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Soulmarked

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Gregory William Lestrade learnt to pick his first pocket when he was ten, broke into his first house at thirteen and ended up in front of the youth courts no less than six times in between.   

A fact that he was inordinately proud of.

The care workers, at the home where he had held permanent residence since his father’s murder and his mother’s subsequent suicide, denied any responsibility. The boy they stated – in a tone that indicated the term was used lightly – was trouble.

It was difficult to hide your Soulmark in the care system, in a world where everyone wanted as much information on you as possible. Yet the other children learned quickly that Greg was very protective of his Soulmark, which Etched not long after he arrived at Bournebrook care home. And no one messed around with what the normally jovial teenager decided was his to protect.

 

***

 

“Lestrade…hey you stupid or something? Or maybe that isn’t your name hey?”

Greg turned miserably to face the bane of his ten year old existence. Privately he called them fat, ugly and blondie. Their actual names were Michael, Tom and Matthew, the self-proclaimed bullies of the care home he had found himself in. Most days Greg was able to pretend it wasn’t all that bad…today did not look like it was going to be one of those days.

The trick was to ignore them and hope they got bored. Greg sunk deeper into one the garish, fluorescent orange chairs that littered the communal room at Bournebrook. He clutched the book he was reading a little tighter. Go away. Please. I’m not worth it… He prayed silently, aware at the same time that if there was a God then he really had it in for Greg.

“Maybe he can’t see us T…maybe he needs reminding what day it is…”

That was Matthew. He had a mean streak that – intellectually – Greg knew stemmed from commitment issues over his abandonment here in Bournebrook. At least Greg could say his parents had only abandoned him in death. Greg peered over the top of the book, his – once trusting – brown eyes narrowed in wariness. Ah yes. Today was Friday. The day the three older boys routinely decided to harass the younger children for booze money.

“Friday.”

He stated sullenly, knowing it was a bad idea but loath to concede any kind of indication that he was giving-up on his unwillingness to cooperate with the bullies schemes.

“Such a joker is little Lestrade. Don’t make us order you this week…”

The tone of voice indicated that actually Matthew wasn’t totally against the idea of dragging the younger boy off for another round of ‘hit-down, drag-out’, however Michael scowled and clipped the other boy on the back of head.

“Quiet you idiot, last time we got caught we were on probation for a month.”

Matthew whipped his head to face Michael, his face going an ugly shade of red before he turned back to face Greg. Greg felt a flash of fear at the expression on the older boy’s face. The three had given him bruises before but had stopped short of causing any damage that would alert the care staff – who might have cared more about the new episode of Eastenders than the children under their protection but would be unable to ignore blatant signs of abuse. Yet today Greg didn’t feel like trying his luck.

“I don’t have much…only a fiver but-“

He hissed, drawing in a sharp breath as Matthew reached over to grab his arm, twisting it behind his back and dragged him outside easily – at sixteen Matthew was already over six foot with more muscle than most men in their twenties. Michael and Tom exchanged bored glances, shrugged at each other and followed to the field behind the care home. Littered with used needles, old condoms and broken beer bottles the children were forbidden from playing here.

“I’ve had enough of you, you little bugger – now I know that you’re richer than all that – your parents only just gone and died, yeah?”

Greg cried out in pain as the older boy forced his arm further and further up his back, stretching the socket of his small arm. That was when he Etched. Greg felt the pain lance down his right arm, at first he was sure that his arm had been dislocated, however the pain was all wrong. It was a searing pain, like a burn – and it was concentrated on the inner part of his right forearm. He screamed.

Matthew hesitated and shoved the boy away from him, where he stumbled and fell on the ground, he turned to protest to Michael and Tom who were staring wide eyed at the boy who lay curled up on the ground.

“Hey, I didn’t do nothing, little shit just starting screaming for no good reason”

Greg had never felt pain like it in his young life. Not when he broke his wrist playing football, not when he fell off his bike and broke it again, not even when the police had to tell him that both of his parents were dead. And then as quickly as it had arrived it was gone, Greg stared down at his arm and saw – through a haze of tears – a line of handwriting. My Soulmark. He thought with wonder. I’ve Etched. Unfortunately for him, Matthew noticed at the same time he did.

“Haha! Take a look at that boys. Little Lestrade has Etched. Let’s take a look at that…”

He seized Greg roughly by his right shoulder – which now ached terribly from being forced behind his back, and stretched his arm out for the other two to see. There was a pause. Then the raucous laughter of the boys. Greg was panicking, unable to see what the boys were laughing at, yet gripped by the sudden fear that they would dare to harm his Soulmark. His instincts were screaming at him to protect. He lashed out, twisting in the grip of the older boy, who gave a grunt before smacking Greg hard across the head.

 

It was dark. That was the first thing that Greg was aware of. It was dark, but he wasn’t alone. There was a sudden awareness of a presence in his mind. He reached out hesitantly and delighted at the sudden feeling of shock that the presence generated.

“Hello?”

He ventured cautiously, the presence quivering at the sound of his voice.

“Hmmm. A boy then. What, about ten years old? Fairly average at school and in appearances, judging by your obvious lack of confidence. How plebeian. But how can we communicate? Not normal for Soulmates, unheard of for those that haven’t even met physically. Are you…dying?”

Greg puzzled over the stream of consciousness that followed the discovery of his Soulmate, the unfamiliar emotions of another entity causing him a small amount of distress. And then this person, this boy, who should care for him more than any other, calmly and rationally asked him if he was dying. Greg held a twinge of panic. Was he…dying? He couldn’t remember anything after-

 

Greg’s head throbbed. He felt the sticky consistency of the blood that lay matted in his brown hair. He opened his eyes groggily and was thankful that it was night, leaving no sun to pierce through his eyelids, bringing with it the inevitable pain. From the lack of daylight he could infer that fat, ugly and blondie had scarpered about three hours ago, he sat up slowly his disgust for the three bullies multiplying when he realised the money he’d had on him was gone.

Then he remembered his Soulmark.

He also remembered his Soulmate.

His Soulmate who had felt next to nothing when confronted with Greg’s potential death, Greg swallowed feeling hollow. It shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did, this next rejection – but to Greg this dismissal of his person by the one person to whom it should have mattered...It hurt. A lot. Greg braced himself, clambering to his feet through sheer force of will.

The bruises on his body would fade in time. The bruises left on his heart never would.

As he made his way carefully back towards the care home he thought to look at his Soulmark in the process of tugging his sleeve back down to cover his arm. The single line across his skin was Etched in a beautiful, ice-blue calligraphy, the letters haunting in their perfection. Greg reached towards the presence in his mind and was met – unsurprisingly – by a solid wall that felt like ice. He traced the letters of his Soulmark, the words that now felt like a bitter lie.

We shall meet in a place where there is no darkness

 

***

 

Greg’s gaze ran lazily over the list of offenses that Southwark County Council were bringing against him, grinning wickedly at the exhausted – yet pretty (his mind supplied) – public defender that had been assigned to his case. He leaned forwards, his encouraging, chocolate brown gaze inviting her to join in with the joke,

“-so as you can see…Patricia…there has to be some mistake because – ask anyone – I swear to God I was at the library, at the time the stuff was nicked.”

He leaned back in the white plastic chair the police had supplied letting it roll back, kicking his legs out indolently.

“Look, Mr Lestrade-“

“Please, call me Greg-”

Mr Lestrade, I don’t think you understand the seriousness of this charge…you have already been successfully charged with theft, destruction of public property and…”

Here the lawyer raised one, perfectly manicured eyebrow,

“Attempted impersonation of an officer of the law.”

Greg smiled wistfully,

“Oh yeah, good times, would have managed it as well if-“

His lawyer looked at him askance, pushing her hair back out of her face and wondering for the thousandth time why she hadn’t gone into contract law like her mother had wanted her too.

“Alright, anyway back to your current offence, Mr Lestrade, it seems unlikely that we’ll be able to talk the prosecution down on this one. You will be doing time in young offenders as it stands.”

Greg’s grin slipped from his face at her words, his gaze turning shrewd, and all signs of the jocular young man vanished before her eyes. For the first time since entering the room over an hour ago Patricia felt like she was meeting the real Gregory Lestrade.

“Look, Patricia, I don’t mind taking the rap for something I did – and got caught at – that means I was stupid and deserve to do the time. But this? It’s clearly the work of an amateur, which-”

Here Patricia raised a hand wearily,

“Please don’t tell me. Okay, since you’re determined to prove yourself innocent”

And here her eyes widened in disbelief,

“Then there is another angle in which we might be able to find a hole in the accusations of-“

Here she glanced down quickly at her notes,

“Mr Tarishama”

Greg bought the chair he was sitting on forwards with a thump, running his hands distractedly through his longish hair. Not for the first time Patricia found herself thinking that young Gregory Lestrade was a handsome young man who would one day be devastating, perhaps once he lost the oversized mustard yellow hoodie and five-year old trainers, she mused. But for now he was a lost looking sixteen year old who looked way out of his depth.

“The testimony includes a brief description of the UM of the thief, whose sleeve Mr…Tarishama managed to rip off as he was making his way out of the shop.”

Here Patricia turned to look at Greg, who looked back, blank faced, before he understood. UM, Unity Mark – the politically correct name for the Soulmarks – a name which the government had deemed inappropriate as it was offensive to those who chose not to associate with their respective Soulmates. Greg’s gaze fell on his sleeve, which consisted of a bandage wrapped tightly around his arm – proper sleeves were expensive these days, the ones that didn’t have easy-to-open clasps anyway. And Greg wasn’t letting anyone touch, or see, his Soulmark.

“No.”

He stated, his tone one of finality.

“But…Mr Lestrade…Greg, if you don’t do this then the small claims courts is going to convict you…the shop owner has stated that he saw you hanging around the shop the week before the beak-in and CCTV caught a boy matching your description, although his head was covered, during the incident…”

Greg drew in a sharp breath, prepared to defend his decision before he paused, thinking hard. For the last six years since he had Etched he had been fiercely protective of his Soulmark, most people were. However most people weren’t aware that their Soulmate wanted nothing to do with them. Greg wondered for what felt like the hundredth time why he bothered protecting someone – their weakness was Etched into his skin after all – when the same could hardly hold true for whoever they were.

He wondered this as he shook his head sullenly at his lawyer, leaning back in his chair and refusing to speak another word. Mainly because, if he was perfectly honest (which he rarely ever was), he didn’t have an answer to his own question. He had no idea why he continued to defend his Soulmate.

 

***

 

Greg had been into ‘detention and rehabilitation clinics’ before. Sometimes people made the mistake of thinking that Greg was actually proud of the time he had spent there, however they mistook his pride in his work for pride in the consequences. He saw his efforts as a way in which he had learned to survive the harsh realities of one of London’s roughest care homes, a badge of honour almost. However the work that landed him in these…places was rarely up to his own high standards. The way Greg saw it, if the coppers had enough evidence against him to bring up charges, he hadn’t done a good enough job.

But the Teaside Youth Detention and Rehabilitation Clinic was a whole different kettle of fish to the places Greg had up until then been assigned. This was a centre for repeat offenders, headed by a new government initiative designed to tackle youth crime.

It was, to put it bluntly, Greg’s idea of hell.

He wasn’t allowed to smoke – which left him gasping and slightly shaky after less than three days.

He wasn’t allowed to read, run or even eat without the permission of the staff. And those things were routinely planned anyway.

It was there that Greg realised that unless he was very careful, the next stop for him would be prison. And the worse part? No one would be surprised, and no one would care. Greg had no one. No family. No friends. He had never felt so alone. Sitting down heavily on the uncomfortable brick that the centre laughingly called a ‘mattress’, Greg did something he hadn’t in years.

He tried to contact his Soulmate.

They had both been very young the first and only time he had ever attempted a connection with his Soulmate, even then it had been an accident spurred by his fear and pain. He had later learned that it was highly unusual to experience any kind of connection with your Soulmate prior to physically meeting them, and had never heard of a situation where any kind of communication had been possible. Yet try as he might and, despite the dismissive attitude of his Soulmate, he did try, he was never able to get anything back from his Soulmate, other than the feeling of that presence in the back of his mind.

He unwrapped the bandage carefully, allowing his fingers to trace over the words which had stayed as vivid blue as the day they had Etched, not wavering even once in colour or intensity. We shall meet in a place where there is no darkness. The words gave him hope. Hope that one day there would be some kind of light in life. But why? He raged silently, why am I only going to meet you when the darkness has passed? I need you. I need you now. Greg pulled uselessly against the presence in his mind, he didn’t receive a reply. He never did.

Eventually he fell asleep.

The next day he decided that if his Soulmate didn’t want him, if he wasn’t good enough, then he had to stop walking down the path of self-destruction he was set upon. Even if a part of him keened in despair at the decision, it was from that point onwards that Greg made the vow to stop reaching out to someone who never reached back.

  

***

 

Sergeant Gregory Lestrade was convinced he had chosen the wrong profession for the thousandth time in his life. It was dark. It was cold. It was London – so it was also raining. And he was missing the bloody Man U. game. Also his long-term girlfriend ‘could have been your wife if you had ever bothered to ask, you tosser’, had left for a teaching job in Australia. Oh, and he had gotten on the wrong side of his boss the week before and so had been given the twilight shift. All week.

His feet were like ice, stamping to keep them warm he glanced across at the house that they had received a tip-off was the suspected location of a student ‘rave’. Greg ran a hand over his face and yawned, wishing desperately for a hot cup of tea. Or anything hot really. Even coffee would do at this stage.

When they were finally given the order to advance into the building, Lestrade was sure he had frostbite.

“Police!”

He shouted, following his colleagues into the house. He could never quite be sure afterwards if he was either the most unlucky, or the most lucky man in the world because of the man that he met there.

An extraordinary man. Called Sherlock Holmes.

His first suspicion upon hearing the name was that it was fake, Sherlock? Holmes? There’s no way. However the privileged, public school accent, understated designer brand clothes and the youth’s quite frankly eloquent language even whilst he was high, were enough to convince him the kid was telling the truth. His was prepared to let the guy go with a warning – he wasn’t carrying anything and was obviously not part of the suspected drug ring they had been looking for – when he opened his mouth.

“Hmmm you’ve been on both sides of the law, on the straight and narrow now though, for six, no, seven years…which would make you about twenty-four. So, twenty-four and not married…not in a long term relationship either, no kids and little money – the job hardly pays well. So, tell me…Sergeant, exactly what will it take to make this…go away’

Here, Sherlock made a graceful wave into the air, overbalanced and would have gone crashing into the stone hard ground had Lestrade not already had one hand holding him up. With a flash of worry Lestrade realised that for a guy who was a good two inches taller than him, Sherlock was far too thin. Not for the first time he felt a flash of anger at the family of drug addicted students, did the families not know, or did they just not care that their loved ones were snorting, smoking or injecting their living expenses away each month?

“I don’t think so. Come on now, where do you live…come on stay with me, what’s your home address?”

With Sherlock now unable to respond to questions, his head lolling unattractively on Lestrade’s shoulder he had little choice but to keep him in overnight. Hopefully he would sober up and be able to tell officers where he lived before the Detective Inspector in charge of their division came back from his honeymoon.

He escorted the painfully thin Sherlock into a waiting police van, trying not to notice that he wasn’t wearing a Soulmark sleeve – Lestrade’s own was police issue these days, a far cry from the bandage he had once resorted to.

Lestrade drove back to NSY, ignoring the prattle of his most recent partner, a young woman who at the moment had more to say than she had sense in her head. Lestrade figured PC Donovan would mature given time, but for now her inane chatter was doing his head in. He prayed that the paperwork wouldn’t take forever, that perhaps he could catch the highlights of the game on Match of the Day…treat himself to the takeaway he could afford maybe once a month on his budget.

Lestrade fell asleep at his desk, head surrounded by paperwork.

He awoke when a ray of light crept into his office through the broken blind behind his desk, shining on the glass panel of his office door and reflecting onto his face. He let out a groan, reaching wildly for the alarm clock that should be right beside his bed. Opening his eyes he groggily took in the rest of the office, the pale yellow walls and lack of photographs. Lestrade had found his home in the police force but his personal life remained devoid of any attachments, what that said about his mental state made him dread the mandatory yearly trip to the government paid shrink.

He ran a hand through his hair, fingers passing lightly over his Soulmark, his hand tracing the words he knew by heart both in tone and placement. We shall meet in a place where there is no darkness. You don’t think I’m good enough for you, is that it? Well I guess that’s okay. No one else thinks I’m good enough for them either. He shook his head, he should have learned by now that it was no good regretting the past.

Sherlock was gone.

Not collected by a furious parent or relative. Not checked-out by one of the police on duty. He had just vanished. Greg frowned and was about to check the CCTV footage out of curiosity – technically Sherlock had never been formally charged, however he was worried about the boy – when he was called into the Chief Superintendent’s office.

Fifteen minutes later he walked out of it with a promotion.

He smiled at the sound of his new title, Detective Inspector Lestrade; he supposed it did have a nice ring to it.

 

***

 

Greg didn’t consider himself to be a paranoid sort of bloke, not normally. But when the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end when he was ushered into the Chief Superintendent's office, he paid attention.

The man that was currently taking residence in the super’s chair was, quite frankly, possibly the most posh looking individual Greg had ever seen. He was leaning back against the chair, an umbrella resting lightly in his left hand idly trailing on the floor. The bespoke suit he was wearing probably – no definitely – cost more than Greg earned in a month. Whoever it was had serious pull with the high-ups, the way his gaze rested on Greg made him feel as though he was being evaluated and found wanting.

