Disclaimer : None of them belongs to me.
Spoilers : ASIP
A/N : First written to fill a prompt on the kinkmeme asking for this pair. I've stretched the timeline a bit though it's not very clear in ASIP – night seems to fall pretty quickly and we don't know how late it is when Sherlock and John reach Angelo's place.
Of Wives and Lies
Sally's little Panda car is vibrant with notes of orange, limes, bergamot and a few baritone spices, as she maneuvers it deftly into Brixton Road. Anderson waits until the last black-and-yellow tape has angled out of the rear window. Then he turns his head, gives an all-dramatic sniff, and narrows his eyes at her.
The next moment, the two of them are fairly hooting with laughter.
"Oh god," Anderson gasps, and then "oh god" again, and again, till – "He nearly freaked me out," Sally splutters back, and Anderson's soft nasal key pitches up half an octave in response. "And is your wife away for long?" Which sparks off a new gale of whooping as the road speeds them towards Westminster Bridge, still a blind spot in their windshield.
"God, I was really expecting him to out us there and then. Well, not us. You know. Us."
"It's my fault. » Sally's voice is penitent enough between two hiccups « I laid it on a bit thick, this time – the perfume and the taunting. Should have known better. Still – given his age and probable income, you'd think he could tell « deodorant » from Guerlain's pet male lotion and cut his deductions some slack. Does the great Sherlock Holmes never read Cosmo? Christ, even my Gran begged for a drop of Habit Rouge on her hanky!"
"Well, he probably steers clear of eau de toilette as a rule," Anderson says mildly. "Might hinder him in nosing out data."
"His brother is just as sharp-nosed, so you say, and he knows about Habit Rouge. Probably knows about girls liking it, too."
"Not only that. He also knows that you crave champagne truffles and nick half the comfits he always brings back from the Middle East. And I swear I never told him."
"Shhh, you. Now you're making it sound as if I were some sort of paid companion. I'd rather be the Met's honorary slut if I have a say in the matter. Me for the glam."
"Oh, for God's sake, Sal – look, I'd better drop Lestrade a hint –"
"Hey. Role distribution, remember ? I keep Freak off the scent (stop laughing now, you sweet cretin, I can't drive all teary-eyed at night!), you keep Mr Churchill happy. And Mr Churchill keeps Britannia hip-hopping on the waves, meaning he's away half the time he should be here taking care of you. Not my idea of a masterplan, but I don't mind teaming up as long as there's no fourth party involved."
Silence becomes the third party in the car as it snakes its familiar way into London, heading for Belgravia's exclusive little hive of diplomacy and white stucco.
"He tries to – compensate," Anderson mumbles at last, gazing straight ahead. "With the gifts. I wish he wouldn't. He more than makes it up to me when he's here."
"I know, sweetie. And there he is." Sally stops the car and leans over to give her best friend an arm-hug. "Off you go. And this wicked girl, she's driving straight on to Soho to eat fishcakes with telly sauce. Unless –" But her last word is lost on Anderson as he slams the car door, waves to her across the glass and turns to nod to the stocky shadow stationed before one of the smaller maisonnettes.
Sally whisks her car around, hoping she won't have to go back upon her word. Lestrade has kept them unfashionably late on the new crime scene and Gran always frets when she doesn't make it home in time for the evening news.
Four strides to the door are all it takes for the gold band to journey from Anderson's left hand to his right. The next morning will see the gesture repeated mirrorwise. It has slipt into a year-worn habit, this back and forth – a ritual, they tell each other when the gesture takes its toll.
But once through the door, everything is as should be, and more. More precious than the dark honey panelling setting off Mycroft's collection of Queen Anne sugar bowls, or David and Gregory (their respective head cushions) huddled cheek to jowl on the couch, is the fact that the whole vast room has found its center of gravity in the man who rises cautiously from his knees, his back turned to the blazing chimney grate.
"Dear me. Sergeant Donovan is always welcome to light a fire here. But unless she nurses a personal grudge against the hickory tree, I'd advise a few less logs and a little more space in between."
Anderson is bridging the other space as he answers. "Sal needs more practice, yes. But she loves trying. Says it reminds her of her childhood in the K—"
Mycroft's mouth on his always jolts a tender nerve in his chest – perhaps because their identical six feet two, apart from giving them a size advantage over Sherlock (hear, hear), enables them to kiss ex tempore without one of them having to bend his head. Unwarned, Anderson retaliates by cupping Mycroft's cheek in his hand and giving as good as he is getting.
