[identity profile] ameonna.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] sparklefiction

The sensation of constantly being watched was one Gregory Lestrade's therapist was a bit quick to dismiss as paranoia, a side effect of long hours, a messy divorce and a pesky solicitor hired by his ex-wife to belabor his every weakpoint as husband and father. Even Liv was beginning to feel a bit bad about this and had apologized privately, but, especially lately, Daddy was beginning to feel a bit mad.

He got back on the nicotine patches as he gathered his wits about him, put the scotch back down as things at the Yard got back into routine, and straightened his flat. It was Ikea-designed bollocks, meticulously neat, the room the kids shared when they came to stay every other weekend not equipped with a telly but lined with whatever books they could possibly want. He busied himself with a cooking class and bought a one-cup coffee machine. He worked too much, more so than ever.

He didn't date, though. Not that he wasn't ready- emotionally, his marriage had been over for a long time and it surprised him how fine he was with that bit. He was merely unsure of himself.

And he felt like he was being watched.


The beach holiday helped. Bethany and Carver had been excited to the point where he'd been infected by their enthusiasm, and now Lestrade was back to his old self again. The carefully nurtured optimism that Sherlock found mildly tedious and John found utterly indispensable was back in place. He sent the kids back to their mum in London and kept the hotel room for another week and a half just for himself, pleased that his unexpected stock windfall had allowed it. He might pay for it in melanoma later, but it was nice to get a chance to work on his tan.
He walked out of the hotel to go find a place to eat supper, and the attendant ushered him into a black luxury car before he could protest. He moved to talk to the driver after a few minutes, found the intercom did not work, and suddenly that feeling his shrink had called paranoia made more sense than ever. He was being kidnapped.

They drove for half an hour, and Lestrade found it impossible to keep track of all the turns in his head. The warehouse was enormous and just brightly lit enough not to be abandoned. Lestrade was grateful his last words to his children had been that he loved them, his last actions a kiss on their temples, even if his daughter had rolled her eyes at him, she'd smiled a little. The driver of the car was a posh brunette armed with a Blackberry rather than a gun, but there could be weapons on him from any angle, and Lestrade cased the place like crazy.

Well, at least Anderson won't be my ME, he thought, and stifled a horrified giggle.

Inside was huge and damp and mostly empty, though the freight containers lined along one side could have provided ample concealment for any number of assailants. At the far end there was a brightly lit area where a carpet had been placed and, oddly enough, a pair of armchairs and a table that had been set with a silver tea service. From a distance the man standing there looked vaguely familiar, which only added to Lestrade's sense of paranoia. It seemed he was here to begin some sort of negotiation.

Lestrade weighed his options. Since the incident at the pool, he'd been waiting for this, the inevitable moment when someone would notice that if Sherlock was working with the police, it was usually with Lestrade, and they might be close enough to consider themselves friends rather than acquaintances.

Lestrade liked to think they were friends. Sherlock probably only thought John gave a damn. Lestrade gave several damns. At least half a dozen, in fact.

He stood behind the chair, sizing the man up, and then frowned when he remembered the circumstances under which he'd seen the man before, harassing Sherlock. Pissing him right off, so he stomped his feet and flung his coat and swished off in a fury.

If I'm the babysitter, and John's the nanny- This must be big brother. He nearly spilled the tea, staring at the man, placing the exact tint of his auburn-tinted dark hair. Still, wouldn't do to give away the game so soon, not when the elder Holmes was likely to be just as condescending as the younger.

"Well," he said, curling his fingers over the back of the chair, giving the suited man his best angry policeman glower- which had even less effect on the incredibly well-dressed, collected, government-looking man than it usually did on Sherlock, which was impressive but still annoying. "Who the fuck are you?"

The man smiled at him. Sherlock's brother had pale eyes, sort of greenish. And he was a long tall fucker - beat Sherlock by a few inches.

"Have a seat," he said, gesturing to the chair.

