After a difficult three weeks for Lestrade's Major Investigation Team, Saturday morning showed no signs of improvement when the call came in about the abduction of a seven year old boy from his East London home. The Khan house backed on to a relict from the Victorian age, which was to have been turned into a complex of shops and flats, until the developer went bust two years ago. While the lawyers haggled, vandals and nature took their toll on the site; the security fence around the perimeter had been breached in a number of places and it looked as if half the fly-tippers in London had been using it as their dumping ground, together with all the local junkies.
The Khans' small house was crammed with those who lived there, four generations somehow managing to squeeze in to very little space - which made it all the more inexplicable that Kamel, the precious only son in a family of five daughters, could have vanished, until the boy's grandfather suddenly said,
"Where's my mother?"
While one set of fears were alleviated by the knowledge that Kamel was probably with his great-grandmother, she was eighty five, spoke no English and in the last few days had been showing signs of increasing mental confusion.
While door-to-door inquiries continued to be made, Lestrade and Donovan set up a central base in the shade cast by what had once been a mental asylum, although the air was like a humid blanket wherever you stood.
"The place gives me the willies," said the usually phlegmatic Donovan, as she stared up at the monstrosity looming over them.
She and Lestrade were poring over the only plan of the area they had been able to obtain, given that it was the weekend and the relevant council staff had scattered to enjoy the thirty three degree heat and ninety six degree humidity in their own way.
"I can't say I'd fancy living in a former mental asylum," agreed Lestrade. "The treatment of the mentally ill in the Victorian era doesn't bear thinking about. They..." He slowed to a stop, staring at the vast wreck of what would always have been an ugly building.
"Sir?" Donovan eyed him with a trace of anxiety as she fervently hoped that the strain of the last few weeks, exacerbated by a mauling from a critical press, hadn't finally taken their toll. Not that Lestrade had shown any sign of stress, beyond being a bit sharper tongued than usual. But then he'd never suffered fools gladly at the best of times.
"What?" Lestrade refocused with obvious impatience. "Do we have any information about, or plans for, the land around the asylum?"
"This is it until we can locate anyone from the local planning office. Bloody ridiculous in this day and age but - "
"Yeah. Never mind. I know a man who might be able to help. While I'm on the phone to his office, check what's keeping the extra uniforms we were promised over an hour ago. If you can't get any joy, say that the press were wondering what's causing the delay. That should make the top brass pull their finger out," Lestrade added sardonically, still bruised by the lack of support from senior officers on his previous case.
He waited until Donovan was out of earshot before calling Mycroft on the emergency number Mycroft had given him soon after they started seeing one another, and which he had never had cause to use until now.
The call was answered on the third ring.
"Gregory?" The sharp note of anxiety was unmistakable.
"I'm fine. Sorry, I didn't mean to worry you," Lestrade said quickly. "I need your help with my missing seven year old. He's possibly with an eighty five year old woman, who's been showing the early signs of dementia. Thanks to info received in our initial door-to-door, we've narrowed the search to this area. GPS will give you the coordinates. The building used to be a mental asylum. I've got every available copper searching the area but we can't get into the building until the bolt cutters arrive. It occurred to me... My dad's obsessed with the social history of the working class. I remember him telling me that in the bad old days, the area around mental asylums and some hospitals could be riddled with tunnels."
"For what purpose?"
"Shackling the more troublesome inmates - and worse," said Lestrade grimly. "This place could have had tunnels, even if they haven't been used for decades. Or maybe they have, just not for the same purpose. I need plans telling me where any exits and entrances would be. The tunnels might have been used for something else during the Second World War. Or the Cold War. Or whatever spooks do with secret tunnels. I need the info as fast as you can get it. Apart from all the obvious risks, the kid has Type 1 diabetes and hasn't got to grips with the need to manage it properly."
"Leave it with me."
Lestrade gave him a nod of thanks and went off to check on the progress being made by the various teams. While everyone was shiny with sweat, the uniformed officers were suffering the most in their protective vests. Squinting in the sun bearing down on him, because he seemed to have lost his sunglasses, Lestrade listened to the various negative reports, before allocating new areas to be searched. Then, with some reluctance, he went to update the family again, knowing how he would feel if it was the twins who were missing - and they were nearly ten years older than Kamel.
Donovan was waiting for him when he got back. "How could a woman that frail negotiate ground this rough in the first place?" she said with frustration. "Are we sure they're here?"
"Three independent witnesses saw an elderly woman with a small boy over by that large mound of rubble. No one saw 'em come out again. It's the best lead we've got until door to door kicks up any other lead - or until the dogs arrive," Lestrade added, grim-faced because he always associated dogs with the dead rather than the living. "Given what Sunita Khan has survived in her eighty five years, she's physically tough, whatever her mental state. Even allowing for family partiality, Kamel sounds like a bright little boy. He's crazy about Harry Potter. One of his sisters said he calls the asylum Hogwarts but that they're all banned from playing on the site. Which isn't to say he might not have persuaded his great-grandmother to bring him here. Given that she might have dementia, and that he's only seven, neither of them are likely to have any comprehension of the dangers on a site like this. I've told the teams to be careful. There are needles everywhere.
"It's ridiculous for the ground floor windows to be so high that we need fucking scaffolding to reach them!" he snapped in sudden burst of frustration, as he glared at the fortress-like former asylum.
"If we can't get in, neither can they," said Donovan - unwisely because Lestrade was in no mood for logic.
Before he had the chance to snap her head off, the Assistant Chief Constable called him.
By the time Lestrade had been informed that additional help was on its way from a branch of the Home Office, a black Range Rover was already pulling up, followed by an anonymous white transit van.
Lestrade hurried over to meet them, giving an involuntary smile of pleasure when he saw Mycroft get out of the rear of the Range Rover.
His jacket slung over one shoulder, Lestrade's pale blue shirt and grey trousers were clinging damply to him, sweat gleaming on his temples and upper lip. While he loved the heat, humidity this high was another matter. In contrast, Mycroft looked cool and elegant in a three piece cream linen suit.
"The plans of the tunnels will be available to your sergeant on her tablet within the next five minutes," said Mycroft crisply. He handed Lestrade a bottle of chilled water and a pair of sunglasses.
"Remind me to kiss you when we're alone," murmured Lestrade, his back to where his teams were working in the distance. He was halfway down the bottle of water before he noticed two men moving boxes of bottles of water into the shade.
"You're a life-saver," he said. "The local shop didn't have any left in stock and the team are starting to wilt."
"I'm not surprised in this heat. With the permission of your Assistant Chief Constable, I've brought cutting equipment, two men to operate it, hard hats and torches."
"You really do think of everything. Thanks! I need to tell the troops." Lestrade fished out his phone.
