She refused to be intimidated by any Holmes. Sherlock, his brother...okay, maybe his sister. She had seen the aftermath of what that Holmes sibling was capable of and while she didn’t like to admit it, it had chilled her to the bones and even more changed her opinions of the Holmes brothers.
But still. She knew Mycroft could be intimidating and she was determined not to let him do it to her.
After a moment the door opened and she realized that he had a rather dreary office. Not that hers was a paradise, but she at least had light and plants in various places. And her tank of fish. She had decided if she ever got her own office there would be as many blatant reminders of life as she could have. She hadn’t expected the Waters case to be good, in the end, for her or Greg, not after he ran off to help Sherlock, but Greg had surprised her and heaped loads of praise on her, with Sherlock chiming in much to her surprise, and finally she had gotten her well deserved promotion. She had never told either of the men about her goal to have life around her at the office, but Greg had given her a large tank and Sherlock had brought her a goldfish.
She’d named it Sherly.
Now she had a tank full of fish, all the names picked by the few children in her life: nieces, nephews, Greg’s daughter, Rosie Watson...it made her smile to look at it at work.
Mycroft could use a fish or at the very least some brightly coloured plants.
She sat across from him and didn’t bother to cross her legs and appear ladylike; she was in trousers, she could spread her legs a bit, put her elbows on her thighs and lean forward and stare at Mycroft until he noticed. She figured she had a 50/50 chance he’d actually look up at her.
“Do make yourself comfortable, Detective Inspector Donovan.”
“Already have,” Sally murmured, studying what was on his desk. Very little, to be honest. One of the desk planners that seemed to be on every desk everywhere, a pen and stand for it, and a salad. Apparently this was his lunch and he wasn’t planning on touching it. “You haven’t, though. Feel free to eat your lunch.”
“My assistant was not aware of this meeting when my meal was picked for the day,” he said. “I was going to have a cheat day. There should be Italian arriving shortly. You prefer lasagna, correct?”
“Vegetable, yeah,” she said. “I’ve cut meat out of my diet for a bit to shake things up.”
“You hate it, though.”
“Suppose I do,” she admitted. “If you got me meat lasagna I’ll make an exception if you share the salad.” Mycroft didn’t reply, simply pushing the bowl of salad towards her, and then the fork. To be honest, she’d had a few strips of turkey bacon this morning so meat lasagna wouldn’t be much of a cheat, but she was starving now and she always paired her lasagna with a salad anyway. She saw warmed walnuts and sunflower seeds on it, and when she looked up there was a small container of something that looked like a blueberry vinaigrette. “You have good taste.”
The corners of his mouth edged up in a smile. “As do you.” He finally looked up at her. “I have a proposition for you.”
“Hmm,” she said around a mouthful of salad on her fork.
“I need a girlfriend.”
She found herself so surprised she nearly choked on her food. Her eyes watered just slightly but she kept her composure as she finished chewing and swallowing. “Go on.”
“There is an event happening over the holidays. As you know, a relationship has developed between my brother and Dr. Hooper after the incidents of...that evening. I am one of few who knows, but Dr. Hooper is pregnant. They wish to be married as quickly as possible, and they have chosen a destination wedding the week before Christmas. My family will be in attendance, and I wish to stage a spectacular break-up in front of them where they will see that I am unsuitable for relationships and therefore be accepting of my life as a bachelor.”
“And you won’t ask that fellow politician friend of yours because…?” Sally asked, taking another bite of her food.
“She actually has interest in me. You do not. You will be well compensated, Detective Donovan. Not just monetarily, but with favours that could make your job easier. I will be at your beck and call for as much information as I can give you in my position for the rest of my career.”
Sally raised an eyebrow. Having an in in the government could be beneficial. She would never ask for favours that would compromise a case, but should she need classified information she could get it. She could, perhaps, have some level of immunity to deal with the fuckos higher up than her that were still intent on ruining her and Greg and anyone who made their cushy lives hell.
Yeah, it could be worth a week’s vacation and pretending to have partially melted the Iceman.
“Where would we be going?” she asked.
“Hawaii,” he said. “I would, of course, pay any expenses, and if you are able to get two weeks of vacation I will have you moved to any resort of your choice for the remainder of your vacation.”
She considered it. “Would they know the break-up is coming?”
