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The Christmas Spirit

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Well, that was a long night… Christmas Eve brings out the best and worst in people and it was the police’s job to deal with the worst.  Luckily, he had today free and after he tended to one final thing, he could collapse on his sofa, watch whatever the BBC decided to delight the Christmas Day viewers with and enjoy a few pints while he indulged in the most quiet and relaxing holiday-making in London.  And, he’d deserve it, too, because, after dealing with the downside of holiday revelry, he got to refill his empty soul with a hard day of work for those who deserved a far better holiday than life was seeing fit to show them.

Turning the corner, Lestrade saw the homeless shelter up ahead, not surprised that there was a lot of activity, because word of the Christmas meal being served would have spread, as it did each year.  But that wasn’t the only reason… there was something about Christmas that brought out the need in people to share the day with others, even those they hadn’t met before.  And it was his honor to be able to help make this day a good one, or, at least, a filling and nutritious one for those who desperately needed it.

Hanging up his coat, the DI greeted the shelter director and started to move towards the kitchen before coming to a crashing halt and feeling his brain do a rollover, ending with all four wheels spinning in the air.  It wasn’t the very casual clothes and ungelled hair, it wasn’t the warm and compassionate smile, it wasn’t the apron tied around his waist… it was ALL of that and the fact that Mycroft Holmes was milling amongst the rank and file like he was a regular bloke.  Which he wasn’t.  He was the king behind the curtain!  The bloody Wizard of Oz, controlling the fate of the free world, which certainly didn’t involve chopping onions and laughing with the matron who was dropping more onions in front of him to cut and noticing him… oh no…

      “Ah!  Mr. Lestrade!  I’d hoped to see you again this year.  We can always use that stalwart policeman’s stamina on a day like this.  Let’s get an apron for you and put you to work, shall we?”

Lestrade counted the seconds before he was staring into the shocked and caught-out eyes of Mycroft Holmes and didn’t even get to make it to one second before he was looking into the lovely blue of the man’s gaze.

      “Detective Inspector…”

      “Mr. Holmes…”

      “I… I did not expect to see you here.”

      “With respect, sir, I believe I can say the same.”

      “Yes… I suppose so.”

      “I… umm… I try to stop in on the holidays.  Now and again when I have a free day, too.  They do a lot of good here and any help they can get, they’ll happily take, even if it’s only my little drop in the ocean.”

The words seemed to relax Mycroft a bit and Lestrade crossed his fingers that unnamed men in black weren’t going to suddenly appear to drag him off for a little time in some forgotten dungeon where his film and drink plan for the day was certainly not going to be on offer.

      “That you are here at all is far more than the vast majority of the population will offer and that is greatly to your credit.  I… I cannot claim the same altruistic spirit, for I can only manage to visit for this one brief period, when, traditionally, the world lays down it’s swords and there is some measure of peace to be found.   The remainder of my assistance must come in financial form, which is a sterile gift, but one I make gladly.”

Hurray!  No Christmas spent in a dungeon!  Now… might it be possible to actually chat with His Majesty?  Well, nobody ever said that Greg Lestrade wasn’t one to court a little danger when it presented itself.

      “You’ve been here before, sir?  I don’t remember seeing you.”

      “Traditionally, I am present for the Christmas Eve meal, but matters of work made that impossible this year.”

      “Oh…”

      “Yes…”

Both men looked at each other and not even Lestrade realized that an apron was being tied around his waist and a large pot of washed potatoes ready for peeling was set on the counter beside him.

      “Get to work, the both of you!  We’ll have a lot of mouths to feed and the dears surely need a good feeding to help them weather the nasty cold we’re supposed to see the next few days.”

Lestrade and Mycroft quickly devolved into schoolboys being caught passing notes in class and murmured their apologies before falling back into their assigned tasks.

      “We got scolded.  My mum would be so ashamed.”

Lestrade had never heard Mycroft giggle, but decided, with no hesitation, that it was the most wonderful sound in the world and wondered how many people were lucky enough to get to hear it.  If he had his way, that number would small one.  One… yes, that was a good estimate.  And, no, that had nothing to do with the tint crush he’d had on the tall, sophisticated Holmes brother since they first met the day Mycroft came to collect Sherlock from one of his many brushes with the law when the lad was younger.

      “As would mine.  It was ever to my mother’s delight that I was considered a model student.”

      “Well, I can’t claim that, because I had a hellion streak that came out to play now and then, but, at least, whenever I broke something, stole something or showered someone with bad language, I made it right later on.  Usually, with mum standing over me with a wagging finger and a scowl.”