"Donovan, the plans will be on your tablet in a couple of minutes. Once the guys with the cutting equipment have gained entry, start searching the building in the usual grid pattern. Allocate small teams to locate the exits to the tunnels in the grounds. No team is to attract the notice of, or make themselves known to, the Khans. Sunita will be confused, at best, and Mr Khan senior thought that one of the larger kitchen knives might be missing."
The dog handlers arrived just as he finished the call. Lestrade jogged over to meet them, and ordered the entire perimeter be checked to confirm that, while the Khans may have entered the area, they hadn't left it again.
On his way back, he took care to avoid the area the Press occupied, just outside the main entrance; they were growing increasingly aggressive in their line of questioning, and none of the speculation was helpful to the distraught Khan family.
His clothes feeling as if they were sticking to him by this time, Lestrade gave an unconscious smile when he saw Mycroft propped against the side of his Range Rover. His Panama hat tilted at a decidedly rakish angle and with sunglasses masking his eyes, his ridiculously long legs were crossed at the ankle, his hands in his pockets as he watched the activity. Grateful for any distraction from thoughts of what might have become of Kamel, Lestrade headed for his personal lodestone.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but what are you still doing here? Or here at all, come to that." He nodded his thanks when Mycroft leant inside the car to hand him another bottle of water, which was already warming in the ferocious glare of the sun.
Mycroft slipped off his sunglasses, instantly looking more familiar. "I speak fluent Urdu, Pashto and Punjabi. Given that you're still waiting for an interpreter to arrive - I now understand your frustration about the various cut-backs - I thought my language skills might be useful, should a negotiator be needed in retrieving Kamel - and afterwards for interviews." He felt no need to add that he was concerned. This was the second case in a row involving a child, and the last had ended in the worst way possible. Inevitably, Gregory had taken it hard. Not that he had spoken of it; even after a year together Gregory hadn't learnt to speak about the things that troubled him the most, and he was wary of pushing, still uncertain of his exact place in Gregory's life.
"I knew I kept you around for more than sex," joked Lestrade, just before he remembered Mycroft's driver, sitting only a couple of feet away from them. He winced and mouthed 'Sorry' at Mycroft, who just grinned, which knocked ten years off his appearance.
"There's no sound proofing?" Lestrade whispered.
"No. Fortunately Michaels is discretion personified."
Lestrade's eyebrows rose in extravagant surprise. "You've had conversations like this before?"
Mycroft looked long-suffering. "Must you torment me? Certainly not."
"It'll be great to have an interpreter I can trust." Lestrade glanced behind him, saw there was nothing he could do yet and turned back to Mycroft with relief.
Mycroft slid his sunglasses back into place. "I'm gratified to discover I have my uses." Despite himself, a certain bleakness leaked out.
It won him Lestrade's full attention for the first time that morning. "I might not think to say so, but never doubt that," he said, suddenly intent. "I'm grateful you could come yourself, I don't know how you managed it, but it's helped. I'm not ready to lose another kid."
Mycroft nodded but knew better than to offer any comforting platitudes.
Lestrade glanced at his watch. "I need to go and rally the troops, check on the progress of the teams and make sure the Information Officer is on the ball. The bloody press have arrived in droves, and keeping them off-site is wasting valuable man-power."
"I understand. I'll wait here, out of the way, until you need me."
"You can spare the time?"
Mycroft nodded, seeing no need to mention the work going on behind the scenes to ensure that he could.
"Thanks," said Lestrade, touching him briefly. His phone rang as he was walking away and he suddenly stopped dead and gestured to Mycroft. "They've located Kamel and his great-grandmother alive," he said, the moment Mycroft drew close. "This way."
Lestrade hared off, leaving Mycroft with little choice but to follow him. Unable to remember the last time he'd had cause to run, Mycroft was surprised by how well he did, all things considered. Besides, there was more than his dignity at stake. Naturally, the tunnel in question was the farthest away, although it had the benefit of being masked from sight of the press by a clump of elder.
The team who had located the Khans stood in front of a small doorway, which had been hidden by some old washing machines and a considerable amount of now battered down vegetation.
Lestrade thrust a protective vest at Mycroft. "Put this on," he commanded.
"I don't need - "
"I want you to interpret for me but you're not going another foot without that vest on. Clear?" There was no trace of the warm-eyed lover of moments before.
Because there were more important concerns than his pride, Mycroft put it on without further debate, noting that Lestrade was doing the same.
In the background Lestrade was making it plain that there would be no large-scale rescue. "You all stay back, clear?"
"Clear, sir but I still don't think it's a good idea," said Donovan. "Procedure states - "
"This is an eighty five year old woman and seven year old boy," said Lestrade, an impatient edge to his voice. "Make sure the family are kept well away. I understand their desperation, but they're a distraction we can't afford at the moment."
As a scowling Donovan briefed the team, Lestrade led Mycroft into the entrance, where they were hidden from sight. He stepped in closer to Mycroft and made an unnecessary adjustment to one of the straps of his protective vest.
"On second thoughts, you should stay here. I won't risk you getting hurt," he muttered.
"While the boy speaks perfect English, his great-grandmother doesn't. I'll be fine," said Mycroft, who had no intention of allowing Gregory out of his sight.
Lestrade looked unconvinced but finally gave a reluctant nod. "You make sure you stay that way. The ground farther inside is covered in rubbish, so watch your footing. Stay behind me at all times. While the team thought Sunita Khan was dozing, she'll be confused and frightened when we appear, no matter how careful we are. MacGregor confirmed she has a knife but from the way Kamel's happily playing, it's probably to protect him rather than anything more sinister. All the indications are that it was Kamel who brought her here, not the other way around.
"Oy! Where d'you think you're going?" Lestrade broke off to demand of Mycroft's driver, who had suddenly appeared. He bore a strong resemblance to a brick outhouse, except for the intelligence in his steady blue gaze.
"Get a grip, Michaels," said Mycroft, an edge to his voice. "She's eighty-five. The only wonder is that she's managed to walk this far, over such rough terrain. You'd frighten her to death. Stay here. Give any assistance necessary."
The tunnel was only seventy or so yards long, although it seemed farther because it curved so much. They inched their way over the debris, trying to make as little noise as possible because every sound seemed to be magnified. They could hear Kamel playing ahead of them - from what he was shouting, he was battling the Basilisk. The lights from their torches cast surreal shadows, the rusting shackles embedded into the wall a stark reminder of the less benign use to which the tunnel had once been put. The air stank of damp and disuse but the walls and roof were in an excellent state of repair.
More unnerved by the enclosed space than he cared to admit, Mycroft was beginning to think fondly of the paperwork awaiting him when they finally rounded a corner to see Kamel precariously balanced on top of a large heap of rubble sited beyond where his great-grandmother sat, gesturing with what was obviously supposed to be his wand.
