"So," said Greg. "What have you got?"
Sherlock walked around the body, taking only about five steps to do so on those absurd legs of his, then crouched down at its side while snapping on a pair of gloves. “Gunshot wound. Left parietal. Played rugby casually at the weekend, doodled compulsively, and just came back from a brief visit to Blackpool to see The Lights.”
From his vantage point at the side of the office within the abandoned mill building, Greg watched John squat down next to him and begin to prod the body as well. "Ticket to an illuminated tram tour in his pocket, okay. Aaaaand…there's ink on the side of his hand, left, and a scribbled thing on the side of his trainer, but how do you—oh holy hell, I know him." John ducked down to get a better look at his face. "Knew him. Well, sort of. I don't know his name, but he plays football on our…" John trailed off and raised an eyebrow at Sherlock. "That's how you knew he played rugby. You see him sometimes when you pull me away from my games."
"Obviously," Sherlock said, and he moved on to examine the room as if that fact didn’t matter a whit.
At this revelation, Greg had to step in. "Okay, wait a minute. You knew the victim?"
Sherlock waved that away. "Enough to identify where I'd seen him before, but not enough for there to be any trouble. Let it go, Lestrade."
Greg rolled his eyes. "I was just making sure—"
"It's fine," Sherlock said, stalking to the window. He examined the window with his usual precision, then opened it and peered out over the sill. When he appeared to have looked all he wanted, he started taking off his gloves.
"That's it?" Greg didn't really feel like putting up with Sherlock's 'mysterious' shit today, but truthfully he never felt like putting up with Sherlock's shit and he always seemed to get it anyway. He jiggled the keys in his trouser pocket through his blue overalls, frustrated and jittery with pent-up energy.
"That's all I need from you right now."
"Sherlock, what about what I need from you?"
"I care less about that."
Greg set his jaw. "So I'm just going to have to sit on my hands, as usual?"
Sherlock wagged his fingers at him. Greg had thought the dismissive attitude had got better over the years, especially now that John had not-insignificant hold over him, but he supposed backslides were inevitable. "I'm sure you'll have your hands full keeping a rein on your idiotic forensics team, as usual. Make sure they notice the chip in the window ledge.”
"Sherlock—" Greg growled.
"John, let's go." And Sherlock walked off without a backward glance.
In the early days of Greg’s and Sherlock's acquaintance, this would have been where Greg let him go, unsure where he could draw the line without risking Sherlock’s wrath, unsure exactly how to push that too-skinny, burnt-up wreck of a man. And early on in Sherlock and John’s friendship, Greg used to let them both go with barely an apologetic look from John.
Now, however, and particularly on this day when his patience was on a hair trigger, it only took five seconds before the perpetual itching underneath his skin caught fire. He ran after them. “No,” he said, grabbing Sherlock’s arm in the hallway outside the room and swinging him round. “No. You’re not going to do this to me.”
Sherlock looked down at Greg’s hand wrapped vice-like around his forearm, then up into Greg’s face. His eyes narrowed. “What.”
“Tell me what you know, Sherlock.” Greg hardened his eyes. “Now.” He endured Sherlock’s gaze skittering over his face for several long moments before there was a minute softening around his eyes and he dragged Greg back into the room.
“Look,” he said, pointing at the glass around the window. “Use your eyes. Look. Glass on the outside, with no dust on it. Newly broken. Look outside. Glass on the ledge two storeys down. Rubbish skip. Look.” He crouched down to point on the underside of the window sill where the wood was showing through the greying white paint. The marks looked fresh, the splintered wood gleaming. “This wood was recently battered by something very hard, harder than it. And look. There are fibres on the window sill. Small. Cut. Hemp, if I’m not mistaken.” Sherlock led them over to the body. “And now look here. Tiny glass shards on his sleeve. You can see them in the light. And his finger has been abraded.”
“From the window glass?” John asked, dubious.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. “From the gun.”
“Sherlock,” Greg said, feeling an idiot even as the words were coming out of his mouth, but by god he didn’t have the mental fortitude to deal with this shit right now. “There was no gun.”
Rising to his feet, Sherlock said, “There is no gun in this room.” Sherlock stepped closer to him and pointed out the window. “With a hemp rope the victim attached the gun to something that would act as ballast. He put the ballast out the window, the rope or twine coming through the broken glass into the room, and so when he shot himself the whole thing acted like a dead man switch.” Sherlock acted it out, throwing his head back and his arm out to the side like a marionette. “He let go as he fell, the gun flew out the window, breaking more glass, battering the window ledge, falling into the skip outside, which has since been emptied. Clever. The abrasion on his finger was a dead giveaway; no other defensive wounds, but perimortem damage to a trigger finger? Suicide, not murder. Obvious.”
“Not to me,” said John.
“Yes, but when is anything obvious to you?”
John set his jaw, and his eyes flashed, but he said nothing. He said it very loudly, and Greg looked between them for a few seconds, suspicious. “Sherlock,” he said, wanting to sidetrack them from whatever fight appeared to be simmering under the surface, “there was no GSR on his hands.”