Lestrade had a seat.

His eyebrow was raised, but he was pleased with himself for not blustering too much. He folded his arms over his chest and crossed his legs.

Very posh. So obviously public school, both of you. That tie alone's at least two hundred quid, cashmere or silk blend, shoes shined yesterday at the earliest, matched tie tack and cufflinks. Slicked back hair to keep the curls hidden, very tight-laced, none of his theatre.

There was no telling how long the tea set had been sitting, but the water was still steaming when Gentleman Holmes (because he certainly was one, from the tips of his shoes to the top of his head) poured for them both. He took three lumps of sugar and a bit of cream for himself, left Lestrade to dress up his own drink however he liked, took a ginger biscuit from the stack upon the tray and sat in his own chair. He seemed rather pleased that Lestrade had followed his instructions, for he was still smiling as he settled into the seat and crossed his long legs, biting the biscuit neatly in half.

"I have a problem," he began. "In fact, we have the same problem, though he's not being problematic for you at the moment."

"I don't tend to think of him as a problem," Lestrade shrugged. You save your theatre for the word choices and kidnappings, apparently. "Tends to be a solution, actually, when he feels like it. Has he been problematic to you on a government level? Or a personal one?"

"Both," replied Holmes, his smile thinning. "Though currently it's on a government level."

He balanced the teacup neatly on its saucer and set them aside, drawing out from beneath the tea tray a manila envelope and handing it to Lestrade. Within were photos of Sherlock and John, clearly stills from some security camera, in a location whose background was so anonymous and unspecific it was hard to tell where they were. They were talking to a man in fatigues in two of the pictures, and in a third they were standing beside him and another man wearing a lab coat in what appeared to be an elevator.

Government facility, present company stinks more of government than I do of police. Stolen identification, typical Sherlock, only a big deal if the offended party makes it one, or he gets caught.

"Must not have been caught, that would put him out of my jurisdiction and you'd have the leverage over me," Lestrade didn't bother to disguise his curiosity.

"I've decided not to press the issue," said the man, sipping his tea again. "I don't want him incarcerated. I just want to know what he's up to."

"It's obviously a case," Lestrade murmured, finally pouring himself some tea. Two sugars, no milk. "He nicks mine, too. It's usually fine."

The man licked his lips, his expression growing harder. "This is a military facility. Baskerville. You might have heard of it."

It took a moment for Lestrade to recover, and then he nodded, sipping his tea, looking down at the picture. "Conspiracy theorists' favorite."

"Quite." Sitting back in his chair again, he polished off the remainder of his biscuit. "I just want to know what he's up to. You'll be compensated, of course."

Lestrade didn't respond right away. He drank his tea. He helped himself to a biscuit. He was fairly sure the man in the suit knew he was going to say yes, even though the reasons he had for saying no- haven't taken a vacation in six years, never had a hotel room this nice to myself, thought I might try to get shagged- were perfectly valid.

Settled comfortably in the luxurious fabric of the armchair, the posh stranger watched Lestrade. His eyes never wavered even as he sipped his tea. There wasn't much of a resemblance aside from the pale eyes and the rich dark color of his hair, but he certainly seemed to have the same cold, unnerving way of looking at a person.

There's nothing in the cheekbones. Eyes are different colors. Noses aren't alike at all. Texture of the hair is different. But that tight smile, that analytic staring, the over the top fashion sense, the subtle pleading for attention- way more subtle than Sherlock, this one doesn't even know he's doing it. Probably doesn't, much.

"Bit theatrical, the car," Lestrade observed conversationally. "Any particular reason?"

Sherlock's brother shrugged, the very picture of elegance. "It's convenient," he said.

"Not really," Lestrade poured himself another cup of tea, took another biscuit. He'd really been hoping to be having supper by now. "Closer to the airport or a major highway, sure. No, this is isolated, deliberately tucked away. You wanted me to think I was being kidnapped. Though I think you might've been pleased when I wasn't intimidated. Not surprised, I'm a detective, but pleased."

