John kept his palms firmly against the wall through out the kiss. Mycroft noticed that. Sherlock had his hands on the wall either side of John's head. He is leaning in, his purpose unmistakable. Looking at it one way both figures are leaning casually against the wall of the alley way, looking at it another way Sherlock has the shorter man if not trapped, at least cornered there. John was saying something, something polite, friendly but not encouraging. Mycroft knows John is thinking about their earlier conversation and attempting to discourage Sherlock with out giving a specific reasons but Sherlock for all his famed observational skills has difficulty understanding personal interactions. He continues to lean in and presses his lips into John's. The kiss lasts, maybe five seconds- ten at the most. When it ends Sherlock stalks off coat swirling round him with the air of a man who has completed a successful experiment and is retiring to consider the evidence. John looks into the CCTV camera opposite them. His eyes seem to stare right into Mycroft's despite the machinery between them. His face is carefully blank.

The evidence is this. His brother who has never shown an interest in anyone romantically or sexually has now made his interest in one man clear. Sherlock reacts positively to this man and he modifies his behaviour in this man's presence. Sherlock's behaviour badly needs to be modified. He shows no inclination to curb his unfortunate tendencies otherwise. So far, so clear. But the man Sherlock has expressed his interest in, is the man that Mycroft believes, no Mycroft knows, he loves. Sherlock has no way of knowing that Mycroft and John are lovers. Would he care? A voice asks in Mycroft's head but Mycroft does not choose to listen to it. He must believe that his brother isn't what he himself claims to be. There must be hope for Sherlock. There is a clear logical chain of thought to be considered here but instead Mycroft remembers.

It's at their third official meeting that Mycroft notices that his new assistant and his brother seem to have developed a certain simpatico. Mycroft and John had been called to the crime scene at 4 am in the morning to collect a rather strung out Sherlock. It is not Mycroft is relieved to learn a return to his brother's bad habits rather the results of an experiment involving an unidentified substance found smeared on the lampshades of a murder scene.

When the car arrives John gets out and checks the area before opening the door for Mycroft. John is not his bodyguard but the habits of old soldiers die hard and Mycroft is happy to humour John in this way. Once out of the car Mycroft sends one withering look at his brother, who is manifestly alive and undamaged, before moving into the damage control which so habitually forms his role in the life of Sherlock. It isn't until some time later that Mycroft realizes that John isn't following him as assumed. Surprised he scans the crowed scene and finds his personal assistant sitting beside Sherlock. From his body language John appears to be doing his best to calming the excitable Sherlock down, what is astonishing is that Sherlock seems content to allow him to do so. Reading the hand gestures his brother is making Sherlock is explaining the case using his famed science of deduction, to John .Sherlock never explains, anything, ever, but John is listening as eagerly as a child at story time. Interesting.

The fourth official meeting see them picking Sherlock up from hospital. Mycroft is at a loss. Sherlock is bleeding from a head wound but refusing medical assistance. He has in fact, getting a disruptive which is why Mycroft is called in.

'Sherlock' Mycroft can tell his exasperation is showing. He is rather on edge tonight for reasons not entirely related to Sherlock. 'Why are you causing such a fuss?' he asks 'If you let them do a 20 minute examination maybe put in a few stitches, we can both be out of here .'

Sherlock starts to chant a series of names in a loud monotonous voice in response 'Harold Shipman, Stephen Letter, Dorothea Waddingham , Robert Clements,William Palmer, Michael Swango, Stephen Geen, James.. '

Chanting the names of doctors and nursing staff that were also convicted murderers was never going to win Sherlock the patience of the hospital staff. Mycroft rolls his eyes to heaven and becomes aware that John has quietly arrived at his side. His assistant had been given the evening off, Mycroft believed he'd been on a date with the new girl from section 4, Anthea something, one look told Mycroft that the date had not gone well. For reasons he isn't really ready to explore Mycroft is cheered by this. John had clearly decided to forfeit the rest of his night off and come to Mycroft's aid. He arrives, oh wonderful man with a cup of tea for Mycroft in an actual real china cup and miracle of miracles a small packet of Jaffa cakes only 45 calories a biscuit, bliss. These he handed to Mycroft with a raise eyebrow.

'A veritable Jeeves 'said Sherlock with a brave attempt at a sneer .Only Mycroft's ears picked up the minor note of what … wistfulness in his brothers tone.

