Sleep, that night, is fractured at best. Greg expects to fall asleep within minutes of opening his book, but by one in the morning, he’s still reading. He tries just lying in the dark, for a while, but still can’t drop off.
When he finally does sleep, he dreams: a case from a couple of years ago, twisted and scrambled, the murderer freed, children in danger – everything unspools in French but his comprehension has gone. He is of no use at all. He wakes, cold and shivery, unable to bear the darkness.
It’s times like these he wishes he still smoked.
At five, he gives up on sleep and gets his work laptop out instead. There are some emails he knows he’ll need to clear before the investigation kicks off, some loose ends to tie before the work gets redistributed to another team.
Mycroft pads silently downstairs at half past five, clearly disconcerted when he realises Greg is not asleep. He is in socked feet, carrying his trainers in one hand. It jars in Greg’s brain, so far from Mycroft’s usual impeccable demeanour.
“Morning,” says Greg, as cheerfully as he can manage. “Off to the gym?”
“Yes,” returns Mycroft quietly. “I hope I did not wake you.”
“Nope,” says Greg, trying not to notice just how closely the workout trousers cling to Mycroft’s long, slim legs. “Been awake for a while.” He realises it might sound as if he’s complaining about the sofa. “Got a few work bits to get through before – y’know, this week.”
Mycroft tips his head and takes a seat on one of the kitchen chairs, bending to pull on his trainers.
“Have a good workout,” says Greg, absently, finishing an email. “See you in a bit.”
Once Mycroft has gone, he works for about another half hour, then goes upstairs to do his teeth and change into his new gym kit. Better start well, anyway. Not every day you have a private gym down the hall. Looking in the mirror, he discovers his hair is a bedhead mess, silver strands sticking up at all angles where he ran his hands through it in the night. He looks at himself critically in the mirror.
Scruffier than any husband of Mycroft Holmes has a right to be. He almost laughs at the absurdity of it all.
When Mycroft returns to the flat, he is flushed pink, but just as impassive as ever. He does not speak, going straight upstairs.
Greg makes sure he has his keycard, and heads out. The shower has started, so he doesn’t bother shouting up the stairs.
It feels good to run, after two nights of bad sleep; the weight machines are satisfyingly tiring. After an hour, he cools down, stretches and walks back to the flat.
Mycroft is at the desk in the corner of the bedroom, sharply suited and – Greg notes – wearing his shoes again.
“I’ll just –” says Greg, motioning to the bathroom. “Sorry.”
“Please,” says Mycroft, without turning round.
Greg showers quickly, shaves, and spends a couple of minutes putting his hair in order. After earlier – better try not to look too scruffy.
Downstairs, he puts the kettle on and finds a cafetière in one of the cupboards. “Did you have breakfast?” he calls up the stairs, turning the TV on. The main channels are dire on a Sunday. He finds a cookery channel and mutes it.
“I am fine, thank you,” is Mycroft’s distant answer.
Greg snorts, quietly. “I’m making coffee,” he calls. He spoons rich, deep-smelling Java into the cafetière and sets it to brew.
In the fridge are eggs and bread; Greg starts to make toast, and sets a pan to boil on the stove. He chops a couple of apples and oranges, puts them in a bowl.
When Mycroft pads down the stairs, Greg asks, “boiled or poached?”
Mycroft’s fingers are long, delicate as he begins to push down the plunger on the cafetière. His quick, oblique glance meets Greg’s for only a second. “Poached.”
Greg smiles. “Alright. I’ll try not to muck it up too badly. Sorry if you get a mangled mess.”
Mycroft sets the table, and takes charge of the toast.
When they settle to eat, Mycroft does not look as awkward as he had the night before.
“This is becoming a habit,” he says, with that peculiar inflection – either snide or a cover for awkwardness. He pours Greg’s coffee.
“Well. If you’re not going to feed yourself.” Greg grins, taking a gulp of coffee. “What else are husbands for?”
Mycroft’s amused gaze flashes at him for a moment, before flicking away. Greg’s stomach twists with triumph, with pleasure. Almost a smile. And he’s not even had any wine.
“Good workout?” asks Greg.
“Quite satisfactory.” A moment, a sip of coffee – “and yours?”
Greg smiles. “Yeah, great. ’S’a treat, having the gym right there.”
Mycroft’s face betrays nothing.
Oh. He’s got a private gym at home, hasn’t he. How the other half live.
