The first time Greg Lestrade meets Mycroft Holmes he is hit with the unpleasant sensation he’s being punked. He’s only known Holmes the younger for two days, a skinny, coked up mess in dire need of a haircut who rattles off details of his cases at him with so much fervour he promptly forgets to arrest him on suspicion of murder, and then out of nowhere there’s this man, all class wrapped up in an expensive suit and there’s no way, just no way that the fucked up little junk who started following him around is his brother.
Sherlock later confirms he is, actually, and Greg learns to expect the unexpected when it comes to Holmeses.
Mycroft looks different then. He’s heavier, for one, and there’s a discontent sort of sadness in the way he speaks. He holds himself proudly, but there’s still that tiny hint of caution Greg recognises, like he’s expecting someone to punch him in the nose any minute. He sees that sometimes in witnesses, broken people who have grown accustomed to being battered, but it’s bizarrely out of place on this tall, stately, well-composed man who just appears one drizzly morning in front of the Yard. Greg understands the cause, has seen the track marks on the younger Holmes' arms, and thinks that would cause any older brother to look oddly haunted.
But regardless, regardless, he’s got charisma oozing out his ears and Greg thinks he might just be the fittest bloke he’s ever seen. He tells Janet that night, when they’re in bed, describes how utterly surreal his day has been with all these public school twits popping out of nowhere like really high-class jacks-in-a-box, and how he kept losing track of what Mycroft was saying again because he kept getting distracted by how really genuinely sexy he was. Janet dissolves into giggles, covering her face with her hands. They always talked of these things, he’d never been anything but upfront about his sexuality and she’d never made an issue out of it. She knew he was loyal to her, to a fault – he may have enjoyed his window shopping, but always ate his supper at home, and all that. In hindsight he hates her for that, actually, that she could place this blind trust in him but broke his so horrendously. This was all years before the P.E. teacher, but later he learns there was a child psychiatrist, first, and a fucking accountant, and briefly an out-of-work bus driver there was just genuinely no excuse for. He tries not to think about it all too much, about how much of his life had turned out to just be fake smiles and blatant lies.
Mycroft, in the mean time, becomes an unexpected and regular feature in his life the next couple years. Once Mycroft is convinced Greg means his brother no harm he appears to consider him some odd sort of unwilling accomplice, his presence quietly ubiquitous – black cars hovering in the background, security cameras turning his way as he walks across a crime scene, and on regular occasions deeply impersonal phone calls at all times of the day. He appears in his office sometimes, or on the sidelines at crime scenes, shielding himself from the dreary London rain with a black umbrella. One time he even comes to speak with him at his mother’s 75th birthday party, standing laughably out of place in the corridor at the senior centre in Bridgwater, and that’s just a little creepy even for him (although the particular occasion did sort of call for a stern talking-to, considering Sherlock nearly poisoned himself trying to figure out the exact combination of ingredients used by a serial poisoner in Flitwick)
A lot changes in five years. Greg is promoted to Detective Inspector. Sherlock Holmes kicks the coke habit and finds himself a blogger. Mycroft Holmes loses at least three stone and a fair portion of his hair (although even five years later Greg still can’t figure out just what the hell it is he does, exactly). And, yeah, on top of that his daughter pierces her nose and decides she hates everybody and he finds out his wife fucks every willing cock she can find, and when he hits his breaking point he leaves and moves into a noisy little flat above a shop in Hornsey.
He’s not sure when his life spun away from him. He’s forty eight sitting alone in a barely furnished flat and feels miserable. He wonders if this is what midlife crisis is like, this genuine lack of direction. He’d always expected it to be a bit more exciting, really, like when he was twenty one and got a tattoo on his shoulder and studs in his ears and the whole world was like his happy little oyster. This is just depressing. He’s old and gray and getting flabbier and the only highlight of his life is when his phone beeps and it’s that delightful ‘number withheld’ blinking on his screen.
