"I fail to see why I was shanghai'd into helping you because your pestilential brother somehow convinced you to attempt this madness."
Mycroft's eyelids actually twitched, that was how badly his eyes wanted to roll. "Because you're my assistant. You're assisting me."
Walking up behind him silently in Louboutins was a deadly skill Anthea had perfected long ago. Whacking him on the back of the head with a Pilgrim-shaped oven glove, she hissed, "I'm not your bloody 'assistant!' I'm Anthea!"
"Too bloody right," Donovan agreed, coming out of the larder with loaded arms. "Don't let these Holmeses get away with a thing, Thea." Mycroft was distracted from his umbrage at being casually dismissed as "these Holmeses" by the way Anthea, instead of eviscerating Donovan, coloured delicately and said nothing about being casually given a diminutive. Oh lord, that's all he needed, his ruthlessly efficient PA developing a tendre for his brother's casual nemesis. Speaking of which...Mycroft was still unclear as to why exactly Sherlock had included her in today's plan. Apparently the American diplomat whom Sherlock had helped with a delicate matter had somehow or other convinced Sherlock to host a Thanksgiving dinner. Which somehow had devolved into Mycroft hosting. God help them all. Now his house was being invaded by what felt like half of London and it smelled like a holiday basket had exploded. His stomach rumbled unhappily, reminding Mycroft that he hadn't had anything but a cup of tea since his dinner the night before. There was no time now. The doorbell pealed as Anthea and Donovan were flirting over how best to stuff the turkey (God help him), and Mycroft gratefully fled the kitchen to answer its summons.
With a burst of gratitude, despair and joy mixing in him nicely, Mycroft beheld a rather grumpy Greg Lestrade standing on his doorstep. "Lestrade," he breathed. He sounded as if he were but a breath away from swooning; Mycroft cleared his throat and tried again. "Lestrade." There that was...better. Almost gruffly manly and disinterested. But not rude.
Lestrade smiled wearily, "Hullo, Mr Holmes. You look surprised...take it Sherlock didn't tell you I was coming?"
"Um, no. Not as such." Mycroft stepped back, saying hastily, "Not that you're not welcome, of course!" So welcome. Good Lord help him.
Greg wiped the rain off of his boots and shifted the package in his arms. Trust bloody Sherlock to spring this on his long-suffering brother. It was a wonder any of them put up with him. "I've got experience with Thanksgiving, guess he thought I'd be helpful."
Mycroft blinked at him, "Oh...yes. Your er, wife is American, isn't she?"
"Ex-wife," Greg affirmed, moving the package from arm to arm, as Mycroft helped him shed his rain-damp coat. "Yeah." His mum too, but thinking of her and the hole in his life since she'd passed left him even more gloomy than he already felt.
Shaking it off, he found a genuine smile for Mycroft, whom he was glad to see was dressed in cords, a soft jumper and looking quite relaxed. Well, if one ignored the faint air of worry that hung over him. Divining the reason for his unease, Greg put a friendly hand on his arm, "Don't worry, Mr Holmes, I know you don't like having a houseful of people. I'll cover for you if you need to slip away to your study or something."
Mycroft looked startled, "Slip away? Thank you, I'm sure that won't be necessary." He hesitated, "Er, won't you call me Mycroft?"
Greg smiled, pleased, "Only if you call me Greg." It wasn't his imagination that Mycroft smiled at him, eyes surprisingly soft.
"I'd like that...Greg."
"Alright then, Mycroft, lead me to the kitchen. Let's get this party underway, shall we?"
Molly Hooper hated to show up to parties alone. She was socially awkward enough to like to have a buffer in the form of another person. But since her dating prospects had dried up in the wake of her failed engagement, solitary attendance was her lot.
As a consequence she was quite happy to find herself walking toward Mycroft Holmes' residence in the company of Philip Anderson. While he'd clashed with Sherlock--who hadn't, a time or two?--and he was known to be a bit abrasive, Molly had always found him kind. He bore this out by smiling broadly when they ran into one another outside the Tube station and realized they were headed to the same place. "I'm glad I won't have to show up alone," he confessed, offering her his arm up the slippery steps.
