This. This was why he ran; why he got up at half four and laced up his trainers with his eyes barely open.
The early morning mist formed pyramids of light and softened the normally harsh street lamps. Even at this hour, their illumination was more than adequate. It wasn't like dusk, before the lamps came on, when you had to strain to see the cracks in the pavement. No, the even light overlapped in cones and marked out his path like an airport runway.
The mist gave the city a slightly surreal quality that took the edge off the nasty things he had to deal with during the day. Murders, violence, drugs: he could forget all about that as his feet flew over the concrete. That alone was worth the drudgery of the run itself.
But then there was the peace and quiet.
That was even better than the mist. The mist was bloody cold.
But the peace and quiet didn't have any downsides at all.
The odd delivery van made the rounds between shops, dropping off fresh bread. A few empty taxis sped by every now and then. But there were no people: no urgent shouts of "Lestrade, they've found another body in the Thames", no irritated whining from his staff about working with Sherlock Holmes.
It was silent, unadulterated bliss.
Mycroft Holmes redefined 'busy' on a daily basis. He arrived at his office by seven each morning and didn't usually leave until gone six. Sometimes eight. If he was lucky, he could squeeze in a quick lunch at the Diogenes, but more often than not, Anthea just brought him a sandwich at his desk.
He envied the people who only worked in one time zone. Every day when he arrived at work, a stack of reports awaited him from the overnight staffers. He felt like Sisyphus with his endless piles of paper.
Which was why he got up at half past four in the morning. It gave him a good, solid hour in which to think about nothing at all.
Sometimes he read the paper, but only the amusing bits. He suspected that the parts he found amusing probably wouldn't be the same parts other people found amusing. He also suspected they'd run screaming if they knew why.
He was staring out the window, ignoring a particularly amusing piece about the uncertainty of the upcoming elections, when he saw a startlingly handsome man run past. Which was odd, considering sweaty men in track suits weren't usually his type. This was one was, though: gorgeous face, striking grey hair in a stylish cut, and… well, that was about all he could remember since he'd only seen him for about two seconds. He got out of his chair and pressed his face against the sheer curtain that covered the glass, but the man was just a receding shape in the early mist. He looked at the clock: five to five.
"Morning, Jill. The usual, please. Oh, and one of those chocolate doughnuts. Thanks."
Five miles this morning; he'd earned every gooey calorie. Not that he was counting.
Greg fished his wallet out of his track suit and paid, glad none of his co-workers were up at this hour to see him covered in sweat and looking like he'd been hunted down by a pack of rabid dogs.
He flopped into one of the coffee-shop's 'comfy' chairs and took a sip of his coffee (cream, two sugars) and waited for the rush. This was the other reason he ran: the first jolt of caffeine merged nicely with the endorphin kick from the exercise. It was almost as good as nicotine, and far more socially acceptable.
The alarm went off with an irritating beep, and Mycroft stared blearily at the white plaster medallion that contrasted so nicely with the pale blue ceiling. Last night had been particularly taxing and he wondered if he could ignore the alarm for another hour. Then he remembered he might have more interesting things than his morning paper to engage him, if he was lucky. He was downstairs by twenty to five, just in case. He pulled back the sheer curtain. If I'm going to see him, I at least want a better view. By quarter to five, his eyes were firmly on his front window.
Only habitual runners got up at this time of morning. Well, habitual runners, or people who had just taken it up and gotten over-enthusiastic. People who'd just taken it up weren't as good as this man; they'd have dragged themselves past his window at a painful jog, not the practised stride he'd seen.
Four fifty-five passed. No sign of him.
Either the runner wasn't compulsive about his starting time (unlikely, since it was before his presumed job), or he had multiple routes. That makes sense. The same distance every day inhibits improvement.
He sat down to wait.
Perhaps he'd missed him. What if he takes a completely different route? Maybe he was by here earlier.
He scowled at his empty teacup. There was a fresh pot in the kitchen, but he didn't want to leave in case the runner still came by. Ten past five. I'll have to bring the teapot down with me tomorrow. And the milk.
He shook his head. This is silly, he hold himself. The odds of this man being gay, let alone remotely interested in me, are ridiculously tiny. Besides, with my job… he dropped the thought before it got too depressing. He'd given up on the general idea of relationships once his job title got so vague. Between the long hours and the secretive nature of his work, romantic partnerships were all but doomed.
He sighed and picked up the empty teacup and his unread newspaper. As he turned to head up the stairs, he saw a flash of silver at the window. He almost dropped the cup in excitement as he rushed to catch a glimpse of him. Of course it's him; who else would it be? The runner was headed in the same direction as before.
He glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. Five fifteen today; twenty minutes later. If he had to guess, based on the runner's speed versus average walking speed, he'd say it was about two miles further than yesterday. So he's either doing at least four miles extra today, or I'm near the end of his route. He made a mental note to re-program the CCTV cameras in the area and smiled. He might not have a chance with this man, but that didn't stop him from having an active imagination. He'll certainly make my morning showers a lot more interesting than usual.
Greg Lestrade worked as a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police. They paid him to notice things, but at that time of morning there wasn't often much to notice. It wasn't as if he tried to pay attention to odd details during his run; the actual running just bored him to tears, and there wasn't much else to do.
He usually ran circuits, it just seemed so bloody pointless to go out to a fixed location and turn around. At least this way there was twice the scenery.
His boredom had led to curiosity over the years, and he'd developed a habit of glancing in lit windows to see how the rest of the world lived. He commonly saw lights on in the houses at that time of morning, especially in the upper bedrooms; he wasn't the only unfortunate bastard with an early start time to his day.
The last segment of his runs took him past a particularly nice section of Kensington, and he'd always wondered what secrets the imposing row houses held behind their white-pillared entryways. He'd never had much luck though. Most of the time, the windows were covered in sheers that offered only a hazy impression of their occupant's lives beyond.
Today had been a pleasant exception: the sheers in one of his 'regularly lit' places had been drawn aside, exposing a small dining table in the bay window. He thought he'd even seen some movement as he'd run past, but he wasn't sure. Perhaps he'd have better luck another time. He'd always wondered who lived in those places; they had to be stinking rich - probably bankers. It seemed like they were the only ones making any money these days.
Seven miles today. Back to five miles tomorrow, which gives me an extra twenty minutes for coffee afterwards, he thought with a grin.
It didn't take much effort to change the surveillance cameras near Mycroft's home; he didn't even have to ask permission. When you had his job, you just did that sort of thing.
One camera facing the runner's normal direction, one going the other way - just in case, and a third pointed at the window. He ran all three feeds to the screen on his laptop and sat down with the paper. He honestly wasn't sure why he bothered with the paper at this point - his eyes were glued to the computer screen, waiting for his runner. My runner. I'm already getting proprietary. A bit hasty, don't you think, Mycroft?
