Mycroft is surprised when he arrives at Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade’s flat early Sunday evening, to find the door answered by a pink-haired teenager wearing blue lipstick and a band t-shirt he has certainly seen her father wearing on their occasional jogs together.
“Oh, it’s you,” the girl says with an easy grin. “You’re that cool detective’s brother.”
Mycroft blinks and searches for an answer to that. “Well… yes?”
“Saw your picture from the baby’s birthday,” she says. “Dad’s right, you’re—”
They both look up at the sound of Greg’s voice; Lucille (Mycroft had been momentarily unable to dredge her name from the depths of his memory) looking particularly sheepish, while Mycroft is both relieved and disappointed that he will not, in fact, find out what ‘Dad’ had to say about him to his fourteen year old daughter.
“Oh!” Greg grins widely. “Hey, Mycroft. What brings you round on a Sunday? Have you eaten? We have plenty left from supper.”
“Good luck finding it under the cupcake explosion,” Lucille scoffs. To Mycroft she says, “He can’t bake. Please, help him. I’ve heard you’re like a genius or something.” Mycroft can’t think what to say to that, etiher. “Dad, I’m going to meet Gemma at the shops.”
“You’re supposed to be helping me with the cupcakes.”
“I hate baking, Dad, god, and you’re crap at it. I’ll get some cupcakes at Tesco on my way home.”
Mycroft watches this exchange in silence, and attempts to hold a straight face. He watches Greg roll his eyes and dig out his wallet, watches Lucille insist she doesn't need anything as her father presses money into her palm and kisses her on the forehead.
“Home by ten,” he says, and she nods.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Holmes,” Lucille says with a wink, before she is shoved bodily out the door by her father, who tugs Mycroft inside by his coat sleeve.
“Why are you still loitering on my doormat?” Greg laughs. “Come in! So, that was Lucy.”
“I confess I was momentarily confused,” Mycroft says, taking off his coat and passing it to Greg’s waiting hands. “I’m afraid I’ve continued to picture a five year old when you mention her.”
Greg laughs and hangs the coat in the hall closet. “Tell me about it. The pink hair I can handle. In fact, I quite like it. Reminds me of my punky past, if I’m honest. But the lipstick! I keep wanting to make a fuss, tell her she’s too young for it. But then I remember that’s just not true anymore. I’m old.”
“If you are old, what does that make me?”
Greg grins and winks. “Old plus two years, don’t be dramatic. Anyway, what can I help you with on this fine Sunday evening?”
“I was merely bringing by the files you lent me last week,” Mycroft replies, gesturing where he’d set his briefcase to remove his coat. “I don’t have to stay, if you were busy with… baking, was it?”
Greg appears to deflate a bit at the reminder. “There’s a bake sale,” he begins, forlorn. “Karen doesn't cook or bake much. I… swear I used to be somewhat decent in the kitchen. But I seem to be fucking it up rather spectacularly.”
Mycroft struggles with himself for a moment. He could offer to help. He happens to be quite good in the kitchen, and particularly adept with baked goods. Offering to help would mean an evening alone with Greg Lestrade, which… Mycroft so rarely has an excuse for that. After nearly a decade of acquaintance, Mycroft can count on one hand the number of purely social interactions he has been able to have with the man - not counting their semi-regular meetings to run together, a habit they had formed shortly after Sherlock’s fall and which, after Greg had forgiven Mycroft after Sherlock’s return, had continued on-and-off for years.
“I… may be able to help,” Mycroft says, before the rest of him can chime in with how very little it matters that he would like to spend more time with Greg; how selfish it would be to do so. How dangerous, ill-advised, wishful, delusional, et cetera, it would be. Mycroft has heard it all from himself, and more.
He has a sweet tooth, and a weakness for this man. Mycroft can be forgiven the indulgence.
“Really?” Greg’s smile is as devastating as ever, and as nuanced as his smiles always are. This one is surprised and cheekily interested in this tidbit of personal information. “You bake? Wonders never cease! You don’t have to stay, though, really. I should just let her buy them. Just wanted to do something nice, is all.”
