’s, leaving him even more confused but hurtling towards that great orgasm nonetheless.
He was really exhausted and sated afterwards as he padded to his bed with a towel wrapped around his waist. He didn’t have the energy to put on more than his pyjama bottoms or to dwell on what had just happened. Honesty was the best policy: Greg had finally met Sherlock’s brother and the guy wasn’t exactly handsome or hot, or anything of the sort, but there was something in him that made him attractive to Greg. Fascination aside.
He fell asleep almost instantly, his last thought a vague wondering whether he’d see Mycroft again.
Eight days later the sausages arrived.
Greg did see Mycroft again, the gap allowing him to shake off the awkwardness of the shower incident. Perhaps ‘incident’ is the wrong word—it implies a one-off and that wasn’t strictly the case. Since their meeting Greg hadn’t exactly doodled Mycroft’s name in sparkly ink; he hadn’t even particularly thought about him, especially after the first couple of weeks. And technically, there’d been only one more orgasm with images of Mycroft peeking at Greg from the droplets of the shower spray. But with time Greg had found himself turning metaphorical corners in his mind to suddenly bump noses with Mycroft’s presence, the experience always leaving him reminiscent of skinny dipping: shivery and naughty and youthful.
Two months after their breakfast, Greg walked into a nondescript office in a nondescript Government building only to find that he was familiar with one of the parties at the meeting he was supposed to attend. The case was a curious demonstration of how coincidence worked. Or rather, of the saying ‘It’s a small world,’ because objectively, very little came down to coincidence. There was a good reason why both Greg and Mycroft were at that meeting, as well as everyone else of course.
On Greg’s part he was there mostly because of other people. Sherlock and John had got themselves involved—behind Greg’s back!—with his own goddamn murder investigation. The victim was a young woman who had worked as a shop assistant and had struck up a tentative, mostly non-verbal friendship with an illegal immigrant, residing in the UK with the sole purpose of ‘learning a trade’. That girl had ended up dead as well, then one thing led to another and Greg had a link to a human trafficking case. Thankfully it had already been opened three months ago.
The twist was that the chief investigator was Greg’s friend and one of the people who supported him when he’d still been new and finding his way in the force. Alistair was the only person who knew that one night, four months after Greg had started working for the police he’d sat down and written his letter of resignation. The pressure had been too much, the workload absolutely crazy and the intricacies of interpersonal dynamics had finished him off, leaving him feeling inadequate, stressed and running out of all kinds of juice. Greg isn’t one to give up easily. He’s always thought himself tenacious and determined, but whatever qualities a person has, there are always those moments in life when things go against the grain. A clever man can show great stupidity and that night all those years ago Greg just gave up. (Funny that he can also pinpoint the night when he gave up on his marriage.)
Alistair talked him out of it. Greg’s tenacity extends to his memory, for good and bad things both. In this case, he’s never forgotten what the marginally older, but much better adjusted copper did for him then. Greg was at that human trafficking meeting to back up Alistair if he needed him. There was also the fact that Sherlock and John had managed to put themselves in the bad books of some nasty people so Greg wanted to keep an eye on the fallout and try to prevent seriously shit things from happening. There were two underground organizations involved. Why couldn’t Sherlock make less powerful enemies?
Overnight the case seemed to have shaped up as one of the biggest of its kind in recent history. At the meeting, (which was as off-the-record as they came) it transpired that there was the threat of an international scandal. Bold witnesses other than the poor dead girl had come forward to testify about corruption and the involvement of politicians in a couple of the ‘importing’ countries. Apparently, there was evidence that would have been very hard to cover up. Greg wasn’t born yesterday. He knew that these things did get covered up by pretty much any Government in the world, under the threat of serious damage to the political and business relationships between two countries. It still makes him sick to the stomach to think that some smarmy politician, possibly even a member of a cabinet, had knowingly ‘bought shares’ in the trafficking of young women from his country. (Some the girls were still kids, for God’s sake!) That same wrong-doer will sit at some official dinner one day in the future, unscathed, wine pouring into his glass from the hands of his colleagues on the British side. It makes Greg want to stick to his simple murder investigations. He knows you can’t push too much against the ways of the world but sometimes, privately, he hates himself for pretending his cynicism and lack of guts are acceptance and wisdom.
He shared his depressing views with Mycroft after the meeting, not in so many words. In fact, his verbal expression was swinging between vulgar baseness and forced, clumsy diplomacy. Mycroft only pursed his lips and looked down from under furrowed eyebrows—it didn’t feel like looking down on Greg, though—then told him that his feelings on the matter did him justice. He hesitated and added that there was a good reason why the two of them represented such different corners of the public interest. He appeared way more formal than Greg remembered him. When he spoke those words to Greg he sounded a bit clichéd, too, but also strangely…weary, which was enough for Greg’s heart to sail through the forbidding exterior and go out to Mycroft in some unnamed sympathy.
Everything about the case seemed quite urgent and Greg was surprised Mycroft lingered to speak to him. During the meeting Greg had kept his mouth shut as was his policy when in a room with people who were cleverer than him, or at the very least more worldly. Mycroft’s input hadn’t been abundant but everything he’d contributed was to advance the conversation to some end. It was also said in a way that did something to Greg’s skin, both in the posh choices of words and in the voice itself. Mycroft didn’t have a masculine voice, which not only failed to take away from the sense of power he exuded, but somehow added to Greg being confusedly drawn to him.
At the end of his long day Greg got home, drank a quick beer and went for the shower. He took himself in hand, this time to Mycroft’s voice, wondering what it would have sounded like when it wasn’t curling in alert, diplomatic sentences. As he left the bathroom ten minutes later, Greg knew he didn’t have enough data to make predictions, but he was still fairly sure that having toe-curling orgasms wasn’t going to be a problem in the near future as long as he stuck to a fantasy that involved Mycroft Holmes.
Two days later he saw him again, related to the same case but in a far more hands-on manner. The nasty people after Sherlock and John were literally after them. Apparently there’d been a chase on foot that had ended up with John twisting his ankle—and only with that, thank goodness. So, strings were being hastily pulled in order to take the heat off the dynamic duo’s backs, while keeping diplomatic relations intact and having some criminals pay for their actions. A formidable task that Greg was not surprised to see Mycroft pull off without even breaking a sweat.
This particular meeting of theirs is special for Greg, because it was the first time he identified the feeling of seeing Mycroft walk into the room as pure, undiluted gladness. Because Greg is sometimes—all right, often—a bit on the thick-headed side about some things, he discovered that he had actually badly wanted to see Mycroft after he realized that it’d been a quarter of an hour and his stupid excitement was not simmering down. That probably counted as a deduction. Sherlock would have been so proud. If Greg ever told him, which of course was never going to happen—you didn’t just serve your consulting detective the news that you might have developed a crush on his brother. Especially when the detective in question had no filter on his big mouth and his relationship with said brother was the sort that could start a new school in psychotherapy.
Coming to his small epiphany and realizing that this time he and Mycroft were going to spend more than a minute together, Greg decided that there was no point in swimming against the tide, so he let himself be himself. He hoped he was sending Mycroft enough signals about his interest without being unprofessional. Greg can be subtle; if anything, at the time he worried he was being too subtle. It was suddenly hard to read Mycroft, too. Greg had to rely far more on his instinct than on observation. It dawned on him that what he’d witnessed on Breakfast Morning hadn’t been typical of Mycroft at all. Sleep deprivation, coupled with considerable concern about Sherlock—considerable, but hardly obvious; good job Greg knew a thing or two about people—had somehow compromised Mycroft’s ability to show the world only what he chose. In other words, Mycroft hadn’t been quite himself back then and that was how he had been caught appreciating Greg’s charms.
But doubt slithered in about whether Greg had misinterpreted. It brought home to him again just how long he’d been out of the loop with the whole gay flirting thing. God help him, Mycroft was also so far from ordinary that standard rules just didn’t apply. Maybe Greg had got it all wrong. His own perceptions hadn’t been exactly top notch. Maybe Mycroft was just hungry on that morning. From what Greg had seen and from a passing petty remark by Sherlock, he was beginning to suspect food and denial had a long standing relationship in Mycroft’s life. What if on Breakfast Morning Greg confused one type of hunger for another?
There were the sausages, too, but come on. The gift wasn’t exactly a gay spa weekend for two. Greg imagined himself at twenty, confiding in his mate Pete that some toff had sent him a pound of finest sausages. He could hear Pete’s giggle, never mind that he hadn’t seen him in two decades. Pete was quite camp and possessed the most unerring gaydar ever. He also knew what was what in gay affairs. If Pete told you someone fancied you, he did. Greg was sure that Pete would have listened to him interpret the sausages as a ‘come hither’ move, then told Greg he should get out more.