Sunita saw them and stirred with a mumble of distress, getting to her feet with obvious difficulty.
His hands parting, Lestrade murmured a reassurance, trusting in Mycroft to translate for him, and they fell into an easy rhythm in which English and Punjabi interlaced.
Everything was going swimmingly, until there was a scuffle behind them and Mr Khan yelled his son's name. Kamel lost his balance and cried out sharply as he slipped from his perch. Mycroft darted forward and caught him before he landed on the shards of glass poking up through the rubble, just as Sunita rushed to defend Kamel, the knife in her hand aimed at Mycroft's unprotected neck.
Lestrade threw himself between them, already reaching for the knife.
Still floating somewhere close to the ceiling, Lestrade blinked at Mycroft, who was sitting by his bedside.
"'Lo. This is a bit posh for the NHS, isn't it," he mumbled. "My mouth's as dry as the bottom of a budgie's birdcage."
Mycroft left the chair to retrieve something out of sight. "What a disgusting metaphor. Here. Suck on these ice chips for now. This is a secure, private hospital." While he still wore the cream trousers of his suit, he looked unfamiliar in a baggy green surgical top. His right hand was bandaged, and there was a dressing on his forearm, large rusty brown areas of dried blood down the front of his trousers and a tear to the knee of his left leg.
"How badly are you hurt?" asked Lestrade, but even the surge of adrenalin at the thought didn't enable him to sit up with any ease. The line in his arm shivered.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Gregory! Be still or you'll rip your stitches. I'm fine."
"Fortunately, Michaels disobeyed orders and was only yards behind us. He got Kamel into his father's arms and away so fast that the boy never realised we were doing anything but joining in his game. Which was just as well, because you were bleeding like a stuck pig." Mycroft's roughened voice was suddenly unsteady. "Next time kindly just yell a warning, instead of leaping in front of me like that. You could have died!"
"So could you, and all because you were there to help me," said Lestrade grimly. "I should never have let you on the scene in the first place."
"Never mind that now."
"The IPCC won't agree with you. I flouted procedures."
"I think you'll find that the IPCC will," said Mycroft, his voice ultra dry.
Lestrade blinked. "You can fix that?"
"It's done. Though your sergeant will be saying she told you so for the foreseeable future. Michaels is being equally unbearable," added Mycroft, with a grimace.
"Bang go your chances of sneaking away from your security for a while."
"Thank you for the sympathy. On to more important matters. Your arm will be fine, if uncomfortable for a few days. You lost a considerable amount of blood, so don't imagine you'll be leaving here for at least the next two days."
"You're in pain," recognised Lestrade muzzily, doing his best to concentrate. "Why aren't you on the good stuff too?"
"Because, unlike you, I don't need it. And make the most of yours - it's a one day only supply."
"Just as well, I'm starting to see the attraction. You look like crap," added Lestrade frankly. "On a scale of one to ten, how bad is it?"
Mycroft sighed. "Gregory..."
"That owlish expression might work with your assistants, I know better. How bad?"
"Cuts to the palm of my right hand and underside of my forearm. Thirteen stitches in total. The main discomfort is from two sprained fingers and a gashed knee. Nothing."
Lestrade let himself slump back against the pillows. "Thank God for that. Sherlock will never let us hear the end of this," he added inconsequentially. "Bested by an eighty five year old."
"Then I suggest neither of us tells him. You're going to be fine," Mycroft added, as much for his own comfort as Lestrade's.
"You said. I'll never forget what you did."
"Getting you knifed, you mean," said Mycroft, his expression bleak.
"The moment you'd thrust Kamel into the arms of your driver, you were back to defend me, while trying not to harm an eighty five year old woman. Which is the only reason she managed to cut you. Either of us, come to that. How is she?"
"Ah, some good news. Rather than the onset of dementia, Sunita Khan has been suffering from a urinary infection - which can produce a similar effect in the elderly until it's treated. She's been hospitalised but all being well, she should be released in under a week - her blood pressure is already back to normal. The infection confused her to the point where she believed Kamel was her eldest son, who was murdered almost seventy years ago during the partition of Pakistan and what is now Bangladesh - which is why she armed herself in the first place. Kamel is back home with his immediate family. Much as he enjoyed all the attention, he still isn't aware of what actually happened. Oh, and his father is most apologetic for precipitating the crisis," Mycroft added dryly.
"I can't blame Kamel's dad for needing to be there. In his place, I would have done exactly the same thing - and I know better. But it makes a nice change to have a happy ending for once."
"Unlike your last case," said Mycroft quietly.
"Yeah." Lestrade plucked at the sheet, while avoiding Mycroft's gaze. "I didn't intend to shut you out these last few weeks."
"I know. It's fine."
Lestrade looked up at that, his expression relaxing. "No, it isn't. You deserved better. But you have so much on your plate that I didn't want to add to it."
Mycroft leant down and kissed Lestrade gently on his just parted mouth. "Always a mistake to let you do your own thinking."
Lestrade gave a slow grin at that, his fingers curling around Mycroft's. "So we're good?"
"Of course we are." Mycroft ignored his own fatigue and stood holding Lestrade's hand until he dozed off again; he remained there, without moving, until Lestrade awoke forty minutes later, when the nurse arrived.
"About Mrs Khan knifing us," Lestrade said, as soon as the nurse had left the room again. "With a bit of luck the CPS will chuck out the case."
"I would certainly expect that to be the outcome." Mycroft's tone indicated it was a done deal.
"You're definitely a keeper," said Lestrade with conviction.
"That's fortunate because I have no intention of allowing myself to be discarded. More ice? Or tea?"
"Now you're talking. Where's my phone? I need to call Donovan."
"She said you'd say that. She also told me to tell you that she won't accept any calls from you until you're out of hospital. She added that she'll see to all the paperwork. Your team, your DCI and your DCS all sent their best wishes. I presumed you'd rather not have any visitors."
"You know me so well. I'm sorry you're being treated as my secretary."
"Anthea informs me I'm doing quite well," said Mycroft placidly. He poured the tea he had made into what looked like a bone china mug, before handing it to Lestrade, who eyed him in wonder.
"This hospital. It's not open to the public, is it."
"If it saves me from visits from the top brass, I'm all for it. Donovan will need a statement from you," Lestrade added, several mouthfuls of tea later. A chance to drink anything while it was still hot was a luxury in his line of work.
"She has one."
Lestrade gave him a look of suspicion. "When did that happen?"
"While you were in the operating theatre. She came here to take it," said Mycroft, as if it was quite normal to command that much influence over the police.
"Uh huh. She must have been thrilled to be at your beck and call. How did it go?"
"Splendidly. It isn't my habit to obstruct a police investigation."
Lestrade gave a snort of derision. "By rights, your nose should be growing as you speak." His smile fading, he looked suddenly seriously. "Thanks for what you've done."