“There are blood stains on the tails of his shirt consistent with him using it as a makeshift glove. I suggest you test that. What is wrong with you people?” He looked around, ostensibly to look through the wall at the forensics crew hiding outside the door. “Are you all so irretrievably distracted by lack of sex that you can’t do your jobs, or is that only Lestrade?”
Greg’s jaw dropped. Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Oh, spare me the theatrics.”
“Spare you the theatrics?” John said, relieving Greg of the necessity.
“Sherlock,” Greg said through clenched jaws. “Tell me whatever else you have to say and go.”
“I'm through.” Sherlock snapped off his second pair of gloves and binned them with a flourish. “I can’t stand being around you two any more. You with your seething sexual frustration and John with his hurt puppy frown. Like I care whether either of you are feeling ‘’fulfilled.” He made air quotes around the word while staring at John, then disappeared out the door with a flick of his coat, leaving John standing in the room looking flabbergasted.
Greg took a step closer to him. “What the hell was—“
John interrupted him with a brisk shake of his head, but wouldn’t look him in the eye, and a muscle in his jaw twitched. “Just. Not now.” He blinked his astonishment away and finally looked at Greg. “I will speak to you later,” he said in a monstrously level tone, then turned on his heel to leave.
Greg frowned after them for a few seconds before the crime scene manager interrupted him, and with a massive mental effort Greg directed his focus back to the case at hand. Whatever was going on with them, if he was meant to know John would surely tell him. In the meantime, Sherlock’s point was (unfortunately, inevitably) fair; he did have work to do, and a steady hum of sexual frustration to ignore. He directed his team to pay close attention to the glass, the tails of the victim’s shirt, the glass outside, and the damage to the window, and went to go find out whose lucky job it was going to be to figure out where—in the entirety of the country’s rubbish—the murder weapon had got to.
“Hello,” Greg said, steering into the car park in front of the sandwich place and setting the handbrake. He smiled. “Does this mean you’re back?”
“It does.” The sound of Mycroft’s voice made the tension in Greg’s spine ease. He slumped back against the seat and ran his hand through his hair.
“How was the trip?”
“Which is a good thing, right?”
“In this case, yes.”
Greg sat listening to Mycroft breathe for a moment. “Do you have anything on later tonight?”
“I was hoping you might be available.”
Just the idea of it sent a thrill of arousal clear down to Greg’s toes. “I am for you.”
Mycroft chuckled. “It won’t be until just past nine, if that’s not a problem.”
“No problem at all. It will be excellent to see you.”
“I look forward to seeing you as well.”
Greg could hear the truth of it in Mycroft’s voice, and his chest filled with an answering warmth. “Oh— Will you have eaten?” Greg cast an eye toward the front of the building where he had lunch waiting for pick-up. He could always order something for supper if…
“Yes, thank you. I only wish to…spend some time with you.”
Shag like rabbits, he meant. Greg welcomed it eagerly; today it made a two full weeks that Mycroft had been out of town, and that was the longest they’d gone without sex in the past few months they’d been…doing whatever it was they were doing. “I’ll look for you round nine, then?”
“I’ll see you then, Gregory.”
Greg’s stomach squeezed, and he smiled into his mobile. “Bye.”
After work, Greg scrubbed his day from his pores. He washed his hair twice. He ate a boring ready meal and drank a beer and cleaned his teeth and sat down to wait. At 8, he turned on the telly to see if there was anything worth watching, but Celebrity Big Brother didn't hold a candle to the dystopian novel he was halfway through, so he clicked off the programme and settled down across the sofa to read and wait.
He woke to the rattling sound of his mobile about to vibrate off the coffee table. With the back of his hand, he scrubbed the drool out of the corner of his mouth.
"I've woken you."
"Mm. Oh. Hi. Yeah, sorry." Greg squinted across the room at the clock on the wall.
"I'm sorry to do this to you, but I'm not going to be able to make it tonight, I'm afraid."
"Oh." Greg peered at the clock. "It's half past ten."
"Yes, I know. I apologise. I was caught in an important meeting. We've taken a break, but I don't think it will be over for a long while yet. Perhaps we should postpone."
Greg groaned into the phone and rolled to face the back of the sofa. "Mycroft…"
"I know. I know exactly."
"It's been ages."
"Trust me, Gregory. No one is more aware of that fact than I am."
Greg groaned again and he stretched full-length on the sofa, pointing his toes and arching his back. "When will you have time?" he said, curling up around the phone.
"As soon as possible, I will let you know."
For a moment, Greg considered putting on his best begging voice and pleading for Mycroft to come over when the meeting was done—no matter how late—but his dignity just barely kept him in check. "I understand."
"I'd hoped you might."
"Well." There was really nothing more to say, was there? "Good luck with the meeting."
"Gregory, let me just— I'm really quite sorry about this. Immensely sorry."
"It's not a problem." Greg just would have to be satisfied with his hand for another day or so. They were old pals, after all.
"I appreciate it."
There was dead air over the line for a few minutes before Greg spoke. "I'll speak to you soon."
"Absolutely. Good night, Gregory."