'Hmm' mutters John.' Isn't Geen's conviction currently under some debate?' Displaying that mercurial temperament his brother was known for Sherlock launched into a detailed analysis of the Geen case and as he did so, allows John to sit on the bed that he'd been attempting to get out of. Whilst Sherlock expounds the case, Mycroft watches in some amusement as his assistant, the ex-doctor carries out a pupil responsiveness test on his brother and then using the medical supplies bought by a clearly flustered nurse proceeded to put three neat stitched in his brother's head, all without his brother taking undue heed . Sherlock's concerns about medical murder are apparently forgotten under John careful ministrations. Astonishing, Mycroft thought as he absentmindedly finishing off the third of the cakey/ biscuits.

John had frankly been the least promising of the candidates selected for interview for the post of Mycroft's assistant. Mycroft usually favored the younger, female and more tech savvy applicants. It was only the unusual skill set that had got him as far as interview, soldier, doctor and decorated war hero. At actual interview, Mycroft had found himself warming to the man. He was of course totally unsuitable for the position, too open, too casual, too well… too nice but some inexplicable prompting had told Mycroft to hire him anyway . Logic was of course Mycroft's god but inexplicable prompting or gut feelings had their place in Mycroft's life too. And all sorts of inexplicable gut feelings had been exploded into life on meeting John Watson. Mycroft watched as from another pocket Watson produced a cartoon of apple juice, a mobile phone, and a Bounty bar, all of which Sherlock apparently judged essentially to the process of getting himself checked out of hospital. Mycroft was reminded strongly of a children's movie he'd once seen where the nanny had owned a bottomless bag in which one could find what ever one need at the time. Apparently John had something similar about his person. What was that film called?

'Of course, Mary Poppins' said Mycroft out aloud.

How embarrassing .Both Sherlock and John were looking at him, startled. Their discussion about interesting ways in which a medical trained person could kill you apparently randomly interrupted by Mycroft triumphant shout of Mary Poppins. Sherlock and John looked at each other for an instant. There was a fleeting look of complete accord between them before they both burst out laughing. Hmm

Yet even Mycroft was surprised when the next day he returned from rather a nice lunch at the Diogenes Club to find Sherlock waiting impatiently in his office.

Lunch had been a longer than normal affair, because having a rare free moment, Mycroft had asked John along with him and the two had spent nearly two hours talking of interestingly inconsequential things. Mycroft had relaxed into his assistant's company and consequently felt deeply refreshed. He had been wondering rather hesitantly how soon he might be able to repeat the experience, without affecting his work and causing unnecessary talk at the office. Such jovial thoughts were dissipated by the sight of his brother, perched like an owl in Mycroft's office chair.

'Sherlock to what do I owe the pleasure?' He asked

'Mycroft, I need some help.' His brother's tone was that rather over casual one that he used only when something really matter to him and he desperately wanted to hide it. Mycroft couldn't remember the last time Sherlock had willingly asked him for something.

'What do you need me to do?' he asked.

Mentally Mycroft braced himself for a request that would doubtless involve looking the other way on a matter of national security for a few hours.

'Actually' Sherlock said 'I was wondering if you let me borrow John for a few days?'

Of course he let him borrow John. John seems happy to be lent out. Desk bound is not really his style, although Mycroft has to endure some dark looks from the PAs with whom John is something of a hit, and no-one but John seems capable of convincing the coffee machine to make anything approaching actual coffee. Even the Minister, who notices nothing, noticed John's absence. Mycroft is surprised to discover how much he too misses John. The man has been with him for less than two months, but Mycroft finds he misses having someone who listens, remembers and doesn't talk too much. He does all this quietly as well as ensuring that Mycroft has something to eat and the correct paperwork for the meeting. Strange how quickly the man becomes essential Mycroft muses. But when does Mycroft ever turn down Sherlock? The case turns out to be something about a cabbie poisoning people so it looks like suicide. John texts him throughout the case, he seems to enjoy how Sherlock's mind works. He likes the work, he tells Mycroft about the police officers on the case, not the stuff Mycroft could learn from the security dossiers he has compiled on them, but funny stuff, quirky things that it is very typical of John to notice. The texts make Mycroft smile; they make him feel like he is a real part of his brother's life. He finds himself looking forward to John's name flashing up on his screen. Occasionally Mycroft texts back, mostly care of Sherlock related stuff but occasionally a comment about the terribleness of the weather, coffee and/or Minister. The content of these texts is what Mycroft imagines friends might exchange.

Then about a week after John had been swept out of the office by a smirking Sherlock, he appeared on Mycroft's doorstep. He looks tired. It's near 3am. Mycroft is awake, because Mycroft is always awake. He lets John in.

'I shot a man tonight 'John blurts out as he staggers into the hall way. Mycroft puts a cool had on his shoulder and steers him into the study. He closes the door. It gives him a few moments to collect himself. John was a soldier, John is a moral man so therefore if John shot someone he did it in defenses of himself or …?'

