For a second when he began to come back to himself he thought it's Mycroft, who else would it be, and he couldn’t work out why it was so loud (shouts of come on, my son and Harder, and Fucking bastard queer, you know he wants it) and why it hurt so much. Then his senses came back to him a little and he took in where he was and he knew, he knew and for another second, just a second, he wanted to die, and then he began to fight, because he had someone to go home to, someone he loved, someone who loved him. But there was something wrong, he couldn’t seem to move properly, nothing beyond writhing and he realised that it seemed to be just turning the bastard and his mates on more. So he went limp, marshalling his strength, aware that as time went by he was regaining more of himself and he waited until he had some hope, hope of getting away, hope of dealing with them but before he got there the man thrusting inside him came with a groan, pulled out and kicked him in a way that Lestrade knew would hurt like hell when the drugs wore off. He could hear voices and part of him tried hard to remember the details of each voice,
“Come on, he’s coming out of it, we need to go,” – Scottish, but a long time ago, accent hardly ever really goes, highlands rather than any of the big cities. Sounds youngish but not a kid
“Are you sure, I was going to fuck his mouth”
I’ll bite your fucking dick off if you try it, Lestrade thought, and then found that he could no longer focus on the voices because a surge of adrenaline had left him focusing on fighting instead of listening and taking note. But he was still unable to get enough control of his body to even turn to look at them; still not even sure how many of them there were, if he would have any hope of fighting.
“No, we go now. He won’t remember any of this if we go now, no risks. We can go hunting again next week.”
“I’ll make sure he doesn’t remember,” said a third voice, and Lestrade had no warning before he was kicked in the head and everything went dark.
When he came to the second time it was impossible for a few seconds for Lestrade to decide what had been real and what hadn’t, and then the pain hit him, and the humiliation and everything. Lestrade made two or three attempts to get up. He was stretched out over something, in the dim light of the alleyway he wasn’t sure what, but it had basically left him on his knees with his legs splayed jeans and underpants round his ankles.
When he managed to get up and cover himself he could see that from the way that they had arranged him even in his unconscious state his own body weight would have held him in place. A detached part of himself noted this and realised that this was not their first time and a brief recollections skittered across his mind,
“...again next week...”
Part of Lestrade’s mind wanted to sink to the ground, even in this filthy bloody alley way and sob until he sobbed all of himself out and there was nothing left but a dried out husk that couldn’t feel or be hurt anymore. Another part wanted him to get up and collect evidence. Those two parts were like voices heard from a distance, voices that wouldn’t shut up and let him think. When he quieted them he knew what he wanted, who he wanted, he wanted Mycroft. Mycroft would look after him; Mycroft would make it all better. Mycroft would catch them.
And so Lestrade staggered out of the alley, tried to get his bearings and set off walking. He was limping and staggering, still confused by both the drugs in his system and the blow to his head and the fact that there wasn’t a single part of him that wasn’t hurting. It took an age to find a cab that was willing to pick him up, and the quiet detached part of his mind wasn’t a bit surprised, he knew that he must look like he’d had more than a skin full. Eventually, though a kinder soul took pity on him, and after a moment’s thought he gave Mycroft’s address and settled painfully onto the back seat.
When Lestrade managed to get his key in the lock on the third attempt he still found it difficult to open the door and he staggered a little when he finally got into the flat. He wasn’t really expecting that Mycroft would be up and about; the clock in the cab had said it was nearly five o’clock and he’d expected to have some time to pull himself together before he talked to Mycroft. But Mycroft was up and awake and staring at Lestrade as he came through the door.
Emotions rushed across Mycroft’s usually so expressionless face; concern and worry were replaced quickly by anger,
“What the hell happened to you?” Mycroft snapped and it was so unlike how Lestrade had pictured this happening during the cab ride that it was like a physical blow; Lestrade couldn’t find any words, any words at all. Mycroft looked him up and down and Lestrade wanted to hide as he saw his lover take in the state of his clothes, focusing particularly on his jeans, before returning to take in his expression. Without understanding what was going on Lestrade knew that everything was going even more wrong and he tried to say something, to try to explain, even just to ask Mycroft to hold him but before he could Mycroft spoke again, “Don’t even bother to try and explain. How dare you walk into our, my flat still with ... whoever all over you? You hadn’t even the grace to tell me you weren’t going to be there for dinner. You utter, utter bastard. I loved you,” and here Mycroft swallowed trying to keep some hold of his emotions, of his dignity, “and you go off for some random encounter somewhere in a bloody alley by the look of you. I should have known better. Hell, I did know better. I’m going and I want you out of here by the time I get back tonight, anything of yours that’s still here is going in the incinerator.”
As Mycroft pushed past him in the hall Lestrade reached out for him, tried to stop him going, tried to get him to wait while he explained, but Mycroft pulled out of his way, shoving Lestrade away and Lestrade could tell that what Mycroft really wanted to do was punch him. That was the point at which he gave way to tears, sinking slowly down the wall as Mycroft walked away from him out of his shattered life.
When Lestrade failed to show up for work at his normal time and Sally couldn’t contact him either she began to worry. By eleven o’clock she was worried enough to ring John Watson (because she couldn’t bring herself to ring Sherlock even though that’s who she felt she should be contacting) because in the five years she’d known him the Boss has never been late.
John’s voice was as usual calm and reassuring but Sally had known him for a while now and she could hear the undercurrent of concern in his speech,
“No, sorry, Sally, I haven’t heard from him. Look I’ll ring round a few people and see if I can find out what’s happened. I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”
John rang the number of Mycroft’s flat. He could have told Sally who he was calling but he didn’t know how much about Lestrade’s private life his team knew and he certainly didn’t want to be the one to ‘out’ him to the rest of The Yard. There was no answer at the flat and by now John was so worried that he searched through his text inbox to find the last number that Mycroft texted him from and tried ringing that. This time there was an answer,
“Doctor Watson?” John heard something off in Mycroft’s voice and he felt his muscles tighten with worry even more,
“Sorry to ring you, Mycroft, but do you know where Lestrade is?”
“If he’s any sense he’s getting the hell out of my flat.” The anger is unmistakeable to John,
“Why, what’s happened?”
“He decided that he wanted more than I could give him and found someone more to his tastes last night, he arrived home at five this morning and I told him to pack his stuff and go.” Mycroft’s tone was as close to conversational as he could make it be but John could hear the sadness as well as the anger.
“Are you sure?” John asked, “That doesn’t sound like Lestrade’s style...”
“Of course I’m sure, Doctor Watson.” Mycroft sighed, “Do I gather that the Detective Inspector has failed to arrive at work? Perhaps you could go and assist him in removing himself from my flat.” John could clearly hear Mycroft swallow, “I would be most grateful, John, I really don’t think I could bear to see him again.”
John wondered for a moment what he should do. The last year while Lestrade and Mycroft had been together he knew he’d never seen either of them so happy, they were clearly been good for each other, but just as clearly Mycroft was gutted and anyway he needed to be sure that Lestrade was OK and if he was at Mycroft’s flat he now had the perfect excuse to go and check on him,
“I’ll go round,” John responded and he heard Mycroft breathe out on a sigh,
“I’ll send Anthea round to make sure you can get in. Thank you, John, you’re a good friend.” Mycroft hung up before John could respond to that wholly unprecedented response. A text with the address arrived before John could put his phone back in his pocket.
At least Sherlock’s at Bart’s pestering Molly, John thought as he got into the cab and gave Mycroft’s address, I don’t think I could cope with his comments on this; there’ll be time enough to tell him if Lestrade isn’t at the flat and we have to go looking for him. The cab ride was quite short, but still seemed to take an age to John who was getting more and more worried every time Lestrade’s phone went to voice mail when he called.
Climbing out of the cab, he thrust way too much in notes at the cabbie and hurried towards the door where he was intercepted by Anthea,
“Here’s a key,” she said in a very clipped, tight voice, “I think the bastard’s still in there,”
“Wait a minute,” John interrupted, “bastard?”
“Listen, Doctor Watson, I don’t ever want to see my boss look like he did this morning,” and suddenly she seemed so very much more threatening than John had ever thought she could be, “just get the bastard out. You don’t need to return the key, I’ll see to changing the locks once you’ve got him out of there.” With that she walked away and got into an ordinary looking car further along the street.
Unconsciously John pulled himself up into what Sherlock has referred to as his ‘military stance’ and unlocked the door. As he walked into the flat he nearly tripped over Lestrade still slumped leaning on the wall in the dark hallway.
John took Lestrade back to his own flat, he knew that Greg had kept it on, but it was clearly largely unused. On the whole, all things including Sherlock being equal, he’d rather have taken him back to Baker Street where he had more equipment to deal with Lestrade’s injuries, but things weren’t equal and he wouldn’t willingly submit Lestrade to Sherlock’s attentions as he was now. Not, he thought, that I know how the hell Lestrade is, because I haven’t got two words out of him. It was clear to John that whatever Mycroft thought Lestrade had not been out enjoying himself last night. As an army medic John had a thorough acquaintance with what men could do to each other in a fight and the bruise on the side of Lestrade’s head was as a result of a very hard kick if John was any judge. When that was added to the way in which Lestrade walked when John finally got him up and moving and the way in which his speech was still slightly slurred John began to reach a conclusion about last night and when he had worked it out he almost felt more like doing a damage to Mycroft than he did to those responsible.
Lestrade made a heroic effort to pull himself together when they got back to his flat. It was heartbreaking to watch and John was aware that there were tears collecting in his eyes as Lestrade thanked him and offered to make him a cup of tea. John knew an urge to play along with Lestrade’s ‘nothing happened’ facade, after all if that was how he wanted to deal with the situation then surely it was his choice but he recognised it for the cowardly inclination it was and interrupted Lestrade,
“Sit down, Greg, and tell me what happened. You can tell me as your doctor and be sure that nothing will go any further without your agreement.”
Lestrade looked up at him and John thought he’d never seen anyone look so lost,
“Please, let me help,” he continued quietly and with that he watched as Lestrade crumpled up onto the sofa and sobbed. John hurriedly went to sit next to him and held him as he cried. John really had no idea what to do for Lestrade but judging by the way the detective hung onto him he decided that he must be on the right lines and he found himself stroking Lestrade’s back and making comforting noises while sobs wracked his body.
Eventually Lestrade began to calm and he sat up slightly from where he had been slumped against John’s comforting chest.
“I’m sorry,” he began but John interrupted him,
“I don’t think you have anything to apologise for, do you?” he asked. Lestrade looked down and John could barely hear it when he said,
“I was so stupid.”
“I doubt if you were,” Lestrade looked up,
“No really, I was. How many times have I given the advice ‘don’t leave your drink unattended?’ and then I go out and do exactly that. I don’t know what was in the drink, I had just enough time to register that something was wrong before I blacked out and when I came to ... when I came to I was sprawled in an alley way with one of them fucking me ... while his bastard mates cheered him on.” Lestrade broke down again and John, worried in case it might make him feel worse held him again. After a while Lestrade continued, “When they realised I was coming round they scarpered but not before at least one of them put the boot in.”
“What happened when you got back to Mycroft’s?”
“I don’t know,” Lestrade sighed, “He just took one look at me and suddenly he was so angry. He could probably tell how stupid I’d been, he was probably disgusted with me.”
“No, no, shush Greg, that wasn’t it, I know that wasn’t it. He just didn’t know what had happened, he jumped to conclusions, I’m sure that you can sort this out.”
“No, I can’t. He might have jumped to conclusions but what use is a pathetic bastard like me going to be to him? He’s well shot,” and he broke down again.
John was becoming more and more worried about Lestrade as time went on, he was getting himself into such a state that but for the remnants of whatever drug in his system and the possibility of concussion from the kick to his head John might have prescribed a sedative. When he’d managed to calm Lestrade a little he started to ask some questions,
“What do you want to do about this? Do you want to report it?” From Lestrade’s expression it was clear that he hadn’t even considered that aspect of what had happened. It was a horrible question to have to ask. John knew that rape cases were by far better dealt with now than they had been in the past, but there was still an awful lot of room for improvement. Male rape was, John knew horrifically under-reported and hence perpetrators tended to get away with it. However, faced with his sobbing friend he wasn’t sure that he would even advise Lestrade to report it let alone push him to in any way.
“I know I should,” Greg managed,
“It’s not a matter of should, Greg, it’s a matter of whether you want to or not.”
“Oh, God, John, I’ve leaned on so many people over the years to report things when they didn’t want to, but I really don’t want to.” John could hear how conflicted Lestrade was about this and that he hadn’t completely made up his mind,
“Look I’ll make you a tea, you’re going to be dehydrated, then we can discuss it if you want to.”
When John came back into the room with two mugs of tea, one sweetened within an inch of its life and neither with milk, Lestrade was more composed. John handed him the sweetened tea and sat down on the sofa next to Lestrade, close but he hoped not too close.
“I’ve decided,” Lestrade said, “I’m going to report it, the rape, I can’t not do, one of the things I think I remember is one of them talking about hunting again, I’ve got to try and stop this happening to someone else if I want to be able to live with myself.” John briefly clasped Lestrade’s forearm,
“Good man. Drink that then and we’ll get you to the rape suite. I’ll need to call Sally to let her know that you’re OK, what do you want me to tell her?” Lestrade took a long pull at his drink,
“Tell her everything, she’ll organise getting somebody from the specialist squad out to take my statement.”
“And Mycroft?” John asked. Lestrade sighed,
“Would you mind telling him? I think he should know but please make him understand that he doesn’t need to feel guilty, it was understandable that he thought what he thought, I know he’s been hurt before ... tell him ... tell him I’m sorry ... tell him I love him ... but it’s best if he keeps away from me.”
When he’d again got Lestrade at least a little calm John stepped outside to make the phone call to Sally. She took the news stoically and it was clear to John that she’d engaged ‘copper mode’ to avoid dealing with how she was feeling. She agreed with John that getting Lestrade as quickly as possible to the rape suite was the best move and that she would meet them there together with officers from the appropriate team.
The second call was much, much harder to make. When he dialled the number Mycroft answered immediately,
“Have you got ... that man out of my flat?”
“Shut up, Mycroft and just listen.” John told Mycroft what had happened in short, blunt sentences and was rewarded with a few seconds of stunned silence,
“You heard. You jumped to the wrong conclusions.” Despite the fact that Lestrade had wanted him to make sure that Mycroft did not feel guilty, John took some satisfaction in making Mycroft realise the mistake he had made. Apart from anything else he wanted to be sure that Mycroft would be putting all of his considerable resources into aiding the investigation. “All he was thinking of was getting back to you and then you reacted like you reacted.”
“Oh my God, what have I done?” John could hear the shame and horror in Mycroft’s voice.
“He told me to tell you that you shouldn’t feel bad about it,” John knew that he was now making it worse by doing exactly what Lestrade had told him to do and he had a small, tight smile on his face as he continued, “You know where Lestrade drinks, can you pull CCTV, including your ‘special’ CCTV and get the footage to Sally Donovan?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Where is Greg now?”
“He’s at his own flat and in a few minutes we’re going to the station for him to be processed.”
“I’ll meet you there,”
“No, actually, you won’t. Greg doesn’t want you there.” There was a long pause.
“Very well,” Mycroft replied his voice controlled and business like, “I’ll do what I can to promote the speedy resolution of the case. Would...” and here his voice faltered, “you keep me up to date on how Greg is?”
John relented a little,
While John was waiting Sally had come and had a brief word with her boss and a slightly less brief word with the investigating officers. She’d also stopped to talk to John on her way out,
“Thank you so much Doctor Watson, for looking after him,”
“Please, call me John. I’d do the same for any friend in the same situation. How are you holding up?”
“I’ll be fine and he’ll be better when we catch the bastards. This isn’t the first time it’s happened recently in the same rough location; apparently it’s a serial case. Don’t know whether that makes it better or worse for the boss, at least this way he knows it wasn’t personal. Wish I could be sure we were going to get them.”
“Yes, about that, you’ll probably get some CCTV footage delivered to you if it hasn’t been delivered already, don’t enquire too closely as to where it’s come from. I’m sure that if you need to use any of it then it will be admissible evidence.” Sally stiffened slightly in her seat,
“Is this from The Freak’s brother?” John let her use of ‘freak’ slide this once,
“Keep him away from me. What he did was almost worse than the rest. Just keep him away from me.” She stood up abruptly and stalked out.
John made one more phone call, again, Lestrade had asked him to, this one to Sherlock. With no detail at all he filled the detective in on what had happened, told him that Lestrade would in all likelihood be coming home with him and made it clear that he was not to question Lestrade about what had happened,
“Do you understand, Sherlock?” John asked,
“Yes. Does Mycroft know?”
“Yes he does. Greg doesn’t want to see him. Mycroft reacted badly when Lestrade got back to Mycroft’s flat this morning. It’s best if he keeps away.”
“I see. Is there someone competent investigating?”
“Sally seems to think so and your brother’s also working on the case. If it’s possible to catch the bastards I’m sure they will.”
“Make sure you bring him home, John, he looked after me enough times, it’s time I repaid a little.”
As John had expected him to Lestrade argued a little about going back to Baker Street but in the end he relented.
“I’ll get you back to Baker Street and then I’ll go and pack you up a bag to stay for a day or two.”
It wasn’t until they were in the cab on the way back to Baker Street that Lestrade asked the question which John was sure had been running through his mind constantly,
“What did Mycroft say?”
“Not a lot. He wanted to see you, I told him to keep away. He’s investigating from his end as well and relaying any and all information via Sally. He was upset, at himself for jumping to conclusions, not at you.”
For a long time Lestrade was silent, staring out into the darkness through the side window of the cab. When he finally spoke it was a single word,
John was unsure about what part of it was good.
The three of them passed a leisurely evening watching whatever rubbish was on the box, ordering takeaway which both John and Sherlock noticed Lestrade ate hardly any of. John let Lestrade have his room; it had a lock which he thought might make it easier for Lestrade to sleep. John slept on the sofa or at least tried to. At one point Sherlock got up and sat in his usual chair, fingering but not actually playing his violin, in the stillness of the flat John could still hear the notes as he knew that Sherlock could, they formed an angry tempestuous piece which reflected the emotions of all three inhabitants of the flat.
In the morning Lestrade got up and got himself ready for work. John noticed that he was still limping and hoped that he had had the sense to take the pain killers prescribed for him. John was sceptical about whether it was a good idea for Greg to go to work but he seemed sure and he did at least manage some toast before he left.
“You’ll come back here this evening?” John asked as he was leaving.
“Thanks,” Greg replied without turning round.
Less than five minutes after Greg left Sherlock stood by the window made a disgusted sound before turning and saying,
“Lock the door, John, Mycroft’s coming.” John gave him a disgusted look and despite the fact that he really did not want to speak to Mycroft he moved over to the door of the flat and opened it just as Mycroft was about to knock.
Not to put too fine a point on it Mycroft looked awful, the result no doubt of two nights of no sleep, both spent worrying about Lestrade. When he realised this John decided it was probably about time to stop giving Mycroft a hard time and see instead what could be done.
“You’ve missed Greg,” John said as Mycroft came in to the living room.
“Yes, I know, I intended to.” There was a long pause before Mycroft continued, “I have no ... right to even approach Greg before he invites me to. And I have no right to even hope that he ever will. What I did was inexcusable. I know that now.”
“I don’t actually think that’s why he said he didn’t want to see you,” John said. Sherlock chipped in,
“It might not have been why he said it originally, that was, I’ll admit probably misery and self-loathing,” Mycroft winced visibly, “But I think by later on he’d realised he had a perfect right to be angry at your lack of trust, big brother.”
“My lack of trust,” Mycroft mused, “Yes, that’s right, I should have trusted him however difficult I find it to trust anyone. If I’m very lucky he will allow me to win back his trust, but either way I’m determined that the people who did this should suffer for it.”
“Now, wait a moment,” John said, “this has to be done legally, we can’t come over all vigilante about this, it’s Lestrade we’re talking about, he’s straight as an arrow.” Sherlock and Mycroft turned identical sceptical looks on John,
“Not sure you’re completely right there,” Sherlock said, “for instance he knows it was you who shot Jefferson Hope, and he hasn’t noticeably hunted you down. But I take your point; in this case it does have to be done legally. Do you agree Mycroft?” Mycroft made a show of considering before nodding in agreement,
“Yes, but I think that we could let ourselves go in the matter of collecting evidence, don’t you?”
John had not previously thought what it would be like to tag along with both Holmes brothers in full deduction mode. It was amazing, they bounced ideas and theories off each other in single words and phrases that clearly meant something to them but would have and did convey next to no meaning to anyone else. The alleyway was taped off, but John had known that they would take no notice of that. The two of them prowled around looking at everything and taking photographs with camera phones which John knew were equipped to take evidence quality photographs. Occasionally one of them pointed something out to the other. John noticed that Mycroft kept his eyes averted from the packing crate that stood almost against the wall and like Mycroft he guessed that this is where the rape had actually happened. However in the end Mycroft did examine the ground around the wooden box, comparing footprints around that part of the alleyway with the others they had found.
The two of them reached a conclusion about who they were looking for. Mycroft summarised,
“Three men, A, short and slightly built, casually dressed, nervous (he walked around a lot while the others stood still. Probably didn’t much care to watch again unlike the others, B much heavier, some kind of manual trade, he wore steel-toed boots, stood to the rear to watch, C medium everything, was the last to” and here he faltered, “... participate, as such probably the ‘leader’ in as much as they had a leader, he’d already set up this,” he gestured at the packing crate, “before they even selected Greg as their victim.” Sherlock took over,
“It was A who kicked Lestrade in the head, judging by the shape of the bruise. It’s a crying shame that it was so dry that night, there’s no way to follow their foot prints. The next thing to look at is the CCTV, Mycroft?”
“I’ve sent the footage to Sergeant Donovan, but I will have copies delivered.” Without looking, Mycroft did something with his phone, “Anthea will have copies in Baker Street by the time we arrive there.”
Anthea was indeed waiting for them by the railings of 223. She handed a DVD to Mycroft and then paused before addressing John,
“Doctor Watson, I want to apologise for what I said yesterday about Inspector Lestrade. It was completely out of order for me to express any opinion on the matter.”
“It’s not me you should apologise to, but thank you, given what you knew at that time it was understandable,” John replied. Anthea nodded in acknowledgement and got into the car which drew up at the kerb.
“What did she say?” Mycroft enquired an edge to his voice,
“Nothing much, yesterday she just didn’t use Greg’s name so much as an unflattering description of him, I called her on it and she wanted to apologise. Like I said, given what you both thought he’d done it was understandable.”
“I had no right to make assumptions, the evidence was all there in front of me, you deduced what had happened, I could have done the same if I hadn’t let my jealousy and insecurity get the better of me.”
John could hear the self-disgust in Mycroft’s voice and he couldn’t make his mind up what the right thing to say was in this situation. What Mycroft said was true, a moment’s actual thought would have shown anyone what had happened, let alone a Holmes, but equally John knew that Mycroft had been hurt in the past, had been in fact too trusting, strangely it was something both brothers were given to, once they did let someone in they tended to trust beyond what was perhaps sensible. And there really was nothing he could say to Mycroft, what he’d done had been horrible, John didn’t know if there was any way back from it; if Mycroft had responded the very best way he could it would still have taken Lestrade a long time to deal with what had happened. John settled for a nod of acknowledgement and nothing more.
When they got back into the flat Sherlock hooked John’s laptop up to the television so that they could all clearly see the CCTV footage on the DVD. Mycroft’s almost sobbing intake of breath would have drawn all attention to the moment when they clearly made out the staggering Lestrade being assisted by a taller man as they went into the alley way. Over the next two minutes two further men, one short and slight and clearly nervous, the other middle height and build, just as Mycroft had described them walked into the mouth of the alleyway.
Considering they were watching precisely nothing happen on the CCTV footage, it was horrific John thought. Minutes stretched out and twice John was on the point of suggesting that they fast forward the images. The thought of what Lestrade had been going through became that much more real when the time it was taking was there on the time stamp of the footage. Beside John both Mycroft and Sherlock were tense and becoming more tense the longer the wait went on. Eventually, the three men emerged from the alleyway and went off in different directions, each without any acknowledgement of the others. John checked the time-stamp; it had been slightly less than thirty minutes. Half an hour that would change Lestrade’s life forever, that would probably also change Mycroft’s life forever.
Mycroft pulled himself up straight on the sofa and began to speak into his mobile,
“Put me through to the CCTV archives,” a pause then, “transfer footage from cameras ...” he reeled off a list of codes which meant nothing to John but clearly identified specific cameras and times, “to ...” and here Mycroft looked at Sherlock who gave a four number IP address which Mycroft relayed.
While they waited, Mycroft continued to watch the footage playing through on their television screen. Reaching for the laptop he fast forwarded the images until with a sharp intake of breath he went back to normal speed as a figure which was clearly Lestrade staggered out of the alleyway, looked round to get his bearings and set off walking in the direction of Mycroft’s flat, the limp in his step obvious even at the low frame rate of the camera feed. When John looked at him, Mycroft had his head in his hands and he could barely make out the muffled words,
“All he could think about was getting back to me. What have I done?”
The requested footage arrived electronically at the same time as John’s phone rang. It was Sally Donovan,
“John, I’ve persuaded him to go back to yours, he’s not fit to be in work,”
“No,” he replied, “I never thought he was. Do you want me to let you know when he arrives?”
“If you don’t mind. Don’t let him know that you’re ringing me please, he’s already paranoid that everyone thinks he can’t cope.”
“I won’t. We’ve been to the scene and looked at the CCTV footage this morning; we’re just about to look at some more. When we’ve identified someone, who should we let know?”
“When? You’re very confident aren’t you?”
“Well, I’ve two Holmes working on it, so yes, fairly confident.”
“You mean that bastard’s there?” Sally asked incredulously,
“Yes, Mycroft’s here. I’ll make sure he’s gone before Lestrade gets back here. He was invaluable this morning and we’ll have a name or a location much faster with him working on it, so yes he’s here.”
“Make sure he’s gone before the boss get’s there. The person at The Yard to contact is DI Reedley, I’ll tell her to expect your call so that your information doesn’t get written off as a crank call.”
John disconnected the call.
“Lestrade’s on his way back. Mycroft you need to go, it won’t take him that long to get back here and I don’t think that now is the time to try and get things sorted out. We’ll look at the footage when we can and we’ll call you.”
To be fair to Mycroft although he paled and clasped his hands together tightly he didn’t argue with what John said. Instead he just got up and walked to the door turning to say,
“Call me when you can talk without it unduly distressing Greg.”
It turned out that their timing was off. As Mycroft exited 221, Lestrade was getting out of a cab directly in front of the building. Mycroft saw the instantaneous flash of delight at seeing him cross Greg’s face before it was replaced by an emotionless facade and he wanted to walk away, after all that was supposedly what Greg wanted, but he didn’t allow himself to. Instead he waited by the end of the railings as Greg approached and stopped in front of him, looking up into his face,
“Greg,” Mycroft began, “I know there’s nothing I can say, you had a right to so much better from me. Please know that if you can ever begin to forgive me I will be waiting for you. Whatever you need or want,” he paused and rubbed his eyes before looking back at Lestrade, “I’m so sorry, Greg.” Lestrade’s response was so quietly spoken that it would have been easy to miss,
“You should be. But I know how it must have looked.” He cleared his throat, “Have you all been working on,” there was an infinitesimal pause while Lestrade fished for a suitable word, “the case?”
“Well, then, come back up and show me what you’ve found. Mycroft felt a wave of both gratitude and further guilt crash over him, he did not deserve that Greg should be in any way understanding, but then he had never deserved someone as wonderful as Lestrade and he knew that.
When both Mycroft and Lestrade walked into the flat John was surprised. He frowned across at Sherlock who had been looking out through the window as he so often did and must have known that Lestrade had intercepted Mycroft on his way out. Lestrade it turned out wanted to be all business and started with his usual,
“OK, give me,” directed at Sherlock.
Sherlock ran through the evidence they had collected, what they’d seen on the CCTV footage and what they had decided to look at next,
“But we’ll obviously wait to do that,” Sherlock concluded,
“Why?” Lestrade asked,
“Because ... well ... we didn’t think ....” It was such a rarity for Sherlock to be caught off guard, to be trying to be solicitous of another’s feelings and to not be able to find the words that even in his current state Lestrade grinned for a second before responding,
“The only possible good that can come out of this would be to catch the bastards before this happens to someone else. Let’s get on with it.”
The four of them together spent an hour tracking their main suspect back to the block of flats where he lived. There were a couple of times when they lost him between one camera and the next and in the dim light it was next to impossible to get a clear view of his face to hope to make an identification, but they had a location to start from.
“Worst case we organise a ‘door-to-door’ until we see him,” Greg observed, “let’s get what we have sent to Reedley.”
Mycroft took over the computer, expertly stringing the CCTV footage together into one long file and sent both that and the individual files to Inspector Reedley. After that he closed the laptop down and put it on the floor leaning on the sofa. Then he stood up,
“I’ll leave now,” Mycroft said, “Sherlock, John, thank you for your assistance.” He paused and then looked directly at Lestrade, “Greg.” John was sure that there was much more that Mycroft wanted to say but what could he say, really? Mycroft went to the door to let himself out. Greg stood up,
“Mycroft,” he said and Mycroft froze his hand on the door handle and replied without turning round,
“I have to, Greg; I’m not fit to be in your company,” he bowed his head, before he continued, “I’m so sorry.”
“I want you to stay. Honestly, Mycroft, just stay, will you?”
“Very well,” he replied, turning from the door eyes downcast, clearly still not feeling able to meet Lestrade’s glance, and walking back to sit in the vacant armchair that was normally the one John used. Sherlock cleared his throat,
“I’ll make some tea, then.” Seemingly impervious to the three almost identical looks of astonishment Sherlock got up and walked into the kitchen, pausing at the door way to add, “John, I think you’ll have to show me where we keep the cups,” before he left the room.
“Sorry about that, Greg, he’s about as subtle as a sledge hammer,” John said, “although for him this is amazingly sensitive. Would you rather I stayed?”
“No, it’ll be fine, John. Thanks.”
And then it was just the two of them alone. It was, predictably, Greg who broke the silence first,
“I never wanted any of them to try and make you feel guilty, you should be able to move forward without feeling bad about any of this, it was none of it your fault.”
“I should be able to move forward?” Mycroft asked with more than a little incredulity in his voice, “Why would I want to ‘move forward’? Greg, you must know that I’m nothing without you.”
“Oh don’t talk wet, Mycroft! You were always too classy for me before ...” Greg floundered for words, since it happened he had been describing what he remembered of what had happened, using clinical, distancing words, but the words ‘I was raped’ suddenly hit him.
I was raped, I am a rape victim, I am a victim.
The words played in his mind over and over again jumbling and falling over each other and Greg felt like he was falling down a dark hole, unable to get a breath, unable to catch himself, falling.
Suddenly strong arms caught him and held him and soft words began to reach him,
“Greg, Greg, breathe.” A strong hand was rubbing his back and another held his chest. He collapsed into Mycroft’s lap, holding his legs tightly feeling like the warmth of Mycroft as he folded over him and held him tight was the only thing that had any hope of keeping him afloat, of stopping him drifting away and getting lost forever.
For the thousandth time Mycroft wished it had been him. He knew from bitter experience that it was possible to live through such things, but Mycroft had had support, someone who had believed him and comforted him. Greg had needed the same from him but what he had got was what must have seemed like victim blaming of the worst kind and however much the rational part of Greg knew that this was not really the case the deeper more emotional part might very well find it next to impossible to let go of the fact that when he most needed comfort what he got was cold anger. But he could give comfort now; Greg’s generosity was allowing Mycroft that when what he deserved was to be kicked.
He had been able to see every progression of thought and feeling on Greg’s face, the shocked complete realisation that he had been raped, that this was something that had happened, that he wasn’t going to wake up tomorrow and everything would be fine, that he was somebody’s case, that some colleagues would pity him and others would blame him and still others would wonder what the hell he was making a fuss about because wasn’t that what queers liked, random sordid encounters in alleyways? Mycroft held him as well as he could, murmuring comforting nonsense words as Greg sobbed and shook. After a little while John put his head round the door and then the two of them came out of the kitchen, slipping out of the room and going upstairs to leave Mycroft and Greg together.
Eventually, Greg began to come back to himself and steady his breathing. His first complete thought was, Am I never going to stop crying? And, like Mycroft could read his mind,
“It will become easier to deal with, Greg, I promise.”
“Can you promise me that?”
“Yes, you are the strongest man I’ve ever known, this will not break you.”
“I’m glad you’re so sure. I’m not at the moment.” Greg ran his hand over his face and then looked round, “Where are John and Sherlock?”