He felt, quite frankly, dangerous.

“The Chief Superintendent says that you asked for me in person, sir.”

The man raised one eyebrow at him. Greg recognised the amusement playing in his eyes and was forced to stop his jaw from clenching tight. He was being played with. The man kept silent for a long pause before speaking – and yes the top-end public school accent told Greg what he had already guessed – this man was way, way up in the chain of command.

“Ah yes. Detective Inspector Lestrade, it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance...”

The man paused, making it quite clear that perhaps pleasure was entirely the wrong word for what their meeting represented.

“My name is Mycroft Holmes.”

 

Chapter Text

Mycroft Holmes was, to his mother’s chagrin, only five when he was found to be far more intelligent than either of his parents. Quite a feat, especially when taking into account that his father had been one of the brightest of his respective generation. His natural genius was further accentuated by an eidetic memory and his almost relentless pursuit of perfection. His teachers called him driven, his parents were proud of their genius son, however his classmates had other, less flattering descriptives for the young man: manipulative, callous, even merciless.

However there was one point that they were all in agreement on: the name ‘Mycroft Holmes’ would one day be known to a great number of people…or a select few, for deeds either exceptionally good or ruthlessly cold.

 

*** 

Mycroft wondered when he would ever be done saving his little brother – this time from a tree, but more generally from his insatiable curiosity.

“Honestly Sherlock, Mummy had so hoped you had learned your lesson from the last time this happened…”

Mycroft peered up at the furious, slightly red face of his younger sibling. You would scarcely believe that the boy had a mind to rival any university lecturer, especially when he insisted on displaying the most inappropriate aspects of his inquisitiveness. Sherlock was five, quite past the age when Mycroft had decided that he was done with all the childish games his peers took such enjoyment from. For him their antics could at best be described as ridiculous, privately he considered them all to be remarkably stupid. They just didn’t think. Sadly, his normally above average brother was currently displaying no small amount of that stupidity that the both of them deplored in the rest of humanity.

“At least I can still climb trees, Mycroft.”

Mycroft’s mouth twitched slightly at the petulant tone of Sherlock’s voice, however the insult rang hollow, not quite containing the venom of his jealous sibling’s normal panache. Mycroft peered into the branches of the aging oak tree, picking out Sherlock clinging to one of the thicker branches – his end goal the woodpecker hole that was dug into the bark about three quarters of the way up. Mycroft assessed the situation in a blink, in the next he was already preparing to climb up the tree after his brother.

Us Holmes’, he thought ruefully, make the worst enemies, but the most loyal of allies.

He was twelve and had the normal metabolism of any young, not so energetic child, but – as he constantly reminded Sherlock – he was healthy. Sherlock on the other hand ate and ate, however the only direction he ever grew in was up. Sherlock did however, which was what made his tree climbing pursuits all the more ludicrous, have an irrational fear of heights. It was this which made Mycroft, a well-built twelve year old; follow his younger brother up a tree.

He never made it to the top.

He got halfway before his head started to feel dizzy, pausing briefly to consider his options, Mycroft did the sensible thing and immediately scrambled back down the tree, barely making it to the ground before he sank to his knees, clutching his head as the throbbing became searing agony.

He was aware of Sherlock crying out to him from his perch in the tree, noting idly the distress in his brother’s tone. Normally that would have bothered him immensely, however the stabbing pain behind his eyelids had risen to such an extent that he could do little more than curl up on the ground, praying for an end to the pain.

Then everything went dark.

The darkness wasn’t absolute. That was the first thing that Mycroft’s brain registered. After that the information came thick and fast, the deductions informing him of all the necessary information he needed to know about where he was: the emotions he was feeling were…strange, as though reflected or sent from a great distance, they certainly weren’t his own at any rate…and the pain he had experienced in his head was quite diminished, however he was equally aware that nearby there was a…presence to which that pain belonged. Then he felt something…prod him, a curious stab into his mind – he instantly placed himself on high alert…and then he heard something.

“Hello?”

The voice – for it was a voice – belonged to the presence that shared that not-quite-dark space with Mycroft, the voice of a child – no a boy – not much younger than Mycroft himself. It was then that Mycroft realised the consequences of that with a sinking heart.

This…presence was his Soulmate.

Mycroft had hoped that he would be older before his heart appeared on the sleeve of another, before his weaknesses were laid bare for someone else to show the world. His emotions, which he always kept under tight control, were beginning to seep into the not-quite-darkness, he snarled and grabbed at the tendrils of feeling, shoving them behind a wall of ice. He observed the mind before him coldly, allowing the deductions he usually censored to simply flow from his mind into that of the boy,

“Hmmm. A boy then. What, about ten years old? Fairly average at school and in appearances, judging by your obvious lack of confidence. How plebeian. But how can we communicate? Not normal for Soulmates, unheard of for those that haven’t even met physically. Are you…dying?”

He felt something rebel in him at the cruel words, curling back to snarl at him – shield it demanded, protect.

He awoke to anxious expressions on his parent’s faces, Sherlock who had been hovering nearby scowled when he saw his older brother’s eyes open, although his obvious relief was plain to see. He fixed his gaze on the ceiling, unwilling to look at the mark that he could tell would be present on his right arm. There would be no Etching celebrations in the Holmes household; his parents had installed in their sons distaste for the practice – based off their own respective refusals to acknowledge their own Soulmates.

“Mycroft? Mycroft? How are you feeling, darling? We had Doctor Ross on the phone only ten minutes ago, he assured us that unconsciousness is not uncommon when a…Soulmark Etches.”

His mother, Violet Holmes, moved closer to where he was lying on the bed – tugging her husband’s arm sharply so that he moved to stand by her side. Mycroft’s gaze narrowed slightly as he deduced several things at once, the most prominent of which was that his father, Siger Holmes, had an experiment into the development of a new medical scanner planned and his vacant gaze proclaimed he was only paying a small amount of attention to the goings-on of his own family. 

“Quite alright, thank you, Mummy…perhaps a glass of water…”

Here he paused, heaving himself up and over the side of the bed, resting his feet on the floor and running a hand over the black sleeve that now covered his right forearm. His father’s gaze sharpened for a moment, his keen Holmes eyes – that both his son’s had inherited – sweeping his eldest from head to toe.

“Etching, Mycroft, means nothing. If you accept your Soulmark you are making yourself vulnerable…you know what I have always professed with regards to this so called ‘Soulmate’ institution…”

Mycroft sighed and, although Siger was already back amongst the calculations he loved so dearly, he still dutifully replied,

“That caring is not an advantage, Father.”

Violet glanced worriedly at her husband, who swept out of the room without another word, she shivered slightly at his cold tone – if she wasn’t so sure of his love she would go so far as to say that Siger Holmes was incapable of such an emotion.

“Quite right Mycroft, first Sherlock and now yourself – both have experienced deeply distressing Etchings…let us hope that your weaknesses stay far away from you both.”

She said this with an edge of threat to her voice, her gaze resting on Mycroft’s sleeve before she ran a hand through his hair, taking her leave; no doubt off to chastise Sherlock for his foolish behaviour earlier that morning.

Mycroft was left alone.

Except he was never alone, not with the constant presence in his mind, even encased as it was behind a wall of ice of his own making. With that thought he finally found the courage to remove his sleeve, staring at the Etching on his arm.

It was a line of handwriting in, quite frankly, an appallingly messy scrawl – Etched diagonally across his arm to wrap around both sides. The colour would have alarmed Mycroft had he felt anything for his Soulmate beyond a mild contempt. It was the colour of bitterness, grief and loss – the ugly grey of loneliness and despair starting to infect the Soulmark already. So young thought Mycroft suddenly, surely he is too young to have been through this. And yet the proof was in the Soulmark now forever Etched into his skin.

However the colour wasn’t the most distressing thing about the Soulmark.

The line itself sent a strange wrench of pain through Mycroft, though he shoved the feeling down, far, far, under the layer of ice that served as his protection.  For the line simply read:

If they could make me stop loving you - that would be the real betrayal.

 

***

Afterwards Mycroft was never quite sure where he was when he heard the news. His mother was a wreck, weeping violently into his arms, Sherlock had vanished and the policeman standing awkwardly in the doorway clearly expected him to do something about it.

“Ah…Mr Holmes, the authorities have already confirmed that the man was your father, Siger Holmes, he crashed his car into the Thames after running it through a school playground…”

Here the policeman’s face hardened slightly,

“I’m afraid the crash was instantly fatal.”

Mycroft stared at the man for a few moments, collecting the pieces of his life bit by bit, until he could arrange them into some semblance of the Mycroft Holmes that was expected to take charge here.

“The children, Detective Inspector, in the playground…was anyone…”

Here he broke off, unable to voice the appalling thought that his father – the man who had been such a rock, however distant, throughout his life – may have murdered innocents.

“It was a Friday, Mr Holmes, the children were all in Assembly, or else it’s difficult to know how many would have been put at risk. At this time the police department ask you to remain patient whilst an inquiry is conducted into the incident...”

 

***

Mycroft was sure there was more and, at the time, that he took it in and made mental notes about the important points. But now, three weeks later he couldn’t for the life of him remember the exact wording the man had used. And for him that was an irregularity that bordered on a severe emotional weakness he could not afford.

The man sat on the opposite side of the table would pick up on his instability in an instant if he let it show.

“Mr Holmes…can I call you Mycroft? Your father was a valued…consultant for his country, now that he has sadly passed away we have been authorised to offer you – as his eldest son – the opportunity to fill that role…”

Here the man smiled, his teeth showing and Mycroft was reminded uncomfortably of a shark.

“You see, Mycroft, your father was a very intelligent man and his…well his unique talents were of substantial interest to the SIS, talents which you have inherited.”

The man fixed Mycroft with a fake smile,

“And your brother of course…so you understand, Mycroft, the position you are in?”

Mycroft clenched his teeth, forcing his hands to stray away from the armrests of the chair in a vain attempt to hide his panic. Not Sherlock, please no, he’s all I have left. Mycroft swallowed and sat forwards in his chair, resting his elbows on the table, his fingertips pressed together tightly, aware that the battle he faced was by far the most important of his life.

“You are thirty-three and have been married twice, no children but in your line of work that’s just one less target, that’s probably the reason why your second marriage is about to follow the first – quite soon I’m afraid, you have my condolences. You don’t want to be the recruiter for your current employer – MI5 I believe, MI6 usually encourage a little more…tact in their recruiters. They’re seeking to replace you, you know, it’s unlikely you’ll be up for promotion again given your quite frankly alarming service record and your distaste for…legwork.”

Here he finished and reclined casually in the chair,

“Now, go back to your employer and tell him that if anyone threatens or even approaches Sherlock Holmes, his inability to explain his expenses will be the least of his worries.”

The man looked at Mycroft aghast, causing him to raise an eyebrow caustically,

“Oh, and do inform him that I would be happy to have this conversation in a more…shall we say…formal environment?”

Mycroft smiled pleasantly, getting to his feet and reaching across the table to shake the hand of the man that was clearly unused to his perspective recruits turning the tables on him before striding out of the room, an abandoned factory, and into the waiting black car. Mycroft appreciated the dramatic flair of his future employer even if having it directed at him was mildly irritating; he wasn’t the Commonwealth after all.

 

*** 

Mycroft didn’t have much time for his Soulmark during the years in which he worked for the SIS – he deplored legwork, and despite the fact he was a highly successful agent, Mycroft knew he was made for greater things. It was only when he found himself in a compromising situation, about halfway through his six year period as an operative, and his captors immediately removed his sleeve, that he saw the state his Soulmark was in. Muddy brown streaked with an unpleasant grey and highlighted in an unnatural black. Mycroft was struck with the sudden realisation that his Soulmark was made for jewel colours, for vivid greens and reds and yellows.

He never found out if attacking his Soulmark would have had an adverse effect on his Soulmate, and a part of him was clinically curious at what the outcome would have been, as his evac arrived in time to prevent the worst.

Now as he was about to start work on the…managerial side of things, Mycroft studied his Soulmark critically. He was aware that the colours in some way reflected on the experiences of his Soulmate, in particular if they experienced an extreme shift in emotion. He catalogued what he knew about his Soulmate: they were male, about two years younger than himself, had been experiencing painful head trauma at the time of their Etching, and since that time appeared to have very little…light in his life.

Mycroft hesitated before reaching out across that phantom bond that linked the two of them, and reeled back in shock at what he saw. There was a solid wall, impenetrable, of…well it wasn’t literally ice, but years of neglect had caused a representation of that to form across the bond. Mycroft tried reaching through, suddenly and illogically petrified at the possibility that his Soulmate was cut off from him.

He gazed in shock at his Soulmark.

I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry. But I can’t reach you. I can’t feel you. Goddammit I can’t even be sure that you’re even capable of responding…and this, this is all my fault.

Mycroft buried his head in his hands, unsure of why he felt such sorrow now, when for years he had ignored his Soulmark, and his Soulmate, as an inconvenience – even as a weakness. And now it was too late.

Is that what the Soulmark means by ‘betrayal’…have I already betrayed you, before the two of us are even to meet?

He had let his parents down.

He was incapable of keeping Sherlock from destroying himself.

And now, he had failed at even the most basic of human tasks.

It was that day that Mycroft Holmes was forced to accept that, due to his own obstinacy, he had irrevocably savaged the most pure and rare of Soulbonds.

 

***

Mycroft Holmes became a name that inspired fear in the minds of those that knew its significance. It became a name that, in itself, became synonymous with the British Government. Which was why when the phonecall came at three in the morning to inform him that,

“Mr Holmes, the security detail placed on your brother has reported that he was taken to the New Scotland Yard whilst under the influence of what they suspect are Class A drugs…”

Mycroft was immediately alert, fully dressed in ten minutes and on the phone to the security detail in a further three,

“Yes…yes, I am aware of his…unusual sense of humour…”

Mycroft stifled a wince only through years of practise with dealing with fallout from Sherlock’s attempts to shirk his security detail,

“He did, did he? Well Melkins, I was assured that you were qualified to deal with-“

The voice on the end of the phone rose to alarming levels. Mycroft raised an eyebrow at the language coming from the head of his brother’s security detail. He sighed and his gaze sought out Harmon, his…well for want of a better description, Personal Assistant. He was also his bodyguard, pilot, doctor and firearms expert. It was easier to use the term P.A.

The nervous looking man visibly shook as he took the phone off Mycroft, almost dropping it at the look that was levelled at him. Mycroft frowned slightly (which caused the man to pale considerably), good lord was he going to have to fire another one? That made four in the last six months. Putting the matter out of his mind for the time being he demanded,

“Who assigned Melkins as the head of my brother’s security detail? I did up that to level five last month, did I not?”

Harmon looks frantically from side to side, licking his lips nervously,

“Harmon, I do hate repeating myself. Don’t make me ask again.”

Mycroft intoned softly,

“Uh…Mr Holmes…yes I do believe the order was given and I did pass the message up through the security board however…”

Mycroft’s gaze narrowed fractionally – the next man’s words had better be chosen with the utmost care.

“However…the b-board…they denied the upgrade and I…”

Here the man started to visibly sweat. How ghastly.

“I neglected to inform you of that fact…sir.”

He added hastily, as though the courtesy would prevent the doom that was about to befall him.

And so, that was how Mycroft found himself glancing over the brief of one Detective Inspector Lestrade some one month after the incident, having been made aware of the truly alarming level of interest the man had shown in his younger brother. When he had arranged for his brother to ‘disappear’ following his night in police custody, he had expected that to be the end of any interest the police showed in his brother’s case.

He had been both alarmed and irritated to realise his mistake.

Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade was a puzzle, which was rare considering that even on paper Mycroft could usually evaluate a man within five minutes. For one thing there was no written account of the man’s Soulmark, and if any doctor anywhere had even once noted down anything about it, then that information would be in front of Mycroft. The fact that it wasn’t was intriguing, particularly when it was obvious that the man had never actually met his Soulmate.

I can’t imagine anyone caring enough about me to…protect my weaknesses…before they even knew me. He thought with a small amount of surprise, and, although he would never admit it, a trace of wistfulness.

In person, Lestrade was even more fascinating. It wasn’t that he was overly handsome; although he wore the cheap suit better than most men of Mycroft’s acquaintance wore Armani…no there was just a certain…something about him, a nagging sensation in the back of Mycroft’s mind that he just couldn’t place.

 Mycroft raised an eyebrow at the tone of voice the man used, he was obviously either stupid or brave and, really, bravery was just by far the kindest word for stupidity. It was almost amusing in a way, by now Mycroft had come to enjoy greatly the game of cat and mouse where he was the predator.

“Ah yes. Detective Inspector Lestrade, it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance...”

He intoned smoothly, the pause ensuring that he had the man’s full attention, and that he was left in no doubt as to Mycroft’s distaste for the situation.

“My name is Mycroft Holmes.”

Chapter Text

“My name is Mycroft Holmes.”

The silence that followed was slightly awkward, Lestrade shuffled from foot to foot, eyes darting to avoid the penetrating stare of Mycroft. He cleared his throat, am I supposed to know who this man is? He thought into the silence. There was something…familiar about him, despite the fact Lestrade could swear blind that he had never met the man before in his life. His right arm was itching uncomfortably and he found himself suddenly wishing desperately that he could leave, clock off, and drown his recent sorrows in the local pub. Mycroft’s mouth twitched. It was barely perceptible but it made Lestrade bristle in indignation,

“Look, I don’t know what you find so amusing, Mr Holmes but…hang on…Holmes? Holmes! You’re a relation to Sherlock?”

