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A Matter of Evidence

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Friday 19th June

 

Mycroft had never once felt at ease in this room. It wasn't necessarily the presence of Diane, whom he found uncharming but straightforward, a very tolerable combination of traits in a superior. Outside of her office, she was generally painless to deal with. 

But being in her space was just a step too far inside her mind. 

She'd arranged all her furniture against the furthest wall, cabinets and bookshelves and the coatstand all hunched in one long and miserable line, waiting their turn to shuffle forwards and be told off. Their heights didn't match. Their depths didn't match. They almost certainly stood in the order that they'd entered Diane's possession, and she'd simply added one item after another to the queue. It made Mycroft's teeth itch to behold. Unable to fasten it to the rest of her furniture string, she'd shunted her desk into a corner where it received no natural light, then crammed it with knick-knacks and reminders of home.

It was uniquely unsettling to sit here in judgement while her children and the family labrador all beamed at him from mismatched frames—but he had little choice in the matter.

He kept his face clean as Diane sifted through her papers, preparing herself. His heart drummed out a steady warning on his ribs.

"As you're aware, Mycroft," she began, "a number of alarming allegations have been made regarding your professional conduct. As the clinic's manager, I intend to look into this matter with the utmost seriousness."

Mycroft nodded, his hands folded calmly in his lap. "I'm pleased to hear it," he said. "I only hope for Mrs Lestrade's sake that we'll be able to resolve this issue sensitively."

Diane fixed him with her stare for a moment, her pond-grey eyes expressionless behind her rectangular glasses. She was a difficult woman to read, in the same way that rocks and bare walls can be difficult to read. Her world was founded on spreadsheets and procedures; it left very little for a therapist to go on.

"In advance of this meeting," she said, "you were supplied with a list of the specific allegations against you, and also a copy of the letter which raised them. You and I will now discuss these claims. I'll take the opportunity to seek further information from you, in order to develop my understanding of the situation. Anthea has agreed to take notes," she added, with a brief gesture at the young lady scribbling shorthand at lightning speed in the other corner. "She does so under an agreement of the strictest confidentiality. Are you happy to proceed?"

Mycroft ignored the quiet thud of his heart. "Entirely," he said.

"Very well." Diane took a breath—a rather deep one. A practice manager's worst nightmare, Mycroft thought. And I shall make it go away. "Mycroft," she began, staring into his eyes. "Is there any truth at all to these allegations?"

Mycroft held her gaze. "No, Diane," he murmured. "I can assure you they have no basis in fact."

Nothing changed in her face. "They're lurid allegations."

"They are," he agreed. "And it's a mark of the clinic's commitment to patient welfare that they're being addressed the same as any other. I don't resent this process. I'm happy to assist however I can in putting the matter to rest."

Diane regarded him motionlessly over her glasses, trying to work something out. "You are not engaged in a sexual affair with this patient?" she confirmed.

Anthea's pen skipped briefly in its scrawling, then slid onwards with admirable composure.

"Nor any other," Mycroft said, pristinely calm. "To complete your understanding, Gregory Lestrade is a former patient. I saw him for a small number of sessions towards the end of last year. Due to a change in his circumstances, he was transferred to Dr Sahasrabuddhe's care before Christmas and remained with her until May, I believe." Watching Anthea write, Mycroft added, "I've not had any kind of intimate relations with him. His wife is mistaken."

"She seems to believe they were both patients of yours," Diane said, checking her papers. "Her letter says you gave them marital counselling."

"I'm afraid that's not correct," Mycroft said. He reached for the slim folder he'd brought with him, flipping it open as he spoke. "And to warn you, Diane, that might become something of a theme during this discussion..."

He turned through the pages with care, resisting the natural instinct towards haste. Two decades of giving therapy had made Mycroft into a mechanic of the human mind, and this particular component was one of its most basic. Slow people were honest people. They spoke calmly and steadily, unafraid of short stretches of quiet. Only liars felt the need to hurry and dance and distract.

"The Lestrades approached the clinic as a couple," Mycroft went on, ignoring the twitches of his fingers to turn faster. "While they did have their induction session with me, I never conducted any of Mrs Lestrade's treatment." He slid a contract free from inside the folder, offering it over the desk. "This is Mrs Lestrade's contract," he said as Diane took it, "signed ahead of her course of therapy with Dr Sahasrabuddhe. A small error on Mrs Lestrade's part, but I realise you'll want to have absolutely all the facts at your disposal."

Diane glanced down at the contract, checking the two signatures with a flicker of her eyes. "But the husband was your patient?"