« I've missed you », the mouth whispers as it dips to the dent of a chin, then lower, pressing against Anderson's throat with a contented hum. « Hmmm. You're wearing the Guerlain. »
"Of course I am," Anderson says, and can't help laughing a little against the kiss. "And before you tell me how conducive to lust that is – someone else deduced that already."
"Ah." Mycroft peers up at his spouse, chin a-tilt, then wraps an arm round his waist and walks him to the couch where David and Gregory are looking up, a little pinched and squeezed (when she stays over, Sally makes a point of sleeping with one of them) but obviously glad to see them rejoined. There's a bottle of Mouton-Rothschild 69 with two long-stemmed glasses in attendance. Mycroft pours the wine.
« So tell me all about your day at work, dear. »
Only one of them will tell the other about his day at work. This is a tenet of their life, blessed and quipped in turn for fear that the secrecy should harden into silence between them – « Habit Rouge », for instance, followed close on Anderson's complaint that Mycroft is fully tailored in red tape. Their life is seamed in by too many secrets, Anderson thinks to himself, but it is his chosen life and can no longer be changed.
And this cloudy routine has its silver lining, for Mycroft is a beautiful listener. Eager – alert – curious, his face acknowledging each shred of trivia with a little pulse of interest. Could it be, Anderson wonders, that here is his return gift to the man whose days are closeted in the dazzling, purified heights of power? Of course Mycroft enjoys his eagle view of the world. Who wouldn't? But every eagle, now and then, must long for a peep at the humble twigs and clots and... and caterpillars; Anderson thinks, remembering his blue worksuit, scattered at ground level. Anderson's day at work provides the twigs and clots. He still marvels that his voice which he never liked ("Doctor Duck" is his Yard alias) should make Mycroft so attentive, so warmly attuned to him, but he loves a rapt Mycroft and does his best to ply him with all the odds and ends of his odd, ordinary days.
Tonight, he is telling Mycroft about the house at Lauriston Gardens. Carefully detailing the faux mosaic floor and the cat's craddle of shadows thrown by the stair railings upon the wasted walls, and the woman up there, Jennifer Wilson, killed in the pink of lust. "... And?" says Mycroft. And Sherlock, bursting upstairs with unconcerned stamina and a man, a stranger, a doctor with a limp and a polite, uneasy way about him. "Ah," says Mycroft, but his eyelashes hold still in the fire glow – this is no news to him.
Anderson, clever storyteller that he is, keeps the dedodorant fiasco for the end on the off-chance that Mycroft will laugh at Sherlock and dismiss him from his mind. Sherlock has an annoying tendency to jeopardize their evenings in absentia.
Mycroft laughs duly. Then says "... And?"
Anderson sighs. His spouse can always tell when he lops off part of the tale.
"I... tried to deduce something while he was there." He wants to keep his voice smooth, but the snag in his throat will not be ignored. "About that word, Rache. I told him it was German for revenge and he – oh well, you could say he acted on my hunch. Sal had riled him a bit hard just before."
"That was clever of you, actually » Mycroft murmurs. « You and I both know that one needn't be German-born to speak German. Right, Liebster?"
Anderson can feel the snag dissolving as he leans in for another kiss.
Anderson's Ashkenazi grandparents changed their name after they fled Berlin in 1935. They dropped the H as a tribute to their adoptive country, only to have the tables turned on them thirty years later when Anderson's parents called their first and, as it turned out, only child Andersohn in a memorial gesture.
This is the first tale he tells Mycroft in the recherché little Moroccan restaurant, making the stranger across the salt-cellar privy to his own tight-held family secret. He can feel, even then, that there isn't much he will withhold if they are to meet again.
"It was a bit inconsiderate of them, really, because Andersohn means 'the other son' in German. It soon became a joke in our neighbourhood, every boy kept asking after my brother. I felt a bit of a stand-in. »
Mycroft smiles, his face sharpened in the candlelight, and Anderson feels as giddy as he did five weeks earlier, when the stranger materialized in a hospital cubicle saying "Doctor Anderson? I am Sherlock's brother. I was given to understand that it was you who found him and performed CPR after his... unfortunate venture into that second garage. I don't know how to thank you." It was the steady static of power, all the more pungent for being channelled into gratitude, that stilled Anderson's ready reply ("By telling him to warn us before he deduces suicide by carbon monoxide") and made him hold out his hand.