"Well," he said, setting aside the teacup again and drawing his mobile phone from his pocket. "It does help to know the mettle of the men Sherlock Holmes surrounds himself with." He tapped a few buttons, eyeing the screen. "What were you considering? Italian cuisine? Chinese?"

Lestrade's mouth crooked at the corner. He always had Italian on Thursdays. "Italian or French," he said, settling himself into his chair, starting to relax. "Thought a change of pace might be nice, wasn't sure about it, though."

"I know just the place."

In a moment he was out of his chair and on his phone, speaking quickly but in a genial manner about lobster salad and roast duck, and then he was crossing the warehouse back toward the car in which Lestrade had arrived. Seeing him coming in that direction, the driver hopped back into the car and in a moment the engine was purring, the headlights flashing out over the wet floor of the warehouse.

Lestrade held back just long enough to pull the ginger biscuit crumbs from the ball of his thumb with his tongue, and then hurried along after the man in the suit, glad that his son's love of adult restaurants and his daughter's glee at dressing up had prompted him to bring and wear jackets almost every day.


This time he was joined in the car by the posh stranger, who busily thumbed through his phone with one hand and toyed with his umbrella with the other. It had been tucked unobtrusively alongside his chair during their conversation, but he'd hooked it over his arm and carried it on the way to the car, and now it was impossible not to stare at it. The umbrella was, like the car and his suit and his tie and the man himself, rather expensive looking.

"Handling some quick business. Hope you don't mind."

"Not at all," Lestrade murmured. "I'm not carrying mine because Bethany threatened to chuck it in the pool if she caught me checking it when we were meant to be on holiday."
It had felt good, after the first hour, and now he was fine, but that first hour had been as bad as the first week without cigarettes. How would the Holmes boys do without their phones for an hour? Terribly, he imagined.

He dialed a number - speed dialed, only pressing once, and held the phone up to his ear.

"Yes," he said. Then, "No. No. No, I don't think so. Agreed. See that it is done," and hung up. Tucking the phone back into the breast pocket of his jacket, he turned to give Lestrade another of his pinched but pleasant smiles.

"Italian it is."

Lestrade rolled his eyes, smirking in amusement, taking in his surroundings a bit more, now that he wasn't being kidnapped, presumably. The upholstery was leather in places and expensive, velvety looking stuff in others, there was a presumably fully stocked minibar tucked under the front passenger seat and a panel that probably held a television he didn't doubt would be playing the news.

"This is the weirdest date I've ever had," he said, resting his elbow on the armrest set into the door and his chin in his hand, his gaze going out the window.

"Very amusing," said the man, sounding not amused in the least. "I'm a little surprised, honestly. He goes on about how witless you are, but I always thought he'd been exaggerating."

"Yes, I'm terribly dense. Worked out you're the brother, though," Lestrade said. "Quicker than John on that one, wasn't I?"

He watched Holmes's expression in his reflection in the window, biting down on a smirk.

"Yes, well, John had only just met him. Considering you've known him longer, I'd expect you to be a little quicker, Inspector."

His expression was carefully bland, if a little chilly. He seemed willing to reveal very little.

"Had it in the first twenty seconds of seeing you. Fits your ouvre. Wait 'til the kids have gone, kidnap a bloke, give him tea, bribe a police officer, insist he cut his vacation short to take a babysitting job, promise him dinner, then cut him down to size for lack of Holmesian cleverness." The smirk bloomed into an easy smile that lit Lestrade's face as he sat back from the window, which took the inspector himself by surprise.

"You'll go then?" asked Holmes, turning to gaze directly at him, a frown tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"If you'd introduced yourself, expressed concern, and asked me like a normal person, I'd have gladly gone. Sherlock and John are friends and it sounds like a lark."
Lestrade rubbed at the sleeve over his nicotine patch. It itched. Almost time for a new one. "The bribery ticked me off, though. Now I have to think about it."