Well, so what? If Greg had turned out to be the fish on the hook, so be it. He was going to do his job, enjoy Mycroft’s company as much as he could, then go home, get himself off and call it a day. It wasn’t as if he was looking for a boyfriend! He was a bit all over the place, to be frank. He wasn’t sure what was going on with him, or between him and Mycroft, or in Mycroft’s head. One minute it seemed that Greg was blowing everything way out of proportion; then blink, and he knew in his gut that there was something brewing between them. Then flip and he was back to ‘What the hell happened?’ The only answer he could come up with was Mycroft. Mycroft had happened.
Meanwhile, they had work to do. There were places to go and people to see, and Greg wasn’t quite sure what his role was, but Alastair had asked him to tag along and Mycroft had told him, “Your presence will be much appreciated,” so Greg provided his presence without objection. Mycroft was different. He was the detached, cold individual Greg had seen on the night of Sherlock’s assault when Mycroft was dealing with witnesses, perpetrators and basically anyone who obstructed his path. He was insanely intelligent and able to spot connections that even his brother would have missed. His brain was like a fucking supercomputer: Mycroft knew every piece of legislation, was able to quote legal cases that had even a tenuous link to the job at hand, mentioned names and dates as if he was reading them from a piece of paper…Beyond that, he just seemed to know everything about everyone they met, just by throwing them a glance. True, a thorough glance that brought about associations with laser work, but still.
Greg might have slipped into some exaggeration. He had a crush, so sue him. Where he probably should have been more careful not to slip was in his impression of Mycroft’s ‘other’ persona. It felt like the sun peeking between the clouds and every time it did was when they were alone. Greg supposes he should have felt guilty for focusing too much on Mycroft and too little on the job, but yeah—crush. Also, that side of the job really wasn’t his area. He felt like a fish out of water. The talk was mostly in legal terminology. There were on- and off-the-record meetings with both sides: criminals and members of the legal profession. At least he had the impression that just being there, especially during their underground interactions with certain scum, made some difference. Oh, super, he thought when he realized where his imagination was going. The last thing he needed was some over-compensating macho-complex. But in all fairness, he did modestly hope that he was able to lend a hand in the conversations with the criminals, especially in making suggestions before they spoke to them. Mycroft listened to him with a blank expression that Greg still found an improvement on Sherlock’s hyper and or rude demeanour in similar situations.
The blankness seemed to dissolve in the moments when it was just the two of them. Mycroft wasn’t exactly tripping over himself in his expressiveness, but his eyes were certainly messing with Greg’s perceptions: one second they appeared bottomless, the next Greg felt as if he was looking through the clearest blue water of a sea teeming with life, his own toes comfortably buried in the soft sand. He was beginning to see why after a day filled with Sherlock John would want to sit down and write about him.
In those same moments some personal details filtered into the conversation from both of them. Greg didn’t feel he should pry. In general he prefers to stand back and listen anyway, see what people say when left to their own devices; plus that is a tactic in life that keeps you out of trouble. But with Mycroft he had to come out and do it after all, ask some questions. If only to counteract his own blabbering mouth that might have made it its mission in life to turn Mycroft into Greg’s bloody biographer. Greg blamed Mycroft and his cunning, silky ways to get information out of people. Actually, from what Greg had seen, there were some stark differences between the ways Mycroft did that out of ‘people’ and out of Greg. But the blame still stood—it was all Mycroft’s fault, with his pink mouth and his mercurial laugh, with his comfortable crossed legs and his demure touching: the hair, the knot of his tie, the buttons on his waistcoat. Worst or best of all, with his smooth, perfectly penetrating interest that made Greg feel like he was the most fascinating creature on earth and oh, the irony was not lost on him.
They parted after five hours together surrounded by at least six people. Most of them were talking; all of them were waiting for them to quickly say their goodbyes so that they could carry on in their respective, important directions.
Mycroft extended a hand, his elbow supple yet officious. “Goodbye,” he said. “Thank you for your assistance.”
“You’re welcome,” Greg told him, closing his hand around Mycroft’s. In the second before doing it he was abruptly aware of the upcoming touch. Mycroft’s palm had the barest hint of perspiration and his fingers clutched at Greg’s somewhat hesitantly, as if an important circuit that controlled the strength of the clasp had closed off and now Mycroft was going into it blind. None of that mattered. Greg, the self-centred Neanderthal that he was, couldn’t focus on much beyond the throbbing thrill of touching Mycroft skin on skin.
In the lift on the way down he covertly brought his palm to his face and inhaled.
The next time Mycroft made an appearance in Greg’s life was three weeks after the human trafficking case. Greg was on the Eurostar on his way to Paris when his phone rang. At the sight of the caller ID he experienced a physical sensation that he’s still prepared to swear was his heart’s attempt to take a leave of absence. For one suspended instant Greg stared at Mycroft’s flashing name and felt it illuminate a dilapidated corner of his soul; an old, forgotten road that stretched all the way back to Greg’s youth.
Mycroft was calling about some paperwork to do with Sherlock… and then he wasn’t. Through miles and motion and static Greg picked up that this was a personal call, just as he was able to pick up that something was off with the caller. He tried to offer whatever limited means of support he had at his disposal. (Greg was no agony aunt, but he did have that training on being an active listener.) He hoped that he didn’t come across as boring or shallow with his lack of dramatic pauses or his mundane questions and comments. He probably did, certainly compared to the deep waters that his new acquaintance seemed to be. Anyway, they talked for a few minutes only, mostly about Mycroft’s mother—at least Greg suspected it was about her, no names were mentioned—then they got cut off when the train went into the tunnel.
Greg thought about Mycroft all the way to the Gare du Nord. He thought about him in the cab to his hotel and then at the dinner that he had on his own. (On the following day there were going to be endless hours in meetings with the Interpol lot before Greg was supposed to take the train back to London. But the evening of his arrival was his alone.)
In the bistro he was able to hear Mycroft’s voice in his head all the time. Mycroft had quoted Oscar Wilde in response to something Greg had stupidly said about himself that portrayed him as someone who had no appreciation for the finer things in life. Mycroft didn't seem put off. His voice had caresses Greg’s ear in what Greg assumed was its private, nocturnal tone. “I have the simplest tastes,” the quote began. “I'm always satisfied with the best.” Greg ordered some red wine and went on thinking about Mycroft. He still reckons that if Mycroft’s in the right mood, he can probably give Oscar a run for his money where it comes to the perfect blend of sharpness and sophistication.
That night he was taken over by a great desire to have Mycroft seated across from him—just so Greg could listen to him talk all night. He ended up texting him, after only one glass. He knew he wasn’t a fifth as witty as the recipient of his message deserved, but he couldn’t change who he was anymore. When after thirty minutes there was still no reply Greg finished his second glass, asked for the bill and decided to walk back to his hotel.
He ambled through the alluringly-lit city centre for a quarter of an hour; then, to the right just off his street, he noticed something that looked like a small inner courtyard. His feet carried him on to investigate.
There was a single big tree in the middle: a tall, dark shape under the less than abundant light coming from a single streetlamp and some of the windows of the surrounding buildings. There were three benches and Greg walked over to one of them, sitting down for a moment. He remembers that he was suddenly craving a cigarette to the point of distraction. His gaze followed the silhouette of the tree all the way up to the top of its magnificent crown, his chin having to slowly lift, then all the way down on the other side. It wasn’t a tree that Greg recognized, or maybe he would have in broad daylight, but he still found it a good sight. He played with the keys in his pocket—he always has them on his person—felt their edges and their polished bits, traced around the little holes in their little heads and inserted the tip of his finger in them. He wondered what Mycroft was doing, what his home looked like, where exactly Mycroft was at that very moment—and what do you know? One craving did make you forget another.
Greg isn’t ashamed to confess that the next time he met Mycroft it was a totally orchestrated job on his part. He had thought about him a lot since Paris. With each day it was as if a small clearing in Greg grew wider and wider and he was beginning to distinguish fragments of the picture on the other side: that dilapidated place transforming into a happy place by the mere existence of someone special. No, not just ‘someone’. It’s laughable ever to attach generic words to Mycroft.
Greg remembers that it was a time of some uncertainty about where he stood with the subject of his interest. The Paris Call had gone a long way to restore Greg’s conviction that he wasn’t in danger of experiencing the first unrequited…thing of his adult years. At their age that kind of phone call was hardly a mere friendship offering. A different kind of context, yeah, maybe. A longer acquaintance, sure. Mostly, if they were a different pair of individuals Greg could see how such a chat could have been construed as a step towards making a new mate. As it was, even in his very outdated gay flirting books it said that the man on the other end of the line had sought him out because he was interested in Greg as well.