He was prepared: toast, jam, a full pot of tea, and milk. He'd been to the loo beforehand. There was no reason he needed to leave his breakfast table until half past five at the earliest; later if he had to.
Quarter to five.
At about five to five, he saw movement on the video feed. The runner. He planned to watch the footage later; the video would give him prior warning so he could watch through the window and see him in person. The runner had just turned onto his road from Stanhope Gardens. Nervous excitement ran through his body. This would be his first, real sighting; it was like bird watching for a rare species of amateur athlete.
If he didn't get a good look, hopefully the cameras would. He kept glancing at the computer screen that marked the runner's progress. Once the runner got close enough, he fixed his eyes on the window.
Any second now.
The runner came into view, glanced in his direction, and… oh bloody hell, I think he saw me.
Mycroft, horrified at being caught, immediately pulled back into the shadows.
His heart was still thudding in his chest when the runner reappeared from the other side of the window. Oh God. He stopped and walked back.
The runner rested his hands on his knees to catch his breath and peered across the iron railing into the lit window. He squinted to get a better look, shook his head, and continued on his run.
That was close. God, I hope he didn't see me.
It wasn't until later that day, as he sat in his office chatting with the Prime Minister, that he realised he should have stayed in plain sight. It was hard to flirt with someone if they couldn't see you.
Greg nearly tripped over his own feet as he glanced in the window. The last thing he expected to see was a man staring back at him. He wasn't just gazing into the street, but actually following his movements - anticipating them - from the second Greg glanced at the window. He was only visible for a moment, and then he was gone. It was fucking weird.
He tried to recall as many details as possible about his mysterious observer. Pale skin, auburn hair. He probably would have said distinguished-looking if the man's face hadn't been contorted in shock and panic. He grinned. I don't think he was expecting me to be looking back.
Mycroft went through the footage that evening. The runner was just as attractive as he'd thought. The camera across the street had captured a particularly nice view of his arse as he'd bent to catch his breath. Too bad he doesn't wear those spandex running shorts, he caught himself thinking. He saved a couple of screen-grabs for later.
He couldn't shake the nagging feeling that he'd seen him somewhere before.
Mycroft hid; he turned off the lights, closed the sheers, and waited for the runner in the dark. He wanted to see him again, but he couldn't risk getting caught.
His earlier bravado regarding flirting had gone out the proverbial window. His actions the previous day had made it painfully obvious that he'd been waiting for a look. He couldn't risk that again.
Greg slowed as he saw the darkened window; it hadn't been dark in a while. After the last few mornings, that made it even more suspicious.
He stopped in front of it, but the reflected light made it impossible to see anything. Worse, the railing prevented him from cupping his hands to the glass to get a better look. Besides, the sheers were drawn.
There was no sign of movement. Well, damn. I can't exactly go barging in there with my badge and claims of 'suspicious activity'.
He looked at his reflection for a few seconds instead. Not getting any younger, sweat running down my face, and a nasty-looking tracksuit. Quite the sketch. Whatever the man behind the curtain wants, he's certainly getting an eyeful of my best side now.
Then he shrugged and continued his run.
Mycroft stood in the shadows, barely breathing. It was even better than he'd hoped. I should have set up a camera inside though. Stupid. But he'd been able to stare at him for, well, probably only seconds, but it seemed like much longer.
The runner's hair was striking - very short and silver at the temples; a little longer, but slightly darker, on the rest of his head. The sweat from the run made it stick up at odd angles in little spikes. He'd never seen anything so attractive. I'm being ridiculous. His eyes were mesmerising: a deep, warm brown - nothing like the icy blue of his own.
His hands shook as he picked up his teacup in the dark. Ridiculous. He pulled back the sheers and stood at the window, hoping for a last glance of the runner's nice arse further down the road, but there was no sign of him. He sighed, flipped the lights on, and sat down to review the footage.
Greg had only gone a few steps when the idea hit him. He glanced back, making sure he had a good view, and crouched down between two parked cars. It didn't take long at all; he watched as the curtains opened and a tall shadowy figure stood at the window, peering in his direction. No, the direction I was running. He has no idea I'm here.
Seconds later, the light came on. He could see inside clearly from here; the man sat at the small table in front of his laptop. From Greg's crouched position, the laptop obscured most of his face, but he was able to confirm his earlier observations about his pale skin and auburn hair. He was wearing an expensive looking dressing gown over cotton pyjamas, and he was drinking from a rather posh-looking china teacup.
He continued to watch until the man picked up his computer and disappeared further into the house. Greg made a note of the house number and finished his run. It was time to do some snooping of his own.
It was too late for his morning coffee by the time he got back to the flat. He stood in the shower and wondered why this man was watching him; it was like something out of Rear Window.
I'm not exactly predictable with my routes. He's either got a lot of time on his hands or he's putting some thought into it. He didn't strike Greg as the type who sat around all day, which made the second option a little disturbing.
As soon as he got into the office, he started digging through the public records sites on his computer. He wasn't about to violate policy for something as trivial as this - at least not yet. The sales and assessment records were available on the city website though, and he typed in the address.
Huh. That's unusual.
Normally, the record would indicate the name of the owner or the lease holder; this was the name of a law firm. A trust of some sort? Or perhaps an effort to keep the man's identity a secret? He thought for a few minutes. There had been a case, a few months back, that involved a famous actor. He'd been almost psychotic about his privacy. Greg looked up the records and found the actor's address. He checked the assessment records. Interesting: his agency is listed as the owner. Alright, it's not unheard of then, but a law firm… perhaps he works at the firm and this is some sort of tax write-off.
He leaned back in his chair and considered the possibilities: actor, privacy freak, barrister, or spy, he thought with a grin. The first one was probably out; he didn't seem to be the type. The other three were still possibilities. Alright, the last one is unlikely, but far more interesting than 'privacy freak' or 'barrister'.
Privacy freak: not much motive there; upset that I've been glancing in his window, perhaps.
Barrister: perhaps someone would to put me under surveillance for a case against their client, but you don't set up surveillance at a random house and hope the subject runs by at five in the morning.
Spy: same as the barrister. Besides, I'd have noticed other surveillance by now. (Would I? I should keep more of an eye out for that. Don't be a git, Lestrade, of course he's not a spy.)
Back to square one. Absolutely no motive.
He absently scratched at his chin. This was very odd.
Sally Donovan walked into his office.
He let the chair spring upright and tried to look professional.
Greg sighed. It wasn't even worth trying, she usually saw right through him anyway.
"Well, not a case exactly."
She raised her eyebrows and gave him a bit of a smile. "Oh, personal then?" There was no missing the innuendo in her voice.
He frowned. "I'm not sure what it is. You know I run in the mornings, right?"