Yes!  Another round of giggles and that wasn’t getting his potatoes peeled, but it was a fantastic Christmas present, so he wasn’t going to complain.

      “For shame, Detective Inspector… however, I must admit that the mental image of the young, rogue, Gregory Lestrade, is an appealing one.  And I can imagine that scenario most easily, much to my surprise.

That was the best thing anyone had ever said to him.

      “It’s the stubble, isn’t it?”

      “It is rather roguish.”

Roguish.  That was good.  You didn’t call someone roguish if you thought they were troll-faced.  You called them roguish when you thought they looked like someone who would swing down from a rope and snatch you up, to carry away to a big, soft bed for a night of very filthy things that would leave both of you with huge, satisfied smiles on your faces.  Or so he was going to believe and fuck off anyone who tried to punch a hole in his fantasy.

      “I’ll remember that.  Better a dashing rogue than a tired old copper.  Thanks for that!”

As well as for the… appreciative… smile you’re giving me like you approve of what you’re seeing when I flash my ‘no, I’m not flirting, but I really am’ grin.

      “You are most welcome.”

      “And, if I can return the compliment, you’re cutting quite the fine figure yourself, what with clothes I wouldn’t for a moment suspect you had in your closet, but look very good in, nonetheless.”

      “Ah… yes.  I agree that it is not my standard mode of dress, however, one presents one’s self in a manner to fit the situation.  And… I do have to admit to enjoying the relief of worry for dripping a modicum of one’s lunch onto one’s lapel and spending the remainder of the day in fear that one’s cleaner shall not be able to work the required miracle and make a trip to the tailor a necessary addition to the following day’s agenda.”

Had he ever heard Mycroft Holmes sound so… normal?  Well, not normal, per se, but normal with a dollop of Mycroft Holmes poshness smeared on top.  This really was the most amazing Christmas gift he could have ever asked for…

      “And I am most content that you find the presentation a flattering one for me.”

No, he was wrong.  This was the best gift, because there was just a tiny touch of rosy pink on Mycroft’s cheeks that was so utterly out-of-character, but so beautiful that if he just stood here all day and stared at that loveliness, he’d consider the day a success.

      “And I certainly do.  I mean, those suits of yours are amazing, but this is nice.  Sitting on the sofa, with a good drink and a good film, sort of nice.”

      “Such a relaxing picture you paint.”

      “And one I plan on enjoying later today when I’m done here.”

      “Oh?  I would assume you would have a multitude of invitations from which to choose to spend your Christmas day.”

      “And you’d be wrong.  Since the divorce, those have dried up a good bit, since couples don’t like to invite people around when they used to be part of a couple that they used to invite as a couple.  Sort of puts a damper on the occasion, don’t you think?  It’s a touch strange and that’s not what you want at Christmas.  But that’s alright.  We rogues don’t have a problem making merry on our own and we don’t have to take time and get dressed up for the fun, which is a very happy bonus.”

      “My… I had not considered that particular line of reasoning, however, I cannot find in it a notable flaw.”

      “And what about you?  Big dinner or a fancy party to go to?”

      “No, though I shall not say ‘alas, no’ for I prefer a more calm and quiet holiday than one which offers enforced conversation, nonsensical and embarrassing rituals, and clothing that should not be considered legal in a country that values taste and manners.”

      “No Christmas jumpers for you?”

      “I believe that would be the one event that would finally snap my grip on reality and send me to a remote little institution where the staff are well compensated for my lifelong care.”

      “Don’t worry, I’ll visit.  Always enjoyed a spot of time in the country.  I’ll toddle you around the gardens in your dressing gown and slippers and hum Christmas carols so it’s festive, too.”

Mycroft cocked an eye at Lestrade and wondered how on Earth the conversation had fallen into such an utterly ridiculous, yet completely natural, pattern.  Then he cocked an inner eye to try and understand why he was enjoying this so very greatly.  He had always harbored a small, private… admiration… for the Detective Inspector’s appearance, but had never had the chance to really come to know the man, something he now found himself wanting to a degree that was most alarming.  And delightful.

      “That is most kind of you and shall be a welcome balm to my troubled mind if I open a holiday package and find an offending garment nestled inside.”

      “I know lads in the fire service that would happily burn it for you.  Very safe and following all fire regulations, too, which I know you’d appreciate.”

      “That I would.  I must say I feel very safe under your careful watch, Detective Inspector.”

      “Would you feel safer if I asked you to call me Greg?”

That was a crazily-forward thing to say!  Why did his mouth do that?  Was he haunted?  One of those fucking Christmas ghosts crawling inside to spoil the little bit of harmless flirting he was managing?  Damned ghosts, good for nothing and can’t even sell them back to the shops for your money back…

      “Oh…”

Idiot!