Lestrade looked at the man lounged in the office chair dubiously, taking in his appearance and posture, mentally comparing it that of the gaunt faced young man he had been hounding for the last three months.

“Indeed. I have become aware of the…interest you have taken in my brother.”

The man’s dulcet tone of voice should not have been intimidating, but to Lestrade who still spoke with the bite of the South End in his accent, it screamed to him of the world that he had never been privileged enough to enter. Lestrade frowned at Mycroft’s words, suddenly on guard. He opened his mouth to respond but before he could say a word he was interrupted,

“Needless to say your…interference in this matter is superfluous. I request that you desist in your pursuit of the case entirely.”

Lestrade blinked. His gaze hardened, as he narrowed his eyes at the imperious tone used by the other man,

“Excuse me, but just who the hell are you?”

He demanded, his jaw tightening obstinately – he didn’t know Mycroft, but he DID know Sherlock, liked to think the young man was starting to trust him. A trust he wouldn’t betray to a man who clearly didn’t know his own relative if he was asking the police to stop looking after his own blood, something he should have been doing.

Mycroft smiled unpleasantly at Lestrade over the top of the walking cane he carried in his right hand, the only indication of his nerves was the barely perceptible tightening of his hand on the top of the raised curve. Not so emotionless after all, Lestrade thought narrowing his own gaze to focus on Mycroft’s facial features. Aha! There, at the corner of his eye – a twitch. Years of police work had made Lestrade inordinately observant, well that and paranoid, but that was an unfortunate consequence of the work.

Who is not relevant, Detective Inspector. As for what I know…well I find it very interesting how a man of your, well shall we call it, checkered past made it through the criminal screening test to enter the police force. Perhaps it was down to your friendship with the old Crime Commissioner, I believe you made his acquaintance during your mutual detention in the Teaside Detention Clinic. Now, perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. I’m afraid I must insist that you cease your association with Sherlock Holmes immediately.

Lestrade swallowed, his eyes widening with each piece of information that was supplied, information that he had not told a soul…and he knew that none of the people involved in those events would have either. So that begged the question, just how and where had this man found his information. Lestrade felt a chill run down his spine. If that information was leaked to his boss, he would be fired on the spot.

He drew in a deep breath.

“I don’t think so.”

He said quietly, taking a few paces forwards, the haughty expression on Mycroft’s face fading into surprise, before settling back into the neutral veneer it had maintained for the majority of their conversation. Mycroft stood, poised and relaxed, his legs crossed at the ankles as he leaned casually on the walking cane. Lestrade wasn’t fooled, not for a one second, this was a man who was dangerous and could hurt him if he let weakness show.

No! No, he’s no danger. Not to me.

Lestrade started. Where had that thought come from? Mycroft would have no issue with hurting Lestrade if he continued to stand in the way of what he wanted, was going to hurt him - most probably as soon as this conversation reached its inevitable conclusion.

“If I may Detective Inspector I would like to advise that your current course of action would be most...unwise.”

The last word was more hissed out than spoken, Mycroft’s gaze unwavering, almost reptilian in its intensity. Lestrade considered the man in front of him for a moment and then took a few, measured, paces forwards, deliberately impinging upon his personal space. He leaned forwards to deliver his next line and froze, his gaze suddenly drawn to the other man’s mouth, the soft curve causing a totally unexpected and unwelcome flash of arousal to course through him. He tensed, hoping that the feeling hadn’t crossed his face, judging by the other man’s smirk he hadn’t quite managed it.

“Look, I don’t know how you know all that but the important thing for you to remember is that I don’t respond well to threats. I don’t know how much you’ve had to do with Sherlock recently but he’s in a bad way. Right now I’m all that’s standing between him and a formal charge…seeing as his own family appears to have dropped the ball with regards to his welfare it’s left to me to pick up the pieces…”

Here Lestrade stood back, a look of contempt on his face,

“And quite frankly you can take your demands and stick them up your arse.”

 

***

 

Mycroft could honestly say that there were only a handful of times in recent years when he could say that he had been genuinely surprised, today he wasn’t just surprised he was shocked. He had not only totally underestimated Detective Inspector Lestrade, to his folly. The man had all the subtlety and restraint of a wrecking ball, combined with a bull-dog like tenacity that hadn’t in any way been indicated in the report Mycroft had read.

Well, he had known from the moment that Lestrade entered the room that the report was next to useless, the mental construction he had drawn of the man rendered obsolete when faced with reality. Mycroft – still feeling slightly shell-shocked – absentmindedly left NSY, not realising until later that day that he had left his walking cane in the office. Mycroft tried to analyse exactly where he had gone wrong.

He had thought that, as a man who had lied his way into the police force, that Lestrade would be a man devoid of principle, had relied on that fact, when in actual fact his observations had shown him to be a man to whom morality was placed above his own personal considerations.

There in lay the crux of the issue.

Lestrade had defended Sherlock doggedly, against his own brother. That had…unsettled Mycroft somehow; it bothered him that Lestrade thought that he didn’t care for Sherlock. He cared. Sherlock just made it impossible for him to do more than that. And that instant right before Lestrade had delivered his cutting reprisal before storming from the office, that flash of…excitement. Mycroft would have called it interest but he had seen no evidence that the man was in any way interested in other men, would have spotted it immediately. He allowed himself a brief moment to ponder the memory of the man, his rugged features, soft eyes that had turned flinty when threatened.

Preoccupied as he was he didn’t notice the faint quivering of his Soulbound, the miniscule cracks that appeared in the wall of ice in his mind. Perhaps if he had he would have taken greater precautions in the events that followed.

Mycroft gave sharp instructions to his driver, arriving some three-quarters of an hour later at the most recent…place (building was to kind a word to describe it) Sherlock had taken it upon himself to live. Montague Street looked particularly morbid under the gloomy, London sky, Mycroft eyed the youths opposite with suspicion, good lord, why Sherlock persisted to live in such places was quite beyond him.

Sherlock tried to slam the door in his face of course, causing Mycroft to sacrifice feeling in his toes in order to prevent his snarling younger brother from denying him entry.

“Now, now, Sherlock you know how Mummy always deplored your persistent slamming of doors.”

He admonished, slipping past the unwashed, yet apparently sober brother. Thank the lord for small mercies. Mycroft shrivelled his nose at the stench that pervaded the small one bedroomed flat. A dilapidated table leaned tenuously against the wall on the far side of the kitchen – the only room besides the bathroom and bedroom – with two orange crates piled on top of one another next to it, Sherlock had evidently been using them as chairs. A handful of petri dishes lay scattered across the table, worrying close to the limp looking sandwich Sherlock had been interrupted whilst eating. The walls had probably had paper on them at some stage, but the mould that now covered them completed the feeling of neglect that the place embodied.

Mycroft swallowed hard, fighting down the lump that rose in his throat at the sight of how Sherlock had been living. Showing emotion to Sherlock would be like waving a red flag at a bull, rather than making him more likely to accept help it would simply send him headfirst it would simply send him headfirst into one his legendary sulks.

“What are you doing here Mycroft? I thought I made it clear I didn’t want you to interfere in my life any more. I’m doing fine. Just fine.”

Mycroft raised one eyebrow at his brother, aware that he had the advantage of the surroundings – despite the fact it could technically be classified as Sherlock’s ‘territory’ it was so dilapidated as to be more of a hindrance to his brother’s argument.

“Well, obviously, Sherlock. That’s why I’ve been here over a minute and you have failed to deduce why I am here.”

He paused here to let that fact sink in.

“Sherlock, really, you shouldn’t have to ask. You have the capacity to simply know.

He let disappointment fill his tone, hiding the worry that was the underlying cause of his visit. That and he wanted to know the extent of Sherlock’s relationship with a certain detective inspector. He had been sure that there was nothing sexual between the two – due to his brother’s distaste for the activity, and his surety that Lestrade was committedly heterosexual. After the ‘moment’ – he almost rolled his own eyes at the term – in the office, he suddenly wasn’t so sure. Sherlock’s eyes meanwhile had narrowed imperceptibly, suddenly focusing his complete attention on his brother.

“Lestrade.”

He said finally, the disgust plain in his voice. And, Mycroft was alarmed to hear, a faint note of desperation.

“He’s mine Mycroft. Leave him alone.”

Mycroft stared at his brother, genuinely flabbergasted at the blatant display of ownership from a man who had never claimed anything, or anyone, with such passion in his life.

“Sherlock, a police officer, Mummy will be so pleased to hear the news.”

He drawled, quickly re-evaluating his plans for the future. That was also bought to a screeching halt when Sherlock shot him a look of confusion which cleared into irritation some moments later.

“What? Oh. Not that. Lestrade is necessary…I mean to me. To my work. I mean…I won’t explain myself to you Mycroft.”

Sherlock folded his arms and glared petulantly at Mycroft, who was suddenly alarmed by the way in which his tone had changed from irritation to…pleading. He flicked his gaze once more over Sherlock, allowing the deductions to unravel in his mind, fixating once again on the obvious fact that Sherlock was sober and had been for some time. He looked at Sherlock, the scepticism plain in his gaze,  

“Work, Sherlock, you? For one thing they don’t let…addicts onto crime scenes, for another you-“

Here he paused, the realisation drawing a gasp of wonder from him,

“Oh! That is clever. That’s the deal isn’t it? You stay clean and the Detective Inspector allows you in on some of his cases.”

Give him a puzzle, Mycroft thought, and watch Sherlock dance. Except it wasn’t quite like that, judging by the wary expression on Lestrade’s face when Sherlock had been mentioned. Somehow Sherlock had allowed the man to get under his caustic image and see the truly remarkable man that existed underneath, and Lestrade had lamented at the rot that was starting to grow in such an individual as Sherlock Holmes.

“Yes, yes. Isn’t that obvious Mycroft.”

Here Sherlock paused, ducking his head – and once again Mycroft was struck dumb to see…was that…shame in Sherlock’s posture? Yes. Of course it was shame.

“I mean he may not let me on crime scenes after last week…I may have accidently turned up not quite…that is to say…”

Here he trailed off; his gaze rising to Mycroft’s…who was overwhelmed by the unguarded desperation in Sherlock’s eyes. It was a desperation that was silently asking him, Mycroft, to fix it. He had never been able to deny Sherlock anything.

“I will do what I can Sherlock…however in return the drugs stop now.”

He ensured Sherlock understood his meaning before he added, a faint hint of censure in his voice,

“And Sherlock? Perhaps you might want to consider moving into a property that is less…hellish?”

 

***

 

Lestrade was ready to be called into the Superintendent’s office and given the news all day, however when the sun set on his shift he was still had his job. It almost made him sob in relief. The Met was all he had now. He shuffled papers around on his desk; reluctant to head home to what he knew was an empty house. Empty life, a voice in his head offered pessimistically.

“Sally I’m for home, remind Anderson that I want those forensic reports on my desk first thing tomorrow, will you?”

He shot over his shoulder as he exited his division’s room, pulling on his worn, but warm, black coat over his suit. It was February and the temperature had yet to lose the bite of winter, the fog freezing in the late night air. He trudged towards the tube station, his hands thrust in his pockets to keep them warm, shoulders hunched against the cold. It was one of those nights that was overcast and grey, all too familiar to any Londoner.

This is MY city, he thought smiling, this is where I belong. His gaze strayed down to his Soulmark cuff, even if there’s no one to share in it.

He unlocked the door to his house with difficulty, cursing the rusty lock under his breath as he jabbed the alarm code in and flicked the light switch.

And almost had a heart attack at the sight of Mycroft Holmes standing assertively by his fire place, one hand resting lightly on the plinth.

“What the- MYCROFT? How did you- Why are you-“

He was aware he was spluttering as he dropped his briefcase by the door, reluctantly entering the room to stare at the man he wasn’t 100% was real. Wouldn’t that be a kicker. His long denied libido dragging up images of the worst possible fantasy to- Lestrade mentally kicked himself, for god’s sake stop this insanity! He ordered it harshly, beating it back into submission through sheer will.

“Ah. I do apologise for the unorthodox methods by which I gained entry, but I didn’t want to cause you any further inconvenience.”

“Incon- This is…you work for the Department of Transport!”

He blurted out, flushing a violent shade of red when Mycroft raised an eyebrow. Shit. He thought guiltily, licking his lips as he avoided looking directly at Mycroft. He was therefore unaware that the other man’s gaze followed the movements of his tongue, his feet shuffling slightly on the carpet as he changed position minutely.

Mycroft waved a hand gracefully at the statement, a neutral expression that said volumes about his role as a minor government official. Lestrade had read that line and known he was totally screwed – some kind of SIS big-shot, he had concluded, dolefully waiting to be fired that afternoon.

“Well indeed, Detective Inspector.”

And here he shifted, and the expression on his face was almost one of guilt.

“I have spoken to my brother…and I believe I owe you a further apology. My interference was perhaps not totally…necessary.”

Here he allowed a sheepish expression to cross his face, one that Lestrade thought should have appeared…wrong on a face such as his and yet, somehow, looked natural.

“Uh, yeah, well…Sherlock’s a great man.”

Lestrade replied weakly, still somewhat reeling from the sudden appearance of Mycroft followed by his subsequent apology.

“Sherlock needs The Work…it keeps him from using, mostly, somewhere I can keep an eye on him.”

Lestrade explained, struck by the ridiculousness of the situation.

“Uh…would you like a drink? Beer…or…tea?”

He offered, aware of the limited pickings on offer, flushing slightly again as the man glanced cursorily around the flat, taking in the old take-out containers on the lounge table and the week’s accumulation of beer bottles in the cardboard box by the back door. Lestrade winced slightly; he had just offered Mycroft Holmes a beer.

“Not that you drink beer…I mean maybe you do, but probably not but I haven’t really gone shopping recently and…I’m just going to shut up now.”

He raised his eyes to the ceiling in exasperation, wondering what it was about this man that made him want him to stay, that made him want him to like his flat and drink his tea. Foolishness. Offered that unhelpful, pessimistic part of his brain.

“Regrettably, Detective Inspector, my time is demanded elsewhere, or I would take up your offer of…tea.”

Was it Lestrade’s imagination or had Mycroft added a slight inflection on ‘tea’, the purring quality of that melodic voice turning something ordinary into an innuendo that made Lestrade flush for an entirely different reason from previously. Of course it’s your imagination, followed swiftly on the heels of, you idiot.

“My contact details, should anything arise with Sherlock that…is cause for concern.”

Lestrade reached blindly for the note paper Mycroft held extended, gazing at the printed number, hesitated and then asked,

“Just with Sherlock?”

Mycroft frowned; the lines on his brow suddenly making him look older than Lestrade knew the man to be,

“I fail to understand your meaning, Det-“

“Please, it’s Greg. If you’d like.”

Greg? Is that, possibly short for Gregory? I dislike using…nicknames.”

Lestrade nodded, not mentioning the fact that the only ones who had ever called him Gregory were his mother – when she had been alive – and his old lawyer…what had been her name again? Pamela, something like that.

“I mean…if I wanted to call you, or text too I guess…could I…I guess if you’re ever free, have  any time off at all…you wouldn’t want to grab a drink somewhere…”

He hesitated at the stunned look Mycroft sent him,

“With me.”

Mycroft looked slightly panicked, and Lestrade tried not to kick himself. Oh, great idea Greg, scare one of the most powerful people you know!

“Well that’s a…considerate offer and…I well. It’s just that, this-“

Here Mycroft gestured between Lestrade and himself,

“It’s not really my area.”

Lestrade looked at Mycroft mortified,

“Oh, of course, you. Ha. You. Are. Straight. Of course you are…I mean I…didn’t mean to suggest-“

“No…no that isn’t it. It’s just…intimacy, dates they’re not…what I do.”

Mycroft finished abruptly, moving past Lestrade with some haste, only pausing on his way to the door when the rain that had been threatening all day suddenly decided to fall, the resulting deluge sufficient to give even Mycroft a moment of dread. Lestrade stepped forwards, grabbing an umbrella from the stand by the door – a black, mahogany handled, yet slightly battered object which he pressed into Mycroft’s hand.

“Please. Take this, I have plenty and you’ll get soaked otherwise.”

He said over the other man’s protests, smiling lopsidedly at the thought that a man who bought suits worth thousands of pounds would be carrying around his old umbrella.

It was later that evening that Mycroft observed the first hints of vivid green start to creep into his Soulmark, followed by delighted wisps of red and cheerful orange, wherever you are, he thought sadly, you deserve happiness.

 

***

 

Sherlock moved into Baker Street.

GL

 

How about that drink?

GL

 

The tube is hell today. That your fault this time?

GL

 

Sherlock punched Anderson. Advise.

GL

 

Sherlock punched ME. Bastard.

GL

 

Fancy a coffee?

GL

 

I missed breakfast. Now I’m starving. :(

GL

 

Okay maybe emoticons ARE stupid…

GL

 

Okay, so coffee doesn’t work, how about a…brandy?

GL

 

Sherlock in hospital. Queen Elizbeth’s. Woolich.

GL

 

Send nicotine patches.

GL

 

How about that drink?

GL

 

***

 

Lestrade rubbed the grit from his eyes. He hated paperwork. He hated talking to his sources even more. Although he believed that old fashioned policework was still the best – and sometimes only – way to get hold of suspects, it didn’t make talking to them any easier.