"He was." Mycroft produced another contract with another two signatures: Dr Mycroft Holmes and Mr Gregory Lestrade, side by side in his own Diamine Registrars blue-black. Expressionless, he passed it across the desk. "Mr Lestrade had some minor self-esteem issues, which he and I made excellent progress on. I understand from Dr Sahasrabuddhe—who is eager to speak with you on this matter—that her sessions with Mr Lestrade have focused more on his wife's recent infidelity."

Diane blinked, briefly taken aback. "Mrs Lestrade's infidelity?"

Mycroft closed his folder, resting his hands atop of it. "I can appreciate why she decided to leave it out of her letter."

Diane took a moment to arrange a few things in her mind, quite possibly in one single line. "Is this confirmed infidelity?" she checked.

"It is. I understand they're now divorcing over it." Mycroft glanced towards Anthea, watching her write. "This is obviously an emotionally fraught situation for the Lestrades. How it's handled will affect them both severely. Our discretion is critical."

Diane hummed. "We also need to consider how it will affect you, Mycroft."

"Will a false allegation affect me?" Mycroft said, allowing a slight frown to crease his forehead. "I do hope not."

"A sexual relationship between a therapist and a patient constitutes a violation of every ethical tenet of practice. Even the hinted possibility of one is gravely serious. These are staggering accusations."

"And they're untrue."

"She seems deeply convinced of what she's claiming."

"Give me five minutes," Mycroft said, raising an eyebrow, "and I'll provide you with the records of at least ten current patients who are deeply convinced they're being monitored by the British security services. Conviction does not evince truth."

Diane processed this in silence. "You're suggesting that this is a delusion of some kind on Mrs Lestrade's part, then."

"As I've never acted as her therapist," Mycroft said, "I'm reluctant to offer specific suggestions. Dr Sahasrabuddhe would be better placed to do that. What I can tell you with certainty is that I have never engaged in any manner of intimacy with Gregory Lestrade."

"So you refute these claims?"

"Utterly."

"But what on earth has given her this impression? Surely she hasn't conjured it out of nothing."

Mycroft kept his hands where they were in his lap, rejecting the sudden need to  fix his hair. 

"Candidly," he said, "I received the impression during the Lestrades' induction that Mrs Lestrade was entertaining certain assumptions about male sex therapists. She was very uncomfortable in my presence and disliked me speaking to her husband at all. It was creating a barrier between us which would prove unconducive to therapy, which is why I recommended her into Ananya's care."

The corner of Diane's mouth pulled. "It's still a jump to decide you're having sex with her husband."

"Not entirely. She holds me responsible for the separation. She's simply located it somewhere more comfortable in her mind."

"In what way?"

"I arrived on the scene very shortly before the earthquake struck," Mycroft said. "She's mistakenly perceived a causal link. I suspect it's... offensive to her very particular psyche that Mr Lestrade has chosen to separate from her. It's reassuring to believe that he's been taken by someone, rather than to accept he left of his own accord."

Diane frowned and looked down at her papers, visibly trying to believe it. The muscles around her mouth had bunched; she dearly wanted to say the words.

Reminding himself to speak evenly, Mycroft went on.

"To this," he said, "she's added a few common or garden assumptions about gay men, marinated her thoughts in a number of unfortunate mental health issues, and reached a wrong conclusion: that I'm sexually dangerous, that Mr Lestrade and I are in cahoots with one another to discredit her, and that the breakdown of her marriage is therefore not her fault. To Mrs Lestrade, this seems a valid possibility. To any reasonable mind, it clearly isn't. And given that she's already been escorted once from these premises by police, I believe we should discuss some new precautions for my security."

Alarmed, Diane glanced quickly towards Anthea, who was scribbling at a speed in danger of producing smoke. "Is this the woman who—?"

Anthea offered a mute nod, her eyes down, still writing.

Mycroft allowed his frown to return. "Didn't you make that connection yourself? I thought you'd have recognised Helen Lestrade's name at once. Anthea and I supplied full statements to you after the incident."

Pressing her tongue into her cheek, Diane sat up a little in her chair. She put down her papers and laid her hands upon then, fingers gated, her eyes on Mycroft. 

"This is your response then," she said. "The wife is suffering some level of delusion, the allegations are completely untrue, and you're prepared to explain this to your professional body if necessary."

Mycroft deepened his frown. "Has Mrs Lestrade been in touch with them? I hadn't received notice."

Diane inhaled, preparing herself. "Mycroft," she began. "These allegations are of such a serious nature that—"

Mycroft cut in at once. "The only other person who might contact them is you, Diane, referring it to their attention. And I'm certain you wouldn't have done so."

Diane said nothing, phrasing her response with care. "It's my duty to decide if that's necessary," she said at last. "Allegations regarding a sexual relationship with a patient are extremely serious, Mycroft. I need to ensure this is being addressed."