“They went upstairs about half an hour ago, you weren’t in any state to notice.” Greg sighed again,
“They’ve been brilliant,” he said, “I couldn’t have asked for anyone to be more supportive.” Mycroft felt those words like a blow, but no one looking at him would have known it, he was determined that Greg would divert none of his energies from his own recovery and certainly that he would spend none of his energy on him. Greg, however had other ideas,
“God, sorry Mycroft,” he looked anxiously up into Mycroft’s face, “that wasn’t meant as a dig at you. Honestly, I should have explained, it wasn’t your fault.” Out of nowhere Mycroft was genuinely angry and he was horrified to realise that it was Greg he was angry with, how dare Greg try and make me feel better? He took a calming breath,
“I did not give you the chance to explain, I believe that you were about to try when I walked out of the flat.”
“You know I actually didn’t know what made you angry. I thought it was because you couldn’t believe how stupid I’d been. Was that it?”
“Oh, Greg,” Mycroft sighed, “I wasn’t even thinking. I just saw you staggering in and I had been so worried about you when you didn’t come home, and I could tell by the way you were walking that you’d been with someone...” Mycroft’s voice petered out as he saw the incredulity on Lestrade’s face,
“You thought I’d been playing away?” Lestrade asked and abruptly he stood up and walked over to the window, “Fuck, you thought ... you thought I’d picked up some bloke in a bar and then come back to you.” There was a long pause, “You don’t know me at all, do you?”
“I didn’t think at all. I had been nearly frantic with worry, I’d just been on the point of calling the local hospitals to see if you’d been brought in, and ... I didn’t think, I was just so angry ...”
Lestrade walked away from the window and sank into the armchair and took a deep breath before he spoke,
“I wanted to die, just for a second when I was coming out from the drugs and I realised what was happening, it hurt and I’d been so stupid and I wanted to not have to deal with it. But a second later I realised I had someone to live for now and I began to fight,” he let out a short mirthless huff of laughter, “not that it did any good, I was still too far out of it, but all I was thinking about was getting home to you.”
Before now Mycroft would not have believed that something non physical could hurt so much. All of his high flown ideas of not burdening Greg with his need for forgiveness went out of his mind on the instant that he actually thought of Greg staving off the desire to die with the thought of him. Without any conscious thought he flung himself to his knees in front of Greg, with his hands on Greg’s knees,
“Don’t say that; don’t ever say that, ever, I won’t countenance a world without you in it. If you had died I would have hunted them down, there would have been no place in which they could hide. There will be no place they can hide; I will see that they are brought to justice.” Mycroft took a breath and straightened up slightly as if he was going to stand up but Greg caught hold of his hands and held onto them,
“Mycroft,” Lestrade took a deep breath, “You can’t do that, this ...” Lestrade struggled for words, “... can’t take you over, it wouldn’t be good for you, it wouldn’t be good for us.”
Mycroft sagged forward, his head on Lestrade’s knee and Lestrade could hear the hitch in his breathing, the almost sob before he spoke again so quietly he could hardly be heard,
“Is there, will there be, can there be an ... us?”
Lestrade took a deep breath and another before he answered,
“I’m not sure, I hope so, but I’m not sure.”
Mycroft stood up, neatening his clothes and taking a deep breath,
“That is so very much more than I deserve, Gregory, you have always been so very much more than I deserve.”
Lestrade looked away and didn’t hear Mycroft leaving, all his concentration focused on not calling him back and losing himself in his lover’s arms.
Greg was surprised to find that he did sleep that night, he’d almost found himself not wanting to try, dreading waking up and having to remember what had happened, but that was not how it was, he woke up and it was the first thing in his mind, as though he hadn’t really stopped thinking about it while he slept, it probably he thought accounted for the fact that despite the sleep he didn’t feel any less tired. He’d insisted on sleeping on the sofa last night and this morning he regretted it, stretching and groaning as he tried to get the kinks out of his spine and neck. Finally he stood up and went into the kitchen to make coffee.
He took the time to make proper coffee, guessing the smell of it would wake at least John, if not both of them. The time it took to brew he spent trying to work out what he was going to do. He did not reach a satisfactory conclusion other than he was going to work, he really wasn’t sure that the bastards involved weren’t going to cost him his lover; they certainly weren’t going to cost him his job as well.
A few minutes later John shuffled into the kitchen and wordlessly Lestrade pushed a cup of coffee in his direction,
“How are you feeling,” John started,
“I’m fine. Fine but sure I’m going to get really to the far end with being asked that.”
John continued to look at him, with an expression which Lestrade would nearly but not quite characterise as sceptical. In the end he ducked his head and apparently contemplating his coffee he added,
“I feel like shit, as you’d imagine, but I’m sure that I’ll do better at work than dwelling on things here or at home, so I’m going to work. Obviously I won’t be involved in the investigation but there are plenty of other cases.” He paused, “Seriously, I wasn’t really taking things in yesterday and the longer I wait the more worked up I’m going to get wondering what everyone’s going to be like, what sort of rumours are circulating; the Met still isn’t exactly a bastion of acceptance when it comes to alternate lifestyles, I would imagine it’s all over the bloody place by now.” Greg made a valiant attempt at his usual grin but judging by John’s expression it hadn’t really come off. John tried to cover by taking a swig of his coffee,
“How are you physically? Is there any chance that you’ve taken any of the medication you were prescribed?”
“I’ve taken the anti-virals, I’m not stupid, but I’m not taking the painkillers, I need to be clear-headed more than I need to be pain free.” Lestrade braced himself for John’s disapproval, but it didn’t come,
“That’s fair enough,” the doctor replied, “You’ll make sure you follow the drug regime?”
“Yeah,” he said emphatically before continuing, “I was working out who I was at the start of the eighties, I’m never not going to be careful with things like that, I’ve buried too many good people.”
John acknowledged what he said with a simple nod of the head before asking if there was anything he could get Greg to eat,
“Seriously, Greg, you need to try and eat something even if it’s only toast, I’ll make you some...”
He was interrupted by the deep rumble of Sherlock’s voice,
“You’ll get used to that Lestrade, John is unreasonably fixated on people eating, he never shuts up about it, any more coffee going?”
John patiently leaned over to snag a mug and pour a cup for Sherlock,
“Here, and try to remember that giving you food once a day hardly constitutes force feeding you!”
Sherlock merely glowered at John and Lestrade found himself smiling nor for effect for the first time since it all happened. It felt strange. Also, as he would have expected, this wasn’t lost on either John or Sherlock. John continued,
“You’ll stay for a few more days?” he asked.
“I should probably get back to my own flat,” Lestrade replied before John interrupted,
“I think getting back to work is enough for one day, come back here, we’ll ring for take away and make Sherlock watch Dr Who!”
“Well, who could resist an offer like that?”
Work was difficult. It felt like everyone was staring at him, for the obvious reason that a lot of them were. The rumour mill had clearly been turning at full speed and Greg supposed he hadn’t helped things by coming in yesterday and then going home again. It was probably also the case he mused that it had been quite clear that he was upset.
Greg’s intent had been to work on a cold case, review a case from a few years ago, interesting enough to be a distraction and undeniably useful work. It lasted until 8:00 when a call came in about a body found by the river. For a moment Greg considered handing the thing off to Dimmock or even, heaven help him, to Gregson but then he pulled himself together, shouted to Sally to follow him and left the building to go the scene.
Once he was there of course routine and expertise took over; it was a sad fact that he had investigated any number of could be murder/could be manslaughter/could be an accident crime scenes. Similarly Sally and Anderson didn’t need much directing, they knew the routine. The first job was to make sure that any trace evidence was securely collected. Some was always inevitably lost because of the paramedics and whoever first came across the body, in this case a woman out walking her dog; Greg sometimes wondered why anyone would have a dog, it seemed like no one could take a dog for a walk without finding a dead body. She was still stood further up the foreshore, her dog at her feet. She looked agitated, almost excited, and although usually she would be interviewed by one of the DCs Greg decided to interview her himself; something just didn’t seem quite right. Anyway, he thought it’s probably nothing and if I talk to her now and get some details then the poor woman can get on with her day.
“So, Miss,” Lestrade glanced down at his notebook, “Murch, can you tell me exactly what happened?”
Lestrade wondered whether she’d been asked the question a lot as soon as she began to reply. Her description had a rehearsed quality to it, that tended to happen when a succession of people asked the same questions of a witness, but in this case it didn’t feel quite right to Lestrade, it was too soon afterwards for her to have gone over the information enough. Lestrade asked further questions, getting her to clarify some points while another part of his brain worked on the ‘not right’ feeling he had about the situation. Whatever else, he certainly knew that he would want to look very carefully into this. He noted down her answer to the last question,
“Right, thank you Miss Murch,”
“Jean,” she interrupted,
“Oh, er, right, Jean, we’ve got your name and address, we’ll almost certainly be in touch again, at the very least there will have to be an inquest…”
“Really, an inquest?”
Again Lestrade thought that she seemed just that little bit ‘off’, too excited, it niggled at him as he thanked her for her help and checked that he had her whereabouts for the rest of the day before she walked on to the dog’s obvious relief.
Then he went back towards the deceased as he was being put into the back of the undertaker’s shooting break to go back to the mortuary. Donovan and Anderson had their heads together talking and suddenly Lestrade was sure it was him they were talking about, suddenly it all came rushing back, chasing away his nascent theories about the crime, even his surety that it was a crime, after all what did he know? But he forced himself to continue towards them, making enough noise to be sure that they would have shut up about him before he got in earshot. When they didn’t look round guiltily at his approach he allowed himself to think that they had been discussing the case despite Anderson’s look of embarrassment, that he thought could just as easily be because he didn’t know what to say. Lestrade took a deep breath,
“What did you find?”
“He was killed where he was found, as far as we can see,” Anderson responded, “without the pm it looked like a strangulation, but there was no sign that he struggled, so he may have been unconscious beforehand. He absolutely stank of alcohol, probably plenty enough to make him sleep.”
“Or enough to make a less thorough team think he’d drunk himself to death. What was used to strangle him?” Lestrade asked,
“Hard to say, looked like possibly a chain of some kind, the bruises won’t fully develop for another few hours, the TOD as near as I can determine was some time after four this morning, probably nearer to seven.”
Lestrade glanced down at his notebook, confirming the timings he’d had from the woman who’d found the body,
“The dog-walker must have only just missed witnessing the crime at that rate, she said she saw him lying there at six-thirty and then when she came back at quarter-past seven and he hadn’t moved she checked on him and found he was dead.”
“I’d say that narrows down the TOD,” Anderson replied, “between four and six-thirty this morning. I suppose it at least narrows down the amount of CCTV footage some poor constable has to sit through.”
“Yes,” Lestrade replied, in a slightly abstracted tone, “yes … Sally will you go and check what views we can get of the surrounding area?” The three of them instinctively looked up to see if they could see any cameras in the immediate area, before Sally replied,
“Yep, boss,” and walked up the foreshore towards the waiting area car. Anderson cleared his throat, and Greg knew with a sinking feeling that Anderson was going to try and be nice about it all, knew that he was right in his supposition that the information was all over the bloody Yard.
“Are you OK, Greg?”
For a second Greg contemplated pretending he didn’t know what Anderson was asking about, blustering his way through the whole thing before deciding that he probably owed the man a little more than that,
“Not really, but I’ll get there,” he replied,
“Should you really be here?” The words sent Lestrade into a panic that he really hoped didn’t show on his face, was he doing something wrong, had he missed something, was he going to stuff this up? He took a deep breath before answering, trying for calm and collected and unsure whether he was going to manage it,
“Passed fit by a doctor, so no reason why not. Is there something wrong?” Lestrade braced himself for the reply, but it was Anderson’s turn to look embarrassed,
“No, boss, I just wanted to make sure you were OK.” Irritating though Lestrade found him on occasions, particularly the occasions when his tangled private life got in the way of the work, he realised that it had been a genuine question,
“Well, yes, I’m fine. I think I’m going to run background checks on the woman who found the victim, there was something not right there ... can you get any trace processed as quickly as possible? Thanks, let’s get back.”
The two of them walked back up to the other waiting car, each of them wrapped in their own thoughts.
In the end the case was ridiculously easy to wrap up and Lestrade found himself feeling almost cheated, he’d wanted it to be difficult, to be absorbing, but it just wasn’t. When he’d done a PNC check on Jean Murch it turned up any amount of information.
She’d started with calls about suspicious goings on around her house. Lots of calls, hundreds of calls, in fact she’d called her local knick two or three times a week on average until in the end they’d threatened her with a charge of wasting police time. She’d gone quiet for a while after that, a few calls here and there to a slightly less nearby station. Then had come the calls about her stalker, again lots and lots of calls but never any appreciable evidence that there was a stalker until the day when she’d called to say she’d caught the stalker. When uniform had gone round they found a concussed electricity company meter reader just coming round and Miss Murch standing over him threatening to hit him again if he moved.
Of course he wasn’t a stalker let alone her stalker. Her brief had submitted psychiatric reports and she’d been given a suspended sentence with the proviso that she underwent treatment. It could almost be a sitcom right up to the point that she decided that if she couldn’t get the attention of the police force one way she’d do it another. Right until she’d come across Dennis Braithwaite, sleeping off a bender and throttled him with her dog’s lead, just for the notice as far as Lestrade could work out, she didn’t even really bother to deny it when he’d interviewed her. It was a stupid, stupid case and by the end of the day Lestrade was feeling every one of his aches and pains and now with nothing to think about but what had happened he just really wanted to crawl away back to his own flat and hole up, even the thought of torturing Sherlock with Doctor Who didn’t seem that attractive, so he went home.
Mycroft finally gave up on sleeping when it got to four o’clock. Each and every time he shut his eyes all he could see was the lost, vacant look on Greg’s face when he walked into the flat, all he could think was how could I possibly not have seen what had happened, how can I possibly have jumped to that conclusion. And now I’ve wrecked things, I’ve wrecked the only good thing I had and I hurt him so much and still all I can think about is myself. The adrenaline surge that this final thought caused made him almost jump out of bed. I can at least put my guilt to some good purpose he thought, and settled down at his computer to further review the information from the CCTV cameras that he, Sherlock and John had put together the previous afternoon, looking for any further clues. It was a sign of his shaken confidence in his own abilities that he made notes of what he observed.
When the time got to something like a decent hour Mycroft rang one of his information specialists and requested the personnel and other files on DI Deborah Reedley, he wanted to know that Greg’s case was being handled by the best and would have had no compunction in pulling strings or issuing out and out orders to ensure that this was the case. After fifteen minutes of perusing the files he’d been sent he was content that the case was in good hands and he got up and went to the kitchen and began his usual morning ritual, making coffee listening to the early morning news on Radio 4, all the time trying to decide what his next move was.
Indecision was far from Mycroft’s usual state of mind, his ability to make quick and accurate decisions had saved lives on many occasions, but now he found he couldn’t decide on the right thing to do, he couldn’t tell whether his desire to ‘do something’ was clouding his assessment of the situation. He took a deep breath and then a long pull on the ridiculously strong coffee he’d prepared and tried to clear his mind of all extraneous information and sensation, what would he do if this were someone else, someone else he cared enough about to actually put the effort in but not someone who was part of his personal life, what would he do for instance if this had happened to John Watson?
Phrasing the question in that way allowed him to focus just a little bit better. Would his direct involvement in the investigation make it more likely that they would apprehend the attackers? Yes, he decided, his involvement and that of John and of Sherlock would aid the investigation. He now needed to persuade DI Reedley.
Mycroft made sure that he was outside New Scotland Yard by seven-thirty, ready to intercept DI Reedley as she left, having seen her photograph he had no doubt that he would be able to recognise her and sure enough she emerged five minutes later, heading purposefully towards the nearest tube station. He moved forward to intercept her,
“DI Reedley?” he asked despite already knowing it was her,
“Who’s asking?” she replied, looking him up and down, sizing him up,
“My name is Mycroft Holmes and I would like to discuss one of your cases,”
“You might be surprised to find how infrequently we do that, especially my squad, why would I discuss any case with you?”
Mycroft reached for his identification, and noted the way in which the detective tensed up, ready to fight if she needed to, if he were reaching for a weapon of some kind,
“Not to worry, DI Reedley, I work for the government and am interested in the case relating to the,” he paused unable to say the word, “assault on DI Lestrade. I was part of the team that put together the CCTV surveillance which I assume you received last night.” He showed her the ID, it was not likely one that she had seen ‘in person’ as it were, but she ought to recognise it at least. Looking at her and the way her eyes widened infinitesimally he could see that this was the case, “I would very much like to continue to offer my assistance and that of my colleagues in order to bring the case to a satisfactory conclusion. Please allow me to give you a lift to Baker Street.”
By the time that he and DI Reedley arrived at 221B Mycroft was almost sure he had her convinced, she was certainly prepared to look carefully at their evidence something which it turned out she had been less than enthusiastic about at the start. Mycroft had surreptitiously texted John during the course of their journey, alerting him to the fact that if he and Sherlock wanted to be involved in the investigation then he would need to keep Sherlock in line. Mycroft was aware of John looking him over as the two of them came into the room, he knew that to John he must look a mess (Sherlock routinely overlooked or pretended to overlook John’s own impressive skills of observation), he had just had his third sleepless night in a row and what was keeping him together was determination, anger and coffee. It irritated Mycroft beyond belief (another sign of his tiredness) that he had to struggle to maintain his usual urbane demeanour as he made the introductions,
“John, Sherlock this is DI Deborah Reedley, DI Reedley this is my brother Sherlock and his associate Doctor Watson,”
“Ah!” she said, “Sherlock Holmes, I’ve heard a lot about you around the Yard, and you Doctor Watson, it’s a pleasure to meet you at last, call me Deb.”
Mycroft allowed DI Reedley to direct the conversation, it was important to her he judged that she should be ‘in charge’ and given the competence which she had demonstrated during her career Mycroft was far from begrudging her that, he did not doubt his ability to take charge himself if it became necessary but he would by far rather not.
“First, can you take me through the CCTV footage,” she said and quickly John linked his laptop to the television and they worked through the sequence, occasionally referring back to the individual feeds so that she could see that the links they had made between the feed from one camera to another were justified. Then they watched the whole sequence through again from the entrance to the alley way to where they lost him when he got to the Sheldon Estate. Mycroft consulting the notes he had made that morning in order to add some things he had observed ignored the look that Sherlock was giving him, it wasn’t like it would come as a surprise to his little brother that this was affecting his confidence drastically. “Well, gentlemen that seems quite straightforward. Of the three suspects that you and DI Lestrade described which one do you reckon this is?” she asked, gesturing to the frozen image on the screen.
“Most likely the one that Lestrade said had a faint Scottish accent, the one who seemed to be in charge.”
“So are you proposing that we do a door-to-door?” she asked, “The man power needed might be a little difficult to arrange, people tend to ask whether we would put the same effort in if it wasn’t one of our own. The stupid thing about it is that if it were one of our female colleagues we’d get off-shift volunteers, but I don’t think Greg would want us asking and unfortunately it’s just not seen as the same thing if it’s a bloke and particularly a gay bloke.”
“Really?” John cut in, “they really wouldn’t turn out to help any officer in this situation?”
DI Reedley looked away, rubbing at the side of her nose,
“Oh, some would, but to most of the men the thought is so terrible that they’d rather pretend it doesn’t happen. As to the attitude to gay men being raped, I sometimes think we’ll never shift that one, there’s a reason we still have to have specialist sexual assault squads.”
“What level of staffing would you normally put on this Inspector?” Mycroft asked.
“Three or four officers, it depends. In this case because it’s clearly a serial case we might manage more,”
“Yes,” Mycroft interrupted, “it seems likely that this isn’t the first time they’ve done this, far too practiced a technique, and then there’s what they said about ‘next week’.” He paused, “With the three of us we can at least cut into the number of officers you need, can we not?”
“Well, you see that’s where I think we do have a problem,” she said, “we need this to be water-proof and I’m dubious to say the least about letting, in plain talk, amateurs in on anything past what you’ve done already.”
“With all due respect, Inspector,” Mycroft replied, “I think you will find that we are more than up to the task. You are aware of the work my brother here has done with the Met, are you not?”
“I’m aware of the work he’s done, yes, and I’m also aware of the fact that it usually stops well short of anything beyond what you’ve already done,” she turned to Sherlock, “and that’s without the personal interest you have in the case.”
It would have taken a far less sensitive person than Reedley not to notice the change in the atmosphere when she said that and as she glanced round she caught much to his chagrin the expression on Mycroft’s face (I really must be tired he thought), “I gather there’s a little more going on here than I was informed, do you also have a personal connection to DI Lestrade?” she asked Mycroft.
Mycroft cleared his throat before replying,
“Not currently, and nothing that would get in the way of the investigation. I assure you that I can present credentials for all three of us that would more than satisfy your superiors.” It was said with a smile but also with an unmistakeable air of command, it was a testament to the DI’s determination that she continued to argue,
“It’s not a matter of satisfying my superiors, Mr Holmes, it’s a matter of satisfying myself that everything will be above board and nothing will stop us getting a conviction. The rate of reporting on this kind of crime is vanishingly small, Greg’s been incredibly brave to be so open about the assault, I want to take no chances that he will have put himself through that for nothing, I can’t risk any case being lost on a technicality or on someone getting too enthusiastic when it comes to an arrest.” Mycroft suddenly couldn’t help but picture Greg in one of the dreary interview rooms at New Scotland Yard, still slightly dazed, trying desperately hard to be a ‘good witness’; for a second, before he exercised his usual iron control, the thought made him fear that he was going to vomit,
“Getting one or more convictions in this case is our prime consideration, Detective Inspector, and we are all of us more than aware of the courage that DI Lestrade has shown in this situation,” Mycroft closed his eyes briefly, pinching the bridge of his nose before he continued, “you will not find people more motivated to bring this to a successful conclusion, please allow us to help.” Mycroft could hear the almost pleading tone in his own voice and wondered whether it was as obvious to the other people in the room.
Reedley took some time to think about this one. Mycroft could see her weighing what she knew of Sherlock and his methods, the whispers she’d heard about him and the undeniable fact of three extra bodies to help with the investigation,
“Having you three will mean that I can put people in pairs to do the interviews, that’s always better,” she mused. Suddenly she sat up straighter and Mycroft knew that she’d made a decision and also that it was the decision he wanted her to make, from the general air of relaxation both Sherlock and John also knew, “Right, we’ll do this. You three are the closest we’ve got to anyone who will recognise this bastard, but I can’t emphasise enough that you’re to defer to any and all instructions given to you by my officers.” She turned directly to Sherlock, “If I send you out with someone will you be able to follow their instructions, will you be able to keep your mouth shut? These are sensitive situations you can’t just wade in two-footed.” Mycroft steeled himself but was surprised at Sherlock’s reply,
“In this instance, of course. I owe DI Lestrade my life a number of times over, I will do nothing to jeopardise the investigation.”
“Good enough. Gentlemen,” she said directed at John and Sherlock, “I just need to have a word with Mr Holmes...”
For a moment Sherlock did look like he was going to argue about this one but John caught his eye and the two of them went into the kitchen. John pointedly shut the door and a few seconds later both DI Reedley and Mycroft could hear the sound of the radio. Mycroft who had been contemplating his hands turning the small notebook over and over, looked up and met Reedley’s eye,
“You have something to say to me detective?” he focused a little more, “No, sorry, you have something to ask me. What is it?”
“If only a small portion of what I’ve heard about you is true then I would like to know why you haven’t sorted this out yourself. You have full access to the PNC and probably to records I can only dream about. Do you already know who it is we’re going after? And if not, why not? It’s clear that DI Lestrade is very important to you, why have you not done this?”
She continued to hold Mycroft’s gaze while he assembled his response. Finally he spoke,
“Precisely because Greg is so important to me. His whole life has been dedicated to the rule of law, he would not want me to circumvent that, especially not for him, he would want to put his trust in the system he has been a part of for all his working life.” Mycroft looked down and continued in a much quieter voice, “If it were for someone else he might ask, but he would never ask for himself. We have had many conversations about ‘the ends and the means’.” He took a deep breath, “I could have pulled records of anyone who has so much as been interviewed by the police for any crime within the Sheldon Estate, I could have narrowed the list by whether each of them has any connection to Scotland, I could have sent a team to apprehend anyone from that list and I could have them interrogated until they spilled their guts and when I had done all that and found the miserable excuses for men who did this I could have them disappeared.” He paused, still turning his notebook over and over in his hands. DI Reedley experienced as she was knew better than interrupt and eventually he looked up and met her eyes, “And I want to do it, it is taking everything I have not to do it, my staff could roll over those men and leave nothing but a greasy smear and the world would be a better place for it, but I would never be able to so much as look at Greg again and that is unacceptable.”
There was a long pause, during which DI Reedley continued to meet his gaze before she replied,
“That’s fair enough.”
“He was far too short,” John said as they came away from the door of flat 117, “and no accent.”
“Well, a change in accent is easy to fake,” DS Mitchell replied, “anyone can learn to do that, he might have been faking it when DI Lestrade heard him on Tuesday morning.” John considered,
“Well, he might, but I don’t know why he would, Greg’s convinced that none of them knew that he was coming out of the drugs, and I think that he could tell the difference between a real and a faked accent.”
“Maybe,” Mitchell said.
As he walked along the walkway of the second storey of the dilapidated block behind the young DS John reflected on how different his life was these days, remembering Mycroft’s comment when they’d had their first conversation, When you walk with Sherlock Holmes you see the battlefield, it had certainly turned out to be true; he would never have imagined that he would ever be part of a police investigation. Given the way Sherlock is, I suppose I ought to be glad I’m on this side of the investigation, he mused. Sherlock and Reedley were working along the floor below and Mycroft and another DS were working along the third storey, occasionally John could hear one or other pair knocking on a door.
Mycroft had arranged a route for the door to door with his usual calm and flawless organisation, a route that John was sure was optimal for them to get the whole estate done and now towards the end of the afternoon they were a good way through with, as far as John was aware no identifications made. It was tedious but necessary work and when John found his concentration slipping or when he became aware of the pain in his leg, he remembered the broken look in Greg’s eyes and continued with renewed resolve.
Mitchell knocked at the next door and they waited. Mitchell was on the point of knocking again when John heard someone slowly walking towards the door. When the door was finally opened it was clear that this certainly wasn’t their man. The woman looked up at them, she couldn’t have been more than four foot six as far as John could estimate and was probably well into her seventies. What they could see of the flat was pristine; to John’s eye it didn’t look as though she had some a younger relative living with her who might be at least the right gender to fit the descriptions of the rapists.
Mitchell showed his warrant card and then launched into the same formula he’d used for every flat where they’d been able to get an answer. John felt his mind drift a little, it wasn’t that likely that she was one of their suspects, but his tired musing was interrupted by the second part of her answer,
“You could ask next door,” she suggested, “he got in very late on Monday night, well I say Monday night, Tuesday morning more like, he might have seen something, made such a racket, but then you’re only young once, aren’t you? Is the young lady all right?”
“As well as can be expected,” was John’s non-committal answer, it was the assumption everyone made after all.
It took them a little while to get away politely refusing an offer of tea, and as they walked the few steps to the next flat John was trying not to get his hopes up that they might get some useful information from the woman’s neighbour.
Sergeant Mitchell looked round at him before he knocked at the door of the next flat, making sure that they were both ready for yet another asking of the questions. It was a man who came to the door, good start, at least he’s in, John thought. He was wearing a grubby t-shirt and jogging bottoms. John noticed particularly the way he stood, mostly behind the door almost peering at them from behind his own right arm; he seemed poised to slam the door at any moment which John thought was not unreasonable given the neighbourhood. Mitchell went into his well rehearsed routine while John tried to assess the height and build of the man relative to the image from the various CCTV feeds, an image that John felt would be permanently burned into his mind,
“Police,” said DS Mitchell flashing his warrant card, “we’re conducting a door to door enquiry on this estate in connection with a serious sexual assault which took place in the early hours of Tuesday morning.”
“Yeah?” the householder replied, John puzzled a little over the accent but the single word was not enough to go on, instead he focused on the build and stance of the man.
“We were wondering if you saw anything.”
“I haven’t seen anything,” he replied and John could hear the faint sound of the highlands in his speech. He began to close the door and as he did that he stood slightly straighter up and something clicked in John’s mind, something about the way his shoulder moved. Between that and the accent John was suddenly sure that this was the bloke. Sure but lacking anything approaching proof or reason to arrest. I need to keep him talking, John thought,
“Do you not want to know what time?”
“Not really,” he replied, “I was in all night on Monday night, didn’t leave the flat until about lunchtime on Tuesday, no way I could have seen anything happen to him.”
John was certain now; no one would assume that it was a bloke who’d been assaulted, certainly not the man that John was currently watching and that was without the neighbour’s assertion that he had been out on Monday night. Mentally he willed Mitchell to either have not heard what the man had said or to have the sense to pass it over for just one more minute. Anxious to stop the DS saying anything right now he asked another question,
“Does anyone else live here? Might they have seen something?”
“There’s just me,”
“OK, thank you, sir, could I just take your name?” Mitchell asked, and John couldn’t help himself but smile, good, he knows, John thought. The man suddenly looked very shifty, clearly not happy to give his name. Mitchell continued, “It’s just so that we can make sure we see everyone eventually, Mr…” he left the surname dangling, making it difficult for the man not to answer,
“Shepherd,” he completed and John knew with a sure certainty that he was lying.
“Oh,” John said, bluffing, “have you just moved in then? It’s just that’s not the name we have from the electoral register, don’t worry we won’t tell the council if it’s a sublet,” and that was it, he was off, shoving Mitchell out of the way and legging it down the walk way and John was off after him just as quickly. He was fast and he was motivated, but John was no less motivated in fact he was aware of a desire to do him a serious damage when he caught him.
By the end of the landing John had gained on him enough to see that he’d run down the stairwell. John yelled,
“Sherlock, Reedley, he’s coming your way!”
John almost threw himself down the stairwell still hoping to catch the man up but as he rounded the corner to the next flight of stairs he could see that Reedley had the bloke pinned, knee in the small of his back, and Sherlock was nursing a split lip, as he watched Reedley cuffed their suspect and got up, leaving him spitting and swearing on the ground,
“It’s him,” both Sherlock and John said at the same time, John following up with,
“The accent’s right,” and Sherlock following up with
“His build’s right.”
John looked down at their suspect,
“So, Mr Shepherd, why did you run off?”
“Fuck off, you can’t just grab me, what have I done?”
“Well we can start with lying to police, obstructing our investigations...” Mitchell looked up and his voice petered out as Mycroft and the DS that had been paired with him came down onto the landing. It was clearly the look on Mycroft’s face that had surprised Mitchell, John thought he’d never seen anyone so pale and still upright, let alone in such icy control of himself,
“Can we get him up on his feet?” he asked, his voice expressionless and clipped, “I will be better able to judge his similarity to our ‘person of interest’.”
Reedley and Mitchell reached down and pulled the man up by his upper arms, John noted that they were scrupulous about doing it in such a way as to cause him as little discomfort as possible and wondered at the fact that they could show such professionalism in this case. And then he was stood in front of Mycroft, meeting his gaze for a little while before adjusting his line of sight infinitesimally and looking over Mycroft’s left shoulder instead.
Mycroft cleared his throat,
“This is the man from the CCTV footage. What flat did you find him in John?”
“119, he claims to have been in all night Monday night and well into Tuesday, but we have reason to believe that he was out until the early hours of Tuesday which fits with what we know.”
Mycroft was texting as John spoke and looked down at his phone for a moment or two before he continued to speak,
“Where were you on Monday night and early Tuesday morning, Mr Stinson?”
John had to admit that the man had iron nerves, he didn’t flinch, or react in any overt way to the fact that Mycroft knew his name, nor did he try to deny who he was,
“I’m not saying anything,” he replied, the only indication of the fact that he might be worried being the very slight thickening of his accent. He looked round to Reedley having seemingly worked out that she was the one in charge, “If you’re arresting me then get on with it, sooner I’m in, sooner I’m out.”
John, Sherlock and Mycroft of course found themselves sidelined once they were back to the Yard, for them to get involved further now would mean that they could not be involved in any subsequent prosecution and there was a chance that their evidence would be called, even if they were hoping that the case would likely be solved by forensics. The thought of how long the forensics were going to take made Mycroft grit his teeth in frustration aware of how insufferable Sherlock was going to be while they waited. At a pinch they could try and get a voice identification from Greg, but the official procedure for that was labyrinthine to say the least, it could take weeks and they all knew the statistics about memory ‘fade’ over time, and that would only get them one of the three, unless he implicated his accomplices, they would not catch the other two.
They shared a taxi back to 221B, they’d checked on Greg but had been told that he had already left and so they expected him to be at Baker Street when they got there, Mrs Hudson would have let him in despite the drugs bust all those months ago. Mycroft had made his mind up not to impose his presence on Greg but was persuaded by John that he should at least come in and recount what they had done.
Greg wasn’t there. All of them, Mycroft thought, were trying to pretend that this wasn’t an issue whilst simultaneously knowing that it was. John offered a cup of tea, Sherlock rolled his eyes and Mycroft stood, indecisive in a way that was usually so alien to him, trying to decide which of them should go to Greg’s flat to check on him.