Once convinced, Greg was spurred into action. It would have probably been wiser to continue to lie in wait: sooner or later Sherlock was a safe bet to get mixed up in some trouble thus conjuring up Mycroft on the scene again. But after a few weeks Greg’s patience had worn thin and besides, he’d asked himself: ‘What am I, thirteen?’ The answer was that this wasn’t school and Greg no longer had to wait for external circumstances to allow him to catch a glimpse of his crush. He could create his own opportunities to see Mycroft.
In hindsight, he can generously upgrade himself to seventeen years of age at the most, since the actual grown up thing to do never occurred to him at the time: pick up the phone and ask Mycroft out. The allusion to an inadequate adolescent can be extended by the memory of Greg’s reaction when he saw Mycroft walking into his office.
The thing is, Greg’s long-term lack of practice included the loss of some useful self-assessment he’d done in his youth, such as his tendency to be buoyed up by his desires and his daring plans, not quite factoring in the reality of them happening. In other words, it had been all very well for Greg to concoct a scheme to bring the man to his office, but Mycroft’s actual appearance there reduced Greg to a nervous, floundering plonker. The feeling was a bit as if he’d dreamt that he was the Chief of the British Olympic Committee, only to wake up one day and find out it hadn’t been a dream and there was a day left before the opening ceremony.
His office was a mess. There was no decent coffee. His desk was fit to be photographed as an example of poor paperwork management. His hair was ready to attest to Greg’s complete abdication from decent grooming. He had congratulated himself earlier that day for not losing his nerve and putting his plan into action, but he might just have jumped the gun.
To make matters worse, Mycroft looked like the walking advertisement for the best of Savile Row. Greg was convinced that the entire floor had just been graced with the most well dressed man in the last year. Mycroft's tie for instance looked like it was made of the most luxurious material to the touch and had tiny prints of 'π'—the symbol for the number pi—tastefully arranged on it. In contrast Greg was able to feel the damp shirt on his own back, thanks to the unbearably hot August they were having. In his defence, he hadn’t known his day would involve a meeting with the man who’d become his favourite spot of daydreaming. He saw the opportunity and he took it in motion, but considering he’d been plotting for some days, a spare clean shirt in his office would have been a nice demonstration of foresight.
Not one to cry over spilt milk, Greg made some decent attempts to remedy his shortcomings: for instance, he quickly managed to bring his hair into good order as well as clear up some space for Mycroft to sit, tidy up a corner of his desk and even offer to go out personally and buy good coffee. How he could have forgotten that Mycroft oozed refined taste was hard to imagine. He was saved by the gracious manners that went with that taste: Mycroft politely declined the coffee and was all business.
As he should have been. Greg had called him for help with the Maltese case after all. He’d waited for Sherlock and John to leave on their holiday so he could have the excuse of needing someone else’s input, then he’d kept his eye open for a good, mystifying case. As soon as he’d come back from the crime scene of the Maltese one, Greg’s inner voice had called, “Bingo!” (He didn’t rebuke himself for his jubilation—the victim was a murderer himself and while Greg disapproved of people taking the law into their own hands, he couldn’t bring himself to be sombre on that particular stiff’s behalf.)
Mycroft solved the case in forty-five minutes. He didn’t even get up from his chair, for crying out loud. Greg felt like the privileged single spectator of a private show and could hardly contain himself from clapping at the end. He’d got used to Sherlock’s extraordinary flashes of brilliance, but Mycroft was a whole new kettle of fish. There was something about the almost deliberate lack of affectation that made him truly impressive. Greg spent his time in a very pleasant haze, watching Mycroft go through various papers, including some disturbing photographs that he looked at with an expression more fitting for the perusal of an accountant’s report. Greg noticed Mycroft’s lips were very active: he pursed them on some occasions, but he pushed them forward far more often—something of which Greg whole-heartedly approved—he also moistened them, completely unselfconsciously, and he barely grazed the bottom one with his teeth. He used them a lot for speaking, of course, but that didn’t mean they lost character then. Greg tried not to stare too much. Besides, he was quite occupied with keeping a tab on his own mouth that wanted to fall open at regular intervals.
The most amazing thing about Mycroft was that while he was obviously very aware of his formidable mental prowess, he seemed to have a rather confused relationship with it: one moment he appeared almost conceited, the next playing it down. Greg found that both endearing and amusing; it didn’t mean that he was any less in awe when Mycroft asked questions that to all intents and purposes were random, then joined the metaphorical dots with somewhat camp gestures to produce a stunning picture of the truth.
They’d done it with mirrors. The Maltese had managed to accomplish a murder that was more like an illusionist’s trick. Greg would have never thought to go there, but that’s the difference between his own and the Holmeses' intellect. The Holmeses' intellect, he thought, went everywhere, no limitations, and not only because it appeared limitless itself. It was detached and distanced, soaring high, free of any of the restrictions common people had, and able to see a much bigger picture than Greg’s would ever manage.
He isn’t ashamed to admit that it wasn’t only Mycroft’s intellect he wished to spend more time with. It was the whole package. Speaking of packages, Greg had boggled at Mycroft’s pristine look in that suit of his. It was the softest grey and it looked expensive: the kind of suit that would do its best to keep a man comfortable in the humid August heat. Mycroft wore his clothes with casual grace without being in any way casual himself. It reminded Greg of his first impression of him as someone who was inherently a gentleman. That included a certain stiffness which manifested itself particularly strongly in close proximity.
They were in the lift on the way down—Greg was being a good host seeing off his visitor, while trying to come up with a reason to secure their next meeting—when he noticed that Mycroft seemed tenser than he’d been upstairs in the office. Greg wasn’t looking at him at first, too busy with discovering a truly revolutionary approach to his problem, namely actually asking Mycroft out for a drink. He had an excuse and everything! Surely he’d be an ungrateful swine if he didn’t offer to treat Mycroft in some way after this busy man had so generously gifted an hour of his time to Greg’s murder investigation?
But then Mycroft started talking about the oppressive heat and if Greg knew anything about posh people, it was that they talked about the weather when they were feeling uncomfortable or were trying to be polite with relative strangers. Greg did look at Mycroft at the comment and found him flushed, then noticed the distance between their bodies. He tried to decipher this demeanour, while his mouth spewed—with far too inappropriate familiarity—some rubbish about Greg’s undignified suffering in hot weather. Well, at least it was the truth. He did look awful, especially compared to Mycroft who, apart from his cheeks that brought about associations with red apples, appeared as cool as a cucumber. There was no reply to Greg’s clumsy comments as the door opened to the ground floor.
Once again they found themselves on the steps outside a police building. Maybe it was the memory of the outcome of the last similar scene. Maybe it was the fact that now they were standing face to face, Greg was able to see the same skimming glances of interest he’d seen on Breakfast Morning. Whatever the reason, the associations to the nice time they’d spent together when they’d first met became too powerful, giving him the boost of confidence he needed. It suddenly felt natural and right that he should take initiative, invite Mycroft out for a drink or better still, dinner. The idea of actually being out with Mycroft like that, socially, without any pretext, filled Greg with boldness that matched only the desire he felt for that to really happen.
His phrasing of his invitation left a lot to be desired and couldn’t have fooled anyone about feeling confident in any way. But it didn’t matter in the end, because Mycroft said no.
Greg doesn’t like to think about that moment. He doesn’t want to remember how it was a proper blow, suddenly grounding him and reminding him he was a middle-aged man with all the gravitas that the fact carried: good and bad. It felt as if Mycroft had lifted his umbrella and used its tip as the pin to burst the little bubble of brightness that had grown around Greg’s heart. Under the blinding sun of the summer afternoon Greg found himself irreversibly aware of just how lacklustre his life had become, goodness knows how long ago. The man who helped Greg see that had just blown him off, unambiguous and ever so polite, so Greg returned to his paperwork and buried a lot more than his mind in it.
As far as his next and so far last meeting with Mycroft is concerned Greg is forgiven for being a bit fuzzy on who said what exactly. He had just killed a murder suspect and done it without following the official rules and regulations, so between the adrenaline and the grim promise of a bloody awful internal investigation interacting with anyone was never going to be committed to memory in great detail. Greg’s got the important thing etched onto his mind and that’s the outcome of the meeting: two weeks later to the day he is taking Mycroft out to dinner. If all goes well, he hopes he won’t have to return him home straight after, but he’s getting ahead of himself.
