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A Tangled Web

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Mycroft gritted his teeth, his hand clenched on the arm of his chair tightly as he stared at the CCTV image on his desk. What the hell was Magnusson doing? Mycroft had never liked the man, but he knew that he was a necessary evil. He had to stomach him for the things that Magnusson knew. Contrary to what his brother might think of him, he didn’t want to protect the man, but he had to.

So why was Magnusson sitting across from Greg Lestrade in his office? Didn’t he know that the Detective Inspector was also under his protection? Though the picture wasn’t exactly high definition, he could see by the man’s expression that he was shocked by something. Did Magnusson feel that having a detective inspector under his thumb would be a good ‘buy’ or was Lestrade working on some case he was interested in? No, Mycroft would have known that. Was it because he knew that Lestrade was friends with Sherlock and helped him? Was this about that little break-in at the office last month?

Currently Sherlock was recovering from the bullet and he seemed to be making the most of his condition with John, who had, supposedly temporarily, moved back into 221B Baker Street following the revelation of what Mary was. It wasn’t news to Mycroft, he had bugs all around Sherlock’s apartment that the man hadn’t found yet. Not that he was objecting, because he preferred John with Sherlock; his brother was just so much better when John was there, and happier as well.

He stood up, straightening his suit, and stepping out of his office. “A car, Anthea. Now. We’re going to the Yard.”

She looked up from her computer, saw the set line of his jaw, and immediately stood up. Within moments, the car had pulled up front and they were moving toward Lestrade. While Mycroft tried to keep their conversations professional over the years, other things had leaked through. Apparently Greg found it impossible to have a purely professional relationship with anyone and they had managed to become…friends. It was a stunning enough revelation to him, but Mycroft wasn’t about to lie to himself that he knew that he felt more than just friendship.

He had found his ‘goldfish’, but he wasn’t about to let anyone in on that fact, particularly the goldfish himself.

The car slid up to the sidewalk in front of the stairs where Greg was sitting, smoking a cigarette. Mycroft leaned over to open the door from the inside. “Do get in, Detective Inspector.”

“I’m not really up for company today, Mycroft,” the man replied, voice as weary as he had ever heard it.

“Get in, please…Gregory.”

Lestrade blinked. “That’s the first time you’ve ever used my first name. I’ve been telling you for seven years to use it…” Mycroft didn’t say anything and after a minute, the detective dropped his cigarette, stubbed it out with his foot, and got in the car. As the door closed, he asked, “What did you need, Mycroft? I’ll add it to the pile.”

He had never seen Greg this tired, this resigned, before. Sherlock would have gone straight for the jugular, asking about Magnusson, but not Mycroft. “How bad is today?”

“Bad enough that I think I’ll be fired, or at least demoted.”

Mycroft carefully kept his expression and posture the same. “What about? Your record is clean.”

“For the most part.”

“What do you mean, for the most part?” What had he missed?

“Well, I guess it won’t matter if you know, since it’ll be all over the press tomorrow anyway… Back when I first joined the force, right after I married Rachel, we’d had a big row and I went down to the pub to drink. I shouldn’t have because I was on-call, but I was just a constable back then. I hadn’t even been on the force for more than a year. Long enough to have known better, though. You got a drink?”

Mycroft blinked at the sudden pause in the story, but he leaned forward and reached under his seat to find the bourbon that he kept for emergencies. Before he could say or do anything else, Lestrade snatched it from his hand and took a long swallow from the bottle itself. Looking closely, he could see how pale the Detective Inspector really was, how his hands were shaking. He was not as calm as he was trying to appear.

“Can you tell where the story is going? Yeah, I got a call and it was nearby. So I was drunk when I responded.”

“What was the call?”

“Robbery. Broke into a jewelry store that was near the pub. So I rushed out and when he saw me, he ran. I trapped him in an alley. He had no way out, the back was blocked up. He turned and then I saw a gun in his hand, so I ducked behind…something. It might have been a skip, I don’t really remember. I told him I was a copper, I hope I wasn’t slurring, and knowing what I know now, he wasn’t a hardened criminal. He was just a teenager, starting out his life of crime. He’d done minor things, like shoplifting, until he’d found that gun somewhere. He was too scared to shoot; all I had to do was keep him in there until backup arrived.”

“…But you were drunk.”

Lestrade nodded and took another long swallow. “I was drunk with adrenaline flooding me at the same time. I wasn’t thinking right, Mycroft. So instead of just talking to the kid, keeping him occupied until everyone else arrived, I paid attention to what he was saying. I couldn’t tell that his voice was shaking back then, that he was just bluffing when he said he’d kill people. So I rushed in instead and grabbed the gun.”

