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“Says he was her boyfriend,” Donovan said. Dark circles under her eyes. Greg could relate. “Seventeen. Parents had no idea on either side.”

And now he was sitting at her parents’ kitchen table, in the little flat where his girlfriend lived and died. He was a skinny little thing, with milk-white hair and skin to match. Looked about fourteen. Greg wanted very much to leave him to Donovan, but saying hello and getting a feel for him wouldn’t go amiss.

“Detective Inspector Lestrade,” he said, holding out his hand and peering down at the kid, who was staring at his own hands, folded on the tabletop. “Good on you to show up.”

“It wasn’t...” The kid trailed off as he looked up, and Greg felt his breath turn to ice in his chest.

Milky-blue eyes, yeah. And silver under the corneas, like scales on a fish. Glittering. Greg retracted his hand fast, just fast enough that the thing masquerading as a kid couldn’t catch it. It smiled a bit, breathing faster, teeth glinting in the low light. Blue-black tongue over its lips. “Detective Inspector...?”

Here for a little party, to enjoy itself a little more in the chaos and confusion of murder, its murder. Maybe grab a thing or two more from the girl’s room. Now with a brand new toy.

Greg put his hands in his pockets, rubbed his handcuffs like a charm. “You stay put,” he said, voice hard and cold.

“If you stay with me,” it said, and the words lapped at his ears like waves, leaving echoes. Greg backed away, eyes locked, watching shadows bloom under its skin. Hypnotising, and deliberately so. The air was getting colder, and fuck, fuck, someone had welcomed it into the flat. He gripped the handcuffs and saw his breath plume.

Not going to do anything here. Too many people; too many coppers.


Greg turned to Donovan and said brusquely, “Think he might do well to be questioned at the Yard, away from the scene, yeah? See to it, Sergeant.”

Buying a little time.


He’d woken up once to the cool, gentle sensation of Mycroft Holmes caressing his cheekbones, the bridge of his nose, his brow. “You’re extraordinary,” Mycroft had told him, “but it’s most apparent in your eyes.”

He’d almost put his eyes out, when he was thirteen. But what if that didn’t stop them from coming?

“You’re shaking,” Mycroft said now, observing from the kitchen doorway, and Greg had scrubbed the posts with saltwater and spit. What did he have to do to get some fucking peace?

“It’s hanging around,” he said, weariness like lead in his voice. “It’s looking for me, now. Make sure Sherlock--”

Mycroft’s hands were cradling his jaw and Greg almost choked, staring up into his narrowed gaze. Blue-grey, cold as the Arctic Ocean. “It didn’t touch you.”

He wasn’t certain. There was half a question in his voice, a trembling, like the world rocking on its axis. Greg swallowed and felt Mycroft’s fingers dip, gliding over his pulse-point, and his shoulder-blades dug hard into the back of his chair. “I almost--I pulled back. In time.”

Mycroft’s expression grew harder, and he shifted to rest his weight on the table. Still holding onto Greg; tracing his jaw. “It spoke to you.”

“Yes--” Greg’s eyes widened painfully. Mycroft had swooped forward, was holding him still to lick his ear, frightfully warm and slick. “What the fucking hell are you doing?”

Around to the other ear. Greg shuddered and pushed at Mycroft’s chest, but the man wouldn’t be budged. When he did pull back, Greg tried to wipe his ears and got his hands caught in Mycroft’s grip for his trouble. He said again, “What the fuck?”

“You’ve asked me two questions now,” Mycroft snapped, easily holding Greg’s wrists in one hand and grabbing his jaw--again--with the other, tilting Greg’s head and turning it. “I should be kind and ask you what you’ve done with your handcuffs, I’m sure.”

His handcuffs--

Greg’s breath huffed out. He remembered the rattle, the light sliding along steel, as they bounced away into an alley. After he threw them. After he threw them away.

“Fucking hell,” he said again, staring sightlessly at Mycroft’s tie.

Mycroft’s voice was gentle now. “And I should ask how long you were sitting here before I arrived, instead of taking steps to ensure your own safety.”

Twenty-seven minutes. Greg remembered thinking about salt, thinking about the silver and steel wires he had in his tool box, the rose petals under the sink. He remembered thinking about the candles. He remembered sitting down at the kitchen and doing nothing, staring at his hands, waiting for something to happen.

Fucking hell.

“But what I want to ask is, would you have even fought?”

Mycroft lifted his chin, leaned close, breath warm and teasing on Greg’s lips. Greg let his eyes fall shut, as they wanted to, and his mouth open, as it wanted to. One gentle, barely-there brush of lips, cool as water.

“No. You wouldn’t have fought at all.”

The whole fucking flat had been a trap, before he’d even walked in. Fucking thing had been waiting for him.

“Sherlock’s not the only one who read about your cold case.”

Meant to play with him, to string out an investigation and play with the humans. Meant to divert itself after losing its toy, its precious pretty girl. After killing her. Greg opened his eyes again, with difficulty.

Mycroft’s were hooded; staring off low and to his right. “Gregory, let me protect you.”

Through the pleasant dullness that filled his mind, Greg felt a deep ringing of panic. “No,” he said, trying to shake his head, clear it.

“Gregory,” Mycroft said, a gentle warning, and mouthed at his jaw, over the hinge. Greg’s eyes opened wide, then slid shut, and his head fell back. His breath came fast and shallow.

“Gregory. Let me protect you.”

“No,” he gasped again, another thrill of fear lighting up his spine, waking him. His wrists hurt where Mycroft held them.

Mycroft pulled away, with one last lick, and kissed the corner of Greg’s lips. “Then let me fuck you.”

Lust smothered him, drowned him sweetly, leaving him writhing in his chair. “N-no,” he said, but his voice was weak.

His hands were released. “Shh,” Mycroft whispered, and stroked his hair back, down his chest. Gentle. “Shh. Not now. Not yet.”

The stampeding of his heart slowed, and his chest stopped heaving. He could feel himself breathing again, truly breathing, not merely gasping. Muscles he hadn’t realised were tensed were relaxing.

“Even beguiled, you are a tough nut to crack,” Mycroft said, sounding almost amused, smooth as smoke. “I’m afraid that, this afternoon, I shall have to insist. You’re in no shape to guard yourself.”

“Mycroft,” Greg said, getting one eye open. The man looked regretful, sitting back on the table and staring down at him.

“In deference to your firm belief in self-reliance, I will not guard your person.” Mycroft smiled thinly. “Merely your flat. I suggest you sleep it off, darling. And take care not to be caught again.”

He tapped Greg lightly on the forehead.