Mycroft took a moment to allow this comment to sink, forcing himself to remain calm. He could not panic; he could not make any display of fear. A referral to his professional body would prompt a level of scrutiny he'd much rather avoid.

Anger beckoned quietly from the shadows, offering him its help. 

"I'm afraid I disagree," he said, regarding Diane with sharp and rising displeasure. "I think your motive for referring this would be to ensure that you're seen addressing it. Didn't you apply for a role as a case manager with them last year?"

Her shoulders stiffened. "Mycroft, patient safety is—"

"A role you weren't awarded due to lack of experience. Has my response not satisfied you?"

"Mycroft—"

"If you have such a lack of faith in me," Mycroft said, raising his voice, "perhaps a referral would be best, Diane. I look forward to presenting the case manager with my immaculate career history, faultless professionalism and enough testimonies from my patients to sink a Spanish galleon. I'll then be approaching the clinic to recover my lawyer's costs."

Diane's eyes flashed with momentary panic. She sat up, readjusting her expression. "That won't be necessary."

"Won't it?" Mycroft returned, one eyebrow arched. "It's one thing for a confused and vulnerable woman to lash out in anger and make unfounded homophobic accusations. It's quite another to receive them directly from my employer."

"It's vital we establish the facts of this situation," Diane said hotly. "These are spectacular allegations, Mycroft. I have to be certain they're untrue before I can respond to them."

"That is fair," he said, sharp. "It seems I've made an error. I assumed the ludicrous nature of this allegation, viewed within the context of my faultless track record, would speak for itself. But for the record, I'll once again make myself plain."

He fixed Diane with the full force of his stare across her desk, speaking slowly and clearly for Anthea's notes.

"I deny," he said, "that I have engaged in sexual contact with any patient under my care. It is untrue. Whether the accusation is malicious, misguided or just mistaken, it it false."

Diane's cheek twitched, listening in silence as Anthea scribbled.

Mycroft settled back into his chair, drawing a breath to compose himself. "In her letter, Mrs Lestrade gives no indication of how she discovered I'm supposedly engaged in an affair with her husband. She gives no details of anything. There are no dates, Diane. No times, no incidents." 

He shook his head, his eyes narrow.

"It's because these are the fabrications of an ill and unhappy mind," he said. "It's irresponsible of you to imbue them with such weight. I wish you'd spoken to Dr Sahasrabuddhe, ascertained a little more about Mrs Lestrade's current state of mind, before approaching me. She could have told you all this. I'd have been spared this startling display of mistrust, which I'm afraid I'll struggle to forget."

As Diane opened her mouth to respond, there came a brisk and nervous knock on the door. The hinges squeaked.

"Sorry, Diane—"

"Could you kindly wait please, Bethany? This is a confidential discussion."

"I know, Diane. I'm sorry. But there's a gentleman at reception asking to speak with you or Dr Holmes. He says his name's Greg Lestrade and it's important."

Diane's eyes flashed across the desk.

Mycroft maintained his blank expression, unmoved. "I'll leave the room if you wish," he said. "Though he did ask to speak to us both."

Diane said nothing, visibly thinking. In the silence Mycroft's heart seemed to shift, still beating as quick and hard as it had when he'd first entered the office. Its nervous pleas weren't usually so ignored. This was awful.

As he watched Diane's expression, he caught the very moment when the chance to see for herself proved too much.

"Bring Mr Lestrade through please, Bethany," Diane said.

Bethany gave a quick nod and left, closing the door with a click. 

As they waited together in strained silence, Anthea quietly shook the cramp from her hand.

"Did you contact him?" Diane asked, eyeing Mycroft over her glasses.

Mycroft brushed a speck of nothing from his knee. "By text message last night."

"Why?"

"A courtesy to a former patient. He wasn't aware she'd planned to do this. I offered him my reassurances that the clinic would understand, though it seems I was premature in that."

The lump of Diane's tongue appeared within her cheek. "Do you have copies of these messages?"

After a lengthy pause, Mycroft reached inside his jacket. He retrieved his phone and unlocked it without looking, then tossed it onto her desk in utter silence.

Breathing in, Diane opted not to check. "Good," she muttered. "That's... fine. I'm relieved to hear it."

Mycroft kept his tone as level as he could. "I've given many years of my life to this clinic, Diane."

"Then you'll understand that I want to keep its patients safe."

"From what, precisely?"

"From unethical practitioners," Diane said, staring into his eyes. "Engaging in predatory behaviour. Taking advantage of vulnerable people. Abusing a position of trust for their own selfish gain. I can't stomach the thought of that happening beneath my roof."

Mycroft's heart clenched.

It isn't predatory, he almost said. I didn't take advantage. It was not for my own gain.

With a breath, he let it go. "Mud sticks," he told her instead, guarded. "Please throw only what you must."