When Greg fell silent, his face ashen, Mycroft said quietly, “You fought over the gun.”

“Yeah. It was against procedure. They’d told me not to confront him, just to contain him. Those were my orders. I wasn’t ordered to go in there and I did…and the kid died because of it. The trigger was pulled accidentally and it shot him in the chest. I was terrified. I tried to stop the bleeding, but I couldn’t. He was dead by the time anyone else arrived.”

He let the story settle, watched as Greg took another heavy swallow of the bottle. “It isn’t in your file.”

“No. Soon as he got on the scene, the Inspector in charge could tell I was drunk. I was honest. I told him what happened. I was drunk against regulations when I was on call and I disobeyed orders by going in rather than just blocking the entrance. I was sure they’d kick me off the force for this. It’d ruin my marriage and my career, but I deserved it. This kid was dead because of me.”

“That’s not what happened.”

Lestrade gave a bitter laugh. “No. The Inspector, he knew me. We’d worked together before and he’d even written a letter of commendation once. He said I had a bright future and that I was good. That I had talent. So—”

“So he lied,” Mycroft supplied.

“Yup. I don’t know what he said to the ME, what he did, but when the medical report came out, there was no mention of me. I was sent to secure the perimeter of the crime scene so no one else would know that I was drunk. I wasn’t even mentioned in the final report at all and no one came to talk to me. When I sobered up, I was terrified. I went to him in his office, asked what was going to happen to me now. You know what he told me? ‘Nothing’.”

“He covered it up.”

“Of his own accord. I begged him to come clean, but he said what happened would end my career. If I wasn’t fired, I’d never have a shot at a promotion.” Greg stared at the bottle he now held in his lap and gulped. “And damn me, but I listened. I listened to him when he said not to say a word. I knew what I did was wrong and I deserved punishment, but I never did anything about it. It’s made me sick to my stomach for years and I’m the only one that knows. Both the Inspector and the coroner retired years ago and whatever he did, it was good enough that no one ever opened the case for review. No one. A case that involved a gun and someone dying, and no one ever questioned his account. I still don’t know just who he knew to make that happen…”

“So what happened today?”

“I thought no one else knew and then this man came to my office. Said he owned a massive media empire and if I didn’t do what he wanted when he said he wanted it, everyone would know. Charles Magnusson.”

“You didn’t participate actively in the cover up, Gregory.”

“No, but that doesn’t make a difference. It was swept under the rug years ago and it would make the department look really bad. So who’s the scapegoat? Me. Because I did it. I’d be fired, among other things. It’d make the inquest into me when Sherlock faked his suicide look like a light tap.”

“And you told him no.”

“That would be the polite way of putting it. The more accurate way was I said words my mother would hate me for and threw him out. I told him no matter how many times he came to me, the answer would be the same. So…it’ll all be over tomorrow, I expect.”

Lestrade took a deep, deep breath and Mycroft heard how shaky it was. The man put the cap back on the bottle, rather than take more, and covered his eyes with his hand, leaning against the door. His shaking was more pronounced and Mycroft, who had sworn he didn’t have one, felt his heart break a little. The man was trying to keep composed, desperate to do so in front of him, and while he knew that his presence often inspired others to firm themselves and show no weakness, that wasn’t what Mycroft wanted right then.

So he reached out against his better judgment and placed his hand on Greg’s knee. The detective inspector turned to look at him and he saw the sheen over his eyes of tears he was refusing to shed. He wanted to tell the man to ask him to help, but knew that he’d only get a negative response. “Your fortitude, your honor, is amazing, Gregory,” he said honestly. “You’re completely incorruptible.”

“I don’t want you to cover anything up, Mycroft.”

“No,” he agreed. “I won’t cover up what you’ve told me.” No, he had no need because it was already covered up. He just had to deal with Magnusson to make sure that the cover up stayed in place. “I agree with your Inspector, though. You are a great, great man. To see you lose everything because you were drunk like that would have been the greatest crime of all. Particularly since you’ve learned your lesson, I take it? Never drank on duty again?”

“Didn’t touch a drop in thirty-odd years. At least if I’m not off.”

The car slowed to a stop and Mycroft got out, coming around the other side of the car and opening the door for Greg before he could touch the handle. Greg was looking around the street, the street lamps just starting to come on as the sun went down. “Where are we?”

“My home.”

“What am I doing here?”

