"...And Dimmock was flailing and screaming so loudly, I thought the poor sod was going to have a heart attack!" Lestrade was chuckling to Mycroft as they stomped through the snow toward the Starbucks down the street. Mycroft had originally suggested that they drive there, as it was horribly cold, but Lestrade just shook his head and told him that it wasn't more than a five minute walk and they could stand a little chill.

In fact, Lestrade seemed to be comfortable in the cold, hands shoved deep into his pockets, skillfully avoiding patches of ice as he talked. A rare and admirable talent.

Mycroft, on the other hand, was staring studiously at the pavement, slipping and sliding at nearly every turn and step. He had both hands out of his pockets, one to hold his umbrella to keep himself from being snowed on, and the other just in case he fell and had to catch himself.

Lestrade lied, it was more like a ten minute walk. Mycroft was sure of it.

"And he vowed never to come with me on a chase in the snow ever again!" Lestrade finished his story with a slight flourish and an easy hop over a particularly invisible patch of frozen water just as Mycroft stepped on it and wobbled.

Mycroft didn't know how Lestrade did it.

"Enlightening." was all he could say in response to Lestrade's story. He hadn't been listening at all.

Luckily, Lestrade didn't seem to have noticed his preoccupied attention. "It was funny because he actually helped take the suspect down when he fell, classic slapstick humor-like."

Finally, the inevitable happened and Mycroft slipped on a patch of ice and lost his balance. Lestrade was suddenly there, a firm grip on his arm, steadying him, his other hand holding down Mycroft's flailing umbrella.

"And then Donovan didn't stop teasing him about it for months afterward!" Lestrade continued without missing a beat, as if he hadn't noticed that Mycroft slipped. "Every single time the snow comes around, she'll mention something!" Lestrade cackled.

"I - uh - see." Mycroft coughed, reclaiming his balance hurriedly.

"Yeah, you alright?" Mycroft rolled his eyes upward in annoyance. Just when he thought Lestrade might not say anything about his embarrassing mishap...

"I'm fine." he stated firmly.

"You looked like you slipped." Lestrade deadpanned.

"You know I did." Mycroft scowled back at the growing smirk on Lestrade's face. "And I'd thank you for helping me if I didn't know you'd tattle to Anthea or Sherlock about it."

"Anthea, yes. Sherlock? No. I'm not that cold-hearted." Lestrade grinned back cheekily as he typed on his phone, voicing out his text as he did so. "Christmas phenomonon..." Click, click, click. "Mycroft almost faceplanted in the snow."

"Really now, Gregory..." Mycroft rolled his eyes.

"Christmas came perfectly on time this year." Lestrade concluded to his phone and Mycroft snorted in amusement.

"Starbucks, Gregory. We're here." he said, pinching a bit of the fabric of Lestrade's sleeve to keep the man from walking straight past the coffee shop.

Lestrade wheeled around, not even looking up from his phone. "Anthea says; Thank you, Mister Holmes would not suit a broken nose."

Mycroft stubbornly ignored him. "Still open." he murmured, referring to the Starbucks.

"Past closing time." Lestrade chimed in mildly when he saw the proper closing time stenciled on the entrance.

"What is the use of running a country if you do not abuse your power every once in a while?" Mycroft shrugged innocently, Lestrade laughed. "What? I want my hot chocolate and I did not struggle through the icy streets only to be denied it."

"Yeah, you definitely deserve it, with that close call outside just now." Lestrade smirked. Mycroft glared back without malice.

They got their hot chocolate and pastries, Black Forest cake for Mycroft and a cranberry and orange muffin for Lestrade, before seating themselves at a table by the window.

"It's kind of weird," Lestrade hummed, "having a whole Starbucks to yourself." He looked around. "Like, Twilight Zone kind of weird. It's never this empty."

They settled back into comfortable small talk over hot drinks. Honestly, Lestrade hadn't expected them to be able to enjoy each other's easy company with the three year absence and all, but they did. Small mercies.

Finally, after their food was eaten and every drop of their beverages drained, Mycroft glanced at his watch. "We both should be getting home soon." he remarked.

Lestrade glanced at his own watch. "Oh, shit. Is that the time already?" They got up to go, plunging their hands into thick gloves and tightening scarves around their necks. "I'll walk you home."

"Oh, there's no need." Mycroft smiled politely.

"There's never any need." Lestrade smirked. "But I left my car near your house and I can't, in all good conscience, let you walk home alone, just in case you slip again."

Mycroft scowled. "Just know that I am only agreeing to this because you need your car tomorrow morning."

Lestrade smiled back infuriatingly. "Of course, Mycroft."

"So Moran was behind all those computer specialists getting killed?" Lestrade asked after he convinced Mycroft to tell him everything about Sherlock's circumstances during his self-imposed exile.

"Unfortunately, yes." Mycroft sighed. "A few of them were very good at their jobs, too. A damn shame, really."