“They being Sherlock and Dr. Hooper?” Sally nodded. “They are aware. It will not happen in their presence, just my parents, and I will remain to be the best man at the wedding. You will have no need to either attend the wedding or purchase a gift for the couple. Or, at the very least, pay for the gift if you decide to purchase one.”
She speared some more salad. “And you’ll cover all expenses? New tropical wardrobe, swimming costume, food, booze?”
“Everything,” he said with a nod.
“Then I suppose it’s too good a deal to pass up.” She popped the forkful of salad in her mouth and then ate it slowly. “You do realize we’ll have to fake date before the wedding, though, right?”
“What?” Mycroft asked.
“Well, in every undercover sting, which is basically what I’m approaching this as, the more research you do, the better off it goes. If you’re knowledgeable enough to be prepared for anything, pretty much nothing can happen that surprises you.” She speared some more salad. “Your fam...they’re not thinking we’re serious enough for marriage?”
“No, I suppose not,” he said.
“Then we can start with having lunches together. We have a month and a half to get ready, so we’ll have lunch together, say, every other day? Then you can learn more about me and I can learn more about you, and we can get comfortable around each other.”
He steepled his fingers together and then nodded slowly. “That sounds reasonable. Will you be wanting compensation for your time?”
“Throw in some nicer clothes and the occasional fake date out on town and that will be enough,” she said, pointing her fork at him. “But my access to classified information starts now. That’s non-negotiable.”
“Very well. We have a deal,” he said with one final nod.
“We have a deal,” she replied before eating her food. This could be very interesting. Very interesting indeed...
She knew, in a stereotypical first date, the bloke would usually bring flowers. She somehow had the feeling if Mycroft chose to do that, it would be a magnificent arrangement. And if he didn’t...well, that was alright, too. Because she had a surprise for him in that department.
She had requested that for their first date to be as meaningful as possible (and by that she meant “have as many witnesses on hand to make it authentic,” she assured him, not any other type of meaning) she had told him to pick her up at the Yard. She was normally, on a good day, off at 5, but she told him she’d make sure she was available at half past four so they could go...somewhere for drinks and then a good dinner, had been the final decision, though where they were heading, she didn’t know.
And when he arrived, he was leaving with one of her plants.
She had just the one picked out, a green plant with no flowers that did well in places with little to no light, like that cave he called an office. If he protested, she could say that it was in an effort to have a remembrance of her in his office, a gift from a friend, at least at first, but in reality she had just found his office so depressing that she knew he needed something in there to remind him there was more to life than work, a lesson she’d had to learn herself.
There was a soft knock on her door and one of the detective sergeants on the floor stood there. “You have a visitor, Detective.” She had a grin which made her think that Mycroft actually had flowers.
“Send them in,” she said. A moment later Mycroft walked in, but not with flowers. Instead in a small bowl, there was the most beautiful fish she had ever seen. Her eyes widened and she smiled. “Oh, that’s a lovely one.”
“It should be compatible with the others in your tank, and requires no special adjustment to the food you feed them,” he said, moving in front of her desk and setting the bowl on it gently. “I had felt a bowl would be preferable to a baggie full of water. Classier, I suppose.”
“I can use the bowl for something else because fish need room,” she said with a smile. “I’ll start acclimating it to the tank soon.”
Mycroft nodded. “Are you ready for our date?”
“Yes,” she said. “But I want you to do something first.” She went and picked up the plant she had on her desk and handed it to him. “Put this in your office tomorrow. You need something alive in there other than you and your assistant.” He gave her a look as she took her hands off the pot. “It will be fine with a little water and plant food and low light. I made sure of that.”
“Thank you, Detective Donovan.”
“Sally,” she said. “I have a first name, you should use it.” She stood up and smoothed down the dress she had worn. Nothing too fancy, but she had gotten some stares and affectionate wolf whistles for the change out of her normal pantsuit into something dressier. “Is this going to be alright for wherever we’re going?”
“It’s more than adequate,” he said. He nodded towards the plant in his hands. “Should I take this with us?”
“We all know you can get on this floor at any time, day or night, as long as you say you need to talk to Greg,” she said, reaching under her desk for the handbag that matched her dress. She made sure to put her badge and ID in, just in case, and then pulled out the lipstick and put some on her lips. “Just don’t take any other plants, alright? That one is specifically yours.”