“I should be the one to go,” Mycroft blurted out, so sure that they were all thinking the same thing that he felt that he didn’t need to clarify what he was talking about. John ducked back out of the kitchen and looked at him closely,
“Are you sure?” he asked, “I’d pretty much decided that I should go, I’m sorry Mycroft but he might really not want to see you.”
“I’m aware of that, John, but I think I will be most able to persuade him to come back here, if by no other means than by saying that I will stay until he does.” He paused, wondering to himself why it was that he was still trying to save face, John and Sherlock knew everything, “I need to know that he is all right. I’ll get him to come back here.”
All the way to Greg’s flat Mycroft rehearsed what he was going to say, whilst worrying that Greg might not be there and what he would do if he wasn’t. It came down to that same feeling that he wasn’t fit to be in the same room as Greg, after what he had done; he could see no reason, no reason at all why Greg wouldn’t hate him.
The taxi ride was over far too quickly. Mycroft over paid the taxi driver extravagantly for no other reason than he wasn’t concentrating and on any other day that would have worried him, today he didn’t even notice, looking up as he was at the window he knew to be Lestrade’s.
The flats were key code entry and Mycroft remembered, of course he remembered, the key code that would get him into the foyer and his feet took him on auto-pilot to Lestrade’s front door, how many times after all had he made this trip in the early days of their relationship before Greg had more or less moved in with him? However, when he’d reached the door he found he had no idea what to do. The adrenaline coursing through his veins was telling him to go away again and it was finely balanced by a need to know that Greg was all right. He took a deep breath and knocked smartly on the door and then he waited and continued to wait. After a counted minute he knocked again, slightly more loudly, but as calmly as he could manage, certainly more calmly than he felt, what he felt like doing was shoulder charging the door. After another minute he knocked yet again, louder still and more insistently and finally his cat like hearing picked up the sound of someone moving in the flat.
“Greg, it’s me he,” he called out, as he could hear Lestrade getting closer to the door. When Greg opened the door, Mycroft was surprised by how rough he looked, much worse than he had done when Mycroft had seen him yesterday. He’d been drinking and was wearing his oldest rattiest clothes as far as Mycroft could ascertain, but it was far more than that it was the haunted look in his eyes that was the worst thing. Greg spoke,
“What are you doing here, Mycroft?” His tone was flat, inflectionless and it made Mycroft realise that there were far worse things than being shouted at or even punched. Mycroft stood up straighter, forced his face into a business like expression and answered,
“We thought that you would like to know how the investigation is going.”
Lestrade brightened just a little,
“Come in then,” he said, turning away and walking slowly and to Mycroft’s eyes slightly unsteadily down the hallway. Mycroft followed him.
It didn’t take long to give him the details and tell him what was happening now; he understood after all how a police investigation worked. He asked a few questions as Mycroft went through it all but there was still that flatness to what he was saying. Eventually Mycroft’s explanations ran down and he was left just looking at Greg, who looked away,
“I know,” Greg muttered, “I look like shit, you don’t need to say it.”
“I think you know that was not what I was going to say. I...” Mycroft corrected himself, “we’re all worried about you. John and Sherlock were expecting you back at Baker Street.”
“Yeah, well,” he answered, “I couldn’t see the point of inflicting myself on them, I don’t want anyone worrying about me, I’m not some child, I might be, I have been, an idiot, but I’m not a child.”
“No one thinks you are Greg. Sherlock in particular just wants the chance to repay some of the times when you helped him out. Please come back there with me, let them help you.”
“And if I don’t want to?” Greg asked,
“Then I will stay here to make sure that you are all right.” Mycroft tried to put a certainty into his voice as he said it, an implacability so that Greg would realise that the only way to get rid of him was to go back to Baker Street, but he was horribly aware of the fact that it came out as more of a plea. He watched Greg and could see that he was trying to frame his response to this. After a few moments he spoke,
“Why were you the one who came here, Mycroft, why not John or Sherlock?”
“I hope you wouldn’t give me any other kind of answer,” Greg returned,
“Because I had to know that you were OK. I couldn’t bear the idea that you were hurting and on your own. That ... shouldn’t happen to you again. Seriously, Greg, let me take you back to Baker Street. I promise I won’t even come in, in fact if you want I won’t even accompany you.”
Greg slumped forward and held his head in his hands,
“Can you really not even stand to share a taxi with me?”
It was said so quietly that Mycroft almost missed it and then when he’d heard it was so stupid that he almost laughed; how on Earth could this brave, amazing person misread things to that extent?
“You think that’s how I feel? I want, I’ve wanted all the time I’ve known you to spend all my time with you. Greg, surely you know I love you?”
“It didn’t seem like it on Tuesday morning,” he said still in that small, so very small, voice.
“That was a mistake, the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. That’s the mistake I hope you’ll let me spend the rest of my life attempting to make up.” Mycroft shut up. He’d been determined not to burden Lestrade with his need for forgiveness and here he was selfishly doing exactly that. He couldn’t think of anything he could say that was appropriate. Eventually Lestrade spoke again,
“I know it’s only been a couple of days, nearly three I suppose, but, what if I never get this sorted out, Mycroft? What if I’m always like this? What if I’m broken?” He looked up at Mycroft when he finished the last of these questions and without thinking Mycroft moved over to sit next to him and took his left hand,
“You are so strong, Greg, this will not break you, hell, even with this you’ve cleared up a murder today I’m told, of course you’ll be fine. It won’t be easy, but you will be fine, honestly.”
Greg leaned into him slightly and Mycroft wanted to pull him into his arms but resisted not sure how the gesture would be taken, whether it would be acceptable to Greg now. Greg made the decision for him,
“Would you hold me please? I will go back to Baker Street with you, but could you just hold me for a minute?”
“Of course, my love,” Mycroft murmured as he pulled Greg gently towards him, cradling his head against his shoulder and feeling the tremors vibrating through his body.
Greg pulled away from Mycroft in the end. The feeling of being held by Mycroft was wonderful, it was still, he thought would always be, his definition of comfort, Mycroft’s deceptively strong arms around him, the scent of Mycroft filling his nostrils, the warmth of Mycroft stopping some of the shivers that ran through him, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he shouldn’t be there, that he was somehow not fit to be held by Mycroft.
As soon as Greg pulled away Mycroft had his phone in his hand, texting,
“Anthea will be here with a car in five minutes. Is there anything you need to collect before we go?” he asked standing up. Lestrade looked around helplessly, unable to focus on the answer to the question. Mycroft looked at him for a moment before he continued, “I’ll put together some things for you.” and with that he walked away into the bedroom of the flat. Greg knew that he should get up and at least help but he just couldn’t make himself, it all seemed too much bother, so he sat, staring into space dimly aware of Mycroft moving around his bedroom and then the bathroom. Even when Mycroft came back and stood in front of him he couldn’t manage to look up at him, he just continued to stare. A small part of his mind wondered what Mycroft was thinking looking at him. The nasty insinuating, relentless voice in the back of his mind was saying over and over he’s seeing you like you really are, finally. It had to happen, now he knows what a pathetic waste of skin you are, and Lestrade tried not to listen even though he knew at his core that the voice was right.
“Come on, Greg,” Mycroft said gently, “the car will be here in a moment, let’s go down and meet it,” and he reached an arm down to help Greg to his feet. Part of Greg knew that’s what he was doing and another more central part of him flinched away from the grasp and for a moment he was back in the pub and someone, someone Greg didn’t know was gripping him tightly by his upper arm with a smile on his lips that was a leer and a threat and violence by the time it reached his eyes. Just as quickly Greg was back in his flat with Mycroft and trying to cover up his reaction, for all the good that will do me with a bloody Holmes. I might just as well take out a full page advert in ‘The Times’ detailing what was going through my mind as try and hide something like that from Mycroft he thought and sure enough the question came, calm and cool on the surface, intense and focused in reality,
“What did you remember?”
Greg was very much aware that he did not want to discuss it all now, partly because he just didn’t want to and partly because talking to Mycroft about what had happened would make it seem that bit more real and he didn’t want Mycroft to be touched by this any more than he already was,
“Nothing,” he stated, getting up,
“Greg,” Mycroft said again, and Greg almost smiled at the ‘I can wait all day if necessary’ tone in his voice, wondering if he’d learned it from his mother or from a nanny.
“Seriously, Mycroft, it wasn’t really a memory, just ... like a flashbulb image.” He stopped speaking again hoping he’d said enough to get Mycroft off his case but knowing that he hadn’t, Mycroft continued to wait, not showing any exasperation, just waiting. “All right,” Greg muttered, not meeting Mycroft’s eyes at all, “I think one of them gripped me by the arm at some point, I think it was after they drugged me, he was helping,” here Greg sketched air quotes, “me out of the pub, I was probably none too steady on my feet by then.” At that point Greg finally looked at Mycroft, caught the tail end of an expression he’d never seen before on that face, fury, cold, blazing fury and even though he knew that it wasn’t directed at him it made him feel slightly sick and dizzy. “Mycroft, don’t ...” he began before he was interrupted,
“I’m sorry, Greg, I should realise the need to be careful with you at the moment.”
“That wasn’t you being angry at yourself, though, was it?” Greg asked.
Mycroft sighed, looking down before he looked back up at Greg,
“No, it wasn’t,” he confirmed and again he let his gaze wander away from Greg’s face, “I would really like to find the people involved and part them from their breath, slowly and painfully. It is taking everything I have to avoid ‘persuading’ the bastard in custody to spill his guts, literally as well as metaphorically so that I can round up his accomplices and ensure that none of them ever see the light of day again. But I won’t. I won’t because while that may be who I am, who I have been from time to time at any rate, it’s not who you are and it’s not who I want to be when I’m with you. I’m sorry Greg, I didn’t want to burden you with how I am feeling but you need to know. One word, one word from you and I would do that and I would do it with a song in my heart and a smile on my lips.” By the time he had finished speaking Mycroft was out of breath and Greg was astonished by the concentrated, focused fury he felt from him,
“Reedley’s good at what she does, you know,” Greg said,
“I know that, believe me I know that,”
Greg had a moment to think about what that said about Mycroft’s access to records at the Met and to wonder whether Mycroft had ever checked his records before Mycroft continued,
“But there are also good barristers and stupid, prejudiced juries, things beyond even my control.”
“Is that what this is about, control?” Greg asked feeling a degree of anger building in him, “You’re not in control, Mycroft.” He took a deep breath before continuing, “Do you want me to say the word? Would it make you feel better?” Greg asked.
His response clearly surprised Mycroft, he looked up directly into Greg’s face before he closed his eyes briefly and swallowed, looking down again,
“It’s not about making me feel better you should say the word only if it will make you feel better, only if you want to, I want to be guided by you,” he paused briefly and then continued, “John was of the opinion that you would want things done lawfully, whereas I,” he looked up at Greg without moving his head, “would completely understand if you just wanted this dealt with, so that you wouldn’t have to testify,” again he paused and then repeated his offer, “if you would like me to take care of the situation, just say the word.”
“And what would that involve?” Greg asked, taking pains to keep his voice level and calm despite the fact that he felt anything but calm,
“You would not need to worry about that,” Mycroft replied, “you would just be sure that those … individuals … would not be in a position to damage anyone else.”
When he finished speaking he looked at Greg properly, waiting patiently for his response. Greg took his time thinking through the different possibilities,
“So, what, they’d disappear? Never be heard of again?” Greg knew that he was dangerously close to shouting, it was better than what he really wanted to do which was to punch Mycroft but part of him was horribly aware that Mycroft would just let him. “You know,” he continued struggling to moderate his voice down to a conversational tone, “if anyone else said what you’ve just said, I’d laugh in his face, I’d call ‘bullshit’, but you mean it, don’t you.” One quick glance at Mycroft confirmed this and Greg swallowed before continuing,
“The thought of testifying makes me feel sick, but the thought of them out there doing that to someone else is worse.” He took a deep breath and looked away, speaking quietly, “No, I don’t want you to handle the situation; I don’t want it to touch you any more than it already has. Hell, Mycroft do you think that I want what happened to make you into a person who would do that?” He paused before he looked at Mycroft and what he saw made him pale and take a step backwards. “Oh,” he said, “I see. Shit.”
“Greg … I …” but there really wasn’t anything Mycroft could say, there was nothing that he could say that would make this better, nothing that could erase the knowledge from Greg’s mind and Greg wanted more than anything for Mycroft not to try, for Mycroft not to lie to him,
“You’ve actually had people ‘disappeared’? Shit.” Greg swallowed, trying to keep a grip on the nausea he was feeling and quickly continued to speak, still trying to prevent Mycroft from trying to deny what they both knew was true, “You know Sherlock once told me that you were the most dangerous man I’d ever meet. Now I know what he meant.”
Mycroft cleared his throat, and Greg found himself repeating don’t lie to me over and over in his mind like a mantra,
“Would it help to know that while I have indeed orchestrated the disappearance of more than one individual, I have never had any one killed or even seriously injured, I have ... merely arranged for them to be where they could do no further harm.”
Greg was staring at him as Mycroft said this and the relief he felt at the fact that he could detect no deception in his face was such that he sat down abruptly. It also surprised him that he wanted to know more,
“How many?” he asked, not sure what if anything could be was the ‘right’ answer, would it be all right if it was less than ten but insurmountable if the answer was bigger than twenty? Greg recognised that he was beginning to get slightly hysterical and took a deep breath.
Mycroft answered at once as if the number were at the forefront of his mind, perhaps it was Greg thought, hoping that something this serious would leave a mark, would be noteworthy,
“Eleven. I can’t give you details but of that eleven four were terrorists, five were informers who needed to disappear completely to have any chance of being safe and two were far from ordinary criminals where I was certain that they had done unspeakable things but far less certain that it would be possible to obtain convictions against them for their crimes.”
“If there was proof against them, why would you not be able to get a conviction?” Greg asked.
“The evidence in one case was the word of a young and very vulnerable victim, one whom I knew to be telling the truth, but whom a half way competent barrister would have twisted every way until they were no longer sure what had happened themselves, let alone be in a state to be able to convince a jury. In the other case the main witness was no longer able to testify once the miscreant had got to them. I, we, should have moved much more rapidly in that case.”
There was a long pause which Greg filled by minutely adjusting the zip on the bag that Mycroft had dumped on the coffee table, while a part of his mind produced a list of the crimes that it would appear that Mycroft had committed. Twice Greg almost spoke, inhaling with a question forming on his lips before he decided against asking it, in the end it was Mycroft who broke the silence, in a much calmer and more gentle voice than before,
“Many of the things that Sherlock says are so much hot air and over dramatisation but in that comment he was correct, I am or at least I can be very dangerous. My position does not come under the jurisdiction of any of the Great Offices of State; I do what needs to be done to ensure that ... things run smoothly.”
“And that includes disappearing people, does it. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t fit any definition I’d ever use for things running smoothly. For fuck’s sake, Mycroft, what about the law? What about what my team and I spend all day working on? What would happen if one of my cases turned out to be something that needs to be dealt with to keep things running smoothly?”
“I would not do that to you.” Mycroft stated it quietly and even in his anger Lestrade believed him,
“Yeah, but that’s not the point, is it, what would happen.” Greg was pleased to hear that he could keep his voice level, that he could use Mycroft’s I can wait all day if necessary tone on the man himself,
“If the case had got as far as a suspect in custody then it would take exceptional circumstances for me to ... intervene, but I would explain to the leading officer what was going to be done and why. Mostly however my department only becomes involved when there seems to be no hope of dealing with the situation by the normal channels.”
“And you get to decide that do you. What if you get the wrong man, Mycroft? Who gave you the right to decide on someone’s guilt or innocence?”
For the first time Mycroft began to show some anger,
“Nature gave me the right! Should I take the way I am, the things I can do and not use them for the greater good? Should I stand behind the law and use it as a shield to protect myself from the hard decisions, so that I can keep my hands clean, should I hide behind morals or should I do what is right?” Mycroft was breathless when he finished, and his eyes glittered in his slightly flushed face. A small part of Greg felt that he’d never looked more attractive than he did at that moment.
“But, you’re not always right, are you? You’ve managed to prove that just lately, haven’t you?” It was a low blow, Greg knew that, but he also knew that it had to be said; he needed to understand this part of Mycroft because at the moment all he really wanted to do was be away from him and that if he went now, not understanding, then he would never come back.
Mycroft did not answer straight away, Greg felt that anyone else would be fidgeting with something, smoothing their hair or adjusting some part of their clothing but he had trained himself out of that kind of ‘tell’ years ago. Mycroft sucked in a deep breath,
“You are right, of course. I could say that is why none of the eleven have been harmed in any physical way, but we both of us know that it is not just physical harm that can be inflicted. I could say that when I am working I don’t allow emotions to cloud my judgements, but again that is not always strictly true, not when it comes to you or to Sherlock or John. All I can say is that I do not make many mistakes and I do keep all of these ... special cases under constant review.”
Greg believed him. The way he could give the number of people instantly seemed to argue that he did indeed keep the cases under constant review and Greg wondered why he counted the protected informants in the same category until he realised that they, like the disappeared criminals and terrorists had been taken out of their lives in the same way. The worst of it was that Greg was tempted, so tempted. He could just let Mycroft take over; let him sort it all out, not worry about any of it anymore. Then, he thought I’d be able to just crawl away and try to get on with my life. For a minute or so it was a lovely daydream right up until Greg thought about Deb Reedley, thought about any good officer having that conversation with Mycroft. What would she make of it? What would she think about Greg?
“What did you expect me to say?” Greg asked.
“When I asked if you wanted me to deal with this?” Mycroft clarified, “I expected you to say no.”
“Well, you got that right, at least. How would I ever face any of them again if this all just ‘disappeared’? It’s about a millimetre away from being a bent copper as far as I can see. You know I’ve been approached a few times, anyone who’s got to any degree of seniority has, and each time I’ve either pretended not to understand or I’ve turned them down straight depending on how persistent they were. Didn’t expect that I’d get that from you.” Greg could tell that his words hurt Mycroft and some part of him was glad, “You can’t make this go away, Mycroft. This is a thing that has happened; you can’t make it all better.” Greg took a deep breath. This will be done legally, do you understand? It shouldn’t happen differently because it’s me. I already feel bad enough that because it was me you and Sherlock were involved; shouldn’t every case get that treatment? What makes me special?”
Mycroft took a deep breath before answering,
“I can’t, we can’t be there for everyone.” He took another deep breath, and looked squarely at Greg, “Before Sherlock was as he is now, when he was fourteen or fifteen, he wanted to help everyone, the thought that there were people he could help but that he wasn’t helping nearly drove him mad. That was the first time we had to have him committed. Believe me the Sherlock you see now is the best compromise he can manage between helping everyone and helping no one, my brother walks a fine line and before you it was a line he frequently fell off. Now he restricts himself to the cases where only he can help and with John there and you there he maintains at least a passing degree of sanity.” He paused, swallowing and then continued, “That would be enough answer to ‘What makes me special’, without the fact that I love you, but also by helping you we are helping all the people that you will go on to help, it’s a maximum benefit calculation if you see it in that way.”
“Maximum benefit,” Greg paused, “maximum benefit, helping me helps you and Sherlock, and you two help the maximum number of people?” Greg paused again, “Well, I suppose that’s one less thing for me to feel guilty about … good.”
“It’s not just that,” Mycroft said, “Don’t underestimate the amount of help you give to people…”
“Yeah, but that’s trivial,”
“Not trivial at all,” Mycroft countered, “Just today…”
Greg interrupted again,
“Yeah, but it’s not much compared to you two, is it?”
“Your strength is always an amazement to me.” Mycroft paused, his hand straying to his hair to smooth it even though, as usual, there was not one disordered strand and then he sighed before continuing quietly, “How can you be so ... good? After all of the things you’ve seen in your job, you still manage to hold to your principles. You make me want to be a better person; you make me wish I’d always been a better person so that I would be more fit to be in your company.”
Greg’s first reaction to this was ‘Piss off’, feeling that Mycroft must be making fun of him, but when he quickly glanced at Mycroft’s face all he could see was sincerity. What was that old saw, he thought, ‘if you can fake sincerity you’ve got it made’?
“You think it’s easy?” he asked, and suddenly it was an effort to keep his voice steady, “You think it’s easy trying to keep believing that there is basic goodness in people when you see evidence to the contrary every day? I fight to be ‘good’ as you call it every bloody day, while I watch other people cut corners and get better results, while I watch good men and women become bitter.” Mycroft was clearly taken aback and Greg realised that he had been being sincere and that somehow made it worse, “If we don’t have law and process then we don’t have anything, we don’t have civilisation, we have chaos and mob rule. When one person starts to take the law into their own hands then so does the next person and the next until finally the law ends up in the hands of the biggest bully and it all breaks down.”
Greg took a deep breath, “I know that in your line of work, there are more shades of grey than there are words to describe them, but in my work there has to be right and wrong, there has to be procedure because without it, without trying to maintain procedure then you become them, they win.” There was a long pause, long enough that some of Greg’s sudden anger began to dissipate, before Mycroft spoke in a very quiet voice,
“Is that how you see me?” he asked, “The biggest bully?”
For a moment Greg was taken aback, and then he replayed the last bit of their conversation and was, briefly, horrified before he thought yes, actually, some of the time. Mycroft read the thoughts from his face as easily as if he had said them out loud,
“Yes, I can see that you do.”
Greg found that he couldn’t quite identify the emotion which was behind Mycroft’s simple words but he did know that he didn’t want to hear that tone of voice again from Mycroft, that sound as though he was trying to speak after someone had knocked all the air out of him.
“No,” Greg began, “it’s not that. I know that you do what you do for,” he struggled for the right words, trying to make sure he said what he needed to say before Mycroft could stop him, turn away the obvious hurt into an urbane reassurance, “the best of reasons, and it’s you, but it might not always be you, it’s not always you and I think that thought will keep me awake at night.” Greg paused, trying to find a way to get Mycroft to understand what he meant. He took a deep breath before he continued, “The difference is that you asked, you asked if you should … sort this out, you didn’t just do it.”
“It’s a small enough difference, though, isn’t it?” Mycroft said with a very small smile not directed at Greg, “Perhaps I should be thinking about … changing things, do you think?” he looked directly at Greg his head slightly tilted to one side waiting for an answer.
“I don’t know,” was the only answer that Greg could give him, “Listen, Mycroft, I just don’t know. I don’t know anything at the moment and quite honestly I can’t think about it. It has to be your choice; you have to make this decision.”
Greg stood up grasping the bag that Mycroft had packed for him, “Shall we go?” he asked and without waiting for an answer he walked towards the door of the flat. Mycroft followed him but when they got to the waiting car he opened the door for Greg and saw him settled on the back seat, Anthea focused as always on her Blackberry in the opposite corner, before telling the driver to go to Baker Street.
“You’re not coming then?” Greg asked,
“No, I’ve burdened you enough tonight. You know where I am if you need me,” there was a long pause before he continued, “Look after yourself, Greg and let John and Sherlock look after you. Good night.” He gently closed the car door and Greg heard the soft tap on the car roof that was the signal to the driver to move away. As the car pulled away Greg turned slightly so that he could see Mycroft walking on alone in the opposite direction until they went round a corner and Greg turned back towards Anthea,
“You will look after him, won’t you?” he asked her,
“Yes,” she replied.
To no one’s surprise the man in custody, Michael Stinson was not prepared to admit to anything, let alone shop his mates. Reedley used the extra twelve hours that her superintendent gave her but it did no good, Stinson merely refused to answer any questions at all. Forensics similarly showed up nothing much; he had been very careful, his only slip up had been to run when they’d carried out the door-to-door, which was explained according to his solicitor by an arrears in child support. With all but one hour of the extra twelve gone Reedley was facing the CPS solicitor and fighting to give a good reason as to why he should be charged or at the very least why they couldn’t apply for the further two and a half days that a magistrate could give them,
“Look, we have the CCTV feeds…”
“But,” the solicitor interrupted, “they won’t get us anywhere in court, all they actually prove is that the attacker, or rather someone who came out of the alley after the attack, walked to the Sheldon Estate and that person has roughly the same height and build as Stinson.” She took a deep breath, “It’s not even close enough to identify him and you know it. What about the victim? Has he been down here? Is there any chance he could make an ID?”
“Obviously he hasn’t been down here, but you know he was drugged.” Reedley sighed before she continued, “I gather that he has some recollection but only of the time in the pub before.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” the solicitor said, “even if you could pull an ID parade together at such short notice the defence could attack it so many ways it would be worse than not having the ID.”
“So you won’t charge?” Deb confirmed,
“I’m sorry, Deb, but no. It would be better for the case altogether to let him go and to continue to try and collect more conclusive evidence. Look, I know how important this is to you, hell, I’ve worked with Greg enough myself to know that it’s important, but we can’t charge or apply for longer custody on what you’ve got. Bail him and let him go.”
“S’pose so,” Deb agreed grudgingly, “and then I get to go and tell Greg Lestrade that we’ve just let the man who raped him walk out of the station.”
The smug look on Stinson’s face as he was bailed was very hard to take. The custody sergeant gave him details of when he would be required to report back to the station and sent him on his way. Right, Deb thought, now I go and talk to Greg, get it over with, it’s not like someone won’t already have told him the way gossip goes through this place, but I owe him this much.
Walking into the main office of Lestrade’s team all eyes were on her at once and it was ridiculously hard for her to deal with because every one of them knew what had happened just as Greg would know.
She knocked at the door to Greg’s glassed in office and opened it as he called come in. As she’d expected he took one look at her and knew,
“I’m sorry, Greg,” she began but he interrupted her,
“It’s not your fault, Deb, you did your best, I’m sure. There really wasn’t a lot to go on; I knew it was a long shot from what you had. I assume the forensics came back with nothing? Sorry, I know you can’t answer that, sorry.” He wound down slumping slightly with his head in his hands and she reached across the desk and gripped his wrist, trying to be reassuring even though there was nothing to be reassuring about.
“We’ve only bailed him,” she said, “we won’t give up on this, Greg, I promise you.”
“You know I just wish I’d be been able to fight just a little bit,” he said in a quiet tone, “then we might have had some useable forensics. It’s all so bloody pathetic, really.”
There was a long pause before Deb spoke again,
“We will keep working at this, Greg, patrolling the area, tailing Stinson, if he does this again, and he will, we’ll get him.”
“Let’s hope it’s before he wrecks some other poor sod’s life.”
Greg didn’t want to go back to Baker Street; he didn’t want to go anywhere. He knew that it was irrational but the thought that the man who had done this to him was out there filled him with a fear he had never felt before. No matter how often he told himself that he’d been out there since the attack and that it was no different now and that the other two had been out there all the time his emotions told him different. It wasn’t even like he was concerned about his physical safety at all, the problem was that the idea of them watching him, discussing him, comparing notes perhaps when he couldn’t even identify them creeped him the fuck out. It was easier to shut it out, to carry on working, there was always work to do after all; he had a pile of cold case files waiting in a corner of his office, waiting for him to have a spare moment between cases. It’s not even like it would be the first time he’d slept at work, far from it. So he continued to read his way through the files, trying to identify anything that hadn’t been completely followed through by the original investigators.
After a couple of hours, he got up to get himself a cup of coffee from the machine out in the main office expecting it to be empty. What he saw instead was the bulk of his team still working. It infuriated him. He knew why they were doing this; he knew it was because of him, he knew he should be touched instead he could feel the anger growing in him. He tried to swallow it down before he spoke, addressing the whole room,
“Seriously, people,” he said, “I’m fine, just going through some case files, go home will you? You all have families who’ll be wondering what the hell’s happened to you,” he sucked in a deep breath before continuing, “Thank you, but just ... go home will you.”
He didn’t wait to see if they would do as he’d told them instead he walked back into his office and buried himself back in the files, trying to think only about the cases, trying not to imagine his team whispering about him, trying not to wonder if they were sympathetic (bad) or concerned (worse) or malicious (worst in some ways but also better in some ways, something he could deal with).
After what he estimated was an hour but turned out to be nearer to two when he checked his watch he heard Sherlock and John arrive, he heard it in Anderson’s raised voice.
“Oh, Fuck,” he muttered under his breath, before standing, making some attempt to at least look normal before emerging from his office. He took in the furious expression on Sally’s face and the way in which she was standing between John and Sherlock and his office,
“What do you want, Sherlock?” he asked cutting across the apparently heated argument. It was John who answered, Sherlock being apparently unprepared to give up his staring contest with Donovan,
“Could we talk in your office?” he asked. The words were spoken in a normal tone of voice, Greg knew that, but he blushed, blushed because he imagined everyone else could hear the humouring tone, the implied ‘there, there, dear’ that he could hear. Running his hand through his hair he grunted in agreement before realising that he would need to speak to attract Sherlock’s attention,
“Oy! Sherlock! Stop being an arse and get yourself in here!”
Sherlock turned abruptly, as if he had dismissed Sally Donovan from existence as soon as he had looked away and went through the door after John. Greg took a deep breath before following them through the door.
“What do you want?” he snapped, feeling that dealing with these two was the last thing he needed, the last thing he either could or wanted to cope with.
Sherlock rolled his eyes and almost managed to speak before John glared him into silence. On any other day it would have amused Greg, tonight it was just another irritation. Having silenced Sherlock John didn’t seem to be quite sure what to say himself. A very small part of Greg could see the humour in the situation but by far the larger part was getting more and more angry especially since Sherlock hadn’t stopped staring at him since he’d walked into the office and the fact that John could see his anger just made it worse.
“Well?” Greg asked,
“I was wondering,” John started, “whether you were coming back to Baker Street,”
“And you couldn’t have just rung and asked?”
“Well, I could have done,” John answered with a slight shrug in the direction of Sherlock, “but Sherlock wanted to see you,” he paused and Greg knew that John knew what he said next was going to irritate him, “we wanted to be sure that you’re all right.”
Even knowing that John was braced for his anger didn’t make Greg any less angry,
“I’m bloody fine, for fuck’s sake, I just want to get back to my life and get on with things and I can’t do that with you two hovering over me like bloody mother hens!”
“Seriously, Lestrade, you must know hens can’t fly, let alone hover!” Sherlock smiled at him, it was the most normal expression anyone had had on their face when they looked at him for days and strangely it made Greg feel more like crying than anything that had happened since John had got him calmed down in Mycroft’s flat. He closed his eyes, suddenly aware of how tired he was.
“Thanks,” he replied before opening his eyes again and meeting John’s gaze, “I can’t stay with you two forever, you know, I have to go ... home.” He should have known that Sherlock would hear the infinitesimal pause in what he’d said, hear it and make deductions based on it,
“Except that it’s not really home now is it? My dear brother has so inserted himself into your life that you can’t even call your flat your own can you?”
It was insightful, particularly insightful for Sherlock given his usual inability to deal with human feelings, and all the more irritating for being true. Lestrade fumed for a moment, unable to shape a reply to what Sherlock had said.
“So what we thought was that we’d come over to your flat with you instead, we can get takeaway on the way and,” John paused, darting a glance at Sherlock, “I’ve got DVDs!”
Sherlock swore under his breath,
“I thought I’d ditched them all?” he asked and John replied with a sneaky grin and patted at the sleeve of his jacket.
Suddenly, almost despite himself, Lestrade felt some of the tension flow out of him. He smiled,
“Thanks, you two, but I’ll be fine, seriously.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes,
“We’ve never doubted that you would be ‘fine’, did you think we did? But, I’m reliably informed,” here he glanced at John, “that friends help each other in times of trouble. Is that not right?”
“Yes,” Greg answered with a sigh, “that’s what friends do.” He sighed again, “Thanks, but really what choice do I have but to get used to this?”
“You don’t have to get used to it all at once,” John replied, “you can ease into it gently and we can help.”
When they got to the flat, Greg noticed how cold and damp it felt, how long it was since he’d really lived here. He fought down the urge to apologise for the place and busied himself putting the heating back on and even lit the gas fire to take the chill off the place. John and he had disturbed some of the dust when they’d been here but it still smelt musty. Ever practical John had bought milk, coffee and bread while Greg had queued for the takeaway, so there would be something for breakfast. Looking round the kitchen while he unearthed plates for the takeaway Greg felt almost more desperate than he had through this whole thing, how would he ever get used to this being his life again? But the other two were waiting, and even though they would know how he was feeling, John because he was John and Sherlock because he observed, Greg knew that he had to ‘fake it until he could make it’, so he grabbed the plates and went back into the main room with as much of a smile as he could manage.
And the evening was good in the end, with the other two with him some of Greg’s fears receded and he even managed a few genuine laughs over Sherlock’s disgusted one-man commentary track for some episodes of Doctor Who, apparently it was full of hitherto unsuspected gay subtext or at least it was when Sherlock was in that kind of mood,
“She’s clearly just his beard!” he exclaimed referring to Amy and Rory,
“That’s ridiculous,” John answered, “he waited 2000 years for her!”