"Well, this same bloke's been watching me from his window for the past couple of days. It's almost like he's waiting for me to pass his house."
She raised an eyebrow. "Do you wear tight running shorts?"
"No!" he huffed.
"Perhaps you should," she said with a grin, and walked out.
That's just absurd.
He had another mouthful of coffee.
He is handsome, though. Perhaps it's not that absurd.
That evening, he endured bemused stares at the Oxford Street Adidas store as he bought his first pair of running tights. Well, mostly bemused stares; he could have sworn the clerk was flirting with him.
Greg frowned as he pulled on the running tights - they left absolutely nothing to the imagination. They reminded him of the time he'd been to The Nutcracker and spent the entire ballet smirking about the real reason they'd titled the play like that. Unfortunately, his date hadn't found it nearly as amusing.
His new 'performance' shirt was better. He wasn't sure what 'performance' meant, but it seemed to be performing an adequate job of making him not look like a half-hard ballet dancer. They should have put that on the tags.
He glanced at his spandex-clad bum in the mirror with a bit of smug satisfaction. Well, Mr Mysterious is going to get quite a view this morning.
Most of the run was uneventful, but as he turned onto Cromwell Road, he noticed the light was out. He's lurking. Good. He didn't think he could keep a straight face if he had to meet the man's eyes while he was wearing this getup. But the tights were surprisingly comfortable and he could see why people favoured them, even if they weren't trying to impress stalkers.
He continued running down the street, but as he approached the house, he had a ridiculous idea.
Today, Mycroft was prepared. He'd set up another video camera just inside the window. He still hadn't gotten a really good face picture yet - certainly not one good enough to use with the facial analysis software. He was pretty sure that was his only shot at getting a name.
I could ask him.
Right. Doing it this way probably was a little creepy. Well, tomorrow he wouldn't use the internal camera, but it was already set up today…
He raised a curious eyebrow at the video feed as the runner turned onto his road. No track suit; running tights. It was going to be a particularly memorable shower this morning, he could tell. He might not even make it that far.
He stood at the window with his tea, eager to see the tights in person. Camera feeds just aren't the same. The lights were off; he was safely hidden from the runner's view.
He mentally gauged the moment the runner would appear based on the footage, and it was off by a second or two. Just as he started to wonder why, the runner… What the hell? He's running in slow-motion. Like… what was that film? Oh yes, 'Chariots of Fire'.
At first he thought he'd finally cracked. Disappointing. I always assumed it would take more. But halfway along the length of the window, the runner started laughing uncontrollably, and Mycroft realised it was all for his benefit. He wasn't losing his mind; the runner was flirting with him.
Greg thought he'd given the best theatrical performance of his life, especially considering he was wearing tights. Feeling particularly brave, and still giggling so hard he could barely speak, he walked up to the front door and knocked.
He tried again.
Nothing. He frowned.
"Aw, come on," he said, loud enough to be heard through the door. "You have to admit that was funny."
Maybe he's not there, after all. After a few more seconds, he gave up and continued his run.
He looked back once, just in case, and heard a door slam shut.
He smiled. That got his attention then.
Mycroft nearly died when he heard the knock at the door. As intrigued as he was, there was no way he could invite the runner in, not when his flat was set up like a surveillance van.
He waited until he saw him move down the road, and then cracked the door open and peered out. When the runner looked back, he slammed it so quickly he caught the sash of his dressing gown in it.
He leaned against the wall by the entry with a huge smile on his face. Usually when people saw him grin like that, they ran screaming, but this was a grin of utter pleasure and delight.
The runner was flirting with me, and he said 'hello'. After glowing about this new development for a bit, he realised he hadn't actually made any effort to acknowledge the gesture. Perhaps I should apologise for my rudeness.
"Morning, Greg. How was your run?" she asked, smiling.
Greg couldn't help but smirk. "Memorable."
"I bought some running tights."
"Ooh, sexy," she said, cocking an eyebrow. "Was he there again?"
"He's stalking you."
"He's not even leaving his house," Greg said. "I'm not sure that counts as stalking. Technically, he's just looking out his window."
"He sounds like a loony."
"It's Kensington. If anything, he's a posh loony."
"Anthea, do you have a moment?" Why do I feel like I'm going to regret this?
"Of course, sir. What do you need?"
"I'd like… your opinion on something."
He gave her the details of the past few mornings and sat back. "Well, what do you think I should do?"
"I'm not quite sure what you're asking, sir."
"A date, Anthea. How do you propose I ask this individual out on a date? I don't even know the man."
"I don't generally find that to be a problem, sir. If I as much as roll down the car window, they seem interested. Perhaps you could try the same tactic?"
"Ah, yes. So you're suggesting I take a threatening-looking, unmarked black limo and have him followed around London in the pre-dawn hours so I can roll down my window and smile fetchingly in his direction?"
"I learnt from the best, sir. No one is better at introduction kidnappings than you."
Mycroft scrubbed his face with his hands. "Dr Watson is a lovely man, but he's really not my type. I was hoping to be a little more subtle this time."
"I've never tried subtle, sir. It doesn't really suit me." She shot him a dazzling smile that should have been classified as a weapon. It normally left any straight men (and a few women) within a twenty yard radius weak in the knees.
"No, I imagine not," Mycroft replied with only a bare hint of sarcasm. "Do you have any socially awkward friends you could consult, perhaps? Ones less inclined to kidnapping?"
"No, not really," she shrugged. "Do you have a dog? You could take it out for a walk and 'happen' to run into him. You'll have an instant topic of conversation and you can check him out while he tells the animal how adorable it is."
"I don't have a dog, Anthea."
"Could you borrow one?"
This shouldn't have sounded even remotely plausible, but he found himself considering it.
That evening, he paid a visit to Mrs Chenowyth - the ancient spinster who lived next door. He saw her most mornings, walking her Shih Tzu, bundled up in a fur coat and pillbox hat. Other people didn't even dress like that to attend the opera anymore. They exchanged pleasantries as she eyed him suspiciously. Conversations between neighbours, other than a general 'hello' while retrieving the newspaper, were rare.
"I wonder if I might borrow your dog tomorrow morning," Mycroft said, trying to make the request sound as reasonable as possible. "I'd like to take her out for a walk. I'm thinking of getting one, you see."
A frown etched itself onto Mrs Chenowyth's face and she waited for more explanation.
The cracks in Mycroft's barely-considered plan started to appear, even as he spoke.
"I'd like to see if I'm compatible with small dogs." Oh God, what if the runner hates dogs? And what the hell is 'compatible' supposed to mean? "I'm considering getting one, you see," he added quickly.
She gave him a scowl and replied with a haughty tone he remembered from many a great-aunt. "FrouFrou has a very delicate disposition, Mr Holmes. I'm not sure it's a good idea."