"Don't be absurd," dismissed Mycroft, with a more familiar asperity.
"One day you'll learn how to accept thanks gracefully. I'm sorry I keep dozing off. I can't seem to stay awake," mumbled Lestrade.
"Nothing to do with blood loss, strong medication, and the exhaustion that's been dragging you down for weeks, of course."
"It's not fair being a smart-arse when I can't retaliate."
Mycroft raised his eyebrows. "Whatever made you believe I indulge in fair play? Are you hungry?"
"Starving," said Lestrade, on a note of discovery.
While Mycroft only picked at his food, Lestrade ate with gusto.
"You're looking very po-faced, what have you done?" asked Lestrade, as he finished his meal, which had been superior to that found in most of the restaurants he had frequented pre-Mycroft.
"I called your family some time ago. They should be here shortly."
"Mycroft..." said Lestrade, in tones of great betrayal.
"They needed to know the truth in case your name slipped out in one of the news reports - particularly online. My people are bringing in your parents and the twins from the Lake District and Cornwell respectively. Trust you to get injured while your entire family are on holiday at opposite ends of the country. Your ex-wife is staying in Tintagel, on the grounds that her appearance at your bedside might give you a relapse."
"She's right, it would. The parents worry," added Lestrade, as if it was an aberration that needed explaining.
"Not that you've ever done the same about your daughters."
Lestrade stuck two fingers up at him. "You don't need to leave, do you?" he checked, trying to sound casual because he still needed Mycroft where he could see him - visible proof that he was safe.
"Of course not. I can leave when your family arrives, if that's what you would prefer," said Mycroft, as if it was the most natural suggestion in the world.
Lestrade blinked and rubbed his hand over his face. "I know I'm not at my best right now but why would you even think I'd want you to do that?"
"I assumed you didn't want your family to meet me, given..." Mycroft trailed off into silence, his expression unguarded.
"You silly sod," said Lestrade roughly. "That's not why. I just didn't want to risk anything mucking us up. It's well past time they met you. God knows I talk about you enough."
"You do?" said Mycroft blankly, having felt like Gregory's guilty secret for some months.
"Of course I do, you pillock."
Mycroft slowly exhaled, battling untypical indecision, before he blurted out: "Gregory, there's something I have to ask you."
With some effort, Lestrade managed to open his weighted eyelids again. "You can't lecture me now, I'm not a well man," he mumbled sleepily, relying on pathos to save him. Mycroft could be ridiculously soft-hearted where he was concerned.
"Will you marry me?"
Lestrade stared up at him, wide-eyed. "Am I hearing right?"
"I knew I should have waited," muttered Mycroft, looking harried. "I asked you to marry me, though my timing is terrible."
"You're not s'posed to sound grumpy when you propose. But I'm saying yes, in case you change your mind." Despite himself, Lestrade's eyes were already closing again.
"I won't," said Mycroft steadily, before he gave a rueful smile and began to stroke the stubborn spike of grey hair, which obstinately sprang up every time he flattened it. "You're not going to remember this when you wake up, are you?" he murmured, resignedly.
But Lestrade was already asleep.
Anita Lestrade bustled into the room, her husband, Norman, two paces behind her, just as the nurse was leaving. "What've you been doing to yourself then, Greg? And you must be Mycroft. No, you stay put, love. You being at his side will do him more good than the rest of us put together." She kissed Lestrade on the cheek and smoothed his hair before she picked up his chart, but her hand was visibly unsteady.
"Mum's the medical expert of the family, having watched Casualty for years," Lestrade told Mycroft, before he smiled at his mother.
"I'm fine, mum. Truly."
"Oh, you," she said fondly, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "You look that peaky." She avoided mentioning the equipment at the far side of Lestrade's bed.
"All right then, boy?" said his father, taking care not to brush the line which went into Lestrade's arm.
"Fine, dad. Good journey?"
"Mrs Lestrade. Please, sit. I should - "
"You stay where you are, lad. You should've told us you got hurt too," added Norman to Mycroft, one hand inconspicuously gripping Lestrade's shoulder, as if to reassure himself that his son was alive.
It was around that point that Mycroft began to lose any pretence of controlling events. The Lestrades' calm acceptance of his presence made it obvious that they knew about his place in Gregory's life, which was surprising given the inventive excuses Gregory had found to avoid introducing him to them in the year they had been lovers. While Lestrade dozed again, Anita and Norman set about making it clear that they already regarded him as part of their family.
Just before Mycroft was totally overwhelmed, because unquestioning affection had played little part in his upbringing, there was another surge of energy into the room as Lestrade's twin daughters arrived. Two weeks away from their sixteenth birthday and pale with fright, they relaxed a little on seeing Lestrade propped up in bed, blinking at them as he woke up.
"I might've known you whirlwinds would be the ones making all that noise. Well, don't hover over by the door, I can't kiss you from there," Lestrade added, with a reassuring asperity. "Just don't jiggle my arm for the next couple of days. And you can take that tragic look off your faces. I'm fine, just short of sleep, which is why I keep nodding off. So, how awful has the holiday been with mum's new boyfriend?"
It wasn't until Lestrade sank back into sleep half an hour later that Sophy and Polly even noticed Mycroft, who stood propped against the wall in the corner of the room, where he had a good view of Lestrade without attracting attention to himself - a skill he had perfected as a child.
"You must be Mycroft. Thanks for getting us to dad," said Polly. "The helicopter ride was so cool."
"And fast," added Sophy. "Dad will be all right, won't he?"
And suddenly they both looked much younger, and frightened again.
Disconcerted by their likeness to their father, Mycroft gave them a concise but accurate report of Lestrade's injuries and treatment. Once they were satisfied Lestrade really would recover, they demonstrated that they possessed some of their father's skill in interrogation, if little of his subtlety as yet. Mycroft made no attempt to evade their questions because, for better or worse, they needed to get to know him. Given his lack of experience with teenage girls, it seemed to be going better than he had dared hope.
"We thought it was odd at first, you calling us about Dad, then we realised. You must be his SVS," said Sophy, just when Mycroft had begun to relax.
"I don't know what that means," he said blankly. Flanked by Lestrades junior and senior, he had been shepherded back to sit beside Lestrade again. Most of his attention was given to wondering if Gregory would remember his proposal - or, more importantly, whether Gregory would remember saying yes.
"His Someone Very Special," said Polly impatiently. "It must be almost a year now. We noticed how much happier Dad was, though it was ages before he finally admitted he was seeing someone and that they were his SVS."
"Ah." Mycroft could only wonder what his expression had been revealing when he glanced back to the bed in time to see Lestrade regarding him with sleepy affection.
"Pillock. You must have known. Probably even before I did," said Lestrade fondly. "Did you mean what you said earlier?"
