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Mycroft Holmes was used to people complimenting him. He knew they didn’t mean it, so he stopped paying attention to the compliments a long time ago. Lots of people, businessmen and politicians sought his favor; they hoped he’d help them with their small plans of obtaining authority, but Mycroft only associated with those who could be useful to him. Only mutually benefiting relationships.

And flattery definitely wasn’t the way to get Mycroft’s approval; there was only one type of compliments he took seriously and, even though he didn’t show it, was pleased to hear them. Those were the words complimenting his intelligence. Yes, he was vain and he liked when others acknowledged his delicate brainwork. In that sense he was similar to Sherlock. It was nice when people appreciated his carefully constructed and undoubtedly successful plans. Silent anger mixed with awe was the best reaction he could get out of his enemies; those were the most sincere compliments he could get. 

Well, he did not need any compliments actually. Just as Mycroft was used to flattery, he was also used to snide envious remarks. And really, most of the criticism he got from his younger brother, who didn’t hesitate to come up with some new offence every time they met. On the other hand, the older Holmes was not far behind in delivering sarcastic comments. Their sibling rivalry was like a way for Mycroft to train his bantering skills in non-dangerous territory, because in verbal battles with Sherlock he only risked losing his dignity and no government secrets. Though it was controversial, which was worse.

Mycroft Holmes was prepared for all forms of complimenting, flattery and sarcasm. All, but one.

“Mycroft, you look good. Did you lose a few pounds?” Gregory Lestrade asked after a casual greeting handshake.

The sincere compliments.

The answer to Lestrade was a stunned silence. After a beat Mycroft regained his composure.

“Thank you,” he replied casually, still deciding if he should believe those words or not. Baseless flattery was so common for the politician that it became a habit to accept it with a nod and a polite smile. But Lestrade’s words sounded like the man actually believed in them. And really, Mycroft reasoned, the DI did not belong to that type of people; he was honest and straightforward.

They were at a crime scene; Mycroft tended to actually meet Sherlock from time to time and not only watch the video reports about his ‘adventures’. The consulting detective had just solved another ‘impossible case’, finding a diamond collie that was thought to have long left the country. Spotting Sherlock in the distance, Mycroft bid goodbye to the DI in favor of talking to his brother. He dismissed the ‘accident’ with the compliment, preferring not to pay it much attention.

~~~~~

“This colour suits you, Mycroft.” Lestrade commented as he took a seat at the table across from the politician. It was Sunday and time for their weekly meeting.

“Good morning,” Mycroft replied, a little unsettled but not showing any reaction to the compliment. He lowered the paper he was reading and then folded it carefully and put down completely. “You look tired.”

Lestrade ordered coffee and turned back to Mycroft.

“I have a lot of work. Several cases that need to be dealt with quickly.” He answered, trying to sound cheerful but failing. That made Mycroft realize that the other man was not good with faking his emotions, he was like an open book. A very dangerous open book though, because all his emotions were rather confusing to Mycroft. And also somewhat pleasing, but that was a different matter altogether. Plus the fact that Mycroft wanted to believe Lestrade’s compliments should be taken in consideration as well. Unsure of his own feelings, the politician turned their conversation to a more appropriate theme.

A week after that Mycroft was at the crime scene again, his PA, Andromeda this time, commented once that he tended to do it more often lately, but one look from him was enough to make her silent again. Yes, he liked when his employees kept their silence when they were not talking about work. It was pouring rain and he had opened his umbrella, for once using it for its correct purpose, not that it was helping much. His suit was still getting wet and the raindrops still reached his face. His hair, perfectly in place all the time, was falling into his eyes, wet strands obscuring his vision.

This time it was a serial murderer’s case Sherlock had solved and Mycroft came to personally congratulate him. And of course to deliver some snide remarks and practice his skills at sarcasm, and even maybe try to persuade his younger brother to come to a nearing family gathering. Also – Mycroft wasn’t going to deny it to himself since it’d only cause more damage – he hoped to catch a glimpse of DI Lestrade. It was interesting to watch that man work, so professional and collected, confident in his element.

Lestrade lifted his head, in the process of giving orders to Sergeant Donovan, talking directly to her ear to be heard over the patter of rain. As he noticed Mycroft, Gregory gave a little nod and a smile and then returned to work. The older Holmes looked around in search for his brother and upon finding him under the shed of a nearest shop with John Watson at his side, made his way to the pair.

“Mycroft, are there no employees in the government anymore and you have to do all the dirty work yourself? What are you doing here?” Was Sherlock’s greeting to his brother.

“Spiteful as ever, I see.” Mycroft replied with satisfaction. This was familiar territory; he knew where he stood with his brother. So unlike how it was with Lestrade.

It was confusing how one man could have such a great effect on Mycroft’s life. But Gregory Lestrade was so unlike the other people Mycroft knew. The politician was used to dealing with people who were cunning with every one of their words a lie. But what the DI said to him every time they met…

“You look like a drowned rat,” was the first thing that came from Lestrade’s mouth when Mycroft came up to him after a talk with Sherlock.

That was not a compliment but a smile on Gregory’s face warmed Mycroft’s heart all the same.