"Ah, but you escaped the Pick-a-Prophet 1970 Trend." Mycroft is saying five weeks later, stretching his hand over the table to sweeten Anderson's glass with all the perfumes of Arabia. "Mummy was all set for Habakkuk and Abednego until Father came up with Micah for me. And Sherlock doesn't know it, but he was very close to being Shadrach for the rest of his days. My first diplomatic parlay, I think. I was ten."
Anderson laughs in the wake of Mycroft's smile and, for the first time in his life, finds that he has it in him to laugh at himself. The giddiness of that beats the wine and static united, so that when Mycroft's chauffeur brings the car to a soft sliding halt before his flat and Mycroft whispers "Shall I call on you again?", Anderson gives him a straight, clear, immediate answer before he enters the flat and all but collapses in his shoe closet.
Their kissing is deliberately unhurried, a moist counterpoint to the fire's crackling.
Anderson's fingers move to the tight silk knot at his lover's throat as his lips work Mycroft's guarded mouth into release; finding the catch in his lover's breath and holding to it; pressing on with tongue and a hint of teeth, until the tie is coming loose under his hand and Mycroft sighs into his mouth.
This is their hour.
This is their homecoming.
Unseen by the world, as they remain craddled in each other's lap, Mycroft's cheek pressed to the old-gold wrinkled leather that will leave its print on his softer flesh. Outside, the evening is letting go of the day, their imperfect day with its load of clots and twigs, the dead woman's brittle nails scratching a dead child's name, Sherlock's sneers, Mycroft's Titanic obligations to the living. Anderson shuts his eyes and rests his forehead against his husband's receding hairline. There will be a time for dining, soon enough, and there will be a time for less exiguous bedding, but right now he simply wants time to leave them alone and —
— the Beatles' throb jerks him half upright. Oh, hell. Only Sally has his private number and if she's calling tonight of all nights —
Anderson can feel Mycroft fumbling into a sitting position at his side as he gropes for his phone under the cushions. Five seconds later, he is swearing profusely and Mycroft has risen to light the ceiling lamp.
"Wait," he says tersely into the phone, and turns to face Mycroft. "Your brother's brilliant cooperative agenda has just earned him a surprise drug bust. From what I saw today, he's clean. Please, please tell me that his place is next to godly and we can sit back and enjoy whatever it is that smells like Heaven warmed up in the kitchen."
But Mycroft is sporting his patented "this-boy-will-be-the-true-reason-behind-the-next-EU-poll-collapse" look, and Anderson clenches his teeth briefly. "Right. Tell him I'll be joining the posse, then... where again ? Thanks, Sal. See you there."
"I'm sorry... I can't – couldn't – he's only moved into his new flat yesterday." Mycroft's voice is wretched, but Anderson feels too drained and thunderous to do more than hiss "I've volunteered. Get me a car? Not the black Leviathan, please. And you'd be wise to start dinner without me."
"Check his kitchen first if you can," Mycroft pleads back — not his best diplomatic move since the Seraphic aroma of bœuf Strogonoff is doing nothing to lighten Anderson's mood. He sidesteps the outstretched arm and stomps out into the night and the nondescript waiting car. His anger revs up in synch with the engine. Trust sodding Sherlock to bust their first conjugial tryst in the month. He'd better have a something tasty in his kitchen, unless he wants it turned into a bona fide crime scene in the next hours.
It is not that he hates Sherlock, who, after all, played blind Cupid with a little help from carbon monoxide. Sometimes, Sherlock's presence acts as a painkiller when Mycroft is away, for Anderson's craft has made him sensitive to the matching of bloods and genes, and Sherlock's face, raised before his in sharp antagonism, mirrors his elusive brother's in a thousand little detours of flesh and manners that neither is willing to acknowledge.
It moves something wistful in Anderson, this brotherly closeness, even as he gripes at Sherlock.
Sometimes he wishes they could be friends. Sometimes, when the tug of secrecy gets too much and Mycroft's face crumples with unspoken worry at his brother's antics, he says he won't work with Sherlock. Sometimes he tries to detect something for Sherlock. Sometimes he walks up to him aping Mycroft's easy domineering stride, checking for a reaction that never comes, and feels tempted to rearrange the scene clues into spelling HELLO BROTHER-IN-LAW HERE. More often than not, he has a good laugh with Sal over the whole crazy issue.
All in all, it is very confusing and he cannot blame Sherlock for thinking him a fool.
Familien, die sind ein zweischneidiges Messer, his beloved grandmother used to say over the coffee and three-cornered cakes, rocking back and forth in the old cane chair that had seen better days before Hitler. A family is a two-faced knife – it protects and it cuts apart, it deals you wounds and your daily bread. Anderson has given Sherlock a taste of his cutting edge and will again, but he will also do whatever it takes to shield Mycroft's little brother if Lestrade is serious about this drugs bust.