It wasn't until he relaxed that Mycroft appreciated just how tense he had been. "Of course. Did you?"
"Yes, please. Soon as you like."
"What was that then?" asked Sophy.
"Soph," sighed Lestrade in mock despair.
"Don't ask, don't find out," she retorted with spirit. "And for the hundredth time, my name's Sophy! When were you going to get round to telling us your SVS was a bloke?"
"I was working up to it. And before you start giving me grief, as I recall, you two weren't too keen on discussing matters of a personal nature with me. Your twelfth birthday," Lestrade prompted.
"You must be feeling all right to go reminding us of that," said Sophy, as she and Polly, held tightly to his hand. "But we were children then. When did you start being bisexual?"
Lestrade gave a theatrical groan and avoided looking in his parents' direction. He had never discussed sex with them in his life and had been hoping to keep it that way. Though thinking about it, they had taken the fact that Mycroft was a bloke without batting an eyelid. It didn't take a Detective Inspector to work out that he must have done more talking than he had realised in those weekly calls home.
"Never you mind," he told the twins. "Some things are private."
"It's not a problem that you are," Polly assured him earnestly. "Bisexual, I mean."
"Not a bit. In fact you're in danger of being cool," added Sophy.
Mycroft sucked in his cheeks in case he laughed at the flummoxed look on Lestrade's face, caught Norman Lestrade's gaze and saw that he was having the same problem.
"That's enough from the pair of you," said Lestrade, but the look he gave the twins was so loving that it cancelled out his would-be severity.
"Now you can see why I wanted to introduce you to my family slowly," Lestrade added to Mycroft. He grinned at the twins.
"Look, I know you'll have loads of questions but can we postpone the discussion until I can stay awake for more than ten minutes at a time? All you need to concentrate on for now is that Mycroft and I are together and..." He paused and glanced at Mycroft, who nodded his consent. "Mycroft asked me to marry him just before you guys arrived and I said yes as fast as I could."
The twins shrieked and launched themselves at him.
"Mind my - Too late," said Lestrade, wincing, which successfully distracted his mother and the twins.
While they were all occupied, Norman moved to Mycroft's side. "Last time I saw Greg look this happy, the twins had just been born. But if you're a minor civil servant, I'm a Dutchman."
Mycroft grimaced. "We should, perhaps, discuss that. In private."
"If it means you can keep Greg safe I'm not fussed what you do," said Norman bluntly. "You must be a decent bloke or our Greg wouldn't give you the time of day, let alone marry you. Thanks for calling us. Greg rarely tells us anything of real importance."
"I have the same problem with him. But he had no choice on this occasion, as I was with him. In fact, he was injured protecting me." All his attention on Lestrade, Mycroft forgot to control his expression.
Because Mycroft was still seated, Norman was able to pat him on the shoulder. "Is that how you got that?" he asked, gesturing to Mycroft's bandaged hand.
"No, he got cut protecting me, while trying not to harm the eighty five year old woman who was wielding the knife," said Lestrade.
"I thought Mycroft might be blaming himself unnecessarily," said Norman peaceably. "He's got the look of a worrier."
Before Mycroft could disabuse him of the notion, the Lestrade women clustered around to thank him, leaving him wearing three differing shades lipstick and an expression of mild disquiet. Not that it had been unpleasant exactly, just unexpected. The Holmes family had never gone in for public demonstrations of affection - or private ones, come to that.
Worse was to follow.
"Sit back down, so I can get that lipstick off you." Anita produced a handkerchief. "Spit," she commanded, holding it to Mycroft's mouth.
"Mu-um," protested a mortified Lestrade.
"I'll just - " Mycroft escaped with some speed into the bathroom.
"Sorry, love," said Anita, on his slightly nervous return, minus any lipstick stains. "Only we've heard so much about you that I forget you don't know us yet."
"Something I'm looking forward to rectifying," said Mycroft, surprised to realise he meant it. A quick glance suggested that Lestrade had dozed off again, although he suspected Gregory was just hoping to avoid further embarrassment. "Our house is only fifteen minutes from here. There are five spare bedrooms. My driver will take any and all of you there, whenever you wish. Our housekeeper is expecting you. Our house is yours for as long as you care to stay with us."
"You shouldn't say that lightly," said Norman bluntly.
"I don't," said Mycroft, equally blunt. "It would give me great pleasure to see Greg with his family."
Norman nodded. "Fair dos. While Greg's good about phoning, we don't see nearly enough of him."
"Then this will be an opportunity for you all to catch up." Mycroft had taken a liking to this sturdy man with Gregory's slightly rabbity teeth, steady gaze, and a ready acceptance of anyone who made his son happy. "You're his family. Why would I want to exclude you?"
Anita gave him an approving pat. "Well said, love. We'd like to stay close by. And it'll be a treat to see more of the girls ." She passed her hand over the spiky front of Sophy's hair, which attention Sophy bore with a resigned,
"Don't fuss, Gran. It's supposed to look like that."
"So you and Dad have a house?" Polly asked Mycroft, without any pretence at subtlety.
"We do, although he still doesn't seem to have realised that he moved in some months ago," said Mycroft.
"Dad's not very bright about some things," Sophy told him earnestly. "You have to spell them out."
"I heard that," said Lestrade, indignant enough to betray his wakeful state. "Look, much as I love you all, I'm knackered and could do with a good night's sleep. Go home - to our home. Eat, sleep. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Someone should stay - " began Anita.
"They will be," pointed out Norman. "Unless you think you can prise Mycroft away from Greg's side?"
Anita nodded. "Of course you'll want to stay. Sorry, love. I'm that mithered I'm not thinking straight. That'll be grand. But if - "
"The surgeon is confident Gregory will make a full and speedy recovery, but should it become necessary, I will, of course, call you," said Mycroft, wondering where Gregory had got his height from as Norman was even shorter than his wife.
"Thanks, lad. You should try and get some shut-eye yourself," said Norman.
"Yes, you're looking almost as peaky as our Greg," said Anita. "Thanks for keeping him safe," she added, her eyes over-bright with tears.
And because she clearly intended to kiss him again, Mycroft took the line of least resistance and bent to make it easier for her.
"Isn't it bliss to have the house to ourselves again," sighed Lestrade, early Sunday morning. "Next time be a bit more sparing with the open-ended invites. It's been nearly a month."
"It seemed ridiculous for your parents to leave before the wedding." Mycroft eyed the ring on Lestrade's finger with unconcealed satisfaction.
"Mum and dad live in Theydon Bois, not the dark side of the moon! And the twins are only in Hendon."
"And the reason you didn't ask your parents to leave after the wedding is because...?"
Lestrade gave him a look of large-eyed betrayal. "You'll expect me to kick puppies next. They've had such a good time in London. They should never have moved out, they both miss being in the centre of things."