Suddenly, he wasn't, either. What if I hate dogs? Hers is a particularly yappy little thing. God knows I wouldn't want it in the house. This wasn't going as well as he'd hoped.
"I really don't think you're qualified to handle a dog, Mr Holmes," she added.
"Quite right, Mrs Chenowyth, quite right. So sorry to have bothered you. Thank you. Good day," he said, backing off her front porch. With his luck, the damned dog would have gotten run over by a car when he took it for a walk.
He closed his door behind him and exhaled. God, what a disaster. Why is this whole thing turning me into such a wreck? He made himself some dinner and tried to come up with a better idea, but nothing was forthcoming.
Does he even run on weekends? he wondered.
Mycroft woke up at half past four. He usually allowed himself an hour or two in bed on the weekends, but the runner was worth losing some sleep over. He considered taking a shower and getting dressed, but he still hadn't the faintest idea what to do if his mysterious athlete actually materialised, and there didn't seem like much point. With a perfunctory brush of his hair, he made his way down to the breakfast table in his dressing gown.
He sat there in front of his laptop, whiling away the time with a pot of tea and some toast. With one eye on the window, he reviewed the surveillance footage of the runner's slow-motion victory lap past his window the previous morning.
The clock crawled its way to six. Mycroft finally abandoned his post and rested his head against the cold glass of the window. He sighed. He's not coming. His brain leapt in front of the oncoming train; he regrets his previous actions, and he's avoiding me. He let the heavy mist outside the window confirm his thoughts. He was about to close his laptop and trudge upstairs when he saw the frozen image on his screen. The runner's cheeky grin completely disarmed him. Perhaps he's not avoiding me; perhaps he just slept in. It is Saturday, after all, and who wants to run in mist this heavy? It's practically rain.
He shook his head.
Dear God, what's wrong with me? I can't even think straight.
He went up to his bedroom, fully intending to get a shower. As he looked out his bedroom window into the mist, he changed his mind; he found a pair of heavy trousers and a jumper and got dressed. He grabbed his long wool coat and a scarf and ventured out into the early London morning.
Mycroft Holmes did not go for walks; chauffeurs spirited him around in black limousines, and sometimes he drove the rare specimens of cars that he personally owned (when he was in the country - there was simply no excuse for it in London). He honestly couldn't remember the last time he'd walked any distance just for the sake of walking.
He stepped out into the thick almost-fog; the cold, wet air hit his lungs with a shock. He tightened the scarf around his neck to seal out the damp and headed towards Queen's Gate.
By the time he actually got to Kensington Gardens, he realised what he was doing there. The barrage of information at his house: the laptop, his phone, the stacks of files from work, even his television when he turned it on - all of it prevented him from being alone with his thoughts. Here, it was as if the thick mist shielded him from all that. Besides, I know damned well I'm hoping to run into him. He sat down on a damp bench and pulled his coat tighter.
All of my hard work, he thought. What's it gotten me? Respect and power, yes, but no one to take to the opera. God, even Sherlock, who annoys everyone he meets, is having more luck than I am in that respect: he has John for company. I can hit every social grace of a diplomatic meeting, but I have no idea how to talk to a man who runs by my doorstep every morning. He gazed at the black leather gloves that encased his delicate fingers. He doubted the runner would even want to own a pair; it just didn't seem like his style. That's the terrifying part. The second he meets me, he's going to find out I'm a pompous git and that'll be the end of it.
He sighed. He wasn't interested in finding another pompous git, he wanted someone with a taste for the absurd; somebody silly enough to run in slow-motion past his front window wearing running tights.
He needed advice.
Anthea was no help. Her ideas of social normalcy were clearly as skewed as his. Sherlock was equally useless; Mycroft had been trying for years to teach him some manners, to obvious lack of effect. Besides, the upper classes tolerated a certain amount of flagrant antisocial behaviour; it was considered eccentric. Sherlock had clearly taken that and run with it.
John, though. John dates… although not successfully, if the CCTV footage is any indication. But John was, in reality, the most socially normal person he knew.
I'll ask John.
Greg woke up at half eight; one of his few guilty pleasures in life was the weekend lie-in. During the week he was almost compulsive about his running; it calmed his nerves and eased the stress of work. On the weekends though, he was free to indulge in sleep, telly, and Indian take-away.
He shuffled around the kitchen in some pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt, trying to decide between cereal and toast while he made himself some coffee. He eventually decided on toast and scrambled eggs; it was just too cold outside for cereal, even if his flat was warm. He got enough of the cold, damp air during the week. Just the idea of it seeped into his bones, even when he wasn't outside.
It was nice, being a 'Detective Inspector'. He didn't have to worry about things anymore - things like whether or not his flat was warm, or whether he'd have enough money to buy the shopping. There were other things to worry about of course, like who killed five people and dumped their bodies in the Thames, but even though they were much worse, those things were part of the job. For better or worse, he'd learnt to partition his life over the years.
Not that there's much to partition, he thought. Most of his friends had paired off and gotten married in their twenties and thirties. Hell, a couple of his gay friends were even in civil partnerships now that it was legal. Most of them had stuck around the social circle into couple-dom, but as soon as kids entered the picture, they not-so-mysteriously dropped away. It became less of a social circle and more of a… well, an occasional pint at the pub with a few remaining childless holdouts. They'd tried to have a group get-together once or twice, but it had been a disastrous exercise in splitting a roomful of people into those who talked about children and those who didn't. Apparently, there was very little middle ground.
These days, most of his friends were actually his co-workers. His job had cost him more than one boyfriend over the years - it was hard to explain to your lover that examining a bloated corpse was more important than the expensive dinner that he'd booked three weeks in advance. Trivialising the importance of restaurant reservations in the face of homicide apparently wasn't the way to win points in a relationship. He always assumed that if he did start dating again, it would be someone else on the force; at least they'd understand that the work wasn't negotiable.
He stared over his nearly-empty mug at nothing in particular. Who is he? He still wasn't sure what he'd been thinking, making an arse of himself in front of the window like that; Mr Mysterious didn't seem like the type to appreciate broad humour. Is he just flirting with me? Who the hell flirts like that?
He shook his head to clear it. He had to do the washing if he wanted anything clean to wear next week. Those tights worked out alright though. I think I need to permanently retire the tracksuit and get a few more pair.
Mycroft arrived at 221b at ten. He'd sent a text requesting the meeting when he got back from his walk, but John didn't get back to him until gone nine.
"Good morning John, Sherlock." He nodded and gave them both what he hoped was a warm smile. Sometimes his 'warm smiles' tended to unnerve people. Sherlock was immune, but he didn't want to alarm John.
"Morning, Mycroft. Tea?" John asked, a little warily.
"Thank you. That would be lovely."