“As in a gift?” he asked, seemingly taken aback.
“Yeah. You don’t get gifts?” she asked, confused.
“Most people don’t think of that when it comes to me,” he admitted.
She made a mental note to get the poor guy a few gifts while they were doing the fake dating thing. Nothing embarrassing or gaudy, just simple things that might be useful to him or could have some sort of meaning. Props were good in undercover ops sometimes. “Well, expect more. It will make it look more like the relationship has meaning.”
Mycroft set the plant down and nodded as she put the handbag on her shoulder, and he offered her his arm. “Shall we, Sally?” he asked.
She gave him a grin and took his arm. Even if this was all fake, she had the feeling tonight might be nice. Pleasant even. “We shall,” she said, and then they left. Step one was complete. A few more, and the relationship would be quite believable indeed...
He had taken her to Punch Room for drinks, a place she knew for a fact required reservations, and she had the hardest time choosing between their wine selection, their cocktails, and an upscale beer, but in the end, went with the gin-infused Edition house punch. It was absolutely sublime and as it had been a while since she’d touched anything with gin in it was a nice treat. After drinks, they stayed at the same building and went to Berners Tavern. She was not at all surprised that Mycroft ordered the appetizers for them, the Caesar salad with garlic and herb prawns.
“You’re more than welcome to order your own entree, but I saw that you enjoyed my salad and thought you might enjoy this one as well,” he said.
She looked at the ingredients and nodded. Even with anchovies, it sounded delicious. “I think it’s right up my alley,” she said, giving him a smile. He almost looked a bit nervous, even with the wine he’d had. “Mycroft, relax. This isn’t an actual date. It’s...gathering reconnaissance, in a nice venue with good food.”
As soon as she said that, he seemed to relax. “I’m sorry. My mind is...other places,” he replied.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked. “I mean, if nothing else, at least for a little while you can have another sympathetic ear other than your assistant.”
His smile turned wry at that. “And what makes you think Anthea has a sympathetic ear to spare anyone?”
“You aren’t attracted to her and she likes women more than man, so she has to stay around for some other reason than being hyper-competent,” Sally said with a smirk. “You almost consider her a friend.”
“You are very insightful,” he said, allowing himself a soft chuckle. “I suppose she is something akin to a friend, though please keep that fact to yourself. It’s not an aspect of our relationship we would like publicized.”
“Lips are sealed,” Sally said with a nod. “But really. This doesn’t have to be all of a fact-finding mission. We can just...talk.”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve done that,” he said, pausing to take a sip of his wine. “My sister spoke, for the first time since the incident. She wants to see Dr. Hooper.”
“Wow,” Sally said, her eyes widening. “Not a good idea.”
“No, I thought not as well. But she’s game and Sherlock has given his reluctant agreement, as she will be part of the family, and I’m not sure how to feel about the matter. If it gets Eurus communicative again, it may be good, but I don’t want to put Dr. Hooper or the baby at risk.”
Sally thought for a moment. “If Molly’s willing, and Sherlock is too, there really isn’t much you can do other than maybe be there on site to supervise. I mean, I know you’d love to micromanage the world, but sometimes that’s not an option. But if you’re there, and maybe Sherlock is too, it could be more of a tolerable decision?”
“That was much the same wisdom Anthea had,” he replied. “I suppose if I surround myself with insightful women I should listen to their advice.”
“Probably a good idea,” Sally said, giving him a soft smile.
“I appreciate the plant, by the way,” he replied. “I had thought of bringing flowers but I remembered you collect fish and I thought that would be more...meaningful.”
“I’m almost considering taking that one home. I mean, I don’t have a tank there, but I could get one. It would be nice to have a bit more life at the flat.”
“Yes, your plant collection is lacking at your home as opposed to your office.” Sally raised an eyebrow. “You’ve got your own security detail, Sally. I’ve had your flat under surveillance since Sherlock began assisting Lestrade.”
“I see,” she said, though she had a slight grin. “Well, maybe one day I’ll know what the inside of your home looks like, Mister Secret Keeper.” She lifted up her glass of wine and moved it towards him. “To sharing secrets and gathering information.”
Mycroft gave her a small smile and tapped his glass against hers before they each took a sip. Maybe it wouldn’t take all that long to defrost the Ice Man after all for this task. However long it took, though, she had the feeling she was going to enjoy the process.