"Why don't they moved back?"
"Can't afford to. The move was always about down-sizing to give themselves something to live on. Dad's pension disappeared when the Managing Director did a runner with the money from the Pension Fund and mum only ever worked part-time. The State Pension doesn't allow for luxuries."
"I could - "
"No," said Lestrade with finality. "I mean, I know you could, and I love you for offering, but they're my responsibility."
Mycroft gave him a quizzical look. "So if Sherlock was destitute...?"
"Oh, piss off," said Lestrade, nudging him in the ribs. "You should know better than to think logical argument will work with me. Besides, dad's so proud I had a real fight on my hands to get them to accept anything from me. It's a pittance but... I've had an idea."
"Instead of selling it, ask them to move into your flat in Lambeth, while they rent out their Essex house to give them an income," said Mycroft promptly, his face preternaturally straight.
Undeceived, Lestrade nipped his ear lobe. "You just can't help being a smart-arse, can you? It would be perfect. The area's pretty safe, and there's even outside space for dad to put a shed in so he can escape from mum. See, I knew there was a reason why I was holding on to it," he added triumphantly.
Mycroft's expression was openly sceptical. "Nothing to do with refusing to admit I was right about you having moved in eleven months ago then?"
"Nothing," said Lestrade, perjuring himself without hesitation.
Mycroft shook his head in mock sorrow. "For such a shameless liar you're really bad at it."
"You say that like it's a bad thing." Lestrade gave a long, joint-popping stretch, kissed Mycroft on the belly and drank the dregs of his long-cold tea. "I'm glad we couldn't fly off on our honeymoon to be honest. Being at home makes being married more real. I know I should have taken mum and dad up on their offer to leave but when mum heard you had to work she looked so..." He trailed off into a helpless silence.
"Your mother's a clever woman," said Mycroft, giving a leisurely stretch of his own.
"Yeah? That must be where I get it from."
Mycroft gave an amused snort, propped himself up on one elbow and kissed Lestrade in a leisurely kind of way. "No," he said with finality. "I am sorry about the lack of honeymoon, but with the security scare I need to be on hand for the next few days."
"We can go on holiday any time. Which isn't to say you won't have to make it up to me in sexual favours."
"That seems only fair," agreed Mycroft, in the tone of one making a great concession.
Lestrade wriggled even closer. "You've withstood having your life taken over by my family remarkably well. It isn't every bloke who spends the first week of his honeymoon with his in-laws, not to mention having the twins visit every day. Trust me to get knifed in the school holidays."
"I like your family."
"Yes, you do, don't you," recognised Lestrade. "Just as well, now you've made 'em free with the place. When are you going to tell Sherlock that we're married?"
Mycroft's smile faded. "He claims to be a detective. If he ever condescends to open his post, he might notice the invitation to the wedding."
"What's he done to piss you off now?"
"I had hoped he might show some small interest."
"He's probably still chasing John around the country," said Lestrade, without much interest. Truth be told, he was quite enjoying his holiday from Sherlock - except for the fact that an unhappy Sherlock made Mycroft worry. "The only wonder is that John hasn't reported him for stalking."
"One can only hope that he does," said Mycroft tartly. Sherlock's return from the dead, just over a year ago, had not been an unqualified success, and had almost cost him Gregory.
"John will come round," comforted Lestrade. "If he was serious about not seeing Sherlock again he would have disappeared by now. He's more than capable of managing it, if he really wanted to."
Mycroft's head turned. "You think so?"
"That or John would have shot Sherlock with that gun of his that I'm not supposed to know about," said Lestrade dryly.
"Have you told Sherlock this?"
"I had to. He was moping around, looking so bloody pathetic," Lestrade added, as if to excuse his weakness.
Mycroft's mouth quirked. "I suppose I can't complain that you have a soft spot for a Holmes."
"Not always soft," retorted Lestrade, unable to resist the predictable reply. He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Mycroft tried to look pained at the schoolboy humour but ended up grinning back at him.
"I knew you wouldn't be able to resist me. So, with the whole day in front of us, what shall we do with ourselves?" said Lestrade, nudging Mycroft with his hip.
"You mentioned something about sexual favours?"
"I did indeed. Now we've got the place to ourselves, I'm going to fuck you senseless."
"Oh, I don't think so," murmured Mycroft, his expression bland.
Mycroft raised his eyebrows. "You really think you can make me lose all self-control?"
His eyes sparkling, Lestrade knelt up on the mattress to loom over him. "Yes, I do."
"Tell you what, let's bet on it. When I win, you stop mum telling you all those embarrassing stories about me as a kid."
"Too late," Mycroft assured him, stroking patterns over Lestrade's back.
"Really? And yet you still married me."
"Pity played a large part in that decision, plus I wasn't going to turn down the opportunity of seeing you in a decent suit," Mycroft explained.
"I hope you made the most of it," said Lestrade, stroking Mycroft's chest hair the wrong way. "I know you claim to like my family, but I still don't think you realise what you've taken on. The twins will be in and out of here every time the fancy takes them. Especially as we live in Mayfair, so close to the action. And you'll never enjoy another quiet Christmas. Mum will expect us at their place, Christmas Eve till the end of Boxing Day, year after year. And it won't be sophisticated. She's not even a good cook, bless her," Lestrade added fondly. "I was ten before I realised bacon wasn't supposed to crumble when you touched it. It'll be over-cooked turkey, soggy sprouts, paper hats, the Queen's speech and cheap wine."
"You forgot to include the excellent company," said Mycroft placidly. "I won't have to inflict Sherlock on them, will I?"
"That threat won't save you. Mum will just try to feed him up, while Dad... Oh, God. You'll be an expert in working class history before you know what's hit you."
"I've enjoyed every discussion I've ever had with your father, as well you know. In retrospect, you being knifed and ending up in hospital provided a place for us all to bond." Mycroft placed his mouth to the new scars on Lestrade's arm, yet to take their good fortune for granted.
"Thanks," said Lestrade dryly, but his grin spoiled the effect. "This - us - is going to work, isn't it."
"In case it had escaped your notice, it's been working perfectly well for the last thirteen months," said Mycroft with a trace of asperity.
"So it has." Lestrade kissed him almost absent-mindedly, yet to accustom himself to how relaxed Mycroft was since their wedding six days ago. "Thank you for marrying me," he said seriously. "I was still trying to pluck up the nerve to ask you."
"Sheer desperation on my part," Mycroft admitted, stroking the downy hollow of Lestrade's spine. "With you I feel romantic and loveable, when I believed myself incapable of being either."
Lestrade stared down at him in silence for a moment. "For the brightest man in Britain, you can be an idiot," he said frankly.
"Mycroft, I'm not good at... But... I do love you," Lestrade burst out, in the manner of one making a clean breast of things.