She nodded stiffly, lowering her eyes. 

The door reopened, admitting Bethany and their visitor. Mr Lestrade seemed ill at ease to find himself admitted into a meeting, his dark eyes flashing with discomfort as they scanned the number of people present. 

Diane got up from her desk.

"Mr Lestrade," she said, brushing down her skirtsuit, and offered out a hand. Greg took hold of it, his jaw tight and his cheeks rather pale. "I'm Diane Jarratt. I'm the clinic manager."

"Hi," he muttered. "I'd have been happy to wait. I don't mean to..." He gestured uncomfortably.

"Not at all," Diane said. "As it happens, we were just in discussion. You're welcome to join us. Can we get you a tea or coffee?"

"Erm, no. I'm fine. Thanks." As Anthea brought over another chair, setting it down beside Mycroft's, Mr Lestrade gave her a nervous look of gratitude. "Thank you..."

He took a seat with reluctance, drew a breath, and awkwardly inclined his head towards Mycroft.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I just... I-I don't have a clue what's going through her head. I know I said last night. I just can't apologise enough."

Mycroft nodded quietly, keeping his eyes to himself. "It's quite alright, Mr Lestrade."

"I don't know what the hell she thinks she's doing. I'm so sorry."

"You've nothing to apologise for," Mycroft said, layering his voice with calm. He turned his head to meet the dark brown eyes reaching so anxiously for his own, and held them for a moment, offering reassurance. "This is a misunderstanding," he said. "I've every faith it will be corrected."

Mr Lestrade's face betrayed no comfort. He nodded awkwardly, then turned towards Diane.

"He's not getting grief for this, is he?" he said. "I'm really sorry. This has been my life for six months now, one thing then another. She's off the rails. She's only getting worse. I knew she'd do something to punish me for the injunction but... Jesus, I don't know why she's gunning for you guys."

"Injunction?" Diane queried.

Mr Lestrade shifted, glancing with unease towards Anthea. "Is this all..."

"It's completely confidential."

"You're... writing it down though, are you?"

"For our records," Diane said. "I promise you it won't leave this room."

Mr Lestrade looked down, shifting again in his chair. "Applied for it on Monday," he said. "Non-molestation order. She's been, erm... sitting outside my house, following me. Since Christmas. They'll have notified her by now. I don't know if this would even count as violating it. Suppose it's another way for her to humiliate me."

He took a shaking breath.

"I kinda need you to throw this out," he said. "I can't let this... sorry. But I lead a major crimes CID team. I need their respect. You can't start circulating some suggestion I had gay sex with my therapist. Please don't do that to me."

"We'll be handling this with the greatest discretion," Diane said, trying to add reassurance to her voice. It didn't suit her, coming across as mildly patronising. "The results from any investigation—"

"Investigation?" Mr Lestrade cut across her, alarmed. "What's to investigate?" He turned in desperation to Mycroft. "Are they taking this seriously?" he demanded, his gaze wide and begging. Mycroft's pulse sped in response. "What am I going to have to deal with now? Can't you just tell them it's not true?"

Mycroft sat up a little in his seat, unnerved. "I've done so," he said. "Believe me, I'm as keen as you are that this goes away."

"She's out of her head," Mr Lestrade protested. "It's that simple. She's just... this is mind games. That's all this is. It's always bloody mind games. This is my ex's bizarre new idea to punish me," he said, staring wildly at Diane. "She's got problems, and I really need you guys not to encourage her in this. Please. If she gets any sign that this is a way she can keep digging her claws into my life—"

Diane raised her voice, still trying to reassure him, just at greater volume. "Mr Lestrade, any investigation wouldn't be into your conduct."

"Listen," he said, shaking, "with respect: yes, it would. And you'll be giving her exactly what she wants."

"An affair with a patient would constitute an extreme breach of ethics for a therapist working in sex and relationships. It's something that the profession and this clinic absolutely could not tolerate. We have to take even the suggestion of it very seriously."

The last of the colour seemed to drain from Mr Lestrade's face. "An affair," he repeated. "That's... h-he's never laid a hand on me. Not once."

Mycroft kept his eyes forwards, trained with absolute calm on Diane.

"Are you actually taking it seriously?" Mr Lestrade said, his voice breaking. "Are you honestly... Jesus, I wasn't even with Dr Holmes most of the time I was here. I was with Ananya. Has Helen said I'm having an affair with her too? Is this really happening?"

Diane held her silence, looking increasingly uncomfortable.

"I'm already dealing with a divorce," Mr Lestrade went on, weak. "That's on top of work, mental health stuff of my own, and her stalking me. Please don't validate this for her. If you do, she'll latch onto it and she won't stop. She'll waste as much of your time as she can. She's..."

