Only fifteen minutes ago, Greg hadn’t known the identity of his mysterious observer.
Now he was kissing him in the back of a limo.
It wasn’t as if Mycroft was a complete stranger—after all, they’d been spying on each other for days, and Mycroft was Sherlock’s brother. They were practically old friends—well, not really—but it made Greg feel better about the fact that he was feeling him up in the back of a car. And having an amazing snog that made him feel like he was twenty again.
When his phone rang, he ignored it.
Then Mycroft’s phone rang.
Mycroft’s shoulders stiffened and he pulled away with an irritated sigh. Rolling his eyes, he answered the phone. “Nothing short of a punctured lung is reason enough to disturb me at the moment, Sherlock. Explain yourself and make it quick.”
Greg manoeuvred himself off of Mycroft’s lap and onto the cushy leather of the car seat. He couldn’t make out what Sherlock was saying, but Mycroft’s response was clear enough.
“I’m sure you do, but my personal life is none of your concern, brother dear. Goodbye.” He ended the call and set his phone to silent. “I’m so sorry, Gregory. It would seem he’s a little insecure about this—” he grasped for a word, “—development.”
Greg laughed. “Yeah, I’ll bet he is. It worked though, didn’t it? Killing the mood with a phone call?” No one ever called him Gregory but he wasn’t about to mention it. Honestly didn’t care.
Mycroft smiled ruefully. “It did rather put a damper on things.”
“All the more reason to ignore the interruption,” Greg said as he leaned over to kiss Mycroft again—and, while it started out a little less passionately, it didn’t stay that way for very long. When they broke apart—this time of their own volition—both of them looked like they’d been snogging in the back seat of a car like a couple of teenagers.
“That was—” Mycroft said, trailing off into a chuckle.
“Yeah.” Greg beamed. “Haven’t had that sort of fun in years. Thanks.”
“Am I forgiven for spying on you?”
Greg paused for a moment in mock contemplation. “Yeah. I think you are.”
“Does that mean you’ll take me up on that date?”
“Will you wear your running tights?”
Greg squinted at him suspiciously.
“I was joking,” Mycroft added quickly.
“That’s too bad—I was about to agree.”
Mycroft grinned. “I have to work late for the next few nights, but we could meet for coffee. Early, I mean—instead of your run. If you don’t mind, that is.”
“No—no, that’d be great. Um, tomorrow?” Greg said, immediately kicking himself for sounding too eager.
“There’s a Starbucks near my flat, next to the Holland Park tube station. I’m not sure what else is open that time of morning. Would that work?”
“That sounds lovely.”
“We’re not very good at this, are we? You know, the nonchalant flirting bit.”
“Not really,” Mycroft said, smiling. “But I’m all right with that if you are.”
The car pulled up outside his office, and Greg, for once, wished the traffic had been worse. “I know I’m not supposed to sound too eager, but this is brilliant,” he said with a huge grin.
“It is,” Mycroft said, looking equally giddy.
He picked up his briefcase, unsure if a kiss was appropriate. Mycroft solved the dilemma for him by leaning over and giving him a quick, chaste peck on the lips. “Tomorrow then?” Greg asked, beaming.
“Looking forward to it. Half past six?”
“Oh, right.” In his excitement, he’d forgotten to set a time. Probably thinks I’m an idiot. “Yeah, that sounds great. See you then,” he said, and gave Mycroft a smile he hoped came across as ‘very enthusiastic’ but not ‘creepy’.
Back in the office, he tried to concentrate on the paperwork from the sword-swallowing case—the one Sally had given the unfortunate nickname of “Deep Throat”. The name had spread around the office like wildfire, as had the news that Greg had left the crime scene with Sherlock’s brother in a black limo. He told everyone that Mycroft was collaborating on the case, which was technically true. The statement had been met with barely-repressed smirks and muttered replies of, ‘Yeah, right.’
His head was too far in the clouds for him to care. The initial irritation he’d felt at Mycroft’s surveillance had evaporated as they’d talked. And kissed. And dear God—he didn’t remember the last time he’d got an erection from being around someone. To say he was distracted was an understatement.
Sally walked into his office around lunchtime. “You get a date, then?”
Greg stared intently at his paperwork. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He hoped he wasn’t blushing—it felt like he was.