Greg chucked his phone down onto the carpet and groaned, pressing the heels of his hands into his eye sockets. He hadn't realised the depth of his craving until it was taken away from him. The sex had become something he relied on now, and going without was a serious strain on his system. There was something to be said for a regular fuck—not to mention the personal contact. A wank just didn't hold a candle to sex with Mycroft. It just didn't.
He chewed over just how spoiled he'd become as he flicked off all the lights in his flat and toddled off to his bedroom to sleep. Alone.
When Greg turned on the light in his office the next day, there was a small box sitting at the centre of his desk.
"Patel?" Greg said, backing up a few steps and calling groggily to the desk sergeant while he rubbed at his eyes. He hadn’t slept well. "Do you know anything about this thing on my desk?"
"Thing?" Patel appeared from around the corner to stare at the nondescript object. It seemed out of place, even on top of the clutter. "No sir."
"No one has come in?"
"Not since I've been here. For a few hours, now, at least."
Greg frowned. He took a step into the room to examine it more closely.
"Are you sure you should do that, sir?"
Greg froze, then he stopped and looked at the young man, who was fiddling with the end of his tie. For some reason, his nervousness seemed to clear Greg's away. "What do you think it's full of? A boggart?"
"Could be…could be a bomb?"
Making a derisive noise, Greg turned back to the box and looked at it from a foot away. From this distance, he could see something written on it that made the tension in his spine melt away. "At ease, gentleman." He snatched it up and started picking it open. "I know who this is from."
"How did it get here?"
"Sneaky bugger's got ways," Greg said, and flopped down into his chair to produce from the nest of brown paper a ridiculous plastic stress ball that looked like an eye. When he squeezed it, the iris bulged out of the bloodshot white.
"Who would send you that, sir?" said Patel, who was still lingering in the doorway and who looked entirely unimpressed.
"Never mind," Greg said, and waited for Patel to leave before he opened up the tiny card that had been tucked into the packing.
To help alleviate some stress until a more suitable activity is possible. Tonight, perhaps?
Greg squeezed the eyeball out of the socket a few times, staring at Mycroft's handwriting and grinning. He texted back, What time? and set the toy on the edge of his desk, aiming it to look at whomever stood in the doorway.
Almost immediately, there was a reply. Greg thought Mycroft couldn’t be too damn busy if he was waiting by the phone.
9pm. At mine. You might bring a change of clothing for tomorrow.
Greg couldn't help the grin spreading across his face. He rarely went over to Mycroft’s; more often, they ended up tumbling into bed at Greg’s, with Mycroft leaving before the dawn. Don't you think I owe you a gift in return?
If you feel the urge, I have a few ideas in mind. However, none of them can be packaged up in cardboard or sent via courier.
I'll have to deliver it in person, you think?
Without a doubt.
Writhing very slightly in his seat, Greg stared at the conversation. His cheeks began to ache with smiling. Then expect a special delivery at 9pm.
I'm not certain I've more looked forward to receiving post in my entire life, Mycroft texted back, setting Greg's day on a pleasant track that would last him through the entire morning.
“Where’s the fire?” Sally said, smirking. She dropped a folder onto his desk and watched Greg gather the papers on his desk into a few hurried piles while he also sucked down the last of his coffee and tried to put on his jacket on, all at once. She crossed her arms and leaned against the glass wall of Greg’s office to watch the show.
“I have a, er, thing tonight, but I want to get in a run first,” he said.
“Feeling a bit jittery?”
“No.” He stopped for a brief moment to peer at her. “Jittery why?”
“I just assumed you were going to see Holmes tonight,” she said with a leering grin. “It’s been a while since you were this amped up to go home. And you’ve been playing with that stress ball pretty hard. Which I know he gave you.”
“How did you know that?” He resented the smirk on her face.
She gestured at the discarded wrapping in the wastepaper bin. “Wasn’t really that hard to suss out.”
Sally grinned wider and patted him on the shoulder. “Go get laid, please. You’re driving us all round the bend.”
“You’re double fired.” He managed to shrug on his jacket without getting too caught up in the sleeves and picked up his empty coffee mug. “Here, wash this for me.”
“I thought I was fired?” she called after him as he headed down the corridor toward the lift.
“Unfired. Clean my mug.”
“I quit,” she sang and Greg stepped into the lift with a gigantic grin on his face.
He stopped at Sainsbury’s for a salad on his way home, feeling remarkably optimistic about life for once, and tossed it in the fridge to keep until after his run. Greg stretched perfunctorily and headed out, relying on the familiar motion of running to soothe his jitters and warm his nerves.
There was no reason to be nervous, really. Sex with Mycroft didn’t really count as new anymore. But for some reason the break in transmission was making it all seem new. …And daunting. What if that was it? What if the ease and satisfaction of the sex had just been a fluke, and now that things had been reset it was going to feel awkward? What if Mycroft decided it wasn’t worth his time anymore? What if Greg did?
Why did it matter?
Greg pushed his pace a little harder until the endorphins kicked in, and he rode them all the way through the rest of his route, trying not to vex himself with any particular thoughts at all.