It hits him he’s in trouble when he finds himself drawing this conclusion. He’s sitting in his office, batting at a powdered sugar stain on his shirt, when his mobile rings and his heart jolts. He reaches for his phone with an excited grin on his face and freezes when he realises just what the bloody hell he’s doing. He stares at his phone for three rings, hand outstretched towards it, and then it stops. Not even five seconds later his landline starts to ring, on the corner of his desk, and he lunges for it.
“Yes – Les – Det – what?” he says, heart hammering in his throat.
“Right,” Mycroft drawls on the other side of the line. “Good morning to you too, Detective Inspector.”
Greg feels his face heat up and is more than a little grateful he’s alone in his office. “Yeah. Right. Apologies, I was... What do you need me for, Mycroft?”
“My brother is causing trouble in Dartmoor. I’m a bit tied up at the moment, urgent matters, Bolivia, you know how it is… I’d rather like for you to check up on him, if possible.”
He ought to say no. He just got back from two weeks in a dusty hotel in Spain, trying to get away from things (and failing, actually), and his superiors might gut him if he just pops off to fucking Dartmoor.
“Fine,” he says.
‘I don’t always do what your brother tells me’ his pasty hairy arse.
“Emma’s not in, she’s gone to see a movie with her friends.”
He rubs his forehead, sighs. “I haven’t spoken to her in two weeks, Janet.”
“She’s not in, Greg, what do you expect me to do?”
Emma blames him for the divorce. She doesn’t know about her mother’s cheating, and he doesn’t want to tell her, because what’s the use in making the girl hate her mother, too?
“Tell her I called, would you?”
She promises him she will and he knows she won’t and lays back on his stupid little sofa, staring up at his ceiling. He genuinely can’t stand that sofa. It’s this tiny thing he can’t stretch out on properly or go boneless on like he likes to do, and it’s the same kind of colour his computer screen would go sometimes when he did something dumb with it. On top of that, the whole flat just rubs him the wrong way as it is. The little alcove of a one-bedroom is all boxes still, stuff he can’t bring himself to unpack because he just doesn’t want to see his things, the few personal items he’d managed to take with him, in it at all.
Actually, for that matter, he doesn’t even want to see himself in here. He eyes the screen on his phone – 9:35 in the evening. He’s got some paperwork on his desk at work, things that aren’t particularly pressing but that need doing eventually regardless.
Nothing to do here but stare at the telly and get drunk on his own anyway. He pushes himself up from the blue monstrosity and goes to find his shoes.
Mycroft Holmes wears a wedding band on the wrong hand. Greg doesn’t know what that means. He asks Sherlock whether his brother is married and he just laughs, this sarcastic, oh-you-peasant laugh that makes Greg want to punch him.
John later says to him with a shrug and a twitch of the eyebrow he’s fairly certain Mycroft isn’t, why are you asking, and Greg mutters something about curiosity and inscrutable Holmeses and John seems to buy it.
He considers cooking dinner for himself. He hasn’t yet, not once in the nine weeks he’s now lived in his flat. He’s survived on take-away, pub meals, petrol station sandwiches, and he considers… maybe pasta. Something. Anything.
He goes through three boxes looking for a saucepan but doesn’t find it. He cusses so loudly at everything in the world his neighbour starts banging on the wall, then stalks into London to find the nearest Indian place and gets himself a curry to take home. He eats it by himself, back on that ugly sofa, watching Eastenders.
He tries calling Emma but after getting her voicemail twice gives up on it. Later that evening he falls asleep on that stupid fucking furniture smurf, some case files he took home on his lap, and wakes up a little after five with a godawful crick in his neck.
John talks about getting kidnapped by Mycroft. Greg doesn’t get it. Mycroft has never kidnapped him, never had him transported to mysterious locations. He just pops up on his own to wherever Greg might be, and he’s not sure what sets him apart from John.