“Oh, come on, it’s not like I’ll say anything. I can’t believe there are two of them, though. Jesus. Is he as psychotic as Sherlock?”
He felt a surge of annoyance and gave her a withering look. “You expect answers with a comment like that? I’ve got work to do.”
“Ooh, defensive,” she replied playfully. “Guess you got a date.”
“Piss off, and close the door on your way out.”
Eighteen hours until his date, and suddenly he was nervous as hell. What had he been thinking, suggesting a Starbucks?
The coffee shop was a few minutes’ walk from Greg’s flat. Needlessly hurrying through the early morning darkness, he wondered how Mycroft would get there. He didn’t expect him to take the tube, more likely his limo or a taxi. Perhaps a private helicopter or something—if the local roads had been shut down, it wouldn’t have surprised him.
He arrived far too early, waited outside for ten minutes, and then paced inside for another ten until the barista told him to “Sit down for Christ’s sake.” As soon as he saw Mycroft at the door, he leapt out of the chair and went to meet him. He glanced at the clock on the wall—precisely on time, down to the minute. Somehow he wasn’t surprised.
Despite his earlier speculation, Mycroft’s arrival was astonishingly low-key. He’d walked. In the dark. It wasn’t a short walk either—about two miles, if he remembered correctly.
The exertion in the cold, wet morning air lent Mycroft a rosy glow. He smiled warmly at Greg as he unwrapped his (probably obscenely expensive) scarf and shed his leather gloves. He had his umbrella too, even though there was no rain in the forecast. Strange, that; he’d had it at the crime scene as well.
“Good morning, Gregory.”
Oh no. Should I say something? He’s going to find out sometime, and then it’ll be even worse. “Greg, actually—no one calls me Gregory, not even my mum.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” He looked mortified, as if he should have known.
“No worries. I was never much of a ‘Gregory’. It’s the sort of name that got you a bloody nose at school.”
Mycroft gave him a wry grin. “I’m intimately familiar with that problem.”
Greg chuckled before he caught himself. “Oh, sorry; I know that’s not funny.”
“That’s quite all right. My parents had rather eccentric tastes when it came to names.”
“You never shortened yours, though.”
“I don’t think I could have functioned in the world as a ‘Mike’.”
Greg scanned his elegant overcoat. No doubt an equally elegant suit lay beneath it. “No, I agree. ‘Mycroft’ is definitely more you.”
Mycroft raised his eyebrows a fraction of an inch, and Greg wanted to kick himself for saying something that could have been taken as an insult. “In a good way,” he added hastily. “Um, get some coffee shall we?” he said, wanting to change the subject before he stuck his foot in his mouth even more dramatically.
“I’d love to,” Mycroft replied, giving Greg the same lovely smile he’d seen in the car the previous day.
Mycroft was a study in serenity and grace, but Greg was a tangled bundle of nerves. He’d never noticed the din of conversations and espresso machines before. He’d never tried to have a conversation with anyone while the milk steamer hissed in the background and the baristas barked coffee orders at each other. He ordered his usual (’venti filter, room for milk’) while Mycroft scoured the menu on the wall behind the counter.
While Mycroft wasn’t looking, Jill—his regular barista—gave him a knowing smile. He opened his eyes wider and gave her the universal look of ‘For God’s sake, not now.’”
“And what can I get for you?” she asked Mycroft.
“What sort of tea do you have?”
“Black, green, herbal—”
“No, I mean what varietal is your black tea?”
Greg cringed. We definitely shouldn’t have come here.
“Oh, um… English Breakfast, I think,” Jill said.
“That sounds fine, thank you.”
“We have Tall, Grande, or Venti.”
Mycroft blinked and looked at her with something approaching horror.
“I’ll have a Tall,” he said.
“—with room for milk,” Greg added. “Take-away.” The din was unbearable, and although Mycroft seemed unruffled, Greg wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.
“Aren’t we staying?”
“We can if you want to, but I thought it might be a bit loud.”
“No, it’s not exactly conducive to conversation, is it?”
“Not exactly. Sorry—I only ever come here by myself and I never thought about it.” They got their drinks and went to the small counter to add milk and sugar.
“How did you know I took milk?”
“I saw it on the tea tray through your window one morning. It’s my job to take in details.”
