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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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This was why it was good to be divorced.  You could do your good deed for the year by working Christmas Eve/Christmas Day and giving someone with family and loved ones the time to spend with them.  Let them enjoy their mulled wine and nice dinners, while he caught up on paperwork, waiting for the inevitable call because someone’s Christmas celebrations took a turn that was decidedly not in the holiday spirit.

And it was ok.  Really, really ok.  Christmas was just another day.   One of the 365 that made up a year.  Same number of minutes, no special treatment when it came to weather or a good case of sniffles nestling into your head.  And it was good to be free from all the hassle, you know?  The decorating, the visiting, the shopping and all the other things that were usually interrupted anyway because of the job.  Just a few gifts to purchase anymore and the recipients didn’t care if they were wrapped in lovely paper and a perfect bow.  He’d just handed Sherlock his gift – copies of twenty unsolved case files from the 1800’s – in a paper sac with Happy Holidays written in pen across the front, for example.  And he’d actually been praised for his efficiency.  Well, he was going to take Sherlock’s ‘at least you haven’t wasted time and resources creating a paper barricade through which I have to tear to obtain my gift like the rest of the mindless masses’ as praise whether it was meant that way or not, because this was Christmas and he could do whatever the fuck he liked, thank you very much.

Which was another good thing about being divorced.  You could do what you wanted.  No decisions to make about who to see and where to go and what to buy… just do what takes your fancy at the time.  Wore what he wanted to wear tonight, good plain clothes without a snowflake or holiday theme to be seen and there was a nice hot Thai take-away dinner waiting for him later.  Simply have to pick up the phone, make the call and there you have it.  No committee vote or shopping, cooking and washing up afterwards, either.  And, if he had a change of heart, his phone also knew how to call for his favorite Chinese food.  Which would come with a fortune cookie, which was a nice piece of holiday magic for a hard-working man to enjoy.

But, apparently, daydreaming about all of that would have to wait because someone was knocking on his office door and… no, wait, walking in…

      “Mr. Holmes!”

Mycroft Sexy Panther Holmes just strode into his office, casual as you please.  No… no, that wasn’t right…  The man he fantasized about on a rather embarrassingly-regular basis was a long, cool, composed bit of perfection and this bloke certainly wasn’t that.  Well, anyone else might not notice, but someone who used his not-inconsequential observational skills to burn those lovely features into his memory certainly would.  His curl was mussed, for god’s sake!

      “Please, sir, have a seat.  Are you ok?”

Mycroft gave the DI a curious look, but complied because, even he could experience the effects of adrenaline ebb and they were certainly beginning to mount.

      “Thank you, Detective Inspector.  I appreciate the offer.”

Lestrade’s worry escalated because that was not nearly the man’s normal elegant taking of a chair.  That any person could sit and make it look like ballet staggered Lestrade’s mind, but Mycroft always made it look so easy… except tonight.

      “What’s wrong, sir.  What can I do to help?”

      “Why do you assume there is a problem, Detective Inspector?”

Should he mention the curl?  No, that would probably get him killed.

      “It’s clear you’re a bit… disturbed, sir.  And, well… you’re here.  Without your first words being something to do with your brother.”

      “Ah, yes… how very observant of you.”

And I shall take your compliment as a happy and prized Christmas gift, thank you very much.

      “But, that is not unexpected, given your talents, now is it?”

And add that pretty package to the pile under the tree.  This Christmas was looking better and better!

      “I… thank you, sir.”

      “And, I will not insult you by downplaying your assumptions.  I find myself in need of your assistance and am most hopeful you might spare the time to provide it.”

      “Of course!  If I can, that is.  What do you need?”

Mycroft took a deep breath and slowly stood, crooking a finger for Lestrade to follow.

      “You shall see.”

__________

      “It’s a body.”

Lestrade looked down into the boot of the old and slightly battered Mercedes and, even after blinking a few times, had to admit the picture wasn’t changing.

      “That it is.”

      “I’m not really sure what to say.  Thank you?”

      “I rarely gift individuals at the holidays, Detective Inspector, however, when I do, I can assure you it is not with a human corpse.”

      “Not even your brother?   I think Sherlock would adore finding a corpse under his tree on Christmas morning. ”

Finally, the tiniest of smiles broke on Mycroft’s lips and he reminded himself that only part of the reason he brought his problem to Lestrade was the man’s position in law enforcement.

      “That is an idea of merit.  He is devilishly-difficult to gift.”