John wandered into the cluttered kitchen and put the kettle on.
"What brings you here, dear brother?" Sherlock drawled. "It's awfully early on a Saturday, don't you think?"
Mycroft resisted the urge to scowl at his watch and gave Sherlock his slightly more forced smile.
"John didn't tell you I was coming?"
"Mm. He did mention it. He didn't say why though. Do you have something interesting for me to work on?"
"Actually, Sherlock, this doesn't concern you at all."
"Oh, I highly doubt that," he retorted.
"Christ, can't I leave you two alone for thirty seconds without it going to hell?" John muttered as he walked back into the living room.
Mycroft muttered an apology and Sherlock smirked in triumph. You just think you won that round, Sherlock. I'll apologise if it gets me what I need. He made a mental note to be particularly irritating the next time Sherlock was trying to show off in front of John.
"So Mycroft, to what do we owe the pleasure?" John said, gripping his mug a little too tightly to be comfortable. John had never quite relaxed around him since his introduction kidnapping.
"I have a social situation that requires an outside opinion, John. As the only socially well-adjusted person I know, I thought you might be able to assist me."
Sherlock raised his eyebrows. "Girl problems, Mycroft?" he said, sarcastically.
"You know full well I don't date women, Sherlock."
John nearly choked on his tea.
"But perhaps John didn't," Mycroft added. "I'm sorry John; I thought you were aware of my sexual orientation. I apologise."
"It's… fine. Sorry, I was just surprised," John said, looking embarrassed.
"That's quite alright, John. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
John blinked, then smiled nervously and shook his head. "So, what's the problem?"
"I'm unsure of how to approach somebody I don't know, and I hoped you could provide me with some suggestions."
"Alright… where did you meet this person?"
"I haven't, exactly. He runs by my flat in the mornings."
"Well then, how do you know he's interested?"
Sherlock made a small noise that sounded a little like a snort, and Mycroft glared at him.
"I never said he was," answered Mycroft, "but I believe might be. He's… acknowledged my presence during his runs."
"Your presence?" John asked, incredulously. "Do you follow him?"
"Have you kidnapped him?" Sherlock interjected.
"No," Mycroft replied, ignoring Sherlock's remark, "he saw me eating breakfast through my window."
"And this has happened more than once?"
"We both adhere to rigorous schedules, it seems."
Sherlock snorted. "Yes, your eating schedule and his running schedule."
John frowned at Sherlock and continued, "Any other indications that he's interested?"
"I assure you, John, I believe that he is."
"You're like a patient who only tells me half of their symptoms," John prodded.
Mycroft sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Fine, after he became aware of my presence, he switched from a tracksuit to running tights."
John stifled a laugh, and Sherlock didn't even bother trying. He disintegrated into a fit of giggles in his chair. John quickly followed suit.
Mycroft stood up and glared at both of them. "I knew this was a bad idea," he muttered. He placed his mug on the table and gathered up his coat.
"No, Mycroft - wait," John said as he managed to get his laughter under control. "I'm sorry. Why don't you just phone him and ask him out? Surely you know who he is?"
"Why would I know that?"
"Well, with the resources you have…" John trailed off. The implication was obvious.
"I rather thought using national intelligence resources to discover his identity would set things off on the wrong foot."
"You didn't seem to have a problem with that when you kidnapped me," John shot back.
"I wasn't trying to date you."
"Oh," John replied and lapsed into silence.
"Thank you for your assistance, John. Lovely to see you as always, Sherlock." He gave his brother a condescending smile and added, "Do try and stay out of trouble."
"Mycroft," John cut in, "the next time he runs by, why don't you just pop your head through the door and ask him if he'd like to go out for a coffee?"
Because he'll probably say no, he thought."Thank you, John. I'll consider that."
"You could just tape your phone number to your window, Mycroft," Sherlock sniped. "You know, 'For a good time, call Mycroft…'"
Mycroft shot his brother a look of disgust.
It wasn't until three hours later, sitting in his flat, that he realised Sherlock might have a good idea.
Greg crawled into bed and set the alarm on his phone for half four.
"Yes," he muttered to no one in particular, "I know it's Sunday."
Despite finishing two loads of washing and an excellent curry, he'd been irritable all day. What the hell was I thinking, pulling a stunt like that?
The thought was followed closely by, I wonder if he was there this morning?
It's not like there's any chance of it working out, but a date would be nice. When was the last time I had a date? It was far too long ago to remember, which just made him feel worse.
The moment Greg stepped out of his flat into the freezing, damp morning air, he decided he needed more of a social life. Pinning his romantic hopes on shadowy figures lurking in early morning windows wasn't healthy. Perhaps he should let Sally set him up with that nice bloke in Narcotics she was always going on about. Philip something, isn't it?
He rubbed his hands together to chase away the cold and took off at a brisk pace. If the man wasn't there this morning, he'd do it. At least it would get Sally off his back.
As he rounded the corner onto his observer's road, he craned to see any sign of life in the flat. The light in the window was off, and his heart sank. It was the 'Chariots of Fire' bit. I knew it. He mentally kicked himself as he tried to catch a glimpse through the darkened window, but there was nothing to see.
He ran past, not breaking stride. I've already made a fool of myself once, no need to do it again. He told himself that he didn't care; that it was Sunday - what sort of idiot gets up at five on a Sunday (this sort of idiot). He allowed himself a quick glance at the front door, just in case. Just in case of what, he wasn't really sure. But then he saw it.
Affixed to the door was a small, cream-coloured envelope.
He stopped and looked around; there was no one else in sight. It seemed at least possible that the note was meant for him. He walked onto the covered porch and looked at the envelope. It was labelled, in delicate copperplate script: The Runner.
His heart, which had been slowing down from the brief rest break, sped up again.
He removed the envelope from beneath the heavy brass door knocker and opened it.
I do apologise for my rudeness on Friday. Your actions were indeed funny. I wanted to meet you, and I should have opened the door. However, you caught me quite off-guard, and I must admit I was too flustered to do so.
Would you allow me the pleasure of taking you out for coffee after your run tomorrow morning to make up for it? I assure you I'll answer the door this time. Unfortunately, I must attend to some urgent work-related matters this morning, or I'd be delivering this message in person.
Your morning run has given me something to anticipate as I start my days, and I sincerely thank you.
The paper of the envelope was still crisp; it hadn't been on the door long. He looked around again and wondered if the man was watching from the shadows. He didn't see anyone, and the house seemed completely dark. Perhaps he really did have business. What barrister goes to work at five on a Sunday morning? He has to be a spy, he thought, and laughed to himself. 'The D.I. and the Spy' - it sounds like a bad film title.