“Mm,” Mycroft said, looking pleased. “Anything else you figured out?”
“You’re compulsively on time, your dressing gown probably cost more than my entire wardrobe, and that tea will be the most disgusting thing you’ve ever tasted.”
Mycroft eyed his paper cup suspiciously. “I can’t speak for the last item yet, but I suspect you’re right on all counts—not that it reflects on you, of course.”
“Thanks,” Greg said, meaning it. “This was an awful idea. Sorry.”
“Not at all. I’m thrilled you invited me.” He started to put the plastic lid on his cup, but it was a tight fit and clearly something with which he had no experience. He was about to force it—and no doubt get tea everywhere—when Greg stepped in.
“Here, let me—those things are evil. The number of times I’ve covered myself in coffee trying to put one on…”
Mycroft smiled gratefully. “Thank you.”
Greg felt almost chivalrous, averting a potential beverage disaster like that. As if the rest of this date hadn’t been a disaster already. Was it a date? He wasn’t sure. Didn’t it have to last longer than ten minutes to count as a date? The noise, the people—what had he been thinking, choosing a Starbucks? Mycroft had probably never even set foot in one before. Probably never would again.
They walked back out into the damp morning chill—still dark, save for the streetlights.
“Would you mind?” Mycroft said, holding out his umbrella and cup for Greg to hold.
Mycroft put his scarf and gloves back on, making the mundane procedure look somehow elegant. Greg couldn’t stop looking at Mycroft’s hands—in those soft leather gloves, his long fingers looked practically obscene. He didn’t even know he had a thing for hands. When Mycroft took his umbrella and tea back, Greg felt like he’d been caught staring at something particularly naughty. He did up his own coat, trying not to focus on how stunning Mycroft looked. If only they’d gone somewhere where they could actually have a conversation…
“Well then. Um. Thanks for coming,” Greg said, not sure of what else to say. “Perhaps we can do something a bit less awful next time.”
“Forgive me if I’m wrong, Gregory—”
“—I’m so sorry. Greg. It’s been a while since I went on a date, but I get the impression that you think it’s over.”
“Um, the date?” Greg said, hoping he wasn’t referring to all future interactions.
“Well, there’s not much to do this time of morning,” Greg said as he glanced down the nearly-empty road, filled with dark shop fronts.
“I have some time before I’m expected at work. We could always—” Mycroft paused, looking a little nervous, “—walk to my flat. I’d enjoy the chance to talk. My driver could drop you off at work when he takes me in; I believe your office is near mine.”
Mycroft was giving him a second chance, but Greg’s joy was quickly replaced by disappointment. “I don’t have my briefcase with me—it’s at my flat.” His messy, low-rent flat with last night’s dishes still piled in the sink. The thought of letting Mycroft see it made him cringe.
“Don’t worry. I’ll stay here while you get it.”
“Sorry, it’s just…”
“—you weren’t expecting visitors. I understand completely,” he said, smiling warmly.
“Um, you really don’t mind waiting? I’ll only be five minutes.”
“Of course not, I’d be happy to.”
“Thanks.” He hurried off towards his flat, grateful he didn’t have to expose Mycroft to the horrors of yesterday’s dishes and his freezer that made the unaccountable ‘whooshing’ noises.
Mycroft stood outside the coffee shop and waited for Greg, nursing the second worst cup of tea in existence. He’d been wrong when he’d agreed with Greg about how bad it would be—Sherlock’s tea was worse by far. At least this paper cup was free from unknown chemicals, which perhaps explained why Sherlock’s was always so horrible.
He mentally ticked off the things he’d done wrong: the mortifying mistake with Greg’s name, the awkwardness with the barista, the near-disaster with the lid, and the inappropriately-mentioned deduction about the state of his flat. It was a small miracle Greg was still speaking to him, let alone agreeing to walk back with him. He should have suggested a taxi; it had taken ages to walk over here.
He blew on his tea through the little hole in the plastic lid and wondered how normal people did this ‘informal social interaction’ thing. It was much easier when diplomatic protocol was involved. He wasn’t used to being incompetent at anything.
Precisely four minutes later, Greg returned with his briefcase. Mycroft had mentally calculated his return time based on the location of his flat—it should have taken at least five. Not that he’d looked up the location of his flat or anything…
“You didn’t have to hurry.”