“I was thinking of going out in a bit,” says Greg, breaking the yolk of his poached egg. “Found a nice bookshop yesterday. Thought I’d have another browse round. And there are a few cafés and things.” He pauses a moment. “Come with me, if you’ve got time.”
Mycroft swallows his mouthful of egg and toast, face blank. He takes a gulp of coffee.
“Go on,” says Greg, with a smile. “Establish our cover. I’ll leave you alone to work later, promise.”
“Very well,” says Mycroft, quietly. Greg sees guilt and apprehension in the press of his lips, the set of his shoulders. He thinks he should be working. And when was the last time he just – spent time with someone? Christ. He’s nervous. I’m making him nervous.
We can’t just drift silently around the flat together for a week.
“Great,” says Greg, finishing his coffee. “I’ll get ready, if you’re happy to go soonish.”
Walking out of the building together, Greg thinks what it would be like if they really were married. I’d hold the door for him. Let my hand rest in the small of his back, maybe. Would he ever want to hold hands?
There is almost a force field around Mycroft, an aura of isolation and untouchability. What was it Sherlock said? ‘Untouched by human hand since 1992’? Greg tries not to smile.
I wonder what happened then.
At the bookshop, he deliberately holds the door open for Mycroft, smiling at him; he catches the bemused gleam of his glance for just a second.
Inside, Greg potters in the hardbacks section, enjoying the chance to browse the new releases. God, when was the last time I had a day like this?
He grins when he sees The Book of Dust; he’d read something months ago about it coming out, but missed it, apparently, when it did. He picks it up.
He finds Mycroft in the Russian literature section. “Getting something doom-laden?” he smiles.
Mycroft’s quick sideways glance cuts to him, and away. “A somewhat unfair characterisation,” he murmurs, but Greg can see the corner of his mouth twitch slightly. “And you?” asks Mycroft, looking at the book Greg’s holding.
Greg chuckles. “Don’t laugh. I know it’s for kids. My nieces made me read the original ones when I was visiting them once, and now I’m addicted.”
He’d expected veiled scorn or bemusement at his choice of book; instead Mycroft tips his head, eyes bright with interest. “Have you read Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ?”
“It is interesting. An intriguing companion to last night’s film, perhaps.”
“Ta,” says Greg. “I’ll go and find a copy.” He wanders off and locates the book, then drifts, carrying it, into the cookery section. He is flicking through a pizza recipe book when he becomes aware that Mycroft is standing nearby.
Bloody hell. He doesn’t know whether to talk to me or not.
“Thanks for the recommendation,” says Greg, tipping the Pullman book’s cover towards Mycroft. He glances around. “I always seem to end up in the cookbooks section.”
Mycroft presses his lips together. “Inspiration.”
Greg grins. “Yeah, ’cept I’ve got a shelf full of cookbooks and no time or energy to cook, usually.”
Mycroft’s long fingers brace against the cover of Persiana. His smile is rather wry. “A situation I can relate to.”
“’S’pect you’re out a lot in the evenings, are you?” asks Greg. “Sherlock always gives the impression you spend your life schmoozing politicians.”
Mycroft’s grimace at the word makes Greg laugh.
“There are plenty of formal events to fill my evenings.”
Greg gives an amused half-shrug. “Prob’ly still better than the paperwork that usually fills mine.”
The corner of Mycroft’s mouth twitches. “It depends who one is seated next to.”
“Oh yeah, I bet. Hadn’t thought of that.” Greg holds up the books. “I’ll go and pay for these. Want to get a coffee?” He notices the bag Mycroft is carrying. “What’d you get?”
Mycroft hands him the bag, and Greg slips the book out. Ice by Anna Kavan. He flips it over to read the blurb. “Interesting. Wouldn’t’ve thought you’d go for sci-fi.”
“It is…not purely so, I understand,” says Mycroft quietly, accepting the bag back from Greg.
Greg smiles. “Back in a minute.”
He leads the way, in the end, to the café he’d found the day before. Holding the door open again, he garners himself another cautious flash of Mycroft’s gaze.
“You get us a table?” suggests Greg. “What d’you want?”
“Americano, please. Black.” Mycroft holds out a hand for Greg’s bag of books. “Shall I –”
“Oh, ta, yeah,” says Greg, handing it over. Their fingers brush, lightly. “Anything to eat?”
“No, thank you.”