Mycroft bites the inside of his cheek and wonders if this offer of an ‘out’ means that Greg wants him to go. “Truly, I wouldn’t mind. It has been months, at least, since I last had time to cook for pleasure. You would be doing me a favor.”
Greg’s smile softens and he nods slowly. “Right. Okay, then. But hold off on that favor business. You haven’t seen the mess I made of the kitchen.”
The kitchen is, in fact, a disaster area. Mycroft blinks at it, and then turns, biting down on his own amusement, to Greg.
“I told you,” Greg says sheepishly, running a hand over the back of his head. Mycroft notes some traces of flour in amongst the silver hairs, and a smear of dried batter on his wrist that matches the splatters all over the mixer, backsplash, and cabinets. “I’m… shocked at myself. I swear, I’m not a complete idiot.”
Mycroft gives in and laughs. “Well, you don’t have to convince me of that; I already know. However, we’re going to need to do some damage control before we can fix this very minor disaster.”
Greg raises his hands in surrender. “I am ready to follow instructions, sir.”
Mycroft pretends not to be utterly charmed and terribly turned on by that, and reaches for a roll of kitchen towel. “Very well,” he says, and prays his voice doesn’t sound as hoarse as he thinks it must.
When the counters are mostly clean, dishes under some semblance of control, Mycroft takes stock of the available supplies. Satisfied that he can work with this, he begins picking things out and handing them to Greg. While they work, they talk, and by the time Mycroft has a workable mise en place ready, he has learned that this venture is the result of some guilt on Greg’s part. Regrets, even.
“She deserved better than me, I think,” Greg is saying as Mycroft begins tapping dry ingredients into the mixing bowl.
Mycroft makes a sound of protest and turns from his task, incredulous.
“Don’t,” says Greg. “I know you’ll tell me I’m being too hard on myself. But I know better than that. I haven’t been hard enough on myself. I mean, after the divorce especially I should have… I don’t know. Stepped up.”
Mycroft sighs. “Greg… I am not unfamiliar with the concept of regrets.” He reaches for the eggs he had settled into a bowl of lukewarm water while the two of them had cleaned. “I believe we all have them, and I even think most are… correct.” He cracked the eggs one-handed into another bowl. “God knows that the lion’s share of my own regrets, and the lost sleep over them, are well-deserved.” He added sugar and oil to the bowl. “But I will tell you something I have learned over countless hours with a government-paid therapist in a government-owned building, under layers upon layers of confidentiality and security which go both ways: some things, despite our failures, are not entirely our fault. One can be a good brother, even when one, at times, fails at it. Intent truly does matter. We only are able to work with the tools we have been given. The ones we have known how to obtain. It must be true for fathers as well. And… I say this honestly, as a person who had a complicated relationship with a fundamentally good father: You have done very well.”
Greg stares at him. Mycroft realizes suddenly how very close they stand, and quickly turns back to the worktop.
“Sorry?” Greg asks, and then clears his throat of the rasp Mycroft had been prepared to tell himself wasn’t there.
“Do you have any vanilla extract?” Mycroft clarifies, ignoring his own speeding heart. “If not, rum or whiskey would work, as well.”
“Oh,” Greg says, and rummages through the cabinet directly in front of Mycroft. Finding it, he hands over the small bottle of vanilla. “I think I see where I messed up.”
Mycroft swallows, trying desperately to stop himself from internally obsessing over every millisecond of contact between his fingers and Greg’s when he hands over the vanilla. “Sorry?”
“With the cupcakes,” Greg says. “Was I supposed to do the sugar and the eggs separately?”
Mycroft gives himself a shake. “Oh! Well, yes. I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault I didn’t choose a better recipe. ‘Cake mix for idiots’ or something.”
Mycroft eyeballs a measure of vanilla extract into the bowl of wet ingredients, then carefully caps the bottle and sets it aside before turning to Greg with deliberate slowness. “Very well. In a moment we will need to mix the wet ingredients and then incorporate them into the dry. Before we do that, I wish to say something.”
Greg’s eyebrows rise and he nods. “Okay, sure.”
“Please don’t ever call yourself an idiot. Especially in front of me.”