“I didn’t want you to get cold,” Greg said.
Mycroft felt his cheeks flush and hoped he’d chalk it up to the early morning chill. “Thank you,” he said, looking intently at his cup as if it held the secret to world peace. “My flat’s this way.”
“Oh, of course you do. Sorry.” He felt completely out of his depth in this conversation. Stating obvious facts: another thing to add to his list of mistakes. He gave Greg a pained smile—a small glimpse at the crack in his social armour—and decided he should broach the subject head-on. “I’m not very good at this. I don’t get out a lot.”
Greg gave him a soft smile. “It’s all right. This isn’t some sort of a test—I’m not keeping score or anything. C’mon, let’s get going.”
“So, um,” Greg said, desperate to break the silence, “did Sherlock phone you back?” On second thought, probably not the best choice of subject.
Mycroft laughed and seemed to lose some of his tension. “He really can be annoying, can’t he? He told me to stop interfering with his life.”
“His life?” Greg said, stunned. “How is any of this about him?”
“He’s afraid I might try and dissuade you from giving him cases.”
“I honestly have no idea, but I assured him I wouldn’t interfere with his life any more than I do already.”
“Which is ‘quite a bit’ then, huh?” he said with a chuckle.
Mycroft smiled. “I try and keep it to a minimum, but I fear for his safety.”
Worried about where the topic would lead them, Greg tried to steer the conversation elsewhere. “So how long have you had the house in Kensington?”
“About ten years now. I used to have a little place up near Hampstead Heath, but when I started spending so much time at work, I needed somewhere closer.”
Greg barely managed not to choke on his coffee. He couldn’t even imagine how much a ‘little place’ up there would run. Sally had been right about the whole ‘posh’ thing—between that and the Kensington flat, he had to be Old Money. “Oh, that sounds nice,” he said, trying to be nonchalant about it.
He shrugged. “It belonged to my parents. How long have you been living here?”
“A couple years. I moved when I got the DI job. Much nicer than the dump I had in Brixton,” he said, wincing.
Mycroft arched his brows. “I can imagine. Well, I’m certainly glad you moved—I’m sure a running route from Brixton wouldn’t have taken you past my window in the mornings.”
“How long have you been running?”
“Most of my life, on and off. I took it up again when I hit middle age; can’t just sit behind a desk all day.”
“Really? It seems like you’re out in the field a lot.”
“Well, there’s a lot more paperwork with the DI job. Sort of a pain really, but it pays well. The running keeps the stress level down, although I’m sure you know all about stress, being an ex-spy and all.” He raised one eyebrow provocatively.
Mycroft shrugged. “The stress level was about the same as it is now, but the field work kept me in better shape.”
“Why’d you stop?”
“There was an ‘incident’ a few years back, and it rather put me off the whole thing. The administrative work is much more my speed these days unfortunately.”
Greg had images of Mycroft running around like James Bond, luring unsuspecting agents into his bed. It was distracting. “What do you do about the stress?” he said, grasping for the thread of conversation as he willed his mind back to the present.
“Nothing. Let it eat away at me, I suppose,” he said wistfully.
“Well, that’s completely depressing,” Greg said before he could stop himself. “Oh, God. Sorry. I shouldn’t—”
Mycroft interrupted him. “No, that’s quite all right. It’s true—I need to start doing something about it before it kills me.”
Greg wondered if this date could get any more awkward. Perhaps he should bring up religion and politics as well. “I meant what I said yesterday. I’ll teach you how to run.”
“Oh, I’m really in no shape these days. It’d be a disaster.”
“Do you have bad knees?”
Mycroft shook his head.
“Then you’ll be fine—anyone can do it if they start slow. It’s the ones who try and go nuts in the first week that have problems.” He gave Mycroft a quick glance up and down. “You’ve got a good build for it, too,” he said, with a bit of innuendo in his voice and a cheeky look.
It was hard to tell, but Mycroft might have blushed. Perhaps it was just the cold. Still, he knew exactly what he was doing, and he was going to salvage this date if it killed him.
Mycroft was quite sure Greg would never want to see him again—even in a professional capacity, let alone on another date—but when he made the comment about his ‘build’, it felt like the world glowed around the edges. Greg was flirting with him. He was sure of it.
Well, fairly sure.
No: he was going with ‘sure’.