Greg orders the coffees and buys himself a slice of chocolate cake. On the off chance, he puts two forks on the tray.
Mycroft has managed to find them the best table in the place: at an upstairs window, looking out over the busy street below.
“Best seat in the house,” says Greg, putting Mycroft’s coffee in front of him. “Nice work.” He settles at the table and takes a sip of his cappuccino. “Can’t remember the last time I sat and people-watched.”
Mycroft glances at him, sidelong. “Given your profession, can it still be a pleasure?”
“What, ‘anyone might be a murderer’?” asks Greg, with a quick smile. “I know what you mean, but – well, most people aren’t, are they? Whether by circumstance or – whatever.”
Mycroft’s palm curves to the shape of the coffee cup. “You appear to have retained a touching faith in humanity –”
He was going to call me Detective Inspector again. Greg smiles. “Hope so. Hope I don’t completely lose it.” He turns to look at Mycroft. “You know, Sherlock told me once you’re better than him at observation. Seeing things about people.”
Mycroft’s eyebrow flicks up. “Was he in withdrawal?”
“Ha.” Greg acknowledges the pitch-black humour. “No. He’d had a couple of whiskies though.”
Mycroft pulls his shoulders back, correcting his posture. “I do not know which of us is ‘better’ at it,” he says, quietly. “I do not know how one would judge.”
Greg takes a forkful of chocolate cake; savours it slowly. “Seems a bit of a curse, for Sherlock,” he says, carefully. “Think he finds people – boring. Because of it.”
“He finds it difficult to comprehend the banality of the majority of people’s obsessions,” says Mycroft, gaze fixed in the street. “The smallness of their lives.”
Greg is silent for a few moments. “I’ve never been able to get my head round how normal most killers are,” he says, after a while. “Banal, like you said. People want them to be monsters, but they’re not, most of ’em. Just people, like the rest of us. That’s the scary thing, in the end.”
Mycroft does not react. His thumb strokes the cup, slowly.
“Got you a fork,” murmurs Greg, pushing it across the table. “If you fancy any cake.”
Mycroft looks up at him. “Thank you, but no.”
Greg shrugs, and smiles. “Might start my book,” he says. “If you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.” Rather to Greg’s surprise, Mycroft takes his own book from its bag, and starts to read the preface.
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ absorbs Greg quickly, and it’s a shock when Mycroft says, rather awkwardly, “Greg?”
“I may get another coffee. Would you like anything?”
“Oh – yeah, thanks. Cappuccino again?”
Mycroft nods, once, and steps away, leaving his navy wool coat over the back of his chair.
Well. This is a turn-up for the books. Reading in a café with Mycroft Holmes. Who’d’ve guessed?
Mycroft has already made his way through quite a lot of Ice. Greg goes back to his book.
When Mycroft returns, it is another of those moments – a splintering of Greg’s perception, his image of Mycroft as impossibly remote against the reality of his carrying a tray with two coffees on it. Waiting on me. Blimey.
Greg takes his cappuccino with a grateful smile. “How’re you liking the book?”
“Greatly.” With some hesitation, “and you?”
“It’s brilliant,” says Greg. “Thanks for suggesting it.”
Mycroft’s gaze slides away, out into the street again. “I thought perhaps –” he says, cautiously. “I could make dinner, this evening. If that would be…”
Bloody hell. “Yeah. Great.” Greg smiles. “What’re we having?”
“Ah. That I have yet to determine.” Mycroft shoots him a slightly guilty look.
Greg laughs. “No worries.”
“Is there anything I should not make?”
“Nah, don’t worry. Not allergic to anything. Pretty much like all food.”
Mycroft’s half-smile is quick.
They settle, again, and read for another half hour or so.
Greg glances up to notice Mycroft tapping at his Blackberry. “D’you need to get back?”
“Yes,” says Mycroft. He hesitates a moment. “You do not have to accompany me, if you are comfortable.”
Greg smiles. “Yeah, I might get some lunch here,” he returns, easily. “You not going to eat?”
“No thank you.”
“Can I just run and get a sandwich then? While you keep the table?”
When Greg returns, Mycroft has pulled on his coat, and is frowning at something on his Blackberry. “Thanks,” says Greg, settling back into his seat. “See you at home, then.”
Mycroft nods, curtly. “Indeed.”
What would it be like if we were married? Would he kiss me goodbye, in public? Probably not. Doesn’t seem like the guy for public displays of affection.