“This is something I know how to do,” Mycroft says, unsure even as he says it about where he means to go with it. “Baking, that is. You are not… an idiot. Not with regard to this, or… anything. I have known you for over a decade now, and I can assure you that you are.” Mycroft catches up to himself and draws in a deep breath. “You are a good person. A good man. A good father. I wouldn’t associate you outside of Sherlock, otherwise.”
Greg rears back for a moment, brows reaching toward his hairline. “Oh,” he says.
“Sorry.” Mycroft turns back to the worktop. “Really, I apologize. I didn’t mean to make things awkward.”
“The next step is to mix the sugar and wet ingredients,” Mycroft continues, plopping cups of white and brown sugar into the bowl. “Here.” He hands Greg the whisk after retrieving it from the drying rack. “Mix.”
“Right,” says Greg, and he steps away to follow the instruction. “I appreciate it, you know. What you said.”
“I meant it,” Mycroft replies softly, while he goes about dropping tiny paper cups into a muffin pan. “I… didn’t intend to be so. Well.”
“Holmeses and their drama,” Greg sighs, and Mycroft can read his facetiousness easily.
Then, he also knows that Greg wants him to read it. Greg is the sort of person who says something mildly insulting in an affectionate way. He’s the sort of man who does that and pulls it off.
He is, in other words, the opposite of Mycroft and unlikely to ever…
Oh, fuck off, Mycroft tells his inner monologue.
“Indeed,” Mycroft says, even as he feels his cheeks heat. “I suppose you of all people are equipped to put up with… Me.”
He could swallow his tongue. He nearly does.
“Hmm,” Greg murmurs contemplatively. “Now what? Mix these two bowls together?”
Mycroft nods and slips around Greg in the small space of the kitchen to give the bowl of dry ingredients another quick stir before holding it still while Greg uses the whisk to push batter out of the second bowl.
“You may need the spatula,” Mycroft says, and reaches around Greg to pluck it up. “Here.”
“Thanks.” Greg takes to scraping down the sides of the bowl.
“You are practically a professional.”
Greg shoots him a look, a little roll of the eyes. “Uh-huh.”
“No,” Mycroft says, not bothering to keep the softness away from his voice. “Really. Perfect form.”
They manage to mix and distribute cupcake batter with little eye contact or discussion. By the time the pan goes into the oven, the silence is palpable and Mycroft feels a distinct tension in the air. Or…
He wishes he did.
In this, his judgment is— has always been— rather off the mark. He’s not certain if there is tension at all.
Greg, as he has in the past whenever Mycroft has wondered what if, breaks it.
“Beer?” He asks, turning his back to Mycroft in order to head for the fridge.
Helpless, Mycroft agrees. “Fine.”
The silence stretches even after Greg cracks away the caps and hands one of the bottles off to Mycroft.
“So,” Greg says after a moment. “I’m happy to report that I bought the icing ready-made.”
Mycroft doesn't bother to hide his horror. “Oh,” he says. “Absolutely not. That, I cannot allow. Store brand buttercream? Then you really would be a bad father.”
Greg barks a laugh and clinks their bottles together. “Fantastic. Now we’re talking. Show me how to make a decent icing. It was cream cheese, by the way.”
“Ugh.” Mycroft exaggerates a shudder. “You wound me, sir. We need butter, milk, and icing sugar. Quickly, before I faint.”
They talk of inconsequential things while standing around with cold sticks of butter rolling between their palms for softening. Sherlock’s latest news-making antics; Rosie Watson’s birthday; Lucy’s interest in the photos of that event; Lucy herself.
“She will be a beauty,” Mycroft predicts while Greg uses the hand mixer to blend butter and sugar, a task Mycroft assured him he could handle. “If she keeps the hair, I mean.”
Greg tips his head back to laugh, and Mycroft thinks about kissing his adam’s apple. One beer, and he’s fully lost control. Unconscionable.
“I know you’re kidding,” Greg says. “But I don’t disagree. But yeah, isn’t she lovely?”
“She looks exactly like you.” Mycroft says, and then clamps down on himself so that he doesn't add: ‘so, yes, of course she is unbearably lovely.’