It was time to stop being miserable, and alone, and terrified of emotional interaction. For whatever reason, Greg seemed interested in him and had offered to teach him how to run. That meant more dates. More time spent in the company of this lovely man.
He’d be an idiot if he didn’t take him up on it. And if there was one thing he wasn’t, it was an idiot.
“All right, but like I said, I’m in abysmal shape. It’ll take me a while.”
“I’ve got time,” Greg said, giving him a smile that should have been illegal.
Greg rubbed his hands together briskly, wishing he’d remembered his gloves. The fact that he’d made it this far without noticing his hands were cold was a testament to his interest in Mycroft.
“Oh, sorry. I should have realised—” Mycroft said when he noticed.
“Don’t apologise. Maybe I could warm them up with some tea?” he said hopefully. He could think of some other ways he’d like to warm them up—none of them suitable for discussion at the moment.
“I didn’t think you drank tea.”
“Not usually,” Greg said, “but you don’t drink coffee.”
“No, but Sherlock does. I have a coffeemaker that only sees use when he deigns to visit.” He smiled and reached for Greg’s coat. “Which isn’t very often, I’ll admit. The kitchen’s upstairs.”
Greg should have known the ‘coffeemaker’ wouldn’t be some tacky plastic thing. It was a full-on espresso machine—a smaller version of the one they had at Starbucks. He never even bought espresso because it cost twice as much as filter.
“Straight coffee or would you like a latte or something?”
“You know how to use this thing? I thought that required years of training.” He was only half-joking.
“It’d be silly to own it and not know how to use it, don’t you think? Besides, it gives me a fine fall-back career as a barista.”
“Yeah… you, as a barista. That’d be interesting.”
“Mm. I’d be fine as long as there weren’t any customers,” Mycroft said, cheerfully opening a cabinet to get the coffee beans.
“Okay, well I’ll have a latte if you don’t mind making it. I only get the filter because it’s what I’m used to at work.” It was sort of true.
The next five minutes were a blur as Mycroft orchestrated the creation of both the perfect latte and a pot of loose-leafed tea. He got out a china teacup for himself and paused. “Mug or cup?”
“A mug would be great, thanks.” Then, suddenly worried it would sound like he was criticising Mycroft’s choice of a teacup, he added, “So I can wrap my hands around it.” First date nerves, he told himself. And stop being an idiot—he doesn’t care what you drink it in.
Mycroft produced a tall, bone-china mug which somehow managed to be both sturdy-looking and elegant at the same time. He poured the espresso and steamed milk into it, leaving a delicate swirled pattern in the foam. He pushed a small, covered china bowl towards Greg—“I only have lumps, I’m afraid.”—before handing him the latte and a spoon.
Greg stared at him for a second, dumbfounded by his expertise, then took a sip. It was as if his mouth had reached some sort of coffee nirvana. “My God, this is incredible,” he said. “You have no idea.”
“I’m serious. I’ve never had coffee this good.”
“That’s reassuring. Sherlock’s reaction was far less favourable.”
“What’d he say?”
“I believe the word he used was ‘Meh.’”
Greg snorted. “You know how he is.”
“I do. If he’d said anything nice, I would have feared for his sanity.”
“It’s good to know you have a sense of humour about it.”
“I grew up with him; I didn’t have much choice,” Mycroft said with a shrug. “Would you like anything to eat?”
“No, I’m fine, thanks,” he said, holding up his mug. “You having anything?”
“No, I made some eggs earlier.”
“Jesus,” Greg said, “What time did you get up this morning? Between breakfast and that walk, it had to be at least half four.”
Mycroft smiled. “Normally I just read the newspaper, so it didn’t change anything.”
Greg felt a bit guilty—he’d slept in until half five. “Why’d you walk, though? It was freezing.”
Mycroft took a sudden, intense interest in his cup of tea and pressed his lips together. After a second he said, “I thought I could use the exercise. You know—on the off chance that this morning wasn’t a complete disaster and you were serious about the running thing.”
“Do you hate coffee, or do you just prefer tea?”
Mycroft looked up, seeming confused by the sudden change in topic. “Sorry?”
“Because I’d like to kiss you for that, but if you don’t like coffee it’d probably be a bit nasty.”
Mycroft’s face lit up. “I love coffee.”