"Oh, will you?" The elder Holmes leaned back in his seat and toyed with the umbrella. "You know, my only other recourse is to allow them to be arrested. He's free now because I haven't decided to press the issue. I could."

Lestrade sighed. "Bit of a bully, aren't you? Fine." He folded his arms over his chest defensively, scowling as he did mental calculations, relenting as they came up clear and rubbing his temple, shaking his head. "But I'll pay for the train ticket and the hotel switch myself."

"We'll keep your hotel for you," he replied, leaning forward to remove an envelope of some sort from the pocket on the door. The envelope turned out to contain train tickets, as revealed when they were handed to him. "Travel arrangements are already taken care of. Just see what they're up to, and then you can come back and finish your vacation." He reached into his breast pocket again and removed a flat silver case, thumbing it open and withdrawing a single creamy business card, embossed with the image of a raven.

M. Holmes, it said, and nothing else save for a number that was, presumably, for his mobile.

"You-" he began, and then paused, bringing the business card to his mouth in a subconsciously sensual gesture as he thought about this.

"All right. Since you've done it already. But I'm not coming back on holiday afterward because I'm not extending my vacation, and while I realize you could probably pull some strings and extend it, I don't want you to do that. I refuse to be compensated- not time off, not money in my pocket, not tickets to Blackheath for me and the kids in a month, nothing. If I've any time left, I'll finish my vacation up there or at home in my flat in my pyjamas watching crap telly or something. Understood?"

"As you like," replied Holmes, already beginning to assume a more pleasant demeanor. The car slowed, then rolled to a stop outside what was very obviously a four or five star establishment, complete with glittering faux gaslights and valet parking.

"Dinner awaits."


He was rather grateful, for a brief moment, for Holmes's influence- they were ushered to a very good, relatively secluded table where Lestrade's relatively underdressed tie and jacket were well hidden from disapproving stares.

Then there was the white wine, and from the moment the wine hit Lestrade's tongue, he was much more relaxed, softer. It wasn't in any dossier about him that he knew of, but Lestrade was a budding wine enthusiast, and white Italians were his favorite- part of the reason he had Italian every Thursday. The tension poured from his shoulders, his jaw unclenched, his eyes took in more of Holmes and his suit than he'd allowed himself since the warehouse.

"Well, you certainly know how to pick a place. For the food or for the sommalier?"

The enigmatic smile on Holmes's face made Lestrade squirm internally, but externally he kept his cool and managed not to rub his itchy nicotine patch. Instead he poured himself a second glass of wine, and then he murmured, quietly, sounding absentminded, distracted- "Ravens. Tower ravens?"

He exhaled in a slow, deep sigh, his lips remaining parted, and refilled Holmes's glass of wine, then adjusted the cuff of his own sleeve, a pensive expression on his face.

Lestrade had called his anonymous tipster The Eye in his reports, after the London Eye, because it was a higher up person who saw things and brought them down to him, at the street level. The tips came when The Eye felt like it, with little or no ceremony. While the raven on Holmes's business card had nothing whatever to do with eyes, or symbols of eyes, it was a symbol of the city itself, like The Eye, so the one reminded him of the other.

If he presumed only a Holmes could get him these invaluable trickles, make sure he always knew the little twinge of information he would need to sidestep other investigative branches, to keep from putting his group in too much risk, where and when he should look up without being incredibly obvious. A Holmes, but one with a keen grasp of subtlety, and helping just enough to keep Lestrade from looking into it.

But it also presumed The Eye's access was such that Lestrade was fairly sure he'd recognize his own code name, even though it had never been mentioned in a single press report or been accessible to anyone outside of New Scotland Yard.

After all, secrets had never stopped Sherlock. Why would his brother have any problems circumventing them?