“-I know Terry, I know…hey I’m not going to hold it against you…”

He rolled his eyes at Donovan, who sniggered, waiting slightly impatiently for the information they needed on the location of a suspect.

“Well I can’t guarantee mate, but…well I can pass that on…right…right…cheers.”

He slammed the receiver down triumphantly, grabbing his jacket and badge before calling out the location to Donovan. Within ten minutes the lights were flashing on top of four police cars and a van, sirens screaming as they raced towards the south end. It was essential they got their man before he ran.

Unfortunately for Lestrade the man they were after – a man suspected of the murder of his fiancée – did know that the police were coming. He simply didn't decide to run. As a DI, Lestrade was permitted to carry firearms and, as the leader of his division, insisted on being the first through the door.

The first gunshot hit him high in the chest, going straight through the stab proof vest he had been wearing – the police had obtained no information suggesting their target had access to a gun. He buckled over, the pain intense as he collapsed to his knees, his right hand shaking as he clutched it to his shoulder. After that everything went grey.

Ten miles away in a Cabinet meeting, Mycroft Holmes collapsed, clutching his shoulder in agony.

Chapter Text

Mycroft awoke groggily, unaware at first exactly where he was. Then it came back to him. He had fainted, in the middle of a Cabinet Meeting. He pulled himself up, unperturbed by his doctor who was hovering nervously by his side. Mycroft took a quick look around. His office. At least his Security detail had done their jobs and gotten him to safety. Mycroft turned to face his doctor, who – after a slow start – quickly filled him in. Basically it was a mystery why he had collapsed, although the man suspected the pain might have something to do with his Soulmate.

Mycroft waited until the man left and slowly removed the cuff that was a permanent fixture on his right arm. He dreaded that the mark there would be the early white of scar tissue. He was pleasantly surprised when the mark only showed the streaks of jewel colours which had seeped in during recent days, dimmed slightly – perhaps his Soulmate was on the verge of death? Mycroft swallowed, alarm filling him at the thought that he would never meet the boy who had become the man.

The man who was now dying.

He sighed and rubbed a hand over his face, reattaching his cuff in a smooth, practised movement. It was then that he heard the ruckus going on outside, the familiar deep intonation of his younger brother made Mycroft roll his eyes.

“-three affairs and a one night stand. So let me in to see him or I’ll-“

“Sherlock, I think that’s quite enough.”

Mycroft interrupted his brother mid-deduction filled rant, making a mental note to never set the two men outside his door placed on security detail for Sherlock – they both looked quite out-out by Sherlock’s deductions, a normal occurrence.

“Mycroft, well finally, I was half-expecting you to remain in there all day.”

Sniffed Sherlock, oblivious to the discomfort he had caused in the wake of his sharp tongue. Mycroft smiled coldly, his mind already focused on the fallout from what he had already termed in his head The Incident. For a man as powerful as Mycroft Holmes any display of weakness, especially that shown in the midst of those that were just waiting for such a chance, was both foolhardy and dangerous.

“Sherlock. If this is about the Detective Inspector I’m afraid I simply haven’t had the chance to discuss your case with him as of yet.”

Sherlock waved a hand in irritation, sweeping into Mycroft’s office and promptly throwing himself into one of the chairs by the ornate fireplace that was surrounded by bookshelves containing first editions of a variety of classical texts. Mycroft followed uncertainly, unsure of why his brother was here, surely he hadn’t been worried about Mycroft?

“Sherlock, it’s not that I am not…overjoyed by your voluntary presence however I have a fairly serious backlash to deal with, given the nature of my weakness you understand.”

Sherlock’s eyes narrowed at his brother, his elbows resting on his knees and his fingertips together as his eyes flicked over Mycroft, coming to rest on his right arm. Sherlock suddenly leapt to his feet coming alarmingly close to Mycroft, reaching out to grab hold of his arm, wrenching at the sleeve until it came loose.

“Sherlock, really, must we have the discussion on personal boundaries again? Mummy and I have both expressed the belief that…”

Sherlock’s eyes suddenly lit up with excitement, the thrill of the deductions in his head coming together a familiar sight to Mycroft. He frowned, glaring slightly at his gleeful sibling, aware that Sherlock had probably made a link between whatever he was here to talk about and Mycroft’s sudden collapse.

“Sherlock…what on earth has gotten into you?”

Mycroft snapped irritably, eyeing Sherlock with distaste as he leapt into the air, his hands clasped together in glee.

“Oh, Mycroft! You don’t know, do you? But I do! You, who have managed to spend far longer ‘on the case’ as it were, have failed to see what was before your eyes the whole ti-“

Here Sherlock broke off, a very odd expression cutting across his features, as though a very unpleasant thought had just occurred to him.

“But…that would mean…”

Sherlock muttered, his glee turning sour on his face, the disgust so plain that Mycroft almost felt like cheering himself – a Sherlock that crowed about how clever he was, was the most unbearable of all.

“Sherlock would you just elucidate your inane wittering?”

Mycroft snapped, narrowing his own gaze on Sherlock, who had gone from positively elated to looking like he about to throw up. Mycroft eyed his sixteenth century rug with resignation.

“You…you and…really Mycroft. You. Him.”

Sherlock was almost lost for words, a true rarity and one which Mycroft accepted with no small amount of foreboding. Mycroft however suddenly had a flash of his own deductive reasoning.

“Sherlock! You know. You’ve met…or at the very least know of my…my…Soulmate.”

He finished with wonder, phrasing it as a statement, not a question – his mind at least was sure of what his brother’s ramblings meant, even if his heart’s instinct was to protect itself against this potentially harmful knowledge. Sherlock turned, if it was possible, an even more alarming shade of green. Then his gaze narrowed at Mycroft, the jealousy plain in his gaze, even years later Mycroft couldn’t be sure whether Sherlock had been jealous because Mycroft threatened something that Sherlock considered his, or if Sherlock was jealous of the attention that would be taken away from himself. As if he knew that he would no longer play the role of the central figure in Mycroft’s life, that, that role now belonged to another.

“Speak quickly Sherlock. He’s dying.”

Mycroft said, his words clipped as he silently urged his brother to talk, his whole body leaning forwards slightly, eager for the information about where his Soulmate lay. After all these years. He thought triumphantly, I have a second chance to get this right.

Lestrade.”

Sherlock hissed, his mind whirling as he attempted to delete the various horrifying images that had leapt into his head at the thought of Mycroft and Lestrade. Together. As Soulmates. As lovers. Ugh. Delete, delete, delete. Mycroft had a moment of utter panic, followed by a sense of realisation, a voice that had been tugging at him ever since he had met the Detective Inspector snarled at him, of course, Mycroft, you idiot.

“Where Sherlock?”

Sherlock blinked, a look of confusion crossing his face,

“I don’t-“

“Presumably he’s been injured, possibly quite badly, most likely a gunshot wound to the chest area. You were on your way here to tell me, probably because it restricts your access to certain cases you’ve been working on until he recovers, maybe because you’ve grown…fond of the man and want his hospital care to be…upgraded. Sherlock. Which. Hospital.”

Sherlock swallowed, seeing for an instant the Iceman, a man whom half the British Government feared and the other half envied, a man who wasn’t to be crossed under any circumstances and could be both vicious and ruthless when confronted with obstacles to what he wanted.

“St. Mary’s. He’s been taken to St. Mary’s.
 

***

 

Lestrade pressed a hand hard to his chest, aware of the shouting of his colleagues as they arrested their target, aware, but not able to react. The air going into his body felt like ice, cutting into his lungs, each breath agony. Terrified, he clutched at the arms of the people who were trying to help; the sheer volume of blood spilling from the wound was frightening. He was aware that he was losing too much blood, much too quickly. Someone pressed down hard on his chest, and everything faded from grey to black.

“I am perfectly…Doctor Smith, but…keep you job…stand aside and let me in.”

The voices were hazy; Lestrade giggled at the alien quality to the words, the perfect enunciation of each individual letter, trust his dying brain to latch on to the voice of Mycroft Holmes. Lestrade was aware that somewhere he was in a great deal of pain, but he couldn’t bring his mind to focus on it, as if he was aware that if he tried to fight toward consciousness he would simply be overwhelmed by the pain.

“Soulmate…hospital policy…not on record.”

Lestrade frowned. He didn’t like that voice, the voice that was clearly stopping the soothing cadence of Mycroft from coming closer.  He wanted to tell them to let him in, but he was too weak, his hands refusing to lift, his eyes not opening even a crack. Eventually he gave-in and sunk once more into darkness.

 

 

When he next awoke with any clarify, Lestrade was very much aware of the pain that was beating its way through his body, centralised on his chest. His head ached, and everything felt hazy. His throat felt raw and he would kill for a glass, even a sip, of water. He cracked his eyes open, groaning as the light pierced his lids. He was aware of someone speaking his name and gently placing a plastic cup to his lips, hands strong yet careful as they raised his head.

“Hurts.”

He rasped, hands blindly reaching for those of the person that cared for him. There were murmured words, a rush of blessed relief, the soft grip of a hand in his. Then blackness.

 

 

The third time he awoke it was to the sound of raised voices, which were trying, he guessed, to still show some consideration to the injured man in the room, by shouting in voices which hissed, but were by no means hushed.

“Who the heck are you?!”

That was the first voice, a woman, Donovan. Lestrade identified, inwardly smiling at the fact his erstwhile partner was visiting him in…hospital. It was then that he remembered the gunshot, the agony and the fear that he was going to die.

“My name is Mycroft Holmes, Sergeant. I am Gregory’s…”

Here there was a long pause,

“Associate.”

Mycroft’s honeyed voice was soured slightly with what sounded like resentment, perhaps at being forced to pick a title to use, maybe at the obnoxious attitude of Donovan. Lestrade stirred, trying to fight his way through the fog of drugs so that he could see what was going on, his brain able to process the words but not their exact meaning.

He felt the presence that was sitting in the chair besides the hospital bed shift, leaning over him in concern. He must have blacked out again, but only for a short amount of time in this instance as when he came to Donovan had left but…Mycroft was still there.

He frowned.

Why was Mycroft still here? The man had ignored his various propositions sent via text with a single-mindedness which had convinced Lestrade in recent weeks to just give up, that he should take the blatant cues the man was throwing up – Mycroft just wasn’t interested. Lestrade would have accepted the whole thing as a lapse in judgement, would have restricted his contact with the compelling, enigmatic man to the odd text when Sherlock needed bailing out. However, Lestrade couldn’t quite bring himself to forget the flash of arousal in the other man’s eyes, the charming hesitance in his manner or the way in which his clothes-.

“Gregory?”

Gregory? Since when is he calling me Gregory again? Lestrade wondered, aware that in their few clipped conversations, with regards to Sherlock, the man had been adamant in referring to Greg as Detective Inspector. His air one of dismissal at best, or disinterest at worst. Lestrade made an effort to open his eyes, and was greeted by the sight of harried looking Mycroft sitting in an uncomfortable looking black chair by his bedside. As a police officer in London, Lestrade had seen his fair share of wards in most of the major hospitals, which was why he was able to identify which he was currently trapped in. St Mary’s, the nearest to where I was shot. He mused, his eyes blinking as he attempted to see through the fog that the pain medication had left in his brain.

“M-Mycroft? What…doing here?”

He mumbled, aware that his voice was rasping, probably still hoarse from the tube they had sent into his throat during the no doubt touch-and-go operation to remove the bullet from his chest. He was still hazy with the drugs, which was his excuse for not catching the flinty gaze, the way Mycroft smiled but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Perhaps that is a conversation best left until you are feeling more…aware. Let’s just say that, for now, I am a concerned party.”

Ah. Lestrade wilted slightly. Mycroft was no doubt worried for his brother, some days it was only the promise of a diverting case from Lestrade that kept him off the drugs. Lestrade winced as he began to regain feeling in his limbs, which at this stage was not a good idea considering the mess that the bullet had no doubt made of his chest. Mycroft reached across him and pressed the orange button on the remote to call for a nurse. Lestrade took the opportunity to fumble for Mycroft’s hand, reaching out blindly to catch it, his mind now screaming for a relief from the pain that was creeping into his body.

“I. Want. True answer. Later.”

He managed to gasp out, releasing the hand as quickly as he grabbed it, surrendering almost reluctantly this time to the bliss the drugs bought. Some part of him was grateful for the break from the pain, the rest of him wanted to stay aware and awake whilst this compelling man had decided to make Greg the centre of his attentions. He was sure that it wasn’t going to last, but whilst it did he was going to accept every last precious second he got to spend with Mycroft.

 

 

This time when Lestrade awoke, he was able to open his eyes instantly, his gaze roving around the ward to note that there were no other patients on the ward, strange considering the pressure being placed on the NHS recently with regards to a lack of hospital beds. Lestrade’s gaze then flicked to the man who was standing in the doorway of the ward, frowning into his mobile phone, obviously getting irritated with whoever he was talking to. Mycroft glanced up, noticed Gregory’s alertness and snapped a command into the phone, appearing at his bedside mere moments later.

“Ah Gregory, you appear to be far more alert than you have been. How are you feeling? Do you need water? Pain medication?”

Mycroft reeled off the list, his gaze blazing a path across Lestrade’s body as he said this, sending an unwelcome flash of heat through him – he was stiff and had never felt as uncomfortable in his life, yet this man was still able to get him to react. Stiffening slightly, Lestrade fumbled for the control of the bed, slowly bringing the bed up to a position in which he wasn’t lying totally flat.

“I’m fine, thanks. What I want is to know what the bloody hell is going on, Mycroft.”

Lestrade felt the pull of stitches in his chest as he fought to keep his breathing even, aware of how lucky he was to still be alive and breathing unaided. At a guess he had spent at least a week, but probably more, in intense recovery. He had probably been moved up from Intensive Care as soon as it became apparent that he could breathe unaided. Mycroft shifted until he stood next to the bed hovering awkwardly before his hand moved to his sleeve, an ornate black leather one which had clasps that Lestrade was sure were gold.

“Perhaps it would be easier to simply show you…”

Lestrade looked, wide eyed as Mycroft flicked the clasps on his sleeve, watching Lestrade carefully as he did so. Lestrade wanted to ask him what the hell he was doing, to demand proper answers rather than riddle-speak and half explained sentences. Then Mycroft’s sleeve came away, revealing the Soulmark underneath. Lestrade knew he should look away. But he couldn’t.

If they could make me stop loving you – that would be the real betrayal.

Lestrade froze. For, on the arm of a man whose eyes were full of shadows and secrets, curled lazily around the forearm, lay his heart. Lestrade could feel shaking that had nothing to do with his recent gunshot wound and everything to do with the enormity of the situation.

He thought of all the years he had waited for this man, for this moment. He had clawed his way up from the very bottom of society, believing totally that his Soulmate, whoever they were, was too good for him. But to Lestrade that had become something of a mantra – a belief that got him through – that since no one, not even his Soulmate, thought he was good enough, then he had to be the best.

Now that Mycroft thought that they were Soulmates…well that made everything worse. For Lestrade had believed for a long time that he wasn’t good enough to be the Soulmate to an average, perhaps even a safe individual…let alone a man as brilliant as Mycroft.

The question wasn’t whether he could reach out and accept this Soulbond…but whether he should.

He took a deep breath, which bloody hurt considering his wound, before unwrapping the bandages which had been tied loosely around his forearm.

 

***

 

Mycroft took a leap of faith as he unclasped his sleeve, only prepared to take the risk based on the last week and a half of waiting. Waiting and praying to a God that he didn’t believe in that someway, any way, his Soulmate would live. He tried not to think about how close it had gotten at one point, when infection had made Lestrade’s body weak and the consultant gave strict instructions to the head nurse during ward round.

Then he caught sight of Gregory’s Soulmark and it was worth all the hours he had spent in that hell, not knowing if any second his Soulmark would burn white.

We shall meet in a place where there is no darkness

There, in his best handwriting, Etched into the skin of a man who had entered his thoughts more than was decent, lay his heart. Icy cold in its disdain, passionate in its love, violent in its anger. It was not the heart of a man who would be easy to love and yet, looking into Gregory’s eyes and seeing the stunned wonder, the fledgling hope, made it easy for Mycroft to do what he did next.

He leaned forwards over the bed slightly, glancing behind him to make sure his security detail, which waited down the hall, had kept intruders out, he clasped his forearm to Gregory’s.

The effect was instantaneous.

It was wonder and pain, fear and delight as Mycroft found himself caught up in emotions that obviously weren’t his, in flickers of images that he had never before seen in his life. The entire experience was both thrilling and terrifying, as he heard a voice in his head that he had thought when he was a child he never wanted to hear again.

Mycroft…is…you?

Mycroft felt the presence of Gregory in his mind, the presence that had been on the periphery of his being since he had Etched, but could now hear and feel.

As quickly as it had started, it ended. The whirlwind of pure emotion and wild thoughts coming to an end with a violent wrench, the wall of ice between Gregory and himself abruptly made itself known with all the subtlety of a door slamming. Mycroft gasped, grasping Gregory’s forearm tight as he leaned his forehead to touch the other man’s, overcome with emotion after so long, so long, of thinking that he neither wanted nor needed his Soulmate…and coming to the realisation that he was only half a man if he denied this connection between them.

The closeness of Gregory eventually led to an awkward parting of ways, as Mycroft felt the other man’s gaze on his lips, yet also hearing the pained noises he was trying to hold in. He cursed himself for his thoughtlessness; he had quite forgotten that Gregory was recovering from a gunshot wound, amidst all the excitement of realising they were Soulmates.