He put the note back inside the envelope and held it as he ran the rest of the way home, wishing for running tights with pockets. But that would probably defeat the purpose, he thought, as he noticed a fellow runner casting an appreciative glance in his direction. He smiled. I could get used to this. Ten years of nothing, and now one pair of running tights lands me a mysterious note-writing stalker and a flirtatious glance. Perhaps I should rethink my wardrobe.
Back in his flat, he took out the note and re-read it. The handwriting was compulsively neat; delicate, even. The language was ridiculously polite and formal. God, who even writes like this? He really hoped this guy knew how to relax a bit, or it was going to be a very awkward date.
He ran a blisteringly hot shower and stood there, half soaping-up and half wondering about his mysterious spy. Even if he's not an actual spy, he's certainly doing a good impression of one. I wonder how long he's been watching me? I wonder if he has surveillance equipment? Perhaps I could get a job as a spy; it might be more interesting than detective work and the hours seem just as bad. God, I'm still cold; I should have had some coffee on the way back. Should I take him to the place around the corner when we go out for coffee? No, he probably knows somewhere better. There are probably spy files on that sort of thing. 'London's Best Coffee: Classified.' His brain wandered off without him.
"Bloody hell," he exclaimed, as the water suddenly went cold. He fumbled for the handle and turned the water off. The hot water heater wasn't particularly small, which meant his mind had wandered pretty far. He castigated himself for getting caught up in something that probably wouldn't happen. Why the hell not, though? It has as much of a chance of working out as anything else. I don't have anything in common with the other random blokes Sally wants to hook me up with. Perhaps if this guy has to work this early on a Sunday, he'd understand about the kind of pressure I have at work.
He towelled off and gave himself an appraising look in the mirror; not bad for a bloke in his forties, he thought. When he'd started going grey back in his thirties, he'd been disillusioned with dating and could care less what colour his hair was. Once it had all gone grey, he found he sort of liked it. Not trying to convince everyone you were young was rather liberating.
He was halfway through breakfast when his phone rang. It was yet another fatal sword swallowing 'accident'. The first one had been bizarre, the second: suspicious. Now they were looking for a murderer with a grudge against people with gifted throats. He phoned Sherlock and tried not to let his thoughts drift into innuendo.
"Another sword swallower," Greg said, and rattled off the address. "Meet you there? I'm still at home."
"The same as the last two?"
"I'll be right there, and don't bother bringing Anderson."
Greg was about to tell him where to put his staffing issues, but Sherlock had already hung up. He folded up the note and put it in his pocket; he wanted to show it to Sally.
The murder scene was inside a relatively nice flat. It was certainly nicer than standing outside in the damp fog that had only gotten worse since his run.
John and Sherlock were already there when he arrived. Sherlock and Donovan glared daggers at each other while John tried to make polite conversation about the anatomy of the human throat.
"I doubt Sergeant Donovan really needs the information, John," Sherlock said. "It seems she already has a fine grasp of the material, as I'm sure Anderson can attest."
Sally turned to Greg and gave him a furious look. "What's he doing here? Make him leave."
"For God's sake, Sherlock, shut it," Greg said with a groan. Then he turned to Sally. "Sorry, I phoned him. Ignore him and he'll go away."
With a parting glare in Sherlock's direction, she wandered off to one of the other rooms where the technicians were still searching for evidence.
Sherlock, and by extension, John, demanded to be left alone with the corpse. Greg tracked down Sally, who stared at her cup of coffee in irritation.
"Sorry to drag you out here on a Sunday like this," he said.
She shrugged. "It's been a boring weekend anyway. What about you? Any news from your stalker?"
Greg's face lit up with excitement before he could contain it. "A bit."
"You're going to end up dead, you know. Stalkers are dangerous," she muttered.
"Don't worry, there's no sword swallowing in my past."
He realised, too late, the double entendre in his words, and flushed.
Sally couldn't repress a smirk and replied, "Are you sure, sir?"
"Oi, that's enough," he replied. He tried to make it sound stern, but failed when he started giggling.
"Well?" she pressed.
"Actually, yes. I got a note." He grinned as he fished it out of his coat pocket.
"'The Runner,' eh?"
"Just open it," he replied.
She read the note and handed it back to him, looking impressed.
"Well, you were right about one thing - he's a posh loony."
"Loony or not, it looks like I've got a coffee date out of it."
"I told you, sir, you should go out with Philip. He's nice and he's passed a background check."
"Always looking out for me, aren't you?" he said with a grin. "Well, I'm going to live dangerously and have coffee with my spy. If I survive to tell the tale, and he's as awful as you think he is, I'll ask Philip out."
Sherlock walked in from the adjoining room and saw the note in Greg's hand.
"What's that?" he demanded. "Where did they find it?"
"Oh, this? This is mine," he said, shoving it back into his pocket. "It doesn't have anything to do with the case."
"Let me see it," Sherlock insisted.
"No. It's personal," Greg said defensively.
"Just let me just see the envelope," Sherlock said. Then, after a very long pause, he added, "please."
Greg was dumbfounded. He wasn't sure he'd ever heard Sherlock use the word 'please' in his life. Blinking, he handed the envelope over to him.
Sherlock glanced at the writing on the front, and a smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "Thank you, Lestrade," he said as he handed it back.
"What? Aren't you going to sniff it, or examine the paper fibres or something? Come to think of it, what can you tell me about it? I'm curious."
"Nothing much. Expensive stationery, nice handwriting."
Greg looked at him suspiciously and asked, "Why aren't you deducing things? It's not like you."
"As you said, it's not relevant to the case. Focus," he chided, and walked back into the room with the corpse. Greg was able to make out some excited whispering between Sherlock and John, but no words.
He looked at Sally. "Well, that was odd," he said.
"When is anything about him not odd?" she replied.
Sherlock strode out of the room. "You're looking for a disgruntled former employee of a sword manufacturer with a pathological fear of carnivals. Shouldn't be too hard to track down." He gave them a tight smile and added, "Come along, John."
John shrugged and smiled as he followed Sherlock from the room.
Greg sighed. "Alright. I suppose we'll get started on the research then." He chatted with the techs for a bit and then left them to finish up as he went downstairs.
As they got outside, he saw a tall man in a suit, casually swinging an umbrella. He appeared to be disagreeing with one of the officers stationed to keep people out of the crime scene. He heard the officer reply as he got closer, "… well you'll have to talk to D.I. Lestrade about that."
The tall man turned around. He took one look at Greg, and his eyes went wide. "Oh, good Lord," he muttered, as the umbrella clattered to the damp tarmac.
Greg frowned. The man seemed to know who he was. He did look maddeningly familiar, but he couldn't place him.
The man picked up his umbrella with almost unnatural grace, and held out his other hand in a handshake. "Mycroft Holmes," he said, smiling.
"Bloody hell," Greg exclaimed, "there are two of you?"