He put his head into his hands, raking them backwards through his hair.

"Jesus," he whispered. "I shouldn't've tried for an injunction. I should've just..."

Mycroft kept his eyes to the carpet, half-aware of Anthea pausing in her notes. She didn't know if all this should be recorded in full.

Write it down, Anthea, he thought. Don't leave a single word out.

Diana gave an unsettled cough, glancing back down at her papers. "I appreciate this is a delicate situation," she said. "Obviously we don't wish to cause you additional distress at a difficult time. We've... not had allegations of particular incidents from your wife, which—"

"My ex-wife," Mr Lestrade said quietly. "We're divorcing."

"—ah—yes, of course. Well, it means that an actual investigation would have a restricted scope. I intend to invite Helen to a meeting with me, to ask if she has any evidence to support her claims."

Mycroft intervened at once. "Given that we recently implemented security procedures to prevent Mrs Lestrade from entering the building, I protest in the strongest possible terms that you're now inviting her into it."

Diane gave him a weary look, her gaze flickering behind her glasses. "Thank you, Mycroft. A phone call, then. But I'll discuss this issue with Dr Sahasrabuddhe first."

"What about when you've spoken to Helen?" Mr Lestrade asked. "What'll happen then?"

"Well... if she provides evidence to support her claims," Diane said, "I'll have to look into those. If no evidence is offered, we can safely conclude that this was an unsubstantiated allegation. No further action would be taken."

Mr Lestrade seemed to have stopped breathing. He wet his lips with a flash of his tongue, shifting in his chair.

"She's ill," he said, pleading. "She's spent six months stalking me. She's doing this to humiliate me. If you help her to get round the non-molestation order by launching a whole investigation—"

"She won't be given any contact with you," Diane interrupted bluntly.

Mycroft looked away with a lift of one eyebrow, uncomfortably surprised. 

Diane swiftly modulated her tone. "Mr Lestrade," she said, flushing, "I... appreciate your concerns. I'll ensure that at no point in the proceedings will Helen have physical access to you."

Mr Lestrade's throat muscles worked.

"You'll give her mental access though," he said. "Won't you?" He tapped between his eyes. "As much of it as she wants. I should be at work right now. Instead I'm here, dealing with this."

Diane's expression folded.

Before another word could be said, Mycroft leant forwards in his chair. "I believe," he said, "that Dr Sahasrabuddhe is the next step in completing your understanding of this situation, Diane. I'd like to conclude this discussion so I can speak to my lawyer."

Diane stiffened up. "That's unnecessary, Mycroft."

"Is it?" he asked, getting to his feet. "If you're deadset on pursuing this to its fullest, I'd like to hear a legal expert's take on things." He placed a hand on the back of Greg's chair. "Perhaps you'd also like to meet my lawyer, Mr Lestrade. She'd certainly have some things to say to you."

"Mycroft," Diane said, sharply, as Greg got up too. "This is unprofessional."

Mycroft ignored her.

"Mr Lestrade," she tried, a note of panic entering her voice. "I give you my every assurance that the clinic will investigate this matter sensitively and with the utmost discretion."

Mr Lestrade let out an exhausted laugh. "This is your idea of sensitive, is it?" he said. "I came to apologise for the embarrassment she's trying to cause you. Turns out I'm going on trial. Holy shit. If this gets out..."

He turned away in despair, heading towards the door.

Mycroft addressed his final remarks across the desk, retrieving his mobile phone from where he'd tossed it. "Speak to Ananya," he advised. "She'll complete your understanding. Do not bring Helen Lestrade onto these premises. I look forward to your efforts to repair our professional relationship."

He turned, followed Mr Lestrade through the door, and closed it with a sharp snap behind him.

"Can I offer you a drink and somewhere to sit for five minutes, Mr Lestrade?" he said. "I'm extremely sorry. I believed you'd be given far more support than you received."

Greg drew a shaking breath.

"Actually, yeah," he said, not meeting Mycroft's eyes. "Just for a few minutes, that'd be... Jesus, I'm meant to be at work. I-I'm not sleeping well lately. This is the last thing I needed."

Mycroft gestured along the corridor, his heart beating hard. "Head through to my office," he offered, a bastion of professionalism. "Then perhaps you and I should discuss our legal options."

Mr Lestrade nodded, numb, and quietly led the way. 

Mycroft opened the door for him, standing back to let his guest go in first. "This can all be painlessly resolved," he promised. He followed Mr Lestrade inside, easing it shut. "I'm certain of it."

The latch clicked. The room sealed. Greg stepped close, pressed Mycroft up against the door, and claimed his mouth.