      “Of course, you’ll have to avoid John’s fists for awhile, but I think you’re probably fairly good at dodging a punch.”

Something that Mycroft, at the moment, was not at all inclined to agree with.

      “At times.  However…”

      “Yeah, back to business.  I suppose I should ask why there’s a body in your boot.”

      “The specific reasons I cannot divulge, I am afraid, however, I can, and feel I should, testify that there was not supposed to be a body in my boot and that is the crux of my problem.”

      “Did… did you just find it there?  Like a surprise in your Christmas cracker?”

      “Unfortunately, no.”

      “So, you put it there.”

      “Unfortunately, yes.”

      “Was it dead when you put it in there?”

      “Quite.”

      “And… are you the one who made it dead?”

      “Perhaps.”

      “Now really isn’t the time for waggly speaking, sir.”

      “Then… yes.”

      “Ok… well, at least you came out on top in the scuffle.”

Mycroft narrowed his eyes and stared at the DI, who was trying to decide if he should touch the body to try and find some identification.

      “Why do you believe there was an altercation?”

The curl!

      “Truthfully?  When you came into the office, you looked like you were just coming down from a good fight and, from the way you’re moving, the aches and pains are starting to settle in.  Was it… were you attacked?”

      “That is not an inappropriate description.  It… it was supposed to be a simple exchange of money for information, however, our friend became agitated by what he felt were unnecessary questions on my part.  I suspect he was somewhat chemically-altered, as his behavior demonstrated some rather substantial degree of paranoia from the onset and… to salve your policeman’s sensibilities, it was self-defense and I bear quite a number of pieces of physical evidence to support my claim.”

Something that put an ugly sourness in Lestrade’s stomach, though he’d keep that particular fact to himself.

      “Any… any we need to worry about?  I know a few people who would stitch you up.  And I’m not talking about John or official hospital personnel, if you’re worried.”

      “Thank you, but I believe I shall manage without trained medical assistance.”

      “Alright, but I’ll be watching and if I think you’re full of shite, I’ll take advantage of your weakened state and get you sorted out properly.”

      “I consider myself duly warned.”

And surprisingly comforted.  Which was certainly not why he had sought out the Detective Inspector for his particular bit of aide.  Not at all.  What a ludicrous notion.  Who would dare to suggest such a thing?

      “Good.  Now, back to the question of the night.  What do you want me to do?”

      “Ah, yes.  This rendezvous tonight was only to be the spark to light a greater fire and now that the spark has, as they say, fizzled… a new one must be lit.”

      “That didn’t even do a poor job of answering my question, sir.  Try again, if you’d be so kind.”

Yes, his ability to communicate was suffering was it not?  However, trying to push intelligible words through the haze that was floating through his skull was somewhat of a herculean feat.

      “Would I receive a morsel of forgiveness if I admitted to a staunch blow to my head?”

Lestrade moved with lightning speed, opening the rear door of the car and muscling Mycroft down to have a seat.

      “That’s not something to take lightly, sir.  I think we need to get you to hospital.  All sorts of evil things come from a head injury and we need to have you checked as soon as possible.”

Mycroft was a grown man, a highly-competent grown man, who was very capable of tending to his own affairs.  So, why was it such a blessed relief to have someone show concern and willingness to step in to offer support?

      “Thank you, Detective Inspector, but I am not in such a diminished condition that I require medical intervention.  And, before you inquire, yes, I am sufficiently experienced to make that evaluation.”

Lestrade glared at Mycroft and couldn’t stifle the giggle when the politician’s expression morphed into that of a look!-I’m-innocent and lying-like-a-bastard toddler.

      “So, now I have to watch for hemorrhaging and mental fuzziness.  Merry Christmas to me!”

      “How delightful I could make your holiday a pleasant one.   Now, I need you to help me hide the body.”

What?

      “What?”

      “The reason for my visit.  I have reassessed the scenario and believe my objective can still be reached, though, through a slightly different pathway.  The first step is transporting the body to a more… suitable… location for it to be discovered after a helpful citizen notifies the authorities of its presence.”

      “Would it mean anything for me to remind you of the particular laws you’d be breaking?”

      “Not at all.  And it should be laws that we would be breaking.  I do appreciate precise grammar.”

      “Mr. Holmes, this is the sort of thing they put in the textbooks when they need a situation that properly describes the vocabulary term ‘illegal.’ “

      “Can something be illegal when it is part of an initiative to put a halt to something that, itself, is illegal?”