"Oh so am I," Molly agreed, tucking her small hand in the crook of his arm. "I'm--well, I'm always worried that I've been invited to be polite and that--"
"--they don't actually want me to show up," Philip finished with her. They shared a rueful smile and continued in silence.
After a minute, he cleared his throat, "Can't imagine anyone not being happy to see you, Molly."
She could feel herself turning pink, "Oh, erm." Brilliant, she thought, someone says something nice and you can't even say thank you? Philip didn't seem to mind though.
"I can understand Sherlock inviting you," he said, "but I'm surprised he asked me to come."
"I thought you were getting along alright?" she offered tentatively.
"Oh we are, but I never thought he'd want me at a holiday gathering."
"It's all a bit mysterious," Molly agreed.
They shared a look. "Hope no one's getting drugged today," they said in unison, and laughed nervously.
Crammed in the back of the cab with Rosie in her car seat between himself and Mrs Hudson, John couldn't interrogate Sherlock, who rode in the front with the driver. Not that it was likely to do much good, but he'd still like to know what was going on. Odd that Mr Harrison had asked Sherlock to throw this Thanksgiving dinner for his family, who apparently longed for a good old-fashioned American celebration. Stranger still that Sherlock agreed. Oddest thing of all was the cast he'd invited, and the fact that he'd politely bullied Mycroft into hosting.
John had long ago given up trying to figure out the finer mysteries of Sherlock's thought processes. Deciding he was just glad to get out of the flat, he'd put on his best jumper, wrapped Rosie in enough layers to render her two sizes larger and put his food offering in a cooler. The odd conglomeration of people seemed to be rubbing along alright when they arrived, even Anderson and Donovan, who had reason to be at odds. The guests of honour hadn't arrived yet, which was a relief, since the denizens of Baker Street were late. Bit strange though, for them to be so late to their own party. John greeted everyone and gladly relinquished the wriggling armful of his daughter to Molly and Anderson. Anderson appeared to be quite a hit with Rosie, which John found surprising, but he wasn't going to quibble. He took the cooler in to the kitchen, stopping when he realized that Donovan had Anthea 'trapped' between her arms, back against the kitchen bench. Anthea didn't look at all as if she minded. John was actually a bit poleaxed at the soft expression on her face.
Until she caught sight of him and sent him a murderous glare.
Donovan glanced back over her shoulder and lifted a cool brow, "Somefing we can help you with, Doctor?" Gesturing with the cooler, John mumbled his apologies, stuffed the container in the capacious fridge, and melted back out of the room. He'd never been so grateful to escape.
Anthea watched John Watson make his escape and smirked, "Nicely done, Sargeant."
Sally Donovan turned back to her, smiling slowly, "Considering where my hand is, think you could call me Sally?"
Anthea pressed her kiss-bitten lips together and smiled with intent. "I'll consider it..."
Martha Hudson hummed as she mixed another deadly cocktail. Gatherings were her element, particularly if alcohol were involved, and she was happy to keep the social lubricant flowing. At first it had been a bit grim when they arrived, what with the motley crew of misfits trying to rub along. But once she'd obtained Mycroft's permission to open the liquor cabinet, the party had quite taken off.
Rosie was crawling around the rug from toy to toy, occasionally pulling herself up to stand using the legs of the nearest adult. Her chubby cheeks were rosy with kisses. Molly and that bearded young man Sherlock had always been so acrid with were having a fine time playing with Rosie--and chatting up a storm in the corner when the little girl left them alone. They'd neither of them had a drop to drink, and yet their eyes were bright, their faces flushed, and the way they were looking at one another was most promising.
Martha smiled happily, she did love a good romance. Like Mycroft's normally frosty PA and Greg's stiff-necked Sargeant. Look at the two of them, claiming to have the "cooking" under control, and shooing everyone else out of the kitchen. When it was obvious to anyone with two eyes that more than one bird was getting stuffed today. Giggling to herself, Martha topped up her own drink and looked about with satisfaction. As far as she was concerned, the Americans needn't arrive at all. She'd been to more than one Thanksgiving during her time in the States, and not a one of them had been as nice as this. Lots of bitterness, politics and too many processed foods.