The reason for Mycroft’s presence at that crime scene was Sherlock or at least that was Greg’s initial assumption. Greg hadn’t just killed any murder suspect, but Vinnie ‘Jones’ Smith—a medium fish hit man with an inferiority complex. (Greg was able to conclude that before reading the psych profile. True, not everyone was as lucky as him to have a distinctive surname such as ‘Lestrade’. He’d still like to think he’s comfortable enough in his own skin so that even if he was called ‘Smith’ he wouldn’t have given himself a nickname. Especially not one that alluded to a football player turned actor, famous for his menacing looks and rough play on the field.) Ideally, Vinnie Smith would have been brought to justice, but Greg had no time to check his moral compass. He had to act swiftly; it was a choice between seeing Smith dead or seeing him kill Sherlock.
In hindsight there was nothing to provoke shocked gasps as to how the incident came about. It was even a bit mundane, although Greg’s superiors certainly didn’t see it that way. The boy wonder, John in tow, had once again taken the initiative with Greg’s own sodding case and—regardless of what Sherlock insisted—with complete disregard for both law and safety. Proved by the fact that John had suffered a fairly dangerous gunshot wound. He was bleeding in a dark alleyway, as does tend to happen, when Greg finally arrived at the scene, a bit worse for wear. What he found was the famous duo on the ground, completely exposed. Smith was creeping towards them, gun in hand, while it looked for all the world as if Sherlock had switched off reality in favour of doing whatever he was doing by John’s side. Panicking most likely, and lamenting the days when he’d had no personal attachments. That ship had sailed with the deployment of one Captain John Watson so as a result, where John’s life was in danger Sherlock became a bit of an average idiot.
Smith had taken close aim at Sherlock’s beautifully lit head and Greg shot him without giving warning first.
Less than half an hour later Mycroft showed up. When he put two and two together later, Greg realized Mycroft was informed about the incident within two minutes of its occurrence. The funny thing is that instead of being unsettled by the level of surveillance Mycroft has access to, including on Greg’s person, now that he’s got to know him Greg has found himself experiencing some dark excitement at the thought. There’s something oddly exhilarating about Mycroft being so powerful; but beyond that being watched by him makes Greg feel sort of…protected. He’s dimly aware it has got to be tapping into some sort of an insecurity thing, or Heaven knows what. He doesn’t care. The point is that being so fully under Mycroft’s scrutiny, allowing him that kind of access…It’s about control and Greg knows he should find it objectionable, but he can’t help that he feels the opposite.
Anyway, when Greg spotted Mycroft at the crime scene he walked over to him. Now, if Greg’s head hadn’t been so preoccupied he might have figured out a thing or two. Such as that Mycroft had shown him great respect by standing aside patiently and not imposing. Or that if Mycroft had found out about the incident so quickly it meant he knew Sherlock had already left safely in an ambulance with John. On the other hand it would have deprived Greg of the greatly satisfying experience of hearing Mycroft tell him, simply and directly, that he was there to see him.
It’d be a lie to say that the rest of the world disappeared and Greg was left standing in front of Mycroft, the two of them gazing into each other’s eyes. Greg’s a copper. If the world was prone to disappearing that easily he wouldn’t have made it to forty. The rejection from the last time they’d met might also have still smarted a bit. But Mycroft’s statement did give him pause and all right, there was definitely some gazing. In Greg’s defence, Mycroft is very hard not to gaze at, especially as he was back then, his unusual face mesmerising under the dramatic interplay of shadows and flashing blue lights. The bottom line was that after the gazing they went on talking, amid which Mycroft had the gall to ask Greg out to dinner!
Good thing that in his ‘live’ work mode Greg gets efficient, forthright and takes no shit. (He counts it as the counterpoint for the other guy, the one he sometimes becomes. The one who sweats and stammers and justifies himself, trying to avoid complications that might lead to his personal detriment at great cost. Often the cost ends up being his greater personal detriment, but Greg is a champion at seeing that only in retrospect.)
Within a minute of Mycroft’s invitation Greg had turned the tables. If he recalls correctly he made an inappropriate joke first, something about Sherlock’s death. Mycroft still found it funny, his laugh raising the swarm of butterflies that had taken permanent residence in Greg’s stomach and reminding him it wasn’t very fair to call other people idiots for how they became around certain people of importance to them. Mycroft’s face quickly turned unreadable again, his whole air sort of wooden, but Greg was not going to be blown off for the second time. He made brisk arrangements to take Mycroft out on a date and if Mycroft hasn’t worked out yet that’s what they’re doing—instead of that stupid gratitude card they’ve both been playing—Greg will just have to make sure there’s no doubt about it.
Until a couple of days ago Greg had little time to dwell on what’s coming tonight. The fallout of the Smith case kept him busy for two weeks straight with a promise of more to come, at least in a smaller dosage. There were times Greg felt so swamped and stressed out that he wondered whether he’d ever get around to calling Mycroft. There were even times he worried Mycroft would forget about him altogether; sometimes it was the only thought about him Greg had all day. On the other hand there hasn’t been a single night when his dead weight hasn’t dropped into his bed with Mycroft appearing behind Greg’s closed eyelids like a vague but solid presence: someone who was there in Greg’s life for Greg to think about; someone who maybe thought about Greg, too. With his shell thinning in his semi-lucid state, Greg feels soppy warmth lull him the rest of the way to sleep, night after night. No, it’s still not like he wants a boyfriend, but Mycroft is…Greg wants Mycroft.
He’s been thinking about him every spare minute he’s had today. For instance, Greg can’t wait to see what Mycroft will be wearing. He sincerely hopes it’ll be something casual, because he's prepared to bet his wages for this month that proper, uptight Mycroft would look gorgeous—and just a little delicious—in a shirt that’s not buttoned up to the very top, then further locked up by a tie knot. The topic of outfits was introduced by Mycroft, of course. Until he asked about the dress code of the place they were going to Greg hadn’t even considered they’d be wearing clothes! Mycroft’s question caught him by surprise—one more insight into his rusty dating skills and he’d been so proud he’d thought about going to his DCI for advice on a nice restaurant. He and his Missus always seem to be out and about; Greg’s never had a more gregarious superior. He was given a few names of restaurants and one curious, encouraging look. Greg only had time to check the places online, selecting the one he liked best before calling Mycroft. The thought of having to wait longer to see him required the kind of patience Greg doesn’t have. Plus he’s not that fussy and at the end of the day, if Mycroft’s so easily put off by something minor, then…then next time Greg will have to go around investigating the places in person. But he’d getting ahead of himself again. Nothing says tonight will go well enough to merit a next time. (Mycroft has given him some mixed signals about his interest.)
On the way to the place Greg walks on a whim into some shop. The music’s blasting too loudly from inside, but the draw for Greg is the window display: the fashionably dressed male mannequins, most notably the stuff they have around their necks and wrists. Greg reckons that he’s stumbled across the final touch to his outfit, the one he never knew he was missing. He’s all sorted otherwise, top to bottom. He went out and bought a new pair of trousers the other day, actually using his lunch hour for the first time in a fortnight. He had ended up trying on some of his non-work clothes at eleven the previous night and had gone to bed disturbed by the sedentary belly he’d discovered. The trousers emphasized it enough to make him lose sleep, and to urge him to do some shopping as well. Funnily enough, as soon as he found the perfect pair to go with his favourite fancy shirt—okay, one of the two fancy shirts he owns, but it’s still his favourite—the prospect of being seen in his birthday suit lost any ambiguity. He’d swallowed his stomach in front of the mirror the previous night, looking at himself in profile and in front; he’d tried walking around like that only to start panting after twenty seconds. A few of the butterflies in Greg’s stomach had died a tragic death when he pictured Mycroft looking at him, eyebrow coolly raised at the excess of flesh around Greg’s waist. But once he saw himself in his perfectly fitting new trousers, calm was restored. One of them has to go easy on the body image issues anyway, so Greg has taken that role upon himself. His figure might not evoke comparisons to Greek statues, but he doesn’t look bad for his age, either. Plus if they got naked, he’d do his best to have Mycroft too out of his mind to notice who had an extra pound where.
In the shop Greg picks a nice thing he could see himself putting around his neck, then strategically takes a summer jacket he has no intention of buying, but which serves as a good excuse to go into one of the changing rooms. He wants to have one long, final look at himself with the potential new acquisition added to the picture and he doesn’t fancy doing it in public. The necklace has two leather strings that Greg gets a kick out of and something thin and silver in the middle with some engravings. It glints nicely against his throat and the straps don’t feel too tight, either, plus the silver thing matches the shine of the mother of pearl buttons on Greg’s shirt. He snatched some nice shades on his way as well so he puts them on. They seem to give him a cool edge, but he can’t see very well—the changing room has these spot lights placed cleverly to give it a somewhat…boudoir atmosphere: light enough to see, but dark enough to miss any blemishes, literal or figurative. Greg places the sunglasses carefully on the fake zebra pattern stool, wondering how often he’d have the chance to wear them for it to be worth buying them. He then takes a few steps back until his back hits the curtain and looks at the mirror.