"I'm Sherlock's brother," Mycroft answered with a laugh, "but I do attempt to be less annoying. I assume you're Detective Inspector Lestrade?" He seemed to have regained his composure.
"Yeah, sorry. Greg Lestrade. I just didn't know Sherlock had a brother. Did he… phone you? Why are you here exactly?" God, he looks familiar.
"I believe I might have some information relevant to your case." He showed Greg his phone and scrolled through the information. The screen contained employee records for a large sword company, cross referenced with staff terminations and records of psychological treatment for phobias.
Greg raised his eyebrows and huffed, impressed. "What did you say you do, again?" he asked.
"I didn't," Mycroft replied.
"We could discuss the matter further in private, if you'd like." He nodded towards a large black car.
Sally shot Greg a warning glance and mouthed 'Freak.'
Mycroft turned to her. "Don't worry, Sergeant Donovan, I assure you I won't kidnap him. I'd just like to speak with him alone."
Why does he look so familiar? It's not a family resemblance. I suppose he looks a little like Sherlock, but that's not it. He was still wracking his brain for the connection when he realised both Sally and Mycroft were staring at him.
"Oh. Yeah, alright."
"Should I wait, sir?" Sally asked.
"I'd be happy to drop you back at your office when we're finished," Mycroft said, looking at Greg.
"Alright, thanks." He turned to Sally and said, "No, I'll see you back there later."
He followed Mycroft to the waiting car and got in. His body sank into the plush leather seat, momentarily distracting him. When he looked up, Mycroft was studying him with fascination.
"If you don't mind me asking, Mr Holmes…"
"Mycroft," he interrupted.
"Okay… Mycroft. You look incredibly familiar. Is it possible we've met before?"
Mycroft beamed at him. "In a manner of speaking, yes. I believe you have my note in your coat pocket."
Greg stared at him with his mouth open. He finally closed it and spoke.
"… are Sherlock's brother, and you're the bloke lurking at the window when I run?"
"I wasn't originally intending to lurk," Mycroft replied. "In my defence, I do eat my breakfast there."
"So why'd you hide?"
"I found you attractive. When you saw me, I got self-conscious. It's been a while since I've… asked anyone out."
"So you've known who I am all this time?" Greg said with more than a little anger. "Been comparing notes with Sherlock to find out about me, have you?"
"No," he replied quickly and rather defensively. He realised, belatedly, that his actions were probably creepy, if not outright threatening. "That's not it, at all. I just found out who you were today, when Sherlock saw the note and recognised my handwriting. He texted me and I came over. He's spoken of you before - in a professional capacity, of course - but I had no idea you were the runner."
Greg was still glaring at him.
"I'm sorry," Mycroft said, not used to those two words rolling off his tongue. "I didn't mean to upset you by showing up; I was just looking forward to finally meeting you."
Greg gave him a sharp look, as if trying to determine the truth of the matter.
"What do you do, Mycroft?"
Mycroft hadn't been expecting that question, at least not so soon.
"I occupy a minor position in the British government." It was his standard response and people were usually too intimidated to question it.
Greg looked around the lavishly upholstered limousine and laughed. "Yeah, pull the other one. Really, what do you do? Your house isn't even registered in your name."
That's interesting; he did his homework. "No, it isn't," he replied levelly.
"Why not?" Greg pressed.
"My employer prefers that my name not show up in the standard property databases. They're so easily accessible, as I'm sure you're aware," he said with a wry smile.
"So you show up at my crime scene, with information you could only get that quickly from dubious sources…"
"Not dubious," Mycroft cut in, "they are most definitely legitimate."
"Fine," Greg continued, "legitimate sources that I probably don't want to know about, and you were going to do what, exactly? Ask me out in front of my co-workers?"
This wasn't going nearly as well as Mycroft had hoped.
"I thought you'd be pleased with the information on the case. That, and like I said, I wanted to meet you. Properly. When Sherlock told me you were the runner, I couldn't believe it. It never occurred to me that you'd be someone I knew; well, knew of, at least."
"Hang on a sec," Greg cut in. "How did Sherlock know anything about this?"
Damn, thought Mycroft, realising he'd let too much slip.
"He saw the note."
"Yes, but he only saw your handwriting and 'the runner' on the front; the note could have been in my possession for some other reason. He doesn't know I run; why would he text you and tell you I was the runner? Does he know about your little breakfast surveillance sessions?"
Mycroft bit at his lower lip and wondered if Greg knew about the actual surveillance - the CCTV and the camera in the flat. He didn't remember the last time he'd been on the receiving end of an interrogation; Greg's assertiveness left him both nervous and, more surprisingly, slightly aroused. "He's passingly aware of them, yes," he admitted.
"So you were talking about me with him?"
"Actually, I was talking to John. But it was Sherlock's idea to leave the note."
"Really? I wouldn't have given him that much credit; the wording was far too polite," Greg remarked dryly.
"Well, he rather acerbically suggested that I leave a sign on my window saying 'For a good time, call Mycroft Holmes.' I decided a note was more subtle."
Greg cracked a smile at that, but in general, he didn't seem particularly amused about the whole situation.
"I'm surprised you didn't show up on my doorstep or have me kidnapped. That was you, right? With John and the black limo?"
"Er, yes. I take my brother's wellbeing very seriously," Mycroft replied.
"So why didn't you just run me through your little facial recognition databases? I assume you have access to CCTV footage."
Greg's tone dripped with sarcasm and slight hostility. Mycroft would normally have shot him down with a blistering retort, but he held his tongue. He was impressed Greg was fighting him on this, and he really, really didn't want to screw up what might be his only chance with him. Greg seemed to be as interesting as he was handsome.
"I apologise, Greg. If I'd known who you were, I would never have involved John. I was asking his opinion on a social matter, not checking up on you. Your identity came as a complete surprise to me."
"You didn't answer my question though; why didn't you just look up who I was?"
Mycroft wasn't sure he wanted to share the answer, so he said, "I didn't want to abuse my position."
Greg actually laughed at him. "When has that ever stopped you before? I could give three examples from the last twenty minutes. What's the real reason?"
Mycroft broke eye contact and stared at his shoes. It's now or never, you idiot. He sighed, and then met Greg's gaze once more.
"I'd hoped we would meet in a more conventional fashion; well, if you consider passing notes to be conventional, I suppose. I didn't want to violate your trust by using my resources to determine your identity. It seemed more polite to ask you out for coffee."
Greg stared at him with a bemused look. "I'm not sure what to make of you, Mycroft."
"Well, the only things I know about you come from Sherlock, and he doesn't have very many nice things to say."
"I'm surprised he's ever said anything nice."
"Well actually, he hasn't; I was just being polite. He's pretty much said you're a complete bastard."
"That doesn't surprise me in the least."