Or private displays of affection, probably.
Watching out of the window, he sees Mycroft divert into an Italian deli a few doors down. Italian, tonight then? He smiles, anticipation warm in his stomach, then frowns at himself. He’s not – it’s not some date, you idiot. He’s only doing it to be polite, because you cooked last night. Sad old man. Been alone too long, that’s your problem.
Two years, since the divorce came through. Separated before that; a kind of liminal period where neither of them had been quite sure whether it was going to take, this time. And yeah, there’d been a couple of women, once it was really over. Not one-night things, not exactly; but he’d been clear that he wasn’t ready for anything more. Everyone knew the score.
They didn’t last long.
Possibly time to try and start dating again. But God: the time and effort it took, for so little reward. A pleasant time, usually, because he’s sociable, and enjoys talking to people; but just – pleasant. Nothing more. Is it really worth it?
Probably, yes, if you’re going to go all soppy just because Mycroft offered to make dinner.
He reads for a while longer, making his way steadily through his sandwich, and when he’s done he strolls slowly towards home. There’s a gorgeous florist’s, on the way. He used to bring his wife flowers, sometimes.
Not enough, towards the end.
He blames himself, still, for not seeing that it was happening again. It feels like wasted time, getting back together that one last time. Being honest with himself, it had never been the same since the first affair.
He’d said he trusted her, and he’d believed it at the time. I didn’t, though, and it wasn’t fair on me or her.
The older you get, the more you learn.
Closing the door of the flat behind himself, he sighs. Tiredness from two bad nights is kicking in, now. Don’t nap, or you’ll sleep badly again tonight. He tidies up the sofa, folding his blankets, piling them neatly together with the pillow.
Mycroft must have put the dishwasher on. It hums quietly to itself in the kitchen.
Greg puts his hand on the banister. “Tea?” he calls.
“Thank you,” says Mycroft, in return. “Yes.”
“Want me to bring it up?” Greg crosses to the kettle, listening carefully for the response.
“No. I shall come down.”
Greg sets the kettle boiling and reaches down two mugs. “How’s it going?” he asks, when Mycroft appears.
“Well, thank you. The case will be transferred to your team soon.”
“Oh, God,” says Greg, with a grimace. “I’m praying Sally doesn’t check her work email until tomorrow morning.”
Mycroft gives him a rather quizzical look.
“Pretty sure she’s not going to be pleased to have to abandon our ongoing stuff and reorganise the whole team,” explains Greg. He puts a teabag in each mug and pushes the kettle towards Mycroft. “Show me your perfect cup of tea, then.”
The corners of Mycroft’s mouth twitch, slightly. “I beg your pardon?”
“A week’s too long to have someone making your tea wrong,” laughs Greg. “Go on.”
Mycroft’s perfect tea, it turns out, is relatively strong with just a small dash of milk. Greg likes his even stronger, but with much more milk. He glances up, and finds Mycroft’s laser attention focused on each action as he makes it.
Greg takes a sip, leaning back against the counter. He closes his eyes a moment, runs his hand through his hair.
“Sergeant Donovan usually schedules the team’s activities?” asks Mycroft, and Greg can hear the hesitation in his voice.
I don’t think he chats, much. “Yeah,” he says, shooting Mycroft a smile. “I check over the schedules and reassign people if we need to. But she essentially runs the team on a day-to-day basis. I just deal with the paperwork. Push for warrants and so on as fast as possible so the rest of ’em can do their jobs. Fend off requests from the higher-ups. Deal with the media. Try and defend the team from meddling by people like you.”
Mycroft’s smile is cautious. “And occasionally solve a murder.”
“Ha. Try to.” He drinks some more tea. “At least I don’t have to take witness statements any more. Notoriously one of the worst and most boring parts of a police officer’s job.”
Mycroft tips his head enquiringly, sipping his tea.
“The public, God love ’em, are useless. Writing down what they have to say about almost any crime is almost always also useless. An exercise in pure frustration.”
“Although – telling the families is always on me. And escorting them to the formal identification. So I s’pose it balances out.” He grimaces, and looks away.
“Not an easy profession.”
“No. But worth doing.” Greg gives a half-shrug, then rubs his eyes. “Prob’ly ought to do some work,” he groans.
“I suspect that you did not sleep well,” says Mycroft contritely.