He takes it all in, assessing bit by bit and overall, until he meets his own eyes in the mirror. It’s a little startling, like discovering someone else is there when you thought you were alone. Greg doesn’t seem able to look away, the contact open and strangely electrifying. It speaks to him on some level for which he has no vocabulary but that’s fine. He understands. He knows who that is in the mirror. He blinks, tilts his head ever so lightly to the side, keeps looking…then he thinks of Mycroft.
Emotion hits him so hard that his eyes prickle, and Greg resolves there and then to do anything in his power to give Mycroft whatever Mycroft needs: time, space, attention; back off entirely if he must. He won’t pressure him or make him feel uncomfortable. He’ll just treat him the way someone so special deserves, and he’ll send up a whole lot of prayers that at some point Mycroft ends up feeling attraction strong enough to make him venture out and reciprocate. Clearly he’s the wind in Greg’s windmill so Greg will just have to look big and solid and tempting enough to have that force come his way.
Greg’s resolve gets close to crumbling as soon as he sees Mycroft get out of the car. Delicious doesn’t begin to cover it. He’s wearing linen for goodness sake, both the material and its sandy-white colour in cruel conspiracy to quash any honourable intentions Greg may have. Something about Mycroft’s long legs clad in those elegant, semi-casual trousers and his rigid back in the pristine shirt makes Greg want to throw him on a big bed and sink with him to unspeakable levels of depravity. He can’t help himself and uses their handshake to pull Mycroft closer, almost flush against Greg’s body. God, the way he exudes…everything: scent, style, character, heat, wit. His skin somehow smells of freckles and of his pink flush, making Greg want to nose Mycroft’s collar away and press his open mouth against the side of his throat. He feels the slight tightening in Mycroft’s body and releases him quickly, patting himself ironically on the back for the auspicious start.
“Excellent choice,” Mycroft says once they’re at their table and Greg brightens up straight away. Mycroft has given the place an inspection first, allowing Greg to ogle him in peace for a moment. Their eyes meet and Mycroft smiles. “Thank you. My life is sadly lacking in good places to dine just for the sake of dining.”
“Glad you like it,” Greg replies, battling the impulse to puff up his chest like a bloody gorilla. He takes a sip of water. “Do you have to attend many business dinners?”
The conversation just goes from there with both of them talking about work as two mature adults would. There’s a fair bit of complaining, which also goes with the adult territory. (Greg has about two people in his acquaintance deliriously happy with their jobs.) But there’s also the underlying feeling that they’re nitpicking rather than confessing to a profound sense of being in the wrong field. Naturally, there’s no way of telling what Mycroft actually does—“I would call myself an analyst…across the board.”—but Greg has no doubt he thrives on whatever it is.
Mycroft tells him so himself. “It’s not easy for one to find an occupation that is almost an ideal match to one’s abilities and wishes.” Mycroft pauses, eyes going to a point behind Greg’s shoulder. They’re dark blue in this light and so shrewd that Greg gets a hint of a headache by sheer proximity. “In fact,” Mycroft continues, meeting Greg’s gaze with a small smile, “I would say it’s even harder to find a person whose wishes are in tune with his abilities.”
Greg has expected that kind of talk—he may not have known Mycroft long, but he feels he knows him well—so he mulls over the words. They are, predictably, both insightful and indisputable. He gives him a lopsided grin and ventures to share how his perspective on his own aptitudes has changed over the years. “It took about five different guitar teachers over five years until I worked out that I wasn’t going to be the next Brian May.” (The only times Greg feels uncertain in their interactions is where references to popular culture are concerned. He consoles himself with the thought that even if Mycroft doesn’t have a clue about something it has to have an entry somewhere in that brain of his. The alternative would be for Greg to explain things to Mycroft and that’s just preposterous.)
They talk about Sherlock for a while; once again, expected. Greg feels privileged to be trusted with some details of Sherlock’s background. It’s odd to watch Mycroft talk about his brother, more and more unguarded with the consumption of wine. There is a hefty dose of exasperation and some long-standing weariness, but there’s also pride and a peculiar sense of melancholy that Greg’s metaphorical wet nose is twitching to stick to and follow the trail. He restrains himself, listening in what he hopes is a good balance between encouragement and respect for personal boundaries.
Altogether Greg is having a smashing time. The food is great, the atmosphere’s nice and Mycroft is eating like a normal person, again a little under Greg’s insistence. (Greg may or may not have manipulated him by talking about all the super skinny models he saw during the London Fashion week case and how he didn’t like them—it’s not a lie.) The conversation is flowing and so is the wine, there’s no awkwardness on Greg’s part and less and less on Mycroft’s, they’re both loosening up nicely… it’s working. The dinner is soon coming to an end and Greg’s already prepared to call the evening a result!
Then Mycroft casts him the most complicated, nervous look and asks out of the blue whether Greg would like to go to Brighton, tonight, and just like that Greg’s the one reminded this is a date.
The journey to Brighton alone is already so nice, it’s enough to make Greg want to tuck the entire night into some special memory pocket from where he can then take it out on cold, miserable evenings and use it as a cushion to put under his head while he’s watching telly. (Especially on those occasions when his neck gets progressively more uncomfortable with no one there to tell him to be careful with it.)
The car is air-conditioned to perfection. Greg tries to avoid clichés, but the only way he can describe the sound it’s making is ‘purring’. The leather seats are great and there seems to be extra room both above Greg’s head and for his legs. The only objection he has is that there’s extra room next to him as well. Mycroft appears to have seated himself in a Galaxy far, far away.
As they travel on, Greg feels the distance melt somewhat, although he’s referring to the metaphorical kind. He’s the one talking most of the time, Mycroft’s contributions limited to humming and the odd word, but Greg knows in his well-fed gut that this behaviour is a manifestation of Mycroft relaxing. At the thought of one day having him loosened up and completely quiet in Greg’s company, there are some good shivers nipping at his skin that have nothing to do with the air conditioning. Greg’s very relaxed himself. There’s no trepidation about the upcoming events; something worth noting considering the tendency people have to grow anxious in the face of the unknown.
Like a magic mushroom everything wonderful seems to grow bigger by the minute tonight. After his enquire about it, Greg finds out that later they won’t be visiting just any house near Brighton, but one that sounds like something from the “Country Life” magazine. Mycroft mentions a garden that opens onto a private beach and Greg envisages the kind of property that will undoubtedly boast some pretty impressive indoor space, too.
He watches Mycroft continue his maddening little touches on his own person—they’ve begun feeling like mini-taunts to Greg—and realizes he doesn’t care about the charming town of Brighton one whit. He wants to go straight to the house and spend time alone with Mycroft.
Luckily Mycroft isn’t just the spice on Greg’s palate but also a man in possession of considerable resources. He makes things happen, Greg fully realizes with a touch of awe, as they agree to skip Brighton for now. Greg watches Mycroft’s fingers run briefly over the keys of his BlackBerry, then he is graced with the ‘perfect host’ smile, mutely confirming the house will be ready for them. When their roles changed, Greg doesn’t know. He was the one to take Mycroft out after all. It doesn’t bother him or threaten him—he’s fine either way. He’s also too busy applauding these new developments. While there was something enticing at the prospect of mingling with others in some gay bar: pressing close to Mycroft, subtly asserting his ‘I’m with him’ status, watching Mycroft being slightly put off by the plebs, Greg is all in favour of skipping the experience so he can finally be alone with his date. He wants them to have a drink, hopefully outside, enjoy the ambience of a late summer night by the sea, talk with the same ease they did in the restaurant.
Spend the night.
As if actually reading his thoughts Mycroft turns to him.
“Are you working tomorrow?” he asks.
Greg’s brain is his friend tonight. Rather than flailing at Mycroft’s promising question, it rolls up its sleeves and quickly interprets Mycroft’s words as an adult brain should. There are two ways to look at them, both good news: one, Mycroft is thinking about spending the night, too. Two, he isn’t thinking about it consciously, but his question suggests that on some level that’s a desired outcome of the night. Greg would be on board with either, although he’d give the first an edge on account of things progressing a lot more smoothly if they’re both aware of their wishes.
Greg for his part is very aware of his wishes. In fact, he’s so aware he can say he’s aware enough for two. He’s got some wicked bubbles of champagne in his chest that keep popping gently, each pop a whisper, each whisper a wish: touch the pads of Mycroft’s fingers, bury his nose in the tender fold where Mycroft’s leg joins his hip, press his chest against Mycroft’s back, capture his mouth, caress his tongue with light little licks as if Greg is the cat and Mycroft the cream. Greg’s desire is both earthy, thick like a mixture of butter and honey, yet it’s also tender like a spider’s web glistening with dew. Greg doesn’t miss the sense the last image evokes of something far, far larger and more complex than mere lust.