Maybe they should take Thanksgiving away from the Yanks if they were going to mismanage it. "Rule Brittannia," Martha hiccoughed, and sucked on a gin-soaked olive.
"I think Mrs Hudson's drunk," Mycroft said lowly. He leaned a bit into Greg's comfortable shoulder, admiring the man's lovely soft jumper. "You should always wear blue. You're divine in blue."
"I don't think Martha's the only one who's a bit tipsy," Greg laughed, putting a hand over the one Mycroft had appeared to have splayed over the man's admittedly delicious chest.
"Oh dear, I'm so sorry," Mycroft said, knowing he was probably embarrassed but scarcely able to feel it for all the alcohol in his system. He blinked, "You may be right. I'm so very sorry."
Greg's voice dropped huskily and he tightened his hand over Mycroft's, "Didn't say I minded, Mycroft."
Gazing into Greg's impossibly warm brown eyes, Mycroft felt himself melt. "I..."
Greg smiled, sweet, slow and dazzling, "Yeah, sweetheart, I know what you mean. I feel the same."
"You can't possibly be feeling what I am," Mycroft protested muzzily.
"No?" Greg smoothed the pads of his fingers slowly over the back of Mycroft's hand, then turned it so it was palm up and brought the hand slowly to his mouth. He kept his eyes on Mycroft's the whole time. "You don't feel like you've finally found what you were looking for without ever knowing what it was?"
Greg let warm breath fan Mycroft's palm. "Like the thing that's been missing all your life just fell in your hands, and you're the luckiest goddamned man in the world?"
World tilting dangerously, Mycroft stared at Greg open-mouthed, wondering what on earth had been in that apple pie moonshine nonsense Mrs Hudson had served. Surely this was a fever dream?
"Tell me if I'm wrong," Greg begged quietly. For all the gentle flirtatiousness of the tone he'd been using, he seemed serious now. His eyes held Mycroft's, "Seriously, Mycroft...if I'm getting this all wrong...if you're not into me...tell me now, please." He swallowed visibly, steeling himself, "I can take the disappointment. Only don't lead me on."
Without stopping to second guess himself, Mycroft turned his hand in Greg's, winding their fingers together. With his other hand he cupped Greg's jaw, "I'm terrified I'm going to wake and find this was all the result of too much to drink on your part...but I've been longing for you for years, Greg."
Greg's relief was palpable, his smile glorious, "Oh thank Christ." They fell into the kiss, clinging to one another, hardly aware of anyone else.
"Get a room!" someone--perhaps John--called jokingly, and there was raucous, but good-natured laughter. Mycroft felt Greg's lips curve against his, and he smiled back, helpless to do otherwise. His heart was racing, hands trembling, and all that kept him tethered to the sofa was Greg's hold on his hands.
"I...think perhaps we should take up this discussion at a later time. One when an American official and his family aren't expected imminently."
Greg glanced at his watch, "Er, it's been hours, Mycroft...I don't think they're coming."
Focusing on Greg's wristwatch, Mycroft felt a little clarity--and sobriety returning. Glancing up, he took in the room; fire roaring, people drinking, nibbling on the tidbits Anthea and Donovan had set out in between make-out sessions. As his gaze caught Sherlock's, Mycroft stilled. Sherlock, looking quite sober, lifted a glass of sparkling water, and smiled. It was a genuine smile, a little awkward, but whole-hearted and sincere. You're welcome, he mouthed, and looked away. Mycroft sat, open-mouthed, shocked.
As if he felt his brother's regard still on him, Sherlock glanced back. I'm sorry, he telegraphed with his eyes and Mycroft read it all in a glance. The last eight months, the lonely pain of being cut off from his parents, the frosty suspicion with which he was regarded at work. Yet here he was, happier than he'd been in decades, surrounded by a small, intimate group of, yes, friends. His empty, lonely house was filled with laughter and chatter, and the ghosts of regret which had haunted him over the last year were banished.
Squeezing Greg's hand, Mycroft gave him an uncertain smile, "Would you mind terribly if we put this on hold? I-I need to speak with my brother."