“I didn’t say they weren’t friends,” Sherlock replied, “but he’s clearly not interested in that way.”
“What about the baby?” John asked and Greg’s attention began to wander and he relaxed for what seemed like the first time in weeks. It wasn’t until John gently called his name that he realised he’d drifted off,
“Seriously, Greg,” John continued, you should get yourself off to bed, we’ll just finish up these couple of episodes and show ourselves out.”
Greg thought about pointing out to John that he was fooling no one but instead decided just to accept and be grateful.
As he expected it was far easier to get to sleep when he could still hear the faint noises of conversation from downstairs.
He is walking down the street, with a group of friends and he feels fantastic, light, almost giddy, everything is funny and they are all having a laugh. The people he is with are unbelievably funny, everything they are saying makes him laugh, he doesn’t know them well but he wants to, he can’t remember when he’s had such a good time. Distantly, a long way away from him someone is shouting, and he is vaguely aware that they are shouting for help, but hell, he’s off duty and he’s been drinking and someone else is on shift.
The scene shifts and it’s not quite so funny now. The people he’s with are still laughing and joking but he’s having so much difficulty walking that he’s not laughing any more. They must be getting nearer to the person who needs help, because he can hear them more clearly, calling out for someone to help them and now he knows that he would like to help them but he can’t seem to manage to head in the right direction, his, he supposes they must be friends, keep pulling at him wanting him to go with them and since he can’t focus enough to get away he carries on with them.
They are shouting at him, and what were gentle tugs at him are now shoves and pushes. They are still smiling but even in his sleepy, giddy state he recognises that they smiles aren’t … right, there’s nothing of humour in them. And now he’s trying to get away from them, trying to make his eyes focus, trying to stay awake because he knows that if he goes to sleep something terrible will happen but he’s so tired. He struggles and struggles, trying to keep upright even though his knees are buckling at each step and he’s not helped because he’s trying to turn to find the person calling for help.
Finally, his knees do buckle, or one of the men kicks him in the back of his knee, that’s certainly what it feels like, and he’s kneeling trying to push himself up on a box of some kind. The person who’s calling for help is really loud now and he pushes himself up and carries on going up and up and up until he can see himself sprawled over a packing case, until he can see one of the men reaching to undo his flies, until he’s suddenly, icily aware that the person calling for help is himself, and…
Greg woke up shouting and struggling against the bedclothes before he fell back against the mattress gasping in breaths trying and failing to calm himself. The dream was exactly what Greg had been dreading about sleeping properly. It was easy to know with the rational part of his mind that dreams were his subconscious mind’s way of processing what had happened, but at the moment rationality felt like a very thin skin over depths that Greg desperately did not want to explore. It’s not as if it’s even a memory, Greg thought, pulling himself out of bed and heading towards the bathroom, that would be some fucking use.
As he left the bedroom he could hear the television coming from down stairs, and he realised that he really hadn’t been asleep for very long and also that John and Sherlock must have heard him shouting.
When he got back to his bed, there was a mug of something warm and milky sitting on his bedside table with a note in Sherlock’s spiky handwriting
The good doctor prescribes warm milk, he says that it should help with the bad dreams. Can’t do any harm I suppose – SH
Greg could hear the scepticism in the note, short though it was, but he appreciated both the gesture and its low-key nature. They really are good mates, he thought as he finished the drink and settled back into his bed, still hearing the faint sound of the tardis from downstairs.
Greg was not surprised to find both men still in his living room when he got up the next morning. Unusually Sherlock was sleeping, Greg remembered the early days of the time he’d known Sherlock, when it had been impossible some days to tell wired from the cocaine from wired just from being Sherlock and when he’d almost got used to someone hammering at the door at three in the morning with a new theory of the case or a demand that Lestrade get up and find some particular piece of evidence. On the whole, John had it easier, Greg thought but he couldn’t quite remove the reminiscent smile from his face.
As if the weight of his glance had been enough to wake Sherlock he began to stir. Surprisingly Sherlock wasn’t one to wake up immediately awake, he tended to yawn and stretch and take some time to come to. Today was no exception and Greg could see it take just a moment for Sherlock to work out where he was and why he was there,
“Ah, Lestrade, did you get any sleep?”
“Yes, thanks, the drink seemed to do the trick,” and the company he thought but he didn’t embarrass either of them by saying out loud, not when Sherlock almost certainly knew anyway.
“I looked it up, apparently it’s the tryptophan that does it, it’s the same thing that makes people fall asleep after eating turkey at Christmas. It gets converted into serotonin and that helps people to sleep.” Sherlock paused, carefully observing Greg who put up with the scrutiny. It seemed that Sherlock was satisfied when he continued, “any chance of a coffee?”
By the time that Greg had made coffee and toast John was also awake, rolling the kinks out of his neck and shoulders and he took a mug of coffee like it was the elixir of life,
“Thanks. Sherlock says you slept, how are you feeling?”
“Fine,” Greg had no hope that this would be enough, “look,” he continued eventually sitting on one of the chairs at the table, “I feel much better for getting a night’s sleep last night, I’ve just ... got to work through it.” He paused and took a deep breath, “I really needed the company last night but I have to get myself right, I have to get used to being on my own again.”
“So,” Sherlock asked, “you’re through with Mycroft?”
Greg closed his eyes and rubbed at his face,
“I’m really not sure, but I do know at the moment I can’t have him round me. Without the jumping to conclusions, he,” Greg paused, taking a gulp of his coffee, “he offered to ‘take care’ of it all for me.”
“Idiot!” Sherlock declared, “It’s like he doesn’t know you at all.”
“If that was an attempt at reverse psychology Sherlock, it’s really not going to work. I only seem to be getting more annoyed at him the longer time goes on.” Greg paused, his head down apparently contemplating his coffee, “It’s not like I was ever right for him, he’s always been way too classy for me.”
John fidgeted with his mug of coffee, while Sherlock spluttered a little at that comment, Greg knew that one or both of them was going to try and reassure him and he didn’t want them to. It wasn’t self-pity which had made him say what he had said, it was honest truth, Sherlock and Mycroft were in a whole different league to him. It was all right for John, he had his education and qualifications and hell, even his military service, they levelled the playing field just a little between the Holmes brothers and him, but Greg knew himself to be outclassed. Rather than have the conversation he got up,
“I’ll have to get myself ready for work,” he muttered, “you can show yourselves out, can’t you?”
Mycroft rang him that morning around ten o’clock while Greg was again sat at his desk working through cold cases, guiltily aware of the fact that new cases were being diverted around him and his team. Greg wondered if either John or Sherlock had said something to Mycroft as he stared at the caller ID on his phone. He was tempted, very tempted, just not to answer the damn thing, perhaps, he thought, I should change my number. In the end he decided to answer it, Mycroft would just keep ringing if he didn’t answer it, if he couldn’t convince Mycroft to leave him alone,
“Good morning, Greg,” there was a long pause one that was filled Greg was sure by Mycroft wondering what on earth to say. In other circumstances, Greg knew that he would have found it endearing, he had found similar phone calls endearing in the early days of their relationship, now he just wanted it over with,
“Did you want something?” he asked,
“Only to know how you are.” Mycroft’s voice was as it almost always was calm and crisp, clear enunciation and that thought made Greg remember the tone Mycroft had used that morning, the hurt and the anger mixed up in it until it was impossible to tell the two apart. The recollection brought the banked fire of his anger back to flames,
“Just fuck off, Mycroft, will you, how I am is no bloody concern of yours. You should stick with your first reaction and be glad I’m out of your life.”
“I’m sorry to have bothered you,” he replied and rang off.
Without any thought, Greg hurled his phone into the corner of the room, when it smashed into many tiny pieces, he huffed a laugh; that would take care of changing his number.
At the end of his shift Greg stuck his head round the office door of his Chief Inspector and asked if he could have a word,
“Certainly Greg, come in.”
Greg was aware that this wasn’t the response he would normally have got, but there had to be some advantages he supposed.
“How are you?” the super asked,
“I’m getting there, sir, I just wanted to say that I’m fine to start working on real cases again, I can’t keep sitting doing nothing.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, thanks, sir, but I need to get back to some semblance of normality.”
“OK, next case that comes in...”
Greg’s next call was to talk to Deb Reedley, he’d stopped himself calling her about ten times during the course of the day but in the end he wanted to know if there had been any progress and it didn’t seem that unreasonable to ask.
“Hi, Greg,” she said as he walked into her small office.
“Hi, I was wondering if there was anything new with the investigation.” He’d considered making small talk, but it’s not like she would have been fooled and on the whole he had a hard time being bothered by the social niceties at the moment.
“You know I shouldn’t be talking to you about this in this way, but we both know that I’m going to tell you anyway,” she smiled at him as she said this but he could tell from the look in her eyes that there had been precious little in the way of progress, “we got some of the forensics back, a clear DNA profile that isn’t yours but that also doesn’t track back to anything on the DNA database. So either none of your attackers has previous or it’s a trace that was there to begin with.” She looked uncomfortable for a second or two before she continued, “The trace is definitely male, I don’t know how to put this, but is there any trace that we should be eliminating from the investigation?”
Greg’s first reaction, apart from the blush was to wonder if Reedley was the only person in the Met who didn’t know about him. His team had known for a while and anyone who had an issue with his choice of partners had, these days to go through Sally Donovan before they got to him. It had been years since Greg had felt any shame or embarrassment about his sexuality but he found himself blushing as he answered the question,
“Er ... yes, there could be a trace you should be eliminating.”
“If you can give me name and address I can get a cheek swab and we can be that bit surer of any identification.”
For a moment or two Greg let himself pretend that it would be all right to give Deb the information and not deal with it himself, all the time knowing that in reality he would need to ask Mycroft himself,
“No, I’d better do it, he’s kind of ... private,”
Greg saw a look of distaste cross Deb’s face, but it was gone as soon as he’d identified it. He felt the need to defend Mycroft,
“No, that’s not it, he’s not ashamed of us, of what we had, but he really is just very private, he has a ... high pressure job, doesn’t get many callers ... it would just be better if I saw him.”
“’What we had’?” Deb asked, and Greg felt the enormity of that past tense begin to swallow him, “because of the attack?” she continued.
Greg wanted to tell her it was none of her business, he wanted to freeze her out with a few curt words but he couldn’t manage any words at all for a moment as the enormity of it hit him. In the end what came out was, Greg was surprised to find, him defending Mycroft,
“It’s not him, it’s me, I just can’t stand to be round anybody at the moment.”
“You need to watch that,” Deb said carefully, “you will come out the other side of this, and you will need the people close to you, don’t let the fear and the anger and the confusion cost you more than it has to. Let him help,”
“The problem is he wants to help too much. Have you got the swab kit?” Greg’s tone of voice made it clear that he didn’t want to discuss this any further and Deb found him the evidence kit he needed.
“You know how to take the sample I’m sure, just do it carefully and drop it off with me as soon as you can tomorrow.” She paused, staring at him and Greg had to fight the urge to snatch the bloody thing from her and run away, “Take someone with you,” she continued, “There are lots of people who want to help you, the three from yesterday for a start, let them be there for you Greg.”
Greg didn’t even want to try and disentangle the layers of misunderstanding and confusion in that and instead he took the evidence kit with a mumbled thank you and left.
As he left The Yard, Greg decided to walk to Mycroft’s, it was about a mile and a half and part of him felt that the exercise would do him good and if it also meant that it would take longer to get there and give him more time before he had to speak to Mycroft then that was just a happy side effect.
It was just beginning to get dark and Greg set off at a good pace, determinedly thinking about one of the cold case files he’d spent the last couple of days reviewing, but as it got darker and he headed into a quieter part of town, Greg could feel the fear begin to unfurl in his guts. These were the streets he’d staggered down that morning until he’d finally found a cab, he hadn’t had to walk past the alley way, he didn’t think he could have done, but once he’d made the link he had an overwhelming desire to walk faster but step by step he fought it down. He’d given all the advice himself over the years to people, ‘don’t look nervous, don’t draw attention, don’t keep looking over your shoulder, all of these things attract attention and if someone is looking for a likely mark, a handy victim, you’ll shine out to them.’ Well, that was advice that was a damn sight easier to give out than to follow, wasn’t it, Lestrade he thought, didn’t fucking well know what it was like, did you? He took a deep breath and purposely slowed down his walking speed and putting his head up, assuming a confident stance that had never been less in line with what he was feeling.
Hyper vigilant as he was, he noticed the tatty van the second time it went past him, it had one wing a decidedly different colour to the rest of the body work. He made a mental note of the van’s index and wondered what the hell to do, wishing more than anything that he hadn’t smashed his phone that morning. For the want of anything else to do right at that moment, Greg carried on walking, striving for the same measured pace, every muscle in his body tense, trying not to wait for the van’s third pass. Ahead he could see the lights of a mini-market and it was all he could do not to break into a run trying to get to its dubious shelter.
Fuck! There it is again, he thought, and it’s slowing down, it must be them! Fuck! Despite himself Greg stopped, turning to face the van, adrenaline coursing through his veins. Fists balled he watched the nearside door open. What are they going to do? he wondered, just try and bundle me in there? Thump me first? Well I won’t go down without a fight this time, no bloody drugs to help them this time.
There was nothing familiar about the man, youth really, who got out of the van. He was saying something but Lestrade wasn’t taking it in, primed to fight as he was. The young man repeated himself,
“Excuse me, can you tell me where Springfield Drive is? Here mate, are you OK?”
It’s an understandable question, a slightly hysterical part of Greg’s mind managed as his knees buckled from the relief,
“Seriously, should I call an ambulance?”
“No,” Greg managed to croak out, gasping to try and catch his breath.
The young man was regarding him sceptically,
“You look like you’re having a heart attack, mister; I’m going to call an ambulance,”
“No,” Greg repeated more forcefully even though he wasn’t a hundred percent sure that lad wasn’t right, “I’ll be fine, honestly. Why don’t you ask at the shop for directions, they look like a newsagent, should know the local area.”
Still looking dubious the boy began to walk back to the van, still keeping his eye on Greg who was just managing to get to his feet in time to see another vehicle, a sleek, expensive but somehow nondescript black car pull up behind the van, it was no surprise to Greg to see Anthea emerge from the rear door of the car. That’s all I need he thought.
All the questions he didn’t want to answer were implicit in those two words and combined with the realisation of what a fool he’d made of himself, it made all of Greg’s anger rise up in him again,
“For fuck’s sake, has he got you following me now, the controlling bastard?”
“Detective Inspector,” she reiterated, “Mr Holmes asked me to see if I could give you a lift anywhere,” she paused and Greg was aware of the tail end of every one of his reactions to what should have been a simple stroll through a city that had been his city for upwards of twenty years, “you’re a little off your usual routes.”
“You must know where I’m going,” Greg replied,
“I don’t like to make assumptions, there’s been too much of that recently.”
Sudden anger burned away the last of the fear from Greg,
“Discussed this, have you?”
She gave him a withering look,
“Really Detective Inspector, I think you know Mr Holmes better than that, he has not and would not discuss your relationship with me or anyone else. Now,” she said squaring her shoulders, “would you like a lift or will you continue to walk?”
With the cold sweat of his panic cooling on his skin and the knowledge that his knees still felt weak he began to move towards the car,
“Thank you,” he paused, “and sorry, I seem to be having a serious sense of humour failure right at the moment,”
“Not to worry,” she replied and there was warmth and reassurance in her voice, as if she’d said out loud it will get better.
With the peculiarities of London’s traffic it wasn’t actually much quicker to take the lift than it would have been to carry on walking under normal circumstances. In the current situation Greg appreciated the chance to pull himself together before he talked to Mycroft. Anthea had opened the rear door of the car for him and then climbed into the front and he knew from experience that the glass partition in Mycroft’s cars was one way; it was a relief not to have spectators.
As they got close to the discretely affluent area where Mycroft lived, Greg reached forward and tapped on the glass, which slid down silently,
“Could you let me out just along here?”
“Certainly, is that all?”
“No, listen, Anthea, I really am sorry for the way I spoke to you, none of this bloody mess is your fault...”
Unusually she interrupted him
“You have no need to apologise, I was glad that we,” she indicated the driver, “were able to be of assistance,” she paused clearly not sure about continuing,
“Spit it out,” Greg directed,
“Just...” she paused again, “...cut him a little slack if you can find it in yourself, I’ve never seen him like this before.”
The glass partition rose again as the car pulled over to the kerb and Greg got out.
It seemed stupid to knock at the door, until just a few days ago he’d been effectively living here, hell the key to the door was still in his pocket and it wasn’t as if Mycroft wouldn’t know he was coming, Greg would have known that even without his conversation with Anthea. He knocked anyway, there was nothing left now but formality, he needed to get this sample, and be away, to get back to his own flat, to get back to trying to create a ‘new normal’ for his life ... after.
Mycroft came to the door,
“Can I come in?”
“Always,” Mycroft said, moving away from the door, back turned so that he didn’t see Greg brace himself before he followed Mycroft down the hall, didn’t see him wince as he passed the spot where John had found him that morning.
When Greg walked into the main room, Mycroft was by the small collection of bottles kept in the corner of the room,
“Would you like a drink?”
“No, I’m here on business, more or less,”
“Very well, what can I do for you?”
The formality would all have worked perfectly if neither of them had been able to see the other’s face, Greg thought, if their lives had been a radio play.
Mycroft looked bloody awful. Greg knew that like his brother he never slept a vast amount, usually considering five hours a night an elegant sufficiency but if Greg was any judge Mycroft had scarcely slept at all since the night it had all happened. It wasn’t just that though, there was a haunted look to him, a lack of the usual self-confidence that he exuded. Greg closed his eyes briefly, thinking, sexual assault, the gift that keeps on giving, aware that the last thing he’d wanted had been for this to screw with anyone else’s life, his own was bad enough. Greg had just intended to get the sample and get out but he found he couldn’t really ignore the things he was sensing from Mycroft. Greg wanted, oh how much he wanted, to be calm about it all, to be analytical, to not feel any of the things he was feeling, but wanting did no good and instead he just blurted out
“Bloody hell, Mycroft, you look awful, have you had any sleep?”
Mycroft closed his eyes as if in pain for a moment,
“You really shouldn’t be concerning yourself with my wellbeing,”
“Why the hell not Mycroft, I still...” Greg stumbled over the word, swallowed and continued, “I still care about you. Don’t make yourself ill over this, please. Look, I’m sorry for what I said before, I just don’t know what I’m feeling at the moment, half the time I’m angry, half the time I’m afraid, you can’t take any notice of me at the moment...”
It was Mycroft’s turn to interrupt,
“Don’t, please don’t. Don’t make excuses for me, don’t put yourself down, you have a perfect right to be angry with me, I deserve everything you’ve said to me. I am fine, sleep will come eventually. What was it you wanted?”
Greg could hear the weariness in Mycroft’s voice, as he had been able to see it in his face. It’s not fair of me to keep tormenting him like this; I should have let Deb send someone out to him.
“Yes,” he replied, “sorry, you must be wanting this done and dusted, it’s just that some trace DNA was recovered when they did the...” he hesitated briefly and then continued, “...rape kit and they asked me if there were any profiles that they should exclude from the matches, so I need a cheek swab from you. I assume you’re not on the DNA database?”
“No. You have the swab with you?”
Greg pulled the sealed package from his inside pocket. It contained two sealed swabs. Greg went into the standard spiel about the evidence collection,
“We will take two samples here at the same time. You will be given one of them and should you require I can provide a list of laboratories that can process that sample for you. The other will be processed by our laboratory and used to eliminate your genetic signature from any collected samples. Your DNA profile will not be kept on record unless this investigation leads to your arrest and conviction for any criminal offence. Do you understand?” It wasn’t until the end of his speech that Greg realised how stupid it seemed saying all that to Mycroft, whom Greg was sure could add or delete any record he chose from any database in the land.
“Yes,” Mycroft replied with no trace of either humour or condescension in his tone. Taking that as his queue, Greg continued in ‘copper mode’,
“Open your mouth please; you will note that the seal on the swab is unbroken and that I am just now breaking it to take this sample.” Greg pushed the swab out of its container and gently holding Mycroft’s chin briskly brushed the inside of Mycroft’s cheek with the cotton wool. The process was repeated with the second swab and Greg signed both once they were re-sealed, handing the first one to Mycroft.
“Is that all you need?” Mycroft asked.
It struck Greg as an odd question and his reaction must have shown on his face as Mycroft continued in an almost hurried way, as if he was trying to get in before Greg could make an answer,
“I mean how have you been? I know I have no right to ask, but ... I need to know that you are ... hell’s bells what a stupid thing to say, of course you’re not all right,”
Mycroft so tongue tied, flustered and clumsy with words was so unusual that Greg actually found that he couldn’t find the right words himself, the pause gave Mycroft time to take a deep breath and begin again,
“Would you please sit with me a little while, Greg?” There was such appeal in his words and in his tone that Greg couldn’t refuse, he remembered what Anthea had said, what she’d asked of him,
“Sure, I’ll take that drink now, if you’re still offering.”
Mycroft busied himself with the drinks, fixing Greg a whisky and soda and himself, Greg noticed, just a soda. When Mycroft turned back to him and handed him the whisky, Greg looked around, finding it a very peculiar thing that he couldn’t decide where to sit. Usually, when there had been a usually, they had sat together on the sofa in the middle of the room but somehow that seemed wrong. Mycroft made his mind up for him, settling in the armchair and leaving the sofa for Greg. They sat in a silence that a week ago would have been companionable, nursing their drinks. Greg was the first to break the silence,
“How has work been?”
“Difficult, I’ve found it hard to focus.”
“It’s only to be expected,” Greg commented, “seriously Mycroft how long has it been since you slept?”
Mycroft looked down,
“I haven’t, when I try I find that I cannot switch off my thoughts and it seems better to get up and do something constructive.”
“You need to sleep, Mycroft, you can’t handle the sort of things you do and go completely without sleep,” Greg paused, taking a sip of his drink, “would it help if you told someone, told me some of the things that you are thinking?”
“It might,” Mycroft answered, “but it would seem a little too much like burdening you with my problems.”
“I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t want to.”
“Thank you.” It was said simply but Greg could hear the relief in Mycroft’s voice. Mycroft began to speak, detailing some of the interminable arguments and disagreements between one department and another that time and again he was brought in to referee. Greg knew that in some cases this was how Mycroft had extended his, empire was the wrong word, sphere of influence perhaps, called in to adjudicate, never quite going away again. Greg was fairly sure it wasn’t done on purpose although sometimes he’d noticed the similarities with the way in which Mycroft had inserted himself into his life. As he always had, Greg listened carefully, interposing questions for clarification.
When Mycroft stopped talking, they sat for a few moments and Greg realised that he was feeling almost relaxed. It seemed a fragile feeling, and Greg didn’t want to think about everything else, he just wanted to feel like this, not to scare away the feeling. Eventually, though Mycroft shifted and even before he began to speak Greg felt the tension seeping back slowly at first and then faster and faster until it had him in its grip again.
“It’s none of it your fault you know,” Greg said, the words out before he had thought about them at all.
Mycroft sipped his drink,
“The original attack? No, even my egotism doesn’t allow me to believe that was my fault,” another sip of his drink, “The fact that I reacted as I did, my lack of trust, that can be no other’s fault.”
Greg couldn’t think of anything to say and sat contemplating his drink. After a moment Mycroft continued,
“The worst of it is that because of my stupidity I am less able to help you.”
Greg looked up at that and Mycroft continued,
“I realise that what I said to you about the investigation was inexcusable. I did not in any way mean to imply that you need my help in any aspect of what you do.”
“That wasn’t the problem, Mycroft.” Greg could hear the weariness in his own voice, “I do need your help, I’ve needed you from the first time I met you, I think you know that, what Tuesday morning made me realise was that I wasn’t right for you, I’m not what you need, I don’t make you feel secure, you can’t completely trust me and you need that Mycroft, you more than anyone needs that.”
“But that’s not a fault in you,”
“Yes, actually I think it is. You need someone more like you, someone you feel more comfortable with, someone you can trust.”
Mycroft looked up at him like Greg had struck him,
“How can you possibly think that? I’ve never been as happy as I’ve been with you!”
Part of Greg wanted to stop this conversation, he didn’t want to see that expression on Mycroft’s face ever again, but he knew he had to make Mycroft understand,
“I know, and God knows I love you, but none of that means that you won’t find someone who is better for you. Please Mycroft, understand, I was damaged before all this, you can’t wait for me to get over it, I might never and you might never, move on, please.”
“I don’t think I can.”
Greg stood up,
“You have to Mycroft, for both of our sakes.”
“No, this is not acceptable.” It was said with a clipped tone, businesslike and commanding, “I will make this up to you, I will show you.”
Greg closed his eyes in defeat, feeling tears prickling but then resolutely opened his eyes, put down his drink and moved towards the door,
“Goodbye, Mycroft,” he said as he left.
Leaving Mycroft’s house was hard. It felt more completely like the end of something than anything else had. Despite his assertion that he would not give up, Greg felt sure that Mycroft would soon see the strength of his argument and move on.
For the first couple of hundred yards, the difficulty of walking away from Mycroft, blotted out his previous fear and apprehension. Then he began to feel the now frustratingly familiar sensation of being watched and tried to fight the compulsion to look around himself to try and predict where the threat would come from - he knew that there was almost certainly not a threat to anticipate but it didn’t help.
When the discrete black car pulled into the kerb twenty yards down the road Greg found himself perfectly balanced between gratitude and irritation, but since the irritation was not with Anthea, when he got into the car he thanked her.
“No thanks necessary, Detective Inspector, where you returning to your own flat or to 221B?” she enquired,
“My own flat, thanks.”
Anthea went back to her BlackBerry, tapping away and Greg spent some time wondering if she was booking her holiday or either starting or holding back a coup in some country somewhere, it was better than thinking about going home.
As the car coasted to a halt outside the block where Greg had his flat, Anthea spoke, startling Greg,
“I’m fairly sure he won’t give up, you know. If you’re eventually going to give in and take him back you could save us all a lot of grief if you did it now.”
Yesterday or even this morning, Greg would have been angry but he couldn’t even manage that much emotion,
“He has to give up. I’m not going to change my mind, he needs someone…” Greg struggled for the right word and couldn’t find it, “… else.”
“He doesn’t think so and he’s seldom wrong.”
“He’s wrong this time, thanks Anthea, for everything, not just for this, I know that often times we could only be together because you were working like crazy behind the scenes.”
Anthea didn’t respond and after a moment Greg continued, “Has he asked you to keep an eye on me?”
“No,” Anthea replied, still not looking up from her BlackBerry, “I’m doing this on my own initiative mostly, you’re important to him so you merit my attention and care, and,” she paused, finally looking up from her phone, “you’re a good man who didn’t deserve this shit-storm and its consequences.”
Greg was aware of tears forming and looked away even though he knew he would be fooling no one,
“Thanks, but I have to learn, re-learn, how to stand on my own two feet.” Greg was aware that Anthea had not gone back to the BlackBerry, that in all probability she was still looking at him but he really didn’t want her to see him crying, so he continued without looking up, “I’ll be all right in the end, you don’t need to worry.” He reached forward and opened the door, getting out in a hurry, wanting to be away before he lost the battle with his unshed tears. He barely heard Anthea’s low voiced, “Good Evening, Detective Inspector”, just enough to register that she hadn’t said ‘Goodbye’ and wonder just what he’d have to do to convince the two of them.
When Greg woke up the following morning he realised that he should stop trying to predict whether he was going to manage to sleep or not on any given night. He’d been sure that there was no chance of sleep that night, far too much stuff to turn over in his mind, but it was as if his mind had taken one look at all of it, thrown it’s hands up in despair and gone off-line, he hadn’t even had any dreams as far as he could remember. It made him feel ridiculously good about everything, that he would be all right, like there would be an ‘after’ in which he was OK. It also left him with the feeling that he should get things done, he had the day off and certainly the flat needed to be aired out at the very least, he needed food in the freezer, and possibly even to open the curtains.
Greg was inordinately pleased with himself when he managed a trip to the ‘express’ supermarket a couple of blocks down without more than a minor attack of nerves and perhaps some rather random choices of food, but he had at least done it and he’d done it without scanning every face and vehicle he encountered trying to see if they triggered what he knew were non-existent memories.
Getting back to the flat he began to not exactly tidy up but more do the little bits and pieces that made it look like a lived in flat again, opening post, and windows and dusting things. Half an hour later he was sitting down with a cup of tea, trying not to think too closely about how well he was coping in case he suddenly wasn’t. He reached for the calendar that was stuck with a magnet to the door of the fridge and turned over a couple of pages, thinking that he ought at least to be on the right month.
When he saw M+D written across Friday to Monday of the next week it took Greg a couple of seconds to work out what it meant and when he did work it out he was aware of a sinking feeling, it hadn’t seemed like a good idea to invite his parents to stay when he’d done it and it really didn’t now. He’d been ‘out’ to his parents since he was seventeen, since they came home unexpectedly and found him wrapped in the arms of, ... yeah, Adam. Greg felt horribly uncomfortable at the fact that it had taken him a moment to remember Adam’s name, just the first in a long line of poor bastards whose lives I’ve wrecked…
He’s spent the time since his parents left sprucing himself up, doing his hair, putting on and then taking off again eyeliner and mascara, feeling both nervous and excited. He’d noticed Adam as soon as he’d been moved to Greg’s school. Boys in his original school had been picking on him, calling him ‘queer’ and ‘puff’, the only thing Greg could think when he saw him was God, I hope he is. Greg has known, well, forever it seems, that he’s gay, certainly he knew it from the point at which his mates started noticing girls and he started ‘noticing’ them.
Even though he’s expecting the knock at the door, it still makes him jump. Standing up quickly Greg realises that his hands are sweating and he hurriedly wipes them on the jeans he spent ages deciding on earlier in the day, as he walks to the door one hand is checking that the spikes he put into his hair are still as he wants them to be.
Opening the door, the sight of Adam leaves Greg breathless and part of him is aware that he’s just standing there grinning soppily, but he can’t seem to help it. The sun is bringing out the gold colour in Adam’s fine, fair hair and Greg finds himself thinking that Adam’s eyes are the colour of the sky. Eventually Adam speaks,
“Can I come in, then?” he asks with a slight smirk that Greg thinks he’d quite like to kiss away and that thought leaves him breathless, tonight’s the night, tonight we’re going to be together, I’m going to know what it’s like.
Greg beckons him in and as Adam goes past him he grabs Greg and possessively pushes him against the wall and kisses him. It’s not the same as the other kisses they’ve shared, now, with Greg’s parents away for the weekend, they don’t need to worry about being caught, they don’t need to worry that anyone will find out, they only need to think about each other.
The kiss goes on for some time and Greg is lost in the feeling of it, specifically lost in the feeling of being slightly overpowered, of giving control over to someone else. Adam is greedily sucking on his tongue and his hands stray down to Greg’s waist and he hooks his fingers into the belt loops of Greg’s jeans pulling them together so that Greg can feel Adam’s swelling cock as it rubs against his own even through two layer of denim. The sensation is too much for him all of a sudden, he feels like he’ll explode if they carry on like this and he pulls away slightly,
“Come on,” he says to Adam, “come into the lounge.” Adam smiles at him, looking him up and down before he focuses on Greg’s crotch,
“You sure you don’t just want to go upstairs?” Adam asks with an unmistakeable leer and just the question makes Greg just that little harder despite his nerves,
“There’s no hurry is there?” he asks hoping that his voice is conveying desire and maturity rather than the nerves,
“Sure,” Adam replies but by the look on his face Greg thinks he hasn’t been that successful.
When they get into the lounge, Adam seats himself in the corner of the sofa while Greg puts some music on the stereo. He’s saved for weeks to buy this LP, he knows the band is one of Adam’s favourites and even though he’s not quite so keen on them himself, he counts the saving well worth it when he sees Adam’s smile.
Greg goes to sit next to Adam but Adam has other ideas and he pulls Greg down in such a way that Greg is lying across Adam’s knee, so that when Adam starts kissing him again his hand falls almost naturally on the flies of Greg’s jeans. Greg can’t help himself but push up against that hand and he can feel Adam’s erection against his arse and he can’t focus enough to respond to one or the other, it’s a strange feeling and it leaves him feeling almost panicky and with the clear knowledge that Adam is far more experienced than he’s led Greg to believe.
When Adam begins to pull down the zip of Greg’s Jeans every other sensation and certainly every thought vanishes from Greg’s world, there is only the feel of Adam’s lips and tongue and teeth as they suck on his neck and nibble at his shoulder and the feel of Adam’s hand as it finds his cock and begins to trace its length from root to tip again and again.