      “You’re not The Riddler, so don’t try and fuddle me with your whirly words.”

      “Certainly not.  I would not be found dead in such a garish and form-fitting costume.”

      “Mr. Holmes…”

      “Detective Inspector…”

      “You can’t plant a body…”

      “I most certainly can.  And, again, you are forgetting that this is a joint venture.”

      “I can’t be party to breaking the law!  Besides, you have a legion of willing minions to call on for things like this.”

Mycroft sighed and swallowed down the rising fatigue and pain with which his body was traitorously trying to distract him.

      “I do, however, this matter is a very delicate one and I will not entrust it to someone in whom I do not have complete trust.”

Lestrade felt something warm bloom in his chest, then remembered something that prompted a rude noise, which startled the prim and proper bureaucrat.

      “You mean you need someone who will take the case when the ‘helpful citizen’ calls the police and who already knows the specifics so they can steer the investigation in the direction you want it to go.”

Now and then, when he felt an uncharacteristic tendril of loneliness and… want… Mycroft might admit to summoning images of this particular man, whose appearance was unquestionably pleasant, but whose mind was just as stimulating.

      “That does not in any way diminish the truthfulness of my assertion.”

      “No, it just makes it bloody manipulative.”

      “For some, perhaps.  However, it would only be manipulative if the person was incapable of entertaining that particular notion and, therefore, be affected by it.  I know you far too well for that, Detective Inspector, therefore you may rest assured that any compliments I bestow are honest ones.”

      “Oh, and the ‘please believe me because I’m giving you widened eyes and a hopeful smile’ look is honest as a priest?”

      “I know very few priests to verify the foundation of your measurement standard.”

      “All of your diplomatic protections aren’t going to mean much if I need to give you a good bollocking when this explodes in my face.”

      “I shall purchase for you one of those sturdy face shields the lovely Ms. Hooper wears when she is using a high-velocity cutting tool to open a skull.”

      “Yeah, you do that.  And keep your wallet out, because we are going to stop for a coffee and you’re paying.”

      “Very fair.  Though I shall have tea.”

      “No, coffee.  You’re riding with me and I’m not making two stops.”

      “Then stop at a locale that offers both.”

      “My coffee stop makes crap tea and I don’t need you stabbing me with your umbrella because your palate’s been defiled.  Speaking of… where is your umbrella?”

      “Yes, that is something we must collect at some point.  It was, I’m afraid, rather instrumental in bringing us to the situation in which we find ourselves.”

      “You killed the man with your umbrella.”

      “Partially.”

      “Partially?”

      “Please do not interrogate me until I have had my coffee.  It has been a brutal day, as you are well aware.”

__________

      “No.”

      “I insist.”

      “I don’t care.”

      “That is ridiculous!  It is my body, after all.”

      “I’m not having you try and carry a body up a flight of stairs!  You’re about ready to fall down on the seat and take nap as it is!”

      “I am perfectly awake and in fine physical condition.”

The last bit, at least, was true, but that might just be Lestrade’s imagination’s opinion.  And his eyes’ opinion.  And the opinion of certain bits that he wouldn’t even think about in case Mycroft was actually the mind reader he sometimes seemed to be.

      “Bodies, in case you forgot, are heavy and not exactly easy to carry.  You wait here and rest while I run it up, myself.”

      “Detective Inspector, you are not far from my age and I know well that my days of carting a corpse across my shoulders, up several flights of stairs, are fast becoming a thing of the past.”

      “Hey!  I’m not old!”

      “No, but even as a youth that would have been a tremendous effort and there is no reason to find yourself with a forever-impaired back because you refused the help you require.”

      “And how are you going to help with a wonky head and limbs like noodles?  I had to help you steady your coffee if you remember correctly.”

As if the memory of those large hands wrapping around his own was something he could ever forget.

      “Pish tosh.  Merely a temporary aberration.”

      “Well, I’m not going have you aberration yourself down a flight of stairs and end up with two bodies on my hands.  The paperwork would bury me!”

      “I shall see you are interred in an exquisite coffin.”

Lestrade shook his finger at Mycroft, got out of the car, and pushed back when Mycroft tried to open the door to get out.

      “Let me out!

      “Just have a little nap or something until I get back.”

      “You do not know where to deposit the body.”

      “It’s an abandoned building; I think I can find an empty room.”

      “But I require that our friend be found in a very specific room and that is not information I shall divulge if I am not allowed to participate.”