Greg squeezed back, "Go on...I'll be right here."
John was arguing happily and animatedly with Donovan that cranberry salsa counted as American, and didn't notice when Sherlock murmured an excuse and slipped out of the room. Mycroft found him in the hall, studying the oil portrait of their great-grandfather, which had hung there for decades. "Sherlock..."
Pretending he was composed, Sherlock gave Mycroft a casual look, "Hmm?"
"The Harrisons were never coming, were they?"
Sherlock scoffed, "Why else would we all be here?"
Instead of answering him, Mycroft stood next to him and studied the portrait as well. After a minute, he spoke. "Do you recall when you were about twelve and I came home from my first semester at Oxford?" Sherlock shrugged. "It was the first time in five years you hugged me."
Swallowing, Sherlock glimpsed the memory for a moment.
"I was so grateful...I felt as if you'd actually missed me." Mycroft went silent, then admitted, "As if you'd forgiven me for things you no longer remembered. As if you...loved me." Sherlock opened his mouth, his voice rasped uselessly when he tried to speak, and he coughed. Mycroft continued, "I've always wished things could be different for us, more the way they were when we were young. Somehow I couldn't ever manage it, except in glimpses here and there."
Mycroft put a tentative arm around Sherlock, both of them staring at great-grandfather. "I saw it tonight. That you--that you still love me." His arm tightened, "as much as I love you."
The impulse, the habit, to say something scathing was a near physical need. Sherlock forced it down. Finally he spoke, "Of course I do, Myc. You're my brother."
Mycroft's hand tightened, then he cleared his throat and stepped away, smoothing his jumper, "God, emotions are horrible. How do normal people deal with them all the time?"
"Let's only do this once a decade?" Sherlock suggested flippantly, blinking damp eyes.
"Once was enough, don't you think?" Mycroft drawled. He turned back to Sherlock. "Seriously though, little brother...you've gone to some trouble to see that the people you care about are here, that they're happy...making amends."
Sherlock permitted himself one admission, "I...spent enough time alone, for two years, missing everyone. Regretting all the things I'd never said or done. This daft American holiday is all about thankfulness. Thought I'd try expressing some."
Mycroft gave a soft smile, one Sherlock was unaccustomed to seeing on his brother's face, but which looked surprisingly at home there. "You've arranged happiness for everyone else...what about you?" They stared at one another as John's familiar laughter rang from the other room.
Breathing through the ever-present pain, Sherlock aimed for flippancy, "Think that ship has sailed, Myc. If it ever left port to begin with."
"Perhaps," Mycroft said over his shoulder, "it was simply waiting for the fog to clear."
Sherlock stood for a long time in the shadowed hall, staring toward the welcoming lights of the lounge. The desire to believe Mycroft, to go back into the room and attach himself to John's side nearly overwhelmed him. He was still rooted in indecision when he heard John's step. "Sherlock? What're you doing alone in the dark?" John had been drinking and he sounded happy and relaxed, but under that was a thread of worry.
Sherlock was suddenly tired of being the reason for John's worry. He swallowed hard and turned toward his best friend. "John--"
John had eased off on his drinking over the last year. Tonight he'd had just enough to render him merry, but not so much that he was even close to drunk. Therefore he was sober enough to see Sherlock was struggling in the grip of his emotions. "Sherlock..." he stepped closer. "Everything alright?" Sherlock nodded dumbly, then shook his head. The way he was staring at John was a little alarming. It was rare to see the other man at a loss for words. "What's wrong?" John put a comforting hand on his back, "Too many people?"
"No," Sherlock rasped. "It's...I was talking to Mycroft--"
John bit back a sigh, "Oh god, what's he done now?"
Sherlock smiled a little, "Nothing, actually. Just. He said."
John felt his alarm grow. Sherlock was talking in fragments. He looked...lost. "Sherlock, seriously, what's wrong? Can I help?" John's heart sped up when Sherlock looked at him. For some reason his mind flashed back all those years before. To the night they'd run together through the streets of London, virtual strangers, falling through the front door of Baker Street, laughing.