Mycroft didn’t ask for Greg to come in. Instead, he ushered him inside without waiting, closing the door behind them. “Stay here for the night, Gregory.”

Lestrade’s eyes narrowed. “Why am I here, Mycroft? The man that came to see me… Do you have something to do with him?”

“I have business with him, yes—”

“You saw him come to talk to me and that’s why you came, isn’t it? If this is part of some—”

“No,” he quickly assured the angry man. “No, I promise you that isn’t what this is about. It’s part of my job to keep tabs on him and I saw him go to you, but I swear I didn’t know why he was there. I came to find out, to make sure that…you were okay. He’s not a trustworthy man.” He struggled with the last part, but he had to make Greg understand that he wasn’t on Magnusson’s side. After hearing what he did, he couldn’t be. He could handle anyone else being targeted, even his brother because they knew how to at least defend themselves, but not Greg. He was too honest of a man to use the dirty tactics necessary to save himself.

It seemed to mollify Greg and really, the man trusted him far too much. It made him feel a stab of guilt for what he had done in the past and what he was doing now. Greg would never approve… Yet despite knowing that Mycroft should never be trusted, he did. They were ‘friends’, weren’t they? It was because of this trusting nature that Mycroft couldn’t leave Greg alone. No, he had to be protected at all costs from things that he wouldn’t protect himself from. So Mycroft had to do it for him, because he couldn’t bear to lose him.

“Have you eaten yet?”

“No.”

“Then come with me.”

Mycroft led him to the kitchen and made him sit down on a stool. “You’re going to cook for me?”

“I do know how.”

“Never would have pegged it.”

“I’m not surprised. You’re the only one I have ever cooked for, besides Sherlock and we all know how that always turns out.”

“Yeah, I think I can guess.” Mycroft watched from the corner of his eye as a faint flush went up Greg’s cheeks. “I’m honored then.”

“Honored because I’m cooking for you? I’m not that good.”

“No, because you’re doing something for me you’ve only ever done for Sherlock. You think I don’t know how much you adore him, no matter what you say? I’ve never met anyone that would sacrifice so much for someone else…at least until Sherlock met John. You’d do for him what Sherlock would do for John. As selfish as both you Holmes’ can be, you’re also so highly self-sacrificing for the few you care for. No one is more important to you than Sherlock and the fact that you’re putting me in the same hemisphere as him by cooking for me makes it an honor.”

Mycroft was glad he had his back to Greg, otherwise the man would have seen him blushing. Maybe one more person was as important to him as Sherlock, he thought, but could never say it. Instead, he slipped off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. “You are truly a good detective, no matter what Sherlock says.”

“Really?” He could practically hear the grin. “Thanks.”

The evening went smoothly and the benefit of cooking the meal was that Mycroft was able to slip a sleeping aid into Greg’s drink. He carefully lifted the man from sofa where he’d been siting once the man had nodded off. Honestly, when was the last time he had slept? Why wasn’t he taking better care of his health? Didn’t he know that there were people that would miss him if something happened to him?

Mycroft sighed and carried the man upstairs, setting him in his bed. He pulled off his shoes, dropping them by the door. The man’s coat was still downstairs, so at least he’d be as comfortable as Mycroft dared to make him. Looking down at the sleeping, exhausted man, it only steeled his resolve. Eyes never moving, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. If his fingers punched the number with a tad more vehemence than the device deserved, he ignored it.

“This is Magnusson.”

“Mr. Magnusson, it’s Mycroft Holmes.”

“Hello, Mr. Holmes. I was expecting to hear from you. How is your dear little brother?”

“Oh, he’s fine, I expect,” Mycroft replied, an expert at keeping his voice level. His fingers gently brushed the salt and pepper hair before leaving the room quietly. “However, I do have a matter that I would like to discuss with you alone.”

“Oh? What have I done to warrant such attention from the great Mycroft Holmes?”

“I’d prefer not to discuss it over the phone. I will send my assistant around to pick you up, if that’s convenient.”

“Quite. I’m looking forward to it. Goodbye, Mr. Holmes.”

Mycroft listened to the dial tone for a moment before he took a deep breath and relayed his instructions to Anthea. She didn’t ask any questions and a moment later, a driver was at his house once again, with a small paper bag with him. The statesman took it without comment and slid into the backseat. He sat in silence for a moment before he pressed a speed-dial.

“I don’t want your case, whatever it is.”

“I don’t have one,” he told the grumpy man. “I have another task for you.”

“What makes you think I’ll do whatever it is?”