“Nah,” says Greg. “It wasn’t the sofa though, promise. Didn’t sleep well the night before either. ’S’catching up with me.” He finishes his tea and puts his mug down next to the kettle, then crosses to the sofa. He presses power on his work laptop and pops to the loo in the small downstairs toilet room.
By the time he comes back, Mycroft has returned upstairs, but another cup of tea waits next to Greg’s laptop. It is perfectly made.
Mycroft pads downstairs a few hours later, carrying his tea mug. Greg glances up, and smiles. “Finished?”
“For now,” returns Mycroft. “I shall start to prepare dinner, if the time seems appropriate.”
“Definitely,” says Greg, enthusiastically. “You must be starving. Don’t know how you can go without lunch.”
Mycroft’s back is turned, reaching into a cupboard. Greg’s gaze slides down, following the curve of his back to his arse. God. It looks just as good in those trousers as it did in workout gear.
Stop it. Time to start internet dating.
Greg looks hurriedly back at his laptop screen as Mycroft turns, slipping off his jacket. He lays it carefully over the back of the sofa.
“What’re you making then?” asks Greg, skimming through the overview document Mycroft’s team has sent to his.
“Mushroom tortellini,” says Mycroft, rather distantly.
Christ. He’s so unsure. And yet he must manage meetings, people, interactions, all day at work. “Sounds amazing,” returns Greg absently, caught up in a paragraph about the second couple found dead. Then, “hang on, are you making the pasta?”
“Yes.” Mycroft sounds rather cautious.
“Bloody hell. Fancy.”
“Oh. No, quite easy, I assure you.”
“I’ve made pasta a couple of times, but it took me ages.”
Mycroft does not respond. Greg’s glance round shows him cracking eggs into a bowl.
The case is awful. Three gay couples, found murdered in their own homes. He has to agree with Sherlock: it’s a scandal that the cases were dealt with separately, assigned by area rather than combined as one. The similarities between them are striking.
His chest feels tight. He takes a deep breath, reading through the notes. Each time the same. He pushes the laptop away, palms flat on his thighs, feet tucked beneath him on the sofa. Jesus Christ. I should have been on this from the start.
When Mycroft clears his throat, slightly, Greg looks up. Mycroft’s gaze flicks away. “I thought perhaps – a glass of wine, while I cook,” he says.
“Yeah,” says Greg, with probably-indecent haste. “Yeah. I’ll – I can open it.” He unfolds himself from the sofa, happy to put physical space between himself and the laptop.
If we were really married, I’d ask for a hug right now.
His fingers are clumsy as he opens the wine, takes down the glasses. He pours them both a generous glassful. “Cheers,” he says, somewhat grimly. He takes a gulp of wine, not bothering to wait for Mycroft to be ready to touch glasses. “I can help with dinner,” he says. “Give me something to do.”
“Truly, there is no –”
Mycroft looks at him, and does not look away when Greg meets his eyes. He motions to an onion, sitting on the side. “That needs chopping, very finely.”
Greg takes another gulp of wine, then sets down his glass. He rolls up his sleeves. “That I can do.”
“The method and order of the killings,” says Mycroft, quietly, weighing out flour.
“Yeah,” sighs Greg.
Mycroft hesitates a moment. “We need to find out what Sherlock has been discussing with the suspect.”
Greg nods, peeling the skin and one outer layer from the onion. “Yep. The difference between partners in each case.”
“Indeed,” says Mycroft, seriously. “Ligatures.”
Greg concentrates on drawing the knife through the onion in careful, thin slivers. “Probably partly consensual. Initially.”
Mycroft whisks the eggs in the bowl with a fork. “I apologise that you have been – personally involved in this,” he says.
Greg shakes his head, eyes beginning to sting from the smell of the onion. “Not your fault. Seriously. You don’t have to keep apologising. I’m used to Sherlock’s antics by now.” He turns the chopping board and begins to cross the original cuts, as finely as possible.
He hears the bright clink of Mycroft’s wine glass as he puts it back down on the counter. His voice is measured, almost toneless. “You have spent years supporting Sherlock in a number of ways. I appreciate it. Deeply.”
Greg pauses in his chopping; blinks, eyes stinging with unshed onion-tears. He wants another gulp of wine, but needs to wash his hands first.
“’S’just good to see him – y’know. Where he is now,” he says, keeping his voice as light as possible.
“Indeed,” returns Mycroft.