Mycroft stands in front of his desk in a handsome suit that probably costs three times as much as Greg’s entire wardrobe, an equally expensive overcoat over his arm, umbrella in hand. He’s talking about a triple murder, a cold case Sherlock somehow unearthed – Greg isn’t entirely convinced the sneaky bastard doesn’t break into the Yard at night to sift through their case files – and he hasn’t listened as well as he should. It appears Mycroft doesn’t necessarily fancy the idea of Sherlock picking this one up. He has genuinely no idea why. This is getting a bit pathetic, this is.
“… so I would appreciate any attempt at all to steer him away from this, if you please, Detective Inspector.”
The suit is too big on him, Greg realises. Around the shoulders, around the chest, it sits just a touch too wide. It’s not an old suit, doesn’t look like it, so it can’t be that it’s just a suit he’s had for a while that no longer fits well. This was purchased after the weight loss. Mycroft isn’t the kind of man who’d buy his suits a size too big by accident and then wear them regardless, and he wonders if he thinks himself bigger than he is, maybe, like this man with a brain as big as the bloody moon doesn’t know what size clothes he actually wears.
Fascinating, that, and what the bloody fucking hell is he thinking about, he’s not Sherlock bloody Holmes and needs to stop analysing these stupid things about people.
“Detective Inspector? I’d appreciate if you listened to what I was saying.”
“I, what? Sorry. Yes, the Sands End murders. Look, if he wants in you know I can’t stop him from fiddling with it until he’s solved it.”
Mycroft does something at him with his mouth that on anyone else would probably look like a sarcastic little smile but on him it looks like a frightfully polite death threat. “You’re a policeman. I’m sure you can figure out a way.”
“Why not just let him solve it, anyway? Keeps him off the streets.”
“You needn’t concern yourself with that, Detective Inspector. I would appreciate any assistance in this matter.”
He always appreciates everything. It’s not politeness, just a blatant order disguised as a polite request.
Greg would be lying if he said that didn’t turn him on just a little, though.
Mycroft twitches an eyebrow and inclines his head and turns for the door. He’s so bloody tall, he is, one long lean line from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. Damn it all to hell.
"Would you like to have a drink sometime?" he blurts.
Mycroft stops and half-turns and, oh yes, looks for just a moment genuinely surprised. Well, that makes Greg feel quite good about himself. Even a Holmes can be caught unaware, and hurray, not so much bloody automatons built in a secret factory in Essex after all.
"Beg your pardon?" he asks.
"Would you like to have a drink. With me." Greg pushes his chair back and stands up behind his desk, overcome with an odd surge of confidence, and attempts to look, well, attractive. Doesn’t work so well, he thinks. Mycroft stares at him with a vague hint of distaste, like he’s some crusty busker on the tube.
"Just you and me, no entourage, no creepy black cars. Just two blokes in a pub. Come on,” Greg says, offering him that small crooked little smile Janet always told him made him look irresistibly cheeky.
Mycroft merely wrinkles his nose at it. "What, pray tell, gives you the impression I would enjoy going to a pub?"
"Some other place then, I don't care." Oh come on, he thinks. Please. Just give me this one, universe, just one shot, one drink, one conversation with this brilliant man that doesn’t revolve around Sherlock bloody fucking Holmes.
Mycroft watches him for a long, still moment. Greg feels discouragement nibbling at the corners of his confidence, the first tickle of rejection dragging raw across his ego.
"Why are you asking this?" Mycroft then asks, his eyes narrowed.
Greg considers his answer. Because it’d be nice. Because you’re gorgeous. Because I might be losing my mind and asking out the man who appears to run half the planet on his own is an excellent way to self-destruct. "Because I'm really lonely," he finally admits, his own honesty burning in his throat. "And I thought... you might be lonely, too. And would like to have a drink."
Mycroft straightens and looks really very distant all of a sudden. "Let it go, Detective Inspector. Find someone else to help you with your... loneliness." And he's gone, out the door. Greg watches him go, weave around desks and unsuspecting officers, and disappear.
Well then. The only way that could have actually gone worse is if that umbrella would have turned out to double as a sword and Mycroft would have lopped off his head with it.