      “See?  If that’s not proof you need your head checked out, nothing is.  If you don’t tell me where to put the body, then your whole spy mission goes to the devil, so that’s not much of a threat to me, now is it?”

Damn Gregory Lestrade and his formidable brain!

      “There are factors beyond your knowledge that makes your assessment a flawed one.”

      “Oh yeah?  Then do feel free to inform me.”

      “I believe I shall not.”

      “Really?”

      “One must hold some cards close to vest, mustn’t one?”

      “Certainly.  Especially when those cards are completely imaginary and one doesn’t want to be caught out in a fuck-all massive lie.  Sir.”

Villain.  And villains were known to be glorious of form and feature, so the appellation was most certainly apt.

      “Now, just stay there and let me do this.”

Lestrade bet himself it would be less than ten seconds before Mycroft got out of the car and awarded himself a fiver when Mycroft was out before the count of three.

      “I demand to be part of this segment of activity.”

      “Do you have control issues?  Is that it?”

Yes.

      “No, certainly not.  I simply wish to equitably divide the burden so you are not unduly stressed.”

Since this was, apparently, a battle Lestrade was not going to win, he decided retreat was the best recourse.

      “Fine, but don’t blame me if you accidentally get locked in the room with Mr. Corpse to spend the rest of your Christmas Eve.”

      “Holidays are for sharing time with others, are they not?”

      “Yes, but I doubt he’s feeling very festive right now.”

      “Good.  I do despise frolicking, no matter the occasion.”

      “I can think of a few occasions where frolicking is a lot of fun, actually.”

      “Do they involve either wassail or jingle bells?”

      “Well… not usually.  But after a few glasses of wine, I’ve been known to jingle my bells with notable merriment.”

      “Detective Inspector, do behave.”

Or, more happily, please ignore me and continue with your delicious innuendo that puts such splendid mental images in my poor, abused head.

      “Nah, it’s Christmas Eve, so I can misbehave if I’d like.  I can even illegally transport a body!”

      “The benefits of living in a free country.”

      “Should I say thank you?”

      “It would be not entirely amiss.”

      “Ok.  Remind me after we’re done here.  And sharing a jail cell.”

      “Of course.  I shall make a note of it.”

__________

Well, that was nearly lethal.  Not the carrying of the body, but the arguing with the most stubborn man in existence, who had to debate every single thing about moving a deceased person up four flights of stairs and down a litter-strewn hallway, in the pitch dark because neither of them had a torch and arranging said deceased person in a way that didn’t immediately scream body dump.  Seriously, Mycroft was the fussiest criminal he’d ever known!  And, then, it was the drive back to the original crime scene to retrieve Mycroft’s umbrella, or, rather, the pieces of it, and do a quick check for any other obvious and retrievable evidence, before the next argument…

      “I’m not changing my mind, you daft bastard!”

      “I am perfectly capable of driving an automobile!”

Says the man laying down in the rear of the car, occasionally groaning when they hit a bump in the road.

      “The only thing you are perfectly capable of doing is lying and deluding yourself.  I’m driving you home and that’s the end of it!”

      “And how will you return to work?”

      “Ever heard of a cab?  Anyway… we need to decide what to do with this car, which is overflowing with forensic evidence that even a kid with a Junior Scientist kit could find.”

      “That is easily handled and it shall be taken care of immediately after we reach the terminus of our journey.”

      “Are you sure?  I mean… I probably shouldn’t say this, but if there’s a person who knows how to lose a getaway care, it’s a cop.”

      “Hmmm… a very interesting offer, however, I do not wish to involve you further in this.”

      “Besides handling the entire investigation and having it come out the way you want because if I don’t something nasty on the political scene is going to happen and lots of people will die and beer is going to become illegal or something.”

      “You paint a very draconian picture, but you are not, in truth, far from the mark.”

      “Lovely.  Now, tell me how to get you home so you can get some rest.  Maybe do something smart like call your personal physician to make sure you’re going to live past dawn, too.  Don’t think I haven’t noticed how you’re favoring one side, so I suspect you took some hits to your ribs.  And don’t bother answering, because you’ll just lie and say I’m loony.”

      “I would never use the term ‘loony.’  I would employ a far more colorful descriptor.”

      “That you would, I stand corrected.  Now… which way.”

      “Oh, very well.  If you cannot be swayed.”

      “I am entirely unswayable.”

      “Somehow I doubt that, Detective Inspector.”

      “When someone’s hurt, don’t expect any sway.”