Intrinsically Soulbound forever now they had clasped Soulmarks. Mycroft watched as the nurse arrived to administer more pain medication to Gregory, who protested slightly – his gaze had yet leave Mycroft’s face – almost as though he was worried he would vanish. Mycroft leaned close to Gregory, gently wrapping the bandage back around his Soulmark, idly stroking a finger along it as he did so, relishing the shiver it induced in the other man.

“Sleep, Gregory. I will be here when you wake.”

Mycroft watched as the drugs finally took effect, folding himself gracefully into the chair by Gregory’s bedside content, for the moment, to simply watch him sleep. He held Gregory’s hand loosely in one of his own, aware that when he next awoke there would be questions and accusations, a debt he should have paid long ago would be demanded. Gregory would ask questions to which the answers would be painful to them both.

Then there was the matter of the wall of ice. Mycroft closed his eyes, feeling along the Soulbond until he came to a halt, prevented from entering the side which he knew to be the link to Gregory by that hateful barrier. If he concentrated he could just feel a faint echo coming from Gregory, which stretched to become slightly clearer if he was holding the arm of Gregory’s which held his Soulmark.

Mycroft watched, conflicted, as his Soulmark showed that a faint pink was creeping in – contentment, delight. He remembered the icy blue that swamped his heart on Greg’s arm, giving him no indication as to his thoughts and feelings.

Even as he held his Soulmate in his hands, Mycroft was deathly afraid that circumstance, past mistakes and the judgement of others would prevent the future they were capable of experiencing together.

And Mycroft knew, with a chilling certainty, that if never meeting his Soulmate and losing him would have been devastating, facing that loss now would kill him. 

Chapter Text

Although he slept in a haze concocted through the mixture of pain and drugs, Lestrade knew the exact moment his Soulmate strayed from his side. He reached out tentatively, his mind searching for the one that was Soulbound to his own. Mycroft responded immediately, his response dulled with an emotion that – if it could have its own ‘emotion’ – Lestrade would have called ice. Lestrade sensed a deep sense of regret, a need for calm and Mycroft’s longing to stay.

And so Lestrade clung onto the mind of his Soulmate for as long as he could, but eventually Mycroft must have travelled far enough that their bond was unable to be sustained. Lestrade keened silently at the loss, bewildered and aching emotionally from the separation, they were too newly Soulbound for their connection to be entirely self-sustainable.

He roused himself from sleep slowly, reaching out with his newly identified senses, searching relentlessly for Mycroft. He opened his eyes and stared blankly at the ceiling. He’s gone; he thought hollowly, will it always be like this? For he knew that Mycroft had not left out of his own violation, but out of necessity. Being Soulbound to the man who personified the British Government was going to have some serious consequences.

On the bright side, for the first time since he had entered St Mary’s, Lestrade didn’t feel like falling asleep straight away. He jabbed at the remote attached to his bed until it raised to such an extent that he was sitting, it was then that he noticed with a puzzled frown that his ward was still empty. Scratching absentmindedly around the metal drip that was still feeding him glucose, he guessed due to his lack of fluid and solid intake, he noticed that resting on the plastic table besides his bed there lay his mobile. Which he definitely hadn’t been carrying when he was shot.

Reaching across painfully he flipped it open, feeling a rush of relief when he saw the phone was open on a new contact that had been added, ‘ Mycroft Holmes’. He remembered Mycroft’s distaste at texting…his Soulmate’s distaste with texting…Christ that felt weird. He swore as his fingers fumbled on the number keys, once again cursing their ridiculously small size. He felt a surge of happiness at the sound of the cultured tones that reached him from God knows how many miles away,

“Gregory? How are you feeling?” 

“M-Mycroft? I wasn’t sure you’d be able to pick up! I’m feeling much better…there’s not as much pain, perhaps I won’t be here much-“

“That is good to hear. Gregory, I must ask that you use that number only in emergencies. I have to go now, take care.”

Lestrade stared, incredulous, as there was a resounding click as the phone on the other end was placed on its cradle. He didn’t know what he had expected to happen once he met his Soulmate, but suddenly all the resentment from the years that he had been ignored came flooding back – held momentarily at bay by the urgency of recent events. Lestrade sighed, wondering idly why he had expected more, why he was bitterly disappointed that his Soulmate could offer him so little in the way of human comfort.

***

 

It was five weeks later that Mycroft returned. Five. Long. Weeks. Lestrade had grimly and with a determination that shocked even the nurses, launched himself into the re-cooperation process. Additionally he had insisted that the ward be re-opened for other patients after he had learned of Mycroft’s interference in that area, he had also declined with a ferocious hostility his Soulmate’s offer to pay for private healthcare. He hadn’t had so much as a text from Mycroft in the entire time he had spent recovering in hospital.

He had insisted that he was well enough to go home as week five rolled around; gripping the cane he had been given as if it were a weapon. No one quite had the nerve to argue with the grim faced policeman, especially after what had done shortly after Mycroft had left.

The one thing he had plenty of, lying in the hospital bed – besides pain -, was time. Time to think about the consequences of his Soulbond, time to debate exactly how much he had left to give Mycroft, after years of assuming he would never have a Soulmate. He had found that however painful it was to recognise the obvious reluctance Mycroft felt with regards to Lestrade, it was far less painful than imagining a future without him. Lestrade would give his Soulmate everything he had left to give, either until he was rejected…or accepted.

And so he had called for the nurse and begged the use of a scalpel, etching into his cuff a (slightly wobbly) circle. The universal symbol for a man or woman who had met their Soulmate, and was therefore, unavailable.

This act, more than anything, seemed to freak out the nurses quite a bit as they stared at him with wide, frowning eyes. The psychologist that NSY was no doubt going to insist he visited was going to have a field day with him.

Lestrade awkwardly scrambled out of the black cab, cursing as the crutches he was using clipped the curb, sending him lurching into the side of the cab. Tossing a few notes at the cabbie, he manoeuvred himself to the door of his flat, fumbling for his keys.

“Stupid…bloody…goddammit!”

He swore under his breath, finally managing to get himself and both crutches into the flat, shutting the door firmly behind him. Working his way into the kitchen, he finally dumped the crutches, knowing that as long as he was only moving short distances he would do fine without them.

“Gregory?”

“Bloody fuck!”

Lestrade took a step back, forgetting to brace himself against the pain in his side, twisting awkwardly to sprawl into the threadbare armchair he kept to one side of the coffee table.

“Mycroft? What the hell are you doing-“

Lestrade passed one hand over his eyes, the other raised to forestall the other man’s next words.

“You know what? Nevermind. We need to have a chat about this problem you have with being overly…dramatic.”

He finished, as Mycroft took an uncertain step forwards into the light that streamed in through the large window to the left of the room. Now that Lestrade was aware of Mycroft’s physical presence, he sent his mental senses out, delighting in the calming hum of Mycroft’s mind. It was soothing, as the presence of everyone’s Soulmate should be.

“Gregory. Ah, I would have gone to the hospital however I was informed you had already been discharged…so I came directly here from the airport…”

It was then that Lestrade noticed the dark circles around Mycroft’s eyes, the rumples in his normally pristine suit…and the battered umbrella he carried loosely in his left hand. Lestrade smiled weakly.

“Please tell me that you didn’t come all the way here, after five WEEKS just to return my bloody umbrella, Mycroft.”

At this, Mycroft blushed, his eyes shifting to the side as the red spread across his face and down his neck. Lestrade tilted his head to the side, oddly charmed by his obvious discomfort. It seemed that the ‘Iceman’ may be all frost when it came to his professional dealings, but was clearly lost when it came to his personal life.

“No…no of course not. I came to see you. And to return your umbrella obviously…”

Lestrade smiled, pulling himself up from the armchair, but maintaining his distance from Mycroft – who looked uncomfortable enough without having his personal space invaded.

“Keep it…who knows maybe you’ll find it a good replacement for that walking cane you were using as a…prop.”

His smile widened into a grin as he saw Mycroft’s look of consternation, perhaps because Lestrade had worked out very quickly in their first meeting that the walking cane was merely a tool which Mycroft used to divert attention away from his facial movements and any information that could be gleaned from that.

“Thank you, in that case I will retain it, for further use. Perhaps I should have waited until later…when you were more fully recovered, but…I found I could not stay away any longer.”

Lestrade was momentarily stunned when he heard Mycroft’s voice break towards the end of his sentence, realising that their separation must have hit his Soulmate equally as hard as it had himself. Perhaps harder, as at least Lestrade had been busy fighting his way back to a fully recovery.

Lestrade took two hesitant steps forwards, being met halfway by Mycroft, both removing their cuffs by mutual consent as they did so. They clasped wrists, Lestrade leaning inwards to press his forehead hard against Mycroft’s, the relief of having his Soulmate so close causing him to sigh deeply.

He reached out blindly with his mind, greedily latching onto Mycroft’s, their psychic connection having been starved of contact for longer than was sensible immediately following a Soulbonding.

Lestrade’s didn’t know how long they stood like that, one hand clasped to Mycroft’s, his thumb tracing a random pattern on his upper arm. It was when Lestrade felt the other man stiffen that he finally drew back, reluctantly allowing their Soulmark’s to lose contact, causing an immediate withdrawal of his mind. It seemed that their connection was very weak, blocked as it was by that wall of ice, and was impossible to sustain fully unless their Soulmarks were connected in some way.

He saw that Mycroft hadn’t stiffened due to the fact he had suddenly become aware of how close they were to each other as Lestrade had thought, but because he had noticed the circle carved into his cuff which was dangling from his free left hand. Lestrade felt a sinking feeling rise in the pit of his stomach as a hard expression formed on Mycroft’s face, his hand reaching to reattach his cuff.

“Gregory. If these last weeks have shown me anything it is that having a Soulmate is not…an advantage. I am made weak by this…dependency, it is something that a man in my, unique, position…am not allowed to have.”

Lestrade blinked back tears at this, suddenly furious.

“You can make excuses all you want, you can blame everyone, but at the end of the day it is you who is turning this down. And you know what? You can’t. We’re Soulbound, Mycroft. That’s not something that can ever, ever be reversed. The longer we’re apart, the more often we’re apart, the more severe these…symptoms are going to get.”

Lestrade raised the cuff, waving it slightly to draw Mycroft’s attention back to the circle,

“You know that this means. It means that I am willing to try, that I won’t except that you’re just going to walk out and leave. And by accepting the Soulbond you gave that promise as well.”

At this Mycroft hesitated, staring longingly at Lestrade, sighing as his tiredness made itself known, his shoulders slumping.

“You are correct of course. I…did not intend to give you the impression that I propose we ignore our Soulbond, merely to inform you how this has to go.”

“How this has to go?”

Lestrade echoed hollowly, fixing his cuff by force of habit.

“I am not an…easy man to know Gregory, I suspect I will make a terrible…”

Here Mycroft pulled a very odd face, which if he hadn’t known better Lestrade would have called dismay.

“…partner. I can’t talk about my work, ever. I have to be on call at all hours and I will have to leave – sometimes for large stretches of time – without a moment’s notice…without being able to tell you anything.”

Mycroft was waiting, Lestrade realised, with a forlorn expression on his face, for the rejection that he wasn’t merely anticipating, but expecting.

“I have nightmares.”

Lestrade ventured quietly, causing Mycroft’s gaze to leap to his, the faint hint of hope in the depths of those gorgeous eyes forcing him to continue, the pain held in his words hopefully getting through to his obstinate Soulmate.

“I have no family, I spent my childhood moving from one care home to the next, occasionally being placed with the odd foster family, but never for long. I was a thief. I lied. I cheated. I have terrible commitment issues and barely any social life at all.”

Here an odd smile traced across his lips,

“Just look at the pair of us.”

Mycroft finally returned his smile hesitantly, the stress of Lestrade’s injury, the traumatic abruptness of their Soulbonding and the subsequent five weeks apart finally being put to one side. Yet that hint of nervousness remained, and Lestrade felt a deep anger for each and every person that had ever been responsible for causing that look in Mycroft’s eyes, as though he was waiting for the next rejection.

“So…where exactly does that leave us?”

Mycroft asked tentatively,

“How, exactly, do we proceed.”

“Honestly, Mycroft? Slowly. Very, very, slowly.”

 

***

 

‘Slow’ was hard for Lestrade. Very hard. It wasn’t that he was used to rushing things in his relationships, but that he had never committed anything before, not to the extent he was with Mycroft. He was finding it difficult not to push Mycroft too hard, and with every text, every phone call he got more and more impatient. He held himself in check through sheer force of will, instead putting his efforts into recovering fully from the gunshot wound, finding things to do with his time.

It was this that led Lestrade, once gloomy Tuesday afternoon, to be half carrying, half dragging a box of closed case files across London to Baker Street, where Sherlock was currently living. He knocked on the door, breathing heavily and mourning the loss of his fitness during the weeks he was being forced to ‘take things easy’. Perhaps Mycroft didn’t like the muscles though, he thought suddenly, maybe it was…off-putting to a man who used to…the door opened sharply, banging against its hinges as an irate looking Sherlock stood in the doorway, covered in soot.

“Jesus Sherlock, what are you doing now?”

Demanded Lestrade, heaving the box up and into the younger man’s arms as he pushed his way into the flat, ignoring the glare that was being sent his way. Lestrade climbed the stairs to 221B, silently pleased at the lack of pain – he was relieved that he would soon be allowed back on to active police duty again. Lestrade raised an eyebrow at the inside of the flat, turning back to Sherlock with a low whistle of appreciation.

“Nice flat, mate. Much better than your old ones, yeah?”

Sherlock glared some more, dumping the box onto a free patch of floor before turning back to Lestrade with a raised eyebrow and a cold expression on his face.

“Mate? Really Lestrade, we were never more than associates and now my brother has gotten what he wanted I assume our…acquaintance will cease.”

Lestrade stared at the younger man in amazement.

“You can’t honestly believe that, can you Sherlock? You’re my…friend, even if you can be a total arse at times.”

Sherlock snorted, eying Lestrade with disdain, causing the older man to raise both his eyebrows at the only possible explanation that remained; Sherlock was jealous. Either that, or he thought that there was some way Mycroft had manipulated events so that Lestrade had only gotten close to Sherlock so that Mycroft could keep an eye on him. Now that Lestrade thought about it, that option was much more likely – hence the slight hint of hurt that seemed to haunt Sherlock’s gaze. A hurt Sherlock was far more dangerous than a bitter one – in fact he had once told Lestrade that bitterness was a paralytic.

“Sherlock. I didn’t know Mycroft was my Soulmate until after I was shot and neither did you brother. We have this…wall between us. Come on, use that brain of yours and see the truth.”

He begged, aware that Sherlock was skirting a very fine line between sobriety and the oblivion offered by the drugs, Lestrade knew most days he was the only one standing between Sherlock and an early grave, and he’d be damned if he was going to let that happen. Sherlock’s gaze narrowed as he focused on Lestrade, and the way he tilted his head slightly to one side when he was deduction reminded Lestrade uncomfortably of Mycroft.

“That’s…true. You’re telling the truth.”

Muttered Sherlock finally, raising a hand to wipe absentmindedly at the soot that covered his face.

“Which means…you bought something!”

He concluded excitedly, his gaze now falling on the cardboard box he had carried up the stairs, obviously having ignored its presence until he knew its value. Lestrade slapped at Sherlock’s hands as they made as if to grab the top file, scowling at the blackened, burnt remains of…he didn’t want to know what. Sherlock scowled back, sulking as he acquiesced with Lestrade’s unspoken demand that he at last wash his hands before he touched the documents. Lestrade smiled as he saw Sherlock’s petulant glower, wondering how the two brothers had turned out so differently.

 

***

 

Mycroft glanced down as he saw his phone had received another text, he felt a rush of anticipation, knowing that he had only given his personal number to two people; Sherlock…and Gregory.

 

I guess we can have that drink now?

GL

 

Mycroft hesitated before selecting the number and ringing it, he detested texting and avoided it unless absolutely necessary.

“Gregory, this is Mycroft.”

He heard a crackling laugh coming from down the line, an indication of bad signal wherever it was in London that he happened to be in.

“Yeah knew that, came up on my phone.”

“Well, yes, but it is common courtesy to introduce yourself…even if it is over the phone.”

“I love the way you talk…smooth and precise…”

“Ah yes, indeed.”

There was a moment’s silence as Mycroft rearranged several papers on his desk nervously, pausing before asking his next question.

“Drinks. Where were you thinking…?”

“Well I guess you could stretch to dinner seeing as I’ve been asking for the best part of three months now.”

Mycroft could hear the teasing note in Gregory’s voice, marvelling – not for the first time – that this man was his Soulmate.

“I know a few appropriate establishments – very discreet, not too…stuffy?”

He offered, tapping his pen a few times against the desk, idly making a mental note to book a table later that day, knowing that for him it would be a simple matter to secure a table in any restaurant of his choosing at a moment’s notice, it was one of the few perks his job allowed him.

“Sounds perfect, shall we say seven?”

“I have a meeting until half past six, perhaps if you could allow an extra half an hour?”

“Of course, fine…see you at half seven.”

Mycroft pressed the end call button, sliding the phone back inside his jacket pocket, unaware that he had a smile of utter content on his face.