After an awkward pause, which Mycroft hopes he imagines, Greg asks, “I’ve always wondered. Which parent do you favor, and which one does Sherlock?”
Mycroft huffs. “Because we don’t look at all alike, you mean?”
“You look a bit alike.”
Mycroft rolls his eyes. “Do you know, I’m taller than he is?”
“By a full inch.”
“Oh, for—” Greg laughs and shoves at Mycroft’s shoulder. “Shut up. I just… it’s not so much that you don’t resemble each other much. Which, actually, you don’t really. It’s that I just… wondered.”
Mycroft raises an eyebrow. “Why?”
“I wonder things,” Greg insists, gesturing with his beer but darting his gaze this way and that. “You know. About you. Like one. Does.”
Mycroft bites his cheek and breathes for a moment, turning to place the milk back in the refrigerator. “Curiosity is an admirable trait.”
Mycroft turns to look at him, his heart jumping at the roughness in Greg’s voice. The oven timer chimes.
“Jesus,” Greg sighs. “I mean. They’re done! Great!”
“Yes?” Mycroft opens the oven door and nods. “Toothpick?”
They manage to verify the cupcakes’ doneness and remove them from the oven without further awkwardness.
“And now, they cool,” Mycroft sighs with satisfaction, shucking and discarding the oven mitts on the counter top.
“Wow,” Greg says, standing at his side. “They look perfect. Like a photo of what a cupcake should look like when it comes out of the oven. They’re all the same size, even!”
Mycroft chuckles. “We appear to have succeeded, yes.”
And they stand there, side by side, staring at un-iced cupcakes as though they are a mountain they have recently scaled together.
Mycroft hums, but doesn't look away from their handiwork, thinking of all the time it will take to wait for them to cool before they can ice them, and how lovely it will be to spend all that time talking to Greg about any topic that comes to mind.
Greg looks at him with his soft half-smile and his warm eyes, and says, “Thank you.”
“It was no trouble.”
“Still,” Greg says, very quietly, and then he leans forward. “Thanks.”
He presses his mouth to Mycroft’s so gently that it takes longer than it should for Mycroft to understand what is happening. By the time he does, Greg has pressed a warm palm to the back of Mycroft’s neck to guide him in. Without any conscious effort on his part, Mycroft kisses back.
Their lips press. Part, and open, and lock again. Greg breathes in sharply through his nose. Mycroft can’t remember how to breathe.
When they part, it is only for a space of inches.
“Was that okay?” Greg asks.
Mycroft nods, and leans in to another kiss which melts into several. Every press and push and pull is stunning; breathtaking. All of it is unimaginably soft and tentative, and yet Mycroft feels that the slightest increase in pressure or passion would end him.
“I’ve been dying to do that,” Greg murmurs when they part again, their noses brushing together. “For years.”
“What?” Mycroft gasps.
“Years, Mycroft. So don’t stop now.”
They kiss, and it turns hot and wet, but no less gentle. Mycroft finds himself tracing his fingers, featherlight, down the contours of Greg’s face and neck. Can’t bring himself to shove or stumble like his body so dearly wants to do. He knows he could have Greg up against the worktop right now. He can taste it on the other man’s tongue which, god, is stroking slowly against Mycroft’s own. They’re both hard in their trousers. At least Mycroft is, and judging by the little aborted movements of Greg’s body below the waist, he probably is too. It would take nothing to tilt their hips together.
Mycroft doesn't, and neither does Greg. The moments spin out and maintain a soap bubble consistency around them. Inside of it all, there is just… kissing.
“This was our first date,” Greg says the next time they part. “Just for future reference.”
“There will be more?” Mycroft checks, licking his own raw lips in anticipation.
“Oh, yeah.” Greg grins and wraps his arms around Mycroft’s middle. “Hundreds. If you want.”
Mycroft wants. He wants an endless list of things. He wants to pick up the bowl of buttercream and smear it down the side of Greg’s neck and then lick it off. He wants the clock to turn itself back an hour, and give them more time before Lucy gets home. He wants to sink to his knees and tell Greg he’s been in love with him for half a decade.
Instead, he nods. Says, “Please.”
And then he kisses Greg some more.