“Go to my home and watch over the occupant there for me.”

“No.”

“Sherlock, if you do this, you have but to ask and I will do anything you want.”

“Anything?”

“Yes.”

“Even if I said to never contact me again even to the day I die?”

He took a deep breath. “Yes.”

There was a suspicious silence on the other end for a long moment before he heard a reply. “Fine. This better be damn important.”

“It is, brother dear. It is.”

Of course Sherlock hung up without saying goodbye, not that he expected anything different. He pulled out what was in the bag and slid it into an internal pocket of his jacket. He took a moment to make sure that his suit was straight and he appeared impeccable, but that only took a few seconds, leaving the rest of the ride insufferable.

It felt like an eternity, but fifteen minutes later, he was in an abandoned factory that Magnusson had once used and closed down. He stepped out, spotting Anthea standing on the sidewalk next to the door. She wasn’t looking at her phone for once, instead staring into his eyes, but didn’t stop him or say a word as he passed.

Magnusson was looking around the dusty main lobby that hadn’t been used in years, windows boarded up and the furniture removed. “So what do I have that you want?” the man asked, hearing Mycroft’s footsteps.

“You have information about a certain Detective Inspector that caught my attention.”

He could tell by the way Magnusson’s posture changed that he had surprised him. So the man hadn’t known that Mycroft was in any way related to him, beyond the superficial. “And you want the files.”

“No.”

Magnusson turned around. “No?”

“You don’t have files. You have nothing physical in your possession.”

A slow smile that grated on every one of Mycroft’s nerves appeared. “So you are smarter than your brother. You know that I have all the information and news now doesn’t need evidence. All I need to do is say the words.”

“Exactly.” He reached into his jacket pocket. His fingers touched on his checkbook and moved just to the left, slipping the cold metal into his hands. “Which means that information dies with you.”

Magnusson had time to widen his eyes before Mycroft had whipped out the small gun and pulled the trigger. He felt no remorse as he watched the body fall from a bullet to the head. He had saved not only Greg, but Sherlock and John. He wasn’t foolish enough to ever believe that Sherlock had given up going against Magnusson and whatever scheme he decided to do would end up with disastrous consequences. No one could ever hurt Sherlock and Greg, and if he had to stain his hands again to make sure they were safe, he would do so without a moment’s hesitation.

“It appears as if I’m too late.”

Mycroft didn’t even turn around. “I told you to go to my house.”

“I did. When I saw who was sleeping there, it all made sense.” Sherlock came to stand next to him, both looking down at the body. “You know you’ll get in trouble.”

“Are you concerned about my career?”

“Hardly. You’re too invaluable to them. They won’t dare lose you.” Sherlock paused. “He’ll hate you for this if he finds out.”

“Then he won’t find out. Charles Magnusson owns a media empire with many contacts around the world and some of those places are not safe.”

“So he’ll conveniently disappear and then appear a few months to a year later in another country, found dead. It’ll be attributed to the violence in the region. No one will know anything.”

“I’m sure I have no way of knowing that, just that the world is a dangerous place.”

“Only a select few will know of your crime and I’m sure you have ways to buy their silence. Will you try to buy mine?”

Mycroft turned to look at Sherlock at his threat. Only his brother could see his weakness. Anthea might suspect, but Sherlock would know just how potent the threat was. “I told you that I would owe you anything.”

“And you said yes if I demanded that you never speak to me or ever see me again.”

“Yes, I did.”

Sherlock stared at him for a long, long time before saying, “Stop being so self-sacrificing, it’s annoying and doesn’t suit you. I’ll tell you what I want later.”

As his brother turned to go, Mycroft just couldn’t let it be. “Pot calling kettle black, Sherlock?”

The man paused. “What?”

“I’m saying you shouldn’t throw stones in glass houses, Sherlock. You call me self-sacrificing, but you might look at yourself. Sacrificing what makes you happy because you think that John would be better off with Mary. He’s living with you again and his relationship with Mary is rocky at best. You could make him yours and you know it, but you’re as self-sacrificing as you claim I am.”

Sherlock didn’t say anything and after a minute, he stalked out the lobby. Mycroft glanced down at the body before following. As soon as he was outside, three men entered and he knew the body would be disposed of. He didn’t need to be here. So he slipped into the car and Anthea herself drove him back to his home.

Greg was still asleep in his bed and Mycroft slowly sat in a chair next to the bed. He would always watch over him. If what he did made him a demon, then that was fine. He would take the darkness, so Greg remained clean. Always.