Greg goes on a blind date with a bird named Ginny. Harvey, one of his mates he used to play football with, set him up with her, and he just went along for the sake of having something to do that didn’t involve either his office or his shithole flat. She’s divorced like him, has a fifteen year old kid like him, and somewhat desperately attempts to charm him into believing she’s ten years younger than she actually is. He winds up shagging her anyway, in her house, in her bedroom, with her old wedding portrait still in a frame on the bedside. He leaves just after the sun’s come up, showers in his cramped little bathroom, and has forgotten what her last name is again before he even steps into his office that morning.
Mycroft sends him a text around eleven. He rarely ever texts, so that’s new. He wonders if it’s to do with having asked him out last week. Afraid to show up at his office, now? That’s not like him in the slightest, and it’s oddly jarring.
‘Sherlock is still on the Sands End murders. Kindly speak to him about this. – MH’
Greg sighs and rubs his hands down his face. There’s just no way that’s going to go over well. He thinks it over for an unwilling ten minutes, then picks up his phone and texts John. Best shot he’s got, anyway.
“Sir, it’s almost 8 o’clock. You should go home.”
Donovan stands in his doorway, leaned against the doorjamb with her arms crossed. Behind her the department is quiet, save for one officer named Dodge who’s only just started working with them three weeks back and is struggling to keep up. Poor bloke is barely in his mid-twenties and has massive bags under his eyes as he sits struggling his way through his paperwork.
Homicide is a tough gig. Greg wouldn’t want anything else, and most of the detectives in his department don’t, but it’s not an easy spot to break into, as a newbie. He wonders if Dodge will make it. He probably won’t.
Donovan looks over her shoulder, following his line of sight. She turns back with a sigh. “You don’t need to stay to observe him working late, you know. Go home. Eat some proper food, watch some shit telly like a normal person.”
“Are you sure you shouldn’t take that advice yourself?” he says, pushing back from his desk. She looks guilty for just a moment.
She thinks he doesn’t know about Anderson. All right, he may not be a fucking Holmes, but you don’t make it to Detective Inspector by being a gullible idiot. He’s noticed. He’s also noticed Anderson has been clocking in a lot of vacation time while Donovan sits at her desk and looks tired and wonders if he’s patching things up with his wife.
Really, if the git wasn’t so bloody good at his job he’d have had him chucked years ago.
“Go home, sir. Never mind about me,” Donovan says, and with a shrug and a somewhat dismissive wave of her hand she turns out his office and heads to her own desk. She ignores Dodge, who shoots her a hopeful look, longing perhaps for some friendly conversation he really shouldn’t be expecting from her.
Greg sits in his office and watches them through the window for a bit. He pulls his phone out his pocket, turns it over in his hands. There’s something inside him, this weird feeling, a hopeful-desperate sort of sadness. I’m pathetic, he thinks, I’m a clingy pathetic lump who doesn’t know how to let go at all.
He scrolls through his received messages until he finds the one Mycroft sent him a few days earlier, about the Sands End murders. He stares at it and wonders and then he presses ‘reply’.
‘One drink. Come on. I want to know who you are other than ‘brother of’. – Greg’
There is no response. He sits in his office until 10:30, when both Dodge and Donovan have long gone home, and sits in the tube back to his flat, to his hateful little sofa, wondering what would happen if he’d just leave London.
He finally manages to get Emma on the phone and they talk for an uninspired ten minutes. She’s fine. School is fine. Her friends are fine. Everything is fine and does he want to talk to mum maybe cause she’s right here. Of course he doesn’t want to talk to Janet, he wants to talk to her, but he has to make do with ten minutes of everything being fine before she hangs up with some flimsy excuse about homework.
He sits still on the dreaded blue sofa for a few minutes, until he is suddenly overcome with anger. He yanks a sofa cushion off and throws it across the room. It thuds dully against the cardboard boxes he’s stacked against the wall. He throws the other one too, then slides off the sofa to the floor and feels bleak and useless, yesterday’s news ready to serve as litter box lining.