God knows, he’s done this to himself often enough but Greg can’t believe how different this feels, the unpredictability, just the feel of a different hand, it’s overwhelming and at least part of the flood of feelings he’s experiencing is panic and a desire to get away, but that feeling is buried under the desire for Adam never to stop what he’s doing. Greg begins to moan, he’s had to train himself out of making any noise when he does this to himself, the walls in the house aren’t that thick, but now he can’t help himself and when Adam slides Greg’s cock, slick with pre-come, out of his underwear and jeans and grips him just that bit more firmly and moves his fist that bit more rapidly, Greg begins to swear and thrust into Adam’s grip,
“Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck,” over and over again,
“That’s the idea,” Adam replies a hint of that same smirk in his voice, “After I’ve made you come, I’m going to fuck you; it’s going to feel so good, you’ll see.”
The thought is enough, Greg’s orgasm is sudden and intense and he’s coming before he really even knows it, spurting over Adam’s hand and his own clothes and it’s all so quick that he doesn’t know whether to apologise. Before he sorts through these feelings Adam is climbing out from under him and pushing him back into the cushions of the sofa, leaning over him in a way that ticks all of Greg’s ‘predator’ boxes and makes him almost involuntarily struggle to get away.
“What’s the matter?” Adam asks and Greg is left feeling stupid by the question, stupid and immature,
“Nothing,” he murmurs, leaning up to kiss Adam, “that was just …” he doesn’t have to finish the sentence, Adam is kissing him relentlessly while his hands are removing Greg’s clothes. Greg knows that he should be enjoying this; this is Adam after all who he’s been fantasising about almost nightly for six months, but this isn’t what he pictured, what he imagined it would be like. He didn’t expect that Adam would be stripping him; he didn’t expect Adam pushing and pulling him as he tries to remove his jeans and his pants,
“You could give me a bit of a hand here,” Adam says and Greg makes a supreme effort to pull himself together, sitting up and pushing at his jeans all the while saying to himself, I want this, I want Adam, over and over again.
Adam is still impatient and before Greg has got his jeans much below his knees he’s pushing at him again, while fumbling his own cock out of his jeans, “On your hands and knees, lover boy,” he says, still pushing at Greg. Greg complies and straight away he can feel the push of Adam’s cock against his arse and he has to fight the panic rising in him not to push Adam away and leg it. What’s wrong with me, he finds himself thinking as he braces himself, I want this, I’ve wanted this for months, pull yourself together, Greg.
Kneeling as he is facing towards the door, he sees the door open, sees his mother and his instantaneous reaction before he consciously thinks about what is going to happen next is one of relief. Then it hits him, well, they’ll know now. He sees his mum turn to push his dad out of the door, trying to get him out before he sees what’s happening and she succeeds but Greg has no doubt that she will tell him the expurgated version at least. Adam, focused as he is hasn’t noticed Greg’s parents unexpected arrival and in the way of panic it seems to take Greg an age to get him to understand, his laugh when he realises seems highly inappropriate to Greg,
“Get yourself properly dressed,” he snaps, shoving Adam away still with a nagging feeling of relief, “Go out the back way, I’ll go and talk to them. I’ll call you tonight.”
There isn’t a big scene. There’s never a big scene about anything in Greg’s little family. Greg tries to talk to his mother, to explain but she doesn’t want to listen. She hisses about how she told him no friends round but doesn’t want to talk about what she’s found out about her son. Greg still tries,
“Look, I’m sorry mum, I ... just wanted to see him, I met him at school, he’s a new kid,”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Greg, we told you that you couldn’t invite anyone round and we’re only out of the house two hours and you’ve got somebody here. We could have been anyone walking in. I don’t know what would have happened if your dad had been the first one to walk in.”
“Did you tell him what I was ... what we were doing?” Greg is completely unsure whether he hopes she has or she hasn’t,
“We don’t keep secrets,” she snaps and Greg can’t decide whether he’s just imagining the emphasis on the ‘We’, either way it’s rubbish he thinks, the whole family is nothing but secrets.
They never do talk about any of it, well not explicitly. His parents are frosty to him but not really much frostier than he would have expected if he’d just had his mates round like a normal teenager. Strangely it’s Adam that gets it worse.
By the time Greg manages to ring him that evening, ‘Don’t tie the phone up for hours’, Greg’s mother has spoken to Adam’s mother. Greg doesn’t even know how she found the number, he’s talked about Adam, probably too much but he can’t think he’s ever used Adam’s second name. For someone who laughed when Greg was ‘outed’ he’s taking it badly. His parents had not had the restraint of Greg’s and he tells Greg about the shouting and the crying and the smack his dad gave him as he told him that if he chose to have sex with other boys then he was no son of his and he could get the fuck out of his house.
“So, what about it?” Adam asks and Greg can hear the excitement in his voice, “We could get a flat somewhere and be together.” Greg wants to be able to take that step, almost wants to be with Adam, but he can’t quite shake the recollection of the trapped feeling, the panic, Adam’s lack of concern for him,
“I can’t, Adam,” he replies, “I just can’t.”
For the next five minutes Adam alternates between pleading and haranguing; the pleading might have worked but for the haranguing. The conversation confirms what Greg knew instinctively after the afternoon and more than the pain he feels when Adam tells him to go to hell he feels relief.
Adam is not at school after the long weekend and Greg is a little surprised, he’d half thought that it was all talk. Within the first ten minutes it becomes clear to Greg that Adam took the time to let a few people know about him. He gets into one fight that afternoon after school, but he’s a tough lad and he knows how to fight. From then to the end of the school year almost no one talks to Greg. He works through it gaining good enough A levels to get into the Met. He leaves to start his training at Hendon knowing that he will still be keeping secrets but it still feels like a weight off his shoulders as he leaves.
Greg stared at the writing on the calendar for a long time. This should have been the time when he proved to his parents that he was making a success of things, that he wasn’t the stereotype his dad thought him. Now, yet again, they would find him on his own and this time a nervous wreck to boot. He contemplated ringing them to cancel, he could always plead pressure of work but that in its self would confirm their suspicions and he’d only have to rearrange and there was nothing to say things would be any better. No, he decided, he’d tough it out, the role of ‘disappointment’ wasn’t a new one to him after all.
Deb was hardly exactly surprised to see either Sergeant Donovan or Mr Holmes when she got to her office, she was however surprised to see them both at the same time. Presenting a unified front they made a peculiar pair.
It was clear that either Mr Holmes had elected himself spokesman or that they’d decided on it between them,
“DI Reedley,” he began, “we would like you to bring us up to date on DI Lestrade’s case.”
Deb began to protest, she couldn’t after all discuss a current case, especially not a case like this one, with anyone but her team, her superiors or the victim but she’d seen his ID and didn’t doubt that he could ensure that she got orders to discuss the case with him. As to Donovan she could be trusted, she’d worked in Reedley’s squad before she transferred to Lestrade’s MIT. She began to take them through the progress so far.
“We’ve recovered some trace evidence, two samples, one we only recovered last night, one the lab’s been working on for a while longer. The second trace is very small, possibly ejaculate from one of the men wanking while he stood and watched one of the others.”
She looked up and caught the tail end of a brief expression of incandescent rage from Holmes. She’d seen the reaction before from relatives, the idea that in gang rapes other participants found the sight titillating was hard for people to contemplate, perhaps it’s time I moved on from this squad, she thought, things like that don’t bother me like they used to.
“Are you all right?” she asked Holmes, beginning to have a suspicion of who it was that Greg had retrieved the reference sample from, he nodded at her to continue and she did. “It’s a very small sample and the lab will have to use Low Copy Number techniques to get a profile and that’s going to take time.” We’ve sent a number of officers into the area and specifically in the gay clubs in the area to try and find out if this had happened to other people before Lestrade but even now there’s a resistance to talking to the police. So far they haven’t really found out much.”
“Why gay clubs, Inspector,” Holmes asked, “is there an indication that this was a crime specifically targeted at DI Lestrade on account of his sexuality?” Well, that answers that question, Deb thought when Donovan didn’t react to Holmes discussing the fact that Lestrade was gay,
“As you may know the recollections of victims of this kind of crime are often muddled and confused that is a happy side-effect of the drugs for the rapists, but one thing that DI Lestrade was sure of was that one of them called him ‘a queer’. Because of that we feel that there is probably an element of hate crime to this case.”
“Their exact words, according to DI Lestrade?” Holmes enquired. Deb hesitated, not really wanting to repeat the words but she swallowed and continued,
“’Fucking bastard queer’ are the words he recalls.” She noted that Holmes controlled his reaction carefully but that Donovan much more clearly wanted to make someone suffer for that, but of the two of them she thought she would rather face Donovan than Holmes if she were the rapist.
“Would it be worth sending someone in undercover?” Donovan asked, “I mean to the clubs,” she clarified.
“Honestly? Probably, but we don’t have the manpower,” Donovan sang along with the last words of Deb’s reply.
“You asked for more bodies, didn’t you,” Donovan continued, it wasn’t a question. Deb wished that Sally hadn’t asked that non-question with Holmes here, he was looking intently at her and she felt she now had the archetype for a ‘penetrating look’. Really to discuss the operational detail of the case would be unprofessional, but one look at Holmes told her that she would answer either Sally’s questions or his. She took a deep breath, neither of them was going to like this,
“I did,” Deb said, “and I was told that we couldn’t use more man power on this than we would on any other rape, just because it was one of our own.”
“Even though it’s a serial case?” Sally asked,
“’We only have his word for that, and he was drugged’ I was told.”
The tension in the room ramped up and Deb had thought that to be impossible. Holmes was the first to speak,
“Do you feel that there is an element of homophobia in these decisions?”
Deb had been expecting Holmes’ usual subtlety, as she understood it this was much more like the kind of bluntness that could be expected of his brother,
“You can’t really expect me to answer that, can you?”
“I don’t think there is any need to,” he responded. Deb could see the wheels turning in the minds of both Sally and Holmes,
“Now, don’t get any fancy ideas, you two, Greg would want this done by the book,”
Holmes paled alarmingly, and she half stood up to go to him before he imperiously waved her back to her seat and gazing down at his hands, speaking quietly,
“You are correct, I have ... spoken to Greg at some length on this matter, he does not want anything done that would not normally be done.” He paused and looked back up at Deb and she was surprised at quite how intense the look was before he continued, “However, if you feel that less is being done for this case than would be done if it were someone else then I think we could work to … level that playing field…”
“What did you have in mind,” Deb asked the caution clear in her voice,
“Nothing illegal, Detective Inspector,” and here Holmes gave her a rather unconvincing smile, “but, for instance, I could certainly help out with man-power if you think that arranging some people undercover in the clubs would help.”
“Sorry? You can just assign half a dozen, employees,” she stumbled over the word ‘agents’, “at a moment’s notice?” Holmes made an infinitesimal movement towards his inside pocket and then sat back slightly with a bland expression. He really didn’t need to do more, you’ve seen his ID, she thought; don’t make more of a fool of yourself, Deb. She couldn’t let it lie though, “It’s not quite as simple as that,” she began but at Holmes’ raised eyebrow she stopped speaking.
“Obviously,” he said, “the men I would assign are quite used to undercover work and will easily be able to fit themselves into the ambience of the clubs that you wanted to canvas.” He smiled, “They are all what my mother used to refer to as ‘nice young men’, although I don’t know why since she clearly considered that such young men were not nice.” This last was said in a reminiscent tone and then he sat up straighter, “They will report back to you and not to me if they find something.” He paused again and then continued in what Deb considered was as close to a conciliatory tone of voice as he could manage, “I intend no slight as to you or your team’s abilities, I merely want to supply what your superiors would if they were less ... old-fashioned.” Deb was amazed by what levels of disdain and disgust could be conveyed by the phrase ‘old-fashioned.’ There really wasn’t much to do but accept the offer. They agreed between the two of them, as Holmes texted, almost without looking, what were presumably orders that the agents would turn in any information that they found as if they were concerned members of the public.
“And there’s no way that it will come out that they were employed to do this?” Deb asked, “Something like that can shoot holes in a case if it comes out during the trial.”
“To all intents and purposes they will be just right minded citizens; they have a vested interest in these criminals being caught.”
True to Holmes’ word six of his people were rowed up waiting outside her office by ten-thirty that morning. She escorted the men into her office wondering what the rest of her team would make of them and briefed them very carefully. It struck her as strange that she was talking to them about their personal safety when they were probably fully trained agents of some kind but she was very keen to maintain the semblance of the fiction, if they found anything out that would be reported to the desk sergeant in the front office and passed to Deb in the usual way for her squad to act on.
By the time it got to Thursday night Greg was in a high state of nerves. His upbeat mood hadn’t survived remembering his mum and dad’s visit and he hadn’t slept properly since then. The fear was back as well, and while he hadn’t had another melt down like he’d had on the way to Mycroft’s flat he was aware of a constant, low-level fear that flared up into something close to a paranoid feeling of being watched from time to time. Part of the problem was that undoubtedly Mycroft was having him watched and while Greg knew that it would be being done for the best possible reasons as far as Mycroft was concerned, it didn’t help when Greg was trying to sort out what was real, what might be dangerous and what was just nerves.
Greg was watching the television, or at least occupying the same room as the television when the phone rang,
There was a long pause during which Greg wished he’d checked the caller ID before he’d answered. Just when he was on the point of hanging up Mycroft spoke,
“Good evening, Greg.” There was another long pause, one that Greg was perversely determined not to break. Finally Mycroft spoke again, this time a direct question, “How is work going?”
Greg was surprised by the question, he’d been all prepared for ‘How are you?’ and even for ‘I’m sorry,’ but not for a seemingly casual enquiry about work, he was so surprised that he answered,
“Not too bad, it’s getting easier, I suppose.”
The conversation continued in a slightly desultory way with Greg mentally cursing himself for letting himself get sucked in, letting himself be caught by such an obvious trick. But another part of him loved the normalcy of the thing; that just a few minutes were like things were ‘before’ felt like a promise that things would get better.
There was a longer pause and Greg could hear Mycroft taking a deep breath before pitching into what Greg was sure was the real reason for his call. Unable to face the question he was sure was coming Greg spoke before Mycroft,
“Please don’t ask me how I am, Mycroft. I can’t even begin to tell you how utterly tired of that question I am, even when they don’t say it directly people are thinking it so loud that it’s deafening.”
“That wasn’t what I was going to ask,” Mycroft said quietly, “I assumed that you would have had enough of that; my desire to know is far outweighed by your need not to answer the question. No, I rang to enquire about your parents’ visit; it was supposed to be this weekend was it not?”
Greg was amazed once again at Mycroft’s ability to retain data, I didn’t remember myself and they’re my parents,
“Yeah, they’re arriving tomorrow, train’s due in about 4.30,” Greg replied before he’d even really thought about it and he silently cursed himself as another pause drew out between them.
“You didn’t ask them to rearrange then?” Mycroft asked eventually,
“Didn’t seem to be a lot of point, things are shit but ...” Greg’s voice petered out, he was going to finish with ‘but that’s what they expect of me anyway’, but even in his own ears it sounded too much like he was asking for reassurance and he really wasn’t. However, this was Mycroft he was speaking to,
“I’m sure they don’t see you as any kind of failure, Greg.” It was a statement uttered in a tone of voice that denied the possibility of being countered; Greg could hear no sign of either condescension or of ‘jollying along’, still he knew it wasn’t true,
“You haven’t met them,” he replied, trying to keep any hint of serious emotion out of his voice. There was another long pause before Mycroft spoke,
“That’s largely why I rang, I was wondering if you would allow me to meet them.”
For a moment Greg thought he must have misheard,
“Why would you want to do that?” he finally stammered out. Mycroft didn’t sigh, Greg could very definitely hear him not sighing,
“Because it is, or at least was, important to you that I did, and for my own reasons; I was looking forward to learning more about you. I always want to know more about you.”
Greg was tempted, very tempted, the thought of meeting his mum and dad from the train with Mycroft by his side was so much a more appealing idea than being there on his own, if for no other reason than that he would feel less nervous with someone else there. But, he thought, I’d be lying to them, and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t do that anymore, I’m not a kid anymore.
“No, really, Mycroft, thanks for the offer but it wouldn’t be right, I decided a long time ago I didn’t want to hide from them, they take me as they find me these days, I won’t go back to that frightened boy that lied to them.”
“No,” Mycroft replied, “nor would I suggest that you should. I hope that you still consider me to be a friend at the least, and as a friend I would like to meet your mother and father.”
Greg sat up
“I don’t actually need you to hold my hand, Mycroft,” Greg could feel himself slowly getting angry and by the placating tone of his reply Mycroft was able to hear it in his voice,
“I wasn’t suggesting that you do, I genuinely want to meet your parents,”
“Why?” Greg snapped,
“Because they are a part of you, a part of what formed you.”
Greg was beyond reason now, and a very small part of him could see that it wouldn’t have mattered what Mycroft said, it would still have infuriated him,
“But by your lights the ‘me’ they formed is an untrustworthy oaf. Do you just want to see what sort of people turn out a screw up like me?”
“That really wasn’t how it was, Greg,”
Greg could hear that Mycroft was trying to calm him, and it just made things worse, he knew that if Mycroft had been there things would have been dangerously close to getting physical,
“Listen,” Mycroft said, still trying to keep things calm, “how often does someone coming home as you did turn out to be what it was, one in a hundred, one in a thousand?”
Greg interrupted him,
“’Turn out to be what it was’? Can you not even say it?”
“Very well!” Mycroft snapped, “How often does someone coming home very late turn out to have been raped?”
“So what you’re saying is that you reacted on the balance of probabilities? Nothing about me? Effectively you weren’t thinking about me at all?”
“Bloody Hell, Greg, I’d been mentally burying you for three hours by the time you finally walked in. I couldn’t even bloody ring you for fear that I’d put you in danger! I was beside myself, every moment a new picture of you dead in some bloody awful way.”
“I wish I had been.”
There was a startled silence in which Greg was aware of his own breathing and Mycroft’s similarly heavy. Mycroft finally spoke, quietly,
“What a completely bloody thing to say,” there was a long pause before Mycroft continued, “I love you, Greg, the thought of you dead is the worst thing in the world.”
“That’s not what you thought that morning,” Greg continued, sticking to what he considered to be the central point,
“I wasn’t bloody well thinking! I was panicking, I was frantic and I was frantic because I thought I’d lost you! There is nothing worse than the thought of you dead.”
Greg could hear the panic and the raw need in Mycroft’s voice and it was all too much to deal with,
“There is, there’s what happened, that’s worse.”
Greg could hear Mycroft’s breath catch,
“Really?” he asked and Greg paused before he replied,
“Oh, I don’t know. Some days. I just don’t know.” Mycroft made a wordless sound of discomfort and perversely Greg felt the need to comfort him, “I think it’s getting better but some days I just want to give up. I know it’s early days...”
Mycroft interrupted him,
“Promise me, Greg.”
Greg didn’t try to pretend he didn’t understand what Mycroft was asking,
“I honestly can’t, Mycroft, I don’t think I will, but, sometimes it’s just too...”
Mycroft interrupted again,
“Is this why you didn’t put off your parents visit? In case this was the ... last time?”
“No,” Greg snapped back without thinking but then he paused, wrestling with the idea before he continued, “I don’t think so.” Suddenly the enormity of it all hit Greg and he found himself sobbing, “Oh, God, Mycroft, I’m just so fucking scared, all the time. Every time I hear a noise, when I’m walking down the street, even at work. They’re out there, hell Mycroft, I had my wallet on me, they know where I live, they could come back at any time and what if they didn’t kill me? What if they just did it again? I feel like I’m losing my mind. I feel like they’re all watching me at work, just waiting for me to crack up, waiting for me to lose it, and I can feel it happening, I can feel myself slipping away. In the end there’ll be only the fear left, that’ll be all there is left.”
“You are not slipping away, Greg, there are far too many of us who love you to let that happen. Even if you don’t care to think of me, there’s Sally Donovan, there’s Sherlock, there’s John, we won’t let you go, I promise.” Greg could hear the urgency in Mycroft’s voice, could hear it but not really understand it. “Listen to me, Greg, you are the strongest person I’ve ever met, this will not be the end of you. I’m on my way to you. I’ll be there in about five minutes. Will you let me help you?”
“You’re coming here?” Greg asked, aware that it was a stupid question, “Don’t Mycroft, please don’t. After what I’ve said to you, I’m best left, really, don’t”
“I’m sorry, Greg,” Mycroft said, “but I have to know that you’re all right, I have to see you with my own eyes. I know it’s an awful lot to ask, but please, please let me in.”
Greg could hear a noise outside, a car moving at a ridiculous speed and he knew that it was Mycroft, nondescript his understated black cars might be but that didn’t mean they weren’t high performance. Funny definition of five minutes, Greg thought.
“That’s you, isn’t it?” he said and when Mycroft replied he was aware that he could actually hear him as well as through the phone,
“Yes, let me in, please Greg. I don’t want to disturb your neighbours by forcing my way in, but I’m afraid I will if I have to.”
Dully, Greg got up and went to the door. Even knowing it was Mycroft he used the spy hole to check, a thing he was aware he would never have done six weeks ago. Seeing Mycroft’s concerned face he slipped the bolt off and unlocked the Yale, pulling the door open very slightly before he turned away and walked back along the short hall way, he was hanging the phone up when Mycroft walked into the main room. He turned to look at Mycroft,
“Right, you’re here now, you can see I’m fine.” Greg tried really hard to keep any trace of emotion out of his voice but when he properly looked at Mycroft he could see some of the toll this whole thing was taking on the man and he continued, “Which looks like more than I can say for you. Are you still not sleeping?”
Mycroft dismissed the question with a wave of his hand,
“I’m not here to discuss my sleeping patterns.”
“Why are you here, then?” Greg asked, looking down at a spot on the floor between them, “Trying to make sure that I don’t do ‘something stupid’? Like I said, I haven’t and most likely I won’t,” he paused, swallowing before he looked back up at Mycroft, “but I’m not going to promise you anything, Mycroft, I don’t think that you have the right to ask that of me.”
Greg could tell that Mycroft was hanging on to his temper by his finger ends and perversely he wanted to push him further,
“You can’t tell me what I can deal with and what I can’t, no one can.”
“And what of what your friends can deal with? You’re systematically cutting yourself off from all of us.” Mycroft swallowed, “I cannot blame you for cutting yourself off from me but John? Sherlock? Sally Donovan? We all ... they all want to help you Greg, will you for pity’s sake let us?”
“I can’t.” Greg muttered,
“Because I feel like I’ll never be right, I feel like you’d all be wasting your time and the idea that one by one you’d reach the same conclusion and drift away, well, it haunts me.”
“Oh, Greg,” Mycroft said on a long exhale, “come here.”
Mycroft held out his arms and after a moment’s hesitation, Greg walked into his embrace; he was startled to feel that Mycroft was trembling as much as he was.
“You will feel better I promise,” Mycroft said and Greg could feel Mycroft’s breath against his neck, “it will pass, you will come through this. I know it feels like it will never get better I know it feels like it’s getting worse, I know how scared you are but it will get better.”
Greg wasn’t quite ready to give up, just yet,
“How do you know?”
Mycroft didn’t answer; he just tightened his grip on Greg, gently rocking him, while Greg began to cry softly.
Later, after Greg had pulled himself from Mycroft’s arms and busied himself with making coffee, when they were sat in the two armchairs that Greg kept, Mycroft raised his initial question again,
“So, may I meet your parents?”
“As a friend, you said,” Greg mused, “Yeah, that would work,’Mum, dad, this is Mycroft, my friend,’ can’t think why they’d jump to conclusions from that.” The smile that Greg couldn’t help felt strange, strange but welcome, and when Mycroft replied Greg could see the beginning of a smile on his face,
“We are not responsible for what conclusions they draw, are we? Seriously though Greg, you are under enough stress at the moment without allowing things to be worse than they need to be.” There was a long pause before Mycroft continued, “There is little enough I can do to make up for my inexcusable behaviour, let me at least do this, say dinner on Friday night and a trip out somewhere on Sunday? If we let them decide what they want to do on Sunday, I can arrange a car and anything else we might need.”
The thing that made Greg most want to give in and accept Mycroft’s offer was strangely his use of the word ‘we’. We and us. Two simple words. Even over the short time since everything had gone to shit Greg had missed those two words beyond all reason. He closed his eyes,
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. They will be coming into King’s Cross, is that right? Do you want to get a coffee first? I’ll meet you at the Café Nero at 3.45?”
They continued to drink their coffee in a companionable silence and when Mycroft finished his cup he got up to leave. He was about to say something but Greg interrupted,
“Thank you. You didn’t need to do any of this,” Greg gestured almost randomly, knowing that Mycroft would take his meaning,
“Think nothing of it,” Greg could hear that Mycroft was trying for nonchalance, it didn’t quite come off, especially when he continued, in a hurried tone, “If you can’t promise me,” he didn’t need to be more explicit, “can you at least promise me that you’ll let me try and talk you out of it?”
“I don’t see how that would be any different from promising you,” Greg answered,
“I was hoping that you wouldn’t spot that,” Mycroft smiled but it was unconvincing and the pause lengthened out.
“I think I can promise you that at least,” Greg finally answered.
Mycroft blinked once, slowly and Greg could see some of the tension drain out of him. Mycroft turned and headed towards the door,
“3.45, Friday at Café Nero.”
The wait for the train was interminable and to pass the time she was people watching. Her attention fixed on two blokes in particular. One was tall, very slightly ginger and dressed in a ridiculously expensive suit. He carried an umbrella. The whole effect was like he’d seen an episode of The Avengers at an early age and never quite got over it. The other was not quite as tall, certainly stockier and much more casually dressed, jeans and a t shirt under a nice leather jacket. His hair was grey but his age didn’t seem to match. He was clearly nervous and she couldn’t quite make her mind up if the first man was not nervous or just much, much better at covering it up; she was inclined to believe the latter but if so he was very good.
So much for the physical, she thought, and began to look at the two of them as a pair.
It was hard to decide what connected the two of them. It was hard to picture them as brothers or other close relations unless one of them was adopted, their physical types were just too different, facially for instance they had nothing in common. Are they a couple? she wondered.
The taller of the two seemed almost to be hovering, seemingly always about to reach out and touch, holding himself back from moment to moment. His expression when he looked at his companion was almost frightening in its intensity but mostly his attention was roving the crowd as if he was searching for someone. No, actually, she thought after watching him for another minute, it’s a protective thing, he’s guarding him. Could he be a body guard? If he was she reckoned that he was getting too close to his subject, it seemed that he wasn’t looking to protect him because it’s was a job, he’s doing it because he loves him and he’s doing it because he’s possessive. Poor sod, I’m not sure it’s reciprocated.
She continued to watch, trying to make sense of the other man’s body language. It varied, she decided. From time to time he would almost sway towards the taller man, the distance between them shrinking down to a level that spoke of intimacy, then it was like he realised what he was doing and he would straighten up and pull slightly away. She watched for a little while longer. The difference in distance was less than she’d initially thought she decided, it was more like he increased the emotional distance; when he pulled away he often stood up straighter, squaring his shoulders, as much as to say I can stand on my own two feet, I don’t need you. Moments later, when his mind wandered she thought, he was slightly slumped, slightly inclined towards the other, demonstrating the need he was trying to deny.
One time when his happened she caught the tail end of a fleeting emotion on the Steed-alike’s face, so fleeting that she couldn’t be sure of it but it settled in her mind. He certainly thought he’d done something awful, some sort of betrayal of trust and judging by his companion’s body language he thought so too.
“The delayed 16:28 from Peterborough will be arriving in three minutes.” That particular station announcement seemed to energise the pair of them, both pulled themselves up to their full height and the shorter man said something to the other, something that was clearly meant to be humour but just as clearly the degree of nerves they were both feeling had intensified and continued to do so as the delayed train pulled into the station.
The grey haired man stepped forward and as people began to get out of the train he scanned them obviously looking for someone. The taller man had hung back she noticed, and now the nerves that he’d been able to keep under wraps for, she thought, the benefit of his companion were showing much more clearly on his face.
Eventually the grey haired man spotted who he was looking for and walked in the direction of an older couple who were getting off the train with a considerable amount of luggage. One look at them convinced her that these were his parents, the man was certainly his father or another very close relative, the hair was the same, and the set of the eyes. The similarities however pointed out the differences. The father was bristling with a self-importance that she thought was probably doing the job of confidence, when he saw his son, she was somehow sure of the relationship now, he moved forward, hand extended to shake hands while at the same time the son changed his approach from a movement that looked like the beginning of a hug to a more restrained grasp of the hand. His mother did reach out to him and kiss him on the cheek but it was hard to detect any great warmth in the gesture, it appeared very much more ‘what you do’ than what she wanted to do. It was almost painful to watch, the grey haired man’s whole body had become a cringe as soon as he’d seen his parents, it was subtle but it was there if you looked for it.
She saw the moment when he remembered the other man, he glanced round at him and she could see a very, very slight relaxation as he turned, directing an apologetic smile at him before introducing him to his parents.
Although the parents tried to hide it they were clearly surprised by the introduction. It was infuriating to her not to be able to tell whether they were surprised by the fact that he was introducing anyone or whether it was because he was introducing this specific man. She could see his father taking in the detail of the well tailored suit and the demeanour of the man and that he was surprised and impressed. Probably this was not the sort of friend he usually saw his son with or expected to see his son with.
“The 17:02 service to Leeds will be leaving from platform three in three minutes. We apologise for the change of platforms.” The voice on the PA system was just about distinguishable and that was her train. It occurred to her to ‘miss’ the train so that she could continue to watch this family drama, but gave herself a mental shake, after all she had no idea what was going on, she was making it all up in her head. Still as she began to move to platform three, she couldn’t help glancing back to see the two men exchange rueful glances as they picked up the parents’ luggage and began to move towards the exit.
“Mum, Dad, this is my friend Mycroft, Mycroft these are my parents, James and Mary.” Mycroft looked at them intently as he moved forward to shake hands but he was secure in the knowledge that they would not know that, the quick comprehensive glance was a skill he’d honed over many, many years of dealing with politicians of every persuasion.
He had been able to see the relationship at a glance, while they were still getting themselves and a purely ridiculous amount of luggage for a weekend off the train. Greg didn’t quite have his father’s height but he had his colouring and something of his mother’s general physique. Trying to judge their emotional state was a little more difficult. The mother appeared apprehensive more than anything, her nerves apparently strung tight but without a more complete knowledge Mycroft had no way of knowing if this was her natural state or a reaction to visiting her son. Greg’s father was clearly keeping a very tight hold over any emotional response, so tight that even Mycroft couldn’t tell what it was he was covering up and that was unusual.
“I’m very pleased to meet you Mr and Mrs Lestrade. May I help you with your luggage?” Greg’s mother glanced almost imperceptibly at her husband before she replied,
“Thank you, that would be very nice.”
Mycroft walked slightly past her to pick up the two biggest of the four suitcases as Greg picked up the two smaller,
“I have a car waiting for us outside,” Mycroft said and again noted the very slightest beat of hesitation before Greg’s mother replied,
“That sounds very nice, doesn’t it James?”
“Yes,” he replied, just about managing a smile, “Thank you ... Mycroft, it’s kind of you to put yourself to the trouble for us.”
“I assure you it’s no trouble,” Mycroft replied with a smile, turning with the cases and leading the way off the platform towards the exit. Greg followed close behind,
“Misuse of official vehicles Mr Holmes?” he muttered for Mycroft’s benefit only.
Mycroft risked a sideways glance and was rewarded with a brief grin that would always have made his heart skip a beat but which coming now was like being presented with a medal,
“Misuse is a strong term, Detective Inspector,” he replied with a tight smile of his own.
It took just a little while to get everyone into the ever present discrete black car. The luggage more or less filled the capacious boot of the car and then there was the seating arrangement once the luggage was stowed, despite the fact that there was clearly enough room for Greg to join his parents on the back seat after a momentary pause he pulled down the second of the two rear-facing seats and sat facing his parents rather than with them.
The driver didn’t ask for any directions, Mycroft had ensured that he knew where he was going but within moments he wished he hadn’t, it would at least have been something to have spoken about, what they had instead was an awkward silence. In the normal run of events Mycroft loved to engineer awkward silences, they were half of the way in which he dealt with everyone from subordinates to the prime minister; create the silence, watch them squirm for a carefully calculated amount of time and then make an offer which gave them some hope of getting away – it was amazing what you could get people to agree to. It wasn’t nearly so funny when the person doing the squirming was Greg and so Mycroft chatted, made small talk, and was incredibly glad that Anthea was not there to hear or even to observe this departure from his usual practices.
Mycroft started by asking them about their journey, usually a safe topic when anyone had used the train.
“Oh, not too bad,” Mary replied, “engineering works just before Stevenage, but when aren’t there?”
“You come down to London often, Mr and Mrs Lestrade?” Mycroft asked, attempting to bring Greg’s father into the conversation. It was his mother that replied though,
“Oh, not too often, we sometimes come down for a bit of shopping, there’s nowhere quite like London when it comes to the shops is there?”
“No, I suppose not,” Mycroft replied thinking that it was perhaps conceivable that there was a subject he knew less about than shopping but at this second he couldn’t christen what it was, “I know that my parents used to come to town to visit bookshops and the like.” He could tell straightaway that this was the wrong type of shopping,
“Oh, well, I was never that much of a reader, Mycroft,” she replied in the same tone of voice someone might use for declining an improper suggestion and Mycroft had to stop himself from nodding as she confirmed what he’d thought.