Lestrade grunted. "I tried cross checking pictures of snipers with military training with what I remember of Moran's face when I saw him in the pool. The first time Sherlock confronted Moriarty." He shook his head. "A few hours into it, all the faces started looking the same."

Mycroft chuckled. "Understandable." They fell into a brief silence. "You told John, about Sherlock." he said slowly.

Lestrade blinked. "Yeah, I did." He glanced at Mycroft and the government agent pretended to fully concentrate on the ground he was walking on. "I know I said I wouldn't, but I couldn't help it." He debated saying anything more to Mycroft before shaking his head. "I talked John off the roof... of St. Bart's." Mycroft's head shot up and he stared at Lestrade in horror.

The elder Holmes took a moment to think about how close they may have been to losing their doctor. "... Ah."

"Yeah." Lestrade grimaced. "I mean, I doubt he would've actually done it, not his style. But he was contemplating it... just a little." He fought off a phantom chill on his spine. "That's why I decided to tell him."

"And I admit you were right to." Mycroft sighed in understanding.

Lestrade seemed to be thinking about something. "But, back to Moran and the computer code, did you find out who was behind the attempt to recreate it?" he asked.

"Unfortunately, we have not gotten that far." Mycroft shook his head grimly. "Although, our investigations show that it must be someone of considerable... power."

Lestrade looked at him. "Someone who's a threat?"

Mycroft's lips thinned into a white line. "Someone with equal power, if not more so, than I."

"Someone, you may not be able to protect me from, if push comes to shove." Lestrade said perceptively.

"Yes." Mycroft grunted grimly. Then he shook his head. "Gregory, this is hardly a topic for Christmas, let's talk about something else."

Lestrade nodded readily. "Yeah, but what about?" he asked rhetorically. Neither of them knew, so they fell into silence.

Mycroft had his thinking face on and a most peculiar expression when they passed by a drunken couple on their way back from a Christmas party. They were swaying slightly, leaning on each other for support, giggling and slurring Christmas carols through clumsy kisses and clasped hands. Lestrade thought his friend looked almost envious.

"What are you thinking about?" he asked Mycroft.

Mycroft snapped his gaze away from the couple and to Lestrade. "Nothing." he said, face expressionless.

Too expressionless. It was a tell that he was consciously supressing the emotions on his face.

"You know, 'the truth will set you free', Mycroft." Lestrade teased.

Then something shifted behind Mycroft's dark eyes, like a reservoir cracking open. "'Truth'?" He let out a humorless chuckle. "You want the truth? Well, the truth, Gregory, is that I've been trying to fall out of love with you for years... and failing... spectacularly!"

Lestrade froze, eyes wide, face blank. That one came out of nowhere.

"A truth, I'm afraid, that you've already realized by now." Mycroft continued, Lestrade met his gaze. "Yes, I know you've known for some time. And I realize that neither of us are even remotely confident in an endeavor to date, which is why I've never said anything about it until now."

"And what's different now?" Lestrade asked him.

"Because you wanted the truth." Mycroft said simply. "And because I grew tired of hiding it. I had been waiting for a while now for you to settle down some, one problem at a time, and all that. But - please don't take this the wrong way, Gregory - your life is what you would probably call a 'clusterfuck', one disaster after another."

"It's great, isn't it?" Lestrade drawled dryly, then smiled and shrugged helplessly. "Well, the cat's out of the bag, so what do we do about it?" he asked unsurely. "Leave it alone and it's bound to cause trouble."

"I don't know." Mycroft admitted honestly. His phone chimed.

The socially accepted response is to ask him out. -A

Lestrade watched as pinpricks of pink grew on Mycroft's cheeks at his new text. Mycroft looked at him. "Anthea says I should ask you out... on a date, I suppose she meant."

"And what do you think you should do?" Lestrade asked him slowly.

"I think..." Mycroft frowned a little, wrinkles forming on his brow. "...I cannot bear to think of watching you enter casual relationships with people you don't love, anymore. As selfish as that may be." He turned and continued walking, Lestrade following. "I also think that I value you too much as a friend, but I should not let that hinder my hope to value you, also, as a man." He slowed to a stop in front of his house and turned to Lestrade. "So please, accept my clumsy attempts to woo you, because I would like to spend next Christmas with you."

He stepped inward and pressed a chaste kiss on Lestrade's cheek. "Merry Christmas, Gregory. And please, consider well before responding to my offer of courtship." he said kindly to the stunned man and turned to go inside.

"Mycroft." Lestrade called after him. Mycroft turned on his front step. "I'll think about it, yeah? And, see you on New Years?" Lestrade allowed a small smile.

Mycroft mirrored his expression. "Baker Street, I presume?"

Lestrade shrugged. "Or wherever."

There was a cliche remark that Lestrade said movies always used in situations like this... Mycroft's smile grew just a fraction. "It's a date, then."

Lestrade burst out laughing. "Merry Christmas, Mycroft."