The charity gathering was not a loud one, and if Mycroft Holmes were a religious man he would have thanked God for small mercies. As it was, he did his best to ignore the slight ache at the base of his skull, for it would only get worse if he acknowledged it, and focused on smiling and making the appropriate small talk.
"Mycroft?" The voice came from behind his right shoulder and he turned towards it, slipping a false smile that he knew looked genuine onto his face. The smile almost slipped as he looked at the speaker. He was familiar, his light grey hair and tired, kind face distinguishing features that Mycroft's mind tried desperately to place. He failed to do so, and immediately set to looking for clues. Dark smudges under the eyes; he worked hours that were not just long but also unpredictable. The hand which he had extended for Mycroft to shake was rough, callouses suggesting both physical work and extended periods of using an ill suited pen. Paperwork. Faded bruising peeked out from under the man's right shirt sleeve. He made no extra attempt to cover it, so was clearly not ashamed of its origins. A scuffle, then, possibly work related or perhaps from a free time activity. His physique suggested either an active job or a particular focus on keeping fit outside of work. His familiarity with Mycroft did not seem to be professional. Small holes in his jacket suggested places where badges badges had been pinned which could mean-
"It's Greg. You're Sherlock's brother, right?" A flash of concern crossed his face, apparently worried that he had wrongly identified Mycroft. In the politician's head 'Greg', 'Sherlock' and the look of concern all slotted neatly together and handed him a conclusion.
"Detective Inspector Lestrade, how good to see you." The smile had become genuine, and Mycroft was not entirely sure why.
They made small talk for a few minutes before Greg excused himself, having seemingly caught sight of someone that he knew across the room. Mycroft returned to his conversations with politicians who were attempting to appear altruistic.
When he arrived home that evening, Mycroft made his way into his office. From a well hidden draw behind a false set of spines for Shakespeare's full works (the real set was kept on a bookshelf in his bedroom), he pulled out the notebook in which he kept the list of his reasons for deleting various pieces of information and people. He retained it for the rare occasion on which they were once again brought into his mind. He had not entirely deleted the Detective Inspector, and the job that he had done was frankly sub-standard.
The note was easy to find, listed on the last time he had had any contact with Greg. The date was the same as the last time that he had had to bail out Sherlock, before his brother had managed to get himself clean. The entry was written in red, underlined, and told Mycroft everything that he needed to know - from why the DI was only partially deleted to why it had been so badly done.
DI Lestrade – Attraction
Mycroft sighed, running a hand through his hair and slipping the notebook back into to place. At the time, between Sherlock and work, there had been no place in his life for the potential distraction. As he replaced the fake spines on the shelf he considered the situation. With John Watson's presence taken into account, and the change in his work pattern, the distraction would perhaps be one that he could fit into his schedule.
It was pissing down with rain, and Greg pulled his jacket in around him in an attempt to avoid too much of the water from getting inside as he stepped away from the safety and protection of Scotland Yard. He could barely see for the water in his eyes. Quite suddenly the rain falling directly on him stopped, though he could see it falling still a few centimetres in front of him. He glanced up, and above him the black material of an umbrella acted as protection from the deluge. The person holding the umbrella stood just behind him.
"Detective Inspector, would you care to join me for a coffee? I would like to have a few words pertaining to my brother and Doctor Watson." Greg nodded, grinning as he turned.
"If you plan to share that umbrella and take me somewhere dry with hot drinks, I'll talk about anything you like," he told Mycroft.
The coffee shop was small, locally run rather than a chain. It was warm, dry and smelled wonderfully of freshly ground coffee. It took Greg all of five seconds to decide that it was the best place that he had visited all day. His jacket, sodden from his brief amount of time without protection from the rain, was plucked from his hands as soon as he had managed to get out of it. Mycroft muttered something about it dripping on the carpet before hanging it up by the door, beside his umbrella. Once they were settled with their coffees, they took a moment to appreciate the warmth of the drinks before beginning their discussion.
"So, what did you want to know about Sherlock and John?" Greg asked.
"I worry about my brother, Detective Inspector Lestrade, almost constantly. Doctor Watson has refused to help in my attempts to keep an eye on Sherlock. I was hoping that you would be more amenable. I can recompense you for the trouble." Mycroft stirred his coffee as he spoke. Three rotations clockwise, one anti-clockwise, and repeat. Greg cocked his head slightly, gaze running over Mycroft's face in an attempt to read both his meaning and his intention. While it had never yet worked on a Holmes, his intuition for people was generally passable.
"First off, call me Greg. No use in using my job title, we both know who I am. Besides, I can't reply in kind, and I'm not calling you Mr. Holmes, okay?" The question was clearly rhetorical, but Mycroft replied regardless.
"Short for Gregory?" He waited for a nod of agreement from the police officer before he continued. "Very well, Gregory. I shall refer to you as requested."
"That's not as requested, but close enough. Second, John won't tell you a thing because he's loyal to a fault. He'll be good for Sherlock, that I'm sure of. Watch his back and make sure he eats on occasion, if nothing else." Greg took a long drag of his coffee, apparently considering his final point. "Third, that sounds an awful lot like bribery to me, Mycroft. I can keep you up to date on anything particularly stupid that Sherlock gets up to, sure. But I don't want your money for it, or anything else. I just want to help you keep the daft sod safe."