'Is Sherlock ok?' Mycroft asks

John smiles

'He's fine, an idiot but fine. I wouldn't let anything happen to him boss, you know that.'

'And you? How are you John?'

John sighs and runs a hand through his hair.' Fine 'he says again. 'It's just I didn't expect to be doing this again, you know?'

'Thank you for looking after my brother' says Mycroft. Words seem inadequate.

Another tired smile from John. 'Not a problem. He's actually quite good company you know, funny too, a bit all over the place but quite sweet really '

Mycroft has never heard his brother described as quite sweet before and 'all over the place' is a generous term for the bundle of chaotic energy that is his brother. Hearing Sherlock described in these terms by John makes Mycroft pause. He is aware of some sentiment stirring in him, not the worry he associates with Sherlock, nor the warmth with which he thinks of John, something else, something, not pleasant. Mycroft is, he realizes, jealous. Jealous that Sherlock who has never given a thought to anyone's opinion has somehow earned John's kind regard, whilst he, Mycroft remains in John's mind 'the boss.' Maybe John can read Mycroft better than Mycroft likes to admit because his smile is a little wider as he adds

'But I'll be glad to come back tomorrow. I've missed you Mycroft. '

That simple statement 'I've missed you Mycroft' sort of hangs in the air between them. Is it the normal sort of thing an employee says to his employer? When they are alone together in a dark room at 3 in the morning? If it was anyone other than John, Mycroft might assume it was someone sucking up to the boss, but that isn't John's style at all. Is it .. could it possibly be, flirtation? The intelligence report on John Watson compiled before his interview speculates that Watson is bisexual but since working in the Office Mycroft has only observed John flirting with women. Is he over thinking this? The minute stretches out and the silence makes him nervous. Mycroft is unused to being nervous and so falls back on social niceties.

'It's late' he says in reply. What he means to say next, is an offer to John the use of one of his many guest bedrooms for the night. It is late; John lives outside of Central London. It is a sensible, logical offer, the kind any caring employer would make. What Mycroft actually says is something more like

' I should get you into bed '

Embarrassment freezes him. Dear God. Mycroft briefly wonders if he is going to have a heart attack right here and now, but then John's doctor training would surely kick in and Mycroft would prefer to die that have to live through to awkwardness of knowing that John had given him CPR after that statement.

The rushing of blood in this head is so loud that it takes Mycroft a moment to hear John's reply

'Brilliant idea, Boss. I was beginning to think you'd never ask' It is only when John stretched up and kissed him that Mycroft's brain catches up with his hearing.

The kiss is a good one, a little tentative but clearly intended. There is the definite promise of more to come if this one works out. John is smiling at him again. He has kissed him and now he's happy to leave it up to Mycroft. And Mycroft takes a split second to consider his pile of paperwork, the inadvisability of getting involved with someone from his work, the probability that this is just a delayed psychological reaction on John's part to killing a man tonight. His mind races through these things and John stands there, slight smile on his face and head on one side waiting for him to decide. On balance there are many reasons why taking up the invitation in John's eyes is a bad idea but Mycroft's brain doesn't seem to be in charge any more. He has taken half a step nearer John before he really acknowledges it. His hand now somehow rests on John's left hip. His head is tilting sideways to avoid nose bump. This next kiss has more kick to the belly, it lasts longer. Then John's hand is at his neck, fingers in his hair and the other at his waist drawing their bodies closer together. John's kiss gets more demanding and Mycroft finds himself meeting it. Mycroft is sure there is a minute there, when his brain stops whirring and everything he is, is concentrated on John's lips, his hands and the heat of their bodies. Goodness, thinks Mycroft faintly, I could be in trouble here. But the other Mycroft, the one he was barely aware existed until this moment really doesn't care. That Mycroft has caught John's hand and is practically dragging him toward the sofa in the study. That Mycroft is whispering demands roughly in John's ear as he pushes him down on the cushions, and listening to John's light laughter and mockingly submissive reply of 'what ever you say boss.' Mycroft the brain takes a brief moment to admire the way the other Mycroft is deftly peeling the clothes off of his assistant and running his cool fingers on his tanned skin. Then the brain quietly shuts itself down and other Mycroft takes over.

Mycroft and John take the next day off .Mycroft has never taken a day off before, he expected to feel guilty. Mycroft and John had at some point left the study and made it to the master bedroom. There his assistant's creativity and stamina had really been explored and Mycroft thought he might seriously have to reconsider who called who boss from now on. He expected the morning to be odd. That John would be different with him and for things to be stilted. But it seems that Mycroft is going to spend today being wrong , because walking up beside John feels good and John doesn't make any demands on Mycroft that he find unreasonable or excessively sentimental .He seems happy and John like . Mycroft relaxes. He discover that the other Mycroft, the not thinking Mycroft he calls him in his head , is offering him suggestions but not, thank god, taking over again so it is absolutely Mycroft who finds himself waking John up thoroughly and pleasurably.