 

***

 

Mycroft changed his suit twice and his tie three times, cursing himself for a fool when he went back inside the house after locking the door in order to change his shoes for the fifth time. Good Lord, Mycroft, he’s not going to be looking at your feet! He thought with irritation, even as he dutifully unlocked the door and exchanged his smooth, dark brown dress shoes for the black leather pair he had originally intended to wear. It was worth it though, he reflected, when he caught sight of Gregory.

He had remarked before that the man put models to shame, and tonight was no different.

Sitting across from him in the small, family-run restaurant he was familiar with on the Thames riverbank, Mycroft wondered exactly how and why fate had paired him with such a man as Gregory – a man who was good, honest and inherently noble. It was this thought that made him ask the question that had been bothering him for some time, along with a host of other questions which he had considered during the five weeks he had spent in Syria – attempting to broker a deal with the government there.

“Gregory, when we Etched, we…communicated. You were injured, what happened that day?”

He asked curiously, watching as Gregory raised his eyes from the menu in front of him, the erratic circle carved into his cuff bared as he had rolled his sleeved up to his elbows. Mycroft watched as Gregory smiled, reaching across the table to grasp Mycroft’s left hand.

“I’d not long lost my parents, had been given a place in a care home which has long since been shut down. I was…”

Here Gregory grinned, shaking his head and laughing slightly at what was obviously the memory of his ten year old self.

“Well to be honest, I was a nerd. Always reading not interested in telly, or video games…and I was bullied. That day…I can remember it so vividly. That day, I was too slow responding to something one of the other boys demanded so I got dragged out back.”

Gregory shrugged,

“One of them hit me too hard on the back of the head when I tried to stop them seeing my Etching.”

Mycroft was stunned by the realisation,

“You…you were protecting me? Before you even knew me.”

Gregory suddenly looked embarrassed, becoming inordinately interesting in the deserts menu, despite previously stating that he was full. Mycroft had always wondered what it would be like to have a Soulmate, someone who would protect unconditionally - had envied Gregory himself when he had realised the man was protecting a Soulmate he had never met. To know now that, that person had been…himself was overwhelming.   

“What about you? Where were you?”

“Saving Sherlock from a tree he had climbed into…after a woodpecker’s hole if I remember correctly.”

He responded absently, his mind still turning over the idea that Gregory had instinctively protected him long ago – and been injured for it then…if you ever had to do so now, surely the consequences would be far more dire. Mycroft’s enemies were far more dangerous than a few bullies. Even so the Resonance seemed to respond with delight to the sound of Gregory’s laughter, his own mind intrigued by the sound, wanting to do anything to hear it again.

“Yeah, that sounds like Sherlock all right. Bet he was a nightmare as a kid.”

Mycroft smiled at the memory of Sherlock when he’s been five, too young to let the opinions of others truly effect what he did – no matter what Sherlock said, it was the world that had driven him to the drugs, not a personal weakness.

That evening when Mycroft got out of the car to bid goodnight to Gregory he wasn’t sure what he had expected – perhaps a handshake, maybe a touching of their Soulmarks.

What he hadn’t expected was to find himself pinned to the door of Lestrade’s flat, Gregory’ hands reaching underneath his jacket to hold firmly to his hips.

And his mouth, dear God, his mouth, was hot and insistent as it pressed to his. At first Mycroft was unsure of how he should respond, where he should put his hands. He relaxed into the kiss, instinctively allowing his lips to part beneath Gregory’s, one hand resting lightly on the other man’s hip the other grasping at the back of his head.

Gregory’s moaned, and the sound was delightfully arousing as Mycroft stroked his tongue against his, seeking to draw more of those delicious noises from the other man. Gregory’s hissed, sinking deeper into the kiss, ferociously taking Mycroft’s mouth, drawing a whimper from the other man.

It was Gregory who finally drew back, placing one last, lingering kiss on Mycroft’s mouth before he moved his lips up to press a kiss to his forehead, panting heavily from the exertion. Mycroft felt the rumbling laughter of the other man and glared at him, irritated that he would ruin what had been a perfect evening.

“Sorry…it’s just…”

And here Gregory grinned, running a hand lightly across Mycroft’s chest, delighting in the shiver of arousal it caused.

“It’s just I realised something…and well…it sounds like something out of a comic book isn’t it?”

Mycroft arched an eyebrow, partly in amusement, partly in irritation. Gregory leaned forwards to ghost his lips over his ear, whispering;

“I’m dating the Iceman.”

Chapter Text

“I’m dating the Iceman.”

Of course it would have been too easy, Lestrade thought bitterly, for the two newly Soulbound to be given a moments peace to explore their bond. The bleeping of Mycroft’s mobile caused him to straighten instantly, his hand flashing to the same jacket that Lestrade had so recently had his hands under.

“Yes, this is Holmes…I see…yes, I’m on my way now…do not…

Lestrade could only watch, frustration causing him to clench his fists, as Mycroft ducked into the car that had taken them from the restaurant. He knew, objectively, that this was what Mycroft had warned him about before they had bonded, that he would be a man who was chained to his work, unable and unwilling to let anything come before it. However right at that moment Lestrade felt the unintentional rejection like a kick in the teeth.

Mycroft Holmes was…a truly brilliant man; a man whom Lestrade recognised let very, very few into his confidence. The crux of the issue was that he would never know all of him, his job far too classified for Mycroft to ever be able to divulge its extent – in all likelihood they would be watched until the grave to ensure that Mycroft’s secrets stayed, well, just that.

“Christ…”

Lestrade cursed moodily, kicking absentmindedly at the pavement as he turned on his heel, heading up the stairs alone. Alone, when he had thought that maybe for once there would be some light that could enter the dismally lifeless shell that was his flat. Not one for brooding too long on events over which he had little or no control, Lestrade shoved his key into the keyhole, twisting past the rust that was building up. Perhaps he might not have any control over the direction his personal relationship with Mycroft was taking, but what he could control was how he responded to that direction. For Lestrade, the decision over whether to fight or go along with that direction had been made long ago…precisely around the time a terrified ten year old had Etched in the face of three, now insignificant, bullies.

 

***

 

Lestrade faced down his superior, face set in an expression that was the very personification of stubborn as he insisted that he was completely fine, that he was perfectly capable of doing his job and that he didn’t need to be treated with kid gloves. So his superior promptly took the kid gloves off.

“Look Lestrade, you and I both know I can’t let you back on full time duty before you’ve been given a full medical check. You also know what that exam would say. Now, I’m not going to do you the injustice of insisting you attend said medical exam just yet, but neither can I let you assume your full time role at the current time-“

And here he paused, looking uncertain for only the second time since Lestrade had started working directly under him – the first had been when Mycroft Holmes had required his immediate attendance in the Chief Superintendents office.

“So ah…my solution has been to arrange for you to temporarily attached to a separate department…less…physical.

Something in the man’s tone alerted Lestrade to the fact that: a) he was going to absolutely hate this suggestion and b) it wasn’t going to be a suggestion so much as a command.

“What department, sir?”

He questioned, his hands clenching slightly behind his back. Please not traffic, please not traffic, please not traffic. He begged silently, waiting as his superior drew in a breath and said brightly,

“Traffic.”

Of course.

 

Thursday, 7th July 2005

 

The three men met in the chilly, still dark morning, overlooking the lights of Leeds. The eldest in the group was edgy, Khan, twitching his hands uncomfortably; aware that as the sun rose he would be missed at his job. The school in which he worked would no doubt phone his wife, although it was hardly likely to attract the attention of the authorities. By the time that happened, his missing job hours would be the least of the worries his family faced. He felt no guilt – he was to answer a higher call. The youngest man, Hasib, was very young indeed, barely out of college, yet he too was resolute. All the third man, Germaine, could think of was his young, pregnant wife and of the child he would be leaving behind.

The child who would never know its father.

The men exchanged as few words as possible as they entered the hire car, and the elder man was silently hoping that they would manage to get ahead of the daily rush hour traffic into London. For their plan to have the most impact, they had to beat the commuters. As it turned out the car park that was usually the M25 was, unfortunately for London, clear of the worst of the early morning traffic. The men parked the car up at Luton with time to spare.

Leaving Luton station at around 7:20, Khan noticing the ever watchful CCTV cameras with a hidden smirk, the cameras saw what they wanted them to see. Four men on the daily run into London would attract little attention. As the fourth member of their team, Tanweer, joined them, Khan sent warning looks to all. No talking, the look said, it is time.

They took a train directly to King’s Cross station, by this time swarming with commuters, school children and businessmen. At 8:30 the men split up, each taking separate tube stops to the south, east and west out of the station.

And at 8:50 three bombs were detonated during the busiest rush hour in the UK.

 

7AM

 

Lestrade grunted as his alarm erupted at his bedside, causing him to wave his hand wildly in the vague direction of the noise, his eyes narrowed hatefully against the intrusive sound. His bleary gaze rested on the time, he did a double take before swearing under his breath, pulling himself out of bed as he flicked the alarm off.

“Bloody traffic…years of experience in homicide and I get relegated to traffic…”

He continued to curse his job, his superiors and Mycroft bloody Holmes all the way to his tube stop. He waved his badge in the general direction of the queue at Costa, (technically he hadn’t mis-used it, he had merely been cleaning it and people had happened to move out of the way), grabbing a tea to the muttered curses of the other commuters.

Tough luck, he bet they didn’t have to deal with half the shite he’d had dumped on his doorstep in recent days.

 

8AM

 

“Sally, please for the love of all that’s good, tell me it’s an exciting morning.”

He begged as he arrived at Russell Square station, on the Piccadilly line, tossing his (now empty) cardboard cup, into the nearest bin. It was a good thing he was only on the job for a week. He loathed traffic. Especially the kind that involved the flow of people opposed to that of cars – at least standing on the heated tarmac of the M25 he could be guaranteed to have at least one interesting (i.e. stupid) motorist cross his path.

The most exciting thing that happened at tube stations was lost tourists and the odd, rare, drunk and disorderly.

Perhaps there was someone up there who had it in for Gregory Lestrade, or maybe they thought suffering was good for his soul. Either way the worse place to be on that particular, gloomy, Thursday morning in July was Russell Square station on the Piccadilly Circus Underground line.

The explosion resounded from the train trapped in one of the tunnels, up through the station. ‘Panic’ didn’t begin to describe what followed.

People swarmed towards the nearest exit, Lestrade with his ears ringing, lost sight of Sally as he fought against the flow of panicking Londoners.

“POLICE! Move aside! Move aside! POLICE!”

He had one sleeve held tight against his mouth as he moved forwards, conscious of the fact that although the fumes hadn’t penetrated this far yet, the platform would be a whole different matter. Lestrade’s eyes began to water as he ventured down onto the platform, eerie and silent. The lights began to flicker overhead, the bare cables protruding from the crash site touching to send showers of sparks into the near darkness of the tunnel.

Lestrade cautiously moved forwards, aware that he carried no weapon at all besides from his standard issue baton. If whoever had set that bomb was still alive…for the moment he had best worry about helping those that had survived, aware that the emergency services would be scrambling to get here and get permission to enter, which they certainly wouldn’t get until the site had been secured. Lestrade grinned viciously, it was a good job he was already inside the station or he’d be trapped outside too.

As he picked his way carefully to the entrance of the tunnel he debated the wisdom of venturing down onto the tracks themselves, but eventually the muted screams, cries for help and billowing smoke from the tunnel forced him into action. He glanced back over his shoulder, one arm still pressed to his mouth to check for Sally. No sign. Damn. His gaze paused on the red circle of the London Underground, with the blue strip running through it – it was hazy through the debris and smoke, but he got a clear enough imagine to latch on. He closed his eyes, feeling his way along the few bond in his mind, shoving at the ice wall that still separated him from Mycroft – he didn’t know how far away he was, even if he was in any position to take a mental ‘call’ from Lestrade.

He didn’t try to shove through any words, feelings or longer messages – simply that picture, of the Underground symbol, shrouded in smoke. This, at least, would let the man know he was alive…if the image had even gotten through the ice. He took a slightly deeper breath, casting the thought of his Soulmate from his mind as he jumped down onto the tracks and into the tunnel.

***

 

9PM – WHITEHALL

 

The least that was said about the ambassador to Mongolia, the better. The man was the biggest embarrassment ever turned out by the Diplomatic Corps, generally someone they tried to leave as far from London as possible. Mycroft stared, with no small amount of trepidation, at the rather…odd fellow that had come within a hairsbreadth of causing an international incident.

“L-look Mr Holmes…I-I did tell the m-minister all this…there was clear evidence that an alien invasion was imminent…I-I did what I thought best.”

Here Mycroft raised one, perfectly sculpted eyebrow in disbelief.

“Which you thought was to place the entire city of…”

Here Mycroft hesitated, correcting himself,

“…the capitol city of Ulan Bator on terror alert…and then proceed to kidnap the President of Mongolia…for his protection.”

Mycroft looked down his nose at the quivering, soon-to-be-ex ambassador to Mongolia, and heaved a sigh,

“Forgive me, Mr Atkins but I am at a loss as to why you were not simply replaced when-“

Mycroft looked up in sharp annoyance as Anthea – his new P.A, Harmon had simply become too much of a liability – entered the room with a sharp knock, one hand holding her ever-present phone, the other a brown file.

“Sir…”

Her graze strayed dismissively to the shivering wreck of Mr Atkins, paused, and then she turned back to Mycroft with barely a moments delay – enough for the poor man to know he had, yet again, been dismissed.

“Sir, the Defence Secretary requires your presence. C.O.B.R is meeting.”

Mycroft rose gracefully to his feet, suddenly alert – for an emergency meeting to be called, this quickly, it would be either because of a terror alert or an assassination of a high profile member of the British Government.

He opened the file swiftly, frowning immediately at its contents, shocked at what he saw. A shiver of unease ran down his spine – three bombs, three different underground trains all detonated at exactly the same time. Keeping, as he was expected to, an eye on the terrorist cells operating in Britain, nothing of this nature had reached his desk in the last five years – and since the events of 2001, Britain had been waiting – expecting – something like this.

But this had caught the authorities completely off guard. Had caught Mycroft completely off guard, and there were going to be some uncomfortable questions to answer regarding that when all of this was over.

During emergencies the overall ‘platinum’ command would begin and end with what the media had termed ‘Cobra’, with the subsequent gold, silver and bronze levels which were established taking their directives from platinum command.

Mycroft took a second, only that, to worry. To worry for Sherlock and his mother…and Gregory, who were all somewhere in London. He prayed that on this one day their paths had not crossed that of the three bombers. On the swift walk to the opposite side of Whitehall he took out the mobile that was intended only for his personal use, fingers rock steady as he selected Sherlock’s number. He got the answer phone.

“This is Sherlock Holmes. If you have a case and it is marginally interesting leave a message. I may get back to you. If you’re phoning for another reason it will be boring and not worth my time, leave me alone.”

Mycroft cursed under his breath, placing a quick call to his mother to establish whether she was alright. Predictably the network that his phone was attached to was slow – everyone with any relatives in London was currently trying desperately to establish whether they were safe, and even Mycroft’s clearance couldn’t magic up a mobile network.

Eventually, through sheer persistence, he got through to Sherlock. Simultaneously he tried to force his way through the wall of ice between his Soulmate and himself. He knew that if the worst had happened, if Gregory had been on one of those tube trains – and the statistical likelihood of that was very slim – then he would surely have felt something through their Soulbond. In a similar way to when Gregory had been shot, the pain of the wound would have reverberated through their bond – exacerbated by the fact they were now joined in their Soulbond.

That thought allowed him some medium of comfort, which was quickly discarded when a spike of pain lanced through his head. He shut his eyes, leaning casually back in the car and refraining from the temptation to curl up with his head held tight between his hands. Although his eyelids were squeezed tightly shut he was still seeing light, still seeing colour. Which should not have been impossible.

When the image finally became clear Mycroft felt his stomach plummet. No! He railed, trying desperately to get through to his Soulmate, to get through to Gregory. The silence he received in return was not comforting. Not in the slightest. The image had been blurry, probably due to the fragility of the connection, but it had been obvious what it was. The red and blue of the Underground, which meant that Gregory was at one of the affected tube stations.

Suddenly the terrorist attack had become uncomfortably personal. 

Mycroft was used to working under pressure, was even used to dealing with the knowledge that unless he acted quickly and decisively people would suffer. But not since that fateful interview years ago had someone he cared for been placed in the firing line and, as he had acted that day to protect Sherlock, he realised that there wasn’t anything – and wasn’t that thought mildly chilling – that he would not do to prevent harm coming to those he cared for.

And a Mycroft Holmes that was prepared to do anything was a terrifying thought indeed.

It was some fifteen minutes later, at 9:50, when the news came through that a further bomb had been detonated on board a double decker bus. London was under attack.

 

***

 

Lestrade was working his way, tentatively, along the tube line – and had been for a while now – when he got his first look at the survivors. Covered in dirt, most injured in one form or another, they trailed an unsteady line through the tunnels. The shouts when they caught sight of Lestrade and his uniform were definitely more enthusiastic than the situation warranted. Then several people started talking at once.

“-suddenly there was a huge explosion-“

“-the first carriage…”

“-not sure what but-“

“STOP!”

Lestrade pulled his free hand up to stall the torrent of information, aware that he wasn’t the authority that needed to know this information. His priorities were to direct those that could move to the tube stations above – either back where he had come from at Russell Square, or back to King’s Cross – the bomb had been detonated equidistant from the two.

“Get up to the tube station, emergency services will be there. Please remain calm. Statements can follow after you’ve had medical care. Please proceed to the surface.”