Back in the real world he watches Mycroft realize the implications of his question, then proceed to dig himself out of his own ambiguous hole with remarkable composure and skill counteracted by the traitorous blush consuming his fair skin. Greg listens, admiring and amused, patiently waiting to reply.
“I’m not working tomorrow,” he says simply when Mycroft finishes. He turns to look out of his window and adds inadequately, “Even if I was, I’d have told them to sod off. In a manner of speaking.”
Inadequate, because what he wants to say is, basically: “Even a firing squad will fail to make me leave your company; only you can.” Greg might be a coward, but he prefers being inadequate to melodramatic, no matter that in this case the latter also means being truthful.
They ride in silence for a couple of minutes. Mycroft’s profile keeps drawing Greg’s eye until he wonders whether it’s the more flattering side of him. Turns out a part of Greg has some strong objections to that idea, expressing them with vigour like a barrister in Court. There’s a call for evidence so Greg addresses Mycroft, hoping to make him face him.
“Right," he says and is already rewarded by Mycroft’s guarded yet engaged blue gaze trained on him. Definitely an advantage that his profile could never beat. "So we’ve established neither of us just takes a day off on a whim,” Greg continues. “What about holidays? Do you get the chance to take some proper time off?”
“That depends,” Mycroft replies after a couple of seconds of consideration. “Different people have different definitions of what constitutes a ‘proper’ holiday? What is yours?”
Mycroft is right, of course; Greg fleetingly wonders whether it could get taxing to be with someone who’s always right. Or who never answers a question impulsively, without putting thought behind it.
Or who is a sly fox with a harmless, sort of bookish appearance. Good thing Greg can recognize deflection when he sees it—after all, he’s talked to his fair share of witnesses and suspects over the years.
“I asked first,” he tells Mycroft, giving him a lopsided smile. Something almost predatory in its excitement flashes in Mycroft’s eyes and prompts Greg to swallow. Then in a blink Mycroft is back to his measured breaths and words. “I do take time off, more out of necessity than of real need.”
“What’s the difference?” Greg is genuinely interested.
“Well, like everything else the human brain occasionally gets cluttered. Wires cross, things get misplaced... Much like with even the most advanced technology, sometimes the only solution is a complete switch off.”
“That’s the necessity you’re talking about.”
“Okay.” Greg turns this around in his head and knows exactly what he wants to know next. “How long since you felt a real need for a holiday?”
That earns him a spectacular view of the profile again, dignified and suddenly more…artistic than Greg remembers it. What an odd thought.
“A very long time.”
Greg hesitates. “Why do you think that is?”
Mycroft just gazes ahead. His lips purse a little. “Perhaps it’s a matter of where one finds one’s pleasures.” There’s a resigned shrug to accompany his next words. “Or perhaps of where one learns to find them.”
Greg gets it, he really does; to the point where he would sigh if he didn’t feel so happy that Mycroft is entrusting something so private to him.
“How about you?” Mycroft asks, facing him again. There’s softness in his features, as well as some fleeting trepidation; it takes Greg a second to work out that Mycroft’s probably afraid of what he’ll see on Greg’s face. Whatever it is, the trepidation melts away giving the softness an opportunity to hog more territory.
Greg shrugs too. “Last couple of times I had a proper holiday I was still with my ex-wife. We were at each other’s throats most of the time. At least in London we were both working. You know, less time to argue.”
Mycroft gives a small nod.
“After Susan and I split up,” Greg continues, “I tried going away on my own once.” He stops, struggling to put all the complicated memories from that time into one sentence. Mycroft’s expression is that of a photographer who doesn’t mind waiting in some bush for hours at a time just so he could catch that one shot of some wildlife. It’s quite flattering and reassuring, helping Greg find his words.
“Turns out the same rule applies,” he says, huffing a small laugh. “You’re better off when you’re busy with your everyday life.”
“There is no rule that says one can’t…be at one’s own throat,” Mycroft contributes, a little subdued, but at least his eyes twinkle at Greg.
“No,” Greg agrees.
They talk some more, venturing into particulars about the best places to go in Britain. Greg almost tells Mycroft about his trip back home to Somerset a few weeks ago, only for the weekend. What stops him is the memory of getting a little sloshed—he’d driven for hours and he’d been hungry and tired—and thinking with bone deep longing about being in a couple again. With Mycroft. He knows now this was the first time he saw the two of them as something lasting, an item. He doesn’t think he could start speaking about Somerset, about the walk to the small pub that Greg used to visit with dad and granddad, about his last trip, without somehow spilling the beans on how he feels about Mycroft. On the face of it, it’s about not putting pressure on him, but deep down Greg suspects it may have more to do with his own readiness to share all those memories: old and new.
They fall into another bout of silence, quite comfortably. Greg slumps just a little and leans his head to his side, looking out of the window. It’s only darkness outside, the occasional flicker of lights in the distance. It’s nice. He keeps looking lulled by the undulation of his emotions: like milk that’s being shifted on and off the stove, they all but boil, threaten to spill over, then come down to a warm, steady simmer; rise again, fall again...In a while, his mind empties, content to be part of the hushed understanding in the car: Greg knows they’re both just waiting to get there soon. He stores up his need to look at Mycroft for when he can do it while being in the mood to talk again, so as to avoid making a fool of himself by staring like a love-stricken, greying Romeo.
It seems, however, that Mycroft can’t wait. With the way Greg has leaned his head against his side of the compartment and the way Mycroft is sitting, there is a play of reflections and Greg can see Mycroft in his window as clearly as if he was actually looking at him through it. What he sees manages to surpass the walk down the street to the café on Breakfast Morning in one significant aspect. That is no longer the moment in their shared history when Greg had the strongest confirmation Mycroft Holmes liked the package Greg Lestrade came in.
Mycroft is watching him, still and unwavering, gaze travelling over Greg’s throat and chin, his hair and temple. It’s so consuming and it’s going on for so long that it cannot be mistaken for anything else…it cannot be driven by anything else, but the pure want to look. Greg recognizes it intimately, too, and realizes that he’s caught Mycroft in something extremely private, never mind that it involves Greg. He wants to tell him that it’s okay; that he can look as much as he wants to, that he can touch him and just have Greg, no problem. But in a weird way he senses it’s also none of his business. It hits him then, swooping but leaving a permanent stamp: he is an adult, a mature adult who understands the difference between someone wanting something and someone asking for it. Let alone being ready to have it.
Greg turns to Mycroft, immediately regretting for spooking him—Mycroft’s eyes jump away.
“I’m a cop,” Greg tells him. “I can see your reflection in the window.” He’s doing his level best to convey the emotions in his voice. He hopes that at least he comes across as kind; he’d cut his leg off then hit himself with it if he made Mycroft feel in any way mocked or exposed.
Mycroft is lost for words, the sight making some beast roar in Greg’s chest in pride while at the same time he has to fight a smirk. All merriment is wiped clean from his mind when his eyes fall to Mycroft’s lips, nervously moistened, and Greg hasn’t wanted to kiss someone so badly since Susan lay on her back on the grass hill by Rochester Castle and squinted against the sun the summer they fell in love.
“Are we close?” he asks Mycroft.
“Yes,” Mycroft tells him, managing to dispel with one single word any memories or thoughts of anyone else. “Just a few minutes.” He sounds a bit reserved, a bit vulnerable; a bit like he’s already Greg’s. His forehead smoothes out with the words as if having any answers he could offer, to Greg or to himself, is something comforting. Greg is amazed at ever doubting himself in his ability to read him. The whole ‘Oxford Dictionary of the Mycroft Holmes language’ has been downloaded to Greg’s brain, completed with pictures, instant access to any page, no need to flip through. Greg will be fine if he has to search for something at some point in the future: that’s what discovering someone means, that’s what it means being with someone come rain, come shine.
He was right all along: he didn’t want a boyfriend.
The house has some big bushes near the door with blossom that smells like sweet opium. Mycroft’s unlocking in the dark, head bowed and revealing the back of his neck. His skin glows and Greg wonders whether there are freckles there as well, how they would taste. The air has changed and he’s sure it’s not just his state of mind playing tricks on him. There’s rain coming, making the atmosphere heavy with promise and frustration.
It’s Greg’s turn to make a comment about the weather. “It’s getting close,” he tells Mycroft, then feels rather than sees his little start. “The weather,” Greg elaborates. His voice comes out all husky and he hopes his clarification has reassured Mycroft that he won’t be molested as soon as they walk in.