Greg finishes chopping the onion and turns to the sink, scrubbing his hands under cold water. Turning to pick up his wine glass, he leans back against the counter. Greeted by the sight of Mycroft Holmes, shirt sleeves rolled to the elbow, kneading pasta dough, his mouth goes slightly dry.
Dear God. He takes a gulp of wine.
“Anything else I can do?”
“You could wash the mushrooms,” says Mycroft. “They will also need chopping, though not as finely as the onion.” His voice is a little unsteady with the effort of kneading. A lock of hair has fallen forward over his forehead.
Greg discovers, silently, that even a small amount of dishevelment in Mycroft Holmes’ appearance can leave him both bothered and distracted.
Fuck. Bollocks. This is bad. He finishes his glass of wine.
“No worries,” he says, easily. Finding the mushrooms in the fridge, he sets them to rinse in a colander under the cold tap. Mycroft has finished his wine too, so Greg pours them both another glass.
Searching the drawers, he finds a rolling pin and sets it quietly at Mycroft’s elbow, then chops the mushrooms, spreading the pieces on kitchen towel to absorb excess moisture.
Once that’s done, he has a few more sips of wine. His lips feel bitten, plump with the bittersweet tanniny strength of the red. Mycroft has rolled out a thin, even layer of pasta. He takes a knife and runs it smoothly through, creating long, wide strips. His fingers are deft and sure.
Greg takes his glass of wine with him to the sofa. He finds the news and watches it absently, thoughts of the case intruding on his attention.
Once, he turns at a contemptuous noise from Mycroft; he is watching the news item about negotiations with the European Parliament with a raised eyebrow, wine glass on its way to his lips.
“That good?” asks Greg.
Mycroft gives a humourless little laugh. “Quite so.”
“Surprised you’re not living in Brussels, at the moment.”
“Despite the bizarre accusations of omnipotence Sherlock levels at me, I am not God.”
Greg laughs. “No? Okay.” He sips his wine. “Actually the whole situation does feel a bit like something God would’ve thought up in that film.”
“Not an inaccurate assessment,” says Mycroft, grimly.
“Christ,” says Greg, “now I’m really worried.”
Mycroft’s only answer is another rather mirthless huff of amusement.
“Has there really been no press interest in the murders?” asks Greg, biting his bottom lip, staring unseeing at the television.
“I have no doubt that they are monitoring them,” says Mycroft. “But in the absence of a coordinated Met investigation, and presumably lacking details on the forensic specifics of all three cases –” he breaks off, sounding distracted, clearly concentrating on something. The kettle boils. “It seems to me that the story has not yet matured into something headline-worthy.”
“Your lot haven’t squashed any requests for information, then?”
“Fuck,” groans Greg, running his hands through his hair and down over his face. “They’re going to be all over it once we do release the details. The fact it’s prob’ly sex-related, too –” he sighs. “Tabloids are going to love it. They couldn’t be happier than when ‘promiscuous’ gay men die.”
“Indeed,” says Mycroft, quietly.
Greg watches the sport news without his usual interest.
“Dinner will be ready in a few minutes,” says Mycroft.
Greg gets up and attempts a smile. “Great. I’ll set the table.” He divides the last of the bottle of wine between their glasses and puts the cutlery out. He can’t think of cheery conversation to make.
‘You always get like this,’ she’d said. ‘Sometimes I think you can’t hear a thing I’m saying. Or can’t be bothered to listen.’
He’d shaken his head. ‘No. Just – y’know. Got a big investigation on.’
She’d pursed her lips. ‘Always got time for the dead, haven’t you? Not so much bothered about the living, though.’
Mycroft carries two bowls to the table. Not only are there tortellini, he’s toasted some hazelnuts as a topping, and it’s all drizzled with a glossy dressing.
“Wow. What’s the sauce?” asks Greg.
Mycroft takes a seat. “Sage butter and lemon,” he returns, quietly.
Greg holds his glass up, waiting for Mycroft to touch it with his own. “Thank you for this.”
“Not at all,” murmurs Mycroft.
Greg sips his wine and puts his glass down. He can feel the alcohol, now, hitting him a little harder than yesterday. Drinking on an empty stomach’ll do that.
“I –” he hesitates. “Sorry if I’m not very good company over the next few days,” he says, in a rush. “When there’s a case – it’s not always easy…” he trails off, playing with his fork.
Mycroft clears his throat slightly. “There will be no issue. I am hardly sociable myself, at the best of times.” He spears a piece of pasta.