Mycroft began to laugh. "Husband Confesses All On His Honeymoon. Really, Gregory. Even I had an inkling. I just haven't reached the stage of taking it for granted yet. I find I'm rather enjoying being married to you."
"Yeah? Excellent. Only another fifty years to get through. The twins really do seem okay about it all, don't they," added Lestrade, as he subsided beside Mycroft and into the circle of his arm.
"You were unlikely to raise homophobes," Mycroft pointed out. "Besides, they love you very much and want to see you happy. Though I suspect they'll find it easier to deal with you having a husband, than if you had a new wife."
"That's what mum said."
"I told you she was a wise woman."
"No, it's what she said about how she felt. It's dad who's been the real surprise. He really likes you."
"There's a disappointing note of surprise in your voice."
"Stop pissing around," Lestrade commanded. "His generation doesn't usually admit to having feelings, never mind discuss them. That reminds me, what was he saying to you before they left?"
"He said I should have my own key to their house and gave me one."
Lestrade looked genuinely surprised. "Blimey! A knighthood will seem as nothing in comparison."
"I'm fully conscious of the honour that's been accorded me. Which reminds me, I've had keys cut for Sophy and Polly. They need to understand that this is their home, whenever they want to make use of it. I've briefed Security."
"That's wonderful, but are you sure you want the girls barging in every time the fancy takes them?" checked Lestrade.
"No. But that's irrelevant. Their home is where you are. Besides, now's the perfect time, while they're feeling a little uncertain about their place in your life since you've remarried."
"I should've guessed you'd spot that."
"You're always saying you don't get nearly enough time with the twins."
"That's because they'd usually far rather be with their current boyfriends than with their middle-aged dad - unless they want money, of course, " said Lestrade realistically. "Hang on, what about boyfriends?"
"I'd rather you didn't," said Mycroft, straight-faced.
Lestrade nipped him where it wouldn't show before soothing the spot with his tongue. "The girls. Boyfriends. What if they want to bring them to the house?"
"I think you can rely on my security to ensure the gentlemen behave."
"That's fantastic!" Lestrade's face lit up, before his expression dropped a moment later. "And it'll work for all of fifteen minutes. Once they're inside, alone.... Remember what you were like at sixteen."
"I was hardly typical," said Mycroft dryly, as he remembered the lonely misery of his teenage years - and beyond. "You, on the other hand, must have been a nightmare for fathers everywhere."
"I had my moments," Lestrade admitted, before his reminiscent grin faded. "I want to get the balance right, you know, but on the subject of boyfriends I end up sounding like one of those biblical fathers. I just want them to be safe. Happy."
Mycroft nodded, listening while Lestrade talked out his worries about the twins. In the few days since their wedding, Gregory had shared more about himself than in the preceding six months.
"Sophy and Polly will want their own rooms, of course," Mycroft said into the comfortable silence which had fallen. "Tell them to pick the rooms and decoration they would like. Furniture, too. I thought they could also have the attic space for a sitting room of their own. If you agree."
"You're going to spoil them rotten, aren't you." Lestrade kissed a freckled shoulder.
"Not at all. I've no intention of interfering," Mycroft assured him earnestly.
Lestrade grinned where it wouldn't show, knowing Mycroft really believed that. "I expect we'll muddle through. Though if their music doesn't stop you whingeing about being woken up by Bohemian Rhapsody every morning, nothing will.
"Enough of family matters," he added briskly. "While we actually have this week to ourselves - crisis permitting - we should make the most of it. This bet we were talking about. The loser - that will be you - will buy dinner at the restaurant of my choosing."
Bright-eyed and smiling, Lestrade was the picture of rude health, and in that moment Mycroft would have agreed to anything he wanted.
"I'm glad you have an open mind about the result," he said dryly.
Lestrade gave an unrepentant grin. "I can't lose either way. You don't have to," he added immediately.
Mycroft's expression relaxed as he leant forward and kissed him. "Oh, I think I do. If only to wipe that smug grin off your face. You can be insufferable."
Lestrade's grin widened. "It's been mentioned in the past."
"Impossible," sighed Mycroft, kissing him again before he subsided onto the pillows. "So what do I have to do?"
"I hadn't got that far. Let's think. I've never fancied bondage - all those complicated knots. How about if you just take hold of the headboard. When you let go, you lose."
"If I can keep calm in the face of the smug idiocy of our current Prime Minister - "
"You're not seriously comparing us?" said Lestrade in mock outrage.
"Revolting thought. Certainly not." Mycroft flexed his right hand.
"Hang about. Just use your left hand. It's only been five weeks and the stitches in the palm of your right..."
"One handed then," said Mycroft, before Lestrade could change his mind.
"You rotten bugger, you were doing that subliminal thing again by flexing your right hand," accused Lestrade. "That's cheating."
"And you're shocked because?"
"Oh, I am so going to enjoy this," murmured Lestrade. "Brace yourself."
"I'm not sure if that's exactly the mood you want to set," pointed out Mycroft, but when he took a firm grip of the headboard behind him, it was with both hands. "Like so?"
Kneeling beside him on the mattress, Lestrade's tongue flicked out in a highly distracting manner.
"Afraid you're not equal to the task?" enquired Mycroft, after at least a minute had past.
"Oh, fighting talk. Just enjoying the view and planning my campaign. I might add that possessing enough self-control not to tell various politicians they're idiots isn't the same thing as resisting me."
"I should hope not. Do your worst," Mycroft invited.
"This is turning you on, isn't it." noted Lestrade.
Mycroft stared down the length of his own body. "What could possibly have given me away?"
"No, I meant more than you expected."
"Insufferable, remember." Lestrade kissed the tuft of hair in an exposed armpit, then knelt back to examine his prize. "Did I think to mention that I'm not in the mood to hurry?"
The blue eyes narrowed.
"Thought not," said Lestrade gleefully, just before he cupped a sensitive foot in his hand and, using his secret weapon, began to lick slowly around the ankle bone, unsurprised when Mycroft's hissed, his cock responding almost immediately.
Lestrade snuffled his way up the inside of Mycroft's left thigh, until Mycroft's breathing was audibly disorganised, although he managed to retain his grasp of the headboard. With every intention of changing that, Lestrade sucked along the sensitive area where torso and thigh met, before he curled his hand around the base of Mycroft's blindly seeking erection, thumbing the moisture at the tip. He blew around the head, tongue flicking out, teasing, mouth promising more than it delivered, until Mycroft finally bucked and swore under his breath, his hands white-knuckled.
Lestrade gave a satisfied grin, resettled himself and set about making Mycroft's body his playground. In the months since they had become lovers, he had learnt to read the micro-movements of Mycroft's face. He now knew to ignore the broad gestures intended to deceive strangers, or simply to amuse Mycroft when he was bored - unless he was with Sherlock, when all bets were off. Today there was little mystery about Mycroft's feelings.