The day after they go to the office. Here Mycroft knows it will be different. John won't be able to help himself. They will all know and Mycroft see the look in everyone's eyes, the realization that he Mycroft Holmes is fallible, human and weak. But again, nothing. People are pleased to see John back. He is his usual cheerful, humble self and no-one looks at Mycroft and sees that he is transformed. Even after a mid-afternoon incident when Mycroft thinks he's going to die from wanting to touch John, and so calls him into the office performing an act on him more suited to the Oval Office of the White House than a Whitehall Civil Service Office, nothing changes. Only after a month has passed does Mycroft realizes that this, this life is something he could have. John would let him keep being Mycroft; he will never be a weakness for him. Mycroft can still be the British Government. John will never demand Mycroft change, become more human or be ordinary. John likes Mycroft's sense of duty; he likes him as he is. Mycroft could do all that he needs to do and still come home to John at the end of it all and that John would love him for it . Neither of them has said it yet but this is not lust, there is a lot of sex but there is laughter too and that is rarer for Mycroft than sex. There is also conversation and care. This could be, no- this already is, love. That epiphany strikes Mycroft with the force of a physical blow. It's not a possibility that Mycroft ever imagined for himself. He looks over to John and feels actually honest to goodness tears forming in his eyes.

Only one thing disturbs Mycroft about their relationship, the question he always asks himself, what about Sherlock? He tries to explain to John about Sherlock, about how Sherlock needs to be the centre of his brother's life and why. How Sherlock's sometimes cruel manner is hiding his desperate need to know that he will always come first to Mycroft. Without a fixed point in his life Mycroft knows, Sherlock will become what he so often calls himself -a sociopath. Being that fixed point is Mycroft's job and he already fears he isn't enough for Sherlock anymore. If Sherlock knew about their relationship he would see what John meant to Mycroft and Mycroft would lose Sherlock. He had talked to John about this only this morning and John had understood the need for a proper approach to dealing with the sensibilities of Mycroft's troubled little brother.

But talking of Sherlock had seemed to conjure him. He'd had arrived with another request to borrow John and Mycroft pleased that his brother seemed to enjoy the company of his lover had let him go happily. And that had lead to this. The security detachment had flagged it up as interesting behaviour and as protocol dictated, sent it through to Mycroft. Mycroft had rolled his shoulders back in his chair and absentmindedly clicked open the clip to seen his brother kissing John.

When John gets back to Mycroft's city house, he finds Mycroft in the study, there is a tumbler of whisky beside him. It is untouched. Mycroft is sitting at the table, his gaze is unfocused and his face in his hands. John suspects he has been like that for sometime. John doesn't know what to say. He wants to tell Mycroft that the kiss wasn't his idea but he knows that Mycroft knows this. What he really fears is that Mycroft has made up his mind already and that nothing John can say now can affect what Mycroft has decided. So he sighs unhappily and leans against the door frame watching as Mycroft comes back from deep within his own thoughts. If they kissed him now John thinks, he could scrambled Mycroft's mind a little. He could stop Mycroft from saying whatever it is he is going to say at least for a little while. But that's one of the things he loves about Mycroft his unflinching commitment to his duty, his loyalty -it's the same principle that took John into the war. To distract him, would be cruel, so John stands and waits for Mycroft to speak. When Mycroft finally looks up at him, his face is sad and John knows what he's thinking. But still he tries to argue him out of the conclusions anyway.

'Mycroft? It doesn't have to mean anything you know. Maybe it was just a whim of Sherlock's. An experiment. '

'John' Mycroft's voice is so soft with sadness. 'You know Sherlock he …'

Mycroft shrugs and gives up. He has already explained Sherlock to John; explain what Sherlock means to him and how desperately Mycroft wants to keep his brother safe and alive.

'Mycroft' John tries again, and despite his good intentions he moves toward him. Mycroft stands up and moves too, moves away from him keeping the table between them. Even as John watches him Mycroft is building up his mask again, going back to the dispassionate tactician, pulling on his public face.

'What am I suppose to do?' John asks, anger colouring his voice 'what do you want me to do Mycroft?' Mycroft looks at John. He locks away this picture and those memories of his John in his memory palace. He will never look this way at John again.

'Keep him safe for me, John' Mycroft asks.

And a version of the future dies.

8