Greg shakes his head. “Oh, I don’t know,” he says, trying for a smile. “I had a nice day.” He tries the pasta. “God. Mycroft. This is amazing.”
Mycroft is not able to entirely suppress the relieved smile that twitches at his lips.
They eat in silence for a while.
“Used to drive my wife mad,” says Greg, finishing his wine. “What I was like, on cases. Well, the murders. Sorry. Yeah. I’m just not very good at…stopping thinking about it.”
Mycroft is silent for a few moments. “It is to your credit that the cases absorb you so thoroughly.”
Greg shakes his head slightly. “Ha. Well. Not sure my ex-wife would exactly put it that way.”
Mycroft makes no answer.
Greg feels a bit fuzzy with the wine, now. Not drunk, but in a space a little separate from the normal realities of life.
“’S’why I admire Sherlock, y’know? He may say it’s all about the puzzle. Cold rationality. But it’s not. He never loses sight of why he’s doing it. The people. He might not want to talk to ’em. Or be nice to ’em. Sometimes he scares them on purpose. But he solves the puzzle because he knows people need him to.”
Mycroft sits back in his chair, savouring the final few sips of wine.
“An’ to impress John,” says Greg, tipping his head to the side.
Mycroft’s smile twitches at the corners of his mouth. “My brother is remarkably consistent.”
“He’s lucky,” says Greg, seriously. “They both are. It’s not easy. Finding someone like that.”
Mycroft’s lips press together. “So I am told.”
Greg looks at him, at the lock of hair that – though tidied a little – isn’t quite back in its original impeccable position. “You don’t – you’re not – with anyone, then?”
Mycroft’s gaze flicks away. “No,” he says, finally. His chin is high, shoulders back, full of prickly, defensive wariness.
“Sorry,” says Greg, standing, stacking the plates. “Being nosy. Copper habit. Sorry,” he mumbles again, on his way to the sink. He rinses the plates, and puts them slowly in the dishwasher, his actions made more deliberate by the wine.
“Whisky?” asks Mycroft.
“Please,” says Greg, leaning against the counter. And, “thanks,” as Mycroft passes him the tumbler.
When Greg curls into the corner of the sofa, he pulls his feet up, makes a rampart of his knees, rests his head on his arm. Tired.
“I should’ve pushed for the case,” he says, quietly, and takes a gulp of whisky. “Could’ve. They would’ve let me have it, if I’d pushed.”
Mycroft, settling at the other end of the sofa, goes still. “It was hardly your –”
“Coward,” Greg cuts him off. “Because of – y’know. Victims bein’ gay.”
“Your record would suggest no such likelihood.”
“Nah, well.” Greg laughs, bitterly, and takes another swig of golden liquid fire. “Trust me.” He rests his elbow on his knees, tangles his fingers in his hair. “I – like men and women, y’know.” He squeezes his eyes tight shut. All the same, he feels light with the confession, with saying it out loud.
Mycroft does not answer, and Greg does not look up to seek his expression. He keeps secrets for a living. Probably not a homophobe. Never seems to have a problem with Sherlock and John, anyway.
“I don’t talk about it at work,” says Greg. He shifts, lying back against the sofa cushions, heels of his hands pressed against his eyes. “There’s this – pretence of inclusivity, y’know. But I worked with some of the ones who’re high-ups now, back in the nineties, when the papers were still running AIDS stories. D’you remember what it was like?” he groans, sitting up, wrapping his arms around his knees.
Mycroft is watching him, eyes dark grey. He does not look away when Greg catches his eye. “Vividly,” is his quiet answer.
Greg nods. ’S’just – when you know for a fact the Chief Constable had a good laugh about the ‘gay plague’ twenty years ago…y’know?”
Mycroft nods, once.
‘An’ the tabloids are going to be awful with this one,” sighs Greg. “I was a coward. Didn’t want to put my hand up, push for the case. In case anyone asked why.”
If he didn’t know better, he’d think Mycroft Holmes’ eyes are full of sympathy. “I cannot see that there would have been a different outcome for the victims,” he says, at last.
Greg shakes his head, taking another gulp of whisky. “We don’t know who he’s out there with, now. This suspect of Sherlock’s might not even be the guy. This –” he gestures to himself and Mycroft, to the luxurious flat around them, “– is just one lead. We might have nothing at all.”