“My parents also used to like to see a show from time to time,” he continued, determined to find some point of common ground, he realised this was not going to be that common ground when James Lestrade finally spoke,
“So you like shows then do you, Mycroft?” he asked. It was hard to imagine he could have put much more venom into the question ‘So you like murdering kittens, do you Mycroft?’ It took a moment for Mycroft to work out what was going on and a second after that to frame a reply as he wavered between expounding on his love for musical theatre in as flamboyant way as he could and making some sort of comment about preferring a classical concert. Just when he’d made his mind up to profess his love for Mozart rather than Minnelli Greg spoke,
“How’s work, Dad?” he asked and the question was so clearly what it was, a diversion and a deflection that it seemed to shock a reply out of his father. The reply was long and technical but it broke the ice and conversation flowed more easily than it did before. Mycroft was impressed. This demonstration of Greg’s handling of his parents brought him face to face with the fact that Greg had dealt with these people and their disapproval all his life; the desire to pull Greg into his arms and hold him and make it all better was overwhelming as was the sudden knowledge that far from making it better his presence was almost certainly going to make things worse, or at least more difficult for Greg.
When they got to Greg’s building Mycroft busied himself with retrieving suitcases from the boot of the car and then walked to the driver’s side window which was purring down as he got there,
“Thank you, Davis, you don’t need to wait. I’ll get a cab when I leave.”
“Are you sure, sir?” Davis asked and Mycroft knew that his question was not an argument so much as an attempt to avoid the wrath of Anthea when she found out that Mycroft had abandoned all his protection. Mycroft considered for a moment,
“Very well, have someone come back at around six-thirty. If I decide to leave before that I will,” he paused to make sure that Davis knew that he should not push the matter any further, “take a cab.”
“Very good, sir. Have a pleasant evening.”
The window wound back up and Mycroft went to pick up the two suitcases he’d picked up on the platform at King’s Cross. They were heavy but not ridiculously so and again he found himself wondering what on earth the two of them could require that made four cases for even a long weekend a sensible amount of luggage.
When they got to Greg’s flat on the second floor Mycroft was very careful not to appear too ‘at home’, in truth it wasn’t that difficult, the two of them had spent far more time in Mycroft’s flat than in Greg’s. Before the last couple of weeks Greg hadn’t spent more than one night a week here for months and it still had a slight air of damp and dust about it despite the thorough cleaning Greg had given it.
Still cumbered with the two smaller cases Greg shoved open the door to the spare bedroom and put the cases down by the wardrobe,
“This is your room, Mum and Dad.” Mycroft entered to put the other two cases on the bed, for the ease of unpacking before ducking back out. Greg continued to speak, “I’ll just go and make a brew while you get settled.” His mother and father stepped into the room and gazed round like they were looking to buy and didn’t want to seem too eager.
“Thank you, Greg,” his mother responded, “I hope we’re not putting you out,”
“No of course not, I invited you, remember. Just get yourselves settled.
Mycroft was aware of a desire to giggle when he followed Greg into the kitchen, Greg’s parents were so clearly disapproving and the combination of that and the ‘playing nice’ made him feel like he was fifteen again. He kept the feeling to himself though, unclear on how his parents’ attitude was affecting Greg. Greg was busying himself with kettle and mugs and teabags and had his back determinedly towards Mycroft. Leaning on the door frame, Mycroft watched him trying to discern what Greg was currently feeling. However, when he saw Greg’s shoulders begin to shake he stepped forward,
“Greg,” he said, voice purposely low to avoid disturbing the people in the next room, “what’s the matter?”
Greg held up a hand, still with his back to Mycroft, and Mycroft paused, knowing that Greg was trying to collect himself before he answered. After what seemed like an age to Mycroft, Greg turned round and he was able to see that far from being upset, Greg was still choking back a giggle that broke out anew when he saw Mycroft’s expression. After a moment’s pause Mycroft’s expression relaxed into the grin he’d been fighting earlier,
“Are they always like that?” Mycroft asked, still in as quiet a voice as he could manage,
“Yep,” Greg confirmed, “nothing in your face, just the very essence of passive-aggressive.” He chuckled again and then clearly made an effort to pull himself together, “It was watching you try to use your diplomatic skills on them that was nearly too much for me. Give it up My, you can’t win with them, even your skills are not up to the job!” Greg collapsed into nearly silent giggles again.
For a moment Mycroft was nearly overcome by his reaction to Greg’s amusement and more particularly to Greg calling him ‘My’ and while he was aware that there was an element of semi-hysteria to the laughter it was so much a better release of Greg’s tension than tears that he covered up his own reaction as quickly as he could and thought that Greg hadn’t clocked it. He moved towards the end of the kitchen and leaned on the edge of the worktop close but not too close to Greg,
“Why on earth have they got so much luggage?” he asked. He could only see Greg in profile but he couldn’t miss the tightening of the muscles along his jaw and the way his hands clenched hold of the edge of the worktop. It was no surprise to Mycroft to hear the faint echo of bitterness in Greg’s voice when he replied.
“Well, you see, they have to bring their own bedding and towels and such, you never know what I might have got up to and with whom, on those sheets.”
“Seriously?” Mycroft asked, not even trying to keep the incredulity out of his voice,
“Seriously.” Greg paused, “Really, Mycroft, you should go home. It’s only going to get worse here, more tense, more snide comments, more disapproval. I can’t think of any reason why you should put yourself through that. I’ll be fine, I’m used to them.”
“Will it be easier on you if I’m not here?” Mycroft asked, “If so I’ll go, but otherwise, I’m sure I can take it.”
There was a long pause while Greg turned slightly towards him and Mycroft held his breath,
“No, it will be easier with you here, if you don’t mind.” It was said in a quiet voice and accompanied by Greg shifting just a little closer to him.
“Then I’ll stay,” Mycroft replied sliding his hand along the counter until it was touching Greg’s. Greg moved his hand slightly until it was covering Mycroft’s and squeezed gently,
“Thank you, My.”
Mycroft swallowed, trying to hold back sudden tears,
“What’s the matter?” Greg asked
“N...nothing,” Mycroft stammered, flushing with what he decided to classify as embarrassment, “nothing’s the matter.”
Greg continued to look at him with eyebrows raised inviting Mycroft to explain and Mycroft could feel his resolve weakening until in the end he blurted out,
“You called me ‘My’,” he swallowed again, “I wasn’t sure I’d ever hear that again.”
Greg pulled his hand away and cleared his throat,
“Sorry,” he said, “I’ll watch myself.”
“Please, don’t,” Mycroft found himself mumbling, “please.”
“I knew this would be the problem with this weekend.” Greg said in a matter of fact tone of voice as he turned back to the kettle and busied himself with pouring almost boiling water onto teabags. “This doesn’t change anything, Mycroft, I meant what I said before, you need to move on, you need someone you can t...”
Mycroft interrupted him allowing his sudden anger to show in his voice,
“Don’t talk about me finding someone I can trust, I don’t want anyone but you, I’d rather, far rather, be on my own than be with someone who isn’t you.” He took a deep breath before he continued, “We aren’t going to have this conversation now, now I’m going to focus on making this evening as painless as I possibly can for you, and you’re going to focus on not letting them get to you.”
Mycroft could see that Greg was trying to decide whether to be offended or amused by what he’d said and he had to force himself not to hold his breath as he waited for Greg’s reaction.
“I still mean what I said, but thank you; let’s just get through the weekend.” Greg turned back to the kettle and cups, more Mycroft thought as a distraction than because something needed doing. Mycroft had one other thing that he needed to know,
“Are you going to tell them?”
“God, no,” Greg replied on the instant, “that’s what they think all gay sex is like anyway, anonymous blokes, alleyways, brutality. They wouldn’t be able to work out what I was making a fuss about.”
The fact that all of this was said without any real bitterness made Mycroft angrier than he could remember being, how dare they make their son, their only son feel like this about himself? And I’m going to spend the next couple of days ‘playing nice’ with them, because that’s what Greg needs.
Greg must have been able to tell what was going through his mind,
“Don’t let it get to you, Mycroft. It’s almost background noise to me now. They are at least consistent.” He paused turning back so that the two of them were side by side again facing down the kitchen, “It really doesn’t bother me that much these days. Don’t let it bother you.”
Greg and Mycroft carried in the tea and after Greg’s mother and father emerged from the bedroom the four of them continued to make polite conversation. It was a considerable relief to Greg that Mycroft had interpreted the way his parents behaved with him in the same way that he had; up until this point it had always been possible that he was imagining it all. Mycroft had continued to make small talk with his parents as they all drank their tea and Greg could see that it was costing him. His opening gambit of ‘Greg’s told me so much about you’ almost made Greg choke on his tea, he’d done no such thing, but it quickly became obvious that Mycroft had done some considerable research and miraculously he was able to chat about the current state of business in the world of paper products and administration. Greg could tell that his father was, against his will, just a little impressed.
It was when Mycroft moved on and began to turn his considerable talents to his mother that he ran into a snag, as Greg had known he would. Of the two of them his dad was the follower not the leader although Greg was aware that unless you knew the two of them well you wouldn’t get that. She responded to Mycroft’s questions with answers that stopped just short of dismissive, just short of out and out rude. Mycroft continued as though there was nothing going on and Greg was ridiculously grateful to him for not retaliating in any way, they were still his parents and amusing though it would be to watch Mycroft verbally take them apart, he didn’t want to see them humiliated. Greg had almost begun to relax when his mother began to ask Mycroft questions of her own,
“So, Mycroft, what is it that you do?” The question made Greg suddenly tense, it was a question that even he had never asked, taking it on trust that Mycroft’s job was not the sort that mere mortals either needed or wanted to know about. Mycroft of course answered urbanely,
“I work for the government, a minor job in Whitehall.”
“A bureaucrat,” she responded dismissively, “It’s good that some people have real jobs so that they can pay for the paper pushers in the civil service.”
The weird thing about it was that Greg knew that she didn’t really mean it, or at least not as such. Most of her ideas, especially her political ideas came fully formed from the Daily Mail, Greg doubted that she could have put together a coherent explanation of what she thought a bureaucrat was. It wasn’t that she was unintelligent, Greg knew, it was just that she didn’t think about things to any great extent, in her world thinking about things just led to problems.
“Very true, Mrs Lestrade,” Mycroft almost purred, using a tone of voice that Greg imagined would have made a number of world leaders extremely nervous, “I don’t have the sort of essential job that Greg does. You must be very proud of him.”
The question clearly put her off balance and she actually looked round at Greg almost as if she hadn’t really seen him there. She clearly didn’t know what to say, and Greg realised with a jolt which he would have said he was far beyond feeling that it had never even occurred to her that she could or should be proud of him. His father saved the awkward moment,
“Of course we’re proud of him,” he replied looking Greg straight in the eye before he continued, “as I’m sure your parents are proud of you Mycroft. Which department do you work for?” he asked and the conversation turned to more neutral topics as Greg tried to let his mind catch up with what his father had said.
Mycroft had left almost as soon as he’d finished his tea and his mother and father had retired to their room claiming tiredness although Greg couldn’t work out how the short trip from Peterborough could have tired them. They were due to meet Mycroft at the restaurant he’d booked at 8.15. When Mycroft had told him the name of the restaurant, Greg had been shocked at least a little, it was expensive and swanky and Greg was unsure what it was Mycroft was trying to say to his parents. His parents, or at least his mother however had been impressed and Greg knew from her reaction that Mycroft had gauged his choice well.
It felt downright peculiar to Greg to getting himself dressed up for something. It had never really been his thing; he was much more a ‘drinks down the pub’ kind of a person than a fancy restaurant person. His and Mycroft’s relationship had hinged around cosy evenings in, both of them relishing their few clear nights together too much to want to spend them in company. If he was honest there was also always the issue of being seen out with someone, and it was the same for Mycroft at best it would be awkward if their relationship was known at worst it would make it very difficult for either of them to continue with their current jobs. So he ended up in his one good suit, a dark charcoal grey, a white shirt and a deep plum tie (which he chose because Mycroft liked it – but he didn’t let himself think about that). He noticed that after the last couple of weeks the suit was rather loose on him and he had to add a black belt or risk channelling his inner surfer dude. By 7.30 there was nothing left to do but wait around nervously until it was time to leave. Greg’s mum and dad were still in their room and Greg put the television on deciding to ignore BBC News 24 rather than any of the other available channels.
He became aware only gradually that the two of them were having a quiet but no less vehement for that argument in their room. Greg considered what to do. He was nosey enough he admitted to himself that he wanted to know what it was they were arguing about even if only to confirm his suspicions that it was him, but something about having his parents there with him made him want to just turn the volume up on the television, exactly like he’d done when he lived at home, and pretend that it wasn’t happening. He turned the volume up and sat, glancing at his watch every couple of minutes until he couldn’t delay any longer if they were to get to the restaurant at the time they’d agreed. Hesitantly he moved towards the closed door and reached out to knock, then he pulled back his hand, stood up straighter and knocked abruptly,
“We should be leaving before long, are you two ready?” he asked in a brisk voice. There was a moment or two of silence before he got a reply.
“We’ll be out in a moment or two,” his father said.
Outside his flat Greg hailed a taxi. It was clear to him that his parents Weren’t Speaking with definite capital letters, he’d only had to hear his mother’s arctic ‘Thank you.’ when his dad had held the door open for her to know that but in truth, having grown up with them he’d been able to tell from before they’d emerged from their room. He was trying desperately to imagine that what they’d been falling out about had been him or Mycroft or him and Mycroft, but egotistical as it seemed he knew that was more than likely what it was. At least they would have company and his parents usually managed to pull themselves together for the sake of ‘company manners’, he only hoped that Mycroft counted.
When they got to the restaurant it was even flashier than Greg remembered but there was Mycroft waiting for them and somehow in a way that Greg didn’t want to explore too closely, that made it all right. They were in and settled quickly and quietly and once they had ordered the four of them were again confronted with making small talk, well they would have been Greg thought if Mycroft had been inclined to let anyone else get a word in edgewise.
It was a side of Mycroft that Greg had seldom seen and he although he realised intellectually that Mycroft must actually be very good at this kind of diplomatic chat it was still a treat to see him in action. All of the things that he’d learned about Greg’s parents from this afternoon and from Greg in the past were all brought out, subtly changed and rearranged so that they weren’t a replay of this afternoon’s conversation, but still reflecting the people back at themselves in such a flattering way that they couldn’t help but be dragged into the conversation and couldn’t help but warm to the man. It was skilfully done and Greg wasn’t sure he’d ever found Mycroft more attractive than he did right then. Altogether dinner was a great success and so was their discussion as to where they should go on Sunday.
Mycroft had listened for a little while to the discussion between the three Lestrades before he offered a suggestion of his own,
“It’s possible that I can get us into some of the less, well travelled areas of Hampton Court Palace, if you would like to see it?” It was said with deference and Greg struggled not to grin at Mycroft’s skilled handling of his parents, he’d hit exactly the right tone with them.
“Are you sure?” Mary asked, but Greg could see that she was hooked already and he excused himself to the gents leaving the three of them discussing the details of Sunday’s outing.
When Greg was on the point of leaving the cubicle he became aware that there was someone loitering by the urinals. His gut reaction was that he needed to pull himself together, there was precious little chance that any of the men who had attacked him would be in a place like this one, it wasn’t the sort of restaurant where people from the Sheldon Estate usually ate, but he couldn’t shake the fear, couldn’t bring himself to leave the cubicle. There were a thousand and one things that he could be sensibly doing and none of them had anything to do with Greg and yet here he was, hiding like a bloody kid. The relief when Greg heard the outer door open brought tears to his eyes and made his knees feel week. He took a moment to compose himself,
“Greg?” It was Mycroft’s voice and suddenly Greg found himself flushing bright red with embarrassment. He was still trying to compose himself when he heard Mycroft’s voice again, “Greg, are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, just give me a moment.”
Greg took just a few more seconds before reaching forward to unbolt the door. Mycroft was stood leaning against the counter top that held the wash hand basins, and to anyone else he would have looked cool and collected but Greg was aware of the tension in him, aware of his concern and even though he knew he was reacting to his own embarrassment rather than anything Mycroft had actually done he couldn’t help himself but snap,
“I said I was fine!”
“Good.” Mycroft replied, “We became a little concerned,” Greg interrupted,
“What so now you’re a ‘we’ with my parents, just fucking marvellous!”
“Greg, calm yourself. You know that is not the case. You’re going to have to go out there and talk to them, you’ll only make things worse if you’re agitated. They will ask questions that I’m quite sure you don’t want to answer.”
Greg moved towards the wash basins and Mycroft moved out of his way. He’d be moving faster if he knew how much I want to punch him right now, Greg thought. He turned the taps on and ducked down slightly to splash his face.
“What happened?” Mycroft asked.
“Can you not let it go, Mycroft?”
Mycroft didn’t answer, he just waited, the calm assurance of it when he was feeling anything but calm himself was infuriating to Greg but he also knew that Mycroft wouldn’t stop asking,
“There was somebody waiting here, right where you are and, look, I know that it was nothing to do with me but ... I was scared ... all right? Bloody pathetic isn’t it, can’t even take a piss without having to hide.”
“He was texting someone,” Mycroft said, his tone of voice abstracted, “I can see why it would be worrisome to you...”
“Oh for pity’s sake don’t start humouring me, Mycroft. I don’t honestly think I could stand that. It was bloody stupid to behave as I did, we both know it.”
“Everyone behaves stupidly from time to time, Greg, you have more excuse than most right now. Are you OK now? We should probably get back to your parents before they begin to draw their own erroneous conclusions as to what we’re up to.
After five very frosty minutes Greg realised that was exactly what his parents thought. It was a shame really, after all of Mycroft’s hard work, to see the look of loathing in his mother’s eyes. There didn’t seem to be anything to do but to decide to call it a night.
“I’ll send a car at 10.30 on Sunday morning,” Mycroft said, “don’t worry,” he continued, “I won’t accompany the car, I understand that you want your son to yourselves.”
Greg understood completely why, but he still couldn’t quite help feeling more than a little disappointed.
Back at the flat, his parents safely ensconced in their room Greg texted Mycroft,
Sorry about earlier, as usual, none of it was your fault. I won’t apologise for my parents but thank you for trying at least. Sleep well.The reply came back almost straight away,
You have nothing to apologise for. It was interesting to meet your mother and father. Try and get some sleep love.Greg stared at the last word for five solid minutes before he put the phone down and went into his bedroom.
Adrian walked into the club at around 11.30. He went to the bar, ordered himself a drink and turned to survey the room, the perfect picture he knew, of a man on the pull. There weren’t that many people still on their own and Adrian was looking for a particular type, someone just that little bit less good looking than himself, someone who was likely to feel gratitude before they even got going. After a few minutes he spotted his most likely prey (and he knew he was good at this, his prey wouldn’t get away without Adrian getting what he wanted), asked a member of the bar-staff what the man had been drinking, ordered two of them and went to talk to him.
Adrian knew he’d picked right, the young man he was talking to was slightly flustered, very flattered and more than happy to chat about the scene locally,
“Well, it’s fairly safe here, that’s what most of us have moved here for, after all. Generally, people don’t have a go too much.” He paused for a moment and Adrian almost held his breath, “Well, there’s been some rumours that there may be some problems going on.”
That was enough for Adrian, it confirmed what he’d heard from two other blokes and would certainly be enough for the police to begin to ask some more specific questions. He supposed that he should call it a night really but, James was an appealing prospect for a night out, they’d hit it off straight away and he might just get more information out of him,
“Can I get you another drink?” Adrian asked.
It took Greg ages to get to sleep that night. Even without the oppressive Silence (which definitely merited the capital letter) from his parents he was yet again wrestling with what to do about the Mycroft situation, his last text preying on his mind without him having any clear idea why. The last time he’d looked at his clock had been after two-thirty and he was woken by someone crashing about the flat at about six o’clock.
The sudden noise had made him start awake and he was half-way out of bed before he realised it was his mother or father and flopped back against his pillows with an exasperated sigh. What on earth could they be doing he wondered. She was in the living room, that much was clear but what could she possibly be doing that would make so much noise?
“What on Earth are you doing?” It made Greg smile to hear his exact thoughts voiced by his father in what he was sure was also the same tone of voice he would have used. He couldn’t hear her reply but he could hear the tone of voice, the angry hiss of her voice in a stage whisper and whilst he would have liked to ignore the both of them he reluctantly decided that he should get up and find out what the problem was, so he pulled on jeans and a t-shirt and walked into the main room.
“Are you two all right?” he asked, and was aware of silence dropping like a brick all through the flat. Greg steeled himself not to react to the atmosphere, “I wanted to get an early start on the shopping, but this is ridiculous. I’ll make a brew, shall I?” He was nearly sure that whatever was going on would be more easily dealt with after getting some caffeine under his belt, and a cup of tea was his mother’s default response to almost any situation, however, surprisingly it was his father that answered,
“Yes, thanks, a cup of tea would be ... good.”
Greg made a move towards the kitchen only to be stopped by his mother’s voice very quiet, but with a venom he’d never heard before,
“I don’t want anything he might make,”
That brought Greg up short with the sensation that he’d been slapped,
“W...what?” he stammered, suddenly feeling like he was seventeen again,
“Steady on,” his dad said, “you’re being ridiculous about this,”
“Ridiculous am I?”
It was said without heat and it a tone of voice that Greg had never heard from his father before
“Well, what about these?” His mother almost screamed the words and Greg found himself wondering what the neighbours must be making of this before a pharmacy box hit him in the chest. He knew what it was before he looked, it was the anti-viral tablets he’d been given. Reflexively he caught the package and looked down at them. So much for not telling them, he thought, before walking on suddenly unsteady legs to the chair in the corner and sinking down,
“It’s not what you think,” Greg began but he was interrupted before he could say anything more,
“So you’re going to tell us that those aren’t for ...” she stopped speaking, and Greg contemplated just leaving her dangling there, waiting to see if she could bring herself to say the word, in the end though Greg glanced across at his father and saw such anxiety in his face that he spoke,
“That’s exactly what I’m going to tell you.” Greg swallowed wishing whole-heartedly that he’d managed to make a brew before this conversation had got going and continued, “They are anti-viral medication, if I was HIV positive then they are what I would be taking but,”
“So it’s him then is it? I should have known, him with his public school manners, we all know...”
Greg had to stop her before she could say anymore,
“No! Stop it! It’s not that,”
Greg could see that she was going to continue but this time it was his father that interrupted her,
“Shut up! Let Greg tell us what is going on. Let him speak.” Greg had never heard his father speak to his mother like that, and from her reaction it was clear that neither had she, she opened her mouth to speak again but clearly changed her mind. “Go on, Greg, tell us,” his father said. Confronted with that Greg suddenly didn’t really know where to start and he found himself clearing his throat and staring at his hands, feeling like he was being carpeted by one of his superiors for some failing. That’s it, Greg, he thought, treat it like a report,
“About a fortnight ago I was raped.” Greg could hear, as if from a distance the way he was biting off each word, focusing on the sound not the meaning, “the drugs are a prophylactic treatment that’s meant to stop me catching HIV; I take them for a month and then get tested at three months and six months. If I’m lucky I will be fine, the drugs are to try and make sure of that.”
Greg looked up when he finished speaking. His mother was stonily looking in the opposite direction, out through the window at the slowly lightening sky, his father, strangely pale, was looking directly at him,
“Just to be clear, there is absolutely nothing fine about any of this. What happened?” his father asked and Greg could hear a tremor in his voice,
“Are you sure you want to know?” Greg asked and when his father nodded he continued, “I popped into a pub on the way to Mycroft’s one night.” He shrugged slightly and continued, “I was stupid, I left my drink while I went to the gents and then came back and finished it off. In the mean time someone must have put something in my drink. These drugs work by stopping you laying down memories for a little while and by making you very drowsy and suggestible.” Greg paused and took a deep breath, staring between his parents at nothing. “The next thing I remember is,” Greg paused again, not sure how much detail to go into, not sure what either of them was capable of coping with, “one of them at me in an alleyway. I was conscious before I could move and anyway they put the boot in before they left me, so we, I didn’t catch them.” There was a long pause and in the end Greg tried to be reassuring, “I started on the drugs within twenty-four hours, and they may not even have been infected, it will almost certainly be all right.”
When he finished speaking Greg was horribly aware of the silence in the flat, he could hear the tick of his alarm clock in the next room and an early morning car going past the flat. Greg’s mother was still staring out of the window but his father was staring at him with an intensity and an anger that seemed incredibly out of place on him. Eventually his father broke the silence,
“You say ‘they’?”
Greg didn’t try to pretend that he didn’t understand the question,
“We think there were three of them, they got that from footprints and other evidence.”
“So ... they haven’t been caught?”
“Not yet, but the case is still being actively investigated.” For a moment Greg considered giving him the few details he had of the case but he decided against it. He wasn’t entirely sure what his dad was thinking but the suppressed anger was clear and the last thing Greg needed to worry about was his dad coming over all vigilante.
“And what about Mycroft?” Greg couldn’t decide what it was his father was asking him about Mycroft, it suddenly seemed important to Greg that they should know that Mycroft hadn’t dropped him because of this,
“What about him? We were together before this and we’re not now, but that was my idea, not his.” Greg knew it was a stupid response, but, God, he didn’t even know ‘what about Mycroft’ himself it seemed impossible to find a way to explain what was going on to his mum and dad. However, his dad continued to look directly at him waiting until he couldn’t do anything but continue, “I don’t know about Mycroft. He needs to find someone else, I’m too complicated.”
“Is that what he says? Because you need someone now, Greg, you shouldn’t be dealing with this alone and if he wants to support you, you should let him.”
It was by far the most relationship advice either of his parents had ever given him and he had no idea what to do with it.
“No, you’re probably right but he really doesn’t need to deal with my stupidity and damage. I’ll be all right, he really does need someone he can rely on and that isn’t me. His job is ... difficult and important ... I’m just a distraction and a disturbance.”
“Then why did you bring him to meet us?”
“Because he’s my friend, because we’d planned it, because before all of this I finally had someone I wanted to introduce you to, because he wanted to meet you.” Greg wound down, just as his mother seemed to be getting her second wind,
“And even though you might have that ... disease and you’re not together anymore, you still couldn’t keep your hands off him in the toilets, it’s true what they say about you people isn’t it?”
“Bloody Hell, mum, is that really what you think was going on? God, if only!” Greg swallowed and took a deep breath, trying with everything he had not to completely lose his temper, “There was someone hanging around in there, Mycroft said he was texting someone, but in my head, in my head, he was one of the men who ... attacked me and he was waiting for me.” Greg looked down and his next words were quiet even in the quiet of the early morning flat, “I hid, I hid in the bloody toilets because that’s what I am now, a frightened, stupid bastard.”
“Steady on, lad, remember who you’re speaking to.” The reproof was mild but Greg’s nerves were already stretched to breaking point,
“I am remembering, I’m remembering the people who have never so much as hugged me since they found out I was gay, I’m talking to my mother who half the time can’t even bear to look at me, who feels the need to bring her own bloody bedding and towels when she stays at my flat! I’m sorry, OK? I’m sorry I’m not who you wanted for your son, I’m sorry I’m such a mess, I’m just sorry.”
It was suddenly all too much for Greg, and he got up and began pacing the room before he spoke again,
“Is it really that big a deal? Does it matter who I love? Would it really have been better if I’d fancied women but had been going out with a different one every month like so many blokes I’ve watched in this job? I’m not like you think I am, what did I ever do to make you think I’d be stopping for a quickie in the bloody bogs? You’ve got this view of me that you’ve made up out of, I don’t bloody know, old sitcoms and Channel 4 dramas, and that’s replaced me entirely, it’s like I don’t exist. It would probably be better if I didn’t, you’d probably have done better if I’d died and then you could have grieved and moved on instead of mourning solidly for the last thirty years.”
“Stop it!” The shout seemed to echo around the room beyond its actual volume, stopping Greg’s pacing and his mother’s tears, “Just stop it. Greg, stop shouting, stop pacing and sit down, Mary, stop crying, this has gone beyond any sense. Greg, if you think for one moment I’ve ever wished you were dead then you’re by far stupider than I ever thought you were and Mary have you actually considered what you’ve been saying? Our son, our boy just told you that he was attacked, that he was brutalised, that he might have been infected with a fatal disease and you chose to have a go at him? If we’d had a daughter and she’d told us this would you have treated her like it was her own fault? Greg, I’m sorry, I’ve allowed all of … this to drift far too long.”
Greg was aware of a strange sensation of everything darkening round the edges of his vision as a sudden burst of adrenaline went through his system. He fought hard to remain where he was and to think at least just a little before he reacted. His mother and father seemed to notice that something was going on with him, because neither of them spoke for a little while, enough time for him to get a bit more of a grip on his temper, enough time for his response to what his father had said to be verbal rather than physical.
“I think you should go.”
“What?” his father asked surprise obvious in his tone. Greg stood up, facing away from the room, eyes roving around the view of the early morning street, not taking anything in but unsure of his ability to deal rationally with any expression of confusion or disapproval from either of them,
“I think you should go, go before I do or say something we’ll all regret.”
“What? What’s the matter?”
Greg did not want to explain but it appeared he was going to have to, he took a couple of deep, calming breaths before he turned back to face them.
“I want you to leave, both of you.” Lestrade took yet another deep breath, “You really, really need to go.” Greg knew that any one of his team and quite a number of his superiors would have been able to read him well enough to be backing quietly from the room and leaving him time to regain his temper, but his father was not for leaving it alone,
“Why do you want us to go all of a sudden? I thought…”
“Yeah,” Greg interrupted, “I thought as well. I got used to the idea that the way I was, the fact that I’m gay revolted you both, I thought that both of you were just honest to goodness homophobes, that you were both disgusted by my preferences, and you know, I could just about deal with that, I could make allowances for your age, and your upbringing and the fact that you’d been brought up to see it as unnatural. But now,” Greg paused as he ran out of breath and looked his father directly in the face, “now I find that you weren’t that bothered, you just wouldn’t stand up to her. You let me be made to feel like a disgrace that you didn’t want to know because you ‘let things drift’. Well that’s precisely what I’m not prepared to do anymore; I will not let things drift. You, neither of you, get to come to my home and make me feel like a third class citizen even one more time, do you understand?”
Greg stopped speaking and paused for a little while, and looked at them both but it seemed unlikely that he was going to get an answer. They had expressions on their faces like they’d just been unexpectedly bitten by an old family pet and didn’t quite know what to do about it. The urge to apologise and say that he didn’t mean it and to make sure that he hadn’t broken things even more than they’d been broken for twenty-odd years was hard to resist, but he was determined.
“I don’t know what’s come over you,” his mother said and she would have continued to say more but Greg cut in before she could,
“What’s come over me is that I’m too old to live my life as one long apology. I made one mistake, more than twenty years ago, I should have told you instead of having you find out, but I’m done apologising for that and I’m more than done apologising for me. Now what I need is some time and that’s why I need you to go. I’ll arrange a cab to get you to the station in about three-quarters of an hour, the trains are fairly regular.”
Adrian arrived at NSY at nine, with James in tow, and asked to speak to DI Reedley. He hadn’t been sure that she’d be in work, he didn’t know about the shift patterns that the Yard used but he was asked to wait and in about ten minutes DI Reedley came to reception to collect him,
“Can I help you?” she asked although Adrian was nearly sure from her expression that she recognised at least who he worked for even if she didn’t recognise him.
“I hope so; we’ve got some information about some serious sexual assaults that have taken place.” Adrian said it loudly, for the benefit of the desk sergeant, to make sure that everything seemed to be above board, Adrian would hate to be the one who had to explain to the boss how he’d made it even more difficult to get a conviction. In all the time he’d worked for Mr Holmes, he’d never seen the man be quite so focused on an investigation as he was on this one. Office rumour was that someone the boss knew was somehow involved.
Adrian owed Mr Holmes; his superiors had been ready to kick him out of the job he loved, considering him a security risk because of his sexuality, even though Adrian could have told them of half a dozen more people, some at a far higher rank than him who had the same inclinations. Then Mycroft had offered him this job, the same but different, still serving his country, so even if James had taken a lot more persuading Adrian would have got him here. As it was, James was a good person who could see the moral imperative to report what he knew to the authorities.
Both men followed DI Reedley to her office.
There had been tears and recriminations in which he had refused to get involved but in the end Greg had accompanied his parents to the station, not wanting his father to have to man-handle all four suitcases on his own at his age, and finally they had got onto the train. Greg had watched it pull out of the station feeling like he should be feeling relieved. He felt like he should feel relieved but in reality he couldn’t for the life in him work out how he was feeling. He spent a little bit of time on the concourse trying to work it out before mentally shrugging, leaving the station, and grabbing the first cab on the rank. He gave his home address, but when they were nearly there he asked the driver to pull over to give him time to go into a shop. When he got back into the cab, carrier bag in hand it was obvious from the chink of the bottles against each other what he’d bought.