She was not surprised to see the small bowl she had temporarily put her fish in replaced with a large tank filling up an entire wall of her flat when she returned home the day after her first dinner with Mycroft, with a note from him that said: “Your fish deserves more space.” It was definitely an eyepiece, considering the stand it was on enveloped the tank and it was definitely large enough to house at least ten more fish, so she appreciated it...but the fact he had let someone into her home to deliver it unnerved her a bit. Not much, though, but enough that she should lay down some parameters on when he was allowed into her home for surprises and when he wasn’t. She got on her mobile and dialed his number. “You really know how to one-up me, don’t you?”
“I simply thought the fact your flat consisted mostly of plants and not fish was a shame,” he said, sounding smug. Oh, she almost wanted to see if there was a smug look on his face to match his tone, but she was afraid she’d just try and one-up him herself if there was.
“Well, I appreciate it, but no more breaking into my flat, okay? That would be like me using a cop key to break into your home.” She looked over at the tank. “Unless you get me more fish. I think it might be interesting to see what you think goes well with your present.”
“Duly noted.” He paused for a moment. “I know that it was not the point of our plotting last night, but it was nice to have someone to talk to. Anthea said I should invite you to lunch tomorrow to have more conversation. Apparently, I was in a good mood. I’m not usually in a good mood, so she found it a refreshing change.”
“Well, unless a high profile case comes up, I’m free. But I’m also free tonight as well.” She paused, trying to ask herself why she had invited him to spend time with her when all she really wanted was a soak in a tub and a tall glass of wine. Perhaps it was because she had the feeling an evening spent at home, even if it was simply relaxing, could be quite boring compared to an evening spent with Mycroft. Or...well, maybe she had grown, rather quickly, to like his company.
But before she could say anything else, he said, “I think that sounds quite exceptional, but it’s a bit late to get reservations somewhere nice.”
She paused. That was true, but still, if this was just them eating and spending an evening together chatting about whatever it was he was in the mood to chat about, it didn’t need to be extravagant, did it? Takeaway and a chat on the sofa would be fine enough. As much as she’d loved to be spoiled, it didn’t need to be that way all the time. “My flat, takeaway, then? I mean, I know it’s not a grown-up date like you owe me, but it’s been a long day and I just want to kick off my shoes and curl up on the sofa.”
“I think that sounds like a good balm for a stressful day,” he said approvingly before pausing. “Do you have any film preferences?”
“You’re going to bring a film?” she asked, surprised. “Do you even like the cinema?”
“I do, as it turns out,” he said. He was quiet for another moment. “Would you feel comfortable making a trip to my home?” he asked. “I have something I think will interest you, no matter your preference. Or it will, as long as you like classic films.”
“Okay,” she said. “I can drive over. I got one of the cars from the Yard for the evening.”
“No, I’ll have a car come get you. I’m still at my office so you have time to change into something comfortable. I know you want to relax and I assure you, what I have planned will allow you to do just that.”
She laughed. “Comfortable to me is a pair of pyjamas and bunny slippers, you know. I mean, I’m a rather simple girl when it comes to my comfortable clothes.”
“Well, bring them. If you stay up late watching films with me, you can stay in a guest bedroom.”
“Tell me what kind of films you have first,” she said, knowing he had mentioned classic films but wanting more detail.
“Film noir, classic dramas and romances, all of a 35mm film projector.”
This piqued her interest. “I’ll bring my pyjamas. You’ll have to wait until you come here to see those bunny slippers.”
He chuckled softly. “Very well. Do you have any preferences as to classic films you like? I have quite a large selection.”
“I think I’m in the mood for an evening of Hitchcock,” she said after thinking for a moment. “Do you happen to have ‘Rebecca’ in your collection?”
“Among other films of his,” he said. “I’ll send the driver for you as soon as I know when I can leave. No longer than two hours.”
“I’m trusting you to have me picked up. It’s been a long day,” she said.
“I promise, we will have a movie night with good food. Do you have a preference as to what to eat tonight?”
“Thai?” she asked. “And a glass of good wine.”
“I can do that. I will see you soon, then.”