He lies down on the floor between his boxes and his ugly fucking cushions and just breathes for a moment. Downstairs in the shop he can hear people talking, music playing on crackling speakers, a child whining softly. Sounds of life. He clutches his phone to his chest, sighs, rubs the back of the hand holding the phone across his eyes.
One of the hardest things about divorce, he’s found, is the quiet. Nobody to talk to. Nobody to vent to. A spouse, or a significant other in general, is amongst many other things a great default for social interaction. Always someone there to listen. For better or worse, marriage means having to put up with endless whinging about things like unresponsive daughters and ugly sofas. Now there’s an empty flat, nobody to come home to, and he feels strangely bottled up.
He knows what he wants, and in a flash of inspiration he holds his phone over his face and types a text.
‘My daughter hates me. Such joys life hands out sometimes. – Greg’
He selects Mycroft's number. Hitting the send button makes him feel, oddly enough, a bit better.
He keeps texting Mycroft. It becomes something of a habit, this sending little messages out into some great oblivion lord knows where. He’s not even sure if the number is actually Mycroft’s – for all he knows he’s sending these messages to some little old Polish lady who has no idea who he is and is too polite to tell him the number’s wrong. He texts about all sorts of things, just to text, just to say something to someone.
He hopes someone is listening. He hopes Mycroft is listening, most of all. It worries him some moments how badly he wants for that to happen, worries that this isn’t so much a crush as it’s the obsession of a lonely middle-aged divorcee, but sending these texts feels like reaching out even if nobody is reaching back.
‘Do you know that Chinese place on High Street? Never order their Moo Goo Gai Pan, it’s shit. – Greg’
‘I’m watching Die Hard on E4. Do you like action movies? – Greg’
‘Witness threw up on me today. Shoes and trousers ruined. Lovely. – Greg’
‘It’s my birthday today. Not even a drink with me on my special day? – Greg’
‘I really can’t stand your brother some days, you know. Arrogant prick. – Greg’
‘I wish you’d text me back sometime. Does this number even go anywhere? – Greg’
There is never an answer back. He keeps texting anyway. It’s oddly therapeutic.
It occurs to him, after about a week and at least eleven texts, that what he’s doing could be construed as stalking. Then again, so could following someone around with a CCTV security camera and showing up unannounced at their family gatherings, so he supposes it’s fair.
“He’s solved the Sands End murders.”
Greg almost has a heart attack. He starts, knocking an empty paper coffee cup off his desk. Mycroft somehow managed to appear soundlessly in his office while he was engrossed in a toxicology report, and looks on disapprovingly as Greg retrieves the cup and sets it back on his desk.
“I noticed that. I got to close the case,” Greg says, trying to check whether his shirt has any stains on without being too obvious about it. Mycroft is wearing a most handsome three piece suit in gray, perfectly composed down to his blue tie and the gold chain of his pocket watch, and it’d be really bloody typical if he’d be sitting there with last night’s fish’n’chips advertised across his chest.
“I asked you to discourage him from working on that case.”
“I did the best I could.” Yeah, that was a lie. Almost. He’s sure John did his best, after all.
Mycroft narrows his eyes. “Texting John Watson constitutes ‘the best you could’? I fear for Scotland Yard.”
“I would appreciate some more dedicated assistance next time, Detective Inspector.”
“You really came here just to tell me that?”
Mycroft forces a smile at him. No goodbyes, not even any vague threats, as he turns and moves to leave. He stops at the door and hesitates, a split second really, one most people would blink and miss but Greg, all his attention on the handsome bloke in his door, doesn’t miss a beat.
“I do know the Chinese place on High street,” Mycroft says without turning to look at Greg, a deliberate edge to his words. “The Moo Goo Gai Pan is dreadful, but try the lemon chicken.”
And then he’s out the door, and Greg stares wide-eyed at the place in his universe he’d just occupied.
A thing of hope blossoms inside of him so violently it leaves a lump in his throat.