Still in the same mood he generously over-tipped the cabbie when they got to his block and went straight back to the flat to put some serious effort into getting absolutely ratted, after all he had proper leave booked until Monday, NSY shouldn’t be calling. He’d gone for quantity rather than quality when he’d been in the off-licence but he started off with the best of what he’d bought, quite a nice red wine.
There was something deliciously decadent about drinking red wine at half-past nine in the morning he decided, part way through the third glass (and see, he didn’t need to worry about drinking when he bothered to get a glass – time enough to worry when he was swigging it out of the bottle). I bet this is what she thinks I live like all the time, like something from a 1930s novel, all dressing gowns and calling people darling and drinking a breakfast cocktail! Greg continued to drink his way solidly through the bottle, craving the oblivion that he would find at the bottom of this bottle or the next, but at the moment still turning the whole situation over and over. By the time he was drinking the last glass from the bottle Greg was wondering if this wasn’t what he should have been doing all along, he felt so much better, better than he had for weeks and he could only see how he would feel better still if he opened the next bottle. And you know what, Greg thought part way through the second glass of the second bottle, this stuff isn’t half bad, don’t know why it was so much cheaper, it’s just as good.
Towards the end of the second bottle it occurred to Greg that Mycroft would still be sending a car for them all to go to Hampton Court Palace tomorrow and that he ought to let him know that it wouldn’t be needed, save the tax payer some money he thought as he reached for his phone, giggling when it took him three attempts to get it in his hand the right way up and the right way round.
The text he sent was: Don’t send a car, mum and dad went home. Short and to the point, he congratulated himself, and poured the last of the second bottle into his glass. The phone rang quite quickly after he’d sent the text but he decided not to answer it because he wasn’t quite sure which button to press to make it talk. What he was sure of was that the day could only be improved by some music. It was amazingly funny when he tried to get up and instead fell against the coffee table, Greg vaguely thought it was surprising that it didn’t hurt even though there was blood from where he cracked his head on the edge of the table, I’m invincible, now he thought as he staggered up and put on, well he wasn’t sure what it was when he pressed play but it turned out to be ‘London Calling’ and there really was nothing to do but turn up the volume and play air guitar. After just a few bars of the song it seemed imperative to clear some space to really do the song some justice but that proved difficult, his stocking feet slipping as he tried to push the sofa across the laminate floor made him fall on the floor giggling again. Well, if it won’t move, he thought, I’ll teach it, and he jumped on the sofa and took up his imaginary guitar once more. He didn’t even hear the phone ring the next three times and it wasn’t until falling off the sofa cut through the fog of the two bottles of wine and made Greg decide to sit down, just till his head cleared, that Greg picked up his phone again and saw the three missed calls and the two texts, all from Mycroft. Greg decided to ring him.
“Mycroft!” he yelled as soon as the phone was answered, “you rang?” Greg tried to deliver the line in Lurch’s sepulchral tones but it didn’t work and instead he ended up giggling.
“Yes, you texted me, but I’m a little unclear on what you meant,”
“Perfectly clear text,” Greg protested, “perfectly clear text, I’m sure.” There was a pause, “Can’t rememember what it said, but I’m sure it was ... clear.”
“Greg have you been drinking?”
“No,” Greg replied, trying to enunciate clearly, “I still am,” again he paused, “drinking, that is.” Suiting actions to words, Greg opened the screw-top of the third bottle of wine, he couldn’t quite decide what it was a bottle of but he was sure it would be good.
“Greg, it’s eleven o’clock in the morning,”
“Yeah,” Greg said, interrupted by a hiccup, “but it’s passst mid-day somewhere, the sun’s over the yard-arm sssomewhere, ‘m sure. You know you’re really posh, do you know that? I bet your fa ... fam’ly were out sub ... subduing the natives, back when we, when we, when we had ‘n Empire. Bet they were like Darth Vader!” Greg collapsed into a fit of giggles.
“Just exactly how much have you had to drink, Greg?” Mycroft asked.
“Some ... bottles, yep ‘s right I’ve drunk some bottles of ... stuff ... ten green bottles, hanging onna fence, ten green bottles ... no ‘s not right, not right at all, not hanging, not on a fence, onna receiver ...”
“Are your parents still there, Greg?”
“No, gone out ... no gonnaway ... all gone, told ‘em to go,” Greg’s speech slurred to a halt and then he suddenly shouted, “Tha’s it, ‘s what the text said, Don’t bother sending a car, they’ve all gone away, all gone, don’ need a car!”
“So you’re there on your own?”
“All by myself,” Greg sang, surprisingly in tune even if the words were slurred, “Don’t wanna be all by myself, annnnymore, ‘S OK My I’ve got at least two more friends, not really all by myself.”
“Friends from the off-licence?”
“’S right, good friends!”
“Would it be all right if I came over?”
“You’ll need ... you’ll need to bring yer own booze, I need all all all of mine!”
It took Greg a few minutes of bemused puzzling to work out what the noise was. Irritating that’s what the noise was, he’d just decided to have a nap and now there was a noise, noise that wouldn’t let him sleep. What was it? Why wouldn’t it stop? Perhaps whoever it was who was at the door could help him stop the noise. Getting up wasn’t easy but he managed it at the third attempt and lurched over to the door. Door won’t open, why won’t the door open? And what was Mycroft saying? Unlock the door? Might help I suppose.
When Greg finally managed to get the door open he stood blinking owlishly at Mycroft for a moment or two before he spoke,
“You were, you were just here, you told me to unlock the door. How did you get out there? Was a good idea, because you see, yousee, once I’d unlocked it I could open it!”
Greg wandered off back into the flat and Mycroft followed, closing and relocking the door behind himself, pocketing the key, it probably wasn’t a good idea for Greg to go wandering off just at the moment. On the whole he wasn’t quite as inebriated as Mycroft had feared and it would also seem that his recent experiences hadn’t robbed him of his status as an amiable drunk, he seemed very chipper in fact.
“Would you like a drink?” Greg asked holding out a bottle of horrendously cheap white wine,
Mycroft decided it was politic to accept,
He was destined not to get his drink, however. Greg barely made it to the sofa before collapsing half-on and half-off the seat, relieving Mycroft’s instant worry by beginning to snore in a way that indicated extremely healthy lungs if nothing else. He didn’t even wake when Mycroft manhandled him onto the sofa in a reasonably comfortable approximation of the recovery position.
Mycroft found himself standing staring at Greg for quite some time once he’d got him onto the sofa, taking in all the tiny changes in him since ... yet again Mycroft found his mind shying away from the word and forced himself at least to think it, since the rape. He reached forward to gently brush the hair off Greg’s forehead and when it became obvious that Billy Smart’s Circus parade coming through the living room would not have woken him he let his fingers drift down to where Greg had been kicked when those animals had finished with him. Mycroft wasn’t sure whether it was because he didn’t want to think about the rape but the fact that one of them had kicked Greg and kicked him in the head at that was probably what made him most angry. A kick like that might have killed him and could easily have left him with life changing injuries, the thought of all of Greg’s humour, intelligence and spirit being wiped out because some unspeakable oaf decided that humiliation wasn’t enough was enraging to Mycroft. He continued to catalogue the changes in Greg, the dark shadows around his eyes, the new creases in his skin and its slackness where he had lost so much weight, and while he knew that a few good night’s sleep would deal with most of them it still frightened Mycroft beyond all reason to think of Greg getting older, getting older without Mycroft there.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d stood watching Greg but his back protested when he straightened up. He stretched to relieve the twinge and looked round the room. He picked up the disregarded bottle of white thinking when he’d read the label that it should be disregarded and moved the bag from the off-licence, taking it into the kitchen and putting the bottles away. He filled a large glass with water from the filter jug in the fridge and brought it into the living room, putting it on the coffee table, near to Greg but not so near that if he woke up thrashing around it would get knocked over. Looking at Greg again, Mycroft bent to pick up the two empty bottles that were on their sides against the foot of the sofa,
“You really are down among the dead men today, aren’t you?” he said softly before he took the bottles into the kitchen. Back in the living room Mycroft dragged up an arm chair until it was next to the end of the sofa where he would be able to continue looking at Greg. Almost without volition Mycroft reached his hand out and stroked Greg’s ridiculously soft hair, continuing to make sure that he was all right, like he should have done all along, like he deserved. Greg shifted slightly leaning into Mycroft’s touch just a little, Mycroft smiled slightly, he didn’t really have the words to express, even to himself, how good it felt to be in a position to ‘be there’ for Greg again.
With that one hand still gently resting on Greg’s head he fished his phone out of his pocket and called up Greg’s text.
Fonts dog a app, moot and dad wwemu honed
it read and Mycroft looked at it for a while reconstructing what it was that Greg had meant to send in the light of what he’d said earlier. If the space was in the wrong place between the first two words that gave Font – most likely Don’t without the apostrophe – and sdog which became send, so Don’t send. App was a little more difficult until he realised that Greg had doubled up the wrong key press, not two 2s but rather two 7s, so that became car. Moot he decided had to be some sort of attempt at mum with some keys doubled and although it took Mycroft some time he decided that wwemu homed was probably went home.
And, of course, that was the puzzle, why had Mr and Mrs Lestrade gone home, what had finally tipped their simmering frustration and anger over to the point where they’d gone back to Peterborough? I should never have asked to meet them, not with things the way they are, Mycroft mused, it was bound to be too much for him, it would have been a clash of roles, their son versus my lover even without the attack. Poor Greg, he tried so hard to be what they wanted, I wonder what happened. There was however no way of working that out so instead he continued to sit next to Greg gently stroking his hair over and over and listening to him snore.
Mycroft was startled from his reverie by the subdued beep of his phone alerting him to the fact that he had a new message. He knew without looking that it would be from Anthea and a moment’s thought told him what it would be regarding. With a sigh he removed his hand from Greg’s hair and opened up the message. Greg moved restlessly once Mycroft had removed his hand turning his head slightly as if still looking for that source of comfort,
“Shush, love,” Mycroft reassured him, “I’m still here, sleep.”
Greg settled down again, at least a little and Mycroft responded to the text message, telling Anthea which of his subordinates should be told to deal with which meetings and which situations, it wasn’t ideal but there was nothing there that in his opinion merited him leaving Greg alone this afternoon. He also re-confirmed to Anthea that he would be unavailable until Monday morning and not to be disturbed short of national emergency, he knew the fact that he’d told her twice would alert her to how serious he was, he was no fonder of repeating himself than his brother was.
And so he continued to sit at Greg’s side, stroking his hair while Greg slept on while darkness slowly began to claim the room as the weather drew in, darker and darker clouds first covering the sun and then casting everything in a diminishing, yellowing light. There’s going to be a storm, Mycroft thought.
Armed with the information that Adrian and James had brought in, Deb Reedley knew that she was in a much better position to redeploy some of her team and begin to really investigate the case. She pulled in a couple of DCs and outlined to them what she wanted them to do. Her plan was to try and find someone who would make a complaint other than DI Lestrade. James had given them the name of a couple of other pubs where rumour had it people had had their drinks drugged and she and the DCs would begin to canvas the pubs and hope to find someone who could give them some information.
The first clap of thunder startled both of them. Mycroft had not been asleep but he had been in almost a trance, everything of him focused on the man asleep on the sofa, Greg however had been dead to the world and sat up in a blind panic, not helped by the dark room and somebody unexpectedly being there with him,
“What is it?” he shouted, looking round in an almost unseeing panic,
“Greg! Greg! It’s me, don’t worry, it’s just thunder.”
There was another flash of lightning and almost simultaneously the noise of the thunder, right overhead Mycroft thought as Greg sat up, clearly bemused by his sudden awakening,
“What time is it?” he asked,
“About half-past eight,” Mycroft saw that Greg’s expression didn’t really clear and clarified further, “half-past eight in the evening.”
Greg stood up abruptly, staggering a little, clearly still well and truly under the influence,
“We’ll be late to the station, how could you let me sleep this long?”
Mycroft stood and put a hand on Greg’s shoulder, gently pushing him back down onto the sofa,
“Don’t worry Greg, we picked your parents up on time, it’s Saturday evening, I think they’ve gone home again. How are you feeling?”
Greg sagged forwards, his head in his hands,
“Like I’ve been drinking,” he paused and then continued, “like I should still be drinking? Why ‘m I drunk?”
“I’m not entirely sure,” Mycroft said, “you texted me earlier that your parents had gone home. I rang you and it was clear that you’d been drinking, so I came round to see if you were OK.”
“Course I’m OK,” Greg said more than a hint of belligerence in his tone, “why wouldn’t I be OK?”
Mycroft chose not to answer, handing Greg the glass of water instead, grateful that it was room temperature now since it would be far less likely to make him instantly throw up, not that he wouldn’t relatively happily clear up after Greg, but on the whole he’d rather not. Greg took the glass and drank about half of it down. When Greg looked squarely at him Mycroft could see that he was beginning to come back to himself,
“How much have I had to drink?” Greg asked,
“About two and a half bottles, the last bottle being more notable for its alcoholic content than its class.” Mycroft couldn’t help himself but smile when Greg groaned and drank the rest of the glass of water.
“I’m going to feel like death when I get that lot out of my system, aren’t I?”
“Afraid so,” Mycroft replied, manfully keeping the grin off his face. It turned out he didn’t need to bother,
“Don’t worry, you’re allowed to laugh at me it’s my own stupid fault,” Greg grimaced and Mycroft did indeed let himself get away with one fond smile before he got up and fetched Greg another glass of water. When he handed him the glass Greg continued to speak, “I’m still way over the limit and I feel like death warmed over, what’s this going to be like in the morning?”
“I know a fool proof ‘cure’,” Mycroft began,
“Hob-nailed liver? Prairie Oyster? No thanks, none of those things work, you must know that.”
“I was thinking more along the lines of a serious dose of aspirin, some caffeine and a lot more water.”
Greg smiled up at him,
“That might just do it,” he replied.
Half an hour later, both of them were finishing their second strong cup of coffee, Greg having paused at one point to throw up for what had seemed like an unfeasibly long time to Mycroft, still with the lights out listening to the thunder and watching the lightning neither of which were showing any sign of stopping.
“Do you remember why your parents left?” Mycroft asked.
Greg groaned again,
“I asked them to.”
There was a long, long pause before Mycroft spoke again,
“They, well my mum, found the anti-virals I’d been given and, who knew she knew so much about pharmaceuticals, realised they were what people took when they’ve got AIDS and jumped to a hundred and one conclusions.”
“Oh, Greg, I’m sorry.” It was almost physically painful to Mycroft that he couldn’t, shouldn’t pull Greg into his arms and comfort him. As it was he tried to get some sort of sense from Greg’s body language, as much as it was perceptible in the dark, and his tone of voice as to whether he wanted to talk about it. He thought on balance that he probably did and after a long pause Mycroft spoke again, “Given the thing with the sheets I’m surprised you had to ask her to leave,”
“You’d be right to be surprised, she was all for getting up and going at six o’clock but my dad wasn’t, it was the two of them arguing about it that woke me up.”
“Well, at least your dad was being re...”
“No.” It was one monosyllable spoken across what Mycroft had been about to say, but the anger and hurt in it stopped him. “No,” Greg continued, “he wasn’t being reasonable at all. It turns out that he never really felt that strongly about any of it,” Greg paused and Mycroft could hear that he was taking deep breaths, trying to calm himself,
“What did he say?” Mycroft asked,
“He said, that ‘he’d let this all go on long enough,’” Even though it was full dark by now and only the street lighting was casting a glow into the room Mycroft was sure that Greg would be able to detect his incomprehension. On the surface there didn’t seem to be any reason for what his dad had said to have affected Greg so badly, there was information he was missing Mycroft was sure. Greg continued to speak,
“When they found out I was gay,” he said his voice quiet but no longer in any way slurred, “they found out because they came home and caught me bloody nearly in flagrante and the weird thing about it was that they never really said anything. To hear my mum talk about it the problem wasn’t that I was getting off with some bloke in the living room, it was that I’d invited a friend over when I wasn’t supposed to. We never talked about it but from that day on there was just a never ending, blank wall of disapproval.” He paused and Mycroft was about to ask another question when he finally continued, “I don’t think either of them has hugged me since that day. And this morning when it turned out that my dad wasn’t that bothered about me being gay, that he’d just let my mum be like that and done nothing to stop her, just treated me like that to keep the peace with her, well that was finally it, the thing that made me realise I didn’t need any more of their shit.” Greg began quietly to cry and it was all finally too much for Mycroft, he got up abruptly and Greg looked up at him. Mycroft took a deep breath, pulling together all of his self control to get to the stage where he was asking the question instead of just doing,
“May I sit with you?” he asked.
Greg shifted up slightly and Mycroft took that as permission sitting close to Greg and opening up his arms to him and with a muffled sob Greg leaned into his arms and let himself be held while he cried, Mycroft stroking his back and rocking slightly, murmuring soothing rubbish as he cradled him.
Mycroft would have held him all night given half a chance, but eventually, Greg’s tears subsided and he sat up slightly,
“I really don’t know why you bother with me,” Greg said with a watery attempt at a smile.
Mycroft was terrified in case he put his foot in it, in case he undid the good work he seemed to have managed in these last few days, but he couldn’t let that pass,
“Because I love you.” He said it simply with no particular emphasis hoping that it would be understood in the way it was spoken as a clear statement of incontrovertible fact. He realised that he was holding his breath waiting for Greg to say, well, anything. When Greg did speak it was very quiet,
“You do, don’t you? Thank you, My, I don’t deserve that you should still be trying after everything. I love you too, you know that don’t you?”
“Yes, I know.” Greg leaned forward into his arms again and Mycroft held him while he drifted off to sleep again.
Holding Greg again after all this time felt like coming home to Mycroft and he remained perfectly still as Greg drifted off to sleep, tears drying on his face. There should never be tears on his face Mycroft thought feeling a fierce protectiveness towards the man in his arms. Mycroft’s mind usually turned on ten, or a hundred different things, domestic and international but now, for this time his entire focus was on Greg. Now that he held Greg in his arms again he could better gauge how much weight the man had lost, more than a stone less than twenty pounds, call it eighteen, and he hadn’t been carrying much extra weight anyway. Again Mycroft’s thoughts turned to the fact that the worst thing was that through his own stupidity he hadn’t been able to be there for Greg when the man had needed him most, I should have been here, making sure he ate, but it was more than that, all of it was more than that, I should have kept him safe. But to indulge in this recrimination would be a self-indulgent waste of energies that would be better spent in trying to find a way to help Greg now.
For the fiftieth time Mycroft indulged himself in fantasies about what he might do to the men who had raped Greg, noting in passing that it was still hard even to think that. It ranked very high on his list of personal regrets that Greg had vetoed his taking the investigation into his own hands; the thought that the men were still out there was like a constant prickling on his skin. But Greg had made it clear that Mycroft should not, that he would have the justice system take care of it or nothing so instead Mycroft spent an interesting five minutes coming up with ways in which he could make Mr and Mrs Lestrade’s lives uncomfortable for them, extra parking enforcement officers, tax audits, minor vandalism. It was amusing for a few minutes but Mycroft did not kid himself that Greg would be anything other than rightfully livid if Mycroft put any of those things in motion and the fact that he could achieve those things without Greg suspecting anything did not make it any better. No, Greg’s parents weren’t worth even that much of his attention; the idea that he’d put effort into cultivating them was just an irritation that he was best dismissing from his mind the better to focus on Greg.
And that, he realised was the strange thing, he, Mycroft, the king of focus was finding it hard not to let his mind wander from Greg. It was of course the guilt. How could he possibly have thought what he had about Greg who had never once been less than fully committed to their relationship, who had been nothing but wonderful for the entire year they’d been together, who most certainly did not deserve to be mistrusted and blamed. Greg shifted slightly in his sleep, sinking down a couple of inches and beginning gently to snore. Mycroft’s tender smile as he brushed his lips gently over the man’s forehead was an expression he would not have let anyone other than Greg see. The major problem is, he thought, that it’s all been so fast, it’s still all so new. Adrenaline coursed through him as he allowed himself to reflect on how close he had come to screwing the whole thing up, how, despite Greg saying that he loved him it was still possible that they would not end up together. He tightened his grip on Greg slightly and was rewarded with a sigh and by Greg snuggling up closer still. I can’t lose this, Mycroft thought, it all started so badly…
Mycroft could tell from the look on Anthea's face that something had gone wrong and badly wrong at that. Not what he wished to be confronted by after his return from the Russian Federation, Vladimir was difficult even for him to deal with. He allowed himself a moment as he rubbed at the bridge of his nose, as Anthea waited. He didn't look up as he spoke,
"What has Sherlock done?" he asked.
"I'm afraid we don't know, sir. We lost him from surveillance three days ago." That was all she said, she offered no excuses, no tedious explanations, it was one of the many reasons they worked so well together.
In the next three days Mycroft got perhaps eight hours sleep in total. He’d accessed all his sources of information and still he could find no trace of his brother or of Dr Watson and now, after three days, he found himself staring at his telephone contemplating the necessity of calling his mother. The phone rang, startling him, an unusual feeling, and a measure he supposed of his incipient exhaustion.
As he reached for the phone he tried strenuously not to hope to hear Sherlock’s deep-voiced tones,
“Hello,” he answered, there was a pause,
Not Sherlock then. For the length of time it took him to take a deep steadying breath Mycroft analysed the voice as well as he could from two words: vague, well buried East Anglian accent, been in London for more than twenty years, good education, but nothing extraordinary,
“Who is this?” he asked, ashamed to hear the slight tremor in his own voice,
“Er … this is Detective Inspector Lestrade … is this Mycroft Holmes?”
So, Sherlock’s pet policeman. Fear rose up in Mycroft’s chest, this could be the phone call he’d been dreading since Sherlock dropped out of University,
“This is he,” he swallowed, “I mean I am Mycroft Holmes. Do you have information about my brother?”
“I’m afraid I do. We’re at Bart’s; I’m afraid Sherlock’s in Intensive Care…”
Inspector Lestrade was waiting outside the door of the ICU when Mycroft arrived, leaning on a high window ledge gaze locked on the window in the door, even thought it was very unlikely that he could see anything of Sherlock through it. As he saw Mycroft walking towards him he straightened up, running his left hand through his greying hair.
“Detective Inspector?” Mycroft enquired, although he knew full well who the man was,
“Mycroft Holmes?” he asked in return. So much for introductions,
Lestrade straightened up even more and Mycroft had the fleeting impression that at least part of the man in front of him wanted to consult his pocket notebook, to treat the whole thing like it was a report of circumstances delivered to a superior officer but couldn’t quite manage to distance himself from the situation, from Sherlock,
“We’re not completely sure. He’s here because he’s overdosed ... hold on!” Mycroft was aware of a strong hand grasping his upper arm and of the corridor seeming to darken around him. The next thing he knew he was sitting on a plastic stacking chair and Lestrade was gently rubbing his back between his shoulder blades making sure that he kept his head between his knees. Vaguely he struggled to sit up,
“Feeling better?” Lestrade asked, removing his hand from Mycroft’s back. Mycroft sat up,
“You said he overdosed?” Lestrade nodded and opened his mouth to speak but Mycroft didn’t want to listen to platitudes about how it wasn’t his fault, it was his fault, he’d sworn to keep his brother safe and he had let this happen. “Has he been using again for long?” he asked before Lestrade could speak,
“That’s the thing,” Lestrade answered, his hand again going to his hair, “I don’t think he has been using. In fact I’d swear he hasn’t touched so much as a strong pain killer since John Watson moved in.”
“Then how do you explain this?” Mycroft asked a waved hand taking in the door of the ICU and at the same time realised quite how badly his exhaustion was affecting him, “Is John in with Sherlock?”
Lestrade ducked his head before he replied,
“We haven’t been able to find him.” There was a long pause before Lestrade continued, “At the moment I have two working hypotheses, one that something happened to John and that drove Sherlock back to his old habits, two that something happened to both of them and we’ve only found Sherlock. Of the two I’m inclined to believe it’s the second.” He swallowed and then continued, looking Mycroft straight in the eyes, “I don’t think that Sherlock took the heroin voluntarily.”
There was a long pause while Mycroft took this information in and he was about to ask why it was that the detective inspector thought that when Lestrade spoke again,
“Do you want to go in and see him?”
Mycroft gave an honest answer,
“Not really, but I suppose that I must.”
“He looks fine, now he’s here,” Lestrade said in what Mycroft assumed was an attempt to be reassuring, the fact that all it really did was make him realise how bad things must have looked when Sherlock was found wasn’t the detective inspector’s fault. Mycroft had to ask the question,
“Was it you that found him?”
“Yes,” Lestrade replied hesitantly before answering Mycroft’s next, unasked question, “We found him in an alley near Victoria coach station. It wasn’t good, for a couple of minutes I thought that we’d arrived too late.”
Mycroft stood and squared his shoulders before taking one step towards the door, pausing and turning back towards Lestrade,
“You may of course come with me.” It was as close as Mycroft could allow himself to come to asking for the other man’s support and Lestrade seemed to recognise it for what it was.
Stood by Sherlock’s bed, seeing him intubated was very difficult for both of them. It was Mycroft that broke the silence,
“He looks so young,” he said his voice so quiet that he wasn’t sure that Lestrade would even hear him. He did, however,
“It’s because he’s still, he’s never usually still, it’s usually constant motion and if he can’t wander about he picks things up and fidgets with them.”
“It’s not just that,” Mycroft replied, “he’s skin and bones.” There was a long pause, both men staring down at Sherlock before he continued, “Are you sure that he hasn’t been using regularly?”
“Fairly sure,” Lestrade confirmed, “John wouldn’t have stood for it,”
He was interrupted by the approach of a doctor kitted out in scrubs,
“I need to talk to you about your brother’s condition.” The doctor looked pointedly at Lestrade and he began to excuse himself,
“I’ll go, yeah?”
Before Mycroft had even really thought he spoke,
“Please don’t, if you don’t mind of course,”
“No, that’s fine; I’ll stay if you want.”
Both men turned to the doctor, who gave a minute shrug and started to speak,
“At the moment your brother is doing as well as we could expect, but at this point it’s very hard to give a prognosis.” He paused, looking carefully at Mycroft, trying Mycroft thought to gauge how much medical knowledge he might have. The doctor cleared his throat and continued, “We aren’t sure how long your brother was anoxic. As you may know opiates such as heroin depress respiration,”
“Yes, I am well aware of the effects of opiates, Doctor Denby. When will you know how much damage has been done?”
“It’s important to remember that no damage may have been done,” the doctor began but he ran into the blank solidity of Mycroft’s gaze and again cleared his throat, “If he wakes up in the next 24 hours that will be a very good sign but...”
Mycroft tuned out the rest of the sentence, vaguely hoping that Lestrade was paying more attention while he wrestled with how painful the word ‘if’ could be.
The two men stood either side of the hospital bed once the doctor had gone. Mycroft was aware of a feeling that he should hold his brother’s hand or some such thing, but it was Lestrade who brought up the subject,
“Do you want me to wait outside?” he asked
“No!” it was said abruptly and Mycroft unusually felt that he should clarify or explain, “We are not the kind of family who go in for public displays of affection and emotion. I would feel like I were taking advantage if I were to hold his hand or anything similar.”
“That’s a ... sorry, none of my business.”
“You were going to say ‘that’s a shame’?” It was like a question but it really wasn’t one.
“Yes I was, sorry.” Lestrade replied ducking his head slightly,
“Don’t be, you’re right it is a shame.” Mycroft paused, taking a deep breath and standing up straighter, “But that’s all in the past. If we’d been a different family I doubt we’d either of us be here now.” Mycroft continued to look down at his brother, aware that Lestrade was looking at him with an almost neutral expression but one that made it clear that he was prepared to listen if Mycroft wanted to talk. “It’s none of it important now,” Mycroft continued, surprised that he was allowing himself to be drawn like that, “despite my best efforts Sherlock learned far too early that he had to look after himself, and the method he chose was to ensure that he knew everything about everybody.”
“Hence the deductions?”
“Hence the deductions.”
There was a long pause during which both men continued to watch Sherlock’s mechanically regular breathing and to absorb the rhythm of the machines surrounding him until it seemed to Mycroft that they were the soundtrack of his entire life.
Mycroft wanted nothing more than to stay with his brother but that, he knew was sheer sentiment; it would be better to be practical,
“We need to find John,” he said.
If Lestrade found anything peculiar in his use of the word ‘we’ he didn’t show it in any way,
“I’ve got some of my team examining CCTV footage for the cameras around where we found Sherlock...”
“You say ‘found’? Were you looking for Sherlock?”
“Mrs Hudson contacted me.” Lestrade took in Mycroft’s momentarily puzzled expression and continued, “She said she didn’t want to bother you.”
Mycroft was unsure whether he was more bothered by the fact that Mrs Hudson hadn’t wanted to bother him in a situation where Sherlock had vanished or by the fact that Lestrade could read that from his expression; the idea that he was that easily readable boded no good for the country. He gave himself a mental shake; this was not the point,
“She contacted you?”
“Yes, and I said I’d keep an eye open.” He looked down, seemingly focused on Sherlock’s limp right hand slack on the sickly hospital sheet and swallowed before he continued, “I thought that he was just being Sherlock, you know,” he looked up clearly steeling himself to meet Mycroft’s gaze, “wandering off on his own, and I thought he had John with him. I’m sorry.” He looked down again.
“You have nothing to apologise for, if you had searched for Sherlock every time he disappeared then you would have had no time to investigate any real crimes.” Mycroft managed to dredge up a smile from somewhere, it felt seven kinds of wrong but it seemed to comfort Lestrade and for some reason that he declined to consider that made him feel a little better.
Mycroft turned back to his brother and this time he couldn’t resist reaching out one hand to gently move an errant lock of Sherlock’s hair away from his forehead. He looked so young; he looked like the small boy who had turned to Mycroft for comfort when he couldn’t work out what he’d done to upset his parents this time, while he tried to work out with logic how to function in their chaotic family. I never manage to keep you safe, do I? Mycroft thought, I always let you down, you’re right not to trust me. But I will find out what has happened, we’ve gone past the time when you find any comfort in my presence, but I will find out who did this to you.
He straightened up, “We’re accomplishing nothing here, Detective Inspector, we need to find John Watson, that’s the only way we’ll be able to decide between your two hypotheses.”
“You’re not serious, are you?” Lestrade asked, not apparently even trying to keep the incredulity out of his voice, “you’re dead on your feet, man. Look my flat’s nearby, come back to mine, get at least a few hours sleep and then we can come back and see Sherlock in the morning and then go looking for John. You don’t look like you’ve got more than another half-hour in you.”
Mycroft very much wanted to argue with Lestrade but he knew that he was swaying and one shudder short of actually yawning,
“Very well ... thank you. I’ll just make a couple of calls, to ensure that there is adequate security around Sherlock, in case someone turns up to finish off the job and...”
“I’ll wait outside,” Lestrade responded, seemingly determined to leave Mycroft alone with his brother. As Lestrade left Mycroft pulled his phone from his pocket and sent three text messages. That just left the phone call he knew he needed to make. The number wasn’t stored, it flowed from his fingers before he raised the phone to his ear to hear the call ringing,
“Mummy, I’m sorry about this but Sherlock’s in hospital...”
When he emerged from the ward, Lestrade was waiting for him, leaning on that same high window ledge. Mycroft spoke,
“A small security detail will be here within the next,” he consulted his watch, “five minutes and the medics know to ring my mobile or your flat’s number if there is any change. If it is still open I will take you up on your offer of a few hours of your sofa before I try to find John.” It was both clear and a relief to Mycroft as he finished the last sentence that Lestrade hadn’t missed the change from ‘we’ to ‘I’ and that he didn’t like it,
“If it’s all the same to you we will look for John. I know he’s your brother but they’re my friends too.”
Mycroft felt like he had to put up a token resistance,
“It’s kind of you Detective Inspector,” Mycroft began but he was interrupted,
“It’s Greg, and it’s not a matter of kind, it’s a matter of loyalty and friendship. Come on.”
During the next three days Sherlock showed no sign of regaining consciousness and the doctors in the ICU began to wear an expression of what Mycroft considered to be premature sympathy. The looks on their faces which seemed to indicate that they were pitying him for continuing to cling to hope made Mycroft want to punch them, not a usual feeling for him.
On the second day his mother arrived at the hospital and had almost taken up residence in Sherlock’s room (Mycroft had ensured Sherlock’s move to a side ward and had bought in agency staff to ensure that any change was observed immediately), overriding any arguments from the hospital’s staff. She had brought her embroidery and sat next to Sherlock’s bed, tucked in among the machinery, keeping up a monologue covering happy memories from Sherlock’s childhood which in no way matched Mycroft’s memories; the fact that Sherlock did not rise up in order to get away from this made Mycroft worry more than almost anything else.