Oh god. God, John was looking at him with that do-or-die look he got. It made Sherlock weak in the knees. Made his head spin foolishly. Made him want-- Made him want impossible things. John put an urgent, gentle hand on his arm. "Sherlock. Please. Tell me what you need."
Sherlock looked into the clear, steady eyes of his best friend and let go of the last of his fear. They'd been through so much, the two of them. Overcome the impossible. Survived the worst. Turning to fully face John, Sherlock put light hands on his waist. Registered the flash of confusion--and desire--in John's eyes. Breathing out, Sherlock licked his lips, watched John's eyes track the movement, grow dark. "You, John. I need you. It's all I've ever needed."
Immediately following the flare of shock in John's eyes was a heartening glow of happiness. Before Sherlock could register the look, John had breathed, "Oh thank Christ, finally," and surged forward into his arms.
It wasn't Sherlock's first kiss. But it was the first welcome one. The only one he'd ever wanted. From the only person he'd ever wanted. Shaking arms wrapped tight around John, Sherlock kissed him back with all the emotion he'd stuffed deep in his soul over the last ten years.
Dimly he registered the sound of high heels clacking from the kitchen, then a shocked gasp, a low female laugh, and Donovan and Anthea disappeared back into the kitchen. Dismissing them from his mind, Sherlock held tight to John Watson.
Philip wasn't a complete fool. He knew that in some form or fashion this entire night had been a set-up. Sherlock Holmes wasn't above making a fool of anyone around him, if it served his purposes. Mrs Hudson and Rosie had fallen asleep in one of the guest rooms upstairs. Greg and Mycroft were cuddled close on the sofa in front of the fire, talking softly and looking into one another's eyes in a way that was as sappy and disgusting as it was kinda cute. Sherlock and John, standing near the window, had their heads together. Sherlock stood with one large hand on John's back, John turned toward him, smiling up into Sherlock's face. He looked so happy, so intensely in love, that Philip had to look away.
Catching sight of Sally in the hallway, slow dancing without music, her arms around Mycroft's assistant, Philip examined his feelings. He found them clear. Sally, who had meant something to him at one time, was now just a semi-painful memory. He wished her well, but he didn't wish her back in his life. "Seems like everyone here has paired up," he said absently. He couldn't help but feel a bit annoyed. Sherlock hadn't invited him here to make fun of him in some way, or to show him up, it seemed.
He guessed he was just to make even numbers. Philip scowled at the rug, annoyed that he was surprised to find that once again he was unwanted.
"Yeah." Molly's subdued tone pulled his head smartly out of his arse.
Looking at her gentle face, tinged with the same loneliness and moodiness that he was experiencing, Philip felt gallantry waken in him. "Y'know...we never did eat. Wanna go steal the food and have a moonlight picnic?"
Molly looked startled--but on the heels of that came pleasure. Her cute dimples popped up, and Philip felt his heart stutter. How had he never noticed how pretty she was? "That wouldn't be very nice?" But it was a question, not an objection.
He gave her what he hoped was a roguish smile. "Maybe, but we can redeem ourselves by listing all the things we're grateful for." Like you, he thought a bit dopily, aware of his heart pattering along happily when she took his hand.
"Where will we have this moonlight picnic?"
"When I was in the kitchen I noticed a gazebo in the back garden," Philip assured her, tucking her hand in his arm. It was even nicer now without gloves and coats in the way.
"I saw a wine cellar," Molly offered shyly, eyes sparkling with mischief. "We should steal a bottle of champagne while we're at it."
"Molly Hooper," Philip breathed, grinning at her, "I'm shocked. Deeply shocked at your larcenous nature."
"There's a lot you don't know about me, Philip," she said pertly. He could see the smile curving her kissable lips.
"I look forward to finding out..." As they walked out of the room, he glanced around, wondering if their absence wold be noticed. Sherlock caught his eye and smiled smugly, tipping his glass at him. You're welcome, he mouthed, don't fuck it up. Philip nearly stumbled in shock. Sherlock had...planned all this? Even him and Molly?
And to think, he'd thought this invitation was just an empty gesture.