“See you soon, Mycroft.” She hung up and then went and poured herself a small glass of wine now while she went to her closet to see what to change into. She decided on a pair of black yoga pants, a black vest that she wore when she went to yoga class and a red and white cardigan over it. She also packed a small bag with pyjamas and some toiletries as well as her handbag. She didn’t have to go into her post the next day so she could sleep in if she stayed over and then go out and take care of errands. She had the feeling Mycroft would indulge her that much.
The car arrived two hours later and she found she was not in it alone; Mycroft was in the back, waiting. She smiled at him as she got in when the driver opened the door. “You certainly look more comfortable than I do,” he said with a small smile of his own on his face.
“Well, you said to get comfortable,” she said as the driver shut the door behind her. “If I can wear this to yoga class, it’s comfortable enough.”
“It suits you,” he said with a nod. “I’m quite used to seeing you in more of business attire than anything else.”
“Do you have comfortable clothes?” she asked, tilting her head as she looked at him.
“I suppose the clothes I exercise in are comfortable,” he mused. “Other than that, I tend to be in suits.”
“Okay, we need to change that,” she said. He raised an eyebrow at her. “Not all of our pretend dates are going to be at fancy places. I’m not saying you need to wear denim trousers and T-shirts, but maybe...more casual trousers, tasteful jumpers. If your family is going to believe I’ve had any influence on you, you do need to change a bit. Feel free to go back after our break-up, though. They’ll probably be expecting it.”
“And if I find I like the changes?”
“Well, no one’s stopping you from keeping them,” she said. “And if Molly really is pregnant, a less impeccable wardrobe will deal well with baby spit-up.”
He chuckled at that. “I suppose there’s some wisdom in that.”
“Damn straight there is,” she said with a nod. They lapsed into a short silence before she spoke again. “You really have a film projector at your home?”
“Yes, and a room where I watch the films I have,” he said. “Not a theatre-style room, but I suppose aside from my bedroom it would be the most comfortable room in my home.”
“You better have popcorn.”
“I do not, but perhaps we can order some to be delivered along with our dinner.”
“So you haven’t placed the order yet?”
“There’s no one at my home to make sure we get it so I assumed since we’d be sharing the car I could order it en route.”
She thought for a moment. “Is your kitchen really as bare as Sherlock said it is?”
“Not currently. His fiancee has ideas that go against my diet, in that I should have a full refrigerator. At least she stocked it with moderately healthy food. Why do you ask?”
“I can cook,” she said. “I spent a few years taking culinary classes to get my mind off the stress of the job. I’m actually quite good, and as you seem to be a gourmand...”
“A homemade meal from Sally Donovan? I think this is an opportunity I can’t pass up,” he said with a smile.
“Then I’ll cook and you pick a good wine. I’ll critique your choice, of course, so we’ll see if you’re as much of a wine snob as I am. Then we’ll eat and watch films and I’ll forgive you for not having popcorn this time.”
He nodded. “That sounds acceptable. And perhaps you’ll accept the substitute of Jaffa cakes and truffles? I do have my vices, after all.”
“Done,” she said, holding out her hand. He shook it and then they settled into a different conversation for the rest of the ride, each talking about the day’s events and Sally told him about her plans for the following day. When they arrived at his home she wasn’t at all surprised to see it was akin to the manor homes out in the country, just a bit smaller and closer to London proper. They got out of the car, the driver opening her side as Mycroft let himself out, and they made their way to the front doot. Mycroft opened it and they stepped inside and she took the chance to look around. “It’s a bit foreboding.”
“It’s the intimidation factor that I appreciate,” he said. “When I have guests I want to unsettle, I invite them to my office or my home.”
“And the rest of us you just meet in abandoned warehouses,” she said with a smirk.
“You weren’t intimidated if I recall,” he said.
“Not really. I thought you were less of a prat than your brother, but not by much. I was more annoyed than anything else. I wanted to get home for a soak.”
“You prefer baths to showers?” he asked.
“After a long day, yes,” she said.
“I’ll put you in the guest bedroom with the claw-footed bath, then, if you stay tonight. Anthea usually stocks it with top of the line bath products for when she stays due to work.”
Sally nodded. “What type of pillowcases do you have?”
“Egyptian cotton,” he said, frowning.
“Any silk ones, by any chance?”
“I have a few, though they don’t match the bedding set.” Then it hit him. “Your hair.”