The investigation floundered, Mycroft and all the resources to which he had access could find no trace of where Sherlock had been and where John Watson was. The hospital wanted to do brain function tests on Sherlock, preparatory to making what the doctors were beginning to be sure would be ‘end of life’ decisions. Mycroft was under no illusions, this long a coma was a very, very bad sign and left to himself he would have permitted the tests, his mother however was adamant that they should not happen,
“You know how he always was, Sherlock, didn’t sleep for days and then we wouldn’t see him for 36 hours, this is just the same thing,”
“But, mother, this isn’t the same thing, when he was found he wasn’t breathing, we have to accept the fact...”
“I have to accept nothing! You were always the same, always jealous of your brother, and now you just want him to be d...”
Mycroft turned and left the room before he had to listen to any more, before he said something that he could only possibly regret. Not looking where he was going as he strode out, he came very close to walking straight into Greg and a far less astute man than the detective inspector would have been able to see that Mycroft was both furious and miserable,
“Come here, sunshine,” Greg said and pulled Mycroft into a quick hug. Mycroft tensed up, no one hugs me, being his instantaneous thought, before he relaxed and accepted the comfort Greg was offering, “things bad in there?” Greg asked.
“You could say that,” Mycroft replied, and then stopped speaking, unable to even begin to put into words what the problem was. Greg seemed to understand,
“Let’s go and get a coffee,” Greg suggested and the two of them went to the coffee shop round the corner.
“So is your mother not coping with it all?” Greg asked when they were seated across from each other, tiny cups of espresso in front of them,
“No it’s not that.” Mycroft paused and took a sip of his drink, “She’s sat with him reinventing his, our, past and the worst of it,” he swallowed quickly embarrassingly aware of how close he was to tears, “he’s just lying there, listening to her sickly sweet untruthfulness and he isn’t able to ... he can’t ... he won’t tell her to stop.” There was a long pause and Mycroft was incredibly glad that Greg didn’t try and break it. “This is the first time that I’ve had to confront the fact that he might be gone, surely if there was anything of him left he wouldn’t just let her witter on?”
Greg reached across the small table and grasped Mycroft’s free hand giving it a squeeze. A remote and analytical part of Mycroft’s mind noted that he no longer flinched from such touches and that in fact they had been incredibly easy to get used to.
“You shouldn’t lose hope you know, certainly not where Sherlock is concerned.” Greg said quietly, squeezing one more time before he released Mycroft’s hand and busied himself fiddling with his coffee. Mycroft was finely balanced between irritation at what seemed likely to be false reassurance and a certain tenderness towards the only person in this whole mess who cared about what he was feeling. Before he had to make his mind up both of their phones chimed form incoming text messages, and they both read the messages,
“They’ve found John!” they said simultaneously.
Mycroft’s fingers flitted over the keys of his BlackBerry and he spoke without looking up,
“He’s to meet us at the hospital, not necessarily what I would have wanted, but apparently he threatened to incapacitate anyone who tried to keep him away from Sherlock.”
“How long?” Greg asked,
“About twenty-five minutes,” Mycroft responded, “apparently he’s sure that he can ‘save’ Sherlock.” Mycroft carefully kept hold of his emotions at this, he was not going to let hope grow only to have to uproot it later. One glance at Greg however told him that the detective inspector was inclined to hope and having seen that he couldn’t help himself but feel the tiniest lightening of his mood, the glimmer of a smile trying to establish itself on his face. In return, Greg actually grinned at him as they stood up and headed back to the hospital.
John arrived at the hospital on Mycroft’s schedule and quickly pulled Mycroft into a rapid whispered conversation,
“You need to get me into Sherlock’s room, without any medical staff, if I don’t give him the antidote to what he was given he won’t wake up, ever, if I have to try and convince them it might wind up being too late.”
“You’re sure?” Mycroft asked,
“Very. I won’t lie to you Mycroft, this may not save him, it’s not been properly tested I know that for sure but the people who made it were very good and it’s probably his only hope.”
“Very well, Doctor Watson.”
With that Mycroft directed John into Sherlock’s room and went to follow him wondering how on earth he was going to get his mother leave since she would certainly not let what would appear to be a friend of Mycroft’s administer a drug to her son, not now she had firmly entrenched herself as the only person who really cared, the only person who stood between her little boy and all these brutes who wanted to harm him. Greg caught at his arm as he got to the door,
“Do I gather you need your mother out of there?”
“Yes,” Mycroft replied.
“Right, you stay out here, preferably out of sight so that it doesn’t look like you’re going to run in and pull the plug as soon as her back is turned.” He seemed to think for a moment, “wait round that corner,” he gestured down the corridor, “and I’ll take her down to the canteen the other way.”
Mycroft was dubious,
“I doubt if she’ll go with you,”
“I think you underestimate me, Mr Holmes,” he replied with a grin that couldn’t help but stir an answering smile from Mycroft before he walked into Sherlock’s room. Mycroft paused outside, blatantly eavesdropping on what Greg was saying to his mother,
“Hello, Mrs Holmes, I’m Detective Inspector Lestrade, Greg, I just can’t tell you how much help Sherlock has given us over the years…”
John arrived exactly on schedule and about ten minutes after Greg had successfully removed Mrs Holmes from her son’s room. Mycroft had shown him directly into Sherlock’s room and he’d injected a liquid from a small vial directly into the drip line in Sherlock’s arm. The effect hadn’t been instantaneous and when it had begun to work and Sherlock had begun to fight the respirator Mycroft had for a moment assumed the worst until John had reassured him that this was a good thing and called for the medical staff who quickly removed the breathing tube and congratulated themselves on Sherlock’s improved condition.
Later they were sat in Sherlock’s new private room, a move up from the ICU to the HDU as John tiredly explained what had happened,
“We were investigating this case, smuggled pharmaceuticals, not the usual sort, really experimental stuff, not properly tested, Hail Mary pass kinds of things for desperate and extremely rich people. We were in their way but thankfully,” at this John glanced over at his friend as he had roughly every two minutes since Sherlock had been moved, “they were just ethical enough to want us out of the way rather than dead. Sherlock managed to leg it after he’d been given the drug, stupid but completely predictable. I have absolutely no idea how he made it back as far even as Victoria, according to the,” he sketched quote marks, “pharmacists, he should have been out like a light almost straightaway and found with symptoms that mimicked, even to blood tests, the symptoms of a hefty dose of heroin.”
“It was more than a hefty dose,” Greg chipped in, “we all thought that he’d taken an overdose, I’m not sure he was even breathing when we found him.” Mycroft could see John’s expression harden at that comment, and it flashed through his mind that he wouldn’t want to be the drug manufacturers if John ever caught up with them. John cleared his throat and continued,
“They let me go in the middle of nowhere about eighteen hours ago, after they’d got their operation cleared away.” Mycroft could see John shivering and thought that it was probably reaction to what had happened. John continued, “I thought I’d never get to him, to Sherlock,” his voice dropped low and Mycroft had to lean in slightly to catch his next words, “it was like a nightmare.” John reached out and tangled his fingers with Sherlock’s limp hand and was rewarded by a flex of Sherlock’s long fingers catching hold of his own. Mycroft was startled to realise there were tears stinging his eyes. He cleared his throat aware that he probably wasn’t fooling Greg but that John was so wrapped up in his friend’s recovery he wouldn’t have noticed a full on hysterical crying jag from anyone else. Somehow it didn’t matter that Greg had noticed, in fact Mycroft felt a certain pleasure that the man could read him so well after so short a time,
“Do I gather that you wish to remain here, John?” Mycroft asked for form rather than any particular need to be told something he already knew.
“What? Oh, yes ... I’d like to keep an eye on him, what about your mother?”
“Oh, Greg here,” Mycroft noticed the slight change of expression on Lestrade’s face and catalogued it as a very good but not perfect attempt not to look smug, “managed to convince her that she couldn’t risk her own health even to defend her beloved youngest son.” John who had had the pleasure of meeting their mother gave this the huff of laughter it deserved. Mycroft continued, “By the end of tomorrow she’ll have forgotten that there was ever anything wrong with him and will be accusing him of malingering ‘for attention’.” It was said with what Mycroft hoped was a good simulation of tolerant amusement, it wouldn’t fool John but surely Lestrade who had only met her for fifteen minutes would take it at face value. “I think I’ll be going then,” he said and then attempted to look casually at Greg to see whether he would accompany him. On cue Greg stood up,
“Yeah, me too.” He turned to look directly at John and at Sherlock snoring quietly, “I think I’d like it if you two stayed out of trouble, at least for a couple of days, OK?”
Outside the room Mycroft turned to Greg and began to speak,
The expression on Lestrade’s face stopped the words on his tongue and he dropped his glance and found himself looking at the man’s shoes before he started again,
This time it was a slight shifting of those feet that stopped him,
“Greg, then, thank you, I honestly don’t know what I would have done for these last few days without you, if there is ever anything you need from me, whatever it is, you only have to ask.”
Mycroft looked up as he finished the sentence and caught an expression on Greg’s face, one that he couldn’t identify. Greg spoke,
“There is something, actually, if you’re sure about what you just said.”
“Of course I’m sure.” Mycroft responded,
“Right, then,” and with that Greg took two quick steps towards him, reached up slightly to take Mycroft’s face in his hands and kissed him.
It was completely unexpected but not even remotely unwelcome and after his initial surprise, Mycroft found himself responding to the kiss, allowing his lips to part, pulling Greg closer towards him, gently beginning to stroke Greg’s tongue with his own. Just when breathing was starting to be a definite issue, Greg pulled away slightly, breathless himself and rested his head on Mycroft’s shoulder. After a moment, he said, almost in a whisper,
“Well I guess that answers that question, then.”
“Yes, it does, doesn’t it?”
Mycroft gave himself a mental shake. Even just his recollection of their first kiss had resulted in a definite physical reaction and if he continued on to remember the rest of that evening and night then he would likely find himself with a problem. Greg had only just allowed him this far back into his life the last thing that Mycroft wanted was for Greg to think that he was taking any sexual gratification from holding him while he was slept. That would be Mycroft judged, horribly inappropriate at the moment. It was hard to drag his mind away from that night but he resolutely turned his attention back to the here and now.
Mycroft continued his interrupted survey of Greg’s current physical state. He’s clearly still not sleeping enough Mycroft thought; he has new lines and wrinkles on his face. He had noticed them while he sat guard as the afternoon turned into a stormy evening, but somehow they struck him again now, perhaps it was the light. Greg always needed more sleep than Mycroft allowed himself and he had spent what he was sure Greg would find a disproportionate amount of time just staring at Greg in the early mornings, time spent on considering just how lucky he was to be with this man. After a few more minutes of wrapt contemplation Mycroft decided that whilst he deplored the reasons for them the lines only added to his beauty, they showed his indomitable spirit, Mycroft supposed.
As he continued to watch Greg’s eyes began to twitch and Mycroft realised he was dreaming and as the dream progressed it became clear that it wasn’t a good dream. Greg was muttering to himself as he dreamed and as the dream apparently intensified, he began to move as though he was fighting someone, tiny abortive moves but easy to interpret, easy to imagine. Mycroft had absolutely no idea what to do, whether to wake him, whether to speak or stay silent, hold him more tightly (which might make Greg feel more secure) or release him (which might make him feel less trapped). In the end he settled for gentle shushing sounds and rocking them both ever so gently. It seemed to work, Greg’s muttering and movement’s settled down but his expression didn’t clear, if anything he began to look more disturbed, more fearful. It was that and the faint glimmer of tears forming again on the fringes of his eyelashes that made up Mycroft’s mind for him.
“Greg,” he said gently, “wake up, love, it’s just a dream, wake up.” As gentle as Mycroft was Greg still woke up with a start and an incoherent cry the only words of which Mycroft could make out were ‘get off’. Greg pulled his legs up to his chest, almost cowering away from Mycroft and in return Mycroft shifted away from him slightly, anxious not to make him feel like he was cornered. “It’s only me, Greg, you’re safe, it was only a dream.”
It took a few moments but gradually Greg became more aware of his surroundings and Mycroft could see him force himself to relax, he also knew that Greg was going to apologise for his reaction and that he didn’t want to hear Greg apologise for anything and so he spoke first,
“It’s time for the second dose of your treatment, more water, more paracetamol and more sleep, only this time in your bed!”
Greg managed a tentative smile,
“Gotta say my head is pounding. How much did I drink? Sorry I’ve asked that question before haven’t I?”
“Yes, but it doesn’t matter, about two and a half bottles of wine,”
“I wish I hadn’t,” he mumbled.
“You’ll feel better soon,” Mycroft said reassuringly, “you’ll feel fine in the morning with a bit of luck.” The look that Greg gave him was so old-fashioned that dinosaurs would be familiar with it, “No really, you will you’re getting the worst of the hangover now. On your feet, get yourself into the bathroom and I’ll get you a drink and some toast and some paracetamol!”
It looked very like Greg did what he was told purely to avoid having to string a sentence together in disagreement. While he was in the bathroom Mycroft tidied a little and then went to make coffee, by the time he heard Greg stumble back into the living room the coffee was ready and he brought it in with the painkillers and a pint glass of water. Greg tried a smile but looked like it was paining him,
“I’m not drinking any more water,” he said with an obvious attempt at frivolity, “it made me throw up the last time!”
“Yes,” Mycroft agreed, face completely straight, “it was obviously the water, that stuff so easily goes off, don’t you find?”
“Ha, ha, ha, funny boy, pass it here.”
Mycroft passed the glass of water and the paracetamol, which Greg dutifully swallowed along with about half of the water.
“Do you feel up to food?” Mycroft asked. Greg looked a little dubious,
“I could probably manage some toast, if there’s any bread.”
“Toast I can definitely manage,” Mycroft replied and got up again to go into the kitchen. He put two slices of what he mentally characterised as horrible white bread into the toaster and turned to lean on the counter only to find Greg stood in the doorway watching him.
“I thought I’d see if I could manage upright for a few minutes,” Greg said with a crooked smile,
“And how do you feel it’s going?” Mycroft asked determinedly keeping the tone of the conversation light,
“Well I seem to have a bit clearer idea of which way is up and which way is down than last time, so yeah, probably OK so far.”
“Good,” Mycroft said and that left the two of them just looking at each other with an unspoken, ‘So what next?’ hovering above their heads until the toast popping up made both of them jump. Almost but not quite relieved Mycroft turned to get the toast and then reached to the fridge for the butter, “Do you want jam or marmalade on this?” Mycroft asked, “The sugar might do you some good.”
“No thanks,” Greg replied, “I think I’m going to find the toast difficult enough to be honest.”
Mycroft finished his buttering and fished out a side plate to put the two slices on to and handed it to Greg, who looked at it unenthusiastically.
“Could you manage more water?” Mycroft asked,
“Not without sloshing when I walk,” Greg said with a slightly apologetic smile as he turned to walk back into the living room. Mycroft followed him but when they got into the living room he hesitated before electing to sit in the armchair rather than the sofa. Greg clearly noticed the difference and Mycroft thought that he was going to say something but instead he seated himself cross legged on the sofa and began to nibble unenthusiastically on the first slice of toast.
By the time that Greg had finished the second slice of toast, the feeling of tension in the room would have been obvious to anyone. A large part of Mycroft wanted to go, wanted to excuse himself and go home, leave Greg to sleep and go home and try to do the same himself, and yet he continued to sit where he was watching Greg and not troubling to be covert about it. It was Greg who broke the silence,
“If I asked you a question would you answer it?”
Mycroft tensed, there were very many questions that he wouldn’t especially like to answer, but equally there were many questions to which Greg might very likely want the answers to and after the last few weeks Mycroft was not of a mind to deny Greg anything that he might ask,
“Most likely, Official Secrets Act notwithstanding,” Mycroft replied with a brief smile.
“No, it’s nothing like that, it’s something you said a while ago that’s been niggling at me ever since, I asked you then but you didn’t answer.” Greg looked at Mycroft clearly with a question and Mycroft knew exactly what the question was. He continued to speak, “You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” he paused and swallowed before he continued, “you might just have been saying it to be comforting and that would be OK, but I got the sense you weren’t, only I suppose that could have just been good acting.” Greg stopped speaking but remained focused on Mycroft with an expectant look on his face. Mycroft cleared his throat,
“You mean how did I know it would get better?” he asked seemingly for confirmation which he received in the form of a nod of the head, but in reality to give himself a moment to make sure that he had tight control of his emotions, Greg most certainly did not need to see how much this still pained him,
“You may have wondered why it is that Sherlock taunts me about my diet and my weight?”
“Yes, I have from time to time, it’s always seemed a little peculiar,” Greg replied.
“It wouldn’t seem so strange if you’d seen me at fourteen, it would have seemed like the obvious thing he would say to someone who looked like a blimp.”
Greg stirred at this, he looked like he wanted to get up and comfort him, but Mycroft held up a hand, the last thing he needed was for Greg to give him meaningless reassurance, or worse, indignation on his younger self’s part. Greg sat back into the sofa again and Mycroft continued,
“When we first met, when Sherlock was in hospital, I indicated to you that Sherlock and I had had a less than optimal childhood. His approach to it was to learn all that he could, not just ‘book learning’ but about the physical aspects of people even if he found the emotional aspects incomprehensible. I learned things, I studied but I also took refuge in food. Lots of food. Sherlock was an incredibly fussy eater when he was younger, it was his way of getting a rise out of our mother, and eating everything I was given became a way of being ‘a good boy’. It’s all of it stupid.
“So by the age of twelve when I was sent away to school, I was a very large boy. Until I was sent away Sherlock and I were very close but he saw me going to school as a desertion and he reacted badly. I worried about him constantly that first term with the net effect that I ate even more. It turned into an ongoing theme through the remainder of my childhood and adolescence. Sherlock used every bit of his observational ability to find just the aspects of it that would hurt me the most.”
Greg stirred at this but Mycroft held up a restraining hand,
“No, I can’t blame him and nor should you he was only five when I went to school and he couldn’t or more likely wouldn’t understand that I had no choice in the matter and that I couldn’t take him with me.”
Mycroft stopped speaking. He wanted more than anything to be completely honest with Greg but at the same time he was worried about exposing the man to anymore emotional turmoil even if it was a long time ago. Greg interrupted his thoughts,
“You don’t need to tell me if it’s difficult, honestly ... but ... have you ever told anybody?”
Mycroft flinched a little at that question and took a deep breath before he spoke again, knowing that Greg would have caught his reaction,
“I haven’t told anyone and I’m not sure that I should be telling you, you don’t need to deal with anymore trauma...”
Greg interrupted him,
“Don’t worry about that, My, I’m not quite such a delicate flower, if I have to constantly be grateful for your help while I contribute nothing, then I don’t think we’ve got a hope of getting back to how things were, and I’ve realised, yesterday and today, that I really want us to try for that.”
Mycroft sniffed, blinking back sudden tears,
“Thank you,” he breathed, hardly daring to speak the words aloud,
“Don’t thank me,” Greg replied with the first completely genuine smile Mycroft had seen on his face since the attack, “just come over here and sit with me and tell me the story if you want to.”
Mycroft got up and sat next to Greg, close but not quite touching, and Greg made it clear with one raised eyebrow that that wasn’t quite what he’d had in mind and lifted one arm, an invitation to Mycroft to snuggle up to him,
“You really are so very much more than I deserve,” Mycroft murmured as he slipped into Greg’s embrace, “your generosity is a miraculous thing.”
“That’s not what you say when you’re fighting me for the duvet in the winter,” Greg said and Mycroft knew that he was grinning without even bothering to look. The two of them took a moment to relish the feeling of being close once again before Mycroft spoke,
“If you’re sure I think I do want to tell you what happened, but if you begin to feel any distress you must speak, do you promise me?”
“Yes, I promise,” he paused, “you know I can’t imagine you ...” he paused, and Mycroft knew that he was struggling to find a neutral word that wouldn’t upset him. He took pity on Greg,
“You can use the word ‘fat’ it won’t ... doesn’t bother me, not at this remove, but the word obese might, strictly speaking be more accurate.”
Greg pulled him even more tightly into a hug and Mycroft allowed his head to fall onto Greg’s shoulder breathing in the scent of him, still tinged with cheap wine but still, for Mycroft, the scent of home and comfort as he was sure it would always be. After a couple of minutes he began to speak again,
“Between the state of things at home, the grief I came in for at school and Sherlock’s reaction by the time I was fifteen I was at a pretty low ebb. You’ll have realised by now that everything is always about my mother, you’ve met her and each time I was home, it was a constant reiteration of how much better everything would be if I was just a little thinner and all it made me want to do was eat even more. When I went back to school the autumn after I’d turned fifteen I was completely convinced of my own worthlessness and I suppose that was how he managed to get under my skin so easily.
“Graham. He had started school late, rumours ran around the place as they can only at a boarding school that he’d been thrown out of his previous school and in the imagination of the boys in the lower forms he’d committed every sin in the calendar. The upper-form boys were just sure that he was, as the phrase had it, queer. As for me, I thought he was the most beautiful thing that had ever existed. When Graham noticed me noticing, I thought that I would simply die of embarrassment how could I presume to even think about him when he looked like he looked and I looked like I looked, it was clearly ludicrous. I was sure that he would tell everyone, ‘fat-boy Holmes has got a crush on me, as if anyone could fancy him, disgusting little puff’, but he didn’t. When he came and sat by me at dinner one night I was so tongue-tied I barely managed a word, but by that evening we were kissing hidden in the common room after lights out.
“I thought that all of my dreams had come true, within the week he had persuaded me that I should sleep with him and of course by sleep with him he really meant that I should lie still and quiet and let him have me. It wasn’t openly coercive, it was after all what I thought I wanted and it was definitely what he wanted and I was so grateful even to be noticed by him.
“This went on for a couple of months. I can’t quite put into words how it made me feel, that someone wanted and desired me was wonderful and he’d promised me I’d get to like and enjoy what he was doing to me, and when he took me in hand when he’d finished I felt so ‘looked after’ and that was such an unusual feeling for me. It’s hard to explain, I was in pain a lot of the time, but in some respects I’d never been so happy.
“It came to an end when one day, as I was going to his room I overheard him talking to some of his friends. I’m not going to repeat what he said, I’ve spent thirty years trying to forget his words that day with a notable lack of success, it’s enough to say he was laughing at the queer little fat boy who’d do anything for him and let him do anything.
Greg pulled Mycroft tighter into him,
“I’m sorry, My, that shouldn’t happen to anyone.”
“No, I suppose not, but it’s a common enough story and I got over it tolerably well. Once I left home to go to university then I began to regularise my eating patterns and take some exercise. I still did not want to be intimate with anyone but I was making my way and I needed the focus that denial gave me and so that worked well. Over time my eating patterns settled down and the excess weight went almost without me making any effort.
“I met Graham again when I was working and beginning to establish my role in the civil service. The very first words he said to me were an apology for what had gone on at school. He was charming and still as good looking and I told myself that he’d been little more than a child and children do stupid and hurtful tings without meaning any of them and we began to see each other. I had however learned a couple of things in particular I was not going to submit to him the way I had in school.
“He invited me out to dinner and I went, I still felt the same attraction to him and it seemed that he was still attracted to me. One thing lead to another and before I completely knew what was happening we were, I suppose, a couple. For the first few weeks things went swimmingly at least on the surface, he was attentive and kind and we began to become more physically intimate. It should have been wonderful, but I still had niggling doubts about him, doubts that kept surfacing at the most inopportune moments, but I told myself that it was stupid to let something from way back at school be a problem now, that I was surely now old enough to know my own mind.
“When we did have sex he was still not the most considerate of lovers, but it was better, it wasn’t as bad…”
Greg interrupted him,
“You should never have to put up with ‘not as bad’, no one should. Do you know that now? If I ever made you feel like that I’m sorry.”
“Oh, Greg, don’t ever think that, you were never less than considerate, you were so patient with me...”
Greg interrupted again,
“It wasn’t a matter of being patient, I wasn’t materially less unsure than you, it’s not like I had to let a different bloke for each day of the week know I was off the market when we got together!”
“Really? DI Don Juan?” Mycroft said with a smile,
“Really.” Greg confirmed. Mycroft chuckled a little before sobering and continuing with his story,
“I’d like to say I should have known that something was amiss, but I did know, I just ignored the signs. As the weeks went on Graham became, perhaps moody would be the right word. Sex between us became a more brutal affair,” Greg winced at this but Mycroft continued as if he hadn’t, “I both wanted to and feared to ask him what the matter was. A couple of times he got as far as ordering me around, in the bedroom only, and it was clear that this was something that ‘he got off on’, horrible phrase, but descriptive I suppose. I should have put the clues together, it’s what Holmes’ do, put together the tiny pieces of evidence and see the whole it’s why both Sherlock and I are so good at what we do, but I didn’t. I’ve thought about it over and over and the only logical conclusion is that I didn’t want to.
Mycroft stopped speaking. He was coming to the heart of the matter, the places in the story where his own stupidity had injured himself, things that he hadn’t even learned from enough that the stupidity didn’t continue and hurt Greg. Perhaps this will exorcise them, he mused. Eventually, Greg interrupted his musing,
“If this would go easier if you had a drink in your hand, the good whisky is still in the cabinet.”
“Thank you,” Mycroft replied, “if you’re sure, it might help but I wouldn’t want to make you feel worse,”
“No I don’t think I’ll join you,” Greg replied with a shudder, “but you’re welcome.”
Mycroft got up and retrieved the bottle and a glass, returning not to the sofa with Greg but to the armchair. He was aware that Greg was giving him a questioning look as he poured himself a large measure of the drink and after his first sip he answered the unasked question.
“I’m sorry but I want, I need to be able to see your reaction to what I’m going to say. I’m still not sure I should be burdening you with this, I’m afraid that I’m just going to make things worse.” He paused watching Greg intently before asking, “Are you sure?”
Greg answered before he’d even finished the question,
“If you think that telling me even might help you then I want to hear it. I don’t think that listening to what happened to you will break me, and the fact that I might be upset is no reason for you not to say it.” There was a long pause while Mycroft deliberated and again, Greg was the one to break it,
“I think you do need to tell someone and I think it should be me, especially if it will help me to understand why you reacted like you did.”
“That’s what’s worrying me,” Mycroft replied, “It’s going to seem like, it is like I visited his sins on you, and that’s not really what it was.”
“Are you sure?” Greg asked in a level, neutral tone of voice.
Mycroft looked down, seemingly lost in contemplation of the peat-brown liquid in his glass. Eventually he answered,
“No, I’m not sure. What sort of a human being does that make me?” he asked, chancing a look up to Greg’s face and catching a very fleeting expression that he couldn’t characterise.
“A normal one, albeit perhaps one whose emotional development might be a bit slow.” Greg’s smile softened the blow in the statement just a little but Mycroft knew that what he said was true; his reactions had been more like those of a teenager than those of a mature man. He felt himself blushing and looked down at his drink, taking a sip to give himself time to compose himself. He savoured the smooth burn of the whisky as he swallowed it and continued to contemplate the way the liquid caught the facets of the crystal glass, as distractions went it was small enough and eventually he put the glass down and looked up to find Greg still watching him with a carefully neutral expression. Mycroft shrugged and continued,
“One evening I was supposed to meet Graham for a meal, it was as far as I remember my apology for some small thing I had done that had upset or angered him, I forget. He didn’t turn up. At first I was angry, then eventually I wore away the anger and lurched into fear that something had happened to him. I waited at the restaurant until he was an hour and a half late and then went back to what had become by then our flat.
“I suppose it’s not to be wondered at that you put the two things together,” Greg mused, “was that how it was ... that night?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so.” Mycroft paused for a long time before he sat forward in the chair putting his head in his hands and he couldn’t bring himself to speak above a whisper when he continued, “That’s what you should hate me for, that I ever thought of you in the same way that I thought of him.”
“Don’t be daft,” Greg replied, “I don’t think I could ever hate you, My, we’re all the sum total of our experiences, you’re no different.” Mycroft swallowed, trying to get his feelings under control before he continued,
“He came home eventually and I could tell straight away that he’d been with someone else, he’d made no apparent attempt to hide the fact. I almost didn’t say anything but at that point I still had enough self-esteem to stand up to him. It earned me a sneering, belittling response to the effect that if I were giving him what he needed he wouldn’t have to look for it elsewhere. Besotted fool that I was, I asked him what it was he wanted, begged him to let me prove I could be what he wanted me to be.” Mycroft’s whole attention was now apparently fixed on a spot on the rug between the sofa and the chair he was sitting in and his voice when he continued was low and flat, “It turned out that what he wanted was to inflict pain.”
“So it wasn’t that he was a clumsy lover?” Greg asked his voice carefully neutral and Mycroft knew that Greg was falling back on his training to help him get through this conversation,
“Apparently not. The pain was a big part of it for him and also it was my fault given that he’d realised what a turn on the pain was when he’d had me at school.”
Greg winced at that,
“You didn’t believe that, did you?” he asked,
“At the time? I at least told myself it was true, now, of course not, the humiliation, me begging him to let me make it up to him and the carte blanche that gave him to do almost anything to me, it was all part of an organised and I suppose skilful plan.” Greg opened his mouth to speak again but Mycroft knew that if he was ever going to tell this story it needed to be now, he held up a hand, hoping that Greg would understand and as always he did. Mycroft took a deep breath and continued,
“So there I was embarking on my brief career as a sub and a masochist.” It was clear to Mycroft that his attempt at humour had always been destined to fall flat. The expression that he had been unable to identify on Greg’s face had crystalised into an increasingly fierce anger that he knew or hoped wasn’t directed at him but it still made him feel nervous. He continued quickly before the nerves got the better of him,
“Nothing much changed except that now Graham had no reason to even think about my feelings or comfort. He interpreted our conversation to mean that he could fuck me any time he wanted with no preparation and make me beg for it and soon even that wasn’t enough. When Graham arrive home one evening with rope I could almost see the attraction in being tied up where there was trust, but the only feeling that the idea of Graham tying me up engendered was one of fear, but he asked me to trust him and I was trying to make the whole thing work and so I agreed. I’d done some reading around the subject by this stage and I did talk to him about a safe word, he knew what mine was, although quite why I expected him to take any notice is beyond me at this stage.
“It was brutal and I’m not going to go into any detail but when he finally released me I was black and blue and bleeding and he walked straight out of the flat.” Mycroft stopped speaking, not sure what to say, he was suddenly convinced that he’d said too much that he’d just burdened Greg with all manner of images and feelings that he really didn’t need ever let alone at this point.
“Come here, My,” Greg said in a calm even tone, indicating that Mycroft should rejoin him on the sofa.
Mycroft shook his head and put his head down before he spoke,
“I can’t, Greg, I just can’t. It would be so horribly unfair for me to accept your comfort when I reacted like I did.” He paused and then continued, “You were right, I’m not sure I could tell you that you’d get over it all, it would appear that I haven’t.”
Greg sat forward,
“Settle down, My, this isn’t about fair and unfair, this is about taking the comfort you need. What you did, well it was horrible, but in among all the other shit, well, I’m sorry but it wasn’t actually that bad. Now I know what was behind it, then it really doesn't matter, we’ve both been through the mill, we both need each other, come here, love.”
Mycroft resisted for a moment longer,
“We both love each other?”
“Yeah, I reckon.”
“We will get there won’t we, Greg, there is a way back isn’t there?”
Mycroft wasn’t sure whether he was relieved or otherwise by the fact that Greg actually took the time to think about it before he replied. A simple immediate answer could have indicated either surety or a lack of thought but he knew Greg and he knew how important this was to him.
“I’m sure we will, now, please, come here.”
Mycroft took the three steps across the room and sat next to Greg who put an arm round him and pulled him into a tight hug. Mycroft exhaled with a deep, deep sigh and the two of them stayed like that for many minutes before Mycroft stirred a little,
“You should really get yourself to bed, dear-heart,” he said into Greg’s shoulder.
Greg tightened his arms just slightly before he replied,
“I suppose I should.” Mycroft could feel Greg becoming gradually more tense before Greg spoke again, “Come with me?”
It was Mycroft’s turn to tense up and Greg had always been adept at reading him,
“No, not like that, I just ... don’t want to be on my own ... but I’ll understand if you don’t want to...”
“Of course I want to,” Mycroft was aware of the fact that he’d almost snapped at Greg and he blustered on, “I just didn't think you’d want that and I’d be worried, what if I,” Mycroft could feel himself blushing and it infuriated him, but he continued, “you know in the morning ... I ... often ... I wouldn't want you to think I was ... trying anything on.”
“I know you wouldn’t, don’t be daft, but I would really like the reassurance of someone with me and I really would like the reassurance that sometime we will get back to how things were, what do you say?”
Mycroft lay awake for a long time, certainly for a long time after Greg’s breathing had settled into a rhythm that indicated he was sleeping. He mused on whether he should have thought about Greg feeling more safe with someone there and on his good fortune to have found such a good man and then he turned so that he could put his arm gently round Greg’s waist and composed himself to sleep.