Suddenly grateful for his experience at dealing with traumatised individuals (usually after Sherlock had finished questioning them), Lestrade worked his way forwards, pausing here and there to give words of encouragement. Every so often he caught sight of someone who was being helped along, or worse, carried, by the other passengers.

As he progressed down the tunnel he began to sweat, the heat – which up until that point had been manageable – suddenly spiking as he approached the bomb site. What he saw almost stopped him cold.

It was the horror of looking at that first carriage and knowing that anyone unlucky enough to be in there was either seriously injured, or dead. It was the utter disgust at the actions of someone who clearly hadn’t cared who had been on that train. Lestrade picked his way towards the bomb site, adrenaline fuelling him as he approached, aware that the bomber had not necessarily died in the crash – or that subsequent fires or detonations would not occur.

Most of the survivors were stilled milling around at the crash site, surrounding those that were injured – Lestrade could see that a few men were attempting to pull someone out of the first carriage. He coughed into his hand, the fumes from the burning train wreckage entering his lungs, adding to the ringing in his ears from the initial blast and making him light-headed.

“Listen-up. Hey! I am police-“

Here he helpfully held up his badge, with the passengers that could hear him alerting others – in the sudden hush that followed the sounds of the flames and ominous cracking of the bricks overhead could be heard more clearly.

“It is imperative that everyone evacuate the scene immediately – please proceed down the tunnel towards King’s Cross…”

Lestrade had by this point decided that the bigger of the two tube stations, and the one nearer a major A&E, was the more sensible place to direct people to.

“…where there are emergency personal. Please head to King’s Cross – that’s that way-“

He qualified, interspersing the instructions with bouts of coughing, hoping that whatever he was breathing into his lungs wasn’t toxic. However what he was breathing in was the worst of his worries at that moment, concerned as he was with the instability of the tunnel, a tunnel that had stood firm through the worst of the Blitz only to be blasted to pieces decades later by – probably – a British citizen.

“Hey, mate there are people trapped in the first carriage…reckon we can get some of them out.”

Lestrade glanced at the man who was speaking to him, flanked on either side by two other grim-faced men. He recognised them as coming from the group that had been pulling people out earlier and, until the proper authorities arrived, they would try and do what they could for the people still trapped.

“Greg Lestrade.”

He offered his hand for a shake, his other arm long since removed from his mouth – it was futile considering the thick black smog that was filling the tunnel. As the rest of the passengers began to make their way towards King’s Cross, Lestrade and the three men began the grisly task of asserting whether anyone left in carriage one was alive.

“Hello? Anyone conscious, can anyone respond?”

The four began to shout, entering the ripped side of the train carefully, avoiding the worst of the rubble and flames. Lestrade tried hard to ignore the people, and pieces of people, that littered the walls and floor of the train – those were beyond help. Even as prepared as he was to deal with the carnage, this was on a scale he hadn’t come across in homicide. Two of the men backed out of the train, retching at the smell and sight of the dead. Some days Lestrade hated his job. Hearing a faint cry he pulled aside the wrecked double doors of the train, not noticing when the metal bit into his cheek.

Crouching down he hailed the other men as he saw a woman, trapped underneath the remains of the bench as she clasped a hand to her side.

“Hello there, I am police; just you hold tight we’re going to get you out of here.”

Encouraged Lestrade, although he had already ascertained that it was going to take the strong axe or metal cutter that the firemen would bring in order to free the woman.

“My name is Greg Lestrade, can you tell me where it hurts the most?

He asked when the woman could only blink drowsily at him, her eyes terrified as she watched the closest flames. Even if she did make it out of here she would, in all likelihood, have nightmares for the rest of her life.

“F-francis…that’s my name. It’s hurts…m-my chest-“

The woman was speaking in gasps, and Lestrade’s rudimentary knowledge of first aid was hardly going to be sufficient to save her life. The only thing he could do was to try and keep her awake and responsive until the emergency services arrived – which, considering the time since the blast, shouldn’t be much longer.

“I-it’s cold-“

The woman – Francis – was shaking violently now, considering how hot the tunnel was – approaching 60 degrees for sure – the fact she was cold was decidedly not good. Lestrade tried desperately to keep her talking, not letting her close her eyes until, finally, the paramedics arrived.

“Sir, sir, I’m going to have to ask you to step back.”

Lestrade blinked owlishly at the young PC who was attempting to move him out of the tunnel.

“I’m police.”

He affirmed vaguely, as if that hadn’t been apparent from his uniform – now heavily ripped, burned and stained from the time he had spent in the tunnel. He had lost track of time, although he guessed it hadn’t been more than thirty minutes, probably less, since the bomb had detonated.

“Yes sir, but we’re trying to clear the tunnel…paramedic!”

Lestrade frowned irritably as the PC called across a paramedic, who was grasping him by the shoulders, guiding him down the tunnel.

“Look I don’t need-“

He began, halting when he realised that he was shaking. It’s the shock, he realised. I am in shock. And no wonder, he hadn’t seen anything on this scale, ever. Allowing himself to be ushered to the surface, he realised that he was struggling to breathe, the thick smoke coming from the train having entered his lungs. Gasping he attempted to calm his breathing, sitting heavily in the back of the ambulance as he found a blanket thrown over his shoulders and an oxygen mask attached to his face.

The influx of oxygen finally allowed the fog to lift from his brain, bringing with it the dull ache he was feeling in his ears and the sharp pain on his face. Reaching up to pull off the mask, ignoring the protests of the young man attempting to dab anti-septic on his face – he felt his face, relieved when the cuts appeared to be shallow.

He felt numb, re-living the terror and claustrophobia of the tunnel, the terrible evidence of the loss of life that had occurred on the train. He wondered if Francis was going to make it. Cursing he flicked off the blanket, heading towards the yellow of the police line – it was time to find whoever was in charge here and see what he could do to help.

 

***

 

Mycroft ran a hand tiredly down his face, aware that the lack of sleep was catching up with him, seeing as he hadn’t stopped since the morning before his ‘date’ with Gregory. He stopped his brain from going down the road of thinking about his Soulmate, knowing that the worry would overshadow everything else if he let it.

The situation in London was grim; initially reports had been confused but it now looked like four bombs had been detonated during rush hour, and as the time approached close to ten in the evening, the ‘platinum’ level of emergency relief was on high alert, but confident that as much as could be done that day, had been done.

Which was why Mycroft had ordered his driver to take him, not to his house, but to a small flat where he was sure – by this time – he would find a certain Detective Inspector. He had tried, throughout the day, to glean any information about his Soulmate through the bond, but found that either Gregory was distracted or that the wall of ice was stopping their communication.

He cursed its existence, aware that most of his peers – if their Soulmate’s were nearby – were able to relax somewhat, knowing that those that carried their hearts were safe.

Mycroft had, had no such assurance.

Pulling up Mycroft prayed that he would find his Soulmate…uninjured, he found it highly distracting to be constantly worried about the safety of someone other than Sherlock. He knocked on the door with the handle of his umbrella, aware that carrying what was effectively the modern day equivalent of a love-token was sending a clear message…one which he was all too happy to send to Gregory.

The man that answered the door shocked Mycroft into silence.

To be honest he could hardly be blamed, he was quite sure that a mostly naked Gregory Lestrade would be enough to silence most people. His brain registered a few things at once: the first was that Gregory without his clothing was very aesthetically appealing and that fighting down his body’s natural reaction to that was surprisingly difficult. The second was that he was injured. The third was that it was superficial injuries. The fourth was that he was obviously exhausted. The fifth, and most heart-warming, were the signs of delight at his presence, followed by embarrassment.

“Mycroft! I didn’t expect to see you…ah…today at all, what with…things.”

Lestrade swung his left arm behind him wildly, grasping what was obviously a dressing gown hung on the back of the door.

“So you always answer the door dressed…like so?”

Mycroft enquired, jealousy at those that had previously enjoyed the sight of Gregory similarly clad (or un-clad) momentarily preventing him from hearing the first part of Gregory’s response,

“-all day so, you see? Um…please, come in and-“

Gregory tensed as a man appeared behind Mycroft, ducking into the house, checking the rooms and nodding tersely to Mycroft as he exited.

“I wouldn’t…let you in if there was danger…”

Complained Gregory bitterly as he closed the door behind Mycroft,

“It’s part of my security detail...it’s his job to identify threats, even if I don’t see them as such.”

Mycroft responded quietly, letting his gaze rake over the exhausted form of his Soulmate, collapsing with him onto the settee.

“Gregory…I was most concerned when I received your message…I am unquestionably relieved to know that you are safe.”

He stated, his gaze refusing to stop jittering from location to location on Gregory’s person, sending him constant updates that his Soulmate was safe, alive, tired, alive, happy to see me, safe. It stabilised him, that flow of information, allowed him – for the first time – to be the one who reached out. He moved gracefully across the worn fabric, until his right knee touched the left of Gregory’s.

He reached out a tentative hand, surprised when Gregory didn’t so much lean into the caress as throw himself headlong into his chest. Mycroft was utterly at a loss as to what he should do as Gregory began to shake, patting his back awkwardly and cursing himself for a fool.

He had never been any good at…this sort of thing, had warned Gregory before they even began their courtship that it was so. Yet, even knowing this, the person to whom Gregory sought comfort from was him. It was with no small amount of wonder that Mycroft allowed a hand to trail up to cup Gregory’s head, the other resting lightly on the other man’s back, holding him tightly as the stress of the evening made itself known. His voice muffled by Mycroft’s suit, a different one from the previous evening as Mycroft had taken the time to make a quick change at lunchtime, Gregory began to explain.

“I was at Russell Square…tried to do what I could but…there was a woman. In the first carriage…she didn’t make it.”

Gregory’s voice didn’t shake as he went on to detail exactly what he had come across in the Piccadilly tunnel, but suddenly Mycroft was confronted by facts that had crossed his desk mere hours earlier. His face, hidden from Gregory’s view, was unsmiling. These attacks had proved to be desperately personal both to the British people and to Mycroft, subsequently he knew the fallout would be widespread and difficult to manage.

“What can I do?”

He asked, helpless as Gregory straightened, yet didn’t draw further away from him, turning to lay his head against Mycroft’s shoulder, his right hand coming across his body to nestle into Mycroft’s.

“For now? This is good.”

Mycroft smiled, breathing in the unique scent that was his Soulmate, delighting for as long as he could, in the simple fact that Gregory was okay, he was okay and that for the time being they were alone.

Chapter Text

 

They were alone.

It was a startling realisation that for two newly Soulbound, they had barely spent any time in the company of the other that hadn’t been either in a hospital. Mycroft had heard storied of Soulmates who had rejected their Soulmate – without having been Soulbound, this would cause no harm to either party.

However Gregory and he were Soulbound, linked in both heart and mind. Death, when it came, would come for them both at the same time.

Tightening his grip and listening to the regular breathing of his Soulmate, Mycroft smiled – suddenly it didn’t seem like such a bad thing that his fate would be decided by another. Not if, as a reward, he could spend a lifetime with the man beside him.

It was when Gregory’s hand slackened that Mycroft realised, with a small huff of amusement, that his exhausted Soulmate had fallen asleep. Baffled as to what to do, Mycroft contemplated the top of Gregory’s head, his breaths sifting the greying hair, the smell of the shampoo he used pleasant.

Mycroft felt his heart squeeze painfully at the knowledge that the shampoo, like everything else he had come across in Gregory’s life was spartan. He hadn’t considered what life had been life for a young Gregory, first having lost his parents and then being raised in the care system. Money would have been tight, he would have had very little he could truly call his own.

Mycroft wanted to go back and undo the mistake he had made that day, cuff his twelve year old self around the ears and insist he not rebuff what he now considered to be so precious. Mycroft was very good at what he did, was used to having almost complete control in any given situation, to suddenly be faced with the realisation that he couldn’t just give his Soulmate everything was...unsettling.

As he thought this, he was startled – although he was careful not to jostle Gregory – by a faint sheen that was rising from their (still touching) Soulmarks. He breathed in a sharp breath. Resonance. The mysterious…force…for want of a better word, that linked Soulmate to Soulmate and completed the Soulbond.

In some Soulbond’s it was barely visible, as it had been in Mycroft and Gregory’s, in other’s it was vibrant and blinding. The significance of the lack or overabundance of Resonance was unknown, but to see it outside of a Soulbonding was…unheard of, as far as Mycroft knew.

It looked like mist, trawling lazily along their joined hands, a brilliant gold in colour. In filled Mycroft with a sense of wonder, although he watched warily as it twined around his Soulmark lighting up the words there in a shimmer of incandescent light.

If they could make me stop loving you - that would be the real betrayal.

Words that Mycroft had read a thousand times, had traced in his mind and whispered in his sleep. Suddenly their meaning was clearer to him.

Gregory and himself had been through a lifetime of troubles before they met, had each faced their darkest days and their demons alone. Each had thought they would never meet their Soulmate and, if they were honest, had given up trying to find them (in Gregory’s case) or simply never trying (in Mycroft’s). Mycroft had been prepared for Gregory’s bitterness and anger, had expected it, and yet the man had forgiven him without even making the conscious decision to do so.

For his part, Mycroft had been stunned by the realisation that he could feel for another human being what he felt for Gregory.

All along his Soulmark had been telling him the truth.

That theirs was a love that could only be betrayed when it ended.

Here he watched as the Resonance danced playfully over Gregory’s Soulmark, dancing its length, tracing the letters.

That their time could only come when they had become the men that would love that deeply and truly. It had been a long wait, through the darkest of times. Yet if they had met before the darkness had passed they would not have worked, Mycroft realised sadly, they would have been…incomplete.

Gregory’s Soulmark wasn’t so much a taunt as a reassurance, that they would meet one day. One day when the darkness had passed.

Mycroft spent the rest of the night alternating between resting lightly and simply listening to and watching his Soulmate, strangely reluctant to miss out on any of their time together. 

The ice wall remained a constant threat to their bond, however right then Mycroft found comfort in the Resonance - a sign that they were fated, Gregory and himself, whatever dangers they would face from that point onwards, it would be together.

***

The Resonance faded sometime around dawn as Mycroft rose gently, trying to avoid waking Gregory as he did so. Gregory of course was a very light sleeper, awaking with a jolt despite Mycroft’s best efforts. Mycroft watched his Soulmate as he rose, delighting in his sleepy confusion and slumberous, lidded eyelids.

“Sorry Mycroft…I must have dropped off for a minute there…”

Gregory muttered, stretching as he stood up, lazily smiling at Mycroft and taking a few steps towards him.

“I feel much better, if you’ll just give me a minute to…to..”

He broke off as he stared in horror at the clock on his kitchen wall.

“Six…SIX! I’ve been asleep all night and you..you..”

Gregory flushed an intriguing shade of red, looking mortified.

“I, Gregory, enjoyed a relaxing night with my Soulmate.”

Qualified Mycroft, smirking slightly as Gregory’s embarrassment continued as he remembered what he was wearing – last night he may have been too exhausted to care – this morning was a different story. Gregory tightened the belt of his dressing gown securely, tugging at the worn material until it covered as much of him as possible Mycroft mourned the loss of the sight of the skin that had kept him preoccupied all night. Gregory held up an imperious hand when Mycroft moved towards the kettle.

“No no, the least I can bloody do is make you a cuppa after…”

He stopped himself, jabbing at the switch on the kettle in irritation, pulling two mugs down from the top cupboard with only a slight wince as his muscles protested. Mycroft raised an eyebrow, battling down the pang of alarm that seeing Gregory in pain caused.

“Oh do continue Gregory…what exactly did you do?”

Gregory looked, if possible, even more flustered.

“Come on, Mycroft…you came here…and obviously intended to stay the night…”

Here he indicated Mycroft’s gourmet, soft leather overnight bag with a wave,

“And what did I do? I fell asleep!”

He finished with a hiss, drumming his fingers in agitation on the worktop, his gaze refusing to meet Mycroft’s. Mycroft smiled and reached out to catch the furiously tapping fingers.

“Gregory I am…shocked you would think my intentions were anything but platonic…I needed to see you, you understand? To see that you were alive, that you were uninjured…the worry was most...distracting.”

He finished, rubbing a thumb over Gregory’s knuckles before dropping them so that he could finish making the tea.

Mycroft smiled as he bought the mug to his lips, blowing lightly on the surface of the tea before taking a sip.

And promptly lowered the mug with no small amount of haste, looking down at the surface of the liquid in horror.

“Dear God, Gregory…what is this?”

He queried, shuddering at the foul taste of the drink masquerading as tea.

“It’s uh…Yorkshire tea, I think.”

Gregory looked at him in concern, reaching for the milk and sniffing the top delicately. Finding it no different to normal he took a hesitant sip of his own tea, frowning at the familiar taste. He placed his mug carefully on the side before subjecting Mycroft’s to the same treatment, baffled when the tea tasted exactly the same.

“You don’t like Yorkshire tea? I think I have some P.G Tips somewhere…”

He offered finally, Mycroft wincing at the name, repeating it silently under his breath. He had been close to drinking a beverage called…’P.G Tips’.

“Ah…that won’t be necessary thank you Gregory.”

He said finally, reaching for the mug and taking a second tip – surely it hadn’t been that bad, maybe a second attempt would prove…no. It was still disgusting. Gregory laughed at Mycroft’s expression, dumping his tea down the sink and offering him orange juice instead.

"Bet you have actual tea leaves in your tea, huh?”

He joked, passing Mycroft the juice. Mycroft paused, tilting his head in confusion.

“Well of course, Gregory. Tea is made from tea leaves.”