"Kitchen," he breathes into Sal's ear and she gives him a quick hand-hug, whispering "I'll try to keep it short", their voices merging across the landlady's steady wail as they climb the stairs.
As things turn out, midnight is done and gone when Anderson sees Mycroft again.
He waits in the first small street that caught his eye, well out of his third crime scene of the day, when the black Leviathan purs into a halt and a window is lowered just enough for Mycroft's voice to be heard.
"Thank you for texting me."
Anderson steps gingerly into the car, weighing his options. By the time he is seated and going for a minimalist "Yes", the issue is settled by the chauffeur who turns about to present him with something bulky, piping hot and swaddled in white linen. The car starts again. Anderson unfolds the napkin and peels off the cover of – good god, do they really own a monogrammed Tupperware ?
"I thought the beef might be – a little disagreeable, given the conjoncture," Mycroft observes, never taking his eyes from Anderson. « But you must be hungry. Tired and hungry. There is parmigiani in the side pocket. I was – that is, I was hoping – » The last word is expelled with a little rush of breath, past the tight knot that once again stands guard at Mycroft's throat, marking him out as his conscious origami self. The eagle looks at his shoes and falls back into silence.
Anderson manages two spoonfuls of fusilli alla caprese before he shoves the dish aside and fishes into his coat pocket. "Here," he says simply, switching his phone to its camera option and handing it out. "Took this for you."
He can hear Mycroft's relief in the soft chuckle that greets his gift, both of them aware that it confers absolution for the ruined evening. "My, oh my," Mycroft prattles happily, gazing onto the screen. "It's been quite a... colourful day, eh?"
Anderson snorts, diving into the Tupperware. "Saw you with him – them," he mouthes through a chokeful of tomato-coated pasta. "You were speaking to that man, John."
« Ah yes, the Army doctor. Interesting fellow, that John Watson. I think he proved sufficiently reliable to be entrusted with Sherlock's wellcare. »
Anderson (thinking of one neat shot across two sheets of glass and a bullet which, when coaxed out of the corpse's back, might prove sufficiently reliable to point at an Army weapon) times his next spoonful so he doesn't have to answer.
Mycroft shifts closer to him, letting their thighs touch. "One burden off my back. Off my agenda, too, God willing, giving me more time to indulge in less... brotherly concerns. Liebster."
There is no telling if he is pushing his advantage or making a lover's fresh promise. Probably both. It is the two-faced knife all over again, but Anderson knows better than to ignore the soft edge under the fenceman's thrust. He sets the Tupperware down on the car floor and, in one smooth motion, slides back into Mycroft's waiting arms. "Stop worrying," he snaps fondly. "They're both going to be cleared and their flat is pristine. Now can we have an embargo on all Sherlock-related topics? Please? I'm getting back to work in exactly seven hours, and I want to spend them in my husband's exclusive company."
"The feeling is mutual." Mycroft's arms are pulling him into a tighter embrace. "Still – shall I tell you just one more thing? That Sherlock doesn't know yet, because he didn't bother to inquire?"
There's a teasing edge to the voice, now, and a smile against his cheek.
"I had my people fill me in on this wretched little man while you were parsing him above. The good Inspector probably did the same, but I don't think he informed you of our common discovery."
"Hmmm?" The hydrocarbons are slowly but surely dragging Anderson over the thin line between peace and sleep. « Wha' discov'ry ?"
"Sherlock's would-be murderer is – was – one Jeffrey Hope Wilson."
Anderson's eyes blink suddenly alert in the thyme-scented penumbra. "Wilson? Wait – as in Jennifer Wilson?"
"Indeed. It seems that your services were trying to contact him all evening to notify him of his wife's untimely death. A redundant precaution, that. Did you spot the torn photograph on his rear-view mirror, Liebster? I don't know about the other three, but given Sherlock's deductions about the late Mrs Wilson's amorous lifestyle, I think he owes you an apology."
"Oh..." Anderson is fully awake now and conscious of grinning stupidly in the dark. "You mean..."
"I mean that your instinct led you straight to the truth before anyone else – it was a Revenge Tragedy. Well done, my very dear."
They are still laughing together as the clocks in Belgravia strike the first hour of a brave new day, and a door opens to their second, final homecoming.
[A/N : in the BBC cast credit list, the Cabbie only appears as « Jeff » - allowing for a double wink at the ACD canon and the actor's name, Jeff Davies.]