"Thank you, Gregory." Mycroft appeared entirely unsurprised by the reply, smiling in response. "It is good to know that my brother surrounds himself with those with his best interests at heart, even if he would not wish to know that it is the case."
They finished their coffee with small talk. Mycroft exhibited a surprisingly wide knowledge of music, and they discussed the merits of Queen, Meatloaf and Del Amitri before skirting around the topic of work and skimming over the barest details of family. They took their leave from each other an hour and a half after entering the shop with a warm handshake.
"You look bored out of your skull." Mycroft absolutely did not startle as Greg's voice came, unexpected, from just behind him.
"Gregory, I did not realise that you frequented these events," he replied smoothly.
"Could say the same about you. Figured you were here for work reasons the first time. Not I'm not so sure."
"While such events are indeed useful for the sake of networking, I am also present for more personal reasons. The cause which this charity represents is somewhat dear to me." Something in Greg's expression softened, and he nodded.
"Yeah, it is a good one. So I suppose you're not interested in ducking out to go and get some coffee?" Mycroft raised an eyebrow, considering the police officer for a moment.
"I shall require ten minutes to say my farewells."
"I'll be waiting."
They ended up in the same coffee shop as the previous time. Their conversation did not touch upon the subject of Sherlock even once.
"You know, I always wondered why you stopped showing up at crime scenes after those first few times," Greg said, gesturing vaguely. "Thought maybe you were less worried about Sherlock, once he'd gotten himself clean. Then I thought maybe it was me. I didn't mean to be rude, you know, that last time you came by. I know I snapped about you Holmes brothers sticking your noses in, but-"
"But you had recently discovered that your now ex-wife was having an affair. Sherlock informed you, no doubt in his usual, tactless manner," Mycroft finished for him.
"Yeah, that," Greg agreed.
"Rest assured, Gregory, my absence had nothing to do with that. I have simply been very busy with work."
Greg raised an eyebrow over his coffee mug as he took a sip. It was a weak lie, the incident in question had taken place well over two years previously. But the grey-haired man seemed to take the hint, switching the subject to the charity gathering which they had escaped from. Mycroft watched him speak, making the appropriate sounds of agreement as he did so. In the corner of his mind, the word 'attraction' painted itself in large, red letters. In an earlier burst of conversation Greg had drawn a parallel between his ex-wife and a boyfriend from his early twenties. He had made his sexuality clear happily and freely, and Mycroft knew that all he had to do was ask if the other man would be interested in a proper date. A rejection would likely not ruin the fledgling friendship, but rather make it clear where they both stood on the matter. He started as he realised that Greg was watching him, waiting for a reply to a question that he had missed.
"Somewhere else, were you?" Greg asked with a grin. "I asked what you do in your free time, outside of work and social charity stuff."
"I keep an eye on Sherlock, mostly," Mycroft replied. "And you?"
"I bike. Used to race some when I was a teen, now I find it's the best way to get around London. Helps keep me fit, too."
"Clearly a successful venture." The words were out before Mycroft could consider them, and he was horrified as they dangled in the air between the two men. Greg was studying his face closely, looking for some sign of the exact meaning behind words. He smiled, pleased amusement crinkling the corners of his eyes.
"Always good to hear." There had been a distinct shift in the atmosphere of the small booth in which they were sat, and Mycroft was relatively certain that the comment had been taken in a most agreeable fashion. "So, this personal interest in our little charity events, care to elaborate?" Greg asked, slipping easily back into the casual flow of their earlier conversation.
"Quite the tale, I'm afraid. Best suited to a longer lived setting," Mycroft replied, having drained the last of his coffee. "What about your interest?"
"I started going because the Yard always chipped together for a ticket. They figured I scrubbed up well enough, and wouldn't put my foot in it too much. It's important for the Met to show we're behind this sort of thing. Families of violent crime victims are hit hard, whether the victim survives or not. It's important that there's help available for them."
They parted shortly afterwards with another warm handshake. Mycroft noted that it was held for rather longer than was strictly necessary. He took it as the sign which he had been looking for
"Well, I'll see you around, Mycroft. Best of luck with your Sherlock watching. I know the git makes it difficult." The slur against Mycroft's younger sibling was said with a fond tone, belying the harsh wording.
"And I hope he continues to make himself useful to you, Gregory. Perhaps our next meeting will be suitable for the telling of my involvement with our shared charity. I posses some small skill in culinary matters, should you be free of an evening." Greg raised an eyebrow, once again considering Mycroft in a way which was clearly searching for the meaning behind his words.
"You speak a lot without actually saying much, don't you?" He asked after a moment. "I find it hard to believe that your skill in anything you put your mind to learning is small. But yes, I'd love to join you for dinner sometime." He smiled easily. "You've got my number, call me to let me know when you're thinking, yeah?"
"I shall check my diary this evening and call you tomorrow," Mycroft promised.