“You will have expedited forensic analysis and warrant approval,” says Mycroft, with determination. He sips his whisky, the light glinting off the ring on his right hand. “Tell me as soon as you hit any administrative block.”
Greg smiles at him. “You’re a good man, Mycroft Holmes.”
“An opinion you will find it hard to defend to others,” returns Mycroft, with a thin smile.
“Oh, shut up,” says Greg, surprised to hear a note of fondness creeping into his own voice. “I don’t think you’re that short on friends.”
Mycroft’s eyebrow rises, but his gaze is coolly amused. “I assure you, Greg,” he murmurs. “My professional life absorbs the entirety of my time and attention. And it is not exactly conducted in cordiality.”
Greg grins. “Well, yeah,” he says. “But you mostly hang out with politicians, don’t you?”
Mycroft’s laugh is unfeigned, and seems to take even him by surprise.
“Rosie loves you,” smiles Greg, a bubble of triumph in his chest at having made Mycroft laugh.
“Rosamund also loves carrot and apple purée and something called ‘Peppa Pig’.”
Greg throws back his head, and laughs. “Well, that’s true.” He runs his hands through his hair. “Sherlock bloody idolises you, you know. Underneath all that – whatever it is you two have going on.”
Mycroft glances away, and then back. He does not seem to know what to say.
“An’ I used to enjoy catching up with you,” says Greg, gently. “Even though the circumstances weren’t the best.”
Mycroft looks quickly away, finishing his whisky.
“Why’d we stop doing that, in the end?” asks Greg. “I mean, I know Sherlock got a lot better.” He smiles. “Did your club put their foot down? Couldn’t have someone like me wanderin’ in at all hours?”
Mycroft gives him a sidelong, sharply amused glance. “‘Someone like you’? Believe me, Greg, there are many who hold memberships to the Diogenes more corrupt and disreputable than a well-respected Detective Inspector in the London Met.”
“Are you telling me you hang out in some sort of den of thieves?”
“Without doubt, I fear.”
“Right kind of theft, though, yeah? Government-approved. Done by rich people.”
“Cynicism, I see.”
Greg huffs a laugh. “’M’getting old, tired and grumpy.”
“Hardly, Det– Greg.”
“An’ pissed,” groans Greg, rubbing his eyes. “Hit me, tonight. Not usually such a lightweight. Or such a grumpy bastard. Sorry f’being depressing.”
Mycroft’s mouth tips into a half-smile. “You have not been.”
“Sorry,” says Greg, again. “Think I might try'n get some sleep.” He motions to the pile of blankets and pillow at the other end of the sofa.
There’s a long moment of silence.
“The bed is large enough to share,” says Mycroft, voice blandly neutral.
Greg has to admit that the prospect of a proper, comfy bed is extremely appealing. He feels like he could sleep for a week. “You sure?” he asks. “’Cause I’ll be fine down here if –”
“Truly,” returns Mycroft, turning away. He stands up to take his whisky glass to the sink. “It is not an issue.”
Probably not straight, then. Most straight guys our age wouldn’t let a man who likes men sleep in their bed, would they? Greg shakes his head. Shut up brain.
“I’ll go and do my teeth then,” he says, standing up.
Changing into his pyjamas, he has a sudden worry that he ought to be showering again. He puts on some extra deodorant before pulling on the soft t-shirt he sleeps in. When did I last share a bed with anyone? Must be more than a year. Christ.
He looks at himself in the mirror as he does his teeth. Not his best look: dishevelled hair where he’d run his hands through it. Eye bags, and the slightly bleary look of someone who’s had a bit too much to drink. He sighs. Attractive.
Mycroft’s books and phone charger lie on the far bedside table, so Greg clambers into the near side and huddles down under the duvet. The mattress is luxurious, the sheets soft, high-quality cotton. He almost sighs out loud, already feeling himself relax.
He’s plugging his phone in when Mycroft appears at the top of the stairs. He puts a glass of water on Greg’s bedside table, then walks round the bed to set one on his own.
“Thanks,” says Greg, taking a swig before settling back down. Mycroft shuts himself in the bathroom, carrying his pyjamas.
Greg’s so sleepy that he has to blink a couple of times to focus when Mycroft emerges from the bathroom – charcoal cotton pyjama bottoms and a navy t-shirt – and has another moment of dissonance. Mycroft Holmes in pyjamas. His eyes drift shut again, though, and he’s asleep before Mycroft has finished hanging up his jacket.