      “And when someone is not?”

      “Remember my jingling bells?”

      “Oh dear, I seem to have fallen right into your trap.”

      “Christmas brings out the best in me.”

__________

      “There, now, isn’t that better?”

On his own sofa, with the Detective Inspector kneeling next to the armrest and gazing at him with concerned and caring eyes?  Yes, this was decidedly better…

      “I must admit that it is.”

      “Want me to stay awhile?  Keep an eye on you?”

Yes.

      “No, though I do appreciate the offer.  The next few hours shall be spent on my mobile and laptop salvaging this particular operation and that would surely be a tedious thing for you to endure.”

      “Ok, but I’m going to call and check on you now and then, if that’s alright.”

It was something he’d always wanted someone to do, but had never found an individual with sufficient personal interest to volunteer.

      “I shall greatly appreciate the gesture.”

      “Ok, then.  I’ll leave you alone to get to work.”

      “Thank you, Detective Inspector.  For everything.”

      “You’re welcome.  Oh, and Merry Christmas!”

Mycroft followed Lestrade’s pointing finger to the clock which showed that they had handily passed from Christmas Eve into Christmas Day.

      “And Merry Christmas, to you.  I assume you are spending the day with friends and family?”

That was a look Mycroft knew very well.  Much to his regret.

      “No, I’m on duty until afternoon, actually.  Gives those with a family time to have an especially merry holiday.”

      “Yes, I quite understand.  It is partially the reason I, myself, took this particular assignment.  Those I would usually assign are well-provided with spouses, significant others and children and I recognize the importance of this day to them.”

      “Mycroft Holmes, man with a soft heart under those crisp suits.”

      “Something that shall remain our secret.”

      “Absolutely.  Well, take care of yourself, sir.  It’s been... well, it’s been an adventure, hasn’t it?”

      “That it has.”

Lestrade rose and began to walk out of Mycroft’s sitting room, taking out his mobile to phone a cab and Mycroft felt time stand still for a moment, while he took in the whole picture of the man he had turned to instinctively when he had needed help.  Beautiful, manly, intelligent, humorous, dedicated… and lonely.  As lonely as was he, when he had had one too many brandies and was maudlin enough to admit it.  It was tradition to spend Christmas with those with whom one had a connection, was it not?  Perhaps theirs was only a collegial connection, but… no, there was more.  There had always been more.  A friendly connection, to some extent and… well, there was no mistaking the fire that he occasionally saw in the Detective Inspector’s eyes when he was near.  There was a connection and, if he was a courageous man, he could make a small effort, take a tiny step to investigate what could become of the connection they already possessed.  Fortunately, he was feeling most courageous this evening…

      “Detective Inspector?”

      “Sir?”

      “I do not know if you would agree, but, as I also shall be committed until the afternoon and find myself bereft of subsequent commitments, I would be honored to extend the invitation for, let us say, a drink and a warm fire once you have ended your working day.”

Lestrade re-ran Mycroft’s words in his head a few times because he could not easily believe someone as gorgeous and powerful as Mycroft Holmes just asked him around for a Christmas drink.  But it had happened… and if he said no, he was the biggest fool in the history of the world.  Maybe nothing would come of it, it was probably just a courtesy invitation, after all, but maybe it was something a little more.  It wasn’t as if they weren’t… cordial.  Friendly, even, in their own way.  And, now and then, he’d thought that, just perhaps, he’d seen a little pleased smile on Mycroft’s face when they ran across each other.  If he said no, there’d be no chance to find out just what that pleased smile was all about, now would there?  And, today, he was feeling just brave enough to take on the investigation…

      “I’d like that, sir.  Really, that would be very nice.”

      “I am happy to hear it.  And… I believe that, under the circumstances, you should call me, Mycroft.”

      “Oh, yes, I suppose I should.  And, I’m Greg.”

      “No.”

      “Sorry?”

      “You are Gregory.”

      “That’s my full name, yes.”

      “And that is what I shall call you.  Greg… how flaccid a name.  I absolutely shall not stand for it.”

      “Ok, that’s fine with me.  Can’t argue with that reasoning.”

      “No, you cannot.”

After both men packed away their smiles and before they began dissecting just what the other man’s smile meant, Lestrade nodded and made his way out the door.  Neither might have a stack of gifts under the tree or a home decorated with strand after strand of twinkling lights, but both suspected this might be the best Christmas they’d ever had.  And could, if they were very lucky, open the door to many, many more…