You've been my source- which is generous, as Sherlock's busywork helps me- so you feel entitled to call in a favor. And if I'd gotten that right off, I'd have been a lot nicer. I was distracted- maybe you didn't think I would guess if you disoriented me? I'm not sure you didn't want me to notice.

Your suit is traditional. You're older, more stable in your employment. Responsible. Subtle. The ravens of the Tower are a much better fit for Sherlock's brother than The Eye.

"You're The Eye." He lifted his glass. "Cheers."

Lestrade wasn't Sherlock. He didn't narrate. But he did observe, and he wasn't nearly as stupid as Sherlock, in his exasperation, often thought.

"You hadn't caught that I might be already?" Holmes asked, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms over his chest.

"I actually thought he might be," Lestrade shrugged. "Or Moriarty."

"He's fairly good with computers, but not that good," Holmes said dryly. "Moriarty is a decent guess."

"What does it take to impress you enough to get a first name?" Lestrade asked, leaning back and to the side in his chair, giving Holmes a prompting look.

Holmes rolled his eyes. "Trivial formalities. I'm Mycroft."

"That's a surname."

"Paternal grandmother's maiden. Are you always such a bulldog?"

Lestrade beamed at him. "It's my best quality."

His smile very nearly faltered when it was returned. Mycroft's teeth were like Sherlock's apparently in that they were best kept hidden, not because there was anything wrong with them, but because there wasn't, and he reminded one of a shark. "Indeed."


The Polenta con le Spuntature was delicious, and there was precious little conversation. Lestrade came to the odd conclusion that he'd never seen Sherlock Holmes eat. Mycroft, though, was a gastronome, and tended to his plate with the discipline and pacing of a professional taster.

Touch of OCD, I shouldn't wonder, Lestrade thought. He waited until dessert- tira misu and espresso in elegant china demitasse cups- to break the silence.

"Been stalking me a bit?"

"Surveilling," Mycroft corrected primly. "Naturally. I am accustomed to acting as my brother's keeper."

"I thought I was your brother's keeper, until John showed up."

"You are, also." Mycroft sipped his coffee. "He requires several."

"Who's yours?" Lestrade asked, pausing with his fork halfway to his mouth. "The brunette?"

"You might say that," Mycroft said archly. "Spotted her, have you?"

"She rather catches the eye," Lestrade shrugged and tucked the tira misu into his mouth.

"I suppose." He rolled his shoulder in a noncommittal sort of shrug.

"Widowed?" he gestured to the ring.

"My father's," Mycroft corrected. He gestured to Lestrade's own hand. "July?"

"Sooner, likely," Lestrade shrugged. "Paperwork's all been sorted, no sense dragging it out." He sat back slowly, a smile gradually curving his lips. "Hang on a tic."

Mycroft tucked into his tira misu.

"You've been surveilling me, sending me clues and showing up at my crime scenes for two years, and you don't bother introducing yourself properly until my wife's sent me papers."

"Nothing like as thick as Sherlock says," Mycroft shook his head, gracefully darting the fork into his mouth.

"This is a date."


"How could you have known I-" Lestrade stopped. "You're a Holmes."

"Obviously." Mycroft bobbed his head in a slight nod. " You'll not accuse me of bribery when I pick up the cheque, then?"

"You smug bastard," Lestrade laughed quietly, rolling his eyes in disbelief. "Yeah, all right."

"Wonderful," Mycroft toyed with his cufflink. "Thank you, Gregory. I'll try to be less mysterious next time, shall I?"

"Am I to be kidnapped on my way back from Baskerville?" Lestrade asked, crossing his arms and trying to look put out. It was hard. He was extremely flattered.

"Possibly," Mycroft drawled. "You did say you only had nine days' holiday left. Hopefully Sherlock will have everything sorted in time. French?"

Lestrade shrugged, wondering why being outmanouvered by this particular Holmes was less infuriating. It was somehow completely delightful. "Hell," he said. "Why not?"


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