Mycroft smiled and queried, "Do you have any meddling older siblings, Greg?"
Greg huffed in reply. "No, but your point's well taken, and I don't usually put a lot of stock in Sherlock's tolerance for others anyway."
"How would you rate your tolerance for me at this point?" Mycroft asked, hopefully. "I doubt I've made a very good first impression."
"Well, for what it's worth, I've only wanted to hit you once during this conversation; usually I'd have wanted to deck Sherlock at least four or five times by now." Greg quirked a smile and it lit up his entire face.
Mycroft relaxed back into the leather seat with immense relief. I'm not out of the woods yet, but at least he hasn't completely written me off.
"So what's your real job title? I'm not buying this 'minor position' crap."
"It's rather vague," Mycroft replied. I can't very well say what agencies I run, they'd have me shot for treason. His title, however, wasn't a state secret. "I'm known as 'Director'."
"Who do you work for?"
"I'm unable to tell you, I'm afraid," he said with a resigned sigh.
"So, are you a spy? Or just an exceptionally well-connected stalker?"
Mycroft laughed in surprise. "Whatever makes you think I'm a spy?"
"Well, it was on my list. Your house is registered with a legal firm; based on that, I'd come up with 'actor, privacy freak, barrister, or spy'. Given the video surveillance you appeared to have set up on your laptop, 'spy' was the current front-runner. It seemed like a reasonable assumption.
Mycroft's mind lingered happily on the fact that Greg had been interested enough to look him up in the property database. "You do your research," he said, allowing the respect to show in his voice.
"You never answered my question," Greg retorted, apparently unswayed by the compliment.
"No, I didn't." Mycroft bit the inside of his cheek before he continued, "I did do some 'field work' in the past. In popular terms, yes, I was a spy. These days I'm limited to more… administrative matters."
Greg gave a small laugh. "I knew it," he said, rather triumphantly. "Sally just thought you were a posh loony stalker."
"Well, she got one part right." I'm not going to tell him which part. "She deserves a little of the credit, then?"
"More than a little, probably; the running tights were her idea."
"In that case, please give her my most sincere thanks. Although I must say you caught my interest before you started wearing them," he continued, with a vaguely self-conscious smile.
"Have a thing for sweaty tracksuits, do you? You're kinkier than I've given you credit for," Greg mused.
"I'm surprised you've given my kinks any thought, Detective."
"Then you still have things to learn, don't you?"
The idea that Greg might be willing to teach him any of those things sent a frisson of arousal through his body. "The pleasure would be mine."
"You're damned right, it would."
Every bone in Mycroft's body seemed to turn to jelly. He'd just been in a verbal duel and lost, and he'd never been happier. His half-hearted efforts at a witty reply never even got off the ground once Greg shifted marginally closer towards him on the seat. He swallowed.
"You alright, Mycroft? Not making you uncomfortable or anything, am I?" The smile edged into Greg's voice as he said it.
You know damned well you are, he thought as his pulse raced.
"Funny, that. I thought spies were supposed to have nerves of steel. You seem to be, well… blushing." Greg slid his hand onto Mycroft's knee and Mycroft jolted at his touch.
"Sorry, was that inappropriate?" Greg managed to look innocent as he said it.
Mycroft's whole body was interested in the proceedings by this point and his suit trousers felt rather snug.
"Because if it's inappropriate, I'll certainly stop."
"No, it's fine," Mycroft managed, but only barely.
"Oh good, because I'd hate to have to change my running route over this. Wouldn't want things to get awkward or anything."
Greg's hand moved a fraction of an inch up his thigh, and Mycroft uttered a very un-Mycroft-like squeak. He took a breath and tried to compose himself, but the flush in his cheeks and his slightly ragged breathing betrayed him. Greg's flirting had shredded his tightly-held exterior, and he just wanted to make it through the conversation without making a complete arse of himself. "Do you make a habit of this?" Mycroft asked.
"Completely disarming strange men in cars."
"Oh, is that what I'm doing? Then I'm obviously doing it wrong." Greg took his free hand and placed it on Mycroft's chest. He let it linger there for a second before he ran it sensuously down his torso and back up to his shoulder. Then he repeated the motion, but this time down the side of his body.
Mycroft turned in his seat so Greg would have a better angle for the other half of his body.
"I've never had a suspect this eager for a pat-down."
Pat-down. Mycroft's mind took the phrase places he'd never intended it to go. Bloody hell, he thought, hold it together.
Greg's warm hand reached under his suit jacket and waistcoat, and his fingers played along the waistband of his trousers.
"Oh, what's this? Some sort of holster?" Greg teased.
"They're braces," Mycroft croaked. "They hold my trousers up."
"That's a crying shame."
Mycroft had to work to draw in a breath. This, without a doubt, was the sexiest thing anyone had ever done to him. He leaned in to kiss Greg, but Greg backed away.
"Oh no you don't. You could still be armed; can't have you distracting me."
Mycroft gave a small whine of disappointment, and was rewarded with Greg's hand sliding a little further down the back of his trousers.
"Hm, no weapon there. Not finished yet, though." Greg glanced at the spacious floor area in front of the seats and moved to a crouching position in front of Mycroft. He looked up at him with a saucy expression and said, "Spread your legs" in the sexiest voice Mycroft had ever heard.
Who was he to refuse? His well-tailored trousers clung to his legs as he opened them wide, making his body's interest in the proceedings even more obvious.
Greg simultaneously ran both hands very slowly up the inseam of Mycroft's trousers. He did it without breaking eye contact, and when he ran his tongue over his top lip, Mycroft nearly died. His hands stopped at the tops of his inner thighs, and he glanced down at the bulge in Mycroft's trousers.
"What's this?" he said, and looked back at Mycroft with a grin. "It looks like you're armed, after all." He moved one hand to rest lightly on Mycroft's covered erection, and Mycroft forgot how to breathe. "Perhaps I should do something about that," Greg added, completely straight-faced.
"Not… here," Mycroft managed to choke out.
"Why not? Do you have cameras in here, too? I think that would make it even better," Greg said with a grin. He stood up from his crouch, gently pushed Mycroft's legs back together, and straddled his knees. "Don't worry," he said softly. "As much as I'd dearly love to, I think that can wait for another time." He rested his arms on Mycroft's shoulders and smiled.
Mycroft was still reeling from the entire experience and it took him a few moments to catch his breath. "Does this mean you'll join me for coffee?"
"Perhaps," Greg said, as he leaned in close and whispered, "Will you join me for a run?"
Mycroft looked at him, aghast. "I… I don't run."
"I'll teach you," Greg said, and brushed his lips against Mycroft's ear. "You'll enjoy it. Trust me."
Mycroft could only nod as Greg pulled him in for a hungry kiss, and they both forgot all about running, and work, and anything else at all.