They kissed in absolute silence, shaking. Mycroft drove both his hands into Greg's hair and gripped; Greg's arms wrapped tight around Mycroft's waist beneath his jacket, dragging him close. Their hearts slammed together through their chests, calling, shouting, and they kissed until the panic began to fade enough to breathe. Though their lips came apart, the rest of them stayed close. Their foreheads pressed, their clothing rumpled and their faces flushed, eyes still shut.

Greg nuzzled his nose against Mycroft's as they panted, gently butting.

Mycroft swallowed. "I hate the lying," he whispered. "I loathe it, Greg. It seems so..."

Greg's fingers curled against Mycroft's lower back. 

"I don't like it either," he murmured. There came a pause, shared breath and fear. "We're not attacking anyone, love. Just fighting to be left alone."

Shivering, Mycroft tried to make his peace. It was true, even though the facts of this horrifying situation became harder and harder to hold onto with time. Helen Lestrade's manic grip on her husband began the very day Greg decided to walk away from her abuse. The chronology of it all stood in Mycroft's defence: nothing had happened while Greg was his patient; nothing happened before the formal proceedings for divorce were set in motion. All the same, these waters were murky.

The more Helen hounded them, the more of their ethics had to be jettisoned in a desperate effort to stay afloat, or else fashioned into projectiles, flung towards her to try and slow her advance.

"I wish it had stayed as our business," Mycroft murmured, filling his lungs with a breath. "I wish to god this wasn't happening. We're..."

"Adults," Greg said gently, looking into his eyes. "Grown adults. We made our choices. And for what it's worth, I'd still make all of them."

With a nuzzle, Mycroft requested another kiss from his lover's mouth. Greg pressed close to him again, holding him safe here against the door, and met his hopeful lips without a pause. One of his hands slid free from beneath Mycroft's jacket. It stroked down Mycroft's side, slowly, then reached across to the lock.

As Greg turned the key in the door, Mycroft released a nervous breath. Safe, he thought. If only for a while.

"I've missed you so much," Greg murmured against his mouth, kissing him again. The soft little strokes raised every hair on Mycroft's body. "I promise this'll all go away."

"Five days has seemed..."

"Five fucking years."

"Mm."

"We did the right thing in there, you know that?" Greg said softly. "Everything that's happened between us, I wanted. I ended things with Helen, then I started up with you. She's just leaning on your job so she can hurt you. If you weren't a therapist, love, this wouldn't be an issue."

Mycroft shuddered, closing his eyes. "Please don't remind me."

"Your boss'll contact her, hear she's got no evidence, then throw it out. And we'll cross the biggest worry off our list."

"I just hope Diane doesn't refer it any higher. Christ help me if she does."

"To your professional body?"

"Mm."

"Let her," Greg whispered. "I'll lie to them, too."

Helpless, Mycroft swallowed. "Is there anyone you're not prepared to lie to?"

"No," Greg said calmly, brushing his fingertips against Mycroft's cheek. "This whole thing is our business. Yours and mine, nobody else's in the world. I'm happy and you're happy and we've done nothing wrong." He nuzzled his nose against Mycroft's, his breath gentle against Mycroft's lips. "And I'll lie until everyone just leaves us alone."

Mycroft's chest ached, overwhelmed by the quiet sincerity of it. No one else had ever risen this strength of emotion in him; Greg made it seem so easy, so effortless. If some things were simply meant to be, this was one of them. Mycroft's choice in the matter had been forfeit along ago.

"Feels rather as if we're fighting a hydra," he said. "Doesn't it? Too many heads."

Greg huffed. "Just keep whacking them off," he said. "Concentrate on the nearest one." He cupped Mycroft's face in both hands, gazing into his eyes. "Once the injunction passes, she won't be able to come near me without being arrested. It means she can't collect any evidence and we'll be on our way out of the woods. Have you seen her near your place?"

Mycroft released a breath of relief. "No. Then, it's difficult for me to see much of the street, given how high I am in the building. For all I know, she could have been sitting out there every night. She hasn't found your new flat yet?"

"No sign of it. Lisa says she was sitting outside the house last night, so... guess she thinks I'm still there. Left my car as a decoy." Greg paused, gently kissing Mycroft's mouth. "We'll keep our eyes open," he said. "If she's following you, we'll get you an injunction as well. They're defensive traps. If she falls in, it's because she came to attack us." 

"Mm."

"I know she's been quick off the block, love. But we're quicker."

We also have far more to lose. Mycroft opted not to say it, sure he didn't need to. He closed his eyes instead, resting his forehead against Greg's, and wished they were somewhere more private. He didn't know if he wanted to sob on Greg's shoulder or kiss him. Either would helped.

Greg gave him a few moments to settle, holding him close. "The complaint didn't mention last weekend," he said. "Finding you in my hotel room."

"Thank god."