She nodded. “I don’t treat it, but silk pillowcases are best for the type of hair I have. I brought my own hair products, though. I hope you don’t mind.”
“For the time we’re pretending to date, let me know what you need and I’ll have it available in case you would like to do another movie night and stay over,” he said. “I don’t want to inconvenience you by having you have to bring your things from home.”
“That’s nice of you, Mycroft.”
“Well, you are doing me an immense favour with this ruse. I can at least make it easier on you.”
She leaned over and kissed his cheek, and to her surprise, he flushed slightly. “You know for the time we’re in Hawaii we have to show some public signs of affection,” she said softly. “But I won’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable. You set the rules for what you’re willing to do.”
“It’s not that it makes me uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s just rare to have anyone aside from Dr. Hooper show physical affection towards me. I suppose it still affects me.”
“Ah,” Sally said. “Well, we’ll ease into it, then, alright? And if we have dinner together tomorrow as you suggested, we can start with hand-holding.”
He nodded. “That sounds acceptable.”
“Okay then,” she said with a nod of her own. “Now then. Where’s this cavern of a kitchen at?”
He gave her a small smile and gestured down the hall. “This way.” He walked forward and she followed. This was turning into more time spent together than they had initially agreed upon, but she felt if nothing else, Mycroft needed a friend. And while she was reaping some rewards from this pretend relationship, it didn’t mean she couldn’t give him some friendship that might last even past their fake break-up. Everyone needed friends, after all, even the Ice Man. And she didn’t mind, because to be honest, he was nicer than he seemed, which was a pleasant surprise. So if it meant more time spent together before Hawaii...so be it.
The movie night went quite well; the room where Mycroft had the projector set up was much more comfortable than the foyer of his home appeared to be. The kitchen had had top of the line appliances and cutlery and whatnot, and Sally might have thought it was quite the dream kitchen if it hadn’t been so dark. She made them a vegetarian curry dish with a large salad as a side, and she was pleased to see his wine collection was actually quite impressive. The glass of wine she’d had with dinner and the second she had with the film had been very good, though she’d let the second glass warm up more than it should have because she was so engrossed in the films. They did watch “Rebecca,” and then “Strangers On A Train” and were halfway through “The Ghost & Mrs. Muir” before she began to feel tired. She tried to stay awake, but she just wasn’t able to.
She awoke in the morning in a rather lovely room, with roses on the wallpaper and what looked like vintage furniture in the room. She had the feeling this room probably belonged to Anthea when she had to stay the night. She lifted her head up and smiled as she saw he had changed all three pillowcases on her bed to silk ones.
She wasn’t sure whether she would see him that morning but she went to take a shower and change into the spare set of clothes she had brought with her, which had been neatly folded and put away in the drawers for her, along with her pyjamas. All her hair products were already in the attached bedroom and she decided then that even if this relationship was fake, at least between the two of them, she’d try to thaw the Ice Man a bit more because really, Mycroft was a lovely and caring man and even if this was fake, he deserved some happiness in the end.
She went downstairs and saw he was sitting at the dining room table with Anthea, going over some governmental business, she supposed. She rapped on the door and then popped her head in. “Just wanted to let you know I’m up and I’m heading out to run errands,” she said.
Mycroft looked up and gave her a small smile. “Let me call you a car. It’s rather hard to catch a cab in this area.”
Sally nodded, and he turned to Anthea, who already had her mobile out. “Thank you,” she said as she sat down. “I appreciate you putting me to bed and changing the pillowcases. That was truly thoughtful.”
“I didn’t want to inconvenience you,” he said, looking down for a moment. “There’s coffee in the carafe if you’d like some.”
“I would,” she said. He got up to get her a cup and the carafe, and she settled in. “Did we still want to have dinner tonight, or are you tired of me already?”
“No, I think dinner would be a good idea, though it may need to be an evening in. Something has come up that I may need to work late on.”
“If Anthea’s staying to help, I can cook again, for all three of us. Something healthy but filling and with a lot of protein to give you energy.”
“You don’t need to come over just to cook,” he said as he brought the coffee and cup and saucer over. “Two sugars?”
“And some cream,” she said, beginning to pour out the coffee as he went to get the cream. “And I really don’t mind. It’s better than cooking for just myself, or for Greg when it’s a larger meal.”