Greg is quick to ruin whatever good impression he might have left by producing a sound embarrassingly close to a whistle at the sight of the house inside. His suspicions are confirmed. In the very big living room that goes with an adjacent bar area there is the kind of sofa that should come with its own map. His only criticism is that the style of the place is too contemporary and impersonal. Even the sofa’s design suggests the awards for its creator would be given by his peers and not by the general public.
“It’s a nice house,” Greg comments, turning to Mycroft and finding him blissfully near. Mycroft hums, looking around and squinting a little, making Greg wonder whether even such a clinical space doesn’t hold some clues for Mycroft’s discerning eye as to any previous visitors.
“Something’s different,” Mycroft murmurs to himself with what sounds to Greg like disapproval.
“You don’t like change?” Greg asks.
“Not really.” Mycroft sounds and looks distracted. “But I don’t fight it,” he adds, heading for the bar. “Would you like a drink?”
Greg is torn between accepting the offer and drawing Mycroft out further on the topic of change. It’s a third choice that he makes out of the blue when he spots a long corridor to the left that seems to be leading to a conservatory.
“Is that the way to the garden?” he asks, only manners preventing him from running off to check.
Mycroft tries to see from behind the bar but is forced to walk round and join Greg. It’s quite heart-warming to watch his face scrunch up, confused. “I’m not sure,” he confesses on cue. “It looks like it.”
“Shall we go and find out?”
Mycroft’s nod is very courteous. He steps aside, gesturing with his hand that Greg should lead the way.
The tapping of the rain can be heard loud and clear in what indeed turns out to be the conservatory. Mycroft only finds the switch to the lights outside but since the conservatory walls are mostly glass panels, it’s the case of the outdoors illuminating the indoors. Greg has eyes only for the outdoors, though. He’s at the door in a second, opening both wings as if someone’s filming him in a scene for some TV drama. He doesn’t care what the gesture may look like. It’s authentic to him—it’s the urge to be out, out, where the smell of sea, the sound of waves and the feel of rain on his skin are beckoning. Greg rushes out on the elevated terrace overlooking the beach and stops only when he gets to the centre of it. Then he just stands there, unable to do anything but just that: stop. Take it all in.
The night and the sea are exuberant and mysterious; dark in all the right ways. The skies would be filled with stars out here if they weren’t filled with clouds and the air with rain. It cools Greg, teasing his skin and whetting his appetite for something vaster, deeper: no more mere drops, dive in. Everything speaks to him the way skinny dipping used to: on molecular level. There’s one underlying whisper, of course, so Greg turns around.
Mycroft getting wet means they’re back to him being oddly adorable, much like Greg would have expected if he had stopped to think about what kind of a wet person Mycroft would be. To finish him off, Mycroft suddenly chuckles and Greg has to physically restrain himself to making just a couple of steps rather than going all the way, grabbing him and hugging him tight.
“What?” he asks, smiling.
Mycroft spreads his arms. “No umbrella,” he says simply and Greg feels weak, stupid with the joy of finding someone so unique and amazing. They keep standing close, silent, smiles still waving at each other from the depths of their eyes.
Any pressure of urgency has lifted from Greg leaving only the sweetness of want. He pivots to cast a gaze at the sea. “It’s been a while since dinner and I had just one glass of wine,” he says; muses a little. “I’m actually thinking of going in for a swim. I’ll be quick.” It feels appropriate to ask for Mycroft’s agreement but more than that, it feels right. “Is that okay?”
Mycroft’s wide mouth opens, his finely drawn, thin lips doing a funny little dance as if they’re trying to invent a hybrid of all the question words in the English language. He visibly regains composure.
“By all means,” he says. “I’ll just—” He points to the house behind his back, already making a motion to leave, so Greg hurries to interrupt him. He wants Mycroft to stay, it won’t be the same without him.
Nothing will be the same without him, but Greg will work that one out later. If it needs working out.
He invites Mycroft for a swim and predictably hears a decline, but they agree on Mycroft waiting for Greg out here. As Greg heads to the conservatory to take off his clothes he realizes this was exactly what he wanted: swimming by himself while not being alone.
He hasn’t rationally planned a surprise striptease for Mycroft but the skinny dipping associations were evidently too rich to be left to go to waste. By the time Greg is clad only in his new pair of trousers he’s decided that since they’ll be seeing each other naked anyway—the question now is only when—he might as well show Mycroft what Greg Lestrade looks like, unwrapped.
Mycroft seems flabbergasted, but there’s also something in his gaze that makes Greg’s skin cover in goose-pimples—it’s the look of someone who’s had a life-long interest in swallowing whole the sweets he finds inside their wrapping. Greg stores the image of Mycroft’s face for the moment when he’ll be cutting through the water and heads down.
But there’s no space for any mental images once he’s in the sea. There’s only space for here and now, for the miracle of arms and legs kicking and moving, for the wonder of a pair of lungs expelling what’s no longer necessary and taking in what’s needed. For the simple pleasure of being out in the open, one with the sea, one with the rain. One with his youth and with who he is now. Greg swims further out, then does the turn underwater and swims towards the shore, Mycroft’s completely dark figure against the lit up background of the terrace serving as the perfect lighthouse.
When Greg begins to get tired, he comes out. He walks through the short stretch of sand to the stone steps leading up to the house and thinks that he should really take up swimming in London…then recoils inwardly. It feels like tainting this moment and it’ll never work, either. Greg is trying to smuggle this experience out of here and into his everyday life but he knows a pool in London will smell of chlorine and will have opening and closing hours; there’ll be careful swimming in lanes and fluorescent lights. Most of all there’ll be other people, too, but none of them will be Mycroft.
Maybe they can take up swimming together, somewhere private, just the two of them. If Mycroft can’t arrange that, Greg doesn’t know who can. He’s not above asking or appreciating all the bonuses that having Mycroft in his life would bring. The state of the art outdoor shower cabin is one such thing and Greg really hopes the shower’s working.
Mycroft turns to face him, a host of newly fascinating things on his face that Greg would love to spend the rest of the evening trying to unpick. He might have to start with simpler tasks first, though, such as helping the man learn to speak again. Greg tries for some small talk but Mycroft just stands there, looking at him as if in a world of his own. It’s still raining, almost like an accusation that Greg should be as fancy as to want to wash the sea away with any artificial sources of water. More importantly, it’s turned his date into something soggy and sad looking that has ‘Waiting to Catch a Cold’ stamped all over it.
“You’re soaked,” Greg says with concern.
“No matter.” Mycroft finds those words straight away, but there’s a slight tremble to his glistening lips that doesn’t reassure Greg much. He looks the opposite of a wet dream, Greg realizes, keeping his pun to himself. There’s a promise of a congested nose and Lemsip sachets in Mycroft’s near future, his thinning hair is plastered over his forehead giving him a very unflattering look, and his wet clothes have made his straight posture lose its elegance under their weight. Greg can foresee an urge to mother Mycroft in his own near future, but at present he still wants nothing but to drag him to one of those showers and have him panting Greg’s name, swelling in Greg’s hand.
There’s a shot of an unbidden graphic image: Mycroft’s come hitting the glass panel and sliding down it, thicker and slower than water, and God help him, Greg will get it up right here. He tries to gulp discreetly and clears his throat. “Erm, do you think the shower works?”
“I’m sure it does,” Mycroft says and runs his hand through his hair under the new onslaught of rain. It’s getting quite loud actually. It’s a proper summer storm minus the thunder and lightning which Greg regrets a little because he’d give anything for lightning to shock Mycroft into some action. Greg wants to be with him quite badly in every possible way, and he’s no longer twenty—he doesn’t have his whole life ahead of him.
Mycroft doesn’t care. He’s reverted to his ‘polite host’ demeanour, the transformation all the more jarring for the dramatic setting of the scene. (Greg is stark naked for God’s sake!)
“Step in, I’ll go and fetch you a towel,” Mycroft says and disappears.
Greg enjoys the shower for the pressure and the temperature, both new for his water-related experiences tonight. Sensations keep hurling themselves at the designated centres of his brain, which must be swimming in all sorts of hormones.
He left the door to the cabin open without thinking. He’s been showering with his back to it and now decides that he doesn’t mind if Mycroft takes a peek at Greg’s ‘B side’—it’s quite good, even if Greg says so himself. (Which he doesn’t. There are witness statements. From some years ago, but still.) The rain has quietened when Mycroft returns, handing him over a large fluffy towel and some small bottles that smell great. They exchange a ‘Thank you’ and ‘You’re welcome’ as if Greg’s dick isn’t within hand reach, then Mycroft disappears again to his previous spot from where he watched Greg swim, leaving Greg to reflect on who’s actually the odd one in their current situation.