"Must've realised she can't use it without admitting to breaking and entering. She'll be worried we'll have her arrested for it. Means all she can do is make vague claims." Greg leant in, brushing his mouth over Mycroft's. "Means we're winning this," he whispered. "Early days, but... we're winning."

Mycroft's heart heaved. "I'm not sure I can dare to believe that. I don't think I'll believe it until it's over. And heaven only knows when that will be."

"When she's in a cell," Greg said. He kissed Mycroft softly. "Maybe sooner. If she violates the injunction, even without a prison sentence, the divorce'll speed up. That's unreasonable behaviour, no argument and no question. Cut those ties. Then... I don't know. Think about some bigger steps."

It would be a blessed day, Mycroft thought. "Did you speak to your solicitor?" 

"Yeah. Warned him she might produce some cock-and-bull story about me sleeping with our sex therapist. Told him I'll just settle on finances. I won't fight her for the money anymore. It's... it's a massive hit for me to take, but..."

The words left Mycroft's mouth before he could think. "You'll be alright." He cradled Greg's face in his hands, settling a kiss against his lips. "I have money. You'll be perfectly fine."

Greg's expression tightened. "Myc—"

"Let's not talk about it now. Put it from your mind."

"Myc, it's a lot of debt."

"And I won't let it tie you to her." Mycroft raked his fingers up into Greg's hair, stroking against his scalp. "You can't imagine how much I'd pay, if it meant that abusive cockatrice would forget us and get on with her life. Money exists to be exchanged for necessities. I'm not willing to sit on my savings when they could be used to cut you loose."

Greg inhaled, stroking his thumb across Mycroft's cheek. "I don't know what I'd do without you," he murmured, lowering his gaze. "I don't know how I'd cope. You're... I don't mean just..."

Mycroft wrapped his arms with care around Greg's waist, holding him close. 

"I know you don't," he murmured, stroking Greg's back through his shirt. "I know what you mean. And I'm glad you spoke to your solicitor. I'm glad the injunction is in progress. One day, we'll look back and marvel that we were forced to go through this."

Shivering, Greg nuzzled for his lips. "I missed you," he said again, kissing Mycroft. Mycroft's heart squeezed up into his throat. "I don't understand how I've coped this week."

"No. Nor do I."

"You were amazing in there. Just now. All in your armour."

Mycroft hesitated. "My armour?"

"Just... y'know. Ready for battle. Cool and in control."

Mycroft didn't know whether to laugh or not. He touched Greg's cheek with his fingertips. "May I come to Scotland Yard on Monday? Watch you interview some delinquents?"

Greg's mouth turned up at the edges. "If you want," he said. He looked down at Mycroft's lips, stroking them. "Is it this afternoon you're seeing—?"

Mycroft winced a little. Speaking of delinquents.

"It is," he said. "Against my better judgement."

"He'll help, love. He can do things we can't." Greg replaced the stroke of his thumb with his own lips, kissing Mycroft slowly. "Things that mean we can see each other," he added, his voice soft. "That's worth it, isn't it?"

Huffing, Mycroft relented. Greg knew how to incentivise him, if nothing else. 

"I'll let you know what happens," he said. He brushed his fingers through Greg's hair, neatening it gently. They couldn't linger in here forever. "It's another possible weapon put to our defence. I won't let old grudges get in the way."

"Thanks," Greg murmured. "I know it's not easy for you, but... well, desperate times."

Mycroft exhaled. "Desperate indeed."

They looked into each other's eyes for a moment, palest grey on darkest brown.

"How long will it be until we next get to hold each other?" Mycroft asked.

Greg visibly braced to give an uncomfortable truth. "Injunction'll take another week," he said. "Maybe two. Then... well, it won't exactly be safe. But if she tracks down my new place and turns up, she can at least be arrested for it. That'll be something." 

Mycroft's pulse gave an unsettling lurch. Another two weeks, he thought. At the least.

"I'd rather like to go away together," he said, searching Greg's eyes. "A weekend somewhere, I mean. I don't mind where we go."

Greg nudged their noses together, fond and gentle. "Shall we plan something, love?"

Oh, god. "Please."

"Are you struggling, waiting to see each other?"

Mycroft hesitated. He should be strong, insist that he was perfectly fine—but in all truth, he suffered when they were apart. Without Greg to ground him, he tumbled very quickly into doubt and helpless worry. He'd been through far too much wine this week already. This afternoon's scheduled meeting would also certainly pile additional stress upon his shoulders. Greg's company felt more and more like a necessity, not a luxury; a vital source of comfort that Mycroft was sorely missing.

Tentatively, he touched his lips to Greg's.

"I appreciate the necessity," he said. It hurt: close, but held apart. "Having plans to go away would help."