“If the food is anything like what we had last night, he’s been a lucky man,” Mycroft said with a smile. “And I suppose if it’s not too much trouble.”
“It’s not, honestly,” she said. He brought her the cream and she added it to her coffee before taking a sip; Mycroft had already placed sugar in the cup. “If you have a lesser red wine, I can make a beef dish. If you eat it with couscous as opposed to regular pasta it’s healthier.”
“Beef tips, by any chance?” Mycroft asked hopefully.
Sally chuckled. “I can make that instead, yeah. But what about your diet?”
“I suppose another cheat day won’t hurt,” he replied. “Not if I’m having a home-cooked meal.”
“As long as you actually taste it,” she said.
Anthea finished her phone call then. “The car will be here in twenty minutes. And if I heard right, beef tips sound wonderful. I’m for them.”
“Then it’s settled. If you’ll take a cheat day I’ll make beef tips with a wine and mushroom sauce and we can serve it over egg noodles, with a side of steamed veg of your choice.” Sally looked at her watch. It was a bit later to the start of her day than she had planned, but not much. “If you get the ingredients, I can come by around five and start cooking.”
“Just send me what you need,” Mycroft said, “and I will ensure it’s here.”
Sally nodded. “Good.” The other two at the table took time away from their business to chat with her, and when Anthea’s phone gave her an alert that the car was here she offered to walk Sally out. Mycroft looked a tad disappointed but nodded. When the two women were alone, Sally remarked on it. “Did he look disappointed to you?”
“He’s smitten,” she said. “Whatever it is you’ve done, I have the feeling he will find it hard to end the relationship when it comes time to have the row in Hawaii.”
Sally’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Sally, he likes you. I think he thought that this could be pulled off with little emotion but his emotions got the better of him.” Anthea put a hand on her arm. “Don’t break his heart, and don’t allow him to break yours. Whatever happens in Hawaii, remember he cares, and that’s rare.”
Sally nodded. Nearly struck dumb by the revelation. Mycroft fancied her? That was why he was being so nice above and beyond what was required in the deal? But why didn’t he tell her? Maybe...maybe he didn’t see it, she reasoned. But now that she herself did, where did they go next?
The realization that Mycroft could actually have real feelings for her made her realize that she was, indeed, starting to think that perhaps, if this relationship was really real, it wouldn’t be so bad. With her, he was incredibly kind and gentle, considerate and thoughtful, and dammit she liked that. It had been quite a long time since someone had treated her with that level of respect and kindness in a relationship. And she noticed they found excuses to spend more time together, on both sides. He was looking for excuses and so was she. But with Hawaii now a week away when she came to the definite conclusion that she had fallen for him, she needed to know if they were still going to go by the terms of the plan or if this had become something more than simply a fake relationship.
She approached his home with a sense of trepidation she hadn’t felt before, not even the first time going there. This date, this entire evening, could change everything, and she knew it and it terrified her. She didn’t want things to change unless they changed for the better, but still. There was always the chance that her gut and Anthea’s affirmation of his feelings were wrong, and she didn’t want to be heartbroken.
He opened the door with a warm smile that turned to a frown when he saw the look on her face. “Sally? What is it?”
“Can we...talk...for a moment?” she asked. Not sure how to broach the subject. “About...us?”
His eyes widened and he nodded. “You want to know if the bargain will go through as we planned.”
“More like I don’t want it to,” she said. “Mycroft, I genuinely like you. I have feelings for you of the romantic variety. I don’t...I don’t want to stage the break-up anymore. I’d rather things stay as they are. And if you don’t want that, I understand, but--”
Her words were cut off by Mycroft reaching for her, pulling her close and kissing her on the lips, the first time he had done so the entire time they’d been pretend dating. Oh, there had been kisses on the hand and cheek but nothing like this, and she melted against him, wrapping her arms around his neck as he pulled her flush against him. When the kiss was over she was breathless, and she looked up at him with wide eyes.
“I do, indeed, feel the same,” he murmured. “Perhaps we can renegotiate the terms of the agreement, starting with abolishing the entire thing?”