His gaze strayed to the jar Gregory kept the ‘tea’ in.

“Why…what is, Yorkshire ‘tea’ made from?”

“A teabag, Mycroft. That myself and most, but apparently not all of England use to make tea from.”

“Tea in a bag…”

Mycroft mused, gingerly taking the packet that Gregory was offering to him.

“Honestly.”

*** 

Lestrade thought of himself as a progressive sort of chap, liberal minded and generally accepting of others differences. Sherlock Holmes really did push that tolerant nature of his to the limit.

“Look Sherlock I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there were bomb attacks in London yesterday, right now every officer is on high alert and-“

“I am quite aware of that Lestrade-“

Sherlock hissed angrily, waving a cold case file in his case insistently as he paced around Lestrade’s living room.

“However, it is pivotal that for this case I get the forensic evidence immediately…I cannot possibly solve it without it.”

Lestrade was bought up short by the manic desperation in Sherlock’s voice, the way he was running his hands distractedly through his wild curls. Lestrade felt, not for the first time since he had met Sherlock, a flash of fear. For Sherlock the cases Lestrade let him in on seemed all that kept him mostly sane on some days, on others…well. Lestrade looked closely at the young man, noting his shaking fingers and jerking motions.

“Sherlock…you don’t have to go through this alone.”

He said finally, quietly reaching out and pressing a mug of tea into his hands. Sherlock looked down at the tea in shock, as if he couldn’t believe that the simple gesture was intended for him. Not for the first time Lestrade wondered exactly how many people Sherlock had trusted, how many had bothered to see past his eccentric, yet brilliant, mind. The shakes, the frown lines of his forehead, the skittering nervousness. Sherlock was going through withdrawal.

“I…”

“You can stay here.”

Lestrade decided firmly, scowling at the alarmed look Sherlock sent him.

“On the sofa you idiot…I’ll see what I can do about those cold cases.”

He added, reluctantly resorting to bribery – however he recognised that it was vital he get Sherlock to stay. He was deadly afraid that if he let Sherlock go now, then he might fall back on the drugs or worse.

Sherlock wavered, bringing the tea to his lips, sweeping his gaze over the poxy living and finally said with a disdainful sniff.

“Well I guess I could cope for a few days.”

Lestrade turned towards the kitchen, hiding his smile of relief.

Sherlock was a nightmare of a house guest.

Within a few hours he had set up a bizarre experiment on Lestrade’s kitchen table involving celery and what Lestrade fervently hoped wasn’t real blood. But he seemed…happy, or at least as happy as Sherlock could get. Lestrade reached along his Soulbond as he puttered restlessly around the flat. The ice was unrelenting, allowing Lestrade only the faintest sense of his Soulmate through their Soulbond.

Normally Soulbound pairs could communicate over increasingly longer distances and with greater fluency and ease, with Lestrade and Mycroft they were lucky if they managed to communicate that way whilst they were physically touching.

“Mycroft.”

Lestrade started, turning to face Sherlock who had paused in his mashing up of the celery and was staring at him avidly.

“Sorry?”

“Mycroft. That’s who you’re thinking about. But…”

Here Sherlock narrowed his gaze, Lestrade shifted uncomfortably and quickly interceded, hoping to knock Sherlock off course before he could deduce something really inappropriate.

“Look Sherlock you know I don’t like it when you do that…and do you really want to know what my issues with your brother are?”

Sherlock sniffed dismissively,

“I should imagine they’re mostly about how he likes to control everything, that or his penchant for dramatics.”

His gaze turned flinty,

“No…this is to do with your Soulbond…it’s defective.

Lestrade winced at Sherlock’s word choice but conceded the point with a nod, he did however privately agree with Sherlock’s assertion that Mycroft had issues over control…the man had broken into his house for God’s sake. Twice.

“It’s not…defective is the wrong word…it’s…”

Lestrade trailed off, aware that he didn’t really have an explanation for what exactly was wrong with his Soulbond. Sherlock smirked, peering at him curiously.

“Explain…my insight could prove useful.”

Lestrade hesitated, a lifetime of never showing his Soulmark, never revealing that most treasured part of his body, making him wary. However Sherlock’s hopeful inquisitiveness persuaded him to reach slowly for his cuff, bemused and slightly startled as Sherlock jerked forwards grasping his wrist and impatiently tugging at his cuff. Sherlock hummed at the words, obviously recognising his brother’s handwriting. The icy azure of the words stood out starkly on his tanned skin, Lestrade fighting down the urge to protect, to hide his Soulmark.

“It’s always been that colour. Right from the day I Etched.”

He offered, licking his lips nervously as Sherlock acknowledged his statement, reaching out and running a finger gently over the Soulmark. Lestrade shifted, tugging on his arm until Sherlock reluctantly released him, attaching his cuff with relief.

“Something is blocking the connection.”

Sherlock concluded, his gaze distant as he pressed his palms together, his long, delicate fingers meeting under his chin.

“Something happened the day you Etched, something highly irregular.”

It was a statement.

“Well…we linked.”

Sherlock lifted his eyebrows – for him the equivalent of a shout of shock.

“That…shouldn’t have been possible.”

He said finally, his gaze coming back into focus as he observed Lestrade closely,

“Okay then, you linked before you were Soulbound…however I’m guessing my brother did something characteristically imbecilic to damage the connection, fragile as it would have been. He was so very pretentious back then.”

Sherlock mused, his mouth twitching at the memory of a self-righteous Mycroft as he had been then, his whole outlook ruined by the knowledge that he, like everyone else, was so very ordinary in having a Soulmate.

“Your Soulbond has clearly been weakened by lack of contact over the years – it seems to be behaving as if you were Soulbound all along…although to a slightly lesser degree as separation over that length of time would have killed you had the bond been completed…”

Sherlock’s gaze sharpened on Lestrade’s face, clearly enjoying the puzzle that was paced before him,

“There was little Resonance present at your Soulbonding, correct? However the day Mycroft Etched I recall a bright light, blocked as I was by the branches of a tree…”

“Sherlock…are you really suggesting that somehow we managed to be Soulbound when we were kids?”

Lestrade interjected incredulously, shaking his head although he had a sinking feeling that Sherlock was right – the arrogant sod usually was after all. Sherlock scowled and turned back to his celery, pounding it with a mortar and pestle vigorously, muttering furiously under his breath.

Lestrade sighed and idly turned back to face the kitchen window, gazing sightlessly over the road below. Mycroft and Lestrade’s Soulbound had been savaged by years of neglect, now leaving them helpless, unable to know when the other was in danger.

*** 

Danger, of course, was relative. What Lestrade considered dangerous, Mycroft thought of as just another day’s work.

Albeit normally he was forced to concede it didn’t involve bomb threats, the whole of the British parliament panicking and his security team searching for snipers in the tall buildings that overlooked the Diogenes. It really was a tedious morning all in all.

The fallout from the terrorist attack the previous day was huge, the media was shouting that Britain was ‘under siege’, hysterical politicians were condemning the incompetence of the intelligence services and to make matters even worse Mycroft’s own people were scrambling to find out exactly what had occurred.

In short, no one suspected that the terrorists would try anything else that day.

Even if they had done it would have been impossible to increase security on the key officials that were targeted that day, as the assassins weren’t after the figureheads. They were after the leaders.

Mycroft sighed as yet another garbled and unintelligible report landed on his desk, Anthea smiling apologetically at the sight of his consternation. Mycroft rubbed a hand tiredly over his face, allowing his mind to turn to Gregory for the briefest of moments, refusing to regret the time they had spent together – despite the exhaustion that was now catching up with him.

The very thought of regretting time he spent with his Soulmate was reprehensible. 

Turning his attention reluctantly back to the report, Mycroft was once again struck by the organisation that the four men had displayed, showing a coherence that made it unlikely they had been acting alone.

“Anthea? Do we have the Mattison inquiry?”

He called, frowning as he swiftly noted down a few inaccuracies in the report in front of him, annoyed when she didn’t respond with her usual promptness. He got to his feet, shifting the thick report under his arm as he made his way to the door.

It was this action that undoubtedly saved his life.

The blast from the car bomb parked outside blew the glass into the room, deadly shrapnel chunks that were designed to stop bullets, not explosives.

Mycroft was thrown to his knees, his head thrown below his desk, the solid mahogany once again saving him from countless injuries due to its thickness. Dazed, Mycroft shook his head trying to clear the ringing from his ears, wondering vaguely if this was how the passengers inside the train had felt when the bombs were detonated.

He had been trained to deal with life threatening situations and this was far from the first time he had found himself caught in a bomb blast, however it was the first time he was aware that there was another whose life was tied to his, a man who was going about his day unaware of the danger he was in.

Coughing at the dust that filled the room, Mycroft kept his face as close to the ground as he could, shying away from the flames that flooded that room as they crawled up what remained of the curtains.

“Mr Holmes? Mr Holmes, sir!”

Mycroft hacked into his palm, rolling his eyes in spite of the situation. Now his security detail remembered who they were being paid to protect. As he crawled as quickly as he could across the floor of his office he was struck hard in the head by a falling light from the ceiling. It went black very quickly, his head numb although distantly he was aware that he would be in a lot of pain if he could feel it.

***

Lestrade sat by Mycroft’s bedside, ignoring the looks he was getting from the nurses at the private hospital where his Soulmate had been transferred. Recovering as he was from his own injuries and subsequent run in with the tube bombers, to here that Mycroft had been targeted had been unbelievable.

It felt like a nightmare.

Lestrade was grasping hold of Mycroft’s hand, desperately willing him to open his eyes, to smile or frown or shout. The doctors prognosis had been damning – Mycroft was in a coma, a coma from which he may wake up from in a matter of hours. Or never.

“We were supposed to grow old together.”

He whispered, allowing his heartbreak and panic to momentarily override his sense. He knew that patients in a coma could very often hear what was going on around them, he knew Mycroft would not appreciate Lestrade falling into depression mere hours into the incident.

He could be like this for years.

Sherlock had remained by his brother’s bedside for a time, frowning furiously at the doctor and annoying the nurses. Eventually he had proclaimed the head doctor to be a moron and had stormed off, presumably to look into Mycroft’s condition for himself.

For Lestrade’s part he had barely bought himself to leave his Soulmate’s side for a glass of water. It didn’t seem fair, after all they had gone through, to now be facing a situation where Mycroft had gone somewhere Lestrade could simply not follow.

“Mr Lestrade? I have been informed that you bear the Unity Mark of Mr Holmes?”

Lestrade looked up numbly at the nurse, who was looking at him sceptically.

“It’s just that…if you were United…“

Lestrade detested the politically correct terms used by the government, they should call Mycroft what he was – his Soulmate.

“…then My Holmes should not be able to lapse into a coma. The brain activity of yourself and your Unity Bond should allow his higher brain functions to resume as normal…”

She trailed off at the stricken look on Lestrade’s face.

“We are Soulbound…we…we…it’s just…”

He broke off, his voice cracking as he tried to articulate what he meant, his hand clutching desperately to Mycroft’s, his Soulmark pressed hard against his. As it had been since the moment he had seen his Soulmate lying there. He closed his eyes as the nurse moved away, nonplussed but clearly unwilling to cause him any more grief – perhaps she thought he was delusional.

He searched along the Soulbond, battering uselessly against the wall of ice that separated him from Mycroft, knowing that with each passing hour the chances of Mycroft being able to regain all his previous intellect was severely reduced. The wall remained unchanged. Lestrade noted the miniscule cracks that had appeared in the wall during their Soulbonding, yet since then no more progress had been made.

Lestrade threw everything he had against the wall, feeling bruised and increasingly terrified as he opened his eyes, exhausted and forced to concede defeat.

Sherlock barrelled into the room with all the subtlety of a nuclear weapon, ignoring the glares if the nurses and Lestrade’s defensive posture he strode to the bed, peering down at Lestrade’s Soulmark before seeming to each a decision.

“Out!”

He shouted to the nurses, doctors and Mycroft’s security team who were milling around the room. There was a pause as the various individuals considered Sherlock, who looked back steadily. No one challenged Sherlock’s right to assume control. Lestrade’s hand tightened imperceptibly on Mycroft’s arm. He felt a flash of jealousy that Sherlock was the one to whom decisions of his Soulmate’s medical care were taken into consideration, whereas Lestrade had only been allowed into the room at all once Anthea had intervened. Mycroft and himself had had so little time together.

“Sherlock, what…”

He broke off when he caught sight of the items in Sherlock’s hands, not recognising the danger until he found his arms cuffed in front of him.

“Sherlock are these my handcuffs? What on earth are you…”

That was when he caught sight of the knife.

“…doing.”

He finished weakly, as Sherlock moved closer, his gaze carefully blank as he cast a lingering gaze on Mycroft before turning back to Lestrade, grasping his arm and bringing the tip of the knife to rest delicately against his Soulmark.

“What the hell!? Sherlock, that…that’s going to hurt…”

“Yes, it will hurt Mycroft. You understand, Lestrade? This will really, really hurt.”

Lestrade froze at the ice in Sherlock’s tone, the utter lack of emotion. And his defensive instincts went into overdrive, the innate desire to protect his Soulmark overcoming almost anything else he might feel.

Under Sherlock’s clinical gaze he struggled to tug his arm away from him, furiously fighting to defend his Soulmate dislocating his shoulder in the process but barely recognising the pain – ignoring also the handcuffs cutting into his wrists.

And then Sherlock pressed the knife almost gently into his skin.

Lestrade let out a scream of anger – screwing his eyes shut and seeking his Soulmate along the bond, barely noticing as the wall of ice cracked, crumbled and finally collapsed, the shock resonating along the Soulbond.

Gregory?! What’s going on! Sherlock. Pain. What is going on? Gregory!?

“Sherlock that is ENOUGH!”

Mycroft’s roar was enough to cause Lestrade’s eyes to snap open, his wrists throbbing and his right arm in utter agony. Sherlock looked pleased, snarling at his brother as he grasped Lestrade’s shoulder bracing him with barely a moment’s pause before popping it with a wrench back into its socket.

“Bloody fucking HELL, Sherlock? What the hell was that?!”

Demanded Lestrade, his mind still flooded with adrenaline, although he was also eager to get to Mycroft, to hold him, kiss him, revel in the fact he was awake.

“Check your Soulbond.”

Sherlock said smugly, clapping his palms together in excitement,

“I knew I’d read of a case similar to this before. The situation was only rectified as one of the pair lay dying, quite dramatic really, however the occasion has proven to be marginally useful as I have just demon…”

As Sherlock had been talking he had casually removed the handcuffs from Lestrade, not paying attention to the focus that was being laid on him by the furious detective inspector.

What had cut him off was the solid punch to his nose that Lestrade had delivered with his left fist, shaking his hand and wincing as Sherlock scrambled back, one hand pressed to stem the blood pouring from his nose.

“Whab? Lethtrade youb broken by nobe!”

He hissed, seemingly astonished as Lestrade marched forwards and bought him up by the collar on his coat, bringing his face very close to the other mans.

“You will never touch my Soulmark again.”

He demanded, grabbing a bunch of tissues from the box on Mycroft’s bedside table which he shoved into Sherlock’s hands.

“Good job you’re in a hospital then…”

Lestrade hesitated at the look of bemusement on Mycroft’s face, who despite the circumstances had merely remained silent, watching the exchange with an air of barely concealed laughter.

“Oh sure you find it funny…you’ve scared us both to death.”

Accused Lestrade angrily, taking a step forwards before jabbing a figure at Sherlock,

“And your brother has just demonstrated remarkable…”

 

I do wish you would calm down, Gregory.

 

Lestrade broke off, staring in dawning realisation at Mycroft. He looked at his arm (yes definitely still attached to his body), then to Mycroft’s (yup that was still in its proper place), before tentatively reaching out across his Soulbond and-

 

There we are.

 

The voice in his head was all Mycroft. Lazy bemusement, ice cold anger and violent passion. Lestrade turned to face Sherlock who was sulking under the mountain of tissues, trying to persuade the doctor who had cautiously approached him to prescribe him something stronger than paracetamol.

“Sherlock?”

He called, turning in wonder to face Mycroft, who gave a nod, relaxing back onto the pillows supplied by the hospital as Sherlock warily slunk back to the bed.

“If I’d told you what I was going to do it wouldn’t have worked.”

He spat out before Lestrade could say anything, drawing himself up defensively his attitude clearly put-out that Lestrade was failing to fully appreciate what he had done.

“Okay Sherlock…okay.”

He said finally, resting a hand lightly on the other man’s shoulder.

“Thank you.”

“You’re…welcome”

Sherlock muttered grumpily in reply, turning back quickly to avoid any other messy emotion that Lestrade might unwittingly force upon him. Lestrade crossed to Mycroft, grasping his arm.

 

???

Honestly Gregory, your lack of imagination is truly worrying.

I can’t believe this…it’s so clear…so pure.

Indeed, ours is the most rare of unique of Soulbonds.

 

Lestrade gazed happily into Mycroft’s eyes, shooting worried looks at Sherlock who was still relentlessly harassing the doctors.

“I worry about him.”

He murmured to Mycroft, gently rubbing his thumb over their joined Soulmarks, his emotions open for the other man to see, his thoughts an open book.

 

Oh Gregory they always were to me.

 

Allowing you to die was an impossibility.

 

You are marked forever on my Soul.

 

Neither Mycroft nor Lestrade could later identify which of them had said it, but knew in their hearts that it was an inexplicable and irrefutable truth.