Gently Greg studied his face, searching for the fullness of the truth behind the official statement. Mycroft's throat muscles squeezed. He couldn't hide himself from those eyes. He'd never been able to, not with any success. It was why they'd ended up in this situation.

Mycroft filled his lungs before Greg could speak, shivering.

"Please don't suggest something reckless to me," he said, shutting his eyes. "I'm extremely weak. I'll agree and we'll endanger our fragile gains for the sake of a few days."

"Alright." Greg wrapped his arms around Mycroft. "C'mere," he murmured, holding him close and tight. Mycroft hid away in his embrace. "Shhh. I won't suggest anything. We'll do something safely as soon as we can. Ring me when you're home this evening, okay? We'll skype. Or we'll go on speaker phone, and you can carry me around the whole night. Just don't sit alone in your flat and start thinking."

God. Mycroft swallowed, tightening his arms around Greg's chest. "I miss you." 

"I'm right here, love. Right this second."

You know what I mean. "I... I'll have to throw you out soon. Any longer will seem suspicious. And I have a client due."

Greg squeezed him gently. "Is it weird that almost makes me jealous? Kinda miss being in here."

Mycroft's stomach tugged. He wasn't sure he could permit himself too much nostalgia for the time they'd spent in therapy together. Diane's voice rang far too clearly in the back of his mind: predatory behaviour, selfish gain. It took him a moment to source some suitable humour as a distraction.

"Would you like to borrow an erotic novel?" he asked in a mumble.

He felt Greg smile against his cheek. "Christ."

"Seems a lifetime ago, doesn't it?"

Greg huffed. "Honestly, darlin', last week seems a lifetime ago."

Mycroft couldn't argue with that. He kissed the side of Greg's head, closing his eyes.

"I'll walk you to the front desk," he said, as he took a breath. "I'll make a show of shaking your hand. If you could bring yourself to look weary and litigious, that would be marvellous."

As they let each other go, Greg cupped Mycroft's face.

"Have a good day," he said, leaning close for one last kiss. 

Their lips pressed. Mycroft forced his hands to ball at his sides, not to reach out and cling. Greg kissed him all the same, deep and slow, their final kiss for an unspecified stretch of time.

"If you can't have a good day," Greg said, "just have a day. You can tell me all about it tonight. And I hope everything goes alright this afternoon."

Heaven help me. "Thank you," Mycroft managed, doing his best to smile. It didn't seem to fit properly on his mouth. "I'll try."

"Just see what he says. We can only ask. And if he says yes, then... well, our lives might become a bit easier."

There came a pause. The air pulled between them, too tight and too quiet, thick with all the things they couldn't change.

"Damn. Leaving you is..." Greg swallowed, glancing down at Mycroft's mouth. "Especially from here. Walking out of this office always crippled me. Used to feel like ripping a chunk off my soul every Wednesday. Still does."

Quiet fortitude flooded through Mycroft's veins.

"Then let's do it together," he said, reaching for the lock. "All things are easier that way."

 

*

 

They parted formally and cleanly by the desk: a professional grip of hands, a last flash of eye contact; a murmured, "Thanks for your time, Dr Holmes," and he was gone. Every cell in Mycroft's body ached, wanting to watch him leave, but it was not a possibility. This separation was a bed of Mycroft's own making. He had no option but to lie in it.

He reached for Anthea's appointment book to occupy his hands and his eyes, flipping through it as he tried not to picture Greg walking away down the stairs.

"Are you alright?" Anthea asked in undertones, lifting him out of his thoughts.

"Perfectly alright," Mycroft said. "Should I not be?"

Anthea paused. "I'm sorry you're..."

The front door gave a distant thump, echoing up through the floor.

Mycroft took a breath. "We all face allegations at some point in our career," he said, skimming his fingertip down this afternoon's column in the diary. In truth, he didn't need to check. He knew his schedule by heart. "Therapy is an emotionally volatile profession. Only a matter of time before we run into the wrong client and an obsessive connection forms. But these things tend to resolve fairly quickly."

Anthea gave a dim nod. "It's... not true, is it?" she asked, her gaze trained on the empty email inbox.

Mycroft tutted. "Of course it isn't," he said, closing her diary. "If it were, my dear, I'd have fled to some delightfully sunny island with him by now."

Anthea's mouth upturned at one corner. "Oh?"

"Mm. At this very moment I'd be lying on a beach lounger, working my way through a sugar-rimmed limoncello mojito as he meticulously reapplies my sunscreen for me. Alas, I remain here in London, miserably single and waist deep in other people's sex lives. Water, water everywhere, as the saying goes. By the way, I'll be leaving a little early today."

"That's not like you. Anything fun?"

"Not in the least. Rather the opposite, in fact."

"Ahh. Dentist, is it?"

"Far worse," Mycroft said. "Family."