A laugh bubbled up out of her, choked with the onset of tears. He looked confused for a moment but she hugged him close and he hugged her back as well, with a bit more trepidation. It almost seemed as if it was some alien action to do. Other shows of emotion he could handle well, but comforting seemed new to him. He quickly got the hang of it, though, his hand settling on her lower back as he finished running it up and down her back as she settled her chin near the crook of his neck. “That sounds perfect. Maybe over dinner?”
“And dessert?” he asked. “I mean, would you stay for a while tonight?”
“I’ll stay all night if you want,” she said, pulling away. “All day, all night, I just...I don’t want to go.” She peppered his face with kisses as soft tears ran down her face. She had never felt so happy before and why was she crying? She shouldn’t be crying. But Mycroft guided her lips back to his and kissed her softly, gently wiping the tears away and she knew that tonight would be the first night of something more, something better.
Finally, they broke apart and she came inside. She had the feeling they might end up skipping dinner and dessert but she didn’t care. The fact that he wanted her the same way she wanted him, and that when they went to Hawaii there would be no break-up, made her the happiest woman in the world. She had the man she loved and that was what important. Well, maybe they hadn’t shared those three little words just yet, but she had the feeling they might be coming quite soon.
And when they did? She’d cherish that moment till her dying day, the true sign the Ice Man had melted and Mycroft Holmes stood in his place.
“So I see you’ve thawed my brother,” Sherlock said with a smile as he and Sally danced around the small club that had been chosen for what little reception he and Molly had planned for their wedding. John and Rosie had been at the wedding, and Greg and Mrs. Hudson, and all but Rosie were there now as she was in the hotel room being watched by Sherlock’s mum and dad, who decided to pass on a night of dancing and clubbing.
She had been surprised Sherlock had asked her for a dance, but as Mycroft was currently dancing with his new sister-in-law, smiling at her and causing her to laugh uproariously on the dance floor, she had the feeling he’d wanted to corner her the entire time they’d been on the island, but Mycroft had been keeping her well occupied. They had barely left the room they were in and honestly? While the urge to explore Hawaii was strong, she was quite happy with how she’d been spending her time.
“I suppose I have, but he started it himself by asking,” she pointed out, the two of them watching Mycroft dip Molly in the dance. He’d had a bit of the fruity alcoholic concoctions the club offered, split with her, and she could tell no one was going to let him forget having his hair down, so to speak. “I could say Molly did the same to you.”
“Well, that’s because we both have the best of taste in women. We found women who were strong and capable and would treat our hearts well, and we gave them our hearts in return,” Sherlock said.
“It does sound like you love your wife very much,” Sally said with a smile.
“And if I’m lucky, I’ll care about my sister-in-law a great deal as well,” Sherlock said with a grin of his own. “I don’t think it will take long for the two of you to get to that point.”
“Want to make a wager on it?” she asked with a laugh.”
“Alright, I say...by the time we return to London, within a week of our return.”
“I say before we leave,” she said. “Twenty quid?”
“Twenty quid sounds fair,” Sherlock said with a nod.
She thought back to the very impassioned proposal Mycroft had given her before the wedding, as well as the mind-blowing shagging that had happened afterward. He hadn’t given her the ring because he’d accidentally left it at home but that was alright. She’d said yes anyway. “Done,” she said, giving her hand to Sherlock to shake. He stopped dancing with her and shook her hand in agreement before Mycroft and Molly approached them.
“Mind if we cut in?” Molly asked. “I missed my husband.”
“And I missed my fiancee,” Mycroft murmured, taking Sally in his arms. Sherlock stared at them.
“Alright, he might have already proposed and I said yes,” Sally said with a laugh. “But that’s twenty quid you owe me.”
“That’s cheating!” Sherlock said, but soon Molly was reaching to touch his arm and he closed his mouth. “We’ll speak about this later, Donovan.”
“Soon to be Holmes,” Mycroft said. “Sooner rather than later, I hope?”
“Most likely,” Sally said as she put her arms around his neck. “Did you have more to drink, Mycroft?”
“No,” he said. “Honestly I’m just...happy. And quite a bit of that is your fault.”
“My fault?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, I didn’t say being happy was a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing,” he murmured before kissing her softly. She kissed him back, not caring who was there or who was watching. She was quite happy, too, happier than she had been in honestly so long she’d forgotten what it had felt like to be happy. She’d accept the blame for causing her fiancee to be deliriously happy...so long as he did the same for her happiness.
Fair was fair, after all.