"Comfortable?" asked Lestrade mischievously.
Sweat gleaming high on his temples, Mycroft stared down the length of his nose at him. "You're cheating."
"Hey, it's not my fault you were too lust-fuddled to check the terms of the bet." Lestrade stretched out over Mycroft to reach the lubricant. "Speaking of which, perhaps we should up the ante. You come with me to Brands Hatch again, against another night at the Opera for me," he challenged.
Mycroft hooked a long leg around Lestrade's waist to rub the springy flesh of his rump with the sole of his foot. "You must be confident to risk the opera again."
"Oh, I am," murmured Lestrade, pausing to kiss him slow and deep. "Besides, if nothing else, it'll guarantee me three hours sleep. You're not thinking of weaselling out of this bet, I trust?"
"My only concern is that I'll die of old age before you get started," said Mycroft, in deliberate provocation.
Lestrade grinned. He loved the times when Mycroft became his play thing, allowing him to do anything he wanted. But then he loved all the times and all the ways. He had stopped trying to analyse why two people, different in virtually every respect, should feel like a perfect match. But they did, and he had promised himself he would never take it for granted. He paused to enjoy the gleam of gold from his wedding ring before returning his concentration to breaking Mycroft's formidable self-control.
He curled around Mycroft, easing him partially on to his side so he could nip and suck his way down his flexing rump before beginning to tease his anus with lubricant slick fingers.
Several changes of position later, having finger-fucked Mycroft into incoherence, he sank home in one long, controlled stroke.
And still Mycroft's control held.
Poised over Mycroft, his eyes darkened by want, Lestrade was wholly focussed on the man holding the headboard in a death-grip.
"All you have to do is ask," Lestrade reminded him, offering a wicked little twist of his pelvis.
Mycroft arched, his breathing stuttering, rib cage heaving. "B-bastard," he gasped. Sweat had pooled in the hollow of his throat and was slicking his pale skin, the muscles of his arms defined by their out-stretched position.
Lestrade licked through the drift of auburn hair from nipple to nipple, tasting salt. "I'll have you know mum and dad were married when they had me. Though I can't deny I'm loving every minute of this." But his own voice was betraying signs of strain.
Another little twist made Mycroft's eyes flutter to a close, his mouth parting. "There's something un - fuck! - natural about your control," he accused.
"Misspent youth," explained Lestrade cheerfully. "Well, that and concentrating on trying to remember all the elements in the periodic table."
Mycroft's huff of amusement nearly undid them both. "You'd best do your worst then. I refuse to beg."
"Yeah?" There was a distinctly speculative look on Lestrade's face. "Let's put that theory to the test, shall we. A little self-control never hurt anyone."
"What idiot told you that?" gasped Mycroft, breathless again because Lestrade was moving so slowly, destroying him with every rocking stroke.
"You, as I recall." Lestrade nuzzled the long neck offered up to him.
"Proof that even I am sometimes mistaken."
"I must have that engraved on something." Lestrade changed his angle slightly and Mycroft made a strangled sound, deep in his throat, before growling "Bugger the bet," in a roughened voice as he grabbed Lestrade by the backside. "Get on with it," he commanded.
"Oh, thank God," gasped Lestrade, just before he buried his face in the hollow between Mycroft's shoulder and neck, sucking in the scent of him as he began to move to some purpose, one lubricant slick hand working Mycroft's cock.
Their bodies finally separated with small sticky sounds.
Mycroft looked distant, sated, and oddly vulnerable. Just as Lestrade experienced a slither of worry, Mycroft refocused to give him a bone-melting smile before reaching out to reel him in.
Lestrade rubbed his nose against the side of Mycroft's neck. "So, Brands Hatch..."
"Gloat all you want. It was worth it, even if my back is disowning me."
"Yeah, it was, wasn't it," said Lestrade, finding the energy to massage the area in question. "But you don't have to go to the race track again, I know you hated it. Besides, you could have held out."
"As a matter of fact, I let go of the headboard several times. You were just too preoccupied to notice," confessed Mycroft smugly.
"Why, you - Next time I'm going for a bigger stake," threatened Lestrade.
"Next time you'll be the one hanging on to the headboard," Mycroft informed him.
"And you can take that speculative look off your face. There isn't a chance of it happening today." Mycroft looked resigned when Lestrade's phone rang. If Gregory wasn't ringing them, his team contacted him at least once a day.
He left the bed, had a quick shower and wandered off make some tea. By the time he returned with a tray, Lestrade was pensively studying his phone.
"What's wrong?" asked Mycroft, shrugging out of his dressing gown.
"What if I make us lunch, followed by a nap? Maybe by evening you'll have recovered enough to..."
Mycroft eyed Lestrade with suspicion. "May I ask what the rush is? We have all week."
Lestrade grimaced. "You mean we did. The girls must be feeling a bit insecure because they want to dump their boyfriends to spend the week with us. This week, because it's the last of my holiday. They'll be arriving first thing tomorrow morning."
Mycroft did his best to look enthusiastic and knew he must have failed when Lestrade grinned.
"It's just..." Mycroft's hand moved in an expressive arc.
"I know," said Lestrade. "Our lovely week shot to hell. Though odds are you would have had to work for half of it."
"More like two thirds," Mycroft admitted.
"You're not just saying that to get out of a full-on intro to teenage angst?"
"No, that's just the bonus. But I'm glad they felt comfortable enough to ask to stay," Mycroft added honestly. "That's a good beginning, isn't it?" More than anything he was worried about doing something which might lead to a rift between Gregory and his daughters.
"It's an excellent beginning. I'll explain you're not trying to avoid them. What are we going to tell them about your job?" Lestrade added, as the thought only just occurred to him.
"Something approaching the truth. They're family," Mycroft added simply.
"OK. Policemen's kids understand the need for discretion. They'll know not to gossip. Do you want to do tell them?"
"I think we both should. As soon as possible."
"My poor Mycroft. Inundated with Lestrades on your honeymoon."
"It could be worse, it could be my family. What's that noise?" Mycroft shot up beside Lestrade, his expression sharpening. "Fuck!"
He just had time to flick the sheet over their lower bodies before the bedroom door was flung open to reveal his brother standing in the doorway, a resigned looking John Watson just visible behind him - which explained the return of Sherlock's insufferable bounce.
"What are you doing still in bed?" demanded Sherlock with disapproval.
"We're on our honeymoon. Take a wild guess," said Lestrade tartly. He elbowed Mycroft, who was being no help at all.
"Yes, well, never mind that now. There's this case. Why's Mycroft giggling? He never giggles and it's most undignified."
"I can't think," said Lestrade unsteadily, before he buried his face against his new husband and laughed himself silly.