      “I believe I would, Gregory.  Thank you.”

Not an idiot!

      “And, please, do call me Mycroft.  We have known each other for quite some time and it is most appropriate at this juncture, I feel.”

Definitely not an idiot! 

      “Alright, Mycroft.  I like that idea a lot, actually.”

      “And I’d like it if you got your arses to work and got those vegetables ready for the pots!”

Shriveling under the matron’s glare, Mycroft and Lestrade quickly began peeling and chopping, waiting for her to find other victims before breaking into a round of giggles that grown men had absolutely no business making.  Unless they were having the time of their lives with someone who was instrumental in making it that way…

__________

Hours of prepping, cooking, serving and cleaning up followed and it was two tired and happy men that finally walked out of the doors and into the cold Christmas Day air.

      “Well, that was worth it.  Good to see the work you do having a direct benefit.”

      “I heartily agree.  But, Gregory, may I ask… why this particular shelter?”

Lestrade turned to Mycroft and flashed him a knowing smile.

      “Same reason as you visit here, I suspect.”

      “Sherlock.”

      “Yeah.  They were there for him a lot when he needed it.  Dragged him here on many occasions for a good meal, some clothes and a bed to sleep in when he wouldn’t take any of it directly from me.  And, they didn’t toss him on the street when he was being a bastard, either.  The staff are good people and took the time to listen to him and didn’t judge, which was what the boy needed.  A few days here and there of mucking in to shoulder the load is the least I can do to repay them for what they did.  And what they continue to do for the needy souls in the city.”

      “And it is the same for me.  Sherlock spurned my assistance at every turn, but, here, he found those who offered help with, as he viewed it, no ulterior motives.  I… I have never forgotten their kindness and ensure that no matter the state of the economy, they are able to provide such kindness to others in need.”

      “That’s good of you, sir… Mycroft.  Really, I know they appreciate it.  If they even know about it, that is.”

Mycroft tapped the side of his nose and Lestrade laughed, because it was just like the man to even have his charity occur out of sight of those who benefited from it.

      “And now, Gregory… on to your good drink and good film?”

      “I suppose…”

Christmas was a time for comfort and joy, good friends and good fun and since he’d already started on that path today, it didn’t seem right to stop when… when it might be possible to simply keep on going.

      “… and, if you’d like, you’re welcome to join me.”

Fingers crossed.  Toes crossed.  Not easy in these stupid cops shoes, but this was important!

      “I… me?”

      “Sure!  You said you appreciated a relaxing holiday and that’s exactly what I plan on having.  It would be nice, though, I think, to have a little company with my relaxation.  If you’re willing, that is.”

Mycroft hoped his brain began to function soon because… nobody invited Mycroft Holmes to have a drink and film on the sofa experience.  No one.  He was… he was many things, but not someone who prompted such an open and… welcome… invitation.  Especially from someone such as Gregory, who could invite any person in London and have them salivating in anticipation.  Tomorrow, he would be back in his suit, with his hair as immaculate, as usual, but today… today was a very fine day for exactly what the Detective Inspector was offering.  And when… no, it was far too soon to begin anticipating what might be the response if he reciprocated the invitation at a future time that would be soon, though not so soon as to appear desperate, which he most certainly was not, even if his mind was putting all the relevant variables from today’s interactions into a formula and coming up with a truly pleasing result.  Oh, why was Gregory beginning to look downtrodden?  Ah, perhaps because his mind was seeing fit to carry on in a pleasurable daydream and not provide the answer the man was awaiting.  And, if he was skilled at reading expressions, which he was, an answer he was greatly hoping would be yes.

      “I would be delighted.  Thank you, Gregory.  This is very, very generous of you.”

Why did one need Christmas lights when Gregory’s smile could illuminate a room with its brilliance?

      “Great!  Really, that’s wonderful.  Shall we, then?”

      “I believe we shall.”

Anyone watching the two men walking down the street wouldn’t notice anything odd about them.  Would never think anything besides there were two people enjoying a walk in the crisp, cold air, laughing at each other’s jokes and smiling with true happiness at being with the person at their side.  Of course, an observer would probably also think this was because they were in love or quickly making their way to that point and they’d be wrong.  Very wrong.  So very, very wrong.  How utterly ridiculous to believe that one could have that feeling crawl into one’s bones so quickly.  Ludicrous.  Bordering on insane.  Luckily, Mycroft and Lestrade didn’t have a problem with a little insanity in their lives…