When he comes out of the cabin the rain has almost stopped. Mycroft’s at the stone fence that runs along the far end of the terrace. He is leaning on it, obviously past caring about the state of his clothes and looking out at the sea. Greg takes to the job of drying himself vigorously, a new lot of sensations coming to life from the rub of the towel against his flushed skin. It feels very good and he feels clean, awake, lighter by a stone. Mycroft’s ‘B side’ is on display: leaning forward with his arms propped on the fence has made his bottom stick out with the twist at his waist. Greg’s very happy with his view, but then it’s taken away from him. Mycroft turns around and for a moment they just look at each other, still in silence, then Mycroft’s eyes start travelling down Greg’s body.
Turns out the lightning strike was for Greg tonight, because that’s what it feels like to have Mycroft look at him, finally look at him. Greg isn’t just touch starved; he’s been starved for his gaze as well, ever since he caught the mirror image of it in the car. At the same time the stones feel solid and absolutely unmovable under Greg’s feet. He is grounded, properly; calm and certain like he was earlier back in the shop’s changing room. He can give this to Mycroft. He tries to stay still and lets himself be explored inch by inch.
But then Mycroft’s eyes drop to below Greg’s navel and their wide, slightly panicked, enthralled claim makes Greg want to throw the towel in, literally and figuratively, then just walk over and close Mycroft in his arms, hold him and bite him and shag him to within an inch of his life. Stake his own claim over this confounding, lanky, gorgeous man who has turned Greg’s world upside down while righting it. Because now Greg wants every morning to be Breakfast Morning. He wants to go on holidays with Mycroft. He wants Sherlock’s presence cemented in his life. He wants to complain to Mycroft about his woes at work and have Mycroft call him after a tricky meeting to be all gloomy and dramatic about it. He wants Mycroft’s stiff upper lip airs and his unpredictable laughs. He maybe even wants to take Mycroft to Somerset one day.
Greg doesn’t just want to shag him, just like he didn’t just want any boyfriend. He wants to make love to Mycroft, make him feel so good that he lets go completely, loses himself while Greg is lost in him. He knows he’s growing hard right there, but since he can’t articulate any of that to Mycroft he hopes actions will speak louder than words, his body communicating his message: I want you.
Mycroft eats up the space to Greg in two steps and sinks to his knees on the ground.
“Oh fuck,” Greg breathes out when a warm, wet mouth engulfs him, making those stones turn to sand under his feet. Mycroft just keeps him in his mouth greedily, doing something clumsy with his tongue and making Greg sizzle and hiss. Suction, perfect at the head, Jesus Christ, then all the way in again…Greg won’t just be fully hard in another thirty seconds, but close to coming as well. “Oh fuck,” he reiterates, then tries to manhandle Mycroft upwards, because yeah, oh fuck, but also no, fuck no: they haven’t kissed yet! He’s mumbling something and then Mycroft’s face is there, in front of his poor, crossed eyes, so Greg attacks him with his mouth.
He’s holding him at last, arm around the waist, hand keeping Mycroft’s head in place as they kiss, a little frantic but very good, their tongues skidding against each other, raising a tiny army of taste buds into a riot. Mycroft’s arm weaves around Greg’s body, too, pulling him closer and he makes this shy, chest-bound little moan.
Greg’s had enough.
“Inside,” he growls, shoving Mycroft to the doors of the conservatory, then through them and onto the sofa. Greg would rather spread him on a bed, but he’s always been one for the bird in the hand than the other bird in the skies, or however the fuck that saying goes. He just wants to get his literal hands on some skin now, just that. He drops on his knees, settles between Mycroft’s open thighs and starts tugging at his clothes, but they are all being stubborn, and so are the shoes. Sod that, Greg can change priorities again. He’ll have what he can get—
Abruptly he pulls back and sees who he wants to get under the belt and the shirt and the remaining shoe. Mycroft looks dazed and already debauched, but almost neglected in a strange way. Greg’s need blinded him for a moment, made him forget this isn’t about clothes or skin. He surges forward to kiss Mycroft again, more careful this time, intent on savouring him and their first kisses. Mycroft’s arms close around him and now it’s Greg who’s being held at last—he curses himself for never allowing himself this fantasy. He wants more so he drags his hand down between their bodies, content to rub Mycroft through his damp clothes.
Mycroft gasps in his mouth and wriggles a bit, groin lifting to seek more pressure as his back hits the sofa backrest. He feels fantastic in Greg’s hand, his outline strong and heavy, the ghost of silky skin whispering against Greg’s palm underneath the thin linen. Greg wants to feel him for real and this time all clothes come off without any obstructions.
Mycroft is pale and not particularly muscular, blotched a little and freckled to the point of distraction. Greg wants him so much he doesn’t know what to do with himself, but at least he knows what to do to Mycroft. He licks his right hand and closes it around him.
“I’ve wanted to do this all night,” he pants. Mycroft must have switched on the lights in the room earlier—Greg can see that his irises have been reduced to a thin, hazy blue line circling around the dark planets of his pupils. He is panting, too. His penis, long and leaking, is pistoning in and out Greg’s fist, and he still manages to look kind of prudish.
“Do you have any idea how fucking sexy you are?” Greg hopes his words are coming out right, because there can’t have been much doubt about how utterly gone he is for this man, but it’s nice to have some things out there. Such as how much he’s been thinking about Mycroft or how he’s driving Greg crazy. Greg keeps muttering words to that effect, doing a sloppy job really, what with all the open-mouthed, hungry kisses he’s also stealing.
Mycroft’s head has started rolling a little from side to side and Greg knows he’s close, begins trembling himself with how much he wants to see him come. He’ll have time to do things nice and slow later, now he just finds a steady rhythm and jerks Mycroft off, hand a little rough but completely committed to giving pleasure.
Mycroft suddenly straightens up, spine going rigid. His eyes are wide open and so is his mouth when he starts pulsing over Greg’s fingers. The only sound he’s making is this tiny, choked-up stutter at the back of his throat, which coupled with how hard he’s spilling is just mind-blowingly hot. Greg waits for him to slump back after his last shudder, watches for the droop of his eyelids, then finally thumps his forehead against his shoulder, needing a minute himself.
That turns out to be an overstatement. Despite the glorious feel of Mycroft’s warm, naked body against his, Greg is also beginning to sort of miss him, so as soon as Mycroft gives signs of life Greg’s kissing him again. He’s being a gentleman and wants to show Mycroft straight away that he’s a considerate lover, so for a moment it’s just a quiet, drawn out sensual expression of intimacy. Greg’s content with that. His dick is throbbing lazily; it twitches a little when Greg captures Mycroft’s tongue and sucks on it, teases just the tip. He is lost in the moment, relishing having Mycroft pliant and reciprocating all his affections.
He may need to start taking notes, though—there’s a new feature of Mycroft’s character that has stumped Greg in the nicest possible way now twice within a few minutes. Suddenly Mycroft is on the floor again, back propped against the sofa leg rest. He seems to have manoeuvred Greg’s body as well, because Greg’s dick is right in front of his face. A pair of charged eyes, completely in charge, lifts to his.
“I’m going to suck you off,” Mycroft tells him in that honeyed, commanding voice of his, “and I want you to come in my mouth."
Greg moans something at that, keeps at it as Mycroft wraps his fingers around Greg’s shaft and mouths at the head, tonguing just under it and making a hot spike run up Greg’s body. Mycroft’s head starts bobbing up and down in an assured way that Greg never imagined and in turn, Greg starts groaning, maybe talking, too, but it’s all too much for him to keep track. Soon he wants to thrust into Mycroft’s mouth; he tries to hold back, reaches up to feel up the bulge his dick is making in Mycroft’s cheek. Then Mycroft’s hand goes to Greg’s cheek, but it’s a whole different cheek, prompting Greg to shut his eyes and tilt his head back, mouth gaping at the fantasy of fingers teasing the crease, sliding in and okay, short ride from here…
Mycroft seems to encourage him to go deeper, but Greg looks to check and finds a pair of eyes so expressive and certain that he lets himself go. He throws his head back again and dives deep into Mycroft’s mouth, his hips’ movements smooth and liquid, the way he himself likes to be fucked. That’s the last fantasy he has before he fucking explodes, fingers buried in the hairs at the back of Mycroft’s neck. He can’t stop moaning, his chest is raw with it, but he’s just mindless with how unbelievably good an orgasm can really feel.
His breathing takes ages to calm. He continues cradling the back of Mycroft’s head, left hand going to rest on the side of his face. Only then does Greg’s neck straighten and he looks down at Mycroft.
Mycroft holds his gaze for a moment, then picks up his shirt from the floor and wipes his mouth with it. His nose wrinkles a little as an afterthought and he looks up at Greg again. Greg’s grin is so big, it threatens to incapacitate his face for a week. He brushes his thumb against Mycroft’s cheek.
